it was a cold december afternoon, with rain streaking the windows at san francisco police headquarters.
as long as i've been here, thought mona, there are still one or two at every press conference - old enemies, and sometimes new enemies, out to get her.
the district attorney adjusted her tie and stepped up to the front of the podium.
"all right, let's get started."
the two tv camerapersons present aimed their cameras at the d a. one had a camera on his shoulder, the other had a small pistol-like camera in one of her hands and a steaming paper cup of coffee in the other. they both looked bored.
that was fine with mona. maybe they would not get anything that the stations would want to use.
most of the seven or eight reporters gathered stopped talking and looked straight ahead with straight or mockingly respectful faces. the two most alert looking were mona's enemies - jerry "the jumper" jernigan from the standard , and bella "boom boom" beauregard from the bugle.
jerry was a tormentor from way back in mona's days as a porn star, before she had joined the police force and worked her way up to chief homicide detective.
boom boom, from the aggressively right wing bugle, was her newest and most implacable foe, although mona didn't know what she had done to deserve her enmity - besides being black, that is. it wouldn't be because mona had been a porn star, because boom boom had been one herself - and of a later generation , so they had never been rivals.
"we know you are all in a hurry to get your stories taped and filed, " the district attorney was saying, '"so unless anyone has questions specifically for me, i will turn it over to detective malaika,"
nobody had any questions specifically for the district attorney so she stepped back and mona took her place.
"thank you. first off , i am here to discuss the murders being described in the media as - " mona checked her notes to get it exactly right - " the zombie negative 5.748 murders. is anyone here for any other reason? no? good - "
jerry the jumper spoke up. "you had to look at your notes to see what the case is called? you must really be on top of it."
"i was checking my notes, jerry, to see what the media - especially the all-powerfulnon-print media - was calling it. the - " mona checked her little notebook again - " term 'zombie negative 5.748' has not surfaced in our investigation other than in the media. nor are we referring to it as such in our developing files. i can tell you that much."
carlos "the caterpillar" chavez from the tribune spoke up. "you say 'the media'. isn't everything media these days? what isn't media?"
"an excellent point, carlos. i should have said, 'print and electronic media'."
"isn't everything electronic? " asked jerry. "isn't everything made of electrons?"
"thank you, jerry. does anybody have any intelligent questions?"
"ohhhhh - " so jerry got his moan in. might as well get it over with. this was his neverending way of referring back to mona's days as a porn star, where her schtick had been making maximum noise - she had been "mona the moaner" and "the black panter."
"i have a question."
"you say the number - whatever it is - hasn't come up. except online, i guess. but are you following up on it? surely it must mean something."
"well, not necessarily. but we have followed up."
"by forwarding it to the federal mystic numbers unit at oak ridge tennessee."
bella smirked. this was the answer she wanted. "how useful are they? isn't that kind of a waste of the taxpayers money?"
"that is not for me to say. we follow up in every possible way on a case like this - where womens lives are in danger."
"how thoughtful. but i think it is for you to say - as a free and responsible member of an independent media, enquiring on behalf of a taxed and spent public, i think it is for you to say."
"i authorized the request to contact the mystic numbers unit. make of it what you will."
"did you contact any other unit - like the werewolf unit, the vampire unit, the paranormal unit, any of that?"
"i make use of any unit that is available and that is relevant to any evidence we have. "
"how about the ghoul unit?"
"i didn't know there was a ghoul unit. if there is, and if you have any evidence that ghouls were involved in any of the cases under consideration, please - contact us."
bella rolled her eyes at her fellow reporters. they mostly looked bored. the young woman with the hand held camera was sucking on her coffee and did not seem to be pointing her camera at mona.
"go ahead and laugh," mona went on. "but this is the world we live in. i repeat , as long as womens lives are endangered, we will use all the resources available."
"i have another question," bella replied.
"that's what i'm here for."
"i heard that mack treacher - your ex-husband mack treacher - might be a suspect in these murders."
"if you have any information relating to his involvement, bella, i hope you do your duty as a citizen as share it with the police. it would be the first such information we have. does that answer your question?"
"have you seen mack lately?" bella asked.
"i saw him the other day, staggering through the bleak and desperate dawn like a gin-soaked zombie, like a thousand pale demons and icy-fanged dogs were trying to drag him back to hell. he looked like shit - like he'd been scraped out of the bottom of the shit machine."
"that sounds better than the last time i saw him. any other questions? jerry? "
"how certain are you that all these murders are committed by the same person?'"
"that leaves a lot of room."
"indeed it does. but it is what we have at this time. anybody else? come on, you all wanted this meeting, or at least your editors did."
the rain started beating a little harder on the windows.