(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

My new home was the Eartha Kitt room in the finished attic space at Rob and Amy’s, named for the dozens of pillows in wild prints that covered the floor. It acted as a sort of bunker during the long, sleepless nights, and it was also where Rob and Amy and I gathered to pray. We prayed about everything—that Jeanette would have a good night, that Detective Mora would be blessed with fruitful leads, that we would all be able to sleep, that Karen and David would find some measure of peace and comfort. We’d already experienced a series of miracles, like the fact that Jeanette had not sustained any trauma to her brain, and even more surprising was that her right eye would eventually regain normal function—something I was particularly worried about. Perhaps the best news of all was that Karen had been able to convince the hospital administrators to not transfer Jeanette to a county facility. Jeanette didn’t have health insurance, and already the medical bills were staggering.

Every night in the Eartha Kitt room, Rob and Amy and I lit candles, held hands, closed our eyes and prayed. We visualized the details of her upcoming surgery—that the bone fragments in Jeanette’s face would come together seamlessly. We blessed the surgeons and the nurses and the assistants. We filled the room with loving energy. We even prayed for the man who had done this to Jeanette. Oddly, none of us felt particularly vengeful or pitiless. In fact, I often imagined myself sitting across from him, trying to understand who he was and what horrible things in his life had led him to this. Most of the time, the only thing I had for him, besides fear, was compassion. Certainly, he was hurting. Of course, when I imagined him, he was always behind bars. If I was ever to see this man, I wanted to see him behind bars.

I awakened early on the morning of Day 4. I slipped out of the house and walked over to the grocery store across the street. It was only about 6 AM but the store was open 24 hours. Employees were in the aisles opening pallets of items and stocking the shelves. I asked one of them if I could speak with the manager. The daytime manager didn’t arrive until 9, he said. I explained to him what had happened—that there was a violent crime that had been committed in the neighborhood. I told him the police had reason to believe that the perpetrator had followed the victim home from the store, and that they were interested in seeing the surveillance tapes from that day, if they were still available. The guy explained that one tape holds 24 hours of surveillance, and that they tried to keep tapes for a week. But, he added, sometimes they forgot to take the tape out of the machine, in which case, it got recorded over. I asked him if he’d have the day manager pull the tape from Monday, and said that a detective from the LAPD would be by later to pick it up.

On my way home, I saw Gary, a man who lived in the condo building next door. I told him what had happened and asked if he heard or saw anything—he didn’t. I told him I wanted to speak to his neighbors and asked if he’d give me access to the building that night so I could knock on doors or, at the very least, leave the detective’s phone number. Then I drove through the neighborhood, street by street, looking for a house that matched the description John had given me. It was unsettling to think that a violent man was living in close proximity, that he might be watching the house, that perhaps I’d seen him walk by, and maybe he even knew who I was.

It was also unsettling to think that the surveillance tape at the store held vital information, and that the employees were unconscious of its care. That’s why I went back to talk to the store manager myself. I wanted to see if the tape existed, and if it did, I wanted to make sure it was being well tended until Cagney could get her hands on it.

I entered the store at about ten minutes after nine and approached the man wearing a pressed shirt and tie behind the service counter. I told him I’d spoken to one of his employees earlier about a crime that had been committed.

Thankfully, the manager was aware that I had been there. “Oh, yeah, hold on a minute. Let me see about that tape.”

I watched him disappear behind a secret door in the deli section, and my eyes traced a path to the two-way glass in a room above it. I’d never noticed that before. I’d also never noticed all the surveillance cameras, hidden behind round mirrors on the ceiling, and placed in every aisle. There were dozens of them.

After several long minutes, the manager returned with an envelope. “Here you go, Detective.” He extended the package toward me.

I hesitated.

“I don’t know if there’s anything on it. I don’t know if it’s been recorded over. But this is the tape from Monday.”

I took the package awkwardly. I wasn’t expecting him to give it to me. I considered handing it back to him, telling him I wasn’t the detective, asking him to keep it safe. But Cagney’s shift didn’t start for another ten hours, and I needed to get to the hospital for Jeanette’s surgery. I nodded thoughtfully. “Thank you for your help,” I said.

I tucked the tape under my arm and exited the store quickly before someone might stop me to ask for ID. I stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, wondering how much time I’d have to serve for impersonating a police officer.
…go to Part 8