I looked through the material quickly and found the name I wanted. I pointed at it. “He gets a pass.”
“I had suspected that, still do. Michael Silvers, AKA Mikey Plato. Will he know?”
“It would be wisest if he didn’t.”
“Then I no longer suspect.”
We had been speaking Mandarin. Johnny ended with “As it is in Heaven, so shall it be on Earth.”
Jerry repeated it, though he was confused and it showed.
Tori didn’t catch it either, but I had grabbed the fax from the DEA, and I could see her wheels turning.
“So,” I said, ” we verify this and while doing so, Jerry kills Gonzales.”
“That would be most satisfying.”
“Then as it is in Heaven, so shall it be on Earth.”
Jerry was still spinning was we drove back to the loft.
Tori finally spoke about halfway there. “Mikey isn’t a Confidential source. The only reason you’d give him a pass is DEA, only the dealer for Redondo to Oxnard, the surfer connection. He’s DEA?”
“Let Johnny deal with it. He’s beginning to limit it to the thrill seekers. Never surfed Lonesome my love?”
“Fuckin’ Shark Park asshole.”
This was an old code between us, only California surfers would know it. Lonesome and Shark Park are two of the most dangerous rides on the coast. At Shark Park, I almost killed both of us trying to be sure she was safe.
“I’d have told,” I said, ” didn’t have time.”
“Why doesn’t somebody tell me?” said Jerry from the back seat.
“Like I need to?” said Tori. “Connect the goddamn dots if you want to. Jerry, you’re the assassin. Do you really want to know why? We’re friends, if you want to know why, I’ll tell you why. Johnny knows why. The fact you don’t makes you so goddam good at what you do, want to face Ed, Ken, the rest of them, even Kat or Jo or me? You want to know who Gonzales is? Or for that matter who Mikey Plato is? Nicky sees a face when he kills, even if he doesn’t know them, you don’t if you do. You want to change that? In your mind have you ever killed any real human being?”
“Got it, and no Tori, I never have.”
“Johnny and Nick do, does that answer the question?
" Johnny, Joe, Nick, Ed, Ken, Aaron, Larry, Jack, Kat I have Jerry, Jo only kicked the crap out of a child molester, I scrambled the head of a serial killer with a jack handle. Sure, you’ve got it Jerry?”
“Yeh Tori, I’ve got it. Love you by the way.”
" Love you too Jerry.”
“So, you’re here to do some business with the big iron on your hip?” I said.
“Marty Robbins, follow up to El Paso, you got a problem with that Nick?”
" Hell no, just nice to know someone who can.”
“How we gonna do it?”
“We take the crew to Ken’s in Reseda, verify this, find out where Gonsales is, lure him to El Lay and you sorta borrow the Bronco. With, of course whatever you need out of Larry’s collection of sniper rifles. You stop in Chinatown, have a drink so the whole world knows where you were when, then you come back to Reseda and ‘sleep it off.’”
“Why go? Loan me the house, and maybe the gun. That South African job is beyond sweet.”
“Because we all need a piece, even if it’s only cementing an alibi. All of us need to help you pull the trigger. We’ve needed it for years.”
“Jerry,” continued Tori, “do you know Nick and the magazine fund a charity through Ho Chi Mihn City for the children of the firefights Nick and the others were involved in? These guys don’t kill without responsibility. They bleed for everyone they shot at. Even Joe, Aaron and the rest contribute. Jack more than he should. Different take Jerry. You kill objects, they killed people that the world set up to be objects. Tran lives with Larry and Jo, goes to Stanford, her father died in a firefight with Nick’s group. They pay for Stanford. Nicky bought her a car last Christmas, and it doesn’t stop the nightmare where he swears he killed her father.”
It took three days for Jerry to successfully use Larry’s custom-made South African sniper rifle. It was a relief to all of us. We decided on a barbeque, before going home.
Joey and Kat actually took off for Doheny about five and came back at noon, with a friend.
Joey introduced him, and gave me a minor heart infarction, as Mikey Plato.
“Mikey says he needs to talk to you Nicky,” she said. “And he’s an old friend of ours,” she looked over at Larry, “as well as Kat’s.”
I just motioned for him to follow, went into the guest room and closed the door.
“So, Mikey,” I said, “talk to me.”
“I don’t want to get shot.”
“And what makes you think you will be?”
“My employers are dropping like flies.”
“This leaves you to pick up the pieces, no? If you want my personal opinion the DEA undercover controlling the output of the Mexican cartel in Southern California is a really good idea. My advice is to turn it over to Johnny Shao, he can handle it better and limit it.”
Mikey turned white. “How...how do you know?”
“I’m a journalist, it’s my job to find out. In fact, I agreed to leave you alone, not contact you. In a way, you are the one person I am forbidden to shoot.”
Mikey seemed deflated, and relieved, all at the same time.
“So, what do I do from here?”
“You showing up here changes a lot. Go grab a burger and a beer. The Chinaman is named Jerry, talk to him, he knows who you are.”
The situation wasn’t good; I could burn Mikey.
I picked up the phone and called Mitch Kawalski.
“The best laid plans of mice and men aft gang agley.”
“So, what just blew up in our faces Nick?”
“Mikey ran to me to keep from getting shot. My family are surfers. He was even familiar to me after he was introduced. He’s eating burgers and drinking beer in the back yard. If he followed my advice he’s talking with Heaven and Earth’s assassin.”
“So where do we go?”
“Let the assassin take him back to Heaven and Earth, add a level of control and he steps into control of the cartel on the west coast. Johnny can keep it sane. And if Johnny allows it, you have numerous opportunities to stop most of what you want to stop. Johnny can send it back to Asia.”
" John Shao is going to let us get that close?”
“John serves a market, he’s an expert at it. Mikey gives him a second market, give him a call, I know you know the number. ”
“Where does Mikey go from here?”
“Can you arrange that?”
“Then lay your plans, little mousey, don’t let a plow force them agley. Mikey gets into Heaven and Earth? We’ll buy it, provisionally. John knows the liability? ”
“John told me about Mikey, not vice versa. I’m sure he knows more than he’s let me in on. Mikey cut back on the coast significantly. He and Johnny have the same goal there. Johnny wants the Mexicans out of his market. We want them out of the schools. Sounds like a plan.”
“So, I’ll drop a dime on Shao, you’ll do the rest?”
“As best I can arrange it.”
Out in the backyard I picked up an oriental shaved beef sandwich, grilled in a variation of a sauce Jerry brings from Honk Kong. Kat grilled it, actually helped invent it. It had a peppery heat from lemon grass and sweetness from sweet tea leaves. I corralled Mikey and Jerry in the back of the yard and clued them in. Since their bosses were in confab, it seemed only fair to let them in on it.
Mikey arranged to give Jerry a ride back to the bay, the message would be clear. Though no one could prove a thing, it was obvious who sent Gonzales to the big marijuana patch in the sky. The truce between Heaven and Earth and the cartel had been breached, the bay area was being ‘cleansed’ of those who dealt in Mexican mind benders, Gonzales bought it in El Lay, Mikey, or some favored El Lay dealer, going to Chinatown was almost an expectation.
I was happy that it was over, but sad that it ever happened. There were a few nightmares around the corner, I could hear them growling in the jungles in my mind. There is no closure in revenge. Just regret and the opportunity to have it returned to you in the middle of the night.
I drove back with Tori in her Mustang. This always reminds me of the French actor Eddie Considine in the movie Alphaville, in which Jon-Luc Goddard makes a Mustang an interplanetary vehicle. The curious thing was that over our California years I had garnered two tickets. Tori who traveled California’s highways at speeds that always surpassed two digits, never got one. She didn’t use a radar detector, and the talent amazed me enough to ask.
“It’s in the traffic,” she said. “You have to be attuned to it to drive this way. People who just had a CHP in their midst drive differently for a while. It’s a ‘tell,’ and those of us who learned it take a pretty dedicated and hidden speed trap to catch.”
I was about to call it bullshit, until Joey and Kat gave me pretty much the same answer, though Kat still relied a bit on her radar detector. And to my surprise Larry also knew it. Being a constant steady type of driver, the information wasn’t helpful.
While the world tumbled around and everything exhibited a bit of chaos, Tori had ensured order. When everything came down Jen was dispatched to monitor everything, handle everything, from the box in the opera house. They actually looked for her, Jerry’s date. So carefully organized on my desk was everything that happened while Harold reoccupied the hot seat. Every folder was labeled with a post it note color-coded. Yellow was a fait accompli, green for needs immediate attention; blue for can sit a bit. Thankfully there were no pink notes, indicating that there were no emergencies. Jen had rather obviously made herself felt in New York, as one of the folders contained a memo from Harold that said , simply: “Good Lord Jennifer, I haven’t even had my coffee.”
Harold actually had three issues in varying states of readiness as well as assigned three future stories. The previous week, Saddam Hussein had proven me prescient by taking Kuwait. Since I already had Rick and Candi on it we beat the other weeklies easily having the in-depth piece on a storyboard. Harold had dispatched them to Riyadh and I had two local stringers in Kuwait, one of which was still in place, the other was in the palace and escaped with the Emir and his family. The bases were pretty well covered overseas, but the story was now here. Bush would not let this sit.
I went to my contacts from whom I hoped to get a picture of the coalition Bush would need to take back the emirate. He had already dispatched a sizeable force to Saudi Arabia, welcomed because Hussein was rattling his saber at the Saudis having found Kuwait an easy morsel to digest. Still without obvious international support Bush couldn’t move further.
The picture that I was unveiling didn’t look promising. Most of the world looked at it as purely an Arab matter, and were disinclined to join in any meaningful way. History had taught them that the internecine arguments of the Arabs were transient and expensive to get involved in. Fear of the United States gaining greater influence in the Middle East also lay in the background. The Saudis were the only ones being directly menaced and the rest of the world wasn’t all that interested in slapping down a dictator to aid a King.