He Doesn’t Remember.
“Hey White, long time no see. Didn’t think you were ever going to come back to the big, bad city. What ya doing back here after all this time?” The homicide detective greeted his ex-comrade.
Wendell Bud White was looking around, checking out his surroundings, City Hall Detective Bureau, LAPD. “Place hasn’t changed much.”
“Yeah.” An agreeing chuckle. “The place was a dump three years ago when you were here, and it’s still a dump.”
“Who’s the Commanding Officer here now?”
“Deputy Chief, Thad Green. Why?”
“In his office.” The detective was curious. “Gonna ask him about giving you your old job back?”
Turning to leave, Bud didn’t bother to answer.
“Hey White. You hear what happened to Captain Exley?”
“I heard.” Turning back to the other man, hands in pockets, White kept his face expressionless. Three years since the Night Owl Murders and the shoot-out at the Victory Motel. He left to set up housekeeping with Lynn in Bisbee, Arizona, and Exley. Exley did what he was best at, realizing his ambition, being promoted to Captain. Becoming a Captain at the age his father was just being promoted to Lieutenant. Not only measured up to his father, but surpassed him. Bud had had no contact with Exley since he had driven out of L.A. with Lynn, but he had obsessively followed Exley’s career. A friend, still a LAPD police officer, had kept Bud current, mailing him newspaper clippings, and interoffice memos regarding Exley. His friend thought that Bud’s fixation stemmed from hate and animosity. Little did his friend know.
“Strangest thing really. No one knows why Captain Exley was at Salvatores at that time of night. I mean, even for a police officer, to go there alone, a mob run...”
“Exley still in a coma then?” Trying not to appear too interested.
“No, he’s awake now, but I guess his memory is for shit. Word is that right now he has no fuckin’ clue who he is, let alone why he was at Salvatores that night.” A sudden thought occurred to the police detective. “Hey Bud, is that why you came back? Came back to gloat. That prig Exley finally getting his just dess...”
Bud had the police detective by the lapels of his sports jacket before the man could even finish his sentence. “We might not agree with him. We might not even like him. But he’s one of us, Detective. And we don’t wish or want such a thing happening to any of our own, including Captain Exley.”
“I’m only allowed a certain number of visitors, so...” Trailing off, Ed was frustrated, not knowing who anyone was. At this point only close family would be allowed to visit him, but Ed had no family. So a limited number of visitors had been permitted to come see him, his peers, the Captain of Narcotics and the Captain of Vice, the Deputy Chief of Detectives, and the LAPD Chief of Police himself, William H. Parker. He hadn’t recognized any of them.
The voice was low and quiet. Studying the man in front of him, Ed saw nothing to indicate that the man was a police officer, except there was an air about him. An air of one who perhaps had been at one time. Ugly scar on his right cheek, giving him a hard, dangerous look.
“So only certain people can come and see me.” Ed felt unsure of himself, and the man’s intense stare wasn’t helping any. “So...who are you, and what relationship do you have with me?”
“Oh, we go way back Edmund.” Bud laughed softly. He couldn’t take his eyes away from Exley. Bandage around his head, face haggard and gaunt, Ed looked fragile and vulnerable.
Edmund? Exley thought with confusion. Everyone else, including Chief Parker had addressed him as Captain. “Way back? Friends, distant family? Because I do know that I have no immediate family.”
“We’re more than family Ed. We’re...” Bud stepped closer to the bed. “We’re connected. Connected through blood and death. We’re spiritually and physically tied together.”
Letting his head fall back on the pillow, Ed wondered who the incompetent hospital employee was who let this nut in to see him. “Listen Mr...err...”
“Bud. Call me Bud.”
“Ok...Mr...Bud. I’m not really into religion...or, at least I don’t think I am...was religious. So this whole spiritual and physical connection you’re talking about is not anything I ...”
“Ed!” Bud grabbed the other man’s hand in his own, holding it tightly. “Don’t you remember me? I was your enemy, your partner, your savior...your lover.” Bud made the same mistake that so many others had. The mistaken belief that physical contact, and reminders would miraculously restore a memory in the blink of an eye.
“Listen...Bud, I think you better leave now.” Now agitated, Ed was trying to pull his hand away while at the same time search for the nurses’ call button.
“Edmund.” Leaning down, using his other hand, Bud held Exley still for a moment. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Letting go, Bud took a step backwards, breathing in deeply. He hadn’t handled the situation well at all. “If...if you need me...if you need anything, you can call me.” Scribbling the name and room number of the cheap motel where he was staying on a small pad of paper on the stand by the bed. “Edmund.” Eyes met eyes, as Bud tried to silently communicate his sincerity. “You can trust me. I’ll be there for you. I didn’t let you down before, and I won’t let you down now.” Hesitating a moment, waiting, but all Bud got was a confused look from the other man. Exley didn’t remember him.
Pouring himself another slug of rye whiskey, Bud eyed the plastic motel cup. “Nothing like drinking out of plastic.” Sitting in a dingy motel room, drinking rye whiskey, reading the police report of the attack on Exley. Knocked to the floor, Ed had been repeatedly kicked in the head. He was lucky to be alive. The men who had attacked him, escaped, nowhere to be found. Probably all in Sicily now. But the big mystery, what the hell was Exley doing at a mob strong hold in the early hours of the morning by himself?
Standing up to stretch, Bud had already made his decision. He would stay in L.A and wait for Exley to recover his memory. In the meantime, he would check around. Try to find out what lead Exley had been following. See if any of his old contacts knew why a Homicide Captain would risk being at Salvatores at one in the morning.
Pushing the drapes aside, Bud looked out onto the motel’s parking lot. The view was depressing, but he didn’t even see it. Memories of Ed flashed through his mind’s eye. A prissy, self-righteous Ed telling him what an‘ignorant bastard he was. A sincere, and wiser Ed, shaking his hand, and thanking him for the push. A semi-naked Ed beneath him, being violated, trying to reason with him. “Lovers.” Bud whispered to himself, pressing his forehead up against the window. A total lie, just wishful thinking.
“My name is Edmund J. Exley. My father was Preston Exley, a police officer. I followed in his footsteps. I...” Nothing. He had no memory of any of this. Fingers curling into the bed sheets. Sweat beading his brow. Head starting to pound. Breathing becoming more rapid. He resisted the urge to start pounding his head into the wall or the floor, because the rational side of him knew that he couldn’t beat the memories back into himself.
Getting out of bed. Legs shaky and weak. He needed to get up, focus his mind on something else, anything else. Focus on not falling down, keeping his legs under him. Legs so unstable that his upper body fell back down on the bed. Face down on the bed, his mind just a blank nothing, except one recent memory kept playing itself over and over in his head. The face of his last visitor, the man named Bud.
“Captain Exley! You ok?” Voices entered the room.
“Yeah.” Exley lied. “Just giving my legs a little exercise.” An attempt at humor to try and deflect some of the pity.
“Hate to tell you this Ed.” Deputy Chief Thad Green appeared in Ed’s line of vision. “But you’re still lying across the bed.” A forced grin, as the Deputy Chief tried to answer the humor with more humor.
“Yes, but my legs are out of the bed.” Letting the nurse help him back into bed, Ed attempted a weak smile at his boss. “A man came to see me yesterday. Said his name was Bud. Do you know...”
“White. Yeah, he came and asked my permission to be allowed to visit you.”
“Permission?” Exley’s head jerked up.
“We’re monitoring your visitors. After all you were almost killed by some mob boys, and until your memory returns we can’t be too careful. Anyone who wants to see you has to get my ok first.”
“So who is this Bud White? He said some odd things. Said something about being my partner. Was he...”
“He never was officially your partner, but...” Pausing a minute, trying to decide how much he should tell Exley. “You and he had...dealings.”
“Dealings? What kind of dealings? Good, bad?”
“A little of both...” Deputy Chief Green turned to look out the window. “I let him come see you, because I thought he deserved it.” Turning back to face Ed. “Unofficially he saved your life. Took three bullets for you.”
“He said that he hadn’t let me down. Guess he wasn’t kidding.” Ed mumbled this to himself softly.
“Nothing. What do you mean by unofficially?”
Green heaved a huge sigh. “It’s very complicated Ed, and it’s...” Searching for the right words. “It’s a touchy situation. It’s not something you should be worrying about now. You just need to concentrate on getting better. As your memory come back, you’ll probably remember the whole incident on your own.”
“So this Bud White was...is a cop?”
“Retired on disability after the...after being shot. Although after seeing him yesterday, he didn’t look real disabled.” A sudden thought occurred to Green. “Was he...difficult? Did he give you a hard time? White can be...forceful at times. I’ll order that he not be allowed in to see you.”
“No.” Ed settled back on the pillows. “You’re right. Saving my life, I guess he’s entitled to visit me.” And to himself, Ed admitted that he was glad that there was such a convenient excuse, because he wanted, no needed to see Bud White again.
“Johnny Stompanato.” Bud smirked at the man, knowing he was the last person Johnny wanted to see. “Been looking for you. Back in town, and I’ve been looking up all my old friends.”
Sighing and looking away for a moment, Johnny signaled to the bartender for a refill. “I’m touched.” The two men were silent while the bartender poured Johnny another shot, and took Bud’s order. “So, how does an ex-rundown cop fill his time now?”
The insult was obvious, but Bud held his temper in check. He had a purpose, and he couldn’t afford to be side-tracked. “Salvatores, a known mob hang-out. What would a cop, a Captain be doing there alone in the early morning hours?”
Lighting a cigarette, Johnny blew smoke in Bud’s face. “Dunno, why don’t you ask him?”
In a lightning fast move, Bud had Johnny’s arm in a strong grip. “Come clean, or you’ll find that cigarette up your fuckin’ nose.”
Johnny could feel Bud’s hand tightening. Could feel the pressure on his wrist bone. Knew that it wouldn’t take much for White to squeeze some more and break his wrist. “Listen, I don’t know why LAPD’s big hero was there? Maybe Captain Exley’s starting to believe his own press. Thinks he’s Superman, and can do anything he wants.”
“Wrong answer Paesano.” White started to squeeze harder. His intent now was to break some bones.
“Listen.” Now in pain, Johnny managed to gasp out that word. “A price. They put a...”
“What?” Bud loosened his hold for a moment. Johnny had gotten his attention.
“I. . .don’t. . .know why Exley was at Salvatores that night, but word on the street is that a price was put on his head. He must have seen or heard something. Something that the big boys want kept secret. And that’s all the info I have.”
Letting the other man’s wrist go, Bud stood up. “Keep your ears open, cause I’m planning to keep in touch. Be looking you up again, real soon.”
“Can’t fucking wait.” Johnny was moving his wrist back and forth, trying to get the circulation back in it.
Bud gave the ex-bodyguard a smile that was more a sneer, as he threw a bill on the bar. “This one’s on me. Oh, and say hi to Lana for me.”
“I was told you saved my life.” Ed studied the man who was deliberately trying to keep his distance. “Tell me about it. What happened?”
Bud shuffled his feet uncomfortably, remembering Deputy Chief Green’s warning. ‘Don’t upset Captain Exley in any way. Be on your best behavior, or you’ll not be allowed to see him again.’ Opening his mouth, trying to find some excuse, some other topic to talk about.
“You were told not to tell me anything, weren’t you.” Ed had interrogated enough suspects. He had learned how to read people.
Scratching the back of his neck, Bud didn’t want to lie to the Captain, but he didn’t know how to answer him either.
“Three bullets. You took three bullets for me, didn’t you? I see the scar on your face. Where else were you shot?”
“Left arm and in the chest.” A flicker of rage flared in Bud’s eyes as he remembered. Smothering his anger quickly, because he knew he needed to keep control. “That’s water under the bridge now Captain. Listen, I found out...”
“Captain? Yesterday I was Edmund.” The two men eyed each other. Sparks flew between them. “I want to see your other scars.” Ed sensed that he was being uncharacteristically bold.
Silence as Bud, unsettled by how the meeting was taking such an unexpected turn, searched for an answer. “Another time perhaps...listen Captain...err Ed I found out something very interesting earlier today. I passed this information on to Deputy Chief Green. He took note of it, but...”
“But what?” Ed prompted Bud who had trailed off unsure of himself.
“I was told that the mob put a price on your head. You must have discovered some serious shit. I’m worried about you Ed. Green thinks you’re safe enough with a couple of guards...” Bud motioned to the two police officers standing watch outside of Ed’s hospital room door. “But I don’t agree with him. I don’t think you’re safe here at all.”
Processing the information, Ed found that it only made his head hurt worse. “I don’t suppose Green can spare any more men. But...” He shrugged his shoulders carelessly. “There is no other place for me to go.”
“Come with me.” The urgency was apparent in Bud’s voice. “I’ll hide you out, and take care of you. I know that if Green knew what I was trying to talk you into, he would have my head. But you know...or maybe you don’t.” Bud stepped closer, examining the other man’s angular, lean face. “But when it comes to what cops are on the mob’s payroll, the list is endless, and surprising. Who can you really trust Ed? Who’s on the take? One of those young officers...” Waving his hand toward the two cops on guard. “Both of them. Maybe Lieutenant Philips? Or maybe...Deputy Chief Green himself.”
“No...I don’t believe...” His head was really pounding now. Frail, with no memory to give him a frame of reference, Ed’s head was spinning. Breathing in deeply, he tried to make sense of everything. “You’re right. I can’t really trust anyone, can I?” Narrowing his eyes at the man standing in front of him. “And that includes you.”
A long moment passed as the two men considered each other. “You wanted to see my scars, Ed? Well take a look.” Shrugging off his sports coat, Bud tore open his dress shirt, causing some of the buttons to fly across the room. Ripping off his shirt and his tee shirt, Bud stood, naked from the waist up, revealing the two ugly scars that marred his chest and left arm. “Look at them closely Exley, and then tell me you can’t trust me.”
Reaching out a tentative hand, Ed traced the scars lightly. “You took these bullets for me.” A whisper.
Leaning down, fists sinking into the mattress, Bud held Ed’s eyes with his own. “Yes, and I would do it again. I know you don’t remember me, but believe me when I say, ‘you can count on me Ed.’ Just trust me. Let me help you.”
Shaking his head slightly in assent, Ed felt the other man’s sincerity, and realized that Bud was right. He didn’t know who he could trust, and with no memory he was even more vulnerable. “Alright Bud. What exactly do you have in mind?”
Continue to part 3
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