Archive for October, 2009

Chapter 38

Monday, October 19th, 2009

I turned on my cell as we walked down the courthouse steps to Hill Street. The impatient instrument rang in my hand, displaying our office number on the screen.

“It’s me,” Linda said, “you best get up here.”

“Wha’ sup?” I asked, mouthing ‘Linda’ to Clancy.

“We must speak of my friend Anatoli Mamadov,” said a Russian accented man.

“We? Who’s we?”

“You and me makes we,” he said.

“I’m a little tied up right now.”

“So is your secretary, until you get here.”

“Be there in fifteen minutes,” I said.

“Pretty lady, your secretary,” and he hung up.

My three companions stood there reading me. Clancy was first to ask.

“What?”

“Some Russians want me at the office bad enough to threaten Linda.”

“Let’s go,” Clancy said.

“No, you guys take care of Darla, I know what they want,” I said, ‘maybe’ I thought. “Call me in an hour, I tell you, you tell me.” Clancy nodded and we went our separate ways. I called Nerd from my rental car and told him of yet another plan. Hubris and I never quit.

I entered the offices of ‘Investigations by Clancy’ and was immediately braced by a Russian weightlifter who carried at least 350 pounds of girth as his life’s burden. He patted me down for weapons, opting not to pick me up by the ankles and shake my gun loose. He took it from my waistband and put it in his jacket pocket, then nudged me toward my office.

“You okay?” I asked Linda.

“Yes,” she said, faking a smile and trying to sound chipper. “You want some coffee?”

“Well yeah,” I cracked and went into my office. A gray-haired man I didn’t know sat in my chair behind my desk, probably to piss me off. The bartender from the Major’s joint on Fairfax stood to the left of the desk, rigidly poised to do the other man’s bidding.

“Mister Michaels,” Gray Hair greeted me with a smile.

“How can I help you?”

“Does that mean you wish to help me?” he asked, still smiling.

“Depends.”

“Depends is what you’ll be wearing for the rest of your life if I leave here without what I seek,” his smile morphing to a scowl.

Linda entered with a tray. “Coffee gentlemen?” she announced, placing her offering on the credenza.

“Thank you,” Gray Hair said. “Please close the door on your way out.” And she did when I nodded okay.

“Is the big boy out there a gentleman?” I asked him, pointing a thumb at the door.

“Absolutely, but you should concern yourself with your own welfare.”

“You should know I didn’t come alone. If anything goes wrong here you and your playmates won’t make it out of the building,” I bluffed.

“In Russia we have a saying: Never put your head in the lion’s mouth unless you have a firm hold of his balls. How are your three children today?” calling my bluff and raising.

“Thanks for asking, but it might be best if we conduct our business here and now, that way you and your buddies could go scare somebody else.”

“I just want you to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. In the past week three of my associates have been gunned down in this unfriendly City of Angels, should be the City of Making Angels,” banging my desk with his fist.

“Four,” I said.

“What?”

“Four. Four of your associates have been gunned down. Boris from Romanov’s Restaurant on Ventura died yesterday from a bullet to his chest.” Caused him to wince, the little color he had faded from his face. The bartender blocked me as I headed toward the coffee until he was waved off. I poured two cups, took them to the desk and sat in the client chair. I started with the death of Boris, working back to the Major, the man with the gun in Major’s restaurant, and the young man in Darla Mason’s condo.

He took it all in one dose, not stoping to ask questions about any of it. When I was done he took a big hit of his coffee and asked, “How are all these connected?”

“Did you know William Meyers?” I asked, looking for tells.

“Vladimir Mendev. We all came here together, Vlad, Anatoli and me. We spent a few years in Brighton Beach, and then went in different directions. Vladimir started pimping, branched out into porn and wound up a Hollywood mogul….died fishing.”

“Actuall, his wife had him murdered. She hired an old boyfriend to do it and he died trying to kill Anatoli. I’m pretty sure he also killed Victor, the man Major had protecting Darla Mason,” I added, probably filling his information tank to overflow.

“And you know all of this because……?”

“It’s what we do around here. Anatoli had me look into the death of your Vladimir Mendev on behalf of his neice, Darla Mason.”

“Can you get in touch with Anatoli for me? I think the police have him in custody. It is most important I talk to him.”

“Why?”

“The reason does not concern you, Mr. Michaels. It is about other business. Will two thousand dollars cover your fee?” he asked, sliding an envelope toward me.

“Write your phone number on that and he’ll call you. Put your address on there and I’ll send the money back if he doesn’t,” I said as he wrote down a phone number on the envelope.

“No address, I’ll send Big Boy to get my money if I don’t hear from Vlad by tomorrow,” making a point as he rose from my chair to leave, signaling the bartender to get the door. “Thank you for keeping my friend and his daughter safe from Vladimir’s widow. I am confused as to why she would want to kill all these people. It makes no sense. What is the motive?”

“Money, plain and simple. They are in William Meyers’ will and Colletta Meyers is a very greedy bitch,” I said, mulling over the bomb he just dropped on me. “Are we good now?”

“As soon as I talk to my friend,” he said, getting a refill of Linda’s coffee to go. “Your secretary makes excellent coffee. You should do all you can to keep her around,” his final threat, as Big Boy put my pistol in Linda’s in-box.

The three Russians got on the elevator and I hit redial on my cell and got Nerd, downstairs in the lobby. “Things are cool,” I told him. “Three Ruskies on the way down, even you can’t miss ‘em. See where they go and let me know when they get there.”

“I’m all over it, Massah.”

Chapter 37

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Probate court is a place for judges to spend their waning years on the bench. Low key, relaxed, a few contentious filings, but usually just civil proceedings that are actually handled civilly. The judges rule on points of law and approve conflict resolutions worked out between parties by their attorneys. The female clerk seemed highly agitated and, since these courts were without a bailiff, it was left to her to establish order as the judge entered from chambers.

“Come to order, court is now in session, the Honorable Florence Maxwell presiding,” the clerk announced and everyone respectfully complied.

The judge gave a wide-eyed gaze at the SRO group crowding her tiny court and took a seat behind an ornate desk that served as her bench. A single file sat on the leather surface along with an onyx pen set and a crystal bowl of mints. No name plate, no gavel, no trappings of authority, not even a robe.

Anatoli sat at the table to the right, with Art at his side, and Colletta Meyers’ lawyer sat alone at the table to Art’s left. My other client, Darla Mason, sat in one of the four chairs comprising the gallery. Her agent, the ever dapper Chauncey Sturdevant, sat to her left, and the other two chairs remained vacant. The rest of the space was taken up by the two Homeland Security agents, Green and Fontana, two detectives from LAPD and a Homicide Dick from the Malibu Sheriff’s station. My favorite pair of FBI agents managed to stand apart from the rest in spite of the size of the room. My partner Clancy stood by the door.

Art rose from his chair and the judge nodded for him to proceed. “Your Honor, Art Zimmerman, attorney for Mr. Anatoli Mamadov, designated Executor of the will of the late William Meyers,” he stated as the other lawyer quickly rose to his feet.

“Everett Schwab, Your Honor, appearing on behalf of the widow, Colletta Meyers.”

“Your Honor, we wish to file a new will that has recently surfaced. This document supercedes the will currently before the court…..”

“We object, Your Honor,” Schwab interrupted, “We are unaware of any other wills.”

“We? Maybe if your client was present in this court…” as her clerk handed her a legal pad she had been furiously scribbling on. The judge raised a hand to stop the attorney banter as she read the clerk’s notes. “I recognize one name here,” she stated. “Will Rollo Michaels meet me in chambers, please? We’ll take a few minutes recess, maybe the widow Meyers will grace us with her presence.”

And so I found myself in Judge Maxwell’s chambers, a one-windowed office with a view of a similar window across a narrow alley. A stained-glass depiction of bluebirds and tulips hung in the window, a flag stood still in the corner and a small bathroom was visible to my left.

“You don’t remember me, Officer Michaels?” she asked, pointing to a chair for me to take. I stared, but nothing rang a bell.

“My Officer days are far behind me, Your Honor. Have we met?”

“Back in the day, when I was a Deputy City Attorney. I seem to recall a young policeman named Rollo, remarkable for his name, if nothing else.”

“Thank you for remembering, but I doubt any of my arrests were memorable in any…….”

“On the contrary,” she interrupted, “were not you the officer who tried to book a hooker into the Men’s Lockup because you believed her a male in drag?”

I felt my face redden, “You handled that case?”

“No, but you sure provided our office with a lot of good laughs.”

“Probably why the case wasn’t dispo’d, amusement at a rookie cop’s expense,” I said, “but I soon learned to tell the difference,” gave her another laugh, but when I sat down she was all business.

“So Mister Michaels, just what is going on here?”

I told her of being hired to investigate the death of William Meyers and how Sheriff’s Homicide now believe he was killed by Colletta Meyer’s high school sweetheart, who was recently killed by Homeland Security when he attempted to kill Uncle Anatoli and his niece, the daughter of William Meyers. Also that the FBI and LAPD were in her court for the purpose of arresting Colletta Meyers for another homicide she committed some 33 hours ago. All this made her head hurt so I left out the collateral damage deaths of the two other Russians. She squeezed her eyes tightly, then opened them wide to see if I was still there.

“And this is a Federal case because….” she prompted.

“I am not at liberty to say, Your Honor, but the Fed’s involvement has nothing to do with your probate case. They are protecting an ‘asset’ in Anatoli Mamadov, and I am protecting his niece.”

“From her stepmother?”

“And anyone she might hire to get them out of the picture.”

We returned to the tiny courtroom to find the FBI facing off with Homeland Security, Art and Schwab jawing at one table, Anatoli and his niece huddled at the other, while Clancy and Chauncey gabbed away in the gallery chairs. The clerk still looked overwhelmed, but managed a “Come to order!” We all shuffled back to our claimed positions as Judge Maxwell took her seat.

To Schwab she said: “I see you are still without a client.” To Art she said: “As you are aware Mister Zimmerman, you must file the original document with the Recorder, provide my clerk with a certified copy and provide all interested parties with copies also. We will continue these proceedings in thirty days. Check with the clerk before leaving. All parties present here this morning shall provide the clerk with their names and phone numbers before leaving this court, if they haven’t already done so.

“Your Honor, we will be filing other motions in Superior Court this afternoon to prevent Colletta Meyers from exercising any further control over any assets belonging to the estate of William Meyers or held jointly by he and Mrs. Meyers at the time of his death,” Art declared.

“Have at it Counselor, I suspect you and Mr. Schwab will be very busy. Be sure to provide this court with all related filings and court orders. Thank you all for attending.” And she sought the refuge of her chambers.

While Fontana and Green wrestled with the two FBI agents over Uncle Anatoli, the two LAPD detectives took Darla Mason into custody to seek answers about the dead Boris, recently removed from her trailer at Universal Studios. When I asked them what was up they answered they were taking her “downtown for questioning.” That would be four blocks from the courthouse in which we stood.

“Art and I will meet you there in a few minutes. Wait for your attorney before you answer any questions,” I told her as Art handed his card to the Detectives. Our actions did little to endear ourselves to them, but it made Darla brighten up a bit.

“Jeez Michaels, you’re listed on half the homicides our unit is working. Won’t be long before we’re drawing chalk lines around you,” was their parting shot.

With that I gathered up Art and Clancy and headed out the door to help our client, leaving Chauncey Sturdevant standing all alone in the tiny courtroom. “Hey guys, wait up,” he yelled, hustling down the hallway to catch up.

“Looks like you have a new friend,” I said to Clancy.

“I was talking to him about my screenplay,” my partner said.

“You have a screenplay?” Art asked.

“Doesn’t everybody?” Clancy and I answered in unison, high-fives all around.