The Good Father
Afterwards, Lee couldn't for the life of him think how it possibly could have gone right. He had used Trip and he'd wanted to use Jimmy Trousdale. Trousdale was a friend of his ex-wife. He'd used him a couple of times before and it had worked out. Trousdale had an empty look about him that scared the shit out of people. He was quiet and he kept to himself which Lee appreciated. But Trousdale had called the morning of the job, said he was on his second day of some kind of food poisoning. He was shitting water and there was no way he could sit in a car in a parking lot for three hours, or hold a gun in someone's face without his hand shaking. He was sending this guy he'd been in Chino with in his place. Man's name was Seaton, and Trousdale said he was okay.
Only Seaton was not okay and now Lee couldn't for the life of him think how it could have possibly gone right. You don't commit armed robbery with men you don't know. It's like fucking a crack whore without a condom. Odds are, you're gonna catch something ugly.
It was just that the job was so easy. All this guy Seaton had to do was stand still and look mean. It was a gift from heaven, this job. A gift from heaven.
He met Seaton and Trip at the Starbucks on Central Avenue and Second Street in Little Tokyo. Seaton was a young guy, maybe thirty. He didn't look like a Chino boy. He looked like a business major from Fresno State. There was your second clue, Lee told himself after.
They drove down to Commerce in the car Trip had stolen for the job. Honda Accord. Silver. Looked like it could belong to any of the pai gow players at the casino. A car no one would remember. Trip had swapped the plates, cleaned it out, washed it. He always did this. He said he enjoyed the routine of it. Be happy in your work, he liked to say. It's from an old movie, he'd explained to Lee once. Lee didn't give a shit about old movies, but he liked a clean car. Nadine was waiting for them in the parking lot. Nadine was the gift from heaven.
She was a dealer at a pai gow table here at the casino. It paid for shit, but it came with good medical and dental. The way you made it a job that paid, you did a bit of dealing on the side. The high rollers, maybe someone who got a little lucky at one of the tables, they wanted some private action. Move it over to the hotel next door, play some five card there. Game like that, you needed a dealer.
Nadine had dealt maybe a half-a-dozen games, and she'd seen a lot of money won and lost. These were very rich men, playing here. Chinese, mostly, from Alhambra. Monterey Park. Koreans from Koreatown. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometime more, bet on a single hand. It hurt her to sit and stare at those piles of money and think about what she took home on a Friday. Lee could understand that. It was an emotion he'd taken advantage of more than once. Good citizens feeling the weight of their own mediocrity. Trying, not to get over, but just to catch up.
Inevitably, Nadine had mentioned the situation to her sometime boyfriend, a guy who bought oxicontin from a man named Falvey. The guy, Falvey, calls some people and says that he may have a job of work. How he, Falvey, makes his job as a small time drug dealer pay; he passes along information. It's a modern world, everybody's got to work a couple of jobs, right?
The way these things work, Falvey knew a guy who had gotten in touch with a man in Scottsdale, Arizona, named Harold Dundee. Dundee had put it out there that he was interested in projects of a certain nature. Five million dollar minimum. You supply the information, you get five percent. Dundee had liked this one enough to reach out to Lou Benton in San Diego and Benton had brought the situation to Lee and Lee had said how about the next time there's gonna be a game, Nadine lets us know when the winner's about to call it a night, drive home.
Lee had put together seven jobs, working with Lou Benton, for Dundee. The others had required time, planning, some financing for equipment, explosives, in one case a seventy-five foot fishing boat. All this one required was a drive to Commerce. A gift from heaven.
And now Nadine was waiting for them in the parking lot. She was not what Lee had expected. He'd thought old school, chews gum, smokes, has a tight ass. Probably forty. She was twenty-two, tattoos everywhere that showed. But she had an old school attitude.
"They're having a goodnight drink," she said. "I told them I had to take a leak. But what I have to do, get a ten thousand dollar deposit from you before I tell you who to take."
Lee hit her once, in the stomach. Right above the dragonfly tattoo at her navel. As she doubled up, he said, "Not the way we do things."
Her eyes went cold. She's been hit before, Lee thought. But she won't fuck with us. "Who won the game?" he asked her.
"Mr. Sung Roh." He'd knocked the wind out of her and she had to catch her breath.
"Eleven million and change."
Seaton whistled. Right there, he should have called it off, Lee thought. When the asshole whistled. "When's he coming out?" he asked Nadine.
The idea had been to take him down in the parking lot. "He's got a room?" Lee asked. She nodded.
"How do you know that?"
"He's giving me ten thousand to stay with him."
Seaton spat. "Double dipping bitch."
Nadine turned on him. "Fuck you." Then she turned quickly back to Lee. "And don't hit me again, but fuck him."
Lee said, "No, I'm with you on that one." He thought about it. "We'll give you an hour," he said. "What room?"
"623." She smiled. "And can you make it forty-five minutes. I don't want to do this guy any longer than I have to."
So they gave her forty-five minutes.
Lee and Trip went in separately, took separate elevators up to the sixth floor. When they were both outside the door, Lee kicked it in. This guy, Roh, was already passed out on the bed. Nadine was smoking a cigarette, watching cable.
Lee pistol-whipped Roh as he woke up, went for his pants. Trip grabbed the pants. And the 45 in the pants pocket, he grabbed that too. They dragged Roh to the room safe. He was cursing in Korean, calling Nadine something that didn't need translation. He looked at Lee. "Is she your wife? You're girlfriend? She's a low-life cunt."
"I don't really know her," Lee said.
Roh, smiled at Lee, at the other two guys. "I drew to an inside straight tonight. Can you believe that?"
"You're a lucky guy," Lee said. Then he hit him again and Roh opened the safe without any complaints.
And then Seaton shot Nadine in the head and, even as Trip was screaming at him, "Shit man, what the fuck!" he nailed him, a shot that ripped through his stomach and splattered intestines and half-digested food across the curtains behind him. He was fast, Seaton. By the time Lee had his gun turned on him, Seaton had his own weapon pointed at Lee's head.
Roh was still kneeling by the safe, trying to process what was going on around him.
"Get the money from the safe, kimchee," Seaton shouted. "And bring it over here to me." His eyes never left Lee's. "I'd heard about you," he said quietly. "I thought you were supposed to be a professional."
"We're not done yet," Lee said. Seaton gave a little snort at that. Then, for a long moment, the two men just stood there, watching each other, each one with his gun pointed right at the other man's head.
And then Sung Roh stood up, holding a great deal of money in his hands, and Seaton looked at him. But even as he turned his head, he realized that he'd made a mistake and, as Lee was firing, he kicked Roh into him. Lee's shot missed Seaton's head by a fraction of an inch.
Lee was not getting out of there with the money, that was obvious. Even as Seaton started to fire, he dove over the bed, through the bloody, shit-stained curtains, and out the balcony.
Glass shattered around him. He hit the metal arm of an outdoor chair with his forehead. He could hear people in the room next door, panicked by the sound of the shots. There would be security up there in minutes. If Seaton was going to run with the money, he would have to do it now. He didn't have time to come out and go gunfighters with Lee. Lee heard a shot. Seaton had killed Roh. Then he heard footsteps. Seaton running. In the distance there were sirens now.
He had read somewhere that Paul Newman never stayed in any hotel room above the sixth floor. If there was a fire and you had to jump, six floors was the limit. More than that and you were dead. But Paul Newman had never looked off a sixth floor balcony or he would have been asking for ground floor rooms. The parking lot was a long way down. Lee looked around for another way out.
The building was U-shaped, and Park's room was to one side of the base of the U. He could jump for another balcony, two floors down. From there, he could make it to an acacia tree above the lot. Shimmy down.
Motherfucker. This was going to hurt. Fuck that. Paul Newman was dead. Cancer would kick your ass as bad as any jump. Lee was not going back to prison. He was not going to die in a shootout with some hotel security loser, couldn't even make the Commerce police. He was going to find this prick, Seaton, kill him, and take his money. He jumped.
Paul Newman was right. Lee missed the balcony across the U, bounced off it, grabbed a limb of the tree to slow him down, and hit the cement with a miserable thud. He bit through his lip and his right knee would probably give him trouble for the rest of his life, but two minutes later, he had hailed a cab outside the Casino and was on his way back to Echo Park. Nothing broken but his balls.
Lee had a third floor apartment on Echo Park Boulevard north of Sunset. Quiet neighborhood; junkies, Central Americans, hipsters. You could come and go. No one noticed you.
Once he was home, he called Benton from a prepaid cell phone. He'd throw it away after the job was over. "Guy named Seaton took the money," he said when Benton answered. "He made a mess."
"I saw it on the news."
"Let Mr. Dundee know, I'll get the money."
"Of course you will," Benton said. "Take a look out your window."
Benton had double-parked on Echo Park. He was in a BMW convertible. Some guy driving. Benton in the back seat with an attractive young woman. Twenty, dark hair worn long and full. He had his arm around the young woman, his cell phone to his ear. "How long's it been since you saw your little girl?" he asked. "Four years, give or take?"
His free hand rested in the young woman's lap. He held a Browning 9mm loosely, the barrel resting against her crotch.
Lee hadn't seen his daughter in more than four years, Benton was right about that. Angie had her mother's looks, Eurasian, beautiful. There was a time, a long time, when there wasn't anything he wouldn't have done for Marina. And he'd done a lot. Robberies, cons, a couple of drug runs. He'd wanted to give her a good life. And he had, for what six, seven years? House up Beachwood Canyon, whatever clothes she wanted, steady stream of coke, Hawaii every winter. A fucking baby when she got it in her head she wanted to be a mother. But a woman like that will always want more than you can give her. A pay day loan heist went bad, civilians shot. The loan company offered a ten thousand dollar reward. Someone dropped a dime on him. Someone who wanted more than he could give her. Angie was a little less than two when he went to prison. Armed robbery and two counts of manslaughter. Thirty-two years. Did his time at Corcoran. It was a bad place. He kept out of everyone's way when he could. Never spoke to anyone unless they spoke to him. Shivved the first guy who tried to fuck him. He saw Charles Manson twice on the yard. Marina never once came to see him. He did fourteen years. Came up for parole twice, but the shivving cost him. The third time was the charm. The board voted him out. "After some early incidents, a model prisoner."
Two months before his parole was granted, he had his first visitor. His daughter, Angie. She was sixteen, drop dead beautiful. At first he thought Marina had decided to visit, but Marina'd be what, thirty-five and this girl was sixteen and better looking than Marina had ever been.
"You look good," he said.
"You look like shit."
They stared at each other. She seemed to be looking for something in his face. An answer.
"You gonna ask me about mom?"
"I wasn't planning on it."
"She burned you, didn't she?"
"It was a decent reward."
"She spent it on blow in about two months."
"You were two, how do you know this?"
"She drinks now, brags it off to whoever she's with."
"I dropped out of high school," she said.
"What are you planning on doing with your life?"
She shrugged. "Counselor I had in school, she said I was a 'nature versus nurture' issue. Said the way I was raised, single mom with addiction issues, father in prison. It was hard to know who I really was. Who I could have been."
She was looking at him, hard. "I guess," he said, "you could have been me."
"Okay," Benton said. "Here's how it's going to work. I know you want to get the money back, but a situation like this, it offers too many opportunities. You could be working with this Seaton, trying to screw Mr. Dundee. Or, maybe, Seaton did burn you. You find him, the temptation to keep the entire score, pretend Seaton was still among the missing, might be overwhelming. Responsibility is a burden, I understand that. Angie here is my guarantee you won't try to shirk yours."
Lee said, "If anything happens to Angie, I will kill you, Benton."
"Fuck you, Lee. Just go find the money." He nodded to the guy driving and the car took off with a squeal.
Lee sat there for a few minutes. His knee throbbed. He got up, got himself some Tylenol. Took four, put the bottle in his pocket. Then he went to his closet and got his gun, the Walther. He shoved all the extra clips into his pockets. It seemed like that sort of situation.
Twenty minutes later, he was pulling up outside his ex-wife Marina's house in North Hollywood. Shitty little street off of Vineland. Marina, he'd heard, had a new boyfriend. Mexican kid, half her age, ran some meth and fought dogs.
He'd never been there, but he recognized the Mustang he'd bought for Marina just before his arrest, sitting in the driveway. Eighteen year old car, badly in need of a paint job. The house looked as beat up as the car. Chain link fence, dead lawn, two pit bulls on chains snarling at him. Marina hadn't gotten much out of life. The lights were all out. Lee took out the Walther, opened the gate.
The dogs went nuts. Barking, snarling, pulling on their chains. The porch light came on and then a young Mexican guy in a wife-beater and boxers came out.
"Why are you fucking with my dogs?" he said. "Fuck do you want."
"It's okay, Diego," he heard Marina say from behind him. "He's my ex."
"That still don't give him the right to upset my dogs," the boy, Diego, said.
He went over to the dogs. He pulled on both their choke chains, up close behind their necks, and the dogs sat for him, snarling, but, for the moment, on hold.
"Can we talk somewhere quiet or do I have to shoot these mutts?" Lee asked her.
They went to the Starbucks on Magnolia and Lankershim. Two Starbucks in one night, Lee thought. What does that tell you?
"You ever talk to Jimmy Trousdale?" he asked as soon as they sat down.
"He comes around. Does a little business with Diego."
"When did he come around last?"
"I might have seen him last night."
"He look sick to you?"
"What the fuck, Lee?"
"Angie's in trouble."
"Fuck does that mean? 'In trouble.'"
"It means Jimmy Trousdale fucked me. Some people are angry about it. They're hanging onto Angie until I can make things right."
"So you should do that."
"Ever the caring mother."
"Hey, motherfucker. I've got my own life. She's a grown woman. And it sounds to me like you're the one, put her in the shit."
"This Diego. He strung out himself, or just shoveling shit to school children?"
"Why are we having this conversation, Lee?"
"Because I want you to tell me where I can find Jimmy Trousdale. You ever meet a friend of his named Seaton?"
"No. I don't know any Seaton. And for your information, Diego supports his entire family back home to Sinaloa every month."
"His wife and kids."
She didn't answer and that told him he'd hit it.
"He's trying to bring his son up here. He's got autism and what they do for that down there is pretty useless."
"What's his plan? Have the kid come live with you, fill him full of crystal? Straighten him out?"
"He takes better fucking care of me than you ever did."
"I'm happy for you, Marina. So, you don't know this guy, Seaton and unless Jimmy comes around to cop from Diego, you can't give me anything?"
"These guys. Are they the kind that might really hurt Angie?"
He looked at her, a flat, "what do you think" look.
She picked up her frappuccino. "Let me talk to Diego," she said. "I wish you hadn't threatened to shoot his dogs."
Lee dropped her off down the block from the house, went back to Starbucks to wait. She called him right after he sat down.
"Trousdale left for Pittsburgh this morning. He came over last night, like I said, copped from Diego. He said he was going home to Pittsburgh to see his mother. Said she was dying."
"Lot of that going around."
"Diego thinks this guy, Seaton, is staying in Encino. He lives with this girl named Aileen." She gave him an address up Balboa above Ventura. "And Lee, you should be careful. This Aileen, she's Israeli, you know, works for those people. Her pimp is Simon Klingman."
The house was one of those 1960s hillside things, redone in what valley realtors called a "Persian Conversion." Lot of gold paint and bad statues.
Lee parked below the house. You have to leave a place in a hurry, you don't want to have to run uphill.
The door was open. He took the Walther out again, went inside.
He smelled it right away. Shit and blood. The smell of fresh death. Seaton's body was on the couch in the living room. He'd been shot in the head. The couch and the rug were no longer white.
Lee moved quickly past the body. The living room opened onto a pool and he could see an office and den across the pool. He searched the house quickly and efficiently. There was no reason to think that his money would be there, but there was also no reason not to make sure.
He was tossing the bedroom when the cop walked in. A detective. Badge flapped to his jacket pocket. Gun out.
"You the one, made the mess in the living room?" he asked.
"I came up here to get laid. I'm a regular client of Simon's."
"That a fact? And how is Simon gonna feel, you're tossing his whore's bedroom, there's a dead john on the living room couch?"
"Aileen had a letter I wrote to her in a weak moment. I wanted to get it back."
Lee took a minute. "You're all by yourself," he said.
"I was on my way home when I got the call."
They stood there for a minute, each of them holding a gun. "What'd you come up here for?" Lee asked. "Your weekly cut from Simon?"
"How about I shoot you and there's two dead bodies in the house?"
"How about I walk out the door and we both forget we saw each other."
The detective looked at him for another moment. "What about that letter you wrote to Aileen?"
"You find it, maybe you could keep it for me."
"I'll do that." He looked hard at Lee. "I've changed my mind," he said.
Lee ducked and the cop's shot went over his head. Lee came up close to him and hit him in the side of the head with his own gun. The cop curled up in pain and Lee brought his knee into his groin, then kicked him in the head as he fell.
Then his cell phone rang. It was Benton.
"You have Mr. Dundee's money yet?" he asked.
"It's gotten a little complicated."
"Fix that," Benton said. "Or I take out my frustrations on your daughter here." He ended the call.
So there it was. Lee had an unconscious cop at his feet. The guy who had stolen his money was dead in the other room. A whore was missing. At least that told him that his money was still in Los Angeles, not in Pittsburgh or wherever Jimmy Trousdale had fucked off to. The cop would wake up soon. He could kill him, but the cop didn't know him, had no way of coming for him and a dead cop, even a bad one, made a lot more noise than he wanted to make. What he had to do was find the whore.
He left the house. Walked down the street to his car. He got in quickly. It was only when he put the key in the ignition that he realized that he wasn't alone. There was a small woman with black hair in the seat next to him. She wore a black turtleneck. A thick gold necklace, like strands of rope hung between her small breasts. Her mouth was open. From her nose to the top of her forehead, a bullet had torn an ugly hole.
"You must be Aileen," Lee said softly. Then he reached over, opened the passenger door, and kicked her body out into the street.
Marcy Pratchett liked the bar at the Applebees in Mar Vista. When she didn't answer her phone, Lee went there. She was in a booth, drinking Vodka and diet 7Up. She had some paperwork laid out on the table in front of her.
She looked up at Lee as he sat down, nodded to the paperwork. "How many hours of community service have you done in the last five years?" she read. "Do free blow jobs count?" She shook her head. "All I'm trying to do, take a few classes to finish my bachelor's. It's like I was trying to get into Harvard."
Lee had known Marcy for fifteen years. When he met her she was a working girl - single mom. She got tired of turning tricks with her eight year old son in the next room. She'd taken the book off one of her clients, an old guy who'd been part of the Jimmy Regace mob in the late 70s. He wanted to retire, and she bought him out, built his book up until now, you wanted to put down a bet without paying some assholes in the Bahamas their on-line fee, you came out to Applebees bar, saw Marcy. She was a woman who had always been able to look out for herself.
"I'm looking for a pimp," Lee said.
"Shit. You're still a good looking guy. I'll turn you out," Marcy said.
"This isn't good, is it?"
"I think he might have something of mine."
Marcy shook her head. "I don't get involved in that sort of thing," she said.
Lee nodded. "Thought I'd ask," he said. "How's your boy?"
"Twenty-five. Living over in Silver Lake. Wants to be an actor. Very depressing. You don't give a shit."
Lee shrugged. "Good to see you, Marcy," he said.
He waited in his car in the Applebee's parking lot for twenty minutes. When Marcy came out, got in her car, he followed her. If she smelled money in it, he thought Marcy would go looking for Simon, not put in a call.
She took the 405 to Sunset, headed towards the Strip. She met Simon in a Eurotrash bar at Sunset Plaza. It was that easy.
"Thanks, Marcy," he said, sliding into the booth just after she'd sat down.
"Motherfucker," she said. "I got to go, Simon. I'm sorry about this. I owe you."
She walked out of the bar quickly. Simon looked across the table at Lee and said, "Fuck."
"Pretty much," Lee said. By then he had his Walther out, under the table and stuck in Simon's crotch. "I want my money, Simon."
"I can see that," Simon said. "And I wish I could help you."
He was drunk. He looked as if he'd been drunk for a while, and underneath the liquor, he was scared.
"I went over to the house tonight, to see Aileen," he said. "We had a little business with a cop. I got stuck on the 405. I'm twenty minutes late. I come in, the cop has his dick in Aileen's mouth and he's pulling out his gun. I let myself out. You want your money, you want to talk to Detective Brand. Works out of North Hollywood." He looked across the table at Lee then. "You gonna shoot my dick off, do it now. Cause I've really got to to take a leak."
Lee called Benton from his car in the Sunset Plaza parking lot. "I'm on my way to get Mr. Dundee his money," he said. "I think I'm going to have to take out a cop."
"I'll let Mr. Dundee know," Benton said. "In the mean time, Angie and I will just have to keep on getting acquainted."
It was getting to him. He didn't know Angie for shit. He'd seen her once since she was two, so what the fuck was this all about? What did he care what Lou Benton did with this girl he didn't know?
Lee ended the call. He dialed the North Hollywood station next, asked for Detective Brand. When Brand took the call. Lee hung up and drove across Laurel Canyon to North Hollywood. He parked across Burbank Boulevard from the station. He called again. Asked for Brand.
This time, when the Detective answered, Lee asked, "How's your head?"
"Cocksucker. What do you want?"
"The money you took when you killed Aileen. And I'm gonna have to get my front seat reupholstered."
"That's what she said." Lee ended the call. Two minutes later, Brand came out, got in his car. Lee moved quickly across the Boulevard and into the parking lot.
Brand comes over to Aileen's. He's supposed to meet Simon. Collect his weekly blow job and pay off. He finds Aileen what? Counting the eleven million dollars she'd just killed Seaton for. He kills her, takes the money. The he sees Lee come in, gets a clever idea what he can do with Aileen's body. Make sure that, whoever this guy is, he'll have worries of his own. I should have gone back in the house, Lee thought. I should have seen he had the money, gone back in the house and beat it out of him. I should have killed him then.
Brand's a smart guy. He comes to in the house, knows he's still the one with the money. He wants to disappear smart. Finish his shift. Maybe do nothing for a couple of weeks. This is a lot of money. People will be looking for it. You want to keep to your profile.
That's what Lee told him, there in the parking lot of the North Hollywood Station. "You're a smart guy, Brand. A dumb bastard would have gone right to LAX. Too bad you're so smart."
Lee shot him in the stomach, his gun jammed up against Brand and not making a lot of noise. He shoved him behind the wheel of his car. Took his keys. His money was in the trunk in one of those "please recycle" bags from Ralphs. He grabbed a handful of bills, scattered them around Brand's body and walked back across Burbank Boulevard to his car. Two calls to Brand, after the second one, Brand leaves the station. A couple of minutes later he's dead in his car; it would look like a pay-off gone bad, which, if you thought about it, is exactly what it was. The whole thing, from the time he'd called Brand till he was back in his car and driving towards Laurel Canyon, took maybe four minutes.
Ten minutes after that, his cell phone rang.
"Lee," an unfamiliar voice said. "This is Harold Dundee. I'm flying in from Phoenix. Lou Benton tells me you've run into some complications. I hope you've been able to work things out."
"As a matter of fact," Lee said, looking down at the Ralph's bag on his front seat, "I have."
Dundee said that he'd be at the Marriott near the Burbank Airport in a couple of hours. The smart thing would be to get there first, wait in the lobby. Lee was turning around in a Chevron station to head out towards the airport when the car pulled up next to him. A Crown Vic. He had time to see Simon in the passenger seat. Simon was holding an Uzi.
Lee grabbed the bag full of money, pointed the car at the pumps, and rolled out the driver's door just as Simon started shooting.
The explosion threw him to the ground. His car must've hit the pumps even as the Uzi's bullets bounced off the cement and sparked. As he hit the ground, he heard a squeal of brakes, a car horn, the sounds of a collision.
He looked up from the concrete to see an East Indian guy running from the cashier's window with a gun in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Black smoke and flame poured from a hole where the row of pumps had been.
The Crown Vic had been blown out into Laurel Canyon by the explosion. It had been hit by a Dodge truck. Lee saw Simon crawling from the wreckage. The gun was in his hands and he was looking back through the explosion, looking for Lee.
When Lee tried to get to his feet an intense bolt of pain shot up his leg. He'd landed on the knee he'd trashed jumping off the hotel balcony. His pants were torn and he could see that his knee cap was floating off to the side, looking like a hockey puck about to slide down into his calf. He reached down, grabbed his knee cap and slid it back into place. The pain was impossible. He screamed until it tore at his throat. Sweat poured off his face.
He ripped a long strip from his already torn jeans and tied it tightly around his knee.
There was still a great deal of smoke and flame between him and Laurel Canyon, He rose to his feet and took off at a staggering, straight legged limp-run for the darkness of the side street.
He was just out of the driveway and starting down the street when the underground tanks blew. A Mexican family had come out into their driveway to see what was going on. He saw a young woman holding a baby shield the child's eyes from the explosion. A chunk of a car radiator landed at her feet, cracking the concrete. She said something in Spanish to the others in the driveway and ran inside.
It took him almost an hour to get to Marina's house. The dogs pulled the same shit. Barking, tugging on their chains. Diego pulled the same shit, too. "Why you bothering my dogs?"
Lee said that he needed to see Marina. Diego told him to fuck off, Marina wasn't home. Lee handed him ten thousand dollars that he'd taken from the bag. "I need to sit down for a while," he said.
Diego let him in. The house was immaculate. Marina had never so much as washed a dish the entire time they'd been together. Diego had to be the housekeeper. Methadrine and too much time. Diego was eying the bag and Lee had to show him his gun, tell him he'd kill him if he looked at the bag again.
Diego said he could go fuck himself. He had people he had to see. Lee could wait there for Marina. He made a big show of leaving the house, like he wanted Lee to hear the front door slam.
As soon as he was gone, Lee started making calls. He called the Applebees bar in Mar Vista and got the bartender to get Marcy for him. He told Marcy he just wanted her to know that he was all right. He was at his ex-wife's in North Hollywood, nothing to worry about and sorry he'd dragged her into all this.
Then he called the Burbank Marriott. Mr. Dundee had checked in. Lee asked for his room and when Dundee answered, he told him that he had been detained, but he'd be there as soon as he could.
His next call was to the North Hollywood Precinct. All he said, "The guy who blew up the gas station was the one who shot the cop in your parking lot. He's in North Hollywood. He gave them Marina's address."
Benton called him while he was on the phone with the police. "Hey, dad," he said. "I hear you talked to Dundee."
"You on your way to Burbank?" To let Lee know that he, Benton, was still in the mix.
"I've got one more thing to do first," Lee said.
"Take your time, dad," Benton said, "I'm having a blast with Angie."
Lee's knee hurt like fuck. A guy like Diego, strung out enough to clean house, he was sure to have something around, help take the edge off. Lee went into the bathroom, rummaged through a few drawers, found a scrip bottle full of vicodin. He took four with a beer he found in the refrigerator. He also found two pounds of ground chuck wrapped in wax paper. He took it into the living room and opened it on Marina's nice clean couch.
Then he went outside and unchained the dogs.
Simon got there first. Marcy must have called him as soon as Lee hung up. Lee had left the door unlocked. Simon, two guys he'd called for backup, they went in. The cops pulled up maybe two minutes later. Four cars. Surrounded the house.
Lee watched it all from the spot he'd found behind the garage. Little outdoor storage with access to the kitchen. He had both dogs held tight on their choke chains. They snarled, pulled a little. But he'd seen how Diego held them.
Lights swept over him. Diego and Marina, pulling into the driveway. As they got out of the Mustang, he could hear Diego say, "Dumb fuck is sitting there in our living room with a busted up knee and a bag full of money."
He let the dogs in through the kitchen just as Marina and Diego went in. He heard a shout, gun shots, barks and Marina screaming. He shot Diego in the head as he came out the back door. He saw that part of his hand had been torn off by one of the dogs.
He had to throw himself over a low brick wall to get into the neighbors' yard. The Vicodin was kicking in by then and it didn't hurt too badly. As he limped across this back yard, he saw two of the uniform cops in position behind a hedge. Kids, one of them a girl who didn't look any older than Angie. They both looked scared shitless. The last thing he heard as he limped his way back towards Lankershim was a cop on a bullhorn telling everyone to come out quietly. He wondered if any of them would.
He took the bus from Lankershim to the Burbank airport. It would have taken longer to wait for a cab and, a night like tonight, the less people you had anything to do with, the better. He'd taken too much vicodin, and he almost nodded past his stop. He drank two cups of burned coffee in the Marriott coffee shop and then called Mr. Dundee on the house phone. Dundee said for him to come up.
Dundee and Benton were both there, sitting on the couch, Benton flipping channels. He had a Browning on his lap. Same gun Lee had seen earlier that night, pointed at his daughter's crotch. The room was one of those mini-suites. The door to the bedroom was closed.
"Nice to put a face to the name," Dundee said, standing, offering his hand. He was a tall man, fifty, athletic. Guy who swam, maybe lifted a little.
Lee took his hand. He looked at Benton and said, "Where's my daughter?"
Dundee said, "What's all this about his daughter?" Benton shrugged and shot him in the face. Lee was still holding his hand as it tightened then went limp.
Benton turned his gun on Lee and said, "What we thought at first, Angie and me, was that Seaton could pull this off. Once he dropped the ball, we had to come up with a plan B if we were going to get all Mr. Dundee's money. You were our plan B." He smiled. "I guess you'll want to give that bag to me."
Lee said, "Where's my little girl?"
"Maybe you didn't hear what I said, dad. Your little girl fucked you. It was her. She came to me with this plan. Now give me the fucking bag."
"Where is she?"
There was another gunshot and a bright red hole opened up in Benton's chest.
"I'm right here, daddy," Angie said.
She was standing in the bedroom doorway. She held a Smith and Wesson 45. She looked down at Benton with contempt. "Where he lost me," she said, "was when he told me he loved me. He actually cried." She looked up at Lee.
"You didn't see this part coming, did you?"
He shook his head.
"You've been thinking about this for a long time," he said, finally.
"Since the day I came to see you in Corcoran," she said.
"Why didn't you let Benton kill me?"
She thought about that for a long moment. "Blood, I guess," she said, finally. He could see that she didn't really have any other answer.
Lee took a minute. She had her mother's face, yes, but she had his eyes. "It was good to see you again, honey," he said. Then he set the Ralph's bag down on the couch. He didn't turn around, but he was pretty sure she kept her gun pointed on him until he'd closed the door behind him.