Episode Six – Chapter 12 Parking Goes to the Movies
When Paul Manning left his cushy job with the movie industry’s private police force, the Bel-Air Patrol – where the most excitement was helping dissipated overweight directors back into bed after they had rolled out – and began training as a private investigator, he had visions of “Bogie” and the Maltese Falcon. OK, that was set in San Francisco, but you get the idea.
Manning quickly discovered that the life of a PI wasn’t exactly all gun molls and whiskey. His initial income came from chasing down bad debts and following errant spouses. He was getting discouraged.
Then he got a call from a woman who was an accountant in a parking garage and the rest was ... wait, did you say parking?
Manning became involved with money laundering, murder, a group of gunsels from New Jersey whose names ended in vowels, a beautiful blonde, and car chases on Mulholland Drive, and, eventually, he was able to build his agency into a fine legacy for his son.
He had had a number of cases involving parking – parking? – but the current one was the strangest yet. He had gotten a call from a contact who introduced him to a former movie star who was taking over some parking lots in Los Angeles. Before he could cash her retainer, she was murdered, and along the way, so was her mobbed-up fiancé.
Manning and his girlfriend, Shirley, had spent a few days in New Orleans, where his dead client’s ex-husband, Dickey Jefferson, was directing a movie. “The Big Easy” lived up to its reputation with voodoo, murder, great food and jazz in the mix.
Filming had returned to the studio in Hollywood, and the female lead, Leticia Jones, was missing. Manning found her hiding in a local hotel and stashed her with Shirley, just before the actress’ bungalow at the hotel blew up.
It seemed obvious that someone wanted the movie, “Voodoo Princess,” not to be finished.
Manning had returned to his house in the Hollywood Hills to find his “friend,” Larry Jorday, who got him involved in all this, and William Jaymes (with a “y”), a shady character from Chicago whose interest in all this was not clear, drinking his whisky and aiming a gun at him.
After some discussion, there was a knock at the door. Jaymes told Manning to answer it and get rid of whoever it was. He opened the door and found New Orleans Police Detective Henri Lebec, who happened to be Leticia’s brother, and LAPD Sgt. Bill Vose, Manning’s longtime friend, with guns drawn.
What was I supposed to do now? Jaymes was holding a gun at my back, and Henri and Bill sure wanted in the door.
“Hi, fellas, what’s up?”
“Come on, Paul, let us in,” Bill said. “We know you have Leticia in there, and I’m about this close to slapping a kidnapping charge on you.” That Bill, he’s such a kidder.
“Er, I can’t let you in now. It’s not Leticia in here, it’s Betty Beeson, and she isn’t dressed to receive, if you know what I mean.” I hoped Bill would remember the name of the dead mob boss that was so involved in some earlier cases I had.
“Oh, two-timing Shirley, huh? I always knew you were a rat. So where is Leticia?”
“I thought she was back at the studio. That idiot director, Jefferson, demanded that she appear so they could keep to their schedule. I put her in a cab, then picked up Betty for a little fun.”
I was spinning a tale as fast as I could, as much for Jaymes’ benefit as Bill’s. Bill winked at me, and said:
“OK, we’ll check at the studio. You are really a rat, Manning. Cheating on Shirley like this. I should smack you around a little right now.”
“No,” said Lebec, “we don’t have time. We have to get to the studio and make sure Leticia is OK. You can teach a few lessons to this piece of garbage later.”
Wow, I had gone from a rat to a piece of garbage in less than a minute, but at least they were leaving and I could now figure out how to get rid of Jaymes and Jorday.
I closed the door and turned around and no one was there. I checked out on the balcony and could see them disappearing in the brush below. They were a few feet from the street below me and would be gone in seconds.
I opened the front door and yelled at Bill. He stopped the slickback he was driving
“We weren’t going very far. I knew you needed some space after that story about Betty Beeson and all. I knew you wouldn’t cheat on Shirley, particularly with a woman who has been dead five years. Henri was pretty quick on the uptake, too. What’s going on?”
“It’s Larry Jorday and William Jaymes. They were holding guns on me while I was at the door, but then took off out the back. They are long gone now.”
“We’ll put out an APB on them. Where’s Leticia?”
“She’s with Shirley, safe and sound.”
Bill decided that Lebec should be with his sister, so we caravanned to Shirley’s. It was a warm reunion. As Lebec and his sister Leticia caught up, Shirley motioned Bill and me out on her back porch.
“Something very strange is going on,” she said. “Leticia is extremely frightened, not only for herself but also for Dickey Jefferson. You know they are having a bit of a fling, and she feels for him.
“She said that during one of their ‘motivational’ sessions, he told her that he had to finish the movie, that it was life-or-death – his. She thinks Jefferson has made some deals with some very bad people, and they are coming to collect either the money or his life.
“He thinks that if he can keep the production schedule, he can talk his backers into waiting for their money,” Shirley said. “The buzz on the street is that ‘Voodoo Princess’ is going to be a blockbuster, and there will be enough money for Jefferson to pay off his debts and fund a couple more pictures.”
I thought about it for a minute.
“If that’s the case, then why is everyone trying to stop the movie? It would seem to be in the best interests of all concerned to let him finish.”
“That’s what Leticia doesn’t understand,” Shirley said. “She is a bit unbalanced. She actually believes that voodoo involved, and that some spell has been placed on the movie. I know it makes no sense, since we saw that all the mumbo-jumbo in New Orleans was fake, but she is convinced.”
Bill left to call his office, and we went back inside. Lebec and Leticia were sitting on the sofa. She seemed calm; perhaps her brother’s presence helped a bit. She looked up as we walked in.
“I have talked it over with Henri,” Leticia said. “I must help Dickey finish the movie. I know what kind of man he is, but I really like the guy. Plus, this is a great chance for me. ‘Voodoo Princess’ will give me the credibility I need to make it in this town. We are going to the studio, and Henri will protect me until the movie is finished.”
Bill came in as they were leaving. I looked over at him.
“Jaymes says he wants to own the movie, and that by stalling it, he thinks he can buy out Jefferson’s backers and then own him. He will then become a power broker in ‘Tinseltown’ and run parking, limos and movies.
“He’s delusional, but I don’t think he understands that the folks Jefferson sold his soul to make the devil look like a pansy. If he keeps this up, they will be coming after him. This is coming to a head, and quickly.”
To be continued …