The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 26

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

“To us!” said Steele. He clinked his glass hard against Stetson’s. They finished their drinks and ordered another round.

“Let’s order Lasagna for dinner and make the next round of drinks doubles,” suggested Stetson.

“A double is fine,” said Steele and he laughed at Stetson. “Here’s to your drunken luck.” Both men became boisterous with rotten jokes and people from other tables turned to look at them.

The plain looking waitress came to their table. Steele put up his arms as if to protect his eyes, and said, Pull eeze! Don’t shine that smile on me. It hurts my eyes!”

Steele quickly interjected, “I’m sorry, Miss. My friend is drunk. We would like to order two Lasagna dinners and another round of drinks. Make them doubles this time?”

Ignoring Steele, the waitress said, “Sure.” She smiled at Stetson and left the table.

“You see! She can smile. She just likes me and not you!” said Stetson. He purposely talked a drunk’s banter.

“Listen. I’m not drunk, and if you’re feeling your oats, go for her, man. She’s not my type.”

No, no, no. That’s not what I want. I just like friendliness.”

Just then, a shadow fell across their table. It didn’t move on as other shadows of the guests going back and forth. Both men looked up. Stetson recognized the semi-bald man in the expensive suit with the wilted red carnation.  It was the man who had almost gouged him in the eye.

“Pardon me,” the stranger said, “I do want to apologize for almost causing you a terrible discomfort. It must be the Italian influence in this town. I find myself sharing stories with greater emphasis using my arms to express my feelings. I misjudged how tight the crowd is in this popular establishment.” The man offered Stetson a handshake. “Please accept my apology.”

“That’s not necessary. I’ve already forgotten about it,” said Stetson and he shook the man’s hand. He thought it would be the end of the conversation, but the man remained standing there looking pensive.

“You look familiar. Are you someone famous?” asked the stranger.

“No, I’m not anyone famous, are you?” Stetson turned the focus onto the inquirer.

Steele blurted out, “My friend is a Commander in the San Francisco Police Department. You might have seen him on television the other day.”

“Aha! That’s where I saw you. I’d like to introduce myself. I am Special Agent, Joseph Parker, FBI, out of New York currently. And, I’m sorry I don’t remember your name from the newscast.”

“Jim, Jim Stetson.”

“And you are in charge of the serial murders in the Bush Street area?”

Surprised by the question of his status, Stetson felt the sting of his demotion from earlier in the day. The way the Chief of Police dismissed him from the coveted position was unjust. Stetson diverted the conversation. “We have several teams of officers working on the case around the clock. What brings you to San Francisco, this time of year?”

“My team and I are tracking a cleaver and talented bank robber. Our experts are admiring his innovative uses of explosives. We followed him here six weeks ago.” Parker put his hand up to his chin, looked at Stetson and then at Steele. “May I ask? What is your name, sir?”

Stetson watched Steele take in the information and the challenging questions. Oh, crap. Do I believe in coincidences? Has someone caught up with Steele?

“The name is George Bentley. You know, like the beautiful British sedan?” Steele smiled and reached across the table to offer his handshake. “Nice to meet you Parker.” The serial killer sat back in his bentwood chair, stretched out his legs, and cross them at the ankle, posing himself in a relaxed mood. He fingered the rim of his glass and turned it around twice. “You crime guys always have such interesting things to discuss. It’s moment to moment excitement, right? I envy you guys for the unusual challenges, but I don’t envy the long hours you spend hunting people. Sometimes you never find the culprit, right? My friend here rarely has time to eat dinner.” Steele’s eyes landed on Stetson and then moved to stare at Parker for what seemed to be a long time.

“Here, sit down, Parker,” said Stetson. “Can your friends spare your company? Tell me more about the suspect you’re chasing,” said Stetson.

“Thank you, but I can only stay a few minutes,” said the agent. “We’re heading out soon to enjoy the sights down at Fisherman’s Wharf tonight.” He pulled out a chair, sat down and looked straight at Steele. “I enjoy these tall windows. People watching is one of my favorite past-times.”

“That’s one of my favorites, too,” said Stetson.

“Our investigation is not as exciting as what you are doing these days, Stetson. Although, my team and I put great value to every bit of progress we make. The word clever is not adequate to describe our suspect.”

Stetson watched Parker’s calculating glances at Steele. This man is forming some sort of plan. No doubt, Steele’s mind is doing the same.

“We have been receiving clues from an anonymous source. We now have an idea who masterminded the bank job, but we don’t have the proof yet.  We are making progress and that’s what counts.”

“But you have to find him quick or the trail might get cold, right?” asked Steele. “Parker, I like your investigation much more than his,” said Steele pointing to Stetson with the tumbler in his hand. “What kind of clues led you to San Francisco?” asked Steele.

“Those details I cannot share with you. Perhaps when the investigation is over we can join again to discuss them,” said Parker.

At this point Stetson enjoyed listening to these two men who were sparing like boxers.

“What a bummer! It’s like you’re cutting short a great suspenseful story,” Steele complained.

Stetson found it humorous as Steele tried to flatter information from the well-dress FBI agent. He wondered, was Steele the bank robber they tracked to San Francisco?

He took another sip of his double Jack Daniels. He felt the warmth and smoothness of it going down his throat. Stetson tried to get rid of the confusion and frustration he felt. A few hours earlier, he had been planning Steele’s death. Now threatened himself, by this vicious killer, he finds out that Steele might be the bank robber wanted by the FBI. Every detail the agent described fit Steele.

If Special Agent Parker arrested Steele, thought Stetson, Steele wouldn’t hesitate to drag me in as well. That can’t happen. My future plans don’t include prison, or the electric chair. God, I don’t want to go to prison or sit in the electric chair, especially not for those murdered girls. I can’t let Steele get arrested, but I still have to get rid of him. Does Agent Parker have any idea that the man sitting across from him is also the Serial Killer? Stetson’s mind went back to the conversation, just in time to hear Agent Parker brag.

“There are a few details unknown to the general public,” said Parker as he leaned forward on his elbows to speak confidentially. “I can share with you that the missing funds and valuables tallied way over $2.5 million.”

Steele whistled. “Wow, that’s sweet. I can think of plenty to do with just half of that amount,” he said.

“So can I,” agreed Stetson. “Hey, here comes our Lasagna,” and he moved aside his half-finished JD Black.

Agent Parker pushed back in his chair and stood up, “Well, it’s time I leave. It was a pleasure to meet you both, and to make a connection to the San Francisco police force. I’ll call you when we get a break in our investigations,” Parker said to Stetson.

“Good luck!” Steele said with a smile. “Your suspect is probably long gone – out of the country by now.”

“Perhaps, but I am glad he led me to this beautiful city first.”

Stetson stood and shook hands with Parker. “Good luck and stay safe,” he said.

“Thank you, and you, too. From what I read in the local papers, you have quite a passionate slicer. I hope you will catch him soon. Even the trained women on my team are on constant alert,” Parker added.

The Agent turned and waved to his friends at the table near the door. He signaled that he was on his way back.

“Let’s eat, I’m famished,” Steele said with emphasis imitating how Marilyn had said it to Mark.

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

The Killer of Bush Street Part 25

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

Stetson felt fear running through his mind and the flow of his anger pulsating after it. He grit his teeth hard and prepared to use more force to hold Steele back from following Marilyn and Mark. The young couple and their friends boarded the cable car. The sooner they leave this area the better, thought Stetson. He saw Steele’s intense stare and knew that the killer intended to get even.

The gripman rang the bell and the cable car moved forward. Steele watched through the Cafe windows as it started its uphill climb. He gave the crowd of passengers a false smile, and waved good-bye as if they were old friends.

As Steele’s arm relaxed Stetson put his other arm over the killer’s shoulders. “I’ve had enough of surprises today. Let’s drink to some good luck for me.”

Steele turned and smiled at Stetson, “Yeah, you definitely need a change in your luck. I’ll drink to that.”

As they turned back to their bar stools, the owner of the Buena Vista Cafe captured Stetson’s attention with a wave. He pointed to a table opening up. Stetson nodded his head in the affirmative and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”

“My luck’s changed already,” said Stetson. “There’s a table in the middle, there by the window. Let’s take it.”

By the time they squeezed through to the table, the busboy had cleared their table and put down a new white tablecloth. Their Irish Coffees waited for them on fresh cocktail napkins.

The two unusual friends finished their Irish coffees and ordered drinks. “I’ll have a Chevas Regal on the rocks,” said Steele to the waitress.

“And I’ll have my usual, Jack Daniels on the rocks,” said Stetson.

The plain and unsmiling waitress wrote their order on her pad. She dropped her pencil in the pocket of the black apron she wore on top of a straight black skirt. Still, without smiling or direct eye contact, she said, “Thank you.”

Steele sighed and complained to Stetson. “I find it amazing how some girls exude a wealth of personality, and other girls like our waitress, can appear to be a blank page. They are depressing.”

“I bet she’s a damn good waitress though,” said Stetson in her defense.

When their drinks came Steele offered a toast. “To the success of our project, to you for better luck in your career, and to our precious and secretive client.”

The bitterness in the last two words was not missed. The two men did not complete their toast as both had put down their glasses.

“You shouldn’t be keeping the information to yourself. If anything happened to you, I would be hanging out there empty handed,” said Steele.

“Trust me, pal. The client, who I only know by a nickname, knows who you are. He’s pleased that you are on board to do this job for him.” Stetson paused a second to take a deep breath. “I had to promise I wouldn’t share his name. I’d say relax, Steele. He’s only the in-between guy. A liaison.”

Steele leaned closer to Stetson. He lowered his voice and said, “The way things are now, Stetson, I don’t trust you. When you first approached me, you said that more details would be forthcoming, and now you’ve closed up like a foolish virgin. Be up front with me. Don’t be stupid, or I just may turn this project upside down.”

Stetson bit the inner side of his lower lip as he contemplated Steele’s threat. He decided he had no choice at the moment and went along with his adversary’s demand. He needed to do whatever necessary to get to the end of this evening. Then he would have the opportunity to destroy this evil menace.

“You’re right. I’d feel the same if I were in your place,” Stetson acquiesced. “The liaison said to call him Portico. He calls me when he wants to meet. It was Portico who paid us half the fee up front. It was quite a sum of money, so you can understand why I trust him.”

Stetson’s eyes scanned through the crowd of people standing near their table. Laughter, conversations, and the musical sounds of clinking glasses, surrounded them. He determined that what they were saying would be hard to decipher.

“I don’t need the money. I picked up on your offer because of boredom. From time to time I get the itch to blow something up. Do you know what I mean? Now, don’t get confused, I always want to get paid as agreed,” said Steele.

“Unlike you,” said Stetson. “I need to amass a large sum of money. I want more than a detective’s salary. How have you earned your fortune? And, if you don’t mind sharing with me, how are you going to handle all that money you’ll be getting?” asked Stetson.

Steele shifted, sat up straight, and looked into his drink as he spoke. “I keep my ears open and when the right job comes around I decide whether to take it, or leave it. I am the best in my field and I’ve earned a trusted reputation. So, my fees are high. I contract with sources who I know can afford me. For some crazy reason I accepted your proposal. Right now, I’m thinking I should have killed you a long time ago. But since I made an agreement with you, I will follow through. Though don’t think for a moment you can get away with double crossing me and getting away with it.”

Steele stopped talking and sipped his Chevas Regal. “As for what I’ll be doing with my share, I’ll stash it and let it earn interest. I did the same with the last bank job I completed back east. My share was $1.2 million. Use your imagination.”

“That is a hell of a lot of money. I’d love to boast about earnings like that,” said Stetson. He recalled how a couple of his top notched friends had recommended Steele. One of them was his friend, Little John, who had said, “He’s definitely the best man. He only works for top dollar though. Don’t go to him if you don’t have the funds. He might kill you for bothering him.”

How about you? What are your plans?” asked Steele in return.

“I’ve put a hefty down payment on a sailboat docked in Sausalito. I’ll pay it off, quit my job, and travel. Someday I may buy a home somewhere and settle down with a nice woman who can cook,” replied Stetson. He took another swig of his drink hoping to encourage Steele to do the same. He wanted to curb the killer’s instincts.

“Not me,” said Steele shaking his head. “No woman is going to tie me down and grow fat on my dough. I’m going to travel, maybe buy a villa here and there. I’ve found some places where I can come and go as I please. The people there know me as a man of wealth and leave me alone. I treat them right and they do the same back. But as for women, you know me, I love women and then I leave them. No woman has ever pleased me for more than a month.”

“Well, here’s to each of our goals,” Stetson said and raised his glass to toast the good wish. But in the back of his mind he thought, and to your failure when it comes to trapping and killing women. Especially nice ones like Marilyn. I’m wishing you the end of your life tonight.

 Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

 

A Practice in Building Tension

 

Hello to all my Friends and Fans…

While I am fine tuning the next three parts to The Serial Killer of Bush Street, I thought I’d share this practice in tension building with you. In April I was given this prompt from the website Write to Done: She looked up from her writing. Was that a creak? But she’d oiled the hinges just yesterday. I dashed out the following:

April 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm

She looked up from her writing. Was that a creak? But she’d oiled the hinges just yesterday. Gina’s mind delved further by evaluating everything about her one bedroom apartment on the third floor. If it’s not my front door, and not my bathroom, or bedroom door…it must be the steps outside my front door leading to the roof. Oh no. What if there’s a burglar trying to escape from the police again? I hope he runs into the wire clothesline and chokes. She heard the same creak again. He’s right outside my front door. Gina’s mind is racing now. Where could she hide? Did she lock the door? Of course! She scolds herself. You’ve always had the good habit of using the deadbolt. Why do you doubt yourself?

Heavens, living by yourself again, and living in this place, is making you nuts. You wanted peace and quiet and now you’ve isolated yourself and live like a hermit. Hiding in plain sight, you say? Among the Chinese in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown? Who are you kidding? You don’t even look Chinese anyore. Now, think again, why did you come back here to live, and who doesn’t want you here?

Gina’s mind worked on her at lightning speed as she hid behind the short sofa and stared underneath the front door, looking for the shadow of someone moving around outside. A strange odor seeped in. That smells like old cheese, thought Gina. Seconds later, a mouse scrambled in from underneath the door. When Gina saw it, she also saw the crumble of cheese pushed in ahead of it. Oh my God! Someone’s really out there! She raced for the telephone in the bedroom. As she ran through the kitchen, she heard the front door split open.

 

I hope you enjoyed the short moment. It’s not perfect… and I think there was a word limit. I had so much fun writing this I thought you would enjoy it, too. I really wanted to keep in touch with you sooner but just couldn’t throw out less than my best for the next few parts of The Serial Killer of Bush Street. Part 25 will be posted shortly. I’ve had a handful of MRIs and CTs lately. Can you imagine how exhausted I am mentally and emotionally? But now everything is fine. Hang in there with me!

Thank you!

MillieAnne

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 24

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

As Steele sauntered up Geary street, a smile spread across his face. He knew exactly which trick he would execute next and be ready to visit the cute hostess he met earlier. He turned around walked past the ladies who had ogled him and went back into Lefty O’Doul’s.

Another hostess stood at the podium and greeted him with a mischievous smile. “Hi! Weren’t you in here a few moments ago?”

“Yeah. I came back to leave a tip for the hostess who got us the table we asked for,” replied Steele. “Is she here?”

“Oh, that’s Marilyn, but she left work early today. I could put your tip in an envelope and give it to her tomorrow.”

“Darn,” he said as he snapped his fingers in emphasis. “I wanted to thank her personally. Are we talking about the same person? The girl I want has a cute turned-up nose and blonde hair, like you.”

“That’s Marilyn. Sometimes people get us mixed up. We’re the same height, but I’m heavier. I wish I were thin, like Marilyn.”

Steele saw her insecurity, as she had looked downward in embarrassment. He took this opportunity to flirt with her further. “I didn’t notice that. You both have the pretty blue eyes, too. Have your worked here long?”

“Marilyn’s been here for almost a year, but I just started last week,” she said as she smoothed out her uniform. Steele saw her lean forward over the podium making it easy for him to sneak a peek at her breasts. He had already spied her white lacy bra. He kept his eyes on her face. The little twit was teasing him. A voice in his head said, She’ll get her share soon enough.

“Marilyn’s been a great friend to me. I’ll be sure to let her know you came back to tip her,” she said and began to restacked the menus in front of her.

“I’m fairly new in this big town and there is so much to do and see. Would you like to go out with me sometime? I’m Jim. Jim Stetson,” he lied. “What’s your name?”

“It’s Amy, and I’m glad to meet you, Jim. I know what it’s like trying to find a niche in this city. That’s why I really appreciate Marilyn’s help to find a place of my own. I used to rent a room with a bath in a residence club on Larkin and Sutter, but the place felt seedy. It was Marilyn’s advice that saved me. Now I live in a nice one-bedroom apartment across the hall from her. It’s nicer to have someone you know close by. Do you know what I mean?”

Steele felt as if he had hit a jackpot. “Yes. I can imagine how much safer you feel,” he said but secretly laughed at her stupidity. “Can I buy you dinner tonight? What time do you get off?”

“Let me see,” and she looked at her watch. “It’s about 5 o’clock now. I won’t be off until ten tonight. That’s a bit late for dinner. How about tomorrow night? I have the day off.”

“That sounds great, Amy. How about six?” and Steele flashed her one of his sincerest smiles looking directly into her eyes. “I won’t forget your deep blue eyes, Amy. Can I have your address and phone number?”

“Sure,” she said and reached under the podium for a napkin. Amy wrote the information on the back of it and signed it with a heart. “Call me if anything comes up, and if you can’t make it. I’ll understand.”

“Nothing is going to stop me from coming your way, Amy. I promise,” said Steele and he gave her a click of his tongue and a wink. At the door, he turned to wave and to enjoy the smile on her face for the last time.

 

At Powell Street, Steele grabbed onto a pole on the outside of an already full Hyde Street cable car just as it started up the hill. That was easy. I’ll pay a visit to Amy’s neighbor across the hall tonight while she’s busy working. How convenient things can be.

Checking his watch, he calculated he would be on time to meet Stetson. What a pig that guy is. He fouls up his life and now he nags at me about what I do. Heaven forbid that I disappoint Big Jim Stetson again.

Like flash cards, memories of his work today sped through his mind. My, oh my. I’ve never been busier. And tonight might be a double-header, twice in one day, in fact. That’s a record for me. A sardonic smile spread across his face and the people near him turned to look away.

Steele felt a familiar itch; he needed to blow something to pieces. He needed to hear the noise of chaos, to feel the vibrations of the explosions, and to see the results of his work. It had been too long since his last major event in New York. But that was only a bank. Banks were small time jobs to Steele, although this last one brought a big reward, $1.2 million dollars. He didn’t need to take on another job, but the excitement of the one Stetson described turned him on. He decided, what the heck, I’ll do this job for the fun of it.

 

Stetson’s new revelation about Marilyn as the next victim, caused his whole being to tighten with tension. He walked with urgent steps toward the Buena Vista Cafe and when he opened the door, his mind and body were ready for a fight. A crowd had already gathered for the dinner hour and the whole place resounded with laughter and noisy chatter. A semi-bald man, dressed in an expensive blue suit with a red carnation wilting in his suit’s keyhole lapel, gestured extravagantly the story he was telling his friends and a wide swing of his hand barely missed poking Stetson in the eye. Stetson grabbed the man’s arm and twisted it back. The laughter at his table stopped and his friends watched with their mouths agape. “Better watch it, mister,” said Stetson and then let go of the man’s arm. The old man stared at Stetson for a moment then pulled the sleeves of his suit back into place. He made a quiet comment to his friends and their laughter resumed once more.

As Stetson moved through the crowd deeper into the cafe, he felt an eeriness he couldn’t put into words before. He now saw how none of these people had any idea that in just minutes the Serial Killer was about to be walking into their favorite meeting place. How ironic, that he, a police officer who was supposed to protect them all from danger, had invited the Serial Killer into their world of comfort.

He stopped and stepped aside to let the people behind him walk by first. He spotted Marilyn seated at a long table with five other friends at the back of the room. Good. She’ll be safe there. His eyes scanned around the room for Steele. The handsome killer had not yet arrived. Stetson pushed his way back toward the front door through the incoming tide of people. He claimed two empty barstools just vacated. He chose the seat closest to the door where he had a view of the whole room, including the flow of tourists walking outside the continuous panes of the cafe’s windows. From that point he had a view of the front door as well. He saved the other barstool for Steele, figuring that Steele would be looking in toward the front door and not where Marilyn and her friends were sitting.

“Hey there, Jim,” said the owner of the cafe. “What will you have tonight? The usual?”

“That’s right. I’ll start with an Irish coffee tonight. I’m waiting for a friend,” said Stetson.

“You got it,” the owner said and he left to make his specialty. Stetson watched as the man who made a reputation with his espressos, fill the espresso glass with Buena Vista’s famous blend, and then apply the cream over the backside of the spoon for a lofty layered effect. When the masterpiece arrived, a piece of New York style cheesecake accompanied it. “The treat’s on me, Jim. We’re running out of cheesecake fast tonight. I know it’s your favorite,” he paused and waved at someone in the back of the restaurant. “Pal, I got to go. No time to chat. Enjoy.”

Stetson took a bite of the cheesecake. He looked up in time to see Steele walk in the door.

With his fork still in his hand, he waved over the heads of the other customers at Steele, “Over here!” He hoped to catch Steele’s attention before Steele could spot Marilyn in the back of the room.

However, timing today, did not seem to be working for anyone except Steele. Six people came toward the door, right to where Steele stood. Young and pretty Marilyn in the midst of them, holding on to the arm of a young man who wore the traditional grey tweed sports jacket with a blue grey tie, and a sharply creased pair of grey slacks. Stetson noted that Mark was definitely competition for Steele. At the same time, Stetson saw Marilyn’s smiling face freeze when she saw Steele grinning at her. She pulled and squeezed the arm of the young man beside her. “Mark…”

Mark turned, “What’s the matter Marilyn?”

Stetson watched the scene as if it were playing in slow motion. Mark seeing the fright on Marilyn’s face, Mark turning and looking into Steele’s hard grin, and then seeing for himself that the grin turned into a sneer. A sneer that expressed hate, anger, and danger.

Stetson’s senses kicked into action as he could almost feel Steele’s message toward Mark, and he saw Steele’s fist close tight. He quickly put his hand on Steele’s arm to stop him from hitting the young man who had Marilyn’s affection. Steele’s arm felt rigid, just like his name, the arm felt like steel.

Quicker than a chameleon, Steele’s face changed into a smile of friendliness. He said, “Hi, I’m one of the regulars where this sweet one works as a hostess. How are you all tonight?” He stretched out his open hand for a handshake. All of Marilyn’s friends had turned and were watching the two men. Marilyn tugged at Mark to move on, “Mark, let’s go now. I’m famished,” she said.

However, Mark stood in place, spoke with assertiveness, and extended his hand to receive the handshake offered. “Yes. I’ve heard all about that place and its many regulars. But I don’t think she’s mentioned you yet,” he said with a smile in return.

“Well, maybe another time,” replied Steele with a hard grin still on his face.

Stetson saw how Steele shook Mark’s hand with intentional force for a few seconds longer than was natural and finally let go.

“Let’s catch up with the others, Mark,” said Marilyn, and she brazenly moved between the two men, and pulled him away.

Stetson noticed how her eyes averted his, and Steele’s.

“Well, there’s a surprise for the day,” said Steele to Stetson. “I wonder what’s waiting for us the rest of the night.”

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

Love Pumpkins? Read JUST DESSERTS: A FALL FANTASY!

I just purchased, for less than a dollar on Amazon Kindle, a lifetime of chuckles and laughs. Deanne Davis just published Just Desserts: A Fall Fantasy. I recommend this short story as an immediate read for yourself and your kids no matter what age! Her word pictures are so well written that my imagination moved right along from scene to scene with great anticipation.

Just Desserts: A Fall Fantasy is a new classic for the holidays, and Halloween is only a few days away. Get it now, and ENJOY!

MillieAnne

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 23

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

I sat in the front seat of the van with George who drove smoothly through the many curving paths of the Saratoga woods. As we got closer to town, my thoughts were about Eric. I had been eager to call him ever since we left the city and my intuition had been needling me that Eric might be that special person I had been hoping to meet. Now that I’m on my way to calling him, my nerves are firing off like a machine gun, and my fingers are tingling with reverberations. Would he be mad that we didn’t go to his aunt’s house as he arranged? I sensed not. Especially not after I tell him how Stetson chased us all the way to Russian Hill. Wouldn’t he be glad we didn’t bring the danger directly to her?  If the creep had caught us, he might have put us under arrest for some reason, maybe for what happened at the hospital. Looking back now, I know I did the right thing by coming here. No one knows where we are, and George is right, we need to keep our location a secret.

“Haley, what are you going to say to Eric tonight?” asked Jeanne.

Her question startled me. “I’m not sure,” I said.

“Well, tell him for me, I said thanks for all the help,” Jeanne said. “It would have been a lot scarier situation if he hadn’t been there.”

“That goes for me, too,” said Krista. “I wouldn’t be so calm now if he hadn’t loaned us his van to escape the whole scene. I think I would’ve gone crazy if he hadn’t been there to take charge of what we needed to do and get us away from my apartment.”

“What I want to know is who trashed our apartment, and why us? Was that The Creep harassing us some more?” Jeanne wondered aloud.

“I hope not. But worse than that,” Krista said as she twirled an elastic around her hair and put it up in a short ponytail, “it could have been the work of the Serial Killer and some others. You don’t think he’s been murdering those other girls by himself, do you?”

“Maybe he is after us. Mrs. Hamlin was a sweet and loveable old woman. I’d consider us sweet and loveable young girls. We are about the same age as the other victims. It could be us he’s after,” said Jeanne with a tremble in her voice.

In the rear view mirror, I saw how her smile had changed to a downturn frown. “What could the Serial Killer want with us?” I said. “With so much damage, it must have been a bunch of hired men.”

“He’s been killing girls up the street from us,” said Krista, “why come to our building? You and Jeanne have an apartment that faces the street where you could easily call for help from the windows. Unlike mine that’s at the back of the building. You also have a grocery store and a pharmacy right across the street. There would’ve been a lot of people to hear your cries for help.”

“I would have been screaming and throwing things at the window. A window breaking always catches people’s attention,” added Jeanne. “Maybe this has something to do with Mrs. Johnson. Haley, squeeze Mrs. Johnson in your call.”

“Right. I’ll ask Eric to tell her we’re safe. It would be dreadful if she heard about Mrs. Hamlin on the news. Oh my gosh, she might have heard about it already. She’ll be so worried about us.”

George turned right off of Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road. “Here we are. There are a lot of treasures to be discovered in these shops. Please try not to worry so much now. Mattie and I intend to keep you safe,” he said and he twisted the right end of his mustache again. “Haley and I will be back after her call.”

I watched as my two best friends and Aunt Mattie got out of the van. They closed the door behind them and waved good-bye to us. George drove ahead and turned left toward the Los Gatos Roasting Company. At about the same time every day the aroma of coffee beans floated around the neighboring stores. We were there at the right moment as the rich aroma floated through our car’s window and helped me to calm down from the impact of the day. That part of our day was over, I hoped. I thanked God we didn’t have to face it alone.

“Haley, I suggest that you take one step at a time, then things will be smoother. Don’t worry. After you update Eric about what happened, he’ll understand the continued need for secrecy,” said George.

“When will I be able to see him again?”

“Soon. Mattie and I will work it out. I promise. You both need to trust us. And what’s more, you are not going to lose him. He doesn’t want to lose you either, Haley.”

I looked at George for a moment and then turned away. How did he know? My heart filled with longing. It had felt good to be in Eric’s arms. I wished he could have held me longer. What could I say to let him know how I felt about him without sounding foolish, or scaring him off? Something in the back of my mind nagged at me, Let him take the lead.

Blinking back tears I stared out the window. If it had been a rainy day, I would have been crying along with the raindrops. I was tired, and so much scary stuff had happened. Where is my life going?

Quick memories flashed through my mind. Eric’s face as he knelt in front of me at the hospital and dressed the cuts on my knees, and how he looked when the creep put out his arm and blocked me from Mrs. Johnson’s bedside. The pain must’ve shown immediately on my face. Eric fought for me, he defended me, and he wanted to protect me…

George’s voice brought me back to the moment. He had parked in front of a glass paned door with Celeste’s Fine Italian Food, written on it. “Let’s go inside, Haley, my very good friend, Giuseppe, owns this place. We met in the service a long time ago. You’ll like him.” There was gentleness in his face and once again, his eyes seemed to twinkle.

As we stepped inside, the aroma of rich meat sauces enveloped my senses. “Oh, it smells so delicious in here. I might get hungry all over again.”

A man with the shape of a thin bowling pin, and a receding hairline of wavy black hair, approached us. He, too, had a mustache, but a black one. Giuseppe was shorter than George, he stood about 5 feet 5 inches tall, wore a black suit, a stiff white shirt, and a black bow tie. In his hands, he held menus and he moved with ease between the tables covered with wine glasses and dripping candles. Grape ivy framed the entrances and the corners of the dining area.

George waved his arm in greeting. “Giuseppe, this is my niece, Haley.”

Giuseppe smiled big and opened his arms to greet me. “Ah, Welcome Haley. I am so very glad to meet you.”

I leaned forward and accepted his hug.

“Please, come and sit down. What can I get for you tonight? We have lasagna, manicotti, eggplant, and three delicious sauces for spaghetti and the biggest meatballs in town. Are you hungry? Would you like some wine?”

“Thank you, Giuseppe, but not this time,” said George. “We’ve had an unusually early evening meal tonight, but we are here to ask a favor. May we use your telephone?”

“Certainly! Whatever you need is my pleasure to provide! Come into my office,” he said and led us to a back room. In a wood paneled room, a well polished rosewood roll top desk sat in one corner. A matching swivel chair faced us. Behind it stood a graceful replica of a stork carrying a lampshade. A comfortable floral couch in muted autumn tones was positioned against the wall opposite near a corner window. The room had the ambience more like a sitting room than an office. A wedding picture of Giuseppe and his bride hung in a beautiful gilded frame over the couch.

“Your wife is lovely,” I couldn’t help saying.

“Thank you. Thank you. Celeste is busy in the kitchen now. She will look forward to meeting you, Haley. Oh! Be careful when you lean back in that chair, it can be scary when you are not used to it,” he warned and smiled. “I will be with the guests in front.”

“I’ll be out front with Giuseppe, Haley.” George leaned over to me and said, “Remember, make the call short.”

 

I quickly dialed the number Eric gave me and he answered before the second ring.

“Hello?”

“Eric, it’s Haley.”

“Oh my God, are you okay? Where are you calling from?”

“We’re all okay. I drove to my aunt’s house and she and her friend, George are going to take care of us. But I have to tell you this first, we can’t talk long because your phone line might be tapped. George promised me that I could call you from somewhere else tomorrow.”

“Tell me where I can meet you,” said Eric.

“I can’t do that. I’m too far away and my aunt and George have advised me to keep our location a secret for now.”

“Tell me, what happened. Then I’ll share some of what’s happened here.”

“I’ll try to make it short,” I said. “The Creep spotted us and chased us all the way to and down Lombard Street. We hid in someone’s driveway and ducked out of sight. Then I headed for the freeway. It was all a narrow escape, Eric. I drove in a panic but I didn’t do any damage to your car. Oh, and I just realized a few minutes ago that while we were trying to get away from him, we probably drove right by your aunt’s house. Please tell her we are so thankful that she was willing to take us in,” I added. “If I had gone to her house, I would have led Stetson right to her front door.”

“You’re right. But how did he find you in the first place?”

“It was weird. He spotted us as I crossed over Bush at Powell and he was sitting in a cab. He chased us in a taxi cab!”

“I’m really glad you got away. I can’t wait to see you again, Haley. I have so much to tell you,” said Eric.

“I feel the same way and I can’t wait to see you.” I paused here but decided to keep talking. “Tell me, quick, what’s happened there with you?” I asked. And then before he could reply, I added, “Oh, George said that he’ll have your van in your aunt’s driveway by tomorrow morning.”

“Whoa! That won’t be a good idea,” said Eric. “Driving my van back here tonight is not an option right now. Your picture is on the front page of the Chronicle. A photographer took a random picture trying to show residents leaving the building and he caught you, Jeanne, and Krista about to open the door of my van.”

“That’s definitely unwanted publicity,” I said.

“The problem is more than that. My license plate number is easy to read in this photo. Stetson might already have men watching for you driving my van. So it’s not a good idea for anyone to be driving it.

“I’ll tell George and he’ll work something out,” I said.

“Stay where you are and be safe Haley. I want to see you again, and soon, but your safety needs to come first.”

“Eric, I can’t thank you enough for how wonderful you’ve been. Ever since I met you, you have been helping and protecting me, and my friends. Oh, I’ve got to ask you right now, how Mrs. Johnson is doing? Can you call her, or go see her and secretly let her know we’re all okay? We don’t want her to hear about Mrs. Hamlin on the news. She’ll be terrified and more worried about us.”

“Sure, the Chief and I will take care of that. When do you think I’ll be able to see you?”

“George said he’s working on that, so I’ll think it’ll be soon.” I fidgeted with the spiral telephone cord and paused, “Eric, I’ll be calling you tomorrow. Though I don’t know what time.”

“I’ll come back here after work tomorrow, but don’t hang up yet. There’s more bad news.”

“What else could be more dreadful than what’s happened?” I asked.

“The place where you’ve been living has now been nicknamed The Murder Building. The Serial Killer has murdered three more people there.

A gasp escaped me and goosebumps rose on my arms. “Who?”

“A mother and her two young girls, in the apartment next to Krista’s. The killer did the same to them as they did to Mrs. Hamlin.”

“Oh no! Those sweet little girls and their mother? I brought them some cookies… that Mrs. Johnson baked.” Haley’s voice had trailed off.

“I can understand how hard this is to hear, Haley. Fontino and his men are working hard to solve these killings. Chief Mullins and I are going to team up with him to help.”

I couldn’t hold back the emotions of dread, fear, sadness, and loss. The feelings all came out of me in sobs. “This is all horrible. Everyone I care about is in danger.”

“Haley, it would be better if you didn’t come back for a while. Keep that hiding place. It will be up to you to call me. I can be here after work to get your call or a message. I’ll be waiting.”

“Eric,” I’m counting on George to keep his promises. My aunt trusts him with her life, and at the moment I don’t have a choice, but I feel that I can trust him, too.”

I saw George peek in at the door. “I’ve got to go right now. I’ll call tomorrow!” I said quickly and hung up. I hoped George had not heard any of my conversation. I had more to say to Eric, but not tonight. I had said, and heard enough.

George and I waved good-by to Giuseppe as we went out the back entrance. In the van I filled him in on some of what I learned. “George, we could all be found just by the license plate number. How will you get Eric’s van back to him now?”

“It might have been a problem, but now that you’ve told me it won’t be. I will have the license plate changed before we move the car. Thanks for the tip though,” said George and he smiled. “You’ve got a great admirer there haven’t you?”

“You were right. Eric does care for me. He’s also very worried about all of us. Fontino and his men found three more bodies in our building today, George. Two little girls and their mother, who lived in the apartment next to Krista’s. All of us, Mrs. Johnson, Krista, Jeanne and I, knew them.” I put my hands up to cover my face as the tears rolled down uncontrollably. George folded his arms around me. Then a meek wail came through, “We’ll never be able to live there again.”

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

The Serial Killer of Bush Street Part 22

http://millieannelowe.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/the-serial-kil…street-part-22/

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California

Stetson moved quickly through the crowd at Union Square and hopped onto the Hyde Street cable car. He grabbed onto the first white pole at the front of the cable car as it headed up the hill. A bench seat in front of him was available but he preferred to stand on the outside ledge. As the cable car moved forward short bursts of wind blew against his face and the coolness eased the strains from what he would say was a “crappy day.” Everything he was involved with had become a disaster for him. Even up to an hour ago, Steele had told him about his murderous rampage through the Bush Street apartment building. He had been there on a personal request from Stetson which would be a direct link . If Steele was caught, Stetson knew he would be going down with him, and maybe for all the serial killings. He couldn’t let that happen. Stetson’s heart beat faster. Steele had boasted of slicing the throats of two women and two young girls earlier today and casually threw in how he had so easily taken care of a small dog as well.

A dreadful feeling spread through Stetson’s mind and he knew he couldn’t continue to live this way. He had to follow-through with his plan.

The cable car stopped on Sutter Street to pick up more passengers before attempting the steep slope up to Bush, the street where Haley and her two friends lived. His own apartment was barely two blocks further up Bush. After a slow struggle with a full load of passengers, the cable car stopped on the corner by the abandoned flower stand. Stetson tried to see what was happening in front of Haley’s apartment. Police officers in their blue uniforms and caps kept the curious moving up the street while photographers were taking pictures of bystanders. Then he was distracted by a petite blonde who bumped into his hand as she grabbed the same white pole he was holding onto. She swung around and plopped into the bench seat in front of him. How quickly things can change, Stetson thought. The young girl, out of breath, was the Hostess from Lefty’s.

“Well, hello again,” he said.

She didn’t recognize him at first, she squinted at him for a moment. “Oh! Hello. You’re Stetson, the cop?”

“Shh! Don’t tell everyone here. It’s my day off,” he lied. He bent closer, and said in a low voice, “This is when I get to be a stranger, like everyone else.” He looked around to see if anyone heard her.

“Don’t worry,” she said and laughed. ”There’s too much noise. No one can hear what I said.”

Stetson smiled and looked at her with more interest. In a black wool coat with a small collar, she wore a light blue dress that brought out the blueness of her eyes. A small gold cross on a delicate chain hung on her neck along with a heart that had the name Mark, engraved on it. Her wavy blonde hair, no longer in a ponytail, lay on her shoulders.

“Where are you headed? Going home?” he asked.

“Oh no, I’ve just been home for a quick change. I’m headed for the Buena Vista Café. You know that little restaurant at the end of the line. Oh, how I wish I lived in that area. I love those homes with ivy growing around the windows. That’s where I want to live.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Stetson nodding in agreement. He paused. She was a little chatterbox and he wanted to let her talk some more.

At the same time, the Chinatown Branch of the San Francisco Public Library came in sight. The building shone in the sunlight like a golden brick stronghold with a double-sided staircase leading up to beveled glass doors. The library was Stetson’s landmark that a hard left turn was coming up. It was at this point that Stetson often announced to everyone, “Hold on tight for the curve!” Then as the cable car leaned outward on the curve, first time riders squealed and screamed in excitement. Many regulars that Stetson recognized on this route joined in the fun as well. Hoards of smiles and laughter came his way with, “Thanks for the warning!” However, this time Stetson said nothing. He wanted to give the Hostess all of his attention.

They were both silent but smiling as they rode through the turn like old-timers. Then she spoke, “I’m meeting my boyfriend, Mark. He’s bringing his friends from work to the Buena Vista Café for drinks and dinner. We’re going to celebrate his promotion,” she said with a big smile. “Tonight, it’ll be my turn to be waited on with good food and drinks,” she added.

“That happens to be where I’m going to meet a friend as well,” said Stetson.

“Really?” she said and then was pensive.

“Oh, no…”

Stetson watched her smiling face turned to worry.

“I hope you’re not meeting with that guy you were with at Lefty’s,” she said with a hopeful look in her eyes.

“Unfortunately, yes. He’ll be there in about thirty minutes.”

She let out a deep breath. “That guy gives me the creeps. Oh, I’m sorry. That just slipped out. He’s a friend of yours’, but I can’t help how I feel.”

Stetson heard the distress in her voice. He nodded his head to indicate it didn’t bother him. “He’s quite a flirt,” he said trying to show her sympathy.

“Ugh! When I’m leading him to a table, I can feel his eyes crawl all over the back of me. And when I see him face to face, his whole being seems to pierce me. He really scares me,” she said.

Stetson saw her shudder.

All the time they were talking, the Hyde Street cable car moved smoothly over the shiny silver rails toward the bay. When the grip man stopped at Lombard Street for everyone to catch the magnificent view of the Bay Bridge beyond the sprawl of the city below, Stetson said, “Here’s the beautiful area where you said you’d liked to live. And look, see the sailboats out by the Bay Bridge? Someday soon, I’ll have my own sailboat and be out there.”

“I’ve been sailing with my father before. On a windy day I find it exciting to be cutting through that huge body of water,” she said.

“You’re right there. I love the feel of the wind in my face,” then he changed the subject. “Hey, I’m sorry. My friend is just a casual business acquaintance. I don’t know him well, but I did notice how he has a pointed need for flirting with cute girls.”

Her face reddened a bit. “Thanks for the compliment,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll get there before he does and can convince my friends to go somewhere else for dinner tonight.”

“There’s always Alioto’s nearby,” suggested Stetson. “By the way, what’s your name?”

“They call me Stephanie at work, but my name is really Marilyn Mid…”

“Last stop!” said the grip man, as his gloved hands pulled the big brake backwards. The loud click clacking noise from the brake action, along with the murmurs of excitement from the crowd upon seeing Alcatraz had overpowered her words.

Marilyn smiled at Stetson and said, “By the way, thanks for the big tip.” She slid from the wooden bench seat before he could offer her assistance. He watched as she walked with sure and light steps in front of the cable car. Her petite figure in low tan heels skipped over the second pair of rails to the sidewalk. She pushed through the café door of the crowded restaurant and disappeared.

Stetson stepped off the cable car and weaved through the other passengers who were walking away in different directions. Heading toward the Buena Vista, he looked forward to an Irish coffee. Trying several times, he still couldn’t figure out what Marilyn had said her last name was, and gave up. The next time he was at Lefty’s he would ask the manager. For some reason though, he could not get her off his mind. She had a nice first name, and she looked like a Marilyn, too. Was he smitten with her? Stetson laughed at himself. She’s too young. He visualized her light wavy blonde hair bouncing up and down as she walked, and remembered her beautiful blue eyes. He had also noticed her full lips. She had all the qualities … that Steele would enjoy.

“Oh my God, no!” Stetson said inaudibly. His chest felt hollow as he realized that Marilyn was Steele’s next victim.

Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California