[WARNING! GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AHEAD!]
Patty felt bad that Lamar had sold his Rolex to get the supplies she said they needed and figured there must be some way to repay him. She went to her room and retrieved a pair of diamond studs her ex-husband had given her when Elena was born. They were only one carat total weight, but figured they must be worth something.
Lamar told her that he traded his Rolex for the bike and trailer at a pawn shop just a few blocks away and since she did not want him to know her plans, she left without telling him and on foot so she did not have to reveal the location of her precious bike.
There were still quite a few people out on the streets and most were caught up in their own problems. Any store which appeared to have food was the most popular location and people hurried in and out with bags purchased with their remaining cash Patty was sure.
There was also a different vibe in the air that Patty had not felt yesterday or even this morning. As another night fell, the city was chlostrophobic and stifling. As if air could not penetrate the forest of concrete and steel and the deafening void left by the silence of machines made it no better.
Patty was looking for the pawn shop when she noticed her shoelace was untied. She paused for a moment by the entrance to an alley when someone jerked her into the darkness between the buildings.
Patty fell to the ground and scraped her knees which hurt. She was momentarily stunned when a hand grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to her feet and shoved her face first against a wall. The most hideous smell hit her as her assailant pushed against her from behind and hoarsely whispered into her ear,
"Say mama, you so fine. What you doing out by yo self. Nay Nay gonna take care of you real good. We going to partay and get down in our little love crib. C'mon baby, quit squirming around and let's shack it up."
Patty was disgusted by his odor and nasty voice in her ear. Anger welled up inside of her as this creature jepordized her only chance at getting to her daughter and home. She acted.
She rammed her elbow as hard as she could into the mans solar plexus and simultaneously slammed her foot down on the top of his right foot. He exhaled retched smelling air from his open mouth and released his grip slightly.
Patty pushed off with both hands against the wall and they fell to the ground with Patty landing and putting most of her body weight on her attacker's chest. Patty rolled to her right and attempted to stand, but her assailant grabbed her leg causing her to trip.
The unknown man got on all fours and tried to crawl over to Patty, but she was faster and in better shape. She scrambled to the wall just beyond his reach and yanked the improvised club from under her shirt and turned to face her attacker.
He was disgusting. His hair was matted and dirty. His teeth brown, rotting and chipped. His clothes were of no color, stained and torn. He reeked of urine, beer, cigarettes and the unmistakeable odor of drugs. He was trying to pull something from his pants when Patty realized it was a gun. She put all of her weight on her left foot as she stepped forward and brought the club down on the man's head.
For a moment, nothing happened, he just stood there with a blank look on his face. Patty brought the club up and down one more time in the same place and blood began to flow off her attacker's head and down his face. He still had the same blank look on his face as if he was totally oblivious to his injury.
Not taking any changes, Patty swung the club right to left and hit the man across the side of his head and heard the improvised weapon crack. She then pivoted back on her turned left foot and kicked out with her right foot into his chest. The man fell backwards and the gun spilled from his pants to the ground.
Patty dove and grabbed the gun and fell back against the wall, pointing it at the man as he thrashed around on the ground. What seemed like hours was only seconds as the life ebbed from Nay Nay's abused body.
Patty sat in the dirty alley staring at the dead man's body in front of her. She then looked around and realized that nobody had heard the fight and obviously, had not come to her aid. It would have turned out much worse as she surely would have been raped and probably murdered by this maniac.
Patty looked at the gun in her shaking hand. It was a Glock, she knew that much. Upon careful scrutiny, she saw it was a Glock 19, a nine millimeter. She carefully removed the magazine and seeing it was loaded, worked the action but a round was not chambered. She replaced the magazine, chambered a round and carefully moved toward the dead man.
His eyes were still open but lifeless, his face covered in his own blood. Patty carefully checked for a pulse and found none. She looked over the body and noticed the mans bulging pants pockets. Reaching in the closest pocket, she removed several plastic bags containing clumps of a graying white substance which she deduced was narcotics of some sort. She pulled all the contents out and saw that was all that was in this pocket.
She checked the other pocket and found the spare magazine to the Glock. It only contained three rounds, but she placed it aside to keep. She emptied the same pocket and found a funny looking pipe, a lighter, a huge wad of money and a packet of cigarettes.
The lighter might be useful as would be the wad of cash. The rest she left on the ground. It was then she realized she had been touching everything with her bare hands and wondered what would happen if the police came along. Would they believe her story? Would they take her in and arrest her? How could she contact her family or an attorney? No, the best thing would be to get out of here as quickly as possible.
She picked up her club and since it was cracked and probably not much use, she tossed it into a nearby dumpster. She shoved the spare Glock magazine, the cash and lighter in to her fanny pack along with the handgun. She then said a small prayer for the unknown attacker's soul and hurried out of the alley, but kept her hand inside the pack wrapped around the butt of the Glock. It made her feel safer.
Patty went directly to her hotel forgoing the pawn shop, a voice in her head singing to her - [you just killed a man, you just killed a man... i had to... i had to.. I have to get to Elena..]
She passed the front desk and snapping out of her shock induced haze, noticed Somers was no longer there but instead, a young African-American woman was standing behind the counter reading a paperback.
"Ma'am?" she called when Patty came in. "Do you need to be let in your room? I can have the bellman help you."
[you just killed a man.. you just killed a man.. i had to.. i had to.. leave me alone..]
Patty jumped at the sound of the young woman's voice.
"Why yes I do, thank you. What happened to Miss Somers?" Patty asked.
"She left. Some customer got mad at her and they got into it so she picked up her stuff and said she was going home. There's only me and a couple of us left here now. I don't know when they're going to get the lights on, but I hope it is soon. It's getting creepy down town,"
Patty shuddered and thought of the man in the alley, [dead.. dead.. patty killed a man...]
"You don't know how much I agree with you. How many guests are left in the hotel? Are you still planning on closing it down in the next few days?" asked Patty.
"I don't know, ma'am, but more left today. I don't know where they're gonna go to, ain't no taxis or cars running." she replied. "But nobody told me about closing up. It won't matter because I don't think anyone is gonna come back to work soon."
Just then, the front door opened and a man wearing a red polo shirt with a badge over the breast and POLICE written across the back, dark pants, and a gun belt walked in. Patty's heart fell fearing it was the police and they were going to arrest her for the death of that drug addict in the alley. [they found you.. they found you.. they found the dead man..]
"Do you have any water?" he asked in a tired voice.
"Sure, it's not very cold, but we have some, here." and the desk clerk handed the officer two bottles from behind the desk.
He opened one and drank deeply before speaking again.
"What's the situation here?"
"We have a few guests still left, there's no power and we stopped serving food." replied the clerk.
"Well, you are better here than in some of the other parts of the city. We are riding bikes and horses." he said looking up at Patty and the clerk, "We managed to get a couple of old tube radios to work downtown and rigged them up to car batteries, but we can't transmit, only listen. Not that there's anything going on out there.
"You know it's the whole world like this? Not just Shreveport or Lousiana, but the whole world? They don't know what caused it, but we are all in deep doo doo for sure. We are riding horses again! It's like the old west!" the police officer said in a frustrated voice.
Patty's heart sank. She always assumed that maybe Texas or otherr places were alright. That maybe help would come from "somewhere else" and everything would be better someday.
"You said you got a radio to work but has anyone managed to get a car or truck working?" Patty asked hopefully.
"Yeah, we got a couple of old cars to start up. And by old I mean early 60's, straight carburetors, spark plugs, no electronics at all. But there's only a few of those available and the roads are clogged with non-running vehicles, so that didn't work too well. Nope, the best bet has been bikes, horses or walking. Maybe it's different out of the city where there's more room, I don't know."
"You say you stopped serving food? Did you run out or something?" he asked.
"No, we still have some stuff left, but we can't cook it and there's no refrigeration. Once the ice all melts, the meat and stuff will go bad and there's nothing we can do about it." said the clerk. Patty said nothing knowing that Manuel and she had other plans for any leftovers in the kitchen.
"You should see the suburbs. All the stores have been stripped clean and now the restaurants and people's homes are being targeted. There's no stores in downtown so people who live near here are going out to suburbs to find stuff. It's a matter of time, but unless we get a miracle, there's going to be a bunch of starving people soon. Never thought I would see it in the USA."
The officer stood up and adjusted his gun belt.
"Can I get another one of these?" he asked holding up the empty water bottle.
"Sure, here you go," said the clerk.
"Make sure you lock the front door when the sun goes down and keep the other exits locked as well. If you have enough people, both working or guests, I would set up someone to keep watch. There's not enough cops, in fact, most didn't even come to work. How could they?. Ya'll take care." and he walked out the front door.
"That does it, I'm going home." announced the clerk.
"Who's gonna watch the front desk? I'm not going to. You better get someone from the other hotel down here or I am going to go home too!" said the bellman in the corner.
[they gonna get you.. you killed a man... ] "SHUT UP!" Patty screamed to herself in her head.
"Hold on," interjected Patty. "Look, it's going to be dark soon and it won't be safe trying to walk home this late. You know, the best thing for us to do is what the police officer said and get everyone down here in the lobby and lock the place up.
How many people are in the hotel and which rooms are they in?" asked Patty.
"About twenty and they all over the place. I can write down the rooms and you can go get them if you want." the clerk said.
"I am sorry, but what's your name miss?" Patty asked the clerk.
"Tawana." she replied.
"OK, Tawana, there's safety in numbers and we are all in this together so let's find a way to make things work. I will go upstairs and start getting people downstairs while you and him lock the front door and the rear doors, got it? Good, let's get busy." said Patty
Patty started on the second floor and did not stop until she had reached the ninth floor. She needed activity and purpose to exorcise the dead man from her mind. She ran from floor to floor sprinting up the stairs, throwing open stairwell doors and pounding on guest room doors.
All in all, she had located sixteen of the twenty people still in the hotel and had directed them all downstairs. Surprisingly, she had not found Alphonse or Lamar yet.
Once back in the lobby and out of breath, Patty stood next to the front desk and let everyone know what was going on. Outside, the sun had set and only a handful of candles were keeping the darkness back.
"Alright everyone, we had a police officer come by about an hour ago and he gave us some information about what's going on and what we need to do." said Patty
Immediately, the small crowd began to talk at once and asking questions until Patty held her hands up for order.
"Please, listen to what I have to say before you all start talking. First up, this power outage is everywhere, not just this city, but the entire world. Second, the situation in town is not getting better but worse. He said there was looting and theft going on in many parts of the city in fact. Finally, he said that we needed to keep the doors locked tonight and setup a watch downstairs to keep an eye on things."
Again, everyone began to talk at once.
"What is the hotel doing about this?"
"Why didn't that policeman stay here and protect us?"
"Maybe he was lying. Did you think of that?"
"I need to get back to Los Angeles and I need a phone. Did that cop have one?"
"Who's in charge here? I want answers!"
Tawana went behind the counter and retrieved her purse and book and slipped out the front door as did the bellman right behind her.
Patty went over to the front door and locked it. She then pulled down the blinds on both front windows and verified they could not open. Next she went around the useless crowd and through the kitchen to the back. She went out in the alley and got her bike and then Lamar's and wheeled them into the kitchen, but stowed them in the janitor's room she found earlier.
She went back into the lobby and immediately, an older man wearing a bathrobe and ascot, of all things, over his dress slacks and shined shoes confronted her.
"Alright, miss, what's happened to that girl at the front desk? Where is the staff? When is dinner going to be prepared and served? I demand to know what's going on around here and when power is going to be restored." he ordered.
"You act like I work here, I am a guest just like you. I was only trying to pass along some information which all of you might find necessary but clearly you and the rest want to complain and have someone else take care of you. Good luck with that." Patty said.
"A guest? I thought you were a maid or something. Hmmph. You people are always in cahoots with each other. You people and your kind were probably the cause of this mess in the first place. I always said we needed to close the borders and halt immigration for about fifty years until things stabilized. Instead, we have a mouthy rabble making a mockery of our society and ..."
"Why don't you shut up you old windbag? You can't even feed yourself and that's my fault? Now get out of my way, somebody has to be the grownup and and do the heavy lifting around here. By the way, you look like an idiot in that bathrobe. Go put some clothes on." barked Patty.
Patty brushed past the older man and went to the front of the lobby where she started pushing a couch against the double doors. Another guest, an older woman came over to help and then a young man. They shoved the couch against the doors and then Patty directed them to start extinguishing the candles in the lobby and herding everyone to their rooms or to the back of the dining room, out of sight of the front door.
Just then, there was a pounding on the front, glass doors of the hotel and to where Patty went running, her hand inside the fanny pack wrapped around the butt of the captured pistol. However, when she saw it was Lamar, she told him to hold tight while she pushed the couch out of the way and unlocked the door.
"Patty, I was wondering where you went off to earlier and i went out looking. It's good you locked up the doors like this, there is a group of people trying to break into the CVS across the street." he gushed.
Ushering Lamar inside, they pushed the couch back in place and then braced it with some additional furniture. Going back to the restaurant, Patty asked about Alphonse and his whereabouts.
"He left already. I went by his room while you were gone and his door was open and it looked like he packed up and headed for Arkansas. There were some shopping bags left in the room along with his laptop and other electronic stuff." he said.
"Lamar, let me ask you a few questions. First, when you went to that pawn shop, did you purchase everything from there or just sell them your watch and get the bike?" asked Patty.
"I sold them the watch and acquired the bike and trailer from them. They wanted my other jewelry, but I put them off figuring the money leftover from the sale of the watch was enough, and it was." he replied.
"I see. When you were in the pawn shop, did they have any guns for sale and available?"
"Sure, they had a few I think. I don't know much about guns, but I think they had some long ones and some handguns behind the counter. Why?" Lamar asked
"Because tomorrow, you and I are going to go over there and see what we can purchase or bargain for. We need to get at least a gun each for protection," said Patty. "We are also going to over to the sporting goods store I visited and see about ammunition and some other supplies."
"Alright, but I think you might be over exaggerating. I am sure things will be fine..."
There was a loud crashing sound and Patty and Lamar went to the window and peered into the dark street. They could see a bobbing flashlight and the outlines of a few people standing outside the CVS. A group of four or five people was trying to break into the store and making a racket.
"I don't think I am exaggerating, Lamar. Do you?", Patty said.
Patty walked back to the rear of the lobby, the whole time keeping her hand on the gun. It was then Patty realized they did not have the key to their rooms upstairs because the bellman had gone. Not wanting to attract much attention. Patty took out the LED flashlight she had in her fanny pack and checked the bellstand and the front desk. She found several keys and figured she would have to try them all for now.
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