Copyright 2017 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California
The fresh night air in the neighborhood pressed against Brian’s face. The muffled noise of police radios and men murmuring from the direction of the Murder Building caught his attention. “God, what else can be happening at that building? Have they found more bodies?”
Brian sighed as he saw how police cars and emergency vehicles parked in a crisscrossed manner, blocked his intended walking pathway to Chinatown. He went to the corner of the block and saw a yellow cab coming up Taylor Street. It had its top light on, signaling its availability. Brian waved and the driver pulled over and rolled down the cab’s window. “Where to?”
“I want to get down to Chinatown by way of California Street,” said Brian.
“That, I can do,” the cabbie said.
Brian got in the back seat and pulled the door shut. The cab driver pulled away from the curb and headed up the steepest part of Taylor Street. He pushed down the meter’s red metal flag and the metal box bolted to the dashboard clicked, displaying the initial rate of 35 cents. Half way up the hill the meter snapped to read 40 cents.
“Where to exactly in Chinatown?”
“There’s a back door of a restaurant I want to get to, but we have work around a few one-way streets with a lot of left turns. I’ll tell you the turns as we go, okay?”
“Sure. No problem, I think I know which back door kitchen you want.”
The driver pulled up over the steep edge of California Street and made a right turn. “Hold on,” said the cabbie. California Street was wider than any other street in a ten-block radius, and it was steeper, too. Brian put out one hand and pushed against the back of the seat in front of him. Still, he slipped two inches forward on his bench seat. As they proceeded downhill, their view expanded like a panorama reaching left and right of the Pacific Ocean. The Bay Bridge lit with white lights made this their city, and the rumbling of the cable beneath the rails for the cable cars combined with the Chinese music from distant restaurants, made the city extra special.
Their taxicab passed by closed shops filled with twinkling colored lights used to highlight clothes, art, and glittering trinkets from the Far East. Such were the delights of visitors from all over the world when they came to see San Francisco’s Chinatown.
“Ain’t it grand that these colorful lights are on all night long? And, you know what? When I drive near the center of Chinatown, there’s this foreign music playing. I feel like I’m in a charmed place and it makes it easier for me to be working late at night. Especially with that crazy killer loose in town,” the cabbie turned to look at Brian. “How about you? You scared to be out and about late at night these days?”
“I am, a bit. That Murder Building isn’t far from where my girlfriend lives. I really shouldn’t be out right now, but tonight, my girl and I have huge hunger for Tomato Beef Chow Mein, Cashew Chicken, Sweet ‘n Sour Pork, and Fried Rice. So, I’m taking a chance coming out to get us a midnight snack.
“Oh, I know how crazy you can feel when you get the hungries,” said the cab driver and he chuckled at the thought.
“I know the head cook there, his name is Chang. After I give him my order, it should get done pretty quick.”
“Ah, man. You make me hungry talking about food. After I drop you off, I’m going to zoom home. My wife is cooking me a hot meal now. While you’re having yummy Chinese, I’ll be enjoying stuffed pork chops.”
“That sounds great,” said Brian and he smiled. Someday Marilyn will be cooking up a big dinner for me when I come home from work.
“Whoa, make a left on Kearney Street, then go to Jackson, make a left up to Wentworth Street and make another left. My stop will be at the other end of the alley.”
“Righto!” acknowledged the driver.
When they arrived at the small backdoor of the restaurant’s kitchen, a bright light spilled out into the dark alleyway. The friendly cab driver pulled up on the meter’s red metal flag and said, “That’ll be $3.50.”
“Here’s a five. Keep the change,” offered Brian.
“Thanks man,” said the driver with a smile and a tip of his cap. “Thanks a bunch.”
Chang, the head cook, greeted Brian with laughter. He wiped his hands on his white apron, pushed back the netted boat shaped cap on his thick black hair, and shook hands with Brian.
The Chinese man’s ruddy pink cheeks added to his happy character. “You are out late tonight, friend. What you like to order? I will help make this for you,” said Chang.
Before Brian could say a word, Chang turned around and gave orders in Cantonese. Three of the cooks on the opposite side of the kitchen nodded their heads and started oiling their woks.
“You want usual order?”
“Yeah, that would be great. But, Chang, could you please put a rush on it? I left my girl at home alone,” said Brian.
“No problem,” Chang said. He turned, clapped his hands several times for attention and called out the orders to his cooks.”
Brian stepped outside into the cool air to wait. I shouldn’t have come out. Hungry or not, I shouldn’t have come out. He paced back and forth in front of the small kitchen door, rubbing his hands together, and then he started itching under his coat sleeves. What am I doing? I should have been more serious. There is a danger out here. God, I hope the food will be ready soon. Marilyn is going to be mad at me for taking so long.
Hiding across the street from Marilyn’s apartment building, Steele had been watching his rival come out the front door and leave in a taxicab. Steele’s roaring anger coursed through his body like Yosemite’s powerful King’s River. As he walked across the street, darkness filled his mind and emboldened him to do what he knew he needed do to make Marilyn his own. With no one around to see, he jiggled the front door and it opened without a sound. Steele glided through as smooth as a shadow.
At the top of the stairs, he turned right. No one dares to come out. They’re all afraid of me. He walked by Stephanie’s apartment. Silly and foolish girl. There’s someone out there just for you, but it’s not me.
At the last apartment on the left, the living room light glowed through the door’s windowpane. Steele heard soft romantic music from a radio. As the announcer started his dialogue about the softness of Ivory Flakes for the family laundry, Steele knocked on Marilyn’s door.
“Brian, is that you? Why aren’t you using the key?” said Marilyn in a whisper on the other side of the door.
Steele didn’t answer.
The chain inside fell to the side and the door started to open. Steele saw her soft blonde hair, and then he saw her beautiful blue eyes.
When she recognized him, she began to scream.
Steele pushed open the door, stepped in, and then he closed it. He put on the chain. “Shhh,” he said with his finger in front of his lips. ”Don’t be afraid of me. I’m your friend. I came to visit you.”
“How did you find me? What do you want?” demanded Marilyn as she backed up into the carpenter’s table. She tried to open the drawer where she hid her scissors, but Steele was coming closer. She rushed to the other side of the table and backed into the couch.
“My girlfriend lives down this hallway. She’ll call the cops,” Marilyn said.
“Her light’s off,” he said and smiled. “I think she’s asleep. Besides, no one heard you scream the first time. If they did, I think they’re all too scared to do anything to help you.”
“I’ll scream louder. There are people in this building that care about me. They’ll come through for me.”
“You really don’t have to be afraid, Marilyn. I came to let you know how I feel about you, and to give you a chance to get to know me.”
Marilyn looked around the room for something to use to protect herself. “You’re crazy! I don’t want to know you. You’d better get out now. My boyfriend will be back soon.”
Hearing that, Steele’s anger flowed into the tone of his words. “I saw Brian leave. I can’t believe how you betrayed me, Marilyn!” He put his hands to his head and yelled, “I’ve just found you. How can you so quickly fall into temptation and be with him? Don’t you know that I love you, and that you belong to me? Just me!”
Marilyn grabbed a thick yardstick from the corner of the room and held it in front of her. “Listen. You’re crazy. You don’t belong here. I don’t know you and don’t want to know you. And I certainly couldn’t ever love you.” Tears streamed down her face. “I can see the evil you intend for women.”
“It is not what I intend for you. For you, I offer all my love and devotion. I’ve searched for you for a long time. Now that I’ve found you, my life will be complete.”
“No it won’t! Get out! Get out!” Marilyn snapped the yardstick on top of the carpenter’s table to emphasize her seriousness, but her words and actions brought on other results.
The look of disgust Steele saw on Marilyn’s face stunned him. Instead of the romantic love he had imagined, she had rejected him.
Steele reached out for her, “No one will take you away from me, Marilyn. You belong to me. Forever.”
Marilyn backed up and stepped up onto the couch. She grabbed a pillow and threw it at him. He ducked from it.
Then Marilyn threw another pillow to the side of him. It hit his chest and fell to the floor. Holding the yardstick like a sword in front of her, she swiped the air trying to keep Steele at a distance.
Their footwork changed their positions, and Steele sensed she was like a sparring partner in the boxing ring. She was maneuvering toward the door. He took a step closer to her and she smacked his arm with the old wood yardstick. A third of it broke off, leaving a jagged end. Steele snapped out his switchblade and got the reaction he wanted.
Marilyn had backed up against the wall next to the door, her face was white with fear. Her hands holding the wooden make-believe sword shook. All of the sudden the room darkened. Steele moved forward to grab her, and Marilyn swung her sword in front of her like a blind warrior. They fell into each other and the clashing of their bodies shoved the carpenter’s table up against the far wall. The treasures in the drawers spilled out onto the floor. Marilyn felt an arm around her neck and shoulder. She tried jerking loose but ended up facing Steele. Then she felt a burning pain in her side.
Gradually light filled the room again, and Steele was on top of her, starring down at what he had done. He pulled his switchblade out of her side. Blood dripped and spread on the torn shreds of her blouse.
Marilyn turned away from the sight of the blade and her blood. Then she saw her heavy-duty craft scissors on the floor near her. She reached for them, and as if doing a sit-up, gained the momentum to stab Steele in the stomach.
In disbelief, followed by anger, Steele ripped away the pendant she wore around her neck, and Marilyn screamed. She released the scissors and her hand flew up toward his face. The birthstone ring on her finger scraped a deep bloody line across his cheek. Crying, she scooted backwards as he began to fall. Then she crawled away from the monster that wanted to kill her.
Stunned that the girl he loved had stabbed him and maimed his face, Steele let out a cry of rage. As if in response a cold swirling wind gained force in the room and made everything shred and burst into tiny pieces.
“Why?” Steele said. “Why?” he said to himself. The darkness did not protect me! What has gone wrong?
Steele looked around the room and found Marilyn near the window. In a deep voice like a growl, Steele said, “I’m going to kill your Brian. And when that’s done, your sins will be forgiven and you will be mine, forever.”
Steele grunted and tried to get up. “How could you … I love you so much,” his voice was hoarse. He got up, staggered, and fell.
Marilyn pushed with her legs and clawed the carpet with her right hand. Then she continued to crawl toward the window and wedge herself behind the couch. Slowly, she got her feet under her and leaned against the wall. Using her leg muscles she managed to push herself into a standing position next to the window frame. Unable to move her left arm, she pushed at the window with her other hand but it wouldn’t open. Sharp pains jabbed at her side and she held it for a moment. My side is so wet. Am I bleeding to death?
She looked over to where Steele’s body lay on the floor a few feet away. Her scissors, bloodied, lay by his side. He looked dead but then she saw his hand move. Marilyn screamed, and kept screaming. That was all she could do. She had no more strength and the pain had become overwhelming. Marilyn fainted.
Copyright 2017 MillieAnne Lowe, Oceanside, California