joegoda: (chethead)
[personal profile] joegoda
Lessee... We left our hero, Bernie the Cabbie, with a shot up fare who is probably dead, a shot up cab, which isn't quite dead, and some questions. Who was it that shot at him? Who was his mysterious fare, Mister Allen, who is has the Dispatcher Jess nervous and why was Mister Allen going to meet a Mister Dell at 4th and Main. Lots of questions, for sure. But then, the story has just begun.
I didn't realize it, but I wasn't breathing. It wasn't until I started breathing again that I noticed that I wasn't breathing. Ever done that? Get surprised by finding yourself breathing in real sharp like and figure out that you hadn't been breathing? That was me.

There are three stop lights between me and the corner of Sheridan and Admiral. Three busy stop lights because this stretch of road, pulling from I-44, is always crowded. Maybe at three AM there's no traffic. I looked behind me and saw little sister and her boyfriend aiming their guns at me. I don't see Granny MaGoo at all. I don't see the dark green sedan she was driving either. Don't know how she got out of there, because traffic wasn't moving.

I wasn't going to stick around to ask questions. I needed out of there, I needed to figure out my next move. So I jumped the curb and rode the sidewalk. Interesting thing... the road may be crowded, but there is almost no foot traffic in that area. I suspect it has something to do with the crappy neighborhood. Most of the folks who are out wandering this area are either junkies or homeless.

I drove the three blocks to the corner of Admiral. I only had to honk once when some homeless guy decided to push his way onto the sidewalk. He saw me coming, got the big deer eyes, and back up dramatically, holding his hands over his heart like Fred Sanford used to do in in that old sitcom I hated. After I blundered by him, he tossed something at me, I don't know what. It clanged against the roof of the cab and fell away.

I turned at the corner, still on the sidewalk and scared the heck out of an old black woman with three little kids. I yelled at my closed window "Sorry!" but doubt she heard anything. I bounced off the sidewalk and honked my way onto the street, looking for the first side street that would make me invisible. Fortunately in this side of town, there's lots of 'em.

There used to be a cafeteria on the corner, years ago. It was a place where the family could go after church on Sunday and just be a family without having to be at home. It was called Borden's cafeteria and it was a landmark in Tulsa. Everybody I knew loved the place and the old folks, like me, still talk about it as if it was a shrine of some sort.
It's gone now.

There's a shiny new CVS and a big, ugly empty lot where it used to be. I used to drive to the second story parking and just sit there, looking out over the city, gathering my thoughts. I wished to heck I had it now.

Instead, I pulled into the parking lot behind the Budget Inn, a low price dive where hookers and their johns could have adjoining rooms with junkies. A low level UN of sorts, if you will. Nobody would think twice about a shot up taxi sitting in the lot, and I would have a bit of quiet while I pulled my wits about me.

Close by, I could hear the sirens of the cop cars and the ambulances and the obligatory fire truck, each singing their own song. I was hoping I could stay in one spot long enough that the police didn't decide to snoop around. I was pretty sure some law abiding person would say something about a Gold and Blue being shot to hell, jumping a curb and speeding off that-away, so I figured I didn't have much time.

Now, I may have sounded calm and thinking and all that sort of hero stuff, but don't let that fool you. I was an over-fifty guy who felt like he couldn't get enough breath and his heart was trying to stop. I was having chest pains that just wouldn't quit. I'd put off going to the doctor because I couldn't afford it. Besides, when your number comes up, it comes up, and no amount of doctoring is going to fix that. I have 4 family members that will attest to that fact, if they were still alive to say anything.

So I sat, in a cold puddle of sweat, feeling my heart beat ten to the bar, and just willing myself not to die. I took some cool breaths, letting it in through the nose and out through the mouth, just like my mamma taught me to when I'd get too excited as a kid. That helped. I could feel my heart pound less. My dad used to brag about being able to regulate his heart rate, to slow it down to almost nothing, but he never shared the story of how he did it. He may have been lying, I don't know. I wish I had asked.

Slowly, like long slow minutes, my body got back to something like normal. The sirens had wound down, which meant that they had gotten to where they were going to go and the cops were probably in the process of taking statements and that meant I probably needed to go somewhere else. The question was where. I didn't have a whole lot of me friendly options.

I have one living relative, my brother, who would put me up for a while, but he needs this craptastic situation like another hole in his head. We haven't seen each other for a while but we still keep in touch, a bit. It's what survivors do.

So he was out. I'd get in touch with him later, maybe, once the heat had died down a bit. I needed to ditch the cab pretty quick though.

My brain had started working again, like an engine that had to catch a couple of times before it turned over proper. I figured I'd weave around, casual like, through the neighborhoods until I was on the north side of Utica. There's lots of empty buildings, back yards full of junk cars… this cab would just be another casualty of urban sprawl. I turned the key to move out and headed west through the little white houses and well-trimmed lawns of the good folks that live in this neighborhood.

I'm kidding about the houses. Just like the Budget Inn, most of the houses here were slightly post WWII, and were barely kept upright by a hope and a prayer. The side road that I was on didn't even have houses for the next few blocks. It was a bit of city blight that housed one school and some bleak, sad-looking grassless lots posting the promise of a future to come that may never get here, and may just have found another place to go.

The cab kept moving westerly, but I could tell it wasn't happy. It was chugging like a horse rode too long and wisps of steam were sneaking out from under the hood. A bullet may have found its way to a part of the engine or maybe the radiator. I don't know. I never could work on these things, once the world took a normal engine and turned it sideways. There was a grinding from the motor that just didn't sound good. Or maybe I was dragging something underneath. That was a good possibility, considering that I had jumped curbs and didn't give much thought to it, other than not wanting to kill anybody, including myself.

It was slow going, and a couple of times I found myself doing the wherethehell am I loop. Tulsa, like a lot of cities, have streets that just stop for no reason, or suddenly change their name, or just twist and turn like a snake with epilepsy until what was once west is now south, and the sun is setting in the east. Just because I drive a cab does not mean that I have an infallible sense of direction or carry a map of the friggin world in my head. I get lost, sometimes, just like everybody else.

Regardless, I made it to 2nd and Utica, and did it proudly, with the least amount of stares, smoke, noise, and attention that I could manage. There were no shiny flashing lights in the rear view and all I had to do was move north, just a few miles. Then I could ditch this good old work horse and figure out my next move.

I sat at a stop sign for what was probably too long, thinking. I mean, I could go all the way to 4th and Main, find this Mister Dell, and then be rid of all this. The cab, beat up as it was, would attract a lot of attention, until I ditched it. A long, angry bleep of a horn woke me up and I turned right, heading north. I couldn't get my mind off Mister Dell.

Hell with it. If I get stopped, then the cops will have a field day and I'll still get rid of this albatross. Then it hit me. I should just go to the cops anyway. I have nothing against them, and they've got nothing against me.

Yet.

I mean, I did just jump some curbs, put some lives in danger. And there were gunshots. Oh yeah, and a bleeding dead guy. Maybe dead. And what the hell did he toss in my back seat? Once I got tothe other side of the 244 overpass, I saw a little park. I limped the taxi into the access, and pulled into the parking lot.

Not much to it, for a park. A tennis court and a little shelter place that has one of those old cookboxes so a family could roast weenies. I get out of the cab, shaking like a newborn and start toward that little shelter, to get out of the sun. Tulsa can get damned hot in the bright, pale sunlight.

I get about half way there and think... "Water. I need water. Or coffee. Or whiskey. No... water. Dammit, I left my coffee mug in the cab."

I turn around and go back and get my mug. There's still some coffee, cold of course, and I down it. I see a little water fountain in the park near the shelter so I head there. Of course, it doesn't work. Lucky me, though, there's one of those hand spigots nearby, something that the city yard folk use to water the grass or wash their hands. I don't know. It's water.

And it's locked with a good old Yale padlock, rusty and decrepit looking. Good thing I have a hammer in the cab.

So I get the hammer and while I'm picking it off the floor of the cab, I see all this paper and crap and wonder what the heck it all came from. Then I remember. Brian dumped his case on my floor.

"Well," I say to myself, "let's see what this is all about, shall we? When I hook up with Mister Dell, I reckon I need to know what I'm talking about."

I grab the bunch of papers and see this shiny little tube, about six inches long. Looks like a cigar tube to me and I know I didn't put it there, so I figure it must have come with the papers. I stick the tube in my back pocket and, with mug in one hand, hammer and papers in the other I mosey over to the water spigot.

Not having three hands, I roll the papers up and shove them into my back pocket with the tube. I notice that I'm not shaking quite so badly, now. Good thing too, otherwise I'd have busted my with the hammer instead of the padlock. The city could bill me if it wanted to. The lock broke easy, one swing, a true testament to Yale locks. I dropped the hammer and pumped the handle on the spigot and, after some rusty water came out, I filled my hands with water and drank right there on my knees.

Don't tell me you never drank from a faucet as a kid, and lived to talk about it. Yeah, I would have rather had a cold glass with ice, sitting in an air-conditioned cafe, but I didn't have much choice, did I? Besides, it was good. I'm still here to talk about it.

I filled my mug and went over to the shelter, out of the sun. I looked at my watch. 9:45. I guess Brian missed his appointment with Mister Dell. I watched the traffic pass by out on Utica. There wasn't much, and the kids were still inside with their Xgames or playboxes or whatever. Only folks in the park were me and some pigeons. Thinking about Mister Dell and all, I figured I wasn't too far away from 4th and Main. Maybe two and a half, maybe three miles. It'd be close to 11 if I hoofed it.

Sitting on the concrete bench under the shelter, I started to develop a pain in my butt. Remembering that I had shoved stuff into my pocket, I pulled out the bundle of papers and the little tube to see what I had.

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