Private investigator David Spandau discovers there’s a dark side to the Hollywood dream in this absorbing thriller
Someone seems to be orchestrating a major smear campaign against maverick film director Jerry Margashack, rehashing old rumours and releasing damaging information to the media. With a major new movie coming out and big-money Oscar nominations at stake, Hollywood producer Frank Jurado hires former stuntman-turned-private investigator David Spandau to find out who's behind it.
At the same time, Spandau's ex-wife has asked for his help in tracking down her new partner, who has disappeared - along with all the money in their joint savings account.
As Spandau is to discover, Jerry Margashack made plenty of enemies over the years. As well as uncovering some deeply disturbing aspects of the movie director's past, his investigations attract some extremely unwelcome attention. Spandau is about to find himself in the midst of a lethal turf war: a war in which there can be only one winner.
About the Author
Daniel Depp is a former Hollywood screenwriter and film producer whose first full-length screenplay, The Brave, was nominated for a Palme D’Or at Cannes. Born in Kentucky, he now divides his time between California and the south of France, and is the author of two previous David Spandau thrillers.
Read an Excerpt
A David Spandau Thriller
By Daniel Depp
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2014 Daniel Depp
All rights reserved.
The Chateau Marmont is maybe the last hotel in the Western hemisphere to still use keys. Real keys, the metal kind, the kind where you want to break into somewhere you make a copy in a bar of soap or something, or, what the hell, you just pick the bastard. There was likely a master key somewhere in his bag, but it wasn't worth looking. Deets stuck in the picks and thought about a late-nite breakfast at Canter's when he got finished.
A fucking blind coon piano player could have done it, so he couldn't feel particularly proud. Malo could kiss his pale and dimpled ass, Deets was going to treat himself when he went in. It took him less than five seconds with his mind primarily on a bagel with cream cheese, lox, and onions.
This of course is why he got the Big Bucks.
He was a fucking super hero, no question about it.
Captain Midnight went into the dark hotel cottage. He closed the door, took a small flashlight from the messenger bag he carried, shined it around while he hummed 'New York, New York'. What he was looking for, the laptop briefcase, was over near the desk. He zipped it open, took out the computer, sat it on the desk. Checked his watch. He was okay on time.
He turned on the computer, waited for it to boot. It asked for the password. Fuck that, I laugh in the face of passwords. He got out the notebook file containing a couple of dozen of his very own special startup disks. He selected the right one, slid it into the computer, rebooted. It shut down, hummed, woke up. Now, rather than some asshole start-up program, it circumvented all that crap and shot him directly into the system files, and from that a list of every file on the computer.
'Hurrah,' said Captain Midnight. 'I am clearly a god among common mortals.'
Captain Midnight searched the computer screen desktop, leisurely glanced through a few files. It didn't take long to find it. He plugged in a flash drive, downloaded the file onto it. It took just a few seconds and he was done. He ran a quick file check to see if there was anything he'd missed.
'This is just too easy. Where is the challenge, I ask you? Where is the poetry?'
Checked his watch again. Still good.
'Let's have a little fun then, shall we?'
He took out a large Snickers bar, unwrapped it, chewed on it while he leisurely browsed through files.
'Boring ... boring ... boring ... Aha!'
Photos. Captain Midnight opened the file. Some old family shit, lots of photos of some bozo with curly blond hair and a beard. Captain Midnight thought he remembered the guy from somewhere. Then Captain Midnight found some photos of nude women. He brightened up.
'Oh, you naughty boy.'
Every guy had them on his computer somewhere. This was really the best part of the job. Captain Midnight looked through them, pleased.
He copied these too.
When he was sure he'd gotten everything of interest, he shut down the computer, closed the case again, and put it back in the briefcase. He double-checked around the room to see if he'd forgotten anything.
He sighed. Now was the best part of the job. It was the only reason he did it. Everything else was just fucking dull. One of the perils of being a genius.
He went around the room and touched things. Opened drawers, closets, suitcases. Touched pants shirts jackets hanging. Touched folded underwear, opened a cotton hotel laundry bag and moved his hand around in the contents of that. Went into the bathroom, touched the toothbrush, the electric razor, the still damp towels, the toilet seat. Opened the little Dopp kit and handled the bottle of pills, the condoms, sniffed the bottle of cologne.
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Went back into the bedroom, took a brand-new folded white shirt from a drawer. Pulled out the pins, the cardboard, unfolded the shirt, and laid it on the bed. He unzipped his fly, pulled out his dick, and whacked off onto it. Just a few hard quick strokes and bam, he was done.
Ahh god, ahh god ...
Stood there for a few moments in bliss, weak, the room spinning a little.
Finally tucked away his pizzle. Carefully refolded, repinned the shirt exactly the way he'd found it. Put it back in the drawer.
Then said to the room,
'Congratulations, you have just been fucked by Captain Midnight. Heigh-ho, Silver, and away.'
And was gone.CHAPTER 2
Jerry Margashack stood in the dining room of the Bonaventure Hotel with a hundred or so people he hated. He hardly knew any of them, but the ones he did know he despised, and he figured the odds were in his favor concerning the rest. He was more than a little drunk, but this wasn't unusual. The room was full of film distributors, sucking-up critics, and the other industry types who always come to these things. There'd been a private screening downtown and they'd all adjourned here to swill the producer's booze, score dope, and try to get laid.
The film, Jerry's film, the one he'd (in theory anyway) written and directed, had done great in the advance screenings with very little tweaking. The people who did the numbers were happy. They'd nailed domestic and European distribution already – that's where the bread came from to make the film in the first place, they'd pre-sold the shit out of it – and now it was a matter of trying to conquer the rest of the world. This explained why geeky looking people from around the world were allowed this evening to come up and tell him how brilliant he was. Which was the last thing he wanted to hear.
There was a blonde halfway across the room trying to make eye contact with him.
'That bimbo almost wearing the red dress is going to get a hernia if you don't respond,' Annie Michaels said to him.
Annie was his agent. He hated her too but, like most everybody else in this hellhole, she had him by the balls in one way or another.
'I hate her,' Jerry said.
'You know her?'
'You hate everybody.'
'My experience is that it's better to start out that way,' he said, slugging back some of the champagne in his glass. 'That way there's nowhere to go but up.'
'So what do you think,' she said to him. 'You should be happy.'
'Everybody loved it. You're a hit.'
'I don't want to be a hit,' he said, taking another drink. 'I want to be the guy who made a good film, which this fucking well isn't, by the way.'
She grabbed him by the arm, led him off to the edge of the crowd out of earshot.
'Do not do this,' she said. 'Not now, not here. You want to whine and act like a fucking child, fine, go back to the hotel and get shitfaced again and tell your woes to the toilet.'
'It's a piece of shit, Annie. It's not my film. Not after Frank had the fucking second-unit director – an imbecile, by the way, whose idea of dramatic resolution is to cut somebody's head in half with a chainsaw – reshoot those desert scenes without telling me about it. Then the bastard recuts it with a fucking Cuisinart. I'd take my fucking name off the thing if I thought I'd still get my money. Where is the rest of my fucking money, by the way?'
A guy who looked oily enough to be a second-string studio exec came up, took Jerry's hand.
'Congratulations, man!' said the exec. 'Great flick. It must feel good. Long time getting recognized by the Establishment, right?'
'Sure,' said Jerry. 'You bet.'
'This has got Oscar written all over it,' the exec said. 'Best Director, Golden Globes for sure.'
'Who won last year?' Jerry asked him.
'Who got the Globes for Best Director last year?'
He thought. 'Jesus, I can't remember.'
'My point exactly,' said Jerry. To Annie he said, 'Where is he?'
'You know goddamn well who. Frank. Where is the fucking weasel hiding?'
'I don't know,' she said.
'Is he here? Where is the motherfucker? He's got to be here somewhere, the shitass.'
Jerry drained the champagne, grabbed another one, took a healthy hit, went off in search of his prey.
Frank Jurado, the producer, was talking with a group of money people. Saw Jerry approach.
'Here he is, the Golden Boy,' said Jurado. 'Big congrats.'
'Fuck you, Frank. Where's my money?'
'We'll talk,' said Jurado, throwing a warning look past him at Annie.
'Go enjoy yourself.'
'Fucking right we will. We could also talk about why you hacked my film to pieces, and why you've got me stuck like a hamster in the Chateau.'
'Nice cage for a hamster,' said the money guy with a Latin accent.
'Fuck you too,' Jerry said to him politely.
Annie came up, took Jerry's arm, and tried to steer him away.
'Not the time or the place,' she said to him.
'No? When is the time and the place? It's never the fucking time or the place.'
'You just told the largest distributor of US films in Latin America to go fuck himself.'
'I want my money. Unless that fucking greaseball pachuco motherfucker has my money, I don't want to talk to him. I want to talk to Frank, who's the slimy motherfucker who actually does have it.'
'You'll get your money. You know the deal. You'll get the rest of it when the foreign distribution deals are all clear.'
'When will that be?'
'You go around telling the people who can get your money to go fuck themselves, it's liable to be never.'
'I don't trust that bastard.'
'Fucking hell, I don't trust him either. Nobody trusts Frank. You're not supposed to, honey, he's a producer. But he's put you finally on the map. This time last year you were fucking happy to see him. Where were you? Oh yes, now I remember. You were in Wisconsin trying to get somebody to loan you enough money to rent a camera so you could make a film about cheese.'
'It was a film about a dying craft. It was a film about the nature of art and dedication.'
'It was a fucking film about cheese, Jerry.'
'It was a fucking film about cheese,' he repeated softly.
'That's right. So now just get slightly shitfaced on free champagne and try to score with one of these bimbettes who are circulating around like mayflies. I'm going to go back to Frank and see if I can curb the stroke he's having about now.'
She left. The blonde came up. Extended her hand. Jerry took it.
'Hi, I'm Terri.'
'Terri and Jerry. It sounds like a cartoon.'
'Do I get to be the cat or the mouse?' 'You can be either one, as long as you're interested in cheese. I know a great deal about cheese, and I look forward to sharing it with you.'CHAPTER 3
Jerry arrived in a taxi at the Chateau Marmont, got out with Terri the blonde.
In a dark Mercedes sedan, the Chipmunks watched him. They were three young Armenian men in their mid-twenties to early thirties. Araz, Tavit, and Savan.
'What does she look like?' asked Tavit, struggling to see her from the back seat.
'Not bad,' said Araz.
'Fuck not bad,' said Savan. 'She's fucking hot is what she is.'
'Fucking actress, you think?' asked Savan.
'Or a model,' suggested Tavit.
'We wait a couple of minutes we catch her naked, what do you think?' said Savan.
'Oh yeah,' said Tavit.CHAPTER 4
Inside the cottage the girl was indeed very much naked and Jerry was just about to climb on top of her. When there was an ungodly erection-killing pounding on the door. Jerry cursed, climbed off of her, pulled on one of the Chateau robes, and went to the door. He was ready to kill whatever asshole was on the other side of it.
'Whoever this is,' Jerry shouted to the door, 'I'm fixing to break your nose, just so it comes as no surprise.'
He flung open the door. The Chipmunks.
'You're not breaking nobody's nose tonight,' Savan said to him as the Chipmunks pushed themselves into the room.
'And just who the fuck might you be?' Jerry asked him.
'We are,' volunteered Tavit, 'the accounts payable department of the Baldessarian Investment Corporation.'
'The Bald —' started Jerry. Then it hit him. 'Oh, you mean Uncle Atom. You guys would be the Chipmunks.'
'We'd prefer,' said Araz, 'that you gave us our due respect and not use that name.'
'The Chipmunks?' said naked Terri from the bed.
'Cover your titties, honey, we have company,' Jerry said to her. 'Atom Baldessarian, a loan shark out in Eagle Rock. Armenian mafia. These are his nephews. They're famous.'
'Armenian mafia?' said Terri, covering her tits.
'There is no Armenian mafia,' said Savan.
'There's no Eagle Rock, either,' said Jerry.
'I still don't get the Chipmunks,' said Terri.
'Alvin, Theodore and Simon. You know.'
'The cartoon,' said Terri. 'How cute.'
'Hell of a Christmas song too,' said Jerry.
'You need to be taking this seriously,' Araz told him.
'I am taking this seriously,' said Jerry. 'Or about as serious as a man can be having this sort of conversation with his dick poking out of his robe. Can I help you gentlemen?'
'I still don't get why they're called the Chipmunks.' She smiled at Tavit who smiled back. Savan hit him on the arm.
'Ross Bagdassarian, an Armenian, wrote that song,' said Jerry. 'He created the Chipmunks. He was a cousin of William Saroyan, another famous Armenian.'
'How do you know so much about Armenians?' she asked. 'Are there famous Armenians?'
'There are many famous Armenians,' Tavit declared to her proudly, whereupon Savan said to him,
'Shut the fuck up, will you?'
'Uncle Atom says they always forget our contributions unless we remind them,' said Tavit.
'Yeah and I'm reminding you you're a fucking idiot,' said Araz. 'Where are the things?'
Tavit held up a small children's knapsack with little bunnies on it. Tavit's idea. Tavit had a sense of humor.
Handed it to Araz. Araz nodded toward Jerry. Savan and Tavit grabbed Jerry and dragged him to a chair, sat him down, pinned his arms.
'You owe Uncle Atom thirty-seven thousand dollars. With ten percent interest a week, and you're three weeks behind, that's —' Savan stopped to figure it. It took a while.
'Forty-nine thousand, two hundred and forty-seven,' said Terri. 'I used to work in a bank.'
'I told Uncle Atom he would get his money.'
'You told him that two weeks ago,' said Araz.
'Look, why don't we go rough up the guy who owes me money? I'll take you right to his house. I'll help you slap him around and then we can give Uncle Atom his forty grand.'
Araz reached into the kiddie bag, pulled out a small blowtorch. Jerry's eyes widened. Araz lit it. Jerry's eyes widened considerably more.
Araz pulled Jerry's robe aside, exposing his nether parts.
'Jesus,' said Tavit.
'That explains a lot,' said Savan, looking at Terri, who was also staring at Jerry's prick.
'If you gentlemen have finished staring at my private parts – in what can only be described as a rather homoerotic fashion, I might add,' said Jerry, 'I would like to talk about the matter at hand. So to speak.'
'The matter at hand,' said Araz, 'is that you owe Uncle Atom forty thousand big ones and you don't have it.'
'This is not being very fucking proactive,' said Jerry. 'We all want you to get your money.'
Araz turned up the blowtorch, moved it slowly toward Jerry's crotch. Jerry struggled.
'Ohlordjesus,' said Jerry, trying to back his way up the chair. 'One more week. Just one more week.'
The smell of faintly singed pubic hair.
'Oh goddamn,' said Jerry.
Terri let out a yelp. Savan said to her:
'It'll be fried tuna for you, you let out one more screech.'
Terri shut up.
Araz moved the blowtorch in and out until Jerry couldn't stand the pain and yelped.
Araz took the blowtorch away. Set it down, still burning. Looked around. Spied a bowl of fruit. Took a banana, dumped out the rest of the fruit. Smiled to himself.
Reached into the knapsack again, came out with something wrapped in butcher's paper. Opened it up. Two oval-shaped fleshy objects.
'What the fuck,' asked Terri, 'are those?'
Jerry stared at them. 'They would be, if memory serves me, a pair of ram's balls.'
'Sheep nuts?' asked Terri.
Araz put the fruit bowl on the floor between Jerry's feet. He placed the ram's nuts in it, then artfully wedged the banana between them.
He picked up the blowtorch, looked at Jerry, then started to barbecue his artwork. The smell of lamb and fried banana filled the room as it sizzled. This combined with the slightly less intense smell of the singed hair on the inside of Jerry's thighs.
Terri got up, ran to the bathroom, puked.
When the ram's balls and the banana were nothing but cinders, Araz turned off the torch. Looked down at Jerry, who had a huge sign of relief on his face. He said:
'Give Uncle Atom his money, otherwise we come back in one week and finish the barbecue, right?'
Araz put the torch away. As the Chipmunks left, the very naked Terri came back into the room. Savan and Tavit stopped for an admiring moment until Savan clouted Tavit in the head and they all left.
Terri sat down on the edge of the bed.
'This sort of thing a typical evening for you?' she asked.
'It's starting to look that way.'
She looked down at Jerry's exposed crotch.
Excerpted from Devil's Dance by Daniel Depp. Copyright © 2014 Daniel Depp. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.