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Private Detective Stories, August, 1945
What grim motive was behind the terroristic frightening of those beautiful New York models,
and behind the murder that accompanied it? I, Austin Gardner, had two dangerous reasons
for wanting to find out . . . .
IMMY WABASH said; “I’m telling you,
Austin, this gal is something. You can
take your million-buck models and throw
them all together and you ain’t got nothing
that can touch her.”
I regarded him with amusement. He was a
funny little guy with red hair and the sharpestpointed nose I’ve ever seen. A photographer,
and a good one, he preferred to freelance
rather than take a job, although he could have
commanded an excellent salary.
“I like to take pictures of what I want, the
way I want to take them,” he told me once,
and I believed him.
“Take it easy, Jimmy,” I said, winking at
Henry Graylord, my agency manager. “You’ll
blow a fuse. To hear you tell it, this tomato is
super-extra. I’d almost think you were gone
on her if I didn’t know that you regard women
as strictly from hunger.”
He grinned, the red climbing up his
pinched cheeks until it reached his oversized
ears and colored them. “I wouldn’t know
about that.” He’d lowered his voice. “You see,
the way I feel about this Mary . . . all I want to
do is sit and look at her, like you would look
at a statue or something.”
“Bring her around,” I said. “We could use
something like that. Most of the girls
nowadays have been walking around in
moccasins so long that they shuffle like an
He grinned. Henry Graylord said in his
worried voice, “Now, Austin, don’t be hasty.
This girl probably just fell out of that tree that
grows in Brooklyn. If you have Jimmy bring
her in, she’ll get big ideas and—”
“She wouldn’t come anyway,” said
Jimmy. “I don’t get it. I told her I knew you—
kind of building myself up, you know—and
she acted sort of scared.”
“Maybe,” said Henry slowly, “she belongs
to this model association. If so, we don’t want
any part of her.”
I swung my chair around to look at him.
“Model association? What’s that? Do any of
our girls belong?”
He shook his head. “It isn’t that kind of an
association. In fact, I think it’s some kind of
racket. The cheaper jobbers and ready-to-wear
houses that have one and two girls are
bothered. I was talking to a friend of mine in
the trade the other day. It seems he has to hire
the girls they tell him to—or something might
happen to his business.”
Henry shrugged and looked appealingly
toward Jimmy Wabash. “Austin’s so used to
being the head of the great Gardner Agency
that he can’t imagine anyone who isn’t afraid
of him.”
“It isn’t that,” I said. “It’s just that that
kind of talk doesn’t make sense. Sure, I know
there are chiselers around town who would
move into anything that looked like they could
squeeze a dime out of, but those girls,
modeling in the ready-to-wear trade, aren’t
making enough to attract any kind of a rat.
Someone’s been kidding you. Now, you both
get out and let me work.”
HEY went and I proceeded to forget all
about Jimmy and this Mary Ingersoll. I
probably would never have thought of the
name again if Jimmy hadn’t been waiting at
the bus stop three nights later when I paused
in the hope of picking up a cab.
His face lighted when he saw me and he
pulled a big old-fashioned hunter-case watch
from the pocket of his sagging vest.
“Hi, Austin. Where you headed?”
I said that I was going home. I was tired of
arguing with girls. To those of you who see
the photographs of my models on advertising
or magazine covers, it may seem that it would
be fun to argue with some of the models once
in awhile, but when you put in eight hours, six
days every week, coping with their
temperament, satisfying their whims,
temporizing with advertisers, photographers
and the like, you get very tired of women.
“Look,” he said in his small, eager voice.
“It’s early, not four-thirty yet. They’re having
a little show for some out-of-town buyer down
at Ivor’s Misses Ready-to-Wear and Stylish
Stouts. That Mary Ingersoll that I was telling
you about. She’s working down there. You
can get a look at her without her knowing.”
I shook my head. “Ixnay.”
“Please, Austin . . . tell you what I’ll do.
I’ll handle those Radferm pictures you’ve
been after me to take, if you’ll come down. It
won’t take half an hour. . . . Hey, taxi!” His
arm had gone up and signaled a passing cab
which slid to a stop before us.
Jimmy had the door open, was shoving me
inside and giving the driver a Twenty-second
Street address. I shrugged and settled back in
the seat. It was easier to go along than it was
to argue.
The building before which the cab stopped
was an old one, housing a succession of lofts
and small show rooms. The one on the third
floor into which Jimmy piloted me was no
different from a hundred others scattered
through New York’s sprawling garment
Around the showroom were scattered a
half-dozen buyers from little chains of readyto-wear shops from all across the country. It
was no different from crowds that you could
see at one of these places any time a new line
was being shown, but the girl who came
through the far door was decidedly different.
I didn’t need the tug which Jimmy Wabash
gave my coattail to know that this was the girl
we’d come to see. I watched her instinctively,
as a trainer might size up a horse. Models
were my business, after all.
She was beautiful, but to me that was of
secondary importance. It was the way she
walked, the little extra touch that she gave to
the clothes she wore.
A little difference is big in models.
HE outfit she was modeling was cheap
and badly designed, but on her it looked
as if it might have come from Sak’s. She wore
almost no make-up, yet her skin looked as
smooth and soft as a peach.
“What did I tell you!” Jimmy whispered
gleefully. “Some dish, what?” Before I could
stop him, he’d stepped forward and caught the
girl’s arm as she was about to disappear
through the door to the fitting room. He led
her, protesting, toward where I stood and I felt
every eye fin the room turned in our direction.
As they reached me, Jimmy was saying,
“Snap out of it, sugar. This is Austin Gardner.
His agency is almost as large as the Powers
outfit. You can’t afford to miss a chance like
I could tell by her face that his words
excited her, but under the excitement there
was something else that seemed very like fear.
“I . . . I’m not supposed to talk to anyone,” she
I stepped to meet them. This girl intrigued
me. Mostly I have to fight shy to keep from
meeting them. Here was one who hesitated at
meeting me.
“How do you do?” I said as Jimmy
introduced us. “I wonder if you’d be interested
in calling at my office in the morning. It’s
“Oh, but I couldn’t.”
I stared at her. “Well, in that case,” I
started to turn away.
But Jimmy caught my arm. “Wait a
minute, Austin. Don’t go.”
I turned back and as 1 did so a squat man
came through the fitting-room door. He was
so broad that he seemed to be almost as wide
as he was tall. His face was broad and flat, and
his eyes protruded a little as if someone had
squeezed his neck too tightly.
“Get out of here.” He was talking to the
girl, his voice so low that it barely reached my
I took a step forward and he snarled at me,
“Keep out of this, Bud,” and putting out a
thick hand, shoved against my chest.
I hit him without thinking about it. I have
never liked being pushed around, and I
certainly didn’t like this squat man. I hit his
jaw, and it was like hitting a piece of iron,
sending pain back along my arm in knifelike
waves. He put his head down and bored in. I
sensed rather than saw the heavy arms,
clutching out at me, and knew that if he ever
folded me into their bearlike grip, he would
smash my ribs and perhaps shatter my spine.
I danced away from him. I’d boxed in
college but I’d not had on gloves since. I
realized anyhow that this was more than a
boxing match, much more. This squat man,
charging toward me with his guttural halfanimal noises, was a killer. I could see it in his
popped, red-rimmed eyes.
I had to stop him, and it had to be with my
fists. I concentrated on the man before me,
forgetting the startled buyers, the girl and
Jimmy Wabash. He kept rushing me, his big
arms swinging, but it wasn’t the blows I
feared. I feared that he’d back me into a
corner, and wrap those arms around me.
My fists thudded against his head and
face, battering it into a red smear. An ordinary
man would have fallen, but this grotesque
creature kept coming. One of his eyes was
closed and blood from a cut over the second
eye ran down to blind him partly.
This helped. If he could have seen clearly I
don’t think I’d have ever escaped. As it was, I
can take no real credit for knocking him out. It
was Jimmy Wabash who ended it, and the
weapon he used was a bronze statuette of a
model which sat in a little niche between the
OW long it was between the man’s first
charge and the cracking blow against the
back of his head which put him down, I’ll
never know.
He fell forward onto his face, and I
thought that he was dead. I wasn’t certain that
I wasn’t either. My chest felt as if it were
circled by a band of iron which would not
allow me enough air in my tortured lungs. My
arms were so weary that I could hardly hold
up my puffed, broken hands.
Jimmy was excited. “Did he hurt you,
Austin? Boy, did you hit him with everything
in the book!”
“Everything but a statue,” I said wryly. “It
seems that’s what it takes. Lucky you were
around to swing it.”
His mouth twisted. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t
seem to move, couldn’t get going.”
“You came through in the pinch,” I said,
feeling one cheek where one of the squat
man’s wild blows had nearly laid the bone
bare. “That was like fighting an ox. We ought
to buy his contract and put him in the
Someone seized my arm, and I thought for
a moment that the ox had friends who wanted
to carry on the fight. I swung around, ready.
Instead I found myself facing a little guy in a
gray pin-point stripe suit. His shirt and tie
were lavender and matched. His hair was
sleek and very black and he looked worried.
“What have you done? What have you
done?” He was treating my arm as if he
thought it were a pump handle.
I shook him loose. “Take it easy.”
He was almost crying. “Bobo won’t let me
operate. “He’ll wreck the place, he’ll—”
I judged that the man on the floor was
“At the moment he won’t wreck
anything,” I said. “We’re lucky if he isn’t
“You can’t kill him,” the lavender-shirted
one moaned. “Oh, that this should happen to
me.” He swung about and went tearing away
into the cutting room.
I looked at Jimmy. “What is this, a den of
lunatics? Is the guy dead?”
“He breathing.”
“Then let’s call an ambulance and get out
of here. We don’t want to be mixed up in a
brawl in police court.” I looked toward the
girl, whom I’d forgotten, and found that she
was staring down at the battered man on the
“Look, sister, who is he?”
She raised her eyes. They were big and
very dark and the most beautiful I’d ever seen.
“He’s . . . Bobo.”
I lost my temper. After all, I’d taken
something of a beating myself. Every muscle
in my body ached. “Bobo! Bobo? What is
“He runs the association.”
I said, “So what? You act as if you were
scared to death of him. My girls belong to a
union and they—”
“This is different.” She was whispering as
if she were afraid that someone would hear
her. “We . . . we can’t quit. Something would
happen, acid would be thrown. It happened to
one girl. . . .”
STARED at her, not believing my ears, but
I had to believe the fear that was mirrored
in her face. It was a real, a living thing that
gave her a tragic quality hard to describe.
“Look,” I said, and my voice was softer,
for I found that I suddenly had the impulse to
put an arm around her shoulder, to comfort
her, to tell her not to be afraid. “This is utterly
silly. If everything that you say is true, all we
have to do is to call the police, to tell them
what you know, and Mr. Bobo will go away
for a long, long time where he won’t throw
any acid or anything else.”
“No, no. I don’t dare. I can’t talk to the
police.” She was crying openly now. “They’d
get the other girls if I did.”
“Who would?”
“I don’t know. That’s the trouble. We’ve
never seen them, never seen anyone but
I looked helplessly at Jimmy.
He said, “We can’t leave her here. That
ape will kill her when he comes to.”
“If he ever does.”
“He will,” said Jimmy. “No bronze was
ever cast that would crack that skull. I’ll take
her home with me. I’ve got a sister up in the
Bronx. In the morning, we’ll decide what to
do. Will you give her a job?”
I nodded. “Why not? With some training,
“See?” said Jimmy, putting his arm around
Mary Ingersoll’s slender shoulders. “You’ve
got nothing to worry about, baby. Six months
with the Gardner Agency and you’ll be a big
shot. You’ll laugh at muggs like that Bobo.”
She shuddered. “I can’t go. I—”
“You’re going,” he said, peeling off his
own topcoat and throwing it around her
shoulders. “You’re okay now, baby, nothing
to worry about. Nothing at all.” He turned to
me. “Coming?”
“Go ahead,” I said. “I’m going to find a
phone and turn over my little beauty to the
cops. We’ll see what happens then.”
No Chary Chase
ENRY GRAYLORD came into my
office almost as soon as I arrived, and
put a copy of the morning paper on my desk.
“I thought you might be interested in this.” He
pointed to a story in the right-hand column,
It still didn’t ring any bell until I read on
down and found Jimmy Wabash’s name. Then
I looked up with a start.
“When? How?”
Graylord said, “It’s all there.” He was a
big man, soft and good-looking in an overstuffed sort of way, and his face glistened a
little now in the shaft of morning sun. “His
sister heard an awful racket about one-thirty in
Jimmy’s dark-room. She tried to get in, but
the door was locked, and she called the police.
When they arrived they broke down the door
and found Wabash’s body. He’d been beaten
to death.”
I started, and a picture of the squat Bobo
leaped into my mind. “A girl,” I said. “Does it
say anything about a girl?”
Graylord looked at me as if I had suddenly
gone crazy. “Why, yes, it seems that Jimmy
brought a girl home with him last night,
according to his sister. They put her in the
spare room, but when the police looked, she
was gone.”
I swore under my breath and reached for
the telephone, thought better of it and grabbed
my hat.
Graylord said sharply: “You have
appointments with—”
“Take care of them,” I flung back over my
shoulder, for I was already halfway to the
door.’ “You’ll have to run things. I don’t
know when I’ll be back.”
APTAIN LUNDINE and Inspector Roff
of the homicide squad said, “But of
course you can see him. He’s over at the
morgue.” They took me over to the morgue
and showed me Jimmy Wabash, or what was
left of him.
Lundine said, “Poor devil! Whoever did it
must have hated him. Only a man crazed by
hate would have beaten him up that way.”
“I know who did it,” I said, turning away.
The sight of Jimmy’s broken body sickened
They both stared at me. Lundine was a
little man, not much bigger than Jimmy had
been, and they looked something alike. He
screwed up his gray-green eyes and asked:
“I don’t know what his name is,” 1 told
them, “but I called the police about him last
night. He and I had a fight in one of the
garment lofts on Twenty-Second Street, and
he was knocked out. The ambulance came and
took him away, but he must have been
released. His name is Bobo something or
The two men looked at each other, then at
me; and Lundine shook his head. “Sorry Mr.
Gardner, but that’s out. The man you’re
talking about is Bobo Grimes. He’s a smalltime chiseler and former fighter. As soon as
we heard about this missing model, we started
checking up on him. Wabash had told his
sister about the fight, but we’re out of luck.
Bobo couldn’t have killed Wabash because
Bobo was still at the hospital, being patched
up, at the time of the murder.”
I stared at them, not believing my ears.
Then I turned and looked at the broken man
on the wheeled table. It was so obviously
Bobo’s work. This was the way he would like
to kill a man, breaking him to pieces until the
flicker of life went out of his victim. I turned
back. “Look, wouldn’t it be possible that this
Bobo could have slipped away from the
hospital, killed Wabash and slipped back in,
thus establishing an alibi? I’ve read of such
things, and—”
“You’ll find,” the police captain told me,
“that they happen much more often in movies
than they do in real life. However, we checked
very closely on this one, and we’re certain that
Bobo didn’t leave the hospital; nor was he in
such good shape to kill anyone. You gave him
a very thorough beating, Mr. Gardner.”
“Not as much as I’d have liked,” I said,
grimly. “Look, this model association, or
whatever it is, that Bobo is connected with.
I’m certain that they killed Wabash and
kidnapped the girl. Aren’t you going to do
anything about it?”
Inspector Roff spread his hands. “What
can we do? We’ve been interviewing girls and
manufacturers all morning and we can’t get a
straight answer out of any of them. They’re
lying, we know it, but they tell us with a
straight face that they never heard of such a
thing. Why, Clinton lvor, the man who owns
the loft where you had your fight yesterday,
swore that he’d never seen Bobo before and
that he had no idea who he was. Don’t think
we’re giving up, but—”
“I’m not giving up,” I said, sticking my
jaw out and realizing even as I did so that this
was silly. Here were two police officers. I
knew they were honest and yet they admitted
that this had them stumped.
But inside of me was a burning anger. I’d
never felt quite like that before and I couldn’t
explain it even to myself. I’d liked Jimmy, but
I knew a great many people whom I liked as
well. Why then should I butt my head against
something which was none of my affair?
Could it be the girl? Was I worried about
Mary Ingersoll?’ That didn’t make sense. I’d
seen her only once. She was beautiful, yes, but
in my business, beautiful women are a dime a
dozen. I’d go back to my office and forget the
whole thing. Sooner or later the cops would
find Jimmy Wabash’s murderer. They always
I said goodby to the two officers and
headed uptown, but I didn’t go to my office. I
went on up to the Bronx.
IMMY WABASH’S sister was a thinfaced, tired-looking woman in her late
thirties. Her hair had the same gritty, sandy
look that Jimmy’s had had, and her nose was
almost as pointed. It gave me a turn to look at
“I’m Austin Gardner,” I said, as she
showed me into the small, dark living-room.
“I came out to see if there was anything I
could do to help!”
That wasn’t quite true. I’d come out to ask
questions, but after one look at her, I couldn’t
bear to bring up the subject of the murder.
She brought it up herself. “Jimmy would
have been proud to have you here,” she said.
“He thought you were a great man, one of the
This was embarrassing and I fumbled for
words, not knowing quite what to say. She
saved me the trouble. Words came out of her
with a rush. I guess it was a relief to have
someone to talk to.
“The girl killed him,” she said. “Oh, I
don’t mean that she beat him herself, but it
was on account of the girl. Ever since he saw
her first he’s been kind of screwy. I don’t
know whether he was in love with her. I don’t
think Jimmy was ever really in love the way
most boys are; at least he never had any girl
friends. He was always nuts about pictures,
taking them, cutting them out of magazines,
I said, weakly, “I know he was. A great
“In his way.” She nodded. “Kind of
screwy, but good-hearted. I—” She broke off
and I thought for a minute she was going to
cry. “It was pretty terrible, seeing him, after . .
. after it was over.”
“I know, I saw him.”
She seemed to derive a little comfort from
that. “I don’t know what it’s all about,” she
went on. “Jimmy didn’t tell me much. He
brought this girl home. She wouldn’t eat. She
went right to her room.”
“And that’s the last you saw of her?”
The woman nodded. “After dinner Jimmy
went into the darkroom.” She indicated the
pullman-like hall at one side. “It’s on the end.
I didn’t think much about it. He spends most
of his evenings in there. Around twelve I
heard the apartment buzzer. I was in bed. I
heard Jimmy go to the door, then the mutter of
“How many?”
She shook her head tiredly. “I don’t know.
I’ve been trying to remember. I even thought I
heard your name mentioned.”
I stared at her, startled. “My name?”
“Probably I didn’t,” she said. “We’d been
talking about you at dinner, what you were
going to do for the girl. Jimmy even said that
he might work for you, part time anyhow,
taking pictures of her.”
“Poor devil.” It came out without my
meaning to speak, but the woman took no
“Anyhow, I must have dozed off, for the
next I knew I heard the sounds of this fight.
First I thought it was in the alley out back,
then I realized that it was in the dark-room. I
got up, and ran to the door, calling to Jimmy,
but it was locked and I couldn’t get in. Finally
I gave up and called the police.”
“And the girl, you didn’t see her?”
The woman shook her head. “Not a sign.
Her bed had been slept in but it was empty
when the police got here.”
“And there’s another way out of the darkroom? I mean the murderer didn’t come back
through the hall?”
She shook her head. “There’s a fire-escape
down to the alley. He’d have to drop only one
I thanked her and left the apartment. I
meant to go back to the office. There were a
million things that demanded my attention, but
I found myself giving the cab driver the
address of the Twenty-second Street loft.
Lady On the Lam
LINTON IVOR was certainly not glad to
see me. His face, when he realized who it
was, turned the color of dirty cheese-cake and
he took half a step backward as if to retreat to
the cutting room.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I just want to talk
to you.”
“Haven’t you caused enough trouble?” He
still wore the lavender shirt, or, judging from
its freshly laundered appearance, another of
the same shade. His hands fluttered up, long
and graceful as a woman’s. I eyed them,
wondering if they were strong enough to have
beaten a man to death. The back of the right
one was discolored and there was a little piece
of tape over a small cut.
“I haven’t caused any trouble,” I told him.
“No? What do you call trouble?” he
demanded angrily, coming forward. “A fight
when my best buyers are in the room,
knocking down a man, beating him, and then
sending the police this morning to question me
as if I were a criminal!”
“Aren’t you?”
He looked startled for an instant, then
angry red drove the yellow whiteness from
under his skin. “Get out. Get out before I have
you thrown from the building.”
“Who’s going to do it?” I asked. “Have
you got Bobo hiding in one of the back
He stared at me, the red fading from his
cheeks, leaving the lemon yellow as before.
“Bobo? Who is this Bobo? I know no one by
such an absurd name.”
“You knew him last evening,” I said,
dangerously. “When he was decorating your
floor and bleeding all over the pretty rug.”
“Oh, you mean that one. Hah!” Ivor
pretended to get excited. “That one I do not
know. He comes with the girl. Every time he
comes with the girl. Her brother or something,
I think.”
I knew he was lying. I knew that he didn’t
think anything of the kind, but at the moment I
couldn’t prove it and I couldn’t see anything
to be gained by saying so.
“Okay,” I said. “What was the girl’s
“Address . . . address? I don’t know. I—”
“Look,” I said, losing patience. “You’re
really building yourself up a lot of trouble, my
friend.” I turned on my heel and walked out of
the place, conscious that his black eyes were
boring into my back.
WICE on the way back uptown I had the
sensation of being followed, and I paused
outside of Radio City to look back at the street
crowd, but could see no one who seemed
However the impression persisted all the
way up in the crowded elevator, and it was not
until I gained the shelter of my own office that
I lost it.
Henry Graylord greeted me angrily.
“Where in the devil have you been? Fifty
things have come up that needed your
attention.” He proceeded to dump them onto
my desk, and I worked like mad for a full
hour. Finally my secretary came in hesitantly.
“I hate to bother you, but there’s a girl
here. She’s been waiting for over three hours
and she won’t see anyone but you.”
I waved my hand. “Not today. Make an
appointment or—”
The secretary coughed. She’d been with
me a dozen years and I’d never known her to
take liberties before. “I’m sorry, Mr. Gardner,
but . . . well. I think you should see this girl.
There’s something the matter. I don’t know
what it is, but she’s tremendously worried.
She says that you told her to call and that
I had looked up in impatience. Suddenly I
said. “What? What name?”
“Mary,” said the secretary....She just asked
me to tell you that Mary Ingersoll was here.”
I jumped up from the desk so rapidly that I
turned the swivel chair over. “Mary? Jimmy?
Why didn’t you say so before? Where is she?
Bring her in here at once.”
The secretary’s mouth had fallen open.
She was past fifty, steady and unexcitable, and
I guess she’d never seen me act in this manner
before. “Yes, sir,” she gasped when she had
recovered her breath. She turned and
disappeared into her own office to reappear a
minute later with Mary.
I came forward to meet her. Mary
Ingersoll was without coat or hat and was still
wearing the suit she had been modeling on the
preceding afternoon.
The secretary stood and stared at us until I
raised my head and looked at her, then slowly
she disappeared into her own office, closing
the door softly behind her.
“Mary,” I said. “Where have you been?
I’ve been hunting all over New York for you.
So have the police.”
She shivered a little at the mention of the
law officers, and I led her to a chair.
“You’re all right,” I said, “There’s nothing
to worry about. You’re perfectly safe.”
She started to cry then, not loudly, but
silently, the big tears squeezing their way
from under her lids and drawing little wet
paths along the curves of her cheeks.
I put an arm around her shoulders and
pulled her against me, feeling her tremble.
“Take it easy. You’re all right. Just tell me
what happened.”
HE told me in short, broken sentences.
She had been awakened by the noise from
the darkroom and had stolen out into the hall.
Then she had heard Jimmy Wabash’s sister
phoning the police and had fled the apartment.
She had seen no one.
“But where did you go—home? The
police checked your address and—”
She shook her head. “I didn’t dare,” she
said. “I rode the subway all night and this
morning, until I thought you’d be at your
office. I couldn’t find your home phone in the
“It’s unlisted,” I told her. “Have you any
idea who killed Jimmy? You know he’s
She nodded. “I saw a paper in the subway.
They killed him of course.”
“They?” I stared at her.
“The men behind Bobo,” she said. “They
threw acid in Jane’s face. They whipped Katie
and they’ll kill me—”
“Oh no they won’t,” I told her confidently.
“There’s nothing to worry about, not one
single little thing. With your testimony the
police can put Bobo away and-”
She shrank before my eyes. “No, I can’t
talk to the police.”
My voice roughened. “Look, Jimmy
Wabash was a funny little guy, but he believed
in you and he was killed trying to help you.”
“I know.” It was barely a whisper.
“You owe him something,” I went on,
“even if you don’t owe anything to yourself.”
“I owe the other girls something, too.”
I stared at her. “What do you mean by
She said, slowly: “If anyone of us were to
talk, they’d take it out on the other girls.”
“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned
this mysterious they. Who are they? What do
you know about them?”
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
I lost what little patience I had left. “Do
you mean that you took Bobo’s word for it
that there was someone else? He was probably
bluffing you, probably working by himself.”
“No he wasn’t.” Her voice gained
strength. “I saw another man once. He spoke
to us. He was masked.”
The phone on my desk rang sharply and I
reached over to pick it up. A man’s voice,
curiously muffled, said, “For your own good,
Gardner, keep out of things that are not your
There was a click at the other end of the
line, and I hung up slowly. The girl, watching
my face, seemed to sense that something was
the matter. “Mr. Gardner . . . what is it?”
“Nothing,” I told her, slowly, reaching
across and pressing the buzzer which would
summon Henry Graylord. “Just someone with
the wrong number.”
ENRY GRAYLORD came in. His eyes,
when he saw the girl, widened a little,
then narrowed critically. He was a good man
and he knew as much about the business as I
did. I sensed his excitement although he
maintained his poker-face, and I knew that I
hadn’t been wrong about Mary. It takes
something to make a good model, more than
looks and shape and the ability to walk right.
In actresses you’d call it personality, the
ability to sell yourself, to sell the thing you’re
wearing or advertising. This girl had it. Even
through her fear it reached out and gripped
“This is the girl Jimmy Wabash was
talking about.” I explained.
He looked at her with renewed interest.
“The one the police are hunting?”
I nodded. “This is my manager, Henry
Graylord. He runs the place when I’m not
around. In fact he almost runs it when I am.”
Graylord smiled. “He’s too modest, Miss
Ingersoll. Austin is the spark plug. Without
him we merely limp along.”
I said: “Let’s skip the compliments. Miss
Ingersoll doesn’t want to go to the police.
She’s afraid that if she talks, the other girls
will get into trouble. I don’t know what to do
with her.”
Henry was silent, considering. “Why not
send her out of town? It’s certain that she
won’t be safe as long as she stays here.
Whoever killed Jimmy isn’t going to want her
I said, “That’s okay, but I don’t want to
send her out of town. I want to keep her here.
There’s a place for her in this agency and—”
Graylord nodded. “I know what you
mean.” His eyes were still studying the girl
thoughtfully. “But look at it this way, Austin.
It wouldn’t be fair to our other girls.
Supposing these men, whoever they are, find
out that she’s working here. Don’t you think
they’re going to start something with our other
I stared at him. “They wouldn’t dare.”
He shrugged. “Still playing that Gardner
Agency tune? Look, Austin. I’ve been with
you two years. I think I’ve always worked for
the best interests of the agency and I’ve never
before hesitated to tell you the truth. I’m not
going to start now.”
“I don’t want you to. There’s nothing in
the world I hate as much as a yes-man.”
He nodded. “Okay, in your own line,
you’re a big shot. You know important people,
and they’re your friends. But doesn’t it occur
to you that the men behind this little game
aren’t impressed by who you are or who you
know? A gun is a great leveler, and a beating
will kill any man.”
“Well . . .”
“So you don’t want the girls working out
of this agency to be subjected to rough
treatment just because you’re trying to prove
to a bunch of crooks that Austin Gardner isn’t
afraid of them.”
He was right. I hadn’t thought of it from
that angle. I turned toward the girl. “All right,
honey. You go out of town. The question is
where to send you.”
She just looked at me as if not being able
to find words, and I went on. “Where do you
come from?”
“Here. I was born in Long Island City.”
“Send her to Hollywood,” Henry
suggested. “I’ve got a friend out there who has
a small agency. He might take her on. There
isn’t much work on the coast but—”
“Okay,” I said. “Give me this guy’s name
and address. Better call him on the phone,
then see if you can get reservations for
Chicago. There may be a cancellation.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Take her down and get her things,” I said.
I’m not going to leave her alone for a moment
before she gets out of town. Come on, honey.
What’s your address?”
Tough-Stuff Ivor
HE apartment was an old-fashioned
walkup whose halls held smells of
cooking, long forgotten. Mary Ingersoll said,
“I don’t know how to thank you for what
you’re doing, but I can’t go.”
“Can’t go?” I stared at her. We were
standing in the small entry. To our right were
the rows of brass-bound mail boxes with the
apartment holders’ names on them.
“Can’t go,” she repeated. “I can’t leave
“Jane? Who’s Jane?”
“The girl I live with. You know, I
mentioned her. She used to be a model. She’s
the one that they threw acid at.”
“Take her along,” I said.
“But the money. It would cost—”
“Forget the cost,” I said. “Look at it this
way. If I hadn’t gone down to Ivor’s and
started that fight with Bobo maybe none of
this would have happened, maybe Jimmy
wouldn’t be dead, maybe—”
She said, quickly, “It isn’t right for you to
blame yourself. The thing has been going on
for months. I was caught in it, the rest of the
girls were caught. Jimmy Wabash got mixed
up because he was trying to help me.”
“Still,” I said, “I’m going to get you out of
town, and I’m going to break this thing up if I
can. Come on.” I turned and led the way up
the stairs.
The girl who opened the door was
surprisingly tall. I could see that she was
perfectly proportioned and for a big girl would
make an excellent model—but her face! . . . I
found that I had to steel myself when I looked
at it.
She had been beautiful once. Not as
beautiful as Mary Ingersoll, but far above the
average as looks went. She wasn’t now. The
acid had not only burned the skin, it had
caused the muscles to contract, making her
mouth draw up at one corner and making one
eye squint.
I steadied myself and managed a smile as
Mary introduced us. But the big girl showed
no interest in me. She caught Mary by the
shoulders, holding her away so that she could
look her over carefully, then she pulled the
smaller girl against her, clasping her tight, and
said in a husky voice:
“Baby, you all right? I was worried. You
all right?”
“I’m all right,” Mary told her. “This is Mr.
Gardner. He helped me.”
“Thanks,” said the big girl, not even
looking at me. “If there’s anything. . .”
“You can get your clothes packed,” I told
her. “You and Mary are getting out of here,”
She looked at me, startled, then her twisted
mouth hardened. “Oh no you don’t. No one’s
running us out of this town. They tried it once
with acid, but I’m too tough. I’ll stay and I’ll
get even with them. . . .” Her voice trembled a
little but it wasn’t from fear. I don’t think that
this girl knew what fear was. She’d gone
through enough to make the average woman
quit, but there was no quitting in her.
“You don’t understand,” Mary told her
hastily. “Mr. Gardner isn’t running us out of
town. He’s sending us because he doesn’t
think it’s safe for us to stay. He was a friend
of Jimmy Wabash. You remember Wabash,
the little man with the funny nose.” She turned
quickly to me. “This is Jane Walters,” she
said. “The girl I was telling you about. She
wants to stay in New York. She wants to get
even with the men who . . . who—”
Jane said without trace of emotion, “Who
fixes my face this way. And I’ll get even. I’ll
find out sometime who is behind Bobo and—”
She was interrupted by the sound of the
buzzer, and both girls looked - at each other,
startled. Mary said in a hushed tone, “They
know I’m home. They . . .”
ANE turned without a word, walked across
the room to the couch and drew a small
pearl-handled gun from its hiding place
among the tumbled pillows.
“I hope it is.” Her mouth was a grim,
crooked line. “I just hope it is. This is the
break I’ve been waiting for, the—”
Both had forgotten me. I said, “Put that
gun away. Let me handle this.”
“No.” Her voice was flat, final. “If it’s
them, I’ll handle it myself.” She tucked the
gun into the loose sleeve of the dressing-gown
she wore. “Go into the bedroom and stay there
unless you want to get shot too. This is my
show and I aim to handle it alone.
I went into the bedroom. I knew how she
felt, but I didn’t mean to stay out of it, not if 1
were needed.
I hadn’t long to wait, for I heard the outer
door open and heard a voice I recognized. It
was Clinton Ivor, the manufacturer for whom
the girl had modeled.
He came in and his voice was angry.
“What do you mean, Mary, not showing up
this morning? What do you mean, getting
mixed up in a murder and having the police
come to question me?”
“Leave her alone,” said Jane.
“And you keep out of it.” I couldn’t see
him but I judged that the little lavender-shirted
man had swung to face Jane. “You never did
know enough to mind your own business. It
got you in trouble once. Maybe you haven’t
had enough trouble.”
Jane’s laugh was not a nice thing to hear.
“There’s nothing that you or Bobo or anyone
else can do to hurt me now. I’ve been hurt as
much as it’s in the power of any man to hurt
me. Now, let her alone.”
“I should fire you, Mary.” Apparently Ivor
had chosen to ignore Jane. “But I’m softhearted. I’ll take you back if you get these
silly notions out of your head.”
“She isn’t working for you,” Jane told
“Oh, but she is. I’ll see that she doesn’t
model for anyone else. I’ll see Bobo. He’ll
take care of her. He’s sore at her anyhow.”
“She isn’t working in New York,” said
Jane. “Now, get out of here before I throw you
“Why you—!” I heard the sound of a slap,
then a scuffle, and I ripped open the door.
Apparently Jane had tried to pull her gun and
Ivor had knocked it from her hand. They were
struggling close to the door and although the
girl was strong, the man was handling her with
surprising ease. It flashed through my mind
that I’d have to revise my ideas in regard to
Ivor. He looked soft, but apparently he wasn’t.
Mary was down on hands and knees,
trying to get the gun which had slid under a
chair. I jumped across the room, caught Jane’s
arm and, pulling her out of the way, swung for
Ivor’s jaw.
But he had seen me, wrenched free with a
startled cry, turned and dived through the
partly open door. I went after him and saw
him go down the stairs in wild leaps which I
could not equal without falling.
By the time I reached the building
entrance he was gone.
Slowly I reclimbed the stairs to find the
girls waiting in the hall. Jane had regained her
gun and was standing, ready.
“Did you catch the perfumed rat?”
I shook my head and she said under her
breath: “Why didn’t I shoot him!”
I said, “You think he’s behind all this?”
The girls looked at each other, startled.
Jane started to shake her head, then stopped.
“Why, I—it never occurred to me before. I
always thought about him taking orders from
Bobo, but, well, they were always pretty
friendly. Some of the other manufacturers
tried to put up a fight, but Ivor never did. I
always thought it was because he lacked the
guts, but now that you mention it . . .”
I glanced at my watch and was surprised
to find that it was after five. “Listen, you girls
get your stuff together. Stay in the apartment
and don’t open the door for anyone but me. If
someone tries to break in, don’t hesitate to use
that gun of Jane’s.”
“Don’t worry,” the big girl told me.
Mary didn’t say anything. She just
stretched a hand to my arm, drew herself up
on tiptoe and kissed me on the cheek. “You’re
about the nicest person I’ve ever met.”
No Break for Bobo
T WAS getting dark as I left the building
and looked for a cab. There was none, and I
started to walk across town toward the
subway. I didn’t see Bobo until he stepped out
of the doorway and blocked my passage.
There was a strip of tape along one cheek and
his features had a battered, bluish look.
“Wait a minute, Mac.”
I was startled, and I think afraid. I’ve
never known much about fear, but I felt it
tugging at me now. I looked up and down the
street, quickly, in search of help. There were
people on the street, but none close to us, and
none paying any attention.
I faced Bobo then, knowing I was in for it.
There was no question that the man could lick
me. He was more brute than he was human, a
throwback to the days when man was little
better than an animal. I thought of Jimmy
Wabash’s shattered body and shuddered. Still,
he wasn’t going to get me without a fight.
But I got the surprise of my life. Maybe
Bobo was stiff and sore from the beating he
had taken on the preceding afternoon. Maybe
he figured that now wasn’t the place or time,
for he said:
“Look, Mac. This is just a little warning,
see. You’re planning to send those dames out
of town . . . oh, never mind how I know. Well,
that’s okay. They’re troublemakers and I’d
just as soon they weren’t around, but get smart
and take a powder yourself. This town ain’t
big enough.” He swung on his heel and cut
across the street, leaving me standing there,
staring after him with my mouth open.
A sudden, unreasoning rage filled me.
That the man should have the nerve, the utter
gall to order me out of town! I went after him,
calling as I came.
He paused, swinging around, his fists on
his wide hips, his arms looking as heavy and
thick as young trees.
“Listen, you ape,” I said. “This is my town
and if you think I’m going to run because a
cheap chiseler like you says the word, you’d
better turn yourself in to the psychopathic
ward at Bellevue.”
He moved his big head slowly from side to
side. “Don’t think I didn’t warn you.” His
small eyes glittered redly in the half light.
“You’re just like that mugg Jimmy Wabash. I
tried to tell him to stay away from the dame,
but he was always around, taking pictures,
always taking pictures. And you ain’t such a
big shot, Gardner. Your agency will go on
after you die, just like anything else.” He
swung on his heel again and walked away up
the street, leaving me staring after him.
This time I did not follow.
Instead I turned and walked rapidly toward
the subway, headed for my office.
HE switchboard girl and Henry Graylord
were the only occupants when I arrived.
Henry glanced at his watch. “Where have
you been? I was just about to pull out.”
“What about those train reservations?” I
asked him.
“Nothing for tonight. The best I could do
was tomorrow afternoon. The girls will just
have to wait.”
I shrugged and, turning, led the way into
my private office. He followed. “Have any
“No real trouble,” I said. “That guy Ivor
showed up at the girls’ apartment muttering
threats. I started to throw him out but he got
away before I could get my fingers on him.
Then, as I was leaving, I ran into Bobo.”
Henry’s voice quickened with concern.
“What happened?”
I shrugged. “Nothing much. He warned
me to get out of town.”
“The devil he did!”
I nodded. “He said he’d warned Wabash
too, but the guy wouldn’t listen. ‘Always
going around taking pictures,’ Bobo said,
‘taking pictures of everything.’ Does that
suggest anything to you?”
Henry looked blank. “What in the devil
are you talking about now?”
I shrugged. “Maybe nothing. It’s just an
idea. Jimmy Wabash was always taking
pictures of everything. I never saw him
without a camera, even if it were only a little
“That’s true.”
“And I’ll bet anything that he had several
cameras mounted around his dark-room. I’ll
bet you that some way, somehow, he managed
to snap a picture of the man who killed him.”
Henry was staring at me. “Why—but
that’s absurd. It was a dark room, the light
wouldn’t be good enough to get a picture,
even a time exposure; and certainly the
murderer, whoever he was, wouldn’t stand
still long enough to have his picture taken.”
“Ever hear of infra-red film?” I asked.
I saw by his expression that he had.
“You don’t need light to take pictures with
that,” I went on. “Don’t you see? Jimmy was a
camera nut if I ever knew one. He used to
delight in snapping me when I knew nothing
about it and then showing me the candid shots.
I’m going to call his sister—no, she said she
was going over to stay with a cousin in
Jamaica tonight. I’ll have to catch her in the
“Aren’t you going to call the police?”
I shrugged. “Look, I tried to get the police
to do something for me today and they acted
as if their hands were tied behind their backs.
I’m going to handle this myself. Maybe the
idea is screwy. Maybe there isn’t any camera
or any film, but if there is, I’ll find it in the
He nodded, “I can see your point.”
“And that’s not all,” I told him
thoughtfully. “Bobo is getting scared.”
“Scared? Are you crazy? From what
you’ve said about that guy he isn’t the kind
that would get scared at anything.”
I shrugged. “Maybe not, but he’s gone out
of his way to warn me to get out of town. If he
wasn’t scared of something, why should he
bother? I think I know what’s the matter with
I said, “Let’s look at it this way: Bobo got
a break when Jimmy Wabash was killed.
Bobo was in the hospital at the time, and he
can prove it. I think what’s worrying him now
is that he fears that something will happen to
me, that the cops know that he and I had
trouble and that they’ll try to pin my death on
him. Maybe he wouldn’t be so lucky this time.
Maybe he wouldn’t have an alibi.”
Graylord nodded slowly. “I see your point.
He knows that something’s going to happen to
you and he doesn’t want to be blamed, so he’s
trying to get you out of town before this
happens. Right?”
“It frames up that way.”
“And who do you think is behind this?”
I shrugged. “Maybe Ivor. He seems to turn
up at every opportunity.”
“We’d better get you a bodyguard,” Henry
suggested. “We can’t have anything happen to
“Then you don’t think I should leave town
for a while?”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself about that. If
it were me, I’d go quick, but I’m not as
knuckle-headed as you are. If I can help . . .”
“There’s nothing you can do,” I told him.
“You might as well keep out of it. If anything
should happen to me, you’ll have to run the
agency, but I’ve a notion that I can put the bite
on Bobo and make him talk. The ape-man is
beginning to get nerves. Funny as it sounds, I
don’t think he likes murder.”
Killer’s Motive
OMING out of my own apartment an
hour later, I stopped to light a cigarette.
As I ducked my head above the match flame
something struck the corner just above my
head, and a tiny chip of stone fell onto the
sidewalk at my feet.
My reaction was purely instinctive as I
jumped back into the doorway. I stood there in
the shadow, staring out at the street.
It was quiet. A block over the Madison
Avenue traffic made a steady hum, but there
were only a few pedestrians and one cab
within the block.
I looked at them searchingly, but none
paid any attention to me. Then I reached
around gingerly and felt the facing stone from
which the chip had come.
There was a scar and I’d have taken my
oath that it had come from a bullet, a bullet
from a silenced gun. I started to shake. It
wasn’t from fear, but from reaction. This had
gone far enough. It had to stop, or I wouldn’t
be around long.
I went back into the apartment, slipped
through the side door and went hurriedly
toward the corner of the avenue where I
caught a cab, giving the driver the address of
the girls’ apartment.
It was Jane who let me in. She was dressed
for the street with a little cocky hat perched on
one side of her head and a veil shrouding her
marred features. Not until that moment did I
remember that I’d told them to be ready to
“No reservations,” I said. ‘‘I’m sorry, I
should have let you know. Has anything
happened since I was here?”
“Ivor came, and then Bobo.”
I stared at her. “Did they get in?”
She shook her head. “I talked to them
through the speaking tube. Ivor wanted to
know if you’d gone to the cops. Bobo was
slinging threats as usual. Funny thing, I got
the idea he was scared.”
I stared at her. This girl was smart. She
didn’t miss many bets and she had nerve. If
she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have bucked in the
first place and wouldn’t have had the acid
thrown in her face.
Trim, too, a good model, and with the veil
no one could distinguish the acid burns. I
found myself liking her more, respecting her
more than anyone I’d met in a long time.
“Look,” I said. “I got the same idea about
Bobo that you did. I’ve got the idea that the
heat is on him and that he doesn’t like it. If I
play it right, I may be able to make him talk.
Do you happen to know where he lives.”
She didn’t waste time asking questions.
She said, “I don’t know, but I know where I
could find out. One of the girls followed him
one night.” She turned and, walking to the
phone; dialed a number. She talked for a
couple of minutes, then hung up, turned and
gave me the address.
I nodded. “Thanks. Keep your door locked
and I’ll phone you as soon as I get through.”
“Oh no you won’t,” she told me. “I’m
going along. This I want to see.”
“Now wait. Bobo’s an ugly customer.”
“You’re telling me.” She touched the veil.
“Don’t you think I’ve got a little right to see
the rat squirm? There isn’t much of anything
he can do to me that hasn’t already been
Her tone was bitter and I realized just how
much those acid burns had meant to her, how
it had wrecked her life.
“Come on, then.”
Mary appeared from the bedroom. She
also was dressed for the street and she said,
‘‘I’m going too.” There was a little tremor in
her voice but her tone was resolute.
I hesitated, but I figured they would be
safer if there were two of them. “Come on,” I
said, and led the way down to the waiting cab.
IT WASN’T far to Bobo’s apartment and it was the same type of building. I didn’t press
the button under his mail box, as I didn’t want
the man to have any warning of our coming.
Instead I hunted up the janitor, told him that
we were giving a surprise party for Bobo and
that we wanted the pass key to his apartment.
The man eyed me, then the two girls. I
guess he figured that if I’d been planning any
funny stuff I wouldn’t have brought a couple
of women with me. He traded the key for a
twenty-dollar bill and went on about his
We went up the stairs quietly and I eased
the key into the lock. If Bobo was there I
meant to walk in before he had any warning of
our presence. If he wasn’t, I meant to wait
until he returned.
The door swung open and I stepped in.
There was no light in the apartment and I said
to Jane in a low voice, “I guess he’s not home.
Well, we told the janitor we wanted to surprise
him and I think when he walks in, Mr. Bobo
will be very, very surprised.”
I went on ahead, switching up the livingroom light—and then I stopped.
Bobo was home. He sat in a chair, facing
the door; his round bullet head fallen forward
so that I could see only a part of the small hole
that marred his forehead. He was quite dead.
Mary gave a gasping little cry. Jane made
no sound at all. She just stood there, staring
down at the apelike man. The veil screened
her face so that I had no idea of her
She said, in a controlled voice: “It seems
that someone had the same idea we did, that
Bobo was scared and ready to talk. Someone
made very certain that he wouldn’t talk.”
I nodded. “Look, you girls get back home
and stay there. I’ve got an errand.”
She looked at me and I had the sensation
that this girl could read my mind. “What kind
of errand?”
I shrugged. “One that I’d have taken care
of sooner if I wasn’t a fool.”
“I’m going,” she said, flatly.
“It’s something that has to be done alone,”
I said. “If too many go, it will spoil it.”
“We can wait in the cab,” she said, and
that was that. There was no use arguing with
her. I relocked the door, praying that the
janitor wouldn’t see us. I didn’t want to be
held up with explanations to the police. But
we saw nothing of him and gained the cab
without incident.
I told the driver to park a block down the
street from Jimmy Wabash’s, and traveled the
remaining distance on foot, leaving the girls in
the cab. I gave them strict orders not to move
unless I failed to show up within half an hour,
then they were to call the police.
As I neared the building, my heart started
thumping faster, for there was a light burning
in Jimmy’s apartment. I tried to control
myself. Maybe the sister hadn’t gone away,
after all. Maybe . . . but still, I’d get a chance
to look at the dark-room.
OFTLY I advanced toward the apartment
door, pulling the gun from my pocket and
letting off the safety. The door was unlocked.
I eased the knob over and thrust it open softly,
listening for any sound of movement from
within. There was none. I stepped in and eased
the door shut, moving forward on soundless
feet, the gun ever ready.
If the sister was home, she was in for a bad
scare, but I couldn’t help that. I moved to the
living-room door and peered in. It was empty.
So were the bedrooms and kitchen. That left
only the dark-room at the end of the hall, and I
drew a deep breath as I grasped the knob and
thrust the door open. It was black inside. I
stepped sideways so that I wouldn’t be
outlined in the rectangle of light—and I
waited, holding my breath, listening until I
could hear the blood pounding in my ears, but
I could hear nothing else.
Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. “I
know you’re in here, show yourself.”
Nothing happened, only the heavy silence
bore in upon me. My nerves snapped. I didn’t
care what happened. I had to have some light,
even if it brought the shot that killed me. I
reached over and clicked up the switch.
Aside from myself the room was empty.
My knees seemed to turn to water and
there was cold sweat across my forehead. I
wiped it away with the back of a hand that
trembled. I hadn’t realized the strain I was
under until that moment and I laughed aloud,
laughed at myself. A touch of hysteria in the
sound brought me to my senses. This wouldn’t
do. The murderer had evidently been here and
gone, leaving the lights on—or the sister had
forgotten to turn them off before leaving.
I looked around the dark-room. There
were some twenty cameras in the place, some
set up, others not. The thing to do was to
remove all the films that the various cameras
held, take them and have them developed. I
set about it, shoving the gun into my pocket.
I must have been there ten minutes when a
voice from the doorway said softly:
“Having fun?”
I swung around to see. Henry Graylord in
the doorway, smiling at me, a gun held loosely
in his big hand. “Surprised?”
“No,” I told him, slowly. “Not since I
found Bobo. I wasn’t much surprised even
then, although up to that moment it had
seemed impossible.”
“That’s the trouble with you,” he said.
“You’ve sold yourself on the idea that you’re
the great Austin Gardner, that nothing can
touch you.”
I shook my head. “Wrong, Henry. Where I
failed was in being able to believe that a man I
trusted could want something so badly that he
would be willing to kill to get it.”
He laughed at me. “And you set this little
trap, up in your office, didn’t you? You
expected to walk in and catch me?”
I shrugged.
He said: “You had it wrong. I’m not a
complete fool. I could see what you were
thinking, so I set a trap for you. I hurried out
here, made certain there was no infra-red film
in any of the cameras, then I left the lights on
and went outside. I wanted to see if you’d
bring the cops with you. I rather thought you
wouldn’t, knowing how certain of yourself
you are. I waited and saw you come in alone. I
made sure no cops were hanging around, then
I came in.”
“To finish me?”
He nodded. “To finish you.”
“Tell me,” I said, and I was really curious,
“have you always intended to kill me to get
me out of the way so you could take over the
He shook his head. “I was trying to build
one of my own. I had Bobo organize those
girls. I meant at the right time to step in, offer
to protect them from Bobo and start an
agency. I had my eye on that Mary Ingersoll.
She’s got something. Wabash was right. I was
so mad at him when I found him gumming my
game that I came out here to fix things. Then,
after he was dead, I realized that if you were
dead, too, I’d have the whole works.”
Y MOUTH felt dry. “Are you going to
beat me to death, the way you did
He shook his head. “A shot will be
quicker. I tried it outside your apartment. If
I’d connected then, this wouldn’t have been
“Okay,” I said, stiffly. “Go ahead, let’s get
it over with.” There was no use stalling. I’d
told, the girls to call the police if I wasn’t back
at the cab, but I knew they’d never arrive in
He said: “I got no pleasure from killing
Wabash. I was mad. I’m not now, but I’m
going to enjoy this. I’ve hated your guts,
Austin, ever since I’ve worked for you. I’ve
hated your high-and-mighty attitude as if you
were playing God. Count ten, my friend, count
as fast or as slowly as you like, because when
you reach ten, I’m going to squeeze this
“No,” said a calm voice behind him. “Not
unless you want a bullet between your
shoulder blades. Drop the gun.”
It was Jane, her veil pulled back to show
the scars across her face, her little gun in her
Graylord turned. He didn’t drop his gun,
and she fired. The light-caliber bullet struck
him in the chest, but it didn’t knock him
He said, savagely, “It’s you, huh? Acid
wasn’t enough. Take this then.”
I jumped against him from the rear,
jiggling his gun arm so that the bullet went
over Jane’s head. He dropped his gun but he
wasn’t through. He swung back, his arms
locking about me and I realized that I under
the layer of soft fat were muscles that would
put Bobo to shame.
I felt the breath being squeezed out of my
lungs. I felt sick and dizzy. I tried to break the
grip and failed. It seemed to draw only that
much tighter. I beat at him with my fists, but I
knew that my blows were getting weaker. The
bullet from Jane’s little gun seemed to have no
effect; at least it hadn’t sapped his strength.
But Jane wasn’t through. She’d caught up
the heavier gun and now she clubbed him with
it. He turned away from me, like a bull,
cornered, and tried to snatch the gun from her.
I measured him and put everything I had
into the blow to the chin. It rocked him back
on his heels and I struck again and again,
beating him down before me, remembering
Jimmy Wabash’s broken body, remembering
Jane’s scarred face. Even after he slumped
against the wall and slid down into a sitting
position, I kept on hammering. I think I’d
have beaten the life from him if Jane hadn’t
caught my arm and hauled me back.
“Austin, stop it, stop it!”
Her words came faintly through the red
haze that seemed to surround me. I shook my
head and some of the roaring went out of my
ears. She held my shoulders, shaking me. “All
“All right,” I told her, thickly.
She held on for a moment longer, then she
turned and, walking to the phone, called the
HE cops had come and taken Graylord
away. I walked slowly to the cab with a
girl on either side of me. “That’s over,” I said.
“Are you going to report to my office
tomorrow, Mary?”
Mary nodded.
Jane said, musingly, “It’s strange that a
man like Graylord—when did you suspect
him first?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t really
know it was him until we found Bobo, but
little things all along the line point to him now
that I know. First, he knew about this models’
association of Bobo’s although I’d never
heard of it. Then, he knew that it was Jimmy
Wabash that had interested me in Mary. No
one else, not even Ivor, or Bobo could know
that. Also, he knew Jimmy had taken Mary
home. I was a fool to miss seeing it sooner,
but he’d worked for me, been with me. . . .
Let’s forget him and think about you.”
“Me?” said Jane. She sounded surprised.
“There’s nothing to think about me. Maybe
Mary, now she’s going to be a great model,
will hire me as housekeeper or something.”
“You’re a model, too.”
“Look, mister. Her voice was rough. “Stop
kidding me, will you. I’m sorry. I can take
most anything, but not that—not kidding
about . . .”
I turned and caught her by the shoulders,
swinging her around to face me. “Listen, you
were a good model. You can still wear
clothes. A plastic surgeon, and I know a good
one, can do wonders with that face. . . .”
“Austin, no, please; you’re just trying to
be kind. I’ve given up. Don’t start me
dreaming about the impossible.”
“You fool,” I said. “You haven’t given up.
If you hadn’t trailed me from that cab, I’d be
dead. You never give up.”
“I don’t want your gratitude.”
“It isn’t gratitude,” I said. “Why’d you
trail me from that cab when I told you not to?”
She spoke without thinking.
“Because I didn’t want you hurt. I was
afraid. . . .”
“All right,” I said. “You didn’t want me
hurt, and I certainly don’t want to say
anything to hurt you. You’re the smartest,
dearest, best . . .”
She tried to stop me but I made her listen,
and I finally made her believe that I meant it.
The surgeon was wonderful and I’m glad
for her, but for my part, it wouldn’t have
mattered. I don’t care what she looks like, I
know what she is underneath, in her heart, and
in her mind.
Beautiful women are my business, but I
don’t want to take them home with me. I like
to go home to my wife, and Jane is the best
wife a man ever had.

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