This page formatted 2007 Blackmask Online.
EText from pulpgen.com
Dan TurnerHollywood Detective , May, 1943
It was a screwy assignment. The bogey-man thought he was going crazy! I want you to save me from myself, Mr. Turner, he said. I'm turning into a werewolf. And I want you to keep me from hurting my wife . . .
HIS EARS were pointed and furry, his protruding front teeth were sharp ivory spikes, and his complexion was the sickish blue of a corpse that some dopey undertaker had neglected to keep on ice. In a word, he looked like the advance agent for a convention of Siberian werewolves; and when I opened the door of my apartment stash and piped him standing there, I thought I was having a tough dream.
He said: Mr. Turner? in a tone that came up from somewhere in the region of his toenails.
I felt my haircut standing on end like a fright wig; managed to locate my voice and tell him yes, I was Dan Turner. Whereupon he doubled his hairy right duke, aimed a terrific haymaker full at my button.
I gasped: What the? and ducked this unprovoked, unexpected attempt at assault and bashery. It had been bad enough to be snatched from a sound midnight snooze by a persistent tapping on my door; it was worse to answer the summons and find myself confronted by something that resembled a fugitive out of an idiot's nightmare. But when the nightmare tried to stiffen me it was just too much.
So I lowered the boom on him.
He lurched off-balance from swinging at me and missing, and he was as wide open as a frog's mouth in fly time. I nailed him on the lug with my best Sunday punch, dished him a glancing prescription that sent him sailing across my living room with his hip pockets dipping sand.
As he crash-dived, those sharply pointed fangs popped out of his kisser; one of his furry ears came loose, too. I took a gander at my knuckles; lamped a smear of blue makeup on them. Then I began to catch wise.
Dracula hauled himself tipsily to his gams. When the fogginess had dissipated from his peepers, he remarked: Thank you, Mr. Turner, in cultivated accents. You're very kind.
That was when I recognized him.
He was Igor Stravinoff, the horror star. With the tigerish uppers and lowers gone from his yap and his own natural grinders showing, his appearance wasn't quite so bad. I could even stomach that loosened, furry ear which dangled slaunchwise down one side of his chops. But what was he thanking me for?
I don't get it! I hung the stupefied focus on him. He was a big character; topped my own six-feet-plus by at least three inches and weighed a good two hundred and ten. This bigness helped him look poisonous in the galloping snapshots; when he wore his weird makeup he seemed like hell's ultimate monster.
AS A RESULT of his ability to terrify little children and morons he'd made a fortune of playing bogeyman roles for Paratone Pix before cutting loose to form his own company. And now, since he owned a fifty per cent chunk of this new independent producing unit, he stood to make even more.
He gave me a wry smile. I mean I'm glad you hit me, knocked me down, he said politely.
It proved something I was anxious to know. It showed that you could do it.
My ire began to froth. You were just testing me?
I rasped: For two lousy pins I'd paste you again! You almost gave me the drizzling meemies.
His crooked smile deepened apologetically. I'll pay you a lot more than two pins to hit me again, Mr. Turnerif the need should arise.
What? I blinked.
Yes. I want to hire you for that very purpose. You can set your own price.
He sounded like a citizen with two marbles missing and the third about to roll off the table. Are you plastered or plain wacky? I asked him.
I'm not drunk, he said. But if by wacky you mean insane, I'm afraid the answer is yes. You see, II think I'm losing my mind.
The nightmarish feeling came back to me. I tottered over to my cellarette, poured a triple tipple of Vat 69 and sent it down the hatch. It didn't even nudge me.
Stravinoff nervously perched his poundage on the edge of a chair. What I'm saying must sound very queer to you, Mr. Turner. But the fact is, I need a bodyguard to save me from my worst enemy.
And who is your worst enemy?
Me, he made a bitter mouth.
Before I could dredge up an answer to this utterly screwy information, hell erupted outside my front portal. In the outer corridor, somebody commenced knuckling blisters on the woodwork and a stricken she-male voice wailed: Let me in! Please. . . Oh, before it's t-too late . . . Igor, darling, you mustn't m- murder. . . . The words had a terrific timbre.
I catapulted across the carpet, wrenched the door open. A red-haired quail surged over the threshold at me; a double barrelled knockout in a sea green silk frock that adhered to her like a coating of emerald lacquer.
Igor! she whimpered; threw her arms about me. Then, in a moment, she took a hinge at me. You're n-not Igor!
Not to my knowledge, babe.
She backed away, turned, spotted the towering Stravinoff bozo and moaned: Oh-hh, darling. . . !
He kissed her, gravely; left a bluish splotch of makeup on her gorgeous puss. Then he told me: This is Lanette, my wife, Mr. Turner. All of a sudden he stared past me. Mockermann!
I PIVOTED toward the doorway; saw a short, stocky blister barging in. He had a roscoe in one mitt, a defunct poodle dog's carcass in the other. The poodle's gullet had been ripped plumb to blazes as if by the dental equipment of some jungle animal, staining the woolly throat with congealed brown gravy. The effect was enough to curdle your tripes.
In fact, the whole scene had me dizzier than a drunk in a whirlpool. I tabbed Maxie Mockermann, of course. He was the cinema mogul who owned the other half of Igor Stravinoff's new independent producing unit, and for all his lack of stature he was a supercharged dynamo in the celluloid racket. The gossip columnists called him the Napoleon of Hollywood, even though he'd been fired from a dozen major lots for excess expenditures. He knew how to manufacture click pix regardless of cost; which was why the horror star had tied up with him.
But what in the name of Whozis was he doing with a deceased pooch? And why was he hoofing into my igloo with a gat clenched in his fist?
The rod looked dangerous, the way he was waving it hither and yon. I made a dive for it, chopped it out of his fingers before he could guess my purpose. Then I said plaintively: Will somebody please start explaining before I send in my measurement for a straitjacket?
Lanette Stravinoff drew a deep breath. Maxie and I followed Igor here from the studio, she faltered.
This cleared up at least one point, anyhow; it told me why the terror star was wearing werewolf makeup. Evidently he'd been doing some night work in front of the cameras and had come directly to my tepee from the sound stage without stopping to remove the grease paint, fangs, and false ears.
The redhead faced her hubby. I w-wanted to take you home after you made that last retake scene, she told him. But you slipped away before I could stop you. So Maxie gave me a lift in his car and we trailed your cab
Yes, the stocky Mockermann put in. Unfortunately we weren't able to overtake you until . . . this happened. He tossed the defunct poodle on the floor and it landed with a thud.
Igor Stravinoff's harried glims bulged like two grapes being squeezed. Idid I d-do that?
In the lobby, yes. Your mouth is stained even now, Mockermann muttered reluctantly.
WHAT he said was true enough. That was a trickle of fresh crimson around the big hambo's kisser; and when he wiped it off with the back of his hand, he looked as if he wanted to gush his gooseberries.
Mockermann went on: Lanette was afraid of what you might do next. That's why we made so much commotion to get in here. It explains the gun I carried.
Revulsion made Stravinoff shudder. You thought perhaps I might commit m-murder? He sank back into the chair, buried his map between his fingers. Presently he got a grip on himself, gave me the haggard glimpse. Now you can understand why I must hire you, Mr. Turner.
I'm blamed if I do, I set fire to a gasper. Maybe you'll make it clearer if you start at the beginning.
He sighed wearily. It's very simple. I'm going m-mad. I . . . I'm turning into the sort of werewolf monster I portray on the screen.
Are you kidding? I strangled on a charge of smoke.
No. Without being aware of it, I . . . do things like th-that, he pointed to the butchered poodle.
I said: Quit needling me. People don't turn into werewolves. What you need is a vacation.
No. I can't take a vacation now. Everything I own, every penny of Maxie Mockermann's money as well, has been invested in my new picture. It isn't quite completed; and I've got to keep going until the last scene is in the cans. Then . . . well, I guess I'll wind up in some padded cell.
Somehow I felt sorry for the poor slug. He didn't look nutty, just tired. Try a psychiatrist, bub, I suggested. He can snap you out of it.
Again he shook his head, brushed off my advice. I . . . I don't dare. A brain specialist would probably commit me to an institution right away. And there is this production to be finished, released. That's where you fit in.
I said: Look, chum. I'm just a private skulk. I don't know anything about mental diseases.
I'm not asking you to cure me. I merely want you to be near me; never let me out of your sight. If I . . . start doing anything I shouldn't do, you're to hit me. Knock me down. Keep me in line. I know you can do it, he rubbed his jaw reminiscently. Then he whipped out a wallet. Here's an advance retainer. Five hundred dollars. Is it enough?
I hesitated. Playing keeper to a maniac isn't my idea of how to have a good time, but that stack of crisp green geetus looked plenty tempting. After all, I'm in this game for all the cabbage I can collect.
Finally I said: Okay, you've hired a playmate. When do I go on duty?
At once. You'll come home with me. His tired voice matched the slump of his shoulders.
I NODDED, told him to wait while I tossed my tonnage into a set of threads. Then I draped myself in tweeds. When I returned to the living room, Maxie Mockermann had already powdered. Stravinoff harvested his false tusks off the floor, put his furry ears in his pocket; linked one arm through mine and the other through his red-haired wife's. We all barged down to my jalopy in the basement garage; piled in.
I drove them to their costly shanty this side of the Beverly line. None of us said anything en route; but my think-tank was working overtime. And certain aspects of the mess refused to mesh; didn't make sense. For one thing, Igor Stravinoff didn't look dippy to me; and that defunct poodle had seemed phony, somehow. I kept these thoughts to myself, though; decided to wait and see what happened. Time would tell.
In the Stravinoff stash, the horror star's frau told me good-night and beat it to her boudoir. Igor made for his own chamber, while a cute little blonde maid conducted me to a guest room adjoining.
Will there be anything else, sir? she smiled.
An idea hit me and I gave her the speculative focus. Yeahbut I'm not sure you can supply it.
She smoothed her black taffeta uniform. Just tell me what you want. It wouldn't be information, would it?
Her savvy startled me. I said: How did you guess?
She grinned. You're a private dick. I've seen your picture in the paper lots of times, Hawkshaw.
So you've been brought here for a definite purpose. The purpose isn't making love to the servants, though.
You shouldn't be a servant, hon. I gave her a squeeze. A cutie with your looks ought to get a screen test.
Her grin broadened, That line's got whiskers. Then she grew serious. I know why you're here, handsome. You want the inside dope about Igor Stravinoff's wife and Maxie Mockermann. Did I score a bull'seye?
Could be, I didn't let her know she had spilled something important. It's the old domestic triangle plot, huh?
She started to answer but she was interrupted. Somebody tapped on the door and I heard a cautious whisper: Mr. Turner, I must see you right away!
It was Lanette Stravinoff.
I FELT like telling her to go fly a balloon. Before I could say anything, though, the maid decided the issue for me.
I've got to hide or I'll get canned! she panted. Then she dived under the bed. Her ankles vanished from view.
I opened the door. Yeah, Mrs. Stravinoff?
Dracula's wife was embellished in a frilly blue negligee of lace-trimmed gossamer. The flame-colored waves of her hair hung around her throat and shoulders; stressed the flawless whiteness of her skin.
Could you c-come to my room a moment? she whispered. I-I've got to t-talk to you. Privately.
Lead the way, kitten, I jumped at the chance to get away before the blonde under the bed sneezed or something. And we tiptoed to her quarters.
As soon as she had closed the door of her chamber she started in: I want to ask you about Igor.
What about him?
Do you think he's really c-crazy?
Where is he now, and what's he doing? I demanded.
Oh, that, she shrugged. II gave him a sleeping tablet before he went to bed. I wanted a chance to discuss him without his knowledge.
I said: Okay, start discussing.
Well, I'll repeat my question. Is he losing his mind?
I told her I wasn't an alienist. But as a layman, my answer would be no.
And yet there are those dogs he's k- killed, like the poodle in your apartment house lobby tonight, she argued through a shudder. And sometimes he stares at me with the weirdest look in his eyes. . . .
I pondered this a minute. Then I said: Listen. Do you mind if I use your phone?
Why, no. Help yourself. But I don't see
I circled the bed, picked up her telephone, dialed a friend of mine, a cameraman on the Paratone lot. When he finally woke up, I told him who was calling. I want to know the guy handling the lenses on Igor Stravinoff's new independent pic over at the United Service Studio.
Kip Kenton, and this in a lousy time to ask screwball questions. Don't you know it's past midnight?
I THANKED him, rang off, dialed again. Kip Kenton was another pal of mine, one I could depend on. Kip?
Yeah. Who's this?
Hi, shamus. Drunk?
No, sober. Painfully. Look. Did you work on the Stravinoff set tonight?
Yep. Until late.
New scenes? I asked him.
Retakes. A lot of baloney. The originals were every bit as good, maybe better. If Mockermann keeps this up he'll shoot the whole production over again and wind up bankrupt before the opus is released. What's troubling you?
I said: Nothing, now, and hung up; turned to the red-haired quail. That gives me the answer, sis.
She looked bewildered. What answer?
Let's do some supposing, I fished a coffin nail out of my pocket, torched it. Suppose a certain producer named Maxie Mockermann got suddenly taken broke. Suppose he persuaded a star of your hubby's caliber into joining him for an independent flyer at making horror pix.
For the sake of argument, let's also suppose Mockermann has a yen to make a quick fortune without cutting Igor in.
She said: But that's absurd. Maxie couldn't make a fortune from just one production, even though it is a Stravinoff picture. It's true my husband's films always gross well, but not up in the millions.
This one might, with the right kind of publicity build-up, I shot back at her.
How do you m-mean?
Suppose it hit the screen as Igor's final feature before he gets sent to the insane asylum for life as a criminal maniac like the movie roles he's always played?
You aren't hinting
Yeah, I growled. Some sharp disciple has been campaigning to wreck Igor's reason; drive him off his chump. And the sharp disciple could well be Mockermann.
But that's hideous!
I agreed with her. All the same, it makes sense. If Igor's first independent pic also turns out to be his last, and if it gets released simultaneously with Igor being committed to a padded cell as a dangerous lunatic with werewolf delusions, think of the headlines.
No! Itit's too horrible!
I said: Can't you see the front pages? Horror Star Goes Crazy. Movie Monster a Madman. Screen Roles Become Real. Believe me, the theaters would need extra help at the box office to take care of the rush. Everybody would want to watch a maniac enacting a maniac's role.
Your husband never croaked any poodles, kiddo, I went on grimly. He's been told that until he actually believes it; but it's strictly malarkey.
What m-makes you think so?
Well, take tonight. You piped the pooch Mockermann brought into my igloo. He claimed Igor had just bumped it.
She nodded. Yes. He
Then why was the mutt's ketchup congealed, instead of fresh and dripping on my rug? I demanded. Nuts! That poodle had been defunct quite a while. Maxie probably croaked it and brought it along with him for phony evidence.
But the b-blood on Igor's mouth?
His own. I'd corked him. He asked for it.
She took a faltering step toward me.
You really think Mockermann is behind it all? He wants to convince the world that my husband is insane?
That's how it adds up in my book, kitten.
Oh-h-h, my poor Igor! She caught one of my hands in both of hers. You've got to help him!
I WAS on the verge of saying I'd do my best when I heard a she-male shriek from the room to my right, the guest chamber where I'd left that blonde cutie in the black taffeta maid's uniform. It was a keening scream, harsh, terrified.
I strangled: What the! and gave the red-haired Stravinoff quail a shove that landed her on het back on the chaise longue. Then I catapulted to the hallway, smashed into that adjoining room and felt my giblets crinkling.
The maid was sprawled on the floor, her golden tresses mussed and her costume ripped to ribbons. Bright crimson stained her scalp, her lacerated windpipe. She'd been bashed unconscious; and then a set of sharp fangs had gnawed at her lovely throat.
I dropped to my knees, jammed a palm to her heart. It was still ticking. And when I tabbed the tusk-marks, a wave of recollection welled through my narrow; mental picture of Igor Stravinoff picking up his false grinders in my living room a while agothe ones he wore as part of his screen makeup. Things clicked in my cranium.
Behind me, the horror star's wife moaned: My God! Igor must have d-done this!
I straightened up, grabbed her, shook her. Quiet! Calm down or I'll slap the daylights out of you, understand?
But youIbut she cringed.
I said: Lam back in your boudoir; phone police headquarters and ask for Lieutenant Dave Donaldson of the homicide squad. Tell him to heist his form out here with a doctor. Hurry while I keep this cupcake from leaking to death. Then I went to the bed, ripped a sheet into strips for bandages.
Lanette Stravinoff staggered out to obey my orders. I heard her putting through the call; then, presently, she returned just as I was finishing my first aid job. I didn't look up; merely asked a question over my shoulder. You got hold of Donaldson?
Yes. Then, abruptly, she yeeped: Igor darling, wh-what are you trying to d-do?
Her tone warned me. I whirled; lamped a lumbering monstrosity bearing down on me. His puss was blue, his fangs were bared and he was swinging a blackjack.
He conked me with it before I could sidestep. Comets exploded in my noggin, sent streaks of pain through me. I pitched forward over the unconscious form of the yellow- haired maid.
I WASN'T completely out, though. Just stunned groggy. I pushed myself on all fours, scrambled around like a drunk in a muddy gutter, saw the hulking monster clumping from the room as if he had club feet.
I crawled after him; yanked at the .32 automatic I always carry in a shoulder holster.
The rod stuck. I tugged on it; kept crawling. By now the big bozo was almost to the front door of the stash. Then, just as he turned the knob, I got my heater loose and hosed a pill in his general direction.
I knew I'd hit him; piped a piece of leather fly off his left brogan and saw his gam jerk. But he kept going, gained the porch, slammed the door after him. Whereupon things got blurry for me as my bludgeoned cranium began acting up. I felt like a guy trying to swim through a wave of black ink.
Igor! a voice bleated.
This was Lanette Stravinoff screeching in the hallway behind me. I managed to twist around in time to hang the fuzzy focus on her Dracula hubby as he came barging out of his bedroom. I remember wondering how he could have circled the house to get back inside through his bedroom window so fast, not to mention removing his makeup and trading his suit for a pair of pajamas. His glims had a faraway look.
So did mine. About that time, unconsciousness finally caught up with me; tagged me off third base.
RYE WHISKEY brought me out of my swoon. I dislike rye whiskey. I opened my optics; tabbed Dave Donaldson leaning over me, funneling the fire-water down my alimentary canal. I choked, made protesting gestures. Why don't you use Scotch?
Stew you, you ungrateful louse, Dave growled. Wake up and answer some questions before I kick you in the adenoids.
What questions? I mumbled.
I want to know who creamed the redhead.
I said: She isn't a redhead, she's a blonde. And she wasn't creamed; just conked and chewed up a little.
I don't mean the blonde maid! he caterwauled. We sent her to the hospital. She'll pull through. I'm talking about Mrs. Stravinoff. He jerked a thumb.
I sat up, took a gander.
The red-haired Lanette Stravinoff was on the floor near the spot where the maid had recently sprawled. But unlike the maid, this was no mere case of unconsciousness. The horror star's wife had got the full treatment; her white throat had been gnawed to hamburger. She was as dead as Confederate bonds.
Two uniformed coppers lifted me, steadied me. Donaldson laid a hand on my chest. Who was the bozo that ran out of here when we drove up? We tried to stop him, but no dice. He looked like a chapter out of Poe.
Blue map, hairy ears, tiger teeth? I said.
Dave turned to a sergeant. Put out a radio bleat for him! Then to me: Okay, Sherlock. Let's have the story.
I told him what I knew.
When I finished, he said: I can't see how Stravinoff could have bashed you and· got back in his bedroom so fast. Besides, if you plugged him in the hoof, why wasn't he limping when we saw him making his getaway?
The mists cleared out of my grey matter. You've put your finger on the key! I yelled. Let's get going! I grabbed him, dragged him outdoors to his official chariot. I wasn't groggy now. I saw the end of the trail ahead of me and I was anxious to tie up the loose strings.
Donaldson wedged his beef under the wheel. Where to?
Maxie Mockermann's tepee. Know it?
He nodded, stepped on the ethyl, and we headed into the night. As his speedometer clipped seventy, he said; I think I catch your drift. It wasn't Igor Stravinoff at all. It was Maxie Mockermann. He wore stilts to make him tall; used Stravinoff's makeup so it would look like the actor was doing the fang work.
It was a gag to put Stravinoff in the booby hatch as a homicidal maniac. Your bullet hit Mockermann's stilt instead of his real leg. That's why I saw him running without a limp. And it also explains why you saw the genuine Igor Stravinoff so soon after the ruckus.
Sure. Tickle this heap.
He tickled another ten miles an hour out of it. We slammed through three stop-signals; nearly peeled the fenders from a passing milk wagon. Then Mockermann's joint loomed before us and Dave tossed out his anchors.
We made for the wigwam's front porch. I tried the knob. It turned. The door opened. We tiptoed inside.
A HIGH, whining voice sounded in the library; a weird, unnatural voice like nothing I'd ever heard in my life except when I had delirium tremens. It was saying: I know the truth, Maxie. You wanted to make a madman of me so my last picture would net you a fortuneand so you could steal my wife when I went to the asylum. You were her boy friend. She was helping you all the time.
Get away from me, Igor, you fiend! That was Mockermann answering, hysterical, scared spitless.
Dave and I reached the library door. It was locked. I hammered on it but nothing happened.
From inside the room, that high whine continued. It was like a wolf's voice if a wolf could talk. Here are the very stilts you walked on, Maxie. You were in my house. You and Lanette were afraid my maid would spill her suspicions to Dan Turner. So you tried to kill Turner and the maid. You wanted it to appear as if I had done it. That would put me in a padded cell for keeps. I had heard Turner telling my wife what he'd reconstructed; but my word wouldn't count. A madman's word never counts.
I backed off; hurled myself at the locked portal. It bounced me like a ping-pong ball.
The wolf-whine went on. My picture is finished. The retakes were a blind to lull my suspicions. You planned to release the production as soon as you got the publicity about my supposed insanity. Well, Maxie, you'll get your wish. You see, I am a werewolf, now.
Nooh, Godnot your teeth!
I shot a slug through the lock; shattered it. Dave and I went hurtling over the threshold; then we both froze.
Igor Stravinoff had Mockermann in his grasp. At first I figured the horror star was wearing makeup; his ears weren't exactly furry but they seemed pointed, and his teeth looked like sharpened fangs. Maybe it was a trick of the drab library light, but I would have sworn his pan had the blueness of a decomposed cadaver. Hell glowed in his glims as he lowered his mouth toward the producer's gullet.
I SMASHED at him. You've done enough killing for one night, Dracula! I rasped; and I bludgeoned him over the skull with my roscoe. When you learned how Maxie and Lanette were playing you for a sucker, you got even. Mockermann's the one who maced the maid and bopped me; but you're the guy that croaked your wife. You chilled her there in your stash after Maxie scrammedand while I was still senseless.
He twitched his powerful shoulders, threw me off. Yes. I murdered her. Now I'll murder again! His uppers and lowers snapped together.
Once more I leaped in, bashed him. He seemed to have a cast-iron scalp. He didn't even wince. He had his teeth fixed in Maxie Mockermann's windpipe and I couldn't stop him.
They made me a monster. Now the monster pays his debts, he whined horribly. And that was when I realized he had genuinely blown his top. He was as nutty as a fruitcake.
Abruptly he tossed Mockermann's lifeless carcass away from him. He grinned.
It was the grin of a wolf, the puss of a wolfor anyhow it seemed so to me. Maybe my nerves were haywire; maybe it was just the dim light. I certainly hope so; because I've never believed in werewolves and I'd hate to start at my age.
Dave Donaldson whipped out his service .38; triggered it. The rod sneezed: Ka-Boom! and Igor Stravinoff went down with a chunk of lead through his heart. I had to do it! Dave gulped. There was n-no other way!
I went to a wall switch, clicked on some brighter lights. As they glowed to life, the defunct horror star didn't look like a monster any more. In death his complexion was commonplace, his teeth normal, his ears natural.
I stared at Donaldson. Did you see what I saw, or have I got the D.T.'s from that punk rye you siphoned into me?
He wouldn't meet my gaze. From that day on, he's never discussed the subject with me. All he said was, I don't know what you're talking about, Sherlock. I'm going to phone for the meat wagon so I can scram out of here. Then I'm going to get fried to the hat.
It was a good idea. I got fried with him.