Murder in Outer Sunset


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He stuffed the wet Flashbomb plus neoprene suit into the marine surf duffel, securing the roll and clip closure. Hefting the two boards under his muscular arms he padded through the dunes in his rubber booties. Fog had settled into the hollow beach community bookended by hills. As a deep mauve sunset glowed through the mist, lace edged wavelets skimmed the shingle. Visibility was ghostly, the waves were flat muffled, the horizon silent in the obscure distance. He entered into the softening surf and paddled out, keeping the two boards together. He’d had to disassemble the fins from the top board and used duck tape to keep them locked together. The duffel weighed down his arm as he paddled north along the surfbreak. 

    The arms of Murphy’s windmill haunted the hazy sky in ghostly silhouettes. Adrenaline pumped through his lungs as he hauled past the Beach Chalet, barely visible, its lights cloaked and muted. He had practiced the route with heavy weights in the waterproof duffel to condition himself for the task. Though his arm felt deadened he knew he had the gentle rolling waves to thank for the ease in maneuvering. Even the rip current had stalled during the low tide. As the twin Dutch windmill appeared, arranged at the opposite edge of Golden Gate Park, he let the waves heave him in to shore, washing him up even with Stairway 18. 

    A lone dog walker greeted him at the water’s edge, the butterscotch retriever carrying a piece of driftwood in his maw. Glowing in blurred lights, Cliff House loomed above on the edge of the rock face. He dropped the boards and duffel to the sand, letting the foamy ruffles caress and push them forward, while he paused to let the blood flow circulate in his weakened arm. Warm in the layers of neoprene, lined with titanium to lock in his own body heat, his legs moved fluidly as he clutched the boards and duffel to climb the wide beach to the parking lot above the seawall.

    Nearly deserted, the lot held a few beat up vans and one shiny, luxury SUV. He extracted the key from its hiding place in the wheel well and stowed the wet things in the specially designed hatch, where he perched to shed the rubber gloves, booties and wetsuit. Toweling off his bare chest, he shivered in the floating fogs. His baggy khakis, wool socks and fleece hoodie were as welcoming as a roaring fire. He huddled into the sherpa lined hoodie, zipping it to encase himself in its warmth.     

    Sitting in the cab, behind the driving wheel, he gazed at the now darkened beach. The break was indistinct behind the blanket of mist, only the lather of froth could be seen skimming the shoreline. No line on the horizon.

    He ignited the engine and waited for its purring idle to balance before leaving the parking lot. With the heater engaged, the stereo system pulsing groovy electronica, he crossed into the northbound lanes of the Great Highway, accelerated up the hill and into the night.



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The sun had yet to make an appearance, still hidden under a horizon thick with fog when Kate Spåde emerged from the Victorian portico onto the steep stairway of the rented triplex. Her neighbors, Martin on the first floor, and Chen on the second, were still sound asleep. She wouldn’t wake them by revving her shiny new Vespa. She left it stowed in the vestibule alongside their bicycles, scooters and Martin’s skateboard. Instead she would make use of the abusive MUNI system this morning, still early, even by San Francisco rush hour standards.

    Ascending the twenty degree sloped sidewalk to the corner, she waited patiently for the #10 to haul her up Pacific Heights to Fillmore. Even in casual sporty gear, she wasn’t native enough to climb the steep hill. Her brisk pony tail of blonde hair swished in the damp air. She rubbed her fleeced arms, wishing she’d worn a knitted hat. Her Scandinavian blood was easily chilled in the northern California climate. As the bus hissed and moaned to a stop, she climbed through the back doors, allowing the sensor to beep a good morning to her proffered pass. The grey skies were lightening as she performed the same maneuver on the #22 Fillmore, edging slowly towards Market Street. 

    At the Duboce Triangle she exited to pick up the N-line outbound. The twin eye lamps glowed red out of the fog as the N-Judah chugged along its rails. The beloved N had the most adorable personality of any of Market Street’s tram cars. Though not as antique as its predecessors, its charm was in its facial design, so personable and as cute as a cartoon figure. Kate took a seat in the nearly empty front car and settled back for the slow crawl westward. She knew that a custom made cappuccino was brewing in her future, on the western horizon.

    As she sidled up onto the bar stool in Java Beach cafe, Jake expertly steamed a couple shots worth of espresso for her bowl of cappuccino. When he placed the frothing cobalt cup in front of her she thanked him profusely, recognizing a job well done. One should take pride in their coffee-making skills. Silence wrapped the cafe, nestled between the dunes and the residential district of Outer Sunset, on the fringe of the city. As the shades of grey turned from wrought iron to brushed metal, Monday morning workers slowly emerged from their overnight lairs. A few groggy weekend celebrants crawled into the cafe for a pre-work cup of java and then left to catch the N-Judah as it made the turnaround in front of the coffeeshop where Judah dead-ended onto La Playa. Completely the big swooping curve, the little tram chugged back up Judah, merging with  busy Market Street in the Castro and continuing all the way to the Ferry Building downtown, dispersing commuters all along the way.

    Kate listened to the thrum of the tram’s electric motors as it dissipated gradually into the distance. As she sipped the foamy brew she read from the letter she had removed from her leather satchel. Still sealed, she had held it over the steaming cup, wilting the onion skin of the Parisian post-marked envelope. In his personal bold-faced font, Luc had written to convince her one last time to join him in Paris. He had left her teary-eyed at SFO nearly three weeks ago, urging her to board the plane, but she’d declined while smudging mascara cast her eyes in a raccoon mask. Now he wrote her, in the old-fashioned manner, knowing full well that it would captivate her attention. Luc had been an attentive and seducing lover who had wangled his way into her bed and into her heart. It had been almost a year since they’d met while she was investigating the murder at the Phoenix Hotel in aid of her friend, Kim-chee, who held the managerial position. Now he wrote to her from the Fifth Arrondissement, boasting of corner cafes, jazz clubs and stellar Métro service. After establishing his grand-mère into the hotel particulier she had invested in with the profits from her Pacific Heights Victorian, he had settled into a sixth floor flat, completely remodeled in brushed metal modèrne style. With a tempting elevator and exposed limestone walls it was the haute couture of flats. But it didn’t have the view which enraptured Kate every morning from her third floor on the heights overlooking the gateway––fog or no fog. And though Luc challenged that she’d had no personal ties to keep her in San Francisco, she professed that it was her home. While he prided himself in pleasing his family––EU politicos in Brussels––by resuming his studies at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne Law School, she remonstrated that she couldn’t speak French fluently and wouldn’t be able to put her skills to work there. She was sad to lose Luc, and tried to convince herself that she was happy for him. 

    Signaling to Jake for another round, she folded the letter and slid it into the envelope, neatly stowing it into her bag. She looked up as a tall, blond, curly haired guy strolled into the cafe. He was encased in black neoprene from neck to toe. A surfer. He propped his orange board, emblazoned with the RipCurl logo against the wall by the entrance and swaggered to the counter. Clearly a local. Jake greeted him as bro which confirmed as much. While Kate sipped from her cobalt blue bol, the surfer slammed back a slim glass of cold espresso, waved good-bye, grabbed his board and was crossing La Playa to climb the embankment to the Great Highway and the dunes beyond. You couldn’t do that from a corner cafe in the Sixth. To Kate, San Francisco was Paris with an ocean. Her case rested.

    “What was that he drank?” Kate inquired.

    “We call it a Black Bull––straight espresso sweetened with raw sugar and cooled. When it’s warm out we serve it cracked––on the rocks. If we add a drizzle of cream, it’s skunked.

    “I’ve never heard of that!”

    “Well, you know how it is around here. Surfers are superstitiously secretive. We don’t advertise, y’know?”

    “Ok, mum’s the word.”

    “No worries, Kate. You’re one of us.”    

    “You know I don’t surf. Hell, I don’t even body surf. It’s too cold!”

    “We’ll get you into a wet suit one of these days,” he teased.

    “I don’t know about that! But I do love it out here. I adore the fog and the waves and the lonely beach. And it’s even nicer when the sun shines.”

    “The beach won’t be lonely starting tomorrow.”

    “Why? What’s happening?”

    “Big pro surf contest. I mean, BIG time. Like, Kelly Slater time.”

    “He’s the one with the eyes.”

    “Yep. Among other things,” he laughed, “he’s kind of a big deal in the water.”

    “Well, from what I’ve heard, he’s an even bigger deal out of the water!”

    Jake appreciated her enamor for the stud surfer. There wasn’t a girl, guy or grom who didn’t worship the green-eyed god of the beachbreak. Their amused conversation was interrupted by the neoprened blonde locks that ran through the door. He was back for another round, perhaps, Kate thought. But his curls appeared harried and his voice had lost a bit of its swagger. She listened as he gasped for Jake to call the police.

    “I saw Matty, lying in the dunes. Dude––he’s dead!”

    “What happened?”

    “Dude, I don’t know, but there was blood in his hair.”

    “Was he out surfing? I didn’t see him this morning.”

    “Dude, there wasn’t a board or a suit on him. He was just sprawled on his stomach, naked.”


    While Jake called the police, Kate left her stool to approach the distressed surfer. Introducing herself, she flashed her security badge and informed him that she was a private investigator, stretching the truth a tad. She asked him to show her the body before anyone else stumbled upon it and compromised the scene. With a confirming nod from Jake that Kate was legit, Taylor agreed. They left the cafe and trudged up the bank to the Great Highway, crossing with ease in the post-dawn, pre- rush hour. Climbing the rugged dunes on the hollowed path, they remained silent in the deserted windswept sandscape. Kate could hear the muffled crash of the waves through the hazy fog.

    “Do you usually come out in such foggy conditions?” she wondered.

    “Yeah, we locals are used to it. We know this break like the back of our hands.”

    As they crested a dune, Taylor pointed to a hollow off the path where the body lay undisturbed. She warned him to follow his exact footsteps. She scrutinized the naked body that was arrayed on its stomach, the head twisted towards the sea-facing dune, its dark curly hair matted where the skull had been bashed inwards. It was a grisly sight. Below the neck, the body was untouched. Muscular, youthful––like a marble statue of a Greek god, Kate mused. The skin was as pale as moonstone, mottled with a bluish hue. She was mesmerized by the roundness of his buttcheeks, punctuated by the indigo tattoo on the left hip. She had to keep herself from exclaiming how beautiful he was, reminding herself that the body was that of a dead boy.

    “Taylor, I’m sorry––I know how upsetting this is––but tell me, how are you able to identify this body?”

    “Well Matt’s one of my compadres. I’ve known him since we were groms. But I’d know his body anywhere because we’re both members of Ocean Beach Surfers.”

    “I’m sorry––I’m not a local––what are Ocean Beach Surfers?”

    “We’re a club that donates our time to charities. We raise money for youth groups, work with the kids out in the water, educate locals about sustainability, recycling––stuff like that. Some of us have attained a sort of celebrity status by donating our bodies. You see, we’re the lads from the Ocean Beach Surfers Nude Calendar.”

    “Ah...that explains it.”

    Kate had knelt down in the sand taking photos with her cameraphone from every angle, zooming in on the sand surrounding the body. If any tracks had remained they’d been swept away by the brisk ocean breezes. The only human markings were those made by Taylor and herself.

    The wail of sirens interrupted the soft purr of ruffled seagrass. Dark suited figures appeared in the dunes, sighted Taylor and Kate and soon surrounded the scene. Walkie talkies clicked and slurred with whitenoise. A harsh voice snapped at the uniforms from above. Kate recognized the short Napoleon form of Detective Inspector Leclerq before he identified her.

    “Miss Spåde,” he barked, “what are you doing here? This isn’t your turf and I don’t need your investigative assistance.”    

    “Well, Leclerq. What brings you out this way so early and since when is the coastline your turf?”

    “I’ve been assigned to Outer Sunset for the next two weeks, not that it’s any of your business.”

    “Ah, the pro surfing contest. Are you Kelly Slater’s personal bodyguard? I’m jealous. That’s one assignment I envy you. It’s a shame, but now you’ve got a murder case on your plate. Guess you’ll have to pass the bodyguard assignment off on someone else. Maybe you could use my assistance.”

    “You’ve jumped to the conclusion of murder rather quickly, haven’t you Miss Spåde?”

    “Well, see for yourself. I don’t think the victim walked out here naked and bashed his head in all by himself. It looks to me like he had a little help, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Leclerq pointedly ignored Kate and turned to the suited surfer.

    “You found the body?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Are you Jake?”

    “Taylor,” he held out his hand, “Taylor Knox. Jake is the dude at the coffeeshop; he made the phonecall.”

    “You had just come out at daybreak,” Leclerq assumed from the dry suit.

    “Yeah. I was just crossing the path there,” he gestured behind them, “when I saw Matt’s body and...” his voice trailed off.

    “And you recognized the body how?”

    “Matt’s a buddy. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”

    “I’m still unsure how you can make an ID unless you saw him here before he was killed.”

    “Leclerq. You’re leading the witness,” she chided, “isn’t that beneath you? Look, I saw this gentleman enter from Judah street into the cafe where he drank a beverage before heading over here. A few minutes later he returned, visibly upset and asked Jake to call the police. He led me to the scene and explained to me how he knew this to be the body of his friend. Trust me, he has a very good reason to be certain. It’s clear to me that Taylor didn’t come out here and murder his friend this morning. Anyone can see that the body has lain out here overnight. I’d say, by the look of it, that he’s been dead for almost twelve hours. Before you accuse Taylor or put him on the top of your suspect list, you might ask him where he was yesterday between 5 and 7 pm.”

    “Are you finished?” he snarled.

    “You know I’m right,” she snapped back, “Taylor––don’t let him bully you. Here’s my card. Please call me if I can be of any assistance to you.”

    Kate stalked off over the dunes, her mind racing with possibilities.



    Back in the cafe, bustling with locals searching for sustenance and gossip, she motioned Jake over to the back corner, at the end of the bar, next to the restrooms. She whispered to him quickly and he disappeared into the back room. A moment later he thrust a flat laptop sized booklet onto the bar.

    “We use that for our schedule changes, so I have to have it back, chica,” he smiled before returning to the counter where the line was snaking in length.

    Kate paged through the calendar, scanning it with a professional eye, keeping her personal emotions under control. Each month’s photo was artfully composed with members of the Ocean Beach Surfers in the nude. Posed in pairs or groups, she counted six different males, all youthful with erotically chiseled bodies. She failed to recognize Matt, though Taylor was easily identifiable. When Julie passed by, Kate hailed her.

    “Hey, do you know which one is Matt?”

    “Oh, sure,” she peeled the pages to May. “That’s him––full frontal! Mmm, mmm. What a waste of manlihood,” she lamented.

    “You mean, now that he’s dead.”

    “I mean that and more,” she raised an eyebrow.

    “What do you mean?”

    “It wasn’t really a secret. We just don’t blab about people’s business around here, capiche?”

    “Mum’s the word.”

    “Matt was gay.”


    Julie mopped up the bar but Jake called her for help up front.

    “Wait––quickly. Can you point him out in this photo?”

    “Sure. We’ve all seen him naked from the front and behind,” she verified. “This one,” she pointed to a pair of sculpted buttcheeks in the line of six pair of equally Greek grade.    

    “Thanks.” She handed the calendar back to Julie. “Where can I purchase one of these?”

    “All the surf shops have stock. It just came out a week ago. Try Mollusk on Irving @46th or Wise on the Great Highway up at Cabrillo.” She rushed away, stowing the calendar under the counter.


    Kate checked the hours for the two surfshops on her phone. They didn’t open until eleven am on Mondays, but due to the pro surfing contest Wise would be open early all week. Still they weren’t open this early. She swung back to the line which had begun to dwindle with Julie’s help.

    “Feed me, Jake––I’m gonna take a long walk this morning.”

    Armed with a plate of eggs mixed with spinach, kale and arugula and garnished with tortilla wedges covered in chopped tomato and melted cheese, Kate contentedly passed the time. After a third bol of cappuccino––extreme even by her standards––she looked at her black Movado and decided to begin the trek to the surf shop. The curious onlookers had dispersed once the body had been removed but she avoided the dunes, choosing to walk along the Great Highway until the beach became visible opposite Golden Gate Park. She crossed over and descended to the sand at Stairwell 28 onto the wide beach at low tide. Breathing in the brine, watching the soaring, dipping pelicans grasp their own breakfasts, she regained her sense of place, digested the tragedy of the fog bound grey morning and let the sunshine breaking through the clouds shower her with good vibrations.

    Kate mused on the rarity of being out on the beach so early in the day. In her business it was unusual for her up early as her clients never scheduled 9am meetings. Working with the people who ran music venues meant days didn’t begin until late afternoon and went deep into the night. Kate chewed on the fact that Luc was the only man whose hours had mirrored her own, making a more tranquil alliance possible. Not for her were those fellas who had to hit the sack early because the markets in New York had them up at four am. Kate admitted that she was savage in the morning, especially prior to her first cappuccino. But every so often she took advantage of her open schedule to get out, leaving her wondering why she didn’t do so more often. Life was a paradox of desires. She wanted to sleep in; she wanted to walk on the beach at daybreak. She wanted Luc and a modern Parisian apartment and she wanted Luc in a shabby chic San Franciscan painted lady with a view of the gate. She had the mentality of a feline, forever on the fence, wanting her almond creme filled cake for later and eating an entire plate full for breakfast too. It seemed she was best suited to share her days in the company of her ginger tabby, Mr. Pimms, with whom she got along with in perfect harmony. 

    The grit of blowing salty sand mixed with the lingering taste of cilantro and garlic on her tongue and stung her eyes. She pulled her cat eye bordeaux colored Ray Bans from her bag to shade her face. It was a long walk to Stairwell 10, albeit on a flat shingle but she felt the sand pull at her muscles. She’d been neglecting her yoga practice, having gotten used to cohabitation with Luc and the exercises they practiced regularly in bed. It was time for her to resume the mid-morning sessions which had invigorated her day. The stairs were steep and slippery with putrified seaweed from high tide. The parking lot was beginning to fill with vans, surfers were out in the water searching for swell. She crossed the Great Highway hurriedly, realizing she needed to pee. 

    Wise Surfboard Shop sat just over the four lane highway with an excellent view of the onshore activity. It resided on two floors in the corner suite of a long building of condominiums and offices. A poster advertising the surf contest hung in the window. The doors were wedged open by two tall totems, carved with tiki faces––grim and menacing. Inside a friendlier face stood behind the counter.

    “Hey. You’re a day early––Kelly won’t be here til tomorrow,” he teased.

    “I bet you’re going to be saying that all day, huh?”

    “Well, I’m trying it out. You’re the first. What did ya think?”

    “The tone is good, but your smile is too nice; you need to shake your head and frown when you say it,” she flirted.

    “And waste these pearly whites? All right, so what can I do for you––if you’re not here looking for Kelly.”

    “Actually, I’m looking for some local men. The Ocean Beach Surfers...y’know...the calendar?”

    “Oh, right. Got ‘em prominently displayed right over here.” He handed her the glossy covered booklet. “Is that it? What about tee shirt for the contest?” He pointed to the bright orange shirt, hanging above the counter, emblazoned with the Rip Curl logo and the same graphic design as the poster.

    “No, thank you, but I’d really appreciate it if I could use your facilities. I just walked up here from Java Beach where I consumed three cups of cappuccino.”

    “Sure,” he led the way to the back where the changing rooms were, “were you there when the body was found?”

    “Word travels fast around here.”

    “As rapid as the current.”

    “Yeah, I was in the cafe when Taylor found him. Did you know Matt well?”

    “Watermen all know each other. He’s a lot younger, but we’re all the same in the presence of a wave.”

    “How philosophical.”

    “Living on the beach will make you a philosopher. That and a stint at UCSF.”

    “So you’re not the typical beach bum, surf shop guy.”

    “Oh, I am!” he assured her, “My dad started this business back in 1968 when I was just a tot. It’s in my blood. But a degree in business doesn’t hurt. I can say, with complete objectivity, that we are the best purveyors of boards on the northern coast. We don’t cut corners and we run a clean ship.”

    “Sounds like you have your finger on the pulse of this shoreline.”

    “Philosophically speaking?”

    “Objectively speaking,” she paused, “In your objective opinion, who do you think would have reason to bludgeon a young surfer to death?”

    “I’m without a clue. Was there any sign of a weapon?”

    “Nothing. Not a mark in the sand from anything. Not a stitch of clothing on the body. It seems a bit symbolic, don’t you think? To leave a naked body in the dunes like that.”

    “Not if he’d been surfing. A lot of guys like to surf naked with just a rash lining in their suits. Question is: what happened to his suit?”

    “Can you show me what sort of suit Matt would have been wearing?”

    “Matt didn’t have a lot of money, so he wore a hand-me-down whenever I saw him out. The black skeleton suit was given to him by a fellow surfer who had traded up to one of the new FlashBomb suits.”

    “I see. Could I use that bathroom now?”


    When she returned the man was assisting a customer with a board. He raised a finger towards her to indicate he’d just be a moment. When he met her at the counter she paid for the calendar.

    “I don’t want to detain you from your customer,” she whispered, extracting a card from her wallet, “but I was wondering if perhaps you know anything about Matt’s liaisons within the gay community.”

    “I’ve heard rumors––”

    “Well if you hear anything substantial, Mr. Wise, please give me a call,” and she handed him her card disclosing her title of private investigator.

    He read her name and offered his business card in return.

    “Edward Wise, Board Shaper,” she read, “Thank you. And please––call me if you think of anything.”

    “Sure. And it’s just ‘Ed’” he smiled as she left the shop through its guarded doorway.


    Back in the sunshine, Kate studied her MUNI app. to decide what route to take home. La Playa Street ran just behind the building and she could see the telltale hood shaped transit shelters. On Cabrillo Street, beside the Safeway, the #18 and #31 routes passed through. She joined a throng of waiting passengers, at the mercy of MUNI. Clutching their grocery bags of recycled woven plastic the assembled group mingled around the recycled plastic shelter. An apparent homeless man, also apparently drunk or drugged, or both entertained from the middle of Cabrillo Street. His poetry was recited with ferocious yelps from a murderous face framed in untamed straggling hair. Clearly undomesticated, most probably homicidal, his voice rampaged in a violent cacophony. While some smiled at his caustic diatribe, others ignored him, seemingly unfazed by the local vagabond.

    “Just another San Franciscan beatnik poet,” one wag joked.

    When the #31 MUNI turned the corner from La Playa, everyone crept closer to the curb except Kate who required the #18. Left alone with the street vagrant, she took a chance and tested his faculties.

    “What’s the word on the street about a slayer in the dunes?” she yelled at him. “You see anyone acting strange? Someone who didn’t belong?”

    He bleated back at her with words of torture and hell, all nonsensical. But then he paused in mid-sentence. With complete coherence he said, “a Riley arose from the waves on two boards, carrying a heavy duffel; got into his shiny Riley-mobile and drove up the hill...what a revoltin’ development this is!” he finished off resoundingly.

    Just then, her #18 hissed to a stop, only to be accosted by the cantankerous old fool. She leaped aboard and the bus roared away, leaving the Lear abandoned in the middle of the road. Fool or King, she wondered. It sounded to Kate like the fool had seen something of interest. She copied what he had said into her notebook. Using her phone, she searched the term “Riley” and surprisingly enough found an entry in the dictionary. It referred to the phrase: “living the life of Riley” which meant a carefree and luxurious existence. It seemed the poet was a philosopher as well. She typed in the phrase “what a revoltin’ development this is” and was further surprised to find it had been a popular catchphrase made famous by a radio/television character named Chester A. Riley. 

    As the bus bumped its way along the crest of Lincoln Park and circled into the parking lot, Kate stowed her phone and gathered her bag to disembark in front of the entrance to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. She followed the museum goers into the courtyard, reminiscent of the Cour Carée of the Louvre, with its miniature glass pyramid and colonnaded gallery. Circling around to the pensive Thinker, cast in immutable bronze and staring out towards the sun kissed city, she puzzled over the pieces she’d gathered so far. Something was missing. 


    She wandered to the edge of the promontory that the museum grounds perched upon and gazed out at the passageway through the Golden Gate Bridge. The elevated vantage point overlooked Baker Beach and Fort Point, as well as the cars speeding across the roadway suspended by rust colored iron. The towers were obscured by hanging fog that dipped down to cover the opposite side like an iron curtain. The fog horns moaned and gulls brayed over the sloshing waves below. Just to the south and east it had been sunny and clear, but up here on Land’s End the climate was quite forbidding, laced with an air of Hitchcock and hard-boiled noir. There was no wind and the fog hung in stillness, shrouding the pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees that lined the hilltop. She took a seat on a cement bench in the nook where a stone monument carved in Japanese characters memorialized the arrival of the Kanrin Maru, the first Japanese Naval ship to dock in San Francisco harbor in 1860.

    Away from the tourists, she opened the calendar to study the Ocean Beach Surfers with meticulous attention. The Greek god-like young men cavorted amongst the dunes, on the beach, and in the water; always artfully composed so that no part of their gonads were visible, but for the merest glimpse. A tease that deprived the viewer by only a millisecond. Regardless, these boys were sculpted from erotic muscle that flexed with tension. Kate felt her loins engorge as she was greeted by one lad, facing the camera, his loins carefully obscured by seagrass blowing in the stiff ocean breeze. She wondered what else was stiff behind those weeds. She found herself engrossed with the cleverness of each shot and how the model was shielded by objects, water or other persons. When she reached the month of October she was met with the full moon shot in which Julie had pointed out the pair of buttcheeks belonging to the victim. With a sharpie Kate labeled the photos with the names that Julie had listed, matching them up on each photo in the calendar until she had all of them identified. Then she studied each image of Matt, particularly those that displayed him a varying angles. Again she felt that something was missing.     

    A muffled cough startled her to attention. She looked up into the faces of an elderly Japanese couple and surreptitiously hid the calendar in her bag, the pink of shame creeping across her face. They had been studying the monument and she heard the man recite from the etched stone. She stared at the characters, reminding her more of the tattoos people chose than of a living, breathing language. Often times she wondered if the tattooed people were even certain of the character’s actual meaning.

The tattoo! That was it. 

    Hastily she retrieved the calendar, opened it to October. Nothing. He had been in a full frontal shot for May so his hip wasn’t visible. There––in July––he was posed in profile, his left hip clearly on display and completely devoid of a tattoo. It had been small, in the shape of a star––a dark blue, indigo star. 

    She grabbed her phone. She had kept Leclerq’s office number in her contacts. She punched the screen with more vigor than necessary and waited impatiently as the rings mounted. When he answered with his crowing rooster voice she virtually leapt down his throat.

    “Did you confirm the ID on the stiff from the dunes?” Where had that word come from? She sounded like a hard-boiled detective or a hard-core pornographer. Both embodiments disturbed her.

    “I thought you knew, Miss Spåde.”

    “Just confirm please.”

    “Yes, the victim has been identified by his next of kin. His name is Matthew Thistleton; twenty-three; a resident of Kirkam Street in Outer Sunset.”

    “Thanks, Leclerq.”

    “Miss Spåde––you don’t intend to obstruct my investigation, do you?”

    “I’m just looking forward to the competition, aren’t you?”

    “Somehow my intuition tells me you aren’t referring to the surfing contest.”

    “See you on the beach, Leclerq.”


    He couldn’t keep her from public property or from asking questions. Kate shivered. The fog was moving with heavy dampness, chilling the air. The hard cement bench was cold and her legs had stiffened. She shook them and debated whether to get warm in the museum or save time by getting the next bus. Inside the great hall memorializing the Legion of Honor, she was met by marble statues depicting warrior heroes of the ancient world. Why did they always battle in the nude, she wondered. Three young men gleamed in bronze, the sinews of their muscles chiseled into a living likeness. Everywhere she looked there were naked men. She needed to get to her computer where she could research properly. First on her list were these living Greek statues.



    It was nearing noontime when Kate climbed the steps to her apartment on the third floor of the dove grey Victorian with pearly white trim. Ready to immerse herself in a new challenge, she flung the thick fleece onto a chair, gave Mr. Pimms a scratch on his ginger striped ears and settled at her desktop computer. On a tablet she scribbled some brief notes in the form of bullet questions to be answered. Who exactly are the Ocean Beach Surfers? When were the images shot? Who was the photographer? What did the street philosopher witness? Where were Matt Twistleton’s belongings? Did they disappear with the Riley who was seen to be paddling two boards? 

    She started with the calendar. On the inside of the back cover she found the names of the surfers along with short bios, cleverly written in an attempt at humor. Along side Matt Twistleton’s head shot was Taylor Knox, the curly haired blonde; Phil Leggett, hairless with a shiny dome; Laurie Blake, dark and handsome; Paddy (Patrick) O’Hara, another with dark hair and pale skin; Shane Kalani, a cinnamon skinned Samoan with a dark shadow covering his skull; and Flea, whose real name was Christian Alexander, his leonine locks formed into dreadlocks. Underneath them was a shot of a lanky towhead who had been strategically lined up behind a Nikon bedecked tripod concealing his loins. His name was Raphael (Raphe) Tolefson and he was the photographer.

    Raphe had a website for his freelance business called Light Year Photography. It appeared that he specialized in print media, including graphics for posters, magazines and upmarket books––the sort that found their way onto coffee tables the world over. His website portfolio contained images of surfers, palm trees and sunsets, appealing to the beach community exclusively. His list of publications ranged from various issues of Surfing Magazine to the oversized and glossy Inside Mavericks: Portrait of a Monster Wave, published by Chronicle Books. Alongside those achievements was the Ocean Beach Surfers Nude Calendar, now in its third incarnation, produced by a local publisher, Starr Media Universal Group. Before leaving the webpage she copied his contact information and bookmarked the website for further review.

    Then she linked over to the website created for the calendar itself, extolling the causes that the profits from the sales would underwrite. The members had chosen the charities based on their importance to the community. The tag line advertising the calendar, in big bold letters announced: We’re Back...And It’s Personal This Time! below which were listed the charities they had chosen to support. The photographer had included thumbnail versions of some of the calendar’s images from year’s past. All of the editions had been produced in glossy black and white, lending an elegance and gallery worthy status to the playful images. One shot from the previous year caught Kate’s eye in particular. Set atop the dunes, in thick fog at twilight, all seven were caught in deep contemplation. One member had even been posed like Rodin’s Thinker. The image held a gravity within the haunting landscape. 

    As she dragged the image to her desktop, her stomach growled in irritation and she reluctantly paused from her internet research to make some lunch. Before leaving her desk she made an effort to contact the photographer and was surprised when a smooth voice answered the third ring.

    “Light Year Photography.”

    “Hello, is this Raphe Tolefson?”

    “Ya, that’s right.”

    “My name is Kate Spåde. I’m calling about the Ocean Beach Surfers Calendar.”

    “You can purchase that from their website or local surfshops,” he responded curtly.

    “Actually, I’ve already purchased a copy. Your work is quite fine. I was looking over your own website––very impressive.”

    “Thank you...uh...Miss Spåde,” friendlier now.

    “The reason for my call today is in conjunction with the death of one of the members of Ocean Beach Surfers. Are you aware of that?”

    “No! Did someone drown?”

    “I’m afraid it’s more horrific than that. It appears that Matt Twistleton was murdered last night in the dunes opposite Judah Street. I’m sorry you have to hear this from a stranger, but I assure you I am not a media monkey looking for a soundbite. I was on the scene when the body was found by another Ocean Beach Surfers member, Taylor Knox.”

    “Taylor found the body?”

    “Yes, does that surprise you or hold some specific meaning?”

    “The whole thing surprises me!” he exclaimed, “and Taylor was probably Matt’s best bro’––”

    “––since they were groms...I know. Mr. Tolefson, I’m a private investigator by profession and I’m trying to piece together any information that I can gather to help solve this crime and bring the murderer under police custody. I’d appreciate it if I could meet with you to talk about the photo shoot for the calendar. I have many questions and I’m quite certain that your answers will spawn more questions.”

    “That’s going to be tough this week. I’m covering the surf contest for Surfing Magazine and I’ll be on location every day, even on days competition is cancelled. The magazine wants to print a special issue commemorating the first time a major ASP event has been held at Ocean Beach. That and the fact that Kelly Slater is poised to take his eleventh ASP title.”

    “And he’s kind of a big deal both in and out of the water.”

    “You’ve got that right.”

    “If you don’t mind maybe I’ll catch up with you on the beach tomorrow, between heats.”

    “Sure. If I’ve got downtime I’ll have a chat. I’ll be the tall, white-blonde headed guy with the tripod.”

    “Yes, I saw your picture in the calendar.”

    “Oh right. I forgot about that. I may live to regret it.”

    “I saw nothing for you to regret.” and she clicked off.



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Kate’s alarm roused her from a restless slumber. Her mind had tossed and turned over the prospect of moving into a new career––one in which she had no actual experience. Seven-thirty. Even Mr. Pimms yawned and remained snug in his nest amongst the folds of the duvet. But Kate had to check on surf conditions. It was the first day of the waiting period for the surfing contest at Ocean Beach.

    Apparently the weather had met the judges requirements and the first heats were scheduled to begin at eight. Kate wanted to get down there early and forced herself to move from park into fifth gear with the aid of a quick espresso laced with a dimple of half and half and a brown sugar cube. Slinging her tawny hair into a pony tail, she quickly dressed in yoga pants and tee shirt, topped with a fleecy sweatshirt. Lacing up the grey and purple pumas she called the ginger cat to fetch his breakfast while it was warm. The finicky eater insisted on his wet food microwaved to a specific temperature. She tossed a few necessities into her leather satchel and hefted the Vespa from the vestibule down to the sidewalk. It instantly roared into a vigorous idle. 

    Moving at a consistent speed down Geary, she mused on the thought of breakfast as her stomach grumbled. Deciding to pause at the little cafe above Cliff House, she obtained a egg and cheese croissant which she munched on a rocky perch in the diffused sunlight. The morning had dawned like any clear late-fall morning at Ocean Beach. Cool, windless, with high clouds, absent of dense fogs. But today the regulars––the tai chi practitioners, the home-less people sleeping in the dunes, the jogging moms and bike-riding dads––were outnumbered by the hoards of surfing fans that turned out, along with a medium sized NW swell, to crash on the beach and party.

    White tents rippled in the light breeze in front of Stairwells 18 and 20, surrounded by the crowds, the sponsors and the media. Kate hoped to run into one particular photographer. Her own photographic memory served her well as she recalled the image of the tall, lanky, and quite nude, rugged blonde.


    As she rolled the Vespa between a Harley and a BMW by the seawall, she could hear the megaphone announce the start of Heat Six. Round One was already half over. The three surfers in the heat splashed into the pristine rollers gleaming under bright sunshine. Time had fallen back the previous weekend, enabling the sun to get a head start on the day. Three heads bobbed behind the shore break: one blonde and matted, Dean Brady; one dark and short, Kai Otton; and one hairless, shiny dome, Kelly Slater. Kate placed her security ID on a lanyard and slung it around her neck, taking advantage of its officious bearing to gain access through the crowds. As she flashed her way to the official tented area, she ran into the surfboard shop owner.

    “Mr. Wise. Hello, it’s Kate Spåde––I was in your shop yesterday.”

    “Sure, I remember. You’re the calendar girl,” he smiled graciously. “And just call me Ed. Mr. Wise is my father,” he gestured to a tall, greyed man beside him. “I hope you’re here to enjoy the show and not stir up murder stories.”

    “It is a glorious day. How lucky for the first day of a competition. Have you ever seen anything like it?”

    The older gentleman nodded, agreeing in a frail voice.

    “We’ve been in business 43 years and we’ve never seen a contest of this talent level. World class surfers may travel through from time to time, but this is a different animal.”

    “Who would you say is favored to win here?”

    “Depends on the conditions. If it stays small, one of the younger guys could win, they’re so phenomenal in the air. But if conditions are bigger, I think a more seasoned surfer will seize the top spot.”

    “And Kelly?”

    “You can’t rule Slater out ever,” Ed marveled, “That guy just keeps going.”

    “Tell me about the signs,” she pointed to the cardstock signs boldly lettered,  

K E 1 1 Y. “Why are the L’s written in numeral 1’s?”

    “Yeah, those are Kelly’s fans, right there. He should capture his eleventh world title here. I think he only needs to finish above ninth place for it to work out mathematically, and there’s still one more event on the calendar year, in Hawaii. But folks would love to see him do it right here. There he goes now––looks like he caught a sweet curler.”

    The crowd cheered as the lithe red-suited figure skimmed the crest of the clean wave, rolled into the barrel and kicked back onto the crest, finding air before carving a line through the almond shaped barrel as it continued to peel down the sandbar. The crowd was blown away as he culminated the flawless ride with a rodeo clown, flipping his board into the air and turning a complete 360, landing steady onto the white water. Hoots and hollers erupted at the feat.

    “No one does that,” Ed shook his head in disbelief, “He’s that good.”

    When Kelly left the water, he was met with overwhelming applause. The media swarmed around him, pelting him from all angles with lenses of all sizes. One photog in particular caught Kate’s eye. Standing a head above the rest, his Danish chiseled cheekbones pointed sharply under cropped white-blonde hair.

    “That’s the photographer who did the shoot for the calendar––Raphe Tolefson?”

    “Yeah, that’s him.The Dane.”

    “I spoke to him yesterday about meeting here today. When would be the best time to approach him?”

    Ed grimaced, “Best time is after the beach clears out. He’s an irascible old coot when he’s working. Look at him––not a hint of a smile will crack that exterior.”

    “What about the Ocean Beach Surfers––are they all here?”

    “They’re a bit subdued, but they’re here.” He pointed to a group of guys standing apart on the other side of the tent. “They wouldn’t miss this.” Then he chuckled, “What’s the matter, Miss Spåde, didn’t you recognize them with their clothes on?”

    Kate had to admit he’d bested her.

    “Touché. I think I’ll go over and see how Taylor’s holding up. It’s time I met the rest of the centerfolds.”

    “Go easy, they may have chiseled exteriors, but they’re just a bunch of kids.”


    Kate shyly approached Taylor to gage his reaction before engaging in conversation. He smiled, eager to allow her entry into the tight knit group.

    “This is the lady who defended me in front of that detective. Dude was harsh, too; but this little lady stood right up to him and gave him a good thrashing.”

    “I’ve received a good thrashing from him in the past––it was my turn to dish it,  you could say. These must be you other compadres. I have to admit I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on,” she borrowed the cliché, which received welcome guffaws, proving how young, or simply unjaded, these boys were.

    “Right––,” he pointed to each in the semi-circle in front of Kate.

“Shane Kalani, Laurie Blake, Paddy O’Hara, Rush Randle and Flea. This is Kate, umm, sorry, I forget your name––something like Prada?”

    “Spåde. Kate Spåde. I’m sorry to meet you boys under such grim circumstances. You’re all wearing wetsuits. Are you competing today?”

    “Nah,” Paddy answered for the group, “we had a round table memorial for Matt before the first heat.”

    “You’ll have to excuse my ignorance. What exactly is a round table?”

    “It’s when a group paddles out beyond the break, forms a circle and honors the death of a surfer with a chanty or prayer,” Shane described quietly.

    “That sounds like a nice gesture. Listen, the reason I get lashed at by detective inspectors is that I’ve been involved investigating a murder or two, privately, for the interested parties.”

    “We don’t have the kind of bank to hire a P.I.” Flea piped up.

    “Consider it pro-bono. I’d like to help if I can. Would you guys allow me open access to interview you, candidly?”

    “None of us have got anything to hide,” Rush said with swagger.

    “So, I’ve seen.”

    “But how can really help?” Taylor questioned. “I’ve got more questions than answers.”

    “You’d be surprised…let me do the asking. One at a time––who wants to go first? Laurie? You’ve been awfully quiet.”

    The dark haired, slim youth looked at Kate meekly.

    “Sure,” he mumbled.

    “Let’s get a drink over there, shall we?”


    She led the reluctant surfer away from the shore-viewing spot to the back of the tent where a vendor was handing out samples of raw juice smoothies. Stepping aside, they sipped the chilled passion fruit and wheatgrass blend in the corner. She jumped right into the deep end. It was more interesting to assess the ripples that precipitated from an unexpected splash.

    “Which one of them don’t you trust?”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “You’re withholding something. I can tell by your body language. It’s not exuding the kind of smoldering languor produced in the photo shoot; more like a young man stricken with alarm.”

    “Well this is real life, not a photo shoot,” he added sullenly.

    “That’s right. Real life and real death. So let’s get to the heart of the matter. You and Matt had a deeper relationship than the rest of the bros, didn’t you?”

    “How could you guess? No one knows about that.”

    “C’mon, Laurie, this is San Francisco. You think I don’t have friends who are gay?  Friends who have cried on my shoulders after being dumped by their lovers. You look like that guy. Matt was giving you the brush-off these last few weeks, right? He’d become involved with someone else.”

    “You don’t know what it feels like to be rejected like that,” he spat, “but I didn’t kill him. I loved Matt so much––I want to kill whoever did this to him!” He broke down, turning to face the tent wall.

    “It’s ok, Laurie…it’s ok,” Kate put her arms around the tall, skinny, anguished figure and crunched him with a hug. “I know you didn’t do it. And I want to find out who did and let justice prevail. Vindictiveness won’t bring Matt back.”

    He nodded in agreement. His shattered being couldn’t have mustered such a brutal act against anyone, not even a murderer.

    “Listen, you’re the only one who can tell me––what sex clubs did Matt frequent?”

    “We only went once. Just to see what all the fuss was about, y’know? I mean, it was stimulating, but it wasn’t to my taste. That bathhouse scene is too fake; we’re watermen––a pool is for sissies.”

    “Which place did you visit?”

    “It’s called Eros. It’s on Market, in the Duboce Triangle.”

    “Do you think Matt went back there?”

    “I know he did. He told me he’d met a guy there that night. Someone who compelled him to return.”

    “Did you see that man; when you were there that night?”

    “No. I had no clue. You know how it goes down. It’s subtle; a wink or a nod; someone puts a piece of paper in your hand with a phone number on it. We laughed about it but I guess Mattie took the bait.”

    “I’m sorry, Laurie. I understand how heavy your heart must feel. Those guys out there––they’re your brothers. Tell them. They will support you.”

    “Yeah, I want to. I want to pick up Mattie’s charity for my cut of our profits, so I’ll tell them when I announce that.”

    “Good job! That’s where to put your feelings. Mums the word from these lips until you do. Deal?”


    “Let’s see what’s going on out there.”

    Leaving the dim tent they were startled by the bright sunshine and enthusiastic crowds lining the beach.

    “There’s one more thing…” Kate intimated, “did you know about the tattoo?”

    “What tattoo?”

    His face expressed such astonishment; clearly the fact was a complete bombshell of a revelation.


    Having rejoined the group of surfers, Laurie became distantly quiet and pensive. Kate gave Taylor an eye that said, ‘look after that one,’ and casually prodded for a volunteer to accompany her to the tent with the ladies room. Flea instantly made a gallant, if sarcastic, gesture with his hands and said, “After you.” As they trudged through the crowd cheering on the surfers in heat seven in single file, Kate felt the burly Greek’s eyes pierce her from behind. He was muscular, dark and scandalous. She would nibble her way into conversation with this one.

    “So why ‘Flea’?” she challenged, good-naturedly.

    “It’s just a nickname that stuck,” he shrugged.

    “And your full name is…?”

    “Christos Alexander. My family are Greek fishermen from Thessaloniki.”

    “A family of traditional values.”

    “That’s right.”

    “What did you think about Matt’s values concerning sexual orientation?”

    “I don’t agree with it myself––but to each his own. As long as he didn’t put it in my face, like those fucking flamers do; that’s the shit that sickens me. Matt kept his business to himself. Besides, I think he was conflicted. He told me he’d just broken up with someone who was too clingy. He was starting to mature; maybe grow out of that phase.”

    “So you think that being gay was just a phase he was going through?”

    “We’ll never know. What difference does it make now? What difference does anything you dig up make now? He’s dead.”

    “And there’s a killer loose. Don’t you think that matters?”

    “Sure. It’s a matter for the police. Not for a prying amateur.”

    “Is that what you think of me?”

    “You know much about the ocean, Miss Spåde? She’s a cruel lady, that one. She’ll slam you around like a towel in a washing machine, with no regard for your bones. She’ll mash your tendons to a pulp, suffocate your lungs and then spit you back out onto the sand, and that’s on a good day. It takes an experienced professional to survive that kind of beating and come out alive. That’s what I think.”

    He left Kate alone and stomped back to the shoreline. She wondered how much of that was macho bravado and how much was covering up something he wanted very badly to conceal.

    “Don’t worry about him,” a lazy voice curled around Kate’s side. “He’s a crazy man. Takes life too seriously, y’know.”

    Rush Randle had sidled up beside Kate.

    “So, it’s my turn. Yeah! Bring it on, Lady Detective. I’ve got nothing to hide, as you’re well aware. I gather you’re a patron of our annual little publication. How’d you like Mr. August? I’m a Leo, y’know. The mane doesn’t lie.”

    Kate took in the bombastic swagger of the mid-sized, dishwater blonde with the mangy leonine looks. He oozed surf bum slacker from every pore of his body. She’d taken a complete 180 from the tense aggravation of Flea to the hang-ten mentality of Rush.

    “So lay it all out, then. What do you think happened?”

    “Well, clearly Mattie was two timing, right? Le crime passionnel?

    “So you think there was a love triangle?”

    “Definitely. Poor Laurie was infatuated; a lovesick teenager, I’d say.”

    “He told you!”

    “He didn’t need to tell me. Anyone could see it. Or maybe I’m just a sensitive guy, y’know? But then Mattie hooked up with a bigshot. Someone with money, fancy digs, all that hoo-ha. Bright lights, big city.”

    “And then what happened?”

    “You’re the detective––you tell me!”

    “I’ll tell you when I have something concrete to go on.”

    “Isn’t it always the husband or the wife? Or in this case I guess it’s either the husband or the husband, eh?”

    “You’re forgetting one little thing––a motive?”

    “It’s all about jealousy.”

    “In that case you would be implicating Laurie; why would the new guy be jealous?”

    “True. But Laurie didn’t do it––of that I’m certain.”

    “I am too. So I repeat, where’s the motive? Find that and we’ll have found the killer.”

    “I hear ya, babe. It’s a mystery, isn’t it?”

    “What can you tell me about a star tattoo? Any idea what it would signify?”

    “Nope. Where was it?”

    “On Matt’s left buttcheek.”


    “It wasn’t there when you guys did the photo shoot.”

    “No, it wouldn’t be. Mattie and Laurie were sound back then.”

    “You’re pretty sharp for a guy who comes off so smooth and––“

    “Shark!” someone bellowed from the officials’ tent as they strolled by, interrupting the crowd’s enjoyment.

    “What’s this about,” Rush, paused to listen.


    They watched as the contest officials conferred with a young man, dripping with briny seawater and clutching his board like a security blanket. His face was grave as he solemnly gave an account of what caused him to leave the contest with six minutes left in his heat.

    “I saw this fin three feet out of the water, coming right at me. Growing up in Hawaii, I’ve seen dolphins, sharks, all sorts of things, but this was the biggest shark I’ve ever encountered, and it was White.”

    “That’s Evan,” Rush informed her. “Sounds like he’s had an experience with the dark side of NorCal surfing.”


    An official calmly whispered to an assistant, who then left the tent with a red flag.

    “They’re going to halt the contest.”

    An official made his way through the concerned onlookers, holding a megaphone. From the raised platform where the judges sat, he announced that the contest was on standby to investigate a sighting in the water. He didn’t use the word ‘shark’ but everyone on the beach knew the ‘shark rule’ had been implemented.

    “Have you seen sharks out there?” Kate inquired.

    “We’ve all had that chilling feeling, but more often than not it’s just a large porpoise; there’s been a lot of them hanging around the break lately. The question is, was there a vertical tail fin trailing behind? Otherwise, we’re a skeptical lot out here. I guess you could say we’re just in denial––but it’s just part of the deal in surfing. We surfers tend to be a low-key lot. We downplay everything from our personal accomplishments to the size of the waves, all in the good grace of humility.”

    “I thought I saw a news item about a shark attack this past weekend in Monterey.”

    “Yeah, that was violent. Dude’s arm was gnashed something fierce. And there have been legitimate sightings this autumn in Montara and Mavericks.”


    Kate and Rush had regained the group of concerned surfers scanning the open ocean for the tell-tail sign of an ominous intruder.

    “If there was a White out there, he’s veered off now,” Paddy stated, “Once Kelly’s heat was finished there wasn’t anything in the water worth hanging around.”

    The other youths tittered, nervously. They’d all carried memories of frightening experiences amongst the waves.

    “I’m going to catch some lunch,” Kate announced. “Anyone care to join me?”

    “Sure,” Paddy smiled suggestively, “I guess it’s my turn with the lady. See you later boys!”


    Paddy put his arm around Kate, with a loose casual air, engaging her with his gripping account of meeting face to face with ten foot Great White off the coast of Santa Cruz.

    “You’re full of blarney, aren’t you?” she challenged.

    “I am an Irishman,” he admitted. “But we’ve had those dark moments. You don’t need to see the ten foot body––it’s the fin that puts the fear of death into your pounding heart.”

    He steered her towards the stairwell and a taco truck parked in the lot. Jogging down the steps, Kate’s face met the face of Detective Inspector Leclerq, his red plume of unmanageable hair blown into a coxcomb resembling a fin. He didn’t scare her.

    “Were you called in to investigate the shark sighting, Leclerq? I can tell you––the trail’s gone cold. He got away.”

    The detective winced slightly and gave Kate’s hunky companion the once over.

    “And are you going to interview every surfer on the beach, Miss Spåde?” He bit with a scathing tone.

    “Nope,” she smirked, “Just the ones I’m intimate with.”

    “I like to get naked,” Paddy corroborated, laughing and they ascended the stairs, leaving the detective speechless. “Is he an old flame?” he whispered in Kate’s ear.

    “No, more like a walking combustion chamber.”

    “I don’t know…there’s definitely some wildfire blazing between you two.”


    They joined the line at the taco truck, where Paddy greeted many of the local beachcombers. Some were taking a break from spectating while others were grabbing a bite before returning to work. The surf contest was more than a stage for championship wave choppers.

    “This is the perfect event for us to exhibit what we mean by environmental sustainability.”

    Trudë, a student at UCSF, was part of a campaign devised by a group called Sustainable Surf. Their task was to design, manage and provide a real world case study of how to run a sustainable surf event.

    “What we do not only lessens the impact of a large scale production, but leaves a lasting, positive benefit to the local community,” she explained.

    “It leaves a good taste in everyone’s mouth,” Paddy added, chomping into his taco with gusto.

    “Not only is this the greenest surfing event ever produced, but it’s a living blueprint for events to follow.”

    “You mean greenprint, don’cha?”

    The girl slapped Paddy in the chest. Clearly she was used to his blarney as well.

    “Tell me exactly how do you lessen the footprint?” Kate asked with interest.

    “Well, first of all, there’s a huge need for electricity––from the showers, the PA system and the global webcast equipment. All the diesel generators used here run of locally sourced bio-diesel, made from the disposed grease collected from area restaurants. The People’s Fuel Cooperative was founded by some Ocean Beach surfers a few years ago.”

    “So the cooking oil used in this taco truck is recycled into bio-diesel?”

    “Yep. So we run 100% petroleum free.”

    “That’s amazing.”

    “That’s gross,” Paddy intoned.

    “We’ve also got a local group involved called Wastebusters. The goal for this event is a 90% reduction in waste that would normally go to a landfill. The Wastebusters  setup labeled recycle containers and help attendees to dispose of their waste in the right place. All public events that serve food in San Francisco are required to compost food waste, but we’re attempting to take that far beyond the ordinance. That’s one of the Wastebusters over there,” she pointed at a rasta braided, Oakley shaded, guy wearing a  pair of yellow, zip-front overalls. “Hey, Ziggy!”

    The dark skinned young man turned and waved, his pearly smile gleaming in recognition. He jogged over to Trudë.

    “Sup? I heard we’re on standby. What happened? Someone get freaked by a dolphin?”

    “Probably,” Paddy confirmed. “It was Evan. He was getting combo’d out there anyway.”

    “Oh yeah, I’ve never seen this caliber of talent out here.”

    “Surf’s like a silk kimono. Your kids won’t be too happy.”

    “That’ll change, for sure! We’ll get our fair share of broken boards out of this.”

    “What do you do with the broken boards,” Kate wondered.

    “Keep them out of the landfills!” Trudë declared, “Ziggy’s involved with ReRip.”

    “Yeah, we have a collection bin in the competitor’s tent for busted boards. Then we repair them and donate them to the local kids. We have bins set up in Aqua Surf Shop, as well as Mollusk and Wise.”

    “Wow, is there anything you guys don’t do?” Kate marveled at the initiative by the youths in the Outer districts. “From calendars to refurbed surfboards and trash collection.”

    “Our biggest problem is single-use plastic water bottles,” Trudë lamented. “Rip Curl has provided free water stations for the public, but it’s getting people to bring a refillable with them.”

    “I saw some super cool stainless steel bottles with the Rip Curl logo on sale in the tent,” Paddy added. “I heard that they’re donating the proceeds from those sales to the local Surfriders chapter.”

    “Oh right on––the money’s going to be used to install a water bottle filling fountain right here on Ocean Beach. It’s part of the Rise Above Plastics campaign,” Ziggy explained for Kate.

    “Are you involved in that org too?”

    “Nah, my buddy, Xavier was part of the design team for the fountain though. Hey! They’re taking the red flag down. Looks like we’re ready to roll.”


    Paddy ceremoniously gathered the papers that had enclosed their tacos, forming a sphere the size of a baseball, which he arced into the canister a few feet distant.

    “Nice one, bro!”

    They locked arms in farewells.

    “Adios, Amigo.”


    The lunch break had been enlightening for Kate, but she’d not gathered any information related to the death of Matt. She could tell she wasn’t going to get anything out of Paddy while he was amped up. Perhaps later, though, at his favorite watering hole.

    “So, where do you guys chillout after a day out there?”

    “After a day flung off the sandbars we usually cling to the solid ones,” he teased. “But we’re all Sunset guys, so we usually hang at Java Beach. It’s loose there.”

    “I only know that place in the early hours. Jake’s my guy there.”

    “You should join us later. We can get more intimate,” he offered.

    “Maybe I will,” she countered.

    “You’re all right, Spade.”

    “It’s Spåde,” she corrected.

    “I know––rhymes with Prada. Sheesh, you crazy Scandinavians!”

    “You’re referring to Raphe Tolefson?”


    “Does he hit the bottle at Java Beach too?”

    “Oh yeah––you’ll find him there most nights. There he is now, the white shark, himself.”


    Paddy pointed as they passed the lanky, blonde haired man with a scowl on his face. He was conversing with the Wise men in the sponsor’s tent. Ed Wise waved Kate over and she left Paddy to find the others. She had a bigger fish to hook. She put on her most appealing smile for the ambivalent Dane.

    “Hello, you must be Raphe Tolefson. We spoke on the phone yesterday.”

    “Raphe, this is Kate––she’s a new convert to the other side of SF,” Ed proclaimed.

    “Well, I admit I was easily converted by the Ocean Beach Surfers Calendar,” adding with gravity, “You do fine work, Mr. Tolefson, and I’m not just referring to your portraitures. I had a look at your online portfolio. Excellent quality.”

    “Thank you, Miss Spåde?”

    “Kate, please. And yes, I am Danish. My grandparents left Copenhagen after the war.”

    “My family also,” he held out a polite hand, “Call me Raphe. I understand you would like to question me about Matt. The heats are just getting underway and I must resume my work, but perhaps afterwards we could speak.”

    “I understand we share a favored watering hole as well as Danish heritage.”

    “You must mean Java Beach. I live right around the corner from there. Sure, they keep a supply of Hvidtøl on hand for me. That’s a secret we don’t want to let get out, eh?”

    “My grandfather would approve of that.”

    “I’ll see you there,” he nodded as he left them.


    “So how are you liking our little event so far, Kate?”

    “Actually I more blown away by the initiatives being carried out onshore more than the wave riding in the surf. These kids are seriously into it.”

    “Oh aye. And the sponsors are doing their part as well. Rip Curl is providing all the contest banners to The Progress Project to upcycle into board bags and totes. The designs are unique to the event, making a cool souvenir for collectors. They sell them from their website a few weeks after the event. Then there’s the recycled rash jerseys that the competitors are wearing, proving the company’s eco-minded stance.”

    “The commitment to sustainability seems to be across the board.”

    “That’s the surfing community, right there. It’s not just about recycled paper anymore, is it Derek?”

    A  man dressed in business casual was staring directly at Kate, unnervin

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