It was approximately eleven AM when Harris roused himself from his bed. A knock on the door startled him and he nearly rolled off the bed onto the floor foam twisting around too violently. “Who is it?”, he yelled and then waited. A number of seconds passed. “Who is it?“, he repeated louder more emphatically than before. Still nothing. He got to his feet and with arm outstretched searched for his trousers while keeping his eyes fixed on the door. It seemed odd but if someone was coming after him he couldn’t bear the thought of some stranger coming to do him some harm and catching him in his skivvies. He grabbed the pants from their crumple by the bathroom entrance and leaning on the wall he snagged a limb in each leg. A third knock heavier than the others before rang out accompanied by a muffled voice barking, “Police, open the door!.” Harris felt a spike of adrenalin shoot through his limbs. “Ok, Ok!“, he replied instinctively, “I’m coming.” He limped a pace to the door and unlatched it opening it up to find two ‘salt and pepper‘ burly looking figures each dressed in a two-piece Men’s Warehouse sale suit and tie that almost mirrored the other’s. The black one that had his gold shield in the palm of his hand asked, “Is your name Harris?” “Yes“, he answered in a drowsy halting tone looking back and forth between the two men wondering what he should say and what he should shut his mouth about. “May we come in?“, the other detective offered while taking a step forward, his momentum backing Harris into his own room. “Please sit down if you will Mr. Harris.“, the first one alternated. The two detectives automatically cased the small room their eyes scanning like hyperactive light house beacons picking up detail. One of them taking a step toward the bathroom and giving it the same treatment.
“May I ask what this is all about?“, Harris said internally aggravated with himself for reciting trite television dialogue. “Mr Harris, my name is Detective Cameron and my partner’s name is Detective Moore and we wasn’t to ask you if you know someone by the name of Sven Gunderson?” The two men were now focused on Harris measuring his response. He sat there staring back at the men trying to mentally shake himself out of his startled sense of confusion. “You have to excuse me officer . . . but I just woke up.“, Harris said as calmly as he could. The black ‘salt shaker‘ detective looked over at the small collection of empty half liters next to the head of the bed on the floor. His partner looked aggravated as if he was getting pissed off going to have ask the same question yet again. “Are you talking about Swede?” “A guy about six and a half feet . . . or at least he was before he got his legs chopped off?“, Harris looked the man dead in the eyes for a reaction. The one cop looked over slightly turning towards the other their eyes both narrowing simultaneously and then back to Harris. “Mr Harris would you mind getting dressed, we need you to please come with us?” said the white ‘salt shaker‘ detective. “Am I under arrest?“, Harris looked back at them with his best attempt at a dumbfounded look. “We said please Mr. Harris . . . not need you to . . .“, detective ‘pepper‘ retorted crisply.
The entrance to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office was prefaced by an odd looking several story building with red and white alternating brickwork gave one the impression that its twin was lurking somewhere in Amsterdam doing service as an administration building. The bigger gray box like structure behind it was the newer facility functioning facility behind its predecessor which was now a museum tourist attraction and most probably at times a movie set. The sign out front of the original site said it had a gift store open from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM. “What in the hell would a corpse need there? . . . an extra souvenir shroud?” The squad car wound around a couple of medical complex annexes and back again to the parking lot of what looked like some meat packing plant for humans. The detectives took Harris in the front entrance through a mini-maze of corridors to a small room with a television set and a blank door to a much larger adjoining room. As the three of them winded through its confining space Harris looked up to catch a glimpse of the Swede’s face above a on a monitor. The cops escorted him to a three high wall of stacked stainless steel refrigerator doors and the gurney that held the body. Harris was too familiar with the grotesque aftermath of violent death as dealt from both sides of the gun to be shaken to dramatically by a high caliber gunshot that had essentially detached most of the back of the dead man’s skull from the ear back. The deflated face on half a head tilted back like a broken piece of crockery. It was obvious from the residual blood and brains still evident that Swede was a fresh arrival. “Where did you find him?“, Harris asked somberly. Detectives ‘Cobbie and Lobbie‘ looked at each other once again. “He was found on Sixth and Los Angeles in the driver’s seat of a van.” “Someone must have come up on him from the back and shot him through the driver’s side window.” Harris’ expression hardened, “Swede was a competent field Marine who was ever alert . . . it was next to impossible to believe that anyone could have eluded his attention and gotten that close without Swede reacting.“, Harris thought to himself. “We believe that he was the victim of a robbery.“, the white cop droned on, “He had your name and hotel number scribbled on the back of an old store receipt in his wallet.“, volunteered his partner in true reciprocal ‘vaudville‘ tempo. “Textbook case because one of our patrolmen saw the flash and ran down a suspect within a minute.“, the white cop recited dryly as if reading his remarks from the text of a filed report, “We need to bother you a bit more . . . if you don’t mind.”
The L.A. County Jail Central Division was another featureless modern civic structure that could boast the economy savings feature of an absence of windows. The public entrance sheltered a one-story green glass enclosed lobby hiding another internal maze of narrow corridors. This time with intervals of metal screened doors and an electronic guard post tended incarceratd section. One of the ‘Bobsey Twins‘ escorting Harris feeling the building nervousness of his arm within his grasp offered, “We just need you to identify someone . . . it’ll just take a bit.” “It’s all routine.” Harris knew enough from peripheral encounters both in the military and in the regular world not not to trust that one. The end of the line was the inside of a small chair lined darkened room facing a large long window in its wall that looked directly into another. The room beyond just adjacent contained a heavy gray metal table with a young Hispanic male slouched back in a metal chair. Both of his handcuffed wrists rested lazily upon the table’s edge while he mixed his nervous side to side glances with a brass act of aggravated defiance. Harris saw the man’s neck tattoos and instantly recalled that it was the same rough punk from the Stay On Main who had purposely bumped him before the two cops arrived in the lobby . The detectives looked at him as he in turn viewed the young man with an impassive aire. “Mr. Harris by any chance have you seen this man before?” Both cops continued to search for the barest of details of any sort of reaction from his face. Harris just waited starring at the man while thinking aloud in the cache’d cavern of his brain. If Harris had taken a direct head shot given the placement of the physical damage it must have been from the front with a very powerful high caliber round from a distance of thirty meters or more. Possibly 30-30 cal or a 7.62? That would account for the back of his skull being essentially blown out. A ‘JFK‘ shot. Street punks might be sporting some big pimp pop gun that would shoot a ‘Dirty Harry’ .44 Mag . . ..357 Mag? But were hardly likely to be roaming the streets with an AK-47 or single round bolt action high power rifle. Something really stunk here. His two playmates were to glib and ready to call it a day with such a pat explanation. There was a lot going on here that wasn’t adding up.
“Mr. Harris, are you drawing a blank . . . have you seen this guy?“, detective ‘pepper‘ asked slightly irritated by the length of time of Harris’ quiet contemplation of the suspect. “Officer, I’m sorry I’m not feeling very well my Diabetes is catching up with me and I need to lay down or I might pass out.”, Harris moaned, “The guy’s a Hispanic and I just can’t tell if he is someone that just hangs around the neighborhood . . . I just don’t know him . . . can I go?” Detective ‘Salt‘ shook his head and yelled back out the open door to call someone out front to line up a squad take their witness back to his hotel. The ride back had Harris thinking hard. Who in the hell was out there? Was someone on another building or did that mysterious ‘Wingnut‘ Captain hanging out in the old hotel’s antechamber have some sort of ‘special ops‘ team on duty covering their asses? The ‘gang banger‘ kid in the room was probably another of the many ‘little people‘ who was caught being someplace at the wrong time. Yet, he recalled that the same kid had been ‘T’d’ off big time about some small black haired broad that the hotel ‘dickweed‘ lazying at the front counter wouldn’t deign to acknowledge.’ And then there was the other question that he tried not to face. “Did he let Swede down?” “Was it his fault that . . . he didn’t cover his buddies’ back?” “Had he gone ‘Bravo Foxtrot’ and was no longer worth shit?” Things were getting mighty serious and he was beginning to realize that the walls were closing in and he couldn’t escape his fate any longer. The cops dropped him at Seventh and Main and instantly took off on a 132, “armed robbery in progress!” He walked up to before the Tiki’s front door stopped and took a long look skyward at that demon hotel towering above. He thought hard that he could just continue to sink into himself from here on out and see if the drink would kill him faster than the cancer. He could go right upstairs pull out his suitcase and put his friendly little forty-five companion together and quickly swallow a final ‘goodnight‘ pill and be done with this whole mean cruel ass existence. Or he could do his best to recover what was left of himself and try to find out what the fuck this whole damn mess was really all about. The thoughts sailed through his mind’s eye like a bunch of angry clouds. The way he saw it standing stock still in the street he had absolutely nothing to lose anymore. He looked back over to the door of the lounge for another moment. A guy with a tiny dog past in between dragged along by a yapping dog. Harris turned around back down the street to the intersection. He’d better get some chow to straighten out the dizziness in his head and then go from there. Then he’d see.