- In: Exclusives
- Published on 08 July 2012
- By James
This is A Wall Breakers original! For the next thirteen weeks on each Monday we'll publish a new chapter in our exclusive story. Philip Marlowe is the fictional detective created by Raymond Chandler with his 1936 novel The Big Sleep. The events of this short story pre-date those of Chandler's first Marlowe novel. This is a look into how Marlowe became Marlowe... Enjoy!
I might as well run an ad in the paper that says “Philip Marlowe Private Investigator: Women who wish to catch their husbands with mistresses please bring a camera.” Sometimes it seems like that’s the only thing that potential clients are interested in. I don’t do divorce work. When I went into this business that was one of two rules I made. The other: No hard liquor before noon. I’m strictly a mimosa man in the sunny a.m.
I forced myself out of bed around ten. I’d had a late night. I was up until two a.m. replaying Adolf Anderssen’s stunning defeat of Lionel Kieseritzky from 1851. Personally I think that Anderssen got lucky. Had he been sitting across the chess table from a certain player named Marlowe, he would have lost in under an hour. I was set to arrive at the office by a quarter of noon, but was in no rush as I hadn’t had a client in ten days. I decided to stop and spend part of my last eight bucks on a sandwich at the automat. Lately my office had been as deserted as a warm bottle of beer. That’s how the Private Detective business is if you claim to be honest. Marlowe was on a diet whether Marlowe liked it or not. If business got any slower I was going to have to give my .38 a funeral at a local pawnshop. Maybe it was time to consider another profession.
The automat wasn’t too far from a place where I once lived right where Franklin and Western avenues cross in LA. It was one of those joints that always smelled like the circus elephants just came through. I kept looking up for trapeze artists, but the only thing I ever saw were the flickering fluorescent light bulbs. Lou, the manager at the automat, was an old pal of mine who used to get me bottles of Old Forester for free. He was one of those guys who used to throw dice and probably shaved one or two. What little he had he lost after the crash in ‘29. He was lucky to have landed this job.
The door jingled as I opened it and went in. Lou had gotten wearier looking since I had last laid eyes on him. His white shirt wasn’t tucked in and was hanging out of his brown trousers. This was probably because his massive stomach was preventing it from being tucked in properly. He was wearing black shoes that hadn’t been buffed since the Wilson administration and it looked as though he had spent the entire morning jumping up and down on his hat. We exchanged the usual hellos and he explained to me that he had planned on dropping by my office that afternoon with some information on a case. Lou was a good friend, the kind of guy I’d share a trench with in France. I’d inhale all the mustard gas, and he’d go home to his circus. Sweet Lou, he was going to help me make my next rent.
I’ve had an office on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building for going on five years now. Five years since I took my hat and coat and told the entire district attorney’s office of Los Angeles County to shove it where there should be an “exit only” sign. The District Attorney Taggart Wilde, who was a throwback to Boss Tweed, hadn’t liked my honest critique of his office, or it’s workers. He especially didn’t like my critique of a skinny pretentious bird named Beaudry, who was too smart for his own good. Beaudry spent a good amount of time licking Wilde’s heels and I still say that someday he’ll end up barking up the wrong tree.
I walked through the Lobby of the Cahuenga building and went to the elevator. The lobby had been beautiful once, but that was a time that no one could remember. The walls had been white, but years of disrepair had made them a yellowish brown color that looked like something you wouldn’t want to cough up. There was a large dirty area rug that covered the beat up wooden floor. To the right of the elevator was a security desk that never had any security guard sitting in it. The usual elevator man wasn’t there and in his place was a fresh-faced kid who couldn’t have been over twenty. He was wearing a red blazer with gold shoulder pads on top. His clothes were neatly pressed. He looked out of place, like the one-eyed man in the valley of the blind. As I entered the elevator he smiled widely, like he just hit the fifth spade to make his flush.
“Hiya Pal” I said “Names Marlowe.”
“Hi Mr. Marlowe, I’m Joe Briggs.”
Joe looked like a good kid, happy to have landed him a job that didn’t pay much more than dirt.
I gave Joe a quarter and told him I’d try to keep them coming on the regular. He opened the door to the elevator with a thank you and I stepped out and walked down the corridor to my office.
“Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator” read in black serif type on the ground glass of 615, which was my office door. I opened the outer door to my two room office, which I always keep unlocked in case a client wanders in when I’m not around or in case someone’s nickel rolls under the door and they just simply can’t live without it, and found the mail on the floor. Marlowe hadn’t won the Sears “New Home” sweepstakes yet, but I felt like I was getting closer. I passed through what I’d like to consider my waiting room, complete with two chairs that were fashionable when Rutherford B. Hayes was in the White House, and dropped the mail on a wooden coffee table that had more rings than a jewelry shop. No one was waiting for me. I unlocked the door to my inner office and pulled up the shades exposing myself to the noon sun. My inner office was furnished with a desk, a coat rack in the corner, a radiator that banged like a snare drum for the three days in January when LA got cold, a filing cabinet that had nothing but moths and booze in it but made a good show in the “organized” department, and two chairs besides the one that I sat in. On my desk lay a tabletop model Western Electric telephone, a banker’s light, and a cigar box empty of cigars, but filled with lots of hope. They all made me feel very important.
I sat down at my desk looking for something to do and fiddling with the telephone cord. Maybe I should get a dart board and make a run at the world championship. That would be too much work. Marlowe doesn’t have that kind of dedication. Due to the lack of monetary support pouring in, I decided it was the perfect weather for a “feet up on my desk” nap. The warm sun on my back made my eyes heavy and I drifted off.
The buzzer ringing woke me up with a startle. I rubbed my eyes and tried to shake the groggy feeling you get after you’ve been woken up. It was a quarter of four. I buzzed the buzzer and got up and opened my office door. It was Lou, he had a troubled expression on his face and with him he brought a cute young brunette that bore a striking resemblance to Thelma Todd. The girl wore dark slacks that were tight around the hips and opened up a little as they tapered down the leg for much easier access to a calf, if you were of the mind to try to gain entry to such things. She had on beige shoes and a beige button down shirt, as if she was trying to look mannish, but was failing miserably at it. Her hair was shoulder length and she had on just the right amount of makeup. Her eyes were gray and looked as though they could eat most of you and throw the remains to the dog.
“Marlowe,” Lou peppered up. “This is my niece Ruth Moriarity. She’s the one I was telling you about earlier. She needs your help.”
I ushered them into my office, sat her down in a chair while he stood behind her, and took a bottle of rye out from my filing cabinet complete with three glasses.
“What’s it all about?” I motioned for them to drink.
“It’s my husband Mr. Marlowe, he’s cheating on me.”
She had the face of a cute innocent girl, but her voice and eyes were that of a leopard licking its lips over a wounded prey. I immediately didn’t trust her. I looked up at Lou.
“Lou, how many years do you know me? I don't do divorce work, not even for your niece.”
“I know Phil,” he said, “But it’s not just that he’s cheating on her, he also goes out for long weekend trips up in Big Bear Lake where he keeps a cabin.”
She chimed in then. “Mr. Marlowe, it’s Tuesday, he should have been home by now and he still isn’t. I hate his guts, but if he’s been hurt or killed I want the twelve grand in life insurance money that’s rightfully mine.”
I looked down at her, half smiling, half disgusted. I poured myself another shot. The taste of it hit my belly with a gurgle and it reminded me of my recent dry streak on the client frontier. Even Philip Marlowe could be bought or sold if he got hungry enough.
“When did he go up to Big Bear Lake?”
“He left Thursday morning around five. I haven’t seen him since.”
“Have you contacted the police about your husband’s disappearance?”
“No I haven’t, John is involved in some big business in Spokane, Washington, and while he has plenty of girlfriends and goes away often, his being missing and actual death being reported to the police might bother some of his business partners."
“Well what does Mr. John Moriarity do in Spokane, Mrs. Moriarity?” I asked, almost sarcastically.
She looked at me slightly annoyed, as if I was prodding, when it was her who had come to me for help.
“My husband operates the remains of a gold mine from the turn of the century. For a long time the mine was believed to have been salted, until John and a few of his friends went there as a gag on vacation, and found gold. Other then that he seems to have a very lucky streak with craps and he had a history of bootlegging long enough to give Elliot Ness an ulcer. ”
“It sounds like you picked the lead baritone in the upcoming choir event.”
She opened her purse and took out a nugget about one inch in diameter.
“Do you always carry gold nuggets around with you?”
“A girl never knows when she’ll need a little good luck Mr. Marlowe.”
Glancing at Lou, who was smiling encouragingly at me, I stood up. I felt the need to keep these pleasantries short.
“My fee is twenty-five-a-day plus expenses and I’ll have the first four days paid now. I’ll wire you for the rest if I need it once I get up to Big Bear. I’ll need the rest of the information: Whom he went with, whom you think he was going up there to see. A picture of him would also help, along with a list of his friends and places he frequented.”
She hesitated for a second before speaking.
“John’s thirty-three years old and five-feet ten inches tall. He has an athletic build with green eyes, dark hair, and a dark mustache. I don’t know who his girlfriends are, I just know he has them. He always goes up to Big Bear alone. Our cabin number is sixteen. As Far as friends, start with Benny Chance, he runs the Krypton Club. Benny is John’s major financial backer in Spokane. Paul Robard is the man who planned the trip to Spokane. That was four years ago.” She pulled out his picture from her wallet along with five Andrew Jacksons. “I expect this will be enough information Mr. Marlowe?”
I told her it was and she stood up. I shook hands with her and then with Lou, while giving him a glaring eye of disapproval and noticing how pale Lou had suddenly become. Sweet Lou, and I thought he was going to help me make my next rent. I felt like one of those trapeze artists, except I was working without a net.
The sun was setting and late afternoon was turning into evening in Los Angeles. The March air always seems to get a bit crisper around supper time in late winter in the City of Angels. I locked my inner office up, leaving the waiting room unlocked as usual. I started for the corridor when I decided to take the stairs. I wasn’t trying to hold out on young Joe Briggs, but the exercise would do my legs some good and it would give me some time to think. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. If Ruth Moriarity really wished that her husband was dead so she could collect the life insurance, then why wouldn’t she go to the police. If she was afraid of his business associates then I could see her wanting to hold off, but that would only cast blame on herself if John Moriarity really was dead. If I hadn't been broke, I would have sent Ruth Moriarity and her smooth calves on her way. Too bad Marlowe wanted to avoid the bread line.
– – –
I walked down the back staircase, which was filled with cigarette butts and month old newspapers and went out the door to my car. I’ve got an old hunk that Ford might have worked on as a party gag, but it still starts and stops when I need it to, and with enough prayer it can crawl silently up driveways. Plus in my line, it would be bothersome if I kept getting my car stolen. It would be like a one-liner that got old real fast.
The evening rush traffic was heavy. Pedestrians darted out from different angles like they were Frankie Frisch trying to steal home. I drove up Franklin Avenue, hung a right on Western Avenue, took that to Santa Monica and made another right turn. The buildings seemed to tower over me as I drove. I felt like I was just a small pawn in some much larger game. Maybe the cigarette smoke from my camels was getting to me. I rolled down my window.
Two cars back a blue sedan followed. I had seen it parked down the block when I got into my car, but didn’t pay any attention to it until I noticed it tailing me. I was curious as to what he wanted, but not curious enough to let him find out where I was going, so I decided to shake him. The idea of a tail job has always annoyed me (except of course if I’m the one doing the tailing). It takes no guts to stay fifteen feet behind someone to try to follow them for information. Sitting across from someone and demanding answers is much tougher. Someday I want my tombstone to read “Here lies Philip Marlowe: He was too smart for his own good, but at least he had guts.” I turned left on Rossmore and again on Wilshire Boulevard, all the while dodging in and out of the evening rush of traffic. He stayed behind until three kids tossing a football jumped out in front of him causing him to stop short. Imagine that, kids playing in the street Los Angeles. I quickly turned up Olympic and then again at La Cinega and doubled back. The Blue Sedan was gone.
– – –
I was heading over to Bernie Ohls’ house at Figueroa and Washington on the other side of town. Bernie was a good man. I did two years of college with him at Stanford. He was now the District Attorney’s chief investigator, one of the few who wasn’t corrupt. He was also the guy who got me the job with the D.A. eight years ago. I wanted to get Bernie’s opinion on the matter of the missing John Moriarity and besides Bernie had been kind enough to invite me over for dinner on his thirtieth birthday.
I stopped at a drug store along the way and picked up a liter of Brandy as a house gift. There was no sign of any blue sedan, or anyone else tailing me for that matter. By the time I got to Bernie’s it was completely dark out and the time was almost seven.
Bernie opened the door. He was clean-shaven and as fit as ever, with a full head of red hair, a good complexion, and light blue eyes that looked at me scornfully.
“You’re Late. The food I picked up from the Derby is getting cold.”
“Sorry Bernie,” I replied, “I got hung up giving a blue sedan that had tailed me out of my office the slip.”
“A Blue sedan huh? What’s the story?”
We walked inside and down two steps into Bernie’s parlor, complete with two chairs, a sofa that surrounded a coffee table, with a standing radio in the corner and several plants. On the left of the front door were stairs that led up to the bedrooms. Across from where I was standing were swinging doors, which led to the kitchen. I took my coat off. Bernie’s wife had recently divorced him, and he was doing much better twofold in that he was no longer married to her, and he managed to keep his house. On the table in the kitchen were two huge trays of spaghetti and meatballs. He motioned for me to sit down and help myself. I explained to him the events of the afternoon.
“Well what does Spokane have to do with the whole mess?” He asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine. I figure on taking a trip out to Big Bear tonight right after I leave here and if it doesn’t give me any information, I’ll give this Robard character a call.”
“What about Benny Chance? We both know how rough he plays.”
Benny Chance, who ran the Krypton club, was a tough boy. You name the racket, chances are he had a hand in it as long as there was an angle he could profit from. He had several arrests, but only two convictions. In 1923 he was convicted for missing too many April Fifteenths. The second conviction was the one I remembered. While on parole a rookie cop caught Benny with a gun and the state had the decency to show him the way back to prison to finish his sentence proper.
I turned to Bernie.
“Well, the way I see it, if something did happen to this John Moriarity, and seeing on as how his financial backer is Benny Chance, Benny would be a good place to start. Mrs. Moriarity hasn’t reported her husband missing though, which she inferred, is out of fear of Chance.”
“Big Bear is a long drive though Phil, and if Chance did have Moriarity knocked off at the lake, don’t you think he’d either have someone watching it, or would have done his best to dispose of all evidence?”
This was something I had thought of. As far as having disposed of all the evidence, well there would be nothing I could do about that. On the other hand if he hadn’t, and had someone watching the cabin, one man on foot who wasn’t known in that circle could get very close to Moriarity’s cabin under the guise of a tourist.
“You know Phil, you always lean in with your chin.”
Bernie got up and poured me a cup of coffee.
“You’ll need this to make sure you don’t fall asleep at the switch.”
I slugged it down and the conversation turned to his ex-wife. Bernie was in good spirits, which was good for me in case I needed to call in a favor. I thanked him for the meal, and promised him one in return. He walked me to the door and we shook hands. Like a good mother he told me to be careful. I wished him a happy birthday and promised I’d look both ways before crossing the street. With that he closed the door.
The drive to Big Bear Lake took two hours. I had left Bernie’s at nine, and wanted to get there as late as possible and without attracting too much attention. No one followed me from what I could tell. It was easy driving as the weather was clear and it wasn’t unbearably cold. The last time I had been to Big Bear was in 1932, the year before the Pan Hot Springs Hotel was burned down. For years it had been a resting ground for movie stars and other members of the upper crust who wanted to get away from the world and enjoy the scenery and the fishing. I didn’t have time for too many leisurely activities, I was too busy counting pennies so I could drink at the Coconut Grove club. Maybe someday I’ll hit it big.
A main entrance that had a guard on duty blocked off the community. I parked my car half of a mile up the road, got out my bottle of rye, took two swigs, put the bottle back in the glove compartment, grabbed a flashlight and took out my gun, shoulder holstering it.
I got out of the car and walked slowly down the road, staying in the shadows and looking out for people. Not a soul nor car passed me the entire time. For the most part Big Bear was a summer resort, and only a certain number of cabins were even available in the winter. When I got within two-hundred feet of the main road and entrance to the lodge area, I snuck through the woods to get by the guard who was stationed in one of those little toll booths with a retractable arm attached to it to prevent cars from driving in unnoticed. The cabins were located a few hundred yards back of the entrance over a series of small hills. The hills were covered by evergreens which had been there since the time of the Serrano Indians. They were so high that I got an eerie feeling about my own mortality. It was desolate. I know now what the man on the moon must feel like at night. I found cabins one and two. The Moriarity cabin was down the road. I kept to the shadows as much as possible, which wasn’t too hard considering it was almost so dark you couldn’t see.
Passing cabin number seven I stepped on a branch that made a loud snap. I held my breath. The air in my nostrils felt as though it was below freezing. The wind slowly whistled by and the northern lights twinkled above me. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity. No animals made any sounds, No birds flew above. I felt like the last man on Earth. When I was finally satisfied that no one heard I kept on and located the Moriarity cabin. It had a large “16” on the door. It was a one-floor wooden cabin that looked sturdy enough to make Abe Lincoln proud. There were no lights on inside, or in any of the neighboring cabins. There were no voices either, but there was a car parked thirty or so feet away. It looked like an apparition in the dim moonlight, which was cut by the towering trees. It was a green 1934 Skoda 420 Convertible, with a rag top roof. I crept over to the car, which had no one inside, and found that it was unlocked. The engine was cold and hadn’t been driven in at least a day. I switched on my flash to take a look inside, and the car lit up like a gigantic June bug. There were no papers in the glove compartment, and nothing at all to identify its owner inside the car. I got out and closed the door lightly, listening for sounds. When I was sure that no one was around I crept back over to the cabin and looked in the window. I could make out a large bed in the corner that was unmade, but no one was in it. I didn’t see any movement at all, so I decided to go around and try the back door.
When I got to the door I found it ajar. I tried to open it but found that something on the other side was in the way. I got that old familiar sickness in my stomach and looked around again to make sure no one was watching. I slowly shined the light into a room, which was a kitchen, saw why I couldn’t open it, and quickly forced my way in.
She had been slumped up against the door. The site of her made me squint my eyes and bite my tongue. There were two bullet holes in her chest and another one in her neck. She had bled out all over the floor, but the blood was dry. By the expression on her face I could tell she didn’t die quickly, and her final moments must have been in agony. Then I noticed that her shoes were off and her feet were badly burned. I put my gloves on and grabbed her wrists. There were rope marks on both of them.
I made my way into the cabin with my gun drawn and my flash in my other hand. It was cold. I walked past the kitchen into the one other large room complete with the aforementioned bed, a fireplace which had long since gone out, a large floor model Westinghouse radio, a table which had enough canned goods on it to last two weeks, and three chairs. He was slumped in one of the chairs, completely nude, with his hands tied behind his back. His ankles were tied together and on his right foot three of his toes had been cut off. There were numerous stab wounds on his body by his chest, arms, and stomach. His left ear was cut off, and finally it seemed his throat had been cut. His eyes were wide open like he was choking and the man was ice cold. He couldn’t have been any deader.
The smell in the room of dried blood and decaying flesh was strong, but not as strong as it would have been had the back door not been opened slightly, which allowed the cold air to come in and keep the bodies from rotting. I shined the flash on the man’s face. He was clean-shaven and older looking, with blondish hair that had begun to gray at the temples. This was not John Moriarity. I saw a pair of trousers lying by the bed and decided he was in the middle of an act that would have caused him to be nude when he was tied up. I went through the trouser pocket and found a wallet. Inside the wallet was a driver’s license with the name Paul Robard on it. Mr. Robard, who on a whim had organized a trip to a Spokane, Washington mine which was thought to be salted. Mr. Robard, who had struck gold with John Moriarity, Benny Chance, and possibly any other number of partners. Mr. Robard, who had been tortured to the tune of three toes, a left ear, and several small stab wounds. Mr. Robard, who was dead.
This was all wrong. The ball in the back of my throat, which I like to think is my danger sensor, was going haywire. I felt like someone could jump out from any number of shadows and make tough guy Phil Marlowe number three on this hit list. I quickly decided I had seen enough and started for the door, when I noticed something on the table. A gold nugget was lying there along with a manuscript. I picked them both up and tiptoed over the very dead woman, whose face I didn’t recognize, but would never forget, and out the back door. No one watched, no one listened. I crept around to the front and back down the road.
My car was parked right where I had left it. No one was around. No cars drove by as I got in on the passenger’s side and slid over. I put the nugget and the manuscript in the glove compartment and turned my car around. I kept my lights off for a mile or so and headed back to Los Angeles.
On the drive home there was hardly any traffic and I was able to go about seventy miles per hour most of the way. I made it back to the city in a little over an hour. I stopped in an all night drugstore on Vine and Hollywood Boulevard. It was the first chance I had gotten to breathe a little since I had driven up to Big Bear.
The patrons consisted of a young couple, no older than twenty-five, and an older gentleman of forty or so. Behind the counter stood a haggard waitress who looked as though she was at the end of a forty-eight hour shift. “Red Sails into the Sunset” was playing on a small radio at the end of the counter. The place wasn’t spotless, but I wouldn’t call it dirty. It was painted white and the countertop was metal. The stools were the round kind that swivel and have no back. Mirrors lined the back wall next to the four booths that ran along the back. The floor was white as well. Behind the counter was the stove, a grill, a coffee maker and a soda pop machine.
I ordered a plate of bacon and eggs, with two pieces of whole wheat toast, and a large cup of black coffee. While I ate I tried to figure it all out in my head. John Moriarity claimed he was staying at Big Bear Lake. In his cabin, which had a car parked outside with no identifying papers left inside, was Paul Robard and an unidentified woman who were both brutally tortured and murdered. The thought of the two of them made me squeamish, so I focused my attention on some of the other details. I wanted to tell the police, but I didn’t want to jeopardize my own investigation. Truthfully, I had no idea what kind of an investigation I was conducting just yet. What of the gold nugget and the manuscript? I decided to take a look at the book that I had brought with me into the diner. A Chair kicked back. The older gentlemen grunted, got up, paid his tab and walked out the door. The young couple was half drunk and too much in love to notice me. I smiled at the waitress and asked for more coffee, and looked down at the manuscript for the first time. It was entitled “The Bandit Invincible” by a William T. Phillips. I didn’t know anything of this William T. Phillips and had no Idea who this bandit was that he was speaking of. The Prelude read:
‘This book is dedicated to the old settlers who built their nests among the foothills and in the broad valleys of Central Wyoming during the years between 1885 and 1895.”
I couldn’t figure if this meant anything. I stopped reading, got up, and went over to the phone booth. I asked the operator for the Big Bear Lake Police Department. A Sergeant Carmedy answered and I told him of the murders in cabin sixteen. I hung up before he asked me for my name. I slugged my coffee down and paid my tab, deciding it was time to take a drive up to Spokane.
The trip would need to be made after a full night’s rest though. I got in my car and drove to my apartment on Franklin Avenue at the Hobart Arms. The lobby, complete with its chipped tiles and water stains was empty except for the late night security guard. We have never exchanged words because he was always asleep whenever I saw him. It was about 1:45 a.m. when I finally got in my apartment. I turned on all the lights, turned down my bed and got undressed. I was just about to turn the lights off when the phone rang. It sounded like a scream in the night. I picked it up slowly without saying a word at first, holding my breath. Finally I said: “Marlowe.”
At first the other party just breathed into the phone so I piped up.
“It’s two AM and some people need sleep in Los Angeles, so if you’re just interested in hearing the soothing tone of my voice, try another time.”
“You need to learn to mind your business Marlowe. Being nosy could get you dead.”
“Is that a fact? And if I do watch my business what do I get?”
“You get to keep on breathing and being a two-bit shamus, but you’ll be a two-bit shamus who’s five grand richer.”
“Well Mac, who can I see about the five grand and my business minding skills?”
“Come to the Krypton Club tomorrow before noon. Benny Chance will be waiting for you.”
With that, he hung up. So Benny Chance knew I was working for Ruth Moriarity, or at least he knew I was trying to find out what happened to John Moriarity. This actually let me rest easier because it was the first thing that made any kind of sense all day. It would be worth it to hear what was on Benny’s mind to see what kind of play he wanted to make. I got up, made sure my door was locked and bolted, and went to bed.
I awoke before ten, decided it was important to keep up appearances, shaved, showered, and put on a clean suit. Benny Chance had something to say to me and I wanted to make sure I was awake to listen, so I drank a large cup of black coffee. I was out the door by a quarter of eleven.
It was a sunny morning in Los Angeles, and it seemed like Spring was right around the corner. The groundhog was right, February and the first two weeks of March were cold, but winter can’t last forever. The Krypton Club was located all the way out on Sunset Boulevard, near where it runs into Mullholand Drive, on the way to Bay City. It was one of those clubs that was on the way to and from the city depending on which way you were traveling. Benny probably made good money off of businessmen looking to have a good time. I parked my car down the street and walked around the corner towards the club.
It was a three-story hacienda, complete with outdoor tables, plenty of shrubbery, a huge sprawling awning that looked as though it could cover half of the property, and three or four hoods loitering about. I walked past them and through the open doorway, which had Spanish doors on both sides that were pinned back against their respective walls. The floors were a finished Rosewood, and as was the bar, which was on the right side. Straight to the back were the bronze double doors to the game room, which were closed at this time. To the left of that was another bronze door that figured to hide Benny Chance’s office. On the extreme left was a spiral staircase that led upstairs. The ceiling was relatively high and the lights were on very dimly, as the sunlight was enough at this hour. I took a seat at the bar that looked as though it stretched on for a mile. A Bartender in a bad toupee came over drinking a cup of coffee.
“Anything special bud, or just something to slap you around a bit before noon?”
I looked him over. He was roughly six feet tall, solid looking, with a scar down the right side of his face and another on his neck. His hands were the size of a gorilla's.
“My name’s Marlowe. I was asked to come here to see Benny Chance.”
“Ah Mr. Marlowe, Mr. Chance has been waiting for you. I hope you decided it was good to mind you own business.”
“You’re up early, considering you must spend all night calling people and breathing into the receiver.”
He glared at me, thought better of fighting, told me that Benny Chance was in his office and called for another henchman to take me there. I thanked him for the conversation and got up. The two of us walked towards the large bronze door on the other side of the restaurant. We knocked and entered and I looked at Benny Chance.
Benny was shorter than six feet tall, but not by much. He was sleek looking and in good shape, complete with a full head of black hair which was greased back, a pencil thin mustache, and the overall appearance of a good-looking, rich, invincible feeling criminal. His office was painted a deep red color. His desk was bronze, with a bronze cigar holder, a bronze decanter, a bronze ink well, a bronze desk light, there was a bronze picture frame with his portrait in it that hung behind him, and a bronze chair, in which he sat. You could melt his office down to make medals for the upcoming olympics. I decided it was a lot of bronze.
He motioned for me to sit down. The goon closed the door and left the two of us alone.
For a few moments we just starred at each other like we were having some kind of a contest. Finally he spoke.
“Mr. Marlowe, do you have any inkling as to why I asked you to come here?”
“Well according to your toupeed bartender, I’m not doing a very good job of minding my own business.”
I’m quick-witted at lunchtime and he smirked a little at my remark, and continued.
“Yesterday Mr. Marlowe, the wife of a business associate of mine came to see you. Of course you know I’m talking about Ruth Moriarity.”
“Oh, of course I know. She claimed her husband was missing, but she neglected to tell anyone and decided I was the person who should do the finding.”
“Well Marlowe, did you take the case?”
“I did, but I haven’t turned up any information on Moriarity yet.”
“What if I gave you five grand to give up looking for John Moriarity?”
I paused and actually laughed out loud a little.
“And If I don’t accept, you’ll make me wish I had the five grand to pay my hospital bills, is that it Benny?”
“Actually no. Don’t pay any attention to Gus outside. He’s got a big ego and thinks he’s tough. If you pulled his rug off in the middle of a fight he’d probably go crying to his mommy. Truthfully none of this was my idea.”
My host spoke like an educated man, which is what he was.
“Well who’s was it? Not Paul Robard’s, we know that, because Paul was too busy getting his toes chopped off and his throat cut.”
Benny Chance looked at me with a blank look of shock. If it wasn’t genuine, he was going to the same acting class as Clark Gable to fake it.
“What are you talking about Marlowe?”
“I drove up to Big Bear Lake last night to Moriarity’s cabin. Outside I found a 1934 Skoda convertible that hadn’t been run in a few days. Inside I found Paul Robard and a woman, tortured and murdered, among the cans of food, that made it seem as if someone was planning on being holed up there for a few weeks.
“Was the woman, about five foot four, with red hair and Asian eyes?”
I thought about the girl and decided she was.
“Mr. Marlowe, that was Ruth Moriarity. The Skoda was her car.”
I paused before speaking.
“Well Benny we both know that’s impossible, considering Ruth Moriarity was up to see me yesterday, and you know this to be bond.”
“Marlowe, the only reason why I knew this was because John Moriarity called me yesterday afternoon and told me someone pretending to be his wife would be coming up to see you with a man that was pretending to be her uncle. It was John Moriarity’s idea to get you to lay off. He was heading up to Spokane to go to the mines. I did him the favor because he was a friend of mine. I guess he wanted to give the appearance that he was missing, even if he didn’t want to be found.”
“Well if he really wanted me to lay off, then why would he put me on the case in the first place?”
That was a question that Benny couldn’t answer. He took out two glasses, poured two drinks from the decanter, taking a sip of his. Benny did nothing to make himself less confused or relieve me of my confusion. We stared at each other for a few more seconds without saying a word until I piped up.
“Chance, I’m going to have to turn down your offer of five grand on the basis that, for my own personal interest and curiosity, I think it’s best if I stay on the case. How much can you tell me about the mines in Spokane?”
“I was never there myself. I had originally partnered in with Moriarity, but because I had no idea about how mining works, I decided to let him buy me out two years ago for a hefty sum. I figured I’d cut my losses and center my attention on rackets I actually knew something about. My ego isn’t so large that I feel the need to even have my hand in things that could make me look foolish through my own ignorance.”
I took a gulp of my drink, which was a very good Brandy Alexander, and let him continue.
“John had no history of mining prior to 1932. Paul Robard grew up in a mining town in Utah, and knowing that John was impulsive and had money, Paul took him up there to the mine in Spokane with some of his friends and had John stumble upon gold. Then, with Paul being the majority owner of the claim, John tried to convince Paul to let him buy half of the mine. Of course, Paul agreed, which was Paul’s plan all along, to con John. Unfortunately for Paul, the next time John was up there about two months later, in the fall of 1932, John really did find gold. Before he went up there and struck it big, he had partnered in with me, which meant I owned twenty-five percent of the mine. John bought me out the following year, and unsuccessfully attempted to buy out Paul also. Last year though, it was obvious the resources of the mine had run out once again, but John kept going up there thinking that there had to be more gold, which there wasn’t. But, that didn’t stop him from taking more and more trips to Spokane every month.”
“Have you ever heard of a William T. Phillips?”
Benny Chance got a puzzled and slightly worried expression on his face.
“Who told you about William T. Phillips?”
“I came across a manuscript of his at the cabin in Big Bear.”
“Phillips was a man that John and Paul contacted to help them survey the mine, as he apparently had experience in these matters. At one time he was some big shot in Spokane. He’s an old man of about seventy. My advice for you would be to stay away from William T. Phillips, Marlowe. From what I’ve heard, everyone who gets close to that man that doesn’t already know him for thirty years seems to disappear or die.”
I thanked Benny for the drink and for his time. We stood up and shook hands and I walked out of his office. I tipped my hat to Gus, the toupeed bartender with the nasty phone voice, as I was leaving, and walked through the open doorway of the Krypton Club out into the mid-afternoon Sun. It was warm in Los Angeles. I decided to Grab some lunch, some gas, and to map out a rout to Spokane.
I drove quickly to the automat run by my supposed friend Lou. When I arrived there were cops outside, and the entire building was taped off. Bernie Ohls was there, along with a crew of detectives. I went over to Bernie.
“Lou Parker is dead Marlowe.”
“I figured on as much Bernie. How did it go down?”
“Happened about ten a.m.: Tommy guns. He was hit with over thirty bullets. He probably was dead before he hit the floor.”
“I always thought Lou was a good boy.”
“Well he might have been Phil, except for the fact that he was an ex-dope fiend, who did three different stretches at San Quentin for armed robbery. Boys like that always die in the worst way.”
Bernie Ohls was right. I nodded to him and drove around the corner to gas my car. The real Ruth Moriarity was dead along with Paul Robard. That actually made my client John Moriarity, or at least the woman who paid me on behalf of John, who actually wanted to keep me away from the action. Benny Chance seemed to know as much about the present events as Santa Claus, though he did give me some good information to go on about the mine and people in Spokane. The body count was mounting though, with Lou, Ruth Moriarity, and Paul Robard all dead. I stopped by my office before leaving for Spokane. There was a blue sedan parked outside. It was the same blue sedan that had tailed me the day before. I walked into the lobby, which was empty, and rang for the elevator. The door opened and Joe Briggs was inside. Joe didn’t look as happy as he did yesterday. In fact, Joe wasn’t smiling at all. It’s hard to smile with a bullet wound over your heart. Just yesterday Joe had been a happy kid, happy for the quarter tip I had given him. Now the smile had been permanently wiped off his face and the color over his heart matched his blazer. Joe had been dead for quite some time. I took the stairs.
By the time I got to the sixth floor I had my gun drawn. I opened the stairway door slowly and shut it very lightly behind me. I was breathing as silently as possible, and listening as hard as I could for any sounds. The corridor was empty and I crept slowly towards my office door, which was wide open. There was a man sitting cross-legged in one of my chairs looking at me. I’d say by the age lines in his face that he was roughly sixty-five, but looked no older than fifty, with a dark mustache, and hair that was still dark as well. He was wearing a brown suit, turn of the century style, with a brown vest, white shirt, and brown tie. His derby was off and was on the table with a six-gun that had a barrel longer than a baseball bat placed next to it. He sat cross-legged, looking at me.
“Is your name Philip Marlowe?”
I nodded in approval as I stood there.
“Mr. Marlowe, do you think that I’d be able to grab my gun off that coffee table and shoot you before you could even clear your holster?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know your shooting, and to be honest I don’t know my own drawing abilities. I’ve always thought quick draw shootouts went out of style around the same time as that suit you’re wearing.”
I smiled through my teeth and motioned for him to enter my office, turned my back on him completely, and unlocked my inner door. If he was going to shoot me in the back then let him do it. At this point I was tired of being played for a fool. It smelled musty in my office, so I threw opened the window and grabbed two glasses and the bottle of rye out of my filing cabinet. The man entered and grabbed a seat in front of my desk. I poured two shots, handed him one, we cheersed each other, and put the shots down.
“Did you plug the kid in the elevator?” I finally opened my mouth and spoke.
“What about the blue sedan outside, is that yours?”
“I’ve only recently learned to drive. I road horses my whole life, and I’ve taken trains everywhere. Had we been on horseback yesterday you’d never have shaken me.”
He looked me right in the eyes when he spoke, and somehow, I believed him.
“Mr. Marlowe, my name is Henry Long. I come from Ferment, Utah. I’ve been a lot of things in my life, most of them relatively honest.”
I studied this man’s face. It looked vaguely familiar to me. I couldn’t place it though,
“Frehmont is a long way from Los Angeles, why at your age would you decide now to take the trip here, to see me?”
“I know you are looking for John Moriarity. My nephew Lou was a friend of yours. Parker of course wasn’t his real last name, but the characteristics you saw in him that made him a friend were all real, I’m sure. Lou had no choice but to lie to you the other day. He thought it would save his life, but he didn’t know that he was a dead man no matter what.”
I listened to the man speak, but I studied his expression and body language a lot more. He seemed to be out of a story; A story about a time where the American frontier was free and law and order was officially made with a gun, not under the guise of crooked cops like today.
“You say Lou’s last name wasn’t Parker. Did he get the idea to call himself Parker from anyone or was that just something he made up?”
“Mr. Marlowe, to cut you off, I didn’t come here to talk about my nephew’s fake last name. I came to tell you to be careful of John Moriarity, and to stay out of Spokane, not because I’m warning you to, but because it will be for your own good.”
“Mr. Long, everyone seems to want to keep me out of Washington. In the last two days, the body count has reached four. Even though I'm not really on a case anymore I'm still going to Spokane. Your nephew, and my friend Lou, was killed, as was a con artist by the name of Paul Robard, Ruth Moriarity, and the new elevator kid Joe. I’m not that tough, but I want some answers for my own peace of mind and I plan on getting them.”
I looked him in the eye and poured two more shots.
“I’ve got a hunch that you're about as good with a gun as anyone I’ve ever met. Your gun was probably for hire at one time. Gunmen on the side of the badge don’t ask people to guess as to how fast they are. There aren’t too many gunfighters still alive, and the ones who are as fast as I think you are are all legendary and can be listed on two hands.”
He smiled a little and his mustache curled upward.
“I wish we would have met thirty years ago Marlowe. I think you would have made a very formidable gunfighter, maybe even better than a man I knew named Harvey Logan.”
The name Harvey Logan meant something to me. Logan was an outlaw at the turn of the century that was killed by a posse outside of Parachute, Colorado. It had long been speculated that Logan survived. My grandfather’s brother was a member of that posse. I always heard that he claimed to have seen Logan die. Suddenly Long’s face didn’t seem so foreign at all. I had seen it before in a very famous picture. My jaw practically dropped. I was staring at a ghost.
“You once posed in a group portrait with Logan didn’t you?”
My question wiped the smile off of Long’s face. He stood up and grabbed his hat.
“You know, you still wear your hair the same way as in the famous picture the Pinkertons have. What’s in Spokane that you don’t want me to see Mr. Long? You can’t run from you demons forever.”
“I can try,” He sounded as if he was talking to himself more than to me.
“You can, but chances are you’ll die bloody like most people thought you did in the first place. My grandfather’s brother saw Harvey Logan die in Colorado. He’s been dead since 1904.”
“I know Harvey’s dead. He was always too headstrong. He thought he could take on all the guns in the world and win. He never understood that you can only take on six men at one time with one gun.”
“I hear you took on well more than that, and they still say you lost, but history has a way of being incorrect.”
He smiled again and put on his hat. I held out my hand and he shook it.
“Be careful in Spokane. You seem honorable, but there are those who aren’t.”
With that he turned and walked out the door. I told him to take the stairs for obvious reasons, to which he obliged. I was speaking to a history page. Not many men can fake their own death, and have people actually believe it. Fewer still are famous outlaws who go on to live normal lives in rural Utah. I should have known who he was by his gun alone. There was only one man who carried a mother-of-pearl gun with a ten-inch barrel. I wasn’t wrong when I guessed as to how fast he was. He might have been the fastest gunman ever.
I placed another anonymous call, this time to the Los Angeles Police Department from a pay phone across the street, telling them about Joe Briggs’ body in the elevator of the Cahuenga Building. I then placed the gold nugget and the manuscript in an envelope and had it mailed to myself at home. There would be some questions for me to answer when I got back from Spokane and Bernie Ohls wouldn’t be too happy with me, but I didn’t have time to wait around for official police business. If alias Henry Long didn’t kill Joe Briggs, which I believed him when he said he didn’t, I had absolutely no idea who did. The only players left that I knew about were Benny Chance, Joe Moriarity, and the Thelma Todd looking girl who pretended to be Ruth Moriarity in my office. With Lou dead, there was always the chance that our anonymous actress could be next, or could have already been killed. It would take me at least two days to drive to Spokane, considering the distance and the fact that I’d never driven it before. Marlowe doesn’t like to leave the friendly confines of Los Angeles.
I was in Santa Rosa, my hometown, a few hours after nightfall. I stopped at a road stop diner and ordered a hamburger and fries, ate them quickly, and then went back out to my car where I slept for an hour or so. By ten p.m. I was driving north again, making sure no one who might have had time to catch up with me after my stop over was following me. No one was, and with the overnight traffic being light the five-hundred or so miles on I-5 North took me a little over six hours. It was morning by the time I hit Oregon, and other than a quick stop to gas my Ford and for some sandwiches, I kept on driving. By mid-afternoon I was on 395 North, which is roughly one hundred thirty miles directly into Spokane, according to my map. I stopped for a few more sandwiches around six, and by nine I was entering into the last leg. The whole trip took me thirty hours. I had driven over eleven hundred miles, barely slept and hadn’t showered.
Spokane is located on the eastern border of Washington. According to numerous signs, the population was just under one hundred thousand. There had been a great fire in 1889 which destroyed a good portion of the city. The city itself was centered in the region of Spokane County.
I had no idea where to go. I didn’t want to go asking around about Joe Moriarity or anyone else associated with the claim because if I were lucky enough no one would have known that I wasn’t in Los Angeles. I got the cheapest room available at the Davenport Hotel (which wasn’t very cheap at all) in downtown Spokane, and signed the registry under the name “John Dalmas.” I asked the clerk if he knew of any mining areas that were for sale. He looked at me with a puzzled expression considering that I just rented the cheapest room in the hotel and told me that if I was interested in purchasing anything of that nature in Spokane that I should speak to the grandson of Amasa Campbell, who seemed to be selling his grandfather’s mining property like hot cakes. I thanked him and followed the bellhop to my room on the third floor, near the fire exit. Ten minutes later I was settled in, and stretched out on the bed and getting some much needed sleep.
A knock on my door woke me up. It was 4:15 in the morning. The knocking persisted so I got up, grabbed my gun, and unlocked the dead bolt, while leaving the chain attached. The face staring at me was a face I had seen before. Earlier in the week, in my office, she had posed as Ruth Moriarity. At the time she had been slick and knew what she wanted, now she looked scared and she trembled when she spoke.
I opened the door the rest of the way and held out my hand so she could enter.
“Mrs. Moriarity... or so you claimed to be in my office on Tuesday.”
She sat on the davenport located at the far end of my hotel room.
“I’m sorry. I was forced to do it.”
I paused, looking at her. “Well, why don’t we take the story from the top and you can tell me what’s going on?”
As I was speaking I opened up the bottle of scotch that was in the hotel bar, filled up two glasses with ice, and poured two doubles, topping them off with soda water.
“Mr. Marlowe, I’m scared.”
“Well you should be. Everyone around you and I are dropping like flies in a bug light. If you’d like me to try to help you I need some information. Let’s start with you name, your real name.”
She hedged and started to cry a little. If I was a movie critique, I’d say it was a performance worthy of rave reviews. I grabbed her chin with my right hand.
“Hey sister, stop looking for a trophy. Give it to me straight and I might actually help you.”
“Okay Philip, okay. My name is Janice Tomlinson. I was a cocktail waitress at the Krypton Club. Two nights ago I was told to go into Mr. Chance's office. When I went in, Mr. Chance was talking to a tall, dark-haired man. The man was John Moriarity. Mr. Chance explained to me that I was going to go to you and pay for you to look for John Moriarity, who was going to be missing. They gave me a picture of John Moriarity, and a picture of Paul Robard as well.”
She took out the picture of Paul Robard from her purse and handed it to me, shaking and trying to hold back tears. I told her to drink more of her drink, which she did.
“I made the mistake of accidentally giving you the picture of John Moriarity and describing him, the real John Moriarity, when I was supposed to give you the picture of Paul Robard, and tell you that Paul Robard was John Moriarity. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had never done anything like that before. When we left your office Lou started yelling and telling me what a big mistake I made. He told me he was going to call Benny Chance and try to straighten it out. I guess he told him the truth. That was the last I saw of him. I knew John Moriarity would be in Spokane because he told me so. I came here hoping to be safe. I didn’t think he’d think I’d come here.”
I nodded at her. Janice had had the same idea I did. That was bad news. If two people could quickly think up that plan, then it was obvious other people could easily figure out our plans as well.
“I’m going to try to help you kid. I’m not saying you’ll be as safe with me as you would be if you were on an ocean liner heading for Europe right now, but I can promise you I will do everything in my power to try to get you out of this.”
“But, why Mr. Marlowe? I lied to you.”
“You did, but you also paid me. As of right now you’re still my client.”
She finished the rest of her drink and put the glass on the small night stand next to the davenport, which was on the other side of my bed.
“What do you want me to do Philip?”
“Well for now, get comfortable. You need some sleep. I'll grab a blanket and sleep on the floor.”
She got up and sat next to me.
“You know, you can sleep in the bed with me.”
She kissed me. Her breath was warm, but her lips were cold, as if she had spent the last hour kissing a glacier. I grabbed hold of her around her waist and kissed back. When I let go, she had stopped shaking.
“I think I’m going to need another drink.”
I got up and mixed myself another one, not a double this time, but certainly stronger than a normal scotch and soda. I told her that there was a change of clothes in my bag, and that while they were a little big for her, it would be all right just for tonight. She went into the bathroom and I mixed her another drink. When she came out, she was wearing my white button down, with enough buttons opened at the bottom and top to seem artistic, and a pair of shorts that the hotel left for me in case there was a sudden heat wave in March. She snuggled up against me and I could smell that she had put on perfume while in the bathroom. She downed her drink in three gulps. I decided to sip mine like a gentlemen.
“Philip, I don't know how I’ll ever be able to thank you.”
“Well don’t start thanking me yet. We’re no where near out of the woods with any of this mess yet.”
I put my drink down and we played tonsil tag a few more times. A little while later she passed out under the covers and I grabbed a blanket and pillow and spread out on the floor. It was nearly 5:30.
I awoke to the sound of Janice Tomlinson moving about. It was almost ten a.m. When she realized I had awoken she turned to me.
“Good Morning Philip.”
“Morning, why are you up so early?”
“I couldn’t sleep anymore. I’m too nervous.”
I got up off the floor and picked my blanket and pillow up, tossing them both on the bed. I went into the bathroom and washed my face. I peered at myself in the mirror. I looked tired and worn out. I was only thirty. This racket has a way of adding age lines before their time, if you even made it that long. So far I had been lucky.
“Philip would you like some breakfast?”
I heard her calling me from the other room.
“We could order some, if you like?”
I walked over to the doorway of the bathroom and leaned on it.
“Sure kid, sure. What would you like?”
“How about a waffle, with strawberries, toast, and tea? I haven’t had a waffle in years.”
“Okay. One waffle, complete with extra trimmings, coming up.”
I placed a call down to the desk for room service and gave them the order, adding two scrambled eggs with toast and coffee for myself. After that I took a quick shower, making sure to warn Janice to stay put. When the bellhop came I told her to hide in the bathroom. The less movement she made out of the room the less chance she’d have of being found out. While we ate she asked me about my life. I told her some of the details.
My name is Philip Marlowe. I grew up in Santa Rosa, California. I’m thirty years old. I’m slightly over six feet tall and I weigh one hundred ninety pounds. I had two years of college at Stanford before dropping out to get a job with the District Attorney’s office. Five years ago, after being fired by Taggart Wilde, I applied for my Private Detective’s License. Since that time I’ve been operating a one-man detective agency out of the Cahuenga Building. My office number is 615. The Cahuenga Building is located on Hollywood Boulevard near North Ivar.
“Why did you decide to become a Private Detective?”
“When I got fired by the District Attorney for insubordination (it was really because I had too much to say about the goings on at the D.A.’s office) I decided the only way to help people, without having so many marionette strings attached to my back, would be to go into business for myself.”
We finished breakfast and I explained that I had some people to talk to. I again warned her not to leave the room under any circumstances for her own safety. She promised me that she wouldn’t. I told her I would call around one p.m. to make sure that she was ok, but other than that, she shouldn’t answer the phone.
I wanted to speak to Amasa Campbell’s grandson to see if I could get any information from him about John Moriarity. Amasa Campbell III had a large house in the neighborhood of Browne’s Addition. According to the desk clerk at the Davenport, Mr. Campbell handled business matters out of an office located within his nineteenth century mansion.
I got across town and was at the gate of his mansion in half an hour. It was five floors and quite large. There were twin spires rising out of the upper level. The house had as many windows as a cathedral. It seemed as though it was alive, watching every movement I made on the property. I looked for a rope to pull, but found a normal doorbell instead. A gentlemen, who judging by his age was not Amasa Campbell, answered the door. I stated my business, and the man let me in the house and into a study. The room was not quite as large as The Polo Grounds, with several chairs that looked as though they might scream if you sat in one of them. The carpet was so thick I felt as though I needed a hunting knife just to get through it. The smell of incense in the room kept making me look over my shoulder for a chorus line. I sat down in a chair facing the desk at the far end of the room. The desk was not much smaller than the bar at the Krypton Club, made of treated oak and gilded. I felt as though I now knew what God’s taste in desks would be. A few minutes later a man entered.
Amasa Campbell was around forty. He was balding, and what hair he had was graying. He was slightly overweight and was no taller than five foot six, dressed in a black three-piece suit with a black tie.
“Mr. Marlowe, my butler tells me you wanted to see me about purchasing mining property here in Spokane.”
“That’s right Mr. Campbell. I’m from Los Angeles. I hit it lucky in some business ventures and had some war bonds mature that were left in my name, and so I want to try my hand at mining.”
“Well Mr. Marlowe, it does seem like you are a bit green in your mining abilities.”
Amasa Campbell came over and sat as his desk. A moment later the butler came in from a door that seemed to appear out of the wall, with two glasses and a bottle of scotch on a tray. The butler filled both of our glasses, and then vanished from the room again. Campbell continued.
“As is the rumor around Spokane, I am indeed trying to sell my Grandfather’s mining properties. One of my hobbies is the theater, Mr. Marlowe. I’m raising enough money to have a large theater built in Spokane. I think I can have some of the best talent from around the world come to Washington to perform. In order to do this I need to sell some of my mining property, which I’m not using anyway.”
I sipped my scotch and looked him in the eye.
“Mr. Campbell, how soon would you be willing to let me take a look at one of your mines outside town?”
“Whenever you like. I’ve got many people whom I can contact that know a lot more about my mines than I do. If you are still interested in purchasing a gold mine here in Spokane afterward, we’ll work out a price then.”
“From what I hear, a Mr. William T. Phillips is the best at surveying mines in Spokane.”
“Well Philips might not be the best, but he’s certainly the most charismatic. I’ll call him and arrange a meeting for this afternoon, say around five. Would that work for you?”
I told him where I was staying, and he informed me that Phillips would meet me in the lobby of the Davenport at five. I finished my drink, stood up, and shook Amasa Campbell’s hand. He left by a door behind his desk that made me look at some of the paintings on the wall to see if there were eye holes cut out of the portraits. I found my own way out.
Janice Tomlinson was gone. I had phoned my room at the hotel around one thirty. There was no answer. The clerk said that no one answering to Janice’s description had come down. Then I remembered the fire exit outside my door. My room was unlocked, but there were no signs of a struggle. Even still I was worried. Nothing was missing, except the few things she had brought with her. I had promised Janice that I would keep her safe, and while her story contradicted some of what Benny Chance had told me, her side of things didn’t sound like a song and dance number. I had a feeling it was Benny who had lied, and if he knew I was wise it wouldn’t surprise me to find that he had sent someone to Spokane to take care of business. There wasn’t anything I could do except wait. I had a sick feeling in my stomach.
At four thirty I locked my room up and went down to the hotel dining room. I sat at a table in the corner and listened to the band playing songs from the hit parade. I had roast beef with mashed potatoes and broccoli. The gimlet was excellent. After I ate I went over to the bar to wait for Phillips. I was in the lobby at five. Sitting in one of the chairs on the far end was a man of about seventy. He was roughly my height, with gray and blonde hair that was parted to the side. He had blue eyes, a sharp nose with nostrils that curled upward, and was clean-shaven. He was wearing a tuxedo, with a white shirt, black bow tie and tails. I wasn’t sure if this was the man, so I sat down across from him at the small coffee table. He looked up at me.
“Are you Mr. Marlowe?"
“You must be William T. Phillips.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Marlowe.”
Phillips smiled and we shook hands, but his eyes kept darting around the room. He started to get up.
“Are you all set to visit the site of your future millions?”
I cleared my throat before I spoke.
“I’ve got a confession Mr. Phillips, I’m feeling a little under the weather and don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the mines today. I was wondering though, if you wouldn’t mind talking here for a while?”
Phillips sat down, obviously concerned, and slightly put off. He smiled, his veneer not masking his true emotions.
“I don’t mind at all.”
A waiter walked by and I motioned for him to bring a bottle of Four Roses and two glasses over to our table. I turned back to Mr. Phillips, who was trying to appear as cordial as possible, but seemed a little uneasy. His eyes kept darting towards the desk, as if he was expecting someone to come downstairs. Whenever it seemed I began to notice this, he made it a point to look directly in my eyes.
“Mr. Phillips. I’ve recently come into some money and I’ve got no experience with mining at all. My plan was to find a mine with a rich ore, purchase it, and then pay others to work it, while having someone I can trust surveying the dig.”
This time it was Phillips who cleared his throat before he spoke.
“Well Mr. Marlowe, that’s not something that’s totally uncommon around these parts. There are those who choose to own mines and have others work the dig for them, treating the property like a stock, which in today’s world of the New Deal can still be a successful business approach even if it is taking the stance of the benevolent almighty.”
The scorn was quite audible in his tone.
“How long have you been working around gold mines?”
“I’ve been associated with the mines here in Spokane since roughly 1910.”
“And before that, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Before that I worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as a safe guard.”
“So what you're saying Mr. Phillips, is that you’ve been associated with gold in one way or another for quite a long time?”
He smiled at my last remark. The waiter came over with the bottle of Four Roses, two glasses and a bucket of ice.
“I guess you can say that Mr. Marlowe. To level with you though, you don’t seem like the kind of person who has money or would be interested in running a mine. Judging by your dress, your mannerisms, and your taste in bourbon, I’d say that prior to coming into money, you must have had almost none at all.”
I placed two cubes in both of our drinks and poured two glasses of scotch. Sipping mine before the ice really had a chance to take effect. The ice hit my teeth with a tinkle. I paused for a second.
“Well Mr. Phillips don’t let appearances fool you. Despite your tuxedo, which I frankly don’t understand since you were planning on taking a trip out to a mine, you seem like a savvy business man who’d rather be riding a horse and shooting a gun than surveying a mine. Also, you seem uneasy being here in the hotel.”
He drank a gulp of his drink.
“I haven’t a care in the world Mr. Marlowe, I’m free as a barn swallow.”
Phillips finished his drink and stood up.
“What information would you like me to take to Mr. Campbell?”
“Tell him I’m not interested in purchasing a mine at this time, through no fault of you own. Just tell him I’ve decided to place my hand in some ventures that better suit my skills.”
He nodded, turned and walked away. I stood up and gulped my drink. The meeting had been brief. William T. Phillips hadn’t given me much information to go one, but he did seem uneasy. There was the possibility he was hiding something. He had no idea I had his manuscript and I had no idea what his true agenda was. I took the elevator back to my room. The cream tinted hallway seemed empty for dinnertime. It was possible a large amount of guests were in the dining room downstairs listening to the band and drinking their wallets away. The hall was long with high overhead lights. It was quiet. I waded through the salmon colored carpet and got to my room.
I unlocked my door and went in. The room was dark. I flipped on the light switch and found that my room had been tossed like a surprise inspection at a boot camp. All at once there was a rush to the back of my head that felt like a bomb going off next to my face. I was dizzy and my ears were ringing. I stumbled a little and looked at the bright lights that were rushing by, trying to grab for something solid, but found only numb confusion. It's the way you must feel when you grab a feather from an angel’s wing. I dropped down on one knee and tried to get up, but I never got the chance. He must have been standing behind the door when I came in because I never saw him. I got hit again. This time someone pushed back the roof and let the stars in.
I awoke tied to a chair. My hands were behind my back and my feet were bound together. I was alone and had no idea where I was. The room seemed to be in some sort of Cabin. I could here voices outside, but couldn’t make out whom they were. My head felt like someone used it for a fifty-yard punt. I was nauseous and my gun had been lifted. My hat was on the floor across the room and my shoes were off. That gave me a very uneasy feeling.
I tried to get my bearings. The room was completely empty, and seemed to have been empty for quite sometime. There was a fireplace on one end that hadn’t been used in years. Cobwebs hung from everywhere as if they were party streamers welcoming my arrival. I felt like grinding my teeth, stomping on the floor and whistling, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good.
When I leaned back in the chair, I felt something sharp push against my back. Part of the metal chair was broken, and there was a piece of sharp metal, which stuck into me slightly when I tried to sit back. If I could pick my hands up far enough I might be able to loosen or even cut the ropes that were tying me together, on the piece of broken metal. It was my only shot so I attempted it.
I had no idea how much time I had so I worked furiously. There were no windows in the room, so the only way someone could see me is if they came through the main door, which was in the next room and I was facing it. After a few minutes I managed to loosen the ropes enough to slip my hands through. I got my hands out and loosened the ropes around my feet. I had no gun, so there weren’t too many plays I could make. I located my shoes on the other end of the room, behind me, and was about to get up. Then I heard voices coming in, so I slipped my hands behind my back, and back into the ropes and slumped my head like I was still knocked out. Two men entered and I immediately recognized their voices as Benny Chance, and his rug-headed bodyguard Gus.
“John says we gotta get rid of him Gus, but, first we need to figure out how much her knows.”
Unfortunately for both of them, and for me, I still had almost no idea what was going on. Bernie Ohls wasn’t kidding when he said that I liked to lean in with my chin. I'd had no idea what this was all about from the very beginning. I wished I hadn’t stopped into Lou Parker’s automat to pick up a sandwich last week. I should have taken my last eight bucks and headed for the coast, living off the land. Maybe, I could have met some native girl in some undiscovered California countryside and fallen madly in love. We could have roasted pigs for dinner every night and she could sing me songs that she learned from her mother. We’d make love around the flying owls that would woo us to sleep. Instead, I put my feet up on my desk for a nap and got myself in a position that few would envy.
“Wake him up Gus.”
Gus walked over to me where I was feigning sleep, getting close enough for me to smell his bad breath. I wanted to bite his face as hard as I could. He placed something under my nose that made my nostrils burn and I opened my eyes with a flinch and gagged.
“Smelling salts always do the trick boss.”
“Wake up Marlowe, you’ve reached your final hour.”
I looked up at Benny Chance. Both he and Gus we wearing garbage bags, which covered most of their bodies. On their hands, they were wearing leather gloves. Gus had a saw in one hand and an ice pick in the other. I got that “one minute until midnight” feeling and wanted to vomit all over the floor.
“Marlowe, you should have taken the five grand and walked.”
“Benny Chance. If there’s a racket that involves blood and extortion, you can count on Benny Chance to be in on it. I’m surprised you showed up in person.”
“Don’t flatter yourself Marlowe, you’re small potatoes. I’m doing all this as a favor to a friend.”
“I’m assuming that friend would be John Moriarity.”
“None of your assumptions matter now. What does matter is the answers you give me to the questions I ask you. If I don’t like them, Gus here is going to cut off a toe for every answer I think is wrong. Got it?”
“Why Benny Chance, I was wondering when your true personality was going to come out. I bet any girl in town would love to take you home to mother.”
Benny Chance hit me with a straight right that almost knocked me unconscious again. I tried to shake it off, but before I could he hit me again. The second one made me feel like my was jaw spinning. I wondered if they were going to drop a marble in my mouth and bet on black.
“I’m not kidding around here Marlowe. I want some answers.”
I spit out a mouthful of blood and tried to keep my eyes open. The way my face was feeling, they probably could have sold it for sixty cents a pound at a butcher shop.
“Where is Janice Tomlinson?”
I looked up at Benny and then at Gus, who was across the room. Gus looked like he was dying to get some use out of his hacksaw and ice pick.
“Marlowe... Where is Janice Tomlinson?”
Benny stared at me, waiting for my reply. I sighed, knowing there was no way around it, and finally spoke.
“Janice was gone when I came back to my hotel room this afternoon. I have no idea where she went. My room was unlocked and the few things she had with her were gone also.”
Benny looked at me, then at Gus and finally shook his head.
“When did she come to see you at your hotel room?”
“This morning around four. I was sleeping and she knocked on my door and woke me up. She was scared. She said that you and Moriarity put her up to coming to my office, except that she messed the lines up while she was there, giving me a description of John Moriarity instead of the one of Paul Robard that she was supposed to.”
Again Benny looked at Gus and shook his head no.
“What did Phillips tell you Moriarity was trying to do to him?”
I looked at Benny. This one had me stumped.
“Phillips didn’t mention Moriarity. Our conversation had to do with me purchasing a mine up here. I was trying to get some information out of him, but he didn't budge.”
Chance waited a second and then stood up.
“Your lying to me chum. Phillips told you exactly what was going on and he probably asked you to help him. Your covering for him, or for someone, and it’s gonna cost you a whole lot.”
My jaw ached, and so did the back of my head. That was about to be the least of my problems though. I was running out of time. How could I know what answer would stave off getting my toes cut for five more minutes when I didn’t even know what they were talking about? There was no point in trying to be a tough boy, but if I was going to lose my toes I was going to go down with some action. I slowly began to slide my hands out of the rope that had them tied behind my back.
“Benny I really have no idea what you are talking about. It’s like I said, Phillips and I only spoke of the mine that Amasa Campbell was willing to sell me. He never mentioned you or anyone else that I know you’re associated with. I was pretending to have interest in the mine in order to get information out of Phillips, but the old man wouldn’t budge.”
Benny stood up and spit right in my face. He laughed aloud and turned to Gus.
“Okay Gus, go to work. Let’s see what the peeper knows.”
“Sure thing boss.”
Benny turned back to me and Gus came forward. As he did he dropped his ice pick, and from behind his back pulled out a .38, which looked to be my gun. Before I could realize what was happening, he turned the gun towards Benny. There were a couple of hard snaps and the slugs hit Benny in the back of the head. Benny was still grinning at his spit dripping down my face as he fell into me, blood pouring out of the massive wound that the slugs had made. He slid off and hit the floor face up. The ground was quickly being covered with blood. Benny was dead. I wondered if he even knew what hit him.
Gus turned back to me.
“This is gonna be the prettiest case of murder, suicide ever shamus.”
I was still in shock from what just happened, but Benny falling into me allowed me the time I needed to completely remove my hands from the ropes.
“Benny was always giving the orders. With him out of the way, I can get in on a piece of the action.”
At that moment there was a knock on the cabin door. It was the miracle I had been hoping for. The gunshots could have attracted some attention, though I didn’t know for sure because I had no idea where we were. Gus grumbled and turned away from me.
“Don’t go no where.”
He laughed as he walked to the door. Gus was a comedian. He should have been hosting the Chase and Sanborn Hour. Eddie Cantor was no match for this master. I quickly slid off the rope around my feet and forced myself to stand and run over to the wall. I picked up the ice pick that Gus had left on the floor and pressed myself against the wall as hard as I could. If I hadn’t I probably would have fallen over. I heard him talking with someone, who didn’t sound familiar. The other man was yelling at him, and I could hear Gus trying to explain himself. Finally they seemed to come to an understanding and Gus closed the door. I heard him tripping towards the room and I held my breath and gripped the ice pick in my right hand as I pressed myself against the wall, which meant I was on Gus’ right side as he came into the room.
“Hey shamus, come take your medicine.”
Gus got to the doorway of the room, and realized that I was no longer in my chair. Before he could find out where I was I whirled around the corner and buried the ice pick into his right shoulder. Gus screamed and fell down to one knee, dropping my gun. I hit him an uppercut that had everything I could muster on it. The force of my swing knocked me over, and knocked him into the doorway, where he banged his head on the corner. His oriental carpet went flying off his head and he crumpled up in the corner like an accordion. Gus was out for a ten count.
I picked up my gun and found my shoes in the corner. I put them on and went into the next room. It was a two-room cabin that had been deserted for some time. The door was rusty, and the adjacent room had nothing in it at all, but it at least had a window. I went back to Gus, who was lying lifelessly against the doorway not far from Benny Chances corpse. I dragged his slumbering body over to the chair I had previously occupied, tied him up, and left the ice pick in his shoulder as a reminder of who I was. I went to Benny and carefully took off his shoes and socks. I then rolled his socks up and stuck them in Gus’ mouth, tying my tie around him to make sure the gag stayed. Next, I tiptoed back to the door.
The only light in the cabin was an overhead one that was just outside the doorway to the room where I had been tied up. Someone had been talking to Gus only a few minutes before that, and it stood to reason that that person could still be around. I was more confused than a third grader trying to understand geometric theorems and if I didn’t start figuring some things out quickly there was a good chance my next night’s sleep might be at the morgue. Benny had asked me about what I knew of William T. Phillips. I could infer from Benny’s last words that Benny Chance and John Moriarity had something on Phillips. That would account for his uneasiness when we spoke.
I couldn’t learn anything standing in the cabin waiting for Gus to come around. Rather than walk right out the front door into any number of bad scenarios, I decided to climb out the window that was perpendicular to the door in the front room. I climbed out as slowly as I could, hitting the ground, which was softer and wetter than a Louisiana bayou. I’ve heard it rains a lot in Washington, but that was ridiculous.
I tried my best to tiptoe around the side of the house, but had to lift my legs so high that I felt like Bronko Nagurski doing run pattern drills. There was a car parked outside the cabin. It was a green 1934 Skoda Convertible. I did a double take and looked at the cabin. It wasn’t the same cabin from Big Bear Lake and I was still in the state of Washington. I crept over to the car, which had its engine running silently. As I got to the car I heard a voice behind me.
“That’s far enough Marlowe.”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Someone came closer and encircled me, so I could see his face. He was tall and young, with an athletic build, dark hair, green eyes, and a dark mustache. I had been carrying around a picture of him in my wallet for almost a week. It was John Moriarity.
“Well Marlowe, we finally meet.”
Moriarity was wearing a white shirt and dark pants, with no tie. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and his left hand was bleeding slightly.
“What happened to your hand?”
He grunted and looked down at it.
“Janice Tomlinson bit me. She’s tied up in the neighboring cabin. You shouldn’t telegraph your moves so much Marlowe. I had you all figured out the moment you left your office for Big Bear. I shouldn’t have accidentally left the gold nugget and manuscript in the cabin. By taking it, I knew you had been there. Janice played her part and so did you, but the two of you won’t be around too see the prestige.”
He chuckled and leaned on the hood of his car. I just stood there like a fool. I thought about drooling to give the full effect of my uselessness. The gun in my pocket meant nothing. Any sudden movement and I would have been hit with three or four shots. Moriarity was carrying a .45 and .45 barks loud.
“What was it all about Moriarity, why the run-around?”
“A consolidation of power Marlowe. With Chance and Robard out of the way I could take over Benny’s gambling ring and have full control over the operation here in Spokane. Janice was supposed to give you a description of Paul Robard, substituting my name for his. This way when you discovered his body you’d tell the police that I was dead, which would only work for a time, but it would give me a long enough window to establish a working alibi. Unfortunately Janice couldn’t even do that right, but it’s just a snag in the plan. I’ll be able to work it all out. Gus will cover for me and so will the law out here, which is pretty easily bought. Gus killed Lou and the elevator boy. It will come out that Paul and my wife were having an affair, but that will be okay because it will also come out that I was in love with someone else, and I’ve never been the jealous type. Those two unfortunate fools were tortured and killed for gold. There’s a gold nugget of my wife’s, which you possess. Your body will be found here in Spokane. You realized that you killed the wrong man, and came here to get the rest of the gold from me. You accidentally shot Benny, thinking it was me, and I came into my cabin shortly after and shot you.”
“It sounds like you have the whole plan sewn up nice and tight, but that’s an awful lot of bodies to try to get rid of Moriarity. Counting the four dead in the state of Los Angeles, plus the pending deaths of me and Janice, that makes seven if you include Benny Chance.”
“Well Marlowe, let me worry about that.”
Moriarity held the gun up towards my face. He was no more than five feet from me, too close to miss, but too far for me to do anything about it. Both of us could be seen clearly in the moonlight. Moriarity was grinning. He cocked back the hammer.
“Sorry Marlowe, you should have taken the five grand and never looked back.”
I closed my eyes and a pistol shot rang out. There was a scream. It took me a second to realize that it wasn’t me. I felt my body for holes, and there were none. I looked down at the ground and John Moriarity was on his knees, holding his right hand, which had 3 fingers shot off. The gun was on the ground next to one of his fingers and I walked over and picked it up, putting it in my pocket. From out of the shadows came two men. I recognized them both as Henry Long and William T. Phillips. I turned to them and watched as they came towards me like ghosts in the night. John Moriarity was cursing and crying and staring at his right hand, which I now realized, was missing parts of all the fingers besides the thumb. The two men approached and Long nodded to me.
Phillips looked down at Moriarity and smiled.
“Some shooting Sundance. You still got it you know that. You really still got it.”
“I always shot better when I moved Butch, you know that.”
Phillips turned to me then.
“How’d you fare kid?”
“Not as bad as I could of. Benny Chance is in that cabin dead by my gun, but not by my hand. His thug Gus is tied up with Benny’s socks in his mouth and an ice pick in his shoulder. That was my doing.”
Phillips looked down at Moriarity, who seemed to be going into shock from his wound, mumbling about his fingers.
“I think we need some law in here. I know ‘em all pretty well. There are still some people this joker can’t buy.”
“What was it all about?”
Long turned to me.
“Let’s get the girl, and then we’ll talk about it.”
Henry Long tied up John Moriarity, who uttered a few four letter words at us before Long gave him a good look at his ten inch gun barrel with a pistol whip to the side of the head. Moriarity whimpered and Long wrapped a tunic around his hand to stop the bleeding. Next we dragged him into the cabin, where we found a very awake Gus who was still bald, and still bleeding from the shoulder and the back of the head. Phillips looked at him laughed, and tied Moriarity to another chair. While this was happening Long called the sheriff’s office from a phone outside by a tree and told him where he could find Chance's body and the two wounded men, hanging up only after telling the deputy that “William T. Phillips asked him to make the phone call.” Before the law got there we went next door where we found Janice Tomlinson bound and gagged, but in good condition considering what could have been her fate. I untied her, for which, she thanked me with a long kiss.
At two a.m. Henry Long, William T. Phillips and I sat in the dining room at the Davenport Hotel sipping scotch. I finally learned exactly what happened, but by then I knew most of the details. Phillips explained it to me.
“Paul Robard had owned the mine. The mine was salted. There was gold in it though, which I had hid in 1908 when I got back to America. That was the gold that John Moriarity found. They employed me because they found my manuscript and were able to figure out who I was.” Phillips’ manuscript was an autobiographical account of his life as an outlaw. He said that he wrote it with the intention of having it published at the time of his death.
By “employed” Phillips meant that they had been blackmailing him for the rest of his gold by threatening to reveal his true identity. Moriarity wasn’t lying when he said he killed Chance and Robard as a way to consolidate his holdings. Both Chance and Robard knew who William T. Phillips was, and all three of them wanted full power in the blackmail scheme. Someone was bound to try to knock off the other two and Moriarity was the first to jump at the chance. Moriarity knew that Paul Robard had been having an affair with his wife, so when they went up to Big Bear for the weekend, Moriarity had them tortured and killed. He then went to Benny Chance and the two of them concocted the scheme of bringing me in to throw the heat off of Moriarity’s trail. Unfortunately for them Janice Tomlinson gave me the right description of John Moriarity. At that point Moriarity knew the best way to keep his secret was to get rid of Chance. He paid Gus to turn on Chance and also promised Gus ownership of Chance’s interests, which Gus jumped at. He was going to try to get away with killing everybody. It might have been crazy enough to work.
Phillips looked at me as we drank. He spoke.
“So what’s your next move kid?”
“I’ve got to get back to Los Angeles. There are a few questions about some murders that I’m going to have to answer to. Hopefully I won’t lose my license.”
“Well if you do, the three of us could maybe link up and go into business together.”
Long laughed and looked at Phillips.
“And where would we go Butch, Bolivia?”
“Hey. Bolivia worked for a while. We’ve worn out our welcome everywhere we’ve ever been. No town is large enough to handle the two of us. Somehow we always seemed to head back to our little hole in the wall though.”
“Well Butch, you just keep thinking, it’s what your good at.”
The two of them laughed out loud. Free from the oppression of blackmail Phillips did have charisma. Who’d have thought two of the most famous outlaws in the country could pretend to be dead and live honest lives for twenty-five years? I finished my drink and got up.
Phillips said “Hey, where you goin' Marlowe? This party’s just getting started.”
“To bed. Its two-thirty and I’ve gotten one good night’s sleep in the past three days.”
“Ah leave him alone Butch,” Long said, “The old man needs his beauty sleep.”
We all laughed and I shook hands with the two of them. Before walking out of the dining room I looked back at the two old men as they laughed and told stories to each other. Henry Long and William T. Phillips had more outstanding warrants then half the mobsters in the Chicago. I once heard something about Phillips. A person said “ I wouldn't want to have been in the teller's cage when he came through the door of a bank, but if I ever met him in a saloon, I sure would have bought him a drink.” I knew what that meant now.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were united once again.
I walked up to my hotel room wading through the salmon colored carpet in the high-walled, cream colored hallway. It was quiet. This time though, I didn’t mind it. The door to my room was unlocked and it smelled like perfume inside. I switched on the light. Janice Tomlinson was in my bed, where she had been the night before. She had two drinks ready on the night stand and was wearing just enough to leave room for my imagination.
“Philip I’ve been waiting for you. I got a bottle of Four Roses for us. Let’s drink the whole thing.”
I smiled and hung my hat on the doorknob, shutting the door behind me. I walked over to the bed and sat down, grabbing my drink. I took a sip and turned to her.
“It’s coming up on three a.m., and we were both almost killed tonight.”
“Well Philip that’s true, but you said that you’d do your best to get me out of this jam, and you did. Now I want to reward you.”
She leaned over and grabbed my shirt and kissed me. Her lips weren’t cold tonight. They were as warm as a sunny afternoon in May. Her breathe smelled a little like bourbon and soda, but I wasn’t complaining. I kissed back. I looked at the blanket and pillows I had planned on moving to the floor and then back at her. I didn’t get much sleep that night.