By Pete Moss
THE COURIER BANDIT (Part V)
(Click here for Part IV )
Thinking: 'who this old fart think he is, gonna give me a lesson.'
But Old Fart doesn't wait around.
Amanda has all she can do to keep him sight over the next 45 minutes.
Finally they are riding through a crappy indistrial neighborhood. Dust, potholes, huge trucks and fat guys in hard hats.
Then Old Fart rides his bike right in the door of what turns out to be a chink lunch joint.
It smells good.
They sit at a greasy formica covered table with plates of rice, cabbage and mystery meat in rich gravy.
"So Missy, why you try follow me, last week or so?"
"My name is Amanda Carolina. You can stop using these stupid phrases like 'missy' and 'young lady'."
"Awright, Amanda Carolina, why been trying to follow me?"
"I'm a prostitute. About the best, matter of fact. I figured you for a customer."
"Drumming up business. I see. How old are you?"
Old Fart laughs out loud.
"Awright, awright, 23.....OK...19."
"I already have a nice Asian woman, my own age, I use once a week or so."
"I make you forget all about her."
"Maybe so. But I do like her allot. And since I turned 50 the whole sex thing isn't nearly as urgent for me."
"Ha! I got customers are 75. I make 'em feel like they 25 again."
"Well, it is a tempting offer..."
"So let's go, first time's on the house."
"Thing is, you remind me of my daughter."
"Daughter... you have offspring?"
"Yes, well, anyway, that's what her mom claims. My daughter goes to art school in Pasadena."
"Yeah, she's really talented. I had talent myself, but I never developed it. Point is, you remind me of her and incest, even simulated incest with an emotional detached pro, don't float my boat."
Amanda waits three beats, then says: "I never knew my Daddy."
"Knowing your Daddy can be a mixed blessing."
Amanda waits another 3 beats. "So where you stay?"
"I live in my van."
"Ooh, can I see it?"
Courier Bandit stashes his bike with a dozen other bikes in a rack in a parking garage.
He walks around the corner. Goes into the bank.
It's a branch office in the Sunset. Uncrowded, unhurried at 10:30 AM in this fogbound sector of Frisco.
There's no line and Courier Bandit hands over his note. The teller eyes go big, but she follows her training and hands over cash.
Barely 60 seconds later Courier Bandit is out of the bank.
He retrieves his bike, rides 4 blocks, turns 5 corners, drops off the bike, gets in a car and drives away.
He drives across Frisco. Abandons the car. Changes clothes and transfers the loot to an attache case. Trashes his outer layer of clothes and the courier bag, walks on.
He doesn't get far. A middle aged female, with the aspect of an FBI agent, confronts him.
She opens her coat and reveals the H&K she carrys.
Courier Bandit hands over the bag of loot without a word. FBI lady takes it. They go their separate ways.
Fluffy and Amanda have a second meet in Delores Park.
"I found him," says Amanda.
"When's the hit go down?"
"OK. We gotta talk to Tyke. Might as well get her done." says Fluffy.
Amanda and Fluffy stroll over to the Fluffhouse.
"Hey Tyke, you home?" says Fluffy.
"In the kitchen."
Fluffy and Amanda go in the kitchen.
Tyke is playing solitaire.
"You brought me a baby hooker," says Tyke.
"Sort of. She say she know where Courier Bandit stay."
"Yeah?" Tyke gets her gun and sets it on the table.
"Call me Amanda Carolina." Amanda does not offer any part of her body for contact wuith Tyke, by way of grettings. "I'm not a baby hooker, I been doing it since I was 16."
"Whatever," says Tyke.
Fluffy goes to check her computer. After a few minutes she calls out: "Look like he hit a BofA in the Sunset half hour ago."
Tyke and Fluffy get their kit together. They leave the house and walk to Tykes '65 Chevy Pick Up, parked on the alley.
As soon as Fluffy opens the passenger door Amanda jumps in.
Tyke glares: "what's this?"
"I comin'," says Amanda.
"She gotta show us where the guy stays," says Fluffy.
"Whatever, but the hit goes down, she stays in the truck."
"Gimme a gun," says Amanda.
Tyke snorts: "I doubt you could hit the side of a barn with a bazooka."
Tyke laughs. She pumps the gas and cranks the crotchety old truck. It takes forever to warm up, spewing plenty of noxious smoke.
Fluffy loads her .38, ostentatiously avoiding getting involved between Amanda and Tyke.
"OK, baby hooker, where to?" says Tyke.
"I told you to call me Amanda Carolina."
"OK....Amanda Vagina, where to?"
"Oh...baby hooker knows about another place besides the Tenderloin."
"Just drive Tyke," says Fluffy.
(Click here for Part VI )
FAMILY (Part V)
(Click here for Part IV )
I sent Granny a postcard asking if there were any other things she hadn't told me about my family.
She didn't reply, so I assumed the surprises weren't quite done.
I packed up my stuff. I only had two suitcases. I talked to my counselor, explained about my great aunt in LA. The counselor said they would take care of any transcript transfer issues if I enrolled at any school in California.
I said goodby to Darcy Roth. She didn't understand why I was bothering, until I explained that her class convinced me, once and for all, that I wasn't a wordsmith, at which Darcy got rather chilly. I think she really didn't like the term 'wordsmith'.
I shipped one suitcase and took the other with me. I bought a 30 day unlimited travel bus ticket.
My first stop was Albany.
"I thought you weren't going back for the holidays?" said Dee when I showed up at her place with my suitcase.
"I'm not, I'm going back for a Great Aunt who lives in LA. She's old and sick. She needs a caretaker."
"Really? You're great aunt is sick? In Los Angeles? You never mentioned her before."
"I just found out two days ago."
"What about us?"
"You can come to LA with me. My Great Aunt has a huge old house in some neighborhood called Angelino Heights."
"I can't just pick up and leave!"
"Why not? Come on. We can start a family of our own."
Then Dee was hugging me and kissing me. But then in another second she was pulling away.
"But we don't know anything about starting a family!"
"So? How hard can it be? Millions of people do it every day."
"If I keep listening to you I might actually...."
"I love you Dee."
"How are you getting there?"
"I got a 30 day unlimited travel bus ticket."
"By bus!? All the way to LA?"
"Sure, it'll be an adventure."
"On the bus?!"
"Yes. Dee. See the country. I bet you never did that before."
"I've went to Toronto once."
"There you go, you're a seasoned traveler already."
"I'll have to give notice at my job. Tell my landlord. I mean, it'll take weeks. I'm not like my mom, you know. I called her the Breeze cause she kept blowing down the road, leaving dust devils in her wake."
"But you'll come to LA?"
Dee looked at me. I took her in my arms. "Say you will," I said. "You know you want to."
"Say I will....or actually do it?"
"OK OK, I'll do it. But you should go ahead. Get everything ready with your great aunt. For crying out loud, you didn't even know about her until a few days ago. Did she know about you?"
"Uh....that's a good question, I forgot to ask Granny about that."
"Oh definitely, you gotta have at least a couple of weeks before I show up."
And so it was all set.
I spent a couple of days with Dee. It was like a Honeymoon.
When I went down to the bus station in Albany and got on the bus for New York City, Dee cried without restraint.
"C'mon baby. We'll be back together in a few weeks, a month at the most. I'll write to you every day."
"You better," said Dee, holding me tight as the people on the bus hooted and hollered.
Finally the bus driver yelled out the door: "C'mon buddy, are you on the bus or off?"
I got on the bus and watched as we pulled out, Dee in her parka, waving goodbye.
In New York City I decided take the southern route, making a left turn at Jacksonville.
When I got feeling cramped or claustraphobic I could get off the bus and get a room or even find a campground and sleep out, once I got far enough south.
It took 3 days to get to Jacksonville, and by then I was almost out of money.
It only took another 3 days to get to LA.
I get off the bus at 4AM, 7th and Alameda, just east of downtown LA.
The Santa Ana is hot, blowing gale force.
There's one cab at the stand. A battered Crown Vic.
An old black gentleman behind the wheel.
I walk over to the cab. I show the cabbie the address I have and mention I have 9 dollars and is that enough?
The cabbie peers at the slip of paper with the address. He looks at me.
"You sure about this address?"
"Yeah, it's my great Aunt Elisabeth's house."
The cabbie recoils. Then he turns and peers at me. He gets out of the cab, peering at me intently under the yellow glow of the streetlight.
"My god, I do see the resemblance."
I'm perplexed. "Resemblance?"
The cabbie sticks out his hand, "I'm Archie Washington, pleased to meet you sir."
I shake hands. "I'm Hollister McElroy."
Archie opens the door and I hop into the cab.
We pull out onto 7th street. Drive through skid row.
Downtown LA is towers of amethyst and streets of rubble, human ruins lurking and stumbling.
"So you're Duke Brown's great grandson." says Archie Washington.
"That's his old mansion you're headed for."
"My Aunt Betsy worked as housekeeper at that mansion for almost 6 decades."
"I guess she liked the job then."
"Yes, yes she did. She became quite attached to your great aunt Elisabeth. The two of them were companions for half a century."
"My Granny did mention something about Elisabeth's life companion dying not too long ago, that was your aunt? I'm sorry."
"Oh, she was estranged from the family. I hadn't seen her since, oh, maybe 1975 or thereabouts. I take it you don't know much about your great aunt?"
"I didn't even know she existed until about 2 weeks ago."
"And you don't know anything about your great granpa?"
"I didn't even know his name until you just mentioned it."
"What are the odds?" says Archie almost too himself. "After all these years Marmaduke Brown's great grandson returns on the bus and gets into my cab."
"Marmaduke Brown? That was my great grandpa's name?"
"Probably not. He came to LA by sea, from Lima, Peru, around 1880. But he wasn't from Peru, spoke next to no Spanish, and his English wasn't much better. Most people thought he was a Jew from Hungary. He arrived in LA with a pretty good stake. Jumped into real estate."
"Yes that was right after LA got linked up with the transcontinental railroad. There was a huge land boom. Most of these early real estate barons were showmen, promoters. They sponsored parades, made speechs, hired bands and gave away bar-b-que, chartered streetcars to haul people to whatever parcel they were developing, got their name in the papers. Duke Brown didn't do any of that. But if you go in the archives you'll see his name on plenty of paper; deeds, mortgages, liens, what have you. Then he married a daughter of one of the original Mexican land grant families. Her family still controlled thousands of acres."
I sat and thought about that. We passed through downtown. Drove up a hill and made a few turns. The neighborhood was dominated by enormous old Victorian mansions that would put to shame anything in Frisco.
"Whoa. What's all this? I had no idea LA had a neighborhood like this?" I said.
"This is Angelino Heights," said Archie Washington. We pulled up in front of one of the biggest mansions of all, with an iron gate around a huge lot that was bare of trees.
Dawn was hours away. But I could see that the old house wasn't in the best of shape. I thought of granny's dilapidated place in the Sunset in SF.
The meter read a little over five bucks.
I handed Archie the nine dollars I had and walked up the walk of my great grandfather's mansion, flat broke.
(Click here for Part VI)