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Friday, May 21, 2010

( ”…people are strange when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly when you’re alone…”…The Doors…1967)

Chapter Three

Casey’s Irish Pub, South Grand Ave, Los Angeles…4pm

Some people go to the beach or the park or the library or go home and sit in the dark in a favorite easy chair to do their thinking and figuring. Me, I go to the pub, the noisier the better. Nothing clears the head like a couple pints of Guinness with a Jameson chaser. At least that’s how Whitey Roode does his important brainstorming. That makes Casey’s over on Grand the perfect establishment. The place is old timey enough to include an ornately sculpted mahogany bar, as well as being close to the USC campus, so you were guaranteed a lively crowd, especially when there’s a game on the box, and there’s always a game on in this town. Today the small crowd of coeds I passed on the way to the bar was cheering on the RedSox (note to self, wash mouth with soap) as they beat up on my beloved Yankees 9 to 0 at Fenway. Why does everyone in this town hate the Yanks anyway? Whatever, I stopped pouting over that years ago. I ordered the usual from Timmy behind the bar and then plopped myself down in a corner booth to mull things over.
“Is that you Roode,” shouted a familiar voice over the ball game chatter? A large grizzly bear of a man staggered my way and leaned heavily onto the table on two anvil-like fists. He stared me down for a moment with coal black eyes and shook his head. I’d have been nervous if this wasn’t an everyday occurrence. It didn’t even bother the patrons who had seen it all too often as well. These little exchanges had become part of the ambiance.
“Hello Johnny, how’s tricks,” I asked with a wink?
The giant threw back his twelve pound bowling ball of a head and laughed heartily. He plopped down in the seat opposite me and made himself comfortable, or at least as comfortable as a man of his girth could be in such a cramped space. His face was round and covered with a five day beard which was his personal look. Exhaling deeply he motioned with his hand for me to lean in closer as if he had a secret to tell. Knowing better I did not.
“Whitey my friend, why are you here alone drinking poison and not at “Bella Terra” drinking Chianti with your pals,” he slurred?
“I could ask you the same question Paley,” I answered.
“Ahh, you are right of course. Do not mix words with a detective, when will I ever learn,” he sighed, leaning back in the booth as much as he could.
“So, you will be by later as usual? It is Monday and there will be Osso Buco on the menu,” he asked, tempting me with my favorite Italian dish.
“Probably Johnny, but later, I’m sort of working a case right now. I’ve got some snooping around to do first.”
The big man slapped the table top and stood, spilling a wee bit of my Guinness as he did so.
“Good! Then I will set aside a plate and tell Angelo to expect you.”
“Fair enough, why don’t you let me buy you one for the road, what are you drinking,” I asked?
“No my friend, I’ve had enough wine for the afternoon. I need to get back to my kitchen before Manuel and his progeny ruin Mama’s sauce and steal us blind,” he answered, sighing heavily. I got a good whiff of whatever he was drinking as he exhaled, and let me tell you, there was way more than a little Chianti at work in that halitosis factory he called a kisser. Johnny left as abruptly as he had arrived and I was finally alone again with the noise, my libations, and my thoughts. I quickly emptied my pint glass of half the Guinness and sipped a wee bit of the whiskey, enough to cleanse my palate and then pulled out my trusty short sized spiral notebook and flipped to a blank page. As was my practice I jotted down what I knew, what I thought I knew, and what I wanted to know. I wrote one sentence on each page as I worked through my detective routine. It’s a slow process, but it’s tried and true and has served me well since grammar school.

So, in a nutshell; what do I know?

1. Sally November was stone dead, or as the Scots say, tits up
2. Sally November wasn’t even Sally November, she was Mai Li Teng
3. Sally November kept bad company, or at least last night she did
4. Sally November died without a struggle, there were no defensive wounds
5. It will be my ass if Lt. Celaya catches me snooping around this case

What do I think know?

1. SN was too smart to be murdered by a stranger, ergo, she
knew the killer?
2. SN was too good to be bad all the time, ergo, she lived in the light and the dark simultaneously. The two worlds may have overlapped?
3. SN was fresh off the boat; too new to do so well so fast, ergo, she had a partner or partners?
4. SN did not expect to die last night, ergo, crime of opportunity, passion, or premeditation?
5. SN and her killer weren’t the only witnesses to murder; somebody saw or heard something last night. I’m betting that somebody lives next door?

What do I want to know?

1. Why did she choose to hide in plain sight, literally around the corner from her family, why?
2. Why wasn’t there a cell phone or any phone for that matter at the apartment, why?
3. Why wasn’t there a computer, I mean its 2010, even an old fart like me has a computer these days, why?
4. Why was her apartment so neat, nobody is that neat, not even her Uncle Lu and his mate, why?
5. Why did that apartment full of expensive furniture seem so empty, why?

I set the pen and pad down and removed my specs to rub my tired eyes. It was almost six o’clock by my wristwatch and I had killed better than an hour picking my own brain. But that’s how every investigation starts for me. Who, what, when, and where are always first, with why being the cherry on the cake of each case. It was time to start chasing dub-ya’s beginning with Sally’s nosey neighbor. The Guinness had warmed to room temperature but then that was the beauty of my favorite stout; it was good warm or cold. I finished my whiskey then guzzled the rest of my pint. Timmy arrived at my booth the instant the glass touched the table and handed me the tab, which I accepted with a raised brow.
“Seems a little pricey Tim?”
“What can I say, Fat Johnny said you were buying,” he replied chuckling as he waited for me to pull out my wallet.
“Of course he did,” I sighed, and fished the billfold out of my coat pocket. I handed him a couple of twenties and got up to leave.
“Keep the change sport,” I said, patting his shoulder as I walked passed him.
“Thanks Whitey, you’re alright mate,” he replied in his thick Aussie brogue.
“Easy come easy go Paley, easy come easy go!”

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