Chapter 48

September 1st, 2010

It was morning. The bright sunshine burning through my office windows registered as pain on the backs of my eyeballs. The place smelled of stale booze and burnt coffee. The coffee pot sat on the warmer, the on light indicating “Oops”. The empty Jack Daniels bottle said someone had too much to drink last night. The half-eaten go box of chili-cheese fries triggered my gag reflex as I swept it from my desk to the trash can. When I got up from my chair to adjust the blinds, the floor rolled from side to side, or so it seemed. The floor settled down enough for me to stagger to the window and shut out the sun. I switched off the coffee pot and wondered how Linda was going to get the burned up coffee out. I took pity on her and threw the pot in the trash with the empty wiskey bottle and the fries, then pulled the bag out of the pail and twisted it shut. I’d spare her that misery too.

I grabbed my emergency travel kit and towel from the closet and went to the bathroom down the hall. The mirror bore witness to my hangover and the cold water I splashed on was a slap in the face. I switched to hot and worked up a lather. A shaky hand combined with a used razor to further punish me for last night’s misdeeds. Bloodstained bits of toilet paper replaced the stubble on a face freshly cauterized with Old Spice. Toothbrush with paste was just what my stomach didn’t need. I think I pulled something retching.

It had seemed a good idea to spend the night in the office to await further developments. I had sent everyone home so I could better feel sorry for myself. No calls came, no developments developed, just me and Jack to wait it out The fries and a burger wrapper were evidense of a trip to Tommy Burgers, but I had no memory of getting there and back. Since I had no “hair of the dog”, I headed downstairs to the corner coffee shop. Sugar and caffeine would have to do the trick.

My old Foster Grants didn’t help much, so I was kind of reacting to the bright sun like a vampire when I stepped outside. But a familiar voice called for my attention.

“Rollo, get in the car,” Linda shouted above the din of morning traffic. I looked into the opened passenger door, trying to focus, obviously still under the influence. “You hear me? Get in the car or I’m done with all of this shit.” The edge to her voice said she was serious. Traffic backed up behind her to practice the L.A. tradition of horn blowing. I flipped off the hornblowers and got into the car, somewhat surprising myself. Not for the one finger salute.

Women and their ultimatums have played big parts in my life of some 40 years. Mom’s “My way or the highway”, was about college, the highway winning out. Ultimatums from wives resulted in child support, alimony and multiple house payments. My shrink told me The bad luck in my life could be the result of my habit of making bad choices. She would often ask, “And how did that work out for you?”

‘BUCKLE UP,” she commanded, obviously on a power rush.

“Oh, for crissakes,” I said, but going along with this new program. “You know I hate the damn things.”
But giving up control isn’t easy for a hardliner like me. “Head over to Farmer’s Market for bagels and coffee.”

“You’re an ass, Rollo Michaels, a real ass,” she said, driving right by, straight to the emergency entrance to Cedars. Give an inch…..

An hour later we left the hospital, minus the four stitches my ass had been carrying around for over a week. She drove straight to the Bagel Restaurant on south Fairfax, her preferred eatery for bagels. I had the eggs and lox scramble, an onion bagel with a smear, tomato juice with Tobasco and lemon, and lots of really good coffee. Linda nibbled half a blueberry muffin and sipped at her coffee while watching me devour my first real meal in a couple of days.

We didn’t talk much, but she did seem inordinately interested in how I spent the night. The who, what, where and why was asked a number of ways, only needing a bright light and rubber hose to be an enhanced interrogation. I finished my breakfast, avoiding copping out to being too drunk to remember and paid the bill. “Take me home so I can clean up and change clothes,” I said. And she did.

The litter box said El Gato’s plumbing was working. He ran past me to greet Linda with meows in Spanish and English, throwing in a few ankle rubs for good measure. She scooped him up and he was loving it, putting his purr motor in high gear. I headed toward the bathroom

“Me first,” she said, putting down the cat to his dismay. So I went to my kitchen, put some food in the cat’s bowl and sorted through three days of mail the cleaning girl had neatly stacked on the counter. I made seperate piles for “junk” and “bills”, trying to stay with her neat theme. The blinking light on my answer machine was flashing its danger signal, so I covered it with the “junk” mail. I opened the balcony door and let in the fresh eighty degree air. My herb garden looked a little limp and asked for a drink. Linda came out as I poured the second glass of water on the basil, rosemary and oregano.

I hit the shower and let it run as hot as I could stand it. When I was sufficiently pink I switched to twenty seconds of cold. I was toweling off when Linda tapped on the door, stuck her head in and announced, “You got company”, returning to my company without leaving a clue.

I donned my robe and stepped into the living room Two LAPD detectives sat on my couch, sipping coffee. “Rollo, my man, long time no see,” the older one said.

“What brings Hollywood Homicide to my door?”

“The coffee,” he said.

The younger one rose, “You got a gun under that robe?” he asked stepping toward me.

“No, just glad to see you, I guess. What the fuck is going on?” I asked as he frisked me.

“Mind telling us where you were last night between ten and midnight?”

I opened my mouth and Linda’s voice came out. “He was with me,” she said.

“What’s up Hinkle?” I asked.

“You’re aquainted with the Russian cultural affairs attache, no?”

“Can’t say that we’ve met. Why?”

“Somebody put two in his brain bucket around eleven last night. He was in a liquor store buying some Stoli and a box of cigars. At first blush we thought it was a robbery gone bad, but security video shows the shooter bending over the vic to pump two more into his chest. Guy did everything but take his pulse to be sure the job was done. We found your business card in the victim’s pocket. Had this address on the back and get this, your ex-wife’s address was written there too. We’re thinking this is some kind of clue, know what I mean Rollo?” he said with a smile.

A forceful knock on my door saved me from having to comment. “Open up Michaels, FBI,” shouted the voice of my favorite female federal agent. The detectives gave me the look as I nodded to Linda to let her in.

“Sorry guys, but maybe I should get some clothes on,” I said, retreating into my bedroom. I was out of my robe and had one leg into my boxers when Agent Monroe and her partner burst into the room. I turned away and finished putting on my drawers.

“That scar on your ass courtesy of the Bureau?” she asked.

“You here to check on my injuries?” I said, continuing to dress.

“No, our boss wants to see you. Said to find you and bring you in, so here we are.”

“Go help yourselves to some coffee and let me finish up here. I need to comb my hair and put on some smell goods, want to be at my best for your boss.”

“We don’t have time for your crap Micheals. Get dressed, you’re coming with us now,” her partner barked.

“We’ll wait for you inside. Who are your friends?” she asked, countering Agent Hardass.

“Hollywood Homicide Dicks,” I said, and they left the room. I laced up my Nikes and grabbed my spare keys from the nightstand drawer. I stepped out on the balcony, made the two story drop to the flowerbed below and made a run for it. I got two blocks when two very big men grabbed me by the arms and threw me into the back seat of a limo.

“I didn’t know you were a jogger, Rollo,” Anatoli said, the two big men getting back into the front seat and we drove away. Broad daylight, nobody sees anything. Typical in La La Land. “We were coming by to see you, but first the police show up, and then the FBI. I hope they weren’t there to talk to you about my business.”

“I think they wanted to know if I had anything to do with the death of your grey haired friend,” I said.

“Why would they think that?” he asked.

“I guess I might have told a few people that I was going to shoot him in the head.”

“And I told you that would not be necessary, that things have a way of working out. I just wanted to say goodbye. You have been a big help to me and my daughter and I am grateful. I am trusting you to remain discreet about our dealings. Is there somewhere we can take you on our way to the airport?”

“Your daughter said you were going back to Jersey today. You can drop me at my office. How much did the airline charge to fly these two guys?”

Anatoli smiled as they pulled to the Wilshire side of my building. “They are staying in Los Angeles keeping an eye on my interests,” he said. He offered his hand and I took it. “Goodbye my friend,” he said.

I watched them turn south on La Brea to head for LAX, hopefully out of my life for good. I entered the lobby and got on the elevator. Jackson, the security guard said, “Hey Rollo, the FBI just went up to your office.”

I hit the “P” for the underground parking and when I got there, cautiously looked around before getting in my car. I came up the ramp so fast I almost took out two pedestrians. I made it to the safety of Linda’s apartment in record time. Thankfully she hadn’t changed the locks the last time she got mad at me My key got me in.

Her small kitchen table was covered with today’s copy of the Los Angeles Times, confirming my suspicion about her being a Santa Monica liberal. Just above the fold of the Metro section the headline read:

RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT SLAIN IN LIQUOR STORY ROBBERY

Seems even diplomats are not immune to the many dangers to be found in the City of Angels. I had no need to read the two column detailing the killing. I was sure the security footage would show a black man, presumed wearing a Manny Ramerez wig, walk in and double tap a grey haired man in the back of the head, then turn his victim over and shoot his victim twice more in the chest for good measure.

Instead, I turned on the TV. AMC was playing “Chinatown”. I got a bottle of Evian from the fridge, washed down a couple of Tylenol and watched Nicholson do noir in color. Maybe it IS the water.

* * *

Epilogue

A week had passed, three days of which I’d spent in a Federal lockup, ostensibly a material witnes to the murder of a Russian diplomat. Threats of prosecution for obstruction of justice and/or misprision of multiple felonies rang hollow when weighed against the embarrassment the Bureau would face. Word came down from on high and I was dusted off and sent on my way. Homeland Security thanked me for my patriotism, citing many of the sections in the Patriot Act designed to keep us “patriots” in line. I promised not to write a book

The day after my release from federal custody, Fontana came by the office to drop off another two grand from their Informant Fund. Money is money. He told me he was leaving the agency, returning back east to the comfort of home and family. He had applied to the NYPD and would be going to their academy in October. We said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, really meaning it this time.

The next day the FBI showed up with an attorney from the Justice Department. He had a check for me for $ 23,049. The money to cover my ass’s pain and suffering was mine when I signed a stack of waivers and hold harless clauses. He told me the government’s generosity knew no bounds, proudly pointing out that they had also paid all my related medical expenses. God Bless America!

That night at a celebratory dinner I showed the check to Commander Grehek. He said he would have charged more for his ass because it is considerably larger. “The government told me that if it was my head it would have been a hell of a lot less,” I quipped back. None of us could come up with an expanation for the forty-nine dollars tacked on to the twenty three grand.

The next day I was getting ready to leave for my biweekly with the shrink when FedEx delivered a package to the office. It was from New Jersey. I opened it up and reached through the popcorn to retrieve a shoebox tied with string. The Hickey Freeman label made the box a collector’s item. I told Linda and Clancy to leave the room in case it went boom.

I untied the string and lifted the lid. Three thick stacks of Ben Franklins stared up at me. An envelope marked “Rollo” was in Darla’s distinctive script. I pulled out the card and read:

Dear Rollo,
Thank you so much for all you have
done for my father and me. He
wishes you to have this book from
his collection.
Darla

I picked up the leather bound edition of the third volume of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. I rememberd mentioning to him that I had never gotten around to reading parts five, six and seven. The book felt strangely heavy in my hand. I turned the first four pages, then the title page, to discover the book had been neatly hollowed out to accommodate the .38 revolver I had sold him for a thousand dollars. Evidently he thought it only a rental. I took the gun from the inside of the book. It had been recently fired. I opened the cylinder and found four spent casings and one live round in the five chambers. Only a Russian’s poetic sense of justice would provide me with the gun that did in Mister Grey Hair.

I dropped the fifteen thousand on Linda’s desk and headed for my appointment with the good Doctor of Psychiatry, the book and contents firmly secured under my arm. I was only a few minutes late for my appointment, again vexing the doctor. She gave me a strange look when I laughed in response to her question: “So, what’s new?” She wore a mask of skepticism when I told her of shootouts, personal injury and incarceration. I even offered to drop my pants as evidence of my veracity, but she pointed our conversation in another direction. Based on our hypnosis session two weeks ago, she professionally opined that there was some validity to my recurring dream. “A detective should be able to find the truth,” she said. “Do you wish to know the truth?” I thought I’d get more for my $150 a session.

That evening I asked Linda to dinner. We drove up the coast to Paradise Cove and enjoyed a nice meal of sea bass with a bottle of an excellent California Cabernet. After dinner I took the leather bound book from the rear of the car and we walked out to the end of the peir We watched the setting sun burn its way into the Pacific. I removed the gun from inside the book. I gave it my best throw and two gulls dove for it as it arced a hundred feet out. It is fitting the story should end here, back where it had started. I took Linda in my arms as the ocean extinguished the sun.

Chapter 46

July 31st, 2010

“Hey Pard, what is it you want me to do here?” Clancy was shouting in my ear.

“Go to West Valley station and get hold of Detective Gillette, he was with them and her attorney when I left. I hope I didn’t piss him off too much. If Gillette won’t give you anything, call her asshole lawyer, Jason Gibbs.”

“Hey, I know Gibbs. He’s a good guy, Rollo,” Clancy chided.

“Call me back when you get something.”

My cell started ringing before I could hang up the office phone. “Yes?”

“Anatoli left the building ten minutes ago with Green. He told Cassidy he wanted to get Darla to a safe place. But on the way out he bumped into Grey Hair and went ballistic. We had to pull
Anatoli off the guy and it wasn’t easy. I guess Cassidy wanted to know if these guys knew each other. Sure enough, they did,” Fontana reported.

“Dumb, dumb, dumb. Homeland Security is going to get Anatoli killed before he pays me what he owes. Can you get hold of Green right now?”

“Yes, but why?” he asked.

“Darla Mason slipped out of my office five minutes ago, headed to parts unknown.”

“Green and Anatoli are headed to her agent’s office in Hollywood,” Fontana said.

“Tell Green to bring him straight here right now. Can you get here?”

“I’m stuck with turning Grey Hair over to the FBI and giving them a report as to how he happened to be in my custody.”

“Call Green,” I said, “the FBI could take forever.”

Art was on his phone with Nerd, telling him he did not see Darla exit our building. Nerd was on the corner of Wilshire and LaBrea, looking four ways from Sunday for the runaway Darla. Linda was somewhere between our floor and the lobby doing the same.

“Rollo, come here,” Art shouted. I walked over to the window and he pointed to the street. “Isn’t that Sturdevant’s limo?”

We watched Darla make the dash from the front of the building and dive in the limo a split second before it pulled from the curb. Nerd managed to grab hold of the door but the autolocking door proved too much for even him. He managed the one finger salute as the limo sped off into traffic.

“Tell Nerd to find Linda and get back up here,” I told Art as I slumped down in my chair, feeling defeat had just jumped up and bit me on the ass. It was probably just my stitches reminding me of other moments of defeat. Ten minutes later the three of us were sitting in my office watching Linda make coffee while waiting for the phone to ring.

The first call was from my partner, telling me that my Ex and three kids were with her attorney at the Pancake House on Ventura Boulevard, enjoying shakes and goodies, probably planning my financial ruin. Clancy had gone in and informed them that he and Sylvia were their protection detail for yet another night, and would be following them home when ever they were ready.

The next call was from Fontana. Green was enroute to my office with Anatoli, an ETA of about ten minutes. He also told me an inter-agency squabble of the fourth kind was bubbling up over the arrest of the Cultural Affairs Attache from the Russian consulate. Yes, the position did come with diplomatic immunity, but it did not give him a pass for double homicide. Alas, there was no evidence to connect him with the deaths of Colletta Meyers’ two make believe bodyguards. The freshly showered Mister Grey offered to take a gunshot residue test. His wash and wear clothing was last seen going through the rinse cycle of the washing machine of the house in which he was captured by Green and Fontana, just a short block from the murder scene.

That there had been a multi-agency task force staked out on the murder scene at the time of the killings was interesting. That none of the on scene sleuths could identify the grey haired man who accompanied Colletta Meyers and the two soon-to-be victims seemed to muddle the picture to the point of embarrassment. Fortunately Nerd and I showed up to pistol whip my daughter’s kidnappers and provide the necessary cover for those involved to blow off the press.

Chapter 47

July 30th, 2010

As usual, Linda’s coffee was very good. Green’s ten minute ETA had expired twenty minutes ago, prompting another call to Fontana’s voice mail. “Greenis thirty minutes late,” I fudged. Linda poured the rest of the coffee into my cup and asked if she should make more. Nerd said he was in for depth and distance, but Art was another story, a love story.

“Listen Rollo, I’m supposed to be meeting Brandy at Brennan’s around five, and it’s already going on six. Do you need me to stick?” he said, pleading his case like the lawyer he was.

“I think you might be pushing the fashionably late threshold, buddy. Go ahead and split. If we need an attorney we’ll call a good one,” I said, playing on his guilt. “Say hello to her for me,” would have been better left unsaid, but I didn’t want to let him off the hook that easily.

Linda filled our cups from the fresh pot she had made and I added a good pour of Jack Daniels to kind of take the edge off. Nerd responded with “just a taste” while Linda frowned. I guessed she was about to scold us when the phone on her desk rang.

“Agent Green on line two,” she shouted, obviously pissed at our choice of coffee sweetener.

“Why are you not here in my office with Anatoli in tow?” I asked, keeping my cool.

“Colonel Cassidy said ‘take him where he wants to go’. Your office wasn’t on his list.”

“List?” my cool quickly evaporating.

“Radio Shack, Sav-On Drugs, Romanov’s to pick up his friends, and then your favorite hotel in Universal City.”

“Didn’t he know I was waiting for him?”

“Yes, we were heading your way when he got a cell call. No idea what was said, all Ruskie Speakie, but he got hot, lots of shouting. He finished that call and immediately made another, then eliminated you from his itinerary. Dropped him and his two friends off at the hotel twenty minutes ago.”

“Why didn”t you call me?” I asked, knowing the answer before finishing the sentence.

“Sorry Rollo for letting my job get in the way of your shit.” He hung up to let me know how he really felt.

I called Bob at hotel security. Thankfully he was on duty, I just could deal with his Number Two again.

“You really do want to get me fired, don’t you,” he said.

“What, no hello, how the hell are you, how can I help you?”

After our exchange of pleasantries he told me Anatoli and Darla Mason had booked adjoining suites on the top floor. Darla was now n the bar at a table with Chauncey Sturdevant and two guys whose size nineteen necks looked out of place in their silk suits. He said that Anatoli was at another table with a couple of “gangsta” types dressed up like Bob Marley, dreads and all.

“Go to the bar and give Anatoli your cell. Tell him I’ll call him in one minute.”

“Will do. You better have a job for me Rollo, this one’s probably run its course.”

I punched up Bob’s cell number and Anatoli answered on the third ring. “Yes Rollo?”

“What are you doing Anatoli? You and Darla are in danger as long as Colletta and that Grey Haired son-of-a-bitch are still out there. I can be there with my people in twenty minutes….”

“Rollo, relax, that won’t be necessary. I have everything under control, we are in no danger. I must thank you for all you have done for me and my family. We are no longer in need of your services….”

“You’re firing me?”

“No, no, no, my friend, the job is done. Send your final bill to Darla’s agent…”

“The job is not done Anatoli, the Russian Cultural Affairs Attache had my daughter kidnapped. He’s going to answer for that. My family won’t be safe until I put a very large hole in his head.”

“Rollo, trust me, you don’t have to do anything, your family will be safe. Trust me.”

“I can’t trust you Anatoli, you lied to me. Your bullshit has endangered my family, my friends and the people I care about. You didn’t know Colletta had her husband killed until I laid it all out for you. Then you pushed her to the point where she kills the Major, your supposed friend and business partner. Did he trust you? How can I trust a man who gets his daughter tied up in all this crap? She has a promising career and this shit is going to get her associated with the porn business. How could you do that? She trusts you, her father, and where is tht going to take her? No one should trust you Anatoli.”

“Rollo, I like you. My daughter likes you, but you must listen to me. The case is over. No harm will come to you or your family or anyone around you, but you must stay out of my business.”

“So now you’re threatening me?” I asked.

“No Rollo, I just want you to appreciate the seriousness of what I am saying. Step away. Send your bill to Chauncey and you will be paid promptly. Perhaps a sizeable bonus…”

“Let me talk to Darla, if she tells me to take a hike I’m out of it.”

“Just because you made love to her doesn’t mean you two owe each other anything. Let it go Rollo,” he said, sounding like a pimp. I heard him tell her it was me.

“Hello, Rollo. Sorry to have run out on Linda this afternoon. It didn’t take you long to find me. Please tell Linda I am sorry if I got her in any trouble,” she said unconvincingly.

“Your father is firing me and I need to know if that is alright with you,” I said.

“He’s not firing anybody. We have gotten what we wanted. My uncle’s busines in now ours, and my father is returning to New Jersey in the morning. He is putting Chauncey in charge of William Meyers Productions. He has hired new lawyers to settle the estate and keep my name out of it. Please tell Art to send his bill to Chauncey, and please, give him my thanks. And Rollo, I can’t thank you enough for keeping me safe and helping us bring this matter to a successful conclusion.”

“You reading this shit from a script?” I asked, prompting her to hang up.

Linda joined us in my office and Nerd was first to speak. “So, we’re done?”

“We’re done my man, but fear not. I’m going to hunt that grey haired bastard down and put it to him big time. Linda, send a bill to Chauncey Sturdevant for eight grand, services rendered, and another from Art for fifteen hundred worth of legal services for Darla.”

“We ought to add another thousand or two for them being lying sacks of shit,” Nerd said.

“Nerd’s got a point there, go ahead and make it ten grand.”

“I’ll make it twelve, I could use a raise,” she said, returning to her desk as my cell went off in my pocket. It was Fontana returning my call.

“I finally heard from your partner, a real company man. But he did tell me where Anatoli was holed up. Anatoli and Darla fired me and the gang, said not to worry about Mister Grey Hair, the Ruskie diplomat. Actually implied I should stay out of his business as of right now, or else, so to speak,” I explained.

“There’s more you should know before going after the Cultural Affairs attache. An FBI bigwig from DC just left Cassidy’s office. It got a little heated in there, but the best I could gather is the diplomatic immunity is bogus, he’s either a double or wants political asylum,” Fontana said. “Any way, two FBI guys took him home. Heard him tell them he lived at 318 North Titus, which puts him a few blocks away from the Major’s joint on Fairfax.”

“It’s a small world, after all, it’s a small, small world,” I sang as Fontana whistled along.

Chapter 45

June 30th, 2010

Twaeji Koki Pinun Pop is Mister Kim’s Korean version of fried rice. A generous use of spices seperates it from the Chinese version. I asked Linda for a spoon since the chopsticks just couldn’t keep up with my appetite. I shovelled the contents of the two pint container down in record time , Nerd looking on in amazement. I was washing it down with the last swallow of Asahi beer when Art showed up with Darla in tow. It was time for some serious questioning of our client.

I had learned all the rudimentary questioning skills during my tenure with the LAPD and had taken a couple of college courses on Interrogation Techniques while stilll believing I had a promising career witht he department. But I became an expert on the subject when I was once a ‘person of interest’ in a Sheriff’s Homicide investigation shortly after leaving the PD. That experience moved to the point that I sat through a two week seminar taught by ex-Mossad personnel on how to resist enhanced interrogation.

I had long ago reduced the height of the visitor chairs in my office by removing the casters from their legs. My oversized desk was jacked up by thick coasters placed under the feet, and my executive chair sat high enough to make any monarch happy. The carpet in front of my desk made anyone seated there incapable of sliding their chair in any direction. And finally, one one of the chairs i had the front legs further shortened, giving the person sitting in the chair the feeling of sliding off. This chair now sat directly in front of my desk, a scant five inch spce allowed Darla Mason to squeeze into the hot seat.

Art sat in a chair directly to her right and slightly behind. Linda flanked her on the other side, also back a bit, a steno pad perched on her lap, a pen poised to take it all down. Nerd filled up the doorway, effectively blocking ingress, and more importantly, making egress appear impossible. I stared at Darla, a serious stare, not saying a word. Art and Linda did the same. The twenty seconds must have seemed like twenty minutes to the girl. When she averted our stares and focused on her clasped hands I knew she was ready.

I hit the foot switch to the recorder hidden in my desk and pushed the pen set toward her so the mic would get every word.

“Darla, Darla look at me,” I said. When she looked up I laid it on. “People are getting killed because of bullshit and you cluld be next,” pointing my finger at her accusingly. “We are good at what we do here Darla. We know that Anatoli being your uncle is bullshit, he’s you father,” caused her to blink. “So, for starters, who the hell is William Meyers?”

“He’s my mother’s brother, my uncle,” she said and started to cry. “Could these people leave so I can speak to you freely?”

“But I’m your lawyer,” Art said, “you can say anything and I…” I held my hand up, cutting him off and waited for him to follow Lina out of my office. Nerd went out behind them and closed the door.

As she told it, the pieces seemed to fall into place, fitting in with what I knew and what I surmised. Her story was too complex for her to be making it up on the fly. William Meyers’ Adventures in Hollywood were financed by the Russian Mafia with KGB money stolen with the collapse of the old Soviet Union. His untimely death left Anatoli holding the bag for his fellow share holders, some of them very heavy hitters. William Meyers Productions was a serious profit center for these guys and provided a convienent means to launder their gambling, narcotics and prostitution income. And, when none of them could fathom their front man dying in a boating accident, Anatoli was dispatched to La La Land.

Anatoli pressed the mob’s claims, but Colletta balked, refusing to honor her husband’s obligations, either ignorant of the real setup, or too stupid to fear the consequences. Anatoli also felt her story about the fishing trip as a birthday present for her husband smelled fishy too. And the more he thought about it the more he his suspicions grew that Colletta had her husband killed.

When Colletta threatened him with lawyers and the American legal system, Anatoli concocted the scheme of the long lost daughter’s claims to the bulk of the William Meyers estate. And that’s where Investigations by Clancy came in.

Darla’s agent, the dapper Chauncey Sturdevant, is in the bag for Anatoli and his ganster friends. So he was directed him to our doorstep to make Anatoli our puppet master. Anatoli also used his old KGB comrade. the Major, to monitor our doings. Thus the breakin of our office to bug the phones and computer. But when the Major’s guys started showing up dead, the Major got suspicious of his old comrade, thus squeezing me by snatching Linda. Is it any wonder these guys lost the Cold War?

When Anatoli showed up to straighten out Colletta by explaining all the different ways she could be killed, she ran to the Major, offering him half of everything to take care of Anatoli. Seems the Major’s suspicions allowed him to think about it for a day or two. However, our response and Anatoli’s reassurances brought him back into the fold, that and a fear of dying. It’s too bad the Major’s ego couldn’t recognize evil when it wore a skirt. It cost him his life.

Darla had no idea who Grey Hair was or why he was involved, guessing he was a friend of Colletta’s.

“Fontana on line one,” Linda announced on the intercom, violating our ‘Don’t Interruptan an Interview’ rule. I pushed the blinking button.

“Speak.”

“We got your Grey Haired friend,” Fontana said.

“And Colletta too?”

“No, she was GOA. The Russian was taking a shower when we kicked the door,” he said.

“Did he give up Colletta?”

“The only thing he would say was ‘Diplomatic Imunity’. Cassidy wants him turned over to the Bureau forthwith and Green is making the call as we speak.,” he said.

“I need Anatoli, any luck?”

“Maybe. Colomel Cassidy says he’s real proud of us field agents, and told us not to mention Anatoli at the Bureau. Means he’s still in the building. The bosses in D.C. want the phoney gun deal buried with your dead Major, so I guess they want Anatoli to spin it that way to the Bureau. Everyone can live with that is theot theory. More interagency crap if you ask me,” he said disgustedly.

“Fontana, how come Homeland Security wants to make these guys ‘my’ Major and ‘my’ Grey Hair?”

“What’s up with your cell? Tried calling from the scene, no answer, no voicemail, tried text, same results”, was his non-response to my question.

“I was on the thing ’til the battery went tits up. It’s on the charger now. I don’t do voicemail and I don’t text,” I replied.

“I should have something on Uncle Anatoli in an hour,” he said. “Call you on the cell, okay?”

“Okay. By the way, it’s Daddy Anatoli, not Uncle. Later.”

“Is my father safe?” Darla asked as I hung up the phone.

“Yes.”

She rose from the hot seat. “I need to use the bathroom,” she said, wiggling around around the chair that seemed nailed to the floor.

“Down the hall around the corner from the elevator,” i said walking out of my office into the reception area. “Linda, go with Darla please.”

I stood in the doorway, standing guard as they turned the corner. After a minute or two the phone rang and, like the dummy I am, I went to Linda’s desk and answered it. “Hello/”

“Hey Rollo, me and Sylvia are at your Ex’s house. The lights are on but nobody’s home.”

“What? Did you go inside?” I asked, knowing it was a stupid question to be asking a pro like Clancy.

“What do you think,” Clancy was saying, “you…”

“Quick,” Linda shouted from the hall, “she’s getting away!”

Nerd flew past me, heading for the sairwell as Linda frantically pushed the elevator call button.

“What do you want me to do?” Art asked, in need of a command decision.

“Look out my window, see which way she goes and let Nerd know on his cell,” I said.

“Rollo, what do you want us to do here? Her car is still in the driveway, must have left with somebody, any ideas?” Clancy sought my directions. Things had suddenly spun out of my control in a matter of seconds. I stood there, staring at the phone in my hand, wishing this was a dream. I wanted to wake up in my bed and find everything and everybody lined up, neatly arranged in an orderly fashion, comfortably encased in the boxes i had put them in. Rollo, wake up!

Chapter 44

June 19th, 2010

It would have been easy just to drop my daughter off in the driveway and beat feet, avoiding the ass-chewing I knew was coming. A black and white police car was parked at the curb and an equally obvious plain clothes car was parked behind it. I also recognized the Lexus I helped buy for my Ex’s attorney. I’m sure he was in the driveway to squeeze another payment or two out of me.

“Look Dad, more police cars,” my daughter said, her grasp of the obvious inherited from her mother. She held my hand as we walked in, probably to protect me from what she sensed was waiting.

Candy sat at the dining room table, her lawyer to her right, a yellow legal tablet getting abused by his ostentatious pen. A uniformed officer sat across from her, flanked by a detective who looked familiar. Our entrance put everyone in motion, my Ex running to our daughter, her lawyer two steps behind. A police wedge seperated me from the hugfest.

“Let’s go outside and talk, Michaels,” the detective said while the uniformed officer nudged me toward the door I had just entered.

“Gleason, isn’t it?” I asked as they herded me to the sidewalk.

“I didn’t think a big shot like Rollo Micheals remembered us peons.”

“What is it you want, Detective Gleason?”

“You out of the house, for one. What’s going on here Micheals? Your old lady is fit to be tied. She wants that bloodsucker in there to put it to you, restraining order, more child support, monitored visitations. Basically, she wants your balls cut off,” seemingly enjoying the telling.

“You know our daughter was kidnapped from her school this afternoon?”

“Jeez Rollo, how come we don’t know anything about it?”

“FBI…Suspects in custody…RHD advised…film at eleven.”

“Your dughter alright,” the uniformed officer asked.

“She thinks of it more as a movie than a real happening,” I said.

My cell rang. “I’ve got to take this,” I said, turning and walking away from them.

“Yes Pard,” I said to Clancy, “Can you and the misses keep an eye on the family for me again tonight?”

“How’s the girl?”

“Wiser than her years. How long before you can get here?”

“About an hour, give or take.”

“Nerd fill you in?”

“Roger that. You thinking Grey Hair is after Uncle Anatoli?”

“No doubt. He’s grabbing anybody he can to get leverage. Homeland Security has Anatoli stashed and Colonel Cassidy won’t even tell Green and Fontana where, or so they say. I sent them looking for Grey Hair and they’ll let me know if they score. In the meantime this guy can make a run at any of the players. I’m worried about our little Movie Star too. If she is really Anatoli’s daughter, she would be the best weapon for him to use against Anatoli. And he knows I’m his best bet to get to her.”

“Where is she now? I left her with Art and her agent at the ploice station,” Clancy said.

“I’ll get hold of Art now and see if she is still with him. I’ll head back downtown and hook up with her when I locate everybody, maybe stash her with Linda.” I yawned in his ear. “Man, I got to get some sleep sometime tonight, my ass is starting to drag. I’ll keep you posted Pard.”

“Later,” he said, allowing me to hit Art’s number on my list.

“Yes?” he answered on the third ring.

“You with our client?”

“Right across the table from me. You want to talk to her?” he said, saloon noises in the background.

“No. Bring her to the office when you finnish your drinks. I’ll be there in forty minutes,” I said, getting into my car. I drove away from my Ex-home, leaving Gleason looking very pissed. Speed dial got me Linda before I got to the freeway.

“What’s up Rollo?”

“You with Nerd?”

“Yes,” she said, “we just got our food. You okay?”

“Doin’ good. I’m on my way to the office to meet up with Art and our Movie Star. Listen, when you guys are done, meet us there. I want to circle the wagons for tonight. Has your date filled you in on all the excitement of today?”

“How’s your little girl?”

“Tougher than a cheap steak. Probably grow up to be a beat cop on the boulevard. Don’t you two run up a big tab on the old expense account.”

“Bring you some eats from Mr. Kim’s?”

“Yes. Some pork fried rice and a cold beer sounds great to me. Can’t remember if I ever ate today.”

Chapter 43

March 27th, 2010

Back up the hill Green and Fontana were engaged with two uniformed LAPD guys and an FBI team. i signaled Fontana and he split from the group to see what I wanted.

“You want to let the FBI pull the rug out from under Homeland Security action here?”

“What can we do? Colonel Cassidy says let them take over, we let them take over,” he said.

“You see the job they’re doing. I think I know where Colletta and Mr. Grey Hair made off to,” and told him about the house down the hill that the neighbor told me about. I also told Fontana that Robbery-Homicide knows about the house, but the FBI’s not sharing with anybody was cutting off any info coming back to them from the PD.

“Hollywood Division Dicks are rolling on the two kills inside, and they won’t put this together with the Robbery-Homicide investigation for a couple of hours. You have their card, give them a call/ You and Green would be better off working with RHD. But you’re a big boy, play it any way you want,” I said, and got in my car, waiving for Nerd to follow in his.

Around the corner Agent Monroe formed up a caravan and led us down to Sunset then west toward Sepulveda and the Fed building that housed the FBI Task Force the Special Agent-in-Charge formed over the weekend. I guess to impress Homeland Security, but I’m a cynic who never had a corner office until he went into business for himself. In Westwood I pulled to the curb in front of a Baskin Robbins icecream parlor to placate my daughter. This almost caused a four car pile up, but I had my priorities.

Monroe came rushing in as the young lady behind the counter was scooping a strawberry cone for my girl and a black cherry for me.

“And what would you like, Agent Monroe?”

She took a deep breath and I watched as she ordered the tension to leave her body. She smiled at my daughteer then looked me in the eyes.

“Strawberry works for me,” she said, keeping the smile working too.

I paid the six and change and we went back to our cars, making it to the Fed building in less timethan it took to finish our cones.

Monroe asked my permission to question my daughter without me being present. I agreed, stipulating the questioning would end and I would be summoned anytime my daughter asked. While Monroe conducted the interview at her desk with a couple of sodas for her and my daughter, her partner took me to an interview room. No soda for me. I guess he was playing hardass.

I ran it down for him, the call from Nerd, the trip to Romanov’s. the snatching of my daughter at her school, the tail to the Major’s house and the FBI’s intervention. I played down the pistol whipping of the two Russians, they probably had videos anyway. My interrogator’s lack of note taking led me to think it was all being recorded, although he hadn’t advised me so.

We were done in ten minutes and so were Monroe and my daughter. I got my two handguns back after they did and AFIS check. Like not advising me of Miranda or the recording of my interview, the return of the guns was not in keeping with FBI protocol I knew the drill, they knew I knew, so what was up?

“We’ll be in touch, Michaels,” Monroe said, leading us to the lobby where Nerd was waiting. I turned to her, and once again, the eye contact, as if staring into my brain to read my thoughts. She had nice eyes.

“Agent, Monroe,” I said, offering my hand, “I’ve been a jerk. Thanks for the pass.”

She held my hand firmly, still with the stare. “Oh the FBI doesn’t hand out passes Rollo. Get you daughter home to her mother.” She turned toward the elevator after saying a goodbye to my daughter.

In the parking lot I instructed Nerd to contact Clancy and Linda and fill them in on what had gone down the past few hours.

“Meet up with Linda, take her to dinner or something, but don’t let her out of your sight. Tell Clancy I need him to babysit my Ex and kids again tonight. And get a gun out of the office safe,” I added.

“Yes, Bwana,” he said, pulling out his cell, getting all over it.

I got into the car and handed my cell to my daughter.

“Call your mom,” I said, heading out to the Valley to face the music.

Chapter 42

March 7th, 2010

We watched the LAPD units arrive, only to leave a few minutes later, probably buffaloed by the FBI. A second unit showed up some ten minutes later, an old-salt Patrol Sergeant with an armful of service stripes running up his left sleeve. He gave us a long look as he drove by, en route to the scene. After another very long ten minutes Fontana was ready to shoot out the windows of our vehicular cell. Over a half hour of confinement allowed him plenty of time to plot the death of his partner.

“I have to go to the bathroom Daddy,” my daughter said.

“Me too,” was Fontana’s contribution.

“In a few minutes Sweetie,” I said.

“I’m not your sweetie,” Fontana shot back, getting a giggle from my little girl, easing our collective angst.

Another LAPD unit arrived, then two more. The Sergeant had pulled down to the intersection and looked to be setting up a Command Post. Units reporting to him recieved instructions and scurried back down Crescent or back up Lookout Mountain, making me think they were trying to set up a containment perimeter, meaning somebody got away, meaning another FBI clusterfuck of the first magnitude.

Then we spotted Green come around the corner and head our way. When he opened the door to our little prison Fontana got all over him, grabbing him by the lapels to spew venom in his face. I took my daughter’s hand and slid out behind them as Green tried to explain he didn’t realize he had left us locked in. The people at the corner house had came to the street, checking out all the excitement. I walked my daughter over to them.

“Can my daughter use your bathroom? She really needs to go.”

“Rosa, show this nice little girl to the bathroom please,” the lady of the house said to a young Latina in a maid’s outfit I thought was only worn in adult films. Turning back to me she said, “So what’s going on here?”

“My daughter was snatched outside her school in the Valley and the FBI followed the kidnappers to that house around the corner,” I said.

“Some detectives were here yesterday, asking questions about the people who live there. The only thing I could tell them was they had another house down the hill from here,” she said as my cell started vibrating in my pocket.

I turned away to answer. Caller ID confirmed my status as a world class screw up who was running true to form. My Ex was calling. It was three minutes to five and my daughter wasn’t there when her mother got home from work at 4:15. I wanted to vomit, a basketball sized knot forming in my gut.

“Rollo, she hasn’t come home from school. I’ve looked everywhere, checked with all her friends, called the school, nothing. I’m waiting on the police now….”

“She’s with me,” I said, interrupting her in midsentence.

It seemed she must have counted slowly to ten before letting me have it, both barrels, in the chest, I had it coming.

“You no good son-of-a-bitch. How can you keep doing these things to me? Do you find pleasure in scaring the shit out of me? You are a self centered bastard, Rollo. I’m taking you back to court. You’ll be lucky to see the kids once a year. My lawyer will fix it so that….”

“Let me explain, please….let me tell you…..Candy, I’m sorry, please Candy…let me…” i said, trying to talk over the barrage she was firing. She didn’t miss a beat, her rage not letting her hear anything I said. Her rant went on as my daughter returned.

“Your mother’s on the phone, she wants to talk to you honey,” I said, hoping my Ex would register that part of my conversation. I handed the phone to my daughter to save my ear from further punishment, immediately feeling guilty for using her in this way.

Special Agent Monroe walked up, interferring with my self-loathing. She looked a little frazzled. A tight lipped grimace and knotted brow said her “I got it all together” image had been badly shaken.

“We need to go to our office and get statements from you and your daughter,” she said.

“And my friend?”

“We got his statement and he’ll get kicked loose as soon as the LAPD gets his personal info,” she said. “You can follow me in your car, okay?”

I nodded and told her I needed Nerd to come in too, along with Agents Green and Fontana, but only if she filled me in on what happened with Grey Hair, Colletta Meyers and her crew. She briefed me and it wasn’t pretty. The FBI’s Entry Team found Colletta’s two bodyguards face down on the living room floor, head shot with a small caliber weapon. Grey Hair and Meyers were gone, apparently escaping on foot through the back yard and down the hill to the street below.

“Can you keep an eye on my kid while I run up the hill?”

She looked to the heavens before answering, “Sure Michaels, why not.”

I walked over to the Sergeant’s CP. His name tag said Ryan, his nose and cheeks said Jack Daniels. He looked me up and down through rheumy eyes, one squinting because of cigarette smoke rising from the filtered job he clenched in his teeth.

“Hey Sarge, Robbery-Homicide would probably appreciate a heads-up on this,” I said.

“Do I know you?” he asked, in a “Who the hell are you?” tone.

“Rollo Michaels,” I said, offering my hand. “Used to be on the job.”

“Used to be, has been, pretty much the same to me,” he said, not taking my hand.

“Whatever Sarge, but you’d be doing yourself a favor on this one,” I said, counting up his service stripes, doing the math. “How the hell did you last thirty years on this job?” my parting shot as I headed up the hill to get the crew.

“Kiss my ass, Rollo Michaels,” was the best he could do. But hey, he got the name right.

Chapter 41

March 1st, 2010

My two favorite FBI Special Agents put me and my daughter in the back seat of the car, while other agents cuffed up the two bleeding Russians and my man, Nerd. They gathered up all the guns, including my Ex’s .38 revolver. My daughter recognized two of theagents from Sunday’s aborted baseball game and waived them a hello. Unbelievably, she was oblivious to her own victimhood, caught up in this game of cops and robbers.

My Homeland Security buddies, Green and Fontana came over to the car. I noticed there were no handles or buttons on the inside of the back doors when I tried to open either a door or window to talk. I was basically a prisoner of the Fed, but Fontana opened the door and stuck his head in.

“You guys okay?”

“You kiddin’ me? Get the Nerd cut loose, get my guns back and let me take my daughter home.” I said, trying to get out of the back seat. But Fontana restrained me with a hand on my shoulder.

“Whoa there Rollo, slow it down some,” Green cautioned. “This is now and FBI operation. Cassidy will have our asses when he find out we’re here with these people. He sure didn’t like the heavy handed way they jumped this case.”

“You have got to be shittin’ me,” I shouted, alerting the FBI agents. Special Agent Monroe came over to see what all the shouting was about. She got in behind the wheel and told Green and Fontana to get in too. Green assumed shotgun and Fontana pushed in beside me.. She fired it up and drove us around the corner, parking under a big old oak. The shade was a welcomed relief from the ninety degree sun. The A/C was trying to kick in, to no avail.

“Let’s hear it Michaels,” she said, like she really expected me to tell all.

I watched an FBI Entry Team in helmets and flack jackets drive toward the house while I tried to figure out what to say. Surprisingly, Agent Green interceded on my behalf.

“Listen Agent Monroe, this is no place for Rollo’s daughter to be…”

“Thanks good buddy,” I said while pulling out my cell phone. I flipped it open with a dramatic flourish and punched up 9-1-1. “My daughter has been kidnapped and I’ve followed the two kidnappers to Lookout Mountain Lane and Crescent Drive. I’m holding them at gunpoint. Hurry…” closing the phone.

The three federal agents stared at me in disbelief. My daughter took hold of my arm. “I want to go home now, Daddy.”

“Damn it Michaels, I need to know what you and your friend are doing busting into our stakeout,” Monroe whined.

“You didn’t see Colletta Meyers pull up in the Lincoln with two black porn studs and a guy in a grey suit with hair to match? Some stakeout, Agent Monroe. But not to worry, I called the real police. They’ll gladly take a murder suspect and two kidnapping assholes into custody. And they’ll do it without screwing over the victim’s father and the friend helping to rescue a little girl. Is this how they teach it at Quantico?” I said, immediately regretting sticking it in too far. But there’s no way to take back ill chosen words.

She got out of the car and slammed the door hard enough to make my ears pop. We sat there watching her storm back up the street. Fontana was the first to speak.

“Nice going Rollo. You think that’s the way to win her over to our side?”

Green jumped out and ran after her, leaving me, my daughter and Fontana locked in the back of the car. I could hear sirens rolling up the hill. It would be another hour before someone would let us out of the car.

Chapter 40

January 27th, 2010

My brain locked up, the periphery of my vision turned a dark grey, leaving me a tunnel to look through. “GO HOME”, the voice inside my head shouted. Grey Hair and Colletta stepped out the door of the restaurant at the very end of my tunnel. The two brothers led them to the car, opening the doors for their passengers. They got in as my vision improved with each gulp of air I inhaled.

“Rollo…..you there? Rollo, did you hear me?” said Nerd’s voice, ending my brain cramp.

“Pull up in the driveway and park. There’s a key in the flowerpot on the second step. No one is home, but the kids should be getting there in about ten minutes. My Ex keeps a .38 in her nightstand. Get it and engage, I’m on my way.” I fired up and burned rubber, abusing the SUV rental some more as Colletta’s Navigator headed the oposite way. I made it to the westbound 101 in under two minutes while Nerd gave me a verbal picture of what was happening.

“They made a circle and drove away when I pulled into the driveway. Now what?” he asked.

‘Get the gun and wait for me,” I said, driving the shoulder to pass the cars lined up on the metered onramp. Once on the freeway I shot all the way over to the carpool lane and got up to 70 approaching the 405 interchange, where I hit the brakes to merge with the snails. I used the shoulder again and got off on Hayvenhurst, heading to what used be home, ready to kill anything or anybody posing a threat to my kids.

My rental SUV was handling all the abuse I could dish out, cutting the twenty minute trip to my old neighborhood in half. I hit the school zone two blocks from the house and slammed on the brakes at the demand of an elderly crossing guard lady. I spotted my daughter a block up the street. She was talking to one of Grey Hair’s gorillas. The guard stood in front of my ride, holding up her stop sign while directing a half dozen kids and a couple of parents across my path. Up ahead a three hundred pound Russian signed his own death warrant by forcing my little girl into the back seat of the car as his partner, a dead man driving, pulled away from the curb. The crossing guard smashed her stop sign on the rear of my SUV as I wedge through the crowded crosswalk while getting Nerd back on the cell.

All I could do was watch and follow as they drove from the scene, hoping they wouldn’t spot me and panic with my daughter in the car. “I’m following these guys now…..they snatched my daughter from school. I need some backup buddy, we’re heading toward the freeway on White Oak…..I’m gonna be killing these assholes…..first chance.”

“I’m with you man,” Nerd said. “How’d you plan to take ‘em down?”

‘I can’t do much as lohg as she’s still in the car with them. Let’s see where they’re headed…..looks like east on the Ventura.”

“Probably back to Romanov’s Restaurant, ya think?”

“No, Grey Hair left with Colletta Meyers and two black guys posing as muscle. I’d bet on a rendezvous,” I said, and we followed them all the way back to the dead Major’s Hollywood Hills home, where Colletta’s black Navigator was parked in the gated drive. The Russian pulled up to the gate and got out to push the call button. He spun around when he heard my footsteps run up behind him. A pistol whipping put him to the ground. His three hundred pound partner stepped from the passenger side and was dwawing his weapon when Nerd jacked him with the butt of my Ex’s Smith & Wesson.

I pulled my daughter from the back seat and held her in my arms just as two carloads of FBI agents screamed to a halt, thirty seconds too late to do any good. They got out, pointing guns at us, shouting commands we refused to follow. I just stood there, hugging my daughter, when a third car drove right up to us. Green and Fontana stepped out, taking a position between us and the FBI. That’s what friends are for.

Chapter 39

November 6th, 2009

I contacted Fontana and put him on the spot. Colonel Cassidy wanted to keep Uncle Anatoli under wraps until questions of the gun deal Anatoli was brokering between the Major and an undercover agent was resolved. Homeland Security had fronted fifty grand and people in Washington were getting nervous. Anatoli claimed to have delivered the money to the Major the night I got shot in the ass by the FBI. Now everyone wanted to know what happened to the money and/or the weapons.

The FBI had recovered an AR 15 from the Major’s restaurant as a result of their search warrants, generated by the murder of the Major by Colletta Meyers. A followup to the Major’s Beverly Hills home got them a second rifle. Both weapons’ serial numbers showed they were in a USMC armory at Camp Pendleton. A check of the armory showed no other rifles missing from their inventory. An inter-agency squabble was about to get ugly and Fontana warned I was about to be right in the middle of it. Since I already knew too much I was subject to being squeezed by anybody with a Federal badge. Their hammer was the Title 18 code. Lying to the Fed carried a one to five year rap for each count. Although I hadn’t quite lied to any of them yet, I hadn’t been entirely truthful either.

So I told Fontana about the Ruskie, Gray Hair, and his desire to speak to Anatoli Mamadov. “Could be about the gun deal,” I coaxed.

“Give me the phone number,” Fontana asked.

“It’s a cell number, a New Jersey area code, he just wrote it down for me from memory, so it’s not a throw away, unless he’s related to the Amazing Kreskin,” I explained, and read him the number from the envelope stuffed with cash.

“I assume the FBI will be seeking you out sometime this afternoon. Cassidy is having Green give them all we have on your involvement in this mess. That’s the best I can do for you Rollo,” he said. I had a disturbing thought.

“I figure you guys were smart enough to get serial numbers from the front money you gave Anatoli for the guns?”

“Well yeah, why do you ask?”

I removed a hundred dollar bill from the envelope Gray Hair gave me and read him the numbers. “I got a bunch of these from the guy who wants to talk to Anatoli.”

“Ya think? Hang on while I check.” He was back in less than a minute. “Bingo!”

“I’ve stepped in a cesspool and the crap is all the way up to my bottom lip. Please, don’t make any waves. I got somebody following these guys and will get back to you with a location. Get NSA on the number I gave you before you let Anatoli make the call. Do you have a Russian interpreter?”

“Jeez Rollo, I think we know how to do this shit. Get me what you can, when you can. And watch out for those big, bad FBI guys and gals,” he said, leaving me to ponder what to do next.

If Gray Hair was a Russian gangster like Uncle Anatoli, why would he have money that Anatoli supposedly gave the Major for a bunch of guns? If the Major only had two rifles, how was he going to sell fifty? Sounded like a con to me, but why? None of these players needed fifty grand. The two bullits Colletta Meyers put in the Major’s head kept me from asking him; I couldn’t get to Anatoli right now to ask him; Gray hair was all I had left. I dialed Nerd on my cell.

“Yes, Bwanna.”

“You got caller ID, or is everybody your superior?” I continued with his little joke. “Where you be?”

“We just went over the hills to the Valley, now we’re getting onto Ventura Boulevard, going west” he said.

“They’ll be turning left into Romanov’s Restaurant, about a mile west of where you are,” I pretended to know. Two minutes later he was lauding my psychic abilities. He set up across the street to watch the Ruskies and await my arrival.

I got a 9 mm Glock from the safe and slid it in my waitband and put my .380 auto in my jacket pocket, told Linda I was going to meet Nerd and headed for the elevator. It dinged before I could press the call button and I made a dash for the stairs. I peeked back from the stairwell to see my two favorite FBI agents enter Investigations by Clancy. I took the stairs down one flight and caught the elevator to the basement parking area. I fled the scene, checking all my mirrors for any tail. Ten minutes later I was crossing Mulholland on Laurel Canyon when Nerd rang me up.

“They’re on the move, wait……two of them are on the move, but the old guy is not with them,” he said.

“Which way they going?”

“West on the Boulevard. What do you want me to do?”

“You follow them, I’ll be at the restaurant in ten minutes and sit on Gray Hair. Don’t lose them and keep me posted,” I said, racing down the hill, my tires protesting each turn.

“I’m a professional,” he said, “and they don’t seem to be in a hurry, Rollo. Now we’re coming up on Sepulveda, might be to take the 405 back to Wilshire and Fairfax? Nope, passed that option…still going west.”

“Let me know when you get to where they’re going. I’ve got to make a call,” disconnecting as I got to the bottom of Laurel Canyon. A red light allowed me to call Fontana again. Four rings were long enough to let the light turn green and I turned left on Ventura, while getting dumped into Fontana’s voicemail. My message included the address of Romanov’s and my angst for not being able to get a Federal agent when you really needed one.

I too set up across the street, probably pretty close to where Nerd had stood watch just ten minutes ago. I sat there in the afternoon heat for a half hour, multi-tasking by watching the restaurant and waiting to hear from either Fontana or Nerd. A black Lincoln Navigator pulled into the lot. Two Brothers sat up front and a blond paddy chick, with big Hollywood shades, sat alone in the back seat, yakking on a cell. They parked and the Brothers got out. The driver opened the rear door to let Colletta Meyers step out.

My cell came to life in the charger, announcing it was Nerd. “Speak,” I commanded.

“You’re definately not wanting to hear this shit, Rollo. They just pulled into the cul de sac where your Ex lives.”