“Thank you, officer,” said Chester. “Grab a houseplant for the station on your way out.”
“That won’t be necessary,” said the cop. “We’d just kill it, triggered the need for a murder investigation.” He winced in recognition of his faux pas. “Sorry for your troubles; let us know if you determine anything has been stolen.”
As the constable exited he almost bumped into Maggie as she came in. “Ma’am,” he said, tipping his hat.
“Officer,” she nodded, attempting a clumsy curtsey, grimacing as she bent her knees. “Or would that be sheriff?” The cop smiled, and continued on his way.
“Oooff,” exhaled Chester, as he lowered himself on to the redwood bench. “Thanks for doing that. Is it him?”
“Yeah,” said Maggie, joining him with an equal measure of weariness. “It’s Pete alright.” She paused, thinking of saying more, but decided against it.
The couple had been wakened early that morning by a pounding on their door. Chester answered it to find two cops, hats in hands, who told them that there’d been a burglary at his shop, and a “fatality, possibly one of your tenants, based on identification found on his person.” They’d asked Chester if he, or someone else, could come to the nursery to assess what’d been stolen, and to the morgue to identify the body.
“What’s going on,” asked Maggie, who’d joined Chester at the door, placing her hand on his shoulder.
“They want us to identify a body,” said Chester. “And apparently there’s been a break-in at the shop.”
“What?” Maggie looked at Chester, who had slumped towards the threshold, leaning against it to support himself. She turned towards the officers. “Excuse us a moment.” She ushered Chester a few steps away. “You go to the shop,” she said to him; I’ll identify the body. Who do they think it is?”
“They didn’t say,” said Chester. “One of our tenants. I have a feeling it might be Pete, though I don’t know why.”
“Alright,” she said, patting his arm. “You go ahead to the shop.”
“What happened,” ask Chester, looking down at his hands.
“They said it was a hit and run, at the 18th Street overpass. Apparently a car came off Mariposa Street too fast. Pete must have been walking across the bridge, and the car pushed him over.” She reached to hold his hand. “He looked pretty beat up.”
“I’m sorry you had to do that, Maggie,” he said. “It should have been me.”
Maggie squeezed his hand. “Poor Pete.”
“Yeah,” sighed Chester. “What about the driver?”
“Weird thing,” said Maggie. “The car must’ve flown off the bridge, but it somehow landed right. All they could find was some shattered chunks of plastic and glass.”
The couple was silent for a few beats. “What happened here?” Maggie scanned the shop. “It looks fine.”
“Someone broke into the basement,” said Chester. “The door was busted open, and it’s a mess in there. But, it’s always been a mess…and I haven’t really been down there…pretty much ever. They busted up some pots outside, and cut open the fence.” He got up. “I gotta call Jesus to patch things up.”
The door clattered open; a uniformed courier walked into the shop, holding an envelope. “Delivery!” he announced, crisply striding over to Chester. “Please sign here.”
“What is it,” asked Maggie, as the door swung shut behind the courier.
Chester had opened the envelope, pulled out the heavy cotton page inside, and was reading it. “It’s an offer. For the property.”
“An offer? From whom? How much?”
“It says it’s from Bud Beautiful, whatever that is. $20 million.”
“What?” exclaimed Maggie. “$20 million!”
“Yeah,” said Chester, sitting back down. “If this is real, I’m going to take it,” he grimaced.
Each month the View publishes a chapter from Gold, a serialized tale of politics, capitalism, and corruption in San Francisco. Previous chapters can be found on the paper’s website, www.potreroview.net. Advertisers or supporters interested in sponsoring future installations, or publishing the final manuscript, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.