O is for Outlaw Page 45


Meanwhile, Judy was saying, "Mark's been preparing for days, mostly on Prop Fifty-one. That's the Deep Pockets Initiative."

"Right."

"Also Props Forty-two and Forty-eight. He feels pretty strongly about those."

I said, "Hey, who wouldn't?" I pushed some papers around my desk, uncovering the sample ballot under the local paper and a pile of mail. Proposition 48 would put a lid on ex-officials' pensions. Yawn, snore. Prop 4 would authorize the state to issue $850 million in bonds to continue the Cal-Vet farm and home loan program. "I didn't know Mark was a veteran," I said, making conversation.

"Oh, sure, he enlisted in the army right after his college graduation. I'll send you a copy of his CV."

"You don't have to do that," I said.

"It's no trouble. I have a bunch of 'em going out in the mail. You know, he won a Purple Heart."


"Really, I had no idea."

While Judy nattered on, I found the comic section and read Rex Morgan, M.D., which was at least as interesting. Judy interrupted herself, saying, "Shoot. There goes my other phone. I better catch that in case it's him."

"No problem."

As soon as I hung up, I propped my feet up on my desk and turned my attention to the mail I'd snitched.

I picked up my letter opener and slit the envelopes. The bank statements showed regular paycheck deposits until late February, then nothing until late March, when he began to make small deposits at bi-weekly intervals. Unemployment benefits. I couldn't remember how that worked. There was probably a waiting period during which claims were processed and approved. In any event, the money he was depositing wasn't sufficient to cover his monthly expenses, and he was having to supplement the total out of his savings account. The current balance there was roughly $1,500. I'd found cash hidden on the premises, but no sign of his passbook. It would be nice to have that. I was surprised I hadn't come across it in my initial search. The monthly statements would have to do.

By comparing the activity in his savings and checking accounts, I could see the money jump from one to the other and then slide on out the door. Canceled checks indicated that he'd continued to pay as many bills as he could. His rent was $850 a month, which had last been paid March 1, according to the canceled check. Through the last half of February and the first three weeks of March, there were three checks made out to cash totaling $1,800. That seemed odd, given his financial difficulties, which were serious enough without pissing away his cash. The police probably had the April statement, so there was no way for me to tell if he'd paid rent on the first or not. My guess was that sometime in here he'd let his storage fees become delinquent.

By April, he was already in arrears on his telephone bill, and his service must have been cut before he had a chance to catch up. The cash he'd hidden probably represented a last resort, monies he was reluctant to spend unless his situation became desperate. Maybe his intent was to disappear, once all his other funds were depleted.

On the twenty-fifth of March, there was a one-time deposit of $900. I decided that was probably from the sale of his car. A couple of days later, on the twentyseventh, there was a modest deposit of $200, which allowed him to pay his gas and electric bills. I did note that the $200 appeared the very day the call was made from his apartment to my machine. Someone paid him to use the phone? That would be weird. At any rate, he probably figured he could stall eviction for another month or two, at which point-what? He'd take his cash and phony documents and leave the state? Something about this gnawed at me. Mickey was a fanatic about savings. It was his contention that everyone should have a good six months' worth of income in the bank, or under the mattress, whichever seemed safer. He was such a nut on the subject, I'd made it a practice myself since then. He had to have another savings account somewhere. Had he put the money in a CD or a pension fund at his job? I wasn't even sure why he'd been fired. Was he drunk on duty? I sat and thought about that and then called directory assistance in Los Angeles and got the number for Pacific Coast Security in Culver City. I figured I had sufficient information to fake my way through. I knew his date of birth and his current address. His social security number would have been an asset, but all I remembered of 1it was the last four digits: 1776. Mickey always made a point about the numbers being the same as the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.

I dialed the number for Pacific Coast Security and listened to the phone ring, trying to figure out what I was going to say, surely not the truth in this case. When the call was picked up, I asked for Personnel. The woman who answered sounded like she was already halfway home for the day. It was close to five by now and she was probably in the process of clearing her desk. "This is Personnel. Mrs. Bird," she said.

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