Episode Six – Chapter 13
Parking Goes to the Movies
When Paul Manning left his cushy job with the movie industry’s private police force, the Bel-Air Patrol, 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. 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 eventually was able to build his agency into a fine legacy for his son. He had had a number of cases involving 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 great food, jazz, voodoo and murder in the mix.
Filming later 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.
Obviously, 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, drinking his whisky.
After some discussion, there was a knock at the door. Opening it, Manning found New Orleans Police Detective Henri Lebec, who also was Leticia’s brother, and LAPD Sgt. Bill Vose, Manning’s longtime friend.
Jorday and Jaymes beat it out the back door. Manning and Lebec and Vose caravanned to Shirley’s place, cop-brother reunited with actress-sister, and more discussion ensued.
“I must help Dickey finish the movie,” Leticia insisted. “Henri and I are going to the studio; he will protect me until the movie is finished.”
As they were leaving, Vose came back from calling his office. Manning looked over at him.
“Jaymes said he wants to own the movie, and that by stalling it, he thinks he can buy out Jefferson’s backers and then own him,” Manning told Vose. “He will then become a power broker in ‘Tinseltown’ and run parking, limos and movies.
“He’s delusional,” Manning added, “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.”
Leticia Jones and her brother, NOPD Lt. Henri Lebec, were almost to their car when I yelled at them to stop.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to the studio right now,” I said. “Jaymes is desperate and Jefferson’s mobbed-up friends want this movie finished at all costs. I think we are about to have a showdown, and it won’t be at the ‘OK Corral.’
“You two should lie low for a few hours, and Shirley’s is the best place to do it. A day won’t make any difference to the film, but it might just keep you safe.”
Leticia looked at Henri and they both nodded. Before leaving, Vose said he would request that an unmarked police car be parked out front.
We carefully rechecked the place, but Shirley was shaking her head. She had everything under control. I looked out the kitchen window at the neighboring units and asked who lived there.
“Oh, that’s Mary and Bill. They are close friends and no problem,” Shirley said. “You can trust them completely.”
I went back into the living room and spoke to Leticia and Henri.
“You two stay here with Shirley,” I said. “No one knows you are here, so you will be safe. Vose and I will go to the studio and sort them out, then come back and let you know what happened.”
Shirley called me back into the kitchen and threw her arms around my neck. “You are the best, Paul. And just imagine… I’m body-guarding one of the most famous actresses in Hollywood... Paul... what’s wrong?”
I had been looking over her shoulder. I ran to the living room and told Henri and Leticia to get down on the floor. At that moment, we heard a crash coming from in front of the townhouse. A vehicle had rammed into the rear of the requested unmarked police car, and its two officers were thrown against the windshield.
The driver began shooting at Shirley’s front window. She looked out and screamed: “Paul, what’s happening?”
Looking at the nearby townhouse through the kitchen window, I had seen a husky looking fellow in a black suit and tie run out and get in a car. He looked like one of the goons I had seen in the recent past.
Jaymes, that shady Chicago character, had somehow found out where we were. We later learned that he was holding Shirley’s friend Mary hostage and had sent one of his men over to create a distraction. We had to get out of there, and fast.
I told Lebec to keep his eyes on the side yard, called Vose and filled him in, then ushered the group into my car. Lebec laid down some covering fire, and we took off up the street.
A big car followed us. I headed for the safest place I knew, the LAPD’s Hollywood station. We jumped the curb and headed right into the lot where the police vehicles were parked. The big car kept on going by.
We went inside the stationhouse and were met by a reception committee.
Vose had called ahead. He also told the watch commander that Shirley’s neighbor friend Mary was OK. And he had left word that he was heading for the studio and that I should meet him there.
Later, when we walked onto the set at the studio, Jefferson was standing with a gun pointed at his head. Jaymes was holding a revolver and threatening everyone in sight. Two very large gentlemen in dark suits were standing close by. They had guns drawn but held down alongside their legs.
Jaymes saw Vose and me walk in and squeezed off a shot that went just over my head. We hit the floor. Then the two dark suits began firing.
To be continued …