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ARTHUR LEO ZAGAT

HIDEAWAY IN HELL

Cover

RGL e-Book Cover


Ex Libris

First published in Detective Tales, December 1935

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version date: 2020-11-22
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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Cover

Detective Tales, December 1935, with "Hideaway in Hell"



Illustration

....Hogan starting down the alley with his flash...



He was running from the law—not knowing
that he carried Death with him as a passenger.




DAN (Weasel) Walsh hunched his scrawny body lower into the clammy shadows lying along the rust-streaked bricks that formed one side of the alley. His narrowed eyes peered at a pale-yellow slit where street-lamp luminescence had momentarily silhouetted a bulky, tensely expectant figure. That was Marty Hogan, the precinct dick. He was out of sight now, but he was waiting to grab Weasel and send him back up the river....

Hogan wasn't coming in to take Walsh. He didn't have to, damn him. He had plotted the frame-up far too slickly for that. There wasn't any way out of here—no escape—except past him. The windowless wall of a warehouse made the other side of the passage and elled to block off the rear. The window above Walsh, out of which he had just dropped catlike, was too high for him to get back in again. A fire-escape platform projected from it, but it was not equipped with a ladder. Even from Squint-Eye Mocksy's shoulders, Weasel had had to chin himself up, had had to crouch on the platform while he diamond-cut the pane and worked open the lock.

Cords at the corners of the trapped man's nose drew his lip up and away from nicotine-stained, rotten teeth in a wolfish, soundless snarl. He fingered the greasy haft of a dagger in his pocket. If he ever got out of this, Squint-Eye would feel that steel. The lousy stool-pigeon...!

Marty Hogan was a cop and it was his job to get Weasel, no matter how. There was no quarter in the war between them—but there was no hate. Mocksy was different. Mocksy was a rat, a traitor to his own kind. Walsh knew that now, when it was too late, but he hadn't known it when Squint-Eye had mush-mouthed him into this lay. It was a pipe, he had insisted, a cinch. An old-fashioned tin-can Weasel could open without nitro—and five grand waiting to be picked up! The alley window was the only entrance not wired, but once inside Walsh could shut off the alarm and open a back door for a quick getaway in case Mocksy, playing lookout, whistled Cucuracha.

That back door was open now, but that's all the good it was to Weasel. Squint-Eye hadn't whistled. He had signaled Hogan and scrammed. If Walsh hadn't been quicker than the dick had expected, if he hadn't glimpsed the officer before he had a chance to get hidden, the prowler would have walked right into the cop's arms with five grand, hot, in his pocket. Not that it helped much. Marty would get tired waiting in a little while, would snap his flash down into the alley, and there Weasel would be....

Walsh jumped as something slapped him on the shoulder. He flailed out a frantic hand and something snakelike writhed around his wrist. His fingers closed on a rope. A rope! It was dangling from the platform of the unreachable window, and as he pulled on it, it came taut. Hell! He was all wrong about Mocksy. Squint-Eye had ducked around the corner, had come in through the getaway door. He had taken an awful chance to get Weasel out of this mess....

Thinking all this didn't delay Walsh. He was shinning up the rope even as he figured it out, reaching for the iron-work with fingers that trembled a little. His shoe scraped against the brick and he was motionless, his scalp tightening....

His staring eyes saw no movement at the alley mouth. Naturally. If Hogan had heard that sound, he was thinking it was Walsh coming out, was ready to jump him. Weasel squirmed into the opening. His groping toes found the floor. Looking back, he saw Hogan starting down the alley with his flash on.... Just in time....

"Gees, Mocksy," he whispered to a vague apparition, formless in the darkness. "I thought...."

"It isn't Mocksy, Dan! Hurry...."

Walsh whipped around to a fear-shaken husk. "Jimmy! What the hell!"

"Hurry! Oh God!"

Weasel was noiseless, running after the light patter of the shadow that flitted through the office gate and dodged among high-piled crates in the shipping room behind. Jimmy! His kid brother! How in Heaven's name...?


"I HEARD you sneakin' out and I got up and followed." Jimmy Walsh was shaking, his peaked, hollow-checked face was pasty in the glimmer of the turned-down gas-jet. "I wanted to stop you but I was scared. I hid in a vestibule across from the alley—then Hogan came out from the one next to me. He and Squint-Eye were right in front of me and I hear Mocksy askin' him did he have the back door watched.

"Hogan says 'no,' he's goin' to make a solo arrest. Mocksy says he's a damn fool and Marty boots him one. I get a chance to beat it when the dick goes, but you're already out when I get into the place. I squint you down below, and throw the rope down to you."

"Gee, kid, you'd make a swell prowler!" Weasel, sitting on the frowsy bed, tossed down a slug of whiskey, gulped, went on. "Whyn't you let me teach you to rip a safe...?"

"Dan!" The youngster put a clawed, grimy hand on Weasel's arm. "You promised me you'd quit. You promised me you'd go straight. Cripes, Dan. Don't you know you can't always beat the game? Hogan'll get you, sooner or later—Hogan or some other cop. And it'll be life this time. The fourth time it's life."

Walsh batted Jimmy's hand away with a hard fist, lurched off the bed. "Hell," he said, talking out of the corner of otherwise motionless, thin lips. "The cop don't come smart enough to get me." Alcohol heat curling in his brain made him forget the three stretches he had already done. "Not when there's no rat to frame me. And Mocksy's not gonna frame me no more. Mocksy's not framing nobody after I get through with him." His feet pounded on the rugless floor as he went toward the door.

Jimmy slid in between him and the paint-peeled panel. "Dan," he wailed. "No! Please. I—I won't let you do that. I won't let you!"

Weasel's face was a livid, expressionless mask, but his beady eyes were two tiny pits of hell-fire. "You won't, huh ?" he lipped. "You sanctimonious, prayer-gabblin' pup. Git away from that door!"

"No!" The boy's shabby-sleeved arms were outstretched, his fingers clenched the jamb on either side. "You can't go!" His teeth chattered so he could hardly get the words out. But something stronger than the fear shaking his slight body held him there. "You can't."

Walsh's fingers bunched. His muscles unleashed and his fist crashed into the youngster's jaw. Jimmy slumped away from the door. He hit the floor so hard he seemed to bounce. Then he was a flaccid, quivering, pitiful heap—and there was no one else in the room....


THE boy came up finally out of a welter of sick blackness. He sobbed with the pain that numbed all one side of his face, that whirled inside his throbbing skull. Somewhere a deep-toned bell sounded. Bonnng! It seemed to hammer his head. Bonnng! Bonnng! Bonnng!

Four o'clock! He had to get started. He had to get down to the Municipal Market. The farmers would be arriving at five and it would take him an hour to walk down there. God! The way he felt, it would be torture wrestling those heavy baskets around. But he didn't dare not show up, first day on the job. He'd be fired. After weeks and months pounding pavements looking for something do.


WEASEL WALSH stood spraddle-legged, looking at Squint-Eye Mocksy—at what was left of Squint-Eye rather. That wasn't anything very pleasant. Even Weasel's stomach turned over a little and his throat was dry. Maybe he shouldn't have put the mark of the squealer on him. Maybe he shouldn't have split his tongue. That would tell Hogan who had made the kill. Marty Hogan would come for him and—Hell! Nobody had seen him come here. Nobody had seen him climb the fire escape and get in through the window. Nobody could know he had been here except Mocksy, and if Mocksy did any more squealing it would be to the devil.

There was plenty of blood around, but there was none on Weasel—only on the gloves he had worn against finger-prints. And those would go down the first sewer. All he had to do was get home and he could tell Hogan to go to hell. That was easy. There wouldn't be anyone in the streets for an hour yet.

One of Mocksy's eyes stared at the ceiling, but the other one peered at Weasel. It was looking at him, laughing at him. It seemed to be saying: "You can't beat the game, Weasel. Hogan'll get you...." Cripes! It wasn't Squint-Eye that was saying that. It was Jimmy. No! Jimmy had said that, he wasn't saying it now. Jimmy wasn't here. Jimmy was in the room, waiting for him to come back.

He hadn't ought to have hit the kid. He was a whining brat but he was a good scout at that. Look at what he'd done for him before. Only trouble with Jimmy was that the Salvation Nells had gotten hold of him and ruined him.

"Hogan'll get you!" Who said that? Walsh whirled. There was no one in the room. But he'd heard it! He could swear he'd heard someone saying it. God Almighty! He had to get out of here. He had to get away. What was he waiting for?

The back yards were still dark and the fire escape didn't make any noise under Weasel's skilled feet. But his insides were cold and quivery, even when he got into the street and saw the sidewalks grey and empty. Even the couple of cars, parked all night against the curb, were lightless and asleep. Home! Somebody might see him on his way home. And when he got there, Jimmy would look at him. Jimmy wouldn't say anything but there would be a black and blue mark on the side of his jaw.

Bonnng! That was the clock in Misericordia's steeple. Half-past four. A burring roar in the sky and two drifting lights, red and green, told Weasel that was right. It was the mail-plane for Halifax. It stopped at the airport for thirty minutes, then took off again—took off for Canada, where Hogan wouldn't be able to find him! And he had five grand. Twenty-five minutes to get to the airport. He could make it in one of these cars. This Wabash was a fast job....

Weasel's mouth twisted in a humorless, silent laugh. Door-lock, ignition-lock—they were jokes to a guy who could beat the best safe-makers. He was in the seat and the starter was whirring under his foot. The car leaped away from the curb.

No lights. No cops. No traffic. The car poured itself down the long street, careened around the corner. This was East Boulevard. Nothing now between Weasel and the airport except the big market. He'd have to slow down when he passed that because the farmers' trucks would be coming in. But he could make speed here.


HOUSES whipped past, petered out.

No headlights. No horn. Just a grey ghost of a car eating up road-ribbon.

Running away from Hogan and from Jimmy's accusing eyes. From Jimmy's.

Jimmy was looking at him, over the leaping hood of the car! Plunk! He'd hit someone. He'd hit Jimmy. Jimmy was back there, a crumpled heap in the gutter. Mother of Mercy! He couldn't stop now. He couldn't go back. He'd miss the plane. He'd miss the plane and Hogan would come for him and take him away to burn. Hogan! Squint-Eye! Jimmy! Jimmy! JIMMY!

The car slewed around. Weasel hadn't done that. God knew he hadn't done it. It had gone around by itself. It was stopping by itself, alongside a dark, twitching mound in the emptiness of the Boulevard. But it was Weasel who was gathering a broken, bleeding body into his arms. It was Weasel who was putting Jimmy into the seat and who was back under the wheel. It was Weasel Walsh who was sending the car flying like a bat out of hell back to the heart of the city, back to Misericordia Hospital....

"God!" Weasel Walsh prayed, fumblingly. "Please don't let Jimmy die. Please don't! He believes in You and it isn't right that You should let him die. And while You're about it, God, maybe You could do something for me. Maybe You could keep Hogan from getting me. I don't want to burn, God. I don't want to burn in the chair!"

White-coated men came out of a dark door and took Jimmy away. Walsh whirred the starter, twisted the wheel and was driving across the courtyard to the big gate in through which he had come. But the gate didn't open.

Walsh had to brake. "Hey!" he yelled. "Open up. I'm in a hurry."

The gateman shook his head. "You've got to wait, mister," he said in a whining voice. "You've got to wait till the cops get through with you."

"The cops hell!" Walsh snarled. "I just picked the kid up in the road. I don't know nothin' about how he got hurt."

The man grinned, pointed at the roadster's bonnet. Weasel, craning, saw that the radiator was splashed with blood. "I guess they'll hold you anyway," the gatekeeper said. "For investigation."

Walsh's foot went from brake pedal to accelerator. The Wabash leaped forward, smashed into buckling, flimsy iron filigree. It went through. But it didn't turn into the roadway. It rocketed on ahead and exploded with a tremendous roaring crash against a wall of thick masonry that was a buttress of Misericordia Church.

High up in the steeple a bell boomed. Bonnng—Bonng—Bonnng—Bonnng—Bonng! The dying clangor was taken up by a burring roar from the distant airport, and a red-and-green light climbed into the sky, veered and vanished toward the North. In the hospital's emergency operating room, a sleepy-eyed surgeon said, "The boy is pretty well bunged up but I think we can pull him through."

Miraculously the wrecked car had not taken fire. The shaking gateman, first to reach the wreck, retched, glimpsing the welter of splintered bone and pulped brain where Weasel Walsh's head should have been. But even in his nausea, his shaking hand touched forehead and breast, shoulder and shoulder, as he saw the piece of black iron that jutted out of the mess. The piece of black iron, before it had entered the heart of the murderer, that had been a cross in the filigree of Misericordia's gate....


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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.