GORDON BUTLER AWOKE to the blues’ riff that signaled a call coming in from his girlfriend, Benay Weiss. He squinted at his digital clock. 5:15 a.m. Tuesday, his day off.
Yawning, he flipped open the phone. Before he could say anything, Benay sobbed, “Geri is missing.”
He sat up. “What?”
“My best friend, Geri Rowe. She disappeared.”
“How do you know?”
Benay sounded near hysterics. “Her husband just called to find out if she might be here with me. She isn’t.”
“Did they have a fight?”
“He just said she didn’t come home last night.”
Gordon switched into police mode. “You two are so close. Did she say anything about marital problems?”
“Nothing new. Gordon, I’m so scared for her.”
“Has her husband reported her missing?”
“I don’t think so. He was going to call her relatives next to see if they’d heard from her.”
“He should make a report. Nothing will be done until she’s gone for 24 hours. They’ll want to make sure she didn’t just leave on her own.”
“She wouldn’t have done that without telling me. Gordon, we share
everything. We’ve been friends since high school. I was her maid-of-honor at her wedding.”
“Do you want me to come over?”
She didn’t answer for a long while. “No. Philip said he’d call me back in a little while.”
“I’ve got the day off. I could spend it with you.”
“No. I have to work. I’m so worried about Geri, she’s all I can think about. I’ll call you if I hear anything from her.”
Gordon knew if something bad had happened to Benay’s friend, he’d hear about it first. “Chances are she’s okay.”
“I hope so.” She hung up.
* * *
Saturday morning, Officer Gordon Butler approached the scene of his first call of the day, a body found by teens in the nearly dry stream bed running along the rocky bluff that gave the beach town its name
Parking his blue-and-white police car, Gordon climbed out. He surveyed the area, trying to find the young people who’d called in their gruesome find.
A forest of native oaks, junipers as well as tall eucalyptus and clusters of evergreen shrubs blocked the view of the place where the body reportedly had been discovered. The strong scent of the eucalyptus overpowered the saltiness of the ocean drifting in on a slight breeze. He inhaled deeply and detected the sweet, sickening odor of decaying flesh.