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The Purple Palace

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The woman with platinum blonde hair and green eyes put her little finger

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in her mouth.

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'Hey!' she said. 'For an old guy, you're not bad-looking. She sipped some

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champagne from her glass. Then she smiled. She smiled, and suddenly her

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whole face changed. Before, she had looked like a naughty child. Now she

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was a beautiful woman. She had high cheek-bones below her beautiful green

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eyes. She had a long, straight nose and a wide mouth. Her shiny blonde hair

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was cut short. Her eyes were shining as she looked straight at me.

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'Yeah!' she went on. 'You really don't look too bad. Do you know

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something, mister? I could fall for a guy like you.'

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What could I say? I'm in my early thirties - well, that's what I tell people.

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The truth is that I'm nearer forty, and the woman I was looking at couldn't

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have been a day more than twenty-three. I meet lots of women in my line of

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work, but I rarely meet anyone as beautiful as this one. And on the few

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occasions when I have met a real stunner, she certainly hasn't wanted to

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have anything to do with me.

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Still, the woman had a point. I'm not bad-looking - dark hair, brown eyes,

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good teeth, nice clothes. And I've kept myself in shape. I go to the gym three

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times a week. It's true that my face shows the marks of my time as an

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amateur boxer. There are some small scars round my eyes, and my nose isn't

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quit straight any more - somebody broke it in a fight.

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The only problem,' the woman continued, 'is your job. No one ever got

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rich by doing your job. And I like expensive things.'

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She smiled again. She had another point! I was sure that she spent a lot of

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money, and I certainly wasn't rich.

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I'm a private investigator - that is, a private detective - in Los Angeles,

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California. My clients are often people who live on the edges of L.A.

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society. Protection, security, blackmail, corruption, missing persons, small

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crimes - these are the things I deal with every day. Sometimes, I even have a

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murder case. The only jobs I don't do are divorce cases and marriage problems.

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My life isn't easy, but there is usually enough money each month to pay

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the rent for my apartment and the rent for my office. But there isn't any

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place in my life for a woman who looks like a million dollars and dresses as

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if she had a million dollars. And the woman I was looking at now was

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obviously one of those!

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'Still, what the hell,' the blonde said. She put down her glass of

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champagne and took a step towards me. 'Come on, Charlie, we're alone

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tonight. Kiss me.'

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Charlie? My name's not Charlie. It's Lenny, Lenny Samuel. Some people

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call me Len. Still, I wasn't going to argue. I stood up and took a step towards

the blonde.

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'Hey, fella, sit down!' a man's voice shouted.

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The blonde smiled. I opened my arms.

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'Hey, fella! I told you to sit down!' the man shouted again.

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I stared into the blonde's beautiful green eyes. Then I felt a hand on my

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shoulder.

'Sit down! Now!' the voice said.

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I turned around. The man standing behind me was taller than me, and

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heavier. I'm one-metre-ninety tall, and I weigh just over ninety kilos - all

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muscle! But this guy was bigger than me in every way. And he was angry.

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'Sit down, fella!' he shouted. 'I can't see the screen it you stand there!'

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I sat down and I looked up at the movie screen again. Now the blonde

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actress was kissing a man. It was a close-up shot'. The woman was thirty

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metres away from me and her face was five metres high. Her name was Gail

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Lane. She was the hottest actress in Hollywood, and this was the closest I

had ever got to her!

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'I'm sorry, fella,' I said to the man behind me. 'I guess I got carried away.'

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I go to the movies a lot, especially when business is bad. And just then,

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business was very bad indeed. My last case had ended a few weeks before.

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Someone had stolen a racehorse from a beautiful woman. I'd found the

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horse, but I hadn't earnt any money. Since then, I'd tidied my office, cleaned

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my car, gone to the gym a lot, and waited for the phone to ring. It hadn't

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rung. I didn't have any new clients. So, most days, I went to the movies.

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The movie ended and the lights came on. I got up and went to the men's

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washroom. There was a floor-to-ceiling mirror there, and I stood in front of

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it and looked at myself. It was true - I wasn't bad-looking. I was wearing a

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black leather jacket, a bright checked shirt and a pair of new black trousers.

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My brown Timberland boots completed the picture.

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I took out my dark glasses and put them on. 'Cool!' I said to the mirror,

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and I walked out of the movie theatre.

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It was just before midnight. I decided that I didn't need the dark glasses. I

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walked round the corner to the parking lot, and I got into my old grey

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Chrysler. Then I drove slowly past the bars and clubs, trying to decide what

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to do. It was too early to go to bed. But it was too late to start calling friends

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to see if they wanted to go out. I was bored. I wanted something to happen.

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I was just passing the Purple Palace, one of L.A.'s most expensive

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nightclubs, when something did happen. A shiny, white open-top car

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suddenly pulled out from the sidewalk. I hit the brakes and the Chrysler

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stopped. But the white car didn't stop. It hit the side of the Chrysler with a

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loud crash!

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I was OK. I got out of the car. The Chrysler was OK too - they don't make

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cars like that any more. But the white car wasn't OK and neither was its

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driver! The front of the car was badly smashed, and oil was running out

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from under the engine. The driver was still sitting at the wheel and there was

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some blood on his face.

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The driver of the white car was wearing a smart suit and he had short,

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well-cut hair. He looked about twenty-five, but his hair was steel grey.

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After a few moments, he opened the car door. He walked towards me

with an angry face.

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'I'm going to make you pay for this,' he said.

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He tried to grab my arm. His breath smelt of whisky. Then he tried to hit

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me. He tried, but he didn't succeed. I used to be a boxer, and this man was

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drunk! I leant back, and the blow missed. I was about to knock the man to

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the ground, when he suddenly closed his eyes and fell over. I hadn't touched

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him.

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I felt a hand on my shoulder.

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'That guy's a fool,' a voice said.

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I turned around. It was a woman with platinum blonde hair and beautiful

green eyes!

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'What Do You Want Me to Do?'

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That guy's a fool,' Gail Lane repeated. 'I'm sorry, mister.' I opened my

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mouth to say something but no words came out. I was standing in the middle

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of a busy street in downtown L.A., with the hottest actress in Hollywood!

'Say something,' Gail said.

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'Hey! Well! Mmm - What do you want me to do?' I managed to say.

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'Well, let's start by getting my car off the road,' Gail said.

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'Your car?' I asked.

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'Yeah,' she replied. 'It's my car. He shouldn't have been driving it. He's

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had far too much to drink. The parking attendant brought the car round to

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the front of the club, and Mike took the keys. I argued with him, but he

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wouldn't let me drive.'

'Mike?' I asked.

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'Do you repeat everything someone says?' Gail asked sharply. 'Mike

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Devine is his name. Have you ever heard of him?'

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I had. Mike Devine was the son of Joel Devine, who was a rich and

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successful movie producer. Mike had never done a day's work in his life.

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But he was never short of money - his father made sure of that. As a result,

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Mike Devine had got into lots of trouble. There were always stories about

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him in the newspapers - stories about gambling debts, accidents, women,

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things like that. Now, Mike Devine lay in the street next to my Chrysler.

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Gail and I pushed the damaged white car to the sidewalk. A crowd of

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people was standing there, staring at us. Then someone recognized Gail.

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Suddenly, people started to point at us and talk.

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Gail looked at me. She smiled and her face changed, just like it had in the

movie. She touched my arm.

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'There is something else you can do for me,' she said in a quiet, warm

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voice. 'I can't stay here. People have seen me. I've got to get home. Will you

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help me, please?'

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'Sure,' I said. 'Let's go.' I was delighted. I was excited! Perhaps Gail

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would invite me into her apartment. There would be soft lights and soft

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music. Anything might happen!

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She smiled at me again. 'You're a nice guy,' she said.

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We walked over to the Chrysler. Mike Devine's eyes were open now.

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There was blood on his smart suit. When he saw Gail, he stood up and held

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on to the side of my Chrysler.

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'Get into this guy's car before the police come, Mike,' Gail said to the

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young man.

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She pulled Mike Devine by his jacket, opened the back door of the

Chrysler, and pushed him in.

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'Oh,' I muttered. 'You'd like me to take him home too?'

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'He lives at 9002, Hollywood Boulevard,' Gail said sweetly. 'Thank you

for your help.'

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'It's a pleasure,' I replied. 'Please get in.' I opened the front passenger

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