For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Casey's Pub, Grand Ave., Monday, Feb 23, 2009…6pm
Camouflage is an art form, and I am a master. At times I even amaze myself. Today is one of those rare days where the stars align in the heavens and dark forces are at their zenith. There are no angles to consider or steer around. Smooth and easy, that's the sort of day I am having. Contrary to the way the vast majority of mortals live, life is not linear but circular. How foolish they are, racing to certain death, nesting along the way as if they might take any of their treasures with them. Alas, one starts with nothing and one ends with nothing. That is a universal axiom. There is light and there is the absence of light. There is color and there is the absence of color, black and white, the alpha and the omega. Everything that appears in between is an illusion, vivid, bright, and beautiful, but in essence merely a short lived illusion.
Encountering Dr. Looney on the steps above this establishment was a treat. How apropos, the luck of the Irish if you will at a pub called Casey's, I love it! She accepted my steadying hand after stumbling on her way up the stairway with her mate as they hurriedly exited this place. She even smiled and thanked me. I hope she remembers that when her time comes, that would be so delicious. As for the rest of this lot, well, watching Whitey dance uncomfortably during his encounter with his unexpected visitor was entertaining. I have been observing them in the over sized mirror above the bar. I sat quietly, enjoying a pint of Guinness, when in Rome I always say, and watched them unnoticed. There was no need to eavesdrop; I knew the nature of their business, and frankly did not care, it was of no consequence to me. My resolve remained clear as did their fate. This little encounter was for sport, I came only to tag them as they exited, running into Dr. Looney was unexpected and bit of luck as well, if there is such a thing. This tagging game is a practice that I adopted ages ago from the Plains Indians of North America who referred to it as 'counting coup'. Whitey had remained in the bar much longer than I had expected and I grew weary of his annoying antics. However, patience is a virtue I have adopted as I have the luxury of time. There is always time to do what it is that I do.
I looked away as the two constables walked past me, avoiding eye contact as they made their way out of the bar. My prize would follow shortly. The large Turkish gentleman was next to pass by me, the same man that Whitey mistook for an Arab. He is an interesting sort, someone who may be worth exploring sometime, we'll see. Finally Whitey approached, making his way through the spirits swilling crowd. Timing was everything in this little game of mine and I waited until he was about to pass before swiveling off my barstool and into his path.
"Whoa, excuse me, coming through Mac," Whitey said with a smile as he gently pushed me aside and passed on by. He looked back over his shoulder at me without slowing down. His expression was delightful. It was somewhere between recognition and confusion. I hope he remembers this when his time comes too.
Beverly Arms Apartment Homes, Westwood…Monday, Feb 23, 2009…7:00pm
I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed cop talk at the local boozer. Back in the day we would meet up after shifts at a dive called Nate's over on Pico and Figueroa, close to the Convention Center and not too far from my current flat on Spring St. Of course I didn't live there back then; Rhonda (Judy's Ronnie) and I had a little one bedroom bungalow in the burbs, close enough to walk to UCLA. Me and the boys (it was pretty much a boys club in those days) used to deal with whatever had rattled us during the day, self medicating with booze and bravado. We'd decompress, compare busts and grouse about dickhead supervisors, crooked politicos, and broads. You know; guy stuff. Hahaha…one of many reasons I still live alone in the bowels of Los Angeles. But I digress.
This afternoon's meet and greet turned out to be a stroll down memory lane. Reminiscing with Iggie, Detective First Grade Bob Ingram, reminded me of what I wasn't missing since leaving the force. However, meeting his rookie gold shield, Becca, was a pleasant bonus. She appeared to be as smart as she was attractive. I made a mental note of that in case I ever got over Judy Looney. I watched her watch us while we traded stories and noticed how she kept a wary and subtle eye on Hassan whenever she thought he wasn't looking her way. That was a rookie mistake as he knew exactly what she was doing and I knew that he knew. I hope she doesn't make his 'to do' list, that would be a crying shame!
The highlight though was watching Hassan listen to Iggie go on and on about their investigation right in front of the very guy they were looking for, classic! To be fair I should mention that he did at least ask who Hassan was, even if he did accept Hassan's explanation about us being old friends and how he was on the job as well from out of State. Poor Iggie didn't have a clue. He didn't even ask where it was that Hassan was on the job for Christ's sake, what a maroon. The party broke up when I told Iggie I had reached my tab paying limit. He gulped down his Budweiser then reached over and finished Becca's as well. Sure it was rude, but in his defense she was just sipping at it anyway. Gentleman that he apparently was, Hassan stood as soon as Becca got up to follow Iggie out, shaming me into awkwardly doing likewise. She seemed surprised and pleased at the same time. That was another mental note for yours truly. Chalk one up for Miss Manners I guess. After the coppers had cleared the area Hassan and I traded head nods and went our separate ways as well. Strange, even as I watched him disappear into the crowd I felt like I was being watched. The old eyes in the back of the head trick, again, classic!
It took longer than usual to beat it over to Judy's place because of all the 'expletive-expletive' Monday traffic. I should have sprung for one more round and avoided this mess. So, a twenty minute trip turned into an hour. I saw Ronnie's car parked out front at the curb and mentally prepped myself for a nickel lecture. My ex was gonna be wicked pissed when I walked in. It was one thing me having a schoolboy crush on her significant other; it was a whole other thing me risking her life in support of one of my so called cases as she snidely referred to them, totally disrespecting how I made my living. I knocked on the door with medium gusto and waited for the hammer to fall, it didn't take long.
"What the hell were you thinking Whitey!" Ronnie screamed as she opened the front door.
"Rhonda, calm down, I can explain everything," I stammered as I looked over her shoulder for Judy.
"RONNIE! It's RONNIE now knucklehead!"
"Sorry, you're right, you're right, you're absolutely right, I don't know why I keep messing that up," I apologized, still scanning the room for Judy.
"Jesus Whitey, you're a piece of work," Judy said, coming to my rescue.
"Let him in sweetie, he and I need to talk things over," she continued gently pushing Ronnie aside and opening the door for me to enter.
"Thanks doll," I muttered as I passed by the both of them and walked on into the apartment and took a seat in one of the Lazy-boy recliners near the fireplace. Judy sat in the chair opposite me and Ronnie perched herself on the arm of the chair (poor chair).
"So who was the gorilla you were talking to at the bar? And where have you been anyway? We've been waiting here for you for an hour!" asked Judy in rapid succession.
"He was boozing with his mates honey, it's an old story, isn't it Whitey?" Ronnie asked sarcastically.
"Spare me Rhonda," I quipped, enjoying her annoyance with my intentional name game. I grinned when Judy stifled her response by raising her hand.
"Just ignore him sweetie," she said letting her hand rest on Ronnie's.
"Look, that big fella with the Egyptian tan is probably the one who's been tailing you lately. Oh yeah, he's probably the guy who crushed the lab rat that was crushing on you the other night," I explained.
"How do you know that," Ronnie asked while Judy sat and pondered the data.
"Because I'm good at what I do Ronnie, that's why!"
"Really? You really think it was him?" asked Judy meekly.
"I'm afraid so doll, he's the real deal."
"Fine, let's just call the cops and be done with him then," blurted Ronnie quickly.
I rolled my eyes at my ex and stifled a snappy come back to her blathering remark. There wasn't time to go over every detail with Judy right now, especially with Ronnie in the room. I decided to cut to the chase and see if we couldn't sound this out together. My instincts were screaming that there was little time before Celaya cold-cased Sally's murder. Once a case chills it takes an act of God to resurrect it from the slush pile.
"The thread test, what did you call it, a SEM? What exactly were the results? Who else's DNA did you find on those blue threads besides mine?"
"Her Uncle," she answered.
"Honey, Jai was not her Uncle, I told you that," I said correcting her.
"I know he wasn't. The DNA belongs to Lu," she replied.
"The DNA is Lu's, no doubt about it," Judy replied.
My head was beginning to pound like it always does when I am frustrated. I leaned back in the recliner and I tried to think. Unfortunately since I drank my lunch all I could think about right now was food. My stomach growled to reprimand me. Maybe I could think of something to get Ronnie to 'am-scra' (I just love pig Latin)? Then I caught her stare and felt tiny daggers pepper my face. Nope, probably not, so ignoring my stomach I went back to brainstorming with Judy.
"I don't get it? Lu wasn't at the murder scene? He didn't even know Mei Lai was in town? And he didn't know me as a patrol officer so I'm pretty sure that he ever saw me in uniform either?"
"Cool your jets Whitey. Lu's DNA isn't important as far as I know. There's something else. What do you know about nano technology," she asked?"
"Absolutely nothing, is it a Pokémon game or something," I replied rubbing my eye?
"No, but actually, I'm slightly impressed that you even know what Pokémon is," she replied.
"Yeah, so what about this nano nano stuff?"
"There was something I missed the first time I examined those threads."
"What? Someone else's DNA?"
"It was something much larger than molecules, something I mistook for debris."
"Okay, what then," I asked, studying Judy's expression of acute fascination.
"I mean, finding something like this is like picking fly poop out of pepper!"
"Judy! What the hell?"
"Sorry, I still can't believe I overlooked it. So, what I found was a super-super tiny microprocessor, about 20 times smaller than the head of a pin."
"You mean like a computer chip?"
"Sort of, actually it's a memory chip with God knows what recorded on it."
BINGO! Finally she strummed a chord I could hear. I literally heard the wheels turning in my brain. The implications were obvious as were the consequences if I followed them to their inevitable end. The answers would likely prove damaging to the wrong people and fatal to yours truly and Judy Looney. Theories started forming in my head as my brain processed all the bits of data that I'd crammed into it over the past week. The theories began to set like freshly poured cement and my instincts were coiled like a spring ready to bust loose. Thank God common sense intervened. All of this had to be thought through carefully. The stakes were too high, literally life or death. Suddenly I remembered that Judy and Ronnie were waiting for a response.
"Really? I think I know exactly what is on that chip. And if I'm right we have a problem, a really big problem," I said thoughtfully. Judy stared at me suddenly frightened. Ronnie sprang to her feet and stood over me.
"What did you do Whitey?" she demanded.
"I did my job Ronnie, that's all. But you remember what usually happens to curious cats don't you?" She sat back down, uncharacteristically silent at last.