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Bert Rovere’s Paris Inn & the lighter side of FBI undercover work – 1936

This was in the first draft of The Girl in the Iron Box. As much as I love the story, it had to go. Enjoy!

If an undercover special agent wanted to show his “date” a good time, impress her with his life style, spill a few drinks, and trick her into spilling what she knew about the kidnapping of June Robles, he could do worse than take her to Bert Rovere’s Paris Inn. A favorite with the Hollywood crowd, the restaurant stood out in a city dotted with flashy and garish night spots. The exterior Paris Inn resembled a Norman castle, complete with turret, while the interior looked like a street café. The satisfied clientele was treated to French and Italian fare, singing waiters, and an orchestra playing opera and jazz, accompanied at times by the burly baritone-voiced owner himself, all of it broadcast on KNX Radio.

Special Agent H. B. Myerson’s evening at the Paris Inn was set in motion when a man named Dick Collins walked into the Los Angeles FBI office with the story of his conversation with a woman he would not name. During the period 6-year-old June Robles was held captive, she’d told Collins, she was visited by a man from Tucson “who informed her he knew all about the kidnapping.” The woman wouldn’t talk openly, Collins told Special Agent in Charge (SAC) J. H. Hanson. Subterfuge was needed. He suggested that he, his girlfriend, the woman, and a special agent all go out for “an evening’s entertainment” Collins would arrange. At some point, the informant suggested, the conversation could be steered to the Robles case, prompting the woman to identify the man from Tucson. Collins was not ready to state who this woman was, at least not before the double date. Hanson advised Harold Andersen, the SAC in Phoenix, asking if he wanted to pursue this unique line of investigation.

Andersen, needing a break-through but fully aware of the oddity of Collins’s suggestion, threaded the needle. He told Hanson to go ahead with the “date,” but suggested that “discreet investigation should be made to determine who Dick Collins is.” Was he “acting in good faith or merely as a publicity seeker or one interested in obtaining copy for the newspapers.” Cover yourself, he advised Hanson. Make sure at least two agents were present for the “evening’s entertainment.”

On the evening of Tuesday, May 19, G-men Myerson and H.H. McKee, posing as traveling businessmen, joined Collins and his companion. The party of four then picked up “the woman,” Lucille Miller, and a friend of hers. They arrived at the Paris around 8 p.m. end enjoyed the dinner and show for three hours. Myerson, who was “paired off with Mrs. Miller,” waited for the right moment between drinks, bites of dinner, and possibly dancing to “discretely” ask her about the Robles case. She said she had known Oscar and Margaret Robson “for years.” She had discussed the case “on numerous occasions” with Margaret, who said she’d “begged Robson to tell her the truth… and believed him when he said he knew nothing about it.” The kidnapping, Miller was sure, was an “inside job” by June’s own family. Her reasons reflected the public’s understanding of the case, or at least Margaret’s: the victim was not ill (i.e., not harmed by the experience), her clothes were not badly soiled; and “her father did not appear worried in the least.” Myerson quizzed Miller further, but she “had nothing more to offer.” As for Collins, he passed the background check. From what the Los Angeles office could uncover, he was an electrical engineer and “special investigator” for the local sheriff who had “drawn freely upon his imagination.” If nothing else happened that evening, at least Agent McKee impressed his date. She asked Collins if another evening could be arranged. Special Agent Myerson was forced to tell Collins that the businessmen had left town.