It’s 1994, and veteran homicide detective John Bowers teams up with his partner Minola Raye to solve another grisly murder in Babylon — Portland, Oregon’s fringe district of losers and forgotten victims. Like hungry sharks, Babylon’s riffraff feed on the innocent and vulnerable, and only case-hardened cops like Bowers seek justice in a system that has no heart.
Babylon Blues - A Detective John Bowers Mystery
She opened her eyes. The clock radio hummed from the bedside table. She could hear truck tires swishing on Saint Helen’s Road.
Staring into the darkness which swallowed up her fear, she listened. The noise came again, and her heart thumped. Her pupils dilated until she could read the shadows slipping across the bedroom wall. Suddenly there was a new sound – a strange scrape close by. Inside the house perhaps. Was there also the soft thump of a footfall? Maybe she had dreamed it. The lightning bolt of fear which had jolted her from sleep, may have been only a nightmare. Was the sound real? Was it coming nearer? Was it only the rain? The wind?
The door to the hallway was closed. The curtains were partially open over the Venetian blinds. She was alone in the house but felt the intrusion of an ominous presence she couldn’t name. Another car hissed by on Saint Helens Road – maybe the strange noise had come again. Now she wasn’t sure, but her pulse was still racing. She slid her right hand under the covers and gripped the butt of her .38 Smith and Wesson revolver. The gun lying beside her was the only reason she was able to sleep through the long nights since Steve had left.
She strained to listen as the clock beside the bed clicked. The refrigerator turned on in the kitchen and hummed with a familiar lull. Gradually her pulse slowed.
Maybe it was only the wind banging the screen door and making the porch groan. She listened hard for any new sounds she could not identify. A car passed; a semi belched as it geared down to cross the railroad tracks. Nothing else. She hugged her pillow and drew her knees up. There was nothing to be afraid of. She could close her eyes and try to sleep.
As she listened, the seconds ticked by with nothing but familiar sounds to reassure her. Finally she closed her eyes. In another moment, she was floating on the outgoing tide toward deep, black waters.
As she sank farther from the light, outside the rain had stopped, but the ground beneath her kitchen window was still soft enough for the soil to ooze over the toes of the man’s boots. He stood under the dripping eaves, his tobacco-stained fingers gripping the splintered frame. A flake of blue paint sliced under his thumbnail when he tugged on the sash. He huffed and grunted trying to budge the rain-swollen wood, reefing hard before the window jerked up, and he climbed into the kitchen.
He stank of tobacco, red wine and a week’s residue of plaque coated on his mismatched grinders like paste on wallboard. He hadn’t shaved in four days or scrubbed his hide since he’d soaked in the flophouse tub two weeks ago, drained a bottle of Mad Dog, fallen asleep and almost drowned in the scummy water. His sour stink clung to him like old longjohns.
Ahead of him were two doors, one partially open – he saw a clawfoot bathtub and pink towels hanging on a chrome rack. The other door was closed. He unzipped his pants. What he wanted was to take a crap, maybe even warm his feet in the tub if he had the chance. That’d take the chill off his bones and ease the pain in his worn-out joints.
He shuffled forward and then stopped, waiting for the echoing creak in the floor to wane. Taking one step across the bathroom threshold, he glanced toward the closed door to his right and paused. Then he hitched up his pants, turned around, opened the bedroom door and saw her.