The Wall Breakers: A Man Named Marlowe, Chapter 10

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Chapter 10 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 the full story, go here.

Chapter 10

 

Ten

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.

“Mr… Marlowe?”

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.”

Campbell laughed.

“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.

 

… to be continued next Monday.

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