Idolon > Excerpt

White-hot fog. It boiled over the halogen-lighted streets – scalding to look at but cool against the skin.

Kasuo van Dijk pulled his overcoat tighter against the dank mist, shut the door to his unmarked car, and stepped onto gritty concrete.

This part of North Beach was philmed in classic noir. Most of the storefronts and apartment building façades were a mélange of grays and blacks lifted from The Maltese Falcon, Raw Deal, and half a dozen other celluloids from the 1930s and ’40s. In places, some of the architectural and decorative elements had been colorized. Vivid greens, reds and blues bled from the shadows, saturating the landscape with flamboyant contusions of color borrowed from Romare Bearden and Warhol.

Nothing was ever what it seemed, he reminded himself. Nor was it otherwise.

A few blocks east of Hyde, toward Telegraph Hill, the décor changed abruptly to the delirious exuberance of Gaudi and Hundertwasser. Organic transmogrifications not unlike the Peter Max-, Bob Masse-, and Roger Dean-fueled psychedelia of Haight-Ashbury. To the southwest, van Dijk could just make out the staid browns and clean, if somewhat stark, Edward Hopper lines of Pacific Heights.

Van Dijk took a moment to philm himself in a composite image of Toshirô Mifune, from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, and Hiroyuki Sanada from Yôji Yamada’s The Twilight Samurai. The pseudoself – humble demeanor hiding implacable, barely restrained violence – was what people not only expected from him, given his first name, but respected. It was part of the job, like wearing a tie and an HK 9mm minicentrifuge.

He started toward the small brick-and-corrugated-sheet-plastic warehouse that had been converted into low-income apartments. A uniformed officer stood guard outside the first-floor entrance, the tip of a cigarette flaring from time to time like the beacon in a lighthouse.

The uniform’s name appeared in front of him: Kohl, Peter. Van Dijk cleared the eyefeed with a quick mental Delete and turned his gaze on the street cop.

“Detective.” Kohl pulled himself out of his slouch.

“Who else is here?” van Dijk asked.

“My partner. Janakowski. He’s inside, waiting for you and the crime-scene boyz to show.” Kohl took a final calming pull on his Hongtasan, then flicked it nervously away. The butt hissed as it arced to the ground, sputtering out before it struck the damp concrete. Oily steam snaked up from a half-empty cup of black coffee at his feet.

“Who found the body?”

“One of the residents.” Kohl blinked as he accessed an online police log. “Girl named Lisette,” he said, reading from the plog. “Age eleven. Lives in the apartment just down the hall, supposedly with her mother. But Mom ain’t around. Hasn’t been for a while, by the look of it.”

The victim’s apartment was on the second floor. Van Dijk checked the elevator for obvious evidence. It was out of order. That left the stairs. Stairwells tended to collect all kinds of DNA-marinated detritus. Cigarette butts, half-empty plastic bottles, crushed cups, pinched bubble caps, shattered eye droppers, and dermadots for those who couldn’t afford or didn’t want direct deposit via mechemical assembly. As he mounted the concrete steps, a number of crumpled candy wrappers chirped to life, regaling him with cheerful play lists and animated nanoFX.

In the hall, van Dijk made his way past Teflon-white doors set in gray cinder block. Janakowski waited on the left, at the far end. As van Dijk passed the next-to-the last door on the right, it opened a fraction, revealing a pair of luminous blue eyes. The eyes met his for a beat, then retreated. The door snicked shut.

Lisette.

Van Dijk moved past the door, dropping the thin smile from his face. He greeted Janakowski with a curt nod.

“You need me for anything, Detective?” The officer stepped away from the sealed door and hitched up his belt, anxious to get going.

Van Dijk tipped his head back down the hall. “That the girl?”

“Yeah.” The officer nodded, his jowls ruddy under the strident LED ceiling lights. Someone had taped red paper, printed with white flowers, to the panels. The black desiccated shadows of dead bugs speckled the underside of the paper and the dim lantern glow.

“Keep the kid company till I’m finished in here.”

“I gotta take a leak.”

“In that case, you better get Kohl to relieve you.”

“Very funny, Detective.” The officer ambled down the hall, his brow furrowed in concentration as he messaged his partner.

Van Dijk logged into SFPD central data, allocated a new library for the case, then pushed open the door to the victim’s apartment.

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Copyright © 2006 Mark Budz. All rights reserved.