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Johnny Spicer: The First Capers

A novella by H. P. Oliver

As evenings in Hollywood go, this one was a pipperoo. An errant thunderstorm wandered in over the San Gabriel Mountains during the afternoon and surprised everyone by dumping enough rain on the Los Angeles basin to scrub the air and hose off the sidewalks. Now Tinsel Town smelled fresh and sweet under an umbrella of bright, twinkling stars. Our weather fit my mood perfectly.

While the rain was falling on Hollywood, I was in Pasadena wrapping up an investigation. I recovered the woman's uninsured diamonds and her husband showed his gratitude in the form of a substantial bonus on top of my agreed-upon fee. I was flush for a change-flush enough to treat myself to a steak at Musso and Frank.

It was a few minutes before six when I donned my fedora and stepped in front of the office washroom mirror to make sure I didn't have any soup stains on my lapels left over from lunch. I have to say the guy staring back at me from the glass looked pretty snazzy. Sure, the dark blue pinstripe was a little threadbare at the cuffs and the hanky in my breast pocket drooped some, but the flashing dark eyes, closely trimmed mustache, and jaunty angle of my fedora definitely gave me the devil-may-care sort of Úlan befitting a successful private eye.

A novella by H. P. Oliver

Then, opening the door to my outer office, I came face to face with a redhead who just stepped off the cover of Vogue magazine. She was resplendent in an emerald green, ankle-length silk dress with a deep-V neckline and puffy sleeves that were just visible under a wrap made of fur that once belonged to a couple of handsome foxes.

Well into her thirties, though, the effect of the redhead's fashionable outfit was diminished somewhat by a pudginess of the sort that usually results from too much of the good life. Through a mouth outlined by an excess of bright red lip rouge, a husky voice asked, "You Spicer?"

"At your service. Please come in."

She accepted my offer without another word and I steered her toward one of the chairs facing my desk. Then I walked around to take my seat behind the desk. When I faced her again, the redhead was still standing and I was looking into the barrel of a revolver held less than a foot from the tip of my nose. Thinking I probably looked pretty silly staring cross-eyed at the pistol, I took a step back. She quickly said, "Sit down and put your hands on the desk where I can see them. And don't think for a moment I won't shoot you if you don't do exactly what I say because I will."