During his investigation, Carmine discovers that a beautiful blonde bartender went missing in Las Vegas around the same time. A mysterious Russian lawyer with ties to the Las Vegas underworld hires him to find her. As both cases progress, a lot of people are suddenly very interested in the missing boat and the missing bartender.
The case takes Carmine from his dilapidated fixer-upper of a house in Pacific Beach to Cabo and Vegas then back, tracking down the boat, the businessman and the girl. As he gets closer to the solution, it’s obvious someone doesn’t want him to succeed, and will use deadly force to stop him.
Something bad has happened. I’m alone in the ocean, treading water.
Rolling green swells surround me under a foggy ceiling as I realize this is the Pacific. I’m propelled along by a strong current, caught up in the flow like a dirty sheet in God’s washing machine.
The power of the rip current holds me tightly in its chilly grasp. I’m moving too fast to break free, but the familiarity of the water I’ve grown up with gives me a small amount of comfort somehow.
After an eternity in the churning sea, I hear the sound of waves breaking on an unseen shore, just moments before the swell behind me curls over into a six-foot breaker.
Before I can even begin to worry about whether there are rocks or cliffs ahead, I’m swept up and thrust through the wall of mist. The surf crashes, rolling me out onto a sandy beach. The water recedes, leaving a blanket of white foam behind.
I’m face down on the firm, wet sand. I slowly get to my knees and notice I’m wearing bright orange swim trunks. This is odd because I don’t own any bright orange swim trunks. I shake my head and look around. No people, just desolate shoreline and sand dunes interspersed with a thick white fog.
There’s something here, but I’m not seeing it. Like a quick glance at a crossword puzzle, I see the spaces, but can’t grasp the words that should fill them. There’s an importance to this place but the saltwater in my eyes makes everything slightly out of focus.
Blinking in the sunlight which shines brighter now, casting shadows and revealing familiar shapes in the sand around me. I start to grasp the significance of the outlines, but I’m startled by a large, blue dragonfly that hovers in front of my face.
The loud buzzing jolts me awake as my iPhone vibrates around on the nightstand. By the time I get oriented and pick up the phone, the caller has hung up. The sunlight through the bedroom window shines full in my face. I have got to get some shutters in here. Those along with a hundred other things are sorely needed in this old house.
Now that I’m awake, I’m aware of three things: I’m really in my own bed, I’m still unemployed, and the damn dreams are back in full force. I push my face into the pillow, blocking out the sunlight.
Only one of these things is good news.
I’ve been medically retired from the San Diego Police Department for eight months now. When I joined the force, I figured I would be a cop for the rest of my adult life, well until retirement, anyway. I was not prepared to leave early.
Now I have to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life, find my new career and start over.
Also, I was hoping the dreams would subside if I were no longer involved in police work. Apparently that’s not going to be the case.
Precognitive dreaming it’s called. Some people who research this phenomenon believe it’s the foundation of what’s commonly known as déjà vu. Their theory is that you have the precognitive dream in the middle of the night, but by the next morning when you’ve awakened, you no longer remember it. Then some days or weeks later when you find yourself in the place or situation you dreamt about, it suddenly seems familiar and you get that whole ‘déjà vu’ feeling. Unfortunately for me, I always remember them vividly. Every time.
When I was a cop, the dreams would often lead me to people I was looking for. When I found a missing Alzheimer’s patient or caught some semi-intelligent criminal that had eluded other cops, I would just say I had had a hunch or a gut feeling. Cops understand that part, no need to explain further.
Psychological “help” never appealed to me, so I never said anything about the dreams to the department. Nor did I ever tell any of my friends. I was hoping the dreams wouldn’t come back now that I was gone from all that.
I glanced at the phone to see who just called. It was Gary Houston, a detective I used to work with at Northern Division. He had done his thirty and taken a service retirement a few years ago. Afterwards, he started a small private investigation firm here in Pacific Beach. Several retired cops from our department had done short stints there, but nobody seemed to last for long.
He had asked me at my impromptu retirement party if I wanted to go to work for him. It seemed like a no-brainer since we were both in Pacific Beach but I told him I would think about it. He was persistent and I finally agreed to do some freelance work on a few cases that he really needed help on.
I rolled over onto my back and stared at the ugly popcorn ceiling above me. Fragments of the dream lingered in my head. There was something there on the beach that I-
The phone vibrated in my hand now. Geez this guy.
I slid my thumb across the screen. “Good morning, Gary.”
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“I was sleeping. Now I’m awake.”
“Were you able get photos of that work comp guy surfing?”
“No, he gets up too early.”
“What about that college girl’s stolen laptop?”
“No new leads, as far as my investigation has revealed.”
“How far is that, exactly?”
“Not very, to be honest.”
“I see,” he paused for a second. “So what I hear you saying is that you’re waiting for a big caper to really sink your teeth into, start your new career off with a bang.”
I said, “I’m not sure that’s what I’m saying at all, actually.”
“Yeah that word, ‘career’ just sounds so permanent, like I’m making a commitment.”
“Don’t think of it as a commitment; make it something more fun, like a challenge.”
“Oh well, now you’re talking. Who doesn’t love a challenge? Except me, of course.”
“Oh bullshit man, I’ve seen you spend weeks solving one caper or finding one guy. You know you love it.”
“Maybe I was just an overachiever back then.”
“So you got no interest in taking on the mysterious disappearance of a local rich guy, lost at sea in his very expensive sailboat?”
“No, I’m not- wait, what?”
Gary jabbered on about this being a challenge worthy of my talents or something, but I wasn’t listening anymore. The last image from the dream had snapped into focus, the thing that caught my attention there at the end.
Footprints. One set of bare feet leading out of the water, across the beach and into the fog. Another set running parallel to the shore, but not human. Animal tracks.
I could still feel the sensation there, a bad vibe if you’re so inclined. A heaviness I’ve experienced before. As a cop working patrol and even before that, when I worked as an EMT for an ambulance company, that same feeling of denseness in the air at the place where someone had died or something very bad had happened.
But where was it? Was it a real place or just a metaphor for something else? I’ll figure it out, I always do. Just not always in time, sometimes. But that’s another story.
I quickly said, “Yeah, yeah I’m on it, count me in.”
There was a long pause from Gary now. “Maybe I got the wrong number. This is Carmine LaRosa, the retired San Diego cop, right?”
“Medically retired cop. Just email me the info, the package, the contract, whatever terms you private eyes’ use.”
“Okay, if you’re gonna work for me the term is, ‘private investigator’.”
“Whatever, just send it.”
He said, “I should probably double-check your email address, cuz I sent you stuff before and never heard anything back.”
“Too much? I can stop anytime.”
“Okay I will send the case file to your alleged email address. You may begin the investigation at once. Why don’t you start by talking to the client, his name is David Elliot. I want regular progress reports and let’s meet up for breakfast or lunch in a day or so, go over the basics.”
I said, “You want these reports in writing?”
“Who pays for the breakfast or lunch?”
“The client, of course.”
“I’m liking this gig already.”
I disconnected and got out of bed. The pooch continued sleeping. I went out to the kitchen and turned on the burner under the kettle.
The pooch joined me after a few minutes and nosed around his mostly empty food bowl but I played like I didn’t notice. I hate these dreams. They were one of the reasons I took the medical retirement when it was offered to me.
I made some green tea and sat down at my laptop. I navigated over to SignOn San Diego, the website of San Diego’s local paper, the Union Tribune.
On their electronic front page were today’s headlines: College girl assaulted on Mission Beach late the other night, a City Councilman under investigation for taking money from strip club owners, some other pointless world news, and then the story about my new client: ‘Local Mortgage Company Owner Missing At Sea’ was the heading in bold type. In smaller type below that, ‘Coast Guard Searches For Missing Sailboat’ along with a photo of a very good looking trimaran with blue hulls, white deck and a white stripe along the outer hulls. The sails were also blue. A smaller photo of a handsome, tanned white guy with wavy gray hair and perfect white teeth was inset into this picture.
The actual story under all that bold type was pretty thin. Basically, a local rich guy named Barry Bricker left a Shelter Island marina last week bound for Cabo San Lucas on his trimaran. A trip he had made solo many times before. He never arrived in Cabo, never telephoned his wife, and never radioed or called for help. He just disappeared.
After being two days overdue his wife had called the Coast Guard and the search was on, but the story didn’t break till today.
There was a passing mention of his very successful La Jolla mortgage business as well as the obligatory social appearances at fundraisers for Children’s Hospital, San Diego Walk MS, and Aerospace Museum among others.
Gary’s email popped up while I read this. Inside was the name and address of Bricker’s mortgage business, David Elliot’s info, Bricker and his wife’s home address and phone numbers, along with a note that they were all expecting a visit from his ‘lead investigator’ today.
I went and got changed into a business casual sort of outfit. What I used to wear when I had to go to court, minus the tie.
I thought briefly about sliding the gun and holster onto my belt. I could do a concealed carry as a retired police officer, according to Federal law, but not according to State law or even City of San Diego ordinances for that matter. I decided to leave it in the safe.
The pooch saw me getting ready and went outside through his custom made doggy door, since he knew that was next in the routine. I had made it from an old vent I had removed in the kitchen wall during the remodel. It was pretty clever I thought because I made it look like a solid vent plate on the outside, not a doggy door. It was only one-way, he could go out but not come back in, but I preferred it like that. The pooch knew I would let him back in through the sliding glass door at some point.
I grabbed a notebook and threw it in my old tactical briefcase and headed out.
Copyright© George Eliseo. All rights reserved.