The club was from another age. So was Mother. The Woman's Association of Northern California, Conquistadores Chapter Number XVI, was housed in a sumptuous turn-of-thecentury, Beaux-Arts-touched-by-Gothic castle topped by crenellations and turrets, and constructed of massive blocks of mauve-gray Deer Isle granite from a long-dead quarry in Maine. The interior was predictable: somber and dark save for stained-glass windows featuring historical Gold Rush scenes that blew jeweled patches on the walls when the sun shone through. Antique Persian rugs softened well-worn walnut floors, the staircase banister gleamed from decades of polish, thirty-foot ceilings were coffered and rimmed with gold. The ground floor of the building held all the public rooms, the two floors above contained sleeping chambers for the members. Mother had been a member of the Association for more thanfifty years and sometimes slept over in a room far too modest for her. But the fees were nominal, and nostalgia was worth something. Her dinners at the club were frequent. They made her feel special. They made Davida feel like a freak but she gritted her teeth and indulged Mother's preferences because the woman was a not-too-healthy eighty. Most dinners meant Motherand various selections of dear friends, each one of them more than a step out of time. The entire concept of the Association with its genteel Gatsby pretensions would have been
anachronistic anywhere. Nowhere was it more absurd than here in Berkeley.
A stroll from the club was the People's Park, originally conceived as a monument to free speech but reduced to a square block of homeless encampments and ad hoc soup kitchens. Good intentions in the abstract, but the brown rectangle reeked of unwashed bodies and decaying food and on hot days anyone not blessed by nasal congestion kept a wide berth.
Not far from the park was the Gourmet Ghetto, the foodie mecca that typified Berkeley's mix of hedonism and idealism. And dominating it all, the UC. It was these contrasts that gave the city a unique character, with everything blanketed by a definite Point of View.
Davida loved the city with all its strengths and its foibles. Leftist and proud, she was now part of the system, duly elected state representative from District 14. She loved her district and she loved her constituents. She loved the energy and the electricity of a town stoked by people who cared about issues. So different from her hometown, Sacramento, where dishing dirt was respectable recreation.
And yet, here she was commuting back to the capital.
All for a good cause.
Tonight the dome-roofed, hush-hush dining room was dense with tables dressed with starched linen and sparkling silver and crystal, but shy on diners. Members were dying off and very few women elected to follow in their mothers' footsteps. Davida had joined the Association a few years back because it was politically smart to do so. She knew most of the members as friends of her mother and they enjoyed the attention she paid them. Their monetary contributions were stingy compared to their assets, but at least they gave --- more than Davida could say about a lot of her own allegedly altruistic pals.
Tonight, it was just Davida and Mother. Their server handed them menus and Davida and her mother silently scanned tonight's choices. The entrées, once biased toward steaks and chops, had conceded to present-day realities with more chicken andfish. The food was excellent, Davida had to grant that. In Berkeley, bad food was almost as serious an iniquity as being a Republican.
Mother insisted on flirting with the waiter, an elfin-looking man in his thirties named Tony who was undoubtedly gay. Mother damn well knew he was gay but she batted her lashes like a moony adolescent.
Tony played his part by smiling and batting back. His lashes outclassed Mother's --- thicker and darker than any man's deserved to be. Davida knew Mother was worried, trying to mask it with a false cheer. Still dwelling on the incident.
Though it had seemed like a big deal last week --- and certainly demeaning --- Davida now had the perspective to see it for what it had been: a stupid prank executed by stupid people.
Eggs. Sticky, repellent, but not dangerous.
Still, Mother brooded as she forked her shrimp cocktail. Davida's minestrone soup remained untouched because dealing with Mother tightened up her esophagus. If the wall of silence didn't come down, both of them would end up with indigestion and Davida would leave the club in need of . . . something.
Davida loved her mother, but Lucille Grayson was a supreme pain in the ass. Lucille called Mr. Eyelash over, asked for a refill of Chardonnay and drained it quickly. Maybe alcohol would settle her down.
Tony returned and announced the specials. Mother ordered the blackened Chilean sea bass and Davida opted for the linguini with chicken in vodka and sun-dried tomato sauce. Tony gave a dancer's bow and sailed away.
"You look good," said Davida. Not a lie. Lucille maintained clear blue eyes, a sharp nose, prominent chin and strong teeth. Thick, luxuriant hair for an old woman, once auburn, now a gray one shade darker than the club's granite walls. Davida hoped she'd age as well. Decent odds; she bore an uncanny resemblance to Mother and at forty-three, her own auburn waves lacked a single silver strand.
Mother didn't answer.
"Your skin looks great," said Davida.
"It's the facials," Mother responded. "When --- and if --- you go to the spa, ask for Marty."
"So you say. How long has it been, Davida, since you've taken care of your skin?"
"I've had other things on my mind."
"I bought you a certificate."
"It was a terrific gift, thank you, Mother."
"It's a stupid gift if you don't use it."
"Mother, it doesn't have an expiration date. Don't worry. It'll get used. If not by me, I'm sure Minette will be happy to indulge."
Mother's jaw set. She forced a smile. "No doubt she would be. However, she isn't my daughter." She picked up her wineglass and sipped, trying for nonchalance but a trembling lip betrayed her. "You have a little bruise . . . on the apple of your right cheek."
Davida nodded. "The cover-up must have come off. How bad does it look?"
"Well, darling, you wouldn't want to face your public like that."
"True." Davida smiled. "They might think that you were beating up on me."
Mother didn't appreciate the humor. Her eyes misted. "Bastards!"
"I agree." Davida took the old woman's hand, the skin nearly translucent, traced with delicate veins the color of a misty sky. "I'mfine. Please don't worry."
"Any idea yet who did it?"
"That's ambiguous and elusive and I'm not the press, Davida. Have the police made any arrests?"
"Not yet. I'll let you know when it happens."
"When, not if?"
Davida didn't answer. A Latino busboy murmured something polite and removed appetizer dishes. Moments later, he returned with the entrées. Davida wondered why, infine restaurants, the busboys always served the meal. What were the waiters? Food Transport Consultants?
She thanked him in Spanish and swirled a forkful of pasta. "Delicious. How's your food, Mother?"
"Fine." Again blue eyes clouded. Lucille looked close to tears.
"What is it, Mother?"
"It could have been bullets."
"Luckily, it wasn't. So let's just enjoy this meal and being together." Which was an oxymoron because whenever they were together conflict was inevitable.
Mother harrumphed, and then abruptly plastered a smile across her face as she waved across the room to two women who'd just entered.
Darlene MacIntyre and Eunice Meyerhoff. The duo hobbled over to the table, tongues clucking in unison. Darlene was short and pudgy, Eunice tall and severe with impossibly black hair drawn back in a Dragon Lady bun.
Lucille blew air kisses.
"Darling!" Eunice gushed. "How are you?"
"Fabulous, what else? Enjoying a dinner with my busy daughter."
Eunice turned her eyes to Davida. "Are you all right, honey?"
"I'mfine. Thanks for asking."
"That was just terrible!"
Lucille said, "Not to mention frightening."
Darlene said, "Motherfuckers!"
Davida broke into laughter, but was grateful that the room was empty. "I couldn't have said it better, Mrs. MacIntyre." She took a sip of her wine. "Would you two like to join us?" "We wouldn't dream of intruding," Eunice said. "Your mother rarely sees you."
"Is that what she tells you?"
"All the time, dear."
Davida shot a mock-stern look at Mother then focused her gaze back to the two old women. "Well, then, it's lovely to see you both. Enjoy your evening." "You, too," Darlene answered. "And don't let those assholes get you down."
When they'd toddled off, Davida said, "I hardly see you?"
Mother reddened slightly. "Eunice is a troublemaker ...I don't complain about you chronically, Davida. That battleaxe is smitten with jealousy because her Jane detests her."
"Isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?"
"Hardly, Davida. Eunice sided with Jane's ex during the last divorce. Though I suppose one can understand her frustration, seeing as it was a third divorce." Sly smile. "Or perhaps sixth. Ortwenty-sixth, I've lost count."
"Third," Davida said. "I heard about Eunice taking Parker's side. On top of being tacky and disloyal, it was misguided. Parker Seldey's a jerk and a maniac."
"Once upon a time. I hear he has quite the temper."
"So do I, but that doesn't concern Eunice. Because he was courtly to her --- remembering her birthday, that kind of nonsense." Lucille sighed. "One's blood is one's blood. Still, by the same token, despite Eunice's quirks, Jane shouldn't despise her."
"She's angry at Eunice, but she doesn't hate her, Mother. Believe me, I know." Jane Meyerhoff had been Davida's friend since grade school and
one of her roomies at the UC. Both had been rebellious teenagers, smoking dope, skipping school, hauled in more than once for petty theft in Sacramento. Stupid self-destructive acts committed because neither girl liked herself.
Jane had carriedfifty extra pounds and hated her "summer squash" nose. She starved and vomited the weight off during her freshman year in college, got the nose job as a junior. But old self-images die hard, and Jane had never been comfortable with who she was.
Probably never would be comfortable, Davida decided with some sadness.
She, on the other hand, came to grips with herself well before college. Everything changed a few months before her senior prom when she came out.
Like birthing a child: painful, but you had something to show for it. Coming out meant life was suddenly honest --- illuminated by a clean, bright light Davida had never imagined.
She chewed her pasta while glancing across the table. Mother had many faults, but homophobia wasn't one of them. She'd never given a rat's ass that her only surviving child was gay.
Perhaps it was because Mother, though resolutely heterosexual, didn't care for men in general and hated Davida's father, in specific.
The Honorable Stanford R. Grayson, District Court Judge (ret.), now lived in Sarasota, Florida, where he played golf with a second wife twenty years younger than Lucille. Mother had been thrilled when the old man got re-hitched, for now she had something else to complain about. And Father had step-grandchildren with Mixie, so he ignored Davida and left her all to Lucille.
If Mother ever felt pangs about her lack of grandchildren, she never expressed her longings to Davida.
Mother picked at her food and pushed it around on her plate. "How often do you see Janey?"
"A bit more since she moved to Berkeley." Davida smiled tightly. "I try to keep in contact with all my old college roomies."
Mother had wanted her daughter to go to Stanford. Davida insisted on Berkeley. Once there, she'd never really left, workingfirst as an assistant to the mayor, then moving to the capital, where she gofered for Ned Yellin, the most progressive member of the assembly. Ned's shockingly sudden death from a heart attack had propelled her own career.
Now she represented her district with workaholic pride and loved her job.
Although there were days like yesterday that made her wonder why she'd ever shaken the hornet's nest that was state politics. It was challenge enough to deal with the vagaries of constituents basically in harmony with her views. Working with --- and around --- her less-enlightened colleagues could be as frustrating as . . . there really wasn't anything worse.
Less enlightened; her euphemism of the month. Bigoted and biased would be more accurate. Then again, everyone had his own agenda. She certainly had hers and it had nothing to do with sexual orientation.
When she was ten, her older sister Glynnis hadfinally succumbed to her protracted battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare muscle tumor. Davida had loved her sister and watching Glynnis spend her last days confined to a hospital bed, hooked up to tubes, clammy gown wrapped around a sallow, stick-thin body, bleeding from her gums and nose . . .
Glynnis' blood cells were in steady retreat and there were no new donors to be found.
Stem cells would have saved Glynnis, Davida was convinced of that. How different would things have been for the Grayson family if the scientific community had been funded righteously?
Two and a half years ago, Davida had been heartened when the people voted in an initiative funding a state stem-cell institute. But years later, she was disillusioned and angry: all the institute had accomplished was creating a board of directors and issuing a namby-pamby mission statement.
"Science works gradually" was the excuse. Davida wasn't buying it. People like Alice had the answer, but Alice hadn't even been consulted by the new board --- Davida's repeated requests notwithstanding.
She decided she'd waited long enough. Buttressed by a battalion of scientists, doctors, clergy, humanists and genetic sufferers, she went to war every day in Sacramento, laboring to convince herless-enlightened colleagues that a less grandiose but more efficient legislative approach was the answer.
And got precious little for her efforts.
It wasn't that the stodgy pols really cared about aborted fetuses, because she'd learned that few pols cared about anything other than getting reelected. Though they screamed a good case. Six months into her struggle, she was convinced it was Davida they were rejecting. Because of who she was.
Day after day of wearing out her vocal cords, making deals she really didn't want to make, wasting hours on mind-numbing meetings. Now eggs in her face, on her blouse ...right there on the capitol steps, the humiliation.
What a mess --- there was a metaphor for you. Mother's voice snapped her back to the here and now. Prattling on about dangers lurking around every corner.
According to Lucille, Davida was a major target of every white-supremacist hate group in California, not to mention Bible Belt pro-lifers, hypermacho antigay farmers from the San Joaquin Valley, and, of course, misogynists of every stripe and gender.
She recalled Mother'sfirst words after the election results were tallied and Davida's supporters broke into raised-fist cheers in the social hall of the old Finnish church.
Be careful, dear. Don't get cocky and think because you can get elected here that you're really popular.
Mother was being her typical negative self, but there was some truth to her admonitions. Davida knew she'd made many enemies, many of whom she had never met.
"Don't worry, Mother, I'm fine."
"On top of that, you work too hard."
"That's what a public servant does, Mother."
"If you're going to keep such long hours, you should at least be compensated for your efforts. Like in the corporate world. With your experience, you could write your own --- "
"I don't care about money, Mother."
"That, my dear, is because you've never been without it."
"True, Mother. Fortunate people go into public service to pay back. Stop worrying about me."
Lucille Grayson's look was injured. And frightened. She'd lost one daughter. Survival could be a burden, thought Davida. But she tried to be compassionate. "No one wants to hurt me. I'm too insignificant."
"That's not what I saw on TV." "They'll have an arrest soon. Whoever did it wasn't clever. Probably imbeciles from the White Tower Radicals." "They may not be clever, Davida, but that doesn't mean they're not dangerous."
"I'll be especially careful, Mother." Davida took a bite, put down the fork and wiped her mouth. "It's been lovely, but I have piles of paperwork and it's past nine. I have to get back to the office."
Mother sighed. "All right. Go ahead. I have to pack up myself."
"You're not staying overnight?"
"No, I have a meeting tomorrow morning with my accountant back home."
"Who's driving you, Hector?"
"He's a good guy." Davida stood up and helped her mother to her feet. "Do you need any help packing?"
"No, not at all." Lucille kissed her daughter on the cheek. "Let me give you a ride to your office."
"It's a beautiful night, Mother. Not too cold and not too foggy. I think I'll walk."
"It's not late."
"It's dark, Davida."
"I know everyone en route and as far as I know, none of them plans to egg me. You be careful yourself. I don't like you going home so late. I wish you'd sleep here overnight."
Not inviting Mother to her own apartment; there were limits.
Lucille said, "Sacramento is only an hour away."
Davida smiled. "Not the way Guillermo drives."
"A shorter journey means less opportunity for problems, dear. You have your business, I have mine."
"Fair enough." After bidding good-bye to Mother's friends, Davida accompanied the old woman out of the dining room and helped her up the staircase to her room. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, Mother. And I'll tell Minette you said hello."
"But I didn't."
"In domestic matters, honesty isn't always the best policy."
Walking through the stillness of Berkeley's business district, a thin fog veiling street signs and darkened storefronts and tickling her nose, Davida jammed her hands into her pockets and enjoyed the solitude. Then the silence got to her and she shifted to Shattuck Avenue, the core of the Gourmet Ghetto. The cafés that lined the street teemed with life. As much a concept as a place, the ghetto featured an architectural mix, like Berkeley itself, that refused to conform to anything resembling a standard. Fussy Victorian morphed to Arts and Crafts California bungalow to Deco to Fifties Dingbat. There were a few nods to the contemporary, but permits were hard to come by and developers often gave up. Though she'd never admit it to anyone, Davida had long come to realize that Berkeley, like any other small, affluent town, had its own conservative core --- change was threatening unless it toed the party line. In this case, the party was hers and she loved the controlled heterogeneity. Walking with her head down, she trudged up Shattuck, breathing in lungfuls of foggy, saline air. Ducking into her office, she checked the messages on her cell. There were dozens of them but the only one that interested her was from Don. Once upon a time, she had known his number by heart. A lifetime ago. She hit the green call button. His wife answered. "Hi Jill, it's Davi --- " "I'll get Don for you." "Thank you." Their typical conversation. Five words from Jill Newell was a discourse. The woman just couldn't get past her husband's old high school romance. Davida thought Jill's pettiness astounding after all these years. Especially considering who Davida was. But forget logic; Jill simply hated her.
Don came on the line. "Congresswoman Grayson."
"Detective Newell. What's the word?"
"Actually, I do have some news. We got a couple of eyewitnesses on your egg throwers. Couple of moron brothers, Brent and Ray Nutterly. We paid them a visit at their trailer, which conveniently reeked of weed. They're spending the night in the slammer courtesy of SPD. We may be able to send them up for six months to a year for what they did to you, but they aren't going to do any hard time."
"Tell the DA to go for the max." Davida Grayson, brand-new convert to tough sentencing.
"Absolutely," said Don. "Everyone from the chief on down is pissed at them for making us look bad. Toss the capital police into the equation and they're definitely not winning any popularity contests."
He lowered his voice. "Davy, I don't have to tell you this but you know there are others waiting in the wings who are a lot more malicious than those two assholes. Think about hiring a bodyguard."
"Not a chance."
"Just until you get further along on your bill. All that walking around --- "
"Exactly. I need mobility and accessibility. Thanks for your concern, Don. Now I have another favor. My mom's due to come home in about an hour, hour and a half. She's been looking a little feeble and refuses to have anyone live with her. Guillermo will drop her off but at this hour, I don't like her being conspicuous. Could you send a squad car past her house just to make sure she's okay?"
"Not a problem. When are you going to be in the neighborhood? I've been thinking about a barbecue."
"Sounds great, Don, but you know how swamped I've been."
"Say hello to Jill and the kids for me."
"Didn't Jill answer the phone?"
"She didn't seem too loquacious."
There was a pause before he answered. "That's Jill."
After the phone rang three times, Minette picked up the receiver. She wasfinishing up the last of her bourbon and the smoky aftertaste lingered on her palate. Just as cigarettes had lingered back in the Good Old Nicotine Days.
She stretched on the sofa and caressed her body. Tonight, she had on a lacy red uplift bra, matching thong, and thigh-high stockings purchased at Good Vibrations. She'd looked forward all day to peeling them off in front of her partner. Slowly. Agonizingly slowly.
The thought of stripping made her horny. She whispered an enticing hello into the receiver.
Davida said, "Hi, honey."
"Hel-lo." Minette hoped she didn't sound as drunk as she felt. "I've been waiting for you."
Ooh, that sounds good was the answer over the line. Then the pause Minette hated. "I've got some pressing paperwork tonight, Min. It's going to take some time for me to go through all of it."
"How long is some time? A minute, an hour, a day, a week?"
"More than a minute and less than a week."
Minette did not laugh. Davida tried to keep her patience. She knew Min had been drinking because she was slurring her words, but now was not the right time to get into it. "I've got a committee hearing on the bill in two days, the wording needs to be perfect or some yahoo's going to jump on it."
"And two more after that, but things will ease up, soon, I promise."
"No, they won't," said Minette. "You'llfind some other cause to rob all your time."
Davida tried to change the subject. "Did youfinalize the Tecate reservation?"
"Yes --- why? Do I have to cancel it?"
"No, no. The entire week is engraved into my BlackBerry. I can't wait."
"Me, neither." But Minette couldn't muster up much enthusiasm. Davida had aborted their spa vacation at Rancho La Puerta twice before. "When are you coming home?"
"I'll try to make it before one, but don't wait up."
Meaning she wasn't coming home. Minette sighed. Stroked a lace bra cup. Hooked a thumb inside. "Don't work so hard, baby."
"Thanks for being so understanding, honey. I love you."
Minette's I love you, too, was cut short by the click.
Pouting, she hung up. Nine thirty-five, and she looked and felt every bit as sexy.
The evening was still very much alive. She pressed a memorized set of numbers into her cell phone, then hit the send button. When the caller answered, Minette tried to steady her voice. "As expected, she's coming home very late tonight if at all. What are your plans?"
"Well, I guess I'm coming over to your place."
"How long will that take?"
"Give me an hour to make excuses."
"I'll see you then. Oh, and pick up a bottle of Knob Creek," Minette said. "We're out of joy juice."
The call came in at eight twenty-two am, just enough time to interrupt Will Barnes's treadmill torture. Every day, he blasted his joints into oblivion with the faint hope that the mindless machine would increase his life expectancy. Will's father and grandfather had died of heart disease in their early sixties. Will's cardiologist said his ticker looked great, but the unspoken message got through: take special care. He slowed the pace, said, "Barnes." The Loo said, "Davida Grayson was found dead in her office." Barnes was so stunned that he almost tripped. Hopping off the machine, he wrapped a towel around his thick, sweaty neck. "What the hell happened?" "That's what you're supposed tofigure out. I'll meet you at the crime scene. Amanda is also on her way. Lucky for you, you've got a pard who knows how to work the media, because this is going to be high profile. Cap has scheduled a press conference at eleven. Town hall meeting will be at seven tonight. We need a quick close, Will, before the community goes haywire." "Can I put my pants onfirst?" "Sure. You can even do it one leg at a time."
William Tecumseh Barnes was a wide-shouldered guy with a football-flattened nose and soft blue eyes. Prone to a beer gut and a double chin, he sometimes reckoned himself over the hill. But women liked those baby blues and he had his own hair, most of it still brown with a dusting of pewter at the temples. He'd gone from high school halfback to the army to law enforcement, spendingfifteen years at Sacramento PD, ten as a homicide detective, until family matters brought him to the Bay Area.
Will's only sibling, Jack, was a gay man who made a living out of being a gay man. Jack had moved from Sacramento to San Francisco at sixteen and by twenty had been a "well-known activist," a fanatical in-your-face kind of guy who'd managed to offend everyone.
Will knew the abrasiveness went beyond idealism; he'd spent half his youth cleaning up Jack's messes. But family was family, even if Will hadn't ever really understood his brother.
When Jack was murdered, their parents were long gone and Will faced his grief alone. As the case grew cold, he knew what he had to do. Recently divorced with no kids or baggage keeping him in the capital, he requested a temporary leave of absence. That turned into two years as he searched for his brother's killer. Bit by bit, as he probed into Jack's death, he came to know Jack's life. Jack's friends grew to trust him, confided in him, related snippets that came together like the squares of a patchwork quilt. In the end, Jack's death turned out to be one of those stupid homicides: an argument with the wrong person.
When it was time to return to Sacramento, Will discovered that he loved the beauty of the Bay Area, and had grown to respect --- albeit in a begrudging way --- the political diversity. He applied to Berkeley PD because a detective position had just opened and because chasing down his brother's killer had left him drained and exhausted and it seemed like a cushy, small-town job.
Not this morning, with Davida Grayson a vic.
Will showered and shaved and locked up his piece of California real estate --- a two-bedroom, one-bath, eight-hundred-square-foot bungalow. When Will plunked down a thirty-five-thousand-dollar deposit on itfifteen years ago, it had been a dump. Now his mess wasfixed up and prettified and damn if it wasn't the best investment he had ever made.
The area around Grayson's district office on Shattuck was roped off with yellow tape. All the magpies were in place: local TV, radio, the papers. Barnes spied Laura Novacente from theBerkeley Crier and gave her a wave. They'd dated a couple of years ago and though it had ended, it had not ended badly. Laura weaved and elbowed herself through the throng and sidled up to him, making sure to give a little hip-to-hip contact.
"What's going on, Willie?"
"You tell me, Laura." Barnes looked around for Amanda Isis. His partner lived in San Francisco, in a twenty-three-room Pacific Heights mansion overlooking everything. It would take her at least another half hour to make it over the bridge. "You got here before I did, lady."
"You don't listen to your own scanners?"
"Not at eight in the morning, I don't."
"I heard she was shot in the head."
"Then you heard more than I did."
"Give me something, Willie."
He sized Laura up with a swift sweep of the baby blues. Ten years younger than him, with long gray hair that flew in the wind like the mane of a galloping horse. Still that trimfigure; he wondered why the two of them had gone south. "Captain's arranged some kind of press conference --- "
"I thought we were friends."
He loved the urgency in her voice. Had heard it many times before in a different context. "Your number is still lodged in my brain, Laura. If Ifind out anything, I'll give you a ring, maybe we can meet."
"The usual place?"
"I'm a creature of habit, Laura."
Davida was slumped over her desk, face cradled in the crook of her arms as if she'd been napping away her last moments on earth. Detective Amanda Isis preferred to think that the transition from a temporary sleep to a permanent had been painless. The nape of Davida's neck was blown wide open, pellets hitting with enough force to shred her spinal cord. Just about decapitated.
Amanda was medium-sized, slim, thirty-eight, delicately beautiful with honey-colored hair layered short and enormous brown eyes. She had on a charcoal pantsuit that didn't show the dirt. Armani Couture, but tailored to look run-of-the-mill.
The scene was gruesome and bloody with crimson spray all over the desk and the walls. Not at all the kind of murder that Amanda was used to seeing. When BPD dealt with homicides, they were usually drug killings confined to the dark alleys of the West Berkeley region, brutal but ultimately mundane crimes that often germinated in Oakland.
Amanda studied the body again. Someone had been serious. When she looked closely, she could see shotgun pellets embedded in flesh. Brushing honey-colored locks from her eyes, she turned to Will. "This is nauseating."
"Lots of spray ...a couple of partial shoeprints." Barnes pointed to several spots. "If the past is any predictor of the future, someone somewhere is dumping bloody clothing. But the idiots always think twice about tossing the shoes."
"Who called the murder in?"
"Jerome Melchior --- Davida's chief aide. I've got him stowed away in a cruiser, drinking coffee, hoping we can steady his nerves. I'd like to interview him while his memory is fresh, get him away from the magpies before the press conference."
Barnes checked his watch. "We've only got about an hour, Mandy. Ready to hustle?"
"Go interview him, I'll take over here. Then, while I'm working the microphones with the brass, you can have a look around and we'll compare notes."
"You got it." His perfectly organized partner. After a year they synched well, like a nicely tuned clock. Will hadn't been thrilled to work with someone who'd married into a hundred million bucks, had heard the ice-queen dilettante chatter,figured how could it be otherwise. But Amanda worked as hard as anyone. Harder. Maybe those lottery winners who claimed they'd never quit their day jobs were righteous.
She smoothed the jacket of one of those designer pantsuits with gloved hands, took another look at Davida and shook her head. "You ever have any dealings with her, Will?"
"Not professionally." Barnes sighed. "She's a Sacramento girl. I knew her."
Barnes shook his head. "Her older sister, Glynnis, was a couple of years younger than me. She died when Davida was a kid. My brother, Jack, knew Davida in high school. They ran in different circles, but I know when she came out in her senior year, it had a big impact on Jack." He turned to face her. "What about you and Larry? You guys go to parties with pols."
"Good deduction, Detective Barnes. Yeah, I've run into her a few times but no extended conversations. She came across as a reasonable person. Not pro-police but not as antagonistic as some of the others we've had. When she talked, though, she got animated. I guess that was passion about what she believed in."
"If you're passionately for something, chances are there's somebody that's passionately against the same thing."
"The stem-cell deal, that egging last week," said Amanda. "Wonder if SPD has anything on that."
"I still know people over there. I'll check."
"Maybe we should visit the capital," Amanda suggested. "Scope out her enemies and her friends."
"At the capital, they can be one and the same. Sure, good idea, but I think hobnobbing with those in the know is more up your alley, Mandy."
"What's your forte, compadre?"
"Talking to her folk."
Amanda knew he meant the gay and lesbian community. Of all the contacts that a detective might cultivate, she couldn't have thought of a more odd combination than Will and gays. But he got info from them like no one else could. Perhaps they trusted him because he was the last person in the world to be condescending or patronizing. "Sure you don't want to take on the Gray Suits, Willie? It was originally your territory."
"My territory, but never my people."
Excerpted from CAPITAL CRIMES © Copyright 2012 by Jonathan and Faye Kellerman. Reprinted with permission by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.