Authors: Sarah Shankman
Tags: #Thriller, #Suspense
Table of Contents
By Sarah Shankman
Copyright 2013 by Sarah Shankman
Cover Copyright 2013 by Ginny Glass and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
Previously published in print, 1985.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
For my mother and father
with thanks to Rita Sitnick and Vin Gizzi
for their loving support
and to Allen Verne
for the advice
As she fumbled for it, the silver-faced clock crashed to the floor. Annie Tannenbaum groaned and squinted at the time. Six A
Outside the Sunset Scavenger truck was chewing garbage.
Why, God, she asked, was her neighborhood first? Why couldn’t they come at sunset as their sign advertised? Couldn’t the garbage be allowed to age a little? Would that be asking too much?
She pulled the dusty-rose comforter over her head, but it didn’t help. Light was already creeping in around the edges of the shades, through the white lace curtains. It was going to be another one of those flawless, bright blue San Francisco days.
Give me a break, guys. Sometimes a little gloom is good for the soul. The inside of her head felt foggy. Maybe today would be the day she stopped smoking. Maybe. But not likely.
At least she didn’t have to get up this second. She snuggled down deeper under the creamy-white cotton sheets, reached for a mauve and pink flowered pillow that had fallen on the floor. She liked all four of the pillows tucked around her. Like a soft, snuggly cave.
There was a small black and brown bear wedged into one of the three white bookcases lining one wall. On another
shelf sat a long-limbed doll with blonde hair and a blue satin dress. Her father had won it for her when she was a very little girl by tossing baseballs at the county fair.
sat a red-bound book of fairy tales and fables. But the rest of the books weren’t childish—Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Elmore Leonard among the thousands of volumes. Nor was the rest of the room.
But it was unquestionably a woman’s bedroom: walls of palest pink, deepening in corners, flirting with the light; a Dresden-blue four-drawer bureau; a white wicker planter filled with various ferns; a rocking chair cushioned with cerise and violet cabbage roses, beside which a twenties wrought-iron lamp gilded golden through its elaborate jet-beaded silk shade. Old things. Comfortable.
Annie stretched and yawned. Nothing pressing until lunch with Sam. Maybe she’d just lie here for a while. Think about her book. Think about what she was going to have for lunch. She could always think about lunch.
Then her next-door neighbor turned over in bed. Christ! Annie sat up, holding the comforter to her chest against the cool San Francisco morning, and scowled at the wall behind her. Nothing like Bunny Dolan to ruin her day, not to mention the night before. She really had to do something about Bunny.
Not that she hadn’t tried. She had complained to Tony, the super, but all he did was laugh. Bunny was pretty funny, Annie had to admit, but less funny if you shared a wall with her four-poster bed.
The infamous, elaborately carved, mahogany bed, inherited from one of Bunny’s Irish-American ancestors (among the crème de la crème of San Francisco society, as Bunny managed to say at least once in every conversation) was separated from Annie’s brass headboard by a wall that was thick, but not thick enough. The four-poster was large and wobbly, like an old wooden boat in a choppy sea, and it crashed into the wall every time Bunny moved.
And when Bunny had company in bed, she moved a lot. Luckily for Annie, Bunny had gained weight and lost suitors in the past year, so there had been relative quiet from the other side of the wall.
Last night, however, the swain Bunny referred to as the Italian Stallion had galloped into town. Aptly named, Annie thought. The man’s staying power should be documented in the
Guinness Book of World Records.
They were awake. Boom! A cannon shot would have been more discreet. Annie heard Bunny’s murmur, then a sharp giggle, followed by the sound of the Stallion neighing.
Annie pulled the pink comforter over her head. It was no use. Once the concert began she was stuck with orchestra seats. It wasn’t just Bunny’s bed. Bunny herself could have gone on the Carson show doing animal imitations.
She was warming up now with the more frequently repeated bass line—a grunting that punctuated each breath.
Annie flopped over on her stomach, smashed her pillow over her head, and screamed into her mattress. It didn’t help. Anything she could do, they could do louder.
At least this one was quick. Small favor, thank you, God. The Stallion sprinted to a finish. His neighs of pleasure, counterpointed with Bunny’s shrieks, filled out the final chorus. It was a song one had to hear to believe. And lots of Bunny’s neighbors were believers.
Including Jorge, the Colombian shipping clerk/drug dealer who lived on Bunny’s other side. Once Bunny had had the gall to complain about the volume of Jorge’s stereo.
“Hey, lady, you got some nerve!” he’d yelled. “I hear you, lady, I hear you fucking all night long!”
The battle lines had been drawn then, and Bunny averted her eyes whenever they passed in the hallway, as if Jorge would mind being cut dead by one from San Francisco society.
Jorge didn’t give a damn. He was street smart and he played dirty. He taped her love wails one night and lay in wait for the perfect opportunity to replay them. It presented itself a few days later in the crowded elevator.
First there was stunned silence and embarrassed staring at the floor indicator. Then the tittering began, and in moments the elevator rocked with laughter. Bunny was reduced to tears.
This particular sunny morning Annie felt close to tears herself. Was a little jealousy nibbling at her soul?
Come on, Annie. Buck up, girl, she told herself. Give old Bunny a break. And give yourself a break too. But you’ll just have to wait your turn. Right now, get out of this bed and face the day.
Annie hauled her long body toward the blue and white kitchen. Her stomach felt better already. She stood, naked, in front of the open fridge and stared at the possibilities.
Croissant. Blackberry preserves. Good strong coffee.
The day was looking sweeter already.
Besides, she was having lunch with Sam.
While Annie showered in her white-tiled bathroom in Pacific Heights, some thirty blocks south, on the other side of town, a young, curly-haired woman named Sondra Weinberg handed a man a dollar tip. He thanked her with a Buck knife in her chest.
“Oh God!” she gasped, staring down at the crimson stain that was her blood blossoming out across her white silk blouse. Red, like the paper poppies veterans handed out at shopping centers, blooming on her ample breast.
The dollar bill fluttered to her Oriental carpet and lay untouched as Sondra grasped at the pain with both hands.
The black-handled knife sat glowering, burning. Part of her mind detached and watched as the grinning man slowly pulled out the knife. His grin was wet. Spittle flashed obscenely. His tongue flicked at it. He pulled the knife slowly, sensually, as if he were detaching himself from her after a particularly lewd sex act.
A torrent of blood followed.
The pain will stop any minute, she thought. It’s over now.
Of course it wasn’t. The blond-haired man with the knife in his hand had just begun.
Before he was finished, Sondra’s round belly, pillowy breasts, and soft thighs would be gulping with little mouths
of blood. Crimson would stain his hands and lips and penis. And when she was quite still and quite dead he would dip one finger into the deep scarlet pool where her heart was beating just minutes before, before he cut it out, and draw four arms bent at right angles—the symbol for genocide—in the middle of her forehead.
Afterward he washed himself carefully in her silent, sunny bathroom and dried himself on her yellow towels. Then he trimmed the bottom of each stem of the twelve white roses he had brought her, trimmed them with his black-handled Buck knife and carefully placed them in a tall blue vase filled with cold water. They would live a long time.
Then he left, closing Sondra’s door firmly behind him, checking to make sure it was safely latched.
acific Heights is one of San Francisco’s oldest, most elegant neighborhoods. The great fire of 1906 stopped at the broad avenue called Van Ness, sparing the marble-stepped mansions and the colorfully painted gingerbread row houses. Annie’s six-story apartment building, with the generous proportions of the late twenties, was creamy stucco with rococo cornices. Almost identical buildings were scattered throughout the neighborhood. Perched at the corner of Pierce and California, it was located on the last block
going south that could still honestly claim the tony Pacific Heights name. Then there was a quick decline into the Western Addition, where poverty festered among gaping holes the city had torn out of the ghetto, meaning to reclaim them, someday.
Annie left her building and walked uphill northward, toward the neighborhood’s prosperous heart. She passed the yellow Victorian that housed an exercise studio for the ladies who lunched. As class time approached, the street’s narrow parking spaces would fill with Mercedeses and BMWs. Passersby could watch the wealthy and trendy, waving their thin arms, clad in the very latest geranium, teal, and silver velour exercise gear.
Annie had tried the studio. After all, it was just across the street. But she found the distance much longer. It was like stepping into the society column of the morning paper, and frankly, she didn’t care for it. She’d found her own class down at the Marina, filled with women who worked for their lunches—and their breakfasts and their dinners, as she did.