Their catching up dealt mostly with murder and politics. Divine Fury. Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

ENZO LEE STUDIED his computer monitor one last time.  In a bizarre journalistic occurrence, he’d had an incredible run of animal stories the past two weeks that had produced some memorable lines as well as a threatened ban on creature puns.

First,  there was the one about the rare baby seabird rescued from a dog that was being put for adoption.  (“One gold tern deserves a mother…”)  Then, there was the story about the movement to force the Lincoln High School football team (the “Hares”) to release their mascot back into the wild. (“The school and its bunny were soon parted…”)  And now, he was finishing the piece about a just-approved drug expected to save nearby horse farms from a fatal equine disease.  (“Where there’s a pill, there’s a neigh…”)

With a toss of his head, Lee clicked on the button that would send the last story of the day off to the assistant city editor.

He left the News building and walked up the two blocks to Market where he took the escalator down to the underground Muni train.  After a five-minute wait, he caught a half-full outbound L train.

When he exited at the Van Ness station, the first wisps of ocean fog began breaching Twin Peaks and trickling down into the southwest quadrant of the city.  The sunny spring day would become a breezy overcast evening in another hour.  By nightfall, the temperature would drop 10 degrees but it would feel like 20.

Lee walked the long block down Market Street and into the Zuni Cafe.  The bar was mostly empty so he grabbed a stool, put his elbows on the polished copper and contemplated the draft beer choices.  He thought longingly of ordering his usual Sierra Nevada but finally settled on an iced tea.  The shelves behind the bar were filled with every imaginable liquor and liqueur and the sunlight from Market filtered through the bottles as if the window were a gigantic wall of prisms.

He was taking his first sip of the tea when he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder.

“Hello, baby,” said Bobbie Connors.

Connors wore a dark blue pants suit with a white shirt.  A thin silver necklace with a small cross contrasted against her dark skin.  She had on tinted glasses and her hair was in its usual multitude of long braids.

Lee set his drink down and turned on his stool to give her a hug.  Connors clamped him in a near headlock.  Still seated on the bar stool, Lee’s face was buried in her ample right bosom.  He was about ready to tap her arm a few times, figuring she’d recognize the wrestler signal for, “I give up,” when she relaxed her hold.  Lee adjusted his wire-rim glasses that were now askew.

“Hey.  It’s good to see you, too,” he said.

Connors laughed again.  Lee noticed that the bar had quieted with Connors’ entrance.  She had that effect.  With modest heels, she was just a couple of inches shorter than Lee.  Plus, she was big, not in a fat way but in a “I’ll wrestle you to the ground if I have to” way.  Based on the recent squeeze-hug he’d received, Lee figured she could manage it with most people.

“So,” said Connors.  “Thanks for meeting me here. You ready to take a ride?”

“I am,” said Lee.  “Where did you say we’re going?  Manteca?”

“Near there,” said Connors.  “It’s only an hour away…maybe a little farther.  But it will feel different.  The land of nut trees and cattle.”

Lee left a dollar on the bar next to his drink and followed Connors outside.  Her unmarked Ford sat outside Zuni, emergency lights blinking.

Lee had called Connors to get an update on the Scott Truman case, but also just to catch up over a beer, coffee…whatever.  Then, Connors mentioned she was driving out toward the Central Valley to track down someone – supposedly a witness to an unrelated homicide in the city’s Mission district.  He’d leapt at her offer to accompany her.  What better excuse to duck out of the newsroom for a couple of hours, not to mention a chance to catch up with Connors.

“So, you had something going on near here?” asked Lee as they turned south to find a ramp onto the freeway.

“Yep,” said Connors.  “Up in the Castro.  Political action committee.  ”

She raised her right fist in a power salute.

“Here’s to Andrew Harper,” she said.  “Hopefully, our next governor.”

“Harper?” said Lee.  “Boy.  What an election that’s going to  be. Are you helping out in his campaign?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Connors.  “Are you kidding?  No way I’m sitting this one out.  That’s why I was there.  Gay and lesbian folks – figuring out how to harness this insane energy without turning it into Halloween night.”

“Hmmm,” said Lee.  “Yeah.  I guess I can see how it might get out of hand.”

“You’ve got that right,” said Connors.  “All we need is a few of the boys wearing those leather chaps over their bare butts.  It’s cute at Halloween but maybe not at a Harper rally.”

“Yeah.  I’m sure the Moral Majority would have something to say about that,” said Lee.

“Anyways, we’re working on all the nuts and bolts,” said Connors.  “Fundraising.  Get out the vote.  Phone banks.  You name it.  You want to help?”

Lee pondered the offer.  He viewed the gay rights movement as the latest step in equal rights.  And as someone who still remembered the occasional taunts from his youth – “gook”, “slope”, “jap”, “chink” – and older kids on the city buses who would sit behind him and laughingly mimic the sing-song cadences of Mandarin, any form of prejudice struck a raw nerve.  But, the News discouraged its reporters from openly supporting candidates or causes since it made the paper vulnerable to complaints of bias.

“Let me get back to you on that,” he told Connors. “And…uh…not to change the subject, but what’s new with the Truman case.  Did his girlfriend’s information check out?”

“Oh, right,” said Connors.  “That’s why you called me in the first place.  It did check out.  We would have figured it out eventually.  But the girlfriend cut out a lot of steps.  We verified the call with the phone records.  A 72-minute call, like she said.  And, we think he was shot in the parking garage.  They tried to clean it up but how much could they do?  They left plenty of blood behind.  So far, it all appears to be Truman’s.

“And – drum roll here – the best thing is we found a couple of hairs stuck in the mess,” she continued.  “I mean we found more.  But they were all Truman’s except for these two.  We submitted it to the national database…the DNA.  Unfortunately, they’re backlogged right now.  It will take a week – maybe more – to get the results.  Cross your fingers.”

“All right,” said Lee.  “I’ll be waiting with bated breath.”  Given what he knew about government work, he figured the lab work would take two weeks at least.

“So, I can let Sonia, his girlfriend, know that what she said helped you out?” he said.  “I think she’d like to know.”

“Oh yeah.  Big time,” said Connors.  “Another day or two, and who knows what happens.  The hair blows away.  They hose down the garage.  Even another two dozen cars driving through the scene degrades the evidence.  And thanks for the tip.  I owe you one.  If anything pops, I’ll let you know.”  Connors grinned.

“So, what was Truman up to at 3:30 in the morning in a parking garage that got him killed?” said Lee.  “It is a little strange.”

“Yep,” said Connors.  “Definitely a few questions to be answered.”

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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