BACKLOT REQUIEM
[Excerpt from Chapter 5]


     Walking back to the car, dense fog gave the double electroliers on Sunset a fuzzy halo. Violet's shawl was mostly for show and she shivered and I took off my coat and put it around her shoulders. I put my arm around her and we walked back to Ciro's. Nobody followed us, I looked.

     But as I pulled the Studebaker out onto Sunset and turned left, the headlights of a car across the street came on and the car fell in behind us. Violet curled her legs up on the seat and leaned against me. I watched the rear-view mirror as I drove and took Holloway at the wye and then turned left up the hill on La Cienega and then the quick right onto Fountain. The mystery car was still there on our tail. I went up La Brea to Franklin to Sycamore, turning right and finding a spot at the curb to park. When I got out I saw a pair of headlights up at the corner go dim.

     Violet gave me back my coat and I put it on as we walked up the sidewalk to her building. She had her key out and opened the door and led me inside. She hummed and moved her hips around in a circle and tapped her toe as we waited for the elevator. Inside the elevator, she held my hand. After her door was open, I pulled her to me and expressed my thanks for an extremely enjoyable evening by kissing her soundly. She kissed me back. When I let go of her, she blinked several times. I asked for her telephone number and tapped my finger on her nose and said that I had work to do but I would call in a day or two to take her out again. She smiled and winked at me and stepped inside the apartment and closed the door.

     It was several minutes before I realized that I'd been standing by the elevator humming and had forgotten to push the down button.

     Outside, the fog had gotten thicker and I had to use the windshield wipers. There is an alley just behind the row of buildings that face on the boulevard, and I drove down Sycamore and turned into the alley and quickly reversed and shot back up the street and flipped on the high beams. I glanced out the window as I passed the mystery car that had started again to follow me. It was a Ford, a black coupe. The driver was a big lug that I vaguely recognized, some guy that I had seen around town sometime, somewhere. I turned right on Franklin at the corner and ran a yellow light at Highland and cut under the freeway and went south on Cahuenga and pulled over and waited. I'd shaken him off for now, but he could pick me up easy enough at the office.

     By the time I got home and put on my pajamas and tucked myself into bed, I remembered the identity of the gunsel who had been following me. Big Gus. Just a gunsel, in and out of jail, a hired man. So who was Big Gus working for and why the tail?

Copyright 1999 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved

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