NO DICE, A Santa Monica Murder Mystery, by Mar Preston

Last section posted on 10/28

Chapter Twelve, section one

Ginger jumped out of Ramon’s car to pop inside the office to snatch up handouts they needed for an early morning presentation. Waiting outside, Ramon made a couple of call backs on his cell phone, twiddled the radio dial looking for some music. Five minutes or so later he came to with a start realizing that Ginger had been gone for longer than it should have taken to go in the office, grab the flyers off the table, and come back out.

He jumped out of the car, ran around the corner of the building and found her gone.

The light was out in the small foyer of the building, the door locked, and the lights inside were off. Panicked, he unlocked the door, flicked on the lights, went inside and called her name.

“Ginger! Ginger!” He screamed, running from room to room, even breaching the sanctity of the woman’s bathroom.

He ran outside just to make sure she hadn’t gone past him somehow and was waiting in the car. Her Dad would kill him, but not before her brother tortured him to death. He was supposed to be paying attention.

Panicked, he called the police. It seemed only moments later that two officers arrived. Ramon was still back-tracking to figure out what happened, walking from office to office, adrenaline pumping. They took his report and called Mason.

Mason was trying to catch up on his laundry, and had just put his quarters in the washer when his cell phone rang telling him Ginger McNair had been snatched. He drove fast on the way in, chancing every light he safely could, breaking every speed limit, practicing old driving skills learned on patrol.

He planned the hunt. Not until things were in place would he notify her father and brother. Right now they were emotional family members and he had to keep his cool. A numbness filled him from his feet to his head, as if he were a vessel into which ice water had been poured.

He was scared to death for her.

Chapter Twelve

Music was playing–loud–old headbanger stuff. Let’s get laid music. Van Halen, Aerosmith, Guns n’ Roses. Horny bitches and beer-guzzling guys. The air was thick with weed smoke, overlaid by the rich smell of a good cigar. Ginger felt as though she’d hit her funny bone from head to toe, as though a line of fire crackers popped under her skin. A million fire ants crawled over her back, biting and biting. It hurt. Taser? Stun gun? Dropped her like a stone.

She’d been dragged, volts racing through her system, her muscles contracting and shivering uncontrollably, into a vehicle and shoved inside. The vehicle sped off.

Her hands were pinned in front of her with the plastic handcuffs police used in mass arrests. Her ankles were bound with duct tape. She stopped struggling when she realized it just made things worse. She had to think her way out of this.

She finally wiggled the rag off her head that had been used as a blindfold, and twisted around to take stock of her surroundings. Feeling the carpet and metal walls of a cargo storage space, she guessed she was in a utility van. She inch-wormed her way around the entire enclosure, finding nothing on the floor other than the lumps and bumps of the spare tire storage under her. Keeping her head down she moved slowly so that whoever was driving wouldn’t know she was able to move at all.

No purse. No gun. No cell phone. All she had left were her wits and her useless body. All those hours at the firing range and the self-satisfaction of knowing she was deadly accurate with a gun. The gun was gone. Nobody to call. Her lifeline cell phone was gone.

She had about as much strength as a five-year old. Every movement grated, like a car with the transmission on the fritz, gears chewing at a weak spot. The pain flared from her hip to her ankles. The cold made things worse. Her arms and shoulders ached.

Immobility was the worst thing for fibromyalgia. The muscles needed to move or they locked up.

If this was a pro hit, wouldn’t she already be dead?

Delgado skidded in, fresh from a confrontation on the phone with the brother-in-law who’d started the whole mess with Maria’s mother. He grinned.

Mason looked up at him “Slow down. You look like you’re gonna stroke out.”

“It’s settled. We got the old lady back at the nursing home where we had her in the first place. She made the circle of all the kids and now she’s back there.” He slid into his chair and looked at Mason expectantly.

“I’m glad, but somebody snatched McNair from her office. Let’s roll.”

“Aw shit.”

He reached for his flack jacket just as Mason’s phone rang. Mason took the call he’d been waiting for from the local FBI Outlaw Motorcycle Task Force while he walked out to his car with Delgado. He held the cell phone to his ear, hoping. The Feeb who liaised with him was new and into the role. All swagger and staccato delivery. But at least he was willing to share something with the locals, if he got something in return.

“Here’s the high notes, okay? The good brother’s the yup lawyer. That’s your guy right? We got oberto—Bad Boy– all tied up for a good long time. Your guy there in Santa Monica, he’s in the background, but we’ve had our eye on him for awhile. Nothing we could touch. He goes on the occasional runs with the gang, always on the edges, passes the crack pipe around, never takes a hit. Likes his meth though. Never touches the skanky old hos that hang with them. Careful. That’s him.”

Mason snorted.

“The Mongols probably have ten associates out there for every gang member wearing colors, you with me?”

“Yeah, I think I can keep up.”

“The associates are the ones that run errands for them, do stuff on the outside. They get the guys from inside who are paroled out to deal, do stick ups, smuggle guns. They got soldiers on the streets, explosive experts, chemists, con men—and lawyers like the brother there. Ya know what I’m sayin?”

As though Mason were a retard stumbling along behind. It wasn’t anything he didn’t already know.

“Nothing solid to connect him to his brother then?”

“Nothing so far. And it’s not for lack of looking, believe me. He’s just smart.”

Mason snapped the phone shut and leaned against the back of the seat, thinking.

Ginger pulled herself up on her knees, taking in the green and white highway signs whipping past on the San Diego Freeway heading north through the Sepulveda Pass near the Getty Museum.

Jimmy Edwards sat at the wheel, head bobbing, wearing a baseball cap turned backward. It was one of those things you couldn’t believe. Nobody you knew killed people. It happened somewhere else—in books or movies. She had known it was Jimmy, but she hadn’t known. It was inconceivable.

“Hey there, Princess, I see you.”

“Jimmy, this isn’t going to work. Let me out of here!”

“Oh, are you scary!”

“Let me out of here!”

“Or what?” He gave a high, wild ratatat laugh and slapped the dash with an open hand. “You just settle back until I’m ready to play with you. You like my nice knife, Ginger?”

He held up a knife that glittered in the light of an oncoming car. A Bowie type knife with a long blade.

Knives scared her. All the kinks and twitches and spurts of venom she’d glimpsed through Jimmy’s nice guy veneer were out in the open now.

“Where are you taking me?”

She pulled up something from her guts and made her voice strong, angry. Leaning forward, she came up beside Jimmy between the bucket seats. He punched her on the ear and knocked her sideways. As she fell all the stars in the sky swam by. There was no way she could cushion her fall and she smashed into the side of the van. That hurt.

“Hit a woman with handcuffs on. Boy, you’re some hero.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m gonna lose a lot of sleep if you say mean things about me,” Edwards cackled. Pin-prick pupils spitting venom.

“You’re never going to get away with this.”

“You and whose army is going to stop me?” he said, grinning like a kid. He jiggled and jumped around in the driver’s seat slapping the dash with both palms, boomeranging from one side of the driver’s seat to the other, high and wild, veering.

“Forget about your Boy Scout cop finding you. Or your Dad-dee. Nobody’s gonna know where we’re going.”

“It was you that night at Kathleen’s studio, wasn’t it?”

“That fat sow! She was going to be screaming her head off, bringing everything down that Tom and I worked for. She and that nigger.”


“She and Baker were going to get him all fired up that he held legal title. Like they were just gonna rip down the Mall to quiet the cloud on the title. Like we would just give up on the casino just because he might sue us.”

“What are you talking about?”

He veered all over the place. Screeching along with the words of an old headbanger song, Jimmy turned the racket up even louder. He was in a world of his own.

Ginger rolled back and thought. At least she could think. Her body might be useless but at least she could think.

What frightened her most was that Jimmy had let her see him. It didn’t matter to him then that she could identify him. He admitted killing Kathleen.

That meant he was going to kill her too.

Mason and Delgado grilled Ramon until he was pale and exhausted.

“He must have been following you,” Mason insisted, leaning over Ramon to intimidate him. “You didn’t notice?”

“We were talking,” Ramon said, hanging his head.

Mason wanted to pound the guy senseless. It took everything he had to walk away, his hands at his sides. All Ramon’s tough guy demeanor was gone. Whichever one of these assholes he liked for the murders was cute, and Ramon was no match for somebody like him.

Edwards snarled at Ginger to stay down and she did, conserving her strength. She would get one chance, and she tried to prepare her mind to take it, even if it were suicidal odds. She had one thumb to the eye, one kick, one head butt, one elbow to the throat chance. Her Dad preached go for the groin or the nose.

When the van stopped, Ginger steeled herself for a bullet between the eyes. Jimmy would roll her off the embankment. Her body would lie there, picked over by scavengers until some hikers or a road crew came upon her. Whatever Jimmy had hit her with had left her muzzy and nauseated, and the pain in her shoulders and arms was fierce. Finally he turned off the wall of sound and the night fell silent.

“You all set to party, Ginger?” Smiling brightly, he gave her a predator’s grin.

He opened the back door of the old beater van he’d stuffed her in and Ginger knew suddenly where they were. He had pulled around behind the cabin her father had bought at the end of a dirt road in the Angeles National Forest, in another world less than fifty miles from Los Angeles. Their vacation place was the absolute last place anyone would look for her.

The moonlight glinted on steel as he took out a knife. She prepared herself for her chance. The thick bones of the skull were her only weapons.

Knives made her blood run cold. Cops were more scared of knives than guns. It was hard to hit somebody with a gun while they were broken-field running, and most cops weren’t that good a shot in the heat of the moment. Knives were different. A groan escaped her and he interpreted it with a grin.

“Easy, babe. The curtain isn’t up yet. Lay still or you’ll get this right through the stomach. Know what that’s like? I don’t mind, if that’s the way you want it.”

He sawed through the duct tape binding her feet together and yanked her by the arm, hauling her out of the cramped cargo area. The steel blueing on her Smith and Wesson in his hand glinted in the sliver of moonlight that fell through the pines.

“Nice gun, Ginger. Thanks, I like it a lot.”

Her legs wouldn’t hold her up and she fell heavily, her shoulder taking the brunt of the fall.

“Get up.”

“I can’t. Something’s wrong with me. That’s why I limp sometimes.”

In answer he kicked her in the back. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do something like that to you, Miss Brass Balls. Get up.”

“I can’t, Jimmy. I can’t.”

“I don’t have time to play around with you right now,” he snarled. He bent and shoved her with his foot to roll her over.

He gave her another kick that caught her in the spine. She put her arms up, hands cuffed together, to protect her head from his boots kicking her over and over.

“Stop! Stop! Let me try crawling.”

If he thought she could explode in a flurry of trained martial arts moves, she only wished. It wasn’t possible to crawl very fast with hands bound. Not fast enough to suit him.

“Jimmy, you’ve got my gun. You’ve got a knife. What can I do?”

“Oh, it is such a pleasure to me to hear you beg.”

He whipped a long hunting knife from a sheath under his arm and held it up glinting in the moonlight, grinning as he examined the blade.

“You interrupted me last time. I’m going to take my time with you.”

“You’re going to lose everything, Jimmy.” She dropped her voice before speaking so that it wouldn’t come out in a high rabbit squeal. He hauled her to her feet with a yank. It was all pain now. Her arms and legs were numbed. Her hips felt as though bone was grinding on bone.

“I don’t see how, babe. Do you? Do you know how many unsolved murders there are in the big city every year?”

“But only a few murders in Santa Monica. I’m white, and everybody knows me. Cops in the family. They’ll never quit. I’m telling you. They won’t quit.”

“Shut up! I’m sick to death of listening to you.” He punched her in the back so that she stumbled. She had to stall, twist things around, give him a taste of what he wanted, promise him something, enough to make him leave her to go off running to find some clue he thought she had hidden. It was a way to buy time. The problem was she couldn’t think of anything. His face was mean, indifferent.

“You try anything and I’ll slice you right now.”

“There’s people around here, Jimmy,” she said, facing him down from a shallow store of bravery.

“You lie, Ginger. You lie. It’s all weekenders up here. There’s nobody here on a Tuesday night. Don’t fuck with me.”

Ginger teetered on her feet and stumbled as he pushed her forward, trying to keep her balance. He was shoving her toward the path that led around the back of the house that sat on the edge of a steep ravine.

“Wait, I can’t walk that fast.”

A sliding glass door led into the back of the house. To her surprise, he pushed and shoved her past the back door and jerked her to a stop by grabbing her arm in front of the metal storage container her Dad had picked up in a junkyard. It was about eight feet tall by three feet wide and perched on the narrow lip of the ravine. Her Dad had said it was some kind of military shell used to fit odd corners in transport ships. He’d hauled it up there a few weeks ago and planned to use it as extra wood shed when he and Art got around to felling a few dying trees. The box was made of a light metal with a door that slid in sideways, anchored under a lip at both top and bottom. A padlock hung open through a thick hasp.

A strange noise came from him. He was grinding his teeth. Whatever he was on was making him drool. She watched his jaws moving.

“What do you want, Jimmy?”

“Where did Baker put those letters? I want the sermons!” he screeched.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. What letters? What sermons? Why would I have anything like that?”

“You know his name.”

“Of course, I know his name. It was in the paper.”

“Where’s all his papers?”

He gave her open-handed slap across the back of the head, a hard punch to the temple. Her ears rang, and she stumbled forward to take the force of the blow with her other shoulder as she fell against the metal of the shed.

“I don’t have any sermons or letters, Jimmy. You know my Dad and my brother are cops.”

“Yeah, so what? Cops, I know cops.” He shoved her into the shed.

“How can you possibly think you’re going to get away with this?”

He eyed her without answering. Pulling the padlock through the hasp, he slid the door sideways to stand it up against the side.

“I’ll be back and you’re going to tell me where he put all that shit.”

Ginger could barely stay on her feet without her knees buckling. The ravine fell off steeply behind their cabin. It was so precipitous that she’d started down once and only got a few feet. They’d hired a guy to do some lot clearing and he’d gone down the bank in a harness. “Wait, Jimmy.” She felt panic exploding in her chest and strained to stop herself from breaking out into a desperate howl.

“It’s time, Ginger. This is just to make you think about me a little more while I’m gone.”

She tried desperately to turn her face away when she saw the knife but he held her with an arm across the throat choking her. The knife flashed briefly and her cheek lay open. She felt the astonishing suck of air through an open slice in her cheek. He had drawn a line of fire from near her temple down to her chin and blood filled her mouth.

“That’s a taste of what’s next. Get in there and shut up.”

She was shocked silent. As she heard him fumble with the lock she found her voice. “Take the handcuffs off, please. Please, Jimmy.”

He laughed. “Suffer, bitch.”

He kicked at her and she rolled to hit the back wall and felt the shed rock with her weight. The door slid under the metal lip top and bottom with a screech and Ginger heard the padlock slide through the hasp and close with a snick. Moments later she heard the old van grind up the steep driveway.

The night fell silent. She felt a wet stickiness across the face, her heart beating fast and high, each breath gasping. Despite her best efforts at self-control, she screamed herself hoarse before she finally stopped. She held her shoulder against the blood running down her face, trying to stop the pain.

to be continued

NO DICE available at Amazon


On Monday, November 7, writer-historian Susan Morgan will read from her new book, “Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader,” at the Annenberg Beach House.

The online multimedia art journal EAST OF BORNEO has just published the Reader, the first anthology of McCoy’s writings on the modernist architecture of Southern California. Edited by Morgan, it includes innovative articles, out-of-print essays, unpublished lectures, and a personal memoir.

Morgan also co-curated the definitive McCoy exhibit, “Sympathetic Seeing” at the MAK Center’s Shindler House on Kings Road in West Hollywood, which is part of the mammoth Pacific Standard Time exhibit of L.A. art organized by the Getty. She will read selections and discuss the lasting impact of this brilliant writer and historian.

Esther McCoy (1904-1989), who lived in Santa Monica for most of her life, was a keen literary stylist and an ingenious historian who chronicled mid-century modernist design as it was being created. Her landmark 1960 book ”Five California Architects,” which studied the work of Irving Gill, Bernard Maybeck, Charles and Henry Greene, and R.M. Schindler, makes a case that the richness and variety of American modern architecture was a natural development of Californian design.

Paul Goldberger, the New York Times, wrote ““It is not true that there was no California architecture before Esther McCoy…But there was no one writing about it, and that made all the difference…McCoy discovered a California that was not just freeways and oranges but the place where the American dream fused more naturally, and more intensely, with the 20th-century’s language of modernism than it did anywhere else.”

Susan Morgan has written extensively about art, design, and cultural biography. A former contributing editor for Interview, Mirabella, and Metropolitan Home, she is a contributing editor for Aperture and East of Borneo. With support from Graham Foundation for the Advancement of Art and Architecture and the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, Morgan has been researching the life and work of writer McCoy, as well as co-curating the McCoy exhibit.

Launched in October, 2010, EAST OF BORNEO is a collaborative art journal and multimedia archive that frames a discussion of contemporary art and its modern history as considered from Los Angeles. It’s ublished by the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts and supported in part by grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts and The Getty Foundation.

Morgan will speak from 6:30 to 8 at the Annenberg, 415 Pacific Coast Highway.

This is one of a series of Beach=Culture events this fall. Reservations are required, but there is no charge. Email


On Tuesday, November 8, the nurses at Saint John’s Health Center will gather on 23rd Street between Santa Monica & Arizona to announce the filing of additional Unfair Labor Practice charges against Saint John’s management.

Six months after a landslide union election, management still refuses to “respect RNs’ rights to representation and is dragging its feet on crucial patient safety protections in contract negotiations,”
In the words of California Nurses Association spokesman Joe Newlin.

He went to say that “management rejected proposals for an RN committee with the power to protect patients, for guaranteed RN-to-patient ratios for safety, for consistent break staffing to maintain compliance with safe staffing laws.”


Daylight saving time ends Sunday morning.

2 a.m. becomes 1 a.m. and thenceforth the sun will rise later and set earlier – for the convenience of farmers. And we will use more electricity until some time next spring.

It’s one of those quaint customs that may have made some sense at some time, but makes no sense now, and yet our leaders have never got around to changing it.


FRIDAY, November 11, 2011 – 7:00 PM

“12th and Delaware 2010,” A woman’s worst nightmare

Film makers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady spent a year in the small town of Fort Pierce, Fla., where an ideological tug-of-war rages at the corner of 12th and Delaware, the site of both an abortion clinic and a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. Staff members at the abortion clinic strive to protect their clients — and themselves — fearing the escalating violence perpetuated by some factions of the anti-abortion movement.

The anti-choice majority in the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to give hospitals this “right” – to refuse to provide lifesaving abortion care to women who will die without it.

Don’t let the U.S. Senate do the same. Urge your senators to oppose the “Let Women Die” bill. 1 hr. 20 minutes.

Home of Rachel and Jay, 601 9th Street, Santa Monica, one block east of Lincoln, one block north of Montana, Southeast Corner, Easy Parking

RSVP : or call 310-780-7363 (first 20)

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