I wasn't too happy to be looking down the barrel of every gunman in California's pistol and when I heard them humming murder music on their lips, the melody was sour and I knew it was being dedicated to only one man--me. That gangdom had it all planned out. They'd even measured me for a grave I was supposed to share with a fiery redhead, Coral. There isn't much I wouldn't share with a spicy beauty, but this time I was willing to pass that up to save my life.
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September 20, 2004
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Excerpt from Slab Happy by Richard S. Prather
He lay there in the silk-lined casket looking very waxy, but it was eight to five that he looked no more waxy than I.
His waxiness was due to the fact that he had been shot three times, including once in the head, and then embalmed--which would have been enough all by itself. Mine was due to the enormous possibility that--at any moment now--I might join him.
Well, since this was McGannon's Funeral Parlor in Los Angeles, this was the place for it.
The dead man had been one of the two biggest and most successful mobsters in this, the city of the "angles." And behind me here in the chapel were about four dozen of his "boys," forty-eight--give or take a slob--of the toughest, roughest, ugliest, most bloodthirsty hoodlums and stick-up men and gangsters and thieves and trigger-happy gunmen in California for sure, and maybe in the world and beyond.
All of them were anxious as could be to kill the man who had killed the guy in the casket. All of them were just waiting until the services were over and they could find Shell Scott, and get their hands on him, and murder him in several different ways. All of them were practically eaten up with the desire to corner Shell Scott and mangle him, to open his veins and let his blood run hot--and then cold; to beat him and shoot him and jump up and down on him. It looked like a bad year, a bad day, even a bad moment for Shell Scott.
You guessed it: That's me. I'm Shell Scott.
The organ was playing something soft and tremulous and depressing, but it should have been I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You!--and I was the rascal. The blood those bloodthirsty hoods were thirsty for was mine. The arms and legs they wanted to break were my arms and legs. The head they wanted to shoot bullets into was my fat head.
If you think I was nuts to be present at the funeral of the egg in the casket when all around me were muggs dying to kill me for the job, then you are at least partly right. But it really was necessary for me to be here--though of course I hadn't planned it quite like this--and I was disguised. Well, sort of disguised.
That is to say I didn't look much like Shell Scott, private detective. Not on first glance, anyway. But at any moment one of these gunmen might do a double take which would mean a double funeral. Consequently I couldn't afford to make any unusual movements or do anything which would draw special attention to me, so I kept on walking toward the casket.
We were at the moment participating in the barbaric rite commonly known as "viewing the remains." This masochistic procedure might have made some sense in the case of the dead man's family and close friends--but he had no family, and only one close friend, at most. There was no heartache here, no sadness, no sobbing or tears. Nobody mourned this mugg, this mobster, thug and murderer. Nevertheless, everybody was filing past the coffin and looking at the dead man's body, and now it was my turn.