I'm almost out of water for the day. I skate back over to Wilshire where it's easier to predict how cars will be moving. These side streets have slower traffic, and drivers are always looking around so much, they will either fail to see me or think that I am some huge danger that they need to wait for. I end up in a standoff, staring at them while they are stopped at an intersection with no stop sign.
That woman who works at Molecule reads yellow pages. She might have a contact in the Valley I could find for these books burning a hole in my backpack. The later in the afternoon it gets, the more suspicious folks get of illegal activity. There is a haze of hustle and bustle, or maybe it's sleepiness that clouds the eyes of security guards and police before 1pm. Thats why the Directory has us start our deliveries so early in the morning. Most of the event pickups and dropoffs are at night, but that lets us get lots of rest and relaxation during the busy police hours from 3pm-8pm. Which is perfect for me because it's during those hours before dusk that most spirits get social with humans.
The day is wearing on and I'm starting to feel those books get heavier and heavier in my backpack. Thinking about the illegal goods you are holding is a great way to summon the Police. Usually I try to avoid it, but here we are. There are two Motor Police Vehicles behind me. I slide back behind a car and bend down low to stay out of sight. Moving the same speed as traffic is a drag, but maybe they'll turn at the next intersection. They don't. The sidewalk is completely empty. I step over to the curb and push off at what I'm hoping is a completely non-suspicious speed.
There is a sunken courtyard between buildings coming up. I disappear inside it, startling a couple workers who are sitting and looking at their handhelds. "Sorry!" I say, and sit down, my back to the sidewalk. I turn around and look down the street. They are stuck behind a row of 5 cars. Am I safe to stay here and wait them out? It's so early, they may not even be paying attention. I turn back around and think about what I'm going to do with the books. If Molecule isn't open, I could try to find someone at the Flea Market. Mix needs me to go there anyway. What day is today? Wednesday? I haven't gotten a request to go to the Flea Market yet this week, so I will probably get one tomorrow or Friday. I turn back around to look over my shoulder. The Motor Police are still 3 cars away. Clearly they aren't looking for me. Maybe I can sneak through this courtyard to the next street? I turn to the person sitting on the step near me.
"Excuse me, does this go all the way back to 6th Street?" I ask. They look really confused at me and then look back to their handheld.
"I mean this is Wilshire and the next street up is 6th, on the other side of these buildings... can I just walk through to 6th?" They are still looking at their handheld. I know they have a map on there. I used to use one before it became too much of a liability. I learned the city really well with a digital map, but its so hard to find one that doesn't update via satellite and track your location. Some runners will save a huge file of images of the city map and have it redownload every week with updates of street closures. I don't have internet access so I would have to download them from a hotspot, and going to a hotspot is always a risk, even with VPN. The police monitor hotspots and note folks who go there regularly and apprehend them and make them prove their registration status- since registered people living in registered homes have registered internet access and registered phone access and wouldn't need a hotspot on a regular basis. My registration status is fine but I don't need those extra eyes on me. Besides, I know the city well enough to get by without it. Although now, it sure would be nice. I look back over my shoulder. The Motor Police are 1 car away from getting a view into the courtyard, if they look. I turn back around and see a security guard strolling towards me. Fucking great. They probably think I just want to harass these people.
I decide I'd rather take my chances with the lazy police than with this overly territorial security guard. I move down the length of the courtyard and step up the steps back to the sidewalk and slowly skate away. Acting casual when you are carrying illegal goods is pretty much impossible. I would rather be running at full speed than trying to hide in plain sight. Besides, magnetic skates aren't exactly a popular mode of transportation for law abiding citizens of Los Angeles.
I scoot past a series of domesticated trees and around the edge of a building. There is a big mirror monitor on the wall reflecting my path, and I can see that no one is behind me. I turn onto 6th Street. I follow it for a couple blocks on the sidewalk. Skating on the sidewalk isn't easy. There is trash and pedestrians with dogs and people will just suddenly emerge out of a door onto the street without looking. I try to stay away from the building side of the sidewalk, but the street side has all manner of trash bins, palm trees, grocery carts, and bus stops to get in the way. I maneuver around some street debris and get a block clear enough to turn around. I spot Motor Police Vehicles buzzing down the sidewalk behind me. No lights. I continue down the sidewalk. Well they definitely see me now.
I make a couple turns and then come back to my original route, but they keep finding me. They have to be following me at this point. The books are a horrible weight in my backpack. There must be somewhere I can go to stash this. I coast for a moment and try to listen beyond my headphones and see beyond my goggles. 3 blocks away is a discount store. There is a parking lot with a tree growing out of the corner.
I whip around a corner and grab onto a truck in the right lane. Picking up its speed, I fly off towards the store. The big LED sign glows despite the overpowering sun. The window facing the street is lined with plastic dancing flower machines. I zoom inside, passing an elderly couple with a cart. The light is weird and white, and it makes all the colorful packages seem brighter. A row of smiling bears printed on sides of boxes fill the aisle as I zoom by. I feel like they are granting me safe passage. I tiptoe around the checkout line and out the back door into the parking lot.
It's completely packed with cars. I see the tree looming behind the cars. I move across the lot but can't skate over the last 4 parking spaces, which have been completely compromised by the tree. The pavement has been forced up into a mountain over the growing roots of the tree. Crags point in every direction at wild angles. There is a small pack of dirt around the trunk of the tree and under some of the broken concrete.
I step under the dense pack of leaves and sit down on my legs. The sun is blotted out and I move my goggles onto my head so that my eyes can adjust in the shade. There are three white 7-day candles all half burnt down. There is a small ceramic sculpture of a mushroom painted a jaunty yellow with orange spots sitting next to a plastic bag that must have flown in. There are two small hand mirrors hanging upside-down from an electronics cord tied to their handle and strung on a low branch. I have been to this discount store before, but I can't remember visiting this spirit. From the looks of things, someone else has been working here.
One of the mirrors swings and I see the two motor police behind me across the street. I pull my backpack off my shoulders and pull out the books. I grab the plastic bag and wrap them up inside. I look into the mirror. They have left their PMVs and are walking across the street towards me. I fling my headphones off my ears and close my eyes and ask the spirit of this tree to hide and hold this package until I can return. I can hear the footsteps behind me. The sound of traffic nearby. The noise of the shopping carts rattling and slamming together in the parking lot. A wave washes over me and all my muscles convulse as if I got a chill in this 100F day.