Chapter 1: Day One Thursday. June 9, 1949
The smell of coffee woke me up.
I followed the smell into the kitchen. Where Brenda stood at the stove frying up some bacon and eggs.
“Smells good hun.” As I headed for the bathroom. I came back into the kitchen a few minutes later partly dressed. Taking my usual chair at the small round kitchen table. I poured myself a cup of coffee.
By now Brenda had finished the frying and handed me a plate of food.
While we ate I turned on the small tabletop radio. The news came on first telling of the arrest of a UCLA College Professor. And the expected weather or the LA area today.
“What’s up for today?” She wondered aloud while she stabbed her eggs with her fork.
“Heading down to see Bob in a bit. He called late last night and said he had something to talk to me about. It sounded important. So I figure I’d get over there as soon as I can.”
I knew Brenda’s routine. She would most likely go back to bed for a couple of hours and then get up and do housework, shopping, and the many other things she does every day. And be down at the bar by around 4 pm. So we could open for business by six. We’d be at the bar until about 2 in the morning.
A half-hour later I was dressed and ready for the day. Wearing one of my brown suits and gray fedora, I slid the .45 into its shoulder holster under the jacket. Then the .38 revolver into the holster that rode on the belt on my right side. I favored the old war issued .45 semi-automatic pistol. It has served me well. But I’ve learned from experience that a backup is never a bad idea. So I carried the revolver as well.
I almost forgot to slip my wallet into my pocket. Inside was my PI. License and permit to carry a gun. The name on the papers said James St.James. PI.
It had been several months since my name had been in the papers. I was fine with that. Most of the cases had been routine deadbeat husbands and bill collection, and bail jumpers and a host of other small-time cases that barely paid the bills. But compared to the case of a few months back when I had helped capture one of the biggest mob bosses in the state and found a missing Judge, small time and boring were fine with me. What was never in the papers or in my official reports was the assignation attempt on the president and my direct involvement with protecting him. I had written up a report that was locked in my safe. No one knew it existed, not even Brenda.
Outside I debated which car to take. As much as I loved driving the Packard, I decided the old ford needed to be run once in a while. So I started it up and headed downtown. Until a few months ago there had never been a question about cars. I had my Old pre war ford that was barely surviving. It had bullet holes filled in both the front and back quarter panels and been put back together so much it was a jigsaw. Both the front and back windshields had been replaced at least once. But through it all, It kept going and got me out of a lot of messes.
After the case with the Judge was over. The Judge and his daughter, Lynn, gave me the Packard as a way of saying Thank you for saving their lives.
The drive downtown was as usual a snail pace as the morning traffic headed into town. But by taking several back streets that ran parallel to the main drags and found I managed to save a little time and avoid streetcars.
The police station was an old brick building from the 1930s. It had long ago been remodeled into the mess that it was now. But I had been in and out of it enough over the last few years to know my way around.
Bob and I had been involved in many cases together mostly unofficially.
I’d meet Bob when I was 17 years old. I had just shot a kid in self-defense and he was the officer in charge of the case. Because of him, I was never charged and the case was dropped. We had kept in touch over the years. Not long after coming back from the marines and getting my PI license back. I called him again when I shot and killed a woman named Wanda Reed. The ensuing case had led to me confronting and killing the boy’s father. Bob had been there when it happened.
Since then he’d been involved in every significant case I’ve had.
I knocked on the frame of the open door to his office. In all the years I’d known him, He had the same office and I think some of the papers piled on his desk and behind him hadn’t changed in all that time. Bob was, as usual, half-buried behind a wall of files.
I went in and sat down in the same wooden chair that I’d sat in a hundred times.
‘“Morning Bob.” I reached over and poured myself a cup of coffee that had just finished brewing. It was hot. Too hot. Holding it carefully to keep it from burning my hands and not spilling on to any on the papers piled on his desk. I waited.
He’d talk to me when he was ready.
Finally, he looked up.
“You know a Lane Hardy?”
“No. Name seems familiar.” Then I remembered that I heard it on the news at home this morning.
“Here.” He passed me a piece of paper over the lowest pile of papers on his desk.
Leaning forward I took it. In the dim light of his office, I managed to read it.
It was a confession. Basically, it said he said he’d killed his wife and buried the body in a ravine in east Hollywood. It gave details and dates.
“He didn’t do it.”
“He says he did.”
“I know, but it doesn’t add up. We found the body right where he said it was.”
“Something just doesn’t add up. Corner thinks she’s been dead a lot longer than he said he killed and buried her. And personally I don’t think he has the balls to do it.”
“Physically, and mentality. I don’t think he’s a killer, at least not like this. Oh, he may kill. But I don’t see him staying calm enough to move her and bury her.
I think he’d panic and call the cops right afterward Or run.. Not stay calm and do this.”
I sat my coffee down.
“And you want me to?”
“Talk to him, see what you think. We’ll go from there.”
Did you talk to the DA?”
“Yeah, last night. He said he confessed. Case Closed.”
“But you don’t think it's that simple?”
“No. I smell a rat. The Chief of Detectives and the DA want a quick close. Open and shut.”
He handed me the official arrest report. It looked pretty by the book, and straight forward. On the surface, it looked pretty open and shut, especially with his confession.
He got up and I followed him. Dumping my coffee in the sink in the tiny half bathroom next to his office.
Following him down the basement. Where the holding cells were. At the main gate, I checked my guns in with the desk clerk. He gave me a funny look when I laid two guns on the counter. Bob told him who he wanted to see.
Another unformed officer lead us back into the maze of holding cells.
The officer unlocked the door and I followed Bob in. I heard the door lock behind us. Lane Hardy was tall. Even scrunched up...