Chapter Sixteen (Part One)
“You sure about that?” Trip asks, rubbing her eyes. She hasn’t slept well all week, and it’s beginning to catch up to her.
“As sure as I can be,” Mowgli says with a sigh. He’s not as certain as he’d like to be, but he doesn’t let Trip know that. “He wanted the evidence right away, but grudgingly agreed to wait until this afternoon. He said if he doesn’t hear from me by four o’clock, though, he’s tracking me down.”
“Did he suspect who you were?” Trip asks, standing up to stretch her back. Suddenly, she feels ten years older than her actual age, and she’s itching to do something to change that.
“I’m sure he did,” Mowgli says dryly. “I’m not easy to disguise. When I first walked into the station, he had his hand on his gun but as we continued talking, he eased up. The photos I showed him of his chief helped. He hates the prick.” Showing the detective pictures of the chief raping little girls was a calculated risk, but one that both Mowgli and Trip had felt would reveal pretty quickly where Detective Beauregard stood. After all, if the cop had been bent, he still would need Mowgli free to get his hands on all the evidence. That was what they had been banking on, anyway.
“So he’ll play it our way?” Trip asks, looking out the window. The sun is shining, but she still feels cold. She rubs her arms to perk up her circulation.
“Reluctantly. He wanted me to go in with a wire, but I told him I had it covered. He really doesn’t like not knowing where the meeting will be going down, but I made like a clam.” Here, Mowgli presses his lips together to show his crustacean imitation.
“Does he know I’m involved?”
“Not explicitly, but he’s a smart boy. I’m sure he figured it out.” Mowgli pauses and breaks out into a smile. “He’s cute, too.”
“Mowgli, this is not the time to be thinking about your love life,” Trip scolds, picking up the ‘room service’ menu and scanning it.
“I’m not,” Mowgli retorts, sliding an arm around Trip’s shoulders. “I’m thinking about yours. The detective bats for your team, not mine.”
“Even less relevant,” Trip blazes, sliding out from under Mowgli’s arm. “We don’t have time for that nonsense. Besides, I’m a fugitive from justice, remember? And in my day job, I’m a repo man. Cops and robbers do not mix. What do you want to eat?” They drop the topic of cops as they wait for their food to be delivered. Neither particularly feels like venturing into the cafeteria or, God forbid, out of the hotel for something to eat. They are focused on the job at hand and if everything goes right, it should all be over this afternoon.
The details work is done. Mowgli had Tron duplicate all the DVDs after Mowgli and Trip retrieved them from Incubus, then they returned all the originals to Incubus who didn’t like it any better the second time around. Trip and Mowgli have covered their asses in as many ways as they can think of so that if something goes wrong in their meeting with the mayor, there will be documentation. While they disagree on many thing, there’s one thing they are in accordance about—the mayor must not be allowed to go free. Mowgli is plumping for making sure that they all pay their dues—from Davies to O’Reilly to the chief of police to the editor-in-chief to Andretti whereas Trip just wants to make sure the major players, Davies and O’Reilly receive justice. She’s cynical enough to realize that the chances of nailing all of them is slim to none, and she wants to at least put the big guns out of commission. Her argument to Mowgli is that with Davies and O’Reilly taken care of, the ring will fizzle out itself. Mowgli counters that even if the others can’t be convicted of murder, they can still be tried for kidnap and rape. Trip is not sanguine about the chances of anyone giving a damn about some poor Mexican girls who work in factories for minimum wage.
“You’re so damn cynical,” Mowgli says in exasperation. “Don’t you believe in the justice system at all?”
“The same system that wants to put me behind bars forever?” Trip asks reasonably. “The same system that locks up men of color at three times the rate it does white men? You mean that system?” They agree to disagree, neither giving an inch. Mowgli believes in the goodness of man whereas Trip favors the idea that it’s only the fear of being caught that keeps most people on the straight and narrow. “I can’t believe the cops gave in to you,” Trip says absentmindedly as there’s a knock on the door.
“Room service,” the boy says cheerfully, pushing a trolley filled with silver-domed covered plates. After he dispenses the largesse on the table and they tip him healthily, he is on his way. They tuck into scrambled eggs, buttered toast, hash browns and bacon. It’s excellent fare, and the coffee is strong without being bracing. They eat with pleasure and without talking; the better to enjoy the food.
The rest of the early afternoon is spent rehashing their plan. Trip will call the mayor at two o’clock instructing him to meet them at the Phoenix Hotel, same room that Mowgli had requested for two days—right next to the room harboring O’Reilly. Trip will pretend that she wants money and knowledge that all pursuit of her will be dropped in exchange for the discs, pictures, documents, whatever else they have. Trip will spin the story that she needs enough money to leave San Francisco and start anew, perhaps in New York. She will play up her own less-than-savory past and present that as a reason for not wanting to go to the cops—as well as being America’s Most Wanted Fugitive. The important thing for Trip is to get the mayor—and to a lesser extent, Andretti—to admit what the assholes have been doing for years. When Mowgli asks if she’s willing to give up Andretti if they get the mayor lock stock and barrel, Trip hesitates. Even though the mayor is definitely the boss and the evilest of the men, Trip is harboring a personal grudge against Andretti that isn’t easy to subdue. In the end, she reluctantly agrees that Sam Davies is first priority, everything else be damned. To herself, however, she promises that Andretti will get his due one day; she will see to it personally.
“Hello, Mr. Mayor,” I say, my voice silky smooth. I am talking on O’Reilly’s confiscated phone for two reasons—one, it has Davies’s number on speed dial, and two, that way this call can’t be traced back to me. “I bet you can guess who this is.” I call the mayor at two o’clock, right on the dot, and he picks up on the first ring. The reason I wanted to wait to tell him was so that Mr. Mayor couldn’t set up reinforcements ahead of time. Lord knows, I’d do that if the situation was reversed, and even if Davies was too stupid to figure it out on his own, I’m sure Andretti would have thought of it in plenty of time.
“Listen, bitch,” Davies begins, but I cut him off.
“I really don’t have time for this,” I say sweetly, shooting a glance at Mowgli who is talking earnestly with Tron. We are at Tron’s place—Incubus is there, too—preparing for the confrontation. Tron is shaking his head in admiration while Incubus is scowling. She is pissed that she doesn’t get to be in on the takedown, but we’ve convinced her it’s better this way. She’s another computer geek, and we need her and Tron’s expertise on the outside. They are looking over the equipment as I’m shooting the shit with the mayor. “You know and I know that I have the upper-hand, so shut the fuck up.” There is a shocked silence from the other end of the line; the mayor isn’t used to anyone speaking to him without the proper tone of deference.
“What?” The mayor speaks sullenly as a little boy chastened.
“Honey? Is it time for my pills?” It’s a voice far in the background, and I realize it’s his wife. “Sammy? I can’t find my pills.” The plaintive note in her voice is pathetic. Davies makes shushing noises.
“The Phoenix Hotel, Mr. Mayor,” I say softly. “Room 314. Knock three times sharply, and I’ll let you in. Three o’clock. Just you and Andretti. No tricks, or I’ll really be pissed. One more thing, be sure to bring your checkbook.” I hang up before he can reply, then turn to the crew. “We ready to go, boys and girl?” I ask, surveying them coolly.
“We’re good on this end,” Incubus says shortly. She is still pouting even though she’s toeing the line. She’s wearing a snug green t-shirt and a black mini-skirt, both which are appreciated by a grungy Tron. With their matching red hair—one natural, one bottled—they look like brother and sister.
“Let’s get you geared up,” Tron says cheerfully. Mowgli and I look at each other, a sudden nervousness gripping us. Up until now, it’s been more of an adventure than anything else. The sense of danger was more in the fear of being caught or shot by the cops. Even meeting with O’Reilly wasn’t a big thing because he hadn’t known what was coming. This is different, however, as the mayor has been forewarned. By all accounts, he’s a dangerous man, and he’s not a stupid one. I wonder if it was wise to set up a meeting instead of trying to catch him by surprise, but he’s the mayor for Christ’s sake, and chances of catching him on his own are very slim. No, this is the only way to do what needs to be done, but it doesn’t make it any less threatening.
“Let’s go,” Incubus says impatiently. “We haven’t got all day.” She actually snaps her finger which makes me narrow my eyes, but she’s right. We have to make it to the Phoenix before the mayor does. We are out of Tron’s apartment in ten minutes and well on our way.
For once, Mowgli is driving. I’m not in the mood, and I have to rehearse what I’m going to say. Mowgli is my backup, but I’m the negotiations person. It’s not my forte, but it’ll be less threatening coming from me than from Mowgli. Men are less on their guards around women than men, and I can soft-soap when the need arises. If I clear my throat twice in succession, Mowgli knows to step in as well as if he senses a need for diversion or mediation. Other than that, he is to blend in the background as best he can and make sure that Andretti isn’t going to be pulling any fast ones. We will both be carrying, though I would prefer not to. Mowgli insists on it, so we will both have our guns in the small of our backs. In addition, I have my Bowie strapped to my ankle. The legs of my black jeans nicely cover the bulge. I am wearing a black, long-sleeve t-shirt as well as my black leather coat and black boots. No makeup, no wig, no jewelry. I am me again, and this is how I’m going to meet the mayor of San Francisco; a man I actually voted for. Mowgli is also in all black, and we are both wearing gloves. Oh, yeah, we are both wired. Forgot to mention that.
Sam Davies is a Democrat who ran on the platform of ‘defending the common man’. Sure it’s a platitude and a cliché, but Sam Davies meant it, damn it. He actually came from the mean streets of Oakland, but thought he could do more good on the other side of the bay. He narrowly defeated the Republican candidate, twice, and has no intention of ever stepping down. He pours money into education, programs for abused women and children, and sickeningly enough, programs against rape. He is a family man who has never been known to have a mistress. He doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks, and drives a used Honda Civic when he’s not attending an important function. He likes to fish on the weekends, and he’s an avid supporter of queer rights. In short, he is a dream mayor and a perfect fit for the city of San Francisco. Even his political opponents admit that he’s a stand-up guy who is actually trying to do his best for the city he represents. The Republicans might despise his politics—and believe me, they do—but they can’t help being charmed by the man.
Which is why it’s hard to digest the steamier side of Mayor Davies. I find it incredible that he’s indulged in this behavior for years and there hasn’t been a single whiff of it publicly. Of course, he has at least one cop and one newspaper man in his pocket, but that doesn’t explain the carte blanche that has been handed over to him. I can only conclude that there are more men involved than Mowgli and I have discovered, or Mr. Mayor is one of the best damned dissimulators that I’ve never met. There is a third possibility—he has the best clean-up men ever seen in politics. Then again, it may have to do with his considerable charm, like another important Democrat who was able to cover up a mass of bad behavior and even when it was dug up, was charming enough to escape without much censure. There is a certain something about men like Davies and the former president of the United States that make people want to look the other way when their peccadilloes are exposed.
Still, even I find it difficult to believe that something as barbarous as this could be covered up for so long. There has to be someone along the line who couldn’t be bought off or seduced into participating. There has to be one person who took a stand. Then I think of Blanche and realize that anyone who tried to stand in the way of the assholes had most likely been expediently removed. The mayor has the power and certainly the connections to make someone quietly disappear. Which makes me wonder why he made such a production of it this time? You would think he’d want to keep it as quiet as possible until he found the evidence. Instead, he makes it a very public case, including neatly gift-wrapping a suspect for the hardworking police department.
“He couldn’t just bury it this time,” Mowgli says. “Blanche had the evidence. If he let it go, he’d live in constant terror that the evidence would some day be found.”
“If he didn’t make a big deal out of it, he could have kept hunting quietly for the things she stole after killing her. Who the hell was going to care about a missing stripper?” I counter. “This man is either insane or there’s more to the situation than we’ve figured out.”
“I think it was going to blow,” Mowgli insists, cutting expertly across the traffic. “Someone like Blanche was a loose cannon, and she wasn’t too bright, either. That could have been a deadly combination. Who know what she might have said if she was properly pissed off or upset?” He pulls up to the hotel in a flourish with plenty of time to spare. “Maybe people not involved were pressing too closely, and he saw this as the perfect opportunity to rid himself of the problem once and for all.”
“Whatever,” I grumble, sliding out of the car. “Ready to do this thing?” Linking arms, we stroll into the hotel. It’s time for the final scene of this play, and not a minute too soon.