Monday, March 20, 2006

Fixer [Interim Title] Chapter 1 Part 2

[See: Chapter 1 Part 1]

"I got it," I told the voice on the other end. "Meet me at my office. Tomorrow. 8am." I hung up and headed home.

***

Ah yes, home. Home is the manager's apartment in a shabby apartment complex on the east side of town, the side where the servants of the movers and shakers live, the side where "La Migra" is a constant worry in the minds of people who live a dozen per run-down apartment, where the concept of "law" is a joke and the smell of desperation fills the air like the stench of a thousand corpses rotting in the sun. Like the glass cubes in northern San Jose, this apartment complex is officially owned by a limited partnership. Ownership of the limited partnership might change, but ownership of the apartment complex has remained the same since 1978. Reality is that I own the complex, lock, stock, and barrel.

It is all quite legal and aboveboard. Legalized corruption. Like the glass cubes along Tasmin Drive, this locks in taxes at 1978 rates, thanks to the wonders of Proposition 13, which punishes the young and the poor in order to benefit the wealthy men who own those glass cubes through "limited partnerships" of their own, the same wealthy men who own the city government that hires the thugs with guns upon which their power ultimately rests. The fact that a few people like me manage to take advantage of the same loopholes does not relieve the stench of corruption. It just means that a few of us, like the early mammals in the era of the dinosaurs, manage to eke out an existence in the margins of their laws.

Someone had parked in my space again. I parked behind him, blocking him in, and went into the office. Buster greeted me at the door, tail wagging, ready to go out, seventy-five pounds of Schutzhund eager to serve his alpha dog. There was a note that had been dropped through the mail slot. My Spanish is rough, but apartment 124 apparently had a clogged toilet. Ah, the life of a small-time apartment owner, filled with adventure and excitement. I grabbed the maintenance duffel bag and tossed in the plunger and the toilet snake, put a small pail in there also, then put Buster's leash on and took him outside to do his business of fertilizing the grass along the highway. When he was done, I went to the door of apartment 124 and banged on it until a short Mexican man answered the door.

"El inodoro necesita servecio?" I asked.

"Si, senora." He led me to the toilet through a room crowded with people, Buster trailing behind me. A dirty disposable diaper floated in the middle of a pool of fetid water.

"No panales en el inodoro," I stated emphatically, and he looked suitably abashed. I put on a pair of rubber gloves, fished the diaper out and put it in the pail, then pulled out the toilet snake and gave it a twirl. Sure enough, when I pulled it out another diaper came out, and the water went down and flushed.

"No panales," I stated again, stern look on my face, and flushed the toilet again. I popped my gloves off and tossed them in the bucket with the dirty diapers, then paraded back out, glancing at the faces that were staring at the small television as I walked out. Nobody new. Just a lot of people. An illegal number of people. I said hello to the ones I knew, asked the names of the ones I didn't know yet by name and asked them if everything was okay in the apartment complex. Information is power, and I tried to keep track of who was in my apartments, legally or no.

I emptied the bucket into the trash bin, then took my tools back to the office and walked the complex. I had a rule -- no drug dealing in my apartments. While the apartment complex is more a way to launder money rather than a way to make money, I have no desire for the local P.D. to find some excuse to steal my apartments under the drug forfeiture laws for running an "attractive nuisance". This meant that I couldn't just rent them out and let people do what they want to do. I had to walk.

There was no open drug dealing this night, just Jose' Mendeles drinking with some of his friends in front of his apartment, the door open and the sound of women chattering coming from inside.

"Jose', do you know who's parked in my parking space?"

Jose' leered. "No, but if you want, I'll park in it." He made an obscene gesture.

"You? I don't think so. You'd wake up missing a few parts."

Jose's pals laughed. "La gringa, she got claws, no?"

"Ask Manuel Vazquez," I said tartly to them, and snapped my fingers at Buddy. Buddy's lips curled back from his teeth.

Jose' remembered Manuel, apparently, because he turned to his buddies and asked, "Do you know who's parked in the manager's spot?" They all shook their heads. I sighed and pulled out my cell phone and called the tow company. They said they'd be out in around an hour.

I shook my head and went to the car. It was a Ford Crown Victoria, maybe ten years old, yellow. Maybe had once been a cab, there were scuff marks on the doors where something had once been written. The doors were locked. I ducked into my apartment and grabbed a jimmy, and jimmied the driver's door. The interior was clean. I opened the glove compartment. The glove compartment was clean. No papers. I got the VIN off the dashboard and wrote it in my notebook. I closed the driver's door and went to the back and noted the license plate number. I could have busted the steering lock and hotwired the car and moved it out of my space, but there was no need for vandalism when a tow truck was coming. So I went inside and watched an episode of "Veronica Mars" off of DVD, and after the tow company came and I moved my car out of the way so they could haul off the car that was in my space, I went to bed.

A couple of notes: 1. The car is important. In the next draft there will be some foreshadowing of that, you're getting to see the raw first draft. Chapter 2 Part 1 tells you something important about the car as well as Kat's relationship with the local cops. 2. No, I don't know what she stole out of the trash. First draft, remember? I don't think she knows either, or really cares, as long as she got paid. 3. Probably I'm going to flashback past some of this in the second draft to speed up the pace. Flashbacks are a noir staple because noir is about stylized pulp fiction. Pulp fiction was (is?) all about cliffhangers and plot and pace and violence, and the first few pages have to bang the reader over the head, slug him in the stomach, and kick him in the balls in order to get his attention. Noir can be a bit slower paced, but has to respect the basics of the form. Probably most of this second half of the chapter gets cut, or pushed forward into a flashback while we push forward to the car. 4. I haven't figured out how to make Blogger take Spanish letters, and several of the "n" letters are actually the "enyay" letter (the n with the squiggle over it) that has an entirely different sound in Spanish. Not that it matters much. La nina no habla mucho espanol.

5 comments:

  1. Wow, is the penguin trying to break into fiction writing? Or is this just for your own amusement?

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  2. The easiest way is & n tilde ; all scrunched together without spaces. That's the html code that produces ñ.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The penguin has been writing fiction for, hmm, let's see, 25 years now? The penguin has been more interested in more lucrative endeavors, such as, say, hacking operating systems, as his form of income, leaving a trunk full of first drafts sitting alone in a back closet and a couple of very disappointed creative writing teachers in college. Said penguin also writes Woodie Guthrie inspired folk songs and satirical pastiches upon political figures (see the Bubba the Suthern Penguin series starring Bubba and Bill Frist and their cat-killing expeditions). Penguins are versatile.

    -Badtux the Versatile Penguin

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cool- blogger is taking comments now!

    Liked your story very much, can't wait for more!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You be careful over there, I'm taking care of the victim of a home invasion in a very nice neighborhood.

    They were dressed like the SWAT team.

    ReplyDelete

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