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Ten Detective Aces, November, 1942
Snooty Piper, that screwball newshawk, takes a cue from blitzkrieg artists in smashing a homicide front.
ME AND Snooty Piper look in on the results of a small fire on Scollay Square one afternoon just after Mr. Guppy's Evening Star has been tucked between the sheets. Flames have partly gutted a stationery and printing establishment.
You never can tell, Scoop, Snooty says. There might be traces of arson. He keeps mooching about, picking up this and that until I get quite irked.
Oh, come on, I snap. You would try and make something big out of a hotfoot. And don't steal no fountain pens or anythin'.
We leave the scene of the two-bit conflagration and walk down Tremont Street. Snooty suddenly ducks into a drug store and says he nearly forgot to give Iola a buzz.
I'll wait here at the counter, Snooty, I says. You call up while I get some bromo.
It is a big drug store. The phone booths are way in the back of the store. I am tossing off the headache antidote when I hear Snooty let out a yell. Another customer, a clerk, and myself stampede toward the public utility cubicles.
Look, Snooty says. A doll. She is out as cold as a truant officer's heart. Help me get her out of the booth.
We get the nice-looking number out where she can get air and she has a bump on her forehead that is a miniature Bunker Hill. We feed her smelling salts and aromatic spirits and she sits up and scrambles around for her marbles.
What cooked? Snooty says. Did you faint?
I am sitting there dialing a number and left the door of the booth open, the gal says. Somebody stepped up and pushed my head against the phoneit is the last I remember. Where's my purse?
You did not have any, I says. That was the idea, huh? The criminal pushed you, grabbed your reticule and decamped. I do not see why phone booths are put in such lonely places in drug stores.
The victim of the unlawful assault doubles up her fists and sets her jaw. She has all the streamlines of a modern speedboat and there is not a thing Lana and Rita have that she hasn't.
A cop comes up and demands to know the squab's name.
Yeah, Snooty says. silly of us not askin', huh? We will put this in the papers so the other unsuspecting dames will be on their guard.
I dislike publicity and notoriety, the doll snaps and gets to her feet. Try and find out. I had a lousy break an' forget it. It was my hard luck, not yours.
Okay. L.D, Snooty says. If that is the way you feel.
The nifty number blinks, then looks down at the initials on her pink sweater. There they are, three inches high. L.D. She walks off with a stride Dietrich would have envied.
Boy, but she's burnin', the cop said. You would almost think she knew who done it and was beatin' it after the guy. Well, that's that.
Scoop, isn't she a pip! Snooty says. Well, let's go to the Greek's.
We have a beer or two, Snooty reads the war news out loud. It is a habit he has among a dozen other bad ones. The Russians are hard pressed, Scoop. They wish the United Nations could create a diversion somewhere. That is so the Natzies would have to rush men and materiel there and it would ease up on the Steppes. A diversion is to take the attention of somebody away from something so you can move in.
No kiddin'. Now you are a war expert, I says.
It is an idea all right, Scoop.
WE GET the tip-off on a murder four hours later. The brother of a girl to whom Snooty Piper has promised the starring role in the next Radio-Fox production calls us up. The citizen drives a cab and gets around. We are just about to start disrobing for the night when the phone in the hall outside starts working.
Where? The John Alden Apartments on Beacon? Snooty asks him.
A big shot it rubbed out? I know I owe you twelve bucks for other tips, but I'll fix you up, Artie. Come an' get us, huh? About Heloise? Now look, I got to see a big producer tomorrow. Now hurry up an' pick us up like a swell feller.
We get to Apt. T 8 in a big pueblo on Beacon an hour later and Iron Jaw O'Shaughnessy and the gendarmes have about cleaned up everything.
Good morning, Piper, the big flatfoot says disagreeably. What kept you this time? If you can find anything we missed this time, I'll milk a kangaroo in Raymond's window at three o'clock any afternoon yon mention.
Looks like you got the jump on us, Snooty says. He is a big character, the victim, isn't he? Who is he?
Only T. Egbert Brusk, president of the Shawmut Machine and Tool Company, Iron Jaw says. Looks like this is a retreat he has to relax in as he also owns a big dump out in Marblehead. His family is there. This was armed murder and robbery as the safe is open. We got a gun we found near Brusk but it wasn't shot off. I got it all figured out. You see I am co-operatin' with you newspaper guys from now on an' not holdin' back. That way criminals won't have no chancet.
You touch me, Snooty says. Go on. I can't believe it, I says. Well, this is the way we figure it, Iron Jaw says, pacing up and down like an elephant waiting for peanuts. A guy comes in and orders this Brusk to open up that wall safe you see swingin' open there. Brusk does and then reaches in the safe where he also keeps a roscoe. He whirls to shoot the intruder but the dishonest party is too quick and Brusk gets liquidated. The robber loots the safe and makes his getaway.
Amazin', Snooty says. You got any clues?
Not a single one, Piper, Iron Jaw says. The boy down in the lobby at the switchboard slept all through it so he didn't see anybody get into the lift or out. The medical examiner says Brusk was eased off about eleven. It is one o'clock now. This Brusk was a cagey guy and didn't leave nothin' around for the filth columnists of newspapers like Guppy's. If he come in town to play he made sure nobody had nothin' on him. If he had telephone numbers he kept them inside his noggin. Nothin' around this dump but two other suits and other glad rags. Well, you can remove the remains, the big flathead says to the hovering morgue attendants.
Snooty mooches around a bit. Just as the citizens from the cold storage plant for the defunct start to lift Brusk's earthly residue, Snooty says, Why, what is this? Apparently Mr. Brusk had fallen on it, Iron Jaw. Why, it is the assassin's calling card.
Gimme it, Piper! Iron Jaw hoots, or I'll fracture your
Now look, O'Shaughnessy, Snooty says. Didn't you just say we were all goin' to co-operate? You would think I did not intend to turn this piece of evidence over. You hurt my feelings, Iron Jaw.
ErI just got excited, Piper, the big lug apologizes. Give it here anyway.
It is a small business card. Iron Jaw reads it right out loud. 'Leander P. Mulch. Tool Designer.'
Yeah, Snooty says. This Brusk had a big machine tool factory and this Mulch maybe designed a new drill or wrench or somethin' an' was doing business with Brusk. Brusk maybe stole the idea and Mulch came and got the dough he should have made out of the patent. Find Mulch and this is solved.
Yeah, Iron Jaw says and nods his dome. See, workin' together this way, boys, we get somewhere, huh? Let's shake on it.
Put'er there, Snooty says. It was just we never understood each other before.
This card says Mulch had a place of business in Everett. One ninety-six Main Street, Iron Jaw says. Well, I'm startin' out soon. I should have a confession by lunch time, boys. I'll give you first whack for the Evening Star. Well, there's no use wastin' time here.
Snooty picks up his hat from a little table in the corner. It takes him long enough.
Is it glued there? I snap at him. Oh, stop bein' impatient, Scoop Binney, the crackpot says.
We walk up Beacon and then cut across the common.
The murderer handed Brusk his card, Snooty says. Now if he had done business with the big shot before, Scoop, why would he hand him a calling card?
Maybe Brusk had a memory like Iron Jaw, I says. Anyway, citizens who buy inventions or steal them don't always see the inventor.
Snooty says, To show you I am not keeping anything from you, old pal, look what I picked up with my hat.
We got a dimout here, I says. I can't see. Wait until we get home.
IN OUR room, Snooty shows me a piece of newspaper he tore off a journal in Brusk's apartment. It is the top of a front page on which somebody has written a telephone number with a fountain pen.
It means he wrote it down before he was slain, Scoop, Snooty says. In a hurry. The newspaper was on the table under my hat and the telephone was on the same table. Brusk did not have time to tear off the number he wrote down or did not bother as it most likely was a call from a male and not a female. If Brusk had feminine playmates, like Iron Jaw said, he was cagey about keeping a record of them. I am anxious to know who is Dorchester 7-9847. It was not the assassin as would he be calling Brusk up from Dorchester and shooting him on Beacon Street at the same time?
Only cops can get certain information from the telephone company, I says.
That is right, Scoop. Well, let's sleep on it and in the morning we will start workin' on the case. We'll call Dogface and tell him we've got a hot lead on the Brusk bump-off.
Co-operation, I sniff. Why didn't you tell Iron Jaw that
I met him halfway, Snooty yawns. That is fair.
A few hours later me and Snooty emerge from the Dorchester exchange.
Where did you get that card, Snooty? I demanded to know. The one you showed that dame? What did it say on it? Snooty starts tearing a card in half and I grab it out of his hands. I run half a block and get a gander at it before he catches up with me. It says:
Michael Q. Sprott. Special Investigator. Miles Standish Burglary Insurance, Inc.
Oh, shut up, Snooty says. This is gettin' nowhere. It is the number of a rooming house on Massachusetts Avenue and I bet only ninety people use the phone there, Scoop. I am discouraged.
I try to figure something out. Part of my brain tries to tell me something but it stutters and gets all mixed up. I walk toward a street car with Snooty. We ride back to Boston and hurry to police headquarters to see Iron Jaw O'Shaughnessy. The big sea lion is sitting in a chair biting his nails and dumping ashes off his cigar into his derby.
That guy Leander Mulch has moved, Iron Jaw says. At least four months ago. They said they thought he went to Fall River. So I got to go to Fall River. Why don't people print up fresh business cards when they make a change? But I'll get that cold blooded killer if I have to go to Alaska.
That's the old fight, Snooty says. What a story you might make. 'Boston dick snatches assassin during air raid on' Dutch Harbor. Disguisin' himself as a sub in the harbor, O'Shaug'
Let's not get mad at each other again, Piper, Iron Jaw says and slaps his derby back on his head. Enough ashes to cover a half mile of slippery sidewalk spills down over his face and he goes into a tantrum. Snooty and I go to the Greek's.
I imagine Iron Jaw will follow a long trail to find that assassin, Snooty says. How is the war news today, Scoop?
I should have been wise to Snooty Piper right then but I wasn't.
We could go up to the rooming house on Massachusetts Avenue and look the joint over, Snooty says. If we saw a suspicious character or familiar face that was mugged by the cops at anytime, we could search his room.
With what authority? I asks sweetly and reach for an empty ale bottle.
Oh, we could say we were there to fix a radio in the room, Scoop, or if he didn't have one, think of some other way. No, that is silly, isn't it?
Shake, I gulp.
TWO days later, we have no word from Iron Jaw O'Shaughnessy. A citizen at headquarters tells us that the big flatfoot could not find his man in Fall River but had found out that Leander Mulch had been there for a while and then had moved to Lima, Ohio.
Looks like the murderer came all the way back from somewhere to kill Brusk, Snooty says as we go out.
Let's forget the whole thing, I suggest. Yeah, Snooty says. I guess I got the wrong slant this time. If travel broadens one, Scoop, what will Iron Jaw look like when he returns?
Just two hours later, when we report to Dogface Woolsey at the Evening Star, the word comes in that a taxpayer has been found murdered in his room on Massachusetts Avenue.
On Massachusetts Avenue? Come on, Scoop.
Again we look in on a corpse. The cops have found evidence that the deceased had been no choir leader. Stashed behind some old laundry in a closet are a collection of wallets and dames' handbags. Snooty Piper takes one look at them, turns pale and trots out into the hall. He comes back and grabs me by the arm.
That is the telephone number out there, Scoop. The one that called up Brusk
One dame's handbag has the initials L.D. on it. Snooty Piper grabs a tabloid newspaper off the dresser and fans himself with it.
A pickpocket, a flatfoot says, Who would assassinate him?
Look, Snooty says to the gendarmes. I have a hunch, pals. That bullet that was dug out of Bruskwell, I wish you would ask the ballistics department to match it up with the one you will find in the wall there. It just went into the plaster halfway, after passing through this citizen. Who is this stiff?
It was Fingers Foley, a cop said. I bet I've pinched him nine times since I joined the force. He wasn't big enough to get killed.
That handbag, Scoop, Snooty gulps as he grabs at my arm. L.D. Remember now? The doll in the drug store. It belonged
Look, I says. If a lion got stabbed in a cage in the Franklin Park Zoo, would you try and tie up the tragedy with a mouse that was caught in a trap in Woburn? Awright, so Fingers did snatch the doll's reticule. Does that tie him up with Brusk?
Snooty shoves the tabloid in his pocket and says to let's get out of there and go where we can think, which is the Greek's place. We are over there in just twenty minutes. Snooty pulls out the tabloid and shows where parts of two pages have been cut out. He says he will get another tabloid of that date and see what parts were removed and why. We down our beers and go over to the Daily Blade. We spend ten minutes there as that is all the time it took us to examine a certain tabloid.
He cut out a follow-up story of the Brusk murder, Snooty says. And a picture of the doll that dances on the roof of the Copley-Lennox. Lona Doon. LonaerL.D., Scoop! What would a punk like Fingers Foley want with those two clippings? Scoop Binney, if the bullets that come out of Brusk and Fingers match up, then there was a connection between the late Brusk, Lana Doon and Fingers Foley. It says here that due to bein' indisposed for a day or two, Lana Doon will not appear with Ricardo D'Arcy. Ricardo's partner will be
A night club dame hatin' notoriety? I sniff. That is not sense, Snooty Piper. Does a cat shun liver? Maybe there are forty dames in Boston with the initials L.D. It could be
Look at her picture, Scoop, Snooty says. Think back. Remember that flowin' black hair and the gams. Lona is out for a day or three because of that whack in the noggin. Fingers, when he got to his hole, ransacked the handbag and found something else in it but legal tender. Else why would a light-fingered rat try to contact the late Mr. Brusk on the phone?
Stop, I says. I can stand only so much, Snooty. You still can't prove it was Fingers who called up Brusk. As you said, there are about ninety lodgers here
We must wait for the ballistic report, Scoop, Snooty says. I wonder how Iron Jaw is doing in Ohio? It is nice not havin' him in the way here.
Snooty, I am beginnin' to think you but even you would not be such a crumb, I says. Forgive me.
That doll was in a hurry to forget all about the bag-snatching that day, Snooty muses. She acted as if maybe she expected it orthis is a mystery, huh?
WE went down to LaGrange Street at six P. M. The boys in the lab showed us the two slugs under the microscope.
What made you guess they might've come out of the same Betsy? a flatfoot asks us. That means the murderer still is in Boston and there is Iron Jaw in Ohio somebody better phone him to come back in. Who would want to shoot Brusk and Fingers Foley? They was so much unlike an'what else do you two reporters know? The D.A. better git workin' on you, Piper.
We wish to co-operate in every way, Snooty says, It is our new policy, isn't it, Scoop?
I wish I had a good answer to that one, I says. I wouldn't know, really.
Brusk must have got around to all the night spots, Snooty says. He would meet all the swell dames, him having a bankroll. Maybe Brusk slipped up somewhere on the straight and narrow
Let me hear more, a gruff voice says and we spin around to see the D.A. I can use the grill room on you as well as I can on a felon, Piper! Maybe a rubber hose
It is all we know right now, Snooty protests. If we get any more information, we will run right over here with it. C-come on, Scoop, hurry!
We escape from the police lab, knocking over some moulages and X-ray plates that only cost about two hundred dollars. The D.A. yells at us and says not to be surprised if we get locked up as accessories to two crimes. Snooty, I says. It looks like this time you will have us hiring a lawyer to beat the chair. If you keep figuring angles on this case, I just know you will tie us in with the killers.
I'll think up a plan of attack tonight, Snooty says when we finally reach our lodgings. Before Iron Jaw arrives. Were you sure you locked the door?
A locked door versus Iron Jaw? I question. Think that over and realize how silly that remark was, Snooty. Come clean now. What dirty trick did you play on him?
Shut up! Snooty says. I must think. I believe I have it, Scoop. I got a few odds and ends in my pocket I found in Fingers' room. Most of it come out of L.D.'s handbag. A shopping list she made out. Look, her writing is easy to imitate, Scoop.
Forgery now, I groan. The end always justifies the means, Snooty sniffs and selects a card from half a dozen he takes out of an inside pocket. I will write a message on the back of one of these, Scoop. One says 'Deluxe Radio Service. Thomas J. McEdison, Radio Technician.'
Wait, I yell. Where the devil did you get all these cards?
The fire in the store, remember, Scoop? When they make calling and business cards for the public, the job printers always keep a line of samples. Well, I will copy some of the doll's writing on the back of this card.
I am starting to get scared. What is the program, Snooty? You are going to get in the dame's apartment and look about, huh?
We will get in, anyway, Snooty says. I must look for the Betsy that did the slayings. How does this sound? 'Please admit these two gentlemen to my apartment to fix the radio. Lona Doon.'
It sounds bad, I says, but I know there is no use arguing with you, Snooty Piper. You are suspecting a doll of murder because she had a handbag snitched.
There is more to this than meets the eye, Scoop, Snooty said. We will call at Lona's hotel when we are sure she is out. I have a small black bag which looks like a tool bag.
It is at four in the afternoon of the next day that we hover not far from the entrance to the Hotel Barkley. When we see the doll come out, we ask the doorman to make sure.
Yeah, that's Lona Doan. But she hates autograft hunters, the guy says.
WE go into the hotel which is very spiffy and my knees are clicking. Snooty hands the card with the forged message on it to the clerk who looks like he is the kind who would worry over the girdle shortage.
Miss Doon is very nervous, she told us, Snooty says. And hates to be around when we work. We will fix up her radio okay.
Very well, the clerk sniffs. But I must ask you persons to go up in the freight elevator and go out the back way when you are finished. The maid on the floor will let you in with the pass-key.
Excuse us for makin' a livin', Snooty says haughtily. May I have the card back as there is a paper shortage and I can always erase messages on it with ink remover.
Odd person, the clerk says and tosses the card back. Snooty gets away with murder.
We get let into Lona Doon's rooms and everything smells like the Garden of Allah must have smelled and there is silk cushions and curtains everywhere. We see a big radio in the corner and Snooty tells me to make out I am working on it while he ransacks the joint for clues.
We can get ten years for this, I shudder. So hurry up.
We are in there fifteen minutes when there are footsteps hurrying down the hall and they are not made by a male. A key jiggles in a lock.
Duck, Snooty says. Under the bed, Scoop. Push that tool bag under too. Oh!
We are no sooner under the bed than we see a pair of feminine feet hurry across the carpet. It looks like the dame forgot something and came in to the hotel and did not bother to go to the desk. We hear a newspaper rattle, then the doll asks for a room number on the phone.
Please give me Room 695, the smooch chirps. She sounds jittery.
Hello. Hello, Ricardo. This is Lona. Come to my apartment right away. . . . Something go wrong? It isn't good, sweetheart.
I stifle a sneeze and Snooty grabs me by the throat. We try to stop breathing and it is a good thing the swell number keeps pacing the floor and making a lot of noise with her high heels. Soon the door opens and somebody else is in the room.
Look, the doll says. The cops have found out the bullet they took out of that cheap crook matches the one they took out of Brusk. They also found that Foley was a pickpocket and a bag snatcher and they have some handbags and wallets for identification at headquarters. Listen, Ricardo, the cops are smart too.
Bah! a deep voice says. You're getting whacky over everything. They got nothing on us. We got the letters back. They can never prove nothin'. That gat is buried nice in the window box.
Oh, what a mess. Here I thought Brusk had paid a man to snatch my bag, Lona says.
He had the dough waiting for me all the time, though. You went there and didn't have the letters so he wouldn't pay the money. So you
Shut up, the male says and he has a voice that is not very nice to listen to. You have to remind me? I had to bump him. I had to get that Foley, didn't I? Imagine that punk finding them letters Brusk wrote you from Rio all tied up with pink ribbon. And the punk could add two and two. Shakin' us down, baby. We were in a spot. Now you just pull yourself together. We'll be dancin' in Buenos Aires in just four months. We finish up here pretty soon. Better pour us a couple of stiff ones, Lona.
It is a crime chambermaids sweep all the dust under beds. Lint gets in my nose and I sneeze.
What's that, Lona? the guy yelps. Somebody is in here! Quick, we got to find 'em. We
Oh, you fathead, Snooty wheezes, then starts backing out from under the doll's bed.
I crawl the opposite way and sink my teeth right into a silk sock that has an ankle in it. Ricardo D' Arcy cries out like a wolf and then I grab both of his legs and upset him.
But the character gets loose while I crawl into the clear and he jumps to his feet before even getting to his hands and knees. Ricardo does not get paid two C's a week for being clumsy on his pumps.
The dancer is a tall citizen with lean hips like Joan Crawford and shoulders like Charlie Atlas. His teeth are bared and so is a knife he has pulled out of his pocket.
You shall never get out alive! Ricardo says. A detective, yes?
I can see Snooty Piper in a big mirror on the wall. Snooty is running up and down the bed and ducking the Ming vase Lona is swinging with both hands. The Ming connects with Snooty's conk just as I am almost thrown through the mirror by Ricardo who also specializes in an Apache dance on the Copley-Lennox roof. Lona is straddling Snooty and is strangling him with a silk dressing gown cord as I run past and into the bathroom. I pick up a bathroom scale and toss it and it hits Ricardo in the solar plexus just as he lets the knife go. The shiv puts a second parting in my hair and I vault over Ricardo and go to Snooty's rescue just in the nick of time.
I grab Lona by her lily white throat and put pressure on her pipes. I drag the doll across the Smyrna rug and pile her up against Ricardo who is still panting for oxygen. Then I open the door and let in an irate hotel manager and four cops.
Ugh, Snooty says. An Octupus has me, Scoop. Git the coast guard. Erwhere am I?
In a doll's boudoir, I says. You should feel at home. Oh, stop pointing at us that way, I yelps at the manager. We are not the crooks. These two on the floor are. D' Arcy and Doon. The male part of the dancing team slew T. Egbert Brusk and Fingers Foley. Up in Room 695 there is a gat in a window box. There should be some dough there, too. Plenty dough.
The cops got the Betsy and fifty thousand bucks in bills and negotiable bonds. Let's all go downtown, a flatfoot says, nasty. Say, you're Piper, aren't you? he says to Snooty. Iron Jaw O'Shaughnessy phoned that he is going to murder you.
Ricardo D' Arcy has not a leg to stand on as he knows the cops can match the bullets with his Roscoe. His story is quite confusing so Snooty takes it up and makes it brief like any good reporter.
The doll is on her way to shake down Brusk, Snooty says. Fingers Foley snatches her handbag with the letters in it. The doll thinks Brusk intercepted her and she went back and griped to Ricardo. Fingers Foley, when he rifled the reticule, added up two and two and he called up Brusk to tell him he had the letters and to do business with him.
Now before Brusk could meet Fingers, Ricardo visited Brusk and demanded the blackmail hay. Ricardo had to kill Brusk. So seeing Brusk was extinct, Fingers blackmailed the citizens who he figured had taken the scratch from the machine tool mogul, telling them he would turn the letters over to the cops if they did not pay him off. You all know how Fingers was paid off. Any jury would know you did not pay off dancers in night spots with negotiable bonds, and anyway Ricardo's cannon is enough. Everything clear?
Lona confesses that she went about with Brusk and made him think she carried the torch for him. The old wolf got flattered and wrote her letters when he went to South America on a trip. In the letters, Lona said, he promised her a hacienda overlooking Rio harbor.
I guess that's all, the D. A. says. Lock the culprits up.
The door flies open and a very irate out-sized character catapults in. It is not all, Iron Jaw ululates. Snooty Piper, I am going to kill you! You framed me with that calling card to git me out of the way. Cooperation with the law huh? That Leander Mulch has been in the army for at least a year. So how could he
It was one of the sample cards I found in the print-shop fire, Snooty admits and edges toward a door. I had to create a diversion so asrun Scoop!
I should hold you and let him blitz you, Snooty! I snarl. But I am sure he would kill me too.
We get out into the corridor and Snooty takes my arm quick and pulls me into a washroom. It is an ideal spot to hide out for a while, Scoop. The big whale can never find anything so close to him.
I think you have something there, I gasp. I am sure of it when I look out of the window. Iron Jaw is running toward Tremont Street, yelling for us to come back and take it like men.