Alchemist Gift continued: Brian turned the corner from the kitchen with a bottle of wine in his hand. “Coming in out of the cold?” he smiled at Lila and Roland.
“Restroom?” asked Lila.
Brian pointed towards the back of the room. “Ladies on the left.”
When Lila was out of earshot Brian continued. “Wow, she’s a classy one. Is she one of Liz’s friends?”
“I rather doubt it. I just met her right now.” Roland was wide eyed and he spoke quickly. “These guys in a big Mercedes were after her. We hid her car in the alley behind the sandwich sign. She drives a Ferrari.”
“Wow, so what’s her deal? Tell me, tell me.” Brian teased.
“I don’t know yet.”
“Are you going to find out?”
“I don’t know yet.” Roland wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.
Brian handed the bottle of wine to the bar tender and turned back to Roland. “I’ve seen her somewhere before, I mean you couldn’t forget that.”
“Yeah, she is pretty hot.”
Brian had a rush of memory. “I know, I know where I seen her, she was on that Sunday morning TV show, the one where they tour the real cool mansions in Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla and Del Mar. Dollars to doughnuts that’s Samuel Thurston’s daughter. I just know it.”
“That name does sound familiar. That would be too cool.” Roland felt a tingle.
“He’s kind of like San Diego royalty; a real wheeler and dealer. Remember a couple of years ago? She was all over the news, she was involved in some kind of sex scandal with that assemblyman…oh, what’s his name…and then last year there was that shop lifting thing at Nordstrom’s.”
Roland nodded. He did remember something about that in the news.
Brian continued. “That TV show interviewed her; I’ll tell you one thing though she lives in a palace, they got stables and everything.”
“You really watch TV on Sunday mornings?” Roland quipped. “Thurston’s daughter, this is too cool. She’s hot and, whoa, a bad girl too.” Roland ended the sentence with a chuckle.
Brian’s demeanor changed. “Hey some friendly advice, you might want to act like Liz was here with you.”
“Well, Liz isn’t here, and anyway, right now this girl needs some help.”
“Careful what you wish for, Roland.”
“Stuff like this doesn’t ever happen to me. I don’t know, maybe I’ll just go with it and see where it takes us.”
“So it’s “us” already, slippery slope dude. What about Liz?” Brian couldn’t hide his disapproval.
Roland found Brian overbearing. “Who are you? My mother? I know what I’m doing, and anyway we’re not married.”
“You’re right, none of my business. But these princess types make snacks out of schmucks like you and me. Just call her a cab.”
Roland appreciated Brian’s concern. “In all seriousness, I doubt anything is going to happen. I was just enjoying the good kind of craziness, which is certainly lacking in the rest of my life at the moment. All I’m going to do is help her out. That’s all.” Roland added as an afterthought. “One other thing, Liz might come by tonight, if she does could you tell her I had to give a friend a ride home.”
Brian shook his head. “Ain’t going there, use your phone and tell her yourself. I’ve known you both since you were kids. I don’t think you know what you got, Roland.”
“Well, I think you don’t know what I got.”
“Look, just call miss money bags a cab and beat it before she gets back.”
Before Roland could respond, Lila emerged from the darkness and gave Roland a flirty shoulder nudge. ”Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” replied Roland.
Brian couldn’t help himself, “I’ll make sure to say hi to Liz if she comes looking for you.”
Roland shot Brian a quick glare. “You do that. Brian.”
Roland walked next to Lila, her perfume was intoxicating. Once outside Lila quickly looked up and down the street. As they walked over to the alley she asked, “So, is Liz your girlfriend?”
“I guess so. We’ve kind of been together forever. But lately I don’t know how I stand. I’m meeting her here at ten for brunch for my weekly relationship report.”
They stood in front of the sandwich board. Roland reached for the corner of the sign. Lila put her hands on her hips. “Not a good idea.” She said sarcastically.
Roland looked back at her. The shadows from the street lamp darkened and distorted her features. “Why not?”
“B’duh, kinda hard not to miss a Ferrari don’t ya think?”
Roland was taken aback with her sarcasm. “I suppose you’re right.
But you can’t leave a car like that in the alley. Brian does put that sign away every night.”
Lila said with unexpected confidence. “Sweetie, I could leave that car, with the keys in it anywhere in this city and I guarantee, no one, and I mean no one is going to touch it.”
“Really, and by the way my name is Roland, what’s yours?”
“You don’t hear that one too often. My name is Lila Thurston. You know, the retail stores, the real estate and The Thurston Group.”
“I’m duly impressed.” Roland started to appreciate Brian’s advice. “Want me to call you a cab?”
“No, no, no. No cab, daddy has his fat little fingers in everything, including cabs.”
“I’ve got a car, it’s no Ferrari.” Roland gave a nervous chuckle.
“I’d be surprised if it was. Well look… Roland… is it? I’ve got to get something out of the Ferrari, so why don’t you pull this sign back so I can get it and you go run and get your car and I’ll wait for you in the alley until you get back.”
Roland had second thoughts and hesitated for a moment.
“Come on, pull the sign back and go get your car. I haven’t got all night.” she insisted.
Roland stopped what he was doing, stood up straight and crossed his arms and looked her in the eyes. He gave her a hard look and subtly shook his head.
Lila saw she irritated Roland. Her proud continence disappeared and she turned her eyes away from his. She lowered her head and took Roland’s hands in hers then looked up into his eyes. ““I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I must sound so awful. I’m just so scared.” Her voice became soft and childlike. “I’ll be waiting here for you.” She implored him with her eyes. “You will come back, Right? Please come back. ”She let go of his hands and gave him a quick hug.
Once free, Roland continued to pull the sign away from the wall. ”Don’t worry I’ll be right back.”
Lila slipped in behind the sign and Roland pushed it into place. He stopped by the table and gathered his books and laptop and hurried away.
No sooner had Roland slipped out of sight than the Mercedes made another slow tour down the street. The car stopped in front of the alley way again. The passenger side window opened and a cigarette butt arched out and exploded on the sidewalk. The Mercedes started to pull away, traveled a few feet and then stopped. The bright white beam from a hand held spot light, aimed by the faceless occupant of the car, tore at the darkness above and below the sign. This went on for a good thirty seconds. The light beam disappeared and the Mercedes pulled away and sped down the street.
No more than a minute later Roland stopped in front of the alley way. He watched the sandwich board sign wiggle and move and Lila, with a brief case in hand ran towards him. She frantically pulled at the door handle. Roland reached over and released the lock. Lila opened the door, tossed the briefcase onto the back seat, jumped in, quickly slammed the door and locked it. Her eyes were red from crying. Her makeup was smeared and streaked. She threw her arms around Roland’s neck.
Lila held on to Roland. She spoke in a hoarse, quivering, whisper. “It was awful; they stopped right in front the alley. I thought for sure they saw me. They kept shining the light.”
“Hey, it’s okay.” Roland patted her shoulder. “You’re safe.”
Lila relaxed her grip a little, closed her eyes and put her forehead on Roland’s shoulder. “Please don’t be mad, but I …I wet myself.” Lila lost her resolve and cried a cluster of little sobs.
Roland returned her hug and stroked her hair. “Don’t worry about it, it’s okay.” Roland felt a pang of sympathy. He let go and Lila sat back in the seat. “Two questions: where to? And why are those guys chasing you?”
Lila regained her composure but spoke in a childlike way. “We’re going to Coronado.” She sighed wiped away her tears with her fingertips. “Those guys work for my step-dad, good old Sammy. He thinks I took something of his. But I didn’t. My mom left them to me. It’s my inheritance I was supposed to get when I turned twenty-five.”
“ The bridge?”
“Better not. I hate bridges. Let’s take the Strand.”
Roland made a U turn and headed west on University Avenue, under the Florida Street bridge and left on to Park Boulevard and then all the way to the horse shoe of the 5 South on ramp and headed to the Silver Strand.
Lila wriggled around in her seat as she spoke. “My mom left me Krugerrands. Right now they’re worth about 450 K. So I took them. They’re in your back seat right now. I just went into his office and took them out of his safe. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. He left it open.”
The news gave Roland a jolt and a much greater of awareness of what he was doing. He checked his rearview mirror. “Well that explains a few things. If the coins are yours already, what’s the big deal?”
“He wants the money. With him, it’s always the money. His lawyers wrote up something that says since the coins were my mom’s and they were married, he gets them.”
The traffic going south was sparse. He looked ahead to his right at the skeletal cranes of the National City ship yards that pressed into the night sky. His peripheral attention was drawn to Lila. She had her dress pulled up to her waist and slipped her wet panties down her tanned naked legs, until she could catch the elastic with her toe and push them past her ankle and heel. Roland didn’t notice that he left the lane and when he heard the car horn, looked up and swerved back into his lane causing them both to jostle towards each other.
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The Alchemist Gift is a book about the lives of people in the Renaissance and the alchemy that brought them together with its repercussions on our modern-day hero, Roland.
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2013 Mark D. Giglio, www.theartofgiglio.com
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