By Karl J. Niemiec
Author of “Alien Made” – proceeds from book sales benefit Indiana Youth Group (see below for novel excerpt, Chapter 6)
From my 30-odd years of living in L.A., the one thing that always held true was that in every apartment building I lived in there was always at least one person selling drugs. It wasn’t always pot – sometimes coke, or both.
Once, while assistant managing in North Hollywood, two guys came in the wrong first floor bedroom window and held up a young couple from Colorado who had no idea why they were getting the crap beat out of them over unpaid drug bills, while the other guy holding a machine gun went through their wallets and purse, until they realized they had the wrong people. Then they just left.
A few years later, while managing another apartment building in North Hollywood, two guys came in with machine guns looking for the baseball catcher at Valley College who was apparently behind in his payment for dealing pot. They walked into the third apartment from the front of the building instead of the back, and beat a young doctor’s daughter’s boyfriend to a pulp, duct-taped them both to kitchen chairs and went through their wallets and purse.
Was it the same drug dealers? I don’t know.
Once they, too, realized they were in the wrong apartment, they went down to the right apartment and beat the crap out of the Valley College quarterback who had nothing to do with the pot selling. He just had the misfortune of having a roommate who did, and didn’t keep up with his payments.
Then there’s the other kind of drug dealers: The growers. They were the most interesting ones, because they were usually older, kinder, smarter, more fun and usually from the hippie generation. They were tired of paying the man for their expensive stash, so they were cutting out the middleman and going into business for themselves.
One time, in particular, stands out to me.
I was home, as usual, writing away in my top floor apartment at Mammoth Towers in Sherman Oaks, Calif., when the phone rang. It was my tenant from 102, who I liked a lot, and often talked with about interesting everyday things. But this time, she was quite perturbed with her lot in life.
We, as a building, had a swamp cooler up on the roof, which meant, everyone got free air conditioning from the owners of the building who footed the bill. Unfortunately, it kept breaking down, and the current owners, two Korean doctors, owed all their workers, and in particular, Harry the air conditioner guy.
So I was stuck having to reset the massive computer down in the basement two and sometimes three times a day. When I was off working a gig, I had a friend, TJ, who lived for free in my garage studio apartment keep an eye on it. He is Jozeph Picasso’s friend, JJ, in the Alien Trilogy.
But on this particular day, it was hot outside, but the machine was up and running and hadn’t shut down yet. So when I got this woman’s call and heard the tone in her voice, I knew something was up.
“Karl, you’ve got to do something, I’m roasting down here.”
“It’s cool up here; the air is working perfectly, come sit on the couch and read.”
“No, can’t, I’ve got work to do. Can’t you do something about the air? I’m dying.”
“No dying allowed while in the building. House rules.”
“I’m serious, please come look. I can’t leave, I’ve got to work. But can’t when it’s so hot like this.”
“It’s called hot flashes. Take a cool shower.”
“Come down. Please.”
Okay, so trying to get her off the phone didn’t work. I wanted to just write. My guess was she was having hot flashes. So I headed down to the first floor. And when I stepped out of the elevator the overwhelming smell of pot hit me hard. And good stuff, too.
So I made a right turn and headed down the hall and when I get through the fire door, there she was standing in the hall, waiting for me. And that enclosed part of the hall was even thicker in pot smoke. Probably more than half the tenants smoked pot once in a while, even some of the kids, but as the manager of the property, it was my job to keep such things behind closed doors.
“Thanks for coming.”
“We better go in and open some windows.”
“I’m getting stoned, just standing here.”
“Oh, I’ve got medical pot.”
“Good for you. Inside.”
So, we go in and I close the door, then open her French patio sliding door to let the air clear out.
“See. It’s hot in here.”
“Yes, it is.” And at least ten degrees hotter than the hallway. “Do you have your oven on?”
She went in and looked. “No,” she said from in the kitchen.
“It’s definitely odd. I can hear the air running. Let me test it.” So I get up on my tip-toes, use the wall to balance myself, and feel the air. “Just as cool as mine.”
“It can’t be. I’m dying in here. I couldn’t sleep. I was in bed naked and awake all night.”
My mind did its best not to picture her frumpy sixty-something body lying awake naked in bed. But failed. Damn.
After the shock of that vision subsided I noticed how hot the wall was. I mean, it was actually hot. I moved my hand around the wall as she watched me. The whole wall was very hot as I move to the area where there was the bedroom behind it. It was a 1,500-foot apartment with a very nice size living room, and the whole wall was emitting heat.
I moved my hand back about 10 inches off the wall and it was just as hot. It was as though I put my hand near a heat lamp. Heat lamp? I turn to her. She didn’t give me a single sign that she knew what I was talking about. One thing I knew about people, everyone was an actor or con artist in LA, or both. So I didn’t say anything further about it. Why bother at this point?
“Let me go check the air again. I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks, thanks, you want to take a hit first?”
“Too early in the day for me. But thanks, I’ll be right back.”
Of course, I knew what was going on. And I’m pretty sure she knew I knew what was up, but she wasn’t about to give me a hint to what she was doing. In case I decide to let it slide. Which I knew I couldn’t because now that I knew, or at least suspected, I was responsible for it being in the building, if I didn’t make her stop.
I couldn’t just demand to see her spare bedroom, which was directly behind that wall. My guess was, if the living room wall was this hot than the wall between the two bedrooms was just as hot. And that’s why she was hot, naked and awake all night.
So I went down into the underground garage where all the electric meters were and found the one for apartment 102. Sure enough, it was spinning like crazy. Probably 20 grow lamps fast — one for each plant. I checked the others in comparison, and they were barely moving. Even the one for the building was barely moving in comparison to hers and that had the swamp cooler on it.
After a moment of thought, there was only one thing I could do without being a total jerk about it. Shutting off her electro wasn’t an option. Turning her in wasn’t an option. Making her move wasn’t an option I wanted to consider either. I just had to make her stop growing pot in the building. At least on this level.
So I went back to her door and knocked. She answered, having taken a cool shower. She was now dressed in her robe. I was hoping she wasn’t planning on bribing me in any way shape or body form. Instead, she just stood there waiting for the verdict.
“You got two days to get all that out of the building.”
“All of it?”
“You can’t grow pot here. You’ll get both of us in trouble if we get raided. And no selling it while in the building.”
“It was for me. I’m sick.”
I just looked at her, and let that statement sink in.
“Okay. I’ll have my brother come and get it. Thanks.”
“You want a joint?”
“If I find one lying by my car front wheel. I’ll confiscate it.”
She closed the door. And that ended my first day as a Narc.
Below is “Alien Made: Chapter Six.” If you decide to jump ahead and read the whole trilogy and buy copies on Amazon, either in paperback or Kindle Books, at http://amzn.to/karlniemiec, know that portions of the proceeds from those sales will be donated to Indiana Youth Group, which supports LGBTQ in ages 12-20.
“What is this? Wait a minute. I’ve changed my mind. You’ll need a warrant to get into my apartment.”
MacAroy spins me around and Tucker cuffs me. “Take a look at this while we ride up.” MacAroy holds a signed warrant to search the entire building. Tucker presses three several more times as though it’ll make us move faster. When it finally stops, Tucker nudges me out of the elevator towards my door. “The keys.”
“They’re down in the car running in the drive.”
Tucker pushes my face up against the numbers 308 on my door and MacAroy goes back down grumbling something about me being a pain in the ass already.
They have no idea. “Bring my cell phone up, too. It’s in between the front seats.”
“Shut up,” MacAroy says.
I wait there with Tucker, listening to Bubba bark, causing the two Pomeranians to start in across the hall.
“You got a real mutt farm growin’ here.”
I just rest my forehead against the door thinking about the Essinola family prone in the desert sand. Bugs eating at them as their bodies bloat in the sun, their digestive juices staining their ill gotten clothing, since they dressed so well while owing me so much. It makes me smile, until MacAroy gets back. “I didn’t see a cell phone,” he tells me as he unlocks the door and they crowd me into my apartment. Bubba is there with a squeaky white toy bear in his mouth. He drops it and starts barking again when he sees I have two unfriendly strange companions.
“It’s okay, Bubba.” He keeps barking. “Bubba, stop, go on, and get in there. You guys mind taking off your shoes?” I slip out of my topsiders.
“We got a smart guy here,” MacAroy says.
“I’m serious. I’ve got a foppish thing about clean carpet.”
“Get over it. Where’s the gun?” Tucker asks.
“Across the living room, in the tower. On the back of the chair, like I told you.”
“Show us.”Tucker pilots me further into my apartment, across the living room and up the five stone steps that lead into my stone floor tower office, with a deliberately nonworking gas fireplace.
Bubba goes back for his teddy bear, thrashing it about on the carpet, as we make our way into my office.
Looking around, “Nice, it’s a real tower,” Tucker says.
I’m feeling Rapunzelish, in need of saving from these cads.
“This it?” MacAroy asks, moving to my desk chair.
“You see any other guns?”
“When was the last time you fired this?” MacAroy asks.
“Five, six months ago, I think. Just before Christmas.”
“I don’t know the exact date. It was sometime last winter.”
Detective Mike Tucker takes out his hanky and uses it to take the gun out of my holster hanging on my desk chair. He smells it, and hands the nine millimeter over to Sergeant Leonard MacAroy. He smells it, too. I don’t like his reaction any more than I liked Tucker’s. He crinkles his nose and holds the gun out to me and lets me take a whiff. Like I’m on their side on deciding that I’m guilty of mass murder. It smells heavily with the scent of spent gunpowder. Much too heavy for my liking.
Apparently, Tucker and MacAroy feel differently and see a day’s work coming to a close. They’ve got their filmmaker. Nothing left but the editing of the paperwork to put me in the can.
MacAroy opens the magazine. There’s four shells missing. He smiles nicely to me. “Not too bright, are ya, Picasso?”
Tucker begins, “You have the right to remain silent….”
I don’t bother to listen to the rest. I’ve written it so many times in my stories I have it memorized. What I can’t understand is why my gun smells like it has just fired four rounds. I cleaned it the last time I used it. I’m not that stupid. I grew up with shotguns and twenty-twos and hunting and stuff. Use a gun, you clean it. When Tucker finishes, I give freedom another try. “Come on, guys, do I look so stupid that I’d kill four of my tenants with my own gun, after threatening them, and leave it dirty, with four shells missing, right here so you two crack officers can find it?”
“Is pretty stupid,” MacAroy agrees.
“If I killed someone, one of my tenants who owed me money, wouldn’t I arrange for an alibi other than my poodle?”
“We’ve seen it all before,” Tucker answers.
“You got someone to take care of your dog?” MacAroy asks.
“Yeah, I’ve got someone.”
“Call that someone from lockup. Let’s go.” Tucker is all heart.
“Wait. Am I under arrest?”
“Let’s see. You’re in handcuffs, and I just read you your rights. Yeah, I’d say so.”
“For allegedly killing the Essinola family in the desert? With blindfolds, shackles and four shots to the head?”
“Looks that way.” MacAroy pulls out a plastic bag and puts my gun in it.
I can’t help it. I start laughing again. The two cops look at me like I’ve lost my mind. So does Bubba. But I can’t help it. It’s too ridiculous to be true. I lay in my bed last night before falling asleep, thinking about how angry I had gotten, how evil it made me feel. How it tore at my soul, knowing how wrong it was to wish I could shoot them. I actually wanted to take them out to the desert and kill them. It’s scary to think the dog had something to do with it making me kill the humans controlling it. Maybe I wished too hard. Maybe I haven’t woken up yet and this is just the funny but tragic part of the dream where I get caught. But if it isn’t, I’m in a load of trouble for something I hope I didn’t do. Bubba follows us over to the door.
“It’s okay, Bubba. I’ll be back as soon as I call our lawyer.”
“Don’t count on it, Bubba.”
“Come on, guys, he doesn’t understand sarcasm.” They shut the door in Bubba’s face and lock it with my keys.
“Take his shoes, Mac.”
“Come on, I’m barefoot.”
“Just want to scrape and test for desert sand,” Tucker says.
As we go down the stairs, I can’t help but wonder when someone had gotten into my apartment. And if they did, why didn’t Bubba bark? Maybe he did and I didn’t hear it. Or maybe they came when I had Bubba outside for his late night walk and brought the gun back when I either took him on his morning doody dance or while I was out having coffee.
I didn’t go back into my office area after I stopped writing. Wait, yes I did, to shut off the printer. But I don’t recall noticing my gun gone. It could be a day or two before they run ballistics and test my shoes, unless my lawyer makes a fuss. But since my lawyer is into property law I don’t expect to be out quickly— without having to post a sizable bond.
So, I just sit back against the cop car seat and enjoy my smelly ride downtown to the Men’s Central Jail.
“You two ever think about not urinating back here?”
“Shuddup, you wouldn’t be the first dumbass to wet his pants back there,” MacAroy says.
I should be more nauseated about heading to jail. And I am, though I’m more concerned about what will happen to Bubba if I stay there. The thing that has me most confused is that damned cocker spaniel. I’m not the least bit psychic that I know of. Nor do I believe in ghosts. But I knew that dog would come back to haunt me. And here it is. I’m riding in the backseat of an unmarked cop cruiser that needs an intro to a good junkyard. Just why are these two lug nuts looking for the dog? And what kind of dog is it really and where is it from? I mean, is it some kind of government experiment gone wrong on the run, or stolen from a lab? An alien creature maybe? A blipping biological disaster induced mega powered warfare dog? What made it disappear and reappear at will? How did it affect me so much? Why is it in my building? And last but most important, how did I get so damn lucky to be included?