Casey's Pub, Grand Ave., Monday, Feb 23, 2009…6pm
Camouflage is an art form, and I am a master. At times I even amaze myself. Today is one of those rare days where the stars align in the heavens and dark forces are at their zenith. There are no angles to consider or steer around. Smooth and easy, that's the sort of day I am having. Contrary to the way the vast majority of mortals live, life is not linear but circular. How foolish they are, racing to certain death, nesting along the way as if they might take any of their treasures with them. One starts with nothing and one ends with nothing, it is a universal axiom. There is light and the absence of light. There is color and the absence of color, black and white, the alpha and the omega. Everything that appears in between is an illusion, vivid, bright and beautiful, but a short lived illusion.
Encountering Dr. Looney on the steps above this establishment was a treat. How apropos, the luck of the Irish at a pub called Casey's, I love it! She accepted my steadying hand when she stumbled with her mate as they hurriedly exited this place. She even smiled and thanked me. I hope she remembers that when her time comes, that will be delicious. As for this lot, well, watching Whitey entertain via the safety of the beveled over sized mirror above the mahogany bar had been a bit of a chore. I sat quietly, enjoying my pint of Guinness (when in Rome I always say) and watched them unnoticed. There was no need to eavesdrop; I already knew the nature of their chatter. I just wanted to be there when they left so I that could tag them. It is a practice I adopted eons ago from the Plains Indians of North America who referred to it as 'counting coup'. Admittedly, Whitey and his party remained in the bar much longer than I had expected and I grew weary of their antics. But patience is a virtue I have the luxury to embrace as there is always time to do what it is I do.
I let the two constables walk past me on their way out and waited for the prize to come my way. The large Turk who Whitey mistook for an Arab passed by me next. He is an interesting sort, someone worth exploring sometime. Finally Whitey approached. Timing was everything and I waited until he was about to pass before I swiveled off my barstool and into his path.
"Whoa, excuse me, coming through Mac," Whitey said with a smile as he gently pushed me aside and passed on by. He looked back over his shoulder without slowing down. His expression was delightful. It was somewhere between recognition and confusion. I hope he remembers this when his time comes.
Beverly Arms Apartment Homes, Westwood…Monday, Feb 23, 2009…7:00pm
I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed cop talk at the local boozer. Back in the day we would meet up after shifts at a dive called Nate's over on Pico and Figueroa, close to the Convention Center and not too far from my current flat on Grand. Of course I didn't live there then; Rhonda (Judy's Ronnie) and I had a little one bedroom bungalow in the burbs, close enough to walk to UCLA. Me and the boys (it was pretty much a boys club in those days) used to deal with whatever rattled us with booze and bravado. We'd decompress by comparing busts, grousing about dickhead supervisors, crooked politicos, and broads. You know; guy stuff. Hmmm, maybe that is another reason I currently live alone in the bowels of Los Angeles? But I digress.
This afternoon's meet and greet turned out to be a stroll down memory lane. Reminiscing up with Iggie reminded me of what I wasn't missing since leaving the force. However, meeting his rookie gold shield, Becca, was a pleasant bonus. She appeared to be as smart as she was attractive. I made a mental note of that in case I ever got over Judy Looney. I watched her watch us while we traded stories and noticed how she kept a wary and subtle eye on Hassan whenever she thought he wasn't looking her way. That was a rookie mistake as he knew exactly what she was doing and I knew that he knew. Silently I hoped that she didn't make his 'to do' list.
The highlight though was watching Hassan as he listened to Iggie go on and on about their investigation right in front of the very guy they were looking for, classic! To be fair I should mention that he did at least ask who Hassan was, but accepted too quickly Hassan's explanation about us being old friends and how he was on the job as well, from out of State of course. Iggie didn't even ask which State for Christ's sake, what a maroon. The party broke up when I told Iggie that I had reached my tab paying limit. He gulped down his Budweiser and reached over and finished Becca's as well. Sure it was rude, but in his defense she was just sipping at it anyway. Hassan stood as she got up to follow Iggie out, shaming me into awkwardly doing the same. She seemed surprised and pleased at the same time. That was another mental note for yours truly. Chalk one up for Miss Manners I guess. After the coppers had cleared the building Hassan and I traded head nods ourselves and went our separate ways as well. Strange, even as I watched him disappear up the street I felt like I was being watched. The old eyes in the back of the head trick, again, classic!
It took longer than usual to beat it over to Judy's place because of all the blah-blah Monday traffic. I should have sprung for one more round and avoided this headache. So, a twenty minute trip turned into an hour. I prepped myself for a nickel lecture when I saw Ronnie's car at the curb. My ex was gonna be wicked pissed when I walked in. It was one thing having a crush on her significant other; it was a whole other thing risking her life in support of one of my so called cases as she referred to how I made my living. I knocked on the door with a medium gusto and waited for the hammer to fall, it didn't take long.
"What the hell were you thinking Whitey," Ronnie screamed as she opened the front door!
"Rhonda, I can explain everything," I stammered as I looked over her shoulder for Judy.
"RONNIE! It's RONNIE now knucklehead!"
"Sorry, you're right, you're right, you're absolutely right, I don't know why I keep messing that up," I apologized quickly still scanning the room for Judy.
"Jesus Whitey, you're a piece of work," Judy said as she came to my rescue.
"Let him in sweetie, he and I need to talk things over," she continued gently pushing Ronnie aside and opening the door for me to enter.
"Thanks doll," I muttered as I past the both of them into the apartment and took a seat in one of the Lazy-boy recliners near the fireplace. Judy sat in the chair opposite me and Ronnie perched herself on the arm of the chair (poor chair).
"So who was the gorilla you were talking to at the bar? And where have you been anyway? We've been waiting here for you for hours," asked Judy in rapid succession.
"He was boozing with his mates honey, it's an old story, isn't it Whitey," Ronnie asked sarcastically?
"Spare me Rhonda," I quipped, enjoying her annoyance with the intentional name game. I grinned when Judy stifled her response by raising her hand.
"Just ignore him sweetie," she said letting her hand rest on Ronnie's.
"Look, that big fella with the Egyptian tan is probably the one who's been tailing you lately. Oh yeah, he's also the guy who crushed the lab rat that was crushing on you," I explained.
"How do you know that," Ronnie asked while Judy sat and pondered the data.
"Because he told me so Ronnie, because he told me so."
"Really," asked Judy?
"I'm afraid so doll, he's the real deal."
"Fine, let's just call the cops and be done with him then," blurted Ronnie quickly.
I rolled my eyes at my ex and stifled a snappy come back to her blathering. There wasn't time to go over every detail with Judy right now, especially with Ronnie in the room. I decided to cut to the chase and see if we couldn't sound this out together. My instincts were screaming that there was little time before Celaya cold-cased Sally's murder. Once a case chills it takes an immoveable force of nature to resurrect it from the slush pile.
"The thread test, what did you call it, a SEM? What exactly were the results? Who else's DNA did you find on those blue threads besides mine?"
"Her Uncle," she answered.
"Honey, Jai was not her Uncle, I told you that," I said correcting her.
"I know he wasn't. The DNA belongs to Lu," she replied.
"The DNA is Lu's, no doubt about it," Judy replied.
My head was beginning to pound like it always does when I am frustrated. I leaned back in the recliner and I tried to think. Unfortunately since I drank my lunch all I could think about right now was food. My stomach growled to remind me or reprimand me, probably both. Maybe I could get Ronnie to mscra (I just love pig Latin)and make me a sandwich? I caught her stare and felt tiny daggers pepper my face. No, probably not. Ignoring my stomach I went back to brainstorming with Judy.
"I don't get it? Lu wasn't at the murder scene? He didn't even know Mei Lai was in town? And he didn't know me as a patrol officer so I don't think he ever saw me in uniform either?"
"Cool your jets Whitey. Lu's DNA isn't important as far as I know. There's something else. What do you know about nano technology," she asked?"
"Absolutely nothing, is it a Pokémon game or something," I replied rubbing my eye?
"No, but actually, I'm slightly impressed that you even know what Pokémon is," she replied.
"Yeah, so what about this nano nano stuff?"
"There was something I missed the first time I examined those threads."
"What? Someone else's DNA?"
"It was something much larger than molecules, something I mistook for debris."
"Okay, what then," I asked, studying Judy's expression of acute fascination.
"I mean, finding something like this is like picking fly poop out of pepper!"
"Judy! What the hell?"
"Sorry, I still can't believe I overlooked it. So, what I found was a super-super tiny microprocessor, about 20 times smaller than the head of a pin."
"You mean like a computer chip?"
"Sort of, actually it's a memory chip with God knows what recorded on it."
BINGO! Finally she strummed a chord I could hear. I literally heard the wheels turning in my brain. The implications were obvious as were the consequences if I followed them to their inevitable end. The answers would likely prove damaging to the wrong people and fatal to yours truly and friends. Theories started forming I my head as my brain processed all the bits of data I had crammed into it over the past week. The theories began to set like a freshly poured cement and my instincts were coiled like a spring ready to bust loose. Thank God common sense intervened. All of this had to be thought through carefully. The stakes were too high, literally life or death. Suddenly I remembered that Judy and Ronnie were waiting for a response.
"Really? I think I know exactly what is on that chip. And if I'm right we have a problem, a really big problem." Judy stared at me suddenly frightened. Ronnie sprang to her feet and stood over me.
"What did you do Whitey," she demanded?
"I did my job Ronnie, that's all. But you remember what usually happens to curious cats don't you?" She sat back down uncharacteristically silent.