T is for Trespass - Page 130/144

Gus’s pace was slow, progressing by way of baby steps that advanced him inches at a time. Covering the fifteen feet from the bedroom to the end of the hall took the better part of two minutes, which doesn’t sound like much time unless Solana Rojas was on her way home. When we reached the kitchen door, I glanced to my right. Henry didn’t dare bang on the glass, but he was waving and pointing frantically, making hurry-up motions and sawing an index finger across his throat. Solana had apparently turned the corner from Bay to Albanil. Henry disappeared and I had to trust him to save himself while Peggy and I focused on the task at hand.

Peggy was about my size, and we were both laboring to keep Gus upright and on the move. He was light as a stick, but his balance was off and his legs would give way every couple of steps. The journey across the kitchen floor proceeded as though in slow motion. We eased him out the back door, which I had the presence of mind to close behind us. I wasn’t sure what Solana would think when she found the front door unlocked from inside. I was hoping she’d blame Tiny. From the street, I heard the muffled slamming of a car door. I made a little sound in my throat and Peggy shot me a look. We doubled our efforts.

Getting down the back porch steps was a nightmare, but time was too short to worry about what would happen if Gus fell. The afghan trailed behind him and first one of us and then the other would get a foot tangled in the wool. Peggy and I were half a step away from stumbling, and I could picture all three of us going down in a heap. We didn’t exchange a word, but I could tell she was feeling the same strain as I was, trying to hurry him to safety before Solana entered the house, checked his room, and discovered he was gone.

Halfway down the back walk, in a wonderful grasp of the obvious, Peggy reached down and put an arm under Gus’s legs. I did the same and we lifted him, forming a chair with our arms. Gus had a trembling arm around each of us, holding on for dear life as we sidled the length of the walk as far as Gus’s back gate. There was a shriek of rusty metal hinges when we opened it, but by then we were so close to freedom that neither of us hesitated. We staggered the twenty steps down the alley to her car. Peggy unlocked the front door, flung the back door open, and settled him on the backseat. He had the presence of mind to lie down to conceal himself from view. I took his prescription meds from my fanny pack and put them near him on the seat. I was arranging the afghan over him when he grabbed my hand. “Careful.”

“I know it hurts, Gus. We’re doing the best we can.”

“I mean, you. Be careful.”

“I will,” I said, and to Peggy, “Go.”

Peggy closed the car door, shutting it with the tiniest click. She moved to the driver’s-side door and slid under the wheel, shutting her door with scarcely any sound. She started the car as I slipped through the fence into Henry’s backyard. She pulled away slowly, but then accelerated with a snap of gravel. The plan was for her to take Gus straight to the ER at St. Terry’s, where she’d have a doctor examine him and admit him if necessary. I wasn’t sure how she’d explain their relationship unless she simply presented herself as a neighbor or friend. No reason to mention the conservatorship that had made him a virtual prisoner. We’d had no discussion on the subject beyond the initial rescue, but I knew that in saving Gus, she was reaching back in time far enough to save her Gram.

Henry appeared around the corner of the studio and racewalked across the patio. There was no sign of his garden tools so he’d apparently abandoned them. When he was in range of me, he took me by the elbow and herded me toward his back door and into the kitchen. We shed our jackets. Henry turned the thumb bolt and then sat down at the kitchen table while I went to the phone. I put a call through to Cheney Phillips at the police department. Cheney worked vice, but I knew he’d be quick to grasp the situation and set the proper machinery in motion. Once I had him on the line, I bypassed the niceties and told him what was going on. According to Peggy, there was already a warrant out for Solana. He listened intently and I could hear him tapping away on his computer, pulling up wants and warrants under her various aliases. I gave him Solana’s current whereabouts and he said he’d take care of it. That was that.

I joined Henry at the kitchen table, but both of us were too anxious for idleness. I picked up the newspaper, opened it at random to the op-ed page. People were idiots if the opinions I read were any indication. I tried the front section. There were the usual troubles in the world, but none of them matched the drama we’d launched here at home. Henry’s knee was jumping and his foot made little tapping sounds on the floor. He got up and crossed to the kitchen counter, where he plucked an onion from a wire basket and removed the papery outer skin. I watched as he cut the onion in half and again in quarters, reducing it to a dice so small it sent tears running down his cheeks. Chopping was his remedy for most of life’s ills. We waited, the silence broken only by the ticking of the clock as the second hand swept the face.