Death by Parking

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Death by Parking

Book 2: The Rendezvous
Chapter 9 - Paul and Bill Hatch a Plan

I left Paul Junior and Marilyn chatting at his house in Venice and decided to check in with my police buddy, Bill Vose. He had warned me off the case, along with representatives of the licensing board for private investigators, but a friendly drink wouldn't hurt.


Bill worked out of LAPD headquarters at Parker Center downtown. I called him and we agreed to meet halfway between Venice and his office. It would be at Ford's Filling Station in Culver City.


Culver City was one of those little towns completely surrounded by Los Angeles. It had its own PD, fire department and school system, and the cops didn't take too kindly to strangers driving through late at night. The kids from the local high school had put up a sign at the city limits that said: "You are entering Culver City. Set your clocks back 100 years."


Actually, that's a bit over the top. Culver City is the home of a number of movie studios, including Sony Pictures. That is the old MGM lot. All the great movies of the 1930s and '40s put out by Sam Goldwyn and Louis Mayer were made there. On its back lot, Union forces burned Tara in "Gone With The Wind," and the "little people" brought in to play with Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road trashed the Culver Hotel one wild night in the late '30s.


All over the area you will find small houses and duplexes where the movie moguls would keep their starlets. The locals know where they are. Some of the greatest names in Hollywood got their start on the couches of the duplexes in Culver City.


Ford's Filling Station is a new spot in the gentrified downtown section of Culver City. No one can believe it, but that area has become "in," and many of the most famous chefs and restaurateurs are opening up places there. This one is owned by the son of a very famous movie star. I won't tell you the name, but his father's first name rimes with "garrison."


Bill was sitting at the bar when I arrived. He didn't even say hello. He pointed at a glass of scotch sitting at the bar and said: "You are really a pain in the butt, Manning. I told you to lay off this case, and now your kid stirs up one of L.A.'s biggest political contributors. And I hear that Maria LaFlonza, who, I might add, has paid her debt to society, isn't too happy either. What's it going to take to call off the Manning boys?"


I got my temper under control, took about a finger's worth of fine single-malt, and responded: "Listen, Bill, I have had my office shot up, my client in the hospital, my son assaulted, my PI license suspended, and I've been threatened by that upstanding citizen Maria LaFlonza. And you are telling me to back off? Give me a break."


"What, LaFlonza threatened you? Tell me what happened."


I relayed the story to my best friend, trying not to knock him off his bar stool. Let's face it: I was pissed, I mean really pissed.


"OK, Paul, I understand," Bill said. "But you have to see my side. I have a pension to think of, and if it ever got out that I was covering for you, I'd be writing parking tickets in Pacoima. I do, however, have an idea.


"You say Junior is going to be working with this North woman tomorrow at the West Valley Medical Center. What if we tried a little bait-and-switch. Perhaps we could get your license back if we get Smith and LaFlonza to show their hands."


Bill gave me his plan, and for a flatfoot, it was a good one. At least better than mine, since I didn't have one. I tried to call Paulo, but he was out, probably flirting with our client. I'd catch up with him in the morning.


The next day was absolutely beautiful. Living in the hills is great - sometimes the marine layer is not too thick and we are above it. Shirley and I sat on the deck with a cup of coffee, watching the city come to life below us.


I thought about Paulo driving over the hills to the Valley. I figured he would be going over Topanga or Malibu Canyon and his cellphone wouldn't work till he got to the Valley floor. I would call him and Marilyn then.


Paulo didn't know it yet, but before this beautiful day was over, he was going to be in the thick of things.




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