Chapter 4

Dustin stood there for a minute trying to soak it all in.  After while, he went back to the bedroom to grab his flashlight.  What sort of problem could they have had at the site to bring news copters when something as large as the Bay Bridge had collapsed?  Surely there must have been other things going on throughout the city and in the surrounding areas that they could have filmed. 

In the darkened bathroom Dustin turned on the flashlight propping it upwards in the basin of the sink so that he could see himself to shave.  The mirror had cracked down the center making his face look divided in its reflection.  The light shown up and drew heavy shadows across his features.  From the corner where the bath sat, a pool of water had gathered underneath a broken pipe which jutted out from behind the toilet.  Shards of tile lined the bottom of tub where it had torn itself from the wall.

Grabbing a razor he raked it across his dry face and then changed into his clothes.  Thinking about it, he decided to don a tie just in case he needed to talk with customers and the media.  Dustin still wasn’t sure what was going on out there but he felt that he should at least offer an air of respect when dealing with matters at the site.  It was a necessary part of his job.

He was just about to grab his gym bag and the suitcase when the phone rang again.  Dustin looked at screen and saw that it was from an UNKNOWN number.  “Hello?”  He said putting it to his ear.

“Sylvia?”  The voice of an older man asked.

Dustin hesitated.  “Ah… no.”  He said pausing in the doorway between his bedroom and the bathroom.

“Oh.”  The man said.  “I’m terribly sorry then.”

“It’s okay.”  Dustin replied.  He was just about to hang up when the man spoke again.

“I was looking for Sylvia.”  The man said again.  He sounded confused and dazed as he spoke.  “She’s not there is she?”

“No.”  Dustin answered.  “I think you may have the wrong number.”

“It’s just that she goes out to the gym.”  The man continued.  “She gets up early in the morning and goes to the gym and now I’m sort of trapped.”

“You’re trapped?”  Dustin asked.  “From the earthquake?”

“Well, more from a beam.”  The man replied.  “Our bedroom overlooks the Bay and it’s got these great red oak beams which run across the ceiling.  I think one of them fell on me.”

“Are you okay?”

The man coughed.  “I don’t really know.” He said gently.  “I can’t get up to look at myself in the mirror.  I was hoping that you were my wife.  She usually knows what to do.”

“Where do you live?”  Dustin asked hoping to help.  “Maybe I can call someone to check on you?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to trouble you.”  The man said.  “I’m sorry.  Maybe I should try calling my wife.  She gets up early and heads off to the gym.  I wish she wouldn’t drive when it’s dark out but she likes to keep fit you know?”

“Yes.”  Dustin answered without really understanding. 

“I’m sorry.  You seem very kind.  I didn’t mean to disturb you.”  The man on the other end of the phone said and then he hung up.

Dustin looked at the phone trying to figure out what to do.  He thought about dialing his cellular provider to see if they could trace the call but didn’t know if that would work.  He was standing there debating the matter in his head when the voice of his landlord broke his concentration.

“Times up!”  She said creeping around the corner from the living room.  “I’m not supposed to allow anyone to stay in for longer than ten minutes.  You’ve been here for twenty.”

Self consciously Dustin looked at his watch. “I’m sorry.”  He said as he pocketed his phone and strapped the gym bag over his shoulder.  “I got a strange phone call and the time got away from me.”

The old lady regarded him dubiously.  She was short and squat, a cigarette always dangling from her thin lips and a perpetual sour expression on her face.  “Those your birds?”  She asked motioning towards the kitchen.

“No.”  Dustin replied as he grabbed his suitcase and eased past her.  “They belong to someone from across the street.”

“Birds aren’t allowed.”  She said following him.  “Small ones like these aren’t a problem but if I allowed them then I’d have to allow for the bigger ones and they tend to chew.”

“I understand.”  Dustin said grabbing the cage from off the counter.

The old lady took a long look around the apartment.  “I like your kitten picture.”  She said without much emotion.  “I’ve got one like it myself only smaller.  It makes me happy.”

Dustin nodded.  “Yeah, that’s why I bought it.”

“You do something morbid don’t you?”  She asked as she half ushered, half followed him to the door.  “You probably need all of this crap around.”

Dusting nodded again.

Out on the street he was met by James and Alexis.   “You were in there a long time.”  James said coming to his side and taking the suitcase from him.

“Thanks.”  Dustin said.  “Did you get a hold of your mother-in-law?.”

“Yeah.”  The man said as he set the suitcase down on the sidewalk.  “She lives out in Redwood and we were hoping to stay with her tonight but she can’t get into the city to pick us up and we don’t have a car.”

“So where are you guys going to stay?”

James scratched his head as if the thought just occurred to him.  “Well, Alexis is probably going to go into labor any day now.  To be quite honest, I’m surprised that she didn’t during the quake.  Stressful things tend to do that to pregnant women.”

“How far along is she?”  Dustin asked.

“Oh about eight months.”  James answered proudly.  “It’s a girl!  We’ll probably just hang out here and wait to see if they’re going to set up any shelters in the city.  Where are you headed?”

Dustin pointed to a spot down the west end of the street.  “My business partner is coming to pick me up out by Seal Rock.  We’re going out to Redwood.  If you need a ride I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

James looked down the road weighing his options.  “That’s about three miles.”  He said sounding concerned.  “I’m not sure she could make it.”

“Okay.”  Dustin said picking up the suitcase.  “Well, good luck.”

“Good luck!”  James called back cheerfully.

The End

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