Meyers knew it was a longshot, but like they say in Hollywood, ‘It ain’t much, but it’s all the film you’ve got…’ He pulled on his coveralls,picked up a rolled oilcloth with a small assortment of tools, stuffed it in his back pocket, and closed his trunk. He showed ID to the bored lot attendant, who made a slow-motion epic of repeatedly checking a clipboard and the ID before he offered another clipboard and mumbled, “Sign.”
Meyers put his ID back in an inside pocket, took a step, got another clipboard thrust in his path. “This one says y’ain’t in here removin’ nothin could be evee-dence or stealin’ no valuable parts off vee-hickles.”
“You mean,” Meyers signed the form, “I can’t put that green Ferrari’s transmission in my pocket and walk out?”
“Funny don’t get you no favors from me. You got,” he checked the ubiquitous civic building round wall clock, “forty-two minutes. Seven-thirty I lock up and unhook the dogs. They got less sense a humor than me.” Meyers thought that might be impossible but destroyed the attendant’s granite façade by giving him a wink.
He studied the blurry copy of the lot map the attendant gave him, noting as he passed the parking space numbers that every conceivable kind of wrecked, shot up and confiscated wheeled transportation device from Maseratis to golf carts and an electric wheelchair were parked between the yellow lines. The van sat, listing severely to the driver’s side, between an accordioned Buick and a sheared nearly in half lengthwise plumbing truck. The now dead photographer had left the rear doors of the van open and animal control had, as everyone who did business with the lot demanded, removed the dog carcasses. Still far from pleasant, it was at least tolerable. The driver’s side door, jacked open after the wrecker had righted the van, hung at an odd angle with dried pieces of Arias’ bloody scalp stuck to the metal door panel. Meyers grabbed the driver’s seat, pulled, and it fell out at his feet. The passenger seat tumbled into its place and fell out on its own.
Depending on the money’s packaging, and the denominations of the bills, he could look for anything from a money brick to a briefcase. His experience told him streeters like Archie would want used bills, no bigger than a hundred. They only used attention calling thousand-dollar bills as props to snort blow or impress a stripper, which put a thin envelope of large out of the question. But to be sure, Meyers reached under the cockeyed dash and ripped the ductwork from where it attached to the thin dash vents. Nothing fell from the top, or when he shook out the ductwork. He doubted the passenger had any idea about the money, but he ripped that side loose with no luck, tossed it in the back.
The van had a bump in the middle of the firewall that protruded into the cabin instead of a full engine cowl. Two vents poked out from either side of the bump at floor level, both with broken covers. He worked those loose, discovered they connected to nothing but the outside world. He tested the floor with his feet. Nothing was loose, nor were the wiring runner covers. He kicked the bottom of the doorjamb. Nothing.
He leaned on the jamb, imagining himself in Arias’ place. Was he hiding the money, or not knowing the seat would let go and he’d break his neck, trying to retrieve it? The obvious choice was the door. There were no cosmetic panels, the sheet metal and all its cutouts exposed. The door had been split with a jack on the latch side, the window shattered, its mechanisms bent, the door almost flat in places. Meyers stuck a gloved hand down as far as he could inside the window access cutout, came up with pieces of safety glass. The same with the other two cutouts. Running out of time and options, he closed his eyes and replayed the crash. Arias dropped from view at the sight of Meyers’ gun as he’d started shooting. Meyers remembered raking the windshield left to right, right to left, and as the van rolled up on its side, he’d probably put half his rounds in the radiator, block and firewall. Where the hell was Arias? And why did a fucked up van have a semi-decent radio duct taped into the dash…
The money couldn’t have been in the radio hole, or it would’ve dropped when the dash came loose in the roll. Meyers followed the line of the collapsed dash with his eyes and hands, past the steering column, the no duct work air vents, and stopped. He couldn’t see the piece of interior quarter panel or the parking brake. From his seat on the floor, he put one foot on the door jamb, a shoulder under the dash and pushed revealing a side panel with a cutout for a speaker. A speaker too large for the hole hung suspended by a single long, thin machine bolt. He swung the speaker to the side, reached in the back of the fender well, groped around. He was in up to the middle of his bicep when something he touched moved. He got his hand around it and brought out a plastic wrapped, vacuum sealed brick of bills. He checked his watch. Three minutes to spare before open mic auditions for the junk yard dogs. He sat back on the door jam and the lights went out.
Meyers bubbled, swore, shook his head, reached out and grabbed a handful of shirt.
“Easy, Mister.” A rough hand wrapped around Meyer’s wrist, and he eased his grip on the shirt, wiped his face and eyes with his coverall sleeve enough to recognize the lot attendant.
“Same as happened to me.” He offered Meyers a hand to sit up. “Cold coffee’s all I had. I get my water from across the way there at the maintenance garage an they’re shut up for the night.”
“I’ll live,” he rubbed his eyes again. “At least you didn’t piss on me. What time is it?”
“Comin up on nine.”
“You see who slugged us?”
“Tall. Skinny. Had on one a them desert hats with the long bill and a back flap on it. Kept lookin at the ground. I thought it was shifty, bein so close to lock up time. But I went for the clipboard, doin my job, got thumped. Here I am.”
“He show you any paper?”
“Hadn’t got that far.”
“Said he needed his glasses. Pointed to a Benz in the front row. Had a frog in his throat, could hardly hear him. All I remember.”
Meyers touched the back of his head, his hand came back bloodless. “Shit…”
“That’s what I was thinkin.” The lot man pushed his cap back with his wrist. “What you said, about pissin? Somethin that happened?”
“The fella done it. He think it was funny?”
“Until I shot him.”
“That’s good to know.” He offered Meyers a sardonic smile and a hand up out of the van. “Case you come back I’ll know not to throw the pot out till you’re gone.”
The elevator in Meyers office building shut down at nine and it was close to ten. He trudged up four flights, opened the stairwell door, spotted Rifat halfway down the hall leaning against the wall.
“Rifat…” Meyers hissed, motioned for him.
Rifat stood in a series of angular bends not unlike an awakened marionette and made his way to the stairwell, squinting into the semi-darkness. “What happened to you?”
“Coffee facial. It’s supposed to be good for my complexion. How long have you been here?”
“Not long. The nurses asked me to leave Sunny’s room at nine. I went home… The reason I’m here… Archie called.”
“He wants you to go to Wichtikl’s with him tomorrow afternoon around 2:30.”
“How do you—”
“I’m a detective. I want you to go with him. And take your pipe wrench.”
Meyers drove home, ran his bug finder wand, found one in his table lamp, dropped it in the garbage disposal before he showered and iced the back of his head. It wasn’t much of a blow. Issued with minimal force and precision by someone who wanted a man out but not hemorrhaging, dead or concussed because they had a use for him. He shouldered his towel, called the Bishop. He learned Archie had received a call at 7:40, made a call every ten minutes until 9:15 when he finally spoke to someone, but didn’t stop pacing. At 9:30 Archie peeked out his door and the Bishop put a silenced round close enough to splinter Archie’s face.
“I’ll call him. Cut yourself loose, go play poker.”
“Had it just long enough to lose it.”
“Must’ve felt good to be right. Know where it went?”
“Get to shoot somebody to get it back?”
“Lucky you. My game doesn’t start till one. You still have any of that good Scotch?”
“I won’t be awake to drink it with you.”
“No offense, but that’s the best news I’ve had in a week.”