The brightness of the lights in the lobby of the Pilgrim Hotel hurt Jim's eyes. He walked slowly to the main desk, still trying to open his eyes.

"May I help you sir?"

Jim looked slowly from side to side, confused, and squinting. It took him a while to realize that the balding clerk with the tiny brown mustache was talking to him.

"Sir, is everything all right?"

"Uh, yeah, everything's fine. Just fine."

"Very well then, may I help you with something?" the clerk asked somewhat impatiently.

"Yeah, sure you can. I'd like to get a room for the night."

"I see. A single or a double?"


"For yourself?"

"Yeah for myself, who else?"

"And your name is?"

"Uh, Nickerson, Bobby Nickerson."

"And may I see some identification Mr. Nickerson?" the clerk

asked without looking up from the form he had been filling out.

"Well, I, oh, it seems that I've left my wallet in the car."

"I see, very well then, would you mind waiting here for just a moment while I get your room key?"

"No problem, take your time. I'm in no hurry." The small balding man walked quickly back to the office door and went inside. The upper half of the door was mirrored, and Jim could not see inside. Almost immediately, the door opened again, and an even smaller, neater looking, even balder man with a tight brown suit exactly like that of the other balding man emerged, and followed the clerk over to the counter. His jacket was open in front, and it was apparent to Jim that he couldn't button it, even if he wanted to.

"Mr. Nickerson?"


"Ted Tippet. Nice to meet you," he said, as he opened the door in the counter and walked toward Jim, hand extended eagerly ahead of him. "If you'd just be so kind as to walk this way with me for a moment Mr. Nickerson," he said, putting his short, tight, pudgy arm around Jim's waist. "Now Mr. Nickerson, Jim is it?"

"No, it's Bobby. Bobby Nickerson."

"That's right, I'm sorry, Bobby. Isn't that odd, for some reason I just couldn't help thinking it was Jim. That's strange, isn't it? Oh well, my mistake. Now the, Bobby, I'm with Hotel security, and it seems that we have a slight problem."

Jim noticed another man in a brown suit walking casually over to them. He was tall, and thin, and walked with a long, relaxed stride, which made Jim think that something was up. As he approached them, he reached inside his jacket and quickly pulled out a badge which he flashed at Jim, muttering "NYPD". He immediately returned it to his pocket, and the smaller, balding man continued.

"It seems that a priest by the name of Father Landers has had some money stolen from him, and he's contacted the police about it. Now this priest has some friends in pretty high places, if you know what I mean," he said laughing. "No pun intended, of course. Anyway, it seems as if this matter has become top priority in the city tonight, and we here at the Pilgrim would like to do all we can to help the police do their job. You know, Bobby, the city of New York's got an awfully bad reputation for this kind of thing, and since I've lived here all of my life, I feel pretty bad about that. Now if I've got the chance to do something to change all of that, then you can surely see how eager I'd be to do something like that, couldn't you, Bobby?"

Jim wanted to answer, but it had all happened too fast, and he was still trying to figure out what the thin man wanted.

"Of course you can, Bobby. Now I've got a couple of pictures of these people that stole the money here, and this one looks almost exactly like you, Bobby."

He held out a small picture, slightly bigger than the ones that come with a wallet. Jim looked carefully at it, trying not to recognize himself in it, while still appearing interested. It took him minute to realize that it had been taken that night in Brian's tent. He tried no to show his surprise, and shifted his weight back onto his rear leg, but the taller man cut in.

"Listen Jim, the joke's over. We don't want any trouble here, so if you'll just tell us where your friends are...."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I'm afraid Detective Phillips is right," the smaller man said, looking somewhat hurt that he had been interrupted in the middle of his most glorious moment. "We know who you are, and all of what's happened."

"I don't understand any of this. What are you talking about?"

"All right, if you want to do it that way, we can go down to the station and see if you find something to say on the way," said the taller man.

Jim stood for a moment, trying to think of something else to say, but he couldn't hear himself over the pounding in his head and throat. The smaller man was looking at the creme colored carpeting, still hurt, but knowing there was nothing he could do about it. The taller man stood impatiently, hands still in his pockets, staring straight down at Jim. Jim looked slowly up at him, examining his body from foot to head.

"Don't even think about it, Jim. Even if you get by me, my partner's over there in the doorway."

Jim looked causally over at the doorway, still trying to appear unconcerned.

"Over there, on the left. The tall guy with the brown suit."

Jim paused for a moment before looking over. The other man was even taller than the man he was talking to, and he was staring directly at them. As their eyes met, he nodded slowly at Jim, and then glanced back around the lobby.

"So what's it going to be, Jim? Are you going to make things easy for everyone, or are we going to have to take you downtown?"

Jim thought about trying to make a run for it, but he knew it was hopeless. It wasn't that he was all that drunk. The alcohol had long since worn off, but the fatigue it left behind in his mind and body made him soft and slow. When the tall thin man grabbed him firmly around his right elbow, Jim didn't even respond. He just let his body go limp in the force of the tall thin man's hands.

The handcuffs cut cold and hard into his wrists at first, but he soon learned that by lifting his hands up a little into the small of his back he could relieve some of the pressure. The taller man hadn't even bothered to wait for them, and was already in the driver's seat of the navy blue Plymouth sedan which was parked out front.

Jim winced as the tall thin man's fingers gripped the top of his skull and forced his chin into the front of his chest in an attempt to stuff him into the back seat of the car. Jim thought that his neck was snapping when he heard the smashing of glass that came crashing into his head. He fell back against the Plymouth as he watched the tall thin man crumple quickly to the sidewalk. Jim didn't even notice Kathi standing over him with the neck of the bottle still in her right hand, its jagged, broken edge glistening in the dark. He was too busy staring at the small wet red line which trickled slowly from the man's long, smooth forehead. He was still staring when Kathi grabbed him by the arm and screamed into his face. She pulled him to his feet and dragged him down the sidewalk with all of the strength she could summon. Jim looked down in awe as his legs ran awkwardly beneath him. He couldn't remember telling himself to start running, but there he was moving steadily down the sidewalk, the crowd parting in front of him as he went.

As Kathi looked quickly back over her shoulder, she saw the taller man getting out of the driver's side of the car. His gun was drawn, but it was pointed straight upwards into the cool black darkness of the sky. She pulled Jim ahead of her forcefully as the crisp piercing sound of the gunshot brought the street to silence. Two more shots cleared the sidewalk. Kathi looked over her shoulder again at the people lying on the ground with their faces pressed flat against the filthy sidewalk. She pulled Jim into a tiny alley just as the fourth shot was fired. The alley was all but impassable because of its narrowness, and because of the piles of trash and garbage that cluttered its sides. Kathi ran through the piles without stopping, still dragging Jim behind her, but not using as much force. Jim was getting used to the running now, and the two of them moved swiftly through the clutter.

Halfway down the alley there was an intersection, where the narrow alley met with another, wider alley. Jim followed Kathi up the wider alley, still deaf to the shots which followed them. Kathi ran directly over to a small green door which was blocked with a pile of trash bags. The door opened quickly and in one clean motion, Kathi leaped over the pile and through the opening. Jim stopped breathlessly in front of the pile.

"C'mon man, it's okay. Jump. Jump!" a voice said out of the darkness of the doorway. Jim stood peering over the pile, his chest heaving, and the handcuffs digging sharply into the backs of his wrists.

"C'mon man, it's okay." There was silence for a moment, and then the voice spoke again. "Damn it" someone said as a small hairy man leaped out over the pile at Jim. In one powerful movement he picked Jim up off his feet, cradling him in his arms like a baby, and leaping back over the pile into the doorway. Someone shut the door immediately behind them, but the darkness remained. Jim was helpless as he felt himself being carried carefully across the room. Another door opened in front of them, and the man carried Jim through it and into a small shadowy room with a faint, musky odor to it. As Jim's eyes adjusted to the softness of the candlelight, the small hairy man gently placed him down on his feet in the center of the room. Brian was sitting comfortably on the floor in a big brown beanbag chair.

"Whew. You made it, man," the small man said to Jim, his eyes beaming with delight. He laughed from deep within himself, his long brown hair bouncing gently over his shoulders. "My name's Jessie," he said, extending his hand, and bursting into a laugh again. "I can't help it man, it's the look on your face. Oh wow man, I almost forgot you was cuffed up back there," he said, choking on his own laughter. "Let me get you loose."

Jim watched as he walked over to the wall and took a small wooden box off the shelf. He opened it and took out a small piece of wire, and turned Jim around to face the wall. As he worked on the lock, Jim noticed that the walls were covered with a sort of a collage that had become like wallpaper. It was made up of pictures and newspaper clippings and memorabilia from the sixties, some of which contained Jessie's name or photograph.

Tapestries hung from the ceiling, giving the room a soft, cushioned, inviting appearance. There were plants everywhere, of various sizes and shapes and colors. The only light came from several small candles, which had been set in strategic locations so as to give off the most light.

"You're free man," Jessie said as he stood up with the handcuffs in his hands. "But not really," he said with a smirk. "The pigs'll be sniffing around the neighborhood soon enough, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you guys down in the cellar for a bit. I think it's the garbage behind the back door that attracts 'em," he said breaking into a fit of laughter again. He bent over, letting his long, wavy hair fall down over his face, and then threw his head back again, hair flying everywhere with great bursts of laughter. When Jessie had calmed back down, he walked over to the huge block of cement which served as a coffee table. It was about six feet long and three feet high, and appeared to be solid, but somehow, Jessie leaned into it, and slid it slowly across the floor. They were still trying to figure out how he had moved it when he took out a small screwdriver and dug into one of the floor boards. He worked his way smoothly along the board's length, until there was a narrow groove about three feet long. Jessie carefully pried the board up with his fingers, but it was more than one board. There were several boards joined together to form a trap door, which opened into a dark pit.

"Grab on of those candles," Jessie said to Kathi. Jessie nudged Jim with one of his elbows and motioned to him to hold the door.

"Follow me," he said as he walked slowly down a set of wooden stairs. Kathi and Brian followed Jessie down into a small, damp room with a dirt floor and three stone walls. The fourth wall was also dirt.

"What am I supposed to do with this door?" Jim yelled down at them.

"I'll be right up, just hand in there for a minute, " Jessie yelled back. "Listen," he said to Kathi and Brian. "It shouldn't be too long before they clean the neighborhood. Once you're safe, I'll let you back out. Here's a book of matches in case that goes out. Just be cool, and when you hear me knock on the floor, don't make any noise, all right?"

Kathi and Brian nodded slowly.

"All right then. Just stay cool and hang out. I'll drop down to see you soon."

Jessie scrambled back up the stairs and took three new candles from the shelf. He tossed them down into the hole, and took the door from Jim.

"Head down there with Kathi and Brian. They'll clue you in on what went down."

Jim climbed slowly down the stairs and stood in the center of the room in a circle with Kathi and Brian. As the door closed above them, they listened to the sound the cement slab made as it slid back over the trap door. The sound continued for a moment, and then it went silent. They stood in the quiet for a minute, letting their eyes adjust to the darkness. Kathi was about to speak when they heard Jessie knock twice on the hardwood floor. Kathi put a finger to her lips, and the three of them stood in the quiet and stared at the flame of the candle on the earthen floor. After what seemed like an eternity, but was really only ten minutes, they heard another knock on the floor.

"You think it's okay to talk?" Kathi whispered.

"I don't know, I'm always the last one to know," Jim said dryly.

"I think it's okay. We should light these other candles."

"What if we're down here for a long time?" Brian asked. "They'll all burn out at once if we light them together."

"Yeah, but Jessie said we'd be out of here pretty soon anyway, and since he just knocked, it shouldn't be more than a couple of minutes." She said as she gathered the other candles from the floor.

"Why even light them then?"

"I just want to be able to see, that's all. Don't worry, Jessie'll get us out of here."

"Who the hell is Jessie, anyway?" Jim said emphatically. "I mean what the hell's going on around here?"

"Jessie's a guy that Brian met while you and I were gone, I mean, when you and I went around the corner for that drink, you know? Well, anyway, Brian bumped into him, and ....."

"I still think you should save one of those," Brian interrupted as she lit the candles together.

"All right Brian," she said, blowing one out. "Anyway, Jessie noticed Brian wandering around, and knew he needed help. Jessie had a friend in Attica in '71. He was fine when he went in, but during the riot he got hit in the head with a state trooper's nightstick and came out all mixed up. Jessie said he saw the same look in Brian's eyes that he had seen in his friend's so he followed Brian around for a while, and I guess he and Brian talked for a bit, but Brian really doesn't remember any of it."

"I do have a mouth, you know," Brian said.

"I know you do Brian, I was just telling Jim the story."

"I'm not a child you know."

"No one said you were Brian, I was just telling Jim, I didn't mean anything by it."


"Anyway, Jessie was watching Brian when we came back, I mean from having our drink, and he figured he'd keep and eye on him to see if everything was okay." "Who the hell is this guy, Brian's mother or something? Where the hell did he come from, I mean where does he come off judging.....?"

"He was just looking out for Brian. Now he's being nice enough to help us out, and you're cutting him down. Without him, you'd be in jail right now, and we probably would be too."

"All right, all right, I'm not trying to cut the guy down, I'm just trying to find out what went on, I mean, back there, at the hotel."

"Well, Jessie followed us over here, and when he saw you go in, he knew there would be trouble."

"How'd he know that, what's he a psychic or something?"

"No, I guess Brian must've told him the whole story. Anyway, we were standing across the street when he came up to us and told us that he knew that the two guys sitting in that navy blue car were undercover cops. We decided to run back here and leave Brian, and then went back to get you."

"And then we changed Brian's diapers, and put him in his crib with his rattle and his pacifier and called the giant baby sitter," Brian said in a mocking tone.

"Lighten up Brian," Jim said in annoyed tone. "If this Jessie guy is so helpful, how come he let you do the bottle breaking ceremony on the cop's head?"

"Because all the cops around here know him, and since he's not all that tough to recognize, we would've been picked off in a second."

"So instead he let you try it? That's pretty big of him."

"Listen Jim, if it weren't for him, we'd all be in jail right now, so stop complaining."

"I'm not complaining, I'm just trying to get a better picture of what's really going on here before I fall down on my knees and worship at the altar."

"No one's worshipping Jessie, we just owe him a lot, and so do you."

"I'm not denying that, I just want to know what's going on."

"So do we. It's not like I had a thousand and one options to choose from, you know. There was nowhere else to go, and we are desperate."

"I know. Even more so now than before, " he said, looking up at the ceiling.

"Listen Jim, I trust Jessie."

"I guess we all have to now."

"Right Jim. I'm not going to argue with you. From now on, let's just keep our mouths shut unless we've got something positive to say. Okay?"

"That's fine with me, I'll just have a seat over here and try not to breathe."

Jim walked over to one of the stone walls and sat down at the foot of it. Kathi watched him for a minute, as if to make sure he was really going to keep quiet. When she turned to sit, Jim spoke up again.

"Don't you think it's kind of funny that he gave us these three extra candles?"

"Aren't you going to sit down, Brian?" Kathi asked. Brian stared at her for a minute, and then sat down.

"Okay?" he asked with a slight edge to his voice.

"I think it's funny," said Jim.

"If it's okay for you, it's okay for me," Kathi said, forcing a smile. "Jessie will be down for us soon, I just know he will," she said, trying to sound reassuring, but even as she said it, she was aware that it was more for her own sake that she said it than it was for Brian's.

The three of them sat in a triangle, watching the puddles of wax that had once been candles spread slowly out into each other, forming one, long thin island in the deep brown dirt of the floor. The flames flickered in the puddles for a moment, and then went out. It was black for a moment, and then, one came back to life again, burning softly in the silence for a few minutes, only to be drowned in its own wax again.

For what seemed like forever, there was nothing. No one heard the sliding of the cement stone this time. It was only when the light hit their faces as the trap door opened that they realized that someone had come for them.

Jessie peered down into the darkness, holding a candle in one hand, and the door in the other.

"Hey, are you guys all right down there?"

There was no answer. It was Brian who stood up first, and walked over to the foot of the stairs. Kathi and Jim followed him slowly, looking down at their feet as they walked. Brian stepped carefully under Jessie's arm and up into the living room.

"Well dudes, you're safe for now, but the fun's not over yet."

"I can hardly wait," Jim said, still looking at the floor.

"Looks like someone ate a bitter lemon down there," Jessie said with a grin.

"Don't mind him, he's always like that," Kathi said.

"I guess so. Well, whatever floats your boat," Jessie said, gently setting the door down again. He methodically walked around its edges, until it was level with the floor again, and barely discernible to the naked eye.

Brian and Kathi and Jim stood in a line, side by side, and watched as Jessie leaned down into the cement slab, sliding it slowly back over the door. He stood over it for a moment after it was in place, as if to gather himself, and then turned to face them.

"Well dudes, it's like I said, you're out of the fire for a little while anyway, but from here it's going to get tricky. You dudes've gotta get outta the city, and fast. Problem is, every cop from here to Jersey's probably got your picture by now, so you'll have to go with these," Jessie said as he reached into a paper bag and pulled out three wigs. "I just got these from a friend of mine who works for an improv group. The red one's for you, Kathi, and the two longer ones are for you guys. Don't worry, they're not that long, we don't want you looking like dinosaurs or anything like that, do we now?" Jessie burst into laughter again. "I've got some clothes for you too," he managed to say between laughs.

"We should give you some money for this," Kathi offered as Jessie handed her a pair of jeans.

"Don't worry about it, I just picked them up at the Goodwill. You can go into the other room to change, Kathi," he said, leading her over to the door.

"What're you guys waiting for?" Jessie said as he turned back to face Brian and Jim. "Don't worry, I won't look. I've seen it before anyway, remember, I've got one too. Go on, it'll be okay." He said laughing. He turned around with his back toward them, and waited for a response, Brian and Jim stood motionless, clothes and wigs in hand, staring blankly at Jessie's back.

"Oh, go on, I promise I won't look," Jessie said again, obviously enjoying their discomfort. "Go ahead."

Jim slowly unbuttoned his shirt, and slipped into the new one that Jessie had given him.

"This thing's got a lot of flowers on it," he said bitterly. He paused for a moment, trying to figure out how the buttons worked. "Wait a minute, this thing's buttons are on the wrong side. This is a girl's shirt!"

"It sure is," Jessie said without turning around.

"No way. There's no way I'm dressing up as a girl, no way..."

"Why not?" Jessie asked, trying to contain his laughter.

"What? Why not? I'll tell you why not. Cause I'm not a girl, that's why. I don't know what the hell you think you're doing, but I'm not going to dress up like a queer so you can get a good laugh."

"Listen Jim, no one's trying to get a good laugh in on you, it's just the only way you'll get out without being recognized, that's all."

Jim stood for a minute, trying to think of something else to say, but he knew that Jessie was right, and he didn't want to get involved with the police again if he could help it.

"Oh what the hell, I don't care. If it means getting the hell out of here, I don't care what I have to do."

His pants were around his knees when Kathi opened the door.

"Oops. Sorry," she said, slightly embarrassed but still smiling. Jessie doubled over in a fit of laughter.

"Big joke," Jim said as he jerked his leg out of the pants. "Big joke. First you get us dressing up in women's clothes, and then you let the world watch us undress."

Brian stood beside him, still holding his armful of clothing, and smiling happily.

"What the hell are you staring at?" Jim said, pulling on the pants that Jessie had given him. "Start dressing, honey, cause if I'm looking like a sorry excuse for a broad, you are too, so get your bra on and let's go! Damn it, these pants are rejects," he said, pulling at the zipper. "No wonder some one gave them away, the Goddamn zipper's broken."

Jessie turned around, unable to contain his laughter. He leaned over again, and threw his head back quickly, shaking the room with happiness.

"I'm going in the other room to change," Brian said, laughing out loud. He knocked on the door, and Kathi opened it a crack, still smiling.

"Is it okay now?" she asked, stepping out in her new clothes. Brian stood for a moment, examining the softness of her new red hair. It was short, and neatly cropped, but looked amazingly natural to him almost as if she had looked that way all of her life. Brian couldn't decide whether or not he like her better with it, or without it.

"Well, what do you think?" she asked, gently tossing her head from side to side.

"You look like Carol Burnett," Jim said laughing.

"And you look like a transvestite wino who's too drunk to zip his own fly." she said quickly. Jessie had almost recovered from his fit of laughter, and he gently reached down and eased the zipper up for Jim. "You just have to go easy on it, Jim" he said with a smile. Jim looked at him for a moment, and then Jessie reached down into the paper bag again. "Now where are those make-up kits? Oh, here they are. Now Kathi will have to help you guys put this on. There's toilet paper in the bathroom to stuff your bras with, and razors in the medicine cabinet to shave yourselves. Get your eyebrows too."

In about an hour, they were ready. Brian and Jim were both dressed in designer jeans with lightly flowered shirts and leather pocketbooks. Jessie had repacked the rest of their gear in small plastic-leather tourist bags, and stuffed their tourpacks under his couch. Kathi stood smiling at them, proud of herself and the way she looked in her short, blue denim skirt and


Jessie made sure that the alley was clear, and brought them one by one to his van, which was parked around the corner. "I'd drive you guys outta here myself, but I just can't do it right now. I've got a lot of things to take care of in the morning, and there'll be a lot of people......."

"It's okay," Kathi interrupted. "You've done more than enough for us anyway, I just wish there was some way we could repay you or....."

"Don't worry about it. It's been my pleasure," he said grinning. "I'm always more than happy to do my part you know."

"This damn bra is killing me," Jim interrupted. "When can we get out of these things anyway?"

"Well, it would hardly be appropriate for a reputable young lady like yourself to go walking around in public braless," Jessie said with glee.

"What a comedian this guy's turning out to be," Jim said looking out the window, and trying to appear indifferent.

"It'll be okay Jim, don't worry. You can take them off as soon as you're a ways away from here. I'm driving you all to the bus station cause I think it'll be less conspicuous than the airport. Besides, it's a lot cheaper. I made a couple of phone calls, and the only bus leaving within the next few hours is going south, through Jersey and into Pennsylvania. I think it goes all the way to Florida, or Louisiana or somewhere, but you all can get off where ever you want."

"Sounds good to me," Jim said casually.

"Well, we're here," Jessie said, pulling over to the curb.

"We're where? I don't see any bus terminal," said Jim.

"It's around the corner. I'm dropping you off here so you can split up and you won't attract attention. Try to act like you don't know each other."

"That shouldn't be too tough," Jim said, getting out of the van as he spoke.

"Listen Jessie, I don't know how we can thank you for all you've done for us," Kathi said sadly. "I mean, I just wish there was some way to......."

"Say no more," Jessie said, reaching over and giving her a gentle hug. "Brian," he said as he released Kathi. "I hope things work out for you man, I mean, with everything.....I really do."

"Thanks Jessie." Brian said. "Thanks for everything."

They looked at each other for a moment, then Jessie reached out and shook Brian's hand. He turned towards Jim.

"Jim man, it's been real," Jessie said, extending his hand. "Peace."

"Yeah, thanks," Jim said, looking down.

"All right dudemyers, be good, and have fun with it all. God bless you dudes." Jessie said, climbing back into the van. He started the engine, and then just sat there for a moment, smiling down on the three of them. They looked at him, and then at the sidewalk, and then back up at him again in silence. Jessie pulled out away from the curb, still smiling at himself and out at the dawn as it hit the empty street in front of him.