Death by Parking – Episode V: The Shakedown
Shirley’s Boss, A Murderer?
Private investigator Paul Manning shows up at a parking garage where his client of 20 minutes lies dead and his client’s wife – who suspected a parking scam – is standing over a gun nearby.
Mary Williams looked at me, looked at the body, and shook her head. She had stopped crying; my guess is that it was from shock. She just stood there, shaking. The officers beside her had changed; they were female cops, and knew their job.
LAPD Lieutenant Bill Vose was standing over the body. He was shaking his head. I started shaking my head.
“What?” said Vose.
“Well, the man at your feet is Joe Williams. The woman your staff has surrounded is his wife, Mary. She works for a firm in the building; there is some issue with the parking operation.”
“How do you know all that?”
“Oh, they’ve been my clients since 10 a.m.”
“I knew you had to be up to your neck in this, Manning. Nothing happens in Hollywood that doesn’t have the Paul Manning Seal on it. Are you sure that’s all you know?”
Mary was beginning to become unhinged. She slumped against one of the policewomen. They half-walked, half-carried her to an office nearby, where I could see a desk, chair and couch. They let her lie down on the couch. Someone brought a cold compress for her forehead.
Lt. Vose walked over and picked up the gun. He was wearing gloves. It was a police special. Smith & Wesson. A lot of stopping power. He sniffed the barrel. “It hasn’t been fired.”
I couldn’t believe it. Usually at this point my client is under arrest and I am calling my attorney and putting my car up for bail.
“OK, Paul, here’s what we know,” Vose said. “We got a call from the building office; I think it was your girl Shirley. She said that an ‘incident’ was going on in the garage. When the black-and-whites arrived, they found your client dead and your other client there holding the gun. They told her to drop it, she did, and there you have it.
“It looks like she didn’t shoot him, at least not with that gun,” Vose said.
I saw Shirley come out of the stairwell next to the garage and walk over to us. She was blonde, shapely, and knew how to command a room. Even happily married Vose turned and looked. In addition to coming in a perfect package, Shirley was smart. She walked right up to Vose, looked at me, winked, and started talking.
“Hi, Lieutenant, you probably want to know why I called you all together. I got a call from one of the tenants. He had just pulled into the garage and said there was an argument going on, lots of yelling. And he thought one of the people yelling had a gun.
“I told my boss, Larry, and he said to call the police and to call Paul. He wants Paul to represent the owners of the building in this incident. We had hoped it was just a misunderstanding, but it looks like it got a bit out of control.”
Shirley glanced over at the body and then crossed her arms over her chest. Her body language said that was her story and she was sticking to it.
Vose smiled, thanked her for her candor, and said he knew where to find her if he had any other questions.
Shirley and I walked to an area out of Vose’s earshot, and she grabbed my arm. It wasn’t a “let’s stroll down to the corner for a cup of coffee” grab; it was a “help me to keep from falling down” grab.
It was my turn to say “what?”
“There is a lot more to this,” Shirley said. “Larry wanted you involved because there is something going on here in the garage. Mary is being threatened. That’s why I sent her to you.
“But she isn’t the only one. We have had complaints from a number of our more reputable tenants. But they don’t want to get involved. Others, particularly the smaller ones, have said nothing.
“The garage manager has a business going on the side.” Shirley said. “He is selling parking permits for cash at a discount and keeping the money. We know it’s happening, but we can’t get anyone to tell the story.
“Mary told me, but she is afraid to tell her boss. He’s very fussy and doesn’t like to get involved with something as mundane as parking.”
“But it can’t be a lot of money,” I said. “This is parking, for goodness sake. It’s not enough to kill for.”
“I did the numbers,” Shirley said. “The garage has 750 spaces; 500 of them are monthly parking. We charge $50 a month for a guaranteed space. That’s $25,000 a month.”
“How much money does the manager turn in each month?”
“It varies,” she said. “He says that monthly sales are down, and we also get a considerable number of people who park for just a few hours. They pay an hourly rate. It’s difficult to figure how much is missing. Larry isn’t overly concerned since we get a sizable check every month from the company that runs the garage.”
“Runs the garage? Doesn’t the manager work for you?”
“No, we contract with Artie’s Parking,” Shirley said. “They provide the employees and simply pay us a set fee every month, plus a percentage of the revenue. We are sort of out of the loop.”
We heard some yelling and police issuing “get down on the ground” orders. I looked over at where Vose was standing, and four very large policemen were picking a man up off the ground. There was a gun nearby.
Vose picked it up, sniffed. “Now this one has been fired.”
“Oh my God,” said Shirley. “That’s Larry Levinson, my boss.”
The police were putting Levinson in the back seat of a black-and-white. Vose came over. “Well, maybe this one will be easier than I thought. We are booking Levinson for murder one.”
Shirley gasped. “Larry’s a good man; he wouldn’t do something like this. You have to help him, Paul.”
To be continued …
Article Abstract from March, 2010