Casey's Irish Pub, Grand Ave., Monday, Feb 23, 2009…1pm
Bringing Judy here was a good idea, at least that's what I kept telling myself as I watched her nibble at her lunch. We got here just ahead of the lunch bunch and grabbed the catbird seat at Casey's, the one centered near the big bay window in front. Five minutes later and we'd have missed it and been standing at the bar shouting out our order with the rest of the tardy souls. We had burned most of the morning napping on my sofa. She'd shown up at my flat totally exhausted after fretting all night and dodging shadows. She was scared alright and who could blame her after what she told me about her evening and what she had found when she returned to the UCLA lab.
A former student was now deceased, very deceased, lying in a pool of blood in the hall just outside the room she had occupied with him only a few hours earlier. She was less worried about being a suspect, a fact that I pointed out emphatically, and more worried about being next, a fact that she pointed out even more emphatically. As far as Judy was concerned she had dodged a bullet courtesy her natural OCD tendencies. Being a chronic box checker she had rushed home to enter the results of the retest into her laptop, in real time of course. In fact she must have come straight from UCLA when I stopped by her place around 10pm on Saturday. I remember now, she was reading from her notes with her portable office on her lap while we chatted and drank scotch.
"I'm scared Whitey," were the last words she spoke before she whimpered herself to sleep, curled up on my tattered old sofa. I had covered her with a wool blanket that my Grandee had knitted for me a hundred years ago and sat on the opposite end of the beat up furniture just to be on the safe side. She tucked her feet behind me at the small of my back. It's a common habit with most women and small children whenever they curl up beside someone, curious? In any event, I let her sleep a couple of hours while I sat there racking and stacking these new facts into the puzzle that was Sally November. They were all related somehow, that much I was certain of.
There are no such things as coincidences in life, I believe that. Raised Irish Catholic I was deeply rooted in faith in the omnipresence of the All Mighty. To me that meant that all things happen for a reason. It means that every occurrence is part of a master plan, one beyond my mortal ability to understand. Some call that fate, some karma, I just call it life. I know that sounds weird coming from a battle hardened veteran and street wise detective, but there it is. It saves me a lot of time over analyzing hard stuff, like why my ex decided to change teams in the middle of our marriage, stuff like that.
She came to around eleven-thirty and startled me awake (I had dozed off minutes after she did) and after an awkward moment we got up quickly, and decided make tracks in case whoever she was frightened of had followed her to the Alexandria. I brought her to Casey's because the place was is crowded, plus it was below the street level where I could see everyone as they walked down the stairs. There were only two entrances, both of which were up front. Bottom line, I was taking no chances! Judy looked up from her bangers and mash and studied me studying her.
"I need to call Ronnie," she said quickly.
"I already did doll, she's on her way here right now."
"Did you tell her anything," she asked meekly?
"No, that'll be up to you my dear. But take it from someone who knows her, I mean him, tell it slow but tell it all, nés pas?"
"Okay, don't lecture me!"
"Listen, as much as I hate to admit this we should take you in and come clean with the cops before they start adding two and two and come up with the wrong answer. Besides, if you really are in someone's crosshairs; disappearing into the system could be helpful. At least you'll have 24/7 protection while I go into commando mode and figure this thing out."
"You mean like witness protection? Don't those dopes always get bumped off?"
"Only on TV doll-face, only on TV," I replied reassuringly.
"Look, while we're waiting for your better half to get here, tell me again everything you remember about Saturday night, and I mean everything. Like what cars do you remember in the parking lot, what passersby do you remember, anyone within eyesight when you arrived and when you left? Anything and everything Judy; don't leave anything out. The most insignificant memory is usually the lynchpin that'll solve a case."
"Alright," she replied, pushing her plate away and leaning back in her seat.
"Where do you want me to start," she asked folding her arms defensively.
"Relax Judy, I'm not interrogating you, I'm on your side, okay?"
"Sorry, let me think, when I got there I remember jetting into a parking spot in front of the building before some chick in a Hummer grabbed it. She was pissed and waited behind my car until I got out so she could flip me off properly."
"Interesting; but lets back up a little. When did you call Ernie and let him know you were coming over?"
"I don't know, four or five I guess, why?"
"And you got there around seven or so, right?"
"I got there at 6, again, why?"
"Well, if you were being watched, maybe you were being listened to as well? And if you were, maybe Mr. Mystery went ahead of you to UCLA to scope out the situation? Does that make sense?"
"It's possible I guess. But if I'm the one he's stalking why would he care about Ernie?"
"I don't think Ernie interests him, but if he wanted to know what you were up to he might go ahead of you to find a perch to spy from while he decided whatever it is he needed to decide?"
"You're not making any sense," Judy said, frustrated.
"You're a scientist doll, it's all trail and error isn't it," I said with a wink.
"Touché," she replied, smiling for the first time in a couple of days.
"That's better, here's something else to smile about," I said, pointing out the window as Ronnie came bouncing down the steps.
I remained seated as Judy jumped up and ran outside and into the arms of my ex wife, Rhonda. I smiled as I watched Ronnie comfort her and left them alone to enjoy the moment. I knew that Ronnie would be in to grill me shortly and saw no need to rush that aggravation. A large group of patrons pushed past them while I waited for them to finish. I tensed up suddenly and grabbed a menu from the napkin holder on the table and quickly covered my face. The scary Arab from Carney's the other night, Hassan, was about to enter the building. SHIT!