A Nob Hill Mystery

Business was slow, and I wasn’t too particularly overworked. I was rubbing two nickels in my pocket together to try and make a dime, (What movie did I get that from?) when a man came into my office. He wanted to hire me to find his missing daughter in her twenties who hadn’t been heard from in over a month. He showed me a picture of her.

“Nice looking dish! I remarked.

He quickly pulled the picture back. It was the wrong one. That was a picture of his side-dish. He handed me the correct photo. She was cute too, but I’d rather have been searching for his side-dish. I told him that I’d take his case.

“Do you need a retainer?” he asked me.

“Probably, but dental work is so expensive!” I answered.

He looked at me funny and set two C notes on my desk. He left my office.

NMysteryCalifuseI made some telephone calls and learned from one of my “ears” around the City that the girl had been seen recently up on Nob Hill. I took a few slugs of rye from the office bottle, put my hat somewhere on my head, (I got that line from Raymond Chandler) and headed up California Street. (Vintage photo, Fred M. Springer Collection, 1959)

NMysteryfataleuseAh, mysterious Nob Hill. There’s a femme fatale for sure in front of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. I wondered if she knew anything about the girl. I showed her the picture, but all she kept saying was, “Buy me a drink, handsome?”

NMysteryMasonuseI realized I was being followed and ducked behind a car on Mason Street. (John Gutmann, kadist.org)

NMysterymaybysoneuseNMysterymaybys2useI spent the afternoon searching for her. There are a lot of girls on Nob Hill and I followed up on many possibilities, but all I got were a lot of nasty stares. (Fred Lyon and the Shorpy Archives)

NMysterynightoneuse I knew I was still being followed; you can’t fool an old trooper like me who has had bill collectors following me around most of my life. I decided to resume my search after dark. (Fred Lyon)

NMysterynight2useThe problem with searching for the girl at night was that I’m nearsighted, so even if I would have bumped into her accidentally, I probably wouldn’t have recognized her. (Fred Lyon)

NMysteryPUnionuseI started out the next day. I felt that I was being followed again, and looked over toward the Pacific Union Club. Some old detective was shadowing me; his polite smile didn’t fool me. He looked too old for this racket! (Shorpy Archives)

NMysteryHuntington1useI had learned that morning from another one of my tipsters that the daughter may have been seen going into Huntington Hotel. When I got there Harbor Command had arrived before me. They must have been searching for the girl too.

NMysteryHuntington2useRalph Baxter set up a stake-out in front of the hotel.

NMysteryHuntington3useMy old snooper was still following me. He’s so indiscreet!

NMysteryHuntington4useBut Harbor Command wasn’t interested in the girl. They were tailing two thugs who left the hotel and climbed aboard a California Street cable car. When the cable car left, Harbor Command followed it.

NMysteryChalmbersuseI headed over to Grace Cathedral, one place I hadn’t checked yet. When I got there Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) was waiting for me.

“Where’s my witness?” he demanded.


“To use your own parlance, you blew it!” he added.

“Look, Chalmers, I don’t like your questions or remarks any more than Frank Bullitt did when you said the exact same lines to him in ‘Bullitt’. We’re not looking for the same person!”

GE DIGITAL CAMERABut Chalmers was right, I “blew it”. It turned out that my tipster was wrong. It wasn’t Nob Hill she was seen at, but Telegraph Hill. It was an easy mistake to make; they both end with ‘Hill’. I never did find her. I gave ten dollars of the two C’s back to my client and spent the rest of it up at the “Weeper’s Corner” at the Top of the Mark, looking down at the Huntington Hotel and wondering who the girl was.

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