We Are Recruited By the Feds


We Are Recruited By the Feds

Paul drove onto the top parking deck and immediately spotted the car that his son, Paulo, had called him about. Yes, there was a woman in the driver’s seat. She seemed to be asleep. Her head was leaning forward with her chin on her chest. Paul drove over to the stairwell and picked up Paulo. The woman’s car was sitting in the center of the parking structure at The Grove. They circled it and then pulled close to the driver’s door. Paul shook his head, and Paulo dialed 911.
Shirley had warned me that this case could be tricky. First-time meeting with the client on the roof of a parking structure. The client being Muslim, the possibility of terrorism and Sharia law issues.
Finding the body of a woman I assumed was our client made my wife’s warnings stand out in my mind. “Muslim.” “Terrorism.” “Sharia law.”
LAPD Captain Bill Vose had arrived just after the black-and-whites and before the crime scene staff. The coroner was standing by, awaiting the OK to take the body. Bill was my former colleague and oldest friend, but he didn’t look friendly when he walked over to the car.
“Damn, Paul. Can’t you bring me simple homicides, maybe a serial killer or two, perhaps a domestic dispute? This has Homeland Security written all over it. I’m guessing this is the woman you had me check out this morning. The check that brought back zero results.
“On my way over, my buddies at the FBI called and told me they wanted to ‘advise’ on the case. We all know what that means, Paul. They will take it over at the first opportunity.”
An obvious federal government vehicle drove onto the top parking deck. It had five people in it.
“And I think,” Bill said, “that that opportunity just drove up.”
The vehicle stopped, and four men and a woman got out. They were in suits. All wore dark glasses and ear buds. There was a no-nonsense vibe radiating from the group.
The woman spoke first:
“Captain Vose? I’m Sharon Westerly, Special Agent in Charge, Los Angeles Field Office, FBI. Two of these folks are on my staff, two are from Homeland Security. I understand you have a body here that may be of some interest to us. May we?”
Westerly was being nice. Bill could have balked, but I could see no reason to start the war this soon. Bill obviously agreed. He motioned toward the car and stepped back.
The feds walked over. Took one look at the body. And the four men took up positions at the four corners of the car. Westerly walked back to Bill.
“Captain, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are exercising our right under the terrorism statues to take over this case and take possession of the vehicle and its contents. Our support team will be here shortly. Thanks for your help. …
“Oh, and we would like to speak to Mr. Manning and his son.”
Huh? How did these feds know that we were involved at all? I felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole and could hear Alice: “Curiouser and curiouser.”
Bill looked at me and I shrugged. He asked if the FBI would mind if he acted as liaison with the LAPD, because he had developed relationships with staff in the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard over the years.
Westerly thought a moment and then said: “Let us get our act together, Captain. Meet me in my office tomorrow morning at 9. Now if you could give us a moment with Mr. Manning.”
It was a dismissal but done with such class that I almost missed it. Bill didn’t but at least he was not going to be shut out completely.
The head of the FBI in the LA area walked over to me and said: “Mr. Manning, I’m sure you have many questions, and from your reputation, you won’t just take ‘no comment’ for an answer.
“Why don’t you, your son – Paulo, isn’t it? – and I take a walk.”
We wandered over to the edge of the parking deck. The view was magnificent. It had been windy, and the air was crystal clear. Not that unusual in Los Angeles, but most writers who describe our smog-filled skies left 30 years ago. Westerly leaned against the concrete railing. The Hollywood sign was over her right shoulder.
“First of all, I apologize for intruding into your personal lives, but when you answered that phone call from the woman you know as Theresa Salim, you and your agency became our business,” Westerly said. “We had had her under surveillance for the past four months, ever since she entered the U.S. illegally by crossing the border near El Paso.
“We monitored your phone call with her, and knew the place and time of your meeting. We were following Ms. Salim when she left the hotel almost two hours before your meeting. We lost her in the hills above Sunset.
“While we were getting back in control of the situation, she obviously drove here and met her killer. I assume you two would have reported anyone going near the car, right?”
Paulo and I both said, “Right.”
“We don’t know why Ms. Salim was here,” Westerly said. “We do know that it was more than an irate father committing an ‘honor killing’ on a fallen-away daughter. Her activities were not suspicious. She went shopping, visited fine restaurants, and spent money everywhere. She even met men in bars and took them back to her hotel. She never went to theirs.
“After a while, we realized she knew she was under surveillance, and we backed off to a wiretap on her phones,” Westerly said. “That is, until today. Something spooked her. And she obviously had good reasons to
be frightened.
“I’m sure you wonder why I’m being so open …,” and then one of the feds at the car called Westerly over. They conferred for a few minutes and she returned.
“She wasn’t killed here. She was shot somewhere else, and the car was parked here, and she was put behind the steering wheel. Someone else knew about your meeting,” Westerly said.
“That’s why I have broken just about every protocol at the Bureau by bringing you into the case. We want you to continue as you normally would in such a situation. We know that you won’t just drop it. That’s not your way.
“We also know how you and your son pressed on when a client was shot in your offices.” Turning to Paulo, she said, “I understand that you and Miss Grace Lundquist are engaged. Congratulations.”
My God! What didn’t they know about us? I look at Paulo. He shrugged.
“I will have to discuss this with my partner,” I told Special Agent Westerly.
“Give my best to Mrs. Manning,” she said.
Paulo and I returned to the office. Shirley was pacing in the lobby. “I heard about a body found at The Grove parking deck. I assumed it wasn’t one of you.”
I told her what had happened and filled her in on the request by
the FBI.
“I know you want to do it,” Shirley said. “But will we be paid? We
have a business to run, and as far as I’m concerned, the feds are just
another customer.”
I called Special Agent Westerly and gave her our terms.
“She didn’t even pause,” I said after hanging up. “This must be bigger than we think. She said she had a blank check, and asked if the three of us could join her at the meeting tomorrow morning with Bill.”
Shirley gave me a look that, even after nearly 40 years of marriage, I didn’t really understand. It was a combination of curiosity, acceptance … and fear.

To be continued …

Read all of Private Investigator Paul Manning’s adventures – past and present – online at the Parking Today website
(www.parkingtoday.com), under the “Magazine” tab.


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