The Picture Ranch 14
The cab was still outside the RKO office building. Fitzgerald was sitting in it. He looked better and I supposed he'd had the dipso's golden quantity of booze. Just enough to make him charming, eloquent and intelligent. Two more bourbons and he'd be ready to fight with a lamp-post or make love to a cigar store Indian. Perhaps both.
'The cab's on me, Mr...'
'Fisher, just call me Fisher.'
The writer held out a hand, 'Call me Scotty, anything but Fitz. '
“Scotty” must have smoked a pack of Chesterfields before I got back to the cab. He lit another from a stub that was nothing more than the lit end of a filter. The gate-man waved back as the writer threw the stub out of the window. I got out at the address on Acacia, The cabbie gave me my half-bill back.
'That's a dumb trick, Mister. Besides, Mr Fitzgerald paid both ways.'
The writer waved,
'Good luck finding Miss Gräfenberg .'
I stared at the cab as it headed off in the direction of Ventura, but I couldn't remember mentioning just who I was looking for to Mr Fitzgerald.
The building where Miss G lived was no better or worse than mine. Except the woodwork had seen a more recent coat of paint. It was a brownstone; the only one on the block. Fine, it had a concierge too and an elevator. It had no business on the ground floor. Apart from that it was almost the same as the block that housed my office. I told the old geezer behind the counter I had an appointment with Miss Gräfenburg. He lifted a handset and dialled one digit.
'No answer.' He smiled and I saw the teeth of a man with an unreasonable fear of the dentist.
I showed him it was as important as dental hygiene and he spat out a tooth before agreeing to escort me upstairs and use the master key on Miss G's apartment. He opened the door and I gave him the eye and suggested he might like to man the desk in case any undesirables tried to get in. He didn't get the joke but took the elevator cage down anyhow.
It was a two room apartment plus kitchenette. It must have been the smallest in the building. I shouted 'hello' and nobody answered. I opened the bathroom door, there were silk stockings hanging over the bath. Otherwise everything was squared away in a vanity unit with a sink that had brass taps. Normal stuff; cold cream, dentifrice. No drugs. In the bedroom the bed was made-up and the curtains were open to the street. In the other room there was a chaise-longue and an armchair. A coffee table sat between both of them. The Pat Hobby Script was open on it. On page thirty two, Pat Hobby was explaining to the Studio Executive that there were no pyramids in Paris. Someone, maybe Miss G, had been making notes in the margins. There was no empty glass, no coffee cup, no cigarette in an ashtray, nothing, nothing at all.
So I searched all the drawers and the wardrobe in the bedroom, too. The only interesting thing I found was a pair of spheres of the type I'd last been shown in use by a woman named Willow Frost in Shanghai. There were no papers at all in the apartment, no bills, no invoices, no flyers, no magazines, no books. It could have been a place for the kind of rendezvous where neither party could invite the other home. And it would have been vo-de-oh-doh all the live long day. There was nothing to eat or drink. The kitchenette revealed no cans, bottles or even the makings of a coffee, not even a cup. This apartment told me nothing about Miss Gräfenburg except that she liked expensive underwear and had learned a thing or two since leaving the nuns behind. I had guessed as much in both regards already.
I was just about to leave when the intercom hand-set rang. It was the concierge, he mumbled a little, but I gathered there was a note for me in the pigeon hole for Apartment 13. When I got out of the elevator he extended a hand over the counter. The envelope was cream, a dime-store product.
'Guess I'll take the rest of the mail.' I held out a hand, The concierge handed over a couple of bills and a hand-written envelope with an LA postmark from two days ago.
'You know, a guy could visit a tooth-puller, saves a lotta pain in the long run.'
Back in my office, I was out of rum, money and enthusiasm. So I sat at my desk and opened the envelope addressed to “Mr M. Fisher”.
Hello There, Fisher,
I just knew a resourceful fellow like you would drop by. I do apologise for leaving you hanging in the Encino Store. Something pressing came up and I had to get out of town for a while. I will be back in a few days. I have received a letter at the apartment. From my half-brother. He's fine, I think. I'll tell you more when I get back. I'll settle my account then too.
Don't worry, Micawber. Something will turn up.
I was sure I had told Miss G not to call me by my given name.
The bills were for utilities at the apartment. They reflected how little the services had been used in the last quarter. They were also addressed to 'The Occupant'. The LA postmarked envelope was addressed to “Miss E Graffenboig”. It was a scrawl, I couldn't believe the mail-man had been able to deliver it. Inside were a few lines and a thumb-print.
'We've got him. The proof's down below. You'll find a way to confirm it. A bent copper should be able to do that for you. There are plenty at LAPD, after all. We'll give you a couple of days and then we'll be in touch.'
Down below was the inky thumb-print, which told me several things; whoever Miss G was with, it was not her half-brother. His disappearance looked like being a kidnap after all. Her half-brother's dabs were on file with the LAPD and Miss Gräfenberg had been right, something had turned up. .'