Friday, January 10, 2014

***The Life And Times Of Michael Philip Marlin-The Long Gone Daddy 


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman-with kudos to Raymond Chandler

Those who have been following this series about the exploits of the famous Ocean City (located just south of Los Angeles then now incorporated into the county) private detective Michael Philip Marlin (hereafter just Marlin the way everybody when he became famous after the Galton case out on the coast) and his contemporaries in the private detection business like Freddy Vance, Charles Nicolas (okay, okay Clara too), Sam Archer, Miles Spade, Johnny Spain, know that he related many of these stories to his son, Tyrone Fallon, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Tyrone later, in the 1970s, related these stories to the journalist who uncovered the relationship , Joshua Lawrence Breslin, a friend of my boyhood friend, Peter Paul Markin, who in turn related them to me over several weeks in the late 1980s. Despite that circuitous route I believe that I have been faithful to what Marlin presented to his son. In any case I take full responsibility for what follows.        

Michael Philip Marlin was not a generous man. He would always say that the economics of the shaky private investigation business precluded him from generosity unlike public coppers who had a steady paycheck, maybe took a kick-back or two, were on some mobsters payroll or just cadges coffee and crullers, and could look forward to some dough in retirement too. He had given all that up and gladly after three years on the force, the Los Angeles Police Department, working out of the D.A.’s office as a special investigator. Jesus the stuff that went on there, but that was for another time but let’s just say for now when anybody from the judicial establishment, from the judges and D.A.’s on down is around hold onto your wallets, hold on tight.

Marlin decided for his own health and welfare that if he was going to get shot at, take a punch, or get called on the carpet for anything it would be on his own terms. And so he had survived developing his code of honor, his attitude toward women, and his toughness on the fly. Generosity was not included in that mix. He always expected to be paid, paid in full, for any job that he did if for no other reason than to pay the always pressing rent over in the Lawlor Building where he had his office. Occasionally he might take it out in trade when some frail with a hard luck story didn’t get what she was looking for from his services and had no dough to pay but one way or another he got his pound of flesh. (Tyrone said Marlin said to him “no pun intended” and blushed a little at the reference to a fourteen- year old boy but Tyrone was hip to all that even then.) That is what made the Ellsworth case exceptional. He never made a nickel on that one, never wanted to make a nickel once the case got to him. And the hell of it was that it did not involve a dame, or only on the side a dame.   

What it involved was an old prospector, a guy, Jerimiah Hanks, who had hit the mother- lode in about 1890 and had been living off the fat of that discovery ever since over in a mansion in Bayview City. Marlin had heard of him, heard what a wild man he had been in his younger days, wild with his fists, with the booze, and with the dames after he struck it rich. But that had been a long while back and Marlin had been surprised when he was summoned to the Hanks estate for some work. Barney Sims, a copper that he had worked back in the D.A.’s office had put in a good word for him when Hanks’ secretary sought some help on a personal matter and it was outside police purview.        

So one bright sunny afternoon Marlin found himself in the study of
Jerimiah Hanks cooling his heels while the old bird told him of his needs. Told him after offering him cigars and high- shelf brandy. What was on Hanks’ mind was that his daughter’s husband had flown the coop leaving no forwarding address, that was the daughter’s second husband Danny Shea not her first one by whom she had one son. On hearing this Marlin started heading for the door saying that he did not do divorce work (part of that worked- out code of honor) and would pass. Hanks’ laughed and said he would not pay good money to bring a guy back just so his sulky daughter could divorce him.  

Hanks thought Danny had done the right thing in any case. No, what he wanted was to make sure he was okay, did not need anything.  That got to Marlin a little, Hanks, a guy who had seen it all, done it all, reaching out to someone like Danny Shea who from all appearances was cut from the same cloth, an errant son that the old man never had. Hanks’ had been cursed  (his expression) with two wild and wayward daughters, one already in the grave after being killed in an automobile accident along that long lonely stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway just south of Bayview City after ramming her vehicle into an embankment at an estimated ninety miles an hour. (Marlin vaguely remembered the incident and knew that stretch was dangerous at 35 MPH.) A subsequent private autopsy, kept hushed so hushed that even Barney Sims was unaware of it, revealed that she had more booze and cocaine in her system than most men could endure. While the old man’s hard luck story finally won him over Marlin still collected a one thousand dollar retainer from Hanks’ secretary before he left the mansion to begin searching for one Danny Shea.  

People, people who know nothing of private detection, or pubic detection for that matter, think it is easy, easy like finding money on the ground to find someone who does not want to be found even with all the modern conveniences of scientific techniques. Marlin knew different, knew that if you wanted to go underground you could spent ten years, maybe more, without drawing attention if you were careful. In other words long after anybody was going to pay for the search or long after the coppers put the case in the cold files.   

That seemed to be the way the case was heading after a first run through. First Danny’s putative wife, Hanks’ daughter Lauren, once he interviewed her was clueless about where her long gone daddy husband might be. Moreover it appeared that she was drowning herself in a sea of booze not worrying about his whereabouts. Upon further investigation he found out that she was drowning those sorrows in the company of Lex Lyons, the mobster who owned the exclusive watering hole, the Club Pacifica, and she was making no display of worrying about who or what anybody might think about it.          

Once Marlin coped to that information the first place he headed was to see his old friend, the ex-mobster Lenny Lawrence (ex because Marlin had been instrumental in closing down his operation and causing him to spend a nickel up in Folsom. Or almost a nickel since he was also instrumental in getting him paroled early as well) who knew everything that was knowable around town when it came to hard guys, and to where to look for disappeared guys. Lenny came up empty, empty as hell on this one because the clamp was set in stone on this one which meant only one thing Lex Lyons was doing his sweet honey Lauren Hanks some kind of turn. What she was doing for him, aside from lapping up his high-shelf liquor supply, you can figure out yourself. She was a looker although Marlin could tell that her dissipation would lead to some early wrinkles and tummy tucks.        

Still Marlin, every few days, would swing by the Hanks mansion to report on his lack of progress. Each time he showed up he would find the old man eager to hear any scrap of news and became sullen and remote upon hearing that no new leads were forthcoming. It tore Marlin to see the old reprobate fall down like that and after a while he spaced out his non-reports to avoid that look.

Then one day Lenny called him up and told him he had some news, maybe a lead and to meet him the next day at the CafĂ© Alhambra over on Wiltshire in Los Angeles. The meet never happened because that night Lenny met his maker, met his maker face down out on Mulholland Drive with two slugs from a .38 special through his heart. Nobody saw, hear, or dreamed of seeing anything. Nada. The next day’s mail however brought a short note from Lenny. Apparently he had stumbled onto something about Lex, and Lex’s wife. He thought his time might be short so he sent the note as backup. The note said follow the wife, the wife was the connection between Danny and Lex. Thanks Lenny, RIP.

And that information solved the case, well not exactly solved it but brought the mystery of Danny’s disappearance to an end. See this Lex’s wife, Moira, Moira nee Murphy, was an old flame of Danny’s from back in the old neighborhood up in Irishtown in Frisco who grabbed onto Lex as the next best thing when Danny flew the coop on her a few years before. She still carried the torch for him, and as it turned out he for her once his ill-advised marriage to Lauren weighed him down.

What nobody knew, knew except a few confederates, was that Moira too had flown the coop from Lex. They had assumed (and Lex too so yes they assumed) that they had fled together maybe north, maybe south down to dirt cheap bracero Mexico. If you wanted to get good and lost Mexico, if you could stand the gaff, and those hungry eyes that seemed to see right through you Mexico was your best bet.  Marlin tried to run down all the leads, the few leads that he could put together but after about six months came up empty. He couldn’t take any more of the old man’s dough and in fact returned most of it except expenses. That was a first.  

Well Marlin had not exactly come up empty. That was just for public consumption and to signal Danny and Moira wherever they were that the heat was off. He basically bamboozled the old man with the story that Danny was okay, and didn’t need dough. The old man seemed to accept that and a sly smile came to his face (he would die a couple of months later seemingly content with whatever had happened).      

Here’s the real story. Lenny had learned more than he put in that note. He had figured out that Danny and Moira had been pushed together by Lex, and Lauren, after Lex figured that with Danny out of the way he could “retire” into the Hanks estate by making time with Lauren. One night, one foggy night if that matters, Marlin met Lauren outside the Club Alhambra and she made a deal with him. Twenty-five thousand and an occasional toss under the silky sheets with her (she had her man figured, like she had with most men, booze-battled or not) to “stop” looking for Danny and the dame (her term). For services rendered she called it. Marlin as much as he needed the dough turned her down, it flew against his code, or something like that.  Danny and Moira in any case were never found.     

[What’s wrong with this picture? Weren’t you paying attention at the beginning? Marlin was not a generous man, couldn’t be in his profession given its ups and downs. That was just what he told Tyrone when he was young and Tyrone found out the real stuff only later. It came out later, later after Lex had died in a hail of bullets. Died right in front of the portico of the Hanks mansion, killed by some guys from back East with scores to settle as they tried to take over Lex’s West Coast operations. What came out was that Marlin did accept Lauren’s deal, accepted it with both hands, accepted the whole thing. In fact he was in her bedroom under those silky sheets with one Lauren Hanks when Lex met his untimely death. Yes Marlin was a piece of work, a real piece of work. Always got his pound of flesh, no pun intended.]  

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