Cynthia Kang and Desdemona Valdez walked close to each another along the swath of beach as the sun rose. Out here in Malibu the fire-charged air and confetti of ash had been batted away by ocean breezes. Human folly and the sick intent of arsonists had created various wildfires in the Southland like that which could destroy mythical Asgard. The flames ate up trees and houses, apartments and mobile home parks from Santa Barbara to Sylmar to portions of Orange County. Some 1,300 homes lost to the incendiary whims of chance and winds up to sixty miles an hour. At one point sixteen separate fires blazed all through the night and a billion dollars of loss and resources was or would be consumed. And even as the firefighters tried to tame the fires, they’d been warned that rains were forecast as well. That the charred brush wouldn’t be allowed to cool before it had to be bulldozed into place and bolstered with sandbags to as best as possible curtail severe flooding and runoff, and more destruction of property and highway closures.
Maybe the capricious gods had finally gotten tired of their experiment and would let Southern California perish in a succession of ways. But the denizens were stubborn, for they had small dogs to buy sweaters for and more Botox to inject.
Congresswoman Kang reflected on this as she and LAPD Detective Valdez attempted to understand recent event unrelated to the fires but corrosive as well.
“I feel like one of those people in that board game, Clue or some such,” Valdez remarked, picking up a stick and spinning it out into the waves.
“That’s merely watered-down Agatha Christie,” Kang answered contemptuously, putting an arm around her lover’s waist and squeezing. “We had us some real twisty shit, homey.”
Valdez said, “Okay. So your brother was involved with this Cenine all along?”
“According to the text messages he’s sent me in the last twenty-four hours, she came to him all dewy-eyed and throaty whisper sometime in the middle of this mess. Seems she was worried she couldn’t trust Countryman. Could be too she’d learned of that loose cannon Riggs floating around and this had her figuring maybe she need backup in case something happened to her boy Dieter ”
Valdez chortled. “More like she needed another sucker, a man of course, to take out Countryman when and if she needed it to happen. Making sure when she came to your brother the top buttons on her shirt were undone to so he wouldn’t miss her heaving breasts.”
Kang grinned. Mutt and Jeff had been arrested, and with Gilmore and Countryman dead, the two had indicated in separate interrogations that they’d talk if they could make a deal.
Valdez stopped. “But he’s only compounding his sins, Cynthia. Right now he’s a person of interest, which is a limbo term for ‘once we get our hands on your ass, you are suspect number one, buddy.’ That’s if Cenine don’t bury a butcher knife in his back.”
“I know,” Kang said, concerned. “I’ve been texting him back, trying to convince him to turn himself in.” She shrugged. “Maybe he can claim she kidnapped him.”
“Uh-huh, blinded by her feminine wiles.”
“I am by yours.” They kissed.
At the diner in Norco, Mutt was freeing up the knife he was holding under the table when Cenine Gilmore stabbed him in the side of the neck with the fork she’d been using on her delicious pancakes. From a CPR course she’d been required to take to work as a lifeguard in junior college, she recalled the chart the instructor had shown them. It helped that the teacher was cute, a pre-med student who went into more detail than usual about the working of the human body when it came to pulling people from the water.