Anticipating the need, Paul had extracted his private investigator's license from his wallet before pulling Grant out of the car. When you're marching someone in handcuffs through the doors of a police station, it's best if you can explain yourself.
I strode up to the desk and told the sergeant I wished to speak with Lieutenant Donner. My name is Lenny Schneider, and I have business to discuss with the Lieutenant. I'm sure he'll want to see me, I've been much on his mind recently. The sergeant considered Grant and Paul, but said nothing, merely paging Donner from the bowels of the station.
Donner came through the doors smiling like a lottery winner. "Ah, Lenny! Here to talk to me? The guilt finally getting to you?"
I said, "Fuck you, officer. No, I thought I'd bring you the person who actually did the stabbing. With the help of this gentleman here we were able to track him down. He's actually an acquaintance of mine, and he doesn't like me, which is why he decided to attack my wife. We have his confession on tape, would you like to hear it?"
Donner went from confident to shell-shocked. He cleared his throat and said, "Who are these people? I'll assume the one in handcuffs is the one you claim did the stabbing, but who is this gentleman?"
"The one in cuffs is Grant Rush. The one holding him is Paul Talbot, a private investigator I was able to retain with the help of my bosses."
Donner glared. "You have generous bosses."
I smiled and said, "Very much so. They like my work."
"But you're a pornographer."
"And I run the business end of things. Shall we go somewhere so you can listen to this tape? I think you'll find it interesting. I heard it being made and I was fascinated."
Donner gestured us back and through the doors, through a large common area and into a tiny office where he plunked himself down at the desk. Paul put Grant in the chair opposite the Lieutenant, remaining standing behind him. I leaned against a file cabinet. Paul pulled out the micro-cassette player, rewound, and hit Play.
We listened to it in silence, all the way through. At the end, Donner leaned back and considered Grant. He said, "So that was your statement. Was any of it coerced?"
"Nobody pressured you into saying those things."
Donner sighed and said, "Well, you leave me no choice but to arrest you on one count of attempted murder. Mr. Talbot, let's switch out handcuffs."
The lieutenant called for an officer, who came and escorted Grant off for booking. Then he glared at Paul and I through hooded eyes.
Paul broke the silence. "Is there something you'd like to say to us, Lieutenant? We haven't had lunch yet."
"No, no there isn't. I don't know how you pulled this off. I probably don't want to know how you pulled this off. But believe me, I'll get the full tale when that kid hits trial. You'll both be called as witnesses, and I'll bet you have some interesting tales to tell."
I asked Donner, "Tell me, are you disappointed? Are you saddened by the fact that it wasn't me all this time? Other than the fact that domestic violence is a no-brainer, what the hell made me such a prime candidate?"
Donner seethed, "Because you're a damn thug. Anyone can look at you and tell that. I guarantee it's strictly a matter of luck that you're not in prison right now. I don't know what for, but it would be a good one: fencing stolen cars, drugs, sex crimes, violence against your wife or family, something. I don't give a shit about the porn studio you run, even if I could get a warrant and have the place cleared out tomorrow morning. I'm gonna figure out what you're up to, 'cos I know you're on the wrong side of the law somehow. And once I latch onto you, no number of private investigators or lawyers will help you."
"Well, I already said it once today, but it bears repeating: fuck you, officer. My private life is tidy, I run my business above board, and I have no skeletons in my closet. Please, do come after me Lieutenant. I'll be highly entertained to see what you come up with. Hey Paul, let's go get something to eat."
We marched back through the common area and out the double doors. I got the Falcon in motion, aiming for a taqueria on the 101.
Paul said, "You're digging yourself quite a hole with that cop. I'm from Chicago PD, do you know what we'd have done with some punk who talked to us like that?"
"Yeah, hospitalized him. I refuse to worry about the good lieutenant back there. Right now he's pissed because he got showed up by the dude he planned on arresting. Something else will come along to attract his attention, and I'll go on the back burner. I get the impression he just doesn't like punk rockers for whatever reason, so it wouldn't matter the circumstances under which we met. he'd give me a hard time no matter what. Strictly a hunch on my part."
Paul gave off his strange wheezing laugh. "If that guy found out you have connections to La Cosa Nostra, he'd never believe it. He'd write it off as a bad joke on somebody's part."
"Well, you have to admit I don't fit the stereotype when it comes to how a mafia soldier should look. I think it's the clothes."
Bekka was napping on the sofa when I came in, Squeak asleep on her stomach. I grabbed an Anchor Steam out of the fridge and flopped on the love seat.
Presently she stirred: she could feel me staring at her. I smiled and said, "Hey beautiful," then scooped the remote off the coffee table.
"Hey babe," she yawned. "So did you and Paul get anything done today?"
"We did. Grant is the one who stabbed you. He's in jail now."
"Wait a minute. Grant, as in Mikey's roommate? He was the one? Why?"
"Hoo boy," I said. "According to Grant, he's in love with Mikey and hated all the indignities we always seemed to be putting Mikey through: the cuffs, the blindfolds, the guns. It was rage and revenge, and an odd way of proving his love to Mikey, who knows nothing of all this. Given Mikey's rather insatiable heterosexuality, I don't think he'd stand for it. If that was the case it probably would have been Mikey who got stabbed.
"On the subject of Mikey, he'll be going to Vegas. Same deal Rick got, a thousand bucks and the clothes on his back. Mikey's resourceful though, I guarantee he'll figure out some way of getting his car back. As much as I currently loathe the guy for putting the finger on you, I still didn't like the idea of him becoming fish food. He'll spend the night in the company of Vinny and then get driven out to Vegas to start a whole new life. I hope he makes better decisions this time around."
Bekka sat up and said, "I hate to burst your bubble, but Mikey seems like the type to always have his eyes peeled for a hustle. He likes fast easy money, and he'll be in a town full of it. I'm surprised he's never tried Vegas before. So you said Grant is in jail? How did you pull that one off? I figured he'd be fish food."
"The family is happy he's being brought to justice, even if it's not the manner they're used to. I was able to use Grant to scrape that damn lieutenant off of my ass. Considering Paul and I presented the cops with a recorded statement of confession, they had no choice but to arrest Grant. Oh, I learned that Paul is a licensed private investigator, by way of Chicago PD. He's in the right line of work if he used to be a Chicago cop."
"Tell me true. Is Paul married?"
"He is. He made a slightly odd statement this morning. He said he wished his wife was more like you. He didn't expand on that, so I let it drop. I think he means he wishes his wife was willing to kneel in safety glass and take out armed pursuers for him."
Bekka smirked and said, "When the opportunity arises, she'll do what needs to be done. At least she will if she loves Paul."
"So we wouldn't be the only couple who bonded via firearms and killing."
"I doubt we're unique in that regard. Especially in wartime, you'll find romantic couplings in the most unusual circumstances. I'm sure some couple got together while they worked on their skills defusing land mines together."
"I could see husband and wife sniper teams."
"Polyamorous bomb disposal squads."
"Anyway, enough of that," I said. "So how was your day?"
Bekka shrugged. "You're pretty much looking at it. I've become a lazy pig. The only time I'm not lounging on the sofa is when I go forage for something to eat. To hell with scar tissue, I'll be too fat to perform by the time I'm healed completely."
"Nonsense. You're still anemic. Your body wants fuel to turn into blood, which is why you're hungry all the time. And because you're low on blood, you're tired. You'll feel like a different person in another week."
She shook her head. "I hope so. This is for the birds. Do you mind eating out again tonight? I'm hungry for Mexican food."
"Fine with me. What time shall we go out? Eight or so?"
"I was thinking about in the next half hour."
"That works too."
On the way to the restaurant Bekka asked me a question I had already been mulling over: what would I have done if she had died?
I thought about it and said, "Probably collapse inwardly and it would be a long, long time before rebuilding would start. I'd almost certainly lose my gig at Inana, and the family would rather grudgingly have to support me for a while. You're part of who I am, and with you gone it would be like losing a leg overnight. There are no coping skills for the situation."
Bekka said, "At least now we're even on worry. I worry when you do the coke runs out of LAX, and you worried about me when I was in the hospital."
"That's really not the sort of thing I want to keep score on. See, now I'm gonna worry about you being home alone. Any way of talking you into wearing a gun?"
"Well.... I have my Charter Arms .38 in my purse right now. Will that comfort you?"
I sagged in the driver's seat. "I had more along the lines of you wearing a holster, something where the gun is always with you. We could check at a gun shop for something feminine, something that won't interrupt the line of your clothes."
She gave me her patented smirk, saying, "I'd probably need to get a new pistol, something real slim, and then go from there. And I'd want the right permits to carry concealed."
"Oh, I want the same concealed carry permits myself. I get off probation in two weeks, but it's still illegal for me to wear my Beretta. If the family wants me to wear the damn thing, I'd just as soon not worry every time a cop passes me. Especially in this town, where I've got a high-ranking policeman with a vendetta against me."
"Donner is a clown," she told me. "Screw him."
"Well, he's sure I'm up to no good. He'd never guess in a million years of my organized crime connections, so I'm fairly safe, but it's still a little disconcerting. Hopefully he'll get caught fixing tickets and lose his job."
We pulled into the lot of the restaurant and parked. No valet here. There was a small crowd waiting to be seated, and I had to remind myself I couldn't just walk to the front and tell them I was a friend of the owner. We'd have to wait our turn like normal people. The benefits of mafia connections had to cut off somewhere.
We were shown to our table, where we sat in silence. Finally Bekka said in a small voice, "When will I stop being scared?"
"We're in the mafia now. I've felt scared for months. I'm afraid it comes with the territory."
"Just goddamn peachy."
We ended up leaving the car at the restaurant and taking a cab home because of the large number of drinks we each had. It seemed a fitting reaction to the past seven days.