That Story, or Ten Reasons Why Priestly Doesn't Like Chicago
1. The Little Old Lady | 2. The Weather | 3. The Computer Genius | 4. The Bars | 5. The Crazed Psycho | 6. The Women | 7. The Tripper | 8. The Lost Boy | 9. The Skateboard | 10. The Little Old Lady (Again) | 11. Epilogue
When his shift at the warehouse ended, Boaz stopped by Phil's office for his last paycheck. He was told that he was a good worker, and if he ever wanted to come back he could, all of it with eyes on his lime green dreadlocks.
As he left the office he sought out Delia, who was cashing out in the front. "Wanna grab a drink?"
She placed the last of the money and cheques into a bank deposit bag and zipped it closed. "Can't. Didn't Jake tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
" 'ey Priestly, Delia." Jake appeared from out the back. "We're all goin' over te Ash's. 'ee left town s'mornin an' said if'n there's anyfin in there we fancy, we can 'ave at it."
Boaz' eyebrows shot up. "Ash left?"
"Yeah, Didn' say why, either." Jake shrugged it off, a shit-eating grin on his face. "Oh well, let's see if'n we can grab us somefin shiny, eh?"
He slapped Boaz on the back and headed for the door. Boaz waited for Delia to drop the bag over to Phil before following Jake outside to where Buzzer and Tom were already waiting.
On the way over they theorised on the reason for Ash's sudden departure. Buzzer and Tom both agreed that the cops had caught onto Ash illegal activities and he was fleeing the state. Jake postulated that the CIA had recruited him and he was off doing spy work somewhere. Delia didn't seem to care either way, and Boaz didn't say anything because he couldn't shake the errant thought that it had something to do with his now-gone stalker. Lately, it seemed like everyone was leaving.
When they got to the apartment, Jake slipped the key out of the crack in the skirting and opened the door. Once inside, he bee-lined for the ever-closed door and went inside. Curious, Buzzer followed. Tom milled around, checking out this and that before following the other two into the bedroom. Meanwhile Delia headed for the kitchen.
"He left beer," She said, pulling a six-pack out of the fridge.
"Huzzah," Echoed around the apartment, and Delia went to distribute. When she returned to Boaz, he was going through a crumpled file he'd found shoved underneath the couch cushions. "What did you find?" She asked.
They were registration papers. "Ash owns a car," He told her, flipping the page right-side up. "A truck." Along with the car details, there was also a voucher for a free paint job. But no keys.
Boaz handed Delia the folder and his beer and bent down to tilt the couch.
"I see them," Delia said, and struck one of her long legs out to snag the keys underfoot.
When the furniture was back in place, Boaz and Delia shared a puzzled look. "Hey Jake," Boaz called, "does this place have parking?"
"Out back," came the reply.
Wordlessly, Boaz and Delia slipped out of the apartment, missing Jake's muffled, "Why?"
When they finally got downstairs (they'd taken a wrong turn on the first floor), they had no trouble spotting which vehicle was Ash's. It was a rusty brown and the only one covered head to toe in cobwebs.
Dusting it off, Delia managed to get the door open. "Looks alright inside." She popped the bonnet and Boaz lifted it to look underneath.
Between the dim lighting of the parking lot and his basic knowledge of cars, he couldn't make out anything wrong. "Start her up."
With a resonating growl, the engine kicked over. The reverberations echoed along the car causing dust to crumble to the ground. After a few seconds Delia cut the engine and Boaz closed the bonnet. "I'll fight ya for it."
She raised an eyebrow.
"I'll take you for a drive."
Still the eyebrow.
"...Once it's cleaned up."
A smirk appeared at the corner of her mouth, and she tossed him the keys.
"Booyah!" he cried, and they walked back upstairs.
When they returned Buzzer, Tom and Jake were all lounging around the room.
"Tom's taking the furniture, and I got the telly." Buzzer informed them. "Seems the only things missing are Ash and his laptop."
"And probably some clothes," Tom added.
"Yeah," Buzzer agreed, and before he could start on his spy theory, Jake cut him off
"What did ya scrounge up?" He nodded to the file in Boaz' hand.
"Paint voucher," he replied. "Oh, and a car."
Tom whistled. "Any good?"
Boaz shrugged, not wanting to gloat. "It's alright, from what I can tell. What about you, Jake?"
"What about me?"
"What did you get?"
Jake nodded just over Boaz shoulder. "Pizza."
They turned around to see a delivery boy standing in the doorway, unsure whether to knock or not. Jake crossed the room to pay, and they settled in for a quiet night of friendly camaraderie and booze. At the end of it they ended up crashing at Ash's; rousing in the morning at varying hours.
Tom was in the other room dissembling the bed when Boaz woke to the sound of a thud. Delia and Jake were already gone, and Buzzer simply snored through it.
"Need a hand?" Boaz asked.
"Nah, I'll be right. You should head home and start packing your things. You're leaving tomorrow, aren't you?"
Tomorrow? Oh wait, today's Saturday. "Yeah."
Tom nodded. "We'll meet you down at the bar tonight. 'Send ya off good'n proper', as Jake would say."
Boaz smiled and waved Tom goodbye. He gathered up the paperwork and keys, and headed down to his new car. He took it back to Jasper's and cleaned out the inside, surprised to find a spanner set, cross wrench, jack, and a can of what he thought was oil in the back. It seemed that there wasn't a thing wrong with the car at all, and he wondered why Ash didn't take it with him.
When he finished, he then drove it down to the nearest car wash and called Delia as it was going through. She met him outside her place and they drove around town until they could come up with somewhere to actually go. In the end Delia suggested a spot just out of town, and they were on their way there when Boaz passed by a familiar black van parked on the side of the road.
Boaz pulled over and they got out and approached a perplexed Andy, who was scratching his head as he stared at his car.
He looked up at their presence. "Oh hey guys, how's it going?"
"Not so good." He turned back to the van and Boaz soon saw why. One of the tires had blown out, leaving the vehicle at a tilt.
"You got a spare?"
"Yeah." He pointed to the open door. Underneath a cushion and clothes, the spare tyre could be seen peeking out. "Just don't have a jack, though."
"Then it's your lucky day." Boaz jogged back to the truck and grabbed the equipment. Together they made short work of the tyre, and Andy ducked into the back to fetch something to repay them with.
"Don't worry about it, it was nothing," Boaz tried to tell him, but still Andy re-emerged with a bag of marijuana.
Boaz was reluctant to take it for what he thought was a nothing task, until a thought occurred to him. "Tell you what, how about a trade?"
Andy scrunched up his face in confusion, and Boaz pulled the crumpled paint voucher out of his pocket.
"Your van's looking a little bare, how about you spruce it up a little?"
Andy looked over the paper for a few seconds before his face broken into a smile. "Deal." He tossed the bag to Boaz and folded up the paper.
"You know what you're gonna get?"
Andy shrugged. "Whatever the inspiration decides. I like your hair, by the way."
"Thanks. I decided to take your advice."
Andy's eyes unfocused for a few seconds as he tried to recall exactly what that advice was. "Oh yeah." He glanced at Boaz’s hair anew. "That wasn't what I was thinking of, but... yeah. Way better than what I was thinking of, actually." He scratched his head. "Come to think of it, I can't even remember what you used to look like."
They said their goodbyes, with Boaz mentioning that he was heading back to Santa Cruz tomorrow. Andy promised to stop by and visit if he made it there on his trip across America.
Afterwards Boaz and Delia headed for the bar; no longer having any time left to check out the spot they were originally heading for. She didn't mind, and shrugged it off in that indifferent way of hers ("It was just a suggestion").
They met up with the others, and celebrated much like they had the first time they all went there (with the exception of the disgruntled marines and his stalker, who were both thankfully absent). They congratulated Tom, who had managed to get a job at a paper in Philadelphia, starting in three weeks. They saluted Boaz who was returning home and tipped their drinks to Ash one last time for all the stuff he'd left them.
When the next round was bought and they were looking for a cause to drink to, Jake let slip that Delia had quit on Friday and the table went quiet.
"Really, Deel?" Buzzer asked, his eyes shooting from Delia to Jake and back, trying to figure out if it was a ruse.
"Really," She replied, taking a sip of beer.
"Why..." didn't you tell me? - was what he wanted to say, but only the first word made it out of Boaz's mouth.
"Because I don't want to work there forever. I've got things I want to do too, you know." There was steel in her eyes, daring anyone to imply that she wasn't good enough. No one did.
Jake quickly turned the mood back to cheerful, and they simply added it as another reason to celebrate.
When it came time to close, they all said their goodbyes; well-wishes and empty promises of keeping in touch. He dropped Delia off at her place and she invited him in. The next morning he woke up next to her and regretted that he was leaving. She pointed out that he didn't have to if he didn't want to.
"What about you? Are you gonna stay here?" He asked.
She took her time to answer. "I don't know. I don't think so."
Boaz didn't say that there was no point in staying here if she wasn't going to, because that was a pansy thing to say. It was said in romantic films all the time, and he didn't think she was the flowery kind who would crumble to goo at the sentiment. So he didn't say it.
Later, when he was heading out of town on the I-88, he was kicking himself for not doing so.
[Chapter broken up for length, the rest is here. ]