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; the gutters filled with piss and vomit; the creatures who tried to draw them into the shadows.
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 would 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 Street. 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 greeted him in delight, “Daniel!”
“What are you girls still doing here? I thought you were leaving.”
“Marcia said we could stay another night because Fiona’s really sick and we hardly got any sleep last night because of that friend of hers.” Venus said, licking chocolate from her fingers.”
“Did the lawyer come back?”
“Oh no. This guy was really creepy. Creepier that the lawyer. He woke us up about five in the morning.”
“Freaked us out but he just laughed.”
“It was more like a howl.”
“It woke Marcia up and she said something strange like … ‘after a year the two of you suddenly reappear’ … and then he asked about you Daniel.”
“Me? I don’t know any of Marcia’s friends. What was this guy’s name?”
“I don’t remember but he had an English accent. Sounded a little phony but … ”
“You think any guy with an English accent is cute!” Young Eleanor interrupted, “but he was creepy.”
“I did not think he was cute! His eyes looked so cold.”
Now Daniel knew why winter had come early. Why frantic birds had begun flying into the windows at the station, why the rain was not refreshing, and why the winos warned of crueler ghost ships roaming the deserted streets in search of fresh recruits.
“You look really strange, Daniel. Is Fiona in danger?”
“Where’s he now?”
“Well, Marcia said he could crash in her room while she was at work. And then Fiona said she was hungry and so … you don’t think he’ll …”
“If it’s who I think, he’s an night creature. Harmless during the day. Of course, to Marcia he’s just another poor, damaged soul in need of kindness and I’m still brainwashed by my mother to see demons on every corner. She has the luxury of not believing in demons.” Now he’d gone and really spooked them. “I’ll try to come by tonight.”
That wiped most of the fear off their faces and they began to babble about the wonders of chocolate halvah and how they couldn’t even buy it in Nevada.