Continued from Chapter 22.
Propped up by two stained, over worn pillows, Sheila Masters lay on the saggy queen size bed watching the television. She had a towel wrapped around her waist, upper body covered in an oversized navy blue sweat shirt. She sipped a soda from a paper cup emblazoned with the name of a national fast food restaurant.
On the television was a cartoon involving a small dog with a Mexican accent and a large thick-headed cat. They engaged in a variety of rather questionable humor, interspersed with disgusting bodily functions and some kind of joy dance. Sheila chuckled from time to time at the characters’ antics.
Tyrone Brown sat in a side chair by the window, quietly munching a cheeseburger and pulling an occasional fry out of the greasy bag. Frequently, he pulled back the curtain, looking into the motel parking lot. Seeing nothing but rain, he would return his attention to the television.
“Shouldn’t we be watchin’ the news?” asked Tyrone, between bites.
“I know what we’ve done, so that ain’t news. Anything anybody else is up to don’t concern me. So, we shouldn’t be watchin’ the news,” snapped Sheila.
Tyrone pondered this for a moment. “Oh,” he said. With a nod of agreement, he resumed his watch of the parking lot.
They had picked the low budget motel on Pacific Coast Highway for price, not comfort. They were anything but near the coast. The surrounding area played host to the all but empty defense factories which had once played a major role in San Diego’s economy. With the end of the cold war, cutbacks in defense spending and the inability of the industry to quickly adapt to peace time, the loss of business had resulted in huge lay-offs. The factories which had employed thousands were reduced to only a few who maintained the property.
Across the highway was the Marine Corp Recruit Depot. Surrounded by aesthetically pleasing green chain-link fences, the one-time bustling base had been dramatically downsized as well. While there was still activity on the base, it was nowhere near the pace of the ‘40s through the early ’80s.
Most of the noise came from over head. The motel was nearly under the flight path of Lindbergh Airport. The huge commercial airliners came in so low that the room would vibrate and conversation stopped. The ongoing debate between homeowners, private interests and the city as to whether to move or expand the airport was long term – thirty years of long-term. With current new construction, it did not appear the airport would be moved anytime in the near future.
Sheila increased the volume on the television using the remote control as one of the “quiet” jets prepared to land. The pictures bolted to the wall were the only items in the room which did not vibrate as the jet passed overhead.
Sheila and Tyrone had stopped to pick up dinner on the way back to the motel. Separately, they showered. Tyrone changed into dry clothes, another pair of pressed denims and a sweater. His boots sat next to the wall furnace drying, the laces removed and tongues pulled out. He finished his second hamburger and shoveled the remaining cold fries into his mouth, chewing quietly.
“We’ve got an hour or two before we have to meet up with Leonard. Why don’t you get some rest? I’ll make sure you wake up,” she said with a smile.
Taking one last look out the window, Tyrone rose from the chair.
“OK,” he said.
She offered him one of the pillows. He took it, placing it on the floor next to the furnace. He lay down on his side and was asleep in seconds, his breathing, deep and rhythmic.
Sheila rose from the bed and walked over to Tyrone’s prostrate form. She was glad she had found him. He was not a great conversationalist, but that was not was not what she wanted from him. He was a companion, someone to care about her. Sheila had no idea where she was headed. At one time she wanted to come to California to find work, maybe even be discovered at someplace like Schwab’s drugstore. Now, she moved through life exacting revenge on any creature having the misfortune of mistaking her for an object to desire.
Sheila laid down next to Tyrone with her back to him. She pulled his arm over her and embraced it. She rested, but did not sleep.
Joaquin Torres was a family man and he worked hard to support his family. He would also eliminate anyone who threatened the support he gave his family.
Originally from Sinaloa, Mexico, Joaquin had come to the United States when he was child. He attended public school and obtained the highly valued Green Card when he was a teenager. He had learned his trade when he was teenager, but not from any classroom necessarily. He had never been one to partake in marijuana, alcohol or, for that matter, any other drug. He did learn, however, that many of the other kids liked the stuff. He learned a handsome profit was to be made from the sale of marijuana and the occasional other odd illegal substance. From simple and often risky street dealing, he had worked his way up the ladder to become a respected business man. By outward appearance, he was a skilled auto body repair worker who had invested wisely. He owned a modest home in a good neighborhood, a well-manicured yard and two recent model cars. To those who worked closely with him, he was one of the most skilled chemists in San Diego County. He manufactured methamphetamine.
Joaquin was cautious, always being careful to cover his tracks. He had never been arrested and had never had a scrape with the law. He was also ruthless. Although personally not afraid of prison, he knew his business, like a garden, if left unattended would go to seed and leave his family penniless. Anyone who threatened his livelihood in the past had in very short order went missing.
Leonard’s telephone call had left Joaquin very anxious. He was upset at Leonard for hiring two people of questionable ability and discretion. Now Leonard had told him they were snitches. He had only met Sheila and Tyrone once. He did not like either one. Tyrone was stupid. Stupidity was not a fault which could be tolerated in his business. Sheila on the other hand was a woman. Joaquin simply did not like to work with women. They were unreliable and moody. He did not need that. If he wanted that, he could stay home with his wife.
Joaquin and Leonard had agreed the best thing to do was to get rid of Sheila and Tyrone. Since they knew Leonard, he probably could not get close enough to do the job. Joaquin would raise little suspicion; he was just another of Leonard’s workers, as far as they knew. He would go to them at their motel and tell them that Leonard wanted to see them. When they opened the door to the room, “pop, pop.” And that would be that.
Joaquin selected a .357 magnum revolver from his collection of weapons. It might make a big noise, but he would need the firepower to take down Tyrone. He did not want to mess with a wounded and angry Tyrone. He slid the blue barreled revolver into his waistband and zipped up his jacket.
“Carlita, I must go out,” he said to his wife. She sat quietly, knowing better than to ask questions. He kissed her on the forehead, tousled the hair of his two young children sitting in front of the television, and walked out the front door.
The storm had passed through North County and the sky was clear. Joaquin bundled his jacket around himself as he waited for the Ford Bronco to warm up. He silently cursed Leonard for this inconvenience and his lack of caution. It’s was about time to sever my ties with Leonard, he thought. The man could not be trusted. They would need to talk and soon.
The Bronco sufficiently warm, Joaquin backed out of the driveway and headed down the coast to San Diego.
Sheila had finally dropped off into a fitful sleep. Her movements had wakened Tyrone, who was not surprised to find her curled up next to him. She often slept that way. He knew for all her outside bravado and apparent coldness, something frightened her badly. Even if he had known how to, he would not ask her. She would only become upset with him. Tyrone did not like that.
Tyrone gently extricated himself from her grasp. He took a blanket from the bed and covered her as she continued to sleep. After looking out to the parking lot, he made his way to the bathroom to relieve himself. He did not bother to turn on the dim bathroom light, but prudently lifted the seat before peeing. Once relieved, he stepped into the bathtub and opened the louvered windows high on the wall. The air was fresh and cold. He could hear the cars and trucks pass on the highway beyond the juniper hedge. Looking up, he could see the stars above. For no reason he could explain, he began to weep. He cried silently for several minutes, the tears running down his face. He wished he was not so stupid, maybe then he could understand why he was crying. Maybe he could even understand the bad things he did. He knew the things he did were very bad. When he could cry no more, he returned to the little bedroom to find Sheila sitting on the bed.
“You let me over sleep,” she said. Her tone was flat. It was not a chastisement, simply a statement of fact.
“You was tired,” said Tyrone, hoping she was not angry with him.
“I guess I was. We better get going,” she replied. Then as an afterthought, “You didn’t pee on the seat?”
Tyrone shook his head “No.”
Sheila walked to the bathroom and closed the door. Tyrone laced up his boots. The furnace had warmed them and he experienced the comfort on his feet. He stood and stretched, forcing the remainder of sleepiness out of his body. He picked up his jacket and carried it with him as he left the motel room. He hesitated at the door, checking the parking lot one more time. He saw no one about and made the quick walk to the van. He started it up to warm the engine and sat inside waiting for Sheila. Sheila finally came out, zipping up her leather jacket. She walked with authority to the van and got in the passenger seat.
Tyrone looked at Sheila, who stared straight ahead. She became conscious of him looking at her. She turned and looked at him. Her smile was warm and friendly. “Tyrone, are you waiting for somethin’ special.”
“Uh, no,” he replied, caught off guard. Tyrone had rarely seen her smile. She looked like a different person, almost like a little girl.
“Well, silly, let’s get going.” She almost laughed.
“Oh, OK,” he managed. What was this all about?
Tyrone backed the van out of the parking space, and then drove from the lot. He paid little attention to the Ford Bronco which turned into the driveway as they left the motel behind.
Joaquin hated driving downtown. As far as he was concerned, downtown began just as soon as he left North County. The streets and highways were unfamiliar. At least once during each trip south he would have to double back due to a wrong turn. Traffic had been relatively light on southbound Interstate 5. Nevertheless, he had missed the turn off to Pacific Coast Highway. He had driven all the way to the center of town before turning around and finding the highway. He found the frontage road which led to the motel, but had to wait while a long freight train blocked his route. His dark mood became black.
Once he was back on track he found the motel easily. Rather than park immediately, he circled the block twice to insure he knew the way back to freeway. Now satisfied, he returned to the motel. As he made the turn to pull into the parking lot, he saw the van coming at him. He paused. As it passed, he saw Tyrone driving with Sheila sitting next to him.
“Chingaso. Pinche son-of-a-bitch. Putos,” he hissed. The inconvenience was becoming intolerable. Leonard and his lackeys were more than a nuisance.
He stopped in the driveway, gathering his thoughts. He had not come all this way for nothing. He would follow them and put an end to this business. It did not matter where. He put the Bronco in reverse and pulled back onto the road. The van was several blocks ahead. Traffic was light and he made up the distance quickly, being cautious to stay far enough back to avoid being obvious.
The van turned on to Pacific Coast Highway and continued south to Laurel Street where it turned again and started up the steep hill.
Overhead, an airliner suddenly appeared out of the remaining clouds. It was so close to the ground that Joaquin thought it was going to crash. Scaring the wits out of Joaquin, the jet continued on, landing safely at the airport only a few yards away.
“Leonard, ¡tú eres muerto!” shouted Joaquin. He started up the hill, trying to catch up to the van and not lose it at the next traffic light.
“Tyrone, I’ve been thinkin’,” said Sheila, “How do you feel ’bout goin’ to Frisco? Have ya ever been?”
Tyrone was concentrating on finding a parking place. They had arrived at Thrashers and there was limited parking on the street. To complicate the procedure, the streets were all one way. Tyrone was attempting to loop around the block and not end up four or five blocks away. Now Tyrone was being asked to answer questions from a decidedly upbeat Sheila while trying to find a place to park. Sheila’s change in mood had been enough to overload Tyrone’s simple faculties, let alone all the other input he was receiving.
“I gotta aunt in Oakland,” said Tyrone, almost coming to a complete stop in the middle of the street.
“Watch where ya going, you big silly,” said Sheila. “I was thinkin’ we could just tell Leonard we killed them both today at the park. Then he’ll give us some more things to do. Except we don’t do ’em. Instead after we leave tonight, we just get on the freeway and drive north. I’ll bet we could be in Frisco by tomorrow morning.”
“What about Leonard? When he finds out we done took off, he’ll be pretty mad.” observed Tyrone in a flash of insight.
“What’s he gonna do? Call the cops?” she giggled.
“Oh yeah,” he replied, nodding his head and then smiling. He pictured Leonard explaining to the police that the people he hired to kill some other people stole his van.
Tyrone found a parking place about two blocks from Thrashers. As he parked, Sheila jumped out, giddy with the anticipation of moving on. She jogged down the street to the bar with Tyrone trying to catch up. He laughed each time he pictured Leonard talking to the cops. Normally he would have been more vigilant, but he actually felt happy. Happy because Sheila was happy. Happy that they were going to pull one over on Leonard. Normally, Tyrone would have noticed the blue Ford Bronco pull in and stop a few feet behind them.
Joaquin was ready to make his move. The van stopped and parked a few feet in front of him. As he pulled the revolver from his waistband, preparing to get out of his car, the girl suddenly jumped out of the van. He hesitated as she ran down the sidewalk with the big man now in pursuit. They were too close to the crowd in front of the bar.
“¡Chingaso!” he barked, hitting the steering wheel with his free hand. Now he would have wait. “Leonard, you are dead twice.”
But he would wait. They had to come back eventually. Then they were his and the first part of the job would be finished.