Karen Masterson’s Brain
The old Subaru station wagon that cruised down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through Fairfax was white but not shiny. A dirty sheen masked its purer nature. On the side of road stood a young woman dressed in a black Spanish dancer’s dress all lace and broad skirt. Her thumb was out. The look on her face was as vacant as store front behind her. There were “for lease” signs in the windows and all was dark inside.
Before Random even thought about what he was doing, he pulled up to the curb, which brought loud honking and a few choice words from the car behind him. He looked over just in time to catch the driver’s gesture, a visual critique of Random’s driving skills. Ignoring this, he turned his attention to the woman trying to open the passenger side door. Random reached over and pulled the little handle. The Spanish dancer flounced into the seat next to him, clumsily hauling the door in, barely clicking closed.
“Wow, smooth driving, Man, Steve said from the back where he and Lin sat dozing next to one another. It was early in the afternoon and clouds had rolled in making the day a little somber.
“Where ya headed?” Random asked the Spanish dancer, who was fiddling in her purse for something. Her hand came up with a shiny pistol, which she pointed at Random’s face.
His stomach flipped over, and his heart stopped for split second. The expression on his face however did not change.
“Give me some money,” she slurred sleepily.
“Sssure. But, I gotta stop the car,” Random stuttered and slowed the car down.
“Hey, Man’s, not like that. Just use your brain and a few words. He’s easy he’ll give you just about anything you want,” Steve’s calm low voice came from the backseat as his hand reached slowly for the gun.
“You won’t need this. Just use your head, Ok?” As he put his hand on the gun she let it go and turned to face out the window scrunching up her face in a parody of hard thinking.
“Please, give me money. Please, give me money,” she whispered urgently and just audibly still looking out the window.
Random looked back at Steve as if asking “What the F…”.
“It’s a toy, Man,” said Steve showing the pistol to Random from the side he could see it was shiny and metallic and made of plastic.
Random breathed after he realized he had been holding his breath. he pulled into the parking lot of a supermarket stopped the car and turned off the engine all with a blank expression.
The girl still had her eyes closed in concentration whispering her desperate litany.
Random breathed again consciously, this time with a little irritation, but yielding to concern.
“Hey you,” he said in calm firm voice, “Let’s start simple. What’s your name?”
She opened one eye and then the other and then said almost as if she was discovering it herself, “Karen Masterson?” there was a little question mark at the end of this.
“Good,” Random said slowly, “now where are you going?”
She put her hand up to her forehead and looked out the passenger window for 3 seconds, turned quickly and said with perfect innocence as if the gun pointing had never occurred, “I remember now, Mendicino, to my grammy’s”
“Grammy lives in Mendicino? Do you have a phone number?”
“Yes,” she said gaining enthusiasm as if she was on a quiz show winning prizes with each answer. She nodded her head in little palsied shakes.
“Can I see it?”
“Oh yeah.” She started to dig in the purse, but Random reached over and took the purse gently from her hands and checked inside. There was a small Chinese coin purse with pills in it, a pack of gum with one piece left, a little silver key ring with a kitty charm on it containing three keys, and a pink Velcro wallet with a state ID for Karen Masterson.
He showed her the pills.
“Is it time for you to take one of these maybe, Karen?”
She looked at the pill and said, “No, I took one when I left the house.”
“Where is the house? What town?”
“Auburn,” she answered quickly, smiling her cleverness.
“Auburn is a long way from here,” Random said in a slow deliberate voice, “I’m thinkin’ you need one now.” And then he turned to Steve. “Hand me the water bottle, and Karen will take her pill. I’m going in to get something for us to eat and drink. I’m thinking Karen might want to take a little nap in the back.”
Karen took the pill and relaxed a bit.
“Ya know I am sleepy. I don’t know when I slept last. Long time no food, sleep.” She said groggily.
Random motioned with his head for Steve to come out of the car with him.
“I’m gonna call Grammy, and then we are gonna take Karen to the police station.”
“No, Man, no way. We gotta help this poor kid.”
“Excuse me! Pointed a gun at my head!”
“Toy gun,” Steve held up the shiny plastic toy. “Look Man, this is what you do.”
“People do crazy shit around you, and all this wild stuff happens to you, and you don’t freak out. I know you, Man,” Steve said in parental tones, “If that was me drivin’, Man, we woulda been off the road or slamming into some other car or shit.”
“You grabbed the fucking gun!”
“I could see it was a toy, and it wasn’t pointed at me at the time, if you recall,” Steve finished the argument. “And, look you got her whole story and got the pill in her. We’re half way home because you don’t freak out.”
“And you think taking her to the police is freaking out. I think their pretty good at taking care of lost girls.”
“Not as good as we could be, Man.”
Random looked uncertain.
“I’m goin’ in and calling Grammy. Get her in the backseat and lay her down. I think she’ll sleep for a while. Those are pretty heavy duty pills if they are what I think they are.”
“Right oh, Capitan!” Steve gave him a little mock salute.
“And check on Lin, my god what’s she thinkin’ about crazy Americans?”