To Kathryn Detzer, Andy Jalakas, and again (always) to Lisa M. Sawyer.
It is one thing . . . that business between men and women, and there are many other more important things, including food.
-Alexander McCall Smith.
The day he found the body, Mickey Dade woke up under a tree on Mount Tamalpais.
Sleeping outside a few nights a week had been going on as a regular thing with him for about four months now. He always kept a sleeping bag in his used Camaro's trunk anyway, and starting around mid-May, when the weather got nice everywhere but in San Francisco proper, he'd finish work and leave town in whatever direction struck his fancy.
Even in the urbanized, overcrowded Bay Area, there were innumerable places a guy could simply pull over, park, and crash on the ground under cover of trees or bushes or in the hollow of a sand dune in one of the city or county or even national parks, at the beaches, off back roads, even in the quiet "neighborhood watch" suburbs.
Monday the past week, while it was still light out he'd driven down to Woodside, an exclusive semirural enclave nestled into the foothills behind Palo Alto, and slept out under an old stone bridge over a dry creek bed. Two days later, he'd parked a couple hundred feet down an unnamed, little-used dirt track cut into the woods behind Burlingame around Crystal Springs Reservoir. Last night, he'd gone north into Marin County, got halfway up Mount Tamalpais, and pulled under an old low-hanging scrub oak in a forgotten and unpaved parking lot.
He always woke up at first light, so this morning he was on the Golden Gate Bridge by the time the sun cleared the hills behind Oakland. He had his iPod coming through his speakers. It was mid-September, and as usual this time of year, the coastal fog was taking a break. The morning clarity under the cloudless sky was startling. Mickey could easily make out the tiny dots of the Farallons twenty-some miles away over the deceptively still Pacific.
He exited the bridge and soon found himself on Marina, cruising through the streets. The closely set, well-maintained, beautiful low-rise homes stirred some vestigial gene he must have picked up somewhere. Just driving through a neighborhood of real honest-to-G.o.d stand-alone homes always filled him with something like contentment, although it wasn't quite that; it was more like hope that contentment and physical security were among life's possibilities.
This was something Mickey didn't have much personal experience with. He couldn't remember ever having lived in anything but an apartment house, although his parents had apparently rented a small bungalow in the Sunset before their divorce. His sister, Tamara, said she vaguely remembered that house. But she was two years older than he was. Mickey had been only two when his mom had taken them from their father and moved out.
But Mickey didn't get time to enjoy the Marina a
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