One Murder Solved, Kinda
Private investigator Paul Manning found a dead woman woman in the trunk of a car blocking his in the stack parking lot at the Hollywood Bowl. His business card was in there, too. Once back home, Paul found an envelope with a picture of the person in the trunk, very much alive, and a note saying they wanted $1 million. The woman turned out to be his sister-in-law’s best friend, Sarah, who had left an estranged father and been widowed for about six months. They met Sarah’s father and her niece, Melissa, and after clarifying a mix-up as to who Melissa’s father was (it wasn’t Paul), he agreed to help find her killer. As he drove home, Paul was thinking: How did the kidnappers know he was at the Hollywood Bowl? How did they set it up so the car with Sarah’s body would be blocking his? How did they know that he had a relationship with Sarah’s sister? How did his business card get in the trunk with the body? Paul pulled into his driveway. The front door to his house was open, the lights were on. He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out his gun.
The second most dangerous thing a cop can do is enter a house when he doesn’t know what he’s going to find inside. (The first is to answer a domestic dispute call since usually by the time you get there they have reconciled and you become the villain.) I wasn’t happy with this, and before I approached the door, I called Capt. Bill Vose at the LAPD and told him to send some backup.
Of course, he ranted about me staying out of the house and waiting for him to arrive. I agreed and hung up. I then approached the door and very carefully pushed it open. Fortunately, we had just replaced the door and the hinges were freshly oiled.
The scene in front of me was reminiscent of one two years back that led to the death of Sarah’s sister and Melissa’s mother, Betty Beeson. Three people were sitting in my living room, drinking my liquor, and chatting as if they owned the place.
I kept my gun at my side and walked into the room.
There were two men and a woman. They looked rather strange. They had on dark glasses, hats, and what looked to me like wigs. When they turned, I realized that they were wearing full face masks. (One was Hillary, one was Bush, and one Obama. I guess they got the first two on sale.)
“Bush” stood up and I raised my gun.
“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Manning. We just came to talk. I felt you might react this way, so we brought some assistance.”
I turned around; a very large gentleman with a very large gun was standing in the door. He didn’t wear a mask. I guess he didn’t care if someone recognized him. I put my gun in my pocket.
“I’m certain you called the police before you came in, so I suggest we change our venue. Please accompany us to your car.”
We all piled into my car, and I drove as instructed to a turnout on Mulholland Drive about two miles away. There was a black SUV parked there. We got out. The gunsel stayed a bit away from the group, but held his gun on me.
“Bush” again did the talking. “We wanted to discuss what happened at the Hollywood Bowl and perhaps persuade you to drop your inquiries into Sarah’s murder. It seems we outsourced a project to the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. There was never any intention to kill Sarah. We simply wanted to exchange her for some money.
“We knew you had had an involvement with Sarah’s sister and thought that having you as a go-between would make matters proceed more smoothly.
“The idiots we hired to take Sarah accidentally shot her, and before they could do anything, she died. They decided to continue with the plan, with a slight change.
“They were supposed to block your car at the Hollywood Bowl to slow you down so we would have time to get to your house and leave the contact information. We had two teams working: one blocking your car and the other going to your house. The one going to your house didn’t know that Sarah had been killed, and the other was so frightened they didn’t call to tell them the deal was off. They put Sarah’s body in the car that was to be used to block you and drove to the Bowl and left the car behind yours.
“We know your reputation, Mr. Manning. We know that you don’t give up until you complete a task. We are asking you nicely to stop your pursuit in this case. Our tracks are well-covered; the police won’t find us. Rest assured that the ones responsible for Sarah’s death will be dealt with.
“If you back off, we can let the matter drop. If you don’t, we will be forced to take action against you and your family.”
“Bush” paused, probably to let me think it over. It was obvious that he didn’t know Sarah’s father, a consigliere with a lot of weight in Washington, DC, was personally involved and in town. I wasn’t too worried about my son, Paulo; he could take care of himself. My wife, Shirley, had been down this path with me before and would wring my neck if I kowtowed to these hoods.
“Oh, just in case you have ideas that we aren’t serious, ‘Hillary,’ take off your mask.”
The woman reached up and removed the mask. Her back was toward me. Then I realized that the mask had no eye holes. She hadn’t been able to see anything that was happening. She turned around.
I was looking at Melissa, or at least someone who looked like Melissa. But it couldn’t be. I had left her and Sarah’s father in Santa Monica less than an hour ago. Unless these guys were into teleportation, there wasn’t enough time for them to kidnap her, drive to my place, and be waiting there before I got home.
“Who are you? “
“I’m Mandy, Melissa’s twin.”
I shook my head. This was becoming a soap opera. I looked at “Bush.” My face was a question mark.
“We are simply continuing our project, Mr. Manning, but with a different central character. You will continue to be our point of contact. Return home. Say what you will to the police. Drop your investigation into Sarah’s murder. We will be in touch.”
They got into the SUV and drove off. There was mud on the plate. The model was generic big.
I stood there scratching my head. Sirens were coming up the road. The police convoy pulled over, and Bill Vose got out of the lead car.
“What’s going on, Paul? Why are you standing here? I told your to wait outside your house but not a mile away.”
“The plot has certainly thickened,” I said. “Did you pass a black SUV as you came up the road.”
“It contained the kidnappers, and another hostage. We are starting this all over again.”
To be continued ...