Saturday, September 26, 2009

the sixteenth letter, part 26

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

it finally took edwin over twelve hours to walk the more than one hundred blocks. he had detoured several times to avoid neighborhoods that frightened him and he had gotten lost.

it was almost midnight when he finally reached the address crispus had given him. he found himself in front of a little store like millions of others, of a kind edwin usually avoided, as he had gotten his supplies from the supermarket where he had worked. these stores sold sandwiches, drinks, horoscopes , show schedules and little illustrated books. many also sold illegal items like romance novels and the tracts of prohibited religions.

edwin had heard that some could still be found that sold tobacco cigarettes and drinks with alcohol or caffeine. the thought of entering such a place frightened him. he took the piece of paper crispus had given him out of his pocket and checked it.
bonnie and connie had followed him the last ten blocks - not bothering to keep to the shadows.

"he has the address written down," said bonnie. "how nice."
"he's not the first one," connie answered . "it's tough to get good recruits these days."
they closed in on him as he looked back and forth from the store to the paper.
"can we help you?"connie asked him.

edwin was startled. "i was wondering if this store was open," he managed to say.
bonnie snatched the paper out of edwin's hand.
she showed it to connie, tapping the word "bobby" written on it. "tell me there's some excuse for this."
connie shrugged. "bobby's a common name." she looked up at edwin. "it looks like you came a long way for a drink or a sandwich."
"your feet are steaming," bonnie added. "do you know that?"

edwin looked down at his feet. they both laughed, but not too hard.
"well," said connie, "since you're here - "
"you might as well come in," bonnie finished.
the store was indeed closed for the night, but connie took a key out of her pocket and opened the door. edwin followed them in.

bonnie climbed upon the counter and pulled a long cord which dangled down from a bare bulb. the store lit up, barely enough to see the shelves.
"want a drink?" connie asked edwin.
'yes - yes!" edwin almost shouted - it came out a croak. connie opened a refrigerator with a clear front and took a drink out without looking at it.

"i'll pay, " edwin told her. he looked at the drink - it was plain pineapple.
'pay! i see you're one desperate outlaw, sib."
bonnie jumped down and went to a door behind the counter and knocked on it. nobody answered.

"rosa lee, rosa lee!" bonnie called softly. "i know you are in there, rosa lee." there was still no answer. she jumped back up on the counter.
"did i hear something about paying?" she stared at edwin. "you got any coins?"
edwin took a couple of pennies out of his pocket. "this is all i have. i used to get all my stuff at work."

bonnie and connie both laughed, whether at him or the coins or both he couldn't tell. suddenly the door behind the counter opened. a tall young woman stood in the dim light.
"who is this? who sent him?"

bonnie handed her the paper she had taken from edwin. "i knew you were in there, rosa lee."
rosa lee ignored this but read the note and looked up sharply. "well, come on in." she didn't look too happy.
bonnie turned off the overhread bulb.
the room behind the counter was a storage space crowded with cartons. there were no chairs, only a low table that rosa lee sat down on.

"who gave you this ?" she asked edwin.
edwin just stared at her.

rosa lee smiled at him, not unkindly. "you've come this far."
"i was supposed to ask for bobby."
all three laughed, and rosa lee waved the note at him. "it looks like you already have."
"where's bobby?" edwin asked.
"he's not here right now," rosa lee told him.
"would you know bobby if you saw him?" bonnie asked.

"if bobby was here," connie told edwin. "i think i know the first thing he would ask you."
edwin waited.
"did jojo send you?"

"i have no need to fence with you. or to negotiate with you," hopkins told larry. "charlotte likes you. but charlotte has no jurisdiction here, none. mrs roosevelt, whom i represent, does. for you, it's just that simple."

"it's not simple to me at all, i'm sorry. but i'm not very bright."

"if we release you, i will expect you to report to me about what charlotte does. you spy on her for me. is that plain enough?"
larry thought for a few seconds. "but why would you release me? charlotte will know something is up."
hopkins smiled. "that's the tricky part. the tricky part for you, i mean. we aren't going to let you go until she asks. and we think she might ask."

"you do? why?"
"because it's the way she is. i've been dealing with her for a long time - well, for a while anyway. she believes in the rules. she sees herself as the number one rules enforcer for the universe. the rules apply to everybody, all the time. except herself. do you see now?"
"anybody else would say, my guy messed up, he's going to jupiter, lets move on. but charlotte will say, that's my guy, i like him, i want him back, the rules don't apply to me."
"suppose she doesn't?"

"then we are back at square one - nothing lost for us. i happened to be here, on another matter. i saw an opportunity - for me. and for you too."
"sounds like a plan." larry stretched and looked around the little office.
hopkins leaned forward. "are you telling me you are not interested? that you are resigned to your fate?"
"how do you know if you let me go, i won't help you out? that i just - don't."

"you would be incurring my displeasure. and mrs roosevelt's. you wouldn't want that."
"i guess not."
"so it's settled then."
"i guess."
"say it.'
"say the words - ' i will spy on charlotte for hopkins.' "
larry laughed. "i will spy on charlotte for hopkins."
"say it again."
"i wiil spy on charlotte for hopkins."
"one more time."

"what is this, the bible or something? i will spy on charlotte for hopkins,"
"thank you."
"now what?"

"now you can go back. keep playing the game, confess to everything - which you were going to do anyway, right? - eat what they give you to eat, and wait until you get released. if you get released." he got up and went down the corridor. when he returned he looked at larry as if expecting some questions, but larry remained silent.
little red and dave came back and took larry away.
hopkins watched them disappear down the corridor and closed the door.
"what a moron!" he said aloud. "where do we get these people?"

the sixteenth letter, part 27

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