Basnight in Twilight
But here seemed to be those old bilocational powers emerging now once again, only different.
It is 1925, and Lew Basnight, after spending the war in England has, like all good private eyes nearing retirement age, ended up in Los Angeles. He has a staff of three mighty fit young ladies, Thetis, Shalimar, and Mezzanine, handy with firearms, enough rich clients with messy lives needing cleaning, and some mysterious overseas income, so that he is doing quite well for himself.
As our penultimate episode opens, a black jazz musician, Chester LeStreet, tells Lew he's been sent by Tony Tsangarakis, a club owner and gangster, to ask him to investigate the possible reappearance of a party girl named Encarnacion, who was supposed to have been murdered some time before. This word has come via a phone call from Santa Barbara made by one Miss Jardine Maraca, Encarnacion's old roommate.
Lew traces Miss Maraca to a shabby motor court on the Pacific Coast Highway, from which she has departed. Finding no clues in her empty room, Lew calls Emilio, a Filipino dope peddler and psychic living nearby, to come give the place, specifically the toilet bowl, a look.
Emilio, appalled by his visions, gives Lew a Los Angeles address that appears to him, and demands his fee right then, in cash.
Back at the office, Lew learns that Merle Rideout has been calling every ten minutes to speak to him. Finally getting him on the line, Merle asks Lew to meet him at a picnic ground.
Merle has been in L.A. for over a decade, running into Luca Zombini, now a designer of movie special effects, in early 1914. He visits the always interesting Zombini household and comes to some affectionate resolution with Erlys. The Zombinis become what family Merle has.
At the picnic park, Merle has Lew take steps to shake anyone tailing him, directing him to meet his partner Roswell Bounce at the other end of the park. The three of them proceed to the inventors' lab.
Rideout and Bounce (heh) have invented a sort of viewing process which accesses the mysterious capabilities of silver to bring photographs to life, making them not only windows of the future, and the past of their subjects, but, depending on the settings, viewers of alternate futures as well.
The scientists think the studios are out to steal the process and ask Lew for protection. Testing their invention, Lew gets them to scan a photo of Jardine Maraca, and watches as she drives to a place called Carefree Court.
When Lew finally checks out the address Emilio gave him, he finds a bungalow, and, behind its screen door, the malevolently beautiful, and haunted looking, Mrs. Deuce Kindred. Noting Lew's obvious arousal, the very willing Lake invites him in.
Oh this was going to be sordid as all hell, thinks Lew, and boy is he right.
Afterwards, while Lew is chatting with Lake about Encarnacion's case over coffee in the kitchen, Deuce enters, a mean runt packing heat, a labor-busting goon for a low-rent movie studio.
Deuce does not care, like at all, about what Lew and Lake have been up to, but objects heatedly to Lew's mocking questions about what he does, and finally pulls his gun. Luckily, Lew had earlier told Shalimar to back him up. She enters with a machine gun and Deuce ducks out.
The next three pages are sketched out of the miserable dream lives of Lake and Deuce, two pathetic people who've used each other for years merely to escape the consequences of any human feelings.
A day or two later, Lew goes to Carefree Court, where he crashes a party. Everyone there has been, over the years, at war, or at least at odds, with the many forces of authority, but seem pretty chipper about it all. Lew meets Virgil Maraca, who reminds him of the Hermit tarot card, and his daughter Jardine, who reminds Lew of his lost wife, Troth.
Jardine tells Lew that Encarnacion's case is closed, that she returned (from the dead?) only long enough to testify against Deuce, whom the cops have picked up for a string of grizzly murders of women.
Though she makes plans for Lew to take her out of town, Jardine decides instead to steal an airplane, and flies away over the desert.
Lew goes to Merle with a photo of Troth taken in 1890 and asks to see her grow old. Doing so, he falls into a reverie of the irrecoverable past, wondering if she can see him too.
Merle, perhaps inspired by this, uses a picture of Dally he took in Colorado when she was 12, to find her now in Paris, where she, sitting in a tiny studio, now appears to return his gaze, smiles at him, saying something.
I will add my comments in Comments in a bit.