A New Client Appears on the Scene
The boss of crackerjack PI Paul Manning’s girlfriend was in jail for the murder of a parking garage manager. Paul was trying to help and discovered that the boss was having an affair with Mary Hartison, wife of the very jealous gangster Moncrief Hartison. Mary had confessed the affair to Paul just before he had been hit over the head and ended up in the Hartisons’ living room with Hartison thinking Paul was the guy who was cheating with his wife.
And ah, yes, the woman next to him was the one who first hired Paul to keep her husband, who turned out not to be her husband, out of trouble, the woman who had told Paul she was divorcing her millionaire husband. Now, that guy was standing next to her, and Mary had turned into a seductress who seemed very comfortable with the man she was trying to divorce.
Before Paul could say anything, he was frog-marched out the door to a truck and later dumped in the desert. He was saved by another PI, James Nelson, who for his own reasons was also trying to bring down Moncrief Hartison. They returned to Paul’s office. They had determined that Mary’s son also was Nelson’s. Paul picks up the dialogue:
“I don’t think Mary is ‘with’ Hartison,” I told Nelson. “I think she is there out of fear and would leave in a second if she thought she could. She did give me the knife so I could escape in the desert. She doesn’t know what to do, particularly as it relates to her, or your, son.
“But parking,” I asked, “what does all this have to do with parking?”
“I don’t really know,” Nelson said. “I was just getting into it in my guise as a PI when I met Mary and it all blew up. I just know there was a lot of cash and it was going missing.”
I was puzzling through all this when there was a hard knock at the office door. I took my gun out of the desk drawer, motioned Nelson over behind a filing cabinet, and opened the door.
Facing me was one of the strangest looking men I had ever seen. He was dressed to the nines, including diamond studs and spats. He was about 5-foot-5 and carried a walking stick topped with a silver bear’s head. He held out a card. It read: William Jefferson, Owner, Jeffpark Services. I put away my gun and invited him in.
“I apologize for coming without an appointment, Mr. Manning. I do so dislike informality,” Jefferson said, “but it’s very important I speak to you” – he glanced at Nelson – “alone.”
The “Jeffpark” on his business card led me to believe that this had to do with the case, so I said, “It’s OK. You can say anything you like in front of my ‘associate.’”
Jefferson glided over to a chair. He carefully hiked up his trouser legs to ensure that the razor-sharp creases weren’t damaged when he sat down. He leaned his walking stick on the desk, cleared his throat and began.
“I own the company that is running the parking at Hollyvine Center,” Jefferson said. “My manager has been murdered, and I have been led to understand that there have been some, shall we say, ‘discrepancies’ in the revenue at that location. I sent in a team of auditors who discovered some irregularities as to how the manager was running the operation.”
“Irregularities?” I asked.
“Yes, it seems the manager was, among other things, selling monthly permits ‘off the books.’ He would tell a customer that if they paid him in cash, he would offer a substantial discount. He then issued the permits and pocketed the money. Both the owner of the building and my company were hurt by this theft.”
“How much was involved?”
“The monthly parking fee at this location is $50. He had at least 100 so-called off the books, maybe more. The theft, with this scam alone, is more than $5,000 a month. Considering the average salary today in Hollywood is $80 a week, it’s substantial.
“There also appear to be some other issues. The manager had opened a second bank account in our name and had been depositing quite a lot of money in it. He would then withdraw the money through a company he had set up – J-e-f-p-a-r-k – note the one letter difference in the name.
“The amounts he deposited were much higher than those traditionally collected in a location of this size. He was laundering money,” Jefferson said. “The amounts were in the neighborhood of $10,000 a month.”
“I see you have a problem. Why are you here?”
“Well, Mr. Manning, the reputation of my company has been greatly besmirched. I need to have it cleansed. I was hoping you could assist in that area. It seems that some rather disreputable characters have been using my location here in Hollywood, and perhaps other places, to generate income and launder money. I need you to ferret them out, find the leader, and have him arrested. All very publicly. That way people will know that William Jefferson won’t stand for such activities.
“I believe that at the top of this organization, the one using my company, is a rather shady character, one Moncrief Hartison. I think he had my manager murdered when it was discovered that he was attempting to pay back the money that had been stolen and was probably going to the police. Some woman at the building also was involved. That’s all I know. Will you help me?”
“We are pretty expensive,” I said. “The cost will be $150 a day plus expenses.” That was twice my normal fee, but I figured I had to pay something to my “associate,” Nelson.
“That seems fair,” Jefferson said. “I will also provide a bonus of $2,500 if you are able to ensure that my company’s reputation is cleared. Do we have a deal?”
“We have a deal.”
And it was a good one. Now, at least, I had a client who was paying us. We could get the accused murderer, my girlfriend’s boss, off the hook and take down Moncrief Hartison whilst at the same time spring Mary from his evil clutches. Heh, heh, heh Yikes. I was starting to sound like Jefferson; I would have to clean up my act. Nelson was staring at me, a bit in awe. The former college professor had a PI license but he didn’t know how the business really worked. We had to eat, and now we had someone to pay for dinner.
The only problem was that I had absolutely no idea how we were going to bring down Hartison, and on the front page of the LA Times to boot.
To be continued …