A Johnny Spicer Mini-Caper

Monday, May 27, 1940 <> Thomas Martin Simms Mansion, Beverly Hills

Doris "Dory" Simms was missing. It was my job to find her, at least that's what her daddy, developer Thomas Martin Simms, was paying me to do.

The leads I had to go on were as skimpy as a Malibu blonde's swimsuit. Dory was last seen leaving the home of another UCLA coed after a party Saturday night. She left alone, said she was going home, and drove away in the Caddy convertible daddy gave her for her eighteenth birthday. Her friends can't imagine anyone disliking Dory enough to hurt her, so other than a recent photo in which a blonde still wearing a little of her baby fat is half-smiling at the Kodak, that was it.

To be honest, I figured her disappearance for a snatch, but when no ransom demand showed up by Monday morning, I figured I was wrong. That left me with only one likely avenue of investigation. That avenue was in the wrong neighborhood for daddy.

Thomas Martin Simms glared at me. "What the hell kind of question is that? Dory has no reason to run away. She was born in this house and has everything a young girl could ask for right here!"

While Simms fussed and fumed, I stared out a window. The part of his forty-thousand square-foot property not filled with mansion sloped downhill until it ultimately disappeared under a thick shroud of oaks just short of Doheney Road. That view and something Simms said collided in my head and hatched an idea.

I strolled toward the trees at the bottom of the property. There! Barely visible in the tangle of limbs and leaves was a manmade shape of straight lines and square corners. Somebody had themselves a dandy treehouse in the middle of the forest. Everything a young girl could ask for.

This was no shanty treehouse. No, sir. It had a door, real windows to keep the weather out, and a little porch on which I saw a coiled rope ladder. That meant somebody besides the birds was home.

I shouted up, "Hello, Dory. How about lowering the ladder so I can visit you?"

A face I recognized from the photograph in my pocket shouted at me from the window. "No! Go away, you're ruining everything!"

I smiled up at her. "If I go away, I'll have to bring your father out here. I thought you might prefer to talk with me first."

After a moment of silence, the voice from the tree said, "I don't know you. Who are you?"

"My name is Johnny. Your father hired me to find you. Now, come on and drop the ladder so I don't get my clothes dirty climbing the tree."

A few more silent moments passed before Dory dropped the rope ladder. The interior of her treehouse was equipped with everything but running water. The furnishings included a feather mattress, a chair, and even a little chest of drawers.

"Hello, Dory."

Sitting cross-legged on the mattress picking at the hem on her dress, she could have passed for a petulant twelve-year-old. Without looking up, she said a quiet, "Hello."

"Would you like to tell me what this is all about?"

"It's none of your business."

"I suppose that's true, but I'm curious. Where did you leave the Cadillac?"

Dory still didn't look at me. "It's parked by a big apartment down on Sunset. I walked home from there."

"That was clever. It will take the cops a while to find the car."

That got Dory's attention. Her head jerked up. "The police? Why are the police looking for me? I haven't done anything against the law."

"That's probably true, but cops sometimes help find good people as well as bad guys."

Tears were pooling in her eyes. "They'll find me for sure, and then I'll have to go back."

"In case you haven't noticed, you're already found. The question is, what do you want me to do about it?"

I was gaining her attention in stages. That got me another chunk of it. "What do I want you to do? Don't you have to tell father where I am?"

"Dory, even if you aren't twenty-one yet, you are not a kid. I'm willing to listen to what this is all about and take you point of view into consideration before I do anything."

Dory gave me a little shrug of resignation. "There isn't much to tell. I'm just sick and tired of how my father treats me since mom passed away. She listened to what I had to say. He doesn't. He just issues edicts about how I have to live as long as I'm under his lousy roof. I decided not to be under his roof anymore."

I nodded. Technically she was still under his lousy roof, just a smaller version of it. Of course, Dory was suffering from the same rebellious ailment everyone who makes it to adulthood experiences along the way.

"Have you told your father what you just told me?"

With an expression that reminded me of a startled owl, she shook her head vigorously. "No! I wouldn't dare."

"All right, Kiddo, I'll tell him for you. C'mon."

I turned for the door and Dory yelled, "No!"

"Dory, one of us is going to tell your father what's going on. You decide who."

She decided she might be able to talk to daddy after all. I won't bore you with their conversation except to say things were touch and go until Dory got over her fear and got brave enough to say what she really needed to say.

That's when I saw something soften in Martin Simms' eyes that proved he wasn't actually an ogre. He was just a father who needed to be reminded of his own kidhood traumas. Once those memories were rekindled, he proved to be an okay guy. Father and daughter were actually coming to an understanding when I left. The check I got from Simms a few days later was almost as rewarding as knowing I helped Dory over one of life's hurdles.


Story and design © Steve Eitzen
Header graphic & HPO logo © HPO Productions
Character images © 123RF used by license
Cadillac image ©
Treehouse image modified from public domain photograph
All rights reserved by copyright owners

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.