Los Angeles Police Administration Building
Charlie Rembrandt rode the elevator to the sixth floor of the PAB. “The Sixth Floor” had become shorthand in LAPD coptalk for the downtown detectives who worked out of headquarters. Along with Rembrandt’s Robbery-Homicide squad, the sixth floor also housed Major Crimes, Cold Cases, Special Investigations, and the LAPD’s Art Theft Unit.
He stifled a yawn as he stepped off the elevator and walked the carpeted halls. With its large windows casting natural lighting down on rows of user-friendly cubicles and work spaces, the sixth floor was a world away from the concrete floors and harsh fluorescent lights of Hollywood Station, the place Charlie had called home for nearly twenty years. In Hollywood, his desk was shared with another detective from Vice, the two men trading out the office space due to their alternating days and shifts. On the sixth floor, there were no desk mates or fights for the minuscule number of ergonomic keyboards and lumbar support chairs LAPD had to go around. On the sixth floor, just two below the chief’s office, there were plenty to go around.
The good conditions also led to softness. At least in Rembrandt’s eyes. All the detectives out in the divisional squads looked at the downtown cops with disdain, and with good reason. RHD and all the other squads on the sixth floor kept banker’s hours. Unless there was a major red ball that required late hours, the cops here punched out at five and headed home. And a few would even leave before then. The Golf Gang, a little clique made up of most RHD guys, always left three hours early on Friday to play a round together. Sorry that your son is dead, Mrs. Sanchez, but I hear the fairway calling my name.
The mindset came from the top and trickled down. The chief and the public relations arm of the department always looked at RHD as the crack elite squad, the best of the best. Looking around at the names on the roster, Rembrandt had no doubt that had once been the case. These men, because outside of his partner Bonnie they were all men, had once been the cream of the crop LAPD had to offer. Rembrandt had worked with more than a few on murder cases over the years, both before and during their time with RHD, and they were all great investigators in their own right. But they saw the promotion as a reward for all their hard work and an excuse to take it easy. Not Charlie. He worked a gang-related with no witnesses with the same thoroughness, intensity, and drive as if the governor had been murdered by the president. Everyone counted or no one does.
“Look who it is,” Captain Ross said with a self-satisfied smirk. “The Dutchman himself.”
“Late night,” Charlie said as he slid down into his cubicle chair. “Have you seen Detective Young, cap?”
“She went out to interview the Wilshire dicks on your dead man. That’s all I know. Don’t forget to sign in, Charlie.”
Rembrandt managed to barely contain his contempt as Ross walked back towards his corner office, shutting the door behind him. Mounted on the wall next to his office door was a whiteboard with every RHD detective’s name written in marker. Every time a detective came in, they had to write down the time they came in that day and then sign out every time they left the office. It was Ross’ way to keep track of the comings and goings of his detectives, making sure no one abused their timecards by earning hours they hadn’t actually worked. To Rembrandt it was more bureaucratic bullshit and a headache he didn't need. He worked twelve hour days, in and out of the office six or seven times each day. Did the captain really want him spending time writing down every move he made, or did he want him to catch some fucking murderers?
Turning to his computer, Charlie began to look through his emails. He’d shot one off with his phone last night, after he and Constantine left the bookstore. He found a waiting reply from Lieutenant Mathis with Major Crimes, saying he could come over at eleven that morning and look over what he had. After firing off his thanks to Mathis, Charlie got up and walked to the blackboard. Next to his name he wrote down the approximate time he came in. When he was done writing, he put his thumb across the ink and smudged it, making it illegible. Sighing, he rubbed the back of his neck and walked towards the office's kitchenette. He was in need of a good cup of coffee, but he he’d have to settle for what they were making in the breakroom.
John stepped out the convenience store and shielded his eyes against the morning sun. The July heat was already unbearable, but he was not fazed by the heat even with his heavy trench coat on. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes from the folds of his coat and lit up a fresh one. A homeless man sat on the ground near the store entrance, camped beside a broken payphone and his hungry eyes watching John.
“How was it in Iraq?” John asked without looking in the homeless man’s direction.
This time he turned to look at the man. When he did, Jerry flinched. He didn’t like of John’s eyes. There was something behind them that made his skin crawl and his stomach churn. He’d had his share of hard stares, but nothing like this. He stared through him and at him all at once. He saw everything.
“Yes, sir,” Jerry said softly. “Saw a lot of shit in Fallujah. I… still see it.”
“You got a raw deal, squire. You and your mates got sold a sack of shit, whole world did really. Imperialism masked as liberation. Wasn’t like my lot was any better. Bumboy Blair spreading the cheeks for Georgie Boy. Not as many British died, but even one is one too many. How many soldiers did your squad lose?”
“Marines,” said Jerry. “We lost a lot of Marines, not soldiers, and not just to death. Those that didn’t die…”
“Say no more,” said John. “What came out the other side wasn’t you. It looked like you, talked like you, but it sure as fuck wasn’t the man you once were. Wouldn’t think it to look at me, but I know where you’re coming from.”
With his free hand, John reached back into his trench coat and pulled out a stubbly piece of chalk. Sticking the cigarette in his mouth, he took a deep drag and exhale from it before he turned towards the wall.
“Jerry, I want you to do me a favor and think back on something. Visualize one of the happiest days of your life. Close your eyes and picture it and then describe it to me.”
“That’s easy," Jerry said with his eyes close and a serene smile on his face. "The day I became a father is a big one. I had just gotten back from Iraq and my wife, ex-wife I guess, she’d gotten pregnant just before I was deployed. Her due date was four days before I was going to be home and I was crushed by it. But… the baby was late. The second I got home, she went into labor and I got to hold my newborn son in my arms. His eyes were so big… his hands and feet were so small… I…”
As Jerry recalled the memory, John began to write on the brick wall of the store. Slowly, he scrawled the number four, then the number six, then the number thirty.
“I…,” Jerry took a deep breath and wiped the tears that were now running down his cheek. “What were talking about, mister?”
“You were telling me about the day your son was born,” John said, pulling away from the wall. “Best day of your life, you said.”
“It was. I…” He stopped, his brow furrowing. “You know… I can’t remember the day he was born.”
“That’s the cost, squire.”
“The cost for what?”
“This,” John said, pointing towards the wall. A series of numbers was scrawled across it in his scratchy chalk handwriting. "Use it well."
John passed Jerry, dropping a five dollar bill in his lap without stopping.
“Do us a favor and play the lotto today. Who knows, you may get lucky?”
“We’re currently reassessing where to go next with Power Outage.”
Mike Mathis looked as if someone had just shot his dog. You could be forgiven for thinking that Mathis was upset or perturbed by the setback in Major Crimes’ investigation. Mathis just looked like that. Resting bitch face, thought Rembrandt, that’s what they called it.
“My money is on one of those bastards from Wilshire let someone into the building so they could do Malakian. I’m trying to get IAB involved.”
“According to the brass, RHD gets first crack at it," said Charlie. "We find anything even hinting to another cop being in on it then we go to Internal Affairs.”
”Good. We’ve been worried about leaks since we started the investigation.”
“What kind of leaks?” asked Rembrandt.
“We feel like our targets are getting tipped off. We go to do a raid and we’ll just have missed them. But enough about that, how’s your case coming along?”
“Slowly,” Charlie said after a sip of terrible coffee. “But surely. My partner is dealing with the Wilshire end of things, so I figured I’d get started on this end and see what you got for me. We know our victim was mobbed up, but can you give me any specifics?”
Mathis nodded. “Steve Malakian was a heavy hitter for the Grigoryan faction of Armenian Power. Henry Grigoryan and his organization probably make at least half a billion dollars in drug profits for AP. Malakian was how he kept the wolves at bay. Or, at least he used to.”
Rembrandt pulled a notepad from his jacket breast pocket along with a pen.
“What do you mean he used to? Also, can you spell Grigoryan for me?”
“I’ll let you look at the file when we’re done,” Mathis said with a wave. “It'll have proper spelling. And what I mean is, Malakian was on the outs with his old boss. That’s why we targeted him. We figured being pushed out and arrested would make him willing to inform on Grigoryan.”
“They have a fight?”
“Not really,” said Mathis. “It’s just.. Malakian stopped working for Grigoryan. Last year AP goes through a gang war with Martin Hidalgo and the Mexican Mafia. They slaughter them, I’m talking biblical type carnage, Rembrandt, and Malakian was on the bench for it. Almost twenty years he was Grigoryan go-to guy, and then suddenly he’s not.”
“Who is his heavy hitter now?” Rembrandt asked. He thought back to what Constantine said last night. Those old London gangsters using magic to win turf wars without losing a man.
“We have no idea. I can show you a guy we like.”
Mathis searched through the computer on his desk until he found what he wanted. He motioned for Charlie to come across the desk to look. It was a surveillance photo of a cubby, middle-aged man with steel gray hair and an all black suit. Walking next to a tall, slavic looking man with a shaved head and tattooed knuckles, his muscular frame threatening to rip his conservative dress shirt and slacks to shreds. Walking ahead of them, slightly blurry, was a shorter man in a blue suit and homburg.
“This big son of a bitch is Mikael Tanjerian. Only been in the country three years but he’s already got a file with us, CBI, FBI, and Homeland. Real nasty guy--”
“Who’s that?” Rembrandt said, pointing towards the short man walking ahead of the two gangsters.
“James Saint,” Mathis said after a moment’s hesitation. “He’s Grigoryan’s driver. A real nonentity. I… uhh, I almost forgot about him until you pointed him out. The name is obviously a fake, but he’s just a driver and not a soldier. Why’d you ask?”
“Just curious,” said Rembrandt. “I like his get up.”
“Must pay well to chauffeur mob bosses around.”
“What color would you say that tie of his is?”
“Plaid?” Mathis asked. “What’s the word they use in England… uhh… shit, I forgot the word.”
“That’s it. Tartan. Good eye, Rembrandt. Didn't know you were suc a clothes horse.”
Rembrandt stared at the photo and James Saint for a long moment before turning back to Mathis.
"I'd like to take a peek at what you have on Grigoryan now. The offer still stand?”