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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

("But it's alright why don't you tell me again. How you'll still be there when the heartache ends…")…Rob Thomas

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Thirty-three

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…9:45pm

The alarms screaming through the halls didn't bother me half as much as the constant crackling of squelched chatter emanating from all the two-way radios everyone was yammering into. A concert of voices relating facts, near facts, and changing facts was confusing the crap out of me as I eavesdropped on every transmission within earshot of where I was standing. My head whipped back and forth as if I was watching a tennis match, and I was getting a headache. Something very bad must have happened because the building was being locked down. That usually meant a manhunt was underway and judging by the commotion whoever they were looking for was probably armed and dangerous.

I gleaned from the chatter around me that there had been a shooting in the stationhouse, and that an Officer was down. Pretty gutsy move by the shooter given the firepower around here! I wanted to go to the Interrogation Room and make sure that Judy was alright but we weren't going anywhere for the moment. Wally was up ahead talking with a uniformed Officer, they were shouting over the noise. Wally nodded, patted the uniform on the shoulder and turned to make his way back to me and Iggie.

"Okay, here's the thing. Somebody popped a cop downstairs in the evidence room. It was professionally done, neat and quiet, no muss no fuss. You can't get to that level much less into that room without a badge," Wally explained, his eyes darting rapidly around the room like super balls in a concrete bunker.

He gave everyone the once over which meant we were dealing with a wolf in sheep's clothing. That worried me more than a little bit and now I was determined to check up one Judy and Becca right freaking now! If the shooter was disguised as a cop he or she could e anywhere in the building. It also meant that Iggie and I couldn't run around as if we owned the place either there were just too many nervous trigger fingers around. One wrong move could prove fatal.

"Look Wally, we gotta get back upstairs to where Judy is. I don't know about you but I'm thinking whoever plugged the Arab back at Cesar's is here to do likewise to Judy, and probably me too," I said, hoping he'd see things my way.

"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing Roode, we're in a helluva a jam ain't we," he replied, rubbing his chin as he mentally chewed on next moves.

"Ya think! Come on, let's get the flock outta here!" I replied urgently, getting more agitated with every passing second.

"What do you know about the shooter?" Iggie asked attempting to relieve the tension.

"Well, well, well, look who's suddenly cop of the walk," Wally said turning his attention toward Iggie.

"That's a good question Detective Ingram. Actually we do know a couple of things. Number one is he is male and in an LVPD uniform. Number two is he's short, really short almost too short to qualify to wear the uniform. Number three, he's Asian, we have glimpses of him from several surveillance cameras. No full on face shots, he's too smart for that, but we captured enough features to peg him as Asian," Wally said filling us in.

"So that narrows the field, which way did he go?" I asked impatiently.

"Don't know, we lost him in the evidence room," Wally answered shrugging.

"Lost him, how can that happen there are cameras everywhere around here, did they malfunction or something? Who's minding the board in operations?"

"Look Whitey, I don't know, he just vanished into thin air!"

The three of us stared at one another for several seconds. We were in the early stages of a simultaneous epiphany as each of us flashed back to the same long ago memory. Slowly the three of us looked up at the ceiling and whispered a unanimous theory.


"Has to be, how many of those little rat bastards did we smoke outta their jungle holes," blurted Iggie.

"Too goddamn many," replied Wally bitterly, shushing us with his chubby index finger pressed tightly to his lips.

He motioned for us to follow him and led us into an empty room across the hall, closing and locking the door behind us. Wally looked up at the ceiling and then took a knee like a football coach at practice. Following his lead we knelt and huddled up with him. The scene churned up memories of an era I'd buried long ago in the darkest recesses of my mind. I didn't like those memories or the ghosts that came with them. Judging by the look on Iggie's face neither did he.

"Alright, here's the situation. The evidence room is on the ground floor so if we do have a rat in the vent system he has no place to go but up if Judy Looney was also a target. The Interrogation room was on the third floor and we were in between on the second. He had a head star and it'll be clear sailing if the rat was already past us. None of us could climb into the vent to chase after the rodent. We were all too fat and too goddamn old. We needed a volunteer, a tiny, extremely petite, pistol packing volunteer. Any suggestions?" asked Wally.

We said it together, "BECCA…"

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…10:15pm

Slithering around like a 120 pound snake was child's play. My Father had taught me these skills as a boy. He'd send me on errands from camp to camp up and down the Ashau Valley delivering messages to our glorious soldiers fighting the invaders of our homeland. My father was a Colonel in the People's Army, a very important man, and he had been promised many things once the country was rid of the American devils and was united again. My father had been a fool to believe those bloated and pompous government lackeys. Each and every one of promise broken by Communist Leaders drunk with power after Saigon fell in April of 1975. I was ten years old when my family was forced to flee like cowards. I hated my father for making us run and exiling mother and I to a land where we would never fit in. With every taunt, with beating that I suffered at every school I attended and every neighborhood I lived in, my hatred of him increased. Until one day in the quiet south London suburb of Bromley when it was my pleasure to put a pillow over his face and suffocate him as he lay dying on his sick bed.

The trick to stealth is in how one moves one's body. It isn't necessary to crawl like a toddler, clumsily propelling yourself forward on hands and knees. No, trick was must make yourself small, like a snake transferring all of your strength and power to your fingertips, hands, and arms. Once you master that concept it is merely a matter of doing a flattened push up, only instead of pushing one's body up, one pulls one's body forward slowly but surely. It's a tedious process I grant you, and requires uncommon patience, but the results are proven and effective. The juncture leading to the second floor was just ahead. When I reached it I would roll myself onto my back and rest a minute then drag my body into the up shaft and continue onto the third floor where, by my calculations, the interrogation room housing Dr. Looney was located. Once I repeated this floor to floor maneuver at the next juncture it would be just a short distance to reach Dr. Looney, about 100 meters, one left turn and then 20 meters more. The fools below were making it too easy for me with all the commotion they were generating. With all of that noise below I could literally whistle while I worked and not risk drawing any attention to myself. I would reach her soon and just as soon she will be dead.

Pity that I will not have time to toy with her, but under the circumstances a quick silencing will suffice. Just as well, I was ready for this game to end and be on my way home to Nah Trang. Those Russian gangsters that Mei Li had involved in our arrangement had spoiled everything with their reactionary tactics. Bollocks! What can one expect from peasants such as those? I had personally taken years to groom my beautiful protégé for this life. We could have been royalty living in the midst of an endless supply of Yankee dollars courtesy an aging clientele obsessed with holding on to their youth by defiling the young talent that we brokered for them. So much perversion in the world, I will think of a new game focusing on that element while on hiatus back home. Perverts!

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…10:30pm

I was relieved when Rebecca answered her cell phone on the first ring. A small part of me had prepared for another gory scene ala room 3023 at the Union Plaza earlier. Becca listened to us carefully as we explained what we thought was happening, and what we wanted her to do. The tricky thing about asking for volunteers is that they can always say no. Rebecca Tran was a brand new shield but from what I had seen so far she was no coward. She'd given her word to the people and wore the badge on her belt like a wedding ring on her finger. She was a big girl and knew the risks and accepted them, all of them.

She understood there are no guarantees in this line of work and that life itself doesn't offer any either, save for one. If you are born then you will die. Rebecca Tran took an oath, she made a promise and she intended to keep it too. One way or the other, sooner or later, her oath was more than a bunch words to recite. A promise is a promise. Loyalty is a rare quality these days, especially in the jaded, all or nothing, instant gratification society that we live in. Most girls her age believe that if the going gets tough, smart girls get the flock out! Becca wasn't like that; I admired the kid for that. I sorta envy her future husband, lucky fella.

"Okay, I think I understand what you want me to do, but how will I know which way to go," she asked.

"You ain't going anywhere doll. You just stretch out in the shaft and wait. I've got a building schematic right in front of me and I know what direction the perp is coming from," Wally explained. He paused expecting a flurry of questions but after 30 frustrating seconds of silence decided that he'd confused the girl and changed tactics to a more fatherly approach.

"Look kid, there's only one way to get to you from where he started, and if you hurry you can put yourself in his way before he gets to Dr. Looney, understand?"

Rebecca answered quickly, "Yeah, what do I do first?"

"Strip down to your skivvies and dowse yourself with something slick, some hand lotion or oil, whatever you got in your purse," explained Wally.

"Skivvies, I'm not following? As for what in my purse, I don't carry one, just an oversized wallet," Becca replied.

"You're making me feel old Rebecca. I mean strip down to your underwear dear, skivvies is Navy talk for underwear. I can't believe you didn't know that?" whined Wally.

"Not everyone was in the Navy detective," answered Becca defensively.

"Whatever, look, ask Dr. Looney what she's got in her purse."

Judy Looney interjected abruptly having been listening in all this time, "All I have is some Oil of Olay, will that do?"

"It will if there's enough of it. Get her undressed Doc and rub her down good," Wally instructed.

"Uhhh, okay, but..." stammered Becca uncomfortably.

"Don't talk Becca; just listen while Judy gets you all nice and shiny."


"What part of DON'T talk didn't you understand? Look, once you get up into the air shaft I want you to make yourself as small as possible, as flat as a sheet of paper. The lubrication will keep you from making any noise as you slide into position. When you're all set put a round in the chamber and make sure your weapon is cocked and ready to fire. Be as still as you can, take long, slow breaths and make NO SOUND. Listen carefully for any movement in front of your. Whoever's in that shaft is on the way but is not expecting to find you up there waiting, I doubt the perp thinks we're that clever. Alright then, are you ready?" There was another long pregnant pause.

"You can answer the question, Simon says speak," Wally said with little a chuckle. In tense situations a sense of humor tends to foster courageous behavior.

"Yeah I'm ready, but I'm feeling pretty exposed here," she replied giggling.

"Alright kid, couple more things, oh, by the way, if there happens to be an inquiry afterwards, we never had this conversation, you got it?

"I do."

"Alright remember, the closer the shooter is the better, darkness is your friend in this case. You probably won't hear anything but you will feel something. It'll be like fishing in a stream except you won't see a line jerk, but you will feel the shaft move beneath you. The depressions will get stronger the closer your target gets. When you've waited as long as you can possibly stand it I want you to empty your weapon, all 10 rounds. He'll be as flat as you are so aim low. That's about it. God's speed Detective Tran, call me when the dickhead is dead," Wally said snapping his cell phone shut.

"Now we wait," he said to me and Iggie.

"Like hell we do, let's beat it on over there and make ourselves useful," I said moving toward the locked door. Wally blocked my path, throwing up both of his beefy hands.

"Okay, hold on, wait just a second. We don't want to spook this guy. We have a real chance of ending this right here, right now. All we need is patience. The trap has been set, the cheese is in place. As soon as the rat shows up it'll get a face full of lead from young Detective Tran. Come on man, you know I'm right."

"SHIT," I hissed as I capitulated and grabbed a seat beside Iggie on the floor.

"That's better, it'll all be over in a couple of minutes," Wally said, holding his cell phone at the ready waiting for Becca's alls clear call.

LVMPD…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…11:00pm

Rebecca lay on her stomach in a prone ready position, legs spread, the heels of her bare feet pressed firmly against the sides of the narrow shaft. Her arms were fully extended in front of her as she aimed her 9mm at the darkness. Her small breasts flattened out against the cool metal beneath her reminding her it was time for her annual mammogram. Her weapon was cocked and ready to fire, she was good to go. Becca was too focused to be scared, her eyes adjusted to the absence of light but she still couldn't see a thing. She felt a cramp in her abdomen and she worried about her stomach growling or worse. Her eyes were tearing from straining of to see in the dark. She thought what if this guy has on a pair of infrared goggles? If he did then she was dead meat.

She could feel her cell phone tucked into the back of her panties and suddenly couldn't remember if she had turned it off or not? Oh man, what if her Mom called to say goodnight or something. It was too late to worry about that. Becca gripped her weapon tighter, wait a second; did she hear something, maybe? She opened her mouth slightly and took short shallow breaths. Her aching eyes were tearing badly and getting in her way. She closed them tightly in order to heighten her other five senses. She couldn't remember where she'd read about that but it made perfect sense right now. She concentrated on listening but heard no sound. Suddenly silent alarms went off in her brain. There was still no sound, but she felt a slight tremor beneath her as if the building was moving. Her head ached as her brain processed dozens of possibilities and then in an instant she realized the obvious, Detective Price had warned her. The ventilation shaft was responding to the presence of a greater weight, signaling that the intruder was near! Rebecca Tran counted to five and then emptied her gun.


Her ears rang from the explosive reverb bouncing off of the walls of the small space and the spent shell casings burned her flesh as they rolled around the shaft. She screamed and scooted backward quickly trying to escape the noise and the acrid smell of cordite, breaking a pinkie toe in the process. She stifled a cry, biting the heel of her hand to transfer the pain. Suddenly a bloody hand reached out and grabbed her by her hair. The grip was much too strong for a dead man and she recoiled in an adrenalin rush. Becca retreated quickly back to the hole in the ceiling, dragging whoever had a fist full of her hair along for the ride. A nanosecond later two strong hands grabbed her by the ankles and pulled her the rest of the way.

Wally Price yanked Rebecca Tran out of the air shaft and handed her down to me and Iggie below. Judy immediately took charge of our scared and shaking heroine, wrapping an old wool blanket around her and leading to a chair in the corner of the room.

"Hello! Look what we got here," Wally shouted.

Detective Price jumped down from the table he was standing on, pulling a bloody corpse from the shaft above like after birth, letting the body drop to the table in a heap. Iggie and I walked over to take a look as Wally turned the stiff onto its back, careful not to disturb the scene too much.

"Holy Crap," I gasped when I saw the face. I recognized him instantly! It was Jai Lai, a dead man for the second time. What in the hell was going on I wondered? Wally saw my expression. "You know him?" he asked.

"Yeah, I went to his funeral actually," I answered bewildered.

"Nice trick, I wonder how Houdini here managed that," Wally said nonchalantly, completely nonplussed by the gore in front of him. I looked over at Dr. Looney.

"Judy, didn't the coroner do an autopsy this guy?" I asked, puzzled.

She walked over and took a look. "How would I know, I don't do those kind of procedures, I've got nothing to do with the County, I'm a school teacher, remember," she said.

"Maybe this guy just resembles the other guy," she added.

"No, its Jai Lai alright, I've known him for several years," I replied scratching my head.

"Well then somebody really fucked up. Anyway, it doesn't matter much, he's dead now," observed Wally blandly.

"The little shit must have faked his own death, lured his partner Lu Rong upstairs to find him sprawled out on their bed and then let the poor bastard blow his own brains out. That's pretty goddamn cold blooded if you ask me," I hypothesized in awe at the cunningness of the man that I thought I knew.

“You know what, I can’t think anymore. We’ll sort this out when we get back to LA,” I added, frustrated and exhausted.

"You ready to go home Becca," I asked the rookie detective.

She was still shaking but I took that as a yes. Judy took my hand as I walked over to help comfort Rebecca and wait with her for the paramedics arrive. We had a lot of explaining to do when we got back, and if I knew Oscar Celaya he would be waiting at the airport for our plane to land. I sat beside Judy as she spoke softly to Becca and reviewed what had transpired from then day I found Sally November murdered in her apartment to today when I discovered her Uncle Jai dead again.

The pieces started to fall into place now. Jai Lai and Sally November had been a team from the very start. Somehow they got mixed up with Russian gangsters; New Russians they call themselves. I'm guessing Sally was the key to that unholy union. I suspect she got greedy and ambitious and tried working a blackmail angle without telling Jai. I suppose if Hassan hadn't killed her Jai would have. The loneliest victim in all of this was her poor uncle, Lu Rong. He didn't deserve to be betrayed by either one of the two people that he loved most in the world. At the end of the day it all comes down to luck. You either have it or you don't. I suspect Judy Looney's and mine was about to at best be tested and at worst run out. She and I weren't out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. We had a date with reality as soon as we got home. Story of my life I guess, out of the frying pan and into the fire…geez!

Friday, April 12, 2013

("I hear a very gentle sound, very near yet very far, very soft, yeah very clear. Come today come today…")…The Doors

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Thirty-two

LVMPD…Evidence Room…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…9:00pm

The computer lab had been a colossal waste of my time. How could this precinct not afford competent help? Rather shocking in a city of this size. However, Las Vegas was not exactly a metropolis by any standard. It was in fact an over grown amusement park for a growing faction of the sycophant adult population in the US. Still, given the obscene amount of cash that this modern day Sodom & Gomorra generates daily fleecing scads of easily entertained rubes chasing shallow dreams, one might have hoped for a better showing by the City Fathers and Civil Leadership, no? Perhaps not, after all why should one spend large sums preventing crimes when one is busy committing them? Par for the course I suppose in this New Age Empire. I expect they're headed for the same fate as the Romans, extinction by proxy, courtesy their cancerous addiction to self absorption. America, I have no pity for her. Not after what she did to my country, my Viet Nam, nhà của tôi (my home). Fuck them all, what do I care? They are what I feed upon now.

Ah, here we are; the fabled evidence room. I wondered what one of these would look like. I have to admit that over the years I've fallen under the spell of the some of the quaint television dramas depicting detectives working crime scenes or profiling serial killers. What rubbish these writers droll out with appalling regularity! They merely sensationalize the gore of so many murderous acts, concentrating mainly on who, what, and when, while they skim over the why, which is by far the most fascinating aspect. Then again, this is America after all, the Mecca for instant gratification. The attention span of the average viewer is limited by how much nonsense they can endure under the constant barrage of network sponsors. Sixty minutes just isn't enough time to challenge the mind especially when 20 minutes is dedicated to pitching products. Let's face it cash is king in this country. Actually that's unfair, my apologies to the reader, that is true around the world; the root of all evil and all that rot. Forgive my pontificating as I suppose I am as guilty of that addiction as much as any of you.

The door was unlocked and I walked in encountering a not so impressive room. It was what one might expect, a narrow three by twelve foot swatch of floor space separated the door and a chest high wooden counter topped by a barricade which looked like chicken wire on steroids. The officer behind the cage was equally unimpressive, a short dour looking gentleman (I'm being kind, he was no gentleman) with small thin lips topped with a wispy graying mustache. He wore a cheap pair of black horned rimmed spectacles and was busy writing on something when I walked in. It turned out to be a crossword puzzle that he was concentrating on.

"What do ya need Mac?" he asked without looking up at me.

How rude! It was all I could do to suppress my instant dislike for the man and keep myself from prematurely putting a small caliber round through one of the spectacle lenses. Instead, I gently placed my hands palm s down on the top of the counter and smiled. I waited for him to look up and acknowledge me before I spoke; I required that much common courtesy from this beastly bloke. The blaggard finally looked up and pulled his reading specs down slightly, giving me the once over.

"You speakie English?" he asked impatiently in a condescending monotone.

I felt bile rise from my stomach and into my esophagus and I swallowed the saliva that my mouth produced in anticipation of the imminent irritation. There wasn't time to deal with this one right now and I took a deep breath through my nose before I replied, feeling my nostrils flare as I drew in the soothing oxygen, holding it in my lungs for a three count.

"Excuse me for interrupting your work Officer, but Detective Price sent me down here for a catalog item from a case he's working on," I said with a convincing smile that masked the rage behind my eyes.

"Look at you, speaking English just like a Limey," he replied sitting up all of a sudden and taking notice of me. He got up from the stool that he was seated on and removed his spectacles, giving me a closer look.

"I thought you was Chinese or something," he said with a big grin. I must have looked annoyed and I could see by his facial expression that he noticed it straight away.

"Hey, I didn't mean no disrespect or nothin, you just surprised me is all," the officer said with a believable amount of sincerity. He had no idea that he might have just saved his own life, and I smiled at him to put him at ease. I needed his help right now and didn't want to be delayed further.

"None taken, I'm sure," I said.

"I'm not Chinese by the way. Actually, I'm from Saigon originally, but was raised in Great Britain," I explained. I am not exactly sure why I had shared that bit of personal history with him. It was uncharacteristically impulsive of me.

"No foolin, I was in Vietnam back in 71, was you?" he asked, attempting to make small talk. It was a conversation I didn't want to have.

"I was a child in 1971, my family left after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and we went to live with relatives in London," I answered. I felt more comfortable speaking with him now, it seemed cathartic somehow. Anyway, it didn't matter what he heard, I was probably speaking to a dead man.

"Is that a fact, well now, that's just terrific," he said in a jolly tone. Apparently I had made a friend, how sad; I almost felt a twinge of regret.

"Yes, well if you don't mind I really must be getting back to Detective Price."

"Oh yeah, sorry, what was it he wanted again?"

"He said it would be a small envelope with some kind of electronic device inside."

"Was it from the Caesar's Palace shooting earlier today?"

"Yes, that's right."

The officer walked back to a desk behind him and sat down to access the computer system. He sat there mumbling for a couple of minutes then returned to the counter. He held up a finger and gestured for me to wait, reading the question that was on my face. He put on his specs back on and leafed through some sort of log book I reckoned. Ten seconds later he tapped his finger on a page and brought the book to where I stood waiting. He turned it toward me so that I could read it through the wire.

"See right here, Detective Sgt. Price checked that item out at 7 o'clock this evening. We was still changing shifts when he came down so I wasn't here. Looks like an Officer Ngyuen signed it out for him. Hey, he's one of you guys ain't he,maybe he's a relative?" the ill fated Officer said, grinning for the last time in his miserable life.

"So it seems, thank you for your kindness," I replied, firing twice with the silenced Glock 19 that I had stealthily extracted from the uncomfortable holster around my waist while he blathered on and on.

Two subsonic rounds entered the cheeky bastard's brain through his left eye. He slumped to the floor with a queer expression on his face, one of disbelief it seemed like. I felt the twinge again, I was tiring of this adventure, it was time for closure, perhaps a little vacation. Nha Trang would be nice this time of year. I do so enjoy the beaches and the mud baths. Yes, it is time for a short rest; I grow weary of the hunt. Should good fortune continue to shine I will find all of my ducks swimming in the same pond right inside this very building.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

("So brick by brick I'm breaking through these walls. Oh between you and me I'm not giving up, I'm not giving up…")…Katy Perry

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Thirty-one

LVMPD…Interrogation…Tuesday, Feb 24, 2009…9:00pm

There have only been few times in my life where I have been reduced to tears, I can count them on one hand. Not the whimper and a whiney kind but the full on crocodile tears variety, the kind of tears that flow when your heart is truly broken. I was standing on the observation side of a two way glass studying Judy Looney and Detective Rebecca Tran sitting together on the other side. Iggie was standing beside me watching me watch them out of the corner of his eye. Truth is he was kinda bugging me, but I let it go, we were all a little shaken after the scene back at the Union Plaza. Judy was resting her head on Becca's slender shoulder whimpering softly. The poor thing was cried out. She'd taken the news about Ronnie's death like most people do, going through the P-R-P process (pain, rage, panic). She was coming down from the pain part, regaining her composure with aid of young Detective Tran's compassion. Soon she'd begin the rage part of the process and start asking who, why, and what, who did this, why did they, and what are you (cops) doing about it!

All good questions and nobody would be able to answer them fast enough to satisfy her. I was sure that whoever did this was still out there and I was damn sure that this murderer wasn't finished. Wally had left out the grizzly details for her, and I wished he could have done the same for me but it fell to me to identify the body, what was left of it. The door behind me opened suddenly, startling me. Wally barged into the room with his usual bullish flair and handed me a cup of coffee. I turned to take it after tucking my face into the crook of my arm to wipe my face dry with the sleeve of my jacket.

"Thanks," I said sniffling.

"Still take it black, right?" he asked graciously ignoring my weakened demeanor.

"Yep, hot, black, and steaming, just like back in the day old buddy," I replied feeling normal after a big sip of the sludge he called coffee.

"If you're feeling better Nancy we got work to do! That piece of work that you used to work for, Celaya, he's been bending ears all the way up the chain of command over here. The son of a bitch has even called the Mayor's office, and his honor is less than pleased if you get my drift," Wally said sarcastically as he filled us in.

"Who's Mayor, yours or ours?" Iggie asked.

"Both, you know politicians, they run in packs," Wally answered.

"Anyway, we've linked the scene at the Plaza with a stiff over at Cesar's. There are prints from that homicide are all over Dr. Looney's room as well. Funny thing is we ran them through AFIS and got nothing. The lab boys are running dental records on the Cesar's stiff as well but I'm betting we'll find bupkis too. You know what that means," Wally said loading a fresh stick of gum into his mouth.

"Yep, it means the deceased is either a Fed or someone with diplomatic immunity," Iggie said, jumping into the conversation. .

"Probably, or maybe he's a merc, and a clever one at that," Wally suggested pointing a fat finger at Iggie.

"A Merc?" asked Iggie, puzzled.

"A mercenary dumbass, how long you been in this business? You were in the shit with us back in Nam. You remember those sneaky little rat bastards, the guys who didn't have to follow the rules of engagement," explained Wally, frustrated by Iggie's memory lapse.

"Oh, gottcha, you mean the CIA pricks. Yeah, I remember them," he replied, as the light came on.

"You're a cartoon Ingram! Stop talking to me man, you're giving me a headache," Wally said, instantly tuning him out.

"So, our guy kills Rhonda and tosses Judy's room, what was he looking for?" Wally began.

"Ronnie," I shouted, impulsively correcting him, out of respect I guess.

"Whatever! So the perp slices and dices Ronnie and then goes after Judy at over at Cesar's Palace. Funny thing is only she and I knew that she would be there. He couldn't have followed her because he was busy in room 3023 while she was in route. So who popped the Arab? Much as I would have liked to it wasn't me."

"Arab?" I asked

"Yeah, Arab, I dunno, he looked like an Arab to me, you now, Saudi or Persian, whatever, he wasn't white, Mexican, or Chinese, why?"

"Is the stiff in the morgue right now?"

"Yeah, I guess so. What's your angle Roode?"

"Give me a minute, I'm working on it. Where is the microchip that Judy brought you?" Wally reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small envelope along with a few wadded up receipts, gum wrappers, and ticket stubs.

"Right here, she gave it to me on the ride back from Cesar's," he answered waiving it at me.

"Let me have it," I said reaching for the envelope.

"Not so fast Whitey, first tell me what's on this thing. Must be pretty important shit because there are dead bodies strewn from LA to LV because of it," Wally said crushing the envelope in his big fist?

I cringed at the thought of him damaging the thing, and wondered how much I should tell him. My mind was racing trying to figure out this latest development. I was positive that the stiff from Cesar's would turn out to be my buddy Hassan, but I was flummoxed at who else would be after this microchip if not him? The Russians he worked for were paying him to protect the thing and what it contained, so why would they murder their own hired gun? All this time I thought that Hassan was the one stalking Judy and me, so if not him then who? It was time to mentally revise my triple "K" notes because things had changed dramatically:
What do I know?

1. Sally November was still dead, murdered by Hassan

2. Jai Lai and Lu Rong were dead, not murdered by Hassan

3. Ray Ray Abernathy was dead, murdered by Hassan

4. My ex Rhonda was dead, murdered by Hassan

5. And now Hassan the assassin was dead too, but by who

What do I think I know?

1. SN and Jai Lai were partners supplying escorts for the high and mighty

2. SN’s death really was a surprise for Jai

3. SN had a silent partner that Jai didn't know about

4. SN and Jai's death were related but it wasn't business related

5. SN wasn’t meant to die, that fact cost Jai and Lu their lives

What do I want to know?

1. Why did Rhonda have to die

2. Why did Hassan follow Judy instead of me

3. Why did the shooter let Judy and Wally walk

4. Why did Jai kill himself or did he

5. Why did I have the heebie-jeebies surrounded by a sea of cops

Wally snapped his finger loudly in front of my face, "Earth to Whitey, you in there sweet pea?"

"Sorry, how long was I out?"

"Long enough, it's a little scary when you trance out like that Roode, you really outta see a shrink," Wally replied waiving the crumpled envelope at me.

"You're right about that! So, the chip, well, it's like this…" I said, starting to fill him in on the chip contents.

It had only been 24 hours or so since Judy had shared that information with me back at her apartment in LA, and I told him everything I could remember, all the names, the dates, and the special notes beside each. To be fair I had only glanced at the list, but what I did see was significant. Judy had read it all though, and that was why she was scared, and with good reason as it turns out. It must also be why she's was still breathing. Whoever's stalking her wants to know what she knows and who she shared it with before she's eliminated. You don't get rid of ants by stepping on them one at a time, you exterminate the colony! I watched Wally chew on my answer then glanced back at Judy and Becca in the interrogation room. This kettle of fish was about to boil, and sooner than later.

Mentally I ran through my triple K list again. Something was missing but what? I'd repainted the Mona Lisa minus the smile. Her image stared back at me, taunting me. Mona knew the answer and her image was challenging me to think harder….

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