Bullets Across the Bay


Janet Dawson read the following excerpt from Marcia Muller’s Edwin of the Iron Shoes (1977).

The Maltese Falcon
AT SIX O’CLOCK THAT EVENING, I crossed the wind-swept plaza in front of Bank of America’s world headquarters. A flower stand at the corner of Kearny and California added gaiety to the scene, but its early spring daffodils were offset by the nearby sculpture, known locally as “the banker’s heart,” which resembled a huge lump of coal.

   I passed through the towering lobby of the building to the elevator that took me to the Carnelian Room. When I stepped off at the top floor, an eager young man in a brown double-knit suit greeted me.

   “Good evening, ma’am. Step right over here, and I’ll find your name tag and give you your Yerba Buena Supporter’s Kit.”

   So this was a closed party. I followed him to a card table stacked with colorful folders and tags encased in plastic.

   “Your name and organization?” he asked with an ingratiating smile.

   “Sharon McCone, Wakefield and Fox,” I said, naming one of the larger real-estate firms in the Bay Area.

   He rummaged around on the table. “Oh, not again! They don’t seem to have made up your tag. You know how everything gets screwed up with these big parties.” He produced a felt-tipped pen and wrote my name and company on a card, then popped it into an empty sheath of clear plastic. “Let me help you pin it on.”

   In a few seconds, Sharon McCone, realtor, entered the Carnelian Room, clutching her Yerba Buena Supporter’s Kit.

   I accepted a drink from the first tray that passed, shifted the kit to my other arm so it covered my name tag, and wandered around the room.

   People clustered in little groups, gesturing and talking with animation. I checked out the nearest bunch for Wakefield and Fox employees and, when I didn’t find any, slipped onto its fringes, catching bits of the conversation.

   “...horrible what they’re doing...”

   “...loss of millions of dollars of income...”

   “...why, when I think of the jobs it could create...”

   “...damned eco-freaks...”

   I wondered if any of them really cared what the others were saying, since they all seemed to talk at once.

   “Don’t you agree, dear?”

   A portly man in a leisure suit that fitted him like a sausage casing nudged me and managemed to spill a little of his drink on my foot.

   “Excuse me?” I set my empty glass on a passing tray and picked off two fresh ones. I would need fortification to get through this.

   “No matter how you look at it,” he went on, ignoring me, “the fact is, this city is suffering, really suffering....” He pitched into a long harangue about how San Francisco couldn’t survive without a new sports arena and several thousand more hotel rooms to join the ones that already stood empty in these days of slack tourism.

~Edwin of the Iron Shoes (1977) by Marcia Muller, p. 37-39


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