Joe Cornelius Hunter burst through the rear entrance of The Warehouse nightclub, he stumbled down and over the worn concrete steps, before being suddenly blinded by the alleyway floodlights. His eyes struggled to adjust as the gloomy darkness of the club was replaced by the almost daytime brightness of sodium lamps blasting the entrance with light. His nostrils, used to the smells of smoke, beer, and sweat, reeled at the skunky stench of cheap cannabis, blown his way by a group of three hippy wannabees partaking in a stand-up smoking circle along the west wall. As if this wasn’t enough, his ears had begun to ring as the relative silence of the city at night replaced the powerful decibels pounding from the dark, lugubrious club.
The heavy, steel re-enforced door swung shut behind him and he took a few tentative steps forward, swaying. Oh yes, a great deal of cheap, $3 per jug draught had been poured down Hunter’s gullet this night, and he was feeling the effects of it. He shoved back his right sleeve and looked at one of the three watches he wore. The one that sat highest up on his arm was a grey Swatch watch with a chequerboard face that hadn’t worked for years, but still looked good. Second down was a children’s digital watched with a flip up cover in the shape of an Oreo cookie. The third, and his favourite, was an old, beat up Hong Kong “Rolex” that MacGreggor had bought on vacation and given to Hunter when he had grown bored with it. The “Rolex” read five to two. Hunter nodded to himself; time to head home to Lond Ho.
He had been the last to leave that night, his friend Jonny Vincent was the first to go, not long after Hunter had arrived around 11:30, Paco had left a good forty-five minutes after with a ginger haired chickie, and MacGreggor disappeared an hour later claiming he was “bored.” Bill hadn’t even bothered to show up for reasons known only to him.
Hunter shook his shirt sleeve back and shook his head, it sounded like someone was calling his name, but he couldn’t be certain with his ears still ringing so he dismissed it as his imagination. He turned left around the fenced in patio and across the parking lot towards 10th Ave. His stomach rumbled, he needed something in his gutmeats to soak up the sloshing booze. The smell hit him before he could see it, like some street meat Doppler effect. The hot dog cart was near, he just had to find it!
The cart was nestled in around the corner of the building. There were two clubbers that Hunter recognized from earlier in the night, both of them crushing huge spicy Cajuns covered in cheese sauce and bacon. Hunter jumped up and ordered a spicy German with a heap of cheese, sauerkraut, and bacon bits, then fished into his pocket for his last fiver while the cart jockey was preparing his dog.
A couple of girls stumbled past, clinging to each other, and drunkenly giggling. Hunter was distracted for a second as they passed, looking appreciatively at their visible piercings, and wondering what kind of invisible piercings they may have had hidden away under their clothes.
“That’ll be $3.25,” The hot dog meister spoke.
Hunter took the delicious smelling, steaming street meat on a bun and handed over the fiver. The first bite was always like no other, the steamed sausage seemed to SNAP! upon initial bite, the pleasing sound, the mouth-feel as the hot juices burst free of it’s casing was in Hunter’s opinion, unequalled in the world of cart vendor street meats.
“Keep the change,” he said around a mouthful of bun, spicy sausage, cheese, bacon and kraut.
“Thank you very much sir!”
Hunter was three bites in before he began the first leg of his journey home to London House Flats on 5th Ave and 4th street. Three quarters of the dog was gone, he rolled back the napkin and took another big bite, bacon bits exploding into the air, and falling silently to the sidewalk with the sheer violent power of the bite. He was crushing the final nubbin when a voice called out to him from across the parking lot. A girl’s voice, there was no mistaking it this time, a voice both familiar, yet somehow not… Could it be the girl Jonny Vincent had introduced him to only a few hours previously? The girl he warned Hunter about? The girl Jonny told Hunter was nothing but trouble? No, it couldn’t be! Could it?
“Hunter! Wait up!”
Hunter stopped walking, chewed, swallowed, then turned. It was she. Trouble with a capital “B.”
“Hey man! Didn’t you hear me yelling at you inside?”
Hunter shook his head, looking down at the girl. She was just over 5’2” with her kitten heeled boots, she had short, dark, pixie like hair and was dressed in layers of black. Black leggings, black socks, black cotton skirt with a red stripe around the hem, long sleeved black shirt and short sleeved black tee with The Clash: London Calling album artwork splashed off kilter across the front. Underneath Hunter imagined she was wearing matching black panties and a bra.
“You said you were gonna show me your place, the Lond Who or something?”
“Lond Ho, and we only call it that because the lights on the sign are burned out. It’s really London House.” He suddenly remembered! He had asked her to come back with him, and she said yes. She was apparently staying with her dad across town, and the busses stopped running at midnight… yes it was all coming back to him. “Yeah, I did say come back to Lond Ho didn’t I, then I went for a slash, then I couldn’t find you. I thought you left.”
They walked and talked, “No, I just went to say goodbye to some people, then when I turned around you were halfway down the exit tunnel. I nearly lost you, then I saw you by the hot dog cart.” She sounded almost relieved.
They turned left at 4th street and started to cross 10th Ave.
Hunter stopped suddenly and reached out with amazing speed considering the amount he had to drink, and grabbed Bella’s arm as a white BMW M5 blasted through the intersection, running the clearly red light. Another two steps and they’d have been road kill.
Bella looked up at Hunter, then back at the rapidly disappearing taillights, then took a deep breath. She shook her head, took hold of Hunter’s hand, and they started walking again.
“Fuck that fucking asshole!” She said as they stepped up on the opposite curb, and headed down through the 4th street underpass.
Bella had a not unpleasant muskiness to her that Hunter had never noticed in the club. He always got a little congested in The Warehouse, what with all the smoke machines, and burning cigarettes on almost everyone’s lips. The shroud of blue-grey haziness that touched everything and everyone. Hunter’s nostrils were just becoming used to the outside air again and it felt good to be smelling something other than beer and smoke.
“So, where you from kid?” Hunter asked as they were coming up to the 8th Ave crosswalk.
Bella smiled, she seemed pleased that he had asked, “Oh, well I was born in Van, but I’ve been living in Idaho with my mom since I was five.”
“Where in Idaho? Sandpoint?”
“You totally just made that up!” Hunter ribbed her.
“No, really! Look!” She pulled a drivers licence out of a small beaded bag she was wearing like a belt across her tiny waist. She held it up for him to see. He touched her hand, steadying the card so he could read it. Sure enough, it was an Idaho driving licence and it said Beyond Hope in the town line of the address block.
“Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw! What the hell do you know about that!” Hunter laughed.
“It’s a shitty little town.” Bella grumbled, putting her licence away.
“With a name like ‘Beyond Hope’ I don’t doubt it!”
They were coming up to the commuter train tracks on 7th Ave when Hunter spotted something on the road about a block ahead of them.
“Do you see that? What is that? In the middle of the road!”
They crossed the C-Train tracks and Bella squinted, “I dunno, it looks like a street sign?!”
“Come on!” Hunter grabbed her hand and they ran. He was a little winded by the time they reached it, but Bella was doubled over, wheezing the wheeze of the long time cigarette smoker.
“IthinkI’mgonnafuckingdie!” she said between breaths.
Hunter looked around for traffic, then stepped into the road, “That’s totally a ‘No Parking’ sign!” He picked it up by the pole and dragged it to the sidewalk.
Bella was just beginning to catch her breath.
“Look at this,” Hunter said, pointing at the face of the sign, “It’s been run over look, there’s tire tracks here.
Bella rolled her eyes and lit up a Camel Light.
Hunter thought for a second, then nodded to himself. He knew what he must do. He picked up the sign and slung it over his shoulder, “It’s coming with us!” He announced triumphantly.
Bell started giggling, “Really? You’re taking the sign home? You can’t just take a street sign can you? It belongs to the city doesn’t it?”
Hunter was already walking, “Possession is nine tenths toots. I found it, I rescued it from the road, where lets face it, it was nothing but a navigational hazard, ergo, the sign belongs to me now. Besides, were only a couple blocks away.”
They finished the trip to Lond Ho in relative silence, punctuated only by the occasional giggle from Bella, laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
As they rode up the freight lift towards the 13th floor, Bella burst out, “Who takes a sign! Come on! It’s ridiculous!”
“It’s too late for any acrimony now sweets, we are officially through the looking glass.”
“I don’t think that means what you think it means,”
The lift car shuddered and juddered to a stop, the doors slid open, and somehow Hunter managed to get the sign out into the hallway without too much noise or problem. In seconds they were standing at the door of flat 1401.
Hunter fiddled with the keys attached to the leather lanyard around his neck, then penetrated the well used lock with the well-worn key. The gloomy apartment was only illuminated by the light from the building across the street leaking through the window coverings, giving the whole place a mottled, shadowy look. Hunter put the sign down in the dining area and bumped his head on the plastic duck hanging by a plastic six-pack ring from the chandelier.
Bella closed and locked the door before kicking her boots off. Hunter sat down where he was and removed his 14 hole Doc Martens, then walked though the kitchenette. “Follow me,” he told Bella as he started through the living room, past the bathroom, toward his bedroom. It was only after three steps he found himself on the floor, tangled in someone’s legs and a blanket.
“What the fak!”
Hunter detangled himself and got up, “Oh hey Paco, what ya doing in the middle of the floor? What’s wrong with the couch?”
“Not enough room for two.” He said, pulling the blanket back over his naked body.
Hunter’s eyes were acclimating to the gloom, and he noticed another naked shape on the floor next to Paco. She was crashed out, even snoring a little.
“Whose the latest skank?” Hunter grumbled.
“You should talk!” Paco replied, covering the girl with the blanket.
Bella shot Hunter an annoyed look that he didn’t see because of the darkness.
Paco rolled over, “Ah, whadareyagonnado! G’night Hunter!”
“Night Paco,” he turned to Bella, “that was Paco, you met him at the bar.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
They stepped into Hunter’s bedroom and shut the door. By the time Hunter had his blue and grey chequered, long sleeve shirt untied from around his waist, Bella was naked and pulling back the bed covers. For the first time he noticed just how tiny she was, visible ribs, small perky teats, bony ass, the layers of clothes hid her tiny frame well. He wondered briefly if she had an eating disorder, or if she was just naturally skinny. She crawled into the bed and looked at him as if too ask; are you coming or what?
“Where did I leave that panic switch?” Hunter mumbled to himself as he stripped down.
“What?” Bella murmured.
“Nothing,” he said, and climbed into bed.