Detective Terry Biggs here, filling in again for Marshall Karp. To those of you who emailed me, thanks. It's good to know that some of you have gotten over that "fictional character" label and are treating me like a human being.
Okay, let's pick it up from yesterday's blog.
Having driven 1,400 miles in a day and a half, Marshall has checked in to that mecca on Route 66, The Camelot Hotel. He's still got another 700 miles to drive to make it to Chicago by the next night, and right now he's looking forward to a cold drink, a hot shower, a burger and good night's sleep.
The room is first class ? mini bar, color TV, big inviting bed ? worth every penny. He's looking at the room service menu when the phone rings. It's the front desk.
"Sorry to bother you, Mr. Karp, but the carbon copies didn't come out on your credit card voucher, and we need to get another imprint. Would you mind coming downstairs for a minute?"
Marshall takes the elevator to the lobby and hands his American Express card to the desk clerk. Without making an imprint, the clerk turns to two men who are standing in front of the desk.
"That's him," he says, handing the credit card to one of them.
The men are about twenty years older than Marshall. They're both wearing off-the-rack suits. One brown, one pale blue. "Where did you get this American Express card?" Brown Suit says.
Marshall is hungry, tired and righteously indignant. "Who wants to know?"
Both men flash badges. Detectives. Tulsa police.
"It's my credit card," Marshall says, unfazed by the badges (although knowing him as I do, he'd have shown more deference if their suits were better tailored).
"It's stolen," one of the cops says.
"It's mine. It's got my name on it." He turns to the desk clerk. "If you had a problem with the card, why didn't you call me? What kind of an idiot calls the cops? I want to speak to the manager."
"I'm the Manager-On-Duty," the desk clerk says, backing up.
"Don't walk away from me, you stupid son of a bitch." Marshall's voice is now ringing through the lobby.
"Keep your voice down, sir," one of the cops says.
"This is between me and the idiot desk clerk," Marshall yells.
The first time he told me this story, I asked Marshall why he kept mouthing off to the cops. "Because I was young and stupid and since I didn't do anything wrong, I figured they'd back off if I made a scene. It always worked for my mother," he said. "But it worked against me. The cops were pissed. People in the lobby looked away. I'm sure the headline in the paper the next morning said Loudmouth From New York Disrupts Serenity Of Genteel Oklahoma Landmark Hotel."
The cops escorted Marshall to the manager's office and shut the door. "Where did you get this American Express card that belongs to Marshall Karp?" Brown Suit asked.
"It's my card. I'm Marshall Karp."
"Can you prove it?"
Marshall opens his wallet and takes out the only other forms of identification he has. A draft card and a driver's license. Of course, this was long before the advent of photo ID's, so the only information it offered up besides a name were height, weight, age, eye color, and hair color.
"Do I fit the description?" Marshall says, letting the question hang, so they can tell that he really wants to add "you bozos."
The cop shrugs. "You do. And so do a million other guys."
"Jesus H. Christ," Marshall says. (Never a good way to start a sentence in the deep South.) He goes on. "I have Marshall Karp's wallet, I have Marshall Karp's credit card, I have Marshall Karp's Mustang parked outside with the registration in the glove compartment in his name. Who else could I be but Marshall Karp?"
"I don't know who you are," Cop One says, "but what did you do with the real Marshall Karp?"
"Maybe if we open the trunk of that Mustang," Cop Two says, "we might find him in there."
"You think I killed the real Marshall Karp?"
"You're using a credit card that he reported stolen."
"That's a replacement card. It's got a different number."
"Not according to this." The cop gives Marshall a Reader's Digest size handbook. It's the most up to date American Express stolen card list.
"See this right here," the cop says, pointing to a line in the book. "That's the card you tried to use." Then he hands Marshall the green American Express card. "You see? It's the same number."
Marshall compares the stolen number to the one on the card. "It's not the same," he says. "The first twelve digits match, but the stolen card ends in 0100. This card ends in 0200."
"One number off," the cop says. "It's probably just a typo. You've got a stolen card. Which means you've got a stolen wallet and a stolen car. Now what did you do with the real Marshall Karp?"
"I told you it's me. What do I have to do to prove it?"
"Okay, if you're the real Marshall Karp, what do you do for a living?"
Now let me remind you of what I pointed out in the last installment. Marshall is an advertising copywriter at the beginning of his career. He's writing newspaper ads for a Portuguese airline, a radio station in Philadelphia, and a bank in Waterbury, Connecticut. Not overly impressive. So Marshall doesn't say he's in advertising.
"I'm a writer," he says.
"What have you written?" the cop says.
Marshall is not thinking straight. The 1,500 mile drive from LA to Tulsa has taken its toll. Or perhaps he's so used to being challenged in creative shootouts in the ad world that he doesn't understand how to respond to a cop. One thing for sure, he had not yet heard Aretha Franklin sing her signature song, just released that year: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
"What have I written," Marshall snaps back. "What are you? A freaking critic?"
"Cuff him," Brown Suit says to Pale Blue.
The cop pulls out his cuffs and Marshall, seeing the line that he has crossed, frantically tries to scramble back to the other side. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, officers. Let's start again. I understand the situation. Let me see if I can prove who I am."
The cops are now in the driver's seat. Marshall swears to me that they exchanged smirks, but I doubt it. They'd laugh their asses off in the car, but no smirking in front of the suspect whose body language has gone from arrogant to scared shitless. The cuffs are set down on a desktop and left in plain view.
Marshall then tells the story of when, where, and how his wallet got stolen. He describes his phone call to the New York City police, giving them details that only the victim reporting the crime could know. The cops take notes. Finally, they call the precinct in New York where Marshall reported the theft. It's 2 a.m. on the East Coast, but finally they connect with a person who verifies Marshall's story.
The cop hangs up. "Police officer in New York City seems to think you're the real Marshall Karp."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"You can go to your room now," he says handing Marshall his credit card back.
"I'm not staying here," Marshall says. "I'm checking out."
He goes upstairs, grabs his bag, returns to the front desk, and hands over his key.
"No charge for the stay," the clerk says.
It's midnight. Marshall gets in the Mustang and heads back to Route 66, thinking he'd drive a few miles, then check into a motel. But the two cops follow him, so he keeps on driving. Two hours later he crosses the border into Missouri. Only then do the cops turn around and head back to Tulsa.
Marshall drives till dawn. He's gone about 1,100 miles since he left New Mexico the morning before. About 300 miles short of Chicago he pulls into a Holiday Inn.
Now, I'm an outsider telling this story. Plus I'm a cop. Personally, I think the boys from Tulsa did the right thing. A scruffy punk kid, driving a late model Mustang, checking into an expensive hotel, flashing what looked to be a stolen American Express card. I'd be suspicious.
Of course, these days, we've got photo IDs and fingerprints and DNA and all kinds of sophisticated technology. So false arrests are practically a thing of the past. (That's a cop joke.)
I don't know if these past two installments meet the criteria for good blogging, but I was told that people like to read personal stuff about the author, and this is personal. And it's a story that not too many people have heard before. In fact, if you Google Marshall you'll get 400,000 hits, but nowhere would you have ever heard about the incident at the Camelot Hotel.
Speaking of which, the hotel eventually went to seed, and was condemned in 1996. For those of you who are interested in the rise and fall of a city's landmark, there's a fascinating history written by Nancy K. Owens of the Greater Tulsa Reporter.
Today, The Camelot is deteriorating rapidly, a blight on the city, and last month Tulsa's Mayor, Kathy Taylor, announced a plan to tear it down.
Marshall Karp, on the other hand, is still thriving. And if he ever gets stopped by a cop who asks, "what have you written?" these days he's got a much better answer.
All the best,
Detective Terry Biggs, LAPD