Hammett (1982) - full transcript

The novel writer Dashiell Hammett is involved in the investigation of the mysterious disappearance of a beautiful Chinese cabaret actress in San Francisco.

Oh Jesus.

The pearls were insured
for 100,000,

so when the thief offered
to sell them back for 5,

the insurance company
came to us.

There was just one hitch.

The thief insisted
on a woman go-between.

The old man suggested
Sue Alabama,

who worked for us
a few years back.

When he asked me
what I thought, I said

I thought she'd be perfect,
just perfect.

That'll stop a kitten if you're lucky.

It'll stop a tiger
if you know how to point it.

Her name wasn't really
Sue Alabama.

It was Sue something Greek
and unpronounceable,

but all of us called her Alabama,
so she had it changed back in '25.

That was just after she and I
took Nowhere Nickelton

at the Biltmore in L.A.

She primed him,
and I went in on the cleanup.

Sex was nearly all
Sue Alabama ever needed,

and she could use it the way
some guys use a blackjack.

I still think she was probably
the best I ever worked with.

- Five thousand bucks?
- Inside coat pocket.

He needed one hand for the money
and the other for the gun.

He wasn't good enough
to handle both.

If it isn't Pen Pal Morrison.
Hello, Pen Pal.

- At least you didn't hit the money.
- I didn't aim at the money.

I can't figure him for a cannon.

The only thing Pen Pal would ever
use is the U.S. Mail.


That's why they parked him
in Atlanta for three years.

Maybe he just got ambitious.

Maybe he did.

- No pearls, though?
- No pearls.

It was a cute heist, that's all.
Just one small step up from extortion.

Where were you gonna
fence them, Chicago?


If you still want them,
you're gonna have to use that shooter.

Give me two hours.

- Why?
- For old times' sake.

I'll give you one.

Okay, one.

I didn't give her an hour, of course.
I didn't even give her 15 minutes.

He picked her up at the Union Station
with a ticket for Chicago in her bag.

I was almost sorry
she didn't make it.

Back in '26, Sue Alabama and I
nearly got married.

I suppose it's just as well we didn't.


Jesus, Ryan.

- James Francis Xavier Ryan.
- Himself.

Look at you, kid,
you're whiter than I am.

- Clean living.
- You still a lunger?

Sure. Almost, anyway.

- Thirsty?
- Always.

I looked at this while I was waiting.

Except her name wasn't Sue Alabama,
it was Betty Philadelphia,

and I did marry her, worse luck.

- You ever hear from her?
- You ever hear from yours?

- Let me ask you a literary question.
- Sure.

I'll be sitting around
with nothing to do

and I'll pick up one of those pulp rags
just to see if you got a story in it.

When you do,
it's usually about this tough old bird

who's about two and a half hops
ahead of everybody else.

How come he hasn't got a name?

Are names hard to write?

Shoot, I can write names.

Foxfire McCabe,

Bitsy Glass, Joe Pickles.

- You think he's you, right?
- I know he is.

He goes around
doing everything I used to do.

Half the time I don't know whether
to be flattered or embarrassed as hell.

What brings you to town?

That's what I wanna talk to you about.
I got an MP thing going.

- Who's missing?
- Little Chink girl.

About 16 to 17, pretty.

Her name's Crystal, Crystal Ling.

I need some help, Sam.

- You know this burg and I don't.
- I'm out of it.

Once in, never out.
Hell, I bet you're still half snoop.

I taught you good.

I bet you read other people's mail,

poke around their medicine cabinets,

When I walk down the street,
you know what I still look at?

Earlobes, noses, eyebrows.
Scars, if there are any.

See what I mean?

Yeah, but you're trying
to put them in jail,

I'm just trying to put them
in a magazine.

Like I say, I need some help, Sam.
Especially in Chinatown.

- I want you for my tin mittens.
- No chance.

I don't screw around with
the cops anymore. Not in this town.

- Let's go get some booze.
- In a minute.

Let me tell you a story first.

You like stories, don't you?
Sure you do.

Well, it seems like this old bird
is up in some place that sounds

just a whole hell of a lot
like Butte, Montana.

You got a sidekick this time.
A kid the agency sent. Green as grass.

Somehow they get
themselves in a soup

and the old guy takes
a slug in the shoulder

that by rights should have
taken the kid in the left eye.

Well, the green kid falls
all over himself telling the old guy

no matter what he wants,
no matter when, no matter where,

just holler.

You remember that story.

Anywhere, any time
is now, Hammett.

I'm calling it in.

Let's go get that whiskey.

Hi, neighbor.
Can you spare a cup of booze?

Hello, Kit. I'm all out.

Oh, sorry.
I didn't know you had company.

- Miss Conger, Mr. Ryan.
- How are you?

Kit's a librarian downtown.
We were just going out to mail this.

- I'll bring you back some booze.
- Okay, let me give you the money.

So where are you from, Mr. Ryan?

Baltimore, Birmingham, Butte,
you name it.

- Any place that begins with a B.
- I left out Biloxi.

Your new story
set in any of those places, Sam?

- Yeah, maybe, maybe not.
- Sounded like Baltimore to me.

- Did you make a carbon?
- No.

One of these days...

Is that what you wear to the library?

That's what I wear underneath
what I wear to the library.

- You've never seen any before?
- Couple of times, maybe three.

Four, counting the redheaded
contortionist from Yakima.

- Cute dish.
- Yeah, very.

- I hear you left Pinkerton's.
- Yeah, three or four years ago.

Long hours, short dough.
Any money in the writing racket?

- Penny a word.
- Write a million words, you'd be set.

- Like War and Peace.
- Bring you back some gin.

Gin's for old ladies. Make it Scotch.

Christ, you're sure looking flush.

Somewhere between
a bootlegger and a banker.

I've got my own little agency
up in Tacoma now.

A lot of divorces in Tacoma.

No wonder.
Hell, it rains 350 days of the year.

What's your town like, anyway,
free and easy?

- Yeah, more so than most.
- Who runs things?

Same people
who run things everywhere.

The cops, the crooks
and the big rich, huh?

Who else?

- Where?
- A little to your right

and back six yards.
I'd sort of like to lose him.

- Do you still know how?
- Yeah, I think I might remember.

Corkscrew or split away?


Looks like
I taught you something after all.

You know who that little punk
reminds me of?

- Who?
- Remember Blacky Marbles?

- Oh, my God, you're right!
- Wait, wait, I gotta mail this.

- Mail it later.
- Wait a minute, huh?

Come on, move it.

You okay?

Yeah, if we lose each other,
meet me at Cookies'.

- What is that, a speakeasy?
- Yeah, ask anybody.

- I lost my manuscript.
- Come on.

For God's sake, let's go.
Let's get out of this mess.

- What happened?
- My manuscript!

See where the big guy went?

- The guy with the hat.
- The back.

Sailor, you see a big fella
come through here?

No, monsieur, I have not seen anyone,
but very pretty, you want pretty...

Pretty one.

- You like pretty girls?
- Mister, two bit for me?

No, thanks. Trying to taper off.

My daughter work with me.

Mister, mister!
Have you time? Have you time?

Two dollar?

One dollar?



- Jimmy.
- Jimmy.

- Jimmy.
- Jimmy.

Hello, Tom.


I see you're not particular
about the company you keep.

Well, them that works, eats.

- Hello, O'Mara.
- What brings you down to the depths?

I'm down here with a friend of mine,
but he seems to have gotten lost.

What are you offering for him,
a nickel reward?

- For you, O'Mara, I'll make it a dime.
- I'd have taken the nickel, Samuel.

A little off your regular patch,
aren't you, Hammett?

Didn't know you had
Chinatown roped off.

I don't, but sometimes
I think it'd be a hell of an idea.

You sure you didn't see this friend
of mine, Tom? A guy about 50 or so.

Six foot, tan overcoat
with a velvet collar.

- Fancy.
- Haven't seen the likes of him.

And what would your fancy friend
be doing down here?

- Looking for a Chinese girl.
- Oh, ain't we all?

- Your friend a private cop?
- Maybe.

- And maybe there'd be a little?
- Could be, you never know.

- What do you think, Tom?
- Well, that's up to you, lieutenant.

Who's the girl?

Her name's Crystal Ling.

Let me tell you something,

I never heard of any Chink girl
called Crystal Ling.

If you're half smart,
you never heard of her.

And if your fancy friend
with a velvet collar

is half as smart as you are, which
will make him only one-quarter smart,

he never heard of her either.

Well, that's a "lay off" speech
if I ever heard one.

Go home and type, Hammett.

Samuel, that ain't bad advice.

- What's up?
- How you doing?

Say, you're Dashiell Hammett,
aren't you?

- That's what my birth certificate says.
- I'm a big admirer of yours.

- I'm a writer too.
- Oh, really?

Newspaperman. Salt, Gary Salt.

I really liked Dead Yellow Women...

Yeah, I guess you're
just following me around in this alley

- to get my autograph, right?
- Oh, well, no. Actually, well,

the fact is
the fella who was with you there...

- You mean Jimmy Ryan?
- Well, that's it, Mr. Hammett.

- What do you want with him?
- I have something for him.

Oh, really? That's interesting.

Well, he's probably over at Cookies'.
Come on, I'll introduce you.

Well, yeah.
Gee, thanks, Mr. Hammett.

Where's the next pickup?

Come on, Salt.

I won't let him hurt you.

- Hi, Sam.
- Hello, Mike.

I'd say, "I don't wanna
hear this crap. Piss off."

Instead, I said, "Let's have a drink."

- Hello, Helen.
- How you doing, Sam?

- Oh, sorry.
- Excuse me.

- Buddy, how's tricks?
- You're kind of late tonight, ain't you?

I guess.

Looking for a pal of mine.

Camel-hair coat,
brown hat, about 6 feet.

Nobody here tonight except regulars.

- Thanks anyway.
- What'll it be, pal?

Nothing, thanks.

He isn't here.

Don't worry, he'll be here.

Why don't you do yourself a favor
and tell me what you want him for.

Well, it has to do with Chinatown.

My wife left me.
She just walked out.

I'm working on this story, freelance.
It's a freelance job.

Well, like I say,
I've been working on this thing,

well, for quite a while, it's about
a Chinese girl who disappeared...

Excuse me.

Oh, sorry, I thought you were a pal of
mine I used to work with in the circus.

- Good evening.
- All right, all right.

- Hello, Sid.
- How you doing, Sam?

Little geezer with a bow tie.
Did you see where he went?

Not here.

That's a great cover, kid,
the newspaper. I really like that.

I knew a guy once who used
to disguise himself as a fire hydrant.

Of course, he did have
a small problem with the dogs.

Tell you what, I'm going home now
to get some shuteye.

Why don't you skip the shoeshine
and take a taxi.

There's a swell doorway
across from my place

and you can stand there
all night long.

- Bring a good book with you.
- Better get your picture took, creep.

Your mama won't know you
when I'm finished with you.

See you later, kid.

By the way,
your paper's upside down.

Luck's got nothing to do with it, Pop,

- Hello, Sam.
- Hello, Mike. How's Crystal?

Great. They named the baby
after you: Samantha.


Well, drink up, Sam.

Skip the gutter.

Ain't you gonna ask me
about your latest?

It just come in this morning.

- That sure is fine work, Samuel.
- Glad you liked it, Pop.

Sam, Sam, Sam.

Foley would win
on that deadbeat straight.

Put your money on Mickey Walker.

- That's a sucker bet, Mike.
- They're laying 8-5.

- Smart money's on Pulaski.
- How much do you want?

- I'll go 50 on Pulaski.
- You got it, Sam.

Oh, you scratched.

All right, let's see what you can do.

Man, it's okay.

What are you trying to pull?
Nobody messes with me like that.

You just made your big mistake.

I'm gonna fix you, sucker.

I said,
"We'll get them both something."

How do you like to say
"I told you so"?

Try me.

- I lost my manuscript.
- I told you so.

What will you do now, write it over?

I'll write a better one.

Well, it's been a full evening anyway.

I misplaced Jimmy Ryan
somewhere along the way.

Maybe he's up in your place.


The agency and I
took you in off the street, Hammett.

We taught you damn near
everything you know.

I taught you surveillance, fallback,

even how to lie.

It took me years to learn that,

and I taught it to you for free.

And you take it and sell it on the street
in a cheap magazine.

One and two and three and...

Five and six and seven...

Five and six and seven...

Oh, now what?

- What do you want, Salt?
- Can I come in for a minute?

Salt, I've got a story
that was due day before yesterday,

so whatever you've got to say,
make it snappy.

The truth is I'm really not a writer.

I just collect gossip for the papers,
for the Post & Call.

Look, I was trying to write
a real story for once,

about the slave racket in Chinatown,
12-, 13-year-old girls,

coming right off the boats
and into the cribs.

Well, I met her there.
Crystal. Look.

- Isn't she beautiful?
- Yeah, she is beautiful.

- She's very beautiful. So what?
- A lot of people wanna talk to her.

I'd like to talk to her myself.
Why is everybody so interested

- in this Chinese dame anyway?
- Tell your friend I want her back.

What are you trying to tell me, Salt?

Look, that's all I can say. Believe me,
I'm already out on such a limb, l...

You tell your friend Ryan if he doesn't
watch his step, he can wind up dead.

And you tell him I mean it.

Young Wild West, eh?

- Hello.
- Sam, it's me.

- Ryan, where the hell are you?
- I'm in a jam.

Look in the dictionary,
your big dictionary.

I can't talk now.
I've got to find that girl.


Where do you want me to start?

Can I get another copy
of the Chronicle for January 3?

- Coming right up, Sam.
- Thanks, Hank.

Man alive, this has gotta get it right.

"Mr. Callaghan was prominent
in local business and civics...

Recent financial reversal.

According to the spokesman for
the family, attorney E. Hagedorn."

English Eddie Hagedorn.

I wish that l...

- I'd write a song about you
- Hello.

- Hello.
- Remember me?

- Helen.
- Elizabeth.

- Christmas Eve, 1924.
- That's right. I'm married now.

- Congratulations.
- Thank you.

Lee, where would you go
in Chinatown

to find a girl who's run away
from the cribs?

There's only one place.

The mission house
on Sacramento Street.

Yes, may I help you?

How do you do. I'm Peter Collinson
from the Chronicle.

I'd like to have a word
with Miss Cameron if I may.

- Newspaper reporter?
- Yes, ma'am. I'm from the Chronicle.

I've been working on a story
about the slave rackets down here...

...and I've got a problem
you might be able to help me with.

We've been having some trouble
locating a primary source.

Who is "we," Mr. Collinson?

It wouldn't be Fong Wei Tau,
now, would it?

Now, wait a minute.
I know who he is, but that's about it.

Your source came to us
in the middle of the night with nothing

but the clothes on her back,
crazed with fear.

She would only tell me
she had escaped from Fong.

Fong paid $5,000 for her
when she was brought here

from China at the age of 12.

Five thousand dollars!

So he could sell her body
in his parlor house.

If she's caught, it wouldn't be
a life worth living, now, would it?

Do you have any idea
where she is now?

A young man tricked one of my staff
into letting her leave with him.

I'll never forgive myself
for being out that day.

Thanks, that's swell.

If I find anything out,
I'll let you know.

You're quite welcome, Mr. Hammett.

I've lived in San Francisco
since 1895, young man.

And there's very little
I don't know about our city.

Yes, ma'am,
I should have known better.


- Where to, Hammett?
- The morgue.

- You back on the game?
- Sort of.

I was worried there for a while.

I thought you was getting
halfway respectable, like me.

- Come in.
- Hello, doc. I heard you retired.

I got 13 kids, Hammett.

You don't ever retire
if you've got 13 kids.

Ever heard of a doctor with 13 kids?

- I was sure I heard you retired.
- I heard you quit drinking.

Well, I guess we were both wrong.

You know what my problem is?

I'm a halfway honest man
in a nine-tenths dishonest world.

- What's your problem?
- Suicide.

My advice: Don't hesitate.

Not mine, C.F. Callaghan's.

Funny you should ask.

Had a guy in last week
asking about the same thing.

The guy had a fancy tan topcoat.

And a hat to match.
He was on the expense.

You on the expense, Hammett?


We go back a ways,
you and I, don't we?

- Quite a ways.
- That Concord thing in '21.

I wasn't in on that one, doc.
What about Callaghan?

You sure you're not on the expense
like that other fella?

I'm sure.

- You know what I got?
- What?

A bad case.

Like I said, most interesting case.

The victim struck himself on the head
with a blunt instrument

and then pumped a.38 round
into his heart.

Maybe it was vice versa.


...is often fascinating.
- I'll say.

Crystal Ling, right?

Do you always leave
your door unlocked, Mr. Hammett?

Why not? Nothing of value.

- You never know who will come in.
- I guess not.

While waiting for you here,
I felt so safe.


It's such a masculine place.

Safe from what?

Your friend, Mr. Ryan.

What do you know
about me and Ryan?

You and he were in Chinatown
last night.

Nothing there goes unobserved.

Would you tell your Mr. Ryan
to stop looking for me?

I am not lost.

What about a guy named Salt?
Gary Salt.

He also seemed to think
you're either lost or strayed.


He's a evil little man.

He's corrupt.
He is worse than Fong Wei Tau.

No, that is not true.

No one is worse than Fong,
not even Salt.

So why come to me?

In Chinatown,
you are known as a kind man,

a just man.

I came because I need a safe place
to stay for a few hours,

no more than eight.

I need a haven.

If you could help me,

- I would...
- Do what?

Anything. Anything what you want.

Yeah, I bet you would, at that.

First you're gonna have to do
something for me.

After all,
I am a kind man, a just man.


Anything at all.

Tell me about you
and C.F. Callaghan.

I cannot.

Why not?

- I was there when she killed him.
- Who's she?

- His wife.
- Oh, Mrs. Callaghan.

I fled and...

- Later, the police came and...
- Called it suicide.


What the hell
were you doing there?

Well, you see,
Mr. Callaghan, he bought me.

Bought me from Fong.

You spin quite a tale, sister.

It's true, Mr. Hammett.

It's all terribly, horribly true.

You must understand,
I was a whore.

A very, very skilled whore.

Until I found Christ, my Redeemer.

At the mission?

Yes, at the mission.

I was made to do such...

...terribly wicked things.

Maybe I better go now.

Mr. Hammett, can I stay?

Sure, okay, lock the door,
don't let anyone in

and don't answer the phone.
I'll be back later.

- I was so very wicked.
- Yeah, I can believe that.

How are the wonders
of the Orient?

I saw her go up.

- Oh, she's a favor I owe Ryan.
- Oh, sure, Sam, absolutely. You bet.

Look, there's a cop I know
who's a little shifty,

but he's basically okay.
His name is Bradford.

Tom Bradford.

If I'm not back by the time
you go to work tomorrow,

call him and tell him
to come looking for me at Fong's.

- That's all, just Fong's?
- He'll know what you mean.

That's good.

What about
the little fortune cookie upstairs?

- Better stay away from her.
- Why, is she trouble?

She's a disaster.


Three flowers, two crak, one bam.

Craps, roulette, blackjack?

I wanna see Fong.
I'll be at the blackjack table.

- Two dollar in field.
- Lucky table here, everybody wins.

Is that the card?

Okay. Change, sir. Anyone else?


Place your bets.

Dealer has ace showing.
Insurance, anyone?

Dealer has 21.

You, come with me.

Mr. Hammett, I am honored.
Your renown precedes you.

Yeah? I've heard a few things
about you too.

Indeed? Perhaps you can get
right to the point of your visit.

I was wondering if a friend of mine's
been around, Jimmy Ryan.

Ryan? Jimmy Ryan.

Heard the two of you
have a mutual friend,

a nifty little girl named Crystal.

Perhaps we are a bit too public here.

Please come this way.

Place your bets, everybody.
Everybody wins here, everybody wins.

Very nice. Simple but elegant.

I like your paintings.

Your friend Jimmy has been here.

Indeed, he is still here.

Enjoying my hospitality while I consider
a proposition he's made me.

What kind of proposition?

Crystal, did you say?

An interesting piece of work,
Mr. Hammett.

My first encounter
with the detective genre.

Is this pure invention,

or do you draw your material
from life?

Real life, Fong.

I'd be glad to show you
some of my poems sometime,

but if you don't mind,
I'd like to have this back.

Now, Mr. Hammett, common sense
would dictate you listen quietly.

Perhaps your work has made the habit
of fantasy too strong in you.

You will find
that I am not so easily dealt with

as your paper villains.

In that case, I think I'll be leaving.

Thanks for the tea.

Evidently you don't understand
how important it is I talk to this lady.

So please don't be silly,
just tell me where she is.


Do you really insist
on this foolishness?

Go to hell.

Physical heroism is not
the writer's m�tier, my friend.

Remember about Crystal quickly

and save yourself
a great deal of vexation.

You gonna be able to
cut it, laddiebuck?

Oh, God.

Why can't it be giant spiders
and pink elephants?

What the hell
is this supposed to be?

Well, what does it look like?
It's a Mexican crib joint.

Christ, you picked it out.

I did?

I told you he wouldn't remember.

This is it, kid.

This is where they make
the big payoff.

General Calaveras and his bunch.

Twenty crates of Springfield '03s

for 85,000 Mexican silver dollars.

Now do you remember?

You'll have to work it without him.

And you were supposed to be
my backup.

Jesus, some backup.

Who are you?


Where are we?

Where are you taking me?

Cute little dickens.

Come on. No.

No, thank you.

Get lost.

- Ryan, what are you doing in there?
- Get the lid off, kid.

- Is it locked?
- Why the hell should it be locked?

I can't reach it.

Give me your hand.

Jesus, what happened?

The deal went a little sour.

- That's all, just a little sour.
- I'll say.

Hey, let's get out of here.

Don't move, don't move.

Saddle up.

- Look out below!
- Down off that.

All right, you two, let's go.

Too bad your girlfriend called us.

I could've taken you
out of here in a box.

Come on, get in.

- So you're the famous Jimmy Ryan?
- Yeah, I'm Ryan.

Well, you and me, bucko,

you and me, we're going
to have a little talk. Get in.

You know what's happened to you,
Ryan? You're falling apart,

your nerves shot,
your brain's pickled.

You know the only mistake I made?
I felt sorry for you.

Nobody has to feel sorry for Jimmy.

Why don't you start
with that dumb phone call

about the dictionary
and go from there.

What are you working? Some cute
shakedown, a little extortion maybe?

You don't know
what that phone call was?

You, the great detective storywriter.

That was a clue,
you simple son of a bitch.

They went after you,
and I went about my business.

All right, Hammett.

One more time.

Why have you been asking
all over town about Crystal Ling?

I haven't been asking all over town.

You asked me. You asked Tom.
You asked Fong.

You even tried to bribe me and Tom.

As God is my witness,
didn't he try to bribe us, Tom?

If God is your witness, lieutenant,
he certainly tried to bribe us.

What do you do when you go home
at night, Tom, throw up?

I drink, Samuel.
I drink a whole lot, then I throw up.

Ryan says you're his go-between,
his tin mittens.

- Ryan's lying! Get your hands off me.
- What are you talking about?!

Come on.

Now, come on.

Where were you at 3:13
this morning, Hammett?

I told you, I was at Fong's. Why?

Because that's when it happened,
that's why.

I don't know what the hell
you're talking about.

All right, take him down,
show him and then throw him out.

Come on, Samuel.

Crystal Ling.

She got it at exactly 3:13 a.m.

It was at the end of the line
of the number 19 trolley run.

The motorman and the conductor
had both just looked at their watches

- when they heard her scream.
- How many times?

Did she scream?

Just once.

- What happened to her face?
- She got it bashed in, didn't she?

They found a baseball bat
next to her body.

She was struck on the head
nine times, maybe ten.

Sexually assaulted?

We haven't run the tests yet,
but if I had to guess, I'd say probably.

We ain't quite through yet, Samuel.

I think I got the idea.

It's enough.

It's enough, damn it.

Where did you get it?

It's been making the rounds of
the stags for the last three months.

Who made it?

That's what we thought
you'd be telling us.

Me? You got the wrong guy.
You should be talking...

You've been nosing around about her,
Samuel, you got us curious.

- What'd you do with Ryan?
- We let him walk.

You did? Swell.
I think I'll do the same.


- You want a nip before you go?
- I could use a snifter after that.

Shucks, Mr. Hammett,
you look terrible.

Beat it, Salt. I'm tired.

I heard you and Ryan got picked up.

Did he tell them
anything at all about Crystal?

What would he tell them
about Crystal?

For that matter, what would
you tell them about Crystal?

For Pete's sake, Mr. Hammett.
You know what I mean.

Hey, look at that. It's going to be the
longest suspension bridge in the world.

And the graft
will probably set a world record too.


Yeah, it's beautiful.

I just hope I live to see it.

Look, Salt, I'm getting tired
of being treated like the village idiot.

Let's just pretend...

Let's just pretend
I'm gonna slap you to sleep

unless I get some straight answers.

It was you that took Crystal away
from the Cameron dame, wasn't it?

- No.
- She was on the run, all right,

but it wasn't some
penny-ante bullshit, was it?

Now Crystal's dead, Salt.

She's down there on a slab
with a sheet over her head.

- Go ask the cops!
- It's all right, he must be...

Hello, Hank. What's going on?

Where you been hanging out, son?

Good God, Sam. You look like
something the cat dragged in.

- What happened?
- Never mind.

- You wouldn't believe me if I told you.
- Would you like a snort?

No, I'd like something
to take home, Pops.

- I'm out.
- Okay.

Blue-plate special.

I've been saving it
for your wedding day.

Fat chance.

Oh, Mr. Hammett,
what happened to you?

- Slipped on a banana peel, Rose.
- Oh, I'm sorry.

Forty-five, 50, 55, 60, 65,
70, 75, 80, 85, 90,

95, 100.
Ready or not, here I come.

Are they up there?

Good God.

I don't know which looks worse,
you or this.

Don't worry about the blood,
it probably belonged to a chicken.

- A what?
- Or a duck.

Or maybe it's just another case
of suicide.

In any case, it's just a warning.

Maybe the third or the fourth,
I can't remember exactly.

- Warning to do what?
- Lay off.

It all started with Ryan.
After Ryan came Gary Salt,

and after Salt, the cops,
and after the cops, Crystal Ling.

Almost one, two, three.

Now Ryan's gone and Crystal's
about to be buried by the cops.

- That leaves only Gary Salt, doesn't it?
- Who's Gary Salt?

Gary Salt's a guy who last Thursday
put 50 cents down on 777.

- Numbers.
- Right, okay.

You figured out he plays the numbers.
What do those names mean to you?

Herson, Chamblers, Norsette,
Creal, Michaelson, Dorn...

Money. Pots of money. Six
of the richest men in San Francisco.

Right again.
Would you be dippy enough, angel,

- to spend a little shoe leather?
- Doing what?

Looking for Gary Salt.

Who the hell are you now,
Hammett the writer

- or Hammett the detective?
- I think you left out Hammett the fool.

What a waste.

Kit, this is Eli,
the last of the IWW organizers.

- Are you really a Wobbly?
- Oh, no, that's just Hammett talking.

What I am now is sort of an anarchist
with syndicalist tendencies.

Eli, who uses pink number slips?

Probably Frank Nester
over in the old Mission District.

He runs a newsstand.

Let's go have a word with him.

I thought you told me
that you were a strikebreaker

- when you worked for the Pinkertons.
- I was. That's why I quit.

Just doing my job
Would you please..?

Fill her up.


Thank you.

You lost, pal.

- Looking for the guy who bought it.
- Yeah, sure you are.

- You a cop?
- What about her?

Well, you can't forget her, ever.

That studio up the stairs,
she used to come and go, in and out.


- She in trouble?
- Maybe.

- Dames like her,
- Stick around, Eli.

They live on trouble.

What a grand dump.

What are we looking for?

Wish I knew.

Maybe we'll find your manuscript.

I know where that is.

Too bad you didn't get to read it.

Somebody in it
you might be very familiar with.

A girl?


She had eyes too close for trusting,
yet wide enough for beauty.

How'd you guess?

Because all your women
are like that.

How come you never write
about women with eyes like lost lakes?

Because everybody else does,

Look at this:
"James Ryan, $100 retainer."

It's dated the 27th.

That's a week ago.

Jimmy Ryan's bigtime client,
Gary Salt.

- Bought Ryan for 100 bucks.
- This must be the bedroom.

Guess again.

My grandmother used to have
a brass bed just like this.

Oh, she used to hide
her old love letters in here.

She thought it was a big secret,

but my brothers and I
used to read them.

Your grandmother.
How is old Lizzy?

I have to write her.

Oh, look,
there is something in here.

Yeah, what is it?

Keep moving, sweetie.
We're almost there.

I keep telling you, I haven't got them.
I swear I haven't.

Hagedorn says you've got them,
that's good enough for me.

- Hagedorn's wrong.
- Hagedorn's never wrong, sweetie.


- What, you never make a deal?
- I don't make deals, sweetie,

you ought to know that by now.

- I can cut you in.
- No.

- You can have my end of the split.
- I said, no.

- I just want what I'm sent for.
- But I haven't got them.

- Then you better find them.
- Please, let's talk about it.

We've just run out of talk.

Get in the bedroom, you squirm.

I want them now, pally.
Not tomorrow, not the next day. Now.

I haven't got them anymore.

- I swear to God, I haven't got them...
- What you've got is five seconds.


- two...
- Don't.

- Four.
- For God's sake!

Well, look...


Don't be a chump. Let her go.

Just one more step, sweetie,
and she goes,

but she goes slow, real slow.

I said, let her go.

Come on. That old wheeze?

Yeah? Call it.

Real soon. I'm gonna take you

- right off the count real soon.
- How about right now, goddamn it?

What the hell?

Where'd you get the artillery, Eli?

You should put wheels on it.

You need a little protection
when you drive a hack in Frisco.

It's San Francisco.

I hack here, lady. I call it Frisco.

The envelope.
What was in that envelope, Kit?

Oh, I don't know, I didn't look.

You're a swell detective, sweetheart.

Recognize them?

- Six on the list?
- Yeah.

And Salt's dead.

Shouldn't we call the police?
Shouldn't we do something legal?

First we'll drop you off, angel.

You call the cops,
and I'll go see Hagedorn.

What should I tell the police?

Tell them you know where
they can find another body

that we know wasn't a suicide,
and no names.


- Tuck these away someplace safe.
- You know the nicest people.

Where's your gun?

In the top drawer of my desk.

Need a good monkey wrench, Eli?

- Pretty fancy.
- Yeah.

Hey, are you gonna be a long time?

Never early, never late.
What's the difference?

Oh, that's what they all say.
I'm only human,

- I just wanna know what's going on.
- Sure, sure, I don't blame you.

Everybody wants to know
what's going on.

Fiddle around here for a while,
then we'll go home. Deal?

Yeah, deal.

Who's there?

You don't want
a belly full of daylight...

...come out with your hands up.

Hey, you, got $50?

Hold it, son.

Hey, you, got $50?

Let's go. Looks like Eddie's
gonna need a new boy.

A little kid took this away from him,
but I made him give it back.

You son of a bitch,
I'll strangle you with your own guts.

People lose teeth talking like that.
What's in there?

Get in, open it.

How do you do, Mr. Hagedorn?

I thought we should have
a little chat.

Indeed, sir.

I fear you have the advantage
over me. Truly, sir, I do.

What's the story
on you and Jimmy Ryan?

My God, sir, I think you and I
are going to get along perfectly.

I like a man who favors
the forthright approach.

You have a unique
persuasive style, sir.

Perhaps a little lacking in finesse,
but then, polish isn't everything.

Whom have I the honor
of addressing?

Sam Hammett.

Samuel Dashiell Hammett.

Former Pinkerton man. Now what?

Master of the penny dreadful.

- Getting rich?
- Scraping by.

Aren't we all.

Well, sir,
now what shall we talk about?

First off, him, your gunsel,
why is he tailing me all over town?

- Does he think I'm pretty or what?
- Gunsel?

My word, sir, what a precise use
of the English language.

You know the synonym of gunsel,
of course?

Catamite, nance, fairy, punk.

By the way,
you shouldn't let him carry this.

Smacks of ill will.
Again, why is he tailing me?

We're looking for your
Mr. Ryan, actually,

who we feel might be in possession
of certain information

- useful to my client...
- Mrs. Callaghan,

whose late husband
killed himself, sort of.

Why did Callaghan kill himself,
if he did?

Well, sir, he was ruined.
Financially, I mean.

What was it,
liquor, women, gambling?

He guessed wrong
on the commodity market.

The market rose,
he couldn't cover his short position.

I see. What about Callaghan and
Crystal Ling? The late Crystal Ling.

What about them?

I understand
he bought her from Fong.

My word, sir.
You have been amongst liars.

I'll say.

Crystal was almost like a daughter
to the Callaghans.

Oh, I'm sure they had
some swell Sunday dinners.

Anyway, they're both dead now.

One murdered and one a suicide.
According to the cops, that is.

Now there's a third body in the morgue
you might be interested in.

Not a suicide, very murdered,
with a witness.

- Might I ask whom?
- Gary Salt.

- Salt?
- The short pornographer.

- Murdered, you say?
- As in bumped off,

by your little roomie.
It seems he got a little impatient

when he went after the dirty pictures,
or maybe he just likes his work.

All I know is he blew a hole
through Salt's chest.

Oh, dear.

I had to search you, Mr. Hammett.

My clients would never
have forgiven me if I hadn't.

You do understand.

Of course.

I shall miss my Winston,
Mr. Hammett.

Well, I won't.

We were together for a long time,
a very long time.

We understood each other.

But as an officer of the court,
I have my sworn duty.

- Who are you calling?
- The proper authorities, of course.

- Who will do what?
- Tidy things up, naturally.

- Just like that?
- Yes, Mr. Hammett, just like that.

- You're an original, Hagedorn.
- The front door is to the left.

Thank you.

Open up, Samuel.

- I'm on the phone.
- Well, make it snappy.


- What?
- My lawyer is Jim Welch,

he's in the book. Call him
as soon as I go through the door.

I don't think I like
this new career of yours.

It almost got me killed tonight.

And for what? Answer me that,
smart guy. What was in it for me?

A peep in a cesspool,
a roll in the hay.

- A roll in the hay, at least.
- I'm serious.

Look, you went
because I asked you to,

because you knew
there was nobody else I could ask.

Take it easy, Tom.

- Hello, Tom. What's the good word?
- I told you to stay out of it, Samuel.

- So you did.
- So let's go.

And don't ask me where,
don't argue,

because if you argue,
I'm gonna put the cuffs on.

Well, I guess
you better damn well do that.

How's that?

Samuel, from now on,
you're on your own.

And God help you.


Well, I'll be damned.

Welcome, Mr. Hammett, welcome.

We have great need of you, sir.

Great need. You know Mr. Fong
and Lieutenant O'Mara, of course.

The other gentlemen l...

I can make my own introductions,
Hagedorn, thank you.

Let's see, shipping, isn't it?

And you go for
Little Miss Muffet, right?

Big insurance,

and your preference,
Little Bo Peep.

Railroads. Grandpa's railroads,
if I remember right.

Cinderella. A little old, wasn't she?
Why, you old dog.

And you're sugar,
maybe half the world's sugar.

Let's see. Daddy's little girl, I'd say,
but I could be wrong.

And you're oil.

Used to be Mr. Rockefeller's oil,
but now it's yours.

Queen of the sixth grade, or fifth.
Fourth, maybe.

What the hell,
you're just the idle rich, right?

Good works, charities, always
a big power in the reform movement.

And you like... Well, let's see.

Looks sort of like
the poor little match girl.

- Mr. Hammett, I must...
- Shut up, Hagedorn,

let me see if I can figure out the rest.
It must have started...

- Mr. Hammett, I must advise you...
- Let him speak.

You know,
you two make a swell pair.

It must have all started at a party,
a stag party.

New Year's Eve, maybe.

Anyway, a blue film
was the night's main event, right?

Starring Crystal Ling
and the Wolf Man.

And then what? A week later,
two weeks later, somebody,

maybe somebody like Gary Salt,
comes and whispers in your ear

that you too, for a small fee,
can take a turn in the hay with Crystal.

So one by one,
you sneak up into that backroom

with the friendly pornographers
and bingo, it's Arabian Nights.

No fantasy too wild,
no taste too bizarre,

except that all the time
the camera is clicking away.

Then somebody grabs the negatives
away from Salt, right?

Crystal, maybe.
And you turn San Francisco

inside out looking for her.
Then all of a sudden Crystal's dead,

and there's a body
in the morgue to prove it.

But now the blackmailer lands on you,
and you either pay up

or prints of you and Crystal
will be sent to every ritzy club

between here and New York,
not to mention your wives.

- Am I right so far, Hagedorn?
- You are substantially correct, sir.

You know, I've lived in this town
for what, seven or eight years now,

and it's not a bad town,
certainly more fun than most.

Streets get swept, the garbage
gets picked up, and the graft gets paid.

But the politicians don't really
run this town, they never have.

They ran it, because they had
the money, and now you run it

because you've got the money,
and run it to suit yourselves.

Am I losing anyone,
going too fast for you?

You buy the power, you trade it,
you sell it. And you know what?

When you die, your pictures will go up
on that wall with all the others,

and not one of you,
not a single one of you,

ever had to scramble
for one lousy vote,

and maybe that's why I don't see
the mayor here or the DA.

Just the cops, the crooks
and the big rich.

And me. And that's what
I wanna know, why me?

Because, sir, the person

who has what we wish to buy
insists upon you.

So, what if I do make your buy-back
for you, what then, what's in it for me?

Well, now, Mr. Hammett,

we finally come
to the essence of things.

You will find us, sir, most generous.

- Money, huh?
- Indeed, sir.

To hell with your money.
I want two things:

First, I want my story back.
It might not be much, but it's mine.

It's what I do, and I want it back.

And second,
and this is the most important thing,

I wanna be let alone.

So, what's the blackmailer asking,

- a million?
- One million dollars.

It's a lot of dough.
Where and when?

In one hour's time, sir.
Your authorization,

credentials and complete instruction
are in this envelope.

Only one other thing:
After I get the million bucks,

what's to prevent me from
taking the next boat out?

Your good judgment
and the high value

you place on your own life.

That's what I figured.

Have a nice evening, gents.

One hundred times $10,000.

Sign here.

First day?

Here I am, 34 years old,

and the only two people
I can trust in the world

are a librarian with a smart mouth
and a would-be bomb thrower.

You got two you could trust,

you got two more
than most people, Hammett.

- That's right.
- What do you got in the bag there?

- Money, and a lot of it.
- What are we doing, a buy-back?

- That's right.
- How much?

- A million.
- You're shitting me.

- Oh, pardon me, lady.
- Eli.

- Pardon me.
- Watch the road, Eli.

Oh, rich people.

What are the rich gonna buy back
for a million bucks?

Their reputations.

- I get to come?
- You stay put.

I'll wait there.
If I hear a shot or a yell...

- Or even a splash.
- Or even a splash.

- I yell for the operator,
scream for the DA

and get the hell out of here.

- I hope you know what you're doing.
- Don't we all.

- Hello, Crystal.
- Stop right there, Hammett.

Put the valise down and open it.

I hope I haven't kept you waiting.

Now move backward five steps
and put your hands behind your neck.

- The negatives.
- The widow Callaghan,

she really did kill her husband,
didn't she? Like you said.

Dashiell Hammett,

still the one flow up
and save detective.

Yes, she killed him.
I made her jealous, very jealous.

- It wasn't difficult.
- You and he were sort of

- stuck on each other, huh?
- We were lovers.

The blackmail scheme
was Callaghan's.

He was broke,
so he and I cooked it up.

And Salt. Nice alibi you got
for yourself at the mission house too.

I also liked the way you fix the cops.
You're good.

By the time Callaghan was killed,

I'd already acquired
some influence, let's say.

I see. The dead Chinese girl
with the thick ankles

they tried to palm off on me
at the morgue. You did that too?

I needed a day or so
with no interruptions.

She was a useful pawn, I suppose.

There are millions and millions more
like her in China, and me.

I wouldn't bet on it.
I think you're one of a kind.

I'll take those negatives now,
if you don't mind.

Close the valise as you do so.

You are bad, aren't you, sister?
Evil clean through. How does it feel,

- really feel?
- Evil?

What is evil?

Show it to me.

My parents sold me
when I was 9 for $5,000.

I turned my first trick
with a Caucasian at 11.

At 17, I am a millionaire.

Wonder what I'll be when I'm 21.

- Dead.
- You think so?


You were almost late, Mr. Ryan.

I thought I was right on time.
How are you, kid?

Hello, Ryan.
What are you, her new pimp?

More like a partner,
right, sweetheart?

I knew you'd gone sour, Ryan,
but I didn't think you'd gone simple.

She'll eat you alive.

You're not really gonna trust our little
Mademoiselle Butterfly here, are you?

Who wouldn't trust a face like that?
We're partners.

I always trust my partners, remember?
Up to a point.

Don't drop it.

Just toss it over the side
so I can hear the splash.

Here's your story, kid.
My part of the deal.

I had to pay a lot
to get it back from Fong.

More than it's worth.
I even read it again.

I still don't like it.
Needs a better ending.

How about this:
The old bird pulls off a grand slam

and leaves town
with a million bucks.

You thought my life was over,
Hammett. It's just beginning.

You want something real
to write about, write about this.

Operator, this is an emergency.

Get me
the district attorney's office, please.

Thank you.

Not just yet, little lady.

He needed one hand for the money
and the other for the gun.

He wasn't good enough
to handle both.

I read it too, Hammett.
I like the ending.

- Swell.
- Was he a friend or what?

- Yeah, he was a friend.
- He was good.

He broke in from nowhere,

tracked me down,
figured it all out and cut himself in.

- He was good.
- He was the best,

- in his heyday.
- Maybe you didn't know him too well.

Maybe I didn't know him at all.

Take his place, Hammett.
Come with me.

You could be
my bodyguard and biographer,

my lover, my lap dog.

Don't be a simp. I'm gonna give it to
you and gonna give it to you straight.

You don't think they're
gonna let you waltz, do you?

Oh, you might get
to Berlin or Constantinople,

maybe even Hong Kong,
wherever you're going,

but one day you'll turn
the wrong corner and:

Curtains, no more Crystal.
You see what I mean?

You're going up against
100, 200, 300 million dollars.

You're going up against
the powerhouse, angel,

the big steam.

I can beat them.

Sure. Like hell.

I'll show you I can beat them.

No grand slam, Jimmy.

You lost it all.


Everything except your nerve.

It's okay, Eli.

- Messenger boys.
- Let's have the negatives, Hammett.

Well, now you and the little lady can
make all the phone calls you want to.

Ryan's lying in the middle of the dock,
shot dead.

She gave him the works.

Well, we'll get somebody
to sweep him up.

I'll take care of him, Samuel.

It's not like in one
of your stories, is it?

Never is like a story.

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