Zen went inside the home and picked up the ringing phone. John heard his friend Chief of Detectives, Don Ray, ask if it was Zen on the line.
“I’ve been calling the office and your home with no luck. I called the phone company to get Vivian’s home number. She gave me this number. What gives?”
“Brenda May. She called the office and I convinced her to come and stay with Vivian where she would be safer. I came over here to pick her up. When I got here the place was empty and all I found was her half packed suitcase. She’s gone.”
“Well, that fits. One of my detectives just spotted someone who looked like Brenda going through Ontario in a car with two men. One of them looked like the the Jewish mobster rumored to to be working on the racing wire out here.”
“Bugsy Seigel”, muttered Zen.
“Who? What? Anyway, my man tailed them for a bit but lost the car up by Chaffey High School. The kids were let out early today and he got stuck at Fourth St. with all of them crossing Euclid en mass.”
“Okay. Okay. Sounds like I had better get back out to Ontario. What was the make of the car? Did the detective get a plate number?’
“No plate number just the new car paper stuff. The car is a dark blue Ford sedan with wide whitewalls. That’s all we have right now. I’ll put everyone out looking for them.”
“Good. I’ll see you or call you as soon as I get back to Ontario.”
Zen called Vivian and gave her the news. He told her he was heading back out to Ontario. John also told her to stay by the phone in case Brenda May should call. Zen said he had a funny feeling about this development. As he hung up the phone his heart skipped another beat.
Life and the dark dismal way things are dealt to you is just like a game, he thought. When you least expect something that’s when it happens. John Zen knew his heart was telling him what it already knew. As odd as it may seem he was falling in love with Brenda May. He just hoped she would be around to hear him tell her that one day.
As Zen drove east to Ontario the skies darkened with the onset of an early December evening and an approaching winter storm. Dark black clouds blown in from the Pacific, by a strong west wind, slammed up against the San Gabriel mountains. The dark moisture rich clouds were being pushed down low into the foothills. John knew by looking at the San Gabriels and the low clouds this was going to be a cold winter storm with lots of snow, even at the lower elevations. With the advent of the coming rain he pushed the accelerator of the coupe closer to floor as he drove into and then out of the clouds that lingered at the top of Kellogg hill. As he dropped into the Pomona valley a light rain began to fall.
By then time he reached Ontario a steady cold rain was falling in the early darkness. He made his way south to the Ontario Police Department in order to have a talk with his friend Don Ray. The two men met in the chief’s office over hot coffee and sandwiches. Don told Zen that the car with Brenda May had disappeared. It hadn’t been spotted again in Ontario since early that afternoon. The chief also said that he had asked the Upland police to be on the look out for the sedan as well and the San Bernardino County Sheriff, who handled the Cucamonga area. As yet, no one had reported seeing the car.
After the simple meal and chat Zen decided to venture out in the rain on his own to search for Brenda May. He made a bee line for the old stone winery out in Cucamonga. Padre Winery, where Brenda May had first met Amos Fly. John knew it was a long shot but it was all he had and he couldn’t just sit there and wait for things to happen.
The rain made for an interesting drive out to the vineyards of Cucamonga. Most of the north and south streets in the area became the flood control system during rain storms. Pushing his way across those flooded north/south streets he finally made his way to Archibald Ave where he turned north. Driving a bit too fast for the weather he had a rooster tail trailing his coupe. The wiper blades were having a hard time keeping up with the rain as he turned right on 8th St and drove slowly out to the old Padre Winery. Zen knew in his heart that the whole trip was futile and in the end that proved to be correct. He slowly drove past the closed and locked front gate. There was no light coming from inside the stone building. Sighing, he lit a smoke, turned around, and stopped a bit further down the road to the west. He sat there smoking and waiting for something or anything to happen inside the dark winery.
After an hour or so of chain smoking he realized his wait was fruitless and he made the sodden drive back to his temporary home in south Ontario. When he pulled into the old Hobbs place he noticed Sam wasn’t at home. A busy night for the restaurant, Zen thought. While he unwound himself from the front seat of his coupe a flash of lightning lit the dark evening sky revealing the the stark dormant fig tree at the center of the courtyard. Zen quickly made it to the guest house and unlocked the door before the next pounding rain hit. After calling Vivian he took a hot shower and fell into bed. The lightning was still flashing as Zen finally drifted off to a restless dreamless sleep.
The rain was stopping as the phone next to Zen’s bed began ringing. He rolled over and glanced at the clock. It was another early wake up call, 5:30am. On the fourth ring, he answered.
“Okay. Yeah. Zen, here.”
“John, it’s Don. We have another body out at cement mountain. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it’s Brenda May. You’d better make it out here pronto.”
“Yes, of course. I’m on my way.”
At first John couldn’t believe what he had just heard. It couldn’t possibly be Brenda May. But he knew his friend wouldn’t make such a mistake. Zen’s heart sank to the floor then bounced back up into his throat and stayed there. He quickly dressed then sped off to the nightmare that waited. The the drive to cement mountain was like deja vu, all over again. Everything a blur up to the point of entering the cement pit. The coroner’s van was just moments ahead of him. His friend, Don Ray, was standing near a body under a blue plastic tarp.
Zen stopped the car and just sat. Finally he lit a smoke then walked over to what waited for him under that wet blue tarp..
“I guess. Let me see her, Don.”
“John, it’s like the other. Maybe worse. It isn’t a pretty sight. Not much blood because of the rain.”
“Fine. Let’s get it over with.”
His friend lifted the plastic tarp and the dissected body of Brenda May was there on the ground before him. Her face cut up and disfigured into a leering smiling cartoon face. John turned away and saw only red. A true living nightmare if there ever was one.
The Ontario cop spoke, “The nightwatchman was surprised by someone at around midnight. He got cold cocked pretty good. When he finally came around it was about 4am. He saw the body and called us. We don’t have anything other than what you just saw.”
While he was talking a uniformed cop walked up to them. “Chief, the Cucamonga Sheriff is saying one of their patrol cars spotted the dark blue sedan sometime around 2am on Route 66 heading west with one lone passenger, a white male. No stop was made because the patrol car received a radio call concerning a very nasty traffic accident at about the same time. They’ve been busy with that accident and just relayed the info to us.”
“Did they get a look at him?”
“Yes, sir. A good looking guy, maybe in his late 40’s. Well dressed.”
Upon hearing that John Zen turned and ran through the sloppy ground back to his coupe. Don Ray caught up with him and grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Hold on John. Where are you going?”
Zen shook off his friend’s hand and said, “I’m going to get that fucker.”
“John, wait a minute. What are you talking about? You just can’t go off half cocked like this.”
John Zen already had the car in gear and moving while the chief was still talking.
Great blasts of red clouded his vision. Inside his chest his heart was beating like a sledge hammer. It was hard for him to see the road. Let alone drive. As he was passing a gas station, he some how noticed a phone booth. He quickly turned in and made a call to Ben Morris. John told Ben what was happening and what he needed from him. The only thing Ben said was, Okay, and that he would meet John at the bar in an hour. After his conversation with Ben, John was much calmer. Resolve had set in. Cold clear resolve along with a big dose of revenge simmered in his broken heart.
An hour later he was parked in front of Hannigan’s. The lights were on so he knew Ben was waiting. Lighting a smoke he walked to the door and knocked. Ben opened the door and pulled John inside. Then he spoke in a rush.
“Yeah, Zen. It was Bugsy, again. He’s gone off the deep end with all his Vegas troubles and Italian mob problems. So, as a result he’s gone even more crazy than his nickname. He’s out of control. Dragna wants him dead. So does Chicago. Some of Dragna’s boys will be here soon looking for the same thing you are. I can’t say no to Dragna. If you are going to do this, do it now.”
With that Ben reached behind the bar and pulled out an M-1 rifle with an 8 round magazine plus one more .30 caliber round. Ben made sure the weapon was clear then he handed the rifle and ammo to John and said.
“Dragna’s guys know where to go. You have to hurry.” As he spoke he handed Zen a folded piece of paper. 810 LINDEN WY, BEVERLY HILLS, was printed on it. Zen read the note and smiled as he shook Ben’s hand. Putting the rifle under his coat and the ammo in his front pocket he left the bar and made the drive into Beverly Hills.
Linden was a residential neighborhood in the low hills above Sunset Blvd. 810 was fairly easy to find. He parked a few houses away and loaded the rifle. The 8 round mag and the one extra round in the pipe. 9 shots in all. More than enough to do what needed to be done. Zen knew the mob was right behind him but he didn’t know how far back they were. He had to hurry but not rush things or things would turn to shit in a big way.
John Zen walked quickly down the deserted sidewalk and slipped between two houses, 810 and 814. He found a spot in the bushes where he could see the living room of 810. Time was short. John needed a break and as if answering his silent plea, Bugsy Seigel, wearing a gaudy smoking jacket over his clothes, walked into the room with a newspaper and sat on the couch. As he raised the paper to read it 9 quick shots rang out. One round found Bugsy Seigel’s left eye and removed a portion of his skull. 5 other rounds found their mark as well. Bugsy Seigel was dead.
Moving more quickly and furtively than before John made his way back to the coupe unseen by any of the residents of Linden Wy. He stashed the rifle under the front seat and started the car. Zen was halfway down the block when he passed a sedan coming slowly the other way. There were 3 men inside, obviously Italian, and obviously looking at the addresses on the houses. Dragna’s men. He smiled and thought, just a few minutes too late, boys. As John Zen turned onto the street of dreams, Sunset Blvd, police sirens from several directions cut through the cool clean December morning air.
copyright 2011 by John Hauge
I know i’ve played fast and loose with some historical aspects of this story. Also some of the geographical stuff as well. I guess that’s why they call it fiction. I hope you enjoyed the story anyway.