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ELEVEN

One thing that is pretty predictable about human beings is the way we
organize ours lives into some sort of daily schedule. From what I had
read even the people up in the arctic, where a single night can last
three months, tend to divide their months into days and their days into
morning, afternoon, and evening. The only real variable was what time on
the clock your morning started. Over my years as both a soldier and as a
private investigator I had done my share of night shifts. And of course
I had known many people over the years, like most of the people at the
Alley Cat, whose day tended to start much later than most people and who
generally were having their first after-work drink about the time most
people were long asleep in their beds.

Given his schedule at the Aquarium I figured that Ray Olsen, if he
held to the norm, would probably come home from work and stay up until
about dawn. I figured too that if I wanted him to be a cooperative
informant that it would probably be a good idea to go by his schedule and
not my own. People generally aren't too friendly if you wake them in the
middle of the night, whenever that particular night happens to be.

So Friday morning I got up at four o'clock, showered, dressed, and
headed over to Olen's apartment as quickly as I could. I checked the
address that I had copied down at the Aquarium and was over to Olsen's
place by quarter till five. As I parked outside his building on East
Fairchild I grabbed the remainder of a pint of rye I had in my glove
box. I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to show him that I was familiar
with his situation and had brought along a nightcap for us.

I took the elevator up to the fourth floor and found Olsen's door.
There didn't seem to be any doorbell, so I knocked. As early as it was,
a woman poked her head out from the door across from Olsen's. She looked
at me suspiciously.

"Sorry" I said, keeping my voice at a low volume. "Just here to see
Olsen."

She continued looking at me for a few seconds, then slowly closed the
door. There not being any answer yet, I gave Olsen's door a second
knock. I heard some sounds from inside the apartment, then a few seconds
later the door opened. Olsen stood in front of me in his skivvies. He
didn't seem to recognize me.

"Olsen" I said. "Hate to bother you. You remember me, right? Out at
the Aquarium on Tuesday? We talked a bit about DeMargio."

He nodded his head.

"Yeah, right. I remember you now. What do you want?"

"I need to talk with you a few minutes, Ray. Mind if I come in?"

He stood in front of the door a few seconds longer and then stepped
back and opened the door the rest of the way.

"Thanks, Ray" I said, going in.

Closing the door behind me I stood for a minute and looked the place
over. It was a cheap studio apartment that I figured on his salary would
have left him a little more to live on after he paid rent than a more
expensive place. There was an unmade bed over against the right-hand
wall and a small night stand and lamp. Over to the left was a longish
dresser, a closet, and an old couch. The carpet was well-worn but seemed
clean. There was a doorway on the left wall over by the windows that I
guessed led to a kitchen and bathroom. The window blinds against the far
wall were open, giving an excellent view of the side of the building
right next door.

Ray stood in front of me with the same vacant look to his eyes that I
had noticed at the Aquarium.

"I hope I didn't wake you up" I said.

"No" he said finally, "I was just lying down a little. What do you
want?"

I hated to play it tough with a guy like Olsen, but I had learned the
hard way that it was better to be on the safe side. I didn't think it
likely, but he very well could have shot DeMargio. He had the
opportunity and he probably had the motive as well. One thing was for
sure, he certainly wasn't hiding a gun in his skivvies. Nevertheless
there was a chance that there was a gun lying around someplace in the
apartment. In fact, for a guy like Olsen, a guy with a military
background, I thought it more than a good chance.

I put my left hand in my jacket pocket, pulling the front of the
jacket just enough so that Olsen could make out the .38 hanging there on
my side. His eyes widened a bit as he saw it. But then the dead look
returned.

"Hey, Olsen, why don't you go over to the couch there and have a
seat?" He looked over at the couch and then decided why the hell not.

I went over to the night stand beside the bed and pulled open the
drawer. As it turned out I got lucky on the first try. In it was a 9mm
German automatic pistol on top of a pile of papers. A deadly weapon, but
safe enough in the drawer for now and in any case not the gun that had
shot Demargio, which was all I really needed to know.

"A little souvenir from the war?" I said. He just looked at me. He
obviously wasn't very happy about me searching through his place but he
was smart enough to go along with it.

I closed the drawer and did a brief search under the pillows on the
bed and under the mattress. Then I searched the top shelf of the closet
and through the drawers in the dresser. I didn't find any other guns
there either. Since Olsen's dresser doubled as a bar and since I was
pretty much convinced that there would be no other guns in the place, I
decided a drink was in order. I poured us a couple of Canadian ryes from
the pint I had brought into two small glasses. The glasses looked a tad
on the dirty side, but I figured it wouldn't kill us. Then I went over
and handed him one of the drinks and lit a cigarette.

"I don't much like drinking alone" I said, taking a sip of the rye. "Ok,
who am I kidding, I drink when I'm alone too."

Olsen stared down into the drink for a second and then took a big swig,
then stared at the carpet. I offered him a cigarette, but he just shook
his head.

"Probably smart" I said. "They're a little hard on the lungs after a
while. It wouldn't hurt me to cut down myself. But hey, a man's gotta
live, right?"

He alternated between looking at the glass and the floor.

It was easy to see how a woman like Brooke could have seduced Olsen.
And my temper flared up at the thought of it. DeMargio was one thing.
But Olsen was walking wounded and had certainly suffered enough without
getting in with the likes of Brooke. Maybe Brooke had had her share of
troubles too, who could know. But that was no excuse for taking
advantage of Olsen.

"I have to ask you some questions, Olsen. And I need you to look at me
and answer them. I'm going to hang out here until you do, got that? But
if you answer the questions, and if I think you're telling me the
truth, then I'll be out of your way. Otherwise, I'm going to camp out
here. Hey, I might even build me a little fire and roast some
marshmallows. But I'm staying until you answer my questions. Got it?"

He looked at me as if to say, yeah, I got it.

"Good. Now I'm going to have to ask you this. Did you kill DeMargio?"

Olsen looked up at me. I could tell that the question had angered him.

"Kill him? No, I wanted to kill him maybe. Brooke was all over him,
that lazy bastard. But no, I didn't kill him. Is that good enough for
you?"

"Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Answer me this. Do you know who
killed him?" I asked.

His anger seemed to recede a bit. He looked at me rather cooly,
straight in the eye for the first time.

"What about you? Do you know who killed him?" he asked. But it didn't
seem like much of a question. I began to wonder if maybe me and Olsen
weren't really running on the same frequency but without either of us
knowing it.

"Yeah, Ray" I said quietly, returning his stare. "I think I do."

I picked Olsen's glass up off the carpet and went over and made us
another drink.

"I have to work tonight" he said, as I handed the glass back to him.
But he took it anyway.

"Good for the nerves" I told him.

"I still have to take up the slack for DeMargio. They haven't replaced
him yet."

"Yeah. And the seals and the turtles need to be fed. I'm sure they
will appreciate that, Ray."

"Yeah" he said, kind of distantly.

"Ray, have you ever seen Brooke Pirelli with a .32 automatic? Maybe
she pulled it out to show you at some time or other? Showing it off or
something?"

Ray took a sip of the whiskey, slowly shaking his head.

"No. She never showed me a gun or anything. She showed me a lot of
other things, but not a gun."

"Would it surprise you if she did own a gun? Just between me and you?"

Olsen looked up at me again. The coolish stare was back. Then he
looked away again and sipped some more whiskey.

"I'm thinking about reenlisting" he told me. "The Korean thing, they
need experienced men. They told me they'd up my rating, put me into
something good. Said I could be out of here as fast as next month."

Olsen's statement hit me like a shot to the gut. I felt my temper rise
and along with it a feeling of incredible sadness swept over me.

"I don't think that's a very good idea, Ray."

"And why not?" he said, his anger flaring. "What am I supposed to do,
stay at the Aquarium for the rest of my life? Sweep the sidewalks and
throw out fish'n stuff?"

"To be honest, Ray, that's exactly what I think you should do. You've
done your bit. I notice the seals really seem to like you. Why don't you
just stay on and take care of them, Ray?"

"Aw, they'd like anybody who threw them a fish" he said, downing the
last of his drink.

"Not true, Ray. I mean it. They need you. They need a decent guy like
you to take care of them. You're important to them."

At that point Olsen put his empty glass down on the carpet. He seemed
on the verge of tears.

"I'm not important" he said, looking at the floor between his feet.

"I don't think anyone's unimportant, except for evil men."

"I've done horrible things."

I crossed over to the couch and sat beside him. Taking off my hat, I
put my hand on his arm.

"You did what they sent you to do. You can't blame yourself for that.
Hell, none of us has some magic bird whispering in our ear. But if you
ask me, you did okay. We did okay, Ray. And now we go on. The river only
flows one direction, and we go on. As for the rest of it, let's let the
magic bird figure it out, all right?"

Ray put his forehead in his hands and closed his eyes. His teeth
suddenly clenched, and after a few seconds I noticed that his stomach
seemed to go into spasms, spasms which continued up through almost every
inch of his six-foot-six frame. Tears flowed off from the corners of his
eyes and his head began to shake, but still no sound came from him.

I put my arm up around him, trying to comfort him as best I could.

"It's all right, Ray" I said to him. I didn't know what else to say,
so I just repeated it. "It'll be all right."

I was fighting back tears myself at that point. I hadn't really
thought about such things for a long time. Maybe because I was too busy
driving down the street, walking the pavement, taking elevators, moving
on. It hadn't seemed like much over the years but I suddenly realized
how important it had been, just to move on, to walk down the street with
my two good hands in my pockets and my hat on my head, looking at the
world around me, just living as best I could.

A few minutes passed. I sat alongside Olsen until his pain was once
again back inside the bottle of his self and the vacant look had
returned. I gave him a pat on the back and stood up and straightened the
brim of my hat.

"Just do me a favor, will you Ray? Don't do anything stupid until you
talk with me next, okay? Don't go joining up again or anything. We might
be able to work something out somehow. And please, stay away from
Brooke. I think we both know what she's like and what she did. Just stay
away from her. And I'll be back to see you in a few days. We'll talk
some more. Hey, maybe we can play some cards or something. You play
Poker, Ray?"

He was still looking at the carpet but he managed to shake his head in
the affirmative. Maybe that was a good sign, I thought. Maybe giving him
something to look forward to would do him some good. And I knew too that
I was going to have to get Brooke Pirelli out of the picture.

The DeMargio case was now on my desk for good.

I put on my hat and went over to the night stand and removed the 9mm
and put it in my pocket.

"I'm taking the gun, Ray. You really don't need it so much right now.
But I promise you, I'll be back in a few days. Okay?"

Olsen nodded, slowly, as if it took a great effort to do it.

****

There being no chance in hell that Collins would be at his desk at the
crack of dawn I had some time to kill after leaving Olsen's place. At
first I thought about going back to the office, and even pointed the car
in the right direction, but after driving a few minutes it suddenly
seemed rather pointless. I suppose that I could have taken a nice nap
on the office couch. But the truth was I was running on high emotions
after my interview with Olsen and I figured that sleep would be
impossible. I soon found myself driving around rather aimlessly. The
drinks that I had at Olsen's had kicked in and had pretty much
eliminated any desire that I might otherwise have to stop and get
something to eat, which was just about the only thing to do at that hour
of the morning.

I soon found myself in the old Chinatown area, or at least what was
left of it after most of the businesses and tenants had moved to New
Chinatown in the late Thirties. It was an area of L.A. that I didn't
wander into very often and really didn't know very well in spite of all
my years in the city. Approaching a stoplight on a narrow street the
traffic jammed up and I found myself sitting in the Plymouth looking
around at the businesses along each side. There was a bar to my left. It
had its neon signs on, which seemed rather unusual until I noticed a
couple of men walk out of it. The place must be open, I thought to
myself. It was too late to pull the car over and park so I circled
around the block and found a space for the Plymouth a half block from
the bar as I came back around.

"Maginess, Jeez, what the hell are you doing?" I said to myself as I
opened the door to the bar.

The joint had a definite oriental look to the decor but in every other
way it was a typical dive. It was dark and smelled vaguely of booze and
stale tobacco. From the air temperature I figured they must have a
refrigeration unit working at maximum. There was a short bar to the left
flanked by a half-dozen or so tables. Off to the right there was an elevated
dance floor with a ballet bar against the wall at the edge of it. A girl was
dancing to some music from a phonograph manned by a young oriental at a
table near the stage. Evidently the two guys that I had seen leaving the
place had been the only cutomers as the place was empty, myself excluded.

"Great" I thought to myself. "One of those places."

The bartender was an asian male with short-cropped hair and a serious
attitude. He was wearing a black leather jacket over a silky looking
shirt and black trousers. He regarded me suspiciously as I sat down at
the bar.

"Rye and ginger" I told him. "In a glass of some sort."

"Don't got no ginger-ale, Mac."

"Then just the rye, I guess."

He brought me down the whiskey, served in a very small glass with
about two ice cubes in it.

"That'll be two bucks" he said, smiling at me.

I was about to comment on the outrageous price but then thought better
of it. I was a stranger to the place, and was fair game for being ripped
off if that's what he wanted.

"Cheapest drink I've bought today" I said to him, throwing him a
fiver. I figured there was about a fifty-fifty chance that he wasn't
going to brink me back my change, either.

"You a cop?" he said, leaning on the bar.

"Nope."

He considered that for a minute, then took my five and brought me the
change, three ones. So much for introductions, I thought.

"You ride a motorcycle?" I asked him, lighting a smoke.

"Yeah. I got a Norton. Fastest machine in L.A." he said.

"It that right?"

"Yeah. You wanna race me?"

"I really can't run that fast. Old war wound and all."

"Sure, mister. You're a very funny guy. Why did you come into this
place?"

"Got lost. And thirsty. What's your name, son?"

"Johnny. Johnny Chen. And what's your name, funny guy?"

"Pat. Pat Maginess."

"Okay, that's good by me. You want another drink?"

I ordered another, mostly just to keep Johnny happy, and looked
around. The girl on the stage was dancing to a Frank Sinatra song. She
was a young-looking oriental girl with a very large chest. She had
typical dancer's legs, sleazy dive or not, so I figured she must have
actually studied dance somewhere.

Johnny brought me my new drink and sat it next to the old one.

"Three dollars" he said, smiling at me.

"Do they get more expensive by the hour or something?" I asked him,
pushing him another five. I went back to watching the girl dance.

"She seems pretty busty for an oriental girl" I said to Johnny.

"That's bullshit" Johnny said calmly. "There are lots of stacked China
girls. I take them out all the time."

"Good for you" I said, starting in on the second drink. I noticed that
this one had three ice cubes. At the rate it was going I figured that if
I stayed about another hour I would be paying ten bucks a drink and it'd
have ten ice cubes in it.

The front door opened and a pale, rather emaciated-looking male
entered the bar. He seemed to have the jitters about something or other.
But what really caught my eye was his jacket. It was some sort of thick,
shapeless wind-breaker that was much too heavy for the current weather.
He slowly made his way to the bar, looking the place over nervously as
he did so. The little red light went off in my head, the one that sometimes
went off when there was something wrong but without me knowing exactly what.

"I'll take a beer" he told Johnny.

Johnny looked at him a second, eyeing him up and down.

"You got money?" he asked him.

"Yeah, I got money" the guy said. "I got lots of money."

Johnny went down to the other end of the bar and pulled a beer out. At
that point the emaciated-looking guy was standing about three feet to my
right. He had my nerves on edge.

Johnny came back down and placed the beer down in front of him, at
which point the guy jerked a .45 out of his jacket pocket and pointed it
at Johnny's head.

"Give me your money!" he said. "Quick! And if you hold back on me, I'll
kill you. Hurry!"

Johnny just froze up with the gun pointed at his head, which only made
the robber more nervous.

"Money! Get me the money or I'll blow your head off!" he cried.

I knew that it was ordinarily best in that type of situation just to
let the guy take the money. Money wasn't worth somebody getting shot.
But it was my guess that the guy was on some sort of narcotic, or going
through withdrawal from one. From what I had learned from Collins and a
few other cops you never could tell what someone like that would do.
They might very well get the money they asked for and then shoot
everybody they came across.

"Crap" I said under my breath. "As if the morning hasn't been tough
enough already."

I reached in and pulled my .38 out and pointed it at the side of the
robber's head. The distance between us was such that the end of the
barrel of the Smith & Wesson came within two inches of his left ear.

"Put the gun down, son." I said, as calmly as I could. "Just put it
down and nobody gets hurt."

The robber still had his gun pointed at Johnny, but his eyes kept
darting back and forth quickly between Johnny and myself. Or more
precisely, between Johnny and the barrel of my .38.

"Just drop the gun on the bar, son. Just set it down. This isn't worth
dying for" I said, pulling the hammer back. One thing about my old Smith,
it made a loud sharp click when the hammer was pulled.

Before another second went by the kid dropped the .45 and ran out of
the bar at full speed.

At that point I noticed that the music had stopped playing. The dancer
and the guy at the phonograph were both looking toward the bar like they
had been transformed into wax figures. I turned back toward Johnny, who
at that point was bent over behind the bar with his hands on his knees,
trying to catch his breath.

I put the .38 back in its holster. Then I took the .45 and removed the
clip and ejected the chambered shell and put it back on the counter. I
figured Johnny could do with it as he liked.

"Hey, Johnny. I think I'll take another drink, when you get the chance"
I said.

Johnny nodded, still bent over. Then he raised himself up and got the
bottle and made me another drink. He seemed to be coming around, but his
hand was shaking as he set the drink down in front of me.

"That'll be… Aw, nuts, forget it. It's on the house, Mac" he said.
"In fact, I'm gonna have one with ya."

****

The kind of excitement that I had run into at the Chinese dance joint
was precisely the kind that I had told Christine that I could do
without. Nevertheless I had managed to fill a couple of hours before
seeing Collins. And one thing was for sure, Motorcycle Johnny would
remember me for quite some time. It wouldn't hurt to have a guy in
Chinatown that owed me one, I thought to myself. That was especially
true since I wasn't familiar with the area, and you never could tell
what kind of contacts you might need on a particular case somewhere up
the line.

Collins was at his desk by the time I got to the station house. It
looked like he had the same pile of reports and the same overflowing
ashtray that he had had the last time I visited him.

"What do you want, Pat?" he told me. "Whatever it is make it quick.
I've gotta go hit the pavement and try to tie up some of these damn cases."

Not being in the mood for chit-chat, I came right out with it.

"We need to get a warrant for Brooke Pirelli and the place out there.
As soon as possible" I told Collins, collapsing into a chair.

Collins looked at me sourly.

"Is that right?" he said, puffing on his smoke. He looked at his watch
and then gave me another look. "I take it that you interviewed the
wife?"

"Yeah. She did it. Everything in my gut tells me she did."

"Well, gee, that's just great, Pat" he said rather sarcastically. "Yeah, I'll
just hop right on down to the assistant D.A. and tell him, hey, we need
a warrant for the Pirelli place 'cause this guy I know says he has a
hunch. That'll really impress him."

"I'm telling you, she did it. You can pull in Olsen if you want. He'll
testify that Brooke knew Steve DeMargio. But she told me she didn't. That
should be good enough."

"Have you been drinking, Pat?"

"I may have had a few, yeah. But I'm telling you, she did it. And my guess
is she's still got the murder weapon laying around."

"Not enough, Pat. And you know it. Jeez, do you realize how connected
Pirelli is? After you came in last time I checked around. He plays golf
with friggin Luce, for Chrissakes. And I'm not going to risk my job and
pension."

"Oh, c'mon, Pete. You know you're not a political type of guy. At least
not in the time I've known you. You know you've gone in before with less
than what I've given you."

"Maybe. But not in this type of situation. You know I respect you,
Pat. Some of the stuff you did in Italy was top-notch work, really amazing.
And you've done well here in L.A., too. You're a good cop. But Pat, I'm
simply not going to jump on a train that is likely to derail anyway. You
bring me something solid, anything, I'll go to bat with it."

Collins reached into his desk and pulled out a bottle and a glass and
put them on the desk in front of me.

"Have a drink, Pat. Clear your head. You're not thinking straight."

He was right. Somehow between Olsen and the incident at the club, the hot
weather and five whiskeys, my judgement wasn't what it usually was. Collins
was right. Right at that moment I had pretty much nothing in the way of solid
evidence. I stood and put my hat back on and lit a cigarette.

"Okay, Pete. I guess I'll skip on the drink."

"Go home" Collins said. "Take a nap or something. Then get out
there and show me what you can do. You bring me something solid,
something that not even Luce can sweep under the table. And I swear,
I'll go out and put the 'cuffs on her myself."

Back at my office I made some coffee on the hot plate and tried to
settle my nerves. It had been a tough morning all the way around. I
found myself thinking that maybe I should go out and apply for
DeMargio's job at the Aquarium. It wouldn't be nearly as much money, of
course, but it certainly would be more peaceful. And I would get to see
the old turtle every day.

As soon as nine o'clock rolled around I called up Christine at the
auction house. We arranged to meet at noon, which was the soonest she
could get away.

"We've got a big auction coming up in a week. I'm afraid I'm going to
have some pretty weird hours from now 'til then." she told me.

"Well, I'd be the last person in the world who could complain about
anybody's weird hours" I told her.

After talking with Christine I set my alarm clock and laid down on the
couch. Once I did my luck suddenly seemed to change. I fell asleep.

****

Though we had talked on the phone, me and Christine hadn't seen each
other since the previous morning when we woke up together. I knew that
the first reunion after making love to someone for the first time can
sometimes be kind of awkward. Though I was no psychologist, I figured it
had something to do with those basic insecurities common to most humans,
of wondering whether we are going to be just as accepted or just as
desired after having opened ourselves so completely to another human
being.

Fortunately, Christine didn't seem the slightest bit nervous when she
jumped in the car. And I suppose that rubbed off on me. I was able to
relax, and in fact was damn glad to see her again. She looked great in
her light green sleeveless blouse and white skirt and I found no
difficulty at all in leaning over and kissing her pretty mouth right off
the bat. In fact, the only problems we encountered on our way out to
Memorial Gardens were the typical irritants of heavy traffic, foul air,
and the continuing summer heat.

Christine had picked up a couple of bouquets of white carnations for
the cemetary.

"God, this heat" Christine said, patting her forehead and neck with a
handkerchief. "I hope the flowers don't wilt on the way out there."

"I hope I don't wilt on the way out there" I said.

"No, not you. You're a big tall prickly cactus. You don't wilt."

"Prickly?" I said, looking over at her.

"Prickly" she said. She leaned over and rubbed her hand on my thigh.
"Big and prickly."

A half hour later we were slowly cruising down the curving lanes of
Memorial Gardens. Christine gave me directions to the area where her
nanny, Julia, was buried. We figured we could walk from there over to my
Mom's site. We walked up to the grave and after a few minutes of
meditation Christine put one of the carnation bouquets up against the
headstone.

"I love you, Julia."

Out of respect I just stood by Christine's side in silence, holding
the other bouquet.

"She was a great mom, even if she wasn't actually my mother" she told
me, still looking at the headstone. "And a friend, too. My best friend,
really, down the years."

"I would have liked to have met her" I said.

"Yes, I wish you could have. She had your sense of humor. She put up
with my rebellious nature when I was a girl. Well, maybe not so much put
up with it as focused it, helped me put it into productive channels."

"Like art?" I asked.

"Yes. Like art."

Christine turned and took me by the arm.

"Now, let's go find your mother."

We walked about two hundred yards across the cemetary. It had been a
while since I had been out there and I difficulty orienting myself to
find the right area. But eventually I found the plot.

"Patricia?" Christine asked. She sounded pleasantly surprised. "Were you
named after your mother? Jeez, I'm sorry, that didn't come out right.
But the names are similar, that's all I meant."

"Yeah, that's kind of why my parents chose it. It was a mutual decision.
They certainly weren't going to name me after my dad."

"What was your dad's name?" Christine asked.

"Ulysses" I said, with a chuckle.

"Oh, Jeez. I'm kind of glad they didn't name you that. Not that I
wouldn't like you if they had, or course. But, wow. Was your grandfather
in the Civil War or something?"

"No, he was actually one of the Maginesses that managed to avoid a
war. He was a photographer back in Connecticut. But he idol worshiped
Ulysses S. Grant. So he named my dad after him."

I leaned forward and put the flowers on the grave.

"You want to be alone or anything?" Christine asked me.

"No, not at all. I think Mom would be glad that you are here with me."

"Okay" she said simply.

As usual it was impossible to think about my Mom without thinking
about my Dad as well. Ever since I was a kid the two had always been
linked like that, one by their presence and one by their absence.

"I remember my Mom, she'd be sitting in the living room when I'd come
home from school, sitting in this big old easy chair with a gin and
tonic next to her, just sitting there looking straight out the window.
And I always knew that she had been sitting there for some time. Just
looking out the window. I always thought she sat there waiting for my
Dad, as if he'd come up the sidewalk any minute and she wanted to be
sure she saw him coming. But then I'd come home and she'd smile and get
up and give me a hug. Then she'd make dinner."

"So what happened to your dad, Pat? I think you mentioned something
about it at the restaurant."

"We don't know. I don't know. The Army told my mom he wasn't listed as
killed or missing on the lists. Some guys just decided to stay over
there, they said. But my Dad was a pretty straight-up guy. If he had met
some other woman over there I think he would have written us. When I was
in France I looked into it a bit, but all I managed to find was his name
on the rolls of his unit. But I know the way the military bureaucracy
can work sometimes. I figure that he was probably a casualty, maybe in
the last days of the war, and then with the pull-out it just didn't get
written down on the books. That's my hypothesis, at least."

After a few minutes I got to kind of looking around the cemetary a
bit. Over in the distance I noticed a small, Greek-looking, temple-like
structure and I got curious about it.

"Hey" I said, "let's walk over that way."

We walked arm-in-arm up to the temple. I stopped about fifteen feet
from it, which allowed me to take all of it in, then continued on and
walked inside. The temple was obviously some stonemason's idea of what a
Greek temple looked like. But nevertheless they hadn't done such a bad
job. There was a nod to current time with the placement of a statue of
Jesus Christ on a pedestal in the center of the temple. I stood there
with my hands in my pockets and studied it.

"Is it Greek, I take it?" Christine said.

"Modeled after the Greek, yeah" I told her. "You might call it
faux-Greek, if you like. It's very simplified and scaled down. You got
the base here, that is to say the floor, and the Ionic columns here, and
then a simplified version of a cornice up there going across the
columns."

"I like it" Christine said.

"It's not bad, really. Not bad at all" I said, looking around at it
some more. "This wasn't here the last time I was out. Although to be
honest it's been a few years. A lot longer than it should have been."

"Do you believe in god, Pat?" Christine said after a minute.

I thought about that for a time.

"Yeah" I said finally. "Maybe when we die we do just fall into a mass
of chemicals. But I refuse to believe that. I just couldn't live in a
world with that much darkness and emptiness in it. I choose to believe
in a world that has more light in it than that. I suppose that's what I
call god."

She looked at the statue of Jesus.

"Do you believe in heaven and hell?" she asked, turning to me.

I was kind of nervous about getting too technical about it, but I
wanted to put it the best way I could to her.

"The ancient Egyptians had a concept called Ma'at. Are you familiar with
it?" I asked her. She shook her head no.

"Ma'at was kind of like the fundamental principle for them. Everything
was Ma'at. Ma'at was the principle of cosmic order, a kind of scale on
which everything balanced. There was evil on one side, and good on the
other. I guess that's the way I look at things. Especially since the
war. Evil is always out there. It's up to us to balance the scale, to
bring whatever good we can into the world."

Christine looked around at the columns of the little temple. I could
tell she was trying to make up her mind about something.

"When I was at the Sorbonne, I took a philosophy class" Christine
said, turning towards me. "The professor talked about the ancient Greek
concept of arete. Are you familiar with that one?"

"Arete. It's been a long time. It's usually translated as virtue, I
think. But it can also mean excellence."

"Yes. Virtue. Excellence. That's what you have, Pat Maginess."

"You think so?" I said, although I was rather sceptical.

Christine pressed herself up against me and put her arms around my
neck tightly. The look on her face was impassioned.

"You fight to do the right thing. Maybe you don't always know what
that right thing is, but you fight to find out and then when you find
out you fight and do that thing. Virtue. Excellence. That's you, Patrick
Maginess. You always fight to do the right thing. To tilt that scale,
however slightly."

We kissed for a long time, and then as if by mutual agreement we
headed back to the Plymouth. I had my arm around her waist, but between
the two of us I wasn't sure who was leaning on who more.

"Jeez, I'm tired" I said.

I proceeded to tell her about my morning, or at least the early part of
it with Olsen. She didn't say anything when I finished, but seemed
saddened.

We got back into the car and headed out of the cemetary. As I drove,
it suddenly occurred to me that as I had been walking with Christine I
hadn't been aware of her unusual gait at all, but had just kind of
fallen into synch with it, the unusual gait become the usual one.

"I think I'm getting used to you, my dear" I told her.

Christine turned her head to the side and smiled and raised her
eyebrows.

"And is that a good thing?" she said.

I laughed and reached over and took her hand.

"Yes, that's a good thing" I told her. "That's a very, very good
thing."

"Hey, what do you say we pick up some Chinese take-out and go back to
your place" Christine said. "You can eat and take a nap. Then maybe
later we can do other things?"

"My place. I don't know. It's not that great of a place."

"Really?" she said, smiling. "I was figuring it looked like
Versailles. Exactly. Exactly like Versailles."

I reached over and pinched her. She laughed and mock-slapped my hand
as I drew it away.

"Well you deserved it, Miss Smarty Pants."

We did as Christine suggested. As it turned out Christine had a lot of
fun on my ultra-springy mattress. Which of course meant that I had a lot
of fun, too. And to make it all perfect, I got to sleep in my own bed.

TWELVE

Christine didn't have to go into the auction house that Saturday morning
so I let her sleep. Unfortunately, I was going to have to have to get
back to the DeMargio case, which at that point meant applying some
pressure by staking out Brooke's place and shadowing her movements. It
was lucky that I had gotten a good, relaxing night's sleep beforehand.

Leaving a note and the remainder of a pot of coffee for Christine I
drove over to the office. Over the years I had worked a good number of
cases that essentially involved living out of my car for a day or so. So
I had learned through experience that it made it somewhat easier to go
into something like that with a few handy items packed. I had an old
Army backpack that I normally used. In the backpack I kept a roll of
toilet tissue, a few extra handkerchiefs, a spare necktie, some
deodorant and cologne, a few magazines or nickel novels to pass the
time, a pair of binoculars, my old Leica camera with a fresh roll of
film, a small pillow, a few spare rags, a pair of thin shooter's gloves
and a lock-picking kit, a small empty coffee can for my cigarette butts,
and two large thermoses which I filled with coffee that I made on the
hotplate. I had a blanket in the pack as well, but given the heat I
didn't think that necessary and took it out. It was quite a bit of
stuff. But one thing about the Army, they teach you to pack right. In
fact, I had plenty of room to spare.

The final thing I needed to get stocked was some food, which I picked
up at a local delicatessen on the way back to my place. I got a couple
of ham and cheese and a couple roast beef with provolone. Due to the
heat I got them both without the usual mayonnaise and with mustard
instead. I made one final stop at a liquor store and picked up four
packs of Pall Malls and a pint of rye. A shot of rye into the coffee
sometimes helped reduce the drudgery of sitting in the car hour after
hour.

Seeing as the door locks on the old Plymouth only seemed to work about
half the time for some reason, I hauled the backpack up to my apartment.
Christine was dressed and sitting on the couch drinking a cup of coffee,
the remains of what was probably some jelly toast on a plate in front of
her.

"Going camping?" she said, seeing me with the backpack over my
shoulder.

"Sort of" I said, laughing. "Camping in beautiful, scenic, Beverly
Hills. Close to nature's grandeur."

Christine laughed.

"I doubt if most of those people have ever seen a mountain except on a
postcard" she said.

"Not true, Watson, not true. They go skiing in Colorado all the time."

"Oh, yeah, I forgot" she said.

I grabbed my raincoat and put it over my shoulder, just in case.

"Ready?" I asked.

I drove Christine back to the auction house, where she had a busy day
ahead of her getting ready for the big showing.

"So you'll get back home okay and everything?" I asked her when we
pulled up.

"That remains to be seen. Rupert will drive me home. So I'm taking
a real chance. You should see him drive. My god, he's terrible."

"Well he is missing a leg and all" I commented.

"No, I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think he was just
always a terrible driver."

"But he was an R.A.F. pilot, for Chissakes."

"Well evidently that doesn't translate to a normal automobile. He
caroms all over the place. And I swear he doesn't even see half the
other automobiles on the road."

We kissed for a minute and then Christine hopped out, giving me a wave
as she walked away. I sat there for a while and watched her as she
walked into the building, and it was like my heart sank a little when I
couldn't see her anymore. Then I pulled the Plymouth back onto the
street and with great reluctance headed out to the Pirelli place.

****

Once back to the Pirelli mansion I parked the Plymouth to get the best
view of the front gate. Long experience at that type of thing had taught
me that the best viewing angle was usually obtained by parking across
the street and at a thirty-degree angle behind the area to be observed.
That had the effect of allowing me a good view through the right side of
the windshield while being able to sit at an angle and kick my legs out
over to the passenger side a bit. Unfortunately that also meant that I
had to park with the Plymouth pointed in the wrong direction, facing the
traffic coming up the right side of the street. That was inevitably
going to attract the attention of the cops. But that was something I
could deal with when it happened.

I pulled out the little pillow and jammed it into the corner between
the door and my seat, took off my jacket, then got a thermos out and
poured some coffee. As I settled in I began to think about the case. If
Brooke had killed DeMargio, and I was pretty much convinced that she
had, I needed to find some evidence that I could take to Collins, like
he had said evidence that not even Luce and the Pirelli money could make
go away. Barring an overt confession in front of half a dozen witnesses,
which obviously wasn't going to happen, the most compelling evidence
would be to find the murder weapon either on Brooke's person or lying
around somewhere with her prints on it.

On the face of it, it would be stupid to keep a murder weapon lying
around. If Brooke was smart she would have dumped it somewhere
immediately after killing DeMargio. There were plenty of places right
there in her own neighborhood where she could have dumped it just by
throwing it over the wall of some mansion into some bushes. If she had
just done that there was very little chance that the gun would be found,
or if it were it would most likely be years up the road and long after
the cops had given up on the DeMargio case. But people don't always do
what is good for them sometimes. And even the smartest of criminals is
occasionally controlled by an overinflated concept of their own
invulnerability.

My guess was that Brooke still had the .32 automatic, and for a couple
of reasons. First, the only real link between her and the Aquarium at
that point was Olsen. Olsen could link her with DeMargio, a fact that
she was certainly even more conscious of after my first interview with
her. But given her connections any statement Olsen might provide would
not likely result in much. I had already discovered that much myself
talking with Collins, who was not ordinarily a guy swayed by political
pressure.

Unless the gun were to magically plop down onto the desk of the
L.A.P.D., there was essentially nothing to incriminate her. She was safe
within her big Beverly Hills castle and all it entailed. Which
ironically was the second reason I thought she was likely to keep the
gun. She felt protected enough to keep it — and probably just unsafe
enough to feel that she still needed it.

The next few hours went by rather quickly, the two following that a
lot more slowly. Towards about three o'clock, while I was reading
through an old LIFE magazine, a cream-white sporty looking car whose
make I couldn't identify pulled up slowly to the gate and pulled out.
From the head of blonde hair I spotted through the driver's side window
I knew that it was Brooke. I started the car and headed out after her.

As I followed her I found myself thinking that the old Plymouth would
have a tough time keeping up with Brooke's car if it was as fast as it
looked and if she decided she wanted to lose me. No doubt the car was
one of her husband's collection or at least one he had given her, a car
that could no doubt perform on a racetrack as well as a city street.
Luckily Brooke drove at a moderate speed. As far as getting too close to
her I didn't have to worry about that. This wasn't a case where I
needed to hide the fact that I was tailing somebody. In fact, I wanted
Brooke to know know I was following her.

Brooke drove east and we ended up in Hollywood. After circling around
for a few blocks the cream-white racer pulled up and parked in front of
a group of elite specialty stores. I slowed up a bit as Brooke got out
of the car and went down to one of the shops. Evidently, this was a
shopping trip. I did a quick and illegal u-turn and slid into a spot
across the street from her. I put my jacket on and got out, closed the
door and just kind of leaned against the car for a few minutes smoking a
Pall Mall. Out of curiosity I crossed the street and checked Brooke's
car out. More out of habit than anything I wrote the license plate
number down in my notebook, then went back to studying the car. It was
was an Italian job, a Ferrari, which was really what I had been curious
about. I had heard about them but had never actually seen one. It
certainly was a beautiful car.

I crossed back over to my old faithful hunk of metal and leaned back
against it some more. After about twenty minutes Brooke came out
carrying a sack. As she walked to her car she spotted me standing there,
slowed for the smallest fraction of a second, then continued on down the
street as if she hadn't seen me. She went into another store. Another
twenty minutes or so passed and she came out carrying another sack. She
continued the spree for another two stores, each time looking down to
see if I was still there. Finally, she came back to the Ferrari and put
her bags in the passenger side. She came around to the driver's side and
just stood there for a second, seeming to look in my general direction
through her dark sunglasses.

Brooke tried to pull out in a hurry but the traffic kept her back. I
had no trouble turning around again and getting on her tail. In fact the
traffic kept her long ultra-fast car down to a slow crawl over the next
five minutes, at which time she pulled over and parked and got out
again. I had more difficulty finding a parking spot this time, but I was
able to keep an eye on her as she stepped briskly down the block and
into an Italian restaurant. After finding a place to park I followed her
in.

The separate bar area being conveniently placed close to the door, I
decided to have drink. If she was having dinner with someone it might
take a while and I figured I might as well keep cool and have a few
drinks. The place was one of the better Hollywood places and the booze
was expensive. But I was glad to pay ten bucks at that point for a few
cold rye and gingers and the opportunity to get out of the car for a
while.

After about twenty minutes I got curious as to who Brooke was having
dinner with. On the excuse of trying to find the restrooms I wandered
into the front area of dining room. Brooke was sitting at a table by
herself, talking to the waiter. Nobody was with her. I went back to the
bar. If Brooke was having dinner with someone they hadn't arrived yet.

I had another drink and killed another twenty minutes or so. People
wandered into and out of the restaurant and I kept an eye on the comings
and goings. Several males came into the place by themselves, and I found
myself wondering if one of them might be Brooke's date for the evening.
I got curious again and went back to the dining room. Brooke was still
sitting at the table by herself, working on a plate of food and
finishing off a glass of wine.

Back in the bar I thought about Brooke sitting in there by herself.
All that money and the fancy car and the huge mansion, and there she was
having diner by herself on a Saturday night. For a minute or so I found
myself feeling sorry for her. But then I realized that I wasn't really
that much different. I ate by myself most of the time. Hell, a lot of
people eat by themselves, I thought.

"Maybe you should make some more friends, Maginess" I said to myself
and to no one in particular.

"Excuse me, sir, did you say something?" the bartender said.

"No, it's okay, just talking to myself" I told him.

He looked at me rather suspiciously.

"Would you like another drink?"

"Yeah, If you wouldn't mind."

A half hour later I was back to tailing Brooke. From the restaurant
she headed back west and then along Roosevelt Avenue to her house. I
followed her very close all the way, giving her plenty of opportunity to
observe me in the rear view mirror, but not so close that it would seem
overtly threatening. When we got back to the mansion I turned the car
around and parked in the same spot as before.

We were both back to where we had started. But Brooke now knew I was
there, keeping an eye on her.

****

I poured some much-needed straight coffee. It suddenly occurred to me
that I had had the perfect opportunity to get a decent dinner at the
Italian restaurant and I kicked myself for not thinking of it. As it was
I ate the two ham and cheese sandwiches which I washed down with the
coffee. Inevitably, I felt the call of nature. The nearest gas station
was about three miles away and even being quick it would have taken me
about twenty-five minutes to get to it and do my business and get back
to the mansion. I grabbed the roll of toilet paper from the backpack.
There was a convenient row of thick bushes along the high brick
wall on my side of the street. I hurried as fast as I could but as
always I still felt miserable about it.

Getting back in the car I poured myself an ounce or two of straight
whiskey and sipped on it and leafed through another magazine. Towards
dusk it became increasingly difficult to see the print of the magazine
so I decided to stretch my legs a bit. Taking the binoculars, I walked
the thirty feet or so up across from the Pirelli mansion gate. There was
no sign of Brooke's car in the port-cullis. I figured that if she was
going back out again that night she probably would have kept the car
there instead of taking it back to the garage. On the other hand, you
never could tell.

Back in the car once again I poured some of the whiskey into one of
the thermoses and stretched out a bit. It was soon completely dark, and
the fact that there were no street lights along Roosevelt Avenue made it
seem even darker. I took off my hat and settled in for a long night.

It was about three in the morning when a bright light suddenly went on
behind my car. I had been nearly dozing and hadn't noticed the police
cruiser creeping up on my car, checking me out. After a few seconds the
cop turned off the search light and pulled up behind me. In my rear view
mirror I watched a rather stout middle age cop get out of the cruiser
and come up to me in that nonchalant but rather careful way that
experienced cops had when approaching something unknown.

"So, got a license on ya?"

"Yeah, want to see it?"

"Maybe. Seems to be a strange place to park and sit out in a car in
the middle of the night."

"I'm a private-eye, working on a case. I've got to keep tabs on a
resident here."

"Private-eye, huh? Don't much care for them myself. What resident?"

"That one" I said, tilting my head in the direction of the Pirelli
mansion.

"Oh, that one. I think they're in Europe or something. I think I'll just
take a look at that private-eye license."

I pulled my wallet out and flipped it up for him. He took a brief look
at it and then looked inside the car. "God, what a mess in there" he
said, giving me back the wallet.

"Yeah, I've been staked out here for a while. You know how that goes,
right?"

"I try to avoid duty like that" he laughed.

"Hey, I've got some extra coffee plus additives, if you're interested."

He looked around the area with his hands on his hips as if trying to
decide if anything was going to happen in the near future.

"Hang on a minute" he told me.

He went back to the patrol car and chattered into the radio for a
minute or two, then came back with a tin coffee cup. I opened my door
and turned halfway out and poured him a bit of the Irish coffee.

"Hmm, not bad. Guess it keeps you going, huh?"

"Or puts me to sleep, depending."

"Geez, you know I hate to say it, but it really smells in there" the
cop said.

"Occupational hazard. You can call me Pat, if you feel like it."

"I'm Clifford," he added, taking a swig of the coffee. "So you were a
cop?"

"Not local. Military police. During the war."

"Ah, well" he commented. "I guess that's kind of a cop."

"Kind of" I said.

"Boy you know it really does stink in there" he said, extending his
cup.

I poured him another, then set my cup down on the running board and
reached over to the backpack.

"Just so happens" I said, pulling the bottle of cologne out. I opened
the bottle, took a whiff, then turned and threw a few drops around the
passenger side of the seat.

"Maybe that will do something" I said.

Clifford put his tin cup on the roof and took the bottle of cologne
from me, sniffed it, then applied a few shakes of it to his neck.

"'Arctic Nights', huh? Not bad. You ever tried 'Bronco'?"

"Is that the stuff in the blue bottle with the white stripe?"

"No, it's a red bottle with a white stripe. 'Bronco' smells real nice.
But I ran out of it."

"Ever try 'Sportsman'?" I asked.

"Is that the one in the green bottle with the picture of the fishing
boat?"

"Yeah, that's the one."

"I tried it once but it was a bit too, I don't know what you'd call
it. Too heavy maybe. My wife got me some called 'Midnight Passion' for
Christmas, but it smelled too girlie. You might say I accidentally
dropped it in the bathroom sink and broke it."

"Things like that happen sometimes."

"You ever try 'Mountain Lodge'? That stuff is pretty good too."

"Is that the blue bottle with the pine tree label?" I asked.

"No no no, that's 'Rustic Landscape'. 'Mountain Lodge' is the one with
the skinny blue bottle and the black mountain on the top of it."

"Oh, yeah. No, can't say I've tried that one."

"Try it sometime, you might like it. And it's not that expensive,
either." He tapped his cup on the running board upside down to get the
remaining drops out of it.

"Well, Maginess, I got to go get back to it. Do me a favor and don't
get into any trouble around here, okay? These rich people, they like to
keep things nice and quiet."

"I kind of noticed" I told him. "I'll try not to get too rambunctious."

****

By morning I was feeling tired and my legs ached. I decided to take
a walk up and back a short distance along the street. If nothing else my
legs began to feel better. I had half of the second thermos of coffee
left and I finished it off and took another trip to the bushes.

At that point I figured that I had two choices. I could follow Brooke
around very intensively over the next few days, around the clock, not
giving her any let-up. My second choice was to follow her
intermittently, staying on her tail real close for a half-day period or
so and then backing off, then getting back on her tail just when she
thought she had gotten rid of me. With Brooke I thought that it wouldn't
really make any difference which method I used as long as she knew I was
after her. What I was really hoping to do was to push Brooke to the edge
and then force a confrontation with her where she would pull the .32 on
me. It was very risky, risky in the extreme in fact, but it was the only
thing I could think of that might finally get the murder weapon out in
the open.

But it was going to take more than camping out in front of the mansion
and tailing her all over town to push Brooke over the edge. I was going to
have to get closer, sandpaper rubbing up against glass close. I was
going to have to make her little cold heart explode.

I decided to drive back to the apartment for a while. Just short of
three hours later I was freshly showered and shaved, had put more coffee
into the thermoses, and was back at the Pirelli place. There was a
chance that Brooke had taken off while I was gone. But I knew too that,
sooner or later, she was going to have to come back home. And then we'd
start all over.

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