- In: Exclusives
- Published on 05 August 2012
- By James
Chapter 5 in the continuing story of how Raymond Chandler's famous fictional LA Noir detective, Philip Marlowe, became Philip Marlowe. This story pre-dates Chandler's first novel, The Big Sleep, by three years. For chapters 1 - 4 go here.
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.
... to be continued next Monday.