Blood Work - Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly - Blood Work
McCALEB SAW HER before she saw him. He was coming down the main dock, past the row of millionaires’ boats, when he saw the woman standing in the stern of The Following Sea. It was half past ten on a Saturday morning and the warm whisper of spring had brought a lot of people out to the San Pedro docks. McCaleb was finishing the walk he took every morning-completely around Cabrillo Marina, out along the rock jetty and back. He was huffing by this part of the walk, but he slowed his pace even more as he approached the boat. His first feeling was annoyance-the woman had boarded his boat uninvited. But as he got closer, he put that aside and wondered who she was and what she wanted.
She wasn’t dressed for boating. She had on a loose summer dress that came to mid-thigh. The breeze off the water threatened to lift it and so she kept one hand at her side to keep it down. McCaleb couldn’t see her feet yet but he guessed by the taut lines of the muscles he saw in her brown legs that she wasn’t wearing boat shoes. She had raised heels on. McCaleb’s immediate read was that she was there to make some kind of impression on someone.
McCaleb was dressed to make no impression at all. He had on an old pair of jeans ripped by wear, not for style, and a T-shirt from the Catalina Gold Cup tournament a few summers before. The clothes were spattered with stains-mostly fish blood, some of his own blood, marine, polyurethane and engine oil. They had served him as both fishing and work clothes. His plan was to use the weekend to work on the boat and he was dressed accordingly.
He became more self-conscious about his appearance as he drew closer to the boat and could see the woman better. He pulled the foam pads of his portable off his ears and turned off the CD in the middle of Howlin’ Wolf singing “I Ain’t Superstitious.”
“Can I help you?” he asked before stepping down into his own boat.
His voice seemed to startle her and she turned away from the sliding door that led into the boat’s salon. McCaleb figured she had knocked on the glass and was waiting, expecting him to be inside.
“I’m looking for Terrell McCaleb.”
She was an attractive woman in her early thirties, a good decade or so younger than McCaleb. There was a sense of familiarity about her but he couldn’t quite place it. It was one of those déjà vu things. At the same time he felt the stir of recognition, it quickly flitted away and he knew he was mistaken, that he did not know this woman. He remembered faces. And hers was nice enough not to forget.
She had mispronounced the name, saying Mc- Cal -ub instead of Mc- Kay -Leb, and used the formal first name that no one ever used except the reporters. That’s when he began to understand. He knew now what had brought her to the boat. Another lost soul come to the wrong place.
“McCaleb,” he corrected. “Terry McCaleb.”
“Sorry. I, uh, I thought maybe you were inside. I didn’t know if it was okay to walk on the boat and knock.”
“But you did anyway.”
She ignored the reprimand and went on. It was as if what she was doing and what she had to say had been rehearsed.
“I need to talk to you.”
“Well, I’m kind of busy at the moment.”
He pointed to the open bilge hatch she was lucky not to have fallen into and the tools he had left spread out on a drop cloth by the stern transom.
“I’ve been walking around, looking for this boat, for almost an hour,” she said. “It won’t take long. My name is Graciela Rivers and I wanted-”
“Look, Miss Rivers,” he said, holding his hands up and interrupting. “I’m really… You read about me in the newspaper, right?”
“Well, before you start your story, I have to tell you, you’re not the first one to come out here and find me or to get my number and call me. And I’m just going to tell you what I told all of the others. I’m not looking for a job. So if this is about you wanting to hire me or have me help you some way, I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. I’m not looking for that kind of work.”
She didn’t say anything and he felt a