The police vehicles surrounding the Monte Carlo had caused such a massive traffic snarl that I had little to fear at this time from A.J., whose car was stuck at least two blocks behind mine. Moreover, obstacles such as trees and a Metro bus shelter prevented him from copying my desperate act of driving on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, I kept a vigilant watch in the rear-view mirrors.
Finally turning the corner onto International Boulevard, I noticed the Monte Carlo's wire wheels, which caused a shudder of recognition as I relived the terror of the drive-by shooting outside Laverne's apartment. Then I wondered why a blue tarp covered the driver's side of the car - until the sight of the Medical Examiner's van answered my question. I obtained grim satisfaction from that, tinged with guilt because I was glad he was dead.
The moment my car cleared the long line of emergency vehicles, I floored the accelerator and wasted no time in covering the last half-mile to the Hilton. While parked behind four cars that were waiting for valet service at the hotel's front entrance, I frantically shoved the shotgun back inside the duffel bag, which I then I tossed into the trunk.
When I got to the front of the line, the middle-aged parking valet looked askance at my 1969 Camero with its spiderweb of cracks in the windshield. Getting behind the wheel, he looked through the windshield - or attempted to - and observed, “You must have a hard time seeing anything at night.”
Slightly embarrassed, I muttered, “Had a little accident just now.” I took out my wallet and asked, “Say, do you know Tina at the front desk?”
His eyes said “yes” but his reply was a non-committal hemming-and-hawing: “Ahhh, well, you know. I'm not supposed to give-out information about the staff or our guests.”
I handed him a 20-dollar bill and said, “That's okay - I'm not looking for information. Would you just let her know if you see a green, late-model BMW pull up? That'll be her crazy ex-boyfriend, and she wants nothing to do with him anymore. He's about 35, black - ”
“Oh yeah, I think I know the guy you're talking about. Do you mean A.J.?” Astonished by his reply, I nodded vigorously and slipped him another 20. His mood brightening, he said with a sly wink, “Unlike yourself, he's a real lousy tipper. I'll call the desk if I see him.” Entering the clinically sterile lobby, I idly wondered how often A.J. had come here in the past, being that the valet had recalled him so readily.
Seeing the weekend hustle and bustle of the lobby, I came to the conclusion that Tina was as safe here as most anywhere else. When I got to the front desk, Tina looked me over and said, “You look like hell, Herc. What happened to your homely face? Did Angie claw you or somethin'?”
Not wanting to distract her from her hectic job, I merely replied, “No, it's nothing, really. Hey, I told one of the valets to let you know if A.J. shows up here.”
“We already got it covered, Herc. Hotel security'll call the cops if they see 'is ass.”
“Great - then I just paid that parking lot scammer 40 bucks for basically nothing. So, how much is this luxurious penthouse suite gonna set me back?”
Abruptly shifting to her smoothly officious mode, she replied, “Sir, since you don't have a reservation, I'm afraid the penthouse suites are unavailable tonight. However, we do have a nice room on the 10th-floor, with a spectacular view of the Sea-Tac control tower - 179-dollars, double occupancy.”
I flopped a credit card down on the counter and grumbled, “Now I know we'll only be staying here for one night.”
“Live a little for a change, Herc.”
“After all the shit that went down today, I'm glad to be living period.
Angie, who had been caught in the same traffic jam as I, then came into the lobby. She and I then went up to our room. After getting off the crowded elevator, I told her what had just happened to me. “A.J. just tried to kill me, Angie - on the way here.” Now all the built-up fear and stress began pouring out, making my hands and knees tremble all over again as I fumbled with the room key. “Today's been fucking nuts - I wish we were a thousand miles away from here!”
Right after entering the room, I dropped to the bed in exhaustion. Rubbing my closed eyes, I then felt Angie cuddle-up next to me. “Denny, you're shaking.” She put an arm around my chest. “It's okay honey, everything will work out - it always does.”
“I tried to do the right thing for once in my life, Angie, and look what happened. That little girl could die, thanks to me,“ I groaned.
She hugged me tighter. “Come on, Denny, you know it's not your fault.”
“I was so naïve, going to the cops. I should have known better, considering how they let this area turn into a fucking hell hole since we moved here. Have you watched the news or read the paper lately? From what I've seen, the Sheriff's Department is the biggest criminal gang in the county.”
“Do you think that vice cop told A.J. that you gave him information?”
“Jameson? I thought he did, at first. But it could just as well have been a civilian employee in the department with ties to A.J.'s gang - a file clerk, secretary, whoever.”
“You mean, like, a girlfriend or relative?”
Drowsily I replied, “Yeah.” The radiating warmth of Angie's petit body was very comforting and reassuring, so with a sigh, I immediately dropped-off to sleep. About an hour later, the explosive brrrapp! rat-a-tat-tat! of automatic-weapons fire awakened me with an adrenaline-charged jolt. “What the fuck!” But it was merely the movie Rambo: First Blood Part Two on television, at full volume.
“Oh, Den, I'm sorry! I just turned it on - I didn't realize it would be so loud.”
I stretched my arms and said with a yawn, “That's all right - I feel a lot better now.” I then walked out onto the balcony for a minute for some fresh air. Going back inside, I stopped short, staring at the room and its contents in disbelief.
After about 30 seconds of my standing unblinkingly like a statue, Angie sat up in bed and asked, “Is there anything wrong, Den?”
“No, I'm just admiring the place - nice, huh.”
She reclined again and said, “Hell yes. And I love this giant bed, like floating on a cloud.”
Viewing the room from this angle, I was struck by the fact that it looked much like the one where A.J. had made the sex tape with Marta and two other underage girls, right down to the framed lithographed watercolor of Mount Fuji. Of course, it probably wasn't the exact room. It chilled me to consider the possibility that Tina had been on duty when A.J. had somehow smuggled the three girls upstairs. The tall, willowy, sophisticated Marta could effortlessly pass for 21, thus she might have accompanied the other two girls in the hotel without drawing undue attention from the busy staff or from the hundreds of guests. Although his turning a hotel room into an impromptu child porn studio was very risky, legally speaking, utilizing any other location (such as an apartment) would have been just as risky, or nearly so. Whichever way you slice it, sexual predators are not known for having a brilliant decision-making ability.
As Rambo machine-gunned another dozen Vietnamese soldiers, I grabbed the TV remote, muttering, “I'm not really in the mood for this right now.” I clicked through the channels until my attention was seized by a reporter standing in front of a multitude of flashing red and blue lights. An on-screen graphic read: Live from Sea-Tac. I exclaimed, “Angie, look! This is about that car they pulled-over right down the street. They might even be the same scumbags who shot that girl and destroyed our fucking house!”
The reporter was saying: “...I'm standing at the intersection of South 188th Street and International Boulevard, where a suspect in this afternoon's shooting of an 8-year old girl was allegedly shot and killed by Prince County deputies during a traffic stop. The Sheriff's Public Affairs Officer is here with me - Sergeant Flaherty, were any weapons fired by the suspect, or found in the car?”
Flaherty relied, “Yes, deputies discovered an Uzi-type weapon with a 30-round clip on the front seat.”
“Is there evidence that the suspect fired at police officers?”
“That information is being withheld pending the completion of the crime scene investigators' report.”
“How many officers were involved?”
“There were two officers who discharged their weapons. As of now, they both have been placed on administrative leave.”
While watching the rest of the largely uninformative interview, I thought again about the question I had first asked myself two hours ago: did the sheriff's deputies kill the guy in order to silence him? Since he had royally fucked-up by shooting a child, he was now expendable - or so I imagined. One thing was certain: if he had possessed first-hand knowledge about corruption in the Sheriff's Office, he conveniently was no longer in a position to trade that information in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop