To read previous chapters in this Death By Parking episode or to read all the previous Paul Manning adventures, Go here.
I couldn’t believe my ears, this yahoo wanted to hire me as a contract killer. Was he nuts? I didn’t know what to say, so I said the first thing that came into my mind:
“Are you nuts?” ‘And who are you, anyway?”
“I’m William James, I’m a close friend of Laura Jefferson, and for full disclosure, I’m the reason she and “Dickey” are no longer married. I love her and I want you to find her killer and return the favor.”
Ahh, now all I had to do was talk this guy down off the ledge and perhaps I had a client. Of course I wouldn’t kill someone, but I could find them and then let the State of California have the pleasure.
“OK, Mr. James, why don’t you start from the beginning. You might begin by sitting down. Would you care for a drink?”
“I didn’t come here to be social, Mr. Manning. I loved Laura and I feel a need to avenge her death. The police have nothing and Larry here tells me you are the best. I also found a check made out to you in Laura’s things. If she trusted you, then so do I. Same deal — double you fee plus a $5000 retainer.” He handed me an envelope.
“Fine, lets start with some information. What does all this have to do with Linda Jackson, the Jersey Mob, and parking lots?’
“This is as much as I know,”, James said. “Laura, or Linda as you knew her, broke it off with Dickey Jackson about three years ago. We had met at a studio party – I’m a writer – and she was already finished with Dickey. We struck up a relationship, she dumped Dickey and there you are. We share the house where she was found.
“As you know, Dickey is very powerful in Hollywood and he vowed that ‘she would never work again.’ Well he kept his word. She was blackballed. It has been tough on her.
“About a year and a half ago she and I were going through a rough patch and she met Mario Palucci. He was handsome and that was that. She went to Jersey with him and stayed there for about 10 months. During that time she was able to get some inside information about him and used it to blackmail him”
“She was trying to blackmail the mob?” I said.
“Yes, she thought she could get Mario to give up his businesses here in LA and she could take them over and replace the income she had lost in the movie business. I told her she was naive, but she thought her info was iron clad and she had nothing to worry about. I guess she was wrong.”
I told James I would take his offer, added that I would not kill the murderer but would turn them over to the police, got his agreement on that little change in the plan, took the envelope, when by the bank to deposit the check on the way to my office. When I arrived I poured myself a whisky, opened the window, put my feet on the sill, and considered what I had gotten myself into.
This was becoming like the plot in a grade “B” movie. Heroes (me) and villains (the mob). Beautiful women (Shirley and Linda/Laura), intrigue, murder, sneaky gossips, (Larry) honest cops (Bill). The only problem was that the blood wasn’t fake and death was very real. And then there’s parking… I headed for home.
Shirley’s car was in my driveway. I parked on the street and walked to the front door. It was ajar. I went in and Shirley was sitting very still in a straight chair in the dining room. She had a determined look on her face and was staring at the wall, just to the left of the dining room door. I paused briefly and pulled my gun.
I then leaned around the door and placed the barrel of my .38 on the neck of the man standing there. He was holding a gun and it was pointed at Shirley’s heart.
A voice, rich with the North Jersey, came from over my shoulder.
“Well, Mr. Manning. I guess this is what one would call a “Mexican Standoff.”
To be continued.