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Howard Fast: Case of the Angry Actress {Excerpt}

Howard Fast: Case of the Angry Actress {Excerpt}

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
Detective Masuto investigates a Hollywood mogul’s sudden death
Detective Masuto investigates a Hollywood mogul’s sudden death

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Jun 04, 2012
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09/29/2013

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CHAPTER ONEAl Greenberg
IN Beverly Hills, as in so many of the cities, towns and villages of the UnitedStates, there is a right and a wrong side of the tracks. The tracks in this case belong to the Southern Pacific Railroad, and they bisect the town from west toeast, departing, as they say, no more than a whoop and a holler from the PacificOcean. North of Santa Monica Boulevard—upon which the railroad runs—ispossibly the most compact conglomeration of rich people that exists anywhere inthe world. Southward, to Wilshire Boulevard, is a very posh little shopping area,and south from Wilshire Boulevard lies the “poor” section of Beverly Hills, where you can still buy a one-family house for forty-five thousand dollars.Detective Sergeant Masao Masuto, of the Beverly Hills Police Force, did not livein the “poor” section of Beverly Hills. He lived in a cottage in Culver City andconsidered himself most fortunate to be possessed of the cottage, a good wife,three children, and a rose garden upon which he lavished both love and toil. Hesecretly dreamed of himself as a gardener who devoted all of his working hours tohis garden.He was driving home this evening and dreaming this particular and favoritedream, when the radiotelephone in the car flickered. He picked up the telephoneand was informed by the sergeant in charge of dispatching that evening that aman named Al Greenberg was dead in a house on North Canon Drive, and thatthe circumstances under which the death had occurred might be regarded assomewhat suspicious. Would he go directly there?He would. He was on Pico Boulevard, and now he swung into Beverly Drive—amatter of minutes from the address on North Canon Drive.Detective Masuto knew the address, the place, the house, just as he knew almostevery address, place and house in Beverly Hills. This was not as much of anachievement as it sounds. Where he entered Beverly Hills from the south, drivingfrom Pico across Olympic and then up to Wilshire, the city was only thirty-five blocks wide, and that was about its greatest width, even though it extended a longfinger into the foothills of the Santa Monica range. North of Santa MonicaBoulevard there were the great elegant streets with their palms, their perfectlawns and their quarter-of-a-million-dollar houses, and these streets DetectiveMasuto could visualize and name, from Trenton Drive on the west, to Walden,Linden, Roxbury, Bedford, Camden, Rodeo, Beverly and Canon—and afterCanon, moving east, Crescent, Rex-ford, Alpine, Foothill, Elm, Maple, Palm,
 
 
Hillcrest, Arden, Alta, Sierra and Oakhurst—and there the city within a city endedand became Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, there were people and poverty andpoolrooms and whorehouses and high-rise apartments and various otherordinary, publicly owned urban equipment. In Beverly Hills, there were property,money and some people. As his chief of police had explained it to him once, “This is like no other place inthe world, Masao. The money is God; the property is sacred; and the people are to be handled with kid gloves until you know who they are—and mostly they are thekind of people you handle with kid gloves after you know who they are.”“Kid gloves.” He was a California-born Japanese, and therefore he was anOriental and not a white man by any means, but excellent with kid gloves.“The hell with that,” he said to himself now. “You have a job, my boy—not a bad job.”He knew the house on North Canon, and he knew who lived there and when they had moved in and how much they had paid for the house and what it was worthtoday, three years later. Naturally. He knew every house. He knew that “Canon” without accent or similar indication was pronounced “Cannon” by some nativesif you can speak of dwellers in Beverly Hills as natives—and “Canyon” by others.He used the latter pronounciation, as had Al Greenberg, who now lay dead in thehouse on North Canon. He remembered a small conversation he had withGreenberg concerning the word “Canon.” Greenberg, very rich, had also been very curious, and Masuto could not help liking curious people—he was sohopelessly curious himself.Now Greenberg was dead, a short, stout wistful man of sixty-two or three, in agreat antebellum type of house with outside pillars two stories high, a proper partof a Gone with the Wind sound stage dropped between a Spanish Colonial and aneighteen-room Irish cottage. Greenberg had never been greatly at ease in thathouse, as Masuto remembered. He had sensitivity, and there was always a shredof shame hanging out of his pocket as if he had never answered the question as to what a small Jew, born and brought up in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, was doinghere in this garden of dreams, repose and dolce vita. It was certainly not derigueur to be seen on your front lawn at any hour of the day if you lived in Beverly Hills and north of Santa Monica, but Detective Masuto could remember many alate afternoon when he saw Al Greenberg standing in front of the misplacedplantation house, puffing a cigar and regarding the green palm and ivy world thatsurrounded him with wonder and disbelief.No more wonder and no more disbelief. Al Greenberg was dead, and they hadcalled the cops.

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