This is the continuation of a story. You can read the rest here.
The Ventura is one of those hotels that used to be quite something during the golden age of Hollywood, but it isn’t something at all anymore except old. Still, under all the wear and tear, you can see that it’s got good bones. It was built before styrofoam and plastic were considered perfectly good building materials. It’s solid. I like solid.
The lobby is ridiculously garish. It seems to have taken “the golden age” literally, since nearly every square inch of it is littered with gilded something or other. Light fixtures drip with fat, naked, cherubs and crystals. It hurts my eyes.
Behind the front desk is no one. I ring the little bell. Nothing happens. I catch my reflection in one of the floor-length gilded mirrors and notice that I’m covered in a fine patina of dog fur I must have picked up from Bets’ car. Damn Shamus. I’m busy trying to brush myself off, looking all the world like a person freaking out because he’s covered in ants would look, when a voice asks, “Want a lint roller?”
My senses failed me. Overcome by dog fur and cherubs, I hadn’t noticed the medium-sized older man appear behind the desk. “God, yes. Thanks.” He’s got a kindly face; the kind of face you could spill your whole life story to without even noticing. He reaches down below the desk and hands me a lint roller, the kind specifically made for picking up pet fur. “Thank you.” I proceed to roll myself, still looking like someone covered with ants, but now with a proper tool to remove them.
“May I help you with something else?” I immediately love this man. He reminds me of my grandfather, if my grandfather hadn’t been a consummate ass in the tradition of slave-trading pirate Francis after whom we’re all named.
“Actually, yes. You may have heard there was a fella staying here who met with an untimely end.”
“Oh, yes. Room 21. Such a shame. He was such a nice young man… with manners, you know?”
“I’m a private detective and he was my client. I’d like to take a look at his room if that’s alright.” For once, I’m not lying, but since I’ve spun so many of them lately, I feel somehow like I am.
“Well, the police gave me strict orders not to let anyone in there.” It looks like I’ll have to revert to plan B–the not-actually-a-plan plan where I find some other more difficult way to get in. “But, I’ve never liked the police.” He gives me a mischievous smile and the key to room 21. “Just make sure they don’t know you were in there. I’ll ring the room phone if they come back.” Will you be my grandpa?
I duck under crime scene tape to find a perfectly ordinary hotel room sans cherubs that looks like a tornado or a rock star happened inside. It’s obvious that someone stayed here for a while and it’s even more obvious that the police have ransacked the room. They never put anything back when they’re done searching. Cops have no respect.
There are clothes and various personal belongings all over the floor. It looks like they checked the bed since the sheets are torn off and the mattress is cattywampus on the box springs. There’s a broken bottle of cologne on the bathroom floor. Now, why would they feel it necessary to smash a perfectly innocent bottle of cologne? What did that cologne ever do to them? I feel badly for the person who will ultimately have to clean this up, probably my new grandpa. What a mess.
I’m not hopeful that I’ll find anything to go on, but since the cops’ idea of a thorough search is to just tear everything apart as quickly as possible, one never knows. They have no finesse.
I spend at least twenty minutes going through things with no luck, but as I’m picking clothes up off the floor, more out of habit than investigative prowess, I check the pockets. In a pair of jeans wadded up and thrown in the corner is a bit of paper torn from a restaurant place-mat. It’s the address for McGinty’s bookstore. Interesting.
I remember Macky’s account of how farm boy was staking out the bookstore. That tidbit got overshadowed by the news of his violent suicide, but I’m thinking about it now and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why would farm boy be trailing McGinty, unless he knew something that I don’t? Well, obviously, he knew something I don’t, since I don’t know much of anything, but the gears are slowly turning in my head and I don’t like where they’re taking me.
I frantically check the rest of the pockets. I turn up another bit of paper with a series of numbers written on it–longer than a phone number, but shorter than a credit card–and “50K” written below it.