Today's Reading

The six-foot-five cop might get confessions just by walking up to a suspect and leaning down.

"You were the one called?" Addison asked.

"I did." Shaw explained that the person who'd thrown the cocktail had just run off. "That way." He gestured down the weedy street, handfuls of trash every few yards. "He's probably not too far away."

The cop asked what had happened.

Shaw told him. Carole supplemented, with the somewhat gratuitous addendum about the difficulty of being a widow running a business by herself. "People take advantage. I push back. I have to.

You would. Sometimes they threaten you." Shaw noted she'd glanced at Addison's left hand, where no jewelry resided.

Addison cocked his head toward the Motorola mounted on his shoulder and gave Central a summary, with the description from Shaw. It had been quite detailed but he'd left out the rodent-like aspect, that being largely a matter of opinion.

Addison's eyes turned back to Shaw. "Could I see some ID?"

There are conflicting theories about what to do when the law asks for ID and you're not a suspect. This was a question Shaw often confronted, since he frequently found himself at crime scenes and places where investigations were under way. You generally didn't have to show anybody anything. In that case, you'd have to be prepared to endure the consequences of your lack of cooperation. Time is one of the world's most valuable commodities, and being pissy with cops guarantees you're going to lose big chunks of it.

His hesitation at the moment, though, was not on principle but because he was worried that his motorbike's license had been spotted at the site of yesterday's transgression. His name might therefore be in the system.

Then he recalled that they'd know him already; he'd called 911 from his personal phone, not a burner. So Shaw handed over the license.

Addison took a picture of it with his phone and uploaded the details somewhere.

Shaw noted that he didn't do the same with Carole, even though it was her trailer court that had tangentially been involved. Some minor profiling there, Shaw reflected: stranger in town versus a local.

This he kept to himself.

Addison looked at the results. He eyed Shaw closely.

A reckoning for yesterday's transgression? Shaw now chose to call it what it was: theft. There's no escape in euphemism.

Apparently the gods of justice were not a posse after him today.

Addison handed the license back. "Did you recognize him?" he asked Carole.

"No, sir, but it's hard to keep track. We get a lot of people here.

Lowest rates in the area."

"Did he throw the bottle at you, Mr. Shaw?"

"Toward. A diversion, not assault. So he could get away." This gave the officer a moment's pause.

Carole blurted: "I looked it up online. Molotov secretly worked for Putin."

Both men looked at her quizzically. Then Shaw continued with the officer: "And to burn the evidence. Prints and DNA on the glass."

Addison remained thoughtful. He was the sort, common among police, whose lack of body language speaks volumes. He'd be processing why Shaw had considered forensics.

The officer said, "If he wasn't here to cause you any problem, ma'am, what was he here about, you think?"

Before Carole answered, Shaw said, "That." He pointed across the street to the vacant lot he'd noted earlier.

The trio walked toward it.

The trailer camp was in a scruffy commercial neighborhood, off Route 24, where tourists could stage before a trip to steep Grizzly Peak or neighboring Berkeley. This trash-filled, weedy lot was separated from the property behind it by an old wooden fence about eight feet tall. Local artists had used it as a canvas for some very talented artwork: portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and two other men Shaw didn't recognize. As the three got closer, Shaw saw the names printed below the pictures: Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, who'd been connected with the Black Panther Party. Shaw remembered cold nights in his television-free childhood home. Ashton would read to Colter and his siblings, mostly American history. Much of it about alternative forms of governance. The Black Panthers had figured in several lectures.

This excerpt ends on page 20 of the hardcover edition. ...

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