Archive for September, 2009

Chapter 36

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

We got back to my apartment building and found Nerd waiting out front in his Hummer.

“Wha’sup?” he asked.

“Let’s go find the Uncle,” I said.

“No need, my man, your friends Green and Fontana snatched him up at my building as I was leaving for here. Your cell not working? Colletta Meyers was with him.”

Any bdlief in the random confluense of related events requires a naivete lacking in most people who do what I do. We scoff at coincidence and search for the hidden threads that tie everything together. Was this a loose end that, if pulled, would unravel the tapestry I had woven in my head?

“They grab her too?”

“No. Anatoli gave her his keys and she went to the apartment.”

I handed Linda my dead cell phone and asked her to stay in my apartment. I got in Nerd’s Hummer and told him to head back to his building. I punched up Fontana’s cell number on Nerd’s phone.

“Yes?” he answered right away.

“It’s me,” I said, “can you talk?”

“In a minute,” he paused.,….”Where have you been?”

“With your FBI brothers-in-arms. You have Anatoli stashed?”

“Guess Nerd told you. We’re debriefing him. He says the Major is dead. He wants us to take him to probate court in the morning. Think he did the Major?”

“No,” I said, “the skank he was with when you picked him up did.”

“Yea, right.”

“Believe it, the FBI showed me the video,” I said. His silence begged for more information. “Colletta Meyers put two in his head. For some reason Anatoli is playing it close to the vest. Don’t let him know that you know, see how it plays out. I’m going with Nerd to capture the FBI’s current “Most Wanted”. See you at the courthouse in the morning,” I said and hung up.

“Jeez Rollo, these guys really don’t talk to each other at all, do they. Unbelievable,” was Nerd’s take on the inner workings of Federal Law Enforcement.

We parked the Hummer a block away and walked on opposite sides of the street, checking for Colletta’s car. That we didn’t see it meant nothing, she could have parked two blocks away, hell, she and Anatoli could have arrived in a cab. I went in the front and Nerd came in through the back alley, we met at the door to Anatoli’s temporary abode. Remnants of crime scene tape still huing from the door jamb. A light was on inside, but we heard no sounds from within. My head was replaying the tape of Colletta shooting the Major as Nerd used his pass key and I burst in, gun in hand ready to blow her away.

My thoughts of a big bust proved to be a fantasy. Anatoli’s apartment key on the bed said she had been there, probably only long enough for Homeland Security to leave the scene with Anatoli in tow.

“Where to now, Boss Man?” Nerd asked.

“Take me back to my flop, I’m starting to smell like my cat’s litter box.”

“I wasn’t gonna’ mention it,” he said, putting out the light and locking the door.

Soap, shampoo and plenty of hot water washed most of Sunday away. Linda was already curled up on the couch with El Gato, fast asleep. I got on my bed with hopes of five solid hours of sound sleep, but the tape on my wound was starting to itch and water from the shower had gotten to the gauze. I went back to the bathroom and tore the doctor’s handiwork from my ass. I was checking it all out in the full length mirror on the back of the door when Linda stuck her head in to embarrass me.

“They shaved my butt and told me to keep the stitches dry. What were they thinking?” I tried to explain.

“You got yourself a bad case of the red-ass there, Rollo. Got anything besides aftershave to put on it?” Ever the quipster, she ministered my boo-boo with some cotton balls and peroxide and put an extra large Band-Aide over the stitches. I got back in bed, Linda snuggled beside me. El Gato’s purring between us soon had me fast asleep.

I dreamed of dead people talking to me in languages I didn’t understand, showing me scenes of places I’d been, shaming me for things I’d done, like Scrooge’s journey in the Dickens’ tale. In my dream I awoke in an empty bed, all alone in the dark, unsure of where I was or why I was there. I felt so terribly alone I cried out “Is anybody there?”

“It’s alright Rollo, its only a dream,” said Linda’s soothing voice, saving me from my innermost fear. She chased the cat from between us and presented me with the cool side of my freshly fluffed pillow. I laid back and pulled her close, inhaling her scent, feeling the rhythm of her heart beating softly on my chest. El Gato climbed back onto the foot of the bed and I fell back to sleep, assured I was not alone.

Chapter 35

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

The smell of death is unmistakable and my nose could tell the difference between dead a few hours and dead overnight. Blood was everywhere and the odor of body secretions filled the air. Boris lay dead on the floor of the kitchenette, blood congealed on the front of his shirt and pooled beneath his outstretched arm. His unseeing eyes were at half mast above the beginnings of a rictus grin.

I followed my gun toward the rear of the trailer. A bloody handprint decorated the accordion door to the bedroom. I stepped in more blood as I pushed the door open. She lay face down on the bed, hands bound to each end of the headboard by a scarf and a man’s tie; a brown belt secured one of her feet to the footboard; she had wet her slacks. I removed a bloodstained towel from around her head, fearing the worst. “Darla, Darla,” I said, gently shaking her. She did not respond, her breathing shallow, her carotid pulse racing, her skin clammy, she was probably in shock.

I untied her hands and rolled her onto her back. She gasped for air and her eyes fluttered. I got a bottle of Perrier from the fridge, sat her up in my arms and splashed some cool liquid on her face. I wet some Kleenex and blotted off blood smears from her cheeks and forehead. Thankfully, I found no wounds. She started to come around, so I poured some of the sparkling water in her mouth. She gagged a bit, sucked some down then opened her eyes. Her pupils were dlated like a pot smokers, but when I switched on the bedside lamp they responded to the light. She looked up at me as I held her in my arms, blinking a few times as she tried to focus on my face.

“Rollo, is it you? Oh thank God, it is you,” she muttered, gripping my arm for reassurance.

“Easy girl, let me get your foot untied, then I’ll get us out of here,” I whispered, easing her back down on a pillow.

She retched a few times while I untied her foot. The belt had cut off the circulation, her foot swollen and discolored. This was beyond my Boy Scout first aid. I picked up the phone and the operator got me lot security. I told them we had a medical emergency at Darla’s trailer and needed an ambulance. They employed a small cadre of medical personnel for the tours section and said they would have a nurse respond while we awaited the rescue squad to take her to Burbank Hospital’s Emergency Room. I had the operator then connect me to hotel security and told Number Two Bill to “get over here, Code Three”.

As I lifted her from the bed she weakly protested, “No, peed my pants.”

“It’s okay Darla, we’re getting out of here. Do me a favor and close you eyes until we’re outside.” And she did, nuzzling into my neck as I carried her past the dead thing that had been Boris twelve hours ago.

“Please, my purse,” she said, pointing back inside.

I gently sat her down on a plastic beach chair on the front step as the nurse arrived in a golf cart, driven by a uniformed security guard. I quickly turned, grabbed her purse from the entry table and locked the door shut on the gruesome scene inside. They rushed to Darla’s side so I went over to her car to wait on the ambulance and Bob’s Number Two. A banging on the trunk lid and a muffled cry of “Help” startled the hell out of me. I hit the trunk release in the glove box, noting smeared blood on the passenger seat and door liner. A hysterical Chauncey Sturdevant popped out of the trunk, an egg sized knot on his forehead, a mouse under an eye and dried blood on the corner of his mouth. “Call the police, call the….”I grabbed him in a hug, cutting off his shrill screams. He recognized me, then focused on Darla being tended to by the nurse. “Is she all right Rollo?” he asked.

“Stay calm, go over there and let her know you’re okay,” and he did as the security guard came toward us, pumped up by all the action.

“What the hell is going on here Michaeals?” he demanded, surprising me by knowing my name. His name tag said Samuels. He was a couple of inches taller and at least twenty pounds bigger than me. He gave the impression he wouldn’t mind using size to his advantage.

“Officer Samuels,” I started, “I’m sure you are aware of the incident at the hotel last night. Well the man who shot the police officer last night is inside Miss Mason’s trailer as we speak.” I watched his eyes get big as he edged around me to get his golf cart between him and the trailer door.

“Wha-what are w-we gonna’ do?” he stammered.

“If I was you I’d phone the LAPD and tell them the man who shot Lieutenant Meeks is dead in a trailer on the back lot of Universal Studios. Use a landline, not your radio.”

He nearly ran into the arriving ambulance with his cart as he dashed back to the security office. Bill was right behind the paramedics. I filled him in and gave him the key to the trailer. The ambulance crew loaded up Darla and Chauncey. “I’m her father,” I lied, earning a ride-a-long with my client and her agent to Burbank Hospital, avoiding a minimum of four hours of custodial questioning by LAPD Detectives who were probably real tired of my collection of dead bodies.

“Mr. Michaels, you can go in and see your daughter now. Aside from a few bumps and bruises, she is going to be fine. She experienced some mild shock symptoms so I’ve given her a light sedative,” the doctor said, ushering me into the treatment room. “Keep an eye on her overnight and she should be as good as new come morning. She might experience some nausea, so she can take a couple of hits of this,” handing me a sample of Maalox. I took the opportunity to show the doc my retirement badge and asked for an update on Lieutenant Meeks. Doc was back in a minute to tell me Meeks was treated and released in the afternoon. Finally something good.

While Darla was getting dressed I called a cab and told Sturdevant to pay the bills and tell the police what happened. I hustled Darla into the taxi just as an LAPD patrol unit drove up to the emergency room entrance.

“Where to folks” the cabbie asked. My answer surprised me, but I couldn’t think of any other way to go.

“18626 Bessemer Street,” I said. It was time to check on the Ex Mrs. Michaels and my three kids. The two FBI baby sitters had been on the detail for going on four hours and probably had lives of their own awaiting their participation. Darla gripped my hand for the twenty minute drive, letting go when the cab pulled up to my old house on the clul-de-sac. I paid with a fifty as the two FBI agents stepped from their vehicle. I helped a shakey Miss Masom out of the taxi and headed for the front door. “Can you guys give me a couple of minutes?”

I took the “Hurry up Michaels, we’re not your personal security detail,” as a yes and rang the doorbell. My daughter peeked through the curtain and pulled the door open.

“Daddy,” she shouted, then froze. “Hey, I know you. I saw you in an Eminem video on VH-l.”

“Honey, this is Darla, and she’ll be staying here tonight. Where’s your mom?”

“She’s in the shower. I’ll tell her you’re here.”

“First show Darla to the living room while I go send the men outside home,” I said.

“I need the bathroom first,” Darla whispered. She smiled as my daughter led her down the hall.

I went outside and thanked the two agents, then went back inside to call for reinforcements. I dared not chance that no one was left out there willing to use my family to get to me. Although Boris and the Major were out of the picture, both Colletta Meyers and Uncle Anatoli were still players, out and about, up to who knows what.

I phoned our attorney, hoping to find Art sober. He was, abstaining from sips of bitterness that went with divorce. He would pick our client up at 7:30 in the morning and get her to probate court on time. Next I called Linda to fetch me, Clancy and Sylvia to sit on my ex-house, and Nerd to meet me at my apartment and bring me a couple of ‘greenies’, I was expecting a long night and this had already been the longest day of my life.

“How do you get all these people to do what you want?” my Ex asked, not expecting an answer. I had no idea how long she had been standing in the kitchen. “Twenty-four hours ago you get shot right before my eyes, my date shoots a police officer with our children in the very next room, you get the FBI protecting our family from I know not what, and now you bring a bimbo actress into my home? You can’t keep involving us in your bullshit Rollo,” she said, again with the tears. I reached out and took her in my arms, the acrimony between us fading to the point that she felt good and comfortable there. I told her that Darla being here would pay for the guards keeping everyone safe throughout the night. And when she asked, “What about all the nights to come?” I had no answer.

“Could you get her some clothes?” I asked before I started outside, bent over from the weight of her question.

A blues riff started playing in my head as I waited for my partners. I tried turning up the volumn to drown out my thoughts of inadequacy, to no avail. B.B. King wanted to know “How Blue Can You Get” as punctuation to the self doubts eroding my confidence. Clancy and Sylvia pulled in the driveway to save me from the second verse and the blues just faded away Then Linda arrived and we were all good to go. Bring it on.

I thanked the Ex, sent the kids to bed with goodnight hugs and told Darla she was safe, that Art would be picking her up in the morning and I would meet her in court at ten. Everyone I was leaving on Bessemer Street looked overly tired, stressed by all I was putting on them, but I couldn’t afford to beat myself up just yet.

“You gonna’ be okay, Pard?” Clancy asked, his wife ignoring me.

“Yes, but I’ve been better buddy. Goodnight Sylvia,” I said and Linda drove us away.