Victor Pauline Reports

By Courtney Webb

It was the end of a dry, hot summer in Central Valley. Everything was dusty and reports of fires in the mountains blared from every newscast.

In Tranquility, California, a small Central Valley town, Sam Reynolds stared at the morning news with a scowl. The paper was spread out on the kitchen table and he turned the pages with a listless finger.

“Jesus, nothing.” Even the sports page was boring. 

Staring into space, Sam finally had to admit it to himself.

“I’m bored as shit,” he told the still morning air.

His last case had left him feeling flat. Plus, his long-time girlfriend, Kristie was out of town for two weeks on a cruise with her two adult daughters.

“Uff,” he shook his head. Sam, 66 years, was a self-employed PI. Recently he had successfully completed a missing-persons case. A missing person who had wanted to stay missing.

***

At sixteen years, Thomas Dolby, had run away from home. A pair of concerned parents had hired Sam to find him. Tracking Thomas to a dive in the southeast section of town, Sam parked his truck, being sure to lock it carefully, and walked to the run-down, clapboard house.

In his white T-shirt, blue-jeans and cowboy boots, he was aware that he was still better dressed than many residents of this neighborhood. He knocked on the door. He could hear some shuffling inside. The door eventually opened.

“Yeah?” came the desultory inquiry from behind a tattered screen door.

“Sam Reynolds.” He held out his wallet with the PI license tucked behind a plastic sleeve. “Like to speak to Thomas Dolby.”

“What’s you want him for?”

“Just want to speak to him.” Sam looked around. Neighbors were peeking at him as he stood on the porch. There was a small pistol in his right boot, which he really didn’t want to use. “I have something for him he’d like to have. From his parents.”

Sensing money, the shabby young man unlatched the hook on the door and pushed it open. Sam grabbed the door and went in. The living room was an indescribable mess of clothes thrown everywhere: bits and pieces of food, drinks, empty bags of chips, trash and clutter. His host shuffled away toward the kitchen. Several other teens were lying on old sofas, half-asleep. The place smelled of old sweat, weed and stale cigarette smoke.

“He’s in there,” his greeter waved down the hall.

Sam had several pictures of the boy and knew he would recognize him. He got to the second bedroom and pushed open the door. Thomas Dolby was lying on a mattress on the floor, in his boxers. His arm was around a skinny red-headed girl with impossibly white skin. His eyes were closed. Sam went and stood over the two. He nudged Thomas with the toe of his boot. The kid opened his eyes.

“Thomas Dolby?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m Sam Reynolds and I’ve been sent by your parents to bring you home.”

“Fuck off.”  The dark-haired youth rolled on his side toward the girl.

Sam looked around the filthy room. A pair of new looking jeans were thrown in a corner along with a pair of very expensive Frye boots. He grabbed the jeans and threw them at the kid.

“Get up.”

“No!” the kid rolled into more of a ball, clutching the girl who mumbled protest.

Sam came over to the side of the mattress and squatted down. He tried to not touch anything.

“Thomas, it’s like this. You get out of that bed, put your pants on or I’m calling the police. They will come and arrest you, your little girlfriend and everyone else in this flea-bag dump for being under-age and on drugs. Then, your parents can pick you up at County jail.”

Sam stood back up. “I’ll give you ten minutes to decide. I’ll be outside.” He turned and left the room. Picking his way gingerly through garbage and bodies, he pushed through the screen door and stood on the sagging wood porch. People on the sidewalk paused to gawk at him.

Jesus, I could use a cigarette right now, he thought to himself. And, I don’t want to be here a minute longer than necessary.

“Shit!” erupted from inside the house. There was some mumbled conversation and a very angry Thomas Dolby banged out the screen door, pulling up his boots.

With no further conversation, Sam walked off the porch and headed toward his truck. He didn’t bother to look back. He unlocked the passenger side door and opened it. The kid got in. Getting into the driver’s side, Sam put on his seat belt and started the truck.

“Fasten your seat-belt.”

“I don’t want …. ”

Sam gave the kid a long cold stare.

“Crap!” Thomas grabbed the belt and jammed it in place.

Sam smiled pleasantly and pulled from the curb. “Starbucks?”

***

Forty-five minutes later, they were both nursing tall Starbuck’s coffees. Thomas had wolfed down two large scones at Sam’s expense.

“Good to see you’ve still got an appetite.”

The kid was sullen and said nothing.

They pulled into the huge drive of a giant home on the northeast section of town. Sam had already texted the mom that he had the kid and they were on their way.

An anxious, but ecstatic mother burst out the front door and grabbed the boy as soon as he fell out of the truck. The kid allowed himself to be hugged and hustled inside. Dr. Dolby was standing at the front door watching this scene. He waved at Sam.

“You found him,” the man said simply putting out his hand for a shake.

“Yes, Dr. Dolby, I found him.” Sam shook hands.

“Let’s go into my study.”

Sam followed the doctor past the grand foyer into a smaller, side room. They went in and his host shut the door.

Dr. Dolby went and sat behind his desk. He pulled out a large hard-bound check book. Sam sat in an ox-blood leather chair with brass stud details. He liked this chair. In fact, he liked the entire office. Sort of an Old World, navigational feel to it. If only I could decorate, he mused to himself. If only I had the money!

“So, give me the details,” the doctor asked. Sam did.

Frowning, Dolby busied himself writing out a check for Sam’s fees. He looked up and handed it over to the investigator.   

Sam looked at the check and his eyebrows shot up. “Well, thank you, sir.”

Dolby waved his hand dismissively. There was a sad, pained expression on his face.

“Like I told you before, Sam. I don’t know what I am going to do about my son. His grades, his friends. Now this. . .running away, not answering his phone. His mother half sick. . . not knowing what had happened to him. He’s in the best school in town.” He shook his head. “I’m at my wits end.”

“Are you asking me what I think, sir?” Sam folded the check and put it in his shirt pocket. Dolby nodded.

“If it were my son, I’ll let him flunk. Start to appreciate some of the consequences of his actions. Keep the curfew going. If he doesn’t comply, take away his key. Then, if the drugs and alcohol thing keeps on, he’s sixteen, right?”

Dolby nodded again, his big hands resting on the arms of his chair.

“I’d stick his ass in a rehabilitation place and maybe they can talk some sense into him.”

Both men got up. “That’s a thought, Sam.”

“Yes, sir.” Dolby reached for the door. “Finding him this time was easy,” Sam added. “Next time. . . might not be so easy.”

They walked to the front door and went out.

“Thanks again, Sam.” Dr. Dolby held out his hand again. Sam shook it.

“I love your money, Doctor, but really, I hope you won’t need me again.”

The doctor sighed and shrugged his shoulders. Sam gave a little wave and left.

***

Sergeant Roland (Rollie) Mallory was particularly good at stake-outs. Primarily because he could sit and eat and drink coffee. Between sips he could read his latest girlie magazine and fantasize about women.

Victor Pauline was in the driver’s seat, Rollie was shot gun. At the moment, they were parked in the darkening shade of a large tree. They were three houses down from their stake-out spot.

“You know what, Rollie?”

“What’s ‘dat, detective?” Rollie’s mouth was full of pastrami sandwich and his eyes were glues to an issue of Hustler!

“Your problem is you have the maturity of an eleven-year-old and the gonads of an adult.”

Rollie looked up and thought a minute. He wrinkled his brow.

“That’s not so bad is it?” he was thoughtful. “At least part of me is completely adult. The important part.” He leered playfully at Pauline.

Pauline rolled his eyes and shook his head. He sipped his coffee. Somebody has to do the long stake-outs, he thought.

Pauline glanced at his watch and his eyes slid side-ways to Rollie.

“So, you be good if I cut out for a few hours. Not much movement over there.”

“Naw, I’m fine. Got my girls,” he waved the magazine, “and,” he shook a paper bag, “extra maple crunch donuts. You want before you go?”

Pauline refused to calculate the number of calories he was looking at with Rollie’s cuisine choices.

“Ah…no…maybe, one donut, for later. So,” he looked at his watch, “I relieve you in, say, two hours?”

“Yeah, that should be time for you and your date to eat, screw, clean-up and be back here. Or, you could just screw the whole time and come back here and have one of these donuts.”

Pauline laughed. He shot Rollie with a finger gun. “No getting anything past you, is there?”

“Nope,” Rollie shook his head sagely.

“Okay, later.”

Quietly, Pauline got out of the car and closed the door softly. He glanced around and turned around on the sidewalk, no one. He did a slow jog around the block to where his own car was parked. He went to get some Thai food and get home to feed the dog.

***

Three hours later, per agreement, Detective Victor Pauline was back at the car. A member in very good standing with Central Valley Police, Victor was thirty-eight years old, divorced, tan, buff with wavy dark brown hair, almost black, and as some would say, beautiful clear blue eyes. He never drank to excess and had given up smoking years before. He was at the gym six days a week in the early am and church on Sunday. He was what his mother called a ‘good boy’.

If she only knew, he mused to himself thinking for a moment of his Mom.

Pauline was in good standing because he was intelligent, intuitive, charming and knew his business when it came to arrests. He was insightful while other policemen could be described as ‘plodding’.  Pauline saw the big picture. It might take a minute, but in the end, he always saw it.

Pauline was back in the driver’s seat. He liked to keep his eye on the rear view mirror and check out anyone approaching from the rear. His eye caught something.  A figure separated from the shadow of another tree. His right hand traveled over to the revolver in his armpit holster. His fingers wrapped around the grip and slowly brought the weapon to his lap. His body tensed. The figure moved furtively toward the car. It was a man, hunched over and coming up the left side of the car. His finger was on the trigger now.

Suddenly the figure was at the window and pawing to get his attention. As if, Pauline thought to himself. He hit the button and the window rolled down.

“Jesus, fucking Christ, Scratchy, you almost got yourself plugged.”

“Sorry,” the little man was obsequious. “Sorry chief, I didn’t want nobody in ‘da house to see me.”

Pauline sighed and let out a breath. “Want you want?” He let his hand relax on the revolver.

“I got sumthin. Sumthin good. Worth sumthin.”

“How much?”

“Fifty.”

“Fifty, are you shitting me?”

“Dis is very, very good, Boss.” The little man was nervous as a cat on the proverbial roof. He kept looking around.

“It had better be.” Pauline sighed again and pulled out his wallet. He pulled out some bills and waved them in the air.

Scratchy tried to grab them but Pauline pulled away. “Give it.”

Scratchy rubbed his nose and scratched his arm. Looks like he could use a fix, Pauline thought.

“Over ‘der at de house. Delivery. Some heavy stuff.”

“When?”

“Gonna be Tuesday about 11pm. Donut truck.”

“Donut truck….” Rollie started. Pauline flashed him a look.

“Okay, buddy.” Pauline handed over the cash. “This better be good or I’m coming to get you.”

“It’s da goods, Boss. For real. I gotta go.”

With that, Scratchy oozed away and melded into the shadows.

“Tuesday night, Boss?”

“Yeah, Tuesday night.”

“So?”

“So, I guess we come back on Tues with some backup.”

“Good for me,” Rollie replied. “Monday night football.”

Pauline smiled and started up the car. He pulled slowly away from the curb, did a U-turn and went the other way.

***

“You’re chewing loudly.” Victor Pauline was tense, his hands gripping the wheel of the Crown Vic.

“It’s just a little snack,” his partner replied with a full mouth.

Pauline took his eyes off the stake-out house for just a moment and stared at his partner.

“Alright, alright.” Rollie crumbled up the brown paper bag and stuffed it under the seat.

‘Shh!” Pauline hissed.

There was a slight sound of static on the walkie-talkie he was holding.

“Alpha dog reporting, in place.”

“Copy that, Alpha. Can you see Tango and Bravo?”

“They are moving into place, Victory. Copy.”

“I copy, Alpha,” Pauline kept the device close to his mouth.

There were some more hisses and low conversations. Rollie chanced a tiny sip of his coke.

They were in an older section of town. The street lamps were intermittent and the light wasn’t very bright.

Thank God there’s no moon tonight, Victor thought to himself.

“Vic, look!” Rollie whispered.

From their right came the rattle and clang of an old delivery truck. It could have been tan and brown, but the lamps distorted the colors. Mel’s Donuts was emblazoned on the side with faded lettering.

Pauline hit the button.

“Target approaching. Do you read? Target approaching.”

“Copy that, Victory.”

“Stay in position until I give a go,” Pauline whispered into the microphone.

The truck rattled to a stop in front of the residential house. The detective checked his Peugeot timepiece. 11:00 pm.

“A little behind schedule,” he whispered.

“Better late…” Rollie started but Victor waved at him.

Two chunky men got out of the truck. One went around to the back and could be heard rolling up the back door of the truck. The other guy grabbed a dolly and loaded some boxes and rolled them to the front door. The door opened, and another hefty guy came out and started helping them to unload.

“What are we waiting for?” Rollie whispered.

“We want to get more of the merchandise inside the house to show it’s really a delivery. Enough for distribution and not just some guys getting high once.”

They waited a few more tense minutes.

“Okay, I’d say that looks to be enough for evidence.”

Pauline spoke into the device. “Alpha dog go to the back. Tango and Delta, hit the front. Victory and Mallory will secure the truck.”

Victor signaled to Rollie and they slipped out of the vehicle, barely closing the doors. Keeping to the shadows, they advanced to the truck. Victor reached inside. The key was still in the ignition. He pulled it out and put it in his pocket.

“Go!” He whispered into the walkie-talkie.

Suddenly, a small army of men appeared in combat fatigues with rifles at the shoulders shouting commands at the truck driver. Pandemonium erupted on the quiet street, people yelling and screaming. Windows flew open on the little house and bodies were seen jumping out and attempting to run. Most were grabbed immediately.

Victor Pauline saw what looked to be a girl, slip out of a bathroom window and start to run down the sidewall. He tucked his revolver into his hostler and went in pursuit. After two blocks he was gaining but it wasn’t easy.

This is one fast chick, he thought Jesus, must do track!

He forced himself to put on a burst of speed and tackled her. They went down in the grass in a big lump. He immediately jumped up and pulled out handcuffs pinning the skinny wrists behinds her back. Yanking her up he was surprised to realize through all that hair was a boy.

“Oh, I thought you were…”

“Were what?” The boy snarled at him.

The face was almost pretty, angelic even, Pauline mused. What a twist!

“Let’s get going buddy. Back to the house.” He pushed the uncooperative teen in front and they walked back.

***

Several hours and numerous cups of coffee later, a fatigued Rollie and Victor were finishing up paperwork.

“So, who’s the pretty boy?” Rollie asked.

“Says his name is Thomas Dolby and that I better be afraid of his father. Dr. Somebody or other.”  

“Maybe you should be.”

“Yeah, after an hour with that little punk, I wanted to bitch slap him.”

“Police brutality,” Rollie smirked.

“Think of it more as community service,” Victor replied calmly.

“So, is he a juvey?” Rollie asked.

“Yeah, seventeen. Too bad, he’ll probably get a little rap for possession.”

“Not too bad for him.”

“This time maybe,” Victor got up, stretched and dropped some forms in a wire basket. “But nobody ends up in a place like that, at that time of night, with those people if they aren’t trying to get into the action. Become part of the distribution network.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Rollie nodded and yawned widely. He rubbed his mop of curly black hair. “I’m beat. Let’s go. It’ll be here tomorrow.”

Pauline yawned back at him. “You’re right. We’ve done our bit.”

They were walking out of the cement fortress that was police headquarters.

“You know,” Roland commented, “that little Scratchy guy did deliver.”

“He did indeed,” Victor agreed. He’s okay. “I try not to get too attached for when he dies from an overdose. “

Rollie gave a little laugh. “I hear you. Nite, Boss.”

“Nite, Roland. Sorry if I chewed you too much about your snack.”

His partner waved at him and they both went home.

***

It was 11:00 am. Roland Mallory and Victor Pauline were both showered, shaved and in fresh clothes. They grabbed coffee and their files to meet with the parents of Thomas Dolby in an interview room.

Dr. Thomas Dolby, Sr. and his wife, Lollie, were already seated in the pea green interview room. Rollie and Victor entered and left the door open.

The detectives introduced themselves and sat.

Pauline started. “Mr. and Mrs. Dolby, we asked you to come in to discuss what happened last night with your son.”

Mrs. Dolby started to cry and pull out a hanky. It was already damp.

“The charges,” Dr. Dolby asked quietly.

“The charges will be for possession of drugs. Your son had a quantity of marijuana and cocaine in bags in his pockets when I arrested him.”

“That doesn’t seem like….”

“It is not going to be a very serious charge, sir, however, that is not really the problem.” Pauline leafed through his file. Mrs. Dolby continued to sob quietly in her chair.

“Do you know where all this occurred, sir?”

“No, Dolby replied, we didn’t get many details. Just that he had been arrested and we needed to come down right away.”

“Yes. That area of town is a very economically depressed area.” Omit the words poor, he thought to himself. “In the southwest area of town close to the 99 freeway. We had the house involved under surveillance for a number of days.”

“I don’t see what this has to do with my son,” Dolby was defending.

“This house,” Pauline went on to explain, “is not a place where people usually come to buy. It is more like…well…a distribution warehouse. Like Target or Sears.” He attempted a smile and looked at Mrs. Dolby. She was still weeping.  “The owners get the big deliveries there and then break them up for their dealers. The dealers pick up there and then go out into the neighborhoods to sell.”

“I still don’t see….” Dolby protested.

“What I am telling you, Mr. Dolby….”

“Dr. Dolby,” the man corrected.

“Dr. Dolby… is that the average person would not come to this locate just to make a purchase. They come to get product for the purpose of selling it.”

Dr. Dolby sat back and stared at Pauline for a long moment.

”Are you saying my son is a drug dealer? Do you have proof of that?”

“No, sir. Actually, we don’t have proof. But, the fact that he was there at all, especially at the exact time of a large delivery doesn’t look good for him.”

Dolby sat and said nothing.

“Your son will be charged and bail set. However, he is still a minor and rules regarding minors still apply. Unless…”

“Unless…” Dolby’s mouth formed a line thin.

“Unless the judge hearing the case feels there is enough evidence to charge Thomas as an adult.”

Dolby swallowed. Lollie Dolby cried harder.

There was a pause. Dolby spoke slowly like a man unsure of his ground.

“My son…has a problem…with the drugs. We have been trying to get him help but nothing has seemed to work.”

Pauline nodded. Rollie sat with his hands folded.

“The last man…the PI…. said he should go to a rehab clinic. To send him before he turned eighteen.”

“A PI?” Victor asked. “Who was that and what did he do?”

“Ah…” Dolby looked at his wife.

“Reynolds,” she told him.

“Right, ah, Sam Reynolds. We hired him to find Thomas last spring.”

“Ah,” Victor replied and glanced at his partner. “Well, maybe he has something there.” He started to close his file.

“Please, detective. Certainly the judge will listen to you, your recommendations about this. To help our son,” Lollie Dolby spoke, tears still in her eyes.

Victor paused and looked at Rollie.

“Detective Mallory?”

“Well,” Roland rotated his head back and forth before he spoke. “It will probably depend on what your son says to the judge and how convinced he or she is about his…. ah…sincerity about getting help.” He glanced at Victor who nodded.

“So,” Victor rose, and Rollie stood up with him. “Hopefully, that will work out for you.”

Dr. Dolby got up with his sobbing wife.

“Thank you for your help, detectives.” He led his wife out of the room.

Victor and Rollie waited until they left the area.

“Jesus,” Rollie breathed out. “Thank God I only have daughters. I might have to commit murder if I had a son like that.”

“Yeah,” Victor breathed out. “He’s a heartbreak walking, that one.” They went back upstairs to their office.

***

A month later, Victor Pauline was coming into the office fresh from the gym. His dark curly hair still damp.

The day Sergeant winked at him. A cute, petite red-head, she was always trying to get his attention at work.

Damn I wish I didn’t have a rule about dating women from work, he told himself.

“Paulie, Chief Brassballs wants to see you.” She smiled her most charming smile. She waved a little telephone note at him.

Pauline came very close to pick up the note.

“Thank you so much, Pam, you are so good at your job.” He grinned.

“Among other things, she smiled.

He winked at her.  “However, I wouldn’t let the Chief hear me talking like that.”

“It’s okay, he loves me. How do you think I got this cush job?” She smiled broadly.

“Well, yeah.” Pauline let it go. “See ya.”

Taking the stairs to his office two at a time, he rolled his eyes. Women, first they want to be on the force. Then…. he dumped his briefcase.

“What up, Boss?” Rollie called from behind a large Starbucks.

“Chief wants me. Is he mad?”

“Hell, if I know,” Rollie shrugged his shoulders. “No one tells me nada.

Pauline hustled down the stairs to the Chief’s office.

He gave a little knock and peeked around the door.

 “Sir, you wanted to see me.”

The Chief waved him in.

“Sit.”

Pauline sat.

The Chief shuffled through some things on top of his desk. He grabbed a paper and pulled it up where he could see it more closely.

“Here it is.” He stared at the paper. “Ah, you made an arrest last month. Thomas Dolby, kid, seventeen.”

Pauline could feel his neck getting hot. If this little brat was accusing me of something….

“It was a clean arrest, sir,” he started.

The chief motioned with his hands, palms down.

“Don’t get excited. You haven’t done anything wrong. What was this kid like?”

“He’s a little prick. Too much money and not enough ass kicking as far as I can see. So, what’s up?”

“The kid has run away,” the Chief replied. “He was in the process of being taken to a rehab, the driver stopped for gas, the kid said he had to pee and crawled out the bathroom window.”

“Yeah, well, he’s good at that.” Pauline replied remembering the arrest. He shrugged his shoulders. “So what, that’s not on us is it?”

“Well ….” the Chief paused and stared at the paper again. “Ah…Victor. Do you know who this Thomas Dolby, Sr. is?”

“A doctor of some kind?”

“Well, yes. He is a doctor. But, not a medical doctor. He has a PhD in something exotic, I don’t know what the hell. But,” he paused, “he teaches at the University and does some additional work.”

“Additional work?”

“Yeah, work for some agencies with letters we shall not name.” Victor was puzzled.” I still don’t see….”

“It appears the kid may have taken something. Something belonging to his dad.”

“Something?”

“Yeah, something very valuable, that he really, really should not have taken. Now, these agencies that shall not be named want it back.”

“So,” Victor spread out his hands. “What is it?”

“I don’t know exactly and I’m not sure I even want to know. Anyway …. ”

“And ….”

“He wants to talk to you Victor. Apparently, he was impressed by your professionalism and the way you dealt with things on the street. He just wants to talk to you is all.”

“I don’t ….”

“Go talk to him, Victor. Hold his hand for a few minutes. Hell, I don’t know. Just listen, okay. There may be absolutely nothing we can do. I have no idea. Just go and find out what is going on. Community service kind of thing. Plus, the kid is on probation, so ….”

“Ah.”

The Chief was busy filing the paper away in a file folder in his desk. He looked back up.

“That would be a now, Victor.”

Victor got up and left the Chief’s office cursing silently. He had real work to do. Not hand holding some over indulgent parents who couldn’t control their own kid. Jesus!

He stomped upstairs, grabbed his briefcase and was stomping out.

“What?” Rollie said to his back.

“Later,” and Victor banged down the stairs.

***

The butler let Victor into the three-story red-brick mansion. He felt crummy parking the Crown Vic in the driveway.

Shit, wish I had driven the Austin.

He was lead into the study.

“Ah, Detective Pauline. Thank you so much for coming. Coffee? Rolls?”

Pauline stared at the buffet style arrangement on one table. His stomach was rumbling, and he had only had a protein shake before the gym.

“Well, maybe one.”

The butler quickly got him a clean, sparkling white plate. China with a white cloth napkin. He made a selection and the butler promptly took it to a small side table.

“Coffee, sir? “

“Well, yes.”

“Caffeinated or Non-caffeinated?”

“Ah, just regular.”

“Sugar, crème?”

“No, just black, thanks. “

The butler handed the white china cup to Pauline and gestured for him to have a seat in the winged-back chair.

Victor sat down and bit into the roll.

Oh, my God. What is this? He stared at the roll. Almond something, wow! He ate some more and eyed the table again.

“Thank you, Phillips,” Dolby spoke, “that will be all.” The butler faded away like smoke.

Pauline glanced around, and the man was gone. He looked back at Dr. Dolby.

“So,” Dolby began, “your chief probably told you a bit about what is happening.”

“Your son is gone.”

“Yes, Thomas, Jr. has, as the saying goes, taken a powder. Do you know what I do Detective?”

“No idea. PhD in something or other.”

“Yes,” Dolby smiled. “PhD in Theology and dead languages.”

Pauline nodded. Esoteric as hell.

“Okay.”

“Those are my theoretical qualifications. My practical applications of these studies are a little more, ah, pedestrian.”

Pauline nodded.

“Do you know, Detective, anything about cryptology?”

“Cryptology? Like codes and stuff?” Pauline had actually taken one such course in college, but that was awhile ago and he wouldn’t attempt to keep up with this guy.

“Exactly, you are a fast study. Exactly right, codes and stuff. My company ….”

Pauline looked a question at him.

“Yes, I have a company and they are downstairs in this house.”

Pauline’s eyebrows shot up.

“We will take a little tour and I will introduce you in a minute. But my real specialties are Aramaic, ancient Greek and ancient Latin languages.”

“Aramaic?” Pauline asked.

“The language of Jesus, Detective. The language spoken by the Jews at the time of Jesus.”

Pauline shrugged and finished off his delicious roll.

“I am sorry, Dr. Dolby. I don’t quite see what this has to do with anything.”

“What is the important part of codes, Detective?”

“Ah, well.” He thought a moment remembering his class. “That they can’t be broken or read, I would think.”

“Absolutely correct. That they can’t be broken or read. Let me ask you, Detective Pauline, how many people do you think can read ancient Aramaic?”

“Well, since I have never even heard that phrase before and since all the Bibles I ever look at are in English, I would guess, not too many.”

“Only a handful of scholars in the world can still read any texts that were written in that language. Also, since the Catholic church changed their services away from Latin and into the current language of the people, fewer and fewer of even Catholic priests can read and understand Latin.”

“Okay, good so far. Now ….”

“What we have designed, here at our facility, Detective, is a code language which is a compilation of Aramaic, Latin and Greek.”

“Impressive,” Pauline said sipping on his quite delicious coffee.  

“Yes.” Dr. Dolby sighed and sat down. “What was taken, Detective, and what we now think my son Thomas has, is an electronic translator for this code.”

“Oh.” Pauline paused to absorb the information. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“It isn’t,” the doctor sighed, and his shoulders slumped. “We have been selling this new code script to a number of agencies and they have been using it with success. Primarily, as I said, because so few people can either read or understand any of these ancient languages and there are no commercial translators out there for the words.”

“So, you think your son may have gotten his hands on this…gadget. How?” “It was kept in my safe and only I and my wife have the combination. It looks like Thomas persuaded his mother to get him some hard currency that I have in the safe. She opened the safe, the phone rang; she went to answer it in the other room and came back a minute later. There didn’t appear to be anything missing. So, she got him the currency and closed the safe.”

“When did you discover this?”

“After he left for rehab, some nagging feeling told me to check the safe. He seemed too… willing to go.”

“And you don’t trust him.”

Dr. Dolby shrugged his shoulders.

“You discovered it was missing then.”

Sadly, the man nodded his head.

“But, does Thomas work with you on your projects? How would he even have known about it?”

“I don’t know. I am afraid someone must have told him what it was and where it was.”

“Who?”

“Someone who works for me.”

“Ah,” Pauline said, the light dawning.

“So, what now?”

“The critical thing is to get the translator back before it can be sold. Then, stick Thomas in rehab and hope to God they have strong locks.”

“Well, that’s well and good, but I don’t do a missing persons search.”

“I know. I have hired the same guy I hired last time to find him.”

“Ah, the PI guy.”

“Yes, him. But, he isn’t a cop and doesn’t have your resources at his disposal. I am asking the police to work with him, apprehend my son and the electronic translator. Get them back. Time is of the essence.”

“I think I understand, sir. Are we going to take that tour?”

Dolby nodded.

“Any chance I can get another of those great rolls?”

Dolby laughed for the first time. “Of course, grab a roll and a napkin and we’ll go downstairs. When we’re done you can just give me your impressions of what you think of my staff.”

“You think one of them …”

Dolby looked forlorn. “It has to be. Nothing else makes any sense. And we have worked so closely together…I just can’t believe  ….”

“Ah ….”

“So, Detective, the tour?”

Pauline nodded his head and finished his roll. He wiped his mouth and hands with the white table napkin. It was soft and fluffy and smelled good. Not like the harsh, starched and stiff jobs you got most places. He had an irrepressible urge to stick it in his back pocket. Victor Pauline was a guy who appreciated nice things.

With a little effort, he placed the napkin back on the table. He picked up an ice-cold bottle of Evian and opened the top.

“After you, Doctor.” He took a sip. Man, these people know how to live!

Dr. Dolby went out of the study. The ubiquitous butler was in the tiled foyer, apparently waiting.

“We’ll be downstairs, Phillips.”

“Yes, sir.” The butler did the slightest of bows.

It that an actual English butler? Pauline asked himself.

“Yes, his is.” Dolby seemed to sense the question. “Straight from Manchester. And also, ex-career military.”

Victor’s eyebrows went up. “Impressive, Doctor.”

Dolby allowed himself a little smile and walked over to an elevator and pushed a button.

“The office is downstairs.” The doors slid opened. “This way.”

The elevator zoomed for what appeared to be two floors and opened up into a white, lab style office. There were desks and modules here and there. Big poster boards up on the walls were festooned with various articles and sheets of information.

There was a quiet hum to the place and people could be seen hurrying here and there.

Dolby walked to one of the cubicles.

“Dr. Collier let me introduce Detective Pauline. He is helping us. Dr. Collier is our expert in Greek language.”

“Morning, Detective,” the scientist extended a hand and gave a friendly shake.

“Do I detect a Canadian accent, Doctor?”

“Ah, jeese, and I left the moose hat at home too.” The man grinned.

They moved on. “Here’s Dr. Livermoore, our expert in Latin.”

Dr. Livermore shook hands. “Aye, pleased to meet you.”

“Ah,” Pauline added, “a Scots.”

“That’s what my mother tells me, but she’s been known to lie once or twice.” He smiled at Pauline and went back to his work.

The two men worked their way through the lab and came to another cubicle toward the back.

“And this,” Dolby paused, “is Dr. Ben-Hur. Our expert in Aramaic.”

Dr. Ben-Hur stood up and Pauline’s heart did a little flip-flop.

She was tall and slim with lots of mahogany brown hair. Her skin was a healthy, ruddy color. But it was those eyes. Large, luminous and deep dark brown with softly arching black eyebrows. She looked at him and smiled. The pert mouth curled up at the edges. He felt himself falling into those eyes.

“So pleased, Detective. Paulie?” She took his hand. A strong hand but with incredibly soft skin.

Pauline coughed. “Pauline ma’am. Pauline. But people do call me Paulie.” Was his face getting red? He felt like he was twelve.

Dr. Dolby was smiling at Gallah Ben-Hur. She appeared to be a favorite with him too.

Dr. Ben-Hur bent over her desk a moment and stood back up. She had a business card in her hand and held it out for Pauline.

“In case, you need anything. Please call.” She smiled at him and dimpled.

Pauline was a little breathless and just nodded.

“Let’s continue, shall we?” Dolby guided Pauline toward the rest of the lab and kept up an ongoing discourse about the nuts and bolts of what they were doing.

Pauline didn’t hear anything. He was mostly thinking about how he could ask Dr. Ben-Hur to coffee and not sound like a complete dolt.

***

Back in his own office, Pauline was weighted down with pamphlets and brochures from the lab. All of which he promised himself solemnly to glance at – later.

“So, what now, Boss? You on the job?”

“Well, Rollie, apparently, a number of people will be on this job. You and I will just be doing some backup and trying to help locate the kid as soon as possible”.

“And before he sells the gadget thingy, right?”

“Before he sells the gadget and gets himself killed. The kind of people he will be dealing with will have no qualms about getting rid of unnecessary witnesses.”

“Gottacha.”

“Right now,” Pauline took out the card from Dr. Ben-Hur, “I need to figure out a good place to have a nice, quiet witness conversation.”

“Huh?”

“A restaurant, buddy, like for a lady. You know, lady.”

“Oh, yeah. I knew one of those once.” Rollie smiled. “You in love, Paulie?”

“What, me?”

“Go on. Cupid is definitely in the air.”

“Ah, no. She’s just…attractive is all.”

“Right.” Rollie grinned.

“Ah, shut up,” Pauline replied.

But Roland Mallory just kept grinning as he bent over his report.  

***

Pauline got a message from Sam Reynolds and called back.

“Yes, hello Detective Pauline,” Sam answered. “Hear you are looking for Thomas Dolby, Jr.”

“Yeah, call me Paulie. I thought we could meet. Go over your file.”

“Sure. I found him in a flop house on the South side last time,” Sam responded. “You want to meet first? There’s a Starbucks close by.”

An hour later the two men were at the Starbucks. Pauline ordered a Blond to go. Sam already had his at the table.

“So,” Pauline sat down, “your impression of the kid?”

“He’s a little shit,” Sam replied.

Pauline had to smile, remembering his own encounter with young Dolby.

“Spoiled by a doting mother,” Sam continued.  “Youngest child. Two older brothers, but apparently, they are much older and have been out of the house for a while. Both, very successful. This one ….” Sam shook his head and sipped his coffee.

“So, what, late-in-life kid you think?”

“Yeah, one of those surprises that happen. Think the mother was forty when she had him. Like I said, dotes on him and also makes excuses for him which is not helping. Think the kid has a serious drug problem.”

“Well,” Pauline sighed, “I guess if you can’t outdo the big brothers one way, you take another tack, or something.”

“Or something.” Sam smiled. “Let me give you the address of this last place. You want to follow me over?”

Pauline nodded. He paused writing in his notebook. “Did the Chief tell you what he took?”

“Some kind of coder machine?”

“It’s a decoder machine. Spy stuff. Could be worth a lot of money to the right people. These same people probably wouldn’t hesitate to remove Thomas Dolby from the supply chain.  Whether he knows it or not, he’s a one-hit-wonder, that’s it.”

“I agree. Ready?” They got up and went to their vehicles.

Pauline followed Sam’s old truck out of the drive and then down to the neighborhood.

Sam parked in front of the same run down house as before and stood waiting for Paulie on the dried out grass. 

“Looks worse than the last time, if that’s possible,” Sam told Pauline quietly.

They went up the steps. Reynolds banged on the decrepit screen door. There was no answer. They could hear some movement inside.

“Central Police. Open up,” Pauline shouted.

Eventually footsteps could be heard shuffling to the door. It opened. A male, late teens peered out at them. He said nothing.

“Looking for Thomas Dolby,” Pauline used his very police voice with the kid. He held up his badge to the screen.

The youth shook a shaggy head. “He ain’t here.”

“When you see him last? “

“Don’t know. Maybe a month.”

“We need to come in.”

“You got a warrant, Man?” the kid sneered.

“Do I need one, pal? You got something to hide we need to know about? Maybe call some of my friends in blue to come and help out?”

“Ah, shit!” The teen turned away from the door and flopped down on an old chair, his arms crossed, a scowl on his face.

The place was filthy with junk scattered willy-nilly on floors and old sofas.

“We want to look around,” the detective told him.

“I told you he ain’t here. But, what the hell. Knock yourself out.” He grabbed a pack of cigarettes fingering it.

Pauline, nodded to Sam who went to do a search of the house.

“What about a girl? Was with Dolby when he was here. Skinny, white, red hair.”

The kid pulled out a cigarette and lit it with a cheap Bic lighter.

“Oh, her. The bitch. Thought she was better than everyone else. Yeah, went to that rich-bitch high school with Dolby. Waste of space.”

Meaning she wasn’t interested in you, asshole, Pauline thought to himself.

“Name?”

The kid took a drag of his cigarette and thought. “It was some dumb name like Stacey, Stacey Racey or some shit like that.”

“Great, and your name, Sir.”

The kid paused. “John Smith.”

Pauline was about to write it down in his notebook and looked up.

“I need your real name.”

“John Smith, asshole. And don’t say one damn thing about Pocahontas.”

Sam came back to the living room shaking his head.

“Okay, then, Mr. Smith. We will be going. He flipped his notebook closed and pulled out a card. It is important we find Thomas and there might be a cash reward involved.”

He handed his card to the youth. The kid took it with dirty fingers. Smith surveyed the card, blew out some smoke and stuck it in pocket.

“Cool.”

“We’ll let ourselves out.”

Out by the cars, they compared notes. Sam opened his truck and pulled out his slim line binder.  He flipped it open and turned a page.

“Crestview High School. North Valley, very private, very expensive.” He gave Pauline the address.

“Okay, well looks like we will be doing some driving today,” Pauline told him.

“Yup. See you there.”

***

In the office of the principal, Ms. Galbraith, they introduced themselves.

“Stacey Racey?” The woman sniffed. She studied the air over their heads. “Friends with Thomas Dolby?” Her face took on a sour cast.

“Hum. You probably mean Stacey Racine, a junior here. Yes, she has red hair and may have been friends with Thomas. Although ….” her voice trailed away. “Do you wish to speak to her?” They both nodded their heads.

The principal hit her intercom button. “Maxine, please check the schedule for Stacy Racine and have her come to my office.”

“May I offer you gentlemen something to drink?” The smile, stiff and forced.

She’s trying hard to keep her cool, Pauline thought to himself.

“Nothing for me, Ma’am,” he told her, “but, thank you.”

Sam Reynolds also declined.

The woman nodded and then paused. She seemed to be searching for the right words.

With steel grey hair and a conservative tweed suit ensemble, Pauline was sure she was the epitome of the old-fashioned school matron rich parents were looking for.

“Am I permitted to ask what has happened to Thomas? We don’t know, and his mother is… not very forthcoming.” She stopped and appraised them with a set of large grey eyes. Thick glasses glinted in the sunlight.

“That is what we are trying to find out now, Principal Galbraith. That is why we wish to speak to Miss Racine.”

The woman nodded. I understand.” She drummed her fingers on the desk.

“I must stay here while you talk to her. She’s a minor and her parents aren’t here so …. ”

“We understand. Just a few questions.”

There was a knock on the walnut paneled door and the secretary stuck her head in.

“She’s here, Miss Galbraith.”

The principle nodded and a frail, skinny girl with pale skin and flaming red hair appeared. She was dressed in a conservative blue school uniform.

Other than the hair and the skin, Sam thought to himself, I would have never recognized her.

“Please come and sit down, Stacey.” The principal’s voice was soft.

The girl did as she was bid and sat in a chair. Head down.

“We’re looking for Thomas Dolby,” Pauline told the girl. “I am from Central Valley Police and Mr. Reynolds here is a PI. Do you have any idea where Thomas might be? It’s very important that we find him.”

The girl shook her head. No.

“You knew he was going to Rehab?” From the corner of his eye Pauline could see Miss Galbraith perk up at this tidbit of news.

She nodded yes.

“When is the last time you heard from him?”

“Before he left for Rehab,” she said in a low voice.

“But not since?”

She shook her head no again.

“Anything else you can tell us?”

She shook her head again.

Pauline got out a card and Sam got one out too and handed them to her.

“Call if anything comes up or if, you just want to talk. He could be in serious trouble which is why we need to find him,” Pauline decided to add the last bit.

She nodded. “Can I go back to class?” She looked at the principal who nodded.

The girl got up and left the room quickly without looking back.

“Did Thomas have other friends, Principal?” Pauline asked.

“Thomas,” she faltered for a moment. “Thomas didn’t really make friends here. I don’t think he liked Crestview much or school for that matter. No, I think his interests were… elsewhere.”

The two men got up and thanked her and left.

Sam laughed when they got outside.

“His interests were elsewhere. ‘Ya think?”

“I do think, Sam. And, it’s probably the understatement of the day. Let’s get lunch.”

***

“So, what’s your take now, Sam?” Pauline dipped a fry into his ketchup.

“Well, not much from the girl. Then again, she might not know much,” Sam took a swig of his coffee. “If I were you, I would put a tail on the girl. Very discrete, mind.” He looked straight at Pauline who nodded.

“Don’t really think this group of teens specialize in the truth. Still, even if she knows nothing, the kid is likely to try and contact her.”

“Agreed,” Victor sipped his coke. “We know the kid has money, because the mom let him have some before he left. So, he can be paying cash for everything and we can’t trace him that way. We could track his phone, but he’s smart, and he could get a cheap burner, so that won’t work.

“Next question is who is he going to contact?” Sam asked. “He’s a high school senior.”

Pauline glanced at him with a smirk. “Well, at least in name. Anyway, he wouldn’t have a clue as to where to go to fence this thing, unless ….” He stared into space a moment, thinking. “Unless, the person who told him about the thing in the first place, also set up the sale and told him where to go.”

“Exactly,” Sam shot back, still chewing. “And, for my money it’s either LA or San Francisco ‘cause that is where the International flights fly from. I have doubts this buyer is someone State side.”

“So,” Pauline took a big breath, “we really need a break as to which direction he is headed.”

“That’s right, partner, we could really use a break right about now.”

***

Pauline got a text from the Chief. “See me when you’re back.”

He parked the pool car and went directly into Chief Gaines’ office. He related what they had done.

“Okay, we’ll get a tail on the girl. See where she goes, who she speaks to

“We need more than that. We need someone to hack her phone and her computer if possible to see if Dolby contacts her and tells her where he is going. It could be LA or San Francisco and we really need to figure out which, quickly.”

 “Did you try talking to her?” the Chief asked.

 “We did and got nothing. And, yes, it was in the principal’s office. But my bet is this pair is not big on authority figures and have trust issues.  Probably think we just want to bust his chops ‘cause we’re mean.”

“Well, what else would you think if your boyfriend was on the run from the law and you were sixteen?”

 Pauline shrugged.

“I’ll make phone calls. You’re going back to Dolby’s to talk to the computer geeks some more?”

  “Yeah, I’ll grab Rollie and we’ll go out together. Second pair of eyes.”

“Okay, have that Reynolds guy go with you too and search the grounds. He is very good at finding people, I’m told. Maybe he’ll come up with something.”

***

Later that afternoon, Pauline and Rollie led the parade back to the Dolby mansion and Sam followed. They got there and two uniforms were stationed outside of the home in the event the boy tried to sneak back in.

Pauline called them over.

 “Rollie, you take these two men and search the grounds. It’s a big place. There is always a possibility the kid is hiding somewhere close by.”

 “Aw, why do I always get the egg hunt?” Rollie whined.

 “Detective Mallory, you are a person with excellent observation skills and we need you for this.” Pauline gave his partner a dazzling smile. The three cops moved away down the drive and fanned out.

“Okay, Sam Reynold, let’s go speak some Geek.” They went to knock on the door.

***

An hour later, they had interviewed all the scientists Pauline had met before. They didn’t seem to be any closer to something that would help them track Thomas Dolby. They were also introduced to another scientist, Max Johnson from New York.

“I’m the numbers guy.” He smiled at them broadly.

 “Numbers?” Pauline asked.

 “Yes, right. The basic code is based on languages, but….” The scientist rolled his eyes.

   “But?” Pauline found himself getting irritated at this guy’s superior attitude.

  “Randomization.”

   Sam and Victor stared at him. Dr. Ben-Hur entered the conversation.

 “Just spit it out, Max. They don’t know this stuff.” She turned to the detectives. “You know probability studies, like what will happen when you roll a pair of dice, kind of thing?”

  Both men nodded.

“Randomization,” Dr. Johnson finally started talking. “Randomization is the science of creating random number sequences so that, the next number in the sequence cannot be guessed or predicted.” He smiled at them.

 They were still a little blank.

“Meaning,” Dr. Ben-Hur added quickly, “by creating random sequence numbers in each code, it makes the code that much more difficult to hack and/or to predict when the next code will arrive. The language notes are the written message and the number sequences which keep changing every time, keeping the code safer from decoding attempts.” She shot a dark glance at Johnson.

“Okay, then,” Pauline replied. “I think we are understanding a little better how this thing works and why it is so valuable.” He looked at Sam who nodded his head. He made some more notes in his book. “We’ll take off. Call if anything seems important.”

 Johnson flounced away with an air of dismissal.

They were making their way to the elevator. Pauline heard his name. He turned and Dr. Ben-Hur was coming toward him.

 “Meet you upstairs?” he said to Sam.

“Sure,” Sam got on the elevator up.

 “Paulie, just one thing.” She came up to him and he was dazzled by the eyes all over again.

“Thomas used to join us for lunch sometimes upstairs. We couldn’t talk to him about our work of course, but he did seem to like to chat.”

“Okay.”

“He used to talk about how he hated the Valley and really wanted to live in LA. Wanted to live there so he could learn to surf. Used to talk about ‘getting away from the mausoleum.’” She waved her hand around the room.

 “Hum that could be of some use. Thanks, Doctor.”

  “Call me Gallah, Detective Paulie.” She grinned.

He stared at her a moment. “Ah, do you like French food?” He asked.

“There’s a little place in town, not very big, but the food….”

“I adore French food.” She put a hand on his arm. “You have my number. Call me and we can set it up.”

“Yeah, well, yes. I’ll do that” he stammered. “First thing I get home.”

She smiled again and turned and went back to her lab.

Pauline went upstairs and joined Sam.

“So, did you get the damned date or not?”

Pauline looked surprised.

“I’ll take that as a yes. She’s a dish, that one.” He winked.

Pauline grimaced but said nothing. They left to get in their cars.

***

Back at the station, Pauline compared notes with Rollie.

“So, what on the grounds?”

“Nothing, there are a couple of gardening sheds where he might hide but nothing to show he’s been there. Plus, the Dolby’s have gardeners and maintenance men crawling all over the place. Chances are they would’ve seen the kid. Not a hair on his head. I don’t think he is anywhere near that place.”

“What’s you get?”

“Well, he hates the Valley, wants to live in LA and become a surfer. Other than that, not much.”

“The more I know about this kid, the less I like him,” Rollie added. “I mean, his parents could afford the best education in the world and what does he want to do? Drop out and become a surfer. Jesus.”

They both contemplated that thought a moment.      

“What now, boss?”

“Now, you and I go home and get some sleep. The spooks are hacking into the girlfriend’s phone. We wait to hear if he contacts her and says anything meaningful.”

“You mean something other than “I way want to do you, Baby!”

“Yeah, just like that. Let’s go. We might not get another chance for a while.”

***

Early next morning, Victor Pauline and Roland Mallory were both to the station early, holding large cups of Starbuck’s. They were at the Chief’s door.

“Where’s mine?”

 Pauline felt a little embarrassed. “Sorry, Chief.”

“Aw, forget it. Come in boys and meet Agent Kelsey. Kelsey this is Detective Pauline and Sargent Mallory.”

They all shook hands and sat down. Kelsey was in a mourning dove gray business suit with a subtle but nice tie.

 How many shekels did that suit cost him? Pauline wondered.

“Thank you both for coming in early and also on the intel on the girlfriend,” Kelsey consulted some notes.

They accepted the compliment graciously.

“We were able to hack the girl’s phone and intercept a call from Dolby, Jr.”

“Where is he?” Rollie asked.

“It was a burner phone like we thought he would use. He was calling from a big truck stop just north of Bakersfield.”

“So, he is going south,” Paulie mused out loud.

“Sorry?”

“Aw, just something someone mentioned. That Dolby always wanted to go to Los Angeles to learn to surf.”

“Well,” the agent was serious, “he might get a chance to do that if we get to him before anyone else does.” He glanced around the room.

“Anyway, our though is that he is traveling as a passenger, probably in a truck.”

“Why not a car?”

“Since several bad endings with hitchhikers have occurred, almost no one will pick up lone travelers. Except of course truckers.”

“I bet they’re lonely and want the company,” Rollie put in.

“Yes, that and also they are usually pretty buff and well-armed. They’re less fearful.”

“If my detectives can stop interrupting, we can get to it.” The Chief glared at them.

“Right,” Agent Kelsey smoothed his tie. “We don’t want to spook him and let him know we know where he is.  So, the equipment guys plan to set up a series of cameras next to the road to snap face recognition photos of every vehicle southbound.”

“But they go so fast,” Pauline couldn’t help himself.

“Excellent point. The CHP will help us with a deliberate traffic slow down here,” he pointed at a spot on his map south of Bakersfield. “All vehicles will be forced to slow, not stop and the camera will be clicking photos every thirty seconds. Then, the images go into face recognition. We have already loaded his picture and voila! We ID the vehicle he is in.”

“Wow,” Rollie’s mouth was open. “I want to work for the FBI.”

Kelsey grinned.

“And then?” Paulie asked.

“Then the CHP helps us again. As soon as we have positive ID, we stop the vehicle in an isolated spot and have them get out.”

“Isolated?”

“This kid seems to have a history of running. We want to make sure, where ever he runs, there are miles and miles of nowhere.”

“Ah,” Pauline, Rollie and the Chief all nodded.

“So, now?”

“Now we wait. If this works and we snatch the kid, one of you will have to come get the gadget and take it back to Dolby, Sr.”

“Doesn’t your agency get it?” Paulie asked.

“Actually no. We use the gadget, but we don’t own it. Dr. Dolby is the originator and owner of the device.”

“So, we wait to hear.”

“Yes, and with any luck, it won’t be very long.”

***

Later that afternoon Pauline and Rollie were out on a robbery call. Paulie got a text.

“Hey,” he waved to his partner. “It’s the Chief.”

 “What’s it say?”

“Hum. Got him. Call me.”

He dialed the Chief.

“Gaines.”

 “Chief, it’s Paulie.”

“Ah, good. They got the kid. He is at the CHP station just north of the Grapevine. You know where it is?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Good, take Rollie and the two of you drive down there. Apparently, all this running and hiding has him all tuckered out and he’s asleep. I want you there for the interview when he wakes up. They are sending a couple of guys from the agency in LA to talk to him.”

“Ah, jeese, Chief. That’s a long way.”

“Yeah, I know. Take you three hours you start now. Next item, the father has waived his rights to be in on the interview.”

“What are we going to ask him?”

“Whatever he has to say. Let him babble if he wants. We’re all ears.”

Pauline was sighing audibly on his end.

“Don’t complain, there’s more.”

“Oh, God …”

“Shut up.”

You two will bring him back but he doesn’t go home.”

“Where’s he going?”

“He’s going straight to rehab. The dad is getting all the details and I will text you when I know.”

“Anything else, Chief? Help him with his homework?”

“Paulie, straighten up your attitude. This kid has major problems and people, including him, could have been killed over this shit.”

“Okay, Sir. You’re right as usual.”

“Course I’m right. Usually am. Get hopping and get me the important stuff from the interview.”

Pauline signed off.

“Buddy, we be going to LA.”

An hour and a half later, Rollie and Pauline were southbound on the 99. Rollie was reading one of his favorite girlie magazines.

“How can you read that shit?” Paulie asked him.

“Fine literature, why this girl,” he held up a glossy picture, “is an English major!”

“Yeah, she is. Studying Deep Throat or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

“Who?”

“Never mind.”

Rollie got a message ding on his phone. He read it.

“Oh, hot tamales, it’s cooking when I get back.”

“Who was that?”

“Cinnamon Cinder.”

“Cinnawhat?”

“Cinnamon Cinder.”

“That’s a person?”

“A girl, actually. You remember them, Paulie. I know it’s been a while. But like riding a bicycle…”

“You’re married, Rollie. Like I keep reminding you. Are you meeting her?”

 “Yes, coffee and a small sale.”

“Sale of what?”

  “Underwear.”

“What, she sells men’s underwear?”

“No, women’s. Hers.”

“Her underwear.”

“Yeah, used.”

“Used…. you know, either I am losing my hearing or my mind. Not sure exactly which.”

Rollie laughed.

“What do you want her used underwear for and how much?”

“Fifty bucks and I keep them to smell.”

“You…Lucinda better not find out about you spending money this way.”

“Don’t tell her. Please, Paulie.”

“Doesn’t she miss the money?”

“I tell her I go to the races now and then, and just can’t help myself. Better than chasing women. She’s okay with that.”

“Where do you keep these skanky panties anyway?”

“In my drawer at work, along with my magazines. Lucinda threatened to shoot me if I brought any more home. Said the girls were finding them and asking questions she didn’t want to answer.”

  “Sounds fair. How often do you do this?”

“Well, the smell only lasts awhile and then I need another pair.”

“I see. Does this Cinnamon Cinder do anything other than drink coffee when she is with you?”

 “She lets me do a deep throat kissing. Like French kissing but more. My wife won’t do that with me. Thinks it’s disgusting.”

Pauline wiped his forehead. “You know, I think I’m sorry I asked.”

***

They traded driving once, stopped for burgers and got to the CHP in a little over three hours. They checked in and were ushered back. Two new guys in grey suits were there and they brought the kid into an interview room.

Not much had changed. He was his usual sullen, pissy self with the added attitude of being victimized and extremely inconvenienced. He slouched in old jeans, a beat up leather vest, torn t-shirt and various black leather bracelets with silver pikes. His hair was a dirty blond mullet and he played with the tattoos on his fingers.

After thirty minutes of lying and complete bullshit, the essential information rose to the top.

Pauline texted the Chief. ‘Scientist Max Johnson, from New York was the contact. They had been texting. The drop was to occur in San Pedro tomorrow night.’

The Chief texted back. ‘Good work. Get a signed statement. As much info as possible. When done, you will travel back to Bakersfield. The kid’s going to Serenity Hospital in Bakersfield. Father will meet you there to check the kid in.’

An hour later, the interview was over. The signed statement was being faxed to everyone involved.

“You want to use the bathroom before we go?” Pauline asked the kid.

In usual truculent fashion, the kid shook his head no. Paulie left him with Rollie and went into the office. He got a large plastic jar with a lid from the CHP guys.

“Pee jar,” he said and smiled. They smiled back.

Rollie and Pauline got the kid to the back of the patrol car. It was separated from the front with a wire mesh screen and a window that closed on their side. The doors locked from the outside and there were no handles on the inside.

Pauline opened the door and put the large plastic jar in on the seat. To that, he added a large bottle of water and several bags of candy.

“What the hell is all that?” The kid demanded.

“That is dinner, drinks, and your toilet.”

“You can’t do that. When I got to go, I need a toilet.”

“Sorry pal, you have a really bad habit of going out bathroom windows, so this is it. Or, of course, you can just hold it ‘til we get home.”

“You are going to be so sorry, you cop pig. I’m going to tell my father and you are totally going to lose your job. Asshole. “

“Well, you are right about one thing, Bub.”

“What’s that?”

  “We are both going to be speaking to your Dad, together, very soon.”   

The kid looked at him with disbelief.

“Get in now or we put you in cuffs.”

The kid plunked himself in the back seat with a scowl.

 Pauline closed the door.  He took the driver’s seat, Rollie was shotgun.

The kid started to yell at them. Paulie reached back and closed the window and put on the air.

  “Starbucks?”

“Let’s go,” Rollie said. “I got a date.”

***

In less than two hours they pulled in front of the hospital. Dr. Dolby was standing out front. There was a doctor in a white coat next to him and two, large and rather imposing male nurses flanking them.

Pauline pulled up front. He and Rollie got out.

“Dr. Dolby, sir.”

“Pauline, Rollie. Dr. Mollgarten is the primary physician here. He will take over. Thank you so much for your help.”

The two shuffled their feet and mumbled.

“Also, can I request that you both and Mr. Reynolds, too, come to the house tomorrow, say about lunchtime, for a little…. debriefing.”

“Sure,” Pauline looked at Rollie. “We’d like that.” Rollie nodded.

“Also, did you get it?” Dolby looked anxiously at the pair.

Paulie went to the trunk, opened it and pulled out a small box. He handed it to Dolby who sighed with relief. He turned and Phillips hurried forward. The butler gently took the box and turned to go to the Doctor’s waiting car.

They could hear Thomas Jr. making noise in the back of the patrol car.

Pauline looked at Dr. Dolby.

 “We’ll get him out, but he will probably try to run.”

Dolby nodded and looked at the doctor.

The doctor nodded to the two nurses who went and stood by the car. Pauline unlocked the back door and opened it.

Like a trapped animal, Thomas lurched forward and was about to launch himself.  Quicker than greased lightning, the nurses grabbed him by the upper arms.  They frog-marched the young man forward and up the steps to the hospital. The doctor followed his nurses and Dolby followed the doctor.

Dolby turned at the entrance.

“Okay, see you tomorrow?”

“See you then, sir.”

It was a quiet Rollie and Pauline who drove back to Central, each in his own thoughts.

“You know, P, this was really more your bust than mine. Plus, that PI guy. Also, we got the kid’s statement. Now, it’s just a matter of chasing down that Johnson guy. I don’t see that we will really be part of the cleanup. I mean, do you?” Rollie asked, his brow furrowed.

“Well, yeah. You got a point. You don’t want to go? Great food.”

“I know, but that big old place and this wacko kid. Whole thing sort of depresses me, you know? What the hell is the point of all that money, anyway?”

“Yeah, okay, no prob. I’ll call Sam. He won’t turn down a free meal.”

***

Next day found Pauline and Sam Reynolds knocking on the door of the mansion at 11:45am. A maid in a starched black and white uniform let them in and led the way to the study.

“Come in, come in!” Dr. Dolby was there and looked to be almost back to his old self. A few shadows under his eyes, but otherwise in good spirits.

“Ah, where’s Phillips, Dr. Dolby? I thought he was always right here.”

“He usually is. No, Phillips is on a mission.”

They both looked at him curiously.

“Ha! Phillips is going after Johnson, who ‘took a powder’ as soon as he heard Thomas Jr. had been picked up.”

“Phillips, sir?” Pauline was a little incredulous.

“I know. Remember I told you he was ex-British military?”

“Yes.”

“Intelligence, actually. Yes, Phillips can be very persuasive when he wants.”

Pauline shook his head and smiled at Sam. Sam was shaking his head too.

“Please sit down. Coffee, beer?”

“Still on duty. Maybe a coffee.”

Dolby got up and poured the drinks himself.

“So, what now with Thomas, Jr., Dr. Dolby?” Paulie asked.

Dolby handed the coffees around and sat back in his desk chair.

“He’ll be at Serenity for six months. He turns eighteen when he’s in there, but he is also on probation, so we can probably work something out with the probation officer, so he stays the whole six months. Maybe even longer.”

Pauline and Sam nodded and sipped coffee.

“And you, Doctor. Your research?” Sam asked.

Dolby put his cup down carefully and looked around his library. He was seated at a huge walnut desk. There were custom bookshelves on every wall crammed with books, many of which looked to have been read. Beautiful French doors looked out on a sweeping green lawn. The stillness of the morning was only broken by the wap, wap of the rain bird sprinklers outside. They trailed large plumes of water across the lawn. Flowers filled the flowerbeds.

“Yes, my research. Well, this…what happened was very, very bad. People could have been hurt, maybe killed.” The man studied his green desk blotter.

Pauline glanced at Sam.

“This house is my wife’s house. It belonged to her father. She came from some money. I had the brains and the education and together we built this.” He waved his arm around the room.

“But what happened changes everything. I can’t keep the business here, for security reasons. Eventually, Thomas will get out and well …. ”

“He is a difficult kid to trust, sir,” Sam added.

“Yes, he is, and I can no longer trust his mother to not try to help him. And, she just can’t stop herself. You understand?”

Sam nodded his head.

“You have kids right, Mr. Reynolds?”

“Two, boy and girl.”

“Anything like this ever happen with you?”

“The boy – drugs. His mother wouldn’t stop giving him money no matter what I said. She couldn’t stop either.”

“So, you see what I mean. Did he ever sober up?”

“Yes, sir. But he was almost forty when it happened.”

“Forty! Good God. See, I just can’t …. ”

“There are some nice office spaces downtown, Doctor, close to the convention center. Also, they have some cute little condos going for sale in the rehabbed area of town. You might like it, for late nights.” Sam added hurriedly.

“Yes …. ” Dolby stared out the windows. “Inconvenient,” he spoke like he was talking to himself. “But things have to change. Yes, things have to change.” He snapped back into focus. “How about that lunch?”

They all got up and went to the dining room.

Paulie sat next to Dr. Ben-Hur.

“So, you got your man,” she said to him with a smile.

“We got our kid. The man is still on the run.”

“Johnson. Grr. I always suspected that little rat. He was the last one to join the team. Never was really one of us, snotty attitude the whole time.”

“Ah,” Pauline said and started grabbing dishes as they went by.

“So, Detective Pauline, did you suspect me of being a spy?”

“Well …. ”

She laughed. “Actually, you would have been right. In Israel, everyone must do mandatory military service, including the women.”

“Yes?”

“So, I did, and I was part of the Intelligence/Combat team. That’s where I got so interested in cryptology. I had already studied Aramaic in college so one thing led to another.”

“I see,” Pauline buttered a roll.

Gallah spooned some salad onto her plate.

“So, how are your intelligence skills at figuring out what I am thinking right now?” he asked her.

“I don’t do mind reading,” she told him with a blush.

“Well, my mind is saying we should continue this interesting conversation over dinner. Maybe at Chez Louis, tonight.”

“You know, Detective, I just might be able to slot you into my busy schedule.”

“Okay, it’s a date.”

“One request, Paulie.”

“Yes.”

“No uniform.”

“Okay.”

“But bring the handcuffs.”

He laughed.


Bio: Courtney Webb is a college instructor in Arizona. She loves to go hiking and swimming. When she is not busy harassing her students, she is reading books and stories and writing. She can be found at her website, Webbywriter1.com

    

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