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Searching – A Serial Novelle Chapter 26: “Little Do We Know”

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Little did Angel know that the man driving the delivery van was not the flower lady’s son. He did not know what her son looked like, and he could not have known that he had been carjacked a few minutes before. And so when the man honked the horn in front of the shop and motioned impatiently for Angel to climb in, Angel did exactly that.

“So you need a ride, huh?” the man asked. He was crouched over the steering wheel, his hooded grey sweatshirt pulled tight over his ears.  Angel thought he smelled something strange in the man.

“Yes, thank you so much,” Angel replied. He noticed that although the heater was on full blast, he still felt chilled. Down to his bones cold. The van turned onto 28th Street and headed west, the snow seeming to blow in from all directions of the compass at once.

“Is that a present for your lady?” he asked.

“No, it’s for my parents,” Angel said

“What’d you get ‘em?” the man asked.

“Poinsettias.”

“Ah yes, la Flor de Noche Buena.”

“You know what they’re called in Mexico?” Angel asked, a little warily.

“Oh, you’d be surprised what I know”, he said turning to Angel, and giving him a little wink. It was the exact same words the flower lady had used, the exact same kind of wink, but as he saw at last the full face of the man who was driving him, he saw that he bore no resemblance to the woman back at the flower shop.  In fact, Angel thought, he doesn’t look like any human I know.

The van swerved to miss a car stuck on the right side of the road, then veered suddenly to the left to turn onto 12th Street.  The driver didn’t even look to see if there was a car in the two lanes he crossed over.  Angel held onto his package tightly, but the sudden movement made him bump his shoulder and the back of his head on the window.

“Um, I thought you were going to give me a ride home”, Angel said, nervously.  “I think I told you I live on 18th.”

“Oh, I know where you live Angel Augusto Cruz Rojas”, the man said, as the van hit the first of the speed bumps.  Angel was jostled by the bump, but not nearly as much as he was shaken by the fact that this man—whom he had never met—knew his full name.

“Do I know you?” Angel asked, nervously.  He wish he had kept the knife of the man who had hassled Luz back on Lake Street.

The man began to sing, in the worst voice Angel had ever heard: If you don’t know me by now, you will never, ever know me….  He laughed and said in a terrible whisper, “Tecolote”.

Tecolote.  The owl.  The voice that had been haunting Angel, pursuing him for so long.  Is this the man who’s been trying to kill me, he thought.  He slowly put his hand on the door, searching for a handle to open. There was none.

“Who are you?”  Angel asked.

“Who am I? Who am I?” the man laughed, worst than the first time.  “Ask me who I was!”

Ask me who I was? What the hell does that mean? Angel thought.  His mind began to quickly run through what possibilities for escape there might be: grab the wheel, turn off the ignition, kick and bite and punch.

As if reading his thoughts, the man reached over, grabbed Angel by the jacket, and pulled him straight to his face.  Angel could barely tolerate the smell, a smell of dead meat, spilled beer, fear and the kind of perfume you would buy on the cheap.

“I said, ‘Ask me who I was’!” the man yelled into Angel’s ear.  And as he shouted, the van hit another speed bump, and Angel took his chance. He grabbed the gear shift and rammed it into reverse with one hand, with the other, he pulled on the parking brake, and drove his head into the man’s stomach.  As the man tried to resist the attack, he stepped on the gas and pulled hard on the steering wheel, throwing the van into a terrible skid.  The van rolled onto its side, and the two of them ended up in the back, with the flower deliveries yet to be made.

“You little …” the man began to say, but little did the hijacker know that he had—almost overnight—developed serious allergies to nearly every flower and fern.  His eyes turned red, his throat began to constrict, and as he began to cough violently, Angel opened the side door of the van and jumped out.

And then he jumped back in, to grab the poinsettias for his family.  The rush of cold air opened the man’s throat enough to stop coughing. He caught Angel by his jacket collar.

“Don’t think this is over, boy!” he wheezed. “We’ll get you sooner or later.”

But Angel had found his voice as well.  “I’m not afraid of whoever you all are.”  He stared at the man. “Or should I say whoever you all were.”

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