A Private Party
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by William Ard
Description: When Timothy Dane is hired by a ruthless gang of hoodlums to find the killer of their chief, the tough private eye finds himself caught in a crossfire between vicious mobsters, gun-happy cops, and men living by the jungle law of the waterfront--plus a luscious show-girl whose specialty is a certain kind of "private party." Dane, as usual, does a swift, tidy job of unraveling the case with some boudoir assistance from Stanzyck's ex-moll, Roxy Garde. Roxy was down on the police blotter as "profession unknown," but Dane knew how the beautiful redhead earned her living. When mobster Al Stanzyck was rubbed out, Roxy decided she'd had enough of hoodlums. So she made a desperate play for Dane. But the night Stanzyck's toughest henchman turned up at her apartment, ready to take up where the boss left off, Roxy knew she'd have to meet violence with the only weapon a woman has.
About Vintage Paperback Pulp Fiction
A new revolution was underway at the start of the 1940s in America--a paperback revolution that would change the way publishers would produce and distribute books and the reading public would consume them. In 1939 a new publishing company--Pocket Books--stormed onto the scene with the publication of its first paperbound book. Unlike hardback books, these pulp paperbacks were available in drugstores, newsstands, bus and train stations, and cigar shops. The American public could not get enough of them. The popular pulp genres reflected the tastes of Americans during World War II--mysteries, "sleaze", thrillers, and "hardboiled detective" stories were all the rage.
In the early 1950s new pulp fiction sub-genres emerged--science fiction, lesbian fiction, juvenile delinquent and "sleaze", for instance--that would tantalize readers with gritty, realistic and lurid stories never seen before. Publishers had come to realize that sex sells. In a competitive frenzy for readers, they tossed away their staid and straightforward cover images for alluring covers that frequently featured a sexy woman in some form of undress, along with a suggestive tag line that promised stories of sex and violence within the covers. Before long, vintage pulps with sensational covers had completely taken over the paperback racks and cash registers. To this day, the pulp cover art of these vintage paperback books are just as sought after as the books themselves were sixty years ago.
We are excited to make these wonderful pulp fiction stories available in ebook format to new generations of readers, as a new revolution--the ebook revolution--is in full swing. We hope you will enjoy this nostalgic look back at a period in American history when dames were dangerous, tough-guys were deadly and dolls were downright delicious.
eBook Publisher: SRS Internet Publishing/Digital Vintage Pulps, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: January 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [202 KB]
Reading time: 121-170 min.
In the gleam of headlights the sign beside the highway read LEAVING NEW YORK CITY and the Cadillac sped past it and entered Westchester County at eighty miles an hour. The chauffeur, a slack-jawed man in a black cap, shouldered the heavy limousine past a dozen cars and, when some other driver would not be intimidated by the overbearing horn, the chauffeur swept across the white line, confiscating the lanes of the oncoming traffic.
His two passengers, sunk deep in the recesses of the back seat, were not surgeons on a mission of life and death. Neither of them was the governor of the state, nor the mayor of the city, nor even the commissioner of police. The chauffeur drove as he did because that was the way Al Stanzyck liked to be driven, and because tonight was the night of Al Stanzyck's party.
Stanzyck sat on the right, his massive body a dark, forbidding bulk that filled nearly half of the wide seat. Even in an ungainly slump, as now, with his legs sprawled slovenly before him, Stanzyck communicated a force that was as ruthless and as brutal as the behavior of the car in which he rode. His face, hidden in the shadows, was a tremendous square marked by twin creases from cheek-bone to chin, by deep-sunken brown eyes that snapped even in rare moments of laughter, by a lower Up that was thick, moist looking, and curiously scarred in the center. Tonight was his forty-third birthday, but that was not the occasion for the party.
Beside him, sitting erect and terrier-like, his face shifting between nervousness and cynicism at the speed of the car, was Bert Hill. Hill was thin; thin of face, thin of body, thin even to the brief mustache above his thin Up; a stiletto if Stanzyck was a broadax. Hill was a lawyer, Stanzyck's lawyer, and though there were men who paid homage to Stanzyck and called themselves his friends, there was none who even pretended to be a friend of Hill's not even Stanzyck. And that was exactly the way the lawyer wanted it. His interest in life, his only interest, was to get and keep money. It was an end that justified any means--even to being known as Al Stanzyck's mouthpiece.
A police siren sounded behind them and Hill looked quickly through the back window. In the distance, gaining on them slowly, but gaining, was a motorcycle whose searchlight revolved insistently between red and white flashes.
Stanzyck stirred himself and leaned forward toward the driver.
"I don't want to be stopped," he said and the head in front of him bobbed urgently as the car picked up a surge of reserve power. The siren immediately grew fainter. Then, suddenly, they were at an intersection. The traffic light in their direction was red. Before them was a solid block of cars dutifully stopped. Across the intersection streamed a steady parade of cars traveling with the light.
"I don't want to be stopped," Stanzyck repeated again, but even as he spoke the driver was slamming on his brakes and the voice was drowned in an agonizing shriek of tires. The Cadillac was far over in the wrong lane, and even now it didn't fully stop but attempted to bull its way through the cross traffic. Other tires screeched, other cars lurched crazily to get out of the way, came to jolting halts to avoid being smashed. But there was one that could not .brake in time nor accelerate quickly enough and the Cadillac at last was still, caught in a maze of traffic. Into the confusion, seeming to clarify it, came the roar of the motorcycle's siren and motor.
The policeman threaded his way expertly to the Cadillac's side, motioned other cars to make way and then ordered Stanzyck's driver to pull off the highway.
"What the hell is going on?" His voice was shrill, charged with the tension of the wild chase.
The chauffeur stared at him sullenly, saying nothing. But from the rear of the car came a harsh voice that jarred the policeman's already frayed nerves.
"Stuff the sermon," said Stanzyck. "I'm in a hurry.
The policeman bent forward, peering into the darkness. Unpleasant as it sounded, there was something else in the voice, something that made him blanket his smoldering rage.
"Come on, come on, write the damn ticket."
It was one of those things, thought the cop. One of those times when a man might be on thin ice, when a man felt the burden of a wife and three children and a pay check of fifty-two dollars a week.
He pulled his head back slowly.
"Let's have your license," he said quietly to the chauffeur and proceeded to make out the speeding summons in silence. A large, hairy-fingered hand reached out from the back to receive it, and though the policeman did not actually see what happened, he knew that the sound he heard was the ticket being torn in half.
The policeman stiffened. His body rocked back and forth, torn between two decisions. The hell with it, he thought. I've chased this seventy-five hundred-dollar Cadillac for eight miles. I've risked my life eighteen times. I've written out a summons and he's destroyed it. But I didn't see him do it and now it's up to the traffic court. He stepped back just in time to avoid being struck by the rear fender as the long limousine sped away from him insultingly.
His eyes, dark with humiliation, stared after the departing license plate. AS--75. Then he knew. AS--it had to be Al Stanzyck. Only this morning he had read about him in the News. Only this afternoon they had discussed the thing in the barracks. Now why should a cop, of all people, retreat before the likes of Al Stanzyck? All the same, he was relieved that it had gone off as it had.
In the car, Bert Hill touched the fragments of the ticket with the pointed toe of his shoe.
"What do you think's going to happen when that comes due?" he asked patiently.
"Happen? Why, you're going to fix it, Bert. Same as always." He laughed, and accompanied the anything but humorous sound with a slap on the other man's knee.
"Don't count on it, Al."
"I am counting on it, counselor," he was told. "What would I do if I couldn't count on a little fixer like you?"
"I don't know, Al. I don't know what you'd do."
The car swung off the highway and sped up a little narrow gravel road toward a spotlighted sign that read: THE INN-COCKTAILS--DINNER--PRIVATE PARTIES AND TOURISTS. Beyond the sign loomed a large, rambling wooden building that had once been the main house of an estate but was now a restaurant and hotel. At the foot of a wide wooden staircase, and beneath a subduedly lighted arch, stood a uniformed doorman who doubled as parking attendant.
The Cadillac glided to a stop before him and he held the rear door open as Stanzyck stepped out. His face reacted.
"Hi'ya, Mr. S.!" he said enthusiastically. "Welcome back!"
"Howya been, Freddie?" said the big man magnanimously. "They treatin' ya good?"
"We sure missed you," said Freddie, knowing that Stanzyck didn't care if "they" were treating him good or not.
But Stanzyck had turned back to the car.
"Get out," he ordered the chauffeur.
The man immediately slipped out from behind the wheel to stand uncertainly, facing Stanzyck across the gleaming black hood of the car.
"You're through," Stanzyck said. "Get out of my sight."
"But, Mr. S--"
"I told you I didn't want to get stopped. I got stopped."
"You're a punk. Punks don't drive Al Stanzyck. Beat it."
"How--how do I get home?"
"Walk." Stanzyck swung away abruptly. "Park this, Freddie. You can drive me home when I'm ready."
"Thanks a lot, Mr. S. You bet!" The new driver got into the car and took it to the parking lot already crowded with cars. Stanzyck, with Hill following, went up the stairs saving the ex-chauffeur to stand foolishly in the dim light of the arch.
The lawyer reached around and .held the door open while Stanzyck entered.
"Al! Allie, pal!"
The greeting was boomed across the foyer by a fat, florid-faced individual who broke from a group he had been talking with and came forward with a pudgy hand extended. The others picked up the cry, and amid "Al's!" and "Allie's!" descended on Stanzyck swiftly. They all grabbed feverishly for his hand, all sought an open spot on his huge back to pound, all had words of warm greeting and welcome. But where he had been, no one said. And how it had been, where he was, no one asked.
Stanzyck himself took their accolades unsmilingly. He was scowling, in fact, and seemed preoccupied. His head, above any of those clamoring around him, was held high, and his eyes searched beyond them into a large room where an orchestra played for dancing couples and a bar bustled with activity. He was looking for someone, and not seeing the person, he withdrew his hand and elbowed his way out of the pack.
Bert Hill's voice stopped him and he turned around impatiently.
"Don't forget our conference," said the lawyer, stepping close to him, being dwarfed by the other man's mass.
"I'm not forgetting it," said Stanzyck irritably.
"It's very important we do it tonight."
"Damn it!" Stanzyck exploded. "Let me have a drink, will you?"
"Sure, Al," said the lawyer. Then, crisply, "I'll go round up Limey and Nick. All right?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me know when you're set." He turned and walked into the other room. Now there was a second greeting, this one swelled to fifty voices and given an entirely different quality because half the voices were women's, high pitched and raucous sounding as the entire party advanced on him to become a noisy, milling mob. Only the orchestra, and especially its bored-looking leader, seemed unaffected by the entrance. And at a signal from a blond, toughly handsome man who had held back from the crowd, the band struck up the strains of "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow!"
Eager voices immediately picked up the tune, and among the men, at least, there was a competition to make a particular voice loudly identifiable and thereby the sincerity of the owner's sentiment.
But still Stanzyck did not seem satisfied. He did make personal acknowledgment of the women who came forward to shake his hand or touch his arm, and with half a dozen he returned the contact with an uninhibited cup of a breast or a stroke of the backside. Rather than resenting his pawing, these girls seemed to hold their bodies more proudly and look disdainfully at those who had not been singled out.
It didn't appear to make that much difference to Stanzyck. As in the foyer, he looked beyond the group, his head swinging from side to side, his eyes roving. They stopped, once, when they came to rest on the blond man, but after an exchange of glances they moved on. With another impatient scowl, he broke from the second group. His steps took him to the bar and those who had been shoved aside either resumed dancing or followed him doggedly.
As though prearranged, the blond was waiting for him.
They touched hands. Nick, Nick Mayer, was six feet tall but his head was below the level of Stanzyck's eyes.
"Good to have you with us, Al." It was an unusual voice, affected. A lazy, drawling sound, but with words that were actually clipped short and not resonant and accented as a Southerner's. He had worked hard on that voice from the first time he had heard it on the screen some ten years back.
"I'm glad you think so, Nickie," said Stanzyck pleasantly, forcing an unaccustomed smile onto his unfriendly face. "Where's Roxy?" he then asked abruptly.
"I wouldn't know," answered Nick. I-pause-wouldn't-pause-know-pause, delivered with a bored expression in his eyes. "She was here."
"When she arrive?"
Nick shrugged. "I guess she's out getting beautiful for her big boy," he said and a smile crossed his face.
Stanzyck turned to the waiting bartender, but before he could give the order, Mayer's voice cut in smoothly.
"Mr. Stanzyck's usual, Fritz. With House of Lords."
"And very, very dry," said Fritz. "And yours, Mr. Mayer? The usual?"
"Been up here much, Nick?" asked Stanzyck.
Another shrug. "Once. Maybe twice."
"Nobody, Al. All by myself."
"Still the lone wolf, huh?"
"That's me, Al. Here's your girl now," he added, looking past Stanzyck.
The big man turned sharply, his body suddenly galvanized. Coming toward him was a very beautiful woman, a redheaded woman whose hair hung to her shoulders and reflected the lights from the room in hundreds of dancing auburn sparkles. Her face was small and delicate, clefted at the chin, with full, sensuous lips and wide-set green eyes whose dominant expression was appraisal. She was tall bodied, with long legs, tapering waist, extraordinary breasts. Stanzyck waited for her, his hands at his side, and as her graceful steps closed the distance he seemed to be seeing her without the form-fitting green dress, and the necklace that hung in a deep V over her naked chest, and the matching diamond earrings that swayed expensively though her head did not seem to move at all.
She stopped in front of him, and when it appeared that he was not going to do anything but stand motionlessly staring down at her, she smiled and reached her arms to his face and kissed him full on the mouth.
"It's good to see you, Al," she whispered, her glistening lips hardly opening to emit the sound.
"Roxy . . ."
"I missed you," she told him.
"Did you?" It seemed an effort for the big man to speak to her.
"Hard," he said emotionally, his eyes burning into her own. "Hard," he said again.
She smiled again and her fingers pressured his upper arm, the long nails going deep into the material of his jacket. Then she relaxed her grip and an impersonal mask came over her face as she leaned around Stanzyck.
"Hello, Nick," she said.
"Roxy. Can I get you a drink?"
"Whatever Al's having," she answered. "as if I didn't know."
Nick relayed the order and the drinks were served.
"You know what I want to do?" Stanzyck said suddenly.
"Yes, I know what you want to do," she said.
Stanzyck laughed. "Dance," he told her. "I want to dance."
"That's what I thought you meant," Roxy said. "Come on, then."
They walked onto the dance floor without a word to Mayer. Nick turned to the bartender.
"You're sure that Martini is dry, now?"
"Can't get it any drier, Mr. Mayer."
"Good. That's the way Mr. Stanzyck likes them."
The big man was surprisingly graceful on the floor, although he held the girl as though he were afraid of crushing her. She seemed inclined to mold herself against him, and the arm around his neck was not casual but firm. Someone cut in, and though Stanzyck was on the verge of a blunt refusal, the girl interceded.
"Don't ration yourself, darling," she told him. "Give the other girls a break."
He walked off obediently toward another couple. When he cut in, the man's face reflected his pride at having his own girl picked. But the girl herself was not especially different from the others in the room. She was pretty, but so were the others. Some had a less brittle beauty, some were taller, some were older. But they all shared sameness, a type, and if their sameness could be described it was that they could all be had. It was, in fact, all they did.
"How's tricks, Ruthie?" Stanzyck asked the particular specimen who was now fitted against him as though glued there.
"They could be better, Al."
He scowled. "Cookie ain't beatin' you again?"
"Cookie's small time, Al. I want the big time."
"What do you say, Al?" she asked him, her voice urgent.
Stanzyck's face was immensely smug and self-satisfied is he squeezed the girl to him.
"We'll see, baby," he told her grandly.
"You just say the word, Al. Just whistle . . ."
They were cut in on and Stanzyck moved on to another. Her name was Vera, and if the words of their conversation varied, its gist did not. Marion followed Vera. Then one he called only Baby. Then Julie, Sue and Em. Vera again, Baby again. Dotty and Doris.
Doris he took with him to the bar. Nick Mayer had drifted elsewhere, leaving the two Martinis behind. The drink was warm now, and Stanzyck scowled. Fritz quickly replaced it and added a drink for Doris.
Stanzyck rested his arms on the bar and scanned the floor for Roxy. His eyes found her immediately, dancing decorously, and he told himself again how different she was. This dame beside him was a bimbo. They were all bimbos. They shouldn't even be in the same room with Roxy. Roxy was a queen. Stanzyck sighed contentedly. And he was a king.
Leaving Doris to make out for herself, he left the bar and shouldered his way across the floor to the redhead. She came into his arms with a smile.
"Having fun, Al?"
"You're the only dancer in the place," she said.
"That's not all I'm only at," he told her.
Roxy looked up at him, let her eyes close and said nothing. The moment, if that's what it was, was spoiled by a hand on Stanzyck's shoulder.
"We're all set, Al," said Bert Hill at his elbow.