Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook One: Death by Parking
Chapter 8 - The Laundry in Full Swing
Damn, Shirley and I have a long history, and it's a good one. I guess I might as well sit back and enjoy the present company. It was pretty obvious I wasn't going to have any from Shirley until she cooled off.
The main problem was that the water from the vase was soaking through the blanket and my feet were getting wet. Nurse Mary moved quickly and grabbed the vase before it was completely dry and sat it on the table next to the bed.
"Sorry," she said, "I guess you are taken," and walked out.
Boy, things do go to hell quickly. Nothing to do now but sleep off the remainder of the pain from my accident, then prepare for the meeting with Betty and "DC."
The next morning, I was feeling almost back to normal. I called my lawyer, the insurance company and then rented a car. I would be looking for a new car, but in the meantime, the clunker from "Rent a Wreck" was going to have to do.
I figured that my next move should be to contact my buddy at the LAPD, Sgt. Bill Vose, and get an update as to the status of my client, Betty. I thought that this should be better done in person, since the last time I was to see Bill, I stood him up, or rather my being kidnapped by the Mob prevented a meeting. After dropping by my house to get some clean clothes, I headed toward downtown L.A.
His office was in the newly opened Police Administration Building. Vose was at his desk, muttering under his breath. "What's the problem?" I asked. "Oh, it's about time you showed up. You are only 36 hours late for our little meeting in Bel-Air. I understand you have been a bit busy. How's the head?"
I told Vose that I was fine and asked about my client.
"She will be released later today. That Philadelphia lawyer you hired for her really knows her stuff. Plus, Betty's landlady is known by the D.A.'s office as a straight shooter, and she vouched for her."
I knew that Marlene Crowley, the curmudgeon who runs the Orange Blossom Arms, would somehow reappear in this story. She nearly decked me when I tried to get to Betty's room after I had found Gilberto Quintana, Betty's boss, in a pool of blood in her office at the parking garage. However, my silver tongue -- and the truth -- got us moving, and we found Betty out cold on the floor of her bathroom. The police arrived and arrested Betty, but as I left, Marlene had Bill Vose in a verbal hammerlock, and I knew he was going to roll over.
"You can probably take Betty with you when you leave," Vose added.
"Great! Now what's been happening with the shootout in Bel-Air and my little sojourn with the Mob?"
"Oh, right, you haven't heard. Well, the fellow you winged running out of Art Ball's house in Bel-Air turned up in Vegas with a bullet through his ear; yours was in his shoulder. That's how we ID'd him. Your previous activities had given us a record of the ballistics off your piece. No question it was an execution. Definitely Mob-related.
"As for the kidnappers, the car chasing you on Mulholland and its occupants weren't so lucky," Vose said. "When they rounded the curve and saw you slide into the road grader, they went into a spin and were wrapped around an oak tree. No survivors. We compared the plate with the one we got from Capt. Hankins over at the Bel Air Patrol and it was the same plate, stolen from a '53 Ford pickup. I have to say that you do have a tendency to leave a string of bodies in your wake."
"Just talented, I guess," I said. "Thanks for the info. Where can I meet Betty?"
Vose called down and had Betty brought up. She look good, real good. In fact, since the incident with Shirley at the hospital, she looked as good as can be.
"Oh, Paul, I am so glad to see you. They made me stay in jail for two nights until your lawyer and Marlene convinced them I wasn't a murderer. Or at least convinced them that I wasn't leaving town."
I didn't tell Betty that the real reason was that my mouthpiece had put up bail in the amount of $5,000, the interest for which was going on my bill. We said goodbye to Vose and headed out. I told Betty that we had a meeting with DC McGuire, parking expert, in a couple of hours. We could drive out to Rancho Park golf course, have lunch, and meet up with him when he finished his round.
DC came of the 18th green and walked straight to the bar where we were waiting. I introduced him to Betty and DC immediately started talking about her notebook. I took out my copy, and Betty was peppered with questions.
It was as DC had thought. The numbers were tickets with entry and exit times. The notations showed how much should have been deposited, and how much really was. It was confirmed. Although the garage collected an average of $250 a day, the day manager deposited between $700 and $1,000 each working day. The money laundry was in full swing.
I told DC that it made no sense. The Mob was trying to buy Art Ball's parking operation. Why would it launder money through a garage that it didn't own?
"I never said the money came from the Mob," DC said. At that moment, the confusion that had haunted me since the beginning of this case began to lift.
DC complimented Betty on her notebook and told her that she was doing a terrific job as a garage manager. She blushed and said that as night manager, she had a lot of time on her hands. DC was mumbling something about wanting to get back into the parking business and looking for the right person to handle the operations, when the bartender, who was holding a phone, asked if there was a Paul Manning in the room.
I walked over to the bar, said, "Guilty as charged," and he handed me the instrument. I said, "Manning."
The voice at the other end was very familiar. It was reminiscent of moonlight on the Spanish Steps in Rome, but now it had an edge, much like a she-wolf on a hillside in Sicily.
"You were warned, Mr. Manning. I guess you don't understand. Therefore, we will have to show you just how we operate. If you remember, I gave you three names of people whose health would be in jeopardy if you didn't stop your little intrusion into our affairs. I have one of those people as my guest. I now have to figure out what to do with her. By the way, I saw you at the bar at the Bel Air Hotel. I assume you now know my identity. That makes the problem even more difficult." The line went dead.
Let's see, she had named three people: Betty, Shirley and me. Well, I was looking at Betty. Oh, my god! They have Shirley! Suddenly our little tiff at the hospital meant nothing. Nurse Mary and beautiful Betty disappeared from my mind. I ran out of the bar and jumped into my car. It was only when I put my key in the ignition that I realized I had absolutely no idea what to do next.
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