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 – 2017

Archive for the tag “Fiction”

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles

 

The fog was rolling in like a slinky coming down an escalator. I didn’t think it would ever stop. I was just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero on my way to Wilma’s All-Nite Café for a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of cake.

My name is Henway, I’m a dick, head of the best P.I. outfit in town,

“Henway and ____.”

I’ve been thinking about getting a partner.

I’ve been in this racket for more years than I can count. I’m not much at math. I’m more of a people person and tonight I was hoping to meet up with some people.

When I came through the door at the café I could see the owner, Wilma Van der Sluice, behind W2the counter. Wilma ran her café like a maximum security diner. She made the rules and if you didn’t like it the service could really stink.

When she saw me come in she trotted my way, her two too massive braids bouncing up and down by her ears. She smiled and then suddenly disappeared from view. She bounced back into sight almost immediately, still smiling, but with an “It’s Better With Butter” wax paper square stuck to her forehead. Wilma was tough and she was used to these late night slip-ups.

“Hi, Lover Boy. What can I get you?”

“Hi, back at ya, Sugar Lump. I think I’ll check in with my friend there at the counter first.”

Sitting on one of the red vinyl stools was my mentor, the mug that got me into this business, Henry “Hank” O’ Hair. I dropped down onto the stool next to him.

“Hi, Hank, what’s shakin’?”

“Just my gun hand. Oh, it’s you. Hi, Kid.” He always called me “Kid.” He called everybody “Kid.” His memory isn’t what it used to be. It used to be bad, now it was worse.W4

Hank was wearing his trench coat and his aging Fedora, the one with the bullet hole in the brim, but that’s another, much longer, story. He was sitting there, staring at an empty cup. I gave a short whistle and Wilma came running our way, being more careful this time.

“What’ll it be you two hunks of handsome?”

“I’ll have a cuppa, Gorgeous,” I told her.W6

“Me too,” echoed Hank.

“Yeah, a coffee for me and another for my old friend.” Wilma jotted it all  down on her pad, smiled that smile that lit up many a late night like a welcoming sign reading, “Vacancy,” and headed back to her station by the cake dish.

Hank looked a bit down like something or someone had him by the short hairs – and he didn’t have many left.

“You look down, Hank, like something or someone has you by –“

“Yeah, yeah, I know the rest of it, Kid. What’s bothering me? I’ll tell you. I’ve got a case and it’s got me. I’ve been looking for a guy and it’s like he’s dropped off the face of the earth and I’ve come up dry. He’s on the lam and I feel  like I’m the goat here. I’ve looked high and low, near and far, and even sooner or later – nothing, nada, ne, yaga, yimba, a ole, nyet, nahin, and squat.”

“No luck, huh?” He shot me look that said things – I’m not sure what though.

W6

W6Wilma came back over to us and set down four cups of coffee. She smiled and winked at me. It was either a wink or a return of an old problem she had with a tic.

“Talk to me, Henway,” she said, leaning over the counter, her nose just inches from the brim of my imported Fedora. “Tell me something that will give me chills.” I knew where this was heading. I played along.

“Sure, Lambs Lettuce, Do you have any German Chocolate Cake left?”

“One slice and it’s all for you, Puppy Eyes, if you say the magic word.”

“Houdini!,” shouted out Hank. “The guy must be a Houdini to have me not find him.”

Wilma sighed. “Close enough. I’ll get the cake,” and off she went, her braids bouncing like her  head was on a tiny trampoline.

I didn’t like seeing Hank down in the dumps. I had to do something.

“What’s this Houdini’s name,? I asked Hank. He took a long and loud slurp of coffee, then spoke. “This ghost goes by the name of Lech Ontario. I’ve looked everywhere and Nem, nei, nahin, ne, ….”

I finished my first cup while he finished his sentence and then I told him that…”I gotta go see a man about a horse. I’ll be right back.”

W7The Euphemisms, both Guys and Dolls, were at the far end of the café. As I headed that way I passed by the aging Wurlitzer juke box. There were no songs on there newer than the theme from “The Love Boat.” 

It was a slow night at Wilma’s. There was just Hank and me and one booth near the back that had two people – A blonde whose face could start any clock, and a guy who looked like his face could stop your clock – permanently.

Just past the juke box was one of the few payphones left in the city. On a hunch, I started leafing through the pages of the phone book that was bolted to the phone. It was then that I recalled that Hank had taught me everything I know – well, not everything. I learned how to finger paint years before I ever met him, but you get the idea.

There it was – on page 437, halfway down the page –

“Ontario, Lech – 1313 Blueview Terrace 552-3918”

After I finished washing my hands like the sign on the Guys Room door insisted I went back to my spot next to Hank.

“Hank, have you checked the phone book for this Ontario guy?”

“Huh?”

“The phone book – did you look there?”

Without an intelligible word, Hank got up and slowly walked back toward the payphone. When he headed back my way he muttered, “Thanks, Kid,” and kept on walking. He vanished into the fog like a black cat in a coal mine.

to be continued 1

W5

Fiction Saturday Encore – “God Bless Joe Sheridan”

Today I thought I would post a piece from my short fiction file.

God Bless Joe Sheridan” is the story of the airplane flight from Hell.

 

God Bless Joe SheridanBox tied with cord

 

I’VE NEVER BEEN IN JAIL, but, by God, I’ve done hard time. So have you, if you’ve ever flown coast to coast, shoehorned into a seat next to someone who could be the lovechild of Carrot Top and Casey Stengel.

You know the type. They talk incessantly, but make sense very rarely.

It was on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. I thought it was going to be a pleasure trip: see the Smithsonian, admire the classical architecture, shake my fist at Capitol Hill – all the usual stuff. Then I saw “him” trundling down the aisle of the Boeing 7-something-or-other jetliner.

“Uh oh” I said to myself. Why do bad things happen to, basically, nice guys?

I was in the window seat and I knew in my heart that, with this whole airplane to pick from, he was going to end up next to me.

The tip-off was the fact that his carry-on luggage was a cardboard box tied up with kite string.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “Summer Magic”

Fiction Saturday Encore – “When Sylvie Sang” from February 2015

Fiction Saturday Encore – from February 2015

When Sylvie Sang

Microphone LargeThis story was created as a performance piece. I presented it a number of times over the years.

It is longer than my usual posts.  

I hope you enjoy it.

 

WHEN SYLVIE SANG the men at the bar would stop and turn on their stools to listen.  The bartender would dry his hands, move to the end of the bar and light up a cigarette.  The waitresses would huddle by the wall and hug their trays.  And the drunken man who cried softly to himself in the corner by the door would lift his eyes and rub his hands together underneath an invisible spigot.

When Sylvie sang, the room was locked in glass and still – as still as a new widow hearing that first long silence. 

In the spotlight the smoke was frozen.

“When Sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy.”

When Sylvie sang she never really heard the music or thought about the words.  She was far away in a small town by a riverbank, holding onto someone she loved.  She only heard his voice, felt his heat, and the nightclub disappeared.

When Sylvie sang she wasn’t there and the people she sang for knew that because she took them with her.

“What would they say if we up and ran away from the roaring crowd?”

But the song always has to end and when the music stopped the men at the bar would turn again and start to laugh and talk.  The waitresses would rush to cover their thirsty stations and the drunken man would close his eyes again and descend inside himself.  Sylvie would go out into the alley and smoke until the next set called her back.

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Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

REAL LIFE CAN BE QUITE PREDICTABLE. It’s Fiction that always throws me a curve sending me off in a direction I never anticipated.

Most people are creatures of habit, like cats, they like to follow predictable patterns. Knowing what to expect gives people comfort and lowers anxiety. That doesn’t work in fiction. There we have to continually throw banana peels in our characters way. The expected has to fail to appear and one roadblock after another has to necessitate countless detours and perils.

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Fiction Saturday- from Guest Blogger -The Bluebird of Bitterness

Fiction Saturday  – Guest Posting from the blog “Bluebird of Bitterness.”

 

https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/

Summertime classic: Letter from summer camp

Dear Mom and Dad,

We’re having a great time here at Lake Typhoid! Scoutmaster Webb is making us all write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and got worried. We are okay. Only 1 of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away. Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountain looking for Chad when it happened. Please call Chad’s parents and tell them he’s okay. He can’t write to them because of the cast.

We never would have found him in the dark if it hadn’t been for all the lightning. Scoutmaster Webb got mad at Chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Chad said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn’t hear him. Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas can will blow up? The wet wood still didn’t burn, but one of our tents did. Also some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.

We’ll be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster Webb gets the car fixed. It wasn’t his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked okay when we left. Scoutmaster Webb said with a car that old you have to expect things to break down. That’s probably why he can’t get insurance on it. We think it’s a neat car. He doesn’t care if we get it dirty, and if it’s hot, he lets us ride on the tailgate. Don’t worry, he’s a good driver. He’s even teaching Terry how to drive. But he only lets him drive on the mountain roads where there isn’t any traffic. All we ever see up there are logging trucks.

This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming in the lake. I didn’t go because I can’t swim, and Chad was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so Scoutmaster Webb let us take the canoe across the lake. It was great. Scoutmaster Webb isn’t crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn’t even get mad that we didn’t wear life jackets.

Guess what? We all passed our first aid merit badges! When Dave jumped in the lake and cut his arm on the rocks, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Wade and I threw up, but Scoutmaster Webb said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken. He said they got sick that way with food they ate in prison.

I have to go now. We’re going into town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don’t worry about anything. We are fine.

Love,

Billy

P.S. How long has it been since I had a tetanus shot?

Shouts And Murmurs 

Fiction Saturday

One of the best playing around with the Language pieces I have ever read.

I’m

How I Met My Wife

by Jack Winter

The New Yorker, July 25, 1994 P. 82

SHOUTS AND MURMURS: a column about a man who describes meeting his wife at a party. In his description, he drops many prefixes.

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito.

Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do. Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion. So I decided not to rush it.

But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads or tails of. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings. Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

 

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 – “Peaches” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Two

 

The address was in a part of town where I didn’t go very often. I’m just not comfortable going places where there are steel security gates and armed guards. I’m never quite certain if they are there to keep people out or in.

When I pulled my car up to their Checkpoint Charlie a uniformed guard carrying a clipboard stepped out of a little stucco shelter. She was a real beauty. She looked like her last job had been as a guard in a women’s prison. She jotted down my plate number and mimed for me to roll down my window. I bet myself a beer that she had an accent.

“Guten Abend, Sir.” I won myself a beer.

When I told her who I was there to see and showed her my I.D. she gave me a half-hearted salute and waved me through. I bet myself another beer that I could have gotten a full salute, complete with a heel click, if I’d been driving a Mercedes.

If there was ever a job that I’d never hire myself out for, no matter how hungry I got, it would be to act as somebody’s butler. I don’t do well taking orders from anyone. That’s part of why I’m no longer a cop or married. So when a guy in a monkey suit answered the front door I just knew that it wasn’t his door. And he knew that I knew it. Neither of us looked all that comfortable.

I told him I was there to see his lady boss. I don’t think he liked the way I said that, but he was a good little flunky and let me in. The redhead with all the money and the legs was in the room the butler called “The Library.” There were a lot of books in there, but I wasn’t there to read. Looking at me, Sunny Boggs told her flunky to fetch us a couple of drinks. Hers came in a crystal glass. Mine came in a mug. By the way she spoke to him, “Judah,” she called him; I could tell she probably liked her dogs better.

She took a polite sip of her whatever it was and asked me for an update on my search for “Peaches.” I still had foam on my lip.

“Have you found him yet? “ She asked me that less than eight hours after walking into my office. ‘Impatient little checkbook,’ I thought.

“Why haven’t you found him? You’ve had all day. Who took him? Where is my ‘Peaches?’?”

Four questions in less than five seconds. The more time I was spending with her the more I was imagining impolite things. I answered her questions in reverse order. Three “I don’t knows,” and one plain “No,” and then I took a long, slow pull on my beer. She didn’t seem to like my answers.

“That’s not acceptable. People said you were a good detective. I’m beginning to harbor some doubts about that.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud at her attitude. While she steamed I turned to Judah, the butler, and asked him for another beer. He grinned and gave me a thumbs up as he started for the door.

“I’m sorry if I was short with you. Please forgive me,” she said with half a cup of artificial sweetener all over it and then snapped at Judah to bring back some cookies along with my beer. She turned it off and on like a hot water tap.

I put down my mug and then gave her a real update for her four hundred dollars. I told her what information I had bought from my new friend at the Dog Pound. She didn’t like it when I advised her that if she hadn’t gotten a ransom note by now chances are she never would – that whoever snatched her dog wanted the dog and not her money. Facts are facts. Reality is reality – and they are both subject to change.

The way she reacted you would have thought I’d said that her “Peaches” had been taken to Tijuana, painted with zebra stripes and was now part of a nasty nightclub act. I didn’t really know. It could be, I suppose.

“I want you to keep looking. I don’t care what it costs. I want my ‘Peaches’ home with me. I need him.”

The drive back to my side of town was uncomfortable. The $500 in cash that she handed me made my wallet feel like I had a box turtle in my pants pocket.

I went back to my office. The IRS audit was tomorrow and I had to get my paperwork together. “Peaches” could wait. He could have been out there having the time of his life; running until he dropped, chasing Chihuahuas, and making puppies. I figured a couple of days being a Dog and not just an ornament wouldn’t hurt him. And if I wasn’t ready for my audit I might be out there hanging with “Peaches.”

***

“Thank you for coming in today so we can go over some of your previous tax returns.” Like I had a choice.  I nodded, but kept my mouth shut.

“I hope that you’ve brought in the records that we requested.” I nodded again.

“I see that you have two shopping bags with you. What’s in them?

I explained that the bags were my records. He nodded. I gave him the five cent tour. Each bag held six months worth of last year’s paperwork. The farther back in the year you want to go, the deeper into the bag you go. Simple, right?

The IRS guy didn’t nod that time.

“What about your records for the rest of the seven years we asked you to bring? I nodded. I invited him down to my car to help me carry up the rest of the shopping bags.

The audit went better than I had expected. Twenty minutes and I was out of there.

***

I suppose I could have taken a short vacation to Vegas and report back that I wasn’t any closer to finding her evil looking mutt, but I am plagued with some inconvenient scruples. That dog might be anywhere, Tijuana or the Vatican, but unless he could learn to dial a telephone and call me, I doubted that I’d ever locate him.

I was able to pay a few more bills and square my tab with two of my favorite pubs. I had realistic priorities.

The morning after my meet and eat with Sunny Boggs I got a call, a message really, from the creep at the Dog Pound. He had something to show me, he said. That could be good or it could be taking me down the wrong street altogether.

As it turned out it was a little bit of both.

I drove back by the Pound. The lovely Regis was on duty behind the reception desk.

“I been askin’ around about your missing Dobey, but subtle like and I met a guy who knew a guy.”

I offered him a couple of smokes – one for now, one for later, and he began to fill in the blanks.

“I told a few people about you looking for a snatched Dobey and they pointed me to “Forty Ounce.” Why, I don’t know. I don’t know him. He don’t know me. The guy told me to ‘Let the nosy detective know.’ That’s you, right? Then he gives me a fifty dollar bill. He called it a ‘finder’s fee.’ Go figure, I ain’t found nothing other than him.”

Regis, the retired dognapper, working at the pound, had given me a bit of a name to follow up on. “Forty Ounce” was all the man was known by and he hung out at a joint on the edge of downtown – an area filled with transient hotels, hard drinking bars, and very few straight answers. And he, it seemed, had “Peaches.”

“Forty Ounce” was not an easy person to locate. He liked to move from barstool to barstool and when I did finally sit down next to him I realized that I’d seen him three times already. I was looking for him, but he had been watching me.

“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.”

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part One

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part One

A Short Story 

PEACHES

 

This morning I was swearing to myself that I would never tell anyone about this. It all made me sort of ashamed, professionally, but a man’s gotta eat and the Power Company doesn’t care about my pride – professional or otherwise.

So, I’ll tell you, but keep what I say close to your vest. I don’t want the competition or the Law to hear about this. OK?

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… THE CONCLUSION

Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… THE CONCLUSION

 

Chapter Thirty-Nine

 

The sunset over Lake Pend’Oreille was a soft orange color, going to red. It promised calm waters and good sailing come morning. A few lights were beginning to switch on in the houses near the waterline. The smells of wood smoke and family suppers being cooked mixed and drifted over the lakeshore.

There were few tourists left with the holiday season approaching. Only those people who were planning to winter over remained. For them, this part of Idaho was home. It was a place where your thoughts, your opinions and your past were your own business and nobody else’s.

On a quiet, tree-lined street, a few blocks up from the small business district, a young boy on a bicycle pedaled along the leaf-strewn sidewalk. He passed the white frame house with the steeply pitched roof and lobbed a rolled-up newspaper onto the front porch.

The screen door opened and a woman wearing khakis and a wool shirt stepped out. The air was cool, yet inviting. The first hard frost was still a week or two away in this part of the state. She sat down on the top step and unfolded the Sandpoint Mountain Tribune.

In the remaining light of the autumn day, she took her time reading the front page and then turned to the national news section. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at the photograph in the center of the page. She had seen that picture before. Tears began to flow down her cheeks as she read the accompanying story.

“U.S. Calls Off Womanhunt”

 

“Department of Justice and DEA officials announced today that they were calling off their nationwide search for Beverly Deltino, the fugitive wife of New York crime figure, Dominic Deltino. FBI Regional Director Morris Bland said that Mrs. Deltino, who was wanted in connection with the death of an undercover DEA operative, was herself, deceased. ‘We are satisfied that she was killed while attempting to flee the country, in a shootout at the U.S. – Mexican border, near Tijuana. We are no longer looking for Mrs. Deltino and we consider her case closed.’

“It was also announced that Mrs. Deltino’s husband, a suspect in a number of underworld enterprises himself, was also deceased, apparently, by his own hand.”

The woman stood up and crossed the porch toward the door. She opened it and walked into the rented house, wiping a tear from her eye. She cleared her throat before calling out.

“Davis, let’s eat out tonight.”

 

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… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

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

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

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

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

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 37 Continued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

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

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

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

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

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

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

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

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

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Six

 

warehouses“It’s at number 162, Tomás. Drive past it and let us out down the block,” said Laura, scanning the fronts of the small warehouses and workshops.

The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.

“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”

The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.

“What the hell is that?” she asked.

Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.

“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”

“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”

Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.

“Bless you twice, Tomás.”

Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.

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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 – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 34

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Four

 

pull-molinas-bldgIn the darkroom at Ernesto Molina’s photography studio a new person was being born. Years of experience in creating false documents for many of the Earth’s most dangerous people had made Molina a very wealthy man. His home was an opulent, yet tastefully decorated, house by the ocean, near Rosarita Beach. This cheap-looking studio was a place to do his work undisturbed. He owned the building.

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