Whistling Eddie was a reluctant informant of mine. I say reluctant because I usually had to threaten to kick the crap out of him to get him to help me.
He had a flower shop on Pico that was a front for all sorts of crooked enterprises he was involved in. He usually hung out in the back offices, counting his money and whistling.
The shop was run by a midget named Aristotle. He was barely 3'10" but he was tougher than men twice that size. He had a voice that sounded like a cactus and a personality to match...
"Jake, what are we going to do about the jewels? I don't have them anymore."
I looked at my watch. It was just after 5 pm. My bank was closed. I had the money to buy an assortment of jewels that we could use as replacements for the ones Max sold. But now I was going to have to come up with an alternative plan.
"I know someone I can see. Drive to Pico Boulevard. You'll have to take a taxi back to Nelson's apartment."
The man I had to see was a no-good weasel known as Whistling Eddie...
"Listen," I said, "I think I've got a way out of this but I have to connect with some people to see if they can help me. I know it's going to be hard but you have to sit tight at Nelson's place. You're the only thing keeping Katie alive, that and the fact that Gallagher doesn't know you fenced those jewels seven years ago."
"I can't believe," Max said through his tears, "that Gallagher really believes I would've sat on those jewels for seven years."
"Maybe he doesn't and just wants you to sweat before you show up tonight."
"Where am I supposed to go?" Max asked once he was in traffic.
Everyone was going about their busy day, running to and fro, not realizing that a little girl's life was hanging in the balance. She must have been terrified, but I couldn't think about that. I had to come up with a plan to get her back. And time was quickly running out.
"Head back to Nelson's apartment. You need to lay low there while I see some people and try to get something organized. We only have until midnight."
"Dear God," Max said as he started bawling...
"I followed them when I saw them put you in a car. What does he want?" Max asked as he cranked the car and started out of the parking lot.
"Two things in exchange for Katie," I said.
"I'm one. What's the other?"
"Three guesses, Max, and if the first two aren't that case of jewels you stole seven years ago they don't count."
"Oh my God," Max said.
"I'm assuming Barbara was accurate when she said you sold them to pay your gambling debts."
He nodded and looked like he was going to vomit.
I felt like that too...
One of Gallagher's goons handed me my pistol back as the other pointed toward the clubhouse. I turned and started walking as I checked my pistol, which was barren of any ammunition. I put it in the shoulder holster under my arm, pulled my coat back over it, and kept walking. I thought I was going to have to call a cab until I saw my car sitting in the parking lot with Max behind the wheel. I approached the passenger's side. Max tried to slide over but I motioned for him to stay behind the wheel and got in...
"You have until midnight, Mr. Randolph," Gallagher said. "Once you have your hands on Max and the jewels you call this number," he said as he handed me a card. "They'll tell you where to meet me. Just know, Randolph, that I have ears all over the L.A.P.D. so if you go to them at any point during this little transaction I will put a bullet right between the wee lass's eyes."
I shook my head, "How can you be so damned coldblooded, Gallagher?"
"Luck of the draw," he said. "Could be worse, I suppose. Me brother's a Catholic priest!"
"It's the principle of the thing, Randolph," Gallagher said. "I trusted Max and he double-crossed me and took something that belonged to me."
"Actually," I said, "he took something that belonged to a traveling salesman."
One of the goons next to me started to hit me and Gallagher put his hand up and motioned for him to stop.
I figured I better stop being a smartass and get the details secured of how I was going to get Katie back.
"So," I said, "if I produce Dolan and the jewels you'll give me Katie back unharmed, is that right?"
"Where's Max Dolan?" he countered.
I nodded, "I see. You kidnapped Katie to get to Max."
"You know, I looked for Max for seven years and couldn't find him. You found him in a couple of days. You made me look very foolish, Randolph."
I chuckled, "No more than that outfit you're wearing, Gallagher."
He really did not like that crack. But he continued as he set up his shot.
"So, here's the deal: I want Max and the jewels he took from me."
"Why do you still have a hard-on about some seven-year-old stolen jewels, Gallagher?"
"Do you play, Randolph?" Gallagher asked as he made his way to the tee.
I got out of the cart and my knees almost buckled. I was still a bit lightheaded from being knocked unconscious. Gallagher's two goons flanked me as I approached the tee.
"No. Any time I've ever had a club in my hand it was usually to pound the shit out of someone," I said.
He laughed but I wasn't joking.
"I think that's the blarney you're giving me, Randolph. But you're quite amusing all the same."
"Let's cut the crap, Gallagher. Where's Katie Dolan?" I asked...
We were on a golf course at a country club but I couldn't identify which one. I mean, they all look the same anyway, right?
My head was pounding and I was trying to remember why I'd even gotten up that morning. Everything was fuzzy, like I was inside a giant peach looking out at the world.
There was a cool but gentle breeze blowing through the trees and I could hear balls being hit and curse words being yelled all over the course. I didn't know if they were echoing through the trees or in my massively swollen head...
Gallagher was wearing a golf outfit that made him look a lot more ridiculous than he apparently was led to believe by his tailor. That fiery red hair I'd heard so much about was peeking out from under a flat black cap. He had on a white polo shirt with a sleeveless black and gray sweater over it. He was wearing black knickerbockers, the kind that ran out of fabric just below the knee. And he was walking around in black and gray argyle socks that were housed by shiny black and white golf shoes.
He looked quite the spectacle...
I woke up in a golf cart. First time that had ever happened. I hoped it was the last.
There were two rather menacing looking men standing on either side of the vehicle. I tried to get out but one of them pushed me back into it. I rubbed the back of my head and felt an egg shaped knot that I wasn't born with. Then I heard a voice.
"Mr. Randolph? I see you're back among the living," the voice said in a thick Irish accent.
I turned to see a man I had to assume was Duncan Gallagher...
O'Sullivan led me to a door in the back of the shop. He turned as we reached it and motioned for me to hold my arms up so he could frisk me.
I shook my head.
"You can't go back there with a piece," he said.
I pulled my pistol, but instead of handing it to him I stuck it in his gut.
"Walk," I said softly.
He turned and opened the door.
The back was a huge warehouse with crates stacked up everywhere.
I didn't hear whatever it was that came up from behind and dropped oblivion on me...
I put the vase back on top of the pedestal and repeated my impression of a California earthquake.
O'Sullivan dropped the pretense, "Alright!"
He went over to the phone as he stared at me like I was from another planet. He didn't realize that this was just a normal day for me, minus the being worried sick about Katie.
I watched O'Sullivan on the phone. I saw the moment when Gallagher must've told him to send me back to meet him.
O'Sullivan didn't realize I was in possession of an antique that Gallagher had been searching for a long time...
The vase started wobbling back and forth as O'Sullivan put his hands up.
"Please, sir! Stop!"
I slowed down just enough so it wouldn't actually tip off the side.
"Now, I want you to use that telephone over there and tell Gallagher that Jake Randolph wants to see him about Max Dolan. You got that?"
He still had his hands up, " But, sir...!"
I tipped the pedestal over and the vase went toppling but I caught it inches before it smashed onto the floor.
"Might not be so lucky next time. My reflexes aren't what they used to be."
O'Sullivan tried to regain his composure. The barbed-wire fence magically returned to his face.
"I'm afraid I don't know the gentleman," he said. "But if you're interested in antiques...,"
I cut him off, "Yes, I am interested in antiques."
I walked over to a vase sitting on a pedestal. It looked Chinese and very old. I didn't check the price tag, but judging how much O'Sullivan's eyes bulged out when I approached it I assumed it must be very expensive.
"I'm very interested in this," I said as I grabbed the base of the pedestal and started shaking it...
"My name is Ian O'Sullivan and I'm the proprietor of this fine establishment. Now, what can I help you with?"
He had a grin that spread across his face like a barbed-wire fence. You know, the kind of fence that won't obstruct the view but could do some serious damage if you try to cross it without extreme caution.
But I didn't have time for caution.
"I need to see Duncan Gallagher," I said, without a grin.
The countenance of his face changed to a man who'd just had a rabid hedgehog stuffed down the front of his trousers...
We got to the antique shop in Redondo Beach that Gallagher used as a front for his illicit operations and I left Max in the car and went inside.
A burly but dapper man in a pinstripe suit and pencil thin mustache approached me as he waded through the junk that doubled as antiques.
"Welcome to Newgrange Antiques."
Only Gallagher would name his shop after a historic burial ground in Ireland.
The man had a slight Irish accent but had obviously been in America a long time. He sounded like an American doing a moderately successful imitation of an Irishman...
"Look," I told Max as we were driving, "you're going to need to stay in the car while I go in to see Gallagher."
Max shook his head, "No way...,"
"Listen to me, Max. You're the only trump card we have. Gallagher wants you. That's what this whole thing is about. What we're going to have to do is set up an exchange: you for Katie. Then we can work out how we're going to take Gallagher out and get her back."
"I don't like it," he said.
"I don't either," I replied, "but will you trust me?"