I decided to keep things simple and hold Hwy. 78 through Escondido and straight through to the Wild Animal Park. Well marked. That way if the various drugs I was on got me a bit too loopy on the way home anyone could take over the wheel and do the piloting. I didn't want to use the word "drugs" around the kids, since --- thanks to DARE and other abuse prevention programs --- I may as well have been on a half of Mexican tar heroin, LSD, PCP, and a bottle of cough syrup, so far as the kids were concerned. Funny thing, DARE: they went back ten years and found that kids who went through the DARE program were more likely to be habitual users than those that weren't . Drugs are everywhere, everyone is using them.... So why should't you? That, and kids actually have functioning bullshit detectors: a single bong rip doesn't cause your brain to run out your ears, so everything else they told me must must be bullshit too.
Still, keep that under my hat if it becomes an issue. I'm just feeling tired, kids.
I was sick of my cane within the first hundred yards of going through the gates. I tried carrying it --- the pain level shot right up. I still had plenty of speed in my system, so I threw down two Vicodin and waited. Ah, blessed relief, aided by making the falcon show our fist stop. We decided to ride the full-park tram, where you get to get fairly close up and personal to the animals. I'd brought one of the Nikons and a newly-purchased long lens in hopes of getting some good shots of the more distant animals. It worked fairly well, both as a camera and a binocular. After the tram we walked the exhibits, and I did fairly well.... For another half hour.
Lucy spotted my problem first. Kids have short legs, and I was having a hard time keeping up. She suggested I sit and watch the simians for a while to let my ribs rest. I agreed it was a good idea, so I chilled out on a bench, enjoying the strange high mixing meth and Vicodin provides. I promised to stay in the general area, which had both a snack bar and a restroom nearby.
"I'm so sorry you're missing out on all the neat stuff!" she told me. I assured her that, having been born and raised in San Diego, I'd seen it all ten times at least, and thanked her for her concern.
They returned in about an hour, the kids in the mood for snacks. I was in the mood for an ice cream bar myself, which Lucy and Ellen insisted on paying for. "You paid to get us all in here, I will not have you spending one penny on food!" exclaimed Lucy. She was a brave woman: I knew how much the damn food cost in the Animal Park. I suggested to her that we hold off on dinner until after we left the park.... Another taco stand, maybe? "Oh, a wonderful idea!" As suggested before, we could go to the one near Ellen's place.
All told, we spent about five hours or so in the park, the kids having a blast, the adults also enjoying themselves too.... But given the amount of walking involved, they would join me wherever I'd been left to rest their legs. I watched the falcon show like, four times.
My mix of drugs worked well: I wasn't goofy or under the table, I felt fine to drive. We left around 6:45, which would put us back in Carlsbad around 7:20 at a leisurely pace. I was glad it was my right side that was injured, as I didn't have to use a clutch.
We arrived back at Ellen's at my appointed time, Chelsea annoyed that we were "late." Her bitching finally had me fed up, so I took her by the arm and onto the porch and explained to her that all she was doing was upsetting the kids, instilling a sense of anxiety in them that they had no focus for, so please for their sake, knock it off. And --- miracle of miracles --- she actually agreed, and expressed contrition for her behavior. I'd found the magic button! Make an appeal by way of the children, and she'd relax. I should have seen that at the Family Fun Center when I'd dished out the money for the tokens.
The voting for dinner went in the usual pattern: eighteen voting in favor of the taco stand, one abstention in favor or anything else. Lucy sort of snapped: "Criminy! I feel like I'm trying to talk a small child into eating a bite of casserole! You'll love it, I promise!"
I suggested, "How about a quesadilla? It's a tortilla with cheese inside, plus whatever you want to fill it up. I usually get chicken, plus you might want guuacamole and green sauce on the side."
"The green sauce you had me eat?" asked Lucy.
"Lenny...." said Lucy in a warning tone.
"It takes some adjusting to, but I've come to really like it," said Ellen. I keep it in my pantry."
"Are you serious?" Lucy said. "I drank half my soda after trying that stuff!"
"It just, y'know, takes some adjusting to," I said. "You saw me, I love the stuff. I wasn't prankin' you, I really do like the flavor.... And it doesn't burn that much, c'mon."
"Speaking of burning things, uh, you wanna hit the pipe, Ellen?"
"If it won't make Lucy uncomfortable, sure. Lucy.... Would it bother you if Bekka and I smoked a small amount of marijuana before dinner? In California, it's the same as having a cocktail, really."
Chelsea had the expected reaction. "Whaaat!? No, absolutely not! In front of the kids, are you insane? You're both a couple junkies, I can't believe you!"
When Chelsea finished, the question was asked again, directly to Lucy. "Well.... I can't say I approve, but at the same time it would be hypocritical of me to say no. I used to smoke a bit when I was in college. Neither of you are driving, and you don't smoke compulsively. Please just find somewhere secluded."
"Thank you, Lucy. You're sure it doesn't bug you...?"
"No no, it's fine." The three had managed to do something quite rare: Render Chelsea speechless. She sat there with her mouth in a perfect 'O'.
The kids were horsing around outside, so Bekka loaded her pipe at the table, explaining to Lucy,"This pipe is very important to me. It's very special."
"It was the pipe my mother used when she was dying of leukemia. By smoking, she kept from getting nauseous, it gave her an appetite, helped with her pain, she could sleep.... Amazing how much weed helped her. When I smoke with her pipe, I feel closer to her, you know?"
"So you were getting a dying woman stoned on street drugs. That's just great. How do you know you weren't making her worse?
Lucy did something I'd never heard before: she raised her voice. "Chelsea, shut your MOUTH!!"
"Let her rant," Bekka said. She walked over to where Chelsea was sitting and leaned on the table, smiling down at her. "She should just remember that I'm not a gentleman like Dutch. I'm a drug-abusing criminal whore, and there's no telling what I might do."
"I'm not afraid of you," Chelsea quavered.
"Good. I like a bit of a challenge. See you for dinner, sweetie." Her and Ellen stepped out to go smoke their bowl..
"I have to go. She's gonna beat me up," said Chelsea.
"No she won't. You'll stay here and eat your dinner, and she won't touch you, will she Lenny?"
"I'll go out and talk to her. But to be frank, girl, you baiting her, and Ellen, and all of our friends hasn't endeared yourself," I said. "What you did to Dutch makes me not wanna be in the same room with you. It was a good thing you held to that ten minute limit Tawny gave you. Now she is someone you don't want to meet, ever again, not without a very sincere apology. Make a deal: if you ignore her completely, I'll keep her off of you, even if you deserve it. Talking shit about someone's dead mother? What's wrong with you? Actually, don't answer that, I'll probably hate the answer.
Lucy asked, "What is it about Ellen and her friends that antagonizes you so?"
Chelsea said, "They're whores and junkies and criminals! They live lives of evil!"
I laughed and slapped my hand on the table.
"What's so funny?"
"I'm the only criminal. I sell drugs. Four of five are performers, and Dutch owns a garage, doing tune-ups. I'm where that Ecstasy you were offered came from: me. Yeah, I do the photo work for Inana, but most of my income, well.... Now we've got it all sorted out. Except how you're going to word your apology to Dutch and Tawny. I'd grovel if I were you."
"Why shouldn't I have you arrested?"
"First off, you don't even know my last name, or where I live, or my phone number. Calling the police in San Diego and saying you know a guy named Lenny who deals drugs won't fly far. But mostly your own self-preservation. Am I clear?"
Lucy said, "She won't be calling the police, Lenny, don't worry about it. I'll see to it.."
"Thank you, Lucy. And our orders are probably up, so I'll go get Ellen and Bekka."
I stepped out front and realized there was a car in the front drive. The driver kept gesturing to the kids: come closer, come closer.... I walked to the driver's side, looked in, and realized he had his dick out. And there was a pair of handcuffs on the passenger seat
He hadn't noticed me approaching. I said, "Hi!" to him, then did my damndest to pull him the hell out out of the car by the neck without opening my stitches up again. I had him a good distance out when he had a shot at the accelerator pedal.... And put himself into a light post. I decided a plate number would be more useful, so I ran behind him and got the plate, while he backed up , put it in Drive, and tore off down the street..
I ran in the restaurant yelling, "I need pen and paper, now!" Lucy didn't ask questions, just handed them over. I got the plate written down successfully, and told her what had happened. "Look, let's keep this mellow with the kids, no sense in panicking them. It was an '81 Buick Century, brown, with a mashed-in nose, bad paint on the hood and roof. Plate number 1PCE376. Let's call the cops. Actually, gimme a minute to find Ellen and Bekka, make sure they're aired out. Excuse me!" I called to the cashier. "Could I get a couple sodas, like, right now?"
"No problem, your orders will be up in about two minutes, too." I borrowed their phone and made the call into Carlsbad PD.
We were halfway through our meals when the police showed up: two cars, four cops. I gave them a description of the driver, the car, and the plate, which they were grateful for: this guy was a serial pervert, only people provided crap descriptions. I was the first one to provide useful information..
"Yeah, he was wearing a sweater, an oxford shirt, glasses, a combover....Oh my God. Bekka."
"What kind of car does your property manager drive?"
"Um, like an early 80s American sedan, brown, the pain't's going on the roof and hood. What's up?"
"Holy shit. This pervert has got to be your P.M. She lives in the Olivehurst complex in Encinitas," I said for the benefit of the cops.
"Should we follow you guys out there, officers?"
"We'll follow you. We need to let Encinitas know we're in their neighborhood."
We zipped down to Bekka's complex, using her card-key to open the gate. The cops tailgated us in. Parked next to the office, nose in, was the P.M.'s Buick. We got out and realized a modification had been added: a length of hose running from the exhaust pipe to a rear window, duct taped shut. I pulled the hose loose and tried the doors. Locked.
They used one of the heavy flashlights they all carry to break in the driver's window, and was flooded with exhaust. They opened the door and dragged him out. He was breathing, but barely. He'd vomited down the front of his sweater. One of the cops was already on the radio to the paramedics. While all this was going on, I was interviewed again as to what had happened. I explained I'd recognized him from the complex, and the vehicle description --- down to the fresh bash in the front end --- concluded things. Obviously I'd need to attend the trial as a witness, unless he pleaded guilty at arraignment. I could hear The Director now: "Who are you, Batman? How many crimes do you plan on stopping in progress?" It did worry me.... Who knew what the timing for the docket was for San Diego Superior, Northern Division. There would be serious trouble if both trials were scheduled at the same time. How do they even resolve such a conflict, where a witness has to be two different places at the same time?
Bekka came up and verbalized what was going through my head: "Lenny, you're a fucking hero. Again. You just got a child molester off the street." She laughed and said, "You're like an unwilling vigilante, cruising up and down California saving lives, rescuing people, stopping crime. The state ought to just give you a gas credit card and a baseball bat, I'll donate you the Falcon, you could run around stopping crimes all up and down the coast."
"You'd have to come with me," I told her. "You're never too far away when they happen. And you always help out, no matter what you think. I'd always need you."
"You're also gonna need to start a scrapbook. The press is here."
"Ugh. Let's get this over with. The Union/Tribune aren't my favorite people."
Out of laziness and stupidity, I gave them a rather truncated interview and my phone number, telling them the detail as to what happened in the parking lot and referring them to the cops for all other information ("I don't even know the man's name"). After ninety minutes Bekka and I were able to finally escape and I could go finish my cold burrito.
Bekka and I walked in to applause. The cook said said, "Your burrito got cold, so I'm making you a fresh one. In fact, whenever you're hungry, you come in here, we're feeding you. You got a scumbag off the street, especially a scumbag like that. Yer a fuckin' hero, dude."
I thanked him for his generosity --- he even took a Polaroid so people would know to feed me for free --- and accepted my fresh burrito.
I sat and ate my burrito, smirking while Bekka explained to Lucy, Ellen, and Chelsea that this sort of thing happens to me "all the time". The woman I resuscitated in the the motel lobby. Rescuing Ivanka from her john in the motel room. My road battle with Tom Wellow. Saving the cook and waiter (plus Ivanka and Bekka) from the stick-up man in the restaurant. And of course the attempted rape of Ivanka by her landlord, her providing story, me providing detail. And now this.
"He's a damn superhero, and he hates it. He's always rescuing and saving people."
"C'mon, I just do what anyone would do, it's not a big deal."
With a glum look, Lucy said, "Except most people don't. Too many people run away. That's why you're a hero, Lenny. You face down your fears and stand up to them, do you understand?"
"Well.... Thanks, Lucy. If anything, it's kind of pathetic that not enough people do the right thing. I just did what needed to be done, and hoped the car wasn't stolen."
It was nearly 9:30, rather past the kids' bedtime, so they were shuffled into the vans and pointed toward Ellen's to drop her off. The best part: Chelsea held her promise to remain quiet through dinner.