Authors: Walter Hammett
Max’s squared-off jaw was covered with a brown stubbly growth that coated his face. His blue eyes seemed to be in a permanent scowl under his brown fedora. His trademark bandage was placed above his right eye. He thought it made him look tougher.
sat on the corner of Polly Bixby’s desk reading the past weeks newspapers as she typed. The headline from Saturdays read, “Man Escapes Mugging by Corpse. Corpse Buys Him Dinner.”
“Pretty strange how all these dead gangsters’ corpses keep turning up all over the city
,” Max said with a puzzled tone.
Polly had been with Max from the beginning.
She was an attractive, tall, slender gal with a sharp wit and sense of style. Polly looked up at Max and replied, “What kind of a whack job digs up dead gangsters and leaves their carcasses all over town?”
Max lowered his paper, peered over at Polly and said
, “I’m not sure, but--”
Max was interrupted by the office door opening and slamming shut. Max and Polly looked over to see Rico propped up against the door. H
e was covered in sweat and out of breath.
, my old chum! To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?” Max said in a somewhat startled manner.
Rico took a deep breath and replied
, “I don’t have much time and I think I’m being followed. Can we talk in private in your office?”
Max stood up, folded the paper and put it under his arm. “Yes, of course
, my friend,” he replied. ”Hold my calls, dollface. And can you bring us a couple cups of joe?”
, boss!” answered Polly. “How do you like your coffee, Rico?”
Rico took another deep breath and answered
, “Uh… Black, please. Thanks.”
Max walked to his office door, opened it and motioned for Rico to enter. As Rico walked past,
Max looked back at Polly and rolled his eyes. He then followed Rico in and closed the door.
Max’s office smelled of cheap cigars and even cheaper
hooch. He walked over to his desk, sat down in his worn faux-leather chair, leaned back and put his feet up on his desk. “Have a seat,” he said to Rico as he pointed to the chair in front of his desk.
Rico paced nervously in front of Max’s desk. He walked to the window and peered out the blinds. “You look like y
ou’re about to blow your wig,” said Max.
Rico quickly closed the blinds, turned to Max and said
, “I feel like I’m being followed constantly. Like someone is watching my every move.”
Rico walked over to Max’s desk, put his hands down and leaned in
to Max. “Have you heard about the dead gangsters’ bodies being found all over town?” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Of course I have, it
’s all over the papers,” Max replied sarcastically. “You have something to do with that?”
“No! I would never have
nothin’ do with anything like that. But what’s strange is that Joey and I robbed this guy the other day. We thought he was just an average ordinary guy. But we were wrong.”
“First of all, he had this getup that sorta looked like a Boy Scout. He had this sack that we nicked off him. We had no idea what was in it, but he didn’t want to give it to us. As soon as I touched the sack, I felt this power surge through me. I don’t know how to describe it, but something just didn’t feel right about it. And ever since I took it, I’ve felt like I’m being followed. I could’ve sworn that I saw one of those dead gangsters following me.”
“You mean you’ve passed their bodies on the ground
The door opened suddenly and startled both men. Polly came in with the coffee and s
et it down on the desk. She smiled at Max and walked back out of the office, closing the door behind her.
Rico stood back up and walked to the window. He peered out of the bli
nds again. “No!” Rico exclaimed. “I mean I’ve actually SEEN them following me.”
“What? You’re whacky! Does Joey have the same sensations as you?”
“Joey’s dead! He was found murdered in his apartment yesterday. One of the supposedly dead gangsters was found in the lobby of his apartment building.”
As Rico finished his sentence, they heard the sound of the main office door opening. Rico and Max both turned their heads in the direction of the sound and sat in silence.
* * *
her head down and continued to type as the door opened. She figured it was just the mailman delivering the usual past-due notices.
, miss.” a German-accented male voice broke her concentration. She looked up to see a tall, thin, older, well-dressed gentleman. He took off his gloves and continued. “I was hoping you could assist me. I was looking for someone.”
“Yes sir!” Polly answered enthusiastically. They hadn’t had a
paying job in quite some time, so this prospect was very exciting. “This IS a detective agency! Finding people is our specialty! Let me just get a little information from you, OK? First, what is YOUR name?”
Gustov Heinrich… But that’s not--”
Polly interrupted, still excited about the possibility of a paying job. “And the name of the party you are trying to locate?”
“I don’t know, Miss. I was following him a few moments ago when he entered this office.”
“Well, we get quite a few visitors. This is a busy office building.
Lots of offices. People often get lost and stop here to ask for directions.”
Rico reached into his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper, and handed it to Max. “I ditched the
sack in a locker at the Southern Pacific train station. Here is the locker info. Go get it and meet me at Joey’s apartment in an hour.”
“Why Joey’s apartment?”
“They already got Joey. They won’t be looking for anyone there.”
“Why don’t you go get it and I’ll meet you at
“There’s no way I could safely get the
sack. I got too much heat on me. Hopefully I can lose them while you pick it up.”
Rico walked back to the window,
opened the blinds, lifted the windowpane and climbed out onto the fire escape. He looked back at Max and said, “I hope it’s not too late for me.” He then closed the window and made his way down the fire escape.
Max put the paper into his pocket and made his way to the door to see what was going on in the other room.
* * *
Max walked into the room to see Polly talking to Mr. Heinrich.
“Are you sure a man didn’t just come in here a few minutes ago?” Mr. Heinrich asked Polly.
“Well…” Polly started to answer as Max interrupted.
“Can I help you, mack?”
Mr. Heinrich turned to look at Max. He was so engrossed in conversation with Polly that he didn’t notice him enter the room. “Perhaps you can. My name is
Gustov Heinrich and I’m looking for the man who just walked in here ahead of me. Can you tell me where he went?”
“Nice to meet you
, Mr. Heinrich. I’m Max Helms. Do you mean the dumb-looking face just a few minutes ago? Leather coat?”
Yes, that is him.”
He had the wrong office. He wanted the office two doors down.”
Mr. Heinrich was getting annoyed with the whole situation. He took a deep breath and composed himself. He looked past Max into the office and noticed two cups of coffee with steam still coming from them. He smirked ever so slightly as he spoke. “I’m sorry to have bothered you
, Mr. Helms. You say he went to the office two doors down?”
“Yeah, I think it
’s an insurance company.”
put on his gloves, straightened out his hat and said, “I bid you good day, sir.”
urning to the door, Mr. Heinrich opened it. As he exited he turned to Polly and said, “My sincerest apologies if I was a bit…brash miss.”
Mr. Heinrich continued out the door and closed it behind him. Polly and Max sat in silence for a minute, taking in everything that
had just happened.
“What was that all about?” asked Polly.
“Rico got himself into trouble again, and this time it may be serious. I need to run an errand for him. Hopefully it won’t be a trip for biscuits! Do me a favor and call our chum Gordon at the police department and see if he knows anything about this Heinrich character. I’ll be in touch with you later.”
“Will do, chief!
“I always am.”
Max checked his gun and holster, put on his coat and hat and headed out the door.
There was a different smell in the air that afternoon, a smell that Max hadn’t smelled in quite some time. That smell was excitement. Max couldn’t help but smile
as he walked down the street to his car. Sure, it wasn’t a paying job. But it was better than falling asleep in his chair while reading the paper.
ax pulled out the keys to his grey Plymouth and noticed two men sitting in a car across the street watching him. He pretended not to notice them as he unlocked the door and entered the car.
Max started the car and proceeded down the street. He checked his rear view mirror and saw the men turn their car around in pursuit.
The drive to the Southern Pacific station was uneventful. Max watched the men follow him all the way there. He parked his car and got out. He noticed the men following him had parked a few spots away. Max smiled and thought, “These brunos don’t know what they’re in for.” Brunos was a word Max used to describe low-level flunkies in a gang. They reminded him of an old friend, Bruno, who wanted to be a gangster but never made it. He tilted his hat down over his brow and continued into the train station.
The train station bustled with activity that day. Max walked in a few feet, pulled the piece of paper
that Rico gave him from his pocket and read “South S37 21-12-39.”
Max looked around and saw signs for the different platforms. He figured
“South” must have meant the South platform, so he went off in that direction.
He approached the platform and noticed a row of lockers. They were numbered S1, S2
, etc. He scanned the numbers until he saw S37 and made his way through the crowd to the locker.
He looked around to see
if the brunos were anywhere in sight. Feeling safe, he knelt down and began to try the combination. He mumbled the combination as he tried it. “Right 21. Left 12. Right 39.” He paused for a second, lifted the handle and the locker opened.
Inside the locker he saw the
sack Rico spoke of. He reached in, grabbed the sack and slowly pulled it out. Something about the sack enticed Max to open it. He could feel the power that Rico mentioned begin to emanate from within. He composed himself, stood back up and looked around. He saw the brunos in the crowd behind him watching his every move. He knew they couldn’t risk trying anything inside the station, so he made his way back to his car.
Max made it to his car without incident. He got in, started it up and backed out of the parking spot. He put the car into drive and noticed in the rear view mirror that the
brunos were running towards him. He hit the gas and peeled out. He made a sharp left out of the parking lot onto Fourth Street.
Max thought he had lost
the brunos so he lit a cigar to celebrate. He had barely driven a block when he checked his mirror and saw the brunos weaving in and out of traffic trying to catch him.
He made an abrupt
left on Howard followed by a right on Fifth. The brunos were still behind him and had gained some ground. He crossed Market and heard a gunshot followed by a couple more shots. He checked his mirror and could see the passenger with his gun out the window. Max ducked down a bit and pulled his gun from its holster. Now Max could hear two guns being fired at him. Max stuck his gun out the window and fired a few shots in the return.
brunos had caught up to Max and rammed his car a few times. He made a series of two quick rights on Pine and Stockton. The evasive maneuvers gave him a little breathing room. He floored the car to try and get even more distance between himself and his assailants.
He approached Market again and had an idea. He pulled into the intersection of Market and Stockton, slammed on his brakes, and turned the car sharply to the left. He did a power slide that ended on the other side of the intersection. He now faced the oncoming car
and took aim.
The driver of the pursuit car was so astonished with Max’s maneuver that he lost control and crashed into a lamp post. M
ax drove past the car with his gun still drawn. He smirked as he noticed the two men knocked out in each other’s arms like two lovers cuddling at Lovers’ Lane. He put his gun back in its holster, lit up another cigar and continued on to Joey’s apartment.