Watching Marilyn, p.17Jack Chapman
2 a.m. Yellow lights still shimmered on the oily black water of the marina. Offstage beyond a concrete pier there was the dull slap of ocean waves but inside the haven it was just sound effects. There was no swell and no wind to rock the boats tight-packed at their moorings. It stank a little of things that putrefy in sea water the way those places always do but it was an expensive, high class decay.
Maybe Jack Scalligan was starting to trust me. Maybe with the news I gave him it was too late now to care about meeting in a public place like he'd insisted on before. He only owned a medium-sized yacht but one that glowed with clean white paint and polished chromium. The aft cockpit where we sat under the stars wasn't the kind you worried about tripping over ropes and the upholstery on the bench seat was close enough to white leather it made no difference.
Scalligan fixed us both a scotch then another when I finished the first one early, but on the whole I didn't think he acted all that surprised. He was taking it calmly, I had the impression the news of Marilyn's death was a weight off his mind. I was running numb and not much caring but going through the motions because it was easier than inaction, emptily wondering who it was moving and talking through my body.
"Who do I work for, Jack? Twentieth Century Fox? That’s what you told me. Only Lane Sickert don’t seem to think so."
"Sickert? Who is he? He’s not that important he’s cognisant of everything goes on in Zanuck’s office. How the hell should he know." Scalligan brushed the question away.
"And Marilyn thought there was some kind of political connection."
"She was screwed up. That’s why you were working in the first place if you recall. Not that, if you don’t mind me saying, you've done much to look like value for money." He tipped more scotch in my glass to soften the criticism.
"Political connections at the highest level."
"That’s what the crazy lady thought, Frank. And that concerns you?"
"It concerns me she might've had reason to believe it."
"Was she drunk or was she just out of her skull on pills when she explained this to you?"
"She was drunk when she thought I worked for Kennedy, drugged when she claimed it was Nixon. Now she's dead. Which does that make it?"
"What do you think?"
"Personally I never believe a drunk."
Scalligan looked up to the night. Over towards the ocean away from the city lights you could even see a couple of stars twinkle but there was a clammy humidity in the air and occasional lightening flashed inside the clouds and thunder rumbled off the Santa Monica mountains to the North. "You believe in God?"
"I leave that kind of thing to the experts."
"You don’t believe in God you sure won’t believe in Kennedy or Nixon."
"Give me a straight answer, I'll decide what I believe."
"You start doubting the great and the good that only leaves one person it’s worth being loyal to. You're working for yourself, same as the rest of us. Self-interest tempered with enough self-delusion to feel virtuous. Take what’s offered in life, Frank, and when times change turn and run." Scalligan took out his cheque book and wrote out a month's fee with a gold fountain pen. "Now is that time. The lady's dead, it’s turn away time. Don’t look back. Put it out of mind. I’m telling you this as a friend."
He handed me the cheque. It was written against his Freeport, Bahamas bank account though it was made out in good, US dollars. It would have been a fine gesture to refuse his money but the gesture would have hurt me more than it hurt him. I looked to make sure he'd signed it and put it in my pocket.
"I hadn’t thought of you as much of a friend, Jack."
"Then maybe at least I educated you some."
"Incidentally she though it was Bobby Kennedy was pulling the strings, not John F. No one thinks Bobby’s God."
Scalligan shrugged. "Not yet."
"Could be Bobby you work for."
"I told you. I represent the studio."
"Bobby's got connections at the studio, Peter Lawford for one. But Fox, they owned her, used her, sued her. They've got no benefit killing a commodity."
"Was she killed?"
"Killed or deliberately left to die. Where's the difference?"
Scalligan threw his cigar butt over the side of his boat and watched the red glow arc to oblivion. "Why would anyone want to kill her? Other than a movie director she'd pissed about."
"For the red book. That's what you all wanted. Her diary."
"Tell me honestly, Frank. Assuming there is such a thing. You had enough time to look around in there? Did you find it?"
"I had it in my hands. But that was Calneva. A lot of people want that book. One of them's got it."
At 7 in the morning Fifth Helena Drive was still cool and only a hint in the thin blue sky of the heat to come. Stepping across the police tape I walked up to closed gates guarded by a uniformed cop. I acknowledged him in a not overly-familiar fashion and tried to side-step like someone on official business but he kept in my way. I showed him Jack Scalligan's press pass and told him I was with Fox and he didn't move an inch.
Through the iron-work of the gate I could see men moving around outside Marilyn's house. The driveway crammed with police vehicles and an ambulance with an open rear door.
"The body still here?" I asked.
"Yeah. Detectives still examining for evidence."
"Evidence of what?"
"That's what they want to know."
He was a middle-aged cop but he filled the blue LAPD uniform confidently like he kept his muscles in shape. He stared grimly at me. His demeanour was no better than you’d expect from a man who had to work that time of a Sunday morning.
"You know I can't tell you that. But it's the suicide squad in there."
"So why not let me through, officer? I can see Lane Sickert from Fox Security standing in her porch smoking a cigar."
"He must be better connected than you. I can't let anyone past isn't with the Police Department."
He didn't look in the mood to take a bribe so I said "I’m gonna trust you to keep a confidence. I was working for Miss Monroe on a highly personal matter. I’ve got a legitimate interest here. It’s important you let me in."
"Yeah. And I was married to her, pal. It don’t get you anywhere."
"Comedy act like yours pal, you should be on the radio." I took a step sideways to get a better angle on the house. "Lane," I yelled.
Lane Sickert either didn't hear or chose to ignore me. He was talking to a man in a dark suit. It might have been the Secret Service agent that hung around Bobby Kennedy. Then again it might be anybody.
Along Hollywood Boulevard I turned onto Wilcox in a roasting, noon heat that got hotter inside the LAPD's Hollywood Division detective office.
Lieutenant Keats was in a sour mood. It wasn't often these days you came across a cop with a smile on his face.
He looked up and said "Watson, I got nothing to say, it’s police business."
I held up the newspaper I bought on Sunset. "Tell the taxpayers."
Keats in shirtsleeves doing paperwork he didn't like. "Your type, you’re all the same. Creep around. You bug people. You steal their privacy. You infest their lives. Like something lurks in the skirting board, a human cockroach."
"We're all God's creatures, Lieutenant."
"Since you’re here, tell me, you seen Guppy lately?"
"He’s your partner."
"Was until he disappeared."
"The story goes. But I’m assuming that angle was more for your sister’s benefit."
"She never did benefit easy."
"Guppy might need to leave a forwarding address. He’d have to trust someone. My gu
I considered why the Lieutenant would be interested. "Maybe I know less than you think. Fact is that’s not why I'm here."
Keats shifted behind his overloaded, battered desk. He had a face not made for duplicity. Maybe he was in the wrong profession. He was sweating but so was everyone in this climate. "Don’t act smart, Watson. I’m asking about your partner."
"You’re changing the subject, Lieutenant. You know why I came here. And apart from getting side-tracked, this any of your business?"
"Guppy used to be an LA cop. Maybe after I visited your rat trap he mentioned I knew him a little in the old days. I heard about him more. Heard too much if it comes to that."
"Well, any friend of Tommy." I sat down on the hard chair opposite Keats tired of waiting for the invitation. It had been a long morning. "Let’s say I reminisce about Tommy Guppy. Then you tell me about Marilyn Monroe. It don't sound much of an equitable trade but you're calling the shots."
"You’ve got a newspaper. We’re not holding anything from the Press."
"I got the mid-morning edition with a story smells like a month-old fish."
Keats eyed the folded paper warily. "Ask for your money back."
I opened up to the inside report where they squeezed some information below the screaming banner MARILYN MONROE DEAD, PILLS NEAR and the library pictures, the fresh ink leaving smudges on my fingers. "You want me to read you a story?"
"Says here her housekeeper Mrs. Eunice Murray was the last person to see her alive. Eunice claims in her statement to the police that Miss Monroe retired to her bedroom about 8 p.m. About 3:25 a.m. this housekeeper, still inexplicably up and about that time, notices a light under Miss Monroe's door. She calls through the door but gets no answer. The door’s locked..."
Keats stared at me, almost as if he wanted me to admit I'd left that door open when I ran from the scene and Marilyn had shown no disposition to lock it after me. But he didn't press the point and I went on "Mrs. Murray goes outside and peers through a window she happens to know is uncurtained. She rushes back into the house and telephones Dr. Ralph Greenson. He arrives only fifteen minutes later, 3:40 a.m., and breaks the aforementioned window with a poker to gain entry, but maybe he’s always that cranky making house-calls in the middle of the night."
Keats nodded impatiently.
"By the way, your investigating officer, did he ask the housekeeper after she concluded through a window Marilyn might be dead what she expected a psycho-analyst to do about it?"
Keats kept his stone face. Said nothing.
"Okay, she’s hoping it’s an emotional crisis causing rigor to set in. And when Greenson arrives why don’t they break in through the bedroom door?"
"How do I know? You ever seen her bedroom door?" the Lieutenant asked.
"I admit I never tried to kick it down. But how many bedrooms you know have doors like bank vaults? Why does anyone go outside on a dark night to break through a window instead of push out the Micky Mouse lock they put on an inside door?"
"Well now you spell it out to me I ought to have thought this through. No, it just don't sound logical." He waited for me to get embarrassed. "How many people you know act logical in a crisis 3:40 in the morning, Watson? These are real people, they panic. It's what happens in real situations. I see it all the time."
"You considered the possibility they might be destroying evidence of an earlier break-in?"
"So what’s your theory they’re up to in that time?"
"Greenson called Miss Monroe's personal physician almost immediately."
I went back to my newspaper to check the details in the article, skipping over the divorces and the box-office disappointments of Let's Make Love and The Misfits. Give those journalists their due, the facts might all be wrong or wholly fabricated but they were enough to fill the column inches. "That would be Dr. Hyman Engelberg. According to the official line he arrives within the next ten minutes at 3:50 a.m. but maybe he’s another one got insomnia, sleeps in his clothes and drives a hot car. Or maybe they needed to work on a story about what they’d been prescribing her. When does anyone call the police?"
Keats turned over a piece of paper he had no difficulty finding from the stack on his desk. "Engelberg's report of the death is timed at 4:20 a.m. Two radio patrolmen attended and called in the detective squad."
"That’s thirty minutes he’s been looking for her pulse. Almost an hour delay from the initial discovery even assuming their version of the time’s anywhere accurate."
"I've got statements from two well-respected and highly qualified doctors. So far as they were concerned there was no evidence of crime."
I shook my head. "Was there any evidence at all by the time you got there?"
"Sound like you're suggesting collusion, Watson. Got any hard facts?"
I rolled up the newspaper and waved it at him. "This is not the way it happened." I considered telling him what I’d seen with my own eyes then considered again. "What do you think, Lieutenant?"
"No-one’s covering anything up. You’ll get the rest of the details in the afternoon edition, assuming you’re not too mean to buy another paper."
"When did the ambulance get there?"
"Soon as my detectives were ready to release the body to the county morgue for autopsy. That’s when they always call for the ambulance in this type of case."
"It didn’t arrive first, before any of the doctors or cops, say around 1 a.m. It didn't take her away somewhere, then for some reason return her in whatever condition back to Fifth St Helena Drive?"
"What? You crazy? The body's in the coroner’s possession. Far as I know he don’t drive them round in circles. Like I said, anything else you want it’ll be released to the press later today. So if you’ve no further objection do you mind if I take my turn now? I ask questions about Guppy, you answer."
"I thought we had a deal here. Tommy was never important enough for a press release. You want inside information I expect a little beyond public disclosure in return."
Keats sighed. He pulled out another bundle of typewritten reports. "I’ll give you one last thing. Okay? This goes no further until it’s officially released." He waited a moment looking at me. "I got a laboratory examination by the LA County toxicologist. Death resulted from a massive overdose of barbiturates. The bloodstream assayed 4.5 milligrams percent of pentobarbital and 8.0 milligrams percent of chloral hydrate. The liver was up to 13 milligrams percent pentobarbital. A classic film star overdose. No one was surprised. That satisfy you?"
"Time of death?"
"From body temperature, first guess is sometime between 9-30 and 11-30 Saturday night."
"They find Nembutal?"
The lieutenant scanned the page impatiently. "It says here Pentobarbital is marketed under the commercial brand name Nembutal. Same thing, different label."
"The other one?"
Keats sniffed, his eyes seemed too tired to move along the line as he reluctantly quoted "Chloral hydrate, described as a highly potent, sedative hypnotic. Ingestion will quickly render a subject unconscious."
"Sometimes marketed as knockout drops and also known as a Mickey Finn."
He looked up at me "Monroe's body was in a room locked from the inside. No hypodermic needle was found in that room, no bruising to suggest anything forced down her throat, nothing but a collection of empty pill bottles on the night stand. We’ve got a first-class pathologist, Dr Noguchi, working on the body. Correlating what he’s got so far with the forensic evidence he’s certifying cause of death as probable suicide."
"Any suicide note?"
"We've asked Bell to pull their records."
"I know you had a tap."
I thought about it for a while then asked "Why do you really want to know about Tommy Guppy? You’ve got plenty bigger fish to fry."
"Yeah. A shoal of them. You people enjoy the luxury to work one thing at a time. In the Department we take crime as it comes. All shapes, all sizes, all plentiful. But the fact there’s over much doesn’t mean when a bad one evades us for a while we forget about it. You carry a gun, Watson?"
"Can you fire one?"
"For a good enough reason."
Keats pulled open a desk drawer and transferred something to his pocket. He stood up and motioned me to follow him.
We went down concrete stairs to the basement level. At the bottom of the steps was a padded, soundproof door marked Firing Range. Keats led through into bright neon, the smell of cordite, noisy extractor fans and the intermittent crack of a police-issue handgun. There were half a dozen stalls but only one occupied. In it a uniformed officer fired at one of the six man-shaped targets at the far end of the range. Keats pulled a pint-sized pistol out of his jacket, it was the one he’d taken from his desk upstairs. He held it out for inspection.
"This is a Colt Vest Pocket semi-automatic, 0.25 calibre, a model been around a long time but a lot of people still consider it the best small handgun for concealment."
I failed to admire it so he turned and aimed, both arms extended, taking five careful shots at one of the targets. When the cardboard man trundled down the wire to us it had two holes in its left arm. In the next but one booth the uniform cop was hitting the bulls eye over his man’s heart with every shot. His build was familiar. As he turned to reload and looked over at us momentarily I recognised him as the cop I’d met in front of Marilyn’s house.
Keats examined his score philosophically. "Towards the end Tommy Guppy came close to giving police corruption a bad name. I don't know for certain he wasted Hertzheimer or just covered it up, it was no loss either way. But in my book any cop murders even a louse on my precinct without first asking permission is rotten dangerous and deserves putting down, not let retire on health grounds. None of that don't stop him being one of ours."
"That's an awful lot of assumptions with no evidence."
"I got evidence," Keats claimed wearily. "Ballistics say the bullet that killed Hertzheimer came from the same gun used a year before by a wronged woman in South Central shooting her husband. Detective Guppy was the arresting officer. The pistol, no surprises, was never officially recovered."
"That’s not evidence would stand two seconds in a courtroom."
"It’s a hell of a coincidence."
Keats reloaded and gave me the gun. It was the last thing you’d want as a range pistol. It almost disappeared in my fist. I shot it off best I could.
"Least you didn't damage the target."
"Is this the weapon?" I handed it back.
Keats looked at the pistol lying on the palm of his hand. "Identical model. I wondered if you were going to show any sign of recognising it."
"So in point of fact you don’t have the gun that allegedly both shot Hertzheimer and wreaked justice on some unfaithful husband, Lieutenant?"
"Not the exact pistol which shot those particular victims, no."
"You picture Tommy using that toy as a weapon of choice?"
Keats juggled it, testing the weight. "This baby’ll kill at close range."
"It’s a gun to suit a woman’s handbag."
"Interesting you should point that out. My belief based on talking to his colleagues of that time is he presented it to a young woman called Carmen Guiteras, listed on the books of the Hertzheimer Talent Agency as an actress and singer. Guppy was linked to Senorita Guiteras through his brother-in-law. I guess I don’t have to tell you the rest." Keats stared and waited for me to confess to something.
"If I ever see him I'll pass on your concern, Lieutenant."
"He had a kid I recall. Boy wasn’t it?"
"He's still got a kid. Name's Tommy Junior."
"His wife and kid need anything, anything at all, you tell me, Watson."
"Why would they need anything?"
"I’m just saying tell me. He's still one of ours."
"Why don't you tell me something. Tell me what really happened last night, Lieutenant."
Keats frowned. "Official police business."
"Same way Hertzheimer was official business? Save for the slight complication he was involved in matters would have embarrassed important people around this town if they'd come to court? What are you running here, Lieutenant, part of the LA detective division or the Last Chance Saloon? Back then you’d never have been allowed to put Tommy Guppy on a witness stand and his case never came close to what you've got now. The fact is Marilyn Monroe was sleeping with the President. This isn't anything they're going to let you run with either."
Keats leant back against the counter of the firing stall and stared at me.
I moved forward getting close to his face. "Secret Service ordered you to hand over your files yet? You're bound to protest, make out you've got some dignity left to protect, but before you get time to think up why it's your jurisdiction word will come down the hierarchy and you’ll have to hand everything over anyway. We both know the system. You want the truth, you need my help."
Keats muttered a few obscenities at me in a lacklustre manner, pulled out a crumpled packet of Marlboro from his jacket pocket. He fired one up and slowly exhaled.
I lit a cigarette of my own that only tasted of cordite smoke. "Thought you were quitting."
"I did quit. You feel like a cup of coffee, Watson?"
Watching Marilyn by Jack Chapman / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on16 votes