Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued
Fiction Saturday – Continued
He stood by the door of his apartment building slowly going through his mail. Everything was addressed to him as either Mr. Davis Lovejoy or, all too often, as “Occupant.” Mixed in with the junk mail and the bills was a plain white envelope with no return address. It was postmarked the day before. He opened it slowly. It was almost as if he expected it to explode. Inside was a single sheet of notepaper—the same notepaper he had seen taped to the mirror in Laura’s apartment.
“Meet me in the arboretum in Golden Gate Park, tomorrow at ten a.m. – at the Moon Viewing Platform.” It was signed with a simple ” L.”
“My God. What is going on here? Crazy notes? Secret meetings?”
He’d lived in San Francisco for close to five years, but had never really explored the parks all that much. He had come here to work and that’s what he’d done—work. And now this.
He had to look at a map of Golden Gate Park to find the arboretum. He stopped at the tiny visitor center/gift shop just inside the main gate. The docent, a Junior League type with too much makeup, sold him a small folding map of the forty-acre facility. He followed the pathway past ponds, fountains, and manicured beds of flowering plants. Ducks, swans and gulls were getting some morning sunshine on the lawns.
There was nobody there. He’d only seen four people since he had entered the arboretum: the docent and a young Asian couple pushing a stroller. He looked around, peering into the foliage. Nobody.
“Laura? Laura?” he stage whispered. There was no response.
He looked at his watch – ten-fifteen…ten-thirty…ten-forty-five.
Feeling like a fool, standing there, talking into the shrubs, he decided to leave. This was nuts.
It came from behind him.
“Laura?” He answered, but didn’t know to whom.
She stepped out of the shadows, dressed in a black turtleneck and matching slacks.
“What’s going on, Laura? What is this all about?”
“Not now. Not here. C’mon, let’s walk. I’ll try to explain.” She looked around them to see if anyone was close enough to hear them talk.
They walked through the arboretum. Laura’s head never stopped moving, her eyes scanning everything. After about five minutes they sat down on a damp bench in a dark, humid stand of redwood trees—trees that were native to California and becoming rare in unprotected areas.
She took his hand and spoke from her heart.
“Davis, I want to apologize for the note that I left for you. I was scared. I panicked and I had to get out of there. That note was just awful. It was so uncalled for and you don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
She lifted his hand, kissed it and held it against her cheek.
“It confused me, Laura. It still does,” he said. He looked in her eyes. “What’s going on? What is all this? Please, tell me.”
“You saw that picture in the paper, right?” she asked.
“Yes, I did.” He lowered his hand, but still held on to hers firmly, afraid to let her go. “That was you, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said, nodding. “That’s why I ran. I saw my picture, that ratty photo. I knew that I was in trouble, and that meant you were in trouble too, very dangerous trouble.” She closed her eyes. Seeing his pain and confusion was more than she could take in.
“I’m in danger? Why?” He was even more confused.
“Davis,” she paused to gather the courage to tell him the truth. “I’ve lied to you. A lot. I’m married. I ran away from my husband and I’m sure he’s looking for me.”
“Married. The paper mentioned a husband,” said Davis. This was what he was afraid of.
“Does the name Dominic Deltino mean anything to you?” she asked.
“Dominic…that’s the name you mentioned that night in the Safeway. Is he your husband?” He nodded in recognition, if not understanding.
“Yes. Dominic Deltino, the weasely little son of a bitch.”
“What about him? Is he violent? Has he hurt you?”
“My love—and I do love you, please know that,” Laura said. “These few weeks have been a revelation to me. Thanks to you, I think I’m really in love for the first time.” She reached out and stroked his cheek. “Davis, my love… my husband is a crew boss for the Roncalli Family out of New York.”
“The Mob? Your husband is a mobster?” Davis stood up as he said this, his voice rising, almost breaking.
“Yes. Sit down, please.” She looked around to see if anyone was paying any attention to them. “I left him and now he’s looking for me.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Davis shook his head in disbelief. A chill ran down his spine.
“I also stole some money from him,” Laura added, almost as a postscript. “My guess is he’s more upset about that than about me walking out on him.”
“A lot of money?” He was almost afraid of what she might say next.
“Six hundred thousand in fifties and hundreds,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“In cash?” His voice started up again.
“Shhh, keep it down, will you?” She looked around again. It was beginning to get uncomfortably crowded as more people came to enjoy the flowers. “Let’s get out of here.”
They worked their way back toward the main gate. Near the exit, they walked by a padlocked fence. Laura pulled him to a stop and stepped behind a rhododendron bush.
“Hold on,” she said. “Let’s duck in here for a minute.”
She reached into her purse, took out a small nail file and shielded the lock with her body. In less than five seconds, she lifted the padlock off of the gate.
“C’mon,” she said with a slightly guilty grin on her face. “Let’s go in here.”
“I guess I can add breaking and entering to my resume´,” he thought out loud.
He followed her through the gated cyclone fence and into the patio area of the San Francisco County Fair Building.
“Who knew San Francisco had a county fair?” she said, tossing a small, forced smile over her shoulder at him. She moved quickly to get out of sight.
The vine-covered patio fence completely shielded them from the view of any casual passer-by. They sat down on a green wrought iron bench that, according to the plaque attached to it, had been donated in memory of someone named Laura.
Taking a deep breath Davis gazed at Laura, who was looking around at their private patio. Then he spoke trying to coax more information out of her.
“So, Laura, you’ve left your mobster husband and…?”
“He hit me, Davis, a lot and for a lot of years.” She clenched her hands into two tight fists. “He’s a cruel bastard who enjoys hurting people. I know it’s his job, but you don’t bring it home.”
Davis was surprised at how easily she equated what Dominic did with any other working husband.
“Okay, you’ve left your violent mobster husband and took six hundred thousand dollars in cash from him and now he’s hunting for you? Laura,” he said, “this is too much. Help me make some sense of this.” He was feeling overwhelmed by it all.
“There’s more. The Feds are after me too,” she added. Another bombshell dropped.
“The Feds? The FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, who?” His eyes grew wide. “What the hell is all of this?”
“Didn’t you read the whole article in the paper, Davis?”
“No, not really,” he said. “I saw your picture. They said you were being sought in regard to something. I don’t know what else.”
“I’m being hunted, not sought. The paper said that I was wanted in connection with an unsolved murder. Davis, I never killed anybody. I don’t know what they are talking about. Does that sound like me? That’s Dominic’s style, not mine. I swear.”
“Christ Almighty, this is nuts, Laura.”
“Oh, and…my name is really Beverly.”
“Oh, Sweet Jesus.” Davis bent over, lowering his head between his knees. His head was reeling. She put her hand on his shoulder.
“So, my dear,” she went on, “I’m on the run, a very serious run. I thought that I was safe here. Especially when nobody showed up on my door after a few weeks. But then, that picture in the paper…. It was only a matter of time. I should have known.” She became quiet, not knowing what else to say.
Davis sat upright again, his head clearing. “What can you do? Can’t you explain to the police?”
“Explain? How good a job have I done trying to explain this to you? Davis, they think I’m a killer, and Dominic…he’s just plain crazy. If the cops can find me, Dominic can find me, and there’s no figuring what he’ll tell his boys to do to me—and to you.” She stood up and began to pace. “I think it’s time for Plan B.”
“What’s Plan B?” For the moment he thought he saw a light at the end of this very twisted tunnel.
“Run like hell and don’t look back,” she said flatly.
“No! Stay here. Stay at my place. I’ll protect you.”
She smiled and took his hands in hers.
“Davis Lovejoy. You’re a good, decent man. Thanks for the offer, but I couldn’t do that to you. Besides, I know how to do this and you don’t. It’s more complicated than hiding in your apartment and ordering in Chinese food every night. I’ve tried that and it’s no way to live. Trust me on this. I’ve got to run.”
“Then take me with you.” He wasn’t giving up. He had waited too many years for love to find him to just let it leave him behind on a park bench.
“No. Don’t be foolish. I can’t drag you into this any deeper,” she said.
“Yes, listen to me,” he said, his enthusiasm building. “They’re looking for a woman traveling alone. I’d be your perfect cover. I’d be both a disguise and another pair of eyes. I love you and won’t let you just disappear out of my life. I won’t do that.
“What am I supposed to do, just sit and wait for another mysterious note saying ‘the coast is clear, I’ll meet you in the desert by the big cactus’? No, I can’t. I won’t let you go without me.”
She sat down next to him and spoke quietly.
“My dear, I came here today to say good-bye to you, and to apologize for all the lies I’ve told you. You’re not making it any easier.” She had tears in her eyes, threatening to overflow.
Davis stood up and looked down at her like he was lecturing a misbehaving child. “I’m not going to accept your good-bye. You are not going to just say ‘Oh, well, it was fun, but I gotta go now.’ No, Laura, or Beverly, or whatever name is really yours, I’m going with you. Period. End of discussion. That’s it. Amen.”
“Davis, you just don’t understand. You can’t.” She looked up, pleading with him. “It’s too dangerous and you could get killed. These are some very deadly people.”
“I don’t understand?” he said. “That’s supposed to make all of this less crazy? If the situation is that dangerous you might end up dead, too. I couldn’t live with that, or with myself for just allowing you to walk away while I sit here wondering where you are and if you’re alive or dead. What kind of man do you think I am? If you are in trouble, then we are in trouble.”
She looked long and deep into his eyes and saw a determination and strength that she hadn’t seen before. She was looking for a good reason to continue saying “No,” but she wasn’t finding it.
“Oh, hell.” She had given up trying to leave him behind. “If I say yes to this, you’ve got to listen to me. Do as I say. Don’t try to be the boss.”
“No problem.” He nodded his agreement to her conditions.
“Yes, lots of problems. Big, well-armed ones.” She looked to the heavens, filled with a darkening sky. “Oh, God help us. All right, but you’ll have to do exactly as I say, when I say it, or we’re both dead. I mean it—dead. These boys play very hard ball.” Davis raised his hand then put it on his chest.
“I promise. Cross my heart and hope….” They both cringed.
Now it was her turn to bend over and put her head down between her knees. She looked up, saw him standing there, smiling. Running a hand through her hair she knew that she had just made the worst decision of her life. Or was it the best? She knew that this was a very bad idea, but she was also a woman in love. On top of that, his idea of having an extra set of eyes covering her six o’clock made some sense. Not a lot, but some.
Laura raised her head and briefly looked heavenward again, then at Davis and said a silent prayer. She smiled a small, resigned smile and said to the gentle man standing beside her, “By any chance, do you know how to use a gun?”