"The big Caddy slid silently away from the curb and up Highland toward Franklin, and I was left with nothing to look at but my five-year-old Plymouth coupe in the next parking spot. Compared to the Cadillac, my trusty steed, with all the dents and scrapes in its dull gray paint, looked a little pathetic."

"In a nutshell, the Hindenburg arrived at Lakehurst Navel Air Station around seven in the evening after delays due to bad weather. The huge ship-it was more than eight hundred feet long and a hundred and thirty-five feet wide-burst into flames as it approached the mooring mast. The flames began near the rear of the dirigible and spread quickly along its length. Of the thirty-one passengers and sixty-one crew members aboard, thirteen passengers, twenty-two crew members and two dogs died in the crash."

"In Venice, I turned west onto Windward Avenue because the street looked like it dead-ended at the amusement pier, just as Mary Katelnakoff had described. I grabbed the first empty parking space I came to and began walking in the direction of the pier. The town was built as a miniature replica of its namesake in Italy. Most of the buildings had Italian-style facades, and the place actually had real canals at one time."

"Mulholland heads east along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains and there are turnouts where you can stop and get a good view of the Los Angeles basin. I pulled off at one of them and stood there for several minutes just soaking it all in. Off to my right, the last rays of the setting sun were painting southern California's perpetual offshore fog bank bright shades of orange. Below me a blanket of twinkling lights was spread out over Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. Above me the stars were bright and clear against a black velvet sky. As evenings in Hollywood go, this one was another pipperoo."


"Since it was a slow Monday morning in the detective business, I took a break from the L.A. Times and was gazing out the window at the always-fascinating pedestrian traffic on Highland Boulevard when the cop appeared. His patrol car passed in the northbound direction and then stopped, backed up, and double-parked next to my five-year-old Plymouth coupe. Now the cop was slowly walking around my car contemplating the assortment of dents and scrapes adorning its fenders with greater interest than they deserved.

"He was big and beefy with a mug only a mother could love. He also had sergeant's stripes on his uniform, a clue that screamed veteran cop--the worst kind."

"The Santa Monica cop shop occupied the northeast corner of the city's brand new, two-story, deco-style city hall. Still in cuffs, I was ushered into an up-to-date interrogation room complete with a one-way glass window that offered a terrific view of suspect questioning. There the rest of my belongings were removed from my pockets and deposited along with my wallet into a big brown envelope."

"I pulled into an empty space at the curb near the Trocadero's entrance, and any hope I harbored that the cop wasn't interested in me evaporated along with the tooth fairy and her relatives. As he rolled past us in his black and white Chevy sedan, the cop looked directly at me. It was my old friend the sergeant, all right, and he had a smirk on his ugly kisser that said, 'I've got you now, wise guy.'"

"Jack Dragna gestured toward the pile of money with both hands and said, 'That's all what Robby got from stickin' up that lousy bank—a measly seven grand. Chump change!'

"I thought I'd be a very happy chump with that kind of change in my pocket. I said, 'Okay, but why me?'

"Jack looked me square in the eye and said, 'Because you was the guy standin' in the wrong place when all that manure fell outta the sky.'"