Wednesday, 24 March 2010
THE ALIBI WITH STILETTO HEELS By Jochem Vandersteen
Most men who were cruising Hollywood came there for pleasure. I was there on business, just like the ladies walking these streets in their short skirts, Daisy Dukes and leather leggings. I was here to find a hooker, like most men here. Unlike those men I was looking for a very particular one. Pearl, her name was. And if I didn’t track her down fast enough a man would die.
Flashback to one day earlier. A woman with blond hair, a blue blazer and black slacks was in my office. She wore little but expensive jewelry. She also wore a wedding ring. Being a trained security specialist you notice things like that. Being single didn’t hurt either. She told me her name was Helen Rogowski. That name rang a bell, I couldn’t place it yet however.
She told me she wanted to hire me because her husband is on death row and innocent.
“You want me to prove your husband’s innocence?” I asked. “I’m afraid you came to the wrong person. I’m mostly involved with security details. Bodyguarding, the occasional background check, stuff like that. I’m not exactly Magnum, PI. The real investigative work is not exactly my expertise. You’d be better off with an ex-cop or something.’’
“I don’t exactly need your help to prove his innocence directly. I need you to track down a witness that can provide him with an alibi.”
“I’ve been tracking down some missing persons every now and then. But again, it’s not my main area of expertise.”
“I need you to track down a hooker. I’ve heard you know your way around the seamier side of the city.”
Couldn’t exactly argue with that. Being the son of L.A.’s biggest mobster I’d taken a walk on the wilder side frequently. “Okay, details. What did your husband do to get him on death row and who would I be looking for exactly’’
“That has to do with why you’re my last hope. I’ve been turned down by most PI’s. Too much bad publicity. Maybe you’ve read about it in the paper. My husband has been described as the Parking Lot Psycho. He was accused of raping and murdering a teenage girl in a parking lot near Venice.”
I’d read about it. That guy gave guys like Ed Gein a bad name. He just cut that poor girl open. The guy they busted was some hotshot movie producer, so that’s why Helen’s name was familiar.
“There’s this black hooker, Pearl, they call her… My husband was with her at the time of the murder. She can be his alibi.”
“I seem to recall the DNA of your husband was found at the scene. Some pubic hair I believe.”
“I know, but he swears he didn’t do it. My husband can be a big asshole and he may sleep around on me, but he’s not a killer. I’m sure of it. At first he didn’t want to admit to being with a hooker, afraid to hurt me and my son. Not wanting to damage his reputation, sure that he would not be convicted, innocent as he was. With the death penalty above his head he finally realized he had to confess he’d been seeing hookers for years.”
“Well, I guess I could see what I can do for you.”
After wandering around Hollywood, talking to johns, pimps and hookers for hours I got depressed. I was happy to finally get one solid lead from a nineteen-year old girl from Missouri whose face was still way to cute for the venom of this city to darken it. I’d learned I had very little hope of saving these runaways however, so I had to contend myself with giving her enough cash to take a few hours off.
According to her Pearl had her regular corner in mid-Hollywood and I followed her directions to the street corner she’d promised me she would be.
There were two women on that corner. An older brunette, who could be anything between thirty and sixty and a black woman with big hair, boots with stiletto heels and a red leather skirt. I approached them.
“Hi honey, looking for a date?” the brunette said, a cigarette dangling from her mouth.
“Yeah, but I prefer non-smoking,” I said and pointed at the black girl. “Are you Pearl?”
“They call me that,” she said and licked her lips. “Did I come highly recommended?”
“You could say that. There’s a life you can save. You just have to come along with me.”
She started to laugh. It wasn’t pleasant. Life on the streets had robbed her of pure laughter. “Are you kidding me? What the hell are you talking about?”
“There’s a man on death row. You can be his alibi.”
The laugh again. “I’m afraid I’m still up for a few hours on this corner. Don’t want to get my pimp angry, now do we?”
“The hell with your pimp. There’s money in it for you and I’ll make sure he won’t hurt you.”
“Willie is one bad mother, buddy. He won’t…” Her eyes widened. “Shit, there he is now.”
A black man with a cheap suit and expensive boots was walking in our direction. I asked if that was Willie. Pearl nodded. He looked meaner than the snake his boots were made from, but half as tough.
“What are you doing? Are you bothering my girl? I don’t like it when people haggle too long. Make a deal or take a hike,” he said.
“You take a hike.” There wasn’t any real reason to show an attitude but after seeing all that lost innocence, all those shattered country girl dreams along Hollywood Boulevard I felt like tearing one of these pimps a new asshole. Willie would do just nicely.
He drew a knife. Before he knew it I had his wrist in my hand and my leg against his knee. It left him down on the pavement and the knife in my hand. I picked him up by his ear and put the knife against his throat.
“If I hear you taking out your anger on Pearl I will cut your throat like a pig, Willie. Do you understand me?”
Willie nodded. I smelled some urine. As I mentioned, he was mean but not that tough. I gave him a shove and he fell on his ass. I dropped the knife.
Hooking an arm around Pearl’s I walked off with her to my car.
I called Mrs. Rogowski we were coming over to her place when I was in the car. She was delighted and thanked me a thousand times. On the way over to her place I filled Pearl in on why I needed her. She’d heard of the case and remembered Mr. Rogowski. In fact, she was pretty damned surprised when they arrested him two days after the murder, because he was with her when the murder took place. She didn’t feel compelled to tell the cops that, though. After all, what was in it for her? And prostitution was illegal, so giving a john an alibi would get her in a lot of trouble.
When I rebutted that she couldn’t be serious about keeping quiet while that would get an innocent man killed she just offered that nobody had ever done anything for her, so why would she ever do something for anyone else. Not exactly the hooker with a heart of gold. And after all, they found his DNA at the crime scene, right? So maybe she made a mistake, maybe the john hadn’t been Rogowski. Those words made me think there was some conscience she had to appease after all.
I parked the car at Rogowski’s bungalow. We stepped out and I removed my sunglasses. There was a loud bang. I pushed Pearl down and drew my Glock. There was a bullet hole in the car’s window. Another bang, taking out the window in its entirety.
I took cover behind the engine block, hoping it would be enough to stop the bullets. I managed to figure out where the bullets were coming from, a motorbike across the street. The biker was fully clad in leather and wore a dark helmet. He was firing a .38 or something. I fired back. I think I even winged his helmet a bit. He seemed a bit disoriented, fired a couple of rounds in our general direction and raced off.
Chasing bad guys down the streets of LA with high speed is something for movies and video games, so I let him get away and decided to make sure Pearl was okay.
“Who the hell was that?” she asked me.
“Don’t know, apparently not a fan. Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I guess. Ruined my stocking though.”
“I’ll get you a new one,” I promised.
Helen Rogowski came running at us. “Are you all right? I heard the shots!”
“We’re fine,” I said. “Mrs. Rogowski, this is Pearl.”
Pearl nodded at her. They didn’t shake hands. In fact, Helen gave her a look like she would give a turd someone forgot to flush. Guess people don’t enjoy meeting the hookers their hubbies are banging. I also guess I can’t blame them much.
“Let’s get inside,” Helen said. Obviously she didn’t want to be seen talking to someone like Pearl by her neighbors.
Helen was classy enough to pour us a drink. She had a pretty nice place, obviously the movie business made as much moolah as crime. I recognized some furniture from my dad’s place.
“I am happy you’re here,” Helen told Pearl. “And don’t worry, you will be well compensated for your time.”
“Great. Nice place you got here, lady. Good to see it seems you’re able to put your wallet where your mouth is.”
I took a sip of the Scotch Helen had poured me. Good stuff.
A young guy, about eighteen years old came in. “Who the hell are these people?”
“This is Noah Milano, along with the woman who will get daddy out of jail,” Helen said.
The kid gave Pearl a dirty look that made her mom’s seem like a loving one. He obviously had an even harder time coming to grips with Mr. Rogowski’s whoring.
He was a lanky kid, dark hair in front of his eyes. He was wearing a Bullet For My Valentine T-shirt and dark boots.
Helen caressed his cheek, brushing his temple. “Everything will be all right now, Jared.” I saw him wince. Did he feel embarrassed by his mom’s show of affection?
“Kid, do you know how to drive a motorcycle?” I asked him.
“What the fuck kind of question is that?” he said.
“Jared, watch your language!” Helen said, shocked.
I grabbed him by the wrist, pulling him closer. “Is that gunpowder I smell on you?”
He tried to get away from me, but I was way stronger. “What are you talking about?”
“That hurt, didn’t it? When your mom touched your temple where the bullet banged your helmet?”
“Let me go!”
“What is going on?” Helen was very worried. She had a reason to.
“Your son wanted to prevent Pearl from testifying on behalf of your husband. It’s pretty logical he was the one taking a shot at us. After all, you and your kid seem to be the only ones aside from me who knew I was bringing Pearl over here.”
Helen was shaking her head. “No, no. No, that can’t be.”
“You’re one psycho kid, aren’t you, Jared? The Parking Lot Psycho had to be someone close to Rogowski. It was the only way his pubic hair could be found at the scene. You set your daddy up, didn’t you? Did you hate him that much for cheating on your mom? Or did you just need someone to take the fall for you?”
“You sonofabitch!” Jared screamed and bit my wrist. I kneed him between the legs. That calmed him down.
“Jared, baby… No… That can’t be true…” Helen cried.
My blood was on his teeth when he bared them at his mom and growled. “You stupid bitch! You should let dad rot in hell for what he did to you! And how the hell can you let this skank in your house? She’s an even bigger whore than the tramp I cut open!”
Helen fainted. Pearl managed to catch her and ease her down on the sofa.
“Pearl, could you please call the cops. I’ll make sure Jared stays here.” I cracked my knuckles and went to work.
Jochem Vandersteen is the webmaster of the Sons of Spade weblog as well as the writer of the Noah Milano short stories and the novel White Knight Syndrome.