Death by Parking - Chapter 7 - I Meet with Cosner
The Lieutenant – Chapter 7
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I wasn’t concerned about my health; I could take care of myself. However, I didn’t like that my buddy “Dandy” the mob enforcer mentioned Shirley. LAPD Sergeant Bill Vose also noted that Shirley and I should take a vacation ‘til things calmed down a bit.
Were there other ways to get money out of a garage than by simply invoicing the owner?
There was no way I was going to leave town. I was committed to S and L and determining just what was the involvement of my lieutenant from those days in Korea. There were two things I needed to do.
First, Shirley. I walked over to her office and sat in the chair directly in front of her. Normally, I sat on the sofa and she came over and sat next to me. She knew this was serious. I told her about the visit in my office from the mob and the threats to our health. I told her Bill Vose recommended she get out of town for a while.
“Wait just a dadgum minute, Bucko. Some hot shot mobster isn’t going to scare me. You taught me how to shoot, and I’m packing heat. Just let him try to mess with me.”
I decided to appeal to her better nature.
“But Shirl, if you are in town, I would be worried about you and it would distract me from what I’m trying to do on this case. If you were relaxing in a spa in Mexico for a week or so, I would be able to concentrate on the threats and neutralize them. Then I could come down and join you for the second week. All expenses paid – I’m getting well paid on this job.”
She looked at me, and I could see she was considering it. She needed a little nudge.
“Plus, if you want you can take your friend Mary for the first week. You two could really paint the town red.” I added, flashing my million-dollar smile.
“OK, let me call Mary, and we will work it out. You had me with all expenses paid and you at my beck and call the second week.”
I laughed and left her reaching for the phone.
With Shirley soon to be safe, I felt it was time to beard the lion in his den. When I ran into my former lieutenant, Frank Cosner, in the elevator at the S and L offices, he didn’t seem to recognize me. So, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to pay him a visit and talk a bit about what his company does and its relationship with S and L. What’s the worst that could happen?
Cosner’s company, C-Park, was located in a downtown high rise. Most parking companies have their headquarters in a garage and are usually pretty down market. Not my lieutenant. His office was in “One Wilshire.” It was a Class A building at the head of Los Angeles’ main street, Wilshire Boulevard. This was the heart of downtown Los Angeles. There was construction on every corner. The City of the Angels was growing, and companies like S and L were making it happen.
I parked in the garage under One Wilshire and remembered to take my ticket. Maybe I could get Frank to validate it. I rode up to the 18th floor and walked down the mahogany paneled hallway to the C-Park offices. There was an intercom on the door. I pushed the button and gave my name. When I mentioned S and L ,the door buzzed immediately. I pushed it opened and entered into a small lobby. It was surrounded in glass, and I could see maybe 20 staff working in cubby holes behind the glass. A receptionist sat in the lobby. She gave me a questioning look.
“Paul Manning to see Frank Cosner.”
She picked up the phone, muttered something in it, and then told me that Mr. Cosner would be right out.
I was wondering whether I was overreacting to that day a decade ago when the lieutenant had pulled the screaming girl (she couldn’t have been over 16) into the backroom of that bar in Korea and the sudden quiet when the screaming stopped. My buddies wouldn’t let me do anything, but now what?
Cosner walked out and held out his hand. He was dressed in a beautiful gray wool suit with a slight pinstripe. His shirt was white and his tie bright red. His wingtips were polished to a mirror shine.
“Frank Cosner, and you must be Paul Manning.” I shook his hand. His grip was strong, but not crushing. He had an air of confidence which filled the room. “Come into my office.”
We walked past the working stiffs in the outer office. “These are auditors. We audit each garage no less than four times a year. We want to be sure that the proper revenue is getting into the bank. We are a cash business and there are many ways for that cash to disappear. We have to be sure we are proper custodians of our customers’ money.”
Cosner’s corner office faced North and West. He had a view all the way to Santa Monica and the Pacific beyond. The décor was modern with a lot of chrome and glass. He offered a seat opposite his desk. I sat.
“How can I help S and L?” He shut up; the ball was in my court.
“Well, Frank. I have been hired to take a look at what is going on at the job site. There have been some accidents and Ray Stevens asked me to look into them and be sure that they were, in fact, accidents.”
“How does that involve me?” Cosner said. “We won’t even be on site until the project is finished.”
“I though it best to talk to all the companies associated with the complex,” I said. “How did you come to get the contract to run the parking there. I understood that S and L mostly dealt with Alpha Parking on its other projects.”
“It was good old American competition. We came in with a better proposal and a lower price. See, in the parking business, it's not the amount of money you pay the customer, it’s the amount of money they pay you. In this case, we were able to provide S and L a contract that gave them a high-end parking operation, but at a very low fee for us. In fact, it’s almost zero. We are contracted to receive our expenses and a very small stipend above that. I guess Ray thought that was a good idea. Today, every penny counts.”
“But why would you offer to do the work for virtually no income? Someone has to pay for this beautiful office and all those auditors out there.”
“Sometimes the project is more important than the income,” he added. “In this case, the complex will be the most influential on Wilshire Boulevard and if we can show the city just how good a job we can do, it will mean other projects down the road. It’s no secret that we are playing a long game here. The contract is for three years. If we can prove to S and L that we are the best, and we can, the new contract will be more lucrative.”
I began to wonder about this business model. Were the other ways to get money out of a garage than by simply invoicing the owner? I will find out and I knew just the person to help.
I bid Cosner farewell and heading back to the office. Along the way I picked up a tail. I was expecting it and had a plan.
To be continued…
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