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07/01/03

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Riding Shotgun  
With Adventure  


by Ron Langston  

Ron Langston

Chapter 28: A Timely Opening


It was all I could do to keep my center of gravity oscillating somewhere more or less between the ugly brown Oxfords I had planted on the dirty platform like a pair of cast iron lawn gnomes. The rumble started out only loud enough to dislodge teeth, but its jaw-rattling crescendo arched quickly past the point where you can feel your eyeballs sloshing in their sockets, then past the moment where you wonder why your head hasn't yet exploded and, just at the point where you are ready to take whatever steps are within your rapidly diminishing power to speed yourself toward the sweet release of death, the subway train screeched to a halt. I swear, for neither the first nor, probably, the last time, that I will never ever again take public transportation when this hung over.

It was strictly business. The one-eyed hunchback had the information I needed and a scarred chopping block of a face that let me know that there'd be no beating it out of him. So last night was spent drinking him onto the sticky floor of the dockside dive he and other pea coat-clad jetsam favored. I got the job done, but not without cost to my liver, bankroll and soul.

My first surprise was that Bertrand was a port man. I had him pegged at gin, or maybe vodka. The second came when I asked his slumping form, between bouts of too-loud laughter and empty bottles of Fonseca Guimaraens, where I could get what I needed. He sat bolt upright, fixed his eyes on me, and said in a clear, low voice, "The Norwegian. Sixth and Embarcadero," closed his eyes and slid gracefully to the floor.

The subway stop was across the street. My equilibrium nearly back to normal, I walked almost firmly down the steps into the basement shop. Jørgen, a small man in half-spectacle, tensed immediately. I slapped the device on the counter. "I have not seen one of these in 25 years," he said to himself. "Can you power it up?" My time and patience were thin. "Ach! A 1972 vintage North Korean bilverksted dør maskin! Yes. I have the batteries here."

Less than 30 minutes later, I was sitting in a car in a nondescript suburb before a nondescript tract home. I pushed the button on the 'maskin' and a garage door lurched open, bringing into view tomorrow's yard sale items. Today.

No early birds, my ass.

Jørgen was good. Jørgen was damn good.

Next Week -- Chapter 29: Five Bucks for THAT Piece of Crap?




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