Kate smiled, and raised a hand to wave to another neighbor. She and Lee had lived in the Noe Valley neighborhood for nearly eight years, and never had a place felt more like home. Kate rarely thought anymore about the magnificent house on tony Russian Hill where they had once lived, cop and therapist rubbing shoulders with the citys cream of socialites and politicos. That place had been Lees, an inheritance from her overbearing and disapproving mother, and had looked out on two incomparable bridges, San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, and Mount Tamalpais in the background. When Lee finally decided to put the house on the market, it had sold before the print was dry on the advertisement, for more money than Kate could envision.
They had traded the gorgeous, intricately constructed Arts and Crafts-style house with the million-dollar view for a tumbledown Victorian whose chief virtue in their eyes was also, as far as the listing agent was concerned, its chief drawback: The elderly couple who had lived in the house all the five decades of their married life, unwilling to abandon the upper levels but increasingly unable to negotiate the stairs, had hacked up the back rooms and put in a tiny elevator.
Kate turned to gaze affectionately at the house. Most buyers would have been daunted by the enormous expense of ripping out the mechanism and restoring the rooms to their previous condition, but for Kate, the one-person elevator had been her personal deciding factor in its favor: Lee would never have agreed to its installation, but if it was here anyway, well, why not make use of it? The personal lift, just large enough for the wheelchair during Lees bad times, was an unvoiced recognition that the effects of the bullet through Lees spine, twelve years before, would never completely leave them; it had made their lives infinitely simpler.
The enormous price brought by the Russian Hill house had enabled them to make other renovations, from new carpeting and fresh paint to a complete rebuilding of the kitchen. Lee had also set up her therapy rooms in the front and was seeing clients again.
Most of all, however, what they had gained with the move was a thing that neither had known they needed: a community. They had traded socialites for Socialists, politicos for legal-aid lawyers, middle-aged white faces for a rainbow coalition of young families. Of the seven people Kate saw as she passed down the front walk that morning, she knew five of them by name, and had eaten dinner with three of those. Two doors down lived Noras best friend, an eight-year-old girl from China, the oldest of three multiracial children adopted by a bank manager and his aromatherapist wife. Lees long-time caregiver lived with his new family three blocks away. The woman in the big corner house had recently opened up a Montessori-style child-care facility, which meant that Nora could spend two afternoons a week with her friends. Typically, last summer the neighborhood association had voted to close the street one Sunday so everyone could hold a block party.
Small-town life in the big city.
Als car appeared around the corner. Kate waved one last time, to the woman she sometimes went jogging with (who this morning was out running with her black Lab instead), tossed her coat and briefcase into the backseat, and hopped in beside him.
"Hows the kid?" he asked before her buckle had latched.
"Perfect, as always. And yours?"
"Theyre all fine. Jules has a major crush, I quote, on her lab partner, Maya is thinking about a summer camp run entirely in Latin, and Daniel has discovered guns."
"Oh, Jani must be pleased about that."
"The genetic inclination of boys, I suppose, to make weapons out of anything. Sticks, Legos, organic vegetarian hot dogs."
Excerpted from The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King Copyright © 2006 by Laurie R. King. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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