Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 11

Published: 8 Apr 14

Proof And The Pudding

by Jack Scribe

Mid-afternoon traffic was still mellow - for Los Angeles - and Oleg navigated the surface streets without any major problems. He cut through the Beverly Hills 'flats' and angled his way over to Sunset Boulevard. As he turned on to the winding drive approaching Harvey Fine's house, a 'black and white' was barricading the street. Oleg pulled over to the curb, lowered the driver's window and waited for one of the policemen to approach him. 'Damn. What's the deal? I want to get into the house and inspect the bedroom with Joe.'

"Sorry, sir. The road is closed to all traffic," the officer said with deliberate seriousness. "No exceptions until further notice."

"Officer...Reilly, I've got business with Detective Lamanna at 8584 Harold Lane." Oleg smiled in a professional manner and hoped the use of the name displayed on the cop's nametag would help defrost the officious chill in the air. However, he had an uneasy feeling about the scene before him. 'Looks like Borscht lightning may have struck again,' he thought, as he noticed more police activity near his destination.

"Best to stay put in the car until Lamanna arrives. Then..." Officer Reilly had started to say something else when he suddenly looked beyond the rear of the Saturn.

Oleg heard the rumbling of a large engine. He turned and saw a black SWAT armored truck approaching the intersection. The menacing defensive design, porthole windows and matte-finish skin emphasized the seriousness of the vehicle's mission. Another officer, sitting in the police interceptor, backed it away to allow the truck's passage. Oleg's interest in the unfolding situation shifted into overdrive as he watched the SWAT vehicle move through the narrow opening and advance slowly up the street.

He knew that the SWAT team - Team A - would be responding to an emergency call only if approved by the Hollywood division watch commander...or higher. The senior officer back at the station had undoubtedly ascertained the situation was dangerous and beyond normal containment. Oleg assumed that Team B was already covering the rear of the house. 'There must be some nasty shit going down,' he thought, 'and this close-quartered neighborhood with potential civilian casualties doesn't make it any easier.' He turned off the motor and focused on the street ahead. Oleg was convinced his two cases were involved in this latest development.

The now-familiar dark green Nissan parked near Fine's house was not a welcome sight. 'These guys are like fake one-hundred dollar bills...they just keep turning up,' he thought as he studied the car. It appeared that the California license plates had been switched to plates from Nevada. In front of the house was an unmarked LAPD Crown Vic he remembered belonging to the detective he had met earlier - Detective Lopez. Oleg focused on another squad car that was stopped in the street. Behind that police car were two uniformed policemen with hand weapons drawn. As soon as the SWAT vehicle pulled in front of the 'black and white', the two policemen made a dash for cover behind the armored truck.

A brilliant flash of light and a gunshot from the house - 8584 - erupted from a second-story window. The bullet struck the back fender of the car, near where the two officers had been crouching. The impact was emphasized by a twang-like puncturing noise of metal tearing into metal. "Holy fuck," Oleg said to himself as he ducked down in an automatic reflex, "those assholes are serious." His heart pumped faster, he breathed heavier and the first signs of perspiration appeared...everywhere. 'They must be desperate to find Harvey's home computer, or documents, and try to cover all tracks for their boss. Sergei probably hasn't figured out yet that we've got the goods already. Pretty gutsy, but stupid, to try this.' He immediately became concerned about Detective Lopez's safety.

Oleg slowly sat back up, cautiously scanned the scene and focused on the open upstairs window. 'That's one of the two windows looking out from the front guest bedroom,' he remembered. Two members of the SWAT team, dressed in tactical TDU jumpsuits and full gear, jumped out of the back of the truck with rifles in hand and motioned for the two policemen to stay low. 'No need to present another target,' he thought as he started his car. He slipped the gearshift into "R" and slowly backed away until he hoped he was out of range.

In the rearview mirror he saw Lamanna's Crown Victoria approaching from around the curve. Oleg touched the brake pad three times and waved his hand. Detective Lamanna pulled up behind him and waved in a beckoning fashion while he spoke on his cell phone. That was enough of an invitation for Oleg to leave his undercover transportation and join the detective.

"I'm going to drive further up the street but away from the windows. SWAT 'A' will cover me. You can reach me on the car radio." Lamanna abruptly ended his conversation and turned to Oleg. "Isn't this a fine kettle of fish? I'm concerned about our man inside the house. Detective Lopez."

"You think..."

"The worst," Lamanna replied with a stoic expression. "Grab a ballistic vest from the back seat."

"Understand," Oleg replied. He reached to the rear, grabbed the bulletproof vest and slipped it on. 'No reason to say anything further about the obvious - Lopez is probably history.'

"After you called me, I decided to let Lopez know we were returning. He didn't answer my call and I re-dialed. Nothing. Then, the dispatcher alerted me to receiving a '10-13' from the detective's car radio that had been electronically triggered and they responded with backup. This was just 20 minutes ago. With what's been going on the past 48 hours, I urged the watch commander to activate a SWAT unit. Fortunately, we were able to pull together two teams quickly and get the hell over here. A third unit will be arriving any time now."

"Whoever's in the house fired on a 'black and white' from the second floor...happened just before you arrived. And there's a Nissan parked on the street. I think that the characters seen driving by the studio after the assault and speeding away from the bombing incident are now in the house."

"I heard about the shot being fired," Lamanna replied as he pointed to his earpiece. "You sure it's the same car?"

"They've changed license plates but I'm 99% sure it's the Russians. I hate to say this - it doesn't look good for Lopez." Oleg was sure the detective he had met earlier in the day was already a casualty.

"Fuck...that changes the stakes." Lamanna picked up his hand-mike and pressed the button. "Lamanna to control central. 10-13 at 8584 Harold Lane appears to be related to two open murder-attempt cases. It is unlikely that Detective Lopez, last seen inside the house, is still alive. Has emergency notification to surrounding homes been activated?" He nodded as he listened to the response. It was followed by a few "ah huhs" and a nod of his head. "Good. I will proceed with caution and wait for SWAT to neutralize the perps."

"I can appreciate that you may want me to lay low until this situation is settled. How shall we play this?" Oleg asked.

"You're still deputized, buddy. And once we secure this, I want to know what you've figured out since we were here. Let's drive up to the perimeter of the scene, park in a driveway away from the radius of the shooter and allow the heavy artillery to do their thing. Just keep your head down." Lamanna shifted into 'Drive' and cautiously drove forward. "Even though our alert system called everyone in a three-block radius, I hope we don't get any curious neighbors becoming targets."

Oleg nodded and slipped down slightly in the passenger seat. He scanned the street as they passed the police barricade. When they passed the Nissan, he noticed shiny metal around the license plate in contrast to the usual dusty street grime. 'Someone has definitely been fiddling with the plates,' he thought. Ahead, the SWAT team was organizing under the cover of their truck. The team leader held a bullhorn to his side as he issued instructions. Two of the men were loading tear gas canisters into their grenade launchers and the remaining two SWAT team members clutched rifles with long scopes attached. In the distance, at the top of the hill, another SWAT armored vehicle slowly moved toward the scene with an armed team walking behind. 'That must be the third team,' Oleg judged, 'with the second team already in the rear.'

They turned onto a driveway on the same side of the street, two houses away from the Fine residence, and parked. The first team leader started barking instructions through the bullhorn speaker that he pointed toward the house. He slowly enunciated each word in short statements that emphasized the perpetrators' predicament and ordered them to surrender - a by-the-book approach. No reply. He repeated there was no escape possible and they were to immediately come out the front door, unarmed. Still no reply.

Finally, the team leader said that he would count down 60 seconds. At the end of that time, tear gas canisters would be launched into the house and armed police would secure the building. He added that 'they' were considered armed and dangerous, and that the police were prepared to defend themselves. Finally, he directed the bullhorn randomly to the neighboring houses, ordered all residents to remain inside until further notice and to stay away from the windows. The severity of the situation was emphasized by the arrival of the other armored truck at the far side of the house, its team duplicating the activities of their colleagues in Team A.

60, 59, 58...the leader drilled out loudly. The street block was quiet, interrupted only by the sound of a helicopter in the distance. Oleg could only imagine what was going through the minds of whoever was inside. He knew that the mob members were not only vicious and brutal - their survival oath was fatalistic. 43, 42, 41...the count continued. Nothing. There was no movement except for the SWAT team readying their gas masks. 29, 28, 27...suddenly the noise of a garage door opening in a house across the street broke the silence. Once the door was up, everyone heard the ignition of a vehicle engage.

"Stop the car immediately," the team leader snapped with authority through the speaker as he turned to the offending vehicle. The brake lights dimmed and the SUV - a late model Jeep - started backing out. The leader pointed to the SUV and shouted something to one of the snipers. The sniper repositioned 180 degrees, quickly aimed and shot at the two rear tires - several times. The taillights immediately glared a bright red and the car stopped as the tires rapidly deflated. The driver's door opened, revealing the puzzled, angered face of a teen male wearing wireless iPod headphones. He looked back at the action in the street, opened his mouth and ripped off the headphones.

"Stay in the Jeep. Move back into the garage and close the door," the team leader snarled. "Now."

Suddenly, from the same second floor window of the earlier attack, a volley of gunfire erupted. Oleg looked to see where the gunman was aiming. It was at the SUV that was still positioned partially out of the garage. Specifically, bullets were hitting an area around the gas tank. 'They're trying to create a diversionary explosion,' he thought, 'but they're at an angle where they're unlikely to hit the tank.' As the car moved back into the garage, an agonized scream came from the second floor window. A sniper from the team had immediately returned fire and hit his target - the shooter. "Good shot," Oleg quietly said to Detective Lamanna as the shooter slumped over the sill and the perp's rifle fell from the window. Blood started trickling down the wall of the house. "A gold star for the good guys."

"One down. These characters don't travel alone and I'm pretty sure there's at least one more suspect inside," Lamanna replied.

"I agree with that assessment based on what we've experienced at the studio."

"But with the SWAT guys, hopefully we're close to putting this to bed. Remind me to rip off a piece of that clueless kid's butt after we're finished."

"He was probably listening to music and tuned everything else out. Pretty typical." Oleg was fairly sure, between the police and the kid's father, that the young man would have a new asshole by the end of the day.

The team leader re-directed his attention to Fine's house and went through the drill once more. By the time he said "23", the front door slowly opened. A hand and arm appeared with a clutched white piece of material. The cloth - it looked like a towel - slowly waved in the doorway, propelled by whoever was attached to the arm.

Oleg could barely hear the slurred Russian words coming from behind the door, but understood the man's fearful pleading not to be hurt.

"Lay down any weapons on the door stoop, open the door and come out with your hands behind your head," the team leader ordered.

The hand with the cloth disappeared for a moment and the door opened a little more. This time the hand reappeared with a gun, pointed barrel down, with fingers loosely gripping the handle. It was placed on the flagstone step outside the entry and the hand momentarily vanished again. This time the door opened and a disheveled man appeared. After positioning his hands above his head, the man stepped outside. He was ordered to walk forward five steps, lie down prone on the ground, backside up and 'spread eagle'.

After he complied, two of the SWAT team members cautiously approached. One team member 'cuffed' the perp while the other started a detailed body search. A third member, designated the 'breacher', cautiously approached the front door. When the suspect had been removed to an area close to the house, the two remaining team members stood on either side of the door. A kick pushed the door open all the way and one of the team members stuck in a mirror device to analyze the room beyond. With his free hand, he pointed down and then raised his index finger.

"Oh, Christ," Lamanna said as he watched the hand signals. "It looks like they found Detective Lopez." He gritted his teeth and shook his head.

Oleg was momentarily solemn in his respect for the dead detective.

Once they were satisfied that the immediate space was not occupied, the team members entered in attack breach mode.

Oleg and Lamanna silently watched and waited. A few minutes later, one of the team members came back to the doorway and signaled by hand that the house was neutralized and safe for others to proceed. Two of the second team trotted over to the house while another marked the shooter's rifle on the ground for CSI.

"As soon as we can, I want to get back on track as to why we're here." Lamanna frowned and looked down at the steering wheel.

"Joe, I'm sorry about Lopez. Did you know him very well?"

"No. He transferred in about six months ago from Rampart. Promotion and a chance to move out of that hellhole. I think he's divorced with no kids. The watch commander will notify his partner and next of kin." Lamanna let out a deep sigh and wiped his eyes. "Shouldn't have left him alone." The personal moment was interrupted by some message he seemed to be getting from his earpiece. "I'd better check in with SWAT because the lieutenant is on his way. Can you hang in?"

"Leave and miss a chance to help solve the murder case?" Oleg asked with a confident tone. "No way..."

"Hold that thought."

"I'll wait for you. Probably should call the office and get everyone at AOI up to speed on these developments." He nodded as Lamanna got out of the car and cautiously walked over to the growing group of policemen standing by the SWAT truck.

Oleg decided he would use his trusty Blackberry to check business emails after he made his phone calls. As he hit the pre-set to dial AOI, a member of the SWAT team appeared at the second floor window with a sheet. The officer, still in his tactical assault uniform, attached the sheet to the frame so the deceased could not be viewed from the street. 'The CSI team will be kept busy for a while,' he thought as he waited for his call to be picked up, 'so I might as well get comfortable and be productive.' He looked at his watch and verified it was just before 4:00 p.m. Blood was still trickling down the outside wall.

Forty-five minutes had passed and Oleg had answered his last email. In that time, the departing SWAT teams had turned over the case to Detective Lamanna and CSI had arrived to survey the scene. Detective Lopez's and the shooter's remains were transferred to body bags and removed - in separate vehicles. The sullen partner of the deceased, adorned with ankle restraints in addition to the handcuffs, was frog-walked by one of the policemen and taken away in the worse-for-wear but still serviceable 'black and white' while curious neighbors stood about. The street had been re-opened to residents and yellow police barrier tape had been placed around the front of Fine's house. Lamanna and another policeman had gone over to the house across the street to interview the teen. Oleg assumed that the interview would include making a report concerning all property damage to the SUV and sage words of advice to the youngster. But because a possible minor was involved, Lamanna would probably edit himself to avoid using colorful, expletive expressions. "Just the facts," he said to himself as he remembered the vintage 50's Dragnet TV show.

"Well, that's done," Lamanna said, as he got back into the car. "By the way, I mentioned your presence on the scene to the Lieutenant and he was happy to have you with us. I'll park this heap on the street and we can enter the house. When I did a brief walk-through, it appeared that the assholes were very thorough tearing apart Harvey's office on the first floor. But the place looks more disheveled than damaged."

"I suppose the guest bedroom is also a mess?"

"Pretty trashed...and it's the hotspot for CSI. They'll probably be finished within another hour, but we shouldn't need to go in there." Lamanna slowly backed the Crown Vic out of the neighbor's driveway and drove up to Fine's house.

"How about Harvey's bedroom? That's where we need to rummage around." Oleg got out of the car as soon as he could and stretched. He hadn't realized how cramped he'd become after being confined to the passenger seat for over an hour.

"Still secured with the yellow tape. From what I could see, the suspects didn't have time to break into the master bedroom." Lamanna opened the front door and beckoned Oleg to enter before him. "Why the interest in that lech's lair upstairs?" He smiled weakly with a questioning expression at Oleg as they walked into the entry hallway.

"It's certainly not to sniff his sheets," Oleg replied. He appreciated Lamanna's attempt to switch gears and create a lighter attitude in the face of tragedy, especially with the sight of dried bloodstains on the living room carpet. 'This had to have been from Detective Lopez's wounds,' he thought. "Our team at the computer lab found some porno files featuring Harvey with different guys. Most recently, from the time stamps on the videos, his co-star was the famous Rory Reed." He continued the lead and went upstairs with Lamanna right behind him.

"That's kinda kinky, but not unusual with Harvey being the boss of a porn studio and all." Lamanna nodded to a CSI team member as they passed the guest bedroom. "Different perks, I guess."

"Agreed," Oleg replied when they reached the closed door with the yellow tape. He stood back so the detective could breach the tape. "But the 'set' appears to be Harvey's bedroom rather than something in the studio."

"Now that's what I call an interesting development." Lamanna pulled away the yellow tape and opened the bedroom door.

"And in the videos I saw, Harvey was wearing the same gaudy robe that he was wearing in the murder scene pictures CSI took. It's like the robe was a signature costume for him."

"But I don't recall seeing any equipment when we were here this morning or reading any mention of stuff like that in the reports." He went inside, turned on a light and surveyed the room. "Looks like this space hasn't been disturbed."

"Good. Makes our job easier." Oleg walked over to the center of the bedroom and looked up at the ceiling. "From the angle of the videos - and the shots of Harvey in action weren't a pretty sight unless you're a chubby chaser - one of the cameras was mounted up there." He pointed to a smoke detector and added, "I suspect Harvey had mini-cameras installed up there. From the way his 'co-stars' handled themselves in the videos, I don't think they were aware they were being videotaped. There's probably a camera in the other detector over on the side. It seems like I also saw pictures from that position." He pointed at the far ceiling to make his point.

Detective Lamanna grabbed a chair and pulled it over to where Oleg was standing. He stood up and used Oleg's shoulder to support his balance. "Damn, I can see a small hole." He slowly twisted the cover of the smoke detector, removed it and stepped off the chair.

"There you are," Oleg remarked as he pointed at the small, electronic device about the size of a grape with a tiny lens. He walked over to the light switches next to the bed and turned them all on. "These dramatic lights were more than just setting a mood for Harvey and his visiting 'actors'."

"I follow what you're saying but I'm missing the point."

"As I said, I don't think the guys knew about the cameras. So..."

"Harvey was taping that night and whoever did him in wasn't aware of this?" Lamanna shook his head and continued, "I know we didn't uncover any equipment. Not in this room. However, we weren't focusing on anything else besides the murder." He moved the chair over to the other smoke detector, climbed up unaided and pulled off the cover. "Voila. Camera number two."

"I'm thinking the recorders are remote and located in another part of the house. Remember that one toggle switch I tried when we were here earlier that didn't seem to control either a light or music? And at the time, I just wrote it off as an obsolete switch? That's probably the way Harvey turned on and off his video setup." Oleg flipped the switch up and down a few times and shrugged when there were again no visible results.

"I can call a team and pull this place apart if it'll do any good." Lamanna started opening cabinet doors in the bedroom and looking inside.

"Let's check the closet one more time." Oleg went over to the doorway to the master bath and closet. He walked inside and studied the roomy, neat configuration. The walls were lined with panels of cedar wood. Nothing had been disturbed since their last inspection.

"Man, this guy spends more money on his clothes than I make in a year," Lamanna said from behind.

"Yeah, pretty impressive if you're into flash. I mean, how many white shoes and Gucci belts can you own." Oleg opened a few of the cabinets on top and noticed more folded shirts and sweaters. "Hmmm, this is like fucking dj vu, all over again."

"What do you mean?"

"Go back to the bedroom and measure something, would you? Pick a spot by the door and step off the distance to the far wall."

"Will do." Lamanna moved to an area just outside the door and walked along the wall to the other wall behind the bed. "Okay, I got seven long steps. What's next?"

"Come back into the closet and step off the length in here." Oleg waited until Lamanna reappeared. "Okay, start at the same spot in here and walk with the same stride to the end of the closet." He got out of the way and watched the detective walk the entire length with measured strides.

Lamanna slid the clothes on the rack aside as the toe of his shoe hit the opposite wall. "Six frigging steps." He started pushing the wall with his hands. "I get your point about dj vu. We're about 30 inches short from what I measured along the wall in the bedroom."

"I suggest we remove the clothing on the racks at the end for better access. We can lay them in the bathroom." Oleg grabbed two handfuls of hanger-stored pants and walked back to the large bath. He noticed Lamanna duplicate the same task and they placed the clothing on the floor at almost the same time. "Guess we don't have to worry about wrinkling his pants."

"Even if someone claims the body, I'm sure they'll find something in here that's pressed...and you only need clothes from the waist up anyway." Lamanna walked back to the wall and studied it. "Any ideas?"

"From the cedar paneling and the deep grooves separating each panel, it's hard to determine if there are any complete breaks. I suspect there's some sort of inside hinge and release mechanism like he had in his office storeroom. You feel around the right side and I'll check out the other." Oleg started pressing areas and remembered he had triggered the secret opening at Harvey's office by moving a book that had been rigged with a lever device. He studied his side and noticed a pair of brown and white wing-tip shoes stored on a high shelf away from the other shoes. 'I wonder if this might be the trigger,' he thought as he reached up and grabbed the leather toe. It didn't move easily. "Joe, please step back. I may have found a device."

Lamanna backed up and Oleg tugged on the shoe. It pulled forward as if it was on some sort of rail. A click could be heard on the other side of the wall and the center groove between the panels separated. "Open sesame," Oleg muttered with a smile. He swung open his half of the wall while Lamanna opened the other. "Whoa."

"We struck gold again." Lamanna licked his lips and studied the sight in front of him.

The 6' by 3' space looked like the results from a day of binge buying at Circuit City or Best Buy sitting on metal racks. In addition to three VHS recorders stacked on top of each other, there were a couple DVD players, a sound system, a Sony computer tower and a 19" flat screen. Red lights glowed from the various electronic black boxes. However, two of the VHS recorders appeared to be loaded with tape cassettes.

"This is your call, Detective. I'm dying to watch one of the tapes but this is evidence." Oleg looked at the bottom VHS machine and noticed it had run to the maximum amount of time. "What do you think?" He pointed at the recorder and arched his eyebrow.

"I think I'll call for some assistance. The last thing I need is for my fumbling fingers to erase the tape by mistake."

"Wise move," Oleg replied. "While you're at it, let me ask about any problems we may have if a defense attorney challenges our search."

"This is a murder scene, by three at this point, and every cranny is fair game. I'm going to see the CSI team and check out their progress after I call in an urgent request for computer tech assistance. I also want 'black and white' back up in the front and rear until we're out of the woods. Just in case our Russian friend sends any more troops."

"We've already made a heavy dent in Sergei's personnel, but he seems pretty desperate." Oleg had read the Russian's file several times and was aware of his psychological traits. "You want me to contact our top computer guy at AOI and ask him to come over here? He's familiar with all aspects of these cases and might be helpful." Oleg knew Buddy West could offer valuable assistance and the idea of his computer wiz being part of the electronic investigation was appealing.

"Give him a call. At this point, I just want to get this wrapped up." Lamanna nodded with a thumbs-up sign and left the closet.

Oleg returned to the bedroom and decided to sit in the chair still located under the smoke detector. He called Buddy West and explained the situation. Although it was at the start of late afternoon rush hour traffic, Buddy also knew the various surface street shortcuts and promised to be there within twenty minutes.

The dramatic lights were a little bright to his eyes. But the illumination also highlighted the room while he rested in the chair still positioned under the second smoke detector. It seemed impossible that so much had happened since Brad Williams first brought him into this crazy case. That it had expanded from a feeble attempt by someone to frame an innocent young man to an important International incident involving a cast of despicable characters was mind-boggling. Harvey Fine, Detective Lopez and a bad guy had lost their lives in this house while two men had died violently over at Fine's office in the Valley. Another two mob foot soldiers were under guard in the hospital.

Oleg decided to call Gordy and find out how Andy was doing. Both were working on their laptops at Gordy's apartment and they were planning on grilling steaks a little later. Andy had accomplished his errands that included buying new basic clothes and replenishing a stash of his dog's favorite food. Andy had called the studio and explained that he would not be in for a few days, but assured the Webmaster that he'd return to distribute payroll and commission checks on Friday.

His bullet-point description of the afternoon's events hammered home Gordy's need to keep a close watch, due to the potential ever-present danger to Andy. Oleg did request that Andy call the studio one more time and make sure the operation was functioning well. Specifically, without arousing suspicions, he should find out how long the video shoot featuring Rory Reed would last. Oleg wanted to keep track of the porn star and asked Gordy to text message him with the information concerning Rory's whereabouts.

"We've got teams posted in the front and back until further notice," Lamanna said as he returned. "And a computer tech will be here in a while. However, I couldn't get an ETA."

"Buddy West, our computer man, should be arriving any minute." Oleg decided not to rub in the LAPD bureaucracy issue because it was something the detective faced every day. "I also checked up on Andy Leeds. He's in good shape and will continue to stay with my associate for a few days."

"That's wise. And I don't mind if West handles the tapes so we can save time."

"I also asked Andy to call the studio and find out if Rory was still working. Just in case..."

"If he's on the tapes, his alibi is history." Lamanna looked over to the door and nodded at the arrival of a stranger. "You must be West?"

"Yes, Sir. And I assume you're Detective Lamanna?" Buddy West entered the bedroom holding a large black carrying case. He walked up and shook hands with the detective before turning to Oleg. "Can I see the equipment you mentioned?"

"Detective Lamanna gave us the green light to review any tapes of relevance...and I'm anxious to see if there's anything useable. You okay with that, Joe?" Oleg turned to Lamanna and raised his eyebrows.

"I brought a laptop that can read the videos as they're played," Buddy replied. "Instant backup just in case."

"Let's do it." Lamanna started walking to the closet and added, "We may have to move a little more clothing to make room for the three of us."

While Oleg and Lamanna carried more clothing - suits and jackets - to the bathroom, Buddy studied the equipment. He opened his case and pulled out his laptop and a few cables. Within moments, he had the two VHS recorders rewinding and connected cables from the top machine to his laptop.

"We're ready whenever you are," Oleg said as he noticed that the screen had been turned on and glowed a brilliant blue.

"I selected the top recorder first." Buddy turned to Lamanna and asked, "Can you see okay?"

"Let it rip. I'm as curious as everyone else."

Buddy hit the play button and the screen rolled a few times until the familiar image of the bedroom next door came into focus. The now late Harvey Fine, dressed in a gold robe, was dancing and smiling broadly. Suddenly he stopped and looked toward the door leading from the hallway. He started talking to the unseen person and lifted his gold robe. He rotated and revealed his bare ass.

"I hope no one has eaten recently," Oleg said with a groan. "Oh, we go."

The back of a young man's head appeared. He was wearing an over-sized shirt and was talking to Harvey. The older man turned around and wiggled his eyebrows while his mouth was moving. The mystery man was now in the room far enough to reveal that he was holding a heavy wrench behind his back.

"There's exhibit A." Lamanna moved a little closer to the screen.

Suddenly the man slammed his fist into Harvey's stomach, causing him to double over. The younger man moved around slightly so that he was revealed: Henry Wiedermeier, aka Rory Reed. He swung the wrench around and the end connected soundly with Harvey's skull. Harvey collapsed to his knees with a shocked expression and opened his mouth as he keeled over. It appeared he tried to talk, but his life ended. A pool of blood started gathering on the carpet near the wound.

"Can you stop the tape for a moment?" Lamanna asked. "This is enough to make a move on this guy and make an arrest."

Buddy immediately froze the picture on the screen, of Harvey's last living moments, and stepped back. "I'll wait for further instructions. The second VHS has a tape with mileage on it, also."

"We'll want to see that...for sure...but I need to call the station and coordinate an arrest. Oleg, you're positive Rory is still at the Frat Loft studio?"

"Let me check my cell." Oleg pulled out his Blackberry and hit the button to call up text messages. He looked at the screen and the semi-cryptic message: "rory conf @ studio. wl B stl thr." Oleg paused and nodded a few times as he silently read the message with his lips forming the complete words.

"Any problem?" Lamanna asked.

"Just the realization that I'm on the long side of a generation gap." Oleg shrugged and added, "It says, 'Rory confirmed at studio...still there.' Guess he's still working."

"After units are dispatched, I'll return to this Emmy Award-winning performance. We've got this fucker, Rory-slash-Henry, nailed for sure." Lamanna turned to Oleg and Buddy with a grin. "Thanks, guys. This almost takes the edge off an otherwise shitty day."

Oleg watched his friend rapidly leave the room. He turned to Buddy and said, "You did a helluva job. Is there any problem with you hanging around to run the rest of the tapes?"

"Nothing that can't wait," Buddy replied. "This stuff is better than The Sopranos...only the blood's for real. Plus, I suspect there's still plenty of press outside. I don't think either one of us needs to be photographed."

"Point well taken." Oleg didn't want his image running on the evening television news programs.

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