John Zen, PI Chapter 4

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John stood there and watched her go through the ornate train station doors. He saw her stop at the first pay phone and drop a dime in the slot.

“Well. That about does it. At least for now.” John said aloud.

He got back into his car and drove over to his downtown L.A. office thinking of Brenda May as he drove. It wasn’t much of an office building just three floors of walk ups with his office being on the second floor. He parked out front and made his way up the used worn stairs. Reaching his floor he turned right and walked over to the second door on his left. It was closed. Thinking that it was funny because Vivian should still be there. It wasn’t that late and she liked having the door open. Vivian, didn’t like surprises either. The door was locked.

Zen found the key and slipped it into the lock. With his other hand he pulled out his .45. Opening the door he saw a note taped to the chair facing Vivian’s desk. He closed the door but kept the gun in his hand. The note was from Vivian, saying she had left early to help her mother do a few things that couldn’t wait for the weekend. Besides, she pointed out, it wasn’t like the world was pounding down the door for John Zen’s services. Always a kidder Zen thought with a smile. He holstered his gun and sat at his desk.

Picking up his phone he called Chief of Detectives Don Ray out in Ontario. The chief answered on the second ring.

“Chief Ray.”

“Don, Zen, here. I just wanted to let you know that I helped, Brenda May, skip town.”

‘”Okay. But why bother?”

“She was leaving anyway and I think someone thinks she knows something about what’s going on with the mob out there and maybe elsewhere.”

“I see. Maybe I should have had a talk with her. You could have swung by here on your way out of town.”

“Yeah, I know. Maybe. Though I doubt she would have said a word to you about anything.”

“Yeah, probably.” The detective sighed.

“She did mention the fact that Amos seemed to be like a go between the Italians and possibly some Jewish mobsters. I figure the hoods she saw with some Italians to be Jews from back east.”

“You may be on to something there, Zen. That would more or less give us something solid on the racing wire deal. The Jewish mobsters have had that action for years.”

“Just letting you know, my friend.”

“Thanks for the info, I’ll see what I can do with it. Are you still in town? Maybe we can have dinner at the Iron Skillet or Sam’s place this evening.”

“No, Don, sorry. I’m back in L.A. for the night. I have to see a man here in the morning about something that might shed a lot more light on the situation.”

“Alright then. Thanks for calling and keep me posted. See you when you get back here.”

After hanging up Zen leaned back and stretched out in his gnarled wooden office chair. He lit a fresh Pall Mall and let the rich smoke do it’s job as it swirled about his head in the still office air. Shafts of light coming through the venetian blinds sent sharp crisp black and white images through the smoke. He sat thinking and hoping that Brenda May was, by this time, safe and out of harms way from any of the violence that seemed to be coming down the pike. Violence, that Zen knew wasn’t over by a long shot. As he sat smoking and watching the smoke drift through the shafts of light, he replayed that turn she made as well as the sweet smile of hers at the station. Not to mention the peck on the neck. They were making him wonder if, well, just wonder. Life had it’s funny little ways of throwing stuff at you when you least expected it. Throwing stuff at you like a very attractive dark haired lady who made your heart skip a beat.

John Zen had spent the evening in the Pacific Dining Car enjoying a large steak and a bottle of red wine. It was one of his vices. He loved the dining car and it reminded him of the simple diner out in the vineyards of Cucamonga. The only difference being the Pacific Dinning Car was more gentrified and sedate. That, and of course, the price of a meal was considerably more in the downtown eatery. He missed having Vivian at his side during the evenings splurge. She was generally his “date” for those pricey dinners but not last night. His date for the evening were his thoughts of Brenda May and that lovely dark haired smile. After dinner the mellow ride to his apartment seemed as if he was driving one of those lighter than air blimps. He felt good. He felt things were coming together and just maybe other things as well. Sleep came easy for Zen that night. An almost dreamless night of little tossing and turning. A deep sleep of the kind he had not had in many years.

The alarm woke John 7am. He took a hot shower and fixed a pot of coffee. Reading the paper he noticed that an unidentified body of a young man had been found out in Ontario. Chief of Detectives, Don Ray, figured it was some sort of mob hit. The yet to be identified young man had been carrying a large amount of cash in a grease stained paper bag. The bag had been found stuffed under the spare tire of the car the young man had been driving. Whoever had killed the man had not found the cash, for whatever reasons. It seemed to Zen that the mob was in some sort of turmoil and the Inland Empire was taking the brunt of the action so far. He hoped his talk later that morning with Ben Morris would shed some much needed light on the whole affair. Bacon and eggs rounded out his morning at home.

At 9am he drove over to Main and Flower St, near the bar of his friend, Ben Morris. “Hannigan’s” was a neighborhood bar of sorts though at times it catered to a more underworld clientele. At that hour of the morning there weren’t many street parking spots left so Zen had to park in a garage and walk half a block to Ben’s bar. He knocked quietly on the door. It was opened by the owner himself. They shook hands then sat at the bar. Ben opened a bottle of scotch and poured each of them a shot. He left the bottle between them.

“I know it’s early but with what I have to tell you I think we’ll both need this.”

The two men hoisted their glass, clinked them together while saying, salute, in the Italian manner.

Zen sat sipping his drink. He hadn’t said more than a greeting to Ben and he was just waiting for his friend to deliver his news in his own time and way. After a bit, Ben spoke.

“John, you’ve really stumbled on to something here. The Italians and Jews are working on something very big out in Las Vegas. The Jew’s guy out here for this one is, Bugsy Seigel. Of course, Dragna, is the the Italian’s guy. Seigel, has carved up some turf of his own in the county area here in L.A. his keeper of that turf is, Mickey Cohen.” Ben paused to sip his scotch. “Jack Dragna isn’t taking kindly to any of this. Eh, you can’t blame him, I guess. He feels slighted. Bugsy is also building a big hotel and casino out in Vegas. You probably heard about it. There’s been some trouble with money and just about everything else that can go wrong with any big construction project.” Ben poured each of them another shot then continued. “It seems that your man, Amos Fly, was the prime contractor for Bugsy’s hotel. He was the main man subbing out all the work that needed to be done. The dumb shit got himself involved with some local Vegas politician’s wife. The local pol was not amused. So Amos took him for a ride out to ZZYX Road, capped him, then planted him there. The fucking mob went ballistic. Bugsy even more so. The little ginch, Amos, thought he was okay. But, as we know, he wasn’t. Bugsy was also thinking that Amos had something to do with all his hotel troubles there in Vegas. With all that Vegas trouble, word is, it was Bugsy who sliced Amos up. The mob sanctioned it. It was to be a very loud warning for anybody else who thought they could do as they please in Vegas. Of course, there’s been some ancillary hits as well. You probably saw the one in the paper this morning. Just some kid out in Ontario who did some bag work for one of Dragna’s crews out that way. Tommy…something or another. Anyways, things aren’t good here in L.A. with the outfit back east stepping into Jack’s turf. There’s been some other hits too. Stuff no one has stumbled on yet.”

This was more than enough information to keep John Zen busy for a very long time. Blockbuster information he couldn’t really tell anyone else. Not even the cops. Ben was his friend and only a few people knew what was really going on. If things got out in any way, more heads would roll. At some point, Ben’s if things did get out. Zen finished his drink. Thanked his friend and walked out into the cool morning sunlight.

After his meeting with Ben, John, drove back to his office for a talk with Vivian. His was mind a sea of thoughts that kept tossing him one way and then another. The air was clean and clear in the cool windless December morning. Maybe some rain was coming today or tomorrow to wash away the grit left by the winds. Zen was lucky enough to find a parking spot in front of his building. The second floor office window was open. Vivian was at work. The open window to allow the cool clean morning air inside. As he climbed the stairs he wished he’d had a nickel for each time he had walked to the second floor. By now, he would at least have enough money for a new car or a race horse at Santa Anita. He smiled at the thought. Reaching the second floor landing he saw that the door was open. All was well, or at least it was in this little part of the world.

“Hey, sweetie.”

He said, as he came through the door. Vivian, jumped to her feet, bounced around the desk, and almost knocked him over as she hugged him.

“Oh, my God, Zen. It’s so good to see you.”

They stood in the center of office hugging for a moment or two. Zen made the first move to unwind.

“You look good, sis. How’s business?”

“Ha. We have no business, John. Just this mess with Brenda May that I’ve gotten you into and it doesn’t even pay.”

“Yes, well, then things are pretty much normal around here.” John was smiling as he spoke the words.

They sat at Zen’s desk and he brought Vivian up to speed on all of the developments. Including Ben’s chat, as she was completely trust worthy.

“Vivian, I think I need to find Brenda May. Do you have any idea at all who she may have been calling when I left her at the station?”

“Not really John but you should never have left her alone.”

“Yes, I know that now but she’s an adult and it seemed like she would be okay at the time. Hell, she might even be okay right now for all we know.'”

As they sat there mired in their own thoughts the phone rang.

“John Zen, PI”, answered Vivian.

“Brenda, we were just talking about you. Are you safe? Where are you?” John took the phone from Vivian’s hand.

“Brenda, this is John. I think you’re in danger of becoming a head line in tomorrow mornings papers. Where are you? Who are you with?”

“Oh, John, thanks for your concern and your help yesterday too. You’re very kind and sweet. I’m safe and well. I’m staying at a doctor’s place over in the eastern part of the city. I’m fine. The doctor has helped me out before. We go way back. It’s okay.”

John sighed, then spoke again. “Brenda, I’d feel a whole lot better about this if you were staying with Vivian. I’ve learned some things and unless I’m mistaken someone is or will be looking for you very soon. You are in more danger than you know. It’s all because of Amos Fly. You knew him and got to close to him.”

“But John I told you I don’t know anything.”

“Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t. The fact is, just by having been around that Fly character puts you in danger. Serious mob danger.”

“I…I…don’t…I…” stammered Brenda.

Very calmly John said, “Where are you Brenda. Please, tell me. I’ll come right over and get you. You’ll be safer with us. Trust me.”

“I’m staying with, Dr. Leslie Cee, his home is on Norton Ave. 124 is the address.”

“Okay. Fine. I know the area. I’m coming right over. Get your things together.”

Zen hung up the phone and turned to Vivian.

“Sweetie, lock up and go home. I’m picking Brenda up and i’ll bring her to your place as soon as I can.”

“Sure John I understand.”

Zen ran from the office, down the stairs and out to his coupe. Barely observing traffic laws Zen made fairly good time driving to the Norton Ave address. The Norton Ave area was in transition and still reeling from the effects of the Second World War and the Korean War. Parts of the residential area were just streets, curbs, and gutters with a large number of weeds where the houses should have been. For some reason the area had not caught up with the rest of the southern California post war boom times. It was a desolate place in the blooming City of Lost Angels.

Zen found the address of the Dr. Cee home and slammed the car into the curb in what almost passed for a parking maneuver. He rushed to the front door and rapped his knuckles on it. There was no answer. He slammed the palms of both hands on the door. Still no response. He tried the door knob. The door was locked. Looking at the door jam he decided to break in. Rushing back to the coupe he pulled a large screwdriver from the trunk. Using the screwdriver he was able to pop the front door open. Gun out he moved slowly into the house. Obviously the home was empty. The sound of pounding and the door being jimmied should have roused anyone inside. Unless they were hiding. Zen very carefully checked out the house. He didn’t find anyone but he had one more room to check.

The door was closed. He paused, then just kicked the flimsy door open. Inside on the bed was a partially packed suitcase. It was the same suitcase Brenda May had packed and taken with her on the trip from Ontario. Zen called out her name. He called again. Realizing she was gone, along the doctor, he looked more closely at the house. There were a few pieces of a womens clothing on the bedroom floor. As for the rest of the home there was no sign of a struggle or violence. Nothing. Using his handkerchief he picked up the phone and called Vivian. She was already at her apartment and answered on the first ring. Zen told her where he was and that Brenda May was gone, as well as her doctor friend. He told Vivian he would sit and wait to see if anyone showed up. John read the number on the phone to his secretary.

Zen sat on the sofa and lit a smoke. He was confused. It was apparent that Brenda May had started to pack. She had been stopped or been interrupted, then disappeared. Was Dr. Leslie Cee involved somehow in the whole affair? Did he have some mob connections? As John sat smoking he realized he hadn’t looked into the home’s detached garage. Getting up he went through the kitchen and out into the backyard. The garage stood 20 feet from the house. The big car door was closed and there was a large padlock on the hinge. The locked side door was another matter. Once again the large screwdriver made simple work of opening the locked door. The garage was empty but looked as if it was being used as a workshop or something. The daylight streaming through the open door was not enough light for Zen to really see what was going on. He found the light switch by the door and flicked on the lights.

The garage was being used as some sort of operating theatre. Numerous medical instruments lined the walls. There was a surgical light that hung from the ceiling with a medical exam table underneath it. Stirrups hung from one end of the table. Dr. Leslie Cee, appeared to be a doctor who did abortions at home. It became clear why, Brenda May, had said she and the doctor were friends and that he had helped her out before. Brenda May had on at least one occasion used the services of Dr. Cee and his home office. Carefully checking the office he found nothing of any use. No records of any sort or any other clue that might help him find the missing Brenda May. A while later standing outside the garage and smoking in the cool sunlight Zen heard the telephone ringing inside the house.

jmh

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