Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Anger”

One Way To Ruin My Mood

 

I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT DESPERATE TIMES sometimes can call for desperate measures, but…

The other day while I was going up and down the aisles at my local Kroger supermarket I was confronted with just such a situation, or at least that what I was supposed to think.

As I was pushing my cart up the aisle past the pickles I saw a man with a cart coming the other way. His cart was empty and he was pulling a small wagon behind him. In the wagon was a small child, a toddler.

When the man (in his 30s I’d say) pulled up next to me he asked me if I had a dollar and could he have it? This guy was rolling through the store panhandling.

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Rolling Away

 

OH, GOD, IS THIS ANOTHER MONDAY?

I’m retired and I don’t have to get up and go to work anywhere, but my body and soul are reacting like I do. It’s not fair.

I should relate to Mondays like I do to Wednesdays or Saturdays – I think I’ll just roll over and catch a few more winks.

What’s the point of being retired if I respond to Monday mornings by having my stomach clench up like a fist and my brain trying to come up with some good excuses to stay home? Something needs to be done about this – something short of going out, getting a job, and then quitting the job all over again.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Six

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – Six

 

 

Dennis heard Marlee close her front door and a quick peek out of his window confirmed it. He pushed aside the stalks of his large red and white hibiscus to follow her with his eyes as she crossed the street and headed up Haight Street. He needed a few minutes. As he watched her pass the corner market he idly plucked a leaf from the hibiscus and stuffed it into his pants pocket.

Grabbing his keys, Dennis went down the steps two at a time. He stopped outside of number six. Using the key that he had stolen from the previous tenant he silently let himself into Marlee’s apartment.

J.P. Cat was sound asleep inside his cardboard box bed. He never stirred when Dennis walked past him and into the bedroom.

Knowing that he was wasting time and risking discovery, Dennis opted to push his luck. “This is what makes it fun,” he said out loud.

He opened the closet and looked at the clothes. He took the sleeve of a white cotton blouse and put it next to his face, inhaling deeply. He closed his eyes, imagining Marlee in the blouse and then bit off the button from the cuff, swallowing it.

Dennis took a step back from the closet and appraised what he saw. “Cheap, frumpy, knockoff, knockoff, Gap, for God’s sake. My mother had one of these. Oh, Miss Marlee, you need a fashion consultant.”

He took a quick trip through her dresser drawers, running his fingers across the fabric and noting her preference for red.

A glance at her clock radio warned him to curtail his pleasure trip and get down to business.

Dennis walked into the kitchen and pulled a four-inch butterfly knife from his back pocket and the hibiscus leaf from the front. He grabbed Marlee’s cutting board from the shelf over the sink as he flipped open the scalpel sharp knife.

He worked rapidly, cutting the leaf into pieces, chopping and dicing the bits smaller and smaller. Using the flat blade he scraped the wooden board clean of every atom of green. He dropped the green slivers on top of the mound of cat food in the blue plastic bowl. He mixed them into the chicken and tuna until they disappeared.

“Let’s see whose door she knocks on when little ‘Just Plain Cat’ starts to vomit his cute yellow head off tonight. ‘Help me, Dennis. Oh, help me’.”

While Marlee was hearing about Luco being hit by a mysterious “hit and run” driver, Dennis was cleaning up after himself. He replaced the cutting board, walked past the still sleeping cat and plucked a CD of Yo Yo Ma playing the cello from the top of the stack. “Now, where did I set that CD?”

Still laughing, he quickly relocked Marlee’s front door and walked slowly back up the steps to the third floor. The morning sun was streaming through the large window on the landing. Dennis could see the Buena Vista Park steps. There was a drug deal going down. He turned around and ran down the stairs and out of the front door.

Dodging a bus and a motor scooter, Dennis ran across Haight Street.

“Hey, you two animals! What do you think you’re doing?”

“Get out of here mister, unless you want hurt. Do you?” The dealer lifted his shirttail to show Dennis the hilt of a large knife.

“Is that supposed to scare me, you subhuman filth?” The teenaged buyer started to back away, wanting no part of what looked about to erupt. Dennis glared at the boy. “Get out of my neighborhood and don’t come back or your ass is mine.” The kid took off running up the hill, scared and anxious to get back to his suburban home.

Just the two angry men were left, facing each other. The dealer pushed his floppy hat back on his head. He stroked his straggly beard as he took the measure of the blonde haired do-gooder.

“You just cost me a hundred bucks, partner. I think you should reimburse me.” He smiled a gap toothed smile at Dennis and casually reached for his knife.

Dennis whipped his butterfly knife from his pocket and had the blade pointed at the dealer before the buck knife had cleared its leather sheath. Dennis stepped closer, backing the longhaired drug pusher up the steps.

“You know what, you damned piece of garbage?”

“What’s that, Batman?”

“I could kill you right here and probably get a medal from the Mayor.”

“Yeah? If you think you’re such a John Wayne, try me. Right here, right now.” He lifted the silvery knife and waved it at Dennis. Before the street dealer could react, Dennis’ hand flew out and sliced his left nostril.

The dealer let out a soft scream and lashed out with his own knife. Dennis sidestepped it and punched the dealer on the side of his head, knocking him to the ground. A small audience of pedestrians, other would-be drug customers and the passengers on a bus parked in the stop zone twenty-five feet away, watched the lopsided fight. The bus driver picked up his radio and summoned the police.

Dennis stood over the prone, bleeding and frightened dealer. The butterfly knife was digging into the eyelid of the man on the ground. Dennis tossed the buck knife into the bank of zinnias and pansies that lined the sidewalk.

“Pay attention to me. I’m only going to say this once. I could kill you right now, but I won’t. It wouldn’t be any fun and if it’s not fun, why do it. Right? Right, Idiot?”

“Right. Fun.”

“So…I’m letting you go…for now.”

He lifted the bloody faced criminal to his feet and, careful to not get any blood on himself, ran the razor sharp edge of his knife in a swift race down the bridge of the dealer’s nose, peeling the flesh away, down to the cartilage. Another scream and more blood were released onto the stone steps. “Now, run for your life.”

The wounded and humiliated drug merchant ran up the grassy hill, into the Park, disappearing and leaving a red trail on the lawn.

Dennis turned around and saw the small assembly that had witnessed it all. His face was red from the anger and the stress of the encounter. He had a headache and an erection.

“What? What are you looking at? Get out of here and don’t come back.” He waved the knife in the air and started down the steps. The people moved out of his way. Nobody wanted anything to do with him.

The police squad car arrived ten minutes later and found nothing but a smear of red on the steps and a trail of more red on the grass leading up “Hippie Hill” deeper into Buena Vista Park.

Dennis stared at his door. He looked around the hallway and rechecked the brass numbers. “This is number eight? She lives in number six.”

He looked at his wristwatch. Twenty minutes had passed, but he had no memory of going into Marlee’s apartment, no memory of going through her clothes, no memory of poisoning the cat food. Dennis sniffed at his fingers. He could smell the hibiscus leaf. “Why am I sweating?”

There was only one beer left in the refrigerator. Dennis took it and plopped down on his sofa. It was hard to tell if the garish ruby lips were spitting him out or about to swallow him whole. He knew the beer was a mistake in light of the Percodan he had just taken dry. He pulled the tab and heard the welcoming rush of air into the can. He wanted it. He needed it and there was a third reason, but it was too faded to make out.

As he drank and the painkiller roared through his bloodstream, the present was disappearing behind a resurgent past. Morning was being painted over by Midnight and San Francisco was becoming the Boston of seven years previous.

 His desire had always been to be a man of Science, but, as a 21 year-old, middle of his class graduate in chemistry, his superiors at the University Hospital kept demanding that he stick to his duties as a lab technician. He hated doing the same tests, over and over again, day after day.

“Let somebody else do this. I’m a researcher. I’m out on that cutting edge of discovery. Or I would be if you’d stop demanding that I waste my time doing tox screens on rent-a-cops. Give me the tools and I can cure the world.”

Dennis moved from job to job, sliding from the prestigious and endowed to the threadbare and under-funded, downward to the fraud-ridden Medicare mills. He always had the same complaints and always ended up on the sidewalk ranting at a closed and locked door.

It’s a small world and it didn’t take long for him to gain a reputation as a troublemaker and an all-around pain in the ass. Even the pet hospitals turned him away.

Dennis was a good-sized young man and he was never late for work. That was a ringing endorsement for the Manager at Novicky Moving and Storage.

It wasn’t science, but it paid enough to cover his expenses and there were the unofficial perks: almost unlimited opportunities for petty theft from the customers and very limited dealings with bosses.

Dennis refurnished his apartment with items “lost in transit” from the moving van. The customers had little recourse. They rarely bought the overpriced and worthless insurance coverage.

His prize piece of booty was the sofa stolen from another recent Harvard grad. Somehow, the sofa, shaped like a pair of bright red lips was “lost” during the short drive from Cambridge, across the Charles River, into Boston and to a new condo near the Massachusetts General Hospital complex.

Even though it wasn’t his dream job and there were no likely cures to be discovered in the back of a truck, Dennis did the work and was surprised to find that he enjoyed the companionship of the men in the crew.

Some were ex-cons and drifters who stayed only long enough to get rearrested or scrape up a stake to get to the West Coast. There were others who came from failed academic backgrounds, either alcoholic professors on the skids or men like Dennis – perpetual square pegs.

It was during a job on Gainesborough Street, near Symphony Hall, that Dennis’ life was changed. They were moving a stereo cabinet from a fourth-floor walkup. Coming down off a narrow landing, Dennis slipped. He felt and heard something tear in his back.

Rest didn’t help much. When he tried to lift anything over 25 pounds it felt like someone was driving white hot nails into his lower back.

The other men in the crew liked Dennis. He pulled his weight and bought a round now and then. They decided to help him.

One of the guys, a wiry man known as “Zigzag”, fresh out of Walpole State Prison, gave Dennis a handful of pills. “It’s called ‘O.C’ and it’ll fix you up good, Dude.”

Dennis had been in enough labs to know that “O.C.” was an opium derivative called “Oxycontin”, and addictive as hell, but the pain was keeping him from working. No work, no money…no money, and he’d end up working for guys like Zigzag. He took the pills and kept working.

Dennis thought he could deal with the danger of addiction, but he couldn’t get around the side effects. His growing paranoia made him hard to work with. He thought that the other men were dumping the heavy loads on him, slacking off while he did their work.

Things got worse when Zigzag was arrested for setting up a drug lab in the basement of his apartment building. Dennis had to get his pills off the street and his brain told him that Zigzag was going to implicate him in the lab fiasco. Dennis ran. He left Boston and headed west

It took two years of day labor and five doomed attempts at kicking his addiction before Dennis rode a bus across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was as far as he could run without getting wet.

Still paranoid about Zigzag, he avoided going back to work as a mover. He was living in the sordid “Fogtown Hotel” in the Tenderloin when he saw the ad for “Manly Maids.”

After a year of working 60 hour weeks, saving every spare penny and being mugged six times on the street, Dennis found an apartment in The Haight. Far from being an improvement as he had hoped, the move to 1298 Haight punched his ticket on the express train to Insanity.

The first time…Dennis laid his head down on the sofa as he tried to recall the first time, the first murder. He remembered doing it, but not in any reproducible imagery. It was the feel of his fists hitting soft flesh. It was the sound of his own heavy breathing and the final gasps and silence from the other person. It was the sweaty stench of the man’s crusty jacket and the sweet piquancy of the blood. It was the roaring headache beforehand and the soft tones of restful sleep afterward.

The man Dennis beat to death that first night in the Panhandle was a street dealer who had sold him placebos instead of actual Vicodin. When the pain didn’t go away his rage was triggered and ignited a headache that threatened to “split me open and let the universe see my degradation.” 

Dennis went hunting.

After the first, it became easier, and more importantly to Dennis, it became a mission. He was a drug user, yet he saw the path to his salvation lined with dead drug dealers. Save the soul of the user by eliminating the occasion of sin.

When the pain was not relieved and the rage was too much to bear, Dennis would cruise through the streets looking for the young, vulnerable and dealing. He was known to the people on the street as a regular customer, so going into the shadows with him was not considered a risk.

Dennis would lull his targets into the Panhandle, a driveway or a hidden spot in the bushes. When the drugs were presented his knife would appear and, with the surety of the saved, he would plunge the blade into the throat of his prey. Swift, sure and fatal, but not enough to make his message understood. There had to be something more, a warning to the other dealers.

That is why Dennis started his mutilations. To make his point, his final cut was a paring down the bridge of the nose. Destroy the face, he reasoned, and make the world see them as all alike, creating the agony that would drive a decent man like himself to such necessary extremes.

Dennis was sure that, if it were not for the drugs, his life would be pain free and filled with joy and the love of a faithful woman. But the drugs did exist and his life wasn’t pain free and filled with joy and the women weren’t faithful, even Marlee. Didn’t he see her first? Didn’t he bring her gifts? Didn’t he show her that he found her desirable? She, however, had shown her favor for that lowlife coffee puller who thought of her as just another notch on his bedpost. Well, as of last night, Luco Reyes was out of the picture and now he could get back on track to woo and take Marlee for his own.

Everybody Smile!

 

THE LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT here in lovely Terre Haute (That’s French for, “There’s a BOGO Special at the Burger King.”) posts on Facebook the pictures and vitals of wanted crooks under the title “Crime Stoppers.” It is not a bad idea. It actually does help catch some truly nasty people. It also helps me keep track on the whereabouts of some old acquaintances.

One thing that I have noticed on the “Crime Stoppers” page is that more and more of the “Persons of Interest” are women. It used to be that it was only men who attained “Most Wanted” status, but now I’m seeing that particular glass ceiling has been shattered. The Terre Haute “Crime Stoppers” page is indeed an equal opportunity site. It gives me a warm and fuzzy egalitarian feeling.

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It’s More Than The Weather

THERE MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE AIR. Are the planets out of kilter? Or maybe there is a bad batch of BBQ sauce going around?

This morning when I logged into Facebook to check in with a few folks I was greeted with a barrage of messages – all saying the same thing: “I couldn’t sleep last night.”

We had a nasty weather night here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Your feet are cold.”) with lots of rain and falling temperatures. I figured that could be the cause, but those complaints came in from all over the country. Go figure.

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It’s A Sign

I SAW A SURE SIGN THAT SUMMER IS APPROACHING. When I pulled up outside the Gas Station/Mini-Mart there was a new sign in the window.

Being the Smarty Pants that I have been since birth, (And possibly before according to what my mother told me one day after she had downed a couple glasses of wine.) when I went in to get a Dr. Pepper for Dawn, I had something to say.

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Throwback Thursday June 2015 – “What Did You Just Say To Me?”

Throwback Thursday  – June 2015

What Did You Just Say To Me?

pills1 I REALLY CAN’T HELP IT. I’m a bit of a Smart Aleck, Wiseacre, and (Fill in the euphemism of your choice). I know it.

Most days I have it under tight control. Other days – not so tight.

A lifetime of experience and a number of years when I got paid to be a (Fill in the blank) has taught me that if I’m not fully awake, not feeling well, or someone goes “Boo!” and surprises me, my brain and mouth tend to go off on their own to play. When that happens all bets are off and I’m as upset as anybody else at what happens next.

This morning is a perfect example. I apologize in advance and in retrospect.

It was early, I was still a bit groggy, and my back hurt. This is a dangerous combination. It is pills2comparable to taking part in a Pogo Stick Race while carrying a Thermos filled with Nitroglycerine. Cover your ears and keep your head low.

I had just stumbled into St. Arbucks in desperate need of coffee. I was seated in the corner, minding my own business. I had my Morning Blood Pressure Meds spread out on a Kleenex. My iced coffee was at the ready. It was an idyllic scene at 7:30 AM.

A sip of coffee and my Fish Oil was down my gullet. Another sip – another pill.

While I’m focusing on the task at hand an imperfect adult stranger walks up to my table and pills4says, “That’s a lot of pills. Cancer?”

I ask you – is that any way to start a conversation? With me? At 7:30 in the morning? Before I’ve had all of my coffee?

 

Without missing a beat the few brain cells that were awake kicked into Defensive/Offensive Mode. I looked up at her. I smiled. I spoke.

“No, they’re not for cancer. They’re to try to control my unpredictable and violent outbursts that happen when strangers walk up to me in public and ask questions. Do I know you?”

Even her spray-on tan faded.pills5

She backed up and exited the store.

I consider my reply to fall into the category of a “Public Service Announcement.” I hope she heard it clearly and will think twice in the future before acting like such a dummy.

What if I had been taking a buffet of meds for cancer? Is that her business – or anybody’s business for that matter?

What a yutz.

Most people who know me find me to be a gentle, even kittycat-like, with my playful and loving demeanor. I may jump around and make noise on occasion, but I don’t claw at the sofa and I am housebroken. All I ask is – please don’t sneak up on me with dumb questions at 7:30 in the morning. Later in the day I can deal with stuff like that in a more civil manner, but anyone who does it before I’ve had my coffee is pushing their luck.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program – in progress.

pills6

Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.

Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.

They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.

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Read Your Rights

TODAY IS FRIDAY, THE GATEWAY TO REAL LIFE. I sat down this morning to write something brilliant, moving, hilarious, and earth shattering. After about 15 minutes of staring at a blank page I downed half of my coffee in one gulp and started looking through the detritus of links I’d saved on my phone. After another couple of minutes I came across a link that made me down the rest of my coffee.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 37 Continued

As they passed it, they both looked over into the alcove. The dead man seemed so very small. Davis walked over and pulled the pistol from Lizard Boy’s waistband and started to stick it in his belt. Laura stopped him and held out her hand. He passed it to her. They left the bundle of cash locked in the dead man’s hand.

It was only another fifty feet before they saw a set of steps rising toward a carpet-covered door.

They slowly climbed the steps and listened. They couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side.

“Well, if nothing else, we have the element of surprise,” whispered Davis. He reached for the knob.

“We hope,” said Laura and pulled his hand back from the door. She would go first. The Mexican’s pistol pointed up. 

“Let’s go, my dear,” she said. They both took a deep breath of the warm and stale air.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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Rooty, Tooty, Point And Shooty

NAME THREE ACTIVITIES THAT CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS:

1) Sky Diving

2) Space Travel

3) Breakfast

The first two are pretty obvious, but the third can be downright deadly.

About a month ago in the town of Decatur, Illinois the pancakes went flat at the local IHOP when some customers became a bit unruly and the Manager stepped in to make everything Fresh and Fruity once more.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

pull-tijuanaOutside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.  

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Dear Me !

I HAVE NEVER WRITTEN A LETTER TO DEAR ABBY or to whoever it is who is actually doing the column now that the original Abby is among the Dearly Departed.

Just like everyone else, I’ve had personal problems to deal with, but when I have a question 90% of the people I know are lined up to give me “The Answer.” The other 10 % are usually the cause of my problem.

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Cry Havoc, And Let Slip The Dogs Of Law!

OBVIOUS NEWS FLASH!

The ranks of the Super-Rich are about to expand by one new member – a rather dorky looking Doctor from Chicago.

By this time I’m sure that everyone has heard the story about the fellow who was dragged from an aircraft, beaten, and bloodied by Private Security Officers in Chicago. I hope that the CFO of the Parent Company of United Airlines has a nice new pen handy because he is going to be writing a lot of checks in an attempt to settle a parade of lawsuits that are going to sprout up. Salivating lawyers are lined up and ready to eviscerate the “Friendly Skies.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 35

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Five

 

pull-molinas-waitingIt was time to take care of present business and to move on to whatever the future might bring. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of Molina’s building and stood in front of his door. She was tired. She was spent physically and emotionally. The constant stress of waiting for a bullet in the back was pushing her toward the edge. She opened the door to Molina’s studio and walked up to the speaker hanging on the wall.

“I’m back, Molina. Get out here,” she shouted.

“I’ll be right there, Señorita. One moment, please,” came the tinny-sounding response.

She dropped down into one of the wooden chairs and felt all of the air leave her. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the green-painted wall. Sleep was all she really wanted right now. Sleep, a long soak in a warm tub, a massage and maybe a good long cry.

“Señorita? Miss Lovejoy?”

She jerked forward, disoriented for a second or two. Then her instincts took over and all of her senses were focused on Ernesto Molina who was standing in front of her, his hand on her knee.

“You are alone?” said Molina,

“For the moment, yes.”

 “Very well, come with me, Señorita.”

Molina led her back down the hall into the studio where they had done the photo shoot. There was a large plastic shopping bag sitting on the bed, the kind of bag you can buy for a dollar in every shop in Tijuana. The comforter had been pulled down and the bag was resting on the white silk sheets that Molina favored.

“I have everything you’ll need, Señorita—a complete package. Please, let me show you. I’ve done an excellent job, if I may say so myself.”

Standing beside the bed, Molina showed Laura each of the fake documents he had created. He took pleasure in pointing out the details that made them look totally authentic. None of the items looked brand new. All were more or less worn—lived-in, he called it.

“If you will notice, Señorita, I even put in a few customs stamps on both passports. It looks like you and the Señor have been to Ireland and England a few times. It adds a touch of realism.”

He was like a proud parent showing off his children to an appreciative stranger.

“Also, as you requested, Miss Lovejoy, all of the negatives.” He held up a sealed Manila envelope.

Laura was silent throughout Molina’s show. She didn’t know if what she was buying was really as good as he was claiming. It all looked real to her, but would it hold up under scrutiny?

brass-bed“Everything you asked for is here, Señorita. Very authentic, very first-rate and also very expensive.”

Laura took her eyes from the bed and looked at him. “You want your money now, don’t you?”

“Yes, please, it’s been a very stressful day for me.” Molina took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. He was sweating.

Laura shook her head and said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word, Molina.”

“How are you planning to get back into the U.S., Señorita?

“We walked here, we’ll walk back. Why do you ask?”

Molina looked at her, somewhat astonished.  “Let’s be honest here for a moment, if we may. Señorita, if you are in need of my products then, obviously, someone is looking for you. Am I right?”

“Yes, of course.” She wondered where this was leading.

Molina shook his head.

“Then, Miss Lovejoy, walking through one of the most watched border crossings in the western hemisphere is suicidal. Frankly, I’m very surprised you got this far.”

“We’re fine, thank you,” she said, not believing it herself. She just wanted to pay him and get out of there.

“I can get you back across the border, no problem. I have established an underground railroad of sorts,” he said. “I can get you both back right under the border.

“Under—a tunnel? Are you serious?” she said, genuinely surprised.

“Actually, I have several tunnels, yes, and all I have to do is simply open a file drawer and get you a ticket. I’ll even drive you to the ‘station’ if you’d like.”

“For an additional charge, of course,” Laura said.

“Of course, Señorita, I am a businessman,” he said, ignoring the sarcasm in Laura’s voice.

“I’ll pass, Molina. Let’s settle up and I’ll be on my way.” This was making her nervous.

“As you wish, Señorita, but if you come back later, the price of the ticket goes up.” He shrugged, as if he was adding of course.

“You don’t ever take no for an answer, do you, Molina?” She started to gather up the documents off of the bed.

“Rarely, my dear. After all, many times a person says no when they really mean yes.” He moved closer to her.

“Like I said before, Molina, do you want your money now or not?”

“Have it your way Señorita. Please, yes.”

She moved away from him and started to undo the buttons on her blouse to get at the money taped to her body. Molina’s eyes narrowed.

“Señorita, I normally deal strictly in cash, but I’m not against a little barter.”

He moved close to her again, reached out and grabbed her belt, licking his lips.

“Get your hands off me.” She pushed him away.

“Oh, Señorita, don’t be coy with me. Let me show you what a real man is like. Not that pale rabbit you had with you earlier today.” He moved in again. This time he was not going for her belt. He smiled and his right hand flew out and slapped Laura hard across the face. She stumbled and backed away several steps. Her hands closed into fists. As Molina stepped toward her again, Laura lashed out and hit him square in the nose with a hard left jab followed by a right cross to his jaw. He reeled back and fell to the floor. Her uncle, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull”  Gravano had taught her that combination when she was nine years old.

“Don’t you touch me. Do you understand me, you little pig? I’ll kill you right here,” she said. They were both breathing hard.

She moved toward the bed to finish getting her merchandise. Molina gathered himself and sprang to his feet, putting himself between Laura and the bed.

“You want to get to my bed, Señorita? Let me oblige you.”

He charged at her. His momentum knocked Laura off her feet and they both fell to the floor. Molina punched her hard in the stomach. The bundles of cash dulled the impact, but it still made her gasp. She tried to get to her feet, but Molina was faster. He jumped up and grabbed her from behind, around her waist, and lifted her off the ground. He spun and threw Laura onto the bed, on top of her new identity. She bounced on the soft mattress and before she could react, Molina leaped onto the bed, covering her with his body.

“Stop. Stop it, you cheap little ape,” she hissed at him.

He slapped her again. She felt the heat rising in her face.

“I’m not a cheap anything, darling, and neither are you. We are both very expensive.” He laughed, thinking that he had her right where he wanted her.

As his left hand held her down on the bed, his right snaked inside her blouse. The fear she was feeling left her and rage poured in to take its place. She punched him hard in the face again. He stopped his groping to hit her with his fist. She could taste blood in her mouth.

He smiled at the look on her face and said, “You might want to put some ice on that later.” He was enjoying this, she realized, and that had to stop.

She hit him again, aiming for his eyes with her knuckles. As he recoiled from the pain she pushed with all her strength and managed to roll them both over. She was now on top.

She looked down at him. He was grinning again.

“Ah, now you’re getting into it, eh, Laura Lovejoy?” He wrapped his legs tightly around her waist.

“You could say that.”

He laughed. “Kiss me, Laura. Besame.”

She also laughed and started to bend low over his face. Molina closed his eyes and relaxed. His smile closed into a kiss. He never saw her reach down, lift the cuff of her jeans, and pull at the tape on her calf.

“Ernesto,” she whispered

“Yes, cara mia?”

He opened his eyes just in time to see Laura driving the ice pick downward. He didn’t have time pull-icepickto scream as the tempered steel shaft skewered through his left eyeball, punched through the thin orbital bone, and plunged deep into his brain. He was dead before Laura pulled the ice pick out and jammed it into his right eye.

Then she  vomited on him.

 

***

 

The taxi with Davis and Tomás screeched to a halt outside of Molina’s building. Davis jumped out and headed toward the door.  He saw Laura slumped against the wall inside the lobby.

“My God, Laura, what’s happened? Are you alright?”

“Let’s get out of here. You’re going to have to help me.” She looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Help me, Davis.”

Tomás rushed over to them, took Laura’s left arm and scooped up the plastic shopping bag. Together he and Davis half-carried Laura back to the taxi.

“Tomás,” said Laura. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think.”

“Good God, Laura, what happened? Your face…?”

“Molina tried to–he got out of hand.” She was not going to allow herself to cry. “I won’t take that from anybody.”

“I’ll kill him,” Davis said. “Tomás, wait here.”

“No!” she cried out. “Don’t do it. There’s no need…there’s no need. Tomás, I paid you to give us a tour, so drive.”

Davis’ anger faded as his concern for Laura grew. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe Laura’s swollen lip and jaw. She pulled away.

“No, I’m fine, please. I love you, but I’ll be fine. Give me a few minutes and then let’s head back to the border.”

“We can’t,” Davis answered. “The border is closed. There was a gun battle with the police and some drug smugglers. The whole place is shot to pieces.”

Laura closed her eyes. She went inside herself to look for more strength, more resolve and more personal anesthesia. Her all-too-human engine was running on fumes. She slumped back in the seat. Her mind was struggling to think rationally, to go over the lessons of her past that might help them. She was looking at everything that had happened to her, everything she had seen and heard. She knew that the answer was filed away somewhere inside her memory. After about thirty seconds, she opened her eyes and leaned forward.

“Tomás, Turn around. Take us back to Molina’s.”

Tomás did a U-turn and had them outside of Molina’s building in minutes. On the way, she told them about the underground railroad and the “ticket” that Molina had tried to sell her.

Before they got out of the cab, she needed to prepare Davis for what he was about to see.

“I need you to come up with me to help find the tickets. They are somewhere in his office.”

        “You think Molina will still sell them to us?” Davis was not anxious to see Molina again. He was still angry enough to want to hurt him for what he had tried to do to the woman he loved.

“Davis…Molina is in no condition to bargain. I need your help, but I want you to understand and forgive me for what you’re going to see up there.”

Tomás said a silent prayer, thankful that she had not asked him to go upstairs with them.

“To hell with Molina,” said Davis. “Let’s get those tickets.”

Tomás waited in the cab wondering again what he had gotten himself into with these two strangers.

As soon as they walked into Molina’s studio Davis understood Laura’s words of warning.

Molina’s body was sprawled face-up on the bed. His eyes were two black, oozing holes. The bedspread and sheets were soaked with his blood. It was an ugly death.

“Jesus, Laura.” Davis was stunned. It looked like something out of a cheap slasher movie, only this was for real.

“Davis, we don’t have time. You can get sick later. He said the tickets were in a file cabinet.”

pull-fike-cabinetsThey looked everywhere in the studio. There were no file cabinets anywhere. Davis saw a frosted-glass door by the far wall. He tried the knob and it opened into a back corridor. Across the hallway was another glass door and it was open. He could see a workbench, a draftsman’s table and two rows of five-drawer file cabinets.

“Laura, back here. File cabinets.”

She hurried toward his voice.

“Bingo,” whispered Laura. “We’re looking for tickets or something that mentions a railroad of some sort. Let’s get started.”

Starting at opposite ends of the first bank of file cabinets, they rifled through folder after folder.

Ernesto Molina’s files contained blank documents of all sorts, from at least a dozen countries. He was able to create new identities in such detail that it would make real people look suspicious to the authorities.

Laura pulled out files, flipped through, and discarded them on the floor. She noticed alphabetized folders holding copies of documents and negatives. Half of the infamous missing persons in North America were in that file cabinet. Laura stopped when she saw her name typed on a protruding tab—not Laura Lovejoy, but Beverly Deltino. It contained another set of her photos and negatives. She took the folder and slipped it inside the bag holding her documents.

Halfway through the third file cabinet Laura grabbed a folder with a label marked “Ferrocarril.” Inside she saw sheets of paper, signed by Molina. At the top of each sheet was a line drawing of an old-fashioned steam locomotive.

“Davis, I think I’ve got it. Did you ever take Spanish in school?”

“I had two years in high school. Let me see it.” She handed him the folder.

Davis scanned the papers as he searched his memories of Mrs. De La Vega’s class in eleventh grade.

“It’s a permission slip. ‘Let the person with this ticket travel through the—something. I don’t know this word—ferrocarril means railroad. I’m sure of that. Here’s an address for the estacion. It looks like a ticket to me.”

There were a dozen copies, all signed, in the folder. Laura took two and stepped over to the worktable. She plucked a pen out of the coffee mug pen holder and carefully printed her new name in the blank space provided. She then printed “Davis Lovejoy” on the second sheet.

“Now, let’s get out here,” she said, as they headed for the closest exit.

They opened the door and found themselves on the landing outside of Molina’s studio. Davis looked at the door they had just used. Stenciled on the glass was “Geronimo Morey—Abogado.”

Laura never stopped to look. She was already halfway down the stairs to the street. Davis took the steps two at a time to catch up with her as she crossed the sidewalk and reached out for the door handle on Tomás’s cab.

“Tomás, do you know where 162 Avenida de Negocios is located?

“Sure, Señorita. It’s right up by the border. Lots of warehouses and small maquiladoras, little factories, not much there.”

“That’s where we’re going, quickly,” she said. “When the people at the railroad hear about Molina, they’ll shut it down.”

Driving as fast as he could without killing anyone or getting pulled over by one of Tijuana’s many motorcycle officers, Tomás took his cab through the city’s side streets near the border. They were less than a half-mile from the carnage at the San Ysidro crossing.

to be continued 1

 

 

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