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Thursday, March 14, 2013

("Understand what I've become, it wasn't my design. And people everywhere think I am something better than I am. But I miss you…") Cranberries

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Twenty-eight

McCarran Airport…Las Vegas...Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…3:30pm

If it hadn't have been for the fact that Rebecca Tran was seated between us I do believe that I would have grabbed Iggie by his Windsor knot and dragged him (still yammering no doubt) into the head and flushed him down the john and out into the sweet silence of 39,000 feet! The old fossil had whined and complained the entire trip and I could see by a few of Becca's facial expressions that she was as tired of all his noise as I was. We covered the 231 air miles between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 48 minutes versus the quoted 55 thanks to a merciful tail wind, further proof that God isn't always out to mess with my life! I'll have to thank Him for that when and if I make to Heaven and it's my turn in the hot seat so to speak. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on poor Iggie? "What comes around goes around" was a favorite saying of the penguins in grammar school back at Our Lady of Grace.

"Turn your cell phone back on Whitey and give Wally a call while we wait for the crowd to thin," Iggie said, leaning back in his seat for the first time since we boarded the packed Southwest flight.

"Check," I replied, digging into my jacket pocket for my cheap Samsung. Becca excused herself after accidently nudging me while she stretched in the cramped space of the packed Boeing 737-NG. I smiled at her and gave her a wink that I hoped conveyed not to worry, it was my pleasure. She blushed and picked up the first distraction she could find, the airplane's emergency pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of her. Hmmm, interesting, maybe there was a coffee date in our future, providing I survived all this of course. I had to fish a little deeper in my pocket to retrieve the little spiral note pad with Wally's new number. As soon as I found the right page I punched in the nine digits including the area code and waited for an answer. Wally picked up on the second ring, jackpot!

"Price!" he barked, answering the phone. He sounded pre-occupied?

"Hey Wally, it's Whitey, I'm in town. Listen, have you met Judy yet?" I asked.

"Yeah I did. You're early? I wasn't expecting you until later."

"Change of plans, I flew instead and I'm not alone," I answered. Rebecca scolded me for offering too much information with a tight lipped huff. Iggie did likewise, but I didn't care.

"What? I thought we were a team here," I said covering the phone with my hand.

"Less is more Whitey, just tell him we're on our way to the precinct," Iggie said, sliding his finger along his throat, subtlety telling me to cut the conversation short.

"Ah, listen Wally; we need to deplane, so I'll fill you in at the station house. We'll be there in forty-five or so.

"Negative! Change of plans here too buddy, meet me at the Union Plaza Hotel, room 3023, I'll fill you in. By the way, it's a crime scene so make sure whatever cop you're with flashes a badge. It's not Iggie is it?"

"Yeah, you pegged it, I'm with detective numb-nuts and his partner. What do you mean it's a crime scene? Is Judy alright? What about Ronnie? Did she tell you about the chip?" I replied, rambling as my mind started conjuring all sorts of unpleasant scenarios.

"Can't talk now Whitey just get your ass over there as soon as you can. It'll take about an hour from McCarran, especially at this time of day with everybody driving home. Call me when you get here and I'll grease the skids for you guys."

Wally flipped his phone shut before I could protest and I did likewise. I felt Iggie and Becca's eyes on me waiting for an explanation. I thought about holding back but my gut said that I was going to need these two, and keeping facts from your team was a recipe for disaster. I turned to face them with a stupid grin on my face.

"Apparently we're skipping the station house and going downtown to the Union Plaza instead," I started.

"Why? This better not be a gag Whitey, Celaya will barbeque all of us if you and Wally are thinking about holding out on us," Iggie said wagging a boney finger in my general direction.

I don't take kindly to that sort of treatment, and Iggie knows better so I reminded him by bending said finger back to the first knuckle. He screeched inspiring Rebecca to come to his rescue. He's always been a drama queen!

"Are you two kids through? Honestly you're supposed to be setting an example for me. The only thing I'm learning from you guys is that senility is dangerous!" she scolded as she separated us.

"Sorry, he brings out the devil in me," I replied with a wicked little grin.

"Whatever!" Becca said as she stood, pushing past me and out into the aisle.

Oh well, so much for that future coffee date. I got up and followed after her with Iggie hot on my six. I'd make nice in the rental car on the way downtown. Secretly I was pretty worried about the two girls or at least the girl and a half. Whatever was up it was serious; Wally never called me buddy before, preferring shit-for-brains instead. Why was he being uncharacteristically kind?

"Hey Roode, whip out your plastic, the rental's on you, Oscar's orders," Iggie said as the escalator let us off at baggage claim. He was flashing one of those punk ass grins that a child does when they're tattling to mommy or daddy, what a prick!

"Natch," I replied pulling out my billfold and walking up to the Hertz counter.

"You have anything with a sidecar," I asked half-jokingly pointing in Iggie's direction. The young lady behind the counter stared back at me with a blank expression, the poor kid had no idea what I was talking about and I let her off the hook with a smile, handing her my Visa and driver's license. What the hell was happening at the Union Plaza anyway?

Hollenbeck Station…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…3:00pm

Oscar Celaya looked at the clock above his office door, and checked his wristwatch subconsciously synchronizing the two timepieces. Whitey and the dynamic duo should be half way to the LVMP station house by now. He decided to give them until five o'clock to call in with an update. If they knew what was good for them it would be a short conversation consisting of the return flight number and confirmation that Dr. Judith Looney was in protective custody and on her way back to answer a shitload of questions. At flank speed the lot of them should be back in LA before the 11 o'clock news. That was an hour past his bedtime but Oscar was pretty sure it would be worth the inconvenience. He opened the center desk drawer and retrieved a small set of keys. Grunting he got up with the extra effort his age and weight required and walked over to a block of five drawer filing cabinets.

He unlocked the one labeled MAC, opened it and fished out a half empty bottle of McCallan's single malt scotch and a dirty tumbler stolen from the old Ambassador Hotel, circa 1968, the year RFK was assassinated. He had been a patrolman downtown back then and was moonlighting working security for the hotel that night. You could say that it had happened on his watch but you'd be wrong. Oscar was working the crowd in the ballroom and wasn't in the kitchen where the shooting occurred. Still, to this day he felt a twinge of responsibility. He often wondered what the world would have been like had someone saved the day and Bob Kennedy had gone on to become President? It was an interesting thought that he had whenever he felt melancholy enough to tap into the MAC drawer.

Oscar sat back down to pour himself two fingers when the phone on his desk rang, interrupting his moment of reflection. He recapped the bottle and took a slow sip before answering, whoever it was could wait five or six rings. Setting the heavy tumbler down onto a manila folder he picked up the receiver.

"LAPD, Lieutenant Celaya here," he said into the handset.

"Oscar, its Ralph Pederson over at the Mayor's office, are you busy," asked the voice on the other end of the line?

"Little busy here Ralphie, can this wait until tomorrow, I'm expecting a package soon if you get my drift," Oscar replied stirring his drink with his finger.

"Actually it can't lieutenant, hold for His Honor," Ralph said in a tone that Oscar had heard before, whenever the little shit was brown-nosing his boss. Ralph Pederson was the Mayor's Press Secretary and chief minion. Lord knows this Mayor liked a close relationship with the Press. Before Oscar could hang up and claim faulty equipment Mayor Popular came on the line.

"Oscar, good to hear your voice," he said without even hearing it.

"Listen, huge favor my man, a little bird told me that you may have a line on this murder at UCLA. I'm very interested in hearing what you have on that," His Honor added. It didn't sound like a request; it sounded more like an order. Oscar didn't like taking orders from people he didn't respect; that was why he hadn't made a career of the Army.

"Well, you see Mr. Mayor I'm not sure what we have just yet. I'll know more after we have a chance to question a key witness. Said witness is currently in route from out of State and won't be in until late. Why don't I call you back first thing tomorrow morning after we find out what's what," he answered, not exactly lying but not exactly telling the truth either.

"I see, well, make sure that you call my office first thing Oscar, and I mean first thing! There may be ramifications concerning this murder which I am not at liberty to discuss," replied the Mayor, clearly miffed at what he correctly suspected to be a stall tactic.

"Of course, you have my word Mr. Mayor, will there be anything else sir?" Oscar answered nonchalantly giving his drink another stir.

"FIRST THING IN THE MORNING LIEUTENANT, ARE WE CLEAR?" the Mayor snapped with more than just a little venom in his voice.

"CRYSTAL," Oscar replied with a fair amount of venom of his own. He hung up and reached for the scotch. Oh well, guess nobody likes being dissed, he thought. Oscar picked up the tumble clinked the bottle of McCallan's and toasted the room, ain't life a bitch!

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