Matthew Licht

jh ghost4

A Big Star, Part 3

Bonehandle confessed he directed the Johnson loop, and went misty-eyed about his late star. “You know, he wasn’t the way most people think.”

“You mean, straight?”

“That’s not what I mean, although…”

“Listen, do you have in your possession any object that bears traces of John Holmes? Genetic material, something that’ll register on a laboratory DNA scan. My client will pay.”

Bonehandle didn’t want money. What he had on John wasn’t much, he said, but it was precious, and not for sale. If I promised to behave myself, I could come over to his place for a look at his Holmes relics.

Hideseekers’ closing time was never. Bonehandle gave a West Hollywood address and said he didn’t wish to be disturbed before 3:30 in the afternoon.

***

Bonehandle opened his door dressed in a tooled leather kimono. Leather hats and leather hockey masks crowded a leather hat-rack in the vestibule. The black leather jackets stuffed in the wide-open closet elbowed each other out of the way in a futile attempt to escape.

An over-designed kettle blew. Bonehandle made tea. We sat in his leather living room, lit by a low-watt bulb suspended from the ceiling. He pushed a spiral notebook across his hidebound coffee table. “John wrote these,” he said.

The notebook was full of poems.

I riffled the pages, selected one at random. The title was “Stripped Away.”

Not bad. Spelling mistakes and bathos galore, but sincere. A man hacks and wrenches away the parts of himself he feels aren’t worthy of a human being. In the end, there’s not much left.

Bonehandle slurped Earl Gray through his moustache. “They’re so touching, his poems. He wrote stories too, and movie scripts, though not as successfully. He used to read at the Young Adults Community Center in El Segundo. The kids there loved him sincerely. They didn’t know he was a star.”

Exhibit B was a bigger spiral notepad filled with watercolors, ink washes and chalk pastels of female nudes in erotic poses. There were close-up studies in sunset shades. Nothing recognizable as the client’s mama.

Bonehandle couldn’t mask his distaste. “Johnnie thought female pussy was beautiful. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if he was really one of us. He had depths I couldn’t plumb, and shallownesses.”

I asked about the women who starred in the Johnson short. He claimed amnesia about the women in his straight loops. There weren’t many of them. He’d directed gay porn almost exclusively, made an exception for Holmes. “Pussy is pussy,” he said, and waved unpleasant memories away.

“How well did you know the guy?”

“Our relationship was mostly professional. I don’t think he had any friends. He used to show up unannounced every now and then. Occasionally, he’d stay over. This was before he got hung up on blow.”

Bonehandle rose from his leather club chair. His kimono flapped open like the wings of a giant bat. He crossed the room, turned on an outdated hi-fi system. He let the tubes warm up, then flicked on the reel-to-reel. Someone with a reedy baritone accompanied himself unsteadily on a steel-string guitar.

“Holmes.”

Bonehandle nodded. “He wasn’t what you could call talented, but he tried so hard.”

“Aww, poor Johnnie.”

Bonehandle shut the music down in a huff. “Are you sure you’re a private investigator? What exactly do you want, anyway?”

I showed him my license, reiterated the request for an item that would yield sample DNA and stand up as evidence in a court of law.

“Evidence of what? That murder case was settled ages ago. Johnnie was cleared.”

“Nothing to do with that old business, but I plead client confidentiality. I’ll take whatever you’ve got, but if whatever you give turns out bogus, I’ll be back to settle accounts.” I wasn’t interested in keeping Bonehandle as a friend. “I’m authorized to go as high as half a grand.”

He waved the idea away. “Can’t help you.”

“In that case, do you know where your soulful friend’s buried?”

“Why? Is it some State secret? I guess down in Orange somewhere. That’s where he used to live, anyway.”

Orange County is, as the dead man was, large.

***

A Big Star, Part 1
A Big Star, Part 2

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