Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook One: Death by Parking
Chapter 9 - I go after Shirley
I just sat in the parking lot, watching some golfers on the practice green. Where was Shirley? Even if I knew, what could I do?
I knew they were probably holding her in the mansion where I was taken when I had been kidnapped. That was in Bel-Air. Maybe a conversation with Bel Air Patrol head Capt. Hankins and my buddy Jim Walsh might shed some light on the case. It was at least a place to start.
The patrol had its offices in East Gate, one of the two gated entrances to the star-studded Bel-Air section of L.A. Most people didn't know it, but you could see many more Hollywood types by standing at East Gate around 7:30 a.m. when they left for the studio than at the clubs in the evenings. Of course, catching a glimpse wasn't too easy, because one of the patrol's main jobs was to protect the privacy of the residents.
Hankins had hired me after the LAPD gave me the ax and had taken me under his wing. I was on the patrol, but I also worked with the Captain when he was asked by some of the residents of Bel-Air to help with certain cases when they didn't want to involve the police. I left to become a PI, but kept a relationship with the Captain and my friends on the patrol.
"So, Manning, I understand you've been pretty busy since we picked you up after your kidnapping," Hankins said as I walked in. "How's the head?" He had contacts everywhere and knew everything that went on in law enforcement in Los Angeles.
"Oh, I'm fine. But I need your help. Shirley has been kidnapped by that bunch that picked me up and is being threatened. Any ideas?"
"Well," Hankins said, "we know the general area where we lost them when we followed you after you had been kidnapped. I have a list of every house in the area, and perhaps by process of elimination, we can figure out where you went."
The Captain and I reviewed the list. It was like Hollywood's "A" list. Surely no one in this group could be part of this deal. Then I noticed that one of the names on the list wasn't a person but a company: Silver Screen Corp.
I asked about it, and the Captain told me that a number of the homes in Bel-Air were listed in the names of holding companies to protect the privacy of the owners. I asked if he knew who owned Silver Screen.
"Sure, RKO Pictures."
It clicked. When I recognized my kidnapper at the Bel Air Hotel, Shirley had told me that she was an ex-girlfriend of Howard Hughes. And Hughes owned RKO. I can add as well as the next guy and started to run out the door.
"Where you going?" The Captain's tone stopped me cold.
"After Shirley," I said.
Hankins explained as only he can that waltzing into a nest of mobsters alone and without a plan was probably a ticket to Forest Lawn. He said that the resources of the patrol were at my service and that he had a plan.
Seems the Silver Screen house was covered by the patrol's alarm system. He would give me a uniform, and then five of the patrol's finest would "respond" to a silent alarm at the house. That would at least get us inside and give us an excuse to look over the place. We could play it by ear from there.
With my pal Jim Walsh driving and the other three following in a second car, we screamed into the driveway and up to the front door. Not waiting to knock, we went right in and started looking the place over, guns drawn.
Three gunsels met us coming down the main staircase. Since we had our guns out and ready and they didn't, we had them in handcuffs before they could say much at all.
Walsh and I looked through the downstairs and found Shirley, blindfolded and tied up, in a small room under the stairs. We grabbed her and were headed for the stairs when a voice I would recognize anywhere -- one that had the feel of moonlight dancing on the Spanish Steps but now with the tinge of a she-wolf on a Sicilian hillside -- stopped us cold.
She was standing on the steps, dressed as if she were about to receive an Academy Award. I could tell from her tone and the look on her face that she wasn't happy.
"Round 2 to you, Mr. Manning. I wouldn't, however, get too confident. I know what I want and I know how to get it. You have been warned for the last time."
Walsh and I grabbed Shirley and the six of us left quickly, jumped in our cars and returned to the Bel Air Patrol office. Shirley had forgotten about the "incident" at the hospital and was very glad to see me. I had Walsh take her home and stay with her. I had another person I wanted to see right away.
Art Ball owned the parking company that the Mob was trying to take over. He also was laundering money through his parking garages. His mansion was only about half a mile away, and I went right over. I had some very specific questions for Betty's employer.
It was like a replay of the last time I had been at Ball's house. The front door was open. The houseman, Jeeves, was standing in the entryway. He had a dazed look on his face.
Behind him, sprawled in the doorway to the library, was a body. It had a bullet hole in its forehead. I knew only one thing for sure: Art Ball would be Forest Lawn's next customer.
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