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Double-Action Gang, June, 1938

Revolt of the Damned

By E. Hoffmann Price

NITA RICCO brought the wicker baskets of melons into her bedroom on the second floor of the filling station and carefully drew the shades. The gas pumps were locked, and below, the lights were out. Anyone wanting five gallons of regular could go elsewhere; to hell, for all Nita cared, or to Mexico, just south of the city limits.

She wished to God Blaze Hayden would come home. Torres, delivering the precious melons, had made her uneasy, with those snaky eyes. He had not even bothered to count the thousand odd dollars in large bills. He had been watching Nita's every graceful move, trying to outwit the turquoise chiffon negligee whose half transparency gave tantalizing glimpses of her lovely legs.

The gown enveloped her like a scented bluish mist. The desert breeze that invaded a shuttered window made the frail fabric cling to the sweetly rounded curve of her hips. A little crucifix gleamed in the hollow of her firm young breasts; it matched the red-gold of her wavy hair.

The heels of her tiny satin mules sank into a thick napped Chinese rug, which like the furniture, was costly but a bit garish. Blaze Hayden could never have bought those things for Nita by selling gas. Her gray-green eyes were sombre as she emptied the melons on the hardwood floor, then knelt and split them with a knife.

Each cantaloupe contained several five-tael tins of opium.

A tap at the door made Nita start. She rose, and her smile reflected the sudden glow in her eyes. Blaze had returned. The blue chiffon trailed away from her thighs as she hurried to admit him.

Then she recoiled from the open door, and hastily drew her gown together. Torres had returned. His eyes glittered from smoking home grown marihuana. He licked his thick lips. "Senora, ees dangerous for you to stay alone—" Torres made a sweeping gesture as he crossed the threshold. "So I 'av return. We 'ave the drink, no?"

He produced a bottle of tequila. Torres was tall and swarthy and despite his loose mouth, not a bad looking young Mexican.

"Scram!" snapped Nita, putting on a bold front. "I paid you."

A SNARL now bared Torres' white teeth. Cat quick, he flashed toward her. Nita dared not scream. If help did arrive all those tins of Golden Pheasant opium would damn her and Blaze.

Torres was beyond mincing words. He had seen too much of Nita's white beauty to retreat. Desperate, she glanced about. There was the knife on her dressing table.

She lunged, but Torres intercepted her. She clawed his swarthy face. She almost wriggled from his grasp, but her frail chiffon robe parted in trailing shreds. Then her brassiere slipped. The opium smuggler was beyond fear or reason.

"You damn dirty lug," Nita panted. "Blaze'll kill you—"

Torres skidded on some melon seeds. Nita, peeled down to her scanties, flung herself toward the dresser and seized the knife.

"Drop it!" snarled Torres, recovering. "If you use it, the polees will know—about the opium— the beeg boss will keel you!"

That was Bud Worley's way. A fool proof racket is based on dead men's bones. One strike, and out! No bungler lived long in Worley's mob. Then Nita's fingers closed on a box of dusting powder. The Mexican, distracted by the gleaming blade, caught the choking cloud squarely in the face. She snatched the table lamp. But before she could smash it across his head, the door slammed open, and a tall man bounded in.

"Blaze—my God—"

"The greasy bastard!" He was lean, broad shouldered; wrath hardened his thin face into grim angles. "You black son—"

He lunged. His fist landed like a caulking maul. Before Torres could collapse, Blaze picked him up and bodily hurled him through the window.

The spattering of glass was followed by a grunt, a thud, a muttered oath in Spanish. Blaze, gun drawn, leaned over the sill. He turned away, grinning. "Running like hell honey." He caught Nita in his arms, and stroked her copper-red hair. "That wallop sobered him, huh?"

"Blaze," she sobbed, "I'm checking out of the racket. I don't care what you do! It's lousy, stinking, putrid! Running hop—"

"Baby, we can't quit." Blaze's face lengthened, suddenly became old and weary. "The Feds'd get us. Worley, the rotten skunk, he'd turn us in."

This was an old story to Nita. First, a bit of easy money, smuggling perfume. Nothing wrong, nicking Uncle Sam out of customs duties he had no right to, anyway. Every tourist does it, or tries it. Then a load of Chinks. And finally, Blaze Hayden dared not refuse to run that filling station in Calexico, right on the border. Worley had said, "Play, or else."

They ignored the horn blast outside until it was repeated several times. Blaze started. He recognized the sound. Leadfoot Johnson had pulled up to get the north bound load of narcotics.

"I'm quitting. I don't care, I am!" Nita was half hysterical.

"Shut up, you idiot!" snapped Blaze, dashing to the door.

But Leadfoot was already clumping up the stairs. He was a big blonde fellow whose tanned face was scarred from flying glass and metal; a racing driver not quite good enough for the big time, but a wizard on the highway, piloting a grimy old car with a supercharged engine.

"'Lo, Blaze." He eyed the disordered room, and Nita's remaining tatters of negligee. "Listen, you two. It's none of my damn business you battling. But you was talking out loud. Forget this quitting idea. Bad for the health!"

"This racket's lousy," Nita bitterly observed. "Sure, I said it."

Leadfoot scratched his sandy hair, shrugged. "Ditto, tutz. But you know what happens to saps that think they can walk out. Let's go, Blaze."

They loaded the junk. Then a gritting of tires, and the whine of the supercharger was swallowed in the roar of the big engine. Nita turned despairing eyes to Blaze when he returned. "I'll stick," she sobbed. "Any way we turn, we're damned. I guess you and me can't revolt...."

"But you can keep a gat in your dresser," mutt...

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