Noir – Chapter Two

April 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm (Noir)

He felt sucker punched. He’d assumed she knew where he lived, but he’d not heard her enter his room. He had no idea how she’d picked the locks. He’d added them himself when he’d first moved in. They were damn difficult to pick. He knew, he’d tried. He wasn’t an expert, but he’d gotten quite good at it. He couldn’t pick his locks. He wondered if she’d somehow gotten a copy of his key. That would have surprised him less. He didn’t know if her skill impressed him, but her determination to gain his help worried him.

She lay across his bed, her skirt hiked further up her thighs than it had been in the bar. He’d been right, it was thrilling. Soon, his towel would outline his interest. For his own sanity, he looked away. He didn’t want to help her with her cause. He felt at a distinct disadvantage standing there in his towel. He had a healthy body image, he was fit and strong and capable, but all he could imagine was dropping the towel and joining her on his bed. It sounded like such a great idea, but he knew it would come back to haunt him. He didn’t need her kind of trouble, he reminded himself for the twentieth time. It wasn’t working.

He saw the envelope and the picture sitting on the table beside his bed. He was coming to hate that envelope. He didn’t care about the cash. He wanted nothing to do with it. How was he going to get her out of his room? He wasn’t a mean sort, but he’d toss her out on her rear if he had to.

“I need your help, Mr. Wolf.”

She rose from the bed, closing the distance between them. She invaded his personal space, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. She had faint freckles across the bridge of her nose and he found that sexy. Her breasts heaved, and his gaze shifted downwards. One hand rose, her fingers brushing over his chest. His heart rate kicked up a notch as she caressed the ridge of his left pectoral. He stood stock still, allowing her free access to whatever she wanted of him. He didn’t know if he’d already given in to her request, or if he was still in control. When her finger trailed across the ridges of his abs, he knew he’d given up all control to her and he couldn’t bring himself to regret it.

“Please consider my offer, Mr. Wolf.”

She was gone before he could draw enough breath to answer her. The picture remained on the table, the envelope still taunting him. After locking the door to his room and tucking the back of his chair under the knob, he returned to his bathroom and closed himself inside. He needed a much colder shower than the last had been. Ten minutes later, dressed in clean jeans and a button-front shirt, he grabbed the envelope and ripped it open.

It was cash. A lot of cash. $5000, to be exact. It would keep his rent paid up for over a year. But what was the hidden cost of helping her out? That brief encounter earlier was a good sign. It would cost him a portion of his sanity if he had to put up with her flirtatious seductions. A man could only take so many cold showers.

Studying the picture she’d left behind, he decided the man had several features similar to Ms. Nolan. On the back were the words Jack, Kits and the year 1984. The house in the background of the picture had that turn-of-the-century look that a lot of Vancouver houses had. He hadn’t been to Kits in several years. He’d have to take a stroll through the area to see if he could find the place.

She’d hooked him. He tried to convince himself that it was the large sheaf of fifties and hundreds, but he recognized the lie. A single finger trailing down his chest had caught him tighter than a fish on a lure. He felt like a fool, or a boy caught in his first crush, but he couldn’t talk himself out of taking a quick look around Kits. He pulled four fifties and two hundreds from the envelope and placed the rest of the cash in the safe he’d installed in his closet. Sliding into his boots, he grabbed his coat and locked his door behind him. The lock didn’t feel quite as secure as it had before Ms. Nolan’s visit. He’d have to replace the deadbolts.

Hailing a cab, he used half of one of the fifties just getting to Kits. Kitsilano was a neighbourhood on Vancouver’s West Side. It once housed hippies and now was home to hipsters and yoga enthusiasts. Eldon didn’t qualify as a hipster. His cell phone couldn’t access the internet, he shaved, and his jeans were straight leg and boot cut. He couldn’t argue with the yoga girls and their penchant for wearing body skimming pants, though.

The area’s northern boundary edged onto English Bay, with a good view of the Downtown core. Exiting the cab near Kits pool, Eldon took a good look around. East of the pool was a large green space leading down to the beach. Fit young men and less fit older men watched girls in skimpy bathing suits stroll by. It was too hot even this late in the evening for his leather jacket and motorcycle boots, but Eldon ignored the discomfort. His longish and somewhat shaggy blonde hair blew in his eyes. Donning a pair of sunglasses, he turned away from the beach and studied the nearby buildings.

Kits had a mishmash of architectural styles. Boring seventies-style beige boxes stood next to Tudor or red brick character buildings. Trees lined the streets, blocking a lot of the buildings from full view. The picture he carried showed a two-level house with attic, like the heritage houses in the West End, across the bay. The address wasn’t visible on the house, but the landscaping in the front yard was quite distinct.

Set apart from the sidewalk by a ten-foot boulevard, the house had a three-foot rock wall encircling a small lawn overgrown with trees and shrubs. Passing through an arch, the stone steps led up to the front door. Several of the buildings opposite the pool had similar rock walls, but their front landscaping was more contained. As far as he could see in both directions down Cornwall, small buildings lined the street. He was looking for a house that had either remained a single-family dwelling or was now converted into several apartments.

Striking out, Eldon headed west down Cornwall, towards Point Grey, but most of the houses there were quite large and of more recent construction. He spent two hours walking up and down the streets, looking at houses, small buildings, and places that were now retail establishments. The area crawled with people heading home for the night or out to a nearby restaurant for a late dinner. It was quite possible that someone had torn the house down. He could walk all through the neighbourhood and never know that the house no longer existed.

He walked right past the place before he realized that he’d found it. He’d been wandering through the streets heading ever closer to the Planetarium when he recognized the spire-like shrub by the rock stairs. They’d substituted evergreens for several of the leafy trees at the front of the house. It would save time raking leaves and keep the yard lush in the winter. The basic structure of the house hadn’t changed. A discreet sign posted at the top of the first set of stairs proclaimed the place as a Bed and Breakfast. Eldon mounted the stairs and tested the front door. When it swung in, he considered it his lucky day.

Inside the door, the house opened into a large foyer with a carpeted runner over rich, dark hardwood. A small desk with a lamp sat angled into a corner, with a bell placed on top, near the lamp base. Eldon gave it a quick ring, hearing the sound echo up toward the high ceiling. A door opened and closed in the distance and Eldon listened as the footsteps got closer. A man in his early thirties came down a short hall, smiling at him.

“Hello, welcome to The Kits. I’m David Lumley. My mother owns the place.” He shook Eldon’s hand. “Did you have a reservation?”

Eldon held out the picture. “I’m wondering if anyone who was here thirty years ago would remember this man.”

Lumley took the picture and gave it only a brief glance before handing it back. “It’s been a busy day, if for no other reason than that photo. That’s the second time I’ve seen it today.”

“When was the first?”

“Earlier this afternoon. A short and rather round little man came in with an exact copy, asking the same thing. I told him that my mother has been running this B&B for thirty years, so she might know the man, but she’s out of town for a couple of days.”

Eldon wondered if Ms. Nolan had more than one guy looking into the mysterious Jack’s background. The idea annoyed him. He wasn’t looking for an exclusive with her, he reminded himself. “Was he going to come back?”

“No,” Lumley said, “he gave me his name and contact information and asked me to call him when my mom arrived. I told him she’d be back on Saturday, but he still wanted me to call.” Lumley shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest.

Pulling a hundred from his pocket, Eldon showed it to Lumley. “Can I get that contact information?”

Lumley pulled at his bottom lip while he thought about the request. Then he shrugged again. “I don’t see why not. He gave it to a stranger and he didn’t ask me to keep it in confidence.” Turning to the desk, he pulled a planner from the centre drawer. Flipping through to the current day where he’d noted down the man’s details, he wrote the information on a piece of paper and handed it to Eldon.

Eldon passed him the cash, nodded his thanks, and left. Out on the sidewalk, he read the slip of paper while standing beneath the streetlight. Stanley Toby, an unfortunate name given the physical description Lumley had provided, lived in an area of Vancouver only a little less dodgy than Eldon’s own. Closer to the water and a few blocks further west than his building, Eldon figured the guy lived in one of the rundown houses that the city wanted to condemn, but the citizens wanted to save. Based on the house number, Eldon figured Toby was at the ‘good’ end of the street.

Toby lived in Crack Town, just east of Oppenheimer Park, where most of the residents were trippin’, trickin’, or trying to achieve one or the other. He thought about waiting until the morning to introduce himself to Toby, but figured the time of day would make little difference in that part of town. He’d likely have less trouble there than outside his own front door. Walking back to Cornwall, Eldon caught another cab and used the rest of that fifty dollar bill to return downtown.

When his stomach growled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten since well before his three whiskeys, Eldon directed to cabbie to drop him off at Save-On Meats. A mainstay in the heart of the Downtown East Side, Save-On Meats offered him a decent burger and fries for around ten bucks, including tip. The coffee usually tipped him over into the twelve-dollar range.

Taking a booth near the back, Eldon ordered and then sipped his coffee. He was curious who Jack was and why Ms. Nolan wanted his movements tracked. The similarity between them made Eldon wonder if Jack wasn’t her father. Thirty years ago, Ms. Nolan would have been a baby. Was she trying to determine if Jack was her father, or maybe she knew that and wanted to figure out who her mother was?

When his food arrived, he dove into the burger like a man who hadn’t seen food in a month. He had a healthy appetite and he usually took better care to eat at regular intervals. Ms. Nolan’s visit had thrown him off his stride. He didn’t like how she’d rattled him. Sure, at first her attentions had flattered him. Now, with a little distance, he wondered if she hadn’t played him. It would take a strong individual not to get turned around by those big blue eyes of hers, never mind everything south of the neckline.

Would she have done the same thing to Stanley Toby? Somehow, if Lumley’s description was accurate, playing with a man like that would seem cruel. Most men had a pretty good idea of what sort of woman they could talk into their beds. Often they were wrong about half of them. Eldon doubted that a guy like Toby would hold out hope for a woman like Ms. Nolan.

Eldon hadn’t had a woman in several months, though not from a lack of options. The woman in the room above him had a standing offer for a free BJ after he’d bounced a John who was trying to bust her up. He knew she was serious about the BJ, but he wouldn’t take her up on it.

When he cleaned himself up and put on his good jeans, he looked fit and healthy rather than mangy and a little flea-bitten. Women appreciated his firm body and few words. He wouldn’t promise them anything and he never asked for a phone number. He hadn’t met the woman, yet, who he’d want to see a second time. He’d gotten the relationship bug early and it had bitten a hole in his hide. He still had the mark. His ex-wife had moved on two years into their marriage. It had taken him a few years longer to do the same.

He had a daughter who, at sixteen, didn’t need a dad and didn’t want one who had never been around for her. Since her mother had walked out on him before she was born, he figured her stepdad could take responsibility for her. Eldon had contacted his ex to offer child support when he’d learned he had a daughter, but she’d turned it down. He hadn’t offered a second time.

Paying his bill and adding a decent tip, Eldon stepped outside and walked down Hastings Street, toward the park. After three coffees at the diner, he was wishing he’d used the washroom before he left. He could step off the sidewalk for a minute, but figured the situation wasn’t that dire. No one in the area would blink at seeing a man pissing against a building.

Stanley Toby’s house wasn’t at the good end of the street after all. Just past the east end of Oppenheimer Park on Cordova sat three houses that hadn’t seen better days in over two decades. Similar in style to the heritage houses and the B&B he’d just come from, these places hadn’t been well tended. Roofs had moss growing on them. The stairs leading up to the front porch on two of the houses looked like it offered a 50-50 chance of supporting his weight.

Eldon wasn’t sure he wanted to take his chances, but he was curious about Toby and who had hired him. There were several cars parked on the street outside. He wondered if Toby owned one, or if they belonged to the neighbours. Memorizing the makes and license plates out of habit, Eldon risked the stairs up to the porch. He didn’t bother to knock. His fist would have gone right through the door. Twisting the door knob, he stepped into a dingy landing area with two doors marked with apartment numbers. Toby had the upper floor and the attic space. Ascending the stairs, Eldon stood outside Toby’s apartment, listening to the raised voices on the other side of the door.

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