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He’d been sent on ahead, as usual, to check out the potential clients claim

 

An Afternoon's Escape

By: Tee

 

Rating: G

In answer to: Leia's Escape Challenge and The Great Outdoors Challenge and maybe even the music challenge (don't blink, you'll miss it)

For PK. Who has the patience of the saint. Thank you.

 

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He'd been sent on ahead, as usual, to check out the potential client's claim. He'd known there was something wrong with it when he'd got the call, but that was fine. Any excuse to get out of LA on a hot summer's day was good with him. Well, as long as he wasn't going somewhere hotter, anyway, like Kansas or something.

 

Face shook his head. His mind had been wandering for days. It seemed like he just couldn't get in the game. It just seemed like every client was a kook or a nut or a flake. The military was hiding behind every bush, ready to pop out at all the wrong times. He'd seen khaki at a charity event just last week, and he'd convinced himself they were after him. They weren't. It was just some aide to a retired General working the book circuit.

 

But the call that a shop keep in Sausalito was in trouble was just too good to pass up, no matter how paranoid he felt. There was no way this wasn't a setup. It just smelled like military. The client was too pat, offered too much information up front, the cry for help just a little too perfect. But Hannibal had liked the sound of it, although he was wary enough to ask for a big up-front deposit -- one Uncle Sam wasn't going to get back -- and sent Face up to check it out.

 

He liked Sausalito. It was a pretty little town, a little wild and unkempt, but the artist colony at the base of the mountain mixed nicely with the fishermen along the shore and the wealthy folk with their houses perched precariously on the hillside.

 

From here, there was a spectacular view across the bay to San Francisco. If he were to live up here, it would be here, on the peninsula looking at the hustle-bustle of the city, instead of in the city looking this way. He thought about checking out the housing market. Sausalito might be a very good place to make some real estate investments.

 

It was a sunny afternoon with a slow breeze off the bay, and just cool enough that keeping his sport coat on, so it covered his .357, didn't draw any notice.  He was to meet the client for the first time at a hip little café on the main drag. It sold coffee, ice cream, and of all things, crepes.  Face had passed it twice, once very early this morning, before the first shops along the wide touristy street had opened and once more about two hours before the meet. He checked out the cars parked along the street and down the narrow alley, filled with empty boxes, dented trash cans and the usual debris of shipped supplies.

 

But something still felt off, and he'd lived on the run for too long to take those feelings for granted. There weren't many roads in and out of the little town; one major road in, one out. It was, for all intents and purposes, the perfect place for a trap. And the longer he stayed here, the more trap-like it felt. 

 

There was something about a military man that stood out, even when not in uniform. Although the Presidio was just across the bay, Face just knew the guy in the black sport coat wasn't here on vacation.  He watched, waited, and sure enough, the man with the flat-top haircut began talking into his newspaper. Face turned to head back up the main drag, but he knew he'd been spotted.

 

There was a shift in the crowd, when the other people, mostly oblivious to their surroundings, picked up on some archaic since of self-preservation. Face could feel it, almost touch it, as the shoppers and tourists shifted and moved between hunter and hunted. Without missing a beat, he went from his casual, unobtrusive walk to a full out sprint through the crowd.

 

He didn't look back, not at first, he was too trained for a rookie mistake like that. First, he needed to put as much distance between himself and the flat-tops as he could, letting the crowd, milling in surprise, slow down his pursuers.  And they did. Stopping in their tracks to look at him and them, they created mini-road hazards that did just what Face needed. Slowing the progress of the army men.

 

Face zigged, zagged and dashed – up one street and down another -- until he saw just what he needed. A bend in the road that would hide him from eyes behind him, and a tiny narrow alleyway.  The entrance was half covered by a blooming bougainvillea, the pale pink blooms vibrant in the darkened alley.  He turned in and turned again, crouching down behind the planter that held the tree, along with other ferns and delicate little plants. 

 

Behind him was a closed door with a sign "employees only" in a faded script.  Down the length of the alley were a handful of other stores: an art gallery with one too many pictures of the golden gate bridge, a leather store with a window proudly displaying moccasins and hats better suited to Alaska than California. And beyond those, a bead shop and one that sold knick-knacks, and from his narrow vantage point, what looked like a head shop.

 

He grinned at the last one. In just a few moments, he'd head over there and see if he could find some trinket for Murdock, who had currently taken an interest in all things Shiva, or maybe a Black Sabbath 8-track for BA, if he promised to listen to it only when Hannibal wasn't in the van. 

 

First came the foot pursuit, then the blare of sirens on the streets too tiny for that many cars. He grinned at the sound of squealing tires and the sound of metal on metal when one fender got too close to something. He could hear voices, loud, angry shouting. The officer in charge. It wasn't Lynch, but someone lower in rank, still high enough, though, to get a "Sir" at the end of every sentence.

 

Shifting slightly, Face felt the coolness of the brick wall behind him.  The smell of fresh ground coffee drifted over him, and when he closed his eyes, he could smell cinnamon and fresh pastries.

 

He waited. Even without hearing the words, he knew the content of the orders given. This town was too small for him to get away. Keep looking. Search every shop and store.  Of course, it was impossible. There wasn't time or manpower to do the job right.

 

It didn't take much longer to hear the cars pull off, moving back down to the main drag. They'd set up a checkpoint at each end of the main street. It would annoy the tourists. The local cops would be called in. There would be a different argument over jurisdiction vs. tourist dollars, seniority, who was stepping on whose toes. Face didn't need to hear the coming arguments to know they'd happen.

 

He stood, looked out between the dark brown branches of the bush to the street beyond. There were people out and about, looking, pointing, talking. Minutes later, most everything was back to normal.

 

Turning his back to the street, he stopped in at the art gallery. There was nothing much to his liking, the paintings mostly too bright, the prints too general.  He fingered a nice piece of scrimshaw, and saw a beautiful, if over-priced, chess set. He smiled at the cashier, a bored, middle-aged woman who was reading an entertainment magazine.

 

He wandered out again. Into the bead shop, back out, into the head shop, his eyes watering at the overpowering smell of incense that did nothing to hide the smell of pot. He couldn't resist a T-shirt with a kangaroo that said "Hopping Mad" on it and fished out a ten to pay for it.

 

Finding he was still alone in the alley when he left the store, he pulled off his sport coat, gun and holster and stuffed them in the bag with the t-shirt. He undid his tie, and folding it neatly, put it in his pants pocket. Then he ducked under the bougainvillea and back out onto the street.

 

It was quieter now, the commotion of his passing nothing more than an exciting moment to the tourists, a frustration to the military. He walked down the hill, looking in the shop windows like all the other tourists, until he hit the main street, which he crossed against the light, like all the other tourists, and headed into the marina.

 

Sitting at pier six was a handsome speedboat, white with a red stripe and plush, white seats.  He dropped the bag onto the empty passenger seat and cast off, the barest hint of a tide moving the big boat. Sausalito was a waterfront town at the end of a peninsula. Was Lynch really so dim-witted as to believe that he'd drive to a meet? Apparently so. Face started the engine, which roared to life, turning more than one head his way. He looked for flat-top hair cuts, but so far, none caught his eye.

 

With little adjustments to the wheel, he turned the boat into the marina waterway, slowly gliding past sailboats and speedboats and more than one houseboat, moving parallel to the road.  Just before the marina passed through the narrow outlet and out into the bigger bay, the road came very close to the water. There, the military had set up a roadblock with two green sedans, lights flashing. Four men, with sidearms holstered, checked every vehicle.

 

Face cut the engine back to idle, watching the search for a few minutes, and thinking about what might be reported on the evening news. Then he honked the air horn. All four men looked his way. The speedboat had drifted just a bit so that the stern was to the shore, and Face had to turn to wave and smile -- just before he revved the engine and hit the power, sending a rooster tail of water up onto the shore as the Army men scrambled to avoid the spray. He didn't look back, just set the trim, pushed the throttle to full, and charged out into the bay.

 

It was 25 minutes later when he docked the powerful boat at pier H along San Francisco's Fisherman's wharf, left the keys with the harbor master, and headed for

Tarantino's Italian Restaurant, his bag tucked under his arm.

 

Hannibal, BA and Murdock would be waiting. He'd bet them it would be a setup, and he intended to collect. Dinner, dancing, and a night on the town, anywhere he chose.

 

He loved it when a plan came together.

 

August 2006

Tee Fischer

 


An Afternoon's Escape by Tee

 

 


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