Tag Archives: Mitch Baleen

Hollywood Russell in Visons of Sugar Plums

25 Dec

NEW! December 24, 2015
Please be sure to read the notes in the comments section.

HR visions of sugar plums

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…”


Mitch Baleen

“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?”


Beat officer

“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.

I waited.

“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.




In London.

12 Jul

July 12, 2014

It was a not-so-rare night in the city. Dark and cloudy, no moon, no stars.

And no houselights, gas lights, or headlights.

This was London. It was World War II. And Lt. Russ Wyndham was being followed.

The man tailing Wyndham wasn’t doing too good a job at it. Even in the near-total blackness, he did such a poor job of hiding that Wyndham couldn’t help but be aware of him, and the noise he made gave him away with nearly every footstep.

Lt. Wyndham wasn’t expecting to be followed and didn’t know what to do. He was just over from the US, attached to military intelligence more because of family connections than any skill or capability. Pearl Harbor had just been attacked and Wyndham had enlisted, not out of any sense of patriotism or duty, but because he smelled the chance to get away from a messy affair with a married woman and an unwanted baby. His family was rich enough, and thoroughly arrogant enough, that if their youngest scion had to ditch his lover and illegitimate child, they’d be damned if he was going to do it as some enlisted grunt digging ditches.

Wyndham’s tail knocked over a garbage can, and the noise was so loud that, against wartime regulations, several blackout curtains were pulled aside, flooding the street with light as nervous men and women looked out to see what was going on. Wyndham could no longer pretend to be unaware of the tail, especially as the short and somewhat fat man following him was now illuminated from nearly all directions.

Both men were panicked. In Wyndham the panic manifested as paralysis. He didn’t know what to do, where to go, what to do, to run, to hide, to run to panic to scream to hide to yell to cry to-

The other man’s panic caused him to stand in his spot as well, but he was shaking, oh how was he shaking, he was afraid, so afraid, so very afraid of the man in the uniform ahead of him, what’s he going to do he’s seen me he’s looking at me why are all these people looking at me why can’t they shut the windows I could hide in the dark I’m afraid of the man afraid of the man afraid of the man with the gun the gun the gun he pulled a gun and-

-and in full view of the exactly six witnesses peeking around the curtains, the man who would one day have “Private Investigator” printed on his office window  fired a gun for the first time outside of basic training and murdered a man.

It would be many years before Hollywood Russell knew why he was being followed, but in only a few days Lt. Russ Wyndham would face a court-martial.

in London


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