Hickman's jurisdiction was quite limited, but he wanted to hear about everything, and so too, it appeared, did a lot of people, for after Cindy tried to horn in, Dara came in, obstensibly to watch TV at low volume, so we adjourned to an obscure bench tucked in between the Kitchen and the pool area, and various people kept walking by, although when Sergeant Dita passed, she had her towel and it was her regular time for a morning shower and hot tub anyway, so I said, “She's harmless,” earning the rebuke from Maureen, “That is hardly the word for her,” so I corrected myself, “I just meant that she is not the enemy.” All of this would-be espionage certainly helped Hickman to understand the increasingly paranoiac atmosphere of the place, and that Lori's “control issues” as he put it were at the root of the problem, but this was not his job to solve, and when he advised us that we could deal with it better if we all just stuck together, I thought but did not say, “Yeah, right, like 'getting involved' when anyone else is in trouble has ever been the Lupin way.”
Maureen and I both told him that we did not think removing the children from Lori's custody would be at all a positive, but he had to say, “I need to follow my investigation wherever it leads,” although the initial report, about the girls witnessing some adult sexuality, which inclined me to believe it was Rob who made the report although of course this could not be confirmed, did not provide grounds for action, since we could point to a poster in the Restaurant for a dance specifying that “all little Lupinites” had to be out before 8, and confirm that keeping the children away from adult activities had always been the policy. He was concerned about Wayne's behavior, but if the girls denied being mistreated by him and showed no signs of serious maladjustment, and we all agreed the girls are psychologically resilient and resourceful, it was unlikely there would be a case, and just as I had predicted to Jean before, he did not think talking to Jean would be very worthwhile when her credibility as a witness would be undermined because she was the opposing party in ongoing litigation. Maureen was most concerned about psychological abuse of the children, where Hickman needed physical or sexual abuse to make a strong case, and I raised concerns about financial abuse, Lori treating as her personal piggy-back the property she had a fiduciary obligation to conserve for the girls' inheritance, which Hickman thought I should bring up with the District Attorney. And he was personally incensed that Lori had issued me an eviction notice in direct response to learning I was talking to the sheriff's department, and that Maureen took for granted that further retaliations would follow this talk with him, for witness intimidation is a direct assault on a policeman's authority, and he made us promise to tell him about any acts of retaliation, large or small. Maureen took him on a tour of Butterfly yurt to show how close the children had been to her before Lori used them as a weapon, after I left to go into work, feeling drained, to face my formal evaluation, but it was perhaps appropriate that my evaluator saw me at my worst, since my students certainly had, often enough that term.
The lordly crows returned on the same day as the Stouts, but not in the same numbers as previously, and the blue jays at least stood their ground, if many other species of birds still vacated. During the first morning meeting with Lori back, I was going to brush my teeth in the bathroom by the TV room when Maureen went into the Restaurant for her coffee, and through the walls I could hear Lori shriek: “I never want to see you in our gathering again! You're ugly, UGLY! I talked to your family, and they don't want you either!” This last was a very peculiar assertion, since Lori has certainly never called Maureen's sisters in England, Wales, or New Zealand, and Maureen's brother John, whom Lori does know, has been chasing Maureen for years, moving to Nashville when she moved there, and then to California when she moved there, showing up at the Lupin office every year with fruit baskets or some such offering, asking to speak to Maureen, who does not want anything to do with him, regarding him as a con-artist by nature who had brought the companies he had worked at to their knees. Lori's explosion was apparently followed by quieter hints to the staff that they were to avoid both Maureen and me, for Amy came up to both of us on separate occasions to tell us she found us friendly and would talk to whoever she liked, no matter what anybody said.
On a more petty level, Lori ordered the removal of the forest-green umbrellas from the Restaurant patio tables, putting back the dingy-beige ones, most of which would not even open anymore, and Maureen thought they looked like “sad toadstools”. And all our chairs disappeared in the middle of the night again, and as I was unable to locate enough more of the bamboo chairs, I put some metal chairs at our table instead, which I thought a defeat but Maureen thought was just as well, with the rainy season setting in harder. So OK, I could be petty as well: Maureen was using some green tape to repair some headphone wires, and I said, “That would be just the right color to repair that crack in the Wishbone,” and Maureen had such a good laugh about it, “Oh, right, the maintenance staff will never get around to fixing that crack,” that I just had to do it for real, and the cream of the joke was that it took Lori days before she noticed, and removed the tape with a scowl, giving everyone else a chance for a chuckle. As for the Running Chair, I decided to “put wheels on it,” using the empty school from the green tape, a white circular disk of unknown provenance that I found in our Circle, the “Tiger Lily” tag from my current key, and a “Turtle Lake” tag from an old keychain, as the four wheels, which Lori never did notice.
Turtle came by, to remove some antennae from the roof, although he decided after all to leave some equipment to Lupin that would let the Internet connection reach Little Village and Glyn's cabin, but when he asked my help in fetching a ladder from the side of the Blue House, I begged off, saying I did not want to approach the Blue House at all, and he said he would speak to Lori, though nothing came of that. Turtle said goodbye to Mara, who was also giving notice and moving out in a few weeks, finding Lupin an interesting study in how “intentional communities” work or fail to work (she was also familiar with Harbin Hot Springs, where I have not yet been) but not a place she wanted to stay over the winter, and when she said she was now on a week-to-week basis, I warned her to get it in writing, but she said she was using up her damage deposit on these last weeks of rent and would not be out-of-pocket much, if at all. Silent John, who had been our neighbor all this time and hardly ever said anything to any of us, came out and favored us with his life story, how he was in seclusion at Lupin to recover from a long stint of care-giving that ended in a death that was no less painful for being expected. Turtle invited me for Thanksgiving, along with a couple other strays, for which I was grateful, as Lupin would probably be quite short of gratitude that day.
Maureen was still seeming glum that weekend, so although Thanksgiving is not usually thought of as an occasion for presents, I went to Rasputin's and found Threshold of a Dream for her, just because. Hickman was angered to hear some of the things that had happened, and gave Lori a stern phone call telling her that retaliations against Maureen or me for speaking to him could be construed as criminal acts of obstruction, which Lori responded to by hanging up on him. I did not follow up on contacting the Distict Attorney's office, since Will still occasionally buttonholed me, trying to make peace on the same basis as before, that if I made no more trouble for her, she would leave me alone as well. Glyn, we all felt, held the key to the situation, but he remained stone-faced and I gave up on even waving Hello at him as he walked by. To my surprise, Samara would return my waves sometimes, if Simone wouldn't, though the ban on either of them acknowledging Maureen's existence in any way was of course total by now.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I found in my mailbox an invoice that had been put there on Wednesday, demanding $15 for the garbage fee, with a big red stamp, “POSTED”, and Lori's handwriting, “Need to pay!” So nice to hear from her again, after so long, and I made a ritual gesture of emptying Tiger Lily's wastebasket for the third time since I'd been at Lupin, since all in all, I had to take it as a good sign that she was actually expecting me to pay money to her, as opposed to expecting me to simply disappear. But I went out to Jean's that weekend, for she had promised to let me stay on her property if I did have to leave Lupin, and this property, bought with money from a family trust that was coming down to her, proved to be without electricity or water, just a muddy trail through a few acres of woods, where the trailers were parked, along with some non-running cars and a tarped-over storage shed and lots of miscellaneous stuff that Jean planned to hire some Mexicans to haul away, as soon as there was a little cash free. Hazel Dell is to Corralitos as Aldercroft is to Los Gatos, which is to say that just as Corralitos is a more obscure town than Los Gatos, Hazel Dell is a correspondingly more obscure boondock, most houses well hidden from view and most pieces of land having no houses hidden or otherwise, just “POSTED NO TRESPASSING” signs to indicate that, if undeveloped, they were not unowned. But Jean's property is breathtakingly beautiful in its own way, with old-growth redwoods that were somehow missed when most of the parcels on every side were logged, and there were prospects for improvement, a septic system left over from when there used to be a little house, though it would take work to bring it back on-line again, and a water holding tank, though that would take work too to hook up, and a propane generator, even if it did not work very well and had to be replaced. Rob had no current use for his trailer, and would appreciate being thrown a little money for the use of it, so though I was not looking forward to the prospect, it looked doable, and Jean said we both could use a little pioneer-style toughening up, to teach us self-reliance, spoiled city kids that we were.
Brad came to Lupin on Saturday, and for the first time since before the weekend of the power cord remembered that he was supposed to be mediating Maureen's dispute with the Stouts, producing an accounting of how much money was owed and how long it would take to pay it off, which was unsatisfactory in various respects, but most particularly in that it counted imputed rent and utility payments for Little John and Butch-and-Corky as repayments on Maureen's loan. This assumed that neither Little John nor Butch-and-Corky were entitled to anything in compensation for their services, and ignored completely the fact that Maureen's offer to cover rent arrearages, if any, was to have included Rob-and-Jean as well, and to be in consideration of Lori's agreement to stop decimating the community with evictions, something Lori was obviously not agreeing to. I assured Brad that I would continue to act as Maureen's advisor, regardless of how my own case went, and regardless of whether he liked it or not, and I did continue to keep Brad in the loop, despite his consistent pointed rudeness toward me, about legal developments such as my further talks with the sheriff's department that Monday. Hickman was going to see the District Attorney that afternoon, on another matter, and said he would ask for Lori's prosecution on witness intimidation charges, although he suspected (correctly) that the DA would consider it “a civil matter” and decline to get involved, and Conardini, as Will had told me he probably would, did not see anything to be concerned about in Carroll's conduct, telling me that Carroll had written several tickets the night of the typhoon, and did not seem to be out for me in particular, probably just knowing me to be a Lupinite from patrolling the area, and as for the fishing expedition for marijuana, that was common for cops to do around there apparently, “You'd be surprised how many people blurt out a Yes.” Conardini was a little more interested in Harper's refusal to take a police report about possible theft or vandalism, but would need to talk to the victim, so he asked me to have Jean call him; I thought but did not say, “Careful what you wish for! You might never get off the phone.”
I was ready for tough negotiation on Tuesday the 1st, intending to offer the usual $750 rent with the stipulation that the 30 days' notice and the electricity and garbage demands had, like the events of October, never happened, and if Lori insisted on $815, I would fill up a carload from Tiger Lily yurt and take it out to Jean's, although as a fallback I was ready to accept a rent bump to $815, as long as it was not retroactive. But it all went very differently, with only Harry and Walt in the office, Harry making no eye-contact with me, while Walt, who generally kept to himself and was reputedly depressive, spoke to me for the first time since I had been at Lupin: “We are instructed that we are not allowed to take any money from you.” I drove up Little Village road, intending to load up a bunch of stuff, but found the driveway to Calla Lily and Tiger Lily yurts blockaded by piles of logs and debris, so I drove my car to the parking lot and put it in the spot marked “NO PARKING EXCEPT FOR BOB”. There was a parking spot with that same sign at Mountain Air, the nudist place by Denver where I had been a couple times, but I had been warned there that this meant the manager Bob, and at Lupin too after the first time I had parked there, I was warned that it was for Admiral Bob, a long-time and well-respected member, and that I should never park there on the weekends when Admiral Bob was likely to come, but I had sometimes parked there for a goof on weekdays.
This time, though, there was a sign on my windshield in the morning, large red letters “YOU ARE NOT THE BOB THIS PLACE WAS MADE FOR”, not matching the handwriting of Lori or Redhead Diane, so I may indeed have offended Admiral Bob, whom I have never met, and took to parking my car next to Maureen's for my remaining time at Lupin. I learned that the situation was even a little stranger than I had thought the day before, for Maureen had gotten her money, half from the business account and half from Glyn's personal account, but nobody else got paid at all, this failure to meet payroll seeming odd coming on the same day Lori had refused to take my money, suspicious coming barely a month after the most profitable event Lupin had ever held, and infuriating coming so shortly after Lori had bought herself a new car. Adam had to clean up massive sabotage, shit from multiple persons in the upper hot tub, the heater broken in the sauna, and detergent poured into the lower hot tub so that it overflowed with soap suds.
The anger all around the grounds was so thick that it could be cut with a knife, but when I e-mailed Lori for the first time in two months, I contented myself with discussing my own case, asking “What do you want?” and pointing out the contradictions inherent in sending a money demand and refusing to take any money, ordering me to move out and blocking me from packing up my car. I copied to Glyn and Brad of course, and of course not one of them ever replied, and the barricade of logs and debris stayed there all week, so I took a picture of it in case a court ever wanted to see it, the picture taken from just a foot in front of the threshold of the Blue House to emphasize that Lori could not come or go from her house without seeing this. I decided that under no circumstances was Lori getting any December rent money, which had been tendered and refused after all, so I sent the $750 to a lady in Pittsburgh I had treated badly years ago and owed some serious amends. But Teddy Bear advised me that the only way to free my heart of my anger towards Lori was to do something nice for her, without getting caught at it, so I bought a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and laid them on the porch railing of the Blue House for a peace offering.
Will heard about the blockade at my driveway by the end of the week, and got it cleared away promptly, and told me that it had not been intentional, but had just been thoughtless on the part of Lonnie about where he was throwing the debris from some tree-clearance, and I could indeed more easily believe that Lonnie had been clueless rather than that he had turned hostile to me, but Lori most definitely had known about the problem for days and refused to deal with it. However, I still wanted to keep the negotiation channel through Will open, for what it was worth, and explained to him that I had a place to go, at Jean's, but would force Lori to get a court order before I moved, and that December 15th, when the notice told me to move, was out of the question anyway, since that was the middle of final exam week at Cabrillo and I had to be there all day from 7 AM on that date, and besides, if I did leave then, she would still owe me half the security deposit, and had better give me assurances that she would have the money, if she expected me to take her seriously about wanting me to move on that date, what with the business being in de facto insolvency and all. But I did load up the car, with all the things I did not use and had mostly not even taken out of the boxes since I had hauled them from Michigan, intending to take that load to Jean's, but I didn't get around to doing it, driving around with the car stuffed, hanging on I guess to the hope that I would just end up unpacking them back into Tiger Lily.
Will was also having to intervene to protect Roy-and-Diane, whom Lori was now threatening to fire and evict, telling Roy that not only could they not eat in the Restaurant any more, but they were not allowed to use the Kitchen either, leaving them not only no way to feed themselves, but no way to feed Nick either, to Roy's unconcealed fury: “I can take a lot, myself, but don't you abuse my kid!” Roy of course began using the Kitchen regularly, and found further cause for anger in its condition, for I had been the only one to clean up messes there, if not very well, since Jean left, and had gone “on strike” after the 30 days' notice was served, and after a few weeks both the sink and the staff fridge had accumulated some stinking eyesores. Roy put a note on the door threatening whoever had dirtied dishes and pots and not washed them that he would find them out and dump trash at their trailer, and added a note in the fridge, “Whoever is responsible for these science projects, take care of them or they will haunt you!” Keif was then assigned to be in charge of the Kitchen, but did not do very much.
Amy too was going through some hard times, starting with health problems that might have threatened her ability to carry the pregnancy to term, but she toughed it out, only to get more serious distress laid on her. Santa Clara County advertised a “Second Chance” program, an opportunity for people to clean up old tickets and warrants, and Robert applied, for it proved that he had had more reason to turn down my offer to take my car and go see his daughter than I had realized back in July, a ticket for driving with suspended license while he was on parole, for which he had ducked the court appearances, fearing that the parole violation would send him back to prison, not the county “jail” mind you but “prison”. And indeed, despite the offer of leniency, he was going to have to do some time, although nice letters from Will, who had law-enforcement connections, and others about how he had straightened out and flown right for quite some time now ought to keep that well under the year he had hanging over him. I don't know what he originally did to get in trouble, probably just a drug thing but I never asked, but it frosted me that he would be going in, when I see what walks around on the outside.
Robert was very brave about facing the music, and everyone was solicitous as he drove all around in the high-rider truck of which he was so proud, visiting his favorite spots for the last time, although the authorities relented and let him put off his surrender date until January, leaving him free for Christmas, his birthday, and New Year's. Amy took it harder than he did, and then she got bit by a black widow spider, or maybe it was one of those recluses, who generally keep to themselves, the wound swelling up and bursting, twice, and one of the deer, normally so human-adapted, charged her on the lawn. One day she started talking to me, and actually said, “It's not that I'm looking for someone to tell my life-story to,” before, of course, telling me her life-story, which involved a psychotic sister who had been out to ruin her life since she was young, but as for what happened between them, well, as with so much else that I hear at Lupin, that must go with me to my grave.
Phil-and-Issa were moved up front to Fairmont trailer, which Lori finally decided to clean up and re-use, although I don't know if the issue about the housing authority having previously condemned it and ordered its demolition had ever been resolved in any way, and this was only after Harry had been promised it and started to clean it up, then was told that he still had to clean out the toilets although he would not be allowed to have the place. That was probably punishment for his failure to get the front gate fixed, although he had almost had it working, for there were suspicions that some, at least, of the sabotage and the mess-making in the Kitchen was not actually due to Lupinites at all, but to people from Sal's Canyon or elsewhere taking advantage of how easy it was to sneak in at night. And Lonnie-and-Chellis, along with Wayne and Wanda, were moved into a trailer up front, which required a lot of work that neither Wayne nor Lonnie really knew how to do, so that Lonnie could be night security watching that front gate, their old spot in Madrone cabin supposed to go to John-and-Rachel, who were finding increasing mold problems in Gypsy cabin with the wet weather and were concerned about the health of the baby due in February. But Madrone cabin had been neglected all during the last years of Molly, a once-vital member who ended sadly, wandering the grounds in the tragic cluelessness and random anger of advancing Alzheimer's, and had then gotten a hole punched in the wall when it was John Horne's place for a while, and finally had been decorated by Wayne and Lonnie in Appalachian style with this and that broken whatnot, so Rachel declared it unacceptable and they moved to a place Johnny had in San Jose, starting to detach from Lupin finally and for real. Lately I hear that Phil-and-Issa have been ousted from Fairmont in favor of Lonnie-and-Chellis, since Phil's usefulness to Lori had always been as a potential weapon against Johnny.
The portentious 13th came and went with less drama than in previous months. Jimbo was about to go East for a long visit with his family, having an extended winter break from his place of work, and offered me the use of his apartment in Monterey, so he came that day to give me the key, and to visit with Maureen and catch up on all the sad story of the recent deterioration. I intended to stay down there in Monterey, not too much further from Cabrillo, for much of finals week when I did not need any unexpected aggravations, as I explained to Will when he called me that day to ask how I intended to handle things come the 15th. I told him I probably wouldn't be there at all, not wanting to be confronted with Wayne banging on my door at midnight demanding I get out at once, or whatever they had planned, and Will was appalled to hear that I was expecting things to go like that, assuring me that however little he had been able to advance the cause of peace in our times, he would at least make sure that everything was done through proper legal channels.
I did not explain to him that Cabrillo had fired me and would not be giving me any classes for the next term, not wanting anyone to know in advance of the legal battle to come how precarious my position actually was. I was getting a bit depressed, and playing a lot of Dark Side of the Moon when I drove my car those days, and Maureen too had switched to playing a lot of hard Led Zeppelin. But although I did go down to Monterey for the night of the 14th, when I absolutely had to be sure of getting up and to work very early, at the end of the day I just decided for some reason to come back to Lupin, all geared for a fight if need be, but it all went very differently. Harry had finally gotten the front gate working perfectly, and I was the first person Harry and Lonnie shared the new front-gate code with: they couldn't have been friendlier.