It was early on a sweltering Los Angles afternoon. I'd had a liquid lunch at Joe's Bar and Grill, down on the corner near the trolley stop. Now, I was sitting at my desk, watching the sun creep across my office floor, shadowed by the bars of the blinds at the window, as if it were trying to flee the prison of these four, dingy, green-painted walls.

I should be so lucky. Putting my feet up on my desk, I contemplated whether or not to crack open that bottle of bourbon I kept in my otherwise empty oak file cabinet. Well, empty except for all of the dust collecting in there.

Looking at the frosted glass pane of my office door, I read "snoitagitsevnI etavirP noswaD kcaJ." Jack Dawson, private investigator, that's me. OK, so I haven't done any actual private investigations yet, but I was hopeful. And so was my stomach. I hadn't eaten all day. I was saving the last can of beans for a special occasion. Say, after my stomach started thinking my throat had been cut.

Three months ago, I'd been drummed out of the police force after I'd accidentally shot a civilian in the line of duty. It was the middle of a shoot out in a grocery store with three vicious thugs, one of them carrying a tommy gun, when this store clerk, who'd been safely cowering behind the counter, suddenly panicked and ran right into the line of fire. My fire, as it happened. It occurred too fast for me to pull my shot. But, I couldn't seem to convince my captain or the chief of that. Twelve years of honorable service on the force means nothing, when the victim is a distant cousin of the mayor, apparently. But, at least they let me have a P.I. License...for all the good it was doing me.

A fly was ineffectually buzzing against the closed window, trying to escape. I knew how it must feel, and it had my utmost sympathy. I'd had the window open early in the morning, but now the sun was turned up to full power, and there was no breeze at all out there now, so I shut the window and turned on two fans. Not that they were much help, just pushing the stifling air from one spot to another. I'd long since taken off my coat and tie, and hung them on the hat stand that was home to my old grey fedora hat. Now was sitting in my shirt sleeves, with my shirt unbuttoned, its armpits and my white undershirt already showing sweat marks.

I was contemplating the decency of undoing my suspenders and trousers, and sitting here in my undershirt and shorts, when someone knocked on my door. The silhouette showed it was a woman. So, I decided that maybe sitting behind my desk in my shorts wasn't such a good idea, after all...although, I suppose, that would depend on the woman.

"Come in." I answered wearily.

The door opened, and suddenly I'd regretted not getting up for that bottle of bourbon. It was her, the woman I called, 'the lady in red.'

This woman suckered me into helping uncover the murder of her husband—a murder I later discovered she wasn't entirely innocent of, and in the process, she nearly got me killed. Alright, I admit, ten years ago, this woman had a figure like a Grecian goddess, and looks that could tempt even the most pious saint to do the kinds of things that would put him in the fires of hell for all of eternity. And from where I was sitting, looking up at her in one of her trademark Parisian red dresses, the years hadn't changed her looks all that much.

"Hello Jack." She purred demurely, sitting herself down uninvited, on the industrial grey metal side chair in front of my desk.

Looking at her sitting there, I suddenly couldn't decide if I wanted to kiss her....or kill her.

."Are you going to say anything Jack, or are you just going to sit there mentally undressing me?" She asked, arching an eyebrow at me.

"Did you come here for a reason, Lorna, or were you merely feeling nostalgic and horny?" I asked in return, taking out a pack of Pall Mall's I kept in my desk drawer, next to my revolver. I offered her one, but she shook her head. Shaking out a cigarette, I lit up and waited for an explanation.

"Believe me, this isn't easy for me to say, but I need your help, Jack." she said, smiling apologetically. Or at least, she was pretending to. Hard to tell with these kinds of dames, sometimes. I looked up at the fly-specked decorative tin ceiling, and blew a couple of smoke rings in the air.

"I don't think so, doll. Sucker me once, and I'm a fool, sucker me twice and you'd likely need someone there, to stop me from killing you." I told her candidly.

"Jack, I'm in trouble. Real trouble, this time." she said pleadingly, leaning forward, resting her arms on my desk. "I don't have anyone else to turn to, I really do need your help."

"Do I look like I care, Lorna?" I asked her, leaning back, and folding my hands behind my head nonchalantly.

"I can pay." she said, as if knowing exactly how to push my buttons. "Five hundred bucks a day, and a bonus of five thousand if you can make this problem of mine go away. Permanently." As if to bring home her point, she took a roll of greenbacks out of her red alligator purse, that would choke a horse, and placed them on the desk in front of me.

Yup, she knew exactly how to push my buttons. As if to emphasize the point, my stomach chose that very moment to give a loud rumble of protest over its emptiness. Or maybe it was just that shot of cheap booze I'd had for lunch.

This dame almost got me put on ice, did I really want to trust her? I leaned forward, staring at the mouldering tip of my cigarette, letting the smoke I'd just inhaled, drift out of my nostrils. I flicked some ash into the tin ashtray sitting on the desk in front of me. Well, hell, I thought, no one lives forever. When your time is up, your time is up....still, there was no need to push things ahead of schedule, by taking foolish chances.

Then I saw the folded note from my landlord, sitting in the brown glass ashtray, nestled on its metal stand next to my desk. A leaping greyhound formed the handle, which gracefully arched over the glass ashtray. I preferred playing the ponies myself. I always figured the dog races were too easily fixed. Not that the horse races weren't. Just not as often.

The note in the ashtray was a rather rudely worded demand for back rent, due tomorrow, or else my backsides and all my worldly possessions—which didn't amount to diddly-squat, were to be summarily thrown out on to the street. Quite probably literally. The landlord had a very large son who was a champion wrestler, and went by the unlikely name of Ravishing Roger.

"What's this problem of yours?" I asked reluctantly, shifting in my chair, and taking another drag on my cigarette.

I wasn't happy to see her sit back with a smug smile on her face. I realized then, that Lorna probably had someone check me out for her. She must know what a delicate financial situation I was in. Damn. I hadn't even accepted her as a client, and already she was suckering me in. If I took her cash, my life in the near future very probably wasn't going to be pleasant. But, at least I'd not die on an empty stomach, I reflected.

"I came home from the Pharaoh Club last night.--or rather, early this morning. After I let myself into my house, I made myself a nightcap." Lorna told me somberly. She'd absently taken a ladies handkerchief out of her purse, and was alternately twisting and wading it up in her hands, nervously. "It was awfully hot, so I decided to have my drink out by the pool. Only...." She stopped suddenly, shuddering violently. Her face seemed a bit more pale than it had been only seconds before.

"Only what?" I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.

"Only, Paul, my fiancée, was floating face down in the swimming pool, fully dressed, with his back full of bullet holes. There was blood, everywhere." She said quietly, looking as if she might be sick, just remembering what she'd seen.

"Did you telephone the police?" I was guessing possibly not, if she was here. If the police had suspected her, she'd be at the station house right now, being questioned.

"No." she whispered, confirming my suspicion. "After being suspected of my husband's murder in the past, I was afraid to call the police, until I had someone to advise me." she said desperately, almost in tears, now. "Please, Jack, I'm scared. I swear I had absolutely nothing to do with this. I have no idea who shot him or why. Oh please help me, I don't know what to do!"

"Well, I guess the first thing I should do, is take your money, put on my hat and coat, and have you take me out to the crime scene." I said, reluctantly pocketing the roll of cash, and wondering if this was what some cheap prostitute feels like, after a night with some fat, sweaty bald guy.

About ten minutes later, Lorna's shiny new 1940 burgundy color Lincoln Zephyr convertible, with the top down, was headed out towards North Hollywood. A half hour later, we pulled up the gravel drive to her Spanish style white stucco home, with the usual red tile roof. A short green expanse of lawn was shaded by palm and eucalyptus trees. Blooming roses and leafy green azalea bushes were growing under the windows. We got out, and walked up a flagstone path, passing under the arches of the covered porch, into the main hall.

Ordinarily, a home like this would be cool and pleasant in summer, but this was no ordinary summer day. I'd noticed that an outdoor thermometer attached to one of the porch 's supporting columns, was registering 97 degrees Fahrenheit. It wasn't much cooler outside the city, than it was, downtown, although there was more of a breeze here.

All I could think, was that, water-logged or not, someone had better put that corpse on ice real soon, or the atmosphere around this place was going to draw some complaints from the neighbors...not to mention more than a few flies.

We walked down a short hallway paved with large red clay floor tiles, through to the spacious Spanish style living room. It was simply but elegantly decorated, and included a fireplace and a built in bar.. She lead me to pair of French doors, looking out on to a flag stoned patio area at the side of the house. Telling her to go pour herself a drink, I left her there and went outside.

The patio immediately outside the doors had several outdoor tables with wide, shady umbrellas, and a large barbecuing area. Flagstone steps flanked by shrubbery, lead down to the pool area, and past that, to a rose garden at the back of the house. On one side of the swimming pool, were more tables and chairs, and an outdoor bar.

The place might have looked inviting and pleasant any other day, but today. Today, it looked like a slaughterhouse. And I should know. I spent my eighteenth summer working in one, helping to load freshly killed, gutted and skinned cattle and hogs, on to meat hooks. The blood got everywhere, on your clothing, your skin, under your fingernails, in your hair. Weeks after I quit that job, I still hadn't washed all the stink out. They said you can get used to the smell of anything, if you've been around it long enough, but I sort of had my doubts about that.

And brother, this place had blood aplenty. That this Paul had been shot multiple times, was obvious, even without looking at the bullet holes. The blood trail began at the bar, pooling on the flag stones beside one of the bar stools, then it left a steady red-brown trail, wending it's way towards one of the outdoor tables, where a pool of congealing blood had formed on the table top.

Being extra careful where I stepped, I followed the trail of blood as it made it's way back towards the pool. There was more and more of it as I walked, and I'm guessing that Paul had been getting plugged in the back, as he fled from his killer. Yet, somehow the victim had miraculously managed to remain on his feet, despite being repeatedly plugged with lead.

Until he got to the pool, it appeared. Here, a large smear of blood was staining the flag stones, about two feet across, where I'm guessing the man had finally fallen. I looked like the body had either fallen into the pool, or had been shoved in, by party or parties unknown.

I took off my hat and wiped the moisture from the sweatband, gazing past the home's back yard, to the distant slate blue colored mountains, shimmering in the summer haze. It made me suddenly long for a hammock under a shady tree, and a tall, cool glass of iced sweet tea—with a shot of Kentucky bourbon in it, of course. Someone had been careful. Whomever had done the shooting, he—or she, had picked up the shell casings. Though obviously, there was no way for the killer to retrieve the bullets, so I wasn't sure what the point of that was, unless there was some concern about fingerprints, I suppose.

Glancing up at the house, I saw Lorna standing by the French doors, where I left her. With one last parting look at the body floating in the pool, the open ends of its white linen suit jacket, splayed out in the water like angel's wings, I went back up the steps.

Taking Lorna by the hand, I lead her back into the living room and told her to sit on the sofa. Then, I had taken out my handkerchief and wiped my prints off both sides of the doorknob.

"What are you doing?" she asked, confused.

"You're going to call the police, and I'd rather not have them finding my fingerprints anywhere near the murder scene, if you don't mind. They know I was involved in your husband's murder investigation, but someone there also might remember that I was a little too cozy with you." I told Lorna, as I sat down beside her. "You got me into some serious hot water with chief...not that I cared. He's a lazy jackass who's not worth even half of the big fat paycheck he brings home every Friday. Even so, he had me fair and square when he suspended me for two months, then downgraded my rank. It isn't exactly police policy, for one of its detectives to make love to a murder suspect, in case you didn't know."

"I'm sorry, no, I didn't know they did that to you." She said, squeezing my hand. I pulled it away, and decided to keep this as professional as possible, this time around.

Though, being so close to her, there on the sofa, smelling her perfume, the shine and softness of her hair, seeing that delicious figure encased in a sexy red dress again, while trying to ignore the tingle in a certain part of my lower anatomy....oh brother, being cool and businesslike wasn't going to be even remotely easy.

"Tell me about Paul." I said, shifting slightly apart from her, and crossing my legs uncomfortably, to hide my unbidden sudden arousal.

"His name's Paul Zabinski. We met at a New Year's eve party last year. He's an accountant with the Sovereign Pictures movie studio. He started inviting me out to parties, and six months later we were spending nearly all our free time with each other. We got engaged back in September. We were to be married in the autumn." she said, starting to cry. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes. "I really did love him, Jack. He was good to me, he cared about me, told me the only thing he wanted in life, was for me to be happy. No one ever told me that before, Jack, not even my own parents."

I handed her back her hankie, and looked away. I'd cared about her too...once. But found out the hard way, that Lorna only truly cared about Lorna—or so I thought. Only now, I wasn't so sure.

"Look doll face," I said, clearing my throat, "You're going to have to tell me everything you know about this guy. But, not now. Right now, I need to get the hell out of here without being seen, and get back to the city. You, in the meantime, are going to telephone the cops, and spin them a few white lies."

"I don't know if I can, Jack." She said, delicately dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief, so she wouldn't smudge her eye make up, any worse than it was already. That wasn't a bad thing. If the cops thought she'd been genuinely crying, it might make her story more plausible.

"Look, Lorna. You were an actress twenty-five years ago, and a damned good one, as I recall. Surely you must still have those skills. Here's what I need you to do. You tell the police you came home from the club last night, made yourself a drink, then went right off to bed, got that? You got up this morning, went into the city to do some shopping." I explained patiently.

"What if they asked me where I went?" she asked.

"Tell them you were going to a dress shop you'd heard about—there's a new one that opened up just down the street from my office, called "Pam's Posh Frocks." Only, the heat gave you a terrible migraine and you changed your mind and went home."

"What if someone saw me with you?" She asked, nervously.

"If anyone saw you with a man in the car, just tell them you picked up a hitchhiker whose car had broken down, who said he was headed to North Hollywood, you never asked his name. The police may or may not buy that, but it would give you a reason not to know the passenger personally. If they never ask about a male passenger, then don't say anything at all. This is just in case they do. Got that? Or do I need to go over it again?" I said, getting up and pacing the floor in front of the sofa, my mind working furiously.

She nodded, got up suddenly, and crossed over to the bar. She got out a glass and a bottle of scotch, and poured herself a stiff drink, downing it in one go. You had to admire a dame who could hold her liquor. I walked over, snatched the now-damp hankie she's left on the bar counter, and used it to keep my fingerprints off of a glass, as I asked her to pour me a shot of that booze. Only, I sipped mine. I prefer my scotch with some ice in it. It was a great booze though, I'll give her that. If Lorna had questionable taste in men, she certainly had excellent taste when it came to liquor.

"Right, lets wrap this up." I told her. I needed to get out of there, pronto. "You came home, took some aspirin, fixed yourself a drink, then decided to have it out by the pool—that's when you saw the body. When you call the cops, Lorna, you have to convince them that you'd just found the body. You need to be upset, shocked even." I said, taking another sip of booze with my fingers still wrapped around that hankie.

I needed to get some food in me. If I kept on drinking my meals, I was going to end up as a wino on Skid Row. I looked at her in the eyes.

"I mean, Lorna, don't overact, but be convincing. Cry, yell, panic, that sort of thing. You think you've seen the body of your fiancée floating in your pool. You've seen a lot of blood. You have no idea what happened, when it happened or why he was even here. OK?"

Lorna nodded mutely. I set down the glass, and departed for the French doors. I was going to have to do some serious walking through the countryside, to get back to L.A. Hopefully, I'd be able to find a cab, somewhere along the way. The less people that saw me in this vicinity, the better.

"Call me later, a couple of hours after the police leave. I'll arrange a meeting place somewhere out of the way, and you can fill me in on everything. Give me 20 minutes to get out of here, before you contact the police. Oh," I said, before heading off on my long hike back to the city, "and wash out that glass I just used, and put it away."


I'd been walking for about two hours, down the back roads of North Hollywood and its suburbs, when I saw a roadside greasy spoon in a small dirt lot across from a Sinclair gas station. I had stopped by the gas station to inquire about getting a ride back into the city. No dice. Not even a twenty would convince the mechanic to leave his post to give me a lift in his tow truck. Guess mechanics must make good dough, if they can afford to pass up a twenty.

This dinner looked like it had been built from an old railroad dining car. But, I didn't care about the architecture. I just wanted a hot meal and a cold drink. A sign on the front door said, "Air Conditioned!" And, after a couple of hours of walking in the broiling hot sun, I would've sold my soul to Satan for that, so I made a beeline for the front door.

Going in, I walked over to the lunch counter and sat on stool. There weren't any menus, but a sign on the wall listed what they had, which wasn't much. The usual diner fare: A half-dozen kinds of sandwiches, chili, hot dogs, burgers, fries, milkshakes, malts, soft drinks, or coffee, with sundaes and pies for dessert. A plump, friendly waitress came up to take my order. I ordered the Denver egg sandwich, fries and a Coke, and she bustled off to give the kitchen.

Another sign on the wall read, "Our Coffee Is Good!" It was far too hot for coffee, even with the air conditioning on. I would have preferred a nice cold milkshake, but I'd been going around with booze in my empty stomach, and I wanted to be sober when I talked to Lorna again. So, when the waitress came back, I ordered a cup of coffee, as well.

"Do you still want the Coke with your meal?" she asked. I told her yes. I had a raging thirst. The inside of my mouth was as dry as the Sahara desert.

I needed time to think, and to rest my hot, tired feet. I'd long since taken off my suit jacket, but now with the air conditioner over the front door, blowing full tilt on my sweat-soaked back, I put the jacket back on. About a half hour from the time I'd left Lorna's, I'd heard sirens screeching away in the far distance. Lorna lived right off the main road, and I'd crossed over fields and back yards, to get to a little used back road that eventually linked to the main highway to L.A. I figured the cops would be grilling Lorna for quite some time, though I had no idea whether they'd decide to pull her in for questioning or not. I suppose that would depend on the sort of performance she gave.

Something didn't smell right with this set up. Why would a Hollywood picture studio accountant, be at the home of his bride-to-be in the middle of the night, while she was away from home. On the drive out to her place, she'd told me they usually stayed at his posh Beverly Hills home. She said his next door neighbor was actor Robert Taylor, so it must've been a pretty swank neighborhood.

Which lead me to another line of thought. Why choose to kill the man in North Hollywood, when quite probably they could've nailed him anywhere. A man with more than a dozen bullet holes in him, sure must've ticked someone off pretty badly. Either that, or the killer was a trigger-happy nutcase. Why leave the body in the pool for his girl to find? Was it a message to her? Did the killer fear discovery? Or, did he—or she, want to set Lorna up to be the fall guy...or gal, in this case. Was Lorna telling the truth, or was she using her old acting skills on me. She seemed genuinely upset, but as I learned before, emotions can be easily faked.

The waitress disrupted my ruminations, by setting the coffee up down in front of me, along with a small pitcher of cream. I reached down the counter and picked up the tall glass sugar shaker, and poured a healthy dose into my coffee, stirring it with my spoon, watching the spoon clanking against the rim of the thick tan ceramic cup. I repeated the motions with the cream, and then once again turned my thoughts to my problems—or rather, Lorna's, as I carefully sipped the piping hot liquid. The diner was right. It was good coffee.

Alright, the man was an accountant. That might be a good place to begin my investigation. I'd met a man who used to be an accountant with the mob, back in the mid-thirties, who wanted out. I managed to help him get a new identity, job and life, in exchange for incriminating evidence that helped me put away a major kingpin in the L.A. underworld

That was one of the things that got me promoted to detective. Since I'd given this man his new identity, it shouldn't be too hard to track him down. Chances were, he might not know anything. Then again, if Lorna's accountant had any mob connections going back a few years, it was highly probable that my former snitch would know about it.

The waitress came back, carrying a tray loaded with food. With an Olympian swiftness and coordination born of long practice, she set down my sandwich and fries, a cold bottle of Coke, a bottle of ketchup, and the check, on the linoleum counter top. She told me to enjoy my food, I thanked her politely, and she went to wait on a couple of truckers who had just come in.

A while later, my stomach finally satisfied, I managed to hitch a ride back downtown with the two truckers. I caught a trolley and went home to my apartment, stopping first at the landlord's door, to peel off some greenbacks to give to the old skinflint. I waited for him to make out a receipt. The old man's son, Ravishing Roger, would have to find some other poor tenant to wrestle out of the building. It might've been me, but I swear the big, blond-haired young man looked a little disappointed.

Going to my apartment, the first thing I did was to turn on my fans. I threw my hat on the sofa, then peeled off my smelly clothes, and flung them on an armchair. Going into the bathroom, I turned on the taps, and took a long cool bath. Stepping out of the bathtub, I wrapped a towel around my more embarrassing bits, and walked into the kitchen to get a cold beer out of the fridge.

Suddenly, I felt a lot colder, and it wasn't from the bath. Sitting at my kitchen table was a thin, swarthy man in a dark suit. He was holding a gun in his hand. This was so not good. I hoped he wasn't going to ask me to raise my hands, because much to my chagrin, I realized that the towel was coming loose.

The man had a narrow, pockmarked face, and flat, dead eyes. He said nothing, just motioned with the gun for me to sit down across from him. One hand gripping on to my towel, I sat. For a full minute, the man said nothing. Despite the cool bath, I felt myself beginning to sweat again.

"You were at a certain home in North Hollywood today." He stated flatly.

How the hell had he known that? Someone must've been watching the house. I never thought to check. Must've been the heat, dulling my senses. Or, the shock of seeing Lorna again. I thought for a moment, then nodded my head. There didn't seem to be much point in denying it...especially when the gun was now in the man's lap, probably pointing at some very delicate body parts.

"Mr. Zabrinski worked for my boss. Though the studio keeps it under wraps, my boss is a major shareholder in Sovereign Pictures. It's one of his few legitimate business dealings. It's all completely on the up and up, and the boss would very much like to keep it that way." The man said, in a surprisingly cultured voice. He looked like a cold-blooded killer, but talked like a professor from Harvard. The world was full of all kinds, as I often found out over the years, in my line of work.

"And, is this the way you're trying to tell me, that your...'boss,'" I said, putting emphasis on the word, had nothing to do with the murder of Lorna's fiancé?" I asked, skeptically. But not sarcastically, not with that gun in his hands. No telling how trigger-happy this mobster's errand boy might be. I was rather fond of my family jewels, and held no designs on becoming a eunuch.

"Exactly." the man said, still with no infection of emotion in his voice. "In fact, I came here, because the boss would like to hire you."

OK, this morning I had no clients, no cash, and, as of the next day, no home. This afternoon, I've got a possible murderess and a mobster hiring me, I'm rolling in dough, and the rent's paid up for the next two months. This life of mine had its ups and downs, and could sometimes very very strange...and I liked it that way. Someone shoot me if I ever become mundane or trendy—which are both horses of the same color, if sometimes different breeds, to me.

"Why does your boss want to hire me, if he didn't order a hit on this Paul?" I asked.

"Because, the boss likes to keep a low profile around the studio, and if it got out that he was a shareholder, the cops would be all over him like ants at a picnic..." the man shrugged "...not to mention that the other shareholders and the public, might not approve of a mobster controlling a movie studio, which wouldn't be good for profits."

"Something tells me that might not be the only reason, though?" I pondered.

"That's right. You're a sharp fellow, Mr. Dawson." He nodded. "You see, this really is the straight deal. My boss worked hard to keep it that way. He is curious to know who might have killed his studio accountant, and, more importantly, why."

"I see." I sighed. Somehow, this case was sounding more and more like something that might get me either killed or arrested as an accomplice. Still, it beat sitting alone in my office, drinking booze and listening to dying flies. "So, your boss is worried that this Paul may have fiddling with the books, or providing information to a third party, am I reading you right?"

Again the thug with the posh accent nodded. I thought about it for all of thirty seconds.

"Before I say aye, yes or no, would you do me a favor?" I asked the man.

"Depends on the favor." He answered.

"Put the gun down on the table, so I don't have to feel like I'm agreeing to this under duress. I do have my professional pride to consider, you know." I told him.

For the first time, the swarthy man smiled. He took the gun out of his lap, and gently set it down on the table. Facing away from me, I noted, possibly as a gesture of mobster good will. Next, he pulled out a bulging white envelope from his suit pocket. He placed it on the linoleum table surface, and pushed it towards me. It didn't take an Einstein to figure out it was cash...a whole lot of cash. Probably more than I've collectively earned in the past two years. I involuntarily let out a low whistle, then looked up, at the man, slightly embarrassed.

"Sorry. Been a while since I've seen that kind of dough." I cleared my throat. "You know that Paul's fiancée, Lorna, has hired me to investigate the murder." I could assume that, because this fellow was obviously a lot more clever than he looked, which is probably why his "boss" sent him to see me. "While I don't have such strict scruples as to only have one client per case, I never planned on it being a regular thing. I will take your boss on as a client, not because of the gun, or the money, but because I think your boss's cooperation may help me break this case."

"One more thing though," I added, "I do think your boss should understand that I plan on getting the person who did this, no matter who is implicated, and when I do uncover the truth, I may very likely have to turn evidence over to the police."

I cleared my throat again. I was still parched, and desperately longed that cold beer.

"Does your boss have a problem with that?" I asked, cautiously. "I would, of course, never divulge his involvement to the police, I have a policy of strict client confidentiality. Nor will I mention anything about his business dealings with the studio. You have my absolute word on that."

"Not at all." the man agreed. "As I said, Mr. Dawson, my boss's hands are completely clean. He wants to see this matter resolved, every bit as much as you and the police do, possibly more. But he will appreciate your keeping this matter just between us."

The mobster smiled again, but it wasn't a pleasant smile, because he had the gun in his hand again, and it happened to be casually aimed at me, as if to make a point. And it did, a point sharper than Caesar's spear. Abruptly, the swarthy man pocketed the gun, and pushed back his chair.

Now that our business is concluded, he said, "how about you going to get dressed? When you come back, you can write me out a receipt for the cash, and then we can seal the deal with a couple of cold beers."

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