I drove away still trying to process Striker's sudden change of attitude with me. I think he resented the fact that Harrigan and I were old friends, but he had always known that. But when he found out I knew Milton Dunn he got doubly hostile.
I filed it in the back of my mind under pending as I drove out to the Sunshine Cab Co. on Whittier Boulevard. I knew now, assuming that Milton didn't actually kill Paige Turner, that I had to do all I could to clear his name.
But that started with finding the little weasel...
Striker looked at Harrigan, "How does he even know about this case?"
"He's old friends with Milton Dunn," Harrigan said.
Something changed in Striker's eyes. He didn't like me to begin with, but I generally seemed to be nothing more than a nuisance to him. Now, he looked at me like I was a threat. It was weird.
"Harrigan," I said, "I'll let you know when something turns up."
"Randolph!" Striker said forcefully. "If I find out you're withholding information I'll nail your ass to the wall, you understand?"
"Striker," I grinned, "I don't think your hammer is big enough."
We pulled up in front of City Hall to find Striker leaning against the car. Harrigan got out and approached him.
"Well," Striker said, "I finished the work. We can get back to the Turner murder now."
"Sorry, Shawn," Harrigan said. "We were checking out a lead."
"Mmhmm," Striker said, "and when did Randolph here get on the city's payroll?"
"Just call me an informant," I said across the top of the car.
"And just what was it you informed, Randolph?"
"Thought I might know where Milton Dunn was but it turned out to be a blind alley, ya know?"
We drove to City Hall mostly in silence. Before we got there Harrigan asked me, "Randolph, do you really think I'm unfair? That I don't play by the book?"
I shook my head, "It's not you, Jim. I know who you are. It's the others I don't trust. Like Shawn Striker, for instance."
He jumped to his partner's defense, "Striker's a good guy. He rubs people the wrong way, but he's a good cop. The L.A.P.D. is lucky to have him."
"No," I corrected him, "the L.A.P.D. is lucky to have you."
The silence crept slowly back into the car...
"And I'm just dead weight, is that what you're saying, Randolph?"
"Not at all, Harrigan. But I may have to talk to people. People who don't like cops around."
Harrigan snorted. "Randolph, you're so full of crap when you need a check-up you should go to a plumber!"
He knew me well. When you spend years in war tag team wrestling against the Grim Reaper and the Angel of Death you kind of get to know someone.
He also knew it was pointless to tag along once I'd made my mind up.
"Take me to City Hall," Harrigan said...
We started to pull off and I asked Harrigan if he wanted me to drop him back at the precinct.
"Why? You got a hot date with this Bethany Cross?"
I smirked, "It's Tiffany Cross. And no, I don't."
"Then why, pray tell, are you trying to give me the ole' heave ho?"
I couldn't tell him it was because I didn't think the L.A.P.D. was going to give Milton a fair shake after all. Even though that's exactly what I was thinking.
"It's just I may have to make several stops in tracking down Milton."
That was probably true...
I grabbed him by his collar, pulling him up over the desk. His little feet were off the floor.
"Okay, pal. I need to find Johnny so-called Fawn. How did he leave? Did he have a car?"
The little man was gasping and sweating. "Uh... he left by cab! The Sunshine Cab Company!"
"Thank you," I said, setting him down.
As we walked back to the car Harrigan said, "Nice!"
I smiled, "See? That's why I couldn't be a cop. You can't do things like that."
Harrigan grinned, "Yes we can. We just do it when no one's looking!"
He looked once more at the book. "Yes, Johnny Fawn checked out yesterday."
Harrigan chuckled, "Johnny Fawn? That's a new take on John Doe."
I shook my head, "Did he say where he was going? Or leave a forwarding address?"
The little man looked me in the eyes and said, "This is where people come when they don't want anyone to find them. And when they depart they don't exactly leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow."
That was decisive enough language for such a wimpy little guy. I didn't think he had it in him.
But I'd had enough...
For some reason Harrigan was letting me take the lead on this. Maybe it was because Milton was an old acquaintance. Or maybe he was just giddy at the thought of nabbing Milton and getting this case in the bag quickly.
"Yes sir," I said politely. "We were looking for the guest in Room 13 that was here yesterday."
He looked at the sign-in book as if to refresh his memory and then said, "Oh yes, he checked out yesterday afternoon, I'm afraid."
Harrigan gave me the you've screwed up this time, Randolph look. I know it very well...
A little man came rushing from a back room. He was hunched over but probably wasn't much better than five feet tall standing straight up. He was wearing a white button-up shirt with rainbow suspenders that were holding up a pair of threadbare brown trousers.
This was the kind of joint you wound up in when you had absolutely no place else to go. It was surprising Milton had left it.
"Uh...uh...uh... Can I help you, gentlemen?" he asked with so much indecision in his voice it's a wonder he could even choose his own socks in the morning...
Harrigan smiled as he followed me to the office. "Well, at least you're honest, Randolph. I'll have to give you that."
We stepped into the office. It looked as big of a dump as the rest of the place. There was an air conditioner in the window behind the front desk running at full blast. It was louder than some of the aircraft Harrigan and I had been in during the war. And it wasn't working very well. The office felt like a sweltering greenhouse.
There was no one behind the desk so I went up and rang the bell...
"Well, where is he?" Harrigan asked.
"That little pipsqueak must've checked out!"
"When did you find out he was here?"
I did not want to answer that question. But I did.
"Yesterday morni...," he said, trailing off and not even finishing the words. "Randolph, I oughta run your ass in for aiding and abetting!"
"I got distracted, okay?"
"You got distracted, huh? And what was her name?"
I feigned offense at that remark.
"Her name? That hurts, Harrigan," I said as I started walking up to the motel's office.
"But since you asked, her name was Tiffany Cross."
I drove out to the Silver Sun Motel for the second time in as many days. I pulled into the same spot I had the day before. We got out and started to Room 13.
Harrigan eyed the surroundings as we walked up to the door of the room.
"You really hobnob with society's elite, don't you, Randolph? How do you do it?"
"Good breeding is always telling, Harrigan," I said, reaching the door of Room 13.
I knocked several times but got no answer. I peered through the window, seeing no one.
Milton Dunn had obviously taken a powder...
Whatever violent impulse my statement triggered in Harrigan he fought it tooth and nail. Maybe he just didn't want to knock my block off right there on the steps of the police station.
"Do you know where Dunn is, Jake?" he asked. He rarely called me by my first name. It seriously unnerved me whenever he did it.
I nodded, "Yes, but I want to take you there myself, without Striker."
I thought I was about to get the standard you don't give the orders around here, Randolph speech, but instead he just nodded and started walking toward my car...
I shook my head, "I don't know whether he's guilty or innocent. We were kids the last time I saw him. He could very well be the one that murdered Paige Turner."
Harrigan nodded, "Now you're seeing sense."
"I didn't say he did it. I said it's possible. You're not going to like me saying this, Jim, but the L.A.P.D. has a history of clearing up cases by railroading innocent people into prison. I'm not going to let that happen with Milton if he's innocent."
Harrigan looked at me like he wanted to punch me.
I was about to duck...
Harrigan got a wide-eyed look, like a fox that just stumbled on to a chicken coop full of lethargic hens.
"You know Milton Dunn?"
I nodded, "Went to school with him. Hadn't seen or heard from him in a long time, though. After I read about the singer's murder in the paper he called me up and said he was in trouble."
Harrigan smirked, "You're damned right he's in trouble."
"Jim, I'm not so sure he..."
He cut me off, raising a dismissive hand, "Can it, Randolph! It's just a matter of time before we tie him to this."
Harrigan and I stood on the steps of the precinct in the early morning L.A. sunshine.
"Okay, Randolph. Make this fast. Some of us have real work to do."
Real work? I let that one slide.
"Alright, Harrigan. Who's investigating the murder of Paige Turner?"
Harrigan looked at his watch, "Me and Striker."
Then he got a funny look on his face.
"Oh no! I should've known you'd be mixed up in this somehow, Randolph. You're like a magnet for dead bodies. What's your interest in this case?"
"I got a call from an old friend. His name's Milton Dunn."
"Oh, for God's sake!" Harrigan exclaimed. "What is it now, Randolph?"
"It's good to see you too, Harrigan," I said, smiling like an idiot, knowing it would piss him off.
Striker just looked at me like I was a nostril hair he'd found in the bottom of his bowl of tomato soup.
I gave Harrigan the I need to speak with you alone look and he turned to Striker and said, "Shawn, why don't you go on over to City Hall and get started and I'll join you in a little while?"
Striker just nodded and walked off.
I drove down to the precinct where he was stationed. I was hoping he would be there. Although I doubted he would be very happy to see me. I think he thought I just used him, but I really liked the guy. And I think he liked me but he was too gruff to ever let it show.
I pulled up in front of the precinct and saw Harrigan and his partner, Detective Shawn Striker. I didn't like Striker. He thought he was God's gift to law enforcement. And he was a complete dick.
Harrigan looked pleased to see me...
We exchanged phone numbers and I told her I would call her soon. It sounded like a line you feed a woman that you have no intention of ever seeing again, but that wasn't the case. I liked her. I figured once we got to know each other we could have some good times together.
I needed to see my old friend Jim Harrigan, who had worked his way up from a patrolman to a homicide detective in the L.A.P.D. He and I went through the war together and our paths kept crossing, mostly when I needed some police info...