McCarran Airport…Las Vegas...Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…3:30pm
If it hadn't have been for the fact that Rebecca Tran was seated between us I do believe that I would have grabbed Iggie by his Windsor knot and dragged him (still yammering no doubt) to the head and flushed him down the john on out into the sweet silence of 39,000 feet! The old fossil whined and complained the entire trip and I could see by a few of Becca's facial expressions that she was as tired as I was of all his noise. We covered the 231 air miles between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 48 minutes versus the quoted 55 thanks to a merciful tail wind, further proof that God isn't always out to mess with my life! I'm pretty sure that I'll have a lot of explaining to do when it's my turn at the Captain's Mast way up in the great beyond. I guess I won't need any tap shoes then, you can't deceive the fella who invented truth. Where that concept is concerned all of Humanity will have turn in the hot seat. There's no hiding from the alpha and the omega or so the penguins hammered into our wee brains every time they called for us to turn in our homework. I'm sorry, I get preachy when I'm irritated (Iggie), thank goodness we're here.
"Turn you cell phone back on Whitey and give Wally a call while we wait for the crowd to thin," Iggie said, leaning back in his seat for the first time since we boarded the packed Southwest flight.
"Okie-dokie," I replied, digging into my jacket pocket for my trusty Samsung.
Becca excused herself when accidently nudged me while she stretched in the cramped space that was the fuselage of a Boeing 737-NG. I smiled at her and gave her a wink that I hoped conveyed that it was my pleasure to be sure. She blushed and picked up the first distraction she could find, the airplane's emergency pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of her. Hmmm, interesting, maybe there was a coffee date in our future, providing I survived all this of course? I had to fish a little deeper in my pocket to retrieve the little spiral note pad I had jotted Wally's new number on. As soon as I flipped far enough back (should have started from the back…never fails) I punched in the nine digits including the area code and waited for an answer. Wally picked up on the second ring, jackpot!
"Price," he barked! He sounded pre-occupied?
"Wally, it's Whitey, I'm in town. Have you met up with Judy yet," I asked?
"Yeah, I did, and you're early, I wasn't expecting you till tonight?"
"Change of plans, I flew and I'm not alone," I answered. Rebecca scolded me for saying so with a tight lipped huff. Iggie did likewise, but I didn't care.
"I thought we were a tea here," I said covering the phone with my hand.
"Less is more Whitey, just tell him we're on our way to his precinct," Iggie said, sliding his finger along his throat subtlety telling me to cut the conversation short.
"Ah, listen Wally; we need to deplane, so I'll fill you in at the station house. We'll be there in forty-five or so.
"Change of plans here too old buddy. Meet me at the Union Plaza Hotel, room 3023, I'll fill you in. By the way, it's a crime scene so make sure your escort flashes his badge. It's not Iggie is it?"
"Oh yeah, you pegged it. And what do you mean it's a crime scene? Is Judy alright? What about Ronnie? Did she tell you about the chip," I replied, rambling as my mind started conjuring all sorts of unpleasant scenarios?
"Can't talk now Whitey, just get you ass over there as soon as you can. It'll take about an hour from McCarran, especially at this time, end of the work day and everybody's driving home. Call me when you roll on the address, I'll grease the skids for you guys, later."
Wally flipped his phone shut before I could protest and I did the same. I could feel Iggie and Becca's eyes on me waiting for an explanation. I thought about holding back but my gut said that I was going to need these two and keeping facts from your team was a recipe for disaster. I turned to face them with a stupid grin on my face.
"Apparently we're skipping the station house and going to the Union Plaza downtown," I started.
"Why? This better not be a gag Whitey, Celaya will barbeque all of us if you and Wally are thinking about holding out on us," Iggie said wagging a boney finger in my general direction.
I don't kindly to that sort of treatment, Iggie knows better and I reminded him by bending said finger back to the first knuckle. He screeched inspiring Rebecca to come to his rescue. he's always been a drama queen!
"Are you two kids through? Honestly you're supposed to be setting an example for me. The only thing I'm learning from you two is that apparently senility is dangerous," she scolded as she separated us.
"Sorry, he brings out the devil in me," I replied with a wicked little grin.
"Whatever," Becca said as she stood and pushed past me on into the aisle.
Oh well, so much for that future coffee date. I got up and followed after her with Iggie hot on my six. I'd make nice in the rental car on the way downtown. Secretly I was pretty worried about my two girls or at least my one and a half girls. Whatever was up it was serious; Wally never called me buddy before, he's always referred to me as shit-for-brains? Why was he being uncharacteristically kind?
"Hey Roode, whip out your plastic, the rental's on you, Oscar's orders," Iggie said as the escalator let us off at baggage claim. He was flashing one of those punk ass grins that a child does when they're tattling on you to mommy or daddy, what a prick!
"Natch," I replied pulling out my billfold and walking up to the Hertz counter.
"You have anything with a sidecar," I asked half-jokingly pointing in Iggie's direction. The young lady behind the counter stared back at me with a blank expression, the poor kid had no idea what I was talking about, and I let her off the hook with a smile and handed her my Visa and driver's license. What the hell was happening at the Union Plaza anyway?
Hollenbeck Station…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…3:00pm
Oscar Celaya looked at the clock above his office door and checked his wristwatch, subconsciously synchronizing the two timepieces. Whitey and the dynamic duo should be half way to the LVMPD station house by now. He decided to give them until five o'clock to call in with an update. If they knew what was good for them it would be a short conversation consisting of the return flight number and confirmation that Dr. Judith Looney was in protective custody and on her way back to answer a shitload of questions. At flank speed the lot of them should be back in LA before the 11 o'clock news. It was an hour past his bedtime but Oscar was pretty sure it would be worth the inconvenience. He opened the center desk drawer and retrieved a small set of keys. Grunting he got up with the extra effort that his age and weight required these days and walked over to a block of five drawer filing cabinets.
He unlocked the one labeled MAC, opened it and fished out a half empty bottle of Mccallan's single malt scotch whiskey and a dirty crystal tumbler from the old Ambassador Hotel, circa 1968, the year that RFK was assassinated. He had been a patrolman downtown back then and was moonlighting working security for the hotel that night. You could say that it had happened on his watch but you'd be wrong. Oscar was working the crowd in the ballroom and wasn't in the kitchen where the shooting occurred. Still, to this day he felt a twinge of responsibility. He often wondered what the world would have been like had someone saved the day and Bob Kennedy had gone on to become President? It was an interesting thought and one he had whenever he felt melancholy enough to open the MAC drawer.
Oscar sat back down and had poured himself two fingers worth when the phone on his desk rang interrupting his moment of reflection. He capped the bottle and took a slow sip before answering, whoever it was could wait five or six rings. Het set the heavy tumbler down on a manila folder and picked up the receiver.
"LAPD, Lieutenant Celaya here," he said into the handset.
"Oscar, its Ralph Pederson over at the Mayor's office, are you busy," asked the voice on the other end of the line?
"Little busy here Ralphie, can this wait until tomorrow, I'm expecting a package soon if you get my drift," Oscar replied stirring his drink with his finger.
"Actually it can't lieutenant, can you hold for His Honor," Ralph said in a tone that Oscar had heard before, whenever the little shit was brown-nosing for the boss. Ralph Pederson was the Mayor's chief minion as Press Secretary and Lord knows this Mayor liked a close relationship with the Press. Before Oscar could hang up and claim faulty equipment Mayor Popular came on the line.
"Oscar, good to hear your voice," he said without even hearing it.
"Listen, huge favor my man, a little bird told me that you may have a line on this murder at UCLA. I'm very interested in hearing what you have on that," His Honor added. It didn't sound like a request; it sounded more like an order. Oscar didn't like taking orders from people he didn't respect; that was why he hadn't made a career of the U.S. Army.
"Well, you see Mr. Mayor, sir, I'm not sure what we have yet. I'll know more after we have a chance to question a key witness later tonight. I'm afraid said witness is currently in route from out of State and won't be in until late. Why don't I call you back first thing tomorrow morning after we find out what's what," he answered, not exactly lying but not exactly telling the truth either.
"I see, well, make sure that you call my office first thing Lieutenant, and I mean first thing, there may be ramifications concerning this murder that I am not at liberty to discuss," replied the Mayor, clearly miffed at what he correctly determined to be a stall tactic.
"Of course, you have my word Mr. Mayor, will there be anything else," Oscar answered nonchalantly giving his drink another stir?
"FIRST THING IN THE MORNING LIEUTENANT, ARE WE CLEAR," the Mayor said with more than a little venom in his voice.
"CRYSTAL," Oscar replied with a fair amount of venom in his own voice! He hung up and reached for his scotch. Oh well, guess nobody likes to be dissed, he thought. Oscar picked up the tumble and clinked the bottle of Mccallan's, toasting the room, ain't life a bitch.