Matthew Licht

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A Hard Case (Part 4)

North Hollywood’s a sleepy town, especially at night.

All the gates were closed, the shutters drawn. No sign of life at any of the major adult studios, where on-camera love was a day job.

The head honchos at those porn factories were interchangeable oily, overweight men. I’d rousted all of them on various occasions when I was still with the Sheriffs Dept. They ratted each other out like clockwork when pre-production dope deals went sour, or if a stacked or well-hung corpse turned up somewhere.

There was another adult film presence in North Hollywood however, a phantom outfit known only as Project X. Their main client was rumored to be the United States’ government.

The location of Project X’s headquarters was a mystery in itself.

The car’s hood ornament, a blindfolded woman in a windswept toga, rolled down the boulevards, avenues and alleys. North Hollywood memories flooded in through the speckled windshield. There was the high school, the public library, the swimming pool where girls once wore their first bikinis and boys first learned what a broken heart feels like. The drive-in hamburger restaurant where the waitresses hopped cars on roller skates. The drive-in movie theater where Senior Class President Jane Waddell said she was…

The green sign at the intersection of Xavier Ave and Exacerbation Blvd flashed in the headlights and rang a spooky bell. A red moon hung low in the sky and leered at the lifeless world below. A black X hand-painted on a busted plywood door leant against a low wall seemed to mark the spot.

Project X, if that’s what the building was, didn’t look like a movie lot. Anyone who drove by would’ve mistaken the place for a bush league chemical plant or a futuristic bakery. Everything was neat and white. On the outside, at least.

There was no barbed wire, no guard towers, no sentries posted. I parked and slithered back through the shadows to investigate.

There was a dumpster in the alley. Even if a garbage-dive in the dark didn’t yield Doris Frawley’s exsanguinated corpse, there might be factory reject DVDs or leftover raw footage. Jane Waddell might’ve turned into one of those North Hollywood housewives who earned extra housekeeping money with their clothes off, in conjunction with strange men, under hot lights.

A light burned on the second floor of the two-storey building, invisible from the street. The lit window was closed, but a muffled scream came through, followed by moans. The voice, though deep, was unmistakably a woman’s.

A Hard Case (Part 1)

A Hard Case (Part 2)

A Hard Case (Part 3)

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