The Dead Seed
The Dead Seed
JAN'S TASTES ARE MORE sophisticated than mine. Jan favors Paul Klee; Norman Rockwell is my kind of painter. War and Peace is her idea of a great novel; Bang the Drum Slowly is mine. On the boob tube, Jan rarely deserts the PBS channel. My television diet is confined mostly to old movies on the independent stations.
So that Tuesday morning when I came in from waxing my aged Mustang and told her, "I just saw Fortney Grange next door," she looked at me blankly for a couple of seconds.
Then she shrugged. "Who is Fortney Grange?"
"Come on! Everybody knows who Fortney Grange is. He was-"
"Wait!" she interrupted. She tapped her forehead. "I remember now. My father used to talk about him. He was a football player. Wasn't he called 'the galloping ghost'?"
I shook my head. "That was Red Grange."
"Wait," she said again. "The gray ghost of Gonzaga-?"
"That," I informed her patiently, "was Tony Canadeo of the Green Bay Packers. For your sadly thin information, Fortney Grange was probably the greatest actor of his time and possibly of all time."
"Maybe to you," she said. "I never heard of him."
"He starred in some big pictures. There was The Sword of Destiny and Desert Fury and-"
"Oh," she said. "That kind of actor, your kind. What was he doing next door, trimming the hedge with his sabre?"
"You're so smart!" I said.
She nodded. "And pretty, too. Let's not argue. Kiss me. I have to run. I have an eleven o'clock appointment in Solvang."
Ten minutes later, her little Mercedes was chattering out the driveway and Mrs. Casey, our housekeeper, came into the breakfast room. "Guess who is living next door?" she asked me.
"Imagine!" she said.
"Right," I agreed. "He didn't buy the place, did he? The Medfords have been living there for three generations."
"Buy? Him? With what? He was the biggest Hollywood spender of all time. The way I heard it, he's an old friend of Miss Medford's and living in that coach house they converted."
"I'd sure like to meet him," I said.
She nodded. "Maybe we will. Let's hold our thumbs. I'll never forget his pictures, not one of them. Fresh coffee?"
"No, thanks. I think I'll go out to see if the backyard needs watering."
She smiled knowingly. "Call me if you get a glimpse of him."
Mrs. Casey and I share a lot of tastes, including the culinary. No fancy French chef who ever lived could come close to the subtle flavors in her Irish stew.
Still, even I had to admit it was adolescent of me to stand out there like an overaged groupie watering the lawn with a hose just to catch a glimpse of my hero. The yard was equipped with a clock-controlled sprinkling system.
Quiescent. I guess that's the word for the next half hour. Though not soundless; soothing Mantovani music from a local FM station was drifting out from the ancient Medford home.
Was something going on in there? Fortney Grange had been not only one of the great Hollywood spenders; he had also been one of its famous studs. And Carol Medford, the last of her line, had been that distinguished family's only free-soul advocate.
She had never married. She was around seventy now but nobody thought of her as a spinster. Legend had it that she had left a litter of broken hearts in all the fashionable capitals of Europe.
I turned off the hose and was about to splash my way back to the house when they came down the steps of the side porch next door, hand in hand. They stood there, staring at me across the low hedge.
"Is that he?" I heard him ask. "It is!"
"That's your hero," she agreed. "Come on-I'll introduce you to him."
Crazy world, isn't it?
"My all-time favorite Ram," he said, as we were introduced. "I thought you were working as a private investigator in Los Angeles now."