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Volume 5027

P. J. Monahan: Girl from Hollywood - FP same as DJAce edition: Boris Vallejo cover art: January 1976
 by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Part 7: Chapters 11 and 12
“Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.”
– The Eagles, “Hotel California”

I’m afraid I made a terrible mistake about the history of California drug laws, stating that Mrs. Burke’s purchase of the small orchard property wasn’t bought with dirty drug money because at the time of the novel, cocaine and morphine were not illegal in California.  Since my law practice has primarily been with drug cases this is unforgiveable to me, but, hey, what can I say except I’m sorry.  The fact is that the money was dirty and Shannon Burke laundered it through her mother.

As early as 1875, the year ERB was born – because of the large amounts of Chinese immigrants allowed into the USA during the building of the Tanscontinental Railroad – opium dens became a widespread health problem, and San Francisco passed the Opium Den Ordinance that same year.  This was followed up in 1889 with a broader anti-narcotics law, with Oakland banning narcotics the next year.  This paved the way for the California legislature in 1907 to pass one of the first bans on narcotics in the nation.  Congress followed up with the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, beginning the national war on drugs.  I hope that settles the issue.

Up until now the evil that evil people do has been very limited in our story, but since ERB is the author, the reader should know that this is only temporary – for we are entering now into the dark underworld of classic pulp fiction, for which ERB was a master.  I don’t call him the King of Pulp Fiction for nothing.

I was at the local Barnes & Noble the other day and picked up a bargain volume for $7.98: ERB’s John Carter of Mars: The First Five Novels (NY: Fall River Press, 2013), with an Introduction by the famous science fiction archivist, Brian Stableford.  Mr. Stableford provided what I thought was one of the most insightful analysis of ERB’s role in Twentieth Century Literature:

    “Adventure fiction is inherently ‘escapist,’ in the sense that it allows readers to participate intimately in the thrilling exploits of larger than life characters performing heroic deeds in exotic locations.  It is long on story and short on plot, in the sense that it presents extensive series of dramatic encounters, each one loaded with challenge and suspense, without bothering overmuch about a larger pattern in which those events might have some further significance.  It requires the reader to do little more than wonder, over and over again, what is going to happen next – and every time one challenge has been successfully met, a new one appears, as rapidly as possible, even more menacing than the last, to keep the excitement going, and increasing.  Adventure fiction is exciting and relaxing, and – because the hero always wins in the end – eminently satisfying.  That is its principal purpose, and, in the purest examples, its sole purpose....
    “Burroughs’ interplanetary fiction cast a long shadow over the American genre of science fiction from which it has never completely emerged, in spite of the determination of its more earnest writers to work in a different vein.  Indeed, partly because of the availability of science fiction as a marketing category, Burroughs became the most relentlessly-imitated writer of the twentieth century. None of his imitators, however, ever quite managed to match his frankness and zest for displaying and extrapolating the essential indisipline and indifference of the ultimate daydreams of adventure....
    “The glory of that entire genre [fantastic fiction], and the contents of this volume in particular, lies in its blithe disregard and defiance of the restrictions of everyday existence, and its utter lack of inhibition in celebrating the joys of imaginative freedom.”  (Id., pp. vi, ix.)
Yes, that’s the classic view of ERB’s fiction, but, you must have realized by now, The Girl from California is in a different vein – it deals with a real life type situation in a real life place – well, that is, if you consider Hollywood a real life place.  Does ERB, whom Stableford calls “indisciplined” and “indifferent” to the realities of life in his fantastic fiction writing, have what it takes to address the challenge of handling a modern murder mystery, where clues must add up in a more complicated and meaningful pattern at the end?  See for yourself.

    Gaza de Lure was sitting at the piano when Crumb arrived at the bungalow at 1421 Vista del Paso at a little after six in the evening of the last Saturday in July.  The smoke from a half burned cigarette lying on the ebony case was rising in a thin, indolent column above the masses of her black hair.  Her fingers idled through a dreamy waltz.  Crumb gave her a surly nod as he closed the door behind him.  He was tired and cross after a hard day at the studio.  The girl, knowing that he would be all right presently, merely returned his nod and continued playing. He went immediately to his room, and a moment later she heard him enter the bathroom through another doorway.
    Half an hour later he emerged, shaved, spruce, and smiling.  A tiny powder had effected a transformation, just as she had known that it would.  He came and leaned across the piano, close to her.  She was very beautiful.  It seemed to the man that she grew even more beautiful and more desirable each day.  The fact that she had been unattainable had fed the fires of his desire, transforming infatuation into as near a thing to love as a man of his type can ever feel. “Well, little girl!” he cried gaily.  “I have good news for you.” She smiled a crooked little smile, and shook her head.
    “The only good news that I can think of would be that the government had established a comfortable home for superannuated hop-heads, where they would
be furnished, without costs, with all the snow they could use.”
The effects of her last shot were wearing off.  He laughed good-naturedly. Gaza is really addicted, mainlining cocaine with a hyperdermic needle.  She knows she’s hopelessly addicted, a “hop-head” supreme.  And I must say that it amuses me the way that ERB so casually tosses the word “gay” and its affiliates around, unaware of with what it will become synonymous in a few decades.  Yes, those were the good old days.
    “Really,” he insisted; “on the level, I’ve got the best news you’ve heard in moons.”
    “Well?” she asked wearily.
    “Old Battle-Axe has got her divorce,” he announced, referring thus affectionately to his wife.
    “Well,” said the girl, “that’s good news – for her – if it’s true.”
     Crumb frowned.  “It’s good news for you,” he said.  ‘It means I can marry you now.”
    The girl leaned back on the piano bench and laughed aloud.  It was not a pleasant laugh.  She laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks.
    “What is there funny about that?” growled the man.  “It would mean a lot to you – respectability, for one thing, and success, for another.  The day you become Mrs. Wilson Crumb I’ll star you in the greatest picture that was ever made.”
    “Respectability!” she sneered.  “Your name would make me respectable, would it?  It would be the insult added to all the injury you have done me.  And as for starring – poof!”  She snapped her fingers.  “I have but one ambition, thanks to you, you dirty hound, and that is snow!”  She leaned toward him, her two clenched fists almost shaking in his face.  “Give me all the snow I need,” she cried, “and the rest of them may have their fame and their laurels!”
    “Oh, very well,” he said.  “If you feel that way about it, all right; but” – he turned suddenly upon her – “you’ll have to get out of here and stay out – do you understand?  From this day on you can only enter this house as Mrs. Wilson Crumb, and you can rustle your own dope if you don’t come back – understand?”
    She looked at him through narrowed lids.  She reminded him of a tigress about to spring, and he backed away.
    “Listen to me,” she commanded in slow, level tones.  “In the first place, you’re lying to me about your wife getting her divorce.  I’d have guessed as much if I hadn’t known, for a hop-head can’t tell the truth; but I do know.  You got a letter from your attorney today telling you that your wife still insists not only that she will never divorce you, but that she will never allow you a divorce.”
    “You mean to say that you opened one of my letters?” he demanded angrily.
    “Sure I opened it!  I open ‘em all – I steam ‘em open.  What do you expect,” she almost screamed, “from the thing you have made of me?  Do you
expect honor and self-respect, or any other virtue in a hype?”
    “You can get out of her!” he cried.  “You get out now – this minute!” She rose from the bench and came and stood quite close to him.
    “You’ll see that I get all the snow I want, if I go?” she asked.  He laughed nastily.
    “You don’t ever get another bindle,’ he replied.
    “Wait!” she admonished.  “I wasn’t through with what I started to say a minute ago.  You’ve been hitting it long enough, Wilson, to know what one of our kind will do to get it.  You know that either you or I would sacrifice soul and body if there was no other way.  We would lie, or steal, or – murder!  Do you get that, Wilson – murder?  There is just one thing I won’t do, but one thing is not murder, Wilson.  Listen!”  She lifted her face close to his and looked him straight in the eyes.  “If you ever try to take it away from me, or keep it from me, Wilson, I shall kill you.”
    Her tone was cold and unemotional, and because of that, perhaps, the threat seemed very real.  The man paled.
    “Aw, come!” he cried.  “What’s the use of our scrapping?  I was only kidding, anyway.  Run along and take a shot – it’ll make you feel better.”
    “Yes,” she said, “I need one; but don’t get it into your head that I was kidding.  I wasn’t.  I’d just as lief kill you as not – the only trouble is that killing’s too damned good for you, Wilson!"
Wow, cocaine has turned Gaza into one mean psycho bitch.  She’s not willing to give up her virginity, even when she’s hopped up, but she doesn’t think twice about the idea of killing Wilson.  They say that cocaine loosens a person’s inhibitions, that these feelings are always present, but suppressed by the process of socialization.  At least that’s one theory.

Pro law enforcement shrinks prefer this one.  They don’t want a criminal to have any excuses for their crimes.
The other theory is that cocaine produces these perversions that were not already present, by changing the way the brain processes information.  Too bad ERB isn’t around today to tell us what his theory was, but I suspect it was the latter.

    She walked toward the bathroom door.
    “Oh, by the way,” she said, pausing, “Allen called up this afternoon.  He’s in town, and will be up after dinner.  He wants his money.”
    She entered the bathroom and closed the door.  Crumb lighted another cigarette and threw himself into an easy chair, where he sat scowling at a temple dog on a Chinese rug.
    A moment later Gaza joined Crumb in the little dining room.  They both smoked throughout the meal, which they scarcely ever tasted.  The girl was vivacious and apparently happy.  She seemed to have forgotten the recent scene in the living room.  She asked questions about the new picture.
    “We’re going to commence shooting Monday,” he told her.  Momentarily he waxed almost enthusiastic.  “I’m going to have trouble with the boob author, though,” he said.  “If they’d kick him off the lot, and give me a little more money, I’d make ‘em the greatest picture ever screened!”  Then he relapsed into brooding silence.
    “What’s the matter,” she asked.  “Worrying about Allen?”
    “Not exactly,” he said.  “I’ll stall him off again.”
    “He isn’t going to be easy to stall this time,” she observed, “if I gathered the correct idea from his line of talk over the phone today.  I can’t see what you’ve done with all the coin, Wilson.”
    “You got yours, didn’t you?” he growled.
    “Sure I got mine,” she answered, “and it’s nothing to me what you did with Allen’s share; but I’m here to tell you that you’ve pulled a boner if you’ve double-crossed him.  I’m not much of a character reader, as proved by my erstwhile belief that you were a high-minded gentleman; but it strikes me the veriest boob could see that that man Allen is a bad actor.  You’d better look out for him.”
    “I ain’t afraid of him,” blustered Crumb.
    “No, of course you’re not,” she agreed sarcastically.  “You’re a regular little lion-hearted Reginald, Wilson – that’s what you are!” The doorbell rang.  “There he is now,” said the girl. Crumb paled.
    “What makes you think he’s a bad man?” he asked.
    “Look at his face – look at his eyes,” she admonished.  “Hard?  He’s got a face like a brick-bat.”
    They rose from the table and entered the living room as the Japanese opened the front door.  The caller was Slick Allen.
We must imagine Japanese servants in the background, seldom seen nor heard, but always present.  They likely prepared the meal and served it to our fighting couple.  Well, we see now who Allen’s connection is for the dope end of the conspiracy –  Guy Evans is his man for the booze.  And was that a clue when Gaza said she could easily murder Wilson?  Are drugs making the couple more like Bonnie and Clyde?  Well, Gaza may be turning into Bonnie, but Wilson is no Clyde Barrow, that’s for sure.

As for the usage for the word “boner,” I believe it was limited to mistakes or disasters at the time.  I have no idea if it had yet achieved infamy as a variant for “erection,” but I doubt it. Otherwise, I trust ERB would have used it in a more salacious manner.  As for “Reginald,” I consulted the online urban dictionary and it defined it as: “a person who is full of himself, who tends to be successful and is pompous; they have a competitive mindset and will bang any female while pretending they really care, but everyone knows – a Reginald could CARE LESS!”

    Crumb rushed forward and greeted him effusively.
    “Hello, old man!” he cried.  “I’m mighty glad to see you.  Miss de Lure told me that you had phoned.  Can’t tell you how delighted I am!”
    Allen nodded to the girl, tossed his cap upon a bench near the door, and crossed to the center of the room.
    “Won’t you sit down, Mr. Allen?” she suggested.
    “I ain’t got much time,” he said, lowering himself into a chair.  “I come up here, Crumb, to get some money.”  His cold, fishy eyes looked straight into Crumb’s.  “I come to get all the money there is comin’ to me.  It’s a trifle over ten thousand dollars, as I figure it.”
    “Yes,” said Crumb; “that’s about it.”
    “An’ I don’t want no stallin’ this time, either,” concluded Allen.
    “Stalling!” exclaimed Crumb in a hurt tone.  “Who’s been stalling?”
    “You have.”
    “Oh, my dear man!” cried Crumb deprecatingly.  “You know that in matters of this kind one must be circumspect.  There were reasons in the past why it would have been unsafe to transfer so large an amount to you.  It might easily have been traced.  I was being watched – a fellow even shadowed me to the teller’s window in my bank one day.  You see how it is?  Neither of us can take chances.”
    “That’s all right, too,” said Allen; “but I’ve been taking chances right along, and I ain’t been taking them for my health.  I been taking them for the coin, and I want that coin – I want it pronto!”
    “You can most certainly have it,” said Crumb.
    “All right!” replied Allen, extending a palm.  “Fork it over.”
    “My dear fellow you don’t think that I have it here, do you?” demanded Crumb.  “You don’t think I keep such an amount as that in my home, I hope!”
    “Where is it?”
    “In the bank, of course.”
    “Gimme a cheque.”
    “You must be crazy!  Suppose either of us was suspected; that cheque would link us up fine.  It would be as bad for you as for me.  Nothing doing!  I’ll get the cash when the bank opens on Monday.  That’s the very best I can do.  If you’d written and let me know you were coming, I could have it for you.” Allen eyed him for a long minute.
    “Very well,” he said, at last.  “I’ll wait till noon Monday.”  Crumb breathed an inward sigh of profound relief.
    “If you’re at the bank Monday morning, at half past ten, you’ll get the money,” he said.  “How’s the other stuff going?  Sorry I couldn’t handle that, but it’s too bulky.”
    “The hootch?  It’s goin’ fine,” replied Allen.  “Got a young high-blood at the edge of the valley handlin’ it – fellow by the name of Evans.  He moves thirtysix cases a week.  The kid’s got a good head on him – worked the whole scheme out himself.  Sells the whole batch every week, for cash, to a guy with a big truck. They cover it with hay, and this guy hauls it right into the city in broad daylight, unloads it in a warehouse he’s rented, slips each case into a carton labelled somebody or other’s soap, and delivers it a case at a time to a bunch of drug stores.  This second guy used to be a drug salesman, and he’s personally acquainted with every grafter in the business.”
    As he talked, Allen had been studying the girl’s face.  She had noticed it before; but she was used to having men stare at her, and thought little of it.
    Finally he addressed her.
    “Do you know, Miss de Lure,” he said, “there’s something mighty familiar about your face?  I noticed it the first time I came here, and I been studyin’ over it since.  It seems like I’d known you somewhere else, or some one you look a lot like; but I can’t quite get it straight in my head.  I can’t make out where it was, or when, or if it was you or some one else.  I’ll get it some day, though.”
    “I don’t know,” she replied.  “I’m sure I never saw you before you came here with Mr. Crumb the first time.”
    “Well, I don’t know, either,” replied Allen, scratching his head; “but it’s mighty funny.”  He arose.  “I’ll be goin’,” he said.  “See you Monday at the bank – ten thirty sharp, Crumb!”
Are you wondering where Crumb saw Gaza before?  Yes, that is an important clue.  And what about that scheme Guy Evans put together?  Is his partner, the ex-drug salesman, important in the story?  We can only wait and see.  And isn’t Crumb a smooth-talker?  What has he done with Allen’s share?  How will he solve his dilemma?
    “Sure, ten thirty sharp,” repeated Crumb rising. “Oh say, Allen, will you do me a favor?  I promised a fellow I’d bring him a bindle of M tonight, and if you’ll hand it to him it’ll save me the trip.  It’s right on your way to the car line.
    You’ll find him in the alley back of the Hollywood Drug Store, just west of Cuyhenga on the south side of Hollywood Boulevard.”
    “Sure, glad to accommodate,” said Allen; “but how’ll I know him?”
    “He’ll be standin’ there, and you walk up and ask him the time.  If he tells you, and then asks if you can change a five, you’ll know he’s the guy all right. Then you hand him these two ones and a fifty-cent piece, and he hands you a five dollar bill.  That’s all there is to it.  Inside these two ones I’ll wrap a bindle of M.
    You can give me the five Monday morning when I see you.” “Slip me the junk,” said Allen.
    The girl had risen, and was putting on her coat and hat.  “Where are you going – home so early?” asked Crumb.
    “Yes,” she replied.  “I’m tired, and I want to write a letter.” “I thought you lived here,” said Allen.
    “I’m here nearly all day, but I go home nights,” replied the girl.
    Slick Allen looked puzzled as he left the bungalow.
    “Goin’ my way?” he asked of the girl, as they reached the sidewalk. “No,” she replied.  “I go in the opposite direction.  Good night!” “Good night!” said Allen, and turned toward Hollywood Boulevard.
    Inside the bungalow Crumb was signalling central for a connection.
    “Give me the police station on Cuyenga, near Hollywood,” he said.  “I haven’t time to look up the number.  Quick  – it’s important!” There was a moment’s silence and then:
    “Hello!  What is this?  Listen!  If you want to get a hop-head with the goods on him – right in the act of peddling – send a dick to the back of the Hollywood Drug Store, and have him wait there until a guy comes up and asks what time it is.  Then have the dick tell him and say, ‘Can you change a five?’ That’s the cue for the guy to slip him a bindle of morphine rolled up in a couple of one-dollar bills.  If you don’t send a dummy, he’ll know what to do next – and you’d better get him there in a hurry.  What?  No – oh, just a friend just a friend.”
    Wilson Crumb hung up the receiver.  There was a grin on his face as he turned away from the instrument.
    “It’s too bad, Allen, but I’m afraid you won’t be at the bank at half past then on Monday morning!” he said.
What a nice guy.  It sure looks like Crumb solved his problem, doesn’t it?  That was some quick-thinking double-cross, wasn’t it?  Even if it’s the kind that is likely to get you killed in the end.

    As Gaza de Lure entered the house in which she roomed, her landlady came hastily from the living room.
    “Is that you, Miss Burke?” she asked.  “Here’s a telegram that came for you just a few minutes ago.  I do hope it’s not bad news!”
    “My mother is ill.  They have sent for me,” said the girl.  “I wonder if you would be good enough to call up the S.P. and ask the first train I can get that stops at Ganado, while I run upstairs and pack my bag.”
    “You poor little dear!” exclaimed the landlady.  “I’m so sorry!  I’ll call right away, and then I’ll come up and help you.”
    A few minutes later she came up to say that the first train left at nine o’clock in the morning.  She offered to help her pack; but the girl said there was nothing that she could not do herself.
    “I must go out first for a few minutes,” Gaza told her.  “Then I will come back and finish packing the few things that it will be necessary to take.”
    When the landlady had left, the girl stood staring dully at the black travelling bag that she had brought from the closet and placed on her bed; but she did not see the bag or the few pieces of lingerie that she had taken from her dresser drawers.  She saw only the sweet face of her mother, and the dear smile that had lighted the girl’s dark days, even after she had left home.
    For a long time she stood there thinking – trying to realize what it would mean to her if the worst should come.  It could make no difference, she realized, except that it might perhaps save her mother from a still greater sorrow.  It was the girl who was dead, though the mother did not guess it; she had been dead for many months.  This hollow, shaking husk was not Shannon Burke – it was not the thing that the mother had loved.  It was almost a sacrilege to take it up there into the clean country and flaunt it in the face of so sacred a thing as mother-love.
    The girl stepped quickly to a writing desk, and, drawing a key from her vanity case, unlocked it.  She took from it a case containing a hypodermic syringe and a few small phials; then she crossed the hall to the bathroom.  When she came back, she looked rested and less nervous.  She returned the things to the desk, locked it, and ran downstairs.
    “I will back in a few minutes,” she called to the landlady.  “I shall have to arrange a few things tonight with a friend.”
    She went directly to the Vista del Paso bungalow.  Crumb was surprised and not a little startled as he heard her key in the door.  He had a sudden vision of Allen returning, and he went white; but when he saw who it was he was no less surprised, for the girl had never before returned after leaving for the night. “My gracious!” he exclaimed.  “Look who’s here!” She did not return his smile.
    “I found a telegram at my home,” she said, “that necessitates my going away for a few days.  I came over to tell you and, to get a little snow to last me until I come back.  Where I am going they don’t have it, I imagine.” He looked at her through narrow, suspicious lids.
    “You’re going to quit me!” he cried accusingly.  “That’s why you went out with Allen!  You can’t get away with it.  I’ll never let you go.  Do you hear me? I’ll never let you go!”
    “Don’t be a fool, Wilson,” she replied.  “My mother is ill, and I have been sent for.”
    “Your mother?  You never told me you had a mother.”
    “But I have, though I don’t care to talk about her to you.  She needs me, and I am going.”
    He was still suspicious.
    “Are you telling me the truth?  Will you come back?”
    “You know I’ll come back,” she said.  “I shall have to,” she added with a weary sigh.
    “Yes, you’ll have to.  You can’t get along without it.  You’ll come back all right – I’ll see to that!”
    “How much snow you got at home?” he demanded.
    “You know I keep scarcely any there.  I forgot my case today – left it in my desk, so I had a little there – a couple of shots, maybe.”
    “Very well,” he said.  “I’ll give you enough to last a week – then you’ll have to come home.”
    “You say you’ll give me enough to last a week?” the girl repeated questioningly.  “I’ll take what I want – it’s as much mine as yours!”
    “But you don’t get any more than I’m going to give you.  I won’t have you gone more than a week.  I can’t live without either of you – don’t you understand? I believe you have a wooden heart, or none at all!”

Ah, nothing like coke-addled drama.  I love the way ERB makes their mutual paranoia so apparent in their argument.  He must have been very familiar with this type of behavior.  The S.P. is, by the way, the Southern Pacific Railroad.

    “Oh,” she said, yawning, “you can get some other poor fool to peddle it for you if I don’t come back; but I’m coming, never fear.  You’re as bad as the snow – I hate you both, but I can’t live without either of you.  I don’t feel like quarrelling, Wilson.  Give me the stuff – enough to last a week, for I’ll be home before that.”
    He went to the bathroom and made a little package up for her.
    “Here!” he said, returning to the living room.  “That ought to last you a week.”
    She took it and slipped it into her case.
    “Well, goodbye,” she said, turning toward the door.
    “Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” he asked.
    “”Have I ever kissed you, since I learned that you had a wife?”
    “No,” he admitted, “but you might kiss me goodbye now, when you’re going away for a whole week.”
    “Nothing, doing, Wilson!” she said with a negative shake of the head.  “I’d as lief kiss a Gila monster!”
    He made a wry face.
    “You’re sure candid,” he said.
    She shrugged her shoulders in a gesture of indifference and moved toward the door.
    On her face was an expression of unspeakable disgust as she passed through the doorway of the bungalow and closed the door behind her.  Wilson Crumb simulated a shudder.
    “I sure was a damn fool,” he mused.  “Gaza would have made the greatest emotional actress the screen has ever known, if I’d given her a chance.  I guessed her wrong and played her wrong.  She’s not like any woman I ever saw before.  I should have made her a great success and won her gratitude – that’s the way I ought to have played her.  Oh, well, what’s the difference?  She’ll come back.”
    He rose and went to the bathroom, snuffed half a grain of cocaine, and then collected all the narcotics hidden there and every vestige of contributory evidence of their use by the inmates of the bungalow.  Dragging a small table into his bedroom closet, he mounted and opened a trap leading into the air space between the ceiling and the roof.  Into this he climbed, carrying the drugs with him.
    They were wrapped in a long thin package, to which a light, strong cord was attached.  With this cord he lowered the package into the space between the sheathing and the inner wall, fastening the end of the cord to a nail driven into one of the studs at arm’s length below the wall plate.
    “There!” he thought, as he clambered back into the closet.  “It’ll take some dick to uncover that junk!”
    Hidden between the plaster and sheathing of the little bungalow was a fortune in narcotics.  Only a small fraction of their stock had the two peddlers kept in the bathroom, and Crumb had now removed that, in case Allen should guess that he had been betrayed by his confederate and direct the police to the bungalow, or the police themselves should trace his call and make an investigation on their own account.  He realized he had taken a great risk; but his strategem had saved him from the deadly menace of Allen’s vengeance, at least for the present.  The fact that there must ultimately be an accounting with the man he put out of his mind.  It would be time enough to meet that contingency when it arose.
    As a matter of fact, the police came to the bungalow that very evening; but through no clue obtained from Allen, who, while he had suspicions that were tantamount to conviction, chose to await the time when he might wreak his revenge in his own way.  The desk sergeant had traced the call to Crumb, and after the arrest that had been made a couple of detective sergeants called upon him. They were quiet, pleasant-spoken men, with an ingratiating way that might have deceived the possessor of a less suspicious brain than Crumb’s.
    “The lieutenant sent us over to thank you for that tip,” said the spokesman.
    “We got him all right, with the junk on him.”
    Not for nothing was Wilson Crumb a talented actor.  None there was who could better have registered polite and uninterested incomprehension.
    “I am afraid,” he said, “that I don’t quite get you.  What tip?  What are you talking about?”
    “You called up the station, Mr. Crumb.  We had central trace the call. There is no use –”
    Crumb interrupted him with a gesture.  He didn’t want the officer to go so far that it might embarrass him to retract.
    “Ah!” he exclaimed, a light of understanding illuminating his face.  “I believe I have it.  What was the message?  I think I can explain it.”
    “We think you can, too,” agreed the sergeant, “seein’ you phoned the message.”
    “No, but I didn’t,” said Crumb, “although I guess it may have come over my phone all right.  I’ll tell you what I know about it.  A car drove up a little while after dinner, and a man came to the door.  He was a stranger.  He asked if I had a phone, and if he could use it.  He said he wanted to phone an important and confidential message to his wife.  He emphasized the ‘confidential,’ and there was nothing for me to do but go in the other room until he was through.  He wanted to pay for the use of the phone.  I didn’t hear what he said over the phone, but I guess that explains the matter.  I’ll be careful next time a stranger wants to use my phone.”
    “I would,” said the sergeant drily.  “Would you know him if you saw him again?”
    “I sure would,” said Crumb.
    They rose to go.
    “Nice little place you have here,’ remarked one of them, looking around.
    “Yes,” said Crumb, “it is very comfortable.  Wouldn’t you like to look it over?”
    “No,” replied the officer.  “Not now – maybe some other time.” Crumb grinned after he had closed the door behind them.
    “I wonder,” he mused, “if that was a threat or a prophecy!”
    A week later Slick Allen was sentenced to a year in the county jail for having morphine in his possession.
Yes, that Wilson Crumb is one smooth operator.  And what a master bullshitter!  I can imagine the detectives rolling their eyes at that story.  I mean, they must have heard it all.  And note that detail, as the officer checks the place out, nothing escaping his trained eye.  ERB had played the cop before in Salt Lake City and knew all about their talents and vices.

What can we now expect with the main bootlegger and drug supplier behind bars?  Will Wilson get even with Crumb.  Will Shannon go to hell in the snow?

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Read The Girl From Hollywood Text in ERBzine
See the ERBzine Bibliography Entry


 by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Pt. I: Ch. 1 Pt. II: Ch. 2 Pt. III: Ch. 3/4 Pt. IV: Ch. 5 Pt. V: Ch. 6/7 Pt. VI: Ch. 8/9/10 Pt. VII: Ch. 11/12
Pt. VIII: Ch. 13/14 Pt. IX: Ch. 15 Pt. X: Ch. 16 Pt. XI: Ch. 17/18 Pt. XII: Ch. 19/20 Pt. XIII: Ch. 21 Pt. XIV: Ch. 22/23
Pt. XV: Ch. 24/25 Pt. XVI: Ch. 26/27/28 Pt. XVII: Ch. 29/30/31 Pt. XVIII: Ch. 32/33 Pt. XIX: Ch. 34 Pt. XX: Ch. 35 Pt. XXI: Ch. 36/37


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