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Authors: Raymond Chandler

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I got out of the elevator and Javonen seemed to be waiting for me. “Come into the bar,” he said. “I want to talk to you.”

We went into the bar, which was very quiet at that hour. We sat at a corner table. Javonen said quietly: “You think I’m a bastard, don’t you?”

“No. You have a job. I have a job. Mine annoyed you. You didn’t trust me. That doesn’t make you a bastard.”

“I try to protect the hotel. Who do you try to protect?”

“I never know. Often, when I do know, I don’t know how. I just fumble around and make a nuisance of myself. Often I’m pretty inadequate.”

“So I heard—from Captain Alessandro. If it’s not too personal, how much do you make on a job like this?”

“Well, this was a little out of the usual line, Major. As a matter of fact, I didn’t make anything.”

“The hotel will pay you five thousand dollars—for protecting its interests.”

“The hotel, meaning Mr. Clark Brandon.”

“I suppose. He’s the boss.”

“It has a sweet sound—five thousand dollars. A very sweet sound. I’ll listen to it on my way back to Los Angeles.” I stood up.

“Where do I send the check, Marlowe?”

“The Police Relief Fund could be glad to have it. Cops don’t make much money. When they get in trouble they have to borrow from the Fund. Yes, I think the Police Relief Fund would be very grateful to you.”

“But not you?”

“You were a major in the CIC. You must have had a lot of chances to graft. But you’re still working. I guess I’ll be on my way.”

“Listen, Marlowe. You’re being a damn fool. I want to tell you—”

“Tell yourself, Javonen. You have a captive audience. And good luck.”

I walked out of the bar and got into my car. I drove to the Descansado and picked up my stuff and stopped at the office to pay my bill. Jack and Lucille were in their usual positions. Lucille smiled at me.

Jack said: “No bill, Mr. Marlowe. I’ve been instructed. And we offer you our apologies for last night. But they’re not worth much, are they?”

“How much would the bill be?”

“Not much. Twelve-fifty maybe.”

I put the money on the counter. Jack looked at it and frowned. “I said there was no bill, Mr. Marlowe.”

“Why not? I occupied the room.”

“Mr. Brandon—”

“Some people never learn, do they? Nice to have known you both. I’d like a receipt for this. It’s deductible.”



I didn’t do more than ninety back to Los Angeles. Well, perhaps I hit a hundred for a few seconds now and then. Back on Yucca Avenue I stuck the Olds in the garage and poked at the mailbox. Nothing, as usual. I climbed the long flight of redwood steps and unlocked my door. Everything was the same. The room was stuffy and dull and impersonal as it always was. I opened a couple of windows and mixed a drink in the kitchen. I sat down on the couch and stared at the wall. Wherever I went, whatever I did, this was what I would come back to. A blank wall in a meaningless room in a meaningless house.

I put the drink down on a side table without touching it. Alcohol was no cure for this. Nothing was any cure but the hard inner heart that asked for nothing from anyone.

The telephone started to ring. I picked it up and said emptily: “Marlowe speaking.”

“Is this Mr. Philip Marlowe?”


“Paris has been trying to reach you Mr. Marlowe. I’ll call you back in a little while.”

I put the phone down slowly and I think my hand shook a little. Driving too fast, or not enough sleep.

The call came through in fifteen minutes: “The party calling you from Paris is on the line, sir. If you have any difficulty, please flash your operator.”

“This is Linda. Linda Loring. You remember me, don’t you, darling?”

“How could I forget?”

“How are you?”

“Tired—as usual. Just came off a very trying sort of case. How are you?”

“Lonely. Lonely for you. I’ve tried to forget you. I haven’t been able to. We made beautiful love together.”

“That was a year and a half ago. And for one night. What am I supposed to say?”

“I’ve been faithful to you. I don’t know why. The world is full of men. But I’ve been faithful to you.”

“I haven’t been faithful to you, Linda. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I didn’t know you expected me to be faithful.”

“I didn’t. I don’t. I’m just trying to say that I love you. I’m asking you to marry me. You said it wouldn’t last six months. But why not give it a chance? Who knows—it might last forever. I’m begging you. What does a woman have to do to get the man she wants?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know how she knows she wants him. We live in different worlds. You’re a rich woman, used to being pampered. I’m a tired hack with a doubtful future. Your father would probably see to it that I didn’t even have that.”

“You’re not afraid of my father. You’re not afraid of anyone. You’re just afraid of marriage. My father knows a man when he sees one. Please, please, please. I’m at the Ritz. I’ll send you a plane ticket at once.”

I laughed. “You’ll send
a plane ticket? What sort of guy do you think I am? I’ll send
a plane ticket. And that will give you time to change your mind.”

“But, darling, I don’t need you to send me a plane ticket. I have—”

“Sure. You have the money for five hundred plane tickets. But this one will be
plane ticket. Take it, or don’t come.”

“I’ll come, darling. I’ll come. Hold me in your arms. Hold me close in your arms. I don’t want to own you. Nobody ever will. I just want to love you.”

“I’ll be here. I always am.”

“Hold me in your arms.”

The phone clicked, there was a buzzing sound, and then the line went dead.

I reached for my drink. I looked around the empty room—which was no longer empty. There was a voice in it, and a tall slim lovely woman. There was a dark hair on the pillow in the bedroom. There was that soft gentle perfume of a woman who presses herself tight against you, whose lips are soft and yielding, whose eyes are half blind.

The telephone rang again. I said: “Yes?”

“This is Clyde Umney, the lawyer. I don’t seem to have had any sort of satisfactory report from you. I’m not paying you to amuse yourself. I want an accurate and complete account of your activities at once. I demand to know in full detail exactly what you have been doing since you returned to Esmeralda.”

“Having a little quiet fun—at my own expense.”

His voice rose to a sharp cackle. “I demand a full report from you at once. Otherwise I’ll see that you get bounced off your license.”

“I have a suggestion for you, Mr. Umney. Why don’t you go kiss a duck?”

There were sounds of strangled fury as I hung up on him. Almost immediately the telephone started to ring again.

I hardly heard it. The air was full of music.

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was born in 1888 and published his first story in 1933 in the pulp magazine
Black Mask
. By the time he published his first novel,
The Big Sleep
(1939), featuring, as did all his major works, the iconic private eye Philip Marlowe, it was clear that he had not only mastered a genre but had set a standard to which others could only aspire. Chandler created a body of work that ranks with the best of twentieth-century literature. He died in 1959.





The Big Sleep

The High Window

Farewell, My Lovely

The Lady in the Lake

The Little Sister

The Simple Art of Murder

Trouble Is My Business

The Long Goodbye

Playback (1958)

In Chandler’s final novel, Marlowe is hired by an influential lawyer he’s never heard of to tail a gorgeous redhead, but decides he prefers to help out the redhead. She’s been acquitted of her alcoholic husband’s murder, but her father-in-law prefers not to take the court’s word for it.

Copyright © 1958 by Raymond Chandler

Copyright renewed 1986 by Paul Gitlin and Jonathan S. Gitlin


All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Chandler, Raymond, 1888—1959.


Originally published: Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958

I.   Title.

PS3505.H3224P6   1988     813’.52     87-45922


This book is available in a print edition from Vintage Books: ISBN 0-394-75766-1.

eISBN: 978-1-4000-3021-7


BOOK: Playback
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