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PETER CHEYNEY

FROM THE NECK UP

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RGL e-Book Cover 2017

A LEMMY CAUTION STORY



Published under syndication in, e.g.,
Truth, Sydney, Australia, 14 Sep 1941
(this version)
Collected in Mister Caution—Mister Callaghan,
William Collins, London, England 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-09-24
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Illustration

'Say, Mr. Caution,' she says, 'don't ya think I got swell legs?'



SADIE DE LA BIRACCO—Sadie Kellins of Marpella Street to you—is the star striptease baby in Gettzler's Burlesque Show on East Clark Street at Walnut. She has got the swellest legs in Chicago, an' when she does her act at the theatre hard-boiled guys rush off home an' beat up their wives just outa sheer nervous energy. She has got big turquoise eyes an' curly blonde hair. She has also got sex appeal plus, but no brains. I'm tellin' you that this honey is the dumbest jane that ever swung a mean hip at the guy with the diamond ring in the second row of the stalls. From the neck up she is as dead as a piece of frozen Eskimo. Above the ears she is just sponge cake. This dame is so dumb that even a lunatic would think she is nuts.

It is six-thirty when John Sikalski—Lieutenant in charge of the Homicide Squad—rings me up that he has found Parvey Pagaros dead in an empty first floor apartment at the Chiltern Arms.

I go around there pronto. I find John Iookin' at Parvey, who is sittin' up in a chair shot clean through the pump. Whoever has shot this guy has held the gun pretty close. He has been dead for an hour.

'Look, Lemmy,' says Sikalski. 'I know who done this. Kingo done it. Kingo has been promisin' to rub out Pagaros for six months. I'm goin' to pull that guy in.'

'Wait a minute, John,' I tell him. 'Use your nut. This is the Chiltern Arms, ain't it? An' you oughta know that Sadie Biracco, who is Kingo's girl, has got an apartment on the third floor. O.K. Well, whenever there has been a shootin' and Kingo is suspected that dame always alibis him. She always says he was with her.

'All right. Well, here's where we pull a fast one on him. You want that guy for about six killin's an I want him for two kidnappin's. O.K. Ease upstairs to the Biracco joint an' see if that nigger maid of Sadie's is there. Don't let anybody know that you found Parvey here. Find out from the janitor downstairs what time Sadie went out to the show, an' let me know.'

He goes off. He is back in ten minutes an' he tells me that Sadie's apartment is empty; that the dingo maid has been out for some time, an' that Sadie left for the show at six o'clock.

'O.K.,' I tell him. 'Well, get this. When you go to pull in Kingo he's goin' to say that he was with Sadie, ain't he? Sadie is goin' to swear that's right. She's learnt that piece off by heart, So what do we do? Why we just move this body upstairs an' when Kingo an' Sadie say they was up there they hang the shootin' on Kingo don't they? Because we say we found Parvey's body in Sadie's apartment.'

John Sikalski looks at me an' grins.

'Lemmy,' he says, 'you sure got brains.' We send the janitor out on a phoney message. Then we stick Parvey in the lift an' we run him up to Sadie's apartment. We open up the door with a little master-key I got on my key ring an' we park Parvey on the floor.

We go right around to Sadie's dressin' room at Gettzler's. I don't waste any time. 'Hey, Sadie,' I tell her. 'You're in a spot. We found Parvey Pagaros' body this afternoon. He was shot up. We know that Kingo done it. So what?'

She looks surprised for a minute an' then she starts sayin' her piece. 'It's a dirty lie,' she says. 'Kingo couldn't 'a done it. Why, he was with me all afternoon. He was with me in my apartment till I left to come around here.'

'That's what I thought, baby,' I tell her. 'I forgot to tell ya we found Parvey in your apartment. Lyin' on the bathroom floor as dead as a hamburger.'

She don't say nothin'. She just faints.

We scram.

We pick up Kingo at Winer's Bar. We tell him that Parvey has been shot, an' he starts in with the old story that he was with Sadie. We say thank you very much, an' pinch him. When he hears that Parvey was found in Sadie's apartment he tries to change his tale, an' says that he was down at Schribner's Skittle Alley.

We say punk, because Sadie has said he was with her.


WHEN the case comes on for trial, Kingo knows that we have got him all set. Just before the case is called, his lawyer tells the District Attorney that Kingo is prepared to plead guilty to shootin' Parvey up in Sadie's apartment if the D.A. will accept a self-defence plea an' reduce the charge to homicide. The D.A., who has already smelt something fishy about this business, an' bein' very pleased to get Kingo to plead guilty to anythin' at all, says OK. So the court accepts Kingo's plea an' he tells how he met up with Parrey Pagaros in Sadie's apartment, an' how Parvey pulled a gun, an' how Kingo shot him in self-defence. The judge says he will accept the evidence, but owing to Kingo's bad record as a gangster he will give him four years for homicide.

Back of the court me an' John Sikalski are laughin' our heads off because we have since found out that at the time of the shootin' Kingo was down in Schribner's Skittle Alley. In fact we are wonderin' who did shoot Parvey, but we are tickled silly that Kingo, who is a bad guy, is goin' to be safely in the pen for four years, an' that Parvey Pagaros, who is also a pain in the neck to the police around here, is not with us any more.


ABOUT three weeks afterwards I ease along to Gettzler's theatre to see Sadie. She is sittin' drinkin' iced gin through a straw.

'Hey, Mr. Caution,' she says. 'I'm glad you stopped by. Me—I'm worried. I'm so worried I can't think.'

'Honey bunch, you wouldn't think even if you wasn't worried,' I tell her. 'But what's on your mind? Maybe you're missin' your Kingo, hey?'

'No, it ain't that, Mr. Caution,' she says. 'But I had a letter to give to Kingo the afternoon that Parvey got hisself shot, an' I forgot to give it over to him. I reckon that if I send it along to the Big House Kingo will be all steamed up about not gettin' it before. D'ya think I'd be wise not to say anything about it?'

She points to a letter that is stuck in the frame of the mirror.

'Forget it, baby,' I tell her. 'Kingo won't want to be worried with letters where he is. He's too busy breakin' stones.'

Just then the call-boy calls her for the stage. She blows me a kiss an' she scrams off to do her big undressin' act.

Directly she is gone I grab the letter from the mirror frame. I wet the back under the tap an' hold it over her grease-paint candle. In a minute I have got it open. I read it. It is addressed to Kingo an' it says:


Dear Kingo,

I am giving Sadie this letter to give to you to tell you that you won't get me no time, because I am sick of the rackets an' all washed up, an' I am goin' to bump myself off this afternoon as soon as I have given this letter to Sadie.

Bad luck to you.


Here's a sweet set-up. If this dumb Sadie had delivered that letter to Kingo it woulda got him off. It woulda proved that Parvey committed suicide. But if he committed suicide, where was the gun he done it with? We didn't find no gun!

I stick the letter back in the envelope an' stick the flap down again.

Ten minutes afterwards Sadie comes back. 'Say, Mr. Caution,' she says, 'don't ya think I got swell legs? I just asked that big punk Gettzler for a raise an' he says I'm goin' bowlegged. I reckon he's a lousy liar. What do you think?'

'Sure he is, Sadie,' I tell her. 'Say,' I go on, 'I been thinkin' that perhaps you better burn that letter you forgot to give to Kingo. He wouldn't want it sorta floatin' about, would he?'

She says 'No.' She takes the letter an' holds it in the grease-paint candle flame an' burns it. I give a big sigh of relief.

Then I say to her: 'Say, listen, Sadie. Who was it give you that letter to give to Kingo that afternoon?'

'Why, it was Parvey, Mr. Caution,' she says. 'He come around to my apartment at about a quarter to five, an' he gave me the letter an' asked me to give it to Kingo. When he done that he asked me to go out an' get a packet of Camels that the bellboy had got for him downstairs. So I went out an' got 'em.'

I start thinkin'.

"O.K., Sadie,' I go on, 'an' when you come back, where was Parvey? He was gone, I suppose.'

She tosses her head.

'No, he hadn't,' she says. 'That dirty so-an'-so had shot hisself right in the middle of my sittin' room. I tell ya, Mr. Caution, I was mad at that Parvey for doin' a thing like that. Still, he never had any thought for anybody except hisself. Don't you think so, Mr. Caution?'

'Sure, honey,' I tell her. 'But go on. After you found Parvey on the sittin' room carpet, what did ya do then?'

'Well,' she says, 'I thought it out, an' I reckoned I didn't want him messin' up the place. So I called Araminta—she's my maid—an' we got the lift up by ourselves an' we stuck him in the lift an' we dumped him in an empty apartment on the first floor. I reckon the cops musta found him there.'

'Swell,' I tell her. 'Now listen carefully, Sadie. If you took Parvey's body down to the first floor apartment, why didn't you say anything about that when I told ya that we found Parvey in your apartment?'

She starts fixin' her hair. 'Well, Mr. Caution,' she says. 'I didn't see that it mattered much where you found Parvey. You'd found him an' that was that. Ain't that so, Mr. Caution?'

'All right,' I tell her. 'But why in the name of Jake did you say that Kingo was with you in your apartment when you knew durn well that Parvey was up there at that time shootin' himself?'

She turns around. 'Listen. Mr. Caution,' she says. 'Kingo's been good to me, an' I reckon that I got a duty by that guy. I reckon that I got to put his interests first, ain't I? Well, Kingo told me that if ever there was any charges brought against him by anybody I was to say he never done it because he was with me at the time.

'So I said he was with me. I done my duty to Kingo. Me, I got brains. I ain't a jane who lets her sweetie down.'

I get up. I am gaspin' for air.

'Listen, Sadie,' I tell her. 'You ain't dumb. You're just plain nuts. Do you mean to tell me that you never told Kingo all the time he was waitin' to go to trial that Parvey had shot himself; that he had committed suicide?

'Hey, listen, Mr. Caution,' she says. 'Me— I wouldn't do a thing like that. Supposin' that Kingo had got the electric chair. Supposin' they'd fried him. Well, how would you like to know that you was bein' fried for somethin' that the other guy done himself?

'Only a dumb cluck woulda told a man a thing like that.'


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.