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It was Toshiro Saimaru who finally helped me out. Toshiro was a portly Japanese businessman who wanted some work done on his English accent. He had been greatly impressed by Laurence Olivier in Henry Vee, as he called it, and chose him as his model. We read a lot of Shakespeare and English poets to each other. His accent never improved, but he seemed to enjoy himself and it was an easy five dollars an hour for me. We were reading Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” one day.

“And what were thou,” I repeated, “and earth, and stars, and sea, if to the human mind’s imagining silence and solitude were vacancy?…”

“Sirence an’ soritude were bacancy.”

“Great, Toshiro. Much better. Let’s try ‘Ode to the West Wind.’ ”

He leafed through his anthology.

“Toshiro, do you ever use a private detective in your business?”

“Oh yes. Very good. Very good man. Mr. Sean O’Hara.” He wrote down his name and number. I phoned and a secretary said Mr. O’Hara would call on me.

The next Saturday morning there was a knock at the door. A small thickset Japanese man was there, wearing a beige suit and a porkpie hat.

“No teaching on Saturday,” I said. He looked blank. “We no teach on Saturday.… No teachee.… Nevah teachee. We close. Close. Shutee.”

“You got the wrong guy, bub.” He handed me a card: SEAN O’HARA, PRIVATE DETECTIVE. I apologized and asked him in. He spoke with a perfect American accent. I felt a headache coming on. Eugen, Orr and now O’Hara.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “Your name. I had this image of … Silly of me. Just goes to show.”

“Relax,” he said. “My real moniker is Yatsuhashi Ohara. For a whole year I got no work. Absolutely zilch, nada. Couldn’t figure out why. It’s amazing what one of those apostrophes will do. Call me Sean.” He lit a Kool. “What’s the problem, Mr. Todd?”

I told him my story. “I think someone’s behind the whole thing. I just want to know who.”

“Twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses.”

“Fine.” I would have to borrow some money off Nora Lee. “How long do you think it’ll take?”

“Who knows? A week — a month? Don’t worry, Mr. Todd, I’ll find out who it is.”

I hadn’t actually set eyes on Eddie for over two years. Shortly after O’Hara’s visit in the summer of ’56, Karl-Heinz spent two weeks in hospital with a ruptured stomach ulcer. He recovered, but all the rejuvenation of his Californian years disappeared. He looked old and gray beneath his tan. I went to see him in hospital after the operation.

“My God, Johnny,” he said, “let’s do this fucking film soon. Else I’m in a wheelchair.”

I was filled with a sudden nervous panic. I went round to Page’s office, unannounced, to set up a meeting with Eddie. His secretary buzzed him.

“A Mr. Todd to see you? He says it’s urgent?”

Page flung himself through his office doors.

“Mr. Smith. What a surprise.”

He marched me out of his office.

“For God’s sweet sake, John!” he wailed once we were outside. We were on first-name terms now. “I don’t know you, remember?” We found a coffeeshop. “Someone called the other day asking if I represented you. I think the office may be bugged. I only use pay phones now.”

“Christ, you’re worse than me.… Look, I want to see Eddie.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Only promise me you won’t come around like that again.”

* * *

Eddie stood at the surf edge in front of his beach house. The spent waves crept up to his feet and crept away again. He wore cerise and mustard bathing shorts and smoked a cigar. His neat round belly hung like a medicine ball beneath his plump girlish breasts. From the sun deck of his beach house, smoke curled from a barbecue.

“Hey, John!” he shouted as he saw me approach. It was as if absolutely nothing had happened. We stood for a while and watched the waves curl in, smash and spread themselves on the sand.

“I’m sorry about that piece in Variety,” he said. “But I knew you’d understand.” He looked at me and at my clothes. “Is everything all right, John? You don’t look so good.”

“I’m fine. I just need to make a film.”

“Soon, John, soon. Come on up, have a bite of lunch.”

“Lunch? Good God, you’re sure?”

“Everything’s beginning to change. Ike’s got a second term. People are relaxing. Even Trumbo got the Academy Award.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. For The Brave One.

“He wrote that?”

“He’s ‘Robert Rich.’ Didn’t you know?”

“No. Remember I’m rather out of touch these days.”

We climbed the steps up to his deck. A petite dark woman was sunbathing in a two-piece swimsuit, the same color as Eddie’s.

“This is my wife, Bonnie. Bonnie, say hi to my oldest friend, John James Todd. John, why don’t you take some clothes off?”

Later we talked about my plans. I told him about Karl-Heinz’s state of health and that I had a new idea for a film, not Father of Liberty. Something much smaller scale, much cheaper. But we had to do it soon.

“I don’t know, John. It’s a question of timing. I’m sure I can let you do pseudonymous script now. But directing a film … Let’s wait a while.”

I took a deep breath. “Eddie, I’ve done a lot for you, these last years.”

“And I’ve done a lot for you, John.” It was obviously one of those days for using Christian names. But I think he sensed my seriousness.

“Yes,” I said, thinking about Monika. “But look where we are today.”

“Johnny, Johnny …” He put his hand on my shoulder. “My father told me something I’ve never forgotten. You’ve got two forces in life that control everything. Just two. The Profit Motive and Human Values. Sometimes they run together but mostly it’s war. Pick your side early, my father said, and stick with it. And by the way, my father said, remember this: the Profit Motive always wins.” He spread his hands.

I looked out to sea. “It’s not as simple as that.”

Sean O’Hara came by.

“Well, I got him,” he said. “This guy turns out to be a vice-president of AMPOPAWL. He’s a special investigator for ODCAD and HUAC. He’s been an FBI informant since 1934. He owns fifty percent of Red Connections, which has a monthly circulation of twenty-four thousand copies at five bucks a copy. Know how much money that is? A hundred twenty thousand dollars a month. This bozo hates Commies and it’s making him a stack of mazoola. He’s a professional blacklister who advises radio and TV stations and sponsors about the OK-ness of the people they hire. Quite a guy. What I can’t figure out is what he’s got against you.”

“What’s his name?”

“Monroe Smee. Mean anything?”

I sat beside O’Hara in the front of his Buick Roadmaster. He had a paper cup of Pepsi-Cola on the dashboard shelf, a shrimp and pastrami sandwich in one hand and a Kool in the other. He stubbed out his cigarette and took a bite of his sandwich. It was half past eight in the morning.

“This gumshoe life is bad for your health. You gotta eat proper.” He offered me a cigarette. “That’s why I smoke menthol.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I’m trying to give it up. I’ve only got one lung.”

“No shit? What happened?”

“I got shot in the war.”

“No shit? God … I respect you for that, Mr. Todd, I really do. Was it the Krauts or us guys?”

“Actually I was shot by my own side.… I’ll tell you about it later.”

We were on Sunset Boulevard, not far from where Beverly Hills becomes West Hollywood, parked opposite the building that contained the Red Connections offices. Waiting for Smee.

“Every second Wednesday he comes, my man says,” O’Hara told me. Then he started to sing quietly to himself. He always got the lyrics slightly wrong. Today it was “A kiss on the lips may be quite sentimental.” Yesterday, when we had arranged this stakeout, it had been “Petting in the dark, sad boy. Petting in the dark, sad girl.” He unwound his window and threw the wax paper wrapper of his sandwich outside.

“Here he comes,” he said.

Smee had left his car in the building parking lot and strode briskly along the sidewalk. He wore a dark suit and carried a briefcase. I saw again the pale face, the gap teeth, the large uneven nose and the slightly weak chin. He looked thin and wiry. But the thinning brown hair had gone. He wore a neatly combed, short-haired dark wig.

“He used to be bald,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s quite a toop,” O’Hara said.

I watched Smee as he went inside. What did I ever do to you? I wondered. I couldn’t believe that Monroe Smee was responsible. There must have been some terrible error or confusion.

He emerged at half past three. O’Hara had lunched on a box of ribs, root beer and popcorn and was well into his second pack of Kools. We followed Smee’s car, a Cadillac Fleetwood, to some offices on Wilshire Boulevard and then on to his dentist in Highland Park. When he left there he drove all the way down Alameda Street to Long Beach and picked up the Pacific Coast Highway south. We motored past the oil pumps, Huntington Beach, down to Newport, and followed him off the highway into the smart beachside suburb of Balboa.

“No wonder he only comes in every second Wednesday,” I said. I felt like we had been driving for hours. “I’m exhausted.”

“You’d never make a shamus,” O’Hara laughed. “I spent eighteen days living in this car on one case.”

That was the source, I realized, of the Buick’s particular moist frowsty smell.

Smee’s house was a big low stucco bungalow with an orange tiled roof. At the back there was a long garden and beyond that what seemed to be a private dock with two boats inside it. As Smee’s Cadillac pulled into the carport, a teenage boy dressed in tennis whites left the front door. He waved at Smee and jogged off. Smee got out of his car and went inside.

“What now?” O’Hara asked.

“I’ve got to talk to him.”

“Yeah, well, be careful.”

I got out and buttoned my jacket. I felt crumpled and dirty after a day in O’Hara’s car. I rubbed my chin — I needed a shave. I wished somehow I looked smarter, more prosperous.

I went up to the front door and rang the bell. A Hispanic maid answered. Right behind her was a thin, rather sharp-faced woman with hard blond hair.

“It’s all right, Caridad,” she said. Then to me: “Yes?”

“I’d like to speak to Mr. Smee. It’s a committee matter.”

“Oh.…” She frowned. “Come in.”

I stepped into the hall, and as I did so my fear returned. Mrs. Smee went into a room and I heard her say, “Monroe? It’s a man from the committee.”

Smee came out. He wore black suspenders over a white nylon shirt.

“Hello, Monroe,” I said. “I think we need to talk.”

He looked deeply and profoundly shocked. Then his nose wrinkled in a curious way.

“Get out,” he said. “Get out of my house you filth! You Commie filth.”

“For God’s sake, Smee—”

“You evil Red bastard! How dare you contaminate my house! How dare you!”

“Very impressive,” I said. “Academy Award stuff. Now, we’ve—”

Get out! Get out!

I grabbed his shirtfront with both hands and slammed him up against the wall.

“Call the police!” he bellowed at his wife.

Why? Why me? Just leave me alone!” I felt a homicidal anger distort my voice unpleasantly. Years of frustration boiling over.

Mrs. Smee screamed behind me. I felt her fists pound my back. I let him go.

“You can’t do anything more to me,” I said. “Just leave me alone.”

He rummaged in the drawer of a hall table and took out a small revolver.

“I could kill you, Todd!” he screamed. “I could kill you here and now and they’d give me a medal for killing Red scum—”

“You’re fucking mad!

“—but I don’t want the stink in my house!”

“I’ll kill you!” I yelled back unthinkingly. “Leave me alone or I’ll kill you, so help me!”

“Get out, you Commie shit! Get out of my house!” He leveled the gun at me.

“You’re a lunatic. Madman … I warn you!” I backed off all the same. Mrs. Smee had sunk to her knees and was sobbing loudly.

“You’ve had it, Todd! I’ll get you!”

“And I’ll break your fucking neck!”

We shouted insults at each other as I opened the door. My last image was of Mrs. Smee hauling herself up his body, clutching imploringly for the gun.

As I strode across the front lawn the sprinklers came on — automatically, I assume — and soaked my trousers from the knee down. I danced over the grass to O’Hara’s car.

“Did he do that?” O’Hara asked as I got in beside him. “Want me to knock him around some? Little roughhouse stuff?”

“No. Let’s go.”

O’Hara drove off.

“He pulled a gun on me,” I said, delayed shock setting in. “Jesus, he pointed a fucking gun at me.”

“Bastard,” O’Hara said. “Want me to break his legs? His arms?”

“Some other time, Sean.”

He lowered his voice. “I can do that sort of thing for you, Mr. Todd. Anything. Not too expensive, for certain clients. Get my drift?”

I wasn’t listening.

“He’s mad,” I said, my arms and body beginning to tremble. I rubbed my face. “As simple as that. Stark, staring, Grade A nut case.”