chapter 8 CURISIOUSIER AND CURIOUSIER SAID ALICE

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I drank my coffee and read my newspaper in blessed peace.  For the first time in two weeks my irritating little fan club was silent.  The morning continued quiet so I thought it would be a good time to take a quick trip out to get supplies.

I locked the deadbolt and the lock on the door handle as I was making out my mental shopping list.  Paint, some super glue, beads,  some cleaning supplies hmm and monofilament fishing line I think.

Twenty minutes to walk to Pearl art and craft store, twenty minutes back, five minutes to get what I needed, fifteen to wait for someone to man the cash register (Pearl hires art students so it takes awhile to get anything useful done).  I would be home in an hour.  Typically when I leave the house I am gone for some hours, shopping, a bit of lunch, some afternoon bar hopping, so those seeing me leave will have the expectation that I will be gone for some time. I cant help but feel that this quiet is only a temporary reprieve.

My trip out isn’t so much to replenish my supplies as to test to see if I’m perhaps over reacting to a bit of noise, or if there is something a tad more serious going on.  Give people a vulnerability an opening and see if anyone goes for it. It’s a good way to test your enemy’s intentions and capabilities.

I give Queeny’s  nervous court a jaunty wave and head out walking quickly.  Pearl art store is on Market street straight down Tyler street, I don’t see anyone following me, but unless someone were being like totally inspector Clouseau about it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t notice if someone were following me or not.

Shopping done I head home.  I wave at Queeny’s court as a reach my building.  They don’t seem happy to see me.  I unlock the buildings door and pause in the lobby before calling the elevator.

“Oh shit she’s here.” I hear a man’s voice trying to whisper floating down to me from the stairwell.  I hear a sound like tools being shoved into a bag and foot steps heading up.  A door opens, from the cold metal snick sound it was the door to the roof.  The door closes.

Hmmm

I take the elevator up to my floor, stepping out cautiously .  The hall way is empty.  I go to my door, hmm, scratches around my deadbolt and its unlocked.  The second lock I have on my door apparently they didn’t have time to get to.  Jezz, they had the better part of an hour and they couldn’t pick two simple locks?   And I would have had lookouts posted with a cell phone to alert the burglars of my return.  Stupid and sloppy, but why where they trying to break into my apartment in the first place?

I go inside and lock the door behind me.  I set my, ‘groceries’ down.  Ok then time to upgrade home security.  I go to my closet and get a length of 2×4 I had tucked away as a useful thing for something someday .  I braced the 2×4 against the door and wedged it against the facing wall.  Primitive but effective, even if they picked the locks they wouldn’t be able to open the door.

I sat on my bed thinking.  ‘Shit she’s here’, footsteps, the door.  Two men,  the speaker, white I think, he didn’t speak with the same accent as the members of queeny’s court who are all African American.  They went up to the roof, but not down.  My apartment faced the stairwell and the elevator, if anyone went up or down I would know of it.  If the door to the roof opened I would hear it, that cold snick sound, I would hear it.

The roof, the only other way down was by the fire escape that went right by my window.  The roof.  I thought of the empty building next door.  The building next door, you can get to it from the roof of my building.  The two buildings so close together you can step from one roof top to the other.  They went up but not down.

Curiousier and curiousier said Alice.

The day continued quiet.  At sunset John returned.  I was beading my coat listening to him yell at Queeny and her court for their dereliction of their duty to be a pain in my ass. They weren’t all that interested in continuing since I apparently had a flame thrower that they hadn’t been warned about.

“Are you Fucking kidding me?” He screamed at them “That bitch is worth fifty thousand bucks.”

And the big cartoon question mark popped into existence above my head.

“HU??”

TV, dvd player, stereo.  Fifty thousand?  I’m worth fifty thousand? Something wasnt adding up here, the stereo wasnt even a BOSE.   Did they think I was one of those odd eccentrics who lived like paupers with gold bars stuffed under their bed?  Is that why they tried to break into my apartment ? to steal my secrete stash of gold?

For a moment I considered the idea that someone was offering to pay fifty thousand to actually kill me.  And dismissed the  idea as more nuts then the idea of me with gold bars under my bed.   truly nuts.  Sure I’m an annoying person but I couldn’t think of anyone I had pissed off enough to shell out that kind of cash.

I figured that ‘John’ was spinning a whopper to the crew to get them motivated.  Still worrisome, people get stupid for a lot less than that.  I sighed and put away my bead work.

Before I went to bed I took some pieces of ply wood I had in my closet and tacked them up, covering the window that the fire escape went past, and over the two bay windows that faced out over the street.   Fifty thousand is a lot of motivation and a rifle with a decent scope isn’t that big of an investment.

I went to bed.

Midnight.

Car horns and people screaming up at me, in Spanish.  I understand just enough Spanish to know that nothing they were shouting up at me was at all nice.

There were three cars involved in a bizarre little parade.  Spaced about three car lengths apart they circled the block and every time they passed my building they began laying on their horns and screaming rude things up at me.  That they were screaming in Spanish struck me as a bit off.  The population of the tenderloin is African American and Asian.

“What? Their importing assholes from the mission now?”

I was beginning to feel like the last defender of the Alamo.  Considering how well that worked out for the Alamo, it wasn’t a good feeling.

I recognized the cars.

The sounds of the city are not random noise.  There is a pattern to it.  Like the beat of your heart or the breath in your lungs.  Car, buses, taxi’s, people come people going, I know the rhythm.  I noticed the cars a couple of months before the ruckus.

The honking of a car horn, what sound could be more normal more common than the sound of a car horn in the city?  Commonly, normally a car horn is used to impart one of two basic messages; either I’m here get your ass in gear or fuck you asshole.  There is also the watch out but it is always watch out asshole so I put that in the same category as fuck you asshole.

A car parked in the alley beeps three times, a car driving by honks three times in answer.

The car in the alley pulls out and drives off.

A new car parks in the alley.

It waits.

It honks twice.

A car driving by honks twice in response.

The car in the alley pulls out and drives off.

A new car parks in the alley.

It waits.

It is a pattern that is repeated often. Day after day.  The same three cars.  The same three cars that are now circling my building and honking their horns at me.

Being under siege, isn’t as interesting as one might think.  It goes on and on and I occupied my time with my beading.  The coat was coming along really well.  I ate, I slept, I drank tea, I watched movies (I have an extensive collection), I read books and I wait.  Sooner or later they will get bored with this.  Sooner or later these yo yos will figure out that idiot ‘John’ hasn’t got 50 anything let alone fifty thousand.  They would most likely beat him to death when they finally figure out that they had been had. I was quite looking forward to watching that.

A week goes by, I got quite a bit done on my coat.  The crack heads screamed under my windows, the cars   circled the block honking and screaming every time they passed my building.

Couple of times that week someone tried to job the lock.  They weren’t very good at it, or maybe they weren’t trying to be subtle.

Midnight.

The sound of power tools coming from the upstairs apartment.  I groan and roll out of bed.  I was doing really well at ignoring the constant clamor coming from outside but power tools are hard to ignore.  Why always midnight I grouse and fix myself a cup of tea.

I sat sipping my tea listening as someone upstairs drilled into their floor, my ceiling.

The apartment upstairs was currently vacant.  As were most of the apartments in the building, now that I thought about it.  Upstairs only one apartment was currently occupied by a young woman who is a niece of Mr. Ripinder of the copy shop.   She moved in about four months ago.  And on my floor, other than me there was only one tenant, a beefy young man who told me he was a cook and who once offered to pick my lock for me when I miss placed my keys for about five minutes.  I’m not a suspicious person by nature,  but , hmmm.

The apartment directly above me has had a series of odd tenants, who never stayed for long, a week or two mostly.

There were the unpleasant Mongolians.   One night I was woken to the sounds of a woman screaming that she had been raped by the Mongolians in the apartment upstairs.  She screamed rape, she screamed for help. I heard her running up the stairs, I heard the cold snick sound of the roof door being opened.  She disappeared.  I complained to Boccie, the Mongolians moved out.

There was the elder Yemenis man in full robes.  He was the father of the owner of  the coffee shop on the corner of O’Farrell and Larken.  He didn’t speak a word of English and I met him because of his lack of understanding of indoor plumbing.  He had to call his son to explain why a crazed American woman with wet hair was screaming at him.

There was the Alaskan Airlines steward and his new Chinese bride.   They stayed a couple of months.

The last I swear looked exactly like a gangster from some movie from the 50’s.  He was a square shaped man from head to toe, in a double breasted suite and smoking a stogie.  He had introduced himself to me as a retired district attorney from some city near by I cant rember.  He gave me his card.  Told me he was trying to track a man stalking the woman in new York who owned the apartment.

(Yeh right, what ever,)

I threw the card away.  He stayed two weeks.

There was the asian gang banger.  He was about 5’ 8’’ a  wightlifters body and a bald head with the letters VIN tattooed across his forehead I assumed that the tattoo had to be some sort of gang thing.  You don’t have something like that plastered on your skull to show off your arty aesthetics. I figured  he had some connection with the Empire Massage.  He stayed a couple of weeks.

The drilling upstairs stops and I hear something being snaked into my ceiling and laughter.

I have my suspicions, but not wanting to give in to paranoia and there was nothing I could do about it any so I want back to bed.  The next day was the same as the others except for a couple of things.  There were people in the upstairs apartment, coming and going with heavy feet.  The other difference was the people outside were now commenting on my every move.

“Going to the kitchen for more tea?”

I was.  There was no way to see into my apartment from the street, especially with my street fronting windows were now blocked off with plywood.  I looked up at my ceiling and thought of the drilling.  Hmm.

That night I decided to test the matter.  You want to know if men are watching? Nothing easier.

I drew a bath.  Lots of bubbles.  I put on some  music, Mozart, a little night music. I lite a few candles lowered the lights and…

I had a cat once who loved nothing more then to tease the German Shepard next door.  She knew exactly how long the dogs chain was, to the inch.  She would saunter over to his yard tail high in the air and she would sit, just outside the reach of his chain.  And bath herself.  She took her time at it, lifting her leg high in the air licking her fur clean with long extravagant strokes, smiling her cat smile at the dog barking and howling at the end of his chain.  You can lean a lot from cats.

There was no doubt.  They were watching.  The detailed discriptions of my body right down to the cute little mole on my ass  were at least complimentary.  Much to the displeasure of a couple of women in the group, shrieking at their ‘boyfriends?’ to “Quit watching her.”

I quite enjoyed that.   Though I did wonder at the thought process behind bringing ones girl friend out on a job like this.  “Hey instead of going out to dinner and seeing a movie lets go to a group murder party.”  Maybe I am just too old fashioned in my thinking.

Ok they were watching.  Were they also listening?  It seemed logical that they would be, still might as well be sure.  I toweled off and threw on a robe.

I have a rather odd collection of music.  I tend to buy cd’s not so much because I know I will like it or ever heard of the band or what ever.  I buy things that make me go Hu?  If I have no idea what something is or what it will sound like my eyes light up.  So I have a collection of things that would make any normal person cringe.

I go through my collection and find just the thing.  Sound Chambers, by Mary Archer, ahh yes.  This woman went into cathedrals with her sound equipment and recorded an experiment.  She would bounce a high electronic tone off one wall and another off another wall and record it.  When you play it you hear the first tone, then the second tone in your other ear then in the middle of your head the two sounds collide and a third tone chimes inside your head.

I had a friend who once had trouble with squirrels in the walls of his house.  I gave him this cd and told him to play it loud next to the walls where the squirrels were.  He did and in a minute he ran out of the house terrified as the squirrels were screaming and beating their little heads against the walls.  Ever since that day he has had a fear of squirrels, convinced that they are plotting bloody vengeance.

Just the thing.

I take Mozart off the stereo and put in Sound Chambers.  I crank the volume, pause a moment, then hit play.

I hear screaming.

I go to the one window I haven’t blocked off because it is away from the fire escape and it has the Empire Massage sign blocking any view into my apartment.  I look down to the street and wow just like in the movies, two men come barreling out of a white van parked near to my building.  They were tearing head phones off their heads and shrieking just like the squirrels.

I take up my bead work.  Time to do some serious thinking

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