Sunday, February 09, 2014

***The Life And Times Of Michael Philip Marlin, Private Investigator – They Shoot Blackmailers, Partner 

As readers know Tyrone Fallon, the son of the late famous Southern California private operative, Michael Philip Marlin (Tyrone used his mother’s maiden name for obvious reasons), and private eye in his own right told my old friend Peter Paul Markin’s friend Joshua Lawrence Breslin some stories that his illustrious father told him. Here’s one such story although not about himself but about an operative for the largest detective agency on the West Coast, John “Stubs” Lane. (Stubs nick-named for a habit picked while sitting alone endlessly in cold cars driving cold coffee and picking out cigarette stubs from the ashtray after the deck ran out).

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

A lot of times guys, hard guys with fast-trigger fingers, or an itch for the high life fall off the edge, fall into places where they never should have fallen. Take our slumming streets of Los Angeles private eye Stubs Lane’s client, let's call him Lance Landry, in this short story about blackmailers (although I would not bet money, bet six-two and even money, that pressed, hard-pressed blackmailers would not be above putting a pair of slugs in anybody who got in their way, if necessary, any day of the week and so let’s not draw tears for our white collar brethren, not these days anyway).

Lance, a hard guy, a former hard guy anyway from back East, Detroit they said but it could have been any town from New Jack City to Chi town, all towns filled to the brim with hard guys working overtime to be harder, who went West for the sun. Who was he kidding, for some easy pickings among the new-found Okies and Arkies with money made in the World War II bustling defense plants, money juts made to placed in his pockets, that crowd just waiting to “invest” it with some foul scheme he had up his sleeve, and a golden pay- dirt.

But see too Lance, despite his greed, despite being a hard guy, and he was, no question, had an old flame thing that had driven him West as well. And maybe that was not so “an old flame,” when Studs worked his work around the case. That flame, old or not, in any case was Rita Farr. Yes, Rita Farr the exotic and erotic then latest 1940s screen siren who made all the boys flutter and the girls shutter (shuttering that the boys are fluttering of course, and not doing so over them) was working on another picture to enrich Paine Productions. Paine Productions which had a great deal at stake in the reputation of one Rita Farr.

That is where the maybe "not so old flame" with Lance came in. See the studio put the big nix sign on Rita and Lance being together. According to a couple of sources that Studs worked out in the Hollywood press vine Rita and Lance had been lovers back in Detroit, or some town in the East when he was a groundling hard guy and she was doing odd street tricks in between serving them off the arm in Jimmy Jack’s Shack where groundling hard guys like Lance hung out waiting for the next hit and waiting to move up the food chain. They had been hot and heavy (although not hot enough to have Lance stop Rita from taking a few street tricks to keep him in clover while he waited to move up that food chain) until he began his move up and she was “discovered” by a wayward Hollywood agent passing through Detroit who liked her screen test and so did Billy Paine. And off she went.

Here was the problem though. It seemed then (and maybe now too) that movie stars, high profile sex goddess movie stars and rough -edged gangsters were a lethal audience mix. Nobody, no Oakie-Arkie suburban movie-goers were putting big check marks next to rising starlets who hung with known hoods, So since Billy Paine had about five thousand times more clout in the right places in Hollywood Lance, despite his kingpin gangster reputation, was out. Yeah, that was the kind of clout Billy had. Except somebody, okay, a blackmailer, had the photos and letters that showed for all the world to see that Lance was still carrying the torch, had still been seeing Rita after the studio nix.

Enter our man Stubs whom Lance had hired to keep an eye on Rita, keep the riffraff and grifters of the world away from her. He could not afford to have one of his groundlings do that job so Stubs, who didn’t shrink from the thought of working for gangsters, gangsters who paid anyway, grabbed the job when Los Angeles Detective Bobby Barnes called and asked him if he needed some light-lifting work. Stubs, not always able to be choosy about whom he worked for, and in any case was friends, or at least on speaking terms with more than one outlaw as part of his chosen work, including Lance, took the job, took it seriously too.

The problem was that no sooner had Stubs been employed than Rita was kidnapped by her driver, her driver who was paid by Paine Productions, kidnapped at the behest of a party (or parties) unknown. As we all know that falling down on the job would make a tough gumshoe like Stubs see red, seek to right thing up quickly, in short, to take the gaff and deliver the ransom and create hell for the kidnappers. And so he did, taking guff from the studio boss Billy, from an irate Lance ready to send his own boys to handle the matter his way, and from the party unknown, including a few fists flying and bullets whistling by along the way.

But Studs got some rough justice to win out in the end. It seems that one of Lance's old partners in crime, Bobby Riddle, as will happen in any enterprise, did not like being shut out of the golden pay- dirt in the West when he, in his turn, came West looking for suckers, and was seeking revenge for that slight. In the end Booby went down in a hail of Studs’ bullets, the actual kidnapper, that driver, Sam Silver, a known Riddle associate, went down in a hail of Lance bullets and even Lance went down in in a hail of Los Angeles Police bullets when he refused to surrender in order to save Rita when things got dicey at exchange time. And Rita? Well Rita after taking a run for the satin sheets with Stubs in gratitude (so he said) who was not buying (so he said), possibly fearing an affair with Rita might come with a bullet not far behind (an event that had not previously blanketed his ardor in the affairs department), went off to marry the studio boss and is now the respected Mrs. William Paine. Jesus.

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