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Authors: Steve Erickson

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Zeroville
A Novel
Steve Erickson
Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Chapter 90

Chapter 91

Chapter 92

Chapter 93

Chapter 94

Chapter 95

Chapter 96

Chapter 97

Chapter 98

Chapter 99

Chapter 100

Chapter 101

Chapter 102

Chapter 103

Chapter 104

Chapter 105

Chapter 106

Chapter 107

Chapter 108

Chapter 109

Chapter 110

Chapter 111

Chapter 112

Chapter 113

Chapter 114

Chapter 115

Chapter 116

Chapter 117

Chapter 118

Chapter 119

Chapter 120

Chapter 121

Chapter 122

Chapter 123

Chapter 124

Chapter 125

Chapter 126

Chapter 127

Chapter 128

Chapter 129

Chapter 130

Chapter 131

Chapter 132

Chapter 133

Chapter 134

Chapter 135

Chapter 136

Chapter 137

Chapter 138

Chapter 139

Chapter 140

Chapter 141

Chapter 142

Chapter 143

Chapter 144

Chapter 145

Chapter 146

Chapter 147

Chapter 148

Chapter 149

Chapter 150

Chapter 151

Chapter 152

Chapter 153

Chapter 154

Chapter 155

Chapter 156

Chapter 157

Chapter 158

Chapter 159

Chapter 160

Chapter 161

Chapter 162

Chapter 163

Chapter 164

Chapter 165

Chapter 166

Chapter 167

Chapter 168

Chapter 169

Chapter 170

Chapter 171

Chapter 172

Chapter 173

Chapter 174

Chapter 175

Chapter 176

Chapter 177

Chapter 178

Chapter 179

Chapter 180

Chapter 181

Chapter 182

Chapter 183

Chapter 184

Chapter 185

Chapter 186

Chapter 187

Chapter 188

Chapter 189

Chapter 190

Chapter 191

Chapter 192

Chapter 193

Chapter 194

Chapter 195

Chapter 196

Chapter 197

Chapter 198

Chapter 199

Chapter 200

Chapter 201

Chapter 202

Chapter 203

Chapter 204

Chapter 205

Chapter 206

Chapter 207

Chapter 208

Chapter 209

Chapter 210

Chapter 211

Chapter 212

Chapter 213

Chapter 214

Chapter 215

Chapter 216

Chapter 217

Chapter 218

Chapter 219

Chapter 220

Chapter 221

Chapter 222

Chapter 223

Chapter 224

Chapter 225

Chapter 226

Chapter 227

Chapter 226

Chapter 225

Chapter 224

Chapter 223

Chapter 222

Chapter 221

Chapter 220

Chapter 219

Chapter 218

Chapter 217

Chapter 216

Chapter 215

Chapter 214

Chapter 213

Chapter 212

Chapter 211

Chapter 210

Chapter 209

Chapter 208

Chapter 207

Chapter 206

Chapter 205

Chapter 204

Chapter 203

Chapter 202

Chapter 201

Chapter 200

Chapter 199

Chapter 198

Chapter 197

Chapter 196

Chapter 195

Chapter 194

Chapter 193

Chapter 192

Chapter 191

Chapter 190

Chapter 189

Chapter 188

Chapter 187

Chapter 186

Chapter 185

Chapter 184

Chapter 183

Chapter 182

Chapter 181

Chapter 180

Chapter 179

Chapter 178

Chapter 177

Chapter 176

Chapter 175

Chapter 174

Chapter 173

Chapter 172

Chapter 171

Chapter 170

Chapter 169

Chapter 168

Chapter 167

Chapter 166

Chapter 165

Chapter 164

Chapter 163

Chapter 162

Chapter 161

Chapter 160

Chapter 159

Chapter 158

Chapter 157

Chapter 156

Chapter 155

Chapter 154

Chapter 153

Chapter 152

Chapter 151

Chapter 150

Chapter 149

Chapter 148

Chapter 147

Chapter 146

Chapter 145

Chapter 144

Chapter 143

Chapter 142

Chapter 141

Chapter 140

Chapter 139

Chapter 138

Chapter 137

Chapter 136

Chapter 135

Chapter 134

Chapter 133

Chapter 132

Chapter 131

Chapter 130

Chapter 129

Chapter 128

Chapter 127

Chapter 126

Chapter 125

Chapter 124

Chapter 123

Chapter 122

Chapter 121

Chapter 120

Chapter 119

Chapter 118

Chapter 117

Chapter 116

Chapter 115

Chapter 114

Chapter 113

Chapter 112

Chapter 111

Chapter 110

Chapter 109

Chapter 108

Chapter 107

Chapter 106

Chapter 105

Chapter 104

Chapter 103

Chapter 102

Chapter 101

Chapter 100

Chapter 99

Chapter 98

Chapter 97

Chapter 96

Chapter 95

Chapter 94

Chapter 93

Chapter 92

Chapter 91

Chapter 90

Chapter 89

Chapter 88

Chapter 87

Chapter 86

Chapter 85

Chapter 84

Chapter 83

Chapter 82

Chapter 81

Chapter 80

Chapter 79

Chapter 78

Chapter 77

Chapter 76

Chapter 75

Chapter 74

Chapter 73

Chapter 72

Chapter 71

Chapter 70

Chapter 69

Chapter 68

Chapter 67

Chapter 66

Chapter 65

Chapter 64

Chapter 63

Chapter 62

Chapter 61

Chapter 60

Chapter 59

Chapter 58

Chapter 57

Chapter 56

Chapter 55

Chapter 54

Chapter 53

Chapter 52

Chapter 51

Chapter 50

Chapter 49

Chapter 48

Chapter 47

Chapter 46

Chapter 45

Chapter 44

Chapter 43

Chapter 42

Chapter 41

Chapter 40

Chapter 39

Chapter 38

Chapter 37

Chapter 36

Chapter 35

Chapter 34

Chapter 33

Chapter 32

Chapter 31

Chapter 30

Chapter 29

Chapter 28

Chapter 27

Chapter 26

Chapter 25

Chapter 24

Chapter 23

Chapter 22

Chapter 21

Chapter 20

Chapter 19

Chapter 18

Chapter 17

Chapter 16

Chapter 15

Chapter 14

Chapter 13

Chapter 12

Chapter 11

Chapter 10

Chapter 9

Chapter 8

Chapter 7

Chapter 6

Chapter 5

Chapter 4

Chapter 3

Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Chapter 0

Acknowledgments

I believe that cinema was here

from the beginning of the world.

JOSEF VON STERNBERG

1.

On Vikar’s shaved head is tattooed the right and left lobes of his brain. One lobe is occupied by an extreme close-up of Elizabeth Taylor and the other by Montgomery Clift, their faces barely apart, lips barely apart, in each other’s arms on a terrace, the two most beautiful people in the history of the movies, she the female version of him, and he the male version of her.

2.

This is the summer of 1969, two days after Vikar’s twenty-fourth birthday, when everyone’s hair is long and no one shaves his head unless he’s a Buddhist monk, and no one has tattoos unless he’s a biker or in a circus.

He’s been in Los Angeles an hour. He’s just gotten off a six-day bus trip from Philadelphia, riding day and night, and eating a French dip sandwich at Philippe’s a few blocks up from Olvera Street, the oldest road in the city.

3.

There in Philippe’s, a hippie nods at Vikar’s head and says, “Dig it, man. My favorite movie.”

Vikar nods. “I believe it’s a very good movie.”

“Love that scene at the end, man. There at the Planetarium.”

Vikar stands and in one motion brings the food tray flying up, roast beef and au jus spraying the restaurant—

—and brings the tray crashing down on the blasphemer across the table from him. He manages to catch the napkin floating down like a parachute, in time to wipe his mouth.

Oh, mother, he thinks. “
A Place in the Sun
, George Stevens,” he says to the fallen man, pointing at his own head, “NOT
Rebel Without a Cause
,” and strides out.

4.

Tattooed under Vikar’s left eye is a red teardrop.

5.

Is it possible he’s traveled three thousand miles to the Movie Capital of the World only to find people who don’t know the difference between Montgomery Clift and James Dean, who don’t know the difference between Elizabeth Taylor and Natalie Wood? A few blocks north of Philippe’s, the city starts to run out and Vikar turns back. He asks a girl with straight blond hair in a diaphanous granny dress where Hollywood is. Soon he notices that all the girls in Los Angeles have straight blond hair and diaphanous granny dresses.

6.

She gives him a ride, staring at his head. She seems odd to him; he wants her to watch the road. I believe perhaps she’s been taking illicit narcotics, he thinks to himself.

“Uh,” she finally starts to say, and he can see it right there in her eyes: James Dean, Natalie Wood … What will he do? She’s driving and, besides, she’s a girl. You can’t smash a girl over the head with a food tray.

“Montgomery Clift,” he heads off her blunder, “Elizabeth Taylor.”

“Elizabeth Taylor,” she nods. “I’ve heard of her …” pondering it a moment. “Far out.”

He realizes she has no idea who Montgomery Clift is. “You can let me off here,” he says, and she drops him where Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards fork, at a small theater—

7.

—where he goes to the movies.

A silent European film from the late twenties, it’s the worst print Vikar has seen—less a movie than a patchwork of celluloid—but he’s spellbound. In the late Middle Ages a young woman, identified in the credits only as “Mlle Falconetti,” is interrogated and hounded by a room of monks. The woman doesn’t give a performance, as such; Vikar has never seen acting that seemed less to be acting. It’s more an inhabitation. The movie is shot completely in close-ups, including the unbearable ending, when the young woman is burned at the stake.

8.

Afterward, he makes his way farther west along Sunset before cutting up to Hollywood Boulevard. Where once was the Moulin Rouge nightclub at the corner of Vine is now a psychedelic club called the Kaleidoscope. Vikar really has no idea what a psychedelic club is. Along Hollywood Boulevard are shabby old jewelry shops, used bookstores, souvenir stands, porn theaters. He’s startled there are no movie stars walking down the street. Still hungry from having sacrificed his French dip sandwich at Philippe’s, he orders a chicken pot pie at Musso & Frank, where Billy Wilder used to lunch with Raymond Chandler while they were writing
Double Indemnity
, both drinking heavily because they couldn’t stand each other.

9.

He spends a few minutes looking at the footprints outside the Chinese Theatre. He can find neither Elizabeth Taylor nor Montgomery Clift. At the box office he buys a ticket and goes inside to watch the movie.

As Vikar traveled on what seemed an endless bus to Hollywood, the Traveler hurtles through space toward infinity. Dimensions fall away from the Traveler faster and faster until, by the end of the movie, he’s an old man in a white room where a black monolith appears to him at the moment of death. He becomes an embryonic, perhaps divine Starchild. Vikar has come to Los Angeles as a kind of starchild as well, a product of no parentage he acknowledges, vestiges of an earlier childhood falling away from him like dimensions. Vikar tells himself, I’ve found a place where God does not kill children but is a Child Himself.

He’s now seen two movies, one of the Middle Ages and one of the future, in his first seven hours in Los Angeles. Vikar crosses Hollywood Boulevard to the Roosevelt Hotel, built by Louis B. Mayer, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in the year the movies discovered sound.

10.

Vikar walks through the Roosevelt lobby, which has a statue of Charlie Chaplin. With its stone arches and palm fronds, it’s slightly seedy; the first Academy Awards were held here forty years before. At the front desk, he asks for room 928.

The young clerk behind the front desk says, “That room’s not available.” His long hair is tucked into his collar beneath his coat and tie.

“Are you certain?”

“Yes.”

“Seventeen years ago,” Vikar says, “Montgomery Clift lived in that room.”

“Who?”

Vikar restrains the urge to pick up the small bell from the desk and lodge it in the philistine’s forehead. For a moment he considers the image of the clerk having a bell for a third eye, like a cyclops. People could walk up and ring it, and every time they did, this infidel would remember Montgomery Clift. “Montgomery Clift,” Vikar says, “lived here after making
A Place in the Sun
, when he was filming
From Here to Eternity
.”

11.

The clerk says, “Hey, man, have you seen
Easy Rider
? I usually don’t go to movies. I’m into the Music.”

“What?”

“The Music.” The clerk turns up the radio. There’s a song playing about a train to Marrakesh: “All aboard the train,” the singer sings. It’s horrible; they’ve forgotten
A Place in the Sun
for this? Vikar also suspects there’s something narcotics-related about the song.

“Montgomery Clift’s ghost lives in this hotel,” Vikar says.

“No,” the clerk answers, “that’s that D. W. guy.”

“D. W.?”

“It’s in the brochure. He died here or something, busted.” He adds, “I don’t mean busted like by the cops—I mean broke. His ghost rides up and down the elevators trying to figure out where to go.”

“D. W. Griffith?”

“I think that’s him,” the clerk nods, impressed, “yeah, D. W. Griffin.” He looks at the register. “Room 939 is available, that’s in the other corner at the other end of the hall, so it’s like Room 928 except backward.”

“All right.”

“By now,” the clerk shrugs, “they may have changed around all the numbers anyway.”

“The ninth floor is probably still the ninth floor,” says Vikar.

The clerk seems slightly stunned by this. “Yeah,” he allows, a sense of revelation sweeping over him, “the ninth floor
is
probably still the ninth floor.” In the register Vikar signs
Ike Jerome
, which is not an alias. No one, including himself, calls him Vikar yet. He pays cash; the clerk gives him the key and Vikar heads to the elevator. “That was heavy, man,” the clerk calls after him, “that thing about the ninth floor.”

12.

When Vikar steps in the elevator and pushes the button for the ninth floor, one by one all of the other floors light up too.

At each floor, the door slides open. Vikar feels someone brushing past him, leaning out and peering just long enough to determine it’s the wrong floor, before continuing on to the next.

13.

Vikar can’t see the Chinese Theatre from the window of room 939, but he can see the Hollywood Hills and the Magic Castle above Franklin Avenue. Houses topple down the hills in adobe and high-tech, some rounded like space ships. Leaning far to the right and staring west toward Laurel Canyon Vikar could also see, if he looked for it, the speck of the house that he’ll live in nine years from now. The morning after his first night in the Roosevelt, he walks down the hallway and finds, as the clerk advised, room 928 at the other end, and peers in as the maid makes it up. From its window overlooking Orange Street, Montgomery Clift couldn’t see the Chinese Theatre either.

14.

That first night in the Roosevelt, Vikar has the same dream he always has after every movie he sees, the same dream he’s had since the first movie he ever saw. In his dream there’s a horizontal-shaped rock and someone lying on the rock very still. The side of the rock seems to open, beckoning to Vikar, like a door or chasm.

15.

Vikar stays at the Roosevelt three nights. When he checks out, he asks the clerk where Sunset Boulevard is. The clerk directs him south on Orange. “When you get to Sunset,” he says, “see if you can hitch a ride west.” He motions with his thumb. “That will be to your right, man.”

“I know which direction is west.”

“That’s where the Music is.”

“Thank you,” Vikar says, leaving quickly, still inclined to lodge the desk bell in the clerk’s head.

16.

He sees phosphorescent cars and vans painted with Cinema-Scopic women with stars in their hair and legs apart and the cosmos coming out of the center of them, bearing travelers and starchildren. At Crescent Heights, Sunset winds down into the Strip’s gorge, and Vikar stands as if at the mouth of wonderland, gazing at Schwab’s Drugstore …

… he knows the story about Lana Turner being discovered there isn’t true, but he also knows that Harold Arlen wrote “Over the Rainbow” there and that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a heart attack there. Vikar is unclear whether F. Scott Fitzgerald actually died there; he lived somewhere around the block. Actually, he’s unclear about F. Scott Fitzgerald, beyond the fact he was a writer whose work included
The Women
, starring Joan Crawford, although he didn’t get a screen credit.

17.

Across the street, on an island in the middle of the intersection, is a club called the Peppermint Lounge. Another kid with long hair points Vikar north, up the boulevard into the canyon. “Check it out,” he advises, staring at Vikar’s head, “about half way up you’ll come on this old fucked-up house where people crash.” The hippie adds, in a manner at once conspiratorial and breezy, “Lots of chicks up there who don’t wear anything, man.”

18.

An hour later, halfway up Laurel Canyon Boulevard, grand stone steps swirl into the trees, to a ruin a little like Gloria Swanson’s mansion in
Sunset Boulevard
. William Holden’s role in
Sunset Boulevard
was written for Montgomery Clift, who turned it down because he was afraid the character of a younger man kept by an older actress was too much like him; at the time Clift was seeing an older actress, one of the rare romantic relationships with a woman he had. Someone at the country store in the belly of the canyon tells Vikar the house is where Harry Houdini lived while trying to become a movie star in the twenties, making movies with titles like
The Man From Beyond
,
Terror Island
,
The Grim

The Grim

The Grim
what …?

19.

The only chick Vikar finds who doesn’t wear anything is three years old. Standing in the clearing of what was once the house’s great living room, she has dark curls and a preternatural gaze.

She looks at Vikar, the pictures of the man and woman on his head, the tattooed teardrop beneath his left eye. She’s undecided whether to laugh or cry. A paternal distress at the vulnerability of the little girl standing alone before him sweeps through Vikar, and he feels a surge of rage at whoever could have abandoned her here. For a few minutes the man and girl study each other there under the cover of the canyon’s trees.

“Zazi.”

20.

Vikar turns to look over his shoulder at the voice behind him.

The most beautiful woman he’s ever seen off a movie screen calls to the little girl. With long auburn hair and a tiny perfect cleft in her chin, in the same gossamer dress that all of the young women in Los Angeles wear, she smiles at the tattooed man a cool, almost otherworldly smile he’s never seen, its source a secret amusement. At the same time, he’s relieved to sense in the woman the same concern for the girl’s safety that he feels. The woman’s eyes lock his; he smiles back. But she’s not smiling at him, rather she’s smiling at her power to enchant him—and it’s like a stab to his heart for him to realize that he is the reason for her concern, that she would believe for a moment he could hurt a child. When the woman’s eyes fix on his and she softly says the girl’s name again, it’s as if trying not to provoke a wild animal only feet away.

“Zazi.” This time the young woman glides slowly to the middle of the ruins to take her daughter and back away from Vikar slowly, clutching the girl to her. Neither the woman nor the girl takes her eyes off him. The woman looks at Vikar a moment longer as if to make certain the spell will hold long enough to get the girl to safety.

Then she turns and carries the child across the boulevard to a house on the opposite corner, the small girl watching Vikar over her mother’s shoulder.

21.

Like the wild animal the woman believed he was, Vikar stalks the grounds of the Houdini House in the dark, pounding on the walls, trying to remember.
The Grim
…?

Houdini was related to one of the Three Stooges by marriage. I’ll bet I’m the only one in this Heretic City who knows that.

22.

Vikar later learns that the Houdini House has secret passages leading to all parts of the canyon, although he never finds one. The house across the boulevard on the corner, where the young woman took her daughter, once belonged to Tom Mix. Now it’s occupied by an extended family of hippies led by a musician with a Groucho Marx mustache. Hippies and musicians everywhere …

23.

… but something has happened, it’s become a ghost canyon.

Above the ruins of the house, Vikar sees caves in the hillside. A fire burns in one and he makes his way to it, climbing through the trees. The cave has two entrances, forming a small tunnel. Inside the cave, a young couple huddles around the fire.

24.

Vikar stands in the mouth of the cave. The young man and woman look at Vikar, at his bald illustrated dome, and spring from the fire lurching for the cave’s other opening.

Vikar watches them run off the hillside into the night air, then plummet the rest of the way down into the trees and the stone ruins of the house below.

25.

In the August heat, the lights of small houses in the canyon shimmer like stars while the stars in the sky hide in the light and smog of the city, as though outside has turned upside down.

In the tattoo on Vikar’s head, Montgomery Clift looks away slightly. It’s as if he’s not only rapt with Elizabeth Taylor but hiding from everyone the face that would be so disfigured later upon smashing his Chevy into a tree, when it would be Taylor who first reached the site of the crash and held him in her arms.

26.

When Vikar wakes in the cave the next morning, the campfire is out. Standing in the cave’s mouth he looks out over the canyon; he sees houses and the small country store below, but not a soul. The canyon is abandoned and still. “Hello?” he calls to the trees.

27.

As the minutes pass, there’s not a sign of life for as far as he can see …

… until in the distance, at the end of the canyon boulevard, a police car appears and then another behind it, and another, stealthily winding their way up through the hills, sirens silent but coming fast, determined in their approach.

Vikar watches the police as they grow nearer. They stop below at the foot of the stone steps that lead up to the house, a dozen cops emptying from four cars and fanning out at Vikar’s feet …

… then one looks up and spots him. Then they all stop to look. They draw their guns and charge the hillside.

28.

Below, the closest cop points his gun up at Vikar and tells him to raise his arms. In the mouth of the cave, overlooking the canyon, Vikar is too stunned to move. “Arms in the air!” the cop repeats. Other cops emerge from the trees at the foot of the hill, their guns also pointed. Vikar raises his arms. “Get on your knees!” says the first cop.

“I have to pee,” Vikar says.

The cop says, “Get. Down. On. Your. Fucking. Knees.” Vikar lowers himself to his knees. Looking around, he can see hippies come out of their houses all over the canyon to watch, he can see in the doorway of the house across the street the beautiful woman with the small girl. The cop tells Vikar to lie on his stomach and keep his arms away from his sides, then slide slowly down the hillside on his stomach.

“Slowly?” Vikar says, apparently to no one as he comes hurtling down the mountain, face skimming dirt and rock all the way. When he finally stops at the base of the hill, one cop lands hard on Vikar’s back and another cuffs his hands behind him. Another tells him he’s under arrest and has the right to remain silent and to a lawyer. “Can I pee?” Vikar says as they shove him in the back of the patrol car.

29.

The Grim Game
.

30.

At the police station they draw a sample of his blood. For three hours he waits in a holding cell before he’s brought to an interrogation room.

This is for hitting that man with my food tray, he believes. Or perhaps for the others, the ones before Los Angeles.
It’s the end of righteousness
. But he decided long ago that if righteousness means no movies, he would rather be damned.

Three white men and a black man and a white woman wait for Vikar in the interrogation room. All the men wear suits. A graying man, distinguished looking, like the chief of detectives in a movie, appears in charge. The woman, who never says anything, seems to be a kind of doctor.

31.

Vikar is seated at a table with the woman on the other side and the men standing around him. “Is Jerome,” the chief asks, “your first name or last?”

“Someone asked me that before,” says Vikar.

“Well, now I’m asking you,” the chief says.

“It’s my last name.”

“Ike is your first name?”

“Someone asked that as well.”

“Well, if you had some sort of identification, Mr. Jerome, like a driver’s license, we wouldn’t have to ask.”

“I don’t know how to drive.”

“Ike is short for …”

Vikar shakes his head:
It’s not short for anything
. “It’s just Ike,” he says.

“You say you’re from Ohio?”

“It’s not short for anything,” Vikar says.

“O.K.,” the chief says, “it’s not short for anything. Where in Ohio you from, Ike? Cincinnati?”

“I didn’t say Ohio. I said Pennsylvania.” He knows I didn’t say Ohio.

“How long you been in town?”

They asked this before as well. “Four days. Five.”

“Is it four or is it five?”

“It depends.”

“Not really, Ike. It’s either four or it’s five.”

“No,” Vikar says, “it depends. Do you count the first day I got here as the first day, or after the first twenty-four hours—?”

The good-looking movie-star chief brings the back of his hand crashing across the side of Vikar’s head, catching Elizabeth Taylor just under the chin. Vikar flies off his chair across the room and crumples against the wall.

32.

The chief comes over and kneels beside him. “Don’t be cute.”

“I’m not,” Vikar says.

“I think you’re being cute.”

“No.”

“What did you come to L.A. for?” says the chief.

“I came to Hollywood.”

“O.K., Ike. What did you come to Hollywood for? Score some weed? You have some sort of big transaction in the works?”

“Weed?”

“Our blood work shows you have marijuana in your system.”

“That’s not true,” Vikar says calmly.

“We know about you. We know about the scores up in the canyon.”

“Scores?”

“People are spooked in the canyon these days. Maybe you noticed.”

“No.”

“No more happy hippie wonderland since a few days ago.” The chief acts as though he’s pondering something. “About the time you came to town, now that I think of it,” as though thinking of it for the first time, but he’s not thinking of it for the first time, and Vikar realizes none of this is about any “weed” or “score.” The chief says, “What did you say you came to L.A. for?”

“Hollywood.”

“O.K.,” irritated, “Hollywood.”

“To work in the movies.”

“Are you an actor?”

“No.”

“What is it you do in the movies?”

“I don’t do anything yet.” He adds, “I just got here. Four days ago. Or five.”

“Let me show you something,” says the chief, “here, let me help you to your feet.”

“It’s all right,” Vikar says.

“No, let me help you.” The chief pulls Vikar to his feet and picks up the chair. Vikar sits again at the table. “Better, Ike?”

Vikar nods.

“Sorry I lost my temper there. I apologize.”

Vikar looks at the others standing around.

“Let me show you something,” says the movie-star chief, and one of the other men hands him an envelope.

33.

The chief opens the envelope and pulls out seven black-and-white photos and lays them out on the table.

Vikar sees them for only a second, it’s all he can look. “Oh mother!” he screams, and topples from the chair as if struck again.

The chief comes back over to Vikar on the floor and, as before, kneels next to him. “This one,” he says, holding up one photo, “was the eight-month-old fetus cut out of this one,” holding up another photo with the other hand. Vikar turns away, sobbing. “Pretty much slaughtered, wouldn’t you say, Ike? Pretty much butchered. This last one,” the chief holds up the seventh photo, “this one of the writing on the door, this business about the pigs … what does it say?” he turns the photo around as though looking at it for the first time, but he’s not looking at it for the first time. “This one about the pigs. Written on the door of the house in the blood of,” waving one photo, “the mother of,” waving the other, “this one. Am I supposed to take it personally, Ike? Was this for me, this about the pigs?” but Vikar sobs, wishing he never had seen it.

34.

Five minutes later Vikar is still on the floor and the police are trying to get him to stop crying. “O.K.,” the chief says. “O.K., God damn it.”

“Oh mother, oh mother …”

“Stop it.” The chief hands the photos back to the black detective who gave them to him. Vikar begins to calm down. “You O.K.?”

Vikar says nothing.

“You O.K.?”

Vikar shakes his head. The chief studies him, disappointed.

The woman and the other men now leave the room, one by one. Vikar is still. “So,” the chief finally says, nodding at Vikar’s head, “what’s with the James Dean and Natalie Wood?”

35.

They leave him in the interrogation room—

—but through the open door he can hear a couple of voices. “… couldn’t even look at the photos,” one of the voices sounds like the chief’s, “how could he have done that to those people?”

“He’s a freak,” the other voice says.

“That’s awfully astute, Barnes. But the city is full of freaks and by itself it doesn’t put him on Cielo Drive with five butchered bodies.”

“I think I like them better when their hair’s down to their asses. Never thought I’d say
that
…” The voice lowers. “Chief, I can’t say this when Peters is around, but I’m telling you it’s the coloreds on this one.”

“Don’t say that when Peters is around,” sternly.

A pause. “Odd about the name thing. That he would lie about that, of all things—that business about ‘Ike’ not being short for …”

“It doesn’t,” the chief interrupts, “put him up there in the canyon hacking up five people including a pregnant woman.”

“Fucking Hollywood degenerates. Live freaky, die freaky.”

“For God’s sakes, don’t go around saying that either.” Another pause. “You know when we located his father, he wouldn’t admit having a son.”

“Well, chief, would you? What’s with the fucking head, that’s what I want to know. I like all the hair better, never thought I’d say it. The hair down to their asses. Live freaky, die freaky, I’m telling you.”

36.

Forty-five minutes later, a patrol car deposits Vikar at Hill and Third in downtown Los Angeles. “I’d stay out of those canyons if I were you,” one of the cops tells him. “There’s something going on up there.”

“Tell the chief my father was right,” Vikar answers. “He doesn’t have a son.”

37.

That night Vikar slips into the Chinese Theatre through a back door and sleeps on the stage behind the screen. All night, images from the movie fly over him, as though he’s lying at the end of a runway, below an endless stream of jetliners landing.

For four months after arriving in Los Angeles, he works as a handyman at the Roosevelt, riding the elevator with the ghost of D. W. Griffith, who died there twenty years earlier. On his days off, he walks the two miles down Vine to the edge of Hancock Park and the old Ravenswood apartments and the baroque El Royale where Mae West lives, and the orphanage where Norma Jean Baker once could see from her window, a half mile east on Melrose, Paramount Studios and its arched wrought-iron gates just beyond the fountain at Bronson Avenue. When he gets a job at the studio building sets, he rents a $120 second-story apartment on Pauline Boulevard, a secret street in the Hollywood Hills entered only on foot by a long flight of stone steps.

38.

Vikar sees an Italian movie in which a father’s bicycle, on which his job depends, is stolen. The father and his small son search the city for the stolen bicycle. When they don’t find it, in desperation the father steals another bicycle and is caught, threatened and humiliated by an angry mob. The father loves his son so much he’s willing to defy God’s laws for him. But for this transgression he’s punished and abased, and the boy learns that it’s a sin for fathers to love their sons too much.

39.

Vikar still had his hair when he was a twenty-year-old studying architecture at Mather Divinity and saw his first movie. Actually, having finally summoned the courage to defy his father, he saw his first two movies on the same day, back to back.

One, about a London photographer who discovers a murder in a photo of what otherwise appears to be a serene park, made sense to Vikar like nothing else had. The second movie was about a family of sirens living in snowy mountains, pursued by police and leaving a trail of malevolent music. Some months after arriving in Los Angeles and after his own experience with the police, Vikar thinks of this movie when another singing family is arrested for the murders of five people, including a woman eight months pregnant, that took place in the canyons on Vikar’s first night in the city. Gazing at the ravines from the window of his apartment on the secret Pauline Boulevard, Vikar can’t shake, no matter how hard he tries, the movie’s refrain, going around in his head.
The hills are alive
, he shudders,
with the sound of music
.

40.

When Montgomery Clift was living at the Roosevelt Hotel in room 928, Ike Jerome was seven years old in eastern Pennsylvania. One night he heard come into his room his Calvinist father who allowed in the house no books except the Bible, no magazines, newspapers, radio or the then new invention of television. The little boy pretended to be asleep as his father knelt next to him in the dark.