Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook 3: The Phantom
Chapter 5 - We Get a Hint
Our next step was to get more information about that garage and its construction. We called the owner but he wasn't much help. Ray Schumer, the new owner knew little of the origins of the place. He recommended that we contact a Westside developer who was doing work nearly 40 years ago.
Rick Johnson was retired. He lived in a beautiful home in Westwood, near UCLA. Its red brick facade was partly covered with vines. The 100-foot walk was lined by impatiens. The place had to have 7,500 square feet and who knew what size pool was in the back. I guess property development paid pretty well.
Shirley - my wife, office manager and best friend - had called ahead and we were expected. Johnson opened the door and directed us to a den-like room off the front hallway.
"Shouldn't you be in school?" he said to Paulo. "It's spring break and I'm giving my dad a hand," he responded. I was pleased that he didn't sound like a smart ass, just a teenager explaining what was what. This seemed to placate Johnson.
I explained what had happened and that we were looking for information surrounding that parking structure 30 years ago. Johnson sat behind his desk, reached down to a drawer, and pulled out a bottle. It was 20-year-old Glenlivet. He offered me a "splash," and who am I to turn down a drink? I wanted to make Johnson feel comfortable, you know? He told Paulo to go over to the wet bar and help himself to a soda. He said he liked to keep the single-malt close at hand. I understood perfectly.
"The construction boom hadn't really begun on the west side in the early '60s," Johnson said. "We built the garage you mentioned to support a number of low-rise projects in the area, most of which have been torn down to make way for all those mid-rise buildings on Olympic and Centinela. I understand that Schumer was trying to decide whether to tear down the garage or replace it. Makes sense; those things have a life of only 30 or 40 years anyway."
I explained about the murders and Paulo's idea that something might be encased in the garage's concrete floor.
Johnson gave Paulo an appraising look and then his friendly attitude changed almost immediately. "That's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Who would be shoving something in wet concrete? There would be too many people around. When we do a pour, we pour an entire floor at a time. They don't stop. There would be no opportunity for someone to put something in the wet 'mud.' You two have wasted enough of my time."
And he stood up. We got the idea and left.
"I think we have a suspect," Paulo said when we got back in the car. "He reacted just too strongly. He knows something he's not telling."
I was about to pull away when a woman came out from around the side of the house and walked over to the car. She was about Johnson's age and beautiful. I started to introduce myself when she held up her hand.
"I was never here and you didn't hear this from me. They were pouring the floors on that garage in early August of 1962. A lot was going on then, and some very important people wanted things hushed up. If certain people knew that the garage was being torn down or opened up, it could change what we know about much of the history in the '60s" She walked away.
Paulo gave me a questioning look. We needed to talk to that woman again.
This brought back memories of my parking caper in the late '50s. It was the mob, Howard Hughes, the FBI, the CIA, and the Kennedys. Those guys with funny noses from New Jersey and Las Vegas were moving into Los Angeles. The LAPD had them at least under control, but a lot of crazy things happened during those so-called "Camelot years." The Vietnam War, free love, drugs everywhere, and a new very popular president who could do no wrong. But what happened in L.A. in August 1962?
The only thing I could remember was the death of Marilyn Monroe.