“What we have to do now,” said Tosh, “Is set a trap.”
“That didn't go too well the last time,” I said, pointing out the obvious again. It seemed to be my major role in our partnership.
“I know,” he said. ”But this time we have much more data. Last time, I was too impatient.”
“Well, I can understand that.”
“Nope,” he said, disagreeing. ”We can't fuck this up. A person's life might be on the line. Not to mention whoever else this asshole might be planning to grab.” He shook his head and looked more serious than I had ever seen him. ”I can't make another mistake like that.”
“Okay. So what do we do?”
He frowned, clearly thinking hard. ”It's going to take me a bit to set things up,” he said.
“Tosh, man; from what you’ve said, we don't have a lot of time.”
“I know,” he said. He sighed. ”I'm doing what I can.”
“No worries,” he said. He took a deep breath. ”Anyway, you can't help me with the setup, but I'll definitely need your help at some point. Can you help me out again?”
“Hell yes; I'm still pissed off about the last time.” I looked at him quickly. ”Not at you, man; at me for letting myself get clocked like that.”
He shook his head. ”Don't be. So, thanks. I'll let you know.” He grinned. ”Maybe you'll have time for another date with Sara.”
“That would be nice,” I said. Still grinning, he went to the closet and came out with his coat—an old, green army surplus jacket that he told me he had gotten at the Basic Exchange downtown. (One of these days, I needed to get down there myself.) He grabbed a few items from his worktop and stuffed them in his backpack, then slung it over one shoulder and looked at me.
“Okay, I'm heading out. Will you be here, or up on campus?”
“I don't know; probably here. You think you'll be able to put stuff together that fast?”
“Probably not, but I don’t want to get caught short. Do me a favor: If you do go out, leave a note over on my table there, okay? I might need to find you in a hurry.”
“Do you want me to get out my gun and ammo?”
He was silent for a few moments. Finally he said, “No, I don't think so. Keep your cane with you, though. Just in case.”
“You got it.”
“Talk to you later,” he said, and left.
I thought back over our conversation and his mention of Sara, and decided that there was no time like the present. I went into the closet and pulled a slip of paper out of the pocket of the pants that I had worn to the dance. Sitting down by the phone I took a deep, slow breath, let it out, picked up the receiver, and dialed.
“Hi; is Sara there?”
“Yeah, just a sec.” Then, somewhat muffled: ”Sara, it's for you!” A pause. ”I don't know; some guy.”
I spoke into the next pause. ”Zack.”
“He says it's Zack!” Then back to me, “Just a sec.”
“So you said.”
“Hmph.” There was a clunk as if the phone had been set down. After just a minute, I heard Sara’s voice.
“Sorry; I just got out of the shower.”
“I will work on my telepathic skills so that, in future, I will not interrupt your daily ablutions.”
“Do you always talk like that?”
“Just when I'm nervous,” I said.
“I make you nervous?”
I took a breath; talking to Sara was not unlike the verbal tennis game that the two main protagonists play in Tom Stoppard's “Rozencranz and Gildenstern are Dead”. I was finding that it wasn’t something you could do with half your mind worrying about something else; it demanded your full attention. ”I was wondering if you'd like to go to dinner sometime.”
“You have any time in particular in mind, or are you just asking as a general thing for future reference.”
I took another breath. ”I was thinking Friday, but pretty much any night is fine with me.”
“You sure are popular.”
“Naw; just a student.”
“Heh.” She had an explosive laugh, and in a much deeper register than you might expect out of such a short woman. ”I usually go dancing on Fridays.”
“Yeah, I noticed that.”
“What I mean is, I like to go dancing on Fridays as a general rule.”
“Okay. So: not Friday. Any other night appeal to you?”
There was a pause. Which was good, because it gave me a chance to catch my own mental breath. Was talking to girls this difficult back in high school? Truly, I didn't remember; I basically tried to suppress all memories of high school.
“Actually, Thursday would be good.”
“Awesome. Thursday. How about 7 or so?”
“You don't like to be exact about dates, do you?”
“Fine,” I said. ”I will arrive on your doorstep at exactly 7:03pm, to take you to Omei on Mission St. At which, I will ply you with fine Chinese cuisine, alcoholic beverages, and attempt to sell you on my nefarious schemes.”
“Sounds good; see you then.”
“It would help if you gave me your address.”
“Heh.” That laugh again. “That's true, isn't it?” she said. ”I live at the Center of the Universe. Unit 6. It's upstairs.”
“I don't . . .”
“Lucas knows where it is,” she said. ”It's right near downtown. Across from Comics and Comix.”
“Okay. See you then.” I said. She hung up without saying good-bye. I hate that. I looked at my alarm clock; as it was only getting to be noon, I thought I'd head on up to campus. Lucky for me Marie was heading up that way, too, and was able to give me a lift in Leon, her decrepit VW Bug. (It was a Volkswagen-heavy house; there were three bugs in addition to Tosh’s Rabbit.) I found I studied better up on campus than at the Box; there were just too many possible distractions and ways to procrastinate, so I studied up there as often as I could. Which was sometimes hard when you lived two bus rides away. The price one pays for living in paradise, as Lucas often said.
I shoved my textbooks and notebooks into my backpack—I had learned long ago to bring everything, or I would invariably end up needing the one thing I left behind—left Tosh a note as requested, and joined Marie for the trip in Leon.
YOU ARE READING
A Study with SlugsMystery / Thriller
It is the early 1980s, and women are disappearing from the university campus in Santa Cruz, California, home of the Fighting Banana Slugs. The local police and state investigators are baffled, and so solving these crimes is left to a dope-smoking...