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Hollywood Detective, November, 1946
Careless Corpse
By ROBERT LESLIE BELLEM
That bogus postman brought Dan Turner a splendid solid whack with a blackjack and it was a
highly special delivery—thereby involving the ace movietown hawkshaw with low killery and
high finance and dangerous bafflement! . . . .
N THE private-snooping racket it pays to
keep your guard up at all times. I’ve
learned this by bitter experience, but once
in a while I forget—and my forgetfulness
generally dumps me in the grease up to my
tonsils. Take the fake special-delivery
messenger with the blackjack, for instance.
It was bordering on midnight when he
tapped discreetly at the portal of my bachelor
apartment and called: “Special for Mr. Dan
Turner,” in modulated accents. I was sipping a
short snort of Vat 69 for a nightcap, and it
never dawned on me that by opening the door
I’d be pitching myself spang into the middle
of a kill frame. Maybe it was the guy’s quiet
voice that lulled me. Maybe he was a
hypnotist in his spare time, though I’ve never
heard of a mesmerist functioning through
solid woodwork. Anyhow I was expecting a
letter that night or the following morning, so I
let him in.
I’ll give him credit: there was nothing
about him to arouse your suspicions. He was a
middle-aged, tired looking hombre in a
regulation mail carrier’s shabby uniform. His
eyes were mild behind thick-lensed cheaters,
his face had an unhealthy puffiness splotched
by what could have been either pimples or
boils, and he actually handed me an envelope
with my name and address typed on it. He also
had a receipt blank and a pencil. “Sign on the
third line, please,” he said in the same
I
Hollywood Detective 2
soothing tone he’d used originally.
I did what a person always does, I took the
receipt and the pencil, turned, held the blank
against the wall and scribbled my signature on
it. My back was to the guy and he had a
perfect shot at my cranium.
He teed off.
Boom! An explosion of pain roared
through me, blasted me all the way to my
shoestrings. Klieg lights made pinwheel
patterns in my glims, an atomic bomb took my
grey cells apart, and I plunged into a deep
black well of unconsciousness. For me it was
the end of a chapter.
HE sequel started thirty minutes later. A
new kind of pain dragged me back to my
senses: a stinging, counter-irritant series of
slaps across the mush. There’s always
something about a smack on the puss that will
needle a man’s ire, no matter how groggy he
may be from a previous pummeling.
Particularly if the spanks are delivered by a
meaty palm with plenty of heft behind it. I
groaned, stirred feebly on the floor, and
mumbled: “Cut that out before I kick all the
warts off you, whoever you are.”
“Aha,” a rumbling voice growled. “So
you’ve decided to do the sensible thing and
wake up, hey?”
“Who wouldn’t?” I said, opening my
bleary glims and fastening the focus on a
large, scowling character who was stooping
over me. As clarity gradually seeped into my
scrambled brain, I recognized this beefy
individual. He was my friend Dave Donaldson
of the homicide squad. “Nobody but a corpse
could stay asleep with you whapping him on
the complexion,” I complained. “Lay off.”
“Speaking of corpses,” Dave’s manner
was ominous.
I said testily: “Let’s not,” and touched the
back of my conk where there was a lump the
size of third base. “Damn his tripes,” I said.
“Damn whose tripes, Sherlock?”
I sat up. “That special-delivery messenger.
He bopped me.” I blinked. “Say, what the hell
are you doing here?”
“As if you didn’t know,” he sneered.
“If I knew I wouldn’t ask you,” I said.
“Help me up.”
“Not yet,” he told me grimly, and put the
flat of his hand on my chest. “Not until you
answer my questions.”
“You haven’t asked any questions.”
“All right, all right, I will. We’ll start with
this one. Who was Rick Caffrey?”
I copped a puzzled upward hinge at
Dave’s glum map. It struck me as mildly
strange that he would mention Caffrey on this
particular night, because only that same day
Caffrey had phoned me, hired my professional
services, and promised to send me a letter that
would explain in detail what he wanted done.
The letter would contain, in addition, two
hundred hermans by way of advance retainer.
At least this was what the man had told me on
the phone, and now I told the same thing to
Donaldson. “It was Caffrey’s note with the
dough in it that I was expecting,” I said. “Only
instead of money I got my noggin blackjacked
by a gee in special-delivery grey. Which is all
I know,” I finished sourly.
He said: “Very interesting, but beside the
point. What I asked you is, who was Rick
Caffrey?”
“A beard,” I said.
“Don’t give me double talk.”
“What double talk? A beard is a beard:
movie lingo for an actor with spinach. Chin
foliage. What kind of Hollywood cop are you,
not knowing that? When an extra registers
with Central Casting he gets classified as to
type. If he’s got whiskers; he’s a beard. So
Caffrey is a beard.”
“Was a beard,” Dave corrected me.
“You mean he shaved it off?”
“I mean he’s dead.”
S he said this, Dave, heisted me from
supine to perpendicular and gave me a
half-spin. The sudden movement, plus the
T
A
Careless Corpse 3
bruised condition of my conk, made me
momentarily as dizzy as a drunk in a
revolving door. Then the haze drifted from my
peepers and I gave issue to a flabbergasted
yeep as I lamped somebody huddled in my
favorite easy chair across the room. The bozo
was elderly and sported a luxuriant growth of
quills from chin, cheeks and lips, a beaver that
spread down to his chest and matted soggily
there with a dark red-brown ooze of ketchup
from the hole where he’d been stabbed. His
kisser leered toothlessly, his eyes stared
glassily and he would never be any deader if
he lived to be a hundred.
“Rick Caffrey!” I yodeled.
Dave said: “That’s all I wanted to know,
pal. It fits.”
“It fits what?” I demanded.
“I got an anonymous phone tip at
headquarters a while ago. It was a disguised
voice saying I’d find a corpse of that name in
the apartment of one Dan Turner, private
snoop. So here I am and here you are and
here’s the corpse, and—”
“And what comes next?” I cut in.
“Next you tell me why you killed him,”
Dave said.
I tried to wither him with a glance but it
didn’t work. ‘‘You make me tired,” I said in
disgusted accents. “If the cat has kittens in the
oven, it doesn’t make them biscuits, does it?
Okay. Just because there’s a cadaver in my
flat, it doesn’t mean I’m the killer. That’s the
trouble with you. Always trying to hang some
ridiculous rap on me.”
“Not at all,” he pouted. “You’re a friend of
mine. By the same token I can’t stand around
letting my friends get away with murder. Not
even you.”
I went to my cellarette, dosed myself with
Scotch to blunt the throbbing in my skull
where I’d been maced. “Did your anonymous
tipster actually accuse me of the bump?”
“Not exactly. He said I would find a dead
guy—”
“He. So the call came from a man.”
“It was a man’s voice, yeah. Muffled.”
“That narrows it down,” I said. “It
eliminates the female percentage of the
Hollywood population. Now look, stupid.
Would I be silly enough to commit killery in
my own stash and then render myself
senseless so you could make an easy pinch?”
“Maybe you got into a brawl with Caffrey.
Maybe he bopped you and you stabbed him,
and then after that the blow caught up with
you, sort of a delayed-action effect, and you
blacked out,” Dave preened himself, very
proud of his theorizing.
I said: “Whereupon the corpse got up and
phoned headquarters announcing his own
demise, eh?”
“No. Somebody else must have done the
phoning.”
“Sure. And that same somebody else is the
person you’d better look for. In other words,
the special-delivery messenger.”
“You mean he conked you and then
brought the body into your apartment?
Hogwash, Hawkshaw. Nobody but a damned
fool would take that big a risk. He’d be seen
hauling the stiff into the building. I can’t buy
that.”
I said: “The dead gee could have walked
in under his own power.”
“A walking corpse? Come now. That’s
going too far.”
“Nuts,” I grated. “Use your head. Suppose
Caffrey decided to call on me in person
tonight instead of sending me a letter. Okay,
assume for the sake of argument that he
wanted to hire me to guard him against some
unknown party who was thirsting for his gore.
Suppose this unknown party learned about it,
got dressed in a letter carrier’s rig and came
here ahead of Caffrey, knocking me out and
then hiding in ambush until Caffrey showed
up. Caffrey walks into the trap and gets
stabbed. Having butched him, our fake
mailman lams, calls you up at headquarters,
gives you the tip, and rings off before you can
trace the connection. That way he covers his
Hollywood Detective 4
tracks and leaves me with a defunct beard in
my tepee, to say nothing of a violent
headache. Savvy the setup?”
ONALDSON’S fingernails made rasping
noises as he scratched at his chin bristles.
“It meshes,” he admitted. He ankled to my
telephone, dialed homicide, ordered out a
technical squad and got the law’s ponderous
machinery moving. First he assigned some of
his minions to the job of checking all genuine
special delivery messengers. Then he had a
reader put out on KGPL notifying all cars to
be on the lookout for a suspicious character in
post office grey, which struck me as pretty far
south in waste motion. The killer had probably
shucked his threads by this time and changed
into something less conspicuous.
That’s how it is with cops, though: you
can’t budge them out of established routine.
Dave hung up, turned to me and said: “So far
so good. The next thing is to pry into the
Caffrey guy’s private life and find out about
his enemies.”
I set fire to a gasper; shook my head as I
exhaled smoke. “No dice on that one, bub,” I
told him.
“What do you mean, no dice? We know he
had at least one enemy. He was murdered,
wasn’t he? So all I have to do is go to his
home and ask his family—”
“He didn’t have any,” I said.
“Didn’t have any family?”
“Nor home,” I said.
Dave glowered. “Everybody’s got a home,
even if it’s only some furnished room.”
“Not Caffrey,” I said. “He lived in a tree.
Or a cave, I’m not sure which.” Then, wearily,
I added: “For hell’s sake, haven’t you tabbed
him yet? He was a landmark. He was the
Hermit of the Hollywoodland Hills.”
Crimson surged into Donaldson’s map. He
goggled at me, then at the corpse, then back at
me. “I’ll be damned!” he choked. “No wonder
I thought he looked kind of familiar. I’ve seen
him a million times on the Boulevard and up
and down Vine Street, walking along in
sandals and a hunk of bed sheet.”
“He’s the one.”
“But I didn’t tab him just now because
he’s wearing a suit. It makes him look
different.”
I said: “Being deceased also makes him
look different. Don’t let it embarrass you, too
much, chum. Policemen aren’t supposed to be
too bright. What the hell.”
This caused Dave’s indignation to come to
an abrupt boil. “So I’m not bright,” he said
through clenched uppers and lowers. “The
only smart snoops are the private kind, like
you. The rest of us are numbskulls. I hope the
thought comforts you while you’re
languishing in a nice clean cell.”
“Wait a minute. You can’t arrest me.”
“That’s what you think.”
“But I’ve told you how the thing must
have happened. Accusing me is as crazy as
pouring gasoline on your Wheaties.”
“Nobody’s accusing you,” he said, he
grimly, “I’m just going to hold you as a
material witness, until we nab the fake
postman. If you’re lucky we may pick him up
within a week or so. On the other hand, it may
take months. However it goes, we’ll need you
to identify him. And to make sure you’ll be on
deck I’m going to install you in the bastille.”
This, of course, was sheer spite. The hell
of it was, he might make it stick; and I didn’t
crave any part of a raw deal like that. You
can’t do any detecting in the sneezer; and I
had some detecting I wanted to do—pronto.
The Caffrey character, a potential client of
mine, had been assassinated and dumped on
my personal premises, thereby not only
depriving me of a fee but also putting me
behind a very awkward eight ball. I could
almost see the headlines: FILM ACTOR
SLAIN WHILE SEEKING DICK’S
PROTECTION. BIT PLAYER MURDERED
IN BODYGUARD’S APARTMENT. It
would play hob with my rep as a hardboiled
hero. It would ruin my business. I’d be
D
Careless Corpse 5
washed up.
There was only one way out of the mess,
as far as I could see. That was to clean up the
Caffrey killing, collar the guilty ginzo, and
hand him over to justice. I couldn’t let the
cops beat me to the punch or it would look as
if I wasn’t big enough to take care of my own
troubles. And if Dave Donaldson jugged me
as a material witness, my hands would be tied.
I said: “So you’re going to hold me.”
“Yeah.”
“I can’t talk you out of it, eh?”
“Not while I’m in my right mind.”
Well, that meant I had to jar him loose
from his right mind. I shrugged, let my
shoulders droop despondently and then
doubled my right fist, swung for his dewlaps.
The punch connected and he went down on
his hip pockets, floundered like a fly
swimming in molasses. He was still
swimming as I catapulted over his poundage
and went out the front door with my coat tails
dipping gravel.
BARRELED out of the apartment building
under forced draft; sprinted through the
quiet midnight as fast as I could pelt. It would
be too dangerous, I realized, to get my jalopy
from its stall in the basement garage; Dave
would put out a radio dragnet and I’d get
picked up before you could whistle
Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. For
better or for worse I was afoot and I had to
like it.
There was one thing I could be thankful
for, though. I knew a few tidbits of
information about the late lamented Rick
Caffrey which I hadn’t told to Donaldson.
This was very fortunate indeed, because it
gave me a slight edge as I started my
investigation. I had a starting place, which was
more than Dave had.
For instance, I was hep to the fact that
Caffrey’s hermit act wasn’t as kosher as it had
seemed. True, he spent a lot of time up in the
hills above Hollywood, communing with the
squirrels and feasting on acorns. That,
however, had been largely a publicity gag. It
earned him occasional mention in the gossip
columns and the fan magazines, and when he
wandered down into town he was always good
for a stray dollar from tourists who asked him
to pose for their kodaks. Moreover, it usually
gave him the inside track on studio calls when
some director decided he needed an extra or a
bit player with facial foliage.
But how did he get those studio calls? And
what did he do when it rained? There’s no
shelter in the kind of trees that grow up in our
dinky hills, and the caves aren’t equipped with
telephones. As a matter of fact, there aren’t
any caves. I happened to know that Caffrey
had a duck-in spot, a cheap sleazy hotel on a
side street just off Sunset, to which he repaired
when the great open spaces palled on him. It
was there that he got his mail and made his
phone connections with the various movie
lots; and it was there that I headed after
eluding Dave Donaldson’s clutches.
The walk made a new man of me. My
noggin stopped throbbing and my lungs were
so full of fresh air they sat up and barked.
Presently I gained my destination and barked
into the four-story fleabag where Caffrey had
maintained a sub-rosa room; made for the
imitation marble desk at one side of the dismal
lobby. A combination clerk and phone
operator was sitting at the switchboard with a
receiver to his ear, probably listening in on
some tenant’s private conversation. He quit,
though, when he piped me moving toward
him. “Somethin?” he cocked a supercilious
eyebrow at me.
A small sign on the counter read: Clerk on
Duty, Percival Hassard. “Yeah, Percy,” I said.
“Tell me the number of Rick Caffrey’s room.”
He frowned at my familiarity with his
front monicker. He was a sleekly barbered
bozo, hollow-cheeked and probably in his
forties but with a powdered, babyish
complexion that tried to look younger.
“Caffrey?” he asked.
I
Hollywood Detective 6
“Rick Caffrey.”
“You’re sure he’s stopping here? – Sir?”
he added reflectively.
“Yeah, positive.”
He went through the motions of consulting
some records. “Oh, yes. Mr. Rick Caffrey.
That’s Room 209. But I’m not sure he’s in. I
just came on duty at twelve. Shall I ring him?”
“Never mind. I’ll go on up.” I let him see
my tin. “Cop business, bub. Keep it under
your hat.” Then I trudged up a flight of creaky
stairs and skulked to Caffrey’s door without
being noticed. I got out my set of skeleton
keys, found one that worked the cheap lock
and let myself in.
Darkness enfolded me as I kicked the
portal shut. And then an unexpected dagger of
light skewered me in my tracks as I started to
turn; drenched me in baleful brilliance. The
stabbing beam came from a flashlight in the
hands of somebody I couldn’t see because the
glare had damned near blinded me even
though I wasn’t staring directly into it.
My hearing was okay, though. And there
was no mistaking the menace in the she-male
voice that said tautly: “Better say your
prayers, Mister Caffrey. I’m going to kill
you.”
FROZE, but made a rapid recovery. “Who,
me?” I said, and turned directly into the
light. “I think you’ve made a mistake. I’m not
Caffrey, as any fool can plainly see. Caffrey
was old and wore a beard. I’m young,
handsome, and I shave smooth. Well,
comparatively young, anyhow.”
There was an audible intake of breath,
sharp, startled. “I—I thought you were
someone else—”
“So you did, sister, so you did,” I grunted.
Then, taking advantage of the quail’s surprise,
I went into a flying tackle and dived in the
general direction of her neat gams. Moreover,
I hit them. It was more by instinct than sight,
however, because I was still partially blinded
by her flash beam. I simply guessed where her
ankles ought to be, ducked low in case she
started shooting, and slammed against her
with the full force of my hundred and ninety
pounds. A moaning whimper escaped her, and
down she went in a swirl of silk dress. She
squirmed as I squashed her to the carpet; tried
to get loose. We wrestled a while, and I won. I
got the electric torch from her left hand and
pried a small Colt automatic from her right.
Then, triumphantly, I edged away and treated
her to a spray of illumination.
What I looked at was very soothing to the
optic nerves. She was husky, muscular redhead, pretty as a beauty contest winner and
shapely as a swimming champion. At a rough
guess she was in her smooth twenties, and
even in her mussed-up condition she was
toothsome enough to be anybody’s pinup
queen.
She staggered upright and arranged her
attire. “You—y-you—”
“Skip the small talk,” I said. Then I added:
“So you were hoping to plug Rick Caffrey,
hunh?”
“Y-yes—that is—I mean—”
I said: Let’s take it one step at a time.
First, your name.”
“I w-won’t tell you.”
“Oh. Stubborn.” I sidled to a wall switch,
flipped it. Now I could do without the
flashlight; the overhead bulb was much more
satisfactory. I gave the jane a brief glimpse of
my special badge. “You can tell me now or
you can talk in jail,” I said.
Fear came into her hazel eyes. “You’re a
p-policeman?”
“Private. I’m Dan Turner. Maybe you’ve
heard of me.”
This seemed to startle the everlasting
daylights out of her. “Dan Turner? Then
you’re the dirty rat who was helping Caffrey
against my fath—I mean—that is—”
“Your father, eh? Now we’re getting
somewhere. Go on, tell me the rest of it.”
She clammed up. “No.”
I said: “Look, baby. Whether you realize it
I
Careless Corpse 7
or not, you’re in a nasty pickle. It’s against the
law to threaten people with guns. You could
be tossed in the cooler for that. The penalty
for murder is even stiffer.”
“Murder?” But I haven’t m-murdered
anyone. Yet.”
“Somebody did,” I said levelly.
“Somebody killed Rick Caffrey in my
apartment less than an hour ago.”
“No. N-no, oh-h-h, no . . .!”
“But yes. Now the way I see this
clambake, Caffrey was engaged in some
shenanigan against your father. That much
you’ve let slip. Secondly, you think I was
mixed up in the deal. It so happens you’re
wrong about that. True, Caffrey intended to
hire me; but he never told me what it was
about, and he was bumped off before I had a
chance to talk to him. In other words, his hasty
demise left me completely in the dark. Believe
it or not.”
She studied me. “And you th-think I
killed-him?”
“No,” I said frankly. “Because you were
here in his room waiting for him, waiting to
blast him. When I barged in you thought I was
Caffrey and threatened to shoot. Therefore
you didn’t realize he was already dead. So you
can’t be the one who croaked him.”
“Th-thank you.”
“Not at all,” I said darkly. “Logic is logic.
But on the other hand, you were planning to
bump him. Why? Because of something he
was doing, or going to do, to your father.
Whatever it was, it must have been pretty bad.
Bad enough, perhaps, to cause your old gent
to commit murder.”
HE stiffened but kept her voice even.
“That’s what I thought you’d say. It’s not
true, of course.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“I know my dad.”
“And just who is he?”
She clammed up again. “I’ve said all I’m
going to say.”
“Excuse me if I contradict you. You’ll talk
plenty, angel, before this fish-fry is finished.
Either to me, or to the bulls at headquarters.
Now just what sort of stunt was Caffrey trying
to pull on your father?”
“I d-don’t know anything about it.”
Suddenly she reached into the bodice of her
frock, whipped out a thin sheet of paper,
crumpled it into a wad and thrust it in her
mouth; started chewing vigorously.
That made me sore. I leaped at her,
grabbed her, dealt her a stinging smack across
the mush and then forced my fingers past her
teeth; yanked out the paper barely in time to
keep from getting my thumb bitten off like a
hunk of banana. I slapped her again. Hard. My
temper was frayed around the edges and I was
in no mood to make with the chivalry.
She sobbed, deep in her throat. “Please,
Mr. Turner—”
”Shut up,” I growled, and started to unwad
the soggy paper. I could see writing on it; a
penciled scrawl that was almost illegible now,
and no damned wonder.
The red-haired chick stretched her arms
toward me. “Please, Mr. Turner, don’t read ththat.”
“Quiet, sis.”
“I’ll pay you—money—anything you
want—”
“Right now I’m not interested in money,”
I said, and meant it. “Shut up.”
There were tears in her blurry peepers, and
not entirely from the slaps I’d handed her.
“Please—there’s nothing in that note. I mean
there’s nothing that concerns you.”
“Oh, sure not,” I leered at her. “You just
tried to eat it because you liked the flavor.
Spearmint no doubt.”
“No. I mean—that is—it was just
something I got out of that wastebasket over
there, and—”
I said: “The hell you utter. You were
prowling Caffrey’s wigwam here and found a
discarded letter connected with the monkey
business he was pulling on your pappy, is that
S
Hollywood Detective 8
it? And you’ve got the unadulterated crust to
tell me it’s nothing that concerns me. Toots,
your psychology is abysmal. I wouldn’t
believe a lie like that if I told it myself. Now
pipe down.”
“Mr. Turner, if you read that letter I’ll kill
you!”
“Much obliged for the warning,” I said.
Then I slammed her down on the sagging bed,
whisked out my handcuffs and nippered her
wrists after running the link around one of the
uprights of the metal bedstead’s headboard.
“And if you start yeeping I’ll gag you,” I
added. “With one of my wool socks.”
HE gasped at the thought; subsided into
silence. I finished unwadding the sheet of
paper and scanned it; tensed when I saw my
own name on it, and Rick Caffrey’s signature.
This was the letter he had intended to send
me, special delivery, only to change his mind
and visit me in person—a visit that had got
him abolished. I read the scrawled words:
“Mr. Turner:
“Enclosed find two hundred dollars as per
our telephone conversation. This note will
explain what 1 want done and why I want you
to do it for me.
“More than twenty years ago I was a
convict on a Georgia chain gang, serving a
term for robbing a bank in a small town. My
accomplice, several years younger than
myself, was a man named Leonard Dolan. I
say accomplice, though he was actually in
ignorance of what I was doing. He merely
drove the getaway car and didn’t learn of this
bank heist I’d pulled until it was too late to do
anything about it. When the cops caught up
with us he managed to escape with the stolen
money, a sum in excess of sixty thousand
dollars. I was captured and sentenced.
“Some time later, Dolan was also
captured and convicted, but he never told
where he’d hidden the loot and it was never
recovered. Much later, in prison, he informed
me that he had really intended to see that the
money went back to the bank I stole it from,
but he delayed doing it until the heat died. He
was afraid he might be arrested with it in his
possession, which of course would be just too
bad for him.
“Unluckily he got picked up before he
could make this restitution. He then tried to
make a deal with the authorities, exchanging
the money for his own immunity. The
Prosecutor refused, thinking the cash would
be discovered sooner or later anyhow, and
why turn a prisoner loose? So Leonard Dolan
joined me on a chain gang, and the swag was
never found.
“The following year I engineered a break
and Dolan escaped with me. I tried to force
him to tell me where he’d hidden the sixty G’s
but he refused and got away from me. I didn’t
see him again for more than twenty years,
though I know that he married, had a
daughter, lost his wife in childbirth and
became a highly successful and respected New
York banker.
“As for me, I came to California and
became the Hollywood Hermit. That bearded
character seemed the best possible disguise,
and I was right.
“That brings us to the present. A week or
so ago I discovered that a certain banker has
been sent out here to take financial control of
Magnificent Studios. He is Roger Faraday.
But Roger Faraday is my old pal Leonard
Dolan!”
Having read this far, I copped a squint at
the cutie on the bed. “So your name is
Faraday, eh?”
“Y-yes. I . . . I hate you, you heel.”
“And the front handle?”
“Constance. You’re a dirty despicable—”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, angel,” I
said. And turning my letter over, I read what
Caffrey had written on the other side:
S
Careless Corpse 9
“As soon as I saw Dolan-Faraday’s
picture in the newspaper I recognized him and
got in touch with him by phone, asking him
about the sixty thousand dollars which I stole
and he hid back in Georgia. It seems he never
notified the authorities where to find it,
fearing that such an action on his part might
be traced to him and result in his re-arrest as
an escaped con. This he couldn’t risk, since he
had spent years building up his new and
respectable name and personality.
“You can see that I had no fear about
contacting him, because he can’t squeal on me
unless he also squeals on himself. On the
other hand, as I pointed out to him, I could
turn him in without any risk to myself, because
it would be perfectly simple for me to shave
my beard and drop out of the Hollywood
picture. After all, I have no social or
professional position to maintain, as he has. I
could go elsewhere and start all over again. I
could live the rest of my life very comfortably
indeed—if I had sixty thousand dollars.
“And that’s the whole point. I’m not
figuring to shake Faraday down for any
money out of his own pocket. All I want him to
do is tell me where he hid that sixty grand.
That won’t cost him a dime, but it will make
me a rich man.
“Naturally, to force him to terms, I have
had to threaten to expose his past. This is
where you come in. There is a bare possibility
that Faraday may get some silly idea of
stooling on me, even though it would mean
sacrificing himself. Or maybe he will try to
shut me up permanently. Well, I don’t want to
go back to a chain gang and I don’t want to be
murdered either. So I’m going to lay low and
let you handle the deal. You be the gobetween. Get the information for me. I’ll see
that you’re well paid.
Rick Caffrey”
FINISHED reading the letter and stuck it in
my pocket. “The damned fool,” I said
sourly. “He must have been nuts.”
“Wh-what do you mean?” the Faraday doll
blinked at me.
“I’m an ethical guy,” I said. “Everybody
knows that. I wouldn’t handle a deal like this
for all the coffee in Java.”
“Why lie?” She made a bitter mouth.
“When Caffrey phoned dad, he told him you
were going to be the go-between.”
“He took too much for granted. I didn’t
even know what he wanted to hire me for. If
he had braced me personally with any such
stinking proposition I’d have busted his neck.”
She narrowed her glimmers at me. “Maybe
you did. Maybe that’s exactly what happened.
Maybe you killed him because he asked you
to take part in something crooked.”
“No, sweet stuff. That’s fast theorizing,
but it’s just wishful thinking. You can’t yank
your old gent out of the grease with that kind
of hogwash.”
“It isn’t hogwash. You can’t deny you
asked Caffrey to go to your apartment in
person tonight.”
I said: “I did like hell. What gave you that
screwy idea?”
“Something else I found in the waste
basket,” she retorted. “A message slip.”
I blipped over to the corner, delved into
the waste basket under discussion and came
up with a rectangle of paper on which was
written: Mr. Caffrey. Please see Mr. Dan
Turner at his apartment tonight between
eleven-thirty and midnight.
“Well, hell’s bells and codfish balls!” I
yodeled. “I never phoned any message like
this. I didn’t phone any message, period. If
you want my opinion, this simply drives
another nail in your father’s coffin.”
“Wh-wha-what—?”
I leaned down, unlocked the bracelets that
fastened her to the bedpost. “It’s pretty
obvious, hon. Your dad realized Caffrey had
him by the short hairs. And Caffrey had told
him I was to be the go-between. So he phoned
this message to Caffrey, using my name; lured
him to my stash and killed him there after first
I
Hollywood Detective 10
getting me out of the way with a bash on the
wimple.”
“You’re wrong!” she wailed. “I know
you’re wrong!”
I ignored her. “Meanwhile, you got a
homicidal notion of your own. You sneaked
here to Caffrey’s room and figured to waylay
him, not knowing your old man was already
attending to the job. Seems like violent ideas
run in your family.”
She sat up on the side of the bed and
looked woeful. “I admit I—I had a crazy
scheme to help my dad by—by d-doing
something to Caffrey. But I wasn’t g-going to
shoot him. I just wanted to scare him—”
“Maybe so, sis, maybe so. I’ll give you the
benefit of the doubt on that. There’s no use
you going to the gow along with your pappy.”
“You—you mean you’re going to arrest
him?”
“But definitely,” I said. “And you’re going
to take me to him. Right now.”
“I won’t. You c-can’t make me.”
I grabbed her, lifted her to her feet. You
don’t know me very well, toots. You’re going
to steer me to your father if I have to twist
your arm off and beat you over the scalp with
it.” By way of demonstration I applied a mild
hammerlock on her, not enough to hurt but
demonstrating that I meant business. Then I
forced her out of the room and downstairs.
HE kept quiet until we were drifting
through the dismal lobby. Then she tried
to pull a fast one. “Help!” she caterwauled to
the clerk at the desk. “I’m being kidnaped!”
Percival Hassard leaped nimbly over the
counter and made for me, trying to look like a
hero coming to the aid of a lady in distress.
“See here, Turner, what’s the idea?”
“This,” I said peevishly, and released the
red-headed muffin just long enough to feint
the guy wide open. He was a sucker for a right
cross. I spooned him a haymaker on the prow
that knocked him neck over appetite.
Meanwhile Constance Faraday tried to run for
the exit. She was a trifle too slow, though. I
scampered after her, caught her, shook the
bejiminy out of her. “One more stunt like that
and I’ll start bearing down,” I promised her.
“Now be a good girl.” And I escorted her
outdoors.
She seemed to know she was licked.
“You’re a b-beast. A mean, cruel beast.”
“I’m a detective solving a murder. Maybe
that’s the same thing,” I said. “Now where
will we find your father?”
She named a swanky apartment hotel on
Wilshire, and I managed to flag a cruising
night owl cab; boosted her into it and perched
my heft alongside her. Riding along, I sat
pretty close to her. I didn’t want her to try any
getaway tricks. Not under the circumstances.
The cards were stacked against me.
They were stacked against her, too, as we
found out when we entered the lavish suite
where she and her dad were stopping. One
gander was enough to tell me she was now an
orphan. Her father was deader than minced
clams.
T WAS hard to separate all the mingled first
impressions that slammed at me as the
Faraday cupcake and I barged into the living
room of the costly layout. To begin with, a
middle-aged hombre wearing thick-lensed
cheaters and an expensively tailored tuxedo
was standing in a far corner, his puffy mush
the color of paperhanger’s paste and his
framework twitching as if he had termites. I
recognized him the instant I lamped him. He
was Gerald Waxman, one of the toniest
attorneys in Hollywood; a lawyer who
specialized in movie work, his clients ranging
from stars to producers and studio executives.
The fees he charged were nothing but
enormous, and he hadn’t lost a suit in ten
years. Right now, though, he looked as if he’d
trade his entire fortune for a chance to get the
hell out of that room.
‘You couldn’t blame him much. Beyond
him an elderly, grey-haired citizen was roped
S
I
Careless Corpse 11
to a chair but not feeling any pain because he
was defunct. The poor devil had felt plenty of
pain before he’d passed to his reward,
however. He was stripped to the waist, his feet
were bare, and he’d been tortured. There were
cigarette burns on his bare chest, and some
dirty disciple had rammed sharpened
matchsticks under his fingernails and toenails;
set fire to them.
Constance Faraday copped one hinge and
let out a shrill, hysterical shriek. “Daddy—!”
Then, to Waxman: “What have you done to
him? You—you—”
“I’m sorry, my dear,” the lawyer found his
voice. “He’s dead. You must be brave.”
“Brave?” she keened. “He’s dead, and
you—you stand there—you killed him and—”
She whirled at me. “Arrest him! Take him to
prison!”
Waxman looked at me. “Are you a
policeman?”
“Private,” I said. “What happened here?”
“I don’t know. At least I don’t know any
more than you do by seeing for yourself. I
dropped in a few minutes ago to have a little
talk with Mr. Faraday—I’m his legal
representative in his negotiations to take over
control of Magnificent Studios—and I found
him just like this. No, not exactly, like this. He
was still barely alive. He gasped out
something about his weak heart, and
something else I didn’t quite understand—”
“Let’s have the exact words,” I said.
“It was . . . let me see . . . it was something
like he made me tell. Yes, that was it. He
made me tell.”
“That was all?”
“Yes. Then—well, then he died.”
The red-haired Faraday doll yelled: “You
killed him!”
“Don’t be absurd, my dear,” Waxman was
getting over his jitters now. “Why should I kill
him? He was my client. A very valuable
client.”
“You murdered him!”
The guy got haughty. “I don’t have to
listen to that kind of talk.”
“Arrest him, Mr. Turner!” the quail yelped
wildly.
He gave me a fish-eyed focus. “I wouldn’t
advise that, sir. Unless you want a damage suit
on your hands.” He made for the door. “False
arrest can make you a lot of trouble.”
I said: “Stick around, pal, while I phone in
the bleat.”
“Don’t let him leave!” the Faraday cutie
shrilled. “He’s a murderer! You can see that!
He killed my father!”
Waxman frowned. “That’s why I’m not
staying. I refuse to stay anywhere and listen to
such hysterical accusations.” His hand went to
the doorknob.
“Ix-nay,” I said. “Stay put until the bulls
get here.”
“No. If you want my testimony, you can
reach me easily enough. I live in the
building.” He started to open the door.
The red-haired Faraday chick scurried to a
table, picked up a heavy metal vase. “You
won’t leave! I won’t let you!” she screamed.
And she threw her improvised missile.
Her aim was lousy. Instead of hitting
Waxman she clipped me on the scalp, spang at
the spot where the phony mailman had maced
me earlier in the scenario. My knees turned to
boiled noodles and my brains got scrambled. I
fell down on my profile, and the last I saw of
Waxman was a black blur of tuxedo stalking
off the premises. Then Constance Faraday
hunkered down and started deluging me with
her tears, begging me not to die and
whimpering that she hadn’t meant to bop me.
The hell with that, I thought dreamily. The
hell with her apologies. The hell with
everything. I was tired. My head hurt. I passed
into a temporary coma.
D
AVE DONALDSON was shaking me
awake, roughing me up, spanking me
across the chops. I blinked my peepers open,
piped his surly features and said groggily:
“Let’s go home now. This is where we came
Hollywood Detective 12
in.”
“Never mind the bright cracks, Sherlock.
Snap out of it.”
I snapped out of it, as requested. The fog
drifted out of my think-tank and I sat up on
my haunches. “What the hell brings you here,
bud?” Then I caught wise. I looked at the
Faraday wren, who was hovering nervously
nearby. “You phoned headquarters, hey,
angel?”
“N-no,” she said. “I didn’t have time. You
haven’t been unconscious more than a few
minutes.”
I mulled this over. “Then Waxman must
have.”
“Waxman?” Dave growled. “I wouldn’t
know. An I know is I got another of those
anonymous phone tips from a disguised voice
that said I better rush to this apartment hotel if
I wanted to pick up Dan Turner. And sure
enough, here you are. With another corpse,”
he added bitterly. “Damn’ if that isn’t getting
to be a habit!”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “And it’s even a worse
habit to make wrong guesses. That dead gee
there is a banker named Faraday, this young
lady’s papa. I figured he was the one who
murdered Rick Caffrey in my igloo, but now I
know I was haywire.”
“You were haywire about a lot of things,”
Dave’ said in a menacing tone. “Like slugging
me on the chin and scramming a while ago.
That’s going to cost you, my friend.”
I stood up experimentally, found I could
stay on my feet without too much side-sway.
“We can talk about that later,” I said. I aimed
toward the door. “Right now we’ve got work
to do, a trip to make, and a killer to catch.”
“Just a minute. Not so fast. What—?”
“I’ll explain as we go,” I said. “Come on,
get the lead out of your diapers. There’s no
time to lose.” Then I added to the chick with
the red tresses: “You, too, beautiful. You’ll
want to be on hand when we nab your father’s
murderer.”
I must have sounded convincing, because
she didn’t give me an argument and neither
did Donaldson. We trucked down to his
official sedan and I told him to drive to the
four-story fleabag hotel off Sunset where
Caffrey had kept a secret room. “And don’t
spare the ethyl,” I said. “This is important.”
“It is if you come up with the guilty
party,” Dave said, kicking his starter and
clashing the gears. “Otherwise you’ll be in a
three-dimensional jackpot and I’m not
kidding.”
“I’m not either,” I said, and told him all
I’d learned about the clambake. First I gave
him a synopsis of Rick Caffrey’s story as
contained in the letter he’d never mailed to
me; explained how Caffrey and Roger
Faraday, the movie financier, had once been
jailed in Georgia serving time for a bank heist.
I told how Caffrey had recognized Faraday
here in Hollywood a few days back, and had
put the shakedown squeeze on him—not for
dough, but for information as to the hiding
place of the sixty grand that had been stolen
twenty-odd years ago.
Dave fed a charge of ethyl to hustling
cylinders. “Hell, that would be a perfect
motive for Faraday to croak Caffrey!”
“No!” Constance wailed. “My dad
didn’t—he—he wouldn’t—”
“Right you are, angel,” I said. “Your
father didn’t kill Rick Caffrey. That was done
by a third character who learned about the
caper and craved to cut himself in for the sixty
G’s. He cut himself in by cutting Caffrey
out—with a knife to the heart. Then the
murderer went to your father and tortured him,
forced him to tell where the dough was
hidden. Remember, those were your dad’s last
words, according to Waxman. He made me
tell, he made me tell. Then he died. His heart
wasn’t able to stand the torture-strain.”
“But—but nobody knew—about my
father’s p-past.”
Careless Corpse 13
ONALDSON berthed his bucket in front
of the fleabag. “I’m beginning to get the
picture,” he said as he latched his brakes. “I
see what Turner’s getting at. Waxman was
your old man’s attorney; he would have the
story.”
The three of us barged into the hotel.
“Maybe,” I said. “But Waxman’s a wealthy
guy. Sixty grand wouldn’t interest him to the
point of making him a double killer.” Then I
strode straight over to the desk. “Here’s your
man,” I said. “Okay, Percy Hassard, consider
yourself pinched.”
The sleekly barbered, sunken-cheeked
room clerk goggled at me. “Pinched?” he
bleated. “What for?”
I said: “Killery. Hang the nippers on him,
Dave.”
Donaldson hesitated. “Now look. Are you
sure—?”
His hesitation was damned costly. It gave
the Hassard character time to produce a Luger
automatic from behind his counter. He aimed
it at all of us. “Nobody’s taking me out of
here,” he said through a tight kisser.
As far as I was concerned, the instant he
pulled his roscoe he gave himself away. Only
a guilty person would try such a trick, and I
knew I’d make a bull’s eye. So I took a chance
and made another one. My right hand was in
my coat pocket, clutching the Colt I had taken
away from Constance Faraday up in Caffrey’s
room. I knew the counter’s imitation marble
was nothing but thin plastic. I fired through
my coat and through the plastic, and I put a
slug into Hassard’s thigh.
Dave sprang over the counter past me,
landed on the crawling guy and mashed him
flatter than a bride’s first cake. I kept going
into the file room, piped a big fat Gladstone
bag, yanked it forth and opened it.
Inside the bag I found a crumpled grey
uniform: a postman’s uniform. I also found a
bloodstained knife, some wads of cotton and a
cheap makeup kit. “This cinches, it,” I said.
“He stuffed cotton in his mouth to make his
cheeks look puffy. He used dabs of makeup
for the counterfeit pimples or boils on his
mush. He wore this grey outfit. And here are
the thick-lensed spectacles that completed his
disguise when he blackjacked me.”
Donaldson stared. “You mean that’s the
knife he stabbed Caffrey with?”
“I’ll lay you six, two, and even it fits the
death wound,” I said, grimly. Then I peered
down at the moaning Hassard. “Want to
confess, pal?”
“You . . . cheap shamus . . . I’d like to . . .
kill you . . . !”
“You’ve done enough of that,” I said.
“And we’ve got you dead to rights.” I set fire
to a gasper, blew the fumes in his twisted
puss. “The way I see this clambake, Rick
Caffrey got too careless in his attempt to put a
shakedown on Roger Faraday, the financier
whose name used to be Leonard Dolan. And
Caffrey’s carelessness made him a corpse. He
made his original threatening phone call to
Faraday from his room here in this hotel. Later
he also phoned me and said he wanted to hire
me. Okay. I think you must have operated the
switchboard when he made those calls. You
listened in. It was probably a habit with you; I
saw you doing the same thing, tonight, when I
first came here.”
“Go . . . to . . . hell!”
I said: “By eavesdropping, you learned all
about Caffrey’s intention to make Faraday tell
him where the stolen sixty G’s were hidden
down in Georgia. You also learned that
Caffrey planned to send me a special-delivery
letter outlining the details. So all you had to
do was give Caffrey a fake phone message,
ostensibly from me, asking him to call at my
apartment in person. That’s why he crumpled
up his letter and threw it in the waste basket.
It’s also why he came to my stash tonight.
Meanwhile you disguised yourself as a
postman, got to my tepee ahead of him,
bashed me, and got me out of the way. Then
when Caffrey came, you butched him tonight.
But you made bad mistakes.”
D
Hollywood Detective 14
“Damn . . . you . . .!”
“Your next move, after tipping the cops
they’d find a dead bozo in my joint, was to
call on Faraday and torture him into telling
you the hiding place of the sixty thousand
clams. Unfortunately he had a bad heart and
died, but that didn’t matter to you as long as
you had the information you wanted. You
came back to this hotel and went on duty at
midnight. But you made several bad
mistakes.”
“Such . . . as?”
I said: “When I was dragging Miss,
Faraday out of here and she yelled for help,
you jumped at me and called me by name.
Which indicated you knew me; you’d met me
before somewhere. That it wasn’t a conclusive
piece of evidence, I’ll admit; but it made me
do some thinking. And later, Lieutenant
Donaldson got another anonymous telephone
tip telling him he’d find me in Roger
Faraday’s apartment. Well, look. You were
the only person who knew I dragged Miss
Faraday out of this joint; the only person who
could possibly suspect I would take her to her
own apartment, which she shared with her
father. Therefore you were the only person
who could phone in the anonymous tip to
headquarters. And if you were the tipster it
meant you were also the murderer. Which I’ve
proved.”
“You sure have,” Donaldson said
admiringly. “I don’t know how the hell you do
it, but you always do.”
“I read tea leaves,” I said.

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