Previously in "No, No Nora -- One," Marguerite Dreesen, Paranormal Psychologist and CEO of Demoncology Concepts, LLP, has requested a waiver of $750 thousand against the estate of Nora Applegate, Executor and senior surviving member of the Applegate family, in exchange for the capture of a murderer--Rufus, a demon, who may have killed Nora's father, Marty Blakemore, by inhabiting the body of his second wife, and also Nora Wingate, the actress, by inhabiting the body of a human albino, the face of whom Nora has seen in a bizarre out-of-body experience.
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is rated PG:
MV -- Mild Violence
GL -- Graphic Language
3 weeks later
Island View Lane
Bel Air -- Los Angeles
"She's spending my inheritance, Karen, did you know that?" Albert said with a faux grin. "No, of course you didn't. . .not until a little while ago, anyway, but I'll say it again," he went on before finally screaming, "She's spending my inheritance! Do you get it now?"
Albert was indeed angry. It wasn't just his ranting--it was his fists. Furniture was going down. Precious original oils had been in danger of going extinct. And all the while, Karen, his playmate of the current fortnight, seemed detached and oddly content to participate with a decidedly cool nonchalance.
"Hey, throw it! Just throw it!" Albert yelled from across the room, then watched as Karen took the handful of table linens she was holding and basically just dropped them on the floor.
"That's not how you throw something," he blared as he marched across the living room and toward the huge dining armoire. Then brushing her aside he reached into the open drawer and grabbed an armload. "This is how you throw something," he continued to howl as he heaved the stack of luxury linens a good fifteen feet to the side.
"They're heavy," she objected. I can't throw as far as you."
"Then take smaller stacks, okay?. . .duh. But get them out farther. The movie showed you everything you need to know, and we just watched it, for chrissake!"
"It was a dumb movie, too," Karen said as she stepped back and folded her arms.
"Dumb movie? You're saying that 'The Break In' with Damian Hunter was a dumb movie? It's already a neoclassic, for god's sake! Don't you call yourself an actress?"
"I don't 'call' myself an actress; I 'am' an actress. What are you?. . .besides someone who'd stage a silly burglary."
"Oh? Well it's done all the time, sister, and for good reason. When’s the last time you made 5 million dollars?. . .one picture ago? Oh, I forgot. That was your only picture."
"I can make 5 million any time--just get me some stuff. Ah-h, but that's too big an order for you, isn't it? Want to trade insults? What happened to 'I'll get you the stuff, sweetheart--you do the setup'? So where is it? Failed again on that one didn't you?"
He'd been churning up the lower drawers when he suddenly stopped what he was doing and looked up, catching her gaze directly.
"Look, you're free to leave any time. So what holds you here, huh? I'll tell you what holds you here. It's either here or the Salvation Army. Now you can either help out, or get out. I don't really care which."
Her next half-hearted attempt to 'help out' drew only lukewarm praise from the indefatigable Albert Blakemore. . .thin, wiry, dark haired. . .elevated to the status of international playboy by some, and "royal pain in the ass" by others. They seemed an odd pair, actually. She was really quite reserved. . .easy on the eyes. Very easy. But there were just about one too many blondes of her type in Hollywood, and if you had to name any one of them, she'd have been the one.
Earlier -- The Same Afternoon
Le Club "was" Sunset. Not the strip--'puh-lease'--but the boulevard. Yet the place was quiet, even for a Tuesday. In the meantime there was Albert--the perennially late Albert.
"Is he still here?" Albert called to the security desk as he flashed his club pass.
"He hasn't gone anywhere, sir. . .third floor bar next to the wall."
The elevator door was just closing, with Albert still a long chip shot away at the far end of the lounge.
"Hold that door!" he yelled, as he scampered forward. One person reached down to press "Hold" while the other occupants rolled their eyes at each other.
Then as the doors reopened, Albert pushed his way past a set of swinging doors and tried to make his eyes adjust. . .finally spotting a lone man at the end of the bar--a big man--a man who undoubtedly deserved his reputation as an appeaser--or a persuader, depending upon the situation at hand.
"You're late," said the dark haired, dark eyed man without looking up from his drink.
"Traffic, Mr. Drake. I'm so sorry. They've torn up everything over on Cahuenga." Albert called out while stumbling in his first few steps across the darkened interior.
In here the man was known as "Mr. Drake." On the street, however, he was "The Drake." The Drake did favors for club members, like occasionally deigning to be seen in the same room with them. Anywhere else and Albert wouldn't have been favored with the chance to shine the man's shoes.
"Thank you again, sir, for all your time and patience," "This really means a lot to me." Then suddenly remembering how cool and sophisticated he'd intended to appear as opposed to going the way of his usual first impression, Albert lengthened his stride as he got closer, while using his comb to slick back a few stray hairs.
"I'm Alb. . ." was as far as he got when Drake interrupted.
"I know who you are, Albert. You're an heir to the Applegate fortune, such as it is, and great grandson of the late Marty Blakemore, who some believe should be designated as a national treasure. Some also find it unusual that you have the same last name as your maternal grandfather. I, myself, find it interesting, to tell you the truth."
"Sir. . .could we not. . .I mean, it's. . ." Albert stammered as he began repositioning a bar stool for himself.
"Of course. I understand perfectly. Now since it's absolutely clear there's nothing you can do for me, I assume you're here because there's something I can do for you. So what is it?"
"Well, sir. I have this friend. It's not for me, you understand, but is there any chance I could score something off you?"
"Is that what this is all about?"
"Well, not actually, Mr. Drake. There's a larger issue involved, but I just thought of this as sort of an 'ice breaker,' if you know what I mean."
"Ice breaker?" Drake echoed, laughing through his words. "Albert, I don't know nothing about ice breakers. But I do know something about leg breakers," he said, laughing unrestrainedly at the end of his little quip. "Now, if you're looking for a leg breaker, I might could help you," Drake continued, clearly enjoying the moment. "But ice breakers?. . .I don't know."
"Poor choice of words, I take it." Albert said, without having cracked even the tiniest smile.
"Poor choice? Hell, no. It was a great choice," Drake boomed as he broke into a new round of laughter. "Ice breakers! Ha! With my 300 pounds I could break some ice. . .believe it". Then, unable to finish his delivery without a belly laugh, he added, "But I'd likely be breaking some ass before getting too close to the ice, y'know what I mean?"
"What I should have said," Albert replied, still straight-faced, "was that this friend is in sort of. . .you know, in a bad way at the moment. I really need to help her out."
"Well now we're getting somewhere," Drake said, dropping the merriment in a hurry while preparing to light a cigar--a common trademark opening for the beginning of negotiations in The Drake's line of work. "At least now I know that what I been hearing is true. That new girlfriend of yours--what's her name?. . .Karen. . ."
"Karen Whispers. It's her birth name, believe it or not. Funny how often. . ."
"Yeah. Aging starlet," Drake interrupted, taking out a small gold pen knife. "Thinks she's back in the day of Monroe and Mansfield, or something. Crossed to the other side of the street, didn't she?" he added as he began to trim the end of the cigar. "My kind of girl. You should a' brought her with. Bet she's really using it up., huh? Using like it was going out of style."
"She knows what to do with the stuff, though. She's good. She's really good. We just need someone to help get us over a rough spot. . .a little sneeze, and that'll be the end of it."
"A little?. . ." Drake asked, pausing to light up as Albert waited, watching flames flare up from the end of the cigar then go out as the big man began puffing huge clouds of smoke. "How much a little?"
"A couple k's."
"Hey, wait a minute. Man, you're actually serious, I think," Drake said, inspecting the cigar as he pulled it from his lips. "Y'know Albert, I ain't your local supermarket," he added, speaking in tones that had become increasingly more firm. "Sure, I could put you in touch with someone, but by the end of the day it could cost you a lot more than just knee breakers--trust me. Besides, I happen to know you're broke--you and the girl."
"Money's a little tight, but nothing I can't handle."
"Well, that ain't what I been hearing lately. You see, we all know there was a time when 'Albert' had more money than he knew what to do with," Drake said, then adding as he leaned close to Albert's face, "Trick is in not letting it all get away."
"I still belong to the millionaires' club."
"Yeah, and my dog has fleas," Drake replied, laying his cigar in the gold ashtray the bartender had brought out, typically only during VIP visits. "Look, Albert. Let me know when you join the billionaires' club. Right now, unless you got some other burning issue to discuss, this conversation is over."
"Uh-h, well yes, Mr. Drake, there is something else. You see, I have a plan--a plan that'll put me back on top, right where I belong."
"I can hardly wait. What is it, and why does it involve me?"
"Okay, you see. . ." Albert began with some hesitation. "I'm looking for someone who does insurance work."
"Oh, well now maybe we're getting somewhere," Drake responded, picking up his cigar and talking with it clamped between his teeth. "I been in the insurance business longer than anyone else around here. . term life, mostly. What department are you interested in?"
"I want someone to demolish my house. . .I need a demolition man."
"I see. Personal property case. So you want to blow up that house in Bel Air just so's you can collect the insurance, is that it? Albert, you don't need me. You need a doctor," Drake declared, then adding as he started making moves like he was about to leave, "Better yet, here. . .take a couple Prozacs and call me in the morning."
"Mr. Drake, if you would just hear me out first," Albert pleaded as he started to reach for Drake's arm, then thought better of it. "The insurance companies will be forced to settle for no less than 10 million. I can have that much cash now. . .next week. . .next month!"
"Just what did you have in mind, Albert?. . .smart bombs from 15,000 feet?" Drake asked as he rolled the ash off the end of the cigar. "Then when you go up against the insurance company in court," he continued as he swiveled himself around, "your lawyer can stand up and claim faulty intelligence. . .that the bombs were intended for Osama Bin Laden, and that the missile fell a little wide of it's mark."
Drake then stood and reached for the coat rack, lifting his coat from the peg.
"And ain't you forgetting something else, Albert? If I was to 'assist' you in this mad scheme--which I won't--there would be the matter of my fee--sixty-six and two thirds percent, to be exact. That would leave you with roughly three million--not ten."
"Make it a simple break-in, then," Albert begged further after he'd been handed the coat, then adding as he held it for the big man, "The oils alone are worth three million."
"I'm not in the art business, Albert," was the reply as Albert helped lift the tan cashmere pea coat onto Drake's massive shoulders. "What else is in the house?. . .the family's heirloom tea service?"
"Antiquities. . .oriental 'objets d' art'. . .it all adds up, Mr. Drake! And don't forget the personal sense of loss, either."
"They ain't going to pay you for pain and suffering, Albert. They's going to pay you what the house is worth. Have you been getting yearly appraisals?"
"Yes, sir. . .within the last six months, in fact."
"Well, I'll tell you this much right now, Albert," Drake said as with the cigar between the fingers of one hand, he fastened the center button of his coat with the other. "The house you're talking about ain't worth ten mil even with the contents. How do I know? Because I been inside nearly every house in both Bel Air and Brentwood, that's how, and if you had that aging old stucco appraised for ten million, the insurance company will tie things up in court and probably send you to jail."
Albert's lower lip trembled slightly as Drake picked up his keys from the bar and began to step away.
"You're one interesting guy, Albert," he said from about five paces, and without looking back. "But not the way I like to think of as 'interesting.'"
Then from about thirty feet away, Mr. Drake turned and faced Albert one more time.
"And here's some free advice," he said as he finished buttoning his coat. "If I was you I'd be careful where I try and buy that stuff. You don't know what you're getting yourself into. Now I know it's for your private use, because if I didn't think so and these was the old days, you'd already be close to wearing those leg breakers we was talking about. But other people, you see--folks less open minded than me--could get the wrong idea."
Albert stood in stunned silence as Drake pushed open the double swinging doors.
"Good night, Albert," he said. "Try not to let the bed bugs bite," and was gone."
"Quick to laugh. . .slow to anger". . .these were the qualities Albert's mom said she wished she'd possessed the way Albert had as a child. "Follow this rule," she would say, "and you'll have a virtuous life."
'Now why in the world did that pop into my head?' Albert thought as he glanced around the empty tap lounge. 'I'm not angry," he mused further. 'I'm disappointed, but I'm not angry. I'll find a way through this eventually.'
Then just as he was beginning his slow walk toward the door, the bartender appeared and had placed a telephone on the bar.
"There's a call for you, Mr. Blakemore. Just pick up and you'll be connected."
"Did they say who's calling?"
"It's your mother. She's been calling every five minutes. Mr. Drake said no interruptions, so I kept telling her to call back."
Then after thanking the bartender, Albert stepped back in his tracks and picked up.
"Hello, Mother. I was just thinking of you, and lo and behold. . ."
"Oh, Albert, how could you keep your mother waiting? Do you know how many times I've called? I knew you were there. You can't have people throw me off the track the way you do your friends. This is your mother speaking, in case you've forgotten."
"Mom, no ones throwing you off the tracks. . .track, I meant to say.
"No, no Albert. I caught that. . .that Freudian slip just now. 'Throw mama from the tracks'. . .listen Albert. . ."
"Mom, wait. Stop! That's not it! First of all, it's 'Throw Mama from the Train', not 'throw mama from the tracks', which has absolutely nothing to do with anything, be it this conversation, or any other conversation! I couldn't come to the phone because I didn't know you'd been calling, that's all."
"Don't they tell you who's calling?. . .or maybe you figure you shouldn't ask, is that it?"
"Mom, please," Albert pleaded. "Can't we call a truce?. . .on this one call, at least? Look, I'll go first. Hello, Mother?. . .so nice to hear from you. How's the weather in Charleston?"
"It's raining. And on a day like this, it should be."
"Uh-h, oh. Well it should be here too, and it isn't. So I guess it's a question of 'whose news is the gloomiest,' unfortunately."
"Well I hope you're sitting down, dear, because if you're not, you're probably going to fall down. It's about Mother. She's taking a large chunk of the estate and pulling it out of her will."
Standing behind one of the bar stools, Albert decided that it might be a good idea to sit down.
"How much?" he asked, holding the phone in the crook of his neck as he repositioned the bar stool. "Who's it coming from?"
"Huh-h. . .can't you guess, my dear? It's coming mostly from us. . .you and me."
"Not that much, though, right?" he asked as he tried to dispel his nervousness by crossing and then recrossing his legs.
"Huh-h, not unless you call a million dollars, 'not that much.'"
Both his feet hit the bar rail as Albert jerked forward in his chair.
"Are you serious? You're saying she's cutting us out of a million dollars? What for? She has to have a reason for doing that, doesn't she?"
"She's the estate's executor, dear. She can probably do almost anything she wants."
Albert sat in abject silence for a moment as his eyes darted over bottles and glasses positioned along the back bar.
"Albert. . .are you there?"
"Yes. Yes, I'm still here. What's wrong with the Endowment?" he asked, obviously thinking of that as the bellwether of the estate's financial picture. "Is that going belly up also?"
"I don't know. I haven't talked to the lawyers. I'm still getting some of the news myself. It could be a new charity beneficiary of some kind. . .the lawyers will decide."
"Charity," Albert echoed as he stepped to the floor and rested both elbows on the bar sill. "Is there a name?"
"There's one--Marguerite Dreesen, a doctor. . .Ph.D. type of doctor. Do you know anyone by that name, dear?"
"Never heard of her," he replied as he straightened and turned his back to the bar, resting against it. "A little preliminary research shouldn't be too hard, though. She can be found On Line, I'm sure. I'll get on it, but first I must tell you that I'm not feeling so well at the moment, Mother, and I must go. I'll call you in a day or two."
"Oh, my poor baby, you've had a rough day and now it's become that much worse. I'm sorry, dear, and I understand completely."
"No, I don't think you do, Mother dear, at least not. . .'completely.' Not unless you know what a double migraine is like. I'll call you. . ."
"Sweetheart, are you getting those, too. It runs in the family, you know. See your doctor, dear, and take care of yourself. Promise?"
"I promise. . .to keep in touch and I'll give you a call just as soon as I'm. . .feeling better." Love you. Bye, bye."
Albert waited for the click and then held the receiver in his hand for several seconds before dropping it onto the cradle.
"And don't let the bed bugs bite," he said with a sigh as he closed his eyes and leaned both hands against the bar.
Then raising a fist and bringing it down on the bar--full force, almost--Albert looked into the back-bar mirror and blurted, "Now, you sons of bitches. Now I'm angry!"
Island View Lane
"Okay, grab the silver. The silver's all we got left," Albert commanded, tiring of the fact that it had been a 'kick the ball--drag Karen' kind of night. "No, the bag! First pick up the Army bag," he went on before diving in and basically doing it himself.
Uncertain parentage, a notorious case of suicide in the family, two rapidly diminishing fortunes, and a string of failed marriages--Albert had it all. . .maybe not the definition of 'all.' that one would find aspirational, but what did it matter? The boffo press practically lived off both him and the girl.
"I'll tell you what I think, Albert," she said, loading each word with sarcasm. "I think you should just have a yard sale and get it over with."
"Very funny. A yard sale. . .right here in downtown Bel Air," he said dryly, throwing it back at her in her own sarcastic tones. "Hey, wait a minute!" he exclaimed, 'pushing it' somewhat with a tilt of the head and ending with a frozen 'blonde' smile. "I like it. You could stand out front in your undies and make change. How about that?"
And on and on. Then finally with his little caper winding down, Albert paused to take mental inventory of the rooms upstairs, while also taking quick stock of the downstairs scene.
"It looks like a tornado went through here," Karen said, as she flopped herself down on the only remaining uncluttered seat in the room.
"It better. I didn't go through all of this for nothing," Albert replied as he stepped toward a group of paintings situated on the wall across from the front windows. "But the time has come, my turtle dove, to unveil the piece d' resistance in the overall scheme of things."
Reaching up, he carefully lifted down the large item in the center of the grouping and tipped it toward her, almost caressing it as one would a newborn child.
"What are you doing?" she asked, suddenly sitting upright. "That's a nice picture. I love Easter lilies. You're not going to. . ."
"No, no. I'm not going to harm a single brush stroke on this one’s gorgeous little head," Albert interrupted, ignoring her botanical nescience as he took out a handkerchief and carefully wiped away any bits of dust that may have accumulated on the gilded frame. "You see," he continued as a soft passion began to grow in his voice, "the burglar doesn't know beans about art, and he doesn't want the headaches, but he picks one--maybe more--just because he sees one he likes, and he gets lucky. Uh-h huh, you see, because one of them. . .is this one--the Diego Rivera."
"Well just don't mess with it," Karen said, settling back in her chair and sulking. "If the burglar doesn't want it, I'll take it."
"Do you have any idea what this painting is worth, my dear?" he said, as he circled around and carefully propped it against the sofa. "One and a half million in today's auction market. I've had it insured for two million. So taking the insurance settlement plus double that in the European black market, I'll collect a windfall profit of four and a half million. Now, how would you like to see that done several time over?"
"Oh, like you just happen to have million dollar pictures hanging all over the house, is that it?"
"Pictures? You think these are pictures?"
"Basically, yes. Most are awful, by the way. . .except for that one," she shot back as she threw an arm toward the art masterpiece. There's not a single one that goes with anything else in the house."
"Well, complain all you want sweetheart, but there's one color scheme that everyone understands. . .the color of the good old American greenback," he countered. "And to answer your question, no. There aren't million dollar 'pictures' as you call them--not all over the house. But they come to a million, is that good enough for you?"
"Then why are you being such an idiot?" Karen said, suddenly on her feet, extending both arms as she leaned toward him. "Why don't you just sell everything? That's what we'd planned to do--or so I thought!"
"Because I don't own everything--not yet. I have some arm-twisting to do first," Albert said, as he approached her. "These things must be done d-e-l-l-icately," he went on, raising his eyebrows and wiggling his fingers in her face.
"Oh, Albert, you're such a child!" she said, turning back toward the chair she'd vacated. "You can't even do a decent 'Wicked Witch of the West,'" then adding as she pushed a lampshade aside with her foot, "Or was it East?"
When she'd turned back toward him she was smiling and seemed about ready to laugh out loud.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -
Sneak Peek Ahead -- Next:
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -
"Hey guys, check out the fire in Bel Air," someone yelled.
"Jesus Christ, that son of a bitch is really going to town," said a guy standing near the end of the bar. "Glad it ain't my house, I'll tell you that."
"What street's it on," said a guy with a cue in his hand as he rushed in from the adjacent billiards room.
"We just tuned in. . .haven't heard yet," said the bartender.
A crowd was quickly gathering. Given Le Club's Sunset Boulevard location not far from the neighborhoods of Brentwood/Bel Air, there was a great deal of concern, and it was growing rapidly.
"It's up farther. . .streets tend to wind, all pretty much look alike," said the guy sitting closest to the screen. "Someone should go find Albert," he added.
"I think that's his street. I don't know which house, though."
Suddenly there was a chorus of moans coming from the dozen or so men who had gathered.
"We have confirmation, now on your screen, that one individual has been pulled from the blaze and is being brought out on a gurney by the fire crew," was the grim announcement coming over the air. "We don't know the condition of this person, or whether a man or a woman, but one person is being brought out either dead or injured--again, we don't know which--as a result of this residential fire on Island View--that's Island View Lane, actually--in Bel Air."