Pat Novak, For Hire: Quotes


"Now talk nice and save teeth."

Agnes Botton Give Envelope Rory Malone
Dixie Gillian Jack of Clubs Rubin Calloway
Father Lahey Joe Candono Sam Tolliver
Fleet Lady Little Jake Siegel Shirt Mix-Up
Georgie Lampson Marcia Halpern The Only Way
Geranium Plant Rita Malloy Wendy Morris
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"Around here a set of morals won't cause any more stir than Mother's Day in an orphanage. Maybe that's not good, but that's the way it is. And it wouldn't do any good to build a church down here, because some guy would muscle in and start cutting the wine with wood alcohol. All you can do is try to make the books balance, and the easiest way to do that is to keep one hand on your billfold and the other hand on somebody else's."

"If anything goes wrong, your trouble comes hard, and it doesn't do any good to sing the blues, because down here, you're just another guy in the chorus."

"How do I spot her? Read it off an ankle bracelet?"

"She was at least 50, because you can't get that ugly without years of practice."

"I noticed her eyes for the first time. They were small and so close together, they could have saved time and put 'em in one socket. . . . I followed her and watched her squeeze into a telephone booth on the other side of the lobby. The way she fit, a sardine ought to be happy."

"Hellmann lifted his head up and laid him across the seat. The light was bad, but you could see a little of his face. It was watering around his forehead, and the damp hair was plastering around his hat brim. The perspiration had broken up and started to run down his forehead like tears. And you got the idea he cried out of his hairline instead of his eyes."

"For a total stranger, you sure meet a lot of people." (IH)

"I looked up Jacko Madigan. He's a good guy who never learned that if you keep your foot on the bar rail for twenty years, it will do more good for your arches than it will for your brain."

"You'll never be on the right side of things. You'll always be in trouble because you're a bad citizen. You're a shabby half step in the march of progress. You don't know the difference between good and evil. For you, all of human endeavor is a vague blur in high heels. And your vocabulary is a few gutter terms sandwiched in between 'yes' and 'no.'" (JM)

"I better have a drink first. There's an ugly taste in my mouth. I think it's saliva." (JM)

"When I left, he was crumpled up against the desk and she was staring down at him as if she forgot to water the plants."

"Some mornings you can't trust yourself with a razor."

"You can't pass the dice when you only got a buck left."

[Girl jumps over embankment]
IH: It's a long way down.
PN: Yeah, too bad her name wasn't Jill.

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"Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you always bite off more than you can chew. It's tough on your windpipe, but you don't go hungry."

"I came home to read. Oh, it wasn't a bad book--if you ever wanted to start a forest fire."

"She sauntered in, moving slowly from side to side like 118 pounds of warm smoke."

LE: Good evening.
PN: Yeah, thanks for knocking.
LE: I don't think you mind my coming in without warning.
PN: No, I get the cabbage smell from next door the same way.
LE: Does it pay to be that polite, Mr. Novak?
PN: It saves you the trouble of saying "please."

"That's too much dough unless it's murder. And if it's murder, it's not enough."

"She walked with a nice easy swing of a satisfied leopard. And for a smaller leopard, she had pretty good spots too."

"The street was deserted except for a couple of winos, near the corner, trying to buy back 1926 at a dollar a jug."

"There were enough shadows to keep a ghost happy for years."

"Sometimes you get a homerun with a half swing. That's the way it was this time. He couldn't have made it with a prayer book in both hands. He slid down to the floor and trembled for a moment and then flattened out like a leaf in a pool of water. Just before he died, he grabbed his side, as if he didn't like the way it hurt, and then he didn't care. I rolled him on his back and let him look at the ceiling. His eyes were open, and he looked surprised, like a guy who didn't figure on a change in the weather. There was a scar that ran across his forehead and dug deep into his hairline. And he was lying there with a bunch of pink gum showing, as if he was trying to pick up a few bucks with a toothpaste ad."

PN: I'm walking out of your jail, Hellmann. You got a broken down .38 that won't fit anything but your thumbs. You can't hold me on that.
IH: I found you over the body. I can hold you on suspicion of murder.
PN: But it will hurt tomorrow morning, Hellmann. The paper's will be down here for a follow-up, and you'll have to tell them what it looks like out in left field.
IH: I'll handle them.
PN: You can't afford to have them start laughing at you. People will get the idea it's your face.
IH: You can save carfare if you stay right here, because I'll have you back by noon tomorrow.
PN: You're not that good, Hellmann. You couldn't hold a moth with a searchlight.

"I looked up the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor and a boozer by the name of Jocko Madigan, a good man until he began to figure that the last drink in the bottle is just as easy to get as the first."

"Risking my life is one of the bravest things you do." (JM)

"So far it was working out like a crossword cut in half."

"The sky was the color of a bruised spot on a man's arm."

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"Pat Novak, for hire. It's about the only way you can say it. Oh, you can dress it up and tell how many shopping days there are 'til Christmas, but if you got yourself on the market, you can't waste time talking. You got to be as brief as a pauper's will, because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, everybody wants a piece of the cake, and the only easy buck is the one you just spent. Oh, it's a good life. If you work real hard and study a little on the side, you got a trade by the time you get to prison."

"He stood at the door for a minute, and then he walked out. You got a funny feeling that he didn't walk into the night, that he was big enough to wrap it around his shoulders and take it with him."

"Joe Feldman wasn't very friendly. He sat over in the corner of the cab and he didn't say a thing. He just kept looking at me and waiting, like a guy feeding arsenic to a rich aunt."

"The cab pulled up to a hotel on Geary Street, and we walked in. One look at that lobby and you got the idea. The place was about as cozy as an abandoned mine shaft. Over by the wall there was an old mohair couch, and the legs on it were so warped pretty soon it was going to look like period furniture. There were a few chairs, and over by the stairs, a faded calendar of a girl in tights holding a jar of mayonnaise and winking--whatever that meant. And there was a broken clock over the desk, but you knew it was all right, because nobody there cared about keeping track of time. It was something you got rid of in a hurry, like a bent quarter."

"The room was full of taboo."

"She stood leaning there for a minute, sort of a girl who moves when she stands still. She had blonde hair. She was kind of pretty, except you could see somebody had used her badly, like a dictionary in a stupid family."

"His head was over to one side, and his body was twisted over the other away, as if he couldn't make up his mind which direction to die in."

"That's the waterfront, father. If your name's Joe Nobody, you still can't do better than 8-5."

IH: What kind of girl?
PN: I don't know Hellmann, how many kinds are there? Her name was Anne, she had a fast pulse. That's all I know.

"You're under technical arrest, it's practically the real thing." (IH)

"Your men couldn't follow a moose through a revolving door."

"I'm probably the only man in the world who intends to carry a hangover into eternity." (JM)

"If from time to time a moral feeling does sweep over you, you mistake it for influenza and go to bed." (JM)

JM: What kind of trouble?
PN: I tried to help some guy get out of prison tonight.
JM: You got drunk and thought you were the parole board?

"I went down to the Gold Rush Club on O'Farrell Street. It was a little nightclub where they charge 80 cents for a drink of whiskey that'd kill a Redwood."

AF: Is he dead?
PN: Yeah, he couldn't stand the bleeding.

"You growl, you bite, and you lie, you must have a full day." (AF)

"If I get any closer, I'll be on the other side of you."

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"The best trouble always looks good from the outside."

"He was about the size of a golf bag with arms. If he had a cigar box, he could see over a pool table."

"Calm down before you wind up in a boy's choir."

"A guy like you has got to love something."

"You can buy good whiskey these days, so you feel funny walking up to some guy in the pier and asking, 'Have you seen a racehorse around here, mister?'"

"It was pretty dark, so when I bumped into her, all I got was a vague outline. . . . She had a good-looking vague outline."

"She turned and walked out of there. It was the kind of the walk that makes you flip the calendar and find out how far away spring is."

"Somebody had gone duck hunting in the middle of his back."

"Hellmann, you ought to rent an idiot. The heavy thinking's too much for you."

"I had to start right from scratch. I felt like Adam the first morning he woke up."

"There's nothing in nature so sad as a half-empty bottle. It's like a broken vow or an unfulfilled promise in the sky, a falling star almost. A falling star and you shrug it off, never realizing that a whole world has ended at that moment. A hundred millions dreams, maybe, and you watch it fall and make an asinine wish, that's all the good it does a star to fall. It gives some kid a chance to wish for a bicycle." (JM)

"You have the instinct for recognizing trouble but not the intelligence to duck it." (JM)

"I need facts, not fables."

"She'd been traded around more than a Red Sox pitcher."

"You couldn't smell a rat in a basement full of cheese."

"I began to think about the .32 caliber pistol. It's a woman's weapon--well, that doesn't prove anything, so's a bread knife if she's in a bad mood."

"She was wearing black lounging pajamas, tied tight around her slim waist. She looked like a wasp with a nice sting."

PN: You better watch out, baby, I may be a long shot.
CT: What do you care, as long as I bet?

PN: What about the field? Are the horses any good?
IS: For hamburgers, maybe.

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"Down here you're either high on your toes or flat on your back, because most of the time you get only one kind of pitch: fast and inside."

"During the summer, the morgue's the coolest spot in town."

"The city was down on its hands and knees, trying to crawl by one of those San Francisco hot spells that blasts by every five years. From up on the hill, the Chinatown tenements lined up down below like sweaty little kids waiting for a shower. It was heat and headaches all the way."

"She was standing in the dark, smoking a cigarette, and the silhouette her figure cut against the window was something you'd never believe."

GL: Believe me, Patsy, it's an easy trip.
PN: So is falling down the stairs.

"Something with an echo in it came down on the side of my head. I went down hard like mercury in the quick freeze."

PN: What about the girl that was here?
IH: County hospital. You better pray she makes it, Novak.
PN: Because you like blondes, Hellmann?
IH: Because nobody beats two murder raps, Novak.
PN: Oh, you talk funny.
IH: So does this hunk of lead pipe. Your prints are all over it.
PN: What does that make me--a plumber?
IH: Better than that, Novak. The pipe fits the dent in that guy's skull like it grew there.
PH: Maybe he's the plumber.

"Now talk nice and save teeth." (IH)

"Then I went out to look for the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor by the name of Jocko Madigan. He was a fine surgeon until something made him decide that life was temporary, at best. Now he's got a permanent post on a barstool looking for answers at the bottom of whiskey bottles. It's hard on the liver that way, but you're never short on dreams."

"It was a long stretch from Easter Monday, but he was still celebrating Irish independence."

"You're always in trouble, Patsy. You're a child of adversity, a son of scorn. The fates spit in your eye, and you try to retaliate, but the wind's always blowing in the wrong direction." (JM)

"You'd like to fight for some strange fantastic cause, wouldn't you, Patsy? But you can't find anybody your size. Men are too small, and the gods are too big." (JM)

PN: We started wrestling for the gun.
JM: Mildly exciting, who got it?
PN: He did . . . right in the chest.

"Houdini couldn't get out of that one in two hours, with both hands, and a can of olive oil. It was like chasing cyanide with a bucket of Brandy: it tastes bright, but it's only a matter of time."

"Mike was a tall, wide package, so I gave him a bargain offer. He didn't fold after two, but he had a kind of hurt look in his eyes when I hit him a third time, like I didn't know he could take a hint. When he wound up and hit the floor, every window in the house rattled, and I figure the Berkley seismograph got a cheap thrill."

GL: She's dead, isn't she, Patsy? She's dead.
PN: She didn't die, baby. With that much lead, she sank.

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"That's what the sign out in front of my office says: Pat Novak, For Hire. Oh, there are a lot of ways to put it, but it's easier if you let your slip show right from the beginning."

"I watched her as she turned and walked out the door. She was wearing a flowered print dress, and as she walked, the roses kept getting mixed up with the daisies. She walked with a nice friendly movement, like the trap door on a gallows."

"Everybody gets broke in one motion."

"When I got to Stockton, I turned left, and walked toward Geary Street. Halfway down, there's a little street called 'Maiden Lane.' Oh, it sounds gentle, but so does 'Vesuvius' when you say it fast."

"From what I could see, it was just a geranium planted in a little wooden box. Like all the rest of them, it bloomed unevenly, with buds that looked too nervous to come out, like a debutante with thick ankles."

"For some reason, I felt like a man in quicksand complaining about his height."

"He's dead enough to pray for, will that do?" (IH)

IH: I want you down at headquarters by midnight tonight, Novak. You can talk to yourself 'til then. After that, you talk to us.
PN: I'll make it up from here on in, Hellmann. You don't like it the other way.
IH: Suit yourself, Novak. You know when you're due. In the mean time, we'll find out what we can.
PN: I can't wait that long, Hellmann. You couldn't find a tractor on the back porch. I'd hang if I waited for your boys.
IH: That's what you're gonna do. And at midnight, you can dangle as high as you want.
PN: I don't mind, as long as my feet are on the same level as your head.

"I looked up the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor and a boozer by the name of Jocko Madigan. He's all right for a guy who thinks people with steady hands are lazy."

"They had a cigarette girl, a long, leggy biscuit that wandered around trying to sell a sour smile at sweet prices."

"Patsy, I'll allow you to motivate my descent, but I will not permit you to bring it to a halt." (JM)

JM: Patsy, I'd wish you'd forget about women.
PN: And I'd wish you'd forget about whiskey.
JM: Ah, yes, we both have our problems, except I enjoy one safeguard that you don't: at least I can look at the label and tell how old it is.

"Well, Hellmann asked only one question, 'How come five such bad people ever got together in one shuffle?' I don't know, except most people are full of a lot of good and a lot of bad. The day we met them, all the bad was showing."

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"Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you don't get prizes for being subtle."

"I rent boats and tell a few white lies, if the price is right. It's a happy life if you don't mind looking up at a headstone, because sooner or later, you draw trouble a size too big."

"The street was as deserted as a warm bottle of beer."

"The old man couldn't have made it with a pocket full of aces."

"He slipped out of my arms and stopped paying taxes."

"I looked up the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor and a boozer by the name of Jocko Madigan, a good guy, but to him a hangover is the price of being sober."

"You have no more self-control than a bucket of mercury dumped on a marble staircase." (JM)

"You are like some large but unprofitable storm. You keep whirling in circles, Patsy. If you ever go more than ten feet in one direction, it's because some woman is nine feet away." (JM)

PN: I got to go out to Haight Street. What kind of neighborhood is it out there?
JM: Well, it's not exactly a neighborhood. It's more like an architectural afterthought, a lingering defense against the early California bear.

"It was the kind of a neighborhood where a 'for rent' sign reads like a ransom note."

"I knocked at the door and when she opened it, I knew it was time to wire home for money--a tall blonde blister with lots of Fahrenheit."

"Her voice came right out of the oven."

"I hit the floor and made Rip Van Winkle look like an insomnia victim. I didn't like the floor, but it was in better shape than my face. I don't know how long I was there, but it must have been a couple hours. I rolled over once and tried to get up, but it was like trying to barbeque a cake of ice."

PN: Does he have a record?
JM: No.
PN: Everybody's a beginner.

"You haven't got anything to give the D.A. except a slim lead and a fat hand."

PN: I'll get you a pillow.
SB: I'd rather have your lap.
PN: You get mercy, not love, baby.

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"I was up to my knees in mud and didn't even know it was rainy season."

"When I came in, she was sitting on the couch, drinking my whiskey. She could have all she wanted--a 1949 panther model, just the right amount of size 12, in a dress that looked like a well-tailored fig leaf. When she was through looking you over, you felt like the Sunday supplement."

"Remember, you're sitting on my doorstep. Now either go on home or come in the house."

"Hellmann rolled out onto the linoleum--a dapper little guy, except for a piece of cord around his throat, tied in a funny knot. He was deader than a broken drum. Somebody pulled too hard on that piece of cord. The veins were standing out in his forehead, and his face looked like a roadmap lying around there on the floor."

"You can't find your hip pocket with radar."

"When I woke up, Jocko was thumbing my head like a house wife with a bowl of margarine. I felt around and waited for him to put the floor in again."

"I've helped you get up so much I feel like one of the Wright brothers." (JM)

MR: How do you like our morgue?
PN: It's one of my favorites.

"I had some of the answers, but not enough. It's like trying to weave a rug with a spinning wheel and a bucket of sand."

IH: 720 Taylor Street?
PN: Yeah, it's up on the hill.
IH: That's good, Novak. I can roll you all the way down.

"She looked real good sitting there in a white crepe dress. It was one of those tight fitting babies that made a bathing suit look like a toga."

"You're a funny guy, Novak. You're nice . . . but you're hard to handle. I should have killed you or married you." (CE)

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"I rent boats and kick around a few scruples, if the price is right. It's a living, and if anything goes wrong, you can always get your mother a visitor's pass. If you do get in trouble, you go first class all the way."

DW: Mind if I sit down on your desk here?
PN: You'll block the view.
DW: You'll get used to the new one.

"There are only two kinds of gamblers in this town: honest ones and dead ones."

PN: Your brother can't get the ten grand, so Candono's shaking you down?
DW: Yes.
PN: I'll bet you make a nice rattle.

GL: You got a favorite profile, fella?
PN: What?
GL: 'Cause I'm gonna put this gun on one side. Take your choice.

"I woke up with a head the size of Rhode Island. I rolled over and tried to get up, but I was about as strong as a moth in a wind tunnel. The room was dark and I couldn't see very well. There was a stale, musty odor, could have been a marathon dancer's dressing room, with a little fixing up, the sort of place you wouldn't be found dead in. There was a guy lying next to me who didn't feel that way about it. One look at the guy and I could see he was dead from the crew cut down. Somebody had wrapped a towel around his throat and forgot to say 'when.'"

"I should have got out of there right then, but I use my brain like a bottle of medicine: a small dose every three hours."

"He was getting the most he could out of the bottle: old whiskey and young ideas."

"When she opened the door, I found out what the right kind of breakfast food'll do. She was wearing a slack suit without much slack. And she was swaying slightly in a warm, slow way. If there was any rhythm there, it's the kind you hear a 1000 miles down the Amazon."

"It proves unless you find her in a cemetery, never trust a woman." (JC)

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"I rent boats and do anything else to keep my stomach and my conscience running even."

"I was sitting in my office after dinner, watching the fog stream through the Gate and wrap up the Bay for the night. Up on Russian Hill, the lights were just going on in the $1000-a-month apartments, and right away, you got a picture of warm rooms and cold Martinis."

"He was an Irish looking little kid, with a face the size of a minute and just about as young."

"The lead got as thick as confetti on New Year's Eve."

"Father, you better be on call when I catch up to the guy. He's gonna have a lot of praying to do."

"The reception committee didn't help much. They were sharks in dark, all three of them, with rolls of loose oily fat where there necks should have been, and small pig eyes that squinted through the cigar smoke rolling out of wide nostrils."

"That's as straight as you're gonna get it. If it's not exciting enough, try Esquire."

"When you're knee deep in the rain and your boots spring a leak, you might as well throw them away and take your chances barefoot."

"I started out to look for the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor and a boozer by the name of Jocko Madigan, a pretty smart man until he found out your can poison your worries at four dollars a fifth."

"Let's have four or five for the road." (JM)

"Look, junior, if you wanna play the heavy, go find a melodrama."

PN: What's he look like?
MQ: Fat men all look alike.

"We tried to follow the car, but it would have been easier to win the Kentucky Derby on a pogo stick."

"He was draped over the curb like a tired carpet. And if his suit was a brighter yellow, he could have passed for a loading zone."

"Dinner without bourbon is life without hope." (JM)

"The Bayview Towers was one of those fancy new looking places that gets old in a hurry. It saw lots of black and brunettes during the war, but now the only uniforms belong to the doorman."

"Her lounging pajamas reminded you of a good butler: it came in and went out at the right places, and it stayed close to the job."

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"Pat Novak, for hire. There's no way to dress it up. You're in business, down in the San Francisco Waterfront, where everything but murder is a parlor trick. You rob a few graves, you can pay the rent, and nobody cares if you got sore eyelids--you get that way from winking at too many things. Oh, it's a good living if you don't run short of bail bonds and Benzedrine."

"When I came out, it was raining and the street was deserted. I stood in the doorway and watched the dull neons through the rain. They looked splotched and dim like water colors rubbed with a damp rag."

PN: She's blonde, blue eyes, expensive clothes.
JM: How big?
PN: Just the right size for a good dream.

"I had as much business being with a dead girl as Lucky Luciano in a finishing school."

"I had all the best arrows in town pointing to me. And once Hellmann began to build a case, I could throw away those vacation folders. I slept until about nine. The phone began to ring, and I rolled over expecting to hear Gabriel on the other end of the line."

"I know more lost souls than a Hong Kong bartender." (JM)

"The doorman was a sober-looking specimen, the kind of guy that breathes every other Tuesday."

"I left there and went downstairs. All the way down I had the funny feeling that something was wrong, the way a person feels when he goes to a doctor's office with an incurable disease."

"If I didn't move fast, I was deader than a Philadelphia nightclub."

IH: What is it? What'd you find?
PN: A handkerchief.
IH: Oh.
PN: Hmm . . . that's funny.
IH: What's funny about it, so it's a handkerchief? The old man had a nose, didn't he?
PH: Well, he must have loved it then. This hanky's loaded with perfume. Take a whiff.
IH: Yeah, recognize it?
PN: Sure, I don't know about you, but I smell a rat.

"She was standing there in a dark, silk evening gown. It was strapless, and she had no worries."

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"Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, billing doesn't mean much. They all got the same act."

"Around the waterfront, you don't need a Union card for trouble."

"I closed up early Tuesday night, and I went home to catch up on last month's sleep."

"Somebody was sitting on my bed, either that or the landlord had put in an echo."

"I'm not crazy about waking up with strangers sitting on my bed, especially if they've got baritone voices."

[After being cold-cocked in the face]
"He didn't even give me time to pick a dream."

"For 70 bucks you can get a scotch hangover instead of the kind I had, and if you're lucky, a couple of good memories."

"I picked up the only honest guy I know, a bottle baby by the name of Jocko Madigan. He's a good man, except he thinks it's a waste of taxpayer's money to put alcohol in torpedoes."

"We walked down the street to the Royals Arm Hotel. It was the perfect spot for a missionary. The lobby looked like the first act of Rain. There was a pinball machine in one corner, a couple of last year's girls in this year's slacks, and a bleary-eyed little night clerk. He looked like a well-groomed laundry bag."

"You move in the twilight zone between good and evil, without predisposition to either one." (JM)

JM: I'd think you'd pick the lock to the gates of Heaven.
PN: I would if they had my 70 bucks.

"It was a pretty room, if you like dead women on your rugs. She was stretched out in a pale, yellow dressing gown, as quiet as an April morning and twice as pretty."

"It was like all the rest, a little melancholy bar on Mason, a firetrap with a cover charge. The decor looked like early Franco."

"People just hate their enemies, they kill their friends."

"And when she said, 'hello', you knew it was time to send in the Varsity."

"When she started walking towards you, you felt like a shovel full of scrap iron around a Pittsburgh blast furnace."

"My head must have looked like a jackpot--everyone in town was hitting it."

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"Along the Embarcadero, nothing's perfect except the heels."

"Her hair was red, and her eyes were about as cold as rigor mortis. And you knew the first time you met her, you'd been seeing her too often."

CN: Can I give you a lift?
PN: You already have.

"She had nice hair, and the dress helped too. It was dark blue and had a v-neck, but the designer believed in big letters."

"It was enough to tell me that she was as safe as a tap dancer on a floor full of dynamite caps."

"He looked tired and a year older than the Bible."

"She was a fast five-gaited horse trying for seven."

"Look, mister, I'm sick of your mouth. It's a big floor, so stretch out." (TG)

"She was a real pretty nurse, if you like pure mammal."

"I was fighting a forest fire with a can of kerosene."

"Hellmann stood there a moment and smiled, like a guy who's just killed a landlord."

"He had a face any museum would buy and a forehead so low he must have had to look down to see his hairline."

"I looked up the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor and a boozer by the name of Jocko Madigan. He's a smart guy, until he decided a head on your beer is worth more than a head on your shoulders."

"They don't allow you to grow old suddenly and leave. They insist on this policy of having you dribble off into eternity." (JM)

JM: How do you fit in?
PN: I was just passing through when the noise started.
JM: That was General Custer's problem.

"Legs like that are the reason silkworms are born. She smiled, and you knew if you never made Naples, you could die happy with her."

"You couldn't hear a rifle shot in a boxcar."

"The right kind of a heel can grind you into the dirt fast."

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"Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, they don't separate the good and the bad. They let 'em run together, and before long you got a caste system: you're either alive or dead. If you're on top, you keep fading the crowd and trying for 7's until you loose the dice. It's about the only way to play it, unless you like worms."

"Down here, all your luck is junior grade, and your trouble is trumps."

"His eyes were open and rolling around at the sky, as if he was on the make for a star."

"I took a cab out to the Empire Club. It was a gambling joint out on Geary Street where they cut their whiskey and cards in different rooms."

"As I walked up behind her, I noticed she moved in rhythm with the roulette wheel. It was interesting . . . if it had been a merry-go-round, they'da pinched her."

"It's too crowded here, let's find a closet." (AB)

PN: What's in the locker?
AB: What would it prove?
PN: Proves you got a small mouth, angel.
AB: Unless you're gonna kiss it, don't worry.

"She gave you a nice warm feeling, like a Bunsen burner in the middle of your back. And as she stood there in the center of the floor smiling, you knew she could turn a glacier into a steam bath at 400 yards--a nice little mouse that made you want to go home and test all the old traps."

"The rain hadn't helped the alley much. It's like washing your kid's face and finding out he was ugly to start with."

"Somebody threw him in the Bay without instructions."

IH: How 'bout that guy on the couch?
PN: There's a gal up there, but that's all.
IH: Does she wear suspenders?
PN: What?
IH: Then take my word, it's a man.
PN: And you're gonna tell me he's dead, Hellmann.
IH: No, I'm not gonna tell you he's dead, Novak. He may be a soft breather.

"You couldn't strike oil in a filling station."

"If you keep your mouth shut now, you can hold in the blood." (IH)

"They didn't give Hellmann a sense of humor, they gave him a loud laugh instead."

"I was full of questions, but no answers, like some guy at a peace conference."

"I got to keep on drinking, Patsy, if I wanna preserve any continuity in my life." (JM)

PN: The pictures were there.
JM: Is that one of them?
PN: Yeah, take a look.
JM: If it's a group picture, they were a very unruly family.
PN: It's the Oakland fire.

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"Down here in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you can't afford to wait your turn. If you're gonna make a living down here, you gotta do everything you can, and you gotta be out of the henhouse by sunup. Even then, it doesn't work out always, because you get trouble tax-free. . . . There's no way to duck it, you might as well try to start a conga line in the cathedral."

ST: You couldn't get hurt, honest.
PN: Nobody gets hurt honest. It's the other way I'm worried about.

"You start with trouble, and it never stops. It's like offering to buy aspirin for a two-headed boy."

"I knew I had no more business here than second trumpet in a string quartet."

PN: What have you got to lose?
EM: What have I got to gain, except your gratitude? And I can get that any night with a couple drinks.

"We rode up in the elevator with one of those shifty-eyed little guys who'd sell his mother if he didn't have to fatten her up first."

IH: A few bucks in the guy, I'll put it in the safe.
PN: The only safe you got has suspenders on it.

"I didn't have any leads. There wasn't anything I could do but sit on my hands. It was like taking your niece to a nightclub."

PN: There's a dead guy down in my office.
JM: A friend of ours?
PN: No.
JM: That's too bad. We'll miss the wake.

"They broke open that package down at headquarters. It was full of dope, plain garden variety, the kind a man uses to forget either his wife or his secretary."

[After seeing a councilman's campaign photographs]
"All politicians' children sit on the floor."

"That's the trouble with close friends: you give them the shirt off your back so they can see where to put in the knife."

"It was early morning, just about the time dawn is too sleepy to get out of bed."

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"Sooner or later you get burned, and it doesn't make any difference whether you're a man or a mouse. Because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, they build the traps both ways."

"Down here, if you reach out to help a panhandler, the guy'll take your arm and hand you back the dime."

"I rent boats and deal any place that'll give a good trade-in on a second-hand soul."

"He was full of fizz and the sort of guy who gets a bottle of hand lotion for his birthday."

"Early Hayes didn't answer the door, but you couldn't quarrel with what you got. She was in her 30s and pushing 40 hard enough to bruise it. But she looked good standing there in the doorway, long and lean enough to make a greyhound turn in his card. She was wearing green lounging pajamas, and you've seen bananas in looser skins."

"Her lips were a pale red color and moist enough to put a desert on its feet. And you could tell she thought she used them to talk when you got tired of everything else. Standing there in front of her, you got the same feeling you would if somebody pressed the treble and bass key of an organ at the same time."

PN: Is he tougher than you?
WM: No, he's just not as versatile.

"When she said 'good luck', you knew she was just being polite and didn't mean it anymore than the hangmen when he tells you to watch your step."

"They had a dull, anxious look as if they were trying to find another worm to pull apart. They were the sort of guys who might have been born, but you didn't want to bet on it. The one in the door was a big guy with bushy eyebrows that met near his nose, and the way they ran across his face, you got the idea he got tired of the old ones and grafted on a vine instead. His face wasn't much better. It looked more like a relief map than a face. It was pockmarked and the color of moldy bread. And you knew if a woman kissed him, she'd get blood poisoning."

"I slid down to the floor so fast I almost went into the varnish."

"I'm walking out of this place and all you can hear is the echo."

"You couldn't track down a live bear in a telephone booth."

"He was a tough, hard cop, with a heart big enough to hide behind a piece of birdseed."

"I looked up Jocko Madigan. He's a good guy, and he used to be a smart one, except he didn't like the San Francisco fog and worked out one of his own."

"All you have is a small bundle of regrets, something that you drag out periodically as proof of your decency." (JM)

"The only reason that you haven't caused more trouble is that you're not fleet-footed enough." (JM)

"Time is a minor drawback." (JM)

"You're not big enough for menace. You're like everybody else in the waterfront: you got the muscles, a few stage whispers, and thirty cents in your pocket. So don't try to make a sale." (RW)

"I don't know if you're making love or trouble, either way, let go of my arm." (RW)

IH: Novak, walk me down the pier.
PN: Find a crutch.

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"I rent boats and do anything else good men pay bad men to do."

"Did your friend get his face at a fire sale too?"

"He could have taken three bases on that wallop."

"I tried to follow the conversation, but it was like trying to put a smoke ring in your pocket."

"He was smiling like a vulture with the first option on a massacre."

"You haven't got an answer for anything, Hellmann. You can't fill in the return address envelope."

"The guy up in my place left a .38 and some mild regrets."

"I didn't know where to turn. I was hunting for the shoreline on a dark night."

"I looked up the only honest guy I know, an ex-doctor and a boozer by the name of Jocko Madigan. Oh, he's all right, but he's got the idea that all liquid that isn't 100 proof lacks character."

"That what I like about good whiskey: it makes you too sentimental to be mad at yourself for growing old." (JM)

"I could see Alcatraz sitting out in the bay, a lonely island full of birthdays."

"I knocked, and when the door opened, it was like shaking hands with a flamethrower. She was a tall number, and she screamed 'final edition' all over. She stood in the doorway a minute and swayed in a nice contented way, like a snake on the right diet. When she said 'hello', you wanted to hand her your arm and say 'twist.'"

"Sometimes that difference between your best friend and your worst enemy is only a matter of opportunity." (JM)

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"That's what the sign out in front of my office says: Pat Novak, For Hire. It's up there in block letters, but down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, good printing doesn't mean a thing. You get that on the death certificate."

"If you're trying to make a living down here, you're not going to have any standing in the community except in a police lineup."

"I rent boats and do anything else that goes with a weak will and a strong stomach."

"Most of the time, you buy your beer the hard way. It works out all right, because most people learn to fall in love with a dollar bill and forget about trouble. And everything sounds all right, but sometimes it isn't, like saying 'Happy New Year' to a lifer."

"The veins stood out in his face and made a pattern as if he slept on an alligator bag instead of a pillow."

PN: Is she hard to watch?
CO: You get bloodshot eyes just looking at her.

"She can make a quart of gin disappear while anybody else is looking for the corkscrew." (CO)

"On the way up the pier, he stopped and looked out at the bay as if he intended to do away with it before morning."

"She opened the door with a nice easy motion, like a cat getting ready to eat its young."

"If you ever build a house, you'd want somebody like her in the blueprint."

PN: Why'd you marry him?
WM: I don't know, I suppose I confused a hangover with love.

"I crossed over and knocked at the door. The guy that opened it had a face like three pounds of warm putty. It was moist and pink, and you got the idea they put the color in with a spray gun. And if his heart was made of the same stuff, they drained the oil out first."

"With Wendy, the first look's for names and faces. If you take a second look, mister, it's for love."

"Look at the papers. Some people have spent years shooting a rocket 110 miles into the air. What's the use? When you get 110 miles up, all you can do is turn around and come back down again. We're killing time a 110 miles in the air, instead of learning to spend it down here." (JM)

"He couldn't have died any faster with a priority."

"He wasn't a good enough guy to bleed in the living room, so I dragged him into the kitchen and left by the back way."

"We'd be even if he had anything to start with." (WM)

CO: You're not gonna let me hang for this.
CS: You won't, they burn in this state.

[About a dead man]
"If Craig made the morning, he had to cheat."

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