Sunday, April 15, 2012
Here's a reminder for myself, from the truly inimitable Ed Kilgore:
But let’s be honest about what New York’s “gifted” system really is: It’s much less about meeting kids’ needs (very, very few 5-year-old children are so advanced that they can’t or shouldn’t be educated with their average peers) than it is about rationing access to a limited number of high-quality school slots in New York City. And in doing so, the gifted distinction often becomes a mechanism for reinforcing economic disparities:
On their face, the results, released on Friday by the Education Department, paint a portrait of a city in which some neighborhoods appear to be entirely above average. In Districts 2 and 3, which encompass most of Manhattan below 110th Street, more students scored at or above the 90th percentile on the entrance exam, the cutoff point, than scored below it……By contrast, in District 7, in the South Bronx, only six children qualified for gifted placements and none for the five most exclusive schools.My brother and I, happy and proud and, chiefly, innocent white boys from kindergarten through third grade at Miami's Norland Elementary, were chosen to be 'gifted' when we were eight years old. Alone of our universally black classmates. One can be sure the lovely bourgeois white lady who chose us was rigorously objective in her choosing.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Here's another. The first few minutes might put you off, but you don't need to adore Jennifer Jason Leigh to venerate Dorothy Parker. I fell in love with the character when I was sixteen years old, and have unfortunately never fallen out. I was about to post the whole movie here, when to my consternation a simple youtube search revealed this.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The hall window scraping, three soft footsteps on the bedroom floor. Buzz stirred, rolled away from Audrey, reached under the pillow and palmed his.38, camouflaging the movement with a sleep sigh. Two more footsteps, Audrey snoring, light through a crack in the curtains eclipsed. A shape coming around his side of the bed; the sound of a hammer being cocked; "Mickey, you're dead." Buzz stiff-armed Audrey to the floor, away from the voice; a silencer snicked and muzzle flash lit up a big man in a dark overcoat. Audrey screamed; Buzz felt the mattress rip an inch from his legs. In one swipe, he grabbed his billy club off the nightstand and swung it at the man's knees; wood-encased steel cracked bone; the man stumbled toward the bed. Audrey shrieked, "Meeks!"; a shot ripped the far wall; another half second of muzzle light gave Buzz a sighting. He grabbed the man's coat and pulled him to the bed, smothered his head with a pillow and shot him twice in the face point-blank. The explosions were muffled; Audrey screeching was siren loud. Buzz moved around the bed and bear-hugged her, killing her tremors with his own shakes. He whispered, "Go into the bathroom, keep the light off and your head down. This was for Mickey, and if there's a back-up man outside, he's comin'. Stay fuckin' down and stay fuckin' calm." Audrey retreated on her knees; Buzz went into the living room, parted the front curtains and looked out. There was a sedan parked directly across the street that wasn't there when he walked in; no other cars were stationed curbside. He did a runthrough on what probably happened: _He__ looked like Mickey from a distance; _he__ drove a green '48 Eldo. Mickey's house was bombed yesterday; Mickey, wife and pet bulldog survived. _He__ parked his car the standard three blocks away; half-assed surveillance convinced the gunman _he__ was Mickey, a short fat okie subbing for a short fat Jew. Buzz kept eyeballing the sedan; it stayed still, no tell-tale cigarette glow. Five minutes went by; no cops or backup men appeared. Buzz took it as a single-o play, walked back to the bedroom and flicked on the overhead light. The room reeked of cordite; the bed was soaked in blood; the pillow was solid saturated crimson. Buzz lifted it off and propped up the dead man's head. It had no face, there were no exit wounds, all the red was leaking out his ears. He rifled his pockets--and the wicked bad willies came on. An LAPD badge and ID buzzer: Detective Sergeant Eugene J. Niles, Hollywood Squad. An Automobile Club card, vehicle dope in the lower left corner--maroon '46 Ford Crown Victoria Sedan, Cal '49 JS 1497. A California driver's license made out to Eugene Niles, residence 3987 Melbourne Avenue, Hollywood. Car keys and other keys and pieces of paper with Audrey's address and an architectural floor plan for a house that looked like Mickey's pad in Brentwood. Old rumors, new facts, killer shakes. The LAPD was behind the shootout at Sherry's; Jack D. and Mickey had buried the hatchet; Niles worked Hollywood Division, the eye of the Brenda Allen storm. Buzz ran across the street on fear overdrive, saw that the sedan was '46 Vicky JS 1497, unlocked the trunk and ran back. He hauled out a big bed quilt, wrapped Niles and his gun up in it, shoulder-slung him up and over to the Vicky and locked him in the trunk, folding him double next to the spare tire. Panting, sweat-soaked and shaky, he walked back and braced Audrey. She was sitting on the toilet, naked, smoking. A half dozen butts littered the floor; the bathroom was a tobacco cloud. She looked like the woman from Mars: tears had melted her makeup and her lipstick was still smudged from their lovemaking. Buzz knelt in front of her. "Honey, I'll take care of it. This was for Mickey, so I think we're okay. But I should stay away from you for a while, just in case this guy had partners--we don't want them figurin' out it was you and me instead of you and Mickey." Audrey dropped her cigarette on the floor and snuffed it with her bare feet, no pain registering. She said, "All right," a hoarse smoker's croak. Buzz said, "You strip the bed and burn it in the incinerator. There's bullets in the mattress and the wall, you dig 'em out and toss 'em. And you don't tell _nobody__." Audrey said, "Tell me it'll be all right." Buzz kissed the part in her hair, seeing the two of them strapped down in the gas chamber. "Honey, this will surely be all right."
Buzz drove Niles' car to the Hollywood Hills. He found gardening tools in the back seat, a level patch of hardscrabble off the access road to the Hollywood Sign and buried Mickey Cohen's would-be assassin in a plot about 4 by 4 by 4, working with an earth spade and grub hoe. He packed the dirt hard and tight so coyotes wouldn't smell flesh rot and get hungry; he put branches atop the spot and pissed on it: an epitaph for a fellow bad cop who'd put him in the biggest trouble of his trouble-prone life. He buried Niles' gun under a thornbush, drove the car out to the Valley, wiped it down, yanked the distributor and left it in an abandoned garage atop Suicide Hill--a youth gang fuck turf near the Sepulveda VA Hospital. Undrivable, the Vicky would be spare parts inside twenty-four hours. It was 4:30 A.M. Buzz walked down to Victory Boulevard, caught a cab to Hollywood and Vermont, walked the remaining half mile to Melbourne Avenue. He found a pay phone, glommed "Eugene Niles" from the White Pages, dialed the number and let it ring twenty times--no answer. He located 3987--the bottom left apartment of a pink stucco four-flat--and let himeif in with Niles' keys, set to prowl for one thing: evidence that other men were in on the Mickey hit. It was a typical bachelor flop: sitting/sleeping room with Murphy bed, bathroom, kitchenette. There was a desk facing a boarded-up window; Buzz went straight for it, handling everything he touched with his shirttails. Ten minutes in, he had solid circumstantial evidence: A certificate from the U.S. Army Demolition School, Camp Polk, Louisiana, stating that Corporal Eugene Niles successfully completed explosives training in December 1931--make the fucker for the bomb under Mickey's house. Letters from Niles' ex-wife, condemning him for trucking with Brenda Allen's hookers. She'd read the grand jury transcript and knew her husband did his share of porking in the Hollywood Station felony tank--Niles' motive to want Mickey dead. An address book that included the names and phone numbers of four ranking Jack Dragna strongarms, listings for three other Dragna bagmen--cops he knew when he was LAPD--and a weird listing: "Karen Hiltscher, W. Hollywood Sheriff's," with "!!!!" in bright red doodles. That aside, more verification of Niles hating Mickey before the truce with Jack D. All told, it looked like a poorly planned single-o play, Niles desperate when his bomb didn't blow the Mick to shit. Buzz killed the lights and wiped both sides of the doorknob on his way out. He walked to Sunset and Vermont, dropped Niles' house and car keys down a sewer grate and started laughing, wildly, stitches in his side. He'd just saved the life of the most dangerous, most generous man he'd ever met, and there was no way in the world he could tell him. The laughter got worse, until he doubled over and had to sit down on a bus bench. He laughed until the punch line sucker-punched him--then he froze. Danny Upshaw beat up Gene Niles. The City cops hated the County cops. When Niles was tagged as missing, LAPD would be like flies over shit on a green kid already in shit up to his knees.
Danny was trying to get Felix Gordean alone. He'd begun his stakeout in the Chateau Marmont parking lot; Gordean foiled him by driving to his office with Pretty Boy Christopher in tow. Rain had been pouring down the whole three hours he'd been eyeing the agency's front door; no cars had hit the carport, the street was flooded and he was parked in a towaway zone with his ID, badge and.45 at home because he was really Red Ted Krugman. Ted's leather jacket and Considine's sanction kept him warm and dry with the window cracked; Danny decided that if Gordean didn't leave the office by 1:00, he'd lean on him then and there. At 12:35, the door opened. Gordean walked out, popped an umbrella and skipped across Sunset. Danny turned on his wiper blades and watched him duck into Cyrano's, the doorman fussing over him like he was the joint's most popular customer. He gave Gordean thirty seconds to get seated, turned up his collar and ran over, ducking rain. The doorman looked at him funny, but let him in; Danny blinked water, saw gilt and red velvet walls, a long oak bar and Felix Gordean sipping a martini at a side table. He threaded his way past a clutch of businessman types and sat down across from him; Gordean almost swallowed the toothpick he was nibbling. Danny said, "I want to know what you know. I want you to tell me everything about the men you've brought out, and I want a report on all your customers and clients. I want it now." Gordean toyed with the toothpick. "Have Lieutenant Matthews call me. Perhaps he and I can effect a compromise." "Fuck Lieutenant Matthews. Are you going to tell me what I want to know? _Now__?" "No, I am not." Danny smiled. "You've got forty-eight hours to change your mind." "Or?" "Or I'm taking everything I know about you to the papers." Gordean snapped his fingers; a waiter came over; Danny walked out of the restaurant and into the rain. He remembered his promise to call Jack Shortell, hit the phone booth across from the agency, dialed the Hollywood Station squadroom and heard, "Yes?," Shortell himself speaking, his voice strained. "It's Upshaw, Jack. What have you got on--" "What we've got is another one. LAPD found him last night, on an embankment up from the LA River. Doc Layman's doing him now, so--" Danny left the receiver dangling and Shortell shouting, "Upshaw!"; he highballed it downtown, parked in front of the City Morgue loading dock and almost tripped over a stiff on a gurney running in. Jack Shortell was already there, sweating, his badge pinned to his coat front; he saw Danny, blocked the path to Layman's examination room and said, "Brace yourself." Danny got his breath. "For what?" Shortell said, "It's Augie Luis Duarte, one of the guys on your tailing list. The bluesuits who found him ID'd him from his driver's license. LAPD's had the stiff since 12:30 last night--the squad guy who caught didn't know about our team. Breuning was here and just left, and he was making noises that Duarte blew _his__ tail last night. Danny, I know that's horseshit. I was calling around last night looking for you, to tell you our car thief and zoot stick queries were bust. I talked to a clerk at Wilshire Station, and she told me Breuning was there all evening with Dudley Smith. I called back later, and the clerk said they were still there. Breuning said the other three men are still under surveillance, but I don't believe him." Danny's head boomed; morgue effluvia turned his stomach and stung his razor burns. He beelined for a door marked "Norton Layman MD," pushed it open and saw the country's premier forensic pathologist writing on a clipboard. A nude shape was slab-prone behind him; Layman stepped aside as if to say, "Feast your eyes.' Augie Duarte, the handsome Mex who'd walked out the Gordean Agency door two nights ago, was supine on a stainless steel tray. He was blood-free; bite wounds extruding intestinal tubes covered his stomach; bite marks ran up his torso in a pattern free of overlaps. His cheeks were slashed down to the gums and jawbone and his penis had been cut off, inserted into the deepest of the cuts and hooked around so that the head extended out his mouth, teeth clamped on the foreskin, rigor mortis holding the obscenity intact. Danny blurted, "Oh God fuck no"; Layman said, "The rain drained the body and kept the cuts fresh. I found a tooth chip in one of them and made a wet cast of it. It's unmistakably animal, and I had an attendant run it down to a forensic orthodontist at the Natural History Museum. It's being examined now." Danny tore his eyes off the corpse; he walked out to the dock looking for Jack Shortell, gagging on the stench of formaldehyde, his lungs heaving for fresh air. A group of Mexicans with a bereaved-family look was standing by the loading ramp staring in; a pachuco type stared at him extra hard. Danny strained to see Shortell, then felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Norton Layman. He said, "I just talked to the man at the Museum, and he identified my specimen. The killer wears wolverine teeth." Danny saw a blood W on cheap wallpaper. He saw W's in black and white, W's burned into Felix Gordean's face, W's all over the rosary-clutching wetbacks huddled together grieving. He saw W's until Jack Shortell walked up the dock and grabbed his arm and he heard himself say, "Get Breuning. I don't trust myself on it." Then he saw plain blood.
A stakeout for his own son. Mal sat on the steps outside Division 32, Los Angeles Civil Court. He was flanked by lawyers smoking; keeping his back to them kept light conversation away while he scanned for Stefan, Celeste and her shyster. When he saw them, it would be a quick men's room confab: don't believe the bad things you hear about me; when my man gets ugly about your mother, try not to listen. Ten of the hour; no Stefan, Celeste and lawyer. Mal heard an animated burst of talk behind him. "You know Charlie Hartshorn?" "Sure. A nice guy, if a bit of a bleeding heart. He worked the Sleepy Lagoon defense for free." "Well, he's dead. Suicide. Hung himself at his house last night. Beautiful house, right off Wilshire and Rimpau. It was on the radio. I went to a party at that house once." "Poor Charlie. What a goddamn shame." Mal turned around; the two men were gone. He remembered Meeks telling him Reynolds Loftis was connected to Hartshorn via a queer-bar roust, but he didn't mention the man being associated with the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee at all. There was no mention of Hartshorn in any of the psychiatric or other grand jury files, and Meeks had also said that the lawyer had turned up--as a non-suspect--in Danny Upshaw's homicide investigation. The Hartshorn coincidence simmered; Mal wondered how Meeks would take his suicide--he said he'd gut-shot the man with his queerness. Looking streetside, he saw Celeste, Stefan and a young guy with a briefcase get out of a cab; his boy glanced up, lit up and took off running. Mal met him halfway down the steps, scooped him up laughing and pinwheeled him upside down and over. Stefan squealed; Celeste and briefcase double-timed; Mal whipped his son over his shoulder, quick-marched inside and turned hard into the men's room. Out of breath, he put Stefan down and said, "Your dad's a captain," dug in his pockets and pulled out one of the insignia Buzz gave him. "You're a captain, too. Remember that. Remember that if your mother's lawyer starts talking me down." Stefan squeezed the silver bars; Mal saw that he had that bewildered fat-kid look he got when Celeste stuffed him with starchy Czech food. "How have you been? How's your mother been treating you?" Stefan spoke hesitantly, like he'd been force-fed old country talk since the breakup. "Mutti... wants that we should move out. She said we... we must move away before she decides to marry Rich-Richard." Richard. "I--I don't like Richard. He's nice to Mutti, but he's n-nasty to his d-d-dog." Mal put his arms around the boy. "I won't let it happen. She's a crazy woman, and I won't let her take you away." "Malcolm--" "_Dad__, Stefan." "Dad, please not to don't hit Mutti again. _Please__." Mal held Stefan tighter, trying to squeeze the bad words out and make him say, "I love you." The boy felt wrong, flabby, like he was too skinny wrong as a kid. "Sssh. I'll never hit her again and I'll never let her take you away from me. Sssh." The door opened behind them; Mal heard the voice of an old City bailiff who'd been working Division 32 forever. "Lieutenant Considine, court's convening and I'm supposed to bring the boy into chambers." Mal gave Stefan a last hug. "I'm a captain now. Stefan, you go with this man and I'll see you inside." Stefan hugged back--hard.
Court convened ten minutes later. Mal sat with Jake Kellerman at a table facing the judge's bench; Celeste, her attorney and Stefan were seated in chairs stationed diagonally across from the witness stand. The old bailiff intoned, "Hear ye, hear ye, court is now in session, the Honorable Arthur F. Hardesty presiding." Mal stood up. Jake Kellerman whispered, "In a second the old fart'll say, 'Counsel will approach the bench.' I'll hit him for a first continuance for a month from now, citing your grand jury duties. Then, we'll get another stay until the jury convenes and you're gold. _Then__ we'll get you Greenberg." Mal gripped Kellerman's arm. "Jake, make this happen." Kellerman whispered extra low, "It will. Just pray a rumor I heard isn't true." Judge Arthur F. Hardesty banged his gavel. "Counsel will approach the bench." Jake Kellerman and Celeste's lawyer approached, huddling around Hardesty; Mal strained to hear and picked up nothing but garbles--Jake sounding agitated. The huddle ended with a gavel slam; Kellerman walked back, fuming. Hardesty said, "Mr. Considine, your counsel's request for a one-month continuance has been denied. Despite your police duties, I'm sure you can find enough time to consult with Mr. Kellerman. All parties will meet here in my chambers ten days hence, Monday, January 22. Both contestants should be ready to testify. Mr. Kellerman, Mr. Castleberry, make sure your witnesses are informed of the date and bring whatever documents you wish to be considered as evidence. This preliminary is dismissed." The judge banged his gavel; Castleberry led Celeste and Stefan outside. The boy turned around and waved; Mal flashed him the V for victory sign, tried to smile and couldn't. His son was gone in a breath; Kellerman said, "I heard Castleberry heard about your promotion and went batshit. I heard he leaked the hospital pictures to one of Hardesty's clerks, who told the judge. Mal, I'm sorry and I'm angry. I'm going to tell Ellis what Castleberry did and make sure that punk gets reamed for it." Mal stared at the spot where his son waved goodbye. "Ream her. Pull out all the stops. If Stefan has to hear, he has to hear. Just fucking take her down."
Looking around Ellis Loew's living room, Buzz set odds: Twenty to one the grand jury handed down beaucoup UAES indictments; twenty to one the studios booted them on the treason clause prior to the official word, with the Teamsters signing to take their place inside twenty-four hours. If he convinced Mickey to make book on the proceedings, he could lay a bundle down and get well on top of Howard's bonus. Because the action in Loew's little command post said the Pinkos were buying one-way tickets for the Big Fungoo. Except for tables and chairs set aside for clerks, all the furniture had been removed and dumped in the back yard. Filing cabinets filled with friendly witness depositions covered the fireplace; a corkboard was nailed to the front window, space for reports from the team's four investigators: M. Considine, D. Smith, T. Meeks and D. Upshaw. Captain Mal's stack of interrogation forms--questions tailored to individual lefties, delivered and notarized by City Marshals--was thick; Dudley's field summaries stacked out at five times their width--he had now turned fourteen hostiles into groveling snitch friendlies, picking up dirt on over a hundred snitchees in the process. His own reports comprised six pages: Sammy Benavides porking his sister, Claire De Haven skin-popping H and Reynolds Loftis as a homo bar hopper, the rest padding, all of it snoozeville compared to Mal's and Dudley's contributions. Danny Upshaw's stuff ran two pages--eavesdrop speculation and necking with Pinko Claire--him and the kid were not exactly burning down barns in their effort to destroy the Communist Conspiracy. There were tables with "In" and "Out" baskets for the exchange of information, tables for the photographic evidence Crazy Ed Satterlee was accumulating, a huge cardboard box filled with cross-referenced names, dates, political organizations and documented admissions: Commies, pinkers and fellow travelers embracing Mother Russia and calling for the end of the U. S. A. by means fair and foul. And--across the broadest stretch of bare wall--Ed Satterlee's conspiracy graph, his grand jury thumbscrew. In one horizontal column, the UAES brain trust; in another, the names of the Communist front organizations they belonged to; in a vertical column atop the graph the names of friendly witnesses and their "accusation power" rated by stars, with lines running down to intersect with the brainers and the fronts. Each star was Satterlee's assessment of the number of days' testimony a friendly was worth, based on the sheer power of time, place and. hearsay: which Pinko attended where, said what, and which recanted Red was there to listen--a brain-frying, mind-boggling, super-stupendous and absolutely amazing glut of information impossible to disprove. And he kept seeing Danny Upshaw smack in the middle of it, treading shit, even though the kid was on the side of the angels. Buzz walked out to the back porch. He'd been brainstorming escape routes under the guise of writing reports for hours; three phone calls had fixed Audrey's skimming spree. One was to Mickey, handing him a convoluted epic on how a bettor skimmed an unnamed runner who was screwing the bettor's sister and couldn't turn him in, but finally made him cough up the six grand he'd welched--the exact amount Audrey had grifted off the Mick. The second was to Petey Skouras, a tight-lipped runner who agreed to play the lovesick fool who finally made good to his boss for a cool grand--knowing Johnny Stompanato would come snouting around for the name Buzz wouldn't give on, find him acting hinky and pound a confession out of him--the returned cash his assurance that that was his only punishment. The third was to an indy shylock: seven thousand dollars at 20 percent, $8,400 due April 10--his woman out of trouble, his gift for her grief: Gene Niles with his face blown off on her bed. Seven come eleven, thank God for the Commie gravy train. If they didn't succumb to the hots for each other, he and his lioness would probably survive. The kid was still the wild card he didn't know how to play. It was twelve hours since he'd prowled Niles' pad. Should he go back and make it look like Niles hightailed it? Should he have planted some incriminating shit? When the fucker was missed, would LAPD fix on him as a Dragna bad apple and let it lie? Would they make him for the bomb job and press Mickey? Would they assume a snuff and go hog-wild to find the killer? Buzz saw Dudley Smith and Mike Breuning at the back edge of the yard, standing by Ellis Loew's couch, left out in the rain because the DA put business before comfort. A late sun was up; Dudley was laughing and pointing at it. Buzz watched dark clouds barrelling in from the ocean. He thought: fix it, fix it, fix it, be a fixer. Be what Captain Mal told the kid to be. Be a policeman.
Danny unlocked his door and tapped the wall light. The blood W's he'd been seeing since the morgue became his front room, spare and tidy, but with something skewed. He eyed the room in grids until he got it: the rug was puckered near the coffee table--he always toed it smooth on his way out. He tried to remember if he did it _this__ morning. He recalled dressing as Ted Krugman, nude to leather jacket in front of the bathroom mirror; he remembered walking outside thinking of Felix Gordean, Mal Considine's "Lean on him, Danny" ringing in his ears. He did not remember his methodical rug number, probably because Teddy K. wasn't the meticulous type. Nothing else in the room looked askew; there was no way in the world HE would break into a policeman's apartment. Danny thought of his file, ran for the hall closet and opened the door. It was there, pictures and paperwork intact, covered by wadded-up carpeting puckered just the right way. He checked the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom, saw the same old same old, sat down in a chair by the phone and skimmed the book he'd just bought. _The Weasel Family--Physiology and Habits__, hot off a back shelf at Stanley Rose's Bookshop. Chapter 6, page 59: The Wolverine. A 40- to 50-pound member of the weasel family indigenous to Canada, the Pacific Northwest and the upper Midwest; pound for pound, the most vicious animal on earth. Utterly fearless and known for attacking animals many times its size; known to drive bears and cougars from their kills. A beast that cannot stand to watch other creatures enjoying a good feed--often blitzing them just to get at what remained of their food. Equipped with a highly efficient digestive system: wolverines ate fast, digested fast, shit fast and were always hungry; they possessed a huge appetite to match their general nastiness. All the vicious little bastards wanted to do was kill, eat and occasionally fuck other members of their misanthropic breed. The Wolverine. Alter ego of a biting, gouging, raping, flesh-eating killer of immense hunger: sexual and emotional. A man who possessed total identification with an obscenely rapacious animal, an identity he has assumed to right old wrongs, animal mutilations the specific means, _his specific inner reconstruction of what was done to him__. Danny turned to the pictures at the back of the book, ripped three wolverine shots out, dug through his file for the 2307 blood pics and made a collage above the bed. He tacked the awful weasel thing in the middle; he shone his floor lamp on the collection of images, stood back, looked and thought. A fat, shuffle-footed creature with beady eyes and a thick brown coat to ward off the cold. A slinky tail, a short, pointed snout, sharp nails and long, sharp teeth bared at the camera. An ugly child who knew he was ugly and made up for it by hurting the people he blamed for making him that way. Snap flashes as the animal and 2307 merged: the killer was somehow disfigured or thought he was; since eyewitnesses tagged him as not facially marred, the disfigurement might be somewhere on his body. The killer thought he was ugly and tied it to sex, hence Augie Duarte slashed cheek to bone with his thing sticking out his mouth. A big snap, all instinct, but feeling gut solid: HE knew the burned-face burglar boy, who was too young to be the killer himself; HE drew inspiration or sex from his disfigurement--hence the facial slashing. Zoot stick assaults were being tapped at station houses citywide; car thief MO's were being collated; he told Jack Shortell to start calling wild-animal breeders, zoo suppliers, animal trappers and fur wholesalers, cross-reference them with dental tech and _go__. Burglar, jazz fiend, H copper, teeth maker, car thief, animal worshiper, queer, homo, pederast, brunser and devotee of male whores. It was there waiting for them, some fact in a police file, some nonplussed dental worker saying, "Yeah, I remember that guy." Danny wrote down his new impressions, thinking of Mike Breuning bullshitting him on the Augie Duarte tail, the other tails probably horseshit. Breuning's only possible motive was humoring him--keeping him happy on the homicide case so he'd be a good Commie operative and keep Dudley Smith happy on his anti-Red crusade. Shortell had called the other three men, warned them of possible danger and was trying to set up interviews: the only cop he could trust now, Jack would be tapping into Dudley's "boys" to see if the three Gordean "friends" had ever been under surveillance at all. He himself had stuck outside Gordean's agency trawling for more license plates, more potential victims, more information and maybe Gordean alone for a little strongarm--but the carport had stayed empty, the pimp hadn't showed and there was no traffic at his front door--rain had probably kept the "clients" and "friends" away. And he'd had to break the stakeout for his date with Claire De Haven. A thud echoed outside the door--the sound of the paperboy chucking the _Evening Herald__. Danny walked out and picked it up, scanning a headline on Truman and trade embargoes, opening to the second page on the off-chance there was an item on his case. Another scan told him the answer was no; a short column in the bottom right corner caught his attention. Attorney Charles Hartshorn a Suicide--Served Both the Society Elite and Society's Unfortunate This morning Charles E. (Eddington) Hartshorn, 52, a prominent society lawyer who dabbled in social causes, was found dead in the living room of his Hancock Park home, an apparent self-asphyxiation suicide. Hartshorn's body was discovered by his daughter Betsy, 24, who had just arrived home from a trip and told Metro reporter Bevo Means: "Daddy was despondent. A man had been around talking to him--Daddy was certain it had to do with a grand jury investigation he'd heard about. People always bothered him because he did volunteer work for the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, and they found it strange that a rich man wanted to help poor Mexicans." Lieutenant Walter Reddin of the LAPD's Wilshire Station said, "It was suicide by hanging, pure and simple. There was no note, but no signs of a struggle. Hartshorn simply found a rope and a ceiling beam and did it, and it's a darn shame his daughter had to find him." Hartshorn, a senior partner of Hartshorn, Welborn and Hayes, is survived by daughter Betsy and wife Margaret, 49. Funeral service notices are pending. Danny put the paper down, stunned. Hartshorn was Duane Lindenaur's extortionee in 1941; Felix Gordean said that he attended his parties and was "unlucky in love and politics." He never questioned the man for three reasons: he did not fit the killer's description; the extortion was nearly nine years prior; Sergeant Frank Skakel, the investigating officer on the beef, had said that Hartshorn would refuse to talk to the police regarding the incident--and he stressed old precedents. Hartshorn was just another name in the file, a tangent name that led to Gordean. Nothing about the lawyer had seemed wrong; aside from Gordean's offhand "politics" remark, there was nothing that tagged him as having a yen for causes, and there were no notations in the grand jury file on him--despite the preponderance of Sleepy Lagoon information. _But he was questioned by a member of the grand jury team__. Danny called Mal Considine's number at the DA's Bureau, got no answer and dialed Ellis Loew's house. Three rings, then, "Yeah? Who's this?", Buzz Meeks' okie twang. "It's Deputy Upshaw. Is Mal around?" "He's not here, Deputy. This is Meeks. You need somethin'?" The man sounded subdued. Danny said, "Do you know if anybody questioned a lawyer named Charles Hartshorn?" "Yeah, I did. Last week. Why?" "I just read in the paper that he killed himself." A long silence, a long breath. Meeks said, "Oh shit." Danny said, "What do you mean?" "Nothin', kid. This on your homicide case?" "Yes. How did you know that?" "Well, I braced Hartshorn, and he thought I had to be a Homicide cop, 'cause a guy who tried to shake him down on his queerness years ago just got bumped off. This was right around when you joined up with us, and I remembered somethin' about this dink Lindenaur from the papers. Kid, I was a cop for years, and this guy Hartshorn wasn't holdin' nothin' back 'cept the fact he likes boys, so I didn't tell you about him--I just figured he was no kind of suspect." "Meeks, you should have told me anyway." "Upshaw, you gave me some barter on the old queen. I owe you on that, 'cause I had to rough him up, and I bought out by tellin' him I'd keep the Homicide dicks away. And kid, that poor sucker couldn't of killed a fly." "Shit! Why did you go talk to him in the first place? Because he was connected to the Sleepy Lagoon Committee?" "No. I was trackin' corroboration dirt on the Commies and I got a note said Hartshorn was rousted with Reynolds Loftis at a fruit bar in Santa Monica in '44. I wanted to see if I could squeeze some more dirt on Loftis out of him." Danny put the phone to his chest so Meeks wouldn't hear him hyperventilating, wouldn't hear his brain banging around the facts he'd just been handed and the way they _might just really play__: Reynolds Loftis was tall, gray-haired, middle-aged. He was connected to Charles Hartshorn, a suicide, the blackmail victim of Duane Lindenaur, homicide victim number three. He was the homosexual lover of Chaz Minear circa early '40s; in the grand jury psychiatric files, Sammy Benavides had mentioned "puto" Chaz buying sex via a "queer date-a-boy gig"--a possible reference to Felix Gordean's introduction service, which employed snuff victims George Wiltsie and Augie Duarte. Last night in darktown, Claire De Haven had been all nerves; the killer had picked up Goines on that block and a hop pusher at the Zombie had addressed her. She sloughed it off, but was known to the grand jury team as a longtime hophead. Did she procure the junk load that killed Marty Goines? Danny's hands twitched the receiver off his chest; he heard Meeks on the other end of the line--"Kid, you there? You there, kid?"--and managed to hook the mouthpiece into his chin. "Yeah, I'm here." "There something you ain't tellin' me?" "Yes--no--fuck, I don't know." The line hung silent for good long seconds; Danny stared at his wolverine pinups; Meeks said, "Deputy, are you tellin' me Loftis is a suspect for your killin's?" Danny said, "I'm telling you _maybe__. Maybe real strong. He fits the killer's description, and he... fits." Buzz Meeks said, "Holy fuckin' dog." Danny hung up, thinking he'd kissed Reynolds Loftis in his mind--and he liked it.
Krugman into Upshaw into Krugman, pure Homicide cop. Danny drove to Beverly Hills, no rear-view trawling. He Man Camera'd Reynolds Loftis wolverine slashing; the combination of 2307 pictures, Augie Duarte's body and Loftis' handsome face rooting in gore had him riding the clutch, shifting when he didn't need to just to keep the images a little bit at bay. Pulling up, he saw the house lights on bright--cheery, like the people inside had nothing to hide; he walked up to the door and found a note under the knocker: "Ted. Back in a few minutes. Make yourself at home--C." More nothing to hide. Danny opened the door, moved inside and saw a writing table wedged against a wall by the stairwell. A floor lamp was casting light on it; papers were strewn across the blotter, a leather-bound portfolio weighing them down, nothing to hide blinking neon. He walked over, picked it up and opened it; the top page bore clean typescript: "MINUTES AND ATTENDANCE, UAES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, 1950 MEETINGS." Danny opened to the first page. More perfect typescript: the meeting/New Year's party on 12/31/49. Present--scrawled signatures--were C. De Haven, M. Ziffkin, R. Loftis, S. Benavides, M. Lopez, and one name crossed out, illegible. Topics of discussion were "Picket Assignments," "Secretary's Report," "Treasurer's Report" and whether or not to hire private detectives to look into the criminal records of Teamster picketers. The soiree commenced at 11:00 P.M. and ended at 6:00 A.M.; Danny winced at the gist: the ledger could be construed as an alibi for Reynolds Loftis--he was here during the time Marty Goines was snatched and killed--and the minutes contained nothing at all subversive. Too much nothing to hide. Danny flipped forward, finding a meeting on 1/4/50, the same people in attendance during the time frame of the Wiltsie/Lindenaur killings, the same strange crossout, the same boring topics discussed. And Loftis was with Claire last night when Augie Duarte probably got it--he'd have to check with Doc Layman on the estimated time of death. Perfect group alibis, no treason on the side, Loftis not HIM, unless the whole brain trust was behind the killings--which was ridiculous. Danny stopped thinking, replaced the ledger, jammed his jumpy hands into his warm leather pockets. It was too much nothing to hide, because there was nothing to hide, because none of the brain trusters knew he was a Homicide cop, Loftis could have forged his name, a five-time corroborated alibi would stand up in court ironclad, even if the alibiers were Commie traitors, none of it meant anything, get your cases straight and identities straight and be a policeman. The house was getting hot. Danny shucked his jacket, hung it on a coatrack, went into the living room and pretended to admire the poster for _Storm Over Leningrad__. It reminded him of the stupid turkeys Karen Hiltscher coerced him to; he was making a note to lube her on 2307 when he heard, "Ted, how the hell are you?" HIM. Danny turned around. Reynolds Loftis and Claire were doffing their coats in the foyer. She looked coiled; he looked handsome, like a cultured blood sport connoisseur. Danny said, "Hi. Good to see you, but I've got some bad news." Claire said, "Oh"; Loftis rubbed his hands together and blew on them, "Hark, what bad news?" Danny walked up to frame their reactions. "It was in the papers. A lawyer named Charles Hartshorn killed himself. It said he worked with the SLDC, and it implied he was being hounded by some fascist DA's cops." Clean reactions: Claire giving her coat a brush, saying, "We'd heard. Charlie was a good friend to our cause"; Loftis tensing up just a tad--maybe because he and the lawyer had sex going. "That grand jury went down, but it took Charlie with them. He was a frail man and a kind one, and men like that are easy pickings for the fascists." Danny flashed: he's talking about himself, he's weak, Claire's his strength. He moved into close-up range and hit bold. "I read a tabloid sheet that said Hartshorn was questioned about a string of killings. Some crazy queer killing people he knew." Loftis turned his back, moving into a shamefully fake coughing attack; Claire played supporting actress, bending to him with her face averted, mumbling, "Bad for your bronchitis." Danny held his close-up and brain-screened what his eyes couldn't see: Claire giving her fiancé guts; Loftis the actor, knowing faces don't lie, keeping his hidden. Danny walked into the kitchen and filled a glass with sink water, a break to give the players time to recover. He walked back slowly and found them acting nonchalant, Claire smoking, Loftis leaning against the staircase, sheepish, a Southern gentleman who thought coughing déclassé. "Poor Charlie. He liked Greek revelry once in a while, and I'm sure the powers that be would have loved to crucify him for that, too." Danny handed him the water. "They'll crucify you for anything they can. It's a shame about Hartshorn, but personally, I like women. Loftis drank, grabbed his coat and winked. He said, "So do I," kissed Claire on the cheek and went out the door. Danny said, "We've got bad luck so far. Last night, your friend Charlie." Claire tossed her purse on the table holding the meeting ledger--too casual. Her tad too-studied glance said she'd arranged the still life for him--Loftis' alibi--_even though they couldn't know who he was__. The threads of who was who, knew who, knew what got tangled again; Danny quashed them with a lewd wink. "Let's stay in, huh?" Claire said, "My idea, too. Care to see a movie?" "You've got a television set?" "No, silly. I've got a screening room." Danny smiled shyly, proletarian Ted wowed by Hollywood customs. Claire took his hand and led him through the kitchen to a room lined with bookcases, the front wall covered by a projection screen. A long leather couch faced the screen; a projector was mounted on a tripod a few feet behind it, a reel of film already fed in. Danny sat down; Claire hit switches, doused the lights and snuggled into him, legs curled under a swell of skirt. Light took over the screen, the movie started. A test pattern; a black-and-white fade-in; a zoftig blonde and a Mexican with a duck's ass haircut stripping. A motel room backdrop: bed, chipped stucco walls, sombrero lamps and a bullfight poster on the closet door. Tijuana, pure and simple. Danny felt Claire's hand hovering. The blonde rolled her eyes to heaven; she'd just seen her co-star's cock--huge, veiny, hooked at the middle like a dowsing rod. She salaamed before him, hit her knees and started sucking. The camera caught her acne scars and his needle tracks. She sucked while the hophead gyrated his hips; he pulled out of her mouth and sprayed. Danny looked away; Claire touched his thigh. Danny flinched, tried to relax but kept flinching; Claire fingered a ridge of coiled muscle inches from his stuff. Hophead screwed Pimples from behind, the insertion close in. Danny's stomach growled--worse than when he was on a no-food jag. Claire's hand kept probing; Danny felt himself shriveling--cold shower time where you shrunk down to nothing. The blonde and the Mexican fucked with abandon; Claire kneaded muscles that would not yield. Danny started to cramp, grabbed Claire's hand and squeezed it to his knee, like they were back at the jazz club and he was calling the shots. Claire pulled away; the movie ended with a close-up of the blonde and the Mex tongue-kissing. Film snapped off the cylinder; Claire got up, hit the lights and exchanged reels. Danny uncramped into his best version of Ted Krugman at ease--legs loosely crossed, hands laced behind his head. Claire turned and said, "I was saving this for après bed, but I think we might need it now." Danny winked--his whole head twitching--lady-killer Ted. Claire turned the projector on and the lights off; she came back to the couch and snuggled down again. The second half of their double feature hit the screen. No music, no opening credits, no subtitles like in the old silents--just blackness--gray flecks the only indication that film was running. The darkness broke down at the corners of the screen, a shape took form and a dog's head came into focus: a pit bull wearing a mask. The dog snapped at the camera, the screen went black again, then slowly dissolved into white. Danny remembered the dog breeder and his tale of Hollywood types buying pits to film; he jumped to the masked men at Felix Gordean's house; he saw that he'd shut his eyes and was holding his breath, the better to think who knew what, said what, lied what. He opened his eyes, saw two dogs ripping at each other, animated red splashed in surreal patterns across black-and-white celluloid, disappearing and coloring the real blood its real color, a spritz fogging the camera lens, gray first, cartoon red next. He thought of Walt Disney gone insane; as if in answer, an evil-looking Donald Duck flashed on the screen, feathered phallus hanging to his webbed feet. The duck hopped around, impotent angry like the real Donald; Claire laughed; Danny watched the snapping dogs circle each other and charge, the darker dog getting a purchase on the speckled dog's midsection, plunging in with his teeth. And he knew his killer, whoever he was, had gone crazy watching this movie. A black screen; Danny going light-headed from holding his breath, sensing Claire's eyes on him. Then all color footage, naked men circling each other just like the dogs, going for each other with sucking mouths, 69 close-ups, a pullback shot and Felix Gordean in a red devil costume, capering, prancing. Danny got hard; Claire's hand went there--like she knew. Danny squirmed, tried to shut his eyes, couldn't and kept looking. A quick cut; then Pretty Boy Christopher, naked and hard, pointing his thing at the camera, the head nearly eclipsing the screen like a giant battering ram, white background borders looking just like parted lips and teeth holding the image intact through rigor mortis-- Danny bolted, double-timed to the front of the house, found a bathroom and locked the door. He got his shakes chilled with a litany: BE A POLICEMAN BE A POLICEMAN BE A POLICEMAN; he made himself think _facts__, flung the medicine cabinet open and got one immediately: a prescription bottle of sodium secobarbital, Wiltsie's and Lindenaur's death ticket in a little vial, Reynolds Loftis' sleep pills administered by D. Waltrow, MD, 11/14/49. Fumbling through shelves of ointments, salves and more pills got him nothing else; he noticed a second door, ajar, next to the shower stall. He pushed it open and saw a little den all done up cozy, more bookshelves, chairs arranged around a leather ottoman, another desk with another cluttered blotter. He checked the clutter--mimeographed movie scripts with hand scrawl in the margins--opened drawers and found stacks of Claire De Haven stationery, envelopes, rolls of stamps and an old leather wallet. Flipping through the sleeves, he saw expired Reynolds Loftis ID: library card, membership cards to Pinko organizations, a '36 California driver's license with a tag stuck to the back side, Emergency Medical Data--allergic to penicillin, minor recurring arthritis, O+ blood. HIM? Danny closed the drawers, unlocked the bathroom door, wiped a towel across his face and slow-walked back to the screening room. The lights were on, the screen was blank and Claire was sitting on the couch. She said, "I didn't think a tough boy like you would be so squeamish." Danny sat beside her, their legs brushing. Claire pulled away, then leaned forward. Danny thought: _she knows, she can't know__. He said, "I'm not much of an aesthete." Claire put a warm hand to his face; her face was cold. "Really? All my friends in the New York Party were mad for New Drama and Kabuki and the like. Didn't the movie remind you of Cocteau, only with more of a sense of humor?" He didn't know who Cocteau was. "Cocteau never jazzed me. Neither did Salvador Dali or any of those guys. I'm just a square from Long Island." Claire's hand kept stroking. It was warm, but the to-die-for softness of last night was all gone. "I used to summer in Easthampton when I was a girl. It was lovely." Danny laughed, glad he'd read Considine's tourist brochure. "Huntington wasn't exactly Easthampton, sweetie." Claire cringed at the endearment, started to let her hand go, then made with more caresses. Danny said, "Who filmed that movie?" "A brilliant man named Paul Doinelle." "Just for friends to see?" "Why do you say that?" "Because it's smut. You can't release films like that. It's against the law." "You say that so vehemently, like you care about a bourgeois law that abridges artistic freedom." "It was ugly. I was just wondering what kind of man would enjoy something like that." "Why do you say 'man'? I'm a woman, and I appreciate art of that nature. You're strictured in your views, Ted. It's a bad trait for people in our cause to have. And I know that film aroused you." "That's not true." Claire laughed. "Don't be so evasive. Tell me what you want. Tell me what you want to do with me." _She was going to fuck him just to get what he knew, which meant she knew, which meant__-- Danny made Claire a blank frame and kissed her neck and cheeks; she sighed--phony--sounding just like a Club Largo girl pretending stripping was ecstasy. She touched his back and chest and shoulders--hands kneading--it felt like she was trying to restrain herself from gouging him. He tried to kiss her lips, but her mouth stayed crimped; she reached between his legs. He was frozen and shriveled there, and her hand made it worse. Danny felt his whole body choking him. Claire took her hands away, reached behind her back and removed her sweater and bra in one movement. Her breasts were freckled--spots that looked cancerous--the left one was bigger and hung strange and the nipples were dark and flat and surrounded by crinkled skin. Danny thought of traitors and Mexicans sucking them; Claire whispered, "Here, babe," a lullaby to mother him into telling what he knew, who he knew, what he lied. She fondled her breasts toward his face; he shut his eyes and couldn't; thought of boys and Tim and HIM and couldn't-- Claire said, "Ladies' man? Oh Teddy, how were you ever able to pull that charade off?" Danny shoved her away, left the house slamming doors and drove home thinking: SHE CANNOT KNOW WHO I AM. Inside, he went straight for his copy of the grand jury package, prowled pages to prove it for sure, saw "Juan Duarte--UAES brain trust, extra actor/stagehand at Variety Intl Picts" on a personnel sheet, snapped to Augie Duarte choking on his cock on a morgue slab, snapped to the three Mexes on the Tomahawk Massacre set the day he questioned Duane Lindenaur's KAs, snapped on Norm Kostenz taking his picture after the picket line brawl. Snap, snap, snap, snap to two final snaps: the Mex at the morgue who eyed him funny was a Mex actor on the movie set, he had to be an Augie Duarte relative, Juan Duarte the spic Commie actor/stagehand. The crossout on the meeting ledger had to be his name, which meant that he saw Kostenz' picture and told Loftis and Claire that Ted Krugman was a police detective working on Augie's snuff. Which meant that the ledger was a setup alibi. Which meant that the movie was a device to test his reactions and find out what he knew. Which meant that the Red Bitch was trying to do to him what Mal Considine set him up to do to her. WHICH MEANT THAT THEY KNEW WHO HE WAS. Danny went for the shelf over the refrigerator, the place were he stashed his Deputy D. Upshaw persona. He picked up his badge and handcuffs and held them to himself; he unhoistered his.45 revolver and aimed it at the world.
Chief of Detectives Thad Green nodded first to Mal, then to Dudley Smith. "Gentlemen, I wouldn't have called you in this early in the morning if it wasn't urgent. What I'm going to tell you has not been leaked yet, and it will remain that way." Mal looked at his LAPD mentor. The man, rarely grave, was coming on almost funereal. "What is it, sir?" Green lit a cigarette. "The rain caused some mudslides up in the hills. About an hour ago, a body was found on the access road going up to the Hollywood Sign. Sergeant Eugene Niles, Hollywood Squad. Buried, shot in the face. I called Nort Layman in for a quick one, and he took two.38's out of the cranial vault. They were fired from an Iver-Johnson Police Special, which you know is standard LAPD/LASD issue. Niles was last seen day before yesterday at Hollywood Station, where he got into a fistfight with your grand jury chum Deputy Daniel Upshaw. You men have been working with Upshaw, and I called you in for your conclusions. Mal, you first." Mal made himself swallow his shock, think, then speak. "Sir, I don't think Upshaw is capable of killing a man. I reprimanded him on Niles night before last, and he took it like a good cop. He seemed relieved that Niles was off his Homicide detail, and we all know that Niles was in up to here on Brenda Allen. I've heard he ran bag for Jack Dragna, and I'd look to Jack and Mickey before I accused a brother officer." Green nodded. "Lieutenant Smith." Dudley said, "Sir, I disagree with Captain Considine. Sergeant Mike Breuning, who's also working that Homicide detail with Upshaw, told me that Niles was afraid of the lad and that he was convinced that Upshaw had committed a break-in in LAPD territory in order to get evidence. Niles told Sergeant Breuning that Upshaw lied about how he came to get word of the second and third victims, and that he was going to try to accrue criminal charges against him. Moreover, Niles was convinced that Upshaw had a very strange fixation on these deviant killings he's so concerned with, and Niles calling Upshaw a 'queer' was what precipitated their fight. An informant of mine told me that Upshaw was seen threatening a known queer pimp named Felix Gordean, a man who is known to heavily pay off Sheriff's Central Vice. Gordean told my man that Upshaw is crazy, obsessed with some sort of homo conspiracy, and that he made extortion demands on him--threatening to go to the newspapers unless he gave him special information--information that Gordean asserts does not even exist." Mal took the indictment in. "Who's your informant, Dudley? And why do you and Breuning care so much about Upshaw?" Dudley smiled--a bland shark. "I would not want that lad's unstable violent behavior to upset his work for our grand jury, and I would no more divulge the names of my snitches than you would, Captain." "No, but you'd smear a brother officer. A man who I think is a dedicated and brilliant young policeman." "I've always heard you had a soft spot for your operatives, Malcolm. You should be more circumspect in displaying it, though. Especially now that you're a captain. I personally consider Upshaw capable of murder. Violence is often the province of weak men." Mal thought that with the right conditions and one drink too many, the kid could shoot in cold blood. He said, "Chief, Dudley's persuasive, but I don't make Upshaw for this at all." Thad Green stubbed out his cigarette. "You men are too personally involved. I'll put some unbiased officers on it."
The phone rang. Danny reached for the bedside extension, saw that he'd passed out on the floor and tripped over dead bottles and file folders getting to it. "Yeah? Jack?" Jack Shortell said, "It's me. You listening?" Danny blinked away wicked sunlight, grabbed paper and a pencil. "Go." "First, Breuning's tails were all fake. I called in an old favor at LAPD Homicide, checked the work sheets for the men Dudley uses regularly and found out they were all working regular assignments full-time. I looked around for Gene Niles to see if I could sweet-talk him and get some more dope on it, but that bastard is nowhere. LAPD canvassed the area where Duarte's body was found--they caught the squeal and some rookie squadroom dick out of Central hopped on it. Nothing so far. Doc Layman's grid-searching for trace elements there--he wants complete forensics on Duarte so he can put him in his next textbook. He thinks the rain will kibosh it, but he's trying anyway, and on the autopsy it's the same story as the first three: sedated, strangled, mutilated after death. I called the other men on your tailing list, and they're going on little vacations until this blows over. Danny, did you know that guy Hartshorn you told me about killed himself?" Danny said, "Yeah, and I don't know if it plays with our case or not." "Well, I went by Wilshire Station and checked the report, and it looks clean--no forced entry, no struggle. Hartshorn's daughter said Pops was despondent over your grand jury." Danny was getting nervous; the scene with De Haven was coming back: she knew, they knew, no more Red Ted. "Jack, have you got anything hot?" Shortell said, "Maybe a scorcher. I was up all night on the wolverine thing, and I got a great lead on an old man named Thomas Cormier, that's C-O-R-M-I-E-R. He's an amateur naturalist, famous, I guess you'd call him. He lives on Bunker Hill, and he rents weasel genus things to the movies and animal shows. He has a batch of individually penned-up wolverines, the only known batch in LA. Now listen, because this is where it gets good. "Last night I went by the West Hollywood Substation to talk to a pal of mine who just transferred over. I heard the girl at the switchboard ragging you to the watch sergeant, and I played nice and sweet-talked her. She told me she was dragging her heels on her set of dental queries because she thought you were just using her. She gave me a list that had notes on it--negative on the killer's description, but positive on the animal teeth--Joredco Dental Lab on Beverly and Beaudry. They do animal dentures for taxidermists, and they're the only lab in LA that works with actual animal teeth--that lead you had that said all taxidermists use plastic teeth was wrong. And Beverly and Beaudry is seven blocks from Thomas Cormier's house--343 South Corondelet." Red hot and biting. Danny said, "I'm rolling," and hung up. He put muscling Felix Gordean aside, cleaned up and stashed his files, cleaned up his person and dressed as Daniel T. Upshaw, policeman, replete with badge, gun and official ID. Ted Krugman dead and buried, he drove to Bunker Hill.
343 South Corondelet was an eaved and gabled Victorian house sandwiched between vacant lots on the west edge of the Hill. Danny parked in front and heard animal yapping; he followed the sounds down the driveway and around to a terraced back yard with a picture postcard view of Angel's Flight. Lean-tos with corrugated metal roofs were arranged in L-shapes, one to each level of grass; the structures were fronted by heavy wire mesh, and the longest L had what looked like a generator device built onto its rear side. The whole yard reeked of animals, animal piss and animal shit. "The smell getting to you, Officer?" Danny turned around. The mind reader was a grizzled old man wearing dungarees and hipboots, walking toward him waving a fat cigar that blended in perfectly with the shit stink and made it worse. He smiled, adding bad breath to the effluvia. "Are you from Animal Regulation or Department of Health?" Danny felt the sun and the smell go to work on his skinful of booze, sandpapering him. "I'm a Sheriff's Homicide detective. Are you Thomas Cormier?" "I am indeed, and I've never killed anyone and I don't associate with killers. I've got some killer mustelids, but they only kill the rodents I feed them. If that's a crime, I'll take the blame. I keep my mustelidae in captivity, so if they called a bum tune, I'll pay the piper." The man looked too intelligent to be an outright loony. Danny said, "Mr. Cormier, I heard you're an expert on wolverines." "That is the God's truth. I have eleven in captivity right this instant, my baby refrigeration unit keeping them nice and cool, the way they like it." Danny queased on cigar smoke and halitosis; he willed himself pro. "This is why I'm here, Mr. Cormier. Four men have been killed between New Year's and now. They were mutilated by a man wearing denture plates with wolverine teeth attached. There's a dental lab several blocks from here--the only one in LA that manufactures actual animal dentures. I think that's a strange coincidence, and I thought maybe you could help me out with it." Thomas Cormier snuffed his cigar and pocketed the butt. "That is just about the strangest thing I have heard in my entire time on this planet, which dates back to 1887. What else have you got on your killer?" Danny said, "He's tall, middle-aged, gray-haired. He knows the jazz world, he can purchase heroin, he knows his way around male prostitutes." He stopped, thinking of Reynolds Loftis, wondering if he'd get anything that wasn't circumstantial on him. "And he's a homosexual." Cormier laughed. "Sounds like a nice fellow, and sorry I can't help you. I don't know anybody like that, and if I did, I think I'd keep my back to the wall and my trusty rifle out when he came to call. And this fellow's enamored of _Gulo luscus__?" "If you mean wolverines, yes." "Lord. Well, I admire his taste in mustelids, if not the way he displays his appreciation." Danny sighed. "Mr. Cormier, do you know anything about the Joredco Dental Lab?" "Sure, just down the street. I think they make animal choppers." A clean take. Danny saw takes from Claire De Haven's movie, pictured HIM seeing it, getting aroused, wanting more. "I'd like to see your wolverines." Cormier said, "Thought you'd never ask," and walked ahead of Danny to the refrigeration shed. The air went from warm to freezing; the yapping became snarling; dark shapes lashed out and banged the mesh fronts of their pens. Cormier said, "_Gulo luscus__. Carcajou--evil spirit--to the Indians. The most insatiable carnivore alive and pound for pound the meanest mammal. Like I said, I admire your killer's taste." Danny found a good sun angle--light square on a middle pen; he squatted down and looked, his nose to the wire. Inside, a long creature paced, turning in circles, snapping at the walls. Its teeth glinted; its claws scraped the floor; it looked like a coiled muscle that would not stop coiling until it killed and slept in satiation--or died. Danny watched, feeling the beast's power, feeling HIM feeling it; Cormier talked. "_Gulo luscus__ is two things: smart and intractable. I've known them to develop a taste for deer, hide in trees and toss nice edible bark down to lure them over, then jump down and rip the deer's jugular out clean to the windpipe. Once they get a whiff of blood, they will not stop persisting. I've heard of wolverines stalking cougars wounded in mating battles. They'll jab them from behind, take nips out and run away, a little meat here and there until the cougar nearly bleeds to death. When the poor fellow's almost dead, Gulo attacks frontally, claws the cougar's eyes out of his head and eats them like gumballs." Danny winced, transposing the image: Marty Goines, HIM, the creature he was watching. "I need to look at your records. All the wolverines you've lent out to movies and animal shows." Cormier said, "Officer, you can't lend Gulos out, much as I'd like to make the money. They're my private passion, I love them and I keep them around because they shore up my reputation as a mustelidologist. You lend Gulos out, they'll attack anything human or animal within biting range. I had one stolen out of its pen five or six years ago, and my only consolation was that the stealer sure as hell got himself mangled." Danny looked up. "Tell me about that. What happened?" Cormier took out his cigar butt and fingered it. "In the summer of '42 I worked nights at the Griffith Park Zoo, resident zoologist doing research on nocturnal mustelid habits. I had an earlier bunch of wolverines that were getting real fat. I knew somebody must have been feeding them, and I started finding extra mouse and hamster carcasses in the pens. Somebody was lifting the food latches and feeding my Gulos, and I figured it for a neighborhood kid who'd heard about my reputation and thought he'd see for himself. Truth be told, it didn't bother me, and it kind of gave me a cozy feeling, here's this fellow Gulo lover and all. Then, late in July, it stopped. I knew it stopped because there were no more extra carcasses in the cages and my Gulos went back to their normal weights. About a year and a half or so went by, and one night my Gulo Otto was stolen. I laughed like hell. I figured the feeder had to have a Gulo for himself and stole Otto. Otto was a pistol. If the stealer got away with keeping him, I'm sure Otto bit him real good. I called hospitals around here to see if they stitched a bite victim, but it was no go, no Otto." Bit him real good. Danny thought of sedation--a wolverine Mickey Finned and stolen--HIM with his own evil mascot--_the story might just play__. He looked back in the pen; the wolverine noticed something and lashed the wire, making screechy blood W noises. Cormier laughed and said, "Juno, _you're__ a pistol." Danny put his face up to the mesh, tasting the animal's breath. He said, "Thanks, Mr. Cormier," pulled himself away and drove to the Joredco Dental Lab.
He was almost expecting a neon sign facade, an animal mouth open wide, the address numbers done up as teeth. He was wrong: the lab was just a tan stucco building, a subtly lettered sign above the door its only advertisement. Danny parked in front and walked into a tiny receiving area: a secretary behind a desk, a switchboard and calendar art on the walls--1950 repeated a dozen times over, handsome wild animals representing January for local taxidermist's shops. The girl smiled at him and said, "Yes?" Danny showed his badge. "Sheriff's. I'd like to speak to the man in charge." "Regarding?" "Regarding animal teeth." The girl tapped an intercom switch and said, "Policeman to see you, Mr. Carmichael." Danny looked at pictures of moose, bears, wolves and buffalos; he noticed a sleek mountain cat and thought of a wolverine stalking it, killing it off with sheer ugly persistence. A connecting door swung open; a man in a bloody white smock came in. Danny said, "Mr. Carmichael?" "Yes, mister?" "It's Deputy Upshaw." "And this regards, Deputy?" "It regards wolverine teeth." No reaction except impatience--the man obviously anxious to get back to work. "Then I can't help you. Joredco is the only lab in Los Angeles that fashions animal dentures, and we've never done them for a wolverine." "Why?" "Why? Because taxidermists do not stuff wolverines--they are not an item that people want mounted in their home or lodge. I've worked here for thirteen years and I've never filled an order for wolverine teeth." Danny thought it over. "Could someone who learned the rudiments of animal-denture making here do it himself?" "Yes, but it would be bloody and very slapdash without the proper tools." "Good. Because I'm looking for a man who likes blood." Carmichael wiped his hands on his smock. "Deputy, what is this in regard to?" "Quadruple homicide. How far back do your employment records go?" The "quadruple homicide" got to Carmichael--he looked shaken under his brusqueness. "My God. Our records go back to '40, but Joredco employs mostly women. You don't think--" Danny was thinking Reynolds Loftis wouldn't sully his hands in a place like this. "I think maybe. Tell me about the men you've had working here." "There haven't been many. Frankly, women work for a lower wage. Our current staff has been here for years, and when we get rush orders, we hire bums out of day labor and kids from Lincoln and Belmont High School to do the scut work. During the war, we hired lots of temporaries that way." The Joredco connection felt--strangely--like it was clicking in, with Loftis clicking out. "Mr. Carmichael, do you have a medical plan for your regular employees?" "Yes." "May I see your records?" Carmichael turned to the receptionist. "Sally, let Deputy whatever here see the files." Danny let the remark slide; Carmichael went back through the connecting door. Sally pointed to a filing cabinet. "Nasty prick, if you'll pardon my French. Medicals are in the bottom drawer, men in with the women. You don't think a real killer worked here, do you?" Danny laughed. "No, but maybe a real live monster did."
It took him an hour to go through the medical charts. Since November '39, sixteen men had been hired on as dental techs. Three were Japanese, hired immediately after the Jap internment ended in '44; four were Caucasian and now in their thirties; three were white and now middle-aged; six were Mexican. All sixteen men had, at one time or another, given blood to the annual Red Cross Drive. Five of the sixteen possessed O+ blood, the most common human blood type. Three of the men were Mexican, two were Japanese--but Joredco still felt right. Danny went back to the shop and spent another hour chatting up the techs, talking to them while they pried teeth out of gum sections removed from the heads of elk, deer and Catalina Island boar. He asked questions about tall, gray-haired men who acted strange; jazz; heroin; guys with wolverine fixations. He breathed blood and animal tooth infection and stressed strange behavior among the temporary workers who came and went; he threw out teasers on a handsome Hollywood actor who just might have made the scene. The techs deadpanned him, no'd him and worked around him; his only lead was elimination stuff: most of the temps were Mex, wetbacks going to Belmont and Lincoln High sans green cards, veterans of the Vernon slaughterhouses, where the work was twice as gory and the money was even worse than the coolie wages Mr. Carmichael paid. Danny left thinking Reynolds Loftis would faint the second he hit the Joredco line; thinking the actor might be circumstantial linkage only. But Joredco/Cormier still felt right; the blood and decay smelled like something HE would love. The day was warming up; heat that felt all the worse for coming after heavy rain. Danny sat in the car and sweated out last night's drunk; he thought elimination, thought that the day labor joints kept no records in order to dodge taxes, that the high school employment offices were long shots he had to try anyway. He drove to Belmont High, talked to the employment counselor, learned that her records only went back to '45 and checked the Joredco referrals--twenty-seven of them--all Mexes and Japs. Even though he knew the age range was wrong, he repeated the process at Lincoln: Mexes, Japs and a mentally deficient white boy hired because he was strong enough to haul two deer carcasses at a time. Gooser. But the rightness kept nagging him. Danny drove to a bar in Chinatown. After two shots of house bonded, he knew this was his last day as Homicide brass: when he told Considine Ted Krugman was shot, he'd be shot back to the West Hollywood Squad, packing some large blame if Ellis Loew thought he'd jeopardized the chance for a successful grand jury. He could keep looking for HIM on his off-hours--but there was a good chance Felix Gordean would talk to his golf buddies Sheriff Biscailuz and Al Dietrich and he'd get dumped back into uniform or jail duty. He'd made an enemy of Gene Niles and pissed off Dudley Smith and Mike Breuning; Karen Hiltscher wouldn't play pratgirl for him anymore; if Niles could prove he B&E'd 2307, he'd be in real trouble. Two more shots; warm wisps edging out the gloom. He had a friend with rank and juice--if he could make up for blowing his decoy job, he could still ride Considine's coattails. A last shot; HIM again, HIM pure and abstract, like there was never a time when he didn't exist, even though they'd been together only a few weeks. He thought of HIM free of Reynolds Loftis and last night with Claire, taking it back chronologically, stopping at Augie Duarte dead on a stainless steel slab. The facial cuts. Jump forward to last night's file work. His instinct: the killer knew Marty Goines' pal--the youth with the bandaged face--and drew sexual inspiration from him. Jump to Thomas Cormier, whose wolverines were overfed--worshiped?--during the summer of '42, Sleepy Lagoon summer, when zoot sticks were most in use. Cormier's interpretation: a neighborhood kid. Jump to Joredco. They hired youths, maybe youths out of skid row day labor, where they didn't keep records. The burn boy was white; all the high school referrals were Mex and Jap, except for the non-play retard. Maybe the workers he talked to never met the kid because he only worked there briefly, maybe they forgot about him, maybe they just didn't notice him. Jump forward to now. The burned-face boy was a burglar--Listerine Chester Brown tagged him as burglarizing with Goines circa '43 to '44, his face bandaged. If he was the one who stole Thomas Cormier's wolverine some eighteen months after his summer of '42 worship, and he was a local kid, he might have committed other burglaries in the Bunker Hill area during that time period. Danny drove to Rampart Station, the LAPD division that handled Bunker Hill felonies. Mal Considine's name got him the squad lieutenant's attention; a few minutes later he was in a musty storeroom checking boxes of discarded occurrence reports. The boxes were marked according to year; Danny found two grocery cartons stencilled "1942." The reports inside were loose, the multi-page jobs stapled together with no carbons in between. There was no rhyme or reason to the order they were filed in--purse snatchings, muggings, petty thefts, burglaries, indecent exposures and loiterings were all lumped together. Danny sat down on a box of '48 reports and dug in. He scanned upper right corners for penal code numbers--Burglary, 459.1. The two boxes for '42 yielded thirty-one; location was his next breakdown step. He carried the reports into the squadroom, sat at an empty desk facing a wall map of Rampart Division and looked for Bunker Hill street names to match. Four reports in, he got one; six reports in, three more. He memorized the ten north-south and eight east-west blocks of the Hill, tore through the rest of the pages and ended with eleven burglaries, unsolved occurrences, on Bunker Hill in the year 1942. And the eleven addresses were all within walking distance of Thomas Cormier's house and the Joredco Dental Lab. Next was dates. Danny flipped through the reports again quickly; the time and date of occurrence were typed at the bottom of each first page. May 16, 1942; July 1, 1942; May 27, 1942; May 9, 1942; June 16, 1942, and six more to make eleven: an unsolved burglary spree, May 9 to August 1, 1942. His head buzzing, he read "Items Stolen"--and saw why Rampart didn't put out beaucoup men to catch the burglar: Trinkets, family portraits, costume jewelry, cash out of purses and wallets. A deco wall clock. A cedar cigar humidor. A collection of glass figurines. A stuffed ringneck pheasant, a stuffed bobcat mounted on rosewood. More HIM, more not Loftis HIM. It had to be. Danny tingled, like he was being dangled on electric strings. He went back to the storeroom, found the '43 and '44 boxes, looked through them and got zero Bunker Hill trinket jobs--the only burglary occurrence reports for those years denoted real 459.1's, real valuables taken; burglary reports resulting in arrest had already been checked City- and Countywide. Danny finished and kicked at the boxes; two facts kicked him. The killer was ID'd as middle-aged; he had to be connected to the wolverine-worshiping burglar--a youth--who was emerging from today's work. Chester Brown told him that Marty Goines and his burned-face accomplice B&E'd in the San Fernando Valley '43 to '44; station houses out there might have occurrence reports--he could roll there after he muscled a certain Commie stagehand. And summer '42 was the height of the wartime blackout, curfew was rigidly enforced and field interrogation cards were written up on people caught out after 10:00 P.M.--when the wolverine lover was most likely prowling. If the cards were saved--Danny tore the storeroom apart, throwing empty boxes; he sweated out his booze lunch, got sprayed with cobwebs, mildew and mouse turds. He found a box marked "FI's '41--'43," thumbed back the first few cards and saw that they were--amazingly--in chronological order. He kept flipping; the late spring and summer of '42 yielded eight names: eight white men aged nineteen to forty-seven stopped for being out after curfew, questioned and released. The cards were filled out slapdash: all had the name, race and date of birth of the interrogee; only half had home addresses listed--in most cases downtown hotels. Five of the men would now be middle-aged and possibles for HIM; the other three were youths who could be the burned-face boy pre-burns--or--if he was tangential to the case--Thomas Cormier's neighborhood kid wolverine lover. Danny pocketed the cards, drove to a pay phone and called Jack Shortell at the Hollywood squadroom. The squad lieutenant put the call through; Shortell came on the line sounding harried. "Yeah? Danny?" "It's me. What's wrong?" "Nothing, except I'm getting the fisheye from every City bull in the place, like all of a sudden I'm _worse__ than worse than poison. What have you got?" "Names, maybe a hot one right in the middle. I talked to that Cormier guy and hit Joredco, and I couldn't put them straight together, but I'm damn sure our guy got kissing close to Cormier's wolverines. You remember that old burglary accomplice of Marty Goines I told you about?" "Yeah." "I think I've got a line on him, and I just about think he plays. There was a bunch of unsolved burglaries on Bunker Hill, May to August of '42. Mickey Mouse stuff clouted, right near Cormier and Joredco. LAPD was enforcing curfew then, and I picked out eight possible FI cards from the area--May through August. I've got a hunch the killings stem from then--the Sleepy Lagoon killing and the SLDC time--and I need you to do eliminations--current address, blood type, dental tech background, criminal record and the rest." "Go, I'm writing it down." Danny got out his cards. "Some have addresses, some don't. One, James George Whitacre, DOB 10/5/03, Havana Hotel, Ninth and Olive. Two, Ronald NMI Dennison, 6/30/20, no address. Three, Coleman Masskie, 5/9/23, 236 South Beaudry. Four, Lawrence Thomas Waznicki with a K-I, 11/29/08, 641 1/4 Bunker Hill Avenue. Five, Leland NMI Hardell, 6/4/24, American Eagle Hotel, 4th and Hill Streets. Six, Loren Harold Nadick, 3/2/02, no address. Seven, David NMI Villers, 1/15/04, no address. And Bruno Andrew Gaffney, 7/29/06, no address." Shortell said, "All down. Son, are you getting close?" Another electric jolt: the Bunker Hill burglaries ended on August 1, 1942; the Sleepy Lagoon murder--_the victim's clothes zoot stick slashed__--occurred on August 2. "Almost, Jack. Some right answers and luck and that fucker is mine."
Danny got to Variety International Pictures just as dusk was falling and the picket lines were breaking up for the day. He parked in plain view, put an "Official Police Vehicle" sign on his windshield and pinned his badge to his coat front; he walked to the guard hut, no familiar faces, pissed that he was ignored. The gate man buzzed him in; he walked straight back to Set 23. The sign on the wall had _Tomahawk Massacre__ still in production; the door was open. Danny heard gunfire, looked in and saw a cowboy and an Indian exchange shots across papier-mâché foothills. Lights were shining down on them; cameras were rolling; the Mexican guy he'd seen outside the morgue was sweeping up fake snow in front of another backdrop: grazing buffalos painted on cardboard. Danny hugged the wall going over; the Mex looked up, dropped his broom and took off running, right in front of the cameras. Danny ran after him, sliding on soap flakes; the moviemaking stopped; someone yelled, "Juan, goddamn you! Cut! Cut!" Juan ran out a side exit, slamming the door; Danny ran across the set, slowed and eased the door open. It was slammed against him, reinforced steel knocking him back; he slid on phony snow, hauled outside and saw Duarte racing down an alley toward a chain-link fence. Danny ran full out; Juan Duarte hit the fence and started climbing. He snagged his trouser legs; he kicked, pulled and twisted to get free. Danny caught up, yanked him down by his waistband and caught a hard right hand in the face. Stunned, he let go; Duarte collapsed on top of him. Danny kneed upward, a jerky shot; Duarte hit down, missing, smashing his fist on the pavement. Danny rolled away, came up behind him and pinned him with his weight; the Mex gasped, "Puto fascist shitfuck fascist cop fascist shitfuck." Danny fumbled out his cuffs, ratcheted Duarte's left hand and attached the spare bracelet to a fence link. The Mex flopped on his stomach and tried to tear the fence down, spitting epithets in Spanish; Danny got his breath, let Duarte shake and shout himself out, then knelt beside him. "I know you saw my picture, and you saw me at the morgue and you snitched me to Claire. I don't care and I give a fuck about UAES and the fucking Red Menace. I want to get Augie's killer and I've got a hunch it goes back to Sleepy Lagoon. Now you can talk to me, or I'll nail you for Assault on a Police Officer right here. Call it now." Duarte shook his cuff chain; Danny said, "Two to five minimum, and I don't give a shit about the UAES." A crowd was forming in the alley; Danny waved them back; they retreated with sidelong looks and slow head shakes. Duarte said, "Take these things off me and _maybe__ I'll talk to you." Danny unlocked the cuffs. Duarte rubbed his wrist, stood up, got rubber-legged and slid down to a sitting position, his back against the fence. He said, "Why's a hired gun for the studios give a damn about my dead fag cousin?" Danny said, "Get up, Duarte." "I talk better on my ass. Answer me. How come you care about a maricón who wanted to be a puto movie star like every other puto in this puto town?" "I don't know. But I want the guy who killed Augie nailed." "And what's that got to do with you trying to get next to Claire De Haven?" "I told you I don't care about that." "Norm Kostenz said you sure care. When I told him you were the fucking law, he said you should get a fucking Oscar for your bonaroo portrayal of Ted Krug--" Danny squatted by Duarte, holding the fence. "Are you going to spill or not?" Duarte said, "I'll spill, pendejo. You said you thought Augie's snuff went back to Sleepy Lagoon, and that got my interest. Charlie Hartshorn thought that too, so--" Danny's hand shook the fence; he braced his whole body into it to stay steady. "What did you say?" "I said Charlie Hartshorn thought the same thing maybe, so maybe talking to a puto cop ain't all poison." Danny slid down the fence so he could eyeball Duarte close. "Tell me all of it, slow and easy. You know Hartshorn killed himself, don't you?" Duarte said, "Maybe he did. You tell me." "No. You tell me, because I don't know and I've got to know." Duarte stared at Danny, squinty-eyed, like he couldn't figure him out. "Charlie was a lawyer. He was a maricón, but he wasn't a swish or nothing. He worked Sleepy Lagoon, filing briefs and shit for free." "I know that." "Okay, here's what you don't know, and here's the kind of guy he was. When you saw me at the morgue it was my second time there. I got a call from a buddy who works there, maybe one in the morning, and he told me about Augie--the zoot cuts, all of it. I went to Charlie's house. He had legal juice, and I wanted to see if he'd goose the cops so they'd give Augie's snuff a good investigation. He told me he'd been goosed by some cop about the death of a guy named Duane Lindenaur, even though the cop pretended he didn't care about that. Charlie read this scandal rag that said Lindenaur and some clown named Wiltsie got cut up by a zoot stick, and my morgue buddy said Augie got chopped like that, too. I told Charlie, and he got the idea all three snuffs went back to Sleepy Lagoon. He called the cops and spoke to some guy named Sergeant Bruner or something--" Danny cut in. "Breuning? Sergeant Mike Breuning?" "Yeah, that's him. Charlie told Breuning what I just told you and Breuning said he'd come to see him at his crib right away to talk to him about it. I took off then. So if Charlie thought there was something to this Sleepy Lagoon theory, maybe you ain't such a cabrón." Danny's brain stoked on overdrive: Breuning's curiosity on the zoot stick queries, his making light of them. His strange reaction to the four surveillance names--Augie Duarte singled out--because he was Mex, a KA of a Sleepy Lagoon Committee member? Mal telling him that Dudley Smith asked to join the grand jury team, even though, as an LAPD Homicide lieutenant, there was no logical reason for him to work the job. Mal's story: _Dudley brutally interrogating Duarte/Sammy Benavides/Mondo Lopez, stressing the Sleepy Lagoon case and the guilt of the seventeen youths originally charged with the crime--even though the questioning tack was not germane to UAES__. Hartshorn mentioning "zoot stick" on the phone to Breuning. Jack Shortell's oral report: Dudley Smith and Breuning were seen hobnobbing at Wilshire Station the night before last--the night Hartshorn killed himself. Did they make a quick run to Hartshorn's house--a scant mile from the station--kill him and return to the Wilshire squadroom, hoping that no one saw them leave and return--a perfect cop alibi? And why? Juan Duarte was looking at him like he was from outer space; Danny got his brain simmered down to where he could talk. "Think fast on this. Jazz musicians, burglary, wolverines, heroin, queer escort services." Duarte slid a few feet away. "I think they all stink. Why?" "A kid who worships wolverines." Duarte put a finger to his head and twirled it. "Loco mierda. A wolverine's a fucking rat, right?" Danny saw Juno's claws lashing out. "Try this, Duarte. Sleepy Lagoon, the Defense Committee, '42 to '44 and Reynolds Loftis. Think slow, go slow." Duarte said, "Easy. Reynolds and his kid brother." Danny started to say, "What?", stopped and thought. He'd read the entire grand jury package twice on arrival and twice last night; he'd read the psychiatric files twice before Considine took them back. In all the paperwork there was no mention of Loftis having a brother. But there was a gap--'42 to '44--in Loftis' shrink file. "Tell me about the kid brother, Duarte. Nice and slow." Duarte spoke rapidamente. "He was a punk, a lame-o. Reynolds started bringing him around around the time the SLDC was hot. I forget the kid's name, but he was a kid, eighteen, nineteen, in there. He had his face bandaged up. He was in a fire and he got burned bad. When he got his burns all healed up and the bandages and gauze and shit came off, all the girls in the Committee thought he was real cute. He looked just like Reynolds, but even handsomer." The new facts coming together went tap, tap, tap, knocks on a door that was still a long way from opening. A Loftis burn-faced brother put the actor back in contention for HIM, but contradicted his instinct that the killer drew sex inspiration from the youth's disfigurement; it played into Wolverine Prowler and Burn Face as one man and tapped the possibility that he was a killing accomplice--one way to explain the new welter of age contradictions. Danny said, "Tell me about the kid. Why did you call him a punk?" Duarte said, "He was always sucking up to the Mexican guys. He told this fish story about how a big white man killed José Diaz, like we were supposed to like him because he said the killer wasn't Mexican. Everybody knew the killer was Mexican--the cops just railroaded the wrong Mexicans. He told this crazy story about seeing the killing, but he didn't have no real details, and when guys pressed him, he clammed up. The SLDC got some anonymous letters saying a white guy did it, and you could tell the kid brother sent them--it was crazy-man stuff. The kid said he was running from the killer, and once I said, 'Pendejo, if the killer's looking for you, what the fuck you doing coming to these rallies where he could grab your crazy ass?' The kid said he had special protection, but wouldn't tell me no more. Like I said, he was a lame-o. If he wasn't Reynolds' brother, nobody woulda tolerated him at all." Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Danny said, "What happened to him?" Duarte shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't see him since the SLDC, and I don't think nobody else has either. Reynolds don't talk about him. It's strange. I don't think I've heard Chaz or Claire or Reynolds talk about him in years." "What about Benavides and Lopez? Where are they now?" "On location with some other puto cowboy turkey. You think this stuff about Reynolds' brother has got something to do with Augie?" Danny brainstormed off the question. Reynolds Loftis' brother was the burned-face burglar boy, Marty Goines' burglar accomplice, very possibly the Bunker Hill prowler/wolverine lover. The Bunker Hill B&Es stopped August 1, 1942; the next night, José Diaz was killed at the Sleepy Lagoon, three miles or so southeast of the Hill. The kid brother alleged that he witnessed a "big white man" killing José Diaz. Tap, tap, tap. Jump, jump, jump. Dudley Smith was a big white man with a bone-deep cruel streak. He joined the grand jury team out of a desire to keep incriminating Sleepy Lagoon testimony kiboshed, thinking that with access to witnesses and case paperwork, he could get the jump on damaging evidence about to come out. Hartshorn's zoot stick call to Mike Breuning scared him; he and Breuning or one of them alone drove over from Wilshire Station to talk to the man; Hartshorn got suspicious. Either premeditatedly or on the spur of the moment, Smith and/or Breuning killed him, faking a suicide. Tap, tap, tap-thunder loud--with the door still closed on the most important question: _How did Smith killing José Diaz, his attempts to keep possible evidence quashed and his killing Charles Hartshorn connect to the Goines/Wiltsie/Lindenaur/Duarte murders? And why did Smith kill Diaz__? Danny looked around at set doors spilling glimpses: the wild west, jungle swampland, trees in a forest. He said, "Vaya con Dios," left Duarte sitting there and drove home to hit the grand jury file, thinking he'd finally made detective in the eyes of Maslick and Vollmer. He walked in his building, light as air; he pushed the elevator button and heard footsteps behind him. Turning, he saw two big men with guns drawn. He reached for his own gun, but a big fist holding a set of big brass knucks hit him first.
He came awake handcuffed to a chair. His head was woozy, his wrists were numb and his tongue felt huge. His eyes homed in on an interrogation cubicle, three fuzzy men seated around a table, a big black revolver lying square in the middle. A voice said, ".38's are standard issue for your Department, Upshaw. Why do you carry a.45?" Danny blinked and coughed up a bloody lunger; he blinked again and recognized the voice man: Thad Green, LAPD Chief of Detectives. The two men flanking Green fell into focus; they were the biggest plainclothes cops he'd ever seen. "I asked you a question, Deputy." Danny tried to remember the last time he had a drink, came up with Chinatown and knew he couldn't have gone crazy while fried on bonded. He coughed dry and said, "I sold it when I made detective." Green lit a cigarette. "That's an interdepartmental offense. Do you consider yourself above the law?" "No!" "Your friend Karen Hiltscher says otherwise. She says you've manipulated her for special favors ever since you made detective. She told Sergeant Eugene Niles you broke into 2307 Tamarind and knew that two murder victims had recently been killed there. She told Sergeant Niles that your story about a girlfriend near the doughnut stand on Franklin and Western is a lie, that she phoned you the information off the City air. Niles was going to inform on you, Deputy. Did you know that?" Danny's head woozed. He swallowed blood; he recognized the man to Green's left as the knuck wielder. "Yeah. Yes, I knew." Green said, "Who'd you sell your.38 to?" "A guy in a bar." "That's a misdemeanor, Deputy. A criminal charge. You really don't care much for the law, do you?" "Yes, yes, I care! I'm a policeman! Goddamn it, what is this!" The knuck man said, "You were seen arguing with a known homo procurer named Felix Gordean. Are you on his payroll?" "No!" "Mickey Cohen's payroll?" "No!" Green took over. "You were given command of a Homicide team, a carrot for your grand jury work. Sergeant Niles and Sergeant Mike Breuning found it very strange that a smart young officer would be so concerned about a string of queer slashes. Would you like to tell us why?" "No! What the fuck is this! I B&E'd Tamarind! What do you fucking want from me!" The third cop, a huge bodybuilder type, said, "Why did you and Niles trade blows?" "He was ditzing me with Tamarind Street, threatening to rat me." "So that made you mad?" "Yes." "Fighting mad?" "Yes!" Green said, "We heard a different version, Deputy. We heard Niles called you a queer." Danny froze, reached for a comeback and kept freezing. He thought of ratting Dudley and kiboshed it--they'd never believe him--_yet__. "If Niles said that, I didn't hear it." The knuck cop laughed. "Strike a nerve, Sonny?" "Fuck you!" The weightlifter cop backhanded him; Danny spat in his face. Green yelled, "No!" The knuck man put his arms around weightlifter and held him back; Green chained another cigarette, butt to tip. Danny gasped, "_Tell me what this is all about__." Green waved the strongarms to the back of the cubicle, dragged on his smoke and stubbed it out. "Where were you night before last between 2:00 and 7:00 A.M.?" "I was at home in bed. Asleep." "Alone, Deputy?" "Yes." "Deputy, during that time Sergeant Gene Niles was shot and killed, then buried in the Hollywood Hills. Did you do it?" "No!" "Tell us who did." "Jack! Mickey! Niles was fucking rogue!" The knuck cop stepped forward; the weightlifter cop grabbed him, mumbling, "Spit on my Hathaway shirt you queer-loving hump. Gene Niles was my pal, my good buddy from the army, you queer lover." Danny dug his feet in and pushed his chair against the wall. "Gene Niles was an incompetent bagman son of a bitch." Weightlifter charged, straight for Danny's throat. The cubicle door opened and Mal Considine rushed in; Thad Green shouted commands impossible to hear. Danny brought his knees up, toppling the chair; the monster cop's hands closed on air. Mal crashed into him, winging rabbit punches; the knuck cop pulled him off and wrestled him out to the corridor. Shouts of "Danny!" echoed; Green stationed himself between the chair and the monster, going, "No, Harry, no," like he was reprimanding an unruly monster dog. Danny ate linoleum and cigarette butts, heard, "Get Considine to a holding tank", was lifted, chair and all, to an upright position. The knuck man went behind him and unlocked his cuffs; Thad Green reached for his.45 on the table. Danny stood up, swaying; Green handed him his gun. "I don't know if you did it or not, but there's one way to find out. Report back here to City Hall, room 1003, tomorrow at noon. You'll be given a polygraph test and sodium pentothal, and you'll be asked extensive questions about these homicides you're working and your relationships with Felix Gordean and Gene Niles. Good night, Deputy." Danny weaved to the elevator, rode to the ground floor and walked outside, his legs slowly coming back. He cut across the lawn toward the Temple Street cabstand, stopping for a soft voice. "Lad." Danny froze; Dudley Smith stepped out of a shadow. He said, "It's a grand night, is it not?" Small talk with a murderer. Danny said, "You killed José Diaz. You and Breuning killed Charles Hartshorn. And I'm going to prove it." Dudley Smith smiled. "I never doubted your intelligence, lad. Your courage, yes. Your intelligence, never. And I'll admit I underestimated your persistence. I'm only human, you know." "Oh, no you're not." "I'm skin and bone, lad. Eros and dust like all us frail mortals. Like you, lad. Crawling in sewers for answers you'd be better off without." "You're finished." "No, lad. You are. I've been talking to my old friend Felix Gordean, and he painted me a vivid picture of your emergence. Lad, next to myself Felix has the finest eye for weakness I've ever encountered. He knows, and when you take that lie detector test tomorrow, the whole world will know." Danny said, "No." Dudley Smith said, "Yes," kissed him full on the lips and walked away whistling a love song.
Machines that know. Drugs that don't let you lie. Danny took a cab home. He unlocked the door and went straight for his files: facts you could put together for the truth, Dudley and Breuning and HIM nailed by 11:59, a last-minute reprieve like in the movies. He hit the hall light, opened the closet door. No file boxes, the rugs that covered them neatly folded on the floor. Danny tore up the hall carpet and looked under it, dumped the bedroom cabinet and emptied the drawers, stripped the bed and yanked the medicine chest off the bathroom wall. He upended the living room furniture, looked under the cushions and tossed the kitchen drawers until the floor was all cutlery and broken dishes. He saw a half-full bottle by the radio, opened it, found his throat muscles too constricted and hurled it, knocking down the venetian blinds. He walked to the window, looked out and saw Dudley Smith haloed by a streetlight. And he knew he knew. And tomorrow they would all know. Blackmail bait. His name in sex files. His name bandied in queer chitchat at the Chateau Marmont. Machines that know. Drugs that don't let you lie. Polygraph needles fluttering off the paper every time they asked him why he cared so much about a string of queer fag homo fruit snuffs. No reprieve. Danny unholstered his gun and stuck the barrel in his mouth. The taste of oil made him gag and he saw how it would look, the cops who found him making jokes about why he did it that way. He put the.45 down and walked to the kitchen. Weapons galore. Danny picked up a serratededged carving knife. He tested the heft, found it substantial and said goodbye to Mal and Jack and Doc. He apologized for the cars he stole and the guys he beat up who didn't deserve it, who were just there when he wanted to hit something. He thought of his killer, thought that he murdered because someone made him what he himself was. He held the knife up and forgave him; he put the blade to his throat and slashed himself ear to ear, down to the windpipe in one clean stroke.
A week later Buzz went by the grave, his fourth visit since LASD hustled the kid into the ground. The plot was a low-rent number in an East LA cemetery; the stone read: Daniel Thomas Upshaw 1922--1950 No beloved whatever of. No son of whoever. No crucifix cut into the tablet and no RIP. Nothing juicy to catch a passerby's interest, like "Cop Killer" or "Almost DA's Bureau Brass." Nothing to spell it out true to whoever read the half-column hush job on the kid's accidental death--a slip off a chair, a nose dive onto a kitchen cutlery rack. Fall Guy. Buzz bent down and pulled out a clump of crabgrass; the butt of the gun he'd killed Gene Niles with dug into his side. He stood up and kicked the marker; he thought that "Free Ride" and "Gravy Train" and "Dumb Okie Luck" might look good too, followed by a soliloquy on Deputy Danny Upshaw's last days, lots of details on a tombstone skyscraper high, like the ones voodoo nigger pimps bought for themselves. Because Deputy Danny Upshaw was voodooing him, little pins stuck in a fat little Buzz Meeks voodoo doll. Mal had called him with the word. The rain dug up Niles' body, LAPD grabbed Danny as a suspect, roughhoused him and cut him loose with orders to report for a lie detector test and sodium pentothal questioning the next day. When the kid didn't show, City bulls hit his pad in force and found him dead on the living room floor, throat slashed, the pad trashed. Nort Layman, distraught, did the autopsy, dying to call it a 187; the evidence wouldn't let him: fingerprints on the knife and the angle of the cut and fall said "self-inflicted," case closed. Doc called the death wound "amazing"--no hesitation marks, Danny Upshaw wanted out bad and now. LASD double-timed the kid graveside; four people attended the funeral: Layman, Mal, a County cop named Jack Shortell and himself. The homo investigation was immediately disbanded and Shortell took off for a vacation in the Montana boonies; LAPD closed the book on Gene Niles, Upshaw's suicide their confession and trip to the gas chamber. City-County police relations were all-time bad--and he skated, thin-icing it, trying to fix an angle to save both their asses, no luck, too late to do the kid any good. Free Ride. What kept nagging at him was that he fixed Audrey's skim spree first. Petey Skouras paid Mickey back the dough the lioness bilked; Mickey was generous and let him off with a beating: Johnny Stomp and a little blackjack work on the kidneys. Petey took off for Frisco then--even though the Mick, impressed with his repentance, would have kept him on the payroll. Petey had played into his fix by skedaddling; Mickey, Mr. Effusiveness, had upped his payoff on the dope summit guard gig to a grand, telling him the charming Lieutenant Dudley Smith would also be standing trigger. More cash in his pocket--while Danny Upshaw climbed the gallows. Dumb Okie Luck. Mal took it hard, going on a two-day drunk, sobering up with a direct frontal attack on the Red Menace. A strongarmed lefty told Dudley Smith that Claire De Haven made "Ted Krugman" as a cop; Mal was enraged, but the consensus of the team was that they now had enough snitch testimony to take UAES down without Upshaw's covert dirt. Docket time was being set up; if all went well, the grand jury would convene in two weeks. Mal had gone off the deep end, crucifying Reds to perk his juice for his court battle. He'd turned Nathan Eisler's diary upside down for names, turning out snitches from four of the men Claire De Haven serviced to start her union. His flop at the Shangri-Lodge Motel now looked like Ellis Loew's living room: graphs, charts and cross-referenced hearsay, Mal's ode to Danny Upshaw, all of it proving one thing: that Commies were long on talk. And when the grand jury heard that talk, they probably wouldn't have the brains to think it out one step further: that the sad, deluded fuckers talked because they didn't have the balls to do anything else. Buzz kicked the gravestone again; he thought that Captain Mal Considine almost had himself convinced that UAES was a hot damn threat to America's internal security--that he had to believe it so he could keep his son and still call himself a good guy. Odds on the Hollywood Commies subverting the country with their cornball propaganda turkeys, rallies and picket line highjinks: thirty trillion to one against, a longshot from Mars. The entire deal was a duck shoot, a play to save the studios money and make Ellis Loew District Attorney and Governor of California. Bagman. Fixer. He'd been skating since the moment Mal called him with the news. Ellis told him to run background checks on the names in Eisler's diary; he called R&I, got their dope and let it go at that. Mal told him to conduct phone interviews with HUAC snitches back east; he gave a third of the numbers cursory calls, asked half the questions he was supposed to and edited the answers down to two pages per man, easy stuff for his secretary to type up. His big job was to locate Dr. Saul Lesnick, the grand jury's boss fink; he'd skated entirely on that gig--and kept skating in general. And always in the same direction--toward Danny Upshaw. When he knew the hush was in, he drove up to San Bernardino for a look-see at the kid's past. He talked to his widowed mother, a faded ginch living on Social Security; she told him she didn't attend the funeral because Danny had been curt with her on his last several visits and she disapproved of his drinking. He got her talking; she painted a picture of Danny the child as smart and cold, a youngster who read, studied and kept to himself. When his father died, he expressed no grief; he liked cars and fix-it things and science books; he never chased girls and always kept his room spotless. Since he became a policeman, he visited her only on Christmas and her birthday, never more, never less. He got straight B's in high school and straight A's in junior college. He ignored the floozies who chased after him; he tinkered with hot rods. He had one close friend: a boy named Tim Bergstrom, now a phys ed teacher at San Berdoo High. Buzz drove to the school and badged Bergstrom. The man had seen the newspaper plant on Upshaw's death, said Danny was born to die young and elaborated over beers in a nearby bar. He said that Danny liked to figure things like motors and engines and arithmetic out, that he stole cars because he loved the danger, that he was always trying to prove himself, but kept quiet about it. You could tell he was crazy inside, but you couldn't figure out how or why; you could tell he was really smart, but you didn't know what he'd end up doing with his brains. Girls liked him because he was mysterious and played hard to get; he was a terrific street fighter. Years ago, drunk, Danny told him a story about witnessing a murder; that was when he got hipped on being a cop, hipped on scientific forensic stuff. He was a cold drunk: booze just made him more inside, more mysterious and persistent, and sooner or later you knew he'd persist with the wrong guy and get himself shot--what surprised him was that Danny died accidentally. Buzz let that one go and said, "Was Danny a queer?" Bergstrom flushed, twitched, sputtered into his beer and said, "Hell, no"--and two seconds later was whipping out pictures of his wife and kids. Buzz drove back to LA, called a County pal, learned that Danny Upshaw's Personnel file had been yanked and that for all intents and purposes the kid was never a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He took a trip by the West Hollywood Substation, talked to the guys on the squad, learned that Danny never accepted bribes or trade pussy; he never moved on his snitch Janice Modine or on switchboard Karen Hiltscher--both of whom were dying to give it to him. Upshaw's fellow deputies either respected his brains or wrote him off as an idealistic fool with a mean streak; Captain Al Dietrich was rumored to like him because he was methodical, hard-working and ambitious. Buzz thought of him as a kid graduating from machines to people at the wrong time, fishing for WHY? in a river of shit, getting the worst answer two bad cases had to give and ending up dead because he couldn't lie to himself. Daniel Thomas Upshaw, 1922--1950. Queer. Turner Prescott Meeks, 1906--? Free ride because the kid couldn't take it. "It" couldn't be anything else. Danny Upshaw didn't kill Gene Niles. Mal said Thad Green and two hardnoses roughed him up; they probably recounted Niles calling him a queer and went over what Dudley Smith told Mal and Green: that Danny was seen shaking down Felix Gordean. With a poly test and silly syrup pending, Green let the kid go home with his gun, hoping he'd spare LAPD the grief of a trial and Niles as a Dragna bagman coming out. Danny had obliged--but for the wrong reason and not with his gun. Scapegoat. Who got some kind of last laugh. He couldn't sleep for shit; when he did put three or four hours together he dreamed of all the crappy stunts he'd pulled: farm girls coerced into Howard's bed; heroin bootjacked and sold to Mickey, cash in his pocket, the junk sidetracked on its way to some hophead's arm. Sleeping with Audrey was the only cure--she'd played her string since Niles like a trouper--and touching her and keeping her safe kept the kid away. But their four nights in a row at Howard's place was dangerous too, and every time he left her he got scared and knew he had to do something about it. Keeping his take on Danny away from Mal was one way. The cop couldn't believe the kid killed Niles, and he was pretty shrewd in tagging Cohen gunmen for the job--he'd watched Danny question a Dragna hump named Vinnie Scoppettone, who spilled on the shooting at Sherry's: LAPD shooters. But that was as far as his reconstruction went, and he still idealized Upshaw as a smart young cop headed for rank and glory. Keeping the kid's secret was the beginning. Buzz cocked a finger at the gravestone and made up his mind around two facts. One, when LAPD crashed Upshaw's pad, they found it thoroughly trashed; Nort Layman did a forensic, came up with Danny's prints on a shitload of tossed furniture and pegged him going crazy in the last moments of his life. LAPD's property report--the contents of the apartment inventoried--carried no mention of the grand jury paperwork or the personal file Danny kept on his homicides. He broke into the place and tossed it extra good; no files were secreted anywhere inside the four rooms. Mal was there when the body was discovered; he said LAPD sealed the crib tight, with only Danny and the knife leaving the premises. Two, the night before he died, Danny called him: he was amazed that his two cases had crossed at the juncture of Charles Hartshorn and Reynolds Loftis. "Deputy, are you tellin' me Loftis is a suspect for your killin's?" "I'm telling you maybe. Maybe real strong. He fits the killer's description... and he fits." No way was Danny Upshaw a murder victim. No way did the file thief wreck his apartment. Dudley Smith had a strange fix on the kid, but there was no reason for him to steal the files, and if he did he would have faked a burglary. Person or persons unknown--a good starting point for some payback.
Buzz found Mal in Ellis Loew's back yard, sitting on a sunbleached sofa, going over papers. He looked skinny beyond skinny, like he was starving himself to make the bantamweight limit. "Hey, boss." Mal nodded and kept working. Buzz said, "I want to talk to you." "About what?" "Not some Commie plot, that's for damn sure." Mal connected a series of names with pencil lines. "I know you don't take this seriously, but it is serious." "It's a serious piece of gravy, I'll give you that. And I sure want my share. It's just that I've got some other boogeymen on my mind right now." "Like who?" "Like Upshaw." Mal put his paper and pencil down. "He's LAPD's boogeyman, not yours." "I'm pretty sure he didn't kill Niles, boss." "We've been over that, Buzz. It was Mickey or Jack, and we'd never be able to prove it in a million years." Buzz sat down on the couch--it stank of mildew and some Red chaser had burned the arms with cigarette butts. "Mal, you remember Upshaw tellin' us about his file on the queer snuffs?" "Sure." "It was stolen from his apartment, and so was his copy of the grand jury package." "What?" "I'm certain about it. You said LAPD sealed the pad and didn't take nothin', and I checked Upshaw's desk at West Hollywood Station. Lots of old paperwork, but zilch on the 187's and the grand jury. You been so absorbed chasin' pinkers you probably didn't even think about it." Mal tapped Buzz with his pencil. "You're right, I didn't, and where are you fishing? The kid's dead and buried, he was in trouble over that B&E he pulled, he was probably finished as a cop. He could have been the best, and I miss him. But he dug his own grave." Buzz clamped down on Mal's hand. "Boss, we dug his grave. You pushed him too hard on De Haven, and I... oh fuck it." Mal pulled his hand free. "You what?" "The kid had a fix on Reynolds Loftis. We talked on the phone the night before he died. He'd read about Charles Hartshorn's suicide, the paper made him as a Sleepy Lagoon lawyer and Upshaw had him as a lead on his homicides--Hartshorn was blackmailed by one of the victims. I told him Loftis was rousted with Hartshorn at a queer bar back in '44, and the kid went nuts. He didn't know Hartshorn was involved with Sleepy Lagoon, and that sure did seem to set him off. I asked him if Loftis was a suspect, and he said, 'Maybe real strong.'" Mal said, "Have you talked to that County man Shortell about this?" "No, he's in Montana on vacation." "Mike Breuning?" "I don't trust that boy to answer straight. Remember how Danny told us Breuning fluffed the job and was jerkin' his chain?" "Meeks, you sure took your time telling me this." "I've been thinkin' it over, and it took me a while to figure out what I was gonna do." "Which is?" Buzz smiled. "Maybe Loftis is a hot suspect, maybe he ain't. Whatever, I'm gonna get me that queer slasher, whoever he is." Mal smiled. "And then what?" "Then arrest him or kill him." Mal said, "You're out of your mind." Buzz said, "I was sorta thinkin' about askin' you to join me. A captain out of his mind has got more juice than a loaner cop with a few loose." "I've got the grand jury, Meeks. And day after tomorrow's the divorce trial." Buzz cracked his knuckles. "You in?" "No. It's crazy. And I don't feature you as the dramatic gesture type, either." "I owe him. _We__ owe him." "No, it's wrong." "Think of the angles, skipper. Loftis as a psycho killer. You pop him for that before the grand jury convenes and UAES'll go in the toilet so large they'll hear it flush in Cleveland." Mal laughed; Buzz laughed and said, "We'll give it a week or so. We'll put together what we can get out of the grand jury file and we'll talk to Shortell and see what he's got. We'll brace Loftis, and if it goes bust, it goes bust." "There's the grand jury, Meeks." "A Commie like Loftis popped for four 187's makes you so large that no judge in this state would fuck you over on your custody case. Think of that." Mal broke his pencil in two. "I need a continuance, now, and I won't frame Loftis." "That mean you're in?" "I don't know." Buzz went for the kill. "Well, shit there, Captain. I thought appealin' to your career would get you, but I guess I was wrong. Just think about Danny Upshaw and how bad he wanted it, and how you got your rocks off sendin' him after Claire De Haven. Think how maybe her and Loftis played with that cherry kid right before he cut his fuckin' throat. Then you--" Mal slapped Buzz hard in the face. Buzz sat on his hands so he wouldn't hit back. Mal threw his list of names on the grass and said, "I'm in. But if this fucks up my grand jury shot, it's you and me for real. For keeps." Buzz smiled. "Yessir, Captain."
Claire De Haven said, "I take it this means all pretenses are off." A weak intro--he knew she had Upshaw made and the grand jury on track. Mal said, "This is about four murders." "Oh?" "Where's Reynolds Loftis? I want to talk to him." "Reynolds is out, and I told you before that he and I will not name names." Mal walked into the house. He saw the front page of last Wednesday's _Herald__ on a chair; he knew Claire had seen the piece on Danny's death, Sheriff's Academy picture included. She closed the door--_her__ no pretense--she wanted to know what _he__ had. Mal said, "Four killings. No political stuff unless you tell me otherwise." Claire said, "I'll tell you I don't know what you're talking about." Mal pointed to the paper. "What's so interesting about last week's news?" "A sad little obituary on a young man I knew." Mal played in. "What kind of young man?" "I think frightened, impotent and treacherous describes him best." The epitaph stung; Mal wondered for the ten millionth time what Danny Upshaw and Claire De Haven did to each other. "Four men raped and cut up. No political stuff for you to get noble about. Do you want to get down off your high Commie horse and tell me what you know about it? What Reynolds Loftis knows?" Claire walked up to him, perfume right in his face. "You sent that boy to fuck information out of me and now _you__ want to preach decency?" Mal grabbed her shoulders and squeezed them; he got his night's worth of report study straight in his head. "January 1, Marty Goines snatched from South Central, shot with heroin, mutilated and killed. January 4, George Wiltsie and Duane Lindenaur, secobarbital sedated, mutilated and killed. January 14, Augie Luis Duarte, the same thing. Wiltsie and Duarte were male whores, we know that certain men in your union frequent male whores and the killer's description is a dead ringer for Loftis. Still want to play cute?" Claire squirmed; Mal saw her as something wrong to touch and let go. She wheeled to a desk by the stairwell, grabbed a ledger and shoved it at him. "On January first, fourth, and fourteenth, Reynolds was here in full view of myself and others. You're insane to think he could kill anybody, and this proves it." Mal took the ledger, skimmed it and shoved it back to her. "It's a fake. I don't know what the crossouts mean, but only your signature and Loftis' are real. The others are traced over, and the minutes are like Dick and Jane join the Party. It's a fake, and you had it out and ready. Now you explain that, or I go get a material witness warrant for Loftis." Claire held the ledger to herself. "I don't believe that threat. I think this is some kind of personal vendetta with you." "Just answer me." "My answer is that your young Deputy Ted kept pressing me about what Reynolds was doing on those nights, and when I discovered that he was a policeman I thought he must have convinced himself that Reynolds did something terrible. Reynolds was here then for meetings, so I left this out for the boy to see, so he wouldn't launch some awful circumstantial pogrom." A perfect right answer. "You didn't know a graphologist would eat that ledger up in court?" "No." "And what did you think Danny Upshaw was trying to prove against Loftis?" "I don't know! Some kind of treason, but not sex murders!" Mal couldn't tell if she'd raised her voice to cover a lie. "Why didn't you show Upshaw your real ledger? You were taking a risk that he'd spot a fake one." "I couldn't. A policeman would probably consider our real minutes treason." "Treason" was a howler; profundity from a roundheels who'd spread for anything pretty in pants. Mal laughed, caught himself and stopped; Claire said, "Care to tell me what's so amusing?" "Nothing." "You sound patronizing." "Let's change the subject. Danny Upshaw had a file on the murders, and it was stolen from his apartment. Do you know anything about that?" "No. I'm not a thief. Or a comedienne." Getting mad shaved ten years off the woman's age. "Then don't give yourself more credit than you're worth." Claire raised a hand, then held it back. "If you don't consider my friends and me serious, then why are you trying to smear us and ruin our lives?" Mal fizzled at a wisecrack; he said, "I want to talk to Loftis." "You didn't answer my question." "I'm doing the asking. When's Loftis coming back?" Claire laughed. "Oh mein policeman, what your face just said. You know it's a travesty, don't you? You think we're too ineffectual to be dangerous, which is just about as wrong as thinking we're traitors." Mal thought of Dudley Smith; he thought of the Red Queen eating Danny Upshaw alive. "What happened with you and Ted Krugman?" "Get your names straight. You mean Deputy Upshaw, don't you?" "_Just tell me__." "I'll tell you he was naive and eager to please and all bluff where women were concerned, and I'll tell you you shouldn't have sent such a frail American patriot after us. Frail and clumsy. Did he really fall on a cutlery rack?" Mal swung an open hand; Claire flinched at the blow and slapped back, no tears, just smeared lipstick and a welt forming on her cheek. Mal turned and braced himself against the banister, afraid of the way he looked; Claire said, "You could just quit. You could denounce the wrongness of it, say we're ineffectual and not worth the money and effort and still sound like a big tough cop." Mal tasted blood on his lips. "I want it." "For what? Glory? You're too smart for patriotism." Mal saw Stefan waving goodbye; Claire said, "For your son?" Mal, trembling, said, "What did you say?" "We're not the fools you think we are, recently promoted Captain. We know how to hire private detectives and they know how to check records and verify old rumors. You know, I'm impressed with the Nazi you killed and rather surprised that you can't see the parallels between that regime and your own." Mal kept looking away; Claire stepped closer to him. "I understand what you must feel for your son. And I think we both know the fix is in." Mal pushed himself off the railing and looked at her. "Yeah. The fix is in, and this conversation didn't happen. And I still want to talk to Reynolds Loftis. And if he killed those men, I'm taking him down. "Reynolds has not killed anyone." "Where is he?" Claire said, "He'll be back tonight, and you can talk to him then. He'll convince you, and I'll make you a deal. I know you need a continuance on your custody trial, and I have friends on the bench who can get it for you. But I don't want Reynolds smeared to the grand jury." "You can't mean that." "Don't make a career out of underestimating me. Reynolds was hurt badly in '47, and I don't think he'd be able to go through it again. I'll do everything I can to help you with your son, but I don't want Reynolds hurt." "What about you?" "I'll take my knocks." "It's impossible." "Reynolds has not killed anyone." "Maybe that's true, but he's been named as a subversive too many times." "Then destroy those depositions and don't call those witnesses." "You don't understand. His name is all over our paperwork a thousand goddamn times." Claire held Mal's arms. "Just tell me you'll try to keep him from being hurt too badly. Tell me yes and I'll make my calls, and you won't have to go to trial tomorrow." Mal saw himself doctoring transcripts, shuffling names and realigning graphs to point to other Commies, going mano a mano: his editorial skill versus Dudley Smith's memory. "Do it. Have Loftis here at 8:00 and tell him it's going to be ugly." Claire took her hands away. "It won't be any worse than your precious grand jury." "Don't go noble on me, because I know who you are." "Don't cheat me, because I'll use my friends to ruin you." A deal with a real red devil: the continuance buying him time to un-nail a subversive, nail a killer and nail himself as a hero. And just maybe cross Claire De Haven. "I won't cheat you." "I'll have to trust you. And can I ask you something? Off the record?" "What?" "Your opinion of this grand jury." Mal said, "It's a goddamn waste and a goddamn shame."
Mickey Cohen was pitching a tantrum; Johnny Stompanato was fueling it; Buzz was watching--scared shitless. They were at the Mick's hideaway, surrounded by muscle. After the bomb under the house went off, Mickey sent Lavonne back east and moved into the Samo Canyon bungalow, wondering who the fuck wanted him dead. Jack D. called to say it wasn't him--Mickey believed it. Brenda Allen was still in jail, the City cops had settled into a slow burn and cop bombers played like science fiction. Mickey decided it was the Commies. Some Pinko ordnance expert got word he was fronting the Teamsters, popped his cork and planted the bomb that destroyed thirty-four of his custom suits. It was a Commie plot--it couldn't be anything else. Buzz kept watching, waiting by the phone for a call from Mal Considine. Davey Goldman and Mo Jahelka were prowling the grounds; a bunch of goons were oiling the shotguns stashed in the fake panel between the living room and bedroom. Mickey had started squawking half an hour ago, topics ranging from Audrey not giving him any to passive resistance on the picket line and how he was going to fix the UAES's red wagon. Comedy time until Johnny Stomp showed up and started talking _his__ conspiracy. The guinea Adonis brought bad news: when Petey Skouras blew to Frisco he took a week's worth of receipts with him--Audrey told him when he picked up the Southside front's cash take. Buzz horned in on the conversation, thinking the lioness couldn't be stupid enough to try to play Petey's splitsville for a profit--Petey himself had to have done it--his bonus atop the thousand-dollar beating. Johnny's news got worse: he took a baseball bat to a guy on the welcher list, who told him Petey was no skimmer, Petey would never protect a girlfriend's brother because Petey liked boys--young darky stuff--a habit he picked up in a U. S. army stockade in Alabama. Mickey went around the twist then, spraying spit like a rabid dog, spitting obscenities in Yiddish, making his Jew strongarms squirm. Johnny had to know that his story contradicted Buzz's story; the fact that he wouldn't give him an even eyeball clinched it. When Mickey stopped ranting and started thinking, he'd snap to that, too--then he'd start asking questions and it would be another convoluted epic to explain the lie, something along the lines of Skouras protecting his _boyfriend's__ brother, how he didn't want poor Greek Petey smeared as taking it Greek. Mickey would believe him--probably. Buzz got out his notepad and wrote a memo to Mal and Ellis Loew--abbreviated skinny from three triggermen moonlighting as picket goons. Their consensus: UAES still biding its time, the Teamster rank and file on fire to whomp some ass, the only new wrinkle a suspicious-looking van parked on Gower, a man with a movie camera in the back. The man, a studious bird with Trotsky glasses, was seen talking to Norm Kostenz, the UAES picket boss. Conclusion: UAES wanted the Teamsters to rumble, so they could capture the ass-whomping on film. His skate work done, Buzz listened to Mickey rant and checked his real notes--the grand jury and shrink files read over and put together with a few records prowls and a brief talk with Jack Shortell's partner at the San Dimas Substation. Shortell would be returning from Montana tomorrow; he could hit him for a real rundown on Upshaw's case then. The partner said that Jack said Danny seemed to think the killings derived from the time of the Sleepy Lagoon murder and the SLDC--it was the last thing the kid talked up before LAPD grabbed him. That in mind, Buzz matched the theory to his file facts. He got: Danny told him Reynolds Loftis fit his killing suspect's description--and in general--"he fits." Charles Hartshorn, a recent suicide, was rousted with Loftis at a local fruit bar in '44. Two identical names and an R&I and DMV check got him Augie Duarte, snuff victim number four, and his cousin, SLDC/UAES hotshot Juan Duarte, currently working at Variety International Pictures--on a set next to the room where victim number three, Duane Lindenaur, worked as a rewrite man. SLDC Lawyer Hartshorn was blackmailed by Lindenaur years ago--a check on the crime report led him to an LASD Sergeant named Skakel, who had also talked to Danny Upshaw. Skakel told him that Lindenaur met Hartshorn at a party thrown by fag impresario Felix Gordean, the man Danny said the killer had a fix on. The first victim, Marty Goines, died of a heroin overjolt. Loftis' fiancée Claire De Haven was a skin-popper; she took Dr. Terry Lux's cure three times. Terry said Loftis copped H for her. From Mal's report on the Sammy Benavides/Mondo Lopez/Juan Duarte questioning: Benavides shouted something about Chaz Minear, Loftis' fag squeeze, buying boys at a "puto escort service"--Gordean's? Also on Minear: in his psych file, Chaz justified snitching Loftis to HUAC by pointing to a third man in a love triangle--"If you knew who he was, you'd understand why I did it." Two strange-o deals: The '42 to '44 pages were missing from Loftis' psych file and Doc Lesnick couldn't be found. At the three Mexes' questioning, one of the guys muttered an aside--the SLDC got letters tapping a "big white man" for the Sleepy Lagoon murder. Strange-o stuff aside, all circumstantial--but too solid to be coincidence. The phone rang, cutting through Mickey's tirade on Commies. Buzz picked it up; Johnny Stomp watched him talk. "Yeah. Cap, that you?" "It's me, Turner, my lad." "You sound happy, boss." "I just got a ninety-day continuance, so I am happy. Did you do your homework?" Stompanato was still staring. Buzz said, "Sure did. Circumstantial but tight. You talk to Loftis?" "Meet me at 463 Canon Drive in an hour. We've got him as a friendly witness." "No shit?" "No shit." Buzz hung up. Johnny Stomp winked at him and turned back to Mickey.
Headlights bounced over the street, caught his windshield and went off. Mal heard a car door slamming and tapped his highbeams; Buzz walked over and said, "You do your homework?" "Yeah. Like you said, circumstantial. But it's there." "How'd you fix this up, Cap?" Mal held back on the De Haven deal. "Danny wasn't too subtle hitting up Claire for Loftis' whereabouts on the killing dates, so she faked a meeting diary--Loftis alibied for the three nights. She says there were meetings, and he was there, but they were planning seditious stuff--that's why she sugar-coated the damn thing. She says Loftis is clean." "You believe it?" "Maybe, but my gut tells me they're connected to the whole deal. This afternoon I checked Loftis' bank records going back to '40. Three times in the spring and summer of '44 he made cash withdrawals of ten grand. Last week he made another one. Interesting?" Buzz whistled. "From old Reynolds' missing-file time. It's gotta be blackmail, there's blackmail all over this mess. You wanna play him white hat-black hat?" Mal got out of the car. "You be the bad guy. I'll get De Haven out of the way, and we'll work him." They walked up to the door and rang the bell. Claire De Haven answered; Mal said, "You go somewhere for a couple of hours." Claire looked at Buzz, lingering on his ratty sharkskin and heater. "You mustn't touch him." Mal hooked a thumb over his back. "Go somewhere." "No thank yous for what I did?" Mal caught Buzz catching it. "Go somewhere, Claire." The Red Queen brushed past them out the door; she gave Buzz a wide berth. Mal whispered, "Hand signals. Three fingers on my tie means hit him." "You got the stomach for this?" "Yes. You?" "One for the kid, boss." Mal said, "I still don't make you for the sentimental gesture type." "I guess old dogs can learn. What just happened with you and the princess?" "Nothing." "Sure, boss." Mal heard coughing in the living room; Buzz said, "I'll kickstart him." A voice called, "Gentlemen, can we get this over with?" Buzz walked in first, whistling at the furnishings; Mal followed, taking a long look at Loftis. The man was tall and gray per Upshaw's suspect description; he was dashingly handsome at fifty or so and his whole manner was would-be slick--a costume of tweed slacks and cardigan sweater, a sprawl on the divan, one leg hooked over the other at the knee. Mal sat next to him; Buzz thunked a chair down a hard breath away. "You and that honey Claire are gettin' married, huh?" Loftis said, "Yes, we are." Buzz smiled, soft and homespun. "That's sweet. She gonna let you pork boys on the side?" Loftis sighed. "I don't have to answer that question." "The fuck you don't. You answer it, you answer it now." Mal came in. "Mr. Loftis is right, Sergeant. That question is not germane. Mr. Loftis, where were you on the nights of January first, fourth and the fourteenth of this year?" "I was here, at meetings of the UAES Executive Committee." "And what was discussed at those meetings?" "Claire said I didn't have to discuss that with you." Buzz snickered. "You take orders from a woman?" "Claire is no ordinary woman." "She sure ain't. A rich bitch Commie that shacks with a fruitfly sure ain't everyday stuff to me." Loftis sighed again. "Claire told me this would be ugly, and she was correct. She also told me your sole purpose was to convince yourselves that I didn't kill anyone, and that I did not have to discuss the UAES business that was transacted on those three nights." Mal knew Meeks would figure out the Claire deal before too long; he joined his partner on the black hat side. "Loftis, I don't think you did kill anybody. But I think you're in deep on some other things, and I'm not talking politics. We want the killer, and you're going to help us get him." Loftis licked his lips and knotted his fingers together; Mal touched his tie bar: _go in full__. Buzz said, "What's your blood type?" Loftis said, "O positive." "That's the killer's blood type, boss. You know that?" "It's the most common blood type among white people, and your friend just said I'm no longer a suspect." "My friend's a soft touch. You know a trombone man named Marty Goines?" "No." "Duane Lindenaur?" "No." "George Wiltsie?" Tilt: Loftis crossing and recrossing his legs, licking his lips. "No." Buzz said, "Horse fucking pucky, you don't. _Give__." "I said I never knew him!" "Then why'd you describe him in the past tense?" "Oh God--" Mal flashed two fingers, then his left hand over his right fist: _He's mine, no hitting__. "Augie Duarte, Loftis. What about him?" "I don't know him"--a dry tongue over dry lips. Buzz cracked his knuckles--loud. Loftis flinched; Mal said, "George Wiltsie was a male prostitute. Did you ever traffic with him? Tell the truth or my partner will get angry." Loftis looked down at his lap. "Yes." Mal said, "Who set it up?" "Nobody set it up! It was just... a date." Buzz said, "A date you paid for, boss?" "No." Mal said, "Felix Gordean set you up with him, right?" "No!" "I don't believe you." "No!" Mal knew a straight admission was out; he jabbed Loftis hard on the shoulder. "Augie Duarte. Was he just a date?" "No!" "Tell the truth, or I'll leave you alone with the sergeant." Loftis pinched his knees together and hunched his shoulders down. "Yes." "Yes what?" "Yes. We dated once." Buzz said, "You sound like a one-night stand man. A date with Wiltsie, a date with Duarte. Where'd you meet those guys?" "Nowhere... at a bar." "What bar?" "The Oak Room at the Biltmore, the Macombo, I don't know." "You're rattlin' my cage, boy. Duarte was Mex and those joints don't serve spics. So try again. Two goddamn queer slash murder victims you got between the sheets with. Where'd you meet them?" Reynolds Loftis stayed crimped up and silent; Buzz said, "You paid for them, right? It ain't no sin. I've paid for pussy, so why shouldn't somebody of your persuasion pay for boys?" "No. No. No, that's not true." Mal, very soft. "Felix Gordean." Loftis, trembling. "No no no no no." Buzz twirled a finger and smoothed his necktie--the switcheroo sign. "Charles Hartshorn. Why'd he kill himself?" "He was tortured by people like you!" Mal's switcheroo. "You copped horse for Claire. Who'd you get it from?" "Who told you that?"--Loftis actually sounding indignant. Buzz leaned over and whispered, "Felix Gordean"; Loftis jerked back and banged his head on the wall. Mal said, "Duane Lindenaur worked at Variety International, where your friends Lopez, Duarte and Benavides are working. Juan Duarte is Augie Duarte's cousin. You used to appear in Variety International movies. Duane Lindenaur was blackmailing Charles Hartshorn. Why don't you put all that together for me." Loftis was sweating; Mal caught a twitch at _blackmail__. "Three times in '44 and once last week you withdrew ten grand from your bank account. Who's blackmailing you?" The man was oozing sweat. Buzz flashed a fist on the QT; Mal shook his head and gave him the switch sign. Buzz said, "Tell us about the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee. Some strange stuff happened, right?" Loftis wiped sweat off his brow; he said, "What strange stuff?", his voice cracking. "Like the letters the Committee got that said a big white man snuffed José Diaz. A deputy pal of ours seemed to think these here killings went back to Sleepy Lagoon--zoot stick time. All the victims were cut with zoot sticks." Loftis wrung his hands, popping more sweat; his eyes were glazed. Mal could tell Meeks went for a soft shot--innocuous stuff from his interrogation notes--but came up with a bludgeon. Buzz looked bewildered; Mal tamped down his black hat. "Loftis, who's blackmailing you?" Loftis squeaked, "No"; Mal saw that he'd sweated his clothes through. "What happened with the SLDC?" "No!" "Is Gordean blackmailing you?" "I refuse to answer on the grounds that my answ--" "You're a slimy piece of Commie shit. What kind of treason are you planning at your meetings? Cop on that!" "Claire said I didn't have to!" "Who's that piece of tail you and Chaz Minear were fighting over during the war? Who's that piece of fluff?" Loftis sobbed and keened and managed a squeaky singsong. "I refuse to answer on the grounds that my answers might tend to incriminate me, but I never hurt anybody and neither did my friends so please don't hurt us." Mal made a fist, Stanford ring stone out to do maximum damage. Buzz put a hand on his own fist and squeezed it, a new semaphore: _don't hit him or I'll hit you__. Mal got scared and went for big verbal ammo: Loftis didn't know Chaz Minear ratted him to HUAC. "Are you protecting Minear? You shouldn't, because he was the one who snitched you to the Feds. He was the one who got you blacklisted." Loftis curled into a ball; he murmured his Fifth Amendment spiel, like their interrogation was legal and defense counsel would swoop to the rescue. Buzz said, "You dumb shit, we coulda had him." Mal turned and saw Claire De Haven standing there. She was saying, "Chaz," over and over.
The picket line action was simmering. Buzz watched from the Variety International walkway, three stories up. Jack Shortell and Mal were supposed to call; Ellis Loew had called him at home, yanking him out of another Danny nightmare. The DA's command: convince Herman Gerstein to kick an additonal five thou into the grand jury war chest. Herman was out--probably muff-diving Betty Grable--and there was nothing for him to do but stew on Considine's foul-up and scope the prelim to slaughter down on the Street. You could see it plain: A Teamster goon with a baseball bat was lounging near the UAES camera van; when the shit hit the fan and the film rolled, he'd be Johnny on the spot to neutralize the cinematographer and bust up his equipment. Teamster pickets were carrying double and triple banner sticks, taped grips, good shillelaghs. Four muscle boys were skulking by the Pinkos' lunch truck--just the right number to tip it over and coffee-scald the guy inside. A minute ago he saw a Cohen triggerman make an on-the-sly delivery: riot guns with rubber-bullet attachments, wrapped in swaddling cloth like Baby Jesus. Over on De Longpre, the Teamsters had their moviemaking crew at the ready: actor/picketers who'd wade in, provoke just the right way and make sure a few UAES pickets whomped them; three camera guys in the back of a tarp-covered pickup. When the dust cleared, Mickey's boys would survive on celluloid as the good guys. Buzz kept posing Mal against the action. The Cap had almost shot Doc Lesnick's confidentiality on the psych files--blowing the whistle on Minear squealing Loftis--just when they were getting close on the blackmail angle and Felix Gordean. He'd hustled him out of the house quicksville, so he wouldn't keep trashing the team's cover--if they were lucky, De Haven and Loftis figured a HUAC source gave them the dope on Minear. For a smart cop, Captain Malcolm Considine kept making stupid moves: it was twenty to one he'd cut a deal with Red Claire for the custody case continuance; ten to one his attack on Loftis came close to deep sixing it. The old nance was no killer, but the '42 to '44 gap in his psych file--a time he was terrified remembering--talked volumes, and he and De Haven were looking like prime suspects on the snatch of the kid's paperwork. And Doc Lesnick being noplace was starting to look as wrong as Mal fucking up his own wet dream. The Teamster men were passing around bottles; UAES was marching and shouting its sad old refrain: "Fair Wages Now," "End the Studio Tyranny." Buzz thought of a cat about to pounce on a mouse nibbling cheese on the edge of a cliff; he gave the matinee a pass and walked into Herman Gerstein's office. Still no mogul; the switchboard girl at the plant knew to forward his calls to Herman's private line. Buzz sat behind Gerstein's desk, sniffed his humidor, admired his starlet pics on the wall. He was speculating on his grand jury bonus when the phone rang. "Hello." "Meeks?" Not Mal, not Shortell--but a familiar voice. "It's me. Who's this?" "Johnny." "Stompanato?" "How soon they forget." "Johnny, what're you callin' me for?" "How soon they forget their good deeds. I owe you one, remember?" Buzz remembered the Lucy Whitehall gig--it seemed like a million years ago. "Go, Johnny." "I'm paying you back, you cracker shitbird. Mickey knows Audrey's the skimmer. I didn't tell him, and I even kept hush on what you pulled with Petey S. It was the bank. Audrey put her skim in the Hollywood bank where Mick puts his race wire dough. The manager got suspicious and called him. Mickey's sending Fritzie over to get her. You're closer, so we're even." Buzz saw Icepick Fritzie carving. "You knew about us?" "I thought Audrey looked nervous lately, so I tailed her up to Hollywood, and she met you. Mickey doesn't know about you and her, so stay icy." Buzz blew a wet kiss into the phone, hung up and called Audrey's number; he got a busy signal, hauled down to the back lot and his car. He ran red lights and yellow lights and took every shortcut he knew speeding over; he saw Audrey's Packard in the driveway, jumped the curb and skidded up on the lawn. He left the motor running, pulled his.38, ran to the door and shouldered it open. Audrey was sitting on her bargain basement lounge chair, hair in curlers, cold cream on her face. She saw Buzz and tried to cover herself; Buzz beelined for her and started kissing, getting all gooey. He said, "Mickey knows you skimmed him," between kisses; Audrey squealed. "This isn't fair!" and "You're not supposed to see me this way!" Buzz thought of Fritzie K. gaining ground, grabbed the lioness and slung her out to her car. He gasped, "Ventura by Pacific Coast Highway, and I'm right behind you. It ain't the Beverly Wilshire, but it's safe." Audrey said, "Five minutes to pack?" Buzz said, "No." Audrey said, "Oh shit. I really liked LA." Buzz said, "Say goodbye to it." Audrey popped off a handful of curlers and wiped her face. "Bye-bye, LA."
The two-car caravan made it to Ventura in an hour ten. Buzz ensconced Audrey in the shack at the edge of his farmland, hid her Packard in a pine grove, left her all his money except a tensky and a single and told her to call a friend of his on the Ventura Sheriff's for a place to stay--the man owed him almost as much as he owed Johnny Stompanato. Audrey started crying when she realized it really was bye-bye LA, bye-bye house, bank account, clothes and everything else except her bagman lover; Buzz kissed off the rest of her cold cream, told her he'd call his buddy to grease the skids and ring her at the guy's place tonight. The lioness left him with a dry-eyed sigh. "Mickey was good with a buck, but he was lousy in bed. I'll try not to miss him."
Buzz drove straight into Oxnard, the next town south. He found a pay phone, called Dave Kleckner at the Ventura Courthouse, made arrangements for him to pick up Audrey and dialed his own line at Hughes Aircraft. His secretary said Jack Shortell had called; she'd forwarded him to Herman Gerstein's office and Mal Considine's extension at the Bureau. Buzz changed his dollar into dimes and had the operator ring Madison-4609; Mal answered, "Yes?" "It's me." "Where are you? I've been trying to get you all morning." "Ventura. A little errand." "Well, you missed the goodies. Mickey went nuts. He gave his boys on Gower Gulch carte blanche, and they're busting heads as we speak. I just got a call from a Riot Squad lieutenant, and he said it's the worst he's ever seen. Want to place bets?" Odds on him getting the lioness out of the country: even money. "Boss, Mickey's nuts on Audrey, that's what probably ripped his cork. He found out she was skimmin' at his shark mill." "Jesus. Does he know about--" "Ixnay, and I wanta keep it that way. She's stashed up here for now, but it can't last forever." Mal said, "We'll fix something. Are you still hot on payback?" "More than ever. You talk to Shortell?" "Ten minutes ago. Do you have something to write on?" "No, but I got a memory. Shoot me." Mal said, "The last thing Danny worked was a connection between the Joredco Dental Lab on Bunker Hill--they make animal dentures--and a naturalist who raises wolverines a few blocks away. Nort Layman identified bite marks on the victims as coming from wolverine teeth--that's what this is all about." Buzz whistled. "Christ on a crutch." "Yeah, and it gets stranger. One, Dudley Smith never put tails on those men Danny wanted under surveillance. Shortell found out, and he doesn't know if it means anything or not. Two, Danny's fix on the Sleepy Lagoon killing and the SLDC ties in to some burglary accomplice of Marty Goines--a youth back in the early '40s--a kid with a burned face. Bunker Hill had a lot of unsolved B&Es the summer of '42, and Danny gave Shortell eight names from FI cards--curfew was being enforced then, so there were plenty of them. Shortell ran eliminations on the names and came up with one man with O+ blood--Coleman Masskie, DOB 5/9/23, 236 South Beaudry, Bunker Hill. Shortell thinks this guy may be a good bet as Goines' burglar buddy." Buzz got the numbers down. "Boss, this Masskie guy ain't even twenty-seven years old, which sorta contradicts the middle-aged killer theory." Mal said, "I know, that bothers me too. But Shortell thinks Danny was close to cracking the case--and he thought this burglary angle was a scorcher." "Boss, we gotta take down Felix Gordean. We were gettin' close last night, when you..." Silence, then Mal sounding disgusted. "Yeah, I know. Look, you take the Masskie lead, I'll shake Juan Duarte. I put four Bureau men out to find Doc Lesnick, and if he's alive and findable, he's ours. Let's meet tonight in front of the Chateau Marmont, 5:30. We'll stretch Gordean." Buzz said, "Let's do it." Mal said, "Did you figure out De Haven and me?" "Took about two seconds. You don't think she'll cross you?" "No, I've got the ace high hand. You and Mickey Cohen's woman. Jesus." "You're invited to the wedding, boss." "Stay alive for it, lad."
Buzz took Pacific Coast Highway down to LA, Wilshire east to Bunker Hill. Dark clouds were brewing, threatening a deluge to soak the Southland, maybe unearth a few more stiffs, send a few more hardnoses out for payback. Two thirty-six South Beaudry was a low-rent Victorian, every single shingle weatherstripped and splintered; Buzz pulled up and saw an old woman raking leaves on a front lawn as jaundiced as the pad. He got out and approached her. Closer up, she showed a real faded beauty: pale, almost transparent skin over haute couture cheekbones, full lips and the comeliest head of gray-brown hair he'd ever seen. Only her eyes were off--they were too bright, too protruding. Buzz said, "Ma'am?" The old girl leaned on her rake; there was all of one leaf caught on the tines--and it was the only leaf on the whole lawn. "Yes, young man? Are you here to make a contribution to Sister Aimee's crusade?" "Sister Aimee's been out of business awhile, ma'am." The woman held out her hand--withered and arthritic looking--a beggar's paw. Buzz dropped some odd dimes in it. "I'm lookin' for a man named Coleman Masskie. Do you know him? He used to live here seven, eight years ago." Now the old girl smiled. "I remember Coleman well. I'm Delores Masskie Tucker Kafesjian Luderman Jensen Tyson Jones. I'm Coleman's mother. Coleman was one of the staunchest slaves I bore to proselytize for Sister Aimee." Buzz swallowed. "Slaves, ma'am? And you certainly do have a lot of names." The woman laughed. "I tried to remember my maiden name the other day, and I couldn't. You see, young man, I have had many lovers in my role as child breeder to Sister Aimee. God made me beautiful and fertile so that I might provide Sister Aimee Semple McPherson with acolytes, and the County of Los Angeles has given me many a Relief dollar so that I might feed my young. Certain cynics consider me a fanatic and a welfare chiseler, but they are the devil speaking. Don't you think that spawning good white progeny for Sister Aimee is a noble vocation?" Buzz said, "I certainly do, and I was sorta thinkin' about doin' it myself. Ma'am, where's Coleman now? I got some money for him, and I figure he'll kick some of it back to you." Delores scratched the grass with her rake. "Coleman was always generous. I had a total of nine children--six boys, three girls. Two of the girls became Sister Aimee followers, one, I'm ashamed to say, became a prostitute. The boys ran away when they turned fourteen or fifteen--eight hours a day of prayer and Bible reading was too strenuous for them. Coleman remained the longest--until he was nineteen. I gave him a dispensation: no prayer and Bible reading because he did chores around the neighborhood and gave me half the money. How much money do you owe Coleman, young man?" Buzz said, "Lots of it. Where is Coleman, ma'am?" "In hell, I'm afraid. Those who rebuke Sister Aimee are doomed to boil forever in a scalding cauldron of pus and Negro semen." "Ma'am, when did you last see Coleman?" "I believe I last saw him in the late fall of 1942." A half-sane answer--one that played into Upshaw's timetable. "What was old Coleman doin' then, ma'am?" Delores pulled the leaf from her rake and crumbled it to dust. "Coleman was developing worldly ways. He listened to jazz records on a Victrola, prowled around in the evenings and quit high school prematurely, which angered me, because Sister Aimee prefers her slaves to have a high school diploma. He got a dreadful job at a dental laboratory, and quite frankly he became a thief. I used to find strange trinkets in his room, but I let him be when he confessed his transgressions against private property and pledged ten percent of his proceeds to Sister Aimee." The dental lab, Coleman as a burglar--Upshaw's theory coming through. "Ma'am, was this '42 when Coleman was doin' his thievery?" "Yes. The summer before he left home." "And did Coleman have a burned face? Was he disfigured somehow?" The old loon was aghast. "Coleman was male slave beauty personified! He was as handsome as a matinee idol!" Buzz said, "Sorry for impugnin' the boy's looks. Ma'am, who was Masskie? He the boy's daddy?" "I don't really recall. I was spreading myself quite thin with men back in the early nineteen twenties, and I only took the surnames of men with large endowments--the better for when I chanted my breeding incantations. Exactly how much money do you owe Coleman? He's in hell, you know. Giving me the money might win a reprieve on his soul." Buzz forked over his last ten-spot. "Ma'am, you said Coleman hightailed in the fall of '42?" "Yes, that's true, and Sister Aimee thanks you." "Why did he take off? Where did he go?" Delores looked scared--her skin sank over her cheekbones and her eyes bugged out another couple of inches. "Coleman went looking for his father, whoever he was. A nasty man with a nasty brogue came around asking for him, and Coleman became terrified and ran away. The brogue man kept returning with questions on Coleman's whereabouts, but I kept invoking the power of Sister Aimee and he desisted." Sleepy Lagoon killing time; Dudley Smith asking to join the grand jury team; Dudley's off-the-track hard-on for the José Diaz murder and the SLDC. "Ma'am, are you talkin' about an Irish brogue? A big man, late thirties then, red-faced, brown hair and eyes?" Delores made signs, hands to her chest and up to her face, like she was warding off vampires in an old horror movie. "Get behind me, Satan! Feel the power of Foursquare Church, Angelus Temple and Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, and I will not answer another single question until you provide adequate cash tribute. Get behind me or risk hell!" Buzz turned out his pockets for bubkis; he knew a brick wall when he saw one. "Ma'am, you tell Sister Aimee to hold her horses--I'll be back."
Buzz drove home, ripped a photo of then-Patrolman Dudley Smith out of his LAPD Academy yearbook and rolled to the Chateau Marmont. Dusk and light rain were falling as he parked on Sunset by the front entrance; he was settling into a fret on the lioness when Mal tapped the windshield and got in the car. Buzz said, "Gravy. You?" "Double gravy." "Boss, it plays like a ricochet, and it contradicts 'middle-aged' again." Mal stretched his legs. "So does my stuff. Nort Layman called Jack Shortell, he called me. Doc's been grid-searching the LA River near where Augie Duarte's body was found--he wants a complete forensic for some book he's writing. Get this: he found silver-gray wig strands with O+ blood--obviously from a head scratch--at the exact spot where the killer would have had to scale a fence to get away. That's why your ricochet plays." Buzz said, "And why Loftis doesn't. Boss, you think somebody's tryin' to frame that old pansy?" "It occurred to me, yes." "What'd you get off Juan Duarte?" "Scary stuff, worse than goddamn wolverine teeth. Danny talked to Duarte, did you know that?" "No." "It was right before LAPD grabbed him. Duarte told Danny that around the SLDC time Reynolds Loftis had a much younger kid brother hanging around--who looked just like him. At first, the kid had his face bandaged, because he'd been burned in a fire. Nobody knew how much he resembled Loftis until the bandages came off. The kid blabbed at the SLDC rallies--about how a big white man killed José Diaz--but nobody believed him. He was supposed to be running from the killer, but when Duarte said, 'How come you're showing up here where the killer might see you,' the brother said, 'I've got special protection.' Buzz, there are no notations on a Loftis kid brother in any of the grand jury files. And it gets better." Buzz thought: I know it does; he wondered who'd say "Dudley Smith" first. "Keep going. My stuff fits right in." Mal said, "Duarte went to see Charles Hartshorn right before his alleged suicide, to see if he could get the cops to put some juice into investigating Augie's murder. Hartshorn said he'd been ditzed on Duane Lindenaur's killing--you, partner--and he read about the zoot stick mutilations on the other victims in a scandal sheet and thought the snuffs might be SLDC connected. Hartshorn called the LAPD then, and talked to a Sergeant Breuning, who said he'd be right over. Duarte left, and the next morning Hartshorn's body was found. Bingo." Buzz said it first. "Dudley Smith. He was the big white man and he joined the team so he could keep the SLDC testimony watchdogged. That's why he was interested in Upshaw. Danny was hipped on the zoot stick mutilations, and Augie Duarte--Juan's cousin--was on his surveillance list. That's why Dudley blew off the tails. He went with Breuning to see Hartshorn, and somebody said the wrong thing. Necktie party, bye-bye, Charlie." Mal hit the dashboard. "I can't fucking believe it." "I can. Now here's a good question. You been around Dudley lots more than I have lately. Is he tied to the queer snuffs?" Mal shook his head. "No. I've been racking my brain on it, and I can't put the two together. Dudley wanted Upshaw to join the team, and he couldn't have cared less about dead homos. It was when Danny pushed on 'zoot stick' and 'Augie Duarte' that Dudley got scared. Wasn't José Diaz a zooter?" Buzz said, "His threads were slashed with a zoot stick, I think I remember that. You got a motive for Dudley killin' Diaz?" "Maybe. I went with Dudley to visit his niece. Apparently she's got a bent for Mexes and Dudley can't stand it." "Pretty slim, boss." "Dudley's insane! What the fuck more do you want!" Buzz squeezed his partner's arm. "Whoa, boy, and just listen to my stuff. Coleman Masskie's crazy mama and I had a little chat. She had lots of different kids by different daddies, she don't know who's whose. Coleman left home in the late fall of '42. He was a burglar, he loved jazz, he worked at that dental lab. All that fits Upshaw's scenario. Now, dig this: fall of '42, a big man with a brogue comes around askin' for Coleman. I describe Dudley, the ginch gets terrified and clams. I say Coleman's the one runnin' from the big white man, who's Dudley, who bumped José Diaz--and Coleman saw it. I say we stretch Gordean now--then go back and ply that old girl and try to tie her to Reynolds Loftis." Mal said, "I'm taking Dudley down." Buzz shook his head. "You take another think on that. No proof, no evidence on Hartshorn, an eight-year-old spic homicide. A cop with Dudley's juice. You're as nuts as he is if you think that plays." Mal put on a lilting tenor brogue. "Then I'll kill him, lad." "The fuck you will." "I've killed a man before, Meeks. I can do it again." Buzz saw that he was out to do it--enjoying the view off the cliff. "Partner, a Nazi in the war ain't the same thing." "You knew about that?" "Why'd you think I was always afraid it was you 'stead of Dragna set me up? A mild-mannered guy like you kills once, he can do it again." Mal laughed. "You ever kill anyone?" "I stand on the Fifth Amendment, boss. Now you wanta go roust that queer pimp?" Mal nodded. "7941's the address--I think it's back in the bungalow part." "You be the bad guy tonight. You're good at it." "After you, lad." Buzz took the lead. They walked through the lobby and out a side door to the courtyard; it was dark, and high hedges hid the individual bungalows. Buzz tracked the numbers marked on wrought-iron poles, saw 7939 and said, "It's gotta be the next one." Gunshots. One, two, three, four--close, the odd-numbered side of the walkway. Buzz pulled his.38; Mal pulled and cocked his. They ran to 7941, pinned themselves to the wall on opposite sides of the door and listened. Buzz heard footsteps inside, moving away from them; he looked at Mal, counted one, two, three on his fingers, wheeled and kicked the door in. Two shots splintered the wood above his head; a muzzle flickered from a dark back room. Buzz hit the floor; Mal piled on top of him and fired twice blindly; Buzz saw a man spread-eagled on the carpet, his yellow silk robe soaked red from sash to collar. Cash wrapped in bank tabs surrounded the body. Mal stumbled and charged. Buzz let him go, heard thumping, crashing, glass breaking and no more shots. He got up and checked the stiff--a fancy man with a neat beard, a neat manicure and not much of a torso left. The bank tabs were marked Beverly Hills Federal, and there was at least three thousand in half-grand packets within grabbing distance. Buzz resisted; Mal came back, panting. He wheezed, "Car waiting. Late model white sedan." Buzz kicked a pack of greenbacks; they hit an embroidered on the dead man's sleeve. "Beverly Hills Fed. That where Loftis withdrew his money?" "That's the place." Sirens in the distance. Buzz waved goodbye to the cash. "Loftis, Claire, the killer, what do you think?" "Let's hit their place now. Before the Sheriffs ask us what we're--" Buzz said, "Separate cars," and took off running as fast as he could.
Mal got there first. Buzz saw him standing across the street from the De Haven house, U-turned and killed his engine. Mal leaned in the window. "What took you?" "I run slow." "Anybody see you?" "No. You?" "I don't think so. Buzz, we weren't there." "You're learnin' this game better every day, boss. What'd you get here?" "Two cold cars. I looked in a window and saw De Haven and Loftis playing cards. They're clean. You make the killer for it?" Buzz said, "Nix. It's wrong. He's a psycho fuckin' rat worshiper, and it's my considered opinion that psycho rat worshipers don't carry guns. I'm thinkin' Minear. He fits with Loftis, and there was a line on him from the files, said he liked to buy boys." "You could be right. The Masskie woman next?" "236 South Beaudry, boss." "Let's do it."
Buzz got there first; he rang the bell and went eyeball to eyeball with Delores in a long white robe. She said, "Did you bring monetary tribute for Sister?" Buzz said, "My bagman's comin' in a minute." He took out the picture of Dudley Smith. "Ma'am, is this the fella who was inquirin' after Coleman?" Delores blinked at the photograph and crossed herself. "Get behind me, Satan. Yes, that's him." Seven come eleven, one more for Danny Upshaw. "Ma'am, do you know the name Reynolds Loftis?" "No, I don't think so." "Anybody named Loftis?" "No." "Any chance you messed with a man named Loftis around the time Coleman was born?" The old girl harumphed. "If by 'messed' you mean engaged in breeding activities for Sister Aimee, the answer is no." Buzz said, "Ma'am, you told me Coleman went lookin' for his daddy when he took off in '42. If you didn't know who his daddy was, how'd the boy know where to look?" Delores said, "Twenty dollars for Sister Aimee and I'll show you." Buzz slid off his high school ring. "Yours to keep, sweetie. Just show me." Delores examined the ring, pocketed it and walked away; Buzz stood on the porch wondering where Mal was. Minutes dragged; the woman returned with an old leather scrapbook. She said, "The genealogy of my slave breeding. I took pictures of all the men who gave me their seed, with appropriate comments on the back. When Coleman decided he had to find his father, he looked at this book for pictures of the men he most resembled. I hid the book when the brogue man came by, and I still want twenty dollars for this information." Buzz opened the scrapbook, saw that the pages contained stapled-on photographs of dozens of men, held it up to the porch light and started looking. Four pages down, a picture caught his eye: a spellbinder youthful, spellbinder handsome Reynolds Loftis in a tweed knicker suit. He pulled the photo out and read the writing on the back. "Randolph Lawrence (a nom de guerre?), summer stock actor, the Ramona Pageant, August 30, 1922. A real Southern gentleman. Good white stock. I hope his seed springs fertile." 1942: burglar, tooth technician, rat lover Coleman witnesses Dudley Smith killing José Diaz, sees this picture or others and locates Daddy Reynolds Loftis .1943: Coleman, his face burned in a fire???, hangs out at SLDC rallies with his father/phony brother, talks up the big white man, nobody believes him .1942 to 1944: Loftis' psych file missing .1950: killer Coleman. Was the psycho trying to frame Daddy/Reynolds for the queer murders, dressed up like Loftis himself--Doc Layman's wig fragments the final kicker? Buzz held out the picture. "That Coleman, ma'am?" Delores smiled. "Rather close. What a nice-looking man. A shame I can't remember spawning with him." A car door slammed; Mal got out and trotted up the steps. Buzz took him aside and showed him the photo. "Loftis, 1922. AKA Randolph Lawrence, summer. stock actor. He's Coleman's father, not his brother." Mal tapped the picture. "Now I'm wondering how the boy got burned and why the brother charade. And you were right on Minear." "What do you mean?" "I called the DMV. Minear owns a white '49 Chrysler New Yorker sedan. I went by his place in Chapman Park on my way here. It was in his building's garage, warm, and it looked just like the car at the Marmont." Buzz put an arm around Mal's shoulders. "Gifts in a manger, and here's another one. That crazy woman in the doorway ID'd Dudley from a picture I got. He's the brogue man." Mal looked over at Delores. "Do you think Dudley copped Danny's files?" "No, I think he'd have faked a burglary. Coleman's our killer, boss. All we gotta do now is find him." "Shit. Loftis and Claire won't talk. I know it." Buzz took his arm away. "No, but I bet we could squeeze Chaz beauty. He was tight with Loftis back in '43, '44, and I know a good squeeze artist to help us. You give that lady a double-saw and I'll go give him a call." Mal went for his billfold; Buzz walked into the house and found a phone by the kitchen door. He called Information, got the number he wanted and dialed it; Johnny Stompanato's slick guinea baritone oiled on the line. "Talk to me." "It's Meeks. You wanta make some money? Number-one muscle on a strongarm job, make sure my buddy don't go crazy and hurt someone?" Johnny Stomp said, "You're a dead man. Mickey found out about you and Audrey. The neighbors saw you hustling her away, and I'm lucky he didn't figure out I tipped you. Nice to know you, Meeks. I always thought you had style." Move over Danny Upshaw, fat man coming through. Buzz looked at Mal paying off the rat killer's mother; he got an idea--or the idea got him. "Contract out?" "Ten grand. Fifteen if they get you alive so Mickey can get his jollies." "Chump change. Johnny, you wanna make twenty grand for two hours' work?" "You slay me. Next you'll be offering me a date with Lana Turner." "I mean it." "Where you gonna get that dough?" "I'll have it inside two weeks. Deal?" "What makes you think you'll live that long?" "Ain't you a gambler?" "Oh shit. Deal." Buzz said, "I'll call you back," and hung up. Mal was standing beside him, shaking his head. "Mickey knows?" "Yeah, Mickey knows. You got a couch?" Mal gave Buzz a soft punch in the arm. "Lad, I think people are starting to get your number." "Say what?" "I figured out something today." "What?" "You killed Gene Niles."
Mal's take on Johnny Stompanato: two parts olive-oil charm, two parts hepcat, six parts plug-ugly. His take on the whole situation: Buzz was doomed, and his voice talking to Audrey on the phone said he knew it. Coleman arrested for four sex murders plus grand jury indictments added up to Stefan dropped on his doorstep like a Christmas bundle. The _Herald__ and _Mirror__ were playing up the Gordean killing, no suspects, puff pieces on the victim as a straight-arrow talent agent, no mention of the bank money--the catching officers probably got fat. The papers made UAES the instigators of the riot the Teamsters started; Buzz was impressed with his shot in the dark on Gene Niles and believed his promise not to spill on it. The fat man was going to brace Dudley's niece while he and Stompanato braced Chaz Minear, and when they had Coleman placed, he'd call his newspaper contacts so they could be in on the capture: first interviews with Captain Malcolm E. Considine, captor of the Wolverine Monster. And then Dudley Smith. They were sitting in Stompanato's car, 8:00 A.M., a cop-crook stakeout. Mal knew his scenario; Buzz had filled Johnny in on his and had greased the doorman of Minear's building. The man told him Chaz left for breakfast every morning at 8:10 or so, walked over Mariposa to the Wilshire Derby and returned with the newspaper around 9:30. Buzz gave him a C-note to be gone from 9:30 to 10:00; during that half hour they'd have a wide-open shot. Mal watched the door; Stompanato gave himself a pocketknife manicure and hummed opera. At 8:09 a small man in tennis sweater and slacks walked out the entrance of the Conquistador Apartments; the doorman gave them the high sign. Stompanato sliced a cuticle and smiled; Mal jacked his plug-ugly quotient way up. They waited. At 9:30, the doorman tipped his cap, got into a car and drove off; at 9:33 Chaz Minear walked into the building holding a newspaper. Stompanato put his knife away; Mal said, "Now." They quick-marched into the lobby. Minear was checking his mail slot; Johnny Stomp strode ahead to the elevator and opened the door. Mal dawdled by a wall mirror, straightening his necktie, getting a reverse view of Minear grabbing letters, Stompanato keeping the elevator door open with his foot, smiling like a good neighbor. Little Chaz walked over and into the trap; Mal came up behind him, nudged Johnny's foot away and let the door close. Minear pushed the button for three. Mal saw his door key already in his hand, grabbed it and rabbit-punched him. Minear dropped his newspaper and mail and doubled over; Johnny pinned him to the wall, a hand on his neck. Minear went purply blue; it looked like his eyes were about to pop out. Mal talked to him, a mimic of Dudley Smith. "We know you killed Felix Gordean. We were his partners on the Loftis job, and you're going to tell us allll about Reynolds and his son. Allll about it. Lad." The door slid open; Mal saw "311" on the key and an empty hallway. He walked out, located the apartment four doorways over, unlocked the door and stood back. Stompanato forced Minear inside and released his neck; Chaz fell down rasping for breath. Mal said, "You know what to ask him. Do it while I toss for the files." Minear coughed words; Johnny stepped on his neck. Mal took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and tossed. The apartment had five rooms: living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, study. Mal hit the study first--it was the furthest from Stompanato and the nance. A radio went on, the dial skimming across jazz, commercial jingles and the news, stopping at an opera, a baritone and a soprano going at each other over a thunderous orchestra. Mal thought he heard Minear scream; the music was turned up. Mal worked. The study--desk, filing cabinets and a chest of drawers--yielded stacks of movie scripts, carbons of Minear's political letters, correspondence to him, miscellaneous memoranda and a.32 revolver, the cylinder empty, a cordited barrel. The bedroom was pastel-appointed and filled with piles of books; there was a wardrobe closet crammed with expensive clothes and rows of shoes arrayed in trees. An antique cabinet featured drawers spilling propaganda tracts; there was nothing but more shoes under the bed. The opera kept wailing; Mal checked his watch, saw 10:25, an hour down and two rooms clean. He gave the bathroom a cursory toss; the music stopped; Stompanato popped his head in the doorway. He said, "The pansy spilled. Tell Meeks he better stay alive to get me my money." The hard boy looked green at the gills. Mal said, "I'll do the kitchen and talk to him." "Forget it. Loftis and Claire what's her face got the files. Come on, you've gotta hear this." Mal followed Johnny into the living room. Chaz Minear was sitting prim and proper in a rattan chair; there were welts on his cheeks and blood had congealed below his nostrils. His tennis whites were still spotless, his eyes were unfocused, he was wearing an exhausted, almost slaphappy grin. Mal looked at Stompanato; Johnny said, "I poured half a pint of Beefeater's into him." He tapped the sap hooked into his belt. "In vino veritas, capiche?" Danny Upshaw had said the same thing to him--the one time they drank together. Mal took a chair facing Minear. "Why did you kill Gordean? Tell me." Minear, an easy mid-Atlantic accent. "Pride." He sounded proud. Mal said, "What do you mean?" "Pride. Gordean was tormenting Reynolds." "He started tormenting him back in '44. It took you a while to get around to revenge." Minear focused on Mal. "The police told Reynolds and Claire that I informed on Reynolds to the House Committee. I don't know how they knew, but they did. They confronted me about it, and I could tell Reynolds' poor heart was broken. I knew Gordean was blackmailing him again, so I did penance. Claire and Reynolds and I had gotten so close again, and I imagine you could present a case for me acting in my own self-interest. It was good having friends, and it was awful when they started hating me.' The rap was falling on him--he was the one who snitched the snitch. "Why didn't you take the money?" "Oh Lord, I couldn't. It would have destroyed the gesture. And Claire has all the money in the world. She shares so generously with Reynolds... and with all her friends. You're not really a criminal, are you? You look more like an attorney or an accountant." Mal laughed--a kamikaze queer romantic had his number. "I'm a policeman." "Are you going to arrest me?" "No. Do you want to be arrested?" "I want everyone to know what I did for Reynolds, but..." "But you don't want them to know why? Why Gordean was blackmailing Loftis?" "Yes. That's true." Mal threw a switcheroo. "Why did Reynolds and Claire steal Upshaw's files? To protect all of you from the grand jury?" "No." "Because of Reynolds' kid brother? _His son__? Was it Upshaw's _homicide__ file they were most interested in?" Minear sat mute; Mal waved Stompanato toward the back of the apartment. "Chaz, you've said it once. Now you have to say it to me." No answer. "Chaz, I'll make you a deal. I'll make sure everyone knows you killed Gordean, but I won't let Reynolds get hurt anymore. All you'll get is what you want. Reynolds will know you had courage and you paid him back. He'll love you again. He'll forgive you." "Love you" and "forgive you" made Minear cry, sputters of tears that he dried with his sweater sleeves. He said, "Reynolds left me for him. That's why I informed to HUAC." Mal leaned closer. "Left you for who?" "For _him__." "Who's 'him'?" Minear said, "Reynolds' little brother was really his son. His mother was a crazy religious woman Reynolds had an affair with. She got money from him and kept the boy. When Coleman was nineteen, he ran away from the woman and found Reynolds. Reynolds took him in and became his lover. He left me to be with his own son." Mal pushed his chair back, the confession a horror movie he wanted to run screaming from. He said, "All of it," before he bolted for real. Minear raised his voice, like he was afraid of his confessor running; he speeded up, like he was anxious to be absolved or punished. "Felix Gordean was blackmailing Reynolds back in '44 or so. Somehow he figured out about him and Coleman, and he threatened to tell Herman Gerstein about it. Gerstein hates men like us, and he would have ruined Reynolds. When that policeman came around questioning Felix about the first three killings, Felix put things together. George Wiltsie had been with Reynolds, Marty Goines and Coleman were both jazz men. Then Augie Duarte was killed, and more details had been in the newspapers. The policeman had let some things slip and Felix knew Coleman had to be the killer. He renewed his blackmail demands, and Reynolds gave him another ten thousand. "Claire and Reynolds confided in me, and I knew I could make up for informing. They knew after the first three killings that it had to be Coleman--they read a tabloid that had details on the mutilations, and they knew from the names of the victims. They knew about it before the policeman tried to infiltrate UAES, and they were looking for Coleman to try to stop him. Juan Duarte saw Upshaw at the morgue when Augie was there, and recognized him from a picture Norm Kostenz took. He told Claire and Reynolds who Upshaw really was, and they got scared. They had read that the police were looking for a man who resembled Reynolds, and they thought Coleman must be trying to frame his father. They left out clues to exonerate Reynolds, and I followed Upshaw home from Claire's house. The next day, Claire got Mondo Lopez to pick the lock on his apartment and look for things on the killings--things that would help them find Coleman. Mondo found his files and brought them to Claire. She and Reynolds were desperate to stop Coleman and keep the..." _Keep the whole horror epic from ruining Reynolds Loftis worse than the grand jury ever could__. Mal thought of Claire--terrified of a harmless Sleepy Lagoon remark the first time they talked; he thought of Coleman's burn face, put it aside and went straight for the woman. "Claire and Coleman. What's between them?" The queer redeemer glowed. "Claire nurtured Coleman back in the SLDC days. He was in love with her, and he told her he always thought about her when he was with Reynolds. She heard out all his ugly, violent fantasies. She forgave them for being together. She was always so strong and accepting. The killings started a few weeks after the papers ran the wedding announcements. When Coleman learned that Reynolds was getting Claire forever, it must have made him crazy. Are you going to arrest me now?" Mal couldn't make himself say no and break the rest of Chaz Minear. He couldn't say anything, because Johnny Stompanato had just walked into the room with his olive-oil charm back in place, and all he could think of was that he could never keep Stefan safe from the horror.
Mary Margaret Conroy was coming across as a major league Mexophile. Buzz had tailed her from her sorority house to a hand-holding kaffeeklatch at the UCLA Student Union; she was a simpering frail in the presence of a handsome taco bender named Ricardo. Their conversation was all in Spanish, and all he recognized were words like "corazon" and "felicidad," love stuff he knew from the juke box music at Mexican restaurants. From there, Dudley Smith's dough-faced niece went to a meeting of the Pan American Students' League, a class in Argentine history, lunch and more fondling with Ricardo. She'd been sequestered in a classroom with "Art of the Mayans" for over an hour now, and when she walked out he'd pop the question--shit or get off the pot time. He kept checking his flank, seeing bad guys everywhere, like Mickey with the Commies. Only his were real: Mickey himself, Cohen goons armed with icepicks and saps and garottes and silencered heaters that could leave you dead in a crowd, a heart attack victim, squarejohns summoning an ambulance while the triggerman walked away. He kept checking faces and kept trying not to cut odds, because he was too good an oddsmaker to give himself and Audrey much of a chance. And he had a monster hangover. And his back ached from boozy catnaps on Mal Considine's floor. They'd been up most of the night, planning. He called Dave Kleckner in Ventura--Audrey was safely tucked in at his pad. He'd called Johnny Stomp with details on the Minear squeeze and gave Mal the lowdown on Gene Niles. Mal said he'd tagged him as the killer on a hunch--that payback for Danny was so antithetical to his style that he knew the debt had to be huge. Mal got weepy on the kid, then went loony on Dudley Smith--Dudley made for José Diaz, Charles Hartshorn, suppression of evidence and a fuckload of conspiracy raps, Dudley sucking gas up at Q. He never made the next jump: the powers that be would never let Dudley Smith stand trial for anything--his rank, juice and reputation were diplomatic immunity. They talked escape routes next. Buzz held back on his idea--it would have sounded as crazy as Mal taking down Dudley. They talked East Coast hideouts, slow boats to China, soldier of fortune gigs in Central America, where the local strongmen paid gringos good pesos to keep the Red Menace in check. They talked the pros and cons of taking Audrey, leaving Audrey, the lioness stashed someplace safe for a couple of years. They came to one conclusion: he'd give payback another forty-eight hours tops, then go in a hole somewhere. A classroom bell sounded; Buzz got pissed: Mary Margaret Conroy would never blab, only confirm by her actions--all he was doing was humoring Mal's hump on Dudley. "Art of the Mayans" adjourned in a swirl of students, Mary Margaret the oldest by a good ten years. Buzz followed her outside, tapped her shoulder and said, "Miss Conroy, could I talk to you for a second?" Mary Margaret turned around, hugging her armload of books. She eyed Buzz with distaste and said, "You're not with the faculty, are you?" Buzz forced himself not to laugh. "No, I'm not. Sweetie, wouldn't you say Uncle Dudley went a bit too far warnin' José Diaz away from you?" Mary Margaret went sheet white and passed out on the grass.
Dudley for Diaz. Buzz left Mary Margaret on the grass with a firm pulse and fellow students hovering. He got off the campus quick and drove to Ellis Loew's house to play a hunch: Doc Lesnick's absence while UAESer lunacy raged on all fronts was too pat. The four Bureau dicks trying to find the man were filing reports at the house, and there might be something in them to give him a spark atop the hunch and the flicker that caused it: all the psych files ended in the summer of '49, even though the brain trusters were still seeing Lesnick. That fact reeked of wrong. Buzz parked on Loew's front lawn, already crowded with cars. He heard voices coming from the back yard, walked around and saw Ellis holding court on the patio. Champagne was cooling on an ice cart; Loew, Herman Gerstein, Ed Satterlee and Mickey Cohen were hoisting glasses. Two Cohen boys were standing sentry with their backs to him; nobody had seen him yet. He ducked behind a trellis and listened. Gerstein was exulting: yesterday's picket brawl was blamed on the UAES; the Teamster film crew leaked their version of the riot to Movietone News, who'd be captioning it "Red Rampage Rocks Hollywood" and shoving it into theaters nationwide. Ellis came on with his good news: the grand jury members being appointed by the City Council looked mucho simpatico, his house was packed with great evidence, mucho indictments seemed imminent. Satterlee kept talking about the climate being perfect, the grand jury a sweetheart deal that was preordained by God for this time and place only, a deal that would never come again. The geek looked about two seconds away from asking them to kneel in prayer; Mickey shut him up and not too subtly started asking questions about the whereabouts of Special Investigator Turner "Buzz" Meeks. Buzz walked to the front of the house and let himself in. Typists were typing; clerks were filing; there was enough documentation in the living room to make confetti for a thousand ticker tape parades. He moved to the report board and saw that it had been replaced by a whole wall of photographs. Federal evidence stamps were attached to the borders; Buzz saw "SLDC" a dozen times over and looked closer. The pics were obviously the surveillance shots Ed Satterlee was trying to buy off a rival clearance group; another scope and he noticed every photo was marked SLDC, with '43 and '44 dates tagged at the bottom, the pictures arranged chronologically, probably waiting for some artwork: circling the faces of known Commies. Buzz thought: Coleman, and started looking for a face swathed in bandages. Most of the photos were overhead group shots; some were enlarged sections where faces were reproduced more clearly. The quality on all of them was excellent--the Feds knew their stuff. Buzz saw some blurry, too white faces in the earlier pics, crowd shots from the spring of '43; he followed the pictures across the wall, hoping for Coleman sans gauze and dressings, an aid to ID the rat killer in person. He got bandage glimpses through the summer of '43; little looks at Claire De Haven and Reynolds Loftis along the way. Then--blam!--a Reynolds Loftis view that was way off; the handsome queer too, too short in the tooth, with too much hair. Buzz checked the date--8/17/43--rechecked the Loftis glimpses, rechecked the clothes on the bandaged man. Reynolds had noticeably thinning hair throughout; the too young Reynolds sported a full head of thick stuff. In three of the overhead shots, bandage man was wearing a striped skivvy shirt; in the close-up, too young Reynolds was wearing the same thing. Juan Duarte had told Mal that Reynolds' "kid brother" looked just like him--but _this man__ was Reynolds in every respect except the hair, every facial plane and angle exactly like his father--a mirror image of Daddy twenty years younger. Buzz thought semantics, thought "just like" might be an uneducated greaseball's synonym for "identical twin"; Delores Masskie called the resemblance "rather close." He grabbed a magnifying glass off a typist's desk; he followed the pictures, looking for more Coleman. Three over he got a close shot of the boy with a man and a woman; he put the lens up to it and squinted for all he was worth. No burn scars of any kind; no pocked and shiny skin; no uneven patches where flesh was grafted. Two photos over, one row down. November 10, 1943. The boy standing sideways facing Claire De Haven, shirtless. Deep, perfectly straight scars on his right arm, a row of them, scars identical to scars he saw on the arm of an RKO actor who'd had his face reconstructed after an auto wreck, scars that actor had pointed to with pride, telling him that only Doctor Terry Lux did arm grafts, the skin there was the best, so good that it was worth upper body tissue removal. The actor said that Terry made him look _exactly__ like he did before the accident--when he looked at himself even he couldn't tell the difference. Terry Lux dried Claire De Haven out at his clinic three times. Terry Lux had workers who slaughtered chickens with zoot sticks. Terry Lux told him Loftis used to cop H for Claire; Marty Goines was snuffed by a heroin overjolt. Terry Lux diluted the morphine for his dope cures on the premises at his clinic. Buzz kept the magnifying glass to the wall, kept scanning. He got a back view of Coleman shirtless, saw a patchwork of perfectly straight scars that made him think of zoot stick wounds; he found another set of group shots that looked like Coleman fawning all over Claire De Haven. Hard evidence: Coleman Masskie Loftis was plastic surgery altered to look more like his father. He resembled his father enough to ID him from Delores' pictures before; now he was him. His "special protection" from Dudley Smith was being disguised as Loftis. Buzz ripped the best Coleman pic off the wall, pocketed it and found a table stacked with reports from the Bureau men. He quick-skimmed the latest update; all the officers had accomplished was a shakedown of Lesnick's parolee daughter--she said the old man was just about gone from his lung cancer and was thinking about checking into a rest home to check out. He was about to pocket a list of local sanitariums when he heard "Traitor," and saw Mickey and Herman Gerstein standing a few feet away. Cohen with a clean shot, but a half dozen witnesses spoiling his chance. Buzz said, "I suppose this means my guard gig's kaput. Huh, Mick?" The man looked hurt as much as he looked mad. "Goyishe shitheel traitor. Cocksucker. Communist. How much money did I give you? How much money did I set up for you that you should do me like you did?" Buzz said, "Too much, Mick." "That is no smart answer, you fuck. You should beg. You should beg that I don't do you slow." "Would it help?" "No." "There you go, boss." Mickey said, "Herman, leave this room"; Gerstein exited. The typers kept typing and the clerks kept clerking. Buzz gave the little hump's cage a rattle. "No hard feelin's, huh?" Mickey said, "I will make you a deal, because when I say "deal," it is always to trust. Right?" "Trust" and "deal" were the man's bond--it was why he went with him instead of Siegel or Dragna. "Sure, Mick." "Send Audrey back to me and I will not hurt a hair on her head and I will not do you slow. Do you trust my word?" "Yes." "Do you trust I'll get you?" "You're the odds-on favorite, boss." "Then be smart and do it." "No deal. Take care, Jewboy. I'll miss you. I really will."
Pacific Sanitarium--fast. Buzz turned off PCH and beeped his horn at the gate; the squawk box barked, "Yes?" "Turner Meeks to see Dr. Lux." Static sounds for a good ten seconds, then: "Park off to your left by the door marked 'Visiting,' go through the lounge and take the elevator up to the second floor. Doctor will meet you in his office." Buzz did it, parking, walking through the lounge. The elevator was in use; he took stairs up to the second floor, saw the connecting door open, heard, "Okie baboon" and stopped just short of the last step. Terry Lux's voice: "... but I have to talk to him, he's a pipeline to Howard Hughes. Listen, there should be something in the papers today I'm interested in--a guy I used to do business with was murdered. I just heard about it on the radio, so go get me all the LA dailies while I talk to this clown." Odds on Lux-Gordean business: six to one in favor of. Buzz retraced his steps to the car, grabbed his billy club, stuck it down the back of his pants and took his time walking inside. The elevator was empty; he pushed the button for 2 and glided up thinking how much Terry loved money, how little he cared where it came from. The door opened; the dope doc himself was there to greet him. "Buzzy, long time no see." The administrative corridor looked nice and deserted--no nurses or orderlies around. Buzz said, "Terry, how are you?" "Is this business, Buzz?" "Sure is, boss. And on the extra QT. You got a place where we can talk?" Lux led Buzz down the hall, to a little room with filing cabinets and facial reconstruction charts. He closed the door; Buzz locked it and leaned on it. Lux said, "What the hell are you doing?" Buzz felt the billy club tickling his spine. "Spring of '43 you did a plastic job on Reynolds Loftis' son. Tell me about it." "I don't know what you're talking about. Check my '43 files if you like." "This ain't negotiable, Terry. This is you spill all, Gordean included." "There's nothing to negotiate, because I don't know what you're talking about." Buzz pulled out his baton and hit Lux behind the knees. The blow sent Lux pitching into the wall; Buzz grabbed a fistful of his hair and banged his face against the door jamb. Lux slid to the floor, trailing blood on polished mahogany, sputtering, "Don't hit me. Don't hit me." Buzz backed up a step. "Stay there, the floor looks good on you. Why'd you cut the boy to look like his old man? Who told you to do that?" Lux tilted his head back, gurgled and shook himself like a dog shedding water. "You scarred me. You... you scarred me." "Give yourself a plastic. And answer me." "Loftis had me do it. He paid me a lot, and he paid me never to tell anybody about it. Loftis and the psycho had essentially the same bone structure, and I did it." "Why'd Loftis want it done?" Lux moved into a sitting position and massaged his knees. His eyes darted to an intercom phone atop a filing cabinet just out of reach; Buzz smashed the contraption with his stick. "Why? And don t tell me Loftis wanted the boy to look like him so he could be a movie star." "He did tell me that!" Buzz tapped the baton against his leg. "Why'd you call Coleman a psycho?" "He did his post-op here, and I caught him raiding the hatchery! He was cutting up the chickens with one of those zoot sticks my men use! He was drinking their goddamn blood!" Buzz said, "That's a psycho, all right"; he thought Terry had to be clean on snuff knowledge: the fool thought chickens were as bad as it got. "Boss, what kind of business did you do with Felix Gordean?" "I didn't kill him!" "I know you didn't, and I'm pretty damn sure you don't know who did. But I'll bet you hipped him to something about Reynolds Loftis back around '43, '44 or so, and Gordean started collectin' hush money on it. That sound about right?" Lux said nothing; Buzz said, "Answer me, or I'll go to work on your kidneys." "When I tell Howard about this, you'll be in trouble." "I'm finished with Howard." Lux made an overdue move. "Money, Buzz. That's what this is about, right? You've got an angle you want to buy in on and you need help. Am I right?" Buzz tossed his stick out, holding the end of the thong. The tip hit Lux in the chest; Buzz jerked it back like a yo-yo on a string. Lux yipped at the little wonder; Buzz said, "Coleman, Loftis and Gordean. Put them together." Lux stood up and straightened the folds of his smock. He said, "About a year after the reconstruction on Coleman I went to a party in Bel Air. Loftis and his so-called kid brother were there. I pretended not to know them, because Reynolds didn't want anyone to know about the surgery. Later on that night, I was out by the cabanas. I saw Coleman and Loftis kissing. It made me mad. I'd plasticed the kid for an incestuous pervert. I knew Felix liked to put the squeeze on queers, so I sold him the information. I figured he blackmailed Loftis. Don't look so shocked, Meeks. You would have done the same thing." Minear's file quote: "If you knew who he was, you'd know why I snitched"--the one reference Doc Lesnick let slip into the grand jury team's hands--_the half-dead old stoolie had to know the whole story__. Buzz looked at Lux culling back his dignity, pushed him into the wall and held him there with his stick. "When's the last time you saw Coleman?" Lux's voice was high and thin. "Around '45. Daddy and Sonny must have had a spat. Coleman came to me with two grand and told me he didn't want to look so much like Daddy anymore. He asked me to break his face up scientifically. I told him that since I enjoy inflicting pain, I'd only take a grand and a half. I strapped him into a dental chair, put on heavy bag gloves and broke every bone in his face. I kept him on morph while he recovered down by the chicken shed. He left with a teeny weeny little habit and some not so teeny little bruises. He started wearing a beard, and all that was left of Reynolds was the set of his eyes. Now, do you want to take that goddamn club off of me?" Bingo--the Goines heroin angle. Buzz held off on the baton. "I know you dilute your own morph here on the grounds." Lux took a scalpel from his pocket and started cleaning his nails. "Police sanctioned." "You told me Loftis copped horse for Claire De Haven. Did you and him use the same suppliers?" "A few of them. Coloreds with cop connections down in southtown. I only deal with officially sanctioned lackeys--like you." "Did Coleman have info on them?" "Sure. After the first surgery, I gave him a list. He had a crush on Claire, and he said he wanted to help her get the stuff, make the runs himself so she wouldn't have to truck with niggers. When he left after my second surgery, he probably used them for his own habit." A round of applause for Coleman Loftis: he kicked morph and took up rat worship slaughter. "I want that list. Now." Lux unlocked the filing cabinet by the demolished phone. He pulled out a slip of lined paper and reached for some blank sheets; Buzz said, "I'll keep the original," and grabbed it. The doctor shrugged and went back to cleaning his nails. Buzz started to tuck his baton away; Lux said, "Didn't your mother tell you it's not polite to stare?" Buzz kept quiet. "The strong, silent type. I'm impressed." "I'm impressed with you, Terry." "How so?" "Your recuperative powers. I'll bet you got yourself convinced this little humiliation didn't really happen." Lux sighed. "I'm Hollywood, Buzz. Easy come, easy go, and it's already a dim memory. Got a sec for a question?" "Sure." "What's this about? There has to be money in it somewhere. You don't work for free." Adios, Terry. Buzz kidney-punched Lux, his hardest stick shot. The scalpel fell from the doctor's hand. Buzz caught it, kneed Lux in the balls, smothered him into the wall and placed his right palm against it Jesus style. Lux screamed; Buzz rammed the scalpel into the hand and pounded it down to the hilt with his baton. Lux screamed some more, his eyes rolling back. Buzz shoved a handful of pocket cash into his mouth. "It's about payback. This is for Coleman."
Mal made another circuit of the De Haven house, wondering if they'd ever leave and give him a crack at the files, wondering if they'd got the word on Gordean yet. If Chaz Minear had called, they would have run to him; the killing was front page and all over the radio, and friends of theirs had to know that Loftis at least knew the man. But both cars stayed put and there was nothing he could do but keep waiting, moving, waiting to swoop. Canon Drive to Elevado, Comstock to Hillcrest to Santa Monica and around again--sitting surveillance was an invitation for the ubiquitous Beverly Hills cops to roust him, out of his jurisdiction and getting ready to pull a Class B felony. Every time around the house he imagined more horrors inside--Loftis and his own son, a knife to the part of him that lived to protect Stefan. Two hours of circling had him dizzy; he'd called Meeks' switchboard and left a message: meet me on Canon Drive--but Buzz's Caddy hadn't showed and it was getting to the point where he was close to going in the door gun first. Santa Monica around to Canon. Mal saw a paperboy tossing newspapers on front porches and lawns, hooked an idea, pulled over three houses up from Claire's and fixed her porch in his rearview. The boy hurled his bundle and hit the door; the door opened and an androgynous arm scooped the newspaper up. If they didn't already know, they soon would--and if their brains held over their fear they'd think Chaz. A slow minute passed. Mal fidgeted and found an old sweater in the back seat--a good window punch. Another slow bunch of seconds, then Claire and Loftis hurrying out to the Lincoln in the driveway. She got behind the wheel; he sat beside her; the car backed out and headed south--the direction of Minear's place. Mal walked over to the house--a tall, dignified man in a three-piece suit carrying a loosely folded sweater. He saw a side window by the door, punched it in, reached around and picked the lock. The door snapped open; Mal let himself in, closed the door and threw the top bolt. There were at least fifteen rooms to toss. Mal thought: closets, dens, places with desks--and hit the writing table by the stairwell. He pulled out a half dozen drawers, rummaged in a coat closet adjacent, feeling for folders and loose paper as much as looking. No loot. Back to the rear of the house; two more closets. Vacuum cleaners and carpet sweepers, mink coats, a prayer to his old Presbyterian God: please don't let them keep it in a safe. A den off a rear bathroom, bookshelves, a desk there--eight drawers of potpourri--movie scripts, stationery, old Loftis personal papers and no false bottoms or secret compartments. Mal left the den by a side door and smelled coffee. He followed the scent to a large room with a movie screen and projector set up at the rear. A drop leaf table holding a coffeepot and a scattering of papers was stationed square in the middle, two chairs tucked under it--a study scene. He walked over, started reading and saw how good Danny Upshaw could have been. The kid block-printed cleanly, thought intelligently, wrote with clarity and would have cracked the four killings easy if LAPD had given him an extra day or so. It was right there on his first summary report, page three, his second eyewitness on the Goines snatch. Claire and Reynolds had circled the information, confirming what Minear said: they were trying to find Loftis' son. Page three. Eyewitness Coleman Healy, questioned by Danny Upshaw on his first full day working the case. _He__ was late twenties--the right age. _He__ was described as tall, slender and wearing a beard, which was undoubtedly a fake, one that he took off when he impersonated his father/lover. He front-view-confirmed a bartender's side view description of himself, filling in the middle-aged part. _He__ was the first--and only, according to Jack Shortell--witness to identify Marty Goines as a homosexual, Upshaw's first homo lead outside of the mutilations. Put makeup on Coleman, and he could look middle-aged; put it all together with Doc Layman's silver wig strands found by the LA River and you had Coleman Masskie/Loftis/Healy committing murders out of his own blood lust and some kind of desire for revenge on incest raper Reynolds. But one thing didn't play: Danny had questioned Coleman and met Reynolds. Why didn't he snap to their obvious resemblance? Mal went through the rest of the pages, feeling the kid giving him juice. Everything was perfectly logical and boldly intelligent: Danny was beginning to get the killer's psyche down cold. There was a six-page report on his Tamarind Street break-in--he _did__ do it--devil take the hindmost, fuck City/County strictures; he was afraid LAPD would ruin him for it, so he didn't take the polygraph that would have cleared him on Niles and nighttrained it instead. Photographs showing blood patterns were mixed in with the reports; Danny had to have taken them himself, he'd risked a forensic in enemy territory. Mal felt tears in his eyes, saw himself building Ellis Loew's prosecution with Danny's evidence, making his own name soar on it. The Wolverine Killer in the gas chamber--sent there by the two of them and the unlikeliest best friend a ranking cop ever had: Buzz Meeks. Mal dried his eyes; he made a neat stack of the pages and photographs. He saw feminine script in the margins of a jigtown canvassing list: Southside hotels, with jazz clubs check-marked against Danny's printing. He stuffed that page in his pocket, bundled the rest of the file up and walked to the front door with it. Tripping the bolt, he heard a key go in the lock; he opened the door bold, like Danny Upshaw at Tamarind Street. Claire and Loftis were there on the porch; they looked at the broken glass, then at Mal and his armful of paper. Claire said, "You broke our deal." "Fuck our deal." "I was going to kill him. I finally figured out there was no other way." Mal saw a bag of groceries in Loftis' arms; he realized they didn't have time to see Minear. "For justice? People's justice?" "We just talked to our lawyer. He said there's no way you can prove any kind of homicide charges against us." Mal looked at Loftis. "It's all coming out. You and Coleman, all of it. The grand jury and Coleman's trial." Loftis stepped behind Claire, his head bowed. Mal glanced streetside and saw Buzz getting out of his car. Claire embraced her fiancé; Mal said, "Go look after Chaz. He killed a man for you."
Down to darktown in Mal's car, Lux's list of heroin pushers and the Danny/Claire list taped to the dashboard. Mal drove; Buzz wondered if he'd killed the Plastic Surgeon to the Stars; they both talked. Buzz filled in first: Mary Margaret's swooning confirmation and Lux minus the crucifixion. He talked up the plastic surgery on Coleman, a ploy to keep him safe from Dudley and fulfill his father's perv; Lux shooting Gordean the incest dope for blackmail purposes, the story of the burned face a device to hide the perv from Loftis' fellow lefties, the bandages simply the surgery scars healing. Buzz saved Lux rebreaking Coleman's face for last; Mal whooped and used the point to segue to sax man Healy, questioned by Danny Upshaw on New Year's Day--that was why the kid never snapped to a perfect Loftis/Coleman resemblance--it didn't exist anymore. From there, Mal talked Coleman. Coleman's intro lead on Marty Goines as a fruit, Coleman stressing the tall, gray man, Coleman wearing a gray wig and probably makeup when he glommed his victims, shucking the beard Upshaw saw on him. Loftis and Claire had Mondo Lopez steal Danny's files when they found out he was working the homo killings--Juan Duarte had snitched him as a cop. Mal recounted the Minear interrogation, Coleman the third point of the '42--'44 love triangle, Chaz shooting blackmailer Gordean to redeem himself in Claire and Loftis' eyes, Claire and Loftis searching for Coleman. And they both agreed: Marty Goines, a longtime Coleman pal, was probably a victim of opportunity--he was there when the rat man had to kill. Victims two, three and four were to tie in to Daddy Reynolds--a hellish smear tactic. They hit the Central Avenue Strip, daytime quiet, a block of spangly facades: the Taj Mahal, palm trees hung with Christmas lights, sequined music clefs, zebra stripes and a big plaster jigaboo with shiny red eyes. None of the clubs appeared to be open: bouncer-doormen and parking lot attendants sweeping up butts and broken glass were the only citizens out on the street. Mal parked and took the west side; Buzz took the east. He talked to bouncers; he talked to auto park flunkies; he handed out all the cash he didn't stuff down Terry Lux's throat. Three of the darkies gave him "Huh?"; two hadn't seen Coleman the alto guy in a couple of weeks; a clown in a purple admiral's tunic said he'd heard Healy was gigging at a private sepia club in Watts that let whiteys perform if they were hep and kept their lily-white meathooks off the colored trim. Buzz crossed the street and started canvassing toward his partner; three more "Huh?'s" and Mal came trotting over to him. He said, "I talked to a guy who saw Coleman last week at Bido Lito's. He said he was talking to a sickly old Jewish man about half dead. The guy said he looked like one of the old jazz fiends from the rest home on 78th and Normandie." Buzz said, "You think Lesnick?" "We're on the same track, lad." "Quit callin' me lad, it gives me the willies. Boss, I read a Bureau memo at Ellis' house. Lesnick's daughter said Pops was thinkin' about checkin' in to a rest bin to kick. There was a list of them, but I couldn't grab it." "Let's hit that Normandie place first. You get anything?" "Coleman might be playin' his horn at some private jig club in Watts." Mal said, "Shit. I worked 77th Street Division years ago, and there were tons of places like that. No more details?" "Nix." "Come on, let's move." They made it to the Star of David Rest Home fast, Mal running yellow lights, busting the speed limit by twenty miles an hour. The structure was a low tan stucco; it looked like a minimum security prison for people waiting to die. Mal parked and walked straight to the reception desk; Buzz found a pay phone outside and looked up "Sanitariums" in the Yellow Pages. There were thirty-four of them on the Southside. Buzz tore the page of listings out; he saw Mal standing by the car and walked over shaking his head. "Thirty-four bins around here. A long fuckin' day." Mal said, "Nothing inside. No Lesnick registered, nobody dying of lung cancer on the ward. No Coleman." Buzz said, "Let's try the hotels and pushers. If that's no go, we'll get some nickels and start callin' the sanitariums. You know, I think Lesnick's a lamster. If that was him with Coleman, he's in this somehow, and he wouldn't be registered under his own name." Mal tapped the hood of the car. "Buzz, Claire wrote that hotel list out. Minear said she and Loftis have been trying to find Coleman. If they've already tried--" "That don't mean spit. Coleman's been seen around here inside a week. He could be movin' around, but always stayin' close to the music. Somethin's goin' on with him and music, 'cause nobody made him for playin' an instrument, now these boogies down here say he's a hot alto sax. I say we hit hotels and H men while it's still light out, then come dark we hit those jig joints." "Let's go." The Tevere Hotel on 84th and Beach--no Caucasians in residence. The Galleon Hotel on 91st and Bekin--the one white man staying there a three-hundred-pound rummy squeezed into a single room with his negress wife and their four kids. Walking back to the car, Buzz checked the two lists and grabbed Mal's arm. "Whoa." Mal said, "What?" "A matcher. Purple Eagle Hotel, 96th and Central on Claire's list. Roland Navarette, Room 402 at the Purple Eagle on Lux's." "It took you a while." "Ink's all smudged." Mal handed him the keys. "You drive, I'll see what else you missed." They drove southeast. Buzz ground gears and kept popping the clutch; Mal studied the two lists and said, "The only matchup. You know what I was thinking?" "What?" "Lux knows Loftis and De Haven, and Loftis used to cop Claire's stuff. They could have access to Lux's suppliers, too." Buzz saw the Purple Eagle--a six-story cinderblock dump with a collection of chrome hood ornaments affixed above a tattered purple awning. He said, "Could be," and double-parked; Mal got out first and practically ran inside. Buzz caught up at the desk. Mal was badging the clerk, a scrawny Negro with his shirt cuffs buttoned full in a sweltering lobby. He was muttering, "Yessir, yessir, yessir," one eye on Mal, one hand reaching under the desk. Mal said, "Roland Navarette. Is he still in 402?" The hophead said, "Nossir, nossir," his hand still reaching; Buzz swooped around and pinned his wrist just as he was closing in on a junk bindle. He bent the fingers back; the hophead went, "Yessir, yessir, yessir"; Buzz said, "A white man, late twenties, maybe a beard. A jazz guy. He glom horse from Navarette?" "Nossir, nossir, nossir." "Boy, you tell true or I break the hand you geez up with and throw you in the cracker tank at the Seven-Seven." "Yessir, yessir, yessir." Buzz let go and laid the bindle out on the desk. The clerk rubbed his fingers. "White man, white woman here askin' same thing twenty minutes 'go. I tol' them, I tell you, Roland straighten up, fly right, don't sell no sweet horsey nohow." The punk's eyes strayed to a house phone; Buzz ripped it out and chucked it on the floor. Mal ran for the stairs. Buzz huffed and puffed after him, catching up on the fourth-floor landing. Mal was in the middle of a putrid-smelling hallway, gun out, pointing to a doorway. Buzz got his breath, pulled his piece and walked over. Mal ticked numbers; at three they kicked in the door. A Negro in soiled underwear was sitting on the floor sticking a needle in his arm, pushing the plunger down, oblivious to the noise and two white men pointing guns at him. Mal kicked his legs and pulled the spike out of his arm; Buzz saw a C-note resting under a fresh syringe on the dresser and knew Claire and Loftis had bought themselves a hot lead. Mal was slapping the H man, trying to bring him back from cloud nine; Buzz knew that was futile. He hauled him away from Mal, dragged him to the bathroom, stuck his head in the toilet and flushed. Roland Navarette came back to earth with shakes, shivers and sputters; the first thing he saw out of the bowl was a.38 in his face. Buzz said, "Where'd you send them white people after Coleman?" Roland Navarette said, "Man, this a humbug." Buzz cocked the gun. "Don't make me." Roland Navarette said, "Coleman gigging at this after-hours on One-O-Six an' Avalon."
Watts, code three without a siren. Buzz fingered his billy club; Mal leadfooted through twilight traffic. One hundred and sixth and Avalon was the heart of the heart of Watts: every tarpaper shack on the block had goats and chickens behind barbed-wire fences. Buzz thought of crazed darkies sacrificing them for voodoo rituals, maybe inviting Coleman over for some wolverine stew and a night of jazz hot. He saw a string of blue lights flickering around the doorway of a corner stucco; he said, "Pull over, I see it." Mal swung hard right and killed his engine at the curb. Buzz pointed across the street. "That white car was in De Haven's driveway." Mal nodded, opened the glove compartment and took out a pair of handcuffs. "I was going to let the papers in on this, but I guess there's no time." Buzz said, "He might not be here. Loftis and Claire might be waitin' him out, or there'd of been grief already. _You__ ready?" Mal nodded. Buzz saw a group of Negroes line up by the bluelit door and start filing in. He motioned Mal out of the car; they hurried across the sidewalk and rode the last jazzbo's coattails. The doorman was a gigantic shine in a blue bongo shirt. He started to block the way in, then stepped back and bowed--an obvious police courtesy. Buzz went in first. Except for blue Christmas bulbs taped to the walls and a baby spot illuminating the bar, the joint was dark. People sat at card tables facing the stage and a combo back-lit by more blue lights: blinkers covered with cellophane. The music was ear-splitting shit, one step down from noise. The trumpet, bass, drums, piano and trombone were Negro guys in blue bongo shirts. The alto sax was Coleman, no beard, a cracked blue bulb blinking across the set of Daddy Reynolds' eyes. Mal nudged Buzz and spoke loud in his ear. "Claire and Loftis at the bar. Over in the corner, tucked away." Buzz pivoted, saw the two, half shouted to make himself heard: "Coleman can't see 'em. We'll take him when this goddamn noise shuts off." Mal moved to the left side wall, ducking his head, moving up toward the bandstand; Buzz followed a few feet behind, doing a little shuffle: I'm not conspicuous, I'm not a cop. When they were almost to the edge of the stage, he looked back at the bar. Claire was still there; Loftis wasn't; a door on the right side of the room was just closing, showing a slice of light. Buzz tapped Mal; Mal pointed over like he already knew. Buzz switched his gun from his holster to his right pants pocket; Mal had his piece pressed to his leg. The jigs quit playing and Coleman flew solo: squeals, rasps, honks, barks, growls, squeaks--Buzz thought of giant rats ripping flesh to the beat. There was a keening noise that seemed to go on forever, Coleman pitching his sax to the stars. The blue lights died; the keen went low note shuba-shuba-shuba in darkness and died. Real lights went on and the audience stampeded the bandstand, applauding. Buzz pushed into the crush of bodies, Mal beside him, extra tall on his tiptoes. Everyone surrounding them was black; Buzz blinked for white and saw Coleman, sax held above his head, going through the right side door. Mal looked at him; Buzz looked back. They pushed, punched, shoved, elbowed and kneed their way over, getting elbows, shoves and tossed drinks in their faces. Buzz came up on the door wiping bourbon sting out of his eyes; he heard a scream and a shot on the other side--and Mal went through the door gun first. Another shot; Buzz ran after Mal's shadow. A smelly linoleum corridor. Two shapes struggling on the floor twenty feet down; Mal aiming, gun hand braced. A black guy turned a side corner and tried to block his aim; Mal shot him twice. The man careened off the walls and went down face first; Buzz got a look at the two on the floor. It was Loftis being strangled by Coleman Healy, big ugly pink dentures with fangs attached in his mouth. Coleman's chest was bloodied; Loftis was soaked dark red at the legs and groin. A revolver lay beside them. Mal yelled, "Coleman, get back!" Buzz slid down the wall,.38 out, looking for a clean shot at the rat man. Coleman made a denture-muffled bleat and bit off his father's nose; Mal fired three times, hitting Loftis in the side and chest, pitching him away from the thing attacking him. Coleman wrapped his arms around Daddy like an animal starved for food and went for his throat. Buzz aimed at his gorging head; Mal blocked his arm and fired again, a ricochet that tore the walls with zigzags. Buzz got free and squeezed a shot; Coleman grabbed his shoulder; Mal fumbled out his handcuffs and ran over. Buzz threw himself prone and tried to find a shot; Mal's legs and flapping suitcoat made it impossible. He stumbled up and ran himself; he saw Coleman grab the gun on the floor and aim. One, two, three shots--Mal lifted clean off his feet and spun around with his face blown away. The body collapsed in front of him; Buzz walked to Coleman; Coleman leered behind bloody fangs and raised his gun. Buzz shot first, emptying his piece at the wolverine toothwork, screaming when he finally got an empty chamber. He kept screaming, and he was still screaming when a shitload of cops stormed in and tried to take Mal Considine away from him.
The Red Chaser Blues
Ten days went by; Buzz hid out at a motel in San Pedro. Johnny Stompanato brought him information and bothered him for his fee on the Minear squeeze; the chink restaurant down the Street delivered three greasy squares a day; the newspapers and radio supplied more info. He called Audrey in Ventura every night, spinning her tall tales about Rio and Buenos Aires, where the U. S. government couldn't extradite and Mickey was too cheap to send men. He fretted on the last and craziest money-making scheme of his LA career, wondering if he'd survive to spend the proceeds. He listened to hillbilly music, and Hank Williams and Spade Cooley did terrible things to him. He missed Mal Considine wicked bad. After the shootout, an LAPD army got the citizens quelled and the bodies removed. Four dead: Coleman, Loftis, Mal and the back door bouncer he shot. Claire De Haven disappeared--she probably sent Reynolds on his lunatic mission, heard the shots, decided one redemption for the night was sufficient and calmly caught a cab home to plan more People's Revolts, Beverly Hills style. He followed Mal to the morgue and gave a statement at the Seven-Seven squadroom, tying in the Healy/Loftis deaths to the homo snuffs and insisting the late Deputy Danny Upshaw get credit for cracking the case. His statement glossed the illegalities he and Mal pulled; he didn't mention Felix Gordean, Chaz Minear, Dudley Smith or Mike Breuning at all. Let fruitfly Chaz live to enjoy his redemption; crazy Dud was too large to tap for the José Diaz kill or Charles Hartshorn's "suicide." Reading between newspaper lines, you could follow the upshot: the Gordean killing unsolved, no suspects; the shootout explained as Mal and himself "following up a lead on an old case"; the dead boogie attributed to Coleman. No Commie or queer homicide angle on it at all--Ellis Loew had beaucoup press connections and hated complications. Reynolds and his son-lover were dismissed as "old enemies settling a grudge"--the howler to top all howlers. Mal Considine got a hero's funeral. Mayor Bowron attended, as did the entire LA City Council, Board of Supervisors and selected LAPD brass. Dudley Smith gave a moving eulogy, citing Mal's "grand crusade" against Communism. The _Herald__ ran a picture of Dudley chucking Mal's kid Stefan under the chin, exhorting him to "be a trouper." Johnny Stomp was his conduit for dope on the grand jury, Ellis Loew to Mickey to him--and it looked like 24-karat stuff on all fronts: Loew would begin his presentation of evidence next week--perfect timing--the UAES was still bearing the brunt of radio and newspaper editorials blaming them for the Gower Gulch bloodshed. Herman Gerstein, Howard Hughes and two other studio heads had told Loew they would oust UAES the day the grand jury convened--violating the union's contract on the basis of fine-print clauses pertaining to expulsion for subversive activities. Johnny's other glad tidings: Terry Lux had suffered a stroke--the result of "prolonged oxygen deprivation" caused by a mouthful of money and a popped artery in his right hand. He was recuperating well, but ruined tendons in that hand would prevent him from performing plastic surgery again. Mickey Cohen had upped the ante on the Meeks contract to $20,000; Buzz jacked his payoff on the Minear job to $25,000 so Stompanato wouldn't put a bullet in his head. The Mick was pulling his hair out over Audrey; he'd erected a shrine out of Audrey memorabilia: her stripper publicity pics, the costumes she wore when she headlined the Burbank in '38. Mickey locked the stuff up in his bedroom at the hideaway and spent hours mooning over it. Sometimes you could hear him crying like a baby. And Turner Meeks himself, holder of the Va Va Voom Girl's real true love, was getting fat, fat, fatter on moo shu duck, sweet and sour pork, shrimp chop suey and beef kowloon--a shitload of condemned man's last meals. And with his money shot a day away, he knew there were two things he wanted to know before he stuck his head in the noose: the whole story on Coleman and why the UAES hadn't played its extortion scheme against the studios--whatever it was--yet. And he had a hunch he knew where to get the answers. Buzz went to the motel office, changed a five into nickels and walked to the phone booth in the parking lot. He got out the list of rest homes he'd torn from the Yellow Pages the day of the shootout and started calling, impersonating a police officer. He figured Lesnick would be hiding under an alias, but he hit the flunkies he talked to with his real name anyway, along with "old," "Jewish," "dying of lung cancer." He was $3.10 poorer when a girl said, "That sounds like Mr. Leon Trotsky." She went on to say that the oldster had checked out against medical advice and left a forwarding address: the Seaspray Motel, 10671 Hibiscus Lane, Redondo Beach. A cheap Commie joke making it easy for him. Buzz walked to a U-Drive and rented an old Ford sedan, thinking it looked pretty long in the tooth for a getaway car. He paid a week's fee in advance, gave the clerk a look at his driver's license and asked him for a pen and paper. The clerk complied; Buzz wrote: Dr. Lesnick-- I was in with the grand jury for a while. I was there when Coleman and Reynolds Loftis were killed and I know what happened with them '42--'44. I didn't let any of that information out. Check the newspapers if you don't believe me. I have to leave Los Angeles because of some trouble I've gotten into and I would like to talk to you about Coleman. I won't tell what you tell me to the grand jury--I would get hurt if I did. T. Meeks. Buzz drove to the Seaspray Motel, hoping Mal's death kiboshed the Bureau men looking for Lesnick. It was an auto court at the tail of a dead-end street facing the beach; the office was shaped like a rocket ship pointed at the stars. Buzz walked in and punched the bell. A youth with godawful pimples came in from the back. "You want a room?" Buzz said, "Mr. Trotsky still alive?" "Barely. Why?" Buzz handed him the note and a five-spot. "Is he in?" "He's always in. Here or the beach. Where's he gonna go? Jitterbugging?" "Give him the paper, sonny. Keep the five. If he says he'll talk to me, Abe Lincoln's got a brother." The pimple boy motioned Buzz outside; Buzz stood by his car and watched him walk to the middle of the court and knock on a door. The door opened, the boy went in; a minute later he came out lugging two beach chairs, a stooped old man holding his arm. The hunch played--Lesnick wanted some friendly ears on his way out. Buzz let them come to him. The old man had a hand extended from ten yards away; his eyes were bright with sickness, his face was muddy beige and everything about him looked caved-in. His voice was strong--and the smile that went with it said he was proud of the fact. "Mr. Meeks?" Buzz gave the hand a little tug, afraid of breaking bones. "Yessir, Doctor." "And what is your rank?" "I'm not a policeman." "Oh? And what were you doing with the grand jury?" Buzz handed the clerk a fiver and grabbed the beach chairs. The boy walked off smiling; Lesnick held Buzz's arm. "Why, then? I had thought Ellis Loew's minions were all policemen." Lesnick's weight on his was almost nothing--a stiff breeze would blow the fucker to Catalina. Buzz said, "I did it for money. You wanta talk on the beach?" Lesnick pointed to a spot near some rocks--it was free of glass and candy bar wrappers. Buzz shepherded him over, the chairs more of a strain than the man. He set the seats down facing each other, close, so he could hear if the Doc's voice went bum; he settled him in and watched him hunch into folds of terrycloth. Lesnick said, "Do you know how I was convinced to become an informant?" True snitch behavior--he had to justify himself. Buzz sat down and said, "I'm not sure." Lesnick smiled, like he was glad he could tell it. "In 1939 representatives of the Federal government offered me a chance to secure my daughter's release from Tehachapi Prison, where she was incarcerated for vehicular manslaughter. I was the official CP analyst in Los Angeles then, as I have remained. They told me that if I gave them access to my psychiatric files for evaluation by the 1940 State Attorney General's probe and other probes that might come up, they would release Andrea immediately. Since Andrea had a minimum of four more years to serve and had told me terrible stories of the abuse the matrons and her fellow inmates inflicted, I did not hesitate one second in agreeing." Buzz let Lesnick catch some breath--and cut to Coleman. "And the reason you didn't kick loose with Loftis' file from '42 to '44 was because Coleman was smeared all over it. That right?" Lesnick said, "Yes. It would have meant much unnecessary suffering for Reynolds and Coleman. Before I turned the files over in toto I checked for other Coleman references. Chaz Minear alluded to Coleman, but only elliptically, so his file I relinquished. I did that same sort of editing when I gave my files to the HUAC investigators, but I lied and told them the Loftis file had been lost. I didn't think Ellis Loew would believe that lie, so I just secreted Reynolds' file portion and hoped I would die before they asked me for it." "Why didn't you just chuck the damn thing?" Lesnick coughed and hunched deeper into his robe. "I had to keep studying it. It compelled me greatly. Why did you leave the grand jury? Was it moral qualms over Ellis Loew's methods?" "I just didn't think UAES was worth the trouble." "Your statement on the newspapers gives you credibility, and I find myself wondering exactly how much you know." Buzz shouted over a sudden crash of waves. "I worked the killings _and__ the grand jury! What I don't know is the history!" The ocean noise subsided; Lesnick coughed and said, "You know all..." "Doc, I know the incest stuff, and the plastic surgery and all about Coleman tryin' to frame his daddy. The only other guy who knew was that DA's captain who was killed at the jazz club. And I think you wanta tell what you got, or you wouldn't of pulled that juvenile 'Trotsky' number. Make sense, headshrinker?" Lesnick laughed, coughed, laughed. "You understand the concept of subliminal motivation, Mr. Meeks." "I got a half-assed brain, boss. Wanta hear my theory why you held the files back from summer '49 on?" "Please expound." "The UAESers who knew were talkin' about Reynolds and Claire gettin' married and how Coleman would take it. That right?" "Yes. I was afraid the investigators would seize the Coleman references and try to locate him as one of their friendly witnesses. Claire tried to keep news of the wedding out of the papers so Coleman wouldn't see it, but she did not succeed. At a terrible price, as I'm sure you know." Buzz stared at the water, stone quiet: his favorite trick to open suspects up. After a minute or so, Lesnick said, "When the second two victims were reported in the scandal tabloids, I knew the killer had to be Coleman. He was my analysand during the SLDC time. I knew he would have to be living somewhere near the Central Avenue jazz clubs, and I located him. We were close once, and I thought I could reason with him, get him to a locked institution and stop his senseless slaughter. Augie Duarte proved me wrong, but I tried. I _tried__. Think of that before you judge me too harshly." Buzz looked at the walking dead man. "Doc, I'm not judgin' anybody in this fuckin' thing. I'm just leavin' town in a day or so, and I sure would like you to fill in what I don't know." "And nobody else will be told?" Buzz threw Lesnick some crumbs. "You tried to spare your friends grief while you played the game, and I've pulled tricks like that too. I've got these two friends who'd like to know why, but they ain't ever gonna. So could you maybe just tell me?"
Saul Lesnick told. It took him two hours, with many long pauses to suck in air and keep himself fueled. Sometimes he looked at Buzz, sometimes he looked out at the ocean. He faltered at some of the worst of it, but he always kept telling. 1942. Wartime blackouts in LA, 10:00 P.M. curfew. Coleman was nineteen, living on Bunker Hill with his crazy mother Delores and two of his quasi-sisters. He used the surname "Masskie" because slave breeder mommy needed a paternal monicker to get Relief payments for her son and the seven letters jibed with Sister Aimee's dictates on numerology. Coleman dropped out of Belmont High when they wouldn't let him play in the school band; he was heartbroken when the band teacher told him the stupid saxophone flubbing he did was just noise that indicated no talent, only strong lungs. Coleman tried to join the army two months after Pearl Harbor; he flunked the physical on trick knees and a spastic colon. He passed out handbills for Angelus Temple, earned enough money to buy himself a new alto sax and spent hours running chords and improvisational charts that sounded good only to him. Delores wouldn't let him practice at home, so he took his horn to the Griffith Park hills and honked at the squirrels and coyotes and stray dogs that trucked there. Sometimes he walked to the downtown library and listened to Victrola records with earphones. His favorite was "Wolverine Blues," sung by an old coon named Hudson Healy. The jig mushed words, and you could hardly hear him; Coleman invented his own words, dirty stuff about wolverines fucking, and sometimes he sang along under his breath. He listened to the record so much that he wore down the grooves to where you could hardly hear anything, and he started singing a little bit louder to make up for it. Finally, the old biddy who ran the Victrola Room got wind of his lyrics and gave him the boot. For weeks he jerked off to fantasies of Coleman the Wolverine butt raping her. Delores kept bothering Coleman for Sister Aimee money; he took a job at the Joredco Dental Lab and gave her a percentage tithe. The work was pulling animal teeth out of decapitated trophy heads, and he loved it. He watched the more skilled workers make dentures with the teeth, fashioning plastic and mortar paste into choppers that could bite for eternity. He stole a set of bobcat plates and played with them when he honked his sax up in the hills. He pretended he was a bobcat and that Delores and his phony brothers and sisters were afraid of him. Joredco laid Coleman off when the boss found a wetback family who'd work for an extra-low group rate. Coleman was hurt and tried to get a job at a couple of other dental labs, but found out Joredco was the only one that made dentures with _real__ animal teeth. He took to prowling around after dark--_real__ dark--everybody shut in behind blackout curtains so the Japs wouldn't see all the lights and do LA like they did Pearl Harbor. Coleman composed music in his head while he prowled; curiosity about life behind the curtains almost drove him crazy. There was a list on the wall at a local barber shop: Bunker Hill citizens who were _good__ citizens working defense jobs. The list said who was working days, swing and graveyard. Coleman took the names to the phone book and matched them to addresses; from there he made phone calls--a phony census poll--and figured out who was married and who wasn't. Unmarried and graveyard meant a Coleman foray. He forayed a bunch of times: in through an unlocked window, busting open a woodbox door, sometimes chiseling a door jamb. He took little things and money to keep Delores off his back. His best catch was a stuffed bobcat. But Coleman liked just _being__ in the empty houses best. It was fun to pretend to be an animal that could appreciate music. It was fun to be in dark places and pretend you could see in the dark. Early in June, Coleman was on the Hill Street trolley and heard two guys talking about a strange-o named Thomas Cormier and the smelly animals he kept behind his house on Carondelet. One man recited the names: weasels, ferrets, badgers, otters and wolverines. Coleman got excited, census-called Thomas Cormier and learned he worked nights at the Griffith Park Zoo. The next night, armed with a flashlight, he visited the wolverines and fell in love with them. They were nasty. They were vicious. They took shit from no one. They tried to chew through the front of their cages to get at him. They had a snarl that sounded like the high notes on his sax. Coleman left; he didn't burglarize the house, because he wanted to keep coming back for more visits. He read up on the lore of the wolverine and reveled in tales of its savagery. He set rat traps in Griffith Park and brought his catch back for the wolverines to eat dead. He brought hamsters and fed them to the wolverines live. He shone his flashlight on the wolverines and watched them gorge on his goodies. He came without touching himself while he watched. Coleman's summer was marred by Delores pestering him for more money. Late in July, he read in the paper about a local bachelor who worked swing shift at Lockheed and owned a valuable coin collection. He decided to steal it, sell it and parcel the money out to Delores so she'd leave him alone. On the night of August 2, Coleman tried--and was captured inside the house by the owner and two friends of his. He went for the owner's eyes like a good wolverine--unsuccessfully--but managed to get away. He ran the six blocks home, found Delores and a strange man going 69 on the couch with the lights on, was repulsed and ran back outside in a panic. He tried to run for the wolverine house, but the coin collection man and his pals--trawling in a car--found him. They drove him out to Sleepy Lagoon Park and beat him; the coin collection man wanted to castrate him, but his friends held him back. They left him there beaten bloody, composing music in his head. Coleman stumbled over to a grassy knoll and saw--_or thought he saw__--a big white man beating a Mexican youth with his fists, slashing at his clothes with a razor-bladed two-by-four. The white man railed in a thick brogue: "Spic filth! I'll teach you to traffic with clean young white girls!" He ran the boy down with a car and drove away. Coleman examined the Mexican youth and found him dead. He made it home, lied to Delores about his injuries and spent time recuperating. Seventeen Mexican boys were indicted for the Sleepy Lagoon killing; a social ruckus over their innocence ensued; the boys were quickly put on trial and languished in jail. Coleman sent the LA Police Department anonymous letters during the trial--he described the monster he had come to call the Scotch Voice Man and told what really happened. Months passed; Coleman played his sax, afraid to burglarize, afraid to visit his wolverine friends. He worked skid row day labor and kicked back most of the scratch to keep Delores off his case. Then one day the Scotch Voice Man himself came walking up the steps of 236 South Beaudry. Delores and his half sisters were gone for the day; Coleman hid out, realizing what must have happened: he left fingerprints on the letters and Scotch Voice retrieved the notes and compared the prints against the prints in his Selective Service file. Coleman hid out all that day and the next; Delores told him an "evil man" was looking for him. He knew he had to run, but had no money; he got an idea: check crazy momma's scrapbook of old flames for men that he resembled. Coleman found four photographs of a summer-stock actor named Randolph Lawrence--the dates on the back of the pictures and a strongish facial resemblance said this was his daddy. He copped two of the snapshots, hitchhiked to Hollywood and told a fish story to a clerk at the Screen Actors Guild. She believed his abridged tale of parental abandonment, checked the Guild files and informed him that Randolph Lawrence was really Reynolds Loftis, a character actor of some note: 816 Belvedere, Santa Monica Canyon. The child showed up at his father's door. Reynolds Loftis was touched, pooh-poohed the story of the Scotch Voice Man, admitted his parentage and gave Coleman shelter. Loftis was living with a screenwriter named Chaz Minear; the two men were lovers. They were members of the Hollywood leftist community, they were party-hopping devotees of avant-garde cinema. Coleman spied on them in bed--he both loved and hated it. He went with them to parties thrown by a Belgian filmmaker; the man screened movies featuring naked men and snapping dogs that reminded him of his wolverines--and the films obsessed him. Reynolds was generous with money and didn't mind that he spent his days in the back yard honking his alto. Coleman started hanging out at jazz clubs in the Valley and met a trombone player named Mad Marty Goines. Mad Marty was a heroin fiend, a reefer seller, a burglar and a second-rate horn. He was a lowlife's lowlife, with a legitimate gift: teaching thievery and music. Marty taught Coleman how to hot-wire cars and really blow alto, showing him how to shape notes, read music, take his repertoire of noises and powerful lungs and use them to make sounds that meant something. It was now the winter of '43. Coleman was shedding his baby fat, getting handsome. Reynolds became demonstrative to him, physically affectionate--lots of hugs and kisses on the cheek. He suddenly credited the story of the Scotch Voice Man. He joined the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee--a hot lefty item now that the seventeen boys had been convicted--to prove his faith in Coleman. Reynolds told Coleman to be quiet about the Scotch Voice Man--nobody would believe him, and the important thing was to get the poor persecuted boys out of jail. He told him Scotch Voice would never be caught, but the evil man was probably still looking for Coleman--who needed protective coloration to remain safe from him. Reynolds took Coleman to Dr. Terence Lux and had his face physically altered to his own specifications. While recuperating at the clinic, Coleman went crazy, killing chickens in the hatchery, pretending he was a wolverine while he drank their blood. He got leaves from the clinic and pulled burglaries with Mad Marty, his face bandaged like a movie monster; he went to SLDC rallies with his attentive father--and against his wishes told the story of José Diaz and the Scotch Voice Man. Nobody believed him, everyone patronized him as Reynolds Loftis' nutty kid brother burned in a fire--lies his father told him to go along with. Then the bandages came off and Coleman was his father twenty years younger. And Reynolds seduced his own youthful mirror image. Coleman went with it. He knew he was safe from Scotch Voice; while recovering from the surgery he did not know how his new face would look, but he knew now that he was beautiful. The perversion was awful but continually exciting, like being a wolverine prowling a strange dark house twenty-four hours a day. Acting the part of a platonic kid brother was an intriguing subterfuge; Coleman knew Daddy was terrified of their secret coming out and kept mum--he knew also that Reynolds was going to rallies and donating money to causes because he felt guilty for seducing him. Maybe the surgery was not for his safety--just for the seduction. Chaz moved out--bitter over the horrific cuckolding--spurning Reynolds' offer to make it a menage a trois. Minear went on a sex bender then, a different Felix Gordean male prostitute every night--Reynolds lived in terror of his ex-lover telling them of the incest and tricked with a bunch of prosties himself, for the sex and to keep his ear down. Coleman was jealous, but kept still about it, and his father's sudden frugality and displays of nervousness convinced him that Reynolds was being blackmailed. Then Coleman met Claire De Haven and fell in love with her. She was Reynolds' friend and confrere in various leftist organizations, and she became Coleman's confidante. Coleman had begun to find sex with his father intolerable; he pretended the man was Claire to get through their nights together. Claire heard Coleman's horror story out and convinced him to see Dr. Lesnick, the CP's approved psychiatrist--Saul would never violate confidentiality with an analysand. Lesnick heard Coleman out--in a series of arduously detailed two-hour sessions. He believed the Sleepy Lagoon story to be fabricated on two levels: Coleman needing to justify his search for his father and his own latent homosexuality; Coleman wanting to curry favor with SLDC Latins by saying the killer was white--not the unfound Mexican gang members the leftist community asserted the slayers to be. That aside, he believed Coleman's narratives, comforted him and urged him to break off the affair with his father. Lesnick was also seeing Loftis as a patient; he knew Reynolds was guilt-crazed over the affair, giving more and more money to more and more causes-especially the SLDC--an adjunct of the lever of manipulation he had applied to get Coleman to consent to the plastic job. Coleman felt reality closing in and began visiting Thomas Cormier's wolverines again, feeding and loving them. One night he felt an incredible urge to pet and hold one. He opened a pen, tried to embrace the beast and was bitten all over his arms. He and the wolverine fought; Coleman won with a stranglehold. He took the carcass home, skinned it, ate its flesh raw and made dentures out of its teeth, wearing them in his private hours, pretending to be the wolverine--stalking, fucking, killing. Time passed. Reynolds, convinced by Claire and Lesnick, broke off the liaison with Coleman. Coleman resented his sex power being usurped and started hating Daddy outright. The boys convicted of the Sleepy Lagoon killing were exonerated and released from prison--the SLDC largely responsible for securing the piece of justice. Claire and Coleman continued to talk, but now sporadically. Coleman copped Southside heroin for her to dally with; Claire was more disturbed than pleased by the gesture, but she did give Coleman a two-thousand-dollar loan he asked for. He used the money to buy himself a second Terry Lux surgery, the doctor going at his face with weighted boxing gloves, then holing him up at the hatchery with morphine and syringes to keep himself painless. Coleman read anatomy and physiology texts there; he left the clinic, kicked the drug cold turkey and showed up at Claire's door black and blue, but not looking like his father. When he asked Claire to sleep with him, she ran away in horror. 1945. Coleman moved out of Los Angeles, Claire's revulsion a hot wind at his back. He bummed around the country and played alto with pickup bands, taking Hudson Healy's surname. In '47, Reynolds Loftis went before HUAC, refused to inform and was blacklisted; Coleman read about it and was delighted. Coleman was living in a world of impacted rage: fantasies of hurting his father, possessing Claire, raping men who looked at him the wrong way and eating their flesh with the wolverine teeth he still carried everywhere. Composing music and playing it was the only thing holding him glued. Then, back in LA at the end of '49, he read that Daddy and Claire were getting married. His threadbare, jerry-built world crashed in. Coleman's fantasies escalated to where he couldn't even think of music. He knew he had to act on the fantasies and build a purpose around them, clear and precise like what his music meant to him. He found out about Reynolds' UAES membership and learned when the union held its Executive Committee meetings. He decided to kill sex partners of his father's--ones he remembered from the time of Daddy's breakup with Chaz. Coleman recalled George Wiltsie and Latin lover Augie by face and name, but they would never be able to identify him: at the time he was protectively colored as a lowly kid brother. He remembered other Reynolds conquests strictly by face, but knew the bars they frequented. Finding victims would be easy, the rest of it more difficult. The plan: Kill the Reynolds lovers on UAES meeting nights, disguised as Reynolds, spreading Reynolds' identical O+ seed, dropping clues to point to Reynolds as the killer, forcing him to--at worst--be implicated in the murders, or--milder punishment--cough up his treasonous UAES meetings as alibis. Daddy could be convicted of the crimes; he could be a suspect and have to admit his homosexuality to the police; he might get smeared in the press, and if he used his precious union soirees as alibis, he might ruin his newly resurrected movie career on grounds of Pinko associations. Coleman knew he needed money to finance his killing spree, and he was only making chump change gigging on Central Avenue. On Christmas Eve he ran into his old pal Marty Goines at Bido Lito's. Marty was surprised--and happy--it was the first time he'd seen Coleman post-bandages, years had gone by, the boy had become a man with a new face--and was not a bad alto. Coleman suggested they pull another B&E string; Mad Marty agreed. They made plans to talk after New Year's; then, early New Year's Eve, Goines saw Coleman outside Malloy's Nest and told him he'd called a Quentin buddy in Frisco, Leo Bordoni, and invited him to join their gang. Coleman, enraged at not being consulted--but not showing it--determined that Goines hadn't mentioned him or described him to Bordoni and decided that his old jazz mentor was prime wolverine bait. He told Marty to meet him at 67th and Central at 12:15, and to be quiet about it--there was a reason. Coleman went to his room and got the Reynolds gray wig and makeup kit he'd brought. He fashioned a zoot stick from a plank he found in the garbage and a Gillette five-pack. He snapped that UAES was holding a party/meeting that night, copped four H bindles and a hypo from his old source Roland Navarette, pegged an unlocked Buick on 67th as his wheels, played his last gig at the Zombie, walked into the men's can at the Texaco Station on 68th as Coleman, walked out as Daddy. Marty was right on time, but drunk--he didn't even blink at Coleman's disguise. Coleman coldcocked him on the sidewalk, slung him against his shoulder like a boozed-out buddy, got him into the Buick and hot-wired it. He geezed Marty up with a heavy junk load, drove him to his crib in Hollywood, shot him with the other three bindles and stuffed the hood of a terrycloth robe in his mouth so he wouldn't vomit blood on him when his cardiac arteries burst. Marty's heart popped big; Coleman strangled the rest of his life out, zoot slashed his back, pulled out his eyes like he tried to with the coin collection man back at Sleepy Lagoon. He raped those bare sockets; he put on his wolverine teeth and feasted, spraying blood on the walls to wild alto riffs in his head. When he was finished he left the eyeballs in the Frigidaire, dressed Goines in the white terry robe, carried him downstairs and propped him up in the back seat of the Buick. He adjusted the rear-view mirror so he could watch Marty with his eyeless head lolling; he drove to Sunset Strip in the rain, thinking of Daddy and Claire reamed to their teeth in every orifice. He deposited Marty nude in a vacant lot on Allegro, prime fruit territory, a corpse on display like the Black Dahlia. If he was lucky, victim number one would get just as much ink. Coleman went back to his music, his other life. The Goines kill did not reap the publicity he hoped it would--the Dahlia was a beautiful woman, Marty an anonymous transient. Coleman rented U-Drive cars and patrolled 2307 Tamarind at odd times; no cops showed up--he could use the place again. He got George Wiltsie's address from the phone book and decided that Wiltsie would be victim number two. He spent nights cruising queer bars near the pad, saw Wiltsie at the dives, but always in the company of his squeeze, a guy he called "Duane." He almost decided to let the bastard live--but thinking of the possibilities a duo kill presented made him tingly and reminded him of Delores and the man going 69. Then Duane mentioned to a barman that he worked at Variety International--old Daddy turf. Providence. Coleman approached George and Duane, carrying a little kill kit he'd concocted: secobarbital caps bought from Roland Navarette, and strychnine from the drugstore. Two to one, barbiturate to poison--pinprinks on the capsules for a quick effect. Coleman suggested a party at "his place" in Hollywood; George and Duane accepted. On the ride over in his U-Drive, he gave them a pint of rye to slug from. When they were half gassed, he asked them if they'd like to try some real Spanish Fly. Both men eagerly swallowed death pills; by the time they got to Marty's dump they were so woozy Coleman had to help them upstairs. Lindenaur was DOA, Wiltsie in a deep slumber. Coleman undressed them and went to work zooting the dead guy. Wiltsie woke up and fought to live. Coleman slashed one of the fruiter's fingers off defending himself and killed him with a knife thrust to the throat. With both men dead, he zooted, wolverined, raped the standard way and drew music pictures and a trademark W on the walls. He put Wiltsie's digit in the icebox; he showered Duane and George free of blood, wrapped them in spare blankets, carried them down and drove to Griffith Park, his old sax-honking territory. He stripped them and carried them up to the hiking trail; he 69'd them for the world to see. If he was seen, he was seen as his father. Two events coincided. Dr. Saul Lesnick, near death and wanting to somehow recoup his moral losses, read a scandal tabloid account of the Wiltsie/Lindenaur murders. He recalled Wiltsie as a name bandied in a Reynolds Loftis psychiatric session years before; the zoot slashing reminded him of Coleman's fantasies regarding the Scotch Voice Man and the weapons at Terry Lux's hatchery. What finally convinced him that Coleman was the killer was the hunger behind the obliquely described bite marks. Coleman was hunger personified. Coleman wanted to be the most vicious, insatiable animal on earth, and now he was proving that he was. Lesnick knew the police would kill Coleman if they caught him. Lesnick knew he had to try to get him to a locked-ward institution before he killed anyone else or took it in mind to go after Reynolds and Claire. He knew Coleman had to be close to the music, and found him playing at a club on Central Avenue. He regained Coleman's confidence as the one person who had never hurt him, secured him a cheap apartment in Compton and talked, talked, talked to him, hiding with him when a friend in the leftist community told him Reynolds and Claire were also seeking Coleman out. Coleman was experiencing moments of clarity--a classic behavior pattern in sexual psychopaths who had succumbed to murder to satisfy their lusts. He poured out the story of his first three killings; Lesnick knew that chauffeuring a dead man in the back seat and the second two victims brought to Tamarind Street were a pure subconscious attempt to be caught. Psychological craters existed for a skilled psychologist to drive wedges into--Saul Lesnick's redemption for ten years of informing on people he loved. Coleman was fighting his urges inchoately, with music. He was working on a long solo piece filled with eerie silences to signify lies and duplicities. The riffs would spotlight the unique high sounds he got with his sax, loud at first, then getting softer, with longer intervals of silence. The piece would end on a scale of diminishing notes, then unbroken quiet--which Coleman saw as being louder than any noise he could produce. He wanted to call his composition The Big Nowhere. Lesnick told him that if he got to a hospital, he would survive to perform it. The doctor saw Coleman faltering, clarity gaining. Then Coleman told him about Danny Upshaw. He'd met Upshaw the night after he killed Marty Goines. The detective was on a routine canvassing assignment, and Coleman brazened him out with his "I was in plain view all night" alibi, knowing Upshaw believed it. That belief meant Goines had kept mum about meeting him, and Coleman took the opportunity to lie about Marty being fruit and drop clues on tall, gray Daddy. He put Upshaw out of his mind and went on with his plan, killing Wiltsie and Lindenaur, wavering between Augie Duarte or another Daddy squeeze he knew as victim number four. But he'd started having dreams about the young detective, steamy stuff that said he really was what Daddy tried to make him. Coleman made a decision to murder Reynolds and Claire if he couldn't smear Daddy to the rafters--he thought that potential added blood to his stew would spice him up and make him dream about the women he once loved. The plan didn't work. Coleman had more Upshaw dreams, more Upshaw fantasies. He was Daddy--garbed and in the process of staking out Felix Gordean's office for leads on old Reynolds lovers when he spotted Upshaw holding down his own surveillance; he was nearby when Upshaw phoned the DMV Police Information Line. He caught the gist of his talk, and tailed Upshaw in the Pontiac he'd stolen--just to get close to him. Upshaw spotted the tail; a chase followed; Coleman got away, stole another car, called the DMV and pretended to be the deputy's partner. One of the names the clerk read back to him was Augie Duarte; Coleman decided it was providence again and settled on him as victim four then and there. He drove to Gordean's beach house, spotted Upshaw's car, hid and listened to Gordean and one of his musclemen talking. The pimp/queer expert said, "That policeman is coming out of the closet. I know it." The next day, Coleman let himself into Upshaw's apartment and savored it. He saw no mementoes of women, nothing but a too-tidy, impersonal pad. Coleman knew then, and began to feel a complete identification with Upshaw, a symbiosis. That night, Lesnick left the apartment to get medicine at County General, thinking Coleman's Upshaw fixation would break him down on his homosexuality, stymie and stalemate him. He was wrong. Coleman picked up Augie Duarte at a downtown bar, sedated him and took him to an abandoned garage in Lincoln Heights. He strangled him and hacked him and ate him and emasculated him like Daddy and all the others had tried to do to him. He left the body in the LA River wash, drove back to Compton and told Lesnick he had finally put Upshaw in perspective. He was going to compete with the man, killer against detective. Saul Lesnick left the apartment and took a cab back to his rest home, knowing Coleman Healy would wreak slaughter until he was slaughtered himself. And the frail old headshrinker had been trying to get up the guts for a mercy killing ever since.
Lesnick ended his narrative with a deft storyteller's flourish, pulling a revolver from the folds of his robe. He said, "I saw Coleman one more time. He had read that Upshaw died accidentally and was very disturbed by it. He had just purchased opiates from Navarette and was going to kill another man, a man who had been an extra on one of Reynolds' films, an opium dabbler. The man had had a brief fling with Reynolds and Coleman was going to kill him. He told me, like he thought I would do nothing to stop it. I bought this gun at a pawn shop in Watts. I was going to kill Coleman that night, but you and Captain Considine got to him first." Buzz looked at the piece. It was old and rusted and would probably misfire, like the shrinker's nutso take on Sleepy Lagoon as a fantasy. Coleman would have slapped it out of his bony hand before Pops could pull the trigger. "You pleased the way it turned out, Doc?" "No. I am sorry for Reynolds." Buzz thought of Mal shooting straight at Daddy--wanting Coleman alive for his career and maybe something to do with his own kid. "I've got a cop question, Doc." Lesnick said, "Please. Ask me." "Well, I thought Terry Lux hipped Gordean to all the stuff Gordean blackmailed Loftis with. Your story makes me think Chaz Minear told Felix some details, details that he put together when he blackmailed Loftis a second time just lately. Stuff that made him think Coleman was killin' people." Lesnick smiled. "Yes, Chaz told Felix Gordean many things about Coleman's clinic stay that could be construed as clues when put together with newspaper facts. I read that Gordean was murdered. Was it Chaz?" "Yeah. Does that please you?" "It's a small happy ending, yes." "Any thoughts on Claire?" "Yes. She'll survive your grand jury pogrom like a Tigress. She'll find another weak man to protect and other causes to champion. She'll do good for people who deserve good done for them, and I will not comment on her character." Buzz said, "Before things got out of control, it looked like the UAES had some kind of extortion scheme brewin' against the studios. Were you playin' both ends? Holdin' back stuff you heard as a psychiatrist to help the union?" Lesnick coughed and said, "Who wants to know?" "Two dead men and me." "And who else will hear?" "Just me." "I believe you. Why, I don't know." "Dead men got no reason to lie. Come on, Doc. Spill." Lesnick fondled his pawnshop piece. "I have verified information on Mr. Howard Hughes and his penchant for underaged girls, and much information on various RKO and Variety International actors and the narcotics cures they periodically undergo. I have information on the underworld associations of many studio executives, including one RKO gentleman who ran down a family of four in his car and killed them. The arrest was fixed, and it never went to trial, but that allegation by itself would be most embarrassing. So the UAES is not without weapons, you see." Buzz said, "Boss, I pimped them girls to Howard and fixed up most of them dope cures. I got that RKO guy off the hook and ran the payoff to the judge that woulda arraigned him. Doc, the papers would never print what you got and the radio would never put it on the air. Howard Hughes and Herman Gerstein would laugh your extortion right back in your face. I'm the best fixer this town ever saw, and believe me the UAES is crucified." Saul Lesnick got to his feet, wobbled, but stayed standing. He said, "And how will you fix that?" Buzz walked on the question.
When he got back to his motel, there was a note from the manager on the door: "Call Johnny S." Buzz went to the pay phone and dialed Stompanato's number. "Talk to me." "It's Meeks. What's up?" "Your number, but hopefully not my money. I just got a lead, through a friend of Mickey's. LAPD did a routine ballistics run-through on that jazz club shootout you were in. That hotshot coroner Layman examined the report on the pills they took out of that rat guy you told me about. It looked familiar, so he checked back. Bullets from your gun matched the pills they took out of Gene Niles. LAPD makes you for the Niles snuff, and they're out to get you in force. Shoot to kill. And I hate to mention it, but you owe me a lot of money." Buzz sighed. "Johnny, you're a rich man." "What?" Buzz said, "Meet me here tomorrow at noon," and hung up. He dialed an East LA number and got, "Quien? Quien es?" "Speak English, Chico, it's Meeks." "Buzz! My Padrone!" "I'm changin' my order, Chico. No thirty-thirty, make it a sawed-off." ".12 gauge, Padrone?" "Bigger, Chico. The biggest you got."
The shotgun was a.10 gauge pump with a foot-long barrel. The slugs held triple-aught buckshot. The five rounds in the breech were enough to turn Mickey Cohen's haberdashery and the dope summit personnel into dog food. Buzz was carrying the weapon in a venetian blind container covered with Christmas wrapping paper. His U-Drive clunker was at the curb a half block south of Sunset. The haberdashery lot was packed with Jew canoes and guinea gunboats; one sentry was stationed by the front door shooing away customers; the man by the back door looked half asleep, sitting in a chair catching a full blast of late-morning sun. Two neutral triggers accounted for--Dudley and the fourth man had to be inside with the action. Buzz waved at the guy up on the corner--his prepaid accomplice recruited from a wine bar. The guy walked into the lot looking furtive, trying Caddy and Lincoln door handles, skirting the last row of cars by the fence. Buzz eased up slowly, waiting for the sentry to take note and pounce. It took the sunbird almost half a minute to stir, get wise and tread over, a hand inside his jacket pocket. Buzz ran full speed, fat lightning on sneakered feet. The sentry turned around at the last second; Buzz swung the Christmas box in his face and knocked him against the hood of a '49 Continental. The man pulled his gun; Buzz kneed him in the nards, popped his nose with a flat palm and watched the.45 auto hit the blacktop. Another knee spear put him down and keening; Buzz kicked the gun away, whipped off the box and used the butt of his sawed-off to beat him quiet. The accomplice was gone; the sentry was bleeding at the mouth and nose, deep off in dreamland--maybe for keeps. Buzz pocketed the loose cannon, walked over to the back door and let himself in. Laughter and hail-fellow dialogue booming; a short corridor lined with dressing rooms. Buzz inched up to a curtain, pulled a corner back and looked. The summit was in full swing. Mickey Cohen and Jack Dragna were glad-handing each other, standing by a table laid out with cold cuts, bottles of beer and liquor. Davey Goldman, Mo Jahelka and Dudley Smith were knocking back highballs; a line of Dragna humps was standing by the front window curtains. Johnny Stompanato was nowhere to be seen because Johnny Stompanato was probably halfway to Pedro by now, hoping a certain fat man survived the morning. Over by the left wall, the real business was happening: two Mex National types counting a suitcase full of money while one Mickey guy and one Jack guy taste-tested the white-brown powder stuffed into reinforced paper bags in another suitcase. Their smiles said the stuff tasted good. Buzz pulled the curtain aside and joined the party, sliding a round into the chamber to get some attention. The noise caused heads to turn, drinks and plates of food to drop; Dudley Smith smiled; Jack Dragna eyed the barrel. Buzz saw a cop type by the Mexes. Twenty to one he and Dudley were the only ones heeled; Dud was much too smart to try something. Mickey Cohen looked hurt. He said, "As God is my witness I will do you worse than I did the guy who did Hooky Rothman." Buzz felt his whole body floating away from him. The Mexes were starting to look scared; a rap on the window would bring the outside man. He stepped over to where he could see every face in the room and trained his muzzle for a blast spread: Jack and Mickey vaporized the second he pulled the trigger. "The money and the dope in one of your garment bags, Mick. Now and slow." Mickey said, "Davey, he'll shoot. _Do it__." Buzz saw Davey Goldman cross his vision and start talking low Spanish to the Mexes. He caught a slant view of paper sacks and greenbacks being ladled into a zippered hanger bag, tan canvas with red piping and Mickey Cohen's face embossed on the front. Mickey said, "If you send Audrey back to me I will not harm a hair on her head and I will not do you slow. If I find her with you, mercy I cannot promise. Send her back to me." A million-dollar deal blown--and all Mickey Cohen could think of was a woman. "No." The bag was zipped up; Goldman walked it over extra slow. Buzz held his left arm out straight; Mickey was shaking like a hophead dying for a fix. Buzz wondered what he'd say next; the little big man said, "_Please__." The garment bag settled; Buzz felt his arm buckling. Dudley Smith winked. Buzz said, "I'll be back for you, lad. Diaz and Hartshorn." Dudley laughed. "You won't live the day." Buzz backed into the curtains. "Don't go out the rear door, it's booby-trapped." Mickey Cohen said, "_Please__. You can't run with her. Not a hair on her head will I hurt." Buzz getawayed.
Johnny Stompanato was waiting for him at the motel, lying on the bed listening to an opera on the radio. Buzz dropped the garment bag, unzipped it and pulled out ten ten-thousand-dollar bank stacks. Johnny's jaw dropped; his cigarette hit his chest and burned a hole in his shirt. He snuffed the butt with a pillow and said, "You did it." Buzz threw the money on the bed. "Fifty for you, fifty for Mrs. Celeste Considine, 641 South Gramercy, LA. You make the delivery, and tell her it's for the kid's education." Stompanato hoarded the money into a tight little pile and gloated over it. "How do you know I won't keep it all?" "You like my style too much to fuck me."
Buzz drove up to Ventura, parked in front of Deputy Dave Kleckner's house and rang the bell. Audrey answered. She was wearing an old Mickey shirt and dungarees, just like she was the first time he kissed her. She looked at the garment bag and said, "Planning to stay awhile?" "Maybe. You look tired." "I was up all night thinking." Buzz put his hands to her face, smoothing a wisp of stray hair. "Dave home?" "Dave's on duty until late, and I think he's in love with me." "Everybody's in love with you." "Why?" "Because you make them afraid to be alone." "Does that include you?" "Me especially." Audrey jumped into his arms. Buzz let go of the garment bag and kicked it for luck. He carried his lioness into the front bedroom and made a swipe at the light switch; Audrey grabbed his hand. "Leave it on. I want to see you." Buzz got out of his clothes and sat on the edge of the bed; Audrey slow-grinded herself naked and leaped on him. They kissed ten times as long as they usually did and strung out everything else they'd ever done together. Buzz went into her fast, but moved extra slow; she pushed up with her hips harder than she did their first time. He couldn't hold it and didn't want to; she went crazy when he did. Like the first time, they thrashed the sheets off the bed and held each other, sweating. Buzz remembered how he'd hooked a finger around Audrey's wrist so they'd still be touching while he caught his breath. He did it again, but this time she squeezed his whole hand like she didn't know what the gesture meant. They curled up, Audrey nuzzling. Buzz looked around the strange bedroom. Passport applications and stacks of South American tourist brochures were resting on the nightstand and boxes of women's clothing were arrayed by the door next to a brand-new suitcase. Audrey yawned, kissed his chest like it was sleep time and yawned again. Buzz said, "Sweetie, did Mickey ever hit you?" A drowsy head shake in answer. "Talk later. _Lots__ of talk later." "Did he ever?" "No, only men." Another yawn. "No Mickey talk, remember our deal?" "Yeah, I remember." Audrey gave him a squeeze and settled into sleep. Buzz picked up the brochure closest to him, a huckster job for Rio de Janeiro. He flipped pages, saw that Audrey had circled listings for guest cottages offering newlywed rates and tried to picture an on-the-lam cop-killer and a thirty-seven-year-old ex-stripper basking in the South American sun. He couldn't. He tried to picture Audrey waiting for him while he attempted to lay off twenty-five pounds of heroin to some renegade mob guy who hadn't already heard of the heist and the contract that went with it. He couldn't. He tried to picture Audrey with him when the LAPD closed in, hard-on glory cops holding their fire because the killer was with a woman. He couldn't. He thought of Icepick Fritzie finding them together, going icepick crazy on Audrey's face--and that picture was easy. Mickey saying "Please" and going mushy with forgiveness was even easier. Buzz listened to Audrey's breath; he felt her sweaty skin cooling. He tried to picture her getting some kind of bookkeeper's job, going home to Mobile, Alabama, and meeting a nice insurance man looking for a Southern belle. He couldn't. He made a big last try at the two of them buying their way out of the country with a nationwide cop-killer APB on his head. He tried extra, extra hard on that one--and couldn't find a way to make it stick. Audrey stirred and rolled away from him. Buzz saw Mickey tired of her in a few years, cutting her loose for some younger stuff, a nice cash money separation gift. He saw Sheriff's, City cops, Feds and Cohen goons chasing his okie ass to the moon. He saw Ellis Loew and Ed Satterlee on easy street and old Doc Lesnick hounding him with, "And how will you fix that?" Lesnick was the kicker. Buzz got up, walked into the living room, grabbed the phone and had the operator get him Los Angeles CR-4619. A voice answered, "Yeah?" It was Mickey. Buzz said, "She's at 1006 Montebello Drive in Ventura. You hurt her and I'll do you slower than you ever thought of doin' me." Mickey said, "Mazel tov. My friend, you are still dead, but you are dead very fast." Buzz let the receiver down gently, went back to the bedroom and dressed. Audrey was in the same position, her head buried in the pillow, no way to see her face. Buzz said, "You were the one," and turned off the light. He grabbed his garment bag on the way out and left the door unlocked.
Dawdling on back roads got him to the San Fernando Valley just after 7:30--full evening, black and starry. Ellis Loew's house was dark and there were no cars parked out front. Buzz walked around to the garage, broke a clasp on the door and pushed it open. Moonlight picked out a roof bulb at the end of a string. He pulled the cord and saw what he wanted on a low shelf: two double-gallon cans of gasoline. He picked them up, found them near full, carried them to the front door and let himself in with his special-investigator's key. A flick of the overhead light; the living room jarring white--walls, tables, cartons, shelves and odd mounds of paper--Loew and company's once-in-a-lifetime shot at the political moon. Graphs and charts and thousands of pages of coerced testimony. Boxes of photographs with linked faces to prove treason. A big fuckload of lies glued together to prove a single theory that was easy to believe because believing was easier than wading through the glut of horseshit to say, "Wrong." Buzz doused the walls and shelves and tables and stacks of paper with gasoline. He soaked the Sleepy Lagoon Committee photos. He ripped down Ed Satterlee's graphs, emptied the cans on the floor and made a gas trail out to the porch. He lit a match, dropped it and watched the white whoosh into red and explode. The fire spread back and upward; the house became a giant sheet of flame. Buzz got in his car and drove away, red glow lighting up the windshield. He took back streets northbound until the glow disappeared and he heard sirens whirring in the opposite direction. When the noise died, he was climbing into the foothills, Los Angeles just a neon smear in his rear-view mirror. He touched his future there on the seat: sawed-off, heroin, a hundred and fifty grand. It didn't feel right, so he turned on the radio and found a hillbilly station. The music was too soft and too sad, like a lament for a time when it all came cheap. He listened anyway. The songs made him think of himself and Mal and poor Danny Upshaw. Hardcases, rogue cops and Red chasers. Three dangerous men gone for parts unknown.