The hospital in San Diego wasn’t so bad. I got warm food twice a day, and some of the nurses were nice to look at. The only part I didn’t like was having to repeat myself to the city cop who came around every once and while to check my story. You see, I couldn’t blurt out that I had been wounded by three crooked cops. So, to keep the San Diego police off of my back, I lied and told them that I had been plugged in a robbery-gone-wrong.

“I dunno. It was these two Mexican guys. They saw me coming out of a gambling parlor and must’ve figured me for a mark. I fought back, so they shot me.”

“And these hoods just ran off like that?”


This exchange, or something close to it, happened every time I was interrogated. The officer was always the same—the short and stocky fellow named Haggerty. I could tell that he did not believe me, but he had nothing to prove me wrong. All that existed between us was my word.

And yet, something in my guts told me that they would get wise eventually. San Diego cops may not be as sophisticated as L.A. patrolmen, but they aren’t dumb. After my first week in the hospital, I escaped. It did not require any dramatics or masterful plan; the big, impersonal hospital meant that nobody noticed my absence until it was too late. I got out of bed, put on my dirty, bloodstained suit, and walked outside. The ease of my escape made about as much sense as the whole case. There I was, beaten and bloody, and still able to get a cabbie to take me back to Los Angeles. Better yet, the cabbie was not an inquisitive sort, and little conversation was made during the two-hour trip. He had to wake me up and ask me to pay him. I gave him all the money in my wallet, which must have been enough, for I watched the yellow cab drive off into the night.

The walkup to the office was painful. A thousand little needles stabbed my ankle with each shuffle. I cursed the super for never fixing the elevator. I reached the fourth floor after an eternity. When I went to unlock the office door, I found it slightly ajar.

“Lee?” I asked the dark interior. Nobody answered. I groped for the light switch, found it, and gave it a raise.

“Shut the door, handsome, and be quiet about it.”

Her words were soft, but the person who uttered them looked at me hard. Her eyes seemed pinched together, almost as if they were at war with her nose. She wore the most severe frown I had ever seen. And most menacing of all was the black automatic that she had pointed at me. I could not be sure, but I figured that same automatic had something to do with the corpse on the floor. Lee McManus, a 20-year veteran of the darkest streets of Los Angeles, was fish-belly white and very dead. His killer looked at me hard, almost as if I was the next in line.

Sharon Silverwood had changed a lot.

“I’ve been looking all over for you. Almost got killed by three dirty cops because of you.”

“It’s a shame,” she groused.

“What? Disappointed that I’m alive?”

“No. It’s a shame that you didn’t pick a different line of work. I don’t want to do this. You have to believe me.”

“I don’t believe much of anything right now. Nothing makes sense. You don’t make sense. The stiff on the floor doesn’t make sense. He was my friend, you know.”

“And you’ll want to avenge him,” she said.

“Maybe, but right now, I have to know.” I did not need to say anything more. Sharon gave me the dope with the ugly piece of metal staring right at my heart.

“They had every intention of sacrificing me. But I outsmarted them. I secreted a second cameraman onto the shoot. One of Kolb’s old drinking buddies. A real rheumatic case, but he did what I asked. I got their attempted sacrifice on camera, which gave them second thoughts. That’s all I needed. I cut a deal with Mr. Art.”

“What kind of deal?”

“A simple substitution. They got some other blonde to die instead of me.”

“And what for?”

“For a lot of things. The murder, and the sex, you know, was filmed for private consumption. Some rich sickos like that kind of stuff. They’re everywhere, but a lot of them seem to live around the border. The body was then cut up and sold. Even the blood was moved for a profit.”

I cursed. “No kidding, Bulldog. That was going to be me. But I outsmarted them. I saved my skin, plus I caught onto the fact that if I played my cards right, I’d get blackmail rich real quick.” The last words oozed out of her painted lips. The look and sound of her disgusted me.

“And you’ve been running this thing for three years?”

“I’ll run it for a hundred more. All I have to do now is take care of one last obstacle. I already chopped up the stumblebum drunk who sent the film to you two,” Sharon pointed at Lee’s body. “And you can see what I did to your old partner.”

“Didn’t like being blackmailed yourself, eh?” I could not resist getting at least one dig in. After all, when facing the gallows, gallows humor is called for.

“You crack wise, Bulldog. You were always hardboiled. I can’t hate a guy like you. The problem is I love myself more.” She pulled the hammer back. I knew it was now or never, so I played my final Hail Mary.

“The film convinced me that you must be the world’s lousiest lay.”

Sharon screamed and tried to call me a dirty name. In her anger, she moved the automatic slightly off the centerline. That was all I needed. I dove for her across the desk and managed to grab her hand before she could squeeze a shot off. With one hand I blocked the trigger well, and with the other I reached inside of Lee’s desk. I leaned all my weight against her. I practically smothered her and kept her from leaving Lee’s leather chair. She tried to yell, but the pressure of my weight on her lugs made it too tough for her breathe, let alone cry for help. I found what I was looking for inside of Lee’s desk. The trench knife that the 332nd Infantry had given Lee had been misused for decades as a letter opener. I righted that wrong and gave the blade back its purpose. I jammed the point into Sharon’s sternum. She dropped the gun and put both hands on the hilt in an attempt to pull it out. I watched her try and fail. I did nothing to stop her from dying.

“Sorry, baby.” The lights went out of her eyes for good. I pulled the lids closed and killed the case. I had nothing to look forward to but running, and I am running still, with hundreds of miles between me and the Los Angeles police at any given point, but at least I saw the case to the end.

From here on out, I will have nights like these—nights in some no-name burgh in Missouri where I sit in the dark, drink, and think about the past. This is what I got to look forward to until it’s my time for the grave. I once wrote down what I want them to do with my corpse when I’m done. I keep the piece of paper in my wallet. It says simply:

“Bury me next to Alonzo Kolb or bury me in Mississippi.”


For all installments of “Dig Two Graves,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3
  4. Part 4
  5. Part 5