Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Nine
The TV didn’t offer any diversion. After more than three weeks of taking care of Luco at his apartment with only short trips to her own place to change clothes and see to the cat Marlee just collapsed onto her couch. Too exhausted to think she just stared at the screen, not even sure what she was watching. The cat cuddled up next to her. They both needed the closeness.
When Luco checked himself out of the hospital, over the Doctor’s objections, it was Marlee who took charge, making sure that he was cared for. Pete had hired a Home Healthcare Agency, but Marlee was there almost 24 hours a day feeding Luco, washing him, making sure that he got his meds correctly and on time. Now, after a week, the initial shock had worn off. He would survive and recover.
It was when Luco had recovered enough to become a bad patient, becoming impatient and wanting to do everything for himself, that Marlee knew that she could go home and rest. Home – that 420 Square foot apartment, a 12 minute walk from Stanyan Street, where she lived alone with J.P. Cat her lonely yellow tabby cat.
Marlee sat there knowing that J.P. needed fed. So did she she, but while there were plenty of cans of “Friskies” for the cat there was nothing, or next to it, for herself.
“It’s good to see you home, Missy.”
Startled by the voice from behind her Marlee jerked around. Dennis Thayer was standing by her kitchen door. Her front door was wide open. The cat jumped down and hid behind the couch.
“You still need to be more careful about your door, Miss Marlee.”
Marlee sat up. “It was closed. I locked it. How did you get in?”
He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He ignored her questions.
“Have you eaten? I’ve made some lasagna. Want some?”
She looked at him standing in her apartment. Too exhausted to maintain her anger, defeated, she turned back to the TV.
“I’m too tired to eat. Leave me alone.”
“Marlee, you need someone to take care of you – some able-bodied man who makes a mean lasagna.”
Her limit had been reached.
“Screw you, Dennis. Get out of my apartment. Get out! I’m going to have that lock changed tomorrow. Now, get out, and stay out!”
The cat peeked from around the corner of the sofa.
Dennis Thayer’s smile melted away. His expression turned to one of highly controlled rage. Without making a sound he let his eyes linger on her before turning and heading for the front door. When he got to the hallway he turned and spoke loud enough for Marlee to hear him.
“I have been very good to you up to now. I’ll go, but remember this, Missy – I don’t share. Not with anyone. Never.”
And he was gone.
Marlee went and closed the front door, locking it again, then returned to the couch. The cat came out from his hiding place and jumped back up next to her.
“How’s your tummy, JP? Feeling better? “
They were both asleep in seconds.
Inside Apartment #8 Dennis Thayer was tearing down more than a dozen photos from his wall, tearing them to pieces.
Most of the larger pieces of glass had already been swept up from the sidewalk on Haight Street. Inside the “Universe Café the cleanup was slower. Each table and chair had to be washed and dried to remove every sliver of glass.
The brick that had crashed through the window had to have been thrown sometime between 2 AM and about 5 AM when Spider showed up to start the day’s prep work and to open the doors at 6 AM. When she arrived she found the window destroyed and three Street Kids stretched out asleep on the church pew seating along the walls. The security alarm had not been triggered.
Spider called Pete. He was there in minutes.
“Sweet Jesus, who could have done this? Why? We have a good vibe with the neighborhood. Who would do this?”
Spider pointed to the still sleeping figures stretched out by the wall. Pete stormed over to the nearest one.
“Did you do this? Did you break my window?”
Pete had the kid by his filthy shirt front. He was screaming, spitting in his face. “You dirty little pig. Talk to me!”
The Street Addict pushed Pete back from his face.
“Get away from me Old Man. I didn’t bust your window. I just came in here to get out of the cold.”
“Then who did this – one of them,” he said pointing to the other Kids who were stirring.
“No, Old Man, I told you I came in to get warm, them too.”
Pete looked around at the mess holding his head. “Oh, Lord, why did I let the insurance go? I thought we were safe.”
“And the Alarm Company too, Pete?” added Spider. She was holding a broom, already sweeping the floor.
Pete wandered around the café mumbling to himself. He bent over and picked up the brick that someone had, for some reason, thrown through his window. A simple yellow brick just like millions of others that made up half the buildings along Haight Street. The only difference with this brick was the heavy-duty red rubber band around the middle of the brick. Pete turned over the brick and saw a small folded piece of paper under the rubber band. Pete unfolded the paper. Handwritten in block letters was the answer to Pete’s desperate question – almost.
“Reyes – Get well soon so I can give you another ride. Your time is coming. Remember – I DON’T SHARE!”
Spider stood next to Pete, reading over his shoulder.
“I don’t share? What the hell is that supposed to mean, Pete?”
“”I don’t know. I don’t know what any of this means, except that Luco has one sick SOB enemy.” He refolded the note and put it into his shirt pocket. “I’m going to call some friends to come in and help us get this mess cleaned up. Will you be OK until they get here, Spider?”
“Sure, I’ll get going here and we’ll be open again in no time, Pete.”
“OK, good. I’ll call the police, but you’ll have to talk with them. I need to go see Luco.”
Spider nodded. “Yeah, go make sure he’s OK. He is still pretty gimpy. I know that Marlee’s been spending a lot of time there, but still…”
He looked at the brick, turned his back, and headed toward the door, “Thanks, Spider. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“No problem, Pete. We’re Family. Strange and mildly freaky maybe, but Family. Go check on Luco.”
The sun was beginning to peek above the East Bay Hills illuminating the ships in the bay and the already congested lanes on the bridge coming into The City.
Pete pressed the button next to Luco’s name by the door on Stanyan Street. He waited, but got no answer, either on the intercom or the buzzer that unlocked the front door. There was only silence. It had only been ten seconds, but to Pete it felt like an hour.
He pushed on the button again, holding it down, determined to get an answer. Silence. He stepped back onto the sidewalk and looked up at Luco’s front window. The curtain in the window stirred and moved aside. A shadowy face looked down. The curtain fell back in place.
Pete stepped back to the door, ready to lay on that buzzer until he woke up everybody in the building. Just as his finger depressed the button the buzzer unlocked the front door.
Pete rushed into the vestibule and headed for the stairs ready for anything and whoever he’d seen in the window. He struggled to take the stairs as fast as his aging legs would take him. Looking up at the landing he caught his breath when he saw Luco, leaning on his cane, look around the corner.
“Pete, what the hell are you doing?” Luco stage-whispered down the stairs at Pete who had stopped to catch his breath on seeing Luco’s face.
“Luco, are you alright? You OK?”
“What’s the matter, Pete? Get up here before somebody calls the police.”
As he slowly climbed the rest of the stairs up to Luco’s apartment over the bicycle shop Pete gave Luco the basics of what had gone down at the café on Haight Street.
“Oh, Jesus, Pete, is anybody hurt?”
“No, it’s just property damage, but it was all just a way to deliver a message.”
“A message?” asked Luco. What kind of a message? For who?”
Pete reached in his pocket for the note that had been attached to the brick. He handed Luco the folded up note.
“Read this, Luco. It was help to the brick with a rubber band.”
Luco silently read the note. “I don’t share. What does that mean? Share what?”
“You tell me, Luco, but this isn’t any love letter. Somebody doesn’t like you. Any ideas who?”
“Over the years, Pete? I could name half a dozen, but this is insane. ‘Give me another ride.’ What does that mean?”
“I read that,” said Pete, “And I had to come and make sure you were OK.”
“I’m fine, Pete. I’m just half awake, but other than that…”
“I called the police on my way here so I’d better get back to the café,” said Pete. “I left Spider in charge, to talk with them and to start the cleanup.”
“She can handle the police, Pete. Let me shower and I’ll come in. Give me twenty minutes.”
“OK, Luco, but be careful.”
“I’ll be fine.
Standing under the hot water trying to wake up Luco had one phrase from the note going around in his mind.
“I DON’T SHARE.”