My secret dugout loft space is five stories under a nondescript stucco ranch style house in Watsonville, California. Not real chic, but who would look for me in Watsonville? Or for Galinka, for that matter. When we need to have a secret meeting she just hops on Southwest and flies into SFO, rents a Town car (she’s partial to luxury grade Ford products, crazy girl!) and drives up the coast. Nobody at Steelskirt Beverly Hills division (her latest HQ) seems to notice. We usually meet up in Davenport for dinner and a little “downtime” at the B&B.
It was raining softly as I watched her slide into the Lincoln. I was leaning against the rail, feeling a little sad. The ocean was doing a slow roil a few yards away. Big full moon—somehow the moon on the ocean in Central California always makes me feel melancholy.
I had the room for another night. It was Tuesday, Taco night at the restaurant downstairs. I wanted to spoil myself before driving off to Chicago. Yes, drive. The Mercedes was packed; I’d be off at dawn with a bag of orange scones and a thermos of Mr. Espresso. I needed to think. A nice long drive would help.
Somehow the 1966 Mercedes SL still smells like new leather. It was Rodney’s—it’s the only thing I have that belonged to him. Oh, Rodney. If I could put time in a bottle! I’m a fast driver, of course. I talked to myself as I sped along, pretending that Rodney was beside me. I was in Omaha lickety-split, and then I was leaving Omaha because who the hell stays in Omaha?
There are no decent hotels in the middle of America unless you go way off I-80 and find some historic lodge, and I don’t go for that shit. I had to make do with something called a Hilton Garden Inn. The sheets were some plastic nylon mix and, I swear, they had Sky Vodka in the honor bar. Stuff tastes like rubbing alcohol. Worse yet—I ordered room service. Nothing special, they didn’t have caviar and they didn’t have oysters and they didn’t have anything grass fed even though there’s nothing out there but grass. Or maybe that’s hay. I said, Jesus, maybe I should order a fucking grilled cheese and they said, yes, we have those.
Minutes later a guy comes in rolling a food cart. Before I could ask for extra pickles he pulls a sawed-off out of his fucking pants! It’s an Aerosoft pistolgrip model k, I’ve used them and I know they aren’t very accurate so I dive behind what passes for a bed in that shithole room.
The Aerosoft is so named because it doesn’t make as much noise as you’d think. There’s a kind of a splutting sound and the bed is in ribbons. Good riddance, I think as I reach under for my trusty Lamassacre 50 caliber Repeato Charger. The Repeato can kill fifty people with one short pull of the trigger, but somehow I miss this guy and I hit the covered dish on his cart and a thousand little grilled cheese pieces spray his face. He’s too stunned to duck so I pull off another shot. This one hits the bag of Lays.
Chip shards fly off at incredible speeds; one hits him straight on the noggin, sending a razor sharp potato dagger deep into his brain. He goes down hard, gets up on one elbow, looks me in the eye, says, “I’m the first line of defense. Give it up. And don’t bother to order dessert. It’s not in-house.”
And then he breathes his last. I cover him with the tablecloth, to show some respect, pack my bag and high-tail it out to the Mercedes.
Somebody knew I was on my way to Chicago. Did they follow Galinka? And could I trust her?