Description & Excerpt
A religious fanatic serial killer, who hates rock music, tries to shut down the concert industry. A group of independent concert promoters hire private investigator Jason Duffy and his staff of former outpatient mental health clients to catch him. The killer believes that God rewards His favorites with the most money, and keeps score of his victims on the back of a dollar bill. Jason uses his background as a counselor and club musician to battle his cleverest and most twisted adversary ever.
The author of the 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, once again adds LOL humor in between compelling action scenes. Besides offering readers a backstage pass to the music industry, The Concert Killer brings to light a potentially catastrophic danger that few have ever considered.
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Virginia Tolliver couldn’t stand another day of being known to her classmates as most likely to become a nun. Senior year was underway and she was still living up to the first six letters in her name. There was no shortage of opportunities to unlock her chastity belt. Except for a slightly pug nose, she was a natural blond beauty. But high school boys could never satisfy her lofty expectations. She wanted a man whose appeal would rival the hunks in her favorite romance novels. The lead singer in Concierge Lover was such a man. When she read that his band would be performing in the area she invested most of her savings in a beautiful pink mini-dress and a professional makeover. She saw enough groupies on television to know where to go and how to act after the show.
A man with the intense gaze of a hunter sat in his white sedan looking through a small pair of binoculars. He watched six groupies gathered near the stage entrance to the amphitheater where the concert headliner’s bus would soon be entering. His eyes were drawn to a blond tart wearing a shear pink mini-dress. He knew instantly that she would be the one.
He tailed her from a safe distance after the bus arrived. Her outfit made this task exceptionally simple. Throughout the warm-up act and the main show he watched as she drank four beers and danced with rowdy boys and other slutty girls on the lawn behind the permanent seats. When the band finished, she clapped wildly and glanced back at the restroom. He knew that her main concern would be to primp for the band. While the rest of the concert-goers roared for an encore, he finger-combed his brown wig, adjusted the prosthetic breasts he wore under his light gray v-neck sweater, and followed the groupie into the cinderblock women’s room. Upon entering he heard a stall door close, squatted for a moment and, glancing under the stall doors, confirmed that they were alone. He was momentarily disgusted by the array of toilet paper, discarded cups, and paper towels that were strewn about the floor. Before rising, his nostrils flared as he became aware of a puddle of vomit below the sink nearest to him.
He went into the stall at the far end of the restroom so that he would pass the pink trollop as he exited. He sat on the toilet, bent forward and carefully removed his long brown wig. Underneath was a plastic zip-lock bag containing a pair of latex gloves and a single sheet of paper folded into thirds. After putting on the gloves, he looked down at the paper which displayed the words, “Concerts are Evil,” written across the top in newspaper clippings. Below were the headlines of three murders he committed over the past three months. The police were obviously too stupid to recognize the connection, so he decided to point them in the right direction. At the bottom of the note he taped his signature, “The Concert Killer.”
He quietly removed four pieces of masking tape from the bag and taped the paper to the back of the stall door, wrinkling his gloves as he smoothed the tape. He placed the wig back on his head, making sure it completely covered his short black hair. He heard the tart’s toilet flush, and her stall door open.
Virginia was nervous and starting to have second thoughts about turning her fantasy into reality. The beers bolstered her courage, but she couldn’t stop thinking about her little sister, who wanted to be just like her. And, did she really want to share this experience with the guy she’ll eventually marry? Could she live with keeping it a secret?
Staring at herself in the restroom mirror, Virginia concluded that her plan was a mistake. She focused on her bright red lipstick with the suggestive name, grabbed a tissue and began quickly rubbing it off, as if once removed she could return to her old self.
From his front pocket, the Concert Killer pulled out a small blackjack that belonged to his grandfather, a deputy sheriff from Eureka, CA. It was about six inches long and was comprised of a leather handle and a small oval of iron wrapped in leather. His grandfather used it to knock out pugnacious drunks who refused to go peacefully.
He slid the metal bar, unlocking the door and exited. A row of eight sinks and mirrors lined the wall opposite the stalls. He planned on using a diversionary tactic so that the groupie wouldn’t see him swing the blackjack. But she was so engrossed in working on her lipstick that the ruse wasn’t necessary, and she never saw it coming. He connected with her right temple and she dropped instantly, bouncing her chin off of the sink. Holding her by the calves, he dragged her to the stall he had used, circled 90 degrees to his left, and pushed her to the toilet, head first. Noticing that her dress was now up to her waist, the Concert Killer pulled it down over her white panties, flipped her over, and adjusted the back of her dress. He then straddled her, grabbed her blond hair, and shoved her face into the toilet with all of his might. She regained consciousness briefly, but the blow weakened her and he had no trouble holding her down until she was dead. He left her facedown in the toilet bowl.
As he exited the stall he wiped down the handle and inside latch bar that he touched before donning the gloves. Another adjustment to her dress was necessary. He removed the gloves, flushed them down a different toilet, using a single knuckle on the handle, and walked out of the restroom. The band started playing another encore song and everyone’s attention was directed toward the stage.
Calvin Dawson is one of the top concert promoters in Southern California. I’ve known him since the year I graduated from high school. During that ten year period I considered him a wealth of knowledge on all facets of the music scene. He’s in his early 40’s but looked five years younger when I last saw him over the summer.
“You sounded very upset on the phone,” I said, gesturing to the chair across from my desk.
“Do you mind if I shut the door?”
This seemed like an odd request since my administrative assistant, Jeannine Joshlin, was the only other person in the office, and Calvin knew that she did all of my research.
He sat down and slumped forward. “I have some very disturbing news and I need your help.”
“What’s going on?”
“Two nights ago a woman was murdered at a concert I promoted in Irvine. The killer left a note taking credit for another three murders that took place at other concert venues in California over the past three months. This is my worst nightmare,” he said, and rubbed his face with both hands.
“Do the police have any suspects?”
“No one had a clue that they were related until now. Two were men and two were women. One was strangled, one was shot, one was knifed and the most recent victim was bludgeoned and drowned in a restroom toilet.”
“Were they all in Southern California?” I asked.
“No. The first was in San Francisco, the second in Sacramento, the third in Oakland and the last one, as I said, was in Irvine.”
“I can see how the different MO’s would keep the cops from connecting them.”
“Not only that, two were killed inside the concert venue and two happened in the parking lot; one before the show, one afterwards, and two during.”
“It almost seems like the killer went out of his way to keep the cops from recognizing the link. How did he announce that he was responsible?”
Calvin reached into his pocket and produced a copy of the note that was taped to the restroom stall. “The cops showed it to me yesterday, and I reproduced it as best I could.”
I read the note and placed it on my desk. “How can I help you, Calvin?”
“Right now I’m dealing with four different police departments. I was told that a statewide task force has been formed, but I doubt that keeping me in the loop will be a priority for them. I met with my three partners yesterday and we want to hire you to be our liaison with the police. We don’t expect you to solve the case. We need to know that everything is being done to protect the safety of our customers.”
“If I’m not satisfied that the police are on the right track, do you want me to pursue leads and try to find this guy?”
Calvin replied, “We’re in a real bind here, Jason. There’s nothing that we’d like more than to see him get caught as soon as possible. We’ll pay any travel expenses and won’t have a problem with you investigating as long as you keep us up on what’s going on.”
Over the next ten minutes I copied the business cards of the detectives from each police department as well as Calvin’s contacts within those departments who handle the assignment of police personnel to concert venues.
“Do the police want to keep the link out of the press?” I asked.
“Some think we’d have a better chance of catching the killer if we go public. Others feel it could shut the concert industry down in California and he would just take his show on the road out of state. The L.A. police commissioner said that law enforcement has an obligation to tell concert-goers that they could be in danger if they attend a show. But the consensus is that the cops would have a better chance to nab him if they zero in on his habits, have limited concert offerings in the major venues, and stack these places with undercover cops,” Calvin said.
“Who’s coordinating the case?”
“For right now it’s the Highway Patrol.”
“Are they expecting the perp to get a speeding ticket leaving the scene?”
“That was my initial response, too. But I found out that they coordinate statewide criminal investigations and have almost 7,000 sworn officers. I told them I was expecting the FBI. Apparently they won’t be officially involved until the Concert Killer crosses state lines unless CHP asks for help.”
“Is San Diego PD involved?”
“All of the cities with major concert venues have assigned a rep to the CHP’s Task Force. I’m not sure who your local guy is, but Lieutenant Dean Casey is running the show from CHP headquarters in Sacramento. You’ve got a copy of his card.”
“What do they think about the perp’s headline, Concerts are Evil?”
“Most of the cops believe the guy is a major nut case. That helped me sell my colleagues and the police on working with you. They like the idea that you have a couple of degrees in psychology and know the ins and outs of the music business from your years as a club musician. Do you have any ideas on the note?”
“Not yet,” I said.
Calvin stood up, extended his hand, and with a weak smile said, “By the way, congratulations on having Kelly move in with you. I told Kayleigh and she’s dying to meet her.”
“I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other until this guy is caught. We’ll have to get them together,” I replied, and Calvin departed.
I called Jeannine into my office to get her started on researching the four murders. She was a former client from my two-year career as a mental health counselor. During that time, and for eight years prior, I was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for a local band. The bassist from my last band, Tsunami Rush, recently told me that he thinks Jeannine looks like Reese Witherspoon. While her Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder severely curtailed her relationship with men for several years, she has been dating Michael Marinangeli, the former lead guitarist from Tsunami Rush, for over a year.
As she entered my office, Jeannine was followed by her German Shepherd puppy, Hoover. I discovered in my first couple of years as a private investigator that the office can occasionally be a dangerous place. I bought the dog for Jeannine so that he could be trained to become her guardian while I’m out in the field. I also bought one from the same litter for Kelly.
“I want you to do an Internet search and copy everything that was written on all four murders. Then check the obits and try to get contact info on the victims’ family members,” I said.
“Why do you need to talk with them?”
“Two reasons. First, I want to find out if any of the vics mentioned being followed in the days prior to the murder. The killer might pick his victims at random when he gets to the shows, or he could be casing the advanced ticket windows and stalking them prior to the concerts.”
“That makes sense.” Jeannine bent down and picked one of Hoover’s hairs off of the carpet. “What’s the second reason?”
“I’ll be looking for a common thread that might tie the murders together. His note said, ‘Concerts are Evil.’ I can’t help but feel like he’s got some kind of agenda. I want to start by gathering as many bits of information as possible. We can sort them out later.”
She pinched another dog hair from the carpet as she was getting out of her chair and said “Come, Hoover.” She walked back to her desk displaying her usual perfect posture. Hoover walked alongside her, stride for stride with his head held high.
Private investigating is a unique business in many ways. But the one thing it has in common with the rest of the business world is the importance of networking. This is especially true when it comes to interacting with police departments. Having no police contacts in any of the cities where the murders took place put me at a disadvantage. Calvin said the various departments agreed to work with me as the liaison to the major independent concert promoters of California, but that doesn’t mean they will share the information I’ll need to understand the big picture.
I phoned SDPD homicide detective Walter Shamansky, who worked with me on the two biggest cases of my two-year career. Instead of the normal phone salutation Shamansky asked, “Which band, and what happened?”
“It’s not a band this time. I was hired by four California concert promoters to look into the concert killings.”
“Why did they pick you? The closest the killer has come to San Diego is Irvine. That’s 75 miles from here.”
“One of the promoters is an old friend. He told me that CHP put a statewide task force together encompassing all of the cities that have concert venues. I was hoping, after your two recent music industry cases, that the brass picked you be our local rep.”
“The luck of the Irish isn’t happening today, Duffy. This is the first that I’ve heard of the task force. I just learned about the killings at roll call this morning,” said Shamansky.
“Any chance you could find out who’s the local rep and give me an intro?”
“Doing favors sure does work up an appetite.” Shamansky is a big fan of a fine dining establishment on La Jolla Boulevard, about a half-mile from my office.
“Does lunch at Larabee’s work for you?” I reluctantly asked, knowing I would be parting with a wallet-sized photo of Ulysses S. Grant.
“Tomorrow at noon,” he said, and disconnected.
Over the remainder of the day I read everything Jeannine could find on the four murders. Not only had the killer varied his method of murder for each kill, but the victims themselves were extremely dissimilar. They included a banker, a beer vendor, a roadie, and a high school senior dressed like a groupie.
I reached the three detectives assigned to the Northern California murders and arranged to meet with them individually on Wednesday and Thursday. Jeannine took care of the travel and lodging arrangements.
I spent Tuesday morning listing similarities and differences in the four murders. It was hard to get past the notion that the killer did a brilliant job of making the murders appear unrelated, only to leave a note connecting the dots. Why?
Jeannine spent the morning searching the net for serial killers with constantly changing MOs. She found that while it is uncommon, there are several documented cases. Among those who were captured, almost all of them said they did so to keep the cops from making the connection. One particular sicko said he just wanted to try all of the tools in the toolbox. But he was a big fan of capture and torture, which rules out the copycat possibility for the Concert Killer.
At noon I ascended the picturesque hillside terrace leading up to Larabee’s restaurant, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Their personable mid-60s hostess greeted me by name and directed me to a window table. Five minutes later Walter Shamansky walked into the dining room, arm-in-arm with the hostess. Despite his 57 years, Shamansky looked like he could go ten rounds with a guy half his age. Maybe it was his shaved head that made me think of a boxer.
“I see you’re wearing your court suit and a smile. That’s a first,” I said.
“It’s an afternoon session,” he said. “Call me at the end of the day if you want my take on courthouse coddling.”
“What’s going on with the task force?”
“First things first, Jason. I heard the chef added a couple of new appetizers.”
It’s best to work around Shamansky’s palette when seeking favors and information. Upon arrival, our waitress kissed the top of Shamansky’s head and gave him a detailed description of the new menu items. The entire staff is eternally grateful for his work in catching an embezzling partner and saving their business.
After placing our orders Shamansky said, “You’re not going to like what I’ve got for you.”
“What is it?”
“The local task force is being headed up by your old friend, Detective Dan Darden.”
Darden was forced to transfer out of Metro, the hub of power in the department, after we crossed swords on a recent case.
I said, “I thought he was shuffling papers at a community outpost.”
“One of his political connections waved a campaign contribution at the right hack, and Darden got recommended for the assignment by the mayor himself.”
“Does this mean I’m flying solo on this one?”
“Not entirely. Before coming over here I popped into the captain’s office and reminded him that I worked a couple of homicides relating to the music business over the last year,” he said.
“What did he say?”
“He tap danced around the political implications to make sure I knew what I was getting into.”
“Did he put you on the task force?” I asked.
“No. But he did me one better by assigning me to work with them in an advisory capacity while reporting directly to him. I won’t be involved in the day-to-day activities and won’t be coordinating with any law enforcement personnel in the other cities. You’ll be on your own with them. If we get a vic in San Diego all of that could change. But until then, I wouldn’t count on too much.”
The Concert Killer thought of himself as a successful businessman. He grew up on a farm in a strict Fundamentalist Christian home with a loving mother and a father who took a fire and brimstone approach to parenting. As a senior in high school he finally rebelled eHH
against his father’s many rules, and moved out of their house shortly after graduation. His work ethic and knack for writing award-winning scholarship essays helped him to earn a degree in Business Administration. That same work ethic and wordsmith prowess served him well in developing sales skills. It didn’t take long for him to achieve financial success.
In spite of the fact that he was killing people, he didn’t think of himself as a bad guy. Concert Killer had the ominous ring that was needed to instill the desired effect, but he thought of himself simply as CK.
Sitting in front of his laptop, CK read every article he could find on Saturday’s murder. He was disappointed that the press didn’t reveal his note or the fact that the police were looking for a serial killer. But he planned to provide plenty more opportunities for the press to make the connection. He opted not to contact them directly because he didn’t want to be perceived as a publicity seeker.
I took an early commuter flight on Wednesday, and arrived at SFPD at 9:00 AM after checking into a downtown hotel. Detective Ike Rappaport met me at the front desk and escorted me to a small interview room.
“We use this room for vics and family members. It doesn’t have a two-way mirror,” Rappaport said.
“Then what’s that?” I pointed to a mirror on the far wall.
“It’s just for show so nobody messes with the mug books or does anything stupid while they’re left alone.”
“What can you tell me about the Delainya Tanner case?”
Rappaport ran a hand through his thick brown hair with a few flecks of gray. He actually had more gray in his eyebrows than on his head, which I found very unusual.
“She was found in the parking lot, near the stage entrance. The coroner approximated the time of death at one hour after the concert. The maintenance staff was cleaning up the lot when a custodian spotted her three hours after the show.”
“Was she out in the open?”
“She was in an empty parking space between a car and an SUV. A pickup truck was parked behind her, so the body wasn’t in plain view.”
“Why were all of those cars still there three hours after the show?”
“She was near the stage entrance. That’s where the employees park. They were still cleaning up, counting money, and taking down the stage.”
“I read The Examiner’s account of the crime. What else can you tell me?”
Rappaport rubbed his prominent chin and slid his hand down his throat. “The ligature marks on her neck made it clear that she was strangled by a man. I was floored when I got the word that it was the work of a serial killer. It felt like a crime of passion to me.”
“Who did you look at?”
“The family told us about a boyfriend, but he came up clean.”
“Was he at the concert?”
“No, he worked late that night. A coworker corroborated his story.”
“What was your theory before the serial news broke?”
Rappaport said, “Delainya Tanner worked her way from bank teller to assistant loan officer in three years. That’s pretty fast track for her bank. When we found her, she was dressed in an outfit that didn’t look like anything a loan officer would wear. I got the feeling she was dressed by the killer after the fact.”
“So you thought it was somebody she worked with at the bank?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time a pretty young girl slept her way up the ladder.”
“Was there anything else that supported that theory?” I asked.
“The coroner found some light bruising around her crotch. He called it signs of heavy-handed foreplay.”
“Maybe the boyfriend likes it a little rough.”
“He claims they hadn’t had sex for a week. Apparently, he cancelled a vacation because of a work-related matter, and she had been holding out on him ever since.”
“Do you think there’s any chance the domestic squabble escalated?” I asked.
“The boyfriend is your classic Type A workaholic. I’d say that relief from stud duties was his vacation.” Rappaport’s serious expression never changed.
“I don’t quite see where you’re going with your theory, Rappaport. Are you saying you think her boss from the bank choked her in the parking lot?”
“The boss who signed off on her promotion has an alibi. But help can come from a lot of sources. There’s also the possibility that she facilitated a loan that she shouldn’t have. Or, maybe she was having an affair with someone at a higher level than her boss. My theory was that she broke some bad news to the perp after the concert and he didn’t take it well.”
“OK, I can see how you got there. What are your thoughts now that the serial killer posted his note?”
“I’m thinking she was still cheating on her boyfriend. But it could have been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe she and her lover go back to his vehicle for a little backseat boogaloo. When they’re done, as she’s walking back to her car, the perp strangles her and drops her behind the pickup truck.”
“Why wait for an hour after the show? I’d think opportunities would be pretty slim at that hour.”
“It was his first kill. By that point there weren’t a lot of witnesses around. If the right circumstances presented themselves he could do it with little chance of getting caught. If not, there were plenty of other concerts over the summer,” Rappaport replied.
I needed to kill a few hours before meeting with the primary investigator for Murder #3 in Oakland, and returned to my hotel. After entering notes on my interview with Rappaport, I reread the newspaper articles on victim #3, Daryl Harris, and formulated questions for Oakland Detective, Maurice Johnson. I tried my best not to prejudge any conclusions before meeting with the detective, but the contrasts between the two cases were glaring. The only commonality that I could spot was that they both took place at a concert venue, and they were both supposedly committed by the same perp.
It took just over a half-hour to get from the hotel to Johnson’s stationhouse in Oakland. Maurice Johnson was a 6’2”, 200 lb. African-American detective working in the environment that spawned the Oakland Raiders. I expected a tough as nails, no nonsense, streetwise throwback to the 60s with a bronzed rubber hose mounted to his cubicle wall. Instead, I met a Don’t Worry, Be Happy, dreadlock-wearing, casual dude with the smile of a stoner. If he owned a rubber hose it was probably attached to a hookah.
After the self-introductions I asked, “Are you working undercover?”
“I used to work narco a few years back, but I’ve been in homicide for the past four years.” Noticing my expression he added, “I guess you’re wondering about my Rastafarian look.”
“It’s not quite what I expected.”
“I tell the brass that it puts the bad guys off their guard. But actually, Oakland Homicide is a very high stress assignment. Half of the department is on the Maalox and martini diet. I choose to surround myself with natural stress reducers, like healthy food and the music of the Marley family.”
“I played in a band for 10 years before becoming a PI. I think you’ve got a terrific approach. What can you tell me about Daryl Harris?”
“Dare me?” he asked.
“OK, I dare you to tell me about Daryl Harris,” I said, wondering if I had jumped to conclusions about Johnson’s approach.
Johnson grinned and replied, “That’s his nickname, Daryl “Dare Me” Harris. He was a part-time roadie, part-time L.A. club bouncer. I’ve been working with Detective Celia Bains of LAPD, who said Dare Me tossed rowdy drunks out of a hardcore club on a nightly basis. Apparently, Dare Me was well-known for his combative nature.”
“I assume it was his roadie job that brought him to Oakland.”
“He worked for the hardcore band Flex-N-UR Face. They were the warm-up act the night he was killed.”
“I read all of The Tribune’s articles on the murder. What can you tell me that didn’t make the papers?”
Johnson replied, “I thought you were the liaison for the promoters. What do you need that for?”
“As far as I can see, I’m the only one in the field right now pulling these bits of information together. I’m planning on meeting with the head of the task force tomorrow. I expect that he’ll want the cooperation of the promoters in canceling scheduled shows to narrow the number of possible targets. The more I know about how this guy operates, the more likely it is that we’ll pick the right venue to catch him.”
“Duffy, you seem like a decent guy, but then so do half of the perps I bust. How do I know that if I give you this info it’s not going to wind up in some sensational rock station concert promotion?”
“You could call Detective Shamansky of SDPD. I worked with him on the Terry Tucker murder last year.”
“Hang on a minute.” Instead of picking up the phone, he turned to his computer and browsed for over five minutes. “The Union-Tribune says you were responsible for busting the bad guys on that one.”
“Shamansky played a big part in that case. I’ve got his number in my phone,” I said, and flipped it open.
“That won’t be necessary. Here’s what went down. Harris was the only roadie for his band. When the Flex set was over, the headliner’s backline techs helped Harris clear the stage. They just tossed everything into the Flex truck for Harris to sort and secure later. Harris drove the truck off of the loading dock, parked it in the lot, locked up, and helped the stagehands set up for the headliner.”
“Harris hung out with some of the backline techs until the band started playing an ear-splitting opening number. He then returned to his truck. It looked like he was in the process of opening the padlock on the back door when the perp shot him in the eye from just a few inches. The coroner dug out a .41 caliber bullet, probably from a derringer, which wasn’t recovered.”
“Were you surprised by the serial killer’s note?” I asked.
“Bains and I thought the motive was revenge. We figured it was one of the guys he beat up bouncing at the L.A. club. A lot of people in the club knew about his gig with Flex-N-UR Face. We thought the perp picked an out-of-town show to divert suspicion. For the last three weeks Bains has been running down leads on guys that got bounced shortly before the murder.”
“Once you found out it was part of a serial case, did you look to see if the perp took a souvenir?”
Maurice replied, “I thought of that and reviewed his personal effects. The band members already told me he didn’t wear any jewelry, except a skull ring and a Casio watch. They were both still on the body. I sent his wallet down to Bains, who is going to bring it to his brother to check out. They were pretty tight.”
“Where does the investigation go from here?”
“Before the big news broke, me and Bains were looking at a meth-dealing biker named Jimmy DeLong. We know that he left L.A. the day of the murder and didn’t return until the following day.”
“Did you check his alibi for last Saturday night?”
“Bains is working on it. But even if he was in lock-up the nights of the other murders, we’re still going to follow up. Just because a perp takes credit and photocopies some news headlines doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing he popped all four of them.”
I considered going to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner, but Johnson’s speculation that the Irvine perp may have confessed to crimes he didn’t commit meant I needed to do some extensive work on this puzzle. I opted for a family restaurant where I’d have plenty of room to spread out my file folder. I reread the accounts of murders two and four as I waited for my meal. If I were in Johnson’s shoes I wouldn’t be inclined to abandon my working theory and prime suspect based solely on the word of a guy who was probably trying to mislead the police.
During dinner I focused on how Johnson’s theory might fly with the task force leader, Dean Casey, whom I would be meeting tomorrow afternoon. In my two years as an investigator I had yet to work a case in conjunction with the Highway Patrol. I kept thinking about watching reruns of the TV show CHIPS with my dad when I was in junior high. I expected that Dean Casey would be nothing like Eric Estrada.
I arrived at Sacramento PD barely in time for my 10:00 AM meeting with Detective Harry Lutz. Ten minutes after I checked in with the sergeant at the front desk a muscular man in a charcoal suit walked up to me.
“You must be Duffy. I’m Harry Lutz,” he said in a surprisingly congenial voice.
He escorted me to the detectives coffee room, poured two cups, set a bowl of sugar packets and powdered non-dairy creamer in front of me and asked, “How much do you know already?”
“I read that the vic ran a beer concession for the past five years. He was a family guy with no known enemies. The promoter told me his throat was slit from behind and you managed to find the knife,” I said.
“That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”
“Can we expand on the nutshell version? I can’t picture how a beer vendor gets his throat slit during a show, and nobody sees anything.”
“He had a girl who worked with him. The featured band just started playing its second song when one of the kegs ran out. The vic, Brian Winslow, unhooked the dry keg and carried it to his truck behind the concession stands. When he set the keg down to open the truck, the perp knifed him,” Lutz said.
“Did it look like he took any souvenirs?”
“No, but he did something we kept out of the papers that was pretty unusual.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“He cleaned his knife on the back of the vic’s shirt.”
“What did it look like?”
“He made an X,” Lutz said, “like he was cleaning one side at a time.”
“Where did you find the knife?”
“He threw it down a Porta-Potty.”
“What made you look in there?”
Lutz replied, “The entrance to where the vic parked his truck was visible from the last two Porta-Potties. I thought we might be able to get a witness who saw the perp come out from behind the concession stands. So I asked the other vendors if they remembered anything that stood out about the people standing in line for the toilets. Two of them said there wasn’t anybody over there after the main act hit the stage.”
“You thought it might be a good place to get rid of the weapon before walking past security at the exit,” I surmised.
“Exactly. So I had them strained and we got it.”
“Was there anything unusual about it?”
“It’s probably the most common hunting knife on the market. I think every Wal-Mart in the country stocks them.”
“I don’t suppose you found any prints or partials.”
“Forensics found a little bit of blood at the hilt, but other than that they didn’t find shit.” Lutz paused and smiled. “Bad choice of words. They actually found plenty of that, but no usable trace.”
“Were you able to get any footprints from the scene?”
“No. It was a gravel road and it hasn’t rained up here in months. The sprinkler system keeps the lawn looking great, but it doesn’t run behind the concession stands.”
“What do you know about the vic?”
“Like you said before, he’s a family guy. No known enemies. One of the female cops interviewed the girl who worked with him in the booth. She was pretty cute. I thought maybe a jealous boyfriend could be involved if they were having an affair. But she said he talked mainly business and occasionally about his son’s Pop Warner football team. She was broken up about him, but also concerned about finding another job.”
“One last question: Were you surprised when you found out we were dealing with a serial killer?”
“Not at all. In fact, I speculated about that possibility with my lieutenant over a month ago when I couldn’t find even a hint of a motive. The vic had $200 in his wallet that wasn’t touched. To be honest with you Duffy, it was a relief when the news broke about the serial killer.”
At 2:00 PM I was escorted into the office of Dean Casey at CHP headquarters. Casey was in his sixties with snow-white hair, a ruddy complexion, and a curdled milk look on his face. The office décor suggested that our tax dollars were certainly not wasted on creature comforts at this locale.
“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice,” I said. “I’m sure you’ve been swamped.”
“Is it your vast experience at working serial cases that tells you how busy I’ve been?” he asked. One white caterpillar eyebrow arched while the other one dropped and narrowed.
“I met with Detectives Rappaport, Johnson, and Lutz since yesterday morning and I’m finding a lot of conflicting information.”
“Are those detectives planning on coordinating concert schedules with you? Because, as far as I’m concerned, the extent of your involvement in this case is restricted to helping the police limit the number of concerts until the killer is found. Do we understand each other?” Casey asked.
I was obviously talking to a bureaucrat with a two-by-four up his ass, looking to minimize my role. “I’ll be glad to help out in that capacity. But I was also employed to do whatever I can to help put this guy away as soon as possible.”
“You’re not a sworn officer, Mr. Duffy,” he said, folding his hands on the desk. “As such, I consider anything you do above and beyond the purview of acting in the role of concert liaison as interfering with a police investigation. Do I make myself clear?”
I’m normally a firm believer in the notion that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. But, when the honey becomes little more than a gooey mess, sometimes you just have to get out the fly swatter, take a couple of swings, and hope for the best.
“Lt. Casey, as a sworn officer isn’t it your duty to uphold the laws of California as defined by the legislature?”
“What’s your point?”
“The laws relating to a citizen or company’s right to hire a licensed private investigator is one of the laws of the land that you were sworn to uphold, is it not?” I asked, without the smug expression I was repressing.
“I don’t like you or your kind, Duffy. You waste valuable resources, tip perps through the press, and are generally a pain in my ass. You are correct. You do have the right to ask questions. Just as I have the right to not waste my time by answering them. I also have the right to share my feelings on the subject with the other members of the task force,” he said, and stood up.
I remained seated. “To catch this guy as soon as possible you need the concert promoters to limit your targets so that you can get adequate coverage at those venues. Do you really think the best way to gain their cooperation is to blow off their representative?”
He replied, “I have a sneaking suspicion that their priority is to lose as little money as possible and not the stroking of your ego. Right now we’re keeping the serial connection out of the press in exchange for the promoters’ cooperation in limiting shows. If I decide that the promoters aren’t cooperating to my satisfaction, I have options. I could call a press conference this afternoon and tell the public to stay away from all concerts unless they want a slit throat, a wrung neck, a bullet hole in the eye, or to get drown in a fucking toilet! Now, get the hell out of my office and don’t come back!”
Mounted on the wall behind Casey’s desk was a plaque with the CHP motto, Safety, Service, Security. I stood up and pointed at the plaque.
“You may want to get your triple S motto updated. It feels more like two S’s will do the trick in here.” Achtung, Herr Casey.
It was a very productive day for CK. Business was going well and the upcoming concert schedule was looking very promising. Another soul would lay claim to martyrdom before the pagan holiday of Halloween.
He was currently in a suite at a five-star resort in Pasadena that represented the finest of luxury accommodations in the North L.A. area. CK realized that most commoners would believe that such a display of opulence would be equated to the excesses of the Patricians that Jesus drove out of the temple. He believed that wealth was God’s way of rewarding His favorites. CK’s female minister was his lighthouse on a raging sea when he first moved into the city. Her sermons inspired him to embrace creature comforts as an affirmation of God’s love. Of course his father would consider this way of thinking to be nothing short of heresy. But CK was his own man. He no longer cow-towed to his father’s fundamentalist ways.
CK carried one of the straight-back chairs from the dining area to the balcony entrance and set it sideways so that the beautiful view of L.A. could be seen over the seat. He reached into his wallet and removed a crisp new dollar bill. He folded the bill in half, and positioned the halves at a 90 degree angle on the chair so that the Eye of Providence, atop the pyramid in The Great Seal, faced him as he knelt before it. He read aloud the Latin words below the pyramid, “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” then translated it to, “New Order of the Ages.” There was indeed a new world order. It did not include outmoded ideas and archaic values. He believed that if the meek will indeed inherit the earth it won’t be until it’s as used up as a post-menopausal harlot. It was unfortunate that his father clung to manmade church laws that only served to hinder the new world order.
The sins of his father disappeared, as did the vista of L.A. as CK focused on the eye at the top of the pyramid. His hands separated from the praying position and extended outward as he emptied his mind to receive God’s grace. His posture corrected to a perfect position and his breathing became slow and deep. His eyes wanted to close, and narrowed to slits, but they never strayed from the Eye of Providence. After ten minutes he lay prostrate in front of the Eye and wept into the carpet. He did not weep for his sins. He did not weep for his victims. He wept for all of God’s children who failed to find their way into His state of grace in spite of the multitude of signposts put in their paths on a daily basis. Music was the devil’s portal into the souls of the young and impressionable.
CK walked to the marble table beside his bed, picked up a book, placed it on the wide balcony railing, spread his arms and began reading aloud from the profit Nahum.
“The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”
I sat at my kitchen table on Friday morning enjoying breakfast as I brainstormed questions to ask Detective Michele Ko of Irvine PD. Jeannine tried setting up a morning meeting, but the best Ko could do was to see me at 1:30. I was hoping Lt. Casey hadn’t informed her of my leper status as yet.
“How do I look?” Kelly asked, breezing into the kitchen wearing a short skirt that matched her chestnut hair. “Today’s the field trip to Scripps Aquarium in La Jolla.”
“You better stay away from the shark tank. If they get a look at those legs they might go into a frenzy and traumatize your second graders.”
“Ha, ha,” she replied. “I forgot to tell you last night, I invited your parents over for dinner tomorrow night.”
“Then I expect you to handle all of the repercussions that go along with the invitation.”
“Don’t worry, I’m cooking and I’m sure your mom will help with the clean-up.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” I said. “The last time they were over I got inundated with decorating, home improvement, and gardening suggestions from Mom.”
“I’ll be glad to have those conversations with her.” Kelly walked over, bent down and gave me a kiss goodbye. “I’m stopping at the store on the way home tonight. What would you like for dinner?”
Holding the hem of her miniskirt between my thumb and forefinger I replied, “How about a couple of shark steaks?”
She slapped my hand and commented, “Bottom-feeders,” before walking away.
I was in the middle of briefing Jeannine on the highlights of my trip, and assigning corresponding research projects, when Detective Johnson called.
“I gave you a lot of info on Wednesday and I need something in return.”
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“Bains just found out that our biker suspect used to work for your employer, CLAM Concert Promotions. Actually, that’s not true. He worked for the L in CLAM, Lonnie Cancelli, before they formed their partnership.”
“What would you like to know?”
“I want to find out what kind of work he did. If he was on the security staff, are they still wearing the same shirts? And, were there any of his old coworkers on payroll the night of the murder?”
“I’d like answers to those questions myself. How did Bains discover that DeLong worked for Lonnie?”
“She has a fine looking biker cousin who knows Jimmy from one of her favorite bars. He’s been a busy guy lately, recruiting his own little band of buffalo soldiers. The cousin said that she interrupted a business meeting when she visited his table, and everybody shut up, which was very out of character for Jimmy.”
“I’ll call you as soon as I get some answers,” I said, and hung up.
Jeannine asked, “Anything important?”
“Absolutely,” I replied. “Detective Johnson didn’t say a word about Lt. Casey telling him to freeze me out. So, I’m guessing my meeting with Detective Ko is still a go.”
I called Calvin to see what he could learn about DeLong, but settled for leaving a message.
When I arrived at Irvine PD, Michele Ko led us to an interrogation room without offering coffee or casual conversation. She was in her early 40s with ink-black hair cut just above her shoulders, and she looked very worried.
“First, I need to know if you are friends with Chief Considine,” she said.
“I never met the man. Is there a reason that I should know him?”
“I’m under the microscope on this one. The chief didn’t like the idea that I made detective and he wants me out. That’s why I got this case dumped in my lap. As soon as something goes wrong, I will be blamed as the one who screwed up.”
“How long have you been a detective?”
“Since the end of June. I’ll bet you think I am too inexperienced to handle this case. Well let me tell you something-”
I held up my right hand. “I’m 28-years-old and I deal with that kind of shit all of the time. Does your chief have something against Koreans?”
“I think it’s more like the good old boys don’t like being told they have to induct a female into their little fraternity.”
I thought that Irvine was much too large of a city to just now be getting around to promoting women into the detective ranks. But I wasn’t about to start an argument.
“Detective Ko, I met with the detectives working the Concert Killer case in San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento. I have a pretty good feel for where they’re at in their investigations. I’ll be glad to share what I’ve got with you.”
“I believe that the more we cooperate the sooner this guy gets taken down.”
Over the next hour I laid out what I had learned so far. Of course, I skipped the part about Dean Casey wanting to minimize my role, but was otherwise very forthcoming. When I finished I asked what bits of information her department withheld from the newspapers.
“We found a funny looking partial print on the toilet in the stall next to where we found the victim. Forensics thinks he flushed the gloves and used a knuckle on the handle.”
“I don’t suppose there’s any kind of database for knuckle prints.”
“No, but if we get it narrowed down to a few suspects it could be very helpful.”
“Did you find anything else, Michele?”
She took a deep breath and turned away. “I think that’s all I can say at this time.”
“C’mon, Michele. I gave you everything I know.”
“The chief told me not to tell anyone. This is the kind of thing he could hang me out to dry on if he found out I disobeyed his orders.”
“How’s he going to find out? I’m certainly not going to tell anyone.”
Michele glanced briefly at the mirror on the wall of the interrogation room and said, “Be sure to keep me posted on any new developments.” As she stood she added, “Why don’t you give me one of your business cards. If I don’t hear from you in the next couple of days I’ll call to see what you’ve learned.”
It seemed strange that she suddenly got paranoid about what she said in front of the mirror, especially after saying that her chief was setting her up to fail. I opted to tread lightly, gave her the card, and respected her silence as she led me out the front door of the stationhouse. She looked like she was going to say something when we got outside, but then glanced back over her shoulder at the desk sergeant, shook my hand, and quickly walked back into the building.
I got as far as the nuclear power plant at San Onofre when my phone rang. Without identifying herself, Michele said, “In the stall with the knuckle print, forensics also found a hair from a brown wig. Don’t tell anybody.” She hung up before I could reply.
At 4:30 PM I was reviewing an Orange Country Register article on murder #4 when Calvin returned my call.
“Where are you at with the case?” he asked.
I spent the next half-hour summarizing the five meetings. I skipped the part about Detective Ko’s political uncertainty within the department. I don’t like asking friends to keep secrets, especially from their business partners who have a major stake in everything relating to the investigation. If, for example, Lonnie were to call Irvine PD and request a more experienced investigator be assigned to the case, I could end up getting shut out by all of the assigned detectives and task force members without the help of Dean Casey.
“Kayleigh and I are hosting a little backyard barbecue on Sunday afternoon. The other three partners in CLAM will be there and I was hoping you and Kelly could make it,” Calvin said.
“I’ll have to check with the social activities director. But, barring another commitment, we’d love to attend.”
“Good. Kayleigh has been giving me hell for not introducing her to the woman who got you to settle down.”
“I’m not married yet, bro,” I replied.
“We’re getting started at 2:00 PM. You’ve been up to my place in Rancho Palos Verdes. Do you remember the directions?”
“All the way to the mail box with the wah-wah pedal on top. How could I forget?”
“One minor request. I’ll brief the partners on what you told me today. If there are any new developments feel free to tell them individually, but we’re keeping the grisly details from the significant others as much as possible,” Calvin said.
“I understand. While you’re talking with the partners be sure to ask Lonnie to get me everything he has on Jimmy DeLong. I’m swimming upstream with this CHIPPER who’s in charge of the task force. If I come through for Johnson in Oakland it could go a long way toward building a relationship with the other detectives. I’ll see you on Sunday.”
Shortly after I graduated from high school I was recruited to play in a band that was the brainchild of lead guitarist, Michael Marinangeli. As a huge Eric Clapton fan, Michael loved the idea of how the bands “Blind Faith” and “Cream” were super-groups comprised of the best of the best. He selected three teenage San Diego musicians, all recent grads playing in different bands, to form a local super-group heading into our college years. That’s how Tsunami Rush was born.
We played together for almost eight years. It was a lot of fun for most of that time. But later our enthusiasm waned when we came to the realization that none of us possessed a talent for composing music. Always running with other people’s ideas didn’t appeal to me. When I initiated the break-up our drummer told me he was about to do the same thing, and our bass player revealed that the band was keeping his girlfriend from accepting his marriage proposal. Michael continued on with other groups until he finally made it with the headliner, Doberman’s Stub. He’s also been Jeannine’s boyfriend for over a year.
When I tried to compose music, I would look for a place inside of myself where that spark of originality was conceived. I’d look for those two chords that become three and four. I tried writing poems that would fuse with the music to combine like an egg and sperm, giving life to original masterpieces. It never happened. Sure, I wrote songs; probably more than 100 over the years. But I never felt that any of them would take off. I wasn’t compelled to call the rest of the band members and insist that we practice immediately so that we could polish our first big hit.
When I became an investigator all of that changed. As early as the start of my apprenticeship program, I began to come up with theories that were completely original in terms of deductive reasoning. I discovered that I could think like a criminal, attributing that skill to endless hours of watching prime-time cop dramas with my SDPD detective father. It was about the only thing we had in common. Dad hated the fact that I played in a rock band. Almost all of our conversations ended in fights unless we were speculating on a whodunit. Mom would occasionally join us on those days where the beginning of each commercial break was like the bell to start a three-minute round of verbal boxing. I’m not quite sure if Mom was a master of misdirection or if my father realized how much our fighting was upsetting her, and played along out of love and respect.
I didn’t ask Jeannine to come into the office on Saturday morning. I needed quiet time to process all of the information I gathered, and open my mind to theories that would dictate how I’d proceed with the case. After reading my notes from the detective interviews I began pacing from room to room. Something was brewing and I needed more room to think it through.
I left the office and walked north on La Jolla Boulevard until I could cut down to the scenic walk along the beach. Looking out over the rocks and sand just south of La Jolla Cove, I tried to reconcile some very incongruous facts. Not only were all of the MOs different, but two of the detectives couldn’t believe the murders were committed by a serial killer and two accepted it as a very logical conclusion.
The words on the killer’s note, “Concerts are Evil,” kept flashing in my mind. I sat on a bench overlooking a group of surfers waiting for a wave in relatively still waters. Suddenly, an idea hit like a giant wave coming out of nowhere. What if the killings were done by different members of a religious cult with a common purpose? It would explain the different MOs, the different locations, and especially the “Concerts are Evil” headline.
I walked back to the office at a very brisk pace. Should I call Dean Casey and show him the kind of value I could bring to the investigation, or would he dismiss the theory simply because it was mine. It was almost noon and the sun was burning off the coastal haze. Approaching an intersection near my office, I spotted Jeannine cleaning up after Hoover. She lives in an apartment less than a block from the agency.
“Jeannine, are you up for earning some overtime this afternoon?”
“What’s going on?”
“I need research on religious cults that don’t like rock music,” I said.
“How about if I run home, eat my lunch, then meet you in about 45 minutes?”
“You’re the best, Jeannine.”
Hoover barked once and wagged his tail.
Mom and Dad arrived for dinner at 7:00 PM. I told Kelly that I needed some alone time with Dad and felt the best time to do so was as soon as Mom uttered the words Home Improvement Network.
Unfortunately, she did so before I could get everyone situated on the couch with a cocktail. Kelly opened her mouth to dutifully play her part, but heard the timer go off in the kitchen before she could speak.
“I’ve got to get that,” Kelly said.
“Do you need any help, dear?” Mom asked.
“I’d love it, Molly” she replied, and all was right with the world.
“Dad, did you ever work on a task force headed up by CHP?” I asked.
“A few times. They usually hold down the fort until the FBI takes over.”
“Did you have any problems with the CHIPPERS?”
“I worked about six of those cases. Twice CHP ran the case from beginning to end and there were no problems. But the other four times it was nothing but trouble. It was like having a substitute teacher in high school. They felt like they weren’t getting the respect that they deserved because the cases had FBI written all over them, and every cop in the stationhouse knew it.”
“Aren’t they supposed to do everything they can until the case is taken over?”
“Being a lifetime member of the law enforcement community I hate to admit it, but there can be a lot of animosity between different agencies. It doesn’t help that most FBI field agents are usually dismissive of the hard work done by the departments they just scooped. Some guys have thick skins after getting burned multiple times. I take it you’re running into one of those problems,” Dad said.
“I got major attitude from a Lt. Dean Casey in Sacramento a couple of days ago.”
“Tell me about your case.”
Before I could do so, Kelly and Mom came out of the kitchen carrying steaming trays, and Kelly announced, “Dinner is served.”
Remembering Calvin’s request to keep the significant others away from the details, I initiated a conversation about Kelly’s class field trip to Scripps Aquarium. Dad was decidedly more interested in the Yankee pot roast than the story, but Mom hung on Kelly’s every word. I hoped Mom had finally run out of stories about my 2nd grade experience, and was momentarily relieved when she started out saying, “When Jason was in 3rd Grade.” But then she went on to tell about the day I ripped the seat of my pants on the playground, told my teacher when I got back into class, and suffered the indignity of having her probe the gaping hole while my classmates laughed.
“You poor dear,” Kelly said, patting my forearm.
I glanced at Dad to see if I could get some guy support. But after sticking his foot in his mouth about my relationship with Kelly over the summer, he gave a look that said: You’re on your own, son.
I said, “I was a trend-setter. After that, showing maximum boxer shorts became all the rage.” This got both women carping all the way through dessert without further embarrassment.
When dinner was finished Kelly looked out over the dining room table and said, “The girls did all of the cooking and set up.”
To his credit, Dad replied, “Just before we sat down, Jason started asking me about the case he’s working. If you two wouldn’t mind, I’d like to pick it up where we left off.”
“Come on, Kelly. I’ll tell you a story that will make the ripped pants seem like a fond memory,” Mom said with a big smile.
“Do tell,” Kelly said, lifting a serving platter from the table and carrying it into the kitchen.
I grabbed a couple of beers and we walked out to the backyard.
Dad said, “With a name like Dean Casey I wouldn’t be surprised if one of my friends knows the guy.”
“Are you saying the long arm of the Irish Mafia reaches all the way into the CHIPPERS?”
“If you keep using that term my network of contacts isn’t going to reach anywhere for you, buddy-boy.”
I hadn’t been buddy-boyed in almost five years. “Sorry Dad. I couldn’t agree more. It’s terrific to have lots of friends.”
“I’ll ask around and see if anybody knows him.”
CK suffered through the indignity of intentionally losing a round of golf at the Riviera Country Club to a prospective client with a 20 handicap. His prayers for patience and humility were answered over dinner when he signed a contract that put him over the top on his quarterly business goal.
It was barely 9:00 PM and CK felt it was the perfect opportunity to scout concert venues. No martyrs would be offered up this evening. Tonight was a time to plan. Since his hotel was near the Rose Bowl, that was his first stop. Although he visited the stadium on one prior occasion, he never studied it with his new purpose in mind. Upon arrival he parked his car and checked out the entry and exit points. He hoped there would be some type of scheduled activity so that he could get a look at the interior, but the facility was closed.
Then an idea occurred to him. He took out his iPhone and learned that USC was playing a football game at the Coliseum. CK arrived shortly before the game ended.
After most of the fans departed he made his way into the seating area and took a leisurely tour of the facilities. Twice he was stopped by staff members, and explained that a credit card fell out of his pocket while paying a vendor. Both were fine with allowing him to continue his search.
As thrilled as he was to have such fine access, CK found the Coliseum to have too many disadvantages. The building was very old and had narrow walkways. It also had too many blind spots where security or police could pop out at any moment. In addition, it held over 90,000 people. The kinds of bands that would be booked into a facility this size would undoubtedly make for very few alone moments with potential martyrs. In addition, with USC across the street there would be a lot of witnesses continuing to party in the parking lot, as they were doing right now. Then there was L.A. traffic to lend further complications. Even though CK considered L.A. to be badly in need of a demonstration of God’s ability to smite sinners, and where better than a facility named after an ancient hub of martyrdom, He certainly didn’t want His instrument on earth to be imperiled in the process.
On Sunday morning Kelly asked if we could leave for Calvin’s barbecue a half-hour early. When I asked why, she simply said she wanted to show me an interesting place along the way, and that it was a surprise.
Jeannine had enthusiastically agreed to dog-sit for the afternoon. She was very interested in seeing the pups from the same litter keep up their familial relationship.
Kelly wanted to give our puppy a cute name, while I pushed for an intimidating moniker that would convey the serious job he was expected to perform. I thought Saber was a fine name, but Kelly hated it. I suggested we compromise with a name that honored the breed and its German roots, while also recognizing the dog’s American home. Kelly began calling him Colonel Hogan, and it stuck.
When I advised Jeannine on how to pick an appropriate name, I stressed the fact that the dog was to be her protector, someone she relied on every day to keep her safe and secure. In retrospect I can understand how an Obsessive-Compulsive person could attribute those qualities to the name Hoover. I immediately regretted my response when Jeannine asked what I thought of the name. I never should have said, “It sucks,” especially while sitting next to Kelly in her sturdiest pair of high heels.
After dropping Colonel Hogan off, I selected an MP3 mix on the stereo that I knew Kelly would enjoy, and considered what could be accomplished talking with Calvin’s partners.
“How did you come to be friends with Calvin?” Kelly asked.
“A few months after Tsunami Rush formed, Calvin started booking us as the warm-up band for concerts in San Diego.”
“Your friendship seems like more than a business relationship.”
“To me, Calvin represents what’s right with the concert industry. He volunteers for charity events. He fights against unaffordable ticket prices. And, he brings shows to small cities that are usually ignored by the corporate promoters,” I said. “He’s also a good listener, and gives good advice.”
When we transitioned from Interstate 5 North to the 405, my focus switched to Kelly’s surprise. Her evasiveness led me to believe it would be a mildly unpleasant experience, such as an antique store, or possibly an exhibit of 2nd grade art through the ages. Whatever it was, I felt I could suck it up for a half-hour. WRONG! A weekend-long chick flick marathon would have been preferable to this surprise.
She directed me to The Wayfarer’s Chapel, also known as The Glass Chapel, located about three miles from Calvin’s house. It’s actually a beautiful structure, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd. It was built in the middle of a grove of redwood trees and features a spectacular view of the Pacific from its front steps. It seemed that everywhere we turned we saw beautiful vistas and horrifying brochures describing it as the perfect venue for a wedding. For a guy who just moved his girlfriend into his home two months ago, it was a runaway train and I was feeling tied to the railroad tracks.
I did my best to focus the conversation on everything but weddings. My knowledge of architecture was tapped out after a couple of minutes. I mentally zipped through the Simon & Garfunkel song So Long Frank Lloyd Wright hoping to glean a conversational side-trip. But the best I could come up with was to ask her if she thought Frank’s son, Lloyd, was a middle child. I took a picture of Kelly hugging a redwood. If worst came to worst I could email it to a Greenpeace recruiter and hope for the best. It’s not that I don’t love Kelly. Actually I’m crazy about her. It’s more that I’m still feeling like my father forced us onto the runaway train in the first place, and I like doing things on my own terms. Fortunately, she let me talk her out of a walk through the gift shop.
Calvin’s house was as breathtaking as the Glass Chapel. It’s nestled into a steep hill overlooking the Pacific, with a clear view of Catalina Island. Kayleigh answered the door and scored a lot of points by not implying that Kelly had finally gotten the playboy of the western world to settle down. They hit it off immediately and Kelly was quickly whisked away for the grand tour while I showed myself to the back deck where the party was underway.
Calvin stood talking to a petite woman in her mid-20s in front of my favorite swimming pool in the world. It’s shaped like the neck of a bass guitar, with four thick black lines creating five swimming lanes, spanning about 50 feet. Thin black lines intersected the lanes to resemble a guitar’s fret board, and circular abalone inlays dotted the third, fifth, seventh, and ninth frets. The double dots at the twelfth fret marked the far end of the pool. The head of the guitar was a combination spa and underwater bar, with four underwater barstools in the alcoves outlining the guitar keys. Three feet above the spa was a redwood deck that was just high enough the see out over the Plexiglas that sheltered the pool from the coastal breeze.
“Jason, I want you to meet Ashley Talbot,” Calvin said, and we shook hands. “Ashley is a partner and the A in CLAM.”
She said, “Calvin told us about how you solved the Terry Tucker murder case.”
“With a lot of help from my friends,” I said, laying my hand on Calvin’s shoulder. “Were you into Terry’s music?”
“I mainly handle emo, soft rock, and acoustic solo acts,” she said, brushing her dark bangs away from her eyes.
Calvin said, “If you read Rolling Stone’s recent article on artists that actively support the Green Movement you have a good idea of the bands Ashley promotes.”
“I take it you’re committed to the cause,” I said.
“Aren’t you?” she asked. “It needs to be everyone’s responsibility if you actually care about what your children and grandchildren will inherit.”
I replied, “You’re preaching to the choir, Ashley. Right now, I have a bucket in my shower to catch the runoff. I use the reclaimed water to fill my toilet tank.” I didn’t tell her that the bucket went in only after the faucet started leaking and I never got around to fixing it.
“Good for you, Jason. I’ll have to start doing that myself. What a great idea,” she said.
Calvin said, “I’m going to introduce Jason to Mark. Will you excuse us?”
Walking toward the deck I asked, “Isn’t she a little young to be in your line of work?”
“She has an MBA from Wharton, and a daddy who’s very rich and very well connected in the business world.”
“Does daddy have any nasty enemies?”
“I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
“That’s what I do now, Calvin. I ask questions. Most of the answers I get aren’t worth a floor full of ticket stubs, but every now and then I find a backstage pass that makes it all worthwhile.”
“There’s Mark over on the deck. His forte is Christian rock, so mind your manners.”
Calvin made the introductions, and excused himself to attend to hosting duties. Mark was tall with a slender build, light skin, and spoke softly with a mid-western accent.
“I certainly wish we were meeting under different circumstances, Jason,” he said.
“Calvin speaks highly of you. I hope you can keep the police moving on finding the killer. Do you have any leads yet?”
“I met with the primary detective from each department, as well as the head of the task force. The murders have very little in common aside from the fact that they’ve all taken place at concert venues.”
Mark asked, “What do you think about that?”
“It doesn’t make sense. Normally, the main reason the killer would change his methods would be to throw the police off of his trail. But then, why leave a note taking credit for all four?”
“Do you or the detectives have any suppositions?”
“The detective in Oakland believes the Irvine killer may be taking credit for crimes he didn’t commit.”
“Why would he do that?”
“For the same reason the police get false confessions for practically every murder. He may have claimed to be a serial killer to throw the police off from his real motive.”
“Is that what you think?” Mark asked.
“Right now, I’m at the stage where I’m keeping an open mind to all of the possibilities. Let me ask you a question, Mark. What did you make of the note stating that concerts are evil?”
“Did Calvin tell you that I primarily promote Christian rock shows?”
“That’s why I’m asking you this question. I was hoping you might know of a religion or sect that has it in for the concert industry.”
“There are definitely some religions that believe rock music is the work of the devil. I’m sure you know that several acts try to promote that image. But religions are based on love of God, and espouse respect for all of Gods creatures.”
“Yes, but the evening news reminds us of how extremists kill in the name of God every day.”
“Do you actually believe these killings were the work of an organized religion?” he asked, using a loud voice for the first time.
“As I said, I’m just considering all possibilities at this point. But with each of these murders having such a unique signature, I can’t discount the possibility that they were the work of different killers with a common purpose. Not an organized religion, but it certainly could be the work of a radical sect,” I said.
Mark took a deep breath and looked skyward.
Calvin returned to the deck, put a hand on each of our shoulders and said, “It sounds like you two are having a lively discussion.”
Mark said, “Your friend has a rather disturbing notion that the murders could be the evil doings of a misguided religious sect. While I don’t discount the possibility, I’m afraid it’s put me in a mood where I need some quiet time to myself. If you don’t mind, I’ll be taking my leave, Calvin.”
I said, “It’s just one theory, Mark. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You’re just doing your job, Jason. As a partner it needed to be brought to my attention. But I am who I am, and right now I need to pray that you’re wrong.” Turning to Calvin he added, “Please express regrets for my early departure to your lovely wife.” He then left without saying goodbye to anyone else.
“Sorry Calvin. I haven’t seen that kind of response since Tsunami Rush played a Black Sabbath song at the Sacred Heart church picnic.”
Walking toward the edge of the pool Calvin asked, “Have you ever considered a Dale Carnegie seminar?”
Our awkward moment was interrupted by the return of Kelly and Kayleigh from their tour. Kelly said, “Calvin, your home is stunning! And, look at this pool!”
“The concert industry has been very good to us.” Turning to me he added, “At least up until now.”
Before I could respond we got splashed by Lonnie, who made his grand entrance to the party by doing a cannonball dive next to our group. He then pulled himself up onto the cantilevered deck and ran his fingers straight back over his scalp, pushing his dark brown hair into place. After doing so, he looked like a 40 year old Christopher Walken.
“This is the quiet and shy member of our group, Lonnie Cancelli,” Calvin said. “Lonnie, this is our private investigator, Jason Duffy, and his girlfriend, Kelly.”
Lonnie looked toward the house and crooked his finger at a blonde wearing a thong bikini, too much makeup, and too much silicone. When she joined us Lonnie said, “This is Chanel, like the perfume.” He then turned to her and said, “Why don’t you jump in the pool and wait for me while I talk some business.”
“I can’t swim,” she replied.
While the attention was on Chanel, Kelly leaned over and whispered, “She certainly doesn’t need a floatation device.”
I stifled a laugh, cleared my throat, and avoided eye contact with Kelly.
Lonnie sent her off to the bar and said, “I think we should hire the Hell’s Angels to stand guard at our concerts until this psycho is caught.”
Calvin replied, “Just what we need, another Altamont. That’ll certainly be reassuring.”
Lonnie squared his shoulders to Calvin and expanded his chest. “Altamont happened a very long time ago. I’d say it’s time they got a second chance.”
Calvin said, “Not in my lifetime.”
I jumped in and said to Lonnie, “How about if we take a little walk and I’ll fill you in on what’s happening with the case?”
We walked to the far end of the property and I summarized my meetings. “The Oakland detective is interested in a former employee of yours, Jimmy DeLong. He fought with the victim a couple of weeks before he was killed, and swore revenge.”
“I canned Jimmy over a year ago. He’s an OK guy, but he just wouldn’t stay straight for the shows. I have a strict policy of no drugs or alcohol until after the venue is cleared. Jimmy’s a tweaker and probably always will be.”
“Do you think he’s capable of violence?”
“He wouldn’t be on my security staff if he wasn’t. But he’s not a master criminal by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no way he could have gotten away with four murders without fucking up. Even if he did just one of them he’d be bragging about it to anybody who’d listen.”
“Were you serious about wanting to put Hell’s Angels on the security force?”
Lonnie laughed, “No. I’ve been busting Calvin’s balls ever since he made me agree to accept Saint Mark as a partner. I’m surprised he isn’t here yet.”
“I’m afraid I scared him off with a theory that the killings could be the work of an extremist religious sect.”
Lonnie laughed so hard that the rest of the party looked our way. “They say the fun doesn’t start until the guests get loaded. I’ve got to start showing up on time.”
“It’s just one of several theories at this point. I didn’t think he’d get so upset.”
“Don’t worry about stepping on a few toes. If the cops decide to tell the press about the serial killer we’re gonna get castrated at the box office. You do what you have to. Just make sure this guy gets put out of business fast.”
Before we left the party I told Calvin that Lonnie wasn’t serious about hiring the Hell’s Angels.
“Don’t be so sure,” he said. “Lonnie’s forte is metal and rap. He had some pretty mean metalheads working for him when we formed the partnership. Even worse, he had a few security guys wearing gang colors at his rap shows.”
“Why did you bring him into the partnership?”
“Lonnie has a long history of financially successful shows. In tough economic times it helps to have a hard-line contract negotiator.”
“He looks like the kind of guy who’d party with the band after the shows.”
“You got that right. I know that he drinks too much, and suspect he’s into chemicals, too.”
“I don’t suppose he met Chanel at a local Mensa meeting.”
“You know how this business works, Jason. Most of us have exposure to all of the vices. It’s just a matter of degree as to whether we become self-destructive. Lonnie plays it close to the edge, but from what I’ve seen and heard, he’s never gotten in over his head.”
“That’s good to know,” I said.
The rest of the afternoon was primarily social. It was obvious that Kelly and Kayleigh were becoming fast friends. But the specter of the Concert Killer loomed like a drunken uncle cleaning his gun by the side of the pool.
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