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Bob Frey Books
Someone is killing the A-list actors of Hollywood and leaving a defaced DVD of one of their film at the crime scene. A film critic? A disgruntled fan? Who? Who is trying to deprive the movie-going public of their greatest national treasures, and why?
Someone is killing the A-List actors of Hollywood, shooting them dead, and leaving a defaced DVD of one of their films at the crime scene. Enter Detective Second Class Frank Callahan, a big, tough, rough and tumble sort of guy who happens to be gay. Follow him and his fellow Irish Catholic sidekick, Barry, as they pursue the elusive DVD killer over the streets of Hollywood, through gay bars, bath houses and cruising grounds, on a chase around Magic Mountain Amusement Park, Forest Lawn, Sunset Strip and other L.A. landmarks. Witness Callahan’s evolution from a seeker of personal glory to team player, his running battle with a gay-bashing rival detective, the brutish Moose Koehler, and his reunion with his estranged lover, a fascinating character named Car. In the end, it’s good, old-fashioned police work with an assist from Barry’s Aunt Bee, a walking encyclopedia of film lore that leads to the killer’s downfall in an exciting climax reminiscent of Hollywood’s legendary gangster films.
It was a beautiful morning, clear and warm with a round, radiating sun lighting up the entire sky. He sat alone on a grassy hill propped up on his elbows with a book in his hands, an ordinary park visitor enjoying the fresh air and warmth of the sun. Only he wasnít reading. His eyes kept scanning the park, from left to right and back again as if he were waiting or looking for someone.
Earlier, he had checked the playground area at the end of the cement block walk. This was an open space with slides, bucket swings, and other playthings for children, all located within a giant sandbox where toddlers dug with miniature shovels and buried plastic animals out of sight. On three sides there were wooden benches where moms and uniformed nannies sat and kept an eye on their wards. Just beyond the sandbox, there was a blacktop with backboards and baskets for playing round ball, and after that baseball diamonds with wire cages for playing what was once America's pastime.
He had been there just about every morning for a week and sometimes in the afternoons, but hadnít seen hide nor hair of her. According to the Hollywood Stargazers web site she had been sighted in this park on numerous occasions: Palisades Park in the community of Pacific Palisades. He wasnít naÔve enough to believe everything he read on the Internet, but outside of her home in the Palisades, which was like a citadel, and some shops in the village that she was supposed to frequent, he didnít have much choice. No, this would be the best place to catch her. He would try it off and on for maybe another couple of weeks and if that didnít work, he would have to figure out some other way.
He let his eyes drift over the open pages of the book in front of him: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. He had read somewhere that Dickens had been one of those responsible for the lowering of literature to the level of the common herd. That was because the author had serialized his novels in newspapers. Yet despite himself, he liked Dickens. He really did, especially his characters. His books were far superior to most of the junk that passed for literature these days. That ungodly boy magician hokum, for instance, or some of the mindless trash they spewed out for teenage girls.
Where did it all start: this vulgarization of America? Neal Gabler, the author of Life, The Movie, said it began when life itself was turned into entertainment or a movie, as the title of his book suggests, and the common man became the arbitrator of taste. Gabler was probably right. Most Americans donít know their elbow from third base and canít tell the difference between fantasy and reality anymore. Thatís because it requires you to think, to use your grey matter, to figure things out for yourself, and thatís not always a pleasant thing to do. Orwell was right. Itís hard to keep your sanity when everyone else around you is going mad.
At any rate, it was hard to take. Television was a mindless wasteland; there was nothing worth watching in the movies anymore and, what with the spread of fast food restaurants and other chains, American cities all looked like clones. It was getting so that a person with half a brain didnít have anywhere to turn. Everything was produced for kids, the Beavis and Buttheads of this world, or for dimwits with SUVs who thought art was a plaster of Paris dwarf purchased from Wal-Mart that sat on their front lawns. And then he saw her. She had just turned the corner and entered the park.
Yes, it was her alright. It had to be: the liver lips, the flat nose, the lantern jaw. He glanced at his watch, a Timex: almost 10:45. He shut his eyes and clasped his hands together. He couldnít believe his good luck. Thank God, the Internet was right. Why anyone would ever think she was pretty or even attractive was beyond him. She looked like a typical wallflower at a high school dance, or maybe the class nerd. Dressed in a red tank top, blue jeans and sandals, she was pushing a stroller with a Latino nanny by her side. He watched her come up the walk, a big smile on her liver lips, oversized rectangular sunglasses, her mousy brown hair pulled back behind her ears, her large head held erect by her long, gawky neck.
Yes, that was the dominant feature about her: gawkiness. The way she looked, the way she carried herself, the way she walked, everything about her was awkward, like an ugly duckling. How she had ever won an Academy Award and been voted the top box office female star for two years in a row was a mystery. It probably had to do with this common thing. Peopleís tastes are all in their mouths.
Movie stars used to be something special, beautiful creatures you could look up to and long to be like. Nowadays they looked like someone who rang up your groceries in the supermarket or flipped burgers in a fast food chain. They were absolutely boring on screen. Why would anyone pay good money to go see them? He continued to watch her until he thought she might become aware of him and then he turned away and pretended to be interested in his book. After all, she was a movie star and he didnít want her to think he was simply another star-struck fan who was in awe of her because she was rich and famous.
He waited until she went by and then he closed his book, removed his glasses, and put them into the pocket of his kaki shorts. As he stood up, the pen he had in the breast pocket of his polo shirt fell to the ground. After picking it up, he followed her up the walk.
She had gone into the sand box and was pushing a little blonde boy about two years of age in a bucket swing. Her son, if he remembered correctly from the Web. The nanny stood dutifully by. The actress didnít have a bad body. He had to give her that. She was slim and had a tight butt that nicely rounded out her jeans. He had read someplace that she had been so bad when she had made her first picture that the director had to nurse her through the entire shoot, spoon-feed her line readings for every bit of her dialogue. That was the film that had made her a box office star. Now a dozen or so pictures later they said she was a spoiled brat, a demanding, temperamental bitch who drove everybody on the set crazy. Thatís what success can do to you. Just like a lot of them, she quickly forgot how it was and how she had begged and prayed for a part, any part, when she was a struggling, unknown actress.
He drifted up and took a drink from a metal water fountain, walked across and stood for a moment with his hands clasped in front of him and looked out over the baseball fields. He sat on a hillside for awhile, and pretended to read his Dickensí novel. When he got tired of that, he got up and returned to a bench.
All the time, he had kept an eye on her as she let the little boy climb over the mock fire truck, bounce on a painted rocking horse and climb up and go down the winding slides. She seemed like a nice enough mother and looked as if she truly enjoyed her son. But he didnít want to go there, and he forced himself to think of something else. Finally, she left the tot with the Latino nanny, walked to the bench where her stroller was parked, took a book from the back and sat.
It was absolutely amazing how no one said anything to her or bothered her in any way. He could tell by the way people stole glances at her that they knew who she was, alright, and were dying to talk to her. He sat there on the bench and acted as if he didnít even know she was there. He didnít have to worry. She seemed totally immersed in her book. After awhile, when he began to think maybe it was a lost cause or he might have to try something reckless, to his surprise and delight, she got up and called the nanny over. She then went around the perimeter of the sandbox and headed for a hollow where there were a couple of tables and an outdoor grill for picnickers. His heart leaped with joy. He glanced at his Timex: 11:32. Now was his chance.
Instead of following her down into the gully, he went around the curve in the paved walk to where he could see not only what she was doing, but whether anyone was coming or going on the street or the sidewalk as well as what was behind him. He then sat down and pretended to retie his shoes. He watched her stroll across the grass, sit down at a picnic table, look around and open her book.
All of a sudden he was so nervous he couldnít tie his shoe. His fingers had stiffened and the loop slipped away from them when he came around with the end of the lace, not once but several times. His heart puttered like a motorboat and his stomach felt as if it was pumped full of hot air. The walk was perfectly clear, not a soul in sight. There was nothing to his right or behind him. He had better hurry while he had the chance. He had better do it if he was going to do it. It was now or never