Rough and tumble SFPD Inspector Johnny O’Rorke, the department’s Executive Protection Officer, has a new partner, Cosmo the Wonder Dog, a Lakeland terrier his sister has left in his care.
O’Rorke is called to San Francisco City Hall to meet with Film Commissioner Audrey Pebble. Warner Brothers is preparing to film a major motion picture, Dirty Harry, in San Francisco, with Frank Sinatra set for the starring role as Inspector Harry Callahan.
Pebble knows that O’Rorke has worked as a bodyguard for Sinatra. She hired Harly Walker, a local young artist and musician, to scout the city for locations that would appeal to Warner Brothers. Walker has disappeared and Pebble is desperate for O’Rorke to find him.
The hunt takes O’Rorke and Cosmo to the famed Haight Ashbury Medical Clinic and to some of the darkest, most dangerous areas of the city, including porno movie studios, drug dens, bathhouses and hardcore leather bars.
While searching for Walker, O’Rorke learns that several of Harly’s friends have been murdered in such a painful manner that even the medical examiner is shocked.
O’Rorke races to find the killer—and then comes the hard part: Telling Frank Sinatra that he is not right for the role of Dirty Harry.
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|Publisher:||Down & Out Books II, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)|
Read an Excerpt
San Francisco, June 1970
"Dirty who?" I asked.
"Dirty Harry is the name of the movie," Audrey Pebble said. "Harry Callahan is a San Francisco policeman, just like you, Inspector O'Rorke. The idea is that he's been around a long time and handles all of the dirty jobs the other cops want to avoid. He's a loner and plays loose with the law and dirty with the criminals."
Audrey Pebble was the film coordinator for the San Francisco Film Commission. Her job was to try and convince movie producers to shoot their films in the city. She was a petite strawberry-blonde in her mid-thirties with denim-blue eyes and great cheekbones. She was wearing a cactus-green silk blouse and a cream-colored skirt that stopped several inches above knee-height.
Her office was on the fourth floor of City Hall, a beautiful, massive Beau Arts structure that covered two blocks and has a dome that is higher than that of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. It was built in 1915 to replace the original City Hall that was destroyed in the earthquake of 1906. Marble must have been cheap in 1915 — there were acres of marble: the floors, walls, and a monumental staircase that held up well under the surge of fire hoses aimed at students from U.C. Berkeley and Stanford protesting a House of Un-American Activity meeting.
Most of the wall space in Pebble's office was taken up with posters of movies that had been shot in San Francisco: Hitchcock's Vertigo and The Birds; The Days of Wine and Roses; Cary Grant's Kiss Them for Me; Bogart's Dark Passage, Point Blank, D.O.A.; and the Rita Hayworth-Orson Wells classic The Lady from Shanghai.
"I heard that you were injured recently, Inspector. A gunshot wound, but now you're back on duty."
"That's right," I said. Back as of yesterday. Unfortunately it was light duty, a position filled by cops not considered to be fully up to snuff, and usually meant a desk job or helping out in the records room.
She smiled nervously and said, "Warner Brothers wants Frank Sinatra to star in Dirty Harry. You're a friend of Sinatra's, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not a friend of Mr. Sinatra," I told her. "I provide him with drivers and bodyguards when he comes to town."
She nodded, picked out another smile to wear and then settled herself behind her desk, grabbed a pencil and fiddled with it between her fingers. I could hear her heels tapping on the floor. "Do you think that Sinatra would be good in the part?"
I didn't see why not. He'd done The Detective and the Tony Rome private eye movies recently.
"Sure, he'd be fine. Just what is it that you want me to do for you?"
"We, San Francisco, are in competition with Seattle and New York City for the location of the movie. What we have to do is map out locations in the city that would enhance the plot."
"And what is the plot?"
"A psycho serial killer calling himself Scorpio is running loose, killing people. He's a sniper operating from rooftops, seemingly picking his targets at random."
Not exactly something new. The real-life Zodiac killer was still at large — his kill rate varying from seven to the high twenties, depending on who you believed. The SFPD was putting in a lot of time and effort on the case. One of the lead investigators had earned himself the nickname "Inspector Overtime."
Pebble dropped her pencil, replaced it with a ballpoint pen and continued her tapping.
"If Mr. Sinatra decided that he wanted to do the film in San Francisco, I'm sure Warner Brothers would do just that. Do you think you could talk to Sinatra and feel him out? I understand he'll be in town soon for a concert."
She understood correctly. I had a pair of off-duty cops lined up as bodyguards. Despite his hard-nosed reputation, Sinatra was easy to get along with, paid on time, and tipped very well. I wasn't about to jeopardize our relationship by prying into his business.
"I can't help you there, Miss Pebble, unless he brings up the subject."
She reached over and passed me a slim manila envelope. "Warner Brothers has their own team of writers for the film's script, but we've hired a local man, Harly Walker, to help me on this. His home address and phone number are on the back of the envelope. He's written several articles on movies as well as scripts for subject documentaries about life here in the city that have been very well received. He's searching for locales that haven't been used in other films: 'The dark dangerous underbelly of the city' as he calls it. I'm originally from Los Angeles and I've only been here in the city for just over a year, so I need his input."
Walker's photo showed him peering over his shoulder at the camera in a reflective mood. He was young, in his mid- to late-twenties, with a clear-cut face and a headful of tight curly hair. I scanned his bio. The articles listed were "The Dark under the Fog," "Film Noir in Bagdad by the Bay," "Femme Fatales and Frisco." The documentaries included Jazz at the Blackhawk, Jazz after Dark, Growing up in the Closet, Our Town Too, and Leather and Love.
There were several photos of him sitting behind a piano, sharing the stage with jazz greats Stan Getz and Chet Baker. He had to be a damn fine musician to sit in on gigs with that caliber of talent.
"There are a couple of things I should tell you about Harly," Pebble said. "He may be gay"
My response seemed to confuse her. Too many people were under the impression that all cops hated gays.
"He's a jazz pianist and plays at the local nightclubs. The important thing, Inspector, is that Harly is ... missing. I've tried to contact him for the last few days with no luck. I've called, left messages, but he hasn't responded. The last time we spoke he sounded excited and said he had some wonderful ideas for the presentation we're making to Warner Brothers. We're on a very tight timeline. This has to be put together within seven days. Your Captain Candella was the one who suggested to Mayor Alioto that we enlist you for help. Candella said that you had worked closely with Steve McQueen's staff when they were here filming Bullitt."
"Yes, I provided security for the actors and helped them find some location spots."
That seemed to brighten Ms. Pebble's day.
"Then you and Harly could work together on this as a team."
She stood up, walked over to the window and began twisting the edge of the curtain with both of her hands.
"But first, you've got to find him for me."
"Maybe he's just been out of town for a few days," I suggested.
She turned to face me. "I hope you're right. Harly promised me that he'd have a proposal on my desk by ten o'clock tomorrow morning."
"Don't worry," I said, "I'll find him."
As things turned out, she should have worried.
I walked down four flights of marble stairs and stepped outside to a beautiful day — bright sun, scratches of clouds in a powder blue sky and barely enough wind to ruffle the feathers of the pigeons which roamed freely through the confines of the Civic Center Plaza during the day. Once it got dark they became potluck dinners for the poor and homeless.
San Francisco in the summer of 1970 was going through a rough patch. Three uniformed members of the police department had been murdered — two by gunshots, the third by a bomb.
Alcatraz Island had been taken over by a group calling themselves Indians of All Tribes. There were fires and a few shootings. The government eventually turned off the power and fresh water supplies. The Indians could have picked a better place for their occupation. Alcatraz is a cold, windy spot surrounded by icy bay waters. The city had been hoping to develop a gambling casino there for years, but the casino operators knew a bad bet when they saw it.
There were the usual peace marches that turned into violent sparring matches between the good guys and the bad guys, depending on what side you were on.
The Haight-Ashbury was in full drug-fueled rock & roll swing. Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin would die later in the year from overdoses, the Beatles decided to break up, and Carol Doda, the queen of topless dancers, had silicone pumped in to her breasts, going from 34B to a gravity defying 44DD.
My rough patch included losing my father to cancer, getting shot in the shoulder, and living under the threat of losing a job I didn't want to lose.
My official title in the police department was executive protection officer. My duties included coordinating with the FBI, the Secret Service, the State Department, Foreign Embassies, and other official agencies in providing care and protection for visiting politicians and dignitaries, and, if needed, setting them up with drivers and bodyguards, finding them discrete hotels and accommodating restaurants. If they were interested in the company of someone of the opposite sex, or the same sex, they were on their own.
The city picked up the tab for the protection of many of the visiting celebrities, and when they didn't, the celebrities or their studios did — directly to me. I operated a private security firm and used fellow off-duty cops to handle the jobs. It was good for them, and good for my clients, which included Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, and Judy Garland among others.
Garland was a little touchy, but Davis could cause headaches, literally. He was a likeable, very generous guy who liked to pass out gold Dunhill lighters and cigarette cases to everyone, and had more energy than anyone I'd ever known. Worked hard, partied hard, then slept for an hour or two and when he woke up he was ready for more parties. He wore us out.
My bosses had no problem with this, as long as I threw them a few perks, such as show tickets or invites to cocktail parties.
I had been off on disability leave due to the gunshot wound in my shoulder, the bullet delivered by a Chinatown heroin dealer.
I loved western movies when I was a kid, and there were two lines that popped up in most of them. Number one was always muttered by some bearded, toothless old codger: "Whiskey's for drinkin', water's for fighin' over." Number two belonged to the movie's hero, after he'd been shot and then jumped right back onto his horse: "It's only a shoulder wound." And off he'd ride after the bad guys.
I was lucky in that the bullet I'd taken hadn't shattered any bones, but it had torn up a lot of muscle and tendons. There were dire predictions of "possible permanent nerve damage." Rehabilitation was a painful experience and the medication the doctors prescribed did not mix at all with bourbon, so I had the choice of giving up the pills or the booze.
I settled the dispute with a flip of a coin. Heads, I got rid of the pills, tails and I gave up the bourbon. It took tree coin flips, but heads finally came up.
Captain Candella had managed to get me back on light duty, but to be reinstated to full duty status meant passing a physical very soon, and I wasn't sure I was ready for it.
I wanted to get over to Harly Walker's house right away. Audrey Pebble was worried, acting as if her job depended on landing the proposed Dirty Harry movie, and maybe it did, but my sister Peggy had called and wanted to see me, urgently, so I headed for home, a new home.
I had been living in an apartment that had been used in the filming of Bullitt. Steve McQueen and Jaqueline Bisset had actually thrashed around in my bed, but after the film came out movie-nuts of all shapes, sizes, and ages would ring my doorbell day and night, asking if they could "Take a look around."
I was getting up to twenty bell-ringers a day, so I moved out and rented a flat on Fulton Street, right across from Golden Gate Park, and a few blocks from Ocean Beach.
There was an unfamiliar gray sedan parked in front of my place. As I approached the driver's door swung open and my sister Peggy jumped out and waved at me.
Peggy had inherited our mother's side of the family tree: short, trim, reddish hair and pale skin that burned at the slightest touch of the sun, where I was Black Irish, tall, rangy, and loved to bake in the sun and read a book.
Peggy had married a successful real estate agent, Alan Goff, and they now lived in Santa Barbara, and since they had no children, traveled the world.
We hugged and kissed, and then she leaned into the car's backseat and pulled out a blue Pan Am flight bag.
"This is Cosmo the Wonder Dog," Peggy said, opening up the bag wide enough for a small, rusty-brown and black mutt to jump out and do a quick twirl around the sidewalk.
"He's a Lakeland Terrier. Say hello, Cosmo," Peggy said.
Cosmo responded by sitting up, seemingly clapping his front paws and barking loudly.
"Hello, dog," I said.
"He likes you, Johnny," Peggy said.
I was getting the feeling that I was being set up for something. I invited my sister inside for a drink and while she roamed the flat, commentating on the new furniture, Cosmo began sniffing around. He was a cute little guy — very little, a foot or so high, and I figured he weighted around twelve pounds.
I love dogs, but I was use to big ones. We had Irish Wolfhounds when were kids.
"Oh, this is new, isn't it?" Peggy said, picking up a silver-framed photograph from the fireplace mantel.
"This" was a photograph of my ex-wife, Dashay, a beautiful Jamaican nurse whom I'd met when she'd been working the emergency ward at San Francisco General Hospital. It had been one of those love at first sight things. Against the warnings of my mother, both of her parents, and several would-be friends, we were married.
Interracial marriages were rare at the time, and neither of us was prepared for the outright hatred that came from all sides. That, and the fact that we were working different shifts most of the time, led to Dashay returning to Jamaica for a vacation. She never came back.
I flew down to Jamaica in hopes of getting her to change her mind. Begging and pleading doesn't come easy to me, but I tried. The divorce was amicable, but sad, at least for me.
"She was so beautiful," Peggy said.
"She still is."
There was an uneasy pause for a few seconds, and then I said, "Dashay's engaged to a doctor in Kingston. It all worked out for the best, Peggy."
She replaced the photograph on the mantle and said, "Is there anyone new? I know you were dating that lovely attorney and —"
"She got smart and married another attorney."
We clinked highball glasses.
"Would you mind taking care of Cosmo for a few days, Johnny?"
"How many days?"
"No. Alan and I are sailing for Hawaii in the morning, and our dog watcher is very sick." She batted her eyes, tilted her head and made that same soft humming sound she'd used when we were kids, when she wanted me to con our father into letting her go out on a date.
"No, I'm sorry, Peggy, but I can't —"
"He won't be any trouble, I promise. He eats very little. I know we shouldn't, but we give him table scraps. He loves meat." She pointed to the window. "And you've got Golden Gate Park right across the street. Cosmo will love it."
"I'm away most of the day."
"Cosmo won't mind, and you'll be surprised. Take him with you — he's great company, and everyone loves him. He was the runt of the litter. I just carry him around everywhere in this flight bag."
I continued protesting, but as usual my sister had her way with me. We went through a twenty-minute tutorial of Cosmo's habits, needs, and his tricks. He was full of those, including balancing biscuits and coins on his nose.
Peggy had brought along Cosmo's favorite blanket, a green County Kerry Irish wool piece, his leash, a Frisbee, a plastic water dish, and some dog food.
She picked Cosmo up, cradled him in her arms and whispered into his ear, as if he was a baby.
Just before she left she told Cosmo to give me a salute, which he did by putting his head on the carpet and waving his butt at me.
As I walked Peggy back to her car, I asked, "How did he get the Cosmo the Wonder Dog tag?"
She gave me a peck on the cheek and then said, "Because we think he wonders why we think he's a dog."
Cosmo stuck close to my heel while I placed food in his bowl in the kitchen, something called Gravy Train, some kernels you added water to, and Milk-Bones.
I gave him a little of both, but he didn't seem interested.
It was either leave Cosmo alone in the flat, or take him along, so I coaxed him into the flight bag and placed him next to me in the front seat of the unmarked Ford sedan that I had picked up at the Hall of Justice yesterday.
The address Audrey Pebble had provided for Harly Walker was 48 Bradford Street.
I knew Bradford Street well. It was located in the Bernal Heights District, on the southern slope of Bernal Hill, a huge grassy dome that had a panoramic view of the city and surrounding areas.
Excerpted from "Dirty Who?"
Copyright © 2018 Jerry Kennealy.
Excerpted by permission of Down & Out Books.
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.
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