Chapter One: Java and a Gun
The lights in the room went out, leaving five people seated in darkness. A murmur of concern arose until a feint overhead light came on, revealing a dark-haired man in the center of the room. His lips were noticeably red.
“You can see my face,” said the man, “but not the person next to you.—that doesn’t matter. Simply concentrate on me. I am Chartan.”
The room was filled with the sounds of shoe scraping, bodies shifting, and heavy breathing.
“You are anxious—darkness does that to people,” said Chartan. “Now, each of you has two things in common. You’ve paid $100 to be here and you have thought about ending your life.”
“Excuse me,” said a voice to the far right.
“Yes,” said Chartan.
“I think I’m in the wrong room.”
“I don’t want to kill myself and I paid $15 for the psycho drama class.”
Chartan went red in the face. “Room 215.”
“Can you turn on the lights so I can get out of here?
Chartan pulled out a pocket flashlight and said, “Follow me.”
When he returned to his seat, a voice on the far left said, “I want my money back.”
“Me too,” said another voice.
A few minutes later Chartan sat alone in the room, his forehead wet with perspiration. The room cost $40 and he let everyone leave without paying.
“Is this the Life Restoration class? “asked a small voice from the doorway.
“Yes, I’ve been waiting for you, please enter.”
I only have $50, is that okay?”
“Let the healing process begin.”
Chartan’s ego took a monthly beating when his apartment rent was due. He was typically $100 to $200 short despite his earnings as a life coach at the River City Adult Education Center. His fallback position was to chauffer for Sloan’s, a limo service catering to the wealthy. Although Chartan was the limo owner’s favorite, he only took jobs when he needed rent money.
Minerva Woods was the wealthiest widow in the county. She was 55 and guarded about her fortune, assuming men wanted her money, not her. But she disliked how wealth had turned her into a cold person.
Once every two weeks, a Sloan’s limo took Minerva 90 miles to a renowned therapist in San Francisco.
The first time Chartan drove Ms. Woods, he announced in the doorway of her mansion, “I am Chartan.” He knew she saw his chauffer’s license posted in the back with his name in large letters: Chartan Chartan—his last name was the same as the first. Still, when she spoke to him, she called him “driver.”
I am not a driver—I am Chartan and I have the power to show you a new life was one of the many thoughts he had on Interstate 80 West.
“Driver, there is a Starbuck’s at the next exit. Please stop.”
“Certainly. And my name is Chartan!”
“Do you know the alphabet game, Chartan, my dear driver?”
Chartan never said, “I don’t know.”
“Ms. Woods, would you honor me by going first?”
Chartan admired her broad smile in the rear view mirror.
Chartan sat in the parked limo at the crest of Russian Hill in a space reserved for clients of the famed psychiatrist, Dr. Ivan Kodor. He knew the doctor’s work but scoffed at his theories. He took a thermos from the glove compartment and poured dark coffee.
Ms. Woods had been in Kodor’s office for nearly an hour at a cost, he guessed, of $1,000. Chartan knew he could provide her the same guidance as the renowned therapist at half the cost. But then he froze the thought. Money wasn’t the issue even though a lack of it forced him to do paid chores for others. No, Kodor could charge all he wanted, Chartan was only interested in the patient’s soul.
His focus was broken by a knock on the driver’s window. He faced the barrel of .45.The gunman screamed, but Chartan couldn’t understand him, so he closed his eyes briefly and drew in a deep breath before rolling down the window.
“Coffee?” He held the cup so it rested against the tip of the gun barrel.
More expletives came from the gunman who put his face in the window just in time to be splashed with hot java. Chartan swung the door open and toppled the assailant. Ten minutes later police had the gunman in handcuffs.
Chartan was standing by the limo, talking with an officer, when Ms. Woods approached.
“Chartan, are you okay?”
She called him by my name! He smiled at her and she returned the look. Yes, he would help her more than Kodor.
(to be continued next Sunday)