SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING OLD
Follow That Car!
Archer telephones the sheriff in Santa Teresa, where Archer’s car was stolen. Not that it is strictly Archer’s business, but Archer learns that the burning Jaguar came back as a stolen car, although the owner, Roy Lemberg, hadn’t reported it. The record owner lives in San Francisco and Archer is there, having dropped Bolling off. Archer offers to speak to the owner of the Jaguar about why he hadn’t reported the theft; to my surprise, the sheriff agrees.
On reflection, it’s not as implausible as it sounds. If the Jaguar was really stolen, it was stolen in San Francisco, outside of the sheriff’s jurisdiction. The only aspect of this that is the sheriff’s problem is the bad driving that wrecked the car, and that’s only a traffic citation. Delegating what looks to be a collateral interview in a minor matter makes some sense, especially since Archer is a licensed private detective. But mainly it’s a great way to move the plot along.
The Sleaziest Used Car Dealer Ever
The lead from the sheriff takes Archer to a rundown hotel to look for Lemberg. When Archer has the desk clerk call the room, he learns that Lemberg isn’t in, but that Mrs. Lemberg will see him.
At the end of the dust-colored hallway, a blonde in a pink robe gleamed like a mirage. Closer up, the luster was dimmer. She had darkness at the roots of her hair, and a slightly desperate smile.
She waited till I was practically standing at her feet, then she yawned and stretched elastically. She had wine and sleep on her breath. But her figure was good, lush-breasted and narrow-waisted. I wondered if it was for sale or simply on exhibition by the owner.
Hammett and Chandler have nothing more to teach their star pupil about writing hardboiled prose.
Archer’s encounter with Mrs. Lemberg is long on atmosphere and short on hard information, but Archer gets at least some news. But before I get to that, there is a quote that is simply too good not to point out.
She has just told Archer that her husband drinks too much. Then she continues.
“Not that I blame him,” she added more softly. “That brother of his would drive a saint to drink. Roy never hurt nobody in his life. Except me, and you expect that from any man.”
I was touched by her asphalt innocence. The long curve of her hip and thigh, the rich flesh of her bosom, were like the disguise of a frightened adolescent.
All right, on with the summary.
- Her husband Roy Lemberg lied about the car being stolen; he had lent it to his brother, Tom Lemberg, who claimed he needed it for an unspecified errand. She says Tommy hasn’t returned it yet, which is true, because it’s sitting up in Santa Teresa burned out.
- Tom is on parole and she suspects strongly that he is still actively working for a criminal gang.
- Not that it matters too much, but it is really Tom’s car but he can’t put it in his own name because he is on parole. His brother is doing him a favor by putting his name on the title.
At that moment, her husband Roy Lemberg comes in. Needless to say, he is suspicious of Archer, especially since he knows the Jaguar wasn’t for sale in the first place.
- When Archer says that he is there because of Tommy, and that Tommy is in trouble, Roy asks if “Otto Schwartz” put Archer up to this.
- Tommy used to work for Schwartz in Reno.
- After that, the Lembergs make a series of unconvincing denials and the interview runs dry. Archer leaves and bribes the desk clerk to report on their movements.
The Marian Culligan Interview, Part Two
Archer tracks down the Brown’s former nurse at her home. Under pressure to keep her husband from learning about her past, she comes forward with what she withheld at the airport.
- She admits that the old photos of Anthony Galton are of the man she knew as John Brown in Luna Bay.
- The night her then-husband Culligan came to the Brown house, he told her to go outside and he never let her come inside afterwards But she never saw any of the Brown family again.
- Culligan gave her some hush money that he said he’d taken from Brown.
- Culligan didn’t act alone. Another man, a convict nicknamed Shoulders who had broken out of San Quentin, was also there. From outside, she could hear Culligan and Shoulders arguing about how to divide the money and jewelry. Shoulders kept some rubies as part of his share.
- She was afraid, afterwards, to ask her husband what had happened; and she felt guilty, because she had told her husband about the cash box. John Brown used to open it in her presence when he paid her each week.
- She never got a good look at Shoulders that night and never saw him again.
- She denies any involvement with the recent death of her ex-husband.