Epilogue.

Summers by the bay are bitterly cold. Beau Baker considers this, and even as he bunches the collar of his heavy twill jacket more snugly around his neck, decides he is glad. The cold chases the tourists south to Disneyland and Hollywood, and he is allowed to watch the sea lions in peace. They are now vying for space on bloated wooden pallets, heaving their fat round bodies against one another, long whiskers flaring in play and aggression.

A long tanker dips in and out of the low fog, and the squat bulk of Alcatraz Island sits dead in the distance. Beau wonders if Scout, his niece, is old enough by now to enjoy a place like that, and thinks to ask his sister. He is sure Ramona will jump at the prospect of a day to herself.

Being on Pier 39 always makes him hungry. The damp breeze carries the scents of sugar and spiced foods, fried dough and homemade ice cream. He cycles through a list of restaurants in his mind, places quiet and warm, making note of the ones with decent wine menus. He wants to celebrate. There is always, he supposes belatedly, home.

Beau rubs his hands together, briskly, for warmth. His car is not so far, a brief trolley ride away. He imagines sitting inside with the heat blasting. Soon, he tells himself.

He has taken the day off. Hank and Sam are together at the office--working, he hopes. They've all enjoyed a spike in business of late after many mentions in the Chronicle in conjunction with the ongoing trial of former officer Elwood Pierce. Beau is glad for the money--he's having new carpet put in, new furniture, the office repainted--but mostly because the increase in cases keep him busy. It is difficult to focus on his own life when he is being paid to investigate someone else's.

He breathes deep again, and the scent of fried dough is now stronger. A new batch, he thinks. There is something else, too, a fragrance both bitter and sweet like oiled leather. He happens to look up, and sees immediately the lean figure heading right for him, moving at a fast clip. A man wrapped in a snug green parka, a hot pretzel clutched in one hand, cigarette in the other. The hair is shorter now, tight brown waves scattered across a high forehead and blowing in the wind.

The figure takes one last drag and tosses the butt aside. Beau is again glad for the dearth of tourists, but for a different reason: he does not think he could have held back. The face of the figure in the green parka is lit with a smile of the likes he has not seen in almost three whole months. Some powerful emotion cuts through him then, and leaves Beau feeling as though he's taken a heavy blow to the chest.

A restaurant, he marvels. What was he thinking? The body that meets his own is hot with life under the thick coat, and strong. Beau has food in his cupboards, his own wine to choose from. Rough brown stubble scrapes his cheek and jaw, and a hot mouth fastens over his own.

Beau is delighted, and he names the warm feeling that swells inside his chest, "Tiger. Tiger."