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

The ever-illustrious Rodney was not at home when Cagney went calling. She did say, however, that the house matched the description that my friend John had given us.

He lives nearby in a Hispanic area at a busy intersection. The house style is not typical of the area. It’s two-story, dilapidated with a porch and a low chain link fence. There’s lattice under the porch. Light-colored. Pointy roof. Multiple families live there. It has a country, old-time feeling. It’s an Archie Bunker kind of house. Or Mr. Roper from Three’s Company. But very rundown. To the left of the house is some space, maybe an empty lot that’s used as a common area. If you stand on the porch and look to the right, you can see the orange ball of the Union 76 gas station on the corner.

Cagney would keep an eye on the place, but our more pressing need was to find the woman—”the strawberry”—he’d confessed to, and then get her to ID him. Both of these things were going to be difficult, Cagney warned me.

The following evening I met my friend Jay for dinner. Jay and I had worked together a few years before, and since then he went on to bigger and better pursuits. He’d helped get Pete Wilson re-elected for governor of California, for instance. Jay wasn’t just one of the smartest men I knew, he was also one of the most well connected. I tried not to let his politics interfere with our friendship.

During dinner, I recounted the details of my month, including my on-going fear of being alone in my home, as well as the sickening realization that Rodney was still out there and in such close proximity. “We’re pretty sure we know who he is,” I told Jay, “we just don’t have evidence to link him to the crime yet. And that’s just disgusting.”

Jay listened attentively and then pushed his water glass to the side of the table as if clearing a space. “I’m only going to say this once,” he said.

Then he met my eyes intently. “I know people if you want to use them.”

It was the last thing I expected him to say. I shook my head trying to make sense of the sentence. “What do you mean, you know people?”

He stared at me without flinching.

“Come on, you’re kidding? You know people?” I waited for him to break into explain. He didn’t. “What people?”

It slowly began to sink in. All I would have to do was call Cagney and get an address. Then, like a scene in a mob movie, I’d nod and arrange the hit. Thugs would go over and track the animal down. And the beast would never be able do that sort of thing ever again.

“Jay,” I searched. “This isn’t some bad B movie. This is my life. And this kind of thing doesn’t happen in my life.”

He didn’t blink. He didn’t say a word. He was merely waiting for my signal.

I shook my head. “I can’t take on that kind of karma.”

“There is no karma when you right a wrong,” he countered.

Those were hard words. My promise to Jeanette was that I would do everything I could to make it right. “Listen,” my voice quivered, “um, the only retaliation I’ve ever imagined is putting the guy behind bars. You know, I don’t think I’m capable of anything else. I think I want to let God decide this guy’s fate.”

Jay leaned forward. “God works through you,” he said softly.

I looked away. The well-constructed tower of beliefs I’d carefully built over the years was beginning to crumble as I imagined the man who had traumatized all of us, not least of all Jeanette, getting what he deserved. An eye for an eye. That was something I’d never believed in. But now it was being dangled in front of me, and I hated how enticing it felt.

“Just think about it,” Jay said as our dinner was put down in front of us.

I forced myself to eat. Then I promptly went home and vomited it all back up.

…go to Part 17