Los Angeles - Night - May 16, 1925
Fog blankets a cobblestone street illuminated by moonshine. Peaceful. Quiet. Spacious homes suggest west coast.
BANG. A piercing gunshot comes from an abandoned warehouse in the distance.
Inside the warehouse, men stand in the corner of the dark building. An overhead light casts shadows about their faces. Their noses and chins are menacing.
A body lays at the foot of a shadowed figure. Blood seeps out of a fresh wound in the forehead. The victim's eyes open. Lifeless.
Another young man kneels next to the victim. Bradford, late 20’s, hands tied behind his back, pleads to a shadowed man.
“I said nothing.”
The man interuppts, “So you didn’t give Ms. Hopper information...”
“I haven’t sold any stories.”
The shadowed man steps forward leaning down to Bradford. Light gathers illuminating a sharp jutting chin with a dimple in the middle. His fedora casts shadows shielding the rest of his face. The fedora has a distinguished red cloth.
“Only a few know the storyline Ms. Hopper printed. Kid, I’m the king of your world.”
A shadow against a nearby wall reveals the Man firing another bullet into the skull of the dead victim. Blood splatters over Bradford's face.
Bradford, terrified, switches his gaze from the victim to the man.
“My family needed the money, but I’ll do what you ask. I’ll work for you. Ms. Hopper was on me...”
The man takes a knife from his pocket. The shadows show the man slitting Bradford's neck wide open. Bradford falls draping over the dead victim.
The shadowed man looks up addressing the others.
The overhead light shines on Bradford and the victim lifeless on the floor.
Bradford's body is slung on the doorstep of Hedda Hopper, one of the famous gossip columnists of the 1920s, owner of "HEDDA HOPPER'S HOLLYWOOD."
A Model T speeds down the gravel road into the night.
Hedda Hopper, 40, semi attractive, opens her door. It’s cold.
She looks down. Bradford's soulless eyes look up at her. A note reading THE COUNT lay across the lifeless boy.
Her newspaper, Hedda Hopper's Hollywood, is scattered amongst the body. Blood everywhere. Hedda screams.
Los Angeles Union Station, Train Platform - Two Weeks Later
Heda Hopper's scream is muffled by the sound of a train car pulling into Union Station, Los Angeles.
It stops. Doors open. The feet of passengers exit.
People arriving and departing. Everyone knowing their direction. Except one: A 24-year-old naive girl.
Abigail stands with a suitcase by her feet. The seam of her faded yellow dress is ripped toward the bottom.
Her brown hair is fixed neat as can be under a second-class yellow hat. Abigail's innocent face looks up at a giant clock. 8:43 AM. She fixes her hat.
More people rush to their trains.
A hand touches Abigail's left shoulder. Startled, she turns.
Rose, 20, a small framed Catholic Mexican, is a sprite-of-a-young-woman. Rose, all smiles, talks incredibly fast.
Rose looks around. “The train must have been exciting.”
“Long. I had one transfer in Salt Lake City.”
Rose leans in for a hug. Abigail smiles awkwardly. She notices a rosary hanging from Rose's neck.
Rose looks back at Abigial. “Well let's get to baggage.”
Abigail looks down at her suitcase. “This is it.”
Rose, embarrassed, smiles. “Oh. Well, we don't need an outfit for every hour in the day really.”
Rose turns rushing through Union Station. Abigail keeps up.
“You work at the Distry House?”
“Glad to have a job. Estella’s Distry House is the busiest personal service in Los Angeles. You’re lucky being Estelle's cousin.”
“By marriage. And we’ve never met.”
“Most women are on a list to get in. So much work from the Distry really.”
“You must be a secretary as well.”
“Oh goodness no. Using a typewriter is a foreign language.”
People hurry between the two girls. Abigail trails Rose.
Rose darts past people. “Secretaries are for University girls.” She stops turning to Abigail. People pass around them. “You realize we are basically maids.”
“I assumed I would be working with Estella's clients.”
Rose laughs. “Yes, as an assistant.” She turns. “You must already miss your family.”
Abigail follows dodging people with her suitcase. “No.”
“Well what about Utah?”
Abigail looks around Union Station. “Utah is definitely not this.”
Rose stops. She turns smiling. “Neither is Colorado. Where I'm from.” Rose stops, taking another weird pause.
“I’m Rose. I always forget to tell people my name really. It’s always so odd to fit it in there. But, I’m Rose.”
A gentlemen opens doors sending fresh sunlight into Union Station. Rose turns and exits.
Abigail and Rose stand outside. Rose looks around for a car. Abigail feels rays of sun hit her body. Not a cloud in the sky. Rose looks at Abigail.
A woman yells at a butler who dropped her belongings in the distance. A homeless child wanders up to Abigail asking for money. A police officer quickly rushes him off the sidewalk.
“Much busier than Utah,” Abigail says with wandering eyes.
“Wait until you get in the houses. That’s chaos. Oh there we go...”
Rose spots a Model T car. She waves. A man jumps out and takes Abigail's suitcase.
“We usually walk or take the public really. Red cars, yellow cars, the Hollywood subway, a political disaster,” Rose says rounding the car to climb in.
The man places Abigail's suitcase in the front trunk. The door slams. The side of the car reads DISTRY HOUSE.
Abigail notices an older gentlemen giving the homeless child a few pennies. The car winds down the drive away from Union Station.
The Distry House
The Distry car rounds a street corner pulling up to an old brown Victorian.
The DISTRY HOUSE.
Four floors of impeccable taste. Wood paneling, beautiful long windows, multiple entries.
The Distry sits on two pieces of property taking up the street corner. A rear and front drive come from both streets.
Harry Crocker, 25, a handsome all-American young man wearing his heart on his sleeve, exits the house as the car pulls into the drive. He waves to Rose.
Abigail notices Harry. “Where do the men live?”
Rose smiles. “A separate floor of course.”
Harry walks back inside. Abigail is overwhelmed as people enter and exit from all sides. All dressed the same: Black dresses or black slacks and shirt.
Abigail opens the car door as the driver brings her suitcase. He climbs back into the car as Rose is already headed around the front.
Rose turns back to Abigail. “Well, come on then.”
Abigail grabs the suitcase and rounds the car. Approaching the Distry, Abigail can now see the detail in landscaping. Beautiful.
Louis, mid 20's, a beautiful Italian, with incredibly dark features, rushes by.
Louis turns back to Rose. “You should be at the Davies' residence.”
Rose sarcastically responds, “Thank you Louis.”
“Don’t be late. Skurry won't have it,” Louis says climbing into the Distry car as the driver backs out. Rose rolls her eyes. Harry returns out of the Distry collecting mail from a box near the street. The box also reads DISTRY HOUSE.
Rose and Abigail near the front steps.
“Harry,” Rose says.
Harry approaches mail in hand.
“Could you bring her to Skurry?” Rose turns to Abigail. “Welcome to Los Angeles.”
Rose rushes into the house leaving Harry and Abigail outside the front steps. Harry turns to Abigail.
“The girl from Utah.”
Harry smiles. He takes Abigail's suitcase walking toward the Distry. Abigail walks by his side. She looks up toward the pointy roof.
“It’s more knocking than usual,” Harry says.
“I'm happy for work.”
“You’ll get it,” Harry says laughing.
Harry escorts Abigail up cracked cement steps toward a robust front door. Stained glass windows cover the inside of the old home. A hanging sign reads Estella's Distry House.
“Skurry will explain everything.”
A confused look washes over Abigail's face. Harry turns.
“Estella's fiancé, Skurry Minns.”
Harry stops and turns on the front porch. It is unusually quiet. People have dissipated and the two of them are alone.
“Estella had another stroke. Happens once a year. Skurry’s the boss until she’s back,” Harrys says as he opens the front door to the Distry House.
Harry walks Abigail inside. A different story unfolds. A run down environment with small hallways give feelings of claustrophobia. The interior hasn't been updated for sometime. The coloring of the walls fade as time leaves its stamp everyday.
The Distry is quiet.
BAM BAM BAM. Loud footsteps rush down a narrow winding staircase.
Ethel, 27, a plump, rugged, and emotional young woman, is on her way out. She drops a few things rounding the corner. She leans down picking them up. She looks up and pauses.
Ethel sizes Abigail as competition. She opens her abrasive mouth, spilling out a mid western accent.
“Nice dress,” Ethel says sarcastically.
Harry looks to Ethel and then back to Abigail. “Your new roomate. Ethel”
Ethel lets out a laugh. She pushes between Harry and Abigail toward the front door.
Ethel yells back, “The empty bed is yours. Don’t touch my things.”
Ethel slams the front door. Harry lets out a laugh. He steps toward the staircase. Upon closer inspection the staircase also leads to a basement.
“I’ll leave your suitcase here,” Harry says.
Harry steps downward. The dark staircase encompasses his being. It is very narrow. Abigail looks to her right and left. No one. The busy Distry now an empty vessel.
Harry pokes his head through the darkness smiling.
Abigail takes the first step. Her eyes adjust quickly.
“Don't let Ethel scare you. She's a good heart, but a rag-a-muffin.”
“You stay here during the day?”
“No,” Harry says.
“I didn’t think men were assistants.”
“I did that when I first came,” Harry says as he winds down the basement stairs.
Uncomfortable silence as Abigail follows Harry down.
“But you are secretive about what you do now?”
Harry turns back to Abigial. “We don’t really discuss our jobs.”
“I’m sorry, I just I thought...”
Harry stops on the staircase and leans up. “... But how can a girl from Utah not be trusted. I work for Charlie Chaplain.”
“From the pictures?”
“Most clientele are in Entertainment.”
“I’ve never seen his films.”
Harry smiles. “Oh they're great. Inspires me everyday.”
Harry steps off the staircase into the basement. A long dark hallway gives uncomfortable vibrations. He continues straight forward although he walks slower smiling at Abigail.
Abigail smiles back. “I’ve only been to the pictures a handful of times.”
“Go now. Rumors of ‘Talkies’ more and more.”
“In the actual picture, yes,” Harry says turning a corner
A door with diffused white light shining through glass appears. Letters peeling off reading Estella. Two small wooden chairs outside.
Harry looks at Abigail and smiles. “Abigail from Utah. See you at dinner then.”
Abigail returns the smile sitting down. Harry turns the corner disappearing.
Abigail sits alone. The light from the doorway spills on half her face. Dust scatters itself around her. The musty smell of cigarettes enter her lungs.
A muffled voice from behind the door says, “Come in”.
Abigail opens the door to a dimly lit office. A dangling light hangs above a dark haired man with a dimple in the middle of a jutting chin. He writes at the desk.
Skurry Minn, mid 40’s, an attractive tall Sicilian man with an intimidating force.
Abigail takes note of a fedora on the edge of his desk. It has a distinguished red cloth.
Skurry doesn’t look up. “Sit.”
“... Abigail Thompson,” Skurry says, silently, looking through papers.
“I’m sorry about Estella. I hadn’t received the post...”
“News travels faster by telephone. Sign.”
Skurry hands Abigail a stack of papers. She sits at the chair before the desk and begins to read. Skurry looks up.
“It’s a contract for confidentiality. If you won't sign it, you can’t work here. If you don't work here, you’re wasting my time.”
Abigail looks back to Skurry. He shuffles through papers barely looking at her.
“This is a favor.”
“I take it you clean.”
“A few dishes.”
“Work the furnace?”
“I’ve done it a few times.”
Skurry looks up annoyed. “So, yes.”
“Yes.” Abigail says.
“I’d love to learn.”
Again, Skrruy looks annoyed. “So, no.”
“Drugs and sex?”
Abigail shifts in her seat. An uncomfortable pause ensues. She looks down to the contract.
“The 'golden people' throw parties. They have sex. Prohibition doesn’t matter. They trust the Distry. Anything you see while you’re working stays in that house. Understand?”
Skurry grabs a pen without shifting his eyes. The tension thickens. Skurry rolls the pen toward Abigail. She unlocks her eyes signing the contract.
Skurry opens a drawer sliding the contract inside.
“You receive your assignment for the week on Sundays. This week you’ll shadow. The client pays us, we pay you half. You pay room & board with that half. You’re living on the fourth floor. Second door on the right. We're done here.”
Abigail gets up to leave opening the office door. A phone rings. She looks back. Skurry opens a drawer and sets a phone on the desk. He looks back to Abigail.
“I said we're done.”
Abigail closes the door. She stands outside the office. Her silhouette appears against the light spilling out of the glass door.
Skurrys muffled voice can be heard from inside his office. “Good. I’ll send Louis.”
Skurry's muffled conversation dies as Abigail walks down the long dark hallway.
END CHAPTER 1