I ran my hand down her back and over the curve of her backside, giving it a gentle squeeze. "You should see me with refrigerators!"
We both laughed. I hadn't felt like that in quite some time. I never seemed to have good luck with women; something always went wrong.
The last time I opened myself up was for a woman who didn't even know who she was; a client who'd lost her memory. But that didn't pan out. Long story.
So, I found myself again falling for a woman. I just really hoped like hell this one worked out...
We woke up on Sunday morning still on the couch, her naked body half draped over my naked body. She was snoring a little. I thought that was adorable. I realized what a sappy, sentimental guy she was turning me into. And I didn't mind a bit.
I laid there for more than an hour with a full heart and a matching bladder. But I wanted to soak up every second of this moment in time.
She finally opened her eyes, turning up to look at me.
"You really know how to repair TV's!" she said, laughing all the while...
I knocked on Rebecca's door.
She asked, "Who is it?"
"TV repairman," I said in a burly voice.
I heard her giggle from behind the door. Then she opened it, frowning.
"I've been waiting without television all day today. And I really needed some entertainment, too!"
I stepped in and closed the door behind me.
"I'll need to give your set a thorough inspection, madam."
She nodded as I backed her over to the couch, pushing her down onto it.
"I believe it's your horizontal hold. Just let me get my tools out and I'll give you a proper servicing."
"You let someone try and stop me," I said in a joking tone, but meant every word.
"Okay. It's tomorrow afternoon, 2:30, at the Serenity Gardens cemetery in Burbank."
"I'll be there, Jeffrey," I said as I shook his hand and exited the room.
I began thinking as I went down the stairs that the next day was going to be extremely hard on him. I needed to try and stick close to him. He had no one else, so I elected myself.
By the time I got Rebecca's car back to her apartment it was late in the evening...
Jeffrey said, "Gee, Jake. Thanks for coming to cheer me up."
Then he laughed and I saw it in his eyes.
"You know," he said as he looked over at me, "that's the first time I've laughed out loud in more than a year."
I smiled, "Then my job here is done."
Jeffrey walked me to the door and said, "Oh, by the way, I've made the funeral arrangements. I'm going to have Susan laid to rest out here rather than back home. I don't think I could handle the trip back there. Will you be at the funeral, Jake?"
I continued, "Every third or fourth movie out now is aimed at the increasingly lucrative teen market. More and more television shows are geared for teenagers. Even the advertising that keeps the shows on the air is for teens. The older, more experienced people are being left behind by a youth-happy Madison Avenue. And it's only going to get worse, unfortunately. We're dinosaurs, Jeffrey. We just haven't had the good sense to become extinct yet. The sad thing is we're the ones that sacrificed and made the world a better and safer place for young people to live in."
He nodded, "I do understand. I just feel so helpless. First it was losing my wife, and then it was watching my daughter drift away from me, and then losing her altogether. I can't believe what's happening to the world; the drugs, the juvenile delinquency. And when Elvis Presley is in your armed forces it doesn't bode well for the future of the country. Shameful."
I chuckled, "It's the modern age, Jeffrey. Teenagers have never been a viable subculture until recently, largely thanks to rock-n-roll. They have a unifying identity now, which preceding generations of teens never had."
I saw a twinkle in his eye, "What is it? Tell me, I want to help you..."
I put my hands up, "Whoa! Slow down there, hot rod. Now I told you to leave this to me. I have the experience to deal with this. And hell, I may not even come out of this on the north side of the ground. Don't take this the wrong way, but you would only slow me down. This situation is fluid, and if I'm not able to go with the flow of the tide I'll drown. I hope you understand me, Jeffrey."
I knocked on the door and Jeffrey opened it. He had a weak smile on his face that I could tell was forced, but at least he hadn't given up completely. He greeted me, shook my hand, and invited me in.
"It's good to see you again, Jake," he said, and I could tell that was genuine.
I smiled, "You too, Jeffrey. How are you holding up?"
He sighed, "I alternate between crying and getting so angry I could kill someone. But I'm taking it one step at a time."
"That's all you can do. I may have a lead..."
By the time I reached Jeffrey Miller's hotel I had come to the conclusion that I was going to have to do a bit of surveillance on Alex and Skip to find out where they're spending their nights and with whom they're spending them. But my priority at that moment was checking on Blaze's dad.
I asked the clerk at the front desk, a squirrelly little dude with glasses and a bow tie, to ring Mr. Miller's room. He was in and told the little guy to let me come up.
I wondered what condition I would find him in...
I could still hear Harrigan's anguished cries of "Jake! Jake!" in my head long after I pulled away from the marina. I went up the road a little, following the yacht that Alex and Skip had boarded. It turned just after it exited the marina and was running parallel with the road. I could just make out the name on the back of the vessel, the Lotus Flower. And Sherlock Holmes in a coma could figure out to whom that yacht belonged.
I thought I would go and check on Blaze's father while my mind worked out a battle plan...
I knew what I had to do; I just had no clue of how to do it. It was going to require some serious thought.
Something caught my eye at the other end of the pier. There were two guys boarding a yacht down there. And I knew who it was: Alex and Skip, the Beatnik wonder boys. What the hell were they doing getting on a yacht in Redondo Beach?
I quickly looked back at Harrigan. "You won't hear from me until after I have all the blackmail evidence. After that, friend, I never want to see you again."
He just sat there with his head in his hands. And I didn't feel a bit sorry for him. It angered me beyond words that Blaze was dead because of someone that this man refused to bring to justice. I felt utterly sick.
I got up from the chair and started for the gangplank, then turned back.
"Let me ask one more thing. If I can get the pictures, the negatives, and the original movie reel from Jade Chen, will you come down on her then?
He looked up with a tiny sparkle in his eye, "Like a damn avalanche."
"Jake, you think this hasn't eaten me up for years?"
"Don't Jake me, pal. Let me ask you something. Are you ever going to be a man and stand up and arrest Jade Chen and face whatever consequences come after?"
He looked terrified at the thought, "I can't! It would be a scandal for the city."
I shook my head, "Don't act like it's the city you're worried about, pal. It would be a scandal for you. You'd have to step down from your job and probably face charges. And that's just not something you're willing to do, is it?"
I nodded, "China Doll, a stag film starring Jade Chen, and introducing Jim Harrigan as the clueless sucker and soon-to-be blackmail victim."
He looked totally embarrassed as he nodded in agreement. It would've been absolutely comical if it all wasn't so damned sad.
"So," I said, "you and the entire City of Los Angeles Police Department have turned a blind eye to Jade Chen's misdeeds for years? That means countless girls' lives ruined, untold number of heroin addicts, no telling how many dead, including my friend Blaze, all because you couldn't keep your damned zipper up that night!"
"I found out a few years later why she gave me the personal touch. It was after I was made chief. I received a package in the mail. When I opened it there were pictures inside of my night at her place. Going in, coming out, even pictures of she and I in the act. But that wasn't the real beauty. There was a big reel of film in there. Movie film. I had to take home the projector from the briefing room at the precinct just to be able to watch it. You can guess what was on it."
He put his hands up, "I don't mean to use the services she offered, I was just trying to get a handle on how she operated. Even then her place was a well-kept secret. But, like an idiot, once I was there, and being in the state of mind I was in, it wasn't long before I was in bed with her."
I was shocked, "With Jade Chen herself? Seriously?"
He nodded, "I thought it was just because it was a new establishment and she didn't have as many girls as she later would. But that wasn't the reason."
He turned back with a stare that would've iced me if looks could kill. Then, all at once, the look was gone. He sat back down in the chair beside me.
"Not bribed. Blackmailed."
"Blackmailed? Over what?" I asked, not yet believing what I was hearing.
"Remember when Sarah and I separated? Remember how bad off I was?"
I remembered. There were many nights I had to throw him over my shoulder and carry him into his house, he was so drunk.
"Well, Jade Chen's place had just opened then. And I went there one night to check it out."
I looked shocked. "That's what you want to know? Not about the girl being murdered?"
"You said she was murdered, Randolph. If she was a hype she probably snuck the needle into the hospital and shot herself up."
I turned to look dead at him. "You clammed up when I mentioned Jade Chen on the phone. What the hell is going on here, Harrigan?"
He got up and went back to the bell, picked up the cloth, and started polishing it again.
Then it hit me like a speeding train.
"Oh, my God! You're on her payroll. You're being bribed!"
He sat down in one of the chairs beside me. We were both looking out to sea. There were tiny little ships bobbing up and down on the horizon.
"I found the girl I was looking for. She was working for Jade Chen. I got her out and got her to the hospital. Next morning she was found with a needle in her arm. And she didn't put it there, Jim. She was murdered."
Harrigan looked at me with a weird expression. I couldn't figure out what was on his mind.
"What went down at Jade Chen's place?" he asked.