Greenleaf was a narrow wet street incased in deep fog. The developer had already graded most of the lots. Some hundreds of feet down the street there was a house on the south side of the street. The home’s lone porch light was barely visible in the fog. I heard a coyote howl. The South end lots were gradually sloped uphill. At the end of the lots, the grade became unbearably steep before there was a mangy collection of canyons and then steep hills before terrain that looked as though it raised another forty to sixty feet.
I trotted up the newly paved street in Dr. Orenel’s mud boots. Dr. Orenel told me to walk 650 to 800 feet before heading up the canyon in back of the Greenleaf lots. After passing the only residence on Greenleaf, a cute looking single story Cape Cod knock off mostly hidden in fog, I may well have been in the middle of the wilderness. There was nothing other than the dark paved street. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to know I’d walked 650 to 800 feet.
I mainly used the big daddy lizard for illumination, but I had one of Orenel’s lanterns just in case. I saw a path from one of the newly graded little lots that led up the coyote canyon. I followed deer tracks up a partially graded Greenleaf lot that rised a good forty feet above street level by the end of the lot. With the exception of a foot and a half deep pool of mud I stepped in, it wasn’t a bad climb compared to what was ahead.
As I started climbing beyond the Greenleaf lot, an unidentifiable animal scurried by my feet. I made out a cone shaped beak and duck-like feet; one ugly creature! Pitch dark I climbed through a heavily wooded area. The deeper into the canyon I got, the howl of the coyotes intensified. I stopped for a moment to survey the situation the best I could. Between the brush, unidentified animals, and a nearby pack of coyotes nature made by journey a challenge. I realized I was a standing duck to whatever existed sixty to ninety feet below varying precipices I could stand on. I could also see a huge, cleared area that might have been the ninth hole of an early golf course.
I had to either nonchalantly get up to the top, or take serious cover. There was a car length pile of wood I could have hid in, but maybe not. It was too low, and a feared what might live in the pile. Besides, Ed might not be able to hear me if I hid in the pile. I spotted a large walnut tree near the top, but doubtfully could I get to the top unnoticed. Optionless, I was a sucker at the bottom of a canyon so I went dark. I took the lizard off my jacket and put him in my coat pocket. The half moon did not exactly light things up.
It started to rain again. My clothes were covered in mud and those prickly things were in my pants just like they’d been the day I was ditched in the Los Angeles River. It was past nine and I knew I had to get up that canyon. It was then that I heard Ed call out my name. I didn’t answer.
The top of the canyon must have still been a good sixty feet above me. I could not imagine how Ed got up there. I saw Ed and then I heard a large boulder come down the canyon with force. I sensed it had been directed at me. My pick wasn’t going to do any good. I listened when he called my name a second time. It seemed like he was alone, but I doubted that. He was too old to get up the canyon himself.
“Show yourself Shiner,” Ed yelled down.
The chaparral exceeded seven feet in height. I had to make it over to the pile of wood. I ducked and moved around. The rain made enough noise to mask my movements. For a fleeting second I posited maybe Ed didn’t know where I was. That thought came to an end when he shouted, “I know you’re down there somewhere!” I could tell he was getting frustrated. Next, he shouted “Do we have a deal or not?”
I’d made it into the wood pile. I was afraid of what might be living in the wood. It was an ideal place for snakes.
“Hopefully they’re hibernating,” I thought to myself
I buried myself in the wood pile and yelled, “You come down here sucker! If you can make it.”
“Not a good idea!” Ed yelled back. “Why don’t you see what I’ve got here before it’s too late!”
There was no chance I had to leave the wood pile.
“Oh yeah sure we’ve got a deal. I need the dough. Besides, I can’t afford a workingman’s compensation claim from O’Grady for false arrest,” I yelled from the wood pile.
“You don’t sound too serious” Ed echoed. I could tell his voice was hoarse.
“No! I am on the level. I just don’t want to get killed down here!”
I heard Ed yell, “Tell him it’s safe,” and then I heard Katy’s voice! She wasn’t saying it was safe though. It sounded more like frantic hollers, crying, and struggles.
I leaped from the wood pile like I’d been stung by a bee. A lantern light at the top of the canyon illuminated a roped Katy. He was playing ball with her bouncing her bound body back and forth.
I leapt up the muddy canyon like a jack rabbit. I used the pick for balance and didn’t let myself slip on the mud. When I got close to the top, I heard gun fire. It wasn’t coming from Ed. It came from below.
“Don’t come any further!” Ed yelled. “You get me the deed and you get your girl back. Plain and simple. In fact, you’ll forget about this whole thing when you get two fifty.”
“Whose up there with the gun?” I yelled.
The question was answered a few seconds later when I saw a familiar set of pointy shoes. I knew he was a lousy shot, but wasn’t sure I wanted to chance it.
Shots started coming from the bottom of the canyon.
“Stop I yelled. Shiner says stop.”
The shots stopped for a moment.
“If you want the deed there better not be one misplaced red hair,” I began. “You won’t get the deed until I have that confirmation.”
“Shiner,” Ed yelled hoarsely. “I don’t trust you. You’ve got a sharp shooter down there.”
“Nope,” I lied. “I am a gangster just like you. You think I’d come out here without any protection? You might have the Mexican mafia backing you, but you better figure I have some muscle too. Not a lost red hair I said!”
I carefully began my descent. I couldn’t see Katy anymore. I wanted to tell her not to worry, but she’d been moved.
I stood for cover under a walnut tree, and yelled back up at Ed.
“If she’s returned, well taken care of — maybe you’ll be able to bargain me down on the two fifty. You know I am no dumb ass. Lots of people know about this meeting just in case something happens. One more shot for show,” I yelled down the hill.
A shot from down below grazed Ed’s hat.
I was clueless who from the bottom of the canyon. I wasn’t sure if I was safer going up the hill, or down the hill. I took cover where I could find it until ten thirty. At eleven, Greenleaf was surrounded by cops. They were calling up the canyon so I figured Ed had left. I made my descent undetected. I didn’t know if they were good cops, fake cops, or cops ready to arrest me.
I made it through the lower Greenleaf canyon, coming out on Coldwater. In no time I made my way down to Ventura Highway where Trout Lake was on the corner of Coldwater and Ventura. I found a shed that was unlocked. I buried myself beneath a pile of hay and tried to fall asleep.