Dorothy Howell, Mystery Author
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Excerpt from Swagbags and Swindlers

My biggest upcoming event—and my excuse for getting out of the office—was the high profile fiftieth anniversary gala for Hollywood Haven, a retirement home for entertainers.  The star studded celebration would take place at the iconic Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard, complete with a red carpet, dinner, dancing, and a salute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

I’m been coordinating the event with the home’s assistant director Derrick Ellery, one of the few people in the place under the age of sixty.  Luckily, Derrick was much younger than that—probably mid-thirties—and he’d been a dream to work with. 

I drove into the parking lot and found a spot near the entrance.  The Hollywood Haven property was huge, a sprawling complex that had been built in the sixties.  The one-story building was laid out in a large U-shape with a central courtyard and lush gardens, walking trails, and fountains fanning out in all directions.  The building’s dark wood and towering trees gave it a calm, restful feel. 

The residents had all had careers in the entertainment field—singers, dancers, actors, playwrights, song writers, screenwriters, circus performers, musicians, acrobats—really, just about everything imaginable.   People who’d worked in related fields were also allowed to retire at Hollywood Haven—talent agents, studio personnel, in-house attorneys, and production crew members. 

I’d been there a half dozen times, or so, since I started planning the gala.  Derrick and the rest of the staff were super nice, courteous, and easy going.  I’d met only a few of the residents, none of whom had much input on the event.  Everything was rolling along smoothly with everyone at Hollywood Haven.

Still, something about the place gave me a weird vibe—which I ignored.   The gala prep was going well.  Derrick loved everything I suggested.  He hadn’t fought me on anything or made any outrageous requests.  And, really, all that mattered was that the event turned out great, regardless of my vibe-antenna.   

I gathered my things and walked in through the main entrance.  The spacious lobby had thick carpeting, a massive chandelier, and a couple of comfy seating groups.  Every area I’d seen so far at Hollywood Haven was immaculate and upscale—probably because the A-list stars whose donations helped keep the place running figured they might end up here one day and wanted it to look nice. 

Karen the receptionist was at the front desk, a long counter sort of like the ones in a hotel lobby, talking on the phone.  She’d seen fifty, easily, but was fighting it with regular visits to the hair salon to cover the gray—can’t say that I blamed her.  I was supposed to sign-in but since I’d been here so many times, I just smiled and waved. Karen smiled and waved back, and I headed down the hallway where the offices were located.

I had a number of things I needed to finalize with Derrick for the anniversary gala.  Since Hollywood Haven was funded, in part, by big name celebrities who would be in attendance the night of the gala, I’d figured Derrick would be worried beyond all reason that there would be problems.  Not so.  Derrick was really cool about everything.

I paused outside his office door, gave it a quick knock and pushed it open. 

“Hi, Derrick,” I said.  “I just need to—”

But Derrick wasn’t seated at his desk.  He was lying on the floor beside it. 

Derrick didn’t seem so cool right now.

Derrick seemed dead.

 

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