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Mob Murder
A Complete Novelette

By C. B. Yorke

Just out of stir, and trying to go straight—and right off she's framed
for a bump-off! This is the first of a series of novelettes, each one a
complete story, about Velma Dare. Look for her every month,
and watch her work out her life under the hardest breaks a
sweet bit of fluff with plenty of guts ever bumped against
.

CHAPTER I.
THE STAGE IS SET

"I'LL get you—and the others, too!" That was a mistake. I should never have said that. But two years ago when I was convicted for a part in the Gladstone Theatre holdup by the testimony of a yellow-bellied stoolie and a crooked dick, the words just spilled out before I knew it.

Clam Seibert was the stool who had squealed on Buck Evans and me. The dick who framed the case against us was Bert Frome. Buck and I had pulled some other jobs the cops never got wise to, but we hadn't been near the Gladstone Theatre.

The wild story that Clam told in court hadn't amounted to much, but the fake evidence submitted by Frome had clinched the case against us.

And now, a week after I had served out my two years in stir, word had gone through the underworld that Velma Dare had put Clam Seibert on the spot!

I was worried. I admit it. I had not put Clam Seibert on the spot—didn't even intend to. I had come back to town with a firm determination to go straight at all costs.

That was a fine resolution, but now it looked like I wasn't going to get a chance to put it into effect. Something was brewing, and I didn't need a loud speaker to tell me that it was trouble.

Who had passed out the word that I was going to get Clam, I didn't know. I hadn't. And if Clam was shot down, I wasn't going to be blamed for the killing, not if I could help it.

Nobody had taken my threat to get Clam seriously when I had made it in court that day. The jury had just returned a verdict against me and I hadn't been in any position to make the statement good, then. Everybody except the reporters had treated that threat as a joke.

I had blurted out the words on the spur of the moment. I had meant them at the time—you'd have meant them too, if you'd been framed for a job you had never pulled—but after two years in a cell with plenty of time to think things over I had changed my mind. Women do that—often.

SO WHEN I returned to town I was determined to mind my own business and keep out of any jams with the cops. Buck Evans had got eight years as a result of Clam's lousy story and Bert Frome's fake evidence, and I wasn't going to be back in stir when Buck was sprung.

I'd been lucky to get only two years. I knew that. But it didn't make me feel any better when Buck got eight years for staying home with me the night that the Gladstone Theatre had been stuck up.

That wasn't right. A frame's a frame, no matter how you look at it. But sometimes you can't prove it, and this was one of those times. Our mouthpiece had tried to carry the case to a higher court, but failed. We were sunk, and we knew it.

Bert Frome had gone to a lot of trouble to frame that evidence. And he had plenty— witnesses, fingerprints, guns, everything but the loot. He couldn't have got that from us and he knew it. We'd never had it!

So Buck and I took the rap. There was nothing else to do about it.

Frome had the right political connections to back up his crooked dealings, but what I could never understand was how Judge Porter Vanclear had let Frome and the District Attorney's office go through with the case.

Porter Vanclear was an honest judge. There was no question about that. Yes, he was so honest that he accepted the evidence submitted against Buck and me at face value—thought the defense was trying to pull a legal fast one by claiming that we were framed.

But that didn't alter the fact that the evidence was phoney. Judge Vanclear should have known Bert Frome's record better.

I wasn't so sure about the honesty of Assistant District Attorney Walter Younger. He was one of those smart, smooth men whose poker face might mean anything, anytime. He had prosecuted my case, and I'd always wondered why he'd gone through with Frome's frame-up.

But that was all ancient history. I had been convicted and I had said those words: "I'll get you—and the others, too!"

I had looked straight at Clam Seibert when I had said that in the court room, and Clam's face had become just that—clammy. But I had been foolish enough to jerk my head around to include Bert Frome, Younger, and Judge Vanclear in my threat. The reporters had written columns about that

And now I wondered who was making me a goat.

Clam Seibert was in the spot, but I hadn't put him there, that much was plain enough to me, but I was worried about what was behind it all.

On the surface there was nothing to worry about. The report was out in the underworld that Velma Dare was going to knock over the man who had stooled on me and Buck. That report wasn't true, and of course I could deny it.

I did deny it, every chance I got. But those rumors persisted.

A friendly barman in a speak had tipped me the news the second day I was back in town. I had laughed it off then, and had thought nothing about it. I was making no attempt to conceal the fact that I was finished with crime. I was going straight, and had told the barkeep as much.

But all my denials didn't stop the rumors. They only seemed to grow thicker. And after a week of hearing them on every side, I was worried.

I HADN'T broken away completely from the underworld even though I was going straight. I had money and I still liked to go places and see the bright lights, but I had no friends.

Buck and I had never tied up with any of the gangs or the rackets that worked the city from end to end. We had stuck pretty much to ourselves, taking our loot where we found it and being lucky enough not to get picked up too often by the bulls.

Working alone that way, I didn't know very many of the gunmen and crooks in the city, but I did know the big shots of the underworld by sight.

That is, I had known the men who had been big shots two years ago. Now I wasn't so sure. Death and the cops had caused quite a change during the two years I'd been in stir.

There had been a new line-up in the gangs and rackets and now there were a lot of new faces everywhere I went. I knew they all weren't just floaters. A lot of those new faces had come to stay.

And somebody somewhere was trying to use my old threat against Clam and the others for their benefit—make me the cat's paw. That didn't fit in with my new life and my new plans.

It was only a hunch, of course. But I could make nothing else out of it. A report like that doesn't circulate so widely if there isn't something behind it. Somebody wanted the word spread—was seeing that it got around.

There was nobody I could go to in the underworld for the lowdown on it all. I'd always been a lone wolf with Buck, and now that I was trying to go straight I had ostracized myself.

But from snatches of conversation I overheard here and there I learned that Clam Seibert had become prosperous in the booze racket while I had been serving time. That was all right with me. I was minding my own business now. Clam Seibert would get his without me taking a hand. His kind always did.

For hours I tried to figure out a way to get to the source of the rumor that I was going to kill Clam. I knew my way around in the underworld, but nobody would talk. That left me out in the cold there.

I knew there was a reason behind that rumor, and I knew what would happen as soon as Clam stopped a slug. The cops would start looking for me, perhaps find me. Then it would be hard to explain that I had nothing to do with the killing.

And the next step in the hidden plan I was fighting against would be the deaths of Bert Frome, Assistant District Attorney Younger and Judge Vanclear. That was logical. I had threatened them all.

That's what worried me most. I might be able to talk the cops out of one murder charge, but when the four men died I'd be in for plenty of hell.

So I decided to see Captain Lon Colby. He'd know a lot of things about the new line-up in crime, and perhaps he could help me.

Colby was a hard, lean cop, fearless and honest. He'd been the first dick to run me in. That was seven years ago. I'd got three months for shoplifting then and when I got out Colby had told me to come to see him when I made up my mind to reform.

That granite-faced, iron-nerved cop was just that way. With him there was no middle ground; a crook was a crook until he had paid his debt to society by serving a stretch in the pen. Then if the crook told Colby he was going to follow the straight and narrow, Colby would give him a chance.

And I needed that chance now. Clam Seibert was still alive, but he might die any day. If Clam died, I'd be—but why go over that again?

My nerves were shot from worry. I was grasping at straws. So I went down to the Central station house and popped into Captain Colby's little cubby hole that he dignified by calling an office.

I FOUND him with his feet propped up on one corner of his desk, asleep in the chair. But he opened his eyes as I closed the door.

"Hello, Cap," I said, smiling as a twinkle came into his hard brown eyes.

"Velma Dare!" he beamed, honoring me by getting up as I came over to his desk. He waved a hand toward a chair and added, "Sit down."

"Loafing on the job," I cracked as I took the chair.

He smiled at that, but snapped, "Nope. Sleeping." Then he sat down again and took a box of cigars from a drawer. "Have one?"

"Thanks. I'll stick to butts," I replied, getting cigarettes from my purse.

Colby selected a cigar and stuck it in one corner of his mouth. He put the box away and asked, "How's things?"

"Jake," I answered, and I think he knew I was lying. "How's the wife and youngsters?"

It would have broken his heart if I hadn't asked that question. His two grand passions in life were the Force and his family.

Don't get the idea that Lon Colby was soft. Nothing like that. He was as tough as they come in cops, which is plenty. But he was only human. After years of hard grind in the police machine had lifted him into plain clothes, and eventually a captaincy, he had married. He had been forty at the time and for the last five years I'd been hearing about his wife and kids whenever I met him.

"Great!" he enthused, and started telling me about the new baby—a year old now—who had been born after I'd taken my last rap.

After listening to him for five minutes I broke in on a pause. "Guess you know why I'm here, "Cap," I said.

"Uh-huh," he grunted, getting back to business. "Mean it?"

"Ever seen me here before?"

"Well—no," he said slowly, and looked at me for a moment with narrowed eyes. "So you're going straight, eh? That's a tough racket, Velma."

"So it seems," I snapped. "I hear I've put Clam Seibert on the spot." I didn't smile when I said that. It wasn't a joke to me.

"That's not news," he came back quickly, champing on his cigar. "I've been hearing that for a week—was on the prod twenty hours yesterday, trying to run that down."

"Thanks, Cap. Mighty nice of you. I didn't know it was that serious."

"It isn't—yet," he clipped. Then he leaned forward, jerked the cigar from his mouth and pointed the wet end at me. "Something's going to bust damned soon, and Velma Dare's going to need friends. I'm one!"

"Yeah?" That was all I could think of to say to that. I hadn't expected Captain Colby to go that far for me.

"Yes. But no tricks. I sent you up once, and I'll do it again—if you're lying to me now!" He jammed the cigar back in his mouth and tilted back in his chair.

"Be yourself, Colby," I told him, knowing that he meant every word he said. "Think I'm sap enough to tell the world—if I was giving a guy the works?"

"Maybe. There's lots of saps."

"Not in this office!" I flared.

"All right. I'm taking your word for it. Keep to the straight and narrow, and I'll do what I can to see you through. But my advice is: leave town, pronto!"

"Can't!" I snapped, but I knew he was right. "Why not? You've got money. There's nothing to keep you here."

"Sure, I've got money," I agreed, nodding slowly. "Remember that six grand I got from Dad's estate when I was twenty-one? Well, I put it in radio and Montgomery Ward stock— pyramided, and when they skyrocketed a couple of years ago I sold out at the peak and put it all into bonds. That's the last thing I did before I took the last rap. It isn't the lack of money that's keeping me here."

COLBY squinted at me again. Then he asked softly: "J...

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