Updated: Nov 2, 2019
A couple of months had passed, without much work coming in. A few interviews here, few leads there, but mostly dead ends. The checks came rolling in though, and Tim was getting himself back on his feet. The day was Monday, September 05, 1994. Today was important, because it was the day his story would be hitting the shelves. "Not suicide, says Deputy that discovered Cain's body."
Circle K, coffee, and a rag mag from the shelf. Ritual completed. The same late teen clerk, with the long oily hair, was there to check him out. "Hey that's you on the cover, isn't it?"
"It does look a lot like me." Said Tim with a smirk. "Must be my doppelganger."
The teen gave him a look of confusion, and then laughed. "What's a doppelganger?"
"It's when someone looks a lot like you, but it's not you."
"Ohhh... kinda like when you're dreaming, and it's not you, but it is you." Said the teen with a smirk of his own.
"Yeah... something like that." Said Tim.
His pocket began to vibrate, like particles of a fluid, trapped in a vacuum. It was his pager. It was Brad paging him. He left the Circle K, to use a phone booth outside. He had a lead and it was a good one.
Carol Cain's best friend from high school, had a story to tell. She was a drug addict now, and Tim was told to be careful, but to get her story, unabridged. The good and the bad, no matter what that might be. He was to meet her at her apartment in West Covina, a complex off the 10 freeway, on Grand Avenue.
Tim drove back home to grab his tape recorder, and there he was, the old pale man dressed in black, waiting for him in his driveway. Richard Labble, with his pale skin, his light blue eyes, with a plastic smile, and a smoke in the mouth. Tim had been so happy the last two months, but not anymore, not at this moment. Anxiety came upon him like an drug addict in withdrawal. He got out of his truck and closed the door, but he felt stuck like a depressed emotion.
"Mr. Gray, I'm very disappointed in you." Said the pale one called Richard Labble. "I thought we had a deal? That you wouldn't talk to anyone? I saw your shit story, in that shit tabloid."
"I was just calling it as I saw it. Nothing wrong with that." Said Tim.
"Don't end up squashed like the man in Tiananmen Square. Know when to get out of the way of the tank."
"Do you really believe Dr. Cain discovered the cure for cancer?"
"I don't know." Said Tim trying his best to stay firm, though he felt like his soul was being drained from his body. "All I'm after is the truth." A pain of pins, needles and numbness came about his face. He was feeling dizzy, like he might faint.
"Strange thing cancer is." Said the pale one. "Normal cells divide, multiply, and die off. But not cancer cells. Cancer cells don't die. They grow into a tumor, sucking the life out of the healthy cells. It's like a vampire that is living inside of your body, draining you, until there is nothing left."
Tim was in shock, he couldn't find a happy thought to make the feeding stop, but it did eventually, as the pale one let go of the hold he had on him.
"Good luck with your stuff." Said the pale one called Richard Labble. And then he was gone.
Tim didn't remember him leaving. The panic attack was over though, and his first thought was to go out and get himself a star pendant necklace. He drove straight to a jewelry shop, before heading to West Covina. He got it in sterling silver. Was he losing his mind? The store clerk wished him a Shanah Tovah, as today was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Was this coincidence or purpose? She asked him if he wanted it gift wrapped. He declined, he wanted to wear it out. It made him feel safe.
Across the street from the apartment complex in West Covina, there was a fenced off reservoir. It was where all the excess water ended up as it made its way through the various washways of Los Angeles County. The reservoir was about a mile all the way around in the shape of a boomerang, surrounded by pine trees, with a dirt road that went around the large body of water. Tim had not known it yet, but he would end up there before the day was done.
He was knocking on the door of Sharon Frank. She had been Carol's best friend in high school. Sharon had fallen on some hard times though, and was now a heroin addict, in her forties. Maybe she was hard up for some money, as Brad Shogun paid well for his interviews. Nevertheless her story would be told, and it would be up to the reader to decide.
There was a group of teens loitering about on the stairs of the apartment next door. Three in all. Shaved heads, Doc Martens laced in red, and red suspenders holding up their Dickies. An unpleasant glare, as Tim was not welcome in their neighborhood. He grabbed his star necklace to cover it up as Sharon answered the door.
"Well come on it!" She was slightly overweight, wearing a nightgown, and drowning in perfume. "Well aren't you a cutie, I would have shaved my legs had Mr. Shogun told me he was sending over a cutie pie."
"Howdy." Tim blushed as he entered her apartment, he wasn't used to women flirting with him.
She had music on, blaring in the background, and was mumbling along with the words. "I saw him standing there by the record machine..." She turned it off. "Those boys out there are a rough bunch, rumor is they are the ones going around killing all the cats in the neighborhood." She locked her door. "Sorry about the mess."
Tim looked over to the used needle sitting next to a burnt spoon on the counter. "It's okay, I've seen worse."
"Where do you want me to start? I can't prove it but I know she is somehow behind this."
Tim placed his tape recorder on the coffee table, and pressed the two buttons together to record. "Let's start with how you and Carol Cain met?"
"We went to high school together, at South Hills, not too far from here. All the girls thought she was so cool. And the boys were all afraid of her. Instead of two for flinching, she'd give em one in the nuts."
"So what makes you think she's behind Dr. Cain's death? There's got to be more to it than just kicking some boys in the balls?"
"Senior year we became close, best friends. We did a lot of drugs together. She hated her father, would talk about killing him and getting away with it. When we were high she used to brag how one day she would marry a rich doctor, then kill him and steal all of his money. She used to say it a lot. When I heard she was married to a doctor, I was like oh boy, here we go. He's going to end up dead."
"How come you didn't tell anyone? How come you didn't warn him?"
"Who's going to listen to a burnt out junkie? Carol disowned me as a friend, a long time ago. Everyone would have thought I was being a jealous bitch. But I'm not." She winked at Tim with a smile. "I got some skag, if want to stay for some overtime?"
Tim was flattered, as she was beautiful in her own dark way, and it had been so long since he had been with a woman, but this was strictly business. "I think you are lovely and all, but I can't stay. And I don't use."
"You should talk to her ex boyfriend. The guy she dated in high school. He used to be a junkie like me. The Essence cured him of his addiction. Wish I had gotten that cure. I'll be dead before I'm fifty." Her smile turned to sadness.
"You could always go to rehab with the money you are getting for this interview, instead of blowing it."
"I've done rehab, it's not a cure. And now the Essence is gone." She was tearing up.
Tim felt bad for her but he had to keep things moving along. "So, what's the ex boyfriend's name?"
"His name is Jimmy, Jimmy Copeland. And one more thing. I know she's still alive?"
"What makes you think that?"
"She used to say she would fake her death, that's how she would get away with it. They would never catch her, or even suspect her if they thought she was dead."
Tim hit the stop button on his recorder, and put it into his inside coat pocket, the same one that once had the leather book. He still felt so guilty about that. But he was doing his best to make it right.
"Thank you for your time Miss Frank."
"Anytime sugar. Please stay. I'm so lonely and trapped. I wish there was a way out for me. I try to keep a happy face, but I'm so miserable."
"I wish I could, but I'm on the clock, and it wouldn't be healthy for either of us. We barely know each other." Said Tim who was also lonely.
"I barely know anyone." She said.
Tim felt bad, but he was glad to be getting on his way. Women made him feel awkward and nervous. He could feel her pain though, and hoped she would be okay.
It was now 5pm and the sun was setting early as it did in the fall. A plane was flying by overhead in the sky, and the contrails had spread out in beautiful red. A moment of euphoria, but it didn't last long. He looked down from the sky to see the three skinhead boys, still sitting there loitering about. They were all three looking at him with hate. One of them was holding on to a mini wooden baseball bat, tapping it on his other hand, without breaking his glare.
"Hey Mister, that's a pretty necklace you got there." Said the one holding the bat. "Why don't come on over here and shoot the shit with us. Tell us where you got your pretty Jew necklace?"
"I don't want any trouble boys."
"Hand over the necklace, and there won't be any." Said the second boy.
"It'd be a shame if I had to call the cops, and have you all hauled off to juvie. Just let me go my way, and I'll let you go yours." Said Tim.
"Go ahead call the cops, call them. We can call them for you if you like? Cops ain't gonna do shit for you Jew boy." Said the third.
"Hand over the necklace." Said the one with the bat. "Or I'm going to beat the meat out of you."
Just as Tim turned to walk away, the kid with the bat stood up and smacked him on the side of the head, with full swing. He fell to the ground, ears ringing, as blood dripped off the tip of his earlobe. He was disoriented from the strike. He didn't know which way was up, or which way was down. He was too dazed to fight back, and was looking around confused, looking for an exit strategy. It was fight or flight, and he was too hurt to fight. He got up and ran before he could be hit again.
"Get back here Jew!"
He ran out into the traffic on Grand Avenue. Cars whizzed by him, honking their horns as they just missed squashing him like a tank. On the other side of street there was a chain linked fence to where the reservoir was. There was a spot where the barbed wire had been cut. He ran towards it as fast as he could and jumped to the other side. The three boys were in pursuit and hopped the fence, right behind him. Adrenalin had kicked in, but he was still getting tired. Right about now he was wishing he had listened to Brad, and got that gym membership. How long had he been running? It felt like forever.
He went off to the left side, off the dirt road, hoping to hide in some trees, but it was downward slope that caught his footing off guard. His knee buckled and he tumbled down the hill, falling to the ground. At the bottom of the incline was a huge body of water, and there was nowhere to go. It was completely dark now. The moonlight glistened off the water, where he was now a the edge of it. He was on the ground and the three skinhead boys were standing above him. They took turns kicking him till he lossed the strength to defend himself. The one with the bat handed it off to one of the other boys, then ripped the necklace off from around Tim's neck, and threw it into the murky water, that was yellow and unhealthy.
The moon then went dark like an eclipse, and their shaved heads turned bright white as if to glow. Their eyes turned blue, all blue, no whites, no pupils. They were glowing. What the fuck am I seeing? Tim thought. It was feeding time and the boys were hungry.
They were acting like they were possessed. Tim felt the life being sucked out of him. It was like he was being strangled. He tried to get his breath back into a rhythm, but he couldn't, his throat was too dry.
"You were warned Mr. Gray." Said the first.
"You had to step in front of tank." Said the second.
"And now you have to die." Said the third.
Tim felt his life slipping away, he was on his way to the spirit world. Maybe. He held onto his life the best he could, the edge was near though, and he couldn't hold on forever.
All of a sudden the moon lit back up, shining down on the boys faces; they had looks of confusion. They were no longer possessed. The feeding had stopped, but Tim was beyond hurt. He couldn't speak, his throat was still too dry. He couldn't move his legs. What had saved him? Why was he spared?
There was a figure of a man standing at the top of the hill from above. Tim could only see him faintly. It was a man, and his silhouette was fit. It was Brad Shogun, wearing a tight white T-shirt, with loose fitted blue jeans. The moon shined down on his blue star tattoo, like sunshine on a cloudy day. It was now his duty to remove this infection.
"Shanah Tovah! You Nazi cunts!"
Brad came down the hill in a fury, grabbed the one with the bat first. Picked him right up off of his feet and threw him into the yellow water. That water was nasty too, with slime and moss. It was cold and smelt like dead fish. The boy didn't try to get out either, he was too scared. He swam away in fear to other side of the reservoir.
He looked at the other two boys, and grabbed a hold of their arms. "Gimme those red laces out of your boots! In fact just take off your boots! Then throw them in the water!" They took them off and did as told. "Suspenders too!"
"But my pants will fall down." Said one of the boys.
"Do I look like I give a shit!"
They complied, and threw their red suspenders into the water. They were now both holding onto their britches and shivering.
"Now wish me a Shanah Tovah and swim away!" They looked at him dumbfounded. "Wish me a Shanah Tovah you cunts!"
"Shanah Tovah." They said scared in unison.
"Now swim away... be gone!"
"But the water is so yellow, can't we just walk away?"
"Ha ha, nope. I actually feel sorry for the water. Swim the fuck away and cleanse the Nazi scum from your bodies. Do it or I will fuck your life!"
They did as they were told; they were terrified of Brad. The moss stuck to their bodies like velcro. More and more, with every stroke. They swam away into the stench of dead fish and sewage, till they disappeared on the other side.
Tim was still on the ground hurt, but in relief. "How did you know I was here?"
"Sharon called me, told me she saw you get hit with a bat by a skinhead, outside her window. I was in my Beamer, lucky for you I have a car phone. Got here as soon as I could. Nothing more fun than punching Nazis." He looked down on Tim who still on the ground and offered his hand. "You okay?"
"Yeah I think so." Said Tim getting to his feet.
"You need to get that gym membership Tim." He said grinning.
"Yeah... yeah. I was sucker clocked by a baseball bat though."
"True, but maybe if you beefed up those arms, maybe they don't even bother you. But if you like to run so much, just don't skip leg day."
"Okay, okay, I'll get the gym membership."
"That's my boy, good times. Traffic is shit right now, I had to zip through side streets to get here. You look like shit though, and in no shape to drive. You can crash at my pad tonight. We can go over the interview in the morning."
Tim fell asleep in the spare bedroom. Brad's house was spectacular, with a view of the ocean overlooking Huntington Beach. That night he dreamt again of the wise woman with the flowing red hair.
"Follow me." She said. "I have another story to show you."
This time it was the story of a baby bird. Again he was the baby bird, yet he wasn't. The woman with the red hair was the momma bird. She was gathering up worms, chewing them up, and spitting them up into his hungry mouth. He had never felt so loved in his entire life.
"This was very important." She said. "Had the momma bird not learnt to do this, the baby birds would have choked and died. Instead they healed from their birth, grew strong, multiplied and passed it down."
The next morning Tim awoke fresh, he again forgot that he had dreamt at all. His body had healed from the night before, Completely healed, there wasn't a scratch on his body.