The kid just sat there under the windblown fence of cypress, sort of leaning on one of the trunks. His knees were drawn up to his chest, arms out in front of him, crossed, with his head bowed on his hands curling them into his khaki war surplus jacket. The lumpy backpack beside him was crammed with what could be books, at least that the was the impression I got from the dirty and dog eared copy of “On the Road” peeking out of a side pocket. He just sat there, unkempt dirty blonde hair blowing in the wind. His dark glasses peeked out occasionally.
Patty and I watched him for the longest time. She told me this was the perfect place ( “the Cliffs”in back of the Legion,) in the City to get a couple joints (not my thing) and meet cute boys. Hmmmm. He might be cute under that long fringe of hair, who knew?
It had been fairly cool that day. The fog had just pulled out into the ocean leaving everything soft, dewy, and bright. Patty and I were perched on top of a cypress limb that had grown sort of sideways. It was rather fun to sit and swing our legs off the ground like little kids, my suede boots swooshing lightly. By now we had been here a half hour and I was getting bored. The kid’s obviously on some trip and sleeping it off. I was all for going. Patty wanted to wait. Wait for what? That boy hadn’t moved in half an hour.
Normally, all over the City in places like this you could hear voices and giggling in the brush. It was really quiet. I knew these areas around Land’s End. They are notoriously treacherous to hike in. You could be standing on what you thought was a solid rock slab when suddenly you are rocketing down the hill to your death after the sand under the rock gives way. That whole area is nothing by sandstone.
Eventually Patty’s curiosity got the better of her. “Come on, Lulu, let’s go scare him; see if the “statue” jumps,” she said.
“Nah! I don’t think it’s a good idea. I mean, what if he gets up and beats the crap out of us? I don’t want to get involved in his scene,” but she had already closed the distance between he and I.
“Pat!” I shouted.
“Don’t be a drag, Lu.” She had begun to circle as I jumped off the branch.
There she went, running up and around in circles yelling “Boo!” She was laughing, clutching her sides. She didn’t notice yet, but I realized this kid wasn’t going to be waking. This kid was dead. A empty bottle of pills and an almost empty pint of cheap gin lay towards the back of him in the bushes.
Patty had finally realized what had gone down and started to turn to run when I grabbed her by the blouse. “No Pat!”
She was looking green. “Shit! Lulu! There’s a trail of ants crawling up him. We gotta get outta he…..barfff!” She was heaving violently for several seconds. I held her hair out of the way while she was on all fours, trying to figure out why I wasn’t doing the same. Wiping her mouth on her sleeve she started to get up “Whatta we do?”
“Call the cops, ” I said
“But Lulu, we’re supposed to be in school.”
Good point. Patty’s Mom wouldn’t care. At this time of the day she would already be slipping into her “Cocktail Hour” fog. My Grandmother, on the other hand, would kill me. I thought a little longer.
“Screw it! We gotta call the cops. Come on.” And we began to hoof it to the Legion as fast as we could to find a pay phone. Nope. No payphone.
The Clubhouse was the only obvious answer. Lincoln Park was a golf course that was built upon the old City Cemetery. Occasionally, some of the the supposedly “moved” bodies still came up during a heavy rain or a sprinkler malfunction. Somehow there was something sad, yet tremendously funny about the peek-a-boo quality of that. The fact that it is one of the more elite public courses sort of adds a little irony as well.
The toes of my boots were wet completely through by now, but we reached the Clubhouse in only a few minutes. The guy at the Pro Shop was young enough to appreciate a couple of hippie chic’s, Todd of the dark green badge, could see we were a little breathless and something wasn’t right.
“Todd, ummm, do you have a payphone around here?”
“Yeah! Right around the corner outside. Your friend looks a little sick. You guys ok?”
“Umm, yeah. We just really need…” I was searching for a dime in my purse. Pulling out a Muni transfer, bus pass, a handout for the Dead at the Family Dog, totally forgetting the dialing “O” for operator was free.
“You can borrow the phone if you make it quick. They’ll can me if they catch you using it, he said.
Then it dawned on me, we couldn’t get in trouble for being truant if it was reported through the Club, in fact everyone would look good for reporting it…civic duty and all that happy crap.
“Todd, I need you to call the police. There is a dead guy over by the cliffs in back of the Legion.”
“You ‘re shitting me! Dead?!” Todd whistled. I thought for a moment that he was going to come off with some freakishly joyous comment like it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him, when Patty barfed again in his wastebasket. Reality just kicked in.
After calling them, he sat her down and got us both coffees, more blonde than black, but I was thankful. I was cold, but also cold to the bone and I knew Patty was slightly in shock. She unwrapped about 6 lumps of sugar cubes and plunked them in hers, stirring automatically. Mine was good the way it was and Todd kept us nicely supplied.
Eventually, one black and white police car showed up. I guess they thought it was a joke., from the looks on both of their faces as they got out of the car. One reached for a pad and pen out of his pocket. They listened to our story and then looked at each other a little surprised. They asked if we wouldn’t mind showing them where this body was.
We drove as far as the we could by the Legion of Honor and then hiked carefully down to the small hidden cypress plateau below. Just like we said, there he was.
Patty and I stayed back as the officers went over and checked him out. The one officer, Pliant, told his partner to radio it in and rattled of all these codes. Then the officer hiked up the hill to meet the ambulance and medical examiner. They were a lot faster in coming than the cops were.
As they were putting the boy on a stretcher, I picked up bits of conversation.
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“Well, that’s one we don’t have to worry about anymore.”
Officer Pliant walked over to Patty and I just when I figured we could just slip off.
“Ok, what were you two doing out here. Don’t tell me. I already know,” as Patty began to sputter and explanation that I knew would be colossally unbelievable.
He pointed a finger at both of us.
“First of all, we’ve been keeping an eye on this area and getting it cleaned up from all the drug addicts and weirdos. We know about the scene out here. We’ve been patrolling the area heavily AND on foot for a couple of weeks now. I should haul both of you in for truancy, but what I am going to show you might just straighten your act out.”
He walked over to the car and pulled out a clipboard of sorts with loops on it. He flipped through and stopped and showed us the paper. It was a mug shot of “the kid.” The cute boy had glaring , empty eyes looking in the camera. He looked totally insane. Both of us must have had horror registered on our faces.
That’s right, ladies, that was the guy that raped, robbed, and beat up those two college girls a few weeks ago. He’s done a bunch of other things over the years. He was a career criminal despite being so young. We were worried and yet hoping that he would make his way out here and blend in with the younger crowd where we could catch him. Looks like guilt did instead.
Patty started heaving again and I just stood there wondering what was going to happen next.
“Come on girls, get in the car. We’ll take you to the bus stop and we will watch you get on the bus.” It was sort of cool riding in a cop car, but we were really glad when we got out and hadn’t been spotted by anyone we knew.
There was just a brief mention , a line or two, in the Chronicle and Examiner that the guy had committed suicide out by Land’s End, but nothing more.
We never told our parents, at least that I know of.
Decades later in 2008, I went out there. The foliage has been trimmed back a lot, no longer resembling the wild thickets of tortured cypress, grass, and bushes it was. It looked manicured in comparison. I continued down to the small plateau. The two trees are still there. No marker to say anything about that day. Nothing to note the passing of a psychopath by his own hand. For that, I was thankful. We mark so many things that should just gently fade away from memory. I hiked back up the slope, got in the car, and didn’t look back.
© 2017 Louise Ann Stowell ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.