To recap the story thus far: Three young girls are rescued from a night on the mean streets of the lower east side of NYC by a troubled ex-Jesuit named Daniel. He escorts them to a flat belonging to his childhood friend, Marcia, where he assumes they will spend the night before fleeing the city. To read from the beginning click here.
By the time Daniel arrived at the gas station the next morning the car with the Nevada plates was gone, retrieved, the boss explained, by three “pea-brained hippies.”
“Praise the Lord,” he sighed. Marcia must have convinced them to flee the city of broken glass and backed up sewers where the only people who seemed to make any sense, whirled and chanted until they fell into a stupor. He imagined them telling their adventures to mortified parents; gutters filled with piss and vomit, buildings where the unspeakable things happened on an hourly basis. It was a vile place, New York City. The girls would never return. He was sure.
His good deed sustained him through a busy morning fixing tires for teamsters (their only customers) and helping the boss keep his ledgers balanced. If he hadn’t taken a lunch break, it would have sustained him for the whole day and beyond. It could have been a deed mentally rehashed for months as he assumed only the best of outcomes had resulted. He’d help save three girls from New York City, sent them back to the safety of their suburban lives. But corned beef called, corned beef stacked on rye bread with sauerkraut and a drizzle of the kind of cheesy mayonnaise found only at certain delis. An indulgence he couldn’t afford every day but would be his reward. Corned beef on rye.
He savored the thought for several blocks, noting the cool October breezes as his stomach growled. Winter had come early and it would be a long one. Long and cold. He pictured the inside of the deli, with white-coated salami and barrels of pickles, the musty smell of an old building as he turned onto Hudson. Maybe he’d just eat half the sandwich and give the rest to a street person, he thought, some poor soul seated on the curb or hunched in one of the alleyways. That would add to the goodness of the day.
Alas like all moments too good to be true, this one wouldn’t last. Exiting the deli were two of the girls he thought he’d saved, Venus and young Eleanor (he couldn’t recall their real names). Big, guileless grins on their faces as they squealed in delight, “Daniel!”
“What are you girls still doing here? I thought you were leaving.”
“Oh Fiona is really sick. She barfed all night long and now she’s sleeping,” Eleanor Roosevelt declared, licking chocolate from her fingers.
“Fiona – she’s the Catholic’s Daughter?”
“Yeah. Marcia said we could stay another night, mostly cause she feels bad that we didn’t get much sleep cause of that guy. But tomorrow we’re definitely going up to Massachusetts. We have to figure out what’s wrong with her. Hey, why don’t you come over tonight since it will positively and absolutely be our last night?”
“What’s in Massachusetts?”
“Oh, my uncle. He’s a doctor. Fiona’s been sick to her stomach for too long that we think something’s wrong with her. Seriously Daniel, why don’t you come for dinner? Look, we’ve got some halvah and some donut holes.”
“Yeah, halvah’s a Jewish food so it’s got to be good for you, right? Say, Daniel, how far are we from Greenwich Village. Claire and I thought we’d at least check it out.”
“Oh, it’s about a twenty minute walk I’d say.”
“Darn it. That’s too long. Fiona’s alone with that weird guy. She’d kill us if we were gone that long.”
“What guy? Did the lawyer come back?”
“No, no. It was another guy.”
“Yeah, he said he knew you. He asked about you.” Claire added. “Said that he’d lived with you and Marcia. Bronte thought he was cute but then she thinks every guy with an English accent is cute! But he was creepy.”
“I do not think he was cute!”
“What was his name?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I think it started with an ‘M.’ Yeah, Martin.”
Now he knew why winter had come early. He knew why frantic birds had begun flying into the windows at the station, why the rain was not refreshing, why the stillness of deserted streets crawled into his blood stream as even the most hoary of winos whispered more and more of the ghost ships. Martin had returned.
“You look really strange, Daniel. my God. Is Fiona in danger?”
“If it’s who I think, he’s a night creature. Harmless during the day.”
“If it makes you feel any better, Marcia completely disagrees with me about Martin. She thinks he’s just another poor, damaged soul and I’m still brainwashed by my mother to see demons on every corner.”
“So you’ll come tonight?”
“I don’t know. By the way, not all Jewish food is good for you. Just because chicken soup is good for you it doesn’t mean blintzes will cure what ails you.”