Double Trouble

Walter Walker

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EText from pulpgen.com

Secret Agent X , June, 1937

Death, a G-Man and two crooks make.... Double Trouble

THEY made a neat pair, the Scarfi twins. As much alike as two bad pennies. And smart. Too smart to work; too smart to pull anything but an air-tight job; too smart to trust anyone.

They sat together now on a bed in a Times Square hotel room and on the green bedspread between them twinkled a pile of diamonds worth a hundred grand at fence prices. But the Scarfi twins were too smart to let half a million in ice go for a measly hundred grand. “They'd get the Dutchman to recut the stones and, after a safe wait, they'd let them dribble into the market at a good price. Yeah, the Scarfi twins were smart. And they didn't trust anybody. Not even the old Dutchman....”

“The Dutchman looks like your job,” said Tony. “Nice and quiet, see?”

“Yeah,” Slim grunted.

Few people could tell the Scarfi twins apart. Both were thin and dark and quick- moving. But all the underworld and all the cops knew one thing about them: Slim carried no gun; he used a knife. And Tony used a gun —a .38. So even the cops couldn't pin a job on the Scarfis. But the cops never got anything on the Scarfis. Because the Scarfis were too smart.

Slim bundled the ice up in a handkerchief and put it under a pillow.

“We better lie low a week before we contact the Dutchman, hadn't we?”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “We take it easy for a while. Then we get the stuff cut. Then after you take care of the Dutchman, we can go on a little vacation. And, by the way, you better let me sock that stuff away. No sense in letting it lie around where some copper can stumble on it.”

“Yeah?” Slim's eyes narrowed and his voice was thin and sharp like the knife blade he used. “Yeah,” he said. “Why not let me take the stuff?”

Tony's liquid brown eyes met Slim's. “Don't get in an uproar,” he said softly. “I'll handle the rocks.”

“Like hell,” Slim clipped.

“Okay,” Tony cut in softly. “We'll put the stuff away together. In the bathroom. In the trap of the washbasin. Okay?”

“Okay,” Slim assented, quietly.

And together, the Scarfi twins hid the stuff in the bathroom that connected their two bedrooms. Slim watched as Tony unscrewed the trap and shoved the stuff in. Tony watched as Slim replaced the nut. They didn't trust anybody.

Then, for several days, they took it easy. Food and liquor and magazines they had sent to their rooms.

After a week had slipped by, Tony said: “Tomorrow, we go to Chi and get hold of the Dutchman. Anyway, it's safe to go by now.”

“Okay,” Slim said, and his glance wandered toward the bathroom door.

Tony laughed softly. “The stuffs okay. Don't worry.”

“Not worried,” Slim said. “Just careful.”

Tony drained the last of his drink.

“I'm turning in,” he said. “Tomorrow we'll go.”

Slim nodded and went into the bathroom. Tony followed. They watched one another as they undressed and hung their clothes neatly in the bathroom closet. Then, with a glance toward the wash-basin, they said goodnight and each went to his bedroom.

SLIM went to bed and lay there with his eyes closed and his thin lips smiling. He wasn't asleep. He was waiting, thinking. No use splitting half a million, was there? Not with a no-good punk who would cross you at the first chance. Sure, Tony was his brother. So what? Tony was a louse, and besides Slim could use the extra dough. Tony was in the way.

As a clock bonged three, Slim got quietly out of bed. Stealthily, he padded into the bathroom and carefully unscrewed the nut on the wash-basin trap. He let the bundle of diamonds fall soundlessly into his palm. Then he shoved a second bundle into the pipe opening. He grinned as he thought how Tony would look when he opened up the bundle and discovered not diamonds, but a supply of paste phonies which the Scarfis carried as an instrument of their trade.

Slim replaced the nut and stood up. Silently he tiptoed over to the closet and took out the hanger on which was draped Tony's suit. With expert hands, Slim removed Tony's .38 and then took a clip from his brother's necktie. Well he knew that the tie- clip was engraved with Tony's initials. Yeh, Slim Scarfi was smart.

He slipped back into his bedroom and pulled a suitcase from under the bed. The suitcase was all packed, ready-for a quick get-away. He put the suitcase in his bed and piled the covers around it. In the dark, it looked like the form of a sleeping man.

Slim Scarfi smiled and went out the door, down the hall, down the fire-stairs, out the service entrance. It didn't matter much if anyone saw him. In fact, it would be better if someone did see him. Because Slim Scarfi looked exactly like Tony.

Slim caught a taxi and rode toward East River. In the cab, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and let it slide behind the seat. Hell, it had Tony's laundry mark on it.

Near the Mid-Atlantic warehouse, he dismissed the cab. With quick steps, he walked toward the gloomy storage building. It didn't matter much whom Slim killed. Anybody would do. But there were only two men he wanted to see dead. Only two men, that is, besides Tony. The men were Pat O'Malley, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and old Dan Parsons, night watchman at the Mid-Atlantic warehouse. The G-man was the only dick that had come close to catching him and Tony. And old Parsons had sent a slug through Slim's leg. Slim hated them. But it was too difficult to kill the federal man, so Slim decided to bump Parsons.

He made his way down the night- shrouded alleyway that led to the employees' entrance of the big building. At the little doorway, he stopped and got ready. From his pocket he pulled the tiepin with Tony's initials on it. He tossed it near the steps. He pulled Tony's gun from his coat-pocket and aimed it breast-high at the door. Then he reached out and pounded loudly.

“Parsons!” he called. “Let me in.”

There was a muffled reply from inside and after a moment, shuffling footsteps echoed softly within.

The door opened inward, and framed in the opening was the stooped figure of old Dan Parsons.

“What—”

The nightwatchman's words were snapped off by the roar of the .38. The old man coughed and his eyes went glassy. He crumpled forward and pitched from the step onto the cinder pathway at the feet of Slim Scarfi. Old Parsons twitched oddly, then relaxed as Slim put the muzzle of the gun against his back and pulled the trigger again. The explosion was muffled this time. Slim turned and hurried silently away.

TWO blocks away, he caught a cab. All he had to do now was plant the gun in Tony's clothes and scram.

At Forty-second and Broadway, he dismissed the cab and went down the alley behind the hotel. He slipped into the service entrance, up the fire-stairs, down the deserted hallway, into his room.

He tiptoed quietly across to the bathroom. From his pocket he took the .38 end slipped it into the pocket of Tony's neatly hung coat. Suddenly, he froze. There was a noise in Tony's room. Footsteps coming towards the bathroom. Slim hurried into his bedroom, slipped into bed.

The bathroom door opened quietly and Tony's dark face peered in. Slim held his breath. Then the door closed again. Slim got quickly out of bed. He opened the bathroom door. No one was inside. He went in, got his suit from the closet. Tony's suit wasn't there. What the hell, was Tony already dressing at five in the morning? It didn't matter .... now.

He hurried back into his own room, dumped the suit into the already-packed bag He remembered his knife, extracted it from the pocket of the suit-coat, then closed the bag.

He hurried across the room, caught the door-knob. Abruptly, the door slammed back into his face, knocked him sprawling across the floor.

The lights snapped on, and in the sudden brightness Slim looked up and saw a burly man in tweeds. Slim cursed, then suddenly stopped. Behind the man in tweeds were two men in blue. The men in blue were cops, and each held a revolver pointed at Slim. The man in tweeds said, “Put the cuffs on him, Sneed.”

The copper came over end pulled Slim to his feet and clicked metal bracelets on his wrists. Slim found his voice then.

“What the hell,” he snarled. “Who the hell are you?”

The man in tweeds stared at him hard and long. So long that Slim felt suddenly dirty. Then the man in tweeds said: “I'm Snodgrass of homicide. You're under arrest for the murder of Federal Investigator Pat O'Malley.”

Slim Scarfi's eyes blazed defiance. “Like hell I bumped O'Malley. When was he killed?”

“At home, On Eighty-sixth Street.”

Slim smiled. “I can prove I wasn't there. I was—”

Suddenly his words faded.

“Yes?” Snodgrass said. “Where were you?”

Snodgrass spoke to the cop holding Slim. “See if the knife's on him, Sneed.”

The cop reached in Slim's pocket and pulled out the knife. He opened the blade,

“I'll be damned!” he gasped. “It's still got the blood-stains on it.”

Slim Scarfi stared at the red-stained blade and suddenly he seemed to go mad. He jerked frenziedly against the cop who held him. His voice shrilled.

“Tony! Damn you, Tony!” he screeched. “You framed me! You framed me. You killed O'Malley!”

Snodgrass reached over and slapped Slim Scarfi across the cheek. “Quiet down,” he said evenly. “Tony couldn't have framed you. He was over at the Mid-Atlantic warehouse killing a watchman named Parsons. That's how we found you two. The cabby who took Tony to the warehouse heard the shots and investigated. He found Parsons dead and called the cops. He remembered where he picked Tony up. Hell, Tony left his handkerchief in the cab . . . . You two will burn together.”

Then Snodgrass called, and two huge cops came in from the bathroom. Between them, dangling like a limp shirt on a clothesline, was Tony.

When Tony saw Slim, he screamed and nearly upset the cops by his sudden lunge toward his raging brother.

For a moment, Snodgrass listened to their hysterical curses. Then, as he motioned the cops to take the two killers on out to the wagon, he said:

“Seems like the brothers Scarfi don't exactly trust each other.”