Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon

Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon

by Clive Rosengren
Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon

Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon

by Clive Rosengren

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Overview

For PI Eddie Collins, the moment Carla Rizzoli sashays into his office casts him deliciously into a scene from a classic noir. Only this femme fatale is a sweet ghost from his past, a time when he made his living exclusively as an actor. Then she was a full-time actress too, and they'd dated briefly before an old flame came back into her life. Now she's known as Velvet La Rose and making a steady living as an exotic dancer at the Feline Follies. She needs Eddie's services to find her missing brother Frankie Rizzoli, who sent her a cryptic message warning her to watch her back.

Eddie falls hard for Carla, who hasn't given up on acting. In fact, she's about to start work on a B-movie, Festival of Death. Now motivated by more than a paycheck, Eddie searches for Frankie, last seen hiding out among the homeless. Frankie was once a member of the military police, and an old photo identifies an old Army buddy, James Curran, who starts to cross paths with both Eddie and Carla with increasing frequency.

What is Frankie mixed up in and why doesn't he want to be found? How does James Curran figure in? As Eddie questions the residents of Skid Row and works undercover as an extra in Festival of Death, he searches in vain for the links between Frankie and James and Carla. He needs answers soon, or Carla may slip through his fingers again, this time into oblivion.

Book 3 in the Eddie Collins Mystery series, which began with Murder Unscripted and Red Desert.


Product Details

BN ID: 2940154591659
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Publication date: 10/17/2017
Series: Eddie Collins Mystery
Sold by: Smashwords
Format: eBook
File size: 445 KB

About the Author

Clive Rosengren is a recovering actor. His career spanned more than forty years, eighteen of them pounding many of the same streets as his fictional sleuth Eddie Collins. He appeared on stages at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, the Guthrie Theater, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others. Movie credits include Ed Wood, Soapdish, Cobb, and Bugsy. Among numerous television credits are Seinfeld, Home Improvement, and Cheers, where he played the only person to throw Sam Malone out of his own bar. He lives in southern Oregon's Rogue Valley, safe and secure from the hurly-burly of Hollywood. Rosengren has written three books in the Eddie Collins Mystery series: Murder Unscripted, Red Desert, and Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon. Books one and two were both finalists for the Shamus Awards, sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America. Visit him at his website, www.cliverosengren.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Hollywood Boulevard is like a kaleidoscope you put up to your eye and rotate. Every turn gives you a different perspective, a different arrangement of colored glass, never to be repeated.

On this particular early Tuesday afternoon, my kaleidoscope was tainted by two factors. The first was rain. Serious rain. Umbrellas bobbed along the boulevard, tourists jumped over puddles, and street people huddled in doorways, challenging anyone who dared to invade their turf.

The second factor was my hangover. I couldn't do anything about the rain. I did have a remedy for my hangover, thus the fourth cup of coffee in my hand as I stood on my mini-balcony watching the rain-dampened kaleidoscopic view below me.

I was glad for the rain. Not only was it helping to wash away the smog and the germs here in La La Land, it was ruining the day for one particular advertising agency that had stiffed me yesterday. Besides running Collins Investigations, I work as an actor. Whenever I get the chance, that is. Yesterday I'd had the chance, briefly.

I had booked a television beer commercial and was out in Santa Monica for the wardrobe call. This event gave the ad executives and production people — the "suits" — an opportunity to peruse their actors' wardrobe options on the shoot. They sat behind a long table eating their catered lunch of burgers, ribs, and corn on the cob while we actors, stick people on their story boards, strutted and posed in front of them.

It was a funny spot. A baseball umpire and a manager argue about a call at the top of their lungs. Cut to the two of them having dinner in one of their homes. The only way they can communicate is by shouting. I was perfect for the umpire. At least I thought so. The "suits" didn't agree.

After the wardrobe call, I was filling my car with gas when my agent, Morrie Howard, called, telling me the agency people had decided to "go another way." Apparently one empty suit hadn't bothered to look at the audition tape, nor the callback tape, so when he saw Eddie Collins dressed as his umpire, he must have thought I had sprinkled sugar on his corn on the cob.

I don't know what they saw in that tape, but just ask my agent Morrie: I make a credible umpire, cowboy, salesman, whatever kind of character actor you need to fill out your cast list. If you need a guy in his early forties with a full head of brown hair, a pleasant-enough craggy face, capped teeth, and a body that wouldn't fail a physical but which no gym would take credit for, I was your guy.

I sipped coffee as I watched a truck plow through a puddle and douse two young guys standing by the curb. I was feeling pretty smug, due to the fact that rain was ruining the empty suit's infernal commercial. Morrie had gone on to tell me that I would still get paid for the day, but that wasn't the point. Actors don't do television commercials because of the fee they'll collect for the filming. By the time taxes and an agent's ten percent are shaved off, what's left won't pay the rent. No, they do them for the residuals. A beer commercial would likely get good air time, and the payoffs could be substantial.

After the car was gassed up, I had trouble making it home. A certain bartender sought my opinion on whether or not 3D movies would last. Yet another mixologist and I debated the ineptitude of Congress and what should be done about it. Despite a lot of liquid help, we couldn't come up with an answer.

This morning I was paying dearly for my dalliances. An earlier trip to a greasy spoon had helped, but not completely. Four cups of coffee seemed to be doing the trick. In any case, it was a lousy, gray Los Angeles Tuesday in February, perfect for playing hooky.

From behind me I heard someone knocking on the door to my outer office. Mavis Werner, my secretary, was spending the day at a flea market out in Pomona. She supplements her salary by buying and trading antiques and collectibles. She was on a mission to find a pair of salt and pepper shakers in the form of Tonto and the Lone Ranger. No word on who was salt and who was pepper.

I set my coffee cup on the counter of my studio apartment kitchen and pawed my way through the beaded curtain separating my living quarters from my office. Another knock sounded.

"Hold your horses. I'm on the way."

I shoved a chair to the front of my desk and went into Mavis's office, flicking on the overhead light. Flipping the dead bolt, I pulled the door open to find Larry Wilkerson, my mailman, dripping water on the threadbare carpet of the hallway. He was lanky and covered with a poncho and sodden rain hat.

"Hey, Mr. Collins. Your secretary's day off, huh?" He handed me a clump of letters and a small package.

"So she tells me. You staying dry?"

"Well, you know. Neither snow nor rain nor heat and all of that stuff. Have a good one."

He moved off down the hall and I shut the door. Sitting at Mavis's desk, I sorted through the envelopes. A few bills and a couple of residuals caught my eye; the rest went in the circular file behind me. I walked into my office, turned on my desk lamp, and slit open the envelopes from "SAG-AFTRA, One Union," the moniker chosen in the wake of a merger of the two organizations. The net from the two checks amounted to enough for a matinee movie and dinner. Two reasons for playing hooky.

Then came another knock on the front door.

"Hello," a sultry voice said.

"In here," I replied. "Come on in."

She was gorgeous, tall, and had legs that didn't stop. A cascade of raven hair caressed her shoulders, framing a face with dark eyes that searched the room as if someone were following her. She wore a black leather coat and had a tote bag draped over one shoulder. A short dark skirt and a red blouse completed the ensemble. She carried a small black umbrella flecked with drops of rain.

Her name was Carla Rizzoli.

"Hello, Eddie," she said in a throaty half-whisper that conjured up memories of company on a cold night.

"Been a long time, Carla." I rose from behind my desk, walked up to her, and gave her a hug. She wrapped her arms around me, their grip making me think my plans to play hooky could conceivably change. After a moment she released me and we looked into each other's eyes.

She ran one hand over my cheek and said, "It's good to see you."

"Likewise." I gestured to a chair. "Have a seat." I walked back around the desk and sat down.

She wrapped the little strap around the pleats of the umbrella and sank down, setting the tote bag on the floor beside her. Staring at me, she crossed one perfect leg over the other. The whisk of nylon on nylon reverberated through the small room.

"I didn't think you'd remember me," she said.

"You're not that easy to forget. You look good, Carla."

"Thanks," she said. Her smile formed just the suggestion of dimples on each cheek. "So do you."

It had been several years since I'd crossed paths with Carla Rizzoli. We'd met doing a television show, a legal drama by the name of Justice Denied that managed to hold its own for a few seasons. I played an attorney on a two-part episode. There had been talk of making my character a recurring regular. Then the writers had the brilliant idea of having me lose the case, one in which Carla was my client. I went from potential recurring regular to has-been one-shot guest. Notwithstanding my legal ineptitude, we'd started going out. Just when the relationship seemed to be getting serious, she took a walk on me. No reason, no explanation.

She reached into a pocket of her coat and pulled out a ragged envelope. "I found your name in the Yellow Pages. At first I didn't think it was you, but then I googled you and found your website."

"My secretary's responsible for that," I said, as I sat down. "I'm afraid websites are beyond my pay grade."

"So, no more acting?"

"Yeah, now and then. Mostly then. This is my day job, so to speak." Her small chuckle was as provocative now as it had been when I was playing her attorney. "And how about you?" I continued. "How's the career going?"

"Oh, you know, ups and downs. But I've got a shot at a part in a movie. I'm waiting to hear."

"That's terrific. Good luck."

As I looked at her, I recalled the scenes we had done together and remembered being impressed by her talent. She'd been fairly new to the business at that time, but it was evident she could deliver the goods.

"Can I get you anything? Coffee? Something stronger?"

Laying the envelope on the desk, she stood up, removed her coat, and draped it across the back of the chair. Reseating herself, she said, "Thanks. I'm good."

"I can't imagine you needing a private investigator, Carla. What brings you through the door of Collins Investigations?" "I want you to find someone." She pulled a letter from the crinkled envelope and handed them both to me. "This was delivered to me at work yesterday."

"Where's work?" I asked as I took the scraps of paper from her.

"Uh ... well, it's on the envelope."

I looked down and saw her name and the address for a place called Feline Follies on Century Boulevard. She reached across the desk and handed me a business card. It was bright red. On it, embossed in gold letters, was the name Velvet La Rose.

"That's my stage name. I'm working as a dancer, Eddie."

"Really? For how long?"

"Couple of years."

"And you need your own business card for that?"

She heaved a big sigh. "The owner had them made up for all of us. I don't know why. It's not like we're hooking or anything."

"Velvet La Rose. Nice ring to it."

"You're not offended that a stripper wants to hire you?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Not my place to judge, Carla."

"The tips are good and they let me go out on auditions. I hope it's only temporary."

"Hey, listen, you don't have to explain to me. This whole Hollywood hustle thing is tough going. I once knew a guy who made ends meet by juggling chainsaws out on Venice Beach. You gotta do what you gotta do."

She chuckled and said, "I hope they weren't running."

"Matter of fact, they were." I opened the letter she had handed me and smoothed it out. The letterhead was from the Los Angeles Mission downtown. Scrawled across the page were the words "I'm in trouble. Watch your back. Frankie."

"Who's Frankie?"

"My brother. His birth name is Francis."

"Why the letterhead from the Los Angeles Mission? Is he homeless?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen or heard from him for a while."

"Then how does he know you're working at Feline Follies?"

"I've no idea, Eddie. We had a ... I guess you could call it a fallingout. I haven't seen him since."

"How long ago was that?"

"Seven years and eight months."

"I don't get it. And yet he knows you're at Feline Follies?"

"He must. You've got the letter in front of you."

I looked at it again and said, "Can I keep this?"

"Sure."

I opened my notebook and jotted down the address and phone number for the mission. "What kind of trouble is he referring to?"

She started to reply, but choked on the words. She reached into the tote bag and pulled out a handkerchief, then dabbed at her eyes and cleared her throat. "I'm not sure. Could I have some water?"

"You bet," I said, and went into Mavis's usually off-limits closet and grabbed a bottle of water. She twisted the top off and took a swallow. "You all right?"

"Yeah. I didn't think this was going to upset me. I thought wrong." She took another swallow of water and set the bottle on the edge of my desk. "Frankie joined the army right after 9/11. Our parents were against it. So was I."

"That's the falling-out you mentioned?"

"Yeah. He really ticked us off. But he went anyway. He stayed in until seven years ago. Then he was discharged and disappeared."

"How do you know he was discharged?"

"My dad found out."

"How?"

"A guy by the name of Phil Scarborough called him looking for Frankie. Said he'd mustered out with him."

"Any reason why Frankie would disappear?"

"Not that I can think of."

"What did he do in the Army? Was he infantry?"

"He was an MP." She pulled a photo from the tote bag and handed it to me. "At least he looks like it in this picture he sent me. That's him on the left."

The snapshot showed two MPs in full desert camo posed in front of the main gate of a military installation. Her brother was a buck sergeant. The one on the right, a black man, wore a lieutenant's insignia. I turned the photo over but didn't see a date. "When did you get this?"

"Four years after he enlisted." I started to hand it back to her, but she said, "You better keep the picture, too. It's the only one I've got of him."

I looked at the photo and said, "Is the other guy this Phil Scarborough?"

"I don't know."

"Okay. Tell me why Frankie told you to watch your back."

She said she didn't know and couldn't think of any enemies who would threaten her. I made some notes for myself and Carla went on to give me the phone number for her parents, who lived in Henderson, Nevada. She confided that she wasn't on the best terms with her folks in the wake of them learning she was dancing at Feline Follies. She also hadn't told them she'd received this note from Frankie.

I prepared one of my standard contracts. She filled it out and we exchanged all the relevant phone numbers, after which she wrote me a check for my retainer. She then finished her bottle of water, stood, and put on her coat. I came out from behind my desk and stuck out my hand. She grasped it with both of hers.

"I don't know how to do this, Eddie, other than just saying it."

"What?"

"I'm sorry for taking a walk on you back then."

"Hey, no worries."

"My head was messed up and I didn't deal with it very well."

"Well, if I'd won the damn case for you, maybe you'd have had second thoughts." We both laughed and she gave me a hug. "I'll try to do better as your PI," I added.

She smiled as she buttoned up her coat. "So, have you been in front of the camera lately? Anything I would have seen?"

"I doubt it," I said, and filled her in on my brush with the beer commercial.

"Idiots," she replied. She picked up her tote bag and slung it over a shoulder. "Thanks for your help, Mr. Private Eye, Sometime Actor. Even though Frankie and I haven't gotten along, he's still my brother and I'm worried about him. He wouldn't have reached out to me if he weren't in trouble."

"What about you? Are you going to be safe, to be able to 'watch your back,' as he put it?"

"I'll be okay. I've got pepper spray and this." Reaching into her tote bag again, she pulled out a small automatic that looked plenty lethal despite its size.

"I hope you have a permit for that?"

"The Follies' owner insisted that all the girls have one. It's legal."

"Remind me not to mess with you," I said.

She replaced the gun in her bag and gave me another hug. "Well, I'm not really that tough. You should drop into the Follies sometime."

"I'll probably have to. Consultation with my client, you know."

She smiled and I saw her to the front door. I told her I'd be in touch soon and watched her walk to the elevator. She looked back at me before the door creaked open and she stepped inside.

As I walked back into my office, I mulled over the prospect of having a client who was an exotic dancer with a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Philip Marlowe should be so lucky.

CHAPTER 2

"You need a GPS, Eddie."

"Why is that?"

"I've got better things to do than print out maps for you." Mavis pulled another sheet of paper from the printer and slapped it on her desk. "I thought you had a Thomas Guide."

"I do, but it's hard to read it and drive at the same time."

"Ergo, GPS." She sat down and held out her hand. "Give me those before you break them." She was referring to the Lone Ranger and Tonto salt and pepper shakers I held in my hands.

"There's not much of a likeness here," I said. "They should have gone with the Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer version."

"Oh, for Pete's sake. Tonto with a dead crow on his head? You're going to use something like that to pepper your scrambled eggs?"

She had a point. I picked up the maps and headed for the front door. "I'll check in with you later."

"If you don't want to fight the Hollywood Freeway, I'd take Vermont down to Wilshire and hang a left." She pointed to the papers in my hand. "It ends at Grand. You'll turn left to Sixth, then a one-way to your right. It's highlighted in yellow."

"What would I do without you, kiddo?"

She sipped from her coffee cup and said, "Well, considering the fact that while I was gone yesterday you were hired by a pistol-packing stripper, I shudder to think."

At a loss for words, I shut the door behind me and walked to the elevator. Already waiting was one of my neighbors from the floor, Dr. Leonid Travnikov. He was a small, stocky man, dressed in an overcoat. A flat cap sat on his head. Over the years, we've rarely engaged in conversation, no doubt due to his thick Russian accent.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Clive Rosengren.
Excerpted by permission of Coffeetown Enterprises, Inc..
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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