Mike in Finland

Monday, 9 November 2020

Philip Marlowe Takes a Break

Here's a humorous little dramatic monologue to brighten your day, and also to provide some insight into the life of a private dick. It should ideally be read aloud with a strong American accent. A version of this text was first published in Muse (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008).

Philip Marlowe takes a break


It was a stakeout on Riverside Drive and I was beginning to smell a rat. There wasn’t a river in sight, so what was in this name? I needed to know, bad. I was working along the lines of when is a river not a river? when a Buick drifted to the gate, launched into the street and sailed off towards town. I sailed after it with a confident smile. Right, river, got it. But it had been a tough nut to crack and I knew then that this case was gonna be no walk in the park.


The Buick pulled up outside a diner. It was a classy joint and I was wearing a shirt I’d picked up from the cleaner’s four days before. It was still clean, though; just a couple of coffee stains, so I followed the driver inside.


She was a blonde. One of those blondes that drops into your life like a lottery ticket. Whatever that means. She was as pretty as a picture on a July day in Memphis, Tennessee and I was about to become one of the world’s greatest art collectors.


The smell of burgers and fries rose up my nostrils like a rocket off the launch pad at NASA. I was famished. I hadn’t eaten in four days. Ha! So that’s why my shirtfront was so clean.


The blonde took a seat by the window. I scanned the place. There was a Joe in the corner I didn’t much like the look of.


“Hey, Joe,” I said, “where you goin’ with that gun in your pants?”


But he was a bag of nerves. He made a lunge for the door, slipped and fell, spilling the beans as he hit the dirt. They went all over him. God, he looked a mess. I couldn’t help a silly smirk. Now he’d have to pay a trip to the laundry.


I sat down where I could watch the blonde. She was there to meet someone, I figured.


“What’ll it be, Buster?”


I gave the waitress a cool look and lit a cigarette.


“Your boss has a hunting lodge on 69th Street and thirty-six shotguns registered for hunting,” I told her, “so I reckon moose is on the menu. Mooses is big animals, and kinda cute, but I’ll eat one anyway.”


The waitress stared at me in admiration, or disbelief, and I didn’t much care which because somewhere, at the back of my mind, an alarm bell was ringin’, tryin’ to tell me somethin’. Somethin’ about a patsy called Toby. But was it Toby, or not Toby: that was the question.


Right at that moment I noticed the waitress’s name badge: Toby Ornott!


“Transvestisisism is’m offence in the State of California!” I spluttered. Hell, they oughta write these long words out of the law. “I’m calling the Feds. Feds!” I yelled, several times.


So it looked like the blonde was in the clear. I sure was happy about that. She was still sitting by the window but making ready to leave. I sloped over, picked her keys off the table and said, “Let’s you and me take a trip down river. I’ll drive”


“Piss off!” she replied, getting to her feet. She was a good six foot one, something I must have overlooked.


She exited and left me standing there. I was still feeling kinda tender and almost offered to take Joe for a ride to the cleaner’s, but thought better of it. The case was closed and I was free. Free as a napkin after a meal: screwed up, soiled and no use to anyone.

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