Nightime in San Tadeo
Martin was frozen in shock for a long second or two, seeming to disbelieve what he was seeing. It didn’t last, and he spoke.
“You’re armed? And you’re pulling a pistol on your only living relative? It seems I’ve really misjudged you. Your father was a criminal, but at least he wasn’t a violent one.”
“You keep saying he was a criminal. What did he do?” I asked.
“Like you don’t know. He stole, of course. It was a lot of money, and when his company finally realized it and he was charged, he took the coward’s way out. Don’t tell me you didn’t know that.”
I was starting to get the picture. Dean had embezzled, been caught and then committed suicide.
“No, I didn’t. Now, like I said, put the bag on the table and back away. I’ll take what’s mine and then I’ll leave, and you’ll never see me again, Martin.”
I was a little worried that Martin would try to resist, but I was pleasantly surprised when he cooperated fully. He set the bag on the table and stepped backward three paces.
Keeping the gun trained on him, I used my left hand to repack the bag and zipped it up. The wad of cash I shoved in my front jeans pocket with the rest. It made an uncomfortably large lump.
I dropped the keys Martin had made for me on the table and backed away toward the door to the outside.
“Stay inside for five minutes after I leave, Martin. If I see you come out that door before I am gone, I will not be happy.”
Martin sneered, and a hiss escaped through his front teeth, but he nodded.
I left him there standing stock still in his kitchen as he watched me with eyes filled with hate. The screen door clacked shut after me and I hurried to the backyard, unlocking the bicycle.
I got on the bike and rode for two blocks before stopping at one of the ubiquitous phone booths. My mind had been racing since I’d left Martin’s, turning over and over the implications of what I’d just done.
Martin was a law-abiding man, and he’d most likely call the police on me. He’d said he wouldn’t, but that was before I pulled a gun on him. If he did, the cops would be looking for Frank, not Mack. That meant I’d be safer in the shadows. But then, the Hip and their network of informers were looking for Mack, so there was no safety there either. I needed help.
After locking the bike up outside, I entered the booth, dropped a quarter and dialed Manny’s number.
The phone rang and rang, and no one answered. Not even voicemail.
“Fuck. Grandma,” I muttered.
I thought about my situation. I needed a place to stay that night. If Manny were going to be really late, I couldn’t count on him. He’d told me he didn’t have a place for me at his house anyway. I needed to find a motel.
In Los Angeles, you’d usually need a credit card to check into a decent place. I knew that wasn’t the case with the lower-end joints though, and that was where I was going to need to go. I didn’t even have a driver’s license, much less a credit card.
I needed a place where they took cash and asked no questions. Those areas weren’t places I’d usually gone to in Los Angeles, but I knew roughly where they were. The question was, how do I get there without unwelcome attention from one side of the mirror the other?
The gamer in me quickly came up with the only solution that made sense. With what resources I had, it was all about timing. On the way there I needed to be invisible to the cops. That meant I needed to be in the shadows. Sure, one of the Hip’s informants might see me, but I’d be moving. Unless they started following me, I’d be fine.
Once I found a promising motel, I would duck into a phone booth and change back into the light. Back in LA the people that lived in those motels were, let’s say, on the lower rungs of society. Here in San Tadeo I’d be willing to bet the majority of them were in the shadows. Criminals of some sort, or at least desperately poor. Exactly the kind of person most likely to finger me to Magnus for a big wad of cash as their reward. I’d need to check into the motel while walking in the light.
With the plan in mind I closed the door, draped the chain around my neck and entered the shadows.
I’d been riding down side streets in the dark for an hour or so. I hadn’t been checking the time, not really that concerned. No one bothered me, I just had to make sure I didn’t get run over.
I was desperately hungry. I’d eaten quite a bit at the movies, but then I’d vomited it all up. I was so hungry it felt like I couldn’t go on unless I had something to eat. I’d been planning on getting something to eat when I’d made it closer to the motels, but there was just no way. My destination was still too far away. San Tadeo just wasn’t made to be traversed on a bicycle. It was just too big, too spread out.
I’d been paralleling a major street, and once resolved to get something to eat I pulled onto it, riding on the wide, unused sidewalk.
The street was hopping, full of traffic at this time of night. On my right a restaurant set far back from the road caught my eye. An enormous, red hot dog mounted on top of a small building, dwarfed in its shadow. The sign said it was Doug’s Dogs, and the parking lot was full. People were sitting on and in their cars, contentedly munching away.
The smell was good, and my stomach clenched, nearly in pain from hunger. I stopped and entered the parking lot, reflexively identifying almost everyone I set eyes on. The majority of people were in the light, and I relaxed as I saw that. The few in the shadows I saw were paying me no attention.
This was one of those restaurants where there was no ‘inside’. The building was the kitchen, and the order windows. There were a few concrete tables on the outside, and that was it. You were meant to eat there or take away and those were your only two choices. I got to the front and ordered like a starving man, a large drink, three hot dogs and French fries. I paid and a few minutes later my meal was ready.
Turnover was fast, so I got lucky and found a spot to sit at a table covered in trash. I pushed the remains of previous customers’ meals out of the way and sat to eat, the bike leaning up against the table beside me.
I watched the crowd as I ravenously devoured the first two dogs, punctuating the food with a sip of root beer, here and there. The food was delicious, but it spent so little time on my taste buds that I didn’t really appreciate it until I got to dog number three. Having placated the ravenous hunger, I slowed down and savored that one, continuing to people watch.
It didn’t take long to pick out the guy at the edge of the crowd selling. He was a tall, skinny black guy wearing baggy jeans and the same basketball team jersey Manny liked to wear. I’d never been a sports guy, so I couldn’t tell you the name of the team. I couldn’t see his hair because he’d covered it up with a blue bandanna.
He wasn’t showing an affiliation, but that blue bandana probably meant he was with the Gats. And what did that name mean? Did he misspell Source?
While I hadn’t seen any gang tags around, that didn’t mean they weren’t there. The Sorce was busy enough that he didn’t even look in my direction, only having eyes for his customers. While I watched he sold at least fifteen bags. Some of the bags he sold were larger than a gram. This was obviously a great spot. I wondered what you had to do to lock down a spot like this one.
My legs and ass were aching from the large amount of time I spent on the bicycle that day, and I gratefully relaxed for a moment while I finished my meal. The stress of the day had been more than I’d ever experienced before in my life. I had trouble believing that me shooting Zeke wasn’t just some bad dream I’d had. I’d shot someone, and he might even die. Even if that scumbag had been trying to get me first, it felt bad.
Then I’d pulled my gun on Martin. Sure, he was kind of a prick, but he didn’t deserve that. Well, maybe he did. He was trying to rob me, after all.
I took the last bite of the hotdog and washed it down with root beer. I was thinking about getting up when something happened on the street in front of Doug’s.
A beautiful white sports car began to pull into the lot and stopped short when a lanky black guy wearing baggy pants and a long, blue shirt stepped in front of the car. I recognized the car, actually. It was one of the few that I could without the system’s help, but I IDed it anyway.
|2020 Audi R8||Ibis White||6YVU971|
It was gorgeous, and I remembered them costing a fortune.
The driver of the R8 leaned out of his window, yelling something angry at the man blocking his path. He was a middle-aged white guy, wearing a neat button-down shirt and tie, and his face was bright red as he yelled and gestured at the guy standing in his way.
The dude blocking the car didn’t take that well. In a flash of movement, he’d pulled a gun and was at the driver’s side of the Audi. The piece was pointed directly at the driver’s face.
Everyone around me was watching now, and it still felt strange to be seeing an event like this and no one was holding up their camera phone. How would these poor people prove it happened to their friends if they couldn’t post the video on Instagram or Facebook?
I IDed the guy with the gun and was unsurprised at what I saw.
His colors said he was another Gat. Wycked waved his piece and ordered the driver out of the car. I glanced over and saw The Sorce, the other Gat, watching with a smirk.
The driver looked like he would do literally anything the gunman asked, and quickly piled out of the vehicle, leaving it running with the keys in the ignition.
Wycked grabbed the driver by the neck and shoved him away. The driver stumbled and painfully ate the sidewalk.
Then Wycked was in the R8, the door closed behind him. He revved the engine mercilessly, before reversing out into the street and peeling off in a cloud of smoke, grinding the gears once during a shift. The magnificent noise of the R8 engine faded into the distance as Wycked literally drove it like he’d stolen it.
The hapless driver stood up, wiping dirt from the torn knees of his suit pants and looked sadly after his white R8 as it disappeared down the street, fading into the distance.
With the entertainment over, everyone returned to their meals and conversations like nothing unusual had happened.
I needed to go. The cops would arrive soon, I assumed. The guy had just been carjacked, after all.
I really wondered what Wycked was going to do with the R8? It wasn’t like he could just keep it, was it? Was stealing a car like that a big pay day, or was he just planning to drive it for a while? I really needed to talk to the LSS guys about this some more.
With one last sip of root beer I stood up, got on the bike and pedaled away into the darkness.