My series of stories here, entitled Whatever Happened to Yvonne LeDoux? are derived from a 1950 noir, starring Charles McGraw as Lieutenant Jim Cordell, Adele Jergens as Mrs. Benny McBride (Yvonne LeDoux), William Talman as Dave Purvis, Douglas Fowleyas Benny McBride, Steve Brodie as Al Mapes, Don McGuire as Detective Danny Ryan, Don Haggerty as detective driving final pursuit car, James Flavin as Lieutenant Phillips, and Gene Evans as William ‘Ace’ Foster. Directed by Richard Fleischer.
I allowed myself to imagine what might have happened to the woman who got away, after the robbery, and where she might be.
You might call it a sequel, like Rocky, Rocky2, etc.
Los Angeles 1952
The place was barely respectable. When I walked in – it was about four pm – it looked haunted, old men in raincoats, pretty shabby, mostly bums. One bright guy was busy with something under his coat, but I didn’t want to know. There was a hefty woman near the front, who started yelling at the stripper: “Take it off! Take it all off. Let’s see what you got, honey!”
Her comments were met with shouts of derision. Someone called out: “Butch!”
But I wasn’t here to watch the show – it wasn’t all that great, anyway. The performer who was up there now was about five feet three and did a fair imitation of a small fat animal in convulsions. The orchestra – a saxophone, a piano, and a drum – was banging out something that reminded me of a children’s amateur recital, or maybe a funeral dirge played by drunken legionnaires after a party at the club.
I found my way to the front of the theater. I separated the black velvet curtain that hung across the arch, which led me to the dressing rooms, backstage. I wanted to find out what had happened to Yvonne LeDoux, since she’d left her employment here, just before she became involved in an armored car robbery. The others members except one were dead. Yvonne was the only female survivor and the cops had never caught up with her. She had been Dave Purvis’s moll.
I went back to the stage manager’s office and knocked.
A fishy-eyed gargoyle lifted its head from a desk cluttered with paper, frowning, gazing at me with reptilian indifference.
“Yeah? Wadda you want? I’m busy. I got no time for reporters…”
“I’m not a reporter,” I said, handing him my card.
He spat on his hands and cleaned them off with a dirty oil rag, then reached out for my card, looked it over quickly, with no expression, then handed it back to me.
“Yeah, so? You’re a private dick. What’d you want?”
“You remember Yvonne LeDoux worked for you a while back?”
“Yeah? No, I don’t remember. These broads, they come and go, I don’t know where they come from, they just show up once and work, and the next day they don’t ’cause they’re either too drunk or they’re moonlighting as ladies of the evening. It pays better, I hear.”
He paused a moment, leaning forward over the desk. His chin was barely above the edge of it. His glance shifted to a person walking past his office.
The young man pulled himself to a stop by using the doorframe as an anchor, letting his torso slide past it while letting his head stay in place.
He leaned into the room, smiling like a Chinese lantern. He was about six feet tall. His hair stood out in two long tufts, on either side of his head, with a part down the middle. He looked like Dagwood Bumstead.
“Listen,” growled the older guy, “can’t you just come in like an ordinary person? You gotta make a show of everything.”
Frank wiped his face as if he were weighed down by personal problems to such an extent that he could barely bring himself to speak.
“Uh, you remember…uh…”
“Yvonne LeDoux,” I interjected.
“I remember her, sure.”
“This guy,” Frank said to his assistant, pointing at me as if I were some object that didn’t belong in his office. “This guy sez he’s a private dick, a gumshoe, and he’s lookin’ for this broad. You remember her?”
“Sure, I remember her.”
“Any idea what happened to her?”
Pretty Boy turned to me: “Wasn’t she mixed up with those crooks who robbed the armored car at Wrigley Field, couple years ago?”
“That’s right, I said. “She have a girlfriend, or anything?”
Dagwood shook his head, and the blond curl fell over one eyes. Oh, I thought, he’s gonna have no trouble with women.
“Yvonne never came back here? Last you saw of her was just before the robbery, in ‘fifty?” I asked.
Dead looks and dead silence. Gargoyle picked up his newspaper and hid behind it. The young kid was about to step out into the hallway when he turned on his toes, to me, and said: “Wait a minute. Someone did call here.”
He glanced at Frank looking for help, but Frank could have been asleep.
“Who?” I asked.
“This girl, used to be friendly with Yvonne.” ‘Bout maybe…six weeks…couple months? It was in, uh, December I think. Yeah, I remember the Christmas lights, I recall that all right.”
“Remember her name?”
“Uh, lemme think. This other dame she was kinda friendly with, not real close, if you know what I mean, but they talked a lot together.”
Bumstead had to think again. He furrowed his brows, lowered his eyes, pinched his nose, and otherwise made like he was thinking. He wasn’t too smart, but maybe he’d get me the name.
“Yeah…I think it was, uh. You remember, Frank?”
Frank’s head popped out from behind the newspaper like a papier-mâché fright mask. “No, I don’t remember, and you don’t remember nuthin’, neither.”
“You’re wrong, Frank. I remember.”
He brightened and turned to face me. “Her name was Joy. That was it. Joy!”
“So, she talk to you?”
He shook his head, and told me he couldn’t remember anything more, except that whoever had taken the call informed Joy that Yvonne was no longer here. Then he went off whistling down the corridor.
“You know this Joy?” I asked the nearly comatose manager.
“You ever known joy, sir?” he asked me, his eyes watering, but I didn’t know if that was from emotion of from some disease.
“You talkin’ about the girl, Frank? Did you know her?”
“No, I’m takin’ ’bout the joy o’ life.”
“Jesus!” I said.
“Jesus? No, I never saw him either. Not here. Never was here.”
I figured I’d run the gamut.
TO BE CONTINUED