Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook One: Death by Parking
Chapter 2 - The Cops Arrive
I pulled my gun and ran to the door of the parking office. I pushed it open and went in, gun first. It was a small office with another door that led, I assumed, into the rest of the building. There were a couple of desks, an adding machine, a safe in the corner. They had a rubber plant.
Oh, yeah, on the floor was a pool of blood, and next to it the source of the blood. The body wasn't moving, and the blood was leaking from a knife wound in its chest. My unerring detective skills told me it was a knife wound because a knife was sticking out of it. They also told me I didn't need my gun.
I glanced through the other door, and the hall was clear. No suspect running away. But that scream was real enough.
The man was in his 30s. He was wearing a suit and tie. I checked his pulse; there was none. His wallet was in his inside jacket pocket. It inadvertently fell out into my hand when I reached for it. The ID said he was Gilberto Quintana. His business cards were in the wallet, too. They indicated that he was a manager for AB Parking.
Time to do the right thing. I called the police.
I had left the force about 10 years ago. There had been this misunderstanding between me and a suspect. I misunderstood him a little too hard, and although my sergeant tried to cover it up, The Times was on the warpath about police brutality and I got the axe. I never felt any animosity toward the LAPD. I just didn't do well in that structured environment.
When I left the force, I went to work for the Bel Air Patrol, a private police force that guarded all the movie stars and millionaires in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. Capt. Hankins, a former Beverly Hills police chief who was in charge of the patrol, let me join him on some "informal" investigations, and I learned my trade. After five years of cleaning up after prima donnas, I went out on my own.
I didn't dial 911. I called the back line at the Hollywood cop shop. I thought my ex-partner would be at the desk. I was right.
"Vose," he said. Bill Vose was a good guy. I thought I might need a friend as I was the first on the scene and I didn't see any witnesses around to back up whatever version of the truth I might need to give.
"Bill, Paul Manning. I'm in the parking office at the Argyle Building. There's a stiff on the floor that's just finished bleeding."
"Hold it a sec," he interrupted. I heard some mumbling in the background. "OK, what else can you tell me? The uniforms are on the way."
"Not much," I said. "I came over to meet a gal I spoke to on the phone, walked in and found this guy on the floor."
"Yeah, right, Manning. You never just walk in and find a body. There's more to it than that. Stay there, I'll be right over."
I could hear the sirens approaching. The cops drove right into the garage and up to the office. I replaced the wallet and waited for them. Two uniforms ran in with guns drawn. I thought for a minute that I was in a Laurel and Hardy movie. One was tall and thin, the other short and fat.
"Down on the floor," the fat one said. "Aw, come on, guys, I don't want to mess up the suit. Might get blood on it. I called Sgt. Vose. He's on his way."
"Well ...," said the thin one. His name was Cooper (maybe it was a Western, not a comedy). "Just turn around and keep your hands where we can see them."
After some discussion, we decided the wise thing to do was move our little group outside the door and wait for Vose. Five minutes later he showed up with some guys from the crime lab.
"Anything else you want to tell me?" he said. He wasn't happy.
"What do you mean, Bill?" I flashed a million-dollar smile.
Bill was about five years my senior. He was a career cop and a good one. I could describe him, but just think of all the kind, lovable, curmudgeonly cops you have known and that was Bill. His suit, however, did fit properly (his wife made sure of that). He didn't have the look of a curmudgeon. He was 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. He worked out. The girls all loved him. But he loved his wife.
Wow, Bill was good. He hadn't been there five minutes and knew as much as I did. I glanced over at the kid in the parking booth. He had a sheepish grin.
I told Bill the story from the beginning, leaving out just enough not to convict Betty before I had met her. He told me not to leave town. Nope, I was in a detective movie.
I went to the pay phone on the wall in the garage and called my friend Shirley, who had recommended Betty for the job, and got Betty's address. Maybe I could beat Vose there and find out what was going on.
Betty's place was in a rooming house off Orange Grove, a couple of blocks from the Argyle. It was called the Orange Blossom Arms. The place was clean enough, and run by a woman named Marlene Crowley, who could best be described as handsome. Let's just say she shopped at plus-size stores and came across like a center for the L.A. Rams. There was no way I was getting past her.
"Who the hell do you think you are, barging in here and asking about Betty? I run a clean, respectable place here where girls can feel safe from guys like you. And don't try a line on me. I've heard them all."
Obviously my signature smile wouldn't help either, so I tried the last tool in my kit. The truth.
"I got a call from Betty telling me she was in trouble. When I got to her office, she wasn't there, but the police were. I came here to try to help her."
I could see that the truth was beginning to thaw
"Well, I'll tell you what. We'll both go. I know she's home, I saw her come in about 15 minutes ago. But if she doesn't know you, buster, you'll wish you never entered the Blossom." I believed her.
Betty's place was in the back on the first floor. Marlene knocked. No answer.
"Betty, it's Marlene." No answer. I was preparing to kick down the door when Marlene held up her hand. She gave me a look that would have stopped a clock, took out her passkey and unlocked the door.
The room looked like a china shop just after the bull had left. Clothes were everywhere, the mattress was upended, drawers open. I walked to the bathroom and stopped cold. There on the floor was my second body of the day ...
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