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Monday, September 7, 2015

"If you have it (love), you don't need to have anything else, and if you don't have it, it doesn't matter much what else you have..." J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)

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For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
"Father Hollyweird"
Chapter Ten
Immaculate Heart of Mary-Rectory…Dec 2, 10:30pm
            Father Quinn sat in a modest easy chair in the center of his room reading a script that a parishioner had given him after Mass on Sunday. It wasn’t very good but it was a welcome distraction from the queries that he’d been peppered with ever since the puzzling demise of young Megan Malloy and her bundle of joy. The beleaguered priest had answered hundreds of questions from an equal number of sources, each curious query a variation of the same theme. Father Quinn was interviewed by the Police, interrogated by the Bishop, badgered by the media, and soul searched by himself. At the end of the day none of his replies provided any real answers. The fact was he had been as shocked and surprised by Megan’s actions as anyone else. More so really, as he had considered himself a close confident during the last four or five months of her young life. Apparently they were not as close as he had thought.
            He set the script onto his lap and rubbed at his tired eyes. None of this made any sense, at least not to him. It must have made perfect sense to Megan however. It takes a great deal of resolve to conjure and execute a plan like the one she had orchestrated that fateful evening. Her choice of suicidal methods was not an impulsive one, unlike a gunshot or a leap off a tall building her choice was deliberate and offered many opportunities for a change of heart. Her choice was most certainly deliberate and it was meant as a message. But what was the message and to whom was it directed? Was it him? It couldn’t be. He had only known her a short while but he thought that they had bonded during those months while she struggled with her decision regarding her pregnancy. He felt as though he had reasonably helped her off of an emotional ledge without influencing her with his personal beliefs or tenants of the Church. He had encouraged her to be strong and to make her own decision without prejudice. Although to be honest he prayed nightly that Megan would choose unselfishly, whatever that meant.
            Father Quinn sighed audibly and set the script beside a cup of cold coffee on the small table next to his easy chair, a reminder of how long he’d been sitting there. The weary priest slapped his knees and rose to his full six foot height. “Why?” he muttered. Why was what everyone wanted to know, why was what he needed to know. Removing his reading spectacles he set them on the table on top of the half read script and ambled toward the door and the hall leading to the lavatory for his before bed shower and dental hygiene regiment. Growing up back in the old country his sainted Mother would remind he and is seven brothers that “A clean body and a clean mind pleases the Lord.” To which his Father the cynic would reply “fat chance luv, not with this brood dearie.” He smiled at the memory as he entered the lavatory grabbed a towel from the rack and set out his shaving gear. With the hot water running and beginning to fog the mirror with steam he starred at his reflection and looked into his own eyes. Why kept nagging at him.  What had he missed, could he have prevented this from happening? Why did she call out to him? Was it even he that she called out to? What was running through the girl’s mind, what message was in her tragic action? Did he cause this? Was it something he said? Not knowing was driving him daft.
            Perhaps this Roode character, the private detective that the Bishop had hired can find the answers that so many were searching for. Father Quinn made up his mind to research the man more thoroughly. Mr. Roode was crude and disrespectful of the Church, of any authority the priest expected. But there was a sincerity about the man that he could not explain or put his finger on. He sensed this from the moment that they met. Father Quinn turned off the hot water and swished his razor in the half full basin. As he lathered shaving soap onto his face with the soft bristled brush he chuckled at the detective’s unusual methods of gathering information remembering the interview he conducted in the confession box the other night. Unorthodox at best, sacra religious at the worst. Still you had to admire the man for his ingenuity, his ability to think outside or inside the box as it were. The priest chuckled once more and began to shave away his five o’clock shadow at 11pm. He resolved to look up Whitey Roode in the morning.
Baxter Street stairway, Echo Park…Dec 3, 12:35am
            Officer Bix Kingman was riding shotgun in the black and white patrol car with his partner Sgt. Ray Perez at the wheel. They had just stopped for coffee and were driving north on Park Road alongside Elysian Park when the radio squawked out a message.
“All units in the vicinity of 1421 Avon Street, a 187 at the Baxter steps, please respond, over.”
Sgt. Perez looked over at his partner, “we’re nearby, go ahead and respond to the call rookie,” he said nonplussed by the 187 homicide code. Bix reached for the mic and removed it from its cradle, “X-ray two-niner responding, we’re less than a mile away. What’s the situation, over?”
“Unknown two-niner, call came in a couple minutes ago anonymously, over.”
“Roger that, ten-four.”
Bix returned the mic to its cradle and looked over at his training Officer, “So what do ya think Sarge?”
“Never speculate, just anticipate young gun. The Baxter stairway is dark and eerie, a made to order murder scene, and trust me, its seen its fair share. Just go slow and follow my lead,” answered Ray Perez without looking Bix’s way.
“Noted,” replied Bix.
 “Call for back up just in case,” added Sgt. Perez.
“Roger that.”
            The patrol officers arrived on the scene quickly. It wasn’t exactly what Bix expected to see. There was a body lying in plain sight at the foot of the long stairway, illuminated dimly by a shadowy yellowish light emanating from the street lamp on the cracked sidewalk beside the steps. Other than the stiff there was not a soul around. That didn’t seem right to Sgt. Perez and Bix read that instantly in the expression on his face. “Huh? That’s weird?” muttered Ray Perez.
“What’s weird?” Bix asked.
“This is LA man, there are always people around, especially at a scene like this. The lookie-loos come out of the woodwork to sneak a peek at something freaky.”
Huh? Weird,” replied Bix.
“Radio dispatch and let them know we’re on the scene. I’m gonna look around. You wait by the unit for the cavalry to arrive,” instructed Sgt. Perez.
“Copy that. Shouldn’t you wait for the backup Sarge?”
Ray Perez shot a look Bix’s way that caused him to wish he could take back his rookie question. “Just call us in and wait by the nice patrol vehicle like a good little rookie,” replied Sgt. Perez as he walked over to the dead man while Officer Kingman walked back to the squad car and shrank back into the passenger seat to do what he was told. Meanwhile Ray Perez approached the body at the foot of the steps cautiously. The stiff was a white male and appeared to be in his mid to late twenties. A little unusual for this area which was primarily Hispanic. His limbs were all akimbo from the fall and he could see bones protruding from the left arm and right leg due to obvious compound fractures. The neck was also broken and the head lay unnaturally in a pool of blood, the eyes wide open staring at nothing. Ray knew better than to disturb a crime scene and resisted the temptation to turn the body over with his baton so instead he turned his attention away from the victim. He glanced up the steep stairway that led up to Park Drive. It appeared darker the higher up he looked due to several shot out street lamps that were supposed to light the way. That made walking up the stairway a little dicey as whoever may have killed this fella could still be lurking in the area. Keeping his hand on the butt end of his service weapon, a 9mm Glock 26 he started up the stairway to have a look around.
Sgt. Perez walked slowly up the stairway to the first landing and shined his powerful mag light in all four directions of the compass covering 360 degrees in less than a minute. He had seen signs of the victim’s trajectory on the way up by way of the blood trail leading to where the body lay. But on the landing he saw something different. On the cement and the surrounding shrubs and turf there was clearly a splatter pattern which meant this was definitely a homicide. Whoever it was lying at the bottom of the stairs below had been shot before he took the plunge, probably in the head and likely from a large caliber round, possibly a .45 hallow point given the expanse of the splatter pattern. He shined his mag light further up the stairway but did not leave the landing. This was going to a full on crime scene investigation and standard procedure is for patrol officers to NOT fuck up a crime scene by playing detective. He didn’t need a nickel lecture from one of the gold shields tonight. Ray turned to leave when the beam of light from his mag flashed over something in the weeds. He crouched and looked closer. It was an open wallet, likely the victim’s. He got as close as ne could without stepping onto the soft surface of the bed of dirt and grass that the wallet sat upon. The driver’s license was in middle part of a tri-fold wallet in a see-through section. He read it aloud, “Alexander Whembly,” he muttered. Alright, now they had a name to go with the face.
Ray Perez rose and trotted back down the steps and called over to Bix, “Cancel the bus rookie, call the coroner and CSI instead, this is a definitely homicide,” he shouted. He looked once more at the body and then shined his powerful light across the street. A couple of onlookers had pulled over to watch the proceedings. Ray waived them on their way and went back to the patrol car. He popped the trunk and retrieved to large rolls of yellow barrier tape, tossing one to Bix as he passed by on his way to the crime scene. As he did so two more black and white units rolled onto the scene. Together they sealed off the area and divided it into quadrants for CSI and the detectives. It was going to be a long night and he was hungry, he and Bix still hadn’t had their dinner break. There wasn’t a fast food joint or donut shop for miles. Worse than that there wasn’t a head either. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the first call of nature that he had to answer in natural surroundings. The graveyard shift always sucks!

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…

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