This is Shotgun Tom Kelly coming to you live from the Miracle Mile at K Earth 101. Be the twelfth caller after you hear the payday song of the day and you'll find yourself the winner of $1,000. Just listen to the station that pays with the greatest hits on earth, K Earth 101! It was twenty years ago todaySergeant Pepper taught the band to play… The phone ringing interrupted the radio, coming out of the stereo connected to the auxiliary in the dash. It invaded the cabin of car. "Hello." "Is this Duphrane?" "Yeah, this is Duphrane, who's this?" "Dick Duphrane, the private investigator?" "The name's Richard but you can call me Duphrane, who's this?" "Listen Dick… I mean, Duphrane, my name is George Epstein. I have an assignment for you." "An assignment?" "Yeah… a job… I need you to locate Sgt. Pepper." "What is this some kind of joke?" "No joke. This is a very serious matter Duphrane, do you understand?" In my line of work, I had heard some absurd requests before but I had to ask, "So you want me to locate a man named Sergeant Pepper, and it's very serious. Okay, Epstein, what's the catch?" "No catch. Locate Sgt. Pepper, you have three days… that's all I need." "You got a rap on this Sgt. Pepper? Half the Beatles are dead pal. How am I supposed to find him?" "Don't be a smart ass Duphrane. Sgt. Pepper's the real deal, ex-Seal from 'nam. This isn’t no joke Duphrane, you better get your shit together on this one, I know you need the —.” “Hold on a minute, who the hell are you?” “I already said… my name is George Epstein.” “Well if you know so much, why do you need me to find this Sgt. Pepper?” “Do you want the work or not?” He had me there, “Yeah, sure. What do I do when I locate him?” “Just locate him, that’s all I need, let me know where you last found him and a place of residence. He hangs around on Santa Monica Boulevard… the local dives. That's all I've heard. I was told you'd gone soft. Too old for the game, but I've heard you were the best and this Sgt. Pepper case is right up your alley." "Who told you I've gone soft? I'm not soft. The prick may not be as hard as it used to be but the Dick still knows how to work." "Shut it Duphrane! Just locate Sgt. Pepper… you have three days." "I haven't told you how much I charge." "Two fifty an hour, two days upfront." "Who told me about you again?" The phone clicked dead, the car cabin went silent, save the black rubber tires pounding the pavement below. I rolled down the window. The Southern California heat swept in like a fiery back draft. I rolled up the window, cranked the AC. Cruising Ventura Highway East, onto the Hollywood Freeway, I turned up the radio. At least I had work again. We're Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,We hope you will enjoy the show. I pulled into the parking lot of my office building off Sunset. An old upstairs office to an old studio warehouse turned storage facility. The façade exuded old Hollywood. The gold paint that paved the trimmings had long faded. I walked up the steps into the office and there was a notice tacked on the door, a greasy, late rent notice. I tore it down and walked through the door. The lobby was cool. Evey sat at her desk. "Evey, what's with this notice? I thought we paid that jackass the rent." "He said you were short Mr. Duphrane, I took care of it though. He told me to leave the notice up on the door, so you would see it. He told me that if you're late again it won't be a notice on the door next time, whatever that means." "He's a real bastard… any calls?" "No, no calls Mr. Duphrane. A transfer just came in from a Mr. Epstein, for four thousand. It looks like you got a new case. That’s great news!" "Yeah, I guess so. Do a database check for a Sergeant Pepper for me, would ya? Check around Santa Monica Boulevard. Let me know if anything comes up." "Sergeant Pepper, like the Beatles song?" "Yeah, like the Beatles song." "Ha, that’s funny… I didn’t think anybody would have a name like that. Well… come to think of it my mother knew a Dr. Pepper once but—Mr. Duphrane, is there something wrong?" "No, nothing’s wrong. Just what you said, it’s funny that’s all.” I stepped into my office and closed the door. I sat at the desk and drew out the Black Label in the top-right side drawer. I poured a highball and swigged it down fast. I poured another. I guess I should be content. I hadn't had a case in months. The business of private eye's just wasn't the same. I'd been in the game more than twenty years now. When the twenty-first century rolled in, things changed. The game changed. I was losing my touch. No… no, that was bullshit, I wasn't losing my touch. It's this world that's lost its' touch. Not me, not the veteran, the pro. Pros never lost their touch. Everything around them just started losing the touch, that's all. Evey Hammett, my secretary in the lobby for all the twenty years, sure looked good behind that desk. She was a married woman though. I had never met her husband. He was a writer and traveled a lot, book tours and that kind of shit. Evey had some legs… legs for days. I'd always been a leg man and boy did she have them. I always told her to bring those pretty legs out from behind that desk, and she'd just giggle and say, "What would Mr. Hammett think?" "What Mr. Hammett don't know, don't hurt him," I always replied. I must have daydreamed about Evey's legs for quite some time. The clock read two. I phoned Evey at her desk, "Anything on Sgt. Pepper?" "No nothing sir." "Okay, let me know." No leads. What the hell was I supposed to do? This Epstein was for real though. Four large… upfront, this sure wasn't no joke. But who the hell was Sgt. Pepper? And how the hell would I find him? "Mr. Duphrane, you have a call on line one," Evey’s voice rang through over the speaker. "Thanks Evey, I'll take it." "Hello, this is Duphrane." "Mr. Duphrane…" a woman's voice, a beautiful voice, a Latina. I smiled. I liked Latinas, “is this Mr. Duphrane… like the movie?" "Excuse me?" "Like the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, 'when I first met Andy Duphrane'," her soft latin accent tried to imitate a deep Morgan Freeman, she sounded sexy, I was hooked. "Ha, yeah I guess.” Like I hadn’t heard that one before, “I guess it is like the movie,” I teased, “Except I think there it was Dufresne, with an S." "Mr. Duphrane… I was wondering… if you could find my husband? I’ve heard you were the best" Were the best, what’s with these people? She had a husband though… bastard, I thought. I cleared my throat, "well Mrs. Valenzuela—" "It's Miss Valenzuela." "But you said your husband?" "Oh, well he's my ex-husband, recently divorced. I took back my maiden name." I smiled, "It's a very pretty name." "Well thank you." "But anyways, I suggest if your husband… I mean ex-husband, is missing, that you contact the proper authorities." "Oh, he's not missing Mr. Duphrane. I'm sure wherever he is, he is perfectly found." She had a funny way of putting things. "Well then Miss Valenzuela. I'm not quite sure what you're asking of me." "I'd like to you to find my ex-husband… and kill him." "Whoa, hold it there! You've got the wrong guy here. I'm a private investigator, not a hit man." "I heard you were the best. I heard you'd do anything for the dollar." "Who told you that?" "A little birdie told me." "Well whatever kind of little birdie that was, had it wrong. I don't kill anybody or ‘do anything for the dollar’ as you put it." "Can I come by your office?" "What for?" "I'd much prefer to speak with you in person." "Suit yourself Miss Valenzuela, but I won’t be killing your husband no matter how much you sweet talk me.." "I will be there around five," the phone clicked. I poured another scotch and felt a hunger pang. I stepped out, "Evey, don't hold any calls. I'm going out… see what I can get on this Sgt. Pepper case. I'll be back by five" The hot air outside crawled on the back of my neck. I made my way down Sunset, up Las Palmas and onto Hollywood Boulevard. The black boulevard blazed beneath the burning sun. The sidewalk’s stars glistened and shimmered as I trudged over Bogart and Borgnine, over Lancaster and Lansbury. I stopped into Musso's. I plodded down the dimly lit path, the color carpeting and the waving candles that paved the way between the booths. John Fonzano was behind the bar. Fonzano was an old Hollywood player. He’d been at Musso’s since the sixties, a real classic barman, knew his shit alright. He’d helped me out more than enough back in the old days, "What'll it be Duphrane?" "What do you know about a man named Sgt. Pepper, hangs around Santa Monica dives?" "Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell to me. Sgt. Pepper huh, like the Beatles song, right?" "Yeah, like the Beatles song." "Well I just don't know… you got me on that one. I’m guess I’m losing my touch, you know we start to lose it as we age.”“That seems to be what every thinks.” “How about we start with a drink and we'll figure this out together?" "Sure, sure, double Black—" "Make that two," said a soft voice behind my ear. "What are you doing here?" I asked. "Just thought I'd stop by and say hello to an old friend. I saw you sitting at the bar by yourself so I figured you'd enjoy some company." "Ha, old friend. Vicky, last time I saw you, you tried to hit me with your car." "You stood me up Duphrane! A lady of my stature is not just going to let any old man stand her up!" "Hey! Watch it with the old man crap!" "Oh aren't we the sensitive type?" "Shut it, Vicky. What do you want?" "I just wanted to say hi," her hand reached down between my legs, she squeezed tight. "Whoa, hold on a minute, Vicky. What're you trying to do here? We're through, you know? We're nothing but trouble for each other." "Oh I don't know about that Duphrane. How about a little old Dicky and Vicky time?" she put her heel up on the barstool, subtly slipping her dress up, showing me some leg. It was damn good leg. Damn good. Vicky was crazy, always had been, but old flames tend to stay lit. I was intrigued, enticed. She had that way to get under the skin. I tried playing it cool, "You know I hate it when you call me that." "What… Dicky? Little Dicky Duphrane… the man with the big piece." "Cut that shit Vicky," for some reason, I slipped out a smile and she took it. "I'm over at the Jefferson… how about you come on up with me, Dicky?" We walked out of Musso's together and on up to Hollywood and Highland. Her apartment was sleek, nice. They were new. The new Hollywood was cleaner than the old Hollywood but still dirty as ever. This place was nice though. Decorated all fancy, not to my taste, but nice. Vicky had been an old flame. A retired actress that I used to get with during my hay days as the sleekest Hollywood private dick, back then I could get any squeeze I wanted, with ease. Vicky mixed us some drinks and sat down close to me. By now I was buzzing, I'd had a few too many and the room was spinning slowly, like a twirl top. "So Duphrane… how've you been?" "I've been fine Vicky… I'm sure I don't even have to ask how you're doing." "I'm doing glorious, just absolutely wonderful. I've missed you Duphrane, how's the job?" "It's the same old." "I'm sure it is… you look like you haven't had much work Duphrane." "What's it to you?" "I care about you, you old bastard." "I said cut it with the old shit!" "Oh you know I'm just teasing. Come closer." I eased up on her leg. She was warm, I was warm and her legs got me hot. We were about to make it, when I don’t why, but I had to ask, "Hey, have you heard anything about a Sgt. Pepper, makes some noise around local dives down on Santa Monica Boulevard?" "You know what, I was just down there the other day… a friend of mine he hangs out there with this woman, her names Sarah. She owns the Mother Lode. I think he mentioned something about a Sgt. Pepper." "Yeah I know that place." "Why do you ask?" "No reason, thanks for the tip though." “This Sarah though, she hangs around with Bud Selznik.” “Selznik… that sleezeball, thought he was dead?” “Nope, his greasy self is still putting around the dives, like it was the old days.” “Figures.” "Forget about it… now come closer Duphrane." It was four twenty by the time I was done with Vicky. My head was spinning and I couldn’t tell if my feet were actually on the ground. It was still hotter than hell outside. The sun baked the boulevard hard but I decided to trek down to the Mother Lode, see if I could get the buzz I needed on Sgt. Pepper. The Mother Lode is a dive, a throwback to the bygone era of the Hollywood joints that didn’t try so hard to impress. Everything else now is just a dark room with loud sound and pulsating lights. Filled with beefed out barbell dumbasses, dainty debutantes, flaming fags and too many stupid pretty women, women that wouldn’t know how to treat a man even though they’re dying for the dick. I entered the bar. It was dimly lit, a straight cut contrast to the white bright light of the shining sun. I approached the bar. “What’ll it be?” said the bartender, an overweight, fifty-year-old-fuck with poorly kept facial hair, stained teeth and cracked lips. He smiled a toothy grin. I wasn’t repulsed by these types, I actually preferred them. Well… preferred wouldn’t be the proper term per say, but usually these types tended towards less social interaction, and less talk, which is what I preferred. “Black label… I’m looking for the owner. Sarah is her name I believe.” “Yeah, she ain’t in. What do you want with her?” “Just to talk, a few questions.” “You know her?” “Through a mutual friend.” “Well she ain’t in.” “Got it.” I drank the scotch down fast, and ordered another. There were two groups behind me sitting in booths. “Do you know what time she’s in?” I asked. “Might be in later, I don’t know.” “What are you tailing now Dicky Duphrane?” said a slimy voice to my left. Too much mucus back up, I knew that voice anywhere. Bud Selznik, a low brow, nobody, a sleeze-bag-bum I knew from some of the old work I did. Back in the day, when I was top dog in Hollywood, he used to be a rat. A rat that would rat anybody for anything, I hated to admit that he was kind of a good guy to have around at times. I hated Bud’s guts. I should have smelled his stink when I walked in. This guy was a real son of a bitch, a fuck face that always stuck his nose in all the wrong places at all the wrong times. “Hey Buddy old boy, how you doing on this fine evening. Glad I saw you here pal, it’s been too long,” I sarcastically sneered. “Cut the crap, Dick.” “Oh come on, I’m just teasing with you Buddy, how are things… really though?” “I’m making it alright.” “Good, good to hear,” I figured he was making shit. “Why’re you looking for Sarah, what do you want from her?” “Whoa there Bud, take it easy. You shacking up with her or something?” “What’s it to you Dick?” “Oh nothing... nothing at all, actually, I’m looking for somebody else. He’s a patron here, or so I heard. You know anything about a Sgt. Pepper?” “What kind of phony bullshit is that… Sgt. Pepper. I’d heard you lost it but I didn’t know you were that bad,” he laughed a nasty laugh.What was with all this talk about me losing it? Somebody was out there tainting the Duphrane name. “Who do you think you are anyway Duphrane? You still running around chasing phony cases like you’ve been doing all along?” “Hold it now Bud, phony cases? You and I know both know that isn’t right.” “Whatever Duphrane… but no, I haven’t heard of a Sgt. Pepper… and I’m here all the time. I would know. How about you Bill, you heard of any Sgt. Pepper?” He smiled his filthy little smile. “Not since the good old days of Rock n’ Roll,” the bartender let out with a laugh. “You see Duphrane… none of your bogus leads around here. Now I think it’s time you get moving.” I finished my drink, swiftly, “Well, I guess you’re right Bud, I’ll just be moving along then.” I got up from the stool, and made my way to the door. As I scooted by Bud, I kicked the stool beneath him and his ass crashed to the ground with a resounding clash as the stool tipped back onto the floor. I straddled over Bud and was about to pelt him a square one in the jaw, when a sharp smash flashed across my face and I felt the blood trickle from my scalp. I stumbled back and realized the bartender had knocked me over with the bottle of Black Label he had just used to pour me a drink. The smooth smell of the scotch seethed through my nostrils as it burnt the cut on the knot of my head, “Jesus, you crazy bastard, what the hell’s wrong with you?” I heard the click of a revolver and my eyes focused down the barrel. “You get the hell out of here, ya hear?” I slowly stepped back and then took off out the door. The bright sun singed my eyes and as I squinted, my head pounded. I wished I had my piece with me. I would have shot the both of them before that fat fuck could have squeezed the trigger. No, no, couldn’t get away with that stuff anymore, not in this day. Shit, maybe I was going soft. No, no, the game just wasn’t the same as it used to be.The bar left a bitter taste in my mouth. Something was up, something with this Sgt. Pepper. Something that Bud Selznik, or Sarah, or that goddamn crazy bartender knew, something big. And I was going to find out. By the time I got back to the office it was six o’clock. I held a few paper towels over my head to stem the bleeding. It wasn’t a bad cut, no need for stitches. When I walked in, Evey gave a shrill scream, “Mr. Duphrane, what on earth happened to you?” “Nothing Evey, just a little bar scuffle.” “Oh Mr. Duphrane, you really should watch yourself, you know you’re not a kid anymore.” “Watch it Evey, I can handle my own.” “I know you can Mr. Duphrane but you shouldn’t be taking any hits to the head. You should go see a doctor.” “I’m fine… I’m fine.” “Well, there’s a woman waiting for you in your office. She’s been here for about a half hour, I told her you were out but she insisted on staying, her name is Valeria Valenzuela.” I had forgotten about her. My head was still burning and I was a little drunk but I guess I could handle one more thing today. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to like what was about to happen, I stepped into my office and closed the door. When I walked in, I felt my jaw drop. Valeria Del Castillo Valenzuela was a knockout. Her creamy dark skin radiated, no, it exuded beauty. She had the most beautiful flowing, dark-brown hair that fell fluidly over her soft shoulders. Her breasts… her breasts… were magnificent, perfectly proportioned with her tight torso and the legs. Oh, god, the legs. It took a lot more than a knockout broad these days to captivate the attention but I was feeling the tingles just from the site of her. When she spoke, her enrapturing voice sounded even more beautiful than over the phone, the sweet soft Spanish accent, “Mr. Duphrane, I have been kept waiting for over an—Oh my, what happened to your head?!” “Oh, it’s nothing, just a little bar scuffle.” “But, you’re bleeding, here let me help you.” She stood up, oh lord… those legs! Her tight dress was well up on her thighs and I could almost make out her slip. She smelled wonderful. Like coconut with pineapples, on the beach… in paradise. She dabbed a cloth in some water and patted it gently on my head. I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed the affection. “There, there, that’s better. You have quite a cut there.” “I’ll be fine,” I collected my thoughts, “Now…Miss Valenzuela—.”“Call me Valeria.”“Valeria… I know why you’re here and again… there’s nothing I can do for you.” “Well, I thought if I came down. I might be able to persuade you… I can be very persuasive.” She leaned over me as I sat in my desk chair. I could feel the warmth from her breasts as they caressed me over. She bent lower and tugged at my waistline. “Whoa, whoa, now wait a minute,” I was growing a little nervous. She unbuckled my belt, and began sliding down my slacks. She was very smooth. I felt my prick go right up. That was the first time it did that in quite some time. Her lips formed around the tip of my penis and she glided her head up and down. The blowjob she gave me was miraculous. I felt like it lasted for hours. I came in her mouth and she let it slide sensually down her chin before she swallowed the rest. I was in shock, awed at her persuasiveness, so to speak. I regained my head after a moment of serendipity, “Now listen… Miss Valenzuela…” I was out of breath almost, “I appreciate your efforts and all, but I can’t kill anybody… that’s just not what I do.” “I’ll give you half a million dollars.” “What!?” “I’ll give you half a million dollars.” “To kill your husband?” “Yes, to kill my husband.” “But I’m not a hit man.” “I have faith in you Mr. Duphrane.” “Please, call me Richard.” “I have faith in you Richard. I trust your talents, and I was told that back in the day you were the best there was at what you do.” “I don’t kill people.” “So you’ve never killed a man?” She struck a chord. This broad new something more about me, something more than I wanted her to know, she sensed my hesitation, my face must have gave something away, I was losing my touch. No, no that was bullshit, I hadn’t lost the touch but she knew she had me, “So… will you take my offer or not?” I had to think for a moment. A half a million… that was enough to quit doing what I’d been doing, which I was only doing because I wanted to be able to quit what I’d been doing. But to kill a man complicates things… complicates them a whole lot, “You have no idea where your husband is though, how am I going to find him?” “I have some ideas.” “Hypothetically, if I were to do this, when will I get the cash?” “I’ll give you five percent if you commit, and the rest once it is done.” “Why do you want him dead, if you’re already divorced?” “I have my reasons Mr. Duphrane.” “We all have reasons.” “So will you do it?” “No… I mean, I don’t know.” “There will be much more in it for you than just the money Mr. Duphrane… I can guarantee you that. I’ll be leaving now. You can reach me at this number. It would be wise for you to change your mind.” She got up and made her way out the door, her hips swaying slightly and oh those legs, how they moved. My head was spinning every which way, I grabbed for the trash can. I was going to puke. It stayed down though. Sometimes it’s worse when it all stays down. I didn’t know what to make of it all. Six hours ago I was driving to a job that had had no work for months and now everything was swirling viciously out of control.What to make of this deal? It was a way out. A way to finally call it quits. It seemed to be too much, too tricky. I was a pro though. I was the best that there was. Why couldn’t I do this one last job and call it quits? I didn’t have any leads though, on Sgt. Pepper or on Valeria’s husband. I didn’t even know the bastard’s name. Well, when I thought about it, I could always just take her for the five percent. That’d be twenty five thousand. Go on a nice long vacation. Maybe never come back. Just then, Evey’s voice came through over the speaker “Mr. Duphrane, you have a call, it’s a Mr.Valencia.” “Put him through.” “Hello, is this Dick Duphrane?” “Yeah, this is Duphrane,” “This is Eduardo Valencia,” “Who?” “Eduardo Valencia, if I am not mistaken, I believe you have been in contact with my wife. Well ex-wife that is. Her name is Valeria.” Oh shit! “Uh, uh yeah… I guess you could say I was contacted by her. I mean… I didn’t know what to make of it really, didn’t really explain much of what she wanted. Tough to understand… with that accent… you know?” “Cut the shit Duphrane… I’ll double whatever she’s offered you, if you off her.” “Excuse me?” “She offered you a sum of money to kill me correct?” “Well uh… uh, how’d you get this number again?” “Listen to me… and listen to me clearly. Cut the shit, I know she reached out to you to kill me and I’m ready to double whatever she has offered you, to go and kill her instead.” What the fuck was going on here? “Excuse me, but I’ll have to call you back, I—.” “Don’t fuck around with me Duphrane! I’ll give you ten minutes!” I slammed the phone down. What the fuck was all this? Then the phone rang again, what the hell could this be now? Evey needed to screen my calls better for Christ’s sake! “Duphrane, this is Epstein, what’s the status on Sgt. Pepper?” Dammit, it just all kept coming in at once, “I’m chasing leads… as we speak, sorry got to run.” “Listen Duphrane, you have two more days! Don’t fuck up on this one!” “Got it, two days,” I put the phone down. The shit was really piling on now. I had no idea who this Sgt. Pepper was and these Valenzuelas and Valencias were breathing down my fucking neck the wrong way. I pulled out the Black Label from the top right desk drawer and swigged the rest of the bottle down. How in the hell have the tables turned on me like this? Maybe I am getting too old for this. Maybe I’m not the same pro I used to be. Maybe I’ve lost the touch. No, no… that’s bullshit. Fuck it, who knows. All I know is, business was starting to turn around in the twenty-first century. The scotch warmed me up and I started to feel a bit better. Tonight, I’d have to get some answers. I’d have to do some reconnaissance. Just then, a lightning bolt of an idea struck me. I fingered the speaker on the phone, “Evey, go home and get a dress, you’re coming out with me tonight. I assume Mr. Hammett isn’t home?” “He’s on a book tour. Where are we going?” “There’s a party at the Roosevelt, I have somebody there I have to meet.” Dick Duphrane was back. I was going to pull out all the stops on this one. I felt a tingle, something I hadn’t felt in a long time, something I hadn’t felt since the old days. I turned the dial up high on the radio, it blared out. I opened the window and looked out over the hills that often hid more than they showed.At midnight all the agents and superhuman crew,Go out and round up everyone who knows more than they do.