On my way back to the hospital, I stopped by the mansion and talked to Angel about what I'd learned: Mikey was holding information again, and I wanted it. Given how it affected Bekka and I, it didn't matter what methods I used to extract the info from Mikey. Just so long as it worked.
"Could I use Paul?" I asked Angel.
"Possibly. You'd need the approval of don Ventimiglia first. This is definitely a family matter, the wife of a good soldier nearly murdered, so don't think you're facing this down by yourself, Lenny. You've had a lot of prayer devoted to you over this last week. I said a damn novena to Bekka, and I haven't set foot in a church since you got married. This time around you've got support. All kinds."
"Great," I said. "Other than my vague suspicion that Mikey knows something and isn't telling, I have no clue what direction to run with this. In the past I've known who I was looking for. This time it's a blank. I know I'm looking for a murderous prick in black clothes and a ski mask. Except for the ski mask, that describes half of LA when the Lakers lose."
"Start with the people in your complex. Interview them, see if any of them saw anything out of the ordinary, no matter how dull, on Monday," said Angel. "Try to pick the brains of that cop you don't like. Hell, it's your wife that nearly died, they probably expect you to harass them. And run Mikey through the wringer, see what washes out. It could just be coincidence, him saying 'hunting knife.' How the hell he'd know is beyond me, though."
The next day Bekka came home. I had balloons and flowers everywhere, plus quite a few get well cards from various mafioso. I even put a little jingle bell on Squeak's flea collar. She'd already decided she wanted to order from Leucadia Pizzeria for dinner. For the time being she was happy to be ensconced on the sofa, remote in one hand, oxygen tank within easy reach. She was ready for some rehabilitation.
"Can I get you anything? Another pillow? Something to drink?" I fretted.
"Lenny, relax. Sit down and watch TV with me. Tell you what, bring me a Tecaté before you come this way. Beyond that, I'm fine. We'll order dinner in about forty-five minutes. That will be the most challenging thing of the evening, promise."
I brought over a Tecaté for each of us and gently settled on the sofa. The local news was just coming on. About ten minutes in we were treated to this audio blurb: "The North County woman who was nearly stabbed to death has been released from the hospital today...." It went on to encapsulate how Bekka had nearly bled out, her miraculous survival, and that she "was involved in the adult entertainment industry." Because yeah, that is what caused someone to plant a hunting knife in her ribs. It could be worse, I supposed. They could have gone on about how she is the wife of a mafia soldier. A more accurate reason for the attack, but one I was glad they stayed away from. At no point did anyone bother to interview me or Bekka.
I dragged the phone in front of me, along with a phone book, and dialed Encinitas PD. When I got through I asked for Lieutenant Donner, please. Me? I'm the husband of the woman who was nearly stabbed to death. Yeah, that guy. On hold again.
(*click*) "This is Lieutenant Donner."
"Hi, this is Lenny Schneider. Do you have any news for me?"
"Schneider, Schneider.... Oh yes! Your wife was released from the hospital this afternoon."
"See, that's not news. Since I'm the one who drove her home, and since she's currently sitting four feet away from me, you'll have to do better than that. Like some sort of basic leads on who drove a hunting knife into her and beat her up."
Donner said, "See, I favor you for those actions."
"Yeah, and I figure I just have to wait until you fuck up so I can arrest you."
"Yep. I figure you beat the hell out of your wife then stabbed her, but then felt bad about it as she was bleeding out so you called 911. Really, your days are numbered because you're guilty as hell. You'll try to bolt, or try to finish off your wife again, or something else stupid that will tip your hand and end up doing my work for me. Do you have any response to that?"
"Just the same one I had when we first met. Fuck you, officer. So I suppose getting any work out of you is a pipe dream."
"I figure as long as you're wandering around free you'll just do my work for me, so why bother? Your days are numbered, kid. Stay in touch." (*click*)
I set the phone down and said to Bekka, "Well, the local law is still convinced I tried to kill you. They're so sure of it they're just sitting around waiting for me to make a mistake so they can arrest me."
Bekka goggled at me. "What the hell sort of mistake are they expecting?"
"Like trying to bolt, or hurting you, or wearing my shoulder holster. They'd love that last one, a good tie-in to guns and the violence of your attack."
"But I was attacked with a knife."
"No matter. It would prove I'm a dangerous person, away goes my probation, here comes ten months in an honor camp, if I'm lucky. It could be twelve months in the jail downtown. So long as Duffy is sheriff, I don't like my odds."
Bekka sighed and said, "So once again you have to go out and save the fucking day. The big difference this time is that you have a different group of people to answer to, people who can wreck your life as well as the mafia can. You gotta make the cops and the courts happy by bringing in my attacker, and you can't use your Beretta to get the job done, which will slow you down. And the cops trust you even less than the mob did, even at your worst moments together.
"Lenny, I gotta ask: which saint did you piss off to end up with your luck?"
"Saint Johnny, the patron saint of the well-armed and insecure. Loads of cops pray to Saint Johnny. Fewer mafioso do, but he has his followers in the family. Saint Johnny carries a .45 and is terrified of his own shadow. His mantra is 'Let me see your hands!' Saint Johnny is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but that's because we have that Polack in there as pope, not a good solid wop like we should have. Oh, and the police followers of Saint Johnny barely make the cut every year when their marksmanship is reviewed. They're all lousy shots, which is whey they all carry cannons as sidearms. Like the .45 Saint Johnny carries. Johnny's gun is a powerhouse, it'll snap your wrist in half it kicks so bad. But by god it looks and sounds super tough, so he carries that."
Bekka grinned through all this, then asked, "You have to be dead to be a saint. How did Saint Johnny die?"
"He died while trying to build an auto-erotic device out of a .32 Ruger and a Slinky. Said he was trying to improve the lives of late shift workers from all walks of life. The funny thing is, it was the Slinky that ended his life, not the gun. Details are sketchy."
"And no church recognizes Saint Johnny?"
"He's only recognized by precinct chaplains in police jurisdictions across the globe. Instead of burning incense for Saint Johnny, you set a live cockroach on fire and everybody takes a pull from their hip flasks."
"Will you be praying to Saint Johnny?"
"Oh hell no. He's an idiot. I'll probably save my prayers for Saint Jitters, patron saint to all abusers of stimulants: caffeine, cocaine, nicotine, amphetamine. Saint Jitters gets things done, and quick. Not well, mind you, but fast."
I spent all day Saturday chasing down my fellow residents, hoping for even one to say something interesting. I got one. A guy at the one bedrooms at the back of the complex remembered running off some little kids who were coming to use the pool. They'd gotten in through the fire gate way out back. It was a chained gate big enough for a service vehicle to get through. It was chained loosely enough that little kids --- or skinny adults --- could come through with just a minimum of grunting.
I went and stared at the gate. I knew I'd found how the maniac had gotten in. Now to find anyone who gave a ripe shit. The local cops didn't, I knew that. It was simply information I would use while building my case against the maniac. Because knife murderers are always located by twenty-two year old punk rockers who work for the mafia.
That night I called Angel and asked him again about having Paul's assistance for when I went to deal with Mikey, and possibly after that. He sighed gently and told me to wait a few minutes while he called the don. Sure enough, he rang back fairly quickly and gave me the go-ahead. I could have Paul as a partner.
Paul himself called ten minutes later. "So Lenny, I understand we'll be working together."
I said, "Briefly. It's a situation that demands your particular skill set."
"What's going on?"
"I've got a gentleman who has information I need but is going to be recalcitrant in providing it. I was hoping you could put him in a talkative mood, save everyone a lot of time. I think he has information on who tried to kill Bekka."
"Yes, I've done some exploratory work in that direction myself. The problem is that damn few professionals rely on knives, it's all amateurs who fetishise their tools. It's a creepy little subculture. Blade freaks are in a class by themselves."
"I can believe it," I said. "I've read how they can secrete knives in just about any common object. Read that article and you'll panic every time you see someone adjusting their belt buckle. They can hide knives in anything."
"So what's the plan?" asked Paul.
We drive up to Hollywood and confront our pigeon around a quarter of one on Monday afternoon, right when he's getting off work. I don't want the guy maimed, he's an old friend of mine, but being persuaded to tell what he knows is the goal. Who knows, he may truly know nothing, in which case we make our exit."
"What makes you so sure this guy has information?"
"He knew what kind of knife it was they pulled out of Bekka, without being told. He knew it was a damn hunting knife, and I'd never said a thing. It was never stated in the papers or on the news, just simply 'a knife' or 'a large knife'."
Paul chuckled. "Yeah, that's the sort of thing that makes it worth while to go around with somebody. I hope you're right."
"Me too. I'll look like an ass if I'm wrong."
For my own entertainment I called Lieutenant Donner back to see if anything was new. I was put straight through.
"Hiya officer, this is Lenny Schneider."
"Oh, hello Lenny. What can I do for you?"
"Get off your lard ass and get some work done. Me, I figured out how the scumbag got into the complex."
"Through that gate in the trees, way in the back of the complex. Yes, we know how you snuck in, Lenny. Anything else?"
I sighed. "I take it I'm still your prime suspect."
"Yes, and you're being cautious. I have you in my sights, but you're out of range. Why don't you come in and sign a confession, make everything a lot simpler."
I laughed and said, "I can only confess to my wisdom and good looks. Anything else would be a lie. You don't want me to lie, do you?"
A heavy sigh came over the line. Donner said, "Then why do you insist you're innocent?"
"Sheer cussedness on my part. By the way, I'm heading up to Hollywood on Monday to visit a friend. Do you care?"
"Just don't get arrested up there. You're mine."
"Darling, I didn't know you cared. By the way, Bekka has a message for you. Would you like to hear it?"
I held up the phone and Bekka called, "Fuck you, officer" towards the handset. I could hear Donner sigh over the line again. My hope for him was the same as he had for me: he would become sufficiently annoyed and make a slip. I wasn't sure how, but his attitude spelled out someone who would be surprisingly easy to fire, once the lights were turned on him. I considered things and hung the phone up. I would have plenty of opportunities to bait lazy cops in life, no sense in wasting all my energy on this one.
Sunday was Bekka and mine's day.... But we wouldn't be having the level of fun that we were used to. No body surfing, no trips to the park. We had to wait for her stitches to heal and for her oxygen absorption rate to improve. Oh well, nothing preventing us from taking Ecstasy and taking turns inducing orgasm in the other person. Around dusk we'd hit a local restaurant for some dinner and drinks, then back home for TV and more fooling around.
We liked to keep our Sundays sacred.