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Authors: Adrienne & Scott Barbeau,Adrienne & Scott Barbeau

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction

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BOOK: Vampyres of Hollywood
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“You got a cell phone, Benny?”

“Of course, man. I’m an entrepreneur. How you think I’m gonna do business without a phone, sittin’ here in the street.” He pulled it out and I grabbed it. It was the latest model, picture phone, MP3, movies, the works.

“You’re not doing business for the next hour or so,” I told him, pocketing the cell. “I’m heading over to Anticipation and I don’t want your lady friend to know I’m coming. So you sit tight, sell some maps, save some souls, and I’ll give this little toy back to you when I’m done.” I handed Benny the Bible he had propped up against the curb. “Do a little more studying. Learn how to spell ‘Bible.’ And have a look at the section that talks about bathing. I think it’s in Revelations.”

Chapter Five
 

 

The first offices I rented for Anticipation Studios were on Robertson above Michel Richard. The former tenant warned me about the dangers of working above a patisserie. I don’t know what she looked like when she moved in, but when she took her name off the door she weighed at least 250 pounds. I wasn’t worried. I can enjoy the taste of food if the smell isn’t too overwhelming, but I don’t eat. Not unless I absolutely have to, to guard my secret. And in this town, no one blinks an eye if you’re starving yourself. It’s become the chic way to get press coverage.

DeWitte, on the other hand, has a cholesterol problem and self-control issues, so when I took him on as a partner, he insisted we move. He claimed he’d put on twenty pounds just breathing in the sticky-sweet, cinnamon bread–scented air. I was still a little in love with him at the time so I agreed, and suddenly found myself paying a fortune for a beautiful suite of offices on South Beverly Drive. After
Tell Me What You’ve Seen
broke the 50-million mark, I bought the building. I like it because it’s very old-world: weathered brick and stone, three stories, with dark paneling and a cherrywood circular staircase leading up to the second floor. It’s unexpectedly grand in the midst of the modern bank buildings on the corner and across the street. The only trade-off is no parking garage. We use a valet to take our cars.

It was 1:30 by the time Maral pulled up in front of the building. She handed the keys to Jesus the valet and I hopped out, strode across the sidewalk, and pulled opened the huge wooden door.

The lobby of my building is designed to put you in mind of a very exclusive European hotel. It reminds me of happy days long ago in Vienna and Turin when I was singing and dancing to Johann’s music. In the center of the room, bounded on either side by the circular staircases and right below a magnificent two-story crystal chandelier, is the receptionists’ desk, where Ilona Anderson greets visitors and Sveta Tunyova offers them refreshments. Both girls have been with me since I took over these offices.

Neither was in sight.

Instead, standing in front of their desk with his arms folded over his chest and his feet planted wide apart was some bald-headed, tattooed steroid freak. He had a wispy white goatee and an earring in one ear and was wearing army surplus combat pants and fourteen-hole Doc Martens. He looked like an ad for Mr. Clean in Iraq.

“Yeah? Can I help you? Empty your pocketbooks.” He must be a Jersey boy, I thought. Who else says “pocketbook” in L.A.? His voice sounded like his testicles had already shrunk from the ’roids.

“Who the hell are you? And where’re Sveta and Ilona?” If Thomas had dragged this guy over from his morning activities at the S&M club, heads were going to roll. Literally. I can do that when I’m angry. And the way this day was shaping up, I was headed in that direction.

I wasn’t waiting for an answer. As I started up the stairs, the guy moved in front of me to block my way. “Listen, lady, I don’t know who you are…”

“That’s your first mistake…”

“…but you’re not getting past me without some ID and a search.”

He put his hands on my chest and pushed. I freaked. No one touches me without my permission. “And that’s your second.”

I grabbed his left wrist with my left hand, spun him around, pinned his arm against his back, and squeezed the pressure points on his right shoulder with my right hand. Mr. Spock would have been proud of me. Mr. Clean went down hard on his knees—I heard them pop on the marble floor—and started screaming.

“Now look…,” I said, fairly calmly.

“Anthony! I’m Anthony!” His voice had gone up an octave. “Mr. DeWitte hired me to be his bodyguard. Please, lady, let go!”

I loosened my grip but kept him on his knees facing away from me. Maral was staring at me like a kindergarten teacher whose class has gotten out of hand. She thought she knew what I was capable of; in truth, she didn’t have a clue. I’ve never had to demonstrate in front of her.

“Now, Anthony. I don’t take kindly to being strong-armed. Mr. DeWitte didn’t do you any favors, turning you loose without giving you a scorecard. I’m one of the key players. In fact, I am
the
key player and you should have known that.”

“Hey, all I know is Mr. DeWitte said don’t let nobody upstairs without seeing some ID.” He’d stopped struggling and was just sitting on his knees. “You’re hurting my arm, lady.”

“You’re lucky I don’t snap it off. Do you see the pictures on the walls, Anthony?” I caught his jaw in my free hand and twisted it to face the framed posters on the wall. “That’s my ID. I’m Ovsanna Moore. I own this building. I own Anticipation Studios. That means I own Thomas DeWitte, too. Now, I’m basically a nice person, Anthony, and I’m sorry his paranoia has put you in this position, but if you’re going to stay on, you’re going to have to learn some manners. I’m very big on good manners, Anthony. That should have been in the job description.” I jerked him to his feet and straightened his rumpled jacket; then I started up the stairs to save him any more embarrassment. “Maral, stay with Mr. Anthony, would you please. Maybe you can give him a crash course on how to make nice and keep us all safe at the same time. Either that or take him out and buy him some antiperspirant.”

I walked into Thomas’s outer office and slammed the door, restraining myself at the last minute so I didn’t rip it out of its frame.

Chapter Six
 

 

SANTA CLARITA
1:30
P.M.

 

I left Benny in his lounge chair and made a U on Rexford. I’d take Coldwater over the hill and then the 405 to Magic Mountain. Anticipation Studios are in Santa Clarita. At least at this time of day, I was going against the traffic.

Driving away, I realized that Benny is probably making more with his roadside scam than I am as a BHPD detective. And if I can believe his rap, he’s getting laid more, too.

You’d think I’d have better luck with women, between the Jag and the badge and the publicity that came with the medal. According to the
L.A. Times
profile that I have stuck to the inside of my locker, I’m “just short of movie star handsome, with black wavy hair, hazel eyes and a nose that goes a little awry.” Getting it broken twice in one year will do that to you; I’m lucky I can still breathe. And the description is more or less correct, even if it doesn’t mention my winning personality, ready wit, and charm. But I’m clean, I make sure I smell good, and I read
GQ
before I go clothes shopping, so it’s not the externals that have me sleeping alone. I’m pretty sure I’ve got some underlying ambivalence going on.

My friend SuzieQ says if I don’t figure out why I’m only attracted to women who are unattainable I’ll never get married again. When I told SuzieQ I thought I was “once bitten, twice shy,” she said everyone’s entitled to one mistake. Calling my marriage to Jenny a mistake is like calling the Vietnam War a minor error in judgment. Neither needs repeating.

SuzieQ is my tenant. She lives in the guesthouse on my property along with a seven-foot diamondback boa and a fifteen-foot albino python that she uses in her act. I always make it a point to knock. She keeps track of my comings and goings without a trace of embarrassment at invading my privacy. I just wish I were doing something I didn’t want her to invade.

The truth is I’m not that interested in just getting laid for the sake of getting laid. It’s been eight months since my last serious relationship, and I wouldn’t mind meeting someone to do the deed with, but not just short-term; I’m too busy on the job to waste my energy.

But it would be Christmas in a couple of weeks, and the thought of spending Christmas alone was beginning to bother me. There’s nothing lonelier than waking up on Christmas morning in an empty bed. Well, there is actually: waking up on New Year’s Day in an empty bed. I’ve done both and neither is fun.

As soon as I hit the Valley the temp in the Jag spiked another ten degrees. That’s the only problem with classic cars; they lack all the luxuries of the new ones. My AC was working overtime. The Santa Anas were blowing and the sky was a pale, clear blue instead of the usual layer of brown. I could see homes forty miles away in the mountain range ahead of me, separated by acres of scrub. I always wonder about people who live isolated like that. Why? What are their lives like? Do they know their neighbors? How often do they drive into the city? I couldn’t live way out in the boonies like that. I’m a city boy.

I love L.A. I love the way the smog turns the sky outrageous shades of orange and pink and purple right before the sun sets. I love the fact that I can find anything I want in some part of town and that on Wednesday evenings I can put my recyclables out and they’re gone Thursday morning, that the fruit in my twenty-four-hour grocery store is so amazingly gorgeous I take visitors there to gawk at it, that the hardware store is open 5:00
A.M.
to 11:00
P.M.
and the bookstore is open 8:00
A.M.
to midnight…and that there are always people there. I can buy an Alka-Seltzer or an assault rifle—often in the same store—at any time of the day or night.

Which is why I’ve got to catch this Cinema Slayer fast. I blow this and the closest I’ll get to L.A. is patrolling cow pastures in Bakersfield.

My cell phone rang. Caller ID said it was the Captain, calling on his private line. For one moment I thought about ignoring it, but I knew if I wanted to stay in L.A., I’d better answer. “This is Detective King.” I don’t like reminding people I’ve got caller ID, so I never use anyone’s name when I answer.

“Captain Barton.”

Captain Philip Barton’s voice sounded even tighter and more clipped on the phone than in person. He had a habit of stating the obvious, speaking in little spurts and pursing his lips between sentences. “Cinema Slayer: update?”

“I’m heading out to Santa Clarita. Ovsanna Moore is shooting at Anticipation out there and there’s someone there I need to talk to.”

I could hear paper rustling. “Anticipation. The second vic, Mai Goulart, just finished a movie for them.”

“I know, Captain. That’s why I’m going out there.” I wasn’t ready to give him details, not till I’d had a face-to-face with Benny’s blood-making bed buddy.

There was a long exasperated sigh down the line. “This case is a pain in my ass, Peter. I’ve got actors, agents, and lawyers freaking out all over town. I need some action.”

“I know, Captain. There’s movement, believe me.”

The Captain’s voice dropped a notch. “I had a call a while ago. The sharks are already sniffing around, talking about movie rights to the investigation.” Coming from the reticent Captain, this was positively loquacious.

“Oh yeah?” Of course. Laci Peterson’s film was on the air before the jury was chosen. I caught my own reflection in the rearview mirror. “Maybe they’ll offer me a role.” I always wanted to play myself in a movie—nothing big, just a bit part, something sexy and heroic.

“Never happen. You’re not good-looking enough.” Said without a trace of irony; the bastard was serious. Damn. Evidently he’d forgotten my news clippings from the L.A. River rescue. He resorted to stating the obvious. “Find this guy. He kills again and the whole town shuts down. You know the suits won’t blame the killer—you’ll take the fall.”

I’ll take the fall. Not the Captain, not the department. Me. Peter King, Ace Detective. It won’t sound as good with an “ex” in front of it.

 

 

I’ve got a gold shield in my wallet, a police scanner in my car, and a Glock 17L strapped to my waist. I’ve got tickets to the Police Benevolent Fund under my visor. You’d think I could have gotten through the gate at Anticipation Studios in less than twenty minutes. Nope. The guard had to check my driver’s license, call the Anticipation production offices, get a “drive-on,” and write out a form with my name, car license, and temporarily assigned parking spot. Except for having to sit there while my engine overheated, I didn’t mind. It told me no one was getting in or out of the studio without being spotted, videoed, and tagged. Might make my life easier later on.

“Everyone get this treatment?” The security guard’s name tag read: “Oliver Gant.” He looked old enough to have worked for D. W. Griffith.

“Well, it used to be if you had a permanent parking sticker on your windshield, I’d just open up the gate. But since 9/11 my instructions are to check the licenses, pop the trunk, and look under the car.” He’d rolled out a dolly that looked like a carpet sweeper with a mirror on its flat surface, sort of a reverse periscope. “I’m supposed to do everyone, and I do. ’Cepting Miss Moore, of course, and Mr. DeWitte. She don’t mind if I stop her, but he gets mighty cranky. I keep telling him, someone could plant a bomb under his car and he’d never know it, but he just barrels on through. Doesn’t make Miss Moore any too happy when she sees it.”

“Any reason you’d think that? About Mr. DeWitte and a car bomb, I mean? He have many enemies?”

Gant was running the mirror under the car. “Looks like you’ll be needing a new exhaust.”

I got out of the car to take a look. Reflected in the mirror were patches of rust dappling the exhaust pipe. Shit.

“Too many enemies,” Gant said abruptly. It took me a second to come back to him. I was thinking about a studio exec I knew over at Disney. The guy was a jerk, but he had good taste in cars—and the same year XKE as mine. Maybe I could get someone in traffic to impound his car; it’d only take me a couple of hours to switch exhausts. He was working for the mouse; he could afford a new one quicker than I could.

Gant was still talking, “He thinks he’s a throwback to Louis B. Mayer. Doesn’t treat people too nice.”

He finally had my attention. “Any examples?”

“Well, when Miss Goulart was killed, for instance. Miss Moore was really cut up about it. She runs the studio, you know, not DeWitte. She made a speech to the crew and everything, closed the set for two days. Not DeWitte. He started bitching about having to recast her part. And then he went golfing. Didn’t show a lot of respect, if you ask me.” He pulled the dolly out from under my car and pushed it back toward the gatehouse. “You’re all done, Detective. Sorry to have delayed you.”

“It’s okay, Officer Gant. You’ve been more than helpful. Let me ask you another question. Any rumors about DeWitte and any of the ladies on the set? Mai Goulart, for instance, or Ovsanna Moore?”

He chuckled. “No sir, no siree, Detective. Mr. DeWitte’s interests lay in a different direction, if you know what I mean.” He paused and added, “His boyfriend, though, the one directing
Hallowed Night
over on Stage Three, Neville Travis, he fancied Miss Goulart like mad. He’s a switch-hitter, if you know what I mean.”

I scribbled a quick note in my notebook. The names were beginning to mount up. And all of them linked to Anticipation. “Is Travis on the set today?”

“He was, until a couple of hours ago.” He wheezed a quick laugh. “Miss Moore had him thrown out, lock, stock, and barrel. Shut down the set for the rest of the day. Actually, I got you parking in his space. That Miss Moore’s a pistol. Just like her mother.”

“You knew her mother?” I was right when I said D. W. Griffith.

“Worked for her. That was a long time ago. Her daughter’s just like her. Both of ’em powerhouses. Opinionated. Talented. Beautiful. They could have been twins.”

“And this director, Travis, you say he had a thing for Mai Goulart?”

Gant nodded. “They met on the set of
Vatican Vampyres
. I’m not so sure she had a thing for him, though. But it’s tough for a young star to say no to a director, even a jerk like Travis. She used to come to me in tears, sometimes, asking me to make sure she got out of the parking lot way ahead of him so he couldn’t follow her.”

“Follow her? Was she afraid of him? Was he stalking her?”

“Naw, I think she was more afraid of what might happen if DeWitte found out.”

I made a few more notes. “You think DeWitte knew?”

“Go see the movie, son. It’s up there on the screen. The kid was directing the second unit: He never took his camera off her face. Even when it was supposed to be just long shots and stunts and stuff. Everyone knew. Travis tailed after her like a puppy dog. Only way DeWitte would have missed it was if he slept through the movie.”

“I need addresses for all the principals: Moore, DeWitte, Travis.”

“You’ll get those in the office. After you park, walk down past the barbecue and the catering truck, cross through the honey wagons, and go around to the other side of Studio One. The offices are there.”

He handed me a map of the parking lot with an
x
on the spot he’d assigned me. When I reached it, I discovered it was two spaces away from Thomas DeWitte’s. DeWitte’s was empty. So was Ovsanna Moore’s.

Fine with me. I wanted to ask questions without having to answer any, and I’ve found people are a little more open when the boss isn’t around.

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