Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies 22

  He points at the hookers. He tells me again about things he got them to do and he might be lying about all of it. I decide I will not feel sorry for myself as Forty raves on about his sexual exploits. Everyone has something. Some people have a difficult child and some people have a sick child and some people have a limp and some people have an impossible mother and there is nobody on earth who has nothing. I have a mug of my DNA in a house in Rhode Island. And this is what Love has: a brother. A nightmare. A coked-up maniac who is now jumping on his bed like a ten-year-old, telling me about a birthday party he and Love had as kids.

  Forty jumps off the bed and falls into the credenza and bangs his head. He’s too fucked up to feel it and he’s on his feet again. “So are you psyched or are you psyched?”

  “Forty,” I say. “I think you better sit down.”

  “No,” he says. “I think you better sit down.”

  “I am sitting.”

  “Fuck, yes, you better sit,” he rails. He claps. “And fuck you, Barry Stein.” He does more coke. “You know, he’s just gonna look fucking stupid.”

  “Forty,” I say. “I think maybe you’ve had enough.”

  He wipes his nose. “Megan. Fucking. Ellison.”

  I put down my champagne. “What are you talking about?”

  “Are you deaf?” he shouts. “Megan Fucking Ellison. So fuck you, Barry Stein.”

  My heart beats. Megan Ellison. She made Her and American Hustle. The hooker who was dancing is now sitting on Forty’s lap, feeding him a taco.

  “Forty,” I say. “Are you telling me that Megan Ellison is interested in The Third Twin?”

  “No,” he says. “I am telling you that Megan Ellison is interested in The Third Twin and The Mess. Both of ’em. Boom!”

  Forty found out this morning; his agent had a meeting with Megan Ellison and Megan Ellison can eat Barry Stein for breakfast. The agent says the offer will be coming any day now, and Forty and I clink glasses of champagne and his hookers flop on the bed and watch Wendy Williams and make out periodically and this is not my kind of party but at least Forty knows himself. He jumps in the middle of them and they both roll toward him.

  “Now listen here, Old Sport,” he says. “Just remember it’s only interest and we don’t want to jinx it.”

  We agree to wait until the news is official before we tell anyone, but I don’t know how Forty’s going to do it. He’s bouncing on the bed again, shouting, “Remember this moment, Old Sport. It’s going to happen, it is. And the second that this is out there, your life isn’t yours anymore. This is out there, and you’re the guy, the man. Everyone is gonna wanna piece of you. Everyone is gonna love you. So like, take this for you man, you know? This is your success and this is the magic hour, the golden time before the time. Just be in it. You earned it. Don’t spread it and don’t pull on it and don’t push it and don’t share it and don’t examine it. This is it. If the big one hits right now, you die a writer. You die discovered. Live like that. Live right now.”

  It’s true; cokeheads can be annoying, but they also have this knack for knocking you the hell out of your head. Forty is right. This is my success and I put up with Boots and Puppies and I spent all those days at Intelligentsia and Taco Bell and I did earn it. I jump onto the other bed and I don’t remember the last time I jumped on a bed. Forty howls and turns on the Boogie Nights soundtrack and I jump and pounce and bounce and the hookers laugh and I did it. I captured the flag. I moved to Los Angeles. I found Love; I fell in love. And now this, the hardest thing to do in this world, one of the hardest things, and I’m about to do it. I’m going to make it in Hollywood.

  Love texts: Have you heard from Forty? He disappeared. Sorry. Welcome to my world.

  She writes again a second later: I love you.

  I take a screen grab. I’ll have this image stitched onto a pillow, dozens of pillows, written into the sky, engraved into the walls of our home. It’s impossible for me to distinguish the Love high from the Hollywood high and there might even be a contact high from being in this cocaine den but I don’t need to separate one from the other. I am happy. I am here. All the fear inside of me, the CandaceBenjiPeachBeckHendersonDelilah of it all, has been sublimated by the joy of LoveTheThirdTwinTheMess.

  I call Love. I assure her that Forty is safe because he’s with me. Love is relieved. Forty and the hookers decide to go for a swim in the giant pool and Forty shows off, doing the crawl and the butterfly and the breaststroke. He could be out there teaching kids to swim with his twin sister, but then, some people prefer hookers over poor children.

  The whites of his eyes are red. I don’t know if it’s chlorine or cocaine. “You’re a good friend,” he says. “You know I think if I grew up without all this pressure and all this excess, I think I’d be more like you.”

  I start to tell him he’s a good friend, but before I finish the sentence, he’s submerged.

  IT’S the last day of Boots and Puppies and I sit on this set a changed man. Love is a ball of feelings, overjoyed, sentimental, excited. Her movie is ending and she doesn’t know it yet but mine will begin soon. We get to have a life like this, on sets, always creating, then wrapping, then toasting. I catch Forty’s eye and wink but he motions for me to stop. He’s back. He’s hungover. He’s not sure if we have a deal. He hasn’t heard from his agent all day. I tell him to relax. Let today be about Boots and Puppies.

  “You’re a good man,” he says. “You see the big picture.”

  “Always,” I say. “It’s the only picture.”

  I am good on a set and I have come to love it here, shooting the shit, working out in the desert; I am the only crew member who will leave this location in better physical shape than I was when I arrived. I love my chair with my name on it and I love our squeaky bed. I love the way a set makes you live in the moment. Now I am excited when Milo calls action and I feel like I moved forward in life every time he calls cut.

  I will miss it here. I love the kitchen table where Love first blew me; now she sucks my dick every chance she gets. I love Love. I love our movie family even if I don’t know all their names. People on a set all seem interchangeable, with dry hair and tan pants. But I love that too. I love it when it’s time for the martini shot and you get to clap and the day is over and you did it. I love the time before that too, the sweet building exuberance of the Abby—named in honor of first AD, Abby Singer, you learn things on a set, history—the almost of it all, two more to go! If we all die right now, we have a movie in the can.

  Love’s parents saw some dailies and they’re so thrilled with Love’s work that they’re insisting on flying us all to their place in Cabo for a wrap party. Most movies like this wrap out at a dive bar with two-dollar beers, but because of Love, we’re going to La Groceria for two nights. Love says I will love La Groceria and she says Cabo is “gentle heaven on earth.”

  I laugh and she smacks me. “Watch it, wiseass.”

  “Love,” I say, grabbing a water bottle from craft. “Come on. When you hear Mexico, you think gentle?”

  Milo laughs. “Lovey, Mexico is pretty much the murder capital of the world.”

  It’s funny. Now that Milo accepts his fate, that he’s not going to be with Love, he’s infinitely more bearable, likable even. I relate to him, with his fucked-up parents and his creative impulses. “Yeah,” I say. “Milo is right. I mean, they behead people in Mexico.”

  Just then a PA approaches. “Hey, Milo,” he says. “We have a visitor.”

  Love and I turn our heads. And indeed, we do have a visitor. I drop my water bottle. The visitor is Officer Robin Fincher.


  I am not jaywalking and this is not Officer Robin Fincher’s territory. He has no right to be here in uniform, standing on my set, looking at my girlfriend. I pick up my water bottle, and stay on the ground a moment too long, and curse under my breath.

  Milo shakes his hand. “Officer,” he says. “Did you need to see our permits?”

  Fincher laughs. “I just
need one or two lines and a close-up.”

  Poor Milo can’t tell whether or not the fucker is serious, but this is serious for me. What the fuck is he doing here?

  “I wish,” Milo says. “But it’s a two-person cast. Hopefully we’ll be back up this way for a sequel though, yeah?”

  Fincher swallows. “I was kidding,” he says, and he narrows his small blue eyes at me. “I popped by as part of a courtesy. We’re just cruising through the area, addressing a theft situation,” he says. “A couple places nearby have been robbed and we see you’re rigged up pretty good here. We just wanted to make sure you lock down tight tonight.”

  Milo shakes his hand. “A horror movie within a movie, right?”

  I touch Love’s arm and tell her I have to go to the bathroom but what I really have to do is figure out why the fuck Fincher is here. I sneak out of the house through a side door and run around to the front where I see Fincher’s car. He has headshots in the front seat but before I can explore further, I hear footsteps and turn around. Fincher lowers his sunglasses and I wish I had a pair.

  “Officer,” I say, sweat beading the back of my neck. “I’m a little confused.”

  “Did you get a California license yet?”

  “No,” I say. “I’ve been here.”

  “Hmm. So you haven’t been back to your apartment?” he says. “Because neither has your neighbor.”

  Delilah. Fuck. “Which neighbor?”

  He takes off his sunglasses and wipes them down with a handkerchief. “You know, your friend Delilah. She has a California state ID, lives in the same building as you. Well, not that you’re official yet.”

  “She’s missing?” I play dumb.

  He nods. “You know anything about that?”

  “I barely know her,” I insist.

  He punches me in the stomach and he is not allowed to do that and I buckle. I am in the dirt. My gut is nothing but muscles and I have no fat there, no padding to soften the blow. The fucker spits and his loogie lands next to my face. “Get the fuck up,” he says. “I went easy on you just now.”

  I haven’t been punched since Nanny Rachel and I don’t like the feeling, the way my muscles are all individual things again with singular nerve endings. He kicks my knee. “I said, get the fuck up.”

  I stand. I will not give in. I will not reveal anything and his steely little eyes can’t possibly hold anything important. “You’re a fucker,” he says. And it’s a generic word, fucker.

  “I don’t know what you think,” I say. “But I didn’t do anything.”

  “Except kill Delilah,” he says, and we have a problem. I can’t allow those words to come out of that mouth where someone might hear them. “You did that. So you know, that matters to me, an officer of the law. I imagine it matters to your little fuck doll in there and I am sure that it matters to Delilah’s parents. Jim and Regina, by the way. You ever think about that, Goldberg?”

  He steps closer. If he hits me again I will kill him. I turn my head.

  “Jim and Regina,” he seethes. “Jim and Regina, Mom and Dad. They love their baby.”

  I turn my head and I meet his eyes head on. “I barely know Delilah,” I say. “And I’m sure her parents will do everything they can to find her.”

  “You barely know her?” he asks, squinting at me.

  “She’s a neighbor,” I say.

  He raises a fist and he comes at me and I cower and he backs off. He laughs. “According to your neighbor Dez, you actually knew Delilah pretty well.”

  That drug dealer fucker. I will not be unnerved. “If you mean that I slept with her, yes,” I say. “But I didn’t know her very well.”

  “Phone records, Joe,” he says. “Do you forget that I’m an officer of the law and that I have access to the missing persons database? Do you think her parents don’t go out there and see to it that the LAPD talk to each and every individual who communicated with their daughter? The State of California cares about its residents. This isn’t Bed-Stuy. We give a fuck here. We care.”

  He pronounces it incorrectly, Bed-Stooey, and I hate this kind of Californian, the type who doesn’t know anything about the East Coast, the type who thinks Rhode Island is adjacent to Maine.

  “I knew her a little bit,” I say again. “But I didn’t even know she was missing.”

  “I was surprised to learn that you’re an opiate man,” he says, assessing me. “You with the early morning jaywalking. You seem jacked up now, if I were to guess, I would have said coke. Speed. Maybe juice, but then no. You’d be a hell of a lot bigger if you were juicing.”

  This is taking too long and Love is going to wonder where I am. “What do you want?”

  He sighs. “I want to know how to work the headphones you gave me,” he says. “Do you have the instructions?”

  “No,” I say, and now I’m sweating. But it’s not possible that the police linked me to Henderson through those headphones. Every asshole in Los Angeles has Beats headphones.

  “That’s too bad,” he says. “Do you know how to adjust them? See, my head’s bigger than yours. You have a tiny head. I bet you hear that a lot.”

  “I don’t know how to adjust them.” I give him nothing.

  “You don’t know how to work your own headphones?” he asks. “Don’t you think that’s kind of funny, Bed-Stuy? I mean, they’re pretty worn in. You’ve had them for a while. You don’t know how to work them?”

  “I should get back in there,” I say, edging away.

  He smiles. “No, you shouldn’t,” he says. “You’re not on the IMDb page. You’re not doing anything in there but hanging out. The only way I even knew you were on set is because your buddy Calvin showed me your girlfriend’s Instagram page.”

  Fucking social media and he is jealous and he drove all the way here from LA, working himself up. This is probably illegal but it doesn’t matter. The police protect their own. “So,” he says. “I’m asking everyone in the Lawns, particularly those who were close with Delilah, you haven’t heard from her?”

  “No,” I say. It’s the truth.

  “You haven’t reached out to her?”

  “No,” I say. It’s the truth.

  “When’s the last time you bumped into her?”

  And it is with great joy that I tell him more truth. “The night of the Henderson memorial I was at the UCB,” I say. “I had a fight with my girlfriend. I left the UCB. I went to La Pou. I saw Delilah at the bar. I sat down with her. She was waiting for her boyfriend to get there. She wouldn’t tell me his name. She said he’s famous. She made it sound like he lives in the neighborhood. He didn’t show up. She was inebriated. I helped her get home.”

  He is deflated, like a fat kid who just got told the Oreos are all gone. And I bet he was a fat kid. I bet he got picked on but what they don’t want to tell you about bullying is that sometimes, the kid deserves it.

  He tries again. “You helped her get home.”

  “We live in the same building,” I remind him. I love it when the facts are on my fucking side. He, however, does not.

  He walks up to me and gets in my face. “I don’t like your attitude, Bed-Stuy. And I don’t like the fact that you’ve failed to apply for legal residency in this great state.”

  “I will,” I say. “I promise.”

  “I don’t think a promise from a piece of shit New Yorker means anything.”

  “Are we done here?”

  “No,” he says, and he should have said yes. “But you can go back inside.”

  I turn and walk up the driveway toward the house. My stomach is pounding and he had no right to hit me. He had no right to accuse me of anything either. He has no evidence. All he has is hate and he will pay for that.

  I feel his eyes burning into the back of my head, stronger and more cancer-causing than the sun above. I’ll have to get rid of him, there’s no other option. You just can’t have a fair shot at life if there’s a cop out there who wants your ass behind bars.


nbsp; INSIDE, nobody asks where I was. Everyone’s too excited about the big Cabo announcement. Love’s dad needs my Social Security number so that he can expedite a passport. The movie wrapped and I missed the last shot. A lot happens while you’re being wrongfully interrogated.

  Champagne flows and music comes on and I say that I’m gonna take a nap. Love understands. “You’ve been running so much; I’m worried you don’t get enough rest lately.”

  She hugs me and I flinch. “Sorry, went overboard with sit-ups,” I cover.

  “You don’t need sit-ups,” she says. “You’re perfect.”

  She kisses me and I go upstairs. Unfortunately, Love should fucking worry about me. The movie is done but my nightmare is just beginning. I close the bedroom door. I pace. I have to kill Fincher. But this is America: If you kill a cop, you die. That’s how it is. I try to be calm. Be positive. We are going to Cabo, so there’s that. Mexico’s the kind of place where people just go around cutting heads off and shit, so I have that in my favor.

  Knowledge is power. I need the lay of the land. I Google La Groceria. If I know Love’s mother, she would have invited some sort of upscale website or magazine in to shoot her home, same way she did with the Aisles. Sure enough, I find an article about La Groceria and already I feel more centered, more focused, the way the sniper finds his target in the crosshairs. I find the address of La Groceria and take a fast course on the development where Love’s family makes another home, the famous residents who live nearby, and the houses up for sale. And boom. Axl Rose lives in the development. Axl Rose is the type who would have a secure home. He has nut job fans and he’s been around. His home has been on the market for years—and his schedule is good news too—he hasn’t been to Mexico in a while. As in, not going any time soon, as in, the house belongs to real estate agents.

  It gets better. Axl’s home is a perpetual project, unfinished renovations, a pool that’s not done, landscaping indecision, a cobbled cornucopia of yellowing lawns and half-formed cupolas. Real estate websites supply me with pictures of this house that showcase an ongoing conflict about whether to tear it down or continue with the nouveau riche terra-cotta thing.