Death by Parking - Chapter 6 - The Threat
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It was nearing noon and time for lunch. I saw no reason I shouldn’t head over to Musso and Frank’s for a club sandwich and coke. I drove to my office on Hollywood Boulevard, left my car, and walked up to the venerable eatery. As I passed Hollywood and Vine, my girlfriend Shirley was walking out the front door of the office building she managed. I walked up behind her, took her arm and placed it through mine.
I said “lunch.” She smiled and said “sure.” We continued our stroll across the brass movie stars embedded in the sidewalk up to M and F. As we walked in, I saw Bogie sitting in ‘my’ booth. I hoped it wasn’t going to be too crowded. As we approached the booth, he, always a gentleman, got up and let Shirley sit between us.
I sat down. So did Bogie.
“He’s here, isn’t he?” Shirley said. I smiled and nodded. So did Bogie.
Shirley was one of the very few people who knew that I was fixated on the famous actor, to the point that he, or at least his ghost, appeared to me, usually here at M and F. Look, I’m not crazy, but sometimes having someone to listen to you that doesn’t talk back is a good thing. Why not? And why not someone who played a couple of the most famous detectives of all time, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe? This actually worked out pretty well, since Bogie wasn’t much of a talker.
“What’s he doing?”
I looked over and Bogie smiled, took off his hat and hung it on the rack next to the table. He looked over at Shirley. She is a looker, no doubt about it. His smile turned into a leer. I gave him a “back off” look and he did, sort of. I don’t think Bogie ever really backed off.
“He hung up his hat, it looks like he’s staying a while. He smiled, well actually leered, at you. I gave him a “back off” look, but it didn’t really work. I think he likes you.”
“Tell him I like him, too.”
“It doesn’t really work that way. I think he can hear everything that’s going on. He doesn’t need me to translate.”
Bogie nodded and smiled. “Oh, by the way,” I said. “Maryann Leyman said to say ‘hello’.”
“Who is Maryann Leyman,” Shirley said.
“She told me she was an old friend of Bogie’s. I don’t know how she knew I see him from time to time.” Bogie looked surprised and then got a far off look in his eyes. He smiled and, if possible, actually began to blush. My God, they had an affair. I knew he was a bit of a hound dog, but Maryann Leyman…Wow.
The waiter appeared and Shirley ordered the sand dabs. I just nodded and knew I would get my club and a coke.
We all need our heroes. Mine is Humphrey Bogart. He was a man’s man, on and off the screen. He had four wives, the one with the most staying power is the one you know already, Lauren Bacall. He died relatively young, of cancer, in his late fifties. Maybe all those cigarettes weren’t such a good idea, after all. It seems like Bogie didn’t take any baloney from anyone. He knew right from wrong, bent the rules a bit when he needed to, and always came out on top. He, it seemed to me, told it like it was.
Shirley was jabbering with Bogie. He was listening intently. I’m glad she got him thinking about something beside Maryann. I’m not mentioning that topic again with anyone.
Shirley looked at me and asked if Bogie was listening to her. Yep, I said. He’s drinking in every word. The waiter had sat a scotch rocks in the place where he usually sits. Bogie likes his scotch. Maybe that’s what attracted me to him. So do I.
After we finished lunch, Shirley and I started to walk out and I realized I had forgotten to leave a few bucks for Bogie’s drink. I placed the money under his empty glass and hurried to catch up with Shirley.
After I walked Shirley back to her office, I strolled down Hollywood Boulevard to mine. There was mail on the floor inside the door, none of it important. I opened the window, sat behind my desk and looked out to the street scene outside. The Chinese theater was across the street and jammed with people trying to compare their footprints with all the stars that had left theirs in the concrete in the famous theater’s courtyard. I once compared mine to Bogie’s. Mine were bigger. He was only five eight; I top out at six one.
I heard the door knob turn and I swung around in time to see three very interesting characters come through the door. The first two looked like they just stepped off the boat from New Jersey, black shirts, black ties, and bulges under their armpits. The third was more interesting.
He was slim, tall, and what Shirley would call ‘knockout handsome.’ He wore a suit that cost more than I made in a month and a diamond the size of a dime for a stickpin. He was smiling as he approached my desk. He sat down without asking. The two gunsels leaned against the wall next to the door.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Manning. Did you and Miss Williams have a nice lunch? Oh, I was sorry to hear about your accident at S and L’s job site. Those places can be pretty dangerous, particularly for those unfamiliar with construction, you know what I mean.”
“I’m afraid you will have to be a little more specific, I’m not sure I understand exactly the threat you seem to be making. Your subtilty is interfering with your clarity,” I responded as I gently moved my leg to open my center desk drawer, the drawer that held my 38.
“Oh, I believe in clarity,” he said. “Keep your nose out of the issues at the S and L job site. The next accident could be fatal.”
OK, he pissed me off. I pulled out the 38 and fired two shots, each one just missing the right ear of the two standing at the door. I then pointed it at Mr. Handsome. His support staff was not holding up well and understood not to reach for their guns or their boss might have an accident right here.
“Slowly pull out your guns and put them on my desk” I said.
“I’m not armed,’ he responded, but nodded to his team to follow the instructions. They did.
“Now why don’t the three of you head back to wherever you came from, and keep out of my hair.”
The leader of the pack gave me a look as he got up. “Oh, the boss isn’t going to like this at all, not at all.” They walked out the door, leaving it open.
I called Bill Vose at the LAPD and told him about my visitors.
“You are playing with some folks pretty high on the mob totem pole,” he said. “Your visitor was “Dandy Giovanni.” He is an enforcer and seldom leaves anyone alive. You were fortunate. Maybe you and Shirley should take a little trip. They won’t underestimate you next time, and there will be a next time, count on it.”
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