By Pete Moss
"So what's the next step?" I say. Now Dragen comes into the kitchen. Yakuza and Yukio as well. The room is getting crowded.
"Next step for what?" says Dragen.
"Laphloig?" says Yakuza.
"Yeah," says Jonathan he pours Yakuza a shot. Yakuza sniffs it. Takes a sip, rolls it around on his tongue. Swallows appreciatively, hands the shot to Yukio.
"See now, this Japanese tourist knows better how to drink Scotch than you," says Jonathan to David.
"Yeah, well don't give him any more. You know how fast those little Japanese people gets drunk," says David.
Yakuza, not sure what's being said, smiles and bobs his head. Yukio, having taken a sip hands the shot back to Yakuza, who rolls the shot in his hands to warm up the scotch. He takes another sniff and sip.
"Don't gotta be all racial about it," says Jonathan.
"Bein' real. My moms was a bartender at Fishermans Wharf for 20 years," says David.
"Next step for what?" says Dragen. He senses his area of expertise might be coming up.
Spela explains about Lonnie Pilkinton and historical status.
"Oh. Well. My guess is there's some kind of commission down at City Hall and you make a date for a hearing and present your case." says Dragen.
"Your guess?" I say.
"Hey, I was mostly criminal defense," says Dragen. "Maybe some kind of permit expediter is in order."
"We don't have any money for a permit expediter," I say.
"It makes sense," says Spela. She takes her laptop and goes into the front room and furious tapping sounds commence.
YoYo comes into the kitchen and rummages in the fridge. "What the fuck is all this weird shit?" she says.
"The dolmas are good. Even if they were made by a Muslim Goat Fucker," says Dragen.
"What the fucks a Dolmas? I ain't eatin' that shit," says YoYo.
"Good!!! More for me," shouts Spela from the other room.
"That Russkie bitch is getting on my last nerve," says YoYo. Then she turns to David. "Ain't it your turn on the bike?"
"Ain't my turn," says David.
"I think it is," says YoYo.
"I'll take a turn," I say.
"No no no. Don't let this lazy nigger get away with that shit," says YoYo.
David pours himself another shot. Yakuza goes in the fridge and makes a delighted noise. He pulls out the dolmas and shows them to Yukio. They talk excitedly in Japanese. Apparently Dolmas are big in Japan.
I go in the front room and get on the bike. Start pedaling. Spela has stopped typing and is peering at the screen.
"Well....it appears the commission meets about 3 times a year. Unless a special meeting is called. To get a special meeting you need to file a request with the Department of Adminstration. There's a $200 filing fee. To get on the calendar for a regularly scheduled meeting you have to file a notice of intent with the City Clerk. The filing fee for that is only $25. Of course the regular meetings usually fill up pretty quick. You also have to publish public notice in a newspaper certified by the State Board of Corporations. The listing for that can be found at the County Recorders office in San Leandro...."
"Whoa whoa whoa. This sounds pretty complicated."
"Yeah, luckily there's a regularly scheduled meeting for 2 weeks from now. Far as I can tell there's a few slots still open." says Spela.
"So we better get on down to City Hall and reserve one like today?"
"Except the subsection of the City Clerk's office that sets the calendar is actually in Emeryville." says Spela.
"Maybe Dragen can give us a ride," I say.
Dragen has the Packard stashed a few blocks away. We walk down to it and get in. Dragen goes through his starting ritual. Pumping the gas and twisting the key and the old beast comes to life with a triumphant roar.
We sit for a moment while it warms up. It hiccups a few times but runs smoothly after a minute.
Dragen wheels around and gets the car pointed downhill to the flats of Emeryville. The mechanical girl voice giving directions from Spela's laptop.
We get on the 580 at the Oakland Avenue ramp. Join traffic. Take the split.
"So what are you going to do with this monster once the self-driving cars take over?" I say.
"Self-driving cars?" says Dragen.
"You haven't heard?"
"Well I heard some nonsense but it was pie in the sky, I think," says Dragen.
"Oh no, Tesla is already selling cars with an autopilot function."
Dragen stares morosely out the windshield. "Self-driving cars," he says. "You know Packard actually tried a version of that in the '50's."
"They did?" I say.
"Yeah. It didn't work."
"Well, the sensor technology and so forth is much more sophisticated now," I say.
From the backseat Spela's laptop's girly voice tells us to take the 980 split for SF and the Bay Bridge.
"Turn that thing off, please," says Dragen.
Soon enough we're merging onto the 80 north.
And Dragen perks up. "Quick," he says, "Get the Tommy gun out from under the seat."
I look at him. He's not kidding. I reach under the seat and sure enough the Tommy gun is there. It doesn't have the clip in it but after a little groping I find the clip and snap it in.
"Keep it down," says Dragen. I'm aware of a throaty rumble coming up behind us. I look in the mirror. It's one of those new Dodge Chargers. From the sound of it, with modified exhaust. It gets right up behind us. Dragen switchs lanes suddenly. Horns blare. We're doing about 55 in moderate traffic.
The Charger pulls up next to us. Dragen stomps on the brake and the heavy Packard drops its speed and fishtails as the Charger shoots past.
Some guy in a ski mask leans out the passenger window with a gun and squeezes off a shot. The Packard's windshield shatters.
The Charger stomps on his brakes and slows up.
Dragen swerves behind then pulls up side by side.
"Show him the Tommy gun," says Dragen. So I do.
The Charger driver steps on the gas and Dragen cuts across two lanes of traffic and hurtles down an exit.
Luckily as soon as they saw what was happening the other drivers on the road gave us space. Car to car shootings have been in vogue in the Bay Area lately and everybody knows what to do to stay out of the crossfire.
The Packard rumbles down the off ramp and we pull in behind a convenience store.
Dragen gets out and lets out a mournful howl. "Do you know how hard it is to find a windshield for a '53 Packard???" he says.
"Fuck that, what if those guys in the Charger come back?" I say.
"They won't," says Dragen, gesturing to the CHP pulling into the lot.
"So we have a little excitement here? Looks like a rock hit your windshield?" says the CHP as he rolls up.
"Just another day at the office," says Dragen.
"Did you wanna make a statement?" says the officer. "Cause my shift is almost up and I got a 3 day weekend and I'd hate to delay my days off filling out some report."
"Entirely understandable," says Dragen. "Just the usual debris in the road."
"OK. Well, have a nice day," says the officer. He didn't even turn off his cruiser.
"We still have time to get to the clerk's office," says Spela.