The Late Show (1977) - full transcript

Ira Wells is an aged retired Los Angeles based private investigator, who is slightly overweight, needs to wear a hearing aid, has a bum leg and an ulcer-laden stomach, and can only afford to rent a room in a house as a place to live. He decides to come out of retirement when a still active contemporary, Harry Regan, shows up on his doorstep with a bullet wound to the gut, from which he eventually dies. Ira wants to find out who killed Harry. Ira is contacted by another long-time acquaintance, Charlie Hatter, a self-proclaimed loser and Hollywood hack, about Harry's last case, something about which probably led to Harry's death. Harry's client was Margo Sterling, a former client of Charlie's who is a flaky penniless new-ageist actress/agent/dress maker. She hired Harry to retrieve her missing cat, Winston, who is still being held ransom by an acquaintance named Brian Hemphill. Ira learns from Margo that Brian hired her to transport goods for him, she unconcerned that those goods probably stolen and the drop-off person probably a fence. Brian stole Winston because Margo "borrowed" some money from one of those jobs. Ira will also eventually learn that Brian was recently involved in a high profile robbery gone wrong, that resulted in one person dead. With all these things Brian was involved in, Ira has to figure out what would be the reason for someone wanting to kill Harry. As big a problem for loner Ira is Margo, who wants to add another "/" to her already large resume, namely that of private investigator partner despite its inherent dangers.

Mr. Wells?

Mr. Wells?

- Yes, Mrs. Schmidt?
- You've got company, Mr. Wells.

That's some bender you've been on, pal.

They're gonna have to put a night shift
on Jack Daniel's just to keep up with you.

Mrs. Schmidt, call the police. 485-2581.

Tell them to get an ambulance here fast.
Tell them we got a dying man.

Police emergency?

Can you send an ambulance?
We've got a man here. I think he's dying.

The address is 1405 Beechwood.

It's not as bad as the time in San Diego.

Ira, I got a deal for us.

Harry, who did it?

It's a chance for us to make a lot of dough.

Harry, you're dying. Tell me who did it.

How did it happen?

Don't worry, Ira, I'm cutting you in.
Fair deal.

Just don't try to throw a scare into me.
It won't work.

I'll lay it all out for you.

Just get me to a hospital.

God damn you, Harry!

Letting somebody walk up
and drill you like that...


Nobody can palm a.45.

Jesus Christ.

You never had the brains
God gave a common dog.

Sorry you're going off, pal.

You were real good company.

The best.

The very best.

Margo, that's him.

Jeez, Charles,
he doesn't look so hot to me.

Let me tell you, kiddo,
Ira Wells used to be one of the greats.

Whatever it is, Charlie, the answer is no.

What do you mean no?
Did I say a word? Did I?

- No.
- Yeah.

Ira, Margo. Margo, Ira.

- Mr. Wells...
- Margo here's a pal of mine.

How do you feel about cats?

- I beg your pardon?
- Cats. How do you feel about them?

I'm not sure.

What I mean is that
somebody stole Winston.

- Somebody stole who?
- Winston, my cat.

Somebody stole him.
I have a picture of him.

- What the hell is she talking about?
- I wanna show it to you.

See, Brian stole Winston.

And he said he would strangle him
if I don't pay him the money.

Margo owes this guy $500 for a long time.

Come on, Charles,
six months is hardly a long time.

He gets PO'd at her...

and steals the cat and threatens to kill it
if she doesn't give the dough.

- So pay him.
- I can't pay him.

I don't have the money to pay him.

I see. You want me to find the guy
that stole your cat and bring it back, right?

- Thanks, pal.
- He's easy to identify.

I can't help you out.
Try the fire department.

- I'm out of the business.
- His collar is...

Come on, this is the kind of play
you can handle easy.

Mr. Wells, if it's money...

I had planned to offer you $25.
I have it right here.

- Charlie, how long have I known you?
- I don't know, 16, 17 years.

In all that time, did you
ever hear of Ira Wells taking a two-bit job?

I heard what you said.

This is not a two-bit job.

I mean, if I offended you,
I'm very sorry, and I apologize...

because I didn't mean to offend
the great Ira Wells.

Charlie, I want you to know
I appreciate you coming to Harry's funeral.

I enjoy talking to you.

Maybe I don't act like it, but I do.

There aren't many guys left
from the old days.

I think you ought to teach your pal here
some respect for her elders.

Yeah, well,
maybe you should learn a little respect...

for other little creatures
that are walking under your...

- Where are you headed?
- I'm going to the track, Hollywood Park.

This little kitty is just a little honey bun!

Give this little cat a break!

It's Bank Vault going away
by a length-and-a-half.

Wild Chase is second by four lengths.
Easy Victor, on the inside, is third.

Kewpie Doll and Top Target are tied.

The rest of the field is well back. Down
the course Bank Vault pulls away.

Wild Chase is leading.

Easy Victor and Kewpie Doll
unable to close any ground.

... and Kewpie Doll is the fourth horse.

Timing the race for six furlongs,
covering three-quarters of a mile...

one minute, ten seconds flat.
In the winner's circle is Bank Vault...

with Hollywood Park's leading apprentice
jockey, Benny de Angelino...

getting his fifth in the current leading.

And for those looking for a hot bet
on Friday the 13th...

this might have been the horse
they were looking for luck on the 13th.

All right, Charlie, give out with it.

I thought you was going to the track.

How long has it been
since I've seen you, Charlie?

Close to a year, isn't it?

Somebody puts the freeze
on Harry Regan...

next thing I know, you show up
at Harry's funeral with some dolly...

and a song and dance about a stolen cat,
and all that hot comedy.

What's it all got to do with Harry?

Harry was working for the dolly.

Are you telling me that Harry
got himself killed on account of some cat?


I know Margo maybe six or seven years.

Used to be a client of mine.

One night, a couple of weeks ago, she
comes into this bar where I'm working...

Just sort of temporary.
The talent business is slow.

Anyway, it turns out that she's mad as hell
about this guy stealing her cat.

I'm listening...

and all of a sudden
I remember Harry Regan.

And I think to myself,
"He's still in the business...

"if there's any business left for him to do."

He took the job.

So he finds this guy that stole the cat
and starts to follow him.

- Yeah.
- Who is this guy Harry was tailing?

I wouldn't know him
from a hole in my sock.

The dolly?

- The dolly? What about her?
- Where does she live, Charlie?

Some place called La Paloma...

over on Franklin, near Vermont.

That's where you live, isn't it, Charlie?


As we begin to meditate...

take a deep breath.

Charlotte, listen to me.
Tonight is important.

I don't want you to get uptight about it.

Because this guy books
a lot of Holiday Inns all over the country.

I think it's a good place to start.

I mean, it's a good place to work out
a lot of problems.

You're gonna be absolutely terrific tonight.
Who's taking you?

- What's he gonna wear?
- Imagine the joy...

Wait. I'll tell you what.
I think he should wait outside.

No, because that's very important.

I'm telling you, the entire picture,
the entire impression, is important.

Charlotte, this is another
self-destructive act, in my opinion.

Listen, if I am gonna handle your career...

and if I am going to be...
Wait a second, Charlotte.

Charlotte, listen, I got to go.
No. Somebody just walked in.

I'll see you at 10:30.
You're gonna be terrific.

Think positive. Okay, bye-bye.

Why don't you just come in
and make yourself comfortable?

... descending into the boundless water...

as it rises over...

your tired, weary body.

You begin to relax.

Harry Regan was a pal of mine
close to 24 years.

Whoever it was that killed him
is gonna be goddamn sorry.

Mr. Wells, I can understand
your feeling that way.

I mean, as an actress,
I understand it as a motivation.

- What about this guy who took your cat?
- Brian Hemphill.

He's this guy, he's really sort of a tuna.
He just hangs around, you know.

And we used to have this thing going,
kind of a sexual interlude.

It never really came to anything.

Now Brian and his friend
sometimes give me money...

to schlep things to this guy in Bakersfield.

- Things? What things?
- You know, things.

Material things.
I mean, worldly possessions:

Washing machines, TV sets,
clock radios. Things.

Did it ever cross your mind
these things might be hot?

Who's to know? I mean,
I'm not by nature a curious person.

I'll bet.

- I mean, go with the flow.
- That's what I always say.

This guy in Bakersfield,
he paid you off in cash, right?


Then you'd bring the dough to this punk,
Brian, then you'd get your cut?


Only on this last trip, you decided you
wanna keep the money yourself, right?

So Brian gets mad because
he wants his dough. So he steals your cat.

- And you go crying to Harry Regan.
- It was just a loan.

I did not take the money, it was a loan,
just till I get my dress business going.

- Your dress business?
- I design all the clothes I make.

- I thought you were an actress.
- Are you kidding? I did the whole star trip.

I just never could learn
how to push myself, you know.

I don't like to go begging.
I don't want anybody to do me any favors.

I just never could learn
how to play the Hollywood game.

My shrink says
that I'm a very conflicted personality.

- Jesus Christ.
- But my astrologist...

What is that supposed to mean?

Back in the '40s, this town was crawling
with dollies like you.

Good-looking cokeheads trying
their damnedest to act tough as hell.

I got news for you:
They did it better back then.

This town doesn't change.
They just push the names around.

Same dames,
screwing up their lives just the same way.

All right. What about this guy Brian?
Where can I find him?

Who's to know. He just hangs around.

- Where is around?
- Around is around.

I mean, around is no particular place.

The only time I hear from him is when he
calls me up to torment me about my cat.

The next time he calls you up,
I want you to set up a meet.

All right.

Mr. Wells, listen,
I don't want you to get the wrong idea...

- about me schlepping those things...
- Doll, I'm not interested in your life story.

Just set up a meet with your friend Brian.

Yes? I'm coming.

Just a minute.

I don't care what you say, you understand?

- Yes?
- Hi, I'm Margo Sperling.

We'd like to talk to your husband.

No, my husband passed on
seven years ago.

What's going on in here?

We were playing canasta
right there in the living room.

Kid, the you-know-what has hit the fan.

Look, I wouldn't make a federal case
out of everything, Charlie.

Mrs. Schmidt, would you leave us alone
for a couple of minutes?

I have some personal business
to talk over with these people.

Of course, Mr. Wells.

- It was very nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you.

Anytime, Mr. Wells,
your friends are more than welcome.

- Thank you.
- I like the color of your sweater.

- Thank you.
- Very much.

- The man's a killer, you ding-a-ling!
- Don't call me a ding-a-ling!

Hold it!

This happens to be where I live, okay?

It may not look like a hell of a lot to you,
but it suits me.

Now, Mrs. Schmidt, that's my landlady,
we get along just fine.

At least we did until a few days ago.
If you two would simmer down...

tell me what's going on, I'd appreciate it.

Okay. You wanted to take
a meeting with Brian, right?

So he called me.

I'm listening to him carefully
because I've known him a long time.

And Brian's not very evolved.
In fact, he's rather de-evolved.

I was talking to him, and I'm very sensitive
to the vibrations he gives out.

Because I know what karma he has...

- What is she talking about?
- She said you was looking for this guy...

- because of what happened to Harry.
- That's what I said.

She said if he didn't come here
you'd come gunning for him.

- That's right.
- The punk that nailed Harry's coming here?

Wait a second. You are so paranoid.

You don't know for sure.
You don't know that that's true at all!

- Maybe Brian didn't even do it.
- I got a pretty good idea.

Charlie may be a chiseler and a crook,
but he's the best information man in town.

Wait a second. What is that for?

It's for if Charlie's right.

Please. Come on. No, don't do this.

Do you know people who play with guns
are generally impotent?

What's ever settled with a gun?

Come on, hold on a second.
Now, just a second.

How many people you're gonna shoot?
Hold on a second.

I think it's him. It's him.

Mrs. Schmidt...

I'll use the living room
for a few minutes, if you don't mind.

That's fine, Mr. Wells.
Just don't make a mess.

Come on, lighten up
on this cops and robbers stuff.

I can handle this.


Watch it!

He's getting away. Don't let him!

- Take it easy.
- Go, get him.

- Are you crazy?
- Plug him!

God damn it! Kill him! You could get him!

I could get a heart attack,
that's what I could get...

running all that way.

How far do you think I'd get
with this leg of mine? That's one.

Two: Whoever that guy is,
he's no snob about how he kills people.

It's a goddamn.45 he's using.

There are a lot of ways to play any game.
I play mine on the house percentages.

485-2581, Mr. Wells. I remembered.

Thank you very much, Mrs. Schmidt.

- I'm sorry about all this.
- It's no bother.

Where's my cat, you creep?

Come on in, doll, before you catch a cold.

All right, Charlie, hand it over.

What do you mean?

Whatever you took off the stiff.

Hand it over.

Jesus, kid,
I always said you were the best.

Didn't I tell you he was the best?

What's that?


- The Whiting job.
- Who? Whiting?

About 10 days ago,
some place out in the Valley.

Whiting? Who's that?

Whiting had a stamp collection
worth almost $50,000.

- Who's Whiting?
- There's a murder one tied to it, right?

Okay, don't tell me. What do I care?

Two guys broke into a house
out in the Valley.

They tied up Whiting and his wife,
and started to lift the stamps.

Then something must have gone wrong...

because they beat up Whiting
and killed his wife.

Disgusting. I don't wanna hear any more.

- That's what Harry was onto, right?
- I don't know.

I don't wanna hear any more.

Harry knew about the stamps
and he also told you.

That's why you knew
what to look for on the punk.

Kid, I swear he didn't tell me anything.

Hear that? That's the cops.
They'll be here in a couple minutes.

Either you start to play it on the square
with me, or I'll feed you to them.

- Which, considering your record...
- You wouldn't do that.

Okay, here's the house number.

Harry is tailing this guy, Brian,
looking for Margo's cat...

when Brian and this pal of his
pull off the Whiting heist.

The next day, Harry met me
and laid out the whole thing.

Wants me to check out the reward angle.
I nose around.

Sure enough, Continental Insurance is
offering $15,000 for the goddamn stamps.

You guys were gonna split it.

Just the kind of cheap grift
Harry would go for.

Listen, Charlotte,
I'm having a lot of trouble.

- I had a lot of big trouble...
- Kid, you know who just kicked off?

That dame,
the one that almost nailed you back in '53.

Jesus, what was her name?

- Madeline? No. Marilyn Thornton.
- That's her.

- I'm still carrying some of that lead.
- I'll talk to you later.

Pit city. I mean, pit city!

Not only did I still not get my cat back,
thanks to you...

not only did I
almost get mowed down here tonight...

not only did I sit here with yellow socks...

and perjure myself in front of the entire
Los Angeles Police Department...

on top of that,
I promised a singer that I manage...

I would be there
for a very important audition.

And of course, you can probably tell,
I'm not there.

And on top of that, I got my period.

Listen, doll, let's get something straight.

As long as we're gonna be
working together...

try to act like a lady, will you?

Who says we're working together?

Do you have any ideas
about who might have wanted to kill him?

No, I don't.

What about the guy that helped
your boyfriend pull off the Whiting heist?

Ray Escobar.

Mr. Wells, a truly evolved person...

doesn't go around ratting on her friends,
if you catch my drift.

This guy, Escobar, who is he?

There is no point in this discussion.

If you only knew how far behind
I've gotten in everything...

just because of all this ridiculous...
And I don't even have my cat yet!

I don't wanna even talk about it,
because I'm finished.

I mean, I am finished. Finalissimo!


Let me talk to Margo alone.

I don't wanna be talked to alone,
or talked to in a crowd.

I don't wanna be talked to by you, Charles.

- Just hear me out, okay?
- Please!

- Look, sugar.
- I'm not listening.

You're two payments
behind on the car, right?

I know, because you already tried
to hit me up for loan.

What do you think you owe the dentist
for your caps?

- Om.
- Okay.

What about that trip to Vegas? How much
do you think you're in hock for that?

And what about the Japanese lessons?

Let's see. How much do you figure
that's all totaled up to...

at least $4,000?

Now can you think about $15,000
in reward money...

strictly on the up and up, split two ways.


Boy, it's really lucky for you that I just
happen to be a self-destructive person.


Start talking from the top.

Okay, as long as
we're gonna be working together.

Brian had this creepy friend.

Far be it for me to go around
passing judgments on people...

but Ray Escobar is truly Pittsville.

They had some kind of arrangement,
a deal going with this guy named Birdwell.

- Ronny Birdwell?
- Yeah.

He's a fence. New since your day.
Got a setup over on Sunset place.

Check around the street, Charlie.
See what you can pick up on Escobar.

- Can do.
- That's it?

Charles, wait!
Give me a lift out to the airport.

Jesus, Margo! It's 2:00 in the morning!

- Okay, so I'll buy gas.
- One more thing, doll, about my fee.

My fee.

- I get $25 a day plus expenses.
- What's he talking about?

Listen, sweetheart, you're talking
to Ira Wells, not some low-rent gumshoe.

- I'm the best, and I get paid like the best.
- All right.



No. I work for Mr. Birdwell.
My name is Jeff Lamar.

- Won't you come in, Mr. Wells?
- Thank you.

- Are you all right?
- Yeah.

No hard feelings, sir.

I know that.

Come on.

This is Mr. Wells.

You said on the phone you had something
I might be interested in.

Before we do any talking,
better warn this cheesehead.

Next time he tries anything with me,
I'll kill him.

I won't give him a chance. I'll kill him.

Okay, pop.

Now that you've got that off your chest,
what's your business?

The Whiting job.

- Postage stamps, right?
- That's right.

- What's that got to do with me?
- The word is, it could be tied in to you.

I'm gonna tell you I don't know
dick about the Whiting job, right?

You'll tell me
you'll take this hotshit information...

of yours to somebody else.

Then I'll tell you I'd be interested
if the price is right.

Then we'll dance for a couple of hours.
So let's just cut to the chase.

You like music?

I got a Panasonic hi-fi over there
that is a sensation to the ears.

Automatic record changer, air suspension,
plus an eight-track tape.

Last week a pal of mine was tailing one
of the guys that pulled the Whiting job.

He turned up dead.

I'll throw in a couple of suits.
Manufacturers' name brands.

Hart Shafner and Marx,
Botany 500, Petrocelli. What do you say?


His name was Harry Regan.
I mean to have the louse that nailed him.

I never heard of any guy named Regan.

I'll tell you, pop,
I'm in a kind of line of work...

- that you pick up things, you know?
- I can see that.

It could be I have some information
about your buddy.

Come on, Ronny.
How do you know he really has anything...

- and isn't just jerking you around?
- You know something, punk?

If he was to finger you,
I'd give him a Petrocelli suit.

Stamps are a specialty item.
Not just anybody can move them.

When a guy pulls a heist like that,
he's got the fence lined up in front.

- So far, I couldn't give less of a shit.
- Maybe.

But one of the punks
that pulled the Whiting job works for you.

Brian Hemphill.

You are peddling Brian Hemphill.

I know the son of a bitch
pulled the Whiting robbery.

You know who told me? The cops.

Yeah. I was down
at the station house already.

Two hours, they kept me there.
They ran my ass ragged.

I told them the same thing I'll tell you.
I fired Hemphill two months ago.

He was a thief, he was robbing me blind.
I haven't seen the little turd since.

I'll tell you something else.
They know he was shot last night.

They're looking for a pal of his.

You're a little late, pop. About 40 years.

Come here.

I like you.

I admire a guy your age that's got the balls
to try a hustle like that.

Right, Lamar? What's your size?

- What?
- In the collar and sleeve?

I got a shipment of Van Heusen shirts
yesterday that will knock your eyes out.

On account of what Lamar did to you.

You're a 17-34. Something else.

The police know
that Brian Hemphill is an alias.

His real name is Earl Hampton.

He did time in Illinois
for robbing a jewelry store.

This is you. It's perfect.

You wear that, you'll drive the girls crazy.

Okay, pop?

No hard feelings.

Must be around here somewhere.
There he is. Ira.

Where are you headed?

I'm on my way to the Brown Derby
to meet Louis B. Mayer.

Where does it look like I'm headed?

Where were you all morning?
I must have called you 20 times.

- I went to see Birdwell.
- What did you wanna do that for?

Trying to figure out why two guys
who heist $50,000 in stamps...

are still hanging around town,
waiting for the cops to wise up...

and grab them on murder rap.

I could have told you that.
Because they are dumb. They're D-U-M-B.

- I'll remember you said that.
- How'd it go?

With Birdwell? Piece of cake.

Didn't I say he was the greatest?
Didn't I say that before? Damn.

Wait a minute!

Come on, start this thing. Mr. Wells!

Wait a second!

For crying out loud, don't tell me
how to drive when I'm driving!

This car is not only a toilet,
but you are the attendant.

There he is.

Did you dig up anything
on this guy Escobar?

But it's gonna cost.


I found a guy who knows another guy...

that saw Escobar holed up
someplace over in Santa Monica.

- That's the part that costs.
- He wants a C-note for the address.

You got that kind of dough?

- What about you?
- $46. That's all I've got.

It might interest you to know that I dug up
a few items about your pal Brian today.

Such as, his real name is Earl Hampton.

Did a stretch in the pen
a couple of years back for armed robbery.

His name was Earl Hampton.

$68, but that's every penny.
I'm not kidding. I mean, every penny.

Birdwell tried to put some muscle on me
and I had to get tough with him.

He's starting to crack,
but it's not Christmas yet, understand?

- You shouldn't put that in first.
- I beg your pardon.

If you still wanna cash in
on the reward money, I got to move.

I got to move fast.

How come I'm the one
that has to raise the money?

How come nobody else here
in this group has any cash?

What's wrong with you, Charles?

Why don't you try to come up
with a little scratch once in a while?

You two have a real class act.

Charlie, take a couple of hours
and dig up anything you can on Birdwell.

- There's something screwy going on there.
- Got you.

I'll tell you what you do.
Call up Tom Wyman.

He works out of
the Bureau of Detectives, downtown.

Tell him I told you to call.
He owes me a favor anyway.

Kid, Tom's dead.

He's been dead almost six months.

Then find somebody else.
Jesus Christ, Charlie, use your brains!

All right. I'll try to raise $100.

Birdwell showed up out here
about six years ago.

Went to work for a guy who had
a fence operation out in the Valley.

A couple of years ago, the guy retires...

buys himself a condominium in Florida.

- Birdwell buys him out.
- That's it?

What did you expect, Gone with the Wind?

If three people get killed, I expect
more than a condominium in Florida.

Nothing's ever good enough for you.

That's three.

- The word is he's got dolly trouble.
- Any dolly in particular?

His wife.

- She was chippying around on him.
- With?

Jesus, kid. All I had was a couple of hours.

Want one?

Are you kidding?

You know what one of those
would do to my gut?

Must be tough.

Does Birdwell know his wife
was cheating on him?

If he does, he's playing it close to the vest.

I gotta have a Coke.

- Did you bring the dough?
- Please use the scoop.

Yes, I brought the dough,
and I want it all back, you guys.

I mean it. From the top.
I'm keeping track, too.

There's been $50 for Mr. Wells,
$20 for expenses...

plus 75, 85, 95, 100...

10, 25. You count it.

And I want a receipt, too.

Come on, hurry up.
I've got this guy waiting outside.

- This is Pepsi.
- Hurry up. Come on.

You know what I had to go through
to hassle up this dough?

I laid off four ounces
of pure red Columbian...

for $15 an ounce.

I mean, it's disgusting.

Some freak over on Pico
thinks I'm Santa Claus, I swear to God.

$15 an ounce.

- You have a lot of faith in me, don't you?
- Come on. This is just business.

$15 an ounce.
This grass was so great, I can't tell you.

There was so much resins in it,
it made your lips stick together.

How long have you been pushing?

Who says I'm pushing?
You've got a lot of nerve.

I'm not pushing.

You think if I was a pusher,
I'd have a little empty purse like this?

You make it sound
like I hang around schoolyards...

trying to prey on 12-year-old kids.

Anyways, I'm only doing it
till I get my shrink paid.

That makes sense.

I had a session with her today...

and I told her all about you.

- Don't you wanna know what I told her?
- Not particularly.

I told her that you were cute.

You told her I was cute?

Got it.

Okay, that's all for me, right?

Everything's cool?
Because I am out of here.

Wait a minute. Just stay put.

- Stay put? Why?
- Stay put.

I've got a job for you.

Look, I don't wanna go in there.

Let me just sit in the van here.
I can keep watch.

According to Charlie,
this is where Escobar is hiding out, right?


- You know him, right?
- I know him.

He's gonna be nervous. He'll have a gun.

- He'll have a what?
- He'll have a gun.

You can look at me and say,
"He'll have a gun"?

- You bought into this, toots.
- Look, just back off. I mean...

- Come on.
- Let me explain something to you...

I'm not good at this stuff.
Maybe I could just...

- Okay.
- Get the key.


Okay, you've seen enough.
Let's get out of here.

Ira, don't make any noise.

Winston. Ira, it's Winston.

Winstie, is that you? It's Winston, my cat.

Look, he's okay. Hello, Winstie.

Come on, let's get out of here.
I got my cat back.

I take back everything
I ever thought about you.

I swear to God. Thank you.
Let's get out of here.

Everything's copasetic.

I am not gonna tell you again.
I swear to God...

if we don't get out of here,
I'm gonna start to panic.

- You're an actress, aren't you?
- I'm begging you.

Act calm.

- Ira, don't go in there.
- Stay put.

Ira, wait a second.

It's all right.
Don't leave me out here. Come on.

Please let me in.

Come on. It's not me, it's Winston.
He needs to stretch his little legs.

I think he's been brainwashed.

- Holy moly, where did she come from?
- I found her in the bathtub.

- Aren't you gonna do something?
- You got any ideas?

- Listen, both of you.
- I'm the one who hired you.

- I'm warning you.
- Lady, do me a favor. Put that thing down.

- Margo here is not too stable.
- Yeah.

She's liable to try something dumb.

- Just a minute.
- Just hold your water.

Maybe I'm wrong, but you don't look like
you've had a lot of experience...

handling a.357 magnum.

Even so, at this close distance,
you couldn't miss.

If something happened,
it wouldn't be a great loss to the world...

but you'd go over on a manslaughter.
That's minimum eight to twelve.

That's right.

That's better.

- Mister...
- Wells. Ira Wells.

I'm a detective, private detective.

I'm sorry about before, about the part
with the gun, but I was so afraid.

Mr. Wells...

I am going to be totally open
and honest with you.

I'm going to lay myself naked before you.
I hope you appreciate that.

- He'll try.
- Get me a glass of water, will you, doll?

Why don't you ask her
what she's doing here in the first place?

- What did I ever do without you?
- Very little, I'm sure.

- Now, then, Mrs...
- Birdwell. Laura Birdwell.

- You seem like a very intelligent man.
- I've had my moments.

I really cannot relate on this level.

I'm in a great deal of trouble.

I don't know how much
I can open up to you.

Why don't you just tell it to me
in your own way, Mrs. Birdwell?


I got a call this afternoon from a man
who said his name was Escobar.

- He said he had certain items.
- Here you go, ace.

You drink too much of that,
you're gonna start seeing red rats.

Could I please have a glass of water,
a Coke or something?

Sure. Any friend of the hunk's
is a friend of mine.

I'm very nervous.
You can understand that, can't you?

I can understand that.

What could I do?
I tried to reason with him...

but he sounded like
a truly desperate character.

I had no choice.

When I got here, the door was open.

I was about to leave,
and I heard you coming.

And I thought...
You can imagine what I thought.

- Thank you.
- You're welcome.

Why was this Escobar blackmailing you?

I was seeing this man.
We were having an affair.

- Your husband didn't know about it?
- Does the Pope shit in the woods?

Just fix the goddamn Coke, will you?

Mr. Wells...


I'm sorry, doll. What I never told you...

is this is the hardest goddamn way
in the world to make a buck.

Ira, look.


Be careful.

Come on.

Watch it!

Okay. Start the motor.

All right. Now you can turn on your lights.

- Don't miss the light.
- I'm not gonna miss the light.

Just watch what you're doing, that's all.

Let's go to the cops.
We really should just go to the cops.

Let's do it, please.

Not until I find the guy
that nailed Harry Regan.

That is such bullshit.

- I mean, that is such total bullshit!
- Yeah. Sure thing, doll.

Speed up.
He's getting a little too far ahead.

It's disgusting.
You don't care about Harry Regan.

I'll tell you what this is.
This is one last chance for you...

to go around shooting off guns at people.
Playing cops and robbers.

You're getting off behind
all this blood and guts. It's true.

It's very immature. You need help.

- Now, wait a minute. Watch it.
- I can see. I'm watching.

Tail him.

Slow down.

Where the hell did he go?

Hold on!

Holy moly, wait a second. Hold on.

Jesus Christ!

Hush, baby. It's okay!

Ira, I feel so incredibly high,
I can't even tell you.

I feel like I've dropped acid.
Have you ever dropped acid?

- Not in the last 10 minutes.
- Do you get this feeling...

Can you see anything
about me that's different?

- Do I have a different kind of expression?
- You look higher.

I look high right now? I am high.
Did I give you sugar?

- I haven't had the tea yet.
- I'm sorry. I don't know what I'm thinking.

Look at these little things in here.
Don't worry, they just float around.

They're herbs. They won't hurt you.

Everything's incredibly okay,
because I feel so high. I'm not kidding.

I feel wonderfully high!

I saw that space, I had some possibilities
which I considered, and I made choices.

That's all, I went right through it.
Didn't I? It was incredible.

I had my hands on the wheel.
Didn't I take care of business?

- You did.
- I did it. I went right through it.

I couldn't believe it.
I thought I did a great job.

I know you think I'm trouble.

You probably think I'm talking
like I'm a crazy person...

- but I feel just like Nick and Nora.
- Who?

You know, The Thin Man.
Phyllis Kirk and Peter Lawford.

Wait a second. I just got a flash.
This is incredible.

Escobar and Brian
robbed this man Whiting, right?

Yeah. They killed his wife
while they were at it.

How come they didn't take it on the lam?
How come they stuck around town?

- Ask yourself why.
- I have asked myself.

Ask yourself again,
'cause I'm gonna tell you the answer.

Because they found something
besides the stamps at Whiting's.

They found something that they could
blackmail Laura Birdwell with.

- Are you following me?
- I'm following you.

She said she was having
a sexual relationship with another man...

other than her husband.

What if the guy she's making it with...

turned out to be Whiting?

You didn't think of that one, did you?
What about it?

- That's pretty good.
- Pretty good? That is fabulous.

I mean, if I do say so myself.

I'm gonna go down to the police station...

and get a private detective's license.

If we teamed up, we'd be great together.

That's just what this town
has been waiting for.

A broken-down old private eye
with a bum leg and a hearing aid...

and a fruitcake like you.

I don't know. You're not so old.

If you lost a few pounds...

and stopped wearing those baggy suits,
you'd look 10 years younger.

Anyway, we'd be a team.
We'd be working together.

Don't you get it?

You've got the experience,
and I'm this very on-top-of-it person.

This could be big bucks for us.

The more I think about this,
the better an idea I think it is.

This is the most fantastic thing.

The apartment next door is vacant,
I just remembered.

You could move right in there.
This could be perfect. We could...

It would be like a duplex,
a kind of suite of offices.

I think that would be perfect.
We could have cards printed up.

I feel it. I have that intuitive kind of thing.

I wouldn't mind having you next door.
It'd be okay.

- I got to go.
- I could stand the company.

I wouldn't mind it. I know
what you're going to say. Don't start.

You're gonna say,
"There's gonna be problems."

Of course there's gonna be problems,
because that's what life is.

If I were really truthful with you,
and I'm gonna be truthful...

in my mind,
you're a pretty old-school kind of person...

kind of old-fashioned and everything.

And I don't have to tell you
that I'm kind of weird around the edges.

I mean, you're a slob, too, to be truthful...

and I'm a Virgo.
That makes me a little crazy.

But don't you see? The combination
is what makes something interesting.

Listen, doll, let's get one thing straight.

I'm a loner. I always have been a loner.

I was a loner when I was a kid.

I was a loner when I was married.

Probably why we broke up.

I'm by myself now
because I like it that way.

Nothing personal,
but I don't like to talk a lot.

There's too damn much talk
in the world as it is.

Listen, I know
what you're saying, because...

I know what you mean about being alone.

We're not very different
in that department.

I'm a loner, too. I prefer to be alone.

I am alone most of the time.

Thanks a lot,
but I don't think it would work out.

I don't want you to over-interpret
what I'm saying.

It was something to do.
It was an exciting kind of thing tonight...

and I got carried away with it.

Don't worry about me
because everything's okay.

I'm not really upset,
and I don't know why I'm doing this.

It's just because I was excited tonight,
and it seemed like a good idea...

and I thought of making
these little cards and...

Doll, I'll call you tomorrow.

- You looking for Mr. Whiting?
- Yeah.

- He's not here.
- Do you have any idea when he'll be back?

He hasn't been home for a few days.

If he doesn't get back by Friday,
his azaleas are gonna look like shit.

- Really? That's tough.
- You with the police?

- That's right.
- You look kind of old to be a cop.

Don't worry, this is just a disguise.

Listen, when you see Mr. Whiting,
tell him to call me at this number.

What do I look like,
some kind of social secretary?

No, you certainly do not.

Hi, pop.

Think fast, kid.

Where's the rest of your iron?

Knife. Front pocket.

No hard feelings, pal.

I'm not as young as I used to be.

Okay, pal...

let's go see what we can find.

Jump in.

- What?
- This nose-picker here...

is crazy enough to try some kind
of a dumb play and get himself drilled.

Stay in the middle and tread water.
Show your hands all the time.

- Screw you. This is a cashmere jacket!
- I said, "Jump in."

- This old fart's crazy.
- Jump!



If you've got something to say,
say it and get the hell out.

- Ever hear of a man named Escobar?
- Could be.

- He's dead.
- I'm sorry to hear that.

I'm always sorry to hear
any of God's creatures stepping off.

You got any idea who did it?

If I was the cops,
I'd come looking for your wife.

Laura? You're crazy.

Maybe, but she was at Escobar's place
last night.

- How do you know?
- I was there.

Had a nice talk with her.

If you were there,
you could have killed him.

I wasn't the one
Escobar was blackmailing.

I've got a Vitamaster
portable steam bath inside.

Plugs into any 110-volt outlet.

Got a pilot light, automatic timer.
It's an effective, fun way to relax.

Where's your wife? I'd like to talk with her.

She went out,
about an hour-and-a-half ago.

Never saw a woman yet who could stand
the sight of something like this.

- Must be a couple of days old.
- Jesus Christ, Ronny! Tell him, will you?

I don't know where Laura is.

She disappeared a couple days ago.

Did you know your wife was
chippying around with Walter Whiting?

Laura and I have been
married three, almost four years.

She's not a happy woman.

Reason I know she's not happy is
because she's always talking about it.

I say screw her. What does she know?

A couple of months ago,
I get this call from a lady, Mrs. Whiting.

She's a real fruitcake.

Starts screaming about her putz husband
fooling around with Laura...

- and if I don't stop it, she will.
- Come on, I'm sinking.

So I have this encounter with Laura.
Confrontation, know what I mean?

I'm following you.

Laura says she's not only boffing
this guy Whiting...

she can't stand the sight of me
and wants a divorce.

I realize I'm at the moment critique
in my marriage.

- Immediately, I get very calm.
- Ronny, please!

I figure this direct confrontation shit
is getting me nowhere...

except maybe six more months
of unhappy crap.

Plus, if in a fit of rage, I should happen
to lay one finger upon her...

I'll pay for it the rest of my life.

That's the kind of woman my wife is.

I figure there's got to be an easier way
to deal with it.

That's when you decided
to have Whiting hit.

Nudged, not hit. Just nudged a little.

Listen, Wells, you find Laura,
you bring her back here...

and I promise to deliver you
a brand-new Coupe DeVille...

your choice of color.

I told you before, I'm looking for the louse
that nailed Harry Regan.

All new tires. Radials.

Leather seats, headrest, stereo radio,
plus a tape deck.

When you want to talk business,
give me a call.

I'll throw in 27 tapes. All guaranteed hits!

Popular stars of today, yesterday...

Charles Hatter,
my name is Ronald Birdwell.

You got the wrong guy.

You work with a man named Ira Wells.


I believe this putzola Wells...

is behaving in a cheap, immoral fashion.

That's why I've come to ask you for help.

If you choose to take my position...

we're talking about a financial package
in the five-figure department.

If you don't, it's toilet time.

What I'm looking for is a handgun.

Automatic Colt, .32 caliber, nickel-plated...

serial number 473320.

That's simple, isn't it?

A gumball named Ray Escobar
used to have it.

He's dead. The gun's disappeared.

I'm depending on you to find it for me.


Here's my card.

Not to worry, pal. I have confidence in you.


Then I started choking him
with his necklace.

I said, "Let's go see your boss."

- This guy is like his bodyguard?
- Yeah.

He's a flunky.

- Check?
- Yeah, thanks.

He's walking ahead of me.

Birdwell's just coming out of the pool.
Looked like a pregnant porpoise.

So I got this joker at this end of the pool,
and I stick my rod in his ribs.

I said, "Jump in."
He says to his boss, "This old guy's crazy."

I said, "I'm not crazy, I'm just deaf."

- "Jump in"...
- Wait. He said you were crazy to you?

- Well, sure...
- That makes me mad.

You know what he said? He said,
"I've got a 100% cashmere jacket on.

"I'm not jumping in."
I said, "You're going to jump in."

Get a load of how he jumps in.
Just like this.

He has his shoes on and everything?

- What is it?
- I don't know.

I don't feel so good. My gut.

Maybe I better sit down.

- What is it?
- Jesus. God help me.

What is it, Ira?

Somebody call a doctor.

Ira, are you all right?

I'm fine. I feel fine.

Everything's going to be all right.

I called the ambulance.
They'll be here any minute.

- Help me up, will you, doll?
- Take it easy, okay?

Ira, wait a second.
We'll get you to the hospital.

I'm not going to any goddamn hospital.

You gotta go, so they can
find out what's wrong with you.

I know what's wrong with me.
I got a perforated ulcer.

It's starting to bleed again.
In the hospital, they'll want to operate.

Let them. That's better
than walking around like this.

I will not go through
another goddamn operation.

Lay back down.
There's nothing to be afraid of.

It's my gut. It's my life.

I won't let anybody call me
a goddamn coward.

I went through two operations last year
on my gut. Two operations.

Do you realize
what it's like in a veterans' hospital...

lying on your back for six months,
with tubes going every which way?

Maybe I don't have much of a life
right now, but it's better than that.

But I'll be goddamned if I let
those butchers open me up again. Never!

- I'll blow my brains out first...
- Stop it. Just stop it.


Let's get out of here.

Here we are.

Thanks for the lift, doll.

- Want me to go in the house with you?
- No.

- Are you going to be all right?
- I'm fine.

Mr. Wells.

Yes, Mrs. Schmidt?

- May I speak to you for a minute?
- Sure.

I don't know how to say this, Mr. Wells.

You've always been such a good tenant.

Paid your rent on time, you were quiet,
until these past few days.

But if you're going to keep young women
in your room at night...

I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

$42.50 a month, and it's all yours.

Mr. Wells, I'm really terribly sorry
about what happened last night...

running away like I did.

- Had a nice talk with your husband today.
- You talked with Ronny?


He told me if I found you,
brought you back to him...

- it would be worth a brand-new Cadillac.
- You wouldn't do that, would you?

Don't be too sure. I could use a car.

Mr. Wells. Ira.

Last night, I felt a very deep compassion
coming from you.

I felt a really deep sense of...

Mr. Wells, if you won't help me,
there's no one else I can turn to.

I'd offer you a drink, but I don't think
there's enough to go around.

Right now,
I think I need it more than you do.

- You kill Whiting's wife?
- No.

Ronny, my husband,
is a very violent human being.

When he found out about
Walter Whiting and myself...

I was terrified of what he might do.

And I had this gun...

and I gave it to Walter for protection.

That's what Escobar was using
to blackmail you with.

He said it was my gun
that killed Mrs. Whiting.

And he said...

if I didn't pay him
that he would hand it over to the police.

All right. Let's go see Whiting.

I don't know where he is.
I swear I don't know.

Listen, lady, any day now
some hotshot detective at Homicide...

is going to tumble on the fact
that this is more than a simple robbery.

When they do,
they're going to come looking for Whiting.

If the cops tag him for killing his wife...

they'll nail you as an accessory
just as sure as I'm sitting here.

There's this place over at Fountain
and La Cienega where we used to meet.

All right. Let's go.

Things haven't
really been going so great lately.

Not as well as they might have gone...

but I don't think that's reason enough
for you to give up everything.

Charlotte, there's one thing I want to say.

You know this town doesn't change.
They just push the names around.

If you want to change managers,
far be it for me to stand in your way.

I'm just not that type, so go ahead.

I'm telling you, Mr. Wells,
Walter wouldn't be here without me.

We'll see.

No. Walter.


God. Oh, my God!

Ronny did this. Ronny killed him.

Hi, this is Margo Sperling. Is Ira Wells in?

Oh, God. No.

If he calls, would you tell him, please,
to call me? It's very important.

Margo. Okay, thanks a lot.

- C.S. Hatter Productions.
- Charles, it's Margo.

Do you know where Ira is?
I've got to talk to him.

How the hell would I know?
What's the matter?

Something funny has happened.

I was going to feed Winston tonight.

I've had a lot of trouble getting him back
on schedule since the kidnapping...

and I looked down
and I found this gun laying on the floor.

- No shit.
- I'm pretty sure it's real...

- and I want to find Ira...
- Margo, don't worry. I'll handle it.

I was here this afternoon.
My husband must have followed me.

Mr. Wells, I'm scared.

If my husband can do something like this
to Walter...

he'll do the same thing to me. He'll kill me.

You've got to help me.

It's raining everywhere these days, lady.

That gun of yours,
the one you gave Whiting...

- it was a.32, right?
- I think we should call the police.

Why don't you do that?

I'd like to be around
when you try and explain to the cops...

that Whiting's wife
was murdered in this dump.

Mrs. Whiting caught you
and her husband here one night.

There was a fight.
When it was all over, she ends up dead.

Mr. Wells, some of the things
I told you before were untruths.

Still not there?

Tell him that I called again...
Wait, I think this is him. Thanks a lot.

- Ira...
- Hiya, doll.

Margo Sperling. Ron Birdwell, Jeff Lamar.

I'm tied up right now.
I'm working on something.

Would you mind waiting in...
Don't you push me.


I'd like to invite you in,
but I've got work that I have to finish...

so please don't sit down.
What do they think they're doing?

Listen, remember that gun
that we were talking about?

This guy Birdwell, he's willing to buy it.

- What about Ira?
- Let me tell you something.

Ira Wells was a broken-down old bum
who was never any good to start with.

That schmuck blew every chance he had.

And he'll blow this one, too, if I let him.

We'll give him a couple of thou...

let him go to the track
and act like a big shot. You know.

Get them out of here.

How the hell long
are you gonna stay in there?

- Just a minute, pal.
- I mean it, get them out of here...

- and you get out, too.
- Easy, now.

Hold on. Listen. I'm running into a little...

I'm through shitting around with you,
you putzola.

I want you to give me the gun.

Mr. Birdwell, I'm the one that has the gun.
I mean, it's in my possession.

Charles told me
what you are offering and I'm...


Hit her, for God's sake.
She's got the goddamn gun.

- He has a point, Lamar.
- Wait a second.

If you lay a hand on me,
you're gonna pay for it in your next life.

Violence has never solved anything.

If you come one step closer,
I'm gonna break this right in your face.

Answer it.

Hello, doll. Ira.

I'm at Whiting's place.

He's dead.
I've got this whole thing figured out.

- Ira...
- Doll...

in case you're interested,
I know who killed Harry Regan.

It was Birdwell.

Stay put, okay?
I'm on my way over to your place.

Don't hang up...


how would you like a new Coupe DeVille,
color of your choice?

Mr. Wells, I cannot tell you
how good it feels...

to have finally opened up
and told the truth...

to have opened up
the dark side of my soul.

It's like stepping into the sunlight.

I'm all right.

Listen, he's an old guy. He's not even well.

He needs an operation,
one on his stomach.

I know we could talk this over
and work something out.

There's no reason to get him.

Mr. Birdwell, let me give you the gun.

Why don't I do that?

I don't know why
I didn't give it to you before.

I know how much you want it,
and I don't even care about the gun.

I'll do that, okay?

I'm going to stand up.

See? I'm standing up.

I'm just going to walk across the room.

Here I am. I'm walking across the room.

I'll open this drawer. See me opening it?

Just take it and go.

What about me? What about yours truly?
We had a deal.

"Twelve bills for the gun."
That's a direct quote.

You know, that old guy isn't so dumb.
He's right about Harry Regan.

I killed him.

- Ronny.
- You okay?

Darling, you must think
I'm such a terrible person.


Do something. I told you he was sick.

You don't look so good, pop.

Ronny, you ever been to Florida?

They got these old turtles that crawl up
on the beach at night.

As a kid, I'd sneak up with a two-by-four
and flip them over on their backs.

They looked just like that.

A doctor. I want...

- What did you say, old man?
- I want a...

You wanna know something, punk?

You were born dumb,
and you're going to die dumb.

Now get up.

Get up!

Hurry up!

Park it over in that chair.

All right, sit down.
Keep your hands nice and quiet.

And your mouth shut up.

- Are you all right?
- Never been better.

Pretty nice. Pretty slick.

You knew if I fell for it,
they'd fall for it, right?

Of course I didn't fall for it.

You son of a bitch,
don't you even do that to me again.

What if I had fallen for it?
I could have had a heart attack.

Here's someone I really care about,
drop dead at my feet.

How am I supposed to feel about that?

Mentally deranged, that's how.
Probably for the...

Doll, you're still alive, aren't you?

That's another thing. Don't call me doll.
I don't like it.

- Pop, she's a real loony bird.
- You're not?

You don't mind if I sit down, do you?
I've had a tough day.

Kid, just hear me out
before you do anything crazy.

We've got this guy between
a rock and a hard place, see?

We're in a position
to make an A-number-one deal.

Nice to see a man who loves his wife.

Get used to something.
She doesn't love you back.

- Ronny, do something...
- Be quiet.

Laura kills Mrs. Whiting
at that love nest over on Fountain Avenue.

She calls Brian Hemphill
and gets him to clean up her mess.

Escobar and Brian move the body
back to Whiting's house...

and fake the stamp caper
to throw the cops off the track.

That's water over the dam.
Let's cut to the chase.

Escobar's got the gun Laura used
on Mrs. Whiting and blackmails her.

Somewhere along the way...

Birdwell realizes
if he can get a hold of that gun...

Laura will have to stick to him like glue
for the rest of her life.

Why are you putting my wife
under this pressure?

He and this joker go looking for Escobar.

They catch up with him at that palace
he had in Santa Monica...

put the arm on him...

but Lamar gets carried away and kills him.

I can see...

this is going to cost me.

By now Whiting's starting to get nervous.
He's in this mess way over his head.

He decides to go to the cops.

Laura couldn't afford that,
so she had to kill him.

That's a lie.

That's when you came to me,
hoping I'd play the sap for you.

- He's lying.
- No, that's exactly what happened.

You figure I'll want to talk to Whiting.

You take me there, I'll sniff around,
and think your husband killed him.

- You don't believe him, do you?
- I'm not saying you're right...

but what's the price?

I've been in this business 31 years,
give or take a couple of months.

I've always played it on the up and up.

- Call the cops.
- Hold it!

Put that thing down.
You haven't got the ass to swing it.

All my life I've been a loser,
from the day I was born.

What makes you any different now?

What makes you think
Birdwell's gonna sit still...

for some chiseler like you
to take that kind of dough off?

I'll make him, that's why.
Because I've got him by the short hairs.

Yeah, you'll make him,
just like Harry Regan made him.

Harry goes to Birdwell,
tries to deal himself in...

but Birdwell can't gamble on...

some two-bit chiseler
gumming up the works...

so they meet someplace for a payoff.

Birdwell unloads a.45 point-blank
into his stomach.

You dumb son of a bitch.

- Didn't I tell you you'd blow it?
- Mr. Wells.

Sit down and shut up.

Six figures.

He was going to pay us six figures.

Police emergency?
It's 3626 Franklin. Apartment 405.

We have a dying man here. Step on it.

Jesus Christ.

How did I ever get mixed up with you
in the first place?

You're right, Charlie. I'll never learn.

- I think maybe I better sit down now.
- Yeah.

All right.

- I think I'll sit down.
- Okay.

- You believe in reincarnation?
- I don't know.

Never thought much about it.

I hate to think of Charles
just floating around in the eternal void.

I like to think
he's gonna drop around again sometime...

even if he was pretty non-evolved.

You know what I mean?

Charlie did the best he knew how.
That's for sure.

Where you headed?

I was going to take this
number 10 to Highland...

then transfer to number four.

That should let me off a couple of blocks
from my house.

- What about you?
- I don't know.

Mrs. Schmidt asked me to move out.

That place next door to you,
is that still empty?

I don't know, I don't think I could take it.

You just never say anything,
for God's sake.

It's not fair. I've to keep up
my side of the conversation...

and your side of the conversation.

Yeah, that's it. You just never
say anything, for God's sake.

I want some feedback from you.

I want to know
what you think about things...

and what you think about me.

Jesus Christ, would it kill you, if,
once in a while, you wore a goddamn dress?