“I’ll kill you both!” Milton said to Striker and Diamond. They both laughed uproariously.
“Dunn,” Diamond said, still laughing, “you are such a loser! You really think Paige loved you, don’t you? You know that bluff at the end of Point Dume that you used to drive Paige out to, in her car no less, to watch the sunset and tell her that you loved her? She used to tell me about that and laugh as she was straddling my cock!”
I saw tears in Milton’s eyes. The anger was still there but was fast being replaced by abject sadness…
That must be why they were X’ed out of that photograph. She obviously hadn’t located Rose Pepper yet.
“Then,” Striker said, “she got even greedier when she found out me and Diamond were working together. She was going to blackmail me as well as him. That bitch had a death wish, I tell ya.”
“So you killed her, Striker?” I asked.
“I went to her apartment to smack her around, make her see sense,” Striker said. “But she was adamant about the blackmail, so I choked her.”
Milton saw red and tried to lunge for Striker, but I stopped him…
“Diamond,” I said, “do you mind clearing a couple of things up for me?”
“Why not?” Diamond said with a chuckle. “Might as well grant a dying man a last request.
“Why was Paige Turner murdered? Was it because she didn’t want to be turned into a prostitute?”
He shook his head, “No, I could live with that. I kinda liked Paige. But that bitch got greedy. When she found out about the setup she tried to blackmail me! She went looking for all the former singers to see how many were part of my stable. Found Annie and Connie.”
I looked at Striker, “I always knew you were an asshole, Striker, but I didn’t expect you to turn out to be a dirty cop.”
He grinned, “Life’s full of little disappointments, Randolph.”
Diamond pointed to a table, “Randolph, Milton, sit your asses down there.”
I figured there wasn’t any point in rocking the boat just yet so I went to the table and Milton joined me. We both sat down.
“Now that the gang’s all here,” Diamond said, “we have to get things back on track. I’m losing too much money because of all of this hassle.”
He held his hand up and they stopped moving.
“You don’t have the upper hand here, Randolph, despite what you think.”
“Oh really?” I said. “Because I’m the one with the gun.”
“I’ve got a gun too,” Striker said as he emerged from Diamond’s office with his gun barrel pressed to Milton’s head. “Now drop the weapon or I’ll end this little maggot’s life right now.”
My hopes crashed to the floor along with my pistol as I dropped it.
“You okay, Milton?” I asked.
"Yeah, Jakey, so far. I have a feeling that may change before this night’s over.”
After the last of the patrons had exited and it was only Cherokee Club employees and me Diamond looked at the bartender and said, “Get the staff out and go home. Now!”
The bartender quickly fled for the kitchen. Within minutes the contents of the club had been reduced to Diamond, his two goons and me.
“You were a damned fool to come back here, Randolph,” Diamond said as he snapped his fingers at the two goons, who started toward me.
I pulled my pistol and pointed it at Diamond’s head.
“Call them off, Diamond, or you’re dead,” I said.
Diamond climbed up onto the stage and took the microphone.
“I’m terribly sorry, folks. Mr. Randolph here has a warped and twisted sense of humor. It’s liable to get him in trouble one of these days.”
He looked at me ominously when he said that.
“Anyway, I’m afraid we’re going to have to close the club tonight. But I don’t want anyone to go away disappointed. All of you come back tomorrow night for a free meal and free drinks. Thank you all and I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
Everyone got up and began leaving. I was not expecting that…
I wasn’t totally reckless in my actions, however. Causing a scene at the club meant Diamond and his men would have to take me elsewhere to dispose of me. Now that the entire focus of the club shifted to Diamond and me there was no way he could pull anything there.
And that’s what I was hoping for, that he would leave it to Striker to take care of me. After all, Cal and the two goons had more than one chance with me and failed.
It was a long shot, granted. But it was the only shot I had…
I saw it in his eyes, a look that said, This asshole’s either the dumbest or the bravest man I’ve ever seen. I tended to think that maybe I was a little bit of both.
Everyone in the place gasped and started murmuring to each other, their eyes darting between me and Diamond. He slid his chair back and stood up. It was like two gunslingers in the Old West staring each other down in the middle of the street. All that was missing to complete the scene was a piece of sagebrush blowing through the middle of the club…
The maître d wasn’t willing to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair just for the sake of doing his job so he stepped aside. I scanned the tables for Diamond and found him sitting near the front of the stage, watching the new singer. His two goons were on either side of him but I saw no trace of Cal.
I stood back and watched until the lady finished singing. After the applause died down I yelled out, “Wonderful! Hey, Diamond, are you planning on turning her into a prostitute, too?”
Diamond turned to look at me…
I hit the front doors of the Cherokee Club just after 11 pm. There was a young girl on the stage singing; a pretty brunette with a decent enough voice. I guess she was one of the girls that had been waiting in the wings like Paige and Tiffany had done. I wondered if this dame was prepared to be turned into a prostitute.
I started to walk past the maître d, who said, “And what can I do for you, sir?”
I quietly said, “You can get the hell out of my face before I break your damned spine.”
I told Harrigan of my plan and we parted ways. It wasn’t really a plan. I just hoped if I confronted Bobby Diamond at the club that he would get Striker to do away with me, since he couldn’t rely on Cal and the two goons to handle it.
I stopped by my office on Sunset and picked up my spare pistol and then headed to Long Beach to the Cherokee Club. Walking right into the middle of that place would be one of the most foolhardy things I’d ever done.
But I was playing the last card I had…
“Whether you believe it or not, Jim, it’s true. Why have you never been able to pin anything on Diamond when you know he’s guilty as hell? And have you gotten anywhere on the Paige Turner murder? Other than Striker wanting to pin it on Milton Dunn?”
I could see in Harrigan’s eyes that he was starting to question whether or not he could be wrong about Striker.
“I’ve got a way to prove it, but it’s dangerous. Could get us both killed.”
Harrigan grinned, “It wouldn’t be the first time we faced danger together. Okay, Jake. Let’s do it.”
“It’s true. I have an eye witness,” I told him.
“Who?” he said, raising an eyebrow.
He laughed again. “Well, you’ll have to excuse me if I take the reputation of a partner I’ve had for three years over the word of some piece of tail you started sleeping with a couple of days ago.”
“Jim, I’m serious. Diamond is running a high class prostitution ring out of that damned club of his, using the singers. I’m quite sure it has something to do with Paige Turner’s murder.”
“I can’t believe this, Randolph. I just can’t believe it.”
Harrigan arrived about two minutes after 10:00. He saw me and approached me.
“This better be good, Randolph. Did you find Milton Dunn?”
I nodded, “Found him and then lost him again.”
He chuckled, “How do you even stay in this business, Randolph?”
“Look, Jim. I’ve got something to tell you and I want you to keep an open mind, okay?”
“Randolph, you’re looking at the most open minded man you’ll ever meet. Shoot.”
“Shawn Striker is on the take.”
He burst out laughing.
“Jake Randolph, you have snapped your girdle on that one!”
So much for an open mind…
By the time I got back to Hollywood I had just enough time to stop at a deli and grab a sandwich and coffee before heading to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to meet Harrigan.
The theatre was a great tourist attraction. It opened in 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King Of Kings. It also contained the footprints of many famous celebrities in the concrete sidewalk around the theatre, beginning with one of the original investors in the theatre, actress Mary Pickford.
I parked Tiffany’s car and walked to the entrance of the theatre, waiting for Harrigan…
“Look,” I said, “I need to borrow your car for tonight. I’ll do my best to keep it in one piece.”
She smiled, “The car can be replaced. You keep yourself in one piece, you hear me?”
I smiled and kissed her.
“It’s a shame we don’t have time to christen this room properly,” I said, grinning like a naughty schoolboy.
She smiled, “That’s okay, sailor. You make it back to me tomorrow and we’ll christen every inch of this room. Deal?”
“Deal!” I said.
That thought would be just the incentive I needed to make it through the night…
He groaned, “For God’s sake, what’s this all about, Ran…. I mean, mister?”
“Look, I really need to see you. Meet me in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre at 10:00 pm and come alone. 10:00 pm.”
I hung up the phone before he had a chance to protest.
I went back to the car and told Tiffany to slide over. I drove her out to Pasadena to the Hotel Parisian, stopping along the way to pick up some toiletries and change of clothing.
I got her checked in and settled and she walked me to the door of the room…
Striker must have a bladder the size of an Olympic swimming pool because he never got up from the booth. I told Tiffany to wait in the car. I bummed a dime from her and went to the payphone on the corner. I called the bar & grill and told Smiley I wanted to speak to Harrigan but not to say my name.
I heard Smiley yell, “Call for Detective Harrigan!”
After a few moments Harrigan’s gruff voice appeared on the other end.
“Yeah? Who is this?” he asked with irritation.
“It’s Jake. Don’t say my name out loud, okay?”
My only shot was waiting to see if Striker excused himself to go to the bathroom or something so I could see Harrigan. In the meantime I filled Tiffany in on the hotel that I was going to take her to.
“In Pasadena there’s a hotel called the Parisian. I want to check you into there tonight. Hopefully this will all be over by tomorrow, although you might not have a job anymore.”
“If Bobby is turning his singers into prostitutes I don’t want to work there anymore.”
“Good girl,” I said as I leaned over and kissed her passionately…