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27 November 2017 @ 07:21 am
_Stone_ part 19  

The Hunters of Men

Chapter Los Angeles

Los Angeles was a smoky mess in the Fall.

The Santa Ana winds were whipping wildfires down canyons and burning homes. Just like most years.

It seemed like I heard about the fires every year . . . you'd think by now they'd have run out of things to burn. But then people are stubborn, and do tend to rebuild after disasters, instead of sensibly relocating. At any rate, the traffic was hideous, the roads in need of repair—what the heck were they spending all the gasoline tax money on, anyway?

I followed the directions and found the address on the, well, I wasn't sure if they were orders or suggestions, yet. But they said to go to the office and introduce myself. I had expected an office building, and gotten apartments.

I parked in a visitor's slot and headed for the office to see what I'd let myself in for.

I tapped at the door marked office and tried the knob, walked in.

The . . . person . . . at the desk glowered in my general direction. Quite an impressive expression, what with the rings and studs and tattoos and purple hair.

"Hi. I'm Leo Stone . . . "

A grunt. The person dipped down behind the desk and emerged with a manila folder.

"Sign here. There's a dripping faucet in the bathroom. It's on the list. It'll get fixed next week."

"Right." I looked over the papers . . . apparently I'd already paid in full for a three month rental, plus a hefty cleaning deposit. I grabbed a pen from amongst the random clutter of the desk and signed. "I can probably fix the faucet myself."

That got me a skeptical look. "Right, like a Mooovie Starrrr knows plumbing."

I glanced back at the papers. Sure enough, occupation actor.

Whatever. "Well, you never know what you'll wind up doing, do you?"

He . . . or she or xee or whatever . . . handed me three keys on a ring with a paper label that bore a 321.

"You lock yourself out, it's a five dollar charge for me to come open it up. And ten if I have to replace the key, twenty if I have to replace the lock. The post office charges fifty if you lose the key to your mail box."

"Thanks, umm, where . . . "

It pointed. "Stairs. Third floor, turn right."

"Right. And parking . . . "

"They're numbered. Don't park in anyone else's space."

"Right. Thank you."


Nice friendly people, these Californians.

It only took two laps of the parking lot to find slot 321, in an awkward dead end.

I slung my backpack over my shoulder and hauled a box of books out of the trunk of the car.

There was a sort of tunnel through to a small courtyard that was mostly swimming pool. The tunnel held the stairs, and the mail boxes.

I headed up the stairs. Eight days was really not long enough to recover from the fight I'd been in . . . I was whimpering a bit by the time I got to the third floor and turned right down a passage with doors on both sides. Apartment 321 was the first door to the right, the side away from the courtyard and pool. Could it possibly have a view? The key got me into a musty shadowy room. I nudged the box over the threshold and walked around opening curtains. All two of them. But the sliding glass doors led to a small balcony with a view of trees and through them, what looked like another apartment building. The tiny kitchen took up one corner of a room that would serve as dining, living and bed room, and a tiny bathroom tucked behind the staircase.

"Mr. Wright, you're a cheap bastard. It's perfect."

I opened the window and sliding glass door so musty could be exchanged for smoky and hot. Rotated my right shoulder carefully—owwww!—and headed down to fetch more boxes.

By the time I staggered up the stairs with my last load—futon and pillow—my right shoulder was screaming.

"Dude, you're bleeding."

I staggered around in a half-circle to see who was talking.

Big beefy black guy, standing in the door across from mine. Mild expression, t-shirt, jeans, flip flops. A can in each hand.

"Drat. Knew I should have gotten stitches. Oh well." I unlocked the door again and staggered through.

"Hey, do you mind? I always wondered what these efficiencies were like . . ."

Oh bloody hell the friendly type. He's following me.

". . . Oh, I see, the bathroom's back there, and the staircase is where my bedroom is. I'm Wally."


"Oh good, that beats Lenny. I've hated every Lenny I've ever met."

"Umm, I take it Mr. Purple in the office talks a lot?"

"Mister . . . " Wally snickered, coughed, gave up and cackled. Panted and cleared his throat. "Miss Wintrope thought I would find having a fellow actor for a neighbor a refreshing change."

He held out a can—ah a cold coke. I could get to like a neighbor like this.

"Miss. Right, well it was hard to tell." I popped the tab and look a chug, which gave me enough time to decided to not ask what style of plumbing Miss Purple had and whether it was original or surgical.

"Leo Stone . . . not a bad name. Is it your real one? I'm officially Wallace Carson McBride. I've tried to think of something better, but I just wind up with silly D and D style things."

"Fleet Sword Smighter and so forth?"

"Not quite that bad."

"Carson's a good strong name. You could go a bit ethnic, everything's so PC these day's you should give it a try."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Carson Chan."

I snorted coke. "Oh, that was bad. Okay, Juan . . . no Xavier Carson." I pronounced it Havi-air.

He grinned. "Ex havier. Like Professor X. Hmm . . . That might actually work."

"I think I'll stick to Leo. So . . . why do you want to be an actor?"

"Eh. I didn't make the cut for medical school. I'd picked up a bit of money as a kid here and there as the obligatory cute black kid in advertisements and such . . . so I figured I try it while figuring out what the hell to do with the rest of my life . . . look I have a really terrific medical kit. Would you like me to rebandage your back? The blood is creeping me out."

I edged into the bathroom and checked it out in the mirror.

Sighed. "If it was anywhere else I'd do it myself."

He grinned and galloped off.

He returned with something akin to a huge fishing tackle box—except I don't think tackle boxes come that clean even when they're new.

I looked it over and realized it was missing a critical bit. I opened the box labeled tools and grabbed the duck tape.

"Oh, no, no, no! I have much better tape than that!"

And as I eased my shirt off, "The good news in that most of your tape has sweated off. The bad news is, you're pretty hairy. You aren't going to enjoy my removing the rest of it."

Then he got busy with freezing cold sprays and wiping off blood. I only yelped once when he pulled tape off.

"Ah, it looks pretty good for all that blood on your shirt."

"Don't sound so disappointed." I looked over my shoulder, not that I could see a thing . . .

"No sign of infection, you just messed up some scabs and such." A deep sigh. "Oh well, I was hoping for something heroic."

"Oh, well, how about if I told you I was wounded by a sacrificial knife rescuing two fair maidens from a cult of demon-worshiping werewolves. That work for you?"

He just shook his head and reached for his tape. "Nope. Nobody would believe it, even in a movie."

"True." Unless they'd been there. "Umm, tripped and fell on some garden tool I couldn't identify in the dark while sneaking out a window of a gorgeous woman when her husband came home unexpectedly?"

"Funny how it looks like a nice clean slash from a sharp knife. Stick with the first story."

I sighed. "Bar fight between two other guys. I didn't get out of the way fast enough, and what with police everywhere because they'd been planning a big drug bust next door . . . I decided that just driving away was the best idea. I mean, I was halfway here, everything I owned was in my car . . . so I just drove on."

Wally rolled his eyes. "Well, you're done. Now, do you need help with the rest of your furniture?"

"Uh, actually, this is all I've got."

He looked around at my stack of six boxes. The folding table, sort a half-wide card table, the folding chair I was sitting in. Futon and a pillow, with a folded blanket stuffed into the pillow case with it.

"Dude . . ."

"I sold everything else . . . well gave it away mostly. This all fits in my car and it's all I need. Really." I stood up, oof, getting stiff, and started opening boxes. "See? Plates cleverly wrapped in towels, silver ware, knickknacks, books . . . I'll be unpacked and cozy as can be in another hour." I hauled the plates to the kitchen-like corner and inspected cupboards. Nice and clean, I was delighted to see. I stacked them up, one at a time, left handed and went back for the bowls.

"Dude! TV! You have no TV!" Utterly aghast.

(Anonymous) on November 27th, 2017 01:50 pm (UTC)
I posted several edits for In the Rift. Nice story. Good luck with it.
mbarkermbarker on November 28th, 2017 02:11 am (UTC)
And thinking about Leo and Wally, I've got this earworm running through my head...

There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
With every move he makes another chance he takes
Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow

Secret agent man, secret agent man
They've given you a number and taken away your name...

YAY! More Leo Stone! More Wally!
matapampamuphoff on November 28th, 2017 04:00 am (UTC)
Wally's one of those characters who walks out of nowhere, complete with a name and history. The sort of Characters who just won't go away. He being remarkably quiet, just now. Makes me wonder what he's _really_ up to.