I had to see Nancy, no matter what. I did try persuasive and reasoned, impassioned arguments for a while but to no avail. Then, as I nudged some shingles between my boots and smoked my fiftieth cigarette, it occurred to me that Security guards like to speak in riddles. To get the answer you want, you firstly have to ask the right question.
‘No pink Cadillacs,’ said Steve. ‘Yep,’ said Ernie. Then I said, ‘How about I leave the Cadillac here? Can I go in without it?’
And the gate opened, shrieking on its massive hinges.
Before me rose a long drive of blazing white shingles, which shimmered with dust catching the last of the light and heat. The entrance was bordered with olive trees and cherry tomatoes in giant terracotta pots. It was easy to imagine Frank Snr here, pottering around pleasantly like an old Italian man. But the scent of citrus and the shade soon gave way to the famous Sinatra talent for cunt acts.
Now, most people do not approach Casa Sinatra on foot; the drive went on for some time, winding up the hillside, through a rocky, desert garden. It was rough going, with the pebbles reflecting heat and shifting under my Beatle boots.
On and on and on and on. The road took several scenic detours past various points of interest in the desert mountainside garden. There was a natural rock formation, a rock feature, a tumbled dyke, a pile of smoothed heaped stones; a wilderness area for small desert beasts, ornamental cacti and aposematic lizards which crawled idly over the crumbling walls, occasionally poking out their muscular purple tongues to spit out a shell or a bird’s leg.
Next the drive took me to a view facing west; a view facing north, a modernist pagoda, an outcrop of rock hanging over a quarry.
I passed several Frank Snr memorial statues which showed him at various stages of his career, cast in bronze or carved in malachite or rising out of the living mountain. (The statues buzzed with the sound of security cameras, concealed in Frank’s suit buttons or prismatic blue eyes).
Continued next post: The Second Gate At Casa Sinatra
There are three great walls in concentric rings going around the mountain, built originally as defenders of Nancy’s most precious pearl. As I pulled up to the gate at the foot of the mountain, two security guards appeared from the plastic bushes and bade me stop.
They both wore reflective specs, sailor pants and shirts so small they could have been henchmen in 60s Batman. ‘Good evening, gentlemen,’ I said pleasantly. But they were not having a particularly good evening.
Henchman # 1 (let us call him Steve) leaned over the door and breathed sourly into my face, while Henchman # 2 (let us call him Ernest) went round behind me and said, ‘Yep,’ while sneaking peeks of his bulby forearms in the shining hubcaps of my pappy’s sugar-sweet pink Cadillac.
When he had temporarily done with using his mouth for breathing, Steve said, ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I’ve come to see Nancy Sinatra.’
‘She expecting you?’
‘No. I just thought I’d pop over.’
‘Yep,’ said Ernest earnestly, and spat gum onto the gravel.
‘This your car?’ said Steve, leaning against the bonnet.
‘Sure…’ said I.
‘It’s just that we got very particular instructions not to let a pink Cadillac pass,’ said Steve.
‘Oh, really,’ said I.
‘Yep,’ said Ernest.
‘Well,’ said I. ‘Is it the make or the colour you object to more?’
That got him. ‘Don’t really know,’ said Steve. ‘Hang on a minute there.’
So Steve gestured to Ernie and Ernie came round to the front of the car and then he phoned up to the house. Now both men were leaning on the hood like a couple of hep cats. There was a crackle on the phone. Ernie said, ‘Yep, yep.’ Then the henchmen conferred saying rhubarbrhubarbrhubarb. Then Steve turned back to me and said, ‘Both. No pink. No Cadillacs. No pink Cadillacs. The order was to shoot on sight.’
As a matter of fact I could imagine Nancy coming home after she broke up with Archie, saying, ‘If you see a pink Cadillac coming up the drive, shoot to kill,’ over her thin shoulder, with a Menthol stuck to her bottom lip. I don’t suppose she meant it really, but then again she was quite upset, and my father certianly has a knack for provoking people to murder.
More to the point, the things that Sinatras say have a way of happening. In his Mafia days Frank Snr set up a very intricate protection racket around his daughter, comprised of many cells which went on dividing and adapting like the most protean virus. He has been dead for fifteen years but there’s no doubt that the number of defenders of Nancy’s elderly virtue still go on multiplying like the worms and bacteria eating out his ol’ blue eyes.
Now as the great gate rose before me, I saw it as Archie must have seen it all those years ago when he first starting paying court to Nancy. There were spotlights roaming over the wall, and illuminating clumps of sagebrush on the hill, which left a residual glitter on the back of your eyes when the spots moved on; a shadowy shape hanging in the darkness below flashed a strange green light in from the sea. Then a volley of shots sounded from one of the security towers, and all of the birds rose up, screeching.
Fuck me. Archie was always going on about attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, and c-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate… So this was it: the Tannhäuser Gate, first defence of Casa Sinatra.
It is always a little unsettling to discover that people you believe to be mad aren’t quite as mad as you thought they were.
Continued next post: The road to Casa Sinatra
I couldn’t take anymore. He was never going to let it go. He was going to sing tunelessly into the mournful wind forever. I took to bumping my head against the table-top to block the pain in my ears and knock some cells out.
But it wasn’t long until Archie and Greg Stone returned to Casa Estonia to play mandolin-banjo versions of Lana Del Rey. This was my chance. I jumped into the Cadillac and rolled on down the hill to see Nancy.
As I drove I was still trying to think of a plan; but short of murder or suicide, the only other option was to get down on my hands and knees and put my face on the floor and plead with Nancy from the bottom of my withered soul that she take the mad bastard back.
Casa Sinatra was built in the 50s along the lines of a model prison, with a central guard tower and five diverting wings. One wing is the bedroom wing; one is a mile-square Rec room with sunken lounge, heated pool and a nice floor for jazzercise; one wing contains an oratory, where Frank used to practise his little-known trick for ventriloquism; one is an atrium full of succulent specimens harvested from the deserts of the world (the atrium is mercifully free of rat’s heads); the fifth wing contains a rococo-style restaurant capable of seating 400, which Frank Snr would fill with paid actors, so he could pretend to be an anonymous Joe while he ate. People in planes permitted to fly overhead often remark that the building hangs on the cliff-face like a star.
Continued here: The Tannhäuser Gate at Casa Sinatra
When Archie was gone the house stopped shuddering, but it was never entirely devoid of his grossest presence; there were traces of him everywhere, impressions of body make-up on the walls and the couch and the kitchen bench and indents in various surfaces he had leaned on; greasy chicken-licken finger prints over everything, and cigarette ends crossing back and forth across the linoleum like a trail of crumbs through the wood.
I had tried to interest him in crafts as a way to get his mind off things and he’d taken up macramé with great enthusiasm and produced this charming owl wall hanging:
But then things had got a bit out of hand; there were now craft projects strung up all about the place, pot hangers, a hammock, and a child’s jungle gym, all glowing palely in the mountain moonlight like Arc-angelic tape-worms. He also had a nice way of leaving chicken bones around so that walking into the entrance hall strung with macramé lamp shades was like walking into the lair of a giant spider.
Now I went into the den and collapsed face first into a bowl of skittles on the desk; I was so damn tired I could not care that the colours of the rainbow were making tiny spotty impressions on my beautiful face. I must have sat there for hours thinking nothing but Cupio Dissolvi, which Archie had worked out in macramé and nailed to the wall. We are alive a long time and therefore have ample opportunity to be miserable. Then in the distance I heard the pink Cadillac coming back up the hill.
Archie returned, alive with spirits, bringing Greg Stone and some of the boys from the alpaca ranch. They sat on the patio for hours doing bro shit, howling at the moon, cracking beers and pouring froth into the faux lagoon. Then Archie procured a mandolin from somwhere and sprawled back in his deck chair started singing, ‘Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautifuuul-l-l--‘ for the five hundred and eighty-sixth time in seven days.
That was when I thought, ‘Got to go. Got to go. One or the other of us has got to go.’ It may however have been a half dream because I recall all of those ‘O’s spelled out in skittles.
In the top desk drawer was my ivory-handled pistol, which I got for being Mayor in Shitsville. With great power comes great responsibility. I checked the chamber to make sure it was clean, then left it on the desk, on top of the crumpled shop-a-dockets for ten percent-off Full Body Spray Tans and the moist towelettes you get complimentary with buckets of fried chicken, next to the drinks tray so he couldn’t help but notice it next time he came in.
Continued here: But in your dreams whatever they be / Dream a little dream of me
That night I saw him out in the faux lagoon, desperately blubbing and trying to scrape together all of the pieces of Nancy in London that had washed up on the faux rocks. He never slept, but sat up til dawn crying, burping and singing into Nancy’s answering machine until the tape ran out. They played some of these tapes back at the inquest after Nancy went missing: hours and hours of morose love songs, forgetting the lyrics and drifting off into another tune, interspersed with profanities and Latin quotations:
‘I’ll be a strong as a mountain… Or weak as a willow tree…
Anyway you want me — That’s how I will be…
“The gladiator greets you from the arena.”
I’ll be a tame as a baby… Or wild as the… the… raging sea-a…
[fumbling for lighter; drops cigarette; burns himself]
Hell. Damn. Shit on me.
“–Good swimmers are often drowned.” Memento mori. In vino veritas. [burp]
Anyway you wan-ant-ant-ant me, that’s how I will be…’
At last I had to crack a new bottle of gin and pop him in the pink Cadillac. About six o’clock he went rolling on over the hill to our neighbour’s ranch, Casa Estonia, which belongs to the personable actor Greg Stone, who also has a side-line business raising alpacas.
Continued Next Post: Sweet dreams ’til Sunbeams Find You