Chet Kimbrough fantasized, and not for the first time, about running a series of workshops for disgraced politicians knocked out of office over sex or drug scandals. Certainly ex-mayor and now city council member Marion Barry of DC had shown that doing time after getting busted on grainy spycam trying to get your swerve on couldn’t stop a determined personage from again holding elected office, writing a book or maybe even get to consult–for a fee, of course–on the feature film about you. His mind drifted from that to casting the movie about the rise and fall and possible rise again of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer–Ed Harris… no, go younger with, say, Jake Gyllenhaal aged up some as Spitzer–as his Toyota hybrid crested the small rise toward his destination. And what about David Paterson, who took Spitzer’s place, moving up from lieutenant governor? Only the third black governor since Reconstruction. Plus blind? Sweet. You can’t make that stuff up. Give Paterson secret hypersenses like Daredevil to ferret out lying lobbyists and white-collar criminals. Great part for Blair Underwood or Danny Glover.
His vehicle started down the other side. Traffic coming out on the 210 Freeway was better than he expected and he’d made good time getting out here to Big Bear Lake despite off-season snow that caked the nearby ski ranges. But apparently due to global warming throwing the earth’s temperature off kilter, the notion of “seasons,” even here in Southern California, was becoming hollow. Or maybe, he surmised, like in that original Twilight Zone episode he saw each Thanksgiving cable marathon of the show, the sun was losing its heat and a new ice age would freeze over our ATMs and we’d have to slog through heavy drifts on our dog sleds to get to our colon-cleansing appointments.
He smiled at that as he entered a clearing, searching for the cabin that Lacy Mills was hopefully holed up in, when the windshield blew apart. Hundreds of shards of safety glass peppered the interior of his car and ripped his face. Kimbrough instinctively put up his arm, but his face was already bloody, and he was having a hard time seeing out of his right eye. He kept cool and retained control of his SUV as roused birds flapped from the trees. Then another blast of a shotgun shattered the driver’s side mirror and Kimbrough veered sharply off the road and into thick brush, the front tires banging against something solid that prevented further advancement. The doors blocked by the heavy shrubbery, Kimbrough got his seat belt loose and scrambled over the dash and out the jagged hole where the windshield used to be.
His knees and lower legs shredded from the broken glass, Kimbrough proned onto the hood of his Toyota as yet another shotgun blast rang out. His heart beating so furiously he could barely hear, he got clear of the hood and fell to the ground, head first, hands spread to absorb the impact. He came down harder than he anticipated and his left wrist crumpled under his weight. Bleeding and terrified, he crouched on a knee in front of his vehicle, listening and trying to get his pulse rate down to what would be manageable for a race horse. Kimbrough strained to hear footsteps or voices. He was acutely aware that the birds had resettled in the trees, excitedly chirping as they spread the news that they weren’t the target of the shooter.
Kimbrough waited ten minutes, praying to all that was invisible for total blackness–but sunset was at least an hour away. There were other cabins in the area, but as far as he could tell, no one had come out to investigate the shots. They couldn’t all be on the slopes slaloming, he reasoned. But then how many of these cabins were occupied at any given time? His customary contrariness returned and he raised fraction by fraction until he was not erect but hunched over the front of his SUV. Nothing except greenery and the increasing ache from his cuts and bruises. He moved cautiously toward the clearing, sliding one hand before the other on the side of his Highlander as if it were a psychological anchor. At the rear area of his vehicle he paused, looking out at the clearing. He closed his eyes and stepped out. His panic had subsided and he remembered he had a cellphone–in his car, resting in the cup holder.
Then, like in a cowboy oater on Saturday morning, a thin tree branch cracked behind him. Kimbrough’s heart stopped beating as he turned around, trying his best not to evacuate his bladder.
After the water apportionment meeting, Congresswoman Cynthia Kang made a visit to the Claire Woo Job Training and Placement Center in her district. The Center was run jointly by Shih-Kao Buddhist Temple and Full Steps, an organization run by and geared to help ex-offenders transition back into society. Putting action to her words, Kang had hired Lettie Cortez, a graduate of the center’s program. A onetime eight ball chick, Cortez had done a five-year jolt at CCWF in Cowchilla for the knifing of an abusive, meth-head boyfriend. Cortez had started merely as a receptionist in her Monterey Park office but took classes at the local JC, and when the opportunity to become the office manager in Kang’s DC office presented itself, she was selected to fill the post. After leaving the job training facility, she stopped by a rec center on the edge of her district. She said hello to the staff and caught part of a basketball game involving the youth league.
Back in her Prius she called Chet Kimbrough but only got his voice mail. She figured no news from him meant his trip out to Big Bear was for naught except the pleasant scenery. She put in a call to her folks and chatted briefly with her mother, promising to keep their dinner date for the following evening, and no, it didn’t bother her if her brother Cyrus probably wasn’t going to make it. How sad, she lamented, and her mother admonished her about her sharp tongue. They chuckled and said their good nights. Heading to her apartment, Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels” bumpin’ softly on her car stereo, Kang pictured the irresistible, muscular LAPD detective Desdemona Valdez would look in her lacy underwear as she helped unzip her pants… when her cellphone rang. She clicked it on and put it to her ear. Soon the law was going to kick in and she’d have to get that damn BluTooth.
“Cynthia,” Lillian McCord said after pleasantries, “Conrad Waller has been arrested.”
To Be Continued…