I was back in downtown Los Angeles, far away from the laughably safer environs of Hollywood. After all the garbage I’d endured it was just as well that I returned to my real home instead of Mr. Bradley’s over-furnished apartment. Hmph to him and his stupid parties, anyway. Most of the guests looked like Bela Lugosi in a bright red dress.
But a girl’s gotta eat so I was back at work posing for Mr. Wechter. This time I was posing as Cleopatra. Claudette Colbert, eat your heart out.
“You know, Ms. Angelus, there are many people that said Cleopatra was a blonde and that’s why she was considered more beautiful than any woman in Egypt. She was special! But before we begin, put the record on”.
Mr. Wechter usually has me put on an old, creaky record so he can get in the mood to create art, but this time he surprised me.
“Hey, Herr Wechter, you did it. You bought a new record”.
“Yes, a surprise for you. Scheherazade, to put you in the mood”, he beamed proudly.
I dropped the needle on the Rimsky-Korsakov and the quiet melody seeped out of the small horn of the victrola. I adjusted my desert robe and went into my reclining pose while Wechter paced around the room studying each angle. Oh, brother it’s going to be a long night.
“Tell me, Miss Angelus, what have these fancy fashion photographers got that I haven’t got?”
“There are some things more important than money, my girl, like aesthetics”.
I broke out of my pose and gave him a double take. “Ass-what?”
He just shook his head sadly and tsk-tsk’ed.
Wechter quietly sketched on the marble and then hammered out the outlines on the rock, sweating and grunting like a constipated bear. It got to be so annoying that during a break I grabbed some powder room paper and stuffed it in my eardrums, blocking the grunts along with Scheherazade. That’s show business.
Two hours past midnight and the great master finally gave up. It went from being a cold, hard block of marble to a lumpy, half-formed armless block of marble. Progress, but not enough to be museum-bound just yet.
“I’m a little short on funds, my dear, so here’s half of your usual payment, with the rest coming to you after the piece is finished”, Mr. Wechter said nervously.
“That could take weeks”.
“I’ll be very quick but don’t you worry, keep coming for sessions and the rest will come. It’s only fair”. I gave him a skeptical look. “If you don’t trust me, Madame, you may hold my gold plated letter opener given to me by the Baroness De Rothschild as a retainer until you get the rest of your money”. This was one classy letter opener, and sharp as hell.
“Okay, professor, it’s a deal. See you at the same day, same time”.
“Same day, same time, and stay out of trouble. I can’t use a bruised model!”
I didn’t know he noticed. Hell.
Walking down the staircase from Mr. Wechter’s studio was suicide in my higher than high hi-heels so I knew that walking down the sidewalk from Bunker Hill was a neck-breaking in the making. Which only meant one thing: Riding down on Angels Flight. Angels Flight is more of a convenience for women than it is for men because most lugs don’t mind a hardy stroll down a steep staircase, but no gal worth her salt in pumps is going to risk wrenching her ankle negotiating all those steep steps. So thank the Lord for Angels Flight, truly a godsend from the angels for us dames.
Unfortunately it was just my dumb luck that some of the street lights were out, so every few feet there was light and then there would be a large inkblot of darkness. It gave me the willies.
“All these dark corners. Shucks. My congressman’s gonna hear about this”, I muttered moodily to myself. Whenever I get a case of the willies I start mumbling to myself just to keep my nerves company.
Because of the time of night the streets were well empty but up ahead I saw the friendly lights of the Angels Flight train, waiting to take me down. Just one more block and I’ll be fine.
“Just one more patch of darkness and we’ll be over like a three-leaf clover”, I giggled. I slowed down my walk when I felt a few figures scurrying around in the pitch black darkness.
“Well, well, look who’s back…I think she missed us. What do you think, Shep?”
“Yeah, I reckon so. We went hunting for a high-stepping piggy-man and we get her again”.
“Hey, angel, don’t you ever get tired of walking in the dark?”
“Don’t you have a bo waiting for you at home?”
“Maybe she’s one of them professional ladies”.
The two men came closer and their faces became clearer in the darkness. It was the scarecrows again, only this time they had monster movie fangs painted on their masks. I started breaking into a run, and one of the scarecrows grabbed me by the waist and spun me around, covering my mouth with his dirty glove.
“Now, don’t go running away now. We know each other nuff to be friends now”.
“Don’t let her go, Buff, she’s seen too much”.I tried twisting my way free from Buff but his grip was strong.
“We sure didn’t appreciate what you did to Fergus, why he never did look the same after you cut his face open”.
“Watch her, bo, she’s a fighter!”
I kicked backwards into Buff’s crotch area and he doubled over. He loosened his grip and I ran like hell.
“That gawdamn bitch, I’ll fix her! Let’s get her ass!”
I ran towards the Angels Flight train, kicked my shoes off, jumped the gate and ran into the train. The operator, a withered old guy, looked at me with a confused look on his face.
“Where’s your ticket? You need to pay the fare”, he barked.
“Take the car down…NOW!” I yelled. He started the train.
"Okay, but once the train lands you’re paying the fare. Nobody gets to ride without paying the –“
Before he could finish the two scarecrows ran into the car screaming and yelling.
“LOOK OUT, HOSS!”
The mug called Shep began choking the conductor and the train slowly glided down the track towards Hill Street. The other mug called Buff began backing me towards the end of the train.
“You dang heifer, didn’t I tell you to in the elevator stay out of our business? I guess that wasn’t enough learning for you”, he said and then slapped me.
“Nuts to you, ya Halloween bastard”, I cussed as I backed all the way to the end of the car that hang over the tracks.
"C’mere, bitch”, he yelled as he leaped at me. I reached for the nearest thing in my handbag and pulled out Mr. Wechter’s letter opener. Buff landed right on the point of the still-sharp opener. His arms jerked around like a puppet with the strings cut off and he coughed blood all over himself and slid down to his knees and froze.
I looked behind him to see the conductor lying dead and Shep coming right at me with his grotesque scarecrow mask with jagged teeth.
“That was my best friend, you no-good city whore. I’m going to tear you apart like I should’ve in the first place”.
I edged towards the tiny railing ready to jump off the train but we were still too high up the hill. This stupid train moved too damn slow to let me get off, damn it.
I reached in my bag one more time and grabbed something long. Shep jumped over me, smacked the handbag out of my hands as it fell over the elevated track and pressed against me on the railing. He put his hands over my throat and began strangling me as I felt myself leaning over the railing, half my body ready to fall off thirty feet below.
“I’m going to wrassle your gawdamn neck and make your pretty head pop off, ya dirty bitch”. I started getting dizzy. I took the seam ripper in my hand and cut his wrist in an “S” shape, but it wasn’t enough. He bled all over his glove, but he choked even harder.
“Dirty city bitch”, he cussed and I thought, this is it. The last thing I thought before I was about to die was what Augustus Scrimm warned me…”The stairway to the stars is fraught with dark clouds…”
Before I choked to my death a large rock flew over my head and hit Shep in the mask, knocking him out cold. He fell backwards and knocked his big, stupid masked head against the back door of the train. As I struggled to regain my breath and stand up the train finally landed on the sidewalk. I looked up to see who threw the rock and the black waitress from the diner stood in front of me with a smile on her face.
“Yeah, let’s get out of here before that freak wakes up”.
“Forget the cops, they’re gonna take forever to get here. Let’s move!”