Summary: Fourth story in my summer writing project. Missing scene from The Debt.
by Twilight (Dawn)
He's looking at me again.
I don't like it...makes me nervous.
His mouth is moving and sounds come out and his hands are all over the place, but I have no idea what he wants.
I reach out my hand and he gives me a fluffy piece of corn all the while talking...what is he saying?
A loud buzz hurts my ears and he gets up off his branch and moves away. A bigger one comes in and sits...
Now he's looking at me.
What do they want?
I ask and ask...but I can't understand them.
Okay, another piece of fluffy corn...
At least he's warm and I curl right next to him, resting my head on his arm before he gets up to move away.
Loud cracking on the other side of the room makes me turn and then a big boom and pieces of dirt and debris fly over me, the big one knocks me to the floor.
My heart pounds and my eyes hurt, but the little one picks me up and I hang onto his neck and wavy hair as I pat his back...I think he's scared.
He's making a weird nose..."Shhh."
It's okay...it's okay.
The big one pulls us to the weird opening and then we are out in the night air and I can see the sky and stars.
I hate being in that big cave.
"Oh man." A deep sigh escaped as Blair stood in the middle of his demolished living room. His eyes followed the path of destruction from the hole in the wall that used to be his kitchen to the smoldering wreck of sofa and TV.
The firemen had been pretty careful about containing the fire and his water damage was minimal, but the thick cloying smell of smoke clung to everything. He took a quick sniff of his own shirt, lifting his arm and wiping his face on his frayed flannel sleeve.
His eyes stung and it was hard to breathe, but the firemen had only given him a few minutes to grab what he could and get out of the building. The whole thing was going to have to be torn down.
He wandered around for a few minutes, wondering what to take and what to leave for the morning. Boxes lined the far wall and Blair was at least grateful that a lot of his things were still in boxes.
He dumped a box with kitchen towels and a few old plastic bowls his mother had given him and started to search the living room for something to salvage. Most things were blacked with soot or ruined from the firemen's stray.
Blair managed to get a few pictures and some books he borrowed from the U's library already thinking of what he could sell to repay them...if he had anything left to sell.
A quick trip to the bathroom and then his bedroom and he was relieved to see that most things in the bedroom made it. He tossed some clothes in another box, pulling open his chest of drawers and throwing everything into a laundry basket that still had clean clothes in it.
He found his old luggage under his bed and packed up everything that he could cram into them.
He grabbed another laundry basket, dumping the dirty clothes into a trash bag and using the basket to put a few of his mementoes in. "Man, Buddy...at least you made it." He picked up the doll and smeared ash from its face before stuffing it into the box, it was a bit damp and smelt, but hopefully he'd be able to clean it up when he got to wherever he was going to be staying.
And where was that going to be?
He had only moved into the warehouse six months ago, having split from Lisa and moving out of their apartment.
The break up wasn't so bad. She was going on an expedition with Professor Sheller and he was doing his own thing...it was more like a sibling relationship near the end of it and they both agreed to see other people and stay friends, but he really missed their place in Mariner's Point, near the university and it looked like he was going to be homeless again.
"Can I take anything to your car, Chief?"
Blair turned to see Jim standing in the doorway. "I ah...there's a bunch of boxes in the living room I need to...ah...I guess..."
"I'll make sure to tape off the area. We can move anything big in the morning, maybe rent a storage place until you can get a new place." Jim moved across the room and took the suitcases from him. "I'll see what I can get from the living room."
Blair worked for a few more minutes, making a few trips to the car, relieved to see Larry sitting on his cage, chattering about something. He lost sight of the Barbary ape when the firemen came and Jim hustled them out of the building.
Jim took another case from him, sitting it near his car with the others. "So you mean to tell me in all the time you lived here you never once suspected you lived next door to an ice lab?"
Blair nodded; fatigue seeped into his muscles, his mind preoccupied with his more immediate need. "Oh, man, I swear, that place was deserted. I mean last week I did start to hear some strange noises in the middle of the night, but I could have sworn it was just like the plumbing..."
The little ape reached out to him, tiny fingers tangling in his hair. "Hey Larry." Blair looked at him briefly, "...like you know the rodents or something. I don't know."
Jim asked him about his stuff and that was when he decided to go for it and ask Jim if he would mind a little company for a few days, the idea of sacking out in his tiny office unappealing.
"No, no, no. No. Just forget it. "
His heart sank, but he had to do something and begging wasn't beyond him. "Just one week, man and I promise, I'll be out of your hair."
For a second he wasn't sure, but Jim relented and picked up his suitcase to load into the bed of his truck
Looked like he wasn't going to be homeless after all.
Blair carried the cage into Jim's apartment and sat it on the dining table. The little Barbary ape chirped and chattered and squealed until he opened the cage and took him out. Larry jumped up onto his shoulder and patted Blair's head and hair.
"I know, little guy...but I got some more trips to make before we can watch some more TV." Blair pulled the little animal down and put him back into his cage, catching a whiff of something rank. "Oh...man, I hope I remembered the diapers."
"Diapers?" Jim was just carrying in the last of Blair's things, storing most in his own storage space in the basement of his building.
"Yeah...hey man, I think me and Larry are going to take a little trip to my car. Be right back." Blair opened the cage and took Larry out, careful to hold him away from his body.
He took the steps, finding the box with Larry's supplies still in his trunk. It took a few minutes, but finally Larry was still enough to get a clean diaper on and Blair managed to not get the tape stuck on his thumbs.
By the time he got back up to the apartment, Jim was stowing the last of his things into the small room under the loft and making up the couch with some clean linens and a spare pillow. "I got some more blankets if you need them."
"Thanks, man." Blair put Larry into his cage, shutting the wire door once his tail was clear. "I should be okay, um...do you mind if I use the shower?"
Jim shrugged, taking the steps up to his own bedroom. "Help yourself. I think I got an extra toothbrush in the medicine cabinet and there's some disposable razors...use whatever you need."
"Okay, cool." He went into the tiny room to find some clean clothes. He picked up the nearest suitcase and pulled out some sweats and a t-shirt, but his search for boxers wasn't very fruitful.
The shower was bliss and he took a few extra minutes to just stand under the pounding spray, playing with the showerhead dial, letting the hot water run down sore and tired muscles.
He was going to have to call in a favor to cover his classes the next day and ask Mary Ellen to take notes in his own class, because he had some major work to do. It was going to be hard to find a place in only a week and he needed to sort through his stuff...that would probably take all day and he really needed to get to the laundromat...
Wonder if Jim has a washer and dryer...
Nope, it would be easier to get his loads all done at the same time.
Blair made some mental notes while he brushed his teeth and dried his hair with a towel. When he opened the door, Jim was standing in the hallway and he nearly dropped his bundle of dirty clothes. "Man, don't scare me like that."
"Sorry...just though I'd take down a basket of clothes and toss them into the wash." Jim held out a basket he was holding and Blair dropped in his soiled clothes. "Go get whatever else I can wash for you."
Blair hurried to the other room and picked through the clothes in the trash bag and suitcases. He found some boxers and t-shirts and some jeans and shirts. "Ah...I can take them down..."
"Don't worry about it." Jim took the basket back and headed for the door. "There's beer and soda in the fridge or if you just want to sack out..."
Blair watched him go then turned back to the covered sofa, sinking into the cushions and covering himself with the borrowed blanket.
Maybe tomorrow wasn't going to be so bad after all.
He's sleeping in a big nest.
I can only see the top of his head.
The big one got up and left this new cave, but this one didn't even move.
Soon an arm comes out and then he's looking at me again. I wish I knew what he was saying.
He looks around our new space and then he gets up and moves around. The lights come on again and the sound catches my attention. Little people move around in the small box, but I don't know what they are doing.
What does he want me to do?
He sits by me again and he has the fluffy corn.
Is that all he eats?
He needs more than that to eat.
I'll find him something.
As soon as he opens my door, I jump over him and look for the opening to the big cave.
He is trying to catch me and I snap at him and climb higher on the hard tree.
I have to find the door.
Blair rolled over on the narrow sofa and covered his eyes with his arm. Larry was gone and he had spent the rest of his day cleaning up Jim's place.
A permit...who knew?
His head hurt, a slight pounding drummed behind his left eye.
Light was just creeping in through the bay door Blair left open just in case his little charge came back.
The research lab assistant he had spoken with the night before had thrown a royal fit, she cited that the ape was Blair's responsibility, but the head of the department had assured him that even though he took responsibility he wasn't liable because of the circumstances.
And the best news of all was that he had another two weeks to turn in his project.
Rolling over and up he went to the small room holding his things, digging through the piles to find some clean clothes. Jim had obviously done more than one load, as three of his own baskets and two shiny white ones that definitely weren't his were full of clean clothes.
Boxers...At least he wouldn't have to go commando.
Once dressed he went to the kitchen and looked through the fridge to find the fixings for a good breakfast...it was the least he could do for Jim, after he had fallen asleep while his new friend did his laundry the night before.
He opened a few cabinets before finding the pots and pans. The cooking oil was shoved in the back of the cabinet over the sink, but he managed to find the plates and flatware without too much searching.
He could hear Jim moving around, the bedsprings squeaking and the rustling of sheets and blankets before two feet hit the hardwood floor and moved around.
Beating the eggs with a splash of milk, he poured them into the heating pan, pulling the toaster from the fridge and popped in a few pieces of white bread.
"Come and get it! Eggs are almost done, scrambled firm just the way you like them, right?" Blair nodded to the table as Jim descended the stairs. "Good morning. Have a seat, man."
They joked around a bit and then Jim stood to leave. "What do you got planned for today, Sandburg?"
Blair took the dishes to the sink and began to wash them. "I've got class and I'm giving a lecture at 11:00, but then I'm free."
Jim grabbed up his jacket and keys, holstering his gun. "Okay, how about you stop by the station? We can go to lunch."
"Sure." Blair looked up from drying and stacking the dishes back into the cabinet. "Sounds like a plan."
This jungle is so big.
The air smells funny and all the others move strange. I have to find food and get back to my new cave soon.
I like it there...but not as much as my other cave. The female takes good care of me...always gives me good things to eat, not like the little one and his fluffy corn.
He scurried behind a tree and waited for a big one to move away from the branches holding good food.
The little one will like this...
Once the big one was gone inside its cave, he hopped over to the branch and picked up a few sweet morsels.
The big one saws him and came out of his cave screeching and roaring.
"What the hell? A monkey?" The vendor took off after the little animal, knocking bananas and apples from his cart. "Stop that monkey."
Turning into a strange opening, he climbed up a big tree and now he was on top of the jungle and he could see many things.
I have to find my new cave.
Blair was just turning onto Reynolds when his cell phone rang. "Hello?"
"It's Jim...you got a tie?"
"What?" Blair slowed for the light, checking both ways before making a right and pulling into the garage of the station. "Man, what are you talking about?"
"Just get up here and I'll explain."
"How do you know I'm here?" The dial tone answered.
"Okay..." He cut the engine and locked up his car before heading to the elevators. His friend was waiting for him as he exited.
"I need a favor, Chief." Jim ushered him back into the elevator and pressed the button for the garage. "I need you to see if you can talk Gaines' grandmother into leaving her home...but we're going to have to be a little creative, 'cause she's got some unwanted company camping out on her stoop."
Jim drove them back to the apartment and Blair searched through his things for his blue dress shirt and slacks. He found one black dress shoe, so Jim lent him his too big loafers and a truly ugly flowered tie. "You wear this, man."
Jim just shrugged, "It was a gift from Carolyn. Lets go."
They went past a thrift shop and Jim ran in and came back with a tweed blazer. "Matches the tie, Chief."
Blair fingered the rough material, pulling it on. "Well...how do I look? Can I pass as one of our government's finest?"
Jim made a quick turn and headed toward the Garden. "Pull your hair back, I think you might just pass and wear your glasses."
Blair dug through his backpack, looking for a rubber band. "So you want me to talk her into coming with me and you're going to pull up to the back entrance?"
"That's the plan, Chief." Jim slowed and pulled over. The old building across the street had a few kids hanging around, but others joined as Jim and Blair watched. "You got the briefcase?"
"Yeah," he bent to the floorboard and picked up the borrowed case.
"Just be careful with that. Simon was...lets say reluctant to let me use it."
Blair opened the door and slid out. "No problem, man. I think I can handle it." He jogged across the street and charmed his way past the gang out front.
The halls were dismal and crowded with bikes and garbage. He found the door and knocked, calling out to the old lady inside. "Miss Lacroix? I need to talk to you about your grandson. Earl Gaines?"
The door cracked open and an elderly black lady with snow-white hair stood in the entry. "You the police?"
After he assured her he was just a friend, she let him in but refused to leave and he just couldn't let her there alone. "Yeah, hi. It's me. We got a little problem...she won't leave."
Jim wasn't happy, but he was staying and his plan was going to work just fine.
Miss Lacroix phoned some of her neighbors and they were standing by and watching for any of the gang members to approach her door.
This had to be the right one.
It smelt right and he got in easy through the opening in the cave.
He munched on something sweet and the juice sluiced down his fingers, the rest he put on the nest for the little one and he found the box the little one always showed him.
He pulled on something on the front and the light and sounds started. He got up on the nest and watched the little people in the small box.
Why does he want me to look at this?
He snuggled back, licking his fingers...The little one will be back soon.
Blair sat in the old hardback chair in the kitchen, listening to the elderly lady talk about her husband.
She had insisted on giving him lunch and shooed him away every time he tried to help. She made a potpie in a cast iron skillet, browning some dark meat and mixing it with some flour and a dribble of beer from an open bottle in her refrigerator. Her twisted and frail fingers popped peas from the pod and she added a can of cream corn.
She moved around her kitchen with a learned familiarity and Blair almost forgot that she could hardly see through the glaucoma covering her eyes. "And here comes the secret, if you've been paying attention."
"Pillsbury?" Blair laughed as she popped the can on her counter and layered the instant biscuits on top of her mixture, and then she sunk into the chair across from him.
"He used to sing...I ain't got no complaint about that velvet voice." A wistful smile graced her aging face, "let me get his album."
Blair stood as she moved into the other room and soon the sweet sounds of soulful singing filled the tiny apartment.
When she came back into the kitchen, she got two edged glasses from the cabinet near the sink and poured some iced tea for them.
They talked about her youth and her arranged marriage to Cecil Lacroix.
"So you didn't love him?" Blair shook his head as soon as the question came out.
"Course I did...he just wasn't my first choice is all." She moved to the stove and lifted the heavy skillet to the trivet on the table. "My Daddy thought it best that Cecil and me be married. His father was in business for himself and Cecil would inherit the company some day. I could have said no, but Cecil was persistent." She scooped out a serving of steaming creamy chicken and tender vegetables.
Blair took a little bite after she bowed her head briefly. It was hot, but very tasty. "This is great, Miss Lacroix. Thank you."
"Ain't no problem at all. I had to eat somethin' anyway."
Blair helped with the dishes, drying with a towel she handed him and once the clean up was done, they moved to the living room and she handed him the cover to the LP playing.
"Turns out Cecil loved the blues more than his father's business. We didn't want for nothing, though." She looked around her living space. "Roosevelt Gardens was the place to live in this days. It's a shame its like it is now. She's lost all her shine."
"Maybe we can ask those friends of yours to help clean up the place." Blair suggested, looking at the pictures on the back of the LP cover. "I could spend some time..."
"Now, no need for that." She laughed. "A handsome young man like you surely has better things to do."
A knock at the door startled her and Blair jumped up to get it. He moved back as the two young men moved in and told her she had to go with them. The look on their faces was priceless as she called them by name and they both took off when the neighbors came in.
"Congratulations, everybody. You all did it." Blair clapped, glancing out the window to see the crowd in front moving down the street.
"Watch out, honey. I'm in a feisty mood." She pumped her fist in the air, thanking her neighbors.
Blair stepped into the kitchen to call Jim. "Hey, man. What have you been up to?"
"Oh...I've just been hanging. We're on our way over, I've got Earl with me."
Blair nodded, shifting the phone to his other ear. "We're okay here. I don't think they'll be bothering her again."
"Good...We're just pulling up. I'll see you in a few."
Blair hung up and waited as the last of Miss. Lacroix friends and neighbors said their goodbyes.
"Earl is outside, Miss Lacroix." He held her elbow as she moved slowly to the door and down the hall, her face lighting up as soon as she heard her grandson's voice.
"What've you been up to? Boy, you're all skin and bones." She reached up as best as she could to hug him and Blair stepped away toward Jim.
"Good work, Sandburg." Jim patted his back even as he gave credit where it was due.
"Oh, no, it wasn't me, Jim. Jim, I want you to meet Ms. Lila Lacroix." Blair stepped back as his friend talked briefly with the elderly lady, eyeing the sleek black car with gold rims pulling up.
Earl stepped away and when he came back indicated that everything was fine. Miss Lacroix invited them all to dinner and an impromptu party when Jim's cell phone rang.
"Of course, we'd love to. We'd love to." Blair joked with Earl about his grandma's skillet turning toward his friend when he rejoined the group standing on the sidewalk.
"I hate to bust up the party. We'll be back in a little while but some business has come up." Jim turned toward the truck. "Let's get out of here. Let's go." They climbed into the truck and Jim started it up. "They found Larry."
Blair opened his mouth, but snapped it back shut at Jim's look.
"That mini kong of yours busted back into my apartment, and he trashed it again. Now Animal Control's got the place surrounded, so I'm going to give you half an hour to bag him. If he doesn't come out with his hands up, well then, I call in the SWAT sniper."
Blair smirked, but knew he should apologize to Jim.
What a week.
Then a funny thought occurred to him. "They say what he's doing?"
"He was watching TV."
"You're kidding me." Blair laughed and then sobered. "What program?"
Jim ignored him, driving fast through the crowded streets.
"I'm really sorry, man. I'll clean up the loft...I'll take Larry back as soon as I get him into the cage."
"Don't worry about it, Sandburg."
They turned onto Jim's street and Blair was a bit surprised to see the Animal Control van and a few cop cars parked out front.
Jim talked with the uniformed man near the van and then came back to him. "He says a vendor caught sight of him at the market across the street and a neighbor spotted him coming in the bay window."
"Oh, yeah...forgot I left it open." Blair shrugged, moving toward the door to the building. "I'll be out in a few."
He rode the elevator, an Animal Control officer tailing him. The loft door was locked, so he dug in his pocket for the key Jim had given him the day before and slowly turned the knob.
Larry was sacked out on the sofa, cocooned in the blanket Blair had left on the couch. The TV was on full blast and Blair cringed when Cindy Brady danced across the screen.
He scooped up the sleepy Barbary ape, smiling when Larry reached up to tangle his tiny fingers in his hair. "What have you been up to, buddy?" The other little hand pressed something toward Blair's mouth. "What have you...mmm." The persistent fingers popped in a tiny piece of something. "Grapes...thanks little guy."
He put the ape into the cage and secured the doors, glad that the apartment was still pretty much intact. Only a few things were knocked over and some of Blair's clothes were strewed across the hardwood floors.
"Okay, Pal...let's get you back to the U."
The Animal Control officer followed him down and it took some quick explaining to assure him that Larry was a licensed ape in the research department at Rainier.
"I'll be back to clean up as soon as I get Larry back to where he belongs."
"Wait up." Jim followed him to his car. "You said you already had a lot of information for your project, right?"
"Yeah, man. I only needed the video documentation...why?" He sat the cage on the hood of his car, scratching the ape on the head.
Jim looked almost stricken and then he shook his head. "What's one more night?"
Blair was totally stunned, stuttering out his words. "Yo...you mean it."
"Don't make me regret it, Sandburg."
Jim picked up the cage and Blair followed slowly behind. "Umm...I don't have a video camera."
Jim boarded the elevator, sitting the cage near his foot. "I think I can work something out. You can get your footage tomorrow and get the gorilla back by afternoon."
"He's an ape, Jim."
"Whatever." The doors parted and Jim walked in, putting the cage on the coffee table, closing the bay doors and checking all the other windows.
Blair picked up a few things that were knocked over and gathered up his clothes. He found a few squashed grapes and a whole banana between the cushions of the sofa. "Can you call Earl, let Miss. Lacroix know I can't make it for supper."
Jim went up to his room and came back with his sweats and t-shirt. "I'll take care of it. How about sandwiches for dinner?" He disappeared into the bathroom as Blair went to the kitchen to gather what he would need, spotting the toaster sitting on the counter with a yellow sticky note.
Don't forget to put the toaster back into the refrigerator.
"Why is it in there anyway?"
"Ants." His friend's voice drifted through the closed door of the bathroom.
"Ants?" Blair scooped up the appliance and put it back on the shelf he found it on that morning.
He shook his head, pulling some lunchmeat and tomatoes from the bottom bins. "Ants..."
He curled up next to the big one, watching the little box with the little people running back and forth.
"Hey Chief...I scored some tickets to this weekends Jags' game. You want to come?"
He turned to look at the little one, who seemed excited, so Larry sat up and scurried to the little one's lap and pressed his head against his chest.
"Really...hey Larry. That would be like...that's the best, thanks man."
The little one patted his head and he settled down, fingering the funny shaped things on the front of the little one.
He stayed there the rest of the night until he was put in his cage. When the bright light came in the little one took him to the thing that moves fast, but he liked it. The air raced through his fur and he sat up and screeched and chattered until the thing stopped.
He knew this place.
It smelt right...it smelt like home.
"Hey Blair...I'm sooo glad you found him."
The female opened his cage and he jumped up to her shoulder and buried his face in her fur, she smelt like flowers and rain.
"I'm sorry I snapped at you the other day, but Larry is my favorite."
She's scratching my back and pulling on my tail and I hold on tighter.
"It's okay, Christine. I can think of a way you can make it up to me."
The little one moves close to my female.
I wish I knew what he was saying.
"Yeah...I'm going to the Jags' game on Saturday, but I'm free on Sunday night...I'll have the place all to myself."
They both make a weird noise and I move down to her arms.
I like the little one, but she's mine.
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