Death by Parking
Back Story & Chapter 1
For those of you living in a cave, I wrote a series of short stories a few years ago and then went on hiatus. It turned into a book, which you can buy on Amazon. I felt it was time to bring back Paul Manning and his crew with perhaps a little more grit in the story. This begins with Paul’s background, and then we are off. I hope you like it. JVH
When I graduated from high school and the Korean war was at its peak, I simply went down to the recruiting station and signed up. It seemed like the right thing to do. I spent three years in the army. It was a time for growing up, and a time for reinforcing those morals my parents taught me as they raised me.
We investigated the hell out of it and everyone was convinced it was an accident. Case closed.
I was assigned to the military police and spent my year in country enforcing the rules. And therein turns the tale.
One evening, my friends and I went into the ‘ville’ to blow off some steam. You know, a few brewskis and some card playing at a local club. When we arrived, the lieutenant in charge of our unit was already there. He was ‘chatting up’ a girl at the bar. She was young, no more than 18, probably closer to 16, and cute. He was putting a lot of pressure on her. Suddenly, he slapped her and knocked her down. I stood up, ready to come to her aid when my friends grabbed me and forced me back in my chair.
He was a lieutenant; we were grunts. He could destroy us, professionally and personally.
The lieutenant, Cosner was his name, continued to abuse the girl. She was crying and trying to get away from him. Everyone in the bar was ignoring the scene after all, we were in a war. Finally, he grabbed her and dragged her into the back room. The screaming stopped.
I knew if I ever had a chance, I would stop that kind of abuse any way I could.
When I returned to civilian life, I joined the LAPD. It was a good job, although the Los Angeles Police Department was not the most enlightened organization on the planet. It was a group that protected itself at all cost.
I was patrolling with my training officer, Bill Vose, when we came upon a man abusing a woman. There was no question that it would have been rape had we not been involved. I grabbed the man and began clubbing him with my night stick. I remembered that night in Korea and was taking my anger out on him, although there was no question he deserved it, and more.
Bill pulled me off him, and we got the woman to the hospital and this creep in jail. It turns out he was the son of a city councilman and his daddy didn’t see the benefit of a good clubbing for his rapist son. The kid got off, I got fired. If it hadn’t been for Bill, who lobbied for me, I would have been jailed for felony assault.
I got a job at the Bel Air Patrol, the private police force that protects the rich and famous in Los Angeles. Captain Hankins, the patrol’s leader, took me under his wing and taught me not only police work, but detective work, as well. After five years on the patrol, I struck out on my own, and Paul Manning Investigations was born.
My first big case, the one that put me on the map, involved of all things, parking. Seems the local parking operator was using his company as a money laundry for the mob. A kidnapping, a shootout, a chase down Mulholland Drive and some fancy detecting, and I, with the help of the Bel Air Patrol and the LAPD, solved the case. The criminals involved did heavy time.
Although most of my cases involved errant husbands (and a few wives), and folks with sticky fingers that the company wanted caught, but kept out of the papers, I did run up against the parking industry, such as it is, from time to time. My next big case was to take me, figuratively, at least, back to Korea and that evening when my Lieutenant went off the rails…
Death by Parking
My office was in an Egyptian-themed building on Hollywood Boulevard just up from Hollywood and Vine. It was on the third floor, had two rooms, a window, and a rubber plant. I got the plant after my first case when such a piece of vegetation played a role in a murder.
My outer office had a couple of chairs, a table, and a picture on the wall. It was a travel poster for Hawaii. Colorful and cheap. I usually let people wait there for a few minutes to get them settled down before I brought them through to my office.
It had a desk and chair with two chairs in front of it. I had a filing cabinet, a sink, and a low bookcase with a coffee maker on top. The walls had a few pictures I liked, plus a clock with Mickey Mouse. His eyes moved with the pendulum which, of course, was his tail. I know it was silly, but it took the edge off some of the serious conversations we had in that room.
I was just finishing my second cup of coffee that morning when Bill Vose walked through the door. Since he was my boss at the LAPD and literally saved my skin, he didn’t think he had to knock. And he didn’t.
He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat his six-foot-two-inch frame on one of the chairs in front of my desk. I waited for him to tell me why he took time off from his duties in the Hollywood Division of the department to visit me this fine, sunny day.
He sipped his coffee and looked at me over the cup. It was like he was trying to make up his mind. Finally, he set the cup on my desk and began his story.
“You know that new building that’s going up on Wilshire and LaBrea?” I nodded. “It’s going to be a big one. They are building a huge parking garage next door.” With every word, I was getting more and more confused. What the hell did any of this have to do with the LAPD, or with me? I kept my mouth shut. He would eventually get to the point.
“They have already hired a company to run the garage. It’s a little unusual to hire one so early, but not completely out of the question. One of my investigators, Larry Whemes, you know him, he worked on that parking case with you a couple of years ago, was curious and he went to the job site to just look around and see what’s what. Nothing official.
“While he was there, I guess he asked a few questions. As he was leaving, a piece of steel weighing five tons dropped off a crane and hit him. He was killed instantly. We investigated the hell out of it and everyone was convinced it was an accident. Case closed.
“Maybe it’s just a cop’s instinct, but I can’t let it go. Larry was a friend, married, one kid. It just was too cut and dried. We can’t continue to look into it. Case closed. I was wondering if you…” I stopped him there.
“Come on, Bill. This is how I make my living. How can I just drop everything and look into this? Who is paying my fee? I’m sure it’s not the LAPD.”
“Here’s the thing,” he said. “The owner of the project told me during our investigation, that he had some concerns about the connection between the builder and the new parking operator he hired. Nothing definitive, but his instinct was firing, too. He asked if there was anyone who I knew that could quietly investigate the situation. It may be nothing. But who knows? He is willing to hire you. All you need to do is pick up the phone and make an appointment. Here’s the name and number.”
He slid a 3x5 card across the table. I left it lying there. I knew there was something more coming.
“There’s one more thing you should know, the name of the parking company is ‘C-Park.’ The CEO is some guy named Cosner.”
After Bill left, I began to wonder. Was it possible that this was the same guy who was my Lieutenant in Korea? If so, would he remember me? I was just some grunt and never had any interaction with him. And if it was him, was this an opportunity to even the score for that night, over a decade ago? It could be dangerous. Hell, a cop was killed just for asking a few questions. But no matter what I told Bill, it was a little slow right now and the owner of a major building wouldn’t try to negotiate my fee.
As I thought about I, I couldn’t get the moment when the girl’s scream abruptly stopped that night ten years ago.
I picked up the phone and dialed the number.
To be continued.