Alternate Currents

Deanna Paxton, a detective with the Seattle Police Department’s Criminal

Investigation Bureau, glanced at her cell phone—6:30 p.m. She left the

unmarked 2009 imperial blue Chevy Impala at the curb on Forty-Second Street

and walked up the sidewalk, holding her silk three-quarter-length sleeved jacket

up to her neck. A sudden decrease in temperature and a stiff breeze were

evidence of an accurate weather forecast. A thunderstorm was on the way and

the cold front preceding the storm was definitely passing through. The chilly

breeze blew straight down her collar, causing a momentary regret about the

extremely short-cropped hair style with just a wisp of bang across her forehead.

She looked up at the twin gables of the big Tudor-style house painted tan

with brick accents, and formed a first impression of moderate wealth and

refinement. The Laurelhurst neighborhood located north of downtown is

known for its pleasant upper-middle class lifestyle, and lovely homes with

private boat docks along the coast of the peninsula jutting between Lake Union

and Wolf Bay. She knew the area had relatively little crime and plenty of large

older homes like this one.

Based on the initial call-out, it wasn’t immediately clear what type of crime

had occurred, only that a man was down with a violent head injury. Despite

the cool moist air and whatever horrific event waited inside, she paused at the

entrance to the property and gazed at one of the most appealing front yards

she had ever seen. Beyond the public sidewalk, the driveway split in both

directions forming an oval frame for a lush landscaped area that encompassed

the entire yard. A spur of concrete branched left toward the end of the house

presumably leading to a garage.

The sun was beginning its final descent toward the flat horizon and only

a couple of hours of daylight remained. Looking across the planted area

through the swaying branches of paper birches and creek dogwoods, she could

make out the ambulance parked in front of the house and an SPD cruiser

behind it. She contemplated the gently curving driveway that led to the front

door, but being a gardening enthusiast herself, found it impossible to resist

walking through the enchanting center space despite the unseasonable chill.

Her own small bungalow located in an even older Seattle neighborhood

had a relatively large backyard, where she attempted to grow roses and various

perennials year round. Unfortunately, her profession didn’t leave a lot of time

for horticulture or anything else for that matter, and the garden never came

close to the one in her imagination.

A flagstone path led from the concrete into the professionally maintained

landscaping, which featured a large koi pond—complete with a wooden

bridge—surrounded by natural vegetation. Small solar lights lining both sides

of the path at eight foot intervals would maintain at least an illusion of warmth 

after the sun went down. Studying her surroundings with a practiced eye,

Deanna recognized a number of native species. Pale green leaves of grassy

arrowhead protruded from the water with a few white tri-petal blossoms still

clinging to the long stems. Spindly branches of willow herb bent down to skim

the glassy surface.

While she contemplated the miniature ecosystem, totally captivated, one

of the last dark pink blossoms fell to the surface and was met by a large curious

orange and white mottled goldfish. She passed by a formation of lichen

covered rocks nestled in greenish yellow club moss and mats of alpine heather.

One of the rocks suddenly moved. She jumped back, then smiled and watched

the large green and brown turtle slide into the water.

Reluctantly, she emerged onto the driveway directly across from the

home’s front entrance, walked around the ambulance, and climbed the three

wide steps to a covered tile portico. The front door was open, so without

bothering to knock she entered into a large foyer. A huge sparkling crystal

chandelier hanging on a long chain from the second floor ceiling brightly lit

the space. Looking up, she noted an oversized sky light that would certainly

brighten the area during the day as well.

The patrol officer who responded to the call stood in the middle of the

floor writing on a clipboard. He straightened up and greeted her. “Hello,

Detective. How you doing?”

“I’m good, Mike. You?”

He nodded then cocked his head toward the dining room. “They’re

patching the guy up, but it doesn’t look too serious. Near as I can figure,

someone whacked him and he fell to the side and hit his head on the corner of

the granite counter.” He shook his head. “That stuff doesn’t give much. It split

the side of his forehead open. There’s no indication of who or what hit him,

but there’s a little bit of blood on the granite, so . . .” He shrugged. “I’m just

trying to piece it together. The guy doesn’t seem to know what happened . . .

at least that’s what he says. Anyway, he didn’t just fall. There’s a big egg on the

top of his head in addition to the forehead laceration.”