For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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…