Dames on a Bullet Binge can be found in






Dames on a Bullet Binge

By Frederick C. Davis

There was Sue, the rich man's daughter—and Donna, the willful beauty—and Rosita, the glamour guy's wife—and Vella, the luscious dancer . . . Young Mike, the lawyer, tried to help them all—and mixed corpses with cocktails on a merry murder binge.

CHAPTER I

I SQUEEZED the package, hefted it and glanced at all its six brown sides with avarice in my heart. Softly solid, it looked ready to be pushed into a parcel post window, except that it bore no address—no mark, in fact, of any kind. And what it contained wasn't jelly jars. Fifty thousand dollars, folding cash, were inside it.

The shaky hands of John Henry Laird, manufacturer of power tools, had put the package in mine. He was gray-cheeked, his dynamic manner had become a fearful flutter and the usual cheerfulness of his eyes was clouded over by a murky blue anxiety.

"You—you'll deliver this, then, Mr. Hooker," he said, short of breath. "Word may—may come at any minute."

"I'm to wait here until you receive their final instructions?" I asked.

"Yes, yes, wait." Laird's fingers darted to his pocket watch. "I—I should have heard from them before now."

Until John Henry Laird had phoned me half an hour ago I hadn't known that his daughter Donna had already been in the hands of her snatchers for three days and nights.

"I don't understand this delay," Laird muttered. "I've kept faith with the kidnapers' demands so far, to the letter, the very letter."

We were in the living room of Laird's Dutch stone house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania—which is populated by a curious mixture of rugged old-timers and the most select groups of cosmopolites outside of Manhattan and Hollywood—and he was suffering the toughest period of his life since the death of his wife years ago.

"The call's only a few minutes late, Dad," Susanna Laird said reassuringly. "It'll come."

She linked her arm through her father's in an easy, comradely manner. Younger than Donna, she was a little on the plain side, but nice.

"And don't worry about how Mr. Michael Hooker will handle it," she added, giving me a smile. "He looks like the man for the job—a born poker player."

Even if Donna was much prettier; Sue was a swell scout who had plenty of her own brand of moxie on the ball.

"Would you mind telling me, Mr. Laird, why you called me in," I inquired, "instead of turning the matter over to Sackbush, Sackbush, Scovil and Sackbush?"—which was the Philadelphia 1aw firm that handled all his other affairs.

An impertinent question. A bony young lawyer doesn't usually ask how the hell his client ever arrived at the unprecedented decision to consult him. He grabs the retainer and scrams to the Fountain House for a sirloin garnished with Martinis, his first in many moons. The trouble with me is that I have less than no respect for policy. Besides, I'd been picked for a mission which might, if it slipped, make me morally responsible for the death of Donna Laird.

THE missing girl's father answered: "The kidnapers recommended you—named you as the intermediary."

"That interests me!" I said. I was beginning to get a reputation, even if it was only in certain kidnaping circles. "Do I understand this correctly? I'm to deliver the ransom, bring Donna home, and that'll wind up my part of it?"

"Yes, except that you're never to mention the situation to anyone. No news of it must ever leak out."

I sensed a strange, secret strain in Laird's anxiety. He went to the desk and sat ready to pounce on the phone the instant it rang. Still fondling the bundle, I joined Sue. She was wearing an engagement diamond. While we waited for the call, she answered my questions as to how it had happened. Her sister Donna had gone off alone in her car last Tuesday afternoon, to do some shopping, and after a wordless night her father had received the first message by letter. The name and address on the envelope was a printed line cut from the phone book, and the message was made up—of single words clipped from various newspapers. The snatchers had added the blunt threat that they would kill Donna unless their demands were strictly obeyed.

"And dad's obeying them strictly," Sue said. "The police don't know Donna's gone. None of our friends know. No one does, except the three of us here—and Donna, of course, and the crooks."

So far it seemed an ordinary snatch, if any snatch can be called ordinary, except for my hunch that there was something screwy somewhere.

I had no chance to ask more questions because at that juncture the phone's silence ended with a sharp peal. John Henry Laird held the receiver off his ear so I could catch the voice that answered his quavering hello. It was a girl's and it carried a childlike wailing note.

"Is that you, Daddy dear?"

"Donna—Donna, baby!" Laird blurted. "I didn't dare expect—It—it's really you, baby! Are you all right, Donna, are you all right?"

She was talking at the same time, in a babbling rush. If I hadn't known she was old enough to vote, I'd have guessed she was a terrified twelve. Laird choked up—the typical doting father working himself into a breakdown over the daughter he'd pampered and spoiled. Then another voice took over—a voice muffled and disguised with a throaty brusqueness.

"Gif Mike Hooker the money," the man said with a phony Pennsylvania Dutch accent. "Tell him Doylestown, see? The drug store near the court house. In half a hour there'll be a call inna boot' onna left, see? No tricks, or vhat Mike Hooker gets back is gonna be dead. And him, too."

A click, and that was the message. John Henry Laird sat and shook a little, not daring to hope that his twenty-two year old baby was about to be safely returned. Just the same, his anguish was pathetic to see. With a sympathetic nod I told him I understood the danger, which I did, and then I left the house, thinking how much pleasanter it would be if I were headed for Tahiti with that fifty grand instead of a pharmacy in Doylestown. . . .

In the Rexall store two high school kids dawdled over their strawberry sodas while I waited. When the phone rang I stepped into the booth.

"Leaf your car vhere it is," I was told. "Valk down Main, turn past the postoffice, then stop at the lumber yard near the freight station. Vait by the big pipes and be careful."

I did it, being careful and feeling I was watched. The lumber yards, with their darkly looming sheds, looked like a swell setting for a murder. "The big pipes" were huge sections of tile sewer line stacked in a corner lot. I faded against them, waited in the swirling snow, watched the deserted street. For ten minutes nothing happened. Then came the whisper.

"Throw the package over the pipes," it said. .

Somebody had been standing silently behind the stack all this time. The words had come through the tubes with a hollow tonelessness. It wasn't the same voice that had spoken over the phone. I heaved the package up and over, and it landed with a thunk.

"Crawl in," the whisper said next.

"In where?" I asked.

"Into any of the pipes, head first, all the way."

That was to put me in an awkward position from which I'd need a moment or two to extricate myself. I didn't argue. But being a big guy, it wasn't until I'd done considerable squirming that I was entirely in, except my shoes.

"Okay, you've got me where you want me and you've also got the money," I grunted. "Now, where do I get Miss Laird?"

"Stay there until you hear the high-school clock strike," the whisper said. "Then you'll find out."

Soft footfalls quickly disappeared—with the fifty grand. When the clock in the high school tower started bonging eleven, I writhed out, went around the stack and struck a paper match.

The footprints there, hardly visible under the fresh, downy flakes, had been left by a woman's galoshes.

CHAPTER II

THE woman hadn't left any note. Apparently I was expected to pick up the necessary information elsewhere, so I walked back up Main to my car. There was a folded piece of paper on the front seat. Again the message was composed of words and single letters cut from newspapers.

"Drive up 611 through Pipersville," it instructed me. "Bottom of hill, near Myers' Dam, turn right onto dirt road. Cross covered bridge. First house on right."

A beak of a nose appeared at my left elbow and Abe Jackson exclaimed, "Hah! So that's what's with the dame!"

Put an oversize Chesterfield, a derby and a pair of spats on a parrot, add a cigar and sling a camera around its neck, and you'd have something which looked approximately like Mr. Abraham Jackson.

He was a newspaper photog perpetually out of a job. The Inquirer had booted him out because, wishing to snap some good spills at the six-day bike races, he'd scattered tacks over the track. He was as unscrupulous about getting his pictures as I was prepared to be in the matter of getting a few highly necessary clients.

"You got back from Jersey in a hell of a hurry," I said, pushing the note deep into my pocket. "Or didn't you go?"

"Sure I went, why not?" Abe said. "Now I stick with you, Mike, and we pick up that hotsie Donna dame. Ain't it I can smell a pic nine miles off against the wind, and boy, do I need 'em!"

I still wasn't sure what Abe was doing in Doylestown, where the Intelligencer uses a local halftone about once a month, but I'd once comm...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.