I stayed on the ground long after the shooting stopped, my cheek against the sidewalk, my eyes clenched shut.  Maybe, I hoped, they think I’m dead.  Maybe I can sneak away, go back to California, and tell Bill I’m sorry.  Thank him for protecting me.  Stay in Crossroads where I’ll be safe.

I smelled the Good Samaritan before I
saw him, a potent mixture of booze and multiple layers of clothing
unwashed for godknowshowlong.  I slitted one eye open and saw a battered pair of too-big sneakers topped by ripped-hem too-short trouser legs. 

“Hey lady,” a voice both slurred and chunky said, “are you ok?”

It seemed obvious to me that a woman with her face pressed against concrete in Portland, Oregon was NOT ok, but it didn’t seem like the time for a sarcastic response.

“Is he gone?” I whispered.

“WHAT?”  The man bent down and his odor became tangible.

“The shooter.  Is he gone?”  I raised my head slightly and tried to look around, but the man’s craggy face with bloodshot eyes blocked my view.

He straightened up and turned in a full circle, one hand against his forehead although the day was overcast.  “No shooter,” he reported.

Feeling absurdly grateful that the
reality of homeless life made my query about a shooter seem perfectly
reasonable, I hoisted myself, sore from the hard ground, to my knees.  A moment later I stood up.

“Can I take you someplace?  I got no car, but I know where everything’s at.”  The man squinted at my face, reminding me to brush the remaining gravel off my cheeks.

“RJ’s,” I said.

I sank into a corner booth at the coffee joint, keeping my back to the wall. 

“What can I get ya?” the waitress, the
one that scowled at me when I came through Portland with Bill six
months earlier, now tapped her pad impatiently.

“Coffee.  Cream.”

“Bill come back too?” she asked, looking at the empty seat across from me.


While her heels clicked away from me, I watched Rob set up a stool on a small stage in the corner.  No amp.  He sat down and tuned up his guitar.  I thought he hadn’t seen me come in, but he looked up and smiled at me as he started to play.

 I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees

I went down to the crossroad

fell down on my knees

Asked the lord above "Have mercy now

save poor Bob if you please"

Yeeooo, standin at the crossroad

tried to flag a ride

ooo ooo eee

I tried to flag a ride

Didn't nobody seem to know me babe

everybody pass me by

The waitress returned, slamming a mug down in front of me.  “Here’s your coffee.”  Click click click.

I never got a chance to drink it, though.  
They swarmed in like wasps, black pants and yellow jackets.  “Everybody FREEZE!”
One thing I’d learned by then, if somebody tells you to hold still, that’s probably a good
time to run like hell.  I slid out of the booth and bolted for the swinging door into the
kitchen.  Rob crashed through behind me.  We had almost made it to the back door, to the
covering darkness of the dumpstered alley, when hands around my arms pulled me up short.

Low men in yellow coats, I thought. 

But it wasn’t a man, it was a woman holding my arm.  And the back of her coat read F.B.I.    



19 thoughts on “

  1. RYC:  I appreciate the thought, but just because I have no kids does not mean that I’m free or without obligation to other humans.  I can’t just go anywhere I want whenever I want. I don’t want to go down my list of responsibilities, obstacles, and obligations, but suffice it to say that any “free time” I get, I spend working or sleeping. 

  2. This is intriguing to read. The intersection (no pun intended) of guitars and crossroads make me think of selling your soul to the devil–the old bluesman’s myth, you know?
    RYC: Thanks. That’s probably the best compliment I’ve gotten today, actually. I work for the government.

  3. I think the waitress is the shooter.  She doesn’t seem to like you much.
    “If somebody tells you to hold still, that’s probably a good time to run like hell.”  I love that line. 

  4. Another exciting plot twist.  This is just like Veronica Mars!  Except different.
    RYC – I’m disappointed.  I was looking forward to your incendiary remarks about Bon Jovi.

  5. Gah!  It’s been too long.  Can’t remember if I missed any installments.  Sigh.  But I still read every word of this installment, anyway.  (I only do that when the writin’s good.)

  6. The Polar Bear was sipping  his salmon martini when the feds burst through the door.   He kept a low profile as he didn’t want his cover to be blown but kept his piece cocked just in case.

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