Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
“Your girlfriend, she’s a beaut, eh?” asked the cab driver.
“That’s right. All 5’2″, with blonde curls, and eyes of blue,” boasted Steele.
“Well, any guy with a beautiful girl waiting for him is a lucky guy,” said the cabbie as he unknowingly drove the Serial Killer from his latest murder scene.
“You got it right. Today, my luck is definitely tops,” Steele said as his eyes combed through the people strolling by. The cab picked up speed as they moved through the mixed neighborhood of residences and shops. Through the back window of the cab, he spotted a blond hair young man who looked quite like himself. A petite blonde with bouncing blonde curls had her arm in his as they laughed and jay walked across the street. That’s what Marilyn and I would look like if…
His thoughts and the cab came to a halt when the cabbie yelled, “Holy Crap!” The cab driver jammed on his brakes and the car screeched to a halt, but not before hitting an old man in a dark overcoat. Steele saw the surprised look on the old man’s face and heard the thump when the cab hit him on the left side.
“Where the hell did this guy come from?” yelled the cabbie as he jumped out and ran to the front of his car. People who had been window-shopping or dining in the nearby restaurants and bars, came running out to see what had happened.
“Is the old man still alive?” someone asked.
“Let’s hope so. He looks pretty old,” someone in the midst of the gathering crowd said. “He went down quick though, I saw the cab hit him.”
Still seated in the back of the cab, Steele heard several people yell, “Call for an ambulance.” Two young Chinese boys ran past Steele’s window toward the phone booth in front of the Victoria Station restaurant. They fought each other for the small space in the red wood framed telephone booth which was a replica of the one in London. He continued watching the people of various nationalities coming out of buildings, shops, and restaurants to see what happened. They were like ants drawn to honey. Then, with a start, he realized that the old man looked like Alicia’s grandfather at the barn on the night of the hurricanes. Shivers moved up Steele’s arms and then he broke himself away from the memory.
Residents in the neighborhood stuck their heads out their windows. The cab driver stood along with the others who made a ring around the man who lay still on the ground. “This isn’t a hit and run, Man. But where are the cops?” complained a short man with a thick beard and no hair on his head. Steele noticed that this guy favored turtle-neck shirts as well.
Right at that moment, Steele thought he saw the old man move his arms, “Hey, look!” a young female voice in the crowd said, “The ole guy is alive.” The crowd shifted and people moved closer for a better look. Some other person now, in a dark suit, seemed to be examining and talking to the crumpled figure.
Steele slid out of the taxicab unnoticed. Time for another quick departure. He pulled the knitted cap down over his ears just as the 30 Stockton bus pulled up to its spot. A few quick steps brought him in line with the others waiting to board the bus.
On the landing next to the bus driver, Steele dropped his coins in and turned to the back of the bus. A hand tapped his arm. “Just a moment, Sir. You need a dime to go with that nickel. Not a penny.”
“Sorry, man, guess my mind wandered elsewhere.” Steele’s fingers slid by his switchblade as he scrounged in his right pocket for a dime.”Here you go,” and he watched the thin shiny silver coin clink back and forth down the chute to join his nickel.
In the dim lighting of the bus, Steele melded with the other late night travelers. The front and back doors of the bus hissed as they closed and the bus continued on its route. Steele sat down next to a dusty and rain streaked window where he caught a broken image of himself. The simplest disguises make the best ones. His gaze shifted to the other passengers on board. Three Chinese women chatted away in their native language. One of them sat on the end of a long bench seat, and the other two sat together at a right angle of her. All three of them wore floral headscarves. Steele knew they had seen him coming down the aisle but now, they paid no attention to his presence.
An old stubbled face drunk sputtered spit and obscene words as his head bounced against his chest on the bumpy ride. His black threadbare jacket showed stains that never received a proper washing. A black woman sat down behind him and quickly realized her mistake. She held her hand over her mouth and pinched her nose. Then she gagged at the reek of old vomit and stale alcohol that permeated the air around them.
Lady, move to another seat. Steele watched her as her eyes shifted from one passenger to another. When her eyes landed on him, Steele faked a coughing fit, hoping to distract her from remembering his face, and his tactic seemed to work. The woman looked away and stared out her window. Steele watched her fidget in her seat, scrutinizing every street sign.
As soon as Steele saw the sign for Clay Street, he knew Sacramento Street was next. He pulled on the thin rope above the window to signal the driver for the next stop. The black woman had a transfer ticket in her hand, and she did the same. Several more buzzes went off. Both Chinese women who sat side by side pulled on the cord several times. “Get up now, Mae. Or we will leave you behind. Then you will not be in Chinatown anymore. You will end up in Union Square. Come on, get up! No, no, Macy’s is not open now, Mae. Hurry up,” her friends urged.
When Steele got off the bus, he turned left and headed toward the stairs leading to the top side of the tunnel. He pulled the short collar of his jacket higher and realized he missed his navy blue neck scarf. He pulled the fabric of his turtleneck up and hunched over. He knew that in this Chinese residential area, a Caucasian spotted in their neighborhood, would be suspect. Steele turned his head a bit to the left and caught sight of the black woman waiting at another corner to board the 55 Sacramento bus.
Turning left on the landing, he caught the scent of stale urine and he thought of the dirty drunk on the bus. The driver should have kicked the bum off right away. A few more steps brought him out and over to the top center of the Stockton Street tunnel. Leaning over the thick white arched edge of the tunnel, he saw how the buses trailed its trolleys for power. A few cars sped up to roar through the tunnel. When they had passed, the quiet returned and the cool air brought a soothing sense of calm.
A short hike over a deep-scored sidewalk and Steele had made it to Bush Street. He turned right, walked a few yards, then paused in the door well of a specialty shop for women. He knew from previous signs in the discreet window display, that they sold made-to-order undergarments for women with disabilities.
Steele’s eyes searched up and down the street and the tension in his body increased… I’m one block away from the Murder Building. The City might use that nickname on a street map someday. Great for the tourist industry. Nice honor for me. That’s my biggest murder site.
In contrast to the congestion on the streets this morning, the corner of Bush and Powell looked like a different place. No uniformed cops were in sight as he moved on the right side of the street. He stayed close to the windows and hid in the dark door wells.
Across from the Murder Building and his own apartment building next door, a few reporters stood in front of the grocery store. He could hear them arguing and speculating about the capture of the Serial Killer. Their voices echoed up and down the quiet streets. Steele saw a few curtains drop close as he looked up. Scared. The people here are all scared. They should be, I am dangerous.
No one seemed to notice Steele cross the street, slip his key into the front door of his building and disappear from the lobby. Maybe even the cops are too afraid to run across the Serial Killer. Maybe they rather someone else is killed than to have to confront me.
On the second floor, his next-door neighbor shuffled toward him. He carried an empty wastebasket in his arms. His slippered feet made a flopping sound on the carpeted floor. “Finally,” the old man wearing spectacles said, “The garbage chute is unstuck!” He nodded to Steele before he pushed open his door and said, “Good-night, young one.” Steele had smiled back and nodded at the old man before closing his door as well. It’s no wonder why they can’t catch me, everyone trusts me. Hey you, out there, I’m right next door to where I slit little Sweetie Pie’s neck.
The building had a flip-flop layout of the building next door where he and some other of Stetson’s men had destroyed the girls’ apartment. Steele recalled how easy it was for him to give instructions to the men helping him. He knew exactly which way to direct them.
Steele looked at his kitchen clock. It read 11:15. It is getting late, but that works for me. He took off the knitted cap and trashed it. He used a wooden hanger and held up his leather jacket under a bare light bulb. He checked it for bloodstains. Using a dampened kitchen towel, he scrubbed out some suspicious looking stains. After a few minutes, he turned the jacket over a couple of times under the light bulb again then deemed it clean of any potential evidence. Steele stripped and tossed everything else he wore into a brown paper bag and stepped into his shower. I’ll be especially clean for you, Marilyn. Are you in your nightclothes yet?
When he finished with his shower, he admired himself in the bureau mirror. I’m going to surprise you, Marilyn. And I’m going to love you until you’re out of your mind.
Copyright 2015 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California