24-HOUR HEART-SHAPED BOX (a Fleyshie Friday histoire noir)
A woman like this walks into your office, you know you’re going to be sweating poison tonight, and faxing poison the rest of the week.
Her mouth is a smeary kind of red: too many hopped-up encounters with too many tubes of Revlon. The L.A. tan gives her skin a leathery sheen, just like the expensive Italian handbag she’s got at her side. You know if you gave her a good tweak of the ear, you’d be able to see the fine plastic surgery scars behind her lobes. But you’re not going anywhere near that ear. Or near that blurry mouth. Or any of her other body parts.
“Okay, Love,” I begin.
“Call me Courtney…”
“Now then, LOVE,” I continue, “This is some unbelievable yarn you’re spinning. Steve Coogan is responsible for Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt?”
“It’s the truth,” she says, and hushes up a chihuahua that’s started whining inside her handbag. “Under normal circumstances I would not comment, but I care too much about Owen…” (ed. note: bold text from Love's official statement… nifty, eh?)
“What do you know about Owen?”
“He’s my friend,” she whispers. “And he’s in bad shape.” The chihuahua yaps twice.
“Yeah, big bad shape,” I chuckle. I hold up my copies of The Daily Rag and The Weekly Trouble. Owen Wilson’s haggard face peers up from both front pages. “My sources tell me he’s still on 24-hour suicide watch.”
Love shakes her head. “I went through it with Steve. I was just out of rehab and he was right there with the drugs…”
“So lemme get this straight, Love,” I say. “Back in the day when you and Coogan were sweethearts, he kept you hard-partying against your better judgment, and now that you’re splitsville, you say he’s real bad news…”
“We all do things we regret, Friday,” Courtney Love levels her tired blue eyes at me. “But if I can prevent anyone else from walking down the same path that Owen and I have walked…”
“Skip it, Love,” I snap. “Just tell me what you’re hiring me for.”
“I’m not hiring you for anything.”
“So… the only dough I get on this case is my usual Gather Correspondent stipend?”
“I guess so.”
There are bigger suckers than I who’d pass on a case like that. Those same bigger suckers would jump at a parking space that’s a half mile from the store, take the larger chicken wing even if it fell on the floor, massage the feet of the boss’s wife, even if he’s the jealous type. I wouldn’t do any of those things, but I still gotta rank myself among the chiefest and choicest of suckers around.
“Dammit, Love,” I say. “I’ll take the case.”
“There is no case,” Love tells me, uncrossing her black nyloned legs and getting up to go. “I tried to warn Owen. I tried to warn his friends. I hope from the bottom of my heart that Owen stays the hell away from that guy. I just wanted to give you the facts.”
“Okay, okay. I’m on the job.”
“There is no job,” Love says as she stalks out. Her chihuahua sticks his face outta the handbag and yaps back at me.
“I’m on it,” I say, and get to work.
There’s a case if my name is Friday. It’s all just too fishy: Courtney Love, a gal who admitted to spiking the juice even when she was pregged-up with Frances Bean, who did her latest rehab stint 2 years ago, and since then has done little else than get the semi-annual face-tightening… who says such a dame is trustworthy? Nobody, that’s who. It was worth talking to the feds.
“Friday!” barks my fed contact, Suits McGee, when he opens his door.
“Suits!” I say.
“I thought I told you to leave me alone,” Suits mutters as he turns away from the office door and heads back into his swivel chair. Suits has one of those thinning tufts of brown hair on top of his head, and his face looks like it’s been punched in on both sides.
“You can’t tell a guy who killed the Kennedys and expect to be left alone, Suits.”
“You wanna know who killed Martin Luther King?”
“Naw, more pressing stuff this time,” says I. “I wanna know who fitted Owen Wilson with a pair of scraped-up wrists and a one-way ticket to Padded Cellsville.”
“You’re crazy, Friday,” Suits says, straightening his bad plaid tie and arranging a few folders on his desk. “The guy was on a drug binge. And did you see those snaps of Kate Hudson in a deep lip-lock with new beau Dax Shephard all over the canned food aisle? (http://celebrity.rightpundits.com/?p=1928) Wilson was cracked-out, jealous and miserable. End of story.”
“I’ve got a dame who says there’s a hard-rocking thespian from across the pond who might know something about all that…”
Suits fixes me with a squint. “Whaddya mean, Friday…”
“Gal by the name of Courtney Love…”
“That has-been taxi-dancer!” squawks Suits. “You’re gonna trust a dye-job tomato like that?”
“I’m not trusting anybody, Suits, I’m just saying.”
“She would know about suicides, Friday…”
“You remember Kurt Cobain…”
By jingo, I do! It comes to me in a flash, like the way scrambled eggs sometimes get brown in the pan way quicker than you think they will. Of course I heard about that Love broad in the 90’s… the widow of Kurt “I’m Hurt” Cobain!
Suicide… suicide attempt… fishy stuff, to be sure. But nothing concrete yet. Nothing but a feeling. I thank Suits for the inspiration and beat it out of his office.
“Because of Kurt, Love has access to a deep and seedy side of Hollywood,” says Conspiracy Theory Carrie, my contact in the seedy underside of Hollywood gossip. Carrie’s the kind of girl whose bangs are always in her eyes, and whose sleeves are always too long for her arms. I have to meet her in a old picture-postcard shop on Hollywood Boulevard. She’s gotten a lot of flack for defending Love in the Love-Killed-Cobain Conspiracy Theory Circles. They took her membership card away.
“But is she on the right track with this whole Coogan angle?” I ask Carrie, my face buried in a stack of old David Hasselhoffs.
“She may be,” Carrie replies, fingering some teen shots of Jennifer Connelly in “Seven Minutes In Heaven.”
“After all, Coogan starred in ’24-hour Party People,’ that film about the late 80’s/early 90’s music scene in Manchester. He played Tony Wilson, nightclub promoter who discovered, among other bands, Joy Division…”
“And that’s significant because…”
“Don’t you get it? Ian Curtis of Joy Division hung himself soon after becoming famous. Steve Coogan played the guy who discovered him…”
I say, “Uh-huh…”
“Suicide, suicide attempts, Steve Coogan…”
I say, “I think I see.”
Carrie nods once, then disappears behind a pile of scrapbooks. I amble out and hit the street again.
Well, it’s all too nutty. None of it tells me exactly what happened to Owen Wilson, but pictures are starting to form in my head, sure. Like the way pictures do sometimes. When they're, you know, picturing.
All the same, nothing prepares me for the plastic surgeon’s waiting room.
TO BE CONTINUED…