Me and Travis text pretty regularly, and I’d like to get him up to see the pool house and meet the boys, but I haven’t seen him since he turned up on my doorstep in the middle of the night last October. Keaton was off Monday morning, so we decided to celebrate National Mental Health Awareness Month by heading down to pay Travis a visit.
They’ve changed the rules for COVID where he’s staying, so, for the first time, we could actually go inside and visit with Travis there. I only saw the place from the outside the one time I took him home after the adventure with that sketchy Lola chick who slipped him who knows what in a joint. I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with mental health facilities, but this one seemed pretty nice. There’s some green and some trees, and it looks like there are plots for gardening, and the – Travis says they’re called “clients” – live in little houses. There are a lot of “6’ distance” stickers on the ground, just to remind us that there’s still a plague on, but it seemed like a nice enough place to get yourself back on your feet again. I know it’s getting on two years since Travis tried to jump off the Colorado Street Bridge, but, from what I understand, it takes a good long while to come back from something like that.
Unfortunately there was some drama going on when me and Keaton got there: some asshole hit Travis’ car in the middle of the night when it was parked on the street, fucked it up…and then ran. Travis was asleep when it happened, but the night staff person heard the crash, went to see what had happened, and then went to get Travis, not that there was much that he could do. They called the police, and apparently a nice cop came (Travis: “why would anyone want to defund the police…the dude was pretty cool”) and took the report. Everyone was saying that the driver was probably borracho and didn’t have insurance, but, still, it’s pretty dang fucked up to mess up a dude’s car and then run.
It’s also a crime and the jerkoff who did it can go to jail.
There actually were a few clues left at the scene: the front bumper of the car that hit Travis’ fell off from the collision and was lying in the middle of the street when he got there. The cop took the evidence, but it doesn’t seem like there’s too much chance of figuring out who did it based on it: they don’t put the VIN on the bumper. At first they thought that the license plate was attached to the bumper but it turned out that it was just a dummy plate that said ‘LA Rams’. (Keaton: “shows you what kind of trash follows that team.”)
The jerkoff hit the left rear wheel of Travis’ car. There wasn’t a whole lot of exterior damage, just one bad scrape, but anyone could see that the suspension was fucked up, and maybe the rear axle as well.
“I’m pretty sure my insurance will take care of it,” Travis said. I could tell he was upset, but he was trying to be brave. I don’t know why…I mean…it is a mental health facility after all and I’m sure they can deal with it if a client gets triggered. “Mom and Dad insisted that I get all kinds of coverage, even if it’s probably not worth it given how old my car is. The premium eats up a big chunk of my allowance.” (Part of the program that Travis is in is designed to teach independent living; they suggested that Travis’ parents give him a set allowance so he could learn how to budget.)
Travis’ car is 2010 MINI Cooper, green with a super cool checkerboard roof. He got it used, but it doesn’t have a lot of mileage on it, and it’s definitely got some more life in it…or at least it did until some jerkoff fucked it up. (Given that the dude rammed into it right next to the gas tank, it’s a good thing that the whole car didn’t explode.)
After we looked the car over, Travis led us inside and we sat down at a picnic table under a nice shady eucalyptus tree, with me and Keaton on one side. Then Keaton got up and went to sit next to Travis.
“Sitting across from you reminds me too much of the fuckin psych ward they were keeping you in. Now,” he continued, “what are we gonna do about the motherfucker who fucked your car up?”
Travis looked up in surprise.
“You’re not taking this lying down, hoss.”
“But the dude probably didn’t have insurance or he’d have stopped.”
“Yeah, and he was fuckin drunk probably. And a fuckin illegal with arrest warrants. Hit and run is still a crime.”
“Even if it’s a parked car?,” Travis asked.
“Fuck yeah,” said Keaton. “You’re not allowed to leave the scene of an accident. Even in this sketchyass neighborhood at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
“So what so you suggest we do?,” I asked. I gotta admit I had nothing.
“Do they have security cameras in this place?,” Keaton asked Travis.
He shook his head.
“I asked that much. They don’t have them because of client confidentiality.”
“So the next question is if the neighbors do. C’mon: let’s go find out.”
“You got something better to do?”
“Then go sign out or whatever it is you need to do and meet me and bubba out front. If someone does have a camera, how many cars missing their front bumpers are gonna be driving by at…what time did you say it was?”
“They came and woke me up at 1:20. I checked my phone.”
“Then it ain’t gonna take a shit ton of detective work,” said Keaton.
“Fuck that,” Keaton said. “This motherfucker jacked your car up and is getting away with leaving the scene of an accident. He’ll probably do it again if he gets away with it this time.”
Keaton can be pretty convincing, and, in this case, he was right. Travis was giving up too easy. I could see why, but you don’t just roll over and play dead if someone fucks your car up that bad. Travis’ car is way nicer than the shitbox, and, believe me, I’d do whatever it took to find the person who fucked up my car.
In a few minutes we were out in front, right where Travis’ car was parked
“Did you check if it still drives?,” I asked.
Keaton was shaking his head.
“Look where the exhaust is, bubba,” he said, pointing to the back of the car. “That’s not where it belongs. The whole rear axle must be fucked up.”
I walked around the side of the car. Keaton was right. The car wasn’t going anywhere.
“So he was coming this way,” Keaton said, pointing out the obvious. “So our best bet is going down the block and seeing if anything caught the car after the accident.”
We set off down the street. Turns out it was good we did, since the very next house had a security camera out front.
“What did I tell you?,” Keaton asked Travis.
“I…guess it can’t hurt to ask,” Travis answered.
“If it’s a dude, I’ll talk to him. If it’s a chick, bubba and his bedroom eyes should do the talking.”
I don’t often punch Keaton in the arm. I did this time.
Turns out it was a dude and Keaton explained what we were after in Spanish. Then the dude looked at Travis.
“We heard the crash,” the man said. “Then I went out in the morning to look at it. Ay, amigo… People suck. You live next door?”
“People, they find out I live next door to a manicomio, they think that it’s a bad thing. Best neighbors I’ve ever had. Quiet, they go to bed early. Not like the people on the other side of you.”
Travis nodded. “I know what you mean.” Then he turned to us. “Loud parties until super late into the night. Night staff have had to call the police a few times.”
“People suck,” repeated the man. “Anyway, amigos…I’m sorry, but the camera doesn’t work. It broke last year; we just keep it out to scare ladrones away. We need to get a new one. Sorry, man,” he said, looking sincerely as though he meant it. “But, you know what?, the liquor store on the corner, they have several cameras. Ask there.”
“Thanks,” we all said, turning to leave.
“Let me know how it comes out. I hope you get that motherfucker. Nobody should be allowed to do that to someone else’s property like that. Probably some illegal with no insurance – the kind that gives Mexicans a bad name.”
We headed down the block to the liquor store. It was located on the corner of the residential street where Travis lives and a commercial street with absolutely no trees as far as the eye could see. It looked kinda grim, and the liquor store looked like you’d expect a liquor store to look in a neighborhood like that.
One thing is for sure, it had plenty of cameras out front. I counted three, and, from the looks of it, only one of them was aimed directly at the door. The others were aimed at the parking lot and could possibly have caught a car passing on the street.
We went in. There was a dude behind a plexiglass partition at the counter.
Keaton explained the situation again in Spanish. We could tell the dude was getting pissed of as he heard the story. Me and Travis just weren’t sure at who or what.
“They jack your car up?,” the man behind the counter asked Travis. “Cocksuckers,” he said, shaking his head. “Probably illegals with no insurance. Good luck finding them.”
“Oh,” said Travis.
“No, wait,” the dude said, “I didn’t say I couldn’t help you. One of our cameras faces the street, but it faces that way,” he said, pointing to the commercial street, “not onto your street. But, if they made a right turn, we’ll have the cocksuckers. Although,” he continued with a sigh, “my bet is that they don’t have insurance. Let’s go look anyway.”
So he ducked below the counter where, we reckoned, the video equipment was set up. There were three TVs over the counter, one of which went blank while the dude was out of view.
“What time did you say?,” he asked.
“About 1:20 AM,” Travis said.
“I’ve got it at about 1,” the man said, “let me put it up for you guys to see.”
So he we looked up at the screen, although it was a little hard to see through the plexiglass partition.
“We close at midnight,” the dude explained, “but we keep the cameras on just in case someone tries to break in. We used to close at 2…but you can imagine the kind of trash that comes to a liquor store in this neighborhood at 2 AM.” He stood up from behind the counter. “Let’s see what there is.”
So we all watched the screen, which showed the street with not a whole lot going on. A truck drove by, and the dude asked:
“Could that be it?”
“We figure it was a Toyota sedan,” Travis said. “It left its bumper in the middle of the street. A truck like that would have done a whole lot more damage to my car. I drive a MINI,” Travis explained.
“Cool car,” the man said. “I always want to get myself a little car like that…but, with three kids, you need a car with a back seat. Let’s look.”
So we watched some more.
“This should be getting close to the time,” the man said.
And, sure enough, a car pulled into the frame missing its front bumper. It looked pretty messed up, but it definitely was a Toyota…and how many Toyotas missing front bumpers could there possibly be in that neighborhood at that hour?
“Can we get the license plate?,” Keaton asked.
The man had paused the video. Then he let it run another second or two, and it showed the back of the car…and the license plate.
“There you go,” said Keaton.
The man wrote down the number on a lottery ticket blank and passed it through the partition.
“What are you going to do?”
“Call the insurance,” said Travis.
“Go kick his ass,” said Keaton, at the same time. “You don’t hit and run a buddy of mine’s car and fuckin expect to get away with it.”
Travis and the man behind the counter both looked at Keaton. I don’t think they realized like I did that Keaton was completely serious.
“Thanks, man,” Keaton said, “you’ve been a big help.”
“You really gonna go kick that dude’s ass?”
“Fuck yeah,” said Keaton, turning to leave the store.
“This is awesome,” Travis said when we were outside again, “now his insurance will pay for it and my rates won’t go up.”
“I don’t think your rates go up if your parked car gets struck,” I said. “Still, it’s worth the call. No reason your company should have to pay for it.”
“Except that the motherfucker who did it probably doesn’t have insurance,” said Keaton. “You’ve got a computer back where you live, right?”
“Yeah,” said Travis.
“Good,” Keaton said. “We have some research to do.”
“What do you mean? You can’t just go to the DMV website and get someone’s address based on their license plate. Or can you?”
“No, you can’t. But there are databases that do have that information. I worked for a PI when I first got to California. I learned a few things, although the work was boring as fuck.”
We went back to the picnic table and Travis came out with his laptop.
“The wifi reaches this far. I sit out here and work sometimes. I’m taking a class at PCC again,” he added when me and Keaton looked at him inquiringly.
Keaton took over the computer and in what seemed like a couple minutes said:
“Here…I’ve got a name and an address. Let’s go fuck him up.”
“I really don’t think….”
“Get in the truck. It’s only like five blocks from here,” Keaton said, closing the laptop and getting up. I could tell that Travis was having second thoughts, but I was with Keaton on this one.
This dude had whatever was coming to him coming to him.