فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

The Right Kind of Bottle

A detective named Nulty took the investigation. I went with him to the 77th Street police station and we talked in a small, uncomfortable room which smelled of cheap cigars. Nulty’s shirt was old and his jacket was worn. He looked poor enough to be honest, but he didn’t look as if he’d be able to face Moose Malloy and win.

He picked up my business card from the table and read it.

‘Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. One of those guys, huh? So what were you doing while this Moose Malloy was breaking the black guy’s neck?’

‘I was in the bar. And he hadn’t promised me he was going to break anybody’s neck.’

‘OK, funny guy. Just tell me the story straight.’ Nulty didn’t like my jokes.

So I told him about Moose Malloy: the size of the man, what he was wearing, why he was there and what happened in that nightclub bar. ‘But I don’t think he went in there to kill anybody,’ I finished. ‘Not dressed like that. He just went there to try to find his girl, this Velma who used to work at Florian’s when it was still a white place.’

The phone rang on his desk. He picked it up and listened, wrote something on a piece of paper and put it down again.

‘That was Information. They’ve got all the details on Malloy, I and a photo.’

‘I think you should start looking for the girl. Malloy’s going to be looking for her, so if you find her, you’ll find him. Try Velma, Nulty, that’s my advice.’

‘You try her,’ he said.

I laughed and started for the door.

‘Hey, wait a minute, Marlowe.’ I stopped and looked back at him. ‘I mean, if you’re not too busy, maybe you’ve got time to have a look for the girl. I’d remember your help, too. You PI’s always need a friend down here among us boys, and I wouldn’t forget it. Not ever.’

It was true. I wasn’t at all busy. I hadn’t had any real business for about a month. Even this job would make a change from doing nothing. No money in it, but a friend inside the police station might be useful one day.

That’s how, when I’d eaten some lunch and bought a bottle of good whisky, I found myself driving north again on Main Street, following an idea that was playing around in my head.


Florian’s was closed, of course. I parked round the corner and went into a small hotel that was on the opposite side of the street from the club. A man with a very old tie, pinned in the middle with a large green stone, was sleeping peacefully behind the desk. He opened one eye and saw the bottle of good whisky standing on the counter right in front of his nose. He was suddenly awake. He studied the bottle carefully and he studied me. He looked satisfied.

‘You want information, brother, you’ve come to the right place with the right kind of bottle.’ He took two small glasses out from under his desk, filled them both and drank one straight down.

‘Yes, sir. Certainly is the correct bottle.’ He refilled his glass. ‘Now, how can I be of help to you, brother. There’s not a hole in the road round here that I don’t know by its first name.’

I told him what had happened at Florian’s that morning. He looked at me without much surprise and just shook his head.

‘What happened to the guy who owned Florian’s about six or eight years ago?’ I asked him.

‘Mike Florian? Dead, brother. Went to meet Our Maker five, maybe six years ago. Drank a bit too much, they said. Left a wife named Jessie.’

‘What happened to her?’

‘Don’t rightly know, brother. Try the phone book.’

Clever guy, that. Why hadn’t I thought of the phone book? He pushed the book across the desk to me and I looked. There was a Jessie Florian who lived at 1644 West 54th Place. I wrote down the address, shook hands with the man behind the desk, put the bottle back in the pocket of my jacket and went out to my car. Finding Malloy looked so easy now. Too easy.

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