For LOST IN LOS ALAMOS Beta Readers Only - Please Do Not Share.
It Came From Española
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A cell phone was ringing somewhere in the bathroom. There were bubbles rising in the lukewarm sudsy water.
Scott wondered, “Did I fart or is that the phone?” Laying down as far into the tub as he could go, Scott submerged his head under the water. He found the phone in the far end of the full bath tub. It was still ringing under the water. Scott opened his eyes and woke up.
On the bedside table sat a clock that read 5:30am. The phone responsible for the ringing was in front of it. Then it stopped.
Scott, still in his clothes and obviously hung over, was unwilling to move his body to he had to reach way over to the phone to see who it was. He picked it up and noticed a text message he received while he was asleep. He brought the phone to his face and it opened to the text.
It read: BRENT: “Awesome night! U shoulda been there. Oh yeah, u were! Do u even remember? Okay, Bro, looking forward to Christmas Break on the Strand, hey?”
In the middle of reading the message, the screen changed and the phone started to ring again. Scott’s brow furrowed. It was an unfamiliar number.
“Hello?” Scott groggily said.
In a very thick Mexican accent and modulation, a man’s hoarse voice asked, “Homes! When you gonna get your ass down here?”
Scott pulled the phone away from his face to look at it. “Who is this?” Scott asked when he brought the phone back.
“Dude, it’s Todd.” the voice said with exasperation and impatience. “Betty’s friend. You know - workin’ on the house? Comprende? When you gonna be here, man?”
“Ah, yeah... Betty told me you’d be calling. Man, it’s early! So you got the number.”
“You think? And you better get used to it,” Todd said sarcastically. “So, when?!” Todd pushed.
Scott slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed and raised up his body too fast. He put one knuckle to his temple and dug in with it.
“I’m actually gonna leave town ... uh, this morning,” Scott answered, eying the clock. Should be there day after tomorrow.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’, Hermano,” Todd said, complacent.
Scott was up. He put the phone on speaker while he made his bed.
“Betty said that you said it wouldn’t take too long to finish. That right?”
“Dude, ten days, max,” Todd’s voice came echo-y through the air like he was in a tunnel or an air-raid bunker.
Scott grabbed a duffle and a backpack from the floor and put them on his bed.
“That’s great. I can’t really stay that long but if I have to...” Scott started.
If they had been on FaceTime or Skype Scott would have understood the strange sound of the audio quality. He would have been able to get a glimpse of Todd Wilde himself - at least something that might prepare him for what was ahead.
Todd held the phone to his left ear. His long red sideburns faded up to bright, thick, scruffy red hair and freckles belying a total contradiction to the Urban Spanish that flowed out of his mouth. His head was bulbous and massive, dwarfing the flip phone grasped like a toy in huge, fat fingers. His red whiskers had grown since he couldn’t shave and the soul patch he had nurtured finally reached his bloated chin.
“I’ve already done most of the work, esse,” Todd said into the phone with a distinct tone of disdain in his Latino drawl. “I told her you didn’t even need to come here at all ‘cause I’m almost finished, man. But I guess if she insists... It’s her house, ya know?”
Back in his bedroom, Scott continued to pile clothes and phone gear into his bags, still on speaker phone.
“The Old Lady told me you work with computers or something,” Todd continued. “You think you can handle coming down here and doing some real work, vato?
“I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, if that’s what you mean.” Scott took a quick look over the amount of clothes he was amassing and frowned. He took a black silk club shirt back out of the bag.
On the other end of the phone, Todd chuckled. As he laughed, he switched his phone to his right hand, placing it gingerly to his ear so as not to go near the huge and puffy blue-black right eye. The bruised and reddened eye squinted when he turned his head to focus intensely on something in front of him.
“Ok, hombre, we’ll see about that,” Todd said, challenging. Whether Todd was challenging Scott or the object of his gaze could have been up for grabs. It might have been both.
In his bedroom, Scott threw a sweat shirt in his bag, then walked over to his dresser and pulled out the underwear drawer. On top of the dresser was a Far Side daily calendar. He flipped the pages of the coming weeks.
Scott heard Todd say through the speaker phone, “Hey I got to bounce. Make sure you grab the extra set of keys from the Old Lady. I don’t think I’ll be around for a couple a’ days...”
Scott's focus moved from the calendar to a picture frame on his dresser. In the frame was a photo of him and a gorgeous young brunette on a beautiful stretch of beach and cloudless blue sky over an aqua ocean.
Scott raised his voice to reach across to the phone. “I was planning on stopping by Betty’s on the way there anyway, so that works. But don't you have keys and what're we going to...” The sound of the ended call dial tone blared as he finished his sentence, “...start on when I get there?”
The female police officer that was the object of Todd’s attention stood close to the bars of the jail cell, impatiently tapping her baton on the bars. Todd slapped the flip-phone shut. “Later, Dude,” he said to the air with his accent where his phone had been before it slid into his jeans pocket.
As pockets go, it was an enormous one. The jeans the big man wore could only have come from the Big and Tall store, as Todd Wilde - the man - was gigantic.
When the officer stepped even closer to the bars, the disparity in their sizes became dramatically obvious. Todd’s six-foot-four frame was only accentuated by the fact that his girth stretched out sideways so far as to allow all three hundred and ten pounds of his meat and flesh to fit into his one body.
Toni, the female cop who was good-sized only looked small compared to Todd as she whispered emphatically to him. “Don’t let the boys see I brought that phone in to you, Todd. I would for sure get handed my ass if they saw it no matter that your mother got it to me to get to you. You hear me?” She looked to be the same age as Todd - in her late thirties and was all business in her demeanor and tone.
Todd’s stubble-ringed mouth stretched and opened to say, “Gracias, Toni. I owe you one.”
“That would be about four that you owe me since the beginning of this year alone. Forget about since I been on the force,” Toni said.
Todd spread his massive arms out wide and grinned. “See? It’s like you’re my guardian angle. You should feel good about that.”
“Yeah, you may have the angles but I don’t have the curves,” she mocked.
The officer reached out with her key ring toward the door and found the key to open it, placing it in the lock. She hesitated before opening the door.
“Now you fuckin’ better behave yourself out there. Them boys are just itching for you to give them a reason to put a few half-dollar-sized holes in you.” She said, dead serious. “You understand?”
“We’re all just one big family here, mi hermana,” Scott said, his forced-but-authentic Mexican accent in full force. “I didn’t do nothing but to defend myself from those mean and racist officers. Officer.”
The officer shook her head in exasperation and opened the cell door. “You’re not Hispanic, so you shouldn’t even talk like that around here.”
Todd barely fit through the door as he walked out. He turned back to the cell to check to see if he had left anything behind.
“You see anything I forgot, have the concierge messenger it over to me, will you, mi bonita?” Todd said, turning back to the officer and then beyond her to the barred door at the end of the hallway.
Todd walked heavily down the bland green hallway. In addition to his black eye, there was nasty bruise above it on his forehead, partially covered by a bandage with a small blood spot in the center. Todd’s size XXL Big and Tall flannel shirt was torn at the right shoulder, hanging on by only a few threads and he had stains on the knees of his jeans.
As the walked the short distance, the few fellow inmates thrust their hands out to Todd as he passed by their cells. His round, red face that matched his body broke into a wide grin as someone said “Oye, Chollo, nice job on el jefe!” Todd’s swagger increased and he high-fived them, but after he was past the cells, he winced as he rubbed his right hip.
In the booking room, three policemen waited. One stood behind the counter and the other two were to the sides of the room, away from the sight line of the open doorway to the police station reception area. They were tense, apprehensive, and ready.
They all heard the click of a large lock and a buzzer and then the rolling of the heavy, barred, lockdown door.
From around the corner, Todd stepped into the room and everyone froze, Todd included. In that moment the silence echoed like the sound of a ticking bomb bounced around in your head as you counted down the seconds before all hell broke loose.
“Mr. Wilde. How you have managed to be leaving us so soon is beyond any of us. You should be staying with us indefinitely,” the officer behind the counter said. Sergeant David Tennen was challenging Todd, whose head was raised, appraising the situation. Tennen was the pressed-uniform, in-control, graying-but-in-shape professional nearing fifty who had spoken into the megaphone in the wash at the end of Todd’s epic Cadillac chase. He was decidedly unintimidated by Todd.
“And not necessarily in one piece, either,” the officer to the left snarled. He leaned on a cane with one arm while his other hand rested on the grip of his gun in its holster. Officer Randy Dell was a man of medium height, older than Sergeant Tennen. Dell was angry, itching for any actionable slip of tongue from Todd.
As Todd’s eyes burned through each of the two officers, he stepped to the counter and the paper proffered to him to sign. As he signed, a ziplock bag was slapped down.
“I ain’t saying nothin’,” Todd replied as he shook his head smartly, still looking down at the paper. He slapped the pen down triumphantly.
The third and youngest officer was backed into the corner of the room. Officer Vassar had a neck brace on and his jaw was wired into position. Both of his eyes were black. He held a shotgun, barrel down, and his finger was outside the trigger guard. His eyes flitted from man to man and he was sweating profusely.
Through his wired-shut mouth, his clenched voice spat out , “I get ahold of you, you won’t have nothin’ to say something with!”
Todd cocked his head to the side, acknowledging the man’s position. “Huh. You should talk. I’ve got rights, mister.” Todd turned his head fully around. “That’s right.” Then Todd looked to Officer Dell with the cane and pistol. “And I know them too and I am way smarter than all of you put together. So don’t waste your or my time.” His Mexican accent visibly rattled the men.
As Todd picked up his ziplock bag and copy of the document, Officer Dell unsnapped the strap over his holster and limped in closer, provoking. Todd was not intimidated as he looked sideways at him.
“Go ahead, bigshot. Give me a reason to have a life living off your pension you won’t have anymore.” Officer Dell pulled his gun, his face reddened and veins showed in his face and neck as Sergeant Tennen moved from behind the counter to the open doorway, arms crossed, blocking the view from the front of the station. The loud clank of the steel door to the cells as it was closed accented the tension that had rapidly mounted.
Todd laughed. He swung around to address each of the officers, his heavy latino-accented mocking of the officers spewed out of his mouth and vile words and saliva flew as he taunted them to do their best.
Officer Dell stepped in close behind and he shoved the long muzzle of his revolver against Todd’s ribs, near his armpit.
“You’re fucked!” he angrily whispered. His face crinkled with the smell of Todd’s foul odor mixed with the acrid rage from his own mouth.
“Step away a bit, Randy,” Sergeant Tennen calmly suggested. “Powder burn. You know...” he hinted, with a tilt and nod of his head. Randy understood the complications of a point-blank shot and backed up a few feet. He aimed at Todd’s chest. Still crowded into the safety of the corner, Officer Vassar raised his shotgun to his shoulder and side-stepped out of the line of fire from Dell.
“Fuck you, boys!” Todd bellowed, his voice a distorted bullhorn that assaulted all those in the room. “Fuck you and your mothers and sisters and daughters, too!”
Randy raised his hand carrying the cane to join his gun hand to steady his shot as he assumed the stance.
Suddenly, the front door cheerily chimed and a woman’s voice pierced the building from out in the reception area. “I AM HERE TO GET MY HUSBAND!”
The men all froze once again as Todd’s face broke into a wicked grin. Sergeant Tennen filled the space in the doorway even further, blocking it as the woman’s grating but powerful voice demanded, “Where! Is! My! Todd?!”
The officers quickly lowered and hid their firearms. The tension in the room was like having a thick rubber band pulled way back from the forehead, waiting for it to be let loose to snap back with a stinging crack of pain. Todd’s internal temperature had risen and sweat beaded among the pink freckles on his forehead.
Doreen Wilde, all of barely five-foot, pushed past Tennen underneath his armpit and into the center of the room, eying each of the officers. Her face was Hispanic and skewed sideways with her Angry Woman’s Face. She breathed heavily. When she believed the officers had been thoroughly cowed by her threatening stare, she turned to see Todd’s condition.
“What in Mother Mary’s name have they done to you?!” She shouted as she reached up to touch Todd’s face. Doreen turned again to the officers who were at DEFCON 4 with her appearance. If they were on a razor’s edge before, they visibly cowered, frozen to their spots in the sweltering room.
“You have done it now, oh boy,” she hissed. “I am thoroughly pissed off and that’s a mistake you’ll only make once and you all should know that by now. Come on, Todd, let’s get out of here!” She commanded, still staring the officers down.
“Yes Dear!” Todd smiled, eyebrows raised. He backed cautiously away from Randy and toward the door as Sergeant Tennen reluctantly stepped aside. All the men kept their fronts facing each other. Todd’s huge face broke into a wide grin as soon as he was past the doorway and into the reception area.
The Sergeant turned around and into the doorway, following Todd’s movement. Behind him, the other officers gazes were blistering.
“We’ll be seeing you soon, Mr. Wilde!”, Sergeant Tennen said assuredly.
“Not before I see you, Mother,” Todd shot back, his smile shrinking into a contorted snarl. He pointed a finger at his own head as he backed out of the outer door held open by Doreen, whose scowl matched Todd’s. “This chollo has ojos in the back of his head. I’ll smell you coming.”