For her debut novel, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD (Witness, on sale 6/10/2014, $2.99, ISBN 13: 9780062338907), Kristi Belcamino relies on her knowledge gained from working as a crime reporter at newspapers in California, specifically in her experience with a serial killer who police and FBI agents liked to several kidnappings and murders. Belcamino’s personal past colors this smart, thrilling novel with a unique new voice.
BLESSED ARE THE DEAD offers chilling, authentic glimpses into the mind of a psychopath while also mining the psyche of an extremely likeable protagonist. The novel sets up a new series featuring Gabriella Giovanni, an Italian-American Bay Area crime reporter. BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, the second book in the series will be published in July.
BLESSED ARE THE DEAD pits Italian-American Bay Area Crime reporter against a serial killer who preys on children. When they were little girls, Gabriella Giovanni’s sister was kidnapped and killed. Twenty years later, Gabriella spends her days on the crime beat flitting in and out of other people’s nightmares and then walking away unscathed. That changes when a little girl disappears and Gabriella’s quest for justice and a front-page story leads her to a convicted kidnapper who reels her in with tales of his exploits as a longtime serial killer and promises to reveal his secrets to her alone. Meanwhile, Gabriella’s passion for her job quickly spirals into obsession when she begins to suspect the kidnapper also killed her sister. Gabriella won’t hesitate to risk her life to garner justice for the dead.
Another boyfriend pissed off at me over a dead body. Or in this case, two dead bodies. The silence on the other end of the line confirms it.
Snapping my cell phone shut, I swipe my key card and hurry in the back door of the newspaper. The smell of fresh pizza makes my stomach grumble as I pass the cafeteria, but there’s no time to eat. Deadline is looming. I forget about my limping love life — the clock is ticking. The paper goes to bed in three hours, so I’ve got to hustle.
Entering the newsroom, a jolt of excitement surges through me. It’s that special friction, that palpable energy in the air that is always present close to deadline. Giant windows, black with night, reflect the bustling activity around me. A big screen TV with its volume muted dominates one wall and smaller TVs hang from the ceiling throughout the room blaring local and national news. The room smells like burned broccoli and musty books, but still manages to always feel like home. It’s where I’m meant to be.
“Giovanni, you got 17 inches,” my editor, Matt Kellogg, hollers. Nobody at the Bay Herald ever calls me Gabriella. In the news business, you are your last name. Luckily, I like mine.
I want more space, but there’s no use arguing. He’s right. It’s sad, but it’s the same old story we’ve all seen before — big-living San Francisco businessman up to his Gucci eyeglasses in debt kills his wife and then turns the gun on himself.
The momentum of the newsroom engulfs me, sending adrenaline soaring through my limbs. The space hums like a beehive. Deadline is the one time you can find nearly every metro reporter at a desk. Most are pounding the keyboard, flipping through notebooks, or talking on the phone, getting last-minute quotes for their stories. Our desks are in gray cubbies with low walls so we can see each other and the rest of the newsroom.
I catch snippets of different conversations floating in the air. Our political reporter is losing patience with someone on the other end of the phone line.
“Now come on. You know that’s a bunch of bullshit,” she says. “We’ve known each other for ten years, Jeff. You never once said it was off the record. You know the game. You know the rules. This isn’t amateur night here.”
Across the room, the sports department erupts in cheers as an Oakland A’s batter hits a homerun on the big screen. One of the investigative reporters slams down his phone, stands up, pumps his fists into the air, and yells to no one in particular, “Fuck yeah. Fuck yeah, you motherfucker. I knew I’d catch you in a lie. Now it’s going in the paper, you douchebag.”
Nobody except the reporter right beside him even looks up. He only does so to scratch his chin. I keep walking. A veteran reporter lifts his head. “Thought you had a hot date.” We both like to cook and I had tantalized him earlier with descriptions of the birthday dinner I was going to make for my boyfriend.
“Murder-suicide,” I say. He nods and turns back to his computer.
My teeth clench when I see May DuPont, the night police reporter, at the cop reporter’s station, two desks with a stack of police scanners between them.
I try to straighten my skirt and smooth my hair before I get to my desk. It’s useless. It’s been a long day. I’ve already filed two stories for tomorrow’s paper – a car crash and a brush fire – and the traces of hiking after firefighters cling to me. My hair smells like smoke, and small bits of grass have adhered to my sandals.
Each morning, I dress nice in an effort to create la bella figura like my Italian mother taught me. But by the end of the day, this is what I’ve become – smelly, rumpled, and bedraggled.
May, a waiflike twenty-four-year-old is — as usual — dressed in a Brooks Brothers shirt and crisp slacks. A get-up she was probably born wearing. She’s an upper-crust heroin chic girl — pretty much the opposite of me. My boyfriend, Brad, says Sophia Loren’s got nothing on my curves. It sounds great in theory, but the truth is even at my fighting weight, all that extra padding makes me feel like an elephant next to girls like May.
I give her a cursory hello before I log onto my computer.
“I’m writing a story you missed about a bank robbery,” she says without looking away from her computer screen. “The editors might put it on the front page. It was a take-on style.”
“It’s called take-over,” I say.
May’s fresh from her master’s program in journalism at Berkeley. The gossip in the newsroom is that her dad is sleeping with the executive editor, Susan Evans. I stare at the huge pearl studs in her ears.
Every night, May manages to dig up some crime that slipped by me during my day shift and she makes damn sure the editors know I missed it. She’s only been at the paper seven weeks, but I already get the feeling she thinks my job is the next rung on her ladder to success.
Her job — the night cop reporter — is the lowest beat at any paper. I’ve been there. But I also put in the time to get where I am today — the day cops reporter. And it involved working long hours for near poverty wages at several rinky-dink newspapers. I didn’t have the luxury of attending grad school and then being snatched up by a big daily paper because my dad’s screwing the editor.
May’s mother is dead and I’m sorry for that, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to hand over my job. She’s not the only one who’s had to deal with tragedy around here.
“You have black stuff on your forehead,” she says, getting up and heading to the copy desk.
Must be soot from the fire. I’m about to grab my compact mirror when something on the police scanner makes me pause. The crackle of the scanners switching from channel to channel is a comforting sound, like white noise, that usually fades into the background if it’s just routine radio traffic.
This time, the officer’s high-pitched and out-of-breath-voice calling in a felony traffic stop alerts me. The scanner frequency shows its Berkeley PD. Within a moment, the officer is calling Code 4 — all clear — so I turn back to my computer. But then I hear something that makes my fingers freeze on the keyboard.
“Rosarito PD says the girl’s nine years old. Mom says she never came home — ” More routine traffic about the felony stop interrupts the dispatcher’s voice.
My stomach is doing loop de loops as I lean over and try to see which department was talking about the girl. I punch in the frequency for Rosarito PD on the other scanner, but the channel is quiet.
I dial the Rosarito Police Department watch commander – the sergeant on duty overnight while the main office is closed. No answer. He must be out on the streets patrolling, so I leave a message, saying I heard something about a girl who didn’t come home today.
In my five years as a Bay Area reporter, every instance of a possible missing child has ended up being a misunderstanding. Most times the kid lost track of time or didn’t tell someone he wasn’t coming straight home.
In the silver-framed photo hidden in my desk drawer, Caterina’s pink lips and dark eyes are surrounded by a halo of black hair. My sister looks solemn, wise, and beautiful, even though she’s only seven. I remember thinking she looked like a bride when I pulled myself up to look into her casket and saw her lying there in the lacy white first communion dress and veil she never had a chance to wear.
What I heard on the scanner made my face flush and my insides somersault, but I know it’s rare that a child is kidnapped and killed by a stranger. Every once in a while, I hear something like this on the scanner and it ends up being nothing. I hope this little girl just forgot to call home. I make the sign of the cross and May, sitting back down, gives me a snarky look.
The clock shows it’s 9 p.m. I’m running out of time. I got the basic details about the murder-suicide at the press conference earlier except for the identities of the dead. A source at the morgue slipped me the names, but I’m going to have to get one more off-the-record confirmation before Kellogg will let me run with them. I dial homicide detective Lt. Michael Moretti and speak fast before he can protest, reeling off the two names I have.
“If I print them will I be wrong?”
“You were at the press conference. You heard me. We’re not releasing the names. Sorry, kiddo.”
At twenty-eight, I’m too old to be his daughter, but he always calls me that. Moretti and I bonded a long time ago on the Italian-American thing, but his blood pumps blue. He’s been a cop longer than he hasn’t. It took years for him to believe me when I said I’d go to jail rather than give him up as a source.
“I don’t need you to tell me the names.” I try to sound as logical as possible. “I just need to verify them. Besides, you know the Trib is going to run the names.”
I cringed earlier when I saw a reporter from The San Francisco Tribune at the crime scene. When the bigger paper swoops into our territory and scoops us, my editors don’t like it. I hate it.
Moretti makes a guttural sound. “Did you see those gray hairs on my head tonight? About ten are from you. Don’t you have anyone else you can pester?”
I do. I have some crack sources — cops who call me and say, “Hey, there's a dead body in Civic Park, try not to beat the homicide detectives there.”
But this is Moretti’s case.
“Another cop already gave it up,” I say to convince him. “I just need confirmation. How about this? If I have the names right, don't say anything.”
Silence. I wait a few beats, twirling the phone cord around my fingers.
“Okay, I’m going with it,” I say, bright and cheery. “Thanks. Anything else going on tonight? Heard something about Rosarito.”
He takes a minute to answer. “You didn’t hear this from me.”
“I know, I know.” I roll my eyes even though he can’t see me.
“A nine-year-old Rosarito girl didn’t make it to school today —”
“What?” My stomach gurgles and churns. Sweet Jesus, if Moretti knows about it, this might be the real thing.
“She hasn’t even been gone twenty-four hours. Too early to say if it’s legit or not. Rosarito PD hasn’t issued an AMBER Alert. They’re waiting to find out if she turns up at grandma’s or a classmate’s house.”
He’s right. It’s probably nothing. But dark memories overwhelm me. I do some deep breathing to try to relax, but my heart is racing. I’ve avoided a story like this so far. I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I will ever be ready.
“Listen, gotta go,” Moretti says. “Remember, you and I didn’t talk tonight. Omerta.”
“Very funny,” I say, but he’s already disconnected. Omerta, an Italian word, refers to the Mafia’s code of silence.
I hang up and dial Kellogg. “Rosarito cops might have a missing kid.”
“Yeah?” He sounds interested. “You got this confirmed?”
“Not yet. Working on it.”
“Get it nailed down.”
I have no sources in the Rosarito Police Department. Because the city lies on the periphery of our paper’s coverage area, we only report unusual or high profile crimes that occur there. The watch commander hasn’t called me back, so I punch in the number of the department’s public information officer. She works banker’s hours, but if a child is missing, she might be there. No answer.
I dig up an old file of Rosarito cop numbers and find a main number for investigations. Nothing. Only voicemail. Then I try an old reporter’s trick and start dialing numbers, each time changing the last digit of the main number. It works. Although no one picks up, I leave messages for six detectives.
I try the watch commander’s line one more time, then call 911 dispatchers in Rosarito to ask if they can track him down. The dispatcher is in a good mood. “Sure, I’ll send the sergeant a message for you,” he says.
With an eye on the clock, which is nearing ten, I dial Kellogg. “I can’t get anyone from Rosarito to confirm a missing kid. Can’t we go with it anyway, citing an anonymous source? My source is solid.”
“No can do. Evans would kick up a shitstorm.”
Kellogg used to be ballsy. He never cared what senior editors would think or say. That is, until Susan Evans was hired as executive editor two years ago. I heard he was up for the job but they hired her instead. Ever since, he’s been walking around mopey and fearful like a puppy that was kicked. I miss the old Kellogg.
“It’s late,” he says. “I needed your story half an hour ago. Get cracking, Giovanni. You can track down the missing kid — if there is one — tomorrow.”
He’s right about one thing — it’s past deadline. I stare at the blank screen and try to figure out a lead. If you don’t draw a reader in with that first sentence, you’ve lost him. Editors have drummed this into my head for years. I’ve trained myself to come up with a lead driving back to the office on deadline, but tonight my mind kept wandering to Brad eating his birthday dinner alone. And now, in the back of my mind, much farther back than I’m willing to go right now, a little girl’s familiar face peers out at me. I shake the image off and try to concentrate. May’s voice beside me makes it even harder.
“Oh, stop it,” she says. She laughs and fiddles with her silky scarf. “I do not. I’m usually in bed by then. Let me know if you make an arrest tonight. I would love to put it in the paper with your name as the arresting officer. Talk to you soon.”
I close my eyes and tune out her girlish giggle, thinking about the man who killed himself and his wife tonight. And even though it would kick my story to the front page, I leave out the most salient detail about the slaying — the man was wearing nothing but lipstick and high heels when he offed his wife. My morgue source slipped me this sensational little morsel. Although, I know I’ll get in trouble with the editors if I leave it out and the Trib has it, I can’t do it. As soon as I found out the couple had small children, I knew I wouldn’t print it. Those kids are going to have enough to deal with as it is.
I try to imagine the wife’s last moments of terror. The details of her frantic 911 call revealed she was hiding from her husband in a closet. I’m sure she prayed the police would show up and save her, like in the movies. One thing I’ve learned is that the world is rarely like what you see on the silver screen. The most outlandish and nightmarish stories are the ones that happen in real life.
I file the story in the editing queue and hope I’ve scooped the Tribune on the murder-suicide story, especially by getting the names confirmed. Tomorrow, I’ll try to find out more about the couple for a follow-up story.
When I became a police reporter, I decided that every single person I wrote about deserved more than just their name in the paper when they died. Every time I sit down with a family who has lost a loved one, I give a shit. And they can tell. The shitty part is that I feel like a fraud. Maybe because I’m forging a relationship that is not real. Maybe it’s something else. Even though I really do care – it still boils down to me trying to get a scoop and a front-page story.
Sometimes I wonder why anyone grieving would ever talk to someone like me. Maybe they sense the darkness I keep hidden deep inside. Maybe there is something in my eyes that shows I’ve already been to hell and back. I sit on their couches and take notes as they cry into tissues and flip through photo albums of the loved one they lost, sharing intimate memories with me – a stranger.
Before packing up, I make one last call to the Rosarito watch commander. He doesn’t answer. I grab my sweater and bag. Before I leave I force myself to turn to May who looks at me with a little smirk.
Seeing her smarmy look makes me hesitate. Although the thought of writing about a missing child sends waves of panic through me, I also don’t want May to get a scoop based on a tip from my sources.
Unfortunately, I know I need to cover my ass with the editors by giving her a heads up.
“Keep an ear out for a missing kid in Rosarito.”
“Another story you missed?”
I stop and narrow my eyes at her. “It’s a tip. From a source. Do you know what those are? They’re what you get when you prove yourself. They take years to develop, so maybe someday you’ll get your own source. Or maybe not. Cops don’t trust just anybody.”
And I don’t trust May as far as I can toss her little waiflike body. The first week she was here, she “forgot” to give me a press release I’d been waiting for all day about a big drug bust by the DEA. It was the final piece I needed to top a story I’d been working on all week. After I left, she wrote up the information from the press release and put her byline on the story instead of mine. When I confronted her, she lied about when the press release had come over the fax. My source later told me he’d sent it earlier in the day and the time stamp on the release backed him up. When I complained to Kellogg, he simply shrugged and changed the subject.
Tonight, I stare at May for a few seconds and then walk away before I completely lose it. I hover nearby as Kellogg reads my story.
Kellogg’s 6-foot-tall body is scrunched into his cubicle, like a giant brown teddy bear among the dolls at a child’s tea party. I stand beside his desk staring at the pictures taped to the fabric wall of his cubicle: school photos of his two sons who live with their mother. They go to some fancy private school in Marin County. His ex manages to squeeze every penny she can out of Kellogg claiming she needs it for the kids. He sleeps on the couch in his one-bedroom apartment to make sure his boys feel like they have their own bedroom at his place.
I wait, shifting from foot to foot. Finally, he’s done.
“Looks fine. No questions.”
I turn to leave but he stops me.
“You couldn’t get the missing kid confirmed?”
I shake my head no. When I see the concerned look in his eyes, I wait, wondering if he has something else to say. But he immediately turns to his black and green screen. He’s onto editing another story.
An odd mixture of frustration and relief flutters through me as I walk to my car. Although I want to avoid writing about a missing kid, my failure tonight amounts to me missing a scoop on what could potentially be a huge story on my beat. And underneath all of those emotions, there is also a tiny flicker of worry gnawing at me when I remember the look in Kellogg’s eyes.
Halfway across the Bay Bridge, I catch glimpses of the city as the hazy fog begins to dissipate and reveal a crisp night sky. Twinkling lights dot skyscraper windows. The sky behind them is not black but a deep blue like a Van Gogh nightscape. With the city spread out before me, a sense of buoyancy spreads through my chest as if I could fly. Even on the darkest nights of my life, I’ve always found comfort looking at the San Francisco skyline. Rolling down my window, inhaling the salty air, I punch the radio dial until I find something that will lift my spirits.
I sing along to UB40s “Red, Red Wine” and reassure myself that I have nothing to worry about — that little Rosarito girl will turn up before morning. The Trib probably won’t get tipped off about the story. Brad is not answering the phone because he fell asleep.
My phone rings, sending my heart skipping into my throat, but it’s not Brad. It’s my mother. Again. I ignored three calls from her back at the office. I know if it were urgent, she would have left a message. I’m not in the mood to hear her complain about how I never have time for the family anymore. I missed my niece Sofia’s first communion last weekend covering a high-speed car crash that killed two local teens. I’ve been a reporter for five years, so you think my mother would be used to it by now, but in my family, missing a get together is practically grounds for a vendetta.
I dial Brad again. The phone rings and rings. I debate letting it ring all the way home, but decide that’s a bit childish. Maybe he’s angry I bailed on his birthday dinner. I get it. I understand he’s upset, but it’s not my fault. It’s the nature of my beat — I never know when a story is going to break.
I shove my phone back in my bag and exit on Fremont Street. The city streets downtown are quiet on the way to North Beach. Once I hit China Town, the city bursts into color and sound like a fireworks finale. The crowds of people on the sidewalks of Columbus Avenue thicken right where China Town and North Beach meet. Men stand in groups ogling the women walking by, their faces lit up with the flashing neon lights of the strip club marquees. Restaurants have flung open their French doors and café tables spill out onto the sidewalks with late-night diners. Music pours across the streets like smoke.
I’m almost home. I’m looking forward to having a glass of wine and spending some time with Brad. My street is off the main drag and three blocks up the hill. I circle the block a few times until finally I spot a group of women heading up my street and slowly cruise behind them. I yawn and wait for them to maneuver out of their tight parking spot. It takes me about five minutes to cram my old Volvo sedan between two other cars. My apartment’s about a block away, so the parking spot is lucky. I’ve had to park up Russian Hill before, about six blocks straight up. Living in the city automatically means I’ll never have to join a gym. I get enough exercise hiking to and from my car each day.
From the front my apartment building is a concrete block lacking any of the charm you might expect in the old Italian section of the city. However, the back of the building reminds me of a secret garden, dotted with balconies overlooking North Beach. I’m almost to my front door when he steps out of the shadows in front of me. I nearly scream.
“Brad? You scared me half to death.”
He looks guilty. Then I realize why. He’s holding a small gym bag.
“I was going to wait … ” he says, his words trailing off. He won’t meet my eyes. “Here are your keys. I got my things.”
I blink. At first, not comprehending. Then I decide to pretend that he’s not telling me it’s over.
“Listen, I’m really sorry I missed your birthday dinner. I promise to make it up to you. You know what my job is like.”
I look away. I truly am sorry, but I’m also tired of defending my job to every man I date. For once, I want to have a boyfriend who gets it. They like how passionate I am about my career until it interferes with their plans.
If it wasn’t for my job, I’d be married with three kids by now. Since my wedding was called off, I’ve racked up four failed relationships in as many years. Sadly, this is a familiar conversation and it always ends the same way.
I stare at Brad, willing him to be the guy who gets it. He’s already turning toward the street when he says, “It’s not the first time this has happened and you know it.”
He’s right. Six months into the relationship and I’ve already stood him up a few times. He spent New Year’s Eve alone while I rode along with the cops. I ran off before Easter dinner because a small plane crash-landed on the freeway. A few weeks ago, I canceled a getaway weekend to wine country when cops busted a meth lab in an expensive gated community. There’s nothing I can say to defend myself.
Silence. The only sound is the faint strains of opera music coming from one of the Columbus Avenue restaurants. It’s from La Traviata. For some reason, an image of Violetta, alone and unloved on her deathbed makes me sad. But I don’t cry. I never cry. I haven’t cried since the day they lowered my sister’s casket into the ground.
“I know my job is crazy —” I begin.
“It’s not just that,” Brad says, interrupting. “It’s not only your job … I’m tired of trying to break through the walls you’ve built up.”
“What?” What the hell is he talking about? In the dim glow cast by the streetlight, it’s hard to discern his expression. I peer at him, but his baseball cap casts a shadow over his face, obscuring the look in his eyes.
He shrugs his coat collar tighter against the cool breeze swirling down my street, bringing with it the salty scent of the ocean. How odd that I’m in the middle of getting dumped by my boyfriend and all I can think about is how much I love the smell of the ocean.
“Listen,” Brad says, hoisting the duffle bag over his shoulder. “I don’t want to date around anymore. I don’t want to be an older father. I want to start a family.”
I’m quiet for a moment, thinking about this. “I want all that one day, too.” It’s all I can come up with. I don’t say anything else. Something deep inside me won’t let me say more. He’s going to walk away now. I know it. I fight back tears. Die before cry. It’s my private mantra. It always works.
“So, that’s it?” he asks. I know I should say something to stop him, but I can’t. “Okay. See you around,” he says and starts to walk away, but then he pauses. “By the way, you’ve got black shit smeared all over your forehead.”
I stand and watch until he rounds a corner. He never glances back.
I awaken in the morning with dark smudges under my eyes from my smeared makeup and a tangled mess of smoky smelling hair. It just adds to the Halloween-like appeal of the black gunk that won’t come off my forehead. I can almost hear my mother’s voice chiding me for going to bed without washing my face. I’m a bit dismayed myself after having it drummed into me from childhood that not taking off your makeup at night adds an extra five years to your face. At this point, it doesn’t even matter if it’s true because I experience major Catholic guilt every time I fall asleep without a thorough face cleansing.
No wonder Brad beat it out of here last night, I think, as I peer in the mirror. I look like a freak show. Thinking of Brad, weariness overcomes my body. I wonder if there was something I could have said to make things right with him. What did he want me to say? That I worry deep down inside that I’m incapable of having a real relationship and possibly unlovable anyway, but that he should still stay with me? Obviously, that wouldn’t have worked. Maybe I’m meant to be alone. As much as I dream of having my own family someday, it may never happen. And part of me, the dark part, can’t help but wonder what’s the point in loving someone anyway? They just leave. One way or the other they always leave.
I angrily wipe away a few salty tears that are trying to slip out. Die before cry. I can already hear the sigh my mother is going to give when she hears that Brad is out of the picture and there’s not a chance for any new grandbaby bambinos for her in the foreseeable future.
In the shower, I contemplate taking a break from dating. Or better yet, to just stop caring. Maybe I’ll be like a guy and date and sleep around and not get hurt because I won’t care. I won’t be disappointed if I don’t expect anything
Dressed, I pad across my wood floor into my kitchen, tucked into a corner near the big sliding glass door leading to the balcony. The bulk of my studio apartment is filled with overflowing bookshelves, a beat-up red velvet couch, a small dining table, and my bed shoved up against one wall. My place is tiny, but it’s in North Beach and I get a great deal on the rent because the landlady went to Catholic school with my grandfather.
I grind some espresso beans into a fine powder and stick some sourdough bread in the toaster. As the coffee begins to percolate, I stand over the chessboard on the end table and chew on my lower lip examining the pieces.
It’s my move. Tomas sent me his latest move two days ago. Then, right when the toast pops up, startling me, I see it. Knight takes bishop’s pawn. I grab a postcard from a stack already addressed and stamped with international postage. I scribble my move. As an afterthought, I add a small smiley face to soften the blow. He might be able to escape it, but if he does what I want him to, my next move will be checkmate.
Juggling my toast, coffee, and a stack of newspapers, I step onto my balcony. The sun is streaming over the Oakland Hills to the east as I settle everything on my cafe table. I pull a wooly sweater around me and warm my hands on my big bowl of coffee. The fog is already receding this morning, revealing the shops below. My perch overlooks the rest of North Beach, the Italian section of San Francisco where my great grandparents settled after coming to America.
My full name is Gabriella Maria-Grazia Giovanni. Both sides of my family are Italian-American, living in the Bay Area suburbs southeast of here. As a child, during the summer on Saturdays, my mother would take us to North Beach, where she grew up. We would join the throngs of people on Columbus Avenue doing early shopping for Sunday dinner or drinking espressos at sidewalk tables. Our afternoons included eating pistachio gelatos in stainless steel bowls and picking up tins of amaretto cookies to bring home. It was always a day of treats and laughter with my joy-filled mother.
That was before. Those were the happiest days of my life, before a dark shadow fell upon our family, blotting out our light, smudging it into a gray smear.
After graduating from college in San Diego, I searched hard to find a place in North Beach I could afford, maybe in an attempt to hold tight to those happy childhood memories.
Sitting on my balcony this morning, I scan the morning paper, sip my coffee, and munch on my toast. I still get a thrill out of seeing my name in print, just as I did the first time I saw it in the college newspaper.
I’m reading my story about the murder-suicide when I do a double take. The part about the father being in drag is now in my story. What the hell? How did the copy desk know about this detail and why would they insert it without checking with me first? Then my eyes fall to the bottom of the story and the answer is clear: “May DuPont contributed to this story.” She somehow found out, threw it in my story, and gave herself a tagline.
I can feel my face flush with heat. I can’t even complain to the editors because they will scold me for leaving that detail out, especially if the competing paper has it.
Then I scan the Trib. Damn. They do have it. Andy Black, my nemesis, has the drag part and the names confirmed. As I continue scanning the Trib, my day gets worse — Black managed to nab the story about the missing Rosarito girl. Shit.
Time to face my fears. My legs are suddenly heavy as I stand.