Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 32

  “A clue?” asked Sharon. “Really? Let me see.”

  Alejandro stepped forward and handed Sharon what at first appeared to be a large document that had been folded up, apparently many times, with the creased edges having that fuzzy look they get from overuse. “It’s a map.”

  Sharon took the weathered parchment and opened it up, found it to be upside down, and turned it 180 degrees for a better look. “It’s Oak Cliff. Well, the old part of Oak Cliff.” She studied it a little closer. “But something’s not right.”

  Raz got up and stood beside Sharon’s chair, bending over. “This thing’s at least fifty, sixty years old. Look.” She pointed at a blank area toward the bottom of the map. “This is where they developed Wynnewood. And that was, what, right after World War II? I think. Definitely by the 50‘s.”

  Sharon scanned the perimeter of the map, looking for a date. Seeing nothing, she flipped it over, just in case. The back was completely blank. Wait. There was something near the top. Some kind of markings. Then Sharon realized it was bleed-through from the other side. She flipped it back over and located where the marks would be on this side. She found street names. With something in parentheses after each name. The “something” was underlined in each case, in different ink and probably at a different time than when the map was made. But she couldn’t make out the word. She reached for her purse to get her glasses.

  Raz was studying the spots as well. “It says ‘proposed’.”

  Sharon stopped reaching. “Proposed?”

  Raz nodded. “Yep. It says ‘Hampton Rd (proposed)’. And over here ‘Sylvan Ave (proposed)’.”

  “What does that mean?” asked Theresa, bending over the map as well. “Did the streets not even exist yet? How old is this thing?”

  “You know what,” said Raz. “Let’s do this right. Help me clear off the coffee table.”

  Suddenly everybody was running to snatch something off the table and shove it somewhere else, because any activity can seem fun and exciting when you’re a little buzzed. Within seconds, the map had been smoothed out in its new home and everyone was hovering and peering.

  Theresa had a sudden inspiration. “Look for Sunset High. Is it on here?”

  Sharon found Jefferson Boulevard, and they all watched her finger as it traced the line to the west. No indication of a school in the general area where it should be. “Interesting,” breathed Sharon.

  “Did you go there?” asked Alejandro. “When was it built?”

  “I have no idea,” said Sharon. “Who knows when their high school was built? It was already old when I went there. And I certainly didn’t ask anybody how old it was. I didn’t care.”

  Alejandro prodded. “Weren’t there any statues? Plaques? Something that said… something?”

  Sharon glared at him. “Allie, it was twenty-five years ago. How am I gonna remember that? Besides, I think we’ve already established that I don’t pay attention to anything around me. I only pay attention to me.”

  Theresa had a second idea. “Our yearbooks! I know I’ve got them around here somewhere.”  She zipped over to a well-stocked bookshelf and began pawing around on one of the lower shelves. She quickly became frustrated with the tight conditions and yanked out a big wedge of books and stacked them to the side.

   One of the displaced volumes caught Raz’s eye. She picked it up off the stack. “I forgot we even had this. ‘Old Oak Cliff.’ We got this at one of the shops over in Bishop Arts. And I think there’s something in here about the street names, if I remember right.”

  This reminded Sharon. “That’s what the next clue is, Bishop Arts. Do you remember what shop?”

  Raz pondered. “It’s a gift shop thing. The one that’s on the corner across from… well across from what used to be something else, but now it’s Hattie’s restaurant. I can’t think of the name.”

  Theresa made a squeak of discovery. “Found it!” She pulled out the yearbook and opened it on the floor in front of her. She and Raz then began flipping pages and checking indices on their respective tomes.

  “Excuse me,” said April. “Why aren’t we just getting on the Internet? Wouldn’t that be a lot easier?”

  The writer cleared his throat to get April’s attention. She ignored him at first, because she was spiteful that way. He cleared again. She finally sighed and turned. “What!”

  “Now, April,” said the writer as pleasantly as possible, “how exciting is it for people to just type on a keyboard and click. There’s no drama with that. Let these people do it the old school way. It’ll make a much better movie. Now, play nice.”

  “Fine,” muttered April. “Whatever.”

  April turned back to the rest of the room. “I’m bored and no one’s playing with me.”

  Sharon gave her a look. “You’re on the clock right now. Shut up.”

  Alejandro beckoned April over. “Come here, pumpkin. You can stand here with me and we can both pretend to be fascinated with this map. Let’s try to figure out in which one of these buildings Sharon left her soul.”

  “Very funny,” said Sharon, deciding she needed her glasses after all and rummaging in her purse once again. “I’m dying on the inside with laughter.” She suddenly stopped shoving things around in the debris field of her purse and pulled out a small metal tin. “These aren’t my mints…”

  “I found it!” hollered Raz, startling everyone despite their senses being a wee bit dulled by alcohol. “The street names. When Dallas annexed Oak Cliff, one of the conditions was that any street names in Oak Cliff that matched street names in Dallas had to be changed. On the Oak Cliff side.”

  Sharon looked at the ancient document in front of her. “So this map is from around that time. They knew some names were changing, but it hadn’t happened yet. Therefore, the ‘proposed’ business. But why is the ‘proposed’ part of some significance, with the underlining. What is Alistair, or whoever the hell, trying to tell us?”

  Theresa sighed and slammed her yearbook closed. “Well, I can’t find anything in here saying when the school was built. Our yearbook staff sucked. 400 pictures of cheerleaders, but not a drop of history.” She put the volume on the stack near Raz.

  Raz picked it up. “Are you sure? There’s got to be something.” She flipped a few pages, spotted some text that caught her eye, grimaced, then turned the book to show Theresa the title page. “Darlin’, right here. It’s the Sixtieth anniversary of the school. 1985. So it was built in 1925. Or thereabouts.”

  “God,” said Theresa. “I guess I don’t pay much attention, either.” She took the book back and started rifling through the pages, wondering what else she had missed.

  “Paying attention is overrated,” said Sharon soothingly. “I’ve made it this far without having to do it.” She looked at the map again. “So, this thing was made at least before 1925, probably around the time Oak Cliff was annexed, and the clue that somebody wants us to notice is the proposed name changes.”

  Theresa suddenly gasped and all the slightly-red eyes in the room turned toward her.

  “This just fell out of the book. I wasn‘t expecting it. Didn‘t mean to get all girly.” She held up a sheet of paper that had been folded in half. Then she spread it open, glancing at something that made her eyes widen. She turned it around and held it up so that the rest of the crowd could see the three words.

  “Getting warmer, Sharon.

To Be Continued. At some point. (Cue evil laughter...)

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