Have you ever felt like a birthday party was thrown for you and everyone went but you weren’t invited? That’s the way I felt when Detective Braintree told me I was dead and everyone else knew about it but me. After I heard the tragic news I made a beeline to the Hollywood Precinct of the Los Angeles Police Department.
I practically barged into Lt. Lou Sparta’s office, whizzing past the secretary. When I burst into his office the first thing I asked was, “What’s all this baloney about me being dead?” Detective Teddy Braintree was slouching by Lt. Sparta’s desk and I thought the cigar was going to fall out of his mouth. Lt. Sparta froze in mid-sentence leering at me, and responded by pulling out a bottle of rye and two glasses from his desk.
“Well, I’ll be damned”, Braintree mumbled.
“Here, swallow some firewater. Maybe she’ll disappear”, Lt. Sparta grunted as he poured two fingers for them both.
“Don’t wrinkle the bottle, it won’t help. I’m still alive, so what’s the big idea telling me I’m dead?”
“Sit down, Lois”.
Lt. Sparta tossed a folder of photographs on the desk towards me. “We thought this was your last modeling job”, he quipped before he quaffed his rye shot. I went through the photos and they were from a crime scene. Someone looking very much like me was lying in a pool of blood on an oriental rug, her throat slashed from ear to ear.
“You, or rather, she was found dead two nights ago, murdered in Hollywood. You have to admit the resemblance is amazing”, Sparta admitted.
“I moved out of Hollywood three days ago. I’m back in Bunker Hill”.
“Who the hell do you suppose it is, chief?” Braintree put out his cigar for my sake.
"Maybe another model, who knows? Say, Lois, who’s your agent?”
“Miss Lillywhite, Southern California Cameo Agency”.
Sparta picked up the phone and called his beleaguered secretary. “Libby, contact a Miss Lillywhite from the California Cameo Agency, have her come down here”.
As soon as he racked the phone there was dead silence with me just staring at the murder photos.
“This girl was killed two nights ago? That’s almost the same time I was attacked by those scarecrows again”.
“What? Why didn’t you call us sooner?”
“It’s a long story, but it happened on Angel’s Flight”, I answered.
“Now we’re getting somewhere! We got a call about a dead train operator and one of those creepy scarecrows with a punctured windpipe”.
“The one and the same. I was attacked by two of them, one escaped, but not until he caught a rock in the face. He’s the one who strangled the operator”.
“What else do you remember about that night?”
“The mug that ran off was called Shep, Shep Rogers”.
“The hillbilly singer?” Braintree asked with surprise. “What makes you so sure?”
“Well, that’s what I was calling you about just a little while ago. You see, I carved a weird S-shape on his wrist while I was fighting him off on the train that night and I just came from the CBS radio station and there he was playing guitar with that same bloody scar as bright as a Christmas tree”.
“Do you suppose he’s still there?”
“I doubt it, he froze as soon as he saw me, so I’ll bet dollars to donuts he’s taken off as quickly as he can”.
Sparta scoffed. “Let’s not be too sure about that. I’ll send a car over there right now”. Again he picked up the phone and called dispatch.
“I never trusted that whole Shep Rogers business, no sirree”, Sparta tapped his pen against his desk. “That guy’s been nothing but trouble since he drifted into town. Oklahoma transplant with a criminal record a yard long, yup”.
“What’s his real name, Chief?”
“Shep Robertson, wanted back in Oke for robbery, assault, theft, vandalism, arson, murder, kidnapping, theft, if they wrote a law against it he did it. Promised his parole officer and any trusting stooge that he was going honest for the sheer love of singing”.
“We’ve been watching him but not close enough”.
“We heard rumors of him coming to town with some decent, down on their luck workers from Oklahoma and trying to extort them of their wares if they don’t come in with him on his business venture”.
“Some business venture. Killing rich businessmen and taking their money and anything else they can get out of it”.
“Well, why can’t you arrest him just for that?” I asked.
“These witnesses are scared, tired people who don’t want trouble. Anyway, there hasn’t been enough evidence to put him away”, Sparta sighed. “Evidence is everything”.
After a long pause Miss Lillywhite entered the room and nearly fainted at the sight of me. “You’d better help her up”, Sparta told Braintree as he poured a new drink just for her.
“We think your pal Seaman Wells was one of those guys that travelled out west with a camp and decided to be a right guy and enlist in the Navy instead of working on a farm”, Det. Braintree said as he grabbed a chair and put Miss Lillywhite in it.
“But Rogers, or Robertson wouldn’t take no for an answer. Give the lady a pick me up, Braintree”, he handed Teddy the drink.
Miss Lillywhite dunked the drink like a Foreign Legionnaire dying of thirst in the Sahara.
“Oh, Lois, dear, what a shock. We all thought you were dead”.
“Miss Lillywhite, think very carefully. Was there a model employed by your agency that closely resembles Lois Angelus?” Sparta slowly asked.
“Hmmm”, she stared at me.
“Will this refresh your memory?” he picked up a particularly grisly death photo and showed it to her.
“Get that awful picture away from me!” She yelled, smacking the picture away from her face. After a second spent thinking, she announced, “Nobody looks like Lois!”
“Let me see that picture again”, I asked, studying it closely. Miss Lillywhite covered her eyes. I didn’t realize she was that squeamish. Sparta’s phone rang.
“Sparta here. What? Yeah, no surprise. Did you talk to the station manager? He must know something about Robertson. Yeah, call back if you got some new dope for me”.
“Wait a minute”, I slowly realized where I’d seen that girl. “I know her, I know this girl, of course, of course. There was a girl at Mister Bradley’s party a few nights ago, and she was completely fixed up to look like me, it was like a bad dream, if I moved to the right, she moved to the left, she was like a bad mirror image or something like that, it was like bad magic, she was tall, she was thin, she had the same hair, the same makeup, after I saw her I had to leave the party, it was too eerie. The party was in Hollywood, right by Wilcox”.
“That’s not too far from the murder scene”.
“It’s got to be her. I wonder if Mister Bradley knew her”.
Sparta picked up the phone. “What’s his number?”
“Crestview 8-7699, but he’s not in this time of day. He’s probably getting his spa treatment at the Hollywood Athletic Club”.
“Libby, get me the Hollywood Athletic Club!”
I got up and walked around the room impatiently. Miss Lillywhite stood up and followed me, cornering me alone by the windows.
“Lois, you know you’re of my favorite girls and I love you like a daughter, but seriously, I’m going to have to ask you to take a break from all this modeling. All this bad publicity is adversely affecting my agency”.
“When this dies down I’ll be happy to send you out again. I just can’t have this going on with my name connected to it. God bless, my dear”.
Miss Lillywhite turned to Lt. Sparta and Detective Braintree. “May I go back to work, gentlemen?”
“Sure”, Braintree waved her off.
I paced around while Sparta was waiting for his call from the Hollywood Athletic Club. I stopped in my tracks and announced, “I got it!”
“I’ve got a great idea!” I smiled at my ingenuity, and ran over to the phone. I picked up the receiver and started dialing. Sparta and Braintree looked at each other as if I’d lost my mind.
“Hey!” Sparta yelled. “Do you mind, young lady? I’m expecting an important call!”
Ignoring him, I dialed away. She answered on the other end.
“Hello, Ida? Can you do me a favor? Not just any favor, but a really big favor?”