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Authors: Day Keene

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BOOK: Death House Doll
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“Not his kind of soldier,” Tommy said.

I couldn’t see Gordon’s gun but there was a .45 caliber Colt automatic lying on the end table beside Tommy. The palms of my hands began to sweat; I wanted it so badly.

Gordon drank the drink he’d poured. “Besides, it’s all we can do. Like Joe said, whether the dame talked or not, we can’t turn him loose now. He’d make a bee line for Central Bureau and Corson’s got enough ants in his pants as it is. ‘Where was you that night?’ he asks me the last time him and his squad pull me in. I was lucky I could tell him.”

I tiptoed back to the bedroom and searched it for a weapon of some kind. There wasn’t anything I could use. I picked up one of the chairs and carried it into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.

The girl was still crying. Once I heard her say, “My God, oh my God.”

It could be she was on one of the lower floors, but it sounded to me like she was in the next room. Then I heard bare feet pat on tile and someone used and flushed the facility in the bathroom backing on the one I was in. The girl was on the same floor I was.

I broke the chair as quietly as I could, pulling it apart rather than smashing it. The chair leg wasn’t much of a weapon but it was better than nothing. Back in the bedroom I kicked off my shoes and tiptoed down the hall again.

Gordon was still beating his gums, trying to convince Tommy that I couldn’t be traced to them.

I’d been right about Tommy being a swish. The lavender in him came out. “All right. So he can’t be traced to us,” he lisped. “I’m sorry I opened my mouth. Now shut up and let me read Dick Tracy.”

Both of their backs were to me. With the exception of the twin bridge lamps lighting the chairs in which they were sitting, the big living room was dark. I eased out into it, almost afraid to breathe, feeling my way with my stocking feet as if I were walking through a mine field. I had to get the Colt on the table before either of them heard or saw me.

“I’ll bet,” Tommy said, “that Little Wings is radioactive.”

Gordon took the neck of the bottle from his lips. “Who the hell is Little Wings?”

“Odds On’s daughter,” Tommy informed him. “He had to leave her behind after he killed his wife, and B. O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie are raising her with Sparkle Plenty.”

Gordon screwed the cap back on the bottle. “You pick out the goddamnedest things to read.”

“Every man to his taste,” Tommy lisped.

I was less than three feet away from them. Holding my breath I eased forward another step and reached for the gun on the end table. Gordon, stooping to put the bottle on the floor beside his chair, sensed movement and turned and saw me.

“Goddamn!” he swore. “It’s Duval!”

I made a swipe at his head with the chair leg, at the same time diving for the gun. Tommy got it ahead of me. But before he could pull the trigger I wrestled it out of his hand and poked the barrel of it in his mouth. He spat out teeth and tried to gag. He couldn’t. This I knew. This I understood. This was my business. He couldn’t gag because I’d pulled the trigger.

When I swung around, still in a crouch, Gordon had his gun in his hand. Whimpering, he threw a slug at me. The lead went wide by inches. Before he could trigger again I scooped up the rye bottle with my left hand and smashed it across his face. He went down screaming, trying to claw the blood and glass from his eyes. I gave him my feet to make sure he’d stay where he was until I got back. Then I got out of the apartment, fast, before LaFanti or one of the other boys showed.

I wanted to talk to the girl in the room whose bathroom backed on the one I’d been in, but she would keep. Feeling as he did, if he was still at the Bureau, it wouldn’t be over ten or fifteen minutes before Captain Corson and his squad would be back with me. At least so I thought at the time.

The elevator cage was waiting at the floor. The tow-haired kid who ran it peered through the grill at me.

“Were those shots I just heard?” he asked.

I yanked the grill open. “They weren’t popcorn. Down to one as fast as this thing will go. And when you get there locate the cop on the beat and have him seal that apartment until I get back with the homicide squad.”

On the ground floor he protested, “But that’s Mr. LaFanti’s apartment.”

I stuck Tommy’s gun in my belt and buttoned my coat over it. “Yeah. So I found out.”

There was a Yellow Cab discharging a sweet-smelling blond in front of the building marquee. She fumbled in her purse until I couldn’t take it any longer. I picked her up by the elbows and set her to one side.

“Permit me, Miss. I’ll be glad to pay the meter.”

She fluttered her eyelashes at me. “Thank you. You’re so kind.”

“You drunk or nuts, or both?” the cab driver asked me.

I slammed the door hard. “Both. Take me down to Central Bureau. Chop chop.”

As he pulled away from the curb I realized I’d come out without either my cap or my shoes. Not that it made any difference. I wasn’t going back for them, alone.

The driver looked at me in his rear vision mirror. “Not that it’s any of my business, Sergeant,” he said. “But if I was in the condition you’re in, I’d stay away from Central Bureau.”

I didn’t bother to answer him. The blond had run up two-twenty on the meter. I added a dollar and sixty cents more. As the driver swung in between two parked police cars in front of the Bureau, I passed a five dollar bill through the open partition and started across the walk only to have a familiar-sounding whistle stop me.

“You there, Sergeant,” a harsh voice said.

I turned to see who was talking to me. It was one of two smug States-side M.P.’s supporting a drunken Pfc. between them.

“Now what?” I asked.

He played coy. “You wouldn’t know?”


The M.P. looked at my stocking feet, then at my bare head. “A guy like you,” he said, “a guy with all that salad, a guy who should set an example, should know better. Or are you too drunk to realize that you are out of uniform, Sergeant?”

I was out of uniform.

Chapter Six

M.P. was as wise as he looked. He insisted on taking me in and I lost almost fifteen minutes getting squared away with the lieutenant in charge of the detail. The lieutenant wasn’t too bad. He liked the status quo. He wasn’t bucking for anything. After he’d read my travel orders he said I could go but did insist that I couldn’t walk out of the office without a cap and a pair of shoes. He arranged with an off-tour M.P. to drive into the Loop and buy me a cap and some shoes.

I’d cleaned up in the bathroom of the apartment. Neither Tommy nor Gordon had laid a hand on me, but some of their blood had splattered and two of the cuts I’d gotten in the beating that had knocked me out had opened up again. I sponged off what blood I could, while the soldier was gone, then walked the three flights of stairs up to Corson’s office, my new shoes squeaking and rubbing my heels. From the way those shoes felt they were going to give me blisters.

Corson wasn’t in his office but one of the two lads who had held me was kibitzing the pinochle game.

“Now what?” he wanted to know.

I asked him where Corson was. He said he’d gone out for coffee. “Why?”

I looked at my watch. Nearly a half hour had passed since I’d left LaFanti’s place and I’d meant to be back in ten minutes. “Get him,” I said, crisply. “From the way the captain talked, I gather he doesn’t like Joe LaFanti and I’ve got enough on the bastard to tuck him away for forty years, maybe enough to get a new angle on the Stein case.”

The detective was skeptical. “What?”

I told him, “Assault and battery, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.”

He looked at me like I was crazy, but left the office. It was another ten minutes before he came back with Corson. Corson’s breath smelled of onions. A toothpick in one corner of his mouth bobbled as he talked. “Jack says you got something on LaFanti.” His shrewd eyes picked out the new marks on my face. “When did all this happen?”

I said, “Five minutes after I left you. Just this side of the tracks three hoods named Tommy, Hymie and Joe LaFanti forced me into a blue Club DeVille and waltzed me to LaFanti’s apartment where they took turns pounding on me, trying to make me admit that Mona had told me where she’d stashed the diamonds she got from Stein.”

Corson was still skeptical. “Yeah? Where is LaFanti now?”

I told the truth. “I don’t know. I didn’t see him around when I came to.”

“And Tommy and Hymie?”

I said, “Hymie wasn’t around either. But Tommy and a lad by the name of Gordon were standing guard on the door.”

Corson spat out the toothpick. “And they just let you walk out?”

I shook my head. “No. I imagine Gordon is still clawing blood and glass out of his eyes.”

“And Tommy?”

“Dead. I poked his own gun in his mouth and shot off the back of his head.”

The lad named Jack whistled softly under his breath.

Corson’s thin lips split in what passed for him as a smile. “If you’re leveling, I haven’t heard such good news since —” He couldn’t think of a simile and let it lie. He nodded at the pinochle players. “Okay. Break it up. Let’s go, boys. This could be the break we’ve been looking for, for a long time.”

The pinochle players shrugged into their coats and followed us out into the hall. While we were waiting for the elevator, Corson asked, “Outside of wanting to know if Mona had told you where she’d stashed the diamonds, did LaFanti seem to have his wind up over anything else?”

“Yeah,” I said. “He did. He seemed positive that Mona had shot off her mouth about something else.”

“Did he say what?”

“No, but he was hell determined Mona had shot off her mouth. He offered me a stack of bills to talk. When I wouldn’t, he and his boys beat on me.”

Corson pushed the button again. “That sounds.” He confided, “You see, the way I’ve got it figured, it was LaFanti who did the actual killing and Mona is covering for him.”

“But why?” I asked.

“There you have me,” he admitted.

I ran one finger down the back of my right shoe, wishing the M.P. had bought a half size larger. I said, “What’s more, there was some dame in the apartment. I could hear her crying in the room next to the one I came to in.”

“You didn’t see her?”


The steel door of the cage slid back and Corson started in. He stopped as the First Assistant State’s Attorney stepped out on the floor and looked at me. “Goddamn it,” he exploded. He looked at Captain Corson. “Don’t tell me you’re still being bull-headed?”

I answered before Corson could. “No. I came to the Captain for help.” I gave Olson a brief breakdown of what had happened after I’d left his office.

He was as pleased as Captain Corson had been. “Good,” he enthused. “I’ll go with you. This may be the break for which we’ve been looking. At least, we’ll have a lever to use on LaFanti.” He got into the cage with us. “You have the proper warrants, Captain Corson?”

“No,” Corson admitted. “I haven’t any warrants.”

“You’re just going to bang on LaFanti’s door and walk right in?”


“And have the whole thing thrown out of court at the hearing?” He was impatient with Corson. “If you fellows in homicide would use some sense in preparing your cases, the State’s Attorney’s office would get a lot more convictions than it does. We want LaFanti, yes, but we want him right this time. And getting him right means warrants.”

I asked if that wouldn’t take some time.

Olson turned his attention to me. “You say you killed Tommy Lewis and ground the butt of a broken whiskey bottle into Carey Gordon’s eyes?”


Olson said, “Then they won’t be going anywhere, Tommy especially, and we know the apartment won’t run away.”

Corson wasn’t pleased but did what Olson wanted. Getting the three warrants, a search warrant, one for assault with a deadly weapon to kill, and one alleging kidnapping, took up another half hour. I signed two of the warrants and somewhere along the line a reporter got wind of what was happening. By the time the warrants were issued, there were as many reporters and camera men in the raiding party as there were cops.

The reporters were skeptical bastards, saying they would believe it when they saw LaFanti arrested.

“He’s a big wheel, huh?” I asked one of them.

“You and me should be so big, Sergeant,” he told me. “He could rape a virgin on the steps of the Criminal Court building and by the time his political drag got out the old fix to working, the girl would wind up a year and a day for assaulting him.”

“Oh, he’s not that big,” Olson said.

“No,” the reporter countered, “but his drag is.”

Once started, we went fast. Jack’s last name, it would seem, was Nagle. He drove the squad car with me sitting beside him and Olson and Corson in the back seat. Behind us there were three more cars filled with cops. Behind them were the reporters and pic men.

I looked at my watch as we headed north. I’d meant to be back in ten minutes. It would be closer to an hour and a half by the time we reached the building. I glanced up at the rear vision mirror as Nagle cut through a red light with his siren wide open.

“What you thinking, Sergeant?” he asked me.

I told him. “All my life,” I said, “I thought the Army had contracted for all the red tape but it seems you fellows have just as much of it to contend with.”

His smile was tight. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he said.

I thought on account of the shots there would be a crowd in front of the place but there wasn’t. It looked like all the other buildings on the Drive with the sidewalk deserted. The only sound was the pound of the lake against the rock breakwater and the swish of fast-moving traffic. Only a few of the cars stopped to see what was going on.

While Corson deployed his men to block off all the exits, the reporter who’d sounded off before asked me, “You sure you didn’t get this all out of a bottle, Sergeant?”

“I was up there,” I told him.

“But what could the little doll in the death house possibly tell you that would make LaFanti risk a Federal charge? So he’s got pull in Chicago. The old man with the whiskers is different. And kidnapping is definitely a Federal charge.”

BOOK: Death House Doll
12.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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