Jerry pulled his clothes, the sleeping bag, and Fredrico’s suitcase out from under the dumpster. One of the girls took the case. They all walked in silence as Charlie led them into the other side of the alley.
“What have you got in here,” one of the girls carrying his horn case asked.
“That’s Fredrico. ”
She didn’t understand. Jerry stopped and took the suitcase from her. He opened it up in his arms.
“Why it’s just a doll,” she said.
“Well, more than that. He’s my friend.” As soon as he said it, Jerry blushed because he realized could use some real friends. The girl smiled.
“I’m Darlene. I can keep on carrying your friend for you.” She winked at Jerry. He noticed she wore black hose and a sheer top with purple streaks in her hair. He closed the case and handed it back.
After a ten minute walk, Charlies stopped everyone at the entrance to a storm drain leading into a vacant lot. The dark tunnel was blocked with abandoned shopping carts and tires. Tumble weeds, trash, and mud collected around the tires blocking a green slime trail of water. The water cut through a line of footprints leading into the tunnel.
“Wooee-ah!” Charlie shouted. “Wooee-ah!” The group waited outside the entrance to the tunnel. Jerry watched red tail lights float away in the distance. A cool breeze blew up from the tunnel.
“Come down,” a voice shouted from the shadows.
“That keeps us from getting beaten to a pulp,” Charlie said.
Jerry and his new friends walked under the concrete opening into the darkness. Around a turn in the tunnel, Jerry saw lights hanging from the ceiling. A small generator sputtered next to a wall set up on a stack of pallets nearly five feet tall. Further down, the tunnel was divided up into rooms by a curtain hallway.
“You can take over for Sam,” said Charlie. He pointed over to a dark room hidden by a brown sheet. “Sam took a trip and won’t be back.”
Everyone became quite. Jerry considered the silence wondering what happened to Sam.
“Topside found him with his head bashed in,”Charlie said. Jerry furrowed up his brow. Darlene let out a disgusted sigh.
“What? It happened that way.” Charlie kicked the ground with a mud-caked boot.
“You make it sound like any other day.” Darlene rolled her eyes. Charlie ignored her and slapped Jerry’s shoulder.
“He was lying in his blood inside one of those dumpsters in the alley,” Charlie continued.
Charlie pointed at the room. “Anyway, you can sleep over there.”
Jerry gathered up his things and pulled back the curtain. The room contained a bed and a stack of Heavy Metal magazines. On the magazines, a pewter guitar kept the pages from blowing away. Darlene placed Fredrico on the bed. Behind them a nervous kid kicked the edge of the bed.
“Sam will be back you know,” the kid said. Jerry sized him up and decided he couldn’t be older than 14. Hell, he felt like an old man at 20. He could only imagine what this kid felt like.
“I’m Tate,” the kid said. “Don’t get too comfortable because Sam will be back.” His confidence contained a slight doubt as he continued to kick the bed.
“Don’t worry about him,” Darlene said. “He just misses Sam.” She rubbed Tate’s shoulder.
A small beard covered Tate’s chin and he needed a bath. His black hair framed his face in oily wisps. Tate reminded Jerry of his little brother and he decided the kid needed a friend. “Why don’t you tell me about him,” Jerry said.
Tate pushed his toe into the concrete and brought back his shoe for another pass. “Not much to tell. He’s just a good guy.”
“Too bad he’s not here,” Jerry said.
“Yeah. You’ll like him when he comes back.”
Rooms divided the tunnel with pallets, sheets and towels while graffiti lined the walls. In the center of the tunnel, a sofa sat in front of a paper box.
“We’d put the TV there if we had one,” Tate said. He drew closer to Jerry and stared at him. Jerry turned toward the boy and laughed.
“There’s nothing to watch anyway,” Jerry said.