Detour -Well, here we are. I turn down here at the next block. -Thanks, buster. I’ll get off there. -Want anything else?
-No. Hey, you. -Me?
-Yeah, you. Where’re you heading? East. Too bad. I thought if you was heading north
I might be able to help you out. I’m pushing myself late tonight. I don’t like to ride alone at night. I am one of those guys who gotta talk or I fall asleep. My partner, he’s got Lou to keep him company, but I ain’t got nobody at all. Where you comin’ from? -West.
-Sure, I know. But where? LA? -Maybe.
-I’ve got a cousin out in LA. -You don’t say!
-He’s been up…. -You are not much of a talker, are you?
-My mother taught me never to speak to strangers. -Oh, a wise guy…
-So what? Okay, okay. Don’t get sore. Trying to be sociable. That’s all. Hey, glamorous! Give me change for a dime, will you? Let’s have something quieter this time, Joe. My head’s splitting. Is that what’s wrong with it? -Done with your coffee?
-No, and don’t rush me, will you? Hey, turn that off. Will you turn that thing off?
-What’s eating you now? -Yeah, what’s eating you?
-That music, it stinks. -Oh, you don’t like it, huh?
-No. Turn it off! Wait a minute, pal. That was my nickle, see? This is a free country, and I play whatever I want to. Okay… Sure, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to listen to it. And you can leave here anytime you wanna! -OK, OK. I’m sorry I asked. First good piece he plays tonight and you don’t like it. Some people just ain’t got any good taste. That tune… That tune! Why was there always that rotten tune? Following me around, beating in my head, never letting up. Did you ever want to forget anything? Did you ever want cut away a piece of your memory
or blot it out? You can’t, you know. No matter how hard you try. You can change the scenery, but sooner or later you’ll get a whiff of perfume or somebody will say a certain phrase or maybe hum something… Then you are licked again. “I can’t believe that you’re in love with me”. I used to love that song, once. So did the customers back in the old Break o’ Dawn Club in New York. I can’t remember a night when I didn’t get at least three requests for it. Sue… she was always selling it, too. Those were the days… Your eyes are blue,
your kisses too, I never knew what they could do, I can’t believe that you’re in love with me… You’re telling everyone you know, That I’m on your mind each place you go, They can’t believe that you’re in love with me… I have always placed you far above me, I just can’t imagine that you love me, And after all is said and done,
To think that I’m the lucky one I can’t believe that you’re in love with me… It wasn’t much of a club, really. You know the kind. A joint where you could have a sandwich and a few drinks and run interference for your girl on the dance floor. I fronted the piano in there every night
from 8:00 until the place closed up, which usually meant 4:00 in the morning. A good job as jobs went in those days. And too, there was Sue, who made working there a little like working in Heaven. But how we felt about each other, well, there was nothing very unusual in that. I was an ordinary healthy guy and she was an ordinary healthy girl, and when you add those two together, you get an ordinary healthy romance, which is the old story, sure, but somehow, the most wonderful thing in the world. All in all, I was a pretty lucky guy. Mr. Paderewski, I presume. It’s beautiful. You’re going to make Carnegie Hall yet, Al. Yeah, as a janitor. -I’ll make my debut in the basement.
-I don’t blame you for being bitter, darling, but you mustn’t give up hope. Why, someday… Yeah, someday, if I don’t get arthritis first. In the meantime, let’s blow this trap -Like to get something to eat, hon?
-I don’t think so, Al. I lose my appetite working in this fleabag. -Let’s go home.
-Okay. I can’t stand much more of that dump. -Did you see that drunk tonight trying to pull me?
-No, what drunk? -Does it matter what drunk? Say, what’s the matter with you tonight, darling? That’s the third time you started to tell me something then stopped. We shouldn’t have any secrets from each other, Sue. Next week, we’re gonna make with the ring and the license. You and me will be a team. Yes, that’s right… in the Bush League. -I don’t get you.
-We’ve been struck out. It’s a funny way to talk, darling. Don’t you wanna marry me? Al. Look, I love you. You know I do, and I want to marry you. -But…
-But not now. Only after we’re really good. Sunday I’m going away. I know you’ll think it’s silly. That’s why I hesitated to tell you, but I’m going to California. I want to try my luck in Hollywood. That’s the most stupid thing I ever heard of. Don’t you know millions of people go out there a year and wind up publishing cuspidors? -I thought you had better sense.
-You sound as if you don’t think I have any talent. -That has nothing to do with it.
-I’ll make out all right. Maybe, but what about me? Doesn’t it mean anything to you that you’re busting up all our plans? -That we may not see each other for years?
-It won’t be that long. -I thought you loved me.
-I do. You know I do. Well, here we are. Al… Why can’t you see my side of it? I’m young, we both are, and we’ve got all the time in the world to settle down. Really, darling. What I’m doing is the only sane thing to do. I hate the thought of being so far away from you, but we’ll be together again someday. -Maybe you’ll decide to come out too, later on.
-So long… Al! -Aren’t you going to kiss me goodnight?
-Sure, why not? Good night. -Say, Robert. You hit the jackpot this time. Ten bucks.
-Thanks. So when this drunk handed me a 10-spot after a request I couldn’t get very excited. “What was it?” I asked myself. A piece of paper crawling with germs. Couldn’t buy anything I wanted. It couldn’t… Then I thought of something. Long distance. I like to put a call through the Los Angeles. Miss Harvey. Sue Harvey. H-A-R-V-E-Y. The number is Crestview six, five, seven, two, three… Hello, Sue. This is Al. Oh, baby, it’s great to hear from you too. What’s that? You do? Oh, me too, Darlin. I thought I’d go batty without you. I just had a… huh? You’re working as a hash slinger? Gee, honey. That’s tough those guys out in Hollywood don’t know the real thing when it’s right in front of them. You just stick it out, Sue babe. Keep going around those casting offices, I’m sure you’ll click. Look, I’ll tell you what: you stay put out there. I’ll come to you. No, don’t try to stop me. Just expect me. Train? Who knows? Train, plane, bus, magic carpet… I’ll be there if I have to crawl, to travel by pogo stick. And then.. Let’s get married right away, huh? That’s the stuff. That’s what I’ve been wanting to hear you say. Well… goodbye for now. I’ll be seeing you soon. Yeah. Goodbye. The only way I could cross country was to thumb rides. Or even after hawking everything, I only had enough money to eat. Money… You know what that is. It’s the stuff you never have enough of. Little green things with George Washington’s picture that men slaved for, commit crimes for, died for. It’s the stuff that has caused more trouble in the world than anything else we ever invented. Simply because there’s too little of it. At least I had too little of it. So it was me for the fun. Ever done any hitchhiking? It’s not much fun, believe me. Oh, yeah. I know all about how it’s an education, how you get to meet a lot of people and all that. But me, from now on, I’ll take my education in college or in PS 62 or I’ll send a dollar 98 and stamps for 10 easy lessons. Humming rides may save your bus fare, but it’s dangerous. You never know what’s in store for you when you hear the squeal of brakes. If only I had known what I was getting into that day in Arizona… Throw that in the backseat. Okay, let’s go. Make sure that door’s closed. You know, Emily Post ought to write a book of rules for guys thumbing rides. Because as it is now, you never know what’s right and what’s wrong. We rode along for a little while, neither one of us saying anything. I was glad of that. I never know what to say to strange people driving cars. And too you can never tell if a guy wants to talk. A lot of rides have been cut short because of a big mouth. So I kept my mouth shut until his started opening up. Hand me that little box in the compartment. Will you, pal? Hold the wheel, will ya’? -How far you going?
-LA. Well, you’re really traveling, aren’t you? Yeah, but I don’t expect to make it for a couple of years at the rate I’ve been promoting rides. -Not much luck, eh?
-Sure. All bad. How many people stop for a guy these days? Afraid of a stick up, maybe. Eh, you can’t blame them. -Where you coming from?
-New York. Well, New York… Never left this time. I’m going all the way. Right through Los Angeles. -You drive a car?
-Sure. Whenever you are tired, let me know. I’ll holla. I guess at least an hour passed before I noticed those deep scratches in his right hand. They were wicked. Three puffy red lines about a quarter of an inch apart. He must have seen me looking at them because he said… Beauties, aren’t they? They’re gonna be scars someday. What an animal. Whatever it was, it must have been pretty big and vicious to have done that. -Right on both counts, New York. I was tusseling with the most dangerous animal in the world: a woman. She must have been Tarzan’s mate. Looks like you lost a lot. Certainly wasn’t a draw. You know, there ought to be a law against dames with claws. -Yeah.
-I tossed her out of the car on her head. Was I wrong? Give a lift to a tomato, you expect it to be nice. Don’t you? Yeah. After all, what kind of dame thumb rides? Sunday school teachers? A little whitch. She must have thought she was riding with some fall guy. And me has been poking horses around racetracks as I was 20. -I know a million dames like her. Two million.
-Yeah. Stopped the car, opened the door. “Take another hour and stop here, sister”, I told her. -That’s the stuff.
-As I was going. If you want to see a real scar, brother, get a load of this. Wow! -I got that one duelling.
-Duelling? Yeah, we were just kidding, of course. My dad owned a couple of Franco-Prussian Sabres, kept them on the wall for decorations. One day, another kid and I took them down when the old man wasn’t around, and had a duel. He got me in the arm, here. Pretty mean cut. -Infection set in later.
-Yeah, I can see that. -Now give me that box again, will you?
-Yeah. Pain made me lose my head, I guess. I began slashing. Before I knew it, I put the other kid’s eye out. -That was tough.
-It was just an accident, of course. You know how kids are. I get scared, decided I was gonna run away from home. Old man almost caught me, when I was
packing my duds. The bloody rag I had wrapped around my wrist hadn’t caught his attention. He’d have seen the bundle for sure. So I beat it, when he was phoning for a doctor. That was 15, 16 years ago. I haven’t been home since. Pull in there for a bite of something, huh? “A bite of something”. Brother, was I hungry. I hadn’t had anything in my stomach for hours. But even with that gnawing in the pit of my belly. I didn’t want to be in too big a rush to put on the feed bag. First, I had to make sure this guy knew the score.
If I got him down on me, goodbye ticket to Hollywood. -I’ll wait out here for you, mister.
-If it’s the money don’t worry about paying for it. This time it’s on me. -Well, that’s quite …
-Haskell. Think nothing of it. You make your first million, maybe you can
do the same for me. Come on, New York. I gotta make the West Coast by Wednesday. There’s a horse running at Santa Anita, named “Paradisical”. -Means dough for me if I’m on it.
-We’ll make it alright. He did most of the talking during the half hour we were in the place. I ate. He rambled on about his old man whom he hadn’t heard from since he ran away as a kid. Now he happened to become a bookie. And then all about how he got rooked in Miami. One race, 38 grand. They cleaned out my book. How do you like that? -It was tough luck.
-Yeah, and I’m supposed to be the smart guy. You just wait. I’m going back to Florida next season with all kinds of jack, and you watch those stinkers run for cover. -Want anything else?
-No, thanks. I’ve had plenty. Got the cheque there, sister? -Oh, just a minute. Your change, sir.
-Keep it, sister. -Oh, thank you, sir. Call again.
-I’ll be waiting outside for when you’ve finished work. Sharp chick, huh? I drove all that night while Haskell slept like a log. After a while, I began to get sleepy myself. I was happy, though. Soon I’d be with Sue again. The long trip was practically over, there’d be no more hoofing it down the concrete. I began to think of the future, which couldn’t have been brighter if I’d embroidered it with neon lights. It was nice to think of Sue shooting to the top. It’s amazing what a full belly can do to your imagination. Your eyes are blue,
Your kisses too, I never knew what they could do, I can’t believe that you’re in love with me, You’re telling everyone you know, I’m on your mind each place you go, I can’t believe that you’re in love… …with me. Mr. Haskell… Mr. Haskell… Mr. Haskell, wake up. It’s raining. Don’t you think we ought to stop and put up the top? Mr. Haskel, I’m gonna put up the top. Until then, I’ve done things my way, but from then on, something else stepped in and shunted me off to a different destination that the one I had picked for myself. For when I pulled open that door… Mr. Haskell, what’s the matter? Are you hurt? Are you hurt, Mr. Haskell? Start yourself. I’ll listen to it, but I know what you’re gonna hand me even before you open your mouth. You’re gonna tell me you don’t believe my story about Haskell dying and give me that “don’t make me laugh” expression on your smug faces. I saw it once he was dead, and I was in for it. Who would believe he fell out of the car? Why if Haskell came to, which of course he couldn’t, even he would swear I conked him over the head for his dough. Yes, I was in for it. Instinct told me to run, but then I realised it was hopeless. There were lots of people back down the road who could identify me. That gas station guy, and the waitress! I would be in a worse spot then trying to explain why I beat it. The next possibility was to sit tight until the truth from the cops came, but that would be crazy. They’d laugh at the truth and I’d have my head in the knoose. So what else was there to do but hide the body to get away in the car? I couldn’t leave the car there with him in the gully, that would be like erecting a tombstone. My idea was to cover him with brush, not to rob him, but then I remembered that even if I only drove the car for 100 miles or so, I would need money for gas. Besides, it was stupid of me
to leave all that money on a dead man. Not only that, I’d have to take his driver’s license in case I was stopped for something. I didn’t like to think about it, but by that time I’d done just that the police would say I did, even if I didn’t. My clothes. The owner of such an expensive car would never be wearing them. Some cop might pull me in on suspicion. Hey, you. This your car? Don’t you know better than to leave a car with
the wheels half way in the middle of the road? That’s the way accidents happen. I’m… I’m sorry, officer. I was just putting up my top. -I…I didn’t think
-Well, the next time think. I’ll let you go now, but watch your step in the future. I know that’s a lonely stretch, but cars come by here once in a while and we have plenty of crack-ups. Thanks, officer. I left nothing in the car that gave me away as Robertson. If they found a dead man on the gully now, it could be me. As I drove off, it was still raining. And the drops streaked down the windshield like tears. I kept imagining I was being followed, that I could hear sirens back in the distance. Just how long it took me to cover the 60 odd miles to the California state line I don’t know. I lost all track of time, but the rain had stopped and the sun was up when I pulled up at the inspection station. -Carrying any fruits or vegetables?
-No. -Any Livestock or poultry?
-No. Let me see your registration and driver’s license, please. -Anything in the baggage compartment?
-Just baggage. Charles Haskell Jr. 8 30 Brown eyes, dark-haired. Done fine tax, none. -Are you Charles Haskell Jr.?
-Yes. Well, remember, if you’re employed and you stay over 30 days, you take out California plates. Alright, officer, but I’ll only stay in this state a short while. Right. You can go now. I couldn’t drive any farther without some sleep. Cops or no cops, I knew I had to hit the hay and hit it hard. I was dead tired. No, you can’t, Mr. Haskell…. No… Mr Haskell… you can’t die… They’ll think… they’ll think I did it. No, Mr. Haskell. No… No… -Who’s there?
-It’s the maid. Can I come in and clean? -Later… in a half hour.
-All right, sir. There was no time to lose. Every minute I had to be Charles Haskell was dangerous. Now, I had to be Charles Haskell until I got to some city where I could leave the car and be swallowed up. That meant driving the car as far as San Bernardino, maybe even to Los Angeles. In a little town I might be noticed, but in a city I should be safe enough. Then, after I ditch the car, I could go on to Sue. But those five minutes at the state line made me realize it might be a good idea to find out a little bit about Mr. Haskell. Then, if anybody asked me questions, I could give the right answers. The first thing I found out was that I had 768 dollars. This was a lot of jack, but believe me: it was the kind of money I’d rather not have. And then I found out from a letter Haskell was carrying around in his bag that he wasn’t the open-handed easygoing bigshot that went around buying dinners for strange hitchhikers. Before I got done reading it, I saw him more as a chiseler. It was written to his old man in California, the one he hadn’t seen in so many years. In it, Haskell posed as a salesman… of hymnals, of all things. It was easy to see where Haskell expected to raise a new stake for his book in Miami… by rooking his old man. That was about all I found out from his effects, and it was enough. I told myself: “Maybe old man Haskell was lucky his son kicked off” “He would never know it, but it saved him from taking a fly in Sacred Literature preferred” Near a desert center I pulled up for water, there was a woman. Hey, you! Come on if you want to ride! -How far you going?
-How far you going? That took me by surprise and I turned my head to look her over. She was facing straight ahead so I couldn’t see her eyes, but she was young, had more than 24. Man, she looked as if she’d just been thrown off the crummiest freight train in the world. Yet in spite of this, I got the impression of beauty. Not the beauty of a movie actress, mind you, or the beauty you dream about when you’re with your wife, but a natural beauty. A beauty that’s almost homely because it’s so real. Then, suddenly, she turned to face me. -How far you say we’re going?
-Los Angeles. LA? -LA is good enough for me, mister.
-That’ what I was afraid of… -What you said?
-Oh, nothing. Just thinking out loud. People get in trouble for doing that. -What’s your name?
-You can call me Vera, if you like. -You live in Los Angeles?
-No. -Where you coming from?
-Oh, back there -Needles?
-No. Oh, sure. Phoenix. You look just like a Phoenix girl. Are the girls in Phoenix that bad? The girl must have been pretty tired, because she fell asleep not 20 minutes after she stepped into the car. She laid sprawled out with her head resting against the front door, like Haskell. I didn’t like that part of it much, but I didn’t wake her up. It wasn’t that this girl still worried me, I’ve gotten over that funny feeling I had when she looked at me which I put down as just my jangled nerves. With her eyes closed test has gone out of them. She seemed harmless enough. And instead of disliking her, I began to feel sorry for her. The poor kid probably had had a rough time of it. Who was she, anyway? And why was she going to Los Angeles? Where’d she come from in the first place? The only thing I knew about her was her name. Not that it made any difference. A few hours more and we’d be in Hollywood. I’d forget where I parked the car and look up Sue. This nightmare of being a dead man would be over. -Who this dame was, well, it was no business of mine.
-Where did you leave his body? Where did you leave the owner of this car? You’re not fooling anyone. This buggy belongs to a guy named Haskell. That’s not you, mister. You’re out of your mind. That’s my name, Charles Haskell. I can prove it. -It’s in my driver’s license…
-Save yourselself the trouble, mister. It only makes it worse. It just so happens I rode with Charlie Haskell all the way from Louisiana. -He picked me up outside of Shreveport.
-You… You heard me! And it all came back to me… All the talk about dueling, and scars, and scratches. There was no doubt about it. Vera must be the woman Haskell had mentioned. She must have passed me while I slept… Well? -Well, I’m waiting.
-My goose was cooked. She had me. That Haskell guy wasn’t dead yet. He wasn’t stretched out stiff and cold in any Arizona gully. He was sitting right there in the car laughing like mad while he haunted me. -Well?
There was nothing I could say… It was her move. Vera whatever-her-name-was was just my luck picking her up on the road. It couldn’t have been Helen, or Mary, or Ellen, or Ruth. It had to be the very last person I should ever have met. That’s life. Whichever way you turn, fate sticks out a foot to trip you. I told her everything, but she didn’t believe my story. I should have saved my breath. That’s the greatest Cock-and-Bull story I ever heard. “So he fell out of his car”! Say, who do you think you’re talking to? A hick? Listen, mister. I’ve been around and I know a wrong guy when I see one. -What’d you do? Kiss him with a wrench?
-Now, wait a minute. What I told you was true. You see, that’s why I had to do it. You think I killed him, well, the cops would’ve thought so too. Yeah, well, maybe they still think so. -What makes you so sure I’ll shut up about this?
-Girl, I’m innocent. Give me a break, will you? It won’t do me any good having you pinched. The cops are no friends of mine. Now, if there was a reward… but there isn’t. -Thanks.
-Don’t thank me yet. I’m not through with you by a long shot. Let’s see that role. Is that all Haskell had? -Isn’t it enough?
-No, I thought he had more. Not that I know of. You can search me if you think I’m holding out on you. Well, maybe I will do that. He told me he was gonna bet $3,000 on a horse named Paradicyle on Wednesday at Santa Anita. -He was stringing you along. He meant 300.
-Maybe. Sure. 3 bucks, 300. He was a piece of cheese, a big blowhard. Listen, mister, don’t try and tell me anything about Charlie Haskell. Remember, I knew him better than you did.
-OK, then you knew he was a four-flusher, that explains the three Grand bet. I’m not so sure he didn’t have that three grand. Why should I believe you? You got all the earmarks of a cheap crook.
-Now, wait a minute… Shut up! You’re a cheap crook and you killed him but – since I changed my mind and turn you in. I don’t like you! -Alright, alright. Don’t get sore.
-I’m not gettin’ sore, but just remember who’s boss around here. If you shut up and don’t give me any arguments, you’ll have nothing to worry about. But if you act wise, well mister, you’ll pop in the jail so fast It’ll give you the bends.
-I’m not arguing… I’ll see that you don’t! You know, as crooked as you look, I’d hate to see a fella as young as you wind up sniffing that perfume that Arizona hands up free to murderers.
-I’m not a murderer! -Of course you’re not. Haskell knocked his own head off.
-He fell on his head, just like I told ya. Sure! And then he made you a present of his belongings. -I explained why I…
-Oh, skip it. Doesn’t make a difference one way or another. I’m not a mourner. -I liked Haskell even less than I like you.
-Yeah, I saw what you did to him. -What do you mean?
-Those scratches on his wrists… Sure, I scratched him. I’ll say you did… So your idea was to drive the car a little way, maybe into San Bernardino, and then leave it. You weren’t gonna sell it?
-“Sell it”? You think I’m crazy? Somebody else’s car? See, all I want to do is leave it somewhere and forget I ever saw it. Not only don’t you have any scruples, you don’t have any brains. I don’t get you. Maybe it’s a good thing you met me. You would´ve got yourself caught for sure. Why, you dope. Don’t you know a deserted automobile always rates an investigation? -Huh? Look, the cops find a car. Then they get curious, they wonder where the owner is. So, all right? They don’t trace Haskell. They trace you.
-I never thought of that. The only safe way to get rid of the car is to sell it to a dealer. Get it registered on our new name. Say, stop at the next door. I want to get a bottle and do some shopping before we hit LA. OK. Since we found a place. I’ll drop you off and pick you up later. Not the doing. You’re coming in too. From now on, you and I are like the siamese twins. -Have it your way, but I don’t get the point.
-The point is I don’t want you to get lost. -I’m not gonna beat it if that’s what you’re afraid of.
-I’ll say you’re not. I’m gonna see that you sell this car so you don’t get caught. Thanks. Of course your interest wouldn’t be financial, would? You wouldn’t want a small percentage of the profits… Well, now that you insist, how can I refuse? -100 percent will do.
-Fine, I’m relieved. I thought for a moment you were gonna take it all.
-I don’t want to be a hog. A few hours later, we were in Hollywood. I was recognizing places Sue had written about. It strucked me that, far from being at the end of the trip, there was a greater distance between Sue and me than when I started out. Vera wasn’t kidding with that siamese twins crack. She rented a little apartment as Mrs. Charles Haskell. When I objected to this, she explained it was on account of the car. A dealer might think something was funny if he’d call and find out we were using different names. -Home, sweet home.
-Yeah… Not bad either. In case there’s any doubt in your mind, I’ll take the bedroom. Yeah. Sure is stuffy in here. -Keep the window shut!
-Okay. The old crow downstairs said there’s a phone and bed behind this door. You know how to work it? I invented it. -Some joint!
-One can’t have everything. -I’m first in the bathtub.
-I don’t know why, but I figured you would be. Boy, oh boy. It sure feels good to be clean again. I must be 10 pounds lighter. You must be. Well, hitching rides isn’t exactly the way you keep your schoolgirl complexion. I wish that guy with the sax would give up. It gets on my nerves. Forget it. Have a drink. Aren’t you afraid I might take you up on it? I didn’t want to give you a drink I didn’t vomit. Might be is saw at, Roberts. You got yourself into this thing. You should be grateful I’m not turning you in. Why, if I wasn’t regular, you’d be in the pen this minute, being photographed, fingerprinted, and being pushed around by the cops. So cheer up, get rid of that long puss. Oh, is your conscience bothering you? -It isn’t.
-Swell. That’s the spirit. He’s dead. No longing around will bring him back. Anyway, I never could understand this worrying about something that’s over and done with. Now look, Vera. For the last time, I didn’t kill him. Haskell was a sick man. Maybe he was dead before he fell out of the car. I don’t know. Sure, sure. He died of old age. All right. So if it will make you sociable… you didn’t kill him. Thanks. We’re out of Liquor, Roberts. Yeah. Too bad. I felt like gettin tight tonight. -Well, I think you succeded.
-Am I tight? -As a primadonna’s corset.
-That’s good. I wanted to get tight. Why? What have you got to get tight about? Oh, I don’t know. Feel things… Huh? -You should have my worries.
-If I had your troubles, I’d stay sober. And I’ve got the key to that door. Yeah, maybe you’re right.
-I’m always right. -You know, I don’t like your attitude, Roberts.
-Well, there’s a lot of things I don’t like. Sure… But life’s like a ball game, you gotta take a swing at whatever comes along before you wake up and find it’s a ninth inning. -You read that somewhere.
-That’s it, Roberts. All you do is bellyache. Take it easy and we’ll try to make the best of things. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the whole world.
-Get the professor. People hate themselves out trying to buck fate. Now, take you for instance, you’re lucky to be alive. Why, suppose Haskell popped up in your door you’ll be playing a harp now. Think of that! You think of it? I’m tired of thinking of it. As plenty of people die in this minute, I would give anything to trade places with you. I know what I’m talking about. I’m not so sure. At least they know they’re done for it. They don’t just sweat blood wondering if they are. Your philosophy stinks, pal. We all know we’re gonna kick off someday. It’s only a question of when. But, what got us on this subject, anyway? We’ll be discussing politics next. Yeah… -Where’d you hide the butts?
-On the tables, sucker. We bored each other with conversation for a couple of hours longer. Every five minutes, one of us was wishing we had another bottle, or a radio, or something to read. Then, finally, we were ran out of chat. I know it’s only 11 o’clock, but I want to get up early and make the rounds to the used car lots. Don’t worry about that. We got all the time in the world. Maybe you have, but do you think I want to stay cooped up in this place any longer than I have to, you’re batty. It’s not a bad place. Thank heaven for things like this in New York. I wouldn’t like it if it was the Ritz. -Rotten liquor.
-You got a mean cough. Ought to do something about it. -I’ll be all right.
-That’s what Camille said. -Who?
-Nobody you know. -Wasn’t that the dame that died of consumption?
-Yeah. Wouldn’t it be a break for you if I did kick off? You’d be free with all of Haskell’s dough and car.
-I don’t want to see anybody die. Not even me? Especially not you. One person died of me, if you did, well, that’s all I need. You don’t like me, do you, Roberts? Like you? I love you. My favorite sport is being kept prisoner. After we sell the car you can go to blazes for all I care, but not until then. I’m going to bed. Goodnight, Roberts. Don’t try and sneak away during the night. All the doors are locked. Anyway, I find you gone in the morning, I’ll notify the police. They’ll pick you up. Don’t worry, I know that I’m in a spot. Well, goodnight. I hope that portable rack isn’t too uncomfortable for you. Don’t loose any sleep over it. Crestview. 6… 5… 7… 2… 3… Hello. Hello? Hello? No, not yet, darling. Tomorrow, maybe. If this were fiction, I would fall in love with her, marry her, and make a respectable woman out of her, or else she’d make some supreme class-a sacrifice for me, and die. Sue and I would fall a little over her grave and make some crack about “there’s good in all of us”, but Vera, unfortunately, was just as rotten in the morning, and she’d been the night before. -All right, all right. I’m coming.
-Look, Vera. It’s almost noon. So what? The dealers will be there all day. They’ll be there all year too, but there is no wait that long. Shut up. You make it just like a husband. -Well, do I rate a whistle?
-You sure do, but let’s go. “Let’s go, let’s go”. I spent 85 bucks and two hours preparing bait and all you can say is “let’s go”. Come on. -We’ve passed a few used car lots last night down this way. -What do you think we can get for this heap?
-I don’t know, plenty. You let me handle everything. -Think we can get $2,000?
-I don’t know, but don’t worry. I’ll squeeze as much out of this guy as I can. If I go cheap without a fight, he might think we’ve stolen the car, and listen, don’t make any slips and call me “Roberts”. That’ll cook us. I don’t need you to tell me that. You better just sit by and keep your mouth closed. Remember we’re both in the soup if anything happens.
-Forget it and drive. You’re my wife, Vera Haskell. Look, after the deal’s closed, let’s go back to that place on Hollywood Blvd. where I saw the fur jacket. I want one.
-After the deal’s closed, I’m saying goodbye to you. That’s right, I forgot. I guess I’m getting kind of used to you. That’s a habit you can start breaking. Let’s try this place in the middle of block. -Good afternoon. What can I do for you?
-We’re interested in selling a car. If the price is right. Well, if it’s in good mechanical condition, it should bluebook for about… 1600. Tony, take a look at this motor. 1600? Are you kidding? Well, maybe 1850. Before I let it go for 1850, I’ll wreck it and collect the insurance first. I think this motor has seen a lot of driving. While the mechanic inspected the car, we haggled. At last, when we were all worn out, we hit a compromise, his price. -OK, it’s a deal.
-Alright, come on. We’ll sign the papers. I have the ownership papers right here with me. Look, Vera. In the meantime, will you clean the dash compartment? Maybe there’s some stuff in it. Alright, darling. 1850 bucks! That dirty pr– -New York, huh?
-Yep. -But you bought the car in Miami.
-Yes. Let’s see about the insurance. We can either have it transfered or canceled. -What kind of insurance do you have Mr. Haskell?
-Well, uh, aren’t all the papers there? I don’t see any. Surely you know what type of insurance you carry in the car. The name of the company? -Yeah, but…
-Well, if you’ll just tell me the name of the company, I’d be very glad to take care of all the details.
-Well… -Did you sign the papers yet?
-Not yet. -Well, don’t. We’re not selling the car.
-Well, wait a minute, Ms. Haskell… -Come on, darling.
-What’s the matter? Change your mind? -Yes, I’m sorry. I guess I have.
-But, Vera… Let’s go. You got me out of a tight spot, Vera. But I still don’t understand all this. -You will in a minute. I almost threw away a goldmine.
-1850 isn’t to be sneezed at. The car doesn’t book for as much as I thought.
-We’re not selling the car. You want to keep it! Now, wait a minute, Vera. You said yourself I wouldn’t be safe until the car was in someone else’s name. I’d like to be free of this mess when I go.
-That’s just it, Roberts. You’re not going. There’s a drive-in at the next corner. Pull in there, we’ll get a bite to eat, and I’ll explain. What is this? Another one of your brilliant ideas? -Hello, may I take your order?
-Make mine a ham sandwich and coffee. -And for you, sir.
-Oh, I don’t care. The same. Thank you. Get this, Vera. I’ve been pretty patient so far. I’ve done everything you asked me to do, but no more. Shut up. You’ve taken Haskell’s money, you can have the dough we get from selling the car, but you’re not gonna keep me a prisoner.
-It’s a good thing I bought the paper. Take a look at that. -Vera, I’m no mood…
-Read that! -No!
-Yes. -No, I won’t do it.
-Yes, you will. -You think I’m crazy? It’s impossible, I tell you.
-Excuse me. Blow the horn when you’re through. No one could possibly get away with an act like that. They’d be wise to me in a minute. Don’t be dumb. You look enough like him, the same color and the same build. See how his clothes fit you. Look, kid, you almost had me fooled for a while.
-Oh grow up, Vera. Don’t you think a father knows his own son? And there must be other relatives. The father won’t have to know you. We’ll wait till he gives up the ghost. He’s an old geezer and he won’t pull through, and as far as other relatives are concerned, they haven’t seen you in 15 or 20 years. -Eat.
-I’m not hungry. And I won’t do it. It’s not as tough as it sounds. Remember, you’ve got all kinds of identfication, his car, letters, license…
-I could never get away with it. -It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
-The old boy has tons of dough. Look in the paper there, “personal fortune assested over 15 million”. He’ll leave plenty, I tell you.
-Maybe he cut off his son, How do we know? It’s out, Vera. I won’t have anything to do with it. I think you will. Look, Vera. I’ll do anything within reason, but not that. So forget it. Find yourself another stooge. You zap. You’ll be fixed for the rest of your life as Charlie Haskell. You can take your inheritance and go away. No more worrying about the rent. No sweat, and scheme, and wondering who your next meal is coming from. Think about that, Robert! Vera, please. You’re talking too loud. Unless I’m splitting 50/50 with you, sure, why not? We’re both alike, both born in the same gutter.
-Take it easy, Vera. There’s people around here. You don’t know what you’re talking. We’ll wait until we read that old man Haskell’s dead. Then you show up, like you read in New York that he was sick. No. Suppose he doesn’t die…
-He will, I know he will. Something tells me. But as much as I insisted I would have no part of her scheme, Vera was taking it for granted I would. Neither of us had our mind on the cards as we played that night. I knew we were just trying to kill time between newspaper editions. This was a death watch for Vera. Maybe it was for me, too. Don’t you realize if I’m caught, they’ll want to know where I got the car and stuff? And they’ll have me on a murder charge.
-Be smart, you won’t get caught. I knock with seven.
-And if I’m caught, don’t you realize you’ll be up, too? 18 points. That gives me 30. How will I be out?
-You’ll be out $1,850 we would have gotten on the car. Really, Vera, you’d be an awful chump to throw away all that dough on a dizzy long-shot. Let me sell the bus tomorrow. With the money it’ll bring, and with what you’ve already got, a clever kid like you can run it up in no time. Then we’d both be in the clear.
-I’ll be in the clear anyway. Maybe, maybe. But if I get caught… I’d be good and sore at you, you know.
-You mean you’d squeal? -Well, no, not squeal exactly.
-Nevermind what you meant. Even if you did tell the cops I was in on it with you, What could they do to me? They might give me the same medicine they gave you. -Yeah.
-A rope. But I’m on my way, huh. All they’d be doing will be rushing it. All right. But think of the 1850 you’d lose. You’d kick yourself around the block if you let it get away from you. I’ll take the chance. Want another drink?
-You’re being a goon. That’s why people wind up behind the eight-ball, once they get a few dollars, they become greedy and want more.
-My, my! -Caesar!
-Who? You know, that Roman general? He got his for being greedy. He wasn’t satisfied, so the final wind-up was he took the count. A couple of days ago, you didn’t have a dime. You were so broke you couldn’t pay cash for a postage stamp. Now you’ve got almost $700, with 1850 in the offing. Take my advice, don’t try it for more. I’m tired of this game, let’s have some blackjack. -Play Solitaire!
-Okay, I will, if that’s the way you feel about it.
-That’s the way I feel about it. Getting sore and throwing things won’t help much, Robert. I’m really doing you a favor. I help you out of a jam by keeping my mouth shut, I show you how to make some soft money, and what thanks do I get? -Thanks?
-Sure… Would you rather I call the cops and tell them you killed a man and stole his money? -I didn’t kill anybody.
-Yes, you did. -No, I didn’t. You know I didn’t.
-Alright, then. Suppose I call the cops, if you’re innocent, what do you got to be scared of? Okay. Call them, you mutt. Go ahead and call them. See if care. At least they’ll give me a square deal. -You want me to call them?
-You heard me. But I’m warning you, If I’m pinched, I’ll swear you were in on it. I’ll say that you helped me. If I fry, I’ll get even with you.
-You wouldn’t dare. -You’re chicken!
-Yeah? Then try it and see. Call them. Yeah. Okay, I will. Information? I want the number of the Hollywood police station. Okay, I got it. Thanks. -Wait a minute, Vera, you wouldn’t do that.
-Oh, wouldn’t I? Let me do it, -I’ll show you if I would.
-Take it easy. Now let’s talk this over. This was early in the evening. And the conversation while hectic was at least pitched low. But as the minutes passed, and more obstacles to her plan popped into in my head, the air got blue. Each word coming from our lips cracked like a whip. I reminded her that as Charles Haskell, I didn’t even know my mother’s name, where I’d gone to school, the name of my best friend, whether I had an aunt Emma or not. my religion, and if I’d ever owned a dog. I didn’t even know what my middle initial stood for. I also pointed out that the real Haskell had a scar on his forearm. His people never saw that scar. You told me he ran away right after putting out the kid’s eye. Yeah, but his father knew he was cut. There’d be some kind of a mark. So what? The old man’s dead or will be, I hope,
by tomorrow morning’s papers. Anyway, you could cut yourself a little, couldn’t you? Boy, for that kind of dough, I’d let you cut my leg off. You’re drunk and you’re crazy mad, Vera. Turn me in, if you want to,
but I won’t get mixed up in this. Besides, how do we know? Haskell was such a phony, maybe he wasn’t the man’s son after all. Maybe he just dreamed it up.
-Well… dreaming or not, you won’t be dreaming when the law taps you on the shoulder. There’s a cute little gas chamber waiting for you, Roberts. And I hear extradition to Arizona’s a cinch. Where’s that phone? -Vera!
-Leave me alone! -Vera!
-I want a phone call, police. I hate you, you stinking…
You leave me alone! I’ll let you alone when you promise to leave the phone where it is. You’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re doing.
-You’re hurting me. -Will you promise?
-Alright… You hurt me. -I’m sorry, but…
-It’s hot in here, open up the window! -It’s not hot.
-Don’t tell me. Now do you do it or do I do it? -You’re no gentleman, see?
-Yeah. Alright, I’ll open up the window. Vera! Vera, open the door. Please open the door. Vera, open the door. Don’t use the phone. Listen to me. I don’t like you, Roberts. You’re no gentleman, see. You hurt my hand. And I’m going to get even with you. You don’t open the door, I’m going to kick it down, Vera. Vera, don’t call the cops. Listen to me.
I’ll do anything you say. Vera, let me in. I’ll break the phone! Vera… The world is full of sceptics. I know – I’m one myself. In the Haskell business, how many of you would believe he fell out of the car? And now, after killing Vera without
really meaning to do it, how many of you would believe it wasn’t premeditated? In a jury room, every last man of you would go down shouting that she had me over a barrel, and my only out was force. The room was still. So quiet that for a while I wondered
if I had suddenly gone deaf. It was pure fear of course.
And I was hysterical. But without making a sound. Vera was dead
and I was her murderer. “Murderer”! What an awful word that is. But I had become one. I’d better not get caught. What evidence there was around the place had to be destroyed. And from the looks of things, there was plenty. Looking around the room, at the things we’d bought was like looking into the faces of a hundred people, who had seen us together and who remembered me. This was the kind of testimony, I couldn’t rub out. No. I could burn clothes and hide bottles for the next five years… There’d always be witnesses. The landlady for one. She could identify me. The car dealer, the waitress in the drive-in, the girl in the dress shop, and the guy in the liquor store. They could all identify me. I was cooked. Done for. I had to get out of there. While once I had remained beside a dead body planning carefully how to avoid being accused of killing him, this time I couldn’t. This time I was guilty. I knew it. Felt it. I was like a guy suffering from shock.
Things were whirling around in my head. I couldn’t make myself think right. All I could think of was the guy with the saxophone
and what he was playing. It wasn’t a love song anymore. It was a dirge. But my problems weren’t solved.I had to stay away from New York for all time. Because Al Roberts was listed as dead,
and had to stay dead. And I could never go back to Hollywood. Someone might recognize me as Haskell. Then too, there was Sue… I could never go to her with a thing like this
hanging over my head. All I could do was pray she’d be happy. I was in Bakersfield before I read that Vera’s body was discovered and that the police were looking for Haskell
in connection with his wife’s murder. Isn’t that a laugh? Haskell got me into this mess, and Haskell was getting me out of it. The police were searching for a dead man. I keep trying to forget what happened, and wonder what my life might have been, if that
car of Haskell’s hadn’t stopped. But one thing, I don’t have to wonder about.
I know … someday a car will stop to pick me up
that I never thumbed. Yes. Fate… or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.