Itís a wrap!
Manning eventually was able to build his agency into a fine legacy for his son. He had had a number of cases involving parking, but the current one was the strangest yet.
He had gotten a call from a contact who introduced him to a former movie star, who was taking over some parking lots in Los Angeles. Before he could cash her retainer, she was murdered, and along the way, so was her mobbed-up fiancé.
Manning and his girlfriend, Shirley, had spent a few days in New Orleans, where his dead client’s ex-husband, Dickey Jefferson, was directing a movie. “The Big Easy” lived up to its reputation with great food, jazz, voodoo and murder in the mix.
Filming later returned to the studio in Hollywood, and the female lead, Leticia Jones, was missing. Manning found her hiding in a local hotel and stashed her with Shirley, just before the actress’ bungalow at the hotel blew up.
Obviously, someone wanted the movie, “Voodoo Princess,” not to be finished.
Manning had returned to his house in the Hollywood Hills to find his “friend,” Larry Jorday, who had got him involved in all this, and William Jaymes (with a “y”), a shady character from Chicago, drinking his whisky.
After some discussion, there was a knock at the door. Opening it, Manning found New Orleans Police Detective Henri Lebec, who also was Leticia’s brother, and LAPD Sgt. Bill Vose, Manning’s longtime friend.
Jorday and Jaymes beat it out the back door. Manning and Lebec and Vose caravanned to Shirley’s place, cop-brother reunited with actress-sister, and more discussion ensued.
“I must help Dickey finish the movie,” Leticia insisted. “Henri and I are going to the studio; he will protect me until the movie is finished.”
As they were leaving, Vose came back from calling his office. Manning looked over at him.
“Jaymes said he wants to own the movie, and that by stalling it, he thinks he can buy out Jefferson’s backers and then own him,” Manning told Vose. “He will then become a power broker in ‘Tinseltown’ and run parking, limos and movies.
“He’s delusional,” Manning added, “but I don’t think he understands that the folks Jefferson sold his soul to make the devil look like a pansy. If he keeps this up, they will be coming after him. This is coming to a head, and quickly.”
Later, when they walked onto the set at the studio, Jefferson was standing with a gun pointed at his head. Jaymes was holding the revolver and threatening everyone in sight. Two very large gentlemen in dark suits were standing close by. They had guns drawn but held down alongside their legs.
Jaymes saw Vose and Manning walk in and squeezed off a shot that went just over Manning’s head. They hit the floor. Then the two dark suits began firing.
Bullets were flying everywhere, and the crew and staff were diving for cover. I knew that one way or the other, this little episode in my life was going to be resolved very quickly.
Jaymes was hiding behind some scenery, holding Jefferson in front of him. We could see Jefferson but not Jaymes. There was no way to get off a clean shot and not endanger Jefferson.
The mob boys didn’t seem to care, although suddenly they stopped firing and just held their guns ready. Someone had entered the sound stage behind me and was giving them nonverbal instructions.
I looked around and was shocked to see Lebec, the New Orleans cop and brother to “Voodoo Princess” star Leticia Jones, giving directions to the mob. He looked at me and gave a “Gallic shrug.”
“Sorry if I disappoint, Manning, but I needed to help my sister, and that idiot Jefferson was going to run this picture into the ground. He is a great director but can’t handle the money part.
“Throughout my years in New Orleans,” Lebec said, “I developed some connections and knew that my New Jersey friends could help out. I was close enough to the situation to be sure nothing went really wrong.
“Leticia knows nothing about this, and I would prefer we kept it that way.”
Lebec then raised his gun and fired a shot about a foot to the right of Jefferson. The bullet went through the flimsy scenery and into Jaymes. He dropped Jefferson, who picked that moment to faint. They were both on the ground – Jefferson unconscious but unhurt, and Jaymes bleeding out.
“I thought this was my big moment, my way to take over Hollywood,” Jaymes whispered to me. “It would have worked, too, if you had kept out of my business.”
He began to raise his revolver but didn’t make it. The light went out of his eyes, and his arm fell back to the floor.
Leticia ran onto the set and screaming, dropped beside Jefferson.
“Is he going to be OK?” She looked at me and then at her brother.
“Yes, he just needs some TLC.”
“I can handle that,” she said, and helped him into her dressing room.
“That’s a wrap,” said the movie’s Assistant Director, “but I want you all back here tomorrow, early.”
I looked at Vose. My question didn’t need verbalization. What was he going to do with Lebec? There was no question that Lebec was mobbed up. He had killed Jaymes, and what about the murders in New Orleans and all the voodoo nonsense?
Vose walked over to the New Orleans detective, said a few words in his ear, took his gun and turned away. Lebec walked off the set, and I never saw him again.
When Vose saw the surprised look on my face, he walked over and said:
“Lebec can say he was defending us when he shot Jaymes. The gunsels aren’t going to say anything to anyone. His sister doesn’t know what is going on. I’m sure that the action in New Orleans has been hushed up. What else could I do?”
I shook my head, put away my gun and walked off the set, out the studio door and drove back to Shirley’s. I needed a little TLC myself and had to get my simple, ethical mind around what had happened. Shirley was my rock, my confessor, my lover, my friend. Maybe she could make sense out of all of this.
Shirley listened to everything. She didn’t interrupt, except to refill my glass of single-malt. When I finished, she was quiet for a few minutes, and then she said:
“You are a kind, honorable man in a town made up of creeps, posers and ne’er-do-wells. You have picked a profession that puts you right in the middle of all these moral dilemmas.
“But even after it all comes out and the bad guys seem to win, you don’t change. You still know what it takes to make a real man and, yes, Paul Manning, I will marry you. All you have to do is ask.”
The next words out of my mouth were …
Read all of Private Investigator Paul Manning’s adventures online at the Parking Today website (www.parkingtoday.com), under the “Magazine” tab. And look for another “Death by Parking” episode coming soon in a future issue of PT.