Morning In The City

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Lucy woke up and blinked. Mornings in a city were always bad. She felt tired, not rested. San Francisco had its own mood, its own rhythms, and she wasn't used to them. She'd been having some kind of stuck-in-traffic dream; she hated those. But before that one, she knew, she'd been having the dream she shared with Rose, and she hated that one even more.

She got up, yawned, and stretched, shaking the fog out of her head. The deep beige carpet brushed the bottoms of her feet as she walked over to the window. The curtains were thick and heavy, a layer of velvet and a layer of muslin. She threw them open and looked out.

The hotel had a great view of Fisherman's Wharf, but Lucy's astonished eyes went straight past it. The fog was moving in through the Golden Gate Bridge, like a huge white train made of clouds, rolling in a silent, stately procession across the bay. It was brilliantly lit by the newly risen sun, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Lucy stood for several minutes and stared, at first stunned by the sudden vision, and then just enjoying it. There had been no hint of this kind of breathtaking beauty in the buzz and mutter of the city; the people who lived here didn't see it anymore. It was like a secret, something that the ancient sea was showing to Lucy alone.

Strange, she thought, how something can go on in front of everybody and how nobody ever sees it. Then she shook her head. Like her daughter, she thought. Like the whole world her daughter lived in.

There were boats already coming and going at the Wharf, but the foot traffic that had had the place buzzing the previous night hadn't started up again. Seagulls were squawking and sea lions barking down there, and delivery trucks were going in and out to all the businesses, but the place hadn't really come to life yet.

Turning reluctantly away from the vision at the window, Lucy pulled on a pair of panties and shrugged into a bra, then sat down in an elegant, velvet-covered chair and switched on the morning news. That was a mistake.

"... Flanagan, the lead investigator in the bizarre murder of Laura Houang, has apparently disappeared," the announcer was saying. The picture that flashed on the monitor over the announcer's shoulder was a skinned girl, an impossible, nightmare vision that sent chills down Lucy's spine. And with horror, she realized that Flanagan was the name of the detective Rose had been talking to. Lucy sat silent and still as the story with its grisly video played out on the television. Another story came on later, and another, and another, and some commercials, but they didn't matter. Her breathing had become shallow and rapid. Her eyes were unfocused. Later, some small part of herself knew, she would be sick. She didn't want to know this, she didn't want to have seen it, she didn't want to think about what it meant...

Outside, the beautiful train of fog continued to roll in through the Golden Gate. But now Lucy didn't see it anymore. Now the ancient sea was sharing the secret of its beauty with someone else.

At the door of Lucy's hotel room, a strong hand knocked. On the pinky finger of that hand, there was an iron ring. And under a cheap glass stone on the ring, there was an old picture of Lucy, taken many years ago.

"Room Service," said a familiar voice.

***

Mitch swung off the bus on the corner of California and Castro and looked around for a pay phone. Quickly, he cast his eyes around him to see if he could spot anybody watching him. Nerves, he thought.

He walked over to the telephone booth and picked up the receiver. A dial tone reassured him that it was working, so he stuck a quarter into the slot and dialed Mike's number.

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