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 – 2019

Archive for the category “Saturday Fiction”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Six

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

 

 

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

 

 

“Oh, my dear, Sweet Marlee, you see, drugs again? It’s a plague. My deepest sympathies. San Francisco will be good for what ails you. It’s a place for new beginnings.”

“Is that what it’s been for you, Dennis?”

“It really has. I was born and raised near Boston, West Peabody, actually. Mother, Father, 2.3 children and a dog named Tippy. Eventually I got a degree in chemistry from Harvard and joined the corporate army.”

“You’re a Harvard grad and you’re working as a ‘Manly Maid’?”

“Well, yes. I was never very good in a lab coat with a logo on it. When I saw something wrong, I tried to fix it and the bosses, the empty suits in the corner offices, didn’t like that. They said that I wasn’t a ‘Team Player’ and that I didn’t see the ‘Big Picture’.  After a few years of that the American Dream and I parted ways. I came west and they can go to hell. Is there any more champagne?”

“No, I’m sorry. That’s it.”

“What about the rest of the wine I brought with the Tuna Noodle?”

“I drank it.”

“Well, damn it, Marlee. When you have guests over you have to have enough wine.”

“I’m sorry, Dennis. I thought the one bottle would be enough.”

“But it’s not enough, is it?” He turned his empty glass upside down.

Marlee felt the beginnings of a knot in her stomach.

“How am I supposed to get through this damned Sunday, Girl? You have no more champagne. I just have some cooking saki and I don’t get paid until Wednesday.” He pointed his index finger at her. “This is all your fault, Marlee.” She was beginning to be afraid that he was going to – she didn’t know what.

“Dennis, I want you to leave.”

“Leave? you want me to leave? Leave?” He swung his arm across the table and sweeping his plate and empty glass off the table. They hit the floor and smashed. He looked at her, unblinking.

She jumped when the dishes shattered, but she looked him straight in the eye and after a second saw his anger crumble, replaced with a trembling, childlike remorse. Tears began to well to overflowing in his eyes.

“Oh, Miss Marlee. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Don’t throw me out.” His hands reached out across the table to her in pleading. “I’m so sorry.”

She looked at him – this puzzling mix of Man and Boy.

“Dennis, did you take anything – medication – before you came down here this morning?”

His eyes flashed with anger again.

“Drugs? You think I’m on drugs? I hate drugs.”

“No, not drugs, Dennis, but medicine, maybe, from your doctor?” The fire in his eyes banked.

“Medicine? Of course I take medicine. It’s for my back. I stoop and bend a lot doing the housecleaning. That’s hard on the back.”

“Did you take any medicine this morning?”

“Yes, I took my pain medication, like every morning and every night. My back is so bad I can’t sleep at night without it. It hurts all the time.”

“OK, Dennis, I understand. It’s the pain medication and the champagne. They don’t mix very well and it’s making you…nervous.”

“Do you still want me to go home?” He was like a boy again.

“It’s not that. I just think that you need to get some rest until the champagne wears off.”

“I said I was sorry. I’ll get you another plate. Just don’t be mad at me. Don’t hate me.”

“I don’t hate you. I like you, Dennis, but right now I need you to be somewhere else. Won’t you help me by doing that?”

“For you, anything.”

Marlee helped Dennis to his feet and, with his arm draped over her shoulder they started slowly toward the door.

“I love you, Marlee.” His speech was a bit slurred.

“C’mon. Let’s get you upstairs.”

One step at a time they got up to the third floor and to Dennis’ front door. He carried his keys on a retractable chain clipped on his belt. Marlee opened his door and they stumbled inside. It was dark, even though the sun was bright outside.

Both of their apartments shared the same floor plan. Marlee reached out for the light switch.

When the two 100-watt bulbs in the hallway fixture lit up, she could see that the heavy shades were drawn on all of the windows and that there was very little in the way of furniture in the apartment.

The living room was empty except for a loveseat that looked like two bright red lips – A masterpiece of 1980’s kitsch. Several large plants, a large hibiscus and a pair of philodendron sat in the bay window straining for any bit of sunlight. The dining room held only three aluminum pipe garment racks filled with clothes and dozens of empty hangers.

The walls were bare, no pictures, photos or artwork of any kind.

“OK, Dennis. I’m going to put you on your bed and then I’m going home. You need to sleep this off. You’ll be fine.”
”Yes, Sir, Ma’am. I am putty in your hands.”

Marlee pushed open the bedroom door and flipped on the lights. They illuminated a large, bare mattress on the floor against the wall. No pillows, sheets or blankets covered the blue flower-print fabric.

Unlike the rest of the apartment, the walls in the bedroom were decorated with hundreds of pictures. There were reprints of old Rock and Roll concert posters, a picture of Einstein sticking out his tongue at the world and hundreds of photographs of Haight Street.

Some of the photos were taken at the annual Haight St. Street Fair showing thousands of people filling the street, all of them intent on music, beer and revelry.

There were snapshots of both groups and individuals. Storefronts on Haight Street were shown in 8 x 10 glossy prints.

Marlee noticed that mixed in with the pastiche of photographs were several pictures showing Luco Reyes. She also saw one showing Luco sitting at a table inside the People’s Cafe…talking with her.

Rather than question him now about the pictures and maybe get him antagonized again, Marlee just wanted to get him onto his mattress and then get out of there.

They moved across the room, the glossy paper sending flares of light across the ceiling. Marlee staggered under her load and they both fell against the closet door.

“I love you, Marlee.”

“I know. I know. Let’s get you to sleep.” She tried to push him toward the mattress, but he pushed back, pinning her to the door.

“I love you, Marlee,” he said again, only this time there was an insistent edge to it as he pressed his body against hers and clamped his hand tightly on her breast.

“No! Dennis, stop!”

He squeezed harder. A mixture of pain and panic washed over her. He lowered his head, trying to kiss her lips.

Over the years since she had reached puberty, Marlee had had to contend with the unwanted attention and the crude gropings of both men and boys. In college she had taken a self-defense class sponsored by the local Rape Crisis Center. She knew how to stop an attacker.

Dennis didn’t react to her first knee to his groin. Credit that to the painkillers. The second attempt was a direct connection between kneecap and testicles.

A half-swallowed scream came from Dennis as his grip loosened and he stumbled back, tripped on the corner of the mattress and fell on his side. He immediately curled into a fetal position and vomited.

Marlee was surprised by the reaction to her defensive move. This was the first time she had ever had to use it. She watched him writhe in pain. She also saw her Eggs Benedict and champagne brunch staining his shirt and the blue mattress cover.

She knew that he was no immediate danger and that when he finally realized what he had done, he would be mortified. But right now she didn’t care about that. He was in agony and on the floor, she had put him there and that was alright with her. He earned it.

She took a quick look around the room. There were a half a dozen single-use cameras on the floor in the corner. She picked one up and took picture after picture of Dennis puking his brains out. When the film ran out she tossed the camera on the mattress, walked over to the wall and tore down the photo of her and Luco.

With one last look at Dennis, she walked out of his apartment, leaving his front door wide open.

“Better check your locks, Dennis.”

Saturday Fiction Encore  – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” – Conclusion

This piece was originally created as a performance piece. It was presented on several stages in the San Francisco Bay Area. Try to imagine it that way.

Saturday Fiction – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” – Conclusion

 

They found a spot near the rear of the lot and backed in so that they could survey the scene. Moments after they pulled in, a group of about four or five boys wearing jackets sporting large orange appliqué footballs and high school letters, swaggered up to the car, smelling of “Wild Irish Rose” and telegraphing danger like a gun that wants to go off.

“Hey guys.  How’s it hangin’?”

“Just great, Tony.  Hey, check out what we got in the back seat.”

The biggest of the jacketed boys leaned through the window.  Charlie lifted his bottle in a toast of greeting.

“Oh, Jesus Christ.  How’s it hangin’ Charlie?

“Whatcha gonna do with him?” whispered one of the other jacketed boys.

“I got some ideas… stay close”, said the driver.

The jackets left but Charlie didn’t notice the leaving, only his empty bottle of Iron City.  After a moment of quietly scanning the scene the boy in the driver’s seat turned and faced Charlie.

“Well, Charlie, this is ‘Hank’s’.  Pretty neat, huh?”

Charlie said nothing out loud, but his eyes said that Hank’s ­was­ “neat”, the neatest spot on the face of the Earth.

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Saturday Fiction Encore  – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part Two

This piece was originally created as a performance piece. It was presented on several stages in the San Francisco Bay Area. Try to imagine it that way.

Saturday Fiction – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part Two

 

It had become an ongoing rite of passage for local boys to go out “Charlie Spotting” with their favorite girl friends.  The idea being that, if you spotted Charlie, your date would be frightened by his looks and cling tightly to you for comfort.

Charlie always carried a large walking stick and if you slowed down and gave him a bad time he’d take a swing at you.  Whenever you saw a car in Beaver Falls with broken headlights or a crease across the roof you knew that someone had gotten too close.

Once, in the steamy summer of 1963, three of the local football hero types got closer to Charlie than anyone ever had before and a lot closer than they had planned on.

It was the kind of humid summer night when, if anyone had any ideas at all, they were bound to involve trapping things in glass jars and watching them die.

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Saturday Fiction Encore  – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part One

This piece was originally created as a performance piece. It was presented on several stages in the San Francisco Bay Area. Try to imagine it that way.

 

Saturday Fiction – “Sluggo, Peeto, And No-Face Charlie” Part One

 

Beaver Falls.

Beaver Falls was an interesting place to live.  Beaver Falls is located in Beaver County.  The County Seat of Beaver County is the Town of Beaver.  There is a river that runs through Beaver Falls called the, (EVERYBODY, NOW!) BEAVER! There are no beavers in Beaver Falls.  There haven’t been any beavers in Beaver Falls within living memory.  There aren’t any real falls either.  What there is in Beaver Falls are: five steel mills, air the color of peanut butter, and a gene pool just deep enough to reduce the risk of everyone being born with extra thumbs.

There isn’t a chromosome within thirty miles that hasn’t been put through a genetic meat grinder.  Those little strands of DNA twang like cheap guitar strings every time somebody announces their engagement.

Living in Beaver Falls was like a Near Death Experience.  Living in Beaver Falls was swooping down dark, sooty, streets like tunnels toward the blinding bright light of the blast furnace.  It was encountering the dark, smoky faces of people you knew who had passed on to old age too quickly.

“Hi, your Dad find work yet?”

“Hi, new shoes?  Wow!”

“Hi, did you see Sluggo and Peeto last night?  Christ, they’re both nuts.”

Sluggo and Peeto.

Sluggo and Peeto were brothers. Sluggo was a rather large man, a bit like a couch. Looking into Sluggo’s face was like looking into an open-face sandwich: meat, nothing but meat, with some kind of juice.  Brother Peeto was sans jus. He had a thin, pinched face with dark eyebrows and a vaguely pained expression which made ­him­ seem the brighter of the two.

Sluggo and Peeto seemed to be everywhere at once.  No matter what was going on in town they were sure to be there and somehow involved.  If there was an auto accident either Sluggo or Peeto would be on the scene, usually before the Police, standing in the intersection directing traffic.  They would direct traffic even if it wasn’t called for.  Those boys just liked directing traffic.

One autumn day, when the leaves were just beginning to turn the same reddish-orange as the glow from the mills, an albino owl, for its own reasons, decided to fly into town and perch itself on a power line crossing the busiest intersection in town.  It sat there looking down at the cars and at the pedestrians and at Sluggo who had seen his civic duty and was trying to direct traffic and look up at the bird, all the while smiling widely for the photographer from the local newspaper.  When the picture ran in the next edition it showed Sluggo grinning fiercely into the camera and, sitting neatly on his skull was, thanks to the acute angle of the shot, the owl.  Peeto was there too, glowering at them both, looking the second most intelligent of the three.

Sluggo and Peeto made the NBC Nightly News one time.

Back in the late 1960’s the New York Jets won the Super Bowl.  Joe Namath was the winning Quarterback and Media Darling.  Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls.

To celebrate the victory Beaver Falls threw a big to-do. A huge parade down the main street of town with Joe Namath sitting, triumphant, in the back seat of a new Chevrolet convertible supplied by the local GM dealer.  The same local GM dealer who had once had Joe arrested for being on his showroom roof at three in the morning and running his football pants up the flagpole.

That evening the whole nation watched the conquering hero’s parade. Joe, smiling, his dimples setting off his hawklike nose.  Joe, waving at the Beaver Fallsians as they waved back. Joe, recoiling in shock as Sluggo launched himself from the crowd onto the hood of the new Chevrolet convertible, waving wildly and mugging for the cameras.  He rode there on the front of the car for the rest of the parade while Joe kind of slumped back in his seat and remembered why he was now living in New York.

That evening, at a banquet held in Joe’s honor, Howard Cosell, who was there as an honored guest and had witnessed the Sluggo episode, took the dais and in front of the assembled masses called Beaver Falls a “One-horse tank town without the whole horse.”

Sluggo and Peeto were – funny.  Funny “Ha-Ha,” and funny in the sense that one sidesteps a strange dog in the streets.  The town laughed but never had them over for supper.

At least they had each other.  “No-Face Charlie” only had himself.

“No-Face Charlie” was a man in his forties who, when he was a teenager, according to the local legend, flew his kite into some high tension wires.  He climbed the pole, reached for the kite and slipped. He was badly burned but somehow survived.  His face took the brunt of the damage, leaving him without a recognizable nose, lips or eyebrows.

The accident happened back in the 1940’s and those who were around then said that the state of the art in plastic surgery wasn’t up to the task of giving back to Charlie a face that he could live with comfortably.

He lived alone in a small house way out in the sticks, about 10 – 12 miles outside of town.  His baby sister looked in on him twice a week to bring groceries and books and to serve as his conduit to the world.

He stopped attending school after the accident. From the age of fifteen Charlie had educated himself.  He read voraciously.  He read anything his sister could get for him.  By his twenty-first birthday he had run through just about every book in the Beaver Falls Public Library.

Charlie supported himself and lived in relative comfort on royalties from his small, but impressive, list of inventions.  Charlie held patents on close to two full pages of the Lillian Vernon catalogue.

Charlie was the inventor of the “Reusable ‘Beauty-Gel’ Facial Pack”.  Charlie was the inventor of the “Danish Wrap Electric Hot Towel”.  Charlie was the inventor of the “Gentlemen’s Rotary Nose Hair Clipper”.

His first invention, the “Hollywood Contour Bath Pillow”, patented on his seventeenth birthday, sold several hundred thousand units and continued to generate enough income to pay the mortgage on the seventeen acres of land around his house that served as a buffer zone between himself and his neighbors.

Very few people in Beaver Falls knew any of this.  The rumors said that Charlie got by on a small pension from the government.  The rumors also said that most of the missing dogs and cats in the area were his doing and that they were just delicious, Thank you.

One of the few things that people knew for sure about Charlie was that he liked to take long walks at night along the quiet country roads near his home.

Fiction Saturday – Boxer – Conclusion 

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Conclusion

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“What about…” He looked at Gloria who had walked into the room and was standing by the kitchen door with her arms crossed. “Our two – visitors?”

“They’re, uh, in the trunk.” Walker leaned forward ignoring the pain.

“What trunk? My trunk? The Cadillac? You put those dead bodies in the trunk of my Cadillac?” Gloria stood up straight.

“Dead bodies? What dead bodies? She asked. Her words stuck in her throat. “Terry, what dead bodies? You didn’t say anything about dead bodies. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.” She hugged herself and started to rock back and forth. She was already on the verge of crumbling. “Oh, Terry.”

Walker lost it. “Shut up, you stupid Gin Blossom! Terry, shut her up. I need to think.”

“Gloria, please. He needs to think. I’ve messed things up. I’m sorry.”

Gloria looked at Terry. “You’ve messed things up? What about this jackass sitting on our couch? He’s the one who’s messed things up, not you.”

Walker picked up one of the small pillows from the sofa and threw it at her.  “Hey, Blondie, shut up. Get out of here. Go do something useful. Go slit your wrists.”

“Do something useful? I’ll do something useful right now.” In two steps she was in front of the sofa and she delivered a sharp left jab onto Walkers bandaged shoulder. He let out a short scream before he passed out. “Now that’s something useful, you, Mr.’My Cadillac.’”

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Five

 Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Five

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“I’ll let you in, but I don’t have to like it.”  –Gloria Dumbaugh

 

“No. No. No. Are you crazy, Terry?  What are you thinking? This man has been shot? He’s not a lost puppy You can’t just bring him home.”

Gloria was pissed.

“I don’t know what else I can do, Hon. He’s my Boss. Look, he’s out cold. I got something I gotta do. Just a few minutes. He won’t be any trouble, I promise. Just keep him on the bed.”

“Our bed you mean.”

OK, on the couch then. I gotta go. It’s important.”

“Terry, he’s been shot. What if he dies on me? What then?”

Terry ran his bandaged fingers through his hair. He wanted to run away. “He won’t die. Doc patched him up. See all that tape? He’ll be good as new in no time.” He set the shirtless, unconscious man on her couch. “Hon, I really gotta go. I’ll bring you back some ice cream.”

“Terry, No, you can’t…” She stopped. She knew it was useless. “Butter Pecan.”

Terry took the Cadillac. He wished it was his. Maybe someday. He parked in the alley behind Walker’s office, right back where it had been before all this mess started.

Inside Walker’s office nothing had changed. The dead guy hit with the shotgun was still dead and was going to stay that way. The Fat Guy by the door was…where was he? Terry started to sweat again and talk to himself.

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Four

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Four

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“Mr. Walker? You’re bleeding.”

“Yeah, I know, Einstein. My arm. I need to see Doc. Can you drive?”

“Sure. Keys?”

“In my left coat pocket. You’ll have to get them. I’m parked in back – dark green Cadillac. Let’s go.”

“What about them?” Terry asked, pointing with the baseball bat at the two men on the floor.

“Later. They don’t look like they’re going anywhere soon. C’mon, help me up.”

Terry picked up the dead man’s pistol and set it on the desk. Walker slipped it into his right coat pocket.

 

“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”  — Al Capone

 

Doc shook his head. “I can’t do that. Not here. You need to go to the hospital.” He looked pale and hung over. That explained again why he never finished medical school.

“Doc, you gotta do something for him. He’s been bleeding all over the place. He passed out on the way over here.”

“Oh, Jesus, Terry, I can maybe try to stop the bleeding, but that’s about it.” Doc gave the unconscious man a quick eyeball check. “That slug is still in him. Probably stuck in a bone. I can’t deal with that here.”

“Do what you can, Doc. I’ll take him to the clinic, I promise.”

“No hospital. No hospital.” Walker had stirred. He was awake enough to hear what was being said. “No hospital. They’ll call the Police.

“Mr. Walker.” Terry wiped his hands on his pant leg. He was sweating like he had gone fifteen rounds. “Mr. Walker, Doc says that the bullet is still in your arm up by your shoulder. No offense, Doc, but Mr. Walker, you need a real doctor.”

Walker was barely able to stay awake. He shook his head. His eyes were only half open. “No hospital. I’ve got two dead bodies in my office. How do I explain that?”

“What?” Doc took a step back from both men. “What? You two have to get out of here. If the police bust me I’ll die in prison. You have to go. Now. Get out.”

“Terry, he’s right. In my wallet there’s a card…a card. Dr. Wycoff. Call him. Take me there.”

“Wycoff? He’s a Veterinarian,” half shouted Doc, “A horse doctor.”

“Terry, do what I tell you. Call him. Call him and then I’ll…” He passed out again.

“Doc, what should I do? He’s my Boss. If he dies I’m out of work, but if I take him to the hospital we’re both in hot water. Doc?

Doc opened a cupboard and took down a box of latex gloves. “He needs a real doctor, but that Wycoff is an old drunk who’d kill him for sure – if he wasn’t dead by the time you got him there. Damn it. Let me see what I can do.”

The two men lifted the unconscious and bleeding man up onto Doc’s kitchen table. Doc took some scissors and started cutting off Walker’s coat and shirt. Terry moved back and stood there watching and worrying.

“I’ll try to stop the bleeding. That’s first, and then we’ll see if I can at least find that bullet. It’d be a snap if I had an X-Ray.”

Ten minutes later Doc had stopped the bleeding, and after poking around he could tell that the bullet fired by the dead man, the very dead man, still in Walker’s office looking for his face, was lodged in the joint where the upper arm connects into the shoulder.

“Well, Terry, that’s about all I can do. I can see where the bullet is, but…”

“Can you get it out, Doc? That would help him a lot wouldn’t it?”

“I said I know where it is, but it might as well be on the moon. No, I’ve done what I can here, Terry. Thanks to you he is still alive, but he needs more than either of us can do.”

“I think I’d make a good Corner Man, Doc.”

“Yeah, but nobody ever got shot at in the Boxing ring.”

Doc stripped off his latex gloves and tossed them into a wastebasket half filled with empty bottles. He looked at his unconscious patient and at Terry. Standing next to his Boss Terry looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“What to do now, Doc? My Boss needs an X-Ray and there’s two stiffs in his office.”

“Not good, Terry.”

“Yeah, Mr. Walker took out the one that shot him – with his sawed-off. It’s a mess. I got the other one, a big fat guy, with a baseball bat.”

“Oh, Terry, this is getting worse by the minute.’

“Could I just leave, Mr. Walker here for a while, you know…?”

“No. No way you can leave him here. Where does he live? Does he have a family?”

“Jeez, Doc, I don’t know where he lives. I’ve only seen him at his office or at ringside. Family? I don’t know that either.”

Lying on the table, Walker was coming to a bit. He was moaning. His arm and shoulder were heavily bandaged. He was drooling.

“Terry, you have to go, both of you. I’ll help you get him out to your car.”

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Now I know why tigers eat their young.”  —  Al Capone

 

Once the night faded away the streets were wet and the sky promised more. Terry Jarosz was at his Boss’s office at 8:30. He had slept on Gloria’s couch for a few hours using the three grand as a pillow. He dreamed that the money was his, but he knew it wasn’t and now he was at the office to turn it in and get his cut – five percent. The Boss was waiting for him.

“Did you get it all, Terry? Three grand?”

Terry nodded and emptied his pockets out onto the desk.  The last two dollars was in quarters. “I got it all, Mr. Walker.”

“Good job, Terry.” He looked at the Boxer’s bandaged fists. “Jesus H. Christ, what happened to your hands? Was he hiding the money in a meat grinder?”

Terry looked at his bandages. They were feeling tight. He was swelling.

“No. He got physical with me, him and one of his boys. I’m OK. I’ll take it easy for a day or two and I’ll be OK.”

“I hope so. You look like you went twelve rounds with the Marines.”

“I’m OK, Mr. Walker. A hundred-fifty dollars?”

Walker peeled off a couple of wrinkled Fifties and the rest in Twenties and Sawbucks.

“Five percent of three thousand – a hundred-fifty dollars.” He threw in an extra Twenty. “A bonus – to cover the cost of your bandages, Terry. Take your girl out for a nice dinner.”

“OK. Thanks Mr. Walker. I’ll do that. I’ll be ready to go again in no time.”

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Two

 

Boxer  —  Part Two

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“You’re either at the table or on the menu.”  —  Al Capone

 

And that was where Mike Walker came in. He was a fan of The Sweet Science.  He’d liked watching Terry fight because he knew it wasn’t just “entertainment.” He respected Terry’s work as a boxer and rewarded him by throwing some jobs his way. Mike Walker had a “Private Security” business. He was an ex-cop, a bad one, who did background checks, provided an extra pair of eyes for shopkeepers when inventories grew legs, and he collected overdue debts. Terry Jarosz entered the picture when payments got slippery.

 With ninety-five out of a hundred people who missed a payment or two it was just one look at Terry and wallets opened up. With the other five per cent – they got stupid before their money finally came across the desk. Stupid is what sent Terry to see Doc. Doc never charged Terry for helping him. He knew that The Rules were never fair for either of them.

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Fiction Saturday – “Boxer”  – Part One 

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Our words and deeds, Good or Evil, are the dishes we put before the Lord.” 

—  Pope Severinus – 640 AD

The light shining in Doc’s kitchen was the only light on in the neighborhood. It would do. It always has before. In a couple of hours things on the street will begin to percolate, but now? Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

“I think your hand is broken, Terry.”

“No, it’s not, Doc. It’s just scraped up a little. I’ve broken it before. I know what that feels like.”

“Uh huh.”

Every knuckle on Terry’s right hand looked like he’d tried to knock down a brick wall.

“I just need you to clean it up, Doc, and tape it to keep the swelling down.” He held out his hand like it was a sledgehammer that needed repair.

 “Uh huh. What was it this time, a bar fight or what?”

“Business. Just business, Doc.”

“I swear, Terry, you get busted up more now than you ever did in The Ring.”

“Yeah, well, I gotta earn a living, right? In The Ring there were rules. Now, not so much. Different rules. I tell you, it gets hard for me sometimes to understand what the rules are.”

The peroxide washed over the scraped and bloody knuckles, stinging like hell. Nobody winced.

“What you need is a tetanus shot. You should go to the clinic for that.”

“They ask too many questions. This’ll do, Doc. This’ll do fine.”

He wiggled his fingers, testing for flexibility, and could he make a fist?

“You know, Terry, that I’m not a real doctor.”

“Yeah, I know. You went to medical school for a year or two. I heard you tell it all to Dutch, my old corner man. I remember.”

“Two years. I had two years of medical school, Terry. That’s all.”

Doc was a tall and sickly looking thin man. Skinny was more like it. His kitchen was his office and, on occasion, his surgery. This morning it was a little of both. He didn’t have a license to practice medicine. That dream died after two years and a weakness for gin. He drained away until all that was left was enough knowledge to pretend. Knowing enough to earn the nickname “Doc” that stung every time he heard it.

The gin introduced him to a different level of the culture and he got himself hired on as a “cut man’ for prize fighters. His job was to stop the bleeding and make things look not so bad when the referee came to their corner to assess the damage.

Doc knows only to blame himself. One night when he can’t hide in a haze he will open a vein and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.

“I can patch you up, Terry, but Jesus, I can’t keep putting you back together forever.”

“I don’t need forever, Doc. I just need tonight. Now tape me up and I’ll go.”

“Boxing is real easy, Life is much harder.” —  Floyd Mayweather Jr.

 

Terry Jarosz, 36 years old and at one time a boxer. Middle-Weight Champion for about five minutes, a punching bag the rest of the time. A guy who struggled with the world of rules and laws.

After too many fights the damage to his body didn’t want to heal up fast enough and he couldn’t get any more matches. Permits were denied and that was that.

A guy who played by the rules in The Ring was thrown out of work by the rules from outside The Ring. He had to make a living.

Terry had to work, but it’s hard for an ex-fighter to find any work that doesn’t call on his only skills – hitting and hurting other people. At that he proved to be better than most.

He took work where he could find it. “Lift this.” “Carry that,” and more and more frequently, “Hit him. Break that.”

When he was in The Ring it was nothing personal. It was two men beating each other for the purse, or a part of the purse, after “expenses” were taken out by half a dozen men who called the shots.

Whatever else he was, Terry Jarosz was known as a hard guy who never took a dive when maybe he should have to save himself. He learned too late that in his world being an honest man paid a lot less than the other kind.

People who knew his name assumed, that because he had been a “Champ,” that he was set financially. But people who knew Boxing knew that money had a way of walking out of the door faster than a Ten Count from a crooked Referee. When Terry “retired” he had less than eight hundred dollars to his name. At least he had his name.

That got him some free meals and a few jobs, but after a year or two he became “Terry who?” Fans moved on and real friends, like always, were few and far between.

Now, working as muscle, collecting debts, it always ended up being personal. Sometimes he knew the men that he was leaning on – again for just a cut of the money. He got 5% of whatever he brought in.

It didn’t take long for word to get around that Terry Jarosz would get rough if you tried to snow him. When he first started working as a collector he was easy to fool. A good sob story and he’d end up buying you a drink or slipping you a few bucks. A couple of weeks having to sleep on a sidewalk heating vent fixed that. He learned that in his new world there was no “Loser’s Purse.” He changed. He didn’t listen to the sob stories any more. He didn’t care if your mother was in the hospital. It was either pay up or tell Momma to move over.

“A man’s gotta eat.” That became his motto.

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Conclusion

 

Things were going sour. Guns were out and something ugly was bound to happen. I left my observation post and quickly headed back toward the door. I drew my .38 and checked the wheel for a full load.

Inside the door it was dark, but there was light pouring out at the end of the hallway. I tried to get closer as quickly and quietly as I could. I didn’t see the toolbox on the floor until I kicked it. Before I got my footing Regis was standing two feet in front of me with the dirty semi-automatic pointed at my forehead.

“Well, look who’s here? C’mon, Mr. Private Eye, and join the party.”

He marched me the rest of the way down the hall and into the light.

“Forty Ounce” looked at me, but spoke to Sunny Boggs.

“I thought I told you to come alone? Can’t you follow a simple command?”

“I didn’t know he was here. I swear it. I fired him.” Her voice sounded panicky. Instead of being the hero here I was the fifth wheel, and I was flat now that Regis had my .38 in his left hand. “Forty Ounce” looked at me like I had just ruined his day. Well, mine wasn’t going too great either.

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Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Four

It was a little after 8 AM when the phone finally rang and woke me. It’s never good news at 8 AM. It was Regis alright and he told me that “Forty Ounce” said “No” to me bringing the money for the dog. It had to be The Lady – alone – or the dog was history.

There was no way I was going to go along with that, but I had no choice but to agree to tell “The Lady.” She would go along with any of their cockeyed plans if she thought it would get her dog back. She was the Perfect Victim.

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Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Three

 

“Well, Mr. Detective Man, I hear you’ve been looking for me. Curious about a dog, are we? You look more like a Poodle man to me rather than a Doberman sort.”

I explained to him that I was just a man doing a job and that the only dogs I liked were running at the Greyhound track. He laughed and pushed an envelope across the bar to me.

Inside the envelope was a small photograph. It looked more like a photo of a photo, but it was clear enough. It was a picture of a Doberman. Whether it was “Peaches” or not I couldn’t tell, but the collar on the dog was a match for the one in the picture Sunny Boggs showed me over beer and cookies. No dognapper is going to go to the trouble of making a copy of the collar. This must be a picture of “Peaches.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 38 Continued

Fiction Saturday

“Dominic, killing us won’t solve anything,” said Laura. “What’s done is done. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that Graciella was the law. I ran away from you because I wasn’t going to take you beating up on me anymore. If I’d wanted you dead all I had to do was ask my father and you’d have disappeared.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about hitting you, Beverly. You know something, Bette? Beverly here has a mean one-two punch. She knocked out a tooth of mine once. See, back here.” Dominic opened his mouth and pointed to a gap in his teeth with the barrel of his gun.

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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

 

 

Fiction Saturday – Chapter 24 – And Pull The Hole – Continued

Fiction Saturday – Chapter 24

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

 

pull-drivingA starlit nightfall was racing across the Mojave Desert and California was disappearing into shades of gray and neon splashes.

“Davis, wake up.  I want you to take over.  I’m exhausted and I think we’ll be safer with night coming on.  We’ll switch again when we stop for gas.”

“You look drained.  Laura, we are going to make it, right?”

“We’ll make it, Davis.  Things will be fine.  Once we get to the border, we’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, beautiful, carefree, Mexico.”

They were both whistling past the graveyard and they knew it.

They had changed their path south to California Route One, the coast road.  Just north of Ventura, on the outskirts of LA, Laura pulled the car into a Shell station.

The orange floodlights washed over the concrete and the islands with the self-serve gas pumps.  Inside the station a young man with stringy hair and acne sat behind the counter reading a motorcycle magazine.

“I’ll fill it up,” said Davis.

Laura opened her door and got out.  She stretched her arms and yawned.  She looked around the brightly-lit station.

“I’m going to the bathroom.  I’ll be right back.”

She walked into the mini-mart and reemerged seconds later holding a large brass key attached to a miniature baseball bat.  She disappeared into the darkness around the side of the building.

Davis used his debit card to fill the tank of his three-year-old, white, four-door Ford Taurus.  He made a mental note that it was due for a scheduled maintenance checkup.  He topped off the tank and put the nozzle back into the pump.  It was then that he realized he was finally hungry.

He really hadn’t eaten anything since he had picked at his lunch back at the Target store in Santa Maria.  Now he wished that he had, at least, eaten his churro.  Laura had inhaled her food as if lunch was going out of style.

“Maybe she’s more used to this than me,” he thought to himself.

After replacing the gas cap and pocketing his receipt, Davis walked up to the cashier’s counter inside the station.

“Hey, good evening, Mister.  Can I help you?”  The young clerk put his magazine down on the counter.

“Hi.  I need to get something to snack on.”pull-gas-station

“We got a pretty good selection of munchies and the cold sodas and stuff are over there in the cooler.  We don’t sell beer or anything hard any more.”

“Thanks.  Soft drinks will do.”

Davis walked over to the rack.  He studied the collection of foil and paper-wrapped sweet and salty junk foods.  He picked up a small bag of chips and headed over toward the beverages.

“Hey, Mister,” the kid called out to him.

“Yes, what?”  Davis turned away from his search.

“I think you got some company outside,” said the young man, his head tilted toward the door and the gas pumps beyond.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday –  Continued

Chapter Twenty-One

 

pull-apartment-bldgHe stood by the door of his apartment building slowly going through his mail. Everything was addressed to him as either Mr. Davis Lovejoy or, all too often, as “Occupant.”  Mixed in with the junk mail and the bills was a plain white envelope with no return address.  It was postmarked the day before.  He opened it slowly.  It was almost as if he expected it to explode.  Inside was a single sheet of notepaper—the same notepaper he had seen taped to the mirror in Laura’s apartment.

“Meet me in the arboretum in Golden Gate Park, tomorrow at ten a.m. – at the Moon Viewing Platform.”  It was signed with a simple ” L.”

“My God.  What is going on here?  Crazy notes?  Secret meetings?”

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole in After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Eleven

 

pull-safewayFeeling more secure and more self-confident, the woman newly reborn as Laura Smith planned another late-night foray out to the supermarket.  Her tiny refrigerator was empty and her cravings for some fresh foods were strong.

She avoided Chestnut after leaving her apartment, staying on the dark and quiet residential side streets as she made her way to the Marina Safeway.

The brightly-lit market was busy, like before, and she was getting used to the come-ons made by perfect strangers, both male and female.  It was no longer terrifying, just annoying.

Her new look worked well to help her blend into California’s cultural mindset.  She was now just one more blonde adrift in a state of thirty million blondes.  Her looks no longer screamed “New York Italian.”

She took her time, dawdling in the deli section and tasting the tiny samples of cheese and salami that were set out on the counter.

 

At a little before 3  a.m., she headed back to her apartment with two plastic shopping bags filled with some necessities and a few small luxuries.  Among these was a pint carton of Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” ice cream.  She decided to take Chestnut Street back.  It was a shorter, quicker route and the plastic bags were already cutting into her fingers.

The street was still busy with the remnants of the late night partiers reluctantly working their way back home.  The hum of activity never really stopped on Chestnut Street.

She walked slowly.  The bags were heavy and the lack of exercise in the last few weeks had stolen her muscle tone.

She missed going to the gym.  She was used to a three times a week regimen of Tae-Bo, Pilates and Zumba.  Being in your early thirties meant that regular workouts were needed to keep fit.  Of course, the near addiction to Cherry Garcia didn’t help.

As she crossed Fillmore Street, her mind on the melting ice cream, two men stepped through two different doorways on the other side of Chestnut.  She didn’t see either of them.

Carl “Tucky” Santi was seventy-one years old.  He had grown up in New York City and had earned his bones as a soldier for the Roncalli Family.  After his wife died, he retired to California to be near his daughter and the grandkids.  He spent too much time in restaurants and bars for a man his age.  So said both his daughter and his cardiologist.

Tonight was typical.  He was closing the bar at Pasquale’s, half drunk, sleepy and missing the pull-pasquales“Back in the day” of his youth.

Santi stood on the corner waiting for the light to change.  His car was parked illegally up on the sidewalk of a nearby side street.  He adjusted his belt to give his belly a little more breathing space and looked around at the other people still out at this hour.  Across the street, he noticed a good-looking blonde who seemed vaguely familiar.  Tucky Santi may have been retired, but he still kept up to date with the news from back home in New York.  He had to check out this blonde.

He hitched up his trousers and crossed the street against the light.  A taxi had to swerve to miss him.  Not even noticing the cab, he fell in behind the blonde and slowly closed the gap between the two of them.  He wanted to be sure.  It looked like her, but the hair was much shorter and the color was wrong.

The second man stepping onto Chestnut Street was Davis Lovejoy, an accountant.  He was unmarried, a transplant from Cleveland.  He lived in the Marina District and his life was as dull as dirt.

Lovejoy was leaving the donut shop just down the block from Pasquale’s.  He was working late at home and had taken a break to stretch his legs and to get a little something sweet.  His pale blue eyes, streaked with red from too many hours staring at a computer screen, needed the break as well.

pull-chestnut-streetHe was a self-employed accountant.  He did the books for several of the small businesses in the neighborhood, including the donut shop.

Holding his coffee in one hand and the small paper bag with an apple fritter in the other, he yawned and headed home.  Quarterly tax filings were due soon.  It was crunch time for all accountants.

Laura realized that she was still more than a half-pound paranoid.  She felt that everybody on the street was looking at her.  It may have been a lot of paranoia, but that was better than a lot of dead.

She stopped at the corner of Mallorca Street to let a minivan turn the corner in front of her.  She looked at the driver–always checking.

“Hello, Beverly.”

Tucky Santi was right behind her.

In one fluid motion she stepped to the side, dropped one of the plastic bags, and threw an elbow at the voice behind her.  Too old a cat to be fooled by the kittens, Santi had already stepped back out of range.

“Now, Beverly, stop that,” he said, gently scolding her.  His speech was slurred from too much wine.

She turned to look at whoever this was.

“Who are you?  Leave me alone.”  She didn’t recognize him.  It had been too many years.

“Beverly, it’s me, Carl Santi, Tucky.  I was at your wedding, remember?  My Rosa and me, we gave you the pasta machine.  Remember?”

This wasn’t paranoia anymore.  She slowly set the other bag on the sidewalk, not taking her eyes off of the fat old man.

“So, Beverly, how are you?  How’s your father?”

“Leave me alone,” she pleaded.  “You have me mixed up with somebody else.”

She ran through her short list of options: He was old.  He was obviously drunk.  She thought that, maybe, she could just “BS” her way out of this.

“Maybe he doesn’t know I left Dominic,” she prayed.

“Dominic wants you and his money back in New York,” Tucky slurred.

He knew.  She looked at him.  He was weaving slowly, but he had his eyes locked on hers.  The blood ran from her face.  She never thought that it would be a drunken old man who would catch her.

“C’mon, Beverly.  You can stay with me and my daughter tonight.”  He reached out and grabbed her tightly by the arm.

It was time for her to save herself, again.

“Help!  Rape!  Rape!  Help!”

Her cries caught the attention of everyone on the street.  They all looked toward the corner and saw a woman struggling with a larger, older man.  He was grabbing at her as she screamed and fought to get away.

On the opposite corner, the overworked accountant saw the scuffle.  His parents had raised him to be a responsible citizen and to help people in need, especially women.

He dropped his coffee and pastry and ran into the intersection, dodging traffic.  No second thoughts were necessary.

Santi moved in close and took her by both wrists and was trying to drag her down the street toward his car.  She managed to get one arm free and was about to deliver a punch to his solar plexus when Davis Lovejoy, accountant and would-be hero, arrived on the scene.

“Let her go, Mister,” he yelled.

“Stay out of this kid,” Santi bellowed.  Lovejoy could smell the wine on his breath.

Santi was losing his grip on the much younger and sober woman as she twisted and began to go on the offensive.  She glanced at the man who had come to her aid.  The situation was getting more complicated by the moment.

Lovejoy moved to flank the attacker.  He reached out.  He wanted to get the old man down on the ground.  The retired mob soldier lashed out and delivered a beefy backhand across the younger man’s face.  The accountant reeled and fell to the sidewalk, stunned by the power of the blow.

Tucky Santi’s alcohol-fueled adrenaline was kicking in.  He threw a wild punch.  It missed her by a foot.  They all stopped and stared at each other.  This was not working for anybody.

Santi realized, through his wine induced haze, that he wasn’t capable of dragging the younger woman away.  He had to get help.  He reached into his coat pocket for the cell phone that his daughter had insisted he carry “just for emergencies, Papa.”  If he could call someone to come help him he would score some big points with the people in New York.  He could be involved again, a Player.

Laura realized that if this old New York soldier called for reinforcements that she would have, maybe, ten minutes before the streets would be permanently unavailable to her.

Davis Lovejoy, still down on the sidewalk, could see that the old man was fumbling with his phone and walking away.  The woman seemed to be in no immediate danger.  But he wanted to hold the drunk for the police.

Trying to push the tiny buttons on his phone, Santi moved toward the street for better lighting.  He pointed a shaking finger at Laura and hissed, “You don’t belong here.”

Stumbling on the uneven curb, he lurched out into the street and into traffic, just in time to get up close and personal with a large orange San Francisco Municipal Railway trolley bus, its power poles sparking on the overhead wires as it crossed the intersection.

The bus driver never saw the man until he reeled out in front of the accelerating coach.  From the way that the old man hit the pavement, the twenty-three-year veteran driver knew that the poor guy was dead.  So did everyone else who witnessed the accident.  Carl Santi’s body had crumbled like a stale Saltine when it slammed onto the concrete pavement.

He looked much smaller dead.muni-fatal

People from both sides of the street ran over to get a closer look.  Traffic came to a complete halt.  It was just shy of 3:30 a.m.

Davis Lovejoy stared at the old man’s dead body.  He wondered out loud about what had just happened here.  Who was this guy…and the woman?  The woman…?

He turned back to the sidewalk.  She was gone.  In all the hubbub, she had just walked away into the late night fog.  Her groceries were scattered all over the sidewalk.

The Police and paramedics arrived on the scene in minutes.  Witnesses gave fifteen versions of what had gone down.  The majority said that the old man was drunk, violent, and that he had stumbled out in front of the bus on his own.  It was nobody’s fault but his.  The accountant was questioned and released to go back to his tax forms.  He wouldn’t need any coffee or sugary treats to stay awake now.

Laura hurried back to her apartment and cried for the first time since she had arrived in San Francisco.  It was partly from relief and partly from the fear of realizing her vulnerability.  She was safe for the moment, but until she felt up to another shopping trip, it was back to cheese crackers and Diet Pepsi.

to be continued8

Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – 

Chapter Ten

 

1472855494421“What do you mean, you can’t find her?”

“I mean, Dominic, that so far, we haven’t found her.  I did trace her as far as Boston, but that’s it, as of today.”

Tony Ponti, one of Dominic’s numbers managers and a friend since their childhood on the streets, shrugged his shoulders and sat down.

“‘So far’ is right, you monkey.  I want her back here,” hissed Dominic and he pounded his fist on the table in frustration.  His coffee cup jumped and splashed a few drops onto the tabletop.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday  – “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

 Chapter Five

Pull fed officeAt roughly the same time, in an office in the Federal Building, a group of thirty FBI agents was collecting in a 24th floor conference room.  The recessed fluorescent lighting made them all look slightly green.

At the front of the room stood a man with too much gray hair for someone his age.  He was waiting for the arriving people to settle so he could begin.  The people upstairs had handed him an assignment.

“Okay, everybody, listen.  Hey!  The dancing monkey is at the front of the room here.  Pay attention, this is important, and even better, it’s something different.”

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