When I regained consciousness something wet was running down my head. I was lying flat on my back strapped to a pair of black wings and looking up at Lieutenant Sparta and Detective Ted Braintree. There were a few police cars parked around us with their headlights puncturing the darkness. A few policemen were looking at a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood several feet away from me. He was dressed up like a scarecrow and didn’t seem to be moving.
Detective Braintree leaned down and looked at me funny.
“Don’t move a muscle. You’ve just survived a traumatic automobile accident. Do you know your name?”
"Of course I do. It’s Lois Angelus”. A sheet was draped over the prone figure, placed on a stretcher and carried away to an ambulance. “What’s happened to him?”
“I reckon he’s dead thanks to a gunshot through his face. I taught you well, Lois. You’re a regular Annie Oakley”.
I stared up at him looking puzzled.
“Don’t worry, kid”, he patted my arm. “We’ll get you the best medical attention the City of Los Angeles has to offer”. He smiled.
The last thing I heard was police car radios crackling loudly and policemen spitting, whistling and laughing. The last thing I saw was two nurses picking me up and putting me on a stretcher. Then I passed out again.
I awoke in a white room wrapped up in a bolt of creamy fabric. A tube was connected to my arm and my head felt tight, like I was wearing a turban. The texture of this creamy fabric was definitely a cotton blend of some sort and felt like I was lying in a tub of cool butter.
The room was an atelier and occasionally a tailor’s form would roll in and stick a pin in me like I was some damn pin cushion. Other times it would call out the door and another tailor’s form would roll in on its wheels. They would both mumble words like “beautiful” once in a while. I also heard a lot of starched fabric rustling by my ears every time I was sleeping.
Another time I opened my eyes a little bit and squinted them to get a better look at a little girl standing by my doorway. She held a couple of dolls in her tiny hands.
“Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady?”
“She’s broke, just like when Betsy was broke and Pa had to fix her”.
“Betsy wants to stay with the broken lady”.
“Carol! Come back here! Don’t disturb the poor woman!”
The little blonde girl ran up to me and stared at me very seriously. “Betsy, take care of the broken lady”, she said quietly and left a tiny blonde doll by my right hip. Then she ran away.
“Mommy! Betsy’s going to take care of the broken lady!”
“Oh, Carol! How many times do I have to tell you not to speak to strangers?”
My eyes got heavy again and I passed out.
“Oh, look, she’s waking up”, I heard a voice say to someone. My head hurt something awful when I moved it and reluctantly opened my eyes into clear white light. Lieutenant Lou Sparta and Detective Ted Braintree were sitting by my bed staring at me.
“How long have I been here?” I asked with my dry mouth. I smacked my lips to get some moisture and Teddy reached to the bed stead and poured a glass of water.
“You’ve only been here for a couple of days”, Lt. Sparta answered, twirling his hat in his hands. Teddy put the glass to my mouth, helping me drink. “You suffered a pretty hard concussion. We thought it would be best for you to rest here for a few”.
“How are you feeling, dear?” Teddy asked.
“My head hurts a little, but I think part of it’s these bandages on my head. They’re a little tight”.
“Oh, that’s okay. The doctor says they’re probably coming off tomorrow”.
“Well, that’s grand. How’s Ida?”
“She’s fine, Lois”, Lt. Sparta responded, “We rounded up all those thugs and got her to safety”.
“It’s a funny thing about those thugs”, Teddy said, “Our friend Shep Rogers had a little gang organized and they sort of squatted in that drive-in theatre that was getting built in the hills. After we carted those mugs off we investigated the grounds and found crates of guns and a list of prospective future victims. It was quite a list!”
“Well, we won’t have to worry about Rogers or his thugs again”, Sparta added. “Some of them even supplied us with all the missing links in their killing streak”.
“Oh, and by the way, Lois, do you notice anything different about me?” Teddy beamed.
“No, I can’t say that I have”.
“Well, you are now looking at Chief of Detectives Theodore Braintree”, he bragged, smiling.
“Why, that’s great, Teddy. Congratulations”.
“Excuse me, Miss, but there’s a two-person visitors limit to each patient”, I heard some matronly nurse say.
“But I’ll only be a minute!” I heard Ida’s voice.
“Miss, you’re not permitted-“
Ida burst in the room and ran over to the bed with a newspaper. “Lois, I know you don’t like to miss the society column for all the world. There’s an item about Myrna Loy you just HAVE to see!”
“Miss, I’m going to have to ask you to leave!” An old, mean nurse came racing in after Ida. There was no question why she wasn’t allowed to come in.
“Alright, Momma, keep your girdle on!” Ida followed her. “Page Three, Lois. Don’t miss it!”
“Why, thank you, Ida. The Herald-Examiner. My favorite. I can’t wait to read what that Myrna Loy did this time”. I picked up the paper and turned to page three.
The headline read, “LA COPS FOIL MILLIONAIRE MURDER PLOT”
“A reign of terror over Los Angeles’ richest model citizens ended Friday night by crusading Detective Theodore Braintree of the Los Angeles Police Department with the apprehension of a killer gang-“
“Oh, I hope she makes another movie with that dashing William Powell. They work so well together!” I read on. If I could make my smile freeze any harder on my face I swear it would have cracked.
A picture of Shep Rogers dead with a bullet hole through his face was posted next to a staff photo of Teddy. “Leader of the terror gang, calling himself The Grinning Scarecrow, was shot and killed by upstanding law enforcer Detective Braintree after refusing to surrender in a storm of gunfire”. I got sick to my stomach.
“That Asta is the cutest dog, isn’t he? That Nick and Nora, you’d think they were a real-life married couple!”
“Lt. Lou Sparta told reporters that Detective Braintree will surely be promoted to head his Department for his intrepid heroism. We applaud his efforts in apprehending The Grinning Scarecrow, Los Angeles’ most horrific killer”. My head hurt even worse than I imagined.
“Well, how about that!” I put the paper down. “Well, won’t that give that Jean Harlow a run for her money!”
Teddy got on his knees nervously, and now he was spinning his hat in his hands. “Gee, Lois, I was thinking. We could be even better than Nick and Nora Charles. With my crusading crime-fighting strength and your good looks we could make quite a team. We won’t need Asta, I have my cat Punchy. And just think, we’ll have babies and do it regular, and ordinary folks”.
“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“Well, heck yeah, kid. I’m crazy about you and I hope you kinda like me a little bit. Whadda ya say?”
“What about Ida?”
“Well, the kids are gonna need a governess, and you know how those colored girls are good at sewing and cleaning and stuff”.
“I don’t know what to say, Teddy. I kind of like modeling, I don’t know if I’m ready for kids”.
“Well, that’s out. We’re gonna have so many kids, you won’t have to time to show off your legs anymore. Besides, I don’t want a bunch of dumb lugs ogling my wife, but we can talk about that later. We’ll have lots of time to talk about it”.
Sparta relaxed his posture in his chair and barked, “Come on, Miss Angelus, you’ve got the newly promoted Chief of Detectives for the LA Police Department on his knees. What are you going to do?”
“I’ll do it!” I smiled.
“Yipppee!” yelled Chief of Detectives Theodore Braintree, jumping for joy.
“Hahahhahahahahahahaha!” laughed Lt. Lou Sparta.
“Hahahhahahahahahahaha!” Detective Braintree laughed harder.
“Hahahhahahahahahahaha!” I laughed the hardest, looking at the two biggest saps I’ve ever seen.
Long Beach, 6:10 AM, Monday morning. Ida Parker was already out of the taxicab and heading up the ramp to the ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth.
“Come on, Lois, we’re already late. Let’s go, we can’t miss our boat! They’re holding the ramp for us!”
I tipped the cabbie who took out our bags and then tipped the porter to lug the bags up the ship for me. “Lady, jeez, how many bags are you luggin' on board anyway?”
“Close enough for fashion”, I smiled.
I finally got up on deck and smiled at Ida, who was dressed smarter than I’ve ever seen her dress.
“Nice dress, Ida, but once we get to Paris I’m going to doll you up and make you the talk of the town”.
The boat started tooting and howling as it left the harbor.
“Tell me one more time what it’s going to be like in Paris”, Ida smiled.
“Again? How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Come on, you owe me”.
“Okay, one more time. Paris is filled with chic cafes, friendly people, food like you never tasted, fancy dresses, gorgeous jewelry and even better, the handsomest guys you ever did see. And what’s even better is they give a square break to folks like you. Why, they even made a colored girl a movie star in France”.
“Oh, Lois, you’re gonna be the biggest model in Paris, I'll swear to it”, Ida was beside herself with excitement.
“Yeah, I can hardly wait”, I said as the city of Los Angeles shrank further and further away from us in the distance.
Ida looked at me seriously for a moment. “It’s too bad the way things turned out between you and Teddy”.
I looked at the shifting aquamarine waves below us and sighed, “Well, you know what they say. I might have been born yesterday, but yesterday wasn’t April Fool’s Day. C’mon kid, let’s make nice with the ship’s Captain, he ain’t half bad lookin’ for an old guy. We could use a drink!”
We both brightened up and laughed. With the ocean sparkling like sequined fabric, the sky a lush blue bolt of silk and the sun shining like the brightest gold satin, I traded in the City of Angels for the City of Light, and the future was as bright as the sun.