Read Part One here
Read Part Two here
Morning fog rolled in from the bay, flowing and ebbing along the streets as Stan made his way to his appointment with his mystery woman. He had been held so mesmerized that he completely failed at asking her name. Maybe when he picked up this package of hers he would be able to find out.
The building on the calling card was one of many unremarkable grey concrete obelisks that were on the edge of the lower business district. Inside, a few massive art deco chandeliers dimly illuminated the the dark marble floors. His footsteps echoed on the steps as he climbed to the second floor. Walking down the mezzanine Stan looked for the appropriate office number. Near the end of the walkway, he spied a door open part way. The number on the door matched the one on the card.
Stan lightly rapped on the door and stepped in. He quickly appraised the interior and found no one in the immediate area. In the office there was a delicate looking cherry wood desk with a leather office chair behind it. Flanking both sides of the door were two sets of chairs and side tables. On the far wall, next to the only window were three file cabinets. Stan looked around looked outside the office and once he made sure no one was around he strode over to the cabinets and began opening the drawers. Every single one was empty. Strange, he thought.
As he turned back to the door, his chin connected with the fist from one of the goons from the night before. As he sunk to the tile floor he saw that his mystery woman was being held by the other. Apples and cinnamon filled the office, and as Stan lost consciousness he wondered where the had come from.
Several minutes crept by before Stan regained consciousness. He slowly stood up using the desk as a brace against the onslaught of dizziness. When he was finally assured of maintaining an upright stance he went to the window and looked out, hoping to catch sight of his quarry. He slammed his fist against the window frame in frustration. Grabbing his hat from where it had fallen off his head, Stan retraced his steps out of the office building. Having no idea which way to head he looked up and down the street. As he turned his head down towards the bay and industrial docks he smelled the now familiar scent of apples and cinnamon. For some inexplicable reason he knew that was her scent and he followed it, down narrow streets and dingy alleyways until it lead out to one of the many docks the trailed fingerlike into the cold waters of the bay.
Through the wisps of fog that scurried along the waters edge Stan saw her as she stood at the end of the dock; the two gorilla henchmen flanking her. Her hands bound in chains that linked down to her ankles. Two other men stood behind and left of the trio; cloaked and hooded. Their heads were bent towards one another in quiet conspiracy. But instead of seeing a woman with her head hung in defeat or quiet acceptance, he spied an archangel. This woman stood at the face of her doom, head held high. She was the fiercest thing he had ever seen. Even men, three times her size, would have been pleading for their lives. But not this Angel. She stood her ground.
Stan carefully pulled his gun from its shoulder holster. He crept along the railing hoping to return the favor by catching the men off guard. As he passed the two that were cloaked they seemed to melt into the fog and retreat back to the streets.
When he felt he had attained a close enough vantage he shouted, “Down on the ground!”
Of course he knew that the goons wouldn’t comply. They spun around, reaching for their own weapons to fire. Stan felt everything slow down. He shot the one on the left first, then the one on the right. They both seemed to float down to the wooden planks of the pier. There they remained motionless. He knew he couldn’t have killed them both; he was a good shot but not that good. He quickly stepped up to the prone bodies and removed their weapons from their hands. He then searched pockets until he found keys that he hoped were to the woman’s shackles.
As he rose, Stan noticed that with all the commotion the woman hadn’t moved a muscle. Could she have been so terrified from the shooting that it rendered he paralyzed or was she so confident in Stan’s expertise that she wasn’t worried? Neither made any sense. It was human nature to want to protect oneself from immediate danger, and bullets flying was definitely a danger.
However, once Stan had removed the metal chains, the woman wrapped her arms around his neck in a most grateful hug. As she pulled away, she gave brushed her lips against his cheek.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I feared they had done you in back at the office.”
Stan uncharacteristically blushed at the intimate contact. “It takes a bit more than a sucker swing to put me down for long.”
“I am grateful for that, Mr. Cage,” the woman smiled.
For some unknown reason, Stan felt the need to confess his snooping in the office. “I have to be honest with you. When I first came in to your office I looked around a bit. I didn’t find any file for me. Could someone have taken it?”
The woman’s smile grew a little bigger. “No, Mr. Cage. The files are safe. And I would have been disappointed if you hadn’t searched for them.”
The woman pulled from a pocket in her jacket a key. It was to a locker at the train station. She placed the key in his hand.
“The files that you need are there.”
Stan looked hard at her then looked out across the bay. After a few seconds staring at the fog covered water, he turned back to her and asked, “Who are you?”
But the woman standing beside him was no longer the young woman he had been tracking down. Instead it was the old mama-san from the restaurant. Stan shook his head. The fog, along with the upper cut to the chin from earlier must be playing tricks on his sight. When he looked again, the young woman was before him. Still unsure of his senses he returned his gaze to the water.
“I am older than you know, Mr. Cage,” the woman began. “And there are things about me you cannot understand. Those men that were also on the dock are the grandsons of the original Two Monkeys founders. The founders are the ones who brought me here. And it’s the grandsons who will be brought to justice if you take the files to the district attorney’s office.”
“But that’s impossible,” Stan began turning back to the woman. But she was no longer by his side. She was retreating back up the pier. The fog enveloping her like a cape. Stan had a need to follow her. To ask her how it was that the original Two Monkeys had brought her here when she was a child when she was still so obviously a young woman. But he stayed his feet. Maybe she was right. Maybe he couldn’t understand her.
After pondering many fantastical reasons for her comments and what he thought he saw, Stan finally returned to the streets of the city and made his way to the train station, taking extra precautions to make sure he wasn’t followed. It didn’t take long to find the locker the key belonged to. Inside was a very large and filled accordion file. He flipped it open and pulled a random sheet of paper out. Attached was the photo of a child. And the paper held all manner of data for the child in the photo. Stan could see that these were details on the children brought over for the trafficking trade.
He carefully turned, hoping to avoid a repeat from earlier in the morning. Once he felt there was no immediate danger, he tucked the file folder under his arm and departed the station. Again taking extraordinary measures to elude any tails, Stan made his way to the DA’s office. When the secretary asked why he wanted to see the district attorney, he pulled one of the files out and laid it on the desk.
“I think he’ll be interested in taking down the Two Monkeys.”
The secretary briefly studied the file then nodded her head. “I’ll be right back.”
As she disappeared into the caverns of the offices, Stan continued to wonder at the circumstances that resulted in him having this file folder and to the possibility of it being able to take down one of the city’s most secretive criminal organizations. He hoped he would some day see the woman again, but has soon as the thought entered his head he already knew the answer would be no. He knew if he were to return to her office, it would be empty and the door locked. She had entered his life like an ephemeral ghost, and now she was gone. As the district attorney approached Stan, he could almost convince himself that he smelled apples and cinnamon.
– – – – – –
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.