Harry and the cats are asleep on the couch. Beer bottles lie on the
floor. An “I Love Lucy” rerun is on the TV. The ringing doorbell and
a loud persistent knocking reach through the TV noise and invade Harry's
ears. He finally cries out in pain.
The cats take off in different directions. The bell and knocking
continue. Harry crawls through the bottles.
“Shit...I'm coming I'm coming.”
He gains a footing, rises and stumbles to the front door. His hand falls
onto the knob but he hesitates.
“Who is it?”
The reply is a muffled woman's voice. “Pleece.”
“Please? Please what?”
“Not PLEEZE...Po-LEECE!” The voice spells it out. “P-o-l-i-c-e.”
Harry sobers slightly. “Oh...oh...hang on.” He checks his fly, then
he cracks the door.
Young, black Detective Alice Hill holds up her badge and ID. “Mr.
Harry nods as he looks her over. “Where's your uniform?”
“I'm a detective. May I come in?”
Harry steps back and opens the door wider. “The place is a mess.”
“Don't worry, I won't arrest you for that.”
Alice steps through the door. Harry closes the door and follows her into
the living room. Alice looks for a place to sit. Harry abruptly gathers
enough trash in his arms to clear one couch.
“Please...sit down, Miss...”
“Detective...Hill.” Alice steps around the empty beer bottles and
Harry throws the trash over the counter and onto the kitchenette floor.
Two cats scream and run for the bedroom. Harry grabs a wastebasket and
begins gathering the beer bottles.
“Sorry about...we...had a party last night.”
“The...the cats...and me.” Harry realizes he's holding a wastebasket
full of empty beer bottles. “I look like shit, don't I?”
“I've seen worse.”
Harry puts the wastebasket on the floor. “Is this about my parking
tickets? I paid some…was going to pay the rest next…” His lie
gives up trying to get past his lips. Instead he just shrugs.
Alice pulls out a small notebook. “I'm here about a possible
A shadow falls across Harry's heart and he sinks down onto the couch as
if his body had become a giant weight. “Jesus...who?”
Harry takes several deep breaths...his words are a stumbling whisper.
“Jumped...fell...not really sure yet.”
“Was she unhappy?”
“Geez actors are always unhappy. Has been, never was, super star, when
they're broke they're unhappy, when they're rich they're unhappy, when
they're in love they're unhappy and when they're out of love they're
“And in between?”
“What in between? Who said there's an in between? Was there a note or
“There were a dozen roses, two one hundred dollar bills, and a note
from you saying you were sorry. Were you?”
“Somebody sent that for me.”
“A producer...Steven Ferrar.”
Alice makes a note of the name. “Didn't have the guts to apologize for
“Something like that.”
“And then you left a message on her answering machine”.
Harry nods and shrugs.
“And how long were you her agent?”
“Two years...maybe a little more.”
“What about it?”
“You and Nina.”
“No. I...Nina...she was beautiful but...she didn't seem to care about
sex. And I have a rule against sleeping with clients.”
“You ever break the rule?”
“A couple of times. Five or six.”
“But not with Nina?”
Harry shakes his head.
“Was she gay?”
Harry waves his arms in uncertainty.
“I’ll need names, Mr. Ohlander.”
“Have you ever been to her apartment?”
“Yeah...maybe once or twice.”
“A month or so ago”.
“What do you remember?”
“I don't know...she had a lot of books.”
“So you might be able to tell if something was missing.”
Harry’s body rocks back and forth. “Do I have to?”
Los Angeles looks different from the front seat of a police car.
Detective Alice Hill doesn’t speak. Not a word. Harry’s head can’t
stop twisting and turning, fascinated by everything inside and outside.
The calls and chatter on the police radio play like a sad song to
Inside Nina’s apartment Harry inhales and smells the smells of a
person he realizes he barely knew. The furnishings are modest.
Inexpensively framed show posters fill the walls. Alice silently
inventories the room...poking here and there, turning things on and off.
Harry's hand runs over a bookcase filled with copies of plays, stacks of
theatre magazines. He finds a small leather appointment book, thumbs
through it, sees the last entries are Nina's interviews with Steven
Ferrar and Frank Montana. Across the opposite page is written the name
Vicky and a question mark.
Alice plucks the book from Harry's fingers and examines it. Harry drifts
into the kitchen. He finds a dirty cup in the sink, rinses it out and
gets a drink of water. Lying next to the sink is a half-eaten piece of
toast. He picks it up to throw it away, it feels warm. He looks at the
toaster, puts his hand over it, again he feels warmth.
He starts to say something to Alice but is distracted by the
refrigerator door. He moves to it, his hands flirt with dozens of little
magnets holding theatre reviews. He's impressed.
“Hey Detective, you should read these reviews.”
Alice looks up from Nina's appointment book. Harry points to the fridge.
“Nina's reviews...read them. She'd like people to.”
“Wasn't that your job?”
“I gotta pee.” He turns away and walks toward the hall.
While he stands over the toilet Harry looks at Nina’s bathroom and
sees the same collection of stuff that all his girlfriends and both his
ex-wives forced him to make room for. He sees himself in the mirror, he
needs a shave. He finishes, zips up, washes his hands, and as he dries
them, a toothbrush on the sink catches his attention...he feels it, and
it's still wet.
Harry steps into the bedroom. Light from the window falls across the
bed. The covers are messed up. Harry stands by the window and looks down
at the building's front courtyard. He turns to the night stand, opens
the top drawer. Inside is a small plastic bag of marijuana, some rolling
papers, a small book of poetry, and a box of rubbers.
“Good for you, Nina.”
He turns to the closet's mirrored sliding doors, studies his own image,
tries to stand straighter, turns left and right, tucks in his shirt,
pulls it back out, makes a silly face. “You are such a fucking,
An odd, soft, almost noise comes from the closet. Harry isn't really
sure he even heard it but he moves to the sliding door and slowly pushes
it open. A full rack of dresses stare back at him. He looks down at the
floor. Among dozens of Nina's shoes are one pair that don't match. He
bends down...squints at a pair of children's shoes. Two chubby pink legs
rise out of the shoes and disappear behind the hanging dresses. Harry
reaches out, parts the dresses.
The face of an eleven year old girl stares back at him. In her hands are
a large ice cream container and a soup spoon. They stare at each other,
Excerpted from "The Magic Hour [Kindle Edition]" by John Ireland. Copyright © 2016 by John Ireland. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.