For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Time is relative…nowhere in particular, Los Angeles
"Are you enjoying following around this pissant Whitey Roode? Yes, I’m talking to you silly goose! You’re the one turning the pages aren’t you? Don’t be shy, my words won’t hurt you. They may make you feel a little queer, but they can’t harm you, well, the words that is. Quite a character don’t you think? He amuses me, and for that reason alone I think I’ll let him live a while longer. Sometimes it’s more fun to be the mouse instead of the cat, am I right? I mean it’s certainly more exciting, fearing the unexpected. For me, that happens so rarely. I rather enjoy the change of pace. Still; when the time is right, when he’s close to solving the puzzle that is me, it will be my blade that he discovers in the end. Pity, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. They also say (whoever they are) that no good deed goes unpunished. Sad, but true in Whitey’s case, I’ll miss him, poor thing."
Ahmanson Center for Biological Research, USC, Feb 17, 2009…8am
Mornings are always hectic on campus, especially Tuesday mornings. You would think Mondays would be the one, but not USC, the University of Spoiled Children. Most of the kids around here needed an extra day to recover from the weekend. That didn't matter to Judy Looney; her routine was the same day in and day out. Jump out of bed right after the second snooze alarm, pee, hop in and out of the cold shower, pee again, brush your teeth with one hand and swirl a q-tip in your ear with the other. Then gargle with a healthy dose of Listerine, cool mint of course, and throw together an outfit from the pile of clothes on the floor, whatever passes the sniff test that is. And viola, Showtime! At least that was Judy Looney’s routine, just as it had been since leaving boring and dreary Nebraska for exciting and sunny California, some twenty years ago. This Monday would not be any different as the snooze alarm screamed for the second time.
“SHIT,” Judy exclaimed, suddenly wide awake.
Leaping out of her toasty warm trundle bed Judy scurried down the hall to the bathroom. I know what you’re thinking, what’s a forty something college professor doing sleeping on a bed designed for a teenybopper? Well, the short answer is that emotionally she was perpetually sixteen at best. The long complicated answer was that college professors made squat, and the brilliant ones tended to make even less than that due to the fact that they were usually too wrapped up in their projects to worry about trivial little things like say, oh I don’t know, like making a living maybe? Incredible, I know, but that was her lifestyle, God bless her. To be honest, I sort of envied her, a dyed in the wool, womb to tomb egghead without a care in the world!
As she scrubbed her face in the shower, Judy recited the day’s agenda. She shivered under the steady stream of icy cold water, while her perky set of 34 Cs bounced like gelatin on a plate, and warbled a long brrrrrrr. Thermal shock showers were just one of many routines she had brought with her from the farm, like starting the day early, like when it was still night. I guess there’s nothing like a little hypothermia to clear the cobwebs from your brain. Turning away from the showerhead she leaned back and put her head under the falling ice pellets to rinse the conditioner out of her hair. Then, wrapping her hair in that turban-like manner, the one that all girls know how to do from birth, she stepped out of the tub and got herself powdered and dressed in nanoseconds. I bet that would have been something to see, but I digress. If only I had had the foresight to come to her place instead of her office on campus, I might have had an opportunity to tickle that bisexual funny bone of hers? In any event, she arrived to work with wet hair and a mouth full of a half chewed Assiago bagel which had been smothered in cream cheese. You know, on second thought maybe it was a good thing meeting on campus after all, because this broad was no Miss Manners!
Dr. Judith Looney opened the door and fell into her small office more than walking into it. It was sort of like an aircraft carrier landing, a controlled crash! She dropped an arm full of books and papers onto her already cluttered desk and flopped into an old leather chair that had seen better days. You know, I’ve always heard that an unorganized workspace usually means a hyper organized mind, and darned if she proved that as soon as she spoke.
"Practicing breaking an entering this morning are you?" she asked, noticing me sitting on a beat up sofa across from her desk.
"You know how impatient I am," I replied.
“Look Whitey, I've got a class in 14 minutes, but because you’re Ronnie’s former fella I’ll give you 5 minutes to speak your mind while I look around for my lecture notes,” she explained, her eyes never acknowledging me.
“Oh yeah, nice to see you again, sorry,” Judy added finally looking up.
“Ditto, sweetheart, and I’ll make this quick,” I replied getting up from my seat.
“Promises, promises!” she answered sarcastically.
“Clock’s ticking gumshoe, talk fast,” she added as she stuffed her lecture notes into an old tattered briefcase that she’d inherited from her father (the original Dr. Looney) after graduating from Stanford’s Medical School, and collapsed into her chair.
“Since you put it that way, here’s the sitch. I’m working a murder case for mutual friends. You know them, from poker night, the Mahu couple, Jai and Lu.”
“Yeah, so, what about them?”
“The stiff is Jai’s niece, an FOB from Shanghai. She was supposed to be here to attend school but apparently changed her plans once she got here, taking Jai and Lu’s tuition money and starting her own business,” I explained.
“What kind of business?” asked Judy.
“The kind that gets you dead,” I answered.
“Tick tock Whitey, I haven’t got time for 20 questions?”
“Right, well she wasn’t a spy, and she didn’t sell drugs,” I continued.
“Ergo she was in the flesh business, I get it. Let’s see, was she a stripper, a hooker, an escort, or what?”
“I suspect all of the above. At any rate, suffice to say she obviously stepped on somebody’s toes,” I replied, slightly annoyed with her attitude.
“So what do you want from me?"
“I need you to run these fibers through your wiz-bang watch-ya-ma-call-it machines and tell me all there is to tell,” I answered, tossing her the sandwich bag containing the blue threads I took from Sally’s apartment last night. She took the bag and gave me an 'is that all' look, rolling her eyes and shrugging her shoulders.
“Ah, you realize that my wiz-bang equipment, as you call it, belongs to the State of California, and that I could lose my tenure doing g-jobs for the likes of you?”
“Come on Judy, after all I’ve done for you? I mean, didn’t I look the other way when you started screwing my ex, or whatever you call what the two of you were doing in my own bed while I was out risking life and limb on the mean streets of Los Angeles? That has to be worth something, right?” I pleaded.
Judy giggled at that remark and tucked the sandwich bag into her briefcase with her lecture notes and her sack lunch. She got up, walked around the table and took my arm. Then together we walked out of the office.
“You really were clueless back then weren’t you Whitey,” she said, smiling finally.
“I guess you could say that. I mean I always knew that Rhonda suffered from penis envy, but I never thought that meant literally. I thought she was just mean and bossy!”
“Ha-ha, you’re funny, that’s what I like that about you. And I have to admit, I never would have thought in a million years that you would come to terms with Ronnie leaving you for me? And the fact that we’re all still friends amazes me. Most guys, especially cops, would have shot both of us the day they found out,” Judy explained, giving my arm a gentle squeeze in the process.
We stopped at the entrance to the Ahmanson building and she kissed me full on the mouth, holding my face in her hands. “What’s that for,” I asked, nearly swooning?
“That’s for being such a good sport,” she answered. Then she curled her boney little fist and punched me hard in the arm.
“And that’s for slipping me your tongue just now,” she added, breaking free of me and jogging ahead before I could react.
“HEY, you can’t blame a guy for trying,” I shouted rubbing my arm where hit me!
“Yes I can,” she shouted back, opening the door to enter.
“WHAT ABOUT MY FIBERS!” I hollered after her.
“I’ll have something in a day or two, call me then,” she answered, as she disappeared into the building.
I smacked my lips together, still tasting her bubblegum flavored mouthwash and fanaticized for a couple of seconds about stealing her away from my ex. Now that would be a hoot I thought to myself, actually considering it?