“I have a gambling problem,” I told my therapist. “I can’t control myself. I’ve been acting manically: I’ll have advantageous, uncharacteristic sex with my wife. I sometimes load a bullet into a revolver and stare down the barrel. I’ll go 90 in a school zone. I’ll straight up snort Adderall. What’s wrong with me doc?”
I tailed Maxwell to a rub-n-tug in Santa Monica. I sat in the car and waited. I must have gone through an entire pack of cigarettes. After two hours, I went inside.
“Yes, I’m having pain in my groin region and I need it stretched out,” I told the receptionist.
Maxwell came out with a towel around his waist. “Uh, hi James. It’s not what it looks like.”
“Hello Maxwell,” I said as I feigned stupidity. “What does this look like?”
“I just come here to get my prostate massaged. It gets flared.”
I took out a cigarette. “There’s no smoking in here, sir,” the receptionist said. I replaced it with a toothpick. “You got nothing to worry about with me, Maxwell,” I said. “Remember, I’m not on the LAPD anymore.”
“Right.” He gave an awkward laugh. “Well I guess I’ll see you around.”
I eyeballed him as he walked away.
I followed him around town for a few days…to the bars, to the gay clubs, to Knots Berry Farm…but I couldn’t bust him. I was growing tired. I drank. I tried heroin. But I couldn’t shake him from my mind.
Maxwell was good. Too good. But I knew eventually he’d fuck up. And when he did, I’d be there to bust him.
Finally I caught a break.
He picked up a prostitute off Sunset. They drove up to the hills and pulled off to a stop overlooking the Valley. It was late. Too late.
I had to stay back. I could’ve easily been spotted. I perched on top of a ledge overlooking their spot. The windows fogged up in Maxwell’s car. I couldn’t see in.
After several hours without movement, I feared the worst. I pulled out the 357 and walked towards the vehicle. I opened the passenger side door and there laid a strangled prostitute.
Maxwell was nowhere to be found.
Damn it, I thought. How could he have escaped?
Then I heard a beeping. There in the glove box was a timer counting down to zero. I tried to run but the explosion knocked me back several feet.
I got up and checked myself for injuries. There were none. I’m invincible.
I waited next to the smoldering remains for the fire department and the LA Police Chief to arrive. “You’re no longer on the force,” the Chief said. “The is is an official police investigation.”
“Sir,” I replied, “how well do you trust Ellis Shitburg Maxwell?”
“With LP dead, he’s now my best officer. I’d trust him with my wife.”
“This is Maxwell’s car. Last night there was a dead prostitute inside. Don’t you get it? He’s the Hillside Choker!”
“Now you are way out of line James! Charles Krauthammer was the killer and you busted him! The case is CLOSED! You hear me? CLOSED!”
“Will you listen to reason and evidence? Maxwell and Charles are in cahoots! The mayor said himself that crime has gotten out of hand! Maxwell has taken matters into his own hands! He’s gone renegade sir! RENEGADE!”
The Chief got right in my face. “Now you listen here James, and you listen good. There is no vigilante conspiracy in the LAPD. NONE! Not on my watch! Now I am telling you to walk away from this crime scene before I bring you in as a suspect!”
I walked away.
That night I got drunk and started thinking about LP. I stumbled up to Stacy’s door and began pounding. She just put the kids to bed.
“Have you been drinking,” she asked.
She invited me in poured a vodka. We both sat on the couch.
“How are the kids,” I asked.
“Brutus has taken his father’s death hard. He’s been strangling the neighborhood animals, dissecting them, and leaving the remains on the owner’s porch. Laquisha’s been missing since the funeral.”
I reached out my hand and put it on hers. “And how have you been doing?”
“I’ve been struggling. I just miss LP so much. He was a great husband.”
“I miss him too,” I said.
We both stared into each other’s eyes. We leaned in and kissed.
As I was ramming Stacy silly, I couldn’t help but think of LP… how he was up there watching over us…furiously masturbating in heaven.
I woke up in Vito’s guest house. I was alone. Except for the large bald man standing over me.
“Who the fuck are you?” I asked
“Luigi. Michaela wants to talk to you.”
“Can you give me a minute? I still got morning wood.”
Luigi escorted me through the garden to the large chateau. There, standing in the kitchen, was Michaela holding a glass of brandy.
“Vito died”, she said.
Luigi punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. While on my knees, I tried to catch my breath.
“My condolences, Mrs. Stararo,” I said.
“Don’t give me that shit. What happened to Vito? Where were you?” She asked.
“I think you know where I was.”
Luigi then socked me in the face. I got up and wiped the blood from my nose.
“Does it look like foul play? The man was 90 years old and drunk as hell last night,” I said.
Michaela downed the brandy.
“No,” she replied. “I need to know if I can trust you.”
For good measure, Luigi kicked me in the dick.
“I don’t know who any of you are! I was just hired by some man with a leather briefcase to find Isabella!” I said.
She waved Luigi out of the room and handed me a towel.
“Is this how you treat all your guests?” I asked.
“Sorry, a lot of people have wanted Vito dead for a long time. With him gone, I don’t know if they will come after me,” she said.
Michaela grabbed an ice pack and put it over my eye. “I’m going to need protection,” she said longingly.
“I just got my ass kicked. Are you sure you’re asking the right person?” I replied.
“Don’t go back to LA. Stay here with me.”
“I gotta find Isabella.”
“I don’t know where she is. But as long as she stays away from here, she’ll be safe.”
“I can’t take that chance.”
I grabbed my bowler hat and coat. “I’ll check on you soon. If things get tough, come to LA,” I said.
I took a shot of brandy and departed.
It was clear that Michaela was behind the death of Vito. I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: wife gets jealous of husband, wife kills husband, wife takes husband’s place as head of a crime family. It’s a tale as old as time.
But one thing was clear: Isabella was certainly in trouble.
I arrived at the LA office. The secretary said that the strange man looking for Isabella was sitting in my office. I walked in and hung up my coat.
“Well well well Mr. Italian Leather, perhaps you have answers for me,” I said.
“That’s what we’re paying you for Jimmy,” he replied.
I sat down at the desk and put my feet up. “Who’s ‘we’? Vito’s dead,” I said.
“I know. I see that Luigi paid you a visit,” Mr. Leather said referring to my bruises. “She’s dangerous you know?”
“You don’t say?” I said sarcastically. “Do you really think this is my first rodeo?”
“I know that you’re a busy man, so I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But I want you to meet me on the campus of UC Irvine on Thursday,” Mr. Leather told me.
“You could have told me this by email,” I replied.
“I just wanted to make sure you got the message.”
Mr. Leather stood up and as he was walking towards the door, I said: “if you’re gonna make me drive all over SoCal, I’m gonna start charging by the mile.”
“Keep sending me the bill,” he said. Then he shut the door.
I told the secretary that I didn’t want any interruptions. I popped open a beer and a Vicodin and took a nap.
I burned the apartment complex down while making nachos. After the court cases were settled and 20 people were made homeless, I needed the money.
A strange man walked into my office. He laid his briefcase on the desk and pulled out his revolver.
“I’m here to offer you a shot at redemption,” he told me.
“What’s the case?” I asked.
“You’re the worst private dick in town,” he said. “I need a moron, a dipshit, a loser, a complete piece of shit that would be willing to take the fall when things go south.”
I took out a cigarette and thought for a moment. Fuck it, I thought. I needed the paycheck.
“Give it to me,” I said.
“A mafiosos daughter has gone missing. She was last seen in San Diego. Here’s her picture.”
She looked like a woman that could eat your heart out and save room for dessert.
“What’s the dame’s name,” I ask.
“Isabella Maria,” he replied. “She was a spoiled brat. She dropped out of law school to pursue a career in phlebotomy but got caught up in the wrong crowd if you know what I mean.”
“No, improv comedy. She was terrible.”
“Well,” I said. “I’ll need a $5,000 deposit and a list of references.”
“Just send me the bill. Everything you need to know is in this briefcase.”
The briefcase was a Boccio. Italian leather. Not sure why he bothered. A Manila folder would have worked just fine.
“I didn’t get your name sir,” I said.
“My name’s not important. But what I represent is.”
The man left and I told my secretary to not take any calls. I went back into the office and pulled out a handle of Everclear. After popping my Zeldox and Zoloft, I lifted the glass up to a picture of my dead mother.
“Welp, things are shit and they ain’t getting any better,” I said.
“I’m Dillon J Dudenburg. I’ve directed softcore porn. I’ve directed hardcore porn. I’ve also directed episodes of Dharma and Greg. I’ve studied under David A. Pryor, Andy Sidaris, and Godfrey Ho. I’m ready for the Big Screen. However I have some concerns with the script.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I think we need to make the lead a heterosexual. I don’t think the Chinese market is ready for that sort of thing. But we can keep in all the gay sex,” Dillon replied.
“So the main character is straight, he just has sex with men?”
“I think that’s an excellent idea Dillon,” Kat interjected. “James, you need to prepare a fourth draft.”
“Very well,” I replied. I called over my production assistant, Pee-Wee.
“Pee-Wee, take note: make the main character less gay.”
“I think this has been a very productive meeting,” Kat said. “Dillon, thank you for your input. We’ll be reaching out to you shortly.”
We shook hands and Dillon exited the room.
“What do you think?” Kat asked.
“I enjoyed Take Me To Pound Town IX as much as the next guy. But he’s an asshole. I don’t think he understands my work at all,” I replied.
“Come on, James. Making films is a collaborative effort. Dillon has style, a creative flair. He is the best director for the job.”
“Or the best one we can afford,” I said.
Kat walked away when Pablo, my agent, called.
“Great news!” he said. “Kat and I have finalized your contract.”
“Oh wonderful! What did you get?”
“Well, now hear me out…”
“Pablo, what did you do?”
“Your contract is 15….“
“….hundred dollars. Which, of course, 45% of that goes to commission.”
“Pablo, you shit the bed on this one.”
“BUT BUT BUT you get sole screenwriting credit and 100% of the merchandising rights!”
“Pablo, the script is no longer an action romp in outer space! It’s now a melodrama in 1942 Stalingrad! What merchandising rights could there be?!”
I hung up the phone and looked for Kathrine. She was back in her office. So I climbed up the fireman pole and stormed in.
“So what am I? Your slave?!” I asked.
“First rule of Hollywood: you’re only as good as your agent,” she replied.
“The only way I can profit off this film is if we sell Nazi SS action figures! You think you can push me around? Well you got another thing coming sister!”
I slid back down the pole and found Pee-Wee.
“Pee-Wee,” I said. “When do the sets go up?”
“Uhh, Tuesday I think.”
“Load up on crank and call Dillon. We’ve got work to do.”