Monterey Madness - Mr. One Pocket, Chapter Two
I left the police station, mind in a whirl. I climbed on Lu-Lu Belle, my motorcycle, my second love, and kicked to start her, failing to retard the distributor.
There was a peaceful feeling that went through my mind right before that sudden impact of landing flat on my ass as she backfired and sent me sailing through the air. For those not familiar with the workings of old motorcycles, if you aren’t careful when kick-starting an old bike…sometimes they kick back. It’s a clear reminder that keeping my mind on the work is critical to getting where you want to go.
Lying on my back with a dozen people rushing up to me to see if I was okay was significantly more painful than the bruise I could feel turning purple by the minute. But being the consummate biker dude that I’d worked my whole life to become, I stood up and told everyone that I was okay and they had no reason to be concerned. I brushed off the embarrassment, climbed on Lu-Lu Belle again—this time starting her correctly, with loving care and a retarded spark.
I rode a few blocks and turned onto Freemont. A few minutes later I arrived at Fast Willies to take a look around. The place was closed. Crime tape adorned the front and back doors as well as the parking lot in the back. A couple of black and whites were parked at the front of the building.
Without interrupting anyone, I decided to head over to see Manny Black.
Manny’s a biker friend, an ex-cop, and a man of many talents. He, like myself, is not exactly fond of the way the rules of the legal system work in favor of the criminals. His current job du jour is that of a private investigator. He isn’t listed in the yellow pages as such, but if anyone needs help finding anything or anyone, Manny is the guy to call.
“You have a lot of nerve riding that noisy piece of shit here this time of day,” he said, standing at the front door, wearing a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt and boxers. “You’ll wake the dead, not to mention the neighbors.”
“The only one in this neighborhood still asleep is your worthless ass,” I replied. “I still don’t see how you make ends meet looking like shit and sleeping all day long.”
“What you don’t seem to realize is that the people I work for don’t care what I look like and the one’s I track down don’t keep banker’s hours. Besides,” he continued, “I don’t remember you being exactly an early riser yourself. What the hell are you doing here, Sampson?” He stepped over to me, shook my hand, followed by the one-arm chest bump.
“My best to help a friend who seems hell-bent on screwing himself,” I said. “I figured if there was anyone that could help me figure out why, it would be you.”
“You talking about Sam?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“How the hell did you know?” I asked.
“Small town, big mouths,” he smirked. “I figured you’d be around sooner or later. So I’ve already doin a little snooping…just to get the 411 on what really happened.”
“Doesn’t make any sense so far,” he stated flatly.
He turned and walked back into his house. Manny didn’t live in the ritzy part of town.
Monterey, like every city in the U.S. has both good and not so good areas. Of course, Monterey’s bad sections are more expensive than most cities good sections. It’s not unusual for a small two-bedroom one-bathroom house to cost over a half a million dollars. Manny was one of those that grew up here. He was one of the official natives of Monterey, and the house was inherited when his folks died several years ago. By looking around it wasn’t difficult to realize that he hadn’t spent much on renovations or upkeep.
“Want a beer?” he asked as he popped the top off one for himself. He must have seen the look of astonishment on my face. “What?”
“Humph... How the hell do you do that?” I asked. Just the thought of alcohol at ten in the morning was enough to make my stomach wretch a bit.
“Hair of the dog,” he stated without a second thought. “If you want me to help you on this, I need a clear head. A beer is just the ticket.” He swigged down a huge gulp and then a second one. “Ahhh,” he dragged out the delight.
“Sam isn’t a killer,” I told him. “Sure, we had to do what we needed in the service…even killing. But, he isn’t the kind of person to do something like that now.”
“Are you sure?” Manny asked. He wasn’t looking for an answer. He wanted me to look for the answer myself.
“I know that anyone can do anything if the right—or wrong—reasons are presented,” I offered in reflection. “But, I can’t see any way that he could be involved with this. He’s a good man. And I’ll continue believing that until it’s proven otherwise.”
“What about the confession?” he asked.
“You know about that too?” I don’t know why I was surprised. I guess I didn’t think that information was out to anyone yet.
“I know about it. I have friends in small, dark places. There isn’t much I can’t find out in cop-land.”
After pausing a moment, he asked again. “So?”
“Even with the confession,” I said. “He would take the heat long before he would do the crime. I have no doubt.”
“Then I guess we need to figure out what makes a good man confess to murder, before it kills him.”
“How do we do that?” I asked. “This is the first time I’ve ever had to investigate without being a cop. I’m not even sure where to begin.”
“We’ve already begun,” he smiled. “We do what you’ve always done. We gather information; we follow leads, and then gather more information. The difference is that we don’t have to play by the rules cops do. Now, if you don’t mind, I need a few hours to tidy up a couple of loose ends, and then you can meet me at my office, say…two o’clock.” He finished his beer and escorted me to the door.
“Don’t worry,” he whispered. “I love a good mystery.”
I decided that the best use of my time at that moment was to go home, get cleaned up and start making plans on what to do next. Manny was a good friend and I knew he wouldn’t let me down. But there was no way I was going to put my friend’s life in anyone’s hands but my own. Lu-Lu Belle was cooperative and as always, made the trip invigorating.
Jill was waiting for me at the door when I arrived as the usual bundle of energy she always is. Lu-Lu Belle announced my arrival because of the loud pipes sounding off as I drove up the small hill to the front of the house.
“You are not going to believe the news I have to share,” she exclaimed. Jill was four years younger than me and had the energy of a teenager. She’s never met a stranger and you can believe me when I tell you that no one is stranger than her family. I can’t brag too much about my relatives, but I find her family to be a soap opera waiting for a TV contract.
It didn’t really matter how down I was or how agitated I might be from work, Jill always made my heart beat faster and somehow managed to put a smile on my face.
“So what’s the news you have to share?” Inquiring minds wanted to know. However, somewhere deep down, I’m always afraid to ask.
“Tootie is coming to visit,” she said with so much enthusiasm that I didn’t want her to suspect the “Oh shit!” that was going on in my mind.
“Really?” I said, as she jumped in my arms and hugged me around the neck. “Waa… When did this wonderful piece of news arrive?”
What I really thought isn’t something I should be expressing here.
Tootie Childress is Jill’s father. His given name is Harlan, but everyone calls him Tootie, even his kids. He’s more active than most people half his early, seventy-something years. He watches animal planet when he doesn’t have anything better to do and talks about sex like he’s Dr. Ruth’s bastard stepchild. Every problem with married couples, in his mind, could be fixed by adding a new sexual position into the mix. He’s fun to be around in private or with the family, but he never ceased to embarrass me when we take him out in public. I guess in the most simple of terms, he’s a horn-dog.
“So exactly when is this blessed event going to happen?” I asked, tongue in cheek. Hoping beyond hope it wouldn’t be anytime soon. Even cops, or in my case a suspended cop, can make wishes.
“I have to leave in an hour to pick him up at the airport,” she replied, joyfully.
I felt my stomach give a short heave. The hair stood on the back of my neck. I sat down.
“This is a little quick isn’t it?” I asked, clearing my throat.
“He wanted to surprise us,” she said. I did not reciprocate her enthusiasm and she noticed. “Oh baby, it’ll be a blast. He’s so much fun and you’ll have time now to spend with him.”
“I can hardly wait.” The smile was forced, but she was too much in her own world to notice.
“I love you baby.”
She hugged me and the best description I can come up with is, she galloped into the bedroom to change.
Hey, what can I say? I’m in love with a woman who gallops.
When Jill took off, I was left with the reality of what was going on with Sam. It didn’t make any sense to me. I’ve known the man for so many years and there has never been an indication of him being violent. He told me he was innocent. Now I find out he’s confessed to a murder. Every part of my being told me that he couldn’t be responsible.
But he confessed.
I needed to get ahold of the murder book. I needed to go over the scene, but didn’t really think the department would give me access. I needed to get a list of his closest friends and any relatives in the area. What I really needed was to figure out how to do this while not being a cop.
The time was running close. I needed to leave to meet Manny when the phone rang.
My caller ID said restricted caller.
“Is this the cop known as Sampson?” The voice was muffled, but it was a woman’s voice.
I thought about explaining my suspended status, but decided to play it out a little.
“Yes. Who’s calling?”
That is an old cop trick. It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while when a person is nervous and has a thought on their mind a simple question will induce an honest response. It didn’t work.
“That isn’t important, Mr. Sampson,” she said. “I just called to tell you that he’s innocent.”
What the hell, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
There was a pause and a sigh. “Maybe you aren’t as smart as I thought.”
She hung up.
I never did like cryptic calls, but somehow this one seemed to have something real about it. Sam is the only case I’m working on, or sort of working on. The mysterious caller knew that somehow. Was it just my imagination that the information coming out of cop-land was as porous as a sieve?
I told Manny about the phone call when I arrived at his office. He studied my words for a moment and told me that for now, it simply reinforced my own thoughts. And because I had no idea who it was calling, we needed to focus on what we did know.
“Let me show you around the digs,” he said. Manny was always saying things that were semi-cool in an out-of-date sort of way. “You might find some of my toys interesting.”
Well maybe his vocabulary could use a little updating, but his “toys” certainly were state of the art. It seemed like his entire world came out of a Spy’s R Us catalog. He had listening devices that could “hear a fly fart at a thousand meters,” he said. He had infrared monitors that could see through cement walls and technology that NASA would have been proud to own. After the tour, we started back to his office when in walked an attractive lady of about thirty-something years in age.
“Hey, Margie,” Manny said. “Let me introduce you to a friend of mine.”
“Detective, Adam Shaw,” she said, as if she knew me. She held out her hand and I shook it. Her grip was as strong as any man I’ve ever met. “Nice to meet you at last.”
“Nice to meet you too,” I replied.
Beyond that I wasn’t sure what to say. She seemed to know me, but I had no way of knowing how.
As if reading my mind she said, “Three years ago you were the detective that took the Linda Samara case. She was raped and beaten.”
She paused for a moment to see if I would recognize the name. I did.
“Yes, I remember. That was a brutal beating she received. It took time, but I nailed the bastard who did it.”
“Linda is my baby sister. I moved here from Pennsylvania to take care of her. I’d heard so much about you that I did a little homework. You did my sister proud and I want to thank you.”
“Thanks aren’t necessary, but you’re welcome.”
“Well now that introductions and accolades are done, how about we start working on the job at hand,” Manny suggested.
I looked at Manny and then at Margie. “She works for me,” Manny smiled. The smile broadened, “She thought you weren’t doing a very good job at finding her sister’s attacker and hired me to make sure you didn’t screw things up. She started helping with a few things here and there and …poof, we decided it could be worthwhile for her to stay. Been working for me ever since.”
I looked a Margie and her faced turned scarlet.
“So?” she defended. “I wasn’t going to take any chances and I didn’t know you. I’m just glad you were better than the others I’ve met since then.” She stood a bit taller, “I won’t apologize for my actions.”
“No need to apologize as far as I’m concerned,” I held. “I know those same people you’re talking about. And I wouldn’t have wanted them on her case either.”
“Anyway,” Manny continued, “I’ve been doing a little checking before you got here. It seems one Bobbi Marshal was at the pool hall last evening before she was killed. According to a couple of the people there, she showed up around ten-thirty alone and apparently already feeling no pain. She’s thirty-two years old…or was thirty-two years old. No one interviewed so far seems to know her. However, and you know how it is at that place, it didn’t take her long to make friends. If you know what I mean.”
“Do you know if Sam knew her?” I asked. “Before last night,” I followed.
“If he did,” Margie jumped in, “he isn’t saying so and nobody else interviewed so far has made any connection.”
“Okay,” I said, “so where do we go from here?”
“You tell us,” Manny replied. “We’re just the hired guns. You brought us in to this, but you’re on point.”
My head was spinning. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve worked many cases that were high profile. But this was the first time I’ve ever had to deal with saving a friend under these circumstances. Screwing this up wasn’t an option.
I learned a long time ago that the first step to getting out of a hole was to stop digging. Sam dug himself a crater and I had to make sure he didn’t do anything more to make things worse.
“Can you get a message to Sam?” I asked them both.
They looked at me as if I had asked them if they could ride a tricycle.
“You write down what you want and we’ll make sure he gets the message.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I need a list of everyone Ms. Marshal associated with. I need a background on her, to include financials, and the same with Sam. I need a list of Sam’s employees and you can feel free to add anything else you may believe pertinent.”
“Just so you know,” Margie said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Sam over the last year.” I guess the subtle aspect of my tongue hitting the floor gave her a hint that this information was somewhat shocking to me. “I’m a lesbian,” she volunteered. “We didn’t have sex...not that he didn’t try,” she added with a little smile. “He’s been teaching me to play pool. I just thought that you should know and that maybe you could use company interviewing the employees and several of the regulars. I know most of them and thought maybe I could grease the wheels when you talk to them.”
It’s at times like this when a true professional shows what he’s made of. Opportunities of this magnitude will allow the cream to rise to the top. On the other hand, the “You’re a lesbian?” question I squeaked out probably wasn’t my best moment. I’m also sure that the timing left a little to be desired. What can I say? I’m a guy and fantasies come into mind a lot more often than we can count. And, girl on girl action… Oh stop it. Damn.
There was an awkward moment of silence. Hell I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth. Maybe my nerves were getting the best of me. Margie, however, merely smiled and asked, “So what do you think? Could you use some company?”
At least one of us was acting professional.