Read Girl With a Past Online

Authors: Sherri Leigh James

Tags: #summer of love, #san francisco bay area, #cold case mystery, #racial equality, #sex drugs rock and roll, #hippies of the 60s, #zodiac serial killer, #free speech movement, #reincarnation mystery, #university of california berkeley

Girl With a Past

 

 

 

GIRL WITH A PAST
A Novel

 

 

 

Sherri Leigh James

 

 

This is a work of fiction although some
places and events are loosely based on the author's unreliable
memory. Names, most events and places are either products of the
author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2015 Sherri Leigh James

All rights reserved. This book or any portion
thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the author except for the
use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

Cover design by Kate James and David Oh.

Cover Copyright © 2015 Sherri Leigh James

All rights
reserved.

 

www.SherriLeighJames.com

 

Smashwords Edition

This book is also available in print at most
online retailers.

 

 

 

To my partner in all things,
my husband Michael

 

 

CONTENTS

 

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter
1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

 

PROLOGUE

Berkeley, May 1969

 

 

 

The day I was murdered, I thought all I had
to fear was being tear-gassed on campus.

With our faces covered in paisley bandannas,
we looked like gangs of marauding outlaws swarming the campus
instead of university students. We braved swooping helicopters and
air filled with tear gas to get to class on the south side near
Sather Gate.

I avoided that side of campus as much as
possible, but I had one class in Dwinelle Hall, near Sather Gate.
Just outside of the Gate, rows of bayonet bearing National
Guardsmen with their faces hidden by gas masks, kept troublemakers
off campus. Problem was they couldn’t tell just who the
troublemakers were. All us hippies looked alike to them.

I crossed Strawberry Creek and was almost
back to the relative peace of Northside when I heard the sound of
slapping helicopter blades headed straight for my position. I
pulled a damp bandanna over my nose and mouth, put my head down,
and made a run for it.

Driven by the increasing noise of
helicopters, I scrambled toward a grove of redwood trees. I had
made maybe twenty feet when my throat and eyes began to burn, tears
cutting my visibility. Almost there, almost to the North Gate, when
my foot hit a pile of leaves and I slid, landing on my ass.

A strong hand grabbed my arm and pulled me
to my feet.

“You okay?” he muttered behind his
handkerchief.

He towed me through the trees, into the
nearest building. We stumbled down the wide hall to a drinking
fountain and splashed our faces with cool water. My back to the
wall, I slid to the floor and tried to breathe.

My rescuer plopped down beside me. We both
gasped for air, wiped our eyes, and blew our noses. When I could
see again, I noticed that even blood shot eyes and a running nose
failed to lessen the attractiveness of my new friend. Dark
chocolate brown hair curled around his ears and neck; blue eyes
matched his faded jeans.

My breathing came easier, easy enough for me
to speak. “I’m Lexi.” I rasped and extended my hand.

“Derek.” He took my hand and held it. “Are
you hurt?”

I pulled my hand away and shook my head.

“You fell pretty hard. You didn’t break
anything?”

“I’ll have an awesome bruise on my ass.” I
drew blonde hair away from my face, tucked long locks behind my
ears and into the neck of my fur lined jacket. “I’m okay. Just sick
of this routine.”

“Yeah. I can dig it,” Derek said. “You would
think we were causing the trouble.”

Certainly Governor Reagan thought we were
dangerous criminals––or the enemy. Claiming that the Berkeley
campus was “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and
sexual deviants” Reagan had sent in the National Guard to deal with
us.

How far things had disintegrated since
December of 1964.

The party, later known as a “sit-in”, in
Sproul Plaza had started four and a half years earlier when Mario
Savio removed his shoes to climb onto the roof of the police car
holding Jack Weinberg. Savio then invited students and faculty to
sit down around the vehicle.

Military recruiters, industrial head
hunters, and campus organizations set up tables lining one edge of
Sproul Plaza just outside Sather Gate. Weinberg had been manning a
table for CORE, Congress for Racial Equality, when university
police placed him in the car. Thirty-two hours of peaceful sitting
by three thousand people while Savio delivered rousing speeches
ended with Weinberg being released and the crowd dispersing. The
Free Speech Movement born that day on the Berkeley campus soon
morphed into an anti-war, anti-establishment movement.

The People’s Park crisis that Reagan now
responded to with a heavy hand had minimal participation by
students or faculty until the National Guard started shooting
people. The 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco had drawn
thousands of young people to the Bay Area. Some of the ones who had
wandered over to Berkeley from the Haight had camped on a vacant
plot of land near the campus and owned by the university. Park
inhabitants and local residents began protests when the university
decided to clear the site of the campers and vegetable gardens in
order to build a parking lot and athletic fields. Thanks to the
governor, the National Guard not only brought bayonets, rifles and
shotguns, they also filled the skies with helicopters spewing tear
gas.

Some of us just wanted to go to class, and
graduate.

I stood up and adjusted my book bag on my
shoulder. “Thank you for the rescue.”

Derek scrambled to his feet, hurried to open
the door, and walked beside me out of the building, through the
North Gate.

No sign of helicopters, but the smell of
tear gas lingered. Masked students and faculty––after years of
interrupted campus life––rushed by us attempting to go about their
usual business in a war zone.

“Where’re ya headed?” He stuck close to my
side as I rushed across Hearst Avenue before the light turned
red.

Aw, for chrissakes. Yeah, he rescued me, but
did that mean I had to be nice to him? Why couldn’t I be a bitch
without guilt tripping myself? He was exactly the excessively
handsome kind of guy I wanted to avoid.

“Thanks again. I do appreciate you helping
me.” I forced a smile and waved. “Ciao.”

I lengthened my stride; maybe he’d give up.
I glanced to my left; he was hanging in there. His legs were even
longer than mine. I wouldn’t lose him easily.

He caught my eye and smiled that charming
crooked grin. Oh man, those crystal blue eyes. And dimples.

I couldn’t help myself. I returned the
smile.

He grinned. “Groovy.” He waved at the tables
and chairs on the wide patio of the Euclid Café. “Coffee?”

I nodded and followed him to a table.

“Sit, please. Cream?”

I nodded.

“Sugar?”

I nodded again, dropped my book bag next to
one of the chairs, and sat down.

He walked to the line of students and
faculty waiting to order.

A newspaper left on the table headlined
another Zodiac killing. A photo of his latest victim headed the
front-page story, a copy of a letter purportedly from the Zodiac
was next to the photo.

I couldn’t handle any more evidence of our
fucked up world that day. I moved the newspaper to a nearby
table.

Derek returned with two steaming mugs of
coffee before I had a chance to reconsider befriending a stranger.
Especially a handsome one. He placed both cups on the table and
passed me a handful of sugar packets.

“So . . . where do you live?” he asked.

At least he didn’t ask me “what’s your
sign?” Or “what’s your major?” But then the smears of acrylic paint
on my bellbottom jeans might have given my art major away.

“Up the hill.” I waved up toward the top of
the Berkeley hills.

“Headed home?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a lot of work to do.” I
rubbed dried paint off my finger.

“What’re you painting?”

“Kinda abstract nudes in landscapes.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Like cubist nudes
descending staircases?”

“I’m not Picasso or Braque. Landscapes, not
interiors.”

He flashed that damn smile revealing dimples
again. “I’d love to see them.”

That I ignored. “What’s your thing?”

“Architecture.”

“And you escaped the Environmental Design
building?” I asked with a smile. “Don’t they keep would-be
architects chained to their drafting tables? I see people working
in there twenty-four hours a day.”

“True, too true.” He sipped his coffee, and
then grinned. “Couldn’t hack it, had to get out and find a pretty
girl to rescue.”

I drank the last of my coffee. “Thank you.”
I forced a smile.

I wasn’t going to violate my new agreements
with myself. No more handsome and charming men. Too dangerous for
my bruised heart. Women throw themselves at men like this one.

“I really do have to get to work.”

He drained his cup and stood up. “May I walk
with you?”

I shrugged an "if you want to" and picked up
my bag.

The small talk continued as we headed up the
hill to the house I shared with a group of close friends plus an
assortment of guys who did not officially live there but hung
around a lot.

My roommate Carol was about to graduate and
already job-hunting. She was beautiful and talented so she would
land a position in a fashion house quickly.

Jeff was a law student and my best friend
since childhood when we had spent summers at the same camp, playing
the same sports.

Dave, a Cal grad, commuted to a job in the
city.

All three of them led busy, productive
lives.

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