Death by Parking - Chapter 5 - “Give my Best to Bogie, He was a Close Friend.”
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I rolled away from the falling pully and under a stack of girders. The pully hit the ground about 30 feet away. I like to tell myself I wasn’t in any read danger, but, well, who knows? The site boss ran over to me and helped me to my feet. He wanted to send me to the hospital, but I demurred. I was dirty more than anything else. I picked up my hard hat and jogged over to the crane operator who was climbing down from his perch about 100 feet in the air.
I like to tell myself
I wasn’t in any read danger,
but, well, who knows?
“Are you ok?” he said. I smiled and nodded. “I don’t understand it. I checked those cables myself just a couple of hours ago. Let me show you.”
We walked over to the machinery that ran the crane and a pile of one-inch-thick cables. He told me that normally they wouldn’t be in a pile, but since there was some kind of break, they uncoiled into the mess before us. I followed the cable with my eye until I reached the end. I was expecting a jagged break in the hundreds of wires that made up the cable. The operator looked at the cable and his mouth fell open.
The break was clean. It had been cut, all except a few wires that looked like they snapped of their own accord. There was no question, this accident wasn’t an accident. I doubted they were after me. Whoever did this didn’t have time to set it up before I walked onto the site.
The crane guy was shaking his head. “This will set us back at least a day or two while we rerig the crane. This is the fourth time something like this has happened. We are falling more and more behind. My job is to bring us in early, now I’m just trying to keep us on schedule, and not doing that very well.”
Ask me about parking, and I might be able to hold my own. This construction business is an entirely different world. I needed some schooling and I needed it fast. The best place to start was Stevens’s assistant, Barbara. I headed for S and L’s offices.
Barbara was at her desk and she looked a bit surprised to see me. “I thought you would be home nursing a nice single malt after what happened at the site today.” Word travels fast. “Naw, I’m fine, but I do have some questions.”
“Go through the second door. You will find a shower and some lockers. There are some clean clothes in the second locker on the left. They should fit. Get cleaned up and we can have a chat.” Wow, that was great service. The locker room was like one in an expensive gym. I showered and changed. She was right. Everything fit perfectly.
“Just keep it. We will clean your clothes and leave them for then next person needing them.” I smiled. “This must happen a lot.” She smiled. “We are in a dirty business.” I smiled. “Just how bad can it be?” She smiled. “A lot worse than you had today.” I didn’t smile.
“I think you might like to talk to the “L” of S and L Properties. Knock on the third door on the right, down the hall.” I followed her instructions and knocked. A woman’s voice said “Come in.” I did.
The office was decorated like formal living room, complete with sofa, love seats, occasional tables, and rich Persian rugs. Art that looked very real to my uncultured eye hung on the walls. The window opened to a balcony that had a view that priced out at well over a million. A small partner’s desk was on one side. Sitting behind it was a stunning woman. My cultured eye told me she was in her 70s, but she could have passed for two decades younger. She was dressed for business by Coco Chanel. “Have a seat, Mr. Manning. Would you like something to drink, a wee dram of Laphroig, perhaps.”
I have to say that I was rolled back on my heels. I sat on the couch, crossed my legs, smiled, and said that I would love a wee dram, if she would join me. She smiled, pushed a button, and a fully stocked bar appeared near the fireplace. She walked over and selected a bottle of 16-year-old Laphroig. She poured a healthy ‘dram’ in two crystal glasses, handed one to me, and sat in a chair opposite. She had placed two mats on the coffee table in front of the sofa. I sat my glass on one of them.
“What shall we drink to, Mr. Manning?”
“You have me at a disadvantage. Perhaps we could at least get on a ‘named’ basis.”
“I beg your pardon; Barbara is playing one of her little games. I am Maryann Leyman. My late husband was Ray Stevens’s partner and when he died, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t continue in his stead. Ray is the one who builds the buildings, I supply the money. Barbara filled me in on what you and Ray were doing vis a vis the infamous C-Park. She dropped a dime on you when you walked away from her desk a few minutes ago. Please call me Maryann, Paul.”
I wasn’t sure I was in the right office, but Barbara hadn’t steered me wrong so far, so I reached for the malt, tilted the glass at her, and took a sip. So did she. That peaty smoke filled the room and we both began to relax a bit. “I need to be schooled a bit on the construction business. If you are the money side, I have come to the right place. It’s always about the money.”
‘You are right there, Paul. Just what do you think is going on over at the project site?”
“I have only spent a few minutes there, part of it lying in the dirt, but I have gotten the feeling that someone is attempting to slow down your project. You site manager is off his feed, your crane operator is worried that he won’t get his bonus because he is getting further and further behind, and at least one person asking questions has been killed. I wouldn’t have thought that a project of this size could be affected by a few mishaps.”
“Construction is a business like any other. What if you were opening a news stand on a street corner and you discovered that competition was opening right across the street. You knew that whoever opened first would have a leg up, and that customers would develop habits and the other store would struggle to get going. Would it not be to your advantage to do what you could to be sure you opened first?
“We are no different. There are a couple of major buildings under way here along Wilshire. We are all at about the same point in our construction. Our customers are potential tenants. Not the ones that take a few thousand feet but the ones that take a few floors. Our real estate agents are scouring the state, if not the nation, looking for major renters, the kind that have their name on the outside of the building. Those deals are made years in advance, sometimes before the construction begins. The tenant wants possession on a certain date and makes plans and spends a lot of money preparing for that date. If it looks like we are going to be late, there are escape clauses and the tenant can jump ship and head over to a competitor. We are talking tens of millions at risk here.”
“Do you have any leaning over
“I wouldn’t have thought so, but I will make a few calls and find out. Check back with Barbara tomorrow.”
I knocked back the whisky and headed for the door. As I opened it, she said:
“By the way, Paul, please give Bogie my best the next time you see him. He was a close friend.”
To be continued.
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