Death by Parking – Episode V: The Shakedown
Hartison Threatens Mary’s Son
Larry Levinson, the boss of crackerjack PI Paul Manning’s girlfriend had been jailed for the murder of a parking garage manager. Paul was trying to help and discovered that Levinson was having an affair with Mary Hartison, wife of the very jealous gangster Moncrief Hartison.
Mary had confessed the affair to Paul just before he had been hit over the head and ended up in the Hartisons’ living room with Hartison thinking that Paul was cheating with his estranged wife.
Before Paul could say anything, he was frog-marched out the door to a truck and later dumped in the desert. He was saved by another PI, James Nelson, who for his own reasons was also trying to bring down Moncrief Hartison. They returned to Paul’s office. They had determined that Mary’s son also was Nelson’s.
“I don’t think Mary is ‘with’ Hartison,” Paul told Nelson. “I think she is there out of fear and would leave in a second if she thought she could. She doesn’t know what to do, particularly as it relates to her, or your, son.
“But parking, what does all this have to do with parking?”
“I don’t really know,” Nelson said. “I just know there was a lot of cash and it was going missing.”
Then a man entered the office, talked with Paul and Nelson, and hired them to take down Moncrief Hartison, publicly. William Jefferson owned a parking company, and he said Hartison was using it to steal money from his customers and launder ill-gotten gains.
We set a meeting with all the players at my home. The discussion centered on Hartison’s organization, its lack of funding, and issues with his parking operation that weren’t serious enough for murder.
Paul picks up the dialogue:
“Mary, could Hartison have found out that Miguel was a friend of yours, and even that you were ‘married?’”
“I didn’t tell anyone except you,” Mary said. “We thought it would make Miguel’s story more believable. No one knew … wait a minute, my secretary, Joanie, was in the next room when Miguel and I were talking about going to you.
“She knows Moncrief. She has been to parties at his house. What if …” And Mary began to cry.
The entire room realized that Mary may have signed Miguel’s death warrant simply by being his friend. We also realized that with Moncrief Hartison’s jealousy, and the fact that Mary was really having an affair with Larry Levinson, he was next on the gangster’s list.
Maybe, just maybe, this could work to our advantage. If we could get Hartison to show his hand and make a run at Levinson, Lt. Bill Vose could have the LAPD there and that would do it.
“You have one problem with that scenario,” Vose said. “All we would have on Hartison would be attempted murder. We wouldn’t have him for Miguel’s death, or for any of the problems he caused Nelson when he worked at the university.
“A good lawyer would get him off with a heavy fine,” Vose said. “You will have to do better than that, assuming, of course, that Hartison did kill Miguel and that Levinson is innocent.”
“That’s it. I’m cutting you off,” I told Vose. “You must be drunk if you still think Larry is a murderer.” I was almost yelling at my longtime LAPD cop friend. Then Vose started to laugh, and so did the rest of the room. Yes, he got me. But, dammit, I was remembering that Hartison had tried to kill me, too.
We were refilling drinks and munching on pizza when Shirley, my girlfriend, asked for everyone’s attention.
“What if we maneuvered Hartison into thinking he had gotten away with murder. Then when he shows up at the university awards dinner to make the presentation of money for the new building, we have Paul’s buddy at Channel 5 do a ‘standup’ exposing Moncrief as a crook and a gangster.
“We can give him all of Mary’s inside information and let him roll,” Shirley said. “There will be a video at the presentation showing all the wonderful things Hartison is doing for the U; we can splice the expose into the middle of the video.
“The university will turn down the check and Hartison will be permanently disgraced,” Shirley said. “The video can include some insight into his sleazy parking operations, and Jefferson here will get his pound of flesh.”
“But that still leaves one problem” – It was Vose again, always bringing up pesky legal issues. “We still don’t have him for Miguel’s death.”
“Maybe we can get Hartison to admit he killed Miguel, or had him killed?” I finally had an idea that could add to the mix. “He is going to be really ticked off and off his game,” I said. “I could surprise him. He doesn’t know I’m alive.
“If we all show up – Mary’s first flame, Nelson, and me – who he thinks is Levinson – Hartison might get so enraged that he would admit to killing Miguel.”
“It could be dangerous,” Shirley said. She was worried. God bless her.
“Not if we did it in public, right in the middle of the presentation ceremony,” I said. “Bill could have his men spread all around the area. My buddy Moncrief would easily lose his cool if he saw his estranged wife kissing another man.”
“I like it,” It was Mary.
“Hell, Paul, I’d even kiss you if it meant taking down that S.O.B” said Vose.
We spend a few minutes fleshing out the plan and looking at possible problems. It was shaky, but it would work. I would take parking expert Jefferson and Mary to meet my buddy at Channel 5 so he could start on the expose.
The party broke up, and I asked Shirley if she would like to stay a while and check out my etchings. She laughed and went out on the balcony with a glass of wine. I joined her, and we settled down on the love seat and enjoyed the warm evening, the smell of sage and chaparral, the periodic howl of a coyote, and each other.
About an hour later, the phone rang. It was Mary.
“Paul, I need help. Moncrief’s men came to the cabin in Arrowhead. They have taken my son. Moncrief told me he wanted to be sure I was really ‘his’ and would keep Roger ‘on ice’ until after the university presentation. I’m to be on Moncrief’s arm when he is honored.
“We can’t do anything at the ceremony or he will kill Roger.”
To be continued ...
Article Abstract from April, 2011