Alexandria Hotel, Los Angeles…2009
Staring out the corner window in my second floor flat above the bar at this flea bag hotel I recapped my morning as I watched some of the work-a-day skirts make their way up 5th Street on their lunch beak. You know, the worst part of living in the city is you can rarely escape the noise. Short of a living in a tomb you just had to learn to live with it! I wish I could say that was the only hardship a city-dweller dealt with, but that would be wishful thinking. There were the rats, the roaches, the stench permeating from any alley courtesy the great unwashed, and a hundred other pick-em inconveniences. But you know what; despite of all that, one thing managed to make it all worthwhile. Don’t bother guessing, I’ll just tell you, OPPORTUNITY. I know what your thinking, WTF right? It’s not rocket science; the city’s alive 24/7, no matter what time of day all year round. Now, granted, LA isn’t NYC by any stretch of the imagination, but if you want a cheeseburger, chili fries and a chocolate shake at 3am, not a problem, check out Pink’s. You want to catch a first run movie or off-off Broadway play at 7am on Sunday morning, just crack open your laptop and surf the web, you’ll find one, guaranteed. You say that you need a kidney transplant from an AB negative donor? Okay, that might be a stretch. But short of a kidney or heart transplant, you had an opportunity to do just about anything in this town. So, why the philosophical waxing you ask? I don’t know, I think I’m just getting old. Or it could be that I’m close enough to sixty to smell the tiger balm, or that I’m still paying spousal support to my trans-sexual ex who’s screwing around with the only woman I’ve thought twice about who wasn’t free lancing or table dancing. Whaaaaa, I’m actually nauseating myself! Okay back to the case.
I had taken the facts Judy Looney had shared to The Pantry on 9th and Figueroa and camped out at the counter to mull it over. If it had been closer to noon than 9am I would be doing this at Casey’s with a Guinness and a Jameson chaser. But it wasn’t and I’d been coming here three to four times a week since I started with the LAPD back in the 1970s. Actually my father had been a regular as well, ever since they moved into the corner slot in 1950. Before that I think my grandpa frequented the original diner which had been up the street from the current location. That old man was a pancake junkie, God love him. You could always find him there on any Sunday morning. Comfort food was his religion and The Pantry was his cathedral.
Okay, enough with the history lessons. Something Judy said was bothering me. It wasn’t any of the physical characteristics that she speculated on, let’s face it they could have fit at least a hundred profiles on the job in LA. There are what, nine or ten thousand sworn officers to choose from after all. Nope, it was the brown mustard comment that was rattling around my melon. Brown mustard, really, who eats brown mustard these days? You’d have to be a mustard consœur to willingly spread that stuff on your baloney sandwich. I hate that stuff and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on that. So why was this bothering me? I had already connected the easy dots; clearly this cop had spent a fair amount of time at Jai and Lou’s popular deli. That was a no brainer. There should have been an obvious trail here. Sure Jai was acting strangely and what was he doing meeting clandestinely with a uniformed officer in this town anyway? It couldn’t be sexual, that much I was more than sure of. I’d know the two little homos for better than twenty years and their relationship was rock solid, no doubt whatsoever! Whatever his reasons were I was fairly certain that I would have to ferret it out of the unknown cop, whoever it was. Confronting Jai while Lou was so deeply depressed would be unfair, at least for right now. Jai and I were heading toward a “come to Jesus meeting” but it could wait a while. It was time to update my KKK notes, what I knew, what I thought I knew, and what I wanted to know.
What do I know?
1. Sally November was still dead
2. Jai Lai, the little flamer knows way more than he is letting on
3. Somebody in the LAPD was closer to this than they probably should be
4. I’ll need details from Sally’s autopsy sooner than later
5. I’m going to owe Judy Looney big time
What do I think I know?
1. SN and Jai Lai had been in touch from day one of her arrival
2. SN’s death was no surprise for Jai
3. SN may have been more than an alias (still working on that angle)
4. SN had been murdered elsewhere and brought back to her apartment
5. SN was in the wrong place at the wrong time, she wasn’t meant to die
What do I want to know?
1. What was the exact time of death
2. What was the actual cause of death
3. What was in the toxicology report
4. What was Jai’s relationship to Mei Li Teng
5. What was Oscar Celaya keeping under his hat (that hump is always in the know)
All this thinking was starting to give me a headache. A police cruiser screamed by under the window suddenly and screeched around the corner onto Grand It was enough of a distraction to jolt me out of my brainstorming trance. Unfortunately it also startled the crap out of me and now there was a river of Guinness rushing across the small writing table at which I was sitting.
“Son of a bitch,” I shouted, jumping out of my chair!
Fortunately for me the only damage was to the steno-pad that I had covered with snappy little doodles over the last hour or so. Sure, sometimes those doodles proved useful, rife with clues mixed in with the art. But seeing as I had the talent of a five year-old with ADD, all the Guinness did was save me a couple of hours trying to read my own handwriting. Yeah, I’m pretty old school, and you could politely say that I was electronically challenged. So, there wasn’t any chance I’d wrecked a laptop or a what-cha-ma-call-it, an iTouch.
Look, when my brain gets full I empty it, meaning I break out a new stenographer’s notebook and fill it, every page, front and back. I had boxes of them, labeled, dated, and cataloged. I kept them stacked neatly against the wall across from my bed. A couple of them were pulling double duty as the base for my coffee table. Lay a thick piece of glass or sheet of plywood (depending on your budget) across four tightly packed banker’s boxes and viola, coffee table. Made the small room pretty cozy but since my divorce from both Rhonda and the LAPD, this small room had to multi-task. Rhonda took my present (our savings, our home, ect…) and the LAPD took my future (my pension, my self respect, etc…). I’m over it though, there’s nothing to be gained in bitterness. All that noise brings is an early grave. In hindsight Rhonda earned every penny putting with the mistress that my job had become. I wasn’t there for her when she was searching for herself. The cash helped with that journey even if where it took her was confusing as hell, but I won’t waste any words on that nightmare. As for the LAPD, fuck em!
Yanking the quilt off of my unmade bed I mopped up the puddle of Guinness, pitiful waste of a good pint. I guess now is as good a time as any to get the laundry done. I could make a couple of calls while I waited at the Laundromat. The first call should be to Judy to see if she had any pull with the Coroner’s Office. I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear from me again so soon. I needed to see that tox report, preferably before Oscar’s team did. The next call would be to Jai Lai, it was time. That was going to be a little tricky as I’d have to think of a good reason to call him out of the blue. Jai and I weren’t near as close as Lu and I were. I’ll think of something though, I’d hung around enough lawyers in my life to be able to fabricate something useful. It’s time to start answering the questions I’d been collecting. Sally would be buried in a few days and I wanted to send her spirit to wherever it is that spirits go with her killer’s name scribbled on the box they lay her to rest in. I wanted her family have closure. I wanted Lu to sleep again, to have peace of mind.