Backfire by Dan Marlowe

Backfire

Dan Marlowe

CHAPTER I

Marty Donovan cut the ignition and switched off his car lights at the blinking yellow light of the intersection. Beside him on the front seat his detective partner, Tony Alfieri, checked the set of his shoulder holster as the blue sedan rolled ahead silently into the next block. In the early morning stillness it curved in a sweeping arc into the shadowed mouth of the alley that loomed up on the right. The car drifted down the narrow, walled-in passageway, and eased to a stop with just a touch of the brake.

Marty lifted an arm and sleeved the breathless summer night’s perspiration from his forehead. He sat a moment and listened to the low-pitched street noises and the night sounds peculiar to this backwater of the city.

“Let’s go, man,” Tony growled beside him. “Hit the bricks. The bastard’s not comin’ to us out here.”

“He’s not coming to us in there, either, if he hears us,” Marty said softly. “Don’t slam the car door.”

Alfieri’s snort was muffled. “Eleven damn nights in a row we stake out this miserable hole, and eleven damn times you have to say ‘Don’t slam the car door’. Get yourself a new line, can’t you?”

Unheeding, Marty slid out on his side. The cement underfoot was damp with night mist. Marty wore a hundred and sixty-five lean-muscled pounds on his ramrod-straight seventy-two inches. He had quick, hard hands, and he moved with a negligent ease. A few people had made the mistake of judging him by his smooth-skinned choir-boy features. His dense black hair was brushed flat to minimize its tendency to curl.

From the front seat Tony’s sardonic whisper floated out to him. “I was tellin’ Lenore before you picked me up it was a good thing this had been her idea in the first place, or she’d never have trusted me out all these nights, even with you for a chaperone.”

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The Cheaters by Orrie Hitt

The Cheaters

Orrie Hitt

Chapter One

I wanted a job tending bar about as much as I wanted three legs in my pants but when you’ve got ten bucks in your pocket and a girl waiting for you in a rented room you don’t argue with anything that comes your way.

“Seventy-five a week,” the girl in the employment office said. “And a day off. It could be worse.”

“Oh, sure.”

The girl was rather attractive, probably in her middle twenties, and when she smiled her teeth were very white.

“And you won’t have to pay any fee,” she assured me. “Mr. Fletcher will do that. He only asked us to get somebody big and strong—I guess there’s trouble in the bar off and on—and he told me he would take care of the rest.”

“It must be some dump.”

“Well, it’s in The Dells—on the corner of Fourth Street and Main—and when you’re in The Dells you’re in the slums.” Her eyes brightened. “But it isn’t bad pay, Mr. Mayer. The uptown bars wouldn’t pay more than sixty a week for a bartender.”

This was my second day in Wilton and although I had been to a lot of places this was my first real chance for a job. Ann and I had left the Catskills, around Monticello, because there hadn’t been anything doing, not even table work for her or odd jobs for me, and I had to take whatever was thrown in my direction.

“Okay,” I said. “You give me a note or something and I’ll hop down there.” The address she had mentioned was only a couple of blocks from the room Ann and I had taken on Clay Street in a run-down rooming house where the woman hadn’t cared whether we were married or not. “I have to have something, don’t I?”

“No, I’ll call him while you’re on your way and he’ll be expecting you. We’ve done business with Mr. Fletcher before.”

“I see.”

“He gets a bartender and the man stays a while and then the man leaves.” She favored me with another smile. “Perhaps you’ll be different. Perhaps you’ll stick.” She glanced at the card I had filled out. “Not that you’ve stuck very long at anything before. You haven’t. But then the most you ever made was sixty-five a week and the added ten may make a difference.”

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Red-Headed Sinners by Johathan Craig

Red-Headed Sinners

Jonathan Craig

Prologue

the sharp crack of his open hand against the girl’s face was loud in the small room. He leaned over her, breathing heavily, feeling the sting of sweat in the furrow her teeth had cut in his palm.

The girl had red hair and tilted green eyes. Insolent, defiant eyes. And the blood that bubbled on her lips accentuated the ripe fullness of a mouth that was somehow hard. Her body on the chair was straight and small and rigid. Only her eyes and lips moved.

She said, “Hit me again, copper.”

He hit her, harder this time, watching her head snap back, staring down at the red hair that seemed like a crimson mist swirling up around him. A blood red fog that blinded him and twisted his belly and seeped into his brain.

He watched the big white claws going out for the girl’s throat. Those claws were his own hands, he knew, but it was as if they were detached from his body… white blobs moving slowly down into the red mist. His fingers tightened around the soft, damp warmth of her neck.

He watched the green eyes go round with sudden terror, then her hard mouth open in a silent scream.

A door opened behind him. He heard people yelling at him. A man and a woman. Heavy feet pounded across the floor toward him. Powerful hands caught at his shoulders and jerked him back from the girl. He felt his right arm twisted behind him and shoved upward in a hammerlock.

The woman moved in front of him, immense in her gray matron’s uniform. In the lumpy suet of her face her eyes were flat and hard.

“Jeff!” she rasped. “You crazy?”

The hammerlock made Jeff Stoner’s shoulder feel as if his arm were laced to it with white-hot wire. He moved slightly, and the man behind him shoved his arm up another two inches.

“Ease up,” Jeff said. “I’m all right now. Ease up.”

“Ease up, hell!” the man said. “You were trying to kill that girl!”

Jeff shook his head, but the red fog was still there. “No,” he mumbled. “No, I…”

“You bastard!” the man said. “You crazy, sadistic bastard!”

The room was beginning to fill with people now, cops and detectives, the other night matron, the porter, the new reporter from the King City Sentinel. Eyes shuttled between Jeff’s towering bulk and the small form of the girl on the chair, the girl with the bloody froth on her mouth. The eyes grew cold and remote.

For a long moment no one spoke.

Then the girl on the chair put out the tip of a small pink tongue and licked the blood from her lips. She smiled up at Jeff Stoner. “Hit me again, copper,” she said softly.

Chapter One

redsinTHE THUNDERSTORM that had threatened the city all afternoon broke just as the police trial board got around to telling Jeff Stoner that he was through as a cop. Through, disgraced, and dismissed. The board had taken less than five minutes to reach that conclusion, after calling up Jeff’s hearing in the record time of only two days.

Jeff listened to the roll of thunder across the city, vaguely aware of the Chief’s voice as he told Jeff what he and the rest of the Department thought of a detective who would manhandle a female prisoner. The Chief’s blast was mainly for the benefit of the press, Jeff knew, but there could be no mistaking the sardonic tone of the Old Man’s voice, nor the open contempt in his faded eyes.

Jeff listened because he had to listen, and when the Chief had finished he walked back to the supply room and got a receipt for his .38 and holster, his handcuffs and badge. He signed a form stating that he was in possession of no other police property and that he had no claim, financial or otherwise, against the Department.

And that, he thought bitterly, was all there was to it. Just like that. Twelve years of being a good cop… down the sewer because of some nightmarish impulse he couldn’t understand, and hadn’t been able to control.

It had all been in the day’s work—just another hood’s girl to be asked a few trick questions. Routine. But something had happened. They’d pulled the girl in because they thought she knew where Piggy Ferris was holing up. Nothing more than that. Nothing to get rough about. Certainly nothing to make a man beat her up, try to kill her.

He walked slowly down the long corridor to the street door, acutely conscious of the accusative stares that followed him. He was bone-weary from two days and nights of no sleep. Why? he asked himself for the thousandth time. Why had he done such a thing? How could he have come that close to murder—-for no reason? The matron had left the room for a moment, he remembered, and the girl’s gypsy blouse had slipped down over one shoulder. He’d been questioning the girl and wishing he hadn’t had that extra Martini before dinner—and it had happened. Without warning. Some foul abscess had burst in his brain, some crazy compulsion had driven him.

But what? What had happened to him? In the course of twelve years he had questioned hundreds of suspects—men and women—  and never before had he so much as lain a finger on any one of them.

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Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Chapter I

Out to Sea

tarzanI had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other.  I may credit the seductive influence of an old vintage upon the narrator for the beginning of it, and my own skeptical incredulity during the days that followed for the balance of the strange tale.

When my convivial host discovered that he had told me so much, and that I was prone to doubtfulness, his foolish pride assumed the task the old vintage had commenced, and so he unearthed written evidence in the form of musty manuscript, and dry official records of the British Colonial Office to support many of the salient features of his remarkable narrative.

I do not say the story is true, for I did not witness the happenings which it portrays, but the fact that in the telling of it to you I have taken fictitious names for the principal characters quite sufficiently evidences the sincerity of my own belief that it MAY be true.

The yellow, mildewed pages of the diary of a man long dead, and the records of the Colonial Office dovetail perfectly with the narrative of my convivial host, and so I give you the story as I painstakingly pieced it out from these several various agencies.

If you do not find it credible you will at least be as one with me in acknowledging that it is unique, remarkable, and interesting.

From the records of the Colonial Office and from the dead man’s diary we learn that a certain young English nobleman, whom we shall call John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, was commissioned to make a peculiarly delicate investigation of conditions in a British West Coast African Colony from whose simple native inhabitants another European power was known to be recruiting soldiers for its native army, which it used solely for the forcible collection of rubber and ivory from the savage tribes along the Congo and the Aruwimi.  The natives of the British Colony complained that many of their young men were enticed away through the medium of fair and glowing promises, but that few if any ever returned to their families.

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The Hardy Boys – The Hooded Hawk Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon

THE HOODED HAWK MYSTERY

By FRANKLIN W. DIXON

No. 34 in the Hardy Boys series.

This is the original 1954 text.

hardy boysCHAPTER I

Sender Unknown

“Frank, come here!” Joe Hardy called excitedly to his brother from the front porch of their home.

It was early afternoon of a hot August day, but tall, dark-haired Frank, eighteen years old, ran down the stairs at top speed. He knew from the tone of Joe’s voice that something unusual was happening.

When he reached the porch, Frank stopped short and stared in amazement. An expressman, who stood there, grinning, had just delivered a burlap-covered crate and a package. Joe, blond and a year younger than Frank, had already removed the burlap. In the crate was a fine, proud-looking hawk.

“What a beauty!” Frank remarked. “Is it for us?”

“It says ‘Frank and Joe Hardy, Elm Street, Bay-port,’ ” the expressman answered, holding out his receipt book for the boy’s signature. As Frank wrote his name, the man added, “This is a peregrine falcon and you’d better take good care of the young lady.

She’s valued at five hundred dollars.”

i

2 The Hooded Hawk Mystery

“Phew!” Joe whistled. “I’ll say we’d better take care of her!”

“Who sent her?” Frank asked, then read, ” ‘Rah-mud Ghapur, Washington, D.C.’ Never heard of the man.”

“Nor I,” said Joe. “We’ll ask Dad when he gets home.”

As the expressman left, Frank opened the package. It contained several items which the boys decided were falconry equipment.

“Looks as though Mr. Ghapur expects us to become falconers,” Frank declared. “But why?”

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Dracula – Bram Stoker

CHAPTER 1

Jonathan Harker’s Journal
(Kept in shorthand)

dracula3 May. Bistritz.–Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.  Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets.  I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible.

The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale.  I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty.  (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.

I found my smattering of German very useful here, indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.

Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country.

I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe.

I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey Maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula, is a fairly well-known place.  I shall enter here some of my notes, as they may refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina.

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Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

by

Nathanael West


To Max



MISS LONELYHEARTS, HELP ME, HELP ME

The Miss Lonelyhearts of The New York Post-Dispatch (Are-you-in-trouble? –Do-you-need-advice?–Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. On it a prayer had been printed by Shrike, the feature editor.

"Soul of Miss L, glorify me.
Body of Miss L, nourish me
Blood of Miss L, intoxicate me.
Tears of Miss L, wash me.
Oh good Miss L, excuse my plea,
And hide me in your heart,
And defend me from mine enemies.
Help me, Miss L, help me, help me.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen."

Although the deadline was less than a quarter of an hour away, he was still working on his leader. He had gone as far as: “Life is worth while, for it is full of dreams and peace, gentleness and ecstasy, and faith that burns like a clear white flame on a grim dark altar.” But he found it impossible to continue. The letters were no longer funny. He could not go on finding the same joke funny thirty times a day for months on end. And on most days he received more than thirty letters, all of them alike, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife.

On his desk were piled those he had received this morning. He started through them again, searching for some clue to a sincere answer.

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The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein

The Bloody Spur

Charles Einstein

Chapter One

FOR THE FUNERAL OF CYRUS McCrady, executive director of the Kyne publishing empire, appropriately it rained. This was fortunate for the high Kyne brass who attended McCrady to his final sleeping place in the Cemetery of the Heavenly Rest in Maspeth, Long Island, because it gave them something disarming to talk about. As it was, the great editors, managers, and directors of the Kyne chain rode together in large black automobiles to and from the funeral, because to ride with anyone but themselves would have invited the thought that they were conniving against one another. The bright blue eyes of Walter Kyne, the publisher, were attentive even when dimmed by tears for the lost McCrady, and when his men connived, those of them who made more than twenty thousand dollars annually, he preferred that they do so in concert. Individuals frightened Walter Kyne, and more for this reason than any other he mourned the loss of McCrady, who could handle men one at a time.

Especially to the Kyne distaste was the prospect that he himself would have to choose McCrady’s successor. The Kyne enterprises consisted of a chain of newspapers only slightly smaller than Scripps-Howard and Hearst, bulwarked by KPS (Kyne Press Service, a national newswire network); KWF (Kyne World Features, a feature-story syndicate), and Kynpix (a national picture service), and within this hierarchy there existed no simple ladder, no mechanism for succession. Of four men Walter Kyne could have selected for McCrady’s fifty-thousand-dollar-a-year post, one had the most important title, another was the highest paid, a third had been with Kyne the longest, and the fourth was the most influential. For a man like Walter Kyne, dedicated to impartiality as the easiest way out, this augured unwell. Even though he wept as the coffin descended, it did not escape him that the man on his left, whose name was Arnold Lamin and who clutched his arm in sympathy, was one of the candidates.

It was, in a way, to Kyne’s personal advantage that the burying of McCrady was not the only current business for the Cemetery of the Heavenly Rest. Standing in a semi-circle that faced on the temporary brass fencing enclosing the open grave, Walter Kyne and his lieutenants could see, no more than thirty headstones away, another funeral in progress. They listened in magnificent grief as the minister did his seven-minute bit; and as the grave-diggers eased up on the straps which held the casket in suspension over the open grave, McCrady’s pallbearers tossed their gray cotton gloves atop the now-descending coffin. They were, however, newspapermen all, and the funeral being conducted just down the pathway was one that interested them.

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Junkie by Jonathan Craig

Junkie

Jonathan Craig

BY DAY—A PART-TIME SECRETARY BY NIGHT-A FULL-TIME PLAYGIRL

CHAPTER ONE. Uninvited Blonde

IT was bad and he knew it was going to get a lot worse before it got better. It was four a.m. on a muggy Washington morning and the liquor hadn’t helped. Neither had the jam session at Sully’s. That was the hellish thing about a torch— the longer you carried it, the hotter it burned.

He had almost reached the door of his apartment before he heard the music, the soft wailing of a tenor sax against a bank of muted brass. He shifted his trumpet case to the other hand and fished for his key, wondering how many times recently he’d forgotten to turn off the radio before leaving for the club. He turned the key in the lock, vaguely irritated. The torch he was carrying for Kathy was doing uncomfortable things to him, dulling his awareness.

He opened the door and stepped inside. Then for a long moment he stood motionless, staring at the girl on the floor.

She was something to stare at. She was very beautiful and very blonde and most of her clothes were in a heap on the studio couch behind her.

She sat cross-legged, one smooth white arm extended to the record player. Record albums fanned out in a semi-circle on the floor around her and within easy reach were a half empty bottle of whisky and a tall glass. A cigarette smoldered in a tray close by.

She smiled up at him through incredible long lashes.

“Close the door, Steve darling. Maybe your neighbors aren’t broadminded.”

He closed the door angrily and said, “This is crazy, Lois.”

She turned up the volume on the record player and the tenor sax gave way to a trombone… deep-down anguished blues.

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Alibi Bye by Joe Archibald

Alibi Bye

Joe Archibald

Popular Detective , June, 1941

When Lady Luck Knocks On Willie Klump’s Door, the Ingrate Detective Checks Up On Her Fingerprints

WILLIE KLUMP was flush again. As owner of the Hawkeye Detective Agency of New York, Willie’s last case had thrown a sizable bunch of scratch his way. The suit he wore, however, as he sat in his office that fine morning, was a rusty blue ensemble that any hungry moth would shy at unless it was on the verge of starvation. His shoes were scuffed to the color of an abject coward’s spine.

Willie had a face as innocent of guile as that of an hour-old sprout. Unbelievable but true was the fact that he actually had a reason for appearing seedy. It was uncanny how the word got around when Klump got back on the gravy train.

Three days after a chunk of reward dough was in his pocket, he had been interviewed by a smooth character who had proceeded to relieve Willie of just half his fresh bale of hay.

“How can you lose, Klump?” the visitor had urged. “Mink coats sell for three thousand bucks! You buy a pair of minks up on the farm and, before you know it, they got little minks who grow up and have little minxes. In no time you sell a dame on Park Avenue a fur coat—six hunnerd per cent profit!”

Willie had been more than impressed. He had handed over five hundred dollars for a pair of minks, which included their board and lodging for a year. Two weeks later, he had received a phone call.

“Mr. Klump?” a citizen asked.

“Sorry, them two minks of yours got sick and died. So long.”

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