“Hey, it’s Roberto. What’d you find out?” He’s speaking in a low voice which means he’s at work and not on a break, naughty boy.
“The motherfucker rented the office from his lawyer for ten thousand for the day.” I lay it on the line as I cut off an asshole SUV driver who thinks he’s hot shit.
“What the hell?” Mowgli is understandably bewildered.
I explain the whole encounter from start to finish, not leaving out any details. As I’m relating the story, my anger grows. It has been a very long time since someone’s made a fool out of me on such a grand scale, and it’s leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I pride myself on being on top of things—I have to be in my line of work. Something like this slices to the guts of me. It twists me up inside until all I can think about is how nice my hands will look wrapped around DiCalvo’s throat. The satisfaction I’ll receive squeezing the life out of him as he begs for mercy. By the time I’m through with him, he’ll think prison is the best idea he’s heard of in a very long time. Mowgli patiently listens as I spew out the vitriol that is eating away the lining of my stomach. He knows from experience not to interrupt when I’m on a roll. Even when I’m finished talking, however, he remains silent.
“Say something,” I demand, giving the finger to the shit-head in the Jimmy who thinks it’s his god-given right to occupy two lanes simultaneously.
“I don’t like this, Del,” Mowgli says, his tone low, but firm. “What’s your next step?”
“I’m going to find out more about the girl,” I say, cutting neatly in front of a Honda Civic who is timidly crawling along in the fucking left lane. People, please, I’m begging you not to drive in the left lane if you’re not willing to speed. I like the states on the East Coast where it’s mandated by law that the left lane is only for passing and you must immediately move back to the right once you’re through or be ticketed. It’s a brilliant concept, and I don’t know why it’s not used everywhere. “I want to know what she did to get herself fucking killed.” Not that I care about the girl, but if she’s going to mess up my life, I have to find out why.
“What was her name?”
“Angelica Sylvian,” I say. DiCalvo tried to rush past his slip, but
I have a good memory for names. In fact, I can be pretty sure this was a truth because he was pissed when he said the name. Good. One actual fact in a sea of lies. “Looks like she was pretty once. Long black curls, cat-green eyes.” I frown as I picture her face. “I think she had a mole on her lip like Marilyn Monroe. She was wearing a white dress.” Amazing what I can remember when I’m not in panic over possibly being arrested for murder.
“Doesn’t ring a bell,” Mowgli says. “Do you have a lawyer?”
“What do I need a lawyer for when I got you?”
“Well, I know of one if you need her.” Mowgli is not in the mood for jokes which is too bad because I am. I could use some serious cheering up. “Is there anything you want me to do?”
“Not yet, Mowgli,” I say, pulling up to Vandalia’s apartment building with a screech. “I want to see what I can come up with today.” After a minute of desultory conversation, we hang up. I go up the stairs, hoping Vandalia is still at the theater. She seems nice enough, but it’s draining being around her. To my relief, the apartment is empty. I go over to my computer and turn it on. In no time at all, I’m hooked into the internet and ready to search. I go to Google and plug in Sylvian’s name in quotes. There is one hit that isn’t related to her murder—her website. I click on the link and up it comes. It’s one of those insipid sites with lots of java graphics, treacly music, and cutesy icons. I wade through pictures—nice-looking girl—but there’s nothing there. Of course, if she is having an affair with a high-profile guy, she most likely wouldn’t be posting details of it on her website. Then again, girls do stupid things.
I click on her ‘About Me’ link and learn a plethora of things about her I don’t really need to know such as she preferred kitties to doggies; she was twenty-one when she died; she liked romantic comedies that made her cry; she once met Prince and was disappointed that he was so short; her favorite color is green; she played tennis at her health club because it was a good way to meet boys. Nothing in her list gives me much to work with. She was a student at SFSU studying Literature, but had been thinking of changing disciplines. It never ceases to amaze me what people will write about themselves on the web for total strangers to read. It astounds me even more that anyone would delude herself into thinking that this kind of drivel is a fascinating read. I have to force myself to read the whole thing in case there might be a single morsel of information which might actually be useful.
I spend an hour perusing her site and am at a loss to discover a reason for her murder and the elaborate cover-up. If there is something deep about this girl, it’s so far hidden that it’ll remain buried with her forever. She doesn’t mention any family on her website, nor a boyfriend. There is nothing of substance, and it’s frustrating me. When I’m through—for now—with Sylvian, I type Renaldo F. DiCalvo in quotes into Google and come up with nothing. Not one damn hit. I try without the F. Still nothing. I try DiCalvo. There are hits, but with different first names. It occurs to me that perhaps DiCalvo lied about his name as well, but what about the check? I was able to cash it. I call the bank and assume my most officious voice.
“Yes, this is Gina Lattimore. I am checking the whereabouts of a Mr. Reynaldo DiCalvo and cannot find a recent address for him. Do you have it?”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but that is confidential.” The voice does not sound at all sorry.
“This is police business, sir,” I say, emphasizing the ‘sir’ rather heavily. “I could get you on impeding justice.” I pray that I’m not talking to the one person in the bank with an IQ above a hundred. “While you’re at it, tell me how long Mr. DiCalvo has had an account with you.”
“Ma’am, I can’t tell you the former, but I can tell you he opened his account last week.”
“How much?” I bark, allowing myself to sound impatient.
“Fifty thousand, ma’am.” The voice is still expressionless.
“And the address?” I slip in the question. “I can get a warrant if I have to.”
“You go right ahead and do that, ma’am.” The voice is firm, and I know I’m not going to get anything more out of him. I hang up the phone, pondering what he’s told me. So, DiCalvo or whoever he is opened the account last week, eh? Another indication that this whole episode was carefully planned out from the very beginning. It still galls me that DiCalvo was able to get my fingerprints so easily. I should have been more wary, especially with the way I felt about him and the situation. My greed got the best of me again, and now I’m paying for it.
I turn back to the computer, determined to find out as much as I can. I punch in Caleb O’Reilly’s name, wondering if he’ll turn up a dead-end as well. No, there he is with all his not-so-honorable listings. Graduated from Harvard, ’73, undergrad with a psychology major, which makes him fifty-two years old. Was Phi Beta Kappa, of course, along with first-string tight end for the football team. Comes from poor but honest roots—bullshit. His daddy invented some gadget to make housekeeping easier that made him millions so Caleb is one of the nouveau riche and not a self-made man. Of course one with his degree would argue that he has created himself despite his background, but I don’t go in for that psychological bullshit. He comes from money which has enabled him to make more of it. Simple. Back to the computer. Graduated with a JD from Yale, four years later. Immediately following graduation, he was installed with Levinson, Stricker & Palento, the firm which happened to be employed by his father. He is still with the firm and is now a partner. At fifty-two. I recall his head of silvery hair and conclude that it must be all that hard living that has made him prematurely gray.
I dig a little deeper to find the dirt. O’Reilly has been married three times and divorced twice, and true to a man of his position and power, each of his lovely wives have been successively younger. They were all of a type, however—long, black hair and big brown eyes. O’Reilly has the yellow fever which explains his receptionist and his masseuse, not to mention his attempt at hitting on me. How he got a look of me, I don’t know, but he certainly must have. I file away the knowledge that O’Reilly likes his fish raw, young, and presumably submissive. He married his first wife fresh off the boat from China when he was twenty-five and she was eighteen. She begat him two kids, a boy and a girl born three years apart before being traded up for the next model when he was thirty-eighty. The new bride was twenty—Japanese this time. Two more children—a boy and a girl again, also born three years apart. O’Reilly pays each ex a hefty sum of alimony a month in exchange for having nothing to do with his children.
Mrs. O’Reilly the third was acquired last year when O’Reilly was fifty-one and she was twenty-two. Korean. This tells me that one, he likes them really young and two, he sticks to East Asian women. He already has one child by the third Mrs. O’Reilly—a boy. I have no doubt that she will be popping out a girl in two more years, then she has ten years after that before her time is up. He will remarry when he’s sixty-four to a twenty-four year old, and she’ll most likely be a Filipina or perhaps from Singapore or Hong Kong. The man is disgusting, but it’s a weakness that can be exploited. None of his wives have ever worked outside the home, but it’s not as if they were taking care of the children either because the O’Reilly family has a full-time nanny, a cook, a housekeeper, three maids, and two gardeners. What do you want to bet that all the females working for O’Reilly are Asian? The man is definitely a fetishist.
I frown at the next bit of information. Each of his boy children are named Caleb and the two girls so far are christened Katie. Even weirder, each of his wives’ English first name is Molly. This guy definitely has control issues, and if the dead girl had been Asian, I would have had O’Reilly arrested on the spot based on strong circumstantial evidence. Unfortunately, his obsessive nature is what clears him of being the one involved with the dead girl because I simply cannot see him breaking his pattern and having a non-Asian mistress. I lean back on the couch and flex my fingers. I hate the keyboard on my laptop, but don’t have my breakaway external keyboard with me because I am traveling light. I rub my eyes wearily. Since stumbling over the girl’s body, I haven’t slept well, and I’ve been watching my back even more carefully than usual. I want the son-of-a-bitch who tried to get me sent away to prison so I can show him the meaning of the word pain. I would like to mess up this O’Reilly guy but good, but it doesn’t look as if he’s anything more than tangentially involved. Best to find other avenues to explore.
I can’t stop thinking about him, however, because I know he knows more than he’s telling. I may have crossed him off as being personally-involved in the murder, but I’m positive he must at least have suspicions. The question is, how do I get him to share those suspicions with me? The man is a fucking lawyer, for god’s sake. There’s nothing I can do that will intimidate him sufficiently enough to tell me what I want to know. Except, perhaps. I cast my mind back to the image of his body lying on the masseuse table. He wasn’t in the best shape, showing evidence of living large and not exercising right. Maybe I could physically intimidate him into telling me what he knows. You’d be surprised how many of these business-types fold without a whimper when challenged physically. They seem to have an exceedingly-low tolerance for pain which works to my advantage as I have a high tolerance for meting it out. I tuck that idea away in case I can’t think of anything else.
I go back to Sylvian’s website because I want to check out her address, see if it matches where I was sent. Surprise, surprise. She lives—lived—in the Mission not far from me. So who owns the building in North Beach? Perhaps Google would be so kind as to divulge that information. It’s an association. ReDiCal, Incorporated. Oh, fucking nice touch, very nice. Renaldo DiCalvo. Incorporated. This guy is slick. And when did ReDiCal, Inc. rent this apartment? Why, three weeks ago, imagine that. And look here—it’s on a month-to-month basis. The son of a bitch! I slam my hand against the coffee table, then immediately regret it as pain speeds all the way up my arm. This guy doesn’t miss a trick, but I wonder what the cops are going to make of Sylvian being in an apartment that isn’t hers. Oh hell, I know better than that. The cops will just snigger to each other and say, ‘Bitch had a sugar daddy’ and nudge each other in the ribs with knowing winks. Some cop will say something about it being a fucking waste that such a nice piece of ass got killed. I know exceedingly well how much value most cops put on a young female life if she appears to be any kind of whore.
I stand up and pace. I hate this fucking case. The more I find out, the more threads I discover. I curse DiCalvo solidly for choosing me. I wonder again why I was his mark. I’m guessing me being Asian is some kind of hold over O’Reilly in case the ten thou doesn’t do the trick. I stop cold. How do I know that Evelyn was telling me the truth, that she’s not just another player in this little drama. I go back to the computer and start typing her name into Google. Evelyn. She didn’t tell me her last name. I pull out the piece of paper she gave to me, and there it is. Evelyn Sato. I put in the name and come up with many hits, but only a few relevant ones. She is a private masseuse, and she does have a degree in it. I expel the breath I didn’t know I had been holding. For now, I will provisionally accept what she’s told me and proceed from there.
I resume thinking about why DiCalvo chose me of all repo men. Well, there is the question of reputation. There aren’t many well-known repos, and I’m definitely one of the best. However, there is one in North Beach, Sal Salducci, who is even more famous than I. Why didn’t DiCalvo choose him? I wonder for the first time if perhaps I wasn’t DiCalvo’s first choice, then I wonder if it matters. Does it make a difference if I was chosen by random or specially selected? It does matter, to me; I won’t have peace of mind until I figure it out. I make a note to talk to Sal as soon as possible. I also remember that DiCalvo mentioned that he heard about me at some bars in the Mission. That probably means The Savage, though I can’t imagine who’d rat me out. Then again, if some guy came in looking for someone to do a repo job, someone might have mentioned me. Not Buzz, though. Even though he’s no longer in the business, he’d still cut his nuts off before sending any business my way. That doesn’t stop him from hanging on to my every fucking word when I’m regaling the room about my latest adventure. Pathetic. My cell phone rings, and I paw at my jacket pocket to get to it.
“’Lo?” I’m a bit surly, which I think is pardonable.
“Del, it’s me.” Mowgli is talking in a normal tone, so he must be on break. I glance at the clock on the wall opposite and do a double-take. All the numbers are backwards, so it takes me a minute to decipher that it’s three-thirty. “What do you know?”
“When are you coming home?” I ask crossly. I need someone to talk this out with, and Mowgli’s always great for bouncing around ideas.
“Uh, that’s not my home, love. Didn’t we agree it’d be better if you’re not seen with me for a bit?”
There’s nothing in the paper,” I say impatiently. “Nothing about me, anyway.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re not in trouble,” Mowgli reminds me.
“I know.” I sigh loudly then fill him in on what I’ve discovered, speculation and facts. It’s a long list, and he’s completely silent by the time I’m through.
“You’re shitting me,” he finally says when I’ve uttered the last word. “Please tell me you’re making this shit up.”
“I have no imagination,” I retort. “You know that. How am I going to come up with something as fantastic as this?”
“Motherfucking unholy god,” Mowgli says softly, then there’s a pause. I know full well he’s crossing himself and saying a rosary or whatever for taking the Lord’s name in vain. He may be a lapsed Catholic, but he’s still Catholic which means repenting out of guilt is automatic. “Shit. This is deeper than we thought.” I don’t need him to tell me that, but it underscores how surreal this whole thing is.
“Mowgli, we have to put our heads together,” I say in frustration. “I have all these threads, but none of them tie together.”
“I’ll be there around six,” Mowgli promises. We chat a little more, then hang up. I knead the back of my neck as best I can and take a few deep breaths.
Before I can think better of it, I call Salducci. He’s understandably reluctant to talk to me because he’s afraid I’m horning in on his business, although we are careful not to step on each other’s toes. He is one of the best, and I admire his grace. I have been told through the grapevines that he feels the same about me. Once I am able to convey to him that I’m not after his business, he relaxes. He doesn’t apologize for putting me through the ringer, but he also loses the hostile note from his voice. I don’t sweat it because I would have done the same thing if our positions had been reversed.
Turns out he doesn’t know anything, anyway. No one of DiCalvo’s description has approached him in the last week. I take great pains to describe the fucker, but Sal comes up blank. He says he would have remembered if a paisan approached him with a job, especially one with those kind of figures. He hasn’t heard anything on the grapevine, either, about a hinky job. I grill him for a few more minutes, but it’s clear that he knows nothing. He promises me that if he hears something from his cronies, he will let me know. I doubt it, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Sal is a national fucking icon, and no way I can make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. I hang up the phone feeling more frustrated than ever.
There are so many thoughts whirling through my mind, I’m beginning to confuse one with another. What had started out as a simple in and out—though I had my reservations—is turning into something much more complex. I curse DiCalvo again for dragging me into this mess. This is so not how I want to spend my life—running around like a fucking chicken with its head cut off. I have things to do, places to break into, people to rip off. What the fuck am I doing racing around the city chasing down a mythical man who I’m beginning to think doesn’t even exist? I force myself to drain these thoughts by focusing on my breathing. The calm lasts for a whole minute before I start thinking again.
I pull out a notebook and a pen so I can list what I know. First, the girl did not die in her own apartment. Second, there is no Renaldo DiCalvo. The man I talked to made up his name and borrowed an office. Third, the dead girl was found in an apartment rented by what is most-likely a fake corporation fronted by DiCalvo, but the apartment was made to look as if a female lives there. I set down my pen and return to the computer. I punch in ReDiCal, Inc., and not too surprisingly, come up with little. There’s mention of the renting of the North Beach apartment, for one, but little else of interest. A straw company, and most likely created solely for this purpose. I pick up the pad and pen again. Fourth, O’Reilly knows more than he’s saying. He has to know at the very least that DiCalvo wanted the office for nefarious means. Fifth, O’Reilly knows DiCalvo’s real name. I underscore that point three times, scratching a hole in the paper. Sixth, someone went to an awful lot of trouble to set me the fuck up. Finally, Sal Salducci, who lives in North Beach was not approached by the asshole. That’s as much as I know.