Empty parking lot.
Tuesday afternoon . . .
Ricky and I are practicing parallel parking while Ms. Josephine checks out the house with the floating blue people. I bet Ricky lunch that the floating blue person is a reflection off of the swimming pool. He says it’s a lost entity looking for peace in their sordid afterlife. I’m thinking, thick-crust pepperoni and mushroom.
Parallel parking is easy to do, but hard to do well.
Even though he’s making snide remarks, I’m reading my DMV book, page 7-4, where it outlines the four steps to parallel parking.
I read: Choose a space large enough for your car . . .
Ricky says, “You can fit any car into any space if you know how to, and you have bumper to bumper coverage.”
Signal, stop even with front car about two feet out from it.
“You don’t have time for all that crap. You find your spot and you haul ass.”
Ricky, I say, I have to do it their way if I want my license. Otherwise, how can I drive when we’re going on missions to hunt the forces of evil?
He pretends to zip his mouth up and throw away the imaginary key, but I’m almost certain he’s palmed it in his left hand.
Make sure you will not interfere with oncoming traffic, then turn your front wheels all the way to the right and back slowly toward the curb.
Three, when your—
“Hold on, Jack . . . ” Ricky says, looking out his window across the parking lot.
I look up at Ricky and his eyes are following two cars as they pull into the otherwise empty parking lot. He reaches into his pocket and slides out his phone.
Think they’re here to practice parallel parking? I say, joking.
Ricky shakes his head, no, and speaks into the phone, “Billtruck . . . hey, make sure you keep my phone and the Porsche on your tracking system. We’ve got company.”
I hear Billtruck’s voice, “Roger that. Is it the same guys from last time?”
“Not sure, yet,” Ricky answers. “We’ll get back with you in about ten minutes or so. You’re our eyes in the sky on this one.”
“Roger that. I’m tracking your cellphones and the Cayenne, now.”
Ricky looks over at me, “Answer questions with questions, Jack. Worst comes to worst . . . ”
I know, I know. Head butt them and knee them in the nuts.
He nods slowly, then starts to get out of the SUV.
What are you doing? I ask him. Shouldn’t we be in the early stages of a reckless high-speed chase?
“No,” he says anticlimactically. “They’ll just keep doing this until we get into a car accident, or I get so many traffic tickets that I can’t drive anymore. No, let’s see who these dickheads are. What they want.”
We both exit the Porsche and walk around to the hood where we usually sit to eat McDonald’s. Two black Lincoln somethings pull up. They look like those other cars that are in a funeral procession. Not the hearse, but the ones right behind it, with crying people in black, secretly figuring up what their cut of grandpa’s estate is going to be.
The two Lincolns stop about 15 or 20 feet in front of us, and there is a pause where nobody gets out of their vehicles.
Ricky turns to me, his eyes still focused on the cars, “Look at their hands. Watch for guns or bats, or chainsaws.”
And then eight doors pop open at the same time, like they’ve been practicing this for months. It’s just us, leaning against the black hood of Ricky’s SUV, and them, slowly stepping out of their black funeral cars.
This is like some scene in a low-budget movie. Because, come on, nobody actually does this in real life. There’s no showdown at sunset. People don’t synchronize their car exits.
I swear, if a guy in a wheelchair gets out and he’s got, like, a cat or a monkey or a robot on his shoulder, I quit. I’ll just turn around and walk off.
But as we watch the feet shuffling, it’s nothing quite so ridiculous. They all get out wearing nice suits. No visible guns, although their suits are unbuttoned, like in those mob shows, so they’re probably packing. And they all basically look the same.
None of them have hair. They’ve all got on sunglasses. They’re all, oddly, shorter than Ricky and I. And very tanned. Like these guys spend a lot of money on tanning salons. You know what . . . they look Indian, or Asian, even. They definitely come from some place where people are basically wrinkled and angry.
Their faces have a leatheresque look. Like an old pair of boots. There’s a real X-Files feel to all of this.
And then one of them, with his dark, squinted little beads for eyes, he pushes past the others and barks, “Where’s the book?”
“Excuse me?” Ricky answers calmly. He’s unusually cool under the circumstances.
“The book,” the man repeats in a kind of Asian accent. He could be in one of those kung-fu movies, this guy. “It belongs to us. It was lost, and we want it back.”
Ricky and I look at each other, shrugging.
“We’re trying to be reasonable about this,” the kung-fu guy says. “We’re only here to reclaim what is rightfully ours. It is very important. And we will not hesitate to use more decisive means to procure it.”
That’s the veiled threat that Ricky was warning me about, earlier. Ricky starts to say something, but I put my hand on his shoulder. I look at the sea of angry little men and say, “What are you talking about?” This is fun. Dangerous, and clearly stupid . . . but fun.
“Quit playing games, gentlemen. The book?”
I reach back, very slowly, holding my other hand open to keep everyone calm, and I grab my yellow DMV book. I hold it up over my head and wiggle it around, “Okay, okay . . . there’s no reason for any of this to get out of hand.”
They’re all looking at me like I’m a talking vegetable. Perhaps an argument could be made. I say, “Everyone calm down. There’s no problem. Here’s the book. But, just so you know, I don’t think it will do you fellas any good.”
Ricky is kind of pissed at me, I’m sure, but he’s also trying not to laugh, his eyes down as his shoulders quiver a bit. I don’t know why he wants to always laugh at the most inopportune times. But then, Ricky and I . . . we laugh in the face of peril.
I toss the book across the void that separates us all, and the cadre of mean-faced little men seems uncomprehending. One of them bends down slowly to pick up the book as if it might be a trick. He looks at it, his eyes quizzically study the thin paper cover, then he tosses it to the lead guy. They speak some strange language amongst themselves, and Ricky is looking at me like I’m playing with fire.
Again, he’s probably right.
If I had a bunch of knives right now, these guys would be in big-time trouble.
Under his breath, Ricky says, “Let’s not piss them off, Jack. They look . . . ” he takes a deep breath, “ . . . sincere.”
The leader guy, he steps forward chunking the book back across the parking lot. “What is that?”
The book, I answer. It’s the only book we have. Were you referring to some other book?
“We want the Book of Sighs, you idiots,” he snaps. And suddenly, the other guys look less friendly. They look motivated and violent, always a bad combination. He continues, “We know that you have it. We have been following you for some time.”
Well, there’s a couple questions answered, I say under my breath.
“It’s ours. Give it to us, or take us to it. Now!”
“Oh, that book,” I say nodding, like I’ve just seen the light. I look over at Ricky.
“Book of Sighs, right,” Ricky says. “You should have just said that from the beginning. It would have made all of this much easier.”
“So,” the mean man says, “you have it, then?”
Well, I say . . . not anymore, we don’t.
His face wrinkles, his eyes narrow and menacing, “What do you mean?”
“We did have it,” Ricky explains, “but it was stolen weeks ago.”
Then they all start talking in that rapid-fire whatever-it-is they speak. And I know that this is usually the part in the movie where Ricky and I should get our asses kicked.