he was almost running when he heard the cantina door slam closed. the sound of that act more or less calmed him down. an old white guy running around the streets of a predominately illegal mexican barrio just might attract the wrong attention. especially if johnny law got involved considering the circumstances of the murder he supposedly committed over night. jesus, things just kept getting better and better.
slowing his pace to a stroll he casually looked behind him and down the street. no one was out and about in any direction. at least no one he could see. he made up his mind to continue east to avoid the homeless guy from earlier. when he got to eastern ave. he made a left and began walking up the hill.
stress, the heat, and lack of any breeze or wind began to take it’s toll. he was sweating heavily when he heard the sound of a car coming up from behind. he resisted the urge to turn around and check to see if it was the cops. no sense looking any more suspicious than he already did. the sound of the car got closer and seemed to be slowing. it took all of his concentration not to bolt like a race horse.
out of the corner of his eye he caught the front quarter panel of the car. black. crap. the cops. the car was indeed slowing. it stopped and it was then he realized it was a limo. the back passenger side window slid down.
the voice was familiar and as be bent down to look inside at the back seat he knew before he saw her. the nurse/angel/government goon.
‘i suppose i don’t have a choice. right?’
‘let’s see…not really. you get in and enjoy the cold air and have a chat or i use my cell phone to call 911.’
‘nice to know somethings never change.’
‘get in, soldier.’
the lock clicked. he sighed and opened the door then slid in beside the lady.
‘alright. i’m in. what’s the deal?’
she didn’t say anything as she hit the button to open the partition separating the driver from the passengers.
‘yes, mam?’ it was the blonde german woman from his driveway yesterday. yesterday? yesterday seemed so very long ago. from his backseat angle she looked remarkably like heidi klum.
‘take us to the house in manhattan beach.’
the partition was already sliding closed. a muffled, ‘yes, mam.’, was heard.
‘ah, was or is, that who i think…’
his seat mate laughed and said. ‘things and people aren’t always as glamorous as they seem. most things aren’t. some folks like to get out of the box whenever they can.’
‘not exactly. but the blonde driving us down to the beach isn’t why i’m here, or you, for that matter.’
‘fine. get to the point.’
‘OK. look, soldier, when we come calling. you do as we say. you know that, right?’
‘i guess. i mean…i don’t know…’
‘yes, well, you do. if you don’t things get complicated. understand?’
‘oh. cops and murder suspect stuff?’
‘bingo. you catch on quick.’
he sighed and looked out the tinted window. they were almost to the 110 freeway. they’d be taking it south soon. at least it was cold inside the limo and unless nurse/angel called the cops he was somewhat safe. at least for now.
‘so, is it finally time for my big job? whatever that is?’
‘i see. that makes a bit of sense then. um, your reluctance to cooperate the other morning.’
‘look, you’ve bounced me around a bit in the last what…?’
‘it hasn’t been long. just a few days really.’
‘you mean, ah, everything…a few days?’
‘give or take.’
‘what about emma?’
she looked at him oddly then said, ’emma?’.
‘yes, my wife. is…is she a part of this?’
it was her turn to sigh. ‘soldier, you remember, of course, emma has been dead for years. cancer i think.’
‘come on. yeah, i know that but she…she was there. at home. i saw her. felt her. she fried me some chicken. we ate. we laughed and listened to an old gene autry CD several times. then we went to bed. you can’t tell me that wasn’t real. it was like, well, like it was years ago. jesus.’
‘jesus had nothing to do with it. even though there would seem to be ah, well, similarities.’
he didn’t know what to say or think. she seemed like she was telling the truth. she also seemed totally confused by what he’d just told her.
‘i don’t know what’s going on. i only know what i saw and felt.’
‘as for emma, i’m sorry, but i don’t know what’s going on there. we had nothing to do with what happened. it may have something to do with why we wanted to see you. some fairly powerful things are at work here. you know that. or at least did. we need to run a few simple tests. blood work mostly. just to be sure things are OK.’
he felt as if he was sinking into the lush leather seat. the words numb and crushed were also on his mind.
‘you don’t look well. are you OK?’
‘what do you think? emma. er, ah, the murder. did i do it?’
‘no. you cooperate and it will go away as quickly as it appeared. we needed to be sure you knew where you stood with…things. you work for us now, soldier. we are your life.’
‘sweet. hunky dory.’
it was all he could think of to say. nothing more. he’d do as she said and see what happened. for now. though the thing about emma was getting weird. very weird. even considering everything else.
with traffic it was mid afternoon by the time they made it into manhattan beach. the limo pulled up in back of a very nice two story beachfront home. the limo door latches clicked and the nurse/angel motioned for him to get out. it was cooler by the ocean with a slight off shore breeze. motioning again she had him moving through a wrought iron gate and into a small patio at the back of the home. he was thinking the view on the other side of the house must spectacular, especially at sunset. her voice brought him out of his revery.
‘you can get comfortable either inside or go out front and watch the ocean. i’ll call for you when i’m ready to draw some blood.’
‘sure, count dracula.’
‘funny man. the old VA joke. keith is around here somewhere.’
‘yes. he’s been here for a month or so rehearsing and relaxing. his wife and i are old friends.’
the man gave her a very strange look. the he remembered an earlier conversation they’d had about keith. all he could think of to say was something inane.
‘ah, no. i don’t know where he is. maybe you can ask keith if he’s around. it’s still early for him. he might be asleep.’
the view was outstanding. nothing like an ocean vista along with the sound and smell of the ocean. he hoped he’d be around for sunset. even though there were no clouds in the sky to ramp it up. he was lost at sea when he heard her call him into the house. the blood work equipment was set up on the dining room table. he let her have her way with him. when she was finished she told him if the tests were OK he’d be home soon. she also told him regardless the murder rap was going away.
he decided to stay inside and watch the ocean. around 4pm he turned on the TV to watch the news. the TV was tuned to the local ABC station. he wasn’t paying much attention to the news more so to the ocean. then he heard the announcer say something about the l.a.p.d. canceling a search for a murder suspect. they had somehow or another confused a few pieces of surveillance film.
the reporter was marc brown. he didn’t know him from the man in the moon but respected his work from his time living in los angeles. the remote was close by and he grabbed it quickly changing the channel to the local NBC affiliate. they were coming out of a dog food ad. when the announcer came on he had the same story. it was, chuck henry, another old time l.a. news hand. it must be true. she’d kept her word. the murder suspect rap had gone away just like that. he turned off the TV.
turning his attention back to the ocean he moved outside. he sat in a lounge chair and drifted off to sleep. a voice woke him.
from behind him it was a smiling keith richards holding a guitar case in one hand and waving to him with the other.
‘i speck i’ll be working with you again sometime. till then be well, guv.’
before he could say anything keith had turned and was gone.
the nurse/agent appeared.
‘i see you saw keith. did he say anything about mick?’
‘no. he wasn’t very talkative.’
‘oh, well. the preliminary results look to be ok. for now, all things are a go.’
‘OK. whatever that means. thanks for keeping your word about the murder. when can i leave?’
‘you’re welcome. soon. very soon. just try and relax. remember when we call you listen. no going off the reservation as the saying goes. capisce?’
he rubbed his hands over his face. he needed a shower and a drink. in front of him the sun was in free fall and had just hit the far edge of the horizon. you could almost hear the splash as the sky turned a vivid orange red. BBQ smells filled the salty beach air. sea gulls noisily rushed to their nightly roosts. soon it would be dark.