O is for Outlaw Page 53


I did a quick debate. I hated to leave the premises, but there really wasn't anything more to do. Wary might prove to be useful. More important, I was starving. I said "sure" and then took a brief time-out to let Cordia know where I was going.

Wary and I headed down the front stairs, chatting as we went. Idly, he said, "If you want, after breakfast, I'll show you where he was shot. It's just a couple blocks away."

THIRTEEN.

I'll skip the breakfast conversation. There's nothing so boring as listening to other people get acquainted. We chatted. We traded brief, heavily edited autobiographical sketches, stories about Mickey, theories about the motive for the shooting. In the meantime, I discovered that I liked Wary Beason, though I promptly erased all his personal data. As crass as it sounds, I didn't seriously think I'd ever see him again. Like the passenger sitting next to you on a cross-country plane ride, it's possible to connect with someone, even when the encounter has no meaning and no ultimate consequence.

I did appreciate his showing me the spot where Mickey was gunned down, a nondescript section of sidewalk in front of a coin and jewelry shop. The sign in the window advertised rare coins, rare stamps, pocket watches, antiques, and coin supplies. "We also make low-rate loans," the sign said. At A.M. I didn't think Mickey'd been there to negotiate a loan.

Wary remained silent while I stood for a minute, looking out at the surrounding businesses. There was a pool hall across the street. I assumed the detectives had checked it out. Also the bar called McNalley's, half a block down.

"You mentioned you used to drink with Mickey at Lionel's. Is the pub close by?"

"Back in that direction," Wary said, gesturing.

"Any chance Mickey could have been there earlier that night?"

"No way. Mickey'd been eighty-sixed from Lionel's until he paid his tab." Wary took off his glasses and cleaned the yellow lenses on the hem of his T-shirt. He held his frames to the light so he could check for streaks, and then he put his glasses on again and waited to see what I would ask next.

"Where was he, then? You have a guess?"

"Well, he wasn't at McNalley's, because that's where I was. I know the cops checked the bars all up and down the street. They didn't learn a thing, or so they said."

"He was out doing something, and he was doing it on foot."

"Not necessarily. I mean, just because he'd sold his car doesn't mean he hoofed it. Somebody could've picked him up and taken him somewhere. Out for drinks or dinner. Could have been any place."

"Back up a minute. Do you happen to remember when he sold his car?"

"Couple of months back."

"You're talking about the end of March?"

"That sounds right. Anyway, the point is, nobody even saw him leave the building that night."

"So what's your theory?"

"Well, let's just say for the sake of argument he was in someone else's car. They go out for dinner or drinks and end up closing the place down. Two in the morning, they drive back to Culver City. He "Or she, " I inserted, promptly.

Wary smiled. "Right.... The shooter could have dropped Mickey at the corner and then driven down a block like he's on his way home. Shooter parks, waits in the dark while Mickey walks the intervening block. Minute he comes abreast, the shooter steps out and boom! plugs him twice. Shooter tosses the gun and takes off before anybody figures out what's up."

"You really think it happened like that?"

Wary shrugged. "It could have, that's all I'm saying. The cops canvassed all the bars and pool halls within a ten-block radius. Mickey hadn't been in any of 'em, but they know he'd been drinking somewhere because he had a blood alcohol of point one-four."

"How'd you hear that?"

"The detective, the dark one, mentioned it in passing."

"Really. That's interesting. What'd they make of it, did anybody say?"

"No, and I didn't think to ask. Mickey always had a buzz on. He was probably pushing point oh-eight any given day of the week."

"He was legally drunk?"

"Legally plastered is a better way to put it. For a while, he straightened up. He went on the wagon, but it didn't last long. February he went on a bender, and I guess that's when he got himself fired from his job. He tried to straighten up again, after that, but without much success. He'd go a couple days and then fall right back. I give him credit. He did try. He just wasn't strong enough to do it by himself."

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