Ok, so what do we have here. The Devil You Know, a comedic detective story, set in post world war two Los Angeles. Jon 'Dirty' Sanchez. It's a dumb childish name, but what the hell. Skip its more lurid meaning and move on. If you like this book, there's many things you could do. One, get some sort of job in the publishing industry and publish it. Two, if the first isn't possible, give me a follow on twitter, leave a like, or any feedback you have, and tell your friends maybe.
As a warning, there's some things some people might find distasteful. Racist characters, mentions of sexual assault, and violence. So there's your warning.
I hope you enjoy it.
June 14th, 1948.
Never had a man had so little, at the moment, he didn't even have consciousness. As the murky after effects of sleep slowly washed away, it became painfully clear it was Tuesday. That's what the calendar on the desk said, but he wasn't above being so suspicious to think it was lying. The clock gave no further information, apart from the time. Were they in league with each other... no, one was stationary and the other was a bastard. Honestly who'd be so cruel to reveal the time to someone this hungover, that clock could never have any friends. Scotch was a devilish mistress, even when she were as young toddler.
11.34. Morning? Turning to peek through the blinds, recoiling like a vampire as the burst of light forced its way through the gap. It was morning. Barely. Going back to sleep meant effort. Closing his eyes... eugh. Couldn't be bothered. But then he couldn't be bothered being awake. What if something happened? Something usually meant more effort than involuntarily blinking for an hour or so.
The last notable thing to happen to him, required a stool sample, so he felt fairly confident that blink might be the way to go. Quite sure nothing else was just about to stumble along.
The door to his office flung open, a women, who in the absence light could've been barely attractive, stumbling through. Perching herself on the edge of his desk. The furniture proceeding to painfully creak, cracking under her weight. The cigar in her mouth wafting smoke throughout the office. Making it intensely uncomfortable for anyone with any taste to bear.
He was right at home then in the dingy musky, darkened surrounds. Nothing too far from his lowly reach going on in this cave like hovel.
She lifted the dead cigar from her lips dropping it onto the ground, twisting a podgy foot crammed into a dainty high heel on top of it. Driving the cigar and its ash straight into the carpet.
“Hello Mr Sanchez. I've been told you're a man that can help me.” Blankly she stared at the closed blinds on the window. The type of peering out into the middle distance most catatonics did.
“I have a problem you see... it's... it's my husband, he's missing” Searching for the right words in her emotional state.
“I can pay you... I can pay you a lot”
She sat watching him, waiting for a response, none coming.
Jon Sanchez as the name on the door suggested. Sat, more lounged... in his chair, hands held aloft barely gripped onto his face.
“Mr Sanchez… hello?”
The composure and style she'd once attempted to use upon entering gone, standing motionless looking at the still near lifeless detective. Despite her better judgement approaching him, expecting the worst. Whether that was he were dead, or the opposite she really couldn't be sure.
Sanchez whose face was completely covered by his hands had made the decision to take that long blink. Maybe when he reopened his eyes, it would be the afternoon, then he'd have an excuse to have a drink.
The woman now standing over him, listening to the snoring, gave him a nudge that most farmers would use on a surly bovine.
This gently applied haymaker sending Jon and chair tumbling to the ground. Causing the state of tranquility, which he so adored to be shattered. The million tiny shards of his peaceful rest, floating down to the ground around him. Composure was not his strong point, at least in appearance, but Jon did the best he could to regain it and his seat.
She was now perched back on the permanently damaged corner of the desk. Looking disconcerted by the large stack of ice buckets in the corner of the room.
“As I was saying Mr. Sanchez, my name is Mrs. Audrey Mooks, and my husband Lionel has gone missing.”
The same near deathly pause came from the other end of the conversation, until after a hearty yawn it eventually broke.
“Well ah… Mrs Mooks, you just tell me what's going on, and then I'll go and find your husband...” Jon dealt in absolutes when it came to clients. He often also dealt in disappointments, but professional courtesy led him to keep that secret.
“...but, as with everything it will cost you” Jon tacked on, making sure she knew he wasn't any sort of Samaritan, let alone a good one.
Numbers were spinning through his mind as he imagined the payment, at this point he may have settled for a half used discount voucher booklet. So when a cheque for fifty thousand spilled onto the desk he began to quietly choke, struggling to breath.
Mrs. Mooks spoke again, her arms folded neatly in her lap, lace gloves stretched across the ballooning surface of her mitts.
“This is a down payment, half now and the other half when you find my husband. Or find out what happened to him.”
Mr Sanchez, or Jon as his mother called him. Sat wide eyed staring at the cheque on the table. If he was listening to anyone, it definitely wasn't his client.
“I don’t know what my husband was involved in, but he worked for Victor Small”
Jons cash induced psychosis interrupted, hearing a name he had to pay attention to.
“Your husband works for Victor Small... he's that Lionel Mooks? How long has he been missing?” The slight temptation to hand the cheque back, then slap the hefty wench that dropped it on his desk, back out the door. But slight personal safety issues didn't overpower that much cash.
“Yes... he's that Lionel, he's also my Lionel... For a few days now. Whenever he left, or went out of town he'd always tell me. But this time, not even a note, nothing... he didn’t even take any clothes or a suitcase.”
Audrey crying, tears rolling down her blotchy face, darkened rings around her eyes expanding as the mascara ran with the fluid... Already thinking the worst, her hope obviously running as low as Jons personal standards.
With the absence of any tissues on his desk. Jon pushed over the rag he used, or at least had always intended to use to wipe down his desk.
“Here, for your... tears” Jon gestured towards the cloth.
The dirty rag left on the table as she produced her own handkerchief. Dabbing delicately at the corners of her eyes, a great sniff following. She didn't cry like normal women, Jon handily an expert in that. Maybe though he were mistaking normal with movie women.
Audrey had clearly tried to look like the film star at least, fascinator hat with frilly mesh covering half her face. Hair wound so tightly around her skull it almost forced a constant smile, figure hugging skirt and jacket too, at a great tension. A whale bone girdle obviously doing quite some work, and from quite some whale. Uninterestingly brown eyes, apart from the tears. Nothing really of note about her face, apart from just how much of it there were.
“Tell me, how he was acting the last couple of days he was around?” Jon inquired.
“Well, he were very nervous, constantly on the phone to people. Kept telling me to leave him alone, stop bothering him while he was working. He was usually very introverted, busy, but this was more than usual. He spent a lot of time in at his office, if you know who he was, you know he's an accountant, Andrews, Mooks, and Kirkwood, one of the partners”
“Yes, I know the firm” Jon interjected.
“He was always in at the office so I didn’t think anything of it, him being so worried and busy. Then finally, on Saturday, he went into the office to do some filing... and he hasn’t come home since then… Oh Mr. Sanchez, I’m very worried about him, you will find him, won't you... It's very important that he is safely returned to me. I don’t know what I would do without him, he means so much to me. Since I lost my parents, Lionel’s the only family I have left.” More tears, more blubbering. It sounded like a she was choking on something.
Jon had little time for crying women, since most of the time, he were likely the cause.
“I'll find him Mrs Mooks, don't worry, I'm sure he's fine. There's a reason you came to me” Jon muttered slowly paying less and less attention to the grieving woman in front of him. Wondering to himself how stupid it was, to think a cheque could be smiling at him, but Jon couldn’t help it.
It sat there, resting in his hands smiling, winking at him. Urging him to clutch it close to his chest, sing to it. But he should probably wait until Mrs. Mooks left the office. She was still rambling on about something, but it seemed so insignificant compared to the glorious money sitting in his hand.
“Yes... there is” She smiled, brightening up for the first time.
“Well Mrs Mooks, I should get to work. You go home, I promise I'll keep you updated.”
“Oh thank you Mr. Sanchez, I’m so glad your doing this for me, I'll go, let you get started. I don’t want to hold you up at all. Here's my phone number” The response as she slipped the piece of paper across the table. Just as suddenly as she'd entered, the door slamming behind her, the glass pane nearly shaking loose. A scent lingering long after she'd departed. Many a women did that, left a trail, a memory of presence. This was more an odour, a funk. The over powering stink of an abrasive, tart, sour perfume. An amount only worn to cover evidence of some other smell. The most obnoxious of floral aromas.
The door shut, the shabby office still shaking as it vibrated back into its all too calm, settled state. Not many offices had silt, most just dust. Jons had an entire buried and extinct ecosystem. Sitting not alone, but with his favorite friend money, lying on his desk. Now that Mrs. Mooks was gone, Jon picked up the cheque, holding it close to his chest the way a mother would her newborn baby. Singing to it the sweetest songs that he could think of.
Jon could've been there hours, but for the fact he couldn’t remember any more than four lines to any song, ever written. But that was unimportant at a time like this, the only thing to do when you got a high paying job. One that paid the cash up front. Was get drunk. And not just normal drunk, this was going to be a special kind of drunk. That only sailors could achieve, not just normal sailors. But Irish sailors.
Jon could only hope this bender of gigantic proportions would last through the hangover he had at the moment. Only one way to find out, in many ways he was a man of science, unwilling to just leave things like that untested, unverified. Standing up from behind his desk, Sanchez gathered his bearings, his pants, sliding them back on after retrieving them from the couch where they'd rested. Thinking the more fabric between his genitals and the public the better. He didn’t really fancy getting done for indecent exposure... again.
“Right, pants, coat, money... that’s everything”
Moving towards the door, entering the reception area, Jon noticed something odd, his reception area, had a receptionist.
“Hello Mr. Sanchez, good morning isn’t it, the weathers gorgeous outside” Came the chipper voice of shrill excitement.
“AHHhello... Who are you?” Jon squealed at first.
“Oh Mr. Sanchez, I’m Lucy, your secretary”
“You are… my secretary?”
Jon wracked his brains. Sorting through the huge encyclopedia of completely useless information, trying to find the date. Even the year he’d hired a secretary. But it had been so long since he’d been in the office in normal hours 12:00 till 2:00. He just couldn't put a date on it.
“Ahhhh, excuse me Laura”
Lonnie had her long slender legs sticking out from under the desk, cocked to the side just to give them a little air. The nylons pulled tight, her left leg hooked over the right, its foot dancing about on the end of the slender limb, a lime green shoe the punctuation mark.
“That’s what I said… how long have you been in my employment?”
Tight black skirt, buckled in at the waist leading to a white shirt
“About a year now, actually I think it’s probably closer to a year a half”
The sleeves as short as decency could allow resting somewhere halfway up her upper arm.
“And I've been paying you all this time?”
Blond hair bobbed short as was the popular style... probably. Since she wasn't busy, she played with the pencil, rolling it back and forth on her lip. The erotically red lipstick rubbing off a little on the eraser. Delicate nose, playful blue eyes, more than enough to be distracting.
“Yes Mr. Sanchez your pay is very generous, not to mention the Christmas bonus I got last year I was able to by a new car with”
Weird, Sanchez wasn’t generous at all. In fact he’d been described as tighter than the rear end of an aquatic animal for most of his adult life. Stranger yet, where was he getting the money from to pay for this rather excitable employee. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been in the office during daylight hours, it was even longer since he’d had a paying job.
This new occurrence killing his buzz for getting totally incapacitated at the local. Staggering back into his office, Jon began to worry about how he could've had this rather young and lovely employee working under him, without actually having her under him. It was quite distressing. It'd been a long time since he'd had a job, even longer since he'd had a woman.
Time for that later?
As he was already in his office, he might as well get some work done. At least attempt to earn that other fifty thousand dollars. Where to start, eyeing about the office. Time to find Lionel Mooks. Unlikely he'd be in here.
The phone, where was the phone? Jon did have a phone didn't he? More than a few times he'd found one lying on the pavement outside his office, his window smashed. Drunk Jon obviously had a problem with the device. Looking to the corner, the one corner in his office, only the coat rack. But no phone.
His office only had one corner because of its shape. For some reason the architect, designing a building with a curve around the outside. A whole set of rooms shaped like a tear drop. A five-story building, Sanchezs office on the top floor. All the other tear drop rooms below, hollowed out. Turned into a stair case, but Sanchez had thought for this to happen to his, it would mean him moving his desk. And that was a heavy desk. So his office with the one corner remained.
Jon taking it in the first place because it was cheap and close to home. In fact he lived just down the hall. Crawling distance away, that mode of transport far more common to him that any grown man should be allowing. So he bought it with the money saved from a previous life as a cop. The coat rack in question what they'd given him on his, what he called retirement, but everyone else called a firing. Mind you it was a nice coat rack, a very nice coat rack.
Upon hearing of his impending retirement/firing/public crucifixion. Everyone at the precinct searched through their bottom draws, underneath their couches. Trying to find any loose change they could, to buy him a present that would truly reflect their feelings towards Jon 'Filthy' Sanchez. The total was eighty-two cents. The card he got with it still attached with a piece of string. The message as beautiful a use of the English language as any poet could produce:
He liked the 'Dear Jon' bit. It made him feel special. A memento of his time with the police. The beloved coat rack from those that hated him so, but alas no phone. Next to the coat rack was the door out to reception, just before the wall started to curve around behind him. Several pictures Jon still held onto, hanging loosely on the drably cream colored walls. He swore they were blue once, maybe the office itself had changed. Dogs and their owners grew to look like each other, maybe his office had done the same.
The black and white pictures, looking more brown than anything, but that’s what happens to things when they get old. They go brown and start to smell. The photos just one fragment of his life. An impressionist painting of nonsense and disappointment, but it made sense to Jon.
They stood together smiling, looking as happy as anyone could in anothers company. It was a nice memory. That was as reminiscent as Jon felt like getting at the moment... just, nice.
Abel Garner the man standing next to him in the picture. Garner was, at least now that he was dead, the pride of the force, a symbol they thrust in front of the public. Tall, handsome, popular to say the least with the ladies, never married, but many times an end to a happy one. Abel had never considered himself a womaniser, he always felt to qualify as using a women, you mustn't know her name. And he always did.
Give Abel an hour or two and he'd run through half the list of the women he'd known. It was lucky he was a cop. Carrying a weapon tended to keep away angry husbands, for the most part. Besides if some ones wife came onto him then how could it be his fault. From the colorless picture of Abel that hung in Sanchezs office you couldn't tell just how black his hair was. It crept out from under his hat, framing eyes that so often wooed a young lady. The same way the Sirens cried out for passing sailors. Once close enough, they'd be wrecked forever, never to set sail for another man again.
A deep emerald green, set in the middle of the whitest eyes any women had ever seen. If it wasn’t for the sun that shone out of his ass, you probably could've landed a plane just from those whites. Abels nose like many other peoples, resided right in the middle of his face. He was quite pleased about this fact as he often used it for smelling and such, and to have it where it was, was quite convenient.
As with the rest of his face, his nose thin, refined, pointy, but not sharp. His mouth stretching from ear to ear when he smiled. That smile, the end of even more ladies. Because from this vocal chasm came his voice, a smooth elegant, coaxing women to him like moths to an impeccably dressed flame. Those moths left to sputter out, rigidly spasming on the ground once the flame had moved on.
Abel had become a cop because of his dad, it wasn't exactly a family business, Abels father had been a bank robber, quite a successful one. Until he wasn't successful. Meaning he got shot... quite a few times. Tommy guns did have quite an effect on people that were 'alive'. Abel was twelve at the time. He'd always known cops, they came looking for his dad, pestered his mother, camped out the front of his house... asked for bribes. They were nearly the only male role model he had, so it wasn't really a surprise when he joined the force.
After a short stint in uniform, he took the detectives test. Passed, although the circumstances under which he did, weren't the usual angle one would pass a test. But Abel had, that’s all that mattered, so now he was a detective, armed and ready to solve crime. All the while dodging the phone calls of a ravenous commissioners secretary, who may have had a role in previously mentioned detectives test.
Teamed up with another rookie that passed the test in the same class. One Jon Sanchez, an unimpressive looking individual in all possible definitions. But that wasn't about to stop him doing his job.
October 5th 1930
On their first case they'd been told to find out about an illegal chop shop that was operating at the time. The Chief calling them both into his office. Before even being introduced to each other, they were knee deep in files and photographs of the scum of the city. Abel always the gentleman deciding that being partnered with someone probably meant you should talk to them, or said partnership may not be so successful. Out shot his hand, the hand that had slapped many an ass, even just that morning.
“Abel Garner pleased to meet you”
“It’s a pleasure Abel, I’m Sanchez… Jon Sanchez” The slovenly dic looking up from the file he was pretending to read. They shook hands for a second, smiling at each other, both deciding that the other was probably useless.
“Right, you two have met?” The Chief assumed, rushing in the door. The two waiting in his office, the first of many briefings where the Chief was only tangentially involved.
“Yeah” Jon replied, Abel nodding as well. As much as saying hello was meeting each other.
“So, you're partners, neither has a problem with that?” The Chief busily flustering about behind his desk, taking off his jacket scrounging around his draws.
“No... should be fine” Abel nodded.
Jon smirking to himself, nice to know he met this strangers approval.
“Which one?” The Chief holding up the two ties, neither of them matching the suit he was wearing at the time.
Jon about to signal to the one on the right, when Abel cut him off.
“Erhh... Jon give him yours, then you take the one on the left” Abel advised as quickly as he could, cutting off any potential mistake.
Jon looking down at his tie, then up at the one he was supposedly going to be wearing.
“Come on then” The Chief ordered, holding out his hand demanding the accessory.
“But it's... mine...” Jon mumbled already halfway through unfastening it. The two ties swapped mid air. The Chief hastily pulling it over his head, fastening it back around his neck. Jon doing the same, though with less rigour and purpose.
“Files here, desks out there, I have to get to court” The Chief blowing back out the door, as quickly as he'd entered.
Jon and Abel left wondering if that even was their commanding officer. Stumbling from the office. The whirlwind fast blur that was the Chief leaving both a little confused, those two empty desks as inviting as any seat in the office.
“So what do we have in these files” Abel curious.
Sanchez who'd been day dreaming, not reading. Snapped to attention, starting to scan through the intelligence on the paper to see where they should start.
“Guy that runs the shop, Teddy Libaracci, likes to spend his time hanging out in the Lantern.” Jon doing his best to sound interested, cool about what he was reading. Always hard to do that off three hours sleep, and the prior fourteen-hour binge.
“Calls come into the bar, he orders the grunts out to steal the cars. They take them to another location that we don’t know.” Sanchez starting to get a handle on this cop thing; it all seemed a bit of a doddle so far.
Abel, who hadn’t really been listening so much, as making eyes at the Chief's secretary, formulated a plan in his head. Wrist, neck... caress the inner thigh a little, then...
“Go down to the club, watch for the grunts then just follow one home” Abel at this point, sure he was just as impressive to his partner as he was that young lady.
Sanchez smiling at him, 'Gee did you come up with that all by yourself or did you get a monkey to help, you pretty git'. The thought running through his head.
“Sounds good, we should be able to have this one pretty easy” The translation out of Jon's mouth.
The two off, trench coats in hand, hats on heads, cigarettes burning a hole through lips. The Pink Lantern the destination, the one place everybody knew, run by a certain Victor Small. Walking through the precinct, to the garage they talked, trying to fill in the details on each other.
“So where did you grow up” Sanchez interrogating his strutting partner.
“Chicago, west side, it was crazy... at times” Abel making it sound tougher than it had been. His dad was a robber, but it didn’t mean that they lived in squalor
“Really, why did you move to L.A?”
“Mix of reasons… You don’t look Latino at all, what's with the last name?” Abel peering through the corner of his eye at the whitest looking man he'd likely ever seen.
“I’m not. Came from up north, Canada originally, my mother moved us down to Mexico for a few years and she married a local.” Sanchez replied, untucking his shirt from his pants a little as he walked. There was a reasonable dress code for the department. But Jon always thought it a little stupid wearing a large piece of pre-tensioned material around ones neck, it just encouraged strangulation.
“So you got any family out here in LA, or is it just you?”
“Just me, wanted a fresh start, you know just to get away from everything back home.” Abel sounding far more noble than his original plan, which was to bang movie stars.
They reached their unmarked car, pausing for a second, was there going to be the inevitable argument over who was going to drive. Whatever happened now, no doubt setting the precedent for the rest of the partnership.
“Whose driving” Sanchez unsure whether he even wanted to or not.
“Flip for it, got a coin?” Abel suggested.
Sanchez searching through his desert like pockets. If there was anything in there apart from smokes and matches it was definitely a surprise.
“Ah, I think I’m out of… money.” Jon sheepishly peeped.
Abel giving a rummage through his pockets coming out with naught but fluff and phone numbers. It seemed like they were perfectly matched to each other, but still both dead broke.
“Screw it, you drive” Abel tossing the keys to Sanchez. Keeping his hands in his pockets instead of admitting to not even having a coin. Skipping around to the passenger seat.
Jon caught the keys, only just. Climbing into the car. It wasn’t old, but it hadn’t fared that well from its previous owners. The seats and upholstery ripped, several shifty looking stains populating the seats. Sitting on them a pot luck for whether it was simply spilled coffee. Or something else... Maybe that coffee turned into this spill... but that didn't make it any better.
The Pink Lantern was if not geographically, at least figuratively, socially, the centre of town. The sun beating down on the hood of the car. Abel hanging his arm out the window, running it through the air a habit he kept for the years they were partners.
“You know who runs the Lantern right?” Abel checked, grabbing a cigarette from his packet.
“Victor Small” Jon's own dancing about on his lip as he spoke.
“Vic Small” Abel repeated, the man not so much a personality about the town, but a shadow hanging over it.
“Eugh...” Sanchez sighed, as far as scum went he wasn't the worst, that was reserved for his men, they were what scum shit out. The lowest of the low. Victor was somewhat aptly named, he bordered on the limit of what could be called a midget. Often thought he was making up for his short comings in height, by just being a complete raw bastard. Victor, Vic 'The Small', Small not someone you wanted to mess with. Violent, rude... and violent again just in case you'd forgotten.
Jon and Abel stopping outside the club, even in the morning packed to the rafters. Serving as a hangout through the day for Vics gang. Through the night a strange mixture of celebrities, athletes and the same criminals in suits, mingling, watching dancing girls and drinking the night away.
“You ever been inside” Abel wondered, flicking the finished cigarette out the window of the car. Nearly hit a passing lady, she turned in disgust until she saw the police officer hanging out the window smiling like he'd a golden dick. She gave a cheeky smile, then kept walking. Pouring an extra portion of wiggle on.
“No... no I haven't” Sanchez disgusted at the ease of his new partners smoothness.
“They say, stay out of there if you're clean” Sanchez added as Abel pulled his head back in the car. The silence awkward as both checked each other out, the wrong reaction here could be chaos. One thing that didn't work, was only one side of a partnership being dirty. Both had to commit to the same side, clean or dirty, or it was never going to work.
“We should get a drink” Abel paused for confirmation.
Sanchez pulling the door handle placing his foot on road.
June 14th 1948
Jon sighed snapping back to his drab office, even drabber clothes, the basic quality of life having dropped away since those days. The phone the clever little bugger had been hiding on his desk the whole time. Slapping the handset, rolling it into his hand. Now to deal with the operator, those women as sour as most lemon tarts, without the advantage of also being edible.
“City M.E please” Jon requested, waiting for the snooty reply to come.
“Say please...” The response down the phone.
“I did... ehhh... Please could I get the City M.E” Jon tried again, determined to only barely hide is disdain... as both sides of the conversation were.
“Connecting... jerk” She replied. No effort taken to hide the later part of the exchange.
Jon, like everyone else just forced to ignore the addendum to his character.
“Gosley... pick up” Jon huffed, the chap on the other end, probably elbow deep in a stiff.
“City morgue” Came the unenthusiastic response. If anyone had to guess, one of the corpses answering the phone.
“Gos, it's Jon... you got any Jon Does on the table?”
“Hello Jon.” Gosley answered.
“Hello Gos, how are you?” Sanchez forgetting about Gosely's usual forced interactions.
“I'm good... did you want something?”
“Just answer the question” Sanchez barked.
“Yes, I have a few. Why you ask, who you looking for?” Gosley eyeing over his horde of frozen friends.
“No one yet. Just want to make sure I'm not chasing a corpse” Jon wouldn't have said his bet was either way, Lionel were dead or alive. But checking the morgue was just sensible. No point dragging himself across the city, just to find the man he was looking for, popsicled in a freezer. More than a few times, he'd found himself as close to praying as he'd allow himself. That the object of his focus, was laid out on a slab waiting to be claimed or cremated.
“Well, the usual, a couple of homeless. There's two you might want to check out. Come by about four” Gos sure to enforce that time to Jon. The M.E hanging up, removing any chance for argument on the matter.
Sanchez replaced the hand set, grabbing his coat. Peeking through the door of his office, watching her for a second before walking through it. The chipper presence unnerving even when she was silent.
“Alright, Larnie, I'm going out”
“It's Lucy Mr Sanchez”
“Sure it is... you... do some filing, or something” Jon urged wandering down the stairs. Greeted by that god awful demon sun, baking into his skin as he flew out the front door of his building.
Turning the key in the ignition, which had been conspicuously left there for god knows how long. The car spluttered to life for a few seconds before dying again. The whole body shuddering like it were either having an orgasm or a heart attack, possibly both. Wrenching the key around again, resulted in nothing happening. Ripping the thin slither of metal from the slot, Jon tossed it out the window, stepping from the car. No use keeping it now. Walking to the front kicking off the number plate, doing the same at the back. Later he'd have to remember to call the tow company and tell them someone had parked in his spot.
Jon now needed a new one, he had money. Just had to cash that cheque.
“Euuuugh” Sanchez groaned at the thought of having to visit his bank. Most of his time spent figuring how to dodge them. Cocking his hat, preparing himself for the onslaught of passive aggressive fury, from a bank manager talking down to him. Imagining that would change right quickly when he pulled that cheque though. His bank manager would likely allow him anything with that type of cash. His car, his house, shit, probably his daughter.
Over the road the sad looking monolith of stone and glass, dead eyed folks trudging in and out. That was the one blessing... it was close.
“I'd like to cash this cheque” Sanchez moaned after standing in a cue for a while. The one open teller looking down her glasses at his scruffy appearance. Amazed at how someone could look both drunk and alarmingly sober at the same time.
“Yeah...” She huffed at the thought of cashing yet another two dollar thirty eight cent cheque. Her eyes bulging as she laid eyes on the sum. Holding it up in the light as if to check its legitimacy. Then holding it in front of Jon's face, looking between the sum and his deadpan expression. Somehow the man and the amount didn't match up.
“I'm going to get the manager” Sliding from her perch in a casual panic.
“Nooooo” Sanchez complained holding his child like tantrum inside. Stamping his feet a little as he went.
The teller disappearing behind the wall into the managers office. The noise of coffee being spat across the room followed. Before the venetian blinds cracked open. Forced apart by two fingers, in between them a pair of beady eyes peering through.
Sanchez yawning as obnoxiously as possible.
“You'll have to go back and see him” The teller ordered indifferently, sidling back over to her seat.
Sanchez's shoulders sinking. This would get annoying before he got his money.
“So, what are you doing tonight?” Sanchez put forward to the disinterested teller.
She looked him up and down, considering everything before her, and the fifty thousand dollar cheque. It still wasn't enough, her sneer giving Jon his response.
He slunk away, if fifty thousand dollars wasn't adding to his appeal, maybe he needed a haircut. Stepping to the velvet rope, Jon lifted his foot, pushing down the bollard holding it aloft. All the others connected along the line toppling. The chain reaction accompanying Jon slowly wandering into the managers office.
“What's the problem?” Jon demanded, if he went quickly, then maybe this would as well.
“Where did you get it?” The bank manager peered suspiciously over his wire frame glasses.
“I sold my mother” Jon purposely looking anywhere around the office apart from the man in front of him.
“Why did one, Mrs Audrey Mooks buy your mother?”
“Cause she's worth it, that's why. Cash the cheque bongo, I need to buy a car” Jon snapped, he'd had enough of sitting in this office before he'd even sat down.
“If this is fraudulent you'll be arrested, I promise you that” The bank manager asserted.
Jon smiled, sucking the air in through his teeth.
“We don't have this kind of money to just hand out” The manager went on.
“No surprise with a two bit operation like this. Just give me five grand then, jam the rest in my account... I'll come back later and roll around naked in the vault. You still let people do that right?” Jon quipped.
Much to the managers alarm. He pulled a cheque book from his desk placing it on the table.
“Oh no... cash... I'd hate you to give me a fraudulent cheque. I'd have to have you arrested.” Jon smiled whipping out of the chair, wandering back to the teller. Standing next to her expectantly as she served another customer.
“Five grand...” Sanchez holding out his hand.
She glanced back at the manager, he nodded slowly. A nod filled with grief at having to hand back some of the money other people had given him.
Snatching the wad of cash from the tellers hand, Jon jammed it into his top suit pocket strutting from the bank like he'd just robbed it. Ploughing out the door whistling no tune in particular.
At the end of the street his usual place to find a car. Eddies. The name synonymous with car dealers everywhere, as infamous as any for quality. Jon had bought more than a few there, and they had always ended up the same way. Smoking like a steamship on the side of the road, or wrapped like an amorous lover around a tree. But why break a habit.
“Eddie. CAR!” Jon yelled standing in the entry way of the lot. The numerous customers turning in fright.
Eddie emerging from his cave of an office, covered in the usual flop sweat and hair grease.
“Jonny, please keep it down” Eddie hushed him, as he approached, wiping the perspiration from his forehead.
“Why you need another car?” Eddie asked.
“Cause I bought my last one from you” Sanchez poking vigorously at Eddies ample body.
“Oh, oh, Jonny.... please keep it down, I got other customers” Eddie grimaced as he led Jon away to the back of the lot. The usual place Jon picked out his automobiles.
“I got money and a gun Eddie. If this car is a lemon you'll see both” Sanchez laughed roughly grabbing the fat man around the back of the neck.
“Hey, hey Jonny were friends aren't we. I wouldn't sell you a lemon. You gotta take care of your cars better. What do you want, we got a Buick over here” Eddie sighed squirming free of Jon's grip.
“No, no, okay then Jonny, oh how about this, Chevy, banged up a little but the engine is real good.” Eddie smiled showing him to the next in the line. It was a white Chevrolet front panels dented in a little, but under the hood it was clean. More than Sanchez could say for himself.
“Alright, I'll give you five hundred for it”
“Where did you get the money from Jonny, you got a job?” Eddie poked, the curious little fat man pawing for information. His other line of work was snitching. Something else synonymous with the name Eddie, they were all snitches.
“Five hundred Eddie, now get one of your lackeys out here to scratch that engine number off.
“Five hundred is a little low Jonny, you're gouging me”
“I'll gouge you Eddie, I'll gouge you real good. Five hundred or I wander into the office and take the keys for nothing”
Eddie stayed silent for a second, finally choking out the answer he didn't want to give.
“Alright, five hundred then” Eddie gasped, the pain in his side, his wallet screaming for food.
“Nice work Eddie, a pleasure as always. Now get back to your office” Jon ordered.
The little fat man nodding his head before disappearing back into the dark. One of his workers appearing from the back of the garage with a grinder and the keys. Sanchez slid them into his pocket, climbing into the car popping the hood. The worker going about his business removing the engine number. A few seconds of sparks flying from the hood, and Jon was gone, pulling out onto the highway heading downtown.
It was a drive, but now he had the car for it, fast, responsive, comfortable. The first thing he did out of the lot, check the glove box. Just to make sure, quite a few of Eddies cars had previous owners. Owners that weren't exactly willing to sell their cars usually. In the glove box the usual mess of papers, cigarettes, which he needed, and some loose change. Under them all an ID. A photo card for which ever unlucky bastard this car used to belong to.
“Roland Fleethammer... staff scientist... well bad luck Roland” Jon smirked flicking the ID back into the glove box before closing it. The roads busy, always were in LA, people going no where much, just anywhere else. Downtown the offices of Andrews Mooks and Kirkwood. Nice and central, no wonder the fat wife could afford to pay him the cool money. They did business for everyone, all the picture studios. Plus the one other business in town that counted, Victor Small.
It felt good to be back to work, Jon hadn't been lately, what with his reputation and the alcoholism. Loosening his tie, even more than it already was. Psychologically Jon could feel it choking him. The knot hanging about middle chest height.
There were red lights everywhere, every block he'd have to stop and watch as all the people he hated from this town, did all the things he hated about this town. Still, they looked damn good doing it. All sorts of ladies strolling by, powerfully tight dresses clinging to each curve and bump, in a way only the ladies in LA could manage. Flicking one of Roland's cigarettes into his mouth, lighting it with what he also guessed was Roland's lighter.
“Sorry Roland” Jon quipped dropping the lighter into his jacket pocket. Rolling up outside the building, it was immense if anything. People pouring in and out of it like ants from a hole, well dressed, but ants all the same. Finding a park on the other side of the road, Jon stopped a while watching the comings and goings. Names, names, names, they were all names. Not the type civilians would know. The more important ones, business men (criminals), and men of business. All using the same door.
One caught his eye especially. Jimmy the Asshole. Not the most creative of moniker, but the most accurate. Jimmy the Asshole, wasn't just an asshole, he was 'The Asshole'. The biggest in LA, maybe the state, probably the country. Tough luck for everyone else since he was Victor Smalls top guy. The Asshole prancing off down the sidewalk pinching asses and giving dirty looks to everything else.
Jon stepping out of his car strolling across the street. Now that puckering distraction had wandered along its way.
Inside was immaculate, marble floors, columns, enough to compensate for any lack of endowment. Moving across the floor casually scoping out each of the security guards. Jon moved up to the attendant behind the desk.
“Hello” The announcement of his presence as smooth as gravel.
“Yes” She replied, re-adjusting her makeup. The type of girl pretty enough to get away with that while you waited. The type that whilst playing with her lipstick everyone stopped to watch.
“I'm here to see the bosses” Jon informed her, a little distracted as she pouted and ran the ruby red streak across her ample lip.
“Mr Andrews is away, Mr Kirkwood is in his office”
“And Mr Mooks?” Jon dropped the name, just to see the response.
“Mr Mooks is missing” The answer leaving her looking a little sad.
“That's why I'm here. Please, tell Mr Kirkwood I'd like to see him.” Jon confidently, flicking the rim of his hat up a little further.
“He isn't taking visitors today I'm sorry” The attendant assured. The apology quite insincere.
“Tell him it's Jon Sanchez on behalf of Audrey Mooks” Jon turning his back on the attendant. Vying for the upper hand in the power struggle.
“I'll see if he's in” A meek turn at the mention of Audrey Mooks. Placing the call upstairs.
“Hello Mr Kirkwood, yes I remember... Mr Kirkwood, it's about Mr Mooks... It's a Jon Sanchez on behalf Mr Mooks wife... no he's not Mexican... yes, alright” Taking up one side of the conversation. Hanging up the phone she pointed to the stairs.
“Mr Kirkwood will see you. His office is one the top floor...”
“I'll find it” Jon smiled snidely. Strolling lazily up the stairs under the watchful eye of the security. He obviously wasn't good enough to share the elevator with the rest of society. A grand staircase, a grand building, seemed a shame to waste it on accountants. The top floor quite a walk away, five flights of stairs curving around the inside of the building. At the top, along the elaborately appointed hallway an open office door.
Jon stopping along his journey, a familiar name on the door, taking a few seconds to peer inside. Luxurious, high back leather chair, oak desk, various half drained decanters of expensive alcohol. The usual lavish items.
“Mr Sanchez?” Came the voice from the end of the hallway. In the frame of the doorway the silhouette of a rakishly tall man, bent over a smidgen at the top, showing his age.
“Mr Kirkwood” Jon stepping closer. He took a long drawn out breath through one of Roland's cigarettes exhaling the smoke. The whole cloud wafting towards the other man.
“Yes... please come in” The older gentleman stepping back into his office.
Mr Kirkwood obviously had a thing for horses. Not just a normal 'thing'. But an exaggerated eight year old girl level thing. His office from wall to floor was an equine fantasy. Horses covered nearly every inch of open space.
“What do you want Mr Sanchez?” Kirkwood taking little care to offer Sanchez any hospitality.
“Audrey Mooks wants to know where her husband is... the money she's paying me makes me care as well” Jon running his hand along the wooden horse atop the drinks cabinet.
Kirkwood grimacing at the action, someone else touching his beloved ponies.
“I told her to leave it to the police. All you private dics are the same... no offense” Kirkwood added, the last bit meant to clear any insult he'd just given.
“I'm hardly private” Sanchez pointed out.
“Charming... please, continue, if Audrey insists, I can't refuse you can I?” Kirkwood sighed, hunkering down in his chair.
“Enemies?” Sanchez wondered out loud.
“He was an accountant Mr Sanchez”
“So... you have a list somewhere?” Jon's sarcastic grin hidden barely.
“No... I'm guessing you know who most of our clients are Mr Sanchez. Enemies are hardly a problem” Kirkwood assured.
“Yeah... I noticed an Asshole leaving earlier. You happy working for Mr Small?” Sanchez inquired.
“Mr Sanchez, it's really not about being happy, is it. If all there is, is steak, then you just eat steak” Kirkwood not letting on whether he was happy or the other.
“When did you see Lionel last?”
“He was in the office all weekend. I stopped in for a moment to chat with him” Kirkwood going about his business, scribbling a few numbers down on some paper.
“How was he?”
“He was fine, usual Lionel”
“Really... his wife seemed to think he'd been acting strange lately” Jon hanging the hook, waiting for whatever fish to take it.
Kirkwood didn't reply straight away, biting his lip, chewing over the answer in his head.
“She lying?” Sanchez poking at the silence.
“That's your client Mr Sanchez”
“Not my friend though... and not yours either if I guess rightly” Jon gambled.
“It's not really a secret Mr Sanchez, but no... she's a ghastly woman” Kirkwood grimaced at the thought of her.
“Fat too” Jon stuck in. Testing to see how willing Kirkwood was willing to sink a boot.
“That's none of my business. She's an heiress, loaded with everything, except for class. I told him it was a mistake to marry her. But she already had the teeth in.”
“So maybe he ran from her, wanted to escape her clutches” Jon pondering the thought aloud.
“Yes... he could of” Kirkwood slowly taking in the ramshackle detective wandering around his office.
Sanchez pouring himself a drink, a generous triple shot.
“You came into the office to see him?” Jon taking a extended sip from the glass.
“Yes... we talked, business, then he left, he'd an appointment”
“Yes” Kirkwood again struggling with his lip, wondering about the benefits of spilling the information.
“He is your friend isn't he Mr Kirkwood?” Jon baiting another hook.
“Of course he is... Lionel had... has, become taken with an actress. She's not famous, not yet, he met her through a studio rep. He was taking her out, or she was taking him, I've heard she does that. Lionel was a married man”
“His wife ain’t much chop though” Jon cut in, a studious glance thrown to Kirkwood to judge the reaction. None of any sort given.
“I'm not talking about his wife. He was married to the job, but he needed a break, so we let it slide.”
“Did Audrey know about this you think?” Jon fingering out a possibility.
“It's possible, like I said... maybe that's why she said he was acting strange. He was never good with secrets.”
“The actress, who is it?” Jon asked, although he already had a name floating through his head.
“Lagrosse... yeah, I know her” Jon interrupted Kirkwood.
“Oh... “ Kirkwood sighed. Immediately the young ladies stocks falling, now that this lurid mess of a detective revealed any sort of knowledge of her.
Carmella Lagrosse, a fantastic set of tits unfortunately attached to a b-grade matinee actress. Little talent, and a singing voice that could strip paint. Without hyperbole, one reviewer describing her voice, as something akin to the sound a bag of cats, being dragged down a chalkboard by a banshee. Yet people kept making her sing, he guessed it was all that chest exercise they enjoyed. Lucky for her she had that chest, else she might've had to work for a living.
“Where is Andrews, I'd like to talk to him” Sanchez finishing the last of his drink with a loud satisfied gasp.
“He's at home, sick leave, I wouldn't disturb him...” Kirkwood quickly cutting off that route.
“No... I'm just going to assume he lives in the hills, just in case I'd need to talk to him”
“You won't need to” Kirkwood adamantly directed, placing his head in his hands. Andrews obviously a sore point.
Sanchez placing the glass on the table walking to the door. Readying himself to leave. Details starting to come into light. Mooks playing up, taking some tail on the side. Maybe he'd just taken himself and some booze, gotten a room somewhere with his piece.
“Sanchez” Kirkwood, just as Jon was at the door.
“Don't misunderstand me, I don't like Audrey, I don't like you on this case. But I do want Lionel found, we all do.”
“All of you, even all your clients?” Jon checked.
“I don't like what your insinuating Sanchez”
“Can you eliminate the possibility though, that Mooks has encountered some kind of work related accident?”
“He wouldn't steal money, he's not stupid” Kirkwood certain as death.
“Maybe he was talking to someone”
“Talking to who, the police, the DA... in this town” Kirkwood laughed.
They both laughed, with what Hollywood could do, none of the politicians had the balls to involve the Feds in anything going on in this city. It would've been career, even party suicide for generations. Maybe even actual murder if they pissed off the right people.
“I'll need to look in his office” Sanchez didn't ask, just informed that he was going to sticky beak around in Lionel Mooks shit.
“He's my friend, at least be respectful” Kirkwood demanded to the now empty door frame. Obviously he didn't know Jon, respectful was not in his skill set. At this time of the day, he was lucky Sanchez even had pants on.
Getting back to Mooks door, Jon was greeted with a much more dignified office. Not the horse related disaster he'd just seen. Plain green wall paper, intricate patterns on the architraves, the large ornate oak desk centering the room. Probably cost more than Sanchez’s entire building. He moved around, running his eye over each item, pens, paper clips, a photo. A woman, fat... Audrey Mooks, the man next to her smaller, infinitely so. He was smiling.
“Lionel, you were happy once, weren't you”
Glancing back at Audrey in the same photo, her expression far less jubilant, more obscenely disgusted. Jon cracking the frame open, taking the snap from it. Placing it in his jacket pocket, now at least he knew what Lionel looked like. That was a start. He sat down in Lionel's chair, comfortable. Somewhere around here would be a day planner. Mooks was an accountant, he'd have a planner or a diary. Something to that effect. No doubt accurate to a tee. People like that always were, accountants especially, an economy of time. On the desk nothing but a few scraps of paper, sliding them into his pockets as well for later. Moving onto the drawers. The bottom, nothing but half a bottle of whiskey, the cheap kind.
An office workers best friend, small, cheap, easy to carry for those hard days at the desk. Across the room the same statuesque bar set up Kirkwood had, classic old decanters filled with expensive liquor. Yet here in the drawer a little slice of shame. The perfect accompaniment to any secret. Sanchez placed the bottle back, there were some things you didn't do, stealing another mans liquor was one of them. The next drawer up, virtually empty. A single pencil as he slung it open, the lonely graphite layabout lolling back and forth.
The top drawer locked, as they always were. Everyone kept all the private stuff in that locked drawer. Running his fingers under the rim of the desk Jon looked for the key. Mooks an accountant, couldn't have been that creative with the hiding place. The relative difficulty in finding the key invariably escalating the secrets held within.
Sanchez didn't have time for this. Grabbing the letter opener from the desk, he jammed it into the lock, taking little care not to scratch the sides. Rattling the tip about before giving it a twist, hearing the unpleasant crunching sound of the lock shattering. The drawer sliding open, revealing its bountiful load of treasure. There as predicted, the little black book, a diary. Swiping it, placing it in his pocket with the rest. Next to it a stack of money, five hundred dollars maybe, in loose notes floating around in an envelope. Mooks wouldn't miss it. Liquor was one thing, cash another.
A rollerdex, small, different from the one on the table. The table would be business the drawer something else. Jon flicked through, the usual list of names anyone from the seedy side of town would recognise. And a few he didn't.
Sliding out from behind the desk, placing the chair back in carefully, just as he'd found it. Pockets full of someone elses things, as they usually were. Jon headed for the door. He may have had to climb the stairs up, but Jon were taking the elevator down. One more thing he had to check. The bell ringing as the door slid open, inside the attendant smiling, welcoming him in.
“Do you have time for a chat… Larry?” Jon holding out a wad of the cash he'd just borrowed from Mooks desk.
Larry an African American gentlemen. Not uncommon for the job, just maybe this part of town. A certain amount of liberalism to show they cared, whilst still keeping everyone that counted feeling 'safe'. Larry good enough to pull a lever, just not to work the numbers.
Sanchez gathering his name from the tag pinned to his smart red vest, detective work, genius stuff at that. One thing Sanchez was sure of, it was the little people in the office that knew everything. Bathroom attendants, lift operators may as well have not have been people, not to mention if they were also a minority. People treated them like furniture, like walls. But these walls could talk, you just had to pay them enough.
“Yeah” Larry giving a considered nod.
“This about Mr Mooks?” Larry sliding the door closed on the elevator, flicking on the brake switch.
“Tell me about him” Jon leaning against the wall of the cage.
“He's a man” Larry smiled, glancing towards Jon's pocket again.
Sanchez sighed, handing over another handful of bills, the dead presidents hopefully enjoying their new home.
“He was nice, a worker, quiet like... carried those other two if you ask me” Larry smiled counting out the notes before folding them into his pocket.
“So they wouldn't want him dead?”
“Now?... I don't know, I hear he was a good numbers man, but they got plenty of them here” Larry obviously having given this some thought before.
“Lionel was a trouble maker maybe, didn't like the clientele? So they had him disappear?” Jon proffered.
“Sometimes I think he didn't even know who he was dealing with. Just did the numbers and went about his business. Kirkwood and Andrews... I wouldn't put that past them, Mooks was definitely the nice guy of the bunch.” Larry informed him.
“What about her?” Larry inquired, a cheeky grin plastered across his face
“Mooks was meant to be seeing her the night he disappeared.”
“Yeah he mentioned that, thought the little guys head was going to pop, how excited he was. Couldn't keep quiet about his... rendezvous, as he called it.”
“How long had they been rendezvousing her” Jon probed, he'd have added air quotes, if he didn't think removing his hands from his pockets, would illicit another request for cash from Larry.
“She came by a few times, disappeared into his office, I don't think anything ever happened though. Mooks was always to worried about his old lady”
“Worried or scared?”
“What's the difference?” Larry in return. He was right, there was little.
“He often have women by the office?”
“No... his wife, but she ain't no women, Mooks was all business.” Larry explained. Down at the bottom of the elevator people waiting, the bell blaring as people impatiently hammered on it.
Sanchez pulling another bill from his pocket scrawling out his phone number on it.
“You think of anything else” Slipping the paper to Larry as they reached the bottom floor. The doors sliding open, Sanchez forcing his way through the pack of impatient patrons.
“Sorry folks, mechanical troubles” Larry offered, avoiding being fired for the delay.
“Thanks doll” Sanchez breezed passed the desk attendant. Dipping his hat with as much style as he could muster.
She wasn't impressed, rolling her eyes to such a degree she may well have thrown off certain orbiting celestial bodies. As good a female contact as Sanchez could expect lately.
Finding Roland's car where he left it, Jon climbed back in. Of all the places that waited his arrival, the morgue was the last one he wanted to go to, warm or cold. Flicking on the ignition the radio sparked to life, the announcer half way through a ramble about the big fight.
“It's a night boxing fans, nay sports fans, even just everymans aren't going to forget ever. A night where William 'Luscious' Peters puts down his latest opponent in the early rounds of the fight.”
Jon had heard enough of the prattle, he didn't hate boxing. But this was ridiculous, a bunch of experts reeling off barely legitimate reasons why 'Luscious' was going, even had, to win.
“It's too important for the sport for him to lose, it would just represent badly if he didn't come through” They were barely keeping it hidden. It would represent badly because, Lucsious's opponent was black. Double Bad Donnie Barclay, finally getting his chance to cram a fist down a world champs throat.
Every tetchy white man in town barely hiding their fear that someone a different color might win something. None willing to just come out and be straight about it, that would've been petty.
Jon was early. For the morgue, that'd be anybody that was alive wouldn't it? Gosley said four. He wouldn't be happy Jon was there early. Gos a strange one, a medical examiner, if that wasn't enough. Anyone who was willing to spend the rest of their life elbow deep in someone elses body was already an oddball to Jon.
Gosley spent nine to five at that office, but always made people make an appointment. Often at times if people stopped by, even family of the deceased. He'd leave them standing at the door ringing the bell, just watching the clock tick down to their appointment.
Sanchez rang the bell. Waiting seconds before doing it again, in as obnoxious a tune as he could manage.
“You're early Jon” Came the voice crackling through the intercom.
“Let me in Gosely, I'm busy” Sanchez appealed.
“It's not four o’clock, it's not even close”
“You said around four o’clock, it's close enough” Jon looking at his watch, only just now realising it was on inside out.
“It's two Jon, two is not four, two is not even close to four. If you want to come in you'll have to wait for our appointment, you're not the only one that's busy” Gosley assured. Waiting for an answer. Hovering by the intercom for Jons sigh of defeat or shriek of anger.
“Yeah” Sanchez said from right behind the M.E. Having snuck around the back, climbing through the bathroom window.
“You're breaking the law Jon” Gosley stone faced, complained at the appearance.
“Please Gos, just wheel out the stiffs.” Jon sighed. Pulling Rolands pack of cigarettes from his pocket, lighting one, much to the annoyance of Gosley.
Jon trailing the M.E into the meat locker, the wall of steel drawers all closed. The brisk air in the room bringing just a little shiver. Corpse after corpse pulled out from the wall, blue lipped and stiff each of them. Five in all, including one on the table Gos had already cracked open like a pinata. A definite lack of candy flowing out of this party animal.
Jon pulled the photo from his coat pocket, lining it up against each stiff.
“And this is where all the bodies come” Jon made sure. Things weren't likely to have changed too recently.
“Here or the ocean. Who you looking for?” Gos asked, both of them staring back and forth at the picture, then at the corpse trying to eliminate the possibility.
“Lionel Mooks... you recognise him?” Jon thrusting the picture into Gosleys face.
“He's not in here... whose the broad?” Gosley inquired, taking a step back from the photo, so was the insult to his senses of Audreys stink eye.
“The client, the wife...”
“What's that tone?” Gos cleverly picking up on the not so subtle catch in Jons voice. The M.E taking an interest where it might pay to have none.
“What tone? I'm not taking a tone” Jon hissed putting on a tone as best he could.
“The Client, the wife... and?” Gos inquired, he was quite astute, for a medical professional.
“How many women don't know their husbands are cheating on them?” Jon mumbled aloud, bending down to take a closer look at a body, trying to mimic the face the corpse made.
“Not many... why?” Gos offered in return
“Seems Mr Lionel Mooks was stoking the fires of Carmella Lagrosse in his spare time” Jon pushing the last of the corpses back into the drawers.
“That's a dangerous prospect for an old man” Gosley correctly asserted. Ms Lagrosse physically at least, likely more than one healthy young man could handle. A frail older one. An accountant none the less, must've been more than his appearance let on.
Jon snatching the photo back, stuffing it into his jacket. Gosley back to his work, sifting through the inner parts of a person on his table.
“Ohhh... shit?” Jon surprised that he recognised the body on the slab.
“Is this... this is Louie Phelps?” Jon taking a long hard look at the corpses face.
Gosley examining the other end, lifting the sheet glancing at the toe tag.
“Yes, Louis Phelps, stab wound. You know him?” Gos not recognising the name.
“The grand jury case, just got thrown out. That new DA, some hotshot from the east coast. They found him dead in his house, someone had taken the time to get up close and personal with a garrote”
“Yes. Really” Jon smiled, getting no positive reaction from Gos. Jon kept waiting, eventually good sense and a lot of close at hand exploratory medical instruments urging him to just continue past the failed wordplay.
“That's the one... Supposedly he was trying to indict Victor Small of all people. Actually got to the point where the court date was set, so he had something... someone must've turned. You're never going to get a judge in this town without a witness or two” Sanchez losing his train of thought, slowing to a halt.
“And Louie?” Gos reminded him, staring down at Louies body.
“Louie was snoop, liked to hang out in peoples house in the dark then wrap a fibre wire around their neck. Spent most of his time chasing after information though, had his filthy little nose in everything. Not really a surprise he ended up with a knife in his back. It could've been anyone that offed O'Rielly... but Louies high on that list. Aren't many people who could get past security that thick”
“He was one of Smalls boys. Vic usually doesn't treat his own like that” Gos commented, something widely known, Vic did well by his men.
“No... Victor at least has some loyalty. But Louie was an outsider, came in from Philly a few years ago. Never fit in with any of the crews. Didn't mean they didn't use him though. Whoever hired him probably did him in as well. Clear any loose ends” Sanchez pondered.
“But that was months ago... it's a little tardy to be clearing up loose ends now” Gos offered.
“It is isn't it... I wouldn't want to be guessing why he ended up here. Makes me wonder what else Louie was up in” Sanchez wondered, taking the cigarette ashing it into Louies gaping mouth.
“If he had of kept that closed.”
“He was a chatty lad?” Gos scowling at Jons disrespect for his work environment.
“Like a canary... loved to sing. Where was he found?”
“Cops pulled him out of a dumpster on the Spalding lot, yesterday morning. But he probably found his way there Saturday night, Sunday morning... early” Gosley answered.
“Huh... Spalding Studios... employers of one Carmella Lagrosse... I'll catch you around Gos” Sanchez muttered as he turned for the bathroom door, ready to leave the same way he'd come in. Things seemed to have a way of being related. Trouble was inbred. Everything taking a pass at something else. A spider web of the most obscure links from crime to crime. Pull one strand and they'd all shudder. The big hairy spider at the centre of it all Victor Small.
“Go out the front Jon” Gosely moaned as he went back to sifting through the remains of the late Louie Phelps.
“Yeah... oh hang on Gos, Louie was stabbed, any idea by what?” Sanchez pausing at the door.
“Ah... Small sharp implement, tiny diameter. Expertly done mind you, right in the back of the head, top of the neck. Possibly a...” Gosley getting as far as that, before Sanchez could guess the rest.
“An ice pick... yeah, yeah, thanks Gos” Sanchez slinking from the room, his mood darkened a little by that prospect. Jon knew that M.O, the owner not one to be taken lightly, in any sense of the word.
“And... Are you going to tell me who did it?” Gos yelling as Sanchez wandered out the front door.
There was little point telling Gosley who he suspected... no, he knew, had done Louie. He'd never get arrested. The cops didn't have chains big enough for that gorilla. Jon got back to Rolands car, sliding into the drivers seat taking in the new aspects. He couldn't be sure that Louie had anything to do with Mooks, but it seemed likely. Louie turning up dead, at what was likely the last place Mooks was seen, too much of a coincidence. But why was Louie dead. He was an outsider, maybe doing work for another outsider?
Sanchez had often heard of the interest the New York families had in LA. Attacking Victor Small was too hard, he had man power out his ass. Going after Vics money on the other hand. That could work, Mooks was Smalls money man, according to those that mattered. The brains of the operation. Louie didn't deserve the right to have his killer found. But Jon figured he might as well on the way. Karmically that could work in his favour. Now he just needed to believe in Karma.
Turning the key, the engine roared to life, pulling from the parking bay without looking Sanchez nearly rammed into another car pulling in. Sighing with frustration as he realised who it was. A black and white, two officers he knew quite well stepping out, strutting over for a chat.
“Well, well, well... Dirty Sanchez” Officer Brock spinning his baton in his hand.
“Still practicing your twirling I see Brock, you might make cheer squad yet.” Sanchez pulling himself from the car. The thought of chatting with these two, far from appetising.
Officer Briggs reached out latching onto the spinning baton, stopping it mid rotation. Both of sturdy European descent, they could almost have been brothers if you looked hard enough. Or at least been beaten by the same stick as children. Podgily athletic, stocky was the term they'd use, but they were closer to being fat than anything else. Briggs had a mustache, Brock didn't, that's how you'd tell them apart. Aside from maybe, one was slightly smarter than the other. But who that was, depended on which one had successfully taken a shit that morning.
“I don't have to make a baton joke now?” Sanchez smiled.
The two officers glancing at each other, disappointed they'd walked into that. The smug dick in front of them smiling more than he should've been.
“What are you doing here Sanchez, this is the city M.E you don't have any business here citizen.” Briggs running his hand along the roof of Rolands car.
“Just seeing an old friend.” Sanchez grinned. He just had to remain calm, take a few nips where he could, hope they hadn't already had a bad morning. Too much antagonising could lead to a severe beating from these two. Most of the police were dirty, but they weren't all dirty for Small. Some of them just did it for themselves. A growing rumor that the police made up the second biggest stake of whatever crime went on in the city. If these two knuckle heads were the leaders, it was a distinct impossibility. But every organisation needed muscle.
“Whose that Dirty, you don't have any friends” Brock snapped taking a threatening step forward, waving his baton under Sanchezs nose.
Jon couldn't say Gosley, not that Gos would mind, but he didn't deserve to be punished for the friends he chose.
“Louie Phelps” Sanchez smartly keeping Gos out of it.
“Louie Phelps” Brock said a little surprised.
“Louie Phelps” Briggs repeated a second later.
“I'd have sworn Louie didn't have any friends either.” Brock obviously playing up the bad cop of these two examples of horrible police. He was right, Louie didn't have any friends, he had associates. Much like Jon, there were people he knew, but none of them would have his back. Also like Louie, Jon was just one of those people everyone knew, at least knew of. They never had to meet, but at a mention. Everyone in the room, given it was a certain room, knew the name Louie Phelps. Much like they knew, and reacted the same to Jon 'Dirty' Sanchez.
“So what happened to Louie?” Briggs faking a concerned tone.
“Sweet Talk” Sanchez dropping two words he knew would get a reaction.
“Ooooh” Briggs exclaimed taking a step back. The ice pick at the base of the skull more than a give away, who was behind that encounter.
“You should go and have a word with him” Sanchez joked, knowing that neither were quite that stupid, just yet.
“Yeah, then maybe we could tell him your snooping around his latest victim” Brock in a moment of clarity, his brain working quicker than its usual glacial pace.
“You boys got some work to do or are you just going to annoy me all day.” Sanchez taking a step back towards the car door. As fun as this was, he did have work to do.
“We've got the whole day for you Dirty, you know that. It could be just like old times” Brock threatened, again waving about his baton, more than a few dents from the harder skulls around town in that long piece of wood.
“What are you really doing here Dirty...” Briggs removing Brocks baton from his view.
“I got a little something happening, have to keep the clients confidentiality though, can't go around telling just any flat foot their business.” Sanchez purposely antagonising the two.
“How you ever made it as a cop, you Dirty little asshole... keep your head down, or the next time I see it...” Brock getting in real close, slamming his baton on the hood of Rolands car leaving a vicious dint for his efforts.
“Bye bye” Sanchez waving as the two got back in their squad car. Jon knew those two would occasionally, just from spite, tail him. Sit outside his office in the squad car and harass the people going in and out of his building. Maybe they were here to follow him now, an annoyance but one he could live with. The law was only as good as those handing it out. Sadly for the citizens of the city, with these two, that meant at best, it could give a ticket and a beating with a stick. But they rolled out quickly, Jon obviously only coincidentally coming across them in their aimless wandering.
Jon had first met both Briggs and Brock only a few years as a detective. He and Abel making waves, completing cases far above their pay grade. The ones they were expected, even ordered to fail. Briggs and Brock both uniform officers for life. Their investigating skills went as far as a phone book and the deft use of a baseball bat. Good for cracking heads and not much else.
January 20th 1930
Some low rent crew from the south side of town getting busy sticking up banks, armed to the teeth and willing to use them. Sanchez and Garner slung the case by the higher ups, not knowing the two had full intentions of solving it. Neither of them at the time knew why, this was high profile, five banks in three weeks. These guys were pros and were letting everyone know about it. Handing the case to two rookie detectives either showed their confidence in said detectives. Or they didn't want the case solved.
No matter how tight lipped people were, rumors always got around, one guy tells his wife might as well be telling the entire town such were ability of the average criminals wife to keep a secret. Filled with a sense dignity and fulfillment they weren't entitled to, always leading the husbands into trouble.
“You can't be going off the tips of a salon owner” Sanchez complained about the reason they were there.
“She's a good tip” Abel smiled back.
“I'm sure she's a good something” Sanchez muttered.
“One her clients went on about her husband doing a job here. Said, she said, that he'd been doing all sorts of jobs around town”
“You believe that” Sanchez raising an eyebrow.
“Women talk, you know that... you would if you knew any women” Garner retorted.
“You doubt the femininity of my mother, I'm insulted” Sanchez jokingly taking offense on behalf of his matriarch.
“I'm still not sure if a women bore you, and not just some pile shit a hobo made sweet dirty love to” Garner quipped, both watched the doors of the bank expectantly.
“Dad wasn't a hobo... he didn't have the luxury of a bindle” Jon informed his partner straight faced.
“You said there was a girl didn't you?” Garner a little more seriously, after the short lull.
“Maybe, she was a little sketchy about the details”
“As in, if I asked her who you were, she wouldn't know?” Abel suggested.
“No... as in she runs in a different circle than I do, and maybe those two circles can't connect”
“You met her through work?”
“Yes” Sanchez nodded.
“No I've been moonlighting as a cabaret dancer on my off nights” Sanchez snapped.
“The only girls we meet are working girls” Abel poking the already raw wound.
“She's not a hooker” Sanchez quickly corrected the thought.
“That's a relief...” Abel before being cut off.
“She's a madam”
“I forgot how classy you are” Abel chuckled assuming it all a joke.
From inside the bank came a scream, the distant yelp of a women in distress.
“Not even you're lucky enough for this to work out” Sanchez assured him, just in time as the alarm from the bank sounded, accompanying the stocking clad men running from the doors of the building. Trailing outside a moment later the screamer, what they expected to be a women. The sprightly manager of the bank hollering like a wounded coyote, pointing, dancing like he were about to piss his pants.
“The money... they've taken the money” The obvious shriek.
“You owe me” Abel cheerfully informed his partner.
“I owe that hairdresser, not you” Sanchez sighed, getting ready to peel out after the robbers. The engine spluttering to life in the old girl as Garner readied his pistol should things go south. Pulling out, turning on the siren Sanchez span the wheels after the car full of criminals. Rounding the first corner they were t-boned by Briggs and Brock, also pursuing the assailants, at least that was their excuse.
As suspected they were actually there running interference, provide a little chase to give the appearance of police effort then eventually let the criminals slip away.
“God dammit, where the hell did you wankers spring from” Sanchez wailed as he stumbled from the car.
“Us... what about you?” Briggs screamed back.
“Can't you hear that... that wailing sound, it's not just the ringing in your ears, that's a police siren, we use them since we're police” Sanchez pointing to the crumpled front of the car, the engine still just ticking over, the sick sounding siren bleating out its last hurrah.
“And now they get away again” Abel pointing after the steadily disappearing car on the horizon, weaving in and out of traffic.
“That's your fault sunshine, we had these guys, we were waiting” Brock shouted inadvertently spilling the beans.
“You were waiting... in a squad car, for bank robbers... yeah you were 'waiting' for them” Sanchez emphasisng the 'waiting'. Slapping some air quotes around it.
“I don't like what you're suggesting there buck” Briggs stepped forward. This quickly escalating to the wrong sort of police confrontation.
“Well make sure you put in a complaint when you pick up your pay, who ever it's from” Abel added. The following scuffle made quite a few papers. Action shots of blue on blue violence quite the spectacle even for a movie town. Briggs and Brock were dirty, bleach dirty. While Abel was alive, he wasn't any ones favorite. Him or Sanchez.
All that changed after though. Everyone liked Abel now, pretended they'd been friends, the type to always have his back. Abel the angel, Sanchez the devil. The last of the good ones gone, so none of them had to worry anymore. It was an odd feeling Sanchez recalled, the entire town turning their back on him, making sure he knew he was never welcome again. Neither Abel or Sanchez had been sparkling clean. Both had dirt under their fingernails, that was just a necessity of the city.
Both had thoughts about who was behind the bank jobs. The most likely culprit the police unions taking the money for bribes, or to buy their way into city hall. Briggs and Brock were dirty, but unlikely to be working for Small. Why would Small steal his own money as it was likely that's whose it was to begin with.
June 14th 1948
Jon had things to do, and this was making him sad. Few things in life more pathetic than a reminiscing detective. The good old days were never as rosy as the glasses painted them to be. Those shades tended to color the present as well. Jon checked his watch, still on inside out, he should fix that. Up in the hills he'd find Mr Andrews, he'd also find Audrey Mooks. Jon wanted a look around her residence when she wasn't home. Needing unsupervised snooping time if he were to get any idea of how Lionel lived.
On the way, Spalding Studios. Purveyors of the finest low grade entertainment. No doubt he'd have to fight his way through a row or two of religious zealots waving placards and banners about what this filth was doing to the children. Should be fun.
Pulling out of the lot Jon checked making sure his boys in blue weren't anywhere to be seen. It would be odd if they'd tailed him, only to drop the pursuit for no reason. Briggs and Brock weren't that good though, if they were following him, Jon would've seen them, it would be like using a rhino as a scent hound. Coincidence, it had to be.
On the other side of town, The Hills, to get there though he had to go through the Lots. Warehouse after warehouse full of actors, movie men, each one greasier than the last. Sanchez had always tried his hardest to avoid that part of town. Liars he could deal with, criminals were a pleasure, actors on the other hand. The worst. Smitten with the very idea of themselves. Actresses were alright, as long as they weren't talking. The whole Lot district a wasteland of industrial looking sheds filled with fake landscapes, populated with fake people.
Constantly disappearing up its own ass, forgetting where the camera started and stopped filming. Outside Spalding, a crowd, just as predicted. Chanting, waving banners, various bible quotes adorning each. Threats of god smiting the earth little deterrent compared to the money they were making. If it were easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to get into heaven. Then the devil was opening a day spa and everyone was invited.
“Please brother avoid this den of inequity” One of the protesters grabbing Sanchez by the arm as he passed.
“I wish I could buddy” Sanchez regretfully pulling his arm from the protesters grip. As much as he disliked god, and imagined it was a mutual feeling. The big lugs apparent want to keep people outside this hovel of celluloid was well intentioned. Much to Jons detriment he'd just have to ignore it.
“They make movies... films of sick perverted filth” The protester claimed, a few of his friends chiming in with knowing nods.
“They're not that good” Sanchez remaining stone faced at the disapproval meted out to his comment.
“You're one of them... You're one of them, Sinner, SINNER” The protester yelling, the others joining him. Sanchez smiling under his breath, and over it, something very satisfying about getting that reaction. Pushing to the front of the pack signalling to the security guard to let him in. The tubby man in grey rushing over, opening the gate a crack pulling Jon through.
“Oh man... They must've roughed you up real good” The security guard lamented taking in Jons sorry state. It actually no different from fifteen minutes, or an hour before. Maybe even as far back as a few years.
“Please sir I'm sorry... do you have your ID” The guard hoping to escape the wrath of who ever he thought Sanchez was.
“Ah... no, one of them must have lifted it from me... the bastards” Sanchez hoping the lie would be swallowed smoothly.
“And they call themselves Christians” The security guard muttered, taking everything as gospel.
“YOU SHAMELESS PURITAN BASTARDS!” The tubby guardian of the gatehouse screamed, giving a shake of his fist. A hearty one reserved for only the most furious of encounters.
Jon joining in on the last few, because why not, a good fist shaking always welcome.
“Say friend, I'm looking for Carmella Lagrosse” Jon slyly keeping casual.
“Aren't we all” The security guard grinned, his bake bean teeth shining in the sun. Playfully nudging Sanchez with a few elbows, winking as he went.
“Hey, hey... Haha”
“Yeah, yeah... she's great... do you know where I can find her?” Sanchez losing his patience. The sad little man obviously obsessed.
“I believe today she's over on the set of 'Vampire Ritual' studio 'h'... Tell her Chuck says hi” Chuck smiled again. Chuck was going the right way for a hearty slap, maybe on the way out, Jon couldn't afford to be thrown out quite yet.
Each door Jon passed, wide open frames revealing more and more of what he hated. Teamsters laying about, speaking in unknown dialects about what could've been anything. Listening to the radio, again it was about the fight, more prattle and over enthusiasm about the spectacle. All of them giving dirty looks to anyone above their pay level.
Directors doing the same to anyone below theirs. The whole community split in two, both halves relying on the other, both hated that fact. Then there were the execs who hated all of them. A chorus line of girls, feathers and sequins parading out in front of Jon, laughing and giggling madly as they went about their business. Jon dipping his hat out of sincerity. He sincerely wanted to sleep with them. Most averting their eyes.
Studio 'h', lay down the end of the lot, getting closer and closer. Jon could hear the directions coming from inside. Crazed orders screamed at peak volume. The man clearly insane. It must have been the Director. Jon stopping in his tracks, in front of the studio someone he recognised. A strange coincidence he was following around. Jimmy the Asshole waiting impatiently. Smoking, spitting, and generally making everyone around him uncomfortable. Jon ducking down the gap between two sheds making his way around the back, to get a closer look.
Jimmy was here meeting somebody. Jon would say he 'needed to' find out who, and why. But at best it was 'wanted to'. Of all the things it took to be a detective, most of all, you just had to be a bit nosy. The only way to do that was get closer. Taking his chance Jon ducked down behind a moving rack of clothes, he was on a movie lot, why not make use of the cliche. Sneaking across the road, hiding out on the corner of studio 'h'. From here it wouldn't be hard to hear what Jimmy was saying. His name was nothing if not accurate, loud, abrasive, unashamed of any of those qualities.
“You, what's your problem, stop lookin at me” Jimmy shouting at whomever had been unlucky enough to glance at him.
“Spalding get over here. I don't got all day” Jimmy went on.
Spalding, Don Spalding, it had to be. Jon took a glance. The meek looking man standing with Jimmy. The 'owner' of the studio. He didn't own it really, not anymore. Don had cut his teeth in the early days of Hollywood, a pioneer. Pushing the boundaries of taste, decency and female nudity. That was when he was a young man. Before he'd gone bankrupt, before the production code, before he'd had to silently sell. Or give, as was closer, his beloved studio over to Victor Small. The midget of a psychotic who ran the town.
“Mr Jimmy, how are you?” Spalding acted well, he'd never been in any of his pictures. But it was an ability almost everyone in the business had. Acting, more accurately pretending, or lying, was something they all were quite good at.
“Better than you Spalding” Jimmy's usual asshole nature coming through loud and clear.
Jon pasted against the wall doing his best casual act. Well practiced at staring at one thing, whilst listening to something else. He used that all the time whilst talking to women.
“You got a problem Don, that means Victors got a problem, you don't want Victor to have a problem” Jimmy assured Spalding.
“No, I don't want a problem, what's wrong... I can fix it?” Spalding hurriedly trying to reassure Jimmy nothing was wrong.
“You're not making money Don, these pictures, they aren't making money” Jimmy pointing to who Jon assumed was an actor.
“I can't help it Jimmy, it's the production code... and those protesters, the church” Spalding pleaded with Jimmy. It was a little pathetic. Jon could've felt sorry for him, but empathy required effort.
“Don't you blame the pope you fucken dickbag” Jimmy grabbed Spalding by the collar pulling him in close. An ultimate irony of all these gangsters. Murderers thieves, purveyors of all things elicit and disgusting, but all of them deeply, deeply catholic.
“No... oh, of course not... But I can't make what I used to, they'd throw me in jail” Don pleaded, eyes lighting up with the fear of god and the mob.
“I'll throw you in the ocean if Vic doesn't see an improvement” Jimmy smiled his sadistic smile, throwing Don away.
“Now, something else... I want you to watch out for a guy snooping around”
“What guy, where, Jimmy, I'll keep an eye out for him” Don looking around, sensing an opportunity to brown nose his way back into the good books. Knowing little, that the guy he was being told to look out for was right behind him.
“A detective, a trouble maker, goes by the name Franks, Touci Franks”
Wait, what? Touci Franks, what was he doing here? Sanchez was never one to complain about a lack of recognition, most of the time he'd have sold his right arm and a bit of the left, for people to just forget about him a moment. But Touci being involved confused this far more than it already was.
“What does he want, why is he snooping around?” Don asked, Jon now wanting to know that as well.
“He's a busy body, but someones payin' him to sniff around in our shit, so you see him, or anyone takin an interest, you call me. You hear” Jimmy ordered, slapping Don in the face far harder than was playful. The type of thing Jimmy enjoyed doing.
“Oh, about that other thing... those fucking bean heads I wanted” Jimmy being as Assholish as he possibly could.
“Yeah, yeah Mr Jimmy I got them, they'll work whenever you want them, doing whatever, they're really good workers” Spalding stammered.
Without a reply Jimmy strutted away. A shame, such a shit, had the money and power to slip into such a nice suit.
Sanchez poking his head around the corner watching Jimmy the Asshole disappear into the distance, maybe he'd get hit by a bus. Much the only thing anyone could think after a talk with him.
Don Spalding stood lonely in the middle of his studio lot rubbing his face, a red palm print traced across it. Eyeing around watching for anyone suspicious. So many people he didn't recognise anyway. A poor, poor lonely man. Spalding trudged back to his office to read scripts, and figure out how to get an extra four inches of thigh in his next picture.
It was Touci Franks, Sanchez still focused on though. A so so detective, but a grade 'a' ghost. Once that man went to ground no one was going to find him. If Touci wanted to stay hidden he would. But why was he snooping around Victors things. It wasn't a halfway wrong assumption that Kirkwood had also been warned about him. That's why Jimmy the Asshole was there as well. Would Kirkwood have mentioned that? Would the lanky numbers man now be on the phone to The Asshole about Jon?
“Shit” Jon sighed, a visit from the Asshole was bad enough, but a visit from Sweet Talk.
Touci wasn't a big case kind of guy. Liked to keep his head out of the thick stuff. Missing kids, bail breakers, cheating husbands... cheating husbands... Back to Audrey and Lionel. Her rotund figure dancing through Jon's brain more than he could stand. Jon could put it off no longer, from deep inside the sound stage, hearing the same man from before screaming his lungs out. Inside somewhere, was Carmella Lagrosse, Lionel Mooks's elderly school boy crush.
Glancing around to check the coast was clear Jon slipped in the door, stepping immediately into a deep forest. A horrid fake facade, the trees wooden, though not properly, all the plants potted. Heat from the lights beating down on him. All finished off by the wafts of fog from the machine in the corner. Through the undergrowth, the voice clear as a bell. A high shrieked wail of an over blown drama queen screaming about some minuscule tiny issue, and that was just the director.
“Amateurs... AMATEURS. How am I meant to work, how am I meant to make my art with idiots like these” The voice shrieked.
Jon peeking through the undergrowth, trying to get a look at the crazed film maker. He was a small round man who appeared to dress like he'd been informed of the cliched attire of a director. Brown riding pants, a stiff white shirt, cravat and beret. The small black cane under one arm, screaming at everyone he could, through one of those cones. What you'd look like doing an impression, going to a costume party. Sadly though this little man was serious. Wailing and berating non stop, the rest of the crew paying little attention.
“Hey buddy, you can't be in here this is a closed set” Jon heard a voice say, greeted by someone staring at him, wondering what this strangely scruffy man was doing lurking about.
“I need to see Carmella” Jon quietly explained, not wanting to rile anyone noisier on set.
“You can't she's busy” The man gesturing towards the door.
Jon reached in his pocket pulling some of the money he'd borrowed from Lionel's desk.
“She still busy?” Jon still peering through the foliage. The director was no harm, but he was loud. The loud ones could cause problems.
“She's right through there, in make up” The man pocketing the money, guiding Jon through to the back of the sound stage. Always comforting to know any number of people were willing to sell someones potential safety, for little more than a days wage. Gold the perfect cure for guilt.
Jon ducking through the plants, around the back of the less than convincing scenery. Stepping over lights and cables listening for the beacon of Carmella's voice to guide him in. When not singing, she seemed almost normal, a little cutesy, bimbo-ish, childlike. But those big doe eyes made people expect that. The whole thing could've been an act.
“Excuse me, Miss Lagrosse?” Jon standing behind the spare set piece.
“Yeah that's me” She smiled looking over her shoulder, eyes a set of mesmerizing disks.
“Who are you Mr?” Those disks demanded. Holding out a long slender arm, at the end a dainty hand for Jon to kiss. He wasn't a gentlemen, he didn't do that... so why was he now?
“Miss Lagrosse, I'm Jon Sanchez, I'd like to ask you a few questions” Wondering why he was still holding that dainty hand in his.
“You're a reporter?” She squealed, a little excited over the prospect of speaking to anyone to further her career.
“No Miss Lagrosse, I'm a Private Detective” Jon relinquishing her hand finally. The actress, if one could call her that, going about fixing her hair with a few delicate motions.
“Really I've never met one of those” She cooed, that was a little hard to believe, they were a dime a dozen in this town, you couldn't swing a cat without whacking a few around the chops.
“Well I'm glad to be your first” Jon smiled, getting lost as he watched her apply lipstick in the mirror. Pouting out ample lips, running the deep red stick across each one. Gliding swiftly, before she'd pucker again, cleaning off the excess with a tissue, the giant red lip smack tempting him to pocket it.
Jesus... was he that desperate?
“Ah... Miss Lagrosse, Carmella, I'm here about Lionel Mooks?”
“Oh Lionel, he was fun” She replied quickly.
“Was fun? As in, past tense?”
“What? What tent?” Carmella inquired. Behind those big blue eyes, it seemed Jon was right in his first assumption of suspecting in there lurked an empty space.
“Never mind... you saw him though, last weekend?” Jon realising he'd have to dumb it down.
“He took me out, we went to dinner and then we danced. He's a real gentleman” Carmella implied obviously not everyone else was. It wasn't hard to believe.
“Where did you go?”
“It was an I'talian place... Giovanni's, then to a club on the strip, Pointer's I think” She recalled, the look of concentration on her face adorable.
Stop it, Jon thought, she shouldn't be this distracting.
“Here, read my lines with me” Carmella forcing the script into Jon's hands.
He reluctantly took it opening to the first page. Appearing largely terrible, but for what it was a vehicle for, what did he expect.
“Who am I?” Jon unendingly curious just why he was playing along.
“Jon Sanchez” Carmella confused.
“In the script?” Apart from the strange appreciation that she actually remembered his name, Jon couldn't help but feel somewhat unsurprised.
“Now read the first line, you're Vlad the Vampire Prince” Carmella peering up from under her delicately plucked eyebrows. She bounced on her feet, excited about reading the lines, her whole person vibrating.
So far Jon had been focused on her face, when she stood everything below the neck came into view. A sheer white gown, seemingly just see through, clinging to every curve. Wait till those protesters saw this... the glory of god was little comparison.
“Ah... um, 'Wait my darling, I demand you stay with me, in my castle'” Jon stammered losing his place. Given it was the first line that was wholly impressive.
“But I can't, my father, he... is sick” She enunciated, throwing her hands about. Carmella's acting much from the school of less were definitely not more. Her delivery just about at the level of a school play, yelled quite loudly with the timing of a broken watch. But dear god she looked good doing it.
“I don't care about you're father... I want you” Jon putting a little effort into the words
“Oh you're good, have you ever acted before?” Carmella dropping the script.
“Have you?” Jon whispered under his breath
“Nothing... You and Lionel, after dancing, what did you do?” Jon finally recalling what he was there for.
“We were outside the club waiting for a cab... Lionel got angry when someone said they wanted to hide something behind my head” Carmella's face awash with confusion.
“I didn't get it, then he took me home”
“To your place or his?” Jon aiming towards a question that might get him slapped.
“Forgive my bluntness, but did he stay?” Jon inquired. Phrasing the question with a little more care than he usually would've.
“No, he was a gentleman, he left straight away... of course after I gave him a big kiss. 'Oh prince Vlad, why do you have to make it so hard for me to choose'” Carmella going back into the dialogue. Grabbing Jon, pulling him in close, following the stage directions. Hugging the detective tightly, which was undoubtedly one of the highlights of his meager existence. Her more than ample bosom squeezed against his chest. The slightest of glances down, filling his view with uninterrupted cleavage as far as the eye could see.
“Uh... I will make you mine, mine for ever, forever and ever, bleuuurgh” Jon read aloud. All his concentration going on not drooling like a dog after a bone. The smooth silk of her outfit almost as soft as her skin.
“Do you know where Lionel went after he dropped you off?” Jon still held tight in the embrace. His arms dangling less than gracefully by his sides, each one toying with the idea of wrapping around Carmella's body to grab a hold of something fleshy.
“He said the office, he was always working” She smiled, pouty lips moistly wriggling about, the lipstick catching the lights, a glossy shining beacon inviting a bite. Not just from this poorly written vampire prince.
“You were seeing him a while then?”
“Yeah, a few months, he liked to go out, said he'd call me. You don't think something happened to him, do you?” Carmella worried, breaking the embrace putting her fingers to her mouth biting them. She was going for worried... it came off as something completely different.
“I'm sorry Miss Lagrosse, but I'm here investigating his disappearance, on behalf of his wife” Sanchez replied, the fact a revelation to the girl, though most things probably were. The existence of sub atomic particles, a new species of ape... that she had a right and a left hand...
“Oh no...” She cooed pulling her fingers away. One lingering just long enough for her lip to catch on it, before lazily slapping back to the other. An audible reaction, but that might've just been Jon's subconscious adding sound effects.
“You didn't know?” Jon asking the now worried starlet.
“No, I didn't... please Jon, you have to find him” Carmella begged sweetly, saccharine almost. She pounced back into his arms obviously over come with grief, which was strange when accompanied with the nuzzling she was doing into his chest.
“I will... I promise?” Sanchez stammered, really... he was promising now. What power was this young lady using over him. Had he not been apart of the display Jon most likely would've been throwing up witnessing it.
“Was he acting strange at all, differently to normal” Jon snapping out of the moment before he began to enjoy it too much. The heat coming off her starting to get quite distracting.
“How do you mean?” Carmella looking up exposing nearly all the whites of her eyes.
“Was he happy?”
“Of course he was, he was with me” The smile coming back. This was quickly going nowhere. As pleasant as Jon was finding her company he knew his time could be better spent.
“It didn't bother you he had a wife?” Jon more out of personal curiosity then anything.
“All my friends have wives” Carmella speaking as if it were nothing. No surprise really she didn't have any female friends.
“I met her once” Carmella stated nonchalantly.
“Where?” Jon getting back to the case.
“At Lionel's office, he was doing my taxes for me when she stopped by. She's mean” Carmella plainly. Skipping back to her makeup, taking out a powder puff dabbing it gently across her chest, each impact leaving a cloud of dust lingering in the air. Proceeding to make sure the coat was even, rubbing her hands across each mammoth surface. Jon felt a little guilty watching something like this for free.
So Audrey, had met Carmella... the prior not seeming the kind not to be suspicious.
“He did think he was being followed though, I remember that” Carmella announced from out of no where.
“Did he say by who?” Jon trying to poke out a little more information.
“Maybe, I forget. Lionel told me not to worry” Carmella confirming at least one theory Jon had. She had the same quality as a canary, toss a blanket over her head and no matter what she'd seen the moment before. As long as that blanket was there, she was safe. The dark meant safety... and there seemed little darker than the complete lack of illumination inside her head.
“Carmella, CARMELLA, where are you?” Came the shrieks from the angered Director looking for his starlet.
“Ah there you are... Who are you?” The Director snapped as he saw Jon far too close to a woman he wanted to sleep with.
“He's a Detective” Carmella announced before Jon could create a story.
“Touci Franks, pleased to meet you” Jon thinking on his feet, quickly winking at Carmella, praying she understood what that meant.
“Get off my set” The Director squealed, leaving the Detectives hand hanging in the air.
Jon holding for a moment curious to see what would happen.
“I'll call security... I will” The Director threatened, his words as hollow and fake as his hair appeared to be. The smell of glue and hair grease invading Jon's nostrils.
“I was just leaving... Miss Lagrosse, it was nice to meet you” Jon taking her hand, kissing it again. Jesus, this one was voluntary, she hadn't even offered it to him, what was wrong with him?
“Nice to meet you too... Mr Franks” Carmella smiled, winking like it was a real effort. Her whole head involved in what was a usually simple motion. Anyone witnessing it, almost definitely thought they were seeing the beginnings of a stroke.
“Yes... goodbye” Jon quickly marching out of the sound stage. Stopping at the door to check the coast was clear. Moving through the crowd, he got back to the gate, free and clear, apart from one last thing. The protesters still waving signs, recognising him again, the same three approaching Jon for more abuse.
“Sinner... “ One got out before Sanchez raised his fist slugging the wailing fool in the face. The others backing away slowly.
“That'll teach you to care about the welfare of your children” Jon shouted, marching back to Roland's car rubbing his fist. A long while since he'd punched anyone. The pain vibrating though his hand almost worth it.
Carmella was a sweet girl. Really that's all she was. To say she was a woman would be speaking about her body alone. Jon guessed that's what came with being blessed with a figure. Then cursed with having someone notice it. That someone being a dirt bag agent always on the prowl for the next young thing.
Lionel Mooks, Jon pulled the picture from his jacket, you dirty old bugger, she must have been forty, maybe fifty years his junior. But she seemed to care for him, Kirkwood did as well. Dammit, that always made the case harder. Nice guys were always victims, not just finishing last. But then getting picked on when they eventually crossed the line. The unfortunate possibility of failure made all the more real when the person in question happened to be nice. Jon wondered who'd look for him if he went missing, Latisha back at the office... whoever she was. It almost certainly wouldn't be his family where ever they were. Abel was dead, it would take literal a miracle for him to be the one.
Again he found himself reminiscing, wondering, pondering his own existence. That wasn't why he'd become a detective. He'd become one to stop doing that. Look into other people, find out everything about them. So he'd never have to deal what was inside this cheap suit again. Introspection his enemy. Every detective out there denied how much they hated themselves. Just went on snooping into others, living vicariously through the lives of clients and perps, the ones they were investigating. Spending months huddled outside bathroom windows, staking out restaurants, hotels just pretending for a few moments they were with someone other than themselves. Maybe that was just Jon.