"We don't have time for a debate, Max. If you think you can keep it together you can come. But we have to play this coolly," I said.
Max nodded and Nelson said, "I want to come too."
I shook my head, "You need to stay here, Nelson, and man the phone. We may need you later but right now it's just Dolan and me."
Nelson nodded and I helped Max up off the floor. He still looked very pale.
I told Nelson we would call as soon as we knew something and Max and I headed for my car...
Max looked like a ghost. All the color had faded from his face and he stared at me blankly like a mannequin in a department store window. I slapped his face, which left a red imprint of my hand across his cheek. He shook his head and snapped out of it.
"I've got to pay a visit to Gallagher and find out what he wants," I said.
"He wants me," Dolan said, "and I'm going to give it to him."
I shook my head, "Not in the state you're in. You'll get Katie killed."
"No," Dolan said. "I'm done running."
"But we don't have time for that now, Harrigan. I'll explain my motives later. I need you to meet me later, after I find out what the hell Gallagher wants."
"Where?" Harrigan asked. He usually didn't like me ordering him around, but he knew the severity of the situation.
"The Bluebird...say...6 p.m.?"
"I'll be there," Harrigan said and hung up.
I looked down at Dolan. He was definitely in a state of shock. I knelt down in front of him.
"Max, listen to me. We're all responsible for this, myself included. But we have to pull together to save Katie."
"They've already called the police," I said, "but you probably need to get to the orphanage. I'm going to pay a visit to Mr. Duncan Gallagher."
"Jake, listen. You better let us handle this. You can't take a chance with Katie's life."
"I'm just going to find out what he wants. Do you know if he still runs that antique shop in Redondo Beach?"
"Yeah, he does. I'm assuming you're the angry brother that made a scene at the Titan Tire Co. this morning? You know, the place we were going to meet? Remember?"
"Yes, and I'm with Dolan now."
"Have you called the police?" I asked.
She said yes between sobs.
"Okay. Listen, Barbara, we're going to fix this. Try to stay calm. I'm here with Max, we're going to take care of this. Just give the police all the information you can. I've got to make some calls. We'll call back soon."
I hung up. Dolan had slumped to the floor. Nelson was trying to help him up but he wouldn't move.
I called the precinct and asked for Harrigan.
"Yeah?" Harrigan said.
"It's Jake," I said.
"Katie has been kidnapped, Jim."
"Dear God," he said....
It didn't take a genius to figure out who had kidnapped Katie, but I had to ask the questions.
"Barbara? Listen to me. Are you sure she's been taken? That she isn't just lost?"
She was still sobbing. "Yes I'm sure! I saw a car pull up to the curb and a guy reached out and snatched her!"
I got a lump in my throat. "Could you tell what kind of car it was?"
"It was black, a 4-door, that's all I can tell you!"
"What did the guy that snatched her look like?"
"He was big, black hair...,"
"Let's go to your apartment," I told Nelson. "When Max is done I'll make a few calls. Maybe it'll give us something to go on."
Nelson led me up the hall to his apartment. As we opened the door we saw Dolan standing there with the phone receiver up to his ear and a look of horror on his face.
"Oh my God...Oh my God...," he said and began shaking.
I snatched the receiver from him, "This is Jake Randolph. Who's this? Barbara?"
It was Barbara. She was sobbing into the phone.
"Yes...," she said through tears. "Katie's been kidnapped!"
"Well," Dolan said, "I'm going to call Barbara and check in. She's probably worried sick."
"Go to my apartment and use my phone," Nelson said as he handed Dolan a key.
Dolan exited as I asked Nelson, "Do you know where Gallagher hangs out? Or does he have a legitimate business front anywhere?"
Nelson nodded, "Max said he used to have an antique store near Redondo Beach that's a front for money laundering... and other illicit activities in the back."
"I guess we can try there. Maybe I can contact some of my informants and see if they know anything."
Did I want to do that? No. Was it dangerous? Absolutely. Did it seem the only way to reunite Katie with her father? No question about it.
So there I sat trying to figure out a way to lure Gallagher into a position where he could be confronted without too much of his muscle in tow.
"Jake," Dolan said, "if you're willing to risk your life for Katie and me then I'm willing to go with you."
"Me too," Nelson said.
I nodded, "Thanks. But we've got to figure a plan out first. We can't just waltz up to Gallagher."
I didn't do time thanks to Harrigan investigating and discovering that my client had taken out a huge insurance policy on her husband and she and her lover were planning to go to Mexico when it paid out. Her lover squealed on her and she went down instead of me.
But that really stuck in my craw, that she used me to kill her husband and that I didn't pick up on it.
But that same principle could be used here. Confront Gallagher; if it provokes a response and he has to be killed in self defense so be it...
Now that should've made the early warning siren in my head go off but, like I said, I was young and just starting out as a detective.
Anyway, I followed the guy for a whole evening. Toward the end of the night he must've caught on to me because he ducked into an alley. When I followed he opened fire on me. I slid behind a metal trash can and returned fire.
He missed. I didn't.
When the smoke cleared I realized that my client decided that hiring me to kill her husband was cheaper and quicker than a divorce...
Now, you might be thinking How could you do this, Jake? It's immoral. That may be true, but a scumbag psychopath like Gallagher keeping a little girl from being with her father is far more immoral.
In my early, naive days I had a case involving a woman who came to me wanting me to trail her husband to see what he was up to. She said she suspected he was unfaithful. And she paid me a great deal of money, but she said to watch out because he was very paranoid.
And she asked if I carried a gun...
Dolan looked up at me and said, "Can you do it?"
"What?" I asked incredulously. "I only kill in self defense, Dolan. I'm not a hired murderer."
Nelson said, "I know someone. Maybe we could get the money up. He's not cheap but..."
"Wait a minute, are you talking about hiring a hit man?!" I asked.
"Nelson, you need to shut up for the rest of this conversation. Understand?"
He nodded again.
"Max, killing Gallagher is out of the question. Unless it's in self defense."
Dolan looked at me and smiled.
I think I'd found a way out...
"The only way to end this is to kill Gallagher," Dolan said and Nelson nodded.
"If we could get some dirt on him they could put him away," I said.
Dolan shook his head, "He'd just be pulling the strings from inside the joint. He has to die."
"I can't let you walk up and kill Gallagher in cold blood, Dolan. You'd be no better than he is."
"At least I'd be with Katie."
"No you wouldn't, Dolan. The L.A.P.D. takes a dim view of murder, even murdering someone like Duncan Gallagher. And you'd go down for life this time."
"What about Davy Donovan? Did you kill him?" I asked.
He looked shocked. I could tell that was the first he'd heard of it.
"Davy's dead?" he asked in a pitiful way.
"Yeah. The only reason Richmond is still alive is because he's in police custody."
Dolan shook his head, "No...no...no...this is getting way out of hand."
I exclaimed, "What did you think was going to happen, Dolan? Stirring that up again knowing what a whacko Gallagher is."
"I just want my daughter back," he said as he started sobbing.
"Maybe there's a way out of this, Dolan."
"So," I said, "if you didn't kill him then why the hell were you shooting at me? Target practice?"
He shook his head, "I thought you were one of Gallagher's men. I came to talk to Ricky and found the door open. I heard a struggle from the bedroom. I pulled my gun and started toward the bedroom door and then I heard a shot. I ran up to the door and kicked it open. When I peeped in I saw a man going out the window."
I chuckled, "Rucksack's fire escape got as much action as his front door."
"Let me try, Dolan," I said. "You came back to town to talk to your old friends, the ones you double-crossed on the jewelry job, by the way, to see if they would help you kill Gallagher. They refused, and you either killed two of them in anger or you inadvertently led Gallagher's men to them and they killed them."
Max finally spoke, "I...didn't kill Ricky."
"Well, you must've been there seconds after the killer then. Because when I came in Rucksack still had warm blood pouring out of that wound. And you were going out the fire escape."
Dolan just sat there and didn't say anything. He sure had aged in the nine years since that picture Katie had showed me of him holding her as a baby. His face was creased, he had dark ruts under both eyes, and his rather bushy brown hair was not only starting to recede but also to show threads of silver weaving what would soon be a considerable blanket of snow on the top of his head.
More than anything, he just looked incredibly sad and pathetic. Normally I would say he got what he deserved.
But Katie didn't deserve this...
"Who...who are you?" Max asked in a panic.
"I'm the schmuck your daughter paid a whole dollar to find you, Dolan. And I don't think you're worth a tenth of that."
"Jake Randolph," he said.
"In the flesh. Now, can we all have a polite conversation without you jumping out the fire escape and your bozo friend there trying to drive a forklift up my ass?"
Once we'd woken up Nelson, which consisted of a glass of cold water in the puss, we sat down for a little chat.
"Tell me, Dolan," I asked, "what are your plans for Gallagher?"
Nelson tried to grab the gun from me but I cold-cocked him and he took a little nap. Dolan had one leg out on the fire escape, so I grabbed the other leg that was still in the apartment and pulled him back through. He tried to grab his pistol that was tucked in his waistband but he dropped it as I punched him once he was fully back into the room and then threw him over on Nelson, who was convalescing on the filthy floor.
"Now, let's all just calm the hell down here, huh?" I said loudly...