Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook 2: The Rendezvous
Chapter 11 - I Become a Cavalry of One
Although I had complete faith in Paolo, I was uncomfortable leaving him to follow those Mob enforcers. He was well-trained, experienced, and could handle most any trouble. Still, I was frustrated just sitting there doing nothing while the action was coming down across the hills in the west end of the San Fernando Valley.
Shirley brought me a cup of coffee and must have sensed that something was afoot. I told her what Paulo was doing. Her assistant hat came off and her mother hat went on. "Well, what the hell are you doing sitting here? Get out there and help him."
But what was I supposed to do? Follow the guy following the bad guys? That made no sense. Should I then call Bill Vose and have him follow me? We could make it a parade. All we would need is some elephants and it would be perfect. I was muttering in my coffee when the phone rang.
Shirley handed me the phone. It was Vose.
"I thought you"d like to know," he said. "We've been doing some deep background checking on Smith LaFlonza. There is a connection between them. Just after LaFlonza got out of jail, about 1995, the two of them formed a company called L and S. As far as we can see, it did only one thing. It bought a piece of land up on Mulholland Drive, between Topanga and the 405 Freeway up about where the paving stops on the Topanga end.
That's all we can find out. There don't seem to be any improvements on the land, but of course, up there, they could build a skyscraper under the radar and the inspectors would never find it."
I told Vose that Shirley was threatening divorce if I didn't get up there and help Paulo. Maybe this was something I could be doing and be a bit closer to the action. If I drove up to look around, I would be only a few minutes from the Medical Center where he and Marilyn were auditing the books. If Paulo got into trouble, he would certainly call, and I could be there and go in guns blazing, or whatever.
Vose didn't exactly like the last part, but agreed that it wouldn't hurt to have someone nearby, just in case. "I'll also get a chopper standing by," he said. "It's one of the perks of being here at LAPD HQ. I have access to one of the largest nonmilitary air fleets in the country."
The LAPD had recently upgraded its fleet and had 16 choppers and one twin-engine King Air. Twelve of the helicopters were French Aerospatiale B-2s, four were Bell Jet Rangers and one was a Huey. (There was an uproar when the Frenchies won the contract to upgrade, but the numbers won the day. Not only were they less expensive, but they cost less to run and maintain.)
Vose said he could be there if we needed him.
I gave a much-relieved Shirley a kiss and headed for the house. I wanted to trade my car for the corporate four-wheel drive. Well, it was really a 7-year-old Subaru Outback, but it was better suited for climbing around the dirt roads between the 405 Freeway and Topanga than my Lexus IS 350. The Outback was my personal car until last year. We had a good year and Shirley had insisted.
I took Mulholland west, and in about 20 minutes, I was crossing the 405. (Mulholland Drive was named after the engineer - and some say shyster - that brought water from the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra to turn the desert that was the San Fernando Valley into home for a couple of million people. Of course, Mulholland did happen to pick up a lot of that land on the cheap just before the aqueduct opened. But that's a story for another day.)
As I drove past the mansions west of the 405, I came upon the spot where the pavement ended. No problem, I had my Outback. Well, there was one minor setback _ there was a gate, a locked gate. I was conflicted. Go back the way I had come and go around, or pick the lock and go through the gate?
I had the Outback. I had my lock picks. No brainer.
The lock took 30 seconds to open. I drove through and closed the gate behind me. The road was packed dirt and the Outback's four-wheel drive took it well. There was little chance of sneaking up on anyone with the cloud of dust that I was raising, but I didn't care. I was simply scouting the area, looking for the Land S land, and maybe for some improvements they may have made.
I rounded a curve and saw a group of cars parked about a quarter of a mile ahead of me. I stopped, pulled out my glasses and checked them out. There were three cars. Two black town cars and in the middle - in the middle was a Jeep that looked exactly like Paulo's.
I walked a bit closer and saw that four rather large men in black dust-covered suits had Paulo braced up against the lead car. They slapped what looked like handcuffs on him, put him in the back seat of the car and began to drive slowly directly toward where I was parked.