Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dream State (Continuation of a novel)

My cell phone buzzed and rattled itself off the nightstand and onto my shoes. I looked down and saw the name, FRANK, brightly lit on the screen.
“Shit!” I said aloud, and rolled over for a few for hours more sleep. This self employment gig was gonna be a pain in the ass. I mean, desperate people do desperate things, especially when they can transfer some of that raw energy onto someone else. Frank was no exception. He called two more times in ten minutes, no doubt wanting answers I didn’t have. My head started to fill with ideas, things I could tell him. Your sister is fine and will live a long and happy life. Unfortunately, she will die, someday at the hands of, or rather, the fangs of an ill tempered water moccasin down on the pond walk at the retirement home in Celebration, Florida. Your sister is healthy as a horse; it’s you who has to be concerned, Fat Man. No, of course I couldn’t say that, it wouldn’t be ethical. Besides, I hated to tell Frank anything like this, besides I had feeling I’d get some answers in those boxes of magazines.
I leaned over and pressed “return call.”
“Frank!” I said shaking off a sleepy voice, “I just got out of the shower.”
“I need to see you,” he said in his usual calm, mannered voice.
“Certainly. What time?”
“As soon as you can.”
“Is anything wrong?”
I heard the cat purring on the line.
“Okay, how about…” The alarm clock burned an amber 11:00 AM. “In an hour?”
“Very well. I’ll see you then.”
“And Gus?”
“Bring, Peanuts.”
Before I could get up and hit the shower, the phone rang from “CALLER UNKNOWN.” I pressed the answer button.
“Hello, is this, August?”
I cleared my throat and tried to place the voice.
“August Chase?” The voice asked again.
“Who’s calling?”
“You don’t know me, my name is Carla Donati. I think you knew my sister?”
“Oh?” Immediately, I tired to place that name, Donati.
“Her name was Emma.”
I froze. “Emma?”
“Emma Donati. You spoke with her several times last month?”
“Did I?” It raced back into my brain like yesterday’s nightmare.
“I need to see you.”
“I understand it’s kind of awkward, but could you meet me at the Boat House CafĂ© in Central Park?”
“Sorry, I meant to say at about three o’clock this afternoon?”
“This afternoon?”
“I’m sorry for the short notice, but it’s the best time for me this week.”
“Okay. I guess. What’s this about?”
“I think you know.”
“Is it about the mugging? Because really, I had nothing-“
“I just have to ask a few questions…please, meet me?”
Her voice sounded edgy, like she was about to crack. I stared out the window wondering if this was some extended version of the “Emma” dream, a warped kind of epilogue to her life story.
“Carla, I’ll meet you, but I can’t stay long. Got a lot of things going on today,” I lied.
“Thank you.”
Still holding the phone, I caught sight of a man standing across the street from my apartment. He seemed to be looking right at me. The camera he held flashed a few times. I got closer to the window in time to see him walk around the corner. I noticed he wore a dark leather motorcycle jacket and black jeans, but he didn’t mount a bike. Then a motorcycle zipped past my window.
“Hello? Are you still there?” I asked, not aware she’d hung up. I didn’t hear the click at the other end. Why did I agree to see her? What could she possibly want from me? Unless she thought I was some kind of nut fulfilling a deadly prophecy? I was sure she’d have the cops there waiting for me. Already things were turning to shit and I hadn’t even had my coffee yet.

I’ll Do That.

Peanut fit snuggly into a plastic shopping bag. I’d take him out before I got to the fat man’s apartment. Didn’t want him to think I was disrespectful of his little buddy. Just as I turned the corner onto Frank’s street, I saw motorcycle jacket guy walking toward me. I stopped short and pressed my back against the building as he got buzzed into Frank's building. An hour late and look what I find; Frank dealing in dirty little secrets. This guy was starting to scare me. Stepping into a nearby coffee shop, I ordered a cup and sat at a small table near the window. I typed Frank’s name into my phone search engine to see what popped up. Frank Cosh didn’t show up anything. I typed in Frank Cosh, New Hampshire, his place of birth, and that came up another blank. Did Frank send him to spy on me? Why would he do that, some sort of test? Was he a control freak and wanted to check me out? The hell with Frank and his scary Motorcycle Jacket spy, the Lantern had a burger calling my name, and I had a few question for my friend Millar.

A half hour later as I sat perched at the bar, sipping a Bass ale, received a call from Frank. I apologized and told him a friend had died unexpectedly and that I had to be there for the family. Saying he understood, we arranged to meet at six o’clock at his place. Then I turned back to Millar.
“So you’re telling me you only know Frank through this online astronomy site, Manhattan Observers, and you’ve never met the man or know what he does or how he gets his money?”
“If I knew the Fat Man, then I’d be complicit in a spy operation centered on your doorway and I have no interest in your doorway,” Millar said.
“Come on, Mill, you’ve got me mixed up with a freak.”
“Hey, you’re the Dream Detective, just tell him you didn’t dream anything and go on your way.”
“I’ll do that.”
“Yeah, good, the guy's a freak show.” I said and finished my pint of Bass.
Millar got up and put a few coins in the juke box and waited for the buttons to light up. Nothing happened.
“Hey,” he shouted, “What the fuck, Al?”
The bartender walked over to the jukebox and pulled the plug. “Sorry, forgot to unplug it. It’s been eating money all day.”
“Well, shit! Thanks for the warning.”
“Here, I’ll give you your money back, yah big baby.”
Allen santered behind the bar and slapped a few quarters down in front of Millar.
“Fucking joint,” Millar started to walk away, I took his arm.
“Why do you think the Fat Man would be interested in me? Is he a writer of some sort?”
“How the fuck should I know? You’re the Sleeping Detective.”
“Nice. Is that going to be your retort to all things relating to me from now on? Dream Detective, Sleep Detective, what the hell?”
“Got a nice ring to it.” Millar smiled. “I gotta pee, Sleeping Detective. Sir.”
“Great, Mill. Thanks ever so much. I knew I could count on you.”
I sat sat ruminating on the Fat Man's spy and possible motives for checking me out.
When Millar got back to the bar, he sat hard on his chair and turned to me.
“I think he’s got something to hide and wants you…”
“Wants me?”
“He wants you to find something for him?”
“But he was so vague. He said he was worried about his sister, who I assume is still in New Hampshire. That’s not very specific.”
“Exacty! He wants to see how safe this secret is.”
“That’s nuts,” I said.
“That’s right. It is nuts. Fuck it.”
Millar downed the rest of his beer and we both ordered a burger.

The park seemed almost empty in the late afternoon. I was feeling bit skittish after seeing Motorcycle Jacket taking pictures of my apartment, and wasn’t feeling very brave approaching the Boat House. I sat on a high wall on the back side of the property, kind of out of the way, and watched people as they came and went. Of course, I was an hour late, but hey, if she really wanted to see me, she’d still be there, right?
After a while I was starting to feel a bit guilty for standing her up, so I walked sheepishly into the restaurant and stood in the entrance. A dark haired woman, about thirty five and carrying two brightly colored museum bags, walked toward me. Instinctively, I covered my face and started to turn away, but held my ground as she approached.
“Carla?” I asked.
The woman gave me a sad nod and kept walking out of the building. I followed.
“Sorry I’m so late." I called after. "But I’m here now if you want to talk.”
She kept walking. I chased. “Look, things are a bit messed up right now and I’m sorry, okay? But I didn’t kill your sister.”
The woman half turned, a panicked look in her eye.
The woman walked faster still.
A strong female voice hit me from behind. I turned and saw a tall, light skinned woman with dark hair. I turned back and saw the other woman scurry off, her shopping bags flapping against her knees as she tried desperately to run up the small hill.
“You have a way with women,” she said.
“Look, I thought she was you.”
“Are you going to chase me up the hill, too?”
“What? No, I –“
Her smile stopped my plea.
“Okay, you got me. I’m a deranged stalker. You’ve nailed it.”
A look of sadness came over her. We just stood there avoiding eye contact for what seemed like a minute or two but was probably only seconds. She seemed to be thinking about what she already knew she was going to say. An extremely attractive woman, her even features, full lips and dark shoulder length hair were instantly alluring.
“How did you know my sister was going to get killed?” She asked finally.
I looked away. What was I going to say? There was so much to say, so much I could tell her. So much I should never tell anyone. The hair flopped around on my head as the wind picked up. Scattered leaves flew into the corners and crags of the wall. Her mid-length raincoat flew up in the back. I smiled slightly, hoping to break the ice a bit.
“Let’s get a cup of coffee,” I said.
She nodded and we walked back into the Boat House.
I remember once a disc jockey doing his little spiel about talking to women, his deep radio voice going on about a specific woman he'd seen, saying “She was a living doll but you, you know you’re nothing to look at…” And I remember thinking, really? Guys think that way? Well, shit, I don’t! I’m a good looking guy and I know it. I’ve never been intimidated by a woman in my life. Taken off guard, maybe, once or twice, but never really intimidated. I've always found something to say, creeping along until on easily found common ground until a spark ignighted. If that’s arrogant then so be it. I just think of myself as confident with the ladies. Only once did I stammer in the face of a beautiful woman. I was selling magazine subscriptions for my high school sports program back in Massachusetts, door to door. I'd come to a fairly nice house at the top of a cul-de-sac and knocked, puffing myself up with some energy to do my best sell. And when the door opened, there stood the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I can’t even describe her as looking like a real person. I’d say the closest thing I’d seen was a painting we had in the living room of a “gypsy girl.” Dark hair, great big brown eyes, perfectly shaped nose and eyebrows. Curly locks pulled back just enough to reveal a large gold hoop on her ear. Well, I stood there and couldn’t even speak to the woman. Finally, out came something like, “You buy this?”
Carla took my breath away. And the feeling that she wasn’t quite human crept upon me the way it did that day I was selling door to door. What the hell was I going to say to her?
We sat silently sipping our drinks. I got a regular cup and she had a decaf latte. The water beyond the large glass windows rippled in the intermittent gusts. Leaves blew around the back deck. A few boaters leisurely rowed in and out of the rental area. I felt frozen in my chair, like I’d been dipped in dry ice and left on a pedestal for the chain saw. Her eyes were clear and bright and radiated intelligence.
“My sister was murdered.”
“I know.”
“You knew.”
“Well, yeah.”
“I mean ahead of time,” she looked out the windows and back to me. “Give me a reason you would know that, or why I shouldn’t have my friend over there bring you in?”
I followed her gaze to a man in a long trench coat standing on the corner, and looking back at me.
“What is this?” I asked.
“This? This is a cup of coffee,” she took a deep breath and added, “For now.”
“Okay, so I’m supposed to be intimidated or what?”
“He’s here for my protection.”
“You think you need protection from me, I’m gonna kill the whole family now?”
“It’s a tough city.”
“But I’m not a tough guy.”
“We all need some protection.”
“I could use some myself.”
“Get your own guy.”
“How much do they cost?”
“I don’t know, I ask friends.”
“I don’t have any friends.”
“That’s too bad. But I can’t blame them.”
We looked into each others eyes.
“You really think I had something to do with your sister’s murder?”
“Did you?”
“I just told you I didn’t.”
“I didn’t hear you say it.”
“But that’s what I meant.”
I sipped my coffee. She took her cup and sipped.
“So do we keep on like this or do you want to tell me something?” She put her drink down and turned the cup handle to a 45 degree angle.
“You used to be a waiter?” I asked.
She smiled and asked, “How did you know?”
“I’m starting to think I’m a bit of a detective.”
“A detective? What was my sister wrapped up in?”
“I don’t know.”
“But you were on a case when you saw her?”
“Sort of. I do a lot of freelance work, on my own.”
“And she came into this case somehow?”
“Look, there wasn’t a case, okay? I dream things and sometimes they come true.”
“What? What are you saying?” She asked.
“Didn’t your sister tell you what I do?”
She nodded, “No.”
I turned to the man on the sidewalk and then back to her. “Listen, you’d think I was nuts if I tried to explain what’s going on. I’m not a cop, I don’t have a badge. I’m just a guy who sees things and tries to help, that’s all.”
She looked crest fallen, her eyes darting to the man outside and back to her latte.
“Your sister was a sweet girl. I don’t think she was mixed up in anything illegal, at least it didn’t appear that way.”
“But if you’re not a detective, then how do you know?”
I sat back exasperated.
She looked at the man again and seemed to nod in his direction. This sent a shrill of panic through me.
“Okay, wait. Call off your guy.”
“I just did.”
“Oh.” I sat back a bit relieved. “Why did you do that?”
“He had to go. But I can get him on the phone right away!” Her voice shot higher on those last words and I knew she was still scared.
At the next table, a young couple got up. I noticed they’d left behind a Village Voice. I leaned forward looking her straight in the eyes. “Okay, here’s the deal. I’m gonna explain to you what I do. You’re gonna have to trust I’m telling you the truth. If you don’t believe me, then I guess you’ll never understand how I got involved with your sister, but if you do, we’ll have it settled right here and now.”
I grabbed the copy of the Voice, found my ad and laid it out in front of her. “Read right here,” I said, pointing.
She put her nose in the paper, read a bit and looked up at me.
“This?” An incredulous lilt weaved through her voice.
“Yes. This”
“You’re a physic?”
“I hate that word.”
“And you’re trying to tell me that you knew this thing was going to happen to my sister? “I did everything I could to warn her.”
“This is just too weird.”
She stood up and put five dollars on the table.
“She just wouldn’t listen to what I had to say.”
“A psychic. Oh my God. How much did she give you?”
“How much did you bilk out of her?”
“It’ not like that.”
Carla started to walk away.
“I’m telling you the truth! I saw what was going to happen.”
“I shouldn’t have come here,” she said half to herself, and then she turned to me, her eyes lit with sparks. “You’re a bad person, Mister…” She shook her head, trying to remember my last name. A tear streaked her cheek. Her tone was mystified, incredulous, beaten; she secured her jacket belt and walked out the door.
to be cont'd...

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Copyright 2010

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I can always be enticed by the idea of a dream that foretells the future, someone's future. That's what drew me back to this novel.