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McNamara's Fish

Ron Goulart

The beach on the other side of the fence sloped down slowly to the quiet ocean. Max Kearny waited but no one came to warn him about trespassing. He braced himself with one hand against the redwood boards of the fence and took off his shoes and socks. He tied the laces together and hung the shoes around his neck.

The sand was warm, streaked with bright pebbles and broken seashells. Max walked down beyond the scrub-topped dunes and then kept parallel with the ocean. A seagull came walking toward him, then angled away as though it were crossing a street to avoid him. The surf hissed in and then slid away and the clam holes popped all along the wet sand.

Standing in a windless cove between low sand hills was a painter's easel. An empty canvas chair fluttered gently in front of the easel and a wooden paint box sat open on the ground near it. Max crossed the sand and looked at the painting. The small canvas showed several men in red mackinaws doing something to rows of trees. Max leaned closer. The men were hanging up syrup buckets probably. In the background among the stick-straight trees a horse and buggy was passing.

Max turned from the picture and lit a cigarette. He'd seen a whole wall of pictures like this yesterday in Hollywood at one of the newer art galleries. They were by somebody who signed herself Aunt Jenny and would cost you $1,000 each. Aunt Jenny's favorite motif was sap buckets, with an occasional snow storm thrown in.

"Hello, Max."

Max turned again. Standing next to the painting was Joan McNamara. She was a tall blonde girl, deeply tanned now, wearing white shorts and a blue denim shirt. "I saw an easel," Max said. "I thought maybe it was yours."

Joan frowned. "What made you think that?"

"You still are an artist, aren't you?"

"Yes," she said, smiling. "It's good to see you, Max. What is it—two years?"

"Since you and Ken moved down here from San Francisco."

"You're still with the same agency and all up there?" Joan sat down in the canvas chair, angling it to face Max.

"Yeah. That's why I'm down here. To watch them tape some commercials I did the storyboards for." He dropped his shoes down on the sand. "You said you had a problem."

"I was so glad when you phoned us and said you were down for a week. You still do have your hobby?"

"The occult business," said Max. "Yes."

A gate slammed and then two people appeared, coming toward Max and Joan. One was a tall young man in white duck pants and a pullover cablestitch sweater. With him was an old woman in a flowered silk dress. Her hair was tinted pale blue and she wore an L.A. Dodgers baseball cap over it.

"Mrs. Willsey and Val," Joan said to them. "This is our friend, Max Kearny. He's an artist, too. Max, Mrs. Willsey and her son, Val Willsey."

Max shook hands with Val.

"Mother is Aunt Jenny," Val said, grinning at the half-done painting.

"I've seen her work," said Max.

"Do you paint also?" asked Mrs. Willsey, taking the canvas chair Joan stood to give her.

"No," said Max. "I'm just an art director in an ad agency."

"Sold out?" said Val.

"We didn't have maple trees where I grew up," said Max.

"I didn't touch a brush until I was past forty-three," said Mrs. Willsey. "That was more years ago than I'd care to have you guess. Now I do at least three canvases a week."

"Mother's having a one-man show at the Alch Gallery on LaCienega next month."

"At first I simply copied colored photos from the magazines," said Mrs. Willsey. "Once I even copied the creation of the world from Life magazine. Now, of course, I utilize my own girlhood for subject matter. Paint what you know."

Joan caught Max's arm. "Max will be staying with Ken and me over the weekend. I imagine you'd like a drink or something, Max, after driving all the way from Hollywood to Osodoro Beach."

"Fine," said Max.

They said goodbye to Aunt Jenny and her son and started back across the beach toward the house Joan and Ken McNamara were living in.

"The place is awful, isn't it?" Joan said.

"No. But it's big as hell."

"At least it's not Moorish."

"It's whose house? Ken's dad's?"

"Ewen McNamara himself, yes. He's retired from the movie business and is living in Arizona. He gave us the damn place more or less."

"What's Ken doing?"

Joan shrugged. "He doesn't have a job right now. I'm doing pretty well. Freelancing ad stuff and selling a painting now and then."

"I thought Ken had somebody to finance the boat."


"You wrote he was going to prove Heyerdahl wrong and do something in the Pacific with a raft."

"Oh, yes. No, Ken decided not to. All the bomb tests out there and all. He thought he'd be arrested as a pacifist." Joan stopped and pointed at the driftwood log. "Let's sit there for a minute. I take it you didn't find Ken back at the house?"

"No. Nobody. I decided to look for you on the beach."

Joan sat on the log and stretched her legs straight out in front of her. "Now, Max, you've made a lifetime study of the supernatural."

"No," said Max, sitting beside her. "Only the past couple of years."

"Well, you know enough." She spread her fingers wide and slid her hands down her legs to her knees. Rocking slightly she said, "Living by the ocean has been quite a thing."

"You've picked up quite a tan."

"Ken, too. Wait till you see him. No, but, what I mean is that especially at night there's something about the ocean. You know. You've read all the stuff about the mysteries of the deep and the poems what's-his-name Arnold and John Masefield wrote."

"I like Popeye, too. Is what's bothering you the ocean?"

"You mustn't talk to Ken about this."

"Okay, I guess."

"We have separate bedrooms now, you know."

"It wasn't in the papers."

"I mean we've been having all sorts of disagreements and such."

"I'm sorry."

"When Ken was doing the masks he got the idea he'd like to work nights and it developed into his using one of the spare bedrooms as a workshop and finally just sleeping there, too."


"He met a fellow in Caliente who sold him two hundred masks, the kind they make down there, for fifty dollars. Ken had the idea he'd make lamps out of them. With sombreros for shades. The lightbulbs made them catch fire, though, and he gave it up."

"And the trouble?"

"He's having an affair with a mermaid."

Max stood up, dropping his shoes. "This isn't one of his projects? This is something he's actually doing?"

Joan said, "Yes, I'm afraid so." She put one hand over her eyes like a visor. "I thought maybe you could investigate."

"Like Peekaboo Pennington and get flash pictures?" Max knelt in the sand. "What gave you these suspicions about a mermaid?"

"Well," said Joan. "About two months ago I became aware that Ken was slipping out at night. He didn't take the car and if anyone picked him up I'd hear that, too. He'd be gone sometimes for hours. When I'd get his clothes ready to wash I'd find sand in the cuffs and seaweed smears. I know he goes down to the beach in the middle of the night, Max."

"If he goes with you in the daytime couldn't that be how he gets the sand and stuff?"

"All right. I made a special point of checking. He wears warmer clothes at night and in the morning there's sand all over them."

"And how come it's got to be a mermaid he's meeting?"

"You know Ken's father had a lot of the things from his movie studio moved here when it closed down," Joan said. "In fact, we have all those outbuildings full of stuff. But in the house there's a library. All kinds of obscure books that McNamara Studios had in their research department. A whole wall of books on the occult. I know Ken's been reading them lately. I found out which books he's been taking off the shelves. The books are all on the subject of mermaids."

"Whole books on mermaids?"

"And related subjects," said Joan. "He's involved with some sea woman."

"You've never tried to follow him? Or asked him about it?"

"I'm afraid to follow him," Joan said. "And asking him outright would only lead to a great debate."

"I didn't know you and Ken were," began Max.

"Growing apart? Since we moved in here it's been advancing. This place and Ken's not having a job. You're sure going to have a fun-filled weekend." Joan shook her head. "These past two months, though, Max, it's been different. The way Ken's acting. I know it's not just some other woman. It's a mermaid."

Max put his hands in his pockets and watched the seagulls skim along over the water.



"If Ken asks say I came out here with you. Don't mention the Willseys unless you have to."

"I don't have to."

Joan smiled hopefully at him. "You'll figure everything out, Max. I know."

"Sure," Max said. He didn't smile back at her.


The tapestries that hung stiffly down between the shelves in the library were faded and cryptic.

"What?" Ken McNamara said to Max.

"I was wondering what battle the tapestries represent," Max said, casually moving near the shelf Joan had nodded at earlier.

"I don't know," said Ken. "Something that Tyrone Power fought in. They're all props from one of my dad's pictures."

Things fell over in the kitchen.

Ken put his drink on a gargoyle-legged table and went to the doorway. "You okay out there, Joan?"

"Where'd you put the wine vinegar?" his wife called.

Ken hesitated. "We're all out," he called back finally.

Max lit a cigarette and looked up at the rows of occult books.

"Listen, Max," said Ken.


"Wait." Ken closed the cherub-covered door. "You do detective work, don't you?"

"Only occult stuff. As a hobby."

"No hard-boiled things?"

"I beat a werewolf two falls out of three last fall."

"I mean the usual sleazy private op work."

"Divorce and motel?"

"Joan's having an affair," Ken said, walking by the row of German Renaissance beersteins on the mantel and tapping each one with his forefinger.

"Oh, so?" Max looked around for an ashtray.

"Use the mummy case over there," said Ken. "She sneaks out at night."

Max lifted the lid of the flat-lying case that rested on a wrought-iron stand near the fireplace. "The mummy does?" The case was half filled with cigarette butts. He added his and dropped the lid.

"No, for Christ sake, Joan. She's slipping around. And you know where she goes?"

"Sleeping around is the phrase."

"Whatever. You know where she goes?"

"Down to the beach?"

"No. Over to visit this guy named Val Willsey. A beach-boy type. Lives in the estate next door with his mother. I'm sure Joan's seeing him." He stopped and scowled at Max. "What's the matter with you anyway? This is serious."

Max lit a new cigarette. "What's the matter with you? Back in San Francisco you and Joan always looked like House Beautiful's couple of the month."

"Do they have a couple of the month?"

"I'll check with media. Now what the hell is wrong?"

Ken sat down in a leather chair. "I don't know. The last year things have been going wrong. Since I lost the Orange Rupert concession."

"Orange Rupert?"

"The soft drink they sell along the highways in stands that look like oranges with a window in them. I had one two miles from here, on 101 just outside of Osodoro. But they took it away from me. I was showing a profit, too."


"The orange started to peel."

"Come on."

"The paint did. Kept coming off the damn thing. All the other damn Orange Rupert oranges were orange. Mine was rusty silver. It wouldn't stay orange."

Max took a book from a shelf. "Have you seen Joan over there with this Willsey guy?"

"No. I'm not a sneak, Max."

"But you've got a hunch, huh?"


"Mermaids And Other Creatures Encountered By A Norwegian Whaling Captain," Max said, reading the title of the weathered book. "You read any of these?"

Ken blinked. "No. No, I don't. That's more your kind of crap." He rose. "Now about Joan."

The door of the library swung open. "Well," said Joan, "there's no vinegar. But, such as it is, dinner's ready. Okay?"

"Sure," said Ken. "See if you recognize the dining room table, Max. They used it in a picture my dad made with Douglas Fairbanks."

Max put the mermaid book back on the shelf and followed Joan and Ken down the high shadowy corridor to the dining room.


Everything was white with moonlight. The untended shrubs, the vast unclipped lawns and the great unclassifiable McNamara house. Max was sitting in a clump of damp ferns with his hands cupped over the bright tip of his cigarette. Far downhill the ocean made low tumbling sounds.

The gabled part of the house roof had a clock steeple stuck on one of its peaks. The clock showed one a.m. The darkness in among the shrubbery was dotted with frog calls and cricket chirps. Max felt his eyes start to close. He exhaled smoke and then took several deep breaths of the cold night air. He shook his head and widened his eyes. Finally he got himself almost awake again.

A dark figure appeared on the wide marble steps that wound down from the Dutch door at the side of the house. The figure moved off down the driveway, heading for the outbuildings. It was Ken.

This didn't seem right. Max ground his cigarette into the dirt. He'd picked this side of the house to watch because it faced the ocean.

But Ken wasn't heading for the beach. Max followed, keeping off the driveway gravel as much as he could.

There were a half-dozen dissimilar buildings on the grounds behind the main house. One looked like a Gothic cathedral built to the scale of a motel cottage. Another was a large two-story building that looked something like a Midwest bank. Between these two was an Arabian Nights sort of building, the size of a tract home. Ken went into this one. Max had the impression that Ken was carrying a package carefully in front of him.

Cutting down a flagstone path Max edged along the side of the Arabian structure. Flickering light showed at its horseshoe-shaped windows.

Directly behind this building was one that resembled an airplane hangar. Piled in front of it was a tangled assortment of chairs. Max picked three that seemed still in fair shape, hoping they weren't some of the McNamara's breakaway furniture. In among the nest of Georgian dining room chairs Max found some spare table boards.

Back under the arched window he put a board between two chairs and put the third chair on top of the board. He climbed up on the whole thing.

A lantern and brass lamp were burning in the room below. The whole place was full of props from old McNamara's Eastern pictures. Piles of wrought-iron doors and stacks of gilt trellises. Scatterings of peacock feathers and patterned silks, brass gongs and silver censers. In the center of all the confusion of worn out background pieces was an actual pool. It was large, its water a filmy green. Bordering it was real sand and jungle shrubbery. On a prop rock at the pool's edge was Ken, sitting with a salad bowl in his lap.

Ken dipped his hand into the bowl and brought out a handful of what seemed to be shrimp salad.

"I got the wine vinegar for it this time, LJ," Ken said.

"Mr. LJ is in conference," said a rasping voice. "He suggests you make an appointment."

"You're still on this kick, LJ?"

"Mr. LJ."

"Anyway, I made an appointment this afternoon. Remember?"

"We'll consult our appointment pad."

Max strained to see what it was that was talking from the pool.

"I can't wait around here all night, LJ. Come off it."

"Do you good to cool your heels in the waiting room for a while. We can find no record of your appointment. What was the nature of your business with Mr. LJ?"

"You're supposed to fix things up between Joan and me."

"Full names please. Last name first and please print."

"How can I print when I'm talking?"

"Perhaps you'd like to take your business to one of our competitors?"

"I'll take the shrimp, too, if you don't shape up," said Ken. "What kind of a water spirit are you if you can't even do any magic?"

There was a splashing at the darkest end of the pool and something swam toward Ken. "Who said I was a water spirit?" A fat blue fish nearly a foot and a half high pulled itself up on the rock with Ken. The pulling was easy because the fish had arms and legs. "You sure it's wine vinegar?"


LJ jabbed a blue hand into the salad bowl and began eating. "Not as good as a commissary, but it'll do."

"If you aren't a water spirit, what are you?"

"Mr. LJ is all you have to know."

"I've looked through all my dad's damned books on this sort of thing. And I can't quite pin you down."

"McNamara was strictly a shlep," said LJ, finishing the salad.

"And how come you're talking like this lately?"

"So why shouldn't I?" said LJ. "I've been all up and down the coast here."

"You didn't talk that way when I found you on the beach."

"So I should be consistent just to impress a third-rate creep like you."

"Okay, forget it, LJ," said Ken. "I know you have magic powers."

"How else did I get so far? Besides sheer guts, I owe the rest to magic. Out in the ocean it's dog eat dog. You don't stay on top for three hundred years just on luck."

"Isn't one of your powers the ability to tell what's going on?"

"Sure. Like now I'm sitting here with you."

"In places other than here. You can tell me where Joan goes when she sneaks off."

"It's possible I could," said LJ, more or less sitting down and crossing his legs.

"And you could work some kind of spell to make her stop her affair."

"So why not."

"It's been over seven weeks since I brought you here. And the results haven't been much so far."

"I tell you, Ken baby, Rome wasn't built in a day. Not even by DeMille. So don't be anxious. We'll work us out something. Meanwhile, before you make an appointment for tomorrow you should locate some lobsters for yours truly." The blue fish stood up and stretched its arms. "Excuse it, I've had a tough day."


"I can maybe see you tomorrow morning around eleven, Ken sweetie. See you around the lot." LJ dived back into the pool.

Max let himself silently down to the ground. He waited until the lights went out and he saw Ken cutting back toward the house. Then he put the chairs and boards back.

The front door of the house clicked quietly and Joan, with her hands tight in the pockets of a gray belted raincoat, came out into the night. Max stopped moving. He had been coming around from the outbuildings and he halted now in a scattering of lemon trees.

Joan ran across the tangled grounds and vanished in among a blurred labyrinth of hedges at the far end of the place.

Dropping his cigarette butt into the Grecian urn near the sundial, Max followed Joan.

The hedges gave way finally to a spike-topped iron fence. Up across a half acre or more of close-cropped lawn sat the Willsey house. Max spotted Joan, a black silhouette bobbing, moving toward the house.

Max wiped his palms on his pants and got a grip on the black wrought-iron bars. He got himself over, tearing only one cuff.

Joan went down an arbored path and into a Spanish-style guest house. Its lights came on.

Max came up and looked in the window. Joan had taken off her coat and was putting on a smock. She had a canvas set up on an easel and, as Max watched, she started painting.

Max went away finally, puzzled. For some reason Joan was ghosting paintings for Aunt Jenny. She even had a real sap bucket up to use as a model.


Max bent a match folder open and snapped it between the pages of the thick book. He set it aside and opened another book. He had a hunch what LJ was and he hoped the occult books in the McNamara collection would provide him with more specifics.

The morning sun was right at the library windows now and the chill of the room was lifting. There was a soft knock on the door and Joan came in. Her hair was tied back and she had on a blue robe. "Did you see her?"

"Who?" said Max, making another bookmark.

"The mermaid," Joan said, sitting across from him.

The mantel clock struck eleven and a team of allegorical figures popped out. Max waited until they'd gone indoors again and then he said, "Are you working for the Willseys?"

"Who said that?"

"I saw you over there last night. Painting one of those god-awful Aunt Jenny abortions."

"Your bloodhound instincts really ran wild. It's Ken you're supposed to watch."

"The sea air keyed me up. I got such a kick out of following him I decided to track you, too."

"There's nothing supernatural about what I'm doing," Joan said. The lace of her slip showed along the robe edge and she traced its pattern with her finger. "I wanted to get some kind of money ahead. So we wouldn't have to depend on Ken's father. Mrs. Willsey asked me to help her on one of her paintings. That was four or five months ago. Aunt Jenny likes the fun of painting. Laying it out and finishing it up tire her. I've painted at least part of all her things. Lately I ghost whole paintings."

"Then it's you who's responsible for the Aunt Jenny boom down here."

"Probably. Anyway I get forty percent of everything I do. I opened an account in a bank in Santa Monica." Joan noticed her moving hand and stopped it. She dropped both hands in her lap. "But what did you find out about Ken?"

"Is he around?"

"No. He drove off early. He's not back yet. Didn't you trail him this morning?"

"I overslept," said Max. "There is something."


"A fish."

"Ken's having an affair with a fish?"

"No, he's trying to get advice from the fish."

Joan turned toward the window. "That's the car coming back. What fish? What sort of advice? He's not still worried about the lighthouse business? The company said they'd refund the deposit because you can't get to the island except by autogiro."

"Let's just limit it to this fish. No other projects."

"Is the fish in the ocean? Does Ken visit it there?"

"No. It's in that Arabian-looking building out back. In the pool."

"What sort of fish is it, Max? A shark or something dangerous?"

"A little blue fish with arms and legs. It talks and does magic."

Joan shook her head. "I don't understand. I've never heard of . . ." There was a great cloud of yellow smoke suddenly around Joan. Then a loud explosion.

"Joan." Max jumped for her chair.

The chair teetered and slammed over sideways. Joan was gone.

Max spun around. The room was empty, the door still closed.

Max opened it and ran out into the hall. The house was quiet. Max went out the side door that led back to the outbuildings.

Coming down the path toward him was Ken.

"Did you give the lobster to LJ?" Max said, pulling up.

"Had to drive all the way to Santa Monica for it but I—who told you about LJ?"

"Joan just vanished."

"Off with Val Willsey probably. Or maybe just shopping," said Ken. "I'm willing to admit she could be just shopping."

"She doesn't usually vanish in a puff of yellow smoke, does she?"

"No, she takes the Volkswagen. Max? You mean Joan's disappeared by magic?"

"Why not? You've been goading LJ into doing something. Apparently you've finally succeeded in bringing him into action."

Ken said, "This isn't the sort of solution I expected."

Someone said, "Yoo hoo."

"Max, I think I heard something strange."

"Yoo hoo," called a woman's voice.

"Is that some magic phrase, Max?"

"Sounds more like yodeling." Max turned.

Coming from the front of the house was Aunt Jenny. She waved her Dodgers cap at them. "Did Val happen to stop by here?" she called.

"See?" said Ken. "It's an open secret."

"Is he missing?" asked Max.

"I'm beginning to think so," said the old woman as she joined them. "He vanished in a cloud of ugly smoke. That isn't like Val at all."

"LJ again," said Max.

"Beg pardon?"

"We'll tell Val you were asking after him," Max said. "I'm pretty sure he'll be back by this afternoon."

"Will there be any more smoke? We did settle out here to get away from the smog. If Val's going to take to coming and going in enormous gusts of smoke I don't think we'll have gained much."

"No more smoke," said Max, smiling and guiding Aunt Jenny around to the front of the house.

Ken followed. He waited until the old woman was into the hedges. Then he said, "Damn it. What's happening? Are Joan and Val shacked up in the fourth dimension someplace?"

"You can't get in without luggage," said Max. "Look, where did you find LJ?"

"That bastard. Here I butter him up for weeks and he does this." Ken hit his fist into his palm. "He washed in down at the beach a couple months ago. He seemed like an out-of-the-ordinary sort of fish and I put him in the old pool. When it turned out he was probably magic I decided to get him to help out with Joan. I had to turn to somebody. With Joan having an affair."

"You should have tried Abigail Van Buren first," said Max. "And Joan isn't having an affair."

"What makes you say that?"

"I looked through some windows and peeked over some shrubs. She's ghosting Aunt Jenny pictures to make extra money."

"It could be I've screwed up some then."

"That's a possibility."

"I'll fix LJ, Max. I'll stand up to him and tell him to knock it off and tell me what's become of Joan." Ken stopped. "Max, she'll come back somehow, won't she?"

Max nodded. "She'll come back." He shook out a cigarette and lit it. "Did he talk like a Hollywood type when you found him?"

"No, that's only lately. In fact, he had some vague European accent when I found him."

"I think he's some kind of old world elemental spirit," said Max. "We have to have some weapon before we talk to him."

"A water spirit," said Ken. "I thought so, too. But none of the pictures in the reference books look like LJ."

"Maybe the guy who did the illustrations never saw one like LJ."

"That's right. Before television they went on hearsay a lot more than now."

"A spell to control a water elemental should work on LJ," said Max. "Even if he's only probably a second-string water spirit."

"There's a couple of good spells in one of the books."

"I know," said Max. "Let's see what we can work out."

They ran back into the house.

Ken looked over Max's shoulder into the kitchen sink. "We sprinkle him with that stuff and that's all?"

Max looked from the book of spells to the gray-green liquid in the sink. "According to this. It's not the top magic fluid, but it's the best we can do with household ingredients."

"How would a siphon be? A seltzer bottle to spray the junk at him with."

"You have one? I thought they only used those in comedies."

"That's where this one came from. A picture of my dad's." Ken went to the white-doored cabinet at the kitchen end and felt inside. "That book is over three hundred years old. Suppose the spell is stale."

Max checked through the drawers and found a ladle and a funnel. "LJ is over three hundred years old, too. It should fit."

Ken put the bottle on the drain board and Max filled it with the fluid. "Don't spill any, Max."

"There's enough."

"I mean Joan'll get mad if we make a mess in her kitchen."


"If we get her back."

Max tightened the siphon on the bottle. "We should. Come on."


"Mr. LJ's in conference, sweetie," said the voice at the end of the pool.

"Tell him to get his ass down here," said Ken.

"So is this how you talk to somebody who has solved your problems?" LJ swam to them and pulled himself up on the rock. "Who's the creep with you?"

Max squatted and said, "What did you do with Joan McNamara?"

"Leave your card with my secretary, chum. You I don't even know."

"The bottle," said Max.

Ken brought it out from behind his back. "Ready."

"Bribes won't help you," said LJ. "Anyway I fixed up your problem swell for you, honey. This clown, Val Willsey, will never get his hands on your little lady now. Believe you me."

"Tell us what you did with them," said Max. "Or we'll use some of this anti-elemental spray on you."

"So who's an elemental?" LJ laughed. "Why are you boys so stewed up? I fixed things good. That's what you wanted."

"You didn't fix things good at all," said Ken. "You made the same stupid mistakes I did about Joan. It was Max here who . . ."

"Max, that's a nice name," said LJ. "If he noses around too much in my affairs I'll fix him, too. Him I'll cast as Cupid with a dolphin if he don't watch it."

"We don't want to hurt you," said Max.

"So how could you?" LJ put his hands behind his scaly blue back and paced. Then he closed one eye and turned. Pointing at Max he said, "You I'll fix right now."

Ken sprayed the fluid at LJ. "Damn you."

"How typical," said LJ, toppling over. He fell and lay still with his legs up stiff in the air.

"It works," said Ken.

"Works great." Max watched LJ.

LJ popped and disintegrated into blue dust. "I had to use the stuff to save you, Max. It worked too good."

Max stood up, watching the spot where LJ had been. "In all the props and stuff that're stored here, is there much statuary?"

"Sure," said Ken. "In the big warehouse back of here. All sorts of birdbaths and fountains and lawn statues. Greek stuff and so on." He put the bottle down. "Hey. And that's where a lot of my dad's old files and clippings and letters are stored."

"Could LJ get in there?"

"The pipes from here run back to the warehouse," said Ken. "That's probably where he picked up his Hollywood material."

"Let's take a look," said Max. "He threatened to turn me into a decorative piece for a fountain. Maybe he did the same with Joan."

* * *

Ken found her. "Hey, Max. Over here."

Joan and Val Willsey were on a pedestal, turned to stone. "Very funny," said Max.

"This used to be a satyr chasing a nymph."

"And never getting his hands on her," said Max. "LJ was a whimsical guy." Max looked at the rows of stone figures.

"It just occurred to me," said Ken. "I was so happy finding Joan I forgot. LJ's destroyed and Joan is turned to stone. How do we break this spell?"

Max walked once around the two figures and then leaned back against a stone Venus. "Try kissing her. That works sometimes."

"What about Val."

"Try Joan first."

Ken pulled a stool over and reached up. He leaned out and kissed the statue Joan. "Once enough?" he asked.

"Once enough for what?" said Joan, stepping down off the pedestal. "Ken, what happened?" She glanced at the stone Val Willsey. "Is that Val?"

Ken hesitated. "Kiss him."

"The statue?"

"Go ahead."

Joan did. It brought Val back. "What an odd thing to have happen over breakfast," he said. "Excuse me. Mother's probably having eight kinds of fits." He nodded at them and hurried away.

"I guess I misunderstood you," said Ken.

"Me, too, with you," said Joan.

Ken looked at Max. "I bet lots of people would be interested in that spray we made to use on LJ. There are probably other elementals around."

"LJ?" Joan asked.

"Tell you back at the house," Ken said, taking her hand. "Coming, Max?"

"In a minute. You go ahead."

"Thanks, Max," said Joan as she and Ken walked out of the warehouse.

Max lit a cigarette. He watched the stone Venus over his shoulder. Not a bad-looking girl.

When he finished the cigarette Max walked down the row of statues and out into the daylight.


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