JapanTown lived up to the stereotype by having a huge futon showroom open. Bedding also available, plus lamps, and the futons bolted together like Ikea products. Unassembled, the bed/sofa hybrid actually fit in the trunk of the Falcon (although that says more about the Falcon's trunk than anything else). We got it home, the three of us taking turns lugging it up the steps from where Ivanka's parking space was, along with the lamp and sheets and blankets. I assembled it as the girls went through the phone book, in search of used and new furniture places that provided delivery. The bed would be new, if nothing else. Just a hang-up all three of us had: a used bed is like second-hand underwear. You'd rather not think about it.
With her new pseudo-bed assembled, we walked down the hill and had some Italian for dinner. By coincidence, we ran into the guy from the property management office just leaving from his meal.
"Are you working tonight?" he asked Ivanka. He smelled like he'd had a few.
"Yes, eight to midnight. Oh, and we solved the problem of the bed. I now have futon. I will use until I buy real bed. Thank you, thank you so much for wonderful apartment! It is beautiful! I take care of it, and stay a long time!"
"I'm glad you're so happy with it, honey! It won't bother you if I watch you dance?"
"Please, do come. I wish you to see me dance."
I said, "She doesn't just do the usual 'tits and clit' show. Yeah, she's sexy, but she's an amazingly gifted dancer, very gymnastic moves. You gotta see it."
He promised his attendance, and we went in for some dinner.
At about 1:30 in the morning I sat up in bed, the adrenaline pumping hard, nostrils flared, eyes open wide. I began pulling on my clothes.
"What the hell are you doing?" asked Bekka, mostly still asleep.
"Ivanka is is trouble, I've gotta go over there."
"She rubbed her eyes and said in a patronizing tone, "She'd just call the cops if there was trouble. There's nothing to worry about."
"Yeah, she'll call 'em on what? Two Dixie cups and some thread? I've gotta check on her."
Still being patronizing, she said, "Look, you're just worried because she's not here. You're feeling paranoid."
"Come with me or stay here, like I give a fuck. I'm going, goodbye." I was gone before she had a chance to tell me to fuck off.
I'd have done Steve McQueen proud slamming across town. I had the sort of luck you only get when you don't give a shit, when you know something has hit, but bad, and shit like other cars and signals and stop signs is just so much pointless noise. If you're pushing it as hard as you safely can, you push harder, Sparky, because there's too much on the line to worry about safety.
I jumped off Bay St. onto Columbus and saw trouble ahead, in the form of night construction. Fuck that. The curbs were too high to hop, so I slammed in reverse to the last corner, hit the curb cut, and shot down the sidewalk with my thumb on the horn. I slid into a left at Filbert and threaded my way through heavy equipment, then was clear to zoom up Filbert towards Genoa, Ivanka's street.
I ignored the stops up the hill and turned on Varennes, anchoring the Falcon on the sidewalk. I had no plan except to save Ivanka from.... Whatever wanted to hurt her. I got in the trunk and grabbed things that made sense: the baseball bat, the duct tape, and for some reason the baseball. I had no idea why.
I walked on Doc Martens --- nice quiet Docs --- until I was at the foot of the steps to her apartment I crept up the steps. The door was wide open; I could hear a voice: ".... Ignore me. You're all stuck up cunts, you act so fucking sweet as long as the money is there. Take off the pants , it's my turn to play...."
Standing to one side, I rolled the baseball into the living room. The reaction was immediate: four shots fired from an automatic. My ears rang slightly.
Now I knew why I'd brought the baseball. I knew what he had, and there were four shots left.
I swung over the side of the railing and yelled, "Hey motherfucker! Barney Fife shoots better than you!"
Two more shots came out the door. I made an agonized yell, fading to a gurgle. I dropped to the ivy under the steps.
C'mon, be cagey, you bastard. Check on me. I may be dead, I may not. Get out here and check.
He checked. He started down the steps rather slowly; as he reached the right step I grabbed his ankle and yanked.
He yelled and pitched forward, the gun tumbling out of his hand. I vaulted back onto the steps, kicking at him, and swinging the bat into his stomach. He was single-minded, though, with his mind on getting the gun back. I threw myself stomach-first down the steps after that automatic. He beat me....
A single round went through my ribs on my right hand side, then.... Nothing. He clicked the trigger several times, to no avail. I wasn't feeling generous or in the mood for fair play: I bashed him in the head with the bat like Jose Canseco. I had no idea if it was a killing blow. Didn't care much, either.
Somehow I managed to run up the steps and stick my head in Ivanka's door. She saw me and burst into tears; for the last thirty seconds she didn't know if it was her masked rapist or me taking the short end of things.
"Are you all right?" I asked. "I've gotta get some cops here, fast, I'll be right back."
The rapist was coming out of it, so I gave him another tap to the skull and found a use for the duct tape: I put about ten layers around his hands and wrists, and the same around his ankles. Then I taped him upside down to the railing of the stairs. "You're --- ouch --- stuck, you asshole."
The shot I'd taken to the ribs was making itself known in a big way. I gimped across the street and banged the bat on the door. Someone inside yelled, " Who is it?"
"It's Arsenio fucking Hall, asshole! Dial 911! I've been shot, A woman was nearly raped, I've got a guy duct taped to a stair railing, and I fucking want my mommy!"
I bearded guy in a heavy robe slid out the door, took a look at me, and said, "Are you all right?"
I stared at him, with blood soaking my waist, my chin scuffed from the steps, and a look on my face that would make Francis Bacon seem stable, and said, "Two guesses. We gotta check on my friend, I may need your help."
I needed his help. My ribs were screaming. As we walked past, I told the incredibly helpful neighbor to pull the mask off the rapist.
It was the guy from the property management company.
"My God," said the neighbor, "this is the man we rent from."
"Well, feel shocked later. Me, I'm settling for being pissed off. He tried to rape my friend who's up at the top of these stairs, which --- OWW! --- you're gonna help me climb. You're my crutch Okay, on three."
I nearly passed out twice, but I made it. Ivanka succeeded in making me pass out by launching herself at me with a hug. When I came out of it, I told her, "Ivanka, you're beautiful and I love you, but please don't touch me until after a doctor has seen me. I've been shot and it really hurts."
"How did you know to come here?" she asked.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. By the way, the Falcon is parked on the sidewalk a block down. Are you up to moving it? I can get the guy from across the street...."
She smiled and kissed me. "I will get the car if you allow me to call you 'hero'."
"I'll allow it, for now."
The next afternoon, the cop --- naturally, the same one from the diner --- looked down at me where I lay in my hospital bed. "Y'know, I'm starting to really hate Fords. Especially old ones."
I told him, "That must be painful, especially with you guys being saddled with those Crown Vics all day and night. Maybe you should get Camrys instead."
"Just so long as it's not a Falcon. First we get a report from CHP about an old Ford that may or may not have been involved in a fatal crash down near Solvang, but to not put too much work into it since the guy who died was a scumbag. Okay, they say ignore it, we ignore it.
"Then we hear about an old Ford hot rod tearing it up on the sidewalk of Columbus. Fifty on the sidewalk, so we're told. And lo and behold, we find an old Ford parked at the scene of an attempted rape on Telegraph Hill. After a while, a guy can't help but make some connections.
I'm gonna ask you, and you're gonna tell me, how you knew that rape was going down. And I swear I'll beat on your ribs with my nightstick if I don't like the answer."
"Well, first of all, I disavow any knowledge of reckless driving on Columbus Avenue. People see funny things at night. Second, you may as well pull out your nightstick, because you'll hate the answer I'll give you."
"It came to me in a dream."
"You're right, I hate it. You wanna at least sell it to me a bit better?"
"Officer, don't lie. You've relied on blind hunches plenty of times, hunches that had no basis in reality. Just mental flukes you can't explain. And I'll bet they pay off more often than you're willing to admit."
The cop stared at me with narrowed eyes, then shrugged and said, "Fair enough. Is that your story?"
"Pretty much, yeah. I just had a bad feeling about a friend being in trouble and figured it couldn't hurt to go over to her new apartment. If I was wrong, then I look like an asshole, but otherwise, no harm no foul. And if I'm right, well...."
"If you're right, you catch a slug in the side that takes out chunks of ribs, ventilates your right side, grazes your lung, and generally colors you as one lucky sonofabitch. You should have sustained more damage than you did. That, and you're walking around right afterwards like you got a hangnail. Most guys pass out from the pain of getting a chunk of lung knocked out, but not you. No, you're a busy little bee, taping up the perp and talking to neighbors and walking flights of stairs. You gotta be the most stubborn bastard on the planet."
"Speaking of, how is the rapist scumbag, anyway?"
"Until he's convicted, we call him a suspected rapist. And he's alive, well, and a complete prick. Was talking about suing you for that shot you gave him with the bat. We reminded him you could sue him right back for shooting you.. As it is, your girlfriend will probably end up owning half that block: the employee of the property management company allegedly attempts to rape her, she sues the management company, who is also being sued by the actual property owners. She's a tough little bird. You know where we tracked her down? At work. She didn't wanna miss her shift. Most girls would curl up in a ball from the trauma, she's just pissed off that being in court will jam up her sleep schedule and she may end up with shorter shifts for a couple weeks. She's not traumatized, she's pissed off. You know some tough women, bud.
"Anyway, the perp's brain scan is perfectly fine, which is good for us, 'cos it means he goes through trial like anyone else. Shit, you'll probably be on a cane, while he'll look healthy. Bad news for him, good for us."
"What's his story?"
The cop laughed. "We gave him his Miranda and he wouldn't shut up. All dancers are closet whores, she deserved to be raped, he hates women, blah blah blah. May as well have just told us to lock him up without a trial. He's a woman-hating bastard, and said as much under oath. No lawyer on the planet can dig him out of the hole he made. In the meantime, we're checking assaults and rapes occurring at properties managed by this particular service, y'know, see if a pattern pops up. Given how talkative this dumbfuck is, it just might clear out some stuff from the cold files, some women finally get to have some resolution for their assaults."
"Don't suppose I could borrow your night stick? I want to have a chat with him."
"Yeah, scratch that, kid. He's under lock-down. Nobody gets near him that isn't in uniform, not even to bring his meals. In another day or two he gets shifted to the county facility, where we'll give him the choice of general population or solitary. After we explain what happens to suspected sex offenders in G.P., he'll take solitary. He doesn't have a death wish.
"What's pathetic? How much he whined when we got all that duct tape off him! You'd have thought we were using a blowtorch instead of pulling off some hair!" the cop laughed.
"Anyway, you got another visitor waiting. You had the blonde foreign beauty up here all morning, now you got the raven-haired one to see you. How you do it, buddy? Hypnotism?"
"Not hating women has worked well for me so far," I replied. "Please, bring Bekka in."
Bekka's eyes were so swollen I didn't know how she could see. She held my hand in a shallow, distant way, as if I'd expired already. Then she removed her hand, tried clearing her throat, and announced, "I'm flying back to San Diego tomorrow. I'll leave you the Falcon, I know you'll get it home safe." She started to rise.
"Wait! What the hell! Why are you leaving? You're my partner, y'know?"
"I abandoned you. That sixth sense bullshit you have told you to go save Ivanka, and instead of helping, I told you you're an idiot and to go back to bed. You ignored me and you were right, Ivanka was in trouble, and I rolled over and went back to sleep while my best friend is busy getting shot. You don't need me around, I'm an obstacle, I'm just in your way." She was crying again.
"But you're my best friend too. I don't know what I'd do without you around.... Especially right now. Forget last night, it was a fluke, it was.... just...."
"It was you saving the day again! And you won't even admit it! You're a hero and for some reason you hate the idea, like you've gotta wear a cape and be a pompous fuck! You can be you, dammit, and just admit unusual things happen around you that you always manage to fix and take care of. Just, please, admit you're a hero. That's all I want. I want you to admit you can do good, that you are good. That you save people's lives, that you're not the self-described fuck-up you think you are.
Tears ran down my face. I said, "Please, lie down on my left side. The right side will hurt like hell."
I managed to scoot over some for her, ignoring the pain. She managed to get situated next to me; I reached over to hold her hand. Then I muttered, "Okay, I'm a hero."
Bekka kissed my cheek and said, "And you were the last one to know."