A shocking photo screamed from the front pages of the tabloids -- the last moments of a life captured for all the world to see. The look of sheer terror eternally frozen on the face of the doomed woman indicated that her fatal fall from an upper story of an unfinished Seattle skyscraper was no desperate suicide -- and that look will forever haunt Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont.
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October 28, 2003
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Excerpt from A More Perfect Union by J.A. Jance
"Cassie, for God's sake! What the hell's the body doing out there already? I didn't call for the body. We're not set up yet."
Speaking through a megaphone from his perch on a raised boom, movie director Sam "The Movie Man" Goldfarb's voice echoed through the wooden maze of Lake Union Drydock like God himself speaking from the mount.
Cassie was Cassie Young, a punk-looking young woman who served as Goldfarb's right and left hands. She scurried toward the base of the director's boom as she raised a hand-held radio to her lips.
Because I'm a homicide cop, my ears pricked up when I heard the word "body." For the past two weeks I'd been trailing around Seattle, dutifully mother-henning a Hollywood film crew. Officially, I was on special assignment for Mayor Dawson's office, acting as technical advisor to His Honor's old Stanford roommate and buddy, Samuel Goldfarb. Unofficially, I was doing less than nothing and felt as useless as tits on a-boar.
My short venture into the moviemaking business had certainly stripped away the glamour. As far as I can tell, movies are made by crowds of people who mill around endlessly without actually doing anything. I mean nothing happens. They take hours to set up for a scene that takes less than a minute to shoot, or else spend hours shooting a scene that amounts to two seconds of film footage. The whole process was absolutely stultifying. I hated it.
My initial spurt of "body"-fueled adrenaline disappeared quickly. After all, movies are totally make-believe. On a film set, nothing is really what it seems. I naturally assumed that this was more of the same. Leaning back against a workbench in the pipe shop, I shifted my weight to one foot as I attempted to ease the throbbing complaints of the recently reactivated bone spur on my other heel.
I had been whiling away the time by chatting with a garrulous old duffer named Woody Carroll. Woody was a retired Lake Union Drydock employee on tap that day to keep a watchful eye on the cast and crew of Death in Drydock. His job was to make sure we didn't do any damage to company property in the course of our Saturday shoot.
Woody told me that he had worked as a carpenter for Lake Union Drydock both before and after World War II. He had been there steadily from the time he got home from a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines until he retired in 1980. He was full of countless stories, and his tales had kept my mind off the bone spur for most of the day. Hiding out from a blazing sun, we had retreated into the gloomy shade of the pipe shop. Seattle was sweltering through an unusually hot, dry August. People who live in the Northwest aren't accustomed to heat.