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Sunday, May 11, 2014

(”It's written in the surface of her skin there's been a baby then, given away in love.")…James Taylor

 
For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
 
 
"THE GUMSHOE DIARIES:
Father Hollyweird"
Chapter Two
 
Los Angeles, California…December 1, 2009
 
 
            Driving around LA is a frustrating experience. Actually it's down right dangerous depending on which part of town you're passing through. And my sub-par navigational skills only compound the frustration and the risk factors. If you happen to be heading uptown toward the Bonaventure Hotel and the Theater district well then you're reasonably safe. But if you're passing through the 'hoods' (east or south) especially in or around Echo Park or anywhere near Hollenbeck Station, my old stomping grounds by the way, then your insurance policies had better be paid up. I mean both medical AND life because the odds are that you’ll need one or the other are better than average!  It all depends on Lady Luck. Even an ex-cop like yours truly is taking chances in certain parts of town. Let's face it nobody's bulletproof, am I right? Anyway, today I was headed uptown today to meet with the chief holy man of Los Angeles, Bishop Armando Delarosa. His office was over on Wilshire so I was reasonably certain I'd live to drink another day, halleluiah brother!
            You know I rarely drive anymore. I prefer hoofing it around town or taking the bus, so I schedule most appointments near my home base of operations which is the bar in the lobby of my flat at the Alexandria Hotel. Its downtown over on Spring St., however occasionally a case forces outside my comfort zone. When that happens I rely on old faithful, my gloss white 'plain Jane' 1961 Corvair convertible, it's a classic! You don't see many of those babies on the road anymore for two reasons. Number one, they haven't made one of these jewels since 1969, and number two, nobody really liked the odd little wrench-a-day smog factories anyway. The Corvair dropped off the scene before the conversion to unleaded fuel burning engines that the automobile industry rolled out as mandated by a killjoy environmental groups who whoop-assed the State and the Federal governments in Detroit, Sacramento, and Washington D.C., what bunch of pussies! Be that as it may, it’s still America, land of the free and I still drive my bucket of bolts. It's got style Paley.
            So, after I finished an artery hardening breakfast of extra crisp bacon, two eggs over easy (runny as a freight train thank you), hash brown potatoes (with butter), toast with jam and half a gallon of black coffee I hoped into the snoop-mobile and drove the twenty or so blocks to the administration building housing the LA Archdiocese of the Catholic Church to chat with Bishop Delarosa about the letter in my pocket. This was gonna be interesting. Two Holy men in one day, if I run over a nun on the way I'll detour to Santa Anita and bet a Trifecta! Nah, that kind of luck doesn't come my way. Whitey Roode only has two kinds of luck, dumb and bad.
Archdiocese of Los Angeles,…December 1, 2009…11am
 
            Bishop Delarosa sat alone in darkness inside his large mahogany office. He sipped lukewarm tea from a bone china cup hand made from County Waterford, Ireland, a little memento from a conference in Dublin last spring. Outside it was a beautiful southern California day, seventy eight degrees and not a cloud in the clear blue sky. How's that for winter America? But days like these weren't the Bishop's cup of tea, pun intended. He preferred darkness to light which explained the absence of a sunny disposition. The man was a well known crab apple personality wise. Around the water cooler at the Archdiocese he was affectionately (NOT) referred to as the 'Count' as in Bram Stoker's legendary character. Not exactly a term of endearment but from what I've head accurate and earned. The man wasn't your typical type 'A' table pounder of a boss, he was more subtle than that. And in some ways that made him even more intimidating. It's all in the delivery I guess, anyway I was late as usual he was silently pissed. Okay, not exactly an appropriate term for these Holy halls but accurate nonetheless.
"FERRIS!" bellowed the Delarosa.
            A thin young man dressed in black with the reverent white collar sat at the desk outside of the Bishop's office. He didn't flinch at Delarosa's shout and calmly rose from his station to answer the mail. He walked with folded hands to the Bishop's doorway and stopped short of entering. He rapped on the door jamb and responded to his summons. "Yes Your Eminence?"
"Has that so called detective arrived yet?" asked an annoyed Delarosa.
"Not yet Eminence, I have instructed reception to ring me straight away when he does," replied the young man. Bishop Delarosa grunted a reply.
"Well, call me as soon as he gets here. And Father, I apologize for shouting, it's been a trying morning as you know," Delarosa said meekly.
"Of course Eminence, I took no offense."
"Thank you Father Donahue," said Bishop Delarosa dismissing his aid with a half smile. The young priest turned to return t his desk as Bishop Delarosa resumed whatever it was he was doing,
            Meanwhile, back at Reception I was entering the building completely at ease with my usual tardiness. Truth be told I don't think I've ever been on time to any meeting? Hell, as I recall my old mother used to complain that I even kept her waiting at birth arriving a week beyond the scheduled due date. What can I say, better late than never, am I right? I walked up to tall reception counter manned by a stoic looking woman who appeared to be in her early forties, but she was Asian so she could be ten years past that. Not to stereotype but Asian women always look younger than they are, at least until they reach 55 or so when the bubble bursts and then hello Lady Clairol. As soon as my market research indicates a population boom of Asian senior citizens I am buying a ton lot of stock in Revlon! Miss Forty-something was on the phone, she smiled at me as she listened to someone on the other end of the line. She must have been getting an earful as she winced at whatever was being said. She hung up a nanosecond later and removed the headset she was wearing.
"May I help you she?" she asked sweetly.
"As a matter of fact you can. Whitey Roode for Bishop Delarosa," I replied.
"Down the hall and left first chance you get," she said, pointing the way with a #2 pencil.
"Thanks," I said, turning to find my way. I'd taken only a couple of steps when she called out to me. "You're late Mr. Roode. Better hurry, His Eminence isn't known for his patience.
"Thanks again," I replied without looking back. Maybe it was my super hearing or maybe it was my imagination but I sear I heard her mutter something like "don't mention it asshole?" Wouldn’t be the first time I earned such a retort with my smart ass demeanor.
            Anyway it was a short walk to in inner sanctum of LA's chief Holy man. Seated out front was a trim young fella wearing what you'd expect in this place, black slacks, black shirt, and white collar. He even had black hair. If his eyes were black when I got close enough to notice I'm gonna hot foot it to the nearest exit! I passed by several portraits of Holy men as I neared the Bishop's office. They were on both sides of the aisle and their acrylic eyes followed me like the Mona Lisa's do when you move around the Louvre in Paris. Each face wore a frown and it made me feel slightly uncomfortable, as if I were being judged. The young man or priest watched me as I approached. He sat still with folded hands. A single lamp on his desk illuminated his work space and hid his face. It was a little disconcerting but didn't faze me. I reached the desk and swallowed my gum before speaking.
"Whitey Roode for Bishop Delarosa," I said politely.
"Of course Mr. Roode we were expecting you, just a moment," said the boy priest.
"You're late by the way," he added, picking up the telephone handset. I made a face like I just bit into a lemon and frowned.
"Eminence, the gentleman you're expecting has arrived. Yes Eminence, he is standing right in front of me," he said staring me down. I could hear the Bishop muttering something on the other end of the line.
"Yes Eminence," the priest said as he hung up.
"I am Father Donahue, please follow me Mr. Roode," the boy priest said rising from his perch to lead the way.
"Thanks Father, I'll be right behind you," I replied. We stopped at the door and Father Donahue announced me, standing aside to let me pass. I gave him a polite Cub Scout salute as I passed by to enter the Bishop's office. He ignored it and returned to his station, closing the door behind me.
"Nice fella," I said as I walked up to meet the Bishop.
"I'm sure Father Donahue would appreciate your praise," replied Bishop Delarosa. He gestured toward the two Queen Anne chairs in front of his desk. I took his cue and sat in the one on my left. I always go left, I'm left handed.
"Mr. Roode I presume?"
"In the flesh your Lordship."
"The term is Eminence but Father will suffice," Delarosa said correcting me.
"Alright Father, whatever you say."
"Would you like some tea Detective Roode?"
"Nah, I'm a coffee man myself and I've never turned down a cup of Joe."
            Delarosa picked up the telephone and rang his aide. "Ferris would you please have some coffee sent from the Rectory for Detective Roode and myself."
He hung up the phone and returned some papers in front of him to an open folder, closed it and then moved it to the side to clear a space in front of him. It gave me a clue as to how this bird flies. He was a control freak and I would need to be on my guard during our conversation. Talking to upper echelon execs even in the clergy meant that you could count on every word being recorded. No different than big business or big government, so much for the sanctity of the confessional.
"Don't go to any trouble on my account," I pleaded, sort of.
"It's no trouble I assure you," he replied.
"Okay, thanks."
            We stared at one another for an uncomfortable minute causing me to fidget in my seat. I involuntarily reached into my jacket pocket with one hand and retrieved the Delarosa's letter and reached into a side pocket for my reading specs with the other.
"I see you came prepared, you brought along my letter," said Delarosa.
"That's why I'm here Father."
"Shall we cut to the chase?" I added.
"You're direct, I appreciate that Detective Roode. It saves time and mine is quite valuable I assure you."
"Ditto Father, I'm a busy man my own self."
"Very well, first things first, are you a Catholic detective?"
"Rumor has it I was at one time. I mean my old mother claims I was baptized a Catholic as a baby, went through the Catechism and First Communion as a child, and confirmed as a teen. But frankly since then I can't claim to anything other than the sinner I was born as. I think this is the closest to a church I've been in forty some odd years," I answered.
"I see. Well do you at least believe in God detective?"
"I do, but in my own way."
"That is not exactly a real answer my son but it will do for now."
"Why do you ask?"
"To gain the upper hand in this relationship of course."
"Honesty, well played Padre."
"Thank you. Now the letter, I can see by its condition that you have read it more than once."
"I did."
"Tell me what you know of the Egyptian Theater incident," Delarosa ordered more than asked. I could see he was a man accustomed to giving orders. I hate that.
"You first," I replied defiantly.
"Blunt and direct, I like that Detective Roode," said Bishop Delarosa with a wicked little grin that made my skin crawl.
"Call me Whitey," I said trying to lighten the mood of the room.
"I'd rather not. I wouldn't call you that even if it were your real name…Richard," he said, his grin turning to a smile. That made my skin crawl faster.
"Been doing a little detective work of your own I see Eminence."
"I like to know who I'm dealing with, it keeps things even."
"Alright, if you say so, as for the Egyptian Theater, all I know is what I read in the LA Times, which means I don't know much."
"Noted, well allow me to shed a little more light on the subject for you."
"Please do."
"Do I have your word that this conversation stays in this room? May I count on your professionalism?"
"I will if you will."
"Clever detective,"
"Thanks, so turn off the recording devises and let's talk turkey Eminence."
            Bishop Delarosa picked up the pone again. He muttered something in Italian to Father Donahue in the other room. A couple of seconds later the boy priest entered the room with a tray of coffee and a set of church keys. He set the refreshments on the Bishop's desk and went around behind him. I sat mesmerized as Father Donahue pulled a beautiful painting of St. Paul's Basilica down from the wall and used one of the church keys to unlock a panel behind the painting. He reached inside and fiddled with some knobs and buttons then closed and locked the panel. He re-hung the painting and exited the room. Delarosa had poured the coffee while his aide had supposedly deactivated the recording equipment. I got a whiff of the hot coffee and was instantly back in the game.
"Now let's skip what the papers have reported so far, it's all superficial and frankly conjecture."
"Okay, if you say so," I replied taking a sip from my cup. Good coffee, note to self, find out where they get this stuff. Second note to self, forget it, probably can't afford it.
"I believe it's reasonable to assume that the young lady was clearly disturbed, do you agree?"
            I nodded as if I did but I didn't really. The act was disturbing but that doesn't mean she was disturbed. She may have been drugged or brainwashed or whatever. There are always many layers to an onion like this. I've played enough poker in my life to sense a bluff. What do I know about this girl? Answer, nothing yet. More importantly what did Delarosa know, that was where I was going to start if I take this case.
"What makes you say that?" I asked.
"My God man, did you not see the news footage of the emulation?"
"I saw it, awful."
"Suicide, murder, promiscuity, these aren't enough clues for a smart detective to draw a similar conclusion?"
"I get it Eminence, looney tunes."
"What the newspaper temporarily suppressed under pressure from the Vatican were rumors about an alleged inappropriate relationship between young lady and our Father Quinn."
            Now he had my full attention. This may not be a wasted trip after all. Father Quinn? I knew that name. I reached into my jacket pocket and fished out the business card I got from the film making priest I ran into earlier. Reverend Nicholas Aloysius Quinn it read. I inadvertently repeated the name out loud, that got the Bishop's attention.
"You know Father Quinn detective?"
"Sort of, we met earlier on my way over here. He was shooting a movie in my neighborhood. He gave me his card and invited me to church sometime."
            Delarosa paused a moment to think about that and to study my face. He was trying to get a read on what I may already know. I could see by the expression on his face that he was choosing his next words wisely. I doubt he had planned to reveal too much in this meeting. Now he was gonna have to. For the moment I had the upper hand and I need to milk it for as much as I could.
"That was kind of him. You should go I hear that his homilies are quite inspiring. He is a popular priest in the Archdiocese, especially among the young people. And his films are quite good, inspiring, a feather in the Church's bonnet."
"So I've heard."
"May I ask, what was your first impression of the man?"
"I seemed like a good egg to me. I hear he's quite a film maker as well."
"I'm glad that you liked him, he is a good man. I'm hoping you can help to prove that before the Vatican's influence over the newspaper erodes and the 'you-know -what' hits the fan."
            Delarosa caught me off guard with that remark and I choked on my coffee. It was my turn to pause and study him. The Bishop was an interesting piece of work. I already didn't like him and I could see plainly that the feeling was mutual. This was gonna be a powder keg of a case and the fuse was already lit. The Father Quinn angle was gonna be the first big bang t deal with, and that would be exploding sooner than later. I was being recruited to make this all go away and sweep whatever dirt I discovered under the proverbial carpet before another church steeple was toppled.
"We need someone with your unique skills, someone who can swim in polluted water and come out smelling like a rose. We need to start with Father Quinn and the girl. We need to understand the level of exposure we're dealing with. We need to know the truth no matter how damaging it may be, We fear the ramifications of a protracted investigation by the LAPD and it's kibitzing Mayoral bureaucracy, I'm sure that you know what I mean. So, will you help us Detective Roode?"
            We sat there in silence while I considered the options and finished my coffee. There were only two, forget about it, walk away and let the chips fall where they may for Father Quinn and the Catholic Church or take it on and risk personal jail time for yours truly at the hands of Chief Oscar Celaya who'll undoubtedly make my efforts as difficult as possible. It came down to the coffee. Oscar serves up rot gut java and the stuff Delarosa just served me was sooooo good! 
"Okay Eminence, I'll see what I can do but it won't be cheap. My rates are $500 a day plus expenses. And you know what, throw in a couple of pounds of this here coffee because it's terrific!" Bishop Delarosa chuckled and smiled a genuine smile while he poured me another cup.
"Alright Detective Roode, let's agree that we have a deal. I'll have Father Donahue draw up a contract and we'll send it over later for your signature. I will personally pray for your efforts this Sunday at Mass. Stop by and receive Communion at the Holy Eucharist with us. It's never too late to come back to the Church my son."

It was my turn to chuckle, "Alright Eminence, we'll see, no promises," I replied accepting the coffee and the invitation.


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Saturday, May 3, 2014

(”Los Angelinos, all come from somewhere, to live in sunshine, their funky exile.")…Billy Joel

 
 
 
 
For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
 
 
"THE GUMSHOE DIARIES:
Father Hollyweird"
Chapter One
 
 

Bella Terra Italian Ristorante, Los Angeles

 
            It's no secret that I do my best thinking in dimly lit places with free flowing booze. So it shouldn't surprise anyone to find me squirreled away in a corner booth at the Manzano brothers little slice of Italy, the Bella Terra Restaurant. It's a nice little place located up the street and around the corner from Pershing Square and I had on my thinking cap this evening. Sipping on a glass of house Chianti I was pondering recent events. While I enjoyed a glass of the boys vino with one hand (on the house of course, they think I’m funny, what can I say) I pulled out a folded letter from my coat pocket with the other. You know, it's not everyday one gets mail from God, well, the Roman Catholic Church anyway, close enough I reckon. The letterhead read Archdiocese of Los Angeles no less, interesting. So why were they knocking on my door? I'm a sinner alright but I’m not a Catholic, well, not anymore technically. Rumor has it my old mother raised me as an Irish Catholic. I wonder if this is anything to do with that unfortunate misunderstanding with the collection plate during one Sunday Mass back when I was five or six. Nah, couldn’t be! The truth is if my life thus far can be an accurate measurement of my spiritual performance, then all those childhood lessons were wasted on me. It's not that I don't believe in God because in my own way I sorta do. It's just that I've seen too much of the awful side of life and frankly don't understand how a God of peace and love can allow such things.

            Let's just say that there's a lot I want to talk about when I get the chance to meet up with the boss-man in the sky. I know what you're thinking, WTF right (meaning where's the faith, not the other connotation). I'm afraid personal experiences have jaded me over the years and my faith has been a casualty in the train wreck that is my life. Listen, the truth is the truth even when it hurts to say so out loud. But ya know what, just between you and me and the fencepost, secretly down deep, even with my bad attitude I'm hoping that when I reach the end I'll discover all my doubts were just baloney and that my sainted old mother was right all along. I'll admit that it would be comforting to know that someone might be up there is looking out for yours truly in spite of my bad self. I wish that I could believe in that now, life would be easier but that requires faith, and mine's been missing in action for a long, long time. But hey, never say never, am I right? There’s another old saying from my sainted old mother. Anyway, that's all I want to say about that.

            I unfolded the letter and read it over again, the third time since receiving it. The note was short and sweet, only a couple of paragraphs with very few details. Basically it was an introduction of sorts from Bishop Armando Delarosa, a noteworthy Vatican insider and a minor celebrity in this town, who, at least according to my source was on the short list to become Cardinal Delarosa. My source being my chubby buddy Bradley Truman, an over the top gossip columnist for the Los Angeles Times. In a nutshell Bishop Delarosa wanted to meet with me to discuss a tragic incident at the Egyptian Theater which either directly or indirectly involved the Church by way of a crusading priest with whom I have recently become acquainted. Said priest is maybe ten or fifteen years older than me and my first impressions tagged him as a nice guy, a real man's man who chose a path few consider and fewer still follow. It was his 'calling' if you will. That's an interesting term, 'calling,' I wonder who drops the dime for that call? Anyway, the preacher seemed to be a man of conviction with a predilection for causes that stretched beyond the average Sunday Mass. His medium was film and his zeal for championing his causes might seem vain and contrary to a commitment to God, but appearances can often be misleading.

            I finished my first glass of Chianti (note to self, remind Angelo to get bigger glasses) and poured another from the carafe on the table in my usual corner booth. Angelo calls this booth the poet's corner because it's perpetually reserved for me and I'm always scribbling something into a little spiral notepad. Like I said, it's where I do some of my best thinking. The boys, Angelo and his brother affectionately known as Fat Johnny, owned the joint, Tony's Bella Terra they call it. Actually Tony was the previous owner from back in the Rat Pack days, the pack being Sinatra, Martin, Bishop, and Sammy Davis Jr. for those of you too young to recognize the term. Actually if you're too young to know the term you're probably too young to know the names, smooth detective work Whitey. Anyway, the brothers have been friends of mine since forever, going way back to my uniform days dressed in LAPD blue.

            Tony's Bella Terra and Casey's Irish Cottage were my sanctuaries where I could concentrate and wrestle with the facts while piecing together the puzzles that were my cases, like the one here that Bishop Delarosa wanted to chat about. That being said I fished a #2 pencil and a small spiral notepad out of my shirt pocket and started prepping for my little pow-wow with the top dog holy man downtown. Flipping to a blank page I started working my tried and true dubya dubya dubya outline. Specifically, What I know, What I think I know, and What I want to know. It's how I start every investigation, especially the tough ones, and this one had the telltale signs of being a real killer-diller (no pun intended).

            So, 'W' number one, what do I know? Well to recap, it was a couple of weeks ago I think, at one of my regular poker games back in June, the 7th to be exact, when I first laid eyes on the crusading padre. Officially he was Father Nicholas Aloysius Quinn affectionately known around town in all of the legitimate publications as Father Nick but sarcastically referred to in the gossip rags as Father Hollyweird. The unmistakable sound of a fender bender had distracted me from one of my weekly poker games. No big deal, I had a crappy hand as usual, and I was pretty sure that Fat Johnny had drawn a spade to fill the King high flush that his up cards were hinting at. Uncharacteristically I played it smart and folded my hand and went over to the window to see what was happening on the street below my second floor apartment. I live at the once famous and now infamous Alexandria Hotel located downtown on Spring Street.

            It's not the classiest of neighborhoods, but then it's not the murder capital of Los Angeles either. I've been hanging my hat here ever since my former wife Rhonda divorced me and joined the "XY" team. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. My significant other became my significant brother! Take it from me that'll take the lead out of your pencil. She, I mean he, started calling herself, I mean himself, Ronald and wearing her 'fella' uniform which consisted basically of a pair of Levi button down 501 jeans and a Ralph Loren polo shirt. One must never abandon style he says. It's a new world I guess. What was wrong with the old world anyway? It was beautiful! But I digress…

            Anyway, back to that night. From my window I spotted the good Father across the street leading a pack of young people, teens mostly, up the block and around the corner at an hour that was probably past their curfews. Interesting? That set off a few alarms, and being the nosey buttinski that I am I made a mental note to snoop around the next day and see just what was what around that corner. I watched the small crowd dwindle until the last teenybopper disappeared and then walked back to the table to rejoin the card game hoping to win back at least some of the dough I'd lost, but that wasn't likely. I don't like to kid myself, there's no percentage in it. The truth is I'm just a lousy gambler, always have been. I don't have a good poker face, for card games or real life.      

            As usual the card game broke up shortly after dawn, and since I can't sleep once the sun comes up I decided to hoof it a few blocks over to the Nickel Diner for breakfast. That joint is on my short list of local greasy spoons. I should mention that the ND is swankier than any of the others I frequent. Although the help can be a little snooty and they always seem to be bum rushing the clientele maximizing table turns. It's all about the Benjamins, am I right? If you're not ordering take out you better be ready to eat like a starving puppy because the help will circle your table like sharks until you swallow your last bite! By the way, if you ever go there be sure to try the bacon donuts. I swear I'd never heard of such a thing but damn! Just so ya know, in Whitey's book bacon is bliss…nuff said!

            As it happens, the route to the Nickel Diner was the same one travelled by Father Quinn and his flock of teenyboppers, so I kept my eyes peeled for the Piped Preacher of Los Angeles on my way to breakfast. I crossed Spring St. as soon as I exited the Alexandria and walked briskly down 5th heading east towards Main Street only a block away. I didn't have to walk very far before satisfying my curiosity because as soon as I rounded the corner onto I saw several white canvas tents strung along one side of the block, all the way to the stoplight at 6th Street. One of the tents was set up conspicuously in the middle of the street about halfway between 5th and 6th. There was a lot of action going in all directions around that tent which seemed to be the eye of the storm. This kind of activity in this town usually meant somebody was shooting something for either television or film. Hey this was LA after all and Hollywood was only a short ride on Hwy 101, so no big surprise. Being a life long Angelino I've seen my fair share of location shoots. Frankly they annoy the crap outta me with all the commotion they cause. They're almost as bad as California drivers in a rain storm where everyone loses their mind as if they'd never seen falling water before. That goes double wherever cameras are rolling and everyday life is turned on its ear turning regular folk into card carrying lookie-loos!

            I felt the level of activity increase exponentially as I neared the shaded nerve center. Seated in front of a bank of television monitors was a broad shouldered fella wearing a NY Yankees cap turned backwards.  A generous amount of sandy blond hair spilled out from under the bill of the navy blue ball cap and well over his shirt collar.  The poor guy was besieged by a steady stream of buzzing bees requesting that he sign this and initial that. He had to be the Director on this shoot. I counted no less than thirty different people walk in and out of the tent in the three minutes it took me to reach it. Small wonder the skyrocketing price of a movie ticket these days!

            I continued walking up the block just a little past the tent and then turned back to get a better look at the man in charge. What I saw floored me. It was something that you didn't see everyday and something I was not expecting at all. The fella seated in front of the playback monitors and calling all the shots was not your typical Joe Hollywood type. The man with the lens dangling from a lanyard around his neck was an honest to God (pun intended), white collar wearing, crucifix hanging, true confession taking priest, go figure? So, being a curious cat with zero inhibitions I walked right on up to him and introduced myself. I'm not shy, not by any stretch of the imagination, and I just got in line with everyone else waiting for a signature and when my turn came I handed him my business card instead of a clipboard. The busy man didn't even look up.

"What is a Whitey Roode for pity sake?" he asked in a thick Irish brogue.

"It's a detective, and it's me," I replied in my best Humphrey Bogart impression.

"Are you auditioning my son?" the white collared director asked sarcastically.

"Maybe, any parts for the handsome detective type?" I answered matching his sarcasm.

"No," replied the padre sighing audibly. He held my card up as he turned in his chair to face me.

"Whitey Roode, Private Eye," he said, reading my card out loud.

"Sounds more like a statement than a name," he said, removing his spectacles.

            The lines on the priest's face gave away his age, a fact that his lean physique and full head of slightly graying hair had hid at a distance. He looked at me with piercing blue eyes that twinkled even in the shade. I felt like a school boy all of the sudden, taken completely off guard by his natural aura of genuineness. It felt as though I were in a warm embrace sans physical contact, weird? Father Nick stared at me patiently and waited for me to find my voice, which I did abruptly after clearing my throat loud enough to draw a couple of eye rolls.

"Yeah, I get that a lot," I replied finally, thumbing at my nose like a boxer, trying to regain my edge.

"Do you now? Well Mr. Roode, I'm a busy man this fine morning. What can I do for you?" he asked, politely smiling, putting me at ease.

"Actually I don't need anything your Lordship. It's just that you don't see a film making priest everyday. I guess you can say curiosity got the best of me."

"I see. Well, you should know that Lordships belong to members of Parliament. By the way Mr. Roode, do you recall what happened to the curious cat?"

"Call me Whitey, and yeah, I remember padre, it got dead."

"That happens sometimes. I'm Father Quinn, pleasure to meet you Mr. Roode," he said holding out a beefy hand for me to shake. I took it and we went through the firm handshake ritual that all men do. His grip was firm alright, almost to the point of fracturing a couple of my fingers.

"Back attcha your worship, call me Whitey," I said willing myself not to wince while I waited for him to release my aching hand.

"Alright, Whitey it is, and if you don't mind its Father Quinn. Well now, if you'll pardon me I should be getting back to work, as you can see it's a little hectic around here. Stop by the Parish anytime if you'd like to chat some more. You can find me over at St. Anthony's most weekday mornings polishing my homily for the Sunday's Mass.

"Thanks Padre, I just might take you up on that. Well, guess I'll be seeing ya round then," I said as he turned back to face the play back monitors and deal with the hive of buzzing bees competing for his attention.
 
            I backed my way out of the shade into the morning sunlight and continued walking up Main Street toward the Nickel Diner and breakfast. I wasn't quite sure what to make of Father Quinn just then but I knew that I'd get a good read on him in short order. First impression though, I liked the man, not sure why? He was at the center of a maelstrom caused by what happened at the Egyptian Theater and he was going to need a friend like me. And I hope that I'm up to the challenge. Anyhow that's the genesis of my initial meeting with the principle subject in the case that the Arch Archdioceses' wanted to hire me for. It's what I know so far. I'll cipher on the other dubyas after I eat, I'm starvin Marvin!
           
 

 
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