I can't find the Queen. I went looking for her Tuesday night and again yesterday morning in Canoga Park, but she's nowhere to be found.
Her old car is still parked at the curb, looking a little like an abandoned home, because that's what it is. The Queen's home.
You remember the Queen. She calls herself Red Fawn, but the neighbors around Wyandotte and Owensmouth know her as Queen of the Streets.
She lives in a brown '67 Pontiac Bonneville and has for as long as anyone can remember.
She had a real house once and $20,000 and a son, and they're gone too, into the gray places of the old lady's life. The Queen is 83 and spunky as a baby tiger but she can't always recall the small print of her past.
I wrote about the Queen last month. Two days ago she came looking for me and left word that her car had been smashed and her dog stolen.
The dog was Tweetie, a real mutt if I ever saw one, but the Queen loved him dearly. They slept together in the front seat of the car, amids the boxes and bags that represented their lives.
The car has been moved a block east to in front of the Emerson Unitarian Church. The Queen moved it there for protection after an attack of such violence that the front bumper was caved into a V, leaving the ends thrust forward like steer horns.
The grill is smashed in and shards of hood metal are twisted into grotesque patterns.
Someone, by that act of madness, had left a message for the Queen rooted in murderous hostility.
I waited for Red Fawn into the evening to find out what had happened, but she never showed up. I returned yesterday morning but she still wasn't there. It appeared she hadn't been there all night.
Kenneth Brown, who is pastor of the Emerson Church, said he had talked to her Monday and she seemed as bright and chatty as ever.
"There's no question the incidents were deliberate," Brown said. "She was out having dinner one night and, when she came back, the car was wrecked and the dog was gone."
I can't help thinking about a telephone call I received after writing about the Queen. It was from a woman who screeched invective. She couldn't talk about the Queen without screaming.
Didn't I know that filthy old bitch was turning the neighborhood into a sewer? Didn't I know the crazy, slimy pig ought to be locked up in a nut house? Didn't I know that?
Human fury saddens but hardly ever surprises me. I've been in the middle of it too often. But the degree of hate dripping like hot lead from the caller's voice made me wonder what it was she so despised about the Queen.
"Everything!" she screamed, and hung up.
Are there others in the domain of the Queen who feel the same? Someone enraged enough at the nomadic existence of an old lady to smash in her car and steal a mongrel dog?
And what about her safety? She's barely 5 feet tall and probably weighs less than 100 pounds.
It wouldn't be hard to cause her pain. It wouldn't require a great deal of strength, and obviously no courage. Just a hatred too deep to measure.
The last time I talked to the Queen, we discussed those who resented her. She was philosophical.
"I don't need trouble," she said. "If someone doesn't want me, I'll go someplace else." She thought about that for a moment. "Someplace nice, with a tree."
Letter writers wondered why she didn't take advantage of agencies that handle people with no place to go. They wondered why the Queen used almost all of her Social Security money to store furniture she'll probably never use again.
I don't know.
Though she denies it, I suspect that the Queen likes the kind of life that keeps her free and unattached, reaching back to a place in her memory that dreams of open fields.
I realize it would be less than desirable to have an old lady and a dog living in a car parked out in front of the house, though the Queen maintains with fierce dignity that she keeps herself clean and sometimes sweeps the street she calls home.
I don't know what you do about someone like that, especially if she refuses to go where it's warm and safe.
But I know what you don't do.
You don't smash up her car and steal her dog and threaten her life. You don't do that for our sake as well as hers, because everyone loses when an old lady suffers.
I'm going to keep looking for the Queen. I suspect someone has just taken her in for a few days until she gets over the jitters. Either that or she's out searching for Tweetie every time I drop by.
When I find her, I'm going to tell her the streets of the neighborhood are turning mean and maybe she ought to go someplace else, where an old lady and a dog can find peace.
Someplace nice, with a tree for shade.