Allen told her about the toy boat, and why he had come to The City. She told him about the things she saw in the coffee. He told her how he found the toy boat. Or stole it. He saw someone with it and knocked it out of his hand. He said it wasn’t like him. He said he wasn’t a thief but all he could think about was taking the toy boat. He told about the first time he put the boat in his pocket and how the business card just appeared from nowhere.
She told him of her parents and Judy and him. And she told him about the lives of the people that she watches in the coffee. She said, “It all sounds so crazy. I’m sure you don’t believe any of it.”
Allen said, “Of course I believe you. I had my own little form of magic. I knew what was on the business cards, and I knew people would take them. And they would donate, but I’m not sure Raul Botulin is a real person. Maybe he is in one of those places you see in the coffee.”
He had wondered about Raul when he found the first business card in his pocket. Before he knew to give the card away, he looked it over. He saw the link on the back to the GoFundMe page. There was a blurb about Raul and how he was this hotshot poet. How he liked to stand out on the corner of a busy city street and yell out his poems to the people passing by. It said everyone just ignored him, but he knew that he had the words to be great. It said all Raul needed was enough money to get his first book of poetry published. And there was a picture of a young man in an expensive suit standing on an old television on a street corner with people passing by.
She said, “But that’s not the way this works. I only bring people through the coffee not things. And it was only you and Judy. And you came through naked, didn’t you? I haven’t found your clothes.”
Every time he looked at the GoFundMe page, he would think that the young man in the picture looked a little more like him. Eventually it looked so much like him that he began to go by the name. He spent all his savings to buy the same suit of the man in the picture. He hopped that owning the suit would somehow give him the password to the GoFundMe page so he could get access to all that money. Even when it was only one hundred thousand dollars, he felt like it was a life changing sum. And when he gave away that first business card, he saw that the amount in the account had gone up. He hadn’t told this part to Linda. Somehow, it felt greedy or wrong, and he didn’t want her to think those sorts of things about him. And besides, it seemed she had already seen many of the things that had happened anyway even if she only knew what was on the outside.
He said, “You didn’t say the girl was naked. That doesn’t sound like a detail that you would have left out of the story.”
She said, “No, she had clothes. But she didn’t have anything else. Nothing in her hands, and nothing in her pockets.”
He said, “But that doesn’t nothing else came through.”
Linda sounded irritated. She said, “Nothing else did come through. I’ve learned to control it.” It was really her uncertainty that had upset her. She knew that she had learned to resist the urge to bring people through the coffee, and she didn’t know if things had come through only to end up in different locations. She didn’t know for sure that things didn’t come through when she was resisting especially when she was younger. And in times of stress like running into Francisco on the street, she was not sure she could resist at all.
He said, “But you brought me through. You said you didn’t mean to.” Allen looked at her as if he wanted to see what she was thinking. Then, he looked down at his empty cup of coffee. He said, “Can I have some water, or a toothbrush? I think I know why you don’t drink this stuff.” Linda laughed at that, and then they started talking about other things.
They were both startled when there was a knock on the door. When someone knocked with out setting up an appointment with her first, it was usually some kid knocking and then running to hide down the hall. She hadn’t heard any giggling or any frantic footsteps fading out as they ran down the hall. And she didn’t hear any crying. One of her neighbors had come crying once knocking on every door in the hallway running away from her shouting boyfriend. Linda didn’t open the door for her, but she did call the police. She had not seen them and couldn’t give them a description or a room number of the fighting couple, and the operator sounded inconvenienced to be get the call. But he got the street address and her room number. He said that he would send over a police officer to take a report. She rescheduled her readings for that day and waited for hours before she decided that an officer was never going to arrive. One never did. But there was the knock again, and louder and more insistent this time.
Her peep hole had been painted over many times before she even moved into the apartment, and she had never tried to scrape it away to see through it. She always had a hard time seeing through then anyway. So she spoke loudly through the door. “Who is it?”
The man’s voice came through the door. “It’s Vincent from downstairs.”
She recognized his voice, but he had never been up to her floor to her knowledge, so she opened the door a crack and kept the safety chain engaged. She peeked through the door. She said, “Good morning… I mean, afternoon.”
He looked a little surprised. He said, “So, it is you.” He looked to his right and to his left. “Can I come in? I wouldn’t ever come to bother you, but I think you need to hear something. And I don’t think I should tell you here where people might hear me.”
She looked at Allen for a second then back to the door. “Ok.” She disengaged the safety chain and opened the door. Vincent came and shut the door behind him. He took a step away from the door and stopped. He wrung his hands together in front of him as if he were trying to keep them warm. Linda had taken a few steps back and Allen was standing next to the table trying to look intimidating despite having to keep a hand on the table to steady him.
Vincent said, “Two guys had come by my apartment askin’ about a Mrs. Carla and Raul something-or-other. They asked me about this apartment. I’m guessin’ Carla and Raul is the both of you.” He motioned to the both of them with his hands that he was still wringing together.
Allen said, “I’m Allen not Raul.”
Vincent said, “Don’t tell me your name. I don’t want to know. I wasn’t even up here.” He gave them an embarrassed look. “I know that sounds like a line from some corny mobster movie, but I’m serious. I know these kinda guys and one of them said he knew my uncle. I told him I don’t talk to my uncle, and he said he knew that, too.” He looked at both of them to make sure his words were sinking in. He said, “Look, I didn’t tell them nothin.’ And I don’t know nothin.’” He looked at them again. “They said, this Raul disappeared over a year ago and they thought he might be with this Mrs. Carla. I told them I had read of a Mrs. Carla in the newspaper, and I told them to leave. I thought they were gonna mess me up, but they didn’t.”
Allen said, “I think I know the type.”
Vincent said, “You sure look like you do.” He turned to Linda and lowered his voice a little. “Lady, I don’t know what you are doing with a guy like this, but he is bad news. He hangs out with the wrong sort of people. You better get as far away from him as you can. He’s gonna end up dead and probably you, too. You get rid of him and don’t let anybody see you do it. And don’t come talkin to me. I don’t have nothin to do with none of this.” He apologized to both of them and then he turned to the door. He said, “You better lock this behind me.” He looked down both sides of the hallway before he walked out and closed the door behind him.
Allen sat back down in the chair. He said, “It must be those same thugs that did this to me. He said they can’t get the money either.” He put his head in his hands again careful not to hurt his swollen eye. “That man is right. I don’t want you to be part of this. You don’t need to get hurt because they are looking for me. You don’t owe me anything.”
She knew he was wrong. She had heard him asking in his delirium for that toy boat. She knew that she had to return that to him. She said, “Allen, I saw what it did to Judy.” They was a ruckus in the hallway. It sounded like someone being beaten. They both looked at the door.
Allen said, “They must have seen him.” Linda ignored him and went for her purse. She dropped several things onto the floor, but she had her phone out. She was swiping at the lock screen to get the phone to work when the door busted open splintering the wooden frame. Vincent came throw the doorway falling limply onto the floor. He was sniveling and spitting blood.
Allen jumped to his feet pushing the table over a foot, knocking over Linda’s cup, and spilling the cold coffee across the table. It began to drip off the edges of the table and through the seam in the center of the table. But the cold coffee was dead and held nothing for Linda to see.
Two large men followed Vincent through the doorway and stood one on either side of him, and a third stood in the hallway in front of the door telling the other tenants to shut up and go back into their apartments. The bigger of the two said, “There you are Raul. You are coming with us.”
The other man looked at Linda and said, “Put down the phone Mrs. Carla unless you want to end up like this other trash we spilled on the floor.” Linda dropped the phone. She hadn’t even gotten the phone unlocked let alone started the call to the police.
The man from the hallway turned around. He said to the other man, “Freddy, I told you. The line about the garbage was mine. You’re not allowed to say it.”
Freddy looked over his shoulder. “I said trash. I can say trash.”
The big man looked at Vincent still laying on the floor. He said, “Remember, Vinny, your uncle wouldn’t like to hear about you talkin to the cops.”
The man from the hallway grabbed Linda by the arm and the two bigger men held Allen by either arm. They got them down the elevator and out the service door into the alley behind the building where they had a van ready with the engine running and a fourth man already waiting in the driver seat. The driver called through the window. “Hurry up. I already had to pay one cop to let me stay here. The next one may not be so friendly.”
Linda and Allen were taken across town to the old warehouse district where they were driven into a sparsely used industrial park. It looked like it the warehouses had seen better days but several of the warehouses upfront were still in use and several of the freight docks had trucks backed up to them. A few of the drivers were sleeping in the driver seat of their day cabs but most of the drivers must have been inside supervising the loading or unloading of their trailers. And they drove around to a small door that led from the alley in back where they kept the trash bins and a few of the worker’s cars. They were ushered through a door that had been scrawled with graffitied names all layered one on top of the other. There were a few throw ups on the rest of alleyway wall but nothing impressive. Inside the warehouse it was dark, and Linda’s eyes didn’t feel like they would adjust to the light. Linda wondered if Allen’s eyes would adjust at all because she was nearly certain that he had a concussion if not something worse.
They were brought into a small upstairs office that had been built in the warehouse way back when this warehouse was still in legitimate use. Now the warehouse floor was mostly just scattered with trash broken wooden pallets and one old tractor tire that didn’t really seem like it belonged in the old center of the city.
Franky and the other big man grabbed two chairs that weren’t too broken, but they saved the good chairs for themselves. They sat the two chairs in the corner nest to a bar that looked like it had been installed much more recently than the rest of the office they were in. Franky grabbed a pair of handcuffs out of the drawer in the desk. Cuffed one of Linda’s arms laced the other cuff behind the bar and cuffed it to Allen’s arm. He said, “You two might be pretty cosey. This spot was really only designed for one person at a time.” Franky sat down in the chair behind the desk, leaned it back on two legs, and turned his head to the other big man. He said, “Hey Pete, we are gonna be here for a while Stacy’s gonna want to talk to them herself. Why don’t you and Red pick us all up a mess of coffee. I hear tell Mrs. Carla really loves the stuff. And If I remember correctly our old friend owed her a few.”
Pete said, “Sure Frank. Don’t beat em too badly before I get back. I wanna give my knuckles a workout.” Pete walked down the stairs and spoke to the other two men. It would seem like Red was the driver and the other man was Johnny. Linda was straining to overhear what they were talking about. The walls didn’t seem to be very insulated, but they did muffle voices quite a bit.
Franky said, “You know, Raul, I’ve seen some amazing things but that night you disappeared in front of my eyes that was a truly impressive magic trick. Right between two cracks of my stick, you just swapped places with the old man.