H Is For Homicide Page 38

’’I'm surprised they don't try the freeways,’’ I remarked.

He shook his head. ’’Too dangerous. These guys aren't interested in getting killed. What they do is choose a 'mark'- usually someone in an expensive vehicle or a commercial van - anything with a likelihood of being well insured. A vehicle they call the 'squat'car positions itself in front of the mark. These drivers are tooling down the road at thirty-five miles an hour, everybody minding his own business. At a signal, a second car, called a 'swoop', cuts in front of the squat car, which brakes sharply, forcing the mark to rear-end it. The swoop car takes off. The squat and the mark pull over to the side like good citizens and exchange license numbers. At this point, the mark is usually pretty upset. Here, he's rear-ended another vehicle and he knows the responsibility is his. The driver in the squat car is full of sympathy - hell, he can afford to be - confirming just what the mark wants to believe, that it wasn't his fault.’’

’’But his insurance company pays anyway,’’ I said.

’’Has to. You rear-end somebody, you're liable in this state. Turns out the squat's got all these 'problems'resulting from the accident. He sees a lawyer, who tells him he better see a doctor. Or he might be referred to a chiropractor...’’

’’All of them in cahoots... ’’

’’All in cahoots,’’ Lieutenant Santos said. ’’And Bibianna got involved in the ring through Raymond?’’

’’It looks that way. From the information we've pieced together, Raymond recruited her two years ago, though he's known her much longer. They were all set to get married about a year ago, but for some reason she pulled out. March, she did a disappearing act and a short time later surfaced in Santa Teresa. It looks, on the face of it, like she meant to go straight, but she had a hell of a time finding work. She finally picked up a job with a dry cleaning establishment, but it doesn't pay much, and in the end, I guess she couldn't resist trying a little scam or two of her own.’’

I was beginning to see how it all fit together. ’’And now my investigation has jeopardized yours.’’

’’Not yet, but it looks like you're getting close. We can't afford to have you blundering in unawares, which is not the only problem we face. It looks like we've got a leak somewhere, critical information spilling through the pipeline into Raymond's ear. On at least three occasions, we've had raids set up... most recently on an auto body shop he owns in El Segundo. We have arrest and search warrants up the yin-yang. By the time we get there, the whole operation's been shut down and we walk into an empty facility - nothing left on the premises but a tire iron and a Pepsi can.’’

’’I don't get it. What are you looking for?’’

Lieutenant Santos paused to clear his throat. ’’Files, records. You follow the paper and it leads right to Raymond. We can pick him up, but by then the evidence has either been moved or destroyed and the DA throws the case out.’’

’’So it was all for nothing, this raid you talked about?’’

’’Not quite. We took out the guy at the top, plus half a dozen other players - couple of attorneys and some MD's, two chiropractors. Raymond just turned around and expanded his piece of the operation. He used the bust to move himself up into the slot we cleared for him. We're going after him again, of course, but we have to track down this snitch first or it's the same story all over. In the meantime, we're trying another angle we think might work. The problem is, since we don't know where the leak is, it's hard to know who we can trust.’’

Dolan stirred restlessly, speaking up for the first time since Santos had started filling me in. ’’As much as I hate to say this, the breach might originate in one of the departments up here. We think that's how Raymond found out Bibianna was in Santa Teresa. She got arrested here a month ago and somebody dimed her out.’’

I could feel a quick spark of recollection. ’’Oh, yeah. I remember now she mentioned that. She's worried sick about Raymond finding her.’’

’’She's got reason to worry. The man's got serious problems,’’ Santos remarked. ’’I've seen the results of some of his handiwork.’’

’’I still don't quite understand why you're telling me this stuff.’’

There was a brief silence and then Dolan spoke up. ’’If we can move you into position with these people, we might have another shot at them.’’

I stared at him blankly. ’’Oh, come on. You're not serious.’’

I looked from one to the other, but neither of them said a word. ’’How do you propose to do that?’’

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