Death by Parking
Book Three: The Phantom
Chapter 2 - He Had No Fear
"There I was, lying on my belly at 10:30 p.m., hiding from a ghost. Oh, come on ... this was ridiculous. I looked over and Paulo was obviously thinking the same thing. He had gotten to his knees and was trying to get a better look at the "thing" walking about the second floor. I was proud of my boy; he had no fear.
It was hard to see what was going on. Of course, it was night, and the garage lights were off. An engine seemed to be running somewhere in the back, and the light that was available was flickering, then getting stronger as the engine sounds increased.
We decided to go back to the car and regroup.
"Come on, Dad, let's go over and check it out."
That Paulo ... he always wanted to head straight into the fray. Time to teach him a little finesse.
"OK, OK. We can do that. But it might be better to see if we can figure out what we are dealing with. Tell you what. Let's go around to the side where that stairwell is and see if we can get a better idea of what we're dealing with before we simply walk in and make complete fools of ourselves."
I could tell Paulo wasn't buying it, but he said nothing. We quietly walked around to the side of the building, found the open stairwell, and crept up to the second deck. Paulo was kneeling in front of me as I slowly opened the door.
Naturally, it hadn't been oiled in years and sounded like we were entering the dungeon in Dracula's castle. This just couldn't get any weirder.
Paulo stuck his head around the door and said, "Dad, they are loading some stuff into the back of a truck and leaving. Let's go get 'em."
"Get 'em" - he had been watching too much television.
We weren't armed. Who knew what they had. Plus, I had a 16-year-old boy with me. I pulled him back into the stairs and listened as the truck drove out of the lot. We ran to the edge of the deck and watched it move at a very unconcerned pace down the street.
"Damn," I said. "Looks like we missed them."
"Well, maybe so," said Paulo, "but I got their license number. Now maybe Uncle Bill at the LAPD can help."
What a kid. He has my genes. As we walked out of the garage, we got the name of the owner off the side of the booth. S and J Investments. The address was in the Olympic and Bundy towers just around the corner.
I let him call Bill Vose. I figured he wouldn't hang up quite so quickly on his "nephew." Sure enough, Paulo came into my office the next afternoon with a big smile on his face.
"Uncle Bill said I should tell you that I don't have a PI license and shouldn't be out sneaking around garages in the middle of the night. Then he gave me the registered owner of the truck, and told me to tell you that you owed him a bottle of 20-year-old Glenfiddich."
Wow, running that license plate was expensive - that's over 70 bucks.
Yes, I admit it, I'm a whisky fan. That's Scotch whisky to you. And, in my case, single malt. I love the rich peaty taste of an Islay malt. I had been working Bill for years to wean him off that sweet bourbon swill he drank. Glenfiddich is a mild single malt, and a good choice for the novice. But a bottle of 20-year-old ... "So," I asked Paulo, "where would you say we go from here?"
"The truck is registered to a rental company near the airport. We could go ask who rented it and then ask them what the heck they were doing at the garage."
OK, it was time to introduce Paulo to the economics of the PI business. We had no client. No one was paying us to do this, and I doubted that Billy, his school friend, was going to pony up $75 an hour plus expenses to find out that his "ghost" was a couple of guys in a truck. I explained this to Paulo.
"Dad, why don't we go to the owner and tell him someone was messing around in his garage? He would hire us to find out who was doing what and solve the case."
OK, not bad thinking. The kid had a head for the business.
The next afternoon, we were sitting in front of Ray Schumer, the "S" of "S and J Investments." I told him I was a PI and my son had noticed something at his garage around the corner. We thought we should discuss it with him.
He was a great guy and smiled at Paulo. "OK, son, tell me the story."
When Paulo finished, Schumer began to laugh. He was almost in tears when he got control of himself. He rummaged through his desk and came up with a business card. He handed me the card.
"Deswal Consulting - Garage Restorations"
Huh? What did a consulting firm have to do with sounds and lights in a parking garage late at night? Schumer thought it was funny; I was confused, and just a little pissed off. He was laughing at my son, and no one - I mean, no one - laughs at
I was just about to give Schumer a piece of my mind when his assistant walked into the office and said: "Sorry to interrupt, Ray, but we have a problem.
"They found a body in the shrubbery next to the garage on Le Grand. It was one of the crew from the restoration firm. He was shot."
"Well, Manning, I may need your services after all."
To be continued ...
(c) Bricepac, Inc, 2007