“The last words she left for me on the answering machine were ‘Daddy, there’s a film of me all over the Internet. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do,’” Mr. Marx said, running his forefinger over his dark mustache. He leaned against the cement wall, the wind blowing through his dark hair. His eyes were darker than his hair and his body had the build of a linebacker. “All she wanted to do was be a model. She had a friend that helped her, Jamie Hamilton.”
“And then she hung up,” I replied, nodding my head.
“Yes, Mr. Harmon. And I got a phone call about three hours later. She had jumped off the balcony of her apartment.”
“I’m sorry.” I leaned against the black metal grating and noticed that several large branches were broken from a tree. “Now, if she jumped, then why did she jump towards the tree? She had a chance to avoid it, yet, she jumped into it.”
“What are you saying?” Mr Marx asked.
“I get the feeling that she had a little help.”
“You think that the people who put that film” – Mr. Marx clenched his teeth together – “could have done this.”
“It’s a good possibility. I think that I’ll speak with my friend, John Morgan. He’s in charge of homicide.”
“They said it was a suicide.”
“I’d like to find out.”
“Then you’ll take the case?”
“Let’s see what I can dig up.”
An hour later, I walked into John Morgan’s office, smiling. He sat at his desk chewing his wad of gum, grinning at me.
“I take it you’re here for another police report.”
“Of course,” I said. I sat across from his desk in a metal chair.
“I really don’t know why I help you anymore. Always causing trouble” – he leaned back in his chair and scratched his head through his red hair – “and the complaints are always going up. How many times do I have to tell you to stop beating up people.”
“I can’t help it. Trouble seems to find a way to find me.”
“Just like that freezer drawer that hit Billy Darby in the face.”
“I can’t believe you’re still angry about that.”
“Jack,” John said, shaking his head,” you can’t continue to beat people up.”
“He beat up his girlfriend and broke her nose. Then he killed his cousin.”
“All right,” he said, holding his hand up, “never mind. I’m afraid to ask what you’re up too this time.”
“I wanted to talk to you about Jacqueline Marx.”
John leaned back in his chair, pounded his gum and said, “The girl who committed suicide.”
“She jumped right into a tree. Why would she do that?”
“Witnesses heard her scream.”
“That doesn’t mean that she wasn’t thrown from her roof.”
John took a deep breath, shaking his head.
“Even if you’re right” – he bit his lower lip – “it wouldn’t be enough to question him.”
I nodded my head and clasped my hands behind my neck. “Go on.”
“Guy’s name is George Moon; harassed her at her job. Beat her up in the parking lot a few times.”
“She get an order of protection?”
“You know it doesn’t do a lot of good.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Jack, I’m not sure that we can question him. This isn’t enough to open the case.”
“But I can.”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“He was harassing her. Probably didn’t want her to be a model” – I took a deep breath – “or maybe he didn’t want her to be a success.”
“She told her father that there were pictures of her on the internet. It makes sense that she was depressed. And how did the pictures get there.”
“True. Her father thinks that the people who took the pictures shut her up. You question anyone about that.”
“I heard there was a woman in her office who was a close friend. Name was Jamie Hamilton.”
I stood up and grinned. “I’ll check it out.”
“Try not to beat anyone up this time.”
“I promise to behave myself.”
“That’s what you said about Billy Darby.”
Half an hour later, I knocked on the door of George Moon’s apartment and heard footsteps on the other end. The door opened and he stood in the hallway. He was taller than me, about 6-4, with arms that seemed like a size 22 in his brown sweater. His hair was brown and parted to the left in a three quarter inch part. “Yeah.”
“You George Moon?”
“My name’s Jack Harmon. I’m a private investigator. I’d like to talk to you.”
He narrowed his eyes and shifted his head to the left. “Is this about Jacqueline?”
“Hey, she committed suicide. What the hell do you want from me? You’re gonna blame me for that too.”
“I just wanted to know where you were that night.”
“Just answer the question.”
“Maybe I’ll just shut the door instead.”
I shrugged my shoulders and leaned against the wall. “Fine with me. I’ll tell my friend, John Morgan, head of homicide that you didn’t cooperate with me and he can come down and question you.”
He bobbed his head and opened the door wider. “Fine. Come in.”
I walked past him and stepped inside his studio apartment. It was L-shaped with a large bed, and a brown five dresser draw opposite it. A 25 inch Sony color TV stood on top of it and there was a small hole about the size of a quarter in the drawer.
“I saw the article in the paper. They had pictures of her apartment in the news. I saw that mirror. I remember how it was cracked the night we had a fight. She threw a book at me and I ducked. It hit the mirror.”
“Way I heard it,” I replied, turning towards him, “you beat her up a few times in the parking lot.”
“That’s not true. I loved her.”
“So, where were you?”
“I was working late.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a health instructor in a gym.”
“So people can confirm that you were there?”
He took a deep breath and bobbed his head. “I locked up. Hey, they said she committed suicide.”
“She tell you about pictures of her on the Internet.”
“Heard she wanted to be a model. Told me that her friend was helping her.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Hey, you never know what these modeling agencies will pull,” he said nervously.
I put my hands on my hips and licked my lips. “I’ll check it out.”
“Yeah. Hey, don’t believe anything you hear about me beating her up. It ain’t true.”
“You broke an order of protection.”
“She called me,” he shouted, “and said she wanted to get back together.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.”
“Look Harmon, I don’t care if you don’t believe me. I really cared about her.”
“Just find someone to corroborate your story.”
“Hey, I didn’t do anything. Like the police said, it was suicide. That’s it.”
Two hours later, I stepped inside Georgia’s Temp agency and asked to speak with Jamie Hamilton. She stepped out of the office and I have to say that she was hot. From the top down: long blond hair that flowed over her shoulders framing her blue eyes and a small aquiline nose; trim body that was covered by a black dress that fell below her knees; and black suede boots.
“You wanted to talk to me,” she asked, her husky voice filling the room.
“Yeah. Wanted to talk to you about Jacqueline Marx.”
She gazed at the ground and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “I really miss her. Why do you want to see me?”
“She said that there were pictures of her on the Internet. You know anything about it?”
“I heard that you helped her get a modeling job.”
“I did. We both went to the same place. Drago’s Modeling Agency. They disappeared and took our money.”
I nodded my head, taking a deep breath. “How did Jacqueline feel about it?”
“She was devastated. She said she was going to find them and get her money.”
“How much did she lose?”
“Same as me – $2,000. They stole a lot of money from us.”
“I wonder if she found them. You ever hear anything about them being into pornography.”
“No,” she replied nervously, “why would you say that?”
“Are you saying that there were pictures” – she drew her lip between her teeth – “of her naked.”
“I haven’t seen them. Why do you say that? Do you know if she posed naked for them?”
“I don’t know, but if she did.”
“Look, let’s not worry about that now. You know who ran the studio.”
“Guy named Randy Travers. He’s long gone. The police looked into this and he disappeared.”
“All right. I’ll look into it. Thanks.”
I stepped into the office of The Mirror nearly half an hour later. My friend, Richie Feldman, a reporter for the paper, stood behind his desk, typing away on his computer. We were friends since the war in Iraq. I saved his life when a hand grenade went off and he took it in the thigh. He’s had a limp ever since.
“Hey Jack,” Richie replied, sticking his hand out, “what brings you here?”
“Wanted to talk to you about Jacqueline Marx,” I said, shaking his hand.
“She committed suicide.”
“I’m not so sure,” I replied, sitting down in a wooden chair, “for a lot of reasons.”
“Several large branches from a tree a few feet from her apartment were broken. Why would she have jumped into a tree instead of avoiding it?”
“People heard her scream.”
“Somebody could have thrown her from the balcony.”
“Okay, so, what do you want from me.”
“Well, I heard she lost a lot of money to Drago Studio’s.”
“So did a lot of women.” Richie took a deep breath and continued. “I was there at the studio and saw about 50 women who lost over $2,000 each. Some of them posed for pictures topless and they were afraid that the pictures would be put on the web or be sold to a porno magazine. I interviewed a few of them for a story. Randy Travers made a real killing on them. So many of them were crying. They really wanted to be models. They were really scared.”
“Maybe she found Randy Travers.”
“You have any idea where he is.”
“Police couldn’t find him.”
“You know anyone that’s into pornography?”
He leaned back in his chair and chewed the inside of his cheek. “Well, there’s this guy. Bill Ford. He’s a photographer. Got out of jail for taking pictures of underaged girls. He was accused of raping one of them. Sentenced for five years, got out in less than two on good behavior.”
“Maybe I should talk to him.”
“I went to interview him and he was pretty nasty. Wanted to start a fight with me outside his office. I walked away from him.”
“Oh, really. Well, you know that I can’t let him get away with that.”
“Jack, he is bigger than you.”
“The bigger they come, the harder they fall.”
“Well, I’d like to see that.”
“Good, then you can get a story too. Let’s go.”
We stepped into Bill Ford’s office nearly two hours later. He stood in front of his metal desk staring at his camera. He was about my height, 6-1, with brown hair that was slicked back and beneath that black eyes, and beneath that a small nose, and beneath that a beard that wrapped around his mouth.
“Can I help you,” he said, holding a camera.
“Yeah, I said, putting my hands on my hips, “my name’s Jack Harmon and I thought we’d pick up on that interview you had with my friend.”
He looked at me and narrowed his eyes. “You’re a real comedian,” he answered, putting the camera on his desk.
“You know Randy Travers?” I asked.
He walked closer, bobbing his head. “Get the hell out of here.”
“Not until you answer the question.”
He threw a right and I ducked. Then I threw a right to his stomach and he doubled over.
“Now, I’ll ask you again. “Do you know Randy Travers?”
He straightened up and glared at me, then threw another right. I grabbed his hand and twisted it, hearing him scream in pain. Then I threw a knee to his stomach and he dropped to the ground.
“Hey, Jack,” Richie said, “Look at what I found.”
I let go of his hand, walked over and saw pictures of three women topless.
Richie pointed at the pictures and said, “I interviewed these women. They lost over $2,000 from Drago’s studio. Remember how I told you that they said that they posed topless and were scared that the pictures would turn up on the web or in a porno magazine.”
I turned and walked back towards Bill and he glared at me. “You’re a dead man.” He tried to throw a right and I stepped back. Then I threw a front kick to his face and he fell back against his desk. He wiped blood from his nose and stood up slowly.
“I hope you’re a better photographer than a fighter.”
“You bastard.” He threw a right and I grabbed his hand, twisted it until he screamed. “Did Randy put those pictures on the web or in a porno magazine?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where is he?” I shouted.
“I just take pictures for him. He called me an hour ago. He wants me to meet him at Pier 75 tonight.”
I let go of his hand and stepped back. “You want to go to jail again?”
“Okay. Here’s what you’re gonna do,” I said, “and you better listen to me because I’m only gonna say it once. You’re gonna call him back and tell him that you can’t meet him but you have a friend that’s just as good.”
“And who’s that?”
“I don’t need any trouble.”
“Wanna go to jail?”
“Fine.” He picked up the phone and dialed a number.
“Tell him my name is Chevy Chase.”
“Very funny,” Richie said.
“You’re a real clown,” Bill said.
“Just do it.”
“Yeah, Randy, it’s Bill. Look, I can’t make it tonight. But I have someone that’s really good.” He nodded his head. “Look, the cops were here asking me questions. I gotta lay low for a while. Just trust me. He’s real good. His name is Chevy Chase.
Yeah, that’s his name. Okay.” He hung up the phone and glared at me.
“If you call him after I go…”
“Hey,” I don’t want trouble with the cops.
An hour later, I knocked on the door of Pier 75 and a man opened it up. He was shorter than me, about 5-11, stocky, with short blond hair. “You Chevy Chase?”
“Yeah,” I said, holding my camera, “and no jokes about the name.”
“What the hell is it with the name?” he said, holding the door open for me.
“My mom liked Fletch and The Invisible Man.”
“Whatever,” he said, closing the door. “Bill says you’re good and that’s good enough for me.”
“So, where’s Randy?”I asked, and gazed around the room.
I heard voices beyond another door and three women were getting undressed.”
“I couldn’t find you in the phone book,” Randy said, shifting his feet.
“I used to work in LA. Hey, I read about you in the papers. You were running that Modeling agency. Drago’s.”
He grinned, showing his teeth. “Yeah. Made a big killing there.”
“Yeah, you sure did. You got a lot of women to pay you. How did you manage that?”
“You ask a lot of questions.”
“Just trying to make conversation.”
“What the hell is he doing here,” a voice shouted from behind me.
I turned and saw Jaime Hamilton standing in front of me.
“What’s with you?” Randy asked.
“He’s a private detective,” she screamed.
“Son of a bitch,” he yelled. He reached for his gun and I slammed a front kick to his face. The gun fell to the ground and I heard the sound of a loud gunshot. I hit the floor and glass from a partition shattered everywhere.
“Time to die, Harmon,” a gravelly voice shouted.
I turned and recognized Rocky Torenzono’s bald head and pock marked face. He was a mobster for Vince Ruggerio, head of a crime syndicate. He aimed his rifle towards me and fired. I rolled behind a brown couch, seeing bullets flying above me. I grabbed my gun from my holster, got up and fired twice, catching him in the chest. He fired his rifle in the air and I watched him fall to the ground.
“You bastard,” Randy screamed, holding his bloody nose.
“Looks like you’re going to jail.” I turned and glared at Jamie. “As for you, I’m sure you’ll have fun in a female prison”
“Go to hell.”
“Least I didn’t lure women to phony modeling agencies and convince them to get their pictures taken topless. So I guess you did the same thing to Jacqueline or maybe you’re into porno movies and she changed her mind and told you to forget it but you said it was already on the Internet. She threatens to go to the cops so Rocky Torenzano pays her a visit and throws her off the balcony to make it look like a suicide.”
“What the hell is he talking about?” Randy asked.
“I don’t know,” she said to Randy.
“Yeah, right; tell it to the cops.” I grabbed my cell phone and dialed John Morgan’s number.”
“I’m telling you,” Jamie replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“How many cameras do you have here?”
“Four,” Randy said. One of them is in the dresser drawer.”
“What,” I said, narrowing my eyes.”
“One is in the dresser drawer.
I walked over to the dresser drawer, opened it, then stared at the camera. “Oh for Christ sakes.”
Two hours later, I sat on a bench in the parking lot, watched as a blue camaro came into the parking lot and stopped in a slot. The door opened and George Moon appeared. He gazed at me, stepped out of the car, and shut the door. “You again.”
“Yep, me again,” I said, standing up.
“I heard the report on the news. You busted up a pornography ring.”
“So is that where Jacqueline was?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Sure you do.”
He took a deep breath and let it out.
“You’re a real slimy bastard.”
He bobbed his head and put his car keys in his pocket.
“You wanted Jacqueline back so you took pictures of her. You had a camera in your dresser drawer. I remember the hole.”
He drew his lips together and breathed through his nostrils.
“You threatened her and told her you put them on the Internet. You went over to her apartment and she let you in. She probably told you she was going to the police after she threw that book at you and hit the mirror instead. By the way, I have a friend at The Mirror. He told me that there weren’t any pictures of her apartment in the paper. You’re the only one that knew about the crack in the mirror because you were there.”
“You’re good, Harmon, real good. But what’s to stop me from going to my apartment and destroying the evidence before the cops get here.”
“Cops are on their way. They’re just getting a search warrant. You’ll have to get past me so you could go to your apartment.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah. You know what’s interesting.”
“We’re in a parking lot. Just like you and Jacqueline.”
“I’m gonna kick your ass.”
“I doubt it.”
He threw a front kick and I stepped back. Then I threw a right to his nose and drove him back. I spun to my left, catching him in the jaw with a round kick. He staggered back and wiped blood from his mouth.
“Don’t worry, George. We’ve only just begun.”
He screamed and ran towards me, throwing a right. I grabbed his hand, stepped to the left, and flipped him over my shoulder. He fell to the ground on his back.
“Kind of different this time around, isn’t it,” I said.
“You got a big mouth,” he said, getting to his feet, slowly, “and in the next minute, your mouth is going to be swollen.” I threw a right to his mouth, snapping his head to the right. Then I threw a back fist to the other side of his jaw, spraying blood in the air. Then I threw a front kick to his stomach and he doubled over.
“You rotten bastard.”
“I’m a rotten bastard? You beat up Jacqueline and put her in the hospital and take pornographic movies of her before you threw her off the balcony. And you call me a rotten bastard.”
He stood up and wiped blood from his mouth.
“This one’s for Jacqueline.” I threw a palm strike to his nose and he staggered back, screaming in pain. I watched blood pour out of his nose and smiled. Then I threw another right to his jaw, followed by a left to the other side of his jaw. His eyes glazed over and his knees buckled.
“Have a nice night in the hospital.” I slammed the palms of my hands against each of his ears at the same time, and he howled in pain. Then I stood back and watched. He fell to ground, unconscious.
I stood over George and formed a bullhorn with my hand. Then I put my mouth inside it and said “This in just now. George Moon, a man who beat up his girlfriend in a parking lot gets his ass kicked in a parking lot by Jack Harmon. Film at 11.