Rebecca and I sat there until quite late, listening to the poetry recitals and jazz music. I had a feeling that this Beatnik business was a fad, soon to be replaced by the next big thing, which suited me fine.
I took Rebecca home to her apartment, kissed her goodnight, then headed for home. I wanted to crash for a day or two before opening my new office.
I'd come full circle. I was back to being that which I thought I'd grown tired of. But it was who I was meant to be:
Jake Randolph, Private Investigator.
He thought for a moment, "I don't know, Jake. I'm an ad man. That's my nature. And you just said you can't fight your nature."
I nodded, "Well, it was just a thought. But, you know, L.A. could use some new ad men."
He grinned slightly, "I'm contemplating that."
He rose up from the table, "I'm calling it a night, folks. I'm still deciding whether or not to go back East. Even if I relocate here I'll still have to go back to tie up some loose ends."
We shook hands and I told Mongo to call him a cab...
"The last thing I did before donating the money to the hospital was I bought an office on Sunset Boulevard. Much better than the one I used to rent years ago."
Rebecca smiled, "Does that mean you're opening your detective agency back up?"
I nodded, "Yeah. If this experience has taught me one thing it's that you can't fight your nature."
I looked at Jeffrey, "Would you be interested in becoming partners with me? Randolph and Miller, Private Investigators?"
He grinned, "I prefer Miller and Randolph. You know, alphabetically is only fair."
"Does that mean you'll do it?" I asked...
"You're something else, Jake," Rebecca said as she reached across the table and took my hand. Jeffrey was returning to the table by this point with very red eyes.
"I'm sorry, guys," he said, apparently feeling a little embarrassed.
"There's no need to apologize, Jeffrey," I said.
"Thank you for doing that, Jake. Susan's name will live on now and maybe other people won't have to go through what she went through."
"It was my pleasure, Jeffrey. It was the least I could do. Oh, there's one more thing I have to tell you both."
They sat waiting to hear...
Rebecca looked at me, "Jake, how much did you donate?"
I motioned for Mongo to bring me some coffee and turned back to Rebecca. "About 400 grand."
Her eyes widened, "How much money did you have, Jake?"
"About 400 grand."
She gulped, "You mean you're broke now?"
I shook my head, "I wouldn't say broke. I own my own home in the Hollywood Hills. I just paid cash for a new Corvette. Still have the café. And I still have some money tied up in investments that may or may not yield a profit."
She just looked at me, smiling...
"Listen," I said in a serious tone, "I have a few things to tell you."
They looked at each other, put their champagne glasses down, then looked back at me.
"I gave an endowment to the hospital where Blaze died. There's to be a new wing built to give drug addicts the help they need to kick it. It will be called the 'Susan Miller Rehabilitation Center.' It'll take a couple of years to complete, but at least it's a start."
Jeffrey had tears coming down his face. He excused himself and went to the bathroom. I didn't blame him...
I got to the last part of the article:
"Whether the Beatniks go on another 20 years or they disappear tomorrow, one thing is certain: they have left an indelible mark on the fabric of American society, and indeed, the entire world."
I put the paper down and smiled at Rebecca. She was looking at me with eagerness in her eyes.
"That was brilliant, baby. I don't know if they'll give a Pulitzer Prize to an article about the Beatniks, but you certainly deserve one."
Jeffrey smiled, "I couldn't agree with that sentiment more, Rebecca."
She laughed, "Oh, you guys!"
I continued reading:
"This reporter was lucky enough to become an insider in the world of the Beatnik. And here is a glimpse into that world: a raw, naked, unfiltered look into the lives of the Beatniks."
I kept reading the article, which basically recounted all that had happened to us over the last few weeks. Names were changed, shades of Dragnet, but it accurately told of Alex, Skip, Marilyn and Blaze, as well as Jade Chen. Jeffrey and I were mentioned, though not by name, as being the ones who solved Blaze's murder and brought down the heroin racket...
I started reading the story:
"What is a Beatnik? What defines it? Is it just the way you dress? The way you speak? Is it a mindset? A way of life? A harmless fad? Author Jack Kerouac christened his generation the "Beat Generation" to describe himself and his artistic friends headquartered in Greenwhich Village, New York. His idea was spawned from the Biblical "Beatitudes," the blessings spoken of by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. The word "Beatnik," however, was coined by fellow journalist Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle just a little over a year ago..."
"To Rebecca, who is not only a beautiful, talented writer and reporter, but who is also one helluva brave lady."
"Hear, hear," Jeffrey said as we stood and toasted Rebecca. She turned as red as a fire engine, but smiled as we drank down the champagne, which almost gagged me. I hate champagne. I always have.
Then we sat back down and I got the paper and picked it up.
I read the headline,"The Naked Beat by Rebecca Jordan." I smiled widely.
It was a timely article too. Alex's and Skip's arraignment was currently all over the newpapers and television...
I got back to the café just before Rebecca and Jeffrey showed up. I'd had a busy afternoon.
They came in together and I kissed Rebecca and shook Jeffrey's hand, then led them to my usual table. I had champagne ready to go. I had three copies of the evening edition of the Los Angeles Times, one for each of us. Rebecca didn't need to read the article on the Beatniks. She wrote it. But I didn't want her to feel left out.
I poured us each some champagne and then stood up to make my toast to my lady...
The coroner pulled the drawer out and unzipped the bag. I looked at her. Her face was badly damaged, but I could tell who it was.
"It's Marilyn. I think her last name was Hart. She's the one that killed Blaze...Susan Miller. When Alex and Skip took us out to the yacht, Jade Chen said she would take care of Marilyn. It looks like she succeeded."
Harrigan motioned for the coroner to zip her back up and close the drawer.
"Well, that pretty much wraps this up, huh?" Harrigan asked.
"There's one more thing I have to do," I said...
"What's this about, Jim?" I asked, getting a little concerned.
"I just need to see if you know someone. Meet me in half an hour, okay?"
"Okay, Harrigan," I said and hung up the phone. I wondered what the hell it could be about.
34 minutes later I'm standing out in front of the County Coroner's office when Harrigan pulls up to the curb and gets out.
"Hey, Randolph. I just need to see if you can identify someone. Female. She'd been beaten pretty savagely."
We walked into the building. I knew who it was before I'd even seen her...
I had invited Rebecca and Jeffrey, who was still hanging around in town, to join me at the café that night to celebrate Rebecca's article on the Beatniks being published in the evening edition.
The café was pretty busy again. Most of the former regulars that followed Alex had now returned, along with some more new kids. Mongo was tending bar when the phone rang. I went over and answered it.
"Existential Café?" I said.
"Randolph? It's Harrigan. I need to see you as soon as possible. Meet me at the County Coroner's office. I need you to identify someone."
Two weeks had gone by since the night Jade Chen was arrested. After extensive interrogations, she revealed the location of the heroin shipment that was coming into San Francisco. Harrigan got word to the port authority there and they intercepted the shipment and busted the smugglers.
As for Jade Chen, when they came to take her to court for arraignment, they saw that she'd fashioned a noose out of her bed sheet, tied it to the light fixture, and hung herself.
It's not exactly the most dignified way to check out, but I guess she preferred that to prison life...
"...and so I got the blackmail evidence destroyed literally moments before Harrigan and his men showed up."
She smiled, "That's amazing, baby. So, does that mean the case is closed?"
"Yeah, other than Harrigan finding out where in San Francisco that heroin shipment is coming in and intercepting it. It won't do much good in the fight against this garbage, but we'll take our little victories where we can get them."
She nodded, "I bet you're tired. Wanna stay here?"
I smiled, "Yes, I do," I said as I pinned her down on the couch, "and I'm not that tired!"
"Well what?" I asked, knowing full well what she wanted to know.
She grabbed a pillow from the couch, smacking me in the face with it.
"What happened with Jade Chen?" she asked hurriedly.
"Oh, that!" I said with mock surprise. "She paid us all off."
"Okay, okay. There's something I never told you about Jade Chen. She was blackmailing Harrigan."
Her eyes got as big as two beautiful flying saucers. "Over what?"
"Years ago he spent a night at her place and she recorded the moment for posterity. And blackmail."
I continued on about the night's events...
I dropped Jeffrey off, then burnt rubber to Rebecca's apartment.
I knocked on the door. I heard footsteps running up to the other side.
"Who is it?" Rebecca asked playfully.
"Avon lady," I said in a high-pitched tone.
She laughed and opened the door, practically jumping in my arms.
We kissed there in the doorway before I said, "Well, are you going to invite me in or not?"
"Oh, forgive my bad manners!" she said and led me into her apartment.
She pulled me to the couch and we sat down.
She stared at me and then said, "Well?"
Jeffrey and I exited the mansion and walked down the street to the flower shop where I'd left my 'vette. I pointed it in the direction of Jeffrey's hotel.
"Quite a night," I said as we pulled up to a traffic light.
"Yes it was."
"I suppose you'll be heading back East pretty soon, huh?"
He grinned, "Are you trying to get rid of me?"
I shook my head, "On the contrary. I was going to try and convince you to stay."
"We did make a damn good team, didn't we?"
I smiled, pulling away when the light turned green...
He hugged me back and then pushed me away.
"Your problem, Randolph, is you're getting too damned soft."
"Lucky for you I am," I smiled. "There's one more thing, Jim. We know there's a shipment of heroin coming in from mainland China into San Francisco on Thursday, but we don't know what port."
Harrigan nodded, "We'll give this place a good going over, see what we can come up with. And if that doesn't do it, we'll have a friendly little chat with Miss Chen. I'm sure she's willing to help."
I doubted that chat would be friendly or little...