(Part III – Sam and Kristie have gotten to the B & B in Pasadena and are enjoying their visit with old friend Bill Blass and his girlfriend, Mialee. However, a sister seems to be a little less than friendly.)
The next day dawned bright and beautiful again. Kristie wondered at herself as she poured her first cup of hot, steamy coffee from the large silver urn downstairs. There was no sign of the sister and she felt silly about her feelings. Probably just the late hour in a strange house.
After breakfast, she made Sam promise to take her to the Stats Christmas shop in Pasadena. Then they were going the Getty Museum for a walk around and ending with a drive down PCH to Gladstone’s for Fish in Malibu and an early dinner.
“I am going to gain ten pounds with all this eating we’re doing,” she complained to Sam.
“But it’s all really good, huh?” Sam winked at her.
Sam and Kristie poked around the Christmas shop and got jostled by frantic bargain hunters. Then, down to Malibu and The Getty Villa. Kristie had seen it years ago, but it was beautiful all over again.
“These are really good replicas,” Sam commented gazing closely at a painting.
Kristie laughed and hit him on the shoulder.
“They aren’t replicas, you goof, these are the real thing.”
“Oh,” was his reply. He pursed his lips, crossed his arms and wandered over to another painting.
Foot weary, Sam drove them to Gladstone’s, where they ordered clam chowder with their great, crusty sour-dough bread. They watched the sun drop in the sky and listened to waves breaking against the rocks. Kristie insisted they walk on the beach a little. They both took off their shoes and dug toes in the sand. Sea gulls screamed plaintively overhead.
“You know, it wasn’t all bad,” Kristie told him.
“Oh, you know. Being married and living in LA. It wasn’t all bad, we had our good times.”
Sam wrapped an arm around Kristie’s shoulders. “I bet you did.”
It was a tired two-some that tramped back to the car. Sam drove up Sunset Blvd. to save time and then back to the 405 north. Kristie snoozed in the car.
They arrived back at the B & B by 8 pm. Kristie staggered up the stairs mumbling something about a bath. Sam dumped the keys in her purse and was about to follow when Bill stopped him.
Sam turned and was about to decline but paused when he saw his friend’s face.
“Yup, coming right up. Let’s have it on the porch,” Bill replied.
Sam got himself comfy in one of the over-stuffed chairs on the big wooden porch.
Bill was out in a moment and handed him his brew. They talked about Sam’s day trip and this and that for a while.
Finally, “Something on your mind, buddy?” Sam asked his friend taking a sip of his beer.
Bill stared down at his Heinekens and started picking the label off. Something he always did when he was troubled.
“Ah, yeah.” The big man looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was in the living room. It was empty.
“It’s Mialee’s sister, Jen. You met her?”
Sam shook his head no. “Heard her motorcycle come and go is all.”
“Ah, well.” Bill seemed to consider his words carefully. “Don’t exactly know how to say this.”
“It’s the girls. It’s the girls coming and going.”
“Yes.” Now the flood gates were finally open, the words came pouring out. Girls in the back building, coming and going. Living there, in and out. Out all night, parties. Crystal and Daniel cleaning up bottles and other ‘debris’ after parties. Crystal talking to her mom, telling her she knew some of these girls, they were her age. And, Jen.
“Jen, she’s in the middle of everything. She works as a bartender at a local watering hole and people end up coming back here at all hours. They are having parties until 6am when everyone passes out and it’s over until the next time.”
“Every day?” Sam asked.
“No, thank God. We would never be able to keep any customers in the big house. It’s two maybe three times a week.”
“Mialee has spoken to her?”
“Over and over. It gets nowhere.”
“Kick her out?”
“Can’t. She is part owner of the B & B just like Mialee. She put down earnest money to get the place and pays her share every month. Won’t work. Plus, you know,” Bill seemed to focus on pulling every bit of the label off the bottle, “it’s her kid sister, tough times together back home, no parents, all that.” He nodded, seemingly to himself.
“Hmm, that’s a real problem.”
“And now. . . Crystal told her mom. She is sure at least two of the girls who were at a recent party are from her high school.”
“Call the cops?”
“As soon as she went to clean the bathroom and came out, the girls were gone.”
“I haven’t seen anyone going down the drive,” Sam commented.
“There is a back path, through the trees, pretty well worn. They come up from the street through there and never go by the house.”
“So, have you seen any of this?”
Bill looked sheepish. “I’m a very heavy sleeper, Sam. You know that.”
Sam shrugged. It was true, the guy could sleep through a bomb blast.
“So, what now?”
“That’s it, Sam. I don’t know what to do. Jen is a piece of work, and I don’t like her, but, it’s Mialee’s sister. He shrugged his big shoulders, a look of resignation on his face.
Sam did know.
“It’s a problem, buddy. Underage girls, drinking, maybe drugs. And, if the cops get called. . .”
“It could be trouble for us,” Bill finished.
“Yeah, I would say so. Like Mialee could lose her business license kind of trouble.”
“Jesus. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“At the very least, could lose her license to sell alcohol and that would hurt your business, right?’
“Would it ever. People like their glass of white wine with dinner.”
“And Heinekens,” Sam raised his bottle and finished it off. He stood up.
“I don’t know, Bill. It’s bad. Might have to end up with you two buying her out to get her off the property. You might want to think about that.”
Bill stood up and looked like a big, confused kid. “That could be a lot of money, Sam.”
“Could be. Hey, it’s getting late, and I’m bushed. Talk to you tomorrow. Kristie is going to have to get back to work anyway, so, we’ll be up early.” He slapped his friend on the shoulder.
“Okay,” Bill was glum.
Bill sounded like Eor from that kid’s book, Sam thought with a chuckle.
Sam stumped back upstairs. Kristie had already taken her bath and was in bed with a magazine. He went to get a quick shower.
He dried off and put on a clean t-shirt, boxers and got into bed.
“Trouble?” Kristie asked.
“Yeah,” Sam yawned. “The sister, I guess she’s being a real pill.”
“Huh,” Kristie told him about her late-night encounter with the woman.
“Weird,” he said almost into the pillow.
“Yah, weird and creepy,” Kristie replied and shut off the light.
A groggy Sam struggled up from a deep sleep. He looked around. What? Moonlight streamed through a high window, and he read the little digital clock on the side table. 3:00 am. Why am I awake? He listened and then heard muffled voices. They were coming from outside and he couldn’t tell if they were laughing or crying, or. . . The voices got louder. Suddenly, there was a bang! Sam instantly recognized it as the report of a pistol. He sat up, threw his feet over the bed and ran over to his bag. He dug through, found his Smith and Wesson and ran to the bedroom door. Unlocking it, he ran down the stairs. He heard more commotion and realized it was coming from the back house.
Going from the dining room to the back mudroom, he had to contend with a complicated series of locks and latches on the door. He cursed trying to get them undone. He finally was able to get the last lock undone and ripped the door open and ran out into the cold night air.
His amazed eyes could hardly take in what he was seeing. A dozen girls, in various forms of dress and undress were streaming out of the building and running toward the trees. He tried to stop one, but she wrestled out of his grasp and kept running. Slowing down his breathing, he went forward and climbed the steps to the building. His bare feet tingled against the cold, aging wood steps. There were bright lights in one of the rooms and the door was wide open.
He walked in. There on the floor lay a short man in evening clothes. Black hair, he looked Asian. There was a large red stain on the front of his shirt that was getting bigger. Bent over him, almost double, Sam recognized what had to be Jen, the anime-double sister. The woman jerked up when she realized he was there. In her hand, was a twenty-two pistol. She swung the gun his way.
“Hold on there,” Sam put his hands up and tried for his calmest voice. “Why don’t you put that down.”
She glared at him, her hair was a disheveled mess, her eyes almost blood red, black makeup circling the eyes. Her clothes looked torn. Slowly, she approached him, and he backed up. She made a wide arc around Sam, the body and approached the door. Suddenly, she darted toward the door and Sam raced after her. But she had a head start and he didn’t know where she was going.
He got downstairs and looked wildly around seeing nothing but the cold night. Suddenly, an engine revved loudly, and he could hear the Ducati zooming away. Sam went back upstairs and looked for a phone.
Two hours later, Sam, Kristie, Mialee and Bill were all sitting in the dining room having coffee. The South Pasadena police had showed up. But, since it was a murder and possibly involving minors, LAPD showed up too and were swarming all over the place. The police coroners were there to get the body.
“Might have been self-defense, Ma’am.” The officer was speaking to Mialee. “The man had some defensive wounds on his fingers. He was either fighting with someone or fighting to defend himself.” The officer looked thoughtfully at her. “Did you know the decease, Ma’am? Know why he was here?” The man looked around the dining room. “Because I believe this is a bed and breakfast, right? You don’t usually specialize in wild parties. Am I right?”
Mialee nodded numbly. “I didn’t know him at all. Not a guest. Probably a friend of my sister’s or one of her friends knew him.”
“Yes,” Officer Padgett tapped his pencil on a pad. “And she’s gone, correct?”
Mialee looked at Sam who nodded.
“I see. Well, we’ll have to have you come down to the station to make a report. Here’s my card. You can do that, when you get some clothes on, Ma’am?”
“Oh, and you too, Mr.. . . “He looked at the business card. “Mr. Sam Reynolds, PI. Hmm, very timely.” He smiled at Sam.
Kristie looked at the officer. “Do I need to come too? I didn’t see anything; I was in bed and don’t know what happened. Also, I am on vacation and need to get back to work.”
“Give a statement to the sergeant with all your information and then you should be okay to go.”
Kristie looked at Sam. He made a little finger gesture upstairs. In thirty minutes, Kristie’s statement was made, and she was back upstairs packing.
Sam came in with his head down.
“Don’t say it. I know. You have to stay. He’s a friend.” Kristie was trying to keep the peeve out of her voice. She jerked the folded pants into the suitcase.
“Well. . .” Sam said slowly, “I am a witness.”
“And never one to leave a good fight. It’s okay, Sam. I understand. He needs you to help out. I get it. But I’m ready to leave and will just be underfoot, so. . .” She took a big breath and let it out. Arms akimbo, she stared at him.
“Will you be okay driving back by yourself?” he looked at her sadly, fingering her suitcase.
“Oh, pish. I have done this drive tons of times. I’ll be fine. Look after Bill and… Mialee. They’ve got their hands full.” She gave him a kiss and he gave her a full hug.
Forty minutes later the Sebring was packed and ready to go. Mialee and Bill came out to wave goodbye to Kristie. Mialee kept apologizing.
“I am so sorry this has happened. I am so sorry.”
Kristie waved at her. “Don’t worry about it. We loved our time here. I am so sorry this had to happen at your beautiful bed and breakfast. Mialee looked ready to cry.
“Really, got to go.” Kristie blew Sam a kiss, backed up and went down the drive.
“Guess we need to get to South Pas police to make those statements,” Sam said.
Continued Part IV