Chapter 12, by Elizabeth Shipp
We all put our heads together and decided we couldn’t do much in San Antone. Besides, Mike had suddenly remembered his Alamo rental car was way overdue, and I needed different clothes. Back to Baghdad by the Bay it was, chicken and all. Ever tried to get a naked chicken onto an overbooked flight? Don’t.
Our plane finally came swooping down out of the sky, reaching for a landing on the runway jutting out into the water, as if the plane were a hungry osprey fighting to grab an escaping fish. I think the tension had built up in all of us; even the chicken was quiet as we waited for the rest of the passengers to leave the plane. They’d been giving all of us funny looks during the flight...everybody but me in white suits, and there I was in black. I looked like either the chaperone or the prisoner.
Jun decided to go back to the place in the Tenderloin and see if Uke had left anything there, and took Mike with him to try and find a place for Mike to camp. The rest of them went their own ways into the city, although I don’t know where the chicken went. I made my lonely way back to my office. Not as lonely as it is at home.
Outside my office, I paused to light up another Lucky. That and the San Francisco air felt so good going down. I tried to remember if there had been any of that cheap booze left in my desk drawer, or if I’d finished it. As I put my lighter away, I looked around me at the hallway. More dust than the Dust Bowl, and cracked chairs sitting mournfully in the hall where they’d been put twenty years ago. A rustle from inside my office made me jump. Then it made me mad. My office! Who did these people think they were, whoever they were? I was so mad I just marched right in. Don’t do that, if you’re ever in my shoes. Just don’t do it.
“OK, whoever you are, you can get out in the hall, close the door, knock nicely, and wait for me to invite you in. Got it?” I planted myself and my suitcase in the middle of the floor and glared at them. Two mopes, one thin but built like a bodybuilder, and one much more solid.
Skinny answered for them both. “Miss Rosen, we’re just here to talk to you for a little bit. You don’t mind that, do you? By the way, could you put out the cancer stick?”
“Yes, I do. No I can’t. Now, shall I ask you nicely again to go into the hall and try this again, or do I need to call the police?”
“Calling the police won’t do much good, Miss Rosen. They’re already here,” Solid spoke up.
“You guys are the police? Try it again, Sam.” I was nervous now, but I wasn’t going to let it show. Somehow the police bring out the worst in me; that I would let show.
“Yes, we are. Here’s ID.” Skinny nudged Solid, and they reached into their breast pockets and flipped their wallets at the same time like they’d been practicing for years. The IDs looked OK...
“All right, so what do you want?”
“We’d just like to talk to you about what you’ve been working on, and what you did while you were in the fine town of San Antonio. Did you enjoy it there?”
“It wasn’t bad.” How the hell did they know that?
“Well that’s good. How about we go downtown and talk some more?”
“I don’t know, guys. I was supposed to eat lunch with Herb Caen’s ghost.”
“Doesn’t look like he’s here. Shall we?” Solid motioned for me to go out, and the two of them followed me down the hall to the elevator. Silent ride...like a tomb.
At the curb, Solid got into the passenger seat of a gray Taurus. As Skinny made a great show of opening the rear door for me, I noticed the little “E” sticker pasted discreetly on the back bumper. My alarm bells started going off, and I took a stop back from the car.
“You’re not cops, are you?” Don’t ever try to talk with a mouth that feels like it is full of Death Valley sand.
“Oh, the sticker.” Solid leaned his head out of the car and chuckled. “I’ve gotten sick of the department clunkers, so I rented this. That’s all.”
Skinny motioned me into the car, and I settled into the back seat with misgivings as I heard the door thunk shut beside me. They got even worse when I realized the door handles had been removed from the back doors. Just an open space was left in the panel. What was going on? and had I left my will with my lawyer like I had meant to?
I felt a little better, after a silent ride through mid-afternoon traffic, when we got to the main cop shop and both Solid and Skinny were recognized by other cops. Even so, I felt very uncomfortable in the interrogation room they led me into...