Emery was submerged in himself, in all likelihood drowning there. After all he and I had gone through together over the decades, it was excruciatingly and constantly hard to believe that there was nothing I could do to help. After all the hilarity of Philippe’s and the Proprietress’ ridicule, the walk back to my digs seemed longer than usual. It is one thing to lose one’s best friend to his own folly, but simultaneously to lose one’s lawyer and then get dissed by a super hot chick, a day or so later; I chose not to think of any of it.
Back home at world headquarters, I fired up my snappy, no-longer-new computer and went looking for work. My technique is simple. I scan all the locally based media and law enforcement websites and look for folks with problems they probably can’t solve. Then I try to figure out what I can do to make money helping solve any one of those problems. At least it’s diverting on a prurient level but not always effective for the purpose at hand. It’s seldom fun and can become very depressing. I make a game of it if I can. That has required practice.
“Breaking News” on one of the lesser light TV station’s site indicated that the mayor of L.A. had been “observed again” entering the apartment of a Latina newscaster. He was on his third. His ex-wife and kids lived in the mayoral residence, Getty House in Hancock Park. As an Angeleno taxpayer, I wished he’d get them out of there. Then maybe he could do his thing without being “observed” so closely.
The site for the most local of Downtown rags, a free weekly paper, had a new online exclusive, two days old. It seemed that five suicides, all leaps from high places, had happened within the past thirty days, all within a mile of each other. I’d read each of the stories as they’d come up prior and connected the dots as they did. All were gay white males roughly between the ages of 25 and 40. Not having totaled the number, it struck me that five so similar events in that short a time seemed odd. That’s what the online exclusive noted as well, with “No comment” from law enforcement included. I decided to call a friend over at LAPD HQ.
“Who’s this?” Came the terse question.
“Carl.” I answered as sweetly as I could.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve!” Jane whispered angrily.
“Hey! I said I was sorry… I sent flowers and everything. Did you get them?”
“Flowers, my ass! You sent some lame card to me on my birthday… AFTER you stood me up as my escort to my brother’s wedding! That’s shit in my book!” Jane hung up.
Jane appeared to be one LAPD desk officer from whom I would not be getting any information. I tried someone else, someone who owed me. I was reluctant to do so given that the guy was as white supremacist as one can get, and after all, I am a Jew.
“Why are you calling my private line and what the hell do you want?”
“Hey… Be nice… I just was figuring you’d be the go to guy on something I’m checking out.”
“What?” Clint grunted, probably remembering what indebted him to me.
“Those five jumpers… anything on that?” I asked with a confidential tone.
“No.” He growled.
“Don’t hang up!” I growled back at him.
“You know… don’t make me remind you.”
“Call me after 11:00 tonight on my cell. Got that?” Clint hung up.
Clint didn’t owe me his life, but it was a close second as to what he did owe me. His daughter had been caught up in a tribe of meth kids at her high school. She ran off after Clint had slapped her around a bunch. He didn’t want that known at the time, or probably ever. I had been able to find the errant daughter and drag her back to the Simi Valley for him and his wife. His wife was considerably more grateful than Clint had been. The pressure I could exert, had worked.
However, having exerted that pressure, I felt the greater pressure of having done so. Clint is the kind of guy who can make guys like me disappear. He just couldn’t, as a cop, make his daughter reappear. As a P.I., I could, and had. Advantage: Clint. I was not at all decided to follow up on his invitation to call him after 11:00, or ever again. Aside from that, news of a single suicide makes any of us edgy, or should; even when the deceased is a stranger.
11:00 P.M. rolled around, and I had not made up my mind. As I sat out on the fire escape and smoked a cigarette, thoughts of the proprietress came to me. Along with those thoughts came the distant hope that maybe, just maybe, she’d been only teasing me. I laughed out loud. Two conflicts confronted me: Call Clint and risk winding up in a dump or other anonymous place. Go visit the Proprietress in her store and risk winding up dissed yet again. Advantage: proprietress.
After gathering my courage, I slipped back in through the window and picked up the phone to dial Clint’s cell.
“So you called.” He answered.
“Yeah… guess I did.” I sighed.
“You’re pushing it, Jew Boy.” He guffawed. Clearly he’d been drinking, or something, and was alone enough to feel secure in using an anti-Semitic slur.
“Whatever… what have you got on the jumpers?” I said, calmly.
“Unconnected… that’s it… 5 fags hung up over big debts on condos and boyfriends. That’s the story… was it worth it?” He slurred.
I could hear ice cubes in a glass and the sound of Clint’s gulping.
“Not yet… May I ask a couple questions?”
“You’re still pushing it.” Clint groaned.
“May I ask a couple questions?” I repeated.
“I’ve done some homework. They all showed residence in five separate buildings within a square mile. Three of the five buildings were first sold at sell out auctions last year, before the market went this bad. Unless they’re all stupid, at least three of them could not have been underwater.”
“That’s not a question.”
“All right. What have the detectives come up with?”
“Wouldn’t know or won’t tell?”
“Now you’re really pushing it, Lehman!” Clint was getting to that mean drunk stage I knew all too well, subjectively.
“Take it easy… take it easy…” I whispered, reminding him of his debt by doing so, for that was the tone of voice I’d used with him while finding his daughter.
“Wouldn’t know… they are investigating it though. That enough?”
“One more question.” I went on without waiting for permission, “Has a central file on the five been opened and are any State or Fed folks in on it?”
Clint was silent.
“CLINT!” I shouted into the receiver.
He’d fallen asleep, or passed out. I shouted several more times into the receiver. No response. That angered me. Until Clint woke up or whatever, and disconnected; my phone would be useless with the line open to his cell. I hung up and went back to my desk and computer to do more work. Hell, no client or for that matter anyone else would be calling me in the middle of the night. I should be so lucky.