By Pete Moss
(Click here for Part XIII )
We disembark from the ferry in Sausalito. Walk around. Get some coffee. More meandering and doubling back. I don't know whether to laugh or be annoyed.
It's getting dark when we sidle up to Gate 6 Road, on the North side of Sausalito. With a final scan, Germaine gets a key and opens the door and we head out onto the dock.
The houseboats are much more house than boat. None of them could put to sea. In fact most of them are sitting on the bottom at low tide. They have ferro cement basements and two stories. Decks and porches and hanging plants and grills and dogs and even kids toys.
Germaine hurries along the dock, not stopping to make chit chat with any of the locals.
The boat she's using is nearly at the end of the dock. It's a plain unit, smaller then the boats on either side. Slightly run down.
Again Germaine is furtive and hurried. She scans around, even suspiciously checking out a kayaker gliding by.
Then we are in the houseboat. It's dim. The first floor is a large open space with a kitchen and a table. Two hefty Samoans are playing cribbage at the kitchen table.
They both look up as we come in. Germaine removes her glasses. She introduces me. The Samoans nod and return to cribbage.
Germaine's tension level has peaked. She's almost giving off lightening bolts.
We go up a stairway and finally are in the detox room. There's a skeletal form in the bed, scabby and sick, not moving, strapped down and entubed.
At last Germaine lets go some tears.
"So when this Preston Picket makes contact I call you and we negotiate from there?" I say, after a minute waiting for Germaine to get it together.
Germaine nods. She's standing by the bed. I assume that she has a lump in her throat that makes it difficult for her to talk. She strokes Horatio's hair for another minute, then gathers up her stuff and goes out of the room.
I hear the front door open and close and then Germaine walking away down the dock.
I go downstairs and go in the kitchen. I look in the fridge. There's a pizza in the freezer. I put it in the microwave.
One of the Samoans is getting ready to leave, his shift done. The other goes upstairs to check the IV in the sickroom.
Then there's a knock at the door. The microwave still has a few minutes to go on the pizza. I go to the door and look through the spyhole. It's Preston Picket.
"Hey Larry, better come downstairs," I yell for the Samoan. "We got company."
I open the door and let Preston in. "Preston Picket, pleased to meet you," I say. The microwave dings. "You want a slice of pizza?"
"Well, now actually I am kind of hungry," says Preston. Larry is moving around upstairs, maybe getting a gun or what I don't know. Preston is pretty big, and not far out of shape from his playing days.
"So you know why I'm here," says Preston. He sits at the table where the Samoans were playing cribbage. I set down the pizza and we tear off slices. "I know the 'mom is GiGi Labonte. All I need is 20 grand, no biggie for her."
"If you could just fill me in, you've seen Horatio, I mean, how did you let him get that far in the hole? Don't you dealer types usually cut off a customer once they get a few hundred bucks down?"
"It depends....but that 20 grand isn't all for dope debt. As far as dope he only owes me maybe a grand or so on that."
I cock an eyebrow. Preston continues. "Well I did like you said, cut him off. Then he comes to me, wants to work it off. Sell his ass, but I don't care what Brent Easton Ellis said, spoiled rich kids make lousy prostitutes. First job I sent him on he was no-call no-show. Second job he threw up in the customers Benz, cost 10 grand to fix that. I gave him one last chance and he shows up gacking his brains out..."
Preston works his jaw like tweakers get when they're high.
"Yeah, gackin like a maniac, practically bit the customers dick off. Look, I'm a business man, I just need to recover my investment.."
"Who's Brent Easton Ellis?"
"The writer? 'Less Then Zero'?"
I shrug. "I didn't know football players read books," I say.
"Well, I did go to Stanford. But anyway, like I said, I need to recover my investment and I know who the kids mom is, so you just pass along the message like a good little messenger." Preston tears himself off another slice of pizza as he stands up. Larry is finally coming down the stairs, and he has a gun.
"Trouble Hollister?" says Larry.
"No trouble," says Preston "I can let myself out. I'll be back tommorrow, see what GiGi wants to do."
So what do I say to Germaine? What can I possibly say? I barely know her, or Horatio. It's a sad story, but not my story. What level of emotion is expected of me?
Actually who cares what level of emotion, if any, I'll show. It is, after all, not my story. I'll just deliver the news, like I was hired to do.
Anyway, I look in the fridge and there's nothing but pickle relish. There's nothing in the cupboards either.
"Hey Larry, we need groceries. What's the deal on that?"
"There's some petty cash in the bag under the sink."
I get some cash. "Where's the store?"
"Over by Gate 5 Road," says Larry. "Get some beer. Something good, no lite beer OK?"
"No problem, I don't drink lite beer either," I say.
I walk down the dock. I see someone going into a doorway on one of the houseboats. She's small and dark, like Dijay. All of a sudden all I can think about is Dijay. I decide to call her. She'll probably be mad at me for disappearing, she's probably already got another driver.
I find a phone and ring Dijay. She answers on the 1st ring.
"It's me," I say.
"Hollister? Where are you? I have a gig tomorrow night."
"I'm in Sausalito, on another job. I'm afraid I can't make it tomorrow night."
There's a silence. Then Dijay talks. "You working for that cousin of yours."
"How long the job gonna last?"
"Week or two. Am I fired?"
"Well.....no, maybe, I don't know. I mean you are really cute and you're a good driver."
"You're pretty hot yourself," I say. "I like working for you."
"Call me when you're back in the City and I'll see how I feel."
I hang up.
Then I walk around for a bit. I forget about the store while I ponder Dijay. Thinking about her long black hair and her tiny body, her tendency to get bossy when she's nervous.
But my stomach won't be ignored. I get back to the business at hand. Find the store. Buy 2 bags of groceries.
An hour has gone by before I'm getting back to the houseboat. There's an ambulance parked by the gate. There's no urgency about it.
I walk up the dock. There's a gurney by the houseboat. An EMT is by the gurney, talking on his phone. "Better send the meat wagon," says the EMT, into his radio.
I walk in the houseboat. Larry is sitting at the table. He looks at me. I raise an eyebrow.
Larry draws his hand across his throat. I set the groceries down. Get out 2 bottles of Sierra Nevada, hand one to Larry.
It's gonna be a grim talk with Germaine.
Later, I call Germaine.
I just deliver the bad news. I lead with the fact that Preston Pickett knows who Horatio's mom is, that would be one-time child star GiGi Labonte, aka Gergaine Galloway. Preston wants 20 grand.
Germaine says nothing.
"And Horatio died," I say.
Germaine says nothing.
"What you want to do?"
"It's over," says Germaine. "Finally."
"They're taking his body to the morgue." I don't know what Germaine will do now. Seems like she'll have to show up at the morgue sooner or later, claim the body. But maybe she won't want to do that.
"So Preston knows about me?"
"So I don't have to...."
"Sneak around anymore? No."
"Could you keep on being a go-between?"
"I guess, but I can't be stuck on this houseboat for too long."
"Of course. I'll pick you up and can you come with me to the morgue?"
"What's family for?" I say.
"OK, I'll be there in an hour or so."
Then I get a call from Preston Pickett. "Well? What's GiGi want to do."
"I don't know Preston. Horatio died. Germaine is still making up her mind."
"The kid died?"
"That's what I said."
"This doesn't change anything. I still need my money."
"Like I said, the kid croaked, too bad. I still need my money."
"I'll pass it along."
"I'll tell her myself."
"If you don't mind Germaine still doesn't want to deal directly with you."
"Whatever, so long as I get my money."
(Click here for Part XV )