Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I uncovered this by accident. It was in Google Docs, so there is no ending available. But this was another project I did with John Kewley, the guy I wrote @JoyMotel, our Twitter novel which will appear in the RAPID TRANSIT collection.

I'm just pasting it here so I know where to find it in the future. Feel free to read through if you are bored...


08/24 The plot thickens. Chomsky has a son. Read all about it...I put up 1500 words. Jamen is now on Nick's radar for the first time. NOTE: my thinking re backstory is that Janus Quillby does real estate projects with Jamen (that's why he owes Jamen $12K). Old Chomsky did books for his son Jonathan's Chicago money operations. It's possible Jonathan had his own father killed when the old man realized his son was doing dirty shit and threatened to go the the cops. Rizzi's book holds clues to all of this. Nick still thinks the book is just a personal memento, that's why he isn't hot after it. He doesn't know Rizzi was investigating this stuff on his own time. JMK

Why did RIZZI get killed?

RIZZI kept a notebook, photos, a spool of tape, etc., implicating several people INSIDE HIS HOLLOWED OUT MUNICIPAL CODE BOOK. [See how it plays with Hollowpoint?] WOLCOTT is going through RIZZI's stuff and finds the code book. Cops get a new one every year. WOLCOTT wonders why Rizzi is still holding onto the 1963 edition but he never opens it. This is just before Nick goes to LA. When he gets the call from LA he heads out there, leaving Rizzi's code book with his pal Chomsky, wrapped up in a bag from Cupid Candies. Chomsky puts the "candies" in his freezer for safekeeping until Nick returns from LA. [So Nick has no idea what is in the codebook when he goes to LA.]

{The reason the immediacy of RIZZI's murder goes on the back burner [and this is based in part on something that happened in 1982] two cops are killed with their own guns, on patrol AFTER ATTENDING THE FUNERAL. Its a dodge, get the dept. away from The Honeybee.}

RIZZI had a bad seed cousin, GERRY THOMAS JAMEN, he calls himself GTO JAMEN, has a car to make it fit. RIZZI went to confront his cousin about the new freeways/construction in Chicago and LA, involving the destruction of black neighborhoods. <A year after Hollowpoint the Watts riots occur.> One connection to LA is both cities have a HONEYBEE HIDEOUT LOUNGE.

JAMEN is a made guy in the Mob who buys city land cheap because he bribes/threatens sleazeball politicians. If they don't play along, he pressures them with violence and threats against their families. They give him fat contracts to build highways across his own land, which he sells back to the city for a bundle, and he hires illegal aliens -- Chinese, Koreans, Mexicans -- to do the work and pays them squat. Jamen knocks down all the houses on the land --most owned by blacks-- he bought cheap and has sold back to the city for a fortune and builds cloverleafs, overpasses, underpasses, highways. Then he overbills the city for the construction. This guy is raking in the cash. [By 1965 Chicago was displacing tons of people by building I-94 north and I-55 southwest. There could be bodies in the concrete foundations of an exit ramp out in Holland's Point.] Jamen started in Chicago but expanded his operations to LA because, natch, that's where you gotta go if you build freeways.

Jamen needs a legit business to launder his money and make it look like he's operating in the red, losing wads of dough, so he can save on taxes. So he gets into film and TV production in LA. He intentionally takes on only projects that are doomed to fail, so he can write off big paper losses in the millions of dollars via doctored expense reports prepared by accountants on his payroll.

Why frame WOLCOTT?

Nick has arrived in LA and goes out drinking in a bar. He gets roughed up by bouncer Johnny Knock Knock and his brother Johnny Hard Knocks. They take him back to his room at the Tempo to sleep it off.

VESPERS HANLON finds WOLCOTT in the room all beat to shit; she and FOONG were scouting locations by the Tempo and saw a two guys hurrying from the room. She had the bowling shirts in the back seat of her [not a Chevelle but something not flashy, a convertible-type, V doesn't show off]. They were going to be used on the next day's shoot [there are usually three of every outfit on a television show]. VESPERS puts one shirt on him, wiping the blood off his dago tee and peeling it off him. VESPERS shoves the other shirts behind the Philco television.

<<Hollowpoint the TV show was tanking and was about to be cancelled--just as Jamen wanted-- when Percy Quillby received Nick's story in the mail from Nick's pal Chomsky in Chicago. The script has given HP a whole new momentum and it looks set to take off and succeed against Route 66. Jamen wants the show to fail. The last thing he needs is for Nick to write more good scripts. He needs Nick out of the picture. He is also worried that Nick is in LA to follow up on Rizzi's evidence against him and figures he can kill two birds with one stone by eliminating Nick. That way, Nick can't save the TV show and ruin Jamen's tax dodge. Also, by setting Nick up for murder, Jamen closes off Rizzi's investigation of Jamen's bribery of the politicians to get plum highway contracts.>>

Normally, Jamen would just have somebody take out Nick directly, or even do it himself, but the LA cops have been watching him pretty closely since he migrated to LA so he's been trying to do things indirectly to keep himself clean. He decides to frame Nick. Jamen tells the actor Barko Skant to get Nick's prints on a gun [he gives Barko the gun that killed Rizzi]. Jamen has been keeping the gun until now, because he used it to kill Rizzi and he's been waiting for a way to throw the attention on someone else.

Barko knows Jamen is Mob and Barko wants in, so Jamen is always giving him Joe jobs to do.

Barko gets Lana Monaghan and Jasmen Ravelle to get Nick's fingerprints on the gun that killed Rizzi, which is why they "chase" Nick in their car and Lana shoots at Nick and then lets him take from her to empty it into the road. They figure he'll keep the gun but he tosses it in the bushes.  Thinking fast, Lana plants a business card in his pocket with the address for the Motel Go-Go and tells Barko he's got some more work to do.

Barko puts the gun in the toilet tank at the Go-Go and figures Nick will never find it when he goes there so he tells his squeeze Gayle Freemont he needs her help, without telling her what it's all about.

Gayle Freemont tells a film student she's sleeping with unbeknownst to Barko, named Diego Deel, to make an art film full of moving arrows. She gives the film to Barko, just like he asked. Fremont then tries to get info from the copyboy Hands for Jamen, most importantly why the bowling shirt that was going to be in the dailies before it was stolen by Hanlon.

Barko sends Jasmen Ravelle (he's sleeping with her, unbeknownst to Fremont) to the motel to set up the projector so that when the film ends, an arrow will be pointing at the wall where she has written what he tells her [a clue to where the gun is]: "Nick Wolcott, your life is shit."

Nick goes to the Go-Go, watches the film, finds the clue and the gun, and gets away from the cops that Barko has sent over to the Go-Go on a tip to nab him with the gun.

Barko gets nervous a few weeks later and enlists Sonny Skatekey, a low life drifter, to kill Jasmen Ravelle to cover his tracks, so she won't tell anybody about the film and the clue. He does it to impress Jamen. Sonny kills Jasmen.

But Jamen is incensed with Barko when he hears Jasmen is dead. Jasmen was his secret illegitimate daughter. {Jasmen/Jamen-- he named her after himself}

...Jamen and Nick are on a collision course which will end when Nick gets his revenge for Rizzi's murder. But first, Nick will spend time working his way through Barko's schemes to frame him, sniffing around Jamen's empire to build a case and dodging local cops who are on the take from Barko. At some point, Rizzi's code book back in Chicago proves crucial and Nick goes back there to see what's in it.


NICK WOLCOTT, ex-cop turned TV writer, bum-rushed off the Chicago PD, migrated west to LA.

LESTER RIZZI Nick's old partner, K.I.A. Mother's Day 1959

GTO JAMEN Mob guy who killed Rizzi and sets up Nick for it

LEV "SKIM" CHOMSKY, Nick's friend, a pawn shop owner in Chicago who sent his script to Quillby in LA

JONATHAN CHOMSKY, hush hush money man in LA

JEBBY VIADETTO Chomsky's ancient buddy

BARKO SKANT The actor who headlines the hit TV show Hollowpoint

DEL KILGORE is the fictional name of the lead character in the story Nick wrote, based on himself.

PERCY QUILLBY is an NBC programming executive

JANUS QUILLBY is Percy's younger brother. A developer. Owes Jamen $12K.


JOHNNY HARD KNOCKS is Johnny Knock Knock's down on the skids twin brother. He has a scar like someone shoved a whiskey glass into his eye socket so he looks like that dog from Our Gang.

VESPERS HANLON is a part-time stripper/part-time volleyball champ. She is a stunt double for GAYLE FREMONT, Barko Skant's squeeze

DIZZY FANTANA, owns the DOWNBEAT jazz club, is a loan shark

GAYLE FREMONT, plays the part of BARKO SKANT's assistant on the show

FOONG, the go-to guy near the Santa Monica pier, also drives VESPERS around town on certain evenings, has his fingers in many pies

ANTHONY "ABBATOIR" MANNERS beat up a bar maid

FRESCO LARENZ, lounge singer

LANA MONAGHAN Black-haired driver of the Monterey that chased Nick. She slipped a business card into his pocket from the Motel Go-Go.

JASMEN RAVELLE is the blonde who made eyes at Nick from the passenger seat. She ends up dead a few days later.

Leland "Indelible" Indelli, TV and film producer. Full-time babe hound until his murder in 1962. Case still cold.

Jeanni Kincaid

Jimmy Enamel, bartender at the Vogue in Chicago, below Chomsky's pawn shop and apartment

Val Monetti, last occupant of Room 14, Go-Go.

Sonny Skatekey, grifter.

VENDEL HAND, copy boy for Quillby

FLASCO The Chicago cop who tells Nick that Chomsky is dead.

BELLINGHAM Nick's old buddy on the Chicago force.

DIEGO DEEL  Film student who made the arrows film for Gayle Freemont



HOLLOWPOINT is near Long Beach/San Pedro. Maybe HOLLOWPOINT/Holland's Point can be one of the police substations.

MOTEL TEMPO is Nick's LA base of operations, 29th Street, off Normandie

MEXICAN STANDOFF is a tavern on Western and Saticoy

MONTY VOLANTE'S, the main competitor to Musso and Frank's. Steaks, beer,babes who sing torch songs to every man alive.

MOTEL GO-GO is on the business card the girls gave Nick. 27112 Atherton, right of 27th and Normandie.

THE DOWNBEAT, jazz club that is a front for loan shark DIZZY FANTANA.

THE HONEYBEE HIDEOUT LOUNGE, two locations, Chicago and LA.

CAPELLA The club/restaurant on the beach where Jamen goes for dinner


(c) 2009 by John Kewley & Wayne Allen Sallee

Chapter 1

   Nick Wolcott

I've been staring at some drug addict's idea of a painting on the wall for five glasses of bourbon neat. Or was it four? Like anyone keeps count in this goddamn town. The booze makes my brain hum, I'm seeing the sun rising over some tropical island, but if I shut my left eye--my good eye, long story to that--I see the mouth of a Chinese dragon, the trees are like fangs with lettuce stuck to them. But what the hell do I know about art.

I thought about moving the damn thing, just laying it under the bed. Get it out of my sight. Not even a clock on the wall. Back in Chicago, every motel, even the sleazos that were connected to rock bottom strip clubs where the dancers were five months pregnant had a faded photo of Pope Paul VI on one of the walls. But this sure ain't Chicago. I moved the painting and there was a peephole drilled in the wall, by my sainted Auntie Irene. I heard tell Sal Mineo flops here off and on, no doubt he was grabbing looks at his neighbors. Guys more than dolls, from what I've heard in the month I've been here. After the fifth glass is drained, I can finally get the last of the colors out of my head. Back in Chicago, March 18th, 1965. All black and grey on the streets, the only white is the snow still in the cracks in the streets and the sidewalks. The sky the color of scoured pots and pans, depending on the cloudbank. I hate the colors here. Barely spring and it's like Walt Disney grew a thousand feet into the sky and threw up on everything and everybody.

If it wasn't for Chomsky, I'd be sitting in an alley on the far south side with a damp breeze blowing up from the lake, a swirling breath of promise trying to clean away the stink. I'd be snapping pictures of some guy with overeager eyes and groping fingers as he squired around some girl named Selma, or maybe a nice polak broad married to Stashu the mechanic from over dere by the viaduct, throwing away a decent marriage for a fumble in a rented room. I'd be tossing them down on a stained divan beside his weeping wife, and pocketing an envelope full of bills for my trouble. Then I'd head on down to the Black Docks to watch the dancers and fill my head with bad dreams. 105th and Avenue C. Every time I walked that neighborhood in Luella Park, all the merchant marines flopping and dropping, nurses from South Chicago looking for love in all the wrong dives, I just knew something bad would go down some day. Some day. But I wasn't going to be a part of it.

Chomsky, he made the difference. He would get up every night when I scratched at his back door, and he'd come downstairs and flip the latch and let me in. He'd pour himself a vodka and orange juice and watch me with an expression I could not identify. I'd go into the front room, because that's where his pawn shop was, and I'd type. Chomsky had a typewriter. Some guy brought it in three years before and said it used to be Ring Lardner's, from before he went crazy in old age. Nobody wanted it, the "I" was stuck sideways. Seemed to be a kind of sign to me. The open road, baby. Flatfoot City. It sat in Chomsky's window collecting dust. I would take it out and bang on it for a few hours, sometimes the old man would plop on a disk of Cannonball Adderly playing tunes that made me think of peeping toms and lost loves. Then I'd go home right around the corner on Van Buren and fall on the bed and stare out the window at the neon bricks next door until sleep took me down.

I had a story in me for a long time, and then I didn't, because I put it on the pages and now my story was out there in the world. The pages added up. They had some kind of power, I guess, those pages. Those pages pulled me out of Chicago and put me on a train to LA, me in old wool pants and scuffed shoes, me with fifteen years on the force, if you include the two I spent recovering from a gunshot in the kneecap.

LA was different, people said. You won't fit in out there, they said. But I had to go. I had to, okay? They liked my story. Chomsky sent it out there, he never told me. He knew a guy who knew a guy. A guy named Percy Quillby, a TV guy, a big producer or something. Quillby needed a weapon to kill Route 66. My story was it. Hard Luck Blues, by Nick Wolcott. Cops, broads and tough guys. Big cars, big guns, hard times. We just need to tweak it a bit, they said. Add a little polish. Quillby's people. They wanted to change the name to Beach Blanket Bodycount. Who was I to argue? They sent me a check for ten grand and a train ticket and I headed out.

Can't sleep worth a shit. Staring at the revolving fan, thinking of the Ferris wheel at Riverview, the only color now in my dark room. I blink and it goes away, just the fan again. Back home I'd be hearing sirens, the elevated trains running in both directions past the windows on my SRO near the pawn shop. My Bulova tells me it's 11:11. I should go out, throw a wad of my stash on the street. Look up Mineo and see if he's been staring at my crank, the kid hangs out over at Dick Overtone's, a jazz joint on Saticoy. I could walk there, Nick Wolcott doesn't need a goddamn cab. I walked a beat with the Racine Street cop house for eight years before bopping to detective at Area 3 in Englewood. Walked eight hours a day, past the county hospital, the clinics, up Maypole where everyone wanted hand-outs. Goddamn ceiling fan. I know what's keeping me awake. The dame I saw on Normandie. I'm good with street names, even here.

Gayle Fremont. I had just signed in at the Hotel Tempo and was walking past the DownBeat Lounge. There she was, smoking one of those new menthol cigs made by Kool. Any guy would be crazy if he didn't notice her face and hair before checking out her rack. Blonde hair looking like liquid, robin's egg blue eyes that flashed instead of blinked. Like she was always signaling someone, or maybe pushing a bad memory out of her pretty head. And she wasn't shy about showing off the goods. I felt like I was in one of them Edward Hopper paintings, the ones where no one is talking, like in that Nighthawks painting. The gal smoking and me waiting by a pay phone like I was told. Thing is, Fremont reminded me of someone else. And how I got kicked off the force.

I should just let it go, get another bottle of bourbon and drink myself into the gutter. Shots downed, Officer fired. But it wasn't that simple. I was in this cop bar at the wrong time and saw Anthony Manners slap the holy shit out of the bartender, Josie Durosny, because she stopped serving him drinks. At least he didn't use his baton on her like he did the punks in the projects. I manned up and told the truth, for once I wasn't part of the thin blue line, and Manners got kicked off the force with 30 days probation. What a laugh. Damn it if Fremont didn't remind me of the bartender. It was the eyes. The ones I saw staring at every one of us what testified at the trial. Didn't take much time for me to get transferred to some shit job, still a detective but stuck at a desk writing reports. I gave it a month, then quit showing up. It would be twelve years before I'd reach pension, all I kept seeing were Josie Durosny's eyes. Now I saw them in the Fremont dame, we chin nodded and tossed our names while I was waiting on the ringtone and she was lighting up, the matchbook was teal and had martini glasses on it. Screw it. I'll take a stroll down Normandie. Tomorrow, Quillby is supposed to drive me out to 39th and Norton. Where that kid and his mommy found Liz Short, the Black Dahlia. Before that, we're having drinks on the beach, a get to know you, how do you do. But that's tomorrow. It's night time now. Time I hit Normandie, not like I need to change my get-up.


The breakers rolled in all the way from China, pushed thousands of miles by the distant breath of bone white girls with straight black bangs. Exhausted, the waves died on the beach, dribbling into dark wet sand heated to a slow burn by the California sun.

Quillby, I didn't like from the minute I met him.

  Percy Quillby

His limp handshake pulled the juice out of my right arm like some kind of reverse junkie needle. He had one of those thin black moustaches, an Errol Flynn, but without the balls to back it up. He carried an ornate monkeywood cane all knuckly with carving. Naked nymphs cavorting, you get the idea. I could have used it on midnight stakeouts back in the day to beat back the rats.

He snapped his fingers, a crisp dry command issued with the absolute assurance that it would be obeyed, and quick.  A barefoot girl materialized beside us wearing some kind of filmy lime green sarong that didn't much cover the fact that there was nothing underneath it. She tipped her tray and two tall glasses slid off onto our little table without spilling a drop. Neat trick. I glanced up at her, but not a flicker. She was inscrutable. Quillby watched her go before getting down to business.

"So you're a cop."

"Not any more." I was watching three guys riding a fifteen foot wave. From this angle, way back from the shore, it looked like they were on Quillby's shoulder.

"Did you ever kill a man?"

I let the surfers go and fixed my eyes on him. After a while he decided to ask me something else. "First time in LA?"

"It's that obvious?"

"It's like you're looking at a color TV for the first time. Hungry eyes, you know?" Quillby took a slow pull on his drink and brushed an imaginary fly off of his silk shirt. Azure is the word, if I'm not mistaken.

"I'm a Chicago boy. Soldier Field in December, freezing rain and ten below is my idea of a good time."

"Black and white, wrong and right, true blue, gumshoe." Quillby looked pleased with himself. "Well, we liked your story."

There was a commotion on the beach and Quillby swung around to watch it. Some girls were screaming, their voices drifting up to us through the sound of the waves like the cry of seagulls. "That's Barko," Quillby said, his back still turned to me. "He's some kind of goddamn sunspot, the heat he throws off. Females, they react."

A bronzed guy, maybe six-five, was running easily along the edge of the water where it died on the shore. Two-twenty, muscled, looked like a tight end. Maybe fifteen girls were chasing after him.

  Barko Skant

"So that's me?"

"That's you. He's joining the show as a cop from Chicago, here to investigate a murder, just the way you wrote it."

"That's quite a catch." I didn't know one damn sweet thing about Barko. I just knew I'd seen his name on movie posters enough times to figure he was a name in the business. Barko Skant. Not as big as McQueen or Bronson, not in James Coburn's league, those guys I knew. Magnificent Seven, an all-time favorite. But judging from the way Quillby was looking at him, Barko was plenty big enough to kick Route 66's ass.

"He loved your story. Or at least, his agent loved it. Barko never reads anything."

"He's that busy?"

"He doesn't know how to read."

We watched Barko cut across a low dune and through some thin wispy grass. He took the stairs to his beach house three at a time and a thick security guy got up off a reclining chair and blocked the girls, all except one. A blond with tight calves and a red bikini fastened with string, she was done up like a birthday gift, tied up with bows. In she went.

Here's me, a few minutes later. Sitting in my rented Dodge Polara, the color of bile but what the hell, right? Supposed to be champagne grey, whatever that meant. I got a deal by pretending to know a guy. I closed my eyes, just for a minute, imagining what Barko was up to behind those sheer drapes upstairs. Smooth jazzed flowed like bourbon behind my eyelids. Even that couldn't stop an anxiety attack riding the crest, so I did what I do best, I swallowed three cotton balls sopping with benzadrine. And lost another six hours of the real world. Someone got me back to the Motel Tempo, that was good enough for me.

  Motel Tempo

I woke up in the bathtub. It was half full of water, bright red, like from rusted pipes. Only not. I figured that out when a drop of blood dripped off my eyebrow and landed with a tiny plop. It drifted away on a ripple as I heaved myself up. The ceiling fan was hanging out of its housing on a long set of wires, running with a clatter, held in place by one vibrating wood screw. I watched as the screw wiggled back and forth, getting looser. I got my elbow on the side of the tub and one foot up beside the faucet and lifted myself clear as the fan dropped with a splash and an angry sizzle of sparks.

I rolled onto the floor and stood up, wincing. Felt like somebody had kicked my bad knee, more than once. Damned if I knew who. I fished around in the medicine cabinet and found a bandage for my forehead. Looked like headbutt damage, self-inflicted. I must have got my licks in. I usually do.

I went to the dresser in the bedroom and pulled it out from the wall and reached behind it. My gun was still there, taped where I left it. I ripped it clear and stuffed it in a pocket. There was a set of car keys in there, not mine. I put an ear against the door and listened. Distant air conditioner, or maybe a Coke machine. No voices. I cracked the door open an inch and a dirty carpet smell rushed into the room. No aftershave. No body odor.

I stepped into the hallway and went directly across to the fire door and down the stairs to the parking lot. There were two cars there. A Mustang convertible, top down, parked in the shade. The hood was warm after a hard run. I reached in my pocket for the keys and tried one in the ignition. No go. The other car was a baby blue Lincoln. I got in like I owned it and started it up. There was a red stain on the passenger seat. I bent down and sniffed it. Strawberry ice cream, less than a day old.

Nothing under the seat. Nothing in the glove box. I had to find out whose car this was. I put it in drive and rolled out onto the street. Big engine, well maintained, custom tuned, lots of bottom end torque. Half a block along, I looked in my rearview mirror. Nothing. Then a white Mercury Monterey made a smooth turn out of a gas station up ahead, timing it so I came alongside. We rolled down the avenue side by side, sliding from shadow to sun under the palm trees. I looked over.

I call it slipstream recognition. That's what happens when you take in every detail of a situation in a heartbeat. She was wearing oversized sunglasses with a cardboard tag on them, like they were just purchased and she didn't have time to take it off. Her hair was pulled back behind one ear, dirty blond. Nice curve of cheek, pink lipstick, subtle. She was looking straight ahead, not at me. But none of this mattered.

What mattered was that she was not alone in the car. There was another woman with her, on the other side. The driver. The second woman had black hair, long and loose. A nice smile, aimed right at me, while she steered the Monterey like a man, with her wrist riding easy on top of the wheel. A professional driver. That wasn't the only thing aimed at me. She was holding a Smith & Wesson Military & Police .38 Special with a 4 barrel. The long stroke, with a real nice trigger. All of this registered in a heartbeat, like I said. But what happened next, happened even faster.

I jerked the wheel hard left and my side mirror spun away into the air with a flash of chrome as we hit. Whether she intended to fire or whether it was a reaction to the collision I didn't know. Either way, the bullet came through my open window and past my chin and broke the glass on the passenger window, which was closed on the other side of the car. I jammed the gas and spun right and down a side street and checked my inside mirror, the outside one was gone. The Monterey snapped around the turn with the wheels skidding and then catching and a quick hit of gas and she was on my back bumper. We rolled slowly along like a two car Fourth of July parade while I considered my move.

  Mercury Monterey 1965

Gunshot and my left rear tire blew and that made up my mind. I accelerated and she came with me so I mashed the brakes and she could not respond in time and hit me from behind, bang, still coming hard. I had time to see her face register surprise in the mirror before I rolled out of the car and came in close to the ground, firing one-two-three, not to kill but strictly for effect, taking out her windshield, her front left tire and her driver side window in a cascade of safety glass. I came up beside her and had my gun behind her ear before she could move, reached in and bent her wrist back until she whimpered and I pulled her M&P clear. A nice weapon, big but not too big. I emptied it into the pavement, making four neat round holes, and tossed it underhand into some bushes. Then I reached across her and she leaned back to let me do it and I pulled her car keys out of the ignition and threw them away too. The girl in the passenger seat with the big sunglasses had her mouth open the whole time, wet pink lips forming a small perfect O, sexy as hell.

I had a tourniquet around my brain stream and wanted to reach and press an imaginary pause button, or whatever it was I saw on the set. Or change the channel and lose myself with that joke writer with his hot wife in culottes, living in black in white one click over on the old Philco. Only this wasn't me with a crazy neighbor and a wacky co-worker. I still smelled like the upholstery in my Polara, but that didn't get me anywhere. Someone had flipped cars out in the lot, I had a quick hunch that Quillby thought it might make a nice prop piece. So what's with the blood and the babes and the bullets?

Time started up again, I could feel my heart and brain getting back into sync, no more of that Sandy Nelson "Let There Be Drums" bullshit. I made a mental note to check my pockets for clues when the driver decided to move the story along. Her name was Lana Monaghan, she had this nasally East Coast accent that made her name sound like the syllables had all crashed into each other. Her eyes were crystal clear, clean cut, pure crazy. In my head I'm thinking, sure, half the blondes in Hollywood are named Lana, so why was a chick whose hair screamed midnight grabbing that name for her resume.

  Lana Monaghan

It's the other doll I'm hipping on. All the driver had for me was her name, a smirk, and bad sinus passages. Absently checking my shirt pocket, wondering when I had actually put on a shirt that had a pocket on it, was this a goddamn bowling shirt?, I leaned in and over the Lana and let the blonde-o try and talk sense. I had the vibe that the driver was more the distraction than the important part of current events. One thing, though. The starched collar on this crazy powder blue and black shirt rubbed across crazy dame's cleavage and she tensed up like I had slid an ice cube down her spine. Caught up in it, I realized too late that she had cadged something from my shirt pocket. A matchbook? Notepad, maybe, like you see people handing off to bookie's on the wink wink. Far as I knew, it didn't belong to me anyhow. Might be crime evidence, let them have it. But still, I should know, it's like now they got me wanting to know, the way they were obviously working in tandem, a real cause and effect team.

"Jasmen Revelle," blonde-o purred at me, her mouth caressing the air. I wouldn't know the correct spelling of her name until I read the obit in the Daily Mirror, days later. Even in the angled darkness, I knew with a certainty that this babe hid from the sunlight as much as possible. Maybe she was from Romania. Or Seattle. "Tell me what happened."

  Jasmen Ravelle

Her mouth had shut, like she was biting hard onto a razor blade. Her eyes went through my head then back out the front end, only lower, and I felt my sack shiver. I asked her what she was talking about, we weren't exactly on the same page. In fact, I didn't even know what book I'd checked out of the library.

"Barko." The purr had become a hiss. "He was up in your motel room and now he's disappeared."

A familiar image was surfacing, almost there, like a sneeze, then it was gone.

"And you know Dizzy Fantana hates it when someone up and falls right into the erff," the blonde bombshell talked the talk, evidently mimicking that dude what I saw at the Downbeat the night I rolled in. "You better get his ass back on the set, because if he don't get paid, then Dizzy don't get paid."

She leaned over and kissed me then, more Lee Remick than Monroe. "And Dizzy sure does like to get paid." She smiled wide and her hair framed the entire scene a whole different way. A funny thing happened then. The drop-dead damsel that was driving pushed me up, more yanked the lapels of the shirt, and my lips left the blonde's as my head bounced off the light. Damn, more blood. Stars first. Maybe it wasn't a funny thing, after all.

I wasn't out, I'm better than that. Back when I was a police, I fought Three Fingers Johnny Walker for fifteen minutes without backup, in a dive bar called Dipple's. I made the guy, made the call, then forgot about how the neighborhood was crawling with dead end streets before I jumped all over Walker and tried to cuff him. All the streets were screwy a few years ago, because of that new thing called the interstate. And there were plenty of them out here, like a concrete virus and L.A. was ground zero.


 Wolcott & Three Fingers

I was on my ass and the Monterey was two blocks into the dawn, butter melting into lemonade. I looked at my options. I needed to be on the set in thirty minutes. I needed a bath, one involving water. I needed cash, what I really needed was to find those dames. Walking over to the curb, I thought it over. Newspaper curled by like a skeletal fist. Dodgers in spring training. Big deal. The sun rose and it was already getting hot.

I decided that the first thing I had to do was find out where I ended up with this bowling shirt.

Chapter Two

The shirt collar was now frayed. Dame had a grip on her, must be nice dancing up close. She tried some grab-ass, well, fine, he'd give it right on back. But he'd make certain his wallet wasn't in the sucker pocket. I cracked my neck, when I turned my head sideways I noticed a broken mirror out in one of those glorified alleys this town seemed so proud of. One day some old slant would be sitting at the DownBeat (or whatever it would one day become, sure as hell wouldn't be named Wolcott's), talking to johns and trying to tell how she was the chick that slipped tongue to a baby Steve McQueen in DRAGSTRIP DOLL right out there by that mirror. She'd be pointing. Everybody in this city points, usually when they're flipping you off at the traffic light. Film crews found locations like this all the time. And the directors found all the one-hit wonder honeys.

I walked toward the mirror, knocking kinks from my spine, turned to read the back of the shirt. Nothing but a bowling pin and a white hard hat, like construction workers had. Made no sense, none of this did. I remembered the crazy one nabbing something from the pocket, and I reached inside. Nothing. Wait. A scrap of paper, scrunched up in anger or impatience, fell from the pocket as I released my hand. I started thinking, what if that dame shoved something in my pocket at the same time she was swiping something out of it?

I scooped up the wad and pulled it open. It was a business card, pastel blue, very LA. Motel Go-Go. A dame's leg in nylons stretched across the bottom of the card. There was red ink scribbled all over, blocking out most of the letters until only two were clean. G and O. Go. Scratched in the upper right hand corner, red ink, #14. So, simple. Go #14. I scrunched up the card again and swallowed it.

  Motel Go-Go

There was something way in the back of my head about the Motel Go-Go. Something banging around in there from years ago. It was in the Tribune, I remember where I read it, sitting on the can at Wrigley during a rain delay. I remember stuff like that, the geography of regular events, position of bodies in the room during things what happened twenty years ago, whether the blinds were open or shut, whether the bed was made, which way the shoes on the floor were pointing. Names, I sometimes forget. It's a weakness, but it never really cost me. I don't think. No way to prove it. But this memory about the Motel Go-Go....yeah, got it. It had something to do with a sex scandal. B-list actor and a big director's wife. He ended up dead. Hog-tied, head in the toilet.

I busted ass to get to the set on time, rolled through a red right in front of a bored copper on highway duty, but I shouldn't have bothered. The director was having a hissy fit, the producer was moaning about money down the crapper. Nothing was happening. How could it? Barko didn't show. They were all set up for a scene where Kilgore was staking out a house on a bluff. Kilgore was the name of the main character in the story I wrote. Del Kilgore. Loosely based on yours truly. As played by Barko. But instead of Barko making a big entrance with a girl on his arm, there was a camera under wraps to protect it from a drippy rain. A bunch of extras standing around all goofy grin happy, because they were getting their twenty bucks whether the camera rolled or not. And no Barko.

I slid out of there like a summer wind in Idaho. But truth be told, I don't think anybody noticed I was even there. That's the way it is on big shoots. They wine and dine the writer until they've got his script in the bag, then they don't want to know he's alive. The director is the king shit. The writer isn't worth the mud on the bottom of your shoe. Which suited me fine. I had been in LA for a day and a half. I was wearing a shirt that wasn't mine. I woke up in a tub full of blood. I was driving somebody's big ass Lincoln. I'd been chased. I'd been shot at. I scared the piss out of two girls, at least one of whom I wanted to bang. I had an address chewed up in my belly just waiting for me to run it down. What a life, right? But I have to admit, your honor, I loved it. I was loving every frigging minute of it. Because this was me, baby. Because this, this shit? Oh sweet mother of God. It's what I lived for.

I swerved the Lincoln too wide out of the alley, sent a wire garbage can spinning like an Uptown rumdum playing pin the bottle on the donkey. Rizzi and I would do that, back in the day. Taunt the drunks, real bad guys we were. Yea. Back in the day. Rizzi in his buzz cut, a leftover from the Korean front. He never wore a hat like the rest of the guys. Chicago used to be Fedora City, going back to the days of Al Capone and Elliot Ness. The Untouchables. Then JFK goes hatless at the inauguration. Fucking Kennedy killed the hat. Almost ironic that he lost half his head. That's all you saw by the spring of '64, fedoras piled up on Maxwell Street tables,their brims like faded shingles bent from the wind. You could buy them a dime on the dollar, but thanks to Johnny F., no one wanted them, thank you. Rizzi laughing at how all of a sudden there were bald spots all over the Twelfth District. Not me, he couldn't say shit on me, but I still got ribbed about the Brylcreem. Chicks dug the smell, I didn't need any cologne and got by on the cleft in my chin. Rizzi did OK, too. A twosome at the Darlington Hotel after a bunko sweep. Or so he said, and I believed him. Then he died. Two in the chest, one in the head, on a cop's worst work day. Mother's Day. Domestic disturbances are fatal. Wasn't until later that I learned how right and wrong I was.

Not another goddamn freeway. Christ, where the hell did everyone think they were going in this town? I veered down Saticoy, again angling wrong. Might have scared an old broad smoking at the gas pump. She turns into gasoline, good on her. From the front end, I just know I'm driving like a stunt guy during the opening credits of FELONY SQUAD, on the run, the squads pulling behind, splashing gutter H2O on the screen. I'd seen the show a few times. Troy Donahue made a surprise show on that one episode, near the marina. No one wore fedoras in L.A., ever.

Christ, I hate this car. Rides like a Ford Vicky, the unmarked prowl car we had back home, and I hate those cock-knockers, too. Too big for making out with a squeeze, unless you had a lot of dame to wedge your meathooks around. I like my cars and my dames slim and sporty, my coffee black with two sugar cubes. Something told me I'd find my Polara over dere by the Go-Go. A lead pipe cinch Leland Indelli. That was his name. The producer who went Gone-Gone at the Go-Go. Takes me forever with the names, but I can shut my eyes and see the hole in Rizzi, his buzz cut a sunset of yellow and red, eyes looking straight at me like he was trying to tell me he had figured out some important equation and wanted to tell me so bad and then his eyes rolled up, looking at the pretty eventide dripping down his forehead. Walked into a Lugan dive on 71st and Artesian, my partner DOA by a thirty year old D. P. who thought that if he couldn't kill his deadbeat mother, a dead beat cop was just as good. (Again, it wasn't until later that I'd been played like a tourist against a three card monte dealer.) I ran through the back door, wanting to beat him senseless, but he put the gun in his mouth instead. Bad dental work kept chunks of teeth quivering off her chin. My partner dead. Happy Mother's Day, damn it all.

They called him Mr. Indelible. Meant it to go two ways. He had the look, a face somewhere between Key Largo and Thunder Road, he made his mark on every man, balls shriveled if he stared at you too long. The other side of the Indelli coin was the gals straight off the Greyhound, cornfed cuties from Wichita and Omaha, the old dance of sex for stardom, only the I-man had spools of 8mm in cans up the wazoo. They get bit parts in monster films and end of the world flicks, their one claim to fame doing a rape dance as two men fought over them as radiation or giant spiders loomed just off-camera.  Some people say one of the films was with Judy Dull, a model who was roped up and strangled in the desert by Harvey Glatman. He took stills, lots of them, the sick fuck. B&W. Indelli was more into Cinemascope. Electric chair for ol' Harv in '59, the year Rizzi split the scene. Bettie Page. Sharon Tate. That one chick with the Lebanese father what had his own show. Suspects too many to count, Indelli owed money, too. Call it cold case.

Los Feliz Drive-In

Finally. A damn phone booth. Middle of nowhere, they haven't murdered this place yet. Los Feliz Drive-In down the way. Elvis in GIRL HAPPY and Jack Lemmon in THE APARTMENT, what a double bill. Sweating like a migrant worker, the bowling shirt offered little in the way of ventilation. Left me feeling like I had back hair, which I don't. There they were, those grimy yellow pages filled with names of people who might be dead right now and addresses like right where I was right now that would be torn up to make the next highway for all these cock-knockers get to the next star or wherever the hell they were going. Chicago is laid out like a grid. This place is an intestinal tract, fer cry-eye. Flipping the pages, dust particles making my nose their new home until I honked them against the grimy glass. The phone book was from 1963, but the place should still be listed. Black ovals, yellow letters, D...J...M. Masseuse, Mattresses. Right above Motels there it was: Monkeys. On my Auntie Irene's grave. One listing, Monkeys For You. What the hell kind of town was I in? OK, Motels. Algiers, Bangalore, Del Mar, Go-Go. There we go-go, Wolcott. Sweat was dripping from my pits down my arm and onto the page. Good luck finding the info on monkeys now, if anybody needed it. 27112 Atherton, that put it right off Normandie.

The opposite direction of my flop on 29th. Son of a bitch. I get the pre-game for a Dodgers double header with the Cubs. Listen as they rag about Leo Durocher, like he can do anything to get the witless Cubs to win. I take Western to Arapahoe. Faster that way. I cut the radio. Pat my back, the gun is wet with my ass sweat. Walk up the stairs, rain down to nothing. Three cars in the lot. Flex my biceps before I hit 14, ready to crack the door. It's open.

  Room #14 Motel Go Go

I'm weirded out right away. The couch cushions are flattened; someone had just split. There was an 8mm projector set up on the coffee table, one of those modern glass deals. The table, not the movie machine. It's positioned so that the film could show on the wall, above a dresser. Time to get my gun in front of me, I had wiped it dry on my pant leg. Goddamn bowling shirt. Thing is, there were things on the floor, a lamp, a record player, coins. Like someone had swung two meaty arms like a swimmer doing the breast stroke and knocked everything all willy-nilly.

Even weirder than all that was the walls themselves. There was writing all over them. It was so dense, at first I thought the walls were black. Then I realized they were sunshine yellow underneath, with black ink smudged and scuffed and weathered deep into the plaster, marked up and stained and ugly. Interesting. In my experience, the ugly stuff in life is hidden under the fake sheen of everything is A-OK, Jack, thanks for asking, now move along, ain't nothin' to see here, folks, we'll have this mess cleaned up in a minute. The wholesome veneer goes on the outside, buffed and polished, and the dirt and the sleaze and the crime is buried. It's in an alley, it's in the attic, it's in the basement, it's in the trunk, it's in the back room, it's in a grave, it's in your soul. This, though, this was the reverse. LA sunshine underneath, rendered in two loving coats of flat yellow paint, with somebody's dark obsessions puked out on top, hand-scrawled in plain sight, where anybody with the key to #14 could waltz right in and eyeball them.

I opened a small closet and snuffled a laugh. No jackets or slacks on hangers, but there it was, a gray fedora on the upper shelf. I reached up and felt around, behind the hat was a silky thing. I yanked at it, it was stuck in the crack of wood. A crimson glove, the kind that went up to the elbow. One finger was torn, might be because I pulled too hard. Made me wish somebody would pull me too hard, if you catch my drift. It had been a while. Small kitchenette, bowl of Nibbles cat food on the floor, half empty. I knew it was Nibbles because I've eaten it myself. Yellow tabby padded out from under the sink where there was a woman's blue sweater rolled up for a bed. I opened the icebox and poured some milk in his dish but I knew it was dead sour before the stream hit the bowl. Sorry, puss. I went to the front window and pulled the orange double curtains to kill the sun slanting in. Hold on. Mental image registering a split second after the visual hit my retinas. A patrol car with its blinker on, waiting to turn. I poked a finger between the curtains and made a crack to peek through. No. Must have been a trick of the light. A cab was turning into the parking lot, two-tone, just looked like a cop car. I let the curtain fall shut and sat down on the corner of the bed and flicked on the projector. It rattled and hummed and the film started pulling through the gate with a sigh.

8mm Frame Job

What the hell was this? Big white square on the wall, but no image. Was this an empty roll? I let it go twenty seconds, and still nothing. Then a little arrow appeared on the wall, a little black arrow as big as my thumb, like a cartoon, wiggly and moving. It moved up and down and all around, like some kind of eye exam. This must be an experiment for a film class at USC, something to do with Disney. Look at my dancing arrow, Walt! But if this guy wanted to be an animator in this town, he was going to have to do a hell of a lot better job than this piss poor arrow.

Usually life is defined by what you do. You take the shot, you pull the trigger, you duck just in time, you hit him before he can hit you, you smile sideways at that girl at the Black Docks at closing time and you find out later she has a tattoo of a raven way up on the inside of her thigh. Other times, though, it's what you don't do that makes all the difference. This was one of those times. For some reason, I sat there for fifteen minutes watching that damn arrow. I could have switched off the projector any time. There was nothing stopping me. But I didn't. I'm a patient guy, sure. But Lana didn't give me that business card for nothing. She sent me here for a reason. It seemed like this projector was it. She wanted me to watch this little movie about the arrow. And I was watching it to the end.

I must have been hypnotized, or maybe I was sleepy. But the arrow had stopped moving, and was frozen on the wall, and I don't know when it stopped. I had lost my focus for a minute, maybe two, the girl at the Docks will do that to a guy. It had stopped, and that seemed significant. It had been moving around for a long time, and now it had stopped. What kind of clue was this? I got up and went over to the wall. My shadow blocked out the projector beam, so I had to come in low to let the arrow show through again. When I got up real close to the wall, two things happened. First, I noticed that the black animated arrow was hovering in one spot, pointing at something written on the wall. Second, I heard somebody cough. It sounded like they were trying to suppress it by coughing into their sleeve. More important, it sounded like they were standing right outside the door. And the door wasn't locked. The knob began to turn, very slowly.

The projector was still rattling, a high-pitched whirring sound, but the tone had changed. I looked over at it. The film had spooled through almost to the end. I had about five seconds to see what the arrow was pointing at. No time to worry about the guy at the door. I looked at the wall. At the tip of the arrow, I saw my name. Somebody had written my name on the wall in black ink. The last of the film ran through the projector and the arrow disappeared as the beam went white. I was fully illuminated. It was like being on stage under a spotlight. I rolled under the bed and yanked my foot and pulled the carpet across the concrete floor. The projector table went over and the machine smashed hard and the room went black. Then it was lit again as the door opened and I wormed over and looked under the edge of the bedspread and saw there were two uniforms in the sunlight, LAPD. Son of a bitch. It was a patrol car, not a cab. I was right the first time. The cat moseyed out the open door and came back in again. Then, nothing. The cops didn't come in, and I didn't come out. I waited. I had all day. Like I said, I'm a patient guy.

Finally the cops took a quick circuit. I heard one of them kick over the dish in the kitchenette.



"I hate cats."

"I'm seein' nothin' here. He ain't been yet."

"Cat is all."

"Yeah. K-O'd the projector."

"Lana's gonna be pissed."

They closed the door on their way out and I listened to their footsteps as they walked away. The footsteps petered out but I could still hear muffled voices when a car door opened and closed, and then another. That meant they were no more than fifty feet away, probably parked in the shade on the other side of the lot across from the door. But why would they think I would come in here if they were sitting there in a marked squad car? Shit. So it was a cab after all. I must be losing it. They came in a cab so I wouldn't see them. Cops in a cab? LA was operating in a whole different zone. I had to adjust my expectations.

I waited for maybe six hours before I heard a car engine start and tires on the gravel as they pulled out. I rolled out from under the bed and flicked my lighter and used it to read the wall. I found my name again and looked closer this time. "Nick Wolcott. Your life is shit." Okay, tell me something I didn't know. But what the hell. Lana slips me a business card that says to come out here and like a good boy I do and this is my reward? My life is shit? My life is in the crapper? As far as I was concerned, that might have been true six months ago, but not now. This LA thing was a whole new deal. Fresh start. My life is in the crapper? Okay, I ain't buying. I went out to the car where I parked it behind the dumpster and I put it in drive and I pulled out. I was all the way to the street before I got it. My life is in the crapper, sure.

I spun the wheel and parked again and went back inside and walked into the bathroom. Shower stall, grungy plastic curtain caked with old shampoo and ancient body gunk. Frayed toothbrush, soap bar worn smooth. I picked it up. Long black hair curled underneath. Hello Lana. Half a roll of toilet paper. The other half had spun out onto the floor, piled there in a soggy mess from a leak in the toilet. I reached under the tank. It wasn't sweaty. The intake valve was dry. There was no leak. There was also no water in the shower. It was dry. It hadn't been used in at least a week. So why was the toilet paper on the floor wet?

I lifted the top off the tank and there it was. A plastic bag with a gun in it. There was a piece of paper, a note rolled up inside the barrel. I fished it out with a pen, careful to leave no prints, and unrolled it flat with my knuckle. Typewritten, three lines. "This is the gun that killed Rizzi. Your prints are on it. Happy Birthday, Nick." I was framed, blamed and hung out to dry. Maybe my life really was in the crapper. The gun Lana had shot at me, the gun I had taken from her and emptied into the pavement, was the gun that killed Rizzi. This time, they didn't come in a cab. Official vehicles, all the way. And they didn't hit the sirens until they had pulled into the parking lot. It sounded like three cars.

Chapter Three

My past was already down the toilet and now it looked like it was pulling the present down with it. I leaned back against the tile and ran my hand over my head. Fingers splayed, like I was testing out a new bowling ball. The irony of the shirt I was wearing was not lost on me. My hand a Brylcreem mess, great way to leave more finger prints.

I had the sense to grab the plastic bag, knowing damn well I'd leave a dripping trail as I ran to the bedroom, grabbed the only thing I could, that damn blue sweater. Smelled like wet fur and Chanel. The cat shot by in a yellow blur, a metaphor for my immediate future. Sudden gunfire, is what it reminded me of, like what happened with Rizzi. I heard the front door kicked in; shots fired immediately. Like these guys were Chicago coppers, shoot the Black Panthers or the P Stone Nation punks. Fuck civil rights, the black dude pulled a gun, we had to shoot him thirty-seven times.

I put my hands on the window sill and felt sudden pain. I wasn't shot, it was in my palm. I landed half-assed, one knee almost kissing cement. One punk came around back, guess the goons out here had brains. I tossed the sweater at him, a blotch of twilight made him shoot wild. There'd been a damn hypodermic needle on the open sill. Set there from some meltdown in the alley or by the occupant of Room #14, I didn't know. Or care. I turned, pulling the needle from the muscle below my thumb. Red jet to the cement gutter. Mr. Twilight fired wild. I hoped he was allergic to cats, the rat bastard. I might be suckered, but at least now it looks like I'm leaving a blood trail. Any water from the bag will be ignored and evaporate soon enough. I heard the two other goons, it's always three, they must play by the Chicago Municipal Code book.

Chicago Municipal Code Book
Poor cat was gonna have a shit hemorrhage, the way the bullets were flying. I ran across the lot the way I thought my older brother did during the war. He made it out of Korea safe, then got electrocuted by a damn toaster in Copenhagen on his way back to the States. Sometimes I wonder just who the hell is looking out for us. I splayed my hand out to the right, doing a Bela Lugosi, splotting the blood any place I could. Funny thought came into my head, good thing I had the Brylcreem on my left palm. Bad thing was, I couldn't touch anything now without leaving some sort of print. Like it mattered. They had a file on me, dollars to doughnuts. Lana, or whoever the hell wrote the note, had it close. My birthday was in three days. Thirty-seven years old now. Rizzi was thirty-two when he died. I hit the corner hard, the block was a maze of crap buildings and gangways. Fuck knows what they call them here, back home the narrow wedge between buildings were gangways.

This was too easy. I shouldn't be getting away this easy. Maybe it was a scare tactic, make me think on like I got away with murdering my partner somehow. Christ, I'm in Monotone Town and now I'm thinking like a script writer. Running past garbage cans, voice yelling behind me. One voice sorta familiar, somehows. Not Midwestern nasal, no, more like he had a hair lip or something. At least I bought a few seconds by running in a different direction while the one guy was sniffing the D cup indentations on the blue sweater. I hopped down past this glorified street named Rosecrans, then doubled back across. I thought about running through the Round The Clock, a slop shop I'd been filling my stomach at once or twice, when I saw the bus heading my way. Beautiful, I ran towards it, so that the hotshot wonders wouldn't see me like a target by the bench. Blue and white, just like the squads back home. Our buses were green, as in taking the green limousine. White destination sign, more like what you'd see on Greyhound then back home. You'd be lucky to see through part of the grime.

Town Hall Police District, 1965
Sometimes you'd recognize the drivers, but they were just as grimy. Seemed like every city worker looked more like cock-knocking stevedores. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, would you look at that? The bus was the Number 59, the Holland's Point route. Zig-zagged past Western towards where the filming was done. One day there'd be something called the Hawthorne Municipal Airport, or so Quillby told me, and that's where some hotshot in the pitch room came up with HOLLOWPOINT. Hollywood loved a play on words, even if half the viewers didn't get it at all. Trying to be clever in this town was way different than having the nerve back home.

The bus driver had been slowing, but now he slammed on the brakes. The few passengers dangling from the hooks did the two-step, the driver near hitting the window. A cab had veered in and cut it off. Cobalt blue, like my '57 Bel-Air. Some kind of cab markings on it.

"Get in!" A woman's voice. Christ, what's with the broads and the bullets? Only thing missing was the booze to make the trifecta. Man, I needed a drink. I loped forward, saw a small Asian chick behind the wheel. Hair like a black space helmet from a 50s flying saucer movie. "Duck down, rumruts, don't be stupid." Numb nuts. She was calling me numb nuts, fer cry-eye.

I ducked in the back seat, the chick leaned out the side window, yelling loud enough for everyone to hear, "Drip brud in my cab, no way. You go get out, fast." She laid on the stereotype thick. People from the restaurant waiting to board the bus looked at how the scene played out. Then she peeled out against the light, I took a peek and it looked like the three stooges had heard the chick and figured I'd hopped on the bus, Gus.

After we tooled along to Western, she made a hard left, taking us towards another strip of crap hotels, restaurants, and a penny ante casino named the Orbit Inn. There was a bar called Chez When, so I had to give them points for originality there.

The babe turned in her seat, lips you wanted to bite were the first thing I noticed, then the turned up nose and those wild black eyes. Back in Chicago, Chinatown patrolled its own, but I'd seen a few babes working the clubs. And none of them had anything on this honey.

Suki Tsunami
"Look, I don't have a lot of time here," she spoke perfect English now, having fun with me back there about the numbnuts. "My name is Saki Tsunami, and yea, get used to it. It's L.A., and without a name to remember, you're a face to forget." She handed me an envelope. "This is from Johnny Knock Knock, and believe it or not, he is on your side."

That was great, having a guy on my side, thing was, I had no idea who she was talking about. Maybe he was on my side because this was his bowling shirt I was wearing, though now it was all streaked and blotted. Screw the booze. Bullets, broads, and Brylcreem. See? I just wrote a commercial.

"I'll drop you off wherever you want," Saki said. Her breath smelled like lemonade. "But Johnny KK wants you to have this." She reached into her purse, I'm thinking maybe these guys out here need to be warned about doubling or tripling the letter K in their nicknames. "Here." She handed me one of those cards that folded like a tent, a place setting, that was it.

I opened it up and read the print in bold letters. HONEYCOMB HIDEOUT, TONIGHT, 8:15 PM. I cocked my head, Saki did the same, like we were on some Disneyland ride together. Any other time, I might've suggested we take a drive to wherever there was a beach. But not now.

See, there's a place called the Honeycomb Hideout Lounge back in Chicago. Its the last place Rizzi was in before he was killed.

Honeycomb Hideout, 71st & Artesian

I needed time with myself, think those long thoughts that got me through the stakeouts in Chicago winters and Chicago summers. Saki tossed me a wink that made her face squinch up, an Occidental Popeye, and she touched with her right hand. Fingers warm from holding the wheel. "You need me, I'll find you." What was that, like I was a lost dog that had all the info dangling off my neck. Nick Wolcott. No rabies. No heartworm. I had her drop me off at 109th and Sheldon. Mundt Bath Houses, a good place for a shower and a couple two three minutes to think think think. I stood there on the sidewalk and watched the Asian dream cut left and she was gone like a gambler's rent money. I turned and thought twice about the joint. It looked a lot cleaner than the Turkish bath houses along Division Street back home. I don't know, just seemed funny to me. I like grime.

Shower over, skipped the shave. Eyeballed myself in the mirror, liked what I saw. Now, let me lay it straight, I'm not narcisstic in any way, I just felt like I had my city looking back, its steely glare and chipped enamel, back in the shadows of my smirk. Took my nice fluffy towel and went back to the sauna to open my beat book and sort everything out. My feet slapping on the wet tiles, I sought out the steam.

Framed. This was a lousy picture I had walked into. Someone read all about me, knew about the mess I turned into after Rizzi died. I thought back, rolling the kinks out of my neck and shoulders. A fat, chinless wonder appeared out of the steam, took a gander at my mug and then backed off into the mist again.

JoJo Kasper, Rizzi's killer

Even as he fell, my partner was able to put one through the eye of the Lithuanian son of a bitch what done him in. After that last shot, the one that sent JoJo Kasper hitting a bar stool and flipping like a diver in the Obese Olympics, hitting the tiles seconds after Rizzi had stopped moving forever, a short dog of Schlitz tumbling into the gap between his armpit and the floor. I recall every single bit of crazy info, like it was a bunch of scenes I what saw if I blinked my eyes real fast in front of one of those new RCA tee vees. Man. Rizzi had been jawing that, when the union got us our next pay bump, he was going to buy a small one from CET Electronics. Everyone knew their number by heart, from the radio commercials. The beat of a tom tom and a slackjaw-sounding guy who intoned, all Indian-like, call Mohawk-4-4100, Mohawk-4-4100...CET...CET...CET. Hey, it worked. They sold more tee vees than Motorola did. The shit you remember when your best friend is right in front of you waiting for the dirt.

You remember all that, and more. Brain-denial. "Who Stole The Kishka?" by Big Steve & the Stevedores on the old Seeburg juke, old lady Kasper bawling over her only son, two chins flapping so hard her Dentu-Grip loosened, she became a chattering ventriloquist's dummy. The bartender, reflected in the mirror. Bald spot I never knew he had because I never noticed. I smelled lemons. I remembered smelling lemons from through the back door, the next block was residential, it could have been kids with a lemonade stand. But not when I smell lemons, I think of Rizzi. Sometimes, I get the dry heaves.

1959 Plymouth Fury
And to get rid of the dry heaves, I started on the booze. Ass backwards, you ask me, but that's really the story of my life. I took Rizzi's personal belongings from the back seat of the unit, and planned on what I was going to do with my life once the funeral was over and done. Rizzi was southside, even though southside was primarily Irish coppers, firemen, and city workers what worked the Streets & Sanitation Department. Fancy name for garbage men. My Uncle George Mamach lifted trash for twenty years and always called himself a garbage man. Proud of it. Rizzi was southside because his dad was black, though you'd never have known by his kid's looks. Wife was like Kim Novak, face like Downy soap, not a drop of black showed on Rizzi. Old man cut out, far as he knew, for another babe or a jail cell. I met the old lady, Jackie, once. Lived up in the Beverly neighborhood, straight up Western to 115th Street, my partner died almost exactly five miles from his mom's bungalow and I still look up and thank God sometimes that my own ma is dead and that Rizzi had the good sense to visit his old lady before roll call and plant a last kiss on her after giving lilacs in a bunch. Another thing I wondered: the lilac smell was in the back of the squad, so why is it I always think of Rizzi when I smell lemons and not lilacs? Maybe its the symbolism thing, I don't know. Lilacs are holidays and funerals. Lemons are summers and sunrises. Sometimes I think I don't know a damn thing.

All cops get laid out nice at Blake & Lamb, they must have an ongoing thing with the city, which is okay by me. They have funeral parlors all over Chicago. I thought it funny then, even though I hadn't been all over the place yet, I hadn't seen one damn funeral place in L. A. Maybe they were ashamed of their dead and shoved the corpses out to the suburbs. Pasadena. Los Feliz. Bellflower. Chicago was like a big box except out by O'Hare. Los Angeles proper looked like an epileptic's attempt at a caricature of Dwight D. Eisenhower. So maybe I was right about the parlors. Gave L.A. more room for pawn shops.

Well, I was waiting 'til after the viewing, putting my pallbearer gloves, snagging one on my dress uniform cuff. Some cops had to get back to serving and protecting, leaving in their units and paddy wagons. The rest of us went up to St. Casimer's, the Emerald Society playing "Amazing Grace" to a cloudless sky, Rizzi getting the three-gun salute because he had been in the Korean War but had not seen combat. One squad that had left to check in with district, couple of guys named Fahey and Doyle out of Englewood, somehow got into an altercation near the big, yellow viaduct at 63rd and Damen. Where everything turned to Darkie Town. The higher ups figured on it was a traffic stop. Both cops were dead with Fahey's revolver. Worse days for the blues since back in the days of Capone and Dillinger.

63rd & Damen Viaduct.

So I forgot about Rizzi's stuff in my car. Most cops forgot about everything for a few days and a helluva lot of nights. Three cops dead in two days, two widows, eight kids without a fathers, those damn Irish families. Rizzi had a dispatch bag like most us did when we first made rookie. You end up keeping it for good luck. Tiny, damn thing, not much bigger then one of them there clutch purses the women have. I gave it to Chomsky for safekeeping the day before I came out here to the land of sunshine, wrapped up snug in a bag from Cupid Candies. Chomsky put the "candies" in his freezer. Rizzi didn't leave a will, and his ma wanted me to take his car. '57 Chevy Bel-Air. Smelled like Brylcreem thru and thru. I sold it to a guy's kid what lived in the two-flat next door and then I bawled by baby blues out. Ding ding ding, my internal timer going off. Time for someone else to get sweaty balls. I'm outta here.

Rizzi's '57 Chevy Bel-Air, Augusta Blvd.

Chapter Four

"So how did they come up with the name HOLLOWPOINT?" Gayle Fremont was chatting up this tiny quivering toothpick with a forehead the shape of a pencil eraser. She was more hoping to cadge a drink, maybe three, from Percy Quilby's copy boy, and once she saw him walking awkwardly past the Downbeat, she rushed out to put the move on him. If need be, after she had her gin & tonics she'd sink her claws into him and get the lowdown on the new cop in town. Everyone who was anyone answered to somebody in this godforsaken town, and she rescripted back to one big, bad guy.

"What do you mean?" At least that's what it sounded like to Fremont, the guy was shivering like a corgi left out in the rain, scared shitless that it was being abandoned by its' owners. Kid had acne on the side of his neck, she moved her chair so she couldn't see it, the result being her black as night hair falling over one eye and dancing against her nose. Play it cool, ease him into...well, no way she and he were easing anything into anyplace, no matter what--

Bam and smash, the kid on cloud nine went to adjust his collar and sent the ashtray flying out onto the dance floor. Quiet this time of day, lots of time for the echoes to play out. Stan Getz was hitting the sax soft, "The Girl from Impanema," one of Fremont's favorites. Made her think of the girls down by the Santa Monica pier, doing their little samba walks, blowing kisses at the volleyball players. Gayle Fremont had been walking both sides of the same street since she was a doe-eyed high school valedictorian in Wichita, class of '60.

"Don't get the jitters, kid." She smiled a crooked kink. "You need a smoke?" Not waiting for him to answer, she crossed and then uncrossed her legs. He downed his second whiskey sour, almost choking on the swizzle stick; she had only touched her drink. Let him see the outline of her lipstick on the glass. The bartender was jawin' down at the other end of the bar, otherwise he'd be thinking he was watching an Andy Hardy movie. Too bad for him. Fremont, like a raven-haired Veronica Lake putting the screws tight to the kid that ran errands for that film guy. He was always in here getting booze for the crew's coffee, and the bartender made off decent. Maybe he should have been listening better, but them's the breaks. He was busy telling one-liners to a couple of regulars who made him feel like he was somebody big. "What the hell is hollow point supposed to mean? I mean, maybe I look dumb--", waving off Hand's nervous head-shaking, "--but I don't get it."

Gayle Fremont

The kid downed his drink and when Fremont offered again, this time he took a Viceroy and started hotboxing it like a champ. "Barko Skant told Quil...uh...Mr. Quilby about these new type of bullets the Marines were using in some place called Viet Nam. Hollow points." Fremont could see him staring at the lipstick smooch on her glass. She knew about Viet Nam, a kid from school went over there and she went over here. End of that story. Who cares, anyways, right? Oh, look, the kid's still talking.

"Mr. Quilby originally planned on filming in Echo Park, and then it hit him that they should move the film down to that new part of the city that's called Holland's Point and, well, Mr. Quilby, he does love his play on words." The kid smiled then, it looked for all the world like a crack in a flat piece of concrete.  Fremont knew the story on how the cop from Chicago showed his mug here, the book he wrote, ex-cop jibber jabbers about real cop, only they make him a weight lifting goon and put him in a town where the sun always shines. There were things in that book that were based in truth though. The man she answered to knew that. The only thing they were missing was the angle. She knew the guy was in the drunk tank before he left the force, his partner was killed or something.

Shots Downed, Officer Fired

Just then, the bartender made himself useful. He walked over, graceful like a surfer yet looking like a monster, a smile snarl curled up his cheek. In dim light, it might resemble a flame from a thin matchstick mouth. "Ms. Fremont, phone for you." He chin nodded towards the back, the bar curving into an S. Two noodle-heads were flipping quarters into shot glasses and some guy sat at a table looking at the sports page. She stood up and leaned in, her hair falling towards him like a tapestry. "Keep the drinks coming. And make a man of my friend here, I'm talking top shelf. Jameson's sounds about right, don't you think?" She winked, pulling her hair back over her shoulder, chest bobbing, copy boy gulping air as her hand curled around her purse. Both men watched her legs piston her ass towards the darkness. Even the guy with the newspaper knew he saw something better than the mudders at Santa Anita.

She watch the bartender pour, the kid trying to protest, before whirling to find out who found her so important right that minute. The two rinky-dinks continued their game, Fremont took them as homos for not staring at her ass.

"This is Ms. Fremont." Just like the movies, not like a secretary. She'd never sat behind a desk in her life. "Speak up, willya?" Sounded like a construction site at the other end of the line, she made the connection. "Oh, you." Then she listened, nodding her head, then stopping when she saw herself in the mirror. "Yea, I was just getting ready to ask the kid. Yes, really." Ice in her tone; she could get away with the frost with a lot of guys, too many. One day, someone might decide to light her up. "No," looking back at the bartender. "He's pouring him a Jameson's. And, no I'm not screwing him. I'm--" She looked at the receiver, like it was a reptile. And screw you, too, she thought, lighting up another Viceroy as she walked back to her stool.

"You know, baby," she laid it down thick, like macadam. "I was wondering something." Fremont slid into it like a sheer nightgown that ended at the waist. She asked Vendel Hand a few minor things about the props used on the show, then went for the info she needed. She smirked when she saw the kid licking his lip where a glint of whiskey sat like a cold sore. "Isn't there something about a bowling shirt in the next episode? I ask because a friend of mine told me she was bowling yesterday and they had a film crew at one end of the joint. Well, she wasn't really hitting the pins, she was at the bar, you get my drift." Smiling and pouting at the same time, few could pull that one off and make it stick.

The kid told her that they to scrap the day's work, more confident now, his stuttering put the word 'scrap' down to only two syllables. Not only did Mr. Skant not show up for work, someone on the crew had lost track of a closet full of clothes; he leaned in close, describing how the wardrobe crew kept three of every outfit, talking low as if he was discussing the secrets of alchemy. It was mostly small stuff that was gone, not the flashy suits or Hawaiian shirts. Funny thing, really. It was the three bowling shirts, the powder blue ones that had Honeycomb Lanes in script on the back.

"You ever see that place?" The kid really thought he'd be taking her home now. The guy with the sports page could have laid a bet with the bartender. "Over on Balmoral, yeah, its a real place. Mr. Quill--my stuck-up boss, I mean," he said, giggling like he'd been goosed. "He thinks that, in his words, "It gives a sense of reality to an all-too-real show." I tell you, Ms. Fremont, he talks like he should be on Alfred Hitchcock."

"Kid, call me Gayle, already. My ma's Ms. Fremont." Well, maybe she was, having Gayle out of wedlock and last she knew, good 'ol ma was flopping around Fifth Street, the last part of town that hadn't seen her gums flapping. "Gayle. Say it."

"Okay, Gu-Gayle." Looked like his Adam's apple was trying to chew its way out of his pale neck. "The bowling alley is near that big new motel, the one where the, you know, coloreds used to live? The Honeycomb Hideout, its a lounge in front and a long motel in back. Percy is big on telling everyone he knows the owner," Gayle bristled but did a good job of hiding it. "But he really doesn't, he lies a LOT."

The bottle of whiskey was set between the shot glasses now, the bartender having reassured the kid that he wasn't paying a cryin' dime. The interior of the bar had darkened. Fremont had to move this along.

"How odd. Who would steal bowling shirts, and why?" She touched a freckle on the curve of her neck, she knew it by heart. "Do you think maybe it was some people...that is, who would do that?" Better not to mention the bowling alley at all.

Vandel shrugged. "It didn't matter. Barko didn't show, Percy thinks he was hungover or still out drinking. He told me to go, saying they were going to just go with filming second unit shots. That's where they get Barko's stunt double in shots walking down the street, stuff like that." Beaming again. "I started walking down here because I missed the bus up on Norton, and, uh, that's when I met you."

"Honey, let me run to the lady's room real quick, okay." Relieved that she didn't need to plant one on him yet. She looked back at him staring at every step she took. Stopping by the bartender, Fremont reached into her purse and handed the bartender a hundred dollar bill.

"Door's open," he barely moved his mouth, the bill disappearing quick. She nodded just as quick. Fremont looked back at the kid, blowing a kiss. And while he lapped at the last of the Jameson's, Gayle Fremont slipped out the fire exit. She walked down the alley towards the side street. She passed an elderly black man carrying a guitar case that was beaten all to shit.

One mile south, Nick Wolcott walked out of the bathhouse, feeling refreshed until the fist slammed into his face.


Barko Skant had an itch and he was pissed because there was nobody around to scratch it. The itch was behind his left knee, a drop of sweat running down his hamstring that just up and got tired and stopped. Fuckin' LA, he thought. What a concept. They blow sunshine up my ass when I wake up in the morning, and they keep doing it all day until I tell them to stop, which I haven't yet, but I could, anytime, because I'm Barko fuckin' Skant.

Where in the hell is Jamen? Barko wasn't used to waiting. He'd been cooling his heels beside Jamen's pool for an hour. All right, twenty minutes, but it felt longer, because nobody kept Skant waiting, nobody. Except Jamen. Barko passed the time by eyeballing two girls in bikinis that Jamen kept around for decoration. One of them was skimming the pool with a long pole that had a dinky net on the end. Every time she bent over, Barko felt John Henry stirring in his Speedo. He looked at his Rolex for the third time in the last six minutes. He could have sworn the minute hand just jumped backward. Shit.

Jamen was maybe the only guy in town that Barko wanted to like him, who didn't. Barko didn't know why. He figured he was a pretty admirable guy. His chiseled jaw, the bedroom eyes, the smirk. Big star on a big show. But Jamen gave Barko nothing. No hint of affection. Not a smile, not even a nod. Jamen just didn't give a shit who Barko was, didn't care that Barko was whoever Barko was.

Barko felt a hand on top of his head, the fingers squeezing. For a beat he thought it was a headache, all sudden like from a mouthful of banana ice cream on a screaming hot day that hits the roof of your mouth and hurts your brain. Then he realized it was a hand, a real hand, a slab of beef was more like it, clenched on top of his skull. He tried to turn around, but the hand pressed down and locked him into his beach chair.

"You came." It was Jamen. No mistaking that voice, the voice of a man who just did not give a shit about you, at least if your name was Barko. The hand let go and Jamen came around and swung a leg over a chair and sat down. Barko noticed that the green canvas in the chair sagged so low under Jamen's weight that his ass was hanging about an inch above the black Italian tiles around the pool.

"Of course I came. I always do." Barko didn't mean to go all toady, it just happened, when he was with Jamen. He resolved to stop sucking up. It would not be easy. He realized suddenly that Jamen wasn't even looking at him. Jamen's sunglasses were mirrored and Barko could see the second girl dropping her bikini top in the reflection. Then she slithered out of the bottoms, and pulled a shorty robe around herself and fastened the belt before going inside. Jamen's head swiveled ten degrees to the left and he fixed his gaze on Barko. Skant shivered. He figured it was because the cooling drop of sweat behind his knee had resumed its wayward course down his calf.

"I have a little job for you. If you're up to it." Jamen flicked his cigar into the pool and the girl with the net poked at it with her pole and then watched it sink like a turd.

"When have I ever said no?" Barko knew he was smiling too much. He could feel his jaw tightening under the strain. He made a conscious effort to close his mouth. It clapped together with a small popping sound. Something was fucked up with his jaw, ever since he came out to LA and got his choppers fixed. Some half-assed dentist the studio sent around, some kid just out of school, who brought his equipment in a traveling box, like some kind of carpenter. Barko flinched at the memory. Now that he thought of it, what kind of dentist makes house calls? Barko had worn braces for six months and they hurt like shit. He celebrated the day they came off by going down on Gayle Freemont, who was plenty startled. Oral pleasures were not a regular part of Barko's repertoire. At least the giving. The receiving, he was always up for.

"There's always a first time." Jamen yawned, then got up and went inside, leaving Barko sitting by himself again, looking at the sagging chair just vacated by Jamen's ass. He waited. The chair held the impression of Jamen's butt cheeks the whole time. Barko wondered if he should wait for them to disappear before he left. Maybe it was some kind of a test. Maybe Jamen was making sure Barko would respect the dents in his chair, the ones he had made with his ass, the residue of his existence. Barko watched the sweat dry on the chair where Jamen had been. Here I am again, he thought. Barko fuckin' Skant. Waiting. After ten more minutes the girl in the robe came outside. He had a glimpse of bare feet, a muscled leg, tawny and smooth. Pink toenails, tiny and perfect. "Mr. Jamen says to meet him at the club tonight. Seven o'clock. And he said don't be late. He hates waiting."

Six hours later and Barko was in the Capella down by the wharf. He took a chair outside on the patio near the sloping roof to let the rain wash away the stink drifting in from the alley. Jamen used the place for meetings. He said it was because he liked to watch the seagulls fornicate on the pier while he masticated his ham sandwich. Jamen ate ham sandwiches every day for dinner because he had a thing for mustard. He loved the tart tang on his tongue. Loved it. But he hated pretension. Fancy cooking, expensive meals, hoity-toity waiters were all on his black list. There was a rumor in the restaurant business that Jamen had walked out onto the sand behind the Capella one Sunday morning and shot a sunbathing maitre d' in the back of the head with a .45 because the man had brought him a bottle of ice cold Budweiser with his ham sandwich. They say Jamen told the guy, whose head looked like a busted jar of spaghetti sauce spilled onto the sand, "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer."

Yeah, Jamen loved his Schlitz. It was a working-class brew for a working-class guy. Jamen had started out in Chicago with a vague ambition to become a vice cop, but he ended up in construction. He built highways, underpasses, overpasses, cloverleafs. He got real thirsty doing it. So Schlitz was the ticket.

Barko heard a car door slam out front. Sounded like a heavy door. That would be Jamen's powder blue Lincoln. It would take two minutes for Jamen to come through the restaurant and find him on the patio. Barko took out a small pocket mirror and used the time to select a facial expression. He settled on serious, with a tinge of tough. That's what would impress Jamen.

"What, you got some shit stuck in your teeth?" Jamen had taken a shortcut through the kitchen and caught Barko squinting into his mirror. Barko snapped it shut.

"No, I got a bug in the eye."

"Well, as long as it wasn't a bumblebee, huh?" Jamen sat down and lit a cigar. "Look, Barky, I called this little meeting because there's something smelly in my world. I got a pile of rat shit on my plate, basically. You're the guy who's going to lick it off."

A waiter put a platter of ham sandwiches in front of Jamen with three kinds of mustard. The guy made a big show out of opening a bottle of Schlitz and wiping the sweat off of it with a little towel. Jamen watched him. "You gettin' fancy on me with that fuckin' rag?"

"No, Mr. Jamen. I was just wiping..."

"Hey, I'm joking, okay? I'm a joker. Now, you see that pillar over there?"

The waiter turned to look. "The one in the corner beside the bar?"

"That's the one. Listen, do me a favor. Go stand behind it and don't come out until I leave, okay? And take your fuckin' rag."

When he was gone, Jamen took a bite of sandwich and chewed. Barko waited. He was getting good at that. Jamen took a long pull on his Schlitz and sat back. "This guy Wolcott, what's the situation?"

"We planted the gun and sent the cops over."

"That much I know. So why isn't Wolcott in deep shit by now?"

"He fled the scene."

"Fled the scene? Fled the scene? What is that, from a screenplay you got stuck up your ass? Who talks like that? You're telling me the cops went over and he had the gun and he got away?"

"I called Dentson after to check. He said Wolcott was, and I quote, very resourceful."

"Resourceful? I'm guessing he's got balls bigger than your head."

"So what do you want me to do?"

"I told you. I want Wolcott in the deep freeze. You got one week to lick him off my plate. You got one week to show me what you got."

Chapter Six

I didn't fall. I couldn't fall. How could I? If the boys back in Chicago ever heard that I went down from a sucker punch, they'd laugh so hard they'd crap their pants. So I didn't fall. Even when he hit me again. This guy, who was this guy? He was fast, that much I knew. But he had hit me twice and I was still standing, so I figured I was going to be okay. I had time, plenty of it. If he had a gun or a knife, I'd be dead already. He was using his fists. That I could handle. I felt warmth on my left cheek. Blood. I looked at his hands. He was holding them up like a boxer. One of his hands had big brass knuckles on it, hammered and heavy. Shit. I must be tougher than I thought. This guy plastered me with brass knuckles and I was still on my feet. Okay. Enough assessment. Time to get busy. I dropped my head like I was woozy, staggered. He bought it. He dropped his guard and came in to finish me, swinging wild. Amateur. I caught his right fist in my palm, smack. Then I pulled it up to my face like an apple and took a bite out of it. Hey pal, ain't no rules in a street fight. He yelped and tried to shove me back against a brick wall. I went with his shove, giving ground fast. Jujitsu. Picked up some useful moves in Korea during the war. I twisted my shoulders and his momentum took him right into the wall face first. He went down hard and I was on him in an instant with my knee on his spine and one hand clenched around the back of his neck, claw hold, grinding his face into the pavement. With my free hand I reached inside his jacket, fishing for ID. Nothing.

"You got a name, bud?"

Grunting. No answer, so I mashed his face a little harder. After a few seconds I pulled his head back by the hair and snapped it down again. Busted his nose with a sick pop.

"Last chance."

Finally he spoke. Said something muffled. Swearing, I think. Then: "I'm a cop."

A cop? Even if he was off duty, he just didn't read as the law. I shifted my knee and felt a bump in his pants pocket. I reached in and pulled out his badge. He was a cop all right. From Chicago.

"You're a long way from home, Flasco. You finger me at random, or do you know who I am?" I let him sit up. He wasn't in the mood to fight anymore.

"You're Wolcott. Rizzi's old partner."

"So you're a Chicago cop, and you come out to LA and take me on, knowing we're brothers? What the hell is this?"

"I ain't sayin'."

"You want to kiss the pavement again?"

"You're hard, but you ain't that hard. You're not going to mess me up no more now you know I'm a cop."

I smiled. "You knew I was a cop, and you messed me up. I still owe ya. So shoot. What do you want?"

"I came out to tell you your pal is dead."


"Guy named Chomsky."

Ah, shit. "How?"

"Throat slit ear to ear. It looked like somebody sprayed his room with fire engine paint."

"Son of a bitch. You got a lead?"

"Nothing. I thought maybe you could tell me if you knew anyone who would want him dead."

"Not Chomsky. Everybody loved Chomsky. Hell, I loved Chomsky."

"Well, the feeling was mutual. He left you his apartment in his will. We cleaned it up. Not much there, but still..."

"Did you touch his fridge?"

"Why would we touch his fridge?"

"Just checking." I pulled him up and we started walking. Three guys coming the other way gave us a wide berth. I still had blood on my cheek, and Flasco looked like he spent the night in a blender.

"So don't you want to know why I punched you?"


"Why not? I would."

"I know why. I should say, I know who. Bellingham."

"You guys are nuts."

"Bellingham and I joined the force the same day. He cut in line ahead of me at the counter when I came in for an application. We boxed for three-four years. I used to tattoo his ass."

"He told me. He also told me you guys always tried to get the drop on each other, whenever you got together. Keep a sharp edge, he called it."

"Yeah, well. He never got me."

"He heard I was coming out here to look for you. To tell you about your old pal. Bellingham bet me five hundred bucks I couldn't get the drop and take you down. I said I could."

"You lost."

"No shit."

"Thanks for the news about Chomsky. When you heading back?"

"Tomorrow. Early."

"Wanna bet?"

"No, it's true, I got my plane ticket already."

"I mean, seriously, do you want to make a bet? I'll bet you five hundred bucks you can't get the drop on Bellingham when you get home. You can't put the big bastard on his ass."

"Is he as tough as you?"

I looked at Flasco. Busted nose, cheek burned raw, chunk out of his fist. Not a peep, not a whimper. Like I said, Chicago cop.

"Me? Hell, I don't think he's even as tough as you." We had arrived in front of an all-night drugstore. I thought I'd go in and get something for my face. I flipped him his badge and shook his hand. "Next time, maybe go for my stomach. You'll never take me down with a smack on the jaw. Safe flight, Flasco."

I had to get back to Chicago before they cleared out Chomsky's shit. Sometimes you'll find a cop thinking outside of the box, the lunkhead might go looking in places like the toilet tank, a recessed shelf in the hall closet...or the freezer in the crummy old Frigidaire Coldspot everybody in the damn city seemed to own, and they were all worth a crap. Chomsky put Rizzi's stuff in there because he knew it would never get anywhere near freezing. I knew. The guy had a box of Dreamsicles once, when he took him from the freezer they were melted and looked like chihuahua vomit.

I probably had Flasco and Bellingham, AKA Frick and Frack, on my side. I always turned the other way when I saw Bellingham cadge the wallet off a corpse at a crime scene. That's one reason we had so many John Does in Chicago, too many lifted wallets. Drop them in the lake and they float up in St. Joe, Michigan a month later. I had to go back. I trusted those two numbnuts, but there were things I needed to get my meathooks on.

Took a taxi to the airport in Long Beach. One day L. A. would catch up, but right now it was all fake celluloid, they were more concerned with private airstrips behind analogue streets of New York and Tombstone. Do not forsake me, oh my darling, while I'm singin' in the rain, yes, singing in the rain. Being in this town makes you start thinking crazy. I heard someone say they were thinking about making a movie about a planet full of talking apes, that guy that's on the Twilight Zone had turned in a script. You ask me, someone needs to force feed Orson Welle's TOUCH OF EVIL or that one film with Lonesome Rhodes, A FACE IN THE CROWD, maybe the world would look like the real world, my world, instead of this bikini-surfer-giant monster-street tough bullshit.

But, hell, it paid well. Chomsky always told me, leave a big tip. Even if we were just havin' coffee at the Blimpie's on South Wabash. A few blocks from his pawn shop on Van Buren. I dropped two twenties in the cabbie's right mitt and the guy smiled like I was, I dunno, someone bigger than I really was. An hour later I was up, up and away. The pilot hit a button and pulled up the wheels with a restless thunk. I took a hit from my flask and settled back for the ride.

Chapter 7

It was raining when I got to Chicago. The streets were hissing. I saw a beer truck fishtail in the slick and slide along a guardrail, spark city. I didn't tip the cabbie this time. Small world, I knew the guy. I ran him in for armed robbery ten years ago and he went stoolie for me when he got out early for good behavior. I could always count on him for a tip. He knew squat about Chomsky, though.

He dropped me a couple of blocks short and I walked the rest of the way. The crime scene was cold, but you never know. I just wanted to eyeball the neighborhood on foot, catch the vibrations. Hell, maybe the guy who did Chomsky was local. Maybe he was casing the front of the apartment. Maybe he was watching for me. I stood in the shadow of the rusted steel sign for Doc's Fruit and Vegables. Yeah, Vegables. Nobody knew if Doc was a bad speller or maybe he just ran out of room when he was painting his sign. Nothing was moving, not even a rat.

I took the stairs in Chomsky's building two at a time, cat quick, and I knew something was wrong the second my foot hit the landing. There was no knob on his door. It looked like somebody had knocked it off with a Louisville Slugger. Must have been the Roger Maris signature model, because Chomsky had put in a heavy-duty lockset and it was gone now. The door was sagging open. No way the boys left it like this.

I stood with my back on the wall and reached out and pushed the door with a finger. It moved maybe an inch. It was all snagged up on something inside, the carpet, most likely. Okay, that meant one of two things. Either whoever was here left by the fire escape beside Chomsky's kitchen window, or he was still in there now.

Element of surprise was all I had. I took two steps and hit the door with my shoulder and it gave and I tumbled into the room and rolled behind the couch. Jesus Christ. I could hear breathing. The guy was that close. I drew my knees up under me and rested on my fingers like Bob Hayes in the blocks. He was on the couch. I could smell him. Johnny Walker. Then he started snoring, so I stood up.

It was Mister Viadetto. I didn't know his first name. He was Chomsky's buddy. The guy must have been born during the Battle of Bull Run, he was that ancient. Looked like he used Chomsky's place for his afternoon nap. Some kids probably busted off the doorknob to rip off anything they could find after the cops finished with the place. Nobody fixed it, so Viadetto came in and pushed the carpet against the door for some security while he slept.

I decided to let him sleep. The place seemed gray without Chomsky. Dusty, tired, old. There was a picture of him and me in a little frame on a shelf. I had my arm around him and he was laughing. I remember we were at the Honeybee and I had just told him about my big retirement plans. I was going to go to Paris and see the same things Hemingway saw. Chomsky thought that was hilarious. I guess maybe it was. I popped the back of the frame and took the photo out and stashed it in my wallet.

I went into the kitchen and opened the freezer. Empty. Every cupboard was empty, every drawer. I even looked in the oven. Nothing. Half an hour later, I was sure the Cupid Candies bag was not here. Rizzi's stuff was gone. I left Viadetto where he was and closed the door on my way out. It swung open so I reached in and yanked on the carpet to jam it under the door.

A letter slid out from under the carpet. Yellow envelope, palm tree on the back. Somebody must have shoved it under the door and it went right under the carpet. It was addressed to Chomsky. Who else? Postmarked Los Angeles, California. Dated ten days ago, when Chomsky was already dead. I ripped it open.

Dear Mr. Chomsky,

Thank you for sending us the story by Nick Wolcott. I thought you might like to know that it has been made into a TV script and you will be able to see it on Channel 4 in Chicago on the 27th of next month. I can assure you it is quite good.

If you have any more of Mr. Wolcott's writing, please send it to us. We will be happy to pay you a finder's fee of $250 if we use the material in one of our shows.

I want you to know that we have also received your other package in good order. A copy boy in our office opened it as part of his normal mail duties and discovered the Cupid Candies bag inside.

I noted that it was addressed to Nick Wolcott, c/o myself. Be assured that I have given it to a good friend of Nick's for safekeeping, and for him to give to Nick when he sees him next. You might recognize his name: the actor Barko Skant. I am certain you watch the police dramas, but you might also recognize Mr. Skant from certain endorsements for Brylcreem hair tonic and Pall Mall cigarettes.

If I can be of further service, please do not hesitate to contact me any time.

Yours truly,  Percy Quillby

So Skant had Rizzi's stuff. Though he might not know what he's got, if he doesn't like candy and never ripped open the bag. But what worried me more was this: why did Chomsky mail the Cupid Candies bag back to me? Was he feeling threatened? Poor bastard. I should never have dragged him into all this. I owed Skant a visit.

I weighed my options against the snoring of old man Viadetto. The equivalent of listening to the surf in L.A., which I hadn't paid attention to anyways, so who gave a rat's ass. I looked at the clock on the wall, a crappy thing of birds and wood and glue hanging on the wall. He'd bought it on Maxwell Street from a kid and told me he knew it was a piece of crap, but at least not one was ever gonna steal it. He was right, to the very end.

It wasn't working, though. I could tell because it sure wasn't noon and it sure as hell wasn't midnight. The clock face showed something like 12:14, hard to tell from the grease. Who puts a clock over the stove? I'd asked myself a dozen times when I'd been here, never thinking I'd be muttering the question out loud once Chomsky was dead and done.

Snuffling from the living room, a term that was dubious at best, particularly now that it was inhabited by the Monroe Street District's favorite stewbum. Viadetto had surrendered his existence to Pabst Blue Ribbon and Night Train decades ago, then stayed on those midnight subway tracks years ago, finally settling in on the Skid Row Method. The rummies on Halsted and Madison learned they could make a pint bottle with 17.5% alcohol last three times as long if it was mixed with Aqua Velva aftershave with 8.5% alcohol. Smart guys, those Halsted Street grifters.
"Whoozz hare?" Sounded like the old guy had lost a few more teeth the way the sibilants were gone. "You're dreamin', old man. Time for bed." I started to scout for clues again, absently fingering the envelope.

"What time? It's half past Mike's ass and quarter to his balls." Man, I missed this kind of lop-sided talk. "Now lemme get my sleep here, ya cock-knocker." Now that was a term of endearment laid on every true, blue Chicago native regardless of creed or color, blue collar or frayed collar. Beat cop or roundheels. Yea, I missed it here. Everyone in that other place kissed ass when they weren't making out with themselves in the mirror, Barko Skant included. I thought again on why Quillby and Skant were so tight, what with them looking like younger versions of George Jessel and Dana Andrews palling around, and figured on what had always made the most sense to me. Quillby was on his way to the big nowhere until Barko Skant gave him product recognition, even though this was Skant's first big exposure, what with him being on a weekly TV series with each episode filmed within a few weeks of the actual thing.

I'd never known that before hitting the coast, TV wasn't like the movies. Maybe that's why so many actors were washing bennies down with gin all over town. If someone broke a finger for real, they'd write it into the show. Guy at the Tempo, once he knew my pedigree, told me how's that happened on HIGH CHAPARRAL earlier in the year. Pedigree. Me and my new words. All the while I'm thinking this, I'm doing a 360 on Chomsky's kitchen. Buncha crappy Polish nesting dolls on the shelf over the sink. Rinso detergent next to the Comet cleanser. An egg holder, or an egg timer, whatever it was. I didn't know. I let other people make my eggs.

Made me wonder what kinda food was in here. There was a hot plate on the counter and Viadetto had to be up here besides the cot. There had to be hots to go with that cot. Chomsky had a Frigidaire that was newer than most, someone had pawned it and then disappeared. So my pal what took it home, no dead guy is comin' up from his grave to spook people about his missing a fridge. It was a nice one, a Coldspot, had a built-in freezer. Nice. Eight months of the year in Chicago, my freezer was called the snow outside the back door to my flat.

There was an empty box of Swanson's Salisbury steak, so that meant the old duck was eating here. But I was already opening the door, I wanted to see the inside of one a' these babies anyways. Sure enough, a few more Swanson's and three cans of Pabst. Well, good on ya, V., for trying to move back up the alcohol ladder. Wow. This thing even had ice cube trays. I realized I was getting yanked by the shorts back at the Motel Tempo. Another thing to bring up with Quill--

Then I saw it. Well, it was what I didn't see. There was this rectangular spot that had no ice on it, like in the other spots. It might've been me, but the metal shelving unit looked kinda crooked, too. There'd been something here too high to fit on the top shelf and not quite made the bottom one. Hit me all at once, like a sucker punch in the street outside a poker club. A torn piece of beige and green, perforated on the edge, sealed it. The Cupid Candies wrapper.

The box that contained all of Rizzi's belongings. But why did Chomsky want me to have it, all of a sudden-like? Why not call me in L. A.? By the postmark, I was out there. June 1st, and I was out there in mid-May so Quillby could get my input and show me around like a pet dog for his headlines.

All of a sudden, I heard Cannonball Adderly on the juke from the Vogue at ground level, saxophone climbing the fire escape like nothing I could really describe, like winter becoming spring, maybe, it's such a special sound, and I realized I'd outstayed my welcome. Enough time to ask around, grab my return flight, slide back to the set. I looked in on Viadetto before leaving, found it sad. Guy had climbed off the couch and was propped in a stool by the TV stand. Empty bottle of Night Train kept his lolling head from dropping to the floor. Snoring away. Good thing he was napping, seeing as how someone had swiped the TV.
Jebby Viadetto

Sun was starting to get gone as my feet slapped pavement. Across the street was a ladder company for the fire department, but they wouldn't piss in my ear if my head was on fire. That was the running joke between the fire guys and us cops for as long as I've ever known. Past the small gangway--man, that sax was singing--was Cal's Liquors. Even in the summer it looked like it was always in the shadow of the el tracks that turned from Van Buren northward on Wells. A hand-lettered sign in the window, which made reference to a greasy spoon that you could enter either from the back of the booze store or from the street further west. Eat. Drink. Get Out. Direct as anyone in working City Hall, Cal was one of a kind.

Me and Chomsky go way back. I saved his life. This was back when the pawn shop was over on Congress, before they tore the street up to make the Eisenhower Expressway. Named for the president who made a spaghetti bowl out of the city. Bar None Pawn was the name of his place, an old broad who read palms was on the second floor. Spring day, 1957, I was walking by the place yet again. Chomsy had this teal-colored phonograph in the window for what seemed forever. It was something I wanted, you know? But, it was like, what if the guy who pawned it came back the next day and it was gone? Sure, sure, its not like I wanted a saxophone or a Gibson guitar. I liked it because the color matched the blue on one wall, and it sounds stupid now, but I saw how I would finally be making something match in my flop of an apartment on Wabansia. Yeah, eight years back and a younger Nicky Wolcott thinking he could impress every doll with his taste of music and his dandy decor.

Lucky for Chomsky I walked by that day. Guy was at the counter, the old man had his hands up, a gun up to his schnozz like it was trying to part the nose hairs. It was a no-brainer. I shot through the door and winged the guy in the leg, just the right angle to make him reflex spin, Chomsky ducking, the gun firing wild. I called up the First District cops, let them have the collar. And the crazy thing was, the guy with the gun? He was the one what pawned the snazzy Victrola. In the end, Chomsky gives it to me. And we stayed friends. Too bad I couldn't save his life the second time around.

It dawned on me then. Chomsky had his fingers in everything. Hell, the real reason my book made it to Hollywood was because a local film guy picked up an engagement ring at his new place above the Vogue, his apartment one floor above the pawn. No more palm readers, he said he always got the heebie-jeebies from that old broad.

Chomsky had been leery about his record books at the new place, maybe it was the neighborhood, maybe it was the new clientele, of which I dissaproved and tried to overlook. But I remembered him saying once he'd have a back-up file at the Vogue. That meant he was probably money-laundering for their illegal crap games out back, I never gave a rat's ass about that. There might be something in that book. Maybe I wasn't responsible for the old man's death after all.

The South Loop was starting to bop around this time. Board of Trade was a few blocks east, and the joint already was loaded with lushes from the trading floor, who clocked out at four. Now it was the would-be hipsters and the family men who wanted to simply postpone going home to their families in Forest Park or Downers Grove. Secretaries from a dozen office buildings swiveled in because of the cheap 'ladies night, every night' drinks and the men who would be paying for them.

Jimmy Enamel was working the stick, I knew him when he was a graduate of the Audy Home. Mom worked at Cook County Hospital, couldn't afford a sitter so she made up stories about Jimmy starting to torch things after daddy Enamel split for anywhere else. Mammy Enamel was sly as a fox, the Arthur Audy Home for Juvenile Delinquents. Long story short, I got him out of there, stuck him with a buddy who had a flop pad upstairs, but he found the bartending gig on his own. I vouched for him, but lied about his age.

Now he was a big nineteen, happy as all hell to see me. Some dollie two stools over wrinked her nose, I realized I smelled like I had washed myself with Salsbury steak sauce. I didn't have the heart or the time to tell her that her cachet smelled more like embalming fluid. Jimmy and I talked a bit, when he went to the far end of the bar I was content to listen to Dean-o singing "Cool, Cool, Cool of The Evening."  ...if I aint in the clink, and there's something to drink, you can tell 'em I'll be there...

I kept with the Canada Dry ginger ale, but when there wasn't a song to concentrate on, I was licking my lips at the booze smell. So far, I was handling sobriety better than the bum knee I had, the stiffness always kicked in around October. Jimmy came back, he'd have made a decent double for James Darren if it wasn't for a crooked jaw, a going away present for dear old dad. I pointed at the clock, told him what I needed. He made for the back room. He came back carrying a tub of ice, Chomsky's duplicate records book under one wing.
I thanked him, dropped five over one, and cut over to Dearborn and the subway. The Blue Line went to Jefferson Park, and a ten minute cab ride would get me to O'Hare with time to spare.
I grabbed a Tribune and tucked the record book in the fold. I don't know why, I just did. The subway was a lonely place, filled with people who found no solace in taverns, who saw nothing but torment stitched inside their eyelids. In the winter it smelled like stale cigarette smoke and urine, in the summer the tunnel was filled with the desperate taint of sad people who had already given up hopes of a sweetheart or companion for the hot months ahead. Gray faces all year round. Colored fellow played a bent sax, his face looked like exploding fruit. A small carton from Ma Bishop's Chili at his feet was dejected with dimes and nickels; I tossed him a chin nod and a few loose bills just before I bopped on the train car.

I got a seat along with another dozen guys sporting bald spots, thanks again, Jack Kennedy. Guy next to me had the Sun-Times fanned back. Something about Gus Grissom and the Gemini III. He'd be out, hell, half of them would be snoozing before we left the Loop, others stared at their reflection like they were headed toward Death Row. I settled in with Chomsky's journal, the paper was for the plane. Just in case anybody was watching me when I got back to L.A.

By the time I hit the cab stand, my head was spinning. Chomsky didn't just keep hand-written notes. He had notes written on pink and blue sheets taped on every other page. I never knew he did business so far south, he even did some trades with a pawn shop near the Colony Theater at 59th and Kedzie. Ted's Pawn, next to a bar called Clown's Alley and sold only Old Style in cans, love it or leave it. Cans were easy to get into the movie theater, though.

I saw a familiar logo and stopped blinking. Which was stupid, because the train clanked above ground at Damen and my eyes spotted. The yellow image I saw was a red retinal imprint now, a wine-colored honeybee buzzing around my head just like the real thing. I skimmed the page, looked like a numbers list with names and monies owed. Dated April 12th, right before I left for the coast. One name stood out, halfway down the page. Janus Quillby, in for twelve large. Quillby, and a fancy first name to go with it.

Could mean nothing, could mean everything.

Chapter 8

We hit the tarmac in Long Beach and the tires skidded and locked and we bumped to a rough stop on the grass. It was so hot the blacktop had melted and it was like landing on a hotplate covered in syrup. All us passengers what had to hoof it to the terminal. Meanwhile the pilot and crew got squired all fancy on the back of a baggage handler's truck. I was just about bent out of shape and plenty pissed. Heatwaves made mirages. The mind played tricks. A Pan Am jet poured by us not two hundred feet away. I think they forgot we were out there walking like lost souls. After the bird passed, the low level air was throbbing and pulsing like a hard-on ready to pop. In the smog shimmer and glimmer I saw a busty dame in white high heels and a yellow swimsuit. Vavavoom. I blinked and refocused. She was on a big billboard looming on the side of the terminal building. There was a freeway behind her in the picture and she was gazing at it like it was Tab Hunter. Pure unadulterated lust in her eyes. For a few acres of cement. In the bottom corner there was a swirl of red letters. Jamen Construction. And a slogan dreamed up by some smart guy on Madison Avenue: We build roadways to the future. Whoever this guy Jamen was, he wasn't shy about tooting his own trombone.

I hopped into a cab and hightailed it over to the set and started asking around for Skant. Finally some kid with a clipboard told me old Barko was done for the day. Hey, it was already 10AM and the soft morning light was kaput. Dawn and dusk bathe the stars with spun gold. Midday sun is too damn brutal. Hell, even Jayne Mansfield would be nobody if they shot her in the noontime light. The kid said Barko was gone out to the Riviera Country Club to work out the kinks in his swing. I hopped in a studio car with the keys handy in the ignition and peeled out of there, sweat sticking my back to the seat. Some studio cop jumped out of his chair all agitated and waved at me. I waved back. Christ, it was so hot my hair was plastered to my scalp like I just climbed out of the shower. I stuck my head out the window at a red light to catch a breeze. The girl in the next car thought I was trying to catch a glimpse and turned away in a pretty little huff. Ya don't know what yer missin', sweetheart. Just to throw her, I kept my head out the window while I drove the next block, cooling my noggin. I even let out a lonesome howl like a horny coyote, just for good measure.

Out at the club, I flipped a bill to the old guy parking cars, flashback on Chomsky. I was starting to feel like I didn't know my dear deceased pal as well as I thought I did. I strolled into the pro shop and a guy in lavender pants and a polka dot cotton sweater was holding a putter like a sword and practicing his Errol Flynn moves. I found out later it was Doug Sanders, a tour pro in town getting ready for some big tourney. The guy manning the tee times wouldn't divulge any details about the foursomes on the course. Until I accidentally left a fiver in front of him while he was answering the phone and he spun the schedule book around and let me cast an eye on it. I flipped a couple of pages. No sign of Barko Skant. Hold on. A foursome had gone off the first tee about three and half hours ago, registered under Quillby. No first name. I spun the book back around and nodded at the guy and wandered out to eighteen. They ought to be finishing soon.

There was a patio there and I found a plastic chair and turned it toward the 18th green. I'm no golfer but that last hole looked like a bastard. Uphill all the way, a long green surrounded by hills for the gallery to perch on Sundays when the pros were in town. Two players were rolling up in a golf cart but I didn't see Quillby or Skant. They putted out and disappeared into the clubhouse to shower. I waited another hour and still no sign of my guys. I corralled a waitress.

"S'cuse me miss. Do you know Barko Skant?"

She looked at me with a sneer. "You from Idaho? Everybody knows Mr. Skant."

"Well, have you seen him today?"

"He was in here for a drink a couple of hours ago. He said he only played nine holes because he had some business."

That was interesting. If he played nine holes and quit, then the twosome I saw was his group, finishing their second nine. Makes sense. The starter would never send out a group of only two guys. Management wants to keep the course full of players all playing at the same pace. To max the dollars, it's always foursomes.
"Do you happen to know who he was playing with?"

"He always plays with the same guys."

"Names?" I folded a five and slid it to her. At this rate, with all these tips and handouts, I was going to have to take another job.

"Percy Quillby, the producer. Janus Quillby, the developer. And Jonathan Chomsky. I'm not sure what he does, but I heard some of the girls call him the 'money man'."

"Thanks, hon."

"Anytime, mac." She left me at my table, and not a minute too soon. My head was twisted inside out. Jonathan Chomsky? Who the hell was that? My pal's son? Chomsky had a son? And what was he doing out here mixing with these guys? That meant Barko and Percy had left together halfway through their round. And the two guys I had seen and didn't recognize were Janus Quillby and Jonathan Chomsky. I hustled into the locker room and found four old lizards with freckled skin hanging from their leathery necks. Every one of them wearing a different color of pastel golf shirt and no pants at all as they striped down for their showers. Ya gotta love LA. But no sign of Janus or Jonathan. They were gone like the mirages on the runway. Half a minute later, so was I.

I climbed back into my car and rolled toward nowhere while I thought. Okay, if Janus was a developer and Jonathan was a money man, they both had profile. Maybe the first step was real obvious. I pulled over at a phone booth and thumbed through the book. Janus Quillby wasn't there. Jonathan Chomsky was. I ripped out his page, phone number and address intact. I didn't know LA that well, but this address I recognized. He had a place along the ocean. Money man, so what else, huh? Wait a minute. If Janus was a developer, maybe he was in the Yellow Pages. I tried the other book and there he was, on the page with a bunch of real estate companies. Janus Quillby Projects and Developments. I had his complete business name, address and number. I folded the page and gave it a nice crease like I always do when things are looking up. And whaddya know? When the reverse side of the page came into view as I folded it over, there was the red swirl of type again. Jamen Construction. I looked at the address. It matched the address for Janus Quillby P&D. So Janus was working in the same building as the guy with the billboard. Karma, baby.

I dropped in a dime and dialed. On a hunch, I decided to call Jamen first. The girl who answered was more helpful than she knew.

"I'm sorry, sir. Mr. Jamen isn't here right now. He always spends Tuesdays at the studio."

"Mr. Jamen is in show business, too?" I guess I was the only guy in town who would need to ask something like that.

"Oh, yes. He owns a studio. They're shooting episodes of Hollowpoint right now. It's a TV show. Maybe you've heard of it?"

Oh, yeah, sister. I've heard of it. I thanked her and hung up. Sounded like Jamen was a guy I needed to meet. I added him to my mental list, on a dotted line right below tracking down Rizzi's code book from Barko. Somehow, though, the thing I wanted to do first was find Jonathan Chomsky. I had the crazy idea he might be at the center of the ever-spinning web.

Jonathan Chomsky and his personal assistant, Jeanni Kincaid

Chapter 9

As I stood there in the phone booth, and drummed a jungle beat on the formica shelf. I could have walked around in circles holding the phone book open like I was Gregory Peck as that lawyer in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. See, the directory wasn't handcuffed to the phone with a steel coil like back home. In Chicago, it was like they didn't want to give away anything for free. I figured how if I lived long enough, one day I'd see people getting an electric shock if they tried to tear a page out of the book. Or everything would be on a tiny TV screen or something. Great. Now I was thinking like those guys who smoked weed and wrote crazy stories about the future.