Authors: Lowen Clausen
Copyright© 1999 by Lowen Clausen
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Published in the United States by Watershed Books, Seattle, Washington.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:
For Pat and Sonya,
I wrote this book because of a baby’s cry that I never heard and never forgot. –LC
The sky showed no hint of morning as his double-bladed oar grabbed the water and pushed the kayak east toward the bright city lights. From the reflection of those lights, he saw the swelling, falling, living surface of the sea. Beneath him the water was black and impe
As he crossed the bay, he carried a battery-powered lantern stowed between his legs to announce his presence to large ships, but he seldom used it. It would do little good anyway. While the kayak could turn quickly and easily, large ships took miles to change course. If the pilots could see him, and they likely could not, they would think he was out of bounds to take so small a craft into their territory. He didn’t care. Here on the water, he strayed out of bounds.
Sometimes when the alarm rang longer than normal, he would stare at the ceiling, although there was nothing to see, and would consider taking the car to work and giving himself another thirty minutes of sleep. Discipline, he would tell himself—he was used to talking alone. Once on the water he would not wish for sleep. He would take the kayak even when the weather was marginal and the water rough, when the kayak would lunge and bounce its way across the surface instead of gliding smoothly and sinuously as it did this morning.
He cut a diagonal line across
and passed the grain terminal where a ship was being loaded. Conveyer belts hummed a chant over the water, and grain dust rose into the work lights like ashes in the wind. He pushed across the last open stretch of water just as the ferry left its
A spotlight flashed on him as he approached the dock. He saw the police car on the street above the dock and signaled back by lifting his paddle. The driver’s door opened and
He was not sure what to make of this greeting. Murphy and her partner,
“Did you have a good paddle?” she asked as he steadied himself in the kayak before scooting onto the deck.
“I had a fine paddle,” he said, looking up to her. “Busy night?”
“Not busy enough.”
He remembered that feeling. Now he approved if Radio chose to leave him alone. It would take a while before she understood.
Her first name was
“The week’s almost over, Kat,” he said to her as he pulled the kayak out of the water and tied it upside down on the deck.
She started for the car, carrying the bag he had tossed onto the dock, and he caught up with her and took it from her hand. She gave him a strange smile as she released the bag, one beyond interpretation, one that flickered so briefly he had no chance to return it.
Hennessey was swearing from the passenger’s side when
“We got a call at the
,” Hennessey said after they closed the doors. “Suspicious circumstances. Occupant hasn’t been seen for a while. Odor coming from the room. Probably some old drunk who croaked.
“Maybe it’s just some rotten food,”
“Want to bet?”
“It’s not your call,”
“Hey, let’s not get too generous here when I’m doing the paper,” Hennessey said. “
Sam saw the muscles clench in
was north of the Pike Place Market on
. It had a wide urine-treated stairway that led up to a lobby on the second floor. There was a tavern on the ground level—a convenience likely appreciated by many of its tenants. The manager stood waiting for them inside the front office. It had a barred window that looked out to the stairway. Inside the open door an old woman sat in a stuffed green chair that took up half the office. The manager was slightly less drunk than she.
Sam looked around the ill-lit, paint-peeling corridor. He had the feeling something might crawl up his pant leg or drop from the ceiling into his hair. He was careful not to brush against the walls. From fresh sea air to a pit like this in five minutes. It took a little pleasure off that morning smile.
“You call?” Hennessey asked in a terse tone that revealed his distaste.
The manager nodded but said nothing as he looked suspiciously past the blue uniforms to where
“He’s with us,” Hennessey said, not offering to explain anything more. “Which room is it?”
“It’s next to mine,” the drunken woman said. “I told
“Did you check?” Hennessey asked him.
“I thought I ought to wait for the cops.”
“That baby crying all the time. I couldn’t stand it,” the woman said.
“There’s a baby in there?” Hennessey asked, his voice rising sharply.
“A mother and her kid,” the manager said as he rubbed his right hand nervously across his stretched dirty T-shirt. “She didn’t owe rent. Never caused trouble.”
“Never mind that. You got a key?”
“We got keys to all the rooms,” the manager said and pulled a ring of keys from a decrepit desk drawer.
“That baby crying all the time. Night and day. I couldn’t stand it.” The woman shook her head and looked at them with bleary eyes.
“You stay here,”
There was no mistaking the odor as they stood in front of the door on the fourth floor and waited for the manager to find the right key.
“Give me those keys,” Sam said, impatient with the manager’s fumbling.
“It’s this one.”
Sam jerked the keys away from the drunken manager and lost track of the one he had selected. “You wait down there,” he said and pointed toward the end of the hall.
“She never caused no trouble.”
“Never mind about that,” Hennessey said. “Just wait down there like the officer said.”
Sam found a key marked with the room number and slipped it into the lock. Before turning the key he paused and looked at Hennessey and
“Murphy, you stay by the door and don’t let anybody in. Lend me your flashlight, will you? Hennessey, we don’t touch more than we have to.”
“Try to get those windows open,” he told Hennessey. He pointed with his flashlight to the two wooden windows on the outside wall.
He walked carefully toward the crib, looking around but never averting his true attention from the huddled form behind the rails. He had stopped swearing and tried to stop everything as he stood above it. The baby—not more than a few months old—lay facedown on the mattress, clothed only in a diaper, legs curled under it, the side of its face blackened unevenly. Dried mucus hung from its nose and mouth. He didn’t touch the baby. There was no need.