NEW! December 24, 2015
Please be sure to read the notes in the comments section.
Marty the bartender
“You lookin’ for Russell? Yeah, he meets lots of guys here. A lot of guys been coming around lately too. Hollywood- that’s Mr. Russell’s name, believe it? He ain’t been around much. You might catch his secretary if you show up in the morning, his office is right down the block, but you don’t look like no regular business hours kind of guy, am I right?
No, no, she’s strictly hands off, and brother, she knows how to take them off if any mook’s dumb enough to try. Anyway Mac, Hollywood’s a pal of mine, he’s bound to show up sooner or later, I’ll tell him you’re lookin’ for him. Who should I say is doin’ the lookin’
Hey, I don’t know nothin’ and I don’t want to know nothin’. That’s between you and the lamppost. I’ll pass on the message for free but you owe me for that beer.”
Tommy at the newsstand
“OK, that’s the racing form and the Daily Standard. What? The numbers? I don’t know what you’re talking about. No, no, I… maybe I did hear something a little while ago, if that was a flash of green I saw.
Hollywood Russell, the PI? Look, he doesn’t care about the numbers, doesn’t play ‘em and doesn’t give me a hard time about working them. None of his business. Straight shooter.
Yeah, fifth floor. You can see the widow right there. See? It says ‘Russell, Private Investigator” in fancy gold letters. He stops here once a day, every day. Gets his paper and sometimes a smoke. But he hasn’t been by in a few days. That just means he’s on a big case. Let me tell, you, that guy doesn’t stop until the final curtain.”
Hollywood Russell’s secretary
“Look mister, I can make an appointment for you but it won’t do you any good. He’s on an important case and it takes up all of his time.
Yeah, life or death. You know how many guys come in here with that story? Give it to me straight. Your wife cheating on you or you owe some money you can’t pay and you want Mr. Russell to make it go away?
OK, look wiseguy, if you promise to go away I’ll do you a favor. Take this card. That’s a colleague of Mr. Russell’s. What? Sheesh, that means they work together sometimes. His office is over near the bridge.
Hey, it’s up to you. There’s always the police you know…”
“I gotta tell you my friend, you made the right choice. If Mitch Baleen can’t solve your problem there isn’t a solution. Don’t let this office fool you, I am the TOP investigator in this city. I got more ears than J Edgar Hoover. What’s the scoop?
Hollywood Russell? What are you wasting your time with him for? You got me!
Personal, huh? I get it. Means “no fee.” OK, hey, what’s with the gat? I know Hollywood but it’s not like he’s my brother. I heard there was a shootout a few days ago with the Manelli Brothers. Big car chase too. The whole lot of them ended up in the hospital. Henchley Hospital.
No, I haven’t heard from Russell. For all I know he’s in there too.
You uh, you’re not planning to make it permanent, are you?”
“Yes, and for the last time listen. Yes, this is a public hospital and yes, I know you say your ‘dear sainted mother’ is in here, but no, her name isn’t on any list I seen here so no, I’m not letting you out of this lobby.
Baleen? Why didn’t you tell me he sent you? Oh! On a case, undercover. I get it. Pass it on to Baleen that I helped you out, OK? His brother-in-law is the Chief.
I don’t know exactly who is in that ward, all I know is that after the Manelli Brothers shot it out with that shamus, Hollywood Russell, they shot up half of the warehouse district. Russell chased them through every back alley, dirt road, and blacktop street from Bellows to Fifth. Lord knows how many bullets ended up in any of them but the chase didn’t stop until the Manelli’s car smashed into a sedan at Freemont Avenue. Family out for a drive, poor kids.
OK, sure, yeah, down the hall and to the left, second door. That’s where the survivors are. It was really bad.”
Hollywood Russell and Sugar Plum
Sugar Plum lay in bed, asleep. Her blonde hair, normally in lazy waves, was pulled back so it didn’t fall over her forehead. There was a bandage there. The light was off in the room. Sugar Plum wasn’t awake much and I guess I’m just used to sitting in the dark. Occupational hazard, you can call it. The doctors turn it on when they come in and I shut it when they leave.
They haven’t come by much lately.
It was late enough to get me thinking about sending someone out to the cafeteria for a sandwich when I heard footsteps coming down the hall. They were soft. Not the click click of nurse’s shoes and not the measured treads of the doctor’s.
I thought I’d seen the Manelli case through to the end, but it was about to come to a conclusion.
I got up and moved to the left of the door. In a few seconds it opened and a man took a slow step inside.
“Blondie, I don’t know where Hollywood Russell is and it don’t look like you can tell me. I’m not going to hang around so why don’t you give him this message for me?”
He raised a gun and that’s when I jumped out of the shadows. I’d tell you that I had his gun out of his hand and the rest of him on the floor in two seconds flat but that wouldn’t be true. It’s enough that I got him, and my bruises will heal.
But none of that mattered. What did matter was that when Sugar Plum woke up I was in the same place I was for the last four days, in a chair right next to her bed.
“Hollywood?” She turned her head and saw me. Her eyes were a little glassy and her smile was lopsided. I reached out and smoothed her hair.
“Hi Sugar Plum. Sleep well?”
“I had that dream again.” Then the tears began. I held her close and whispered in her ear, things that are only between me and her.
She sobbed. Looked at the hospital room, looked at me. “That terrible dream!” She sobbed some more.
The doctors say she might be in the hospital for the better part of a month. What the social workers say is worse.
I wrapped the little girl in my big arms and rocked her back and forth. I was going to be her world for a while.
After all, she’s only 8 years old and I’m all she has.