Harris sat at an outside table with Swede at the Korner Kafe on the corner the next day. There wasn’t much to be down on any official channel and given his status of aged , a practicing alcoholic and newly just arrived in L.A. at a cheap dive, the local constabulary were not likely to have the time to listen to some ‘cockamamie‘ tale from his lips. Swede filled him in again on the particulars of his daughter’s tale of disappearance and this time brought along a graduation picture of the girl taken the year before. With no small amount of hesitation Harris told him about the little man with the big head in the hallway and the casket-like gun metal box that had thumped back when he had tapped it. Swede sat there listening stone faced and unmoving until he had finished. “I wouldn’t no where to begin to tell you . . .”, Swede began, “The crazy shit that came out of the closet when we were just ‘skating’ around ‘Nam’ makes no sense but just has gotten worse and worse.” “I don’t understand?“, Harris remarked. “I don’t either but I do know that something is up and our friendly ‘505’ wrist’ed ,Wingnuts, are deep in some of this crazy shit up to their shoulder blades“, replied Swede, “And that’s where we have to start!”
Since Swede was already ‘persona non gratia’ a the Stay-On-Main it was going to come down to Harris to do the ‘bear hunting‘ after hours to figure out when the spooks would appear again. From there they would have to work out a tail. Swede had a specially ‘gimp-fit’ van and would stay in the vicinity waiting for a sign from Harris. They next step would depend on where the ultimate destination of their query would turn out to be. It was back in the jungle not making plans past the next footstep. Harris walked back down towards the hotel his game face slipping away by the time he reached Main. The whole scene really nagged at his worst fears of getting hung up in something that would turn out to bite him in the ass. Swede had scared up an extra .45 clip full of hollow points from his pocket that he pressed inconspicuously into his hand when they shook goodbye. He walked an extra block down to the market and picked up another half-pint Wild Turkey. He figured that he owed it to Swede to remain ‘on station‘ at the elevator bewitching hour of ten of clock. One thing that was curious was that given the size of the hotel it had to have some sort of freight elevator in one of the two other wings? If that was the case then why would ‘they’ have the regular passenger elevators non-functional. Or at least switched on with the fireman key?
The room was exactly the same as he left it. He realized now that he had to make sure that no one suspected that he knew anything funny was going on and though he had to try to pull back on his drinking he still remained an inconsequential ‘alky‘. Just for practice, he looked around different parts of the room where he could set up saliva stuck hairs as ‘failsafes’ to see if there was any great deal of interest in his place. The next order of business was his .45 semi-auto. He didn’t want to be carrying a piece all around a very gun unfriendly town but he couldn’t rely on finding a really safe hiding place that was ready enough to grab in case of some unexpected issues. He thought about taping it inside the toilet tank cover but given the amount of plumbing issues it couldn’t remain there long enough to be feasible. Besides, aside from the pillow or between the mattress, that would be the third place he would look. It would be a ticklish situation at best. The other issue is if he did run into someone that he couldn’t do his most convincing drunk act for like the two characters with the overalls then he might be forced to use it. That would be messy in any case and he would have to evacuate pronto leaving a couple of fresh ‘stiffs‘ behind him! God forbid they would connect the event to his room and his records pulled from the V.A. and he would be shit out of luck without a ‘pot to pee in‘ hiding out on the street in the weeds.
The more he thought, he wondered if he should just pack up and ship out of here and head straight to San Diego? He had a hundred and fifty and could probably find a situation there if he did a park bench until he could get everything set up again. “Semper Fi“, he thought? What kind of asshole would I be if I ran out on a buddy? He was in a rock in a hard place but he figured he owed the Swede a few days of going through with it without sticking his neck out too far. He thought better of totting the piece until he had something really solid to aim it at. The new clip got wrapped up with the other in its tin foil bandage and stowed. It was approaching 5:30 P.M and he figured it was a good time to go get a drink and get himself mentally ready for the night ahead. He would see if he could get on the roof when he came back so that he could keep an eye on the alley. Thank God the building was the highest one for three blocks in any direction and once up there he was pretty safe from being seen. The tiny plastic pocket flashlight he picked up at the market could me used to send some Morse to Swede who would be waiting line of sight down on sixth just after dark. He got to the bar and the ‘day timer’s‘ were already sinking their heads down towards the bar. They’d be out like a light by sundown. He wondered, given the age of the resident population from the hotel next door what time at night ‘mother nature’s‘ call would be awakening the lot of them to unload. He figured that the building would be asleep pretty much until midnight or just after. He could take up station in the hall to check when the elevator noise stopped for a while and then go up to check on the alley. His ankles were bothering him a bit so he went back upstairs after a while and lie down and put his feet up on the suitcase. He put the radio on the sport’s station and tried to keep mentally active listening to minutia about the Dodger’s players and of course, the Cubs.
A loud impact from the room next door woke him up. He opened his eyes to find the darkened ceiling dancing again from passing street traffic. The clock radio dials said 10:20 PM. “Shit, Goddamn it!“, he spat. I’m already fucking up! He got up and looked quickly at his ankles. He took the two elastic bandages that he had gotten earlier in the week and quickly wrapped each of them around an ankle and pulled up a sock over each. He slipped on his loafers and was heading out the door when the nagging of his bladder and then his reminded him that he had to take a pit stop. He rushed back to the commode and cursed the deplorable condition that he had fallen to. It took a few minutes and the requisite squirts to assure himself that he wouldn’t be feeling any drastic urges on the way then with a quick wipe and his sails raised again around his waist. He headed into the semi-lit hallway trying to slow himself down to look as nonchalant as possible. He stood for a while by the elevator to see if he could hear it moving. A minute or two past and then it started up and stopped again at some other floor. He hit the up button and waited. It took a couple of minutes more before the car arrived. He got in and rode it to the top floor. The hallway lighting was a bit better and he walked down the hall almost as nervous as he had once been ‘taking the point’ so many years back. The stairwell was dark and he carefully took each tread step by step until he he ran into the door to the roof. He gave the old door a push but it didn’t budge. He wondered if he would have to force it to get it open. He picked up his leg with his opposite hand and bracing himself on the railing and gave it a good hard kick. It popped open with a hollow bang that echoed slightly down the stairwell. Harris wondered if anyone had heard him and stood there quietly for a minute to listen for distant footsteps suppressing the pain inflicted on his ankle joint. Satisfied that none were approaching he stepped through the open doorway and inspected the door’s lock before moving across the roof. The door jam evidenced the fact that he was not the only person that had resorted to the same violent solution in gaining access to the roof.
Harris walked back over to the rear of the hotel, the full effect of the uncountable city lights amplifying the drama of the moment. He felt like he was some character in a modern caper movie. He carefully peered over the edge down at the alley but it seemed clear of traffic. He heaved himself down behind a ventilator so if some one did come up the stairwell, he wouldn’t be immediately seen and hanging his head over the ledge kept a vigil. The surround sea of lights seemed to rival what he had seen posed skyward in the heavens the difference being the the more organized pinpoints were closer deteriorating into a chaotic lack of continuity the father towards the horizon that one looked. He was once again reminded how insignificant he was to the many of hundreds of millions that ate, worked and slept in an endless cycle of hopeful youth eventually transformed into resigned advancing age. What was the purpose of it all beyond everyday survival. What meaning could there be for a solitary individual beyond the moment of the present. Where one found ones’ self at any given moment in time. He recalled a saying from youth where some authors or illiterate old codger, he couldn’t recall which would endlessly say at any given point when pondering all these greater mysteries of why and wherefore. “This is where life has brought me.” The alley was still empty. Here he was. A nobody high up several stories looking at ten or twelve other anonymous no ones. There must have been some form of brotherhood in that?
He sat there dividing his time between focusing his eyes on the alley trying to catch some untoward activity and looking around in different directions and marveling at the massiveness of his immediate world. The next thing he new dawn was lighting up the sky again from the east. Dawn was approaching and he had fallen asleep at his post. This time he wasn’t so visibly angry at himself as before. But resigned that the git of youth and the need for attaining something better than the self had been deposed by time and destiny to someone else than he once was. He had limits that for better or worse he had to operate within. He couldn’t know if his passing out from the booze or perhaps the growing weakness from his cancer was to blame. But he wasn’t the man he once was or still wanted to be. He had let Swede down, or maybe not? There were no new youthful arrivals the evening before. Maybe the ‘Wingnuts‘ had taken the night off? Or maybe only plied their craft on certain nights? He couldn’t say? But maybe there was a hard decision to make in terms of trying to pull himself together rather than bury himself each night in an alcoholic fog? he didn’t know for sure. One thing was. To get off this roof before anyone spotted him. He got up from his crumpled slouch and stiffly rose up into a crouch and limped off the pain on his way to the stairwell exit. He could only wonder, “What was in store from here on out?”