Monday, November 3, 2008

A murderous planet pt 4.

I rolled out of bed at noon. My head ached. Bad habits, too many bad habits, I thought. The bathroom mirror showed my slightly beaten face. The mirror was grainy, my reflection murky, hardly clear enough to see my mug. My bathroom had seen better days, as had the building. The small house was on the border of the badland. Every day it seemed closer to the barren stratas in the city, inhabited only by decay. One month the poverty and the security force would push the muck south, the next month the new players in town would move with "white collar" crime up north, either way the house was eroding.

My fingers went over my cigarette burn. It was blistered. I considered popping it like a zit, letting the watery pus drain out but opted instead for a small bandage.

Information was a need. Things weren't clear enough. The possibility of the brass fingering me for Kanberg's unfortunate demise filled me with annoyance. The cops were just shaking me down I thought but my mind wondered what happened to the body. What would James do? I wasn't due back at the bar for another day or two so my schedule was open to do some sniffing around.

My kitchen was as empty as my belly. My stomach rumbled as I made the long walk to Jess' Bakery. There were two things to get at the little cafe, scones and info. Jess had opened the cafe a few months before the rioting and had some how managed to scrap by. Part of it was no doubt because it was the best place for picking up intel. It served as a kiosk for black market knowledge with the dishwasher, a young man named Moussa, keeping track of all the goings on in town in his computer like brain.

The cafe was dimly lit with a row of neon bulbs affixed to the ceiling. They didn't help to highlight the various baked goods in the cases. The natural light from the glass windows of the buildings facade provided most of the illumination and created most of the shadows. Jess, a medium sized woman with long black hair was mixing a cake in the back when I swung the door open. The door jingled as I opened it, the little bells attached to it announcing my arrival. The few tables in the cafe were half occuppied. Two men sat over a couple cups of coffee and some pastries quietly discussing business while another bald man with a small goatee sat in the corner. The bald man had a newspaper in front of him. The days headlines announced the increase in unemployment, another food riot in Oakland and a recent purchase made by one of Berkeley's large corporations of a plot of land in south berkeley. The bald man obviously had no interest in the paper. He eyed me up and down and nodded.

I looked the case of scones, cakes, cookies, and muffins over.

"Hey you got any macaroons," I asked, raising my voice slightly so Jess could hear me.

"Nope, we do have coconut truffles though. They're real good," she replied.

I nodded to myself. "Got anything with espresso in it?"

"Of course, what kind of town do you think we live in? Everyone needs there fix of something. Caffeine is a cheap commodity, a low rung," Jess said laughing. She dusted herself off. A slight cloud of flour filled the air as she moved to the storefront. "We have some delicious coffee cakes, a slight sprinkle of cinnamon, a heap of brown sugar, a dash of espresso. I used organic eggs, flour, and real vanilla. Would you like one?"

"Yeah sounds delicious."

"Here you go. That will be four dollars, fifty cents," she said as she handed me a small coffee cake. The cake had a nice visual appeal, certainly more luxiourous than the paper plate she handed it to me on.

"Thanks," was my answer as I handed her a twenty. "I was wondering if you'd seen Moussa at all today."

She looked at my bill, and shook her head.

"Oh I'm sorry I thought that was a ten dollar bill, I must have just given you a single." I forked over another twenty dollar bill. She nodded and put some money into the cash register, the rest into her apron.

"Jono, show this young man something about soccer would you?"

The bald man in the corner got up and motioned me to follow him. We walked out of the cafe and around the back of the building. He unlocked a small gate and motioned me through. He stood by the gate and pointed me down a little alley.

At the end of the alley two identical twenty something year old males sat on crates watching a soccer game. One of them drank a forty ounce bottle of malt liquor while the other smoked a spliff. The back street was filled with the pungent aroma of marajauna.

One of the men looked up at me. I nodded and stood behind the men as they watched the game.

"You know anything about the game," the one on the right said.

"Nah, not much. Can play alright if a ball is kicked to me, but don't do much in the way of following."

"They say that back in the 2nd century in China football started off, but it wasn't until the Cambridge rules imposed in 1848 that the game really got standardized. Let's say that's the starting point, back in the late 1800s. Its over two hundred years later and these fucktards still can't kick a ball worth my old e induced diarrhea."

"Things never really change do they?"

"Fuck nah," said the one on the right. He turned to me. "My name's Moussa, whatcha want?"

"Was curious about what the local brass do these days about bodies," I said.

"Hmph. What kinda cake you got there?" Moussa pointed at the paper plate that I held in my right hand.

"Coffee cake. I haven't had a bite yet. You want a piece?"

"All that caffeine gets me tweaked out. What about you Oussman?" The man on the left shook his head. "What's that about bodies? You talking live or dead?"

"The still kind."

"Depends on who made the body. Where you talking about?"

"I didn't come here to get pumped, I came here to get some gas."

"Ain't a one way street here. This alley is a dead end."

I stared at the game for a few minutes, mulling over my words.

"Last night one of the waiters at Jupiter the downtown restaurant bit it. The local brass came in. They gave the boys a shake down and let us go. The girls working were waved off. What's the protocol."

It took 15 minutes for Moussa to reply. He got caught up in the match. One of the teams changed their formation making offensive maneuvers. The game picked up pace and came to a crescendo with a goal. Half time was called and Moussa lit up another joint.

"Well the days being the days and all, and business being what it is, a downtown joint like Jupiter probably wants to keep things under wrap. The brass will take care of a body these days for a few. Service for both the business and the brass. The town looks clean and the restaraunt profits ain't hurt. Ain't nobody hurt but that body. Usually they dump it over in the marina. Sometimes it float on to the shore, but usually when it get called in they just tag it on some Oakland shit. Who working?"

"Myself, kid named Strong, some girls."

"What the girls names?"

"Amanda, Chelsie."

"Those Blackwell girls. You should look her up. Might find out why that body a body."

"You know where Blackwell spends her free time?"

"She move around at night, watching over her product, keeps an irregular schedule. Might want to try Beckett's up on Shattuck. Heard she's having problems up there with the merchandise being sassy." Moussa laughed.


"No problem. You enjoy your coffee cake."

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