Daylight was increasing as I stood there next to Milton. The birth of a new day is always a new beginning.
The Pacific Ocean looked so beautiful in the early morning, crashing against the rocks with such a fierce determination.
I sat down on the rocks beside Milton’s body. I unscrewed the flask and took a few drinks, toasting Milton. Then I poured the rest of the bourbon onto the rocks next to his body.
Despite my heartache, I couldn’t help but smile. I’d finally had my bourbon neat, and Milton finally had his bourbon on the rocks.
I had to go see Milton one last time. I got back in the van and drove down the road to where I could access the beach. I then drove the van around the rocks and the bluff until I got near to where Milton had fallen.
I got out and traversed the rocks until I reached Milton. I was hoping by some miracle that he was still alive, but he was dead. I checked his pulse for the longest time but it was silent.
I checked inside his jacket. Amazingly, his glass flask of bourbon was still completely intact…
I walked over to Diamond and knelt down beside him. His eyes were open, and the hole between them was still oozing blood. I felt around in his jacket and found a .38 caliber pistol. I knew that bastard was lying. If I had turned my back for an instant he would’ve pulled it and made Swiss cheese out of me. That might make what I had done a little easier to take.
Just for insurance I pulled the gun, putting it in his hand. I didn’t know if the LA.P.D. lab boys would know or not but didn’t care...
The shot cut through the air, echoing so loudly it effectively killed the night and brought on the dawn. Everything had that early morning glow around me, but I still had my arm outstretched, aiming at the air where Diamond’s head had been just a moment before. My arm started shaking. I was still trying to process what I’d actually done. Had I really just killed a man in cold blood? Was I going to be able to live with the consequences of my actions? I guessed only time would tell.
But I was quite sure he actually was armed…
“That’s unfortunate,” he said. “But you’re not going to shoot me, Randolph,” he said as he raised his arms out parallel to the ground. “I’m unarmed! And that’s the thing about you, Randolph. You’re a man of principle. And that’s what’s going to be your downfall. Because once I take care of the whores there will be no one left alive to accuse me of anything. Now put the gun down, Jake Randolph. You know you’re not going to shoot me.”
“You misjudged me, Diamond,” I said as I pulled the trigger and put a bullet right between his eyes…
I let the bastard keep talking.
“So, we were looking for Dunn to complete the murder-suicide scenario so it would tie things up neatly for the L.A.P.D. and they wouldn’t have to start asking a lot of uncomfortable questions. You threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing when you got involved. You’ve cost me time and money, Randolph, and so help me I’ll see that you pay for it.”
I raised the pistol, pointing it at his face.
“Cal, Striker, and your two goons are dead, Diamond. And you’re next.”
He got a strange look on his face…
“This was the plan all along, Randolph,” he said. “I knew when Striker went to Paige’s apartment to try and bring her around about the blackmail that she would double down. That’s just the kind of broad she was. So, Striker would have to kill her and Milton. And then it would’ve looked like a murder-suicide. Dunn gets drunk and strangles Paige to death and then is so distraught he takes his own life. It was simple, really. But I didn’t bank on the fact that Dunn wouldn’t be in the apartment when Striker got there. Just bad luck.”
I stood at the precipice staring down to the craggy surface below that Milton Dunn had made his final resting place. He lived his life on the edge; a tightrope walker without a net that now had lost his balance and wound up a soggy jigsaw puzzle with pieces disappearing into the Pacific Ocean along with his spilt life’s blood.
I was in shock. I’m not a crying man but I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt as if I had failed Milton.
“Why, Diamond? Why?” was all I could get out.
Diamond leaned over and looked at Milton…
I only had two bullets in Striker’s gun, so I had to make them count. I pulled the pistol out from the holster under my arm.
“Okay, Diamond. Where’s Milton?”
Diamond and the other man turned. The other man had what looked like a .45 in his hand. He raised it up. I was tired of risking my life for these assholes so I shot the guy through the neck. He fell over and expired. And I felt nothing.
I pointed the gun at Diamond. “Where’s Milton? I won’t ask again.”
He gestured down below the bluff, “See for yourself.”
By the time I got to Point Dume it was almost dawn. Under other circumstances it would’ve been beautiful to stand at the end of that bluff and watch as the night passed away and the morning was being birthed. But this wouldn’t be the day for that.
I parked the van a good ways back and eased my way down the bluff. I saw a car down there and some movement. I continued going forward and saw two men standing at the edge of the cliff. One of them I didn’t recognize.
But the other was clearly Bobby Diamond…
It was something Diamond said at the club earlier about where Milton used to take Paige: Point Dume.
Point Dume is a high bluff on the coast of Malibu that protrudes out into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a beautiful spot, and understandable why Milton would want to drive the woman he loved out there.
I hated it because that tramp played him for a fool. He didn’t deserve that. If I was able to get back in time to save Milton I intended to help find him a good woman that would be worth him laying the bottle down for…
I liked Harrigan in those moments. I didn’t get to see that side of him often. He was usually very gruff, very business-like, and very impatient. But there was no one in the world I trusted more, and no one I’d rather have on my side in a fight.
I got to the van and peeled out the tires as I headed back toward Los Angeles. My first thought was to go back to the Cherokee Club, only not through the front door next time.
But I had a feeling I knew where Diamond would take Milton and why…
I knelt down next to Striker’s body and picked up his gun. I checked to make sure it still had some bullets left in it. It had two. I put it in my shoulder holster and felt around inside Striker’s jacket until I found the keys to the van that brought us up there, getting his warm blood all over my hands in the process. I used the end of his jacket to wipe them off.
I stood up and looked at Harrigan.
“Thanks, Jim,” I said.
He smiled, “We’ve got to stick together, Jake. That’s how we survive.”
“Are you ready for the drive back?” I asked.
Harrigan shook his head, “I’ve got to stay here and clear this up with the Bakersfield police.”
He looked through the window of the construction office trailer.
"There’s a phone in there. I’ll call them and wait for them.”
“Okay,” I said, “but I’ve got to get back to L.A. Diamond still has Milton and I have to try and save him if he isn’t dead already.”
He nodded, “Do what you have to, but be careful, Jake.”
“Don’t worry, Jim,” I said, “I’m taking no chances this time, believe me.”
I offered a hand and helped him up off the ground.
“Well, I think that’s everyone,” I said. “I took care of Cal, and you got one of Diamond’s goons.”
“What about the other one?” Harrigan asked as he brushed himself off.
“I hit him in the face with a sledgehammer,” I said.
“Is he dead?”
I grinned, “Well, if he isn’t he probably wishes to hell he was.”
Harrigan nodded, “Well, that’s it, then.”
I shook my head, “Not yet. I have to get back to L.A. and try to save Milton. And I’m fast running out of time.”
This wasn’t my fight, but I paid close enough attention to step in if Striker somehow managed to get the upper hand, which was doubtful.
Harrigan was on top of Striker when a shot rang out. Then they rolled over and Striker was on top. He rose up.
No!, my mind screamed.
Then Striker fell over. A sea of crimson was spreading out across his chest.
Harrigan sat up and looked at Striker, “Damn it! I didn’t want to have to do that!”
I came over, putting my hand on his shoulder.
“I know, Jim. You didn’t have a choice.”
I heard another gunshot and moved in the direction of the sound. I heard a scuffle and voices yelling back and forth. I came into a clearing near an office trailer that had a light pole outside of it, which was on. It was like a spotlight that was highlighting Striker and Harrigan as they fought with each other, rolling around in the dirt and each struggling to get control of the pistol.
“I trusted you, you son-of-a-bitch!” Harrigan yelled as he punched Striker in the face. They continued fighting for the gun, rolling and tumbling around…
The sand created a ton of dust that swirled up into the air. When it settled, Cal’s hourglass had run out of time. There was no trace of him, just a gigantic mound of sand where Cal had once been standing.
I picked myself up, dusted myself off and walked toward the mountain of sand, addressing the pile, “I told you, Cal. You’d be dead before the sun came up.”
The last things on the agenda were taking care of Striker and making sure that Harrigan was still alive.
Then I had to get back to L.A. and save Milton…
He fired the gun and I rolled over sideways to the left, where my gun was. He started to fire again so I had to roll to the right without grabbing the gun. I rolled to the left again, every bullet slamming into the dirt directly where I had just been lying. I got a grip on the gun and rolled back over, aiming for the clasp on the wooden gate. I fired and snapped the clasp, and the gate swung open under the weight of the sand and a sea of it washed over Cal, covering him completely up…
My gun had slipped from my hand as I fell. It was laying in the dirt to the side of me about 20 feet from my grasp.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment, Randolph. You’re a weed that needs to be pruned.”
I thought my number was up, but wasn’t going out without one more inflammatory comment.
“Remember what I said at the warehouse, Cal? I told you you’d be dead before the morning?”
He laughed, “Yeah, but it looks like you had your wires crossed. Because you’re the one that’s about to check out, Randolph, not me.”