30 Days has September,
April, June, and November
All the rest have 31
All that is
Except for one...
-Classic Children's Rhyme
It was a dark and stormy night. And that's unusual for LA this time of year. It seemed the wind and rain were somehow blocking out the street lights and, for the lone man walking his dog in Highland Park just after midnight, a claustrophobic sensation invaded the familiar sidewalks and surrounding buildings only a few feet in front of him, giving them a suddenly foreboding feel.
That's why he didn't see the other man, until a flash of distant lightning momentarily lit up a darkened York Boulevard. The man was standing still in the shadows, looking up at the windows of the old police station, now the Los Angeles Police Department Museum.
"Oh! I'm so sorry!" said the dog walker, as he pulled on the leash of his suddenly furiously yapping terrier mutt. He'd nearly bumped into the other man, who, he subconsciously noticed, was in his late fifties, at least. "I didn't see you there. And old Bonesy here, well, he's nearly blind as a bat."
"That's alright," said the older man. "It's my fault. I was just having a look at this old place. I used to work here."
"Oh, you're a cop, huh?" asked the younger man, with a sudden edge of suspicion. "Or maybe a crook?" He laughed, uneasily. "Just kidding," he said, looking the stranger up and down a bit more closely. He turned to look up at the 100-plus year old building, a relic of another age. "That hasn't been a real police station in years. Except in the movies." He turned back to the stranger. "You retired now?"
"No, not yet," said the older man. "But soon enough."
The first man looked away as the rain began to drive a little harder. "So, you used to work here, huh? You must go back quite a ways. How long you been a cop?"
"47 years," said the old man. The dog walker whistled.
"Guess it's about time, huh?"
"Well, every dog has his day, as they say. Like old Bonesy here. He sure picked a helluva time for a walk. But, when you gotta go..." his voice trailed off into the void of the advancing storm.
The aging dog was lifting his leg against the hedge lining the sidewalk and, finishing, it suddenly looked longingly back towards home. The gathering wind and rain blew through the grey tufts around his snout and he began to shiver.
"Well, good luck," said the younger man. "Enjoy your retirement." He turned and began walking back, huddling against the rising elements as "Bonesy" pulled him along insistently.
"Yeah. You too," the older man murmured, looking down at the dog.
He turned back to gaze up at the old police station. "A museum," he said, under his breath. A crack of thunder clapped overhead, nearly simultaneously with the flash of lightning. "Storm's closing in," he thought to himself.
He turned, raised his collar against the wind and walked away in the suddenly pelting rain.
The next morning dawned clear and bright as Arty Wylo, a senior LAPD Homicide Detective, sat at his desk in the Hollywood Police Station, greeting other cops as they wound their way through the maze of corridors and offices, some coming on-duty, others going off. Most of them hailed him with friendly jibes and obvious respect. But not all.
"Hey, Wylo," one of the younger cops said as he passed on his way out. "The Lieutenant is looking for you. In his office." He said it with a smirk and the jerk of a thumb.
Wylo nodded, got up, and headed towards his boss' office. On the way, he passed a lounge area where he noticed Lt. Raphael Fatjo, standing by the coffee counter, alone, with an empty coffee pot in one hand. Fatjo turned to look at Wylo as he entered.
"You wanted to see me Lou?" said Wylo.
Lt. Fatjo brightened and said, "Arty! How ya doin? Sit down, sit down... want some coffee?" Wylo, sitting down, replied, "No thanks." He looked at the empty coffee pot. "I just had some. You wanted to see me? What's up?"
"What's up?" said Fatjo. "Nothing's up! Why does something always have to be up?" Wylo just stared and said nothing. After a moment, Fatjo said, "You know, I could ask you the same question."
"I was just heading out on the Salvo case" said Wylo.
"Oh yeah... the Salvo case," said Fatjo. "How's that going?"
Wylo shrugged his shoulders. "It's going. I just found his old landlord. Figure maybe he left a forwarding address or something."
"You think it'll be any good after 30 years?" asked Fatjo. Wylo shrugged.
"Face it, Arty. Salvo blew town right after he whacked his rich old lady. With 5 million bucks in 1980's dollars. He could be anywhere. What makes you think he's even still alive? Or still in LA?"
"Old habits die hard," answered Wylo.
"Yeah" said Fatjo. "Yeah, OK. Well, you can check out your lead, but I was just wondering..."
Wylo, after a moment, responded. "You're a lousy wonderer. Get to the point."
"Jesus Christ, Arty!" exclaimed Fatjo. "I'm just asking you to take it easy for awhile. Let some of the younger guys catch some of the glory now and then."
"For chrissakes Lou!" responded Wylo, irritably. "I'm not in the ground yet. Cut me some slack."
"That's the point" said Fatjo. "You're not in the ground yet. And I'll be damned if I have it on my head if you do go down on my watch. In your last month? After 47 years on the job? This ain't one of your goddamned movies you know."
"So that's what this is about" replied Wylo, with a weary nod. "What's the matter Raffy? Afraid of how you'll come out in the book? Forget it. It's just between you and me."
"Sorry Arty. I can't take that chance." The lieutenant put the coffee pot down in front of Wylo and whipped a paperback book out of his rear pocket, flinging it across the table. On the front, a splashy graphic showed the title:
Walking The Beat
Det. Arty Wylo
"As of now, you'll be walking the beat, alright," said Fatjo. "Between my desk and yours."
Wylo turned his face up at Fatjo with an angry look and started to protest. Fatjo cut him off. "That's right" he said "You're on the desk. For a month... at least. And, yes, that's an order." Wylo looked at him sourly.
"Look at it this way," said the lieutenant. "You can finally learn how to use that department computer you hate so much. What do you got to bother with all that paper for?" he asked, with the exasperated air of a man who is tired of asking the same question, over and over.
"I like paper," said Wylo.
"Yeah, well try seeing what you can find in the online county rental records," said the lieutenant. "You got a lot better chance digging up Salvo in there than going to see some old landlord."
Wylo decided not to argue. "Anything else?" he asked.
"Yeah," said Fatjo as he thrust the empty coffee pot into Wylo's hand. "If you drink the last cup of coffee, make sure you brew another pot." He strutted out of the lounge and into his office across the hall, slamming the door.
Wylo looked at the coffee pot for a moment, got up to go to the sink as if to fill it, but dropped it in the garbage instead.
He shuffled over to his desk and sat staring at the unlit screen on his PC monitor, which was mostly covered by a picture of his grandchildren. He removed the photo and, after a moment, flipped the power switch. A ghostly image began to boot up on the screen. It read:
Welcome To The LAPD.
That same morning across town, a different PC was switched on and Tony Nouzo sat down at her desk to start another day of blogging about celebrities for the LA Times.
She's a slight, mousy-looking girl, late 20-something and wearing frumpy, loose fitting clothes, mostly in darker colors. All around her was the buzz of activity typical to a newsroom with one foot still in the past of print journalism, the other kicking its way into the future of the web. Both seemed to be whizzing by Nouzo's obviously intentional inclination to blend into the background, moving neither backwards. Or forward.
Amanda, the kind of snooty girl who seems to inhabit every busy office, big or small, walked by and dropped an envelope on Nouzo's desk with a flicker of undisguised contempt. Nouzo grabbed it eagerly, tore it open, and eyed its contents intently. It was her pay statement.
As Amanda moved on, she called back to Nouzo and, said, a bit too loudly, "Oh yeah. Mr. Breakstone wants to see you in his office. Now."
Nouzo looked up, nervously and asked, "About what?"
Amanda shot back, "How should I know? But if I had to guess, it's probably time for your review."
"Has it been three months already?" Nouzo asked, mostly to herself.
"Yeah, time flies," said Amanda. Then, more sternly, "You better get going, he's waiting." She moved on, dropping envelopes on desks throughout the humming room, exchanging some banter (and a few snarky laughs) as she went.
Nouzo got up to go, but then remembered to save the blog post she was just getting started on. Something about some Double D-List "TV Star" getting ready to film a reality show about... what she couldn't remember at the moment.
As she moved to hit the SAVE button, she accidentally pushed DELETE and the story disappeared. "Damn!" exclaimed Nouzo. She picked up an ornate, old fashioned fountain pen and a small, paper notepad, and started out hurriedly to her editor's office on the furthest side of the newsroom.
Along the way she clung to the edges of the vast, open space, avoiding the eyes of others. She needn't have bothered. Nobody noticed as she passed by, like a ghost. She walked up to a door, slightly ajar, with a sign that read:
West Coast Bureau
From inside, Nouzo heard a man's voice saying, "Yes, Yes, what is it? Come in, Come in."
Nouzo timidly opened the door and walked up to the desk, waiting silently. Breakstone was working at a PC behind his desk, absorbed intently, reading and editing some copy. After a moment, he turned around.
"Who the hell are you?" he barked, looking startled. "What do you want?"
Frazzled, she sputtered, "I'm Tony Nouzo... one of your bloggers? I'm on the TV beat." She offered up her Press badge, hung around her neck on an LA Times lanyard. Breakstone read the name.
"You don't look like a Tony" he said. "Shouldn't that be spelled with an "I' or something?"
Well, my real name is Antoinette Nelson," said Nouzo, "but I thought..."
"You thought what?"
"I thought it might be better if I used a man's name. You know. As a pseudonym," said Nouzo. "I can change it if you want."
"No... no," said Breakstone. "It's not a bad angle I guess. How come I never saw you around here before?"
"I... I don't know. I've been here about three months now."
"What have you got there?" asked Breakstone. He was pointing to her pad and pen.
"I thought I might have to take some notes or something," said Nouzo.
"Didn't we give you an iPad?" Breakstone asked. "What do you wanna mess around with paper for?
"I like paper," Nouzo said, barely above a whisper.
Breakstone looked at her with a hint of contempt. After a moment he said, brusquely, "All right then, sit down, sit down. Let's get this over with."
He turned to an open laptop on his desk and began looking over Nouzo's performance record on a spreadsheet. After a moment, he said, "As you should know, we do a review every three months and I've gotta say," looking up at Nouzo, then back to the small screen, "I'm not very impressed."
"With what?" she asked.
"Your numbers. They're pretty low. Why is that?"
"Your hits. You know. The traffic to your posts? Don't you know anything about SEO?" Breakstone asked, clearly irritated.
"But you published all of them," Nouzo said. Breakstone looked over at her sharply. "I mean, most of them anyway."
"Look," said Breakstone, with a clear note of irritation in his voice, "despite what you may think, we're actually doing something around here. But you got no punch. Do you even care about what you're writing?"
"I'll try harder?" said Nouzo, with what she hoped sounded like confidence.
"That may not be enough," said Breakstone dryly. "But, seeing as how you seemed to have escaped my notice so far, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt." He reached to close the laptop and said, "I'll give you a month to shape up or ship out. Now get back to work." He turned back to the PC behind his desk, a gesture clearly meant to mean the performance review was over.
Instead of getting up and walking out, however, Nouzo remained seated. Breakstone became aware she wasn't leaving, turned around and said, "Well?"
"I was just thinking..." said Nouzo.
Nouzo was suddenly seized by the thought of slashing Breakstone's throat with the razor-sharp tip of her fountain pen. For a moment, she fantasized about its cutting through his carotid artery and the oddly comforting thought of Breakstone's spurting blood, splashing his desk and covering the walls of his office.
Instead, she asked, "Aren't there any positives? Is it all about numbers and... Search Engine Optimization?"
Breakstone eyed her, a bit more warily this time, opened up the laptop again and said, "Well, you do seem to have a flair for breaking news. But your background stuff needs work. Do you even watch TV? I mean, without getting paid for it?"
"There's one in every room..." she said, her small voice trailing off.
Breakstone looked long and hard at Nouzo. Finally, turning back to the screen, he said "Let's see. Oh. You do have relatively good numbers on your obits."
Looking her over, he said, sarcastically, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised." Then, perhaps, to lighten the mood, Breakstone quipped, "Maybe Dame Maggie Smith will do us all a favor and kick the bucket this week."
Nouzo looked up, startled and said, "She's not dead yet?"
The smile drained away from Breakstone's lips and he said, with finality, "You got 30 days," and turned back to his PC monitor.
Nouzo got up from the chair, left the office, and slipped quietly back to her own desk.
She pulled Google up on her PC and typed "Dame Maggie Smith +address" into the search box. The results page came up instantly and Nouzo clicked on the first entry. It opened to a web page titled:
Roadmap To The Stars
Stay tuned for 30 Days: Day Two
©2018 by Reid Moore