I arrived back at Olivehurst to find I couldn't park in my space. It was already occupied by a Ford Taurus. I pondered this, then recognized the Taurus as camera guy Calm Steve's car. I still had no idea why Steve would be over, except to talk business, which would be strange. Bekka hated it when work followed her home.
Leaving the Acura in a visitor's space, I stepped in my front door to find Bekka and Steve on the sofa with beers in their hands. Steve had his shoes off, and Bekka was wearing nothing but her kimono robe. They both looked very surprised at my presence.
"Hey hon," I said, bending down to kiss her. "How you doing, Steve?"
Steve smiled and said, "Hey boss."
"So what are you guys up to?"
Bekka answered me. "Just a couple off-work beers and talking over how the shoot went today. I'm glad you picked up that new girl, the one who goes by Mandy. She's a good performer and also a decent actress. I think we'll have another hot one on our hands when we're done, as good as 'Bad Babysitter' or 'Lust Instructor'."
"I should probably get going. Mika's making dinner tonight," said Steve, rising from the sofa and pulling on his shoes. He went out the door without a goodbye.
"Well, that was a cozy scene I walked in on," I said, going to the kitchen for my own beer.
"Do not start, Lenny. You sound like a jealous husband."
"Maybe I am one," I growled.
"Over Calm Steve? Please. Dammit, I've known him longer than I've known you. If I was gonna fuck him it would have happened a long time ago, okay?"
"But think about how it looks to me. So far as I know, Steve's never been over here in his life, and the one night I'm supposed to be out of town he shows up. If I was truly jealous, I'd be telling you this in a much higher volume, believe me." I scratched my back against the door frame.
Bekka walked across the room and wrapped her arms around me. "You worry about nothing," she said. She nuzzled against my neck. "Steve is just a friend."
"You and I were just friends when we started off." I wasn't feeling mollified.
"That was different. And don't ask me how, because I don't know how to explain how. But do not worry about Steve, or any other man, being here when you're not around. You are mine, and you're all I want. Okay?"
"Okay, I'll let it drop. On a simpler tick, what shall we do for dinner?"
"I'll whip something up. A chicken Alfredo sound good?"
"Sounds great. Oh, I got hit with a bat today."
Bekka froze in the middle of the kitchen. "What happened? Where were you?"
"I was in a gay bar in the Valley, making a pest of myself with the bartender. Someone stuck a gun in my ribs, marched me into a back room, and whacked me in the head. I came to by their dumpster. I've still got the headache, even after two drinks and a line of coke."
"You sure you're okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. If I still feel the same in the morning I'll go to the ER. Fair enough?"
"Good. You can't just ride out a concussion. You should probably go to the hospital tonight, you know...."
"Seriously, I'll be fine. I wasn't out that long, and that's how you measure how bad a concussion is. If I'd been unconscious for a half hour, then I'd be in trouble. But I was out for maybe four minutes. Really, it's nothing to worry about."
"You're home, so I'm assuming you finished your assignment?" Bekka asked.
"Yeah. And I picked up a new one, too. I get to track down our old friend Todd, that chump from Chatsworth that shot Vinny. I probably really will be gone tomorrow night."
Bekka dragged her fingers through her hair. "They are aware you're not a private eye, right?"
"They don't seem to care. I'm in the family and they think I'm smart. That's good enough for them. I have no idea where to start. Unless...."
I pulled Todd's business card out of my pocket. There was a number on it, (213) 555-8467. I gave Bekka my car salesman smile and said, "Honey, would you make a call for me?"
Early the next afternoon I was sitting a block away from an address in Canoga Park, a business park. I had a new pair of binoculars sitting in my lap, which I would occasionally look through when I saw movement outside the address. I'd located Todd's car, but had yet to see him, and had no idea whether the units had a back door to the parking lot. I kept an eye on the front door of the suite and the driveway.
Getting Todd's new work address had been simplicity in itself. I just had Bekka call up and say she wanted to do some performance, and where should she show up? Todd, or whoever answered the phone, was happy to provide the location. Come by anytime, but afternoon would be best.
The waiting was dull. I understood why investigators charged so much, it was to make up for the boredom.
After nearly three hours of waiting, a familiar Lexus zipped out of the lot and into the street. I gave him a few seconds, then pulled into traffic behind him, keeping him within eyesight. We had three cars between us, which was fine with me. I didn't want to tip my hand.
On Roscoe Boulevard Todd pulled into a strip mall. I followed and pulled into a space at the end, sliding down in my seat. Todd went into a deli, returning several minutes later with two large bags. He was buying lunch for his crew. I didn't bother to follow him back to his studio, knowing I'd just pick him up there. Hopefully he'd simply be headed home the next time he moved around.
Four hours later....
The Lexus was in motion again. This time Todd cruised along Saticoy Street to Fallbrook Avenue, then onto Vanowen Street, where he pulled into the driveway of a house. I rolled past two blocks, making a u-turn in the middle of the block and reaching for my binoculars. I wanted to be sure this was home, and not a friend's house. I'd give him two hours and grab something to eat, then come back and watch some more. If he didn't move in that time I'd take it for granted I'd found home and get the address.
An hour into my vigil I it was getting dark and I was interrupted by a homeowner. "What are you doing out here?" I was asked.
"I'm watching a guy named Todd," I said, holding up the binoculars.
"I work for the mafia, and I'm pretty sure we're going to kill him. Why? What do you do for a living?"
The neighbor seemed shocked at my response."Are you going to kill him at his house?" he asked.
I smiled and said, "I don't know. It's not my decision to make. I'm not even sure if I'm the one who gets to kill him or not."
He suddenly relaxed. "Aw, you're joking. You don't work for the mafia, not lookin' like that."
"Of course not, sir. Besides, the mafia doesn't exist. It was made up by Congress to help explain pockets of organized crime. There is no mafia."
"Yeah, I heard that somewhere."
"Anyway, I need to keep my eyes peeled to make sure I've got the right house for this dude Todd," I said, picking up the binoculars again.
He got suspicious again. "So what are you doing out here?"
"I work for a repossession company."
"Oh, okay." He went back in his house without telling me what he did for a living.
Ninety minutes later my stomach burned from the taqueria food I'd wolfed down and I was deathly bored of sitting in the same position. Todd wasn't moving around. I was sure I had the right place. I packed it in for the night.
I checked into my motel in Van Nuys around 9:30, then talked on the phone with Bekka for a while. Nothing interesting had happened at Inana today. Frankie had everything handled as near as she knew. I told her life as a private eye was really damn dull. Much of the time you just sit there, waiting for anything to happen. "I'd rather be interviewing naked women like on a normal work day."
"Frankie's been having a good time," she told me. We said our good-nights and I went to bed. I wanted to be up and around in the morning to see what time ol' Todd went to work.
Eight o'clock the next morning found me sitting a half block up from Todd's, on the opposite side of the street. The Lexus was still in the driveway, and I figured he was not a morning person.
8:30 had a Chevy Caprice pull up in front of Todd's place. This was not expected. I watched two Latinos, lowrider types, get out and go to the front door.Todd let them in immediately.
Five minutes later four loud pops came from the house. The Latinos came out of the house, jumped in the Caprice, and screeched off. This did not bode well.
I crossed the street and jogged up to Todd's front door. It was standing wide open. I walked in, calling, "Hello, Todd? You home, asshole?"
Todd was home. He wasn't about to go anywhere. He'd achieved that special peace you get when half your head has been blown off. Todd lay sideways on the sofa, staring up with the eye that was still there. I learned that brains which have been subject to the trauma of a bullet look like cake batter. I stood there like a moron and stared at the late Todd Agnew.
Only one thing for it. I picked up the phone handset with the sleeve of my jacket and dialed 911. When the operator answered I hung up again. The computers would provide the address. Then I calmly walked into Todd's bathroom and puked in the toilet, wiping my mouth on a towel afterwards.
Then I got the hell out of there, heading east on Vanowen. A couple minutes along a cop car passed me in the opposite direction, lights on but siren off. I'd have put money on where he was headed.
When I got to my motel I called Angel. Angela told me he'd gone out for his inspection of the studios. I told her to have him call me at the motel as soon as possible, the Starlight Inn, room 221. It was urgent.