Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 21


Next day, I was tired, yet elated, as I drove down the highway to the Santa Monica Free Press.  Lex was a worthy copilot.  His black fur bristled with health in the morning sunshine and he poked his head out the window enjoying the breeze for brief periods.  His head zigged from side to side as he observed all the passing traffic.  Every once in a while, he would look over at me and meow and I would fill him in on the events of the previous day.  When I told him mano-a-gato about Betty’s lessons in lust, he started to purr and bobbed his head.  Unnerving little guy.

Terrance Weigel was at his desk.  I wondered if roots had grown into his chair yet.  I told him that a satanist honcho had been shot, but that he had not been hospitalized.  “No story there, then,” he said.  “If there’s anything on the wire we’ll pick it up.”  I was sorta miffed that he didn’t want any of my sterling prose, but I had other matters that concerned me.

I asked him what he knew about Merlin Chambers.  “Good looking son-of-a-gun,” he said.  “About forty.  Beautiful wife named Bunny.  About thirty.  They both come from old money, heritage families.  One kid named James, about sixteen, bit of a delinquent, I hear, but his dad keeps the reins on him.  Been on council for six years.  Up for reelection year after next. He’s known to be a friend to developers.  Probably has some dough in development as well, but likely well hidden to avoid conflict-of-interest allegations.”  He sat back in his typists chair.  “There.  Need his shoe size or inseam?”

     “You’re a good man to know,” I said.  “Any rumors of impropriety in these development deals?”

     “Nah, every one of those sons of bitches has something crooked going on sub rosa.  As long as they don’t get caught with their pants down, no one makes a fuss.  Plus, they hide things pretty good through holding companies, making distant relatives the signing parties and such.”

     “But, since he’s a public official, I could get a list of all his holdings at city hall.  It’s all public record.”

     “Certainly, you could see the ones directly attached to him.  But, if he’s smart, which he is, you’d never connect the hidden properties to him without a paper trail like a labyrinth.”

     “But his IRS records would show something, wouldn’t they?  Cash income?”

     “Only if he cashed something in.  Maybe a small bit of capital gains.  But if he was smart, he would pay the taxes for his puppet executives and let profits be registered to them.  When there were significant profits, he would quickly put them into other real estate.”

     “Like, maybe, Szandor Scream’s mansion.”

     “Possibly.  You could work backward from the registered owner of the house and see if it led you to Chambers, but it would be a bitch of a job.  Besides, what would that get you?  So what if he owns it?”

     “Probably nothing.”  But Bianca Hughes worked in records and maybe Al Stirling was tracing down satanist land holdings and stumbled onto something.


*  *  *


Lex and I stopped for a burger on the beach before heading back to the city.  Lex enjoyed some hamburger patty, a small french fry and a drink of vanilla milkshake.  On the way home, he contentedly let fly with that buzzsaw purr of his.

     I pulled to a drugstore where I checked the gymnasiums in the area surrounding Scream’s home. The one closest was an upscale health club called Arnold’s.  I drove there and went in.  I said I was thinking of joining and a strapping lass called Jeri gave me all the sales dope.  Then she allowed me to look over the workout floor from the little health food snack bar mezzanine.  Immediately, I recognized “Muscles” from Scream’s security staff.  What I was really looking for was someone who might be Ambrose Lynn, Scream’s beefy lieutenant.  Any number of the dozen or so muscleheads who were working out fit his description.

     I told Jeri that I recognized Muscles from somewhere.  She told me his name was Ted and that he was a bouncer, like many of these guys.  He worked at a nightclub on Sunset, called Dino’s.  I said that must be where I had seen him before.

     I sat in the car and petted Lex while I waited for Ted to leave the gym.  When he did, he hopped in an old Ford sedan.  I trailed him back to a bungalow on South Fairfax.  I waited and eventually he came out wearing his working clothes: black T-shirt and beige dress slacks.

     Again, I followed his car and this time it was obviously headed to Scream’s, so I doubled back and returned to the bungalow.

     I parked down the street and wandered up the quiet residential street.  I let myself in the back door using a slim-jim.  The kitchen counters were covered in large vitamin bottles and jars of protein supplements.  Ted obviously spent large amount of jack on his body.  Not so much on his surroundings, which were meticulously clean, but spartan.  In the single bedroom there was a bed and bedside table.  Under the bed, I found stacks of bodybuilding magazines including a number of male nudist magazines that looked particularly well-thumbed.  In the bedside table, I found some lubricants and a box of amyl ampules.  Also a glass bottle containing a liquid that when I sniffed it sent my head skyrocketing.  Pure amyl nitrite in liquid form.  Funny how everyone seemed to use amyls.  Jayne, Chambers, now Ted.

     Pulling myself together as the amyls wore off, I searched the dresser and found some pay slips.  Black River Holdings and Dino’s Supper Club were the names of the issuers.  Ramsey was Ted’s last name.  I copied down the bank and account number of Black River Holdings as well as the signatory who was someone named S. Mitchell.  Then I slipped out.

     I drove to the Insider office and was immediately handed an assignment on a pair of star sisters who were rumored to be lesbos.  I spent an hour making phone calls and cobbling together some ill-founded rumors and insinuating speculation.  I think it was one of my better works.

     Then I got on the phone and managed to jump through hoops to get to Pat Kennedy at Hollywood homicide.

     “I’ve got some leads for you,” I opened.

     “Was it you who tried to blow off Szandor Scream’s nards last night?” asked Kennedy.

     “No, though I’ve heard the gossip.  How’d you hear about it?”

     “Stuff comes around,” he said.  “What do you want?”

     “Any word on the Hughes killing?”

     “Nope.  That one seems to have gotten away clean.  But, of course, we’re still working the suspects.”

     “How about the mutilations?”

     “We’re not doing so well there, either.”

     “Have you ever heard of Black River Holdings?”

     “No, who is that?”

     “I think it might be Scream’s company.”

     “How so?”

     “I found out that one of his freelance muscle men, Ted Ramsey, works for Black River.”  I was as much as admitting to a break in.  “Maybe you could check on this Ramsey fellow.”

     Kennedy wrote the name down.  “You think he shot Scream?”

     “Might have, but I think he’s just hired muscle.  What I want to find out is who Scream really is.  Then I think a bunch of things will fall into place.”

     “For you or for me?  I don’t recall getting a directive that the LAPD was now the research department for errant reporters.”

     “I just think the Hughes homicide is connected to the Stirling homicide and that somehow they are connected to Scream and that he somehow has something to do with the mutilations.”

     Kennedy sighed, noncommital.  “I’ll check out Ramsey and get back to you if I find anything.”

“No wonder you’re a legendary deductive detective.”


*  *  *  *


The receptionist at the West Hollywood morgue didn’t despise me as much as most cops did.  I was a regular down there and brought her a kruller and a coffee.  She was impressed that I knew celebrities -some in the biblical sense.  She was not bad looking and good for my ego.  Her name was Lacey.

After a few minutes of largely fabricated celebrity gossip, I wandered down to Dom Simone’s domain.

     The coroner was in the lab, or the chop shop as it was known.  I wandered in, grinning endearingly.

     “What the hell you doin’ here,” asked Dom as he looked up from some naked human that I kept my eyes well off.

     “I just wondered how sure you were about that Ariana Blaquelord.”

     Simone hitched slightly, then put his tools down and stared at me.  “How sure about what?  She sure was dead.  I’m sure of that.”

     “A friend of mine went to a Satanist shindig last night and saw Ariana alive and well, glowing with health you might say.”

     “The hell you say?”


     “She’s six feet under.”

     “And handily cremated, so we can’t check out the body.”

     Dom was a great guy.  Not much escaped his scientific gaze.  He and I had worked closely before.  He often gave me the inside track when some star punted.  Nothing that wouldn’t be released a few hours later.  Just stuff that might get me the jump on the other papers.  I’d wangled him some tickets to events and premieres and he had met some of his favorite celebrities.  Dom was stone crazy for the movies and the stars were like gods to him.  I guess he needed some glamor in his life to offset his days immersed in the gruesome.

     “She was IDed by her doctor.  She had no next of kin and no registered address.  She had no employer.  She was a persona non grata, but her doctor was the only one with any links to her.  There was no need for a dental records check or anything like that.  I mean she was messed up pretty bad, but she was identifiable to someone who knew her.”

     “What about fingerprints?”

     “No need.”

     “I’m getting a pain.  I think I need to see a doctor.  Know of one offhand?”


*  *  *  *

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