[Read the other one] A Detective Rayburn story. The Writer's Cramp. WC:1000
Simple Tail Job
A Dave Rayburn Mystery
he sign of a good detective is how prepared he is. Today I have demonstrated pretty conclusively that I am not a good detective. I am in Los Angeles at Wilshire and La Cienega and it is raining and I am on foot. I was in a car but the fellow I am following decided he needed to walk in the rain. I, using all eight of my functioning brain cells, got out and followed him without getting my umbrella.
Behind me on the brick facade is a poster for a “Magical Mystery Tour” show at the Hollywood. It looks like it's in October 1952, probably some beatnik crap. By flattening myself up against it, I can escape the worst of the downpour. My mark is in the drug store across the street. He has been there for about 15 minutes. Plenty of time to buy cigs and breath-mints, I wonder what he is up to in there.
Not that I really care, I was just hired to tail the guy. His publisher hired to me get “A Day in the Life” of a paperback writer. So far it’s been stunningly boring. He got up at the crack of 10 am, went to a really bad diner on McCarthy Vista for a late breakfast of bacon and toast. Then he went back to his one-room walk up on Warner to get his car. Drove to North Hamilton, parked and hoofed it to the drug store. Don’t know why he didn’t just drive to the drug store, there is plenty of parking on the street in front this time of day.
I decide to go into the drugstore and see what he is up to, so I walk to the corner to cross the street. As I stand there the door to the drugstore opens and my mark steps out. To my right, I hear an engine gun and a car launches itself across the intersection from the south side on La Cienega. It’s a dark blue Ford. It crosses the intersection and slides to a stop in front of the drugstore. I hear two shots and the car takes off again.
My mark is laying on the pavement. I run across the street and kneel by his side. He grunts once and dies.
The door to the store opens and a voice asks, “They gone? He dead?”
“Yes and yes. Call the police,” I answer.
Well crap, I am going to have to return the advance from the publisher. I wonder who needed to kill a paperback writer?
I stand and enter the drugstore. Might as well dry out a little waiting for the cops. The store has a small soda fountain on one side. I take a stool and the guy to peeked out the door earlier came over.
“Cops are on their way. You know that guy?”
“No, not really.”
“You know him?”
“Naw, I only been working here a week.”
“What was he doing in here?”
“He came in about 20 minutes ago, looked over the magazines then went and used the phone. When he finished, he stopped by me and asked if I knew anyone named Raylene Pickford. I told him I didn’t.”
“Raylene Pickford? Hmm,” I repeat. I do know someone by that name. She is not in Los Angeles, though.
LA’s finest arrive with sirens blaring. A couple of uniforms get out and mill around the body shooing away the nonexistent pedestrians. They, at least, were dressed for a rainy day. A plainclothes arrived, talks to the uniforms briefly then enters the drugstore.
“You the witnesses?”
The clerk says he didn’t see anything since he was in the back of the store when it happened. I don’t believe him and I don’t think the detective does either. He turns to me and a look of surprise comes over his face and he says, “Rayburn?”
“The one and the same. How are you, Larry?”
We chat a bit about old times when I was on the force then we get to the body out front. I tell him what I saw.
“No license plate number?”
“Just the letter F, sorry. They find anything on the body?”
Larry told me they’d found a small-caliber revolver, $500 and a wallet. The driver's license said the deceased was a Jerry Felton and lived in Laguna Hills.
“That’s not … OK, something is really wrong here,” I say.
“Besides a dead body?”
“Yeah. I was supposed to tail a guy named Harold Perkins. I followed, who I thought was Harold from his house on Warner this morning. He parked his car on Hamilton.”
We took Larry’s car to Hamilton and found a dark blue Ford parked behind the Chrysler Jerry drove. Larry called for back up as we cruised by and went around the block. We parked at a point where we could see the Chrysler and Ford from Wilshire. The rain had lightened up a little so we could see that there were two guys in the Ford. They were just sitting there.
A patrol car slid by us and around the corner, another came up behind the Ford. The police worked it pretty smooth and got both guys without a shot being fired. Larry and I walked up and looked in the Chrysler.
“I am really hesitant to look in the trunk,” I say as we stand at the back of the car.
“What's a matter you never seen a dead body before?” Larry asks as be opens it.
Turns out there is only some papers in it. We go to Harold’s home and that’s where we find the body. After a few phone calls and a visit to the publisher, the story does come together. I find out that Harold was writing about a local prostitution ring that used underage kids from across the border. Jerry was sent to kill him and then decided he wanted more dough, so the gang offed him.