Hush
shingle-sided with tar-paper roofs, but the
apartment building Ivy was looking for turned out to be brick.
People gathered on their front steps, watching, whispering. Some of
them must have been there awhile, because a few yawned and shuffled
back into their homes.
    Just another homicide. Go back to bed.
    In the yard of an adjoining house, a pit bull
barked deeply in its barrel chest and lunged at a chain-link fence,
its feet and nails stirring up a cloud of dirt as it continued its
display of aggression. Yellow crime- scene tape surrounded what
there was of the yard, taking in the entire sidewalk and part of
the street where more patrol cars pulled up, lights flashing,
strobing off the apartment windows, giving the area an even
weirder, unreal carnivalesque feel.
    One uniformed policeman stood where the
yellow crime tape wound around a streetlight.
    He took a step toward her, his expression
stern. "No press allowed."
    Once again, she pulled out her temporary
badge. "I'm not press."
    He squinted at the badge, then straightened,
his shoulders relaxing. "Oh, yeah. Detective Irving said you might
be coming."
    She clipped the plastic photo badge to her
T-shirt, then lifted the crime-scene tape with one hand as she
ducked underneath.
    A policewoman was stationed at the door.
Other officers were scattered about, tablets in hand, interviewing
people, hoping to find an eyewitness.
    "Second floor," the policewoman said.
    "Thanks."
    Even though the building looked to have been
built about the same time as Ivy's, it was in much worse condition.
Names had been carved into the plaster walls with a sharp knife.
Behind a dark-stained door with dripping, yellow varnish, a woman
sobbed uncontrollably while someone in a low voice tried to comfort
her.
    Ivy's heart hammered as she moved up the
flight of stairs. She put her hand out to steady herself, grabbing
the sticky railing; it shifted precariously and she let it go.
    Up, up, her footsteps echoing.
    It was eerily quiet inside the building
except for the fading sound of muffled crying.
    The apartment door stood open, another
policeman stationed there. Once again, she gave her name and lifted
her badge. The policeman nodded.
    Just inside the door was a combined living
room and kitchen. The wooden floor was scuffed. It creaked when she
moved across it. On the wall above the couch was a watercolor of a
Japanese garden, in one corner a small rock fountain flowing with
soothing contentment. Next to it, on the floor, was a tiny bonsai
tree, spilled, its roots exposed, black dirt in a little pile next
to it. From the ceiling hung a beautiful lantern made of rice
paper. Letters had been cut in the lantern. They probably meant
things like "happiness," "prosperity."
    She couldn't quit looking at the objects in
the living room, each telling a more personal story about the
owner. Origami; more watercolors, these of flowers; a black
lacquered box; a silk pillow.
    A world of their own. A sweet, safe
haven.
    God damn it. God, God damn it.
    She wanted to reroot the bonsai tree, but she
knew she wasn't to touch anything. Normally a crime scene remained
a crime scene for two or three days. After that, the plant could be
picked up. By then it would probably be too late. It was probably
too late already. Roots could only be exposed to the air for a
short time before the plant died.
    In the kitchen area, on the refrigerator, was
a birth announcement.
    Years ago, Chicago papers used to routinely
publish all the births within Cook County. That was done away with
during the reign of the Madonna Murderer, and even though the
murders stopped, the announcements never resumed. Most people
didn't even think about it. Most people wouldn't have been able to
tell you why birth announcements were no longer in the paper. But
Ivy knew.
    She forced herself to look elsewhere, to move
in the direction of the hallway. Low voices could be heard floating
from the bedroom. From inside came the click and whir of a camera
shutter. A

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