Mornings were the worst, Ramon thought. He could do late shifts or go through two days straight if needed but a morning shift was a killer in his humble opinion. How could anyone possibly be even alive in the morning. Not to mention in Portland.
He dramatically sighed and tried to lean on an ambulance’s window. It was farer than he expected so he shifted again and pushed himself down the seat instead.
Dex was observing him for good 5 minutes, constantly turning her head from driving.
"What’s up with you, Boatwright?"
Ramon just stared in front of him.
"O.k. If you don’t want to talk to me then don’t. I am just sayin’, man... we have a whole shift ahead of us."
He didn’t really want to talk about it but then again, Dex was his go to person, not to mention a partner in crime...
He sighed again, looked at her and opened his mouth to finally talk...
"Ha, we are here. See I told you I can find it. And we are two minutes early! Am I good or am I good?"
Ramon smiled. A bit forcefully but it was a smile indeed.
"You are good, Dex."
"Common man, what’s up with you today? Or you know what? You are like this the whole week. I don’t deserve that shit. We are supposed to be partners, remember?"
However, Ramon wasn’t really paying attention. He didn’t even notice where they were... not until Dex switched off the radio...
They were at Hawthorne Bridge. Or better to say under the one of the pillars of the bridge. Truly, it was odd that Dex was constantly forgetting how to get there because it was possibly their 5th call from the last two weeks that led them here... to this exact same spot... yet she usually missed one of the turns to the bridge and so they were lost more than he could count... how that could have happened with all the modern perks of navigation he had no idea whatsoever...
"Seriously, dude. What’s up with you?"
"Hmm? Oh... nothing... I just had a bad night, ’s all."
"Bad night, huh? Bullshit."
"Common, Dex... lets do the job so we can go back. This fucking place gives me creeps, I swear."
Hawthorne Bridge was famous for lots of reasons but they were constantly coming back but for one. The homeless camp.
In the back of his mind he knew well enough that lots of people there needed help and sympathy, along with food and basic health care but he couldn’t help himself to judge occasionally... o.k. maaaaybe more than occasionally... he was even ashamed to think like that but the moment he stepped of that bus he was back at his high horse trying to figure out why at least some of those people won’t get a job and find themselves a place to stay... which was kinda funny because he was the one whose rent was still partially payed by his parents. Anyways, there they were. And they had a job to do.
Dex was observing him again. Tiny smile on her face.
"So, how the hell do we find the guy that called us, Dex?"
"We look around I guess... talk to some people... don’t be an ass, Ram."
Ramon just noded but didn’t look one bit convinced.
They were basically surrounded by homeless people, tents and tons of garbage. It was sort of the place you never see on TV shows or turist ads. Unfortunatelly it was also a part of Portland... for many and many years... and Hawthorne Bridge was really just one of the spots... there were plenty of others all around the city and its surroundings. Usually it was o.k. but sometimes they met with agression or mystery diseases and even if Ramon was used to it by now he never felt safe enough just to not think about it... recently... with all the weird dreams and stuff... he just felt incredibly anxious. And situations like these where somebody called them about someone being hurt in the middle of a homeless camp, lets say it did not help to calm him down.
Dex was already searching for the mystery guy when he spotted a group of people hanging over somebody. He called for her and headed towards them. EMI bag across his shoulder.
"Excuse me, excuse me, sir. Thanks. Hi. Somebody called paramedics?"
People immediatelly started talking over each other... great...
"Alright, alright. Just one person at a time, o.k. What is the problem here, sir?"
Dex finally came to his help. She gently pushed one of the older women aside and knelt down next to Ramon. There was a younger guy laying on the ground. He looked a bit confused, dirty and definetly smelly... otherwise he looked ordinary. That is for a homeless person. He didn’t communicate with them however.
"Sir? How do you feel? Are you hurt somewhere?"
Ramon tried again but without any answer.
The guy started breathing little bit harsh and his pulse was quicker and quicker...
"Alright then, we should get him in the bus and to the hospital."
Dex told that to mainly for Ramon’s hearing but it was obvious people around them weren’t too keen on letting their buddy to be just taken away.
"Wait a minute, you can’t take him away? He has no insurance and they will lock him up for sure?"
"Lock him up? Did he do anything we should know about? In fact, does any of you now what happened to him?"
Ramon was trying to solve this thing as soon as possible. The place was giving him strange wibes already.
"No, he is no criminal, they’ll just lock him up because he is homeless... you act like you don’t know..."
"Sure, look, nobody locks up people just because they have no place to stay in... otherwise all of you would be under the lock, right?"
Well, he could already sense Dex’s look at the back of his head. Long intense and very much disapproving look. Really, he needed his regular doze of coffee ... he so dearly missed it today.
He was ready to appologize when one of the older women jumped in with an explanation.
"He has a little pendant around his neck..."
Oh, alright... Ramon forgot to check... of course, a diabetic...
"Yup, I am an idiot..."
Dex just noded significantly and started to talk with guys on dispatching about medical transfer to one of the hospitals.
"Lets get him to the bus, shall we, your majesty."
Yeah, the morning wasn’t exactly one of Ramon’s finest if he could judge that early in the day...
Dex was currently filling the hospital papers and sent him to clean and fill up the bus. He had time to catch a cofee and some snacks for later but it got him thinking...
When they were carring the diabetic guy to the ambulance he noticed other guy standing next to one of the concrete walls around the bridge. The guy was looking at him. At least Ramon thought so. It was odd to say the least because it felt strange and so so familiar at once. Like Ramon should know this guy. And the guy looked like he knew Ramon. Which was near impossible because Ramon would definetly remember if he knew him... tall, hipster hair, kinda lumberjack cute, lots of tattoos peeking under a suspiciously clean T-shirt, and the eyes... like Jared Leto kind of eyes... you would not forget those eyes... Ramon could swear he knew him from before. Maybe they met during one of the calls... there were so many lately... that was probably it...
"Boatwright! Dreaming again?"
Dex was back from ER, ready to roll on obviously.
"Your cell is ringing like crazy. Don’t you hear it?"
Nope. He did not. Obviously again. It was beginning to be his favorite word.
Kristen, his little sister... and the day barely begun...
Dex started laughing... when Ramon was like this it was usually the hell of a day... they knew each other since the basic training and by some luck they started to work in the same house. Not that Dex complained. She liked Ramon, Ramon was awesome... when he didn’t have days like these... however, she learned how to deal with him pretty quickly... usually few bitchy comments and a dose of strong coffee was enough... if that didn’t help Voodoo Doughnats would.
"Oh common, I have no time. I am working, Kristen."
"What does she want?"
Dex was hoping it would distract Ramon at least. Lately he had some pretty wild dreams and the lack of proper sleep was not only killing him but Dex too.
"Something about stopping at Spin Laundry Lounge. I don’t know."
"Why? She still lives with your folks, isn’t she?"
Bayer-Boatwrights were one crazy ass family if you asked Dex. They were comical truly. Only sometimes it was way too much even for Dex and that was telling something...
"O.k. Jesus. I’ll do it. But you’ll owe me. Big time. Yeah. Bye."
Dex raised an eyebrow. So Ramon gave up clearly.
"Spin Laundry Launge? Seriously? How come she even knows the place?
"Apparently, she read about it on some super cool hipsta blog and she wants sift cookies and silver tip jasmine tea... whatever..."
"Do you realize we are on a job? We don’t have time for home delivery."
"I know I know. Just, please, we’ll make a quick stop and that’s it."
Dex didn’t look happy at all.
"You are lucky it’s Saturday."
"I am in a mood for forgiveness. But you owe me a beer next time."
"On it, Dex."
Ramon would never admit it to Dex but he loved Spin Laundry Launch. He was a regular at that place. Well, he missed about three weeks lately because shifts were crazy, not to mention his crazy family occupied the rest of his free time in those last few weeks but apart from that he was a regular indeed.
He left Dex in the bus and quicky ran into the building.
Saturday morning was busy time. He needed to stand the queue for like 10 minutes which was an opportunity to deal with few messages... Duc and his "how about a run, baby Jesus", Ashley with a babysitting offer, and finally, mum and a dry cleaners task... it could wait but whatever right...
He barely noticed he got to the register finally.
"What can I offer you?"
"Yeah, sift cookies and silver tip jasmine tea, to go, thanks."
Ramon was still texting, eyes glued to a display of his cell. When he finally looked up he experienced a sudden flash of various images. It was so confusing and intense that he completely froze. Huge eyes staring at the barista in front of him. And he was pretty sure it was the exact same guy from Hawthorne Bridge earlier this morning. Suddenly he felt an urge to check his watch... 11.11 a.m. ... o.k. that was behind weird... he saw the numbers few times last few days... and he was almost sure he started halucinating at some point... there were only so many coincidences in his humble opinion...
"You o.k.? You seem a little off."
For the love of God Ramon couldn’t figure out what was happening... or even what the guy was asking him about. The only thing he was able to register were the numbers and the flash of incoherent images. He experienced few of them lately and he could have sworn most of them just repeated... it was scary as hell!
Finally he composed himself. At least to the point where he was mentaly back in laundry.
"That was weird."
The guy behind the register was smiling at him. Such a warm smile.
"Is that all?"
"Your order. Ramon, right?"
"Yeah. Oh, how do you know my name?"
"You are regular here, aren’t you?"
"I’ve never seen you before."
"Well, I saw you."
"O.k. ... I am Henry."
Ramon wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. The guy shook his hand and smiled again.
"It was a busy day already I guess."
"Chill out, man. I am not some creep who’s stalking you. I just saw you around couple of times. Though you weren’t here lately. I tought you moved out or something but I saw you near Hawthorne’s bridge today so I guess not."
He shrugged and returned his attention towards the register.
The bridge. Right. Ramon finally came to his senses. Yup. He was definetly loosing his mind.
"You live there?"
"Does it matter?"
"Oh, no, it doesn’t. Not really I guess."
"It will be 6 dollars."
"Man you seriously need some quality sleep."
Henry laughed again.
"Six dollars.. for the cookies and the tea. Though I wouldn’t guess you are a tea type."
"I am not... that’s for my sister."
"You make an errand boy for your sisters?"
Ramon finally smiled too. It was quite quizzical conversation if he thought about it. He suddenly liked it. Henry huh...
"Anyways, I gotta go. I am still on a clock..."
He wanted to thank Henry and leave but all of a sudden all the glass and pots and mugs in the room started to clang and shake and one of the glass cookie dozes fell of the shelf and broke to pieces. It took for about 5 seconds but ground was definetly shaking. And it wasn’t one of his weird dreams. What the hell...
Before he managed to say something to Henry he heard Dex in the radio. She was calling him back.
"I gotta go. See you later."
And at that he was out of the cofee shop.