Dusty - Silicon Snow
Catanich returns to the thrilling historical fiction he has so brilliantly made his own. This is the first of seven side stories from the infamous Gopal affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged series of novels of theft, conspiracy and espionage.
Dusty - Silicon Snow
Dock of the Ruben E Lee
Newport Beach CA, USA
Sunday, March 16, 1975
The early So California morning started great with everyone meeting in the parking lot of Ruben E. Lee, a 189-foot faux paddle wheeler. Jason Ramos had moored his 55 footer there for the week of spring break. To the locals, it had become one of the best party boats in the harbor during Spring break, 1975. It was known that all boats would return to their main mooring early Sunday morning allowing the afternoon clean up. And lasts night's party set a records for the loudest, rowdiest, and most undressed women in North Balboa Harbor. Although many said the party ended at 3:00 am, it didn't. It just went inside.
So when Ramos started the boat and headed out of the Linda Isle mooring, you'd better have been off or you were going for a ride. There were many times that someone had to jump off and swim back to his or her car. Others just said screw it and went back to sleep.
As for Dusty, it was just another early morning he had to make the coffee. He had become friends with Ramos over the past 3 months and this weekend was just another party weekend that would fade with the hangover. As he made the coffee, it just amazed him as he looked around at the women, he couldn't remember who the hell they were or how they even got there. It was wall-to-wall women with a guy or two thrown in.
Because it was still early, Ramos was taking the main channel to head out. What was it, two weekends ago they were headed down the North Channel and the girls on board took their tops off so the tourist could sight see. Or was it longer? As Dusty brought Ramos his coffee, they were already at the Corona Del Mar Bend. It usually took about 40 minutes to get there, but he was turning south into the main Channel Entrance and accelerating as he hit open ocean.
As Dusty handed him the coffee, he asked "In a rush this morning?"
"Hey. Good morning, thanks" as he took a sip. "Hell of a party last night. Saw you got lucky a couple of times last night. How's Dan?"
"I think he's still dead. He got a hold of that blonde and she was tearing him up the last I remember, which, by the way isn't very much".
As they hit open water "Ah, good, the sea is smooth for once. We can make good time. When it's rough, the girls will usually be hanging their heads over the side. If any do come up, keep an eye on them. Last year one fell off".
"What happen to her?"
"Oh, we had a coin flip to see if we'd stop, I lost and had to turn around and get her. Shit it's only a mile swim back to the beach". As Ramos put down his coffee cup, he said, "Hey, steer for me. Keep it on the heading 280 and don't get within a mile of anything. I'm going to take a dump".
Normally, they would follow the coastline about a mile out to show off, but today it was the shortest distance between two points. At 18 knots and with the surface chop increasing, others on the boat started getting up. Within a half hour, there was full life back on the boat. Body count was 13 women and 6 guys; all asking the same question "Where the hell are we?"
To tell them that they were 16 miles off the coast of Seal Beach wouldn't help that daze one gets when they see open ocean all around them or no longer can see land. Dusty just said "We're just 20 minutes from Rancho Palos Verdes and the next party".
The trip back to Redondo Beach and the small harbor usually was about 36 nautical miles or about 42 miles on land. Today, they would make it in less than 3 hours. As Dan and his blonde shadow joined him, Dusty said "Glad to see that you two are still alive".
"Dusty, Roxanne. Roxanne, Dusty. Is that coffee still hot" Dan asked?
"Let me have it anyway".
Then Ramos joined them to take over "Ah, the dynamic duo is together at last. Hey Roxy, can you make us some more coffee?"
As she left, Dusty asked, "What's up?"
"When we get in, I need to make a stop at the house. I got a meeting with Taylor Mendoza at 1:30 and I want you two to join me to meet him. You will be dealing with him to offload the cash you receive. I call him my accountant but in reality, he is a real ass hole. He thinks the money is his so he takes it real personnel if any is missing. That's why I love the guy. He takes care of me".
"Well, we're looking forward to it" Dan said.
The entrance to the harbor at Redondo Beach is from the south end. It's less than a 1/2 mile to the end and the right turn into King Harbor Marina. "It's the third slot on the left, there... but back-it in. You never know when you need to make a quick getaway because of a pissed off husband".
Now, it's one thing to park a car backwards, and it's another thing to park a school bus. "This is where the 55 foot gets really big, so go slow". You really need to know how.
Although it took two tries, Dusty got it moored in one piece. He did get a lot of ribbing, but if he was going to take over the off loading of product, he needed to know how to moor the boat without being noticed. Like... no banging into the dock or putting a hole in the hull.
As with all parties, there comes a time to leave, or in this case, be thrown off. "Alright everyone, it's time to get off. The party will resume at dusk so take everything with you for now. Dusty, you and Dan get changed and meet me at the house as quick as you can. We'll leave from there".
The drive back to their rental apartment on 17th street was quick and they found parking for a change. As they walked back to the rental, they talked about the party; the ride back and how they would love to own that boat. As they entered the rental unit, they did the normal check out to see if anyone had been there. No one had. Dusty was the first to shower and get dressed. Twenty minutes later, Dan did as well. As Dusty finished brushing his teeth, he walked out to see Dan checking himself out in the full-length mirror. Then Dusty did as well. Then they both reached into the bottom drawer and pulled out a "backup gun" to strap on their ankle.
For his primary, Dan carried a Walther P4, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol with an 8 round clip. His reasoning was that if he couldn't take care of something in 8 rounds, he would be dead so it wouldn't matter. However, in an earlier life, Dusty was able to find an early version of a Beretta Model 35. It was also a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol but it had a 15 round clip. As Dusty had stated many times, he just "wanted insurance". Both carried extra clips on them and in the car. "You never know, just in case".
To Dusty, Ramos was a spoiled brat whose father was a Section Head for TRW for years but had died 3 years earlier when his business plane collided in mid air with another plane over Palmdale CA. The house was originally built by his grandfather for his new bride; an "up and coming starlet" in Hollywood in the late 30s. Two years later, she moved out just like Ramos' mother did, five years ago. Both his mom and him agreed to keep the house as an investment so Ramos could live there until they decided to sell it. It was six months ago when Ramos learned his mother passed.
The drive to Ramos' Palos Verdes Estates (Pos Del Mar) house was one Dusty didn't like to do. It reminded him of his childhood in East Pasadena where the poor kids lived. Dusty had to walk to school year round, Ramos didn't. The 1/4-mile walk to Palos Verdes High School was across two main roads that meant he would have to ride a school bus per school regulations. Not cool for anyone, so his mom got him a new Corvette for his 16th birthday instead.
That was the same year the pool was installed and their guests could look out at the "$1,000,000 View" of the Pacific Ocean. His mom met his dad in 1942 and they dated off and on until the end of the war. It was then she announced that she was pregnant. Therefore, they did a Las Vegas wedding, bought a small house in Torrance, and settled down.
His dad got a great job at Hughes Aircraft whose officials said, if he wanted to progress up the management chain, he had to go back to school, which he did. First, he received his BS, then a Masters and finally a PHD in Business. After eight years of school, they moved into the Palos Verdes Estates house. As TRW started up a new DOD project, he made that move to join them.
However, as the father's investments paid off, so was the house. Then came the new cars. There were so many but the 1968 Dino Ferrari was the one his mom took with her when she moved out. She and a girlfriend drove it to Melbourne, Florida where his mom promptly moved in with an "old friend".
His dad flew during WWII, so when he finally could, he first got a PA-18 Super Cub and then a Piper PA-28 Cherokee that's Ramos' now has. For years, Ramos and his dad flew every weekend together in and out of Torrance Airport. He got his driver's license the same week as he got his pilot's license. Now talk about a great way to pick up chicks.
And of course there was the "Judy Lynn". This 55 foot Chris-Craft Constellation was custom built for his dad in 1964 for $98,400. However, by the time everything was put on it, it was almost double that. Now, the Judy Lynn speaks to a time when cruising had a sense of elegance and timelessness and was equipped for entertaining, long range economical cruising in comfort and style. Her beautifully finished mahogany interior was tastefully quiet and simple yet offers the ultimate in comfortable living afloat. She has three large double staterooms that could accommodate six people very comfortably.
Most important, her twin diesels produce 636-hp and could drive her at speeds to 26 Knots safely in 6-foot seas. This was accomplished by having the engines connected to 2 GM Allison Marine Gear transmissions with a 2:1 reduction gearing. He also had major upgrades done to it including increasing the fuel capacity to 500 gallons that allowed for 500 Nmi at a cruising speed of 14.5 knots or 1,800 rpms.
However, the greatest performance increase came from the use of government proprietary (secret), large diameter, fully balanced, computer aided manufactured propellers. The three blades kept the low-end power but gained on the high-end smoothness by removing the cavitation effect needed for high speed in the open ocean.
As the story was told, the Judy Lynn was named after his grandfather's ex-wife. But when his grandfather and dad drank, they used to make a toast "To Judy Lynn" and start giggling. It seemed that Ramos' grandfather and the live Judy Lynn stayed very close friends. Her advice on investments proved profitable for everyone and when the boat was paid for in cash, no one gave it a second glance. Therefore, at 28, Jason Ramos had a house, car, boat and an airplane. Now you know why the word "spoiled" is used.
Ramos had been selling pot since his first year in high school about the same time Taylor moved to Rancho Palos Verdes from Hawthorne; it seemed his mom had "re-married up". After a couple of fist fights, the two became good friends and in their junior year, they teamed up to sell a full line of drugs. With Taylor's old connections from Hawthorne, getting the products was easy. However, as the quantity grew, the competition did as well.
Dan and Dusty first met Ramos 9 months ago at a small club. Someone said "[email protected]#, son of bitch". Since his mom had just passed, Ramos made a in-your-face comment that someone didn't like and a fight broke out. Ramos was getting his ass kicked when Dusty intervened. Then two others got involved, so Dan got involved and ended it. Since that time, they have hung out off and on until 2 months ago, when Ramos offered the two a job. Today would be the first time Dan and Dusty would go along on "business".
As they wound their way up on top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, they could immediately see the change in life style. Located in southwestern Los Angeles County, CA, this extremely affluent bedroom community was known for its dramatic views of the $1,000,000+ homes in Palos Verdes Hills to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Palos Verdes Drive winds thru some of the best neighborhoods in LA, but the turn off on Paseo del Mar took them along the western edge of the 80-foot cliffs that are the edge of the peninsula and the start of the Pacific Ocean. It's on Palos Verdes Point that homes with what is called "280 degree views of the ocean" are considered to be priceless and Rocky Point Rd services these homes.
Just after that turn off, Dan said "It's here" and they pulled in to the driveway and saw Ramos' car in the driveway with the trunk open. As they parked behind it, Ramos came out, put a brief case in his car-trunk, and closed it. "Hey guys, good timing, follow me".
They headed back north again for east Hawthorne where the living is less affluent and daily life is unsafe. As the car turned onto the street, they saw Taylor's car and parked behind it.
"Hey Taylor, what's up" Ramos yelled as he entered the house? "This is Dusty and Dan, the guys I was talking to you about".
Taylor responded with a "Hey, come on in. This is my dad's place so be cool. He's at work now and won't be back for some time. You guys want a beer. It's in the frig if you do. Sit".
Although the house was built in the early 30s, it had been remodeled some time back. The living room was very large and someone had knocked down the wall between the living room and kitchen. It was replaced with a counter top bar that it shared with the kitchen. In front of this was a 4-foot round table with four wooden chairs around it.
On the first left was a small bedroom that was turned into a junk room-office. Further up was a second bedroom and way back was the last bedroom where his dad slept and the bathroom. The furniture was old but surprising clean. Next to the brick fireplace was one of the biggest TVs Dusty had seen. "Wow, this is a man with the proper priorities, good beer and a big TV".
As Taylor and Ramos went into the middle bedroom and closed the door, Dusty sat down behind the table next to the kitchen counter. Dan sat at the other end of the living room on the couch across from the TV. Five minutes later, Ramos came out. Taylor was wearing a jacket and carrying a brief case. "Finish up and we're heading out".
Just as Dan finished his beer and stood up, the front door swung opened and in came three guys, followed by two more.
"Hey Mother [email protected]#er, this is our..." but this was interrupted by one of the guys in the back yelling, "Shit, they're cops".
Now what started it was anyone's guess. Was it the quick turn; the flick of a wrist; maybe a blink of an eye? It was unimportant. Although Dan emptied his clip before he hit the floor, he was already dead. His first three shots created two walking dead. His second two shots created something in between.
Even before Dusty hit the floor, half his clip was used when he was hit in the side. It was Dan's last shot that hit Taylor dead center. Then as the back two guys came in and started firing, Dusty emptied his clip on them but that's when he was hit again.
They say there is a lifetime between when a bullet enters the body and exits. For Jason Ramos, this lifetime was used up as he fell over Dusty, car keys falling out of what should have been his gun hand.
It is well know on the street, that if you are shot in a LA Drug incident, the responding Officers will wait for a supervisor to show up before calling for an ambulance. Any undercover cop who has been shot also knows to pull out his badge so he will not be ignored. As Dusty pulled out his badge, his eyes closed and the badge fell next to Ramos' keys.