Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Storyby Steve Hodel
More than fifty years after what has been called "the most notorious unsolved murder of the 20th century," the case has finally been solved.On January 15, 1947, the body of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia because of her black clothing and the dahlia she wore in her hair, was discovered on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles, her body… See more details below
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More than fifty years after what has been called "the most notorious unsolved murder of the 20th century," the case has finally been solved.On January 15, 1947, the body of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia because of her black clothing and the dahlia she wore in her hair, was discovered on a vacant lot in downtown Los Angeles, her body surgically bisected, horribly mutilated, and posed as if for display. Even the most hardened homicide detectives were shocked and sickened by the sadistic murder. Thus began the largest manhunt in LA history. For weeks the killer taunted the police, and public, much as his infamous English counterpart Jack the Ripper had done in London 60 years before, sending tantalizing notes, urging them to "catch me if you can." And for weeks and months the LAPD came up empty. Charges of police ineptitude soon gave way to rumors of corruption and cover-up at the highest levels. Meanwhile, a rash of lone women in LA were brutally murdered, and their cases also remained mysteriously unsolved. Could the Black Dahlia Avenger be, in fact, a serial killer stalking the city streets?
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Black Dahlia Avenger Rev EdA Genius for Murder
By Steve Hodel
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Steve Hodel
All right reserved.
January 9, 1947
It was mid-week, Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. There were only a handful of people milling around the Biltmore Hotel lobby, scanning for the bellhops to take them up in the elevators. Few noticed when the strikingly beautiful young woman with swirling jet-black hair was escorted into the lobby by a nervous young red-haired man, who stayed for a while, then said goodbye and left her there. Maybe one or two guests observed the woman as she went up to the front desk, where she begged for attention from an officious young man who avoided her stare until she spoke up. She stood there, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, watching the clerk riffle through a stack of messages below the counter. He shook his head, and the young woman made her way silently across the deep red carpet to the phone booth, as if she'd been through the place a hundred times before. A couple of people turned to look at her when she hung up the receiver with a loud click.
Now, as she stood outside the phone booth, she seemed crestfallen, almost desperate. Or maybe it was fear.
Again she walked over to the desk, then back to the phone booth, endlessly fidgeting withher handbag and looking around as if she were waiting for someone. A date? More people began to notice her. Perhaps she was a newly discovered actress or just another wannabe scratching at the door of fame to get herself in. She didn't look L.A. Maybe she was from San Francisco. She looked more like Northern California -- well dressed, buttoned up, edgy, her fingers twitching nervously inside her snow-white gloves.
Increasingly, people in the lobby couldn't keep their eyes off her, this woman in the black collarless suit accented by a white fluffy blouse that seemed to caress her long, pale white neck. A striking presence, she looked a lot taller than most of the people in the lobby that night, probably because of the black suede high-heeled shoes she was wearing. She was carrying a warm full-length beige coat, a portent of the approaching January chill that creeps along Wilshire Boulevard from the ocean every night at the leading edge of the raw, swirling fog.
As the lobby began to fill, each man who passed her, seeing her standing alone with a look of expectation on her face, was sure she was waiting for someone special. Her eyes seemed to widen a bit every time a new guy in a suit came through the door. And each man probably wished in his heart of hearts that he was the Prince Charming she was waiting for that night, probably for a late dinner or dancing at one of the Hollywood clubs.
As time passed, the young woman became increasingly anxious. Where was he? She sat down. She stood up. She paced the lobby. The woman with no name walked over to the check-in clerk at the front desk and had him change her dollar bill to nickels. Again she went into the phone booth and dialed a number, this time more frantically than before as she snapped the rotor with a loud click between each digit. She slammed down the receiver. Still no answer. Where was he? She slumped into one of the lobby easy chairs and nervously thumbed through a magazine without reading. Every ten minutes or so she once again went over and made a phone call. What kind of man could keep such a beauty waiting?
One hour turned into two. If you were watching her face from across the lobby, you would have seen her jaw tighten, her anxiety turn to anger. He was always like that, late when you wanted him to be on time, early when you wanted him to be late. It was all his way. She thought about that afternoon in early December, just a month ago, when he'd told her -- ordered her was more like it -- to meet him at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles's grand dame, west of downtown on Wilshire Boulevard. "Meet me for a drink at five," he had said.
That time he had forced her to suffer through a three-hour wait at the bar. She had sat there spinning on her red barstool, playing with swizzle sticks, nursing her ginger ales and Cokes, and batting away the advances of seven men, from the twenty-three-year-old bartender to the wealthy real estate broker in his seventies with a Palm Springs tan that made his face look like leather. The remaining five guys had thought she was a high-class hooker or possibly a bored housewife, all dressed up and looking for a little fun. She had suffered a sugar high that night, she complained, after all those sodas she had drunk at the bar just waiting for him. When he finally showed, it was without apology. "I was delayed." Arrogant and simple, just like that. And she took it, too.
That was then. She said to herself she wouldn't take it again. It was late now, pitch-black outside. The bright lights inside the Biltmore lobby sparkled as if they were still greeting the New Year. The beautiful young woman thought about the past eight months. She had expected them to be great when she came back to L.A. from Massachusetts. She'd marry Lieutenant Right and raise a family. But it didn't happen that way.
Then things got worse and she was becoming afraid. Maybe the New Year would bring her better luck.
She dropped another nickel into the payphone and redialed the office number just a few short blocks from where she stood. Finally he picked up. "Yes, I'm here," she said with a show of irritation. "At the Biltmore. I've been waiting well over two hours. Yes, all right, I'm on my way." She hung up, and her demeanor immediately changed. She was radiant.
She walked east through the lobby, stopping first at the concierge desk to look at the large calendar, next at the front desk where she'd checked for messages when she came in, and then down the interior steps toward the Olive Street entrance. The doorman held open the large, ornately designed glass doors for her, and she stepped out into the chill darkness of a California midwinter's night. She turned back one last time toward the hotel, noticed her reflection in the glass door, and straightened the large flower that shone like a white diamond pinned atop her thick black swept-back hair. She paused briefly to straighten it, smiled at the onlookers who stared at her from inside the glass divide, and then turned south, walking toward 6th Street into the deepening fog that curled around her like smoke, making it seem as if she were disappearing into the night. The darkness had a life of its own, folding her into itself.
Excerpted from Black Dahlia Avenger Rev Ed by Steve Hodel Copyright © 2006 by Steve Hodel. Excerpted by permission.
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