I sat on the edge of the bed. The room was spinning like a top and my eyes were unable to focus. Not like there was much to see. My bed was nothing more than a cot with a thin, back-breaking mattress made of rusty coils and springs. Even bedbugs wouldn’t sleep in it.
I opened the blinds enough to allow a small amount of sunlight in. When my eyes became accustomed to the light, I scanned my small quarters and took a mental inventory of my meager belongings: a toothbrush, comb, pack of Lucky Strikes and an empty bottle of bourbon.
I live in an apartment south of Market. Not the kind of place you’d ever want to bring a dame home to. Not if you wanted to score. It was neither a place you’d admit to living in at all nor a place you’d ever want to be caught dead in. And there were plenty of shootings right outside my window.
I didn’t always live in this dump. I used to own a house in The Mission before the economy crashed in 2008. I lost my job, savings and home. Before that, I served in Iraq. Now I live paycheck to paycheck driving a cab.
The call came at 4pm. The ring was so loud I thought my head was going to explode. Hangovers give me a headache and boy do I got a doozy right now.
The dispatcher told me he needed me to drive to Camino Del Mar to pick up a fare in an affluent neighborhood known as Sea Cliff, tucked between Land’s End and the Presidio on the north shore of San Francisco. Sea Cliff is host to homes with multi-million dollar views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
I quickly showered, got dressed, popped a few aspirin and headed north.
I pulled into a circular driveway. The imposing house was Spanish Mission, set back beyond an ornate iron gate. The lawn was well manicured, sporting stately eucalyptus trees and purple crepe myrtle. Fuschia bougainvillea climbing on both sides of the front door.
There was no need to sound the horn. As I swung the car around the fountain in the center of the cobblestone drive, a woman was standing there waiting.
I’ve seen action and been over enemy lines. I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve seen lives blown apart and taken in an instant. I’ve been to the pits of hell and escaped within an inch of my life. But nothing prepared me for the enemy known as Minerva.
She was platinum blonde, five foot seven, 125 pounds, 36” x 24” x 36”, with curves in all the right places. From the moment I saw her, something told me she was trouble.
I watched her as she navigated the cobblestone in her blood red stiletto heels with looks to kill, like Medusa who turned her admirers into stone. Minerva probably stepped on a lot of men with those heels; crushing them like she was putting out a used cigarette in an ashtray.
Why would a dame who lived in a several million dollar home need to take a cab? I was about to find out.
I got out of the driver’s seat and opened the back door. The way she situated herself when she sat down was like watching poetry in motion. Her red dress draped loosely around her neck, accentuating her voluptuous curves. The scent of her perfume was intoxicating: Jasmine with notes of Damask Rose and Ylang-Ylang.
I closed the door behind her and returned to the driver’s seat. She didn’t notice me steal a glance at her through the rearview mirror. But I’m sure she knew. Women like her expect it. They pretty themselves up just to drive a man crazy. They desire attention. And I was at attention all right. I was sitting at her feet like a starving dog drooling for a bone.
My heart ached. My body quivered. My need was hungry. What I wouldn’t give to bag a dame like that, but her kind rarely noticed a guy like me.
I wasn’t sure what to say when Minerva spoke to me. She had a deep, sultry voice made husky from far too many cigarettes. She fumbled around in her purse, then took a swig from a thin, ornate flask. I wondered what else she kept in that purse. After pulling out a pack of cigarettes out and lighting one with a silver lighter, she exhaled smoke through the left side of her mouth while directing me to drive to the Pacific Union Club, a private men’s club at the summit of Nob Hill. We common folk call it the P.U.
Minerva engaged me in small talk. Was I from San Francisco? Did I make good money driving a cab? Would I be interested in a financial opportunity? Did I know how to use a gun? I told her I had seen action in Iraq and was quite familiar on the use of a firearm.
She was bored, wanted to kill her husband, take his inheritance and enjoy a less stuffy life, the way she used to live before she had to play a rich man’s trophy wife. She needed a way out. Her husband would never give her a divorce. When the insurance policy paid off on his untimely death, I would get a share. It was a win-win situation. We would both get a new life. She handed me a revolver with a built-in silencer. I threw it into the glove compartment.
I know you’re judging me and that you disapprove. It wasn’t like I had many options. I was lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. I needed the dough. Rent was due, my clothes were fraying, and I was starting to see my own ribs. I had no particular affinity for mankind. Society had overlooked me years ago. I hadn’t been with a woman longer than I cared to remember. I had nothing to lose, it had been lost a long time ago.
Minerva called her husband on her cell phone, telling him she was on her way.
My palms became sweaty and my hands slipped on the steering wheel. I had taken human lives on the battlefield but I had never took a civilian life in cold blood. I kept reminding myself this was my ticket out of the gutter. And maybe she would owe me something later. I needed to bag this golden goose.
I pulled up to the P.U., at the entrance on California Street. Her husband appeared about a minute later in a black tailored suit and trench coat. His appearance oozed nouveau-riche. The worst kind of rich. He got into the cab, kissed Minerva on the cheek and asked her for a cigarette. He was in his early fifties, five foot ten, with light brown hair and streaks of gray just above both ears. I suppose it made him look distinguished. His type all look the same to me.
I pulled back into traffic heading down California Street towards the Embarcadero. With the touch of a button on my door console, I closed the glass partition that divided driver from passengers.
“So where are we headed, Love?” the husband asked.
“I thought we could have a nice dinner overlooking the bay. It is our tenth anniversary this week, remember?”
“How could I forget, Dear? The ten happiest years of my life.”
Minerva rolled her eyes as she turned to face the window. A few moments later she spoke again.
“It’s the funniest thing, Darling. I seem to have developed a throbbing headache. Let’s stop at a drug store so I can pick up something for it.”
“Of course, Dear.”
The husband wrapped on the glass partition with his knuckles, and I lowered it.
“My wife’s developed a headache. Pull over up ahead at the drug store on the right. Darling, let me go in for you.”
“Jeff, I’ll be alright. I know what I need and it will only take me a minute.”
Minerva got out of the cab and sauntered into the drug store without looking back. She didn’t have an ounce of morality. Hard to believe that dame could ever love anyone. I sort of felt sorry for the old sap.
I pulled away from the curb and pulled back into traffic. Jeff started banging on the glass partition, raising his voice.
“Where are you going? Stop the cab! Unlock these doors! My wife’s still in the store! What are you, crazy?”
He had that right. I was crazy. Crazy to be mixed up in this darn thing. But it was too late now. There were five G’s in my near future. I continued to ignore his pleas as I floored it down the Embarcadero.
Out of nowhere, the clouds burst open and battered the road with rain. Street lights and headlights reflected in the pools of water on the pavement. My cab skidded as I drove too fast for the conditions.
I pulled up to Pier 34 on the southeast shore of San Francisco. With the assistance of the rain, there would be no one in sight to witness the crime. I couldn’t have asked for a luckier break. I pulled the revolver out of the glove compartment, turned around and shot Jeff through the glass partition. He slumped over onto the seat. I got out of the car, dragged him from out of the back seat, and tossed him into the bay. It would be a long time before someone found his body. The pier had been abandoned years ago.
It had just occurred to me that Minerva hadn’t asked me for my number. How would I get my money? That broad played me so easily. She used her assets to tease and taunt me. And I fell for her act, like a stooge; a gullible child at a sick, twisted magic show.
In the distance, the sound of sirens pierced the air. I got out of there as fast as I could and headed back towards Sea Cliff. What a fool she must have thought I was. I would show her I’m no patsy. I still had the gun and I would use it again if I had to.
There was a black Cadillac in the driveway. A woman about 60 years old answered the doorbell.
“May I help you?”
“I’m sorry, sir. There’s no one here by that name.”
“Blonde, 36. I picked her up here an hour ago.”
“An hour ago I was with my bridge club, and my husband was golfing at Lincoln Park. No one was home at that time.”
“But I picked her up right there at that fountain!”
“Sir, you must be mistaken. We’ve lived here for 30 years. No one named Minerva lives here!”
I had been duped. That dame set the whole thing up. She knew the score. Minerva pretended to live here to establish an alibi and prevent me from being able to find her after the crime had been committed. She carefully followed the schedule and habits of the residents of the house. She knew they wouldn’t be home at that time. She called the cab company and got herself a built-in witness to her whereabouts in the drug store, while planting me at the scene of the crime with no alibi and no witnesses to verify my story. And a log at the dispatcher office.
Boy what a dope I was. I never could resist a blonde. Now, I was a dead fish in the water.
I started sweating. The walls were closing in on me. It was only a matter of time before the cops came for me. I took the gun in my hand.
You have nothing to lose when you’re already dead.