The rain had slowed to a light sprinkle and shortly afterward the wind began to slow as well. In its wake however, the temperature had continued to drop. We shivered as we moved up the main beachfront avenue of a darkened Riccione. We had gone about 10 city blocks when in the distance in front of us a pair of headlights emerged. The light from the car glistened across the puddles, the rapid speed of the car given away by the sound of the same puddles being disrupted by the car’s wheels. At virtually the same instant we both realized it was a taxi. BEG raised her hand. I took a more drastic action stepping in to the road and holding my hand in the classic ‘stop’ position. The car slid to a stop.
I asked the cabbie if he spoke English. He did. Was our luck changing? I pulled the address out of my pocket. The paper had grown a little tattered, but it was legible. I thrust the paper inside the cab and asked if he knew where the address was and if so, would he please take us there? Without hesitation he told me yes he knew where the street was located, but this late at night he had no choice but to charge 15 Euro for the ride, after all as he put it “it’s an awful night out here really”. The immediate rejoinder that came to my mind was ‘No shit, Sherlock’ but I simply smiled and told him I would be happy to pay E15 for the delivery. Little did he know that at that point in time I would have given him E200 for the ride as I was beginning to worry over BEG’s welfare and was feeling guilty for leading her into such a travel mess. The cabbie believing he had won the fee arrangement, hopped out and opened the door for BEG. The cab was practically new, though tiny. It was a strange sight for
The front door was locked. That’s right, locked tight as a Wells Fargo bank vault at night. I studied the buzzers without a clue which apartment would bring my teammates to the front door. I decided that the safest way would be to start at the top and work my way down buzzing each apartment and waiting for a reasonable time, after all the occupants would have to get out of bed, get dressed (I suppose) and make their way to the door. BEG had begun to tremble from the cold. After ringing three bells without any result I took a look at BEG’s condition and decided to simply bang the hell out of the glass door with my fist. BEG protested that I was going to wake everyone up. The phrase “No shit, Sherlock” returned to my mind. I pounded away like a man with a cause.
We waited. I pounded again. We waited. I pounded again. We waited. Fifteen minutes had passed. My fatigue in conjunction with the cold had become both physically and mentally numbing. BEG shivered in the cold and laid her forehead on my shoulder. I interpreted it as a simple prayerful imploring for anyone to answer the door. I would have welcomed Hannibal Lecter had he appeared.
There was a sign on the wall that contained the phone number for the apartment rental agency. I took BEG’s already often used airline blanket and wrapped it around her. I jotted down the phone numbers and told her to sit in the corner out of the wind where she could respond if and when anyone came down to the door. I was going to find a phone booth in the vain attempt to rouse someone at the leasing office that could let us in the building. I knew that was unlikely at 3:25 am, but I also hoped to discover any business that might be open, a place to take BEG out of the cold until someone was awake in the apartment. BEG huddled in the dark corner, I sat out in a jog into the cold night, still without a jacket since it was in my lost luggage. I splashed my way through the puddled streets in search of life of any kind. I looked back at BEG. For all the world she looked like a homeless lost soul huddled in the corner of the building. I reflected on my choices and how it had led us to this point. I wasn’t pleased with myself. I didn’t reflect too long. It was too damned cold for introspection. I turned the corner the cab had turned a few minutes before, jogging at a quick clip, looking for light, sound, any life. Maybe I could find a phone booth or a police officer. The water from the puddles splashed onto my shoes and made its way through the shoes, soaking my feet in the icy water. Down the street I could see a very large restaurant with its lights on. I picked up the pace. Arriving at the lights I saw that the building was a gigantic pizza ristorante. It was closed. The lights were on because the janitor was inside cleaning. He was holding a standard issue mop in his hands, making the familiar mopping motion, a white apron stretched across an enormous stomach. He was an older man. From outside I guessed him to be in his seventies. He was large, in the vicinity of 6-3 or 6-4 and easily weighed 250 pounds. As unbelievable as it might seem, a large cigar was jammed into his mouth as he mopped, creating a virtual caricature of any janitor our mind would might conjure with its first conjugation. I imagined if I could communicate with him that I would arrange for us to sit in the warmth of the building until my teammates were awake. I walked to the front door and knocked loudly. The janitor was startled, jerking his head around so forcefully that the centrifugal force brought the ample stomach half way round with his head. I had clearly scared him. The reality of my presence registered with him in a second or two. He charged the door, mop in hand. His big meaty hand was shaking the mop like a weapon. From his mouth came a loud tirade of what I can only imagine was a colorful stream of Italian profanity. He brought his face as near the door as he could without bending the big cigar and shook the mop with enough vigor to knock it against the glass. He resembled an angry Tony Soprano with an additional twenty five years on his resume. I had been in Riccione
I hit the street at a jog again, looking left and right as I passed side streets. On a side street to my left I recognized a familiar Texas sight. It was a lighted beer sign. Not just any beer, but an honest to goodness Mexican Corona beer sign. I could hear music down the street. It was muffled but contained obvious American lyrics. I jogged toward the sign and spotted two men entering a car at the side walk. I moved farther up the street to discover a small bar with lights on and patrons inside. I went to the door to find out if it was open all night. The girl at the hostess station spoke minimal labored English. I asked about the hours in Spanish. It got through. She took me to the door and pointed to the open/close sign on the door. They were open until 6:30 am! I wanted to kiss her, and she was pretty enough to make it a pleasure rather than a chore. I had no way to tell her I would be back, so I smiled like a chimp with a banana and set off toward the apartment to get BEG. I had found a refuge. Damned teammates, why couldn’t they just answer the door! Damned crazed old janitor. Screw him! It was 3:47 am.