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.”