The photograph was black & white and malproportioned, maybe 7 x 8. An Oakland policeman, helmet tipped forward against his glasses, stared toward the cropped end of his outstretched arm as if horrified by the amputation. Upstage center, framed by the arm and the officer’s profile, in perfect focus, the face of Jimmy O’Shea, arms raised above his head, fingers interlaced in a two-handed fist about to descend bonecrackingly.
“Umhm,” said Jimmy. He dropped the photo on Beverly Absalom’s desk, revealing photo number two.
The policeman’s mouth was now ajar, glasses skewed, arm bent where Jimmy had struck his elbow, forcing the cop’s hand into the photo, fingers splayed letting something go. A swish of blond hair, caught like an ad in a fashion magazine, held suspended above the officer’s palm. Jimmy’s eyes fierce, intent, arms forming a downward V, apex unseen.
“I say,” said Jimmy, in the manner of British detectives, “something has been cropped.”
“You don’t say,” said Beverly.
“Where’s her face?”
“If the cops cropped it, long gone — negatives and all. If someone else took the picture or one like it and did not edit out your only defense, maybe.”
“Whatsisname from Channel 4 was there.”
“Get whatsisname from Channel 4 to check his archives. And anyone else you can find.”
“And shweet-haht,” she added in the manner of Sam Spade, formerly of Spade and Archer, “find the dame.”
“Or what, Bev? Shumbahdy's gotta take the fall?”
“Without her on the stand, we have no damsel in distress no heroic rescue no unreasonable use of police force under California Penal Code 835a no nada. The cops cropped her out, we have to put her back in or it’s ten to twenty depending on the jury. You do know what she looks like, don’t you, please?”
Jimmy picked up the photo of flying hair. He focused on the point outside the photo where the girl’s face would be, but that coincided with Beverly’s right breast, so he shifted to the ceiling. He saw billow of peasant dress, flash of green eyes, whip of blond hair, blur of a billyclub descending.
“Sure,” he said. “I remember.”
He saw another face, painted on a wall.
“I’ve been wanting to ask,” he said. “Bill Montenegro. How —“
“The memorial’s next week.”
Not painted by my mind. A real memorial for the really dead. Maybe a socialist realist memorial with calo lilies, a library, Pier 18, suitable for muralizing.
“Deaths like his never make sense,” she said. “Meanwhile, the girl. The girl the girl. Cherchez la blonde.”