5th of AugustDear Diary,
After a most exciting week in San Francisco, I decided to begin with my plans – because that was the reason for my journey, not the sightseeing.
During breakfast in the morning I had a little chat with Rob-erta.
Good morning, darling! Did you sleep well?
Very well, Roberta, thank you.
(smiling) Pancakes with maple syrup again?
Well, it smells as if you've made brownies!
Of course, darling! It's my son's birthday today, although I am not sure whether he deserves any… He isn't the politest or most obedient of boys!
I had to smile secretly and quickly went back to my room after breakfast. I took the file from my table: It looked pretty crinkly and had a few coffee splashes on it. In my sleepless nights – and believe me there were loads of them – I had read it again and again and knew its text inside out.
I flipped to Liam's profile. The picture showed the face of a young man, blonde and tanned with remarkably blue eyes. A handsome face indeed. I always thought of him as a "surfer boy", a bit stereotype, although he seemed to have the very opposite of a surfer boy's sunny and innocent image. He'd acquired 3 criminal records – two for defamation of a civil servant on duty and one for robbery. He had spent a whole year in jail. In addition he was an assumed member of the RH-Assembly. But besides this information, his profile didn't say much about his recent place of living, just that he was sup-posedly living in a district called the Tenderloin. That didn't make it easier for me, but all in all this was a beginning.
So I took the next cab to Tenderloin and decided to wait for any sign or clue which would lead me to Liam. This district of San Francisco looked much shabbier and dirtier; different to where I live. I saw many homeless lying on the streets, also children, many Hispanics among them.
This was when I regretted wearing very chic clothes today. I should have worn my old stuff in order not to attract any attention. Well, too late. First of all I had to find a location where the waiting and observing wouldn't be boring or too obvious. I went down a broad and crowded street full of little shops and markets when a pretty cheesy-looking café ap-peared in my view. The tables and chairs outside were entire-ly decorated in pink. Pink cushions, pink table cloth, pink candles. And on every table a vase with a white rose with pink splashes. Somehow I thought this was cute. So I decided to order coffee and a piece of cake there.
After I sat down, I noticed a young man at the table next to me, who smiled at me and raised his glass.
May I take a seat next to such a pretty, young girl?
Er… sure, why not?
I'm Joaquin Crespín, nice to meet you!
So you're Irish, I hear? Beautiful country, I've only been there twice, but I really enjoyed my stay.
That's true, it's very beautiful. But I'm not Irish, my mom was– sorry Mr Crespín – I have a boyfriend waiting at home for me, no offence.
I felt a little bit guilty about my excuse, but after my fancy, he acted a little too intrusive.
(laughing) Oh, that's nice for you. Actually, I'm waiting for my boyfriend as well.
Darn! I am so sorry! I just thought you were…well trying to…
Don't panic honey, I just tried to be nice to you because you looked a little sad and worried (pause) and there he comes.
¡Hola mi amor! ¿Cómo estás? (Kissing) ¿Te puedo presentar a Ms Eileen de Irlanda? (To Eileen) I am sorry, but he doesn't speak any English.
They were really nice and kind of made my day. After they insisted on paying my three cups of coffee they left holding hands. As for me, I wanted to stay a bit longer.
This was actually a great place to observe people. It seemed like this was the centre of the district. There were some women giggling and speaking loudly in front of a veg stall, pipe chuffing men were standing around a dodgy pub and groups of young people were lingering around on a piece of green. I had to think of the mall in Cork and the big scramble of various and sometimes oddly freaky people there. Alt-hough I enjoyed being in SF, I missed my hometown now.
It seemed to me as if I sat on the fluffy chair for hours and hours without any sign of Liam Smith. Well, a few times I spotted a blond head amongst the crowd – my heart always started to pump like hell and I had to bear down the urge of jumping up – but it was never him.
There were fewer and fewer people around and a few shops were shutting their blinds. Finally I decided to pay. The wait-ress seemed to be nice and was a very chatty girl.
Did you enjoy your cake?
It was delicious, thank you. Er…I hope I'm not being pushy, but I've just arrived in San Francisco and wanted to go out this evening. Could you recommend some nice bars or pubs?
Yeah sure, no problem. The "Alibi Room" or "El Niño" is pretty hip. If you want to go out, I'd suggest going there!
Well, thanks a lot!
After running around in Tenderloin all day I went home with no success, I hadn't found Liam Smith.
6th of August Dear Diary,
Today was pretty much the same as yesterday, with one exception. I saw Liam Smith. After hanging around in Tender-loin in another cute café, I decided to go to the "Alibi Room". I didn't want to spend my evening alone in a hotel room, so I thought I could go inside for a glass of wine and a snack.
As I was walking towards the red wooden door, it opened and to my surprise… it was Liam Smith who walked out into the now dark street!
My body went cold all over. Was it really him? I could only see the side of his face which was lit by the golden light stream floating out of a window but I was absolutely sure. This was my father's alleged murderer. It was pretty hard not to run towards him and hit him as hard as I could. But somehow I managed to control myself.
Liam came out with a young woman and a young man. Both were about 20, the girl a tall brunette and the man a bit shorter and plumper than Liam and his hair was a dark brown. I followed them with my eyes. They were laughing about something and looked just like normal people having fun. I think they didn't recognize me. I hoped so, anyhow. This was my chance. I walked on by and pretended to go inside the pub. But I actually hid behind the doorframe which earned me a few weird side glances from the people inside. Who cares?
Liam and his friends went down the road and disappeared into an alley on the left. That was my chance. I almost ran after them. Thank god, I put on flat shoes today. The alley was deserted and (to my resignation) silent and a little bit scary. Then, I heard laughter and chatting not so far from me in a lane on the right. I sprinted towards the noise and saw them again. They were obviously saying goodbye.
Good night, Liam, see you tomorrow.
Was a pretty cool evening, see you folks tomorrow.
Yeah, it really was! Bye.
Liam stayed in front of a big garage gate and waved to the others, who continued walking down the alley. The shadow of a house entrance kept me hidden. Unfortunately, I stepped on a tin lying on the floor so I caused a cracking noise. Liam turned and looked directly towards me. I stopped breathing, my body contracted.
'He cannot see you, he cannot see you.' I repeated over and over again in my head. It felt like hours until he looked away, took a key out of his jacket and opened the garage. A few seconds later he disappeared inside. I stayed where I was to take a few minutes to calm down. Then I made my way to the subway station. I knew where to begin tomorrow.
10th of August: Dear Diary,
Today I drove to the Tenderloin again. I went to the house where I lost Liam yesterday and to the bar, but I didn't see the slightest of him or his friends.
11th of August: Dear Diary,
After having spent 5 days lingering around the Tenderloin my motivation has decreased a bit. What was I thinking when I came here? Isn't this whole thing kind of pointless? What would I do if I found Liam again? All these questions popped into my mind. I had already thought about going to the airport and flying back home…but then something weird happened.
I was wandering around the district by night with the hope that Liam was standing around the next corner. I was also thinking about my father, about my time in Austria and about Ben as well. I had stored him – and most of all, our kiss – in a back drawer of my mind since coming to the US. Nevertheless I missed him. What was he doing right now? He must have been very concerned about me and wanted to find me. Well I think he had to, according to his boss.
Hours were floating away. And I think I got to a completely different district after a while. Suddenly pompous villas, magnificently lighted, bordered the street. Somehow I found myself in a district of the rich, the very opposite of where I started my walking-tour. That was when I decided to look for a subway station.
Wiu-wiu-wiu! I nearly got a heart attack when an alarm sys-tem in the house directly in front of me started to go off. I stood frozen and didn't know what to do. Call the police? Run away? Hide? I took the last alternative and jumped behind a bush by the street.
As I looked closer, I could see people wearing black ski masks running out of the house. Oh my god – I just witnessed a break-in! They carried big bags which they threw into a van standing on the other side of the street. The last person out-side the car looked back one more time and then jumped on as well.
"Liam, you forgot one!"
A dark male voice said. So the man got off again and put one more bag in, which he had left on the street.
The voice said again. The engine roared and they drove off.
My mind was working like a steam machine. The name of this man had been Liam. Liam. Liam Smith? I remembered what I read about this organisation, the RH-Group, in the file. Crimi-nal organisation in the USA, CA, San Francisco. Known for stealing from the wealthy, especially in the Richmond district. Suspected to be involved in the assassination of Fergus Beckett.
That had been them. I was absolutely sure.