Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 7

  The warm camaraderie in the car lasted roughly twenty seconds, then Sharon turned again to Hexom. “Wait a minute. I had a nice fuzzy going about finding a kindred soul but I just remembered that you need me to help find your killer. That certainly sucks the life out of our friendship.”

  Hexom sighed, mainly because he had been professionally trained on such a physical expression of dissatisfaction, and knew just when to insert an exhale of breath into a conversation. “Now, Sharon, let’s not be hasty. It’s entirely possible that I might just like you for you, and not just your ability to keep me alive. Dream a little dream, okay?”

  Sharon gazed out the window at this unfortunate section of Polk Street, once lined with pleasant suburban homes, and now lined with crack houses, sexual deviants and people who watched WWF Smackdown. “I always feel dirty when we roll through here, and not in the fun way. Seriously, what happened to these people that makes them think it’s okay to leave diapers in the front yard?”

  She looked at Hexom. “Okay, for now we’ll pretend that we’re besties. After all, I haven’t seen you inebriated yet. You can forgive a lot of things if somebody’s a good drunk.”

  They car rolled on for a bit, until they eventually came to the intersection of Oaklawn and the service road for I35-E. The traffic signals at this location were notoriously contrary, with people being able to both procreate and deliver a child before the light ever turned green. As such, Sharon and Hexom had plenty of time to study the local color.

  Within seconds, Sharon spotted something that greatly annoyed her, a peeve unknown to Hexom until this moment. Sharon suddenly leaped out of the car, slamming the door behind her. Hexom watched in perplexity as she strode up the grassy median dividing the lanes, approaching what appeared to be a homeless sort, clutching a tattered cardboard sign. “War vet. Need food. God bless.”

  Sharon said something to the man. He looked up in surprise, startled because he wasn’t used to walk-ups at his drive-thru. (Hadn’t she read the disclaimer signs posted by the menu board? And no, he couldn’t get into the safe, either, so don’t even think of trying anything.) The man said something back. Sharon returned with something more forceful. The man had just as lively a retort.

  Back in the car, Hexom tapped the driver on his naked and glistening shoulder. “Alejandro, is your boss crazy?”

  Alejandro shrugged his shoulders, causing ripples that made Hexom palpitate. “Crazy, not of the crazy, she signs the checks, yes?”

  “Yes, indeed,” muttered Hexom, leaning back in his seat and briefly wondering if a feigned choking incident might lead to muscular arms around him, a Heimlich maneuver, and then some squat tag. Realizing this was just a fancy, Hexom glanced back out the window.

  Sharon and Homey were still going at it, both of them with their arms raised above their heads in defiant gestures, spittle flying from the lips as strong opinions were shared. If not for the clothing, one might easily assume this was a primate exhibit of some kind. Suddenly, Sharon snatched away the cardboard sign, tore it in two, then hurled the halves into the oncoming traffic on the other side of the median.

  “Well, then,” muttered Hexom. “She apparently hates cardboard.”

  Alejandro gently tapped the car horn, as the caesarean section taking place in the mini-van just ahead of them had been successful, and the traffic light was now green. Time for Sharon to come back from her field trip.

  And she did, slamming the car door once again and reaching for the seatbelt. “God!” she bellowed, “those people make me insane.”

  “I see that,” breathed Hexom. “So you hate homeless people?”

  Sharon turned to him. “FAKE homeless people. That man is not homeless, and he’s certainly not any more ex-military than you or I. I’m too vain to ever get up at 6am and you’re a big ole queen, so Uncle Sam didn’t need US.” Sharon struggled a bit with the seatbelt, which had somehow become hopelessly tangled, and finally just threw it to the floor. “Fine. Let me go through the windshield.”

  A thought suddenly occurred to Hexom. “Oh my God. Are you a Republican?”

  Sharon snorted. “Hell, no. I’m an American. I just don’t like laziness.” She looked at Alejandro. “Allie, do we have any of that mango vitamin water? Street confrontations parch me.”

  Amazingly, Alejandro’s hand immediately appeared, thrusting a plastic bottle with slightly-tinted liquid over the back of the seat. (Where had he been keeping that?) Sharon grabbed it, twisted off the cap, threw it at Hexom with a slight giggle, and then chugged half the contents. Belching, she looked at Hexom. “Okay, I know you have to be all hush-hush for some irritating reason, but surely you can tell me something about what I’m supposed to do when I get to this salon.”

  Hexom pondered a bit, then “Well, I suppose it would be alright if I said-”

  Hexom’s special phone emitted a warning blip in his pocket.

  He sighed. “Okay, I can’t say that. But really, perhaps it’s best if you just go into this with a completely open mind. If you have preconceptions, it can jack with things, and you won’t get what you’re supposed to get out of it. Some of my stones took me months to figure out.”

  Sharon’s eyes widened. “Months? I don’t have time for that. Well, I do, but I’ll be bored way before then.”

  Hexom made an odd face. “Well, to be fair, it took me quite a while with some of the clues because they were still working things out. Guinea pig, you know.” (Hexom’s phone beeped again.) “Oh, alright then. There were reasons why it too me so long, some of them not under my control, but some of them were. I must confess that I lean toward the lazy side a bit, so I hope this doesn’t derail our budding infatuation with each other.”

  Sharon took another swig of her mango water. “The drinking, Hexom. No final friendship decisions until we’ve had alcohol in our systems.” Then she appeared to be searching for something, glancing in Hexom’s lap and then down on the floorboard. “Where did the bottle cap go?”

  “I thought you didn’t want it, throwing it at me and all.”

  “That was at least three minutes ago. Don’t agitate me by pretending that you don’t know I’m complicated and contradictory.”

  Hexom laughed. “Trust. I knew that as soon as I noticed your lip gloss color.”

  Now Sharon laughed. “Oh, so you’re one of those queens. Should have guessed, what with your shirt cuffs extending precisely one quarter-inch out of your jacket sleeves.” She took another swig, forgetting that she had been done with the beverage one block back, then stopped in mid gulp. “Wait a minute. Are you bugged?”

  Hexom was again perplexed, sensing that he would constantly have this sensation whilst around the beguiling Sharon. “Bugged? About what? The thing with the homeless guy? Your projectile cap-throwing? Your inability to maintain a conversational thread?”

  Sharon smirked. “That jacket. Are you wearing a microphone? How does the Host know what you’re saying?”

  Hexom hesitated. “I’m not wearing anything. I think that…” He caught Sharon’s eye, then tilted his head toward the jacket pocket where his special phone was nestled.

  Sharon nodded. “Got it. Allie?” The driver looked in the rearview mirror. “Do you have a…” She mouthed the words “pen and a notebook”. Instantly, Alejandro was handing both over the seat. (Just how big were his pockets?)

  Sharon took the items, opening the spiraled notebook to the first page and scribbling. “The phones are bugged?” She handed the notebook to Hexom.

  He nodded and scribbled. “Yes. If you turn them off, there’s an alarm. Very loud. Can’t hear a thing.

  Sharon: Then we just ditch the phones.

  Hexom: No. Trust me. You need the phone or you don’t get the clues. You WANT the clues. If the phone is more than a few feet away from you, it goes dead, and you don’t get any more clues. Ever. You’re on your own.

  Sharon: It’s just so insane.

  Hexom: This is just the tip of the iceberg. You have no idea.

  Alejandro cleared his throat. “Sorry to interrupt, Miss Horizons. We’re here.”

  Sharon peered out the window as the car turned left onto Hood Street, and pulled into the parking lot of Fantasia Salon.

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