Stumbling in the Dark

I’m barely at the chained-off drive up to the Hollywood Bowl’s main parking area, past the brightly lit fountain, when a man is at my door trying to pull it open. As I step out of the truck he’s in like a flash and putting it in gear. He’s gone without a word. He looked to be from the same village as Alice’s desert friend.

I end up walking down Highland. Just as I reached Franklin, I spot an empty cab. I flag him and hop in. Even this late at night, Highland is jumping. I ask him to head for Beechwood under the Hollywood sign, then lean my head back to rest my eyes. In what seemed like one second the driver is waking me saying, “I’m now making a left up Beechwood buddy!” I point out my duplex. I climb out and give him a twenty while thanking him for saving me a long walk. Once inside, I turn on my wall heater, take a shower then hit the sack. I felt like I had been gone a week. My throbbing arm kept me awake for about ten seconds.

Over a week goes by. I call Alice a dozen times, easy. Alls I got was her machine. I already knew better then to go by her place uninvited. I quit leaving messages after the fifth one so I wouldn’t piss her off. Funny how I was twice her size and maybe three times stronger yet I was the one afraid. She would kill and I couldn’t was the deciding denominator I guess. Even though I wasn’t aware of the big picture on her, since the head butting incident I learned the hard way Alice was a way tougher nut then I had ever imagined. Sure, I always figured her for a sharp business gal. That’s why I hung around her. She had made me tons of money in numerous scams.

Her scams. The worst was her as my pimp to a bunch of old sea hags, but, that’s another story. She usually used me as some sort of prop. Half the time I had no idea what was going on. Usually I was ordered to keep my trap shut and just fill my spot. I would arrive, sit, drink a couple of beers or whatever then leave at her whim. Later, I’d get paid. What did I care what she did after some quick pay days. That attitude would change…

Finally, Alice calls me. She says nothing about my three hundred. She needs me to drive her somewhere. I keep it friendly but go right to the money she owes me. Alice blows a fuse as soon as I mention it. She catches herself and tries the honey route. “Oh, god. Is it just money, money, money with us? I thought you were my friend. How about I mail you your pissant three hundred and we just call our ‘friendship’ over with. I’ll call some one else who wants to earn the money I throw your way from now on!” I fall for it and back off. I tell her I have no wheels. My truck’s registration was five months overdue, and my Honda 500 had a cracked cylinder. My phone truck was out of the question. I was already pushing the limit on using my Pac Bell truck to drop off groceries before taking it to the Fuller garage at the end of a work day. I had been catching rides to and from work with co workers or just walking. She puts on a sweet voice informing me that she’ll come by and pick me up.

When Alice shows up, I’m knocked out. She looked like a Hollywood cowgirl. She had on a spangled blouse with the double row of buttons and some calfskin pants she favored cut like riding britches. Her white, calf skin covered cowgirl boots had silver toes to match the two-toned white cowgirl hat with an eagle feather down onto her shoulder. I burst out laughing. She didn’t like that. I told her I was laughing because she looked so great. A good save. In reality, she looked ridiculous. Well, in my eyes. She looked pretty good to every other guy who set eyes on her; some gals, too.

Being long over the jealousy stage, I had learned to go with the “I’m her brother” persona. No kissy face or hand holding like we were an item. With her trim body and nice ass, all men checked her out. This new outfit was really turning heads. Her one Achilles heel was her scowl. Without it she was out and out gorgeous. Sadly, she scowled a lot. I don’t think she was even aware of it. Well, on occasion I would see her force herself to put a fake smile on when she caught her reflection accidentally, so, maybe she was.

Alice had driven up in an older model Cadillac. It was a few years old, but still looked good. It was a convertible with some custom wheels. It didn’t fit her new look at all. Alice glares at me while standing by the car’s passenger door waiting for me to open it for her. Guess I’m now on the clock. As I slide behind the wheel, the car gave off that smell that let you know a smoker drove it every day. It reeked of stale tobacco. The ashtray was over flowing with butts. Alice didn’t smoke. Maybe a joint once in awhile but not cigarettes. I noticed some of the butts had lipstick on them, but not all. The back seat was full of card board boxes all taped up. I fire up the engine and look over at Alice to get instructions.

She stares back at me with a questioning look in return. I raise my eyebrows and say, “Well?” She starts to get that look like she’s going to go off, then realizes she hasn’t told me where we were heading. Her face changes in a flash to nice girl as I’m told to head towards Bakersfield. Her ability to change from silly girl to homicidal maniac seemed to be getting quicker and quicker. I keep my mouth shut and head for Highland and the freeway going North.

It was weird. Now that I was afraid of her, I really wanted to fuck her again. Sad but true. She seemed extra exciting now that she was so dangerous. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been in the same situation, I guess. My being only twenty years old could have been part of it; Alice was an easy ten years older than me- maybe more. Women can hide the ravages of time a lot better then men. Especially if the woman has a good foundation to work with. I would learn this fact the hard way in years to come.

After dropping down off the 5 North, Alice had me pull into a small town called Lebec. It was a tiny off-ramp sort of town I had once torn the front of a motor home off while a kid. I had been shipped off to one more, “We’ll give the lad a home,” after my last lockup from a boys home in Acton not working out so well. After a light snow, another kid and I were supposed to be driving an old five-ton hay truck from one field to another. Once out of view of any adults, another fifteen year old kid and myself decide to take the truck a couple of miles into town to have some adventure. This other kid is a simpleton sort who went along, no questions asked. Heading towards the gas station, we drive past some teenage girls with their mom standing a bit a ways from a motor home stuck in the mushy snow on the side of the half dirt road. A man is trying to dig out under the rear tires to put some wood underneath. As I do a wide U turn to go back and help, I too am almost stuck. I decide to just back up to the motor home.

The grinding of the gears as I tried to find reverse should have made the man a bit more cautious about our offer of help as I stopped about ten feet from his rig. My buddy hops out and takes a thirty-foot double-hooked tow chain off the bed of the truck’s head board then hooks it up as the man gets into his rig to steer it out. How was I to know this idiot had wrapped the chain around the fiberglass body and not the frame. When I popped the clutch on the big dually-wheeled hay truck, the tires spun in the mush then caught. I rip the entire front end of the body off, headlights and all. I kept going. My pal ran after me to surf the unit now dragging behind me. Around a corner past some big oaks, we unhook the chain as it starts to snow again. Finally getting the truck turned around, we blow past the still stuck vehicle with all the people inside trying to stay warm.

This time, there’s no stuck camper. No snow, either, though it was cold enough to. This time, I had my bomber jacket I had scored at the Army surplus store in Burbank off Hollywood Way. It was huge and ugly, but really warm. It also had a tuck away pull-out hood in a little zipper compartment just behind the big collar. We pulled off the highway and waited. I had to restart the car a half dozen times to warm up our feet before the guys we were waiting for arrived. When they did, I recognized Alice’s Indian friend behind the wheel of a truck that looked just like the little cowboy’s, but a different color. It was towing a huge horse trailer full of horses. The front of the cab had faces I didn’t recognize. All looked like guys right off the Amazon river dressed like cowboys.

As they drove past, I checked out the truck a bit closer. Yep, it was the cowboys truck. It had been painted. So had the camper shell. The truck and camper now looked like a complete unit along with the big trailer behind it. On the door facing me a nice logo said, ‘Rocking Horse Ranch’. Cute. It was written/painted on the trailer, also. A nice homey ranching business from all appearances. Just the way it was supposed to. I tagged along a bit behind them as they drove past in case of ‘accidents’. I knew that much about horses in trailers. Driving along next to the freeway we never got onto it. We end up on a long twisty back road into some really rugged mountains. The higher and farther we went, the more snow I could see packed into the tall ridges between peaks. Wisps of fog and low clouds started to grow denser the higher we climbed. As we wound down into small valleys, the world would reappear. Then, back into some twisty climbing curves it became a world of quick glimpses of tree trunks or an occasional mailbox or gated drive.

Finally we just climbed. It was all fog the last ten miles. I had no idea where we were. I just followed the little red circles of the trailer’s tail lights and kept my mouth shut. When Alice was quiet, I stayed quiet. Suddenly the trailer brake lights glow bright red and stay that way. We had reached our destination, it seemed. A short squat man in a multicolored jacket that went down to his knees shot us a gold-toothed smile as he went between the Caddy and the trailer. I had turned our light on a long time ago. He left our view as he went into the thick fog to open a gate on our left. Another truck drove past slowly heading downhill. An older man with a woman next to him in an old beat up pickup looked down on me in the Caddy. I waved and smiled, illuminated by the interior light Alice had clicked on to check her makeup. He smiled and lifted his pinky off the steering wheel in response.

I end up following the trailer down a long winding dirt drive. We follow the trailer through the thickening fog in a big sweeping circle that sounded like it was gravel based under our wheels. Ending up like a mini wagon train looking to camp for the night, I shut off our engine as the lights go out ahead of us on the trailer. Alice told me to give them a hand. She was staying in the car. She was freezing even with the heater on. Now with the engine off she would really feel the cold. I climb out and instantly zipped up my coat then fumbled with my hood in my pouch. It was really cold and the wind was whipping the moist foggy air through every gap in my clothes. From a constant twenty miles an hour up to larger gusts, it seemed like near night with the fog getting denser and denser.

Alice’s Indian friend and his two helpers didn’t need me, so I faked helping by moving around a lot and calling out once in awhile. She didn’t seem that interested. I could see exhaust coming out of the Caddy’s tailpipe, so I knew she had the heater back on again. I went back to faking work, then follow the last horses unloaded out of the long trailer up a steep drive into a good sized all metal horse barn. It was a one story job with the taller bay in the middle. About ten or so stalls on each side of the bay. Some tack and saddles here and there. A working barn. Only half of the stalls had occupants. I don’t know these other guys at all so I just smile and pull out a fat doob and fire it up. I’m instantly a good pal as I pass it around. We smoke it down saying nothing. Juan, or whatever the boss’s name is, is nowhere to be seen. I leave my new pals with the half a joint and head back out to the car to see what the story is.

Slipping and almost falling in the loose gravel, it was tough to find the truck and trailer in the still thickening fog. Once at the truck, I follow the side of it to Alice’s car. I could just barely make it out past the trailer. As I came within an arm’s length, I realize the car is shaking. Putting my face closer to the passenger window to get Alice’s attention I see she’s being fucked doggie style with her ass in the air parked over the front seat as her hands try to keep her up on the rear seat. A loudly grunting Juan has his hand over her mouth and is pounding her with short jackhammer thrusts. I head back to the barn to wait it out.

As I come back into the barn, the two workers stare at me with weird looks on their faces. I mimic fucking a chick with my hips and give ‘em a wink while I nod my head towards the rigs outside. At this they both start laughing, then ignore me while they spoke Spanish to each other. I walk around and look at the horses to kill time. They looked big and pretty. What more can I say? I don’t know a damn thing about them as far as buying and selling goes. What I know about horses you can put in a thimble and rattle it around. Juan finally comes in. He goes right to his boys then comes over to me. He looks at me with a big grin while he says an almost unrecognizable, “Hey, she’s a hot piece of ass hey compandre!” Not wanting to make any gaffs I just smiled and put up a hand to high five him. That seemed to be a good move. He high fives me back, then spoke rapid fire to his two workers. Since I was being ignored, I head back out to the car a second time.

Coming around to the drivers side I knocked on the glass since I couldn’t see Alice inside from all the glass being steamed over. With no response, I opened the door to get in. The interior light showed a horrible sight. Alice had been fucked. I already knew that. She had also been beaten. Her attempts at damage control were a waste of time. I instantly wanted to kill, yet, I had the sense to know I could do little against the three ass holes in the barn. Just one of them could have kicked my ass, no problem. Real life isn’t like the movies. I was pretty much helpless. Alice already had it all figured out.

At my hesitation at starting the car, she said a low, “Let’s just get the fuck out of here, alright?” I try and comfort her and get cut off. “Don’t make it any worse!” I fire up the car then end up back tracking over our original tracks back to the paved road. At the top, I pulled down the road a ways and asked Alice what I should do about what had just gone down. Alice said nothing. I head for home.

Once off the mountain and within sight of a gas station, Alice informs me we’re not going home. It was the first sound out of her for the last hour or so. I had tried numerous times to try and make her feel better while driving looking straight ahead to try and see through the dense fog. It was no use. I tried the, “It’s OK, I think nothing less of you!” , to, “We’ll have to tell the cops!” No response to my efforts. No sobs. No tears. No shaking or hysterics. Dead silence.

With her seat as far back as it would go and her coat up around her, it was like driving with a mannequin. A faceless mannequin, at that. So, to hear her voice emanate from the void of her jacket hood sounding like it usually did made me get a cold rush chilling me. That voice alone told me Alice wasn’t your average woman. Another man I did phone work for once hinted at Alice being something else past normal, and I hadn’t paid it much mind. Now I knew what he had been trying to convey to me. As I come up on the gas station’s three all-glass phone booths, Alice tells me to pull next to them…

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