It was only about one hundred and forty miles from Bakersfield to Pomona but Leo took his time, stopping twice to eat some sandwiches he had brought with him and once to hide when he thought someone was following him. He also stopped to assist a woman and her son who were having some car problems and had pulled off on the side of the road. He had enough knowledge to get their vehicle running again and was rather pleased when the woman called him a, “heaven sent stroke of good luck,” before she drove off. Leo was not much for providing such acts of kindness but he admitted to himself that it made him feel pretty good, in a way that was different than when he pulled off a scheme or outwitted the police. He drove without stopping again after that and by the time he actually drove over the hills and down into the “Queen of the Citrus Belt” it was evening and he was fairly tired.
He took a room for the night at the Pomona Hotel, left most of his belongings in the car, and went to bed before ten o’clock. At six a.m. he was awoken by a persistent knocking on the door. When he opened it he found the smiling face of Robert Lester, who was holding two cups of coffee in his hands.
“Good morning friend. I though you might want some room service.”
Leo, who had been quite startled to find his former partner standing there, recovered quickly. Rubbing his hand across his face and feigning indifference he replied. “Well, I don’t remember ordering anything but sure I’ll take some coffee if you’re bringing it to me.”
“Good, good, here you go,” Lester replied, pushing past Leo and walking into the small room. “Not exactly the best place in town but I guess it suits you, huh?”
“It was late when I got in and this place was right on the road. I took it and figured to look around today for something better.”
“Well, that’ll be the Mayfair for sure, if you’re figuring to step up a bit around here. It’s a nice place but a bit expensive to live at, ya know?” Lester was grinning too much as he spoke and Leo realized what he was looking for although he was not going to give him satisfaction on that if he could help it.
“Hmm, well I’ll see about it when I go out. Right now I’d like to have some peace and quiet.”
“I can help you look around, we can look around together, check things out,” Lester replied, sitting his empty cup down on the floor.
“Sounds like you already know the place. Why don’t I meet you somewhere later?”
There was no reply from Lester who had gotten up and was looking out the one window in the room, seemingly lost in thought. Leo opened the door and stood to the side.
“I’ll see you later, Rob.”
Lester turned around slowly and walked up to Leo, stopping when the two were face to face. “I know you’re wondering how I found you, and you’ll just have to keep on wondering my friend. Take it as fact though that I can find you and I won’t be forgetting about my fifty dollars. You go look around then and I’ll meet you for lunch at the Mayfair.”
“Maybe you will,” Leo replied defensively.
Lester left without another word and Leo sat down on the bed, shaken on the inside more from the fact Lester had found him so quickly than by the actual encounter. An hour later he checked out of the hotel and drove toward the center of town. If he was going to stay around for awhile he wanted to be closer to the action. By eleven a.m. he had grudgingly admitted to himself that Lester was right and the Mayfair Hotel was exactly the place he needed to stay at in Pomona. The manager told him that there would be a room coming available later in the day and Leo, who had only had the cup of coffee as breakfast, sat down to eat lunch in their restaurant. He found a little bit of humor in the fact that Lester had been correct but was not looking forward to having the fact brought up whenever his former partner arrived. Ten minutes later Lester slid into the chair directly across from Leo and laughed right in his face.
“Pretty smart, aren’t I?” Lester asked after he had regained his composure.
“Fuck off,” Leo shot back loudly which turned the heads of a few nearby diners.
“Little testy aren’t ya? Just lighten up a little my friend, I knew this place would appeal to you, that’s all. Don’t take it so hard.”
Leo did not reply but resumed eating and neither of them spoke again until their meals were complete. Shifting back in his chair while sipping on a whiskey, Lester nodded toward the approaching manager.
“Coming to get you for your room, I think. How about you and me share it? I could use a place to sleep for a bit and it’ll make it easier for me to keep an eye on my money.”
“Not likely. Why would I want you around me that much? Besides, I’m sure it’s a single set up so there’s nowhere for you to sleep.”
“It’s a double. And you want me living here with you so I don’t follow you all over town. That’ll get rather bothersome I suspect.”
Leo glared back at Lester.
“Sir, your room will be ready in a few minutes. Please come to sign the registration documents,” the hotel manager asked.
“I don’t suppose it has a second bed, does it?” Leo replied.
“Certainly it does sir. Is that ok?”
“Yes, yes. This gentleman will also be staying with me.”
“Very well. I’ll need you both to sign of course.”
“Of course,” Leo replied sharply as he got up and followed the man, Robert Lester trailing close behind with a satisfied look on his face. They registered as Leo Humbert and Lorrane North and twenty minutes later had settled into the nicely furnished two bedroom suite on the third floor of the hotel.
The next morning, December 23rd, Leo experienced a sense of deja vu as he was awakened again by persistent knocking on the door. He opened it and was met with yet another surprise when he saw Stanley Bittenhopper standing in the hallway, nervously tapping his fingers together and humming an unrecognizable tune under his breath.
…to be continued