no orchids, but here’s miss blandish, and the start of chapter two


 

 Chapter Two

1

MISS BLANDISH was pushed into the hard light of the overhead lamp. Two pads of cotton-wool were strapped across her eyes with adhesive tape. Eddie supported her. She leaned heavily against him. His hand on her arm felt hard and warm. It was her only contact in the darkness.
From her chair, Ma Grisson stared at Miss Blandish. Before leaving Johnny’s place, Eddie had telephoned her, telling her they were on their way. She had had time to appreciate what this kidnapping would mean to her and the gang. Handled carefully and with any reasonable luck, she and the gang would be worth a million dollars before the end of the week. For the past three years, she had built up the reputation of the gang. They hadn’t made a great deal of money, but they hadn’t done badly. They were regarded by the other gangs as good third-raters. Now, because of this slim, red-haired girl they would become the richest, the most powerful and the most wanted public enemies of Kansas City.
Ma Grisson was big, grossly fat and lumpy. Flesh hung in two loose sacks either side of her chin. Her crinkly hair was dyed a hard, dull black. Her little eyes were glittering and as impersonal as glass. Her big floppy chest sparkled with cheap jewelry. She wore a dirty cream colored lace dress. Her huge arms, mottled with veins, bulged through the lace network like dough compressed in a sieve. Physically she was as powerful as a man. She was a hideous old woman, and every member of the gang, including Slim, was afraid of her.
Eddie whipped the tape from Miss Blandish’s eyes. It was a shock to her to be confronted by this old woman, sitting slumped in the armchair. At the sight of her, Miss Blandish caught her breath sharply and shrank back.
Eddie put his hand on her arm assuringly.
“Well, Ma,” he said. “Here she is, delivered as per your instructions. Meet Miss Blandish.”
Ma leaned forward. Her staring, beady eyes terrified the girl.
Ma hated talking as much as she hated talkers. She said one word when most people said ten, but this was an occasion she felt called for a speech.
“Listen to me,” she said, “you may be Blandish’s daughter but you mean nothing to me. You’re staying here until your old man buys you back. It depends on him how long you do stay here. While you’re here, you’re going to behave. So long as you do behave, you’ll be left alone, but if you start making trouble, you’ll have me to reckon with, I promise you. You’ll be sorry if you do cross me. Do you understand?”
Miss Blandish stared at her as if she couldn’t believe this terrifying old woman really existed.
“Do you understand?” Ma repeated.
Eddie nudged Miss Blandish.
“Yes,” she said.
“Take her up to the front room,” Ma said to Eddie. “It’s all ready for her. Lock her in and come down here. I want to talk to you.”
Eddie led Miss Blandish from the room. As they went up the stairs, he said, “The old girl wasn’t fooling, baby. She’s meaner than Slim, so watch your step.”
Miss Blandish didn’t say anything. She seemed crushed and terrified.
A few minutes later, Eddie joined Doc and Flynn in Ma’s room. Woppy had been sent downtown for news.
Eddie poured himself a shot of whiskey, then sat on the arm of a chair.
“Where’s Slim got to, Ma?”
“He’s gone to bed,” Ma said. “Never mind about him. I want to talk to you and Flynn. You heard what I said to the girl about making trouble? The same applies to you two. Neither of you nor Woppy are going to start trouble just because there’s a good-looking girl here. If I catch any of you interfering with her, you’ll be sorry. More gangs have come to grief through a woman than through the cops. I won’t have you boys fighting over her. That girl is to be left alone. Is that understood?”
Eddie grinned jeeringly.
“That go for Slim too?”
“Slim doesn’t bother with women,” Ma said, glaring at Eddie. “He’s got too much sense. If you thought more of your job and less about your cheap floozies, you would be better off. That also applies to Woppy and to you,” she looked at Flynn who moved uncomfortably. “You understand? You’re to leave the girl alone.”
“I’m not deaf,” Flynn said sulkily.
“And you, Eddie?”
“I heard you the first time, Ma.”
“Okay.” Ma reached for a cigarette and lit it. “This girl is worth a million dollars to us. She has been missing since midnight. By now Blandish will have alerted the cops and they will have alerted the Feds. We’ve got to contact Blandish and tell him to call off the Feds and get a million dollars in used bills ready for delivery. We shouldn’t have any trouble with him. He has the money and he wants his daughter back,” She looked at Eddie. “Go downtown and telephone Blandish. Tell him he’ll get instructions soon how he is to deliver the money. Warn him if he tries to double-cross us, his daughter will suffer. I don’t have to tell you what to say: make it raw and crude.”
“Sure, Ma,” Eddie said.
“Then get off.”
As Eddie rose to his feet, he asked, “What’s the split going to be, Ma? I’m the guy who spotted the girl. I ought to get more than the rest.”
“We haven’t got it yet,” Ma said curtly. “We’ll talk about it when we do get it.”
“And how about me?” Flynn put in. “I was there too.”
“Yeah?” Eddie answered. “If it hadn’t been for me you would have gone to bed.”
“Shut up!” Ma snapped. “Get off!”
Eddie hesitated, then meeting the hard little eyes, he shrugged and left the room. They heard the Buick start up and drive away.
“Now, you,” Ma said to Flynn. “Who knows we’re connected with Riley and his gang and with what happened last night?”
Flynn scratched his head.
“Well, there’s Johnny, of course. He saw what happened and he knows we took the girl, but Johnny’s okay. He’s burying the three stiffs and getting rid of their car. We’ll have to do something for him, Ma. Riley promised him a quarter share. The old fella expects us to see him right.”
“We’ll see him right,” Ma said, “Who else is there?”
Flynn thought for a moment.
“There’s the boy at the filling station. He saw Eddie talking to Riley. I guess he saw I had a gun. Maybe he even saw the girl.”
“No one else?”
“No.”
“I’m not taking any chances. Take care of the boy. He might talk. Get going.”
When Flynn had gone, Ma settled more comfortably in her chair. She was aware that Doc Williams was prowling restlessly around the room and seemed uneasy. She looked questioningly at him. Her relations with him were on a different level from those of the rest of the gang. He was a man of education and that was something she respected.
She knew some years ago, Doc Williams had been a successful surgeon. He had been married to a woman twenty years younger than himself. She had suddenly gone off with his chauffeur and he had taken to the bottle. A few months later, while drunk, he had attempted a brain operation and the patient had died. He was tried for manslaughter and drew five years. He was struck off the register. Flynn had met him in prison and had brought him to Ma when they came out. Ma had been smart enough to realize the advantage of having a brilliant surgeon and doctor attached to the gang. From then on, she didn’t have to worry about finding a doctor if any of her boys got shot. She kept Doc supplied with liquor and he looked after her boys.
“Handled right,” Ma said, “we’re in a safe position. I’m going to pass the word around that Riley snatched this girl. Sooner or later, the word will reach the cops. They’ll look for him and when they find he’s missing, they’ll be sure he snatched the girl.” She grinned, showing her large false teeth. “So long as they don’t dig them up, they’ll go on thinking they snatched the girl and we’ll be in the clear.”
Doc sat down. He lit a cigar. His movements were slow. His drink raddled face was worried.
“I don’t like kidnapping,” he said. “It’s a cruel, horrible business. I’m sorry for the girl and her father. I don’t like it.”
Ma smiled. Doc was the only member of the gang allowed to speak his mind or offer advice. Ma seldom took his advice, but she liked to listen to him. He was someone to talk to when she was lonely, and sometimes his advice was sound.
“You’re a soft old fool,” she said contemptuously. “The girl has had everything up to now. Let her suffer. Her old man’s worth millions. He can afford to suffer too. I’ve suffered: so have you. Suffering does people good.”
“Yes,” Doc said. He poured himself a stiff drink. “But she is young and beautiful. It is such a waste of a young life. You don’t intend to send her back to her father?”
“No, she isn’t going back. When the money is paid, we’ll have to get rid of her. She knows too much.”
Doc shifted uneasily.
“I don’t like it, but I suppose it’s not my business.” He emptied his glass and refilled it. “This is a big thing, Ma. I don’t like any of it.”
“You’ll like the money when you get your share,” Ma said cynically.
Doc stared at his glass.
“It’s a long time now since I got excited about money. There’s something I want to tell you. Slim behaved very oddly with the girl: very oddly indeed.”
Ma looked sharply at him.
“What do you mean?”
“I was under the impression that Slim had no use for women. You told me that, didn’t you?”
“Yes, and I’m glad of it,” Ma said. “I’ve had enough trouble with him without having that kind of trouble.”
“He’s interested in this girl,” Doc said quietly. “I’ve never seen him act the way he acted when he set eyes on her. He seemed smitten: like a kid gets smitten with a first love. I’m sorry, Ma, but I think you are going to have that kind of trouble with him now.”
Ma’s face tightened and her eyes snapped.
“You aren’t kidding, are you?”
“No. When you see them together, you’ll know I’m right. He seemed anxious for her to have the diamonds. He’s got them. Have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t forgotten,” Ma said grimly. “He’ll give them to me when I ask for them. So you really think he’s fallen for this girl?”
“I’m sure of it.”
“I’ll soon stop that,” Ma said. “I’m not having woman trouble in this house!”
“Don’t be too sure,” Doc said gravely. “Slim’s dangerous. He could turn on you. The trouble with you, Ma, is you won’t face up to the fact he isn’t normal…”
“Shut up!” Ma snarled. This was a forbidden subject. “I’m not listening to that crap. Slim’s all right I can handle him. Leave it that way.”
Doc shrugged. He took a drink. His face was beginning to flush. It took very little liquor now to make Doc drunk.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“I want you to write a letter to Blandish,” Ma said, changing the subject. “Well deliver it tomorrow. Tell him to have the money ready in a white suitcase. He is to put an ad in the Tribune, to appear the day after tomorrow, offering kegs of white paint for sale. That’ll tell us the money is ready. Warn him what will happen to the girl if he tries a double cross.”
“All right, Ma,” Doc said and taking his glass, he left the room.
The old woman sat for some time, thinking. What Doc had told her, disturbed her. If Slim had fallen for this girl, then the sooner she was got rid of the better. She tried to convince herself Doc was exaggerating. Slim had always been scared of girls. She had watched him grow up. She was sure he had never had any sexual experience.
She got to her feet.
I’d better talk to him, she thought. I’ll get the necklace from him. I’ll have to be careful how I sell it. Maybe it would be safer to keep it for a while. It’ll be hotter than a stove for months.
She went upstairs to Slim’s room.
Slim was lying on his bed in his shirt and trousers. The necklace was dangling between his bony fingers. As Ma entered the room, the necklace disappeared with the same incredible speed with which he could produce his knife.
Quick as he was, Ma saw the necklace although she didn’t say so.
“What are you lying down for?” she demanded, advancing up to the bed. “You tired or something?”
Slim scowled at her. There were times when his mother bored him with her stupid questions.
“Yeah I’m tired. I didn’t want to listen to all that talk downstairs.”
“You should be thankful I can talk,” Ma said grimly. “We’re going to be rich, Slim. That girl’s worth a pile of money to us.”
Slim’s face lit up and his scowl went away.
“Where is she, Ma?”
Ma stared at him. She had never seen such an expression on his face before. She stiffened, thinking, so Doc’s right. The poor fool looks smitten. I wouldn’t have believed it.
“She’s in the front room under lock and key,” she said.
Slim rolled over on his back, staring up at the ceiling.
“She’s pretty, isn’t she, Ma?” he said, simpering. “I’ve never seen any girl like her. Did you see her hair?”
“Pretty?” Ma snarled. “Why should you care? She’s just like any other girl.”
Slim turned his head and stared at her. He looked surprised.
“You think that?” he asked. “Haven’t you eyes in your head? What’s the matter with you? I’ve always thought you were smart. She’s beautiful. If you can’t see it, you must be blind.” He ran his fingers through his greasy long hair. “She’s like something out of a picture book. I want to keep her, Ma. We don’t have to send her back, do we? We’ll get the money and I’ll keep her. I’ve never had a girl. She’s going to be my girl.”
“Yeah?” Ma sneered. “Do you think she’ll want you? Look at your hands and shirt. They’re filthy. Do you imagine a snooty little bitch like her will look at you?”
Slim examined his hands. He seemed suddenly unsure of himself.
“I guess I could wash,” he said as if it was an idea that had never occurred to him before. “I could put on a clean shirt.”
“I haven’t time to waste talking this crap,” Ma said roughly. “I want the necklace.”
Slim eyed her, his head cocked on one side. Then he took the necklace from his pocket and dangled it out of Ma’s reach. There was a sudden look of cunning on his face that Ma didn’t like.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” he said. “But you’re not having it. I’m keeping it. I know you—if you had it, you’d sell it. That’s all you think about—money. I’m going to give it back to her. It’s hers.”
Ma controlled her rising temper.
“Hand that necklace to me!” she grated, holding out her hand.
Slim slid off the bed and faced her, his eyes gleaming.
“I’m keeping it.”
This had never happened to Ma before. For a moment she was so surprised, she didn’t know quite what to do, then her temper exploded and she advanced on Slim, swinging her great fists.
“Goddamn it! Give it to me before I hit you!” she shouted, her heavy face mottled and furious.
“Keep back!” Suddenly his knife jumped into his hand. He crouched, glaring at his mother. “Keep back!”
Ma came to an abrupt standstill. Looking at the thin, vicious face and the gleaming yellow eyes, she remembered Doc’s warning. She felt a chill crawl up her spine.
“Put that knife away, Slim,” she said quietly. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Slim eyed her, then suddenly he grinned.
“That scared you, didn’t it, Ma? I saw you were scared. You’relike the rest of them. Even you are scared of me.”
“Don’t talk foolish,” Ma said. “You’re my son. Why should I be scared of you? Now come on, give me the necklace.”
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” Slim said, a crafty expression on his face. “You want the necklace: I want the girl. We’ll trade. You fix it she likes me: I give you the diamonds. How’s that?”
“Why, you poor fool…” Ma began but stopped when Slim dropped the necklace into his pocket.
“You’re not having it until the girl’s nice to me,” he said. “You talk to her, Ma. Tell her I won’t hurt her I want her to keep me company. Those punks downstairs don’t like me. You’ve got Doc to talk to. I’ve got no one. I want her.”
While he was talking, Ma was thinking. Even if she had the necklace, she couldn’t get rid of it yet. It would be months before she would dare try to sell it. It wasn’t important that he should keep it for a while. What was important was this show of rebellion and her loss of authority. She eyed the knife in her son’s hand. She again remembered Doc’s warning. It was true. Slim wasn’t normal. He was dangerous. She wasn’t going to risk getting a knife stuck in her. It would be better to do what he wanted. It wouldn’t be for long. When the ransom was paid, the girl would go and Slim would forget about her and settle down. Maybe it might be a good idea for him to have a little fun with the girl. If he fancied this one, why not let him have her? Doc was always talking about frustrations and repressions. Yes, it might be an idea to let Slim have the girl. It might be good for him: give him something else to think about instead of staying in his room.
“Put that knife away, Slim,” she said moving away from him. “I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t amuse yourself with the girl. I’ll see what I can do. Put it away. You should be ashamed to threaten your mother with a knife.”
Slim suddenly realized he had won a victory. He giggled.
“Now you’re talking sense,” he said and put the knife away. “You fix it, Ma, and I’ll give you the necklace, but you’ve got to fix it good.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Ma said and went slowly from the room.
This was the first time Slim had ever got the better of her and she didn’t like it.
Doc’s right, she thought, as she plodded down the stairs. He’s dangerous. He could get worse. The hell of it is, I’m getting old. Soon I won’t be able to handle him at all.

2

As soon as Eddie got into town, he parked the Buick and then bought a newspaper.
The kidnapping of Miss Blandish and the murder of Jerry MacGowan were spread across the front page. He read the account quickly. There was nothing there new to him. The Chief of Police said he was following an important clue, but he didn’t say what it was. Eddie guessed that was just bluff.
He walked to a cigar store at the corner of the street. He nodded to the fat man behind the counter and passed through a curtained doorway into the poolroom.
The room was thick with smoke and full of men, drinking and playing pool. Eddie looked around and spotted Woppy by himself keeping a bottle of Scotch company.
“Hi,” Eddie said, coming over and sitting down. “What’s cooking?”
Woppy signaled to the barman to bring another glass.
“Plenty,” Woppy said. “Have you seen the papers?”
“Nothing in them,” Eddie said. He nodded to the barman as he set the glass on the table. He poured himself a drink.
“You wait for the evening edition. Remember the punk who collects dirt for Gossip? Heinie? He’s shot his mouth off to the cops.”
“What’s the idea? Since when has he been an informer?”
“The insurance people are offering a reward for the necklace. I guess Heinie wants the dough. He’s told the cops Bailey was interested in the necklace. They’ve turned over the town but they can’t find Bailey so they’re saying he and Riley pulled the snatch. Good for us, huh?”
Eddie grinned.
“I’ll say.”
“The Feds have taken over. They’ve seen Blandish. The town’s lousy with cops. You’d better watch out they don’t catch you with your rod.”
“I left it at home. I’m phoning Blandish right now and then I’m blowing. You’d better come with me.”
“Okay.” As Eddie got to his feet, Woppy asked, “How’s the redhead? Boy! Wouldn’t I like to get close to that one!”
“Better not,” Eddie said. “Ma’s on the warpath. She says to lay off the girl: got quite steamed up about it.”
Woppy pulled a face.
“There are times when Ma gives me a pain. What’s the good of having a doll like that in the house if you can’t make use of her?”
“The answer to that one is a million bucks,” Eddie said, grinning. He crossed over to the telephone booth but from the sign on the door, it was out of order. There was a booth in a drugstore across the way. He left the cigar store and paused on the edge of the curb for a gap in the traffic. While he waited, he noticed a girl standing by a nearby bus stop. She immediately attracted his attention: every good-looking girl did. She was a tall, cool-looking blonde with a figure that made him look twice. She had a pert prettiness that appealed to Eddie. He studied her face for a brief moment. Her make-up was good. Her mouth was a trifle large, but Eddie didn’t mind that. He liked the sexy look she had and the sophisticated way she wore her yellow summery dress.
Some dish, he thought I wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked with her.
He crossed the road and entered the drugstore. He shut himself in the telephone booth. Then hanging a handkerchief over the mouthpiece of the telephone to muffle the sound of his voice, he dialed the number he had got from Miss Blandish and waited.
He didn’t have to wait long. A voice said, “Hello? This is John Blandish talking. Who is it, please?”
“Listen carefully, pal,” Eddie said, making his voice hard and tough. “We’ve got your daughter. If you want her back, call off the cops. We want a million dollars for her. Get the money together in used bills, no bill larger than a hundred and put the money in a white suitcase. You’ll get delivery instructions tomorrow. Got all that?”
“Yes.” Blandish’s voice was strained and anxious. “Is she allright?”
“She’s fine and she’ll remain fine just so long as you do what you’re told. If you try anything smart she’s in for a bad time and when I say bad, I mean bad. I don’t have to draw you a blue-print. You can imagine what’ll happen to her before we rub her out. It’s up to you, pal. She’ll be okay just as long as you do what we tell you. If you don’t, you’ll get her back very soiled—and very dead!” He slammed down the receiver arid walked quickly out of the drugstore, grinning to himself.
Across the road, as he again waited for a gap in the traffic, he saw the blonde girl still waiting at the bus stop. She glanced at him and then away. Eddie fingered his tie. He thought it was too bad he had to report back to Ma. He crossed the road and again looked at the girl, ready to smile at her, but she wasn’t looking at him. He moved to the cigar store and paused to look back. The girl was coming towards him. He stood waiting. She didn’t look at him. As she passed close to him, a white card fluttered out of her hand and fell at his feet. She neither paused nor looked at him. He stared after her, watching the sensuous movement of her hips, then he picked up the card. On it was scribbled: 243, Palace Hotel, West.
He pushed his hat to the back of his head, surprised. He hadn’t taken the girl for a hooker. He was vaguely disappointed. He looked after her and was in time to see her get into a taxi. He watched the taxi drive away, then he slipped the card under the strap of his wrist watch. Maybe when he had a little more time, he thought, entering the cigar store, he’d call on her.
“All fixed,” he said to Woppy. “Let’s get out of here.”
Woppy finished his drink, paid the barman and the two men walked down the street to where Eddie had parked the Buick. A Ford had just pulled into a parking space across the road. Two powerfully built men were in the car. Both of them were staring at Eddie and Woppy.
“Feds,” Woppy said without moving his lips.
Eddie unlocked the Buick. He could feel cold sweat on his face. They got into the car. Both of them took tremendous care to seem casual. The two men in the Ford still watched them. Eddie started the car and drove into the stream of traffic.
“Don’t look back,” he warned Woppy.
After a few minutes, they relaxed.
“Those punks give me the shakes,” Eddie said. “The less I have to do with them, the better my blood pressure.”
“You can say that again,” Woppy said with feeling. “This town’s crawling with them.”
They arrived back as Flynn was getting out of a battered Dodge. The three men went into Ma’s room.
“Okay?” she asked Flynn.
“Yeah. No trouble at all,” he said. “No one was around. I didn’t even have to get out of the car. He came out to fill my tank; when he had filled it, I let him have it. Nothing to it.”
Ma nodded. She looked at Eddie.
“I told him,” Eddie said. “I didn’t give him a chance to talk back, but he knows what to expect if he starts anything smart. The town’s full of Feds, Ma. The heat’s on good.” He tossed the newspaper onto the table. “Nothing in that we don’t already know. Heinie’s been to the cops. He’s told them Bailey was asking questions about the necklace. The cops are hunting for him and Riley.”
“I reckoned that would happen,” Ma said with her wolfish grin. “So long as they don’t dig up those stiffs, we’ll be in the clear. This is working out right.”
“When the girl’s returned,” Eddie said seriously, “we’ll be in trouble. She’ll talk.”
Ma stared at him.
“What makes you think she’s going to be returned?”
“Yeah.” Eddie shook his head. He glanced at Woppy who grimaced. “Seems a hell of a waste of a woman.”
“To hell with her!” Flynn broke in savagely. “We’ve got to think of ourselves.”
“Who’s going to do it?” Eddie said. “Not me!”
“Nor me,” Woppy said.
“Doc will give her a shot in the arm when she’s asleep,” Ma said. “If he won’t, I will.”
“When?” Flynn asked.
“When I’m good and ready,” Ma snapped. “You leave me to worry about that.”
Eddie sat down and poured himself a drink.
“Say, Ma, let’s have another look at the necklace. I didn’t get a chance to look at it properly.”
“It’s in the safe,” Ma lied. “Some other time.” To change the subject, she asked, “Why don’t one of you lazy slobs get dinner ready?”
Woppy got to his feet.
“Oh, hell! Spaghetti again!” Eddie groaned. “Hey, Flynn, can’t you cook?”
Flynn grinned.
“As good as you,” he said.
Eddie lifted his shoulders in despair.
“What we want around here is a woman.”
“And that’s what you’re not going to have,” Ma said coldly, “Get going, Woppy. I want my dinner.”
Eddie had taken the card he had picked up from under his watch strap. He read the address again. He thought of the girl. He decided he’d call on her that night. He turned the card and noticed for the first time there was a message written on it.
He read the message, then with a startled curse, he jumped to his feet. Written in a feminine hand were the words: What have you done with Frankie Riley?

 

Once or twice in a generation someone writes a book that establishes a new standard in literature; a book that starts a new trend of fashion; a book that everyone knows and talks about and which several million people read. And one which must certainly be included in that class is the world-famous No Orchids for Miss Blandish.

Sunday Dispatch, quoted on back of 1961Panther edition. 

 


 

the rest of no orchids for miss blandish, chapter one

5


Riley stood on the balcony and looked down at the group of men who in turn stared up at him. Eddie was there, both hands sunk in his pockets, his black hat pulled down low. Flynn was standing on the extreme left of the group, his hands also hidden, his eyes cold and watchful. Woppy and Doc Williams stood by the door; both of them were smoking.
But it was Slim Grisson who held Riley’s attention. Slim sat on the edge of the table. He was staring blankly at the tips of his dirty shoes. He was tall, reedy and pasty-faced. His loose, half-open mouth, his vacant, glassy eyes made him look idiotic, but a ruthless, inhuman spirit hid behind the idiot’s mask.
Slim Grisson’s background was typical of a pathological killer. He had always been lazy at school, refusing to take the least interest in book work. He began early to want money. He was sadistic and several times he had been caught torturing animals. By the time he was eighteen, he had begun to develop homicidal tendencies. By then, his mental equipment had degenerated. There were times when he would be normal to the point of being quick-witted, but most times he behaved like an idiot.
His mother, Ma Grisson, refused to believe there was anything wrong with him. She got him a job in a poolroom, cleaning glasses. Here he mixed with a bootleg mob. He watched them handle guns and wads of dollar bills. He got hold of a gun. His first killing followed automatically. He went on the run and for two years his mother lost sight of him. Then he returned. He boasted of the men he had murdered during the time he had lived alone. Ma Grisson was determined he should become a gang leader. She took his education in hand herself. Before he did a job, she coached him, going over every detail with him again and again. It was like teaching a monkey to do tricks. Once he got what she wanted into his head, he didn’t forget. Ma got together several desperate men. There was Flynn just out after serving a four year stretch for robbing a bank. There was Eddie Schultz, one time bodyguard of one of the bosses of Murder Incorporated. There was Woppy, a clever safecracker, and Doc Williams, an old man who had been struck off the register and who was glad to be employed.
Over these men, she placed her son. They accepted him as their leader although it was Ma who was the power behind his throne. Without her he would have been helpless.
Riley was terrified of this reedy creature. He hung his hands on his coat lapels as a token of surrender. He stood motionless, looking down at the men below.
“Hi, Frankie,” Eddie said. “I bet you’re surprised to see me again.”
Riley came slowly down the stairs. His eyes never left the group waiting for him.
“Hello,” he said, his voice husky. “Yeah, I didn’t expect to see you so soon.”
He stood near Bailey who didn’t look at him.
“Where’s the gorgeous chick you had with you?” Eddie asked.
Riley made a tremendous effort to pull himself together. If they were going to get out of this jam with their skins, he had to bluff these men and bluff them convincingly.
“You didn’t come all this way to see her again, did you?” he said, trying to sound at ease. “You weren’t thinking of making a date with her, were you? That’d be too bad. We got tired of her company and ditched her.”
Eddie tossed his cigarette on the floor and put his foot on it.
“Yeah? You don’t say. I wanted another look at her. Who was she, Frankie?”
“Oh, just a broad,” Riley said. “No one you’d know.”
He was aware that all the Grisson gang, except Slim were staring at him with cold, bleak eyes. He had a sinking feeling they knew he was lying. The only one who paid him no attention was Slim.
Eddie said, “You didn’t happen to pick her up at the Golden Slipper roadhouse, did you?”
Riley’s belly suddenly felt cold and empty.
“That little chiseler? She wouldn’t go to a joint like that. We picked her up at Izzy’s bar. She was stewed so we took her for a ride and a little fun.” Riley forced a smile that looked like a grimace. “But she wouldn’t play so we let her walk home.”
Eddie laughed. He was enjoying himself.
“Yeah? You should write for the movies, Frankie: you sure got an imagination.”
Very slowly, Slim raised his head. He looked directly at Riley who flinched.
“Where’s Johnny?” Slim asked.
“Upstairs,” Riley said, feeling sweat running down his back.
Slowly Slim turned his head to look at Eddie. All his movements were deliberate.
“Get him,” he said.
The door above opened and Johnny came onto the balcony. He leaned on the rail. The men below stared up at him.
Johnny didn’t make enemies, nor did he take sides. He was strictly neutral.
Riley implored his silence with a long, meaning stare, but Johnny wasn’t looking at him. He was looking at Slim.
Slim rubbed the side of his thin nose.
“Hello, Johnny,” he said.
“Hello, Slim,” Johnny said, keeping his hands on the rail, well in sight.
“Haven’t seen you for a long time, have I?” Slim said with a smirking grin. His hands were on the move all the time. They moved up and down his thighs. They fingered his string tie. They straightened his shabby coat. They were restless, bony, frightening hands. “I’ve got a new knife, Johnny.”
Johnny shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
“Good for you,” he said and glanced uneasily at Eddie.
Slim made a sudden move. It was too fast for Johnny to follow. A knife suddenly appeared in Slim’s hand. It was a thin bladed knife about six inches long with a black handle.
“Look at it, Johnny,” Slim said, turning the knife in his hand.
“You’re a lucky guy to have a knife like that,” Johnny said, his face stiff.
Slim nodded.
“Yeah, I know. Look how it shines,” The light from the sun, coming through the dirty window, reflected from the knife onto the ceiling. It made a dancing white pattern overhead. “And it’s sharp, Johnny.”
Doc Williams who had been standing a little behind Eddie, nervously chewing a cigar, moved forward.
“Take it easy, Slim,” he said in a soothing voice. He recognized the danger signals.
“Shut up!” Slim snarled at him, his slack face suddenly vicious. His eyes Crawled up to where Johnny stood, motionless. “Come down here, Johnny.”
“What do you want?” Johnny asked hoarsely without moving.
Slim started to dig his knife into the table.
“Come down here!” he said, slightly raising his voice.
Doc signaled to Eddie who said, “Leave him alone, Slim. Johnny is a pal of yours. He’s a good guy.”
Slim looked over at Riley.
“But he isn’t such a good guy, is he?”
Riley sagged at the knees. The sweat glistened on his face.
“Let him alone,” Eddie said roughly. “Put that sticker away. I want to talk to Johnny.”
Eddie was the only member of the gang who could handle Slim in his bad spells, but Eddie was smart enough to know that he was dealing with explosive material. One day, he wouldn’t be able to handle Slim.
Slim grimaced, then the knife disappeared. He looked sideways at Eddie and then began to pick his nose.
“We’re interested in Riley’s girl friend, Johnny,” Eddie said. “Have you seen her?”
Johnny licked his dry lips. He wanted a drink. He wanted all these men out of his home.
“I wouldn’t know if she’s his girl friend,” he said, “but she’s in there.”
No one moved. Riley drew in a sudden short breath and Bailey turned a whitish green.
“Let’s see her, Johnny,” Eddie said.
Johnny turned and opened the door. He called and then stood aside. Miss Blandish came out onto the balcony. The men stared up at her. When she saw them, she started back and shrank against the wall.
Woppy, Eddie and Flynn suddenly had their guns in their hands.
“Get their guns,” Slim said, staring up at Miss Blandish.
“Go ahead, Doc,” Eddie said. “We’ll cover you.”
Moving gingerly, Doc went over to Bailey and jerked his gun from the shoulder holster. Bailey just stood there, licking his lips. Then Doc got Riley’s gun. As he turned, Old Sam suddenly went for his gun. He was surprisingly quick. The heavy gun boomed as Woppy shot him through the head. Doc felt the slug fan his face. He stepped back with a startled grunt as Old Sam spread out on the floor.
Riley and Bailey became livid. They stopped breathing for seconds.
Slim looked at them and then at Old Sam’s body. He had a starved, wolfish look on his face. Johnny pushed Miss Blandish, sobbing hysterically, back into the bedroom.
“Get him out of here,” Slim said.
Doc and Woppy dragged Old Sam’s body out of the shack. They came back quickly.
Eddie walked up to Riley and dug him in the chest with his gun.
“Okay, chum,” he said, biting off each word, “the act s over. You’re in a fix. Spill it. Who’s the girl?”
“I don’t know,” Riley gasped, his body shivering.
“If you don’t, I do,” Eddie said. He took hold of Riley’s shirt front with his left hand and gently jerked him to and fro. “She’s the Blandish girl. You snatched her to get the diamonds. We’re on to you, sucker. You have the diamonds on you right now.” He felt inside Riley’s coat pocket and fished out the necklace.
There was a long silence while everyone stared at the necklace. Then Eddie released Riley.
“I’m sorry for you, sucker,” he said as if he meant it. “I can’t see any future for you.”
He went over to Slim and gave him the necklace.
Slim held the necklace in the sunlight. He was entranced.
“Look Doc,” he said. “Aren’t they pretty? Look how they glitter. They’re like stars against a black sky.”
“They’re worth a fortune,” Doc said, staring at the necklace.
Slim’s eyes went to the upstairs bedroom door.
“Bring her down here, Eddie,” he said. “I want to talk to her.”
Eddie looked at Doc who shook his head.
“How’s about these punks, Slim?” Eddie said. “We’ve got to get back to Ma. She’s waiting.”
Slim was staring at the necklace.
“Get her, Eddie,” he said.
Eddie shrugged. He went up the stairs. Johnny didn’t meet his eyes as he went past him into the bedroom. Miss Blandish was leaning against the wall. She was trembling violently. When Eddie came into the room, her hand flew to her mouth and she looked around wildly for a way of escape.
Eddie felt sorry for her. He thought, even scared, she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
“You don’t have to be frightened of me,” he said. “Slim wants you. Now listen, kid, Slim’s not only mean, but he’s not right in his head. If you do exactly what he tells you, he won’t hurt you. Don’t get him sore. He’s as dangerous as a snake, so watch it. Come on: he’s waiting.”
Miss Blandish crouched back. Her eyes were dark with terror.
“Don’tmake me go down there,” she said unsteadily. “I can’t bear any more. Please let me stay up here.”
Eddie took hold of her arm gently.
“I’ll be with you,” he said. “You’ve got to come. You’ll be okay. If he starts anything, I’ll fix him. Come on now, kid.”
He brought her down the stairs.
Slim watched her as she came.
“She looks like she’s come out of a picture book, doesn’t she?” he mumbled to Doc. “Look at her pretty hair.”
Doc was worried. He had never seen Slim in this mood before. Usually he hated women.
Eddie stood Miss Blandish in front of Slim. He stepped back, watching. Everyone watched.
Miss Blandish stared in horror at Slim who smiled at her, putting his head on one side, his yellow eyes glittering.
“I’m Grisson,” he said. “You can call me Slim.” He rubbed the side of his nose with his thumb. “These belong to you, don’t they?” He held up the necklace.
Miss Blandish nodded. There was something so repulsive and terrifying about this creature that she had a mad urge to scream and keep on screaming.
Slim fingered the stones.
“They’re pretty, like you.”
He held them out. At the movement, Miss Blandish started back, shuddering.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Slim said, shaking his head. “I like you. Here, you take them. They belong to you. Put them on. I want to see what you look like with them on.”
Eddie said, “Look, cut it out, Slim. That necklace belongs to all of us.”
Slim giggled. He winked at Miss Blandish.
“Hear him talk? He wouldn’t have the nerve to take them from me. He’s scared of me—they’re all scared of me.” He held out the necklace. “Here, put it on. Let me see it on you.”
Slowly, as if hypnotized, she took the necklace from him. The touch of the diamonds seemed to jolt her. With a gasping scream, she dropped the necklace and ran blindly up the stairs to where Johnny stood.
“Get me out of here!” she screamed frantically. “I can’t bear any more! Don’t let him come near me!”
She startled Slim. He stiffened and his knife jumped into his hand. From a weak-looking idiot he suddenly changed into a vicious killer. Half crouching, he faced the others.
“What the hell are you waiting for?” he screamed. “Take them out of here! Hurry! Get them out—get them out!”
Woppy and Flynn closed in on Riley and Bailey. They shoved them out of the shack and into the open.
Slim turned to Doc.
“Rope them to a tree!”
His face pale, Doc picked up some lengths of rope lying amongst a pile of rubbish in a corner. He followed Woppy and Flynn.
Slim looked at Eddie. His yellow eyes seemed on fire.
“Watch her. Don’t let her get away.”
He snatched up the necklace, dropped it into his pocket and went out into the hot sunshine. He was shaking with excitement. The urge to kill had taken possession of him.
He could hear Riley yammering hysterically. He could see his livid, glistening face and the way his mouth worked in terror.
Bailey walked silently. His face was pale, but dangerous lights smouldered in his eyes.
The group of men reached a small clearing in the thicket and, all realizing that this was the place of execution, they stopped.
Slim pointed to convenient trees.
“Tie them there,” he said.
While Flynn covered Bailey, Woppy fastened Riley to the tree with the cord Doc tossed to him. Riley made no effort to save himself. He stood against the tree, shuddering, helpless in his terror. Woppy turned to Bailey. “Get up against that tree,” he said savagely.
Bailey walked deliberately to the tree and set his back against it. As Woppy came up, he kicked like a snake striking. His shoe sank into Woppy’s groin, and then Bailey was behind the tree, the slim trunk between him and Flynn’s gun.
Slim became violently excited.
“Don’t shoot!” he screamed out. “I want him alive!”
Woppy writhed on the grass, trying to get his breath back. No one bothered about him. Doc stepped behind some bushes. His face was white and he looked sick. He was going to keep out of it.
Flynn slowly began to edge towards the tree while Slim stood motionless, the thin-bladed knife glittering in his hand.
Bailey looked around for a way of escape. Behind him the shrubs were thick; in front of him, Flynn approached cautiously; on his left, Slim stood with his knife. It was to his right that he must make his bid for freedom. He made a sudden dive, but Flynn was closer than he realised. He aimed a blow at Flynn who ducked. Bailey’s fist went over Flynn’s head and he floundered. Flynn closed with him.
For a minute they strained. Then Bailey who was the more powerful man, broke away. He slammed Flynn on the jaw and Flynn went down and out.
Bailey sprang away.
Slim hadn’t moved. He stood there, his thin body drooping, his loose mouth half open and the knife hanging limply in his fingers. Woppy was still out. Bailey suddenly changed his ideas. There was only Slim. Doc didn’t count. If he could knock Slim out, then he and Riley could surprise Eddie. It was worth the risk. He moved towards Slim who waited with yellow, gleaming eyes.
Then Bailey suddenly saw Slim grin. The idiot mask slipped and the killer was there. Bailey knew he was but a few heart beats from death. He had never felt so frightened. He stood still, like a hypnotized rabbit.
The knife flashed through the air and sped at him. He took the blade in his throat.
Slim stood over him while he died, watching and feeling the same odd ecstasy run through him which a killing always gave him.
Woppy had sat up, his face ashen. He began to curse softly. Flynn, still on his back, moved uneasily, a livid bruise growing on his jaw. Doc turned away. He wasn’t callous like the others.
Slim looked over at Riley who shut his eyes. A horrible croaking sound came from him. Slim cleaned his knife by driving it into the ground. Then he straightened.
“Riley…” he said softly.
Riley opened his eyes.
“Don’t kill me, Slim,” he panted. “Gimme a break! Don’t kill me!”
Slim grinned. Then moving slowly through the patch of sunlight, he approached the cringing man.

more of chapter one of no orchids for miss blandish

3

A mile outside La Cygne, Old Sam said, “We want gas.”
“Why the hell didn’t you fill up before we set out?” Riley demanded violently.
“How was I to know we were going to Johnny’s?” Old Sam whined.
Bailey turned his flashlight on Miss Blandish. She was still unconscious.
“She’ll be okay,” he said. “There’s a gas station just ahead.”
At the next bend in the road they saw the lights of the gas station. Old Sam pulled up by the pumps. A boy came out of the office, rubbing his eyes and yawning. He started to fill the tank. Riley leaned forward, screening Miss Blandish from him. He needn’t have bothered. The boy was half silly with sleep. He didn’t once look into the car.
Suddenly the lights of a car appeared around the bend in the road. A big black Buick pulled up close to the Lincoln. The arrival of this car startled the three men. Bailey dropped his hand on his gun.
There were two men in the Buick. The passenger got out. He was a tall, heavily built man with a black snap brim hat pulled low over his eyes. He looked with sharp interest at the Lincoln. He spotted Bailey’s quick movement and he came over.
“You nervous or something?” he asked in a hard, aggressive voice as he stared intently at Bailey.
It was dark and none of the men could see each other distinctly.
Riley said, “Beat it, fella, nothing’s biting nobody.”
The big man peered in his direction.
“That sounds like Frankie,” he said and laughed. “For a moment I thought it was some big shot shooting his mouth off.”
The three men in the Lincoln stiffened. They looked across at the Buick. The driver had turned on the dash light so they could see him. He was covering them with a shotgun.
“Is that you, Eddie?” Riley said, his mouth turning dry.
“Yeah,” the tall man said. “Flynn’s nursing the cannon so don’t start anything you can’t finish.”
“We’re not starting anything,” Riley said hurriedly. He cursed their luck to have run into one of the Grisson gang. “I didn’t recognize you.”
Eddie shook a cigarette from his pack and struck a match. Riley hurriedly moved his body to screen Miss Blandish but Eddie saw her.
“Some babe,” he said, lighting his cigarette.
“We’ve got to get going,” Riley said hurriedly. “See you sometime. Get going, Sam.”
Eddie rested his hand on the car door.
“Who is she, Riley?”
“She isn’t anyone you know. She’s a friend of mine.”
“Is that a fact? She seems unnaturally quiet.”
“She’s drunk,” Riley snarled, sweat running down his face.
“You don’t say!” Eddie pretended to be shocked. “I bet I can guess who made her drunk. Let’s have a closer look at her.”
Riley hesitated. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Flynn get out of the Buick; the shot gun pointed directly at him. Reluctantly, Riley leaned back. Eddie took out a powerful flashlight and shone the beam onto the unconscious girl.
“Very nice,” he said appreciatively. “You ought to be ashamed, Riley, making a nice girl like that tight. Does her ma know where she is?” He stepped back, blowing tobacco smoke into Riley’s face. “Where are you taking her?”
“Home,” Riley said. “Let’s skip the comedy, Eddie. We’ve got to get moving.”
“Sure,” Eddie said, stepping further back. “I wouldn’t be in her shoes to wake up and find myself with a car load of monkeys like you three. Beat it.”
Old Sam let in the clutch and the Lincoln shot out into the highway. It went off down the road with ever-increasing speed.
Eddie watched them go. He took off his hat and scratched his head. Flynn put the shotgun back into the car and came over. He was a little man with a thin pointed face that made him look like a ferocious rat.
“What do you make of that?” Eddie asked, puzzled. “Something’s in the wind.”
Flynn shrugged his shoulders.
“We should care.”
“You mean you should care,” Eddie said, “but then you haven’t my brains. What were those cheap mugs doing with a babe like that? Who is she?”
Flynn lit a cigarette. He wasn’t interested. They had driven up from Pittsburgh and he was tired. He wanted to go to bed.
Eddie went on, “She’s been socked in the jaw. Don’t tell me a small timer like Riley has snatched her. I can’t believe he’d have the nerve. I’m going to have a word with Ma.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” Flynn grumbled. “I want some sleep tonight even if you don’t.”
Eddie ignored him. He went over to the boy who had been staring, his eyes round with fright.
“Where’s your telephone?”
The boy led him into the office.
“Okay, buddy, go rest your ears outside,” Eddie said as he sat on the desk. When the boy had gone, he dialed a number and waited. After a delay Doc’s voice boomed over the line.
“I’m talking from the filling station outside La Cygne.” Eddie said, speaking fast and keeping his voice low. “Riley and his mob have just pulled out. They had a girl with them: high class stuff and I mean just that. She’s way out of their class. Riley said she was drunk, but she looked as if she’d been socked on the jaw. It’s my guess Riley’s snatched her. Tell Ma, will you?”
Doc said, “Hold on.” After a long delay, he came back on the line. “Ma wants to know what she looks like and how she was dressed.”
“She’s a redhead,” Eddie said. “She was morethan pretty: better looking than most movie stars. I’ve never seen a better looking girl. She had one of those long, thin, aristocratic noses and a high forehead. She was wearing a white evening dress and a black wrap, and they cost plenty.”
He could hear Doc talking to Ma and he waited impatiently.
“Ma thinks it might be the Blandish girl,” Doc said, coming on the line. “She was going to the Golden Slipper out at Pine Valley tonight and she was wearing the Blandish necklace. I can’t imagine Riley going for a job that big, can you?”
Eddie’s mind worked fast.
“Ma could be right. I thought there was something familiar about the girl. I’ve seen pictures of the Blandish girl and come to think of it, this girl looks like her. If Riley’s got her and the diamonds—he’s got plenty.”
Suddenly Ma’s harsh violent voice came over the line. “Is that you, Eddie? I’m sending the boys down right away. Meet them at Lone Tree junction. If Riley’s got the Blandish girl, he’ll take her to Johnny’s place. There’s no place else for him to take her. If it’s the girl, bring her back here.”
Eddie said, “Anything you say, Ma. How about Riley’s gang?”
“Do I have to tell you everything?” Ma snarled. “Use your head and get going!”
The line went dead.
Eddie hurried out to the Buick. He gave the boy a dollar, then he got into the car beside Flynn.
“Let’s go,” he said, his voice excited. “Ma is sending the boys to meet us. She thinks Riley has snatched the Blandish girl!”
Flynn groaned.
“She’s nuts. Those cheap hoods wouldn’t have the nerve to snatch a purse let alone the Blandish dame! Where are we going, anyway?”
“Lone Tree junction, then on to Johnny’s place.”
“Goodbye sleep,” Flynn said savagely. “That’s close on a hundred goddamn miles.” He sent the car moving onto the highway.
Eddie laughed.
“You can sleep anytime,” he said. “I want another look at that babe. Get going!”
Flynn shoved the gas pedal to the boards.
“That’s all you think about—women!”
“What else is better to think of?” Eddie asked. “It’s women and money that make the world go round.”

4

Dawn was breaking over the hills as the Lincoln climbed the long steep hill that led to Johnny’s hide-out.
Old Sam drove carefully. He was tired, but he didn’t want to admit it. He was always scared these days that Riley would get rid of him for being too old. Bailey and Riley kept looking through the rear window of the car to make sure no one was following them. They were both nervous and their tempers were short.
Miss Blandish sat as far away as she could from Riley. She had no idea where she was being taken. None of the three men had spoken to her since she had recovered consciousness. She was frightened to draw attention to herself by asking questions. She was sure that by now her father would have alerted the police and they would be looking for her. It could be, she tried to assure herself, only a matter of time before she was found, but in the meantime, what was going to happen to her? This was a thought that kept intruding into her mind, filling her with dread. She had no illusions about these men who were with her. She could see how frightened they were. The two younger men, she thought, were the ones to beware of.
During the long drive, Riley could think of nothing but the menace of the Grisson gang. He was sure that Eddie would tell Ma Grisson about the girl. Ma was the smartest and most dangerous member of the gang. He was sure she would guess who the girl was. She would know about the diamonds too. What would she do? The chances were she would send her gang after them. Would she guess they were going to Johnny’s place? He doubted this. Johnny only worked with the small timers. A gang as big as the Grisson gang wouldn’t have dealings with a rummy like Johnny.
He would have to work fast, he told himself. As soon as he had got the girl under cover, he must contact Blandish. The quicker he got the money and the girl back to Blandish the safer it would be for him.
Old Sam swung the Lincoln onto the narrow dirt road that led directly to Johnny’s place. He reduced speed, and after driving a mile or so, they came upon Johnny’s shack, a two-storied wooden building, screened by trees. Leading to it was a rough path that had been cut through the undergrowth.
Old Sam pulled up and Bailey got out.
“See if he’s around,” Riley said, staying where he was. He fingered his gun, looking nervously at the undergrowth.
Bailey went over to the shack and hammered on the door.
“Hey, Johnny!” he shouted.
There was a pause, then Johnny opened the door. He looked at them suspiciously.
Johnny was pushing seventy. He was a tall, skinny old man with a drink-sodden face and dim, watery eyes. At one time, years ago, he had been one of the best safe men in the business, but drink had ruined him.
He looked at Bailey, then over at the car. His eyes took in Miss Blandish.
“What is it?” he asked. “You boys in trouble? It’s Bailey, isn’t it?”
Bailey tried to crowd into the shack, but Johnny stood firm.
“We want to stay here for a few days, Johnny,” Bailey said. “Let us in!”
“Who’s the girl?” Johnny asked not moving.
Riley pushed Miss Blandish out of the car and, followed by Old Sam, came over.
“Come on, Johnny, don’t act coy,” Riley said. “Let us in. There’s plenty of dough in this for you. Come on; don’t keep us out here.”
Johnny stepped back and Riley shoved Miss Blandish into the shack that consisted of one large living room and two rooms upstairs leading out onto a wooden balcony that overhung the living room.
The living room was indescribably dirty. There was a table and four boxes to serve as chairs, an old cooking stove, a hurricane lantern hanging on the wall, a radio on a shelf and not much else.
Old Sam was the last to enter. He closed the door and leaned against it.
Miss Blandish ran over to Johnny. She caught hold of his arm.
“Please help me!” she said breathlessly. The smell of drink and stale sweat that came from him made her feel ill. “These men have kidnapped me. My father…”
Riley dragged her away.
“Shut up!” he snarled at her. “One more word from you and you’ll get hurt.”
Johnny was looking uneasily at Riley.
“I’m not getting mixed up in a snatch,” he said feebly.
“Please telephone my father…” Miss Blandish began when Riley stepped up to her and smacked her face. She reeled back with a startled cry.
“I told you, didn’t I?” he shouted. “Shut up!”
She put her hand to her face, her eyes flashing.
“You beast!” she exclaimed. “How dare you touch me!”
“I’ll do more than touch you if you don’t pipe down!” Riley snarled. “Sit down and shut up or I’ll slap you again!” Old Sam came over. He looked worried. He picked up one of the boxes and put it close to Miss Blandish.
“Take it easy, miss,” he said. “You don’t want to upset the fella.”
Miss Blandish sank onto the box. She hid her face in her hands.
“Who is she?” Johnny asked.
“The Blandish girl,” Riley said. “She’s worth a million bucks, Johnny. We’ll split even among the lot of us. We’ll only be here three or four days.”
Johnny squinted at him.
“Blandish—he’s pretty rich, isn’t he?”
“He’s worth millions. How about it, Johnny?”
“Well…” Johnny scratched his dirty scalp. “I guess, but not for longer than four days.”
“Where can I put her?” Riley asked. “Have you got a room for her?”
Johnny pointed to one of the doors leading off the balcony.
“Up there.”
Riley turned to Miss Blandish.
“Get up there!”
“Do what he tells you, miss,” Old Sam said. “You don’t want any trouble.”
The girl got to her feet. She went up the stairs. Riley followed her. On the overhanging balcony, she paused to look down at the three men who stared up at her.
Casually, Johnny walked over to the gun rack by the front door. There were two shotguns in the rack.
Riley kicked open the door of the room Johnny had indicated.
“Get in!”
She entered the small dark room. Riley followed her. He lit an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling and glanced around.
There was a bed with a dirty mattress, but no bedding. A jug of water with a thin film of dust floating on the water stood on the floor. A tin basin rested on a small packing case. Thick sacking was nailed across the window. There was a musty smell of damp in the room.
“This’ll make a change for you,” Riley sneered, “It’ll take some of the starch out of you. Stay here and keep quiet or I’ll come up and fix you.”
Miss Blandish was watching a large squat spider crawling across the wall. Her eyes were wide with horror.
“Scare you?” Riley said. He reached out and picked the spider off the wall. The short hairy legs of the insect waved wildly. “Do you want me to drop it down your pretty dress?”
Miss Blandish backed away, shuddering.
“You behave yourself and you’ll be all right,” Riley said, grinning at her. “Start trouble and you’ll be sorry.” While he was speaking he was pinching the spider between his finger and thumb. “If you don’t behave, I’ll treat you the same way. Now you keep quiet.”
He went out, shutting the door behind him.
Bailey and Old Sam were sitting on boxes, smoking. Riley came down the stairs.
“How about some food, Johnny?” he asked, then he stiffened.
Johnny was holding a shotgun in his hands, covering the three men. Riley’s hand moved to his gun, but the look in Johnny’s dim eyes stopped him.
“Don’t start anything, Riley,” Johnny said. “This gun’ll blow your chest to pieces.”
“What’s the idea?” Riley asked through stiff lips.
“I don’t like any of this,” Johnny said. “Sit down. I want to talk to you.”
Riley sat down near Bailey.
“It was on the radio half an hour before you arrived. Who killed the guy?”
“He did,” Riley said, jerking his thumb at Bailey. “The stupid bastard lost his head.”
“Like hell I did!” Bailey snarled. “I had to kill him. This rat let me handle him alone…”
“Oh, shut up!” Riley said violently. “What’s it matter? The guy’s dead and we have a murder rap around our necks but we’ve got the girl. If we can get the money from her old man, we have nothing to worry about.”
Johnny shook his head. After hesitating, he lowered the gun.
“I’ve known you boys since you were kids,” he said. “I never thought you’d turn killers. I don’t like it. Murder and kidnapping. You’ll have the Feds after you. You’re going to get hot. You’ll be public enemies. You are way out of your class.”
“Your share of the loot will be two hundred and fifty grand,” Riley said quietly. “That’s big money, Johnny.”
“Think of the booze you’ll be able to buy with all that dough,” Bailey said brutally. “You’ll be able to swim in whiskey.”
Johnny blinked.
“There isn’t that much money in the world.”
“Two hundred and fifty grand, Johnny: all for you.”
Slowly, Johnny put the gun back in the rack. The three men relaxed. They watched him collect some tin mugs and a big earthenware jar.
“You boys want a drink?”
“What is it?” Riley asked suspiciously. “Your own rot-gut?”
“It’s good stuff—the best.”
Johnny poured the applejack into the mugs and handed them around.
They drank cautiously. Bailey gagged, but Riley and Old Sam managed to-get the burning stuff down their throats.
“How about some grub, Johnny?” Old Sam asked as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “I’m starving.”
“Help yourself,” Johnny said. “There’s the pot on the stove.”
As Old Sam went over to the stove, Bailey said to Riley, “You were wrong to snatch the girl. We should have killed her. Eddie will tell Ma Grisson and she’ll send Slim after us.”
“Shut up!” Riley yelled furiously.
Johnny stiffened.
“What’s that? Slim? He isn’t in this, is he?” he said.
“He’s talking through the back of his head,” Riley said.
“Yeah?” Bailey said. He looked at Johnny. “We ran into Eddie Schultz on the road. He saw the girl. He’ll tell Ma Grisson.”
“If Slim’s coming in on this, I’m keeping out,” Johnny said, edging towards the gun rack.
Riley pulled his .38.
“Keep away from that gun! I’m not scared of Slim Grisson. He won’t bother us.”
“Slim’s bad,” Johnny said uneasily. “I know all you boys. I know when there’s any good in you. There isn’t any good in Slim Grisson. He’s mean and bad right through.”
Riley spat at the stove.
“He’s got a hole in his head,” he said. “He’s no better than an idiot.”
“Maybe, but he’s a killer. He kills with a knife. I don t like guys who use a knife.”
“Give it a rest,” Riley said. “Let’s eat.”
Old Sam was serving stew onto tin plates.
“This stuff smells like goddamn cat,” he grumbled. He spooned some of the mess onto a plate. “I’ll take it up to the girl. She ought to eat.”
“It won’t suit her fancy taste,” Riley said, grinning.
“It’s better than nothing,” Old Sam said.
He carried the plate up the stairs and he entered the dimly lit little room.
Miss Blandish was sitting on the edge of the bed. She had been crying. She looked up as Old Sam came in.
“Here, get this inside you,” he said awkwardly. “You’ll feel better for some grub.”
The gamy smell of the stew turned Miss Blandish sick.
“No… thank you. I—I couldn’t…”
“It stinks a bit,” Old Sam said apologetically, “but you should eat.” He put the plate down. He looked at the dirty mattress and shook his head. “Not what you’re used to, I bet. I’ll see if I can find you a rug or something.”
“Thank you; you’re kind.” She hesitated, then lowering her voice, she went on, “Won’t you help me? If you will telephone my father and tell him where I am, you will be well rewarded. Please help me.”
“I can’t, miss,” Old Sam said, backing to the door. “I’m too old for trouble. Those two down there are mean boys. There’s nothing I can do for you.” He went out, shutting the door after him.
Riley and Bailey were eating and Old Sam joined them. When they had finished, Riley got up.
“That’s about the worst meal I’ve ever eaten,” he said. He looked at his watch. The time was five minutes after nine. “I’d better call Anna. She’ll be wondering what’s happened to me.”
“You’re kidding yourself,” Bailey said. “You and your Anna. Do you imagine she cares where you are?” He got up and went over to the window.
Riley gave the operator Anna’s number. After a delay, she came on the line.
“Hi, baby,” he said. “This is Frankie.”
“Frankie!” Anna’s voice was strident. The three men could hear her. “Where have you been, you bastard? What do you think you’re doing—walking out on me? How do you imagine I liked sleeping on my own last night? Where are you? What have you been doing? If you’ve been sleeping with some other woman, I’ll kill you!”
Riley grinned. It was good to hear Anna’s voice again.
“Take it easy, sweetheart,” he said. “I’ve pulled a job— the biggest ever, and it’s going to land us in the money. From now on, you’re going to wear mink, baby. I’ll give you so much dough you’ll make that Hutton dame look like a pauper. Now, listen, I’m at Johnny’s place—the other side of Lone Tree junction…”
“Riley!” Bailey’s voice was high pitched with fear. “They’re coming! Two cars—it’s the Grisson gang”
Riley slammed the receiver back on its hook and rushed to the window.
Two cars had pulled up near the Lincoln. From it spilled a number of men. They started towards the shack. Riley recognized the tall, heavily built Eddie Schultz.
He spun around.
“Go up and stay with her,” he said to Johnny. “See she doesn’t make a sound. We’ve got to bluff these birds. Snap it up!”
He shoved Johnny up the stairs, and together they entered Miss Blandish’s room. She was lying on the bed and she started up as they came in.
“There’s a guy out there who’s poison to you,” Riley said, his face wet with the sweat of fear. “If you know what’s good for you, stay quiet. I’m going to try to bluff him, but if he once gets the idea you’re up here, you might just as well say your prayers—there’s nothing else you can do.”
It wasn’t the words that sent a cold chill to her heart, it was the white circle of fear around his mouth, and the lurking terror in his eyes.

more of no orchids for miss blandish

book cover of 
<br />
<br />No Orchids for Miss Blandish 
<br />
<br />(The Villain And the Virgin) 
<br />
<br /> (Dave Fenner, book 1)
<br />
<br />by
<br />
<br />James Hadley Chase

 

2

Bailey moved self-consciously around the outer fringe of the tables in the main restaurant of the Golden Slipper. He was glad the lights were dim. Although Anna had washed his shirt and cleaned up his suit, he knew he still looked like a bum and he was worried someone would spot him and throw him out.
The roadhouse was crowded and doing a roaring business. The staff was too busy to notice him. He got in a dark corner where he had a general view of the big room and leaned against the wall.
The noise of voices struggling to get above the sound of the band deafened him. He kept looking at his watch. The time was ten minutes to twelve. He looked around the room. Over by the main entrance, three or four photographers stood waiting with flash cameras. He guessed they were waiting for the Blandish girl. He had never seen her and knew he wouldn’t be able to recognize her so he watched the photographers.
It was like Riley to play the big shot and make him go into the club while Riley sat outside with Old Sam in the Lincoln, Bailey thought. He was always getting the dirty end of the stick. Well, when they split the money, he would quit the gang. He had had about enough of Riley and Anna. With the money he’d get from the diamonds, he would buy himself a chicken farm. He had come from a farming family and if he hadn’t got into trouble and had to serve a three year stretch he wouldn’t have ever teamed up with Riley.
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the band breaking off and going into their hot version of “Happy Birthday to You.”
Here she comes, Bailey thought and raised himself on his toes to look over the heads of the crowd. Everyone had stopped dancing and were looking towards the entrance. The photographers were shoving each other, maneuvering for better positions.
A bright spotlight suddenly went on as Miss Blandish made her appearance, followed by a tall, handsome man in a tuxedo.
Bailey had only eyes for Miss Blandish. He sucked in his bream sharply at the sight of her. The hard light caught her red-gold hair and reflected back on her white skin. He thought he had never seen such a beautiful girl. She wasn’t like any of the girls he knew. She had everything they had and then a lot more. He watched her wave gaily to the crowd who stamped and shouted around her. He stood tense, staring at her, and he didn’t relax until the row had died down and she had seated herself with MacGowan at a distant table.
He had been so impressed with the girl’s beauty that he had forgotten the necklace, but now, as he got over the first impact of her loveliness, he saw the necklace and again his breath sucked in between his clenched teeth.
This splendid collar of flashing diamonds brought him out in an excited sweat. Looking at them, he suddenly realised what a commotion there would be when they were stolen. This was going to be the big take, he thought. Every cop in the country would be after them. Maybe he had been crazy to have encouraged Riley to grab it, he thought, wiping his sweating hands. Blandish had millions and he would raise hell. Once they had that necklace, the heat would be fierce.
Bailey looked across at Miss Blandish’s table. He noticed that MacGowan was flushed. He seemed to be drinking steadily, and once when he refilled his glass, Miss Blandish put her hand on his as if trying to persuade him to stop drinking. MacGowan just grinned at her, emptied his glass, then getting up took her out onto the dance floor.
That bird’s getting stiff, Bailey thought. If he goes on drinking like that, he’ll be out on his feet.
The crowd was getting rowdy. Everyone seemed half drunk. Bailey sneered at them. Have enough money, he thought, bitterly, and you behave like hogs.
He caught sight of Miss Blandish being jostled in the crowd. She suddenly broke away from MacGowan and made her way back to the table. MacGowan followed, protesting. They sat down. MacGowan began to drink again.
At a table near where Bailey stood, a blonde girl was quarreling with her escort, a fat, elderly man who looked pretty drunk. The blonde suddenly got to her feet, lifted a bottle of champagne out of its bucket and poured the contents of the bottle over her escort’s head. He sat there, gaping at her, the champagne soaking his white tuxedo and plastering down his hair.
The blonde put the bottle back into the bucket and sat down again. She blew a kiss to the fat man. The people near them had all turned to stare. Some of the men were laughing. The fat man got slowly to his feet. His red face was tight with rage. He threw the contents of his soup plate in the girl’s face. She began to scream frantically. A youngish man jumped to his feet and punched the fat man who staggered back and cannoned into the table behind him, upsetting it with a crash of glass and china. The two women at the table jumped up, screaming.
Hogs! Bailey thought. He looked across the room at Miss Blandish. She was standing, shaking MacGowan’s arm impatiently. MacGowan got unsteadily to his feet. He followed her to the exit.
The girl who had had the soup thrown in her face was still screaming. A fight had developed between two drunks and the youngish man. The struggling men surged up to Bailey and hindered him from following Miss Blandish. Hepunched his way clear, sending the men staggering, then walked quickly to the exit.
He passed MacGowan leaning against the wall in the lobby, waiting for Miss Blandish. He ran down the drive to the waiting Lincoln. Old Sam was at the wheel and Riley sat by his side.
“They’ll be out in a minute,” Bailey said, getting in behind Riley. “She’ll be driving. Her boy friend is stewed to the gills.”
“Get going,” Riley said to Old Sam. “We’ll stop at that farm we passed coming. We’ll overtake her after she has passed us and crowd her off the road.”
Old Sam put it into gear and the Lincoln slid away. Bailey lit a cigarette and took his gun from his shoulder-holster. He laid the gun on the seat beside him.
“She got the diamonds?” Riley asked.
“Yeah.”
Riley was taller and thinner than Bailey. He was five or six years younger. But for the cast in his right eye, he wouldn’t have been bad looking, but the cast gave him a shifty, sly look.
Old Sam drove fast for half a mile, then coming to the farm, he slowed down, ran the car onto the grass and pulled up.
Riley said, “Get out and watch for her.”
Bailey took his gun, tossed his cigarette away and got out of the car. He stood by the side of the road. In the distance, he could see the lights of the roadhouse and he could hear the faint sound of the band playing. He waited for several minutes, then he saw the headlights of an approaching car.
He ran back to the Lincoln.
“Here they come.”
As he got into the car, Old Sam started the engine. A two-seater Jaguar swept past. Miss Blandish was driving. MacGowan seemed to have passed out.
“Get going,” Riley said. “That’s a fast job. Don’t let them get away.”
The Lincoln stormed after the Jaguar.
It was a dark, moonless night. Old Sam turned on hi? headlights. The beams lit up the Jaguar. They could see MacGowan’s head rolling with the motion of the car.
“He wont start trouble,” Bailey said. “He’s had a real skinful.”
Riley grunted.
The next bend in the road brought them to wooded country. At this hour the road was completely deserted.
“Okay,” Riley said. “Now crowd her!”
The needle of the speedometer moved to eighty-five and then to eighty-eight. The Lincoln held the road without any roll. The wind began to whistle and the trees took on a smudged look. The distance between the two cars remained the same.
“What are you playing at?” Riley said, staring at Old Sam. “I said crowd her!”
Old Sam shoved the gas pedal to the boards. The Lincoln crept up a few yards, but the Jaguar surged forward and the distance widened.
“She’s too fast for this crate,” Old Sam said. “We’re not going to catch her.”
The cars were now traveling at over eighty miles an hour. The Jaguar was steadily pulling away.
Suddenly Old Sam saw his chance as they approached a fork in the road.
“Hang on!” he yelled, slammed on his brakes and flung the wheel over. The tires screamed on the tar and the Lincoln spun around, skidding into the rough. Bailey was thrown off the rear seat. He felt the Lincoln lurch, then the off-wheels rise and slam back on the road. The car shuddered as Old Sam released the brakes and stepped down hard on the gas. He crashed over the grass verge, bumped and banged crazily across the rough ground and shot onto the road again.
By cutting off the corner, he was now in front of the Jaguar.
Bailey scrambled back on the seat, swearing and groping for his gun.
“Nice work,” Riley said, leaning out of the car to look back.
Old Sam, watching the Jaguar in his driving mirror, began to zigzag about the road, slowing down and forcing the Jaguar to slow down. Finally the two cars stopped. As Bailey jumped out of the Lincoln, Miss Blandish began to turn the Jaguar. He reached her just in time. He leaned into the car, snapped off the ignition, then threatened her with the gun.
“Get out!” he shouted. “This is a stick-up.”
Miss Blandish stared up at him. Her large eyes were wide with shock. MacGowan opened his eyes, and slowly sat up.
Riley, watching, remained in the Lincoln. He leaned out of the window, his sweating hand on his gun. Old Sam nervously opened the car door, ready to get out.
“Come on! Come on!” Bailey snarled. “Get out!”
Miss Blandish got out of the car. She didn’t look frightened, but she was startled.
“What is all this?” MacGowan mumbled. He got out of the car, wincing and holding his head.
“Take it easy,” Bailey said, threatening MacGowan with the gun. “This is a stick-up.”
MacGowan sobered. He moved closer to Miss Blandish.
“Hand over the necklace, sister,” Bailey said. “Quick!”
Miss Blandish’s hands flew to her throat. She began to back away.
Bailey cursed. He was beginning to lose his nerve. A car might pass any moment, and then they would be in trouble.
“Hand it over or you’ll get hurt,” he snarled.
As she still backed away, he strode up to her with three quick strides. He had to pass close to MacGowan who suddenly came alive and slammed a punch at Bailey’s head.
Bailey staggered, lost his balance and fell heavily. His gun slipped from his hand.
Miss Blandish stifled a scream. Riley didn’t move. He thought Bailey could handle it. He didn’t want either Miss Blandish or MacGowan to be able to identify him if the thing turned sour. He told Old Sam to watch the girl.
Old Sam shuffled over to Miss Blandish. She didn’t seem to notice him. She was staring at Bailey who was up on one knee, cursing and shaking his head. Old Sam stood by her sheepishly, but he was ready to grab her if she tried to get away.
Bailey looked at MacGowan who came forward unsteadily, still drunk, but full of fight.
Bailey was up to meet him. He hit MacGowan on the side of his neck. It wasn’t a good punch and it scarcely stopped MacGowan who slammed in a right to Bailey’s stomach. Bailey grunted and went down on his knees. This punk certainly could punch. Why didn’t Riley come? Before he could get up MacGowan had hit him on the side of the head and Bailey rolled on the grass.
Cursing, Riley got out of the car.
Bailey’s hand touched his gun. He grabbed it, then as MacGowan moved towards him, he lifted the gun and pulled the trigger.
The bang of the gun made Miss Blandish scream. She covered her eyes.
MacGowan clutched at his chest, then he fell in the road. Blood showed on his white shirt.
Bailey got to his feet as Riley ran up.
“You crazy sonofabitch!” Riley snarled. He bent over MacGowan, then he looked up at Bailey who had come closer and was staring down at MacGowan, his face slack with fright. “He’s dead! You jackass! What did you kill him for? Now you have started something.”
Bailey hooked his finger in his collar and jerked at it savagely.
“Why didn’t you help me?” he mumbled. “What else could I have done? It wasn’t my fault.”
“Tell that to the judge,” Riley snarled. He was badly scared. This is a murder rap now, he was thinking. We’ll all burn. If they catch us…
Bailey looked at Miss Blandish who was staring at MacGowan’s body. He said to Riley, “We’ll have to knock her off. She knows too much.”
“Shut up!” Riley said. He was staring at Miss Blandish. An idea had suddenly dropped into his mind. Here was a chance of getting into the real money. This girl’s father was worth millions. He would pay anything to get her back safe. “She’s coming with us.”
Miss Blandish suddenly broke free from Old Sam. She spun around and began to run down the road. Cursing, Riley ran after her. She heard him coming and she began to scream. He caught up with her, grabbed her arm and as she turned, he hit her hard on the side of her jaw. He caught her as she slumped forward. Picking her up, he carried her to the Lincoln and bundled her in on the back seat.
Bailey came up.
“Now wait a minute…”
Riley turned on him, snarling. He grabbed Bailey by the front of his shirt.
“Keep out of this!” he raved. “You’ve landed us in a murder rap! If they catch us, we’ll all burn. From now on, you do what I tell you! Get his body off the road and the car out of sight! Hear me?”
The viciousness in his voice startled Bailey. He hesitated, then as Riley released him, he went back to where Old Sam stood like a pole-axed bull.
He made Old Sam help him put MacGowan’s body in the Jaguar, then he drove the car off the road into the wood.
The two men came running back to the Lincoln.
“You’re nuts to snatch this girl,” Bailey said as he got in beside Old Sam. “We’ll have the Feds after us. How long do you imagine we’ll last?”
“Shut up!” Riley said violently. “Now you’ve killed that guy, we daren’t sell the necklace. Where do you imagine we’ll get money from unless it’s from Blandish? He’s worth millions. He’ll pay anything for the girl. It’s our only chance. Now, shut up!” To Old Sam, he said, “Get moving. We’ll go to Johnny’s place. He’ll hide us.”
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Old Sam asked as he started the car.
“We’ve got nothing to lose thanks to this sonofabitch,” Riley said. “I know what I’m doing. Get going.”
As the car gathered speed, Riley turned to where Miss Blandish lay slumped in the corner of the car. He took the necklace from around her neck.
“Got a light?” he asked Bailey.
Bailey took a flashlight from his pocket and turned it on. Riley examined the diamonds in the beam of the flashlight.
“They sure are something,” he said, awe in his voice. “But I’m not going to try to sell them. If Blandish wants them back, he’ll have to pay for them. It’ll be safer that way.”
Bailey shifted the light so it played on Miss Blandish. She was still unconscious. In spite of the dark bruise on her face where Riley had hit her, Bailey thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Some dish!” he said, speaking his thoughts aloud. “Is she all right?”
Riley looked at the unconscious girl. His eyes hardened.
“She’s all right,” he said. He stared at Bailey. “And for the record, she’s going to stay all right so don’t go getting any ideas about her.”
Bailey turned off the flashlight.
The car roared on into the darkness.

 

milestone in american pulps: no orchids for miss blandish, by englishman james hadley chase

A close friend of Graham Greene, an author of over 80 books, James Hadley Chase (real name René Brabazon Raymond) was perhaps the first non-American to really capitalize on the lucrative pulp potential of the American criminal mythos.
Chase’s first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) was written by the former door-to-door encyclopedia salesman in a scant six weekends, with the help of a dictionary of American slang, reference books on the American underworld, and the wholesale lifting of the plot of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary.

Chase was motivated by money, hoping to cash in on the popularity American hard-boiled crime fiction in the U.K. The book became a bestseller and while Raymond Chandlerderided No Orchids for Miss Blandish as "
half-cent pulp writing at its worst," George Orwell observed "it is not, as one might expect, the product of an illiterate hack, but a brilliant piece of writing, with hardly a wasted word or a jarring note anywhere." But Orwell’s acute political antennae left him with the impression that the novel was "a day dream appropriate to a totalitarian age."  

The improbable plot of the novel provided in part the inspiration for Raymond Queneau’s 1947 novel, On est toujours trop bon avec les femmes (We Always Treat Women Too Well). Indeed, at a critical part in the story, the father of the kidnapped girl—the eponymous Miss Blandish—refuses to take her back from her captors with the judgment "Better dead than deflowered." No wonder Orwell famously began his review of Chase’s book with the warning "Now for a header into the cesspool."
Here’s opening section of the first chapter:

Image:NoOrchidsForMissBlandishF.jpg

CHAPTER ONE
1

IT BEGAN on a summer afternoon in July, a month of intense heat, rainless skies and scorching, dust-laden winds.

At the junction of the Fort Scott and Nevada roads that cuts Highway 54, the trunk road from Pittsburgh to Kansas City, there stands a gas station and lunchroom bar: a shabby wooden structure with one gas pump, run by an elderly widower and his fat blonde daughter.
A dusty Lincoln pulled up by the lunchroom a few minutes after one o’clock. There were two men in the car: one of them was asleep.
The driver, Bailey, a short thickset man with a fleshy, brutal face, restless, uneasy black eyes and a thin white scar along the side of his jaw, got out of the car. His dusty, shabby suit was threadbare. His dirty shirt was frayed at the cuffs. He felt bad. He had been drinking heavily the previous night and the heat bothered him.
He paused to look at his sleeping companion, Old Sam, then shrugging, he went into the lunchroom, leaving Old Sam to snore in the car.
The blonde leaning over the counter smiled at him. She had big white teeth that reminded Bailey of piano keys. She was too fat to interest him. He didn’t return her smile.
“Hello, mister,” she said brightly. “Phew! Isn’t it hot? I didn’t sleep a wink last night.”
“Scotch,” Bailey said curtly. He pushed his hat to the back of his head and mopped his face with a filthy handkerchief.
She put a bottle of whiskey and a glass on the counter.
“You should have beer,” she said, shaking her blonde curls at him. “Whiskey’s no good to anyone in this heat.”
“Give your mouth a rest,” Bailey said.
He carried the bottle and the glass to a table in a corner and sat down.
The blonde grimaced, then she picked up a paperback and with an indifferent shrug, she began to read.
Bailey gave himself a long drink, then he leaned back in his chair. He was worried about money. If Riley couldn’t dream up something fast, he thought, we’ll have to bust a bank. He scowled uneasily. He didn’t want to do that. There were too many Feds around for safety. He looked through the window at Old Sam, sleeping in the car. Bailey sneered at the sleeping man. Apart from being able to drive a car, he was useless, Bailey thought. He’s too old for this racket. All he thinks about is where his next meal is coming from and sleeping. It’s up to Riley or me to scratch up some money somehow—but how?
The whiskey made him hungry.
“Ham and eggs and hurry it up,” he called to the blonde.
“Doesn’t he want any?” the blonde asked, pointing through the window at Old Sam.
“Does he look like it?” Bailey said. “Hurry it up! I’m hungry.”
He saw through the window a dusty Ford pull up and a fat, elderly man get out.
Heinie! Bailey said to himself. What’s he doing here?
The fat man waddled into the lunchroom and waved to Bailey.
“Hi, pal,” he said. “Long time no see. How are you?”
“Lousy,” Bailey grunted. “This heat’s killing me.”
Heinie came over. He pulled out a chair and sat down. He was a leg man for a society rag that ran blackmail on the side. He was always picking up scraps of information, and often, for a consideration, he passed on any useful tips that might lead to a robbery to the small gangs operating around Kansas City.
“You can say that again,” Heinie said, sniffing at the ham cooking. “I was out at Joplin last night covering a lousy wedding. I was nearly fried. Imagine having a wedding night in heat like this!” Seeing Bailey wasn’t listening, he asked, “How’s tricks? You look kinda low.”
“I haven’t had a break in weeks,” Bailey said, dropping his cigarette butt on the floor. “Even the goddamn horses are running against me.”
“You want a hot tip?” Heinie asked. He leaned forward, lowering his voice. “Pontiac is a cinch.”
Bailey sneered.
“Pontiac? That nag’s a fugitive from a merry-go-round.”
“You’re wrong,” Heinie said. “They spent ten thousand bucks on that horse and it looks good.”
“I’d look good if anyone spent all that dough on me,” Bailey snarled.
The blonde came over with his plate of ham and eggs. Heinie sniffed at it as she put the plate on the table.
“Same for me, beautiful,” he said, “and a beer.”
She slapped away his exploring hand, smiled at him and went back to the counter.
“That’s the kind of woman I like—value for money,” Heinie said, looking after her. “Two rolled into one.”
“I’ve got to get some dough, Heinie,” Bailey said, his mouth full of food. “Any ideas?”
“Not a thing. If I do hear I’ll let you know, but right now there’s nothing your weight. I’ve got a big job tonight. I’m covering the Blandish shindig. It’s only for twenty bucks, but the drinks will be free.”
“Blandish? Who’s he?”
“Where have you been living?” Heinie asked in disgust. “Blandish is one of the richest guys in the state. They say he’s worth a hundred million.”
Bailey speared the yolk of his egg with his fork.
“And I’m worth five bucks!” he said savagely. “That’s life! What’s he in the news for?”
“Not him: his daughter. Have you ever seen her? What a dish? I’d give ten years of my life for a roll in the hay with her.”
Bailey wasn’t interested.
“I know these rich girls. They don’t know what they’re here for.”
“I bet she does,” Heinie said and sighed. “Her old man’s throwing a party for her: it’s her twenty-fourth birthday—just the right age. He’s giving her the family diamonds.” He rolled his eyes. “What a necklace! They say it’s worth fifty grand.”
The blonde came over with his meal. She was careful to keep out of his reach. When she had gone, Heinie pulled up his chair and started to eat noisily. Bailey had finished. He sat back and began to pick his teeth with a match. He was thinking: fifty grand! I wonder if there’s a chance of grabbing that necklace? I wonder if Riley would have the nerve to make a try for it?
“Where’s the party—at her house?”
“That’s right,” Heinie said, shoveling food into his mouth. “Then she and her boy friend, Jerry MacGowan, are going on to the Golden Slipper.”
“With the necklace?” Bailey asked casually.
“I bet once she puts it on, she’ll never take it off.”
“But you’re not sure?”
“She’ll be wearing it all right. The press will be there.”
“What time will she be at the roadhouse?”
“Around midnight.” Heinie paused, his fork near his mouth. “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing.” Bailey looked at him, his fleshy face expressionless. “She and this guy, MacGowan? No one else?”
“No.” Heinie suddenly laid down his fork. His fat face was worried. “Now look, don’t go getting any ideas about the necklace. You’d start something you couldn’t finish. I’m telling you. Riley and you aren’t big enough to handle a job like that. You be patient. I’ll find something you can handle, but not the Blandish necklace.”
Bailey grinned at him. Heinie thought he looked like a wolf.
“Don’t get excited,” he said, “I know what I can and can’t handle.” He stood up. “I guess I’ll be moving. Don’t forget: if anything comes up, let me know. So long, pal.”
“You’re in a hurry all of a sudden, aren’t you?” Heinie said, frowning up at Bailey.
“I want to get off before Old Sam wakes up. I’m not buying him another meal as long as I live. So long.”
He went over to the blonde and paid his check, then he walked over to the Lincoln. The heat hit him like a clenched fist. After the whiskey it made him feel a little dizzy. He got in the car and paused to light a cigarette, his mind busy.
Once the word got around about the necklace, he was thinking, every little gangster in the district would sit up and wonder. Would Riley have the nerve to grab it?
He nudged Old Sam awake.
“Come on!” he said roughly. “What the hell’s the matter with you? Don’t you do anything but sleep these days?”
Old Sam, tall, wiry and pushing sixty, blinked as he slowly straightened up.
“Are we going to eat?” he asked hopefully.
“I’ve eaten,” Bailey said and set the car moving.
“How about me?”
“Go ahead if you’ve got any dough. I’m not paying,” Bailey snarled.
Old Sam sighed. He tightened his belt and pushed his greasy, battered hat over his long, red nose.
“What’s gone wrong with this outfit, Bailey?” he asked mournfully. “We never have any money now. One time we were doing all right; now nothing. Know what I think? I think Riley spends too much time in the sack with that broad of his. He isn’t concentrating on business.”
Bailey slowed the car and pulled up outside a drugstore.
“Give your mouth a rest,” he said and getting out of the car, he walked into the drugstore. He shut himself in a telephone booth. He dialed, and after a long wait, Riley came on the line.
Bailey could hear the radio blaring and Anna singing at the top of her voice. He started to tell Riley what he had learned from Heinie, but gave up.
“You can’t hear what I’m saying, can you?” he bawled. “Can’t you stop that goddamn noise?”
Riley seemed half dead. Bailey had left him in bed with Anna. He was surprised he even bothered to answer the telephone.
“Hang on,” Riley said.
The music stopped, then Anna began to shout angrily. Bailey heard Riley bellow something and then the sound of a loud smack, Bailey shook his head, breathing hard down his nose. Riley and Anna fought all day. They drove him nuts when he was with them.
Riley came back to the telephone.
“Listen, Frankie,” Bailey pleaded. “I’m roasting alive in this goddamn booth. Will you listen? This is important”
Riley began to beef about the heat at his end.
“I know: I know.” Bailey snarled. “Will you listen? We’ve got the chance of grabbing a necklace worth fifty grand. The Blandish girl will be wearing the necklace tonight. She’s going to the Golden Slipper with her boy friend— just the two of them. I got the word from Heinie. It’s the McCoy. What do you say?”
“How much?”
“Fifty grand. Blandish—the millionaire. How about it?”
Riley seemed to come alive all of a sudden.
“What are you waiting there for? Come on back!” he said excitedly. “This is something we got to talk about. Come on back!”
“I’m on my way,” Bailey said and hung up. He paused to light a cigarette. His hands were shaking with excitement Riley wasn’t as yellow as he thought, he said to himself. If we handle this right, we’re in the money!
He walked with quick strides back to the Lincoln.
Old Sam looked at him sleepily.
“Wake up, stupid,” Bailey said. “Things are cooking.”