The case of Martin Van Peltzer had progressed slowly in Judge Morrison’s court since both she and Patrick were in no hurry to make any changes. Their bedroom adventures should have been the best of reasons to move the case out of her courtroom, but Patrick was in a daze and couldn’t think clearly about any of it. He only saw an occasional glimpse of danger that he dismissed for a promise of something absent for so long.

Regardless, the Van Peltzer case required a comprehensive investigation, and Patrick and Tommy worked their routine in pursuit of the story of the case. They had been a team for twelve years. Tommy called him one day to offer his services following the printing of a story about a local attorney.

There had been a shooting at the residence of Dominic Ciabbitini when the Sheriff’s SWAT team broke open the front doors and began firing at him. Dom had been asleep on his living room couch, but when he heard the breaking of the doors he ran into the foyer and raised his hands yelling “Don’t shoot! Don’t Shoot!”

The deputies fired ten rounds at him, but he managed to dive out of the way without being hit. It took another hour for them to get him to surrender. There were television news helicopters in the air and camera crews on the ground. The event made the six o’clock news.

Patrick and Tommy teamed up to beat the criminal charges against Dom then sued the county in federal court for a violation of Dom’s civil rights. That was their first venture together and the conception of a very close friendship, one that would endure the test of time through a brotherly love beyond what most

men even considered. They knew one another from their very core, an admiration and closeness of kindred souls, a reverence deep and enduring.

Tommy was retired from the LAPD, a fact he mentioned in every introduction to a prospective client. There was a running joke that his full name was “Tommy Krumholtz, retired LAPD, twenty-two years.” Although there had been a few members of the LAPD who accused Tommy of turning to the dark side, he generally enjoyed a reputation of being honest and exceptionally competent, still entitled to an honored place amongst his former comrades in arms. His defense of police officers while working with the Los Angeles City Attorney investigating police misconduct claims was celebrated in the

Department. Thus, his sources of information never dried up, and many of his fellow retired cops stayed close. He employed some of them on occasion to get investigative leads, conduct surveillance, and locate witnesses.

He and Patrick agreed they would never sue anyone from the LAPD. Tommy always got the job done. He was divorced, lived alone, loved pretty women, but was first committed to his work. Once he and Patrick discussed the basics of any given case, Tommy hit the streets. He was one of those rare and

gifted people who could walk into any neighborhood and get people to talk with him. They trusted him instinctively and gave him what he asked, feeling pleased with themselves for having that moment in time with someone whose vastness of soul had blessed them, a man in whom they placed not only their faith but their profound belief in the goodwill of humanity regardless of their station in life before he came to their door. He was magical and mystical and they welcomed him into their hearts and homes.

He never burned his sources.

The discovery in the Van Peltzer case, which consisted of all the reports, documentation of physical evidence, videos, audios, and the Coroner’s report, had been copied and given to Tommy. They were still waiting for the autopsy protocol, which often took months to complete. The Coroner was backlogged with questionable deaths and rarely presented a protocol in a timely manner, unless a defendant refused to waive time.

“We don’t know enough. I want everything there is and I want it before the D.A. gets it. If my sensors are correct, I’m reading guilt all over Martin’s face. There’s something ugly in him, Tommy. He’s skittish, too. I don’t know what that means yet, but let’s look at him for drugs. Our D.A. is skilled and tenacious, but he’s known to sandbag, so we need to be ahead of his game.”

Patrick was pacing in front of his west windows, looking out across the Pacific Ocean as he spoke, deeply engaged in the moment. Sandbagging in the legal profession is the withholding of evidence that

should have been disclosed per the rules of procedure. A lawyer who is known as a sandbagger must be watched, and their reputation suffers for that behavior. “I’m on it. I’ve got some information already, but let me get something more than gossip. I’ve heard about alibi witnesses, but they’re probably lying.

I think our boy is probably good for it, but that isn’t our job. I’ll be back.” Tommy left without another word. He often seemed to vanish from the last place he was seen returning only after he had gathered all there was to be known. When he was on the hunt nothing escaped his keen senses.