Monthly Archives: February 2018

Trip on This: Chapter Four (Part Two)

Chapter Four (Part Two)

“Hello?”  I growl into my cell phone as I speed home.  If I was irritated or upset before, I’m furious now.

“Hey, it’s Roberto.  What’d you find out?”  He’s speaking in a low voice which means he’s at work and not on a break, naughty boy.

“The motherfucker rented the office from his lawyer for ten thousand for the day.”  I lay it on the line as I cut off an asshole SUV driver who thinks he’s hot shit.

“What the hell?”  Mowgli is understandably bewildered.

I explain the whole encounter from start to finish, not leaving out any details.  As I’m relating the story, my anger grows.  It has been a very long time since someone’s made a fool out of me on such a grand scale, and it’s leaving a sour taste in my mouth.  I pride myself on being on top of things—I have to be in my line of work.  Something like this slices to the guts of me.  It twists me up inside until all I can think about is how nice my hands will look wrapped around DiCalvo’s throat.  The satisfaction I’ll receive squeezing the life out of him as he begs for mercy.  By the time I’m through with him, he’ll think prison is the best idea he’s heard of in a very long time.  Mowgli patiently listens as I spew out the vitriol that is eating away the lining of my stomach.  He knows from experience not to interrupt when I’m on a roll.  Even when I’m finished talking, however, he remains silent.

“Say something,” I demand, giving the finger to the shit-head in the Jimmy who thinks it’s his god-given right to occupy two lanes simultaneously.

“I don’t like this, Del,” Mowgli says, his tone low, but firm.  “What’s your next step?”

“I’m going to find out more about the girl,” I say, cutting neatly in front of a Honda Civic who is timidly crawling along in the fucking left lane.  People, please, I’m begging you not to drive in the left lane if you’re not willing to speed.  I like the states on the East Coast where it’s mandated by law that the left lane is only for passing and you must immediately move back to the right once you’re through or be ticketed.  It’s a brilliant concept, and I don’t know why it’s not used everywhere.  “I want to know what she did to get herself fucking killed.”  Not that I care about the girl, but if she’s going to mess up my life, I have to find out why.

“What was her name?”

“Angelica Sylvian,” I say.  DiCalvo tried to rush past his slip, but

I have a good memory for names. In fact, I can be pretty sure this was a truth because he was pissed when he said the name. Good. One actual fact in a sea of lies.  “Looks like she was pretty once.  Long black curls, cat-green eyes.”  I frown as I picture her face.  “I think she had a mole on her lip like Marilyn Monroe.  She was wearing a white dress.”  Amazing what I can remember when I’m not in panic over possibly being arrested for murder.

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” Mowgli says.  “Do you have a lawyer?”

“What do I need a lawyer for when I got you?”

“Well, I know of one if you need her.”  Mowgli is not in the mood for jokes which is too bad because I am.  I could use some serious cheering up.  “Is there anything you want me to do?”

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Trip on This: Chapter Four (Part One)

Chapter Four (Part One)

“I need to talk to Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo,” Trip says firmly to the receptionist, a woman about Trip’s age, also Asian, who is looking at Trip with bored disdain.  The receptionist is Chinese-pretty with slanted eyes and planed cheekbones—Lucy Liu in the flesh.  These North Beach bitches have such an attitude.

“Who?”  The receptionist asks, her voice nasal.  She’s twirling a lock of her shiny black hair around her finger with its perfectly-manicured fingernail, and Trip has the urge to reach across the desk and strangle the woman.

“Mr. Renaldo DiCalvo,” Trip says, enunciating carefully.  Her voice is flat, but menacing.  She doesn’t have time for this bullshit.  “I need to talk to him now.”

“There’s nobody here by that name,” the receptionist informs Trip, her tone implying that perhaps Trip better stop taking whatever drug it is she’s ingesting.  There is also a hint of smugness that sets Trip’s teeth on edge.

“Look,” Trip begins, then shuts her mouth.  This is the same receptionist she saw when she visited yesterday.  Either she’s losing her mind, or Nicole—as her nameplate says—is lying through her pearly-white teeth.  “I’d like to speak to whoever occupies the corner office, then.  The one with the great view and the elevated chair.”  Her tone is hard, and her eyes are staring into Nicole’s.  The latter would have to be made of sterner stuff or making more than twenty dollars an hour to stand up to Trip, so she merely nods and presses a button on her phone while picking up the receiver.

“Mr. O’Reilly?  There is a, uh, there’s someone here to talk to you.”  Nicole pauses to listen, and her cheeks are stained red.  “I know, but, uh, OK.”  She turns back to Trip, a bit more steel in her voice.  “Mr. O’Reilly is not to be disturb.  I’m sorry, Miss….You’ll have to make an appointment.”  Her voice is smug, as if she’s won a coup over Trip.  She pats her glossy hair, preening at a job well done.  Trip looks at Nicole until the latter’s eyes fall.  Nodding to herself, Trip walks past the desk and through the unlocked door.  “Hey!”  Nicole bustles after her, her voice bristling with indignation.  “You can’t just charge back there like you own the place.”  She totters after Trip in impossibly-high heels, swaying dangerously as she moves.

“You aren’t going to stop me.”  Trip halts in her tracks, turns and steps towards Nicole.  Trip’s biceps bulge as she clenches her fists.  Nicole emits a little squeak and takes a step back.  She is one of those Asian women who thinks it’s better to be tiny and cute than in shape.  Satisfied, Trip turns around and continues until she reaches the same office where she had met with Renaldo DiCalvo.  Without knocking on the door, she opens it and strides on in.  She stops when she sees what’s going on.  There is a man about six feet, stretched out on what looks to be a masseuse’s table, his white hair obscuring his face.  He is naked except for a towel wrapped around his mid-section.  Behind him is a breathtaking Japanese woman dressed in a traditional kimono, her hair pulled back in an elaborate bun.  The man doesn’t even bother looking up, but the Japanese woman does.  When her eyes catch Trip’s, she looks away in embarrassment.  Trip glares, angry at this woman for perpetuating that stupid fucking stereotype.

Trip takes several breaths to calm down, looking around the office as she does.  It’s definitely the same office, but there is no trace of DiCalvo.  Trip walks over to the desk, ignoring the other people in the room.  The pile of papers are gone; the picture is gone; the desk is sparse and clean with a neat pile of business cards perched on the corner.  Trip’s fury mounts as she silently contemplates what to do.  There is nothing in the this room that identifies it as the one where she had met DiCalvo.  There are now diplomas on the walls from prestigious Ivy League schools with the name, Caleb O’Reilly prominently penned on each one.  The man on the table doesn’t look like he’s Irish, but really, what has Trip seen of him other than his undercooked body and his shock of white hair?

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Trip on This: Chapter Three (Part Three)

Chapter Three (Part Three)

“Ready to go?”  Mowgli looks disgustingly fresh for someone who hasn’t had his eight hours of sleep.  He is wearing dark brown slacks, a black button-down, and a charcoal-gray tie.  In other words, he’s dashing.  I refrain from rolling my eyes as he’s doing me a favor and doing it willingly.  I nod, slipping my backpack-like carrying bag containing my laptop on my back, throwing my duffle bag over my shoulder then point at the garbage bag.  Mowgli picks it up gracefully, and we’re out the door.

“Delilah!”  Mrs. Sanderson, an old lady from across the hall, totters towards me, a smile wreathed on her wrinkled face.  “I made you some chocolate éclairs!”  She holds up a bag that is moist with grease.  She knows that I love her éclairs even if I’m not crazy about chocolate, and she makes them for me at least once a week.  “I know how much you love them.”  She beams up at me—she’s five-foot nothing to my five-six.  “Who’s this handsome boy?  Is he your beau?”

“Mrs. Sanderson, this is Roberto.  You remember him—you’ve met him before.”  Mrs. Sanderson’s memory is failing as is most of the rest of her, but she remembers me and likes me for some unfathomable reason.

“Roberto?”  Mrs. Sanderson squints up at Mowgli, trying to look at his face.

“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Sanderson,” Mowgli says obligingly, bending forward so she can see him better.  He shifts the trash bag to his left hand and holds his right hand out.  When Mrs. Sanderson places her bird-like claw into his hand, he kisses it, making her blush.

“Oh, it’s you!  I remember you!  You gave me a carnation once.”  Mrs. Sanderson stares up at Mowgli with adoration.  He’s not only kind to animals, but to the elderly and the infirmed as well.

“A lovely lady such as yourself deserves some beauty in your life,” Mowgli says gallantly.  “It was the least I could do.”

“Oh, you,” Mrs. Sanderson blushes, a pleased smile on her face.  “What would Mr. Sanderson say if he heard you?”  As Mr. Sanderson is the same height as Mrs. Sanderson and in a wheelchair, not to mention deaf, it’s safe to say he wouldn’t say or do much of anything.  “What’s your favorite pastry?”

“I love scones,” Mowgli says solemnly.  Like I said, the boy has a hard on for all things British.

“I hate to break up this chat-fest,” I say, an artificial smile on my face.  “But I have a plane to catch.  Remember, Roberto?”

“A plane?”  Mrs. Sanderson claps her hands, forgetting she’s still carrying the bag.  “Where are you going, Delilah?”

“To, ah, Connecticut.  My mom’s sick, and I thought I’d visit her.  I’m going to be gone at least a week.”

“Oh, your poor mother!”  Mrs. Sanderson says, her eyes moist.  “My own daughter, Ellie, is no longer with us, but there’s no use talking about that.”  She swipes her eyes with her hand.  “Here.”  She thrusts the bag into my hands and gives me a peck on the cheek.  “Your mother is lucky to have such a good daughter.”  Sure.  The mother I haven’t seen since she and my father gave up on me when I was seventeen.  Not that I blame them—I drove them to it.  “Have a nice trip, dear.  I’ll keep an eye on your place while you’re gone.  See you, Roberto.”  Waving to the both of us, she totters back to her apartment.

“Nice old lady,” Mowgli says cheerfully.  As we go down the elevator, I tell everyone we run into the fabricated story about going to visit my sick mother in Connecticut.  By the time we leave the apartment building, I’m beginning to believe it myself.  Mowgli dumps the garbage before we head to our cars.  “Shit, your face,” Mowgli says as he hops into his car.

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Trip on This: Chapter Three (Part Two)

Chapter Three (Part Two)

The apartment building is deathly quiet and has an unlived-in feel to it.  Trip cannot repress a shudder as she presses on the buzzer.  Nothing.  Then she notices that the door is propped open.  Once again, she marvels at the stupidity of her fellow man.  Sure, it makes her job easier, but it also makes it more dangerous for the residents.  The purpose of having security is so that not just any Joe can walk in off the street.  Trip slips the piece of wood from the doorway and shuts the door firmly behind her.  She takes the elevator up to the fourth floor then gets out.  ‘Go to your left immediately when you enter the apartment,’ DiCalvo’s voice says in Trip’s mind, unbidden.  She picks the lock and slips inside, carefully shutting the door behind her.  For the first time ever, she doesn’t linger but simply flips the light switch.  She just wants to get this job over with.  She hates rushing, but something is compelling her to keep moving.  Nothing.  No lights.  She frowns and gropes her way to the left, her hands safely encased in gloves.  The light works in the bedroom, and she heaves a sigh of relief.  She looks around, hoping the jewelry box is in plain sight.  It isn’t.  She starts tossing the room, starting with the dresser drawers.  She hears the wail of a cop car faintly in the distance.

There’s nothing in the dresser but expensive clothes and lingerie Trip would kill to own.  Just because she’s a tough woman doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy feminine fripperies.  This Sylvian must be a high-maintenance gal with the thousands of dollars of clothes she has.  Trip goes through the vic’s drawers twice before concluding the box isn’t there.  She opens the closet, but there are only clothes.  She is frowning by now, exasperated that this isn’t as easy as she was told it would be.  The jewelry box isn’t under the bed or in the desk drawer, either.  In fact, Trip can’t seem to find it anywhere.  Her sense of unease grows as the siren’s wail grows louder.  She looks around the room for a hidden door or a safe or something, but there is nothing.  If there is, it’s hidden so well that she can’t spot it in a glance.

What the hell is going on here?  The siren sounds as if it’s just outside the building.  Trip’s heart stops, making her hurry to the window.  The bedroom is facing the front of the apartment, and the police car stops right in front of the building.  There are more sirens in the distance.  Shit!  Trip runs from the room, leaving the light on.  The feeling she’s had all day grows until it’s spreading throughout her body.  She can’t go out the front door because she just knows this is the apartment the cops are coming to.  She rushes into the kitchen and flicks on the light.  She nearly shrieks out loud when she sees a body lying on the floor, covered in blood.  The knife is still sticking in its—her—sternum, and her eyes are staring dully at nothing at all.  The vic must have been a pretty girl in life with her long black curls and green eyes, but now she’s just a corpse.  No longer Sylvian—just a body.  Trip’s eyes flicker to the table where there are two glasses just like the one DiCalvo offered her—one filled with whiskey, the other with water—this very afternoon.

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Trip on This: Chapter Three (Part One)

Chapter Three (Part One)

“Ms. Wire, I’m going to get straight to the fucking point.”  The short, balding, sweaty man leans over his desk, planting his fists firmly on the papers slopping around on top of it.  A picture of the man with a pretty, anemic woman cringing under his arm and three equally washed-out children teeters precariously on the edge of the desk before tumbling to the ground.  The man ignores the picture and glares at Trip as if the difficult situation is her fault.  She stares back at him, not dropping her eyes deferentially as he expects.  She doesn’t let punks like him get to her because she knows he needs her and not vice-versa, especially since she just deposited the last of the money Harrington gave her.  It is quite a thrill to look at her bank statement and see that many zeroes.  Per usual, Trip doesn’t answer as the short man postures but waits impatiently for him to get straight to the fucking point.  She glances around his office as he blunders about.  It’s dark and masculine with his chair ratcheted up so he could lord over his minions beneath him.  A Napoleon complex, indeed.

“This is what you might call a delicate situation.”  The man, who still hasn’t introduced himself, spits out the cliché with a straight face.  Trip doesn’t bother telling him it always is.  “Name’s DiCalvo, by the way.”  She can’t tell if it’s his first or last name, then decides it doesn’t really matter.  “It involves a girl and some indiscretion.”  Of course it does.  Trip sighs loudly to convey her boredom, but DiCalvo ignores her as he continues talking in his rapid-fire manner.  “Some bitch who thinks she can get away with something.  You know the kind of bitch I mean?”  Trip gazes at him, but doesn’t answer.  “I hate nothing more than an uppity woman who thinks she can jack me around by the balls.”  He pauses to wipe his forehead with a handkerchief, then starts to rant again.  “That’s why I don’t fuck around on my wife.  With her, I know what I’m getting.  With those girls out there these days, well, who knows what kind of crazy stunts they’ll pull?”

“I don’t do injury,” Trip informs him, watching his anger with a jaundice eye.  There’s a studied quality to his ranting, as if he’s practiced the lines.  She has the feeling that he is doing it for her benefit, not because he really means it.  “If that’s what you want, I’m out of here.”

“Shit, no, that’s not what I want.  I want that, I got boys who can do that.  I wouldn’t use an amateur like you.”  The scorn in his voice is obvious. “I mean, shit, sending a broad to do that to another broad is some sick shit, you know?  No way is that what I’m going to have you do.  See, this bitch, she’s a real ballbuster.  She thinks she’s got a gold-plated one, you know what I mean?  God, I hate bitches like that.”

“What’s your problem?”  Trip breaks in, no longer willing to play his game.  She has already decided to turn him down, so it’s just a matter of hearing him out.

“My boss, you don’t need to know his name, got entangled with this bitch.  Angelica Sylvian.  Shit!” DiCalvo stops, an upset look on his face. “Forget her name. it’s not important. What’s important is she’s trying to blackmail him.  Letters.  Pictures.  You know the drill.  We want them back.”  DiCalvo is dripping sweat by this time, despite the air conditioning.

“Where?”  Trip asks laconically.  Might as well get all the details before having the pleasure of telling this dick to fuck off.

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Trip on This: Chapter Two (Part Three)

Chapter Two (Part Three)

It is inevitable, the crash that follows the high.  Trip knows that, and yet, every time, she hopes to escape it.  She spends the day after the job is finished burrowed under her covers, not moving from her futon except to eat, drink, and shit.  If the black isn’t too heavily upon her, she reads, but that’s not always possible.  She flips on the television so there is background noise, but she keeps the volume on low so it’s not overwhelming.  All the energy and the adrenaline that fuels her while she’s performing dissipates once there’s no need for it to exist.  Trip has long since accepted this stage of the job, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it.  She is not a woman who is comfortable feeling weak, so for those specific days, she unplugs the phone and refuses to answer the door.

Her best friend, Mowgli—nee, Roberto Esteban—hasn’t stopped trying to jolt her out of her funk on these days, but has yet to succeed.  She solves the problem of him dropping by on these days—he has a key—by simply not telling him when she’s finished a job until she’s functioning again.  Then she has to suffer through him lecturing her on how friendship is a two-way street and how she shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that she needs to lean on someone once in a while.  He towers over her at six-feet six, and was recruited by many prestigious schools to play football and basketball, but his true love was baseball which he excelled at.  The few carefully-selected teammates who knew he was gay didn’t two shits about it as long as he never came on to them and he continued to produce—both edicts which Mowgli followed to the letter.  He blew out his knee his third year in college and hasn’t played competitive sports since.  He’s good-looking with dark skin because of his Filipino blood, dark eyes, and a wide, engaging smile.  His tats and piercings, not to mention his swagger, don’t hurt, either.  If he were anything but a hundred-percent gay, Trip would be all over him like flies on rice.  Where did that horrid expression come from, anyway?

She calls him Mowgli because he loves animals.  When he tried to protest, she said it was either that or Dr. Dolittle, so he chose the lesser of two evils.  He is the only one of her friends who calls her Del because he can’t stand the name Trip.  When he is angry with her, he calls her Delilah.  When he’s pissed at her, he calls her Delilah Wire.  When he calls her ‘Delilah Esther Wire’, then she knows she’s in big trouble.  She met him on the streets one day when she propositioned him, not knowing he was gay.  It was her first year in San Francisco, and her gaydar hadn’t been properly installed yet.  He had taken one look at her and unofficially adopted her as his sister.  She refused to live with him because of her pride, and he couldn’t convince her to go to a shelter, but he made sure her life on the streets was as easy as possible.  He’d bring her food from time to time and gave her money when she’d accept it from him.  He was the first to cheer when she rented her first apartment, and though he might not like what she did, he never judged.  He works in the tech/gaming industry, but wants to write a book some day.

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Trip on This: Chapter Two (Part Two)

Chapter Two (Part Two)

It’s almost dusk, which is my favorite time of day.  I love the changeover from light into dark for all the promises the night holds.  I am outside Gina’s apartment complex which, of course, has a security system.  It is two days after my nightmarish experience with aerobics, and I spent yesterday recovering.  This is the first time I’ve been able to walk without limping.  I’m still not a hundred percent, but I’m not expecting any difficulties.  I’m wearing all black which is the norm for San Francisco, and I’m carrying my workout bag.  Gina is yet again at the club, and if she follows her pattern, she’ll be going out with ‘the girls’ afterwards.  Probably go to some fucking bar in the Mission, perhaps even the Lex—slumming it.  Would be just like the bitch.  I press the button to her apartment to make sure she’s not there, wait a full minute, then press a button at random.  I bullshit my way in by reciting a garbled message about my being worried about my mother who lives in the building.  I make my voice as soft and weak as possible, and I’m in.  It continually astounds me that even in high-class areas such as this, it’s easy to get into a secured building with a well-crafted lie and a feminine voice.  I trot up the stairs to the third floor where Gina resides, use my handy-dandy set of lock picks from my workout bag, and I’m in.  It takes me a grand total of thirty seconds.

I stand for a minute, soaking up the atmosphere.  I love standing just inside the door of an apartment I’ve broken in for no other purpose than to remind everyone else that I am, indeed, the woman.  When I’ve had my fill of gloating, I flip on a light.  The hallway is short and a lemony-yellow.  It leads to the living room which is a sunshine yellow with abstract paintings on the wall.  I can tell from the signature that they were done by Gina herself, and some are quite good.  Most are shit, of course, but I wouldn’t mind one or two of them.  Momentarily, I consider boosting the one resembling the Golden Gate Bridge, but that wouldn’t be professional.  Besides, chances are she’s not going to the cops if I just take what I’m after.  I lift her painting, and all bets are off.  Artists are hell on wheels when protecting their creative property.

The room is beginning to depress me with its unrelenting cheerfulness, so I cross over to the kitchen which is the size of a postage stamp.  I can tell from the pots and pans and the condition of her stove that Ms. Gina is not one to cook.  I open the freezer and there in plain sight is what I’ve come for.  Four test tubes.  I slip them into my bag and substitute the four test tubes nestled in my bag.  I shut the door quickly and head for the door.  One of my strengths is that I have no interest in anything other than finishing my job, so I’m not going to steal any other valuables.  Clients trust that I will go in, get what they need, then get out.  Since I get most of my clients by word of mouth, I have to be trustworthy.  It’s not worth it to me to slip a little something extra in my pocket because then I have an unhappy client if he finds out about it.  I take what I come for and not a penny more.

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Trip on This: Chapter Two (Part One)

Chapter Two (Part One)

Trip strides into Gina’s health club, wearing a black leotard over black tights.  She is swinging her ass just the tiniest bit as she saunters through the door held open by an accommodating fan.  She is sure he’s watching her ass as he leaves, which is why she includes the extra twitch.  Her hair is still pulled back in the simple ponytail, but she has added a touch of eyeliner, blush and lipstick to her face—she knows how the women in these uppity health clubs operate.  For many of them, it’s more a meat market than a place to work out.  Trip has small hoops in her pierced ears and a Berkeley sweatshirt over her leotard to ward off the chill.  She is wearing her hundred-dollar Nikes, white with a black swoosh.  She walks up to the desk where a tall, strapping young lad who looks just barely old enough to shave is manning the counter.

“May I help you?”  The young man asks politely, his fingers opening and closing compulsively around the pen he’s holding.  His white t-shirt shows off rippling biceps that bespeak of many hours in the weight room.  The pimples sprouting on his chin coupled with his agitated manner whisper of steroid use.

“I certainly hope so,” Trip drawls, slipping a touch of Southern into her voice.  “A little bird told me that I could try out the facilities for a day, a test run, you see.”  Trip smiles and leans forward slightly.

“Sorry, Ma’am,” the man says woodenly, a tic jumping under his eye.  “Someone told you wrong.”  He turns back to the book he happens to be perusing which is on the benefits of weightlifting.

“Look, Mike,” Trip says after reading his name off his name tag.  “I’m a friend of one Mr. Fenwick Harrington.  You might have heard tell of him.  He said to put it on his tab.”  Trip proffers a note from her workout bag.  It’s made up, of course, as Harrington had never been into this particular health club.  “Here you go, darling.  You certainly are nicely muscled, aren’t you?”  By Trip’s calculations, Mike is two or three years younger than her and not her type at all, but she’s willing to flirt if it’ll get her what she wants.  “You can call him if you’d like.  His cell number is on the note.”  Trip waits, her body erect.  She learned early on that the more confidence you display, the more likely you are to get what you want.  Mike reads the note twice, moving his lips.  When he hesitates, Trip reaches one red-tipped finger and traces a line delicately on the back of Mike’s hand.  He swallows hard and ushers her in.

“Here.”  He hands her a guess pass.  “Show this if anybody asks.  Do you need a locker?”  He holds out a key as well.

“Thanks, sugar,” Trip says, bestowing a wide grin on him.  She sails past him, only to turn and ask, “By the way, where are the aerobics classes held?”  Mike directs her with more accuracy than strictly needed; Trip nods and heads in that direction.  Her lip curls in scorn.  Some security!  He doesn’t even take her name.  She arrives to Gina’s high-intensity class three minutes before it’s slated to start.

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