In 1958 McCall’s Magazine, which billed itself as “The Magazine of Togetherness,” published an article that if printed today would have activists marching in the street and people being fired at the magazine.
“129 Ways to get a Husband”
In 1958 McCall’s Magazine, which billed itself as “The Magazine of Togetherness,” published an article that if printed today would have activists marching in the street and people being fired at the magazine.
“129 Ways to get a Husband”
Albuquerque, aside from being the only city with two “Qs” in its name, seems to be a really “Happening” place. After all, wasn’t the hit TV show “Breaking Bad” set there? And so is “Better Call Saul”- my personal favorite. Albuquerque seems to be the place to be. It is also the home of a World Record Holding Crazy Person.
Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” – Part Thirty-One
The Game isn’t over until one side wins. The final score has to show the world who the winner is – and more importantly – who is the loser.
The Game is almost over.
1298 Haight Street had turned into something no one wanted and no one could do anything about: a crime scene.
The Hit and Run of Luco Reyes was tied to the smashed window at the café, the constant break-ins at Apartment 6, and the brutal killing of the cat. They were all connected to Apartment 8 and Dennis Thayer, but he was nowhere to be found.
The DMV showed that Thayer owned a van, or had. He had failed to keep it registered for the last two years. There was no record of it being sold or scrapped, so it had to be somewhere – just like Dennis Thayer. He had to be somewhere.
Shopkeepers on Haight Street kept reporting that they had seen him lurking about, standing in the shadows watching something or someone. One minute he was there – the next minute he was gone. At night he was heard but not seen.
The people at 1298 Haight Street swore that they heard him in the building. He was going from floor to floor meowing like a cat, but by the time anyone would open their door he’d be gone – into a vacant apartment, into the Park, into the darkness. He was seen sitting on the Buena Vista Park steps across the street. Sometimes he would shout something that someone said sounded like, “I don’t share.” Another time he yelled out a slurred, “Marlee, you’re mine. I own you.”
Marlee had all but quit living in her apartment and moved in with Luco Reyes’ flat on Stanyan Street. Little by little she was transferring her sparse possessions from where she had hoped that she would find the start of a new life, but what had turned into a twisted continuation of the old.
Stanyan Street was a refuge. Every day Luco was getting stronger and she felt safe being with and near him.
The savagery of the killings in the neighborhood had escalated. While there was no proof – no hard evidence, no pictures to make it real, the people on the street knew in their gut that it was Dennis Thayer who had been butchering the Street Kids. The Kids warned each other, but had no place to go, to hide from him. They knew the killer was a man who offered them drugs, shelter from the cold and food. He also led them away to a van, they said, and then to their graves. They were leery of the Police and of any authority that might try to send them back home. They feared that more than they feared “The Man in the Night.”
“Meow, Meow. Here. Kitty, Kitty. Are you in there, Marlee? Can I come in? You know I can – anytime I want.”
Had she heard something or was it just her imagination. Anytime she was in her apartment, even for a few minutes, she felt like she was being watched. She opened her door, a butcher knife in her hand, but he wasn’t there. Was he ever there or had her fear put him inside her head? Did it matter?
She had gone back to 1298 Haight to get her cello, the last important thing not yet moved up the street to the flat above the bicycle shop.
Not wanting to spend any more time in Apartment 6 than needed Marlee picked up the case holding her cello and left the building behind. She’d slipped a small knife into the belt under her jacket. The fog was coming in as the sun was dropping toward the Pacific horizon.
The crowd on Haight Street was beginning to build. Walking all the way to Stanyan Street would be awkward carrying her case. A quick cut down one short block to her usual route, Page Street – a quiet residential street with leafy trees and flowers running parallel to Haight Street.
As she crossed Masonic Street she had to jump out of the way as a gray van ignored the stop sign. It missed her by inches. The van had a bright red circus tent painted on the side and the name, “Big Top Day Care.” The driver was in a hurry to drop off the last of the kids to their parents already home from their jobs downtown.
“Oh, that was close, Missy Marlee. I would have been so disappointed. You know by now that I won’t share you with anyone. I want you all to myself. Don’t be in such a rush to get to your Coffee Boy. No need. I can wait. Just a minute or two more, that’s all.”
Marlee crossed Ashbury Street and passed by an old Victorian style home that was vacant and up for sale. The streetlight above the sidewalk was out casting a shadow over the house. She was struggling with the bulky cello case. It was beginning to feel heavy. She wasn’t used to carrying it this far. She passed the short driveway, not seeing the gray, freshly painted, van sitting inside the open garage.
Marlee paused to catch her breath and get a better grip on the case. She heard a sound behind her.
She started to turn around, but she stopped when she saw a grinning familiar face. An arm reached around and held her tight against his body.
She struggled to free herself, but he had her firmly immobilized.
“Now, now, don’t fight me, Missy. Relax. You’re going to feel something in your neck now, it’s a needle, and in about fifteen seconds your legs will go to sleep.” Marlee sensed what felt like an icicle pricking her neck. “So, let’s stroll over to my van while you still can. In thirty seconds you will start a nice long nap.”
Dennis Thayer half dragged Marlee Owen from the sidewalk and, as she collapsed, lifted her limp body into the back of the van.
As he drove away the van scuffed the cello and case into the street.
When Marlee opened her eyes and tried to move she discovered that she was tied – her hands in her lap with silver duct tape around her wrists. Her ankles were bound with the same tape. There was one more swath of tape across her mouth. She was sitting on a dirty wooden floor with her back up against a pile of sacks filled with mulch.
“Well, hello there, Princess. Good morning. I hope you slept well. I’m sorry I had to knock you out like that. I was a little pressed for time there on the street. In case you’re wondering, it is about 7:30 AM. I gave you a nice…let’s call it a mild sedative of my own design. I wanted you quiet until we got here. You’ll be a bit groggy for a while, but you’re not going anywhere, are you? And we are expecting company.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Dennis said with a smile, “I’ve got to go get ready for our guest.” He pulled two knives from sheaths on his belt. He took out the small knife that Marlee had carried when she left her apartment. He shook his head as he spoke.
“Didn’t your Momma ever tell you to not play with knives? Tsk, Tsk. Such an upbringing.” He laughed as he walked away leaving Marlee bound, gagged, and trying to sort out what was happening through a drug induced veil.
The light was dim coming through the hard plastic sheets that made up the ceiling of what appeared to her to be a gardener’s shed. She was surrounded by plants and tools. There were mowers and rakes, clippers of varying sizes, a number of ladders and a pair of chainsaws. On a long table were potted plants, orchids, day lilies, and cacti. She was no more mobile than any of the plants.
Dennis moved about the shed placing items in positions that seemed to have meaning to him; boxes, tool racks rolls of plastic. He noticed Marlee checking out her surroundings.
“Wondering where you are and what’s going to happen? I can’t blame you. No, that’s not true. I do blame you, Missy.” Holding his butterfly knife he loomed over her sitting on the floor. He could see the fear in her eyes. He smiled and lowered himself to the floor and sat next to her. Shoulder to shoulder.
“Let me answer your questions. Where are we? We are in the Arboretum in the Head Gardener’s Workshed. No one but the Gardener and his crew come in here and this is a weekend so we have it all to ourselves. The Gardener did come in earlier while you were sleeping. Why he did that I’ll never know. Oh, well, that’s him in the big bag over there.”
Marlee’s eyes widened in terror.
“Oh, Miss Marlee, save the mock horror. You’ve seen cut up men before and you will again. I guess you’re just bad luck. Men come around you and they end up dead. And guess what? It’s going to happen again. Oh, yes. Your precious barista is going to be your next victim. Marlee’s third dead man.
“I dropped a note to him on our way here telling him where he could find us. I told him to come alone or I’d do to you what I did to your smelly little kitten.
“Just listen to me, will you?” He struggled to his feet “Sometimes I just monopolize the conversation. Here, let me get this tape off of you.” He gently peeled the duct tape from Marlee’s face. She screamed.
“Oh, go ahead and scream, you little two-timer. There’s no one within a quarter mile from here.” She spat in his face.
“You animal,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Yeah, right. Would you like some tea? I have a pot steeping.”
“Let me go, Dennis. You can’t get away with this. There will be every police officer in San Francisco coming in here after you and they’ll –“
“No, they won’t. Your little Boy Toy will come here alone. I know his type. He wants to be the hero to rescue his Fair Maiden. So save your breath. And how did you phrase it, ‘You can’t get away with this’? But I already have. I have you here, Coffee Boy will come as ordered, and then I will show you what I can do with all of these delicious tools here in the shed. Get away with it? When I’m done I’ll just walk out of here and disappear into the fog. How ‘Movie of the Week’ is that, Girl? Let me get your tea.”
“I’m sorry, Luco, I haven’t seen her. Hold on, let me ask.” With her hand over the mouthpiece, Scar called out, “Has anybody seen Marlee this morning?” Luco could hear the buzz as everyone answered her.
“Sorry, Luco. No such luck. She’s not been in. Have you called her at her place? Oh, OK. Well, I’m sure she’s out and about. Later, Honeybuns.”
This was not like Marlee. In fact it was the opposite of her normal behavior. Every day when she left Stanyan Street to walk back to Haight Street she would call him when she arrived. She called last night, but nothing since then.
Luco began to pace, still painfully, feeling sure that something was wrong. Ever since she found the cat he had been urging her to not go back there at all. When she left him to go to 1298 she said that was going to get her cello and head back to Stanyan Street. That was 14 hours ago.
“Something is wrong.”
Luco’s body was considerably better than a week ago, but he was far from feeling strong and healthy. That would take months, but he could not sit at home alone and wait to hear from Marlee.
Slowly he struggled into his boots, not allowing himself to grunt in pain as he bent to tie the laces. His fear was turning into dread.
At the bottom of the stairs he saw that his mailbox was full. There was also one sheet of paper without an envelope sticking out of the box. His name was scrawled on it in a mixture of large cursive lettering and block printing..
At the top of the handwritten page he read, “Hey, Reyes – Guess who?
“If you’re looking for your skinny bitch, save your time. I’ve got her.”
Every sore and wounded muscle in Luco’s body tightened.
“I’ve got her and I’m going to keep her. I saw her first, and remember – I don’t share.
“Now that I have your attention, you undereducated, minimum wage, pretty boy waiter, I want you to read this slowly.
“I’m a nice guy, really I am, but I can play rough. I imagine you’re missing your blonde widow. Would you like to see her? Talk with her – before I cut her to pieces and feed her to the sea lions at Pier 39? Better hurry then, you gimpy fool. I’ll let you come to see her – us, but if you don’t come alone or try to tip off the stupid SFPD I will make her suffer beyond belief. And then I will disappear forever. Get it, Coffee Boy?
“We are enjoying a cup of tea at the Arboretum. Come to the far western end, to the Gardener’s Shed. We’ll be waiting.
A combination of rage and painful memories washed over Luco. He had finally met someone who could fill the hollow space in his heart, but again, some sick and insane man was trying to take her away from him.
Next Week – THE CONCLUSION
YOU KNOW ME. I’m a pretty easy going guy. I really don’t care how you choose to live your life – as long as you don’t scare the dog or foul the footpath. If you want to have blue hair and walk around all day wrapped in aluminum foil like a baked potato I say – Go for it. I’m cool with it as long as you don’t expect me to chip in to help you buy your supply of Reynold’s Wrap.
In my personal opinion, there are too many laws trying to regulate how people want to live their lives. Part of that is because there are too many lawyers, but that is an issue for another day.
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.”
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP. With the start of good warm weather and some rain all of the flowers are blossoming and the lawns are green. I have noticed that when Nature begins to spruce up and make itself more attractive and clean looking the people around town start making efforts to do the same.
For example – I noticed this morning that the local Starbucks has replaced the window with the bullet hole. I’d say that is a big step forward.
In our neighborhood things are looking up as well. We have a new roof on the house; the little old lady across the street has planted a lot of new flowers and trimmed her shrubs.
Another major improvement is that our neighbors next door are moving to Florida. (Let us all stand while we play “The Hallelujah Chorus” and do a little dance.)
I LIVED IN CLEVELAND, OHIO FOR THIRTEEN YEARS, Most of the time I liked it. How could you not like a city that could have a dozen live theaters going on any weekend? Or a city that had a store called “Lottie’s Delicatessen and Bridal Shop?” Or a city that provided the setting for the classic film “Howard the Duck?” Well, one out of three ain’t very good, but it’s better than Newark.
From 1965 until 1978 I was a resident of The Forest City. In Summer it was hot, but bearable. In Winter it was cold, snowy, and unbearable. It was the winter of 1977-78 that had me packing my bags and heading to California.
I’ve only been back once since then. I had trouble finding my way around. There were a lot of changes, very few of them for the good.
WE REALLY ENJOYED WATCHING THE OLYMPICS. The Thrill of Victory. The Agony of Defeat and all that. The Unleashing of Whackos Worldwide.
The Games have been held in Korea – not exactly down the block for us here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Where can I buy a tutu?”). Getting from this part of the world to that part can be expensive and time consuming, so we decided to stay home and watch it all on the TV.
No so for one guy.
With all of that other stuff we now have to deal with something called “Ransomware.”
Ransomware is described in the Media as a virus that can infect your computer, locking up access to your files. The solution is to pay a “Ransom” to the perpetrators who will then unlock your computer. Nice, huh?
I lived in California for 25 years – the world’s largest open-air asylum, and to put the frosting on that, I resided in San Francisco – Ground Zero for weird.
After all those years in California I moved to Indiana. Terre Haute (That’s French for “We’re gentle people aside from the Meth.”) is the Peoria of the Midwest with good, solid, hard working people who don’t wallow around in being nutty. If this is so why am I sitting next to a guy who would make San Francisco move to another table?
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.
It 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?
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 to 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.”
They 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.
Example: While we were down in Texas, visiting family and avoiding nasty northern weather there was a great story on the TV about two Congressional Representatives from The Lone Star State who felt the need to get back to Washington and actually do their jobs. The problem for them achieving this end was that the entire northeast, including D.C. was getting blasted by a late winter snowstorm and airports in the area were closed down.
It is 16° degrees outside, but I don’t mind it right now because it keeps some people at home and away from me.
These days it seems like most people are screaming – at one another, at the government, at the world, at themselves. When things don’t go the way they like they start to scream thinking that will make things better – “Better” being the way they want things to be. It doesn’t work of course. It never has, it never will.
Self-Delusion is so much neater than Reality.
IF I SAY THE WORD “FLARP” TO YOU WHAT COMES TO MIND? If you are over the age of 12 probably nothing – I hope. Unfortunately, it does carry a very specific meaning to me and I can blame several children and one adult for that.
“Flarp” is a product that is gloriously described as “Noise Putty.”
On Wednesday . ..
From November 2015
Brace yourself, America! It’s that time of year again when, all across the country, people will be preparing Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners by the millions.
For most it will be a joyous chore to feed family and friends, but for many it will be a challenge comparable to trying to fly to the moon in a lawn chair powered by some helium balloons from the dollar store.
Despair not, help is available!
This year, as it has for the past 34 years, the fine folks at Butterball will be running their Turkey Hotline to answer questions and help salvage those Thanksgiving dinners for the less than expert chefs. Not everybody can be Julia Child – nor would you want to be – she’s dead.
Over the past 34 years the folks answering the calls at Butterball from mystified cooks have had to both give clarifying information and not scream or laugh out loud at the same time.
“I carved my turkey with a chainsaw. Is the chain grease going to adversely affect my turkey?” The answer is YES, don’t serve it or it might kill someone. I can’t think of a worse way to top off Thanksgiving dinner than having the diners keeling over at the table.
“How do I roast my turkey so it gets golden brown tan lines in the shape of a bikini?” The recommendation was “strategically placed foil.” I really don’t want to know why they wanted this information. That is between them and their therapist or defense lawyer.
And then there was the man looking for a quick way to cook his turkey who put it in the oven in the self-cleaning mode. While that certainly would be quicker than recommended by Butterball, so would napalm or a thermonuclear explosion.
Finally, there was the woman who called the Hotline for advice on how to get her Chihuahua out of the turkey. Let’s not go any further with that one.
Most of the calls to the Hotline are, Thank God, rather mundane, such as:
“How long do I cook it?”
“How long does it take to thaw out?”
Thankfully, there are very few questions that are matters of life and death. But as one generation of cooks learns the ropes, along comes a new crop of would-be Emerils to pull the pin on a turkey grenade.
In the last decade or so the concept of deep frying the Thanksgiving turkey has caught on. Unfortunately, it seems to be most popular with men who think that, since they can change the oil in the pick-up truck, they can deep fry a turkey. It’s just a different kind of oil. Right?
Deep frying a turkey brings its own set of caveats, warnings and instructions, none of which bear any resemblance to servicing the Ford F-150.
The Butterball people list them on their website and instruction #1 hints at what must be a recurring problem among deep frying novices:
#1 – Before deep frying – take the wrapper off of the turkey!
Really? You mean I shouldn’t leave the little net bag and plastic wrapper and labels on the bird? Why not leave it in the plastic bag from the supermarket as well?
When you try deep frying your first turkey it is firmly suggested that you wait until the bird is completely thawed – unless you actually want a geyser of hot, and possibly flaming oil, launched over you, the kitchen and, eventually, the smoking ruins of your house. If this happens you might ask the firemen who will be putting out your house fire if they know the way to the nearest Denny’s or IHOP. Both places will be serving Thanksgiving dinner all day long.