For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Hollenbeck Station…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…7:00pm
This wasn't at all what Oscar had expected to find on the whozie-whats-it, the what-do-ya-call-it, the flash drive, yeah that's it, the flash drive! It was the electronic thing that Rebecca Tran found on the UCLA campus where Ernie Namura bought the farm, the unlucky lab rat chasing after Dr. Judy Looney. That was a definite case of wrong place, wrong time. Looks like the gadget wasn't the load of crapola Oscar expected it to be, not by a long shot. What was stored on that insignificant looking piece of plastic was dangerous!
All Oscar had expected to find on that thing was the dead geek's homework and his list of 'sure things,' nothing really useful. However, spread out on the desk in front of him was a pretty impressive list of names, dates, times, and what were probably coded deeds. Oscar knew instantly what he was looking at. This was an accounting record, a book of receipts, a Pearl Harbor file if you will, compiled by someone either very cautious or very clever, an opportunist. Oscar suspected the latter and immediately thought of the investigation into the murder of an Asian call girl in Little Tokyo, the same investigation that Whitey Roode was sticking his big nose into. Apparently the numbskull wasn't on a snipe hunt after all. If Whitey knows what's on the flash drive then he knows Judy Looney is in BIG TROUBLE!
Oscar sighed heavily and leaned back, setting off a fanfare of creaking joints in both his old leather chair and his even older leather body. He suddenly realized that he played right into Whitey's hand by sending him with Iggie and Becca to fetch Dr. Looney in Vegas. Whoever killed the hooker in Little Tokyo also murdered the kid at UCLA, he knew that now. He'd sent his rag tag crew right into harms way, and all on the tax payer's nickel. Oscar was pissed at himself, he was smarter than this. Not exactly the "A" Team, they were more like "F Troop." Actually to be fair, at least for the moment, Oscar left Rebecca Tran off of that team's roster. He had a good feeling about her, she had real potential. The young lady was a lot smarter then her dumbass partner and that washout PI. He'd been in the law enforcement business a long time and he fancied himself a better than average judge of character, he could say without fear of contradiction that he'd heard it all and seen it all. If Rebecca Tran survived her current association with those two numbskulls Roode & Ingram, she was going places. Partnering her with Iggie was a mistake and Oscar would right that wrong as soon as she got back to LA.
Oscar picked up the pages and studied the data closely. He recognized several of the names on the list right away and frankly wasn't surprised to find them there. After few moments he stopped reading, convinced this document was legit. It was likely an accounting of services rendered by the Little Tokyo murder victim, Sally November. The question was why was it worth killing for? Leaking this list would be embarrassing for sure, but sex for sale was more immoral than illegal. How many times have powerful men been caught with their pants down and still remained powerful? A lot, that's how many, from corporate giants, to clergy, to leaders of State. Oscar could think of at least two American Presidents. No, there was something more to this particular list and these particular codes. The answer would be with whomever Sally November was working for or more the point, double crossing. What made this list worth killing for? It didn't make any sense to Oscar, unless? Wait a sec, that's it, the flash drive was bait, only the wrong fish bit. Interesting, why did Judy Looney run, why so abruptly, and why in the dead of night right after Ernie Namura was left face down in a puddle of his own blood? What was the link between her and that jack-hole Whitey Roode? What were they up to?
All of a sudden Lt. Celaya regretted sending the aforementioned nincompoops to Las Vegas all on their own. Oscar replaced the papers into the manila folder and pushed it away from him. He slapped his desktop with both palms, hard enough to draw a few sideways glances from the squad room on the other side of his office window. He ignored the curious looks and picked up the handset from the desk phone cradle. He punched the Vegas area code as he flipped through his rolodex for the rest of Wally Price's phone number. Wally's phone rang five times on the other end of the line before auto transferring to the desk sergeant.
"LVMPD, Sgt. Hernandez," the officer answered.
"Yeah, listen this Lieutenant Oscar Celaya, LAPD, I'm trying to reach Detective Sergeant Wally Price please. Can you locate him for me or give me his cell phone number?" Oscar asked in a nicer tone than his current mood dictated.
"Sergeant Price is indisposed sir. Would you like to leave a message or your call back number?" That was the wrong answer.
"INDISPOSED!" hollered Lt. Celaya.
"You're goddamn right I want to leave a message. You tell Price to call me ASAP, he has the fucking number! And sergeant, if I don't her from that shit heel in five minutes or less it'll be YOUR ASS! If you value those stripes on your sleeve Hernandez don't waste time replying and find the man, you got it!" bellowed the frustrated police lieutenant from Los Angeles.
Oscar gently hung up the phone, setting the handset back in the cradle as if he were defusing a bomb. Leaning back in his chair he clasped his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling, mentally decompressing while he waited for Wally Price to call back. Blowing off steam like that was his methodology to ward off heart attacks. He learned early in his career that stress was the silent killer of cops. The guys that held everything inside sooner or later either stroked out naturally or ate their gun unnaturally. He closed his eyes and went to his happy place with his bossy young wife. He'd waited a long time for happiness to come into his rough and tumble life and a fiery ginger fifteen years his junior. Olivia Celaya was a widow with three kids when they met five years ago. It was the second marriage for both of them.
She and the children changed his life and made him whole. They brought out a sense of decency that the job had robbed him of long ago. They made him feel human again, and for the first time in his life he could honestly say that he was happy. Olivia was his rock, a hard shell with a soft center. She could be bitchy but you never doubted her love, it was deep and it was forever. Oscar was a lucky man and he knew it. Truth be told so was she. The phone rang loudly, snapping Oscar out of his daydream. He opened his eyes slowly and checked his wrist watch; it had been five minutes exactly since he spoke with the desk sergeant in Las Vegas. Leaning forward he slapped the phone handset and it flew up and into his outstretched hand.
"Price?" he asked.
"In the flesh Lieutenant, what can I do ya for?" replied Wally Price sarcastically.
"Cut the crap for starters and let me talk to Roode, I know he's there listening."
"Actually he's not LT. We had some trouble on this end."
"Where is he?"
"He's with Dr. Looney and Detective Ingram."
"Where's Detective Tran?"
"Right here," Wally said, handing Becca the phone.
"It's for you," he said. Becca took the telephone from him, "Hello?"
"Hello Rebecca. Very slowly and leaving nothing out, not one detail, tell me what the hell is going on out there," Oscar said gently but sternly, like he was talking to his fourteen year-old step daughter, Katrina. Becca swallowed hard and began recanting the afternoon's events, beginning with the grizzly murder of Whitey's ex-wife.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," whispered Oscar to the walls of his office.