By Pete Moss
When I get back in the van Spela and Pedro are looking at me.
"What?" I say.
"I heard that cop," says Spela. I look at Pedro. I swear he nods his head like he's agreeing with Spela.
I fire up the van. Put it in gear drive over and cut through the parking lot of the Burger King. Come out on Barneveld cut across that and go on McKinnon, turn on Toland then Jerrold then cut into the alley and come out on Innes.
"What are you doing?" says Spela.
"Parking," I say.
"As your P.I. I'm advising you to take that police officers advice!" says Spela.
I look at Pedro. Pedro looks at me. He looks concerned. He obviously agrees with Spela and is worried I won't see the wisdom of her words.
"Et tu Pedro?" I say.
Pedro barks once and wags his tail.
"Goddamn it!!! I don't want to live in Oakland. Aside from that we'll be sitting ducks!!"
"We're sitting ducks here," says Spela. Pedro barks, once, again, thumps his tail on the floor of the van. "YoYo or whoever found us in less than 24 hours."
"Well shit!! This isn't the only neighborhood we can park up in," I say.
"Pete, aside from everything else....think about it....don't you want to live in a house? Electricity? A Bathroom? A kitchen?"
"Well....sure...I guess, I mean I got used to not having that stuff, you know..."
"I can get backup," says Spela. And she gets out that damn phone of hers.
"Oh alright!" I say. I fire up the van again and head for the on-ramp. Pedro comes over and licks my hand.
So across the bridge we go. And 30 minutes later we're pulling up to our new domicile.
It doesn't take long to move in. And while we're moving in Uncle Dragen pulls up in his boaty old Packard. He gets a violin case out of the trunk and lugs it into the house.
In the house he sets the violin case on the kitchen table and pops it open and pulls out a Tommy gun. He breaks it down and commences cleaning it.
"You have got to be kidding me!!!" I say. "Where did you find that relic? And where do you get ammo?"
"My grandfather gives it to me. And you can find ammo on-line, no problem," says Uncle Dragen. He's also produced a little Baretta handgun, which Spela is now cleaning. Pedro is napping on the couch, having given the house a thorough sniff check.
"Well don't I get a gun?" I say. I never really cared for guns, but if everybody else is gonna have one I want one too.
Then another vehicle pulls up out front. The tension level in the little house spikes. It's a pick-up truck, with a noisy muffler and a load of plywood in the bed.
I peep through the curtains. It's Grigori. Grigori comes up and knocks on the door. He yells out something in his language and Spela answers. Spela opens the door and Grigori comes in. He has a piece of baggage that looks like something for an oversize pool cue. From this he pulls a shotgun.
Dragen comes into the room and stops short. He and Grigori stare at each other. It's not friendly.
"What is this Muslim goat fucker doing here?!" says Dragen.
"Who are you talking to Nazi rent boy? I am not a Muslim!!" says Grigori.
For a second it looks like the two old farts will charge each other, fists flying. But Spela intervenes. "Boys!! Boys!!! We are Americans now. We leave the old countries behind!!"
"Fuck the goddam Americans!!" spits Grigori. "Where are the Americans when Nazis come?"
"America is the greatest country in the world!!!" shouts Dragen. "In old country I am a stinking goat herd. I come to America with nothing!!! Nothing I tell you!!! and four years later I am a lawyer and drive a Packard!!!"
I look at Spela. "This is the back up you were talking about?" I say.
"Grigori!! Pete and I are very hungry," Spela glances at me, "Did you bring any food?"
"Yeah I'm starving!" I pipe up. Spela gives a subtle look of gratitude.
"Of course I brought food," says Grigori. "In truck. Cooler on passenger seat."
Finally Grigori and Dragen break their staredown. We troop out to the truck to unload.
"What's all this plywood for?" I say.
"Windows," says Dragen.
Grigori mutters something in his archaic language. Spela winces and glances at Dragen, but apparently Dragen doesn't speak the same lingo as Grigori.
We unload the truck.
Grigori hauls his cooler into the kitchen and starts slamming stuff around. He's an angry cook and he punishes his kitchens and implements. He doesn't cook with love, but somehow the food tastes good. Dragen refuses to eat any. Dragen orders a pizza.
Then we set to work boarding up the windows. We screw in pieces of plywood with a slit in the middle. Screw the plywood down with a power driver.
I don't know how much good it will do. If we get firebombed that makes it that much harder to escape, and the plywood, even inch thick plywood, won't stop a bullet fired from an AK.
I guess it provides some cover. If anybody is watching the house, with the windows mostly boarded they can't tell if we're watching them back. They can't see into the house much at all, which is a slight advantage.
Anyway, boarding up the windows is an activity, something to keep us busy, something to keep our minds off what we know is coming.
Which happens that very night.
Dragen and I take the first watch. Spela and Grigori the second.
Pedro is nervous, pacing around the house, checking every nook and cranny. And just before 11 Pedro goes berserk.
There's a thump and a whoosh, and things get bright.
I'm all set to run out of the house, but Dragen holds me back. He insists on throwing open the door but holding back. He peers around the corner and is not greeted by a hail of bullets.
But the fire is growing fast.
Spela and Grigori are awake and grabbing blankets.
Dragen pokes out his head, goes out.
We rush out and go to work on the fire with the blankets.
A neighbor from across the street shows up with a fire extinguisher.
We work frantically. We have to keep the fire from getting on the roof.
Spela turns on the hose and climbs on the roof while the rest of us throw blankets.
The neighbors fire extinguisher is spent and the fire is making a comeback.
Spela begins raining down water from the roof.
Finally we get the better of the fire.
Half an hour later the fire truck shows up.
"So, another fire bombing," says the bored fireman. He's got a pad and pen and is making a half assed effort at a perfunctory investigation. "Did you hear anything? Car, voices?"
"They probably came by bicycle then. My advice? You should probably stop holding out and take whatever the real estate guys are offering," says the fireman.
"Thanks," I say.