“You know, some slick broad, class up the front office, handle our calls.”
“Murphy Murphy, nobody calls us. The front office, that’s just the front a this office, the place where the beds fold up durina day. We
don’t got but one room!”
“Not counting the pool room,” I astutely note.
“Dang right I’m not countina pool room, whacha gonna do, yagonna put ’er in there? In back? Plus first you know you’d hafta move out
that moose head, Murphy —”
“Oh don’t get on to me about that moose head again.”
“An ’en all them pizza boxes, all piled up, like it’s a tower to heaven —”
“It is, it is! ‘Smatta wichoo, you never played with blocks?”
“An ’en-a tires, Murphy, o-o-o-o-o-oh, the tires…”
“Yeh well you know how it is.”
“That I do, Murphy, that I do. Other guys pick up stray cats or stray diseases; you, you pick up stray tires.”
“You know it, Joey. Tires what had no home.”
“I know it, Murphy. I’m not knocking your tires.”
“They’re nice tires.”
“The best — in their day. But just — Mu-u-ur-r-phy….”
And right then — bingo — a knock at the door.
“Now see what I mean, Joey? A customer! Don’t you wish we had a secretary right now? She could deal with ’em while we hide in back,
say we’re too busy, say that we died.”
“C’mon, Murphy, party’s gonna get tired knocking. Opena door.”
“You open it. Makes me nervous, customers.”
Joey opens it and — Ooh, Wah, Doo: a customer — and what a customer! It’s a dame, — but that don’t describe it. I mean, your mother’s
a dame, if it comes to that. No I mean like, a da-a-ame dame: with everything on it. She got shiny hair, so clear you could shave your
face in it. She got lips like a paint sale. She got teeth, make a dentist say: I’m ready, Lord, I seen it all, you can take me now. She got eyes
like ice, and it ain’t melting. A neck, would make the Boston Strangler just throw up his hands, he wouldn’t hardly know where to begin.
Then a blouse, a white blouse, the front part of it all scooped out, like a dish of ice cream. And below, oh, the double dip, I’m peeking
through my fingers; and her waist is like a sugar cone. Then all that flesh that was left over from the middle, they just slabbed it onto the
hips with a trowel. And then she goes and tapers down again, she’s like a spinning top, you’d a think she’d fall over, just these slim little
feet and tall high heels and the shoes come to a point like a kick-knife.
“You a shamus?” she says, looking at Joey.
He blushes and mumbles, “Me an’ him.”
She looks me over, half her mouth does this little stab at a smile. “You’ll do.” And I think: You too.
So I’m fishing around in the papers I already read, done all the crosswords as far as I could do ’em, reading about recent guys that died,
only none with a bearing on this case. And now I’m out of stuff to read.
Well okay here’s the puzzle page. It’s called “The Sixty-Four Dollar Question”, and it tries to stump the readers, then gives the answers.
Any number can play. And today’s stumper goes like this:
WHAT… is the ‘Unpardonable Sin’?
Never heard of it but it makes my skin crawl, just the same — just the name. Kind of thing I would’ve learned in catechism if I’d gone
parochial instead of first public and then hooky and then reform. Even as it is, I know enough from just what I picked up in the gutter,
to know that it’s not one of the first things that might come to mind, like rooting for the Yankees, or having it off with your own mom or
anything like that. I chew a pencil-end for a minute, see if I can suck it somehow out of the wood, then I give up and turn to page 54.
If you answered, “Despair”, give yourself half credit. The correct answer is:
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
My blood runs cold. Could I of done that? Not real likely — I can sin up a storm but I do watch my tongue. But even worse, what about
Joey? He’s a sweet guy but he does have a temper sometimes, specially if he misses breakfast. Hits his thumb with a hammer or loses a
Pop-tart behind the sink, and he blasphemes like nobody’s business, cussing something awful, mostly yapping on about the First and
Second Persons, but who knows, maybe one time he got extra hot under the collar and was running out of G-words and J-words, he
might’ve just gone and clipped one to the Ghost. Mighta done it, mighta not. — Never did hear him messing over the Virgin, though.
Jeez — I mean Jeepers, this looks bad. My own brother, maybe even me! Cause it doesn’t say: Badmouthing the Spirit over sixty times,
like a speed-limit, or even ten. It says: Just once, Jack, near as I can tell. And —”unpardonable” — do they really mean that? can they? Is
that even possible? A buddy can pardon you anything if he feels like it, or you fork him a fiver or whatnot, so they must mean it’s God
who’s doing the pardoning or not pardoning. And it sounds like in this case even He can’t do it, infinite mercy be blowed.
Joey’s out, and I’m alone, and I start to panic. He could get run over by a pie truck or something, in a state of… This is awful. I think of
calling up a priest, then I remember my name is mud with those guys. But I just got to find out the facts.
Murphy on the Mount
This is the first novel-length story featuring Michael X.
Murphy and his brother Joey. Murphy takes on the most
impossible of cases, no leads, no clues, and then no client!
As the case unfolds, however, Murphy learns of the
"Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit"--the unpardonable
sin! He proceeds with the case now burdened with the
concern that he may already have committed it and is thus
Murphy on the Mount is a humorous, thoughtful, and
ultimately triumphant story of forgiveness and redemption.
Excerpts from Murphy on the Mount
So one June, one afternoon, we’re sitting around and I say:
“You know what I think, Joey?”
“What do you think, Murphy.”
“I think we need a secretary.”
He looks at me like my strait-jacket’s slipped, he’s thinking
I bust outa my bin. “A secretary? Murphy we got no
customers, whadawe need a secretary for?”
Ellery Queen's Mystery
Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's
Mystery Magazine have both
published short stories by David
Justice featuring the Murphy Brothers.
You can read all of those in I Don't Do
Divorce Cases, as well as many never
before published stories, in which
Murphy, with his brother Joey, solve
strange cases and along the way
explore the mysteries and meaning of
Murphy on the Mount is the first
novel-length story featuring the