I was drinking Pisco at The False Door on Wilshire Boulevard when this guy walks in. He had long hair, like Jesus, but he was a little more disheveled and needy-looking. He took the stool to my right. I hated when they did that.
He immediately launched into his spiel. It was his wife. He suspected foul play. He had this theory, see, that she was cheating on him with Eddie Murphy’s bodyguard. Murphy’s old body guard. The bodyguard, in other words, that was no longer Eddie Murphy’s bodyguard. I wondered about this.
I said, “You look familiar.”
He took his sunglasses off.
It was Chris Pine, the actor.
I said, “You’re sure she’s with this guy?”
This is what I did for a living. I took money from deadbeats and sometimes found their errant wives. Other times, I changed addresses.
I quoted Pine my rates. Fifty dollars an hour plus expenses. Plus gas money. Plus my Pisco.
Pine paid for seven days up front, like I was a seaside rental property.
“You want pictures?” I said.
I didn’t have a camera, but I had to ask this.
Pine shook his long greasy hair.
It was then that I noticed the tattoo on his left thumb.
“Nice name,” I said. “Have you got an address?”
Sometimes my clients had unique situations. Like Marlona Pine. Here was the wife of a loaded Hollywood star and she was still working as a crossing guard in Malibu. I didn’t even know they had crossing guards in Malibu.
She was your typical trophy wife. Blond. Stiff as the folding chair she was sitting on. Unnaturally tanned flesh glistening like an oiled bannister. She was the sedentary type all right. I watched her for a solid hour and she didn’t so much as re-cross her legs.
At four o’clock in the afternoon, her backdoor man, Murphy’s old bodyguard, carried her from the chair to a van parked next to the crosswalk. He sure took his time inside.
I made a note for Pine: amorous relations in back of van likely. Better that he heard it from me than from some vindictive Hollywood producer.
I tailed them all the way back to Pine’s treehouse.
It was a two-story job high up in some oaks in back of the DiCaprio property. Leonardo was outside duck hunting in his pajamas. I waved. I’d done some work for Leo back in the day. I’d had a camera at the time.
Same procedure at the treehouse. Mrs. Pine lifted from van to elevator, from elevator to window-facing Eames chair. She sat there watching the sun set like a wax dummy.
I stuck around for a few more hours, until the bodyguard left and it was starting to get dark. At nine o’clock I left.
It was the same routine the next day and the day after that.
To each his own.
My grandfather loved barbers who didn’t talk. Pine loved women who didn’t move.
Even I’ll admit: there was something about Marlona Pine. The statuesque legs, the catwalk hips. The perfect coif. The oiled elbows.
No, she was an angel alright. The longer I watched her, the more I understood Pine. The more I understood Pine, the more I coveted what he had.
Or didn’t have.
All I needed to do was shake down a camera, catch her at it with Murphy’s bodyguard and they’d be through. Then I’d get my chance. Maybe the cancerous LA sun had finally eaten through my cranial pan, but I honestly thought I had a shot.
Then, on day four, she never showed up.
I was billing Pine for gas money but I didn’t even own a car. I rode the bus to the treehouse. The temperature was up in the high 90s and I was sweating like a pig when I arrived at three in the afternoon.
I craned my head up at the bay window where Marlona Pine usually sat. She was lying on the faux polar bear rug and it didn’t look like she could get back up. My first thought? Heat stroke.
I rode the elevator up.
In the living room, I looked around for evidence of Tanqueray or piña colada abuse. There was a dusty ice bucket on the dining table but that was it.
I said, “I’ll call the ambulance.”
I figured that would wake her up.
“I’ve got it all on camera,” I went on. “You and Murphy’s bodyguard.”
It was a lie, but it was plausible.
“I love you,” I said.
That happened to be the truth, and it had absolutely no effect on Marlona Pine.
I noticed then that Mrs. Pine’s left ankle was unusually sweaty today. I noticed, too, that half of her left foot had melted off. Her lips were lying in a puddle of cheek on the hardwood floor and her nose had slid off onto her tongue.
I got hold of the wig and pulled.
Good God. Pine, the sad sack, had fallen for a wax dummy.
I knew I had a choice to make, and looking back, I’m not proud of it. But if I couldn’t have Marlona Pine, nobody would.
I filled the ice bucket with Porfidio Anejo and drank straight tequila as Marlona Pine melted away in the worst of the LA heat. When she was malleable enough, I rolled her into a ball. I called DiCaprio. He owed me a favor or two.
Back at the False Door, Pine had cut his hair and shaved. He looked halfway respectable today. I ordered him his usual, a French Toast and Bailey’s.
“She ran off on you,” I said.
Pine wept into his Bailey’s.
“If it’s any consolation,” I said. “She wasn’t fucking Murphy’s man.”
That I wasn’t sure about, but it sounded plausible.
“I’ll see you again some time,” I said. I finished my Pisco and collected my expense money. I took the whole wad and bought two single fares to Barbados, where I knew they had no extradition for wax dummies. I swung by DiCaprio’s and gathered Marlona Pine’s earthly remains and rolled them into a semblance of a human being and took a cab to LAX.
I made it past US border security without a hitch. We tied the knot in Saint James Parish and spent our honeymoon at the Sundowners Club in Holetown. A week later she left me. I suspect she ran off with the bellhop, but I don’t carry a camera anymore so I can’t prove a thing.