Saturday, November 9, 2019

Chapter 2 - Following Honey

Image result for A&W homeless

(If you are new to my John York book here is a link to Chapter 1.)

The waves crashed against the rock cliffs hundreds of feet below. The moon was just bright enough to make out the white foam from the waves as they kept up their rhythmic dance along where a vast sea met the land. “It’s been too long.” John York thought to himself. Work took John all over the world but there was something special about California’s coast line. It drew him in even as he avoided it. For amidst all its beauty it carried with it, great pain. Ocean breeze had become a cliche with every air freshener or candle maker trying to provide you access to it, even if you lived in the dust bowl of Kansas, but only the true fragrance reminded him of her.

How long had it been? He tried to stop his mind from asking the question, one whose answer he knew perfectly: 7 years. It was hard not to know the answer to a question you ask yourself multiple times everyday. When he woke up, when he was in the shower, when he sat down for lunch, anytime he tried to clear his mind, there it was. The only thing that entered his mind as often was the thought to stop asking, to let it go, to move on, and then the inevitable thought. “Will I see her again?”

But he wasn’t here to be dragged into his past like surf back into the vast ocean from whence it had come, nor was he here to simply enjoy the view. At least, not the view that anyone's eyes would naturally be drawn to, from this particular vantage point. It had taken him over 45 mins of hiking through thick brush and far too many thorns to get to this view. Below sat a mansion that was vast enough that even the word mansion seemed lacking. Arnold McMaster’s Father had owned the property before him back when coastal property in Southern California could be afforded by your everyday millionaire. Had that not been the case, even a fortune like the CEO’s of McMaster Mattresses would have been unable to purchase this much land, in this perfect a location.

Located far enough north of Los Angeles to have the amazing cliffs and yet close enough to make the commute to the mattress factory in the metropolis reasonable. Not that traffic was really an issue for the McMaster family. Arnold McMaster, the Master of the McMasters had his Chauffeur leave every morning promptly at 4:30 to be in the office by 4:45, priding himself that he beat even most people on the east coast to work. This had been his practice since his youth, and the business had been propped up by no shortage of sheer grit and hard work. He used to stay late enough that there was also little traffic on the way home, which, in LA, meant some very late nights. However, since his 80th birthday he was not putting in the hours he once did and often left the office in the early afternoon.

The other McMasters in the house, the pudgy man who spurned root beer floats and called himself Jake and his sister Adaline, who went by Jennifer, (John York regretted that he would be unable to give her the same lecture he had so eloquently given Barnaby about the world being chock full of Jennifers, but he knew such an opportunity would not present itself given the circumstances that she and he would meet under.) They too had very regimented schedules. They both held high positions in the mattress company, at least in pay, not necessarily in responsibility. They left every day shortly after waking up around 11:30. After stopping for a nice lunch and catching up on facebook and latest news from buzzfeed, they would wander into work just as their father was on his way out. They would leave promptly at 5, unless they felt like leaving earlier. Traffic at this time would have been horrendous but luckily their favorite bars, and clubs were all a short distance from the office.

This was John’s fourth trip to this particular look out, it was one of his many stops that he had made in order to understand the goings and comings of the McMasters. But the persons whose goings and comings he had spent the most time studying wasn’t a McMaster at all. Exactly on que, the small pink porsche boxster pulled up to the gate. John York wished that all the people he had to follow would chose to drive custom made bright pink cars, not that he needed it. He could track a rainbow through a gay parade. Yet he was always grateful when life made things easy.

Mrs. Honey’s habits were much more mundane then her vehicle but no less expensive. She worked very hard at her chosen profession, shopping. John York had seen the insides of more jewelry shops, hat shops, clothes shops, pet shops and even soap shops than he hoped he would ever have to endure. The one establishment that she went into that she didn’t do any shopping at was McMaster Mattresses, several times a day she would stop by to see how the old man was doing. From a distance, it became very clear that to Mrs. Honey the business was not only useful as a place to manufacture sleep aides but also a very useful bank. The best bank you could possibly think of, one that allows withdrawals without requiring any deposits.

Tonight was exactly what John York had hoped for. While the going and coming of the McMaster Clan was his primary interest, the other thing that he hoped to gain by these late night house watch parties was a decent layout of the home. From his studies, he had figured out which of the guests homes belong to each of the children, and most of the layout of the main home. But several rooms, particularly on the upper floor had remained a mystery. But tonight with perfect weather, the curtains had been drawn and windows opened.

Despite his profession often requiring him to expand the limits of what was strictly legal, he liked to keep such activity to a minimum. Sneaking around someone's home without permission was something he generally avoided. But, at times, it was necessary, and when it became necessary he had learned the two most important rooms to be prepared to enter were the bedroom and the study. He now knew where both were located.

But with this information in hand it was time to be on the move. The past few nights had always had a surprising ending, and that was with the pink porsche making an exit. There could be many reasons for such an exit. While the number of people who waited until marriage to consummate their relationship seemed to be ever shrinking, John York did know such people existed. Mr. McMaster was a devout Catholic, who each Sunday after putting in a few hours at the office, attended mass. But John York had known many devout Catholics, who contrary to Billy Joel’s theory, didn’t start much too late. The other possibility was Ms. Honey’s morals, she did not strike him as religious in anyway. However, if one was after an old man’s fortune, it would be wise to find or feign morals and hold out the goods until you have secured your spot in the family tree as rightful heir. But wise, was not a word regularly coupled with Ms. Honey. It is true that if she had been in a battle of wits with a jellyfish she would have likely won, but that is only if it happened to not be a particularly smart jellyfish. There was also the possibility that she helped the old man to bed, as it were, and then departed. After all, at 85 some people keep some rather early bedtimes.

So, this left John York with a particularly hard choice. With the bedroom window open he could observe at what time the old man did chose to retire, and even perhaps his activities prior to laying down for the night, but more importantly he wanted to know where that little pink boxster went to each night. With the decision made, he packed up his high powered binoculars and headed to his car. As noted earlier, it was quite a hike, but he would have to do it at a rapid pace if he was going to make it.

Forty five minutes later and he sat quietly with his headlights off, on the side of the road. The pattern of what time she left and in what direction had been the same for the past few nights. Knowing this allowed John York the rare opportunity of not waiting long. Five minutes after picking his spot, he saw the unique headlights of the little Porsche coming up behind him. As she passed he began to follow. It was now a little after 9 and the roads were busy but not packed. This made keeping track of her car more difficult as she carelessly cut people off and sped around semi’s. Usually, John York took care to ensure that there was no chance the person could figure out he was following them. With Scarlet, such precautions were totally unnecessary. She didn’t seem to notice anyone or anything on the road. Given her driving habits, John York would have put her life expectancy on par with that of Mr. McMaster. If Barnaby had seen her drive, he thought, maybe he wouldn’t have been so worried.

The neighborhood in which he now found himself was very different from the one they had left. Apartments were everywhere, people and litter lined the streets as they drove by pawn, smoke, and liquor shops. The car pulled up to one side of a yellow rundown duplex that sat back no more than 5 feet from the street. There was no shortage of vagrants throughout the neighborhoods but there was a particular gathering outside the home she pulled up to, as if they had been waiting for her.

As she pulled up they gathered around. Two questions instantly came to John York. One was how her car stayed unstolen in this neighborhood and more prominent on his mind, why the conflagration of homeless acting as a greeting party. John York could see the disdain in Scarlet’s eyes as she walked out of the car.

“What you got for us tonight Ms. Honey?” one of them called out.

Her hands were filled with shopping bags and she carefully selected two bags and handed them over. “You know the deal. Keep the car safe.” The group crowded around the bags and began to riffle through the contents as Ms. Honey went inside.

Given how generous Master McMaster seemed to be with his money he was surprised to see his girlfriend living in such conditions. Especially since two guests homes remained unoccupied.

As he thought his eyes caught a beautiful sight just down the street, an A&W sign. A smile kept across his face. Tonight he would get to do two things he loved, drink root beer floats, and interview the homeless. A pretty good way to spend his last night as John York.

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