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June 2019

Tart Man

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The man walked another four and a half blocks, up a winding little street to a four-unit stucco building built in the thirties. He entered the garden apartment. Inside, a battered and dusty old sky-blue surfboard propped up against the living room wall was the only bit of personality in the cracked plaster interior of the little one bedroom unit.

The man went into his tiny kitchen and put the tart on a paper towel. He got a dark beer out of his fridge and popped the top. As he started to take a bite of the tart, he heard a key turn in his front door. He opened the utensil drawer next to the ancient stove and took out a small twenty year old glock.

“Mr. Jones?” came a familiar voice. “You here? I’m gonna kill you.” The afore-mentioned Mr. Jones pocketed the glock and went into his living room.

“It was an accident, Leland.” Jones told Leland Hays, who was standing in his entryway, pissed off. “And stop threatening me every time shit happens.”

“Shit?!” Hays hissed, turning red. “That’s seventy five grand up in smoke! Why the hell were those girls in there?!” He carried on, talking about the Domingos fire.

“Ozrin wanted the pick-up there.”

“He never told me.”

“I thought he did–” Jones carried on, returning to the kitchen.

“You thought?! No. You don’t think, you do as you’re told. I had to hear it from the cops? The COPS!” Hays followed him.

“I just found out myself.” Panama told him, keeping calm.


“This morning. I went over there for the pick-up, saw the Police tape–”

“The fire was three days ago. You were gonna leave them there for three days?”

“…I left them food.” Panama took out a knife, sliced the tart in half.

“I called Ozrin.” Leland informed Jones, “He says the pick up was tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? No–” He offered half the tart to Hays.

“And he said the location was never changed–”

Jones put the beer to his mouth, “Ozrin’s paranoid. He changes the location every other time then changes it back.”

Hays watched him take a long pull of the beer.

“Thought you quit all that.”

Jones took another. “I did.”

Hays took out his wallet,

“Get three more now, Before Ozrin takes his business somewhere else.” He tossed five twenties on the worn counter. “There’s a hundred for gas.”

He turned to leave, then turned back and almost smiled,

“Those girls dying is on you.” Then he was gone.

Panama Jones checked the time. It was ten-forty-five. He dumped the rest of the beer, took a bite of the tart, grabbed his board and left.

Jim Beam

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After writing five hundred and twenty words, Rhea hit a wall. She was done. She couldn’t think of another thing to write about donuts and twenty-year-old men or tarts and forty-year-old men. She’d tried her best to imagine it but she couldn’t. What she had wasn’t going to cut it – word-wise and, thus, money-wise. She took a break and decided to concentrate on the Domingos case.

She retrieved her LAPD passwords from an encrypted file and entered them into a department database. She waited, fingers crossed. She got in. Before her were the databases of records; the histories of people and buildings – the pages that told the stories that made up LA. She searched records and more records and more records trying to find any info she could on Domingos, Leland Hays and a bartender named Myrna.

Forty seven web pages into looking at Domingos’ business tax records and scant employee records she’d found little of importance except a three-year-old misdemeanor building code violation regarding the steps leading down to Domingos’s liquor storage cellar. That got her thinking about liquor delivery to the place. She wondered if the bartender signed for the deliveries. She called seven local liquor distributors and found two who had delivered to Domingos in the last year.

Young’s Liquor Distributors had an office and warehouse five and a half blocks west of Leland Hays’s Furniture Import warehouse.  The manager – a nice, neat man named Mavery – was on the floor, counting cases of Jim Beam. Rhea flashed her badge – man this was getting easy – and Mavery told her Domingos was one of their smallest accounts but he remembered them well and was “Sorry to see them shut down.”

“Do you remember who signed for the deliveries?” Rhea asked him.

“Yeah…” he thought, “The bartender. A woman. ’bout fifty. Mexican, I think.”

“Do you remember her name?” Rhea asked, trying to push back that little thrill she felt when something just might go her way.

Mavery shook his head, “No. But–” Rhea held onto the thrill and he delivered, “I should have a copy of the receipt.”

Rhea followed Mavery into his office. And there in the middle of a tidy book full of receipts was a messy, scrawled signature: “Myrna Saldano.” Rhea took a photo of it, thanked Mavery and left.

She got in her car and smiled. She had a name! Her first impulse was to call Strickland. It was habit. Every little bit, good or bad, about a case she would share with him. But now she couldn’t. Her momentary high faded. She went back to her apartment determined to find Myrna Saldano.

But Myrna Saldano was nowhere. On paper, she did not exist. After again scrubbing through her best databases, Rhea found no record, no past or no whereabouts of Myrna Saldano. The only hint that the woman existed was that signed liquor delivery receipt and Mavery’s description.

Still… if she did exist and lived in LA, she’d need money. Her trade was bartending. Time to hit the streets.


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About four-thirty that afternoon, a landscaper named Bernardo, with a survey map in hand, staked out the boundaries of Daisy’s land. The flattened little mound where the coyote had laid was, indeed, just outside the markers, like Daisy and Travis had thought.

“Do you want all succulents?” Bernardo asked her as they discussed the landscaping of the wild, sloping part of her back yard. “Or also some native brush, some rock rose, some agave.”

“The agave sounds good.” Daisy told him as she studied the placement of his markers, “And some flowering natives would be nice – maybe a tree for shade? A Palo Verde tree, right down there.” she pointed to a spot a few yards down the slope.

“Do you want hardscaping?” he asked her.

“Yes.” Daisy nodded, “I do… but maybe just some flagstones in the dirt. And a path to a small bench. Can you carve out a little path alongside the edge?” she pointed to the side of her property, next to the mound.

Bernardo looked around and made a few calculations. “It need some grading. And it’s a big area… Again Daisy nodded. “Six grand.” he estimated. “Ballpark.”

Daisy agreed. “When can you start?” she asked.

“I can start in five weeks.” he told her, adding, “I’ll need a two grand deposit at least a week before.”

“I’ll give it to you now.” she offered, “Then we’ll be all set.”

She easily scrambled up the few yards to her back wall. She stepped over it and strode back across her patio to the iron gate over her back door. It was heavily arched with a thick fuschia bouganvillea vine, studded with thorns – part of which had fallen across the gate. As Daisy grabbed the vine to pull it aside, Bernardo hurried to her.

“Careful, Miss–! It has thorns–” he warned. She smiled, unscathed and went inside.

A minute later she came back out with two thousand dollars, in cash. “Five weeks from today, I’ll expect your workers here.” she told him. “Don’t change the date, I don’t like to wait. If you do, I’ll take the deposit back and get someone else.”

Bernardo realized she wasn’t one to be messed with. He thought for a minute, going over his schedule in his mind. Satisfied he could deliver, he nodded then took the money. The date was set.

Bernardo drove his old pickup down the hill. Daisy went back out onto her patio. Poo and Ralphie were there, waiting. Inquisitory looks were on their faces. “Right now, it’s just landscaping.” she told them, “I don’t know yet if I want it dug up. I have five weeks to decide.”

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