The early morning sun shined brightly down upon the dried palm trees that lined the street. J.L. Hoover, alias Jonny Law, parked his home on wheels, a 1989 custom Winnebago somewhere on the east side of Los Angeles.
“Here we are.” Jonny said to his black and white feline co-pilot. “Looks a little on the rough side, Boots.”
“Meowwww,” a hungry Boots responded.
Jonny’s agile and hungry companion easily sprang onto the center console. “Meowwww,” Boots sounded again.
“In a minute, little one. Hmmnn.” He gave a brief scratch under Boots chin, while he studied the terrain. He began to wonder if he was possibly in the wrong location. He felt around under the dash of the behemoth, then pressed a button that popped open an overhead compartment and reached inside for a pair of military green binoculars then scanned the neighborhood – cars on blocks without wheels parked in front of rundown houses with dead lawns, barred windows and graffiti everywhere.
“We’re either in Chinatown, or someone needs a serious lesson in spelling. I can’t make out one word, Boots.” Jonny focused on a streetsign.
“Stonewall. Right street, wrong neighborhood perhaps?” He temporarily placed the binoculars on the center console.
“I know, you’re hungry, let me make one quick call, okay, then we’ll get you something to make you happy.” Jonny once again scratched the white portion of Boots’ chin.
Jonny’s six-foot-one lanky frame filled the captain’s seat of the home on wheels, a retired F.B.I. surveillance vehicle he had purchased at an auction. It had more bell and whistles and secret gadgets and compartments than Jonny could keep track of, but the thing that really sold him on the yacht-sized vehicle was that it was amphibious. When he heard that tid-bit of information, he knew that it was for him. He gladly paid the seventy-five-hundred-dollars he had been saving his whole life, and drove the high-mile rig off the lot. And since it could sleep six, he figured why pay rent? So, he decided to make it his home on wheels. He had never felt the desire to drive it into the water, but the thought alone made him feel a notch above those who didn’t possess such a sophisticated piece of transpo/home/armored vehicle - the perfect solution for his dual lifestyle. The bulletproof windows that came standard gave him an added sense of security.
He could already feel the heat of the morning sun that shined through the front windows. It was going to be another hot day, he thought, as he pulled his cell phone from a piece of Velcro around his belt, flipped it open and hit auto-dial. Just as he did, vibrations from a low rider three blocks down the street could be felt as it turned a corner and approached. Pulsating rap music intruded every weathered looking structure in the neighborhood. Jonny picked up the binoculars once again and got a close up of the four angry looking occupants in the convertible Chevy low-rider that slowly approached.
“Hmnn. Heavy-set, bleached-blond Caucasion female, two black gentlemen and one Latino. The black gentleman in the backseat appears to be wielding a piece of pipe, or perhaps that is a - shotgun? They’re a somewhat sour looking bunch, Boots - some recent tattooes, perhaps? I understand they can be painful.”
He reached overhead and pressed a button that quickly lowered a sunshield over the large front windows, which gave the mobile-home sized vehicle a cross-eyed tweedy-bird look. The numerous antennae and other apparatus that were fastened to the roof of the rig made it appear as if it was also part insect.
He then unsnapped two leather fasteners above his head and pulled down a flexy periscope eyepiece and placed the dangling cushioned viewfinder over both his eyes. A quick flip of a switch located on the dash and a softball sized fisheye could be seen on top of the rig as it raised slowly to monitor 360 degrees of the surrounding terrain.
Locals don’t look very friendly, Boots,” Jonny casually said with his cell phone in one hand and the flexi-arm periscope in the other. The thumping sounds from the low-rider got louder and louder until the frame of the Winnebago pulsated to the heavy beat. A shrill sounding woman’s voice at the other end of the phone greeted Jonny.
“Good morning, Stockton Insurance.”
“Yeah hi, Gwen, I mean, Ms. Peters,” Jonny had to quickly hold the phone away from his ear a moment as the elderly secretary of the large insurance firm scolded him for not properly addressing her.
“Sorry, Ms. Peters, listen, I was wondering?” Jonny pulled the phone away from his ear again, as Ms. Peters fumed about the background noise.
“Umm, I’m not a connoisseur of the latest rap sounds Ms. Peters, but I…I… well, I was simply calling to verify my coordinates over here to see if perhaps there was a mix-up?” he questioned as he spied through his periscope at the car as it slowly approached, then stopped next to the behemoth. The thunderous music abruptly shut off as the occupants of the vehicle pondered the large RV rig with antennas at every corner and, bullhorn loud speakers that decorated the top, along with two satellite dishes, one at each end. Jonny held the phone away from his ear as Ms. Peters, cackled indecipherable scoldings at him for interrupting her paperwork. He paid little mind to her, but watched as a man in the rear seat of the low-rider cracked open the barrel of a sawed off shotgun and loaded a couple shells in the chambers. The driver of the car looked over at the rig and studied what was written on its side.
“If anyone axed, we on vacation,” he said slowly reading each word of an airbrushed saying written on the RV.
“Vacation, my ass,” the heavyset man with a shotgun replied as he fired the gun into the air.
“WRarrrrrr!!!” Boots responded, then as if shot from a slingshot, he darted to a safe remote area of the mobile.
“What in Gaaaaaaaawwwwwd’s name was that?” Ms Peters howled in Jonny’s ear.
Jonny, who continued eyeing the low-rider next to him through his eyepiece, calmly responded.
“Remington 16 gauge double-barreled shotgun with sawed off end. I’d know that sound anywhere. They don’t mean it.”
“What did you say?” Ms. Peters hollered back.
“Nothing Gwen, I mean, Ms. Peters. Listen, I better get to work over here and you have one lovely day,” Jonny flipped shut his cell and continued to study the subjects.
“That boat’s gonna be full of holes you don’t get it outta here, honky, you hear?” The driver yelled out, then once again cranked up the volume of the profane rap song and the deep bass kicked out, vibrating the shell of the towering rig and tested the stress limits on the windows of the shacks in the war-zone-like neighborhood.
Jonny maneuvered the fisheye on top of the rig and watched as the car slowly drove past then turned the corner and drove out of sight. He pulled the viewfinder away from his eyes and jostled the telescope eyepiece back up into position, then got up from his captain’s chair, opened a small fridge for some kitty food and poured some into a small bowl, then added some milk.
“Kitty, kitty kitty kitty, come on out Boots, coast is clear. It’s got some two-per-cent in it, too.”
Magically, Boots appeared from hiding to enjoy some breakfast.
“That’s a good kitty,” Jonny said and then headed into the back of his home on wheels to change into appropriate work attire, a casual grey suit coat with matching slacks, black soft soled shoes, and white shirt and tie. His attire was embellished with a fake prosthetic arm that he would operate via a levered apparatus in the back of the coat. Numbers were down on sales of the company’s dismemberment insurance package and Jonny was the number one and only pick for the special promotion the company was offering. Sign up one customer and get another family member at a ten per cent discount. It wasn’t a great deal, but Jonny knew he wasn’t just selling insurance, he was guarding America from any and all potential threats, and that made all the difference.
A moment later Jonny was dressed and ready to hit the streets. He looked into a full-length mirror that was adjacent to the side door, took out a pocket comb and ran it through his dark hair so that not a hair was out of place, nor touching his ears.
“Pick your market and work, work, work it, Boots.” Jonny tested the motion of his prosthetic extending it outward, up in the air, and then to his cheek to wipe away any tears that he may muster from a repertoire of stories of how he lost his own arm in an effort to evoke the sympathies of his new found customers. It works perfectly he thought. He then pressed a button under a table and looked on as a false wall began to close slowly. Behind it was a full wardrobe of various disguises on one side and a row of miscellaneous warfare-type devices on the other. Included was his old bazooka, that was the centerpiece of his collection, marked with the words - PROPERTY OF THE F.B.I. written on it. His arsenal also included out dated nerve gas canisters, smoke bombs, shock bombs, one parachute, several gas masks, two old Army helmuts, bullet proof vests, one life jacket, a WWII bayonet, some rope and an assortment of fireworks, all of which Jonny had accumulated over the years. He also had a wall of surveillance equipment that was not consealed. An outdated but working computer that was custom mounted into the wall, alongside a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and a radar screen that was missing some components. And when that special occasion arose, he had a drawer full of miscellaneous bugging devices that could be planted or mounted in just about any place a person could imagine.
He took several deep breaths to prepare for the day as the slow moving wall closed. He reached into his top left suit coat pocket and pulled out a small digital recorder and pressed the record button, “This meeting may be recorded for quality assurance,” he stated into the device, then dropped the recorder back in his front shirt pocket. He then reached in his front jacket pocket for his mirrored sunglasses, put them on and headed for the door.
“Guard the fort, Boots.” Jonny opened the side door and stepped down the two steps of the mobile onto the only patch of green grass in the entire neighborhood.
He closed the door then set down his dark leather company issued briefcase with concealed compartments and brass combination latches, and with his right hand patted several pockets, then struggled deep into his left pocket where his keys where located and pulled them out. The keys rang out as they bounced off the curb then under the beheamoth. “Not a problem,“ he said as he squatted down and aimed his magnetic prosthetic in the general vicinity of the keys.
BAM!!! A shot rang out.
Jonny quickly stood up and looked around. “Backfire?” His eyes locked onto a passing car a block down. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Yep,” he assured himself with a smile, not seeing the indented mark at head level of his thick-shelled rig where he was standing a moment before. He then got down onto his hands and knees where he easily spotted the keys.
“I’m gonna get ya,” he playfully said as the keys were quickly sucked up to the magnetic hook-like metal hand of Jonny’s third arm.
“There we go.” He got back up and then attempted to pull the keys from the hand.
“Come on, mnnphh,” he struggled. Again, “Come…..on…” he moaned as he pulled with all his might. He took a deep calming breath, shook his head, and tried to reassure himself.
“Don’t get mad, get eeeeeeeeeevennnnnn!!!” He grunted and the wrestling match was on, Jonny against a possessed magnetic foe.He grunted and groaned as he fell to the grassy shoulder and rolled about like a man on fire. On his back, he heard the sound. He tilted his head back to see behind him, while still trying to pry the keys from the steel hook – street cleaner 12’ o clock. He let out a cry that could be heard two blocks away. The keys wouldn’t budge as the spray from the cleaner got closer and closer until the spray would get Jonny good. Immersed in a flood of water and with a herniating tug the keys seemed to magically be released from their pull. Jonny sprung to his feet spitting dirt and debris from his mouth, straightened his sunglasses and brushed off his shirt and tie, then casually locked up the Winnie. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed the event. Not a soul. He pulled out his comb from his back pants pocket, quickly ran it through his hair, then turned and picked up his brief case as if nothing happened and began whistling a tune as he proceeded, dripping wet, down the street.
He slowed his walk to check out the locals as an older model white Camry approached from down the street. Inside were three, somewhat out of place occupants. What first caught his eye were the New York plates.
“Edward, Victor, Libra, six, niner, two, New York.” Jonny said, just loud enough to record into his pocket device. “One very large male with goatee driving, another male slight build, either has been getting a lot of free tans, or of middle-eastern descent wearing a white turban, one very attractive woman short, jet black, spiked hair.”
The woman and male passenger snarled at Jonny, who returned the gesture with a very warm, “Good-morning there,” said with a smile and a friendly wave of his prosthetic as they drove past.
“If looks could kill, I’d be dead,” he said to himself as he approached his first home that was colorfully marked with gang graffiti. He attempted to open the faded wood front gate that looked as if it might have been painted a quarter century ago. It fell off its hinges and broke to pieces. He quickly scanned the windows that were protected by black steel bars, checking to see if a potentially angry owner might have spied on him during the incident. He discreetly kicked the remnants of the gate off to the side of the cracked cement walkway into some weeds and approached the door of the house. He delivered a good
firm knock, then patiently waited. Nothing. He knocked again.
A perspiring, angry looking man, having withdrawals from something and wearing hanging baggies, a muscle shirt, and twenty pounds of gold around his neck, cracked open the door as far as the lock chain would allow.
“Hello there and good morning, could I speak with you regarding a confidential matter, sir?” Jonny inquired with the most hospitable tone of voice he could conjur while he attempted to get a better glimpse of his first potential customer and “his world” through the two inch opening.
The man had many different colored tattoos over the visible portions of his body. He squinted back at Jonny and studied him from head to toe, then struggled to release each word from his mouth.
“Big Dee sent you? Tell him Julio will have the money by six…tonight! No sooner! Just tell him!”
“Julio, that’s a nice name,” Jonny said smiling trying to warm up to his first potential customer who slammed the door shut.
Jonny looked at the steel door that had some small holes in the upper portion of it, just about the size of a small caliber bullet. He glanced over to the window. Someone had attempted to pry off the bars at some point in time. He stared back to the door and got closer to see through a hole. Covered.
“Hmmnn, Big Dee? He must be mistaking me for,” Jonny chuckled. “Take off the glasses for Pete’s sake.” He set down his brief case, took off his glasses and put them in his suit jacket pocket. “One more time, turn on the charm.” He put on an eager smile, the type he had been taught in his sales training classes, then knocked again a little harder.
“Sir?” Jonny pleaded to the man. “Sir?” He called out again to the man inside. “Hmmnn, where did he go?” he wondered. He stepped over to the front window and peeked through the black steel bars and a slit in the curtains. His eyes widened as he saw a woman tied to a chair in the kitchen area with a gag in her mouth. He sounded like a man who had been held under water for twenty minutes as he sucked up a deep breath, then exhaled the word, “Hello,” then quickly resumed his position at the front door.
Julio opened the door with a large barreled pistol and put it into Jonny’s wide-eyed, frozen face.
“Hey kracker, are you deaf or something?” Julio exclaimed in the same tone of voice as before.
“Yeah, it’s funny you mention it, I am a little hard of hearing, what time did you say again?” Jonny sheepishly inquired.
“Okay, six it is. I heard you loud and clear that time, thanks a lot, I’m really sorry to bother you again, Julio,” Jonny said with a rainbow of emotion that spanned from joy to deep sorrow.
“Tell him,” the man moaned.
“I sure will. Listen, I gotta run big guy, you take care,” Jonny smiled as Julio slammed the door again in his face. He gingerly stepped back away from the door, nearly tripped down the front porch, then quickly turned around and pointed his prosthetic towards the front window in a friendly gesture where Julio’s pistol barrel peeked out through the slit in the curtains. He turned around and hurried away from the house.
“Married life, no thank you, not yet anyway.” He yanked his cell phone from its Velcro fastener and pressed 911 as he whistled a tune. He paused as he approached the next house, which was charred from fire with boarded up windows. “Hmmn, gone shopping.”
“911 operator, state your emergency.”
“Ah, I’m not really sure if I’d call it an emergency, but there seems to be a minor domestic spat at 12813 East Stonewall Street.”
“Are there weapons involved?”
“Just a hand-gun, maam,” Jonny casually stated. “In my professional opinion, they look like newlyweds, and my guess is he’s afraid he’s gonna lose her- she’s tied into a chair in the dining room.”Jonny explained.
“Would you state your name, sir?”
“My name is Law, Jonny Law, and you have a nice day, maam.”
“Sir, sir?” the operator replied, but Jonny slapped the phone shut.
Heading to the next run-down house, Jonny heard a familiar sound coming from somewhere. It was a small kitten’s cry for help. He paused, then looked up searching the leafy tree until he spotted the frightened kitten who had wandered out on a thin branch.
“Hey you, you look like you could use a helping hand,” he said looking up. He set down his briefcase, then looked around, “Do it when nobody’s lookin.” With both hands he quickly reached behind his back and pulled the control mechanism for the prosthetic around his waist so he could manipulate the extension features of the mail-order device.
“No need to fear small one,” Jonny called up to the kitty. He manipulated a small reel on the device and watched as it extended higher and higher up to the fearfully frozen kitten.
“Come on little Kitty, “ he kindly invited. “Come on, I’m not gonna hurt ya,” he gently stated as the kitten started to paw at the hooked end. “Just a little closer little one,” he softly said, then, “Gotcha!” He maneuvered the device so that he gently pinched the loose fold of skin around the kitten’s small neck with the claw portion of the prosthetic, as its mother would do.
Jonny didn’t see or hear Emily, the six year old child and owner of the kitten as she cried out, “kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty, kitty.”
Jonny’s imagination had taken hold and he was somewhere on the high seas pretending to reel in a killer shark.
“Whoa, she is a big one, come on lil’ darlin’, I know you wanna fight,” he excitedly cried out as he spun the screeching kitten in a full 360 degress while reeling it in to safety.
“Come on baby, come on to daddy, that’s my girl. “ And just as the kitten was safe on the ground, its owner had approached Jonny and grabbed the kitten before Jonny had a chance.
“Fluffy, are you alright?” young Emily, still wearing her pajamas and with bare feet, inquired of her little kitten.
“She’s gonna be just fine,” Jonny reassuredly replied.
“You’re not missing an arm,” the little girl sharply responded.
Scowling, Jonny knew he was busted, and didn’t say a word. He scratched his head and looked around to see if anyone else witnessed the event as little Emily ran back across the street caressing her little Fluffy in her arms. Jonny adjusted his arm into its normal position of making it appear that he had only one good arm and proceeded on to the next house where he would get the surprise of his life.