Copyright 2017, MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California
Steele’s chocolate brown leather jacket still damp from the blood spots he washed, began to smell. Dressed in a navy blue turtle-neck shirt and blue jeans, he blended with the darkness of the tailor’s doorwell. Steele hid from everyone in that little spot across the street from Marilyn’s apartment building.
He checked for his switchblade and it was where it needed to be. He had money in his pockets, a passport, credit cards, and a driver’s license, all in the name of George Bentley. Well, if I ever run into FBIs Agent Parker again, I’ll be ready to stick with the same name I gave him last night.
Noises rose to a higher level from where the grocers and pharmacy face the Murder Building. Detective Fontino, Special Agent Parker, and their men, had arrived at another crime scene. Flashing lights atop police cars spun red, white, and blue. Its colors bounced against the grocery store and other vendor’s windows. Men’s voices told onlookers, “Stand back, or I’ll have you arrested!”
Agitated residents, awakened from their sleep, raised their windows and screamed obscenities. Into a once quiet night, one person yelled, “It’s after midnight already.” Another person said, “Why can’t you catch the damn killer before he kills me, or before he kills you!” Windows slam shut with loud bangs. A fire truck and EMT van sped down the one-way street where Steele hid, pressing his body flat against the tailor’s door. The new crime scene is lit like an outdoor movie set.
Men from several buildings walked away from their apartments and headed toward the bright lights like moths to a fire. Distraction. Just what I needed.
Up in the second story corner apartment at Bush and Taylor Street, Brian put his arm around Marilyn. “At last, we finished these photo albums.” He lifted and slid each of the four albums on the wall bookshelf. “Holy cow, these books are heavy. My back aches. I bet your’s does, too.”
“You bet right,” Marilyn said and sighed.
As they slumped down onto her soft brown brush-velvet couch, Marilyn said, “At least we got most of the scraps put away.”
“Yeah,” said Brian, “and you know what? We need some Chinese food.” He stretched out the word food.
“Oh, but it’s so late and it’s too dangerous to be out now.”
“I know you’re hungry, Marilyn, “Brian said as he held her chin up. “You were so frightened of those men down at the Buena Vista, you had a hard time eating any dinner.”
“I’m still scared. How can you think of leaving me here to go down to Chinatown? There’s a killer out there.”
“We’re only about six short blocks away. And on foot I can make it there and back real quick. I know Chang. He’s the head cook who also takes orders at the back door of the kitchen. I’ll ask him to rush the order, okay?”
“No, but yes, too. Can you hear my tummy grumbling?”
“Yes,” Brian said and laughed, “it’s a loud and clear signal like you were waving flags!” He tickled her tummy and she slapped his hand away. “Hey, I can’t let my girl go hungry. What kind of suitor would I be? Your dad would kill me.” He kissed her with tenderness and she put her arms around him and held him tight.
“Don’t go, please,” she pleaded.
“You don’t understand, Marilyn. It’s like I’m pregnant and need to eat for three people. Brian stood to explain. “My stomach has three cheerleaders in it. One cheerleader jumps up and down when I think of pork fried rice. The other jumps for oyster beef, and the third one hops and keeps yelling, ‘Cashew Chicken, Cashew Chicken’.”
Marilyn burst out with laughter and points to him. “Oh, you’re a piggy just like me.” She pushed herself up from the couch and went into the kitchen, returning with a brown shopping bag with paper twisted handles. She said, “Be careful, and don’t forget the white rice.”
Brian kissed her quick on the cheek and said, “Lock the door behind me. Don’t open the door for anyone. I’ve got the key.”
Marilyn’s boyfriend hopped down the stairs two at a time with the folded brown shopping bag tucked under his left elbow. “What is this!” asks an old man scurrying back to his apartment door in slippered feet. He had been a few steps away from the hallway garbage chute. He slammed his door shut and put on the chain lock.
Brian imagined how the white haired old man had become frightened, and was now hunched over, and hiding behind his door. Worried, Brian walked up to the old man’s door and said, “I’m sorry I scared you, Mr. Halyard. It’s just me, Brian, going for Chinese take-out.”
The door open two inches tight against the chain. Light blue eyes under bushy white eyebrows shifted left and right and then squinted at Brian. “What are you doing? Aren’t you frightened to be out so late?” said Mr. Halyard.
“Dinner out didn’t fill me up tonight. So I’m hungry for a midnight snack. It’s a Chinese tradition, you know?”
“Yes, yes. I know. A Midnight Snack is anytime between ten p.m. and one a.m. I learned that years ago when I was a kid,” said Mr. Halyard. He chuckled. “You go ahead, but be careful. It’s dangerous out there. No wait!” Mr. Halyard shook a slim finger at Brian. How can you leave your sweetheart alone in the middle of the night?”
“It’s easy when she has the big hunger,” said Brian using his hands to emphasize how big. “Can’t you hear her stomach grumbling from here? Hey, Mr. Halyard, I gotta go do my good deed now. Do you want me to bring something back for you?”
“No, thank you, dear boy. It’s too late. My appetite has shut down for the night. But you and Marilyn both enjoy yourselves.” Mr. Halyard closed his door. Brian heard the click of the light switch and saw the inside lights turn off.
Brian opened the front door and the light from the foyer spilled onto the stone steps and sidewalk below. He liked that his dark silhouette made him taller and stronger. Let him dare to come between us. I’ll be ready.
While Marilyn waited for Brian, she put the remaining scrapbook supplies away. Two large pairs of scissors, bottles of glue, packs of picture corners, and rulers with a sharp cutting edges. They all went into the wide drawer of the carpenter’s table her dad insisted she use in her new home. “I know my little gal. You have a thousand pieces of every project and will want a place for everything.” She looked at a picture on the wall of her dad hugging her in front of their 24 foot sailboat in Seattle. A little boat, christened FUN TOGETHER, was just big enough for three. It used to be her, with her mom and dad on the boat going everywhere. But after her mom’s death, it was just her and her dad. With a deep sigh, she smiled at the memories that picture brought and threw him a kiss from her mind. Will I see you at my wedding, Dad? Will you forgive me for running away from home? I’m happy now and in love. I want so much to share this happiness with you, Dad.
A quick three taps on her door startled her. She recognized it to be Amy’s knock, but being cautious, Marilyn stood still and said, “Who’s there?”
“It’s me, Amy,” said her co-worker and neighbor, who lived down the hall. “I just wanted to return some of these magazines you loaned me. I know it’s late,” she said in a meek and apologetic voice, “but I just heard Brian leaving, so I thought I’d catch you before you went to bed. Can I come in?”
Marilyn checked the chain on the door and opened it a tiny bit. “Amy, how do you dare even be out in the hallway so late at night?”
“I’ve been stood up,” she said as she made a sad face. “I made a date with a cute guy I met at work today. By the way, he was asking about you, but don’t worry. I didn’t tell him anything,” Amy added.
Marilyn gasped, and managed to say through the small opening, “You mean those two creeps that kept leering at me?”
“Well, yes and no. It was just one of them that came back later and asked about you. But I told him you had gone home so then we flirted for a while and he left.”
“Hand me those magazine and get back to your apartment. You’re putting both of us in danger by coming over so late at night.”
“Well, okay. I’m sorry,” said Amy. She waited for Marilyn to unlock the chain and then handed over the stack of Vogue fashion magazines. “I’m sorry, Marilyn. Good night. I won’t bother you again.”
Marilyn hooked the chain lock again and watched Amy shuffle back to her apartment with her head bent downward. Then Amy turned and said, “Marilyn, you’re right. I am a fool. How could I make a date with a complete stranger and then leave my door opened like this when the Serial Killer is still roaming around?”
Copyright 2017 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California