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