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Sunday, April 6, 2014

(”and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply…”)…Genesis 1:28

    
 
 
For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
 
"THE GUMSHOE DIARIES:
Father Hollyweird"
 

Prologue

Los Angeles, California, November 24, 2009

            Richard Wallace Roode is the name, technically anyway, but most people just call me Whitey on account of the blonde mop on the top of my pointed head. I earn my keep these days as a private investigator in Los Angeles, California, the City of Angels. No small thanks mind you to the LAPD who sponsored my self employed status by allowing me to choose between early retirement (about ten years early) and a ten to fifteen year all expenses paid vacation at the San Quentin Hotel and Resort. What was my crime you ask? Wish I knew. Apparently that's still top secret as I've yet to be formally charged of any wrong doing beyond my unhealthy lack of respect for authority. Suffice to say the jury in that kangaroo court will be perpetually out until I clear my name, which is exactly what I intend to do one of these days. But that's ancient history and I'm really not in the mood to kick a sleeping dog. Note to self, it could be time for a change of scenery. Maybe Frisco, I've got friends there? Nah, it's way too cold and too foggy. Maybe San Diego, I always did like that town it's where I did boot before shipping out back in the day. Nice weather, nicer beaches, and not too far from the action in LA? Huh, we'll see I guess.

            So, being the kinda guy I am, I scotch taped a flyer onto the newspaper kiosks outside of the small bar conveniently located on the ground floor of the Alexandria Hotel where I live. The joint's a once prominent downtown brownstone from circa 1930 or something like that. The dingy bar downstairs is where I 'take' all my meetings as they say in Tinsel Town. The old girl is a little run down by today's standards and she's been downgraded from posh hotel to a low rent apartment building. But it's home sweet home for yours truly, and where I earn my living. Some people might wonder why I stick with this kind of work. I've got a short answer for them. Because I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks and chasing mean bad guys is all I know how to do, that's why! If that sounds bitter it's only because it is, sue me! Alright, so I'm a little bitter, but I'm not a hot head. I'm a realist actually, raised on the premise that it's okay to lose a battle as long as you win the war. After all patience is a virtue so the say and perseverance is omnipotent, am I right? Anyhow that's my bio, take it or leave it.

            Oh well, getting back to this journal entry. Recently I re-learned a universal axiom after working the Sally November murder case. Specifically that nobody's guaranteed a tomorrow. That's a sad fact of life and one I first learned at the tender age 18 while in serving in Southeast Asia with Uncle Sam and the USMC. The point is that I've been doing some soul searching lately about the sanctity of life. Some people may be surprised to know that I even have a soul to search. Now that's just plain mean and really not the case at all. I'm human like everyone else and contrary to popular opinion I do have a conscience. Unfortunate events occurred during that murder investigation, events that sadly cost my ex-wife Rhonda/Ronald her/his life, due directly or indirectly to her connection to me. I can't help but feel responsible, and the guilt eats at me when I try to sleep each night. It makes me want to make sense of things. We didn't have your typical hostile post divorce relationship remaining close at a distance if that makes any sense. Sure, she left me a long time ago, running off with another woman (don't ask), and that was rough and I didn't take it very well. Come to think of it that was when my problems with the LAPD brass started. Related? Probably, but who gives a shit now. Forgive and forget my old mother always said, paraphrasing scripture as she remembered it. The fact is Rhonda was a good person and as far as I'm concerned she didn't deserve the ending that fate had in store for her. Bitter pill to swallow, but ya know whenever the question is why the answer is rarely adequate. Why questions, especially emotionally charged ones need answers attached to a time machine. If only H.G Wells and Albert Einstein could have been one person with a Siamese brain. Man, the prayers their genius might have answered.

            Seriously, the subject of life and death has been on my mind lately, specifically the notion of whether or not tomorrows are guaranteed, and if they aren't then what about today? Perplexing concept, one I've never given much thought to before now. But the aftermath of the Sally November case coupled with current events, specifically the wild scene outside The Egyptian Theater last week, prompted me to ponder such things again. What happened at the Egyptian you ask? Well, in a nutshell, a controversial part time activist film maker / full time Catholic Priest was premièring his latest work, an Indie film that poked at the pro-choice crowd in his new movie "1st Commandment."

            I know what you're thinking, a powder keg of a title! If you ask me tackling that subject and that particular group essentially on their home turf was risky business. This is California after all, and could be considered Mecca-West for the leftists (NYC being Mecca-East). But the local media loves this Padre, referring to him affectionately in print as Father Nick. The charismatic filmmaker and former semi-pro footballer from Shannonbridge, Ireland had built quite a following. Throngs of people packed St. Anthony's whenever he presided over Mass to listen to his colorful homilies and receive communion from him. You know how it is, people flock to a flame now matter how bright it burns, hero worship, go figure? Even more people flocked to the theaters to enjoy his movies as well. Father Nick's films tackled very real social issues, openly and honestly, offering faith in God and Humanity take your pick, as the foundation for changing sad truths into hope.  He wasn't exactly what you'd expect from a sixty-nine year-old vicar from the old country. The man was tall and sturdy, standing six feet two inches and pretty darn fit for his age if you ask me. He was a lean mean preaching machine, a man who inspired you to get involved with causes bigger than yourself. Hell, I'm not a church goer or do gooder by any stretch of the imagination, but after meeting this fella I considered reconsidering my Sunday mornings, except during football season of course!

            The premier had been the talk of the town for days before the actual event, sparking a clash between the pro-life and pro-choice factions. However that inevitable confrontation paled in the light of what actually happened.  Tragically, a teenage girl, the real life subject of this real life film had apparently come to the premier to make a very personal statement. As Father Nick and his special guests exited the limo, the young lady, mother and child, quietly detoured off of the red carpet in the opposite direction bypassing the curious crowd and the paparazzi. Together she and her newborn wandered out into the middle of Hollywood Blvd. where she knelt, resting her haunches back onto her heels and rocked her cooing child. A few seconds later, before anyone stepped out to see what was what, she reached into a crocheted handbag hanging from her small shoulder and fetched a baby bottle.  But feeding her child wasn't her intent. She removed the top and then doused herself and the infant with the contents which as it turned out was gasoline. Then right there in front of hundreds of eye witnesses and who knows how many television viewers, she struck a match. It was a murder/suicide by self-immolation. So horrible was the scene the networks actually collectively refused to air the footage. Unfortunately no such agreement existed among the dozens of amateur film makers equipped with smart phones. Their opportunist nature yielded a YouTube bonanza of varying lengths, angle, and perspectives depicting the unimaginable action of this disturbed young lady. Needless to say several versions went viral recording the horrific scene as well as the last words the young mother shouted for all to hear, "I love you Father."

 

    Why did she do this? Why? Who was she speaking to anyway? Her Pop, the father of her kid, Father Nick, God Almighty, who? It made no sense, it was insane, but there had to be an explanation, there's always an explanation. Why, why, why, that's what everyone wants to know and that's where I come in. I was hired by the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church to put a lid on this tragedy, to make it go away before the media and the LAPD turned it into a circus for the whole world to watch. God knows the Church had a plate full of embarrassing worries to deal with already. They didn't want LA's publicity hound Mayor grabbing cheap headlines at their expense. Nor could they afford the LAPD dragging their bureaucratic feet, taking months to work the case. Hence the good Fathers, Bishops, and Cardinals, whoever, opted for the quick and dirty approach.

That would be me, Whitey Roode…gumshoe.


 

 

Monday, March 31, 2014

("She's got a smile that heals me. I don't know why it is. But I have to laugh when she reveals me")…Billy Joel 1971

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
 
"GABRIEL'S PROMISE"
Chapter Ten
 
 
 
LA Trauma Center, Los Angeles November 30, 2004
 
            Changing rotations from days to nights is like moving to another planet as far as Lizzie was concerned. Daytime rounds tended to be schedule driven and routine even boring juggling paperwork and sales reps in between actual doctor stuff. But night shifts were ripe with variety. The night bypassed the usual suspects for a hodgepodge of God knows what. You never knew who or what was going to come crashing through those automatic doors in the ERR From the ridiculous to hilarious to the downright terrifying and heartbreaking. There weren't any gray areas in the spectrum of human emotion. The twelve hour shift passed quickly and Lizzie had no problem with that! She'd been on this new shift for a couple weeks now and had already learned more about practicing medicine then she had learned in all eight her eight years of book learning.  As Friday nights went, tonight seemed unusually quiet, but then it was only eight o’clock, a full two hundred and forty minutes before the witching hour.
“Hey Lizzie,” hollered Mollie Lebowitz, the Maternity charge nurse. Elizabeth looked up from the clipboard she was reading and acknowledged her with a nod of her head.
“There’s fresh Danish up on eight in oncology courtesy good old Doc Octopus," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Looks like the old pervert's finally retiring!” Mollie said, stopping beside Lizzie, giving the metal clipboard a thump with her fingers.
“Sorry Mollie, what did you say,” Lizzie asked apologetically?
“I said Doctor Shaw, a.k.a. Doc Octopus is retiring. Although, if you ask me I think he finally accumulated enough harassment complaints to propagate a forced early retirement!” said Mollie sarcastically.
“Oh yes, the fastest hands in LA, I know him. If the cops ever needed his fingerprints all they'd have to do is dust my ass,” Lizzie replied, giggling.
Mollie laughed out loud and continued down the hall toward the elevators on her way back to her ward. Lizzie waived goodbye, putting her glasses back on and returning to the chart she was studying.  After a couple of minutes the pastries Mollie had mentioned were starting to call her name. A sweet treat sounded pretty darn good right now and her traitor stomach was growling go, go, go! She returned the chart back into the large circular chart caddy and walked over to the same elevators Mollie had taken only a few minutes before. The car arrived before she pushed the button and she entered the empty elevator, pressing eight on the panel. "Guess those Danish have powerful friends she," she muttered, pressing the button for the eighth floor.
Lizzie checked her look in the brushed aluminum walls and gave her hair a little tease as she rode the six floors from two to eight. She'd always been nervous riding in elevators, ever since she saw the second Exorcist movie, the one where some guy gets sliced to ribbons by a severed cable in one. Flashing back to that scene she hummed a happy tune to squelch evil thoughts. A loud ding announced her arrival at the eighth floor and the doors slowly opened. She sprinted out into the lobby of the oncology ward leaving those bad vibes in the devil contraption and stopped abruptly in front of the nurse’s station. Shaking off the heebie-jeebies she tried to look cooler than she felt, realizing she probably looked ridiculous.
Smooth Doctor Andrews, I see that we’re our usual ball of confusion this evening,” teased Nurse Hardy, easily the most senior (older than dirt) RN at the hospital.
            Everyone called her by her married name, never by her given name. Ednabelle Hardy was the unofficial den mother for every nurse, intern, and resident at this place. Sort of like a Master Chief on board a naval vessel, the highest ranking non-com around, the real power behind the well oiled machine known as LA Trauma, or LAT as most of us referred to it.
“Yeah, well I was ummm…”
“The Danish are round the corner in the waiting room,” Nurse Hardy said with a smile, returning her attention to whatever she was doing before Lizzie had burst onto the scene.
“Danish, really, I had no idea? Maybe I’ll stop on by just to be polite,” Lizzie lied weakly.
“Oh please!” giggled the ancient RN, shaking her head at the silly young doctor.
            Composing herself Elizabeth strolled confidently toward the waiting room where the refreshments were laid out. She was starving and really needed the sugar and caffeine rush tonight. So, waiving ta-ta she quickly disappeared around the corner, picking up the pace as soon as she was out of eyesight. Arriving at the waiting room in nano-seconds, Lizzie immediately poured herself a cup of strong, hot coffee, taking it black like a man, and then went straight for a blueberry croissant. That first bite of pastry washed down by that first sip of truly good coffee was almost sinful. It was the closest she’d been to ecstasy in better than a year. Plopping down on a semi comfy sofa she enjoyed bite number two and tried to ignore the tiny voice encouraging her to stuff a couple more into her pockets for later. The little voice in her head was suddenly interrupted by a little voice behind her.
“What’s your name,” a little girl asked? Lizzie twisted around in her seat and looked up sheepishly from her snack. She ran her tongue across her front teeth to avoid a blueberry smile and answered the child, “Elizabeth,” she said.
“Hi Lisbeth, I’m Katie,” the girl replied with a cute impish lisp. Lizzie smiled at her, noticing that the child was pulling an IV tree along side of her.
“Honey, are you supposed to be out here?” Lizzie asked softly.
"Where are your mommy and daddy?"
"Mommy is at the cafeteria," answered the child.
            The little girl smiled at her, ignoring her question and looked down at Lizzie’s feet. “Your shoes are untied,” she said, pointing with tiny fingers. Lizzie looked down to verify the child’s claim, she was likely right; her shoes were always coming untied. Lizzie set her refreshments down on the coffee table and bent over to tie her shoes. “Listen, I can walk you back to your room when I finish here Katie, would you like that?” she asked.
“Okay,” the child replied in a cheerful tone.
            Lizzie finished off the croissant in two mega bites, choking them down with a big gulp of coffee then jumped up from the sofa to helped Katie maneuver her IV tree back into the hall. They walked hand in hand toward her room, passing the nurse’s station on the way. Nurse Hardy looked up from her work and got out of her chair when she saw Katie. She wagged a stern finger at the little girl that contradicted the warm smile on her face.
“Katherine Jean Tate! What are you doing up at this hour?” Nurse Hardy asked.
“I couldn’t sleep Edna, my room was making thhcary noises,” Katie answered.
“Scary noises indeed! All you have to do is press the call button and I’ll come straight away my dear, you know that,” explained Nurse Hardy softly.
“I know, I’m thhorry, but I was bored,” Katie replied pouting.
“Yes, well never the less, you belong in bed young lady, you have a big day tomorrow, “Nurse Hardy said, gently scolding the child.
“Maybe we can talk doctor into taking you back and tucking you in. She might even read you a story before she goes back to work. Why don't you ask nicely,” she said winking at Lizzie. Lizzie took the hint and chimed in, “Oh, yeah, sure, I could do that. What do you say Katie?”
Alright, but you have to read Green Eggs and Ham, the whole thing, okay?
“It’s a deal, Dr Seuss it is,” Lizzie answered enthusiastically, winking back at Nurse Hardy.
The younger generations waived to their elder and scurried down the hall giggling. When they reached Katie’s room, Lizzie held open the heavy wooden door as the kid navigated her way back to her bed. Katie scaled the metal sides expertly like a rock climber and crawled under the covers, skillfully keeping her IV lines from tangling. The tree teetered perilously as she socked at her pillows, fluffing them up, causing Lizzie to scurry over and steady the apparatus before it tipped over.
“Careful sweetie, I don’t want to have to put any stitches into that pretty little head of yours,” Lizzie teased.
“My pillows were flat,” Katie explained.
“No worries honey, no harm done. Now, where is that book of yours?”
“Over there,” the child replied, pointing at a stack at least four feet high in the corner of the room, near the bathroom.
My goodness, how long have you been in here anyways?”
“You’re funny,” Katie said giggling at the surprised expression on Lizzie’s face.
“I’ve been here since my birthday last month,” she answered.
Really, since your birthday, so how old were you?”
            Katie held up six fingers and smiled. Lizzie smiled back trying not to let her analytical face betray the fact that she'd deduced from the IV bags what this adorable child was suffering from. This was the oncology ward after all so it hadn't been too hard to put two and two together. The fact that the kid had already been here for weeks was a little puzzling as most chemo kids were in for a week or less then home or off campus until the next round. She wondered what was up with that. And what was so big about tomorrow anyways? She wrestled with that for a few seconds until she saw a question begin forming on Katie’s cherub-like face. Lizzie quickly took two giant steps toward the pile of children’s books and fished out a well worn copy of Green Eggs and Ham.
TA-DA, here it is,” she exclaimed, beaming back at Katie like she had discovered gold.
“Yippee,” Katie replied excitedly.
“Sit on my bed with me, okay?” the child asked, pleading.
“Sure sweetie,” Lizzie answered, crossing the room to sit beside her.
            She made a mental note to make some inquiries later. She knew that she should mind her own business, and not get involved in something that was not likely to end well. But her maternal instincts won out over her better judgment, as usual. This was familiar territory for her. It was only a little over a year ago that another suffering child had stolen her heart. She let herself picture Gabriel Bouchard's smiling face for a moment, and then jumped back into the present before a tear could form and began reading to Katie.
“I am Sam…Sam I am…”

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TITLES BY NICHOLAS SHERIDAN STANTON

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