Authors: Susan Kandel
IN THE GREEN ROOM
S U S A N K A N D E L
Playing it cool wasn’t in my repertoire, but that didn’t…
The cabbie driving us into the city had a buzz…
It was alarming how easily I went into full-lecture mode.
We made it on to a ten o’clock flight, but…
Coffee still costs a nickel at Philippe’s, home of the…
Oh, honey, not my Norma Kamali coat from the eighties!”… 45
Tuesday morning and Rafe and I were back at it…
I called Rafe at nine the next morning. He picked…
I sat in my car for a long time.
Detective Smarinsky wasn’t available the first time
I tried him…
The one saving grace of the morning was Smarinsky
It didn’t occur to me to be scared. What I…
I was still thinking about Flitcraft later that evening.
Lisa Lapelt Scofield lived in a modest Cape Cod–style
I spent the evening at Annie’s.
It was five in the morning when I awoke to…
In all the commotion I wound up missing breakfast,
Another round of Beverly Hills iced teas later, we went…
One hour later, while trying to load a microfilm cartridge…
I saw Gambino through the shattered glass of the dining…
Nine-thirty on the Venice canals. The Chinese lanterns
I don’t know why I did it, I thought, draping…
A person who lives in a trailer park probably has…
There was one place I wanted to stop on my…
It’ll take a miracle,” I heard someone say.
But it was a black Land Rover that hopped the…
Gambino came over sometime after midnight. He held
There was no scar on Rafe’s cheek. Not a trace…
Eleanor Lonner didn’t live in the El Royale or in…
The defogger in my rental worked brilliantly, which
In point of fact, I was the reason Gambino no…
Banana cream, Bavarian cream, Dutch apple, black
cherry, pecan, pumpkin,…
At eleven-thirty, I heard Gambino’s key in the lock.
Even if she’d been expecting me, I don’t think Lisa…
Later that evening, after Gambino had fallen asleep,
It wasn’t made of glass, but when I slipped the…
Hey, Cece,” he said. “Fancy meeting you here! What’re
That was Friday.
Playing it cool wasn’t in my repertoire, but that didn’t mean
I couldn’t fake it.
I leaned against my silver Camry, ran my fingers through
my hair, and laughed insouciantly.
“You’re kidding, right?” asked my best friend, Lael.
“Ooh,” said my daughter, Annie. “You probably shouldn’t
have worn white.”
I swatted at a bee while trying to remember the last time I’d
gone to a car wash.
“Bees love perfume,” yelled my second-best friend, Bridget,
who was walking up the path toward my house. “And I can
smell yours from here.”
“Isn’t this exciting?” asked my neighbor Lois, of no one in
particular. “Don’t lose your place in line, now,” she chided her
twin sister, Marlene, who was placing a can of cat food in the
driveway for the local strays. The bees headed her way, favoring
savory salmon over spicy Oriental notes. “It isn’t every day that
Cece has a gentleman caller.”
My fiancé, Peter Gambino, glowered at her.
“For the last time, he’s not a gentleman caller.” I twisted
around to brush the dust off my fur-trimmed wool pencil skirt
(Pierre Balmain, 1959)—which was ivory, not white, and
hardly designed for such maneuvers. “It’s business. He’s hired
me for the week.”
“We’ve seen Pretty Woman,” said Marlene in a hushed tone.
Oh, they were evil, my friends and family, of which there
suddenly seemed to be far too many. I lifted up my Jackie O
sunglasses and frowned at the lot of them, lined up so inno-
cently on the front lawn of my house. Not for the first time was
I struck by the morphological similarity between welcoming
committees and firing squads. Poor man didn’t know what he
was in for.
“Cece needs a lint brush,” said my son-in-law, Vincent.
Like they cared.
“Do I have time to change?” I wondered out loud.
Eight people consulted watches.
“It’s one minute to ten,” cautioned Hilda, my gardener
Javier’s thirteen-year-old niece.
Five people hoisted cameras.
“Promptness is the politesse of kings,” said Lois, bending
down to wipe some grime off her scuffed patent leather pump.
I’d have gone for the stain on her dressing gown, which looked
like motor oil.
Three people clutched autograph books.
“How about one of those cookies?” Bridget asked Lael, who
slapped her outstretched hand.
Two women wiped lipstick off their teeth.
One little boy burped.
“Good job,” said Vincent, his father, at the very same mo-
ment that Rafe Simic, world-famous movie star, he of the rip-
pling biceps and laid-back attitude, pulled up in front of the
house and hit a fire hydrant, sending a torrent of L.A. munici-
pal water high up into the air.
“Water,” said Alexander, enraptured.
“Actors,” said Gambino under his breath. “Get a real job.”
The flashbulbs went off as Rafe stepped out of something
shiny, green, and foreign. Hitching up his jeans, which were
riding low on his slim hips, he ambled around to inspect the
front fender. Not even a scratch. He strode toward me through
a shimmering scrim of water, like the Southern California
born-and-bred Neptune he was.
I met him halfway.
Nothing fazes Cece Caruso.
“I’ve been meaning to get a new hydrant,” I said.
He brushed a strand of blond hair out of his depthless blue
eyes, which I barely even noticed. The smile I did notice. It
moved slowly, like molasses.
“Hold on, you got something there.” He plucked some ole-
ander out of my long, brown hair and handed it to me.
Nothing good happens when you refuse a gift from the gods.
“I’ll take that,” said Annie, who had been in love with
Rafe Simic since we’d moved to L.A. when she was still a lit-
“Your sister?” Rafe asked, looking at me.
“Her daughter,” said Annie, overenunciating each syllable.
She tucked the blossom into the pocket of her overalls.
“I was a child bride,” I explained.
“And now the matriarch of the clan,” said Gambino,
grabbing three-year-old Alexander from his father and wield-
ing him as proof.
That wasn’t aggressive. Not exactly.
“Peter Gambino,” he said, tucking Alexander under his arm
sideways and sticking out his hand. “LAPD.”
That was aggressive.
Little Alexander freed himself and scrambled over to An-
nie. “Tummy hurts,” he said, though it sounded like “twoots.”
He had a Jolly Rancher in his mouth.
“We’re leaving, sweetheart,” Annie replied. “Have a good
time in San Francisco.” She looked at me pointedly. “Oleander
is poisonous, you know.”
“Yes, dear,” I responded, kissing her cheek.
Rafe posed for a picture with Annie before she left. From
there, he worked his way down the line. He had a profound ef-
fect upon the womenfolk. Hilda’s mouth was hanging so far
open I could see the food stuck in her braces. My neighbors
Lois and Marlene, former showgirls now in their dotage (and
I do mean dotage), were openly salivating, having forgotten en-
tirely about my virtue.
“I’ve been enjoying your biography of Dashiell Hammett,”
Rafe said to me once Lois released her death grip. “It’s taking a
while, though.” He laughed self-consciously. “But there’s lots
of useful stuff.”
“Useful is as useful does,” said Marlene, who handed him
her tattered autograph book. “I have Fanny Brice in there.”
“When he was a Pinkerton detective,” I interjected, “Ham-
mett investigated Nicky Arnstein, Fanny Brice’s husband. You
know, from Funny Girl ?”
Rafe looked at me blankly.
“I’m really glad we’re starting in San Francisco,” I contin-
ued, undeterred. “You’ll enjoy seeing the places I talk about in
my book. The offices where Hammett worked his cases, the
restaurants Sam Spade liked to eat at.”
“I’ve been working with a nutritionist,” he interrupted.
“Her name is Siri.”
“Well, Hammett was so thin.”
“He suffered all his life from TB,” I said.