Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 5

What was I looking for anyhow? Some accounting system of kidnapped and eviscerated babies? I think the drug must have enhanced my hearing, because I heard someone at a door behind me and I managed to shut the drawer and step away from the desk toward Ariana before Scream entered the room. “Ah Vic,” he said, then glanced at the recumbent Ariana. “Damn her eyes,” he said and strode over to her to slap her across the face with a full open-handed roundhouse.

“I’m so-r-r-ry,” she mumbled.

“Ah, Mr. Paris, I’m so sorry our hostess has been overtaken, she hasn’t been sleeping well and you know, a couple of glasses of wine... I hope you have not been inconvenienced.”

I muttered something incomprehensible, knowing that the mushroom tea would excuse any conspicuous twitches I might display. “Where’s Jane?”

“Miss Mansfield, I’m afraid, has had too much to drink as well and has passed out. Since neither of you are in any shape to drive, we offer our hospitality for the few hours you will require to regain your equilibrium.

“Ah, Ariana, seems to be coming to, now that she’s had forty winks she should be a better hostess.”

She smiled beatifically and stood up. “I just have to visit the powder room and I’ll be right back.” Scream shook his head in exasperation, which I found odd for one who espoused complete flawless debauchery, indulgence and sin.

“What line are you in... Vic?” he asked.

I trotted out the waiter story and saw in his eyes that he would run a check on me.

“Before she passed out, Jayne was babbling something about baby death. Do you know anything about that?”

I explained that, since Jayne had three children, she’d been upset by tales from one of the newsmen she consorted with. When Scream asked who, I happily provided the name of my nemesis, Eric Boyer of The Bugle.

* * * *

I was on foot and well aimed toward my own toilet when I awoke. My guts felt like an iguana was practising the breast stroke and that he was catching a wave upstream.

When I got back to my bed, I thought of human heart, mushroom tea, vast amounts of red wine, thanked my stars that it was Sunday and I had time to sleep it off before work next day. Lex leapt atop the coverlet and scared the hell out of me, but lay down by my side, kneading the covers and issuing that awful purr. Just having him there made me feel somewhat better.

I tried to reconstruct the evening. I remembered coming to in the car with Jayne looking concerned as she drove. When my eyes opened, she’d chuckled, “That’s the last time we get invited there!” There was something about me crawling up my front steps and taking a long time getting my key into the lock. Then there was a horrible antsy, uncertain blackness a feeling of having let my mind go too far to be reeled in again.

Thought was not what was needed right now. I had to move and not dwell on last night.

I displaced Lex and built a Bromo-Seltzer. Slipped into a pair of chinos and stepped out onto my tiny balcony. The girls next door were out on their balcony sunning themselves. They were B-girls and terrific lookers. I leaned over to wave hello and saw that one was tanning nude. She smiled and waved back. It may have been inviting, but given my woeful condition the only part of my body that might come up was my stomach. I shambled inside and made Lex some breakfast. In my weakened state, I started talking to Lex. Displaying some semblance of intelligence, he would look at me in between loud slurps of his food. It was at that moment that I realized Lex was the best thing to ever happen to me and that I could grow to love him dearly. He sensed this and came over to rub his head around my trouser cuffs. I think I’m a fairly tough guy, you have to be in my business, but I almost cried. This was more than just a booze hangover.

I called Jayne. We commiserated over our hangovers but she was taking the hair-of-the-dog route with her trademark pink champagne. I stretched the phone cord to get the single Budweiser from my fridge.

“What’d we learn, Scoop?”

“Dunno, Jayne, that they’ve got something to hide. That Scream, whoever he might be in real life --I’ll have to check the property tax records-- would not be above getting organs from a baby. He’s a bad S.O.B.”

“No doubt. By the by, did you eat any of that heart?”


“I think it was deer heart.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Mickey hunted and we’ve been up in British Columbia and eaten deer heart and it tastes gamey. So did that jerky we ate.”

“Humans don’t taste gamey?”

“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t presume so. Gamey depends on eating wild vegitation.”

“Hmmm. Why did we eat it, by the way?”

“Pretty sozzled, I guess.”

“So what happened to you on the royal tour while I was fumbling through Scream’s papers?”

“I got raped.”


“It happens. Don’t get your nose out of joint.”


“Scream. His goons held me. I thought about making a fuss, but I realized it was just business as usual.”

“Jayne, I can’t believe this.”

“It’s true.”

“Why aren’t you more upset?”

“I told you, shit like this happens in the industry. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. I just hope the old prick didn’t have a dose or something. Anyhow, I have my ways of revenge.”

My head was reeling to fall off my shoulders. “Revenge, how?”

“Men leave the essence of themselves with me. I take it to Tony and he uses to cast a curse. It’s the most powerful personal talisman, a link to a person’s soul. Tony says it’s more powerful than blood. I already saw him, this morning.”

“What did you ask for?”

“Nothing less than Scream’s head.”


“Tony put a spell on him to have him decapitated.”

“Yoiks, you don’t mess around.”

“I’m sick of being fucked, literally, around.”

“I hope it works.”

“It will, always has.”


“That’s another story, Paperboy. Now I’ve got to make sandwiches for my kids. What are you going to do today?”

“I’ve got a funeral to attend,” I said and hung up.

The beer had made me feel slightly better, so I put a shirt on and made it to the street where I bought a six-pack and some ham for a sandwich. I also got a couple of fresh oysters for Lex.

When I got back, there was squealing from the balcony. Lex had discovered the girls next door and was properly impressing them. Somehow he had negotiated the foot-long stretch of one-inch railing to their balcony. The naked girl had him on her lap and that strange purr was putting her in stitches, which caused some awesome vibration. I leaned over and apologized for the cat.

Nudie said, “He’s great. We love him.” The other girls agreed. She picked him up and lifted him over to me. “My god, she said. “He really is a stud.”


“Check out the ball-to-ball carpeting.” I picked the placid Lex from her arms and turned his nethers toward me. I was impressed.

Back inside, I cracked a Bud, gave Lex a diced oyster, which I suddenly doubted he needed, and opened Al Stirling’s files.

He had jumped on the missing baby story three months ago with the disappearance of an eight-day-old premature baby, Paula Martin. That had been followed a week later with seven-day-old Jessica Sarkar. The parents had been interviewed and were aghast. Particularly the Martins, who were given to hyperbolic quotes.

* * * *

The Free Press editor, Terrance Weigel, was standing by the church steps, smoking. We exchanged pleasantries for a minute. “Know the doll?” I asked, pointing out a tall woman in her early thirties who looked stunning even in mourning black. A veil covered red hair to her shoulders.

“Yeah, that’s Stirling’ sister. Flew in from Baltimore for the service. She came by the office today to pick up his final check and his effects. Don’t worry, I kept all his working files for you. She’s going to clean out his apartment.”

“Did he have a ladyfriend?”

“I think so, but I wouldn’t recognize her. I only ever really socialized with the staff at the Christmas party each year. Al made it a point to come stag to that so that he could soak up as much company booze as possible without having to be responsible.”

“He never mentioned a name?”

“I’m sixty years old and have a paper to get out. Guys don’t talk tootsies with me.”

“Going in?” I asked.

“Haven’t been inside a church for so long, I’m worried that I might ignite.”

Funeral, there was no funeral, to paraphrase my acquaintance Mr. Ring Lardner. The service was short and sparsely attended. No one who looked like a girlfriend showed up. The minister obviously did not know Al. When we were filing out, I buttonholed the sister. Her name was Angie. She had heard of me from Al in years gone by, so she wasn’t disconcerted. I asked if I could help her clean Al’s apartment. She said she needed a drink and Al had a liquor cabinet that she certainly was not going to pack up to take on a plane.

Matters were shaping up. I followed her car to Santa Monica and when we got in to Al’s apartment, she pointed out the liquor shelf and went into a bedroom to change.

She came out in a short-sleeved white silk blouse and navy-blue slacks. “This is going to be no fun,” she said. She had already brought in a bunch of boxes from the green grocer. I handed her a tall gin and tonic. “Luckily, we’ve got three days until the rent runs out. Once we get through this, then the whiskeys and the liqueurs, we’ll be sick for days.”

I grimaced.

“Just preparing for the worst,” she said. “More realistically, you can take home tonight’s leftovers or the winos who patrol the alley will be partying tonight.

She did not want all this stuff, so I tore a couple of flaps off a box and made two signs: “Free Stuff” and “Make Us An Offer.” Angie took a couple of Al’s Hawaiian shirts. I started a personal box for books and his home typewriter. Then stuff went to the front lawn, and much, in both categories, of it had gone by the time the next armload arrived. I got most of the horse work and though we were quaffing generously, I sweated much of mine off. Angie, however, wedged into a corner of the sofa in the second hour. When I heard a snore that somewhat approximated Lex’s purr, I started checking the undersides of drawers, looking for slits in mattresses and feeling jacket seams and trouser cuffs. I pulled the vents, popped the ceiling panels, and pried floorboards.

When I thought it was all done but the next drink, I shoved some remaining suits off the closet hanger bar and saw a particularly sturdy nail sticking up about three-eights of an inch. I reached around it and felt a taut wire. When I pulled, it came with much resistance, but it came. With manila envelopes attached like fish on a trawl line. Six big ones. Well now, Al, I thought. Checking that sis was still non compis mentis, I reeled in the catch.

* * *

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