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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

(”Hope is not found in a way out, but a way through.")…Robert Frost

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
"Father Hollyweird"
Chapter Four
Hollenbeck Station-LAPD…December 1, 2009…5:00pm
            Rebecca Tran got up from her chair to look out the window. If not for the five foot walls barricading her in the 6x6 cubicle she called an office she would have had a fine unobstructed view of 1st street below and Lani Vest Pocket Park. As it was, she had to settle for the occasional reminder that nature thrived just beyond her occupational confinement.  She yawned and did a big girl stretch, checking the time on her wristwatch as her arms crossed in front of her face. It was a little after five and dusk was sweeping across LA much earlier now that the seasons were about to change.
            Today had been an uneventful if not downright boring shift. She and her partner, Bob “Iggie” Ingram had spent the day putting the finishing touches on the final report of the homicide investigation they had just closed. The case really hadn’t been much of a challenge. The perpetrator was a homeless man in his late 50’s who had stabbed a fellow vagabond twenty-seven times in front a busload of eyewitnesses and in broad daylight no less. His story was that the victim had raided his shopping cart and helped herself to a couple of trash bags full of recyclables that he had spent all morning collecting. Dumpster diving was an acceptable vocation in hard times, legitimate at least. It wasn’t an easy job by any means and it smelled. But it beat begging or pan handling as far as the perp was concerned, those were dodges that he had too much pride to do.

          To lose a life and ruin a life over five dollars’ worth of refuse just seemed tragically foolish to her. Rebecca didn’t understand that when you have nothing five dollars might as well be a million dollars. She never had to contemplate that sad fact growing up in the relative luxury of suburban America. And she’d never been exposed to homelessness in great numbers at least not until she took this job in the big city. It was a reality that she acknowledged now. Life is life. It’s different for everyone. It’s what you make of it or what it makes of you.
            Her mother, a Vietnamese refugee, had raised her in the Catholic Church with all of its rules and traditions. And the most prevalent virtue that had seeded itself in Rebecca’s heart of hearts was forgiveness. God forgives, and so shall we. “Judge not lest you be judged yourself,” was a paraphrase from the book of Matthew (7:1) that she had heard many times growing up. Her mom was a strong and kind woman, the sort of mother who led you through life rather than push you through it. Whenever they came upon a homeless person or ‘beggar’ as her mom would say, she would always share some of whatever she had in her pocket or purse. And before a word of protest could escape Rebecca’s lips her mom would say, don’t judge trẻ em (child), “for there but for the grace of God go I.”
“Penny for your thoughts,” said Lieutenant Wally Price.
OH GEEZ! Sorry LT, I didn’t hear you walk up,” replied the startled young detective.
“Sorry about that Becca, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
“That’s okay.”
“Did you and Iggie finish your report?”
“Yes sir, got it right here,” Rebecca answered pointing at the manila folder on her desk.
“So what were you thinking about so hard just now?”
“Nothing really. I was just wondering how people wind up in such pitiful situations like this perp. You know, alone, on the streets, what keeps them there? Stuff like that.”
“Tough questions kid. When you figure it all out let me know and I’ll send the Pope your application for sainthood.”
“Thanks a bunch,” Rebecca replied sarcastically.
“Shift is over rookie, why don’t you go on home now.”
“I will Lieutenant, I’m just waiting for my ride. My car’s in the shop and Iggie said he’d drive me over there to pick it up.”
“I see, well good luck with that, your partner isn’t exactly the most reliable choice you could have made.”
“I know, but he’s the only one who offered.”
“Ha ha ha, tough break kid. Okay Becca, good night,” Lt. Price said, picking up the folder on her desk and replacing it with another one that he was holding.
“What’s that?” asked Rebecca.
“That’s your next case young lady. You and Iggie drew the Egyptian Theater murder suicide,” answered Lieutenant Wally Price.
“The mother and child thing?
“Yep, that’s the one. It’s a hot potato too. The Mayor’s office is all over Chief Celaya already, fishing for details. This one will be a career maker or breaker kid, but I have confidence in you.”
“Gee, thanks, but…”
“No buts kid, let's meet in my office first thing in the morning, you, me, and Iggie. I want discuss this investigation and hear how you two plan to get er done,” Lt. Price said exuberantly as he turned and walked away.
Rebecca sighed audibly and turned back to look out the window again. Dusk had turned into darkness before her ride arrived, no surprise there. She sat back down and debated on whether or not to open the new case file now or when she got home. Iggie expected her do the homework and share the details with him the next day, one of many seniority perks that he took full advantage of, the man was so lười biếng (lazy)! She tapped the phone on her desk waiting for it to ring. When it did it would be Iggie with some lame excuse for being late. Oh well, don’t sweat the small stuff she chanted to herself. The garage was open until eight which meant she would be home by nine o’clock latest, that wasn’t too bad. 
Immaculate Heart of Mary Church - Rectory…December 1, 9:00pm
            Father Quinn sat at a small desk in the modest bedroom provided by the Church. Before him was an open book. Not the Bible as one might imagine, but a special library bound edition of “Ivanhoe” by Sir Walter Scott. It was a childhood favorite that he was rereading for the umpteenth time. Priests were people too and a wee detour from the day to day grind of the work a day world was fair distraction. He turned the page and glanced over to the old black rotary phone sitting heavily on the far corner of the desktop. His heart was into the story but his mind was elsewhere. He was waiting for Bishop De La Rosa to call. He had been told to expect it around 9pm. It was 9:05 now and his anxiety level was rising by the minute.
            Father Quinn knew why the Bishop was calling. He knew it would be about the Egyptian Theater incident. He could not escape the topic, not through work or prayer, the awful details haunted his every minute, conscious or unconscious. He felt persecuted, living proof that no good deed goes unpunished. Still, the poor girl and her newborn child, he grieved for them and did his best to avoid asking why. God’s will is mystical and not for us to debate or understand for that matter. It was a tenant of faith that he always struggled with. It was a struggle experienced by all at one time or another. He turned his attention back to the book in front of him. Isaac of York was offering a suit of armor and a war horse to repay his debt to the palmer. The story was just beginning to pull him in when the telephone rang, rudely interrupting his peace. He picked up the receiver and answered, “Hello?”
“Good evening Father Quinn,” replied Bishop De La Rosa.
“Good evening Eminence,” Father Quinn said returning the pleasantry.
“I trust you are well,” added the Bishop.
“Yes Eminence, I am Eminence,” acknowledged Father Quinn.
Bishop De La Rosa chuckled, “I love how the Irish tend to say everything twice, as if reassuring themselves that that they have been heard if not understood.”
“We are a quaint people Eminence. Well read, well bred, well said,” replied Father Quinn, grinning at the subtle snub directed at his pretentious snob of a superior.
“Yes, well to the point Father, I wanted to inform you that the Church has employed a private investigator to clear your good name as well as its own. I trust that we can count on your complete cooperation,” De La Rosa said ignoring Father Quinn’s snide remark.
“Of course Eminence,” answered the priest.
“Thank you for that. Please do what you can to expedite this matter Father. The Vatican has contacted me directly. They want this resolved, favorably of course, as quickly as possible. Do you understand?”
“Yes Eminence, perfectly.”
“Very well then. You can expect this individual to call on you soon, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. By the way, apparently you have already met. His name is Roode, Whitey Roode. Do you recall the name?”
“I believe that I do. A gruff looking man approximately six feet tall and medium build. Bit of a smart-alec if I remember correctly.”
“Excellent description Father, spot on as it were. Is it any wonder you such a talented director of cinema.”
“Thank you Eminence, you are too kind. Rest assured that I will make myself available as soon as Mr. Roode contacts me.”
“That is greatly appreciated Father Quinn, I am confident that we can count on your support as well as your discretion. Good night Father,” replied the Bishop hanging up quickly


           Father Quinn returned the receiver to the cradle and leaned back in his chair. He looked up to the ceiling and watched the fan blades turn slowly above him. He pondered the upcoming investigation and thought carefully about this man Roode. He concentrated on trying to remember as much about the man as he could before he came face to face with him tomorrow or the next day. He debated with his conscience. How much could he share with the man? There was the sanctity of the confessional to consider. But did it apply beyond the grave? How closely did the Church want him to cooperate with this private investigator? What exactly did Bishop De La Rosa mean by counting on his discretion as well? He considered Whitey Roode further as the memory of their encounter became clearer. First impressions being what they are, Father Quinn was certain of one thing. Whitey Roode was going to be trouble…



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

(”Rollin' down the Imperial Highway, big nasty redhead at my side, Santa Ana winds blowin' hot from the north. And we was born to ride, I love LA")…Randy Newman

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
"Father Hollyweird"
Chapter Three
Los Angeles, California…December 1, 2009…1:15pm
            Meeting the Bishop of Los Angeles left me with a splitting headache and feeling a tad guilty for some reason? The man just gave me the heebie-jeebies, I can’t explain it but the only Holiness I felt from His Holiness was Holy crap!  Be that as it may I left him with assurances that I'd get right on the job and explained to His Eminence that I’d return the signed contract as soon as Father Donahue delivered it to my flat at the Alexandria. Well to be honest I didn't exactly get right on the job. I made a little detour to one of my favorite watering holes, my home away from home if you will, Casey's Irish Cottage over on S. Grand. A shot and a pint or two seemed like a good way to christen this temporary arrangement between me and the church. Not exactly a blessing but as close to one as I’ll ever get I expect. As soon as I arrived I ordered myself a Scot's meat pie, a bowl of Mulligatawny, and my libations, then went about mulling over what few facts I had on this case. I didn't have all that much, not even a hunch yet, so it was a short think for me.
            It was too early to take out my trusty steno pad and work up the 3 w's (what I know, what I think I know, what I want to know). So right after lunch I thought I’d run over to the LA Times to chat with an occasionally accurate and always hungry source, one Bradley P. Tremain. The ‘P’ was for Patrick but given his enormous physical dimensions it might as well have stood for ‘Pastry’. I made a mental note to stop by Winchell's on the way over for a dozen glazed crullers, the little butterball was a well-known donut junkie. Besides, my old mother always said that when you visit with your hat in your hand always bring a gift, it makes the groveling less demeaning. Smart old gal she was, my mother. Even if she was a bit of a mensch with an addiction to nagging me about every little thing. I expect that’s the way with all mothers to one degree or another, am I right?
 LA Times…December 1, 2009…2:00pm
            The drive from Casey’s to the LA Times building on West 1st Street was atypically uncongested, a lucky break for a change and I hoped that the trend continued. Lo and behold it did when I scored a parking space out front with a broken meter. I decided to go for the trifecta and see if I could bypass the aggravation of dealing with security at the front desk. So I called Bradley and asked him to waddle down and meet me in the lobby. He would get me past the goons in the rent-a-cop uniforms after he collected his tribute of glazed confections. You know what, the rent-a-cop reference isn’t fair. These guys were actually pretty professional. Guess I'm still at war the LAPD given our bitter personal history. Well, that combined with the liquid lunch I just finished at Casey's. I tend to get bitter and reflective when I'm juiced, blame my Irish roots.
                 I got out of my car and walked up the street to one of the few working telephone booths in the city. I fed the old fashioned bandit four quarters to get a dial tone, what a rip off. But since I hate cell phones, preferring my right to privacy over 24/7 access to yours truly, I put up with the inconvenience and avoided this part of the 21st century. Small price to pay for anonymity I guess. The phone rang and Bradley answered on the second ring.
“Times, Tremain here,” he said in a bored tone. He wasn’t bored actually, it was his multitasking voice. My round friend was always juggling two or three tasks at a time.
“Hey Limey, you got a minute for a countryman?” I asked.
“You’re Irish Whitey. What do ya want, make it quick ya mick, I’m busy,” he answered insultingly.
“I see. Well are you too busy for a dozen crullers from Angels?” I asked.
“I just had lunch,” he replied.
“When did that ever keep you from carbs from heaven?”
“Touche, bring on up,”
“Ahhh, why don’t you come down and we’ll walk up the street to get you some coffee to wash these down with.”
“You're still afraid of Ms. Coulet aren’t you.”
“You know it brother! That French witch hates my guts.”
            Dominique Coulet was the city desk editor at the LA Times and one cold fish on top of that. We had a history of butting heads and I had raided her stable of staff writers more often than she was comfortable with over the years. It didn’t help that she also blamed me for the recent death of a mutual friend. She and Lu Rong were very close and his murder had hit her pretty hard. It didn’t matter that I had helped to make sure that his murderer got his just desserts, specifically half a dozen 9mm rounds at close range. As far as Ms. Coulet was concerned Lu’s fate was attributed to the low company he kept, namely me. More on that later.
“I don’t blame you, she’s a scary bitch. I’ll be right down,” Bradley said hanging up before I could concur.
            Five minutes later Bradley Tremain walked out into the sunlight and spotted me sitting at a bus stop with his glazed nosh on the bench beside me. He made a beeline for me, grabbed the white paper bag pulled out the first of twelve donuts devouring it before even saying how do you do. I marveled at the speed with which someone his size and shape moved when properly motivated. He sat beside me and licked the icing from his fingers before acknowledging my presence.
“You look good Whitey, what’s your secret?” he asked making small talk.
“Booze,” I replied.
“Of course. So, what can I do for you?”
“I need some G2 on the suicide at the Egyptian Theater, the young mother and child at the premier of that crusading padre, Father Quinn,” I answered.
“Nasty business, I remember that night,” Bradley recalled.
“You were there?”
“Yeah, I was covering the event.”
“You saw it happen?”
“I saw it all dude, it wasn’t pretty,” he said shaking his head.
“How close were you,” I asked.
“Put it this way, the girl ran right past me. I could have stopped her if I knew what she was going to do.”
“Not your fault Brad.”
“I know, but still,” he replied as he pulled out donut number two.
“So what’s your angle? Who are you working for?” Bradley asked as he wolfed down the cruller.
“”Can’t say just yet but I promise you’ll get the story if there is one when I’m done,” I answered.
“How do you know I can help?”
“I don’t, but let me pick your brain for now and then maybe you can be my eyes and ears on the inside while I work this case. I expect that the Mayor’s office will be looking for headlines while LAPD sorts out the details. I’ll want to know what both of them are doing before the rest of the city reads about it.”
“That might be difficult, you know that His Honor and the dragon lady are tight,” said Bradley, referring to the Mayor and Dominique Coulet.
“So I heard. And I didn’t say this was gonna be easy.”
“So what do you want to know?”
“Let’s go get that coffee and put our heads together. I expect you know more than you realize,” I said slapping him on the shoulder and standing.
“What? You mean walk?” Bradley protested.
“Starbucks is only a block away!”
“Yeah, so? Come on man hail a cab will ya, it’s hot out and I don’t want to work up a sweat

I rolled my eyes, helped him up from the bench and whistled loudly at the line of cabs across the street, “Oh brother, TAXI…


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