The sea from the balcony was glorious in its sunset pose. The brilliant yellow orb slowly dipped in the western sky, creating an unbridled inner stirring where phrases were worn closet clichés, feeble in rendering the poetic wonder of the Malibu scene. The heart and mind could never blend an appropriate coupling in describing a perfect utterance for a California evening in its sunset stages.
A lone couple walked along the edge of the slow-lapping surf with a beautiful Golden Retriever ahead joyfully leaping and romping in the choppy waters, chasing a large hard-rubber bone thrown by its master.
Melody Maybury stood pensively at the balcony’s sturdy stucco railing, engulfed in this splendid moment of another day’s end. There was a plaintive acceptance and gratitude for this ritual splendor. Delicate notes from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini played softly from the balcony speaker, and Melody could not stop negative thoughts from intruding on this magical view.
“He’s a bastard. I’ve known Jeff Germaine for three years and I’ve never called him that before. Get over it. He could be telling you the truth. If you feel that way, move on. Find someone else. This is a sad story so often told. There’s someone out there who is real and can love you. But, am I being fair to Jeff? We’ve had some close, wonderful moments together. Oh, Damn, why am I doing this to myself?”
Her thoughts persisted, negative, positive, back and forth, good guy, bad guy. What about the wonderful moments?
The phone ringing from inside broke into her monologue, and she left the sunset beauty and went inside to answer. She closed off the surf sounds by sliding shut the door to the balcony.
“Hello,” she spoke into the speaker.
“Melody, it’s Jeff. I’ve got a problem.”
Melody was silent.
“Melody, did you hear me? I’ve got a huge problem, and I need your help.”
“Really?” She stiffly responded. “You need my help? You told me you didn’t need me just last night. I’m hanging up, Jeff. I can’t help you, the way we are now.”
“Wait, please wait, Melody. Don’t hang up. I didn’t tell you, ‘I didn’t need you’ – I was talking about our spat: ‘I didn’t need the spat’. I do need you in my life. I love you. Please, Mel, hear me, ‘I need your help’. This is urgent for me or I would not call and bother you with it. It involves you as well as me. Please, hear me out. If you want us to be finished, we can be, but wait, please, until you hear me out. Melody, are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here, and I’ll listen but I’m not promising anything.”
“That’s okay, Melody. I’m a ‘heel’, I know, but I do love you. I hurt you and I’m so sorry. It was just the heat of our argument. Please try to believe me. Here’s why the call. I’m in the Santa Monica PD locked up on a bogus charge, and you are the only one who can help me. Please, Melody, help me.”
Melody heard loud voices and a scuffle in the background.
“Jeff, where did you go? Jeff?”
“I’m here. There’s another guy wanting me off the phone. Okay, here’s the story… Last night, when I left – at your request – I went to see Donna Grayson to ask her to call you, to tell you we were not an ‘item’, never had been, and that she was being a bitch for letting you think I was playing house with her…it never happened, Mel, truly, it never happened. But she wasn’t home, so I stayed last night in a motel off the Hollywood Freeway, and today, after…”
“I’ve got to get off the phone, Mel, this guy here is nuts, but please believe me. I love you and only you. Donna was dead when I arrived at her place, and the cops think I did it. I did not kill her. Don’t even think that, Mel. I promise you, I did not. Can you make some calls for me, Mel? Try to get Les Baxter to get me bail, to get me out of here, let the studio know. I just tried to reach Les and could not. I’ve got to go. This guy is all over me, wanting the phone. I love you, Melody. Always have, always will…”
There was a loud crack in the phone, apparently dropped to the floor. “Hey, whoever you are, get off the damned phone so I can get a dial tone.” A gruff and nasty voice, not, Jeff’s.
Melody put the phone back in its cradle, and her thoughts came jumbled, all disjointed for some seconds. She sat on the long sofa for several minutes digesting what she heard from Jeff. Was his story the truth? Was it true he has not been seeing Donna? Donna was dead. My God, Jeff’s in jail for killing Donna. What to do? Call Les Baxter for help. Santa Monica PD. Get Jeff out of jail
After several attempts, she reached Les Baxter and gave him the information from Jeff. Then, she called her Dad and Mom in El Paso just to talk, to tell them she loved them and missed them. She never mentioned the bad news about the fella she was living with.
Later, the next day after Les Baxter posted bail, Jeff and Melody sat in their lovely Malibu home, looking out the glass doors to the balcony and on farther west over the gentle incoming waves to another incredible sunset.
“Do you want to talk about Donna’s murder, Jeff?”
They sat on the sofa sipping cocktails.
“I’d like to talk, Mel, but civilly, not in angry bursts. You say you now believe that Donna and I were not an item. Do you honestly believe that? If so, I want to talk.”
“Just remember, there were some strong suspicions and…” She shrugged, “yes, yes, I believe you. Now, tell me what happened.”
“Hmm, okay, from the beginning. I left the studio early yesterday because the script lady misplaced the scene and Jackson Argenté wanted the scene perfectly projected so we were not allowed to ad lib the dialogue…it would have been easy to ad lib as it was not that long a script. Argenté as a director can be a real ass, funny guy at times, really serious other times. I rather suspect Jackson had some amorous monkey business up his sleeve, if you know what I mean.
“So, I left early and went to the ‘Club’ – wanted to play nine holes of golf and occupy myself with thoughts of you, how to convince you of my fidelity. At the club, in the Men’s Grill looking for a pal to play nine holes with me, I joined Avery Bascomb for a drink and forgot about golf. Avery’s the new guy from San Francisco. I introduced you two last week. He likes ‘Hollywood Gin’ as do I so we played away much of the afternoon until thoughts of you and our spat got into my brain. I began losing concentration and money. You know me, I don’t like losing, got a little angry, broke a cocktail glass, and cut my hand.
“I called Donna from the ‘Men’s Grill’ and asked her if she would call you and make you understand there was nothing going on between her and me. She said she would but needed to see me to show me something important. I balked but there was something in her voice that sounded most urgent. It was on my way to Malibu, so I decided to stop and see what her urgency was.
“Her entry chimes went crazy on my third attempt at getting her to answer the door, and they wouldn’t stop…kept on chiming. Why wasn’t she answering? We had just talked on the phone. She would not have left, knowing I was coming to see what it was she wished to show me. The chimes were driving me nuts. They just would not stop chiming.
“So, I looked through the side door-window and saw her lying in a pool of blood there on the edge of the ‘great room’ and the entry hall. I was reaching for my cell phone to call the police when the siren wailed loudly just a few yards away, like, the cops turned the siren on when they saw me stepping away from the entry.
“I looked down and saw the blood from my cut at the ‘Men’s Grill’ and so did the two cops who were answering an apparent ‘red alert’ call from Donna. The cops opened the unlocked entry door and went to the body, checked for vital signs and there were none. The cops arrested me on the spot and took me to the Santa Monica PD. I screamed all the way about the ‘Men’s Grill’ glass breakage and my cut hand. They listened intently to my ‘Men’s Grill’ story, my calling Donna, but they had to take me in. They believed me but had no choice, they said… I’ve got no idea what it was Donna wanted to show me.
“That’s my story, Mel, and it’s the honest-to-God’s truth. You’ve got to believe me. I couldn’t do anything like that. I don’t even like playing bad guys in our movies.”
“I believe you, Jeff. We will get through this. I’m sorry I doubted you. The mind can do some crazy meandering at times. The cops can easily check the ‘Men’s Grill’ for proof of your alibi. That should be enough for them to drop the charges, don’t you think?”
“Hopefully. They won’t find anything in Donna’s place that can incriminate me. I was only there the one time with you.”
“It’s all going to work out, sweetheart. You’ve told me everything, right?”
“Of course, I have. I’ve never lied to you, Melody. I love you.”
As trials go, Jeff’s was a breeze. The judge appeared, called the two attorneys to the stand, whispered a few words – actually, quite a few words – and the lawyers returned to their respective seats.
The judge picked up his gavel, slammed it down on the wood and announced: “This case will not be heard for insufficient findings. Case dismissed.”
Later that day, movie director Jackson Argenté was arrested for the murder of Donna Grayson, his longtime secret paramour. His fingerprints and other evidence had been found at the murder scene. It was believed by most reports that Jeff just happened on the scene at the wrong time.
It was later noted in newspaper articles that the movie director had managed through extortion and payouts to keep other affairs and angry dispositions from print and media in general. Jackson Argenté was known to have a violent temper, with eruptions quite often.
The final chapter was written when Jackson Argenté was found hanging from a crude tangle of clothes tied around his neck and somehow connected to a ventilation duct.
Jeff Germaine and Melody Maybury became husband and wife in August that year and honeymooned in the south of France.