Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook 2: The Rendezvous
Chapter 12 - They Throw Me a Curve
I watched helplessly as Paulo was taken from his Jeep, cuffed, and then tossed in the back of a mobmobile. They started up and were driving right toward the spot where I was parked.
I had driven up to Mulholland Drive to check out a lead my buddy Bill Vose of the LAPD had given me. Parking operator William Francis Smith, a mover and shaker in downtown L.A. politics, and Maria La Flonza, the L.A. rep for some very shady characters from New Jersey, had some property up here and could easily have built a shack under the building permit department's radar. I also would be in the area if Paulo needed any help with his "follow the money" assignment.
I was right about the help, and maybe I would find the hideout by taking over for my son and following that car. I moved my Outback behind some boulders and waited for them to pass. I then followed from about half a mile back. No need to alert them too soon of their impending doom. I hoped.
They slowed, then turned in a canyon. From the Ordinance survey map I brought, it looked like there was no exit. I decided to follow the rest of the way on foot.
Most people think that L.A. is this big urban blight with 12 million people covering all the land from Santa Barbara to San Jan Capistrano and inland to San Bernardino. It's not really like that. There are large tracts of land that are as wild and rough as you will find anywhere. This part of the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley was one of them.
It's populated with deer, puma, coyotes, snakes, hawks, eagles and every type of rabbit, squirrel, rat and other vermin you could name. The road isn't paved. And there's not a house around for miles. It was a perfect place for a shack to be used as a hideout.
I called Cmdr. Bill Vose at the LAPD and told him what was up. Vose said he would be standing by with SWAT and a couple of helicopters from the city's fleet. We decided that I would reconnoiter and then get back to him so we could devise a plan.
The road curved to the right, and I could see trees over the ridge. I rounded the bend and got a big surprise. Shack? Yeah, right. I should have known folks like LaFlonza and Smith wouldn't have a shack as a meeting place.
This place was huge -- 7,500 square feet if a foot. There were split levels, a swimming pool, a four-car garage, tennis courts, and from what I could see, a lawn out back the size of a nine-hole golf course. It was all wound up in Spanish tile and white stucco. A real hacienda.
The car with Paulo had just stopped when I caught sight of the house. Paulo was dragged out of the car and around to the side. They took him down some stairs, opened a door, tossed him inside and locked the door not only with the deadbolt in the door, but also with a padlock, and then came back around to the front and went inside.
They seemed to have little concern about his escaping, as they left no guard on the door.
I watched the place for a few minutes; no one was coming in or going out. I did notice that power to the place was supplied from a generator in an enclosure about 100 yards away. It was completely self-contained.
I called Bill. "We're ready to move," he said. "Did you see Paul?"
"Yes," I told him. "He looked OK. " I described the layout. I heard his whistle over the phone.
"Wow, those folks must really know how to make things happen without any trace of city involvement. There is no record of any building in that entire area. That means we can't get floor plans and figure out where they are keeping him."
I told him that it was obvious where Paul was being held and, in fact, fairly easy to get him out. I thought they didn't have much electronic security such as CCTV or motion detectors. These wise guys must have felt that their location, and the fact that no one knew where it was, gave them enough security.
As Bill was considering the situation, I looked up and saw a very large gentleman in a dark suit carrying a rifle ambling in my direction. I hit the ground and hung up the phone. I was fairly sure I hadn't been spotted as he seemed to be simply walking the perimeter of the property. I guess this was their security. My son's rescue wasn't going to be as easy as I had thought.
I walked quietly back down the side of the road and found a position out of sight of the house where I could see the access road. I called Bill and told him the current situation.
"Well, perhaps we have a good chance of catching Smith and LaFlonza. If we leave Paul there, he is probably OK for the time being. The men we have on Smith have reported that he is being driven in the general direction of your location. We don't know where LaFlonza is, but my guess is that she is headed there, too. It's their opportunity to resolve the Manning situation."
That was what I was afraid of. The "resolution" of the Manning situation certainly didn't bode well for Paulo.
Bill and I agreed that he would stage SWAT in a nearby canyon that wouldn't alert the goons in the house. I was to keep an eye out for any new arrivals.
An hour passed and I was getting tired and hungry. In my planning for this trek, I hadn't figured I would be this far from a McDonald's. Then I spotted a large car making its way up the road. It was Smith, with someone else in the car. I decided to circle around and get as close to the house as I could.
When the car stopped, the driver opened the door. Smith hoisted his 300 pounds out of the back seat. He then turned around and put his hand out to assist the other person in the car.
When I saw who it was, my mind went wild. How could she be here and obviously not under duress? I could tell because she gave Smith a peck on the cheek and put her arm through his as they walked to the front door.
What the hell was going on?