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Ten Detective Aces, February, 1937
Copper’s Hate Beat
By S. J. Bailey
Author of “Volunteer Corpse,” etc.
Jimmy the Runt was declared ineligible for the police force because of an injury to
one of his feet. And limping Runty was wont to loose his bitter ire at the good-natured
neighborhood bull, Patrolman Brady—until he saw, too late, how bravely the honest
bluecoat could knowingly walk into the maw of death.
GOT to get this off my chest. It’s
about that lug, Brady, the cop on the
River Street beat—one of those sloppy
Irish cops that gets palsy-walsy with
everybody in the district except me. No,
sir. I would never have anything to do with
his dizzy stiff.
I sneaked up on him one day and heard
him gabbing with Bodkin, the tailor, about
me. He was saying:
“And believe it or not, there Jimmy
stood, the little sawed-off runt, leaning
against that lamp post with his bum foot
tucked in behind his good one, a crooked
cigarette hanging from his lips, his ragged
coat pinned shut, his hands stuck deep in
his pants—leaning, mind you, sort of
“ ‘Kid,’ I says, ‘d’you know where
you’re flopping tonight?’ He flings right
back at me: ‘Quit sticking your nose into
my business, will you, flattie? Where I
flop’s me own business, see?’ Can’t you
just hear him, Bodkin—the shaky, husky
voice of an old man coming outta the
corner of the mouth of a lad of seventeen.
Don’t it kind of get you, Bodkin?”
Can you beat that for being an old
woman? I tell you, that copper Brady sure
can nose his way into other people’s
business all on the excuse that he wants to
be kind. Kind! That guy Brady is sloppy!
When I heard him talk about me like
that to Bodkin, I got sore as hell. I swore
I’d get even. I went down to Fasselwein’s
flower store, which is also on Brady’s beat,
and I hung around a while eying up the
nice plate-glass windows and the flowers
inside. A guy I knew once went to Albany
when Smith was governor, and he told me
those flowers grow wild out in the
country—and nobody even steals ’em.
I took a gander around, and in the
gutter there was a pile of cobblestones left
by some guys that were fixing the road.
Nobody was around, so I stooped quick,
heaved one of the stones and powdered.
I’m around the corner and spreading
wideopen for shanty town when the crash
Next morning I was leaning up against
the lamp post on Fasselwein’s corner, kind
of idling away a few spare minutes,
watching the guys put in a new glass.
Brady came moseying along and pulled up
right at my elbow.
“Hello, Runt,” he said. His voice was
kind of low and easy. Sounded like it didn’t
come from his mouth but started way down
in his stomach and took plenty of time
making the trip up. One of the reasons I
hated this egg Brady so much was because
my old man used to talk kind of like that
before he took a header and split his
cranium on State Street. He was a
steeplejack up to when that happened.
After that, he was just an embalmer’s
headache. But Brady didn’t know anything
about my old man.
I didn’t say anything. I just kept
looking at the guys fixing the window.
But that didn’t stop Brady: He said: “I
suppose some poor fool with a loada licker
done it.”
I said, innocent-like: “Done what?”
“Heaved a cobblestone in among those
nice flowers,” said Brady. “Fasselwein has
got insurance on that window. That’s
nothing. But he had some rare blooms in
the showcase, blooms that he’s been
nursing for months. When he found out
what happened to them, he got sick. He had
to go home. Now his wife is nursing him.
You know, Runt, it sounds kind of funny—
and of course you wouldn’t understand—
but some guys are like that. They think a
hell of a lot more about things that are soft
and delicate and—and pretty, than they do
of a couple of lousy dollars.”
OW maybe you can begin to
understand why I hate this guy
Brady’s guts. He gets so stinking sloppy
that I just can’t stand him. And if you get
the idea he’s a lily on account of he’s
sloppy, I gotta set you straight. Brady is a
two-fisted he-man. He’s quicker on the
draw than a lot of hoods that belong to
Spike Mazzoli’s mob. And that is saying
something. And this guy Brady ain’t so
hard to look at, either. The girls sort of go
for him. He’s— Aw, what the hell! The
guy’s just too perfect. I guess that’s why it
gets my goat to see him swinging down the
street, flinging around that shiny billy of
My thoughts was kind of racing fast by
this time. I knew that, instead of making
trouble for Brady on his beat, I’d just made
a two-by-four claim for some punk
insurance company to pay. Where was the
satisfaction in that? I was getting more sore
by the minute at this slick, smooth cop. I
would have to do something about it, and
fast. I said, kind of sneering:
“Brady, you don’t have to waste any
more time worrying about where I bunk
any more. I’m getting me a swell
Brady took his eyes off the new
window and glanced at me kind of quick.
“Yeah? That’s fine, Runt.” There was
plenty of suspicion in his voice, and it gave
me some satisfaction. “I’m glad to hear it,
although, like I told you before, I’d always
be glad to have you bunk with me and my
sister. We got room. Where you gonna
I don’t most times take the trouble to
look Brady direct in the eye, because I’m
afraid maybe he might get the wrong idea.
But this time I couldn’t resist the
temptation. I wanted to get a load of his
handsome mug when I opened up on him.
I looked right up at him and I said:
“Over at Spike Mazzoli’s. I’m gonna hang
around and sort of make myself useful with
the mob. You know, there’s lots of odd
jobs a smart guy like me can take care of,
even if I’m not so good on my pins.”
I was looking for results, and boy, I got
them! Brady’s mug got kind of hard, so
that the bones under his ears stuck out, like
when somebody bites tough meat. He
glared at me for a while without spilling a
word. He grabbed tight on his nightstick
and slapped it against the palm of his left
hand a couple of times.
Then he said: “Runty, I’ll smack you
all over the lot if I ever catch you running
around with that bunch of gorillas.”
It was my turn then for some innings. I
knew I was getting at him plenty. I grinned
wide. “You won’t do any smacking,
copper, not while I’m with Spike. Spike’ll
put a slug in your belly if you muss one of
his men.”
“Oh, so that’s the lay of it,” said Brady.
“Well, sure, I’m a fool for thinking— Well,
let it go. But listen to me, Runt. Mazzoli
and me are going to go round and round
one of these days, and he is going to come
out at the hot squat.”
He stopped for a minute and glanced up
and down the street, keeping his eyes on
everything that was going on. Then he
added: “You don’t want to get mixed up
with him, Runty.”
“Aw, go pound your beat, flattie,” I
Brady started to say something, then he
shut his yap and walked away. As soon as
he was around the corner, I started to hotfoot it for the flat where I knew this
Fasselwein lived. I was kind of curious to
know what a guy would look like who was
sick on account of a couple of flowers got
I said hot-foot it, but I didn’t mean as
fast as that. I couldn’t travel so fast on
account of my foot, the one that got
squashed by the trolley car, was always
giving me trouble. When I was a kid, a
long time ago, I had a fool notion of
wanting to be a cop. But after I got out of
the hospital I found out you had to have
everything whole, especially your dogs. I
suppose that is because a cop never knows
when he has got to be chasing away from
some hard guy like Mazzoli, for instance,
when he has been poking his beak too far
into something.
I had plenty of time on the way to
figure out a good gag to get in with. I’d just
hand Mrs. Fasselwein a yarn about if
maybe she needed something from the drug
store for her old man. Then maybe I could
get a chance to take a gander at him.
The Fasselwein’s lived in a brick dump
five flights up. It was a long way to climb
but I figured it would be worth it. Some
woman was splashing water around on the
sidewalk and sweeping the place hard. She
was frowzy as hell, but she looked up kind
of cheerful and sized me up and said:
“Good morning, young man.”
I hauled past the old sloppy-mouth as
quick as I could, and hoisted myself step by
step up the five flights. I was near winded
when I got to the Fasselwein dump.
When Fasselwein’s old lady opened the
door, I tried to long-neck it over her
shoulder. But I was too short. I couldn’t see
anything. So I said: “I—uh—how’s the old
boy feeling?”
“Oh, you mean Mr. Fasselwein. He had
a heart attack. I guess the shock brought it
on. You’re a friend of his?”
“Naw—I mean, yeah. Mrs. Fasselwein,
maybe you need something from the drug
store? I could get it, and I wouldn’t take so
long. I—”
“Thank you, but I have everything I
need. Eileen Brady came over and did· my
errands for me. She’s a dear girl to—”
OMETHING soft kind of rustled
behind the old lady, and I heard a girl’s
voice. “Who is it?” Somebody edged out
between Mrs. Fasselwein and the door. It
was Brady’s kid sister that kept house for
him. When I laid eyes on her, my hands got
to feeling like the old trolley car had hit
them too.
She was one of those straight-shooting
kind that looks right at a guy without
pulling any of that dizzy come-and-get-me
stuff. I often wondered how a punk like
Brady could have a swell-looking doll like
Eileen for a sister.
“Why, Jimmy, hello!” she said, and
smiled, acting like she was very glad to see
I said, “Hello,” and stood kind of
gawking at her. Some crazy ideas went
hijacking through my brain. I didn’t want
them, but they pushed in—Fasselwein and
his crazy, busted flowers, and what Brady
said about delicate things that are easy to
bust. I was thinking, Fasselwein wasn’t the
only man who was going in for that kind of
stuff. I didn’t exactly figure out as far
ahead as to think what Brady would do if
somebody was maybe to heave a rock at
his flower pots. That didn’t come to me
until later on.
“It was awfully thoughtful of you,
Jimmy,” said Eileen, “to come all the way
up here to do errands for Mrs. Fasselwein,
especially with your—” She broke off, bit
her lip and got all red.
I had a flashy kind of notion that she
was awful sorry for that slip and for the
little, quick glance she threw down at my
feet. But I didn’t go into that angle of it
right then.
I just thought to myself that she’s just
like Brady. I opened my mouth and spit it
right out. I said, “I didn’t come up here on
account of I wanted to run errands. That
was a stall, see? I heard old man
Fasselwein was all busted up on account of
a couple of bent daisies. I wanted to take a
gander at a guy with such a lily-liver.”
Then I didn’t wait to watch her pan get
white and see her grab Mrs. Fasselwein’s
arm quick and breathe sort of fast. I just got
a tail-eye glimpse of these things while I
was swinging myself around and heading
for the stairs.
I was near the bottom of the last flight
when I heard voices. That sloppy-mouth
woman was gabbing with somebody, and I
was sure I recognized Brady’s yapping. I
wanted to powder by the back way, but the
hall was blocked with baby carriages. So I
walked bold-like out of the door.
Brady left off gabbing and swung
around. He looked at me square, but I
didn’t bother to give him back the look.
Why should I bother with him? But I felt
kind of hot around the ears because I knew
he was gonna start adding up a couple of
couples of twos. These Irishers sometimes
jump at a lot of crazy notions just from
watching the way a guy scratches his ear; at
least, Irishers that are cops.
But I was sore as hell now, after that
crack his sister made, and I didn’t give a
hoot in hell for any cops—least of all, this
cluck Brady.
I pushed down the steps and started to
elbow past him. The big punk didn’t give
me an inch. He just stood there, and he
“Where do you think you’re going in
such a hurry, Runty?”
I waited until the woman went up into
the house, then said: “Get outta my way,
flattie. You ain’t got anything on me.
Where’m I going? To Mazzoli’s, if it’s
anything to ya.”
I said that because I knew it’d make
him sore; also because I all at once made
up my mind that’s where I was going.
He said: “Not so fast, Runty. What
were you doing upstairs?”
“Visiting a pal,” I mumbled.
“I think it’s kind of funny,” he said,
“me telling you about Fasselwein, and you
ankling over here to his house right off.
Sure you haven’t got something on your
mind you’d like to tell me about?”
“Yes,” I said. “I got something very
special I want to tell you, Brady.”
“Well, let’s have it, Runt.” He opened
up his mug and smiled, friendly-like.
“That’s it!” I busted out. “That’s it!
You stop calling me Runt, see? You lay
off! I’m telling you, you big lug, you better
layoff, or—”
Brady got sober very quick. He said:
“Why, hell, Jimmy, I’m sorry. I didn’t
mean it that way. I just sort of meant it
like—like one pal calls another a—a pet
moniker, sort of—of kidding and sort of—”
The big punk stopped then, and his
floppy mouth stayed open kind of foolishlike for a couple of seconds, and then he
closed it hard and fast. He juggled his billy
around, looking down at it like it was
suddenly turning into a dead fish or
I was sore and getting more sore by the
minute. I said: “Don’t hand me that kind of
malarkey! You been hounding me for
months, horning in when I was doing this
and that, shoving your beak and yap in
every time you seen me on the street. I’d
have to crawl into a rain barrel in shanty
town to keep from tangling with you. You
got to cut it to hell out, Brady. Lay off me,
see? S’long, flattie.”
I clammed up then and pulled my
freight. I headed down the street toward
Mazzoli’s joint. I figured that would get
Brady’s goat just a little more. Then, while
I was hobbling along, I remembered that I
was really going to Mazzoli’s.
For a minute I had a kind of queer shot
through my stomach, and I figured the
slimy coffee I had for breakfast maybe
went back on me. Then it passed off, and I
was in front of Mazzoli’s and then
slamming into Mazzoli’s like I was an old
timer there. I felt better when I got inside
the door. I guess the coffee wasn’t so bad
as I thought.
AZZOLI’S place didn’t have any
trade around at this time of the day.
The chairs were piled up on the tables, and
the floor was kind of damp, like as if
somebody had just give it a mopping.
There were a string of high-backed booths
along the left wall, painted in a loud, flashy
way with pictures of zofty dames in
floating muslin.
I didn’t see anybody around, and at first
I didn’t hear anything. Then I caught the
rumble of voices, and I looked harder and
saw the smoke coming up out of the last
booth down the line. I was pretty sure one
of the voices was Spike Mazzoli’s, so I
headed for the back. My foot dragged a
little, but it didn’t make much noise
because the floor had some kind of oil
cloth that was thick and killed sounds. You
could drop a quarter on it and never hear
any ring.
There were big, red and black squares,
and I was sort of wondering how swell it
would be to be able to take them one at a
time—in long strides like Brady. Then my
thoughts were busted up by the sound of
Brady’s name; and it didn’t come from my
I stopped dead in the middle of a black
square. It was Spike’s yap. I didn’t get the
whole sentence, and what I heard didn’t
make much sense; but I didn’t move.
“And that punk Brady turned it down
cold—ten grand!”
“Bah!” I heard another guy croak up.
“Lemme give it to him, boss. I’ll slice him
up tonight while he’s on the dog watch.”
“You keep your lousy knife iced,
Carver!” rapped out Spike. “You want us
all to burn? Brady’s already told the D. A.
he saw three of us lamming from the
warehouse. What we gotta do is find a way
to make him change his mind about
testifying, see?”
“You already said he turned down ten
grand. What the—”
“Shut up, Carver, and listen. Brady’s
got a sister, see? A nice little bit of fluff,
and he’s nuts about her. If we—”
“Hey, clam up!” whispered another
voice. “I think there’s a guy—”
They spotted me then. Three heads
were stuck up at once, and three pairs of
eyes drilled me over the top of the booth.
I was so interested in what they were
cooking up for Brady, that I guess I forgot
to get scared. I walked up to the table and
said, kind of chummy-like: “Hello, Spike.”
I waved my hand out in front of me like a
regular guy. “Don’t worry about me, Spike.
I don’t like that dizzy Irish cop any more
than you guys do.”
They looked at each other for a long
time, and nobody said anything. It was a
kind of dead quiet, and it began to give me
the fidgets. I knew this mobster Mazzoli
was a handy guy with a gun; that when he
didn’t like somebody he showed it, kind of
openlike, by having him drilled with hot
All at once Spike opens up his big
mouth and lets out a howl. I thought he was
gonna get a stroke, or something the way
his face got red from laughing. I waited
kind of patient until he got all through. He
looks at the other two hoods, and he says:
“Here’s the answer, boys. Jimmy
here’ll throw in with us. That’ll make
everything okay—see?”
They both looked puzzled, but I
grinned at Spike and nodded my head. I got
what he meant, and I kind of liked the way
he mentioned me. No “Runt” stuff. Just
plain, decent “Jimmy.”
The one called Carver frowned. “It’s
takin’ a chance, ain’t it, Spike? He might
spill the jazz.”
“Nah,” said Spike, very confident.
“Jimmy hates Brady more’n we do. He’s
told me plenty about how Brady’s always
poking his nose into his business. Ain’t it
the truth, Jimmy?”
“Sure,” I said. “Sure, Spike, that’s
“So what’s the gag?” asked the third
man. He was shortest of the three and said
the least.
Spike Mazzoli glanced around the
empty joint, leaned forward and said in a
low voice. “He decoys the kid sister, see?
She knows him, and all he has to do is—
Now listen and get this straight . . . . “
Well, the four of us stayed in a huddle
around that table for about an hour or so.
When I left the joint I had my routine all
laid out, and I was feeling tops for the first
time in months. It had taken a long time,
but I was finally going to show this guy
Brady up. The dumb Irishman! Snitch on
my pals to the D. A., would he? I’d show
him and that silly sister of his. She—
I was about a block and a half away
from the joint when I thought of
something. I switched around and beat it
back. The boys were still sitting around the
table. They musta been telling some stories
or something, because they were all
laughing out loud when I walked in.
Spike’s face was redder than ever. But
when they seen me, they all clammed up
I said: “Boys, there’s one thing I forgot.
It’s about Brady’s sister. You ain’t—you
ain’t aiming to hurt her or nothing, are
you? She’s only a kid, see? And Brady’s
the guy we’re after. As soon as we work
the gag on him and he goes over to the
D.A. to fix things, we can take her home,
can’t we?”
Nobody spoke for a couple of seconds.
Then Carver started to open his mouth, but
Spike jabbed his elbow into his side so
hard his face screwed up. Spike said:
“Why, Jimmy, what the hell ever gave
you such an idea? The girl’s only a kid. We
don’t want her for nothing. Sure—she goes
home. And—and you can take her home!
How’s that?”
“Okay,” I said. “That’s okay, Spike.”
RADY was on night shift that night,
so we’d figured to pull the snatch right
off. I rung the bell about nine o’clock, and
Eileen came out.
“Hello, Jimmy. Gee, I’m glad to see
you. I—” She acted like she wanted to say
something about what happened at the
Fasselwein’s, but was afraid to apologize
for fear of sticking her foot into it again.
I covered it up. I said, very quick:
“Miss Brady, there’s a kid just got hit by a
bicycle around the corner. How’s about
giving me a hand to carry him? He’s only a
small kid—about so high.” I held my hand,
palm down, about two feet from the ground
to give her an idea of what I was lying to
her about.
She didn’t wait to put on anything, just
came out the way she was, bareheaded and
all. She had on a pretty kind of thin,
shimmery dress that clung to her body
when she walked. I felt kind of lousy to use
her, but I knew I had to show that lug
Brady up.
When she got around the corner there
wasn’t any bicycle, only a big, closed
sedan like an undertaker’s rig. She looked
at me and started to say, “Why, Jimmie—”
But two hoods stepped out of the doorway
and grabbed her—one with his big paws at
her throat; the other with his arms around
her waist.
Something kind of went crazy inside
me when I saw them handling her like that.
I hollered: “Hey, you lugs, that’s no way
One of them shoved me in the mush,
and I went back against a lamp post.
They heaved her into the car. I jumped
up and hobbled after them. I got my good
foot onto the running board and held on to
the side of the car. It was moving. One of
them rapped a gun-butt across my fingers,
and the next thing 1 knew 1 was coming
out of it with a busting headache. 1 don’t
know how long I’d been lying in the
gutter—out like a busted bulb.
Brady was bending over me. I opened
my eyes, and I guess I got scared and
forgot for a couple of seconds about my
splitting dome. He didn’t say anything at
first. He just helped me to sit up on the
curb so I could lean against the light pole.
Then he said: “Well, Jimmy, how you
feel now?”
“Hell, I’m all right,” I said. “You can
go on pounding your beat now.”
He shook his head kind of slow. I knew
right then something was up. “Jimmy,” he
said kind of quiet-like, “I’m not going to be
pounding any more beats. I’m not going to
be a cop any more.”
I opened my mouth and stared. I didn’t
say anything. I musta looked like I didn’t
believe it, because he nodded his head and
said it again: “I’m getting off the force,
“What the hell you trying to hand me,
copper?” I asked.
“Tomorrow I’m going to see the D.A.
and tell him something,” he explained.
“After that, I’m going to headquarters and
turn in my badge.”
So that was it—they’d got to him
already! Sure, why not? With Eileen put
away, there wasn’t any use wasting time. It
was all working out just like we’d figured.
Brady, the poor slob, was coming around
like a doll. What else could he do? But
something had me stumped. I said:
“What the hell’s this D. A. business got
to do with you being a cop?”
His voice sounded like something was
dead inside him. “I can’t explain, kid, but
what I’m going to tell the D. A. will make
it impossible for me to stay on the force.
There’s things a cop can’t do, and if he
I was trying to say something, but
Brady wasn’t paying any attention. It was
okay by me because it was sticking in my
throat. The damn’ fool. The big punk.
What the hell would the street be like
without him pounding along and sticking
his nose into—
I guess I musta been dizzy from the
clout on the beezer. All of a sudden I
remembered how those lugs had shoved his
kid sister into that car. I got scared as hell.
Everything was getting twisted up. All I
wanted to do was make it tough for Brady,
and now the fool was crying about quitting
the force. And those mugs had his sister.
I got up and leaned against the pole. “I
got to go now, copper. I—got to go.
I pulled freight as quick as I could walk
with my bum foot dragging the way it
always did. It took me quite a while to get
to Spike’s joint. The place was full of light,
and there was plenty of noise inside. I was
hoping there was another way to get into
the joint beside the front. I sneaked down
an alley, ducking past some garbage cans
that smelled pretty ripe. There was a door
at the back, but it was locked.
I worked along in the dark until I came
to a window. It was open about six inches,
and some dirty curtains were hanging out
over the sill. I got a strong whiff of cigar
smoke and stale beer. I looked in.
There were three guys sitting around
the table. Spike and Carver and that other
guy—I didn’t know his name.
OMETHING came over me when I saw
the three of them sitting around
smoking and drinking. I thought of the way
they’d hauled Eileen into the car. Now they
had her tied up somewhere—maybe in the
cellar with the rats. I didn’t stop to figure
anything out. I shoved up the window and
started across the sill.
It was clumsy going on account of my
foot. By the time I got inside, they were on
their feet, all of them. Spike had his gat
out. Carver was feeling around inside his
belt. I knew he had a knife there—and he
could throw.
“Where is she?” I yelled. “What you
dirty mugs do with her? You told me
“Shut up!” Spike let out the words in a
hard voice. “You want to wise up the trade
outside, you damn-fool Runt?” He jerked
his head toward the door. Sounds of music
and laughing came through it.
“I told you it was no sense bringing
him into it, Spike,” said Carver. “Now you
see what? He’s running around and
shooting his mouth off. He went soft on
Spike said: “He’ll sew up his yap right
now. I’ll fix him.”
I saw him thumb down the safety of his
automatic. I knew he was going to let me
have it. I was just a plain fool. I coulda
hung around outside the window and
maybe picked up where they had her hid.
He pointed the gat at my chest. His face
got kind of purple, like he was going nuts
or something.
Carver yelled: “Hey, boss, you gonna
drill him here? What about the trade? Let
me do it. My way’s quiet.”
Spike glanced at him and nodded
slowly. He acted like it cost him something
to have to let the pleasure go to somebody
else. “All right, Carver. Only do it neat. I
don’t want blood spattering all over the
joint. He’s liable to squirt and dance like a
stuck chicken and—”
The knife gleamed in Carver’s hand.
He pulled it back and aimed. I stared at him
like I was hypnotized.
I saw his hand flick the knife forward
and I tried to make myself duck, but I was
stuck to the spot.
Then something cracked behind me and
jarred me loose. I flopped to one side. As I
went down, I saw Carver grow another
eye—right in the center of his forehead. At
least, that’s how it looked to me. It was like
a nightmare. He fell down in a heap,
making only a loud sighing sound.
Somebody’s drilled him in the forehead
with a slug—somebody that was piling
through the open window behind me.
The knife almost got me. It took a
couple of inches of my scalp, then smashed
against the window frame. Then I heard a
sharp spick right behind me. The knife had
bounced down and stuck in the floor a
couple of inches from my back. It stood
there quivering. Phew! Blood started
running into my eyes then, and I couldn’t
see so good.
All hell was bursting into a rash in that
room. Spike threw out his gat and nailed a
shot right over me. Glass crashed. A big
body fell on my neck. It was Brady, the
lug. He’d stuck out his neck, and they’d
fixed it for him. No, it wasn’t his neck, it
was his thigh. He was trying to get up,
trying to get on his big Irish feet.
I watched him, and it seemed to me like
he was trying to stab those number tens
through the floor. Finally he managed it,
but the sweat was running off his red face.
He held onto his thigh, planted his feet
apart and started pumping lead across the
I got a look at Spike’s face, a four-inch
sneer shoving his mouth apart. He snapped
up his gat and shot Brady’s gun to hell. The
damned thing blew apart in Brady’s
hand—and that left him with a couple of
less fingers than he had when he came to
the party.
All the time I was sweating, trying to
get on my pins. I was dizzy as a chippie
from that whoosh across my bean.
How that Irishman could take it! He
just stood there, his mug screwed into the
shape of an egg-beater, glaring at Spike.
For some reason Spike didn’t finish him
off. He kept Brady covered and said to the
other gunman:
“Fargo, get the fluff.”
That was all. The gunman beat it. I
wiped the muck out of my eyes and
squinted up at Brady. I was beginning to
see straight. I caught an eyeful of the
fighting hate that come into Brady’s eyes
then. You’d have thought a man with
Brady’s lead trouble woulda folded up and
waited for the go-cart from the hospital. I
thought to myself: This guy is got much
more guts even than I thought.
I wondered if they’d heard the rumpus
out front. The music was still jazzing and
thumping louder than ever. A bunch of
half-lit birds out there—probably knew
better than to stick their lily noses into a
shooting at the back of Spike Mazzoli’s
joint. No, we weren’t going to get help
from that direction.
The door started to open. Spike didn’t
take his eyes off Brady. I twisted around,
keeping myself between them and the
knife. I raised my hand and put it down
again, making a show of trying to push
myself up. My ticker began a double-time
thumping against my ribs. I’d let my coat
sleeve drop over the knife. When I come up
I had it under cover, the point of its sixinch blade sticking into the heel of my
HE bird called Fargo dragged Brady’s
sister into the room and locked the
door. The kid cried out at the sight of
Brady’s blood and started at him. Fargo
yanked her back, and she went slam-drag
against the wall, crying soft.
What a lousy heel you are, I told myself
then, when I saw her dress half ripped off
her shoulder and her white skin black
where they’d thrown her around. Jeez, I
thought, to get a clean kid like that into this
stink hole of gutter freight, just because
you don’t like the way her brother slings
his billy. I was so damn’ sore at myself
then that I curled up my wrist and let the
razor point of that knife sink into my palm.
The blood started to spit against the inside
of my fingers.
Spike said: “All right, Brady. When I
get through with the kid, you’ll wish you’d
dirtied your hands with that ten grand I
offered you.”
He stuck out his paw and cuffed her a
mean one on the face.
I didn’t have to look at Brady to know
he was pulling himself together for a crazy
move that would get him nowhere fast,
with a slug in his belly.
I had to do things quick if I was going
to keep the fool from getting himself
mowed down.
Behind my pants legs, six inches of
cold steel slid down through my fingers. I
wrapped my hand around the handle and
laid my thumb against the side of the blade.
Then I let out a yell and heaved myself at
I think I must have looked kind of
funny, hobbling across those few feet of
space—not leaping like Brady would have
done it, but dragging my bum foot, my
whole body swinging from side to side as I
tried to make time. I still had the knife hid
behind my pants leg. Nobody had missed
it. You see the guy that owned it was dead.
At first sign of movement from me,
Spike swung his gun on me. I was looking
right into the barrel, and I got a good idea
then of how a gun looks when it is spitting
lead at you. It wasn’t Spike’s fault that he
missed—or mine—just that bum foot of
mine, throwing me from side to side.
The minute the gun swung away from
Brady, the big lug let out a bellow and
threw himself at Spike—trying to cramp
my technique, damn him.
I guess Spike didn’t know I had the
knife, because he swung the gun back and
let Brady have it. By that time Fargo had
my side-slip pretty well timed, and he let
me have a dose. It didn’t stop me, though. I
was too close to Spike Mazzoli, too close
to spilling that guy’s guts to let a slug stop
me. I didn’t feel anything, anyway, at least
not for a minute. And by that time I was
jabbing that knife into Spike’s vest pocket.
It must have sliced through a book of
matches on its way to his guts, because I
smelled sulphur and saw a little smoke
coming out—then blood.
I was traveling down then—to kiss the
floor. Just as I was going out, with slugs
whining in my ears, I wondered how bad
Brady was from that third dose. Why
couldn’t that guy have let me finish it?
They’ll miss him on River Street, where
they all like to see him flashing that shiny
cop’s billy. And Eileen will not get
anywhere without a tough guy like Brady
around to take some wallops for her . . . .
She’s gonna be a bent daisy—and Brady’s
billy is a dead fish . . . .
CAME out of it roosting between the
whitest sheets I ever saw, with Brady,
the big lug, draped in a wheelchair close
by; Eileen was there, watching first me,
then Brady. Her eyes were full of wet light.
Brady leaned over me, and his breath
came whistling past my ear like short puffs
out of an auto tire. “You all right, kid?”
“Sure—and I see they didn’t get you,
copper,” I managed to say. My tongue felt
like a crippled herring, lame and salty.
“You got Spike,” he said. “I shot
“You ain’t sore at me,” I asked him,
“for pulling that—”
He grinned all over his Irish mug.
“Shut up, Runty, and listen. A big, Fifth
Avenue doc that knows all about bum feet
is coming here in a couple of minutes to
look you over. Now, shut up! Don’t get
yourself all worked up just because I
mentioned that damn’ foot. If a guy’s got a
bum foot, he can maybe do something
about it. Especially if he’s a little Runt with
guts that would make a very damned good
cop, if he had his foot fixed. Now, shut—”
I began to get the idea he was just
talking fast to keep from busting down, the
sloppy Irisher. I said:
“Listen, copper, I wanta tell you
“Forget it, Runty, I know all about it.”
“No, you don’t,” I said. “I gotta tell you
that I—”
“Well,” he hollered out, “what is it
“Copper,” I said, “it was me chucked
that cobblestone in Fasselwein’s window.”
He grinned quick and stuck his hand
hard onto my shoulder. “You damn-fool
Runt,” he said.

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