We Hatch a Plan
The boss of crackerjack PI Paul Manning’s girlfriend was in jail for the murder of a parking garage manager. Paul was trying to help and discovered that the boss 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 Paul was cheating with his estranged wife.
And ah, yes, the woman next to him was the one who first hired Paul to keep her husband, who turned out not to be her husband, out of trouble, the woman who had told Paul she was divorcing her millionaire husband. Now, that hubby number 2 was standing next to her, and Mary had turned into a seductress who seemed very comfortable with the man she was trying to divorce. 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.
Paul picks up the dialogue: We had a client who was paying us. We could get the accused murderer, my girlfriend’s boss, off the hook and take down Moncrief Hartison, while freeing Mary from his clutches.
The only problem was that I had absolutely no idea how we were going to bring down Hartison, and on the front page of the LA Times to boot.
Nelson and I talked about how we could do it. We needed a public way to show the world that Hartison was a liar, a thief, and most likely causing fear in the heart of Nelson’s former girlfriend.
There was something … something that Nelson had said when I first met him. Hartison was a big donor to the university, and a gala fund raiser was to be held in a couple of weeks in the huge entry hall at the new geology building Hartison had underwritten. Black tie and all the trimmings. Everyone from the mayor on down would be there.
OK, we had our public event. What could we do to get the cops involved in a very public way? It was time to call in some reinforcements. We needed a cop, a parking expert, and someone who knew all of Hartison’s secrets.
The cop part was easy – my old boss at the LAPD. A couple of bottles of single malt scotch and he would join the Foreign Legion. The parking expert? That would be my on again/off again girlfriend and her boss, who was out on bail for the murder of his parking manager.
“But who knows everything about Moncrief Hartison?” I was thinking out loud, and Nelson answered my question.
“Mary Hartison,” said Nelson. “We will know for sure if she was playing you for a fool or if, when she slipped you that knife so you could escape in the desert, she was sending you a message.”
It was a good idea, but how were we supposed to get to her without Moncrief knowing? She wasn’t working any more. She seemed to have moved back in with him in his Palm Springs mansion. I know she was probably only trying to protect her (and Nelson’s) son, but she was there, surrounded by a dozen gunsels.
“Look,” said Nelson, “what about our son, Roger? He’s probably still living at the house in Arrowhead. Hartison hates him, doesn’t want him around. Roger could probably call Mary and arrange to meet her somewhere and we could be there.”
It was just dumb enough to work. I sent Nelson off to arrange that meeting, and I made some phone calls.
We were going to meet at my place on Mulholland. It would be interesting to see what happened when I put the man accused of murder in the same room with the man who had arrested him. But if my old boss, Lieutenant Bill Vose, was anything, he was flexible. And he trusted me. To a point.
The meeting was set for 9 p.m. Vose arrived first. I may have neglected to tell him what the meeting was about or, in fact, that anyone else would be there. I mentioned a bottle of 18-year-old Laphroaig single malt and that was enough.
Vose was on his second “wee dram” when my girl Shirley walked in with the accused murderer, Larry Levinson.
“What the hell …” Vose said. “OK, Paul, to quote Desi from that new TV show: You got some ‘splainin’ to do.”
To be continued …