When I first heard about it I said to myself What a bunch a’ low-down scum, thinkin’ they can waltz into town and dance the swivel hip like that. I talked to a few of my buddies and they agreed something had to be done about the fools, but what? “Well,” I said, “they got to be seen for what they are—half-human devils unfit for a society that’s moving, shaking, on the verge of enlightenment like we never seen before, see? And these clowns stumbling in throwing a giant kink in the tent ropes.” I got the few wordless nods I needed, the handshakes, the gold pinky ring, and I was off like a bat outta hell. Hey, don’t bother me with that ‘too-cliché’ bullcrap. Who’s writing this memoir? You? Can it, genius.
The name’s Saul Tersey. Detective Saul Tersey. Yeah, that’s right. From Jersey. Tersey from Jersey. Got a problem with that? I didn’t think so. Anyways, I was born and raised in Patterson, but that don’t mean nothing to me no more because I been running these mean streets so long you might as well add me in with the rest of the lost angels out here in Tinsel Town. No, we ain’t heading for Hell, friend. Not by a long shot. You been out here lately? Shut your trap and stay in Bumfuck then. Nobody gives a whiff, see?
I know I ain’t the sharpest tack in the box, but I got a story just like everybody else, and I plan to spill it. So here it is. I was on my way into the city from the bungalow at Venice. We had found out the hard way there was this enclave of the filthy rat bastards shacking up in Central Hollywood in an old townhouse where at one time, during the Golden Age of the Silver Screen, if that makes any damn sense, the up-and-coming starlets all lived and loved together on their way to and from the Brown Derby and, of course, their perspective studios. You know the story. He said-she said, he-lied she-laid, he did-she dead. Black Dahlia and all that. The stuff that makes the world go round. And around. And around another few more times ‘til the juice really kicks in and the only drug is a long night’s sleep with ice in the sink and the hair of the dog at dawn. Cold and ugly, I know, but whaddaya want, a dreamsicle?
The first thing I said to the first one I saw—such a pretty slip of a thing I thought God, why her of all people? But then all I could think about was all the murders of the weeks before and then all I could see in my crazy head was her dainty little white fingers dripping red and her mouth smeared with the same and the man they slaughtered cut open and portioned out and them all having their fill, so to speak, and calling him Christ and goddam! I got so mad I smacked that little barefoot whore across her mug so hard a fountain of red ink spurted out of her button nose. She wailed and staggered back away from me, but then the look on her face was like some kind of holy angel. My heart palpitated. I was actually scared for a sec. I felt my hands shake. I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the floor. That made me so nuts I hauled off and knuckled her in the kisser. Her knees crumpled like a limp marionette. She fell and hit her temple on the cement curb. She gave out a little cry like a smashed kitten and then it was lights out for sister. I was glad it was nighttime. I let her lay there like a death warning to the rest of the cannibal no-goods. Just another day at the office.
Next day I took some of my best boys and we went back down into Hollywood. I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind, though, when I laid eyes on the same youngster I had laid low the night before. She was sitting on a bench reading her big-ass Holy Bible. Larry pointed at her and said there was another one by the way she dressed, and, no, I didn’t tell him it was the same dame I had bumped off. What was I, some kind of idiot? Bright or not, I got hutzpah, ya know? Mixed in with quite a bit of machismo. That’s Jersey for ya. So I walked over to the floosy and grabbed her fat book out of her hands and ripped it in half and said, “There. The first part’s all that counts, chick. Now come with us, easy like, and nobody gets hurt.” She looked up at me with that glowing face again. She smiled. Now my heart felt like watered-down chicken gravy. What the hell? I always thought when the law was after ya, you got a little antsy, but not this lady. No, it was like she was so dumb she was blonde. You know the old joke, right? Two blondes walk into a bar. You’d think one of them would have saw it.
So anyway, that’s what I was telling myself trying to keep my head from reeling mullet. She’s stupid, she’s dumb, they’re all idiots and on the very wrong side of the law, and they’re killers with no conscience to boot, so let’s nab ‘em and get this dirty deed over and done with. “This ain’t gonna be pretty, Saul,” Larry said. I nodded and looked right through the babe’s big baby blues, right down into her rain-sweet soul. I cringed. Then I grunted. “Come with us, sweetheart. Now.” Then I felt my knees start to shake. My left knee dipped down like a drunk rumba dancer. Larry looked at me sidewise. “Old battle wound,” I said. “Yeah,” he replied. “I see it’s affecting your third leg.” He shot me that stupid smile of his. Dumbass.
We got the girl up in the wagon and next thing you know some of the other boys had three more of the scumbags in cuffs and was tossing them in the back with Miss Goody Two-Shoes. And since this was an undercover operation, well, I’m quite sure you get the gist. Why invite the whole damn circus? We had our legal papers. We wasn’t missing the marque. We was free and clear to do as we damn well pleased. No perukes, no rebukes. These murderers was all guilty as charged, the damned bloody-handed slimeballs, and we was their friendly executioners. Funny the power a badge gives a man, eh?
The FBI was brought into play the very next night. Why’s that? I’m not too sure. Why bring in Boy Scouts when you already got the Marines? They blew our cover like nobody’s business and then some. Then they sidelined us. What a SNAFU. But who gives a flip about the foot soldiers, right? We can still do the job assigned. They trust us, they say. That’s why they gave us this fine duty. To Protect and Serve. Gimme a break. Right here across the old kneecaps. Then throw me overboard, ‘cause I’m done, see? Oh, and don’t forget the cement shoes. Or can’t you afford a pair? Go to hell. I’m liking private dicks more and more.
Me and Larry and Bobby the Prick had the bright idea we should take the law in our own hands. One man’s vigilante is another man’s hero, right? Oh, sure it was a risk. But what in life ain’t? Next night we cleared out the lot of ‘em, tied ‘em all to the wrought iron fence around their building and threw a quick-and-easy Nero party, complete with singers and dancers. Screaming singers and dancers. Larry and the Prick got nailed like You Know Who for breaching etiquette. I ran cross country to the Everglades and changed my moniker to something little more Seminole. Well, first I heard Jesus talking to me and asking me what the hell was I thinking. Then I went blind as a bat for I don’t know how frigging long. Then a few other weird things happened I don’t care to discuss. But you know the long and short of it, right? Thing is, though, unlike that certain other Saul, I’m still shaking my fist at God’s face. He don’t hear a damn thing I ever say.