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from Killing Time In LA by Kenneth Lawson

Copyright © 2020 Kenneth Lawson

Chapter 7 Day Seven; Wednesday June 16, 1949

The smell of coffee woke me up. 

Looking at the other side of the bed. I saw the covers rolled back where Brenda had gotten up before me. Something that didn't happen too often. I lay still for a moment. Then it came back to me. I’d been up all night at Lens’ Printing office. Looking at my hands, the tell tale stain of black ink proved I wasn’t imagining it.  I considered going back to sleep. But I knew that was impossible. Sensing a movement I shifted my eyes towards the door.

“You're up.” Brenda announced. Leaning against the frame of the door her arms crossed. The bathrobe she wore did nothing to hide what I knew was under it.

“Yeah, sorta.” I sat up rubbing my eyes. And trying to find my bathrobe. When I couldn’t find it without getting up. I told myself “The hell with it”, and just got out of bed. Brenda watched me make my way to the bathroom. 

“You're definitely up..” she commented leeringly . I glanced down, Yeah I was awake alright.

“Breakfast is on.”

“Thanks Hon, be out in a minute.” I peeked back out the bathroom door to watch her leave our room. After I finished waking up, and doing other necessary things I found my bathrobe. It was tossed on the chair by the end of the bed. I didn’t remember tossing it there. But there were a lot of things I didn't remember. 

Eventually I was awake enough to face the day. 

 

The coffee helped get my mind working again, while the toast and bacon filled my stomach and got my body working again. I still felt kinda dragged out from being up so late last night. It was a couple of hours later than I usually get up.

Brenda had let me sleep. She was just going to come wake me up when I woke up on my own. 

“Four thirty.”

Huh?”

“That's what time I got home last night.”

“Oh yeah, I tried to wait up for you.”

“ I didn’t expect you to. How was the bar last night?”

“It was good, Walt was there, and said he was still waiting on some information, He’d probably be by later today.”

“Oh good.” I munched on the last of my toast.

 Finishing it and clearing the plates, and taking my coffee I headed back to the bedroom.

**

A half hour later I was dressed. I finished my coffee while I put on my gun holsters. The forty-five rode in my shoulder holster, and the revolver slid into the belt holster on my right side. Almost as an afterthought I slid my knife into the right front pocket. I had forgotten about the work I’d done during the war with it. 

The killing of Jake Reynolds had reminded me of a side of the war I'd pushed to the back of my mind. In fact Until I saw the actual wound. I’d completely forgotten about the men I’d killed with it. I knew I could never tell anyone. They would not believe that a man could kill the way I had, or that it had been government sanctioned. But that was another world from this. Life meant more here. At least I hope it did. Back then it had been a commodity to be used as a tool, a life could be bought or sold depending on which side you're on or what you had to offer. And german officers had no value unless on the rare chance they had information we needed. In which case they were captured and questioned. Many of the questioning methods were illegal by the Geneva Convention. The rules had gone out the window many times. And many reports were falsified. 

These and more memories flash in my mind as I slide the knife in my pocket.

I collected the files I had copied last night from the safe. As tired as I was. I didn't want them laying around loose. So I’d put them in the safe. I was just separating the originals from the copies when Brenda walked into the office.

“So this is what you spent all night doing?”

“Yep. Two copies of everything. It cost me a hundred and I gave him a little extra to forget I was there.”

“The originals are for Bob. and I wanted a copy for myself. And the extra is a backup in case something happens to the original or my copy.”

  I handed her the third set of files . 

“Put them in Your safe.”

I put my copy in my safe. We had two safes. One was for the bar business. We kept anything related to the bar in it. Records bills and money, and the like. The other safe was for the PI business. There we kept pretty much the same thing, but also client records, bills,and now copies of files. Having a copy in her safe was a backup. My safe had been attempted to be broken into several times over the years. So far no one had actually gotten it open. But it hadn’t been for lack of trying.

  She took her copy to her office and came back.

“Done.”

‘Thanks hon. I’ve got to get the origins to Bob first thing this morning, and then. Hell, I don't know.”

I kissed her goodbye and headed out.

Bob was in his office when I knocked on his door. 

“Yeah?” He looked up. 

“Got your files.” I plopped the bundle of files on the corner of his desk. 

He looked at them.

“Jeez . How much did you take from his safe?”

“Only a couple, The rest are the files that Walt got me. I thought you’d like to see them. By the way I have copies of everything. I spent last night at Lens Printing having them made.”

“He didn't make a set for himself?

“No. I made sure he didn't'. I stayed and helped him, and helped clean up afterwards and made sure there were no carbons or print sets laying around of anything we copied. And paid him extra to forget I was there.”

“I see, how much did that cost you?”

“Hundred. Bit more with the hush money. But it's worth it.”

Bob picked up the top file. Flipping through it.

“I don’t get what it is.”

I came around and looked over his shoulder.

“I think it's a test report. Showing results of various doses of radiation. And what happened to the subjects.”

“Looks like they all died.”

“All but one.” I pointed to the bottom of the page. He scanned down to where I pointed.

“Ah yes, Case number 356. Survived with severe burns and disfigurement.” He read.

“Wonder who 356 was?”

“Yeah me too..”

 I picked another file and started reading through it. Muttering more to myself, “There must be a list here somewhere of who the patients are, and what number they’re assigned.”

“Lets go ask Lane. Show him the files and see what he says.” I suggested.

“I would but the Caption says not to tell him anything about what we have. He’s afraid he'll lie to us. Or Hell, I don’t know. All I know the Captain told all of us not to show him any files.” Bob threw up his hands in frustration.

“Does he know about Jake being dead?”

“I doubt it. I haven’t talked to him only once or twice since he changed his story. The Captain has us doing a deep background on him, Clearance and the Now Jake. I’ve been to the dump Jake lived in. It's a mess. I'm not sure but I think it was trashed before we got there.”

“That sounds reasonable. Kill Jake and go over his apartment, see what he had hidden there.”

“Or trash the apartment and not find anything and then kill Jake trying to get him to talk.” Bob countered.

“Yeah, either way works. Oh and I’d hide the files I got from Walt. The Captain probably wouldn’t understand where they came from.”

“I was figuring as much. I’ll log the files you took from his office into evidence and take the rest home. The caption was pretty pissed that you took files from the scene of the crime. I pointed out that when you were there it wasn't a crime scene and you were within your rights and had permission from the old lady who was there to take them. He didn't like it very much, but he couldn’t do anything about it.”

“Yeah I’ll bet. I wasn’t exactly crazy about it either. But it had to be done. Last thing we needed was those files being stolen by..”

“ I know. The Caption didn't see it that way.” Bob interrupted me.

“What about the old lady, Keller I think her name is?”

“She’s clean. Ran her prints , and no records of any kind, not even a parking ticket. She knows Lane and Clearance, too.”

“Interesting.” I noted.

“Yeah ain't it? Seems like the whole lot of them came from the same town. I have a man out there now. He should be back by the end of the week. So far he’s talked to the relatives. No ones seen or heard from any of them since long before the war.’

“That makes sense. Leave the small town and your past for the Big City and the good life.”

“Yeah, and the only one who came close was Lane.”

“Kinda makes you wonder..” I said more to myself then Bob.

 I straighten up in the chair. Shifting around so my butt didn't go to sleep.

“Anything new on Lane?”

 Bob shifted in his chair. And pulled a file from the pile. Looking it over he muttered something to himself I didn't hear.

“Yeah, His lawyer got him to clam-up. He’s not talking at all anymore.”

“Great. Ah, he hasn’t gone back to the way he was when we arrested him?”

“Not completely, when the DA first came in he started to but I used your trick, and called him Professor and asked a math question, and he snapped out of it before the DA saw him acting like a blubbering idiot. Once he was used to him, he settled down and talked to him pretty good. But I could tell, he wasn’t far from slipping back. The DA wouldn't have been impressed. Later I told him he had to keep his shit together, if he fell apart in front of the DA, they’d throw the whole case in the trash, and lock him up. He seemed to get it.”

“Good . Stay with him and keep him on an even keel.”

“Yeah I shouldn’t have to babysit suspects, at least not like that.”

“ I know But if he’s right and someone else's killed Emma‚Ķ”

Where you off to today?”

“Don’t know. I really don’t have a solid lead to follow. We can't find Clearance. So I Don't know if I still have a client or not.”

“I got a man watching his place, so far he’s a no show.”

“Good, Thought I'd try to find some of the others on Lane’s list, I found several here in the LA area. Thought I’d check them out. See if anyone’s seen Lane or Clarence, or will admit to the Lazarus Project.”

 I got up and leaned out the door into the hall. The coast was clear, I almost felt like a criminal sneaking in and out of the police station. But I knew if the Captain spotted me here, I’d be in more trouble then Bob could get me out of.

***

In the packard I pulled out the map of Los Angeles. First I found where I was on the map. Then I checked my notes for the address of the people I was sure lived in the city. The first one was a professor by the name of Thomas Cranford. 

He lived not far from Rodeo Drive. A sleepy side street lined with mansions. Each front yard boasted several palm trees and perfectly trimmed lawns bordered by flower gardens that probably took hours to tend. The sign next to his driveway told me the house number in big bold letters that said he was rich and didn't care who knew it. I was glad I had the packard. If I had been in the old ford, I'd have been terribly undressed. As it is I probably still am. Frankly I didn't care.

 Pulling up the long drive that leads to the side of the house. A large overhand served to shade incoming visitors from the sun. Which by now was at it fullest for the day. 

 Shutting off the car under the awning that extended over the section of the driveway I waited. It didn't take long.

I’d barely gotten my Id from my pocket when an old man appeared. I never heard the door open. But the next thing I knew he was standing next to the car door.

 I sorta leaned out the window.

“James St.James, I’d like to see Professor Thomas Cranford.” I held my id out the window. He took it. Looked it over like he was memorizing every word on it.

 Before I could open the door, the door opened.

“Right this way sir. “

I got out and he closed the door behind me. Standing next to him As tall as he was, he was skinny, The outfit he wore looked like a movie house usher. I didn't say anything.

 Following him Up the small set of steps to the side door. I noticed that the windows were all open and several fans were placed stagerlily to move air around the large room. My footsteps echoed on the tile floor.

“Wait here. I’ll see if he’s available now.”

And the old man disappeared out another door at the other end of the room. Left to my own devices. I took off my hat, and walked around the room. Along one wall was a bookcase. Closer examination told me they were mostly science books and a number of reference books. But there was a small section of fiction on the far end.

“You read a lot Mr .StJames?”

 I turned from the bookcase at the sound of the question.

“No, not really, at least not books.”

“ Pity, reading is one of the great pastimes, good for both the soul and the brain.”

“It probably is. But my line of work doesn't give much time to expand my soul or brain.”

“Excuse me, I’m Professor Thomas Crandford. Your..”

“James St.James,” I indicated my ID which he handed me.

“Ah yes. So I see. And how may I help you Mr. St.James?”

“I’m investigating a murder. And your name came up.” I didn't tell how indirectly quite yet.

“A murdr, here?” He seemed upset that the word was mentioned in his presence.

“Well, not here, but in Los Angeles. Yes. A UCLA college professor was killed last week.” I didn’t elearbate yet. 

 He seemed to have settled down a bit.

“Here, come have a drink.” he led to the far end of the room . I hadn’t noticed the bar. But I wasn't looking that close either. The room was that big. I estimated that I could get most of our bungalow in the space of this one room. The bar itself was rather small compared to the size of the room, and the trim and molding helped it blend in even more. So I didn't beat myself up too bad over not noticing it.

“Scotch? ice?”

“Yes please,” He pulled some ice from a bucket that was hidden under the bar. The clink of ice in the glasses reminded me of bones cracking . Pouring Two glasses from a large cut glass decanter, I took the one he slid over to me.

“So you're a real life private eye?”

“Private Investigator. Yes.” I let it sit there for a minute while I Drank the scotch that was better than I was used to.

“So what do I know about a murder?”

“Probably not a lot. But You do know the man who confessed to it. Lane Hardy.”

“Lane? I haven’t seen him since before the war.”

“No you saw him a lot during the war. You worked with him on a t...






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