This was the last time, and I meant it. That bastard, Jerome said that
we were going out and he was already an hour late. We were supposed
to be at “The Underground” at ten o’clock and it was already eleven.
My makeup was perfect, but I couldn’t stand up all night, trying not to
get my dress wrinkled.
It had been a rough day. Everyone was coming in and out of the office
with stories about people disappearing. Pets, kids, the elderly, and
some folks who had gone out to shop or jog were simply not showing
up where they were supposed to be. These events had been happening
over in San Francisco, and it smelled like a serial something.
The doorbell rang. My heart jumped a few beats, and then came the
rush of joy and relief, followed by the shame at being happy and
relieved. When was I going to learn to stand up to Jerome and his
I slowly made my way to the door. It was not Jerome. It was Linda
Wadley. Linda never waits to start talking, talking waits for Linda to
“You’re coming with us!” She screamed. “I just knew that Jerome was
going to be a clown, tonight, so we came to get you. You’re not staying
home on a night like this!”
It took me no thought whatsoever. I grabbed my coat from the front
closet, snatched my bag from the sofa and dashed out into the rain
with Linda. We were screaming and laughing the whole way. Linda’s
date, Franklin was driving, so I felt safe. Linda drove like a banshee
back in those days, and her car smelled like fifteen kinds of perfume.
Tonight, the freshest layer of perfume was Lair du Temps, for some
reason. She got off on vintage sniffs.
“Do you know that when a…” Franklin started.
“Franklin!” We both yelled. Franklin was a Doctor, and a vast,
humanoid repository of every scientific joke imaginable. Once he got
started, there was no hope for the mascara or eye shadow, because the
tears were guaranteed to flow. Neither Linda nor I could afford his
humor right now because we were bearing a dangerous mascara load.
Even if it was waterproof, a mascara breakdown of that magnitude
could have been fatal.
We wanted to be perfect for “The Underground”.
Suddenly, Franklin swerved and swore. “What the f**k was that?
Sorry, ladies… What the Fuck?”
A lumpy, misshapen figure had bumped into the car, careened off the
front bumper, and was now barreling on through the night. We had
crossed over the Bay Bridge and had just taken the branch that
headed toward Fell Street.
“Are you all right, Franklin?” we both asked. For some reason, Linda
and I both talked together whenever we were in the car with Franklin
and something awful happened. Franklin was always a bit of an awful
magnet, but this night was proving to be a deviation from the norm.
That moving thing did not look right. No homeless person or druggie
could take a ding from a fast moving car, and then barge off like that.
I waited. Franklin and Linda were talking a mile a minute, but I could
barely hear them.
One minute later, the Violet Long Light came. This time it was
streaking out from a room that was on the third floor of an otherwise
pitch black Victorian.
I didn’t say anything to them, but something made me want to tell
Franklin to turn the car around and go back to Berkeley, where we
could party in peace at Benita’s house. Benita always put on the best
parties, and we would be safe there.
never told her about the Violet Long Light. It always came when it
made no sense. Always, later, sometimes years later, I would discover
that I had been close to something so evil that it was
incomprehensible. I kept my mouth shut and decided that The
Underground would be fine. After all, I hadn’t died yet from seeing
Franklin was fine, so we moved on, silent, through the wet and shiny
streets. A fog was rolling in, which meant that the rain had stopped.
We could smell the bay and sneak glimpses up into the lit up houses,
wondering if people were having elegant appetizers and cocktails.
We were not cynical enough at the time to wonder if someone was
fucking their brains out with the wrong person up in those elegant and
We rolled up to Fort Mason, where the base had been closed, but
where some of the buildings were “available” to those who had the
connections…like the Mayor and the Chief of Police. There was a
warren of underground bunkers that no one ever knew existed, and
one of them was the killer destination for those who were in the know.
Franklin, Jerome, Linda and I, along with a few others, had been to
The Underground a couple of times. Each time was an event to
remember. One event was so wild that it went on for two days, and no
one even knew it. We knew not to talk about The Underground outside
of our little group. We feared that no invitations would ever come
Tonight, there was supposed to be a special show, so we were
overdone with excitement. I had a conflicting and sinking feeling
about Jerome, and feared that our business was over. It hurt me to
think of leaving him to fend for himself in the world, but it also felt
just a taste wonderful to think of moving on to a life that did not
involve sitting up on Saturday nights waiting for him to stand me up
As we pulled up to the parking area, something caught the corner of
my eye. I jumped and turned to look, but only saw the edge of
something moving quickly through the gnarled trees, and then
disappearing. I decided that it was a racoon and left it alone.
Until the violet light came, and I knew that something was going to go
terribly wrong, maybe that night. This time the Violet Long Light was
on a boat, shooting far out onto the bay.
“Do you have your gun, Franklin?” I asked, out of nowhere.
“Why are you asking?” Franklin replied, indignant. Franklin was a
doctor and an F.B.I agent. What a wild combination of stuff he was.
Linda could never understand how the F.B.I ever saw Franklin as an
agent of anything but chaos.
“I just have a feeling that it would be good for you to have your gun.” It
was all that I could say. This may sound like a strange exchange, but
Franklin and Linda knew better than to make a big deal of such
pronouncements out of me. I had been right too many times for them
to argue or freak out.
But two Violet Long Light in less than twenty minutes…?
To be continued…