I originally wrote this story in connection to Rockstar’s LA Noire video game, then decided to write another, which is the one Rockstar ran a couple of years ago in conjunction with the video games premier. Recently, I looked at the story again and decided I liked it, updated it a bit and here it is, published in the most recent issue (December 2013) of Ellery Queen Magazine.
Here’s an excerpt (hope you can pick up an issue today!):
by Jonathan Santlofer
I been collecting the souvenirs for almost a year now, a lipstick that belonged to Jeanne French, a butterfly brooch worn by Dorothy Montgomery when she was last seen that I pinned to my sweater the minute I could and almost never take off, and just this morning a compact, Max Factor Dark Ecru, that was in Rosenda Mondragon’s purse the night she was killed, along with the steno pad I swiped off a dick’s desk and stashed in my bag that belonged to that poor kid, Evelyn Winter, who worked at Warner Brothers, found beaten and strangled in the railroad yard.
I had all of those girls with me and it made me strong as I headed down Wilshire, hot, thick air, those damn Santa Ana winds kicking up, passing billboards for Out of the Past and The Lady From Shanghai, my two favorite pictures of the year. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to be more, Jane Greer or Rita Hayworth?
When I got back to my apartment I smeared a little of the Dark Ecru makeup onto a morgue picture of Rosenda’s beat up face, the makeup a little darker, which made sense, her skin being drained of life, but it was close enough. According to the guy I got it from, who got it by way of his brother-in-law who works for the Los Angeles Police Department, or maybe it was the brother-in-law’s friend who works for the LAPD, either way the compact definitely came out of Rosenda’s purse, which was just lying around unattended in an evidence room.
Here’s the way I do it.
I get myself all glammed up but disheveled too, blouse tugged out, a stocking torn, hair strategically mussed, like I’ve been roughed up, then I stumble into a stationhouse, Oh, officer, I was attacked on Hollywood and Vine, in broad daylight!” distract some starry-eyed civil servant with my feminine wiles while I lift a piece of evidence, like the pair of size seven white pumps belonging to Laura Trelstad, and stash them in my oversize Merchandise Mart bag. I’ve done it again and again, each time in a different wig, long, short, red, blonde – guys are so easily fooled by a damsel in distress.
I wore a platinum wig `a la Jean Harlow and crimson lipstick when I swiped the butterfly brooch off a homicide dick’s desk. I told him I’d seen Dorothy – I called her Dot – the day before her unfortunate end on account of us being good friends and all, the whole time crossing and uncrossing my legs till he was cross-eyed.
Sometimes I go the opposite route, total Plain Jane, which is how I got a case file on Evelyn Winter, dressed as a bathroom attendant, hair stuffed under a cap, no makeup, baggy uniform, and not one guy gave me a second glance.
I wear Laura’s white pumps around my apartment, a little tight but they transform me. I start walking like her, talking like her, thinking like her, things I know because I’ve studied her pictures and read all the newspapers stories and I just know her like I know all of them.
I’ve got one of Laura’s blouses too. That same brother-in-law’s friend told me the cops found a laundry slip at her crime scene and gave me the name of the place and I went straight over, told the Chinaman I was Laura’s maid and needed to pick up her laundry. The blouse fits me great, dotted Swiss, really swell, like something you’d see on Myrna Loy.