Saturday, January 18, 2014

***The Life And Times Of Michael Philip Marlin, Private Investigator    The Club Tijuana-Take Three


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.        

Los Angeles private investigator Michael Philip Marlin hated to go south of the border, south down into sunny fetid Mexico, faux Mexico really, Tijuana. The American idea of Mexico mainly with the cheap tourista bric-a-brac, fanfare, and dust. He hated the squalor, worse that his home town Ocean City cold-water flats that he knew well from growing up right in the middle of them, that he found just over the border after the immigration station told him he was in “habla Espanol” country. He hated the bracero looks, stares, eternal stares, piercing right through you, from the sun-blackened Mexican fellahin, and the blank stares, the hungry stares from his children.
He hated too leaving the two or three streets that made up tourista Tijuana once he entered dusty, disheveled, loud honky-tonk (gringo honky-tonk) Tijuana with a bar in every other building, cheap bracero merchandise in the others, and a whore, young, old or bent in front of them all. And most of all he hated what could and could not be sold, cheaply, too cheaply like the value of human life there. That too came too close to home where his younger sister had turned to the streets looking for thrills after some flash- boy gangster turned her head with cocaine and turned her too to walk the streets when he was done with her. Leaving her to waste away in some sullen hole before she went to an early grave.  Anything perverse or illegal could be had for a price, and not much, un-bonded whiskey, seven kinds of dope, women willing to do anything, other women, six guys at once, animals, ditto for guys if it came to it and that was your preference as it was for the distinctly- dressed panama suit and hat fairies who came streaming down on weekends. Worse somebody’s or everybody’s sister, hell, somebody’s brother, and guns, all the guns you would ever need enough to outfit Pancho Villa’s army if it came to it. Maybe Pershing’s army too.

Yes, Marlin hated going south of the border, the smell, the dust, the piss, those see-through bracero stares, everything but just then, 1940 just then, he was in need of cash, ready cash for the moment and other cash for long term prospects to put together his own outfit and let others eat off of his name and take the fists, slugs and gaff instead of his weary body that felt like a fighter’s punching bag these days. The need of ready cash badly stemmed from the hard economic fact that business had been off, nothing but three-day missing husband cases by irate wives with little cash and big grudges, what with rumors of war and the economy in the tank.
He had room- rent coming due fast (his landlord had padlocked his office down at the low-rent seen-better- days Sadler Building, a building  which he had shared with the other just barely making it legal and illegal operations tenants, mostly repo men and failed dentists, and that room- rent loomed large). He had laughed one time about a year after the famous Galton case he had solved in the early 1930s and being a Hollywood brought him some attention (and women) when somebody said he was set for life after that case. Laughed since the previous six months he had been mostly case-less and was working the graveyard shift as the house detective at Tom Water’s Taft Hotel for his coffee and cakes. That was the ups and downs of the business and he had known that going in but that was s his dime.

Marlin had taken the Addington case the minute he had received it via Detective James Foote his friend on the Los Angeles police force who threw business, non-police business, business where discretion was the watchword, his way. He prided himself on that and his rusty code of honor demanded that trait although it had cost him more than one thrown fist and more than one slug heading his way. Marlin was just the man when the heavy-footed cops didn’t want to touch some rich man’s (or in this case woman’s) high- flown ideas of justice.
What was desired by that Mrs. Addington, Mrs. Adele Addington, heiress to the New York Tyro typewriter fortune, was for a missing husband to be found as he found out when he met her plane as she flew in from New York to discuss the situation in person (and Marlin figured also to size him up).  She was an early thirties, rather stately handsome, not beautiful, brunette with a nice smile and soft manner signifying years of boarding school and lessons learned in Miss Prissy’s etiquette classes. Not his kind of woman although he would not turn her down if she desired a roll in the hay. She never sought that of him.  She also was just the kind of other-worldly na├»ve woman who left to her own devices (and bereft of Miss Prissy’s advise) would be easy prey for any half-bright gold-digging grifter. But she, like most of her kind when they wanted something or someone found who did not want to be found, was willing to pay, pay handsomely, and without too much regard for expenses and daily fees to have her desires carried out. Marlin licked his dry lips over that one.   

Mrs. Addington (no Adele) clearly want the search carried out in style unlike some forlorn housewife from out in Westminster looking for her man, looking maybe three days hard and go lightly on the expenses before she gave up on the dirty lowdown bum probably shacked up with some whore like he had been reduced to of late.  Marlin would be working for a woman, once she inspected him,  then hired him and then flew back to New York a couple of days later, who had the means and wherewithal to find that errant soul and who was just what the doctor ordered to get his finances well.
The fleer once Marlin got a line on him after a couple of fruitless if profitable weeks, one James Addington, late of New York City Riverside high-end digs via that searching wife, had made the tour of the West Coast cities. This Addington like a million other from hunger guys gravitated from the Bronx to Manhattan (or you name your low-rent to high rent address) in search of gold, some soft touch and easy landing based on nothing more than a fine head of hair, a good look in a suit, and passable manners when he picked up Adele Tyro one afternoon at the Metropolitan Art Museum. Apparently James had actually picked up enough art knowledge to pass Adele muster and, as she said at the time, she wasn’t getting any younger and so their whirlwind courtship began. Shortly thereafter the pair, not without some heiress parental displeasure, were married in a small civil ceremony. After a few years James ahd flown the coop and as Marlin found out to his dismay had headed south of the border after that West Coast tour to indulge in whatever he had the price for, mainly primo dope and loose women.

Yes, James had slipped down the class ladder a few rungs after he got the taste for cocaine, got the taste for the hungry, brown-eyed loose women who hovered around the cantina cocaine pits, and so his life turned to the meccas for such tastes and Marlin had to go south and find out where he was, and whether he was coming home to his waiting wife. Naturally after gleaning that information from a couple of drug dealer sources that he had both collared and befriended Marlin had to stop at the Club Tijuana the central place where those trying to make dope connections, or anything else sporting could be found. (Don’t get confused the place was owned by Americans and catered to Americans, no fellaheen need apply, as the employees were all gringos, the only Mex were cabdrivers and shoeshine boys hovering well outside that establishment.)
And Marlin found James, James and his woman, his all Spanish sparking brown eyes (when not loaded to the gills with whiskey or snow), ruby-red lips and swaying hips buxom woman, Rosita. After some verbal sparring James told Marlin (without the fiery Rosita present for obvious reasons) that he would return to the “up and up” as he called it in his just out of the Bronx dialect in New York once he got rid of his “jones.” Marlowe thought that would be never giving the ragged look of this now downtrodden James. James of the glassy eyes, steely smirk and slightly unclean and unwashed linen. He reported that news to Mrs. Addington and, go figure on women, she not only bought the excuse but sent money via Marlin to cover James’ expenses. (Marlin did not, and maybe made a mistake in not doing so, have the heart to tell her about Rosita, or the probably ten other women James had taken up with on his West Coast slide.

Marlin figured that would be that, case closed, except that a few weeks later Mrs. Addington showed up Los Angeles again this time to be nearby when James was ready to come north, come home. Marlin was sent to deliver that message (as well as more cash to help James in his recovery).  James, no nearer to recovery than previously, was peeved at the facts Marlin presented to him about his wife’s presence and her damn solicitude. Rosita was furious, had hellfire in her eyes and if Mrs. Addington had made step on Mexican soil she would have not liked the consequences. Marlin sensed that no good could come from these quarters after his announcement. And he was right because a few days later, a couple of days after he got back from Tijuana, Mrs. Addington was found in her rented suite at the Wiltshire murdered, cut up by somebody skilled at knife work. Needless to say despite all the pat alibis down in Tijuana this appeared to be a “hit” ordered by James (probably pushed on by Rosita, no, pushed on by Rosita, maybe when she got James high or when she had him in bed). The way Mrs. Addington was cut up said that it was probably done by a Mex bracero bad boy who went by the name (translated from Spanish) of Mack the Knife. Marlin had seen his work before in busted drug case in Ocean City a few years back.
Once Marlin had his proof he would go up against James, who if cleared of any part in the murder as appeared likely from the way the LA police handled the case, expected to inherit a big wad of dough for his habits (and to keep Rosita in style). When Marlin had his proof he went in for the collar (after a couple of weeks investigation ordered by Mrs. Addington’s executor, somebody in Mrs. Addington’s apartment building had seen a bad Mex looking like Mack the Knife in the hallway around the estimated time of the murder dressed in a messenger’s suit as if to be delivering a package to some resident).

One afternoon about a month after the Addington murder Marlin entered the Club Tijuana where James and Rosita were sitting at a back table in the dark. Stoned from the look of them but certainly tanked with most of the bottle of high-shelf whiskey in front of them. As Marlowe approached the darken corner a knife whizzed by him, he turned, drew his gun, aimed at the shadow and shot Mack the Knife point blank. James seeing that mal hombre go down, barely coherent and looking like hell was signaled to Marlin that he was ready to face the music but Rosita took a shot from a gun concealed in her dress, two shots actually, at Marlin hitting him in the left arm. He responded by throwing a couple of slugs into her heart. Dead. As for the fate of the unfaithful James once the carnage was cleared and he confessed to ordering the hit on his wife, eventually took the big step-off up at Q for the murder of his ever-loving wife. Marlin thought when he heard the news of the execution that damn that was another reason to hate Tijuana, hate it bad.

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