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> Jackie Blue (1st book of the Jackie Blue Mysteries)
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Jun 05, 2013 05:04PM
The world may hate liars, cheaters and thieves, but not this gal. I have a job because of them. My name is Jackie Blue and I live east of East LA.
“That’s it, come to papa,” I muttered while shooting six pictures with my Sony Cybershot of Ronald Johansen playing golf with his buddies.
Dumb ass Ronald supposedly had what he and his doctors called a messed up spine caused by a half story fall at a construction site near the LA airport. This joker had been receiving workers comp pay for seven months for that ‘injury’ and his insurance company had grown rightly suspicious.
A bug landed on my head as I lay underneath a bush about 60 yards from Ronald’s group on the 16th tee. My scent from no shower that morning wasn’t too bad but maybe the bug thought differently. A black dog suddenly bolted across the fairway and spotted me under the bush. Zeroing in on my awkward position, the dog stopped right over me and began to bark excitedly.
“That’s enough for today,” I whispered to myself.
Slithering out from the bush, my eyes connected with Ronald’s - the chase was on. I had a solid lead on him, was totally confident I could out run him to my car in the parking lot, but whether my 13 year old Honda Accord, that had been making some strange noises all day, would start, was the $60,000 question.
I sprinted across the 14th green, entered the parking lot, and noticed that Ronald was faster than he looked. The Honda was parked in the back of the quarter filled lot. As I hopped into the car, I saw that Ronald was now only 40 or so yards away. The Honda started for a few seconds before dying. A second try produced nothing and I could practically see Ronald’s eyes growing wider.
“Come on, you blasted car…start!”
Nothing…just the whirring of the starter. Ronald, by now, was only a few yards away from the parking lot, so I had maybe one or two more tries to start the vehicle before disaster. I pounded on the steering wheel with my fist and tried again. The engine started. I tapped the gas and threw the car into reverse. I didn’t catch Ronald until maybe 10 yards from the lot exit. He came from my left with a huge golf club in his hand and I had no choice but to floor it.
“You bitch!” he shouted before mightily swinging the club and connecting with my back passenger door and window. The sound was crazy loud, but I bounded into the street and turned to see Ronald fuming with his buddies.
Welcome to my sexy, wildly exciting life at its peak. That dramatic moment produced six pictures and had required several days of research of this yahoo Ronald, spent mostly in my Accord.
I am a 26 year old investigator mainly dealing with folks who are cheating on their insurance. When these companies need someone to crawl under a bush or climb a tree to catch the cheaters, they call me. It keeps me busy almost every day, but, like I said, it’s pretty boring work. I live at Sunshine Trailer Park at 9563 East Garvey Avenue in South El Monte, CA. My trailer is owned by Alonsa Barbosa and his wife, Teresita, a sweet couple who loves to have me over for dinner at their trailer down the street. Always the best meal of the week for me.
I glanced back at the window that Ronald had nailed and noticed just a small crack. My dang car started making some funky noise first thing this morning and I knew it was only a matter of time before the No Money God and I would have a little talk. My monthly rent on the trailer is $495 and most months I’m short. Damn.
My cell began to buzzed as I flew through a green light. It was Rocky Venezuela, a probation officer for the LA County Courts.
“Rocky, what up, girl?”
She and I had been friends since the 2nd grade and I offered my investigative services to her on a few occasions. Given that judges are so busy these days, Rocky is charged with striking deals with smaller crimes like domestic abuse, drunk driving and small profile white collar crimes.
“Crappy, crappy day,” Rocky shouted into the phone. “A guy that stole a few hundred thousand from a software company agreed to a prison deal I set up yesterday.”
“Well, it was late in the day and the judge had already left…”
“So, he couldn’t approve your deal,” I filled in.
“Right… so, since this guy was out on bail, he left for the night with instructions to report to the court the next morning.”
“So, what happened?” I asked. “He not show?”
“Yeah, he disappeared,” Rocky responded. “Police found nothing in his condo around 9am this morning.”
“Did the company whack him for stealing the dough?”
“That’s the thing…nobody heard or saw anything…the police have zero clues,” Rocky whined. “Can you go over to this guy’s house and check things out?”
“Hon, I’m no bounty hunter,” I let her know. “Hey, maybe they’ll assign Hugh to the case.”
Hugh Barclay was a very effective bounty hunter and we dated pretty intensely awhile back until he cheated on me and I told him to go to hell. We still see each other out and about in our line of work. Last month, I was investigating a guy up in Woodland Hills who got arrested and skipped on his bail all while I was looking at him for fraud. Hugh and I bumped into each other inside the guy’s house.
“I know that, silly!” Rocky yelled into the phone. “But the guy was acting kind of cocky yesterday…like four years in prison wasn’t a big deal. I just can’t shake the feeling that the money wasn’t the only thing he stole.”
After high school, Rocky became a stripper at Flamingo’s for a year until a gun went off in the club one evening and she saw the light. I couldn’t have been more proud of her for that, though it was sort of funny that she ended up in law enforcement. She lives on Brocton Avenue in West LA in an apartment building where UCLA students live. So every Friday night, we are out on her patio to check out the hotties.
“Was the money ever recovered?” I wanted to know as I made a reckless lane change.
“Only about thirty thousand,” Rocky told me.
“Hey, we still on for drinks at your place?”
“You bet…See you at six.”
We hung up and I raced toward the 10. My cell buzzed again, producing an unknown number.
“Jackie Blue,” I announced.
“Ms. Blue, Jim Collins here.”
Jim Collins was my boss at All Star Insurance, one of the four insurance companies I do business with.
“Mr. Collins, how are you?”
“Good, good…listen we have a jewelry theft project you need to look at.”
“Uh, sure,” I said. “That sounds good.”
This was a new area, maybe more lucrative than workers comp fraud, but also sounding like a ‘find it’ project which was different for me.
“Okay. I’ll send you the file, but it’s pretty basic stuff. Mr. Stewart claims that 1.9 million dollars of diamonds was stolen at his house last month and we need you to find them. We can stall payment to this guy for another month or two, but beyond that, we have to pay him. You need to dive into Mr. Stewart’s life. Heck, start dating him, I don’t care.”
“Should I interview him?” I asked while dropping my sunglasses on the floor.
“Uh…We’ve talked with Mr. Stewart twice through our official channels. But we need you to do whatever you gotta do to get these jewels back. I shouldn’t say anything more, but you get what I mean.”
I gulped. “What’s the address?”
“879 South Bundy, south of Montana,” Jim informed me. “Andy Stewart is the guy’s name.”
“Okay, I’ll keep you posted.”
Do what I had to do? That sounded illegal and dangerous. Not that I had a problem with that, but I didn’t even own a gun. When I saw the number on my cell I thought it belonged to Lucy, my 20 year old kid sister who I was trying my best to put through college. She would be the first Blue family member to graduate from college, so I wasn’t going to let her down. Rocky had been pressing me to ask my insurance bosses for more challenging projects like expensive, high profile cases that would involve less hiding in bushes.
The house seemed like a logical place to start, to make an introduction to Andy’s life. I had to dig deep into this guy, know every routine, down to when and where he takes a crap each day. His job, what he looks like, relatives, career history, recreational activities, friends, college, bank account size – I had to have it all.
I hopped onto the 10 and made my way to West LA. Traffic is always such a bitch anywhere in LA, but I managed to find the condo in 25 minutes. The address number was painted on the curb, which was a good thing because overgrown brush and palm trees blocked most of the view of the condo from the street.
My Uncle Larry had showed me how to pick a door lock when I was nine, a lesson that came in handy a few times year. I carried what looked like large tweezers in my glove compartment for just such an occasion.
I followed the sunken walkway around the side of the house and noticed a small, low lying deck with access to the condo’s first floor. White stucco and black shutters were the notable features of the structure and something on the property smelled of fresh paint.
Knocking loudly on the deck door, I listened for anyone inside. My heart was beating like a mad man on crack. Another knock…no sound. The deck door felt remarkably flimsy and may have given in with a swift kick, but a loud noise was something to avoid. I worked the lock and entered the condo in under a minute. Not a record, but close.
Inside, all the drapes were closed and the place reeked of cigarettes. Holding my stun gun out, I flung on the lights to find the place surprisingly clean and orderly. No clear signs of a break in from a diamond thief. The deck door lock wasn’t damaged and the molding looked unscarred. A large painting of a naked woman hung over the fireplace and kind of fit with the art deco furniture. It was one of those paintings where it seemed like the woman was staring at me no matter where I was in the room. The drapes covering the windows were dark maroon colored and clashed with practically everything in the living room. Not that I’m the queen of interior design by any stretch, but it sure didn’t look like this guy was wealthy enough to hold two million bucks of jewels.
I figured I’d start in the kitchen. A toaster was the only thing on the white counters and the near bare fridge held just a half filled grapefruit juice container and a package of cheese sticks. Three pots and two pans hung inside the island cabinet. I saw a phone jack, but no phone or modem. Finally, something interesting: the drawer underneath the island had Val Pak coupons, two magazine solicitations, and water and cable bills postmarked three weeks ago. The strange thing was the name in the envelope windows of the two bills: Robert Larson. Who was that? Andy’s roommate? Hot steaming lover?
A large closet holding the furnace and water heater was across from the kitchen but I didn’t find anything under or behind the two pieces of equipment.
I headed upstairs and walked down the second floor hallway to find the master bedroom - a good place to hide ‘stolen’ jewels as master closets sometimes have attic storage. A wedding picture of a man and a woman, both in their 20s, hung above the master bed. I stared at the picture for about thirty seconds. The young man had bleach blond hair and looked to be about 5’11. He also had a small gap between his upper two front teeth. The woman featured brunet hair and a very strong tan. Standing five or six inches shorter than her groom, she didn’t match the naked lady painting above the fireplace.
I found the master closet to the right of the king sized bed that was too big for the room. The door opened into the closet and would hardly move as something seemed to be blocking it. I opened it as much as possible and squeezed inside to hit the light. A young woman with a bullet hole in her forehead was the object blocking the door and her eyes were horrifically wide open. Unable to even shriek, a guttural wail came out of me that would scare Ozzy Osbourne.
Jun 05, 2013 05:05PM
I squeezed back outside and sprinted out of the room. Only then did I realize I had sharted. Damn.
Having just received a promotion of sorts from Jim Collins, I was left with a dead body in the bedroom and a mess in my pants. But, I was a big girl, so I sucked in some smoke odored air and found the master bathroom, where the usual toiletries lay in the drawers.
After some time in the bathroom, I decided to take a few photos of the dead woman. I am no coroner, but she looked pretty fresh. And she wasn’t the lady in the photo above the bed or the painting in the living room. She looked to be in her late 20’s.
As I suspected, the master bedroom closet had attic storage with ladder access. The light from the closet let just enough light into the attic that I could see entire emptiness. Nothing, nada, zippo. There were roughly 10 casual shirts hanging in the closet, as well as four pairs of pants and one suit. One of the shirts had an Evergreen Corporation logo on it. Maybe that’s where Andy worked. I’d have to check that out later.
“That would’ve been too easy to find the diamonds here,” I muttered to myself.
Clearly, I couldn’t stay too long with a dead body in the house, but I had no intention of calling the police. Not for now at least. Maybe tomorrow. I started down the hallway when I heard the deck door open. Sprinting back into the master bedroom, I hid behind the bathroom door and heard two male voices. They were arguing.
“I told you not to let her out of your sight and now we have to deal with this crap!”
“What the hell are you talking about? She wasn’t my responsibility…you never told me anything about her.”
The two guys were now in the master bedroom and my heart was racing like the Indy 500. I could barely see them through the crack between the door and the frame but one of the guys had dark, slicked back hair. The other was shorter, with a shaved head. They headed over to the master closet and picked up the dead woman. My stun gun was alive and ready because I knew if they looked over at the bathroom door they might see me.
“All right, let’s get her into the bag.”
What looked like a hockey bag was on the bed. They put the body inside, worked it to fit, and had the bag zipped up in under 30 seconds.
“Okay, you grab that side…let’s get out of here!”
“All right, but don’t you be thinking this is my fault!”
“Just shut up!”
With that, the two thugs were down the hallway. I listened for the deck door to open and close. Still, I waited another minute before getting out from behind the bathroom door. My heart was still pounding, so I sat on the bed to gather my thoughts.
Whoever those thugs were, it sure sounded like they didn’t kill that woman but it wasn’t clear if they knew who did. Was the ‘her’ they were talking about the dead woman or someone else, namely the killer?
I listened for the thugs to drive off before leaving the bedroom and heading out through the deck door downstairs. I closed the door behind me and walked back down the stone path to my car. Was the dead woman in the master closet looking for the diamonds? Whoever those thugs were, they had to be involved with the diamond theft in some fashion. Two things were sure in my mind: If I decided to defraud an insurance company over expensive jewelry, I wouldn’t leave it in the house. Second, those thugs sure made it seem like this case was bigger than a $1.9 million diamond theft case.
The dead woman aside, not much in that house told me really anything about Andy Stewart. Maybe he worked at Evergreen Corporation, though he could’ve gotten that shirt anywhere. The place felt like it was a part time home, but the cigarette odor smelled fresh. And at least two people had been in that condo in the last 24 hours: the dead woman and her killer.
I would’ve loved to find banking statements, shopping receipts, or even a birthday card from a relative. Yet, the only noteworthy documents in the home were the monthly bills addressed to Robert Larson. Andy Stewart and Robert Larson...just what was this relationship? If it was a gay thing, why have a picture of you and your bride above the bed? Same thing if Andy was divorced. That’s the last thing he’d want over his bed. At least I had a good idea what Andy looked like. If he was the one in the picture, that is. Crap, I didn’t know anything!
It was 4:40 in the afternoon and I decided I’d wait in my car for a while to see if anybody else showed at the house. My cell phone found the number for the Evergreen Corporation in Santa Monica, ten minutes away.
“Yes, may I speak with Andy Stewart, please?” I asked the receptionist.
“Andy Stewart,” the voice in the phone said.
I panicked and hung up my cell. What the hell could I say to the guy? I got what I wanted to know which was that he was alive and he did work at the Evergreen Corporation. Should I have told him that there were two thugs and a dead woman in his house? Maybe, but my job was not to be sweet and nice.
The knock on my driver side window nearly scared the crap out of me again. It was an older lady, so I stepped out of the car.
“Hon, are you lost? You’ve been sitting here for some time now…”
“No, no,” I responded. “I heard there might be a house coming up for rent on this street and I just wanted to sit and take in everything here.”
“Oh, okay,” she said. “My name is Kay…I live five houses up that way. This is a lovely neighborhood.”
As Kay pointed up Bundy, I was praying she didn’t ask me which house I was targeting. Kay had short cropped white hair that she kept sort of spiked up at the top and she was wearing a US Army T shirt and shorts. Mid 60’s she looked. Probably a runner.
“Kay, it was a pleasure, but I need to take this call,” I said while putting the cell to my ear and faking an inbound call.
Kay smiled and walked back toward her house. I thought about asking her about Andy’s house. Just who was living there, I wanted to know. She seemed like the type of person that would be all over that information. Neighborhood busybody. But keeping the conversation going was too dangerous. Simple as that.
Jun 05, 2013 05:13PM
Jackie Blue is a private investigator in LA who wants to move up in the PI world. When an insurance client asks her to look into a $1.9 million diamond theft claim, Jackie jumps at the opportunity. After Jackie and ex-beau/bounty hunter Hugh Barclay uncover an illegal diamond network run by Iranians and a Brooklyn gang, bullets and molotov cocktails come their way and the line between criminal and trustworthy blurs big time.
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