Redwood Nine Ch. 12byRoyceConnors©
Chapter 12: La Vie en Lunettes Roses
With the first run over and cash in their pockets, the guys were eager to make more, the desire to be up and running as a club, becoming a common focus. The guys asked Chico how Marietta was doing and his big smile came out at her mention. He said she was doing much better and owed it to them and the girls, for all of their support and kindness to her. The bruises would go away, just like the swelling did, Marlene keeping an eye on her every day was helping too. Keith was asked how his leg was coming along and he stood up and bore his weight on it. He said the bone ached like shite all the time, but the gash had mended well and the bruising was just an ugly yellow and brown now. They were sitting, talking over some ideas, when the door opened and Wally walked in, shouting his arrival back. The guys welcomed him in and then noticed the other guy he brought with him.
"Guys, this is Uncle Tom, the guy I was telling you about. Say hi and then listen to what we have to tell you."
Tom came forward and let the club have a look at him, as he went and shook everyone's hand. They sized him up physically and found nothing impressive about him that way and waited for word of what would convince them, he was worthy of acceptance. Lenny shot out the obvious question.
"Why do they call you Uncle, Tom?"
Tom laughed out loud at hearing the question, one that seemed to be asked constantly of him.
"I guess it's because I'm like everyone's uncle, the Dutch Uncle some call it, you know what I mean? They come to me for everything they need and I get it for them. Not sure how it all started, but it seemed to stick with me ever since."
The tall, thin man with shaggy, brown hair smiled, showing several teeth missing from his mouth. With introductions done, Wally got their attention again and told them of their news.
"Guys, check this out. Tom and I spotted some great shit for the clubhouse, over in Stockton. There's a place that closed down a little while ago and they're going to gut it. Right now, there's a bar and a couple of pool tables inside that are ours for the taking. We have to get there real soon, or they're gone, 'cause someone else will grab them. That's one thing, the next thing is, we found a sweet, '62 GMC cab and chassis with dual axles, sitting in this guy's yard. I'll check with Jake if he likes that kind of truck, but the guy only wants two hundred and fifty bucks for it. Oh, Oh, check this out. The guy has an old Harley sitting around back that Tom is looking at. It needs some work, but I said you guys would be able to get it running right for him."
"Sure, no problem, as long as it isn't seized. Sounds like you guys have been busy. Nice going Uncle Tom."
JT raised his beer can to him in salute, the others joining in and offering up a small cheer.
"Thanks JT. Hey, almost forgot. Wally said you guys were needing more sheet goods to finish the walls, right?"
"Yeah, we ran out of drywall in the bedrooms."
"Would panelling work for you guys?"
"What kind of panelling?"
"Wood panelling, the thin shit that looks like wood planks stuck together."
JT looked at Tom and then the others, expressing with his face he had no problems with that and saw none of the others did either.
"That'll work. How much can you get?"
"How much do you need?"
JT seemed surprised, but realized Wally had said he could get pretty well anything they wanted and always came through.
"Off hand, enough to go around this entire place and the interior walls we make as well."
Tom looked around and started guessing at how many sheets it would take to complete the job of finishing all the walls.
"Gonna take a shitload of panels to do it, maybe three or four skids of them, at least."
"Guess that's a bit much to ask for, is it?"
Tom laughed, Wally joining in, sharing a common joke between them.
"I never said that, JT. I can get you your panels. I know a place in the south end of Stockton, that makes that shit. I got a truck big enough to haul it all in one shot, too. Can't be making trips back and forth, if you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I got you. What kind of truck do you have, to pull it off?"
"A good flatbed, a five ton. That shit ain't light, when it's on skids. Anyone know how to drive a forklift, by the way?"
Lenny held his hand up to him.
"I got that covered. I drive one all day at the job site."
"Great. Maybe we should go and check it out and see what kind of plan we can come up with."
"Good idea, Tom. Leave nothing to chance. We've come close to getting busted a couple of times and fluked our way out of trouble."
The guys seemed to like Tom and his attitude towards them and the club. They could see how he could be an asset to them, supplying them with virtually anything they asked for. JT sensed the common like of him and called for a vote of membership. A unanimous yes was given and beers were opened and more joints were rolled in his honour. The time flew by, until Wally decided they had better make their way down to south Stockton and scope out the site for the panelling, then maybe drive by the truck, Tom mentioned about, in the north end.
JT and Lenny went with Wally and Tom, in Wally's Chevy, while the others hung out by the bikes and talked shop about them. The drive to Stockton was filled with questions for Tom and who he was. Not much more than a sketchy childhood and a life of being on the road, was mostly all they could get out of him. He had dodged the draft two years back and had been on the run ever since. He had a place of his own at one time, but abandoned it to avoid prison time and losing it all anyway. His training as a locksmith had come in useful on many occasions, knowing how to pick locks and open safes. JT and the other vets, could understand Tom's reluctance to go over there, having served themselves and knew what he would have endured, had he gone.
His business was good when he was free, but now he had to keep moving around and staying at places that no one knew of, leaving little, or nothing of a trail behind him. He now made it his life's work, to know how to steal just about anything, making his talents a highly valuable commodity to have. He knew how to by-pass alarms, hijack trucks, hot wire a vehicle, or any other means of acquiring what he needed to get. What made Tom laugh, was his confession that for all he stole, he had very little to show for it. Possessions became hard to carry around with him, so he stuck with only what he needed, a suitcase of clothes and a couple boxes of memories he couldn't part with.
The commercial area in south Stockton, just off 99, had street after street of businesses, in all manner of types. Wally kept passing the streets, until he came to the second last one and turned left. He drove a couple of blocks and slowed, as they passed the yard that held all the panelling. Lenny spotted the yard forklift truck and knew he could drive it. Tom said he could wire it to run in seconds for him and Wally said he could get his hands on some bolt cutters, to cut the links in the fence. The road after this one went along the back of the lot and held the best means of entry and exit for them. Stacks of skids containing the panelling, were four high, making it necessary for the forklift to pick it up and load it.
Tom pointed across the street at the metal supply company and the five ton flat bed. Tom could have it around the back of the yard, by the time Lenny had the first skids ready. They could only guess at the number of sheets per skid, but figured four would cover everything they had to.
Tom cautioned them on what to wear, so they wouldn't be seen easily, so black or dark clothing was a must. Tom estimated they had six hours to accomplish the heist, from the time of the last place in the area closing, until the first trucks were being loaded in the morning. If all went to plan, it wouldn't take more than two hours in total to load and unload the skids, then bring the truck back and park it. JT had it all figured out in his head how it should go and praised Tom again, on his abilities to find things. With that said, Tom suggested they go check out the truck he spotted, along with the bike.
The drive to north Stockton was easy going up 99 and they turned off at 26, making a right, to go over 99 again, going west along Fremont Street. Wally pulled left onto N. Windsor Ave and drove down the road a short ways, before he pulled into a driveway. The front and back yards had been paved over and almost all the space available, was occupied by cars and trucks of all kinds, as well as parts of them. Wally pulled around back and they saw the owner, sorting through metal and tossing it into battered, old drums.
The old man squinted and then recognized Wally's car, putting a toothless smile on his face. He stopped what he was doing and came over to the four young men, who got out and looked about. Introductions were made by Tom, then the old man, Gus, took them back to where the truck was. JT looked the '62 Chevy C30 over, noting the heavy duty options, then spotted that it came with a 327 V8, the first year it came out with one. The glass and body were good, then spryly, Gus jumped in and pumped the gas several times, firing it up after several cranks and ran it for a minute. Gus shut it off and stood beside the guys, now making a decision.
"How much did you say you wanted for it, Gus?"
"I want two fifty for her. She's worth every penny."
"Can I use your phone to call Charming? The truck is for my boss and he has final say in it."
"Sure, who's your boss?"
"Jake, Jake Harding."
"Well no shit, Jake Harding, eh? How is that old son of a bitch? I ain't seen, or heard from him in a coon's age."
"You know Jake?"
"Shit, yeah, I know Jake. Did some time with him in Stockton. Knew him for close to three years, then he got out and I never seen him again, until a ruckus over that woman landed him inside again for a couple of nights."
"What time? What ruckus?"
JT and the others were dumbfounded by the information about Jake. Jail time was the last thing they imagined him doing, but this man served time with him and Marlene seemed to always be a part of his life, for the good parts and the bad ones.
"Got himself a nickel for putting a beating on some fella. Seems he called his woman some pretty nasty names and tried grabbing her. Judge wouldn't have given him as much time, but witnesses said he was kicking him when he was already down and out, busted his face up pretty bad, near killed him. Really great guy, one of the best I ever knowed, just don't cross that line with him regarding women."
"Yeah, I noticed that. Gave me a helluva talk down, for just saying something to Marlene."
"That wouldn't be Marlene Brock, or is it?"
"Yeah, yeah, that's her. Damn hot looking woman too."
"You seen her?"
"Yeah, she owns the motel we're staying at and Jake and her are catching up on old times again."
"I'll be Billy B. Frig. Jake's got it bad for her still. Her husband finds out, they'll be singing a different tune. He's got a temper as bad as Jake's and the muscle to back it up. Had a set to the last time he and Marlene hooked up behind his back. Landed them both in jail for a cool down. Saw him in the yard, didn't say much to me though. No idea what that woman does to him, but he'd risk it all for her."
JT and the others were enthralled at knowing more about Jake's past, than they already knew.
"You say this truck is for Jake?"
"Yeah, he needs a new wrecker for the shop. The old one just died and nothing's worth fixing on it."
"Tell you what. You go back and tell Jake he's got a truck, but he has to come and see the owner about it first. I'd like to see that old soldier again. Don't tell him it's me, I want to surprise him. Just tell him, 328 west, he'll know."
"Thanks a million, Gus. 328 west. Got it. Great meeting you and sharing some things with us. Jake keeps kinda hush hush about himself and doesn't say much."
"Yeah, he's always been like that, as long as I can remember. Like pulling hen's teeth to get anything out of him. Only one else I know that got in, was that woman, Marlene."
"Seems she's still the only one who knows anything."
"You boys want to know Jake better, you just come by with a bottle of Old Grandad for me and I'll tell more stories about Jake Harding, than you'll hear anywhere's else."
Gus' nod and look, assured them he knew quite a lot more about Jake and his unknown past. It was hard to truly admire a man, when most of his life was missing for the picture to be complete about him.
"Deal, Gus. Hey, thanks again for everything. I'm sure Jake is going to want this for a wrecker, so let me get your number and I'll give it to him."
Gus hobbled on his bad leg into his garage and came back out with a grease stained business card for a trucking company, with his number on the back. JT slipped it in his back pocket and shook Gus' hand,
"Tom was saying you had an old Harley he wanted me to look at. Where's that at?"
"Over this way, behind that bus."
Gus led them through the maze of parts and wrecks, towards the old school bus at the back and pulled the tarp off the bike. JT sat on it and checked out the usual things and then tried the starter. It was stiff, but it moved and that was all JT wanted to know. He laid it on the stand again and checked out the engine and suspension, looking for signs of leakage and came away nodding.
"Workable. Pretty rough shape though. What do you want for it?"
Gus looked at JT and then to Tom, deciding on what to charge for it.
"Gimme seventy five for it and it's yours."
"Got yourself a deal, Gus."
Tom took out a small roll of bills and peeled off four twenty dollar bills and handed them to Gus. Gus took out a roll twice the size and flipped through it with his thumb, to find a five. He picked one out and handed it to Tom, wrapping the twenties around his roll and put it in his pocket again. Eyes carefully noted the value of the rolls mentally and were impressed with what they saw. Might be dirty, boring work, but Gus made a sizable sum of money, from scrap metal and parts.
"I'll get a truck and pick up the bike soon, Gus. Need anything from me?"
"Nope, I'm good for now. If you see anything interesting, give me a call and I'll let you know if you should pick it up, or not."
"You got it. Thanks, Gus."
"My pleasure. Hope it runs good for you. You guys ride too?"
"Yeah, just started a club, Sons of Anarchy."
JT turned around and showed him the patch.
"Not bad, one of the better ones I've seen lately."
"See many clubs around here?"
"Oh yeah. See all kinds going up and down 5 and 99 and across 580 into Oakland."
"Seen a couple on 580 ourselves, didn't we, Piney?"
Piney gave JT a leery look and never said anything, then turned back to Gus. Gus asked what they were into and JT just said they liked to ride together and that was all. Gus seemed happy with that and headed back to the bins again. JT thanked him again and said he'd be in touch and bring a bottle down to him. Gus' toothless smile came out and a happy wink followed. With their quest over, they headed back to Charming, with talk of Jake being the main subject and his relationship with Marlene.
They pulled to the gate and saw it was open, so they went right in. The bright colours and designs on the VW micro-bus were hard to miss, as were the hippies that were milling around it. JT saw Piney looking at the engine, shaking his head to the long haired man beside him. Wally pulled in where the bikes were and shut the car off. JT walked over to Piney and the guy beside him. For the most part, there wasn't much of a difference between himself and the other guy, except for the way he was dressed. He looked at the headband made from a flag, as well as the billowy shirt he wore. He noticed the bell bottom jeans and the thick, leather belt with a pot leaf for a buckle. The braided, leather necklace he wore, held a large peace symbol at the bottom, all wrapped in different coloured strings to look like a rainbow.
"Hey there, name's JT."
"Hi JT, I'm Moon Child, or just Moon, like most call me."
Moon held out his hand and JT accepted it, shaking it happily. JT couldn't help but notice the round, pink lens of Moon's glasses.
"So Moon, what's with the pink glasses? Haven't seen anything like those before."
"Just looking at the world through different eyes, JT. The world is what you make out of it, right? We're heading to a place in Calaveras, where a friend has two hundred acres of land and a house. We're going out there to live and practice free love, man. No more society bullshit about what we can and can't do. All we want is peace and smoke the good herb, you know?"
"I can dig that, Moon. We're sort of the same. We just started our club, the Sons of Anarchy. We want to live by our own rules as well. After 'Nam, it seemed like the whole country went to shit when we were over there. Jake, the guy that owns this shop, gave us the only decent job we could find. Now we're mechanics. So hey, speaking of which, what's wrong with this thing anyway?"
"Fucking engine, man. We got to here and that's as far as it wanted to go. It died the second we stopped right here and it won't even fire up now."
"Damn, that sounds like it's fried completely, if it won't even spark."
"No shit, man. We're supposed to be there this afternoon, but there's no way now. You think you guys can get this thing running again?"
"Not sure, man. Give it a try and let me hear what it sounds like."
Moon went in and turned the key and the starter wouldn't turn the engine over.
"That's about as seized, as seized gets, Moon. No way this engine is ever going to run again."
"Awww, shit, dude. How the fuck are we going to get out to Calaveras now? I better talk to everyone and let them know what's happening."
Moon called his friends over to him and explained the situation. Faces went long and discouraged by the news. JT knew the predicament they were in and the need to be somewhere else, other than here, with him.
"JT, you know anywhere we can set up a tent for the night?"
"You thinking of camping out, until the thing is fixed?"
"Not much choice, man, unless you know of some other way to get us and our stuff out to Calaveras?"
JT could see their plight. He thought about the motel, but figured they'd imposed enough of themselves on Marlene already. Money was obviously an issue with them, their combined resources going to be depleted by the repairs, so that was out. He thought of the open fields next to the motel property, that were vacant and unused.
"Got an idea that might work, Moon. Come on into the clubhouse and we'll smoke a few joints and talk it over. I think you'll agree with me."
"Cool man. You have a good spirit in you, JT. I sense that. We should let Flower do an aura reading on you, see what colours you are."
"What the fuck are you talking about, man? What aura? What colours?"
"JT, come, let's share what you have and what we have, then we'll talk of ideas and auras."
JT was mystified by Moon and what he was talking about, never hearing of the things he mentioned before. The guys rolled up the bay door for JT and Moon, followed by four girls and two more guys. Being good hosts, they let the girls have the seats and the guys pulled up boxes and crates to sit on.
"We're not quite up and running yet, so we just make do with what we can find for free and go from there."
"That's cool, JT. We do the same thing, too. We're all from the San Francisco area and had enough of the shit from the man, telling us how we had to live. Golden inherited some land from her grandparents last month, so we're heading out there to live. There's a small house there now, so we can build more rooms on to it and grow our own food as well."