Benz

by Rick Beck

Chapter 10

Relentless

Ronnie Haggerty was content since meeting Angela. He didn't often like being tied down, but Angela offered him more than he'd ever had. Life in the fast lane was good. Wearing nice clothes, eating good food, and drinking good booze beat the hell out of balmy evenings in Balboa Park's canyons. He didn't miss the streets of San Diego or the speed that once kept his mind off what he was, or what he wasn't.

He stayed by Angela's side most of the time, and they'd finished exploring and dealing in Beverly Hills, immediately flying to San Francisco. Ronnie liked travel. Traveling first class was better yet.

The San Francisco show was less opulent than the one in Beverly Hills. The people seemed easier to please and Angela was more relaxed. Angela had no difficulty selling out the consignment for the shows there. The good cheer and exotic food followed them as they walked arm in arm and sat side by side.

Angela's tight grip on each piece she painted eased. Her agent went into the office with the prospective buyer. Angela flashed him a sign of where the bid started, but money was no object at the San Francisco show. If you wanted something you paid what it cost to get it.

The men who often accompanied Angela alone into an office to talk about her price, now stood off at a distance, admiring her and her young lover enviously, as the wives carried the checkbook into the bargaining session with only buying the piece in question on their minds, mostly.

Ronnie didn't understand the excitement generated over Angela's paintings, but he understood there were encyclopedias filled with things he didn't understand. He'd never seen an opera, a ballet, or attended an art show or gone to a museum. Ronnie's education was reduced to basic ideas and concepts. He got lost when it was more complicated than that; lost and bored.

San Francisco was sunny in spite of everything Ronnie had heard. Angela's car took two days to drive them north, over the Golden Gate Bridge to the north. Angela wanted to see the redwood forest. They stood holding hands looking up at the towering trees as tiny rays of sunlight leaked through.

"The oldest trees in the world. A thousand years old," Ronnie said, remembering a lesson that interested him.

"They are being the tallest it looks to me."

Ronnie took Angela in his arms and kissed her in the depths of the shadows cast by the giant trees, unable to resist temptation.

They drove out to the rugged California coast to watch the wild Pacific rampage against the rocks. It was the same Pacific that stood peacefully next to Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach in San Diego. There was no similarity in the ocean there and here. He preferred the wild and angry ocean. It excited him.

They stayed in a bed and breakfast in Mendocino that night. They were able to see the ocean from their bedroom window. It was magic, adding to the fantasy he was living with Angela. Early the following morning they walked along the beach. They stood holding hands in the morning mist as the ocean roared as it collided with the rocks. Two surfers whistled approval from their boards, when Ronnie swept Angela into his arms to kiss her.

Ronnie never felt more free. He began to think the relationship with Angela might last. He could learn to deal with the fawning fans. They were her meal ticket. Flying to Paris, London, and Amsterdam did seem like a dream any longer. He didn't have anything else to do.

Putting his past behind him was a realistic goal. Until Angela, Ronnie's past was his future. He wanted to be with Angela, protect her, make love to her. He was beginning to think dreams do come true.

It was after getting back to their hotel room in San Francisco that Ronnie found himself staring into the television screen. News didn't interest him much, but the story of the DUI Doc grabbed his attention from the start. What he saw shook his world.

Ronnie could never before afford to be too concerned about other people's problems. His life was one problem after another for years.

Brushing her hair, Angela came out of the bathroom, and noticed Ronnie's interest in the story. She listened, remembering the paper box and the story that had captured his interest then. 'DUI Doc Drinks, Drives, Kills Girl.' He'd become distant after reading it.

"A terrible thing. A doctor should be knowing better. Poor girl never lived," Angela said. "He deserves what he gets."

"Yea!" Ronnie said, not believing it.

"Why is this story interesting you? This is not the first time it is getting your attention. Are you knowing these people, Ronnie?"

"Girl's dead. Doctor's ruined. Sad story."

"Ronnie, I need to put my makeup on, dress, and finish with my hair."

"Makeup? Makeup? You don't need any makeup, beautiful. You are perfect without it."

"This is why I'm liking you. You don't want me decorating myself. Unfortunately people expect perfection. It is hard, you know. Needing to be more than perfect all the time. It stops when we are flying back to Europe. It'll be the two of us after that."

There was now guilt for Ronnie. They were looking for him. It was far different than, 'DUI Doc Kills Girl.' He'd seen it. The doctor's lawyer would be looking for the witness. Him!

No one had ever done anything for him. He'd finally found something worth living for and he wouldn't go back to that life. He wouldn't blow it by worrying about a girl that was dead and a doctor who had lived the good life.

He'd be a sucker if he left Angela and went back to set the record straight. Ronnie was no sucker. Life was hard. Now that it was good, he wasn't going to blow it on feeling guilty about something he had nothing to do with. It was none of his business.

"Do you want to do Italian, Chinese, or some exotic Thai or Vietnamese thing? I can eat anything tonight."

"The Philippine restaurant was great. Wonderfully spicy ," Ronnie said.

"Ah, yes, I'd forgotten. So much variety here. When we are living in Europe, we'll come here on vacation. You can introduce me to every kind of American cooking. We'll take an eating holiday. Okay?"

"Sure. Sounds like fun."

"What is it Ronnie, my Ronnie. You are not being so happy."

"Just thinking. Everything is fine," he said, trying to smile.

He grabbed her and hugged her tightly, kissing her passionately. He could feel her slipping away. He felt his new life slipping away. Angela sensed a change that worried her.

After dinner they walked, releasing the car. They could catch a cab if they decided they'd had enough of walking. They were near the mission district and within a block of a restaurant where they'd just eaten and drunk a hundred dollars worth before the tip, they passed a homeless man sleeping in a doorway.

"How is this being possible, Ronnie?" Angela said distressed.

"What's that?"

"This man living in the doorway. Look around us. Look in the window. There is so much of everything here. How can this be?"

"What would you give up to help him, Angela? What of your possessions would you part with so he has a meal. You see, it isn't so easy. It's how it is here. You are in the chips or you aren't. It's how America is. If you've got yours it's up to other people to get theirs."

"I care," Angela said firmly, turning so that her arm pulled away from Ronnie.

Walking quickly, Angela went back to the doorway, digging in her shiny small black purse. She removed a twenty dollar bill and stuffed it inside of one of the man's clenched fists. She smelled the wine on him. She immediately understood he'd find the money and drink some more, but he could eat something. She couldn't make him eat. What would make a man sink so low as this one?

"Come on, Angela. He's a drunk. You proved you aren't like us."

Ronnie moved her away from the doorway. She did not look back again. What Ronnie said was true, but at least she tried. Angela knew she had it all; beauty, creativity, and people around her who never let her go hungry or let her think anything but that she was incredibly talented and likely to be a big success in life.

"You are good, Angela. You are really good. I'm sorry for what I said. I should have known you'd help if you could. It isn't easy here if you are born to the wrong people. Being born right is everything."

"It's ridiculous. We do not allow this in Paris. We are all people. We are all needing a place, food. If he can be living in the doorway, anyone can be living in the doorway. It can't be allowed. You help the people who can't be helping themselves."

"Yea, ain't that the truth," Ronnie said.

They walked on holding hands without talking. There was a finality to the night they both felt. Ronnie knew from the moment the picture of Sharon flashed on the screen back in the hotel room, he had to go back.

How could he have a life knowing what he knew? How could he ever be happy again, knowing the doctor was going to jail for something he didn't do?

He could stop. He had to stop it.

"I knew her, Angela."

"You knew who?" Angela said, while they stood holding hands looking at jewelry in one of the finer shop windows.

"Sharon. I knew her."

"You knew Sharon who?"

"The girl in the story on the television. I knew her. The girl that was hit by the doctor."

"That's awful, Ronnie. That's what is being wrong. I thought it was me. I am thinking you are growing tired of Angela."

"Never! Never!" he said, hugging and kissing her, as he shook with the knowledge of what he had to do.

"There is more, my Ronnie?"

"We were ... lovers of sorts. Nothing like I feel about you. She was just a girl. You know. Someone to be with when there wasn't anybody to be with. She was nice to me. I wasn't far from being that man in the doorway back there, when we met. I'm sorry. I should have told you. I couldn't. I thought you'd leave me. I don't want to leave you. I never want to leave you, but I've got to go back."

"We should stop for coffee. You can be telling me it all. It is so sad. She is so young. It must be terrible for you."

There was an all night diner a few blocks further up the street, where they ordered coffee and sat in one of the windows as the dishes clanged and the silverware rang as the dishwasher kept the diner in dishes. Neither Ronnie or Angela heard the clatter.

"Sharon. What was her last name, Ronnie?"

"I don't know. On the street you only need one name."

"On the street? I'm not getting your meaning."

"Homeless. Like the man in the doorway. We lived in a park. I never asked her for her last name. It doesn't mean anything."

"You are living in the park?"

"I was smelly and dirty when we met. I live in the park."

"How is this possible?"

"It's the American way. I am safer with the outcasts and the street people. I don't follow rules well. It's safer to live where the rules don't reach. No one cares about street kids. We are an inconvenience that most people do their best to ignore. Like the man in the doorway. Only you saw him."

"Yes, how can I forget this poor man? This is not you, Ronnie."

"Not yet, Angela, but one day."

"He is drinker. You are not so much drinking. You are fine boy."

"I did drugs. I used to be high every day, until I met you. You don't know how hard it was to go without drugs. I haven't touched drugs since I used up what I had, when we met."

"You were doing the drugs after we were meeting?"

"Until I ran out. I didn't think I'd make it, but then, I realized how good I felt without them. I realized how good you made me feel. I didn't feel much until I met you. I don't need drugs now."

"How am I not knowing this?"

"A lot of people don't realize someone drinks, until they see him sober. It's the same with drugs. No one knows I live on the street."

"How can this be. You are smart, charming, beautiful to look at. How can you live with no place to live? This is not possible."

"It's the way it is. I don't want to talk about that."

"You think I am loving you less because you are having no place to live? I am loving you more but I can't be loving you any more.

"How can what you tell me be true? Not in America. There is so much to have here."

"I don't fit. I can't follow the crowd. School didn't interest me."

"I'm not following the crowd. I've always had a place to live."

"You were born to the right people, but there's more. More than I want to think about. I haven't thought about it. I've been so in love with you. So amazed by how we are living. I've seen the newspapers. I've seen the story being presented on television. They say the doctor says there is a witness that can save him.

"I listen and think it isn't my responsibility. I don't care about anyone but you. I don't care. I am with you. I want to stay with you."

"That's fine, Ronnie. You are staying with me. That will not change. You are never going back to the life you are living. You are once living on the street. I'll see you one day are living in the palace. You are the king of my heart. I am your queen."

"Except for one minor glitch, Angela. I saw it. I watched her die. I can save the doctor's ass. He didn't do anything. She walked out in front of his car."

"She wasn't paying attention. She yelled my name and walked right out in front of his car. The doctor couldn't stop. No one could have stopped. Drunk, sober, no one could have stopped. He tried to save her. He was steady as a rock. He wasn't drunk. I know drunk.

"I had drugs on me. I couldn't let the cops see me. They'd have known I was high. They'd have searched me. I'd have gone to jail. I walked away. Saved my own ass. I figured he'd be okay without me. It didn't matter if he was or not. I just wanted to save my own ass."

"I hung around the Bayou the following day. I was starved. I wanted to eat so bad and there you were, my Angela. I never want to leave you, but I've got to go back. I've never cared about doing what's right in my life, but I've got to do this. I've got to go back."

"Yes, you must be going back. You can not let this doctor be punished. I am going to my show in Seattle. Then, I'll come to San Diego to stay with you. We'll do the right thing together."

"It's because I love you. You've given me so much. I've got to tell what I know. I don't know why. I can't go on living the good life, while watching this man go to jail, when I can stop it."

"A week in Seattle and then I'll meet you in San Diego. I'll buy you a ticket for San Diego. You can call me to tell me where you are staying before I am leaving for Seattle. We'll talk every day."

"I like that idea. It'll be easier on me if we talk every day."

"I'll work hard be selling every piece the first day, so I am coming to you sooner."

"That would be good," Ronnie said, feeling easier if not easy about leaving her. "I'll be thinking of you every minute of every day."

The departure the next afternoon was tearful. Ronnie hugged and held onto Angela, until he finally had to let go to get on the plane.

Ronnie had decided not to spend the cash Angela gave him, until after he met with the doctor's attorney. He would stay with Plato for one night, so he wasn't on the street. He'd tell him it was only one night and he wasn't going to be his boy any longer

There was a bad part to his trip. The further he got from Angela, the stronger was his feeling that he'd never see her again.

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