“Hey, sleepy,” Andie says, as I wander out of the bedroom. She’s at a small desk working on her laptop computer, legs crossed, still in her short robe.
“Catching some bad guys?”
“Not really, just answering some e-mails.”
I nod, pour myself some coffee, and look at the messages again Andie had written down for me. Roy Haynes and a lawyer. No contest on who to call first.
“Hang on a sec,” Andie says. “Let me shut down here so you can call.”
“Take your time.” I take my coffee and a cigarette out on the small balcony. The sun feels warm on my face as I sit down in one of the chairs and think about last night.
Terry had been right. Niki’s Deli was a good scene, kind of like Cheers with jazz. Apparently, there was a group of regulars who came every week and everybody did seem to know everybody’s name.
During the first set, Andie and I had one of the best sandwiches either of us had ever had while we listened to Terry play piano. He was even better on piano than on bass. I sat in during the second set while Terry played trumpet—his first instrument he told me—and later, a couple of other horn players had come by to play and both had taken my number. Let the games begin. I knew that Niki’s Deli would be a regular haunt for me.
Andie joins me outside with the phone and the messages. “Here you go, babe,” she says, handing me the phone. I take a deep breath and dial the first number.
“Blue Jay Productions,” a woman’s voice says.
“Hi, this is Evan Horne, returning your call. The message was from Roy Haynes.”
“Oh yes, just a minute,” the woman says. “I’ll connect you.” While I wait, I glance at Andie. She’s leaning over the rail of the balcony and the robe is creeping up her thighs and…
“Evan Horne. Larry Klein. I manage Roy’s bookings. Thanks for getting back. I’m sure you know all about Roy.”
“Well, he’s planning a new project, a recording with several different pianists and bass players, kind of his favorites over the years, some he’s worked with, some he just likes.”
“Sounds like an interesting idea,” I say. I light a cigarette and start to get excited. Klein has a loud, booming voice and talks fast.
“Oh yeah,” Klein says. “Killer concept given Roy’s history. Anyway, your name came up.” He pauses for a moment. “Roy would like you to do one, maybe two of the tracks.”
I hold the phone for a moment, too stunned to speak. “You’re kidding.”
“I never kid,” Klein says. “Got a pen?”
I motion to Andie for a pen and paper. “Yeah.”
Klein gives me a New York number. “That’s Roy’s home phone.
He’d like you to call him and let him know you’d be interested.”
As I scribble down the number, my mind is swirling. “When should I call?”
“Sooner the better. He’s done two tracks already. Benny Green, and Chick, of course. Herbie Hancock is scheduled next.”
Of course. “Okay, well thanks. I’ll call right away.” “Outstanding,” Klein says. “Later.”
I punch the off button on the phone. Andie looks at me. “Well?”
“The drummer Roy Haynes. He’s doing a CD with a bunch of piano players and wants me to be one of them.”
“I know I should be impressed,” Andie says, “and I would be if I knew who Roy Haynes is.”
I laugh. Andie wasn’t quite up on her jazz history yet but she was improving. “Bird, Miles, Coltrane, Monk, practically everybody who is anybody from the fifties to now. He’s played with them all. He must be on over a thousand recordings.”
“Okay, now I’m impressed. He must have heard you play somewhere or on a record, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.” But how or when escapes me. I had that one recording I’d done years before and the new one as well, but it hadn’t got much air play or decent sales. “Guess I’m going to find out.”
I dial Haynes’ home number and check my watch. It’s two in the afternoon in New York.
“Last time I checked.”
“Hey, it’s Evan Horne. I got your message and just talked to Larry Klein.”
“Oh yeah, man, how ya doing?” His voice is suddenly full of warmth.
“Larry tell you about the project?” “Yeah, sounds pretty interesting.”
“I got the record company to get behind this and with the cats I can get they’re up for it.” He pauses for a moment. “Bet you wondering how I heard about you, huh?”
“Well, yeah I am, frankly.”
Haynes laughs. “I just got back from a European tour, met up with my old pal Fletcher Paige. He told me all about you and said if I didn’t include you on this he’d start telling stories on me.”
“How is Fletch?”
“He’s doing fine, playing his ass off as usual. Anyway, I checked you out, got a copy of your CD. Man, you should be with a major label. I liked what I heard, so if you’re up for it, I want you to do one, maybe two tracks. We’re doing it in New York.”
“I don’t know what to say.” “Easy man, just say yes.” “Yes.”
“Cool. Larry will be in touch with the details. Think about a ballad and something up tempo, okay?”
“Sure. Hey thanks, man, I appreciate this. It will be a privilege.”
“Talk at you soon then. Bye.”
“Bye.” I lean back and expel a big breath. Once in awhile, you’re in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances. If I hadn’t gone to Europe, met Fletcher Paige…My mind reels off the chain of events that cause Roy Haynes, one of the premier drummers in jazz, to call me and offer a record date. What a way to start the week.
I have another cigarette and try to calm down before calling the lawyer.
“Law offices,” a woman’s voice says.
“Yes, this is Evan Horne, returning Mr. Scott’s call.”
“One moment.” There’s a couple of clicks then a man’s voice.
“Mr. Horne. This is Roger Scott. I had a devil of a time tracking you down. If it weren’t for your friend Lieutenant Cooper, I don’t know if I would have found you.”
I tense a little. This kind of call always makes me apprehensive. “Yes, well I’ve been out of the country and in the Bay Area since I came back. What’s this about, Mr. Scott?”
There’s a slight pause before Scott continues. “I’m afraid I have some bad news. You are acquainted with Calvin Hughes. Is that correct?”
I grip the phone tighter. Cal Hughes and I were more than acquainted. He’d been a kind of mentor to me and at one time took me on as a student. Our relationship had been good but sporadic. The last time I’d seen Cal was during the Gillian Payne business, and after that nightmare was over, Cal had looked in on my recording session.
“Mr. Horne? Are you there?”
“Yes. Sorry. What about him?” But I already knew. Cal had been sick for a long time, living on borrowed time and too stubborn to have anything much to do with doctors.
“I’m sorry to tell you, Mr. Hughes died last week.”
I stand up and glance at Andie. She looks at me questioningly.
“There’s already been a funeral I take it.”
“Well,” Scott says. “Mr. Hughes was a member of one of those societies. He’d made arrangements to be cremated.” Scott pauses and clears his throat. “This is rather awkward on the phone. I’m sorry Mr. Horne. I only knew him briefly, just taking care of a couple of legal things for him, his will, the house in Hollywood.”
That Cal even had a will much less a lawyer surprises me, and makes me realize how little I really knew about him. Except for Milton, his Basset Hound, he had kept to himself as far as I knew, and had few visitors. He’d never talked about any family and I’d never pressed it.
“Which brings me to more pleasant news,” Scott continues. ”Mr. Hughes has named you as sole beneficiary to his estate, minus taxes and fees of course.”
Cal lived in a tiny bungalow in the Hollywood Hills, wedged between two much larger homes. I had no idea what it would be worth, but he had told me developers had been after him to sell several times.
“Yes,” Scott goes on. “And it’s considerable, all things being equal. The will has been authenticated and the title to the house cleared. What I need is for you to come to Los Angeles and well, accept your inheritance. Would that be possible? I could mail the papers I suppose but someone needs to go through his possessions at the house and you—”
“No, I understand. I’ll come down there. When?” Andie is standing by me now, her hand on my shoulder.
“Well, the sooner the better,“ Scott says. “I’m going out of town myself and I’d like to clear my desk on this.”
“Fine,” I say. “I’ll try to get a flight for tomorrow.”
“Perfect,” Scott says. He gives me the address and I write it down. “See you then, Mr. Horne. I look forward to meeting you. Mr. Hughes spoke very highly of you. It’s a shame really.”
“He seems to have had no one but you. Goodbye.”
“Bye.” I press the off button on the phone, sit down numbly, and turn to look at Andie. “Remember Cal Hughes? He died last week and left his house to me and some other stuff.”
“Oh God, I’m sorry,” Andie says. I catch a flicker of something in her eyes before she turns away.
When I’d become a kind of go between for the FBI and a serial killer, I’d been checked out thoroughly by the bureau and that included friends and acquaintances. Cal Hughes was one. Andie and I had one battle about her checking Cal’s background.
“You were pretty close to him weren’t you,” Andie says. “Yeah, I was.” Maybe more so than I thought. I was never sure about Cal. He could be so damn cantankerous, but on the other hand I’d always felt some strange connection to him. I could never exactly figure it out, but it was there nonetheless.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just, well hit me harder than I thought it would,” I reply, even though I knew this was coming. “I should have seen him when I came through L.A.”
“Oh don’t do that, Evan. Don’t beat yourself up. You couldn’t have known.”
Andie is right, but I’m floored with regret. I get up and let her hug me. “I think I’m going for a walk.”
She studies me. “You want some company?” “No, I don’t think so. I’ll be back soon.”
“Okay, I’ll get some lunch going but I’ve got a stakeout tonight. Guy we’ve been keeping under surveillance is about to move, we think.”
One of the hazards of living with an FBI agent is that the bad guys never sleep. She looks at her watch. “Damn, I’ve got to go by the bureau too and—”
“Hey, don’t worry I’ll get something.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, Andie, really.” But I was anything but fine.
# # #
At Oakland Airport, there’s a long line to clear security and as my luck would have it, something sets off the beeper. Not only do they check my bag closely but I have the electronic wand waved over me and I’m told to take off my shoes. By the time I get to the gate, I just make it. As I board the shuttle flight to Los Angeles, regret and remorse continue—classic case of I wish I had done this or that, said something, visited, seen Cal one last time.
He’d come to the recording session, even brought along Milton. He’d listened to the playback for two tunes, nodded and said, “You don’t need me here.”
But I had and I wanted his approval. I’d called him just before I left for Europe. All he’d said about that was, “Good move.”
I wished there’d been more, or that I’d stopped in when I hit California, but I couldn’t now. Calvin Hughes was dead and gone.
The landing announcement takes me by surprise. It doesn’t seem possible we’re already descending into L.A. I have a seat near the front so I’m one of the first off. I’m surprised to see Danny Cooper waiting by the gate. I’d called him when I was coming down but expected him at the street exit.
“Hey, sport,” he says. He’s dressed casually in jeans, sport shirt, and a light jacket. “Good to see you.” He gives me a hug and steps back to look at me. “I think San Francisco agrees with you.”
“Damn good to see you too, Coop. How’d you get in here?” Then I stop and laugh as he rolls his eyes.
“Official police business. I flashed my badge, said I had a lead on a fugitive who’d been in Amsterdam.”
I laugh again as we start down the corridor toward the street. “I bet you’re parked at the curb too, right?”
“Where else? Got a security guy watching my car.” “Ah, the abuse of police power.”
“Always a plus.”
A security guard in a yellow jacket is leaning on Coop’s car as we come up. He looks at me, checking for handcuffs I suppose. “This the guy?” he says.
“No, but a material witness,” Coop tells him. “I appreciate your cooperation.”
The guard straightens up and almost salutes Coop. “Glad to be of help.” He tips his hat and walks off. I try to keep from laughing as we get in Coop’s car and drive away.
“Sorry to hear about your friend.” Coop maneuvers out of LAX and heads up Lincoln Boulevard. “The attorney that called me said Hughes told him if anything happened to call you or me. I guess Cal remembered me from our fun and games with the FBI.”
“Yeah, well he’d been sick for a long time, but it’s still kind of a shock, almost as much as what this lawyer told me about his estate.” I look over at Coop. “By the way, thanks for putting him in touch with me.”
Coop nods and turns onto the Santa Monica Freeway. “Thought I’d drop you at the lawyer’s first. I’m sure you want to get that out of the way. Then maybe we can have lunch. I’m off today.”
“Great. I’d like that. Thanks for picking me up.”
I give him the address and he exits and heads north to Wilshire Boulevard and an office complex in Westwood.
“I got a couple of things to do. An hour be enough?” “Should be.”
“If it’s longer I’ll be in there.” He points to a coffee shop across the street.
“Cool,” I say, getting out of the car. “See you there.”
Roger Scott’s office is in a small building shared by other attorneys and business types. I find his name on the directory in the lobby and jog up some stairs to the second floor. The office is small with a tiny waiting room and a secretary-receptionist manning a desk and phone. I give her my name. I’d already left a message about my flight.
“Oh yes,” she says. “He’s expecting you. Just a minute. I’ll tell him you’re here.”
She comes back in a minute and directs me into Scott’s office. “Mr. Horne,” Scott says, rising from his desk.
Scott is a small compact man, probably early sixties with graying hair and rimless glasses. He’s wearing a smartly cut dark suit and floral tie. We shake hands and I sit down opposite him.
“I appreciate your coming so soon,” Scott says. “I’m trying to wind up things. The wife and I have a short vacation planned.”
“No problem,” I say.
Scott opens a file folder on his desk and goes through some papers. “Well, this is fairly straightforward. As I said, the house is yours as are the contents for you to dispose of as you see fit. Mr. Hughes was very definite about that.”
“What about Milton?”
“Milton?” Scott looks puzzled for moment. “Oh, the dog. Well there’s a girl, I believe, a student at UCLA who was helping with that. I assume she has him.”
He shuffles through some of the papers. “Yes, here it is. Dana Trent. Her number is in here. She lives nearby and the last few months has been taking the dog for walks. Mr. Hughes was having trouble getting around near the end.” He looks away for a moment before continuing.
“There are also some moneys, some accounts. Mr. Hughes lived a fairly frugal life. He named you as beneficiary of those as well.” He hands over some checkbooks and papers from a savings and loan.
I take them and glance through noting the amounts, then look back at Scott in surprise.
Scott smiles. “Yes they are correct. I was surprised myself.”
I spend the next half hour going over paperwork, signing a sheaf of papers. I give Scott my address and phone number. He verifies my identification, makes a photo copy of my driver’s license, and finally calls in his secretary to witness my signature. He then gives me a small envelope with the house keys.
“Well,” Scott says. “That about does it I believe, except for one thing.” Scott looks suddenly uncomfortable.
“Mr. Hughes’ remains, his ah, ashes as it were. I believe I mentioned he had stipulated cremation.”
I close my eyes for a moment. I hadn’t even thought of that. “How does that work?”
“Well the society picks up the body and performs the cremation and holds the remains for”—Scott searches for the right word—“release.” He hands me a folder from the society. “This is the address. They’re in West Los Angeles.”
I take the folder and glance at it. “Do I just go over there and—”
“Yes,” Scott says. “I’ve given them your name. They hold the remains for I believe it’s sixty days.”
I nod, lost in thought for a moment, as Scott busies himself straightening things on his desk. After a couple of minutes he breaks the silence.
“Do you have any other questions?”
One thing does occur to me. I’d never heard Cal mention a lawyer. “Do you know how Cal came to choose you as his attorney? I’m just curious.”
Scott smiles. “Funny you should mention that. I wondered myself. He never said, but I had the feeling he just picked me out of the yellow pages.”
That would be so like Cal. I smile and shake my head. “Well, I can’t think of anything else. Oh, was there a letter, an envelope, anything like that?”
“No, nothing like that,” Scott says. “I’m sorry. Were you expecting something?”
I shrug. “No, I suppose not.”
“Well, I’ll get these papers filed this afternoon.” He hands me a card. “If you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do, please call me. I’ll be back in a week or so.”
We both stand up and shake hands again. “I am sorry for your loss, Mr. Horne.”
Scott hesitates a bit, as if he was going to tell me something. “What?”
“Oh nothing really. I just had the feeling that Mr. Hughes didn’t quite tell me everything. It’s just me I guess. I can usually tell about these things.”
“I know what you mean.”
# # #
Coop is already in a booth at the coffee shop, nursing a Bloody Mary when I come in. “That looks good.” I order one for myself. We both settle on sandwiches and I realize how hungry I am.
“So, everything go okay?” Coop asks.
“Yeah, I’m amazed. I now own a house in the Hollywood hills and came into a few bucks, well more than a few. Just really doesn’t make sense, Coop. I mean I didn’t see Cal all that much. We had our moments and he taught me a lot about piano but…” I shrug. “It never occurred to me he’d do this.”
“Well, I guess there was no other family and he must have thought a lot of you.”
“Yeah, makes me feel guilty I didn’t come to see him when I got back from Amsterdam. We always had this kind of connection. It’s hard to describe.”
“Nothing you can do about it now,” Coop says. “What are you going to do with the house? Sell it, rent it?”
Good question. “I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to move back here. I like the Bay Area a lot. But Cal always held off the developers that wanted it, so I’m not sure what to do yet. I have to go out there and see it, go through his stuff and decide what to keep. I’m not looking forward to that.”
“Yeah,” Coop says. “Not a fun job. Well, best to get it over with quickly.”
“There’s also his remains.” I tell Coop about the cremation. “I have to pick them up sometime.”
Coop looks at me. “What are you going to do with the ashes?” “No idea.”
“He didn’t leave any instructions, last wishes?” “Evidently not.”
“Well, you’ll know what to do when it’s time.”
I nod as our order comes. We eat and I catch Coop up on my adventures in Amsterdam, my move to northern California, and Andie.
“I can see you got it bad,” Coop says, smirking. “How does she like it up there?”
“Seems to like it fine. She’s on bank robbery detail now, and I’m just playing it by ear.” I tell him about the place in Monte Rio. “You’ll have to come up some weekend, get away from the smog and traffic and crime.”
I also tell him about the Roy Haynes offer although Coop knows less about jazz than Andie and has no idea who Roy Haynes is.
“Think about it as if I were a struggling country n’ western singer and Garth Brooks wanted me to be a guest on his next record.”
Coop smiles. “Now that would be impressive.” He nods and picks up the check, then hands it to me. “Hey, you’re an heir now. You can take care of this.”
We go back out to Coop’s car and I light a cigarette, feeling a little overwhelmed with everything, thinking how quickly your life can change.
“What do you want to do?” Coop asks. “I could drop you at the house then pick you up later. You can crash with me.”
“Yeah I guess that’s the best plan. I don’t think I want to stay there. At least not tonight anyway.”
We head up Sunset then at La Brea, turn north to Franklin. At Beachwood Drive, I tell Coop to turn north again and we wind up into the hills a few blocks. When we pull up in front of the house, Coop keeps the motor running. “I won’t go in,” he says.
“Thanks, Coop. I’ll give you a call later.”
He leans over and looks up at the house. “Damn it’s a tiny place, and all those steps. Don’t trip.”
“Yeah, Cal called it his built-in stair master.”