Back home that evening, Danny fired up the computer.  

    Ha! As he suspected, he read ‘the tear drops are gang tattoos. The drops indicated a person you had killed. The big drop, the first kill and the smaller ones, later kills.’ Danny pushed himself away from the computer. He felt a rush of revulsion.  “I knew there was something about that guy I didn’t like,” he told the room. With a full-body shake, he went to get himself a beer. Flopping backdown in the big chair, he hit the on button for the TV to watch some baseball and clear his head.

          It was probably a week later, again on the N/B route through SacTown; he first noticed a dim light coming from the abandoned warehouse close to the train tracks. They were slowing for the station when he noticed it.  He began to wonder. Was that where that same kid went every time?                                                        

     The next day, after seeing the kid again with another bag of Mexican food, Danny was on the Sacto-south loop coming back through the capital at dusk. They stopped in front of the station and Danny peered out. Once again, he could see what looked like the same dim light coming from a far window in the red-brick warehouse close to the tracks.

     He got a bee in his bonnet. He went to find the Frump. 

     “Look,” he said to him confidentially, “it’s one stop away from Davis and I want to get off in Sacramento to go do some shopping.” 

      Franklin looked pained. “You know they don’t like it when we do stuff like that, Dan. You’ll get me in trouble.” 

    “Come on Franklin, I’m good for it.” Danny pleaded his case. “I’ll make it up with some yard duty tomorrow, promise.” 

     The Frump heaved his large belly around some and sighed. “Promise?” 

     “Promise, I swear,” Danny replied, holding up his scout’s honor fingers. 

     “Ah, well,” the man sighed, “I’ll cover for you, don’t make a habit of this.” 

     Danny shook his head, no. Grabbing his backpack, he jumped off the train, quickly stuffing his cap and other paraphernalia into the bag. 

     He shouldered the bag and sauntered through the train station stopping for a hot coffee and a bag of chips. He waved a salute to a couple of girls at the station who knew him. They both giggled and waved back at him. He walked out of the front of the station and stood awhile to get his bearings. It was a cool evening, but not cold and he didn’t need more than his regular train jacket.

     The location looked a little different from this angle. He decided the warehouse was across from the tracks to his right a block or two. He started walking and veered right. The streets here were not in the best of shape, a lot of cracks in the sidewalks and places where the old trees had pulled the sidewalk up. Obviously, no one had bothered to get them repaired. There weren’t too many bums in this area of the street for which Danny was glad, he didn’t want to be seen by anyone, in case someone asked questions. 

     It took him about five minutes to get to the front parking lot of the old warehouse. The asphalt was faded with cracks and potholes everywhere. Weeds were trying hard to reclaim the land but half of them were dried out and brown. There was an ancient metal fence around the property with the gate sagging open. Danny stretched his long legs and planted a boot on the other side of the gate and frog-jumped over.

     He had by this time finished his coffee and chips and stuck the remains quietly into his bag.  Loose gravel covered the broken asphalt and he tried to make as little noise as possible as he approached the building. He couldn’t see any signs of life. An owl hooted in the distance and the moon was starting to rise.

     Quietly he moved around to the side of the building. The place had a gloomy, empty feeling.  Early twilight was descending and a light breeze played with the dark, curly hair on his neck. He could hear absolutely nothing from the building. He narrowed his chocolate brown eyes to focus better.  

     Danny skirted the building and occasionally peeked in the windows, searching  for the source of the light. The dirt and grime were so bad he couldn’t see much. Finally, he came upon a small side door with little windowpanes above the door handle. The handle was locked.

     Pulling a handkerchief from his backpack, he wound it around his fist. With one quick ‘pop’, he knocked out the bottom pane. Carefully he stuck his hand through the pane and slowly unlocked the door, pushing it open. Working hard to avoid the broken glass inside, he found himself in what appeared to have been an old mini-kitchen, maybe for workers to have coffee or eat lunch. 

     The light dimmed the further he went into the building. He entered a large, gloomy space that looked like a packing area of sorts. At the far end of the building where the metal roll-up doors were, he could see stacks of boxes. These looked new. 

     Still hearing nothing, he worked his way back to the rear of the big room. The boxes were all about 2’ x 3′ wide and stacked on top of each other. They were new with a bunch of writing on the side. He examined the writing – Spanish. He could easily see where the dust had been disturbed all around the boxes and leading to the roller-doors. It looked like they might been moved here by truck. On the side were heavy wooden shelves and he could see several used containers of food from a fast-food take-out place. Mama Rosas’s face smiled back at him from  an empty bag.

Maybe that was why that kid was here, he thought to himself, delivering dinner.

     He went over to the boxes and found they were sealed with packing tape. It looked like from the picture on the side they were packages of kitchen baking soda. He saw one box that had been opened and he went over and poked his nose in. Boxes and boxes of light orange boxes were stacked inside advertising the benefits of Salvo’s Home Baking Soda. Danny was mystified. 

     Why ship out boxes of Mexican baking soda here, was the duty or tax on this stuff that high?
He shook his head. It made no sense. He picked up a box and shook it and could feel the heavy powder moving back and forth inside. 

     I wonder, he thought. He pulled out his old Navy multi-purpose knife and pulled out the smallest, thinnest blade. He slipped it carefully into the top edge of the box, hoping that it would look like an accidental cut from packing. Making a thin slice, he shook some powder in his hand. He licked one finger and tasted a tiny bit of the powder. Phew! He spit it out, cocaine! No doubt about it. He was putting the box back into the cardboard box when he heard a noise in front of the metal roll-up door. Someone is coming! 

     He shoved the soda back into the box and ripped his shoes off so he wouldn’t make any noise running through the warehouse. He beat it back to the little door, slipped his shoes back on and crept out of the door. He ducked down and worked his way back to the front of the building keeping below the level of the windows. 

     It was dark by now but there was no other way off the property other than the front gate. The back of the lot faced the train tracks and there was no easy way through the fence. He got to the corner of the building and with his heart in his mouth, peeked around the corner. 

Surprise, surprise. Mr. Teardrop was standing behind a black pickup truck and unloading more boxes into the warehouse. He was working with another guy and they were talking to each other in Spanish. His fancy clothes were gone and he was working in a black t-shirt, black pants and the cowboy boots. There was a large gun-rack on the back of the truck’s cab. Danny could see what looked like a couple of shotguns resting there.

     Danny sucked in his breath and waited until both of them were busy in the warehouse with boxes. He moved quickly to the fence and kept to the shadows while he beat a path out of the lot and back to the station. He felt sure they had not seen him. 

     Back at the station he jumped on the next train to Davis and finally relaxed into a seat. He realized his heart was pounding. His instincts about this guy were right and he still didn’t want to have a mano-a-mano conflict with the dude. God knows what he would pull out of one of those boots. A little shiver went down Danny’s spine. He wasn’t sure if it was excitement or fear. Ah, well, let’s get us home.

     Continued in Part III