Frank Armstrong is the star of Joshua Hale Fialkov’s acclaimed graphic novel, Tumor. “B&E: A Frank Armstrong Story” follows Frank’s continuing adventures in prose, with original illustrations from Noel Tuazon. Missed Part I? Start reading here.
The address was in the canyons, and I don’t have a car, so I catch a bus up to Hollywood and Laurel and hoof it the rest of the way. More and more people have been moving up here, to get out of the city and into the woods. Except, there’s so many damn people that your neighbor can knock on your window to borrow a cup of sugar.
I’ll never understand people’s need to live up windy roads that are too narrow and on rock that likes to crumble when it rains. This used to be where all the hippie fucks lived, back when I was in my twenties and cared about that shit. We’d drive in from Glendora and try to find Jim Morrison’s house.
For the record, it’s the red one behind the little store a little ways up the hill. He mentioned it in some song, which had we had half a brain we would’ve figured out. I always thought he was being deep.
But most of the freaks got driven out or became adults or whatever happens to rich kids with enough money to be total fuck ups and not wind up on the streets.
The fact that this wacko lived up here didn’t surprise me. There used to be plenty of places in the city to get a nice spread with a yard and a smidge of privacy. Now you have to go out to the suburbs or pay a fortune and a half to live on the beach. This guy would fit what I’d assume a serial killer would be.
Comfortable. White. A fucking deviant.
The hike up Laurel isn’t so bad. It’s going up the side streets that’ll kill you. I stop for a cigarette every few minutes, and it only takes me thirty or forty minutes to get up to the house of Leonard Malle. From the file, I know that he’s an attorney at one of these entertainment firms, probably working to get an extra stack of cash for some piece of shit actor who already has more money than every resident of my beloved Barclay Hotel will ever see combined. He moved out here from Texas at twenty four, passed the bar the next summer, and got a job at the offices of Cohen, Davis, Greenblatt, and Cohen (no relation).
He quickly moved up, and when one of the other Junior Partners decided to split off, he went with, and they formed Malle and Stern.
This is what I read while I sit in a shrub waiting for the son of a bitch to make an appearance.
No wonder he got past the cops. They sit out front in a white Caddy with government plates. Masters of disguise, the Los Angeles Police Department. I chuck myself over the high wooden gate of Malle’s next-door neighbors and make my way up the stone path to where the houses sit only a few feet apart. Jimmy swore up and down the place would be empty.
Somewhere nearby a dog barks and I suppose I should stop, but I never said I was smart. I pull myself up over the terraced concrete and lean over the fence getting a clear view of Malle’s living room. It’s about what you’d expect. Nice, sparse, clean, unoccupied.
The dog barks again, and I shush it as quietly as I can, turning my head to look for it, half expecting it to bite my ankle off. Instead, my grip slips and I tumble over the fence and onto the concrete pathway not ten feet away from Malle.
I freeze, praying to Christ he hasn’t seen me.
Nothing. A few minutes pass, still nothing. So, slowly I get up, keeping my head below the window line, just in case, and then head up towards the back of the house. There’s a hill there covered in trees and underbrush. A real fire hazard. Hell, if the cops were serious about getting this guy, they should just drop a match and burn the fucker out.
His back door is double-pane glass, too thick to break, but I don’t have to. A house with such a steep drop out back and a seven foot fence around the front doesn’t need to worry about its back door. I slip inside the kitchen, and take a look around.
Not as nice as you’d hope. You live up here, you’d hope to get something a bit nicer than this plywood countertop, flimsy doored cabinetry-
“I’ve already called the cops, and I will shoot.”
Yeah. I’m real bad at this.
I turn slowly to face Mr. Malle and see that he’s shaking.
“Look, buddy, I don’t want no trouble-”
“I’m just gonna go out the way I came in.”
“I’ll fucking kill you. The cops’ll be here in ten minutes and they’ll-”
The front door crashes before he can finish his threat. The cops were right outside, and the two uni’s are accompanied by Detective James Polish. Jimmy.
“DROP THE GUN! EVERYBODY HANDS UP!”
“This is my home, officer!”
“DROP THE WEAPON NOW!”
Malle tosses the gun on the ground, and I do my best to look like a common robber.
“What happened here?” Polish holsters his gun as he nods at one of the officers.
“This man broke into my-” his sentence is interrupted by the sound of the officers rummaging through his things.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
“Just making sure he doesn’t have a partner, sir.”
“Detective? You better come see this.”
Polish cuffs me and drags me with him. In the front room, which is still just amazingly dinky, the uni’s stand on either side of a piano bench which has been opened to reveal a stack of sheet music, and a bloody knife.
Polish pulls on a rubber glove he procures from his pocket, and picks the knife up.
“Mr. Malle, was it? This your bloody knife?”
“No… I never saw…”
They slap the cuffs on him as he struggles against them, but it’s all for naught. They lead him out of his house and down to the waiting squad car.
I walk up to Polish who lights a cigarette and smiles his ass off.
“Was he really the guy?”
“How the fuck am I supposed to know? I mean, look, we found the bloody knife, right?”
“Why would he have kept a bloody knife? He would’ve cleaned it off, at least.”
Jimmy snorts quietly to himself, and then uncuffs me.
“Look, you did good. Just like I told you, minus the gun to the head. If you want, I can give you more work.”
“Sometimes. Sometimes a bit more… straight.”
He holds out the wad of bills completing our little transaction.
I’ve had worse jobs, and I earned it. I take the money and say goodbye to Detective James Polish.
“We’ll see each other again.”
I don’t tell him no.
[Will they see one another again? Comment below and you’ll be eligible to get a signed copy of Tumor]
Joshua Hale Fialkov is the creator (or co-creator, depending) of graphic novels Elk’s Run, Tumor, Punks the Comic, and Echoes. He has written Alibi and Cyblade for Top Cow, Rampaging Wolverine for Marvel, and Friday the 13th for Wildstorm. He also served as a writer on the Emmy Award Nominated animated film Afro Samurai: Resurrection, and as Executive Producer of the cult hit LG15: The Resistance web series. Elk’s Run, Tumor, and Alibi are all currently in development as feature films. Joshua grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, went to college in Boston, where he got a BFA in writing and directing for the stage and screen, and then worked in the New England film industry, until finally deciding to move to Los Angeles to do it properly. He lives with his wife, Christina, daughter, Gable, and their cats, Smokey and the Bandit.