Too Many Questions…


Too Many Questions…

Private investigator Paul Manning and his family had a wonderful time at the Hollywood Bowl. But their parking adventure had turned into a nightmare. They were trapped in the Bowl’s stack parking lot, and the car behind them wasn’t going to move. There was a body in the trunk. Something bothered Paul, beside the fact that his business card was next to the body. That woman looked vaguely familiar. Once back home, he found an envelope lying on his front step. Inside was a picture of the person in the trunk, very much alive, and a note saying that for her release, they wanted $1 million in small bills. As he walked through the front door, the phone rang. It was his wife’s brother, Sam. He was crying. “Paul, you have to help me. They have Sarah. They said to call you and you would know what to do.” Huh? Who were they? And Sam’s wife was JoAnn, so who the heck was Sarah? But I was pretty sure I knew at least where Sarah was – at the Los Angeles County morgue.
Sam and JoAnn lived about 20 minutes away in Encino, a tony part of the San Fernando Valley. They lived “south of the boulevard,” which meant their house cost about 50% more than if it were six blocks away “north” of the boulevard. My wife, Shirley, and I made it to Sam’s in 12 minutes.
Sam and JoAnn were sitting in the living room. They were both shaken and crying. I hadn’t told them about “Sarah’s” demise. I thought that news should be delivered in person. But first, I needed to find out what was going on.
“Who is Sarah?” I asked.
Sam collected himself while Shirley took her sister into the bedroom. Shirley was going to break the news about Sarah as gently as she could. I would handle Sam and get the story.
Sarah was a longtime friend of JoAnn’s. They met at school back east. Shirley didn’t really know Sarah, since she went to a different school and the distances were great, but JoAnn and Sarah were very close. She was the daughter of a multimillionaire from Long Island.
Sarah had come out to L.A. for the first time that week and was staying with Sam and JoAnn. They had been doing the L.A. tourist things, visiting Universal, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Disneyland.
I asked Sam why Sarah had taken so long to get out to L.A. Sam said she had been married to a fellow from France, and they had been living in Marseilles. They also had been estranged from Sarah’s father. He didn’t like the marriage, or at least not her husband.
Sarah’s husband had passed away about six months ago under what Sam thought were strange circumstances (I would get to that later), and Sarah had begun a reconciliation with her family.
Sarah hadn’t been feeling too well and decided that rather than go out on Friday night with Sam and JoAnn, she would stay home. When they returned, they found the front door open and a note on the mantel:
“We have Sarah. Call your brother; he’ll know what to do.”
I knew the story from there.
I heard a sharp cry and sobbing in the bedroom. I knew that Shirley had delivered the bad news. There is no easy way to tell this story – you use the band-aid technique.
“Sam, Sarah’s dead,” I said. “We found her body at the Hollywood Bowl tonight.”
He dissolved. I knew that Sam was emotional. It was what JoAnn loved about him. He made friends quickly and obviously had with Sarah. He was just a nice man.
I got him a drink from the bar, and he took it in one gulp and held out the glass. I refilled it and he sipped.
“What’s going on, Paul? This is just too much. You know all about this stuff. I’m just a high school history teacher. How am I going to call her father?”
I told him the police would do that as soon as I told them who Sarah was. That seemed to calm Sam a bit.
We sat in silence as each of us pondered the situation.
Sam was right. I do sort of know about this stuff, and one thing for sure, it wasn’t pretty and was going to get much worse before it got better.
I told Sam I had to call the LAPD and fill them in on what I had learned. He gave me Sarah’s contact details and her father’s name.
I phoned LAPD Capt. Bill Vose and filled him in. We chatted about the case for a few minutes, and a thought began forming in my mind.
“This really doesn’t make any sense. Why would they kill Sarah if they were going to ransom her? I’m thinking the shooting was an accident, but I have a bigger question,” I said to Bill.
“How did they know so much about me that they knew not only where I would be tonight, but where I would be parking? They parked that car so it blocked mine.
“But the biggest question is this: How is it that I parked in virtually the only spot at the Bowl that could be blocked by a single car behind me?”
To be continued …

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