Episode Six – Chapter 11 Parking Goes to the Movies
The cavalry arrives, but are they in time?
but are they in time?
Private Investigator Paul Manning had no idea that a meeting at the Brown Derby in Hollywood would result in murder, mayhem, voodoo, movie stars and the mob. It was to be a simple job of helping his new client, Laura Jefferson, with her parking operations – no problem. Paul had experience with parking.
Within a few hours, his client was dead, and he had two new clients: her “father” and her mobbed-up boyfriend. The main suspect was Laura’s ex, a movie director named “Dickey” Jefferson, who was on location in New Orleans, so Paul and his girlfriend, Shirley, headed for “The Big Easy.”
“Dickey” was shooting the “Voodoo Princess” in the city’s creepy cemeteries and in the French Quarter. One of Paul’s new clients, mob-connected Mario Palucci, ended up dead almost in front of the cameras, and the film’s star, Leticia Jones, reminded the director that she had told him “not to mess with voodoo.”
Back in LA, the movie seemed to be running smoothly, until Leticia missed her call on the set. She had left a message for Paul. They met at the Ambassador Hotel, where she was hiding, frightened for her life. Paul moved her to Shirley’s house just before her Ambassador bungalow went up in flames.
Paul later walked into his house and found Larry Jorday, the “friend” who got him into this mess, and William Jaymes (with a “y”), Laura’s “father,” who really wasn’t. They were drinking Paul’s whisky and displaying a rather large pistol.
What could he do? Paul poured himself four fingers of Laphroaig, added a splash of water, and sat down.
Larry started to open his mouth, but I wasn’t having it. He had lied to me too many times during this little caper. I told him to shut up and turned to Jaymes.
“Look, Jaymes, or whatever your name is, I know you are not Laura’s father, and you also have been lying to me. You’re mobbed up in Chicago, and have some interest in stopping the filming of ‘Voodoo Princess.’ My guess is that you are behind the murder of Mario Palucci and …”
“Calm down, Manning,” Jaymes said. “You are only partly right. Yes, slowing down the production of ‘Voodoo Princess’ is in my best interest, but I had nothing to do with the demise of Mr. Palucci. I wasn’t in New Orleans when that happened; however, I did have, shall I say, a ‘representative’ in the city.”
“Yeah,” I said, “and he’s sitting on the couch next to you right now.” (I’m great at PI repartee.)
“Yes, Larry does work for me, after a fashion, but mostly as someone who can serve as a go-between. Just as he introduced you to me, he also introduced me to Mario. I had no reason to kill Mr. Palucci. He was extraneous to my plans. In fact, he even added a bit of suspense when he tried to kill Jefferson, blaming him for the death of his fiancée.
“I don’t know who killed him,” Jaymes said, “but you might want to take a closer look at your director friend. The two of them had a rather public ‘misunderstanding’ on the set in New Orleans. The voodoo tricks at the cemetery were mine, as well as the doll on your hotel room door. “I knew it wouldn’t frighten you, but I thought it might impress your girlfriend and perhaps change some of your plans.”
Jaymes was right about that. The plans Shirley and I had for that evening were curtailed when she saw the voodoo doll that looked like me hanging from a noose at the entrance to our suite. I ended up moving the dresser across the door and sleeping in a chair next to it. Just great.
“One of my associates,” Jaymes went on, “was involved in the conflagration at the St. James. I am hoping that Miss Jones can be persuaded to be ‘ill’ for a few days and put Jefferson’s movie on the rocks. I believe I’m about 24 hours away from that happening. Jefferson is about to see his financing pulled, and he will be out of business.”
“So what is your interest in all of this?” I said. “Who cares if a movie is finished or not?”
“Oh, I want the movie finished, but I also want to own it,” Jaymes said. “I have some interests here in Hollywood – parking and limousine companies – but I want to move into the movie business itself.
“How better than to own what will become one of the major films of the year. My contacts tell me that the script is strong and that with “Dickey” Jefferson directing and a star like Leticia Jones, how can it fail?
“You see, when Jefferson’s backers pull out, he will have no alternative but to work with me,” Jaymes said. “I can get ownership for a song, because he will want to save his movie, and his name. I will get my footing in Hollywood, and ‘own’ one of the best directors on the coast. It all works out.”
“But there seems to be one problem,” I said, realizing where this was going. “Me.”
“Yes, Mr. Manning. You are a problem,” Jaymes agreed. “At first, I thought you were just another PI hack I could manipulate any way I wanted. But it turns out that you may be the sharpest knife in the drawer.
“I also realized that you won’t work for me,” he said. “You seem to have scruples, Mr. Manning. I thought that because you were introduced to me by Larry here, you would be a bit more bent. However ...”
Jaymes picked up his pistol, and there was a knock at the door.
“Manning, it’s Henri Lebec from New Orleans. My fight just landed, and when I couldn’t find Leticia, I came here. Open up.”
I would have known that “islands” accent anywhere; he didn’t need to give me his name. A NOPD detective and Leticia Jones’ brother, Lebec had told me he was coming to LA when he heard Leticia was in trouble.
I looked at Jaymes and his gun.
“This complicates matters” he said. “Larry and I will go into the bedroom. I will have my gun on you and will not hesitate to use it. Get rid of him.”
I opened the door and was face-to-face with a New Orleans police detective, an LAPD detective sergeant, and two loaded weapons pointed at me.
To be continued ...