Chapters 29, 30, and 31 of “A King’s Trust,” a novel I am publishing online
A King finds where good is.
Lenny pulled out on the road and headed his car North. Off in the distance he could see the lights of a town. He knew it wasn’t directly ahead. The coast road curved around a peninsula. He would have to travel inland then back out again before he got to the town. Though right now it seemed close, it was still a way off. He wondered about his gas. He drove on.
He didn’t have a plan. He idly thought about what would happen when he got out of the car. If he asked anyone for help. He doubted anyone would help him looking like he did. They would more likely call the police. And then what would he tell the officers?
He was half naked. He had no identification. He had to look crazy. Like some out of his mind lunatic. They would take him into custody; they would hold him a while that was for sure. Hell, they might even put him in a mental institution. If he told them to call Nadine or Regan, they just might tell the police he needs to be put away. If they ever get me in there, he thought, I’m not going to get out. Nadine will see to that. It’s all over for me if that happens.
At least it wasn’t a cold night. If it was, wet and almost naked, he might freeze to death. He flipped on the heater and put the fan up to high. He resisted accelerating. Unusual for him. He always drove fast. But he needed to preserve every drop of gas.
As he approached the town, he saw the sign. Cayucos. He knew the name from somewhere. Who lived in Cayucos? And then he remembered. The gardener. That little man, Florencio was his name, had said something about Cayucos. Was it where his kids lived? Where he lived?
Lenny saw a gas station and mini market. It was open. Lights were on. No other cars were there. He pulled up to one of the pumps, stopped, and looked inside. A lone clerk was behind the counter. He appeared to be a teenager. He was looking down reading something.
Lenny sat. He let the car idle. What was going to happen? Something bad, he knew.
Well, he would have to chance it. He turned off the engine and got out of the car. The blacktop felt sticky, oily, on his bare feet. He thought of how he must look. He was ashamed. He certainly was not a physical specimen. Withered. He thought of his age and glanced down at his body. Chest caved in slightly. The paunch. His pants were loose, and he had to hold them up with one hand as he limped toward the lights.
A bell rang as he pushed open the door. The young clerk looked up and, seeing Lenny, his eyes got wide. He eased himself off the stool he had been seated on and seemed to be in a quandary about what to do upon his encounter with this specter.
Lenny held up one hand, “Please don’t be alarmed. I was, ‘ah, involved in an incident and, ‘ah, I’ve been taken, well, my clothes were taken and my wallet and everything. I’m kind of in a bind and I need to get some help. I need to use a telephone. You see, my cell phone was lost and I really do need some help here. Would you mind?”
Lenny fully expected that the young man would pull a gun, or a bat, maybe run for the back, anything but actually offer assistance. Such was his faith in the charity of his fellow man.
There was curious look on the clerk’s face and then it seemed to soften.
“Yeah, looks like you hit some rough waves, Mister. Sure. Here’s a phone.”
And he reached under a counter and pushed a phone over in front of Lenny.
While Lenny watched, the boy walked from behind the counter, over to a shelf and picked up a plastic package. He ripped it open. “Here,” he said. And he handed Lenny a sweatshirt.
Lenny had trouble trying to put it on while holding his pants up with the other hand.
“Just a second,” and the young man walked back behind the counter. He rummaged underneath for a moment and came up with a length of rope. He handed it to Lenny who quickly put it through the belt loops and the tied it in front. He put on the sweatshirt and zipped it up the front. And despite how he looked, he didn’t feel naked anymore and was comparatively comfortable.
“Please do you have a phone book?”
“Phone book? I don’t think so. You don’t have a number of someone to call?”
Lenny thought fast. He didn’t want to appear any more suspicious than he already did.
“Well, I’m not local. And I know someone who may live nearby so I wanted to try them first, but I just don’t remember the number.”
“Sure, okay. Here. Just a second. Let me look.” After rummaging around he produced one from underneath the counter.
Lenny flipped it open and stated to scan the pages under Estrada. There were three. One had a middle initial, the same as his gardener. For some reason, he thought that must be the one and called.
It was answered by a woman. From the sound of the voice it was a young woman.
“Yes, I’m sorry to be calling at this hour, but my name is Lenny King. May I ask if Florencio is home?”
“Did you say, Lenny King?”
“My father works for Mister Lenny King. But my father is not here right now. Can I help you with something? Uh, Mr. King?”
Lenny was crestfallen to hear Florencio was not there. He was reluctant to ask the young woman for help. But what choice did he have?
“Yes. Well, I’m in a bit of trouble. I’ve been involved in an accident of sorts and I am here without any money and I’ve lost my wallet and there is nowhere else to turn and . . .” Lenny’s voice actually trembled. And he trailed off. He didn’t know what else to say.
There was silence on the other end.
Finally, “Mr. King, where are you?”
Lenny turned to the clerk who had been listening to Lenny’s side of the conversation.
“Is there an address I can give my friend here on the phone.”
The clerk pointed to a small sign pasted to the back of the cash register. It had the address on it, under the words “Kenny’s Git and Go” Lenny read the entire sign over the phone.
“Mr. King. I’m going to send my brother to get you. I will call my father and tell him. My brother drives a GMC pick-up. It is silver. He should be there in a few minutes. Hold on. Just a minute.”
Lenny could hear her speaking Spanish in the background. An exchange. Then a man’s voice said something firmly and then the young woman’s voice got louder and harsh and finally after a few seconds, a ‘Si. Si” from the man. A finally in English the man said, “I’m going, I’m going.”
The woman’s voice came back on the phone. Gentle again. Soft. “He will be there in a few minutes, Senor.”
And she hung up. When Lenny turned back to the clerk to hand him the phone, there was cup of hot coffee sitting on the counter.
Lenny didn’t think he had ever met such kind people. Were there more like these out there? He didn’t know. Probably. Maybe he just never noticed.
Twenty minutes later, Lenny was seated in front of the counter in a plastic chair. The Clerk had come up with the chair from someplace behind the counter and had pulled it around for him. He was looking down at his bare feet when his attention was drawn to the reflection of lights in the window. He stood and looked outside. He couldn’t see clearly through the dirty window, but he did see that a large pickup truck had pulled up to the front of the mini mart. Huge tractor like tires and a visible chrome suspension emerging from the undercarriage. It looked like it would take a ladder to climb up to the cab.
A large Spanish man walked through the door and right behind him was Lenny’s gardener.
“Mister King,” Florencio said, “What happened to you?” He was looking at Lenny’s still wet pants and the sweatshirt and the bare feet.
“It’s a long story.”
“It must be. Come on. Let’s get you back to the house. You can’t go around like that. Is that your car by the pump? My son will drive it. Do you have the keys?”
“Yes, but there is no gas . . . and I’m afraid my wallet . . . .”
“Never mind about that.” Florencio turned to the clerk. “Mikey, put it on my account.” Lenny muttered to himself: “Mikey?” Despite his kindness, Lenny hadn’t even asked for the clerk’s name. Mikey nodded at Florencio and turned to a cash register and started hitting buttons.
“Fernando, you fill the car with petrol. Follow us.” And to Lenny he said, “Give him the keys, Mister King.”
Lenny handed the keys over to Fernando and then followed Florencio out to the pickup. It was indeed large. The gigantic wheels stuck out past the edge of the vehicle. Florencio placed his foot on the side step and swung up behind the wheel and started the big truck. Lenny climbed up the other side, not without difficulty given his bare feet, and managed to get in the cab. He reached over toward the dashboard, but then hesitated. He wanted to turn on the heat, but he couldn’t figure out the controls. Florencio reached over, turned a knob and pushed a button and the heat immediately started flowing into the cab of the truck.
Lenny felt like he had to explain,
“There are some things going on that are hard to say.”
Florencio held up his hand. “Yes, I know. Some of it I know, anyway. I’ve seen this coming on for a long time, Senor King. And then when they gave me my walking papers, I figured something bad had happened. To You. Then when the “For Sale” sign went up I knew. Knew I was out, and it made me think you were out too. Somehow. You wouldn’t have sold the house. I asked around. It wasn’t hard to find out. People are talking. You got thrown out of your business, then your house, Senor King. By your own kids. Not good.”
“No. Not good.”
They sped out onto Highway One. He thought going south.
They both got quiet. The warmth flowing into cab was making Lenny sleepy.
After a while, Florencio said, “Well, let’s get you home and put you right. Then you can deal with it all later. Or try, I guess.”
“I don’t know.” Lenny said. “I don’t know how to do it anymore. Ever get that way? I don’t think I have any moves left to make. No one to help. Thank God, for your daughter, you know. That is your daughter? You told me about her once. I can’t remember her name. And that clerk. Mikey? He’s a good guy.”
“Yeah, Mikey a smart boy. His parents own that market. Teresa is my daughter’s name by the way. She’s the good one. I told you about her. You know, of all my kids, she is good, just good. Good person. I had to say I’m sorry to her. When I got mad. When I didn’t’ think. Said I’m sorry a lot. ‘lo silento.’ But she is good. I went and found her and told her I’m sorry, you know. She forgive me. The others, well, they have their ways. Anyway, she called me right away about you. I was coming home from my job. I’m doing lawns now. And the county parks. I got a truck and the whole set up, but when I heard, I came right away. Remember that though, about the kids, there are good ones.”
Lenny wondered why Florencio kept talking. It was almost a rant. “Bad children and good. Bad people and good. You got some good ones too. That Dylan of yours. He is good. Just natural good. By the way, he is back. From where he had gone, he came back. I talked to him the day I got fired. He didn’t know and said he was sorry. And I think he wants to help. And that other one. I like him. Ex-Army guy, or Marine or something. Edgar. Seen him. Tough boy. He got hit very hard. But I would want to have him on my side. They will help you. I shall help. Many will help. You just got to get right. And fast. No one gonna’ wait for you to get well. People never do. They are going to go on if you don’t do something.”
Florencio suddenly stopped talking. The same way he had suddenly quit talking once before. Like he had said everything he wanted to say. Like he had been thinking about this for some time. Like he was going to take the chance and tell Lenny exactly what he thought Lenny should hear. And then stop.
Lenny looked over at his gardener. The man was remarkable he thought. And he has this energy and this can-do attitude. And, Lenny thought, I used to have that. But I lost it. Or maybe I just gave it up. He didn’t know if he would be able to find it again. Maybe he could. But right then he just wanted to be warm. He was hungry. He was tired. He leaned his head against the window. He listened to the fan of the heater pumping more warmth into the cab of the truck. And he fell asleep.
“Edgar, can you come right away?”
“I will be there. I’m an hour away, but I’ll be there.”
Lenny sat in an oversized recliner in Florencio’s living room talking to Edgar on the telephone. Seated at the kitchen table just off the living room was his son, Dylan. He watched his son smile at Teresa who had said something to him as she poured him a cup of coffee. Dylan whispered something in reply and she laughed. She was pretty this Teresa and had pretty ways.
He had thought she was an angel when he first saw her face. He had been lying in the bed and when he woke up her face was the first one he saw. She had a nice smile, kind and gentle as she moved from her chair over to his bed to speak to him.
“You decide to wake up Mr. King?” she said good naturedly. “We didn’t know when you would. I think you were very tired, Mr. King. It is good that you got the rest.”
The room was nice. Blue. It was painted blue. The paint was louder than he would have chosen. But it was nice. Restful. He pulled himself up to a sitting position. He was a little sore, but he did feel rested.
“How long have I been here?”
“Since day before yesterday. You were sound asleep. Fernando and my father carried you inside. They got you out of the wet things and put you to bed. Lenny realized he was in pajamas. They were very large. He wondered if they belonged to Fernando.
“You also have a visitor.” She called out. “Senor Dylan!”, she called out, “Come say good morning to your papa.”
Dylan appeared at the door. “How you fellin’, Pops?”
“I’m okay. Now. Think I was in bad shape. These people helped me. I wish I could thank them properly. Pay them back. Teresa, thank you. And your dad, where is your dad?”
“Da nada. My father, he is away. He says there are some things at your house he wants to go and try to get and he and my brother left for there early this morning. He said to tell you this. You should call,” and she pulled a piece of paper from her apron. “Edgar. He said you should call Edgar. There is a number here. Do you want it?”
Lenny looked over at Dylan. He had been following the discussion but had not said anything. That was as usual for him. Then to Lenny’s surprise, he actually offered a comment.
“Yes, Dad. They are right. Edgar needs to be called. He’s all alone and, besides, anyway, you, ah, we need him right now.”
Teresa was nodding her head in agreement with what Dylan was saying.
He had the impression that the two of them had discussed everything already.
Didn’t matter. Lenny felt, whatever is going on, for the first time since he could remember, Dylan was taking an interest in something outside his classrooms. He was expressing an opinion and talking about actually acting, doing something. Lenny was very pleased.
Someone, maybe this family who rescued him, whomever, was having an influence on the boy and it was a good one.
Lenny called the number on the piece of paper, Teresa had handed him.
Edgar picked up. Before anything else, Lenny asked after his father.
“Edgar, this is Lenny King. Willets? I’m sorry about your father. He was a special friend. We had been together for a long time.”
“Yes. He’s gone. They got him. Can’t help him now. Never should have happened.”
“No. It shouldn’t have. He never should have been arrested. Never put in jail. I just want you to know, those charges were not true, Edgar. Your Father was an honest man. Honest to a fault sometimes. He would never have done what they said he did.”
“Yes. I know that. That District Attorney. The one that filed those charges. Got the arrest warrant. You know, he now says they had decided not to proceed with the case against my father. He won’t say it was a mistake. And definitely won’t say they made the whole thing up. Said they had some reports and the case had to be brought for the “integrity of the process” or some such thing. I want to get back at these people Mr. King. Bad.”
“Well, they have got me out of the way too. At least for now. I guess as to your Dad, they figure there is no need to press on in support of something that would never have stood up to scrutiny. Not in a court of law. Maybe they got what they wanted and will just leave it alone.”
“Maybe. But I’m not leaving it alone. I owe some people. I’m going to pay them back.”
Lenny appreciated his attitude. Hot for sure. He had a temper. Aggressive. He was tough. A Marine. But he needed to stay under control. The way Lenny had been once. Using his temper on people, throwing his weight around, using his power. Acting the bully. But not now. He wasn’t going to be like that now. It wouldn’t work to try to knock down doors and beat up on people. Nadine and all of the rest of them, the gang she had put together. They had played it smart. Got what they wanted. But now, if Lenny had his way, it was going to be their turn, Lenny and Edgar’s turn, to make some smart moves of their own.
“I understand, Edgar. Listen, I feel the same way.”
“Yeah, well, you should. They are your kids. Look, what they did to you! And now to Dylan.”
Lenny didn’t understand that last part. He would ask Dylan. Later.
“Anyway, wait a minute here. Listen,” Lenny said, “I want to ask you to come here. We need to talk this through. We can beat them. But we have to be smart or we can lose much more. All. Everything. You know? You understand?”
“Sir. It’s all been lost already. What I want to do is get back at them. That’s what I want.”
“Yes, you are right. Me too. But we have to be intelligent. Think clearly. Come down here. We can plan.” Edgar didn’t say anything for a moment. It was like he was taking a deep breath.
“Okay. I’m on my way.”
When he hung up, Lenny called to Dylan. He and Teresa turned in unison toward him. Still with the smiles on the faces they had for each other just a moment earlier.
“Edgar is coming. I hope you don’t mind, Teresa, I asked him to come here.”
“Certainly. He is welcome. Father would have said, yes, I’m sure. I will call him now to tell him. He will want to be here. He wanted this Senor Edgar to help you. We will help you too. I will help you.”
She walked further into the kitchen and touched Dylan on the shoulder as she passed him. Dylan’s eyes followed her. He was smiling.
Seeing their ease with each other comforted Lenny. The feeling surprised him. Yes, indeed, Florencio was right. Dylan was one of the good ones and he deserved something better than what he had before. From Lenny. From everyone. And Teresa was different from the other one. From Marcy, the dealmaker. Teresa was a good child. Florencio had said that also. Lenny could see what he was talking about. There was something innately good about her. Maybe that was why Dylan was smiling at her. They were alike, kindred, and knew it right away.
“Dylan,” Lenny said, “Edgar mentioned there has been trouble. It was about you. Did something happen?”
The smile left Dylan’s face. He thought a moment before he answered.
“Yes. I don’t understand all of it, but it’s not good.”
“Tell me,” Lenny said. “I want to know everything. It’s important that you tell me everything, Dylan. Even if it’s unpleasant.”
Dylan got up from the table and walked into the living room and sat on the couch across from Lenny. Teresa came to the doorway. She had been drying dishes and was still holding a towel. She leaned against the doorframe to listen to the Father and son talk.
For more writing by Phil Cline or to read earlier chapters, visit philcline.com