365 Nights in Hollywood: The Orange Cure

Jimmy Starr began his career in Hollywood in the 1920s, writing the intertitles for silent shorts for producers such as Mack Sennett, the Christie Film Company, and Educational Films Corporation, among others. He also toiled as a gossip and film columnist for the Los Angeles Record in the 1920s and from 1930-1962 for the L.A. Herald-Express.
Starr was also a published author. In the 1940s, he penned a trio of mystery novels, the best known of which, The Corpse Came C.O.D., was made into a movie.
In 1926, Starr authored 365 Nights in Hollywood, a collection of short stories about Hollywood. It was published in a limited edition of 1000, each one signed and numbered by the author, by the David Graham Fischer Corporation, which seems to have been a very small (possibly even a vanity) press.
Here’s “The Orange Cure” from that 1926 collection.

THE ORANGE CURE

 
 
The last of the bright lights on Grant Avenue had just flickered out. Jerry Thorn half fell through a dark doorway to the sidewalk. The street was deserted and unusually quiet; it seemed uncanny that a street like this—the main thoroughfare of San Francisco’s Chinatown—could be so completely abandoned by the denizens of the quaint city.
Jerry shook himself and turned up the lapels of his much-worn coat. A heavy fog was coming in; a wet one. As he looked down the hill, he could barely see the illuminated clock of the Ferry Building. It was about one o’clock, he thought. The small dose of opium he had would last only about five hours, and he had dreamed off about six o’clock.
Jerry Thorn, once a famous clubman and society idler of the petted circles of San Francisco, was now a forgotten person. It had been nearly a year since he had sat in a wicker chair at the Polo Club near Half-Moon Bay. He had been a handsome chap then.
Ten months of cheap food, bad sleeping quarters, a nightly four-hour dose of dope and the thoughts of being a failure had made Jerry a hollow-cheeked person with sunken eyes. His once brisk, energetic walk was now a shuffle. His once erect carriage was now round-shouldered and slow. His once immaculate suits were now wrinkled, torn and ill-fitting.
Yes, Jerry had been a failure in business as well as in life. He was now as low as a man would go,—a fiend, a dirty, mind-wandering dope fiend. His name now meant nothing at the club, where once it had been mentioned with pride.
He leaned carelessly against a lamp post. The fog was extremely thick now. He was unable to see the end of the short street. The sidewalk was wet and the light made the small drops of water glisten on his coat. He fumbled in his coat pockets for a cigarette.
Jerry was at the stage where his body craved at least four hours of dope sleep a day. The other hours were spent in wishing for the next session of peaceful living and sleep. He was in a pitiful condition and there was none to care.
The big form of Harvey London, patrolman of the section for ten years now, came within Jerry’s view.
“Hello, Harvey.”
“Howdy, Jerry. Howzit tonight?”
The big officer stood in front of him, adjusting his heavy raincoat tighter at the neck.
“Not so good. Just got kicked out for the night.”
“Too bad, kid. Y’ought to get a home somewhere.”
Jerry struck a match and lit a pocket-worn cigarette.
“Thaz all right. I’ll get along, I guess. Sorry I ain’t got another fag for you, Harvey.”
“Never mind that; come on down and have a cup of mud at Charley’s.”
Together they walked down the slippery cement to the only all night cafe in Chinatown. It wasn’t like the old days, when they were open all night and slept all day. Times had changed this little city, especially the closing of the Barbary Coast. The tongs had departed and there was very little of the old life evidence.
Charley’s had just six customers when they entered. Jerry recognized two dope peddlers and three pickpockets. The other man was like himself,—a bum, a drain on the kind persons who inhabited the section.
Jerry drank his coffee slowly, while Harvey munched on two stale doughnuts. The officer then called Charley over to him. They were sitting a small table on the side.
“Charley, I want you to let the kid here sleep in that piano box of yours in the back. It’s gonna be a cold morning and he’s out for the night.”
Charley nodded and went back to his place behind the long counter. Jerry remembered that Charley had once been a prize fighter. Anyway he looked the part.
Presently Jerry wandered over to him.
Charley threw a dirty dishwasher’s apron at him and pointed to a pile of unwashed plates, cups and silverware.
It was two-thirty when Jerry had finished his work. he stacked the dishes in their places and went back to Charley in the kitchen.
He heard the front door open and the sound of loud female voices; voices hardened by cigarettes and modern gin. He turned, and recognized two former clubmen of his, another insipid chap and three scantily clad young women.

“Go wait on ’em, will ye, kid?” he heard Charley ask.
He sauntered down behind the counter, taking knives, forks and spoons with him.
He placed them before the six half-drunk customers who lounged languidly on the counter.
“Well. I’ll be damned!” cried a male of the party.
Jerry looked at the person who had spoken. Six pairs of dissipated eyes were upon him. He flinched under their staring.
“Jerry Thorn!” muttered the same person.
“Well?”
The young man laughed sneeringly. “So this is where the model society man tends bar.” The others laughed then.
Jerry’s hands itched to clutch their throats, but he knew it was a foolish wish. His condition was such that any young woman could have beaten him to a pulp.
“Well, what’s it goin’ to be?” he asked finally.
“Make it six of ham an’,” said the spokesman of the crowd.
Jerry shuffled his way back to Charley, who was firing up the big-plate stove. He gave the order and watched the boss set at his task. Jerry slid unseen to the back door.
Five minutes later he was six blocks from the all night cafe, quite out of breath. The sound of a sneering laugh was ringing in his ears. Would it ever stop? he wandered blindly down another small street. At a tiny doorway he stopped and sat down, nervous and cold.
He felt in his vest pocket for a tiny grain of cocaine, but was unrewarded in his search. He leaned his head against the rough wooden side of the entrance.
A number of hours later he awoke when a small Chinese boy stumbled over his foot, then out on the walk. His neck was stiff and his right hand and leg were numb. He arose awkwardly and with the movements of a much older person.
The fog was still low and heavy, but it was warm, and at intervals the sun was attempting to expose itself upon the hill. Jerry shook himself and limped down the street, which was beginning the day with a number of early Chinese shoppers. The smell of hot coffee, fried fish and pork greeted his nostrils.
He was hungry, and there was a ringing in his ears—the ringing of a sneering, mocking voice. His twitching fingers clutched a small, thin coin—a dime, the last of his capital. He would show them, and he’s start on a dime. Today, he promised himself, he’d start and cut out the dope entirely; he’d get a job and he would win back the position he had once held.
Jerry crossed the street and entered another chop-house similar to the one he had fled from early in the morning. He asked for a large cup of black coffee and five cents’ worth of stale cakes. This small repast had to suffice him until he found a job. He would do no more begging.
When he was again in the street his attention was drawn to two large` motor trucks a short distance up the street. He walked towards them, feeling more like a man.
“Superba Pictures Company,” he mumbled as read the sigh on one of the trucks. “Movie gang from Hollywood.”
“Can I help you flop them lamps on the walk?” he asked of a weary-looking chap, who appeared to have charge of the unloading.
“I dunno; ask the feller in the puttees,” said the weary-looking chap.
Jerry sauntered over to the other truck, which contained the generator for the lights. The “feller” in the puttees was busy writing in a leather bound book.
“Can I help you land them brights on the sidewalk?” Jerry interrupted him.
A short, important-looking person glanced up from the book he had been writing in. He scanned the person who stood before him.
“Naw; got all the help we need.”
Jerry backed away as the important-looking person went back to his book.
A long, black, newly polished car drove up to the curb. The curtains were drawn. Jerry wondered just way at this time of day. Presently the door of the sedan opened and he saw a small, miniature-like face with big dark eyes. Her skin was creamy and soft, and her scarlet lips were curving and bright. And her nose and chin had a velvety roundness. Jerry sighed as he gazed at the delightful sight.
Then he thought of the marvelous creatures dope brought to one. None of all the fairies he had ever seen were half so beautiful as was this one in real life. He stood motionless gazing at her as she talked to this important-looking person.
She closed the door again and Jerry saw no more of her—at least for a little while. For fifteen long minutes he waited for another look—a glance—at this fairy person.
Again the door opened and this time she stepped right down on the dirt street with the tiniest feet. Jerry noticed that her creamy skin had disappeared. It was now pink and heavily powdered.
Her big dark eyes had been shadowed on the lids, and the long, thick lashes were beaded.
She was glancing over the book which the important-looking person held. With one small hand she was fluffing her bobbed hair, which was a warm dark brown. And then she smoothed her filmy afternoon frock.
A large, rather pleasant man came upon them. He was coatless, hatless, and his white shirt was unbuttoned at the neck. But his tweed trousers were precisely creased.
“Hello Moya,” he said, smiling and showing deep wrinkles about the mouth.
“Oh, hello, Andy,” Moya returned sweetly.
“Good morning, Mr. Allen,” said the important-looking person, who didn’t look so important now.
“G’morning, Al.”
Andy Allen then turned to the men across the street.
“C’mon, boys, let’s get started before this evening. Get those lights over here. Where’s Sam and the cameras?”
Another half hour passed, and the small crowd of interested spectators had increased to a large number. Jerry was one of the few white men in the crowd. The lights had been placed before a small doorway, something like the one in which Jerry has spent the early part of the evening.
A number of other actors were now standing around looking at their enraptured audience. One, an evil-looking person, was made up like a Chinaman. Another, a wide-shouldered person, was undoubtedly the hero. Still another, a chap—almost small—with a short-cropped mustache—the typical movie villain. Jerry’s eyes lingered but a few moments on these minor persons. His attraction was the charming Moya.
He tried in vain to think of her last name. He had not recalled it thus far. He could not remember having ever seen her upon the screen, and he had been quite a movie fan before his—his downfall.
“All right now,” called Andy. “Get over by the door, Moya.” He was sitting in a canvas camp chair next to the tripod of the camera, which was at the street curb.
Moya took her place beside the door.
“Now, Slim”—Andy was talking to the hero now—“you get just about three feet from the door. When the Wop”—this was the made-up Chinaman—“grabs her from the door you spring in on him. Now let’s go over it once.”
They went through the action.
“No, no, no; that’s terrible!” Much too slow. Pep it up!” Andy was mussing his hair.
They started through the action again.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “Al, give me the script. Put down an added scene. Hey, you”—pointing to Jerry, who was now standing in the first line of the crowd.
Jerry started to move back.
“Hey, you—there; come here.”
Jerry came over to him slowly and wonderingly. All eyes were on him now—even Moya’s.
“Would you help us out in this scene?” he heard Andy saying. “There’s ten bucks in it for you.”
“Yes, sir,” muttered Jerry.
“Al, get some make-up on his face,” shouted Andy to his assistant.
Al, the important-looking person, immediately proceeded to smear Jerry’s face with a pinkish grease-paint. He was afraid to move. It felt as if he were being placed in a cast. Finally he was ready to appear before the camera. Jerry Thorn, the hop-head and bum of Chinatown, was now a movie actor. Funny world, he thought.
“All ready, now?” asked Andy, resuming his seat. “I’ll explain the action again. I think this will put more kick into this sequence. As the Wop grabs Moya, this new guy here rushes in to help her. And Slim thinks he is helping the Wop, so he deals him a knockout blow.”
Slim smiled at the thought of a fight. He was famous in most of his pictures for the fights he went through.
“Say,” said Jerry. “I wouldn’t fight that guy for ten bucks.”
“No, this is not a real fight,” smiled Andy. “He just barely hits you and you flop to the street, see?”
“Oh, all right, then,” Jerry assented, when he realized how foolish he had been.
“Now, let’s go through the action again, and put lots of pep into it. This is the last time, the next we shoot.”
Moya ran to the door, the Wop grabbed her and Jerry rushed in. Then Slim dealt the knockout blow, almost without touching Jerry, who fell awkwardly to the street.
“No, the fall was bad. Do that over again, young fellow.”
Jerry fell again; better this time.
“Now! Lights! Action! Camera! Come on, Moya. Wop, grab her hair. Get in there, young fellow. Slim, up and at’ em. Attaboy! Good tussle. Now soak him!”
Jerry lay sprawled upon the sidewalk. The action was completed and the cameras had stopped.
“Hey, young fellow, get up; we’re all through,” cried Andy joyfully over the scene they had just finished.
Jerry did not move from his twisted position.
Andy arose, wonderingly, and went over to him.
“Hey, Slim, did you hit this guy hard?”
“Naw; just tapped him, that’s all.”
When Jerry awoke he was in a small white room; everything was spotlessly white. It almost blinded him. He blinked and turned on his right side. His jaw ached, so did his head. He opened his eyes wide. There on a white table with a white cover was a silver painted wicker basket containing some beautiful red roses.
He breathed deeply. The fragrance was heavy and soothing. He felt as if he were dreaming. He must be. And then he remembered he had been in a fight. A movie company. Wonder if they had sent him here? Suppose they should go back to Los Angeles and forget to fix it with the hospital? His head ached. He would think no more.
The white door opened and a nurse, clad in white, entered smilingly. Jerry turned toward her.
“Good morning,” she said in a nice soft voice.
Jerry muttered an unintelligible greeting. He was craving the drug again.
“Give me just a little shot of coke, will ya?” he pleaded.
The nurse stopped her writing on the daily report.
“Certainly not!”
“Aw, say, I gotta have it, I tell you.”
“Be quiet now.”
“say, do you think I’m a baby or something?”
“No, but you need someone to take care of you,” said a strange, tiny voice from the door. It was Moya.
Jerry and the nurse looked startled as Moya entered laughingly. Jerry blinked again. She was even prettier than all the roses, he thought. Her eyes were flashing, her lips full with redness and delicately curved into smiles. Dimples played upon her gently tinted cheeks. Long jade pendants hung from her shell-pink ears. Her gown was a clinging black affair.
“Did you like the roses?” she asked.
Jerry pulled the sheets about him and felt strangely uncomfortable.
“Yes. Yes, they are nice. I like them—very much.”
Moya moved over to the nurse. “How is he this morning?”
“He is fine. Has a little craving left, but I’ll get his breakfast and then—“
“Oh, I’m so glad! When will he be in condition to leave?”
“Not before tomorrow, anyway.”
“Oh,” Moya saddened a bit. “Well, I guess I’ll stay over and take him back with me. The company leaves tonight at ten.”
“Say, nurse, will you do what I asked you?”
“No,” was the firm answer.
He moaned as if in pain.
“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Moya.
“He wants a dose of opiate,” answered the nurse as she opened the door and disappeared down the hall.
Moya was helpless. Maybe he really did need the dope, she thought.
“Is there anything I can do?” she asked, going over to him.
“Sure. Get me a shot of soothing syrup.”
“Of what?”
“A piece of joy junk!” cried Jerry, tossing and rubbing his hands and face. He moaned.
Moya shuddered and grew nervous. What should she do? Finally she rushed from the room and hurried down the hall. Jerry stopped, sat up, looked under the bed. His clothes, where were they? He couldn’t escape this way. He shivered and drew the sheet over his body again. He lay still for a while, then his mouth began to twitch again. He flung the sheets off. He looked at his legs. He had been bathed. He felt strange.
The door opened suddenly. Jerry grabbed the sheets again. Moya was back, accompanied by a man dressed in white, and a nurse, who carried a small black box.
“What’s the trouble, old fellow?” asked the man in white.
“Gimme some hop, will ye?”
“Sure.”
Jerry was startled and suddenly quiet. The nurse began to prepare the needle. Jerry glanced at her feverishly, and pulled up his sleeve. She dabbed his arm below the elbow with a small piece of cotton soaked in alcohol.
The doctor and Moya were watching the process with interest. The nurse pulled back the lever and the needle sucked up the contents of a small vial. Jerry reached for the instrument. She pushed his hand away and proceeded to insert the needle in his arm. As she pressed slowly on the lever, Jerry relaxed. His muscles were no longer taut.
“Thanks,” he said, “but it’s got water in it.”
With that he turned over and prepared to sleep. The three watched him and then silently left the room.
Hours passed. It was afternoon.
Jerry moved stiffly as a nurse placed some white powder in a sparkling glass of water. He felt her placing the cool glass to his feverish lips. He drank, chokingly.
Another hour passed.
Jerry felt much stronger as he awoke. The nurse entered. He tried a smile, weakly.
“Miss Monroe has taken a great interest in you, hasn’t she?”
“Who?”
“Moya Monroe, the famous picture star.” The nurse was sitting beside him now.
“So that’s her name, eh?”
“Why!” exclaimed the nurse, “didn’t you know?”
“I couldn’t think,” Jerry replied, taking interest.
“You are going to Los Angeles with her tomorrow.”
“Like hell I am!” Jerry sat upright in bed, startled.
“Please be quiet—please,” she said, alarmed at his sudden move, and pulled the covers over him again.
“Did she say so?”
“Why, yes.”
“Can you beat that?”
Jerry lay back on his pillow. He must be dreaming. No, he was quite awake. Going to Los Angeles . . . with Moya Monroe . . . Gee, that was a laugh. It couldn’t be possible . . . no, there was a mistake somewhere . . . what would the gang say?
The next morning Jerry found himself feeling quite a man. He was handed his worn clothes, which had been cleaned and pressed as well as possible. There was also a white note pinned to his coat. He read:
 
“Dear Mr. Thorn:
   “I shall call for you at ten-thirty. I have taken the liberty to assume that you will accompany me to Los Angeles by train, leaving via the coast route at eight P.M. I am quite positive I shall be able to find employment for you in Hollywood. I am deeply grieved that you were injured while working for my company, and feel you should receive some recompense. I shall explain my plans in detail upon seeing you.
                                        Sincerely,
                                                  Moya Monroe”
 
Jerry read the note many times, hardly believing his eyes. Los Angeles! Hollywood! Moya Monroe! Impossible!
He walked hurriedly down the white hall and descended two flights of stairs to the office. He found his legs very weak and he was slightly dizzy.
The clerk in the office told him it was eight-thirty. He had two hours before seeing Moya. Maybe he wouldn’t see her then, he thought.
The matron asked his name.
“Jerry Thorn.”
“You may leave; your bill has been taken care of, Mister Thorn,” she said rather stiffly, glancing at some papers in her hand.
Jerry mumbled his thanks and walked out and down a long flight of stone steps.
Some minutes later he entered Sang Kee’s Chinese grocery store in the heart of Chinatown. He passed into the back room of the unkept store. Sang Kee, a fat, greasy-looking Chinaman, followed him.
There followed a low conversation between the two, punctuated by a few words of American profanity.
“Will you ship me the stuff?”
“‘Flaid. Much danger,” Sang Kee said with concern.
“Naw, there ain’t. Put it in those hollow earrings and it’ll be jake.”
“Much danger.”
“Say, listen,” cried Jerry, “send me a note with them saying ‘this is the jewelry I ordered,’ see. And then I’ll take the stuff out and send them back, saying they ain’t the right ones. Get the idea?”
Sang Kee smiled cunningly.
“I see, ver’ good. Then—“
“Attaboy! Then if the package is opened it’s safe, see?”
“Ver’ good, eh?”
Yeh, I thought of it.” Jerry swelled his chest.
Sang Kee relit a brown cigarette and chuckled to himself.
“Where’s the money?”
“You gotta trust me, until I get started.”
Sang Kee shook his head.
“No, you too big hop-head. No can trust. Money talk.”
“Aw, you know too damned much,” Jerry exclaimed disgustedly.
“This America. White man not straight ’till dead.”
“Don’t get fresh.”
“Not fresh; wise guy.”
“Come on, Kee, stake me to this job, will you?”
“Got cash, get hop. No got cash, nothin’ doin’.”
Sang Kee watched Jerry closely. He arose and wandered back to his store, leaving Jerry sitting on a box dejectedly.
“What time is it?” Jerry called out.
“Time to go,” came the sullen answer.
Jerry rose, kicked the box across the room, swearing. He scuffed his way out through the front entrance and stood on the sidewalk. Then he turned and re-entered the store.
“When I write for earrings, you know what to do?”
“Yes, got cash money, I fix you up. Goo-bye.”
Jerry scowled and walked hurriedly out. He stopped two doors down and entered a much battered doorway. Walking steadily with familiarity, he proceeded down a long, dark hallway which smelled of decaying wood, stale tobacco smoke and mustiness.
Over a door at the end, a single gas jet was burning low, giving a bluish flame. Jerry knocked on the door. There was a metallic click and it opened.
The room he was in now was small and filled with a heavy, blue-green smoke. Vile odors of uncleanliness greeted his nostrils.
A dirty Chinaman with stained teeth rose from a small table in the center, where he had been smoking and drinking tea. The boy who had let him in had gone to one of the bunks which lined the wall three high.
“How much I got comin’ to me?” Jerry asked.
“Half smeller.”
“Gimme, quick.”
The Chinaman produced a small white envelope from an inside pocket and proceeded to divide the contents on the tea table. Jerry watched him nervously, his fingers almost snatching the white powder from the Chinaman’s yellow hands.
When Jerry was handed his “half smeller” he hastily snuffed a small finger-pinch through his nose. The remainder he tucked carefully into his vest pocket.
Giving a nervous twist, he walked out and disappeared into the dark hall.
The fresh morning air was bracing and he walked steadily, and as his nerves became easier Jerry declared he would try and take a cure. Yes, he must do that. Here was a beautiful young girl, loved by the millions who saw her on the screen, taking an interest in him. This had happened before when he was a clubman, but not with the same sincerity of Miss Monroe. She wanted to help him now, when others had literally forgotten and shunned him.
Ten-thirty found Jerry waiting on Moya with a new-born resolution to be carried out at once—and for always. Finally she arrived, more beautiful than ever. Jerry’s heart felt strange. He was embarrassed—ashamed at his condition. He wanted to run, but there was no escape, she was talking to him.
“I have secured a compartment for you on the Lark tonight. That is—I suppose you are perfectly willing to go—you want to?” she asked with her lips and pleaded with her eyes.
Jerry bowed his head. He wanted to go—wanted to badly. But he knew he was not fit company for her. His goddess! He knew what the craving for the drug would do to him. God! If he could only stop.
Should he take the chance? He wondered . . .
Finally he spoke.
“I’d like to go awfully well, Miss Monroe, but—but, you’ve been so good to me already and—“
“Yes,” she said anxiously, and moved a bit closer to him.
“Well, I might sorta go bad down there.” Jerry turned away from her in shame at his weakness. “It—I would only be a burden to you. I guess I hadn’t better go.”
Moya smiled at his boyishness.
“Don’t you worry. I want to help you. You see, I once had a very dear friend who was like—afflicted like you.”
Jerry started.
“She—she was a lot worse than you. I helped her an awful lot.”
Moya’s eyes were sad now. Jerry’s heart ached. There was something about her. Yes, he declared, I’m going to stop forever!
“This friend of mine”—her voice broke—“ran away one night because she thought she was hopeless. She got into a bad crowd and—well, she finally passed away.”
There were tears in Moya’s eyes now. Jerry lowered his head again.
“Come on!” Moya cried cheerfully, “I’ve got to do some shopping and you had better come along.”
All that morning and part of the afternoon Jerry accompanied Moya on her extravagant tour of the exclusive shops.
Just before noon she had thrust two one hundred dollar bills in his hand and insisted that he go buy some things for himself. She even sent her chauffeur along to see that he really purchased some clothes.
By late afternoon Jerry appeared to be quite a gentleman of leisure. It was hard to believe. Here he was riding around and spending hundred dollar bills with Moya Monroe, the world famous movie star.
His brain was in a whirl. The old craving of his daily dose. He saw Moya watching him closely. He tried to hide his pain inwardly.
“What’s the matter?” she asked sweetly.
“Oh, nothing, nothing at all,” he tried to answer gaily.
“I don’t believe you.” This was sharply. Jerry was startled.
She looked him straight in the eye and said, “If I’m going to help you, you’ve got to play straight. Now, I know what is the matter with you. Why did you lie?”
Jerry couldn’t answer her.
Moya ordered her chauffeur to stop at the first fruit market and purchase two dozen oranges.
After this was done they rode along in silence for some blocks.
When the chauffeur handed Moya the oranges she carefully selected a large one and forced it into Jerry’s hand.
“Now eat that!” she said sternly.
Jerry looked both surprised and afraid. His expression struck Moya comically and she turned her head to refrain from laughing in his face.
Automatically, Jerry peeled the orange and stared intently from the window.
Jerry was greatly surprised at the soothing effects of the orange. The pain of the dope craving lessened slightly after eating the orange.
They rode on in silence.
The orange peels were still in his lap. He began to eat those, thinking Moya would speak about that.
But she didn’t. She had calmly watched him eat all of the orange peel. After he had finished, she clapped her hands gaily and exclaimed:
“Fine, you’re doing fine! I knew you wouldn’t be so hard to handle. Now I want you to eat an orange every time you feel the craving getting the best of you. Eat the peeling too. And if it gets very serious, get a lemon.”
Jerry was puzzled and it took some minutes for him to understand the meaning of her last statement. It had turned out just the opposite from what he had expected.
In his compartment on the train that evening he found a large wicker basket of fruit composed mostly of oranges and lemons.
Moya had explained to him at the station before boarding the train about the value of oranges and lemons to a dope fiend. It seemed that their citrus juice stimulated the nerves affected by dope. In fact, they offset the direct craving for the deadening drug.
With the very serious cases they were of no value whatever, she had explained. With him, however, they seemed to have a slight effect. She had told him she was glad—glad for him, because with the power of will and her untiring help she was sure she would win.
Moya ordered him to retire at once upon entering the train. He must try to sleep, she declared.
Jerry did as he was told. A number of hours passed. He had slept. Suddenly he awoke. His head was spinning at a terrific rate. He felt sick at his stomach. The clicking of the car wheels maddened him. He flung his left hand out of the berth, upsetting the basket of fruit.
The oranges! He remembered Moya’s words. His “half smeller!” It was in his old suit. He had left it at the clothing store where he had changed clothes. God! He stumbled from the berth, deathly sick. He half fell against the chair which slid along the wall to the floor with a crash.
There was a tiny knock at the door.
“Who is it?” he gasped out finally.
“It’s Moya. Let me in!” she said determinedly.
Jerry grasped the latch and flung the door open and fell back into the berth.
“Where is the light switch?” she asked.
Jerry fumbled for the tiny button on the ledge between the windows in the berth.
“There now, that’s fine,” she said, after he had turned on the small bulbs. “What’s the matter, pal?”
Jerry groaned.
“Do you feel awfully sick?”
Jerry only groaned again, and turned over on his side.
Moya glanced around the small compartment. The oranges were all over the floor. She took the glass from the sink and began to squeeze orange juice into it. After she had nearly a glass full, she hurried into her own compartment.
“This will fix you up nicely,” she said upon returning.
Moya held a small white envelope in her hand.
She dropped the powder into the glass of orange juice and stirred it thoroughly.
“Jerry, now take this right down, and it will make you feel much better.”
Jerry paid no attention.
“Did you hear me, Jerry?” she asked sternly.
He moved slightly. Finally he turned over toward her. For the first time he seemed to notice her in the dainty negligee of pale lavender and pink. He stared, eyes wide and glassy. His lips twitched nervously.
Moya was a bit frightened, but she only moved closer, holding the glass of orange juice for him.
“Jerry, take this at once!” There was a final tone in her voice which made him obey.
Only a few moments passed and Jerry was sound asleep. Moya snapped off the lights and returned to her own compartment. There she rang for the porter and explained that there was a sick man in the next compartment and to look in on him every so often.
Jerry’s ride to Hollywood was quite different from what he had expected. He was in an ambulance with a young man in a stiff linen suit sitting at his feet.
He felt very sick. He wanted to die. All his strength had gone. One little sniff of coke would fix him up fine. Why had he ever come? He hated Moya. He hated everyone. Why didn’t they leave him alone? He wasn’t worth helping.
The ambulance stopped and they were lifting him carefully out on a stretcher. Moya patted him on the head as he was carried past the front of a brown cement house. He could see that it was brown. Brown made him sick.
They placed him in a bedroom on the first floor. A room which seemed to be all windows. The man in the stiff linen suit began to open the windows. It was warm out. Jerry felt better. He opened his eyes and looked at the bright green things outside. Yes, it was nice after all.
In the afternoon Jerry felt as if he could talk.
“Where’s Moya?” he asked feebly?
“She is working at the studio,” replied the man.
“I gotta have a shot of H,” Jerry declared weakly.
“You mean heroin?” asked the man.
“Yeh.”
The man was squeezing oranges and lemons in the glass. Jerry moaned and tossed about.
Evening came and Moya entered in a bright silver gown with make-up on her face.
“How have you been?” she asked smiling.
“All right, I guess,” Jerry muttered sullenly.
She moved over to the bed.
“Now listen, pal, you’ve got to buck up like a real he-man and do your stuff for me. You understand you’re doing this for me.”
Strange how this woman affected Jerry. He felt better after she talked to him. Yes, he would brace up and try to be a man. He must do this, she was doing so much for him. It was only right that he should try—try hard.
Weeks passed. Finally months drifted by. Jerry was now working in the garden. His once frail hands now had callouses. His colorless face of months ago was now bronzed. Evidently he had spent many days in the open.
His eyes, once blood-shot and glassy, were steady and clear. He could look an honest man in the face. His lips which had been pale and twitching, held a healthy color and were firm.
His drooping shoulders were no more. They were straight and gave room for his chest to expand.
At the sound of a motor horn on the driveway Jerry dropped his spade and hurdled the newly planted shrubbery—his shrubbery. He ran around the corner of the brown house. He liked brown now.
Moya was just climbing from her roadster.
“How’s my pal today?” she greeted him, holding out both hands.
“Great!” he exclaimed, and started to take her hands, but suddenly realized how dirty and sweaty his own were.
She took them anyway and patted them.
“I like those hands now.”
Jerry bowed his head, but there wasn’t the discouraged light in his eyes there had been the day in San Francisco.
“Jerry, I finished the picture today!” Moya jumped up and down lightly, still holding on to his hands.
“You won’t have to leave every day now, will you?” he asked hopefully.
“Nope; can stay home every day for two weeks—if I want to.” Moya tilted her head and looked up at him slantingly, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
“Do you want to?”
“Want to what?” She was teasing him.
“Why, stay at home, of course!” Jerry, evidently, was not to be kidded on this subject.
“Jerry, dear—Oh! I didn’t mean that!” Moya was blushing.
Jerry started to take her in his arms, but she has backed away at calling him “dear.” Of course she had meant it. She knew that and so did he. But up until now they had refrained from any endearing terms, although both had often started to break the ice. Now Moya had.
Jerry did not come any closer after Moya had turned away. They stood there gazing at each other. No word was spoken. It was a very awkward moment. Finally Moya spoke:
“This is an old dress, Jerry, I—“
But she got no further. Jerry crushed her in his arms and was kissing her—and she was returning his fervent caresses.
They were interrupted by the chauffeur coming from the garage. Jerry caught him smiling at the dirty hand marks on the back of Moya’s dress. Then the front of her dress had been against his overalls. And her arms had been around his neck.
Moya certainly needed some attention.
Jerry decided to remove the awkwardness by saying:
“Miss Monroe, you should never work in the garden in such a gown.”
The chauffeur, who was now half way down the driveway, laughed out loud and beat a hasty retreat around the front of the house.
Jerry started after him, but Moya interposed herself and kissed him out of the idea. After that he walked calmly into the house with her.
Jerry hurried back to his room above the garage. Shortly after he was well enough to be around he had insisted on being moved out to the garage so the scandal mongers would not talk.
He hurriedly took a shower and dressed in his white flannels and sport coat. He and Moya were going to drove down to the beach for dinner.
They had finished dinner at the Green Mill and were riding along the ocean road. It was very warm, only a slight breeze, and everything was so still. The waves made very little noise. The moon seemed to soften the waves into silence.
Finally they stopped. Jerry backed the car around so they sat looking straight into the blue-black Pacific.
“I love you, Moya,” Jerry said suddenly.
Moya registered no surprise.
“I love you, too,” she answered simply.
Jerry was at a loss to know what to say.
“Isn’t it wonderful tonight?” she asked.
“It is very wonderful tonight, dear. I have something to confess.”
Moya had been gazing into the sea, but she turned towards him now.
Jerry took a deep breath and began:
“I don’t know whether you had ever heard of me before you found me, or not; that makes no diffrence. However, I guess you know who old Horace Thorn was. He was my father.”
He looked at Moya, but she only nodded.
“He was a great man—a self-made man, and it got his goat to see me wasting a lot of perfectly good time and spending his money—just for no reason at all. He was a sort of a nut on dope and all that sort of thing. Before he died he gave two or three millions to societies for narcotic victims.”
Jerry looked at Moya to see if she was listening. She appeared to be deeply engrossed. He went on:
“Near the end he and I hadn’t been such good friends. Just before he passed on he made out another will, cutting me off without a penny unless I did something to prevent the sale of drugs. I was to carry on his great work, or else do without any money. He named a period of two years for me to perform this. If I carried out his plans, I was to receive the Thorn estate at the decision of the lawyers.”
“I started out bravely enough in Chinatown, where I believe I could find the ring-leaders of the dope peddlers. This is what I thought, but I had no success. I finally decided to become a dope fiend and in that way learn just where it was all coming from. At the time I fully imagined I could stop any time I so desired and expose the leaders to the government, thus bringing the Thorn estate to me.”
“You see, it didn’t work out as I had expected. I was caught in the net. I was one of them—and couldn’t get out. I had no ambition to expose them, once I was a fiend.”
Jerry looked down at Moya, who had not moved during his speech.
“Then, dear, you found me. You know the rest.”
Moya put her hand in his and laid her fluffy head on his shoulder.
“You’re wonderful, Jerry; I love you so much for what you tried to do.”
“But I didn’t succeed, dear. I failed terribly.”
“I know, dear, but it’s not too late to finish the job now.”
Jerry held her closer to him. What a wonderful woman she was! Yes, he would finish the job. He would complete his father’s plan and do it well. If only his father were living so that he might know and feel proud. Perhaps he would know. . . .
Jerry told Moya of Sang Kee and how he could catch one of the ring-leaders through the hollow earring idea he had thought of before leaving San Francisco. Moya was delighted at the idea. They made their plans.
“I have something to confess, too,” Moya said, looking straight into Jerry’s eyes. “Do you remember three or four years ago you played polo at the Club near Half Moon Bay?”
Jerry nodded, and smiled at the happy days long past.
“Well, I used to nearly scream myself silly for you. But you didn’t know anything about it. There were too many young ladies bidding for your heart then. You see my real name is Beatrice McLaughlin. I’m Hugh McLaughlin’s daughter.”
“What!” exclaimed Jerry.
Moya nodded with sparkling eyes and nestled a bit closer to Jerry.
“Well, did you ever? Can you beat it? Your father is the trustee of my estate? Gee, it’s a cinch now, isn’t it?”
They had so many things tell each other. They were living the days of the past over again. A cool breeze brought them back to life.
Jerry started the motor.
They drove home by way of Santa Barbara so they could be married there in the morning.
 
 
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