By Pete Moss
"I need a place to hide out." I say.
Actually that's nothing new. I've been hiding out from the mushroom cloud tech bubbles engulfing the Bay Area for as long as I can remember. One expanding, consuming, destructive gentribomb after another. Leaving me behind to cope in the dusty rubble.
"Can you give me a ride over to Frisco?"
"You want to hide out in Frisco?" says Uncle Dragen.
"I have just the place."
So over the Bay Bridge we go. Down the 101, get off at Chavez.
"What neighborhood is this? I didn't know they still had this kind of place in SF." says Uncle Dragen, surveying the crumbling warehouses and dilapidated streets, still seamed with disused railroad tracks, piles of rotting vegetables and beat up trucks by the side of the road.
"We call it the Produce District."
"I suppose it's a good place."
"Turn here," I say. A few twists and turns and we're behind a reefer warehouse, in lumpy street under a whooshing freeway, dumpsters overflowing with waxed cardboard and more rotting vegetables. "Right there."
"That yellow van."
"Your hideout is an old van?"
"Hey it runs, I move it around all the time, a moving target is harder to hit."
Spela looks highly disappointed. "You don't live in an old van? This is not the American Dream I dreamed of back in Sarajevo."
"Sorry about that," I say, with a tone of voice that says I'm not sorry at all. "Not all Americans live in Beverly Hills."
"Well, never mind, it will make a good hideout, I guess." Spela hops out of the Packard with her bag.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm coming with you. I'm your PI, it's my sworn duty to serve and protect."
"That's the cops. I don't know if a PI has the same obligations."
"Whatever," says Spela. she shrugs.
"Anyway, the van is small and the toilet facilities are primitive."
"I am familiar with primitive toilets. We shared an outhouse with 8 other families in Sarajevo."
I look at Uncle Dragen, he shrugs. "I'll be in touch," he says and drives off.
So I open up the van and let Spela in.
"This is cute," she says.
The space in the van is cramped and Spela and I keep brushing each other. Before I know it we're sitting on the little bed and she puts her arm around me and then leans in close. Our lips brush against each other.
"Hey wait. Is this professional of you as a PI?"
"You mean having sex with a client?"
"Welll....yeah. I mean....not that we've had sex...yet..."
"Haven't you read your Raymond Chandler? It's not only ethical, it's required for the PI and the client to have sex, especially if the client is good looking."
My face falls a little.
"Don't worry you are quite good looking enough."
"No, it's not that."
"I never heard of Raymond Chandler. You makin' me feel stupid."
"Don't worry Pete, Raymond Chandler is a top notch authority on all things PI."
"Oh, well in that case, If Raymond Chandler says it's OK...."
Well I'll tell you kissing with Spela Byaliak sure feels nice but then something comes to me.
"Wait a minute."
"What?" said Spela, "Why you pulling away?"
"You got right out of Dragen's car and came charging over and hopped into my van and plopped yourself right down on my bed, how'd you know YoYo wouldn't be here?"
"Is that your girlfreind?"
"Yeah, I mean, no, I mean.....she's not my girlfriend..."
"But she'd be jealous if another female started acting like she owned you?"
"Yeah, something like that. But that's not the point. How'd you know she wasn't here?"
"That's easy, cause I just found out she even exists."
"You sure you and her aren't in cahoots?"
"You're paranoid. What would she and I be cahooting about?" says Spela.
"How to get your hands on my money, that's what."
"Oh Pete, already this money is wrecking you. C'mon, let's get back to business."
"How come you want to have sex with me all of a sudden?"
"You're the one who wants to have sex with me. In fact my phone app? Stupid Cupid? Says there's already a %90 probability you're at least %50 in love with me."
"Yeah? Then what? After I'm all besotted I'll be signing the house over to you and YoYo?"
"I never heard of this YoYo person. Please stop this crazy talk, you're scaring me."
"Right, Spela Byaliak, intrepid girl PI and Balkan war refugee is scared of a little crazy talk."
Spela leans in for a kiss. I guess she figures it's a good way to shut me up. Problem is, the spark has gone out.
"OK, I guess the mood is ruined for now," says Spela. "How about we get something to eat?"
So we do.
While we eat Spela regales me with hair raising stories of her escape from Serbia to refugee camps in Italy, and resettlement in Ireland.
Then we stroll back to the van. We have to sleep cuddled up in the narrow van bed. And I have to admit, I am powerfully attracted to this little black haired fearless refugee girl.
But neither of us presses the issue.
Some time later, maybe 3 AM or so, I wake up and step out of the van to take a leak.
And I see a small four leg shape across the street, in a shadow. I look again.
"Pedro?" I say. The shape retreats further into the shadow. I whistle.
Then the shape comes out of the shadow, it is Pedro.
"Pedro, come here boy."
Pedro looks uncertain. He wants to come over and say hi, but he knows he's not supposed to.
I take a step to cross the street and Pedro breaks into a run and disappears.