Peace. He has found still water.
He has come through much turbulence, violent rapids and whirlpools, and now he has found a place where he can rest, where his soul will be soothed.
Between the garage and the property-line fence, he opens the gravity latch on a wrought-iron gate. He follows a walkway flanked by the garage on his left and a head-high eugenia hedge on his right, all the way to the rear of the house.
The shallow backyard is lushly planted. It boasts mature ficus trees and a continuation of the sideyard eugenia hedge, which screen him from the prying eyes of neighbors.
The patio is sheltered by an open-beam redwood cover through which thorny trailers of bougainvillea are densely intertwined.
Even on this last day of November, clusters of blood-red flowers fringe the patio roof. The concrete floor is spattered with fallen petals, as though a hard-fought battle was waged here.
A kitchen door and large sliding glass door provide two possible entrances from the patio. Both are locked.
The sliding door, beyond which he can see a deserted family room with comfortable furniture and a large television, is further secured by a wooden pole wedged into the interior track. If he gets through the lock, he nevertheless will need to break the glass to reach inside and remove the pole.
He knocks sharply on the other door, although the window beside it reveals that no one is in the kitchen. When there is no response, he knocks again with the same result.
From his compact kit of burglary tools, he withdraws the can of graphite. Crouching before the door, he sprays the lubricant into the lock. Dirt, rust, or other contamination can bind the pin tumblers.
He trades the graphite spray for the tension tool and that pick known as a "rake." He inserts the L-shaped wrench first to maintain the necessary tension on the lock core. He pushes the rake into the key channel as deep as it will go, then brings it up until he feels it press against the pins. Squinting into the lock, he rapidly draws the rake out, but it does not raise all of the pin tumblers to their shear point, so he tries again, and again, and finally on the sixth try the channel seems to be clear.
He turns the knob.
The door opens.
He half expects an alarm to go off, but there is no siren. A quick scan of the header and jamb fails to reveal magnetic switches, so there must not be a silent alarm, either.
After he puts the tools away and zippers shut the leather case, he steps across the threshold and softly closes the door behind him.
He stands for a while in the cool, shadowy kitchen, absorbing the vibrations, which are good. This house welcomes him. Here, his future begins, and it will be immeasurably brighter than his confused and amnesia-riddled past.
As he moves out of the kitchen to explore the premises, he does not draw the P7 from his shoulder holster. He is sure that no one is at home. He senses no danger, only opportunity.
"I need to be someone," he tells the house, as if it is a living entity with the power to grant his wishes.
The ground floor offers nothing of interest. The usual rooms are filled with comfortable but unremarkable furniture.
Upstairs, he stops only briefly at each room, getting an overall picture of the second-floor layout before taking time for a thorough investigation. There's a master bedroom with attached bath, walk-in closet
a guest bedroom
The final bedroom at the end of the hall-which puts him at the front of the house-is used as an office. It contains a big desk and computer system, but it's more cozy than businesslike. A plump sofa stands under the shuttered windows, a stained-glass lamp on the desk.
One of the two longest walls is covered with paintings hung in a double row, frames almost touching. Although the pieces of