Rhea walked out of Gallows office at nine-thirty-five that same morning. Her car was parked half a block up, in the department lot. The air was thick with the edgy undertone it gets just before a Santa Ana wind has been freed. It tickled the back of her neck and got under her skin as she clenched her fists and walked fast – the sudden anger in her nearly exploding with the rules in her head:. “Fix myself. Forgive myself. Date old guys. What the fuck?! Don’t drink too much. Don’t eat sugar. Pay your rent. Stop the bad guys. Forgive yourself. Fuck! Find your sister. Find your sister. Find your sister…”
This was her choice: continue to see Gallows and “fix herself” and go back to the LAPD or… try and up her word count at the Hollywood Pulse and make enough to pay her rent and hopefully, eventually make enough more to go down to Ensenada and pursue the Domingos case – which could be connected to her sister- on her own. That wasn’t a bad idea. Working outside the system had it’s disadvantages. But it had it’s advantages too. She wouldn’t have to lose her driving force – her edge – by “forgiving herself” (what bullshit!) She wouldn’t have to follow department rules, either – and she could start sooner. Except for the money thing. Maybe she could start here in LA and wait to go to Ensenada. She needed to think.
The crawling rush hour traffic slammed to a stop just past Micheletornia. There was road work for a block and a half. She figured it would take about forty minutes to go the four or so miles to her apartment so she turned right on Echo Park Blvd and drove a few blocks up into the hilly little hood studded with little stucco bungalows to Valerie Bakery. A chocolate chess tart and a cup of coffee would surely help her think.
She was second in line at the funky neighborhood cafe, behind a tall lanky man with salty brown hair. She looked past him at the bakery case. There was one chess tart left. Then she saw his brown skinned finger point to it. Bummer.
She approached the counter, glancing at both the pasty case and the chalk menu – her choice now was between a six buck piece of pie, a six dollar croissant, a five dollar side of toast or a three buck cookie called the “Durango”. She went with the cookie and a three dollar cup of coffee. At six dollars, she was over her limit but, fuck-it.
She sat at a little outside table, wondering how many words she could conjure up to describe the medium sized chocolate chunk and pecan cookie, dusted with Hickory salt. Enough to survive? She contemplated going back to Gallows and wondered how long it would take her to successfully fake self-forgiveness.
As she pondered her options, the man with the tart walked up Echo Park boulevard. She watched his backside as he strolled deeper into the hood. He had a Day-Lewis vibe, she thought, with a little more hunk but, at about forty, he was at least twenty years too old to turn her on.
She turned her attention to a twenty-year-old riding his bike down the street. He stopped at a stop sign. He was a little skinny but fit. He looked at her. She smiled. He smiled back and rode away. In her mind he’d have to do. Words came. She wrote a few of them down:
“He brushed past me with a smile in his eyes and a random way of walking that could easily hypnotize any two-bit writer from Paradise to Blythe and baby… that was me. I followed his invitation up a windy little street to his bungalow … and gave him a bite or two of my cookie named Durango.”