Carmel By the Sea

The reverb of her sound system was currently doubling as a cheap back massage, though given the amount of money she had just spent to upgrade the Roadster’s battery, Remee would hardly have called it “cheap”. She absentmindedly wondered if thirty grand for thirty-five percent more juice was really a good investment, before concluding she probably would have spent the money on something with less utility. The Tesla’s engine consumed six miles worth of electricity as she accelerated through another bend. Speed limits were for people who didn’t know how to handle their cars and she knew 280 as well as anyone. Driving to the city was a matter of autopilot.

Her slender fingers dug around her purse before resting on a cool cylinder of metal and plexiglass. The platinum colored e-cig found its way to her lips. One. Two. Three. Four. Five…She exhaled strawberry-lemonade, the faintest smile curling up the corners of her mouth. Thirty minutes from one San to another was a far cry from the four hour commute she used to make-what? Eight years ago? That sounded right. Lightrail to Caltrain to Bart to Bus or Shuttle. Wow. Eight years…Remee couldn’t fly like time could, but that certainly wouldn’t stop her from trying right now with the cool Spring wind blowing and the sky sporting that French-vanilla slashed indigo color she was so fond of. Twenty-seven minutes. A new record.

Frisco was as chaotic as it usually was. The lanes filled to bursting with parked cars, clumsy buses, tourists, locals, party chicks, pot-heads, programmers, pretenders, and would be entrepreneurs. The Roadster was wasted on these streets and Remee resented it. She had made good time, but she preferred to show up to appointments early. It threw people off guard, rushed them just enough for them to make a slip in negotiations- A knock at the driver’s side window pulled her into the present. A desperate looking man was standing in the middle of the lanes trying to sell her a loaf of Wonderbread. She lowered both her windows, handed him a pair of bills in exchange for the polka dotted bag, and proceeded to throw the bag out the passenger’s window. How much was the littering fee? $170? She could probably find that much in between her couch cushions thanks to that idiot bachelorette party she threw for her assistant last week…

At length, she made it to the parking garage, slid out of her seat, and clicked the car’s locks into place. The air was cooler here than in the South Bay, but the chill never seemed to bother her, even now in her scoop necked cobalt midi. Cold suited her just fine. Her ivory pumps clicked along the grimy pavement for a few blocks before stopping, and though she turned heads the entire way, Remee pretended not to notice. Business before pleasure, after all, and the blonde hair was definitely cheating. She spoke to the man at the front desk, and after a phone call was made, she was let onto the elevator of the 340 Fremont. Her finger pushed the largest number available and she was moving. Up, up, up, until her stomach felt a jolt and the doors slid open. The room she was looking for was the only one with a door left slightly ajar.

She eased herself into the room and gently shut the door before taking in her new surroundings. The view of the city was remarkable, very much unlike the furniture and design of the place. It looked like it had been designed for a stereotypical yuppie, with its sharp corners and glossy, modern, finishes. What Remee truly found fascinating, however, was the decor. A sizeable portion of one wall was covered in what she recognized as traditional Yurok elk horn spoons. The kind members of that tribe are often buried with. The nook between windows was occupied by a Mayan stelae, a chunk of clay with cuneiform sat unimpressively on a nearby shelf, a terracotta warrior stood in one corner of the room, the Thinking Man sat in another, and a bronze fountainhead shaped like a snake rested on his coffee table next to an ornate looking, hand-woven, basket. What a waste. He had managed to steal from just about every corner of the world, and still felt it necessary to continue collecting.

“Did you bring it?” She heard him ask.

The acoustics of the place were such that she couldn’t tell what direction his voice was coming from.

“No, I came all this way and forgot it on my bathroom sink.” Remee said, her tone dry.

“Well aren’t you a cheeky one, then?” he said, emerging from the depths of his apartment with a glass of brandy in hand. His hair and goatee were thin and ash colored, muddied all the more by his choice of khaki colored clothing. Had she not known better, Remee would have declared him an Archaeologist…

“Better question, do you have it?” She asked.

“Uh, uh, uh. That’s not exactly a fair trade Miss-”

“Rinaldo.” She replied curtly.

“Ah, Miss Rinaldo. Anyway, like I said, it’s a trade. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” His smile creeped across his face as if he had just invented the concept of an innuendo.

She rolled her eyes and lobbed a ball of cash in his direction. He fumbled for it and wound up gingerly plucking it off the floor after spilling his drink.

“Seven grand. Now let’s see it.” Was all she said.

She was beginning to detest his idiotic smile but it vanished with him as he retreated into his bedroom and didn’t return when he did. He placed a long red box on the table, unhooked the latches and opened it.

“Here ya go. One genuine samurai sword.” Here he emphasized the “I” in genuine, drawing it out into a Southern sounding drawl.

“Katana.” She corrected him.

Remee donned a pair of latex gloves before picking up the blade and examining the inscription on the tang. She couldn’t read the kanji, but recognized it for what it was…the name of the man who forged it.

“Do you know anything about this katana?” She asked.

“Yea, sixteenth century, hand forged, razor’s edge, all the fittings and casings are chased silver… Damn thing is museum quality.” He said with a shrug.

“What about the person who made it?”  

She slid the tang into the tsuka, or handle, and began pushing in the bamboo pegs that would hold the thing in place. The fit was snug, and when she lifted the completed blade it felt completely solid. Her best estimate put the point of balance at roughly five inches from the tsuba, or hilt, making it ideal for repeated swinging.

“Not a thing.” He finally responded. “Well, other than his name is engraved on the tang.”

Remee smiled at the revelation and sheathed the katana but hung onto it.

“This is a demon’s blade.” Remee said, her smile still broad. “It was forged by Sengo Muramasa, whose swords acquired a reputation as being evil or bloodthirsty. Some Japanese legends go as far as saying that Muramasa had dealings with oni, demons, and that was why his swords were so obscenely sharp. Regardless, this sword isn’t just museum quality, it’s a national treasure.”

He looked at her for a while before shaking his head and chuckling.

“I’ve been meaning to ask, what does a pretty girl like you want a sword for anyway? But now I think I have your number, you gonna repatriate it?”

“Eventually. I have a use for it now. But if you really want to know why I want it, when I was a kid I had the choice between ballet lessons or kendo. Kendo seemed like more fun, and I had a knack for it. Eventually, I became a master of Iaido, and I’ve wanted something authentic since then.”

He raised an eyebrow at what she had just said, that obnoxious smile slowly coming back.

“What’s E-I-E-I-Doh?”

She shook her head and sighed at his butchering of the word.

“Iaido,” she said, “is the art of quick drawing a blade. Like this-”

Her muscles exploded into motion as she executed the well- practiced maneuver. In point seven o’ two seconds her right hand had flown to the handle of the blade, drawn it, and swung the sword in a wide, horizontal, arc. He felt a tugging sensation run across his abdomen and then a sharp sting as the cut split open. A yelp escaped him as he grabbed at his stomach, hot fluid gushing into his hands. The tugging sensation came back, this time across his neck, and he didn’t have the capacity to let out any more yelps.

Remee sighed as she watched his life spill out onto his overpriced tile floor and examined the sword’s edge. Nothing wrong with it as far as she could tell. Her form had been perfect, but she felt she had been slow with the second swing. History said that she probably struck him twice in under two seconds, but she was her own worst critic. Not fast enough.

“You know, not that you care at this point, but a lot of people assume that the first swing in an Iaido kata is supposed to be a killing blow- and that’s just not the case.” She complained to the dead man. “It’s an opening move, not a finishing one. Like a jab. It injures and creates an opening for the second and third swings to deal the real damage.”

She explored his house for a bit until she found a set of expensive-looking avocado colored towels. Setting one aside for herself, she used another to clean her new sword and the last one to cover the idiot’s face before taking back her money.

“Guessing by how little you knew about the sword, safe bet you didn’t know shit about any of the other artifacts in this place, either.”

Her gaze wandered to the wall of spoons and she felt satisfied with her spur of the moment decision.

“How many graves did you desecrate to get those spoons? Huh, asshole? Oh, I bet you didn’t even know just how much political turmoil you caused when that terracotta soldier went missing in 2013, either…”

She kicked the body a few times and then looked at her watch. Still early. Tucking the sword back into its silk lined box, she got to rummaging through the rest of his apartment until she found a duffle bag- exactly what she needed. She slipped out of her now bloody dress, peeled off the blonde wig and threw them both into the bag alongside the ornate looking sword box. The pumps and her purse got thrown in as well. A quick glance in the mirror told her she needed to shower. Arteries had a way of splurting all over the place. Better get a move on.

Remee Galeano had left her car as a refined looking blonde. She returned to it as a short haired brunette wearing workout clothes entirely too big for her, a Giant’s cap, and lugging around a bag with too much crap in it. As she hopped into her car she heard her phone ring out with a popping noise that indicated a Facebook update. Unlocking the iPhone, she smiled as a name escaped her lips. “Joel…”
Author’s Note: I know, I know, it’s been months since I’ve posted anything of quality on here and I have left a lot of you hanging in regards to new content. I’m sorry.

I wish I could say that I’ve been away, or that I went on a writing sabbatical, or that I now have weeks and weeks of new material for you lovely folks to read, but I’m afraid that none of those are true.

The truth, the real, cold, hard, and brutal truth is that I fell into a slump. I rarely fall into those anymore,  but when I do, they tend to last longer than what is considered reasonable or healthy. Sadly, I just didn’t have much of a desire to write, paint, build, or do much of anything else besides try to distract myself with video games and audio books.

I could go into detail here, and discuss the nature of this minor league depression I have going on, or speak at length on the trials and tribulations afflicting the everyday child care worker, or testify about the difficulties of social interactions for sad ambiverts, but it’s no longer relevant to my current situation. I’ve unslumped myself, seized a handful of new job opportunities, and am doing my best to make this whole writing thing my focus. 

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this first bit of Carmel By the Sea, it’s actually a continuation of “Another Episode” and was submitted to a writing competition that is over, but I think I’ll be finishing it at some point.  In other news, keep an eye out for the next installment of the Songster’s Tale, I swear I’m almost done with it! All the best.

-C