The automobile traffic along North Los Robles Avenue was at its usual congestion around three to four in the late afternoon. There was a certain sort of musical orchestration to the pattern the cars had as they moved in and out of lanes, passed and merged into traffic and communed along to an unseen and unheard mind. It was like watching a masterful overture created by several dozen Pasadena motorists traveling through town amidst three-story businesses and five story dwellings. In this thriving West California town, ever individual had a story; ever location had its legends. Struggling actor Joey Tribbiani talked to his agent over his cell phone as he took the crosswalk near the public relations firm on his way to another audition for a TV show, and at the Greek Restaurant at the corner, Collinsport High School alumni Moses Taylor, Nick Schafer and Steve Barnette cheered and tipped back their glasses of ouzo to the memory of their fallen friend and schoolmate, writer William Collins, now gone these five years. Driving through town in a chugging airport stair car, would-be actor and former psychiatrist Tobias Funke was chugging through traffic in his brother-in-law's vehicle on his way to get his brother at the airport, but the light changed suddenly and he had to stand on the brake to get the huge metal monstrosity to stop in time or else risk plowing through the pedestrians coming up behind Tribbiani. Taylor, Schafer and Barnette turned their heads up to see the spectacle just in time to hear the screeching brakes, smell the scent of brake fluid in the air and catch a look at Cal Tech physicist Dr. Sheldon Cooper nearly turned into the very late Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
"Do you realize how close you came to almost killing me?" Sheldon's eyes went wide and his head twitched back and forth between his acquaintances with him in the walkway, and Tobias at the wheel of the Bluth Jet stair-car. "If you had come another one-point-five-six meters, not only would I have been killed, but my friends would have pulled you from your vehicle and pummeled you to death for having taken one of the greatest minds of the Twenty-First Century out of existence!"
"Sorry…" Tobias stuck his bald and mustached head of the vehicle and tried to wave his apology to the nut. He gritted his teeth out of strained relief he had stopped in time and breathed a deep exhale of relief. Under the light blue sky and gentle breeze coming in from the Pacific Ocean, Sheldon swatted at the truck and hastily continued his way to the sidewalk as his colleagues looked annoyingly amongst themselves and just continued on their way.
"Who are these friends you keep talking about?" Dr. Leonard Hofstadter followed Sheldon to the curb just as the lights changed and the cars went on about their way. "We're the only ones here." Sheldon scoffed at that excuse and shot him a look.
"Honestly, Leonard…" Sheldon continued to commiserate. "It's as if anyone can get a driver's license these days. You'd think the Department of Motor Vehicles would screen their applicants a bit more thoroughly."
"Says the man who can't get a driver's license himself." Howard Wolowitz was another part of their retinue along with astrophysicist Dr. Rajesh Koothrapalli who silently giggled under breath at Howard's insult directed at Sheldon. The tall skinny physicist was so easy to mock and insult. There were many eccentricities to the egomaniac from his obsessive compulsions to his haughty better-than-thou attitude to his inability or refusal to understand basic human customs to mock and derive humor. Annoyed by the comment, Sheldon shot another look at Howard.
"I can drive." Sheldon told him. "I just choose not to."
"Whatever floats your boat…" Howard grinned derisively at him. They continued to the apartment that they congregated at the Los Robles Apartment Building. It was a five-story walk-up without a working elevator, and the apartment was on the fourth floor across from that of an attractive struggling actress named Penny Parker with whom Leonard had just ended a brief barely year long relationship. They had remained friends despite the break-up, but Leonard still hoped for a reconciliation between them. Listening against their will to Sheldon's continuing long tirade against driving, motorists, automobiles, highways and basically everything in general, their group mulled on further to the building at the center of the block. Howard and Rajesh just rolled their eyes to tune out his long annoying soliloquy directed to no one at particular, but Leonard had the worse job. He had to share an apartment with this psychopath and all his insane eccentricities. As they neared the building, Leonard started imagining covering Sheldon's head with a plastic bag as he slept at night.
"…And, furthermore…." Sheldon came closer the building behind Leonard. "May I add… Oh-No!" Their was a delivery truck out front labeled Wiltshire Moving and Storage Company, and its back was open with its loading and unloading platform down. It was empty now, the deliverymen now coming out of the lobby of the building. Not fond at all of any new tenants moving into the building, Sheldon and the guys entered the building lobby and noticed it full of boxes.
"No…" Sheldon stood disparately. "How many times have I told the building super to let me screen future potential tenants to the building? This is the worst effrontery since the whole Penny fiasco. This is a direct violation of my authority!"
"You don't have any authority!" Leonard reminded him.
"Hey, this could be fun." Howard peered and poked his gaze in and around the boxes and furniture. "Maybe we can figure out what kind of tenants they are?" He tried peeking in a box marked "Marilyn's Cosmetics."
"Is that an electric chair?" Raj noticed the chair in the corner covered in boxes. The guys all veered around to take a look.
"That is so cool!"
"Where?" Leonard looked over.
"Next to the lamp with the shrunken head hanging from it…" Howard pointed it out.
"A shrunken head?" Sheldon started breathing faster. "A shrunken head? What kind of family of deviants has the super allowed to move in here?" He shook a box that started grumbling from within and made him drop it; the box hit the floor and spilled open to reveal three throw pillows, a headless doll and a book entitled, "You And Your African Strangler Plant."
"Did the Addams Family move to Pasadena?" Howard noticed a coat rack with tiny white skulls painted on the posts.
"So, maybe they're a little eccentric…" Leonard tried to stay impartial.
"A little eccentric?" Sheldon picked up an action figure in an orange convict uniform. Pulling the string on it, the eyes started flashing and the ears started smoking as it started screaming with a recorded voice, "I'm innocent! Innocent! Innocent!" Sheldon did his "I-told-you-so" face.
"Look what I found." Raj placed what looked like a toy spider in his hand and showed it to Howard.
"Big deal…" Howard looked at it. "It probably just crawled into the box." Howard recognized it as a dead dried-up spider, and Raj suddenly freaked out and flung it away.
"Still think these people are normal?" Sheldon found something he really didn't like. "What does that look like?!" He pointed under the three steamer trunks covered with travel stickers. They were marked for destinations like Alcatraz, Amityville, Death Valley, Silent Hill, Devil's Island, Crystal Lake and the Bermuda Triangle. Under them, far to the bottom partially obscured by boxes, crates and cabinets was a long polished crate that looked as if it had gold handles.
"Looks like a coffin…"
"Maybe they're kinky?"
"How about creepy, spooky and altogether ooky?" Raj recalled the characters of a poplar iconic 1960s TV show. He looked up to a tall imposing figure coming up behind Sheldon from beyond the corner.
"Can I help you there, Chucky?" Their new tenant appeared from the building manager's apartment on the first floor. He was a tall robust figure, almost resembled actor Jack Nicholson with the added aspects of both Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp. Much younger than the distinguished character actor, he had the receding hairline on top with long dark hair falling down the sides of his head for a much younger look, maybe late Thirties, early Forties. His curious eyebrows arched upward like Nicholson's, but he had Depp's dark brown eyes behind silver-framed eyeglasses and the mustache and goatee of Downey. Garbed in a long dark gray overcoat, he was dressed in a white dress shirt, unbuttoned at top with no tie and a dark and faded blazer and even darker long trousers bunched up around his thick hiking boots. He looked like he could have been a god of the underworld in one of their "World of Warcraft" adventures.
"Yikes…" Howard casually commented on their new acquaintance.
"Hi…" Leonard tried to be more genial. "I'm Leonard Hofstadter, this is Sheldon Cooper - we're your neighbors…."
"Don't be telling him that!" Sheldon obstinately and rudely swatted at Leonard. "Who knows what sort of warrants and misdemeanors this person has waiting for them back wherever they come from?" Sheldon turned back and looked down his nose to this new tenant. Howard and Raj stood back away from him to try and establish their priorities were not like his.
"I'm Jesse…" Their guest shook Leonard's hand. "Jesse Vannacutt… My wife and I are moving to the top floor." His eyes flared a bit mischievously as he spoke.
"Nice to meet you…" Leonard shook his hand. "I apologize. We were just looking over some of your… stuff."
"Yes…" Jesse took his action figure of serial killer Horace Pinker from the top of a box and placed it with his Madman and Serial Killer Action Figure Collection. "It's quite a collection." He grinned sinisterly with another odd bounce of his eyebrows.
"Howard Wolowitz…" Howard shook Jesse's hand. "My friend, Raj… and that's…" He turned to Sheldon.
"No one you need to know!" Sheldon reacted very standoffish. "So, you're moving to the top floor above us? I see. Well, just to let you know. There is to be no hard shoes, loud music or loud beer or anything liquid beverage-related parties to be allowed. I go to sleep promptly at ten; I do not want to hear any loud music, sounds or percussion-related noises coming from your vicinity, and as we pass in the stairs, do not feel obliged to acknowledge my presence as I will surely not acknowledge yours. Don't take it personally, that's just the rules of the building."
Leonard just put his fingers to his head as if he had a headache. Jesse just briefly searched his pockets and pulled out a cigar which he clipped the end off with a tiny device in his jacket pocket. Placing it to his lips, he scratched a match off the elevator doors, lit his cigar as he drew back his breath through it then blew the smoke into Sheldon's face. Jesse quickly and suddenly extended his left arm suddenly outward from his side, then slowly contracted it to lift his watch up to his face and check the time.
"You know what, Sparky…" Jesse was now characteristically imitating the Jack Nicholson voice and lifting his eyebrows once more. "I've only known you three minutes and can already tell… I'm not going to like you now; am I?" He twitched his head over-dramatically and made a strange face with a matter-of-factly expression with an odd deranged grin on his face.
"Maybe we ought to check the local mental ward." Howard whispered to Raj. "One of their guests seems to have escaped."
Raj had a look of mixed fear, worried surprise and nervous anxiety. Leonard looked back to them, and back to Sheldon who suddenly stepped back from Jesse. Was it him, or was it a bit odd that Jesse had already read their characters? Jesse seemed civil to him, Howard and Raj, but he immediately knew how to treat Sheldon, who now backed up from their new neighbor as far as he could get by stepping on the staircase and standing behind Raj and Howard. Jesse hit the button for the elevator.
"Oh, uh, that doesn't work…" Leonard reached down and put back up the "Out of Order" sign that kept falling off the front of the doors. "See?"
"It doesn't?" Jesse had his voice back.
"Would like some help getting your stuff up the stairs?" Leonard offered. The guys suddenly groaned at the level of labor that would involve. It looked like a hundred boxes altogether with bedposts, headboards, chairs and disassembled furniture.
"Leonard, a word?" Sheldon was hesitant to get involved.
"That's okay…" Posturing with his cigar, Jesse thanked Leonard with a pat to the shoulder. "My relatives will be here in a minute."
"He doesn't need any help." Howard was in a lazy frame of mind as well. "Let's get upstairs!" He and Sheldon were hastening up the stairs, but Raj was leading the way.
"Are you sure?" Leonard was embarrassed the guys weren't as charitable as he was.
"I'm sure…" Jesse grinned happy to have met him. He watched as Leonard started up the stairs. On the middle landing, Leonard looked back to Jesse. That was a lot of stuff to get up five flights of stairs for one person. One last look, Leonard headed onward on his way with Jesse still down in the lobby. Watching from below, the bespectacled former lawyer waved assuredly to Leonard then checked the lobby for anyone else. The entry hall was clear, the back hall was empty and no one seemed to be coming into the building. The movers had even driven away with the truck. His actions and movements were secret, almost covert. He had a secret he wanted no one to know. He wrapped a secret knock at the doors of the busted elevator… and after a brief couple of seconds, it opened to a temporarily working elevator with four grown men standing in it. Tapping a few ashes off his cigar, Jesse watched as his bald older brother in the long robe-like fur-lined frock came out to check the doors to the sidewalk. His silver-haired father-in-law in the tuxedo and cape peered out over him like a caped penguin from out of the underworld as his seven-foot tall brother-in-law with the flat head and his bearded teenaged nephew started piling boxes into the elevator.
"Is the coast clear?" His brother asked in a voice that sounded rather sepulchral.
"Of course it is, Chester…" Jesse gestured with cigar a bit. "We can get these boxes upstairs." He put the cigar to his lips, drew his breath back on it and then started moving things into the elevator. "Grandpa, how long can we hide the elevator working from the tenants?"
"As long as you want…" Grandpa started moving boxes. "As long as Harold doesn't do anything stupid…"
"I do have a brain in my head just so you know…" Harold paused with a box marked "Kitchen." "After all, it was the last thing they put in!" He started chuckling his deep baritone chuckle.