The Phantom Detective: Fangs of Murder
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by Robert Wallace
Category: Mystery/Crime/Historical Fiction
Description: Mysterious doom hovers menacingly over the members of the Gargoyle Club! Follow the world's greatest sleuth as he pits brain and brawn against a vicious criminal! Ripped from the pages of "The Phantom Detective" pulp magazine, here is the lead novel from the January, 1938 issue!
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 1938 USA
eBookwise Release Date: June 2005
8 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [176 KB]
Reading time: 109-152 min.
CHAPTER I UNDERWORLD ELECTIONS
"YOU'RE WANTED ON THE PHONE, Mr. Ricco. Long distance calling from New York City."
The big, scar-faced man in a flashy bathing suit turned with a scowl of annoyance on the pier where he sat sunning himself over the clear blue waters of Lake Arrowhead.
"Okay, bud," he growled. Getting up, he followed the white-jacketed attendant past other lolling guests of the quiet Adirondack summer resort to a chrome-studded, modernistic bath-house. Here, in the indicated private booth, he lifted a waiting receiver.
"Yeah?" he demanded.
"This 'Scars' Ricco?" came a voice, at once coarse and yet seeming to hold an acrid, mocking tone.
"Yeah, go ahead!"
"I'm a pal of yours, Scars. Got a little tip for you. Somethin' about what's been doin' here in N.Y. while you're tannin' that beef of yours--somethin' about your mob."
Ricco scowled. But a crafty light showed in his eyes. "Mob?" he echoed naÔvely. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Cut the stall, Ricco. Just get this! Your mob's taken a powder on you! They've all sold out to Monk Gorman--every one of 'em!"
Ricco's fleshy body stiffened. The diagonal scar on his cheek suddenly stood out, livid. His voice roared.
"Monk Gorman? Why that cheap, nickel-dipping punk ain't got enough dough to buy out--" He broke off, seemed with an effort to steady himself. The scar went dull again as he gave a harsh laugh. "Well, now cut the kiddin'. Who're you and what do you want? You're talkin' to a busy man."
Unheeding this, the voice resumed, "Thought I'd get a rise outa you, Scars. I'm a pal of yours. And listen--"
When Ricco hung up, his scar was livid again. Eyes blazing, he stormed out of the bath-house--only to burst in again, to grab his clothes.
Fifteen minutes later the stucco, gabled Arrowhead Hotel lost one of its best-paying guests--Scars Ricco, a guest who had been no trouble, kept to his own business, tipped generously. The answer to a management's prayer.
With luggage piled in the rumble seat of his canary-yellow Packard roadster, Ricco drove down the graveled road, out of the rustic gate, and onto the highway for New York.
THE BIG ROADSTER GATHERED SPEED as it hurled along with muffler open. It took a long hill, then shot along a level but curved road where white fencing and signposts warned of a sharp, steep embankment. Ricco, his scar livid, hunched over the wheel, mouthing oaths in tune to his fierce thoughts. Before repeal he had controlled the biggest bootleg racket in New York. And he was still a big shot! He still knew how to hold a mob together and--He broke off from his thoughts with a sudden exclamation of alarm. A shadowy shape had closed in swiftly, overtaking him under cover of his exhaust and was now crowding him toward the precipice. He had no time to distinguish it; it was like some Juggernaut bearing down on him.
Ricco's foot left the gas-pedal of his canary roadster. His hand tugged at the wheel. If he felt terror, his throat had no time to express it. For in the next instant there was a brief but jarring impact, the scrape of tortured fenders. There was a kaleidoscopic impression before Ricco's eyes of white fence-posts swinging towards him, parting crazily, flying to both sides.
The careening roadster crashed through the fence, toppled over the embankment. It rolled and rolled, while glass broke and metal snapped groaningly. With a resounding crash the car struck the jagged, stony foot of the cliff-like embankment. Debris mushroomed up, settled--
A pall of dreadful silence remained over the wreck.
In the twisted, broken mass which a moment ago had been a sleek yellow roadster, Scars Ricco sprawled, dead, with broken steering wheel crushed horribly against his ribs, blood drooling from his parted lips.
Above, on the highway to New York, that lunging shadow, a heavy, dark sedan, was shrinking speedily down the macadam, leaving the grim, broken fence far behind.
AT SARATOGA, THE FIFTH RACE was well under way. Dutch Kaltz, comfortably settled in a grand tier box, grinned as he watched, his rubicund face wrinkled in satisfied folds around his Havana cigar.
The horses--thrilling blurs of flying hoofs and huddled jockeys--were coming around to the last stretch.
"Boy, oh boy, whatta race!" chortled Dutch Kaltz, his thick lips caressing the cigar. He turned to his companion, a bored-looking, faded blonde in a flashy green dress. She was stifling a wearied yawn.
"Listen, baby!" he said to her. "If 'Hot Foot' brings home the bacon, I'll get you that new mink coat for the winter."
The blonde came out of her trance with a snap that brought her to the very rail where she promptly shouted with the enthusiasm of a true turf-lover, "Come on, Hot Foot! Come on home--come on, Hot Foot!"
As the horses went into the finish stretch, an usher leaned over the box and slipped a note to Dutch Kaltz.
Annoyed, Kaltz opened it hastily. The cigar dropped from his suddenly gaping mouth. His eyes bulged at the bold, scrawled words:
Your mob's run out to Monk Gorman. Someone's backing him with dough. Better take this tip from a pal and get busy.
Kaltz's rubicund face looked like a bloated moon. With a snarled oath, he leaped to his feet. Without a word of explanation to his companion, he began moving his shoulder-padded frame toward the exit of the box.
Simultaneously the crowd in the grandstand went wild with cheers. The human din drowned out all other sound. The blonde swept from her chair, yelling joyously as she turned.
"Hot Foot's in, Dutch!" she cried. "Oh Sugar, I can just see myself in that--"
She broke off as she saw Dutch Kaltz's vacated chair. Her eyes flashed with sudden anger across the box, to the exit gate. Then she screamed shrilly, wildly.
The rubicund figure of Dutch Kaltz lay slumped on the floor just beneath the exit. Blood lay in a pool around it. There was a blood-fringed hole in the front of Kaltz's sport coat where the single high-calibred slug had entered, and done its ghastly work. Dutch Kaltz had seen--and run--his last race.
INDIAN SUMMER HAD COME to New York City. The night was close and warm. The sky, dull and starless, reflected the bright lights of Manhattan in a vague, ruddy glow.
On a desolate, deserted side street on the lower west side stood a big brick garage which looked as if it had not done business for some time. Its slide-doors were closed, the glass panes covered up so that only dull chinks of light showed through.
But inside, there was sinister life. A crowd of men stood, smoking cigarettes, in various attitudes of attention. The light from naked electric bulbs starkly revealed their hard, coarse-featured faces, their shifty, ever-alert eyes.
"Okay, boys--the whole job's been done! An' without a hitch!"
The harsh voice rasped out in the confines of the garage, the voice of a burly, swart-faced man in a sport-belted slicker. Monk Gorman stood facing the crowd, his hand nestled smugly in a pocket which showed the protecting bulge of an automatic.
"You ain't workin', any of you, for your old bosses--because they just ain't going to be around any more!" he went on triumphantly. "All four of them are washed up, see. Kaltz! Ricco! Flowers Gorsh! And Big Boy Rinaldi!"
There was a grim but awed silence. Thugs who, until this night, had worked for one of those four big king-pins of New York City's underworld, looked impressed rather than regretful. In the unfeeling underworld there was little personal sentiment, especially when money flowed freely.
A broken-nosed man spoke then, with a self-important laugh. "Boy, did I finish Dutch in style! Nobody even heard that silenced gat when I clipped him from the aisle soon as he blew up over that note."
A pallid-faced, long-jawed thug put in, "Hell, Gus, you shoulda seen me sideswipe Ricco over that cliff--"
"Cut it, you mugs!" the big man in the slicker snapped out angrily. Again he addressed the hard-faced gathering.
"Them four babies all got just what was comin' to 'em, see? An' the same goes for anyone else who thinks he's big shot now! Why? Because you're workin' for a guy, bigger than any of these punks ever were! A right guy who won't keep you warmin' park benches while he goes off on vacations! They'll be dough, an' plenty of it! They'll be dough enough to buy the whole damn town! From now on we all got one boss--and we're doin' whatever he tells us, see?"
Eager eyes were fixed on the speaker.
Eager voices rose from the vast interior of the garage.
"Where's th' Big Shot, Monk?"
"Let's meet 'im! Th' dough you jes' passed out from him is like old times!"
"Is he comin' here, Monk?"
"Whadda we do next?"
Monk Gorman again held up his hand for silence.
"I've already told you guys that th' big shot's been--well, he's been sending me orders from where he's been hiding out. Yeah, he's coming to take personal charge tonight--about eleven, when th' Charlemagne docks. But he ain't coming to this dump."
He paused and indicated the five bullet-riddled bodies which lay in a huddled heap in one corner.
"We've jes' finished our first job for him when we cleaned out Rinaldi's garage here, but we gotta scram. We got one more job to do, and then, if we do it right, we meet th' new Big Shot in person."