Kim stood guard in front of an alleyway where stray cats roamed through manicured bushes, apex predators of a small jungle, and the doctor finally turned onto the side street. He was on foot in a lab coat, and he carried the kind of black bag that you see in period pieces, but good guess how he got it so fast, because that thing’s fiction now. It was too hot for the coat, and he was sweating. Kim had removed her scarf and sunglasses so he’d know who she was, and she jerked her finger to her lips when he spotted her. He zipped his in return, but stage-whispered when he got there, cupping a hand around her ear like that would stop all sound.
“I’m not a good actor,” he hissed and must have been angry to show even that hint.
She mouthed, “Don’t worry,” and smiled like they were friends. He blushed, either caught or charmed, and made absurd business of straightening his collar and fumbling with his bag.
“Is it that bad?” he asked, but her finger was back. He nodded and made his entrance. Kim stayed outside and tied her scarf back around her head. It would be bad if someone squealed about seeing her.
“Mr. Ricardo?” the doctor called out. “Lucille told me you were in here.”
The names were Kanye’s brainstorm. She’d protested in case he was testing her, hit all the points he’d expect her to hit, but then played along. The names weren’t supposed to sound fake—if anyone guessed, they couldn’t rob banks. The doctor would have spotted the reference no question, but Kanye insisted it was dazzle camouflage.
She slid down the brick wall to a seat on the pavement and grabbed her laptop from the duffel bag. It was all they’d brought with them for good guess how long. It had to be just one bag. Travel light, see? He’d packed his flute, which still played most notes, a drum pad with a tape adapter for the car stereo, and nine math books. She’d brought her laptop and legal pads. A change of clothes would have been nice, but the bag was full. Travel light.
She bought Sharpie pens from gas stations as the old ones dried up. They felt best on the yellow paper, and she was writing her novel, dreaming it at the wheel and scribbling what she could remember when Kanye took over, the whole time willing him to just shut up about math or music or bank robbing. He went on in that voice that she’d loved when he’d had a face. She couldn’t type in the car. The shocks were bad, and the battery had to keep her phone charged so her empire could fund Kanye’s adventure.
The legal pads were stacked beside her on the sidewalk. She had filled two and hadn’t typed either, but she stared at an empty Word doc. She typed What am I doing in Arizona? then selected all and deleted. Ctrl+A, then Delete. It was a familiar gesture, an old friend, a tic.
OK, but I’m Desi.
Ctrl+A, then Delete.
The crazy had stormed in with a bucket of acid and taken its shoes off with a phone call to the money man. They needed cash. She couldn’t tell him what for, so he made her say something that only she would know, and what she said made him stutter. An hour later, there was a knock and a suitcase. She donned her mid-20th-century incognito and brought the suitcase to a used car lot, rolling it the last few blocks down the sidewalk while Kanye ditched the Corolla in an alley. Different alley. Unrelated.
She bought a beige ‘94 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe. There was too much money in the suitcase by a few orders of magnitude. When she asked if the car would make it across the country, the dealer pointed out that the space shuttle was known to explode sometimes. He opened the suitcase on the hood of the car and seemed more confused than happy.
“My husband wants to rob banks,” she said.
“That explains the get-up.” He seemed satisfied and closed the lid.
“We’re not robbing banks. My husband’s Kanye West. I’m Kim Kardashian. We don’t need to rob banks.”
“The suitcase with too much cash cleared that up.”
“We could have stolen it,” she said with a laugh that was agony.
“Well, and you were kind of familiar.”
Back to the Word doc.
We’ve made good time.
Ctrl+A, then Delete.
The doctor was pale when he staggered out of the alley. He tugged at his collar in earnest.
“I gave him pills. A lot. There’s more in the bag. Get him to a hospital.”
She placed her finger back on her lips and offered a bundle of bills. There was a hospital in Massachusetts, and Kanye might listen by then. When the doctor was gone, she turned back to her laptop.
Wait, am I Desi?
Ctrl+A, then Delete.
I am a woman with an oddly familiar bottom.
He was the best detective in any LA cop’s memory, maybe in history. No test had ever guessed his IQ, though he was more proud of his detective work. Sherlock had him beat, but Sherlock came to most of his conclusions more by magic than deduction, as did all fictional detectives. When the rash of bank robberies broke out between LA and Phoenix, the detective dug Kanye’s napkins out of his office trash. He’d been cursing the custodian for skipping his office, and now it seemed like fate. Good guess if it was.
“Can you figure out his corollary?” asked the chief. “See where they’ll strike next?”
“I can figure it out in my sleep.”
That night he woke up every hour to jot down his findings.