L.A. Confidential (1990)
I watched the movie. Once or twice. It's a cinematic insta-classic, like "The Godfather" and "Shawshank Redemption." At this point all I remember is James Cromwell as Luciferian "Dud the Impaler."
The film and novel share early plot points (Black Christmas scandal, Nite Owl Massacre). But then the novel root-hogs into non-supernatural family horrors and a perfect slingshot ending: 20-year-old crimes and ten years of new cases that braid fates of three detectives, their professional and private mileus.
The novel is also a nasty peroration on personal and professional ambition. Ed Exley, wartime coward in the Pacific, tries to out-do his dad at being an LAPD detective. He gladly helps frame four Black youths for the Nite Owl Massacre, then shot-guns them (as "escaped") to push his professional ambitions. Bud White, Neanderthal for Dudley Smith, "reaches for the stars" in investigating a series tri-state prostitute homicides. (He gets his man and beats him to death on a hijacked prison train).
The big overarching story in L.A. Confidential is the rise and fall of Raymond Dieterling, who serves as Walt Disney in Ellroy-land.
....Preston Exley yanked the drop-cloth. His guests oohed and ahhed; a city councilman clapped, spilled eggnog on a society matron. Ed Exley thought: this is not a typical policeman's Christmas Eve.
He checked his watch—8:46—he had to be at the station by midnight. Preston Exley pointed to the model.
It took up half his den: an amusement park filled with papier-mâché mountains, rocket ships, Wild West towns. Cartoon creatures at the gate: Moochie Mouse, Scooter Squirrel, Danny Duck—Raymond Dieterling's brood—featured in the Dream-a-Dream Hour and scores of cartoons.
"Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Dream-a-Dreamland. Exley Construction will build it, in Pomona, California, and the opening date will be April 1953. It will be the most sophisticated amusement park in history, a self-contained universe where children of all ages can enjoy the message of fun and goodwill that is the hallmark of Raymond Dieterling, the father of modern animation. Dream-a-Dreamland will feature all your favorite Dieterling characters, and it will be a haven for the young and young at heart."
Ed stared at his father: fifty-seven coming off forty-five, a cop from a long line of cops holding forth in a Hancock Park mansion, politicos giving up their Christmas Eve at a snap of his fingers. The guests applauded; Preston pointed to a snowcapped mountain. "Paul's World, ladies and gentlemen. An exact-scale replica of a mountain in the Sierra Nevada. Paul's World will feature a thrilling toboggan ride and a ski lodge where Moochie, Scooter and Danny will perform skits for the whole family. And who is the Paul of Paul's World? Paul was Raymond Dieterling's son, lost tragically as a teenager in 1936, lost in an avalanche on a camping trip—lost on a mountain just like this one here. So, out of tragedy, an affirmation of innocence. And, ladies and gentlemen, every nickel out of every dollar spent at Paul's World will go to the Children's Polio Foundation."
Wild applause. Preston nodded at Timmy Valburn—the actor who played Moochie Mouse on the Dream-a-Dream Hour—always nibbling cheese with his big buck teeth. Valburn nudged the man beside him; the man nudged back.
Art De Spain caught Ed's eye; Valburn kicked off a Moochie routine. Ed steered De Spain to the hallway. "This is a hell of a surprise, Art."
"Dieterling's announcing it on the Dream Hour. Didn't your dad tell you?"
"No, and I didn't know he knew Dieterling. Did he meet him back during the Atherton case? Wasn't Wee Willie Wennerholm one of Dieterling's kid stars?"
De Spain smiled. "I was your dad's lowly adjutant then, and I don't think the two great men ever crossed paths. Preston just knows people. And by the way, did you spot the mouse man and his pal?"
Ed nodded. "Who is he?"
Laughter from the den; De Spain steered Ed to the study. "He's Billy Dieterling, Ray's son. He's a cameraman on Badge of Honor, which lauds our beloved LAPD to millions of television viewers each week. Maybe Timmy spreads some cheese on his whatsis before he blows him."
* * *
Preston Exley, former LAPD sleuth, is ambition personified: Dream-a-Dreamland with his chum Raymond Dieterling; then the Arroyo Seco Freeway, finishing mass public transportation in southern California; then Governor?
Exley senior and Raymond Dieterling are bound together by a sublimely horrific multiple murder case from the 1930s. It, and the Nite Owl Massacre, which marks Dudley Smith's attempts to take over the empire of imprisoned mobster Mickey Cohen, share some cops and robbers, interpenetrating dramatis personae.
* * *
….[Ed Exley]'s final Nite Owl report omitted mention of Dudley Smith and the fact that David Mertens, now the object of an all-points bulletin for his murders of Sid Hudgens, Billy Dieterling and Jerry Marsalas, was also the 1934 slayer of Wee Willie Wennerholm and five other children. Preston Exley's name was not spoken in any context.
Chief Parker held a press conference. He announced that the Nite Owl case had been solved—correctly this time. The gunmen were Burt Arthur "Deuce" Perkins, Lee Vachss, Abraham "Kikey" Teitlebaum—their motive to kill Dean Van Gelder, an ex-convict masquerading as the incorrectly identified Delbert "Duke" Cathcart. The shootings were conceived as a terror tactic, an attempt to take over the vice kingdom of Pierce Morehouse Patchett, a recent murder victim himself. The State Attorney General's Office reviewed Captain Ed Exley's 114-page case summary and announced that it was satisfied. Ed Exley again received credit for breaking the Nite Owl murder case. He was promoted to inspector in a televised ceremony.
The next day Preston Exley announced that he would seek the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination. He shot to the front of a hastily conducted poll.
Johnny Stompanato returned from Acapulco, moved into Lana Turner's house in Beverly Hills. He remained there, never venturing outside, the object of a constant surveillance supervised by Sergeants Duane Fisk and Don Kleckner. Chief Parker and Ed Exley referred to him as their Nite Owl "Addendum"—the living perpetrator to feed the public now that they were temporarily moffified with dead killers. When Stompanato left Beverly Hills for Los Angeles City proper, he would be arrested. Parker wanted a clean front-page arrest just over the city line—he was willing to wait for it.
The Nite Owl case and the murders of Billy Dieterling and Jerry Marsalas remained news—they were never speculatively connected. Timmy Valburn refused to comment. Raymond Dieterling issued a press release expressing grief over the loss of his son. He closed down Dream-a-Dreamland for a one month period of mourning. He remained in seclusion at his house in Laguna Beach, attended to by his friend and aide Inez Soto.
Sergeant Mike Breuning and Officer Dick Carlisle remained on emergency leave.
Captain Dudley Smith remained front stage center throughout the post-reopening round of press conferences and LAPD/D.A.'s Office meetings. He served as toastmaster at Thad Green's surprise party honoring Inspector Ed Exley. He did not appear in any way flustered knowing that Johnny Stompanato remained at large, was under twenty-four-hour surveillance and thus immune to assassination. He did not seem to care that Stompanato would be arrested in the near future.
Preston Exley, Raymond Dieterling and Inez Soto did not contact Ed Exley to congratulate him on his promotion and reversal of bad press.
Ed knew they knew. He assumed Dudley knew. Vincennes dead, White fighting to live. Only he and Bob Gallaudet knew—and Gallaudet knew nothing pertaining to his father and the Atherton case.
Ed wanted to kill Dudley outright.
Gallaudet said, kill yourself instead, that's what you'd be doing.
They decided to wait it out, do it right.
Bud White made the wait unbearable.
He had tubes in his arms, splints on his fingers. His chest held three hundred stitches. Bullets had shattered bones, ripped arteries. He had a plate in his head. Lynn Bracken tended to him—she could not meet Ed's eyes. White could not talk—being able to talk in the future was doubtful. His eyes were eloquent: Dudley. Your father. What are you going to do about it? He kept trying to make the V-for-victory sign. Three visits, Ed finally got it: the Victory Motel, Mobster Squad HQ.
He went there. He found detailed notes on White's prostitute-killing investigation. The notes were a limited man reaching for the stars, pulling most of them down. Limits exceeded through a brilliantly persistent rage. Absolute justice—anonymous, no rank and glory. A single line on the Englekling brothers that told him their killer still walked free. Room 11 at the Victory Motel—Wendell "Bud" White seen for the first time.
Ed knew why he sent him there—and followed up.
A phone company check, one interview—all it took. Confirmation, an epigraph to build on it: Absolute Justice. The TV news said Ray Dieterling walked through Dream-a-Dreamland every day—casing his grief in a deserted fantasy kingdom. He'd give Bud White a full day of his justice.
Good Friday, 1958. The A.M. news showed Preston Exley entering St. James Episcopal Church. Ed drove to City Hall, walked up to Ellis Loew's office.
Still early—no receptionist. Loew at his desk, reading. Ed rapped on the door.
Loew glanced up. "Inspector Ed. Have a chair."
"Oh? Is this business?"
"Of sorts. Last month Bud White called you from San Francisco and told you Spade Cooley was a sex killer. You said you'd put a D.A.'s Bureau team on it, and you didn't. Cooley has donated in excess of fifteen thousand dollars to your slush fund. You called the Biltmore Hotel from your place in Newport and talked to a member of Cooley's band. You told him to warn Spade and the rest of the guys that a crazy cop was going to come around and cause trouble. White braced Deuce Perkins, the real killer. Perkins sent him after Spade, he probably thought he'd kill him and save him from the rap. Perkins was warned by you and went into hiding. He stayed out long enough to turn White into a vegetable."
Loew, calm. "You can't prove any of that. And since when are you so concerned about White?"
Ed laid a folder on his desk. "Sid Hudgens had a file on you. Contribution shakedowns, felony indictments you dismissed for money. He's got the McPherson tank job documented, and Pierce Patchett had a photograph of you sucking a male prostitute's dick. Resign from office or it all goes public."
Loew—sheet white. "I'll take you with me."
"Do it. I'd enjoy the ride."
He saw it from the freeway: Rocketland and Paul's World juxtaposed—a spaceship growing out of a mountain, a big empty parking lot. He took surface streets to the gate, showed the guard his shield. The man nodded, swung the fence open.
Two figures strolled the Grand Promenade. Ed parked, walked up to them. Dream-a-Dreamland stood hear-a-pin-drop silent.
Inez saw him—a pivot, a hand on Dieterling's arm. They whispered; Inez walked off.
Dieterling turned. "Inspector."
"It's Ray. And I'm tempted to say what took you so long."
"You knew I'd be coming?"
"Yes. Your father disagreed and went on with his plans, but I knew better. And I'm grateful for the chance to tell it here."
Paul's World across from them—fake snow near blinding. Dieterling said, "Your father, Pierce and I were dreamers. Pierce's dreams were twisted, mine were kind and good. Your father's dreams were ruthless—as I suspect yours are. You should know that before you judge me."
Ed leaned against a rail, settled in. Dieterling spoke to his mountain.
His first wife, Margaret, died in an automobile accident—she bore his son Paul. 1924—his second wife, Janice, gave birth to son Billy. While married to Margaret, he had an affair with a disturbed woman named Faye Borchard. She gave him son Douglas in 1917. He gave her money to keep the boy's existence secret—he was a rising young filmmaker, wished a life free of complications, was willing to pay for it. Only he and Faye knew the facts of Douglas' parentage. Douglas knew Ray Dieterling as a kindly friend.
Douglas grew up with his mother; Dieterling visited frequently, a two-family life: wife Margaret dead, sons Paul and Billy ensconced with himself and wife Janice—a sad woman who went on to divorce him.
Faye Borchard drank laudanum. She made Douglas watch pornographic cartoons that Raymond made for money, part of a Pierce Patchett scheme—cash to finance their legitimate dealings. The films were erotic, horrific—they featured flying monsters that raped and killed. The concept was Patchett's—he put his narcotic fantasies on paper, handed Ray Dieterling an inkwell. Douglas became obsessed with flight and its sexual possibilities.
Dieterling loved his son Douglas—despite his rages and fits of strange behavior. He despised his son Paul—who was petty, tyrannical, stupid. Douglas and Paul greatly resembled each other.
Ray Dieterling grew famous; Douglas Borchard grew wild. He lived with Faye, watched his father's cartoon nightmares—birds plucking children out of schoolyards—Patchett fantasies painted on film. He grew into his teens stealing, torturing animals, hiding out in skid row strip shows. He met Loren Atherton on the row—that evil man found an accomplice.
Atherton's obsession was dismemberment; Douglas' obsession was flight. They shared an interest in photography, were sexually aroused by children. They spawned the idea of creating children to their own specifications.
They began killing and building hybrid children, photographing their works in progress. Douglas killed birds to provide wings for their creations. They needed a beautiful face; Douglas suggested Wee Willie Wennerholm's—it would be a kindly nod to kindly "Uncle Rat—whose early work he found so exciting. They snatched Wee Willie, butchered him.
The newspapers called the child killer "Dr. Frankenstein"—it was assumed there was only one assailant. Inspector Preston Exley commanded the police investigation. He learned of Loren Atherton, a paroled child molester. He arrested Atherton, discovered his storage garage abattoir, his collection of photographs. Atherton confessed to the crimes, said that they were his work solely, did not implicate Douglas and stated his desire to die as the King of Death. The press lauded Inspector Exley, echoed his appeal: citizens with information on Atherton were asked to come forth as witnesses.
Ray Dieterling visited Douglas. Alone in his room, he discovered a trunk full of slaughtered birds, a child's fingers packed in dry ice. He knew immediately.
And felt responsible—his quick-buck obscenities had created a monster. He confronted Douglas, learned that he might have been seen at the school near the time Wee Willie was kidnapped.
A psychiatrist bribed to silence-diagnose Douglas: a psychotic personality, his disorder compounded by chemical brain imbalances. Remedy: the proper drugs applied for life to keep him docile. Ray Dieterling was friends with Pierce Patchett—a chemist who dabbled in such drugs. Pierce for inner protection—Pierce's friend Terry Lux for the outer.
Lux cut Douglas a whole new face. Atherton's lawyer stalled the trial. Preston Exley kept looking for witnesses—a wellpublicized search. Ray Dieterling treaded panic—then formed a bold plan.
He fed drugs to Douglas and young Miller Stanton. He coached them to say they saw Loren Atherton, alone, kidnap Wee Willie Wennerholm—they were afraid to come forth until now—afraid Dr. Frankenstein would get them. The boys told Preston Exley their story; he believed them; they identified the monster. Atherton did not recognize his surgically altered friend.
Two years passed. Loren Atherton was tried, convicted, executed. Terry Lux cut Douglas again—destroying his resemblance to the witness boy. Douglas lived in Pierce Patchett sedation, a room at a private hospital—guarded by male nurses. Ray Dieterling became even more successful. Then Preston Exley knocked on his door.
His news: a young girl, older now, had come forth. She had seen Dieterling's son Paul with Loren Atherton—at the school the day Wee Willie was kidnapped.
Dieterling knew it was really Douglas—his resemblance to Paul was that strong. He offered Exley a large amount of money to desist. Exley took the money—then attempted to return it. He said, "Justice. I want to arrest the boy."
Dieterling saw his empire ruined. He saw the petty and mindless Paul exonerated. He saw Douglas somehow captured—destroyed for the grief his art had spawned. He insisted that Exley keep the money—Exley did not protest. He asked him if there was no other way.
Exley asked him if Paul was guilty.
Raymond Dieterling said, "Yes."
Preston Exley said, "Execution."
Raymond Dieterling agreed.
He took Paul camping in the Sierra Nevada. Preston Exley was waiting. They dosed the boy's food; Exley shot him in his sleep and buried him. The world thought Paul was lost in an avalanche—the world believed the lie. Dieterling thought he would hate the man. The price of justice on his face told him he was just another victim. They shared a bond now. Preston Exley gave up police work to build buildings with Dieterling seed money. When Thomas Exley was killed, Ray Dieterling was the first one he called. Together they built from the weight of their dead.
Dieterling ended it. "And all of this is my rather pathetic happy ending."
Mountains, rockets, rivers—they all seemed to smile. "My father never knew about Douglas? He really thought Paul was guilty?"
"Yes. Will you forgive me? In your father's name."
Ed took out a clasp. Gold oak-leafs—Preston Exley's inspector's insignia. A hand-me-down—Thomas got it first. "No. I'm going to submit a report to the county grand jury requesting that you be indicted for the murder of your son."
"A week to get my affairs in order? Where could I run to, someone as famous as I am."
Ed said, "Yes," walked to his car.
The freeway model gone—replaced by campaign posters. Art De Spain unpacking leaflets, no arm bandage—a textbook bullet scar. "Hello, Eddie."
"He'll be back soon. And congratulations on inspector. I should have called you, but things have been hectic around here."
"Father hasn't called me either. You're all pretending everything's fine."
A bulge on Art's left hip-he still carried a piece. "I just spoke to Ray Dieterling."
"We didn't think you would."
"Give me your gun, Art."
De Spain handed it over butt first. Silencer threads, S&W .38s.
Ed dumped the shells. "Dieterling told me everything. And you were Father's exec back then."
The man looked proud. "You know my M.O., Sunny Jim. It was for Preston. I've always been his loyal adjutant."
"And you knew about Paul Dieterling."
De Spain took his gun back. "Yes, and I've known for years that he wasn't the real killer. I got a tip back in '48 or so. It placed the kid somewhere else at the time of the Wennerholm snatch. I didn't know if Ray gave Paul over legitimately or not, and I couldn't break Preston's heart by telling him he killed an innocent boy. I couldn't upset his friendship with Ray—it just would have hurt him too much. You know how the Atherton case has always driven me. I've always had to know who killed those kids."
"And you never found out."
De Spain shook his head. "No."
Ed said, "Get to the Englekling brothers."
Art picked up a poster: Preston backdropped by building grids. "I was visiting the Bureau. I know it was '53, right in there. I saw these pictures on the Ad Vice board. Nice-looking kids, like a stag-shot daisy chain. The design reminded me of the pictures Loren Atherton took, and I knew that just Preston and I and a few other officers had seen them. I tried to track down the pictures and didn't get anywhere. A while later I heard how the Englekling brothers gave that smut testimony for the Nite Owl investigation, but you didn't follow up on it. I figured they were a lead, but I couldn't find them. Late last year I got a tip that they were working at this printshop up near Frisco. I went up to talk to them. All I wanted was to find out who made that smut."
White's notes: God-awful torture. "Just to talk to them? I know what happened there."
Awful pride glaring. "They took it for a shakedown. It went bad. They had some old smut negatives, and I tried too get them to ID the people. They had some heroin and some antipsychotic drugs. They said they knew a sugar daddy who was going to push some horse blend that would set the world on fire, but they could do better. They laughed at me, called me 'pops.' I got this notion that they had to know who made that smut. I don't know… I know I went crazy. I think I thought they killed all those children. I think I thought they'd hurt Preston somehow. Eddie, they laughed at me. I figured they were dope pushers, I figured next to Preston they were nothing. And this old man took them both out."
He'd fretted the poster to shreds. "You killed two men for nothing."
"Not for nothing. For Preston. And I beg you not to tell him."
"Just another victim"—maybe the victim that justice lets slide.
"Eddie, he can't know. And he can't know that Paul Dieterling was innocent. Eddie, please."
Ed pushed him aside, walked through the house. His mother's tapestries made him think of Lynn. His old room made him think of Bud and Jack. The house felt filthy—bad money bought and paid for. He walked downstairs, saw his father in the doorway.
"I'm arresting you for the murder of Paul Dieterling. I'll be by in a few days to take you in."
The man did not budge an inch. "Paul Dieterling was a psychopathic killer who richly deserved the punishment I gave him."
"He was innocent. And it's Murder One either way." Not one flicker of remorse. Unbudging, unyielding, unflinching, intractable rectitude. "Edmund, you're quite disturbed at this moment."
Ed walked past him. His goodbye: "Goddamn you for the bad things you made me."
Downtown to the Dining Car: a bright place full of nice people. Gallaudet at the bar, sipping a martini. "Bad news on Dudley. You don't want to hear this."
"It can't be any worse than some other things I've heard today."
"Yeah? Well, Dudley's scot-free. Lana Turner's daughter just knifed Johnny Stompanato. D.O. fucking A. Fisk was staked out across the street and saw the meat wagon and the Beverly Hills P.D. take Johnny away. No Dudley witness, no Dudley evidence. Grand, lad."
Ed grabbed the martini, killed it. "Fuck Dudley sideways. I've got a shitload of Patchett's money for a bankroll, and I'll burn down that Irish cocksucker if it's the last fucking thing I ever do. Lad."
Gallaudet laughed. "May I make an observation, Inspector?"
"You sound more like Bud White every day."
CALENDAR APRIL 1958
EXTRACT: L.A. Times, April 12:
GRAND JURY REVIEWS NITE OWL EVIDENCE; DECLARES CASE CLOSED
Almost five years to the day after the crime, the City and County of Los Angeles bid official farewell to the Southland's "Crime of the Century," the infamous Nite Owl murder case.
On April 16, 1953, three gunmen entered the Nite Owl Coffee Shop on Hollywood Boulevard and shotgunned three employees and three patrons to death. Robbery was the assumed motive, and suspicion soon fell on three Negro youths, who were arrested on suspicion of the crime. The three: Raymond Coates, Tyrone Jones and Leroy Fontaine, escaped from jail and were killed resisting arrest. The three allegedly confessed to District Attorney Ellis Loew prior to their escape, and the case was assumed to have been solved.
Four years and ten months later, a San Quentin inmate, Otis John Shortell, came forward with information that led many to believe that the three youths were innocent of the Nite Owl killings. Shortell said that he was in the presence of Coates, Jones and Fontaine while they were engaged in the gang rape of a young woman, at the exact time of the coffee shop slaughter. Shortell's testimony, verified by lie detector tests, created a public clamor to reopen the case.
The clamor was fanned by the February 25 murders of Peter and Baxter Englekling. The brothers, convicted narcotics traffickers, were material witnesses to the 1953 Nite Owl investigation and asserted at that time that the killings originated from a web of intrigue involving pornography. The Englekling killings remain unsolved. In the words of Mann County Sheriff's Lieutenant Eugene Hatcher, "No leads at all. But we're still trying."
The Nite Owl case was reopened, and an involved pornography link was revealed. On March 27, wealthy investor Pierce Morehouse Patchett was shot and killed at his Brentwood home, and two days later police shot and killed Abraham Teitlebaum, 49, and Lee Peter Vachss, 44, his assumed slayers. Later that day the infamous "Blue Denim Massacre" occurred. Among the criminal dead: Burt Arthur "Deuce" Perkins, a nightclub singer with underworld ties. Teitlebaum, Vachss and Perkins were assumed to be the Nite Owl killers. LAPD Captain Dudley Smith elaborated.
"The Nite Owl killings derived from a grandly realized scheme to distribute heinous and souldestroying pornographic filth. Teitlebaum, Vachss and Perkins were attempting to kill Nite Owl patron Delbert 'Duke' Cathcart, an independent smut merchant, and take over Pierce Patchett's smut racket in the process. Alas, it was really one Dean Van Gelder, a criminal impersonating Cathcart, who was there in Cathcart's place. The Nite Owl murder case will go down as a testimony to the cruel caprices of fate, and I am glad that it has finally been resolved."
Then Captain, now Inspector Edmund Exley, credited with solving the Nite Owl reopening case, said that it has finally been resolved, despite rumors that a fourth conspirator died abruptly, just as he was about to be arrested. "That's nonsense," Exley said. "I gave the county grand jury a detailed brief on the case and testified extensively myself. They accepted my findings. It's over."
At some great cost. LAPD Chief of Detectives Thad Green, soon to retire and assume command of the U.S. Border Patrol, said, "For sheer expense and the number of accumulated investigatory man-hours, the Nite Owl case has no equal. It was a once-in-a-lifetime case and the price for clearing it was very, very high."
EXTRACT: L.A. Mirror-News, April 15:
LOEW RESIGNATION A SHOCKER; LEGAL CROWD BUZZES
Speculation in Southland legal circles rages: why did Los Angeles District Attorney Ellis Loew resign from office yesterday and scotch a brilliant political career? Loew, 49, announced his resignation at his regular weekly press conference, citing nervous exhaustion and a desire to return to private practice. Aides close to the man described the abrupt retirement as stupefyingly atypical. The D.A.'s Office is stunned: Ellis Loew appeared happy, fit and in perfect health.
Chief Criminal Prosecutor Robert Gallaudet told this reporter: "Look, I'm stunned, and I don't stun easily. What's Ellis' underlying motive? I don't know, ask him. And when the City Council appoints an interim D.A., I hope it's me."
After the shock waves subsided, plaudits rolled in. LAPD Chief William H. Parker described Loew as a "vigorous and fair-minded foe of criminals," and Parker's aide, Captain Dudley Smith, said, "We'll miss Ellis. He was a grand friend of justice." Governor Knight and Mayor Norris Poulson sent Loew telegrams asking him to reconsider his decision. Loew himself could not be reached for comment.
EXTRACT: L.A. Herald-Express, April 19:
DREAM-A-DREAMLAND SUICIDES: GRIEF, BEWILDERMENT CONTINUE
They were found together at Dream-a-Dreamland, temporarily closed to mourn the death of a great man's son. Preston Exley, 64, former Los Angeles policeman, master builder and neophyte politician; Inez Soto, 28, publicity director at the world's most celebrated amusement complex and a key witness in the awful Nite Owl murder case. And Raymond Dieterling, 66, the father of modern animation, the genius who virtually created the cartoon art form, the man who built Dream-a-Dreamland as a tribute to a child tragically lost. The world at large and Los Angeles in particular have expressed great grief and bewilderment.
They were found last week, together, on Dream-a-Dreamland's Grand Promenade. There were no notes, but County Coroner Frederic Newbarr quickly ruled out foul play and established the deaths as suicides. The means: all three had ingested fatal quantities of a rare antipsychotic drug. Expressions of grief greeted the news—President Eisenhower, Governor Knight and Senator William Knowland were among those who offered condolences to the loved ones of the three. Exley and Dieterling left fortunes: the building magnate willed his construction kingdom to his longtime aide Arthur De Spain and his $17-million financial estate to his son Edmund, a Los Angeles police officer. Dieterling left his more than vast holdings to a legal trust, with instructions to disperse the funds and future Dream-a-Dreamland profits among various children's charities. With the legalities taken care of and public shock and bereavement hardly abating, speculation into the motives for the suicides began to rage.
Miss Soto was romantically linked to Preston Exley's son Edmund and had been despondent over recent publicity pertaining to her involvement in the Nite Owl case. Raymond Dieterling was distraught over the recent murder of his son William. Preston Exley, however, had recently celebrated his greatest triumph, the completion of the Southern California mass freeway system, and had just announced his candidacy in the governor's race. A poll conducted shortly before his death showed him gaining and favored to win the Republican nomination. There seems to be no logical motive for the man to take his own life. Those closest to Preston Exley—Arthur De Spain and son Edmund—have refused comment.
Letters of sympathy and floral tributes flood Dream-a-Dreamland and Preston Exley's Hancock Park home. Flags fly at half mast throughout the State of California. Hollywood grieves the loss of a moviemaking colossus. The single word "Why?" rests on millions of lips.
Preston Exley and Ray Dieterling were giants. Inez Soto was a spunky hard-luck girl who became their trusted aide and close friend. Before their deaths, all three added codicils to their wills, stating that they wished to be buried at sea together. Yesterday they were, summarily, with no religious service and no guests in attendance. The Dream-a-Dreamland security chief handled the arrangements and would not disclose the location where the bodies were laid to rest. The word "Why?" still rests on millions of lips.
Mayor Norris Poulson doesn't know why. But he does offer a fitting eulogy. "Very simply, these two men symbolized the fulfillment of a vision—Los Angeles as a place of enchantment and high-quality everyday life. More than anyone else, Raymond Dieterling and Preston Exley personified the grand and good dreams that have built this city."
Part V: After You've Gone
Ed in his dress blue uniform.
Parker smiled, pinned gold stars to his shoulders. "Deputy Chief Edmund Exley. Chief of Detectives, Los Angeles Police Department."
Applause, flashbulbs. Ed shook Parker's hand, checked the crowd. Politicos, Thad Green, Dudley Smith. Lynn at the back of the room.
More applause, a handshake line. Mayor Poulson, Gallaudet, Dudley.
"Lad, you have performed so grandly. I look forward to serving under you."
"Thank you, Captain. I'm sure we'll have a grand time together."
The City Council filed by; Parker led the crowd to refreshments. Lynn stayed in the doorway.
Ed walked over. Lynn said, "I can't believe it. I'm giving up a hotshot with seventeen million dollars for a cripple with a pension. Arizona, love. The air's good for pensioners and I know where everything is."
She'd aged the past month—beautiful to handsome. "When?"
"Right now, before I back down."
"Open your purse."
"Just do it."
Lynn opened her purse—Ed dropped in a plastic bundle. "Spend it fast, it's bad money."
"Enough to buy Arizona. Where's White?"
"At the car."
"I'll walk you."
They skirted the party, took side stairs down. Lynn's Packard in the watch commander's space, a summons stuck to the windshield. Ed tore it up, checked the back seat.
Bud White. Braces on his legs, his head shaved and sutured. No splints on his hands—they looked strong. A wired-up mouth that made him look goofy.
Lynn stood a few feet away. White tried to smile, grimaced. Ed said, "I swear to you I'll get Dudley. I swear to you I'll do it."
White grabbed his hands, squeezed until they both winced. Ed said, "Thanks for the push."
A smile, a laugh—Bud forced them through wires. Ed touched his face. "You were my redemption."
Party noise upstairs—Dudley Smith laughing. Lynn said, "We should go now."
"Was I ever in the running?"
"Some men get the world, some men get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona. You're in with the former, but by God I don't envy you the blood on your conscience."
Ed kissed her cheek. Lynn got in the car, rolled up the windows. Bud pressed his hands to the glass.
Ed touched his side, palms half the man's size. The car moved—Ed ran with it, hands against hands. A turn into traffic, a goodbye toot on the horn.
Gold stars. Alone with his dead.
21 November 2020