UNITED STATES—The exact time becomes vitally important when there is a criminal element involved. So it was around 1:30 a.m., last Thursday night. I was up at my computer, and my dog could not grasp the idea of me at a computer instead of being asleep. He whined and growled. He clawed my arms, the cutest dog in Hollywood did. And it smarted, and he was yapping at the night life that roams, or rather lurks invisibly, around a cottage courtyard at night: other dogs, possums, raccoons, cats, new arrivals fumbling their entry into Air BnB.
DeVille’s yapping kept me up. It drove me nuts. I authoritatively shouted “Quiet!” The quiet lasted a few seconds, a few satisfying seconds. There will usually be a time when the barking will subside and he will curl up into an impossibly small little macaroni on the bed, this mid-size dog, the magnet for many stares on Vine St. and expressions “cute dog” lobbed from moving cars. Barking is not cute, though; it kept me awake and on edge.
So as I say, it was around 1:30 a.m. and through the window open a crack, came “Help me !… Help Me!… Please help me.” It was a woman’s voice, clear and real, there was no denying it. It had come from the brick rear of the big old hulking apartments on Vine St. These shrieks passed the reality test.
“Come on Deville,” I said, strapping on the leash and taking him into the night.
The test: so often you’d hear something like those shrieks and they’d dissolve in raucous laughter or the sound of clinking bottles. Or the shrieks would be part of nasty arguments. That’s pretty normal, it comes with a bunch of lives crammed together in a small area. And the flaring tempers bid one to listen, constantly wondering if it is time to call 911 yet.
Walking down the middle of the cottage courtyard with DeVille tugging at the leash, I called 911. After a few moments (rounding Cahuenga to Fountain) sirens are heard nearing (the dog pokes his head in something interesting on the side walk and lift his leg on a scrawny tree. This is repeated on the Sunset-Vine district garbage can as we approach Bliss Cafe.) The police have already stopped in front of the apartment building, the Villa Elaine. A woman in a camel-haired coat comes forward from the curb and tells the officer something. They were all very subdued. The first officer shakes his head and goes back to the car with the body language of a man who’s ready to drive off. I managed to catch up with the officer who was riding shotgun.
“What was it officer?”
“It was nothing,” he said.
The camel-hair coated woman already floated back into the night. What happened? She may have told them they were rehearsing for a movie. Everybody in the roadway, the cops, the camel coated woman, were so nonchalant. Still, despite the nonchalance, I can entertain the suspicion that in the sanctum of that building there could still be a woman, alabaster-pale, staring at the cracked ceiling with diaphanous lavender eyes, lying there in an unchanging pose of beauty interrupted. She cried help, and the cry didn’t go unheard, but still something bad happened.
I’m just naturally suspicious, I guess. Just like my dog DeVille.
You know, with all the detours and construction, the cranes scraping the clouds, cement barricades, sidewalks stolen. These days my zone in Hollywood feels more like bombed-out Berlin, the ground ravaged, the human scale violated. You feel small, and the hard-hats are specks and the lunch truck at the bottom of a giant pit is a toy, way over and down there below. Strange things prosper when the street expresses barbarity.
Graydon Miller is the author of “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood” https://amzn.to/2Ljky3v.