Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 521 - Terry White


“I don’t remember it. Sorry,” I said.

“Three years ago,” she said. “I was the blonde.”

Her hair was shoulder-length, chestnut. She was early forties, attractive, dressed in business attire, a little too chic for Youngstown. I had been to her restaurant on East Federal three or four times because it’s close to my office and the food is very good. It’s called Alessandro’s but there’s no Alessandro. She thought the name had good drawing power for a place that specialized in Sicilian cuisine.

She was explaining Hollywood residuals. I tried not to watch the late-spring dust motes floating behind her left ear like a tiny swarm of gnats. I’m thick when it comes to money, which explains why I have so little of it.

The show didn’t last more than a year; it was called Profiles of the Paranormal. Three men and one woman, all with psychic gifts investigating past unsolved crimes. She said she was added by the producer at the last minute because a show featuring all males was a Nielson no-no. I nodded my head as if I understood the dynamics of that, too. It was her break because she was working the fringes of TV and hadn’t landed a good role in years. It was harder for a woman climbing the age ladder in Hollywood, she said, and it was just a matter of time before her agent dropped her. She auditioned within an hour of her agent’s call and got the part.

“So you have no psychic abilities?”

“Good God, no,” she laughed. “I don’t know which end of the Ouija board is up.” She had a good voice, maybe some elocution lessons back there. Her eyes were light, almost tawny.

So far, all I had learned about the reason she was talking to me was that someone at her restaurant must have recommended me. They say the first things we say to each other are important clues to our personalities, but I must have slept through that seminar. My mother taught me it’s rude to interrupt. I let people who come into my place take their time.

“It wasn’t all fake,” she said. “The two guys, Ben and Lanny, are genuine paranormalists. I think they were, but who knows? They worked in Vegas in the smaller lounges off Fremont. The producer got his big concept when he caught their act.”

At Cardinal Mooney where I went to high school, we had different words for spiritual entities. “A team like Roy,” I said, “and what’s-his-name, the one that got chewed on by the tiger.”

“I think that was Roy,” she said.

“You said the program had three men.”

Her perfume was citrusy and my nose itched.

“Laurence van Vuuren, the producer, decided the show required scientific appeal, so they made one of their camera crew part of the show. They gave him all these fancy instruments for detecting ectoplasm and emo-peaks.”

She said Laurence liked to jazz things up with words for the gee-whiz stuff. An ‘emo-peak’ was a place where someone was murdered and had left an emotional turbulence behind to measure. It was like wading in warm water when it suddenly turns ice-cold. To me, it sounded like karma for dummies.

“Can you just do that?” I asked her. “Be a technician one day, an actor the next?”

“Sure,” she said and smiled. She flashed those baby dimples where the muscles were weak. “As long as you pay your SAG dues.” My keen powers of deduction inferred SAG was their union.

“Barry was younger and better-looking than the other two guys,” she said, “so Laurence figured he was giving the ratings a bump with the seventeen to thirty-four females.”

“With all that going for it,” I said, “I’m shocked it only lasted a year.”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? The trouble was Ben and Lanny wanted to renegotiate their contract. They were constantly arguing about who had more lines and time on the meter.”

I let that pass. “But you didn’t mind it?”

“Heavens no, I was grateful to be working full-time again. People have no idea how exhausting it is to go from one cattle call to another just to get into that three-second crowd scene.”

“I’ll bet,” I said. We were getting to the end of the small talk. The corners of her mouth turned down a fraction and her light eyes went from tea to amber.

“It started in Miami,” she began. “The first one, I mean.”

They were down in Little Havana filming. The granddaughter of a deceased woman inherited a house and discovered strange phenomena like dishes moving from one side of the cupboard to the other. The grandmother had been born in Haiti. This was the kind of “thermal aura” the show reveled in, Moira Brenneman said. The old woman’s father was an importer from Port-à-Prince, apparently a member of the educated liberal aristocracy at the time of the notorious Papa Doc Duvalier and his secret police. Shibley Jean Talamas might have been working for the CIA, according to the granddaughter, when he was arrested by the Tonton Macoute, those killers in dark shades. The grandmother always believed her father was tortured to death in one of Papa Doc’s jail cells. The grandmother was born in Little Havana two weeks later when her mother fled the island. The rest of her life was normal, Moira said. She grew up, married and had a daughter of her own.

“How did your part figure into it?” I asked her.

“Oh, I was strictly there to emote. I was told to look, quite literally, as if I’d seen a ghost.”

“That would be the dead woman, right?”

“Oh no, Laurence said we should go for the big one.” She made a tinny banshee noise for sound effect, and crooned in a low voice: “The murdered grandfather whose spirit can never rest.” Laurence built the show around a triad of hoodoo, bayou, and Santeria as often as he could get away with it, she said.

The grandfather’s spirit apparently had its own built-in GPS. He had followed his baby to Miami and lay dormant until his child died of pancreatic cancer at the age of sixty-two.

Moira said, “When the needle on Barry’s machine went into the red, we were all supposed to react as if we’d all shared this one big cathartic moment together. Every episode, the same thing. We had the timing down so well we could anticipate everyone’s moment of shocked surprise at the reveal.”

“The reveal,” I said.

Her pretty eyes grew round and her lips fluttered; she did a little nervous tango in her seat. “The revelation where we all finally know.”

I was impressed. “That’s very good,” I said. “You said it began in Miami.”

“The first letter. I have it here,” she said. She took out a folded sheet of paper and handed it to me.

“Do you have the envelope?”

“No, the mail clerk at the studio threw it away,” she said.

Ordinary paper, a single word-processed sentence: You bitch stop looking at me.

“There were others?”

“Three more. Each one arrived after the next three episodes. Then the show was pulled.” She held out three more folded sheets.

“No envelopes with these either?”

“They were stuck under my windshield wiper.”

“He followed you around the country?”

“No, we did final cuts and voiceovers at the studio in Culver City,” she said.

Similar paper and motif in all three: I told you to stop looking at me. I warned you bitch. The fourth sheet just two words: Last warning.

“Why didn’t the studio help?”

“They tried. The CCTV cameras didn’t cover the lot where we park. You have to be on the A-list for that. LAPD has a special investigator for stalkers. She’s very good, but there wasn’t anything she could do except tell me to be vigilant on location.”

I looked at her.

“Technically, I wasn’t stalked.” She made a frown. “In Los Angeles looking for a strange circumstance is like looking for a needle in a haystack of needles.”

“How about your co-workers or the camera crew?”

“Studio security put surveillance on my car after the first note. They had their chief interview the cast. That made me real popular, believe me.”

Out there, she used her mother’s surname—Ducent, on the hunch it sounded more “accessible,” whatever that meant.

“I’m not making light of your concern, Miss Brenneman, but I’m assuming those notes didn’t panic you at the time.”

“You’re right,” she said. “It comes with the territory of being female. Every girl attracts her share of weirdos. Get your face on TV and the lid on the nut jar comes off.”

I waited for her to tell me the rest.

She pulled a piece of paper from her blazer pocket. This one was hand-drawn in block letters with a black magic marker: Fucking bitch I told you to stop looking at me now youre going to die.

“This was put under my wiper blade two nights ago. I was going over the books and doing my next-day produce orders. Except for Emilio, my cleanup man, there was no one else in the place. There’s a small alleyway where I park behind the back door. It’s a metal door with an iron grate. I went out there around ten for my cigarettes. The note wasn’t there. When I left the restaurant, I saw it.”

“What time did Emilio arrive for work?”

“He comes at nine thirty every night. He was never out of my sight the whole time,” she said.

“Have you mentioned this—stalker since you’ve been back in town?”

“Of course not. Very few people outside my circle even know I used to act for a living.”

“You need a bodyguard, Miss Brenneman, not a private investigator. I know some retired police officers from YPD. I can recommend a few names.”

“I can get a bodyguard on my own, Mister Haftmann. I want to know who this lunatic is. Will you take my case?”

I had never had a client refer to herself as a “case” before. The Case of the Hollywood Psychic and the Voodoo Stalker. Erle Stanley Gardner meets reality television. I do skip-trace jobs mostly. I’d even gone after a missing dog once. I was out of my depth. So naturally I said yes.

I spent a week putting her under surveillance. I must have gained ten pounds dining at Alessandro’s in the unlikely event her mystery writer wasn’t the craftiest criminal on the block. I talked to Emilio and was satisfied. Moira’s life was routine and predictable from the moment she entered the restaurant at seven in the morning to closing it late at night. No one hung around to watch her leave. No irate customers sent food back. I use the same Army-issue night goggles as the troops in Baghdad and made sure she wasn’t followed right up to the time I saw her enter her condo at Lake Glacier.

After that, I spent two more weeks chasing my tail in Los Angeles. I first interviewed her agent who had a hard time remembering Moira as a client. The LA detective assigned to her left Crimes again Persons and was working child-abuse cases. She met me in the center of that donut-shaped area downtown on Palos Verdes Boulevard at a Starbuck’s. She couldn’t give me much. For one thing, it was an open case and any suspects’ names were off limits to civilians. I tried the old cop-to-cop shtick and it got me zilch. She thought Moira’s note writer was an insider, not a deranged fan of the paranormal show.


“People who stalk the stars go in for these long, convoluted messages,” she said. “Their fantasies compel them. Man or woman, they see the victim as someone who’s already intimately involved with them.” The hostility, the low-class syntax and profanity—it struck her as JDLR: Just Doesn’t Look Right.

I tracked Laurence van Vuuren, the show’s producer, to a toney rehab in the Malibu Hills. He was by turns cooperative and bitter. I didn’t know he used to be a filmmaker. His slide into oblivion included the paranormal show and a sitcom after that about a dysfunctional family. I tried to turn him back to Moira’s threats, but he seemed oblivious to any treachery not directed at him. He also had the worst comb-over I had ever seen. The top of his head looked as if someone had pasted a huge furry black letter S to his pate.

We sat on a swing overlooking the surf. He dabbed his nose with a lilac-scented handkerchief. He said he inherited his mother’s hyperosmia, a condition that made everyday smells anathema to him. He reminded me of some pampered aristocrat in his coach sojourning through the befouled streets where garbage, dead dogs, and steaming chamber pots were hurled into the street. He preferred scented handkerchiefs. He ordered a dozen bottles specially made for him at a shop in Cannes.

I couldn’t budge him to remember much about the Haitian episode. I thought about the man Talamas murdered in a filthy Haitian cell only to be resurrected half a century later as a cheesy ghost by this self-indulgent narcissist for entertainment. Back in my motel I thought about Papa Doc’s young thugs in their opaque sunglasses.

I struck out with everyone else who had anything to do with the show. Barry was back behind the camera but working indie films in Europe now. The security guard detailed to watch over Moira showed me copies of his reports to his supervisor. I saw no entries beyond the times where “Miss Ducent” was escorted. She led a routine life even then. I talked with the nutritionist in the canteen where Moira ate a fruit salad and yogurt on Mondays and Wednesdays and a braised tuna fillet with a spinach salad on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

My next stop was Vegas where I tracked down Ben of the paranormal duo. He was back to performing before live audiences. He and Lanny had split up for good. After the program folded, Lanny left him for some young stud in Brentwood. “That hypocrite Laurence made us keep our relationship hush-hush. Gay street and ghost street don’t mix.”

I spent my last day avoiding panhandlers and hustlers on East Chavez where I was staying and put my notes together in my motel room. It was a wash, I had nothing. I could have stayed in my office in Youngstown, made phone calls and gotten the same results.

I shagged the redeye back to Cleveland-Hopkins and hitched home on a commercial prop job to the Youngstown-Warren County Airport.

I called Moira in the morning and arranged a meeting.

She came out from a back office when I arrived and shook my hand. Her gorgeous eyes buzzed me. She wore a carmine lipstick and looked elegant from her gold gladiator sandals all the way up to her loop abalone earrings. Her blouse was bone-white and made the skin at her throat glow. Under the palm trees and babyblue skies of California, hordes of stunning women crossed the street everywhere I looked. Under the battleship gray skies of Ohio, she stood out.

She led me into her office. I handed her my report and watched her riffle the pages.

“I couldn’t justify staying out there any longer,” I said. “Too much time’s gone by. I like to justify my fee with results. I’m sorry.”

“I’ll write you a check,” she said.

“No hurry.”

She insisted. I didn’t blame her for wanting me gone.

Sunday’s Vindicator on my doorstep made me giddy. Below the fold on the front page I saw a glamshot of Moira from about a decade ago. The headlines said local restaurateur Moira Brenneman, age 40, was found dead in her condo at Lake Glacier.

I read the rest between waves of nausea. The manager was called by Moira’s employees when she didn’t open up Alessandro’s. He found her hanging from a terrycloth belt tied to a clothes hook behind her bathroom door. Her knees inches from the tile, a granny knot fixed over the decorative hook where her white bathrobe was hanging; the other end cinched around her neck.

I found Det. Sgt. Jerry Pruel at his desk in Robbery/Homicide.

“I was just gonna call you,” Jerry said.

“You found my invoice,” I said.

“Check this out,” Jerry said.

He tossed photos across the desk to me.

She was nude, her face in profile was purple, the tongue protruded between swollen black lips; her right was glazed like a dead bird’s. One photo showed a partial bowel movement. No dignity or secrecy from homicide cops.

“What did Elizabeth say?”

Jerry’s smile grew wider. “A standard ‘neck compression event.’”

Pathologist Elizabeth Bhargrava’s been around longer than water, a grandmother with a sing-song voice whose hands have been inside more guts than Attila the Hun.

“What are you saying?”

“Sexual asphyxia,” Jerry said. “She just forgot one teensie-weensie item. You gotta make sure you can untie the fuckin’ knot before you pass out.”

“You’re crazy,” I said. I tapped the photos. “I knew this woman.”

“You think she wasn’t a freak?” Jerry leaned forward to look at me.

He wears a cowboy belt buckle the size of a canned ham. I said I was a long way from convinced that Moira Brenneman accidentally offed herself playing space monkey.

“Toxicology came back clean.” He smirked.

“No alcohol, no nothing, is that what you’re saying?”

“We found a stemmed glass on the floor by the tub.” Jerry took a working stiff’s mean pleasure whenever one of our more upstanding citizens wound up on Elizabeth’s slab.

“What about the threats?”

“We looked into them,” he said. “Your report didn’t dazzle us, by the way.”

“What about the hard drive in her computer? You take that apart yet?”

“Working on it,” he said. “The Samoan has it.”

The “Samoan” was actually a Solomon Islander—Danny Gumataotao, a brilliant hacker who did freelance work for the police whenever their tech people couldn’t untangle something. He was a chattering, wheat-haired, blue-eyed fragment of history, the seed of some English great-grandfather, a bo’s’n who climbed the mizzen mast for Her Majesty’s Royal Navy and then mounted as many island women as he could. How Danny had washed ashore in the rust-belt of the Mahoning Valley was a mystery in itself.

“Elizabeth’s slipping if she’s writing this off as accidental.”

A woman who had come to me for help was now a station-house joke.

“You got your fee out of her, right?”

That stung. Pruel snapped his notebook shut. “Stay out of this, Tom. It’s no red ball. It’s just an unattended death.”

Crossing the street to the car park, I knew I had blown the case of a liftetime, the one every private investigator dreams of.

I called Danny. His voicemail wasn’t taking more messages.

“You ever answer your phone?”

“Hey, uh, Detec—I mean, Mister Thomas Haftmann, what’s up?”

“What’s in her computer?”

“You mean the Brenneman thing, right? Pruel cleared this, right?”

“Don’t worry about Pruel. Tell me what you found.”

Danny whined until I reminded him why he was going to tell me. He had stolen one dollar from each of 28,000 MasterCard unencrypted accounts in Wilmington, Delaware. He lived in fear his fraud indictment would be unsealed and he’d be doing the backstroke in the state pen’s toilet.

He lived in married student housing on the YSU campus. Another one of his scams. I called from Mahoning Avenue, which was a few blocks from Danny. I didn’t want to give him time to think it over and bolt by the time I got there. In a few minutes, I was knocking on his door.

He opened it. What flickered across his face was supposed to be a smile but it didn’t reach his eyes.

He pointed at a bank of computers. “Over there. Help yourself.”

I walked a zig-zag line between stacks of technical magazines. Danny wrote a column for Wired.

“You ever clean this pig sty, Danny? I don’t speak geek,” I growled at the monitors.

He came up behind me, wringing his hands. “Play it, like, you know, I was out at the time,” Danny pleaded. “You just happened to come over to visit, like, and you saw the screen so—”

“Just tell me what this gobbledygook means.”

He hit a few keystrokes and brought up a website specializing in sado-masochism. The artwork showed a dungeon with manacles and ring bolts. Caricatures of women dangled from chains. A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. One hirsute man, a polar bear with mange, revealed a crosshatch of livid welts on his back; the raven-haired beauty in skin-tight Lycra outlining her shaved pudenda stood next to a leather ottoman caressing a whip. Mild fare for the voyeur.

Danny hit a few more keys. Moira’s last chat-room conversations.

The language was the oddly prurient text-messaging of horny teenagers. Abbreviations like LOL. Her online name was “Giselle.”

Her male correspondents were proficient in the jargon of the lifestyle, the euphemism used by the website’s promo.

One of the men who used the pseudonym “Ed Friendly” talked about a slave contract, 24/7. The other called himself “Arcturus.” All three chatted about good times had in places called La Fuk, Lair de Sade, another place called Hellfire in Manhattan.

“What is COPAD?” It sounded like some urinary tract disease.

“Church of Perversion and Debauchery,” he replied.

“You sick bastard.”

“Hey, man, I had to look it up myself!”

“Where are their computers?”

“Hey, I bounced to their nodes from their ISPs, but that’s as close as I can go.”

“Dan-ny, oh, Danny boy...”

“Pruel will totally kill me, man!”

Ed Friendly turned out to be his actual name. Ed Friendly from South Beach.

He didn’t want to talk, but I twisted his balls hard over the phone. He begged me not to tell his wife. He was an elementary school principal in Coconut Grove. When I told him how Moira died, he sobbed into the phone.

Everybody lies. How much lying is sometimes hard to tell over the phone. Ed Friendly could stew in Florida while I checked out Arcturus.

I flew out to LAX that night. Danny tracked Arcturus’ computer to a server in West Hollywood. Lair de Sade was in Los Angeles. According to my Tom-Tom, van Vuuren’s house and Lair de Sade were three blocks from each other, door-to-door.

Van Vuuren’s rehab stint must have left him chipper because he sounded confident over the phone, although he wasn’t very keen on seeing me again once he remembered who I was. I pressed hard for a meeting that night.

He answered the door of his bungalow in a white toga that made him look chubbier. He led me through the dark wooden paneling of the interior to the pool, a corrupt Horace banished to his estate after his noble struggles with the Senate.

He made me an old-fashioned Horse’s Neck. Then he asked me who the most famous citizen in Youngstown was.

I said, “Emil Denzio. He was a thief.”

“Ah, yes,” Laurence said. He gave his nose a quick swipe with one of his scented handkerchiefs. “No one ever names a saint when asked that.”

“When you insisted on coming out here,” he said, “I did some research on you. My first film was a documentary about bears. ‘The Bears of Kodiak Island.’”

He said it as if it was in bright marquee lights over his head.

“That’s where you adopted your Arcturus handle,” I said.

He shrugged. It wasn’t worth denying.

“What you told me about Moira Ducent, how much was true?”

He studied his drink as if the answer was in there. Then he looked out over the aquamarine square of shimmering water. The underwater lights rotated different colors every few minutes. He sniffed and made another one of those I-smell-excrement faces. He mumbled something in French.


“Laissez bon temps roulez,” he repeated.


“Let the good times roll.” He said it as if he had ashes in his mouth.

Then he spilled. Laurence had established a relationship with Moira/Giselle years before the paranormal series. A small part in one of his Dracula films led to an invitation to attend one of his exclusive parties. When her career was collapsing, she begged him to use his influence to hire her over the director’s protests. Laurence had a stick to make him behave.

Moira used to work in the Lair de Sade and knew people, some very prominent in the film industry but a number were big in the other end, the money people who backed the moguls. Laurence provided the establishment with some homemade fetish films of his wild parties in the Hollywood hills. She informed him which play rooms at Lair de Sade made interesting viewing. She meant hidden two-way mirrors and peepholes where people performed acts of bondage and domination that could have ruined lives, marriages, and careers had they become known outside the fetish community. BDSM, to her, was a higher calling, flogging a way to enlightenment. She was a proud member of COPAD. Laurence knew how to keep a straight face. After all, he worked with actors every day.

Laurence introduced her to people, to men with power. With her California tan and her amber eyes, dressed in a Brazilian lace cami with boy shorts, she could humiliate millionaire tort lawyers and filthy-rich hedge-fund managers. Adorned in black spandex and wielding a leather thong, she transformed herself into the female Mengele of the selection ramp. Laurence described Giselle leading a political powerhouse from Sacramento in leather head mask without eyeholes, his testicles cinched so tight he yipped with every step. The memory made him laugh so hard he almost choked and spilled his drink.

“Moira played with fire,” he said. “She took her clients to places where the mind is not used to going. Some men became obsessed. One committed suicide.”

The pergola by the pool was garnished with vines bearing flowers with cerise petals. Their centers were crimson, like blood drops. I thought of ghost drops—what homicide cops call when blood and sere separated. The red ball of sun tipped the bottoms of clouds like a fresco with gold flaking and brushed salmon and mauve strokes across the sky. Coyotes lived in the hills beyond. They had yellow eyes, too.

He leaned over and whispered a name.

“You know it,” he smirked, “a fellow citizen of your town, I believe.”

I remembered a tiny hesitation in Moira’s voice when I asked her how she had saved the money to open her restaurant.

If you lived in Youngstown, it would be hard not to know the name. His family dated back almost to John Young, the man who founded the city. They were in timber and coal mining; then they designed and patented the machines to dig it from the earth. Back when the Mahoning Valley looked like hell without a lid on during the Carnegie years, they prospered and diversified. This scion was a legendary entrepreneur who started on Wall Street after Princeton and worked his way up as a senior trader for Goldman Sachs. He was a billionaire, a friend of the beautiful people in the entertainment industry and a man linked to powerbrokers in DC. He might not have made Forbes’ top ten every year, but he had the private cell numbers of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Mexico’s Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, and if he wanted to get you, he could get five people above you and you’d never know what hit you. In Youngstown, it once took the entire Lenny Strollo crime mob, a dishonest city government, and a corrupt court house to do that.

I felt like vomiting into van Vuuren’s beautiful pool.

“Everything connects, eh, gumshoe?” Laurence said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Now that you know you aren’t dealing with something banal like, say, some actor with a declawed gerbil stuck up his ass, what are you going to do?”

I flew home that night. My apartment was expertly tossed. It took me an hour to realize it. I drove down to my office about three in the morning. Same thing. Not a paper out of place, file drawers locked—except that the Brenneman file was missing.

I called Pruel in the morning.

“I’m off the case,” he said.

“Listen to me...”

“It’s over,” Pruel cut me off. “Accidental death, ligature strangulation.”

“Jerry, wait—”

“You talked to Danny, goddamn it. You stepped over the line, Thomas.”

“Forget Danny,” I said.

“Finished, I told you. All the bears have exited the stage.”

Jerry had read exactly one Shakespeare play in high school and this was the only line he remembered.

“She wrote the threats to herself.”

“What the—what are you saying?”

“She wanted to make herself radioactive so he’d leave her alone,” I said.


I said his name.

“You’re batshit, Haftmann, if you think that.”

“He has a golden reputation to protect. He must have tried to get in touch with her again after she came back to Youngstown. She didn’t dare confront him in the open,” I said. I was aware my voice was cracking.

“Whoah—forget it,” he said. “It’s over.”

“What—what am I supposed to do, Jerry?”

“Go take a long walk around the park, go fishing... You can’t bring her back.”

“Who got to you?”

He thumbed the connection dead. Nothing but Ohio air.

I waited for the sun to rise in California. I called van Vuuren’s number all day.

The studio security boss sent me a couple articles two weeks later.

The Los Angeles Times clipping of an elderly man’s body found in the hills off Mulholland Drive. The man was identified by a forensic odontologist as Laurence van Vuuren, resident of Los Angeles. His body was ravaged by coyotes. Cause of death unknown.

The second one was from Variety. It was more detailed but no less unkind:

‘Aside from a forgettable documentary on Alaskan bears, Laurence van Vuuren mixed horror, banality, and trite philosophy in films like The Gypsy Vampire and the putrid The Vampire’s Caravanseray. He was a pretentious Roger Corman without the master’s campy touch. Beneath his schlock was more schlock. His cinema verité is always a hair’s breadth away from risible—except in a single film, The Devil’s Deception, wherein a jaded young screenwriter trying to make it in Hollywood falls in love with an equally jaded young nymphomaniac. Van Vuuren disappeared in 1983 after an unfunny and pretentious sitcom. Hollywood hasn’t noticed his departure until now.’

Days pass, months, seasons. My license got yanked. Naturally. The process to get that ruling rescinded has taken all my time and most of my money. Three lawyers have dropped me like a dead Easter chick; none said why. The bureaucratic delays grind on and on...

I see his name in the paper all the time. Ohio’s a big swing state. A vice-presidential nod isn’t out of line; his family influence had put The Vindicator’s editorial staff in the bag long ago, but it’s even been mentioned in the Plain Dealer and yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch as well. I’ve had hang-up phone calls every few days. Same thing—a breather at the other end. I told Pruel someone’s following me around town. He just squints and looks at me with pity. I can read it in his mind: paranoid delusions. He said I was turning into Gene Hackman at the end of The Conversation.

Before I leave my house, I set my traps. I tell myself to remember the woman with yellow eyes. One day, I was sitting in my office and a woman named Moira Brenneman came to see me. She used to be in movies. She once played a psychic in a series about violent events that left an ectoplasmic turbulence in the air...

BIO: Terry White has been writing crime or hardboiled fiction for several years. His most recent publications include Thrillers, Killers ’n Chillers, Flash Fiction Offensive, Sex and Murder Magazine, and Powder Burn Flash.

1 comment:

Al Tucher said...

Good traditional PI work!