Friday, October 19, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists -- Chapter 1

Jayne & the Satanists

by Les Wiseman

“It’s sufficient just to know that sometimes, in the shadows of dusk, felines on huge paws still creep across the land.”

--Gary Turback

CHAPTER 1: The Boys

The phone woke me from disjointed night thoughts into my real-life dream. It was Hiram Lee, my editor at The Hollywood Insider. “Kid, get over to LaBrea and Franklin. Cops have found some viscera in a vacant lot, looks like it’s from a human baby, probably thrown from a car.”

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes, Hy.”

“Make it ten,” he said and hung up.

I looked over at Jayne Mansfield, snuggled by my side. I nuzzled into her blonde hair and kissed her neck and ears. She smiled in her drugged sleep. I pulled her toward me and let the sheet slide off those magnificent breasts. Last night, she had made me the happiest man alive and I guessed tonight it would be the guy from The Bugle’s turn. She spread her favors around pretty thin and I fell into the rotation about every ten days. It always made my week.

As I shrugged into my clothes and grabbed my notepad and camera, she came out of her coma and lifted herself up on her elbows, not covering her chest. She slowly drew her lips into that luscious smile. “No time for an eye-opener, Danny Boy?”

I almost quit my job right there, but Jayne rarely favored boys without credentials. “’Fraid not, Sweetie,” I sighed. “Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge and lock the door on your way out.”

I stepped over, pressed my lips to hers and felt my resolve fading, but I pulled away and turned to the door.

“Danny.” I turned back to her. “Say goodbye to the boys.” She held her breasts up and forward, her mouth puckered in a mock pout.

I ran back and gave each a kiss and a lick. “Oh Jayne, they’re so beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she chirped, pleased, and satisfied gave me a push to the door. “Get to work, and don’t forget my story in tomorrow’s Insider.”

* * * *

I zipped the Rambler to the curb behind a line of cop Chevs and spotted Pat Kennedy, the bull screw, standing in a group of uniforms. No other reporter around, yet. I hustled over. “Hey Pat, what’s the scoop?”

“Leave your lenscap on, Holcomb. Nobody’s taking pics of this mess.”

I shouldered between a couple of guys and stared down onto a black velvet square on which had been neatly arranged some internal organs. “Cripes, you sure they’re human, Chief? Look like they could be a dog’s or something.”

“Dom here says that he’s pretty sure they’re from a human baby, possibly newborn.”

Dom Simone, the old negro coroner, looked up from where he was kneeling. “I’ll know for sure within an hour of getting all this back to the morgue. Call me there, you’ve got my number.”

“Thanks, Mr. Simone. Any idea why they’re arranged like that?”

His expression was hard to read behind a surgical mask. “Could be some maniac’s idea of a joke, or maybe some of that ritual crap, like they’ve been finding around North Beach and Venice.”

Kennedy said a kid walking his dog had found it and that it appeared to be fresh. I could hardly look at it, but asked and was told what the individual organs were. “No heart?” I asked.

“Maybe the dog took a souvenir,” said Kennedy.

It was ninety minutes before deadline, so I would head for the office. Knowing Hy would give me hell for not getting a shot, I readied the camera and rested it on the passenger window ledge. When I had drawn up to the group, I tapped my horn. They looked toward me and I pressed the shutter. To a round of curses and shaking fists, I sped off.

* * * *

“One picture of cops! I give you the day’s top story and you bring me a picture of some cops standing around?”

“Hy, you wanted a picture of guts?”

The Insider was not the most high class of rags, but we drew an estimated four hundred thousand readers in greater Los Angeles with our natty blend of showbiz gossip and crime scandal. Good taste was not our strong suit. At twenty-seven, I was one of the golden-haired boys in the reporters’ ring. I’d written some doozies. Maybe you read Cary a Fairy? or Rock Rolls Both Ways? Still the cops liked me because I didn’t try to cook the murder stories and I knew when to buy a drink.

The fluff of the job was the daily grind stories of Hollywood. I stared at the new eight-by-tens that Jayne had supplied. They would sell papers, no matter what dreck I wrote beneath them. The girl was a marvel for publicity. She didn’t care what you wrote as long as the picture prominently displayed The Boys. They had made her a star and had maintained her in the hearts and shorts of every red-blooded American male. But, she had more than worn the dumb blonde roles out and no one was hiring her for much else. She was making a few bucks appearing at supermarket openings and car shows, but her earnings were having a hard time keeping up with habits like champagne baths, feeding three kids and about a dozen dogs and cats, as well as making the nut on her legendary Pink Palace. Booze and anxiety kept her from sleeping, downs put her to sleep and ups got her rolling in the morning and booze took the edge off the ups. She also felt that she was gaining weight and now the ups were not just for reveille, but were replacing dinner more often than not. But, I would keep writing about her as a glowing star in the Hollywood skies as long as I could stare down on that beautiful face while she bucked her hips and moaned and told me I was the best. Our unspoken agreement was: A lie for a lie.

* * * *

I got off the blower with Simone as the copy runner reached my desk. I typed in that the organs were definitely of human origin, an infant about a month old, and handed the take-sheet to the kid.

Time for some coffee. So I skipped down to Chasen’s to read the legit press’s morning editions. They’d all gone to bed before the viscera had been discovered. With any luck I’d scoop the other midday papers, especially that shmuck from The Bugle who covered the same beat and was probably going to be doing the horizontal hula with Jayne tonight.

Some of the other reporters were already there and I slipped in with them until I recognized a massive back and shoulders in a sharkskin jacket at the far end of the counter. I went over and slapped him on the shoulder. “Hello, Al. Long time no see.”

Stirling rotated on his stool and exhaled a faceful of booze. “Daniel, good to see you.” We caught up on old times since we had both left The Valley Times and he had gone over to The Santa Monica Free Press. I asked him what he was doing in town and he told me he was following a story about some babies missing from local hospitals. He had come down to check out a mother who had left her kids with their father and come to Hollywood to become a star. Now one of the kids had gone missing from a playground and he wondered if she’d had a change of heart and snatched the kid without telling the father, who had written her off as a gin-guzzling slut. Nothing had come of it, though.

I asked how old the kid was. Nearly a year, he said.

* * * *

That morning we knocked heads over our stories trying to find more similarities, but none were apparent, though he filled me in on some of the bizarre beach bonfires they’d been finding around his area and Zuma. Cops had found fire pits on the beaches and in clearings in the woods. Dog skeletons were found in the ashes. In one instance, they found a dog’s body, but a goat’s skull and horns. Near there, a group of kids had found a dog’s stomach. Police were notified and when the stomach’s contents were inspected they were revealed to contain strips of human flesh and skin that had apparently been taken from Caucasian people in strips one inch wide by two inches long. On the skin were tattooed pentagrams. Witchcraft shit.

This was grist for my mill, especially since none of it had passed the editor of the more respectable Free Press. I felt an award-winning series of investgative articles coming on. But, I had to go back to the office and hack out a few column inches on a well-known Cuban band leader who had drunkenly kicked the hell out of a stagehand for zipping up his TV-star wife’s dress.

I got home after five and was on my second gin, celebrating that none of the other rags had added anything important to my viscera story and none had any sort of picture, when the doorbell rang. It was Jayne, dressed to kill in a severely cut suit that locked every curve into lethal position. Trademark pink, of course. My hope began to rise.

She rushed in, whomped me into a liplock, then took the drink out of my hand and drained it. “Another?” she asked.

“Why not.” She was obviously speeding.

“Can’t stay for long. Got a dinner date.” My hopes crumbled, but I built the drink and handed it to her.

“Jayne, I’d give anything to have you all to myself.”

She smiled and tipped her glass into her wide mouth. She winked and popped her eyes in amusement. “That was a good one,” she gushed. “Yes, Danny, I know you want me for your own, but so does most of America, and you do actually get me. Loved your story today. Though I wished I’d got more than seven inches.” She arched one brow. “Anyhow, you’re such a good boy I brought you something to keep you company when I can’t be here with you.”

She set a basket down on the table and pulled off the tea towel that was covering its contents. Black lightning shot out at my throat and I dove to one side, cracking my knee on the couch’s arm and sending my drink crashing into the wall. Hissing atop the couch, its back fur spiked and tail cracking like a bullwhip, was the nastiest looking, biggest black cat I’d ever seen.

I looked back to Jayne. She was quaking with laughter, eyes bugged wide, drink splashing in one hand, the Boys held in check with the other.

“Nice kitty,” I said, as the cat tore a strip off the antique taffeta chesterfield I had been willed by my mother.

Jayne controlled her mirth enough to say, “His name is Lex and he hasn’t been fixed, but he doesn’t spray. He’s a total doll once he gets used to you.” She walked over to him and petted his head and I was astonished to hear a huge purr like something from a lion or a small motorcycle. Old Lex’s fur lay down like black silk and he wasted no time in insinuating his head between The Boys. “Sexy Lexie,” cooed Jayne.

“He’s yours?”

“No, silly, he’s yours, now.”

“Jayne, no, I’m never home....”

“You’re home more than anybody I know. You have the most regular job of anyone. And I brought food for a week.”


“Because you need somebody to cuddle with between my visits. Besides, I’ve got too many pets. Much as I love them, they take time away from me being a star. This morning my poor babies were all hungry because I spent the night with you.”

Her pupils buzzed around in their orbits like wasps and I could tell there was no reasoning with her. “How about a box,” I asked, defeated.

“It’s in the trunk.”

I pulled my suspenders over my undershirt and, in my slippers, I trotted out to the pink Caddie convertible that let the neighborhood know about my journalistic ethics. (And made men green and women curious.)

I felt conned. “Who else is getting a cat?” I said as I lifted the box to the retaining wall. “Hell, there’s turds in here? Couldn’t you have cleaned it out.”

“They need a familiar scent to get used to the box in a new place,” she said. “If you must know, I’m going to have dinner with Eric Boyer.”

“And then you’ll fuck him and tomorrow noon I’ll see my story on you paraphrased in The Bugle. Is he getting a damned cat?”

She shrugged, as if she’d never thought of the idea, but that now it had some appeal. “No, this is a special cat and you need him. That’s why I’m giving him to you.”

“I better get head next time I see you.”

Her mouth twitched. All the neighborhood was out now looking at the Caddie, the star, the hack in his undershirt and suspenders. “Okay, I have one left and though this is usually for studio heads, I want you to be happy about this.” She pulled herself to me. Worked her arms between us and held up an ampule. “Get ready, and I’ll tell you everything. She snapped the ampule, took a huge inhalation and held the glass under my nose. “Take a big sniff.”

With a chest full, I felt on the business end of two armed torpedos. The buildings melted around me. Jayne shoved her tongue in my mouth and there was nothing else and my trousers felt like they would rip apart. “Oh Jayne,” I moaned.

“Listen, that is a very special cat. Tony gave it to me and he said that I would never own it, that it was its own person. Lex isn’t his original name, that’s something else that you don’t want to know. Take care of the cat and he will take care of you. Take another hit.”

I sniffed again. I was rocketing into the sun. She kissed me again and I was vaguely aware of a crowd cheer starting from the various stoops and porches.

She pulled away. “I gotta go, baby. Are you okay?” I never felt less okay in my life. My head was spinning and my knees were weak. “It’ll wear off in about thirty seconds,” she said and stepped into the driver’s seat.

“Who’s this Tony you got the cat from?” I managed to get out.

“LaVey,” she said and pulled away from the curb.

* * * *

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