Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook 2: The Rendezvous
Chapter 15 - Laurel and Hardy...NOT
"What a fine kettle of fish you have gotten us into this time, Ollie." Except I was Ollie.
Betty had completely snookered me. I glanced at Shirley and she was looking back with a bit of an "I told you so" look. The problem was, she didn't really ever have anything to say about Betty. In fact, it was Shirley who had recommended me back when she ran the building where Betty was night parking manager.
OK, now that I had figured out that this isn't really all my fault, it was time to do something productive.
"Well, Betty, or whatever your name is, what do you really want? If it's me, fine, but let Shirley go. She's not involved in any of this" Yeah, right, Beeson was going to buy that, but at least it was gaining us some time.
"You know, Paul, I really liked you in the beginning, and still do a bit now," she said. "You are certainly persistent, and you do solve cases. I guess you are smart too. But this just can't go on. I have responsibilities, employees, a business to run. I simply can't have you continuing to interfere in my affairs.
"You have probably determined that I am not exactly who I said I was. I was sent out by my uncle to check up on what was going on here in Los Angeles. I was simply to get a job with the parking company, take notes and report back. No big deal. It was his way of introducing me to the family business.
"I had an affair with Gilberto," she said, "and then he got possessive. I tried to break it off and he wouldn't take no for an answer. The day he died, I was fighting him off and he hit me. I picked up a knife and stabbed him. I knew I was in trouble, so I called Shirley and she told me to call you.
"When I calmed down, I realized that Uncle Mario could handle the problem and called him. He told me what to do and got Maria involved," she said. "You thought the notes that I was sending to my uncle were being used to expose a problem with the garage. They were just there to confirm the numbers Maria was reporting each week.
"Maria and I cooked up the plan between the time I called you and when you arrived at the parking garage. I waited until I saw you arrive, screamed and ran out the back door. You thought the death had just occurred, but in reality, it had happened a couple of hours earlier. Then Maria took over and you fell for it. It was like reeling in a fish. You love beautiful blondes. Look who you married."
At that point, Shirley had taken all she could stand and started to rush across the room at Betty. I grabbed her as Beeson pointed the automatic at Shirley's heart and begin to squeeze the trigger. "I might as well shoot her now as later."
"Wait!" It was LaFlonza. "We still have to be certain we aren't connected with their deaths. We can't kill them here, unless they get out of line. We must take them out to the house in the hills and cause them to simply disappear. We have too much riding on this to have the police looking directly at us."
Beeson released the pressure on the trigger, and I started breathing again. One crisis over. Someone once told me that you solve problems one at a time. If you are in a seven-story building and trapped by a fire that is about to burn you, you jump out the window. Once out the window, you then have a few seconds to solve the second problem you just created. At this point, we were heading directly toward that window.
Smith was smiling and sipping my Laphroaig. What a rat.
Marilyn North was looking worried. She was an auditor, and a tough woman. But I don't think she had the stomach for what was coming. She looked over at Beeson and said: "I think I'd better leave. You don't want me to be too close to this if you are going to use me in the future."
I got the feeling that she may have just switched sides. So did Beeson.
"Marilyn, why don't you go over and stand with Shirley. I have had my doubts about you for some time. Perhaps we should completely clean our house."
Smith continued to smile as Marilyn, shaken, walked over to Shirley.
"You know, Paul, the idea of my working undercover was a good one, and it came from something you did 30 years ago. You put me together with DC McGuire, and he taught me the parking business. He told me that I was good at it. He was right.
"I kept my cover and was able to move freely in the L.A. business community. My life would have been much more difficult here without that. I guess I do owe you some bit of thanks."
I was beginning to prefer the she-wolf LaFlonza. At least with her you knew where you stood. But what to do?
LaFlonza and Smith now had weapons and were beginning to herd us toward the door.
"We'll go in your car, Paul. We can drop it off later."
We needed the cavalry, and I didn't hear any bugles.