The Black Dahlia, USA,2006, Director Brian de Palma

Film Title: The Black Dahlia.

The truth is that I rarely socialised with the detectives in LAPD.   I appreciated the money the Department paid me and as far as I know people rated my work as a pathologist.  Back then just before the ‘50s arrived there were a lot of corpses.  Not just Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel were inclined to resolve their disputes with killings.  The LAPD contributed its own share of assassinations.  Apart from one occasion all the other times I met Bucky we were looking down at a corpse in the mortuary.  Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichert was not the brightest but he was a man of few words and handsome. Women assumed that Bucky possessed a sensitive soul.  I only really sat down and talked at length with Bucky at a shindig thrown by Commissioner Bill Parker.  This was years after Lee Blanchard was murdered.  Lee was a partner of Bucky.  The two men were supposed to be close.

Commissioner Parker had been paid cash by ABC television because on one of their shows, The Mike Wallace Interview, I think, Mickey Cohen had said Parker was an alcoholic degenerate.  Parker had threatened to sue ABC.  Not wanting unwelcome publicity ABC settled out of court.  Commissioner Parker used some of the ABC cash to pay for the shindig.  Everyone connected to the LAPD had to attend.   I knew no one would want to talk to me and I had no desire to waste a warm afternoon listening to a load of bigots but I had no choice.  My politics are not the same as the average LA cop.  My politics are not what you would call mainstream American.  The joke among the detectives was that I should have lived in Europe with all the commies.


Working alongside the LAPD was not easy for me, especially as Commissioner Parker claimed his boys were not just battling against criminals but fighting the spread of communism.  Indeed Parker and his men used to claim that anyone who criticised the LA police force was a communist.  I was often tempted to quit but I stayed and kept this comfortable home.  The cash secured my future, and that was an important reason for both my wife and myself.  But I also believed I was doing something worthwhile.   If I could not stop the LAPD peddling nonsense and jumping to bigoted conclusions, I could at least put them right about the cause of death.  And the work was interesting.

Everyone wants to talk about Elizabeth Short and the Black Dahlia murder because the murder was so gruesome but examining the corpse of Bugsy Siegel meant more to me.  Seeing Bugsy on what the LAPD would call the slab was the highlight of my career.  Most murder victims are a mess.  Extreme wounding is neither here nor there.  The line between damage and mutilation is thin.   All the bodies are wrecked and lives have long gone by the time the dead are wheeled into the mortuary.  My job is to analyse waste and prepare it for disposal.  The killer of Elizabeth Short sliced her in two, split her face from side to side, drained her blood and removed organs.  To outsiders that means horror but to a forensic pathologist it means nothing more than a killer doing half of what the pathologist has to do.   Bugsy Siegel was a special case because the man had been a regular in the newspapers and there he was in front of me, dead and waiting for my fingers to pick him and his celebrity apart.   His face was a mess.  There was little left of the features everyone thought handsome.  Below the neck, though, the body was in fine condition.


Handsome faces and athletic bodies take me back to Bucky.  He was a talented boxer.  The promoters called him Mr Ice.  His partner Lee Blanchard was billed as Mr Fire.  Lee was more volatile than Bucky but neither could be called a conversationalist.  The two of them fought in a boxing bout to raise funds for the LAPD.  I had two tickets for the fight but I gave them to my barber.  Mr Fire versus Mr Ice was all over the posters.  The venue was packed.  The only person who noticed I was missing that night was Bucky.

By the time Parker was complaining about TV interviews Bucky was either confused, inarticulate or punchy.  I felt sorry for him.  His girl had left him, and Bucky felt he was to blame.   Bucky loved his girl, so he said.  He just wanted to protect her for the rest of his life.  That is what he told me.  Bucky showed me a photograph.  The girl was a beautiful blonde.  I said something like, Bucky being protected can be a little dull and it’s like stopping smoking.  After a while you forget how you couldn’t breathe or how awful it was being frightened.  I doubt he understood a word I said.   His claims about the Black Dahlia fell out of the conversation but most of the time Bucky wanted to talk about the woman that had left him.


The truth is that Bucky was wrong.  Half of what he said made sense but the notion that Ramona Linscott killed Elizabeth Short is absurd.  Elizabeth Short was killed by an angry and frustrated man, some chap who had experience of working in either a mortuary or an abattoir.  Mrs Ramona Linscott had not sacrificed a day to honest work in all of her pampered and privileged life.   Ramona was an alcoholic and a twisted snob.  Bucky claimed he heard Ramona confess before she put a gun in her mouth and fired.  I can confirm the suicide.  I was the one who looked inside the back of her head.  The confession, though, was her last demand for attention from a family that preferred she would be quiet and stay in her room.  What actually happened before she blew her head off I do not know.  Neither would I be rash enough to trust the memory of Dwight Bucky Bleichert.  All that quiet sensitivity in a not so bright brain is ripe ground for a past that wants to be reinvented.

Ramona’s husband Emmett Linscott had money through his real estate deals but he was not a power within LA.   Joe Kennedy and Randolph Hearst were the people who decided what would happen next for the city.  Noah Cross was somewhere between Linscott and Kennedy and Hearst.  Cross liked to think he created LA but whatever great schemes he planned they had to be approved by Joe Kennedy and Hearst.   I know Noah Cross and Emmett Linscott were not averse to using prostitutes.  Willing girls could be found all over LA but the rich were choosy.  They found their girls at the swish parties thrown by one Mark Marinus Hansen.   In my opinion as a humble observer anyone interested in the Black Dahlia killing needs to start with Mark Hansen and his girls.  Some of those girls knew Elizabeth Short.


But we are here to talk about Bucky.  There is something in his claims to be connected to the Black Dahlia investigation.   Lee and Bucky were involved in a shootout a couple of blocks away from the roadside where they found the body of Elizabeth Short.  Believe it or not but the shootout happened as the rest of the LAPD were at the roadside looking at her corpse.  I do not dispute that daughter Madeleine Linscott looked like Short and two narcissistic females finished up in bed together.  And it makes sense that if Lee found out he would blackmail father Emmett.  That family of snobs would have been desperate to keep a lesbian affair secret.

Bucky rambled that afternoon in the warm sun.  He reckoned that Georgie Hilden was the real father of daughter Madeleine.  Georgie was the strongarm help that Emmett used against those who protested about his business methods.   Georgie had seen Elizabeth Short in some pornographic films she had made in the rundown Hollywood film sets that belonged to the real estate of Emmett.  One of the films had an end inscription that said thanks to Emmett Linscott.  This is according to Bucky.  I have doubts.  Other people have told me that Short did sexy poses for photographs.  Perhaps Bucky found a photograph of Elizabeth with the name of Emmett written on the back and the memories of befuddled Bucky imagined a movie.   The truth is that I lost interest after Bucky said Ramona killed Short because she was jealous of Georgie being obsessed with the pornographic films of Short.  I do not believe it.  Poor Elizabeth Short was killed by a man.

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I do believe that daughter Madeleine would have killed Lee Blanchard to stop him blackmailing her father and that the thug Georgie helped her.   Madeleine arrived in the mortuary when I was at home.   My colleague told me she was shot, so that ties in a little with what Bucky said.  But the idea that Bucky had to choose between jumping into bed with Madeleine or pulling the trigger and killing her also made me suspicious.  That scene happened at the end of the Mickey Spillane book that all the detectives read.  I remember the title, I The Jury.  The book ends when the temptress drops her dress and she poses the question.  Reliable Mike Hammer shoots the lady in her naked stomach.  When Madeleine Linscott was pulled into the morgue, she was still wearing her dress, so I have been told.  Something black and slinky but still on her body.   His story failed to convince me but I liked Drew Bleichert.  He never let Mickey Cohen pay for one of his meals and in LAPD that made him unusual.   Ramona, though, did not kill Elizabeth Short.   Those who are curious should start with Mark Hansen.  After all, Elizabeth Short did live in his house shortly before she died.  Elizabeth was not the only girl there in his mansion and she came and went but Hansen and Short are connected.  Believe me.

Howard Jackson has had ten books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism.   His latest travel book No Tall Heels To Tango is now available here.