Chapter 38

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

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.

Chapter 36

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

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.

Chapter 34

August 22nd, 2009

The Major’s body was found by the FBI agents returning to his Fairfax resturant at noon to follow up on last night’s shootings. The front door was unlocked and the place deserted, except for the Major face down on the floor behind the bar. When the team assigned to fetch me ushered me passed the body, FBI forensics were all over the scene. I wondered if these were the same techs who were in the place twelve hours ago. I was taken directly to a back office and presented to another agent. I didn’t catch his name, only the Deputy Director part.

“Sit down Michaels,” he directed, living up to his title.

“I can’t,” I said, “one of your people shot me in the ass last night.”

He wasn’t amused and went off on me. His riot act included the threat to deprive me of my freedom if I didn’t fully cooperate with the Bureau’s investigation. I raised my hands in mock surrender and sat in the offered chair, turning the other cheek, so to speak.

“Thank you,” he said, returning to civility. “I wish to apologize on behalf of the Bureau. We will be picking up your medical expenses and reimburse you any reasonable expenses incurred as a result of our actions. We need your help is sorting out all that is going on in this case. We understand that you have been doing some work for an associate of the dead man in the bar. Just what is it you are investigating?”

“Actually I work for the associate’s attorney, and am not able to divulge any particulars of the case without the attorney’s approval.”

“Damn it Michaels, don’t play games with us!” he shouted.

“I want to talk to my lawyer now,” I replied, sending him storming from the Major’s office to be replaced by my two FBI friends, tag team style. I knew the drill.

“Jeez Michaels, what did you say to the Boss?” the lady agent asked, warming up to me, I guess. My shrug caused her male counterpart to turn on the CCTV security system to display four views of the interior of the restaurant: the entrance, the dining area, the hall leading to the office and restrooms, the bar. A digital clock showed the date and time in the lower right quadrant as SUN 081608 0149. Colletta Meyers came in the front door and joined the Major at the bar. The bartender poured them drinks and left the premises. We fast fowarded to 0220 hours and join in an animated conversation. She got in the Major’s face and he slapped hers. She took a gun from her purse and put two in his head as he tried to duck away. She gathered up her stuff, smashed her glass on the floor, wiped the bar of her prints with the sleeve of her blouse and left the way she had come in. The time showed 0224 hours.

“One cold bitch,” my lady agent said. “A client?”

“No, she’s a suspect in another murder I’m looking into. She’s a porn star named Colletta Meyers. I’m surprised your partner didn’t recognize her.”

“Funny,” he said.

“Where can we find her?” she asked.

“I’m sure you can look her up in the phone book. I’d like to go now,” I said, straining our new friendship.

“Not until you tell us all we need to know,” she snapped like a woman scorned.

“I asked for my lawyer and it bummed out your boss. Give me a ride home and I’ll fill you in along the way.” It was their turn to storm out of the office, probably to seek directions from the Boss. I picked up the desk phone and dialed my daughter’s cell.

“Hello?”

“Hey Sweetheart, what’s the score?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Mom made us leave. Two men are driving us home, we’re just pulling up to the house,” she said.

“Let me talk to your mom,” I said as my FBI friends returned to further sweat me.

“Get off the phone Michaels,” ordered the Boss.

“Put one of the agents on the phone, now,” I instructed my Ex, holding up my hand to slow the advancing Deputy Director. Then to him I said, ” I will tell you all that I can if you tell your men to stay with my family until I can provide for their safety. There has already been an attempt to snatch them last night. Trust me on this, we’re dealing with some dangerous people here, five people are already dead and I don’t think the body count will stop there.”

He took the phone from my hand and did what I asked. I then spent the next forty-five minutes telling them how I fell into the rabbit’s hole. The lady agent wrote it down with a fury, while the Deputy Director guided me through my story. Inturrupting only for clarification and allow his note taker to catch up, he shook his head in mock disbelief when I was done.

“I need a ride back to the Universal Hotel to pick up my car. I’ll give you my suspicions on the way,” I said. The Deputy Director rolled his eyes and told me I wasn’t going anywhere. “I’ll call my lawyer NOW,” reaffirming my hard ass.

“Get him out of here,” he told his troops and we headed into a hot Sunday afternoon on a trafficless Fairfax Boulevard in the City of Angels, in route to the make believe of Universal Studios. I had a hunch. I popped two codeine-fours and the pain in my wounded cheek went away before we pulled under the hotel’s portico. As promised, I gave the two agents the location I expected Colletta Meyers to be tomorrow morning: Probate Court, 10:00 AM. Armed with fresh clues, they left me at the entrance, convinced of their superiority.

I went strqaight passed the front desk to the security office. Bob was off for the day, probably resting up for all the flack the hotel GM and a bunch of studio bigwigs would rain down on him come the morning. Bill Staub, Bob’s number two, greeted me as I entered.

“What, you work here now Michaels?”

“Take me to Darla Mason’s trailer on the back lot, Bill,” I said.

“You’re nuts Rollo. You’ll probably get Bob fired for bringing all this crap into the hotel, and get me fired if I don’t throw your ass out of here right now.”

I held up my room key, “Hey man, I live here. If you’re a little hinky, call Bob up and get the okay. You do know that Miss Mason is a client of mine and she is in danger. Think what will go down if something happens to her because you wouldn’t take me to her.” Bill was number two for a reason. Afraid to act on his own, he called Bob and, after a brief conversation, handed the phone to me.

“In for a penny, in for a pound, whatever that means,” Bob said. “Please don’t shoot anybody.”

“What difference could it make now? Tell Bill to give me the key to the trailer too,” I said and gave the phone back to Bill. A five minute golf cart ride had him dropping me off next to Darla’s car, parked in front of her trailer. I waited for him to drive away, then turned the key in the lock and went in. Shit!

Chapter 33

July 26th, 2009

There were more emergency vehicles there than the closing scene of a ‘Lethal Weapon’ movie. I expected Mel Gibson to stick a gun in my face as I wiggled out the back of the Hummer and gimped toward the hotel entrance. A uniformed security guard placed a hand on my chest, ” Hold on Rollo, I’ll take you in through the side entrance.” I recognized him as the man who transported me on his golf cart to Darla’s back lot trailer five days ago.

“What happened?” I asked as he led us around the crowd. An ambulance was pulled up to the front door, a KTLA news van and two black and white police cars blocked off the portico. I spotted Clancy inside the lobby, talking to Bob McMeakon, head of hotel security.

“I’ll let Bob run it down for you,” our escort informed me as a gurney emerged from the elevator with two paramedics propelling Meeks to the awaiting ambulance. Two of my FBI friends came through the front doors like they owned the place, making a bee line toward me. Clancy and Nerd ran interference while Bob and I got on the elevator.

“Everyone’s okay, your wife and kids are in your suite and I have a man outsdide their door. Your Lieutenant Meeks exchanged rounds with this guy trying to force his way into the suite. What the hell was he doing with your wife?”

“How’s Meeks?” I asked.

“She took a hit to the shoulder, thinks she got one into the guy. A couple of blue suits are across the hall in your other room. They have Linda and Darla in there, waiting on the Detectives. Clancy gave them the slip. What’s going on? I heard you were shot and in the hospital.”

“Escaped. I’ll fill you in after I check on my family,” I said as we arrived at the tenth floor. Bob’s man was talking with an LAPD officer as we stepped from the elevator. I nodded to both and entered the suite I had left about eight hours ago.

“Daddy,” my daughter shouted rushing into my arms. The boys looked up from the TV, the little guy waving a hello, then they both refocused on the screen. My Ex sat on the chair next to the bed, anger all over her face, gearing up for the confrontation I was sure was coming.

“Jesus Rollo,” she said, bursting into tears, “I thought you might’ve been dead.” She rose from the chair and threw her arms around me and my daughter. Then my daughter started crying and I started to choke up. The boys stoically focused on the television, only clenched jaws betraying their emotions.

We calmed our daughter and left her to tough it out with the boys in front of the TV. We went to the sitting room and I filled her in about her date and she went off on me for filling her life with crap and endangering our children. I had no defense for her accusations and the truth forced me to retreat under the pretext of finding out what was going on, like that was something I was capable of doing.

Across the hall Darla and Linda gave me their version of Boris and my Ex showing up demanding to take the kids home. Darla gave Meeks a heads up about Boris being a bad guy, which he confirmed by producing a handgun. Meeks blew him out the door and closed it. The bastard put one through the door, wounding her in the shoulder. Linda dialed 911 and hotel security came up the elevator, passing the escaping Boris, who was in the ajoining on his way down. I asked Darla if she knew where Boris might go and she told me she didn’t know the address but could show me his apartment, only a few blocks from his Ventura Boulevard restaurant. Trouble was I couldn’t get her out of police custody until the detectives were done questioning everyone. The police were following up on all known addresses for Boris.

“Call your uncle and tell him Boris has been shot and the police are looking for him. Make it sound good, that you are afraid and need him to get you out of here right now,” I said and she did, at least I think she did, not understanding Russian.

“He’ll be here in twenty minutes,” she said after closing her cell. I went down to the lobby to hook up with my partner Clancy and fill him on the latest plan, knowing he’d be thrilled to see my hubris was immune to the many setbacks I’d suffered over the past week or so.

My two friends from the FBI were busy butting heads with Agents Green and Fontana, Clancy was engaged with Bob McMeakon, and two Robbery-Homocide Detectives were coming through the front doors as I stepped from the elevator. They all wanted a piece of me and my guess was the FBI would demand first dibs. I made a hard right, putting them all behind me as I headed toward the Security Office, two doors past the Night Auditor’s office and stepped inside. The young lady working the secrity monitors was startled.

“Tell your boss Rollo is here to see him and his friend Clacy,” I instructed, feeling a warm ooze trickle down my leg. Not good. She tickled his ear with my message via the radio and I watched him and my partner on one of the lobby monitors head toward the office. “Thank you,” I told her, eyeing a chair in the waiting area as Bob and Clancy came through the door. I looked down at my feet and saw blood pooling around my shoes and the floor begin to spin. They each grabbed an arm and led me to Bob’s office, setting me on his leather couch.

A lack of sleep, a certain amount of pain medication and twenty hours without food was causing me to be a little goofy. There was no blood dripping down my leg, my shoe was perfectly dry, as was my mouth. I knew then and there I couldn’t trust my judgment.

“Get Fontana in here,” I told my partner, and he went to get him. Bob got me a Dr. Pepper from the mini-bar behind his desk. It was one of the many things we had in common. I reached for the pills the doc gave me and threw them in the trash pail next to the desk. “Anything to eat, Bob?” I asked and he gave me a package of peanut butter crackers from his stash in the top drawer of the credenza. I was washing two down when Clancy returned with Fontana and Green.

I told them of having Darla call her uncle and con him into coming to the hotel so I could snatch him up and get a line on that bastard, Boris. They were game and in for depth and distance. We wound up waiting untill sun up for Uncle Vladamir to show, only to discover his niece Darla had slipped out of the hotel after the Detectives had interviewed her. That was enough for me. I went to my room and slept for four hours, awakening to a room service breakfast with my Ex and three kids. Linda went to the Burbank Hospital to check on Meeks and Clancy drove my Ex home. I resolved to let the Russians all go to hell and headed to Dodger Stadium on the hotel shuttle. Me and the kids had a game to catch.
* * *

Around the third inning the Dodgers had gotten to Bronson Arroyo for a run on a hit, error and sac fly. I was waiting for my daughter on the concourse outside the ladies restroom when I spotted my friends from the FBI. They headed towards me wearing serious faces gained through years of practicing in front of a mirror.

“Rollo, we need to talk,” the distaff member of the team announced.

“Not now we don’t,” I replied, then spotted my Ex approach, accompanied by another suit.

“We found Major Batakin with two holes in the back of his head. We’re betting on one of your clients being responsible,” said her male counterpart. “Your wife will look after the children and you will come with us.”