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Monday, May 25, 2015

"Whatever happened to my favorite places..." Brian Wilson

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For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Father Hollyweird
Chapter Nine

Hollenbeck Station, LAPD…Dec 2, 10:30pm
           Detective Rebecca Tran sat at her desk staring at the yellow legal pad containing her notes from a long day of interviews. She ignored the computer screen that was flashing on and off as it put itself to sleep and then woke itself up intermittently. The squad room was busy but not chaotic so the noise level wasn’t too distracting, in fact it was helping her to keep from dozing off her own self. Becca gnawed on her #2 pencil as she flipped the five or six pages of notes back into place and then removed the pencil from her mouth and laid it gently onto the pad of yellow lined paper. She reached across the desk for a thick crimson colored ceramic mug with bright yellow letters announcing to the room that she was a USC graduate, or at the very least a Trojan fan.
Leaning back in her chair she raised the mug to her lips but did not sip at the cold coffee inside. Instead she fixated on the square faced clock on the wall across the room. She watched the second hand jump from mark to mark and even though she was too far away to hear the mechanical ticks she imagined she could. Lost in thought she didn’t notice the uniformed officer that had walked up to her desk.
“Everything alright detective?” asked the officer.
Becca didn’t answer straight away, and the officer waived a hand in front of her face and repeated the question. “Are you okay detective?”
            Becca snapped out of her trance, startled by the officer’s hand breaking the connection between the clock and her subconscious. She involuntarily completed the hand to mouth motion that she had started with her mug and banged it against her two front teeth, splashing a small amount of cold coffee onto her desktop in the process. “Son of a ….!”
The male officer stepped back quickly to avoid getting splashed himself as Becca slammed the mug back onto her desk, further soaking the notes she had just spent that couple of hours studying. “Oh brother! Was that really necessary Bix?” she asked looking for something to clean up the small puddle of mud covering her work. The officer stifled a grin and apologized. “Sorry Becca, I was just making sure that you were alright, you looked like you were going to hurl or something,” he replied.
Detective Tran scolded the officer sarcastically as she worked at cleaning up the mess he had caused her to make. “I was thinking Officer Kingman! That was my thinking face not my puking face. Geez!”
“Let me help,” offered Officer Kingman, grabbing a box of tissue from her neighbor’s desk.
“Thanks,” Becca replied, flashing an embarrassed smile.
            She watched him clear away items from her desktop as he methodically went about restoring order to the spill zone. The man had an organized approach to the task at hand, she liked that, neatness was an endearing quality in a man in her book. Maybe this guy had a future career with CSI and forensics? Officer grinned at her sheepishly as he worked, slightly embarrassed himself for the mess he’d caused. Like they say, no good deed goes unpunished he thought. Becca smiled back and girlishly regarded him for a moment. She knew him from her early days as a patrol officer, just before her promotion to Detective. He was a rookie then, young and dumb as the veterans say. That wasn’t a derogatory term, it’s just the way it is, everyone comes to the job that way. They had never worked together but were cordial in passing and until this very moment she had never really noticed him.
            He was a handsome enough fella, big and tall and let’s just say that the uniform fit him well. Of course everyone seemed big and tall to Becca compared to her small Asian stature. Bartholomew Bixby Kingman was a six foot three inch African American who came from a family of five (two brothers, a mom and a dad). The entire family was involved with the law in one form or another. His parents were both attorneys and devout Baptists. They raised their boys to think right and to do right, the road to perdition was never an option for them. Their mother would tell them often that it was the straight and narrow or face the slings and arrows. And in keeping with their faith, Ronald and Margret Kingman named each of their son’s Bartholomew after the Apostle. They used their middle names to differentiate between the three of them, naming them after various family members. The boys were in descending order, Bartholomew Bertrand Kingman, Bartholomew Baxter Kingman, and Bartholomew Bixby Kingman. Naturally they each went by their middle names or shortened versions thereof and referred to themselves as Bert, Bax, and Bix. And in further keeping with the family tradition they followed their parents into the law. Bert was an ADA (assistant district attorney in New York). Bax was a Deputy Sherriff in of all places Kingman, Arizona. And Bix, who chose the LAPD was standing right in front of her with a puzzled look on his face.
What? Do I have something on my face?” Bix asked, brushing at his mouth and nose.
“Huh? Oh, no, you’re okay. I wasn’t staring at you, I was thinking. Remember, this is my thinking face,” Becca stammered trying not to look guilty.
“Right. Well, how’s that, better?” Bix replied, motioning to her clean desktop.
Becca scanned the area and answered quickly. “Yeah, much better, thank you.”
Bix tossed the wet tissues into the waste basket next to her desk and turned to walk away. “Well, glad you’re okay, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Forget it, not your fault. I was just chewing on some facts on this case I’m working with Iggie is all,” replied Becca.
“”Oh yeah? What case?”
“We’re working on that apparent suicide by fire at the Egyptian Theater a while back.”
“Really? I remember that, it was a pretty gruesome scene. What are you investigating, I thought it was a closed case, an obvious suicide.”
“Nothing is ever as obvious as it looks Bix, remember that.”
“I see, well I gotta run, my shift’s starting and Ray is over there tapping his wrist watch and giving me the stink eye. Say hey to Iggie for me and good luck with the case,” Bix said as he trotted toward the exit.
“Okay, be safe out there!” replied Becca as she watched Bix and Ray leave the squad room.
            She raised her two arms high overhead and did a big girl stretch, time to go home and get some rest. It was too late to go out and eat and the vending machines had nothing to offer her ‘my body is my temple’ diet. She’d just settle for a bowl of Corn Flakes with an Ovaltine kicker when she got back to her apartment. Becca gave the yellow legal pad one more blotting with some tissue before she stuffed it into her briefcase. She locked her desk with the keys that she pulled from her purse then got up and pushed her chair neatly into its space under the center drawer. She reached over and turned off the small desk lamp left the room. As she walked out of the building and headed for her car in the parking lot she thought about the day’s events. She and Iggie had canvassed the rescue mission and the girl’s high school, but nothing really useful was discovered during those interviews beyond her name and age. The mission people had described Megan Malloy as quiet and polite and otherwise unassuming. The high school did not have much more insight to share. Megan’s time there was uneventful, in fact she a ghost by all accounts, a shadow graduate. She literally passed through the halls of education unnoticed.
            Megan belonged to no clubs or ran with any cliques and from anyone could remember had no real friends. She was loner and to Becca’s mind that wasn’t normal. The only teacher who actually remembered her was her homeroom teacher, Mr. Garvey who also had her in his math class for a couple of years (algebra and geometry). He recalled her as a solid “C” student, unremarkable academically or socially. He recalled thinking that she could probably use a session or two with the school psychologist. But when he was asked why all he said was that she just gave off a weird vibe. However when Becca followed up on that she found that no such session ever took place. After graduation Megan just disappeared into the world, remaining unnoticed until that night at the Egyptian Theater. Weird? Becca decided that she and Iggie would pay a visit to the priest, Father Quinn tomorrow. He had to know something more than what was in the file from the night of the suicide. No offence to the officers on the scene, but patrol cops don’t always dig for more than the facts. And as everyone knows, the devil is always in the details (no pun intended). Besides, the man had just made a movie about her life. Yeah, he knew more than he gave up at the scene and she was going find out what. 

Becca pushed the button on her keychain and her car beeped and flashed the headlights in response. She climbed into the driver’s side and tossed her briefcase onto the passenger seat. Unconsciously she locked all of the doors, a reflex she’d acquired after long driving lesson session with her over protective father. Good daughter! The BMW’s engine came to life with a twist of her wrist as she backed out of her space and drove out of the lot onto 1st Street to start her commute back to Pasadena. She thought some more about Father Quinn and wondered how she would approach the interview. She was a good Catholic and respected the collar but she was a good cop as well and knew that she may have to press him in spite of her devotion to her faith. In the end she would do what she was trained to do and discover whatever needed to be discovered. Under her breath in a very small voice she prayed for guidance and asked God to please keep her partner’s Neanderthal tendencies in check.

Detective Rebecca Tran merged onto the 10 Fwy east and disappeared into the LA night. Tomorrow’s gonna be another day…


Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrafice everything else for it."...J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

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For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Father Hollyweird
Chapter Eight

Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St 11:13pm                                                                     

            Current events are just that, current. It’s why a journalist’s job is pretty much 24/7. It’s not too much different time-wise from a cop’s life. Sure, you work a shift but the reality is you’re on call 24/7. Whether it’s a badge you wear or a “press card” that you carry, if either of these are your gig then you’re pretty much always on the job.
            My media contact, a rotund smart-ass newsman named Bradley Tremaine, an old friend, was standing out in front of the LA Times corporate offices waiting for me. Ignoring the “No Parking” sign I drove my old Chevy Covair up to the curb beside him. Leaning over to the passenger side I cranked down the window (like I said, my car is old) so my chubby buddy could stick his big noggin inside.
“You’re late Whitey, I’ve got a cab coming to drive me to LAX,” he said in a monotone voice.
“Yeah well I prefer to see it as just in time. Toss your bag in the back and hop into the copilot seat butterball. I’ll drive you to the airport, you can fill me in on the way,” I replied nonplussed.
“What about the taxi?”
Fuck him, it won’t be the first time he’s been stiffed, won’t be the last either. Perils of the job mate.”
“Yeah but…”
“But nothing buddy boy! Look you didn‘t give the cabbie your ID right? So get in and let’s go Polly Anna, geez!”
“Alright, alright, quit your nagging, I already have a mother thank you!”
            Brad opened the door, folded down the front passenger seat and tossed his duffle bag in back then climbed in beside me and slammed the door shut. He set a fat backpack on his lap and settled in looking for the seatbelt. He’d never driven with me before so he didn’t realize he was wasting his time. Like I said, my car was old and predated “big brother’s” safety mandate. I sped away from the curb chirping the tires and headed down 1st Street toward the Hollywood freeway in route to Los Angeles International Airport.
“What airline are you flying?” I asked.
“American,” replied Brad as he gave up the search for the nonexistent seatbelt without asking for an explanation. Smart kid.
“My condolences,” I said sarcastically.
“What? Problems in the friendly skies gumshoe?”
“Nah, just a personal preference. I’m a ‘United’ man myself, the stews are better looking.”
“Don’t you mean flight attendants?”
“Nope! I mean stewardesses. Flight attendants include the males and they don’t enhance my travel experience the way the stews do if you get my drift.”
“Yeah, I get ya Whitey, you’re a misogynist Neanderthal. I thought we’d evolved beyond you dinosaurs?”
“Fat chance butterball, boys will always be boys. So, what was it you had to show me that you couldn’t just tell me over the phone? You know you put me in the doghouse with my girl back there.”
“She’ll get over it Whitey, more to the point she’ll get over you sooner or later.”
“OUCH! Leave the head shrinking to the pros buddy and enlighten me already.”
            Brad ignored me and reached into his backpack. He pulled out a mangled manila folder that had seen better days, much like the frazzled and faded sport coat he was wearing. I glanced over and could see that the folder contained a few official looking documents as well as several photographs. My spider sense was definitely tingling.
“What do you have there?” I asked, my anxious voice betraying my excited curiosity.
“Fruits of my labor my good man, fruits of my labor,” he answered with a grin as he tapped the folder and closed it shut. This was gonna cost me.
“You seem pretty proud of yourself Brad old buddy.”
“I am actually, some of my better work if I do say so myself.”
“Well? Clue me in chubs, I’m all ears.”
“Business first Whitey, you know the drill.”
“Riiiight. How much?”
“$500. The usual rate, $100 and hour to the tune of five fruitful hours.”
“Only if the info is useful.”
“Alright, spill it.”
“Little background first. I was pouring over all of the amateur You-Tube footage and reading broadcast copy when one aspect kept buzzing around my face like a gnat at a summer BBQ.”
“And what did you see pray tell?”
“It wasn’t what I saw so much as what I heard Miss Crispy say just before she lit the match.”
“Miss Crispy? Really Chubs? That’s low even for you.”
“I suppose you’re right, call it unprofessional sarcasm. What was her name anyways?
“Megan, her name was Megan Malloy.”
“Right, so I got hung up on Miss Malloy’s last words.”
“I love you father?”
“Exactly, those words.”
“What about them?”
“Well isn’t that your whole case for the Arch Diocese? The Holy men want you make sure that Megan wasn’t pointing a French fried finger at the priest she was friendly with, am I right?”
“Something like that,” I replied glancing over at him.
“Anyway, I did some digging for you and found a couple of nuggets I think will interest you.”
“We’ll see, go on.”
“SO, the $64,000 question is who was Megan Malloy referring to in her dying declaration? Care to guess?”
“I give up, who?”
“Actually I don’t know. But it could be this fella,” Brad said opening the folder and tapping on the contents inside. He pulled out a photograph of a twentysomething blue eyed blue blood young man. Not exactly what I was expecting.
I glanced down at the picture in his lap. “Who is it?”
“Miss Malloy’s baby daddy, I think.”
Impossible! I’ve seen the birth certificate, there was no father listed.”
“You saw a birth certificate. Did you happen to notice the clerk’s stamp?”
I started to answer ‘of course’ when I realized that I had not. “You have the actual birth certificate?”
“I do.”
“How did you manage that?”
Sources are confidential Whitey, stupid question.”
“Right, show me the document and picture again.”
I studied them both while we waited for the light to change. “This fella doesn’t fit the profile I’d conjured. I was expecting a junkie or otherwise ne’er do well of some sort. The young man in this photo is too clean cut and actually appears respectable.”
“Not all louses are dirty and diseased. The world is lousy with ‘clean cut’ vermin taking advantage of young impressionable women. Don’t make me dredge up Bill and Monica.”
“Touché,” I replied handing back the papers as the light changed.
“So what do you know about this Alex Wembley character?” I asked referring to the name on the birth certificate.
            Brad pulled out a small spiral notebook from his coat pocket. He flipped back a few pages and read from his copious notes as I merged onto the 105 Freeway toward LAX. “Alexander Wembley, age 24, graduated from UCLA class of 2007 with a degree in Economics, minoring in Finance. He recently completed his MBA from Pepperdine University and is currently employed as an account executive with the firm Bates, Wembley, and Stein. That’s right, he works for dear old Dad. And, he comes from old money. A lot of it.”
”Interesting,” I said, rolling my eyes and making the hmmmm face with a droopy frown and nodding head.
“There’s more,” Brad added.
“Do tell, what do you mean?”
“Well it turns out that the apple doesn’t always fall next to the tree. In Alex Wembley’s case it couldn’t have fallen further.”
“How so?”
“Daddy Wembley is your classic country club, money grabbing womanizer. Junior on the other hand is 180 degrees from his father.”
“Spare me the diatribe Chubs and stick to the facts,” I pleaded.
“Alright, in a nutshell the old man drove Junior into the family business, and into manhood for that matter. Miss Malloy was a graduation present who tragically got knocked up during their ‘tryst’ of fate.”
“It gets better. Junior and Miss Malloy were both seeing Father Quinn but for different reasons and unbeknownst to one another.”
“Really? This is starting to sound like a Tele-Mundo script.”
“Well we know Megan’s reason, what was Alex’s?”
“Hold onto your Fedora gumshoe, the lad is secretly attending seminary at St. John’s in Camarillo.”
“But Alex lives and works in LA?”
“It’s the 21st century Whitey, he attends on line and only goes onto campus once a week for sessions with his advisor and sponsor.”
“Let me guess, his sponsor is Father Quinn.”
“The one and only.”
“Does he know about the connection between them?”
“Unknown Whitey, that’s for you to figure out, you’re the detective. But if you ask me he had to. He’s a priest, I’m sure he’s seen it all in his profession and from what I’ve heard about him he doesn’t strike me as an ignorant man.”
“Well I’ve met him personally and he is definitely not ignorant, so he must have a good reason for keeping that under his hat. I’m gonna have to talk to him about that.”
“You mean his ‘biretta’,” Brad said matter-of-factly.
“His what?” I asked.
“Biretta, it’s a priest hat,” he answered.
“Whatever Chubs, we’re here,” I replied pulling up to the curb teaming with travelers in all shapes and sizes headed for God knows where.
“You better hop out quickly, you don’t want to miss your flight. Where are you headed anyway, I never asked?”
“Seattle, why, does it matter?”
“Not really, I’ve got your cell number. Can I keep the folder?”
“Sure, as soon as you fork over the dough Joe.”
“What was the damage again?”
“$500 Whitey, stop trying to cheat me.”
            I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. I always carry cash, never trusted banks or the little plastic bandits they issue to fools willing to pay fees and risk identity theft by some unscrupulous teller or manager. I peeled off five crisp hundred dollar bills and slapped them into Brad’s open palm.
“You should be wearing a mask,” I quipped.
“Pleasure doing business with you Whitey,” Brad replied as he got out of the car. He reached in grabbed his duffle, shook my hand then slammed the door shut and walked away toward the terminal.
I leaned over cranked the window up sealing out the night air and traffic noise then pulled away from the curb before the airport cops got a chance to cite me. As I merged with the throng of comers and goers I replayed everything Brad had shared on the way here. The Alex angle was interesting on its own but the Father Quinn secrecy angle was the one I wanted to explore next. I may have made a bad assumption about the sanctity of the confessional the other night. I had a whole new set of questions to ask the good Father only this time it was going to be on my terms on my turf. After that I’d track down Master Alex Wembley and pick his squeaky clean brain. A good detective is only as good as his instincts and his instincts are only as good as the information he gathers. Brad was a good source and he really came through. Memo to self, I owe my round friend a couple dozen Krispy Kreme’s when he gets back from Seattle.  
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