'The Racket'

by Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Stephanie 'Stevie' Garroch, 34, and Kelly Humber, 32, are lovers, film producers, and part-owners of Redoubtable Films Inc, a 'B' film Poverty Row movie studio located in Hollywood and New York in the 1930's. While in New York they find themselves enmeshed in a Protection racket.

Disclaimer:— All characters are copyright ©2022 Phineas Redux. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Caution:— There is some swearing in this story.

—O—

The Head offices of Redoubtable Films in the Cailley Building, West 54th St., NY, were hot and sultry this June morning; the fact those in the offices resided on the 14th floor gaining no appreciable favor from this position in the humid weather, even though the Hudson River was close by. At the moment, in the wide private office of Stephanie 'Stevie' Garroch, 34, and Kelly Humber, 32, both Producers and shareholders in the 'B' film company, actions were about to be taken that would result in as much danger and adventure as any of their company's thrillers or mystery movies to date.

Stephanie had been sitting by the long desk for the last half-hour, reading through the preliminary script for an upcoming cop thriller; Kelly, on her part, had been closely scrutinising a set of acccounts dealing with some Department of the widespread company, a deep frown only imprinting itself ever more deeply as the minutes wore on.

"Stevie?"

"Yeah?"

"Stevie?"

"What? ! hear ya!"

"This don't add up no way. I've been trying this last half-hour but it just don't come right. There's about twenty thousand dollars missing somewhere and, far's I can figure, it's coming out'ta Ken Shardley's Insurance Department here in NY."

Stephanie, though deep in her script, was still mildly interested.

"Twenty thou! That's a big whack, how d'you suppose he lost that amount? Probably find it lurking in Office Miscellanies, or somewhere."

"No-no, it just ain't here—ain't nowhere, it's gone."

"Gone? What d'ya mean—gone?"

Kelly's patience, never her strong point, gave up the fight in the first round.

"I mean it's been dragged off into oblivion, taken for a ride, put in a plain brown wrapper and nicked, hoisted, grifted, not to put too much of a finger on it—stolen!"

Faced with this dramatic concept Stephanie finally gave up her reading material to stare sideways at her partner in love as well as business sitting on the chair by her side.

"Kel, what're you on about? You really saying Ken Shardley's stolen twenty thou from us? I don't get that, y'know. He's been with us for years, y'know."

Kelly wasn't having this lackadaisical attitude, however.

"All the same accounts never lie or, at least, never when they're gone over with a fine tooth comb by an expert they don't—and that expert is me, lady!"

Finally convinced by her heartmate, who's competence in this area she trusted implicitly, Stephanie turned to the accounts herself and, with her lover's help, ten minutes study indeed convinced her too that something smelly was wafting up from the nearby river.

"Yip, seems right enough—twenty thou gone missing in action." She shaking her head in mystification. "Only two possibilities—he's incompetent and lost the dough like a tyro, or he's quietly increasing his pension fund at our expense!"

"Or something."

"Something? What's something, dearest?"

Kelly merely shrugged in answer to this question.

"Oh, Life's complicated, lots of possibilities, anything could happen out'ta the blue; lets give him the benefit till we've heard what he has to say."

"Seems reasonable."

—O—

"What about it, Ken?"

Forty minutes had passed-by never to return before the Producers were actually able to interview Ken Shardley in his office on the fifteenth floor of the Cailley Building, he having been at a meeting across town. Having been made aware of their dual worry over the Company's finances he had simply looked slightly non-plussed.

"Thought you both knew all about it. Never heard any complaints over the last three years so thought you backed my play. Why, what's wrong?"

"Twenty thousand dollars is what's wrong, Ken." Kelly frowning darkly. "You know by now how much I love and caress and look after every single greenback this Company makes! And twenty thousand missing unreported kind'a gives me heartburn. So, what've you done with it, and how quickly can you get it back from the shadows or wherever you've stashed it, boyo?"

Ken Shrugged.

"Protection."

Both women looked at each other in equal misunderstanding.

"Protection?" Stephanie finding her voice first. "Protection from what? The Spanish Flu? Measles? A visit from the IRS? What?"

"The Midtown Mob, of course."

"Midtown Mob?" Kelly joining the fray. "Who the Hell're they?"

"The local mobsters for this District of Manhattan." Ken seemingly having these esoteric details well to hand. "You know the play—pay weekly protection or have your shop windows broken every week! We pay the Mob a monthly going-rate and thereby live a blameless life free of constant references to Insurance companies who find us less than perfect clients as the years go by. Our outdoor sets and exterior shots not disturbed by real shots, if you catch my drift. Not to say our studios and equipment not being subjected to heavy physical testing to destruction via baseball bats and that sort'a thing."

It took a few seconds for this information to sink in, but sink in it eventually did.

"F-ck me!" Stephanie hardly able to believe her ears. "Are you telling me we've been paying some bunch of thugs heavy bucks these last three years to stop them raising Caine across our premises?"

"Essentially, yeah, that about covers it." Ken still apparently in the dark about their disapproval. "What should I have done? Said no? By this time, if I'd done that, we'd all be on Skid Row looking in refuse bins for our suppers, Redoubtable Films a distant memory of broken equipment and bones."

Stephanie was horrified, but nowhere near the extent Kelly was.

"Jee-sus Chr-st!" She going-off the deep end of her temperament. "Here we are, scraping for every red cent we struggle to find for our films, and you've gladly and with glee given twenty thou away to a bunch of deadbeats just because they come up with some nasty threats? Jee-sus Chr-st! What're the dam' cops for, Ken? You should've reported it the first time some of them tried it on!"

Ken shook his head knowingly.

"Oh, yeah? And the fact that almost all high-ranking, and most of the lower ranking, cops in this fair city take back-handers has no bearing on what their response would inevitably be, I take it?"

"What?" Kelly speechless at this remark.

"What?" Stephanie as much astonished.

Ken shook his head despairingly, as talking to two young innocent girls.

"This's New York, 1936, ladies. We're here, we have to live in it as it is; part of that is inter-acting with the local social elements, part of which is the Mob. The Mob asks you to kindly contribute, you kindly do so, feeling that your kneecaps are things you're going to need later in life. See?"

"Jee-sus!" Kelly completely bowled over by this revelation of contemporary society in relation to her beloved Film Company.

Stephanie, on the other hand, was made of sterner stuff, a distant ancestor on the female side having obviously been a Valkyrie of note.

"Things has to change round these parts, buster; and things round these parts is gon'na change, mark my dam' words!"

—O—

Theodore Dexter Barrington Jr., had made his pile in the Law over a period now amounting to almost thirty years; but not all in the duly certified Courts of the fair city of New York. No, most of his admittedly enormous wealth had come through the side entrance of close contact with the Mob in several variations of its form over the years. Right now, June 1936, he administered the, ha-ha, legal requirements of those at the head of the Manhattan Midtown Mob, a company that decidedly did not play by the ordinary rules.

Now, having been peremptorily invited to the HQ of Redoubtable Films with a side order that he appear or be damned, he sat in front of Stephanie and Kelly, feeling more like a young pupil in front of a scornful teacher than he had ever done since his old nanny last spanked him.

"What's the trouble, ladies? What can Barrington and Taylor, do for you? I being head of the best firm of lawyers in Manhattan. Insurance, Fraud, Indemnity, upcoming business deal? All's the same to me; fees standard across the board, contracts to pay at three, six, or twelve months. So?"

Stephanie and Kelly sat on the window side of the long table in Boardroom A, with their victim on the other, light from the tall windows behind the women glaring in his eyes, accompanied by the womens' cold expressions.

"Mr Barrington, you ever heard of the Midtown Mob?" Kelly breaking the ice of conversation with an even colder tone.

Taken aback Barrington equivocated, shrugging his shoulders while raising an inquisitive eyebrow.

"The Mob? What you want to bring them into the conversation? What's it to you?"

"Twenty thousand so far, is what it is to us, buster."

Barrington, a man of deep comprehension, affected to take this the wrong way.

"Twenty thousand? Must be a big number you want cleared up for that fee? What can I do?"

"Nice try, laddie," Stephanie shaking her head while attempting to imitate the Medusa to the best of her ability. "but we already know you're the front man for the Mob round these parts, everyone and their sister knows that! We've been paying Protection to your Masters for the last three years, we brought you here to tell them from us it stops right now. No more spondoolics from us, not as much a further red cent. Got it?"

Barrington eyed the women with something less than enthusiasm.

"Uumph! You know getting in the bad books with folks like the Mob ain't a good play, in any form or direction? They think they're being roller-coasted they're likely more often than not to cut up rough. And by rough I mean not nice at all. You want that? Say, perhaps I could interest you in taking out some insurance to cover your company; no-one ever really knowing what the future, round the very next corner, might bring!"

"Ha-Ha!" Stephanie not impressed in the slightest. "You'll have to work some on your threats, Barrington. You play with the bad guys but you don't equal them in any way. You're a pimp, a side-grifter, a punk! Go back to your Masters, give 'em the bad news, an' tell 'em from me the first time they trespass on my property or do any damage to same or my employees, my retribution will equal Biblical call-outs of the blood-thirstiest tyranical God you've ever heard of—same action including you too, for your information."

"We're finished with you." Kelly rising from her chair with a fine threatening attitude. "Door's over there, use it, b-st-rd!"

"Ladies, let's not get agitated over this." Barrington striving to engage with the opposition. "Surely we can come to some compromise over this? Sure, I know some, er, business-men involved in certain, er, areas who might have some influence in, uum, affairs that presently annoy you. How's about some kind'a meeting? I can arrange that easy. You can come over one night an' meet, oh, various guys? Nice quiet place, out'ta the way, no fear of interruptions, come to a decision over this problem easy. What ya say?"

"You trying to have us taken for a ride, you moron?" Kelly by now seething with barely controlled rage. "Stevie, show this piece o'sh-t our little friend."

Stephanie, sitting on her chair, reached over to a drawer by her side from which she extracted with cool confidence a large automatic, laying it quietly on the table before her.

"This is a Colt point forty-five automatic loaded with a full magazine of dum-dum bullets. I shoot with this, you get blown apart. Such being easy to arrange and, just so you're clear on the matter, I ain't joking. Get me?"

"You can piss-off now, back to the stinky pig-pen where your Masters hold court. Go!" Kelly making plain the meeting was over.

—O—

"That settled his hash."

"Sure did, lover." Stephanie, a few minutes later replacing her weapon in the drawer when they were once more alone in the boardroom. "Pity it isn't really loaded, left the ammo back home."

"Hah! Minor detail; Barrington went off with his tail between his legs anyway, the way we planned from the get-go." Kelly highly pleased at the outcome of their late meeting. "How long will he take to pass on the bad news, and what'll the outcome be, you suppose?"

"Well, keeping ahead of the game, our next move is to increase security across the board everywhere." Stephanie looking to the cold hard facts. "Something nasty is going to happen somewhere close-by, that's for sure. Say, if we knew where the Mob's HQ is couldn't we launch a pre-emptive stike on them? Like the G-men used to do with the bootleg-runners back in Prohibition?"

Kelly, returning to her own chair, was appalled at this.

"Some kind'a reverse Saint Valentine's Day Massacre! Are you out'ta your mind? This is real life we got here, dearest, not a dam' James Cagney movie!"

"Yeah, suppose so; but an idea that still bears thinking over, still." Stephanie not to be put off a real brainwave so easily.

—O—

The first scene played out in the ensuing drama took place less than a week later, when Kelly was driving up 3rd Avenue on her way to the Cailley Building on East 54th that morning. Crossing East 52nd a large truck, coming from her left and ignoring the red light made a valiant attempt to t-bone her Plymouth roadster. Reacting quickly she slewed her car over to the right bringing the bonnet nearly up on the sidewalk, missing the truck by a hair's-breadth before it sped off, lost in the traffic. When she reported to Stephanie a few minutes later all Hell, naturally, broke loose.

"So, they're starting-off mean, are they? Two can play at that game." She having spent the first five minutes in relieving her feelings by swearing comprehensively. "Lem'me get my roscoe, I'm goin' over t'Barrington, an' shoot the f-cker!"

Kelly grabbed her irate lover's hand, as they sat in their office.

"Hold on, that won't achieve anything; do you suppose the Mob leaders care about Barrington? Nah, they'll just continue as before. We got'ta get to the Heads, stop them yanking the chains of the underlings. What we got'ta do is get the cops involved."

"But they're all in the back-pockets of the hoodlums." Stephanie not having lost sight of this well-known fact. "Constables, sergeants, Inspectors. Everyone up to the DA, I'm sure. And as for Judges! I bet you could bring up any Mob Boss on a charge of First Degree murder before any Judge and jury in NY and he'd still get-off Scot-free!"

"Hmm, there's that; there's that, for sure." Kelly pondering gloomily on the inescapable moral deterioration of Society all round her. "How about Private tecs'? We could run a private scam against the hoods, couldn't we? I mean, we could find the money, and pressgang our own boys an' gals into forming a resistance army?"

Stephanie, still glowering under the threat of danger to the one she loved, was still in the worst throes of a blue fit accompanied by a whole herd of metaphorical Black Dogs yapping round her heels.

"A plan of moment, lover. Yeah; they'd have to know what they were letting themselves in for, of course. But, on the whole, I like it. Where do you suppose we could rent enough weapons? Can we buy grenades and flame-throwers on the private market?"

—O—

The offices of Rentoul and Cassidy, Private Investigators, was located in a three-room set-up on the third floor of a building on East 26th Street down by the East River. To say it was a salubrious location would be bending the Rules of Physical Reality that step too far. Standing in the shabby corridor outside the main office, regarding the chipped white-painted name on the glass top half of the door, neither Stephanie or Kelly were much impressed.

"This corridor hasn't been renovated since 1888, clear as crystal; bet what's inside ain't no better."

"Buck-up, lady." Kelly made of sterner stuff. "We got business with 'tecs, and these guys fee-rate's are within our borders. I ain't gon'na shell out more'n twenty dollars a dam' hour for the President himself, never mind over a bunch of deadbeat hillbilly layabouts who think they're the Boys just 'cause they got influence an' a herd of drop-out thugs in tow. Come on."

With which command, ignoring the polite niceties, she flung the door wide, entering like a Princess her palace.

"Redoubtable Films, come t'interview Cassidy as per telephone call earlier. He available?"

This to the short feisty secretary at the desk by the window; she of blonde hair, tight blouse, thin waist, and sharp brown eye.

"Cassidy was pulled out'ta the East River, extinct, seven month ago. Rentoul's with a client at the moment." Her tone one of authority and competence. "You talked to me half an hour ago, wherein I told ya we were busy but could fit ya in. Didn't say anything about ol' Cassidy—why should I of? Take a pew, Rentoul won't be more'n ten minutes."

Stonewalled so efficiently at the first advance the ladies quietly did as commanded, taking seats on a long low wooden bench like the kind to be found in Penn Station and just as uncomfortable. But, less than ten minutes later they were ushered into the inner sanctum to meet the one remaining representative of the firm.

"Mornin', how's things? Not good, I expects, or ya both wouldn't be troubling me, eh? Take chairs, they ain't easy but they do they're duty. How can I help?"

"Uurrph!" Kelly less than impressed. "Mr Rentoul, we're Producers of Redoubtable Films Limited. We got a problem we think you might be able to help us with."

The next few minutes passed by with both Kelly and Stephanie outlining the facts as they saw them surrounding the precarious position their company now found itself in. After listening intently Rentoul, a man in his late forties, thin brown hair, lanky of build with a keen grey eye, nodded with unexpected enthusiasm.

"Bunch o'dick-faced bozos! Excuse the language, ladies, but I got back history with that bunch of no-hopers."

"Oh, yeah?" Kelly's interest fired by this.

"Yeah, it was on account of the Mob my partner went to a watery grave in the River some seven month ago. Been wanting to get my own back ever since; this looking like that golden opportunity. Whatever it is ya got in mind, ladies, I'm in—half rates."

At the sound of this unexpected bonus Kelly's eyes lit up with the fervour of an accountant having a good day.

"Well, shucks! Ain't that just dixy! Say, what we're really after is where the bunch of losers holds court, their HQ, sort'a thing."

"Yeah," Stephanie butting in. "Where they hang out; what the layout of said junk-heap may be, so's we can make a night-time raid or whatever. How many of them we might face-off at any one time. What their so-called organisation actually consists of and essentially how competent they are. Those sort'a details."

"Right up my street, ladies." Rentoul nodding vigorously. "I know fine where their HQ of choice is; can go to the City Building Department, get the ground plans easy as cherry pie. As to their numbers and organisation? Well, give me some time over that, but I can have it in your hands within the week."

Kelly reached into her capacious handbag, a grim smile playing over her pink-tinted lips.

"Sounds great, don't hold back, within reason, here's your first down-payment. Everything works out to plan, a nice bonus on the cards too."

"Ladies, you're my dream clients; think this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!"

—O—

The HQ of the Midtown Mob was, as one might reasonably expect, a casino cum restaurant on West 22nd Street in the Flatiron District. Taking-up the first and two further floors of the Blaine Building it spread itself across a quarter of a block, oozing kitsch style in gallons and catering to the middle-range of night-clubbers who weren't exactly high-rollers but weren't on their uppers either. The third floor was the residence of the actual Heads of the Company, if so they could be called. A set of offices on one side were accompanied by private suites on the other side. Presently a wide room, sentinels outside and immediately inside the single entrance door, was playing host to a meeting.

"The Giants'll flatten the Dodgers, easy!" So spoke Flats Flanagan from his chair on the left side of the long rectangular table taking up much of the central space of the large room.

"Bullsh-t!" Dan Adley, opposite side of the table, making his assured opinion public with a wave of a beefy hand. "The Giants couldn't win a raffle at a kids' tea party, common knowledge!"

"My dough's on the Tornadoes, good team!" George 'Hags' Kelmaine letting the room know he was on yet another loser, the story of his life.

"Jee-sus!" Henry Loman, titular head of the Organisation, taking his place at the far end of the table, munching on a long Havana. "OK, boys, settle down, we got business here. Right, what's first, Flats?"

"This dam' local film company—Resistable-Renownable-God, Re-somethin'; anyways, they've been shelling-out nice an' polite these past three years no problem."

"So what's the beef now?"

"Seems some coupl'a dames at the head o'the group've suddenly found religion or sum-thin'." Flats snorting in contempt of those with viable moral stances. "Wan'na give us the ol' heave-ho, with menaces. Ain't gon'na pay their dues no more bein' the latest scuttlebutt."

Henry growled low in his throat, not liking the thought of losing out on a long established good thing.

"Put Jimmy Deuchter on it—he's got a way with the broads. Remember that singer a few montrhs ago? Beat her up within an inch of her chiselled looks, that sorted her out. Bet these movie dames fold at Deuchter's first threat! OK, what's next—"

—O—

James Deuchter was a man, at least in the physiological sense if not the moral, who didn't care about anything except himself and the more sadistic elements of daily life. Five feet seven inches, somewhat broadly built, heavy in his shoes, dark hair, square jaw and a gleam in his dark brown eyes which generally put almost everybody off at first sight; the cold-hearted mobster went through life ignoring those he had no interest in, bullying those who merely bothered his daily activities, and sadistically torturing those who got in his way for real. Having, two days later, been given the story of the film company who had decided not to pay their dues anymore, and that the perpetrators of this mutinous standpoint were a couple of women, Deuchter found himself this warm afternoon on his way to perform what was to his mind hardly a duty but an action of pure pleasure. Little did he realise, as he drove along East 53rd Street in his Buick sedan, that whatever activities he got up to in the next half hour were going to be the very last he ever performed in this world!

—O—

The Cailley Building had one of those turn of the century Art Nouveau entrances which tried, more or less successfully, to imitate an Italian Palace. A huge twenty-foot tall archway opened on the sidewalk, inside which a long tunnel-like corridor just as high and twelve feet wide allowed visitors to delve deep into the interior of the building before coming up against a wall of carved and glass-inlaid mahogany where a lesser set of doors led them into the real entrance hall beyond, a spectacular square space like the main hall of a large Bank.

Presently Stephanie and Kelly, intent on heading out for lunch, had negotiated the echoing Hall, pushed through the mahogany doors, and were halfway along the entrance corridor, the outside sunlight making their eyes water, when a cry came from a blue uniformed security guard a few yards to their left.

"Hey you! What yer doin'? Watch out, ladies, knives!"

In a split second a man in a dark blue suit on their right lunged at them waving a long-bladed knife towards Kelly's face. Before he had got more than three feet towards his target however the guard's gun came into play—

Bang!-Bang!

—fired by a veteran, hitting the attacker twice in the left side. Stephanie, who always went armed, dove into her large purse and, gripping the Colt automatic which resided therein, joined the fray without wasting time taking it out the receptacle.

Bang!-Bang! Bang!-Bang!

Of her four shots fired through the leather cover two hit the man in his lower chest while the others hit the far wall. Kelly, no whit behind her lover in defensive action, had by this time grabbed the Smith and Wesson in her right jacket pocket and proceeded to put in her two cent's worth, hitting the man in his right arm and left leg.

Bang!-Bang!

As the man staggered and collapsed to his knees the guard, feeling as if he still had something to contribute, opened up again hitting the man in his left shoulder and finally the left temple, the assailants head exploding like a three-week old melon.

Bang! Bang!

The mess was tremendous, but not as much so as the following screams of the bystanders, mostly secretaries from the various business's within the building going to their own lunches.

James Deuchter though, it could comprehensively be stated, was now a wholly spent force in the mobster fraternity.

"Well," Stephanie grasping her lover's hand to make sure she was unhurt. "them's the consequences of bringing a knife t'a gunfight!""

—O—

Inspector Brian Devine of the 23th Precinct had seen a great many such consequences of gunfights in his twenty years in the Force, but the gunfight at the Cailley Building ranked high on the list. At the moment, reclining on his chair behind his office desk faced by two angry females of determined mien, he found himself rather lost for words.

"Read the report—like a script for a dam' poor cop thriller!" He attempting to achieve the high ground in the interview via light sarcasm—far and away the wrong attitude if only he had known.

"Listen, buster, we were attacked with menaces an' intent!" Stephanie giving the cold harsh facts. "We defended ourselves, along with the gallant help of the guard. The perp went down bigtime, end of story; when can Kel an' I get our guns back, we got places t'be, business t'transact?"

"Dear-Dear!" Devine trying to keep calm. "There's been murd—I mean, a shooting done, with a consequent victim. It being my duty t'get to the bottom of said felony. Now—"

" Ha! 'tain't a crime, it's a defensive action, clear as icicles." Kelly having none of it. "He tried to re-arrange my face; me, my partner, and the guard re-arranged his whole life for him! That's it. Where's my gun?"

"Listen up, ladies." Devine trying another tack. "Reports have to be made out, interviews conducted, investigations made; this whole thing's gon'na take some time. Settle yourselves down for the long haul, it's gon'na be a long night. What? Who the Hell're you?"

This last enquiry brought on by the appearance in the office doorway of a small inoffensive looking individual in a grey suit, carrying a brown attache-case.

"Hallo, Frederick J. Cheevely, lawyer for Redoubtable Films and Misses Garroch and Humber. I'm on top of the whole situation, I'll take my clients away right now, thanks; any high jinks or resistance on the Department's side and I issue writs and suing claims like snow in December! Can my clients go now, Inspector?"

—O—

A week later life at the Yellow Stork Casino Club was going like wildfire, while above on the third floor Henry Loman was having issues with his Sense of Being.

"They scratched Deuchter! Those two b-tches! They wiped him out like a g-d'd-m defenceless child! My best enforcer! Things is gettin' dam' black in this dam' metropolis! What d'ya hav'ta do round these parts these days t'make an honest buck? Who'd they think they is? Ma Barker an' Bonnie Parker?"

"Gim'me the nod, Harry!" Flats Flanagan sneering grossly, pretty much his normal expression. "I'll catch 'em with their pants down in some dark alley or parkin' lot one night; blast 'em with my sawn-off so's the cops'll need buckets an' mops t'transport the remains t'the mortuary. Jes' gim'me the go-ahead, I'll work it this evenin', for sure."

But Henry was, in his flawed way, a thinker.

"Naw, they'll be well on their guard by now—could turn out nasty for anyone goin' in unprepared. Nah, what we wants is a regular military exercise. A bunch of the boys, a good plan, a site somewhere well out'ta the way, an' enough fire-power to overcome a dam' South American Army. Lem'me think!"

But Loman was not destined to think for long; from the lower regions beneath came the unexpected noise of crowds of innocent casino-clubbers being inconvenienced by that late-night social disturbance generally known as a Police raid. Within moments, before any in the large room could react, the door burst open allowing what seemed a flood of uniformed police to sweep in—at their head a tall solidly built Inspector.

"Hi-ya, boys! Inspector Gargieston's the name, Twenty-third Precinct's the happy home, and you're all under arrest! Stand against the far wall, don't go for no gat's or me an' the boys'll just get angry. Don't talk, not a dam' word; we'll deal with ya all down at the Precinct. Come quietly now!"

"What the flyin' f-ck!"

"You Loman?"

"Yeah, I own—"

"Don't give a sh-t! Sergeant Andrews, here's our boy, take him to the wagon and get on your way—I'll meet ya there."

"OK, sir. OK, buster, come on nicely; ya don't want I should insist now, do ya?"

"But-but-but!"

"Shut the f-ck up, an' start walkin', I got a supper I wan'na get to this evenin' before it gets cold—come on!"

—O—

The room was dark, ill-lit, low-ceilinged with open rafters, above which visible undersides of slate shingles forming the sloping exterior roof were visible, and smelt of fish giving it a piquant atmosphere one would need to get used to over time and repeated visits to truly enjoy. From somewhere in the far offing a faint hint, consisting of various unidentifiable noises and smells, of what must have been the East River echoed eerily in the night air through a partially open but filthy window; accompanied by other echoes of heavy equipment at work in the distance, honking ship's-horns, and unknown clatterings of metallic origin which may have been from wharfside railway trucks and switchers. Loman, having been brought hither in the back of an enclosed police wagon, had no idea of his precise position except now sitting on a single chair in the room which was otherwise featureless down to scratched and stained floorboards. An pale unprotected bulb gave a minimum of illumination while the three police-officers present, engaging in idle tête-à-tête between themselves, nixed every attempt by Loman to strike up a conversation or ask questions.

"Just button the lips and make like a Buddha, mister, we ain't the chatty type!"

It was a full half hour before anything happened to break the monotony; this arriving in the form of Inspector Gargieston, breezing through the door like a cooling breeze in Summer.

"Ha, you're here, good! OK, boys, give us some privacy, me an' Mr Loman here got personal memories t'indulge our fancies over. OK, bozo, so here we is, all alone but for the longshoremen down yonder on the jetties. Great place this, y'know, Harry! Lovely spread of jetties an' wharves, warehouses by the dozen, ships of all sizes, and a beautiful wide deep river fit for all kinds'a treasons stratagems and spoils."

"What the f-ck!" Loman's well-being pretty much hanging by a dangling thread at this moment. "You got any idea who I am? I go to the same Club as the District Attorney, and the dam' Mayor! I got millions and a bloody great villa up Hudson River way. Ya mess with me, you'll feel the heat, buster!"

For answer Gargieston expertly hooked a foot through the leg of the hard-backed wooden chair his interviewee sat on, twisting it with the nonchalance of long experience. Loman landing on the bare floor with a collosal thud as of the mighty fallen, his hands still being handcuffed behind his back not helping in the least.

"Sh-t!" He gasping in shock and some pain. "What for you did that? Where the f-ck is this, anyway? We ain't in no Precinct! What's the game?"

Gargieston laughed heartily, but not in any way humorously.

"Nah, you're not in the Precinct boyo; you're in my Precinct now!"

For the first time Loman began to understand that he was in a less than salubrious position, in several ways.

"What? Where is this? What ya mean t'do? This can't be any way legal. I'll sue for dam' millions."

"Fella's got'ta be alive t'sue folks, buster. What makes you think, by the end of this evening, you'll—?"

It was at this point Loman finally realised he was firmly in the sh-t.

"A g-d'd-m bent cop, by all that's Holy! I get it, how much're those dam' film b-tches payin' ya? I'll double it—in fact, triple it! Come on, think straight, mister, my money's good!"

"Hell no, I'm a unbent cop, laddie." Gargieston eager to put himself in the right context. "A straighter man than you'll ever be, for sure. I've seen used paper-clips straighter than you, ya b-st-rd. No, what we got going on here, in this comfortable little Waldorf-Astoria we finds ourselves presently patronising, is a wholly off the record discussion."

There was a pause, as of a starless night in a vampire's castle in Transylvania, only ship's horns in the distance substituting for the echo of wolves' cries in the surrounding forest.

"What're ya up to?" Loman, a cold sweat now running down his spine, pretty sure he had a good idea all the same.

Before answering Gargieston bent to heave the man into a sitting position again, making remarkably light of the physical effort of hauling Loman to his feet and readjusting the fallen chair.

"Make yourself comfortable, sunshine. I promise not to knock you seven ways t'Coney Island again, unless you provoke me, of course. Just sit quiet and listen to your Uncle telling you the right thing to do, OK?"

"What the—"

"There was once a Prince in Ruritania," Gargieston grinning as he spoke, clearly in his element. "—this's a fairy-tale by the way, Harry, with a nice moral to end it, just so's you got you're bearings here. Where was I? Oh yes, Prince Harry of Lomania; he was a jerk of a Prince, did all those naughty things Princes in fairy-tales ain't supposed to even know exist never mind actually do themselves. You know the sort'a thing—kissing Princesses out'ta season, mulching the poor of every penny they own, scamming business folks in dirty deals, engaging in kidnapping, piracy, highway robbery; all those gentle pursuits black-hearted Princes engage in to while away idle hours, y'know."

"Are ya crazy? What ya mean t'do with—"

"So this Prince Harry," Gargieston, not in the least put-off by his inattentive audience, going forward with his tale undisturbed. "he final went that one step too far—you know the sort'a thing, substituting watered down for real milk for the orphans; putting sawdust in the oats bags to make it go further for the poor; making candles out'ta inferior wax and charging top prices for same: just the usual idle hobbies of the rich unscrupulous Man about Town."

"Fer Chr-st's sake—!"

Loman was forced to this last exclamation by the fact that, while speaking, Gargieston had suddenly produced a huge automatic which he now proceeded to examine closely, as if expecting to use same in the near future.

"What? Oh, this! Just a toy, Harry, just a toy. Where was I again? Oh yeah:—so like I said this Prince Harry of Lomania finally went that step too far in his everyday exercise of his base sadistic and corrupt appetites—no, don't interrupt, I'm on a roll here. What he did, ya see, was to scam a couple of nearby innocent Princesses for bagfuls of greenbacks he wasn't legally entitled to. Now, that's illegal, as ya well know, Harry—even in Fairytale land. Even there there's Rules, Regulations, Laws, that stop that kind'a thing. So what happens, you ask, bein' as you are, a man of intellect an' high breedin'?"

"Listen Inspector, I don't know what the hell—!"

"What happened," Gargieston carrying-on regardless, like a vaudville comic overcoming the whines and catcalls from an unappreciative audience on a bad night. "was that said Princesses, having friends—nice friends—and the balls to take action when required, took what in these fairytales is usually described as consign revenge. You've, of course, heard it all before: throwing the robbers into boiling vats of oil, subjecting them to the Death of a Thousand Cuts, tickling their bare feet with peacocks' feathers till they die laughing in agony! All the regulation methods of ending an unsuccessful relationship, you know!"

"Listen, Inspector—Gargieston, is it? I got dam' millions—millions, greenbacks ya can bathe in in a Olympic-size swimming-pool, fer God's sake! Just name your price's all! Name your price; I got it, for sure! By this time t'morrow you can be a millionaire. What ya say? Let's just make bygones be bygones, eh?"

But the representative of the Law in Manhattan, NY, seemed oblivious to anything his prisoner said, continuing as if deaf to all around him.

"So what was the outcome, you ask? A pertinent question, in more ways than one, I assure you!" Gargieston grinning almost evilly himself now. "No-no, listen, I'm coming to the really entertaining part! What the Princesses had their friendly helpers do—they not wanting to soil their own innocent hands with the blood of such a whiny dipsh-t—was to engage a man of competence and authority to take this reprobate, this disgusting example of Human degeneracy, have him mercilessly killed in a highly comprehensive and dam' slow manner after which the still quivering remains were quietly dumped in the river—the East River's just a gentle stroll away, Harry; listen, there's the horn of a tug sounding as we speak! Where was I? Ah yes, so, dead agonisingly, and it can be done, don't have two minds about that, Harry: then cast quietly into the River with all appropriate weights. Why, no-one'd ever know; not the why, nor the how, certainly not the where! The moral? Oh, that's easy, the two Princesses lived happily ever after; get the angle this tale's going in, laddie? Ah, thought ya would."

—O—

The next morning saw a quiet conference taking place in boardroom A in the offices of Redoubtable Films on West 54th Street, present Stephanie, Kelly and a large well-built actor by the name of Larry Nugent.

"How'd it go, Larry?" Stephanie starting proceedings with the most pertinent question.

"Like a dream, ma'am." Larry grinning from ear to ear. "Wonderful what the Props Department and Dress Department of a good Film Studio can come up with at short notice. They, the Casino customers and the thugs, took us all for the bona fide Force without so much as a whimper. We were in and out'ta there like a tonic through someone's dicky gut!"

"So they all took you for this mythical Inspector Gargieston, then?" Kelly smiling like a schoolgirl at a pantomime.

"Sure did, one and all." Nugent nodding happily. "Wonderful what a uniform, toy guns, and a confident attitude'll pull off! So, like planned, we pushed and pulled the downstairs customers around a while then let 'em go with a bloodthirsty warning that if they ever came back we'd bring the Chicago typewriters next time, and use 'em. As for the hoodlums upstairs, faced with an army of extras imitating real cops, these armed with real guns of course, they gave up like the cowards they all are. We shipped Loman, quick as jiminy, out to Studio B down in Queens, dumped him on the prepared set there, played the recorded soundtrack in the dark shadows, had the lighting and scented air condition system working overtime and the whole thing looked, felt and played out just like a real shed on the real riverside. Loman was sh-ttin' his pants in the end, even if I say so myself; took every word I said for Gospel!"

"I like it!" Kelly in her element. "Pity I wasn't there, would've loved it!"

Stephanie shook her head at the unhampered delight shown by her loved partner.

"What happened in the end?"

Nugent laughed outright.

"I gently explained that if he, Loman, ever tried to pressure Redoubtable Films or any of its emplyees for as much as a bent lead nickel in future, the result for him personally would be instant extinguishment in the East River, without time to say goodbye to those he loves or who love him, mighty few I fancy! He was so taken with my earlier little spiel he was falling over himself by now to make me a happy Police Inspector at all costs. Offered me the spoils of the East, and gold beyond compute, as well as the jewels of the Nile and King Solomon's Mines combined, if only I wouldn't do what I was threatening to do."

"I like it!" Stephanie nodding happily herself. "Sounds like you really got through to the pissy little sh-t?"

"He really promise to let us alone?" Kelly covering the point that mattered.

"Oh yes, no doubts there." Nugent agreeing with a broad grin. "Wouldn't be surprised if, even leaving you two alone for the rest of his miserable life, he doesn't decide to relocate to somewhere more salubrious to his ongoing chances of staying alive and out'ta danger from retribution from annoyed former female clients—France or Italy, maybe! I really having put the fear of God into him, y'know. No, he won't be annoying you again, for sure."

"I call that a result, lover."

"You figure right, baby." Stephanie agreeing with her partner. "Larry, that cop thriller we're working on, figure we've found the main actor—want the part?"

"That's sure mighty fine of you; sure you've got the right man?"

"We've got the right man OK, Larry," Kelly grinning widely. "and take it from Stevie and I we don't say that often!"

The End

—O—

The next 'Redoubtable Films' story will be along shortly.

—OOO—