Read part one Here
After returning to his office and napping on the broken down sofa the rest of the afternoon, Stan made his way down to the waterfront as the sun set over the bay. It was still very warm out in the late summer evening, but the sidewalks were already filled with vendors plying their wears, couples strolling arm in arm, children hustling whatever they could, and men with hats pulled low over their eyes looking for things that could not be spoken of.
As Stan was about to cross the street towards the seawall a strange scent caught in his nostrils. A smell that brought back long ago boyhood memories: apples and cinnamon. He twirled around to try to figure out where it was coming from. But he couldn’t spy any store or restaurant that made any sense. Then his eye caught the sight of a woman; small, perfect posture, long ebony hair walking away from him. Could it be the woman he was looking for? As he began to follow she seemed to sense him and slightly turned her head so that he got a better look in the electric light of the night. It was definitely her. She turned a corner and Stan quickened his step until he reached the edge of the brick building then slowed down as he spied her half a block ahead, crossing the street and heading into what appeared to be an alley. Stan looked carefully behind him before he crossed the street himself. He needed to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He also scanned for any signs of a trap ahead as he made his way cautiously to the alley entrance.
A large green neon sign in the shape of a dragon flashed part way down the alley. And muted light spilled from the open door to the speakeasy. Legal or not this was the type of establishment that no commissioner or vice squad would ever consider raiding. Stan recognized that it was the green serpent that the old woman spoke of. This must be where the young woman went into. Lowering his hat nearer his eyes Stan made his way in, trying to look like all the other desperate individuals that came to such places.
It didn’t take long for Stan to find the object of his quest. She sat at the far end of the bar, a martini glass in front of her along with another martini glass in front of the empty stool next to her. He made his way slowly towards her, looking for signs of danger in a very dangerous establishment. But no one seemed to take any notice of him or the girl that he was wanting to meet.
Without any pretense, Stan sat next to the woman and took a long drink from the glass set before him. The barest whisper of a smile played on the woman’s lips as she took a sip from her own glass.
“I’m very pleased you were able to make it, Mr. Cage.” Her voice was low, barely above a whisper. Stan wanted to lean in closer so as not to miss a word.
“That was some bread crumb trail you left,” Stan finally responded. “How did you know I would enlist the help of some random old woman in a random restaurant? Or that I would even look into this?” He pulled her photograph from his breast pocket and set in on the bar.
“Because it seems you like puzzles, Mr. Cage. It’s the nature of your profession, is it not?”
Stan nodded. Puzzles were what he dealt with. Figuring out where a missing person was, how to find something that was purposely lost, how to see clues that no one else could.
“I wonder then, Mr. Cage, how you have yet to see all the lost children.”
The comment had its intended affect. Stan hung his head for a moment while he let the sting subside. “Because no body came to me asking me to find them. Then there’s the matter of the Two Monkeys families. Some things just are better off left alone.”
“Do you wish to walk away, Mr. Cage?”
“No, I do want to help you. And please, call me Stan.”
“I am beyond help. But there is a chance to help these children that are put into slavery. To help them is to help me.”
Several moments went by before Stan could ask the question that he was sure would spell his final doom. “What is it you want from me?” he finally croaked out.
A whisper of a laugh escaped her lips. “Please do not worry, Stan. I am not asking quite so much from you. I simply need you to pick up a package from me tomorrow, examine the contents, and if you feel it merits any attention deliver it to the district attorney himself.”
“If that’s all there is to it, why didn’t you just drop the package off at my office earlier today?”
“Because, you like puzzles.” The woman placed a card on top of her photograph. Seraphim Exports it read with an address near the base of the Presidio. She began to rise from her seat. “Tomorrow at . . .” She then sat back down hard. She reached towards Stan as if to give him a kiss thus turning her head from the front door. But instead of feeling her lips on his, he felt her breath as she spoke very quietly. “Two men who just came in. They are looking for me. Tomorrow at 10:00.” Her lower lip barely caressed his own, but in its wake was left a building fire. She quickly got back up, careful not to show her face to the front entrance and disappeared out a back way Stan had not noticed before.
Very nonchalantly, Stan put the picture and the business card in his breast pocket. He slowly finished his drink while looking at the two men over the top of the glass. They were goons alright. Definitely henchmen of the Two Monkeys.
Stan adjusted his hat even lower, got up and left the bar. He strolled the streets aimlessly for an hour. Once he was sure he wasn’t being tailed, he hailed a cab and headed back to his one room apartment.
Come back tomorrow for the third and final part
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I have a hard time understanding inspiration. Looking at a painting of a summertime landscape can result in pages of story. Or a bee gathering pollen on a thistle can be the beginning of a photo essay. I saw this beautiful photo of our recently returned Rarasaur and a story came to mind. Searching for someone who is looking for help but in the end the subject of the assistance gives more assistance to others. That is our Rara. She is always there to lend a helping hand or a shoulder or whatever is needed. And she never asks anything in return. If you have yet to be introduced to the marvelous woman, please head over to her blog, rarasaur. You will find some fantastic stories that will make you laugh and cry and be inspired.