Ugh. Nothing like getting a call from 850 Bryant asking for a favor. At least it wasn't the middle of the night. "Yeah. How much is your bail?"
"No, no. Bail's too high this time. I need you to get two things for me. Get my stuff out of Dutch's van. My journals, my clothes. My stash; it's in a can of WD-40. $4800. He's probably in the same area. I don't think he could move that piece of shit far if he wanted to."
Back to China Basin, then. A neighborhood for dumping stolen cars and below-the-radar living. Shopping carts, houseboats, and parked cars with towels over the windows. "What's it look like again? It's been awhile since I seen you two."
"White van with the Granny Goose painted over, but you can still see it through the paint. And it's got T&A mudflaps."
Stylin'. "Does he know you're in jail?"
"Hell, yes! He was out for burgers when the cops popped me. He knows they're looking for him. He won't give you any trouble."
Pause. "You know, Debs, that really doesn't make me feel better about this."
"Just get the can, will you?"
We waited for the day the checks come out. A fine, sunny San Francisco day, the fog already gone from the Bayside neighborhoods by 10, when we started driving around, looking for the van.
"Thanks for calling in sick today, Jimmy, and for doing this."
"No problem. Thanks for the Happy Donuts and coffee." He grinned a sugar-glazed grin. "Besides, you'll need help finding this van. You sure it wasn't in the Mission?"
"I'm sure. They had it parked over by the yacht club last time I saw them." Jimmy half-shrugged and raised his eyebrows: when? "Two months ago. I told you about it."
Jimmy held the plastic flap on the lid back with his index finger and took a sip of coffee. "Yeah, darlin', you did. Hard to forget something like that." He jiggled the bag between his feet. "I brought you some tools." Sip. "This street's too busy. Turn there. Yeah, that's good." Jimmy took another donut from the bag sitting on the seat between us and said, "I'm glad you called me this time instead of trying this crazy shit on your own."
"There! Pull over in front." White van, Granny Goose, four mudflaps with four shiny silver girls with huge boobs. True crime will out, and Jimmy definitely had the knack. We hopped out to take a look.
As hoped, Dutch was out. Jimmy took a look at the padlock securing the back doors of the van, then walked back to his car to get the tools. I stood there, took a look around. There were no other cars on the street, no shopping carts, no one around. Jimmy walked back, still holding his coffee, and handed me a pair of bolt-cutters. "Cut it there, and there. See? We're in!" I kicked the dead padlock underneath the van, opened the doors, and looked inside. Shit was piled everywhere: clothes, boxes, shoes, garbage. Some things never change. But it was going to make it damn hard to find Debs can and stuff in all the mess. I hopped inside and gamely started searching. Anything bright and sparkly I handed to Jimmy, who dropped in in a Hefty bag. Aha! Tarot cards. Hawkwind mix tapes. Purple leather jacket. In the bag. But no can.
Jimmy peeked his head inside. "Check in the toolbox."
Aha! A can of WD-40. I started fiddling with it, trying to get the bottom off, when I heard Jimmy hiss, "Gimme the can!" I tossed into the Hefty, which Jimmy spun close and threw back into the van.
A car was pulling up behind us. It rolled to a halt about forty feet back, and the engine didn't go off, but the passenger-side door opened and Dutch stepped out. He stood there a moment, one arm on the door, the other on the roof of the car. Jimmy didn't move, but I climbed out of the van and started walking toward the car.
"Hey Dutch! Debs called, said to come get her stuff. You weren't here; hope you don't mind."
He didn't say anything, just shut the car door and started walking up to the van. Dutch's ride drove off, not looking, not getting involved.
"Hey, Dutch. Nice morning." Dutch didn't come close enough for handshakes, so I climbed back in the van, grabbed the trashbag and a handful of journals I found under the mattress. "Well, I've got some clothes for her and her journals for when she gets out of jail. Sorry 'bout the mess."
Dutch looked at the trashbag, looked in the van, looked at Jimmy staring at him hard, then looked at me and said, "What's she in for?" Bastard!
"She didn't say." Something hard welled up in me, and I said, "We might be back if she needs more of her stuff," relishing how the fear welled up in his eyes. "See ya!"
We walked around the van and got back in Jimmy's car. As he turned the key and put it in gear, I saw the gun in the waistband of his pants. "What other tools did you bring along, Jimmy?"
"Just the ones we might need." He turned the corner, pulled over, and turned in his seat to look at me. "Don't ever do that again."
"Walk up to a guy like that again. You don't know what could have happened." As he didn't show any sign of turning back to the steering wheel, I finally said okay, and we drove home in silence. But I knew what would have happened. I wasn't the babe in the woods Jimmy took me for. And I don't know if Jimmy knew, or if his life had made him blind to it, but Dutch, while a thief and a forger and a compulsive liar and a drug user, was no killer. He had the kind of eyes that would show only regret after punching his girlfriend, never satisfaction or lust for mayhem. If Dutch had said anything and Jimmy had actually pulled out that gun, Dutch would've rolled over and peed on himself. He was the kind of guy Debs usually went for. As I well knew.
The can, when we got back to my apartment and opened it up, was empty. Jimmy figured it would be so.