Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case by Rosalind Barden

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Great Escapes

About The Book

Lots of characters have it bad, in my Bunker Hill neighborhood smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, but I’ve had it rougher than most. There may be something to this 13th business.
That’s my birthday, and I’m learning to dread seeing it roll around. My mother died on one birthday. The cousins dumped me on my last. This year, 1932, I found a dead kid on a park bench. It’s my eleventh birthday, and the day me, Sparky, ended up on the run, wanted for murder.
If the dead girl wasn’t enough, the dirty newspapers pinned every body in LA on me, and even blamed me for the Great War. I wasn’t even born then. The price on my head got bigger by the day.
It was up to me to find out who killed the girl and why I got framed, before I ended up dangling from the hangman’s rope.

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I have the pleasure to share with you this Guest Post written by the author, enjoy!

The Lost Suitcases of LA’s Old Bunker Hill

Rosalind Barden

During the declining decades of Los Angeles’ old Bunker Hill neighborhood, it was a refuge for older people with no where else to go. That may surprise those who only know Bunker Hill from its reputation as the crime-ridden land of noir.
While I was researching the Hill’s history for “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case,” I watched a video clip online about the lost suitcases of Bunker Hill. I recently attempted to find the video clip, though wasn’t successful. But, I’ll retell it here from memory as best as I can.
In the clip, a man who’d lived on Bunker Hill as a child spoke of the pensioners who inhabited the old mansion his family owned, a mansion long since split into rooms for rent. A pensioner typically came to the rooming house with one suitcase, in which fit all their belongings. That’s hard to imagine in our modern age of material accumulation, but back then, regular people didn’t own as much as now. They had fewer clothes, fewer trinkets, and certainly not the electronic must-haves of today.
These wandering souls were content with their simple rooms in the once mansion. It was a safe place where they could finally land, a place they could afford with their meager funds. One room with a shared bath doesn’t sound inviting nowadays, but keep in mind, the boarders grew up in earlier times, in the 1800s, before there were such conveniences as electricity. They were probably used to living in much more cramped conditions, be it tenements, or rural shacks with outhouses in the back. A carved up piece of a mansion with indoor plumbing wasn’t bad at all.
Bunker Hill was quiet too, compared to loud and fast downtown Los Angeles below. But if they needed to go to the bustling flatlands, it was only a convenient ride down the Hill on the Angels Flight funicular. Below was the Grand Central Market for shopping, along with the stores lining Broadway. And don’t forget the grand Broadway movie palaces. Pershing Square was in the flatlands too, with its park benches for relaxing while meditating by the sparkling fountain, and the Central Library, if a spot of reading was called for.
Bunker Hill was an ideal home for the widows, old cowboys, and general all around misfits to spend their last days in peace and comfort. The man in the video remembered that, after a boarder passed away, his family would pack up their scanty belongings in the same suitcase they’d arrived with. The suitcase would be stashed in the basement in case a relative ever came by to claim it. Sadly, that didn’t happen often, if at all.
I think about those boarders, who they were. They’d traveled as far west as they could before hitting the ocean. They must have had adventurous spirits, or been desperate, or a bit of both. What stories they must have had, fragments of which slept in those suitcases. The man in the video wondered what happened to all those suitcases, though suspected they most certainly were hauled away in the debris when the mansions were leveled. It seems a shame. All those lost stories.
These suitcases were so compelling to me, I included them in “Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case.” Sparky, resourceful street kid that she is, “borrows” clothes from the suitcases she finds stashed in rooming house basements. On rainy, lonesome days, she also studies the letters and photos she finds inside. Sparky feels kinship with these forgotten suitcase owners, who apparently had no family either, and no where else to go but fading Bunker Hill, the Hill where she feels most at home too.
It is also a suitcase that doesn’t fit with the others, a suitcase belonging to someone still alive, that causes Sparky a near miss with the slammer. But this suitcase also gives her the most important clue to clearing her name.
Jim Dawson, in his seminal book “Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill: Pulp Fiction’s Mean Streets and Film Noir’s Ground Zero!” includes this quote from the character Jake the bartender in the 1965 film “Angel’s Flight”: “This hill, ya know? Stories? It’s loaded. Nobody’s ever written ’em. Now they’re tearing it down. I figured somebody oughta say something about it before it’s gone.”
To me, that sums up the lost world of Bunker Hill and the people who called it home.

About The Author

Over thirty of Rosalind Barden’s short stories have appeared in print anthologies and webzines, including the U.K.’s acclaimed Whispers of Wickedness. Mystery and Horror, LLC has included her stories in their anthologies History and Mystery, Oh My! (FAPA President’s Book Award Silver Medalist), Mardi Gras Murder, and four of the Strangely Funny series. Ellen Datlow selected her short story “Lion Friend” as a Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention after it appeared in Cern Zoo, a British Fantasy Society nominee for best anthology, part of DF Lewis’ award-winning Nemonymous anthology series. TV Monster is her print children’s book that she wrote and illustrated. Her satirical literary novel American Witch is available as an e-book. In addition, her scripts, novel manuscripts, and short fiction have placed in numerous competitions, including the Writers’ Digest Screenplay Competition and the Shriekfast Film Festival. She lives in Los Angeles, California.