Death by Parking
But Do We Still Have A Client?
Paul Manning, private investigator, has brought his son, Paul Junior, into the
detective business -- a business that had grown substantially in the years since
he had solved that murder and money-laundering case surrounding a parking
operation. Today, father and son were interviewing a potential client, Grace Lundquist, when she was shot through the window of their Sunset Boulevard offices. She hit the floor like a sack of wet cement.
I was used to seeing people shot during my year in Iraq in Desert Storm, but it was a bit of a shock to have it happen in Dad's office. I was on her almost before the sound of the gun stopped reverberating and began treatment - clear the air passages, stop the bleeding, treat for shock. Mom came running through the door and told us she had called 911. Dad grabbed his gun from the desk and jumped up to the side window and peered out.
"Don't see anything except a black towncar heading east toward La Cienega and a couple of people who hit the deck when they heard the shot," he said. "How's Grace?"
"She's still breathing, but just barely," I said. "The shot hit her in the chest. I have pressure on the wound, but paramedics would help about now." Sirens in the background answered my request. We were only about three minutes from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and from the color of Grace's face, that was a good thing.
Cedars-Sinai has a first-rate trauma and emergency center. Its surgeons were trained in 'Nam and Iraq. They know their gunshot wounds and how to fix them. The ER was like an armed camp, with bulletproof glass, automatic doors requiring cards, and all the rest. An armed guard, with a dog, was in the waiting room at all times. Seems gangbangers sometimes liked to follow up to be sure their handiwork was successful.
Jim Walsh came running in as paramedics were loading Grace on the fold-up stretcher, headed for the ambulance.
"What the hell is going on? Is everyone OK?" We assured him that we were. Jim is our partner. He saved Dad's life in that parking business caper that put Paul Manning, Investigations on the map before I was born. Jim came to work with Dad a few months later. Jim is my godfather; we have an "uncle-nephew" relationship.
I grew up in the detective business, and came to work with Dad, Mom and Jim after I left the Marines. I was immediately made a partner, and the name on the door was changed to "Paul Manning and Son, Investigations."
So we had a case; I just hoped we still had a client. Jim wanted to be brought up-to-date. I figured he would find out what was going on soon enough as a pair of cops walked through the door with that "don't anybody leave town" look in their eyes.
We knew them pretty well. Dad was a former LAPD officer, and we worked well with the police. What was strange was that these cops were from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Sunset Strip isn't actually in Los Angeles, although is surrounded by it. It is in West Hollywood, which contracts with the Sheriff's Department to do its policing. It's the largest sheriff's department in the world, and with 8,600 officers, is only slightly smaller than the LAPD itself. The Sheriff's Department provides police services for more than 40 communities in the county, plus its unincorporated areas.
West Hollywood is so typical L.A. It is an area of gays and retirees who, about 15 years ago, realized they had some common problems (discrimination, health issues, insurance, to name a few), so they banded together and formed a city out of a long narrow area roughly paralleling Santa Monica Boulevard just south and west of Hollywood proper. Its almost 2 square miles is a wonderful mix of art, film, restaurants, and tony shops and markets.
I once asked my macho dad his feelings about the gay population that surrounded our office. He said he had many friends in the community and was saddened by the plague that engulfed it. He wished more could be done, but knew that, as with most problems unique to a community, the solution would eventually come as much from within as from without. He then abruptly changed the subject. It was one of the few times I saw a tear in eye of my father.
But the cops in our office weren't there for a travelogue. Bill Murray -- that's "Lt. Murray" to you -- was leading the investigation. He tried to be a gruff cop, but it was difficult for him to carry it off since he also came to my fifth birthday party. And from what I understand he, my dad and "uncle" Jim went out on the deck while we kids were playing in the house and "tested" a bottle of 18-year-old Macallam. The results had been kept from me for more than three decades.
I told Bill that Grace Lundquist had come in on a referral and told us she was afraid she had been followed after seeing some sort of rendezvous on the roof of the parking garage outside her Olympic Boulevard office building. She was about to tell us more when she was shot. "I guess she was right about the following part," said Dad.
Bill told us that a quick check of the partial Dad got on the towncar's license plates led to a '95 Taurus registered in the Valley. It was a dead end. I only hoped Grace wasn't one too.
The hospital called about an hour later. Grace was out of surgery and resting comfortably. No major organs were hit, and the pressure I had put on the wound had helped keep most of her blood where it belonged. We could talk to her in a day or so.
Now what? Bill Murray and his partner had left with the admonition that we should let them know if we heard anything else. This was a sticky case for them as it crossed jurisdictional grounds -- Olympic Boulevard being in L.A. proper -- but he was certain the Sheriff's Department could work out the issues with the LAPD.
In the meantime, Dad, Jim and I discussed our next move. I was going to Grace's office building on Olympic, Jim would work the towncar angle, and Dad would call in a few chips he had with the Sheriff's Department crime lab to see if they could get anything off the bullet.
That all changed with the ringing of the phone; it was Bill Murray at the hospital. Someone had gotten through the ER security and shot up the recovery room where Grace was. There were people down. The shooter got away in a black towncar. We jumped in my jeep and headed for Cedars.
To be continued ...
Article Abstract from November, 2005