PAGE ONE FOUR ONE
sprawled to my left, the Pacific to my right; blue, like he described it, but
darker blue, grey even, with low cloud cover: Page one four one of Brown’s Requiem,
James Ellroy. Hadn’t
been there before, on that page, that is, until I stepped out of the car.
Brought the book to keep me company. Never been to Ensenada, either. Only
border crossing I’d ever done was Brownsville into Matamoras. Wanted to try
Pulque. Ended up spitting it out, ordered a cerveza instead, then several more
the book, detective parks by a wooden railing. His view was my view. Like me,
he’d been waiting for the Sandoval widow to come out of her house.
had lost weight; described as ‘troubled’ in the book. When I saw her, if
anything, she had gained: Fluid retention, legs like sausages. The widow
addressed my presence right away. Took off her sunglasses
and glared. I was standing on the edge of the bluff, above her house,
interrupting her privacy. Someone in town mentioned she used to be a bombshell;
now more of a crater. I felt for her.
did she skewer me with those bloodshot eyes? John Dillinger was living in her
house was why, the John Dillinger:
One hundred fourteen years old. That’s right. She told the postmaster he was
trying to break the Ukrainian record; deliberately, she said: One hundred and
sixteen. Only ate yogurt and drank vodka. Little known fact.
body double had been shot in the lobby of the Biograph by Melvin Purvis, in the
back of the head: Cowardly if you ask me. Everybody knew it wasn’t Dillinger.
Face in the Cook County morgue didn’t fit Dillinger’s: Missing a dimple. Kind
of like the Kennedy single shooter theory. People lie. More common than you’d
ended up at the Sandoval widow’s place with a nice view of the Pacific. Took me
ten years to track him. That was too long. By the time I arrived, couldn’t give
a rat’s ass. Had lost my lust for life.
was bedbound: Pressure sores, pissing himself, all the shit we look forward to.
Told the widow to smother him if it ever got that bad. She didn’t. He was John
Dillinger. Americans idolize their criminals, at least the successful ones. And
she may have been in love. Who knows. Didn’t mention love to the postmaster,
I heard was one Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a three-day tear, tequila
and gin, not necessarily in that order, the widow felt chatty. Ended up at the
Ensenada post office, leaning on the counter. Held up the line for twenty
minutes. Postmaster wasn’t paying attention. Some writer down from San Diego
was. Waiting to buy Mexican stamps. Story ended up in the LA tabloids: John
Dillinger living at the Sandoval widow’s house. Everybody figured it was
bullshit. Dillinger lead a hard life and wouldn’t have lasted much past sixty
let alone one hundred fourteen. Nobody came down to check; nobody except me.
could see into their bedroom from the bluff; saw the long lump under a pink and
red checkered quilt, Foley bag on the bed post, ready to pop. She hadn’t been
told the postmaster, John yells ‘Whore!’ at me, and a lot worse. That’s why I
drink, she said. Wake up at one every day to make my first Bloody Mary, she
said. Sounded a little whiney to me. But that’s just me.
man Sandoval owned a field of derricks up in Long Beach back in the fifties.
Made his money then got drunk one night. Had a snooze on the Southern Pacific
railroad tracks. Run over by the three-nineteen out of Fresno. Left it all to
the wife. She took in Dillinger two years later. He’d been staying in a hotel
on Tecate, few blocks from the brewery. They met at the bar. She recognized
him. Big true crime fan.
was packing when I pulled onto the bluff: Two forty-four magnums. Got the
permit easy, Gun Emporium, in Pasadena: Told the man I wanted to hunt geese.
Real reason? These tanks were loud. I wanted to wake Dillinger: His brand of
the widow finally opened her door and staggered onto the terrace, I popped both
toasters off into the air. Curtain fluttered and whoever was in that bed
jumped. Foley bag fell. Smacked the floor. Heard a splash. Mission
when she took off her sunglasses and caught me in her sights, gripping the
Bloody Mary with two hands as if it were a jackhammer: Water glass filled to
the brim, three celery sticks. Didn’t even flinch when the guns went off.
slid both magnums back into their holsters, crossing my arms over one another.
Did it slow: Wild west move. Practiced in the mirror. If either had gone off, I
would have lost a leg. I’m a risk taker.
widow squinted, trying to read my license plate. That’s when I waved, one of
those opening and closing your hand kind of waves, my idea. She curtsied and
went inside. Slammed the door. Endearing. I got in my car and drove back up the
coast, glad it was over. Border crossing, bumper to bumper nightmare, the whole
the guns. Store owner was surprised. First time anybody done that, he said. I
watched him examine me over the counter, holding his wad of Double Bubble still
for a moment before starting to chew again.
Anthony Knott is a burned-out individual who gave up everything
to write stories of mayhem and do collage— so that's what he’s doing. Novel
Number Two was published in 2016 by Hekate: Ramonst, the dark story of an East
Tennessee teenage serial killer's summer of 1970. The way Knott sees it, it's a
matter of finding your voice in life; although he'll have to die first to
confirm that. Writing site: afknott.com. Collage site: afknottcollage.com.