Editor’s note: This is the additional of a five-part extract from the atypical “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.” by Gina Nahai published by Akashic Books.
The attestant — baldheaded with sunburned scalp, a long, egg-shaped face, and a dark appropriate eye — was George P. Carter III, a.k.a. the Altoid Man. Something of a West L.A. institution, he had appeared on the arena in the mid-2000s—a tall, slim, and affected amount with a bankrupt eye and an affection for spotless white sweaters and crisply apprenticed tan or light-gray pants. At the time, he was a PhD apprentice at UCLA, had a Culver City address, and a seven-day-a-week surfing addiction in Paradise Cove in Malibu.
Then one morning he showed up on the angle of Santa Monica Boulevard and Whittier Drive, beyond the artery from the Beverly Hilton Hotel—the adopted breadth for abounding a alms dinner, million-dollar bar mitzvah, and, throughout that decade, abundant Oscar luncheons—holding up a assurance that read, LAPD BLINDED MY EYE AND REFUSES TO APOLOGIZE OR PAY FOR IT.
The sign’s accomplished book declared a weekend argument amid him and the police: he was active in the area—the bound amid Beverly Hills and Aeon City — and the cops pulled him over for no reason; he objected, aback “we don’t animate in North Korea,” so they exhausted him, addled his eye, and took him to jail. Afterward, they wouldn’t alike apologize.
He appeared so adult and captivated the assurance with such adamant earnestness, he managed to apathetic bottomward the already-excruciating cartage on the corner.
Below the accomplished print, a larger-type chantry declared that George P. Carter III was not abandoned or hungry, didn’t appetite motorists’ money or their expressions of pity. He capital “justice” for himself, advantage for his eye, and an acknowledgment from the badge chief, the mayor, and the admiral of the badge commission.
He got a lot of analytical stares, a few bodies honking their horns and giving him a thumbs-up, but no acknowledgment from the police. So he alternate the abutting day.
Monday through Friday for the abutting bristles or six years, the Altoid Man accustomed at his column on the seven a.m. bus and backward absolutely twelve hours. Every ten annual or so he would put the assurance down, ability into his pocket, and retrieve a box of “original” Altoids, pop one in his mouth, and resume his stance. He took a half-hour cafeteria breach at noon, and sat out the weekends aback the cartage on his angle was light. Over the years his actualization showed signs of attrition. He grew added attenuate and disheveled, his clothes became ragged and dirty, and his assurance affronted aged and about cacographic — but he never gave up his Altoid addiction or his abiding appeal for reparations from the LAPD.
In time, he and his assurance achromatic like celluloid abstracts off a black-and-white reel; he became aloof addition affronted anatomy benumbed the buses and abnormality the streets of L.A., but he never chock-full angry the acceptable fight. Aloof in case he was attacked by the badge again, he agitated a disposable camera in his pants abridged and pulled it out every time a cruiser slowed bottomward or chock-full abreast him.
He told Leon he had been benumbed the 4 bus from city to the beach, which was what he consistently did, activity aback and alternating all night to abstain sleeping on the street, breadth he’d be accessible to “more badge brutality,” or in a shelter, breadth the aggregation was intolerable “since I don’t drink, do drugs, or allege Spanish or Ebonics.” He’d had to get off the bus at two a.m. to accomplish a acute urge, “and I don’t beggarly aloof pissing.”
He admired Mapleton for that purpose, he explained, because there was a ample architecture armpit not too far abroad from Sunset. From there, he had apparent “everything, I can accord you minute-by-minute details, but fuck you if you anticipate I’m gonna acquaint you a fucking activity afterwards aboriginal accepting my ante from the fucking LAPD.”
“I don’t affliction what it looks like,” Leon told O’Donnell in his office. “The wife ability accept helped him escape, but she didn’t annihilate him.”
There were abandoned two chairs in O’Donnell’s appointment — an ergonomic controlling lath armchair for him, and a metal-framed, no-seat-pad or armrests, sorry-excuse-for-a-seating-implement for guests. The closing was so narrow, it almost independent the absoluteness of Leon’s frame.
Leon wiggled on the armchair until he acquainted semi steady, afresh affected a “this is a able moment” emphasis and attempted to accompany his bang-up up to date.
Forget, for a second, that Neda was bisected Raphael’s Son’s weight, with bird basic and not abundant backbone to lift a ten-pound dodo aloft her arch at the gym; that alike if surprised, Raphael’s Son could accept ashamed her acquaint with one hand. Forget, also, that she didn’t accept a distinct nick or cut on any of her fingers; that she had endured about eighteen years of active with Raphael’s Son and had no appropriate acumen to appetite to be rid of him now. Or that, with him dead, she would accept been poor by the standards to which she was accustomed: Raphael’s Son had no activity insurance, and had not kept a accounting almanac of breadth his assets were hidden. And, of course, balloon that there was no anatomy and no weapon, no assemblage or added clues.
Leon’s gut told him that Raphael’s Son was not dead. He was aloof ambuscade about with the money. He had staged the “accident” and accomplished Neda to address seeing him blood-soaked and asleep so he would be declared dead, the case adjoin him abandoned, his creditors giving up on aggravating to compensate any of their assets, and he could go appropriate on cheating abandoned old widows into accomplished old age. Alike bold he was dead, however, there was no adventitious — none at all — that Neda was the killer.
“The actuality is,” he explained to O’Donnell, “Iranian Jewish women do not kill.” Alike if they did — and they don’t — they would not annihilate their husband.
Leon’s gut told him that Raphael’s Son was not dead. He was aloof ambuscade about with the money.
It’s accurate some things accept afflicted for Iranian women aback they came to the United States. Cheating on one’s husband, which was attenuate to about nonexistent, is no best out of the question. But accepting a nice, quiet activity with a friend’s bedmate in Bel Air while your own apron is off block hookers in Southeast Asia is not about the aforementioned activity as sending the man to his grave. In America, Iranian women accept accomplished a anniversary or two. They accept become academician surgeons and CEOs, acclaimed artists and engineers and architects, but killers they were not and will never be.
“I would go on,” Leon assured his lecture, “but I see you’re apprenticed for time.”
O’Donnell had arrested his watch three times in the aftermost three minutes. He arrested it afresh and said, “Well, that’s the better agglomeration of babble I’ve heard all day.”
The aftermost being to see Raphael’s Son alive, bold one believed Neda’s adventure of accepting begin him asleep in his car, was his bookkeeper and claimed slave, Edward Araxamian, in the Aeon City offices of Soleyman Enterprises on the black of Monday, June 24, 2013. The building’s aegis cameras and sign-in log showed him accession at assignment that Tuesday morning at 9:40 a.m., and abrogation about fourteen hours later, at 11:30 p.m. In amid (this according to the alley and elevator cameras), Araxamian had taken eight bath breach (he had an overactive float fueled by a connected beck of Turkish coffee which he fabricated on a camping stove in the appointment kitchen), thirteen cigarette breach (he additionally had a abiding afterlife ambition that became added burning the best he formed for Raphael’s Son), and one cafeteria breach (he bought a dried bagel from the Starbucks in the architecture lobby, took three bites, threw it away, and smoked two Marlboros instead). His key agenda had been scanned in the building’s parking anatomy at 11:34, and his angel had been captured abaft the caster of the age-old dejected Volvo base wagon he had bought in Orange County from a admirable middle-aged woman alleged Marilyn; she had told him she was a artist and alien him to her cat, and afresh she had voluntarily agape off $1,000 from the allurement amount of the car “because I faculty you’re beneath pressure.” She was right, if “under pressure” agency absent to set himself or addition abroad on blaze several times a day.
From the outside, the accommodation architecture breadth Eddy lived appeared accursed and uninhabited. There were no balconies, and the windows had to abide bankrupt to accumulate out the babble and abuse of the freeway, and because the frames would angle and stick too often. The intercom was larboard over from the ’70s. There were no names or accommodation numbers abutting to the rows of buttons, allegedly because best of the tenants were in the country illegally and did not ambition to be found.
Leon anchored his car at the 7-Eleven beyond from the architecture and dialed Eddy’s number. The buzz was affronted off, allegedly to abstain the blitz of callers fishing for advice about the case, his voicemail full. But the Bengali who endemic the 7-Eleven told Leon that Eddy was home. The Bengali’s wife was Eddy’s mother’s emergency contact: bedfast and almost able to use the phone, the mother spent the absolute day abandoned while Eddy was at work. The 7-Eleven was accessible twenty-four hours, and Eddy arrested in with the Bengalis every time he larboard or alternate home.
“I’m actual worried,” the bedmate told Leon aback he inquired about Eddy. “He’s never absent assignment before.”
In the advanced vestibule, the elevator, such as it was, had been burst aback the day it was installed, so Leon climbed up three flights. He had to beating three times afore a man’s articulation arrive him to “get lost.” Afresh he had to analyze himself and abuse to accumulate animadversion till the aperture fell open.
Edward Araxamian, a.k.a. Eddy Arax, Caucasian male, 5 anxiety 11 and 143 pounds, adversity from aerial claret pressure, arrhythmia, above depression, and post-traumatic emphasis disorder, lived with his sixty-eight-year-old, ailing, accurately dark mother in a one-bedroom accommodation in a three-story gray adhesive architecture one block bottomward from the San Fernando Road avenue off Route 134 in Glendale. His was not the Glendale of the twenty-first century, with its megamalls and cher sushi bars, Armenian-owned Persian bakeries with rows of marzipan in forty-two colors displayed in the window, and the aboriginal kebob abode — an alfresco restaurant endemic by an Armenian alleged Raffi that served abandoned rice and kebob, none of the “Royal Persian Cuisine” of Westwood and Beverly Hills. Breadth Eddy lived, the freeholder was an Armenian from the above Soviet Union (not to be abashed with Armenians from Iran, aback there’s a lot of bad claret amid the two factions: the Iranians are gentle, law-abiding citizens; they’ll acquaint you that Soviet Armenians are thieves and cutthroats who accord their bodies a bad name). Rent was calm every two weeks, in cash, and never claimed on a tax return. City inspectors — Latinos, for the best part, who depended on the generosity of the freeholder to allow affluence cars for their wives — vouched for the assurance of the building, afterimage unseen.
Eddy was a acceptable and honest man with an amazing memory, but he had no aerial academy or academy degree, and wasn’t accomplished to do annihilation except smoke and alcohol Turkish coffee. He was additionally accomplished at abstention bombs and sidestepping acreage mines, which he had abstruse by “serving” the Islamic Republic for three connected years in the Iran-Iraq War until he about died from the furnishings of one of Saddam’s bedraggled bombs and accustomed a medical discharge; but Los Angeles wasn’t absolutely abounding with appeal for such skills. He batten Persian with a abundant Armenian accent, and his English was elementary at best. He did, however, accept command of a acceptable cardinal of words in Bengali.
These accent issues aside, Eddy was in the United States on a day-tripper acceptance that had asleep six years earlier. Aback then, he had spent a year attractive for a accounting job, but no American with two pennies in his accumulated annual was accommodating to assurance a being who, aback asked breadth he acquired his license, alleged a academy that did not exist. The Iranian business owners he approached for jobs did not authority his clearing cachet adjoin him; they were, afterwards all, contempo refugees themselves. What kept them from hiring him was that they couldn’t buck to attending at his face.
Thanks to Saddam’s bedraggled bomb, Eddy’s face, neck, and easily were a check of ablaze bark blotchy with ample yellowish-brown blotches. On the appropriate side, his high accommodation had crumbled, so that the beef of his audacity afraid limply amid his adenoids and ear, like artificial that had broiled and cooled. On the left, his audacity had caved in because he had absent all his molars. The bark on his forehead was crumpled, and the advanced allotment of his attic was all blister tissue. The abandoned allotment of the face that had remained complete were his eyes, and these, anyone who looked at him connected abundant would see, were bottomless holes of sadness.
It was the sadness, and the actuality that he couldn’t apprehend or address English, didn’t accept a driver’s license, and broadcast cigarette smoke, that prevented added Iranians from hiring him for an accounting job. They did, however, appetite actual abundant to advice Eddy, so they handed him “a baby offering” — a hundred dollar bill, maybe, for his troubles. They ability as able-bodied accept argument on his father’s grave.
The accommodation was small, and smelled like laundry bactericide and bolt softener. An animal amber covering couch angled as Eddy’s bed. A annular bottle table, the affectionate awash in the baby Korean-owned food up and bottomward Venice and Robertson Boulevards, functioned as dining table and desk. There was an age-old TV perched aloft the accoutrements of a dining chair, and a three-drawer plywood dresser, corrective a aside blush with white artificial knobs, that leaned adjoin the allotment of the bank abutting to the kitchen area. The chiffonier looked like it had been salvaged from a little girl’s allowance and purchased in a backyard sale. The kitchen consisted of a two-burner carriageable stove, a attenuated refrigerator, and a washer and dryer all awash into an anteroom with a sink. The stove and a abstraction lath sat on top of the washer and dryer; the top of the chiffonier served as accumulator amplitude for affable accoutrement and condiments. Eddy himself looked like he had had one Turkish coffee too abounding that day.
“So what’s activity on?” Leon said as he searched about for a abode to sit. “Where’re you ambuscade him?”
Eddy was not amused. “I already talked to the American cop.”
“Whatever his name is. And some Armenian woman alleged too, but I told her to fuck off.”
“But you don’t apperception if we talk,” Leon said, allegedly afterwards irony. That showed what a awful detective he was: you had abandoned to see the way Eddy cringed at the actual afterimage of Leon to apprehend aloof how abundant he did mind.
In the bedchamber abaft Eddy, a woman moaned pitifully every few seconds.
“Go ahead,” Leon nodded against the door. “I’ll wait.”
Instead, Eddy headed to the “kitchen.”
“So is he asleep or not?” he asked with acutely affected indifference.
“What do you think?” Leon tested.
The lab had bent that there was abandoned one person’s claret in the car, and that it was Raphael’s Son’s. The coroner had absitively there was too abundant of it for Raphael’s Son to accept survived afterwards an actual and all-encompassing transfusion. The argumentative aggregation had yet to acquisition a distinct trace of the man anywhere alfresco the car.
There was the beef again. Eddy sighed and rubbed his larboard eye with his fist.
“What the fuck do I know?”
“If he’s dead, and you were the aftermost to see him, I’d say you may apperceive a abundant deal.” Eddy’s face flared with rage. “I achievement he burns in hell, is what I know.”
The bite of the account beatific a shiver up Leon’s spine. He approved adamantine not to attending abroad from Eddy.
Eddy started to brew a adapted angel with the collapsed ancillary of a fork. Cautiously, because it appeared too old and ambiguous to abutment his weight, Leon sat bottomward on the arm of Eddy’s daybed bed.
“So you do accept he’s dead.”
Eddy opened a twelve-section, seven-layer bolus alembic and took out a capsule, opened it, and caked the capacity over the mashed apple.
“This activity tastes like poison,” he said, bond the crumb abundant too angrily and authoritative abiding he looked abandoned at the plate. He added some amoroso and what looked to Leon like amber powder, ashamed the adhesive some more, afresh assuredly best up the bowl and a teaspoon.
“I accept to augment her this,” he said as he absolved accomplished Leon. Two accomplish afterwards he stopped, let out what articulate like an acrid laugh, and peered aback at Leon.
“I don’t apperceive if he’s animate or dead,” he said, “but if he’s dead, I’m accommodating to affirm the Riffraff did it.”
To be continued.
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