Death by Parking
Death by ParkingBook One: Death by Parking
Chapter 6 - Mulholland Drive
She was not only beautiful, but also recognizable. No wonder I had a hood over my head when we last met.
She was an up-and-coming below-the-title movie star who it was rumored dated Howard Hughes. I don't know whether it was before, during or after Ava Gardner, or was it Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Terry Moore, Lana Turner or his current wife, actress Jean Peters. Well, the guy did get around. I would have to check out her name and then find out if she was still on Hughes' "A" list.
I turned back to Shirley, who was listening to the jazz from the piano, but began to wonder about the Hughes connection. I knew that he was involved with the new spy operation of the U.S. Government called the Central Intelligence Agency. He was also close to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover.
His dislike for the Kennedy Family and Papa Joe in particular was well-known. Hughes had shafted Joe Kennedy on a movie deal, and Joe didn't like to be shafted. Joe had a lot of money, and having him against you could be a problem. Blood was bad between those two.
Joe Kennedy was putting up his No. 2 son, Jack, that junior senator from Massachusetts, for president. His No. 1 son, Joe Jr, had been killed during the war. Hughes could cause some problems for Joe. I wondered if Joe knew that Howard had squired around Ava. Maybe the relatively well-known relationship between Joe and Ava was a message to Howard.
Perhaps the fact that Bobby, Kennedy son No. 3, was the chief counsel for the Senate rackets committee also caused old Howard some pain. There was certainly a blooming relationship between the CIA, the Mob , the FBI and Hughes. Who knows, I may have found the connection right there on the voice from the Spanish Steps.
Sorry about the history lesson; I do get carried away...
What in the heck did the Mob, Hughes, the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover have to do with the takeover of a parking operation in Los Angeles? Maybe the answer lay in that little notebook I could see peeking out of Shirley's handbag.
I was about to ask her for it, but then remembering the person sitting just one chair away, I thought better of it. Perhaps that was a request better made in private.
The song ended and Shirley looked over my shoulder and whispered. "This is such a great spot. There are movie actors and actresses all over the place. Heck, that's Maria LaFlonza sitting right next to you."
I guess the fact that my eyebrows were practically in contact with my hairline signaled something to Shirley, so she added: "You know, she was in that picture a couple of years ago with Ingrid Bergman -- "Stromboli." You remember we went to it; it had subtitles."
Oh, sure, I remembered it. I think I fell asleep five minutes into the first reel. However, I did remember one thing: It was produced by RKO, and that was after Hughes had stolen the place from Joe Kennedy. The plot thickens. I am certainly in the movies now.
We finished our drinks and went through to dinner. It's an elegant restaurant, the Bel Air, with great food and great wine, plus this evening the French doors were open and the scent of the flowers along Stone Canyon brook was great.
After dinner, I drove Shirley home. Both of us were pretty stressed out from the long day, so we said good night on the porch. Shirley handed me Betty's notebook and I went home.
I paged through the notebook and saw that basically it contained a series of numbers, dates and dollar amounts. It would take more than reading it to figure it out. I would need help. I also knew that the notebook wasn't safe as long as it was with me. I called a friend (hopefully she would remain a friend after I had called her at 11 p.m.) and asked for assistance.
Mary Root was one of the best stenographers in the city. She was fast and extremely accurate, and I needed a copy of the book fast. She wasn't happy, but when I noted that the fee, in addition to the $50 she would normally charge, would be dinner, dancing and a show in Hollywood, a smile crept into her voice. She told me to come right over.
Within an hour she had copied the entire notebook, and with the help of good old carbon paper, I had two copies of it. I gave her the fifty and we set a date for the upcoming weekend for the rest of the payoff.
I then went to my office in Hollywood. By now it was after midnight, but the security guard let me in, and I had the building to myself. I put one of the copies in an envelope and addressed it to my Post Office box in Hollywood. I bound the notebook in brown paper, secured it with string and addressed it to my landlord in Idaho. I then set off for Terminal Annex, the main post office next to Union Station downtown. It was open 24 hours. The clerk told me the postage would be a dollar for the notebook and a dime for the envelope. I gave him a buck ten and left the only clue I had in the secure hands of the U.S. Government.
I went home with my copy and fell into bed.
The next morning dawned cool, as it will do in L.A. in the early summer. I looked out over the L.A. Basin and saw nothing but layers of gray fog. It would burn off about 10 or so, but in the meantime, June gloom was definitely here. The folks at the beach would be lucky to see the sun at all.
I called my landlord and told her to expect a package from me and to just hold it until I got back in touch. Then I decided to drive over for breakfast at Ship's on La Cienega and consider what to do with the information in Betty Beeson's notebook.
As I started down the hill, I noticed a big black car pull in behind me. They didn't look like they belonged in my neighborhood; in fact, the car looked strangely familiar, like the one that had given me an undesired lift the previous night.
Any sane person would have just gone on with his daily chores, but sanity wasn't big in my family. I pulled a quick right on Coldwater Canyon and headed for Mulholland Drive. It's a twisty two-lane road that runs the length of the Santa Monica Mountains, from the Hollywood Bowl and the new Hollywood Freeway on the east to the Pacific Coast Highway on the ocean. Parts of it weren't even paved. I figured my car being smaller and having a better driver could lose the Mob wagon easily on "the Drive's" hairpin curves.
On Mulholland, I turned left toward the ocean and floored the accelerator. The car responded smoothly, and I began to leave my Sicilian friends in the dust. I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I accelerated and rounded a sharp curve.
Dead ahead, not more than 100 feet, was a flagman and a construction crew. I downshifted, and started to slide sideways into a road grader. The flagman dove out of the way as I swept past at a good 60 miles per. There was no question that when I hit the grader, there would be more than a slight bump.
At that moment everything seemed to go into slow motion. I hit the brakes and the car bucked, tossing me into the windshield. The last thing I remember was the gas tank of the grader not more than a few feet away and the car sliding right toward it ...
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