Trunk Music--A Nitrous Racing Story

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Trunk Music--A Nitrous Racing Story

Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:43 pm

...........eight years ago, Velo City police investigated the death of a free-lance street racer found in the trunk of his brand-new tuner. After pressure from certain individuals within the halls of power in the city, they walked away from the case. Everyone thought the case would stay dead, a silent case of Velo City trunk music.............unfortunately, they forgot to tell street racer and former criminal-turned-private investigator Matthew Little that. Asked to investigate the case on behalf of the brother of the dead racer, Little and his friends step into the fray, uncovering a plot by some of the city's leaders to re-ignite long-simmering tensions between the city's street racing clubs......and possibly re-opening a few grievous wounds of his own...............

Chapter 1
***morning, Kensington Hills***
They say there are 4 million stories in Velo City, I thought to myself as I slowly awoke to the sounds of the alarm clock blaring its’ consistent bleet-bleet-bleet at me. Unfortunately, I also thought, there must be 4 million hangovers as well. My head was pounding a fierce staccato beat, thanks to the copious amounts of alcohol my friends and I had drunk the night before.

Normally, I wasn’t the type to get ****-faced drunk. Anniversaries were an exception to the rule; one of my closest friends and a member of Exotic Ice Customs, Michael Chevalier, had celebrated his tenth wedding anniversary the night before at Zero Degrees and I felt obligated to at least try to keep up, drink for drink. It wasn’t the smartest of ideas, though, as I had a race to compete in the next night up at Ascot Park and, like I said, normally I don’t drink to the point of intoxication.

This left me at the end of the night with two choices. I could either try to drive home, and risk getting hooked by either the CHP or the VCPD for drunk driving, or have someone drive me home, for I could always drive back to the club the next morning......sober. In the end, one of EIC’s security people drove me back home, waited for me to enter the house, then drove back to the club. I don’t think I had been home for over a minute when I staggered to the bedroom and flopped onto the bed, falling fast asleep, still fully dressed.

After a few muttered curses, I turned the alarm off and sat on the side of the bed, thinking about the night before. Part of me was happy for Mike and Sarah; they’d been married for 10 years and still loved each other as though they were newlyweds’. Part of me was melancholy, though, as I looked over at a picture next to the alarm clock. It was a picture of my late fiancée, Stephanie Harrington, taken at her Santa Monica rowhouse. We were both smiling at the camera at the time and very much in love with one another. Whoever said time heals all wounds was a liar, I thought; the pain I had suffered those months back still hadn’t quite healed......and I still had nightmares of that night in particular. They had become very infrequent but still haunted the recesses of my mind.

Looking away, I got up, shook my head to focus myself, and looked over at the clock. 8:30am, it said in big red numbers. Time to face the world, Jackass Flats, I said as I stripped down to nothing and walked to the bathroom, turning on the shower and letting it steam up for a bit. Getting in, I let the water cascade down before washing everywhere. After a few minutes, I hopped out of the shower and toweled off; wrapping the towel around my waist I took a couple of minutes to shave. Hanging the towel on a rack, I walked back to the bedroom and got dressed; light-colored sport shirt, Dockers and a pair of black Sketchers’ made for a light wardrobe.

Grabbing the Bren Ten .45 I carried when out on the street, I tucked it behind me in the square of my back. As I walked out of the bedroom, I snuck one last glance at the photo before getting my wallet and cell phone. Getting a sport jacket off the coat rack, I put it on and grabbed the keys to a 2009 Cadillac Escalade I drove every so often; it was a special vehicle for me and it still carried a lot of memories, good and bad. Backing out of the driveway, I turned onto one of the side streets leading towards Kensington Blvd. and Zero Degrees and headed on my merry way.

***Zero Degrees Nightclub, the Taravel District***
It was a quick drive down Kensington to the club, which surprised me. Mid-morning Velo City traffic could best be described as a cross between having dental surgery without anesthesia and being trapped in the 9th circle of Dante’s Inferno. Seeing the club off to the left, I pulled off the highway and headed for my usual parking space towards the front entrance. Shutting the Caddy off, I reached over and pulled out a bunch of business cards; on them, it said, “M Investigations” and had several cell numbers on them; mine, Chevalier’s and Marquis’ among them. Putting them in the inside pocket of my jacket, I headed into the club; as always, Kent and the barstaff had the place looking great; off to one side, sound techs were working on the speaker system as it gave out the occasional high-pitched squeal.

Grabbing a Miller High Life from the bar fridge, I headed upstairs to one of the corner tables; there sat the rest of the collective braintrust of one of Velo City’s newest detective agencies.......Michael Chevalier, Matt Frechette, Melissa Marquis, Michael Smith and Jason Ridenaur. Even though Chevalier and I handled most of the cases, I trusted their judgment and vice-versa. Walking over to the table, Chevalier saw me and asked, “You look like hell, Matt? You alright?”

“Yeah, aside from the Velo City Orchestra doing a number in my head, yeah, Mike, I’m alright,” I replied, snagging a ham sandwich from a nearby platter. Taking a large bite, he looked over at them. “How’s everyone doing?”, I asked, sitting down at the table.
“Fine, fine,” they all said. “So, where we all at today?” I asked.

They all began talking about this and that; most of the time, when someone, usually from the street racing community, needed help, we’d take the case and run with it. The only caveat in place was very simple......the case had to be of an amateur nature; no ties to organized crime or the underground. To enforce that, before we took a case, both Chevalier or I had to agree to take it on, period. After about thirty minutes or so, everything started to taper down. Sensing our meeting was towards’ it end, I finished with, “See y’all later today, guys.”

As the rest of our crew walked away, I stretched back in a corner chair, propped my feet up on the table and took a long drag on the beer. Mike grabbed another chair and sat down next to where I was lounged. “You holding up alright, Matt? Still having nightmares about Stephanie's death and all that?”

After a long silence, I slowly nodded; even after six or so months, there wasn’t a week that went by that the same nightmare came to mind from that night and every time I had it, I’d awake in mortal terror, sweat-drenched and shaking from head to toe. “Yeah, every so often, Mike. Why; I look like hell or something?”

“Not today. Sometimes, yeah, but not.......,” he said as a buzzer interrupted him. Pressing down one of the buttons next to it, he said, “Yes?”

“Sorry to bother you lovebirds up there,” came the voice on the other end, “but there’s someone here to talk to one of y’all about something; an old murder, they said.” It was EIC’s floor manager, Patrick Hamilton, a/k/a Ravyn, who ran the ground floor area(except the bar) with equal parts skill, dexterity and Memphis charm/flair. Other than either Scandalous’s head of security, Bulletproof or Kent, Zero’s lead bartender, nothing happened in the club that didn’t get past Ravyn.

“Send them up,” I said. Straightening up the table, we had just sat back down when a tall, bookish man in his late forties, accompanied by another man in his thirties’, came over to our table. Shaking hands, we sat down around the table. The older man introduced himself and the younger man; Mike and I did likewise. “I’m sorry to bother you gentlemen, but I was wondering if you could take a look at a mystery for us.”

“A mystery?,” Mike asked.
“Yes,” said the younger man, removing his shades and looking at us. “The mystery being, who killed my younger brother eight years ago, left his body stuffed in the trunk of his car and why the authorities thought it wasn’t important to solve it then!”
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:44 pm

Chapter 2

***notes taken during interview w/Mr. Terrance Belmont and attorney Mickey Schallert***
April 2001...............Velo City Police receive call concerning an abandoned Mitsubishi Mirage along dirt road just off Laurel Canyon Dr......someone living nearby reported seeing two cars enter dirt road and only one leaving. Patrol units from VCPD Hollywood Division are given call. Upon arrival they see a light-gray Mirage w/racing stripes along each side. Upon approaching, officers’ notice fetid smell coming from rear of vehicle. At first check, vehicle’s trunk is locked; after opening w/trunk opener, officers discover body of a 23yo Caucasian male w/what appeared to be several entry wounds to the upper body[forensics later ID’ed the entry wounds as coming from a .38 calibre weapon]. Division detectives were called to scene, where they made preliminary ID as that of Daniel Scott Belmont[ID later confirmed following coroner’s report], formerly of Tucson, Az. but w/California DL; Cal. LPs’ were on car. Search of vehicle revealed nothing of note[detectives on scene believed whoever had killed Belmont might’ve cleaned interior of vehicle afterwards.............]. It was detectives’ findings at that time that Belmont had been followed by person/persons unknown sometime several nights before, taken to area off Laurel Canyon and shot; perps’ then left scene in second vehicle[multiple tire tracks were noticed on road; later investigation revealed dirt road was rarely used].........

...............then it got, well..............weird.
April 2001 followup................after several days of investigation by Hollywood Division detectives, decision was made by Glass House[a/k/a Parker Center, VCPD Hqs.] to transfer case from division to Robbery-Homicide[Homicide Special Unit]. Parts of investigation were also looked at by RHD’s Major Crimes Unit, Intelligence Division and Gang Task Force. It was believed that by giving case to RHD, either the case would be solved or case would quietly slip into the netherworld of just another unsolved........ I was writing up everything Mr. Belmont and his attorney had said to both Mike and I, a single thought kept emerging; someone, somewhere from on high wanted this case dropped. What better way to do it than by bigfooting the case from division to the Glass House and letting it disappear. My initial reckoning......they probably thought; ahh, its’ just another street racer; why worry? That alone got my blood going; just because the kid had been a street-racer didn’t mean he could be discarded like day-old fish...........

As Belmont and his attorney began to finish up, I looked towards the ground-floor dance hall. The soundmen were finishing up their work and everything was getting spruced up for the evening’s crowds. Finally, Belmont’s attorney spoke up. “I believe that about finishes it up, gentlemen. All my client wants is justice for his brother and he’s hoping that you can come through.” Standing up, we all shook hands. “We’ll do what we can, sir. I can’t promise you anything, but if there’s something untoward here, we’re find it out," I said to both of them. As they walked away, I sat back and looked over all the notes I had taken, whistling audibly for a brief instant. “What d’ya think, Mike?”

“What do I think?,” he said, his forehead creased in thought. “I think someone had it out for this kid, leaving him out there like that.” He paused, then added, “there is one thing that’s odd.”
“Well, they said he’d been racing for several months. Matt, when you came down here from the Bay Area, how long had you raced before joining EIC?”
“A few months, if I recall.......”
“Well, if their information jibes, Belmont had been out here about six, seven months and still hadn’t joined a racing club........”
“Doesn’t mean anything, Slick. Some choose not to join and remain freelancers’; nothing wrong ‘bout that.”
“Fair, but I think we still need to ask both of the other clubs about him, whether he tried to join or not.”

“Alright; you want to talk to the tuners or the gearheads, which ones first, Slick?” Getting up to stretch for a moment, I looked at my watch; it was close to 12:30pm and my stomach was beginning to growl. “Tell you what, Mike. Let’s grab a bite to eat and we’ll try to get some of the prelim stuff out of the way; we both have races tonight as I recall, so we can’t really do much today anyhow. Let’s at least go out to that dirt road off Laurel Canyon and look around, see if anything catches the eye. Eight years is a long time, but who knows? Maybe we’ll find something out there or possibly pick up some bit of info the investigating officers didn’t.”

***mid-afternoon, off Laurel Canyon Rd.***
As the mid-day sun beat down all around us, Mike and I got out of his S-10, which he had parked back on Laurel Canyon next to where the dirt road peeled away. Gravel crunched underneath our shoes as we walked along what had been. Back in 2001, a dirt road but was now partially filled-in with small bits of rock and gravel. Looking around at the canyon-sides that made up the Laurel Canyon area, I thought out loud, “It’s a wonder anyone didn’t hear the gunshots that night," I said. "You’ve got canyons around and most of the homes, if I recall,” pointing back to the road, “are on this side of the canyon, so someone should’ve heard something.”

“Good point, but at’ve have to be looking right down into this area to even notice anything. As for gunshots......Matt, its’ Velo City. Gunshots are like street racing.....they're a way of life.”
“But..........I’m still puzzled about one thing the elder Belmont said this morning.”
“What is it?”

“Well, he told us about the initial police report, yet.......,” looking through the small notepad I kept with me, “the initial report said VCPD were notified concerning an abandoned vehicle. And the report, “wasn’t followed up on for over a day or so.”
“Odd, but not surprising. Depends on who got the call-out........”

“According to this,” I continued, flipping through more pages, “it was a Zebra car assigned to Hollywood Division that got here first; a Basic car got here moments after. The three officers went up to the car, which was......”, walking over to where the car supposedly was found, “here. They got to about 15 feet and noticed a fetid smell; one of the officers popped open the trunk with a burglar’s rod, a Slim Jim, and that’s when they saw the body of the younger Belmont, dead in the trunk of his car.”

Looking back at Chevalier, I closed the book and walked over to the cliff’s edge; looking outward, I could see, back in the distance, the skyscrapers of downtown Velo City, covered by a thin haze of smog. “I’m still thinking someone knew this kid from on high, Mike, and when word got back to them that he had died, squashed the investigation to keep it from getting in the papers, not that it probably hadn’t already. If we only knew the kid’s whereabouts those last 24 hours.......”

“Where do you want to start, Matt?”
“Let’s see if we can get a copy of the investigations’ report from both Hollywood and RHD, Mike; once we have that, we can break down who this Daniel Belmont was, who did he know and when did he know them..........maybe something shakes out, maybe it doesn’t.” I looked at my watch; we’d been here since 3pm and it was now around 4:30. The sun was beginning to bake its’ way into my skin and considering where we were at, a late-day run through rush-hour traffic was not something to look forward to. But as Mike and I walked back to the truck, I kept wondering, “who did this Daniel Belmont know at the time? Was it someone from one of the three major clubs, a smaller club, or was it someone not affiliated with the street racing life? Could it have been someone important, someone, who, like Mike said, knew the kid from on high.......”

As we drove down Laurel Canyon back towards the club, I put those thoughts behind me for the moment; it was only the first day of what was starting to look like a long case ahead of us and I didn't want any thoughts of the case to cloud my mind at the races tonight. And......if someone important in Velo City did know Daniel Belmont, we'd find out soon enough.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:45 pm

Chapter 3

***next morning, Velo City Times***
After a quick trip to Zero Degrees to talk with Mike and the others, I headed towards downtown and one of the city’s landmarks, the Velo City Times building. Its’ concrete and stone structure took up almost half a block between S. Spring St. and Broadway along W. 1st St. within eyesight of both Parker Center and the Velo City Hall Building. It was said in some circles that Mayor Sunny didn’t make a move without seeing where the winds were blowing in both Parker Center and the Times Building.

Heading through the main lobby, I glided past the Times Globe which sat in the center of the main lobby and walked to the long bank of elevators, waiting for the next one up. Finally one opened up and I walked inside, holding the door open for a moment before letting it close and hitting the sixth-floor button. The sixth floor was home to the Times’ Metro Office, which housed the paper’s retinue of crime reporters, most of whom had earned at least one Pulitzer each over the years. When I arrived on the sixth floor, I looked around, not seeing who I had come up to talk to. Scanning the floor slowly, I saw who I was looking for and headed over towards one of the corner offices. Threading my way past the hubbub of a busy newspaper office(even in the age of the Internets, there is still something to be said for the feel and touch of a broadsheet........), I arrived at the senior editor’s office.

The door was slightly ajar and I heard a woman’s voice; glancing in, I saw a tall, graceful looking woman talking, Bluetooth headset attached to her right ear. Watching in bemusement, I waited a little bit until she was finished, then rapped gently against the door. “Still telling lies and sea stories, huh, Gina?”

“And you’re not?,” came the reply, in a manner befitting her patrician background. “How’ve you been, Matt?”
“I’m still hanging in there, just taking it day by day, Gina. Mind if I come in, or should I just stand here at the door and look non consequential?”

Motioning me into her office, I closed the door as she came around the desk to give me a pleasant hug, which I returned. Sitting down behind her desk, she asked, “So what can I help you with, Matt?” At 40, Gina Roarty was the Metro Office’s senior editor, with several awards to her credit. She was also one of the savviest people within the Times’ organization. Rumor had it that the next available executive editor’s position was her’s, but I wasn’t here to discuss future events. Back in 2001, Roarty had been the Times’ lead crime reporter. If there was anyone in Velo City who knew the ins’ and outs’ of the city’s underbelly, Roarty was likely to know.

“Remember a murder back, April 2001, guy found in the trunk of his car off Laurel Canyon?”

“I think so......yeah, I should remember; I was the reporter covering the case at the time. What happened, did the 10th floor over at Parker revive the case once again?,” referring to the office of William Bratton, chief of the Velo City Police Department; the chief’s office was on the top floor of the 10-story headquarters building, named for former VCPD chief William Parker.

“No; the eldest brother of the victim asked me to look into it. That is why I am here, babe.” Leaning back in the chair, I pressed on. “Gina, the thing that’s bugging me about this case at the moment is this......why did it get dropped into the department’s circular file when, going by all reports, the investigation was going alright.”

“That’s something I’ve asked myself for the past eight years, Matt. Strange thing, though, was that I couldn’t get a single member of the department to talk about the case. Ditto for anyone who knew anything about Daniel Belmont, the victim. Every time I tried to talk to someone about Mr. Belmont, I either got stony silence or a door slammed in my face.” Looking past me for a moment, Roarty continued. “The weirdest thing, though, was that supposedly someone very close to the mayor, one of his ‘Deputy Mayors’, squashed the case but no one could figure out who. I got my suspicions, but they’re not enough to go into print without asking myself, ‘Do I have the stones to follow through with this?’”

“Someone now close to the mayor........there’s a few that come to mind, babe. Unfortunately, the one that comes closest to mind would have mine and your head’s on a platter, next to the fancy china and silver.” Twiddling my thumbs for a second, I continued on. “See what you can dig up, Gina. In the meantime, I’ve got tickets to the next Kings match if you’re interested–“

”The way they’re playing,” she quipped, “let me guess......rinkside seats?”

“No, try luxury seats, B level around center ice.” Sensing that the conversation was near an end, I began to get up and leave the office when I heard the sound of someone writing. Turning back around, she slid a piece of paper across the desk. Picking it up, I saw a phone number written on it. “Call me when you get those tickets, Matt. I need to get out of the office more. Maybe a night of watching others beat each other into a bloody pulp would be a good thing. God knows the Kings can’t play for ****’s sake, but it makes for nightly amusement on KVLO.” That was another thing you had to admire about Gina. Even with her patrician upbringing, she had been a crime reporter long enough that she’d acquired many habits, one of which was the ability to talk even the most dog-worn sailors down. Handing her my card, I told her to let me know when she had found something.

As I was leaving the floor, my cell phone was buzzing; getting it out of its’ leather sheath, I answered. “Hello?”
“Matt, its’ Mike; where ya’ at?”
“Sixth floor, Times Building; you?”
“Zero Degrees. Listen, I think we got a lead on the case, specifically who squashed it back in 2001–“
”Let me guess, Penelope Baldomero?”
“How the –“

”Gina Roarty was the reporter who handled the Times’ coverage of the case then; she had suspicions someone high up had their fingers all throughout the case.....she didn’t know who but she had a couple of guesses.”

“Well, it gets better. Source I talked to over in Vice said that, back in 2001, there was boatloads of pressure put on then-Chief Parks to have the case transferred from Hollywood downtown. Apparently the detectives handling the case, Detectives Cliff Hansen and Kelsey McNeal, must’ve gotten too close for sweet ole’ Penelope’s comfort, or so I heard.”

“That doesn’t explain how she could be connected to Daniel Belmont, however. All you have is supposition; for all we know, Baldomero could’ve had an passing acquaintance with Belmont. There’s another idea we need to pursue, Mike; maybe Baldomero had a relationship with the elder Belmont, what was his name......”
“Yeah, let’s look at that also. Could be nothing, could be something. Any other leads of interest, Mike?”

“Three. First, Belmont had been seen in the days prior to his death visiting some dockside bar down in the Harbor District. What was the name of the place........,” as he looked on his end, I could hear papers being ruffled, “oh, here it is. Solids’ Bar, down in the San Pedro area of the Harbor. Second, he had been seen on multiple occasions visiting Dynasty Point up in the Valley.” I thought about that for a moment; it appeared as though Belmont had been seen in both Musclebomb and Rising Sun areas of Velo City, yet no evidence of either club had been found on his body at the time of his death. Of course, whoever killed him might’ve removed such evidence. “Finally,” Mike continued, “one of us should talk to either Hansen or McNeal, try to find out how far along they were before their case got taken from them.”

“Sounds like a winner, Mike. I’ll see you back at Zero later this afternoon, okay?” Putting the cell phone back up, I kept thinking about the case so far as I walked out of the Times Building. Could Belmont have been double-dealing his way through life, playing Rising Sun and Musclebomb off against one another? It wasn’t without risk, but would someone from either club go so far as to kill him? The risk didn’t seem to be worth it, I thought. I also kept wondering, what was Daniel Belmont’s significance to Baldomero? Did she have a role to play in his passing? I knew sooner or later we were going to have to talk to Deputy Mayor Baldomero, but I wanted to put that off until we could get a trace on Belmont’s last steps. Christ, I thought to myself, I think I’m starting to know how Hansen and McNeal felt that first day of their investigation. But would ours end up like theirs’, caught in some gigantic circular file.......or would we find out just what happened?
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:46 pm

Location Shots, Pt.1 writing any story, one must should be cognizant of location(as the saying goes, "location, location, location".......) whenever writing. At the very least, locations should give an idea as to where a character is in Velo City(sometimes, just telling where someone is isn't enough.......). Hence, some location shots.

2212 Baker St., Kensington Hills.
.......Main character's residence, just off Kensington Blvd. in northeast Velo City. Even in the desert-like environment of Southern California, there are still patches of forests around. Looking outward from the back of the house here, one can almost see right into downtown Velo(depending on the amount of smog in the air.......)

Velo City Times building. Home to the second-largest newspaper(by circulation) w/in the United States, the building is located in the heart of downtown Velo City, a stone's throw from both City Hall and Parker Center.

City Hall. Situated in the heart of downtown Velo, the building is an iconic symbol of the city and the region.

The newly-build Police Administration Building, a/k/a One Parker Center. Built to replace the aging former Velo City Police Department's headquarters building, it is named for former chief William Parker.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:46 pm

Chapter 4

***mid-afternoon, Harbor District***
After a long lunch downtown at the Pacific Dining Car, it was back to work. I still had to get back to Zero Degrees later that afternoon for the evening sit-around, but I wanted to start somewhere on Daniel Belmont’s whereabouts in the day or days leading up to his death. What better way to start than by eliminating one potential problem from our list of problems.

According to what information we’d gathered so far, Belmont had been seen in the area surrounding Solids’ Bar, a large bar/restaurant located in the San Pedro area of the Harbor District. Solids’ was the headquarters for Musclebomb Motorsports, one of the three big street racing clubs in Velo City. When you combined both Solids’ with the surrounding garages and dockside spaces along S. Crescent Ave., it took up almost a quarter of the 2000 block of S. Crescent along S. Mesa St. I kept wondering, what was Belmont doing down here, and more importantly, who had he been with at the time?

As I weaved my way through the outbound traffic on the 405 my mind kept meandering back to all the times I’d heard Stephanie talk about the street racing culture and the SRTF. Sure, Musclebomb was the largest club by membership numbers, but its’ relative isolation in Velo City from both Exotic Ice Customs and Rising Sun Imports meant that it was also hard to find out much about them.......except by traveling down to their neck of the woods. As I exited the 405 freeway, I drove around for a bit, looking for Solids’ and a place to park. Pulling into a space on Crescent, I pulled a couple of cards out and placed them in my sport jacket, then got out of the Ferrari Enzo I was driving and began walking over to the club. Now, a rational person might tell you that leaving an Enzo in that were just asking for someone to jack the vehicle from you. But I knew that that wouldn’t happen for a couple of reasons.

To start with, anyone dumb enough to steal a rival clubman’s car, especially when they were on what was essentially a social call, was just asking for a beatdown later on. In addition, my name and reputation had spread across the breadth of Velo City. Part of it, I was certain, had to do with the events of six months ago;. Another part of it had to do with the fact that, while slow to anger, I’ll throw down at the drop of a addition, there was the fact that I was one heck of a racer on-track, which counted for a lot in the city of Angels. The final part of it had to do with the even-handed nature of my business. M Investigations had a simple rule: Everyone counts. To me, it didn’t matter whether you carried the colors of EIC or those of Musclebomb or Rising Sun or even if you didn't. If you had a legit problem and came to ask us for help, I’d do everything in my power to help. That kind of even-handed approach bred respect, and as the saying went, “Respect breeds respect.”

As I walked to the door of Solids’, I noticed two individuals standing at the door; one had what had to be the worst approximation of a Mohawk in Velo City while the other looked like he was a couple of gears short upstairs, if you know what I mean. Bounding the steps two at a time, the gear-short guy stepped in front of me. “Well, what do we have here? You lost, Icer? Need directions back to the highway?,” he said in a smart-*** manner as Mohawk laughed.

“No, I’m just here to have a cup of coffee and talk to a few people–“

”You, here to talk to our people? Why don’t you turn around and go back to Icer-ville before I kick you into the street!” As he said it, he had walked over and placed a large, meaty hand on my left shoulder. As he tried to intimidate me, I looked over at Mohawk man. “Skaggs, right?” He nodded. Pointing to him, I asked, “Are you going to be the one to take Big Al here to the hospital in a few minutes?”

Apparently, Big Al didn’t like that. “Hey, Icer, move along–“ Before he had a chance to say anything else, my right arm shot up, thumb extended, jabbing him right in the throat. Stunned, Big Al fell to the ground with a crash; Skaggs stood nearby, scared out of his wits. The commotion had brought a few people outside, including a broad-shouldered fellow I knew from the racing scene. “Okay, what’s going on here?”

Pointing to Big Al, who was coughing on the ground, I looked at Sandman and said, “Your friend here assaulted me.”
“That’s bull****, Sandman; I didn’t assault him,” Big Al said in between coughs. Skaggs, meanwhile, stood shaking as Sandman walked over to me. “Don't I know you from somewhere....”

“We’ve raced a bunch of times; you’ve beaten me a few times and I've returned the favor a few times.” Shaking his hand, I introduced myself and handed him one of my cards. Putting it in a shirt pocket, he said, “Private detective, huh, Mr. Little? That has to be interesting at times.”

"Investigator, Sandman.....private investigator, and it has its’ moments, sir. Just ask Big Al when he recovers,” I replied; both of us laughed as we walked into Solids. For mid-afternoon the place was hopping as we walked to one of the tables; as we walked, he said, “Its’ been a couple of months, but my condolences on your loss, Mr. Little. Losing someone very can take its’ toll on even the strongest of us, eh?"

I nodded as we continued on. Finally we reached one of the tables towards the back of Solids’. Sitting down, one of the barstaff asked if we needed anything. I let Sandman do the ordering and we got down to business. I laid out what I could about Daniel Belmont and what happened to him; Sandman sat back, seemingly lost in thought for a long time. “Daniel Belmont.......” he kept repeating, as if it were like a fine wine. “I’m sorry, the name doesn’t seem to ring a bell. Eight, nine years ago, I was still living up in Vancouver, British Columbia. I hadn’t yet moved to Velo City.”

“Do you recall if he had any friends, any acquaintances that might’ve been members of Musclebomb back then?”

“None come to mind right away. Why, is there some suspicion......”

“Can’t quite say, Sandman. Police reports from the time didn’t hint at it, and everything my people and I have come up with seem to indicate the same. Of course, there could be a connection, but I haven’t quite gotten there,” pausing to take another bite out of a large burger. As I was chewing away, Sandman spoke.

“There’s one guy I know who knew the kid back then. His name’s King; he was here at the time with Musclebomb and he might’ve known the kid.”

“Is he still with you guys?”

“Yeah, he still is. He usually haunts the place here in the evenings; feel free to come on by sometime.” We continued to talk for several more minutes but I could tell by his expressions that whatever information he had, it wasn’t much. Still, it was more than I had beforehand, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Besides, there was one unexpected benefit from visiting. As I got up, I happened to ask Sandman for the check; he waved it off, saying, “This one’s on the house. Anyone as respectful of club culture and custom such as yourself needn’t worry about such trivial items.” I handed him another card and said, “Make sure King gets this; if he knows anything, have him call me. My cell number and Zero Degrees’ number are on the card.”

“I’ll give it to him. Stay safe out there, my friend.” As he sat back in his chair, I walked towards the exit, thinking to myself, Did I get all the information he had or was he holding back something? If he was, what was it? And did King possibly know something that could help break the case open? Walking outside, I looked over and saw Skaggs back away from me; I mock-flexed a punch and Skaggs took off for one of Musclebomb’s myriad of garages. Meanwhile, Big Al stood nearby and watched me walk away, still recovering from the punch I had thrown him earlier. Getting to my car, I hopped in and tore off for the 405, thinking, “One more to go.”

The plan was simple; since Belmont had not spoken to anyone in EIC, if I could eliminate the other street clubs, that would allow us to focus more on Deputy Mayor Baldomero. More and more I felt certain she had known Belmont at the time, but what the relationship was I didn’t know. That was for later work. Now, as I raced up the 405, it was getting towards evening rush-hour and the evening sit-around at the club. Little did i know the case was about to take an interesting turn, but what that turn was I didn’t know.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:47 pm

Chapter 5

***late afternoon/early evening, Zero Degrees***

Arriving back at the club, I thought about what Sandman had said, running it over and over in my mind. Going by what he had said, Belmont had frequented Solids’ a few times but hadn’t made much of an impression on Musclebomb’s leadership. There was still the tie-in between Belmont and Rising Sun, but Melissa Marquis had been looking at that one and would fill the rest of us in about it. Grabbing a High Life from the bar fridge, I bounded up the stairs to the corner table we used to discuss our cases; all the crew was there. Grabbing a chair, I sat down and begin our evening sit-around. “Alright, who wants to begin this little discussion? Slick, Mike, Frech.....alright, I’ll start. I spent about an hour late this morning over at the Times building talking to Gina Roarty, the reporter who wrote about the Belmont murder back in 2001. According to her, Belmont was involved with our esteemed deputy mayor, Ms. Baldomero. It was Baldomero who put pressure on the VCPD to drop-kick the case downtown and then later to bury it. On top of that.......Mike, what’d you tell me this afternoon?”

“According to my source over in Vice, the detectives handling the case back in 2001, Hansen and McNeal, were close to catching Baldomero with her hands deep in the case when, la-de-da-da, the case goes from Hollywood downtown to Robbery-Homicide, where it gets deep-sixed, but not before they did a cursory look-see at the case. As for our esteemed detectives.......Frech, you find anything about them?”

“Not much. Cliff Hansen retired in early 2002 and moved to northern Idaho, whereupon a year or so later he ate a hollowpoint from a .357. As for Kelsey McNeal, she' still alive and well. She lives in Wilshire near Carthay Center. Currently, she's assigned to Devonshire Division---"

”That’s in the Valley, isn’t it?,” said Mike Smith. “Way up in the Valley if I recall......”

“Correct. After the Belmont case got sent to the circular file, she stayed in Hollywood Division and eventually was put in charge of the Homicide desk there. Now get this: a few years ago, she gets promoted to Sergeant, a promotion that, according to the thin blue rumor mill, had been left hanging after the Belmont case. At the moment, she's currently the assistant to the detective squad commander up in Devonshire--"

“In other words, they let her twist in the wind over the Belmont case and then decided to subject her to freeway therapy as a not-too-subtle reminder not to look back at that case.” Thinking for a moment, Little rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked over at Marquis. “Melissa, what about any links between Belmont and Rising Sun?”

“Not much there, Matt,” she said. “If anything, I got the gut feeling when I talked to a couple of Rising Sun members over in Dynasty Point this afternoon that they didn’t much care for Belmont. On top of that, rumor had it at the time that he seemed not very interested but interested, you know?” A couple of us nodded as she continued.

“According to the people I talked to, he wasn’t going to become a member of Rising Sun at the time, but they didn’t mind him hanging around–“

”Huh?”, Chevalier asked. “They wouldn’t let him join, but they allowed him to hang around?”

“Yep; my guess is that he was feeding them info on Musclebomb with the help of somebody from on high, someone with knowledge of certain street club activities–“

”One problem, Melissa, with that," I said, interjecting. "Baldomero wasn’t deputy mayor of Velo City back in 2001; she was working for VestaCo. back then as an assistant to the company’s Vice-President of Automotive Services, Carson Hall, here in Velo City. When Armin Villareal was running for mayor against Richard Hahn back in 2005, Baldomero was a major contributor to his campaign; some say the major contributor to his campaign. When he took office, she moved from the VestaCo. boardroom to City Hall.”

“Convenient. She helps him become mayor, he puts her in a position of power. ‘One hand scratches the other, huh?,” quipped Frechette.

“Convenient, but at the time, perfectly legal. Baldomero is, as they say, the power behind the throne.” That brought a round of laughs from everyone as it was well-known that Mayor Sunny wasn’t the sharpest tool in the city’s proverbial shed. “You know, I keep thinking–“

”Uh-oh,” Chevalier said. I shot him a look and continued. “Funny, Mike. Anyway, I keep all accounts, Belmont seems not to have been interested in joining any street racing clubs, yet why would Penelope Baldomero of all people take such an active interest in someone like Belmont unless........”
“What is it, Matt?”

“Wasn’t there talk back in 2001 about a possible street war between some of the clubs?”

“Yeah,” Ridenaur noted. “There was lots of chatter back then about Musclebomb and Rising Sun going at it, but it all seemed to have died down then. I keep wondering, Matt......could Belmont have been a go-between the two clubs?”
“What?,” Chevalier thought out loud. “Go-between?”

“Go-between,” Ridenaur replied. “Maybe Baldomero was using him as a go-between to stir up trouble between the two clubs–“

”And once that happens, Mayor Sunny comes riding in on his white horse, shuts down the street racing scene and looks like a hero to the unwashed masses. Woulda’ worked back then if Belmont hadn’t gotten clipped. Funny thing, though...aren’t tensions still pretty high between Musclebomb and Rising Sun at the moment?”

“And how,” I quipped. “When I drove down to Solids’ this afternoon, I counted at least five black-and-whites' and a half-dozen or so Chips' in just the immediate area around Solids’–“

”Same around Dynasty Point,” Marquis added. “Perhaps Chief Bratton doesn’t want a repeat of 2001.”

“Perhaps, but if that’s the case, who stands to benefit, Melissa? Certainly neither Musclebomb or Rising Sun would benefit. EIC doesn’t benefit either, though, ‘cause if they shut down the street racing scene in Velo City, everyone suffers. Us, them, it won’t matter to the city. They’ll lump us all together into one big, steaming pile of not good.”

As the conversations continued, I leaned back in my chair, thinking about a quote I had read while locked up down at Terminal Island...........”The world’s best swordsman doesn’t fear the world’s second best swordsman; he fears the worst because he doesn’t know what the idiot will do.” I kept thinking, if Belmont was spying on both clubs, who was he spying on them for? Was it Baldomero? Was it then-Chief Parks? Maybe an outside player? “Okay. So we know Belmont’s whereabouts the last twenty-four hours or so of his life back then. We know neither Musclebomb or Rising Sun much cared for him and there’s no evidence that EIC looked at him at the time. Mike’s sources,” pointing over at Chevalier, “say he had been hooked up by the VCPD a couple of times, so maybe they were using him to spy on the street racing scene. Meanwhile, there’s the matter of his, ‘relationship’ with Penelope Baldomero. What was it, how tight was the relationship, who benefited.......” Hearing Slick’s laughter, I looked over at him, “What now, Slick?”

“I keep thinking, Matt. What would a bright, successful woman like Penelope Baldomero be doing with the likes of someone like Daniel Belmont?”

“Stranger things have happened, compadre,” Smith added. “I could see her with Belmont’s older brother, but Daniel? That just doesn’t make sense, ya’ know?”

“True, true. Alright,” I said, looking down towards the ground floor of Zero Degrees. It was ‘bout time for the club to open up for the night's crowd, so I quickly wrapped up our evening sit-around. “Alright, here’s the plan. Mike, go back to your Vice source and find out as much as you can about Deputy Mayor Baldomero. Frech, you and Marquis begin tailing her; around the clock, twenty-four hours, where she goes, who she meets with, the whole bag of wax. Smith, Ridenaur, go up to the Valley and keep tabs on Rising Sun and watch them carefully. Be careful, though, guys. If someone’s trying to re-ignite a war between Musclebomb and Rising Sun, find out who and fast, but stay out of the way. It’s like what Scandalous said a while back, ‘Let the other clubs slug it out in the dirt. We got nothing to hide and no reason to.' ”

Looking back over at the second-floor windows, I followed the light beams of the late evening sun shine their way in. “Maybe its’ just me, but I have got a bad feeling something’s about to go down and soon. Stay safe, guys, alright?” As the others filed out from around the table, I took one last drag of the High Life and walked over to the window.

Looking out, I could see the late evening traffic stream up and down Kensington Blvd. with the setting sun off in the distance. What was Baldomero's connection to Daniel Belmont, I thought to myself. Could there be others involved, other players we didn’t know about? Running my hands through my close-cropped brown hair, I kept thinking about these questions as I watched the sun set in the distance. Just what was going on in Velo City?
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:48 pm

Chapter 6

***morning, Kensington Hills***
Whoever’s calling this early in the morning better have a good ******* reason to do so, I thought, slowly awaking from another not-so-good night of sleep. Pulling myself upright on the couch in my living room, I was still dressed from the day before but felt as though someone had run a couple hundred elephants over me. Gathering myself for a moment, I picked up the cell and answered in a still groggy voice, “Hello?”

“Matt? Is that you? You alright?” It was Mike Chevalier on the other end; by the sounds of it, he was at Zero Degrees and it sounded busier than usual. I looked at my watch; 8:21am, it said. Okay, make it a lot busier than normal. “Yeah, I’m alright; didn’t get much sleep, so I went back over what we’ve learned so far and fell asleep on the couch.” Standing up to stretch for a moment, I sat back down, still stiff and sore. “What’s up?”

“Turn on the TV; things have taken a bit of a nose dive in the city overnight.” As he spoke I reached over and picked up the remote; turning the television on, I watched the local coverage on KVLO. By the gist of it, someone had taken the brewing street racing feud between Musclebomb and Rising Sun to another level. I muted the TV and spoke. “Did they get ID’s on the shooters?”

“Not yet. My sources tell me the shooters were Asian and driving a couple of Toyota GTR-1s. Preliminary info suggests they were RS but.....” Over the cell I could hear Chevalier sighing as I thought about what to do next.

“On another front, Mike, are Frech and Marquis still tailing our esteemed deputy mayor?”

“They still are; they called in about 6am. They’re still outside her estate up at Mt. Olympus, just off of Laurel Canyon. You want ‘em to stay on her?”

“Yeah, but not too obvious. I don’t want to spook least not yet, anyway. Anything else?”
“Yeah, some guy called. King, he said his name was. Said you left your card for him down at Solids’ yesterday. Said he’d meet you, Leimert Park, 11:30am, near Exposition Center.” I wrote the info down on a scratch pad, noting the location. Leimert Park was in the north-end of South Velo, about a 1/3rd of the way between Kensington Hills and the Harbor. “Anything else after this?”

“No, that ‘bout covers it, Matt. See ya’ at the club.” As he hung up, I turned the sound back on; the anchors were advising motorists to avoid the San Pedro area. After a quick shower, I put on a fresh set of clothes(loose-fitting shirt, Dockers, black Sketchers..........the usual.) and headed down to the club. As I drove, I thought to myself, well, whatever was going to happen has begun........

Finally, I made it to the club and was shocked to see a lot of people outside Zero Degrees.......correction, a lot of people with guns, I noted. Pulling up to the curb about a quarter of the way down the block, I walked back up Kensington to the club, where one of the bouncers recognized me and waved me through the ring of security. Entering the club, I noticed an even more frenetic pace; Bulletproof, Ravyn and Kent were standing around the end of the bar, watching the news reports on one of the ground-floor wide-screens. “Rest of the gang here, guys?”

Pointing upstairs, Ravyn said, “Yeah, they’re upstairs, Matt.”
“What the ****’s going on, guys? I heard the news reports this morning......”
“Apparently, all the tensions between Musclebomb and Rising Sun boiled over last night with that shooting down in the Harbor. That wasn’t all, though. Someone took some potshots at us last night also; no one got hurt but Scandalous ain’t taking any chances–“

”I’ll say.... Would that explain why the parking lot currrently looks like the staging ground for a Marine RCT?”
Chuckling, he replied, “Yeah, that would explain it. So how’s that case of yours coming along?”

I took a few minutes to explain what we’d discovered so far, especially the connection between Deputy Mayor Baldomero and Daniel Belmont back in 2001. “Doesn’t surprise me; sounds like Baldomero keeps her pretty fingers in all of Velo City’s cookie jars. Got two messages for you, though.”

“From who?”
Rifling through a stack of notecards, Ravyn began. “One’s from a Gina Roarty over at the Times....said she found some more info on that story she wrote back in 2001 about the Belmont case. Second message was from a sergeant up in Devonshire, Kelsey McNeal–“
”Huh?!?” The first message I expected; the second........that threw me for a loop.
Ravyn continued, “She said she’d heard you were looking into the Belmont case and wanted to talk to you. Alone.”
“Did she say where?”

“Let me look.......she said to meet her at Devonshire Station, Lemarsh and Etiwanda. 5pm.” I whistled for a moment. Devonshire Station was the northernmost police division the VCPD had. It was also one of the most peaceful in the city, an almost perfect place to drop-kick officers from other divisions deemed too ‘aggressive’ by Parker Center. Maybe McNeal had been on to something after all....... “Looks like I’m going to have one hell of a drive today, Ravyn.”

“No joke, Matt. Lemiert Park to Devonshire, two vastly different parts of Velo City. Throw in this–“, he added, pointing back to the wide-screen and the continuing news from last night, “and you got one hell of a commute, buddy.” Grabbing a cup of java nearby, I downed it in about three of four gulps, pausing to cough as the hot liquid nearly scalded my throat.

Setting the cup down, I looked at Ravyn. “Tell you what; I’m going to go ahead and head down to Leimert Park, talk to this King and find out what he knows. Then I’m going to come back here for a bit, then make the drive up to the Valley and talk to Sergeant McNeal. Sounds like she got awful close to what happened and someone didn’t like it. Tell everyone to stay in touch; the way things are going so far today, things could get very ugly, very fast.”

Without waiting for an answer, I walked out of the club and back up the block to where I had parked only to notice a traffic ticket on the windshield. Looking at it, I opened the door to the Lotus Exige I was driving, crumpled the ticket up and threw it into the passenger seat. Then I pulled out of the parking space and made a Texas U-turn(turn wheel, step on gas, do a 180' in the middle of traffic) and headed down towards Leimert Park. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body as I drove down Kensington towards downtown; this case was getting close to being solved. Perhaps the next two meetings would move it closer along.

***Devonshire, late afternoon***
After a long but ultimately fruitless conversation with King down in Leimert Park, I headed up into the heart of the San Fernando Valley and the Devonshire community. To say the Valley was a bedroom community was an understatement of epic proportions; most of the buildings and houses were low to the ground, tied to earthquake building codes that were strengthened following the 1994 Northridge quake. Devonshire Station was no exception; low-slung, the building didn’t look at all like a police station but yet, there it was, sitting like a sentinel amongst the other buildings around it. I looked at my watch; 4:57pm. Pulling into a parking space, I sat and waited for Sergeant McNeal.

According to the message the patrol officer at the front desk had given me on the way there, Sgt. McNeal was filling in for the afternoon watch commander. After a few minutes, I noticed a short, petite woman wearing the uniform of a VCPD sergeant walk out of the building along Lemarsh, carrying a brown-red binder with her. Getting out of the Lotus, I briskly walked up to her. “Sergeant McNeal?” She turned, startled at the voice behind her. “Yes?”

“I’m Matthew Little; you left a message for me at Zero Degrees’ this morning.” She stood there, transfixed on something before acknowledging my presence. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just a bit nervous, that’s all.”

“I’ll say.” As we walked back to my Lotus, I took a moment to look at her. She stood about 5'4" and around 120lbs. Shoulder-length dark-brown hair sat in a ponytail atop an athletic yet very lithe figure. Beneath the somewhat hardened exterior was, I suspected, someone who deeply cared about her job and about this case in particular. Opening the passenger door for her, I closed it behind her and got around to the driver’s side. After a few moments I pulled away from the curb and headed down Devonshire back towards the 5 freeway.

As we drove off, I started by saying, “Anyway, thanks for wanting to talk to me–“

"Wait 'til you hear what I have to say before thanking me," she said abruptly. With that, McNeal began to explain just what happened. “It was another spring day in Hollywood when Cliff and I got the call from Dispatch. Message from them was that a basic patrol unit had discovered a body in the back of a car off of Laurel Canyon. We told the patrol unit to wait for us and Forensics to arrive and headed up there. Didn’t take us long to realize something wasn’t quite kosher about the scene, you know?”

"How so?"

“Well, for starters the basic unit on-scene said Dispatch got a call the day before but no one had been able to get to the scene to investigate sooner. Now, I checked the roll sheets for every basic unit that day and two passed the scene without doing anything. On top of that, the basic unit wasn't first on the scene--"


"There are two types of patrol units in each division. Basic units patrol specific geographic areas while Zebra cars patrol the entire division. While Cliff looked over the scene, I called Dispatch and asked who made the initial call a day earlier. Turns out it was a Z-car that made the first call; the basic unit in that area was never told about when they made the call in that it was a homicide--"
"They were calling in a crime scene that was already a day old?"
"Bingo. You catch on quick. Anyhow, both Hansen and I are working the case for several days when division calls us and tells us the case is no longer ours."

"What happened?"
"Our division commander at the time, Capt. Murchison, told both Hansen and me that the case was being transferred downtown, that the bulls in Robbery-Homicide were taking over. We pleaded with the brass to let us keep the case or at least let us share what we knew with them,” she said, a tinge of bitterness in her voice. Motioning her to continue, she did. “It didn’t work; a day or so later, a couple of suits from Parker Center–“

"I can tell by that expression you've never been a cop. A suit is a downtown detective, usually from IAG or Robbery-Homicide but the term can apply to any detective working out of Parker Center. However, before they came to snatch our case,” she said, laying the binder in the backseat of the Exige, “I made a copy of the entire murder book, with all of our notes, coroner’s reports, FSD information, the whole nine yards.” Sighing for a moment, she went on. “For eight plus years, I’ve been going over every scrap of information about that case because something didn’t seem right then.”

“Such as?”

“Why did Daniel Belmont get killed in the first place? It didn’t make any sense.....until I went back over his history these past few years.”
“Let me found a relationship between him and a certain Penelope Baldomero then, huh?”

“Exactly. Apparently, his street racing interests had caught her eye, which at the time we felt, and I still feel now, was odd ‘cause he wasn’t a very good racer, according to everyone we spoke to.” As she continued, I looked in the rearview and noticed a vehicle shadowing us. I made several rights and doubled back onto Devonshire, only to see the same vehicle behind us. “Sergeant McNeal–“

"The name's Kelsey," she said. "Only my charges back at the station call me Sergeant," she added, glancing over with a smile.
“Kelsey, you see that vehicle behind us? The blue Grand-Am?”
She turned and looked back towards the cars behind us. “Yeah, fourth car back in line?”

“The very one.” Reaching behind me, I pulled out the Bren Ten .45 I carried and laid it on the center panel between us. “You got a permit for that?,” she jokingly asked.
“Would it matter right now?,” I said humorlessly as the blue Grand-Am began speeding towards us. Up ahead I could see Devonshire curving off towards the 5 freeway. Stamping down on the gas, I looked over at McNeal. “Hang on, babe!” Right as I said that, someone in the Grand-Am decided it’d be a good idea to start shooting at us. Bang, bang, bang. The rear windshield cracked and broke, the bullets making zinging noises around us as I threw the Lotus into a hard left turn off Devonshire.

We were headed toward the Golden State Freeway(the 5 freeway); the last thing I wanted to do was take a gunfight onto the freeway. Looking over I said to her, “I’m going to make a hard right and stop. The second I stop, we’ll get out and open up on that Grand-Am, okay?” She nodded, pulling her Glock 21 .45 from her side holster. “On the count of three! One........two..........three!”

I jerked the wheel of the Lotus as hard to the right as possible, sliding it for a couple of hundred feet down the street until it came to a stop. When it stopped, both of us got out; since the passenger side was facing the direction of the Grand-Am, McNeal bolted over to the driver’s side, where I was knelt down behind the front end of my car. “Glad you could make it!”

“Speak for yourself!,” was her reply. Looking back over the hood, I could see the Grand-Am going full-blast towards us, two guys hanging partly out of each side window. “Get down!” I yelled as they sprayed the area around us with submachine gun fire; once they had stopped, we opened up on them, her with the Glock while I let fly with the Bren Ten. Almost as soon as the bullets flew, the area grew quiet. Getting up from behind the Lotus, we looked at each other for a brief bit. “What the hell was that all about?,” I wondered as we walked over to the curb to sit down. Off in the distance we could hear the sirens of the approaching police cars as they came up towards us. As they got closer, I kept wondering, first the incident down in the Harbor, then this? What the hell was happening? And just what have I gotten myself into?
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:48 pm

Chapter 7

***Devonshire, late afternoon***
After some two hours of questions from investigators at the scene, the area had quieted down a bit and I was still sitting on the curb, wondering what was indeed going on. All around, forensics' technicians had been collecting shell casings from around the Lotus and throughout the scene while both Sgt. McNeal and I had been questioned about what happened. The media were out in force also; the vultures, I thought. I quickly took that unkind thought back. Not everyone in the media were vultures, although for the life of me I could only count two as bonafide human beings and both of them were in the print media. The television they were the real vultures. Looking around, I saw McNeal standing with a couple of the investigators who had questioned us earlier. As I looked over, the cell chirped. Not worrying about what the cops thought, I answered the cell. “Hello?”

“Matt, where are ‘ya? Hiding out somewhere?”
“No, Ravyn, I’m sitting on a curb somewhere in Devonshire ‘cause I got shot at and the police are jerking me around right now.” Changing the subject for a moment, I continued on. “Heard anything from Frech and Marquis?”
“Yeah; they called in about twenty minutes ago. They followed Baldomero to City Hall; she left around lunch and headed up to Acceleration Point–“

“Yeah; she went up there. Right after she arrived a couple of other cars followed suit and disgorged a bunch of people. They didn’t recognize anyone except one Alister de Lucia, VestaCo’s West Coast chief and Arthur Nadisco, UAW’s Western director. Whatever they were meeting about, it lasted for over an hour before Baldomero left to head back downtown.” I digested this for a moment; Acceleration Point was a small, bedroom community in the far northeastern section of the Valley, right along the edge of the city's boundaries. “Where are they now?”

“Frech and Marquis?”
“Back here at Zero Degrees. We’re all sorta’ waiting on you, though,” he said with a healthy dose of Memphis sarcasm in it.

“Well, hopefully, it won’t be too much longer,” I replied with an equal amount of Carolina sarcasm. “See ya’ around, Ravyn.” Closing the cell before he could say something else, I walked over to where McNeal and the others were standing. It looked like a brass convention....around McNeal were two lieutenants, a sergeant and several detectives; "suits" by their clothes. After a moment, I coughed to get their attention. “I really, really, hate to bother the love-fest here, but am I free to go?,” I said in a sarcastic tone.

They looked at me as if I were from Mars, but one of them finally spoke. “Unless there are any more questions.......,” to which their weren't, “you’re free to go, Mr. Little. We’ll be keeping the Lotus, however, for forensics–“

”Well, that’s all good, but as a private investigator, I have files in the Lotus which I will need access to.”

“Perfectly understandable, sir. If you’ll follow Sergeant McNeal over to your car, you can get your files and then you’re free to go.” You could feel the utter contempt rolling off of his tongue as he said it, likely from when I mentioned that I was a private eye. Ironically, Sgt. McNeal rolled her eyes at the same time he spoke. As we walked to the car, I asked her about that bit of subtle insubordination. “You noticed?,” she chuckled. Then she continued on, the sarcasm gone from her voice.

“Well, Lieutenant McClendon’s a moron of the first order. He was of a mind to lock you up for being a felon in possession of a firearm, but I talked him out of it.” Stunned, I looked over at her. “In theory he could’ve arrested you just for carrying. I had to talk him out of it by saying that you were advising me about another case I’m working on and that I was talking to you about that when we got shot at. He bought it; like I said, he’s a moron .” For a moment I was truly speechless; not only had she had covered her own rear over what happened, she had gone way out on a limb to keep me out of trouble. “Besides, I won't have to worry about him much longer....or this department anyway."

“I put in my papers about two months back and I got the confirmation on them this week. This time a month from now, I’ll just be another civilian.” As she spoke, I reached into the Lotus and grabbed my files, including the red-brown binder she had laid back there earlier. “Will you miss all this?”

“After the past few years, hell no! I’ll tell you this, though, Matthew. I want to break this case before go.” Where had I heard that one before?, I thought. Before I could say anything, my cell chirped again. “Hello?”

“Still hooked up, Matt?” It was Mike Chevalier; if he was calling, something had to be important. “Yeah, I’m still here; don’t know whether I should hitch a ride back to the club or walk.......,” which brought a brief snicker from McNeal.

“Well, I got good news and bad news, Matt.”
“Good news first."
"Okay. My source at Vice says that McNeal and Hansen pulled several prints from the car back in 2001,” he said, unaware that McNeal was standing a few feet away from me. “At the time, they ran the prints for exclusionary purposes......”

“And, Mike?”
“That’s the bad news. They found two sets of prints and a partial thumbprint belonging to one of the detectives on the scene. Take a wild guess as to they belong to–“
Turning away for a moment from McNeal, I said, “McNeal?”

“No, Hansen. And from they were located, my guess is that he was the shooter.” I stopped, dead in my tracks, absorbing the news. If this were the case, where was the connection between him and Baldomero. Or had there really been a connection between them in the first place?

“Mike, do me a favor. Well, several favors. One, find out as much as you can about Hansen; what he did while in the department, where he worked, any high-profile stuff, etc., etc. Second, find out if there was any connection between him, Baldomero, de Lucia and the elder Belmont. Finally, is there anyone at the club who can come pick us up?”

“Where are you located?”
Looking around for street signs, I told him. “Arleta near Paxton.”

“Be there in a bit.” He hung up; this time of day, it’d be about forty-five minutes before anyone from the club arrived. I looked over at McNeal. “It’ll be about a half-hour or so before anyone can pick us up.” Out in the distance, we could see the cars on the Golden State Freeway, oblivious to what had transpired behind us. We stood and watched the traffic flow, thoughts of what had happened still fresh in our minds.

Finally, I spoke, if not for any other reason than to crack the ice. “I must be the world’s biggest babe magnet-slash-bullet-magnet in Velo City.”
“How so?”

“Well, I seem to end up running into some very attractive women and then I run into people who think I should have pieces of metal and lead ripping through my body. There’s an very odd dichotomy to that, you know?”
“Ya’ think so?”

“Yeah, I think so.” We continued to stand there talking, on the sidewalk along Arleta facing the freeway but my mind wasn’t on the freeway or the case itself..... “Tell you what, Kelsey. Why don’t you come by the club sometime?”
“What club?”

“Zero Degrees. It’s over on Kensington, in the Taravel District. Come on by sometime.” It sounded cheesy as hell, but what was I going to do, stand there quietly and not say anything? Besides, McNeal was one of the keys to solving this mystery of a case and if it meant asking her out on a date, well so be it the way I looked at it. After what seemed like forever, we both heard a horn honking very loudly. It was Slick driving a VestaCo. Acis sports car. At first glance, though, it had the appearance of a wraith. “Okay, Mike, who’d you steal the DBR knock-off from?”

“Now, Matt, is that any way to treat a close friend of yours?” As I stood sheepishly, he introduced himself to McNeal; she returned the introduction. Turning back to me, he asked, “Where to, Matt?”

“Zero Degrees.” Without any further ado, Chevalier stepped on the gas and we peeled away from Arleta; Chevalier and McNeal in the front while I sat in the back. I felt exhausted; this case was really starting to get on my nerves. As I looked out along the highway, I felt myself getting sleepier and sleepier. Eventually, my head lolled over and I was fast asleep.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:49 pm

Chapter 8

***Zero Degrees***
After a quick trip to her place so that she could change clothes(a trip of which I knew nothing about, being sound asleep in the car), we headed over to the club. Once we arrived, Mike nudged me a few times to get me awake; after a few attempts, I awoke with a start. “Where the hell are we?”

“Zero Degrees. You alright, buddy? You look like you saw a ghost.”
“I’m alright; let me stand out here a few minutes, okay?” Chevalier walked into the club; McNeal stood next to me and asked, “Sure you’re alright? You looked like you were having a nightmare or something back there.”

“No, I’m just tired. I feel like I hit a brick wall or something.”
“Ah, adrenalin rush. It gives you a big high, then drops you flat on your ***.” After a few more moments, I felt better and said, “Why don’t we go in, shall we?” I followed her into the club, noting the change in clothes and appearance. When we had left Arleta, she was still wearing her uniform; now she was dressed in jeans and a light pink oxford shirt which made her look a lot different than her appearance earlier had hinted at. Once inside, we headed for the stairs; as we walked over, I looked at Kent and motioned for a round of drinks for everyone upstairs. “Nice club,” Kelsey remarked.
“It is; Exotic Ice Customs has the best club in all of Velo City.”
“Exotic what?”

“Exotic Ice Customs; it’s a street racing club here in Velo. And Zero Degrees is its’ headquarters,” I said as we hit the top of the stairs and headed over to where the rest of the gang sat. As usual, I grabbed a couple of chairs, held one for McNeal as she sat down and then sat down afterward. I noticed that everyone was paying McNeal an inordinate amount of attention, so I quickly made the introductions and the conversations began.

For over an hour we discussed the Belmont case, getting everyone up to speed about what was going on. McNeal, for her part, kept pace, though she was surprised at the pace of which we had picked up the case after only a few days. As was my usual routine, while everyone was talking, I got up and walked over to the window, looking outward towards Kensington Blvd. Squeezing my hands into fists and banging them together, I started to go over in my mind just what had happened up to now. Belmont’s murder was planned, but not by Baldomero. Hansen was the one connected with De Lucia and Nadisco; if everything had worked out back then, Baldomero would’ve taken the fall for something she hadn’t been involved in. But how would Hansen have known about the younger Belmont’s whereabouts..........

As I thought about it more and more, I walked over to the table, thinking to myself that we’d been led down the wrong path. “We’ve been going at this wrong, guys. Hansen was the one who shot the kid; it was Belmont’s older brother who gave Hansen the whereabouts of Daniel Belmont.” Turning to McNeal, I continued. “And you requested the case go downtown, right?”

“Yeah, I did. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you back at the station, but when forensics sent the print matches back to us in 2001, Hansen was out of the office; I never thought to ask why at the time........ I received them, took one look at the match and knew.......I couldn’t believe it, though. My own partner? Cliff?” Exhaling loudly, she continued. “I must’ve spent hours wondering what to do. So I went to Captain Murchison and asked that the case be transferred downtown. He asked me why; that’s when I handed him a copy of the print report and explained why I was asking for a transfer of the case. He thought about it for about a minute and then told me to come with him. We drove downtown and went straight up to the third floor. We told the RHD bulls what was happening and they took it from us; they didn’t even ask why, they just took it.” As she finished, Smith spoke up. “I think we’ve figured out what’s been going on. Back then, Daniel Belmont was trying to break into the street racing culture but just wasn’t very good. He did, however, catch the attention of a then-VestaCo. executive–“

“One and the same. Only problem was, Baldomero was using Belmont to spy on her fellow execs’, including the son of VestaCo Worldwide’s boss–“
”Alister De Lucia?”
“Bingo. She was trying to move her way up the corporate ladder, only it didn’t succeed when Belmont was killed.”
“Okay, but how does Hansen fit into this?,” Marquis asked.

“That part of Laurel Canyon where Belmont was killed has very few turn-arounds. Anyone wanting to off someone up there would have to follow the target, pull him over as if it were a traffic stop, get him out of the car, then drive to the dirt road where he was later killed.”
“You mean the patrol guys went along with it?”

“Not them; Hansen. The way I figure it, Hansen wears his uniform one night when he knows Belmont’s out on Laurel Canyon. He gets behind him, turns the lights and sirens on, pulls him over at the first possible place to do so. He then gets Belmont out of the car, sits him in his car while a second person drives the car to the dirt road. They get there, force Belmont into the trunk of his car...........Bang, bang. Belmont’s now dead and they take off for points unknown.”
“Okay, so who was the second person?”
“That we don’t know. Could be anyone of several people, but whoever it was had to be close to Baldomero–“

“Who do you think put the kibosh on the investigation when RHD got a hold of it? Penelope Baldomero. My guess.......someone found out about their ‘relationship’, killed the younger Belmont and blackmailed Baldomero into getting the investigation squashed. To you and me and everyone else in Velo City, it’d look like another case of trunk music.”
“Trunk what,” Frech asked incredulously.

“Trunk music; it’s an old mob expression,” McNeal said. “You know when they whack someone, they’ll say, ‘Oh, Danny boy? Don’t worry about him, he’s trunk music now’.” She continued. “But if Baldomero was being blackmailed, who was doing it to her?”
“Good question. My guess......De Lucia, but don’t hold me to it,” Smith said. “At the time, she wasn’t popular–“
”Hell, Mike, she ain’t popular now, “ Chevalier interjected.

“Point being, it would’ve been simpler to just pin his murder on her, let her take the fall. But Hansen shooting him in the trunk of his car messed that plan up. So they leaned on her to kill the investigation, especially when it went downtown.” McNeal whistled as Smith said that. “Once it was downtown, all it woulda’ taken was calls from the chief’s office or from ‘interested parties’ close to the case and before you know it, the case goes into the circular file.”

“Okay, so who was in the second car?," Marquis asked. "And furthermore, what would it have to do with the hostilities between Rising Sun and Musclebomb at the time?”

“That was a red herring.” We all looked at Smith, wondering where the heck was he going with this one. “Not the current round of hostilities; I’m talking about back in 2001. That was a smoke screen meant to distract everyone and it worked. Only one problem; our shooter cleaned up all the evidence but left his prints behind, not thinking they’d do exclusionary tests on the prints.”
“Exactly,” McNeal said. “They also didn’t gamble on the elder Belmont wanting the case reopened. Had they thought that one through, odds are that Belmont wouldn’t be alive today, which meant–“

”We’d never gotten the case to start with,” I added. “Alright, so let’s go back to square one. Daniel Belmont and Penelope Baldomero are having an affair; why is anyone’s guess but love and lust will do that to people. Someone close to Baldomero found out about it and had the kid killed, then turned around and threatened Baldomero with blackmail if she didn’t go along with it. Problem is, they didn’t anticipate the shooter, Hansen, leaving his prints behind. Prints get discovered, McNeal realizes the implication and gets the case booted downtown. However, someone caught wind of it, maybe Baldomero, maybe not, and gets the case shuttered, thinking, ‘no one’s going to think twice about some street racer found in the trunk of his car.’” As I continued to speak I could feel the anger rising in me; this kid had been nothing more than a pawn in a high-stakes power game, one involving some of Velo City’s elites. After I finished, I thought to myself, How could I break the case wide open? Then I thought, why not bring in an outside voice. “I’ll be right back, okay.”

As everyone kept talking, I walked downstairs and grabbed a phone, dialing a number from memory. Two rings later, a voice on the other end answered. “Roarty, Velo City Times.”
“Gina, its’ Matt. How fast can you get down here?”
“Zero Degrees.”
“It’s about that story of yours back in 2001 and about the Belmont case. You need to hear what we’ve come up with. Might be a story in it for you if you hurry down here, babe.” Hanging up the phone, I bounded back up the stairs. Although I had likely broken confidentiality with the elder Belmont, I needed to break this case wide open to solve it. A story in the Times just might do that. But as I walked up the stairs, I kept thinking, at what risk, though? What was lurking out there, what would happen once the story broke? It was a calculated risk but one you sometimes have to take. All I knew is that I wanted this case solved. If it meant opening up Velo City's dirty laundry, so be it, I thought to myself. So be it.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:50 pm

Chapter 9

***next morning, Zero Degrees***
With Velo City on a virtual lockdown due to the past few days’ violence, it was a miracle the city hadn’t locked down Kensington Blvd. but thankfully they hadn’t. Traffic was light and I made it to the club early, thinking what’s going to happen today? It didn’t take long to see something was up; as I walked over to the bar, Kent, Zero’s lead bartender, was holding up a broadsheet and waving me over. “Come look at this, Matt!” he said. I strode over and looked at the front headline...................


by Gina Roarty, Senior Metro Writer

Below the headline there were several pictures alongside Belmont’s; Mayor Villareal, Deputy Mayor Baldomero, VestaCo. executive Alister De Lucia and UAW official Arthur Nadisco. The lead paragraph of what appeared to be a page-long story began.........”Eight years ago, the body of Daniel Belmont was found in the trunk of his 2000 Mitsubishi Mirage off of Laurel Canyon Rd., at first glance a seemingly random victim of the violence that sometimes plagues the Southland. However, sources close to this reporter have hinted at a city-wide conspiracy to hide the facts of this case, facts that have wrongly implicated the city’s vast street racing culture.........” As I continued to read, I thought, if this doesn’t break the case wide-open, nothing else will. As I was reading the breadth of the story, Kent slid over a large glass of tea to where I was standing. I took a long drag of it as I reading the article. Looking over at Ravyn, who’d walked up to the bar while I reading, I said, “How much you want to bet City Hall got the shock of a lifetime when this hit the shelves, Ravyn?”

“Considering the geniuses in City Hall, Matt, they’re still catatonic over it,” he replied. I laughed at the remark. He was right; some of the geniuses in City Hall could've doubled for residents of some of California's finest state institutions. I wondered to myself, should we include Mayor Sunny on that list? Then I thought, that's unkind..........not to Mayor Sunny, but to the inhabitants of San Quentin, Folsom, Corcoran......

Towards the end of Roarty’s article were the typical denials and “no comment” fluff pieces those mentioned had said.........except that of Penelope Baldomero. That struck me as odd. As I was thinking of why, the bar phone rang. Kent picked it up, then looked over at me. “Matt!”

“Yeah, Kent?”
“Someone wants to talk to you; sounds urgent.”
“Ask who it is.” He asked, “To whom am I speaking with?” When he got the answer, he turned to me and mouthed, “It’s Baldomero.”
“You’re kidding, right?” He nodded his head, “No”, and handed me the phone. “Hello?”
“Matthew Little? This is Deputy Mayor Baldomero.”

Stunned for a moment, I answered in a calm, smooth voice. “Pleasure to talk to you, ma’am. To what do I owe the call for?”
“It’s’s about Daniel Belmont. I’ve read the article in the Times, and I’d like to talk to you about that, if its’ possible.”
“Well, where would you like to talk?”

There was a palpable silence in the air for several moments, such that I could hear the silence over the phone. Then Baldomero spoke. “Pershing Square.”
I thought quizzically about her choice. Pershing Square was in the heart of downtown Velo City, just a few blocks over from Angels’ Flight and the city’s Historic Core. It was also only a few blocks from City Hall. “When?”
“11am. Be on time.” The phone clicked off and I handed the phone back to Kent. Be on time my ***, I thought to myself. Then I thought, if she’s going to talk to me about the Belmont case, I better take no chances. “Who’s upstairs, Ravyn?”

“The whole gang’s there, including your new friend, McNeal. She seems quite smitten towards you,” he said in a cocky voice. “She might just help you get rid of those nightmares of yours,” he added in an even more cocky tone. I shot him an evil look but he was right. I was still grieving over Stephanie. I knew I needed to let go for good, but that could wait ‘til after this case was over with. Looking at my watch I knew I was going to have to book it to get there by 11am. Walking over to the intercom that connected the two main floors of the club, I pressed the button. “Hey, Smith, you up there?”

“Yeah,” he said with a gravelly tone. “What’s up?”
“I need you and McNeal to come with me to Pershing Square; I’ll explain on the way there.”

***Pershing Square, 11am***
As the three of us headed down there, Mike in his black wraith and Kelsey and I in another black wraith, I kept thinking about Ravyn’s admonition. Although I wasn’t one to take advice at certain times, he was right. I needed to let go. Kelsey, I think, sensed this when I asked, “So, you gonna’ miss being a cop?”

“Parts of it I will, but a lot of it I won’t, including the bureaucracy.” Changing tack, she added, “What do you think our esteemed deputy mayor will say?”

“Don’t know, but she called me, not the other way around, so whatever Baldomero’s going to say must be important for her to contact me directly. My guess.....she must’ve gotten my cell or the club’s number from another source, so she’s connected. How.......,” waving my hand in an either-or motion, “I don’t even want to know, but somehow she knew.” We continued to drive down Kensington towards downtown and the Historic Core when my cell chirped. Checking to see who was calling, I pressed the speakerphone button. “Go, Mike.”

“Matt, I’m at Pershing Square. What’s the plan?”
“Mike, find a nearby perch and keep a mike pointed towards us. I’ll talk to Baldomero, hear what she has to say.”
“Got it, boss.” As he hung up, McNeal looked over at me, a quizzical look on her face. “Huh?”

“Baldomero never said she wanted to talk to me alone, Kelsey, but I don’t want to spook her. Plus I want to lock down what she says so that she can’t go back and change her mind later.”
“Spoken like a cop. You sure you never wanted a career in–“
”Kelsey, there are three groups of people in this world I don’t trust. I don’t trust lawyers, I sure as hell don’t trust politicians and with a few,” looking right at her as I said it, “exceptions, I certainly don’t trust law enforcement.”

“Well, that’s refreshing to know,” she replied with a sarcastic undertone. Before I could reply or say anything, we were within sight of downtown and the Core. Pulling over to the curb on W. 6th St., I cut the motor off and hopped out; McNeal got out from her side of the car and followed along. “When we get to Pershing Square, if she’s already there, split off from me and just walk around, acting like you’re disinterested but interested, you know? While you’re doing that and,” pointing over to a nearby building, “while Mike’s watching us on the binos’, I’ll talk with Baldomero, see what she says.”

Eventually we reached the south corner of Pershing Square; the two of us quickly scanned the park for Baldomero. Not seeing her, we continued to walk up S. Hill St., looking for any sign of the deputy mayor. “I don’t see her, Matt; you think she’s skipped out on us?,” McNeal asked, a tinge of concern in her voice. “No, but keep your eyes peeled,” I replied as we continued up S. Hill. Then Mike’s voice came over the earpiece. “Guys, I got a visual on Baldomero. She just passed Pershing Square Station and is walking towards the general’s statue,” referring to the statue of Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing for whom the square was named. Looking quickly around, McNeal was the first to spot the tall, well-dressed woman briskly walking towards the statue. “There she is, Matt,” she said, pointing towards her.

“I see her. Okay, split off from me, Kelsey but stay close.” As McNeal kept walking down S. Hill, I waited for a break in traffic before crossing over. Taking a fast trot, I headed over to the statue, coming around so that Baldomero couldn’t see me approach. Finally, I reached the statue; Baldomero seemed very tense, like she was worried or concerned about something. “Penelope Baldomero?”

She twirled around, startled at the sound of her name. “Yes. And you are?”
Offering my hand, I said, “I’m Matthew Little; you called me a little while ago and said you wanted to talk about Daniel Belmont.” As I spoke I watched the expression on her face change from startled to downright scared; she knew something and I needed to know what it was. “Shall we stand here at the statue or......”

“This seems a fine enough spot, Mr. Little,” she replied. From where we were standing, one had a good vantage point of the Square. Off in the distance I could see McNeal rounding the corner from Hill onto W. 5th St., while somewhere nearby Mike Smith had at least one boom mike on us. In addition, I had a micro-recorder on, so at least one of us would have a recording of what was said. “Daniel Belmont......,” she said a couple of times, as if she were trying to recall some faint but pleasant memories. “I knew him, Mr. Little. He came out here late 99', was trying to get himself acquainted with the city and with his position within VestaCo–“
”You mean, he worked for VestaCo?”

“Yes, he had just been transferred from our Phoenix office to Velo City.” I motioned for her to go on. “At first, it wasn’t much of a relationship, you know? He had helped me a few times on some minor projects and that’s how we got to know each other. Then it night, we were at a company function over at the Liberty Tower, we just sorta’ hooked up. It wasn’t serious at first, but it got that way over time. You ever had a relationship like that?”

I nodded in a general sort of way and asked her to continue. “Eventually I found out about his racing talents; he was quite better than he let on. His brother, on the other hand, wasn’t as accomodating towards his interests and they’d argue over the phone every so often. I think he thought I was using him, but I wasn’t. I really liked him, Mr. Little......I don’t know if he ever thought the same way in return. Eventually, word got out about our relationship.......” She closed her eyes for a second before continuing. “One of the other execs’, Alister De Lucia, found out about it and threatened to have me fired if I didn’t break off the relationship. I told him to go to hell.........that’s when he showed me some photos,” handing me a broad manila envelope. Opening it, I saw photos of her and Daniel Belmont inflagrante delicto. They appeared to be video stills but anyone with a hi-power camera could’ve taken them. As I put the pictures back into the envelope, Baldomero continued. “He said either I could end the relationship or he’d end it for me.” A tear formed under her eye; she dabbed it away as I asked, “When did he present these to you?”

“March 2001.” A month before Belmont’s murder, I thought as she went on. “A month later, someone hands me a paper at the office; the front page item was Daniel’s murder.” As she said that, I could see a spark of anger form in her expressions. “Enraged, I took the paper and confronted De Lucia; I asked him “how could he do such a thing?” He looked at me and laughed, 'I told you I could break it off for you, Penelope. Now do yourself a favor and get lost or I might send you to join him!' It was then, Mr. Little, that I knew he had Daniel killed; I knew it!. I couldn’t think straight, I didn’t know what to do.” So that’s where she was involved, I thought. The saying’s never truer..........’hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’

She went on. “When I finally composed myself, I started asking around, seeing who was investigating. When I found out, I asked my attorney,” handing me a card which read, ‘Michael Schallert, Esq.’, at the top, “to do whatever he had to do to quash the investigation. A couple of days later he calls me and tells me to relax, that the investigation’s been stopped. Little did I know Daniel’s brother would bring it back up now. You have no idea what I’ve had to go through the past few days, let alone back then, Mr. Little. I just want this to end, you know?” She was on the verge of tears by then, so I stepped in and spoke.

“I don’t know what to say. For what its’ worth, I think you’ve been pretty honest with me, Ms. Baldomero, so let me lay out what’s likely to happen. In all likelihood, it is fair to say that your days as Deputy Mayor are likely at an end. A case like this can snowball in any direction and can drag down God only knows who, so on that end, my advice would be to resign. Be blunt about what happened. Let the chips fall where they will. As to your relationship with Daniel Belmont........I can’t speak to the exact nature of it, but I believe you were very much in love with him and his death hurt you very much, enough to make you interfere with the murder investigation out of worry for the news leaking about the relationship.” She shot me an angry look but I pushed on. “As to Alister De Lucia....I think he was more involved than anyone’s realized; problem is I haven’t found a connection between him and Cliff Hansen, the shooter in this case. Hansen’s prints were all over the trunk of Belmont’s car, which was what prompted his partner at the time to request the case be transferred. Problem is, Hansen died several years, so there’s no way to charge him with anything.”

“Can I do anything to salvage my life, my being, my.......”

“From what I’ve been able to gather, you seem to be very supportive of the street racing culture here in Velo City. Work along those lines; that can be your legacy to this region.” Time had flown by quickly; we both looked at our watches and saw it was past 12:30. She started to walk away, then did something very surprising. She turned around and gave me a kiss on the cheek, the way a friend would someone close.

”I’ve got to get back to the office, start putting things away for my successor.” Exhaling loudly, she added, “It’s going to be a very hard couple of weeks for me, but I feel a lot better, now that I’ve gotten those things off my chest. Is there anything else you want to ask me, Mr. Little?”

“No, nothing comes to mind immediately.” Handing her my card, I added, “If there’s anything else you want to talk about, feel free to contact me at either number.”

Placing it in her purse, she began to walk away. I stood there, watching her walk away thinking, there goes a woman tortured by her own grief over the years. As she grew smaller in the distance, I felt someone else’s presence near. “What do you think?,” McNeal asked.

“I think this case is done. All that we need to do is let the elder Belmont know what’s happened and await the usual media storm, and it will happen, Kelsey. A case like this generates media attention and I think the sooner they get it over with, the better Velo City will be.” We started to walk away, back towards our car on W. 6th St. As we continued to walk, I began to understand just what Baldomero had meant when she talked about ‘getting things off her chest’. I thought to myself, I need to do likewise.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:51 pm


So, just what happened in the weeks following the re-opening of the Belmont case?

--Well, a tearful Penelope Baldomero announced her resignation as Deputy Mayor. Rumor has it that she plans to begin to use her vast wealth to help the street racing community in Velo City and across North America. While she didn’t mention her relationship to Daniel Belmont, a motorsports engineering scholarship at the University of California-Velo City(UC-VC) was established in his name.
--As for Alister De Lucia.........once word got out of his involvement in the Daniel Belmont case, he hightailed it out of Velo City, state and federal authorities hot on his trail. Last I heard, he was hiding in Venezuela, pallin' around with Hugo Chavez and company.
--Perversely, his fellow co-conspirator, Arthur Nadisco, still runs the UAW’s western office(although rumor has it that UAW boss Bob King and the rest of the UAW’s leadership in Detroit isn’t too........enamored of him, shall we say?).
--Mayor Sunny is still Mayor Sunny(insert punchline here..........) and after a few weeks of points and counterpoints, all the hubbub surrounding the case eventually went away and Velo City returned to being Velo City in all of its' glitz and glamour, grittiness and dark undercurrents. In other words, it went back to being the city of Velocity.....

As for me............

***Big Bear Lake***
It had been almost nine months since I had visited Big Bear Lake. At the time Stephanie and I had enjoyed a week’s holiday exploring about every single part of Big Bear, including the outdoors. But this time I had something else to do. After taking care of everything back at the cabin, I hiked up and over to Carver’s Point, a small beach overlooking Papoose Bay. I could feel the cool, spring breeze as I stood there, a small ring box in my hand. In it was the engagement ring I had given Stephanie that night at Zero Degrees.There were still little flecks of blood on it but the ring inside still shone as it did that night.

Standing there along the beach, I spoke to myself, looking out at the cool blue waters of the lake. “You know, Stephanie, I haven’t been up here since that night all those months ago. I admit it.....I should’ve stopped grieving by now, but........but I can't seem to let go of you, ya' know? You’re always going to be a part of my life and.....," stopping for a moment as a couple of tears rolled down my face. “I still miss you very much, my love. We shared a lot of good times and I’ll never forget them.” As I knelt down along the shoreline, more tears fell as I looked up and saw an eagle take flight, its’ graceful wings propelling it through the clear air.

I watched it fly away, off in the distance, seeming to catch every gust of wind in an effortless was while I watched it fly off that I knew what it was, what it signified. It was my grief flying away......Taking a couple of deep breaths, I stood and turned my gaze back towards the lake. In the background I could hear the closing of a car door and the quiet footsteps of another person behind me. Taking a firm grip on the ring box, I hurled it as hard and as far as I could into the water. It hit with a loud splash and I watched it sit there in the water for a few moments before it sank underneath the surface.

I must’ve stood there and watched the waves of the lake push against one another for several minutes before I felt an arm slide around my waist. Looking over, I saw Kelsey standing there and held her close to me. She wore a close-fitting denim shirt and shorts that accented her supple, athletic figure. Holding her close for a few minutes, I kept looking out at the lake waters until she poked me in the ribs with an itinerant elbow. “You alright up there, Matt?”

”Yeah, I’m all right.” Squeezing her a bit, I said, “I think its’ time for me to return to the real world, don’t you think?” Putting her arms around my neck, she pulled me close to her and whispered in a seductive tone, “Why don’t I help you?” We kissed, our lips drawing us inward. After a couple of moments, we broke our embrace and began walking back up the hill towards our car. As we walked, I thought to myself, I’ve been given a second chance at this life. I’ve got a successful detective agency, I’m with a gorgeous, beautiful woman and I’m beginning to let go of the grief over Stephanie’s passing. Maybe the saying was right......Maybe times does heal all wounds.
The Sci-Fi Station Come by and visit when you get the chance. :)
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Postby mlittle » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:52 pm

Location Shots, Pt.2

Outside shot of Zero Degrees Nightclub, HQs' to Exotic Ice Customs
2300 Kensington Blvd.--Taravel District, Velo City. Ca.

Devonshire Community Police Station. Sgt. McNeal was assigned here from August 2005-March 2010; previous assignments included the Homicide Desk at Hollywood Station and 77th Station's Tactical Unit.

The U.S. Bank Tower in Velo City. Also known as the Liberty Tower, the building houses the West Coast offices of VestaCo. Automotive Group.

Picture of Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino Co., California. Papoose Bay is towards the back right of the picture.
The Sci-Fi Station Come by and visit when you get the chance. :)
The Wayward Tarheel I'm even in the blogosphere.... :shock:

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