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RGL e-Book Cover 2017

Place of first publication not ascertained
(possibly Illustrated, Odham's, London, in 1939)
Published under syndication in, e.g.,
The Sydney Sportsman, Australia, 30 March 1942 (this version)
Collected in Mister Caution—Mister Callaghan
William Collins, London, England 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-06-07
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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Headpiece from "The Sydney Sportsman," 30 March 1942

AS the express stopped at the mainline station, Callaghan awoke. He sat up, yawned, lit a cigarette, picked up his bag and stepped out onto the platform. Over by the refreshment buffet he saw MacOliver. They went into the buffet together. Callaghan ordered two double, whiskies and sodas.

He said: 'Well, what do you know?'

MacOliver said: 'She's been at home all day. Except for when she went to the hospital early this evening. Harvin's pretty bad. When I was down there this afternoon they didn't think he'd pull through. The bullet went through one lung, then downwards and chipped the spine coming out.'

Callaghan drank his whisky.

'She went home after she left the hospital,' MacOliver went on. 'She didn't look so good to me. She was at home till eight o'clock. Then she went out. She went down to a bar—Gregory's Bar, they call it. It's in the tough part of the city. She's been sitting there ever since looking right in front of her. She ordered a drink but she hadn't touched it when I left.'

Callaghan nodded absently, then looked at his wrist watch. It was half past ten.

'What do the police say about it?' he asked.

MacOliver shrugged. 'I spoke to the D.D.I. at the Central Police Station. They haven't got any ideas at all. They knew that Harvin had a record. They picked a fellow up this morning—Malinkel, of 22 Castle Street—and took him down for questioning. They had to let him go. He'd got an alibi.

'The police surgeon says Harvin was shot some time between twelve and twelve-thirty last night. That cleared this fellow. He was dancing at the dance place here until after one o'clock.'

Callaghan stubbed out his cigarette and lit another.

'All right,' he said. 'You take my bag and leave it at the County Hotel. Wait for me there.'

CALLAGHAN stood outside the station waiting for a taxi. A thin drizzle of rain had started. He thought that all the provincial cities had the same dreary look on a dark, wet night. When the taxi came, he told the driver to take him to Gregory's Bar.

The woman was sitting alone at a table at the end of the long, low-ceilinged bar. The smoke- and chatter-filled place was crowded, but there was no one at her table. The reason, was obvious. She was sitting staring straight in front of her. She looked like death. By her elbow was an untouched glass of whisky and soda.

Callaghan paused to light another cigarette. Then he walked to the table. He sat down opposite the woman. She looked at him with blank eyes that seemed to look right through his thin face.

He said:—'Take it easy, Mrs. Harvin. You must be feeling pretty bad, but you'll have to pull yourself together some time, you know. Maybe things aren't going to be so bad. Maybe he'll recover.'

She said dully: 'He won't recover. I telephoned the hospital five minutes ago. He's dead. And I killed him.'

Callaghan's face softened into a sympathetic grin.

'You drink that whisky,' he said, 'and don't say things like that. You know you didn't kill him.'

'I did,' she said. 'I killed him because I was the woman who made him go straight. Ever since he's been married to me he's been straight. He was a crook when I met him, and if I hadn't turned him into an honest man he'd be alive now. He was shot because he was straight. So I killed him.'

Callaghan picked up the glass of whisky at her elbow and held it in front of her.

'Drink that,' he said. 'If you were as keen on him as all that you've got to help find the man who murdered him. You won't help by talking nonsense. Drink it.'

She drank some of the whisky. He saw a little colour come back to her face. He took out a cigarette, put it in her fingers, held his lighter in front of her face so that she had to light the cigarette. He saw that she was trying to pull herself together.

'Who are you?' she asked. 'And what do you want?'

Callaghan dropped his voice to a soothing note.

'My name's Callaghan. I'm investigating the robbery last night for the insurance company concerned. My job is to find that missing jewellery. That part of it doesn't interest you, I know, but this ought to.

'If I can find that jewellery it's a certainty that in the process I'll find the man who's killed your husband. Because I'm a private investigator I can do all sorts of things, take all sorts of chances that the police daren't take. They're tied by regulations—I'm not.'

He leaned across, the table.

'Mrs. Harvin,' he said. 'What about giving me a hand in finding, the man who killed Jim?'

'What's the good?' she said bitterly. 'I know who killed him. I've told them. They won't believe me because he's been clever enough to fix himself a first-class alibi. He's a specialist at alibis. Jim always said that.'

'Let's break that alibi down; said Callaghan persuasively. 'Let's work this thing out together. Tell me the whole story—even the part the police wouldn't believe. It's not going to hurt you to talk to me.'

She pushed the empty glass away. Callaghan saw that her fingers had stopped trembling. He lit a cigarette and listened.

'I married Jim a year ago,' she said, 'I knew all about him. I knew he'd been a crook. I knew he was the best safe-cracker in this country. But I knew I could get him to go straight. He did. I got him to come and live here because people knew me in this city.

'Nine months ago I got him a job as a packer in Cringall's Store. My father knew Cringall when the store was just a little shop. I told old Cringall all about Jim. He said he'd take a chance on him, and he's never regretted it.

'Four months ago, they made Jim night watchman. I'll never forget how pleased he was. He knew they trusted him. We were so happy that I began to feel it couldn't last. I was right: it hasn't.' She swallowed a sob.

'Three weeks ago Jim came home and told me he'd seen Willie Malinkel in the town. That Malinkel had talked to him. Malinkel was Jim's partner in the old days. He's one of the smartest crooks in the country. Jim said he was clever and tricky and wonderful at getting out of tough spots, that he had a way with women and made good—or bad—use of it.

'While Jim was talking, I felt a sort of shudder go through me.. I had the feeling that Malinkel had discovered about Jim's new job, and he was going to try to get Jim in on something. Well, I was right.

'Cringall's Store is a big place. It forms an island of its own at the end of Market Street. Every night about twelve o'clock I used to go down there and ring the bell at the packing department staff entrance on the Albert Street side.

'Jim used to come down, look through the iron grille in the door to see if it were me. Then he'd open the door and I'd give him his can of hot coffee and a packet of fresh sandwiches. Then we'd talk for a few minutes and I'd go back home.

'Yesterday night, at half-past eleven, somebody telephoned me at home. It was a man. I didn't recognise the voice. He said he was telephoning for Jim, that I wasn't to come down as usual with the coffee and stuff because it was so foggy. He said Jim was working on the other side of the store and couldn't telephone himself.

'That was a lie. The police have questioned everybody at the store and nobody knew anything about that phone call. It was done to stop me going there. That was the time they'd planned to break in.

'This morning they found Jim lying at the end of the passage leading to the staff entrance door on the Albert Street side. He was dying. He never recovered consciousness. So they learned nothing from him. The main safe in the jewellery department had been opened and cleaned out by an expert. Only the valuable staff had been taken.

'I told the police about Malinkel. They knew his record. They picked him up this morning. He had a cast iron alibi. He'd been at Rosemount Dance Hall, and didn't leave there until after one o'clock. They had an extension last night until two.

'The girl, the dance hostess—they have taxi-dancers down there, you know, sixpence a time—who danced with him from eleven forty-five until one fifteen, told the police that, and they let him go. She's a girl of good character. They had to believe her. So they let him go. But I know he did it. I know he did it!'

'What is the girl's name?' asked Callaghan

'Rosa Tremley,' said the woman. 'She's a nice girl. But that doesn't mean anything. Jim told me that Malinkel always went for nice girls. They were the sort of girls he liked. He had a way with him and they liked him.'

Callaghan nodded.

From the bar came a raucous voice: 'Time, gentlemen, please!'

He got up. 'This is where you go home,' he said. 'When you get there take yourself a cup of tea and keep your chin up.'

FILBY, the manager of the Rosemount Dance Hall at the end of Rennet Street, looked across his desk at Callaghan.

'The girls telling the truth, Mr. Callaghan,' he said. 'I believe her. She's one of the best girls we've ever had here. She's been here four months. Even if this Malinkel has got a police record, that don't make him a murderer, does it? Malinkel came in last night somewhere about half past eleven. He bought a strip of twenty dance-tickets and danced with Rosa all the time. She'd never met him before, so why should she tell a lie?

'Last night when we closed down at two o'clock, she handed in the twenty tickets—here they are—and I credited her with the money—ten bob. Malinkel had gone about a quarter past one and she hadn't danced with anybody else.'

Callaghan said: 'You've got a hostesses' room on the main floor. On the Albert Street side. There's a big double window in that room. Malinkel and the girl could have gone in there; and he could have got through the window, done the job and come back the same way. She could have waited for him and gone back on the dance floor with him. You say the place was crowded last night. They'd never have been missed.'

Filby shook his head.

'No,' he said. 'We've got twenty hostesses—all taxi-dancers—here. They're in an' out of that room the whole evenin'. Powderin' their noses and fixin' their make-up. The light used to be on in that room the whole time. That's why I put that notice up that you saw sayin' that any girl who didn't turn it off when she went out of the room would be sacked.

'From this office window I can look at the fanlight of the hostesses' room without movin' from this desk, an' last night it was going on and off the whole time—that was girls going in and out. Malinkel could never have taken a chance of getting out of that window and coming back through it. It's not possible.'

Callaghan nodded. He sat smoking silently, twisting the strip of twenty dance tickets that Rosa Tremley had turned in the night before between his fingers. After a while he got up. He threw the tickets on to Filby's desk.

'Thanks, Filby,' he said. 'Is Rosa Tremley here tonight?'

'Yes,' the manager answered. 'She'll be here till we close at twelve-thirty. You talk to her if you want to. She's a nice kid.'


Rosa Tremley.

Callaghan put on his hat.

'Is the band playing tonight the same as the one that was playing here last night?'

'No,' said Filby. 'Last night was an extension night. We had a special band, new decorations, new numbers, the mayor giving prizes away, everything right smack up to date. Last night we had Ferdy Marriner's Band here all evening.'

'Thanks,' said Callaghan. He drew in a lungful, of smoke and sent it out again slowly through one nostril. Then he put his hands into his overcoat pockets and went out.

CALLAGHAN walked down to Albert Street and stood before the door with the iron grille—the packing department staff door. He stood there for quite a while looking at the pavement in front of the door. Then he turned and began to walk back along Albert Street, hoping that he would find a passage somewhere leading from Albert Street to Rennet Street.

He was lucky. He found one. The passage started at the east end of Albert Street and ran through into the south end of Rennet Street. Thirty yards from the end of the dark passage, across the street, not three feet from the ground was the window of the Rosemount Dance Hall hostesses' room.

Callaghan stood watching the electric light go on and off periodically as the dancing girls entered and left the room. After a while he walked to the front entrance of the Rosemount Dance Hall.

Callaghan bought five sixpenny dance tickets at the glass box at the end of the dance floor. Then he walked over to the 'pen' where the dancing partners sat. He said to a fair-haired girl in a neat black frock:

'Are you Rosa Tremley?'.

She nodded. He handed her the tickets. She got up smilingly.

Callaghan said: ''We'll sit this dance out. Come and have some coffee.'

She nodded, still smiling prettily. They went over to one of the wicker tables and sat dawn. Callaghan ordered the coffee.

'Do you do much dancing?' she asked.

'Callaghan grinned. 'Very little; if ever I do I'll get you to teach me.'

Then he leaned over the table towards the girl and said grimly:

'You listen to me Rosa. You're being the worst sort of fool. That alibi you're putting up for Malinkel's is false as hell and you know it!'

She tossed her head.

'What's it got to do with you? If my evidence is good enough for the police it's good enough for anybody. You've got your nerve.'

'All right,' said Callaghan, 'if you've been telling the truth, you tell me something. There was a new band here last night—Ferdy Marriner's Band.'

'I've been talking to Marriner,' he lied glibly, 'and he tells me that last night between twelve and twelve-thirty he played four new numbers. They've never been played here before. They put a card up in the frame on the band platform with the song titles on it. You tell me the names of those four numbers, or any one of them!'

She looked at him quickly. He saw the sag of her jaw before she recovered herself.

'You mind your own damn business,' she said. 'You leave me alone!'

She walked over to the hostesses' room, slammed the door behind her. Callaghan grinned. He went to the cloakroom and got his hat and coat. Outside the Rosemount he hailed a taxi.

He drove to the County Hotel and picked up MacOliver, then to 22 Castle Street. Malinkel opened the door. A cigarette was hanging out of the corner of his mouth. He was grinning.

'More coppers?' he queried.

Callaghan pushed the door open and stepped into the passage. Malinkel's sitting-room door was open.

'Get inside,' said Callaghan. 'I want to talk to you.'

Malinkel shrugged and stepped into the room. He flopped in an armchair.

'I s'pose you've got a right to be here,' he said easily. 'Got your warrant cards with you?'

Callaghan said: 'I'm an investigator for the Climax and General Insurance. I'm going to take you in for murder. You killed Harvin. And it's no good bluffing, because Rosa Tremley's talked—at last. You forgot something. Marriner put some new dance numbers on last night between twelve and twelve-thirty and she didn't even know it. She saw the game was up and talked. It's over, Malinkel.'

'You don't say!' said Malinkel, leaning back in the chair and sucking at his cigarette stub. 'And what did Rosa tell you?' He was still grinning.

'She told me this: Four months ago you heard that Harvin had been made night watchman at Cringall's Store. So you sent Rosa along to get that job as dance hostess at the Rosemount and get herself a reputation for being a nice girl. That was in case of accidents.

'In case Jim Harvin didn't accept your proposition, you came over here and saw him and tried to get him to come in with you on the Cringall Store job. He wouldn't. He was going straight. But he didn't tell his wife about the proposition. He thought it would worry her. Then you thought you'd play it another way.

'Last night you telephoned through to Mrs. Harvin. You said you were an employee at the store speaking for Jim, that she wasn't to go down with his coffee and sandwiches because it was foggy. She fell for that.

'Just before twelve last night you and Rosa slipped into the hostesses' room. You locked yourself in the lavatory while she got the window open and slipped into her street coat. She put the strip of 20 tickets you'd given her into her coat pocket. Then she dropped out of the window.

'You waited your chance and dropped out after her, closing the window behind you.

'You had to have her with you because you knew that Jim Harvin would be expecting his wife at twelve o'clock as usual, and if he saw a woman through the grille—he would only see her indistinctly to the fog—he'd open the door. He'd think it was his wife. That's how you got in.

'Harvin got tough with you and said he'd hand you over, so you shot him.

'Meanwhile Rosa had gone back to the end of the passage into Bennett Street, waited until you joined her there. Nobody was going to miss either of you. The dance girls were too busy and the place was crowded.

'You both waited at the end of that passage until the mayor arrived to give the prizes, and you knew when that was. That was the time when the light in the hostesses room went out because all the hostesses would be on the dance floor watching the prize-giving. Then you both got through the window and slipped back on the dance floor.

Malinkel said nothing.

Callaghan went on:—

'It was too bad that when Rosa turned her tickets in last night there was one short. Filby told me tonight that you bought twenty tickets. She only turned in nineteen. He credited her with nine and sixpence instead of ten shillings. She said she'd lost the other ticket.

'And it was too bad that she had to drop that ticket outside the packing staff department door when she was standing there waiting for Jim to look through and think it was his wife in the street. I found the ticket down there tonight, caught in a crevice in the pavement. Here it is.'

Callaghan pulled the ticket out of his pocket. He held it so Malinkel could see the date on it. The date was the day before.

'When I showed that ticket to Rosa,' said Callaghan with a grin, 'that clinched things. She's making a statement to save her own skin. She's at the Central Station now. You'd better put your coat on, Malinkel.'

Malinkel shrugged. His face was grey.

'It's a fair cop,' he said thickly. 'It looks like my number's up, don't it? Oh, well, it mighta come off. Come on, let's get goin'. Let's get it over with.'

IT was three in the morning and still raining. The London train was just about to leave. Callaghan leaned out of the carriage window and lit a cigarette. He yawned.

MacOliver, on the platform, said: 'That was a hell of a quick job, Slim. It was a bit of luck your finding that dance ticket. He'd never have confessed if you hadn't got that.'

'I never found it. I tore if off the strip when I was talking to Filby in his office. Good-night!'

MacOliver stood looking after the train as it steamed out.

'Well, I'll be damned,' he said.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Administered by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
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.