On Tuesday I gave Donna a (clothed) screen test, to see how well she read scripts and if she paced herself correctly. She passed with flying colors, so we moved on to a nude photo shoot, to get a gauge of her inhibitions, if any. She was confident in front of the camera, smiled well, and wasn't shy with her body. I got on the phone with the lab and got her listed on our blood test roster, sending her down that afternoon. If she could hack a full shoot, she would become very valuable to Inana.
On Wednesday night I couldn't sleep. There was something wrong, dammit, but I didn't have a clue what. Drinking Johnnie Walker just made me agitated and stupid. Around 3:30 I grabbed the weed and the bong and headed downstairs to the patio, with the intention of smoking myself to sleep. I went through the slider and set my one-man party supplies on a glass umbrella table.
I had just finished loading the bong when the car pulled up. I heard it stop at the foot of the driveway and discharge two people. They were men, talking. They reached the front door and stopped, continuing to talk, although I couldn't make out a word they were saying. The conversation continued for a while, and seemed to be getting more and more terse. I would have confronted them, except my Beretta was sitting three floors up on my dresser, and all I was wearing was boxer shorts. The assumption that they were armed came naturally. Thanks to the press, the world knew Bekka and I were armed, so it was safe to assume that anyone showing up on my doorstep at 3:30 in the morning was up to no good, and carrying a gun.
I heard the one understandable word of the conversation, and it was the last word: a yelped "What?" barked into the night air, and that was it. There was a noise like laundry being dropped. Then I heard a single set of footprints walk down the driveway again, the car start and leave.
There was still someone on my front porch, and I was willing to take great risks to find out who. I went through the gate, along the path, and across the driveway towards the front door.
The man was easy to find. He was crumpled up against my front door. I realized I was standing in a warm puddle. Further examination found that the man had been opened up with a knife, ripped from crotch to sternum. He was wearing all black sweats. What I thought was a design on his sweater was his intestines. I fought back the urge to vomit, instead wiping my feet on the grass and then running back into the back yard, where I snatched up the drugs and paraphernalia and headed upstairs. My initial urge was to dig a hole in the back yard and throw the discourteous bastard in, but I knew there were flaws in my plan I wasn't seeing. Sighing, I dialed 911.
Because of my guest's position against the front door, I went back out the side way to meet the deputies. I didn't have to wait long, we must have been a familiar address.
The two deputies who arrived first were goons, probably born and raised in Poway. They bothered to swagger up the driveway, even though I was the only person around, and I didn't care. The two of them peered at the body.
"Appears to be dead," said the first one.
"Yep. Bled out," said the second.
Looking around, Number One saw my bloody footprints. "Who made those?" he asked.
"I did. I didn't see the blood when I walked up and went right through it."
"What were you doing here at this hour?"
"I live here, up on the third floor. That's why I'm in my boxers. I couldn't sleep, so I came downstairs to sit on the patio for a while."
"Why don't you tell us, in great detail, what the last hour or so of your life has been like, " said Number Two.
"No," I said.
"I hate repeating myself. You guys are gonna be back to cruising as soon as the plainclothes dudes get here. I'll give my statement to them. You guys wouldn't even bother to write it in your nightly reports."
Number One stepped towards me. "How'd you like a headache?"
"If you're gonna use your billy club on me, make sure it's a solid shot. Knock me out. That way I'll get some sleep tonight, however briefly."
Two more squad cars pulled up, followed by a lab wagon, an ambulance, and a familiar station wagon. Detective Donner was on the scene. My favorite person (not), one who I didn't want to know where I lived. I padded down to the meatwagon and told them, "Your customer is up against the front door. Don't worry about hurrying." Then I stood there and waited for Donner.
"Lenny, Lenny, Lenny," he said. "What mischief are you causing now?"
"Someone else is causing mischief for me," I said, as we walked back up the driveway. "I've got people being murdered on my front porch. This ain't New York City."
We reached the porch, careful to not step in the blood. The two deputies sneered at me, then cut it out when they saw who I was standing next to. Donner gingerly stepped around the blood, and crouched down next to the corpse. "Know him?" he asked me.
"Never saw him before in my life," I told him.
One of the crime techs came over with a camera and began burning through film. Donner stood up and walked back towards me. He crossed his arms and frowned.
He said, "See, I don't like this. I don't like you at all, I don't like the fact that you live in this big fancy house, I don't like the fact that you seem to have money, and I really don't like that I'm here for the second time in six weeks, and both times there's blood everywhere. Tell me true Lenny, did this guy piss you off and you lost your temper? Is he one of those anti-porn protesters? Give me your story, Lenny."
I filled in Donner exactly as he would want me to, starting around dinner the night before and bringing him up to the present moment. He was bothered by some things, big surprise.
"So you just wandered outside in nothing but boxer shorts at 3:30 in the morning."
"That's right. I couldn't sleep."
"And two men just happened to show up on your front porch at the same time, have an argument, and one stabs the other. And you didn't hear a word of their argument."
I stretched and said, "I could hear their voices, but not what they were saying. I didn't even get a chance to see what kind of car they were driving."
"Why didn't you confront them when you heard them?" Donner asked.
I said, "Because I was down on the patio wearing nothing but boxers, and there's no doubt in my mind that they were gonna do something malicious. They were trouble, and I had no way to defend myself, not even boots. The sliding glass door squeaks, so they'd have heard me if I tried to go in. I doubt they were itinerant Jehovah's Witnesses, so I had to wait for them to do something, something which would draw me into action."
I stretched again. "One thing, Donner, whoever you're looking for is in good shape. Serious muscle."
He squinted at me. "Why do you say that?"
I pointed at the corpse. "Look at how he was cut. Bladder to chest, one single move. Deep, too. That was a serious power move, and it took a lot of strength to do. No matter the knife, neither one of us could do it. I sure couldn't."
Donner said, "I was wondering about that. Poor bastard got opened up like a suitcase, one big zip. So what kind of knife did you use, Lenny?"
I held up my hands. "Don't start that shit again, officer. If you wanna bring me in, at least be human enough to let me put on clothes and tell Bekka I'm going to the clink, so she can arrange my bail. Have a heart."
"No Lenny, I won't be bringing you in. However, I will be back with a search warrant so I can tear this place apart. If I find anything more threatening than a butter knife, if I find a single drop of blood, then you and Bekka are in some deep shit. You follow me?"
"I get it," I sighed. "I've gotta do your job for you again."
The techs were done with the corpse where it was, and the ambulance guys lifted it onto the gurney. Better them than me. I asked one of the techs if it was okay if I started hosing down the front of my house, getting rid of all the blood. Also who my house guest was.
"Check with the detective to see if you can start cleaning. As far as the deceased goes, he's a John Doe. No wallet, no ID, not even keys or loose change in his pockets. Hopefully someone reports him missing."
A missing persons report on a man in his mid-forties would be rare. I didn't ask permission, I simply went upstairs and pulled on clothes, waking Bekka to tell her what happened.
"My God," she said several times. "You're not just making some sick joke? Someone got killed in our entryway?"
"You wanna go down and say hi to Detective Donner?" I asked. "I've gotta get to work. We've got too many felonies in this house, and if Donner is going to get a search warrant, I need to clean this place out. Adjust to the idea of no drugs for a few days."
"So you have to gather all the drugs, all the stolen guns.... What else?"
"I'm going to make sure the doors to the sound stages are all locked. We've got too much expensive equipment sitting around down there, and I don't want any of it walking away. They want in there, I go with them."
"Where are you taking the junk?" asked Bekka.
"Probably to Angel's or Vinny's. Speaking of Angel, I'm in a quandary. Obviously he needs to know what happened, but should I call him at this hour? You and me are just fine, nobody's in jail.... Should I disturb him or not?"
"No sense in waking him up with a worry right now. Ruin his morning instead, at least he'll have had some decent sleep."
"Yeah, you're right. There's nothing he can do about the situation, so why stress him out. I'll ask him if I can stash all that illegal garbage in his garage for a few days. I'll call around 7:30."
I grabbed my smokes and headed back downstairs, this time fully clothed. Donner gave me permission to use the hose, and some advice. "Rent a pressure washer. You'll need it to get the stains out," he said. I thanked him and started spraying away one human's worth of blood from my entry.
All the cops were gone by 8:30, one car remaining until then, God know what for. I carried my box full of guns and drugs out to the Fury, putting them in the trunk. Angel said he would wait for me before heading out on his rounds of his other studios.
I was at Angel's house by eleven. He greeted me with an offer of coffee and a crooked grin on his face. "Well, this time I can't call you a bullet magnet," he said.
"Nope.... But this is the second instance of knife violence to happen in my vicinity. I don't like it one bit. Not to be too graphic about it, but someone opened the dude up and let everything fall out. It was bad, Angel, real bad."
Angel sipped his coffee. "Tell me, Lenny, has wild shit always happened around you? Like when you were a kid and shit?"
I thought about it. I said, "Nope. Wild shit started happening around me about the same time I fell in love with Bekka, and it hasn't stopped. If me and Bekka are within a two mile radius of each other, things will turn weird. There's some sort of psychic connection going on. All I know is that being around Bekka keeps me on my toes, in ways that I can never anticipate. How's Angela this morning?"
"I am fine," Angela said, gliding into the room. "From what I understand, you cannot say the same."
I gave her a chaste hug --- Angel could be a jealous man --- and said, "Actually, I'm doing okay. I had to get all the felonies out of the mansion, but that is just a minor hassle. By the way, thank you both for letting me stash all my dope and guns here until after they exercise that search warrant."
"What all do you have?" asked Angel.
"Let's see.... A shotgun, a .32 Ruger, a .38 Charter Arms revolver that Bekka wants back, three ounces of marijuana, a rather nice glass bong, about a half ounce of speed, eighty or so hits of Ecstasy, about four grams of raw MDMA, about fifty Valium, and a mostly full box of .38 caliber ammunition which goes with the Charter Arms. All our legal pieces fire nine millimeter, so we'd have no excuse for the odd ammo."
"Yeah, I can see why you wanted the stuff out of the house," said Angel. "We'll keep it safe for you until the cops are finished. So you have any clue as to who the dead guy is?"
I shrugged. "No clue. He didn't have a wallet on him, so he's hitting the morgue as a John Doe. I didn't recognize him. If the sheriffs found any clues they didn't let on. It's a mystery."
Angela smiled at me. "Well, you've played detective before. Will you work out this one too?"
"All I'm gonna do is redouble my efforts at security. Hell, I've got a videotape of the stabbing sitting in Small Steve's office. Maybe I can learn something from that."
Angel pondered, "I want to know what the original plan was that these guys had. They came to the mansion for something, and I want to know what. Who knows what transpired that made one guy kill another in the middle of their action. Figure out their plan, and you'll probably solve the murder."
"Hell, where to start," I said. "The corpse didn't even have pocket change on him, so identifying him is challenge enough. As far as his partner goes, I have no clue what he looks like, what he sounds like, what he drives, nothing. The only lesson I've learned so far is to never go anywhere without my holster on, even my own backyard in the middle of the night. I could have saved a life and a lot of trouble if I'd had my pistol with me."
"I doubt the murderer would return," said Angela. "What would he gain?"
"He'd do whatever they intended to do to begin with," said Angel. "They had something in mind, and they didn't complete it. Be on your guard, Lenny."
"Always," I said.