For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
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.
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?