Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
Stetson fired his gun and the sound of it echoed across the park. If anyone had heard or spotted the tiny flash, it would have been hard to see the two men fighting at the far end of the pier as they were on the dead end side of the round house. Stetson had felt his gun firing high. If only he had cat eyes and been able to see in the dark, he would have seen Steele’s leg coming to knock the gun out of his hand. Then the Serial Killer would be dead now. Stetson swore as he felt Steele coming at him again. A fist hit his jaw and he felt as if his teeth were about to fall out. Still, nothing was more important than living long enough to kill Steele.
Bending down Stetson scrambled for his gun as it slid across the cement ground toward the opening in the pier wall. The gun hit the foot of the slot and slid backwards to the underside of a fisherman’s bench instead. A kick in the ribs brought blinding pain. “I don’t do business with losers,” jeered Steele.
As Steele’s leg swung toward him again, Stetson grabbed his ankle and twisted his foot. That brought his opponent down to the ground. They rolled on the ground behind the bench, each man trying to beat the other to death.
Stetson’s fist struck out for Steele’s face but Steele saw it coming and moved. Stetson’s knuckles scraped against the ground and he swore as the pain radiated through his hand and up his arm. He put his weight on top of Steele and leaned on his left arm across the killer’s chest as he reached for the gun tucked in the back of his waist. Steele crossed his legs like a pretzel, did a sit-up and then rolled backwards up to his shoulders, throwing Stetson off to the side. Steele sprang to his feet, and drew out a flashing switchblade. Before Stetson could back off, Steele lunged forward and stabbed Stetson under his ribs and twisted the blade. “See if you can stand the pain, you looser!”
Steele watched as Stetson, looking stunned, buckle at the knees. Steele stabbed him a second time. “Just making sure you make it to hell, pal.”
Satisfied, the killer stood up, wiped the sharp blade on the backside of his jeans, closed it, and stashed it in his pants pocket.
“You’re lucky it wasn’t your throat I sliced,” said Steele. “Now you can die a slow death.” He turned and ran into the darkness toward the bath house. Steele had a plan. As soon as he made it passed the bleachers, he would change his pace to a casual walk. Then he would mingle with the crowd surrounding the cable car turn table. Soon afterwards, he would be on his way to Marilyn’s apartment on Bush Street.
Stetson felt the burning pain where Steele had stabbed him twice. Rolling onto his right side, Stetson pulled out a handkerchief from his back pants pocket and pressed it hard against is wound. It wasn’t going to be enough to stop the bleeding, but he had to try to get to some help. He crawled over to the fisherman bench, reached under it, and retrieved his gun. Steele’s running footsteps faded in the increasing distance.
“Watch out. I’m no looser and I don’t give up easy,” mumbled Stetson. Using his elbow to press against the wound, his hands pushed down on the cement seat. And with stifled grunts of pain Stetson managed to stand up. He spotted Steele’s navy blue neck scarf on the ground. Leaning on the back of the bench for balance, he lifted it up with the toe of his shoe. With his left hand he shook out the dirt and debris. Swinging it in the air several times, he doubled it in half, and then once again. Stetson stuffed it inside his windbreaker to pad his wounds and soak up the blood. At a snail’s pace, the fingers of his hand moved the zipper head higher to keep the scarf in place. A scattered thought came to mind – Wouldn’t it be a surprise when Steele saw his neck scarf again?
His head hurt with every movement. God, another pair of hands to hold my head would be real nice. Hunched over, Stetson headed back to the cable car turnaround where he knew Steele would try to get lost in the crowd. He muttered obscenities as he weighed his chances of saving Marilyn from harm. If only there had been a phone booth built on the pier for emergencies, he could call the police and have them save Marilyn. Save Marilyn…that became his mantra through his pain as he quickened his stumbling steps.
Out of breath, Steele slowed down. He had run the length of the pier which was about a half mile, and made his distance to the bleachers beyond the bath house. He felt confident he was free of Stetson. If no one else went down to the end of the pier in this heavy fog, a tourist or fisherman would not find Stetson’s body until the morning.
He combed his blond hair with his fingers and smoothed down his jacket, then sensed that something was missing. His neck scarf. He patted his jacket pockets, nothing was there. Should he go back to find his scarf? Nah, he thought. Whoever finds it will think a tourist had lost it because an elegant Paris label had been sewn in.
As he came closer to the crowd, he did one more check. His hands felt up and down the outside of his leather jacket searching for wet spots of blood. He felt none. He then felt secure and did not look back. Although, if he had, he might have seen a slow moving, hunched over man with a gun in his hand, following him.
Steele stepped into the crowd of people who stood around the turn table. They were waiting for the grip man and his team to finish turning the cable car around. He found a senior couple chatting with their grandchildren, and started a conversation with them. When he became bored with their chatter, Steele squeezed in with another group. They were talking about getting souvenirs down the way in Fisherman’s Wharf. Steele caught sight of blonde hair and smiling faces, sneaking glances at him. This was much more interesting. He moved along to join them in their laughter.
The wait for the cable car to be ready for the next load of passengers took a while. In the midst of laughter after he had shared a great joke, Steele turned around and saw Stetson’s pale and pained face. Their eyes locked. Steele made the first move. He walked over to Stetson’s right side, put his arms over the crippled man’s shoulders and said, “Hey, pal! Where’ve you been? I thought you’d gone home in a taxi.” Steele slid his hand down Stetson’s right arm and with quiet force removed the gun from his enemy’s grip. “Com’on over here and get in line with me. We’ll be boarding soon,” he said.
Smiling, Steele patted his friend’s shoulder in a warm and friendly manner. Squeezing Stetson’s shoulders hard, he forced him toward the back end of the cable car. Stetson made a move to reach for his other gun, but Steele blocked his arm and said, “Keep quiet and you might live a little longer.”
Over by the front of the line a teenage boy pointed at them. “There’s those two drunk guys again, Dad.”
“I see them son, let’s keep our distance,” responded the father. They turned their backs on the killer and the wounded cop and redirected their attention to the cable car.
The men working the turntable locked it into place. The grip man jumped on board and attached his gear to the rumbling cable beneath the ground. He rang the bell hanging over his head to signal the conductor that he was ready for passengers to come aboard. Upon hearing the bell, people who were cold, and tired of standing around, boarded without a further sign from the grip man.
A low roar of excitement filled the air. Some passengers, the older men and women, headed for the inside of the cable car where they could see out the windows and be a lot warmer. Other passengers, bundle in warm clothing, caps and gloves, raced for the limited number of seats on the outside bench. Those who missed getting a seat grabbed their spot on a lower step next to a pole.
The cable car wobbled as people continued to climb on board. Every seat and every inch of standing room inside the cable car disappeared. These were the people who stood and grumbled in the cold for 45 minutes waiting for the cable car to appear over the hill and get turned around. Now they cheered, laughed, and called out to each other, “Over here! I saved you a seat with me, over here!”
Steele watched and waited for the moment when everyone’s attention focused on finding a seat. Poking the gun into Stetson’s side, he turned the weakened man sideways. Stetson tried to pry himself loose of his grip. Steele pocketed the gun and snapped open his switchblade. He pointed the tip underneath Stetson’s jaw. “This is it, man. End of the line,” he said and jabbed the blade upwards and ripped across Stetson’s throat.
He felt Stetson’s body jerk, and saw the eyes widened for a moment. Stetson gurgled as if on cue and began sliding to the ground. “Hey man,” Steele said, “If you’re going to be sick, let’s move over there.” Steele hefted Stetson’s half dead weight over to the a cement planter. Leaning Stetson against a short wall next to a hedge, he turned and walked away.
Within three minutes Steele rejoined the laughing group of girls he had spoken with before. His reformation back to wholesome, good-looking guy, was smooth, as always. He had avoided a major part of the blood spurt, wiped clean his blade, and stashed it back into his pocket. With his arms crossed and hands tucked under his elbows, he smiled to get their attention. “What are you girls going to buy at Fisherman’s Wharf?” His white teeth attested to his good-guy personality and the girls chatted with him non-stop. Steele found their trust in him, an unbelievable phenomenon. Especially with stories of the Serial Killer in the news day and night. The thought made him even happier than getting rid of Stetson.
“Which restaurant are we headed for? I’m starving!” yelled one person to another in their group. Amid the ensuing banter of which place to go, Steele chimed in, “Alioto’s the best!” and continued to walk in step with the girls as if he were part of their group all along.
Stetson knew he was dying. He struggled to move and fell to the ground. That’s when Jake, the disgruntled white bearded cable car conductor, spotted him. He had just apologized, “Sorry folks, the car’s full. You’ll have to wait for the next one.” The disappointed group moaned and stepped back to huddle together at the beginning of the new line.
“This can’t be another drunk,” the conductor mumbled to himself. He walked up to the dark mound by the planter. “Hey Mister, get up or you’ll be…” As he got closer, he faced the horror of the Serial Killer’s work. A ghastly cut across the throat bled profusely. Jake pulled out his handkerchief and covered it. He tried with both hands to stop the bleeding as he called out, “Someone, quick! Call for the police and an ambulance.”
Right away, men in the crowd left their families to see what had happened. “Oh my Lord,” the conductor said. “Please help this man. There is so much blood everywhere.”
The grip man noticed that his conductor had not rung the bell in response to his signal. Holding onto one of the white poles, he swung out and yelled into the darkness, “Jake! What’s holding you up, man?”
A shaky voice emanating from the crowd of men said, “Someone’s hurt. Get an ambulance and the police. Hurry!”
The grip man and his assistants ran toward the conductor to see for themselves what the problem was. They backed off in shock. One of the two assistants held back the crowd gathering toward them. The other ran into the wood shack, turned off the radio, and called the police for help.
The tourists who had boarded, unaware of what had happened, complained. “What’s the matter? What’s the hold-up now? We’re cold out here, can we get going soon?” The questions grabbed more attention to the assistants.
“Why is the grip man bent down over there? Did someone have a heart attack?”
In his final moments of consciousness, Stetson knew he had lost the battle with Steele. Sensing the close attention from the conductor, he moaned, making the slightest noise.
The conductor leaned closer, “What did you say, man? How can I help you?”
Stetson’s lips moved and all he could say was, “…arilyn. Save …arilyn.”
Then his very bad day ended in a very bad way.
“The ambulance should be here any minute now,” said someone from the crowd.
Jake shook his head, “I don’t think it’s going to help. I think this man just died.”
Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California