Roy Glashan's Library
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First published in Black Mask, March 1933

Collected in:
Murder, Plain & Fanciful, ed. James Sandoe, Sheridan House, 1948
The Hard-Boiled Detective, ed. Herbert Ruhm, Vintage Books, 1977

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2023
Version Date: 2023-01-16

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Black Mask, March 1933, with "Kansas City Flash"

THE place smelled of ether. The hallway had a green-carpeted floor and smooth white walls. There were doors at regular intervals along the hall, and little red bulbs above the doors. Everything was quiet.

Pete Endor came out of one of the doors carrying a white porcelain dish with a towel over it. He shut the door carefully behind him and came noiselessly down the hall on crêpe rubber soles. He was short and pale, with slicked-down black hair. He was dressed in a white duck uniform. He raised his eyebrows at Mark Hull and said:

"Be with you in a minute. Guy just shot his breakfast all over the floor."

He went on down the hall, around a turn. After a little he came back with a mop, made a sour face at Mark Hull, and went back in the room he had come out of.

Mark Hull sat down in the chair beside the glass-topped table that had more porcelain dishes and shiny steel instruments piled on top of it in orderly rows. He took a battered pack of cigarettes out of his vest pocket, selected one, and straightened it out between his thick, scarred fingers. He snapped a match on his thumbnail and blew some smoke at the white ceiling.

He was short and heavily muscled with broad, sloping shoulders and arms that were too long for the rest of him. His nose was plastered flat against his face. One cheek was criss-crossed with small white scars, and that side of his face looked slightly out of line. His eyes were small and blue and twinkling—set far apart. He appeared to be hard-boiled and good-humored at the same time. He looked like he was enjoying himself. He was a cynically tolerant spectator of the flea circus that is Hollywood.

He whistled through his teeth softly, tapping his foot on the floor. Pete Endor came out of the room again, holding the mop carefully away from him. He went down the hall. He came back without the mop.

"If this isn't a hell of a job," he said.

"That what you called me over to tell me?" Mark Hull asked, letting smoke dribble out of his flattened nostrils.

"You heard anything about Doro Faliv?"

"Hell, yes," said Mark Hull. "So's everybody else that can read. What she eats, and what she thinks, and what she wears. And how it feels to get five thousand dollars a week and be a motion picture star. And what she does to get sex appeal. What do you want, an introduction?"

Pete's eyes got big. "Do you know her?"

Mark Hull snorted smoke. "Only when I see her. Listen, dope, you can't sign any contracts, so she wouldn't be interested in you. Now if it's not too much trouble, just tell me what you wanted and leave the fan mail for some other time."

Pete leaned over. He looked both ways cautiously. He put his sleek head to one side and listened elaborately. He'd seen a gangster picture the night before and knew how it was done. Mark Hull waited with a pained but patient expression.

"I got a hot tip," said Pete mysteriously.

"Look out it don't burn your fingers."

"Do I get a cut?" asked Pete.

"You get a smack on the snozzle in about a minute."

"Listen," said Pete, talking out of the corner of his mouth. "Night before last they brought a little dope in here with a couple of bullets in him. He'd been shot, see?"

"Oh," Mark Hull said sarcastically. "You mean he'd been shot."

Pete nodded seriously. "Shot. Nothing the docs could do. He passed out this morning. I was there." He winked. "I was right there."

"What about it?"

"He was an autograph hound," Pete said. "He came to just before he died, and he told me all about it. Before the doc got there. He collected autographs. Autographs of all the stars. He had them in a little book. He had five hundred of 'em." Pete stopped and chewed a fingernail. "I only got three hundred."

"I suppose he tried to collect Doro Faliv's autograph, and she got sore and put a couple of bullets in him."

Pete nodded triumphantly. "That's it!"

Mark Hull choked on cigarette smoke. He coughed hackingly. When it was over he stared at Pete with amazed eyes.

"You mean that's actually what he said?"

Pete nodded again. "Yup. Only the guy that was with her did the shooting."

"My—!" said Mark Hull quietly. "My—!" He pulled up his coat sleeve and pinched himself on his hairy forearm. He took off his hat and wiped his brow. He fanned himself with his hat. Suddenly he glared at Pete with narrowed eyes.

"You mugg, are you makin' this up?"

Pete shook his head and held up his right hand. "It's the honest truth, Mr. Hull."

Mark Hull blinked his eyes and gave a long whistle. "Tell me just what he said."

"Well, he lives—lived—in an apartment house near Tenth and Western. The Forsage Arms. That night about eleven he was comin' out of the building to go down to a drug-store and get some smokes. Just as he was comin' down the steps a car stopped at the curb. Doro Faliv got out."

"Wait a minute," said Mark Hull. "How'd he know it was her? They look different off the screen."

"He used to hang around the Brown Derby all the time gettin' autographs, and he'd seen her lots of times, but there was always such a crowd around her that he couldn't get her autograph. It's terrible how that crowd pushes you around, Mr. Hull. What I mean, it really is. Why, one time I—"

"Go on, go on," said Mark Hull through clenched teeth. "What happened after he saw her?"

"He thought this was a good chance to get her autograph. He always carried his book with him. You can't never tell when you're gonna meet a star. Why, one time I saw John Barrymore—"

Mark Hull made a strangling noise.

Pete came back to the subject hurriedly. "So he walks up to her, and he says: 'Hello, Miss Faliv. Will you sign my autograph book?' And then blooie! He didn't remember nothing else until he came to here just before he died. They found him up in Hollywoodland lying in some brush along the road."

"Anyone else know this?"

"No. I think it's terrible, Mr. Hull, when they shoot you for just asking for an autograph. They get awful sore sometimes, though. I remember once when I—"

Mark Hull stood up and rammed a blunt forefinger into Pete Endor's chest.

"You keep your mouth shut about this. If it's a straight tip you get a couple hundred. If it's a phoney I'll come back here and spatter your brains all over the wall."

MARK HULL squeezed his bulk into a telephone booth in a drug-store on Sunset Boulevard, a block from the hospital. He pushed a nickel in the slot and dialed a number.

"Dolan, Scenario Department," he said when a feminine voice answered.

He waited, tapping on the top of the telephone with his fingernail and whistling softly. His eyes were gleaming. He looked like he was getting a big kick out of things in general.

"Yeah?" It was a thin, flat, very weary voice.

"Listen, Dolan, this is Mark Hull. I want to see a guy on the lot that don't want to see me. Can I use your name to get in?"

There was an audible sigh. "Yeah," said the voice tonelessly. The line went dead.

Mark Hull came out of the drugstore, got in his battered Ford coupé and drove down Sunset. He turned off on a side street, parked the Ford at the curb. He walked along a high cement wall with big signs advertising motion pictures along the top of it. He walked past an iron gate with a khaki uniformed policeman sitting on a stool beside it. He went in a glass door with an iron grilling on it.

It was a small room with a green tile floor and walls. There was a long bench along one wall, a potted plant in one corner, and a big desk in another. A closed door with three steps leading up to it was in the middle of the back wall.

The blond youth behind the desk smiled and said "Yes?" courteously.

"I want to see Mr. Dolan," Mark Hull said. "Hull's the name. He's expecting me."

The blond youth repeated: "Mr. Dolan." He picked up a telephone that was the only furnishing on the desk and said: "Mr. Dolan," into it. He waited patiently.

After a little he said: "There's a Mr. Hull to see you."

He listened. He hung up the receiver, tore a blank off a yellow pad of paper, scribbled on it.

"Through that door," he said. "You know where to go?"

Mark Hull nodded, took the slip, went up the three steps. He went through the door, closed it behind him. He was in a short, dark corridor with doors with frosted glass panes on either side. He walked down the corridor and out another door into the sunlight. He followed a cement walk through a small lawn and was in a narrow street flanked on each side by two-story, barn-like buildings with corrugated iron doors.

There were some cowboys sitting around in the shade, smoking and talking in low tones. They looked hot and tired. A soldier went by dragging his rifle behind him, his hob-nails clanking on the cement. Two girls in evening dresses followed him. In a doorway three men in horn-rimmed glasses and golf knickers were arguing earnestly. A supervisor went by, walking alone and talking to himself.

Mark Hull turned a corner and was in front of a Spanish-style building with white walls and a red tile roof. He went up the stairs, along a hall, and entered a door. A girl with honey-colored hair and very red lips sat at a big desk against one wall.

Mark Hull rested his big hands on the desk and leaned forward.

"Mr. Schrimer in?"

She was shaking her head wearily before he had even started to say anything.

"No. Have you an appointment?"

Mark Hull took one of his cards from his pocket, picked up the pencil on the desk and wrote: "Doro Faliv," on the card.

"Take this to him," he said. "Right now."

The girl looked at the card. She turned it over and read what he had written on the back. Her blue eyes got very big and round.

She said: "Sit down a moment, please," in a choked, hurried voice. She got up and went through a door with polished mahogany panels.

Mark Hull made a triumphant clicking noise with his tongue. He snapped his fingers, grinning, and winked in a knowing way at the wall opposite him.

"I got something this time!" he whispered to himself. "Hot damn!"

The girl came back.

"Mr. Schrimer will see you. Come this way, please."

Mark Hull followed her, walking with a confident, springy sway—big shoulders back, thick chest pushed out.

Schrimer's office looked almost as gaudy as the motion picture sets of motion picture magnates' offices. It was big and impressive with soft carpets and paneled walls and expensive pictures and period furniture.

Schrimer was behind the desk under a big window at the side of the room. He was small and white and pink-eyed. He looked like a scared rabbit peering over a log. He made a vague stuttering noise and waved to a chair in front of the desk.

Mark Hull waited until the girl had gone, closing the door behind her. He rocked back and forth on his heels, staring at Schrimer with one thick eyebrow cocked up quizzically. After a moment he stepped softly to the door and suddenly opened it.

A fat man was standing there, bent over, with his eyes on the level with the keyhole. His round, mournful face didn't change expression in the slightest. He straightened up and sighed sadly. Coming inside the office, he closed the door behind him and leaned against the wall with his hands in his pockets, staring glumly at Mark Hull.

Mark Hull smiled pleasantly at him and said: "Hello, McNulty. It's a wonder to me you don't get cross-eyed with all the keyhole peeping you do." He sat down in the chair in front of the desk and took out a cigarette. "Have one?" he said politely, offering the pack to Schrimer.

"Y-you know him?" Schrimer asked McNulty.

McNulty nodded gloomily. "Yeah. Name of Mark Hull. Used to be a stunt-man. Got that mugg when he jumped off a three-story building and the net busted. Picks up money now running around and doing hush-hush jobs for the studios. Tough egg."

Mark Hull bowed and smiled. "Glad to meet you, Mr. Schrimer."

Schrimer looked like a rabbit all ready to get impudent with a lion that was safely caged up.

"W-what do you know about Doro Faliv?" he asked importantly.

Mark Hull rumpled his bristly hair, frowning. "I know she's five feet three, has black hair and come-hither eyes and—"

"Cut the clowning," said McNulty. "How much is it costing you a day?" Mark Hull asked, suddenly serious.

Schrimer waved his skinny arms. "T-ten thousand d-dollars a d-day! That's what it's costing me! T-ten thousand d-dollars every d-day! I got p-p-production schedules to meet—"

"How long has she been gone?"

"T-two days."

"How much do they want?"

"F-fifty thousand d-dollars! F-fifty thousand d-dollars! In these hard t-times—" He stopped and blinked his pink eyes at Mark Hull. "How d-did you know?"

Mark Hull leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. He smiled complacently. "I get around. I get around."

McNulty made a disgusted noise in his throat. "Listen, mugg. we haven't got time to play guessing games with you. What's the big idea?"

Mark Hull shrugged. "Maybe I could sell a story to the newspapers."

McNulty shook his head seriously. "Nix, brother. This isn't funny business. One slip, and Faliv gets it." He drew his forefinger across his throat and made a clicking noise. "She's worth a couple million dollars to this studio. We can't afford to have you running around squawking. We got lots of nice dark places to shut mouthy guys in. Get it off your chest before you get tapped on the conk and slung in one of them."

Mark Hull said: "How much for getting her back all in one piece and without any noise?"

Schrimer looked at McNulty inquiringly. McNulty nodded.

"F-five thousand d-dollars cash."

Mark Hull stood up. "Okey. Make a memorandum of that and sign it."

"Now listen," McNulty said, "you got a tip on where she is. It must be a hot one because this business is strictly under cover. We can't have you stumbling around putting your feet in things. How much will you take to go home and play solitaire and let us work your tip?"

Mark Hull shook his head. "Ixnay. I like trouble. And don't let me catch any of your bloodhounds trailing me around, either."

THERE were potted plants around the tiled lobby of The Forsage Arms and a red and black rubber rug on the floor. Over in one corner was a small desk with a switchboard at the end. A tall, bald man with a toothy grin was behind the desk. He looked over the top of his glasses at Mark Hull and made pleasant little clucking noises.

Mark Hull leaned over the desk and winked at him "Married?" he asked in a whisper.

The clerk looked wall-eyed. His lips pursed up. He nodded blankly.

Mark Hull poked him in the chest with his thumb and grinned with one side of his mouth. "I'm lookin' for a guy's wife for him."

The clerk ceased to look blank. His eyes glistened. He licked his thin lips and nodded eagerly. He had the sly look of a villain in a movie serial.

Mark Hull held up a twenty-dollar bill. "She's about five-three. Slim. Swell legs. Black hair. She'd be wearing a real heavy veil. She'd be with two or maybe three guys. Hard-looking boys. Whenever she came down here one of the guys would have a good hold on her, like he was afraid she'd run away."

The clerk nodded eagerly. "Yeah. She was here. Two guys. She went out this morning with one guy. He paid his bill. Said he was moving. The other guy is up in the apartment now. Packing up, I guess. They were in a hurry."

"What apartment?"

"18-E. It's on the fifth floor."

"If he comes down while I'm going up, hold him here with some stall until I get back," Mark Hull ordered, relinquishing the twenty and exhibiting another one.

The clerk nodded again. He watched Mark Hull stalk across the lobby and enter the elevator. "These women," he said.

Mark Hull got out of the elevator and waited until the boy had sent it downward. He slid along the thickly carpeted hall, looking at door numbers. He found 18-E at the end of the corridor.

He knocked softly. His lips were drawn into a tight, lopsided grin. He blew on the knuckles of his right fist and held it poised hip-high, balancing on his toes. His eyes were wide and excited looking.

Somebody moved softly in the apartment. Mark Hull knocked again.

"Janitor," he said in a thick voice.

The door opened, and a round, greasy-looking face appeared.


Mark Hull's knuckles connected with the face with a sound like a bursting balloon. The door jerked open. There was a gurgling noise, and the sound of a heavy fall. Mark Hull went through the door and closed it behind him.

The greasy-faced one was getting up off the floor, spitting curses. The rest of him matched his face. He was small and stoop-shouldered and bandy-legged. His hair curled in oiled ringlets. His mouth was thick-lipped, blubbery.

He found a knife somewhere and dived for Mark Hull, slashing upward. Mark Hull stepped sidewise, caught the knife hand, and twisted it until the knife clattered on the floor, blocking kicks at his abdomen with one knee. He slammed short, choppy rights into the center of the greasy face.

The other one flopped backward over a chair, crashed full length on the floor. Mark Hull got a handful of coat front, hauled him up.

"Where'd you take her?" he asked very softly holding a big fist in front of the greasy face.

The thick lips said: "Police b—!" and writhed wetly.

Mark Hull let the fist go. The other went head-first over the couch into the corner behind it. His short, crooked legs stayed in sight for an instant, then slid limply downward.

Mark Hull dragged him from under the couch and plopped him down on the cushions. He sat there and stared vacantly ahead with his bigmouth twitching loosely. Mark Hull scraped a chair over and sat down facing the couch. He took a .38 Colt automatic from his shoulder-holster.

Consciousness suddenly flicked back into the greasy one's eyes.

"Police b—!" he said.

Mark Hull swiped him with the automatic. He flopped over on the couch. Mark Hull pulled him upright. He said levelly:

"I'm not from the police. I'm from the studio. We're going to play this game until you tell me where your new hide-out is."

"Go to hell!"

Mark Hull cracked him again.

"I'm not fooling. You can blow after you tell me. You mugg, don't you know a studio will never pay on a rig like this?"

Saliva made wet threads down from the blubbery lips. He sniffled, covering his face with his hands, peering at Mark Hull through stained fingers.

"Pasadena," he said thickly.

Mark Hull raised the gun. The greasy one rolled away on the couch, whining.

"No, no Santa Monica. First and Tracy. An old white apartment house."

Mark Hull hit him carefully, calculatingly. This time on top of the head. He went down with a long, whistling sigh. Mark Hull left him there, nosed around in the apartment. He found two half-packed suit-cases on the bed, a small trunk on the floor. He came back in the front room carrying several bath towels that were wringing wet.

He tied the greasy one carefully with the towels and stuffed a handkerchief in the slack mouth.

"There, baby," he said cheerfully. "If you get out of that daddy'll give you a big red lolly-pop."

Mark Hull straightened his tie, smoothed down his bristly hair. He put his hat on carefully, tipping it down over one eye. He went to the door and opened it.

A bent little old lady with her hand cupped behind one ear nearly fell into the apartment. She straightened up quickly, making flustered sounds.

"I heard a noise. A sort of horrible bumping noise."

Mark Hull closed the door carefully behind him, making sure the lock clicked.

"Bosco," he said.

"Bosco?" the old lady repeated blankly.

Mark Hull nodded easily. "Yeah. Bosco, the Dog-Faced Boy. He's in the movies. I'm his manager. He's only half-human. He got excited a minute ago and tried to brain me with a hammer. I had quite a time with him before I could get him back in his strait-jacket I think he got hold of some raw meat."

The old lady's eyes were like glass marbles. "Half-human," she repeated in a horrified voice. "Raw meat! Strait-jacket!" Her mouth snapped shut She hobbled up the hall, whisked in a door. The door slammed emphatically. The key grated in the lock.

Mark Hull grinned widely. He tipped his hat further over his eye. He puffed out his big chest and strutted down the hall towards the elevator. He looked well pleased with himself.

THE apartment house was a two-story, square building. It had been stuccoed, and the stucco was peeling off at the corners, showing bare brown boards underneath. Sickly looking vines on a shaky trellis curled over the front and did their best to hide the ravages of time. The lawn and the hedge needed trimming, and the two big plants on either side of the front door looked shabbily discouraged.

Mark Hull pressed his broad thumb against the button that was underneath a white card with "Manager" written on it. A small, thin woman opened the door instantly. She had stringy brown hair and mouse-like brown eyes. She watched Mark Hull timidly.

Mark Hull took off his hat and smiled. He looked genial and good-natured in a hard-boiled way. He chuckled at her.

"They get all settled?" he asked.

The landlady's lips formed the word: "Who?" noiselessly.

Mark Hull took out his wallet and found a twenty-dollar bill. The landlady's eyes got very large and wistful.

Mark Hull said: "I'm a friend of theirs. I'm sorry for them. They've had it plenty tough. Did they pay you anything in advance?"

She shook her head without taking her eyes from the twenty.

"Did they move in this morning?" he asked. "Just the two of them. The lady veiled."

She nodded.

"What room?"

"Ten. In back. On the first floor." She spoke in a barely audible monotone.

"Take this as a down payment on the rent," Mark Hull said.

The bill disappeared out of his fingers down the front of the landlady's dress in a split-second. She was gone as instantly as she had appeared. Mark Hull blinked in a surprised way.

He went silently down the gloomy hall that was thick with the smell of unventilated rooms. He found a door that had a "1" and an "0" pinned on it haphazardly. He frowned at the door. His hand started to move towards his shoulder-holster. He shook his head and took the hand away again.

"All in one piece," he whispered to himself, "and without any noise." He made a worried face at the door. The man inside was a killer. Then he shrugged. Have to take the chance.

He knocked lightly on the door. "Hey," he said, "I'm sorry to bodder yuh but de old lady says I gotta put some new light bulbs in because dem you got is all boined out."

There was a pause. Mark Hull held his breath. Then the door opened a little, and a hand appeared. A voice said:

"Give 'em to me."

Mark Hull got hold of the wrist and slammed his shoulder against the door. There was a bump and a strangled grunt Mark Hull got inside and kicked the door shut behind him.

A thin dark-faced man twisted his wrist free with one graceful motion. In a continuation of the same motion he slammed three quick blows into Mark Hull's face. He danced away easily and lightly. He had dark, wavy hair and a thin, viciously handsome face. He was in a white shirt and dark trousers. He grinned at Mark Hull, showing white teeth through thin, red lips.

Mark Hull grunted and shook his head. There were red marks on his scarred face. He jerked off his hat and tossed it on the floor behind him. He came forward, slouched a little, thick arms swinging at his sides.

The thin man danced in again, moving with a peculiar effortless weave. His fists found Mark Hull's face, and then he was ten feet away, grinning. He was faster than greased lightning.

"Well?" he said. "Well?"

Mark Hull breathed noisily through his flattened nose. He shuffled forward, swaying a little. His eyes were coldly glinting slits. He tried to catch the thin man's arms as he came in. The thin man was too fast. A ring on his finger cut Mark Hull over one eye.

The thin man danced on his toes, weaving his shoulders loosely. Evidently he could see backward. He dodged around chairs and tables without looking behind him. He was grinning still. He was having a fine time.

"Well?" he said. "Want to quit and talk it over?"

Mark Hull kept shuffling forward. His lips were flat against his teeth in a soundless snarl. The thin man circled backward effortlessly. He was as graceful as a snake. He could move six feet to Mark Hull's one.

"Dance, damn you!" Mark Hull said thickly. "Wait till I get hold of you."

"You won't," said the thin man. "You can't touch me."

He battered Mark Hull's groping hands aside disdainfully, put three cracking blows into his face, and was leaning against the wall on the other side of the room all in the same second.

"All right," he said, sliding easily along the wall and watching Mark Hull follow him stubbornly. "Private flattie from the studio, aren't you, boy? You don't want a stink any worse than I do. We'll wake the whole damned place if we keep at it. I'm willing to talk business. Let's be nice."

Mark Hull shrugged and straightened up. His eyes were glittering dangerously. He wasn't used to being beaten.

"Okey," he said. "What's your proposition?"

The thin man relaxed, still grinning. Mark Hull suddenly dived at him head-first. The thin man wasn't there. Mark Hull crashed head-on into the wall. He fell heavily on his face on the floor. He rolled dizzily, and the thin man dropped on him knees first.

Mark Hull tried to twist out of it, but the thin man's fingers were digging into his throat. Mark Hull hit upward blindly. The thin man rolled his head expertly with the blows. His fingers kept digging in.

Mark Hull arched his body up on his heels and tried to get at his shoulder-holster, but the thin man blocked that with his leg. Mark Hull's tongue was big and thick in his mouth, and there was a purple haze shot with exploding orange spots in front of his eyes.

"You asked for it," the thin man said gleefully.

His voice was a squeaky whisper through the roaring in Mark Hull's ears. His dark face receded dimly through the purple haze. There were iron bands around Mark Hull's chest. He choked and writhed, suddenly frantic.

The thin man's fingers loosened. His viciously handsome face was blank, incredulous. He let go of Mark Hull's throat and got slowly and heavily to his feet. His arms were hanging limply. He turned around, and Mark Hull saw the butcher knife that was up to the hilt in his back.

The thin man took a step forward. His voice came thickly.

"You—" he said. "You—"

Doro Faliv stood ten feet away. Her slim body was erectly rigid. Her dark eyes were enormously wide. She made small, terrorized sounds in her throat—like a frightened child.

Mark Hull came out of his daze in time to hook his foot around the thin man's ankle. The thin man made no effort to catch himself, to ease his fall. He slammed down limply all at once. He moved a little on the rug. His hands went out in front of him, clutching. His feet jerked in short little kicks. He made soft, choking noises. Then he stopped moving suddenly, as though he were a mechanical toy that had run down.

Mark Hull got stiffly to hands and knees and crawled to him. He turned the thin man over. He grunted and let the thin man fall back again. He looked up at Doro Faliv.

SHE was still standing rigid. Tears washed wet little paths down her cheeks. She sniffled. She looked like a crying schoolgirl.

She was one of the real mysteries of Hollywood. She was thin and flat-chested, with a complexion like yellow paste. Her black hair was lifeless and dull. Her features were assembled in regular enough order, but her face gave a queer blank effect, as though there was nothing but emptiness behind it. But on the screen she was marvelous. She was the essence of allure. She could send goose-pimples along your back by just turning her head. The camera brought something out that wasn't there.

Mark Hull started to say something. He choked. He massaged his throat and tried it again.

"What happened?" he said wheezily.

"I went out to walk at night—alone." Her voice was full-throated and soft, but it, too, was lifeless. "They made me go with them. They said if I didn't they'd throw acid in my face." She looked at him slyly, like a little girl lying to her mother.

Mark Hull got slowly off the floor. He stood looking at her. One side of his wide mouth lifted a little, showing his teeth. Then he shrugged.

"You've got to get out of here. Quick."

He went scouting around, nosing in corners, under the bed, in the bathroom. He looked for quite a while at an expensive black bag he found in a closet. He found a hat and coat in the same closet and helped her put them on. He pulled the veil over her face.

She accepted all this calmly, as a matter of course.

Mark Hull took hold of both her thin shoulders. He put his tense, scarred face close to her blank one.

"Listen," he said, shaking her. "You're not to say a word about this to anyone. Understand me?"

She nodded, looking a little puzzled.

Mark Hull took a key-ring from his pocket, separated one key from the rest, and closed her hand around it. "This is the key to the ignition on my Ford. It's parked down the street that way—" he pointed "—a block. A yellow coupe. You get in it and drive straight home and stay there."

She smiled shyly at him. "I can drive a Ford," she said.

Mark Hull grunted as though someone had hit him in the stomach. He grabbed her by the shoulder and pushed her towards the window. He helped her through, caught her under the arms, and lowered her until her feet were on the ground.

"Now beat it!" he said explosively.

She looked up at him in a hurt, frightened way. He made a savage gesture, and she stumbled hurriedly along the hedge towards the front of the house.

He pulled his head back inside and shut the window. He made a wry face, shaking his head. Then he went out into the hall, locking the door behind him, and found the telephone on the table near the front door.

He looked around. Then he sat down and dialed long distance. He gave the number of the studio and waited, tapping on the table with his fingernails. His face was beginning to swell in lumpy bumps. The blood from the cut above his eye had trickled down his cheek and dried. The marks on his throat were changing from red to blue. He looked disgusted.

"Hello," he said after a while. "Give me McNulty....Yeah, McNulty. That fat mugg that pretends to be a detective and goes around peeking through keyholes.... Well, find him.... All right." He waited impatiently.

It was some time before McNulty's mournful voice answered.

"McNulty speaking."

"This is Hull. Do you know a dark, thin guy with wavy hair and a nasty grin?"

"Sure," said McNulty. "That's the Kansas City Flash. He's bad. Indicted for murder three times. Beat all three raps. Served once for peddling dope—once for white slavery. Used to be a prizefighter."

"I know that now," Mark Hull said bitterly. "He just got through pasting hell out of me and was doing a nice job of choking me to death when your cute little star stuck a butcher knife in his back."

McNulty was quiet for quite a while. Then he said:

"Where is she now?"

"On her way home in my car. She gave me a sappy song-and-dance about being snatched by this Flash guy. Only she forgot that people that get kidnaped don't pack a bag to take along with them."

"Uh-huh," McNulty said sadly. "She would forget that."

Mark Hull went on, talking in a low, vicious voice: "I collect my ten grand. She's in the clear. But the whole thing makes me sick at my stomach. By —! I never dirtied my hands like this before. The Flash knocked off a guy that recognized her. The poor little devil asked her for an autograph. It was so awful damned useless."

"Uh-huh," said McNulty. "What do you think about it?"

"Me?" asked Mark Hull savagely. "Oh, I'm just in from the sticks. I think they were going up to his apartment to have a pleasant little chat about the political situation. I think they were just playing a cute joke when they shot that little punk and tried to shake the studio down for fifty thousand on a phoney kidnaping gag. It was just good clean fun when she saw the game was up and stuck a butcher knife in her boy-friend's back."

"Yeah," McNulty said slowly. "You been around Hollywood a long time. You know lots of things that aren't on the front pages. But I'll tell you something you don't know. This Kansas City Flash was her husband."

Mark Hull made a noise like a punctured tire. He goggled blankly at the wall.

McNulty went on: "You can imagine how we felt when we found it out. A half-million in advertising all shot to hell if anybody found out she had a heel with a record like his for a husband. Of course all this stuff about her being an exiled princess from some Asiatic country is just so much crap. One of the directors spotted her in a news-reel of a marathon dance. Before that she was in a taxi dance-hall. I don't know what she was before that, but after one look at the Flash's record, I can make a pretty good guess."

Mark Hull said: "Is this straight?"

"Uh-huh. And that ain't all. He'd ditched her when she was sick about three years ago. She hadn't heard a word from him. But she was glad to see him when he turned up. He figured he was going to glom on to all her salary. But we had that fixed. She's got two contracts. One gives her fifty dollars a week. The other gives three thousand a week to a trust fund in her name controlled by a trustee appointed by the studio."

"I knew about that double contract," Mark Hull said slowly.

"Yeah. So did the Flash. That's why he tried his shakedown. We tried to tell her what he was. But it was no sale. He was her husband and he had told her he was framed, and so he was framed."

"She must be coo-coo."

"Uh-huh. Not coo-coo. Just dumb. She's got the mind of about a ten-year-old kid. You know how she looks and talks. I don't know why she is the way she is on the screen. Nobody can figure it out. She just is. All the directors are nuts to get a chance at doing one of her pictures. She'll do anything you tell her. She's got no ideas of her own. But, damn it, you can't help but like her. She tries so damned hard to please you."

Mark Hull nodded slowly. He was beginning to understand the way she had acted. That remark about knowing how to drive a Ford. A ten-year-old.

"I wonder why she stabbed him," he said, puzzled.

"She was nuts about her fans. She'd give them anything they asked for. When Flash shot the little autograph hound, it was curtains for him. She just waited for a good chance. Probably don't even realize it's murder."

"What'll we do with him?"

"I think maybe he was killed when he got drunk and fell in front of the Limited tonight somewhere out in the desert," McNulty said thoughtfully.

Mark Hull chuckled. He looked good-humored again in spite of his banged-up face. He told McNulty the address, and added: "You're not so dumb as you look, McNulty. I think if you had a real good friend that was a brain specialist, and he went down and looked in Apartment 18-E of The Forsage Arms he'd find a case there that should be shut in a nice, quiet place for a while, where he could cut out paper dolls without being bothered, and where people won't hear him talking to himself."

"You're not so dumb, either," said McNulty.



Murder, Plain & Fanciful, Sheridan House, 1948
with "Kansas City Flash"

Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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