City Serenade is number six in the Detective John Bowers series. A rogue offender sidelines Bowers while a downtown serial rapist is disturbing the Peaceful, Green, Urban Oasis rep Portland likes to claim. When a second assault ends in a vicious murder, the stakes go up for the City, the cops and especially for Central Precinct’s Robbery/Homicide Unit. Once again, Detectives John Bowers and his partner Minola Raye start the case working from the inside out. The trail leads through a crowd of midtown white-collars from the landmark towers to the Follies Revue and the dregs of rejects and losers prowling the alleys and back streets below. How one thread weaves a connection from one face of the Rose City to the darker side may turn out to be the key to solving the case.
It had quit raining, but the roof run-off dripped down his back. The gutter rushed in a torrent and soaked him as if he’d been through the Burnside car wash. No matter. Whenever it rained, he got wet. When the Columbia Gorge winds swept a misty curtain across the city, he shivered in the corners, pressed his runny nose against the urine-splattered bricks and wished himself inside where it was warm. The stinking swarm in the shelter reminded him he was still a notch up on the human scale from the flotsam of crazies and derelicts cursing private demons on the streets.
They called him Beans around the shelters and hand-out houses because when he sat down to a steaming bowl of navy soup or red-dog chili, he’d gulp down his ration like a garbage disposal. Leery diners at each elbow would guard their portions with the ferocity of prison wardens.
Crouched in the alley to seek a little relief from the weather, Beans woke up when he heard the man yell. He never heard the woman speak at all.
“Goddam!” he heard the man say as he tried to lift the woman off the ground..
“Ughhh!” was all she got out.
Her handbag dropped to the ground, and her shoes came off when the man put both arms around her in a bear hug and dragged her to the end of the alley. Then he drew back his fist and grunted like he was taking a big shit. The woman slumped to the ground and lay there with her feet pointed east and west. As Beans rubbed his eyes, he watched the man fall on top of her and he knew he was ripping off a free fuck.
“Hey you! Beat it!” Beans hollered, emboldened by the frightened stare his interruption elicited.
The rapist pulled himself off the woman and sprinted to the end of the alley, banged his way past garbage cans and vaulted over a brick wall. Beans crept out of the shadows, scooted over to the drainpipe, reached behind the Dumpster and picked up a woman’s purse. He rifled through the contents which included a wallet, a lipstick, car keys and a tampon. He stooped for a half minute trying his damndest to focus on the disheveled carcass crumpled at his feet. Just made him dizzy. She was sucking air like an old bulldog. Her eyes opened and aimed right through him. Like he owed her something. Never said a goddam word. Stupid bitch didn’t know enough to get up and get gone.
The bum skirted a farrago of misfits mingling in the rain at Pioneer Square and hurried up Broadway, past the crowd whose tinseled laughter echoed from the steel and glass canyons then evaporated like champagne fizz as he melted unseen into the night.