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Sunday, December 30, 2012

("For when I'm drinking I'm always thinking and wishing Peggy Gordon was here”)…traditional Irish song of Scottish origin

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Nineteen

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 meal. 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 crowd. We had burned most of the morning napping on my sofa after she shown up at my flat totally exhausted from 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'd found when she returned to the lab on the UCLA campus.

A former student of hers was now deceased, very-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 wasn't worried about being a suspect, a fact that I pointed out emphatically, she was 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. Come to think of it 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. The next night she showed up at my place in a tizzy, totally out of sorts, which, if you knew Judy Looney, was totally out of character.

"I'm really scared Whitey," were the last words she spoke before whimpering herself to sleep on my tattered old sofa. I had covered her with a wool blanket that my Grandee knitted for me a hundred years ago and sat myself on the opposite end of my beat up piece of furniture just to be on the safe side. She tucked her cold feet behind me at the small of my back, a common habit with most women and small children whenever they curl up beside someone, just an observation. Curious though? In any event, I let her sleep a couple of hours while I sat there racking and stacking these new pieces of the puzzle that was Sally November. Somehow they were all related, that much I was certain of.

There are no such things as coincidences, I believe that. Raised Irish Catholic I was deeply rooted in faith of the omnipresence of the All Mighty. To my mind that means that all things happen for a reason. It means that every occurrence is part of a master plan, a plan beyond my mortal ability to understand. Some call that fate, some karma, kismet, I just call it life. I know that sounds weird coming from a battle hardened veteran / street wise detective, but there it is. It saves me a lot of time over analyzing stuff, like why my ex decided to change teams in the middle of our marriage, stuff like that.

Judy came to around eleven-thirty this morning, startling me awake (I'd dozed off minutes after she did…some watchdog Whitey…geez), 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 is always crowded, plus it was below street level so I could get a good look at anyone coming down the stairs. There were only two entrances, both of which were up front. Bottom line, I was taking no chances! Judy seemed better, the familiar noises and the hot food calming her. She 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 dear heart. But take it from someone who knows her, I mean him, tell it slow but tell it all, nés pas?"

"Okay, okay, don't lecture me gumshoe!"

"Listen, as much as I hate to admit this we should take you down to Hollenbeck to see Oscar and come clean with the cops before they start adding two and two and come up with the wrong answer, as usual. Besides, if you really are in someone's crosshairs the disappearing into the system could be helpful. At least you'll have 24/7 protection while I go into commando mode and try to figure this all 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."

"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, why would he kill him?"

"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, now here comes 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 opted to leave them alone to their private 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!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

("Nobody told me there'd be days like these….”)…John Lennon

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Eighteen

Hollenbeck Station, Los Angeles…Monday, Feb 23, 2009…8am

You didn't have to be a fly on the wall to pick up what Oscar Celaya was laying down. The volatile lieutenant was hopping mad and everyone within earshot was getting a crash course in "sailor-speak 101." It was bad enough that Dr. Looney had given these nimrods the slip, how hard could it be to keep an eye on a five foot nothing skirt anyway he wondered? But the fact that she had done it twice, once coming and once going. TWICE, what the hell? These two were supposed to be professionals, LA's finest for Christ's sake, incredible!

"You know what Iggie, I don't care. Let's not waste any more time playing the blame game, you're supposed to be a team, you're BOTH to blame," Oscar bellowed giving Detective 1st grade Bob (Iggie) Ingram and his trainee partner Rebecca Tran, a look that would put frost on a hot skillet.

Iggie was accustomed to the Lieutenant's short fuse but this was young Rebecca's first public ass-chewing and she didn't like it, although she was more mad than scared. Failure in her Vietnamese culture was unacceptable and she was pissed at Iggie for putting her in this situation with his laid back, what's your hurry attitude. She'd wanted to tail Dr. Looney closer, get out of the car and walk the neighborhood, maybe peek in some windows or something, anything besides staying cooped up in that musty old Ford with Iggie's constant reminiscing and flatulence, gross! Now wasn't the right time, but as soon as she made up for this setback, and she would, make no mistake about that, she was going to see if she could get reassigned to a less seasoned training officer. Apparently seasoned at this precinct meant lazy and that was 180 degrees from this Asian newbie. She worked hard to get her gold shield and she wasn't about to risk losing it by tying herself to a gold brick like Iggie Ingram. What kind of name is Iggie anyways? Sounds like a cartoon character. The man might just as well call himself Yogi or Boo Boo! Rebecca jumped suddenly, startled by a loud finger snap and disgruntled growl.

"Am I boring you Detective Tran?" asked Lt. Celaya sarcastically.

"Ah, no sir, I’m sorry, I was, um, just thinking about what you were saying," Becca replied too quickly.

"Really, I'm intrigued, what exactly did you get from everything I said here?"

Becca felt like a six year-old caught in a white lie. She shuffled uncomfortably and stared at her feet, racking her brain for something to wax philosophical on, she had nothing.

"Well, I know that we, um…"

"Spare me Tran; just get your tail on outta here. Why don't you and Iggie there hot foot it over to UCLA and check out the city's latest homicide. If my hunch is right you'll discover that your ineptitude cost the vic his life. Rumor has it Judy Looney was the last person to see him alive," scolded Lt. Celaya, dismissing the two detectives with a flippant waive of his hand. Rebecca started to say something but Iggie grabbed her by the arm and led her out of the boss's office.

"Don't bother kid, he's not listening anyway," explained her partner as he led her out the door. They quickly waded past the eavesdroppers milling around the squad room amid jeers and catcalls. Becca felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment and jerked free of Iggie's grasp and strolled out of the room slowly trying to retain as much of her dignity as possible. She considered socking Iggie once they were out of sight but thought better of it. She still needed a positive evaluation from him in order to clear her probationary period.

"What homicide was the LT talking about?" Becca asked as they walked down the stairs to the parking lot.

"It came in over the wire while we were taking flack from Celaya," Iggie answered.

"Somebody got waylaid on campus at UCLA late last night."

"What? What is waylaid anyways?" asked Becca, both puzzled and annoyed. She didn't like the way Iggie talked over her head using slang she was unfamiliar with. She thought it was rude and suspected that he was enjoying himself way too much at her expense. White people were like that, she didn't get it or appreciate it, but she accepted it, that's life.

"Waylaid is just another term for mugged, hard!" Iggie replied slamming his left fist into his right palm.

"The poor bastard had his head stove in with a ball peen hammer," he added.

"I see, thanks. And do you have to curse so much?"

"Are you fucking kidding me? Get used to it kid, you're a homicide detective, start acting like one," Iggie scolded as he opened the door to the garage.

"Asshole," Becca muttered uncharacteristically under her breath as she followed him to their unmarked cruiser. Maybe there was a bright side to this assignment, it could happen she thought. Iggie tossed her the keys and jetted in front of her to the passenger side.

"SHOTGUN," he hollered as he climbed in and buckled up.

Becca rolled her eyes and got in on the driver's side. As she turned to buckle her seat belt she caught her partner stuffing a sizable piece of beef jerky into his mouth. Without hesitating she started the engine, rolled down all four windows and sped out of the lot.

"Good call kid," Iggie chuckled through a mouthful of jerky.

"No shit Sherlock," Becca retorted, surprised at how easily this cursing thing was coming to her. She pinched her nose closed and peeled out unintentionally.

"Now you're getting the hang of it girl," howled Iggie as Becca went slightly airborne onto 1st street, scraping both bumpers front and back!

The Alexandria Hotel, Room 201, Monday, Feb 23, 2009…8am

I was in the middle of shaving when someone started frantically banging on the door to my room. Pressing a styptic pencil to your gob was not the most pleasant way to start the day. I didn't bother wiping the foam from my face and went out of the bath to answer the door.

"Keep your shirt on," I yelled while I unlatched the front door.

"COME ON WHITEY, open up, I'm in big trouble," pleaded Judy Looney, bursting into my room out of breath as soon as the latch was disengaged.

"What's with the panic doll?"

Judy rushed over to the window and pulled the drapes, taking a quick second to peer up and down the street below. She wasn't just scared; she was terrified. It didn't take much detective training to figure that out. I watched her slowly back away from the window and sit gingerly on the small sofa across from my Murphy bed. She picked up a worn and torn throw pillow that I got from Yankee Stadium a few years back and clutched it tightly to her breast. I wasn't sure what to say next but I knew what I had to go first which was throw on some clothes on before the towel around my waist dropped and she got something else to be frightened about.

"Give me a minute to put on some clothes doll and you can tell me all about it."

"Okay, but hurry alright?"

"I'll be back before you can count to a hundred."

"Lot of things can happen in a minute and a half Whitey."

"My ex used to say that to me all the time but for a totally different reason," I said trying to raise a smile on my worried friend's face. She smiled weakly and sunk deeper into the sofa. I scurried off the bathroom and dressed.

"So what gives Judy? You're acting like the big bad wolf is out there getting ready to huff and puff," I yelled from the bath.

"Not funny Whitey, this is serious," she replied quickly.

"Sorry kitten, tell me what's wrong," I said, apologizing as I re-entered the room and sat beside her. She clung to me instantly and started sniveling; it was not like her at all to be this vulnerable. I could feel her tears soaking through my shirt sleeve, they were cold and unsettling. They felt like fear and suddenly I was uncomfortable as well.

"It's all my fault Whitey," she said in a low even tone.

"What's your fault Judy?"

"He's dead because of me, I just know it," she continued.

"Who's dead? What are you talking about? From the beginning Judy, start from the top."

"Ernie's dead."

"Who's Ernie?"

"Just a horny grad student I was using to get access to a special piece of equipment I needed to analyze those threads you left with me."

"I thought you already finished your tests, you gave me those results the other day, remember?"

"I know, but you were a pest and I was lazy, and the bottom line is I didn't do a very good job."

"You mean those threads weren't from one of my uniforms?"

"No, they were definitely yours but you weren't the only one sweating in those clothes."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean a dead man's DNA was on those threads sweetie, a dead man near and dear to you."

The light started to flicker in my brain as things began to add up. She had to be talking about either Lu or Jai; they were the only corpses I had any recent tie to, which meant that now I could be placed at two murder scenes. Terrific, this just kept getting better and better. Still, it didn't explain what Judy was so scared of. She was jumping at shadows on the sidewalk. Something out there had her on edge and truth be told it was beginning to vex me as well.

"I was followed there Saturday night, I'm sure of it," Judy said, breaking my train of thought for the moment.

"I've had a queer feeling for days, you know? Little things frighten me now. I can't go to sleep without looking under every bed and checking the locks on every door. I haven't slept in two days. I've even stopped closing the shower curtain when I bathe for fear of a "Psycho" moment, it's silly, I know."

"Do you feel that way now, here with me," I asked, guiltily trying to force the picture of Judy in the shower out of my head?


"I see, and the other night at the lab with your horny little friend?"

"Yes, coming and going. Someone's stalking me Whitey and I'm scared."

I ignored the fact that the object of my affection was sitting so close beside me, and I resolved to concentrate on comforting a friend, acting out of compassion and not lust. If she were right than whoever was stalking her was probably nearby. A woman's instincts are never to be trifled with. The prey usually senses when the hunter is near, she did, and now I did as well. If I have learned anything in fifty some years on the planet it's that your first impression is usually the clearest. I also subscribe to the notion that a strong offense is an effective defense. It was time to hunt the hunter. We'll give whoever he is a taste of their own medicine. In the mean time I better call Ronnie and tell her, I mean him, that this might be a good time to take Judy on the honeymoon they never had. I'll hunt better with her out of the way anyway. I'm a gorilla fighter by nature, a skill I acquired hunting Viet Cong in Southeast Asia courtesy the USMC.

I glanced down at Judy, sometime during my personal strategy session she had fallen asleep. Oh well, hunting the Shadow could wait another ten or fifteen minutes I guess. I forced myself to relax a little and put my feet up on the coffee table constructed with eight cinder blocks and a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood. Her head slid from my shoulder to my chest and I leaned forward and kissed her hair. Thirty seconds later we were both fast asleep. She was exhausted; I was just living out a fantasy.

The Alexandria Hotel, Room 301, Monday, Feb 23, 2009…8:30am

Two little love birds just a floor below me
First comes love then comes marriage
Then comes, I don't know, death maybe

I'm not a poet, clever little rhymes are for saps…This is too easy…

Sunday, December 16, 2012

(“One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do….”)…Three Dog Night

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Seventeen

UCLA, Saturday, Feb 21, 2009…around midnight

Ernie Namura was feeling pretty lucky tonight, so lucky in fact that he could hardly suppress the shit eating grin that wanted to spread across his face. This might be the end to a long dry spell he hoped. He wasn't exactly Don Juan, but the Prof seemed to be responding to his subtle advances. At least that would be his story, the one that he planned to share around the poker table with his frat brothers, score or no score. Besides, you never know, maybe she really was warm for his form, it could happen. Glancing at his Timex he checked the time again. It was ten minutes later than the last time he'd checked. Dr. Looney, Judy, was officially late. She said that she'd forgotten some notes and had run back home to pick them up. She said she'd be right back, but that was three hours ago. Maybe he'd come on too strong? That was probably an understatement, given the condition of the condition he was in. In any event he decided to give her another half hour before giving up and taking care of his personal business personally.

The horn dog lab tech stepped over to the SEM and removed the samples that Dr. Looney had been evaluating. They didn't look very sexy, just a few blue threads with various contaminants associated with wherever they had come from. You never know what sort of smegma, sap, or spooge that clothing gets dragged over, under, or through in the course of a day. Ernie decided not to take any chances and transferred the glass slide to an airtight container then set it on the lab bench for Judy to collect when she returned, if she returned that is. That's when he remembered that she had taken the test results with her when she left, which meant she was likely in analysis mode by now, which also meant she wouldn't be back anytime soon. Ernie sighed audibly, realizing that he'd been had. Typical he thought, women, can't live with em, can't shoot em!

"Why am I always getting played," he muttered, wondering aloud?

No use wasting time pondering that question, it was as old as the ages and completely unanswerable. Might as well ask why ducks quack, why, because they're ducks stupid! Ernie grabbed a cold slice from the pizza box and fished in his pocket for some change for the vending machine out in the hall. He and Judy had finished the beer hours ago and he needed something to wash down the meat lover's special with extra anchovies. Looked like it was going to be a Mountain Dew night now, given all the time he wasted zooming on Dr. Feel-Good, oh joy! Arriving at the brightly colored soda dispenser he stuffed three quarters into the coin slot and punched the familiar oversized back lit green, yellow, and red button of his beverage of choice, and listened to the aluminum can run down the track to the bottom of the bulky machine, landing with a loud thud.

It was the last sound he ever heard as the business end of a 38 ounce framing hammer connected with the soft fissure that separated his skull into left and right hemispheres. His head imploded like a smashed pumpkin and Ernie Namura was dead before he hit the ground. The death process began quickly, his bowels releasing, his blood cooling and coagulating, no longer running through his veins and arteries, while his eyes stared lifelessly at the baseboard that ran along the wall behind the vending machine.

UCLA murder, postscript by an artist…of sorts:

The lab doors shut softly behind me as I silently exited the building with the threads Dr. Looney had carelessly left behind. The cops were already on the way, called from Ernie's own cell phone, a little stroke of genius that would send them down a few blind alleys. The CSI team wouldn't be far behind, but they would find nothing useful, they never do. Another work of art if you ask me. Satisfying this blood lust requires perfection; it is something that I deliver routinely. Too bad Dr. Looney was a no show; I had something special in mind for her tonight. Pity that one cannot plan for every contingency, the world is rife with random elements. Not to worry though, her time was coming soon. I hope she isn't wasting her last moments with that rube of a private eye, but I suspect she is. Oh well, no accounting for taste. Whitey's time is coming as well.

Never rush, savor every delicious moment. They are an amusing pair though, are they not? I think so. I am curious what they will do with what they know so far, or what they think they know. The threads will only lead them away from the truth that they seek. Ah but Whitey is smarter than he looks; he'll figure that out, but will it be in time? Will I give him time? I haven't decided yet. This is a new experience, the hunter being hunted, I like it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

(So she went down, down to Tangie town. People down there really like to get it on…”)…The Doors

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Sixteen

Carney's, Sunset Blvd. LA, Sunday, Feb 22, 2009…midnight

The joint was packed tonight! There was even a line to get into the small converted rail car 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 the 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 on the menu to choose from but to do so labeled you as 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 joint, heading north on Sunset when I spotted him, Ray Ray Abernathy. The same cop I'd seen with Jai Lai the other day at the Shabu Shabu restaurant. And now here he was again, sitting at a window seat in Carney's. It looked like he was 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 question, you'd know 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. That was a luxury that usually avoided like the plague, cheap bastard that I am, but since I had no time to cruise around looking 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 entered the joint on the opposite end of the car from where Officer Abernathy and his heavyset dinner companion were seated. 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 jogged up the steps at Carney's ass end. The business part of the diner was on the end so there wasn't a line of people to deal with. I side stepped a young couple on their way out and strolled in slowly. Ray Ray had his back to me but his man-date was facing my way. The bearded fella eyeballed me from over a chili dog, his eyes narrowing slightly as he studied me. Nonchalantly I pulled up a chair at the first empty table I came close to and pretended to waive to someone standing in line near the order counter.

The heavyset fella turned and 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 the big guy turned his attention back to his meal and shrugged. A nanosecond later and he'd have seen nose-ring girl flip me off as she collected her bag-o chili-fun she'd and split. I sat down quickly and grabbed a menu from the top of the napkin holder and used it to cover my face while I strained to eavesdrop on Ray-Ray's rant. It was pretty loud in the small boxcar, but I had cop ears that enabled me to filter out enough background noise to pick up a strategic 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 ranting and raving.

"So how'd 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, now 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 in case the big fella made a sudden move for the piece nestled benignly in the shoulder holster under his right arm. The busy room was oblivious to what was unfolding, and even though the decibel level was on the high side, an uncomfortable silence emanated from the table six feet in front of me. Ray Ray's shoulders squared and I knew he sensed the same thing that I did. I cursed myself silently for leaving my Glock 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. The bearded guy slowly reached into lap and retrieved a napkin to wipe his mouth clean. Ray Ray's chair squeaked as he repositioned himself in his seat. He leaned forward onto his elbows and shifted his right foot back, preparing to spring into action if provoked. Abdul, as he called him, set his own napkin down on the table in front of him and leaned back in his chair, relaxing. He stared for a moment at the rude man across the table from him before speaking.

"She was exquisite, was she not?" he asked presently.

"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, this is strictly business here, you got 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 now I've gotta deal with my brothers in blue as well as figure out how to tell our Russian friend that his girlfriend is dead!"

"I am afraid that was unavoidable. The whore would not cooperate, and she was too ignorant to be frightened. She said she knew nothing, and insisted that I was mistaken. She became angry when I pressed her further. She ordered me to leave, threatening to call the authorities. She left me with few alternatives."

"Did you find the flash drive?"

"No I did not, 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.

"What the…?"

Ray Ray spun around in his chair in time to see my backside fast walking toward the exit. I waited until I heard the chairs fly across the room before I broke into a run and sprinted out the back door. I leaped passed the steps and hit the pavement running 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 every Hollywood night during the witching hour. 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'd be dodging the cops and these guys. I walked past The Standard Hotel and then ducked into The Body Shop, one of LA's higher end strip clubs. Better to lay low for an hour or so before returning to my car and beating it on home to think. A couple of beers with a Jameson chaser sounded pretty good right about now. Like I said, I think better with booze. Doesn't everyone?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

(“You’re my blue sky you’re my sunny day. Lord you know it makes me high when you turn me on this way…”)…Allman Brothers Band

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Fifteen

A glimpse back in time…Nanjing, China, 2001

Rainy days are the same the world over, wet. I happen to like them, they inspire me. They compel me to turn inward and embrace the true me. That’s not that way of the masses however, I am aware. Weaklings merely tolerate a rainy day. Everything must be so perfect for them, so, what is the word, oh yes, comfortable (weak). To my mind a chill breeze, some mid-day darkness courtesy a sky full of gray-black and foreboding cumuli nimbus clouds is bliss. To the others those attributes are a recipe for gloom that drains the joy from even the cheeriest of souls. Still, we do share a common thread, the weaklings and I. That is to say that we all enjoy the peace of a warm fire and the comfort that some hot soup or cocoa brings on to either accentuate or compensate for a gloomy day, like today for instance.

The steam from my bowl of soup envelopes my face with warmth and an aroma from Nirvana itself. Through the pleasant mist I watch the rain fall steadily, big fat drops bouncing so hard off the pavement that they seem to race back to the clouds from whence they came. The little café is crowded today with workers eating a morning meal before trudging onto work in the downpour. It is loud with the chatter of people in a hurry but I am oblivious to it all as I watch the steady stream of people exiting the apartment complex across the street. I am waiting as has become my practice of late, for my charge to come out of that building and bounce down the steps on her way to school. She has grown so much since when last I saw her, almost two years ago. Since then her family has moved up in station thanks to their benefactor, an unknown uncle of means. Young Mai Li is beginning to blossom and is on a course toward a more proper future now, one that will eventually suit my needs.

She appears at the top of the steps, walking down with a group of her mates. As they reach the bottom and turn to continue onto school Mai Li stops abruptly. She pauses a moment and tilts her head slightly as if she is listening hard for something? She turns suddenly and looks back across the street in my general direction. Her eyes search the crowd around me, busy eating their meals. She isn’t sure what she is looking for, how does one look for a queer feeling anyway? It doesn’t matter, I could stand and waive to her and she would not notice me. That is my strength, my power, it is why I am what I am and do what I do. I am always unnoticed, unrecognizable. Still, I am pleased to see this strong instinct for survival. It will be a future pleasure I think. I smile and return to my soup as she runs to catch up with her friends as they splash their way to school in the pouring rain…like I said…bliss…

Beverly Arms Apartment Homes, Westwood…Saturday, Feb 21…10pm

I parked my old wreck up the street from Judy’s place for a couple of reasons. Number one, the car was a beat up old wreck and I didn’t want to embarrass her or me. Number two, I figured I had a better chance of her opening the door if I snuck up stealth-like rather than announcing my arrival with a backfire or two from my old jalopy. I was already pushing my luck with a drop in visit, no use tempting fate. I reached the walkway that led to her front door about the same time as Judy did, how’s that for luck, huh?

“Hey, who says prayers aren’t answered,” I said, laying it on a little thick.

“What, oh, Whitey, sorry, you startled me,” Judy replied fumbling with her keys.

“No problem doll, you didn’t take a swing at me.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I should have? Actually I’m glad you’re here.”

“Really,” I said trying not to look too happy.

“Yeah, come on in, I’ve got something to show you,” she said, leading me up the walk to her ground floor apartment.

“Okay,” I replied, grinning like the Cheshire cat in Alice’s wonderland.

I followed Judy into the apartment and quickly surveyed her digs. It was a studio apartment so everything but the bathroom was open to inspection by anyone who walked inside. I was surprised how small it was and amazed how clean it was. Hell, my dinky place at the Alexandria is bigger which makes this place tiny! In fact, if it were any smaller she’d need to be a midget to live here. I know, I know, probably should’ve said “little person,” sorry Wally (my vertically challenged poker buddy…more about him some other time). Be that as it may her flat was squeaky clean, and I mean spotless! I had originally pegged the woman as an absent minded professor and half expected to see a group of roaches playing hearts at her kitchen table. This speaks volumes of the girl because I know that she spends very little time here. Clearly there was a side of Judy Looney that I was completely unaware of? Be still my heart!

“Make yourself at home Whitey, do you want a drink?”

“Okay, um, sure, what do you have?” I asked sitting on the sofa that likely doubled as her bed.

“I’ve got scotch and I’ve got scotch, what’ll it be?”

“Tough choice, I’ll have the scotch,” I replied sarcastically.

“Good choice wise guy, I like a man with a sense of humor,” she said grinning.

“What can I say, when you’ve got it, flaunt it, right,” I said leaning back, lacing my fingers behind my head.

Judy walked over to the sofa-bed, handed me my drink and sat down beside me. She took a quick sip of her scotch then fumbled around in her bag looking for something. Setting her drink down on the table in front of us she buried her hands and arms up to her elbows into a large canvass bag she'd set in her lap.

“Ah, here it is! Okay, before I show you this I need to ask a couple of questions,” she said, removing a thick manila envelope and placing into her lap. She turned to look at me and waited for my reply.

“Alright,” I answered taking another sip.

“Shoot,” I added.

“Can you remember exactly what time it was that you collected these threads?”

“Not exactly, no, but it was after midnight and before 2am, I'm certain of that.”

“Interesting, why do you say that?”

“Because I waited exactly 4 hours after the cops left the crime scene, and, I made it to Casey’s for last call on my way home, how’s that for certainty?”

Really? That’s the best you can do? I thought you gumshoes were always writing stuff down in your little notebooks? Let me guess, if you whip yours out right now all I’m going to find is a short grocery list, a phone number or two, one of which is likely to be mine you dreamer, and some less that tasteful doodles of the fairer sex, am I right?”

“Who’s the detective now? Maybe you missed your calling Judy. Oh, and if I whip “mine” out right now you might be pleasantly surprised!”

“Not likely ace, I know all your dirty little secrets, I’m dating your ex remember?”

“Sour grapes Judy, it's all hearsay anyway. First day in detective school they teach you to never listen to crazy women.”

“Well Rhonda is Ronnie now so there goes the angry female angle. And by the way, the first day in common sense school is never listen to a bragging male, especially when they are on the hunt.”

She got me with that one, causing a pregnant pause that felt as if it may go to go full term. A "bragging male," was I really that obvious? Judy just grinned and took another sip of scotch. Chuckling she put on her reading glasses and stared at the pages in front of her. I braced myself for a second salvo of sarcasm but it didn’t come.

“I’m kidding Whitey, don’t get defensive,” she said with a cheerful smile. I didn’t reply.

“Alright, I guess I can work with that time frame. Question two; did you handle the fibers with your fingers at any time?”

“Give me some credit Dr. Looney, I know how to work a crime scene.”

“I am giving you some credit Whitey, I’m asking and not assuming.”

“Oh, ah okay, in that case, no, I used a pair of tweezers.”

“Were they yours?”

“No, I got em off of the sink in the master bath, why?”

“I guess you missed that day in cop school, you know the one where they teach you about preserving the crime scene, sheesh!”

“Alright, are you asking questions here or just roasting me?”

“I’m just trying to make a theory stick but I need to know all the random elements.”

“Random elements?”

“Yeah, basically I need to allow for errors by CSI, which in your case stands for criminally-sloppy-investigator!”

“Are you gonna keep busting my balls here, cause if you are I’m gonna need more scotch!”

“No, I’m through unless you can think of anything or anyone else that may have come in contact with those fibers? Thank goodness you had enough focus to place them in a baggie to minimize the contamination.”

“THANK YOU, finally a little praise!”

“Don’t let it go to your head Whitey, I haven’t told you the bad news yet.”

“What do you mean?

“You were right; those threads were off a cop’s uniform, an LAPD cop specifically.”

“Outstanding! Any chance you can narrow it down through DNA mumbo jumbo?”

“Actually, I already did that, twice, at a cost that I’ll take to my grave thank you,” she replied leaning back and draining the scotch from her glass.

“Alright, spill it doll face, who’s our worm?” I asked impatiently.

“You are Einstein; those threads came from a uniform worn by you. Congratulations, you caught yourself!” Judy answered with a shit eating grin.

“WHAT? That’s impossible, I haven’t been in uniform in years, there has to be a mistake!” I exclaimed.

“I thought about that, even asked your ex about it. Want to know what Ronnie said?”

“Not particularly.”

“She laughed herself silly and said she was going to have to find another poker game because you were going to the big house,” Judy said, hardly containing her amusement.

“What part of not particularly didn’t you understand?” I asked sarcastically.

“I’m sorry slick; I couldn’t resist rubbing your nose in it. Look, if it’s any consolation I did find one other interesting fact NOT tied to you personally,” she added.

“Ha-ha-ha, don’t tell me, you found Jimmy Hoffa’s DNA as well. Now I’ll have to dodge the LAPD and the Mob, right?”

“Good one Whitey, no, it’s nothing that dramatic. I found trace elements of your sweet little Asian friend, Jai Lai on the threads as well. I would have missed it too except for the fact that I had done some support work for the Coroner on the Rong/Lai murder suicide investigation.”

That surprised me, Jai and I weren’t that close? Lu and I were friends, Jai and I were acquaintances at best, well, to be fair that was from my perspective only. He was always friendly toward me and he was definitely the more gregarious of the two, and, he was a notorious hugger. Could his cooties have rubbed off onto my patrol duds during one of my regular stops at their deli? I ran through our history in my mind, trying to remember when I first started hanging out at their place? I’d been in plain clothes as a detective for more years than I had been in uniform. But if memory served I was still walking a beat when I first started hitting SHO-M-U-LYKE-M for free corned beef on rye twice a week. Whatever the circumstances I had a problem here. It wasn’t going to take Lt. Dingle-berry long to connect the same dots that Judy did. I figured I had about a two day head start to either clear my name of clear out of LA, Whichever it was going to be I needed to get busy. There wasn’t any time to waste being cute with Dr. Looney.

“Thanks for going the extra mile Judy, I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome gumshoe; it’s the least I can do for the guy who introduced me to my intended.”

“Intended, are you talking about you and Rhonda?”

“It’s Ronnie now, and yes, that’s exactly who I’m talking about.”

Intended? Does that mean what I think it means?”

“Yes indeed it does, intended," Judy answered with a wry smile.


"As soon as the State of California gets their priorities straight, no pun intended.”

“Oh brother!”

“We aren't siblings Whitey. But Ronnie and I might consider adopting you. He’s has been talking about getting a pet lately,” teased Judy as she got up off of the sofa.

“Swell,” I replied draining my scotch glass and handing it too her. "He," I don't think I'll ever get used to hearing that, "Ronnie" will always be "Rhonda" to me.

“Thanks for the news and the booze doll,” I said as I got up and walked out of her apartment.

Note to self, when this is all over I need to seriously evaluate my circle of friends. Suddenly hermitage was sounding pretty inviting! Maybe a short stretch in stir wouldn’t be so bad, I could use a vacation.

Through the looking glass…metaphorically speaking…

This is very much like watching mice in a maze. The silly rodents have no idea where they are going, only that they must get there. These two together are interesting if not amusing. Pity that they are not meant to be. I do so love being a fly on their wall so to speak, positively delicious…

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