Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Chrissie (Part 5)

     The sky was just starting to lighten as we pulled in Angel's driveway.  False dawn, I think they call it.  As we got out of the car a thought struck me.
     "Hey, anyone know what day of the week this is?" I asked.
     Angel said, "Yeah, it's Monday.  Why do you ask?"
     "Aren't we supposed to have a big bag or suitcase loaded with currency ready by ten this morning?  That was our instruction from the kidnapper.  Should we start working in that direction?"
     "No," Angel replied.  "I already have a case and a half of copier paper cut to size and  bundled, and shoved into a duffel bag.  Heh, whoever tries to recover it better have a friend along to help.  Really, there's nothing to do but wait until that ten o'clock fax.  Assuming he's on time.  I wish there was a way to communicate with him."
     "You and me both, bud.  It's nearly six now, what should we do until then?"
     Angel shrugged and said, "I don't know about you, but I need some shut-eye.  Aren't you two tired at all?"
     Bekka laughed and responded, "Oh, we're exhausted.  We're going into our third day with no sleep.  Sooner or later something is gonna break, hopefully nothing in our heads."
     I told Angel, "I've done six night runs before.  When you reach that stage you're afraid to stop moving around, otherwise you'll just collapse where you are.  That's how driving under the influence of meth can be dangerous.  You feel more alert than you actually are."
     Angel walked into the bar alcove and requested drink orders.  Bekka and I got our usual, a Mexican beer for her and a Johnnie Walker over ice for me.  As he was mixing drinks Angela padded barefoot into the room, unable to stop yawning.  Angel asked her what she wanted to drink.
     "At this hour?  You're kidding me.  Aren't you coming to bed, baby?  Oh no....  Did you get into Lenny's meth with him?  Are you going to be tweaking all over the house?"
     Angel assured his wife that he was fine, and had been in the coke to keep going, but would be letting it wear off and not re-stoking the high.  "As far as those two go, I don't know what to tell you.  They've been up since Friday morning, it's now Monday morning.  Hopefully their youth will help keep mind and body together."
     "We're gonna be lying down too.  Dunno if we'll sleep or not, but we'll at least get some rest.  That sound fair to you guys?" I said.
     That was fine with them.  Bekka and I finished our drinks and put the empties in the sink for the cleaner to deal with.  Then we went down the hall to a random guest room, where we stripped down and jumped in bed.  I lay there holding Bekka in the crook of my arm, feeling one tension wash off of me....  Only to be replaced by a different tension.  To me, it was reckless to be giving the kidnappers worthless paper instead of what they asked for....  Or at least a reasonable facsimile.  I communicated this to Bekka, who assured me it wasn't just me being paranoid, it was a poor strategy to be taking.
     "You think we'll survive the next couple of days?" I asked.
     "Possibly so.  We've gotta get close to the kidnappers to get our hands on Chrissie, and that's gonna be dicey.  Unfortunately, except for Mikey they've held all the damn cards so far.  You really think he's dead?"
     "One way to find out."  I got out of bed and retrieved my denim, searching through pockets looking for Mikey's number.  Once located, I grabbed the phone and dialed.  Seven, eight, nine rings....  Then a familiar voice picks up the phone, saying "Who the hell is calling at this hour?"
     "Mikey, don't panic, it's Lenny."
     He practically snarled into the phone, "What else do you want from me?"
     "Look, that woman we were looking for?  Now there's ransom involved.  This ain't a game any more, we're telling you this little blip on your life's radar is over with and you need to hook up with us.  Do you understand what I'm saying?  We will keep you safe, okay?"
     He sighed audibly into the phone.  Then he said, "Look, meet me at a place called Kettle Glazed Donuts on Franklin near Argyle in about an hour.  I'll talk to you more then."  And with that he hung up.
     I flopped against the pillow.  "Bekka darling, would you please handle the tedium of chopping out more speed?  We're in motion again."
     The thought spun crazily through my head was that the Soviets and Red Chinese and North Koreans used to use sleep deprivation as a method of torture.  I was feeling well immune to it.

     Fifty-five minutes later we located the donut shop on Franklin.  Even with my sinuses packed full of speed, just the smell of the place made my stomach growl, audibly.  We stepped inside and ordered a few, figuring we'd be picking at them through our meeting with Mikey.
     "He's running late," I said, looking at my watch....  At which point a black 280 ZX anchored itself at the curb outside.  Mikey got out wearing his leather jacket and a Fear t-shirt, both positive signs.  I was guessing he was too tired of the stress of the game he was playing with other people's lives.  Only time and the man himself would tell.  No second guessing here.
     He saw us sitting inside and gestured with one hand.  I went out to see what was up.
     "Here, do you recognize that car?"  It was a nondescript American sedan, sitting at the curb on the opposite side of the street.  I recognized it as Paul's....
     ....  And it was easy to reach that conclusion, as Paul was sitting inside watching us.  This did not relax me.  I wanted nothing to do with our favorite neighborhood enforcer.  This was a development I couldn't explain.
     "There's nothing else for it,"  I said, and pulled Mikey's hands behind his back, using one of my new pairs of handcuffs to secure him.
     "Hey, what the fuck!?  You are a cop, aren't you?" protested Mikey.
     "No, I'm no cop.  Like I told you, I'm in the local La Cosa Nostra organization, and I'm a well-known but ultimately disposable soldier in their wars.  They give me a goal, I do what is needed to achieve that goal.  Like right now, it's up to me to get Christina back and also to put the finger on whoever is responsible for making her disappear.  Dig me?
     "Like right now, I cuffed you because it simplifies my life.  It's nothing personal, I just want you to stay put.  If you're hungry Bekka will feed you, she'll even help you take a piss.  But I want you stationary.  You're a low-ranking player, but I have a hunch you can provide more answers than you let on.  And that's bad."
     We went inside.  I told Bekka, "Paul is outside, and I'm not about to ask him why.  He must have followed us here from Angel's."
     "Oh, great," was her only comment.  She turned back to her donut.
     Mikey said, "So you're supposed to feed me?  I got bad news, I'm hungry."
     Bekka smiled and said, "Come on up to the display case and tell them what you want."
     They walked up front, one of the countermen asking Bekka why Mikey was handcuffed.  "Me and Lenny over there are in the mafia, and this man did wrong by us.  I'm not sure what they'll do with him.  Either kill him or offer him a job, I guess."
Mikey interjected with, "I have no clue whether I'll even live through today, much less get any sleep.  I'm beat."
     "Don't tell me and Lenny about that," she said.  "We haven't slept since Friday, running on his signature quality speed all this time.  Maybe we'll set you up later on."
     Mikey chose two old fashioneds.  Bekka fed him by breaking off pieces and shoving them in his mouth.  I looked out the window and realized Paul had left his vehicle.  Curious, I went to the door and stuck my head out.  Paul was leaning over the hood of the Falcon, writing something.  He finished writing and put his note under the wiper blade.  I waited until he finished jogging back across the street and was in his car before I went to get the note.
     It was straightforward enough.  It read, "Lenny and Bekka: I'm your insurance.  Don't try to talk to me.  Paul."  I brought it in and showed it to Bekka.
     "Huh.  Who do you suppose set that up?  Angel?" she asked.
     "More likely don V.  I'm no good to him if I bolt or get killed.  Paul is  there to insure neither one happens."
     "So what do we do with this guy?"
     "Ultimately we take him up for a chat with Angel."  To Mikey I  said, "I'd like to have a chat with your roommate for a few minutes.  Just some friendly conversation, to find out what he knows.  He is  home, right?"
     "Yeah, he should be.  He works as a busboy for some snooty Italian restaurant that doesn't even have a name, just the address out front.  It's someplace in Century City."
     "By any chance is the address 5110 Century Park East?"
     "Yeah, that's it!  How'd you know?"
     "My capo owns the  place.  See, now we're dealing with too much coincidence.  If Vinny and Chrissie ate there on a regular basis, he'd know them by sight.  He'd also remember them because they're among a select few who don't pay for their meals.  I got that privilege myself about seven weeks ago."
     Mikey smiled and said, "Well shit, take an old friend out to dinner sometime."
     "After we get Chrissie back and I find your bosses in the snatch game," I told him.  "Let's get going, I can't wait to meet your roommate."

He rolled us down a residential street south of Melrose.  He was unhappy that he remained cuffed and that his car was still sitting on the street outside the donut shop.  I assured him that it would be taken care of, one way or another.
     "See, when you make statements like that I wonder if I'm gonna live through the day," he said.
     "I'm wondering the same thing about myself," I stated.
     Home was a walk-up above a garage, next to a rather nice fake Tudor.  "We even get pool privileges," Mikey said.
     We went up and Mikey let us in.  The place was larger than it looked from the outside, and decorated well.  I didn't think Mikey had it in him.  The floor was clear and clean, no empty bottles sitting around, and it smelled fresh.
     "Go on, get him," I told Mikey.
     He walked to a door and knocked.  There was a muttered response.  Mikey yelled through the door, "C'mon, get up.  There are some people here who need to talk to you.  This is important, get out here."
     The door opened and a guy wearing boxer shorts stumbled out, rubbing his eyes.  There was no recognition when he looked at Bekka and I.  "Whassup?  I was sleepin'," he mumbled, going to flop on a recliner.  He didn't seem to notice that the two of us had him covered, me with my Beretta and Bekka with her new Charter Arms revolver.  The presence of the guns slowly dawned on him and he sat up straight.
     I said, "Hi Grant, I'm Lenny and this is Bekka.  We need to ask you about the snatch game you and Mikey have been involved with.  See, we're trying to find a woman that you guys grabbed yesterday, and we don't have time for the police."
     "We're pretty impatient," Bekka threw in.
     "Exactly.  If you can come up with some names and addresses and phone numbers, that would be just dandy.  We want contact information for people above you, know what I mean?  Like Bekka said, we're impatient right now, so the sooner you fucking cough up a bit of relevant information, the sooner we'll be out of your hair."
     Grant squirmed in his chair.  "Well....  There was a house we went to once, up in the Heights.  Pretty big place, remember Mike?  We were just there to pick up some 'H' that was owed to us, we weren't there on business.  But one of the people there was the guy who would pick up the women from us.  There's that, and our contact number for when we'd call to have 'em picked up.  Mikey, what's that number?"
     "555-1248."  Mikey stabbed daggers with his eyes at Grant.
     "I dunno why Mikey didn't just tell you this," opined Grant.
     "I was wondering the same thing myself," I said in a loud voice.  "Mikey, do you want me to kneecap you with this gun?  We're supposed to be friends, and here you are holding back on me.  Friends are supposed to help each other out in times of duress."
     "And where's your help  for me?" he yelled.  You cost me my gig with the traffickers, you march me around LA in handcuffs, and you'll probably cost me my smut job."
     "Yet through it all, you'll still be alive.  That guy Paul, the one outside the donut shop?  This is his sort of gig.  Why they didn't give it to him, I don't know.  They considered it my mess to clean up.  We would have caught up with you eventually, it would have been a matter of time before the family came for you.  You got lucky that you drew me.  I've been positively gentle with you up to now, compared to how Paul would have treated you.  And remember he's following us.  Try to jam me up and he'll be on you like white on rice."
     I stretched, waving the pistol carelessly around the room.  "Now then, how about giving me that address, bubba?  We really don't have all day."
     Grant said, "It's in my room, lemme go  get it."
     "Ah-ah-ah....  Bekka, go in with him and keep him covered.  He may be slippery."
     Bekka cocked her gun and the two of them went in his room.  Mikey and me sat there, me casually resting the gun in my lap, the  both of us giving the other an insincere grin.  Mikey said to me, "So how about that line of speed?"
     "As soon as Bekka comes--- "
     Just then Bekka's gun went off.  I sprang off the sofa and grabbed Mikey by the neck, pulling him up and shoving him forward towards the door.  Grant was face down on the floor but had no holes in him.  I pushed Mikey onto the bed.
     "Look what laughing boy thought he'd help himself to," said Bekka.  She picked a slide-action shotgun off the floor and handed it to me.  "It was under the bed.  When I saw what he was pulling out I put a shot at his feet.  Guess he didn't believe I had a real gun, or that a girl would never pull the trigger.  Something, I don't know."
     "And here we were, building up some mutual trust," I said to Grant.  "Maybe I should kneecap the both of you.  Bekka, did he at least give you the address yet?"
     "I think he has it in his hand," she said.  I plucked a piece of paper from Grant's hand.  It simply said, "Gil.  ____ Glencoe Way."
     "Is this the right address?  Well is it?" I yelled in his ear.  He nodded vigorously.  I picked up the shotgun, sat down on the bed, and began operating the slide, ejecting shells from the belly.  Then I thought about it and reinserted the shells, and went to stand the shotgun next to the front door.
     I walked back into Grant's room.  Bekka had her feet resting on the still-prone Grant, relaxing as if on a mall bench.  She was saying to him, "See, you shouldn't underestimate little girls like me.  I'm gonna take my feet way and let you up, but you have to be a good little boy.  Are we clear on this?  All on the same page?"
     "I have to use the phone," I said, stepping over Grant.  I dialed Angel's number.
     "Angel, it's Lenny."
     "Where the fucking hell are you?  We got up and you were gone."
     "Right now, I'm somewhere south of Melrose at my dear friend Mikey's place.  I wanted to see if you wanted me to bring him to you.  I can also bring his roommate, he was also in on the action, if you want me to.  This is the Mikey who transports women, and keeps them at his house until picked up.  If I have any say in the matter, I'd just as soon not have him killed.  Who knows, he could be useful."
     "For  what?"
     "Not sure, really, but he's got guts and can keep a secret, even with a gun pointed at him."
     Angel actually chuckled.  "Those are admirable qualities.  Leave the second one there with the understanding he is not to use the phone."
     "Ahead of you," I said.  "I was just gonna take them with us when we left.  He won't have anything to dial out on."
     Angel chuckled again.  "A graceful solution.  How soon will you be here?  We still haven't heard from the kidnappers."
     "It's just now nine."
     "I know, but Vinny is over and the poor guy can't sit down he's so stressed.  We were hoping they'd come through with some information earlier, rather than later. He is someone who wants to meet your friend."
     "I wouldn't doubt it."
     "How soon will I see you?"
     "In Monday traffic?  At least thirty-five minutes, easily longer.  As soon as we can, sir."
     "Oh, Lenny, one last thing...."
     "Blindfold him."


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