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G-Men Detective, March, 1947
BRIGHT BULB
By SAM MERWIN, JR.
Quick-thinking girl photographer Rae Gibson throws some
light on the subject when a G-man is groping in the dark!
ENDING almost double so that
the gardenia in her newly set
brown hair would not be knocked
awry, Rae Gibson slipped underneath and
in back of the bar. Nudging Gus, the
barman, out of her line of fire with a sharp,
white-gloved little elbow, she lined up her
target.
She readied the bulb in her SpeedGraphic and rose swiftly, a slim, pretty girl
with curves in the right places and a
determined little chin. The bulb flared
briefly, blindingly, and Zelda Handley,
sensational blond star of the Zombie
Revue, was registered, cooling over a
drink with her newest escort.
It would, Rae reflected, be a good shot
in spite of the big lug with the dark glasses
who had elected to play human cyclorama
to the more engaging foreground couple.
Deftly she ducked back out from under the
bar.
As she straightened up, Rae found her
passage blocked by Zelda Handley’s
B
G-MEN DETECTIVE 2
companion. When she had snapped him,
he had been smiling. But he wasn’t
smiling now.
“Okay, miss,” he said in a low voice,
which managed to convey plenty of force.
“I’ll take that film.” He was holding a tendollar bill between two fingers.
“Sorry,” said Rae. “No sale.”
She didn’t know why she had said it,
once it was out. Ten dollars was a lot more
than the picture was likely to be worth.
But something about this tall stranger’s
assumption of command rubbed her the
wrong way.
“I shan’t raise the ante,” he said, polite
but still firm. “Miss Handley doesn’t wish
to be photographed.”
Rae snorted. Zelda Handley didn’t
want publicity any more than a shark
wanted food—and more food. Since
scoring her success in the Zombie Revue,
the oh-so-blond Zelda had been
photographed in various states of fetching
dress and undress from photographers’
studios to the North River piers by way of
the Bronx Zoo, where she had posed
willingly with a lioness to compare
tawniness of tresses.
Her interlocutor had the grace to turn
red. But he failed to give ground.
“Do you like photographing people
against their will?” he inquired. “Are you
happy at this sort of thing?”
“I couldn’t be happier, really I
couldn’t, or could I?” countered Rae,
resenting his sarcasm.
“Okay, I’ll make it twenty,” he said
grudgingly.
“Keep on talking,” said Rae. “You
might as well, since your damozel seems
to have lammed. Meanwhile, I have
business to attend—”
HE stopped, for he had vanished as
suddenly as he appeared. She caught a
glimpse of him bulling his way through
the mob around the bar to reach the front
exit. For a moment, she stared after him.
Then she shrugged, reassumed her nineP.M.-to-four-A.M. smile and wended her
way back through the crowded rows of
tables in the big inner room.
“There,” she thought with a trace of
regret, “goes twenty bucks.”
Four pictures later, she had a chance to
get her breath while standing in the corner
that belonged by rights to Jacques, the
Crane Club’s Brooklyn-born French head
waiter. Jacques was a good guy. He had a
wife and four kids across the East River,
and no ideas where Rae was concerned.
“Who was the Lochinvar with Zelda?”
she asked him. “He offered me a twenty to
give him the shot, then took a powder after
her before I could grab it.”
Jacques shrugged.
“With Zelda,” he said, “he could be
anything.”
That, Rae knew, was true. Ever since
the Crane Club had become un success fou
six months earlier, the dancer had been
appearing there almost nightly. And her
escorts changed as regularly as double
features at a Forty-second Street movie
grind house. Zelda got around.
Rae snapped a half dozen more
couples in various conditions of amour or
intoxication, then went back of the
orchestra stand toward the developing
room.
Although she was making a pretty
good thing out of her job at the Club
Crane, Rae had not yet learned to revel in
the tart, acid odor of the developing room.
She had reasserted a childhood fondness
for picture taking when she discovered the
model agencies were crowded—except for
girls who came from Scranton or
Lafayette, Indiana. But being a native
Manhattanite had certain compensations.
She had picked up a tip about the Club
Crane job and had nabbed it.
S
BRIGHT BULB 3
This evening she found herself liking
the developing room less than ever before.
Awaiting her inside its battered portal was
the heavy-set man with the dark glasses
who had so nearly spoiled her shot of
Zelda Handley and the man with the
twenty dollars.
“Well!” exclaimed the girl, stopping
short on ,the threshold.
Her right hand held camera and bulb
holder, her left rested on the disguised
half-size hatbox swinging from a strap on
her shoulder, and which contained spare
bulbs and film.
“You took my picture,” said the burly
man.
Something in his tone and manner
made Rae feel creepy. It was hard to nail
down, but it was there.
“I want it,” he added, and his voice,
while soft, carried a definite rasp.
Rae debated lying or taking a stand as
she had against the tall stranger, but her
confidence oozed out under the blank stare
of his dark glasses.
“If you’ll wait till I develop a print,
you may have it,” she said, assuming what
she hoped was her professional smile. “I
have a number of orders to fill. The fee is
two dollars a print.”
“Print and negative,” said the burly
one firmly. “I’ll go for two bucks. Go
ahead, sweetheart. 1 got time.”
For once, words failed her. She
hesitated. The situation was ridiculous.
“Get busy,” he said.
She got busy. He stood close behind
her while she made the prints under the
dim red light. But she took her time.
Finally there it was, handsome stranger,
flamboyant Zelda and unwelcome
backstage guest.
“Nice timing,” he said enigmatically.
He waited in silence while she put the
prints in folders, then picked up print and
negative. “Here’s your two bucks,
beautiful.”
She took it. Business was business,
even if she had just kicked eighteen dollars
away. She found herself trembling as she
switched on the light.
“You’re a very wise cookie,” he told
her. “And you’ve taken a load off my
mind.”
“I couldn’t be happier, really I
couldn’t, or could I?” countered Rae, no
longer frightened with the light on.
E GLOWERED at her. “Don’t spoil
it,” he said. “Keep it locked.”
He tapped her forehead with a stubby,
over-manicured finger. And just then the
door of the developing room was thrown
open. The tall stranger stood there, looking
from Rae to the first intruder with
astonishment.
“Well I’ll be—” he said, and moved
swiftly to grab the photograph the burly
man still held.
He stared at it, then at the original—
and only then saw the stubby little flat
automatic which had appeared in its
owner’s hairy fist and was pointed directly
at Rae.
“Okay, bub, clasp them on top of your
head,” said the man in dark glasses. “If
you don’t, the girl gets it.”
“Chivalry is not yet dead,” said the tall
stranger, complying. But his gaiety fell
very flat. He added, “Until I saw how you
pulled that gat, I missed it entirely, Nick.
We’ve got a movie of you drawing, down
at the Bureau.”
“That does it,” said the burly one. “I
guess you’ll both have to come along with
me. Remember, one fast play and sweety
pie eats lead.”
They paraded silently out the back way
into the alley, the stranger first, then Rae,
gripping the edge of her hatbox-holder
nervously, then Nick. Nick directed them
tersely to a side street where a cab waited,
H
G-MEN DETECTIVE 4
its motor running.
No ‘words were spoken during the
short but circuitous ride that followed.
They drove to the service entrance of a
large apartment house. Never pointing his
pistol away from Rae, Nick directed them
to the service elevator, after tossing the tall
stranger some keys and ordering him to
unlock the door.
On the twenty-second floor, they
emerged from the lift to be directed into a
large apartment. They were led down a
corridor covered with thick carpet. A
lighted doorway at its far end, bespoke of
a living room, and from it came the sound
of voices.
They didn’t go as far as the living
room. Instead, Nick ordered them into a
large bedroom, ordered the tall stranger to
turn on the lights from a switch beside the
door. He studied them.
“Okay, G-man,” he said in his rasping
voice. “You got the girl into this. It’s up to
you whether she gets out. Unload.”
With a sigh, the tall man tossed a
revolver onto the floor at Nick’s feet.
When the gangster stooped to pick it up,
the tall man took a step forward, tensed
like a wrestler. But Nick’s gun never
wavered. He laughed.
“Easy, bub,” he said. “Keep quiet until
Big Tim makes up his mind what to do
with you. And don’t try the Venetian
blinds. They’re steel.”
With that, he left them and they heard
the sound of a bolt turning on the outside
of the door. Rae sat down on the big bed
and looked around. The room was in a
state of utter confusion. Bureau drawers
had been removed and emptied, closet
doors yawned open. Discarded shirts,
shorts, undershirts, suits, were strewn
about the floor at random.
“Would you mind telling me, tall,
blond and handsome,” she said. “What in
flaming Hades this is all about?”
The tall stranger sat down beside her,
sighed, and lit a cigarette. He offered it to
Rae, who took it. “I guess you have a right
to know,” he said. “This Nick—Nick
Morgan, he calls himself—is big Tim
Alamac’s head stooge.”
“Hello, hello!” said Rae, her brown
eyes widening. “Then you’re after Big
Tim.”
“It looks as if I’ve found him,” said the
stranger bitterly. “The Bureau got a tip
some time ago that Big Tim was in town,
waiting to collect a couple of payoffs
before taking a powder out of the
country.”
“And you didn’t want that,” said Rae.
“Really you didn’t want that, or did you?
He’s not a very good citizen.”
“This is not funny,” said the stranger
acidly. “We had the pitch arranged neatly.
You see, Big Tim is a very possessive
gentleman. So we rigged up a multiple
play for Zelda Handley—she cost him
enough to set up in show business. At least
one of us would take her out every night.”
Rae’s eyes opened wide. “And Zelda
didn’t tumble?” she asked.
“Zelda is probably the only person
walking outside of an institution who
could qualify as a moron. We saw to it her
goings on got plenty of publicity. We
figured sooner or later Big Tim would
blow his top and communicate with her.”
“Then why the gag about not wanting
the picture taken tonight?” Rae asked.
“That was for me, not Zelda. Nick
Morgan doesn’t know me, but Big Tim
does. If my mug appeared with hers in the
paper, he’d have tumbled.”
“I’ll be darned, really I will, or—”
“For heaven’s sake, check that routine
outside,” said the G-man. “Right now, I’m
trying to think of a way out of this which
won’t cost me my job or get us both killed.
Of all the foul luck, that picture you took
was the nadir.”
BRIGHT BULB 5
“I don’t get it. I simply don’t,” said
Rae.
“In words of one syllable, you snapped
it just as brother Nick slipped Zelda the
word Big Tim wanted to see her. She had
a chance to lam while I was trying to bribe
you. It was the only time I took my eyes
off her all evening. I went after her, but
she simply wasn’t there—or anywhere.
She’s probably in this apartment now,
explaining herself to Big Tim.”
“Not a job I’d like,” said Rae. “If Big
Tim has killed all those people they say he
has.”
“Nor I,” said the tall man. “Another
job I don’t relish is explaining myself to
the Bureau Chief. He figured on Zelda
leading us to Big Tim before he could take
off. So first I lose her, then I go back for
that picture and get taken by Nick Morgan
like an amateur gumshoe. Now Big Tim is
all set.” He glanced around at the disorder
in the room. “Somebody’s been packing
here.”
“Or maybe just tearing up clothes,”
Rae offered with a bright, nervous smile.
“What will they do to us?”
“Probably leave us here and tip off the
papers once Big Tim is safely away,” said
the G-man gloomily. “If there is one thing
big-timers like Tim Alamac prefer, to
putting bullets in G-men, it’s making
idiots out of them. And we have an airtight
case against Tim. No income tax rap,
either. We’ve got him cold on the business
protection racket—taking pictures of
witnesses, depositions, affidavits,
everything foolproof. But if he gets away
now, he’s got money enough to beat an
extradition rap.”
“Maybe friend Nick was bluffing when
he said this room was foolproof,” Rae
suggested.
The G-man rose and walked to the
windows, tested the blinds. They were
steel, all right. Furthermore, the cords
which supposedly opened them were
dummies. He looked around for some sort
of a switch, turned to test the door.
“Hey!” he yelled as the lights suddenly
went out.
“It’s all right,” said the girl, switching
them on again. “I only wanted to see if all
of them operated on this switch.”
“What for?” the man inquired, looking
as if he were having nightmares now.
“It’s very simple, really it is,” said
Rae. She went about her business as she
talked. “You see, once in a: while, some
customer offers a girl like me a fat fee to
take pictures at a party somewhere after
work. And once in a while one of these
once-in-a-whilers gets ideas.”
“I may be dumb,” said the stranger,
watching her in bafflement as she
unscrewed the bulb from a table lamp,
“but I don’t get it.”
“Why, it couldn’t be simpler, really
it—”
“Oh, change the record.”
“Sorry,” said Rae primly. “The
technique we shutter-mice use is to flee to
the powder room and replace the light bulb
with a flashbulb, like this. Then we tell Joe
Wolf to come and .get us. By the time he
has his eyesight back, Miss Shuttermouse
is halfway home.”
“Of all the—” the man began. Then he
looked at her thoughtfully as she took
another flashbulb from her hatbox-holder
and put it in a wall socket. “But just how
do you plan to work it here?”
“You’ll see,” said Rae. She finished
the job, leaving but one lamp on. “Can you
get over by the door all right?”
“This way?” he asked, obediently.
HE nodded as he took up a position
beside the door. He had the idea now.
She struck a match.
“Now turn off the switch.” she said.
He complied and the room was in
S
G-MEN DETECTIVE 6
darkness, save for the flare of the little
flame Rae held. She screwed one of the
flashbulbs in tight, lit another match,
screwed in another and another and
another until the job was complete.
“What now?” the tall man asked.
“Pray the room isn’t soundproof,” said
Rae. “This is where I use my tonsils. And
remember to shut your eyes when the door
opens and whoever comes in goes for the
switch.”
Rae opened her mouth and let out a
series of blood-curdling screams. When
she could scream no more she gurgled and
groaned and stamped her feet. She paused
for a moment, heard nothing outside,
thought she had failed. But she had
forgotten the depth of the corridor carpet.
She tried again anyway, and was
emitting an appalling shriek as the lock
turned and the door was thrown open
almost in one gesture. Nick Morgan’s
burly silhouette was revealed.
“Hey, cut it out!” he yelled. “What’s
going on here?”
Rae closed her eyes, felt the lids glow
red as the switch was pressed. When she
opened them, the G-man was treating the
gorilla with an expert roughness to which
he seemed unaccustomed. Nick seemed to
take off and land head-first on the floor,
almost at her feet.
An impulsive girl on occasions, Rae
was seized by an impulse then. Deftly she
stooped, removed one slipper and smacked
the groggy gangster neatly on the left
temple with a sharp heel. Mr. Morgan
went to sleep.
The G-man scooped up Nick’s pistol,
which had fallen from his fingers, gave
him a nudge with the butt on the other
temple. In the meanwhile, Rae was
screwing her final flashbulb into the
camera holder.
When she entered the living room, she
got a perfect shot of Big Tim Alamac as he
started up from the sofa where he was
sitting beside a somewhat disheveled and
definitely black-eyed Zelda Handley. If
she had had another bulb, she could have
caught Big Tim with his hands high while
Zelda swooned.
But the G-man was ordering her to
telephone a certain number. She did, and
then things happened even faster.
A number of quiet, efficient young
men entered within minutes and escorted
the trio out of there without fuss. Others
went through the packed bags which were
piled in the hall. Apparently they found
what they wanted, for expressions of
satisfaction were uttered.
“And anyway,” said Rae’s own Gman, “We can take the pair of them on a
kidnaping charge if the others fall through.
That’s up to the legal department.”
Suddenly the men were leaving. One
of them, who seemed to be in charge,
looked back to where the tall man and Rae
were standing.
“That was swell work,” he said. “I’ll
want to thank you, young lady, with a
check tomorrow. There was a lot of money
up for Big Tim, and you’ve earned most of
it. The flashbulb caper was a honey. See
you later, Bruce.”
“We’ll be downtown in an hour,” said
the tall G-man.
But Rae wasn’t listening then. She was
making motions with her lips. “Bruce.”
She tried it out, looked at him, decided it
fit.
Then he was looking down at her,
from very close indeed. She smiled up at
him—a real, not a professional smile. The
other things that had happened to her that
night didn’t seem important.
“What’s your last name, Bruce?” she
asked.
“Farquar,” he said. “Is it okay?”
“Ummummm,” she replied. Then,
shyly, “I’m Rae Gibson, if it makes any
BRIGHT BULB 7
difference to you.”
He answered that in the approved
gallant fashion, without words. When their
lips parted, he looked at her a trifle
anxiously. “You didn’t mind?” he asked.
He looked as if it were important to
him. She pressed closer into his arms.
“I couldn’t be happier, really I
couldn’t, or could I?” she inquired.
“That,” he replied, “we intend to find
out.”

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