Neil Brand is a former World War I soldier and disgraced ex-cop, now running security for Harry York at York Brothers Studio in 1931 Hollywood. York has a problem with bad boy actor Johnny Cutter, who failed to show up on the set to finish his latest picture, and Brand is sent to find the star. In doing so, Brand uncovers a trail of white slavery, drugs, and murder, involving famous actors and wealthy businessmen—and a dirty cop who was once Brand’s partner on the force. As the body count mounts, Brand tries desperately to discover the truth—before he becomes one of the victims.
Jones noticed and grinned wider. “Where’d you put the body, Bo?”
“Be a little clearer.”
“You know what I mean. I left that bruno as a warning to Johnny Cutter. Thanks to you, Cutter didn’t get the message. Now it’s too late to warn him.”
“Didn’t think a cake-eater like Johnny Cutter would scare you that much. You’re slipping, Jonesy.”
Jones stood away from the door, balancing himself on the balls of both feet. He dropped the cigarette on the floor and ground it with his heel, his eyes not leaving mine. His right
hand dipped into his coat pocket.
“That body shows up, Bo, I’m gonna tag it to you. Should’ve thought of that in the first place. But I didn’t come here to your cage to talk about a dead torpedo who only thought he was tough. I come to see a walkin’ corpse that knows he ain’t tough. Little Bo Peep. I just wanted to see your pan to tell you that what you got the other night is comin’ back to you, Bo, and you ain’t walkin’ away again.”
“You could have phoned that in and not brought your stink.”
His right hand came out of his coat pocket holding a snub-nosed .38 Special. He squeezed off a shot that shattered the glass in the window behind me, the slug tearing into the Stage One wall. He grinned at me, slipped the gat back into his pocket, and pointed his right index finger at me.
Rachel Ann Maddon is about to become America’s next great movie star. Adored by the camera, loved by her public, beautiful Rachel Ann has it all, including a dark secret from her past that threatens to blow up her promising future when her mentor and lover—a man old enough to be her father—turns up dead. Did he fall or was he pushed? Or did the bullet in him do the job? Either way, a homicide investigation will be deadly publicity for Rachel Ann and her family. Rachel Ann’s movie studio switches into high gear to protect her teetering career, but then Neil Brand, the studio’s security chief, uncovers a blackmail scheme over illicit sex films that threatens other major motion picture stars. As the heat builds, the rich and powerful scramble to get out from under. That’s when the bodies begin to pile up.
We got the sixteen-mm film going and Hughie came upright in his seat as soon as it started. The nude man on the flickering screen rated about twenty. The girl—beautiful and delicate with a round angelic face—couldn’t have been more than fifteen. The poor lighting and the deep shadows caused images to appear to flicker in the wavering light, but what the two performers were doing left nothing to imagine.
After a few minutes I told Hughie to turn off the projector. We threaded the second spool and started it up again. A different man, mid-twenties, loomed out of the shaded scene, dallying with the same girl, slightly older in this flickers. The naked nymph in those flickering shadows raised my hackles. No way could anyone mistake Rachel Anne Maddon.
“I’d have to say those two youngsters were almighty active,” Hughie said, grinning brightly. “You make the girl?”
I nodded, said nothing. I put the two film reels back in the box, but I had no intention of leaving them in my office. “Hughie, you need to forget you ever saw this.”
Dunnum picked up the projector. “Can’t say I’ll ever forget I saw that. But I can remember that I didn’t see it, if anybody asks.”
About the author:
Ray Dyson first took up writing in Evansville, Indiana, far enough back that not only is the house he was born in no longer there, neither is the street. He had a short career as a baseball player, but a long career as a newspaperman whose gigs included crime reporter, sports reporter and sports editor. He is also a noted Western historian. He is the author of the baseball book, Smokey Joe: A Baseball Fable, a tale of legendary pitcher Smokey Joe Hood. That book, and Bannon: The Scavenger Breed, involve members of the Bannon family: Joel Patrick the main character in Bannon, and his grandson, Henry Louis Bannon, an outfielder in Smokey Joe. His mystery novel, The Ice Cream Blonde, set in the Hollywood of the early 1930s, follows York Studios security chief Neil Brand as he solves the murder of a famous movie star mixed up in blackmail and white slavery. His latest Neil Brand tale, The Naked Nymph in the Dark Flickers, about a rising movie star caught up in a treacherous blackmail scheme that turns to murder, is now available. He lives in Mansfield, Ohio, with his family. In retirement, he works even harder on his golf game, but with less success.