Brewster knocked on my door at 9 a.m.
“We’re hitting the road, Drake!”
“Body found down near Santa Cruz. Thought you should tag along.”
“But the Giants can sweep all five from the Braves today. McCormick needs me to warm him up.”
“They’ll have to hire a guy off the street. Get your clothes on.”
Liz had already left to read her manuscript pages at some coffee joint in North Beach. I left her a note, called in a second one for McCormick—that I had a bad stomach ache and couldn’t squat—and headed out with Brewster.
Sharpwood, his chain-smoking, right-hand flunkie, rode beside him down the coast. Gabbed about this new Natalie Wood movie he had just seen most of the way, interrupted by the occasional squawk of their police radio. I would have settled for hearing Nat King Cole or Frank, but I was stuck in the back and had no vote.
Our route took us through Pedro Point and Half Moon Bay. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry, stopping for coffee twice along the way. Sharpwood gave me shady glances once in a while, like he thought I was hiding something. The thing is, I was. But until I figured out what connection Peanut Man had with my past, if he did at all, I didn’t see any point in blabbing about it. And believe it or else, the telephone lines in Loon Lake, New York were still down from the storm.
“So what’s this body?” I asked.
“About to find out, aren’t we?” said Sharpwood.
“Older female, caucasian,” added Brewster. He looked at me in the rear view mirror. “Think you can handle this, Drake?”
“Guess we’ll find that out, too.”
* * *
The body in Santa Cruz belonged to a vagrant, a far more experienced wino than my mother. Strangled with her own shoelaces and dumped in a trash can behind a Shell Station on Route 1. Local cops were on the scene when we arrived, and were kissing up to Brewster and Sharpwood like they were popes.
Ambulance guys hauled out the stiff, laid her on the muddy ground. Which was when we noticed the small, empty bag sticking out of her shirt pocket.
“Don’t tell me,” I said. “Salty Dog Nuts.”
Bingo. Except this bag had a small note tucked inside:
Getting warmer. Sorry for her ragged appearance, but get the point?
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” asked Sharpwood.
“It’s a goose chase,” said Brewster, “A scavenger hunt. He’s leading us to Mrs. Drake.”
“It’s a place,” I said.
“A place? What do you mean a place?”
“Ever been down Big Sur Highway? Town at the southern end is called Ragged Point.”
And so we kept driving. Sharpwood finally gave in to my pleas and tuned in to the Giants broadcast. Thanks to me not being there to warm up McCormick, he was his old batting practice self and the Braves woke up for a day and shellacked him. As we hit the curvy, spectacular Big Sur road just past Carmel, and Russ Hodges’ voice vanished into static and pounding waves, at least I was sure the killer would be satisfied for another night.
(only game scheduled)
MIL 210 030 010 – 7 14 0
S.F. 001 000 100 – 2 6 0
W-Spahn L-McCormick HRS: Crandall, Aaron, Cepeda GWRBI-Aaron
One day after I mention Aaron’s slump, he singles in two in the 1st, then bashes a three-run homer in the 5th for five of Milwaukee’s seven runs. The Dodgers are in next for five games, while the Braves head home to host the equally reeling Pirates and the Cubs go to St. louis.
TEAM RUN DIFFERENTIALS
Red Sox +84
White Sox +12
National League through Thursday, August 28
American League through Thursday, August 28