It was a rainy day as I pulled into Mr Warner's back lot. I could see his pet hawk, Howard, perched on a branch near the mailbox. I wondered how he could get any directing jobs with all those feathers. I went to the door of the Sternmud Mansion.
General Sternmud was an elderly man with a enough money to repave L.A. I pushed the button and waited as the sound of footsteps grew nearer. A butler opened the door. "Yes, sir?"
"I'm here at the request of General Sternmud," I said.
"Yes, this way, sir," he said politely ushering me through the foyer area. Just then, a smallish black female sheep came down the stairs. It batted its long eyelashes at me, and I remember thinking,'What the hell is a sheep doing in the house?'
We entered a greenhouse in the back of the house where General Sternmud was in a wheelchair draped under several woollen blankets. I started to sweat profusely in the humid air.
"Why, Mr Barlowe," said General Sternmud,"so glad you could come by. Please help yourself to some nice hot coffee. It will take the chill out of the air."
I looked at him as I wiped the sweat from my face with my handkerchief. He was quite sincere in his offer. I noticed he had at least three, maybe four, woollen blankets on him, all black - they looked to be homemade.
"I see you're admiring my blankets. My two daughters made these for me," he said.
"Aaahhh," I said still wondering about the sheep with long eyelashes.
"Mr Barlowe, my eldest daughter has a bit of trouble. There's this man at a local gambling establishment. I'm afraid...." he paused dramaticlally, "I'm afraid he might be trying to fleece my daughter."
"Fleece your daughter sir?" I asked, caught off guard by his choice of words.
"Yes," he said, "His name is Gigger. He wants $5000.00 out of my youngest, and I want it stopped. He'll only keep asking for more."
"More?" I asked, coyly.
"Well, more fleece of course," said the General. "More money."
"Ahhhh," I said, "so you want the problem to go away, but no money down."
"As little as possible," said the General. "My daughters mean a lot to me. They're not much of a flock, but we're still family."
"Flock," I said to myself. "Look, umm, General, I keep hearing and, umm, seeing a lot of barnyard references, is there something else I should know about, here?"
"All will become clearer," said the General. "Just one thing, though: my daughters are....well, they're the black sheep of the family, and I just as soon keep this on the newspapers, if possible."
"On the newspapers, sir? Don't you mean 'out of' the newspapers?"
"Oh, yes," said the General, "That as well. Pickering will take care of your needs. He's our butler."
END OF PART 1