Another hot day in L.A. 90-degrees, easy. It was now approaching 10:00 p.m. and the heat was beginning to break. El Conquistador. 1452 North Larrabee. A couple of blocks north of Sunset Boulevard, it was a 1950s stucco job with a fake Spanish facade. It was Home Sweet Home to Detective Lt. Joe Kellermann; close to forty, tall, lean, muscularly-built, good-looking. His ex-wife, Carolyn, whom he'd accidentally discovered was banging another cop (an ex-partner, no less) had a second description: unpredictably brusque, impatient at times with a ballsy, aggressive attitude. He usually came across as the cerebral tough guy.
If there was one redeeming feature to his one-bedroom, second-story, shoe-box of an apartment, it would have to have been the small, 4X7-foot balcony, which offered an unobstructed and dazzling view of the city. It was a carpet of glittering lights and neon which stretched all the way to the ocean. Kellermann stood at the balcony's wooden balustrade taking in the sprawling city; a cigarette in one hand and a chilled Heineken in the other. There was a full moon. The melodic tinkling of wind chimes, somewhere off in the distance. Los Angeles at night could be a magical place. He had just taken a deep drag on his cigarette when he stiffened somewhat—the loud, jarring sound of his cell phone had jolted him out of his reverie. He reached over to a nearby table and picked up. "Yeah. Kellermann here," he said softly. He could hear the graveled, nicotine-rasp of Captain Frank Russo, the chief honcho at the Hollywood Station. "Yeah, Joe. It's me. Russo."
"Hi Frank. What's up? Whaddya got?"
"Just got the word from Dispatch. Apparently a couple of patrol officers have discovered a black Cadillac sedan in a ravine off Lauren Canyon. Laurel Canyon and Skyline Drive to be more specific. The car has a personalized plate: KDK-1, whatever that means."
"They checked the car and found a single vic—white, male, middle-aged, behind the wheel. Vic was apparently shot twice in the head. Small caliber weapon. Gangland style."
"Joe, I need you to get over there right away."
"Yeah, Cap. Will do."
"I've already notified the M.E. and Forensics. Also the coroner's office. They should be there by now."
Kellermann nodded. "Okay. Good."
"Also contacted Detective Rodriguez. He's on his way as we speak. Kellermann, I need you to get over there, ASAP. Okay?"
"Yeah, Frank. I'm on my way!"
"That's Laurel Canyon, vicinity of Skyline Drive. I wanna hear from you as soon as possible. You copy?"
"You got it, Frank!" And he clicked off the cell.
* * *
Within minutes, Kellermann was cutting a sharp left on Sunset and was travelling east toward Laurel Canyon Boulevard. As he drove past the Strip he noticed the usual conglomeration of out-of-towners; the honchos, the hookers, the would-be starlets. The street was alive with neon, advertising the various bars and restaurants and hotels. Laurel Canyon Boulevard, one of the connecting roads between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, was a narrow, winding road with numerous treacherous curves; in some places completely enveloped by evergreen trees, eucalyptus and heavy brush. It was a dark, somewhat isolated area, strictly suburban; to Kellermann, it seemed like it was 10,000 miles away from the traffic and bustle of downtown L.A. He hit the brakes slightly as he began to maneuver his way around a tight, hairpin curve. All at once, he saw just ahead of him, a barrage of flickering red flares. Just beyond the flares was a serpentine line of vehicles: two black-and-whites, two unmarked sedans and a coroner's wagon. Predominant among the vehicles was a large, heavy-duty tow-truck. Two, high-powered spotlights mounted on the truck's rear, cast a bright sea of light on the sloping ground which dropped into a deep ravine. Barely visible in the tall grass and brush was the Cadillac sedan. Kellermann had just exited his silver SUV, when he spotted his partner, Detective Tony Rodriguez walking swiftly toward him. Rodriguez, about thirty, was dark, sensual, handsome with hair the color of a blackbird. He'd been raised in a two-bedroom house on South Soto Street in East L.A. All his life, he'd wanted to be a cop. He was trying to catch his breath as he approached Kellermann. "Hey! Good to see you, Joe!"
"Good to see you too, Rodriguez. What have we got here so far?"
"As Captain Russo probably told you, we got a single victim. He was shot twice in the back of the head. Close range. Small caliber weapon. Possibly a 9mm—"
"You got a name for this guy?"
"Yeah. Name's John Kendrick. Checked his ID. And a business card. He's an attorney. Business address is in Beverly Hills."
"What about place of residence?"
"448 North Palm Drive. Also, Beverly Hills."
"Uh-huh." Kellermann paused. "What about skid-marks? Any sign of skid-marks on the pavement, Rodriguez?"
"The forensic guys already checked. No sign of any skid-marks. They figure Kendrick was pulled over, the perp walked up and shot him. Whoever the shooter was, he released the brake, shoved the Caddy off the road and pushed it into the ravine. Does this look gang-related to you, Joe?"
"I dunno." Kellermann started to walk toward the tow-truck. In the piercing, bright shaft of light from the truck's twin spotlights, they could see three or four men huddled around the Cadillac. "Let's go down and take a look."
From the shoulder of the road, the downward slope was steep and loose-graveled in places and the detectives cautiously made their way down. Two forensics men were dusting the car for prints. Doctor Stanley Blackman, the M.E., tall and haggard looking, was making out a report in the Caddy's headlights. A deputy coroner stood idly by. The driver's door was open. After pulling on a pair of white latex gloves, Kellermann was carefully examining the body. Although his seatbelt was still fastened, Kendrick was slumped over on the passenger seat. He was staring directly at the floor. There was a wide pool of blood on the floor-boards. Two bullet wounds at the rear of his head were plainly visible. Thick streams of blood were seen flowing from the wounds. Kellermann retrieved himself from the interior of the car as he heard Blackman's voice directly behind him. "As you can see, Detective Kellermann, the victim took two shots to the head. Very close range. I would say, a 9mm—"
"Any speculation as to time of death, Dr. Blackman?"
"I would say, considering rigor, blood coagulation, etc., about two hours ago. I can tell you more tomorrow after we do an autopsy."
"Right. I understand." He paused. "I see, the vic has about $200 cash and all his credit cards are intact. That eliminates robbery."
"Yeah. Right. Looks like Kendrick was pulled over for whatever reason and he was shot. The car was rolled off the road and ended up in the ravine." Blackman paused. "Does this look like a Mob-hit to you, Lieutenant?"
"Possibly. At this point it's hard to tell." He turned to face Rodriguez. "You find anything significant in the rear seat, Tony?"
"No. Nothing at all. Looks pretty clean."
"What about the trunk? Anything there?"
"Naw." He shook his head. "Nuthin'. Zilch."
Blackman moved in closer. "You can remove the body anytime you want, Detective. We got everything we need."
"Okay. Thanks, Doc. We'll have the vic removed right away. We'll have the Caddy towed in, first sign of daylight."
"Whatever, Detective," Blackman said. "It's your call!"
A left turn at Sunset and Doheny, a right on Beverly, another right on North Palm Drive. Interestingly enough, there were no palm trees on North Palm Drive. The trees were all jacarandas. The Kendrick condominium complex was a tall, sleek, five-storied structure of steel and glass. Kellermann and Rodriguez stepped out of the building's elevator and proceeded to walk along the fifth-floor corridor to Unit No. 510. Kellermann rang the doorbell. They could hear the distant sound of musical chimes from somewhere inside the deep recesses of the apartment. The door suddenly opened and an attractive Hispanic maid appeared. She was dressed in a starched black and white uniform. "Yes. Can I help you gentlemen?" she said.
Kellermann flipped his ID. "Detective Kellermann...my partner, Detective Rodriguez. We're with the LAPD. We're here to see Mrs. John Kendrick. Is she available?"
Suddenly, a woman's voice could be heard calling from inside the apartment. "Who is it, Rebecca? Who's at the door?"
"There are two men from the Los Angeles Police, Mrs. Kendrick."
There was a slight pause. "Oh. Take them into the living room, Rebecca. I'll be right there."
The detectives followed as the maid led them into the spacious living room. Professionally decorated, the color scheme was white and silver; matching white Italian leather sofas facing a huge glass and chrome cocktail table; a collection of elaborately-framed oil paintings climbed the almond-tinted walls; a wall of glass overlooked the city. Rebecca had no sooner left, when Sharon Kendrick entered the room. Somewhere in her late thirties, she was tall, svelte, a honey-blonde, extremely attractive. She wore pale beige, tailored pants, matching spike heels, a sheer, faux, leopard-print blouse. She was also charming. She approached the two detectives, warmly shaking their hands, as Kellermann made the introductions. "Detectives with the Los Angeles Police?" she said calmly, "I'm delighted to meet you...but for the life of me, I can't understand why you are here."
Kellermann paused momentarily. "Mrs. Kendrick, there is no easy way for me to say this—"
A sense of alarm filtered across her face. "What is it, Detective?"
"There's been an accident involving your husband."
"An accident? Is he all right?" A look of panic gathered around her eyes. "Is my husband all right, Detective?"
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Mrs. Kendrick, but last night your husband was shot on Laurel Canyon Boulevard."
"Shot? Oh, my God! How could this happen? How bad is it, Detective Kellermann? Is he going to be all right? Is he going to be okay?"
Kellermann paused again. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Kendrick. Your husband didn't make it."
The detectives watched as Sharon Kendrick fell onto the nearby sofa. It was heartbreaking to see a woman of such poise, self assurance, dignity, fall into a labyrinth of despair and desolation. It was something they could never get used to. For a long moment she covered her face and silently grieved. Kellermann reached out and softly touched her shoulder. All at once she seemed to be regaining her composure. When she looked up, her eyes were filled with tears. "You said he was shot? How could this happen? I can't believe it!"
"We received a call about ten o'clock last night, that your husband's car, a black Cadillac was observed in a ravine off Laurel Canyon Boulevard. We investigated and found Mr. Kendrick slumped over in the front seat. He had been shot twice in the head with a small caliber weapon. He'd succumbed at the scene, Mrs. Kendrick."
"Oh, my God!" she whispered, "I can't believe this!" There was a long moment of silence. Suddenly: "Would you gentlemen like some coffee? Something to drink?"
"No thanks, Ma'am. We're fine." Kellermann took a seat, opposite. "But, we would like to ask you a few questions, Ma'am, if you feel up to it—"
"Yes. Yes, of course. I'd like to help in any way I can."
"As I understand it, your husband was an attorney. Correct, Mrs. Kendrick?"
"Yes, that's right."
"I would assume he was attached to a law firm, here in the city?"
"Yes. He was employed by Schapiro & Dunne, here in Beverly Hills."
"How long had he been with Schapiro & Dunne, Ma'am?"
She paused. "A little over ten years."
"Uh-huh, I see," he said, nodding. "Let me ask you this, Mrs. Kendrick. To your knowledge, has your husband been in any kind of trouble? I mean, disgruntled clients, anything like that?"
"No. Nothing that I can think of."
"Did he have any enemies that you know about? Any problem areas? Was he upset about anything?"
"No. Not to my knowledge."
"Was he in any way involved with...what should I call them?...undesirable characters...like the Mob? What I mean by that, did he happen to represent certain undesirable people?"
" I don't know too much about my husband's business, but no, I don't believe so."
"I ask that question, Mrs. Kendrick because of the circumstances in which your husband was killed—"
"What do you mean by that, Detective?"
"Frankly speaking, Mr. Kendrick was shot twice in the back of the head. Execution style. It's what we refer to as a 'Mob hit.'"
"Yes. I understand."
Rodriguez threw Sharon Kendrick a quick glance. "We have to ask you this question, Ma'am. Can you tell us where you were, let's say, between 6:00 p.m. and eleven o'clock last night?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Of course. I was here at the condo all night long."
"Were you alone, Mrs. Kendrick?"
"Yes. I was." she said, her voice rising.
"By any chance did you receive any phone calls...talk to anyone...anything like that?"
"No, I didn't."
Kellermann was in again. "When was the last time you actually saw your husband, Mrs. Kendrick?"
"My husband and I had an early dinner at Portofino on Melrose."
"What time did you leave the restaurant...approximately?"
"We left around seven-thirty or thereabouts." She paused slightly. "Actually, we'd driven both of our cars—"
"Any particular reason for that, Mrs. Kendrick?"
"My husband had an appointment with a client of his in Encino. He'd decided to drive over to the Valley through Laurel Canyon." She paused again. "I came straight home."
"So, I take it, you and your husband had made these arrangements beforehand...I mean, earlier in the day?"
"Yes. That's right."
Kellermann hesitated. "Mrs. Kendrick, this may sound irrelevant to you but it's another question we have to ask—"
"What's that, Detective?"
"Let's talk about the marital situation between you and your husband. Were there any problem areas, there?"
Once again, her eyes narrowed. "No. Not really. Like every other married couple I know, we had our ups-and-downs. It's part of the territory. We had our disagreements from time to time." Her voice rose slightly. "After all, we were married for God's sake!"
"Yes. I understand." Kellermann shrugged. "I was married myself, once."
There was a long pause as Sharon gazed at Kellermann. She seemed hesitant. "Detective," she said, "a short time ago, you asked me if my husband was in any kind of trouble...was he upset about anything? I believe those were the words you used—"
"That's right, Ma'am."
"I was just thinking back, a few weeks ago. As I remember, my husband was involved in a controversy at Schapiro & Dunne...the attorney's office—it may mean nothing at all."
"Can you tell us about that controversy, Ma'am?"
"Well, as I mentioned to you before, my husband rarely discussed his business affairs with me. As I remember, he was having a problem with an attorney-colleague of his. A man by the name of Paul Lesniak."
"What kind of a problem was he having with Mr. Lesniak, do you know, Ma'am?"
"My husband never went into any of the details but he and Lesniak, as I understand it, were working on an important case together. Apparently, to put it bluntly, Mr. Lesniak "screwed-up," in some way. He was subsequently terminated...fired by Mr. Schapiro, personally."
"And, approximately...when did this happen, Ma'am?"
"I would say about two to three weeks ago."
"As you said, your husband was understandably upset by all of this—?"
"Yes. He was. Even though Mr. Lesniak got the heave-ho, the axe, my husband was disturbed by the whole situation. It had turned into a discomforting ordeal for him."
"I see." Kellermann paused. "Can you tell us where we can find this Mr. Lesniak, Ma'am? By any chance, do you have an address? We'll need to talk to him."
Her tone was curt, dismissive. I've never met Mr. Lesniak. I have no idea where he lives. I'm sorry, Detective."
"No problem." The detectives got up to leave. "Our condolences on your loss, Mrs. Kendrick. We're very sorry about what happened to your husband."
"Thank you." She led them toward the door. "Do you have any clues as to who might have done this?"
"For starters, I think we're gonna have to have a little chat with Paul Lesniak. See what he's been up to, lately."
Los Angeles Police Department. Hollywood Division. Detective Bureau. 2:00 p.m., that same afternoon. Captain Frank Russo's office was on the second floor of the building, overlooking Wilcox Avenue. In the distance, facing East, could be seen the towering Capital Records Building. Russo's office was cramped, cluttered, claustrophobic. He'd been whining for several months now; he wanted an office with a little more space. A little breathing room. But apparently the downtown brass had turned a deaf ear. They weren't interested or they weren't listening. One wall was covered with a large blown-up map of Los Angeles County. A collection of framed black-and-white, glossy photographs climbed another wall. They were commonly referred to as Russo's Rogues Gallery, a collection of photos depicting the detective cozying up to a number of Hollywood's elite hot-shots—guys like Stallone, Clint Eastwood, De Niro and Al Pacino. There was the usual battleship-gray desk with matching metal file cabinets. An Arrowhead water-cooler stood in the corner, close by.
Tough-talking. Opinionated. Suspicious. Curious. Unapologetic. All the qualifications of a cop, and Captain Frank Russo had them all. He was a man in his early sixties, overweight with a slight paunch; he was direct, aggressive, fiercely dedicated to the police department. Russo was one of our paid paranoids—a cop who senses a conspiracy on a cloudy day. At the moment. he was leaning back in his leather chair, his hands clutched behind his head. He was intently involved in a Q & A session with Kellermann and Tony Rodriguez. "So, you're tellin' me, as far as you know, John Kendrick was not involved with the local L.A. Mob guys? Is that what you're sayin'?"
"That's right, Frank," Kellermann said.
"Well, this sure as fuck smells like a Mob-hit to me—"
"We're gonna do some more checking on that possibility, Cap. You can be sure of it."
Russo paused as he moved forward toward the desk. "And as we all know in a case like this, the spouse is always the chief suspect. Mrs. Kendrick maintains she was home at the condo between seven-thirty and midnight?"
"The Medical Examiner speculates TOD to be in the vicinity of eight o'clock. At least the timing is right and Sharon Kendrick doesn't have an alibi. After she left the restaurant she could have fuckin' been anywhere!"
"You're right, Frank."
"You said they each drove their own car. Very convenient. What was her explanation for that? You wanna run that by me again?"
Kellermann shifted his position. "She said the husband had an appointment with a client of his in the Valley. Encino. That's the reason he drove over Laurel Canyon Boulevard."
Russo smirked. "You know, if I was gonna knock somebody off, Laurel Canyon would be the perfect location. Out in the middle of goddamned nowhere!"
"You got that right, Cap," Rodriguez said.
Russo paused again. "We sure as hell don't have shit to go on with this case. About the only thing we got goin' for us, is this so-called colleague of Kendrick's...this Paul Lesniak. What do we know about him, Kellermann?"
"Make a long story short, Mrs. Kendrick told us there was a big brouhaha at Schapiro & Dunne, where her husband and Lesniak worked."
"What was that all about? Do you know?"
"Mrs. Kendrick was a little short on the specifics," Kellermann said, "but what I gathered was that Kendrick and this Paul Lesniak were workin' on a case together. We did a little checking and found out Schapiro and Company, came out the loser. They lost the case."
"Lesniak took the heat. Apparently he'd made a major screw-up. Kendrick came out of it all, smelling like a rose. Ten minutes after the verdict was given, Paul Lesniak was terminated. Shit-canned."
Russo mulled this information over in his mind momentarily, then he spoke. "I'm lookin' here for motivation, guys. Lesniak loses the case and to top it off, gets himself fired. That's gotta hurt! Who knows? That might have given Lesniak reason enough to go after Kendrick. Revenge makes for powerful motivation." He paused. "I think you should go out to Beverly Hills and have a talk with this high-priced attorney, Irving Schapiro. He may be able to connect the dots."
"We'll get right on it, Frank," Kellermann said.
"In the meantime we can't just drop Sharon Kendrick out of the scenario. My money's still on her. It's a long shot but who's to say she wasn't shackin'-up with this Paul Lesniak? I'm gonna put her under surveillance for a couple of days. How do we know if Lesniak and the good wife weren't in this thing together?"
"Anything's possible, Captain," Rodriguez said.
"I'd like you to stop by and see what his 'eminence', Irving Schapiro has to say. Okay?"
Kellermann nodded. "You got it, Frank."
* * *
The Frolic Room, because of its close proximity to the HPD and a block from Hollywood and Vine, had always been a popular hangout for the detectives. The cop bar was located directly adjacent to another Hollywood landmark, the Pantages Theatre. The Art Deco movie palace opened for business in 1930. It was built by Alexander Pantages who presented vaudeville acts between screenings of first-run movies. 17 years later Howard Hughes—who, legend has it, haunts its offices—bought it for his RKO Theatre Circuit. Now, shuttered as a movie theatre, it was home to legitimate stage productions—the marquee was lit up with a revival of Cabaret. In contrast to the Frolic Room, spelled out in flashing yellow and orange neon, the interior of the bar was dark, dusky. Patsy Kline was singing Crazy on the juke. The place was half-empty. Most of the action was centered on the long serpentine bar where the regulars (including a few retired police officers) were watching a big-screen TV. It was a Freeway, all-star game between the Dodgers and the Angels. Tony Rodriguez sat in a darkened corner booth at the rear; the moveable colored lights from the jukebox lighting up his dark, Hispanic features. Kellermann sat opposite. They were nursing mugs of cold Heineken. An attractive waitress in a tight-fitting black-satin skirt and white blouse, exposing a lot of cleavage, approached the booth. "You guys about ready for another round?" she said, throwing her 1000-Watt smile.
"Yeah, Darlene," Kellermann answered, "one more round and we're outta here..."
"I'll be right back," she whispered and disappeared into a cloud of blue smoke.
Rodriguez took a slug of his beer. He threw Kellermann a narrow glance. "You know, Joe...what Russo said makes a lot of sense when you think about it."
"You're talkin' about Sharon Kendrick."
"Yeah. I'm not sayin' she pulled the trigger but she could have hired some douche bag to do it. There's plenty of them around L.A....lemme tell ya!"
"Right." Kellermann paused. "Russo thinks it might also have been a Mob-hit. That's a possibility I suppose. My money's still on this Paul Lesniak. The son of a bitch was terminated from his job. Maybe he had something goin' on with Mrs. Kendrick. Why not get rid of the husband?"
"A lot of ifs, buts and maybes, Joe. Besides, she said she'd never met Lesniak."
Kellermann smiled. "Can't believe everything you hear, Tony. We're gonna have to check this Lesniak guy out."
"Yeah. I guess so."
Kellermann suddenly glanced toward the bar's street entrance. "Well...guess who just walked in the door?"
"That would be...who?"
"HPD's answer to George Clooney."
"You gotta be talkin' about Brad Palmer—"
The man Kellermann was referring to was Detective Brad Palmer, a look-alike for handsome actor, George Clooney. Palmer was 6'-2" tall, thirty-seven-years-old, with a lithe, muscular build. Detective Palmer had recently been transferred from the Rampart Division to fill a vacancy at Hollywood. Kellermann wasn't particularly impressed; the newly-transferred detective came across as being flippant, self-assured, with a 'screw-you' attitude. He'd spotted the two detectives and made his way directly to their table. "Do you mind if I join you guys?" he said and quickly slid into the booth, next to Rodriguez. At that moment the waitress appeared with two mugs of beer on a small tray. She served the two detectives, then turned to face Brad Palmer. "Detective Palmer...and what would you like to drink tonight?"
"I'd like a Scotch-rocks, Darlene. Chivas Regal, if you have it."
"One Scotch-rocks comin' right up," and she made her way toward the bar.
Rodriguez took a slow draw on his cigarette and exhaled. He turned to face Palmer. "Hey Brad, is Captain Stefano still harassing the troops down there at Rampart, like he used to?"
"Oh, yeah. Still as obnoxious as ever. Stefano's the main reason I got outta there—"
"I hear he's quite the ballbuster. Do it my way, or your ass is outta here!"
"You got that right." All at once the waitress appeared and served Palmer his Scotch-rocks. She quickly left. He reached over, picked up his drink and took a large gulp. "For some reason Stefano had a hard-on for me right from the get-go. What do they say about bad chemistry? He and I were like friggin' oil and water."
Kellermann nodded. "Yeah, I know where you're comin' from. Shit happens!"
"You wouldn't believe this guy. I swear to god he was out to get me. Accusations of a shakedown at a Union-Pico liquor store, verbally abusing and beating up suspects, planting evidence. You name it, I did it! Only trouble was IAD...the rat squad, they couldn't prove a thing. They got zilch! I wanted out and they knew it. I'd requested a transfer to Hollenbeck, 77th Division...anywhere. Lucky for me an opening came up at Hollywood and I jumped on it." He paused. "Well, enough of that crap. Changing the subject, I hear by the scuttlebutt, you guys caught the Kendrick case—"
"Yeah. That's right. We did," Kellermann said.
"And from what I hear, Sharon Kendrick is very easy on the eyes." He punched Rodriguez lightly on the shoulder. "Muy caliente! Comprendez, amigo?" Palmer's attempt at humor. Humor that fell flat. He turned back to Kellermann. "But seriously, all kiddin' aside, how's the Kendrick case going? You guys makin' any headway?"
"We're workin' on it."
"I hear she was at her condo in Beverly Hills, the night it happened. Am I right about that?"
"You got any workable leads? Any prospects? Any suspects?" Palmer smirked. "I mean, beside the grieving widow?"
"We're checkin' out a few possibilities. Nuthin' solid."
Palmer took another sip of his drink. He leaned in toward Kellermann. They were face to face. Nose to nose. "Hey," he said, "Just between us girls, as you know I'm fairly new in the department. I'm just feelin' my way around." His voice lowered. "I wanna ask a question and I wanna be totally honest with you. What's with this guy, you know—Frank Russo?"
The detective silently stared at Palmer. He said nothing.
"Like I said, I wanna be totally upfront with you. I'll tell you this much, I don't like the guy. I think he's a pain in the ass." He paused. "But enough about me. I wanna know what you think! I'm interested in your impression. Of course this goes without saying. It's confidential. Strictly between us. You know what I'm talkin' about?"
Kellermann paused for a long moment. "Russo's a stand-up guy. He's tough, direct, a little rough around the edges but he'll be behind you every time. You can count on it. Does that answer your question, Palmer?"
Palmer gazed at the detective. There was a glint of skepticism in his look. He was not convinced. He shrugged. "Well, I guess that clears the air. At least I got a straight answer. I know where I stand." Suddenly he drained his glass and started to get up to leave. He glanced at his watch. "Holy shit! Is it ten o'clock already? I got me a hot date over on the West side." He grinned. "It's been nice but I gotta haul ass. I'll see ya around!" Moments later, Palmer had left the bar.
When Kellermann and Rodriguez walked into the Hollywood Station the following morning, they'd received the customary greeting from the desk sergeant, a young man in his late twenties who always looked sharp in his dress-blue uniform. As Kellermann proceeded to walk by, the officer grabbed him lightly by the arm; his look was serious, intense. "Detective Kellermann," he said, "Captain Russo just called me on the phone. He said he wants to see you and Rodriguez in his office right away. The minute you get here. I gotta tell you, he didn't sound too happy—"
"Okay. Thanks for the heads-up."
It was relatively easy to tell when Frank Russo was aggravated or pissed-off about something. His face became chalk-white, completely devoid of color. That was the first thing Kellermann noticed when he and Tony Rodriguez walked into Russo's office, a few minutes later. "What's goin' on, Captain?" Kellermann said, the hint of slight trepidation in his voice.
"What's goin' on? I'd like to know, what's goin' on!"
"What are you talkin' about?"
"I just got last night's surveillance tape on Sharon Kendrick and I want you guys to tell me I'm not dreamin'. Okay?"
"Okay, Cap. Show us what you got!"
Russo crossed to a nearby credenza where there was a combination TV and VCR unit. He flipped the switch on the recorder and a length of surveillance tape came alive on the monitor. In red letters the TIME showed: 02:30 A.M. The detectives leaned forward in their chairs so that they could get a closer look at the TV monitor. The monitor revealed a wide-angle shot of the entrance to the Kendrick apartment complex on North Palm Drive. All at once a black, late-model Mercedes-Benz convertible came into view. The luxurious car pulled over to the curb and parked. The convertible top was down and it was easy for the camera to pick up the two occupants of the car—Sharon Kendrick and Detective Brad Palmer. Palmer cut the headlights. He lit up a cigarette and the two of them fell into what looked like a relaxed conversation.