I took a long drive through the Hollywood hills while the gardener finished up his work and left. Circled back down to Liz’s place and jimmied open a window on the side.
She’d left a few items behind. A hair clip. Empty nail polish bottle. Red lipsticked cigarette butt in the toilet. Nothing that told me where she was.
Then the telephone rang in the kitchen. Strange. She was in such a rush she hadn’t bothered to disconnect the line. I picked it up on the fourth ring. Some guy with ants in his pants.
“Billy Frack. Frack Automotive. Can you put her on?
“I would if she was here. If she hadn’t flown her damn coop.”
He whistled. “Well, how do ya like that?…”
“What’s this about?”
“Oh, just a repair bill of 60 bucks she stiffed me for. You her cat?”
“Her cat. Her honey. Her daddy-o. As in, ‘Fix my car quick, Billy, so I can run away from this cat and stiff you on the repair.’ “
“I think we better talk.”
“Sure. And bring along my sixty bucks, Pops.”
“Keep dreaming, friend.”
* * *
Frack Automotive was a one-bay garage wedged into a baking hot alley off teeming Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. And Billy Frack had the perfect look for the tight space: rail-thin, slicked-up pompadour atop greasy jeans and a black tee-shirt. Tattoos of a viper on one arm, half-naked damsel on the other.
He also had auto repairs pouring out of his pant cuffs, and from what I could see, ran the whole operation himself. He rolled out from under a Buick, gave me a wink when I introduced myself.
“Need brake work on that Coronet?” He instantly knew the Dodge parked among nine other cars in the alley was mine. “Got a special this month.”
“No thanks. So you know Liz pretty well?”
“Like my left collarbone.” He popped a giant pink gum bubble as the phone rang in the garage. “Gotta get that, Pops.”
So it went for most of the day—me slipping in Liz questions between his phone calls and customer chats. Most of the answers I got were quick, meaningless crumbs, but I did learn he’d been working on her T-Bird for years, probably even dated her a few times. This guy was no Randy, though. He had rockabilly 45s stacked up on his tool bench record player, twangy guitars chords bouncing off the garage walls and drawing in one saucy girl with a flat tire or broken hose after another.
The problem was getting more than a minute of Billy’s attention. “Liz was jumpy like a bean, that’s for sure” he’d say, and then “Stick around and I’ll tell ya more.” By the time he closed up shop at 5, my plan for getting back up to Seals for tonight’s game was shot. After calling a teed-off Pence long distance to whine about my two-day flu, I followed Billy’s weaving hot rod to a bar in Santa Monica. I found the Dodgers game against Philly on my car radio, and really enjoyed Vin Scully’s call as I drove. Scully hasn’t been announcing Dodger games for too long, but it wouldn’t shock me if he stuck around another ten years.
The Hideout Lounge on West Channel used to be a speakeasy during the ’30s and had a killer juke box, which quickly became Billy’s next distraction.
“Got some dimes?” I filled his hand and he was over there in seconds. “Roll Over Beethoven” started up and he shook and shimmied his way back to me. “The King might be the Man, but Chuck Berry is Lord!”
“So why do you think Liz was scared?”
“I said jumpy, not scared. Big difference, Pops. Pretty clear she wanted to split town in a hurry, but a dish like her? Could have been all sorts of reasons. Stick around and I’ll tell ya more.”
A busty brunette a foot taller than him was making eyes from the juke box. He swigged half his draft beer in one gulp, began to slide off the stool again and I stopped him.
“There’s a guy up north they’re calling the Peanut Killer. Maybe you’ve heard about him.” Billy drew a blank. “Anyway, my fear is he might have something to do with this.”
Billy’s face darkened. He set his beer on the bar, unwrapped a fresh stick of Bazooka and shoved it in his mouth. “Got any smokes?”
“Well come out back and have a smoke with me.”
I followed him through a back door. The second we hit the lot he spun on a booted heel and slammed me against the wall.
“You’re making this up, right?”
“Huh?? Why would I do that?”
“I lied, okay? She did seem scared. Matter of fact her cage was flat-out rattled. Made me think someone creepy might’ve been after her. Someone like you.”
“Think so? How come you know so much about this peanut man?”
“Because I’ve stumbled over every damn body he’s left, that’s why. Why do you care so much about Liz? If you need the sixty bucks that bad I’ll take care of it!”
He shook me loose. Paced around in a small circle.
“It ain’t the money, Pops…
“Okay. So what the hell is—”
“She’s my everlovin’ SISTER! Alright??”
PIT 100 000 000 – 1 2 0
S.F. 001 000 001 – 2 8 0
W-Gomez L-Porterfield HR: Skinner
Leave it to Ruben G. to clean up Antonelli’s stench again, this time with a brilliant 2-hitter, retiring the last 19 Bucs he faces. Kirkland scores the winner in the 9th on a wild pitch and for a day at least, the Giants are out of the cellar.
PHI 201 001 103 – 8 14 1
L.A. 001 100 021 – 5 9 2
W-Semproch L-Drysdale SV-Farrell HRS: Jones, Repluski, Hodges, Drysdale GWRBI-Jones
Willie Jones slams his 12th homer of the year in the 1st, the Dodgers never catch their tormentors, and snap their winning streak. L.A. cuts it to 5-4 when Big Don hits a 2-run shot in the 8th, but the legendary Rip Repulski pinch-hits a screen job to lead the 9th and Philly adds some insurance.
MIL 210 010 000 – 4 8 0
CHI 000 011 000 – 2 11 0
W-Burdette L-Drabowsky SV-Robinson HRS: Aaron, Covington GWRBI-Aaron
The Braves sure enjoy playing at Wrigley, and keep the Cubs from taking first place back. Chicago grounds into four DPs to derail any momentum.
CIN 021 010 020 – 6 12 2
STL 307 000 00x – 10 11 0
W-Mabe L-Haddix SV-Paine HR: Bailey
Haddix suffers a 3rd inning in hell, as Temple and Crowe make big errors to fuel a 7-run Redbird uprising and put the game away. Cards are back to .500! Will they go over this time?
DET 010 030 010 – 5 14 2
BOS 000 000 07x – 7 10 0
W-Baumann L-Morgan SV-Wall HR: Gernert GWRBI-Williams
So you thought yesterday’s Tiger loss was their worst of the year? Nope, this one was. Paul Foytack is cruising with a 3-hit shutout into the last of the 8th, when Williams singles, Maxwell boots one at first, Gernert slams a 3-run homer and Maxwell throws away an infield hit. Tom Morgan and his 1.77 ERA enters and does no better, giving up three singles, a walk and Ted Williams double for the 7-run blow to the head.
CLE 010 000 001 – 2 7 0
BAL 100 000 03x – 4 6 0
W-Johnson L-Bell SV-Loes HRS: Vernon, Triandos GWRBI-Triandos
Simple math: Woodling singles in a run, Chico Carrasquel ties it with a sac fly, Connie Johnson shuts down the Tribe from there and GusTriandos cranks a 3-run shot in the 8th. Birds close to within a game and a half because…
K.C. 002 000 210 – 5 9 1
NYY 000 101 020 – 4 6 1
W-Urban L-Larsen SV-Gorman HR: Simpson GWRBI-Martyn
The Yanks do the unthinkable, losing a home game to the A’s. Howard knocks in three and Slaughter collects two doubles and a triple, but the rest of the New York lineup does nothin’ with Mr. Urban.
CHX 010 011 105 – 9 13 0
WAS 000 001 100 – 2 7 4
W-Pierce L-Kemmerer GWRBI-Phillips
WANTED: Team to play professional baseball game without embarrassing themselves or the public. Inquire C. Griffith, Griffith Stadium, Washington D.C.
National League through Tuesday, June 10
American League through Tuesday, June 10