Carney's, Sunset Blvd. LA, midnight…
The joint was packed tonight! There was even a line to get into the small set of converted rail cars painted mustard yellow and caboose red. The tall black and white Carney's sign glowed overhead in sharp contrast to the brilliant colors of the Sunset Strip. Nevertheless the dull sign beckoned a hodgepodge Saturday night crowd to come on in and eat up, drink up or sober up with a combo meal from the diner's infamous menu of chili dogs, chili burgers, chili tacos, and chili fries, basically all things chili. Sure, there were less radioactive items to choose from but to do so labeled you either a Beverly Hills silver spooner or an uber eclectic Nancy boy from WeHo (West Hollywood) or San Fran-swish-co. I was driving past this place heading north on Sunset when I spotted him, Ray Ray. The same cop I saw with Jai the other day at the Shabu Shabu joint. There he was sitting at a window seat in Carney's right now. He looked to be in a heated discussion with some thug who was busy stuffing a chili and sauerkraut hotdog into his bearded beak. How did I know what kind of dog he was devouring you ask? If you knew me you wouldn't have to ask that. Hot dogs are my kryptonite.
Turning my car around I whipped into The Standard hotel just up the street from Carney's. They offered valet parking at an obscene price, but since I had no time to cruise around for a bargain they had me over a barrel. Oh well that's what expense reports are for, right? I tossed my keys to the valet in the red jacket and hot footed it across the street. I had to make sure I entered the joint on the opposite end of the car from where Officer Abernathy and his heavyset dinner companion sat. I wasn't sure what Ray Ray's role was in all of this, but I knew he would remember me from the old days and I wasn't ready to tip my hand just yet. I caught a break as a rowdy group of semi drunk twenty-something's pushed past me on their way up the street to The Skybar. The timing couldn't have been better and I rolled with the rowdy group right up to the end of the yellow box car. When they turned left to cross the street, I turned right and walked up the steps at Carney's ass end. Since the business side of the diner was on the end there wasn't a line of people to deal with. Side stepping a young couple on their way out I strolled in and slowly walked the length of the car. Ray Ray had his back to me but his date was facing my way. He eyed me from over a chili dog, his eyes narrowing slightly as he studied me. I nonchalantly pulled up a chair at a table nearby and pretended to waive to someone near the counter.
The heavyset fella looked over his shoulder while he chewed in time to see a pretty young thing with a nose ring waive back to me. Luckily for me Holly-weird has no shortage of willing role players. Satisfied he turned his attention back his meal and shrugged just a nanosecond before nose ring girl flipped me off and picked up her order. I grabbed a menu from the top of the napkin holder and covered my face while I strained to listen to Ray Ray continue his rant. It was loud in the small boxcar but I had cop ears and was able to filter out enough of the noise to pick up a word or two.
"That's right jackass, you fucked up! Look, I get that English ain't your mother tongue but your orders weren't exactly rocket science, am I right?"
The burly guy across the table just kept chewing his food, but even from where I sat I could see there was murder in is eyes. He glared at Ray Ray without blinking, not even once. That's not normal, and it should have been a warning to Officer Dumbass but it wasn't and he kept right on with his rant.
"How did you get this gig anyway? Scare her, rough her up a little if you need to, but we never said to kill the little bitch did we?" Ray Ray waited impatiently for a reply, none came.
"HEY, ABDUL, I'm talking to you rag-head!"
I shifted in my seat and got ready to hit the deck if the big fella made a sudden move for the piece that I knew hung from a shoulder holster under his right arm. The busy room was oblivious to what was unfolding, and even though the noise level was high, there was an uncomfortable silence emanating from the table six feet in front of me. Ray Ray's shoulders squared and I knew he sensed what I did. I cursed myself silently for leaving my piece at home. All I had on me was a blackjack in my coat pocket and a Swiss Army knife in my pants pocket. If lead started flying the best I could do was dodge it or catch it. Abdul suddenly reached into his lap and retrieved a napkin to wipe his mouth clean. Ray Ray's chair squeaked as he shifted in his seat. He leaned forward on his elbows and moved his right foot to the chair's back legs, preparing to spring into action if provoked. Abdul set his napkin down on the table in front of him, leaned back in his chair and relaxed. He stared across the table for a moment before speaking.
"She was exquisite, was she not?"
"Yeah, so what if she was? Is that your explanation? You killed her because she was pretty?"
"No my friend, I killed her because she was a whore."
"Look Abdul, we aren't friends, and this is strictly business here, get it?"
"As you wish my friend, and my name is Hassan, not Abdul. Please stop calling me that, it offends me deeply."
"Whatever HA-san, listen because you went all Taliban on us the two little homos are dead and I've gotta deal with my brothers in blue as well as figure out how to tell our Russian friend that his girlfriend is stone dead!"
"I am afraid it was unavoidable. The whore would not cooperate and she was too ignorant to frighten. She insisted she knew nothing. She insisted that I was mistaken. She became angry when I pressed further. She ordered me to leave and threatened to call the authorities. She left me with few alternatives."
"Did you find the flash drive?"
"No, and as you know she did not survive the interrogation."
"I'm aware of that ass wipe. I just can't believe we got nothing outta her."
"That is not necessarily true."
"What do you mean?"
"Not here, we are not alone," Hassan said staring directly at me.
Ray Ray spun around in his chair in time to see my backside fast walk toward the exit. I waited until I heard the chairs fly across the room before I broke into a run and sprinted out the door. I leaped passed the steps and hit the pavement at a full gallop. I hadn't moved that quickly since high school football. By the time Ray Ray and Hassan made it out of Carney's I had disappeared into the craziness that was Hollywood on a Saturday night. I was pretty sure that he hadn't seen my face, but was also pretty sure Hassan could give a fairly detailed description. Great! Now I was dodging the cops and these guys. I walked past The Standard Hotel and ducked into The Body Shop, one of LA's better strip clubs. Better to lay low for an hour or so before I got my car and beat it on home to think. A couple of beers with some Jack back sounded good right now. Like I said, I think better with booze.