Johnny Angelino's Club Playa del Mar on Ocean Boulevard at the south end of Long Beach was at least one good step up from a joint. The drinks received a full measure of booze, the food and service weren't bad and the entertainment was generally above average. Johnny ran his club that way partly because he knew how to succeed in the restaurant business and partly because Bugsy Siegel insisted on it.

It wasn't generally known that Siegel had anything to do with the Playa del Mar, and officially he didn't. The club was strictly Johnny's, but Angelino also oversaw certain other ventures that did belong to Mister Siegel. That meant everything Johnny did, from his love life to running the club, was subject to Bugsy's scrutiny.

The saxes got started together for a change, and it even sounded as if the entire brass section was sober. Buddy took the lead during the first 32 bars, then it was Marion's turn. She stepped up to the mike, latched on to the rhythm with a measure or two of finger snapping and let loose, "It was just one of those things, Just one of those crazy flings, One of those bells that now and then rings, Just one of those things . . . ."

As a measure of success, the Paramount was as far from the Playa del Mar as Times Square was from the Long Beach Municipal Pier. Playing the Paramount was every bandleader's dream. Even Buddy Baldwin occasionally imagined himself standing on the Paramount's stage in front of three thousand screaming fans. But dreaming about it didn't make it happen. Getting to the Paramount took years of hard work, and Bobby Ross had paid his dues.

Suddenly the lights backstage blinked twice, and everybody scrambled into place as the announcer, whose voice filled both the theater and the Mutual Radio Network's air waves, intoned, "L-S--M-F-T. L-S--M-F-T. That's right, Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco. And now, by special remote broadcast from New York's Paramount Theater on Times Square, Lucky Strike proudly presents Dance Time, tonight featuring Bobby Ross and his orchestra!"

Three thousand teenagers packed into the Paramount Theater went crazy. The tip of Ross's baton dipped precisely four times. The brass section belted out a series of progressively higher pitched chords that everyone recognized as the introduction to Bobby Ross's theme song, More Than You Know, and the curtain went up.

Up on the crowded observation deck, Marion watched dock workers unwrap the huge mooring lines from their iron cleats and deftly toss them over to crew members who caught the ropes with equal deftness and coiled them on the ship's deck. She felt the vibration under her shoes as the steamer's big engines began to do their job more earnestly. Marion even joined in the fun of covering her ears when the Avalon's captain blew the ship's low, rumbling whistle, announcing to all aboard that their adventure had begun.

Marion leaned forward in her chair to look out at the Wrigley casino that housed the ballroom where tourists flocked to hear the day's most popular bands. She admired the circular, pale coral-colored building encircled with tall columns and topped off with a cupola rising from the center of its red tile roof. "The casino is a beautiful building and they couldn't have put it in a more perfect place."

Marion was thinking that all this must be an awful lot of extra trouble for Johnny, when she noticed several of her fellow roomers and Missus Larson watching from the parlor. Their expressions gave Marion the feeling they were sort of impressed that someone would send a car for her. Suddenly, being like a celebrity was fun. As Vic hurried ahead to open the front door for her, Marion smiled over her shoulder and said, "Good night, folks. Have a pleasant evening."

Outside, Vic rushed ahead again to open the rear door of the long black Packard automobile Marion recognized from the night before.

Wearing a mildly bemused expression, the maitre d' responded, "Of course, Miss Lombard," and unhooked the velvet rope. As the couple followed him to their table, Marion wondered why the maitre d' still called them Miss Lombard and Mister Gable when they'd been married for at least a year. Then the reality of it all struck her. She smiled with the realization that there probably wasn't a teenage girl in the country who wouldn't gladly swap her saddle oxfords to be in Marion Haines's shoes at that moment.

Johnny nudged her elbow, and they stepped up to the velvet rope, where Marion got her first good look into the famous Coconut Grove.

In spite of the care with which he eased out the clutch pedal, Buddy Baldwin's twelve-year-old Graham-Paige sedan bucked and jerked its way across the intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Wardlow Road. The current clutch problem, which Buddy's mechanic brother-in-law gleefully reported would cost at least a hundred to fix, was only the latest addition to a long list of afflictions from which the Graham-Paige suffered.

Most of the huge black sedan's ailments were either cured with inexpensive temporary repairs or were simply ignored because Buddy just couldn't afford to do more. Besides, it galled him to sink more money into a car that only cost him two hundred to begin with--a questionable bargain negotiated with his other brother-in-law, the used car dealer.

The view through the windows of Southern Pacific's Sunset Limited had been laced with bayous and quaint coastal villages along the Gulf coast between New Orleans and Galveston. Now they were deep in the heart of Texas and there was nothing but flat empty land as far as the eye could see.

The only exceptions to the barren landscape were a few dusty little towns scattered along the track here and there as if they'd fallen off of a train as it roared past on its way to better places. Teddy noted with only mild interest the passing of Kingsbury, Marion and Converse.

Nick walked up to the bar, where a hefty colored attendant in a neatly pressed white jacket was industriously drying glasses with his towel. He looked up and Nick said, "I'll have a bourbon and soda."

The attendant smiled apologetically. "I sorry gennamen, but we's in Texas. This here is a dry state. Kin't serve no alcohol drinks 'til we gets clear over into New Mexico."

Nick shook his head. "Well, ain't that just grand. The biggest, hottest, driest state in the whole lousy country and you can't even get a damned drink."

The fog was cold and wet-wet enough that droplets of it formed on Curt's face and dripped down onto his raincoat. The S.S. Catalina was nearly empty, so he could have sat in a passenger lounge, but the urgency of this trip drove him up to the bow, where he anxiously searched the thick mist for a glimpse of the mainland ahead.

The Catalina's fog horn rumbled periodically from its perch above the bridge behind him, but the thick fog sucked up the reverberations like a dry sponge. The low, solemn tone seemed far away and reminded Curt of the sound that woke him six hours earlier and marked the beginning of this awful day.

The entire scene was a brightly sunlit montage of dazzling whites, tans and pinks against shadowed hillsides of dark green and brown. With a foreground of sun-sparkled blue sea, their view of Avalon had an ethereal quality about it that reminded Teddy of pictures in a children's book about an enchanted city.

Usually unimpressed by such trivialities as scenery, Nick leaned against the railing taking it all in for several minutes. Then, with just the slightest touch of awe in his voice, he muttered, "Now, that's something!" Big Al and Teddy glanced at each other with raised eyebrows.

Simms was obviously losing control of the situation, along with his composure. "Th- Th- That's enough of that! Your itinerary for the rest of the afternoon is as f-f-follows: As soon as the equipment is unloaded from the boat, you will carry it up to the b-b-bus. Then you will go to the cottages and rest until the bus comes back at five-thirty to take you to d-d-dinner. Then . . . ."

"Screw this. I'm gonna go take a look around. Any of you guys coming?"

Livid with rage, Simms watched helplessly as the entire band followed Jimmy Ward up the pier toward the sights of Avalon. When Teddy glanced back over his shoulder, Simms was still standing there on the dock with his clipboard. Nick asked, "Is that steam I see comin' out of Simmsy's ears?"

The crowd noise gradually died away and the rich, ascending chords almost everyone in America recognized as the introduction to Bobby Ross's theme song filled Marion's tiny room with startling clarity. By the time she turned out the light and looked down into the ballroom, the stage curtain was already opening and the brightly lit musicians in their brilliant white jackets were belting out the first familiar phrases of More Than You Know.

Marion must have heard the same theme a hundred times or more over the radio, but this was entirely different. This time she heard all the subtle nuances that were somehow lost on the air waves. The fullness of the chords and the bright rhythm patterns blended to spotlight the clear, sweet trumpet melody that rang around the huge ballroom with vibrant crispness. It took several minutes for the goose bumps on Marion's arms to fade away.

Halfway through the second chord, the stage curtains parted, and by the time the sax section joined in for the chorus, the curtains were fully open and Teddy could see the entire ballroom. Being a Saturday night, a large turnout was expected, but the circular expanse of tuxedos and gowns filling the dance floor and the applause of more than two thousand couples was a little overwhelming, even for a member of the Bobby Ross orchestra.

When the piano took over the melody, Teddy let his gaze wander around the room. It was easily the most impressive place the band had ever played. Hidden spotlights illuminated the domed ceiling and bounced off of a slowly revolving glass cone at its center, casting twinkling fragments of a pastel rainbow over the dancers while three-tiered fixtures set around the circular wall spilled soft pools of light over the ballroom.

For the next hour or so, Teddy and Jeff had a ball trying to outdo the other's improvised solos. It was just like the old days when they used to get together for jam sessions after work. As far as their audience was concerned, it was one of those rare occasions that would be the subject of many conversations that usually included the words, "Man, you should have been there!"

A few minutes later they were climbing into Chick's Pontiac Torpedo Eight. Trumpet Player was obviously impressed with the sleek dark blue sedan. As they pulled out on to Ocean Boulevard, he said, "Nice car. Looks brand new."

The guy was a jerk, but at least he knew a good car when he saw one. He was probably jealous cuz he'd never have enough dough to buy anything like it. Musicians never had any damned money. His old man was always broke-couldn't even feed his freaking family. Rubbing it in, Chick bragged, "Yup, I just bought it. Cost a bundle, too. Got a hundred horsepower under the hood, and it'll go more than a hundred miles an hour."

From the pier Chick scanned the shoreline past the little town clear over to the big round building the boat driver said was the casino. He was wishin' he'd brought a couple more guys along. How the hell was he supposed to know this damn island was as big as a whole freakin' city? Well, it didn't matter. If the dame was here, they'd find her.

Following his instructions, and using a broken broom handle as a walking stick, Marion followed Saint Catherine Way north from the casino toward the Saint Catherine Hotel. Before she reached the hotel, however, the road split. The right fork went straight to the Saint Catherine, while the left fork skirted the hotel and wound back into Descanso Canyon. Curt's directions were to take the left fork and watch for a trail on the left after about half a mile.

A movement in the brush twenty yards up the trail caught her eye. She sat very still and watched. After several minutes, a beautiful mule deer fawn appeared. The youngster looked at her, blinked once, and continued on its way.

For some reason she didn't really understand, seeing the lovely creature out there in its natural surroundings gave Marion's spirit a boost. She stood, dusted off the back of her skirt and continued up the canyon.

As he walked, the chime tower bells on the hill above him began ringing the melody they played every quarter hour. Teddy looked at his watch. It was exactly noon.

Ross looked skeptical when he heard the part about Teddy staying at the Saint Catherine on doctor's orders, but he seemed to buy the rest of the story. Ross even grudgingly offered to pay for the room as long as Teddy didn't plan to stay there forever.