First rule of the con; you can't cheat an honest man.
By the way, I don’t know if Patrick split up with Elisa, some people say he has, some say he hasn’t. But anyway, she’s in this story, so if he has split up with her I apologise. I also didn’t mean to make her out to be a little bit of a bitch in this chapter, it just kind of happened... no matter, and she’ll get nicer. Tell me what you think; I’m still not sure whether to carry this on or not.
PS; reference in later chapters is taken from both ‘Hustle’ and ‘The Real Hustle’
There are two sides to the city of LA.
The infamous sites of Hollywood, Sunset Strip and Santa Monica, and high price zip codes like 90210. Los Angeles County, with 20 percent of its households earning incomes over $150,000, has more high-income households than anywhere in the state or nation. You’ve heard of these places, I know you have.
Barely a half-hour drive south, the world turns upside down.
This is the other side of Los Angeles. Where the inhabitants don’t dwell in mansions or roam the streets in Lamborghinis. They can barely afford cars, let alone sports cars. Twenty people live in a small terraced house, next door 3 people share a single-bedded bedroom. Litter, overturned dustbins, graffiti and vandalism. Violence, crime, murder, rape, drugs. Teenagers drinking in parks.
Here, the median household income is just over $20,000 a year.
Los Angeles isn’t all glamour and money. There’s a difference between LA and Hollywood. Hollywood is where every house is three stories high with a swimming pool occupying the back yard. LA is just like any other city in the world. A mess and contradiction of wealth and poverty. This is the real Los Angeles.
Turn off your television and pay attention. You might not realise how real this is place actually is.
Ella walked down the street with a worried look on her face, partly because she had no money to get the bus home, and partly because even if she did, she was already an hour late anyway. She dragged her feet slightly as she searched her pockets for anything she could find, and pulled out half a snickers bar and a button. She sighed and threw them both in the nearest bin, making her feet walk slightly faster now she knew she had to walk home. The sun was beginning to fade into the horizon, and she saw the sky turn orange as the light began to fade to the other side of the world. She preferred darkness; it was more of mask to pretend she was someone else. She didn’t necessarily dislike herself; she just didn’t really like herself either. It was a strange quirk she had always seemed prone to, and her dislike for some of her personality traits was evident in the way she seemed to regret some of her actions once they had been done. She acted before she thought. She ran before she explained. She apologised for things that she shouldn’t be apologising for, purely because she shouldn’t have done them in the first place. She didn’t apologise when she got what she wanted however, because let’s face it, who would? If you never got caught doing something that, A) was illegal, dishonest or just downright idiotic, and B) benefited you in wealth, safety or happiness, why the hell would you apologise?
As Ella approached the end of the street, she saw someone she recognised, walking in the other direction, towards her. She smiled, and the word eBay sprung to mind as she speeded her pace towards the man. He held hands with a woman an inch or so shorter than him, and Ella moved to the side so not to be blocked by the woman. When they were closer, Ella pulled her phone out of her pocket and pretended to be texting, keeping an eye on the pair moving closer to her with every step. When they were close enough, she moved to the left slightly, and ‘accidentally’ bumped into the man. She apologised and he shrugged and accepted her apology, before the pair carried on with their journey. Ella sped her walk again as she went past, and reached into her pocket and eyed the wallet she had just grabbed from his inside pocket. Eyeing the notes inside, she pocketed all of the contents and smiled to herself putting the empty wallet, that would later be put on eBay, inside her other pocket. At least now she had her bus fare home.
At the other end of the street, the man who had just been taken by her slick move creased his eyebrows together before pulling a face at his now empty inside pocket. He spun around and eyed the figure in the distance that he realised had just pick-pocketed him out of all his credit cards. He turned to his girlfriend and she frowned.
“Patrick, what’s up?” She asked, and Patrick stared at her incredulously while feeling the rest of his pockets.
“Elisa, that girl just,” He tapped his pocket again, and looked back at her. “Took my wallet, straight out of the inside pocket in my jacket.” Elisa widened her eyes and stared at the girl who was now a tiny figure, halfway down the street. She glared and looked back at Patrick.
“Wait here,” she grunted, and ran off after Ella. Patrick widened his eyes as she ran and rolled his eyes before running after her. Ella heard them behind her a few minutes later as she waited at the bus stop, and she too widened her eyes before darting down the street.
“Shit, shit-shit-shit,” she gasped as she ran, smiling slightly as she knew this girl had nothing on her. She ran track in high school, and was used to having to make quick getaways. She turned a corner and ran down an alleyway, before groaning as she reached a dead end. She stared up at the wall in front of her and jumped, failing to grab the ledge at the top. Elisa arrived at the end of the alleyway, and saw Ella trying to make a getaway over the wall. She glared and ran, shortly followed by Patrick who was completely out of breath. He hunched over and gasped, trying to stop Elisa from getting hurt.
“Eli- stop- I- oh fuck-” He spluttered, and sighed heavily before following her down the alleyway. As Ella jumped the wall a second time, she grabbed the ledge and pulled herself up, struggling as her feet gave way against the flat wall. Elisa arrived at the wall and grabbed Ella’s foot, and Ella groaned before falling to the floor with a thud. Elisa smirked and pulled Ella up by her T-shirt, and Ella squealed as she was pushed against the wall.
“You little thief,” Elisa shouted, and got her phone from her pocket ready to call the police. Ella knew exactly what she planned to do and laughed in her face.
“Do it, it’s not like I haven’t been there before,” She smirked and Patrick caught up with them, looking as though he was ready to pass out.
“Where the fuck did you learn to run so fast Eli?” He questioned breathlessly, before turning to Ella who was still breathing heavily from her own run. His eyes softened from his previous angry-yet-exhausted expression to one of concern as he saw her obviously teenage face. He tilted his head slightly, taking in her expression, one that was a mix of guilt and amusement at the situation.
“How old are you?” was his first question, and she looked at him, smiling at just how much taller she was than him.
“16, not that it’s any of your business,” She glared, and Elisa gave her another angry look.
“You stole his wallet, I’m sure it’s the least you can do,” She returned to dialling 911, before Patrick grabbed her phone and looked at her.
“She’s harmless Eli, let’s just get the wallet back and go, yeah?” His sentence sounded more like a statement than a question, so Elisa rolled her eyes and let Ella go, before grabbing her phone back from Patrick. Ella sighed and looked at her hands, which had been scraped against the wall when she fell, and were now bleeding. Patrick noticed and raised his eyebrows, taking her hands in his and examining the injury.
“You should get this checked out; you don’t want it getting infected.” He said, and Ella nodded slightly and sighed impatiently.
“Yeah yeah, I will. Can I go now?” Elisa glared again, and stopped herself from becoming annoyed at this rebellious teenager. In her head, she was swearing to herself that when she had kids, she would never let them turn out even half as bad as this girl in front of them.
“You’re very ungrateful you know. You just stole a wallet from us and we’re letting you go, and all you can say is ‘can I go now?’ You need some manners, I have a mind to-” Patrick shushed her, and she rolled her eyes again. Patrick looked back to Ella and sighed.
“You can. Wait though, what’s your name?” He asked, and Ella debated in her mind whether to tell him or keep him in the dark. She let her good natured side win, and told him.
“Ella.” She replied, and he nodded slowly. He looked at her expectantly and she shook her head.
“What?” She asked, and he smiled slightly.
“My wallet? You still have it,” He said, and she made a sound of realization. She put the cards back in the empty wallet and reluctantly put the money back in too. She stared longingly at the notes as he put the wallet back in his pocket, and sighed when they disappeared.
“Where do you live? We’ll take you home, I don’t want you getting hurt, it’s dark now and this area isn’t safe at night,” He said, and Ella and Elisa both stared back at him. Elisa laughed and slapped him arm slightly.
“Patrick, not only do we not know her, but she stole from you, remember? We’re not taking her home.” She looked back at Ella and sighed. Ella nodded and side stepped them before turning around.
“She’s right. Besides, I’m fine, I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself you know,” She muttered, and strolled off before someone grabbed her wrist. She looked up to see Patrick, another concerned look on his features.
“We’re taking you home. I’d feel shit if I read the news tomorrow and a sixteen year old pick pocket was found dead after stealing someone’s phone or something.” He smirked and Ella smiled lightly, before Patrick looked to Elisa for approval. She sighed dramatically and walked up to them.
“Fine, but if you try and steal anything from the car I will be forced to kick your ass,”
As they approached the set of terraced houses, Ella got out of the car, shortly followed by both Patrick and Elisa. The car ride had been interesting to say the least, after ten minutes of constant looks from both of them in the front seats – wary looks from Patrick and glares from Elisa – the radio was turned on and it was obvious the two of them had a lot of musical similarities. Somehow this had made them warm up to her, seeing as when Ella began to sing along to ‘When doves cry’ by Prince, both of them stared at her and sang along, and although the evil glares from Elisa were still being thrown, the two of them had warmed up to her and were slightly happier to get her home safely. Ella honestly thought to begin with, Elisa would’ve been more than happy to have let her get murdered tonight. At least now she would feel slight guilt if that happened.
As they approached the door, Ella dreaded what the scene would be when she opened the door. The fact that both Patrick and Elisa had insisted on accompanying her to the front door didn’t help either, and she gulped and took a deep breath before ringing the doorbell.
As the door swung open, all three of them were frightened at the force the woman behind the door pulled it outwards. The woman stood with a toddler on her hip, and her eyes travelled from the two adults to the child on her doorstep. She widened her eyes and grabbed the child by the neck and threw her inside, before turning to her as he stood just inside the doorway.
“Where the HELL have you been?!” She yelled and Ella cringed at her voice. The woman sounded shrill, but her overpowering voice was nothing compared to her appearance that made the woman seem even more insane and evil. Her chest length hair was limp and very slightly greasy, and she wore sweatpants with a grey hoodie over it. Her eyes were covered in enormous glasses, and her teeth – well, let’s just say, that there weren’t many of them. She glared at Ella and then whipped her head to Patrick and Elisa, who were now stood in shock at the doorway.
“Who the hell are you?” She growled, and Patrick pulled his hat down his head as he answered.
“I’m Patrick and-”
“I don’t care. I mean who the hell do you think you are, being with Ella,” She yelled, and Elisa stared at the woman.
“Maybe if you kept better control of your kids, they might-” The woman interrupted Elisa this time, and laughed in her face.
“My kids? You’re funny, woman. I don’t want kids. Kids are monsters. Little annoyances. These kids only live here because I got asked to. I get $100 a week for every kid I keep here, it pays the bills you silly girl,” She laughed again and handed the toddler on her hip to Ella, practically throwing the child over her shoulder before pointing toward the driveway.
“Now, piss off, I don’t do visitors, and stay away from my house.” She slammed the door in their faces and left them to gawp at the now locked door. Patrick was the first to snap out of it and looked at Elisa.
“How charming,” he started, looking back at the door. “I never knew people could be so nice.” Elisa smirked slightly then frowned almost instantly.
“Suddenly I feel bad for Ella, living like that,” she frowned again and Patrick nodded as they walked back to the car. He felt for his keys and opened the door.
“I know, poor kid doesn’t really have a choice but to steal.” He started the engine and as they drove off they thought of the conditions some people have to live in.
Even in LA.