Death by Parking - Chapter 9 - The Dinner
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There was a bank of pay phones in the hall as I walked out of the bar at the country club after my meeting with DC. I called Barbara at S and L and asked for an appointment with Maryann Leyman.
As I passed the iconic Hotel Bel Air, I couldn’t help remember the little incident when I was kidnapped out of its parking lot by the mob and ‘taken for a ride’.
“She told me to expect your call and set up dinner with her at her home. Is 7 this evening OK with you?”
I told her 7 was fine, got Maryann’s address, and hung up. Not only was the ageless Maryann Leyman a very interesting woman, she had a lot of power in the city, plus she was an old flame of Bogie’s, so she couldn’t be all bad. I drove home, showered, and dressed for dinner.
Maryann’s home was in Bel Air, the most exclusive of LA’s wealthy neighborhoods. Behind gates and patrolled by its own police force, it was home to the rich and famous. I knew it pretty well, since I worked for the Bel Air Patrol before I opened my own PI office. She lived off Stone Canyon drive.
As I passed the iconic Hotel Bel Air, I couldn’t help remember the little incident when I was kidnapped out of its parking lot by the mob and ‘taken for a ride.’ It all worked out in the end, but there were a few moments that I thought might be my last. Even today, I could still hear the whisper of that she wolf on the hills surrounding Mt. Etna.
The Leyman mansion was behind its own set of gates. I pushed the button on the post beside the driveway, and the gate opened onto a roadway lined with junipers. They were close together, and you could only get a glimpse of the beautiful grounds surrounding the house. Maryann obviously used her money for more than building high rises on Wilshire Boulevard.
I pulled into the forecourt and got out of the car. There were four other cars parked nearby. They were all upmarket. Perhaps the staff. The house was a replica of a Greco-Roman temple with marble steps, columns and the like. It’s not really my taste, but whatever turns your crank. As I walked up to the door, it opened and Maryann was standing there. She was dressed to the nines in a mid-calf length knit dress that showed off her well-kept body. Not bad for someone pushing seventy. She wore no jewelry.
“Welcome Paul, come into the lounge and meet my other guests.”
There were six others in the room. I recognized only one couple and one other. The couple was a bit of a shocker. The woman was Betty Beeson. She was a manager in a parking facility that figured prominently in the case I worked on and solved a few years ago. She had partnered with DC McGuire, and with him in the background and her running operations, had built a substantial parking company. The man with her I recognized, but didn’t know. He was William Francis Smith. He ran one of the largest parking operations on the West Coast. He was also deeply involved in local government, the arts, and many charities. I had no problem recognizing the other man, it was my old lieutenant, Frank Cosner.
Maryann took my hand and introduced me around. She seemed surprised that I knew Betty. Maybe she wasn’t as all knowing as I thought she was. Smith shook my hand and asked just how I fit in with this august group. I told him I was a consultant working for S and L. He let it go at that. Cosner was friendly and didn’t seem at all surprised to see me there.
Two of the rest were a couple, May and George Jansen. They seemed nice enough. Maryann introduced George as a banker with one of the big banks downtown. I asked which one and he named the largest bank in California.
The last guest was Jack McKinney. Whereas the others were dressed for dinner, he was dressed in a brown suit, white shirt, rep tie and wing tips. He had “cop” written all over him.
There was a bar set up along on wall and I helped myself. Maryann had put out a bottle of 25-year-old Laphroig, and I wasn’t shy. I was a little taken aback by this group. I had expected a ‘dine alone’ with Maryann. But she was no dummy. There was a reason why all these people were here. I was certain that reason would reveal itself as the evening went on.
I had just poured my whisky when Maryann announced dinner. She came over to me and placed her arm in mine. I was her escort for the evening. We walked through to the dining room. It was large, but not set up for dinner. There were a number of French doors opening out on to a patio. There were lanterns around two tables. Each table had four place settings. It was a chamber of commerce California evening. The weather was perfect.
Maryann did her magic – somehow the Jansens ended up at our table; Betty, Smith, Cosner and McKinney were at the other. Dinner was served. The soup was vichyssoise, the salad lobster. The main course was Chateaubriand, carved at the table with fresh vegetables, roasted potatoes, and a perfect Bearnaise. The wine was a Pinot noir. It was as if Maryann asked me to describe my favorite meal.
I chatted with Jansen and learned that he wasn’t just ‘with’ the largest bank on the west coast, he was the largest bank on the west coast, CEO and Chairman of the board. It took almost a half an hour to get that bit of information out of him. He was more a listener than a talker. Perhaps that was the reason for his success. His wife discussed various charities with Maryann.
When it was time for dessert, Maryann asked me to come with her and once again, I’m not sure how, she moved Cosner and Betty to our table and we had dessert with McKinney and Smith.
While Maryann kept Smith busy with this board and that event, McKinney filled me in. He was an ex-FBI agent who cashed in his retirement to pay for an operation for his son (it was successful) and then went on the road selling washing machines. He was recruited by the NSA and worked for them in their security department (I could tell you about it, but then I would have to kill you) until his retirement. He was now a PI who took selective cases from the landed gentry here in Bel Air and adjacent Beverly Hills.
He wasn’t shy. He told me that he had heard some good things about me and if I ever needed any help or “connections” he would be happy to be of service. Did Maryann put this whole thing together so I could meet McKinney?
After dessert I was able to talk with Betty. She said that William Francis Smith was squiring her around with the idea of buying her company. She told him it wasn’t for sale, but he had been persistent. She just felt that something wasn’t quite right with the deal. She would call me in a week or so and we could have lunch and catch up.
As the evening wound down, the guests began to leave. Maryann asked me to hang back and after the last had left, she invited me into her library. She handed me a brandy, sat on the sofa, took off her shoes, and said: “Now I can tell you why I invited you here tonight.”
To be continued…
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