The Picture Ranch 20
I didn’t get as far as the “d” of “What deeds?” before Schultz pointed the gun at me.
‘Fisher, you want my help or not?’
He laid the gun down beside the unused desk companion set.
‘The Vegas boys and the Chicago mobs are coming, y’know. I got to go legit somehow. Those deeds are my comps to the big table.’
‘Why? What good are they to you?’
‘Whoever holds ‘em can make Mulvaney and his LA County cronies cut him in. In ten years I could be a millionaire.’
‘You gotta have that much now.’
‘T’ain’t clean money.’ He laughed. ‘I gotta clean tainted money or I haveta earn money that’s already clean. Always the same in California.’
‘I still don’t get it. It’s scrub land full of mesquite and coyotes up around Encino, how is that worth money?’
‘There’s a geological report says there’s water.’
‘Didn’t LADWP say Mono Lake is going to satisfy demand for 100 years?’
‘Jus’ cause Mulholland’s dead, don’t mean they stopped lyin’ at the Department of Water and Power.’
‘Who actually owns the land? Whose name’s on those deeds?’
‘Dincha read ‘em?’
‘Harry Trent. That’s the name on the deeds.’
‘Well, it seems Mr Trent is dead. Married a woman called Mrs Gräfenberg. She’s dead too. Died in childbirth about 15 or 16 years ago.’
‘That’s some coincidence.’
‘You think so, Fisher? I think it shows what a player Mulvaney is.’
I swore. Used a few words I hadn’t used since I left the Marine Depot.
Schultz laughed, ‘Your twist’s missing brother wasn’t just a toy for Mrs Mulvaney, Micawber.’
I asked him for the drink I’d refused.
The gangster stood up and looked at the photographs on his vanity wall. He turned his head and looked over his shoulder at me,
‘Ya know I ain’t got either of ‘em, right?´
‘If you say so.’
‘Well, I ain’t. Who does though, huh? Mulvaney must be spitting turkey feathers.’
‘Don’t you know?’ I pointed up at the picture with Mulvaney and Schulz looking pally.
‘Mulvaney forgets who his friends were.’
‘Most people do.’
‘Y’ever think your Miss G and her brother might be in the wind? Maybe even playin’ house in Des Moines or Poughkeepsie?’
‘You don’t know much about your nephew, Benny.’
Schulz turned and banged the desk. The pen fell out of the companion set.
‘Waddaya mean by that, Fisher?’
I told him what I meant by it and Schulz collapsed into his chair with his face in his hands.
Before I let myself out, I said he could send Lipowitz if he had anything useful to tell me.