(Previously: Detective Victor Pauline and Sgt. Mallory have been assigned to locate and find runaway minor, Thomas Dolby. Dolby has taken something very valuable from his father’s safe and a lot of people want it back.)
Early next morning, Victor Pauline and Roland Mallory were both to the station early, holding large cups of Starbuck’s. They were at the Chief’s door.
Pauline felt a little embarrassed. “Sorry Chief.”
“Aw, forget it. Come in boys and meet Agent Kelsey. Kelsey this is Detective Pauline and Sargent Mallory.”
They all shook hands and sat down. Kelsey was in a mourning dove gray business suit with a subtle but nice tie.
How many shekels did that suit cost him? Pauline wondered.
“Thank you both for coming in early and also on the intel on the girlfriend,” Kelsey consulted some notes.
They accepted the compliment graciously.
“We were able to hack the girl’s phone and intercept a call from Dolby, Jr.”
“Where is he?” Rollie asked.
“It was a burner phone like we thought he would use. He was calling from a big truck stop just north of Bakersfield.”
“So, he is going south,” Paulie mused out loud.
“Aw, just something someone mentioned. That Dolby always wanted to go to LA to learn to surf.”
“Well,” the agent was serious, “he might get a chance to do that if we get to him before anyone else does.” He glanced around the room.
“Anyway, our though is that he is traveling as a passenger, probably in a truck.”
“Why not a car?”
“Since several bad endings with hitchhikers have occurred, almost no one will pick up lone travelers. Except of course truckers.”
“I bet they’re lonely and want the company,” Rollie put in.
“Yes, that and also they are usually pretty buff men and well-armed. They’re less fearful.”
“If my detectives can stop asking a lot of silly questions we can get to it.” The Chief glared at them.
“Right,” Agent Kelsey adjusted his tie. “We don’t want to spook him and let him know we know where he is. So, the equipment guys plan to set up a series of cameras next to the road to snap face recognition photos of every vehicle southbound.”
“But they go so fast,” Paulie couldn’t help himself.
“Excellent point. The CHP will help us with a deliberate traffic slow down here,” he pointed at a spot on his map south of Bakersfield. “All vehicles will be forced to slow, not stop and the camera will be clicking photos every thirty seconds. Then, the images go into face recognition. We have already loaded his picture and voila! We ID the vehicle he is in.”
“Wow,” Rollie’s mouth was open. “I want to work for the FBI.”
“And then?” Paulie asked.
“Then the CHP helps us again. As soon as we have positive ID, we stop the vehicle in an isolated spot and have them get out.”
“This kid seems to have a history of running. We want to make sure, where ever he runs, there is nowhere to go.”
“Ah,” Pauline, Rollie and the Chief all nodded.
“Now we wait. If this works and we snatch the kid, one of you will have to come get the gadget and take it back to Dolby, Sr.”
“Doesn’t your agency get it?” Paulie asked.
“Actually no. We use the gadget, but we don’t own it. Dr. Dolby is the originator and owner of the device.”
“So, we wait to hear.”
“Yes, and with any luck, it won’t be very long.”
Later that afternoon Pauline and Rollie were out on a robbery call. Paulie got a text.
“Hey,” he waved to his partner. “It’s the Chief.”
“What’s it say?”
“Hum. Got him. Call me.”
` He dialed the Chief.
“Chief, it’s Paulie.”
“Ah, good. They got the kid. He is at the CHP station just north of the Grapevine. You know where it is?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Good, take Rollie and the two of you drive down there. Apparently, all this running and hiding has him all tuckered out and he’s asleep. I want you there for the interview when he wakes up. They are sending a couple of guys from LA to talk to him.”
“Ah, geese, Chief. That’s a long way.”
“Yeah, I know. Take you three hours you start now. Next item, the father has waived his rights to be in on the interview.”
“What are we going to ask him?”
“Whatever he has to say. Let him babble if he wants. We’re all ears.”
Paulie was sighing audibly on his end.
“Don’t complain, there’s more.”
“You two will bring him back but he doesn’t go home.”
“Where’s he going?”
“He’s going straight to rehab. The dad is getting all the details and I will text you when I know.”
“Anything else, Chief? Help him with his homework?”
“Paulie, straighten up your attitude. This kid has major problems and people, including him, could have been killed over this shit.”
“Okay, Sir. You’re right as usual.”
“Course I’m right. Usually am. Get hopping and get me the important stuff from the interview.”
Paulie signed off.
“Buddy, we be going to LA.”
An hour and a half later, Rollie and Pauline were southbound on the 99. Rollie was reading one of his favorite girlie magazines.
“How can you read that shit?” Paulie asked him.
“Fine literature, why this girl,” he held up a glossy picture, “is an English major!”
“Yeah, she is. Studying Deep Throat or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”
Rollie got a message ding on his phone. He read it.
“Oh, hot tamales, it’s cooking when I get back.”
“Who was that?”
“That’s a person?”
“A girl, actually. You remember them, Paulie. I know it’s been a while. But like riding a bicycle…”
“You are married, Rollie. Like I keep reminding you. Are you meeting her?”
“Yes, coffee and a small sale.”
“Sale of what?”
“What, she sells men’s underwear?”
“No, women’s. Hers.”
“Used…. you know, either I am losing my hearing or my mind. Not sure exactly which.”
“What do you want her used underwear for and how much?”
“Fifty bucks and I keep them to smell.”
“You…Lucinda better not find out about you spending money this way.”
“Don’t tell her. Please, Paulie.”
“Doesn’t she miss the money?”
“I tell her I go to the races now and then, and just can’t help myself. Better than chasing women. She’s okay with that.”
“Where do you keep these skanky panties anyway?”
“In my drawer at work, along with my magazines. Lucinda threatened to shoot me if I brought any more home. Said the girls were finding them and asking questions she didn’t want to answer.”
“Sounds fair. How often do you do this?”
“Well, the smell only lasts awhile and then I need another pair.”
“I see. Does this Cinnamon Cinder do anything else than drink coffee when she is with you?”
“She lets me do a deep throat kissing. Like French kissing but more. My wife won’t do that with me. Thinks it’s disgusting.”
Paulie wiped his forehead. “You know. I’m starting to think I’m sorry I asked.”
They traded driving once, stopped for burgers and got to the CHP in a little over three hours. They checked in and were ushered back. Two new guys in grey suits were there and they brought the kid into an interview room.
Not much had changed. He was his usual sullen, pissy self with the added attitude of being victimized and extremely inconvenienced.
After thirty minutes of lying and complete bullshit, the essential information rose to the top.
Paulie texted the Chief. ‘Scientist Johnson, from New York was the contact. They had been texting. The drop was to occur in San Pedro tomorrow night.’
The Chief texted back. ‘Good work. Get a signed statement. As much info as possible. When done, you will travel back to Bakersfield. The kid going to Serenity Hospital in Bakersfield. Father will meet you there to check the kid in.’
An hour later, the interview was over. The signed statement was being faxed to everyone involved. Paulie made the kid go to the bathroom and watched to see that he took a pee.
“Enjoying yourself, cop. Like what you see, pervert?” The kid was working hard to push his buttons.
Paulie got a large plastic jar with a lid from the CHP guys.
“Pee jar,” he said and smiled. They smiled back.
Rollie and Pauline got the kid to the back of the patrol car. It was separated from the front with a wire mesh screen and a window that closed on their side. The doors locked from the outside and there were no handles on the inside.
Paulie opened the door and put the large plastic jar in on the seat. To that, he added a large bottle of water and several bags of candy.
“What the hell is all that?” The kid demanded.
“That is dinner, drinks, and your toilet.”
“You can’t do that. When I got to go, I need a toilet.”
“Sorry pal, you have a really bad habit of going out bathroom windows, so this is it. Or, of course, you can just hold it ‘til we get home.”
“You are going to be so sorry, you copper pig. I am going to tell my father and you are totally going to lose your job. Asshole. “
“Well, you are right about one thing, Bub.”
“We are both going to be speaking to your Dad, together, very soon.”
The kid looked at him with disbelief.
“Get in now or we put you in cuffs.”
The kid plunked himself in the back seat with a scowl.
Paulie closed the door. He took the driver’s seat; Rollie was shotgun.
The kid started to yell at them. Paulie reached back and closed the window and put on the air.
“Let’s go,” Rollie said. “I got a date.”
In less than two hours they pulled in front of the hospital. Dr. Dolby was standing out front. There was a doctor in a white coat next to him and two, large and rather imposing male nurses flanking them.
Paulie pulled up front. He and Rollie got out.
“Dr. Dolby, sir.”
“Pauline, Rollie. Dr. Mollgarten is the primary physician here. He will take over. Thank you so much for your help.”
The two shuffled their feet and mumbled.
“Also, can I request that you both and Mr. Reynolds, too , come to the house tomorrow, say about lunchtime, for a little…. debriefing.”
“Sure,” Paulie looked at Rollie. “We’d like that.” Rollie nodded.
“Also, did you get it?” Dolby looked anxiously at the pair.
Paulie went to the trunk, opened it and pulled out a small box. He handed it to Dolby who sighed with relief. He turned and a man who looked like a smaller version of Phillips hurried forward. The little man gently took the box and turn to go to the Doctor’s waiting car.
They could hear Thomas Jr. making noise in the back of the patrol car.
Pauline looked at Dr. Dolby.
“We’ll get him out, but he will probably try to run.”
Dolby nodded and looked at the doctor.
The doctor nodded to the two nurses who went and stood by the car. Paulie unlocked the back door and opened it.
Like a trapped animal Thomas lurched forward and was about to launch himself. Quicker than greased lightning, the nurses grabbed him by the arms. They frog-marched the young man forward and up the steps to the hospital. The doctor followed his nurses and Dolby followed the doctor.
Dolby turned at the entrance.
“Okay, see you tomorrow?”
“See you then, Sir.”
It was a quiet Rollie and Pauline who drove back to Central, each in his own thoughts.
“You know, P, this was really more your bust than mine. Plus, that PI guy. Also, we got the kid’s statement. Now, it’s just a matter of chasing down that Johnson guy. I don’t see that we will really be part of the cleanup. I mean, do you?” Rollie asked, his brow furrowed.
“Well, yeah. You got a point. You just don’t want to go? Great food.”
“I know, but that big old place and this wacko kid. Whole thing sort of depresses me, you know? What the hell is the point of all that money, anyway?”
“Yeah, okay, no prob. I’ll call Sam. He won’t turn down a free meal.”
Next day found Pauline and Sam Reynolds knocking on the door of the mansion at 11:45am. A maid in a starched black and white uniform let them in and led the way to the study.
“Come in, come in!” Dr. Dolby was there and looked to be almost back to his old self. A few shadows under his eyes, but otherwise in good spirits.
“Ah, where’s Phillips, Dr. Dolby? I thought he was always right here.”
“He usually is. No, Phillips is on a mission.”
They both looked at him curiously.
“Ha! Phillips is going after Johnson, who also ‘took a powder’ as soon as he heard Thomas Jr. had been picked up.”
“Phillips, sir?” Paulie was a little incredulous.
“I know. Remember I told you he was ex-British military?”
“Intelligence, actually. Yes, Phillips can be very persuasive when he wants.”
Paulie shook his head and smiled at Sam. Sam was shaking his head too.
“Please sit down. Coffee, beer?”
“Still on duty. Maybe a coffee.”
Dolby got up and poured the drinks himself.
“So, what now with Thomas, Jr. Dr. Dolby?” Paulie asked.
Dolby handed the coffees around and sat back in his desk chair.
“He’ll be at Serenity for six months. He turns eighteen when he is in there, but he is also on probation, so we can probably work something out with the probation officer, so he stays the whole six months. Maybe even longer.”
Paulie and Sam nodded and sipped coffee.
“And you, Sir. Your research?” Sam asked.
Dolby put his cup down carefully and looked around his library. He was seated at a huge walnut desk. There were custom bookshelves on every wall crammed with books, many of which looked to have been read. Beautiful French doors looked out on a sweeping green lawn. The stillness of the morning was only broken by the wap, wap of the rainbird sprinklers outside. They trailed large plumes of water across the lawn. Flowers filled the flowerbeds.
“Yes, my research. Well, this, what happened was very, very bad. People could have been hurt, maybe killed.” The man studied his green desk blotter.
Paulie glanced at Sam.
“This house is my wife’s house. It belonged to her father. She came from some money. I had the brains and the education and together we built this.” He waved his arm around the room.
“But what happened changes everything. I can’t keep the business here, for security reasons. Eventually, Thomas will get out and well….”
“He is a difficult kid to trust, Sir,” Sam added.
“Yes, he is, and I can no longer trust his mother to not try to help him. And, she just can’t stop herself. You understand?”
Sam nodded his head.
“You have kids right, Mr. Reynolds?”
“Two, boy and girl.”
“Anything like this ever happen with you?”
“The boy, drugs. His mother wouldn’t stop giving him money no matter what I said. She couldn’t stop either.”
“So, you see what I mean. Did he ever sober up?”
“Yes, sir. But he was almost forty when it happened.”
“Forty! Good God. See, I just can’t….”
“There are some nice office spaces downtown, Doctor, close to the convention center. Also, they have some cute little condos going for sale in the rehabbed area of town. You might like it,” Sam added.
“Yes….” Dolby stared out the windows. “Inconvenient,” he spoke like he was talking to himself. “But things have to change. Yes, things have to change.” He snapped back into focus. “How about that lunch?”
They all got up and went to the dining room.
Paulie sat next to Dr. Ben-Hur.
“So, you got your man,” she said to him with a smile.
“We got our kid. The man is still on the run.”
“Johnson. Grr. I always suspected that little rat. He was the last one to join the team. Never was really one of us, snotty attitude the whole time.”
“Ah,” Paulie said and started grabbing dishes as they went by.
“So, Detective Pauline, did you suspect me of being a spy?”
She laughed. “Actually, you would have been right. In Israel, everyone must do mandatory military service, including the women.”
“So, I did, and I was part of the Intelligence/Combat team. That’s where I got so interested in cryptology. I had already studied Aramaic in college so one thing led to another.”
“I see,” Paulie buttered a roll.
Gallah spooned some salad onto her plate.
“So, how are your intelligence skills at figuring out what I am thinking right now?” he asked her.
“I don’t know about mind reading,” she told him with a blush.
“Well, my mind is saying we should continue this interesting conversation over dinner. Maybe at Chez Louis, tonight.”
“You know, Detective, I just might be able to slot you into my busy schedule.”
“Okay, it’s a date.”
“One request, Paulie.”
“But bring the handcuffs.”