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Volume 5035

P. J. Monahan: Girl from Hollywood - FP same as DJAce edition: Boris Vallejo cover art: January 1976
 by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Part 15: Chapters 24 and 25
“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”

Custer’s out on bail on his insane quest to take the heat for Guy so that Eva won’t lose her mind and kill herself.  Sometimes having a rich, ideal family life doesn’t prepare you for the slings and arrows of adversity.  After all, it’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of Uncle Sam. And then there is the story of the Hollywood junkie starlet trying to go straight out in the country air, fouling every thing up for everyone as she tries to help them, but only making matters worse because she is playing a deceiving role.  In this comedy of errors, is there any way she can do right?

        The next morning he saw Shannon, who came to ride with them, the Penningtons, as had been her custom.  She looked tired, as if she had spent a sleepless night.  She had – she had spent two sleepless nights, and she had had to fight the old fight all over again.  It had been very hard, even though she had won, for it had shown her that the battle was not over.  She had thought that she had conquered the craving; but that had been when she had no troubles or unhappiness to worry her mind and nerves.  The last two days had been days of suffering for her, and the two sleepless nights had induced a nervous condition that begged for the quieting influence of the little white powder.
        Custer noticed immediately that something was amiss.  The roses were gone from her cheeks, leaving a suggestion of the old pallor; and though she smiled and greeted him happily, he thought that he detected an expression of wistfulness and pain in her face when she was not conscious that others were observing her.
        Presently he turned toward her.
        “I am going to ride over to the east pasture after breakfast,” he said, and waited.
        “Is that an invitation?”
        He smiled and nodded.
        “But not if it isn’t perfectly convenient,” he added.
        “I’d love to come with you.  You know I always do.”
        “Fine!  And you’ll breakfast with us?”
        “Not today.  I have a couple of letters to write that I want to get off right away; but I’ll be up between eight thirty and nine.  Is that too late?”
        “I’ll ride down after breakfast and wait for you – if I won’t be in the way.”
Does it seem odd to you that so many people like to write letters in 1921?  Think about how hard it was to get a telephone connection and then realize that there were no faxes or emails in 1921.  We take it so much for granted nowadays that we can communicate with any friend with a few taps on a smart phone and then hitting a send button that we forget what a world without these conveniences would be like.  I can imagine anyone being born after 1980 would almost find it impossible to live in such a world.

So, the only way a person could tell a friend about something really important was to go to your room and write – or, if you were lucky enough to have typewriter, to type – them a letter and post it as soon as possible.  You might to have to wait a few weeks for an answer, but that’s what communication was like before the Electronic Age.  Some things were worth waiting for, and there was little danger of a scandalous photo of yourself being posted online.  Cyber-bullying and taking a selfie were impossible in those days.  Was it a better time?

In the summer of 1996 there was an electrical blackout because a power line was knocked down by a tree in Oregon, taking out the grid in several western states, California among them. After a few hours, since it was day and bright outside when it started – with 100 degree weather – it eventually became too hot inside and I went out the front door of the very nice house I was renting at the time, in a very nice neighborhood, and some of the neighbors had gathered on the lawn across the street.  I got a lawn chair and joined them for outdoor conversation while we watched the sun go down.  I can’t recall how many hours we were out of electricity, but all the memories of yesteryear, where people actually knew all of their neighbors and hung out on their front porches at night for entertainment and to catch the cool summer night breezes, came back to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking forward to a Zombie Apocalypse.  But people still had fun before electricity.

        “I’ve been thinking,” said Eva.  “I’ve been thinking how lonely it will be when you have to go away to jail.”
        “Why, they can’t send me to jail – I haven’t done anything,” he tried to reassure her.  “Come, dear, don’t worry about it.  The chances are that they’ll free me.  Even if they don’t, you mustn’t feel quite so bitterly angry against the men who are responsible.  There may be reasons that you know nothing of what would keep them silent.  Let’s not talk about it.  All we can do now is to wait and see what the grand jury is going to do.  In the meantime I don’t intend to worry.”
        Their ride that morning was over a loved and familiar trail that led across El Camino Corto over the low hills into Horse Camp Canyon, and up Horse Camp to Coyote Springs; then over El Camino Largo to Sycamore Canyon and down beneath the old, old sycamores to the ranch.  She felt that she knew each bush and tree and boulder, and they held for her the quiet restfulness of the familiar faces of old friends.  She would miss them, but she would carry them in her memory forever.
        When they came to the fork in the road, she would not let Custer ride home with her.
        “At eight-thirty, then,” he called to her, as she urged Baldy into a canter and left them with a gay wave of the hand that gave no token of the heavy sorrow in her heart.
        After breakfast, as she was returning to her bungalow to write her letters, she saw a Mexican boy on a bicycle turn in at her gate.  They met in front of the bungalow.
        “Are you Miss Burke?” he asked.  “Bartolo says for you to come to his camp in the mountains this morning, sure,” he went on, having received an affirmative reply.
        The girl thought for a moment.  Possibly here was a way out of her dilemma.  If she could force Bartolo by threats of exposure, he might discover a way to clear Custer Pennington without incriminating himself.  She turned to the boy.
        “Tell him I will come.”
        “I do not see him again.  He is up in his camp now.  He told me this yesterday.  He also told me to tell you that he would be watching for you, and if you did not come alone you would not find him.”
        “Very well,” she said, and turned into the bungalow.
Can I tell you how stupid it would be for her to do this without setting up in advance any insurance that if she did not return to her house, all information in her possession would be immediately released to the authorities?  Otherwise, she is giving Bartolo little chance but to bump her off to prevent exposure.
She wrote her letters, but she was not thinking about them.  Then she took them over to Powers to take to the city for her.  After that she went to the telephone and called the Rancho del Ganado, asking for Custer when she got the connection.
If Powers was mentioned earlier, I don’t remember.  Likely, he is a ranch hand, but I am not sure if she had him deliver the letters personally or if he was to take them to the post office in the city and then mail them.
        “I’m terribly disappointed,” she said, when he came to the telephone.  “I find I simply can’t ride this morning; but if you’ll put it off until afternoon –” “Why, certainly!  Come up to lunch and we’ll ride afterward,” he told her.
        “You won’t go, then, until afternoon?” she asked.
        “I’ll ride over to the east pasture this morning, and we’ll just take a ride any old place that you want to go this afternoon.” “All right,” she replied.
        She had hoped that he would not ride that morning.  There was a chance that he might see her, even though the east pasture was miles from the trail she would ride, for there were high places on both trails, where a horseman would be visible for several miles.
        “This noon at lunch, then,” he said.
Custer sure is naive.  Even though this is exactly like the last time he trusted her to tell him the truth, she lies again and he doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.  ERB certainly knew from his Army training not to ever silhouette your body on a hill, but always keep a certain amount of elevation above you so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb to enemy fire.  It was certainly drummed into my head during Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Ord.

I can also imagine ERB scouting out areas in the mountain trails above Rancho Tarzana so that everything he described in the coming paragraphs would be totally geographically accurate.  Think how this would have made tours of the Rancho exciting to the readers at the time.  ERB could say, “Hey, look over there – that’s where Custer was busted by the fuzz.” Heheheh.  I haven’t thought of that word in ages.  My father always called the cops that name.  I believe he was busted at least five times for drunk driving.  You needed more convictions then to make your next one a felony.  It only takes the fourth one nowadays.  The third, unless the Legislature has upped it recently, gets you an automatic 120 days in county jail.  I no longer drink and drive if you were wondering.  I was cured of that on July 27, 2001.

I finally went to trial on that one in December 2002, and well into the voir dire – which means “to tell the truth” in French – that is became apparent that I had lost my crap shoot.  After exhausting all ten of my peremptory challenges – where you can get rid of anyone without any reason, except it can’t be racially or gender based – it was apparent that almost everyone in the jury venire were donors to Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD).  Even the fact that the first two mothers who had created the organization were later ostracized because of their own drunk driving, didn’t dissuade the jury from ever considering me innocent under the law until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

I had two scientific experts to prove that the arresting officer was lying through his teeth – it was estimated for example that the officer would have had to speed up to over six hundred miles an hour, breaking the sound barrier, in order to catch up to me according to his version; the other expert testified that I had a blood alcohol count (BAC) less than the legal limit of .08 at the time I was pulled over in a McDonald’s drive-thru lane.  Even then, it only took the MADD jury six minutes to find me guilty.  Oh well, you win some and you lose some.  Like I said, it’s a crap shoot.

The prosecutor, realizing the stupidity of the jury, made light of the science by calling it smoke and mirrors, which was enough to convince them to ignore the truth.  Their idea of science was like that of every denier of evolution or global warning.  As long as there was someone they could respect out there that denied it, they were comfortable doing the same.  Facts mean nothing to these kind of people.  They made sure that I didn’t get away with it.  But in the end, they did me a favor.  I no longer drink and drive.

By the way, I had my revenge on the arresting officer during a cross-examination at a preliminary hearing Mario asked me to for him on one of his cases.  The officer had responded to a complaint by a waitress about a person causing a disturbance at a bar.  When the officer arrived, he arrested the owner of the bar and got into an altercation with him.  At the hearing I got him to admit that he had beat up the suspect at the police station.  I doubt if he was ever disciplined for it, but it was fun because when he testified against me at my DUI trial he stated that even though a year and a half had passed and he had arrested hundreds of people since then, I I had the kind of face he never forgot.  He didn’t have a clue as to who I was when I was ripping him apart on the witness stand though.  You see, he was a pathological liar, and it was nearly impossible for him to tell the truth.  Likely, he received an award for most drunk driving arrests for that year.

Did that sound like I was bitter?  Hehehehe.  Yeah, I guess it was.  After all, I can no longer enter Canada because of it.

        Half an hour later Custer Pennington swung into the saddle and headed the Apache up Sycamore Canyon.
        The trail to the east pasture led through Jackknife.  As he passed the spot where he had been arrested on the previous Friday night, the man made a wry face – more at the recollection of the ease with which he had been duped than because of the fact of his arrest.
        Below and to Custer’s right the ranch buildings lay dotted about in the dust like children’s toys upon a gray rug.  Beyond was the castle on the hill, shining in the sun, and farther still the soft-carpeted valley, in grays and browns and greens.  Then the young man’s glance wandered to the left and out over the basin meadow, and instantly the joy died out of his heart and the happiness from his eyes.  Straight along the mysterious trail loped a horse and rider toward the mountains, and even at that distance he recognized them as Baldy and Shannon.
        This was the end.  He was through with her forever.  What did he know about her?  What did any of them know about her?
        She was doubtless a hireling of the gang that had stolen the whisky and disposed of it through Guy.  They had sent her here to spy on Guy and to watch the Penningtons.  It was she who had set the trap in which he had been caught, not to save Guy, but to throw the suspicion of guilt upon Custer.
        With the realization, the senseless fury of his anger left him.  He turned the Apache away, and headed him again toward the east pasture; but deep within his heart was a cold anger that was quite as terrible, though in a different way.
        Shannon Burke rode up the trail toward the camp of the smugglers, all unconscious that there looked down upon her from a high ridge behind eyes filled with hate and loathing – the eyes of the man she loved.
As she reached the foot of the trail, she saw Bartolo standing beneath a great oak, awaiting her.  His pony stood with trailing reins beneath the tree.  A rifle butt protruded from the boot on the right side of the saddle.  He came forward as she guided Baldy toward the tree.
        “Buenos dias, senorita,” he greeted her, twisting his pock-marked face into the semblance of a smile.
        “What do you want of me?” Shannon demanded.
        “I need money,” he said.  “You get money from Evans.  He got all the money from the hootch we take down two weeks ago.  We never get no chance to get it from him.”
        “I’ll get you nothing!”
        “You get money now – and whenever I want it,” said the Mexican, “or I tell about Crumb.  You Crumb’s woman.  I tell how you peddle dope.  I know!
        You do what I tell you, or you go to the pen.  Sabe?”
        “Now listen to me,” said the girl.  “I didn’t come up her to take orders from you, I came to give you orders.”
        “What?” exclaimed the Mexican, and then he laughed aloud.  “You give me orders?  That is damn funny!”
        “Yes, it is funny.  You will enjoy it immensely when I tell you what you are to do.”
        “Hurry, then; I have no time to waste.”  He was still laughing.
        “You are going to find some way to clear Mr. Pennington of the charges against him.  I don’t care what the way is, so long as it does not incriminate any other innocent person.  If you can do it without getting yourself into trouble, well and good.  I do not care; but you must see that there is evidence before the grand jury next Wednesday that will prove Mr. Pennington’s innocence.” “Is that all?” inquired Bartolo, grinning broadly.
        “That is all.”
        “And if I don’t it – eh?”
        “Then I shall go before the grand jury and tell them about you, and Allen – about the opium and the morphine and the cocaine – how you smuggled the stolen booze from the ship off the coast up into the mountains.”
        “You think you would do that?” he asked.  “But how about me?  Wouldn’t I be telling everything I know about you?  Allen would testify, too, and they would make Crumb come and tell how you lived with him.  Oh, no, I guess you don’t tell the grand jury nothing!”
        “I shall tell them everything.  Do you think I care about myself?  I will tell them all that Allen and Crumb could tell; and listen, Bartolo – I can tell them something more.  There used to be five men in your gang.  There were three when
        I came up last week, and Allen is in jail; but where is the other?” The man’s face went black with anger, and perhaps with fear, too.
        “What you know about that?” he demanded sharply.
        “Allen told Crumb the first time he came to the Hollywood bungalow that he was having trouble among his gang, that you were a hard lot to handle, and that already one named Bartolo had killed one named Gracial.  How would you like me to tell that to the grand jury?”
        “You never tell that to no one,” growled the Mexican.  “You know too damn much for your health!”
Talk about being the own cause of one’s demise!  I mean, she already knows this guy has killed someone in a gang related murder.  Why does she believe she is immune to the same?  Is it because of the incriminating knowledge she possesses?  That only counts if she lives to tell it to someone.
        He had stepped suddenly forward and seized her wrist.  She struck at him and at the same time put the spurs to Baldy – in her fear and excitement more severely than she had intended.  The high-spirited animal, unused to such treatment, leaped forward past the Mexican, who, clinging to the girl’s wrist, dragged her from the saddle.  Baldy turned, and feeling himself free, ran for the trail that led toward home.
        “You know too damn much!” repeated Bartolo.  “You better off up here alongside Gracial!”
        The girl had risen to her feet and stood facing him.  There was no fear in her eyes.  She was very beautiful, and her beauty was not lost upon the Mexican.
        “You mean that you would kill me to keep me from telling the truth about you?” she asked.
        The man stood facing her, holding her by the wrist.  His eyes appraised her boldly.
        “You damn good-looking,” he said, and pulled the girl toward him.
        “Before I kill you, I –”
        He threw an arm about her roughly, and, leaning far over her as she pulled away, he sought to reach her lips with his.
Oh boy! we are about to read another one of ERB’s infamous near rape scenes.

Censorship at the time didn’t allow physical descriptions of a rape, but ERB always took it to the limit, having the girl brutalized before she was eventually rescued.  I don’t know if he ever wanted to take a scene all the way, but I know he wouldn’t have in this story, because he wanted to keep Shannon virginal to the end.  He knew many readers would change their opinion about her if she was really raped.  I mean if it were your intention to marry a virgin, then a raped girl is always regarded as damaged goods.

It’s not really that big of a scene in light of modern censorship, but look at the impact it had upon illustrators of the story.  Bill Hillman has made a collage of the many illustrated scenes from this novel, and you may notice how many of them deal with Bartolo molesting Shannon. There’s something about rape that excites most readers.  This book would have been regarded by most churches and prudes in 1921 America as pornographic, with its drugs and sex.  But at least it was legal pornography.

In homage to the cliffhanger, this is a good place to stop for this installment.  Will Bartolo rape and then kill Shannon in some kind of twisted, perverted manner?  Will she be rescued at the last possible moment?  Wait and see.

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Read The Girl From Hollywood Text in ERBzine
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 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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