3rd book in "Fish" Fishbein's Adventures in La-La Land series
Fish took a quick look at his watch.
It was one thirty in the morning and he was standing in the dark in his garage. Outside, the air was still and quiet, the silence occasionally interrupted by the soft call of some bird that was probably too busy eyeing the parade of gaudy, high fashion handbags on QVC to grab any shut-eye.
He was standing next to the Surveillance Mobile, a gold colored Toyota Camry that, years ago, had already seen better days. The damn thing was embarrassing to be seen in, a far cry from the custom Harleys he and his two associates preferred to ride.
But what the hell.
With its body style and coloring, the Surveillance Mobile was just about invisible on a stakeout. And with the night they had in front of them, there was no way their bikes could haul around all the playthings they would need, along with the four clowns they were getting ready to go round up.
Fish opened the trunk and began inventorying their equipment while he waited for the rest of the staff of Doberman Recoveries, Licensed Bail Recovery Agents to stumble in from their lair in the guest house.
He counted three sets of NHL regulation shin guards, painted black.
Three army surplus Kevlar helmets, sprayed the same color.
Three clear face shields for the Kevlar helmets.
Three pairs of industrial strength goggles.
Three military grade black utility belts with clipped-on canisters of pepper spray, each rated for use on bears.
A couple of dozen beefy, double looped zip ties. Handcuffs for the new millennium.
Toss in their black gloves, arm padding and oversized aluminum flashlights and they’d all be good to go.
And looking like a SWAT unit on its way to hockey practice.
“Hey …” Einstein was the first of Fish’s associates to hit the garage.
Like Fish, he was decked out in black, with his official “BAIL BOND ENFORCEMENT” badge swinging from a lanyard around his neck. And the same message was stenciled across the back of his black tactical jacket in four inch tall, fluorescent green letters.
Einstein was the junior member of the firm and second in command, a disillusioned all-but dissertation PhD candidate in quantum mechanics whose mother, in her youth, had been a card-carrying physics groupie. In fact, during the McCarthy era, a special sub-sub-committee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities invited her down to Washington for a televised chat about the flaming affair she’d been carrying on with every adult male in Princeton, New Jersey.
The day he was born, she named her baby Albert Einstein Brotman, after the one who got away.
Extremely long on intelligence, Einstein was bright enough to find your average Mensa gathering just a little too Frasier Crane for words.
And being just as short on social skills and spoken syllables, he usually kept his pie hole clamped firmly shut, preferring the company of his boss, his fellow employee, his Harley and his equations to that of most Homo sapiens.
“Whoa …” Kenny, Fish’s third in command, yawned and stretched as he followed Einstein into the garage.
”Dudes … it’s like, either waaay too early or way too late to be doin’ this.”
Like the rest of the members of the Doberman Recoveries team, Kenny was clad from his feet to the top of his alleged head in the same SWAT/NHL fashion statements.
Except that the BAIL BOND ENFORCEMENT badge hanging around his neck was on backwards, revealing the “Protected by Spiderman” sticker he’d pasted on the back. Long ago and far away, Kenny took the era of sex, drugs and KC & the Sunshine Band a little too much to heart and stumbled into the new millennium a few brain cells short of the standard array.
A short time later, he picked up a DUI citation while pedaling his balloon-tired Schwinn.
But somehow, he never quite made it to his arraignment.
A few weeks after that, Fish quit the law firm of Uptight, Rigid, Repressed & Lipshitz to go into business for himself.
Maybe the moon was in the seventh house.
Or maybe Jupiter was aligned with the Jersey shore.
Either way, Kenny’s matching set of Failure to Appear arrest warrants made him Fish’s first official bounty hunting case.
And his first law client.
And before the sun set on his day in court, Kenny also became the Big Dog’s first official employee, as well.
“Suck it up, man.” Fish chuckled. “That’s why we get the medium bucks.”
He handed Kenny his pepper spray-equipped utility belt and shut the trunk. “OK, you two. Cup check.”
Then, like Little League coaches the world over, he stood back and watched as Kenny and Einstein rapped their knuckles on their respective man parts, the solid clunks given off demonstrating that the whole team was properly protected, should the evening’s festivities turn into a full contact sport.
Within a few minutes, Doberman Recoveries and all their gear were heading South on Pacific Coast Highway, on their way to do a solid for Elias Hope by bringing in the Coca Cola Crew.
But first, they had to make a stop at a 24-hour vehicle storage yard on the outskirts of Culver City to drop off the Surveillance Mobile and pick up another of Doberman Recoveries’ specialized vehicles, a unit that started life as one of those shuttle buses employed by big hotels to ferry their guests to and from the airport. Large enough to provide comfortable seating for at least a jury’s worth of bounty hunters and their quarries, it was also fitted with all sorts of heavyweight stainless steel handgrips, seat frames and luggage racks.
All the better to securely hog tie a formerly fleeing perp to.
Fish’s portable containment cell was not only perfect for transporting a larger party of scofflaws to the nearest hoosegow, it also boasted comfy seats, air conditioning and a kick-ass stereo.
Fish signaled a right and started easing his containment cell on wheels toward the upcoming exit. They were on the Pasadena Freeway, an expressway so ancient it was rumored to have been opened by Dolly Madison. Hampered by narrow lanes and tight turns, it connected the Harbor Freeway with the city of Pasadena. And Fish was headed for the exit that would take him, Kenny and Einstein to the Coca Cola Crew’s hideout.
Or maybe Toon Town.
At the bottom of the exit ramp, he took a right on Avenue 26 and then had to wait at the stoplight where the street crossed Monterey Road.
Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel while he idled, Fish’s gaze drifted up to the top of the hill. A strange glow was silhouetting the chunk of neighborhood where he hoped the Coca Cola Crew were all sleeping off a night of heavy partying.
Reaching the top of the hill, he took a quick left on Mira Vista and followed the street as it wound around the summit, looking for number 1827.
He came around the final turn and the street dead ended in a cul de sac.
1827 Mira Vista was right in front of him.
As was the source of the strange, bright glow he could see from the bottom of the hill.
The house he’d been searching for – the one sheltering Norman Shimazu, Robbie Gubbins, Antwon Porter, and Bosco Chubasco – was lit up brighter than an NFL stadium’s fifty yard line on Monday night.
The source of the multi-million foot candles of illumination was the eighty foot tall boom extending up through the roof of one of the three video trucks scattered around the front yard.
Several cameramen were scurrying around the property, trying to get decent shots of the house and the action about to kick off.
And in the middle of it all was Arnie Babe, loudly calling the shots and shredding any hope Fish had of taking the occupants by surprise.
Fish shut off the engine and swore under his breath.
Arnie Babe spotted him as he climbed out from behind the wheel.
“Hey, Fish,” he called out. “Whattya think? Pretty damn cool, huh?”
# # #
Fish sent Kenny and Einstein around to the back of the house, just in case one or more Coca Cola crewmen had somehow managed to snooze through Arnie Babe’s antics in the front yard and were now thinking about bolting for the back door. Then he stormed across the lawn toward the ex-agent turned reality TV show producer, the usual Buddha-licious smirk clearly missing from his face.
Forget about waking the four Failures to Appear who were hopefully still bagging z’s inside the brightly illuminated hideout. By now, lights were on in every house on the street and people were already gathering around the edge of the yard.
And around this part of town, folks just weren’t all that neighborly to strangers traipsing around in the middle of the night in BAIL RECOVERY AGENT sports ensembles.
“Hey, partner,” Arnie Babe extended his right hand up in the air toward Fish, looking for a high five. “I just know this is gonna get us some killer footage.”
An empty forty ounce stout malt liquor bottle whistled past Fish, its trajectory easily traced back to the group of locals perched at the edge of the lawn.
Instead of returning the high five, he grabbed Arnie’s expensive silk tie and yanked hard.
“Listen, you little weasel. I want those freakin’ lights off, NOW!”
He pulled a little harder on Arnie’s already creased Sulka neckwear.
“You got any idea why we waited till the middle of the night to do this?”
“It’s called the element of surprise, dickhead. We get in, catch everybody snoozing and get out fast. Easy peasy.”
Arnie Babe nervously nodded.
Still hanging on to Arnie Babe’s tie, Fish clamped onto his jaw with his other hand.
“Look around, Arn. You see anybody asleep around here?”
Arnie looked and then shook his head.
“How about those pissed off looking clowns over there. The ones with the gang tattoos. You think they don’t even know we’re here?”
“C’mon, I just wanted to get some killer footage for the show’s pilot.”
“Of what? Our perps beatin’ cheeks down the hill behind their house? Of this mob you attracted inviting us in for a little late night coffee and sponge cake?”
“Sorry, Fish … I didn’t know.”
“Forget it, Arnie. Forget the whole thing. I swear to God, you could screw up a perfectly good wet dream.”
Fish’s cell phone rang and he let go of Arnie to answer it.
“Dude … I’m around back with Einstein. You better like, get over here, Brah.”
Fish hurried around the side of the house with Arnie Babe following close behind.
Einstein and Kenny were on the back porch, standing on either side of a man seated against the wall in a beat-up old dinette chair. He appeared to be sitting backwards in the chair, and leaning forward into its back.
Fish moved in for a closer look. Then he spotted the third eye that had recently sprouted in the middle of the young man’s forehead.
As well as the wall behind the guy’s noggin, where it looked like someone had splattered a freshly baked pizza.