FICTION | By Ilona Saari

Chapter 2: Body on the Roof

Though daylight was dimming, Susan scrounged up a pair of binoculars for a better look as the others all stared at the motionless body. No one thought he was dead except me. Ben suggested I’d been writing crime stories far too long and that the man was probably a “B” movie director resting after a long day dealing with petulant actors and uncreative studio heads. Jim asked why a “B” movie director, giving Ben an opening to expound on his theory that “B” movie directors wore colorful Hawaiian shirts as a cheerful uniform to brighten their glum days of incessant studio interference. He went on to explain that “A” movie directors who get “final cut” tend to favor calm, monochromatic polo shirts except Quentin Tarantino, of course, who dresses like an accountant from Bakersfield. Everyone actually thought seriously about this for a minute until Carol wondered if the man was in the midst of a new kabala meditation exercise. Jim thought the guy was probably stretching out his back muscles after too many hours at the gym.

Susan looked through the binoculars and focused.

“I think his eyes are open,” she said as she handed them to me. I looked through the lenses. His eyes were open. I watched carefully for 30 seconds.

They didn’t blink.

“OK, smarty,” I said as I gave the binoculars to Ben. “You tell me what director, “A” or “B” lies on his back at dusk, not moving, staring at the sky not blinking. That guy’s deader than a Neiman-Marcus mannequin.”

Ben looked. Bob, Carol and Jim looked. They all looked at me. I got my cell and dialed 911. After a dozen rings (the operators were probably on latte breaks) an upbeat “Britney” finally answered, convincing me that women named “Vera” should answer emergency calls. Every time I hear Britney an earworm attacks and “Oops, I did it again!” plays in my head. Where are the no-nonsense names like Nora, Agnes and Harriet. I wondered if this was an L.A. phenomenon. Were there more Idas than Tiffanys in America’s heartland?

I snapped out of my musing and explained to Britney who I was, where I was and what we saw. Cheerfully, she thanked me for calling, promising to report my body (well, not my body, Hawaiian shirt’s body) to the nearest police precinct. She then told me to have a nice day.

My day had been a wash, but the evening was showing promise. I had done my civic duty and now our little party had something to talk about other than work or lack, thereof. We wondered who “he” was, if in fact he was a director or even in show business. Usually we automatically assume as much… L.A. is a company town, after all. But maybe he was a drifter picked up by a buxom blonde and lured to that rooftop to be murdered in a real-life film noir… well “noir” anyway.

Noir? Suddenly I had an uncontrollable urge for pinot noir, so I filled my glass and gorged on chips and guacamole (an L.A. staple) until the pizza finally arrived. Not New York’s wonderfully artery-clogging sausage and pepperoni pizza, but California nouvelle pizza— barbeque chicken… arugula and pine nuts… goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes. I actually like these pizzas, but I’d definitely move back to Manhattan if the pizza joints in L.A. started making tofu pizza. They can make Prozac pizza or kid’s pizza with Ritalin (heaven forbid we Angelenos be seen as hyper or edgy), but tofu… my transplanted New York mind just couldn’t get behind that.

Led Zeppelin was now blasting from the catered party below, drowning the mellow jazz of Miles Davis’ “Sketches In Spain” wafting out of Susan and Jim’s open French doors. Rather than compete, Jim turned Miles off as we ate our pizza and continued to wonder who the man was lying prone on a Malibu rooftop.

The sun was now down. I sat on a lounge chair next to Ben and bit into my slice of goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. I had already eaten two barbeque chicken slices, so I wanted a new taste bud experience. Being outside, sipping wine and eating fancy pizza, little lights shining in the terrace’s sweet-smelling fruit trees and candles glowing in and outside the house, reminded me just how seductive L.A. can be.

Talk turned to politics, the second favorite topic of conversation in a town filled with Hollywood-types who want to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom, but by the time I was on my fifth piece of pizza (did I mention how much I love pizza?) the topic returned to the “industry”… whose TV series was ending… whose marriage was ending… yada, yada, yada.

I got up to check on the man with the Hawaiian shirt. The glow of the lights shining up from PCH offered just enough illumination to see that the body on the roof was still there… still in the same position… still not moving. It had been more than an hour since I called 9ll, so I called again. This time “Effie” answered the phone, a definite Vera-type making me believe I was now in competent hands. After repeating my story, Effie put me on hold, then returned and assured me that the police had been notified… they would be there any minute. Happily, she did not wish me a nice day.

Suddenly, news and police helicopters were circling above, light beams shining down the hill and onto the highway, the noise of their engines eliminating all ambient sounds, including the rock music from below.

To be continued…

By |2018-07-23T12:01:35-07:00July 23rd, 2018|Breaking News, Fiction|13 Comments


  1. richard camp July 23, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Helicopters to the left of me… helicopters to the right of me… who’s the dead guy? When’s the next installment? The Hub is bubbling!

  2. Oats July 23, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Was that thin crust pizza?

  3. Ann July 23, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Okay, I’m hooked! Chapter 3 tomorrow?

  4. Susan Leorux July 23, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Good but a few too many asides for my liking, detracts from the storyline in my opinion I think those are fine for an article but this is a story so should be more straightforward. Enjoyable so far

  5. Zoe Murdock July 23, 2018 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    You’ve got me going, Ilona. Standing by for chapter 3.

  6. Robert Schmitt July 23, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    What a great start to the story. I got hooked on Chapter 1 and it has only gotten better today. Ms. Saari is writing with a deep knowledge of The Industry along with the depth which allow the poking fun at LA vs. NY pizza. This is becoming a great read!!! Send more soon!!!

  7. Kathleen July 23, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    Exactly where in Malibu?

  8. Susan July 24, 2018 at 4:18 am - Reply

    I love 💕 it! Can’t wait for the next chapter…if I knew NY pizza 🍕 would bring you guys back to NY I would open a joint myself 😃
    Miss you and keep writing

  9. kdmask July 24, 2018 at 4:50 am - Reply

    PIZZA ..:) love it

  10. ilona saari July 24, 2018 at 7:18 am - Reply

    To answer the questions above — thin crust, of course! I think Chapter 3 is going up next week… Maybe sooner – depending on the Hub’s editor.

  11. ilona saari July 25, 2018 at 7:51 am - Reply

    Since it’s a fiction – pick your favorite house on the hill overlooking PCH and the Pacific, Kathleen.

  12. Maureen Volland July 28, 2018 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Kudos, ilona! Engaging, fun and SoCal chic — I anxiously await new chapters. Thanks for this delightful summer diversion!
    p.s. Like the asides. Especially the snarky ones.

  13. Kathy W. July 29, 2018 at 8:16 am - Reply

    This New York gal wants to follow the dead body in LA for a change…besides you got me hooked.. ..

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