"Cut!" The director screamed. He ran onto the movie set and stared at the lost man in a tacky detective costume. The director was a head shorter than most actors, but his stare was fierce. "I told you for God knows how many times, read your script as it is WRITTEN!"
"But real detectives don't say things like 'What were you doing at the time of the murder.' It's a straight give away to the suspect that a murder had taken place!" The poor man defended.
"God damn it, who cares what you say as long as it's a talkie film. A MOVIE!" The director slapped his script on the prop table. He turned to his crew, "Who hired this genius?"
The crew was stone silent. The cameramen wiped their bulky equipment fervently like their life depended on it. The lighting crew looked at their silver lamps as if they saw it for the first time. The soundman listened to his playback looking for noises that didn’t exist.
A young man in a plaid sweater put up his shaking hand, "but sir, you said you wanted an authentic guy to play the part, so I got you a real detective."
"I said I wanted an authentic LOOKING guy, Martin! Not the real deal. This is show biz, use your brain, if you're not SITTING on it!!" The stumpy director bellowed.
A voice light as chimes cut through the quarrel. "Boys, if you don't mind, I'll just go powder my nose." The lead actress with white blonde hair and the figure of an hourglass floated back into her dressing room.
"Yes of course, certainly my darling." The director cooed. He then turned coldly to Martin and the detective. "We'll take a 15 minutes break for you two to sort this out."
"Break! 15 minutes!" Martin announced, he then turned apologetically to his friend, "I'm so sorry, detective Zeo. I know most of this doesn't make sense, but can you please stick to your lines?"
Joseph Zeo looked at his shiny detective costume and gave a weak smile, "I dig what you mean," he sighed, "and you know I wouldn't have taken the job if I wasn't low on dough.
"Simone, I need some names. Someone who knew you and your brother. And if your brother got mixed up with the wrong people, you need, no, you HAVE to tell me NOW. I think both of you got mixed up with the wrong people to be honest. And If I'm gonna protect you, you need to talk. Because if you don't, someone here trying to help you, is going to get seriously hurt or killed. Do you understand me?" Marc said.
Simone nodded and a tear rolled down her right cheek. She stood up and walked to the window.
"It was about twelve years ago," She said. A moment later, she told her story.
"My brother Johnny hustled a lot of women. Most of them to the mob. After they got what they wanted, they'd kill them. Most of them, I knew. When the mafia got what they wanted out of them, they'd brutally kill them. Johnny took photos of it. Of course, the mafia didn't know. If they found out, they would have killed him right there. That was when Luciano was in power; some time back in 1929. I found out and forced him to stop by threatening to turn him to the police." Simone said.
Marc listened. He knew where she was going with this now. He pulled out his pipe and filled it with his favorite tobacco and lit it.
"Johnny must have been blackmailing them." Marc said. "The mob works that way with black mail. If you owe them money, they won't kill you. They will beat you until you wish you were dead. They won't kill you because then they won't get their money." Marc replied puffing on his pipe.
Simone closed her eyes. It was the ugly truth that Marc had said out loud. Johnny was blackmailing the mob; a nasty thing to do. "Simone, how long did he do it?"
"I can't say for sure. But he did it for a while."
"And we can't prove that the mafia killed him." Marc said.
He stood up and paced around the room and Simone took a seat on the bed.
"Which group was it that he was black mailing?" Marc asked.
"I don't know the name of it..it's bunch of Italians..."
Marc closed his eyes and sighed.
Marc closed his eyes and sighed; La Cosa Nostra. The most ruthless group of people running the streets.
"IF the mafia ordered a hit, Vito Genovese must have been the one, receiving the mail. He would be the one to order the hit. But we can't prove it. For all we know, he really pissed someone else off. And Simone I hope to god that it wasn't the mob." Marc said. He flashed back to Tim O'Leary. How he killed Tim's brother in cold blood. Marc didn't regret it. It sent a message.
Marc killed more than just O'Leary's brother. But La Cosa Nostra was different. Vito Genovese would order a hit if you looked at him funny; or it was as if it seemed like it.
Marc walked over to the phone in the hotel room. Paused and turned around to Simone. "What time do you have to be on the set tomorrow?"
"I have to be there by seven a.m." She said.
Marc picked up the phone and dialed Joseph Zeo's phone number. After three rings, Joseph picked up.
"Zeo, it's Marc. I need to you to come to a hotel. Go onto 2nd Street from Jame's Street. It's the run down building on the right. Park behind the building. You'll see her Mercedes and my car. I've got something to tell you that' isn't safe on the phone lines. When you walk in, tell the bell hop that you're a close friend of mine." Marc said.
With that Marc hung up the phone. He emptied the ashes in his pipe and lit up another one. They sat in silence waiting on Zeo to come in.
The Buick pulled up to Joseph’s place and they both got out. As Joseph unlocked the door and opened it, the phone began to ring. He ran to answer it while Riza plopped down on a chair with her feet up on the coffee table.
“Yes, alright, ok, got it. I’ll be right there,” he said, and hung up the phone. “Marc needs us at some hotel on Second and James. He sounded worried,” Joseph said, turning to face Riza.
“God, I just sat down!” she exclaimed. “Fine, fine,” she said at a disapproving look from Joseph, grumbling as she got up, “Let’s go.” Joseph led the way out and got into the driver’s seat of his car.
“Move, I’m driving,” Riza said, pushing Joseph aside into the passenger seat, slamming the door shut, and hitting the gas pedal. “Wait, wha-” Joseph exclaimed as the Buick sped off at top speed through traffic, slamming Joseph right into the side window. They dodged cars and flew down side alleyways, amidst the yelling of several angry drivers and pedestrians.
Soon they arrived at their destination: a rather old-run down building, probably festering with roaches. “Woman, you have issues,” Joseph said, rubbing his left temple as they got out of the car. He knew he was probably the only one who could say that to her without getting shot.
“So, Marc brought the ‘princess’ to this place?” Riza asked skeptically as they approached, looking the structure up and down. “Somehow this doesn’t scream class to me.” She smirked at seeing the bemused look on Joseph’s face.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said, leading them inside. A short man in a green uniform, whom Riza assumed to be the bellhop, has standing off to the side, gesturing wildly to an old woman. As they approached, they caught a bit of his conversation. “I’m sorry miss, but I can’t do anything about the smell. You’ll have to talk to the manager. He’s-” he broke off as the woman threw her hands up in the air and walked away.
“We’re close friends of Marc’s,” Joseph muttered into the man’s ear as he sidled up to him surreptitiously.
“Ah, ok, come with me,” the bellhop said, darting his eyes around. He gestured towards the stairwell.
One filthy climb later, they veered off down a side passageway and came to a door at the far end of the hallway. “Disgusting,” Riza commented, trying to rub roach carcasses off her stilettos onto the just-as-dirty carpet.
“Thanks,” Joseph said, turning to the bellhop, but he had disappeared. Riza and Joseph looked at each other. Riza shrugged.
Joseph knocked at the door. Once. Twice. Three times. There was no answer.
“Stand back,” Riza said. Joseph moved aside. Riza raised her leg up high, and brought the heel of her boot down hard on the doorknob. The sickening crack of splintering wood followed as pieces went flying everywhere.
Joseph pulled his gun out, and slowly pushed the door open. They both entered the room. It was very dark inside, and it was hard to see much of anything. The smell of tobacco, stale urine, and sweat reached their nostrils; quite an unpleasant combination.
“Marc?” Joseph called out warily into the darkness of the single room. A shadowy figure moved on the right. “Riza, don’t move!” Joseph shouted, tumbling and turning, firing a shot at something behind her.
“Damn!” came a husky voice out of the darkness as it collapsed to the floor. Joseph came right up to the figure and grabbed him by the collar. “What have you done to Marc and Simone? Answer me!” he screamed at the silently smirking figure that was dripping blood out from his left arm.
The sound of gunshots firing and a high-pitched woman’s scream from down the hall snapped everyone’s heads to the open door. “Let’s go,” Riza said shakily, drawing out her pistol.
Joseph slammed the man against the wall hard, causing him to lose consciousness and slide down. He dashed down the hallway with Riza right behind him. They stopped short at what they saw unfolding.
Marc held his Colt .45 at Simone between her eyes. His whole body was shaking.
"What the hell's going on?" Zeo barked.
"Marc, that's Ms. Summers you're pointing at. Are you alright?" Riza asked. Marc shook his head clear and looked around.
"Joseph? Riza? I thought I was attacked." Marc replied, sounding as if he had marble in his mouth.
"There was a man in your room. What's going on?" Riza continued.
"I... don't know. Simone was in the bathroom taking a shower then my head became heavy and someone must have knocked me out." Marc's voice was still blurry from the dizziness, "when I woke I saw someone close by and by instinct I took out my gun and fired."
"It was me! You almost shot me!" Simone screamed. Even in a panicking mode her voice was still the sound of fairies. "When I came out of the shower the bedroom was really dark. A voice asked me 'where are the photos'. In panic I hit the man with an ashtray and ran."
"Then how come Marc was with you?" Zeo asked.
"I... I took Marc with me when I ran," was Simone's reply.
"You 'took' an unconscious man with you when you ran?"
"I couldn't leave my bodyguard behind now, could I?" Simone said. There was no sarcasm in her voice.
"Guys, let's return to the room and see to this mystery man first." Riza reminded everyone cooly. They all headed back to the room but the man was already gone.
"Did you get a good look at the guy?" Zeo asked Simone and Marc, but they both shook their heads. "What about the voice, Simone. Is he someone you recognize?
"I don't think so, but it could be one of the people Johnny used to hang with." She replied, "He wanted the photos, but I really have no idea where my brother hid them. I had searched Johnny's place already, but found nothing." Simone wrote down an address on a piece of hotel napkin and gave it to Zeo. "Perhaps you'll have better luck?"
"I will get Vulkie on it, since I have to shoot tomorrow as well, and Marc should never leave your side. " Zeo replied. (con'td)
"I have no idea what came over me today, but I promise it won't happen again." Marc firmly stated. "It's strange. I was sure the door was locked..."
"This is no longer a safe place, and I am sure the man recognized Simone's car outside. Mame, I don't think you should be using that car anymore." Simone nodded. Zeo then suggested to go to his office for the night, and they all drove there in Zeo's car.
When everyone finally settled down, Marc told Riza and Zeo their account of the man in Simone's villa, and everything the lady had told her bodyguard.
"Yes, I believe the words on the street was that Johnny was hustling women for the mob as well, as to blackmailing them... the guy got some crazy nerves." Zeo replied.
Simone sighed. In her charming voice she remarked, "my brother was always running on the wild side of things... I've tried to tell him many many times..." she swallowed a tear.
Zeo was silent and waited for those finely drawn brows of hers to relax before he continue, "Simone, did Johnny ever asked you to leave Salazar's productions for another studio?"
Simone was shocked. "How did you know about that? I thought Johnny was discreet."
"So he did asked you." Zeo concluded, and Simone nodded.
"Johnny did a lot of things. He was always trying to make a name for himself, but I do have my own future to look after as well. The other studio's offer was tempting though, and I did thought about switching over. Salazar found out about it and had a huge argument with Johnny, claimed that Johnny was stealing from him. Of course, Johnny won the fist fight and left Salazar with a black eye. I don't think Salazar ever forgive or forget."
"And this happened, when?" Marc questioned.
"About a week before Johnny... Johnny... but no, I don't think my dear director is a murderer. Besides, he is too... short... to lift Johnny over the edge." Simone chimed.
"But he could've got someone else to do it for him..." Marc remarked.
Zeo pull in hard on his cigarette and exhaled slowly. "Don't worry, I'll get shorty to talk tomorrow." Riza offered. She stroked her trusted stiletto inside her breast pocket.
"As to the threatening note," Zeo continued, "we found the glue used to paste the note together in the waste basket in your dressing room and the cut newspaper in the guard's room."
Simone froze, "What you do mean?"
"Probably an inside job." Zeo replied. I shall do some asking around tomorrow to find out if anyone saw anything. I don't need to report in until 9:00 in the morning, but I shall go to the set a bit early for a bit of chat up."
"Is that necessary? Don't we know that it's the mob who did this?"
"No, if it really was Genovese's men, they would've came to you directly. Those people don't do notes. I have a feeling it's someone within the set. There's definitely more to the story."
"Wow, detective Zeo, you're early. You actually don't have anything until..." Martin checked his roster, "Nine o'clock." He finished confidently.
"Yes, I just wanna come in earlier to rehearse my line. If I don't glue to my script the director is going to fume again." Zeo winked with a smirk on his face.
"True, true. I'm really sorry about this detective Z..."
"Don't worry about it Martin. By the way, did you see anyone suspicious yesterday on the set? Any strangers, any one you know acting funny?"
"Well, I think most actors in here 'act funny', but I don't think that's what you were referring to. No, anyone had just been their normal selves yesterday... but I did see a stranger coming into the set when I left..."
Zeo tensed. "Describe the person to me." Martin did. Zeo exhaled. "Oh, that's just my friend, Riza Hawkeye. Did you see someone else?" Martin shook his head. Zeo thanked the helpful assistant nevertheless, and proceeded to the guard's office.
On the way, he noticed that Simone was already sitting on the set running her lines with the lead actor. Not far away, Zeo could spot Marc crouching in a dark corner, poised. His friend's eyes never left Simone. Zeo knew he found the right bodyguard for the lady.
As Zeo was about to push open the door to the security room, and he heard a guard inside describing to another about how he fought off three men but ended up being knocked unconscious. Zeo knew the guard must be exaggerating his account of the 'nosebleed' Riza gave him last night. He removed his smirk on the face and knocked.
"Excuse me gentlemen, good day to you..." Zeo flashed his most congenial smile.
"Oh look, is that real detective in that surreal dick costume. What can I do for you sir?"
"Yes, this shiny jacket is totally ridiculous." They laughed together. "I don't have anything to do so I thought i can spend some time in here. The smell of your coffee is just amazing. May I grab a cup?"
"Sure, help yourself. Anything for someone in the similar line of business." One of the guard replied.
Zeo poured a cup and sat himself on the dirty tattered couch. "So, does some of the crew member come in here to chat, say yesterday around morning or mid day?"
"Yeah yeah, some do. Yesterday, Martin did come in. Nice chap. He dumped some old newspaper, said he was cleaning out other dressing rooms and found them. Thought we might want to read them." The guard with the nosebleed replied.
"Oh, did he?" Zeo continued to sip his coffee and directed the conversation to other unimportant issues until he finished his drink, thanked the guards and left.
Salazar, Martin, Simone... were there more people involved? Zeo wondered. The more he thought about it, the more he found oddity in the threatening note. Something was wrong, but he just couldn't pin point what it was. Just then, Martin called for Zeo to standby for the shoot.
Marc had never felt more embarrassed in his life. He offered to protect this girl with his life. But the one second he turned his back, BOOM! He screwed up. Resulting in them both being nearly killed. It was a humiliation, he hoped that no one would bring back to him.
He wanted to hold his head down in shame, but he couldn't. It would be unprofessional. He knew he would need to learn from this. He lived by that saying, "we learn from our mistakes".
As Marc watched Simone say her lines during the filming, he found himself in deep thought. There was something about her. Something different...she was hiding something and he knew it. But what was it? It was obvious she had a dark secret.
Maybe he made the mistake of taking her to that hotel run by The Order of Socrates. But then again, maybe not. Maybe they had been followed. It had to be someone inside the set. It had to be! Marc was sure of it! If it had been Genovese ordering a hit, he would have sent five or six people to carry out the deed. Not just one.
Marc reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his pipe and favorite tobacco. He lit it.
"No smoking on the set, pal," Someone yelled to him. Marc quickly cut the man a look; a look designed to inflict intimidation. Marc was pissed off as it was. "Get over it," Marc replied calmly and began puffing on his pipe.
The filming went on for hours with Zeo coming on and off the set getting ready for the next scene.
"And cut! Take a 20 minute break, then get your asses back into place!" The director yelled.
With out a word Simone walked to her dressing room, where Marc followed her, now puffing on his fifth pipe of the day. People often asked him what it that pipe was for and he replied that it relaxed him. And that was exactly what he told Simone when she asked.
Marc had been sitting down for no more than two minutes when the door opened up. Instinct took over. Marc jumped up pulling out both pistols and aimed them at the figure in the door way.
"Whoa there, Marc. It's me," the figure said.
Then they walked in the door and began to speak.
[ You must login to reply ]