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literature / travelWhen Somalis appear in western media it is often as victims or perpetrators. “It is to be expected. They come from a country in anarchy”, we’re told. Yet, even among the ruins of Somalia, books are being read and written, and problems are being discussed in fictional form.  Ali Jimale Ahmed is a professor of comparative African literature, and he draws a nuanced picture of the cultural life of his native country. Somalia has long been considered a failed state, but are there still significant authors who write about daily life in the country? Professor Ahmed: By all accounts Somalia is a failed state–governmental structures and the ideologies that sustained them have collapsed. But that does not mean that a semblance of pseudo-state organizations are absent. The international community–the U.N., the EU, the AU, and a host of other organizations are in the country to shore up the internationally recognized government. That said, when we speak about Somali writing and writers, it is much better to differentiate between two forms of discourses, namely, discourses of the state and discourses of the nation. Seen from that perspective, there are significant authors who write about daily life–the trials and tribulations, as well as the accomplishments of people trying to eke out a living under difficult circumstances–in all parts of Somalia. These writers publish articles and books inside the country. One need only read the many books published in the “country.” What sort of education do the normal citizen of Somalia get these days? Professor Ahmed: Education is one of the sectors severally impacted by the collapse of the state. There is no uniform or harmonized curriculum. The various state entities do not have a coherent educational policy in place. Private institutions and civil society groups run the educational sector. Depending on their affiliation or from where they get their financial or moral/intellectual support from these institutions replicate the kind of curriculum found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, and the UK, and so on. That said, graduates from those schools and universities are found to be well prepared to undertake undergraduate and graduate studies in European and North American universities.  Some such students are now studying at Princeton, for example. Like many African countries Somalia has a proud and ancient history, to what extent do Somali today writers revive this tradition of stories in their work? Professor Ahmed: This is one of the reasons that Somali society has still a viable and resilient culture. Since the collapse of the state, there has been a concerted effort on the part of intellectuals to publish on Somali history and literature. There are Somali websites like Hoyga Suugaanta and Laashin that specialize in literature, and Somali presses, such as Scansom, Laashin and Iftiinka Aqoonta in Sweden, Looh press in England, Redsea-online publishing Group in Italy/UK/Somaliland, that publish the findings and collections of both aspiring and established authors. Literature, in all its forms, is held in high esteem. Indeed, the etymology of suugaan, Somali word for literature, means the sap or fluid of certain plants like the geesariyood. These plants are evergreen, and are associated with life and the sustaining of life under precarious situations or conditions. When all else is gone as a result of a drought, for example, the sap from this plant will sustain a modicum of existence, of life. Thus for the Somali, literature is sustenance that nourishes both the body and mind. When we hear news from Somalia, they often involve Al Shabab and Islamic extremism. What sort of attitude do the major Somali writers take to religion? Professor Ahmed: With the exception of Nuruddin Farah, whose novels have internationalized the Somali case, other major writers rarely discuss religious issues in their fiction. In Maps and Secrets, for example, Farah is at times critical of what he perceives to be excesses and transgressions by those who claim to be religious. In his Past Imperfect Trilogy (2004-2011), In Links, the narrative limns the contours of the post-Siad Barre Somalia–warlords, U.s. intervention, the successes of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), and the eventual arrival on the scene by the better equipped Ethiopian soldiers that denied the ICU what seemed to be a total victory against the warlords. In Crossbones, farah’s narrative reveals a misreading of Somali pirates who were perceived to be Al Shabab members or surrogates. The diaspora is central to the Somali experience, and thus also the racism and prejudices that its citizens face abroad. Are there novels in the Somali language which tell the story of refugees? A recent novel that touches on this topic is Ismaaciil C. Ubax’s Gaax (“Deferment or Postponement”), . It is a novel that describes or trails the lives of three main characters who, even though they live in different climes and times, share certain uncanny characteristics. Equally important are books written for Somali children who are born in the Diaspora. Musa M. Isse’s bilingual tales written in Somali and Swedish help kids born in the Diaspora to develop strong identities. Isse is also the Editor-in-Chief of the first Somali Children’s Magazine in the Europe. The subject of racism is discussed in Igiaba Scego’s Italian-language short stories, and Yasmeen Mohamed’s novel Nomad Diaries, written in English. The topic is also taken up in the novels of two seasoned and award-winning novelists in the Diaspora: Nadifa Mohamed who writes in English and Abdourahman Waberi who writes in French. Somali is a non-european language. Do writers leave their native tongue in favor of English, French or some other European language? To what extent is the Somali language under threat? Professor Ahmed: Somali writers who write in European languages are small compared to those who write in Somali. I do not perceive any threat per se. Rather, the absence of a strong state to nurture and promote the language is perhaps more of a threat to the flourishing of Somali language. Are there big differences between the literary schools of Europe and Somali literature? Is there a Somali modernist school, for instance? Will the intellectual thoughts of urban Europe even make sense in a Somali context? Professor Ahmed: We live in a globalizing/globalized world. The kind of Somalis who could read novels in Somali are, more often than not, the ones who are able to traverse borders. The hundreds of thousands of Somalis who live in Europe travel constantly between Somalia and Europe. That said, we must distinguish between modernization (the process) and modernity (the consciousness). Some parts of Somalia have experienced peace for some time. What sort of literature have been produced in these areas? Professor Ahmed: There are several writers who have written books on their experiences (or those of others) as refugees. But a great deal of literature is coming out of the parts of Somalia that have experienced peace. One need only catalog the plethora of novels published in the country and exhibited at the Hargeysa International Book Fair in Somaliland. The last few years have witnessed the growth of Book Fairs in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and Garoowe in Puntland. We hear a lot about “the great American novel”. Is there such a thing as “the great Somali novel”? Is there a book or a novel that all Somalis love? Professor Ahmed: The novel has not been fully domesticated in Somalia. Of course, the novel genre is such that it is in its protean form; it has yet to crystallize and assume a definite form. That said, two novels would contend or vie for the distinction. Maxamed Daahir Afrax’s (Mohamed Dahir Afrah) Maana Faay (1981;1993) ushers in a new form of storytelling, as it exhibits ingenious and conscious ways of using language to reflect the quotidian life of its characters. With Maana Faay the novel genre in the Somali language comes of age, both in terms of content and structure. The other novel is Yuusuf Axmed Ibraahin-Hawd’s Aanadii Negeeye, a riveting story that recounts the gory details of murder and revenge. The narrative unfolds as the eponymous protagonist, Negeeye, whose father was murdered shortly after Negeeye’s birth, remembers his mother’s account of the brutal killing of his father. Negeeye, then, plots to avenge his father’s death. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyLamin Bajinka is a very fortunate man, a history teacher in a country where the unemployment rate is sky high. Yet, his days are far from care free, and often he too dreams about a comfortable life in Europe or America. Originally from the rural part of the Gambia, he lives in an urban area during the academic year, and moves back with his extended family on a farm during holidays. There he ploughs the fields by hand and tries to assist his relatives. «We grow delicious watermelons», he boasts. A devout muslim, he often prays and finds comfort in simple things. In his spare time, he trains the local soccer team, and it is not without pride that he talks about their many achievements on the pitch. Tell us a little about your background. Why did you decide to study history? Lamin Bajinka: I began my education in a small village called Kiti. Then I went to the Gambia college campus in Brikama, which is five kilometres from my native land. Brikama has about 90 000 inhabitants. I sometimes live in a town called Brufut, on the Gambian coast, with my mum. My grandfather inspired my interest in studying history. During my youth he narrated vivid stories to me, which inspired to know the history of this land and her people. How many students do you have, how old are they and what do you teach them? Lamin Bajinka: I teach classes of 35 to 40 students and we have 4 history classes in the school. The age of my students differ. They are between 15 and 20, but there is nobody older than 20. In the Gambia, the history syllabus is divided into two: National History and West Africa and the Wider World. We try to read more about our own country and West Africa. What about your pay as a teacher, is it sufficient for a decent life? Lamin Bajinka: No, my wages are not enough for decent life because I can’t even buy a bicycle or construct my own house. And tuition, is it free for all Gambians? Lamin Bajinka: Yes, today basic education is free for all Gambians. Girls were the first to get free tuition, in order to empower and encourage female education in the country. What sort of methods do you apply in your classroom? Lectures? Group work? Lamin Bajinka: I normally I put the child at the center of the class and allow them to express their own understanding of the subject or topics. Then we have group work while I guide them. What are the greatest difficulties that a Gambian student faces in school?  Lamin Bajinka: Many have difficulties with the distance they travel to attend  school. Not every village or community is blessed with a school. So, as a result, some students travel far  in order to get a better education. Once a student graduates, what are their chances of attending university? Lamin Bajinka: The chances are very slim due to the student’s financial circumstances. I am a good example of this, I haven’t finished my university degree. Yes, there are scholarships, but it is not sufficient for the number of people who want to have a university education. Do you think there is adequate focus on Gambian and west African history in the media? Lamin Bajinka: There is not enough focus on west African history, particularly Gambian history. European countries don’t focus much on our history in their media, do they? If you were to teach Gambian history to a European class for a day, what events and topics would you focus on? Lamin Bajinka: I will focus on the ethnic groups of Gambia, that is the people of the country, their social and political structure, and our economy. Then you can see how we live. If you were to recommend a book on Gambian history, what would it be? Lamin Bajinka: If I am to recommend a history book for my region, it will be any history of the ethnic groups of the Gambia that you can find. Our diversity is so important. What are your dreams for the future? Lamin Bajinka: I pray to become a successful business man.   The Gambia:  There are 8 main ethnic groups in the Gambia: Mandinka, Wolofs, Akus, Jola, Fulanis, Serahule, Serer and Tukulor all living in relative peace. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureFreedom means freedom of choice. A man exercises his freedom when, confronted by two or more possible alternatives, he realizes one and excludes the rest. Free choices are definite choices. Liberal theologians were foolish to get excited over Heisenberg’s Principle. Vagueness of behaviour may be good enough for electrons, it is not good enough for free men. Choices are of three kinds: • choices of action. A thirsty man in a desert is unfree, not because he cannot satisfy his craving for water, but because he cannot choose between drinking and not drinking. • choices of value judgement; good or evil, true or false, beautiful or ugly, absolute or relative, required or forbidden. A man who has seen only one picture is unfree to decide whether it is beautiful or ugly. A man in a passion of anger or fear is unfree because he is no longer conscious of any alternative state and so cannot judge his anger or his fear. • choices of authority: this God or man or organization is to be believed or obeyed, that is not. Here again, if there is no consciousness or possible alternatives, there is no freedom. The cravings of man’s spirit are totally unlike the appetites of his nature, such as hunger and sex. There are two of them: to be free from conditions and to be important. These can and often do conflict, for the former senses anything that is “given” whether by his own nature or by the world about him as a limitation on his freedom and longs to act gratuitously, yet it is precisely and only from the “given” that he can derive a sense of importance. Absolute arbitrariness would at the same time be absolute triviality Art as playOne of man’s attempts to satisfy both is the criminal acte gratuit, the breaking of a given law for the sake of breaking it, where the law supplies the importance, and the act of breaking it asserts the freedom. Another is play where the laws governing the game are kept by the player because they are chosen by him. At bottom, all art, all pure science, all creativity is play in this sense. The question What is Art? and the question Why does the artist create? are different questions. It seems to me that the basic impulse behind creativity of any kind is the desire to do something that is quite necessary: the desire that the result should turn out to be important comes second. The rules of a game give it importance to the player by making it difficult to play, a test and proof of an inborn gift or an acquired skill. Given that a game is morally permissible, then whether or not one should play it depends simply on whether or not it gives one pleasure, i.e., whether or not one is good at playing it. If one asks a great surgeon why he operates, if he is honest, he will not answer: “Because it is my duty to save lives” but “Because I love operating”. He may perfectly well hate his neighbour and nevertheless save his life because of the pleasure it gives him to exercise his skill. One must say therefore that, in the profoundest sense, art and science are frivolous activities for they depend on the chance possession of special talents. The only serious matter is concerned with what every human being has alike, a will, namely that one shall love one’s neighbour as oneself. Here one cannot speak of a talent for love, nor in terms of pleasure and pain. If one asks the good Samaritan why he rescues the man fallen among thieves, he cannot answer, except as an ironical joke, “Because I like doing good” since pleasure or pain are irrelevant and the point is obeying the command: “Thou shalt love”. A common loveThere are three kinds of human groups. • Crowds, i.e., two or more individuals whose sole common characteristic is togetherness, e.g., four strangers in a railway carriage. • Societies, i.e., two or more individuals united for the purpose of carrying out an action which requires them all, e.g., a string quartet. • Communities, i.e., two or more individuals united by a common love for something other than themselves, e.g., a room full of music lovers. Societies have a definite size and a definite structure and the character of the whole is different from the simple sum of the characters of the parts. Consequently the will of the individual member is subordinate to the general will of the society, however that is established. Someone in the string quartet must have the authority to decide whether it is to play Mozart or Beethoven and the rest must obey whether they agree with the choice or not. A society may at the same time be a community but not necessarily. It is quite possible that the cellist of our quartet hates music and only plays to earn his living. A society is a free society as long as the member who exercises authority does so with the free consent of the other members. Societies function best when they are free, but in certain cases coercion can, and indeed must, be applied to compel a recalcitrant member to contribute his partial function, the moral justification depending on two factors: • the importance of the function the society discharges • the degree to which the recalcitrant member can or cannot be replaced by another more willing individual. Communities, like crowds, have no definite size. It is impossible therefore to speak of the “general will” of a community since the individuals who belong to it cannot disagree; they are a community precisely because as individuals they all love the same thing (unlike members of crowds who have no love in common). In Time Magazine, of June 23, Mr Vladimir Koretsky was reported as having said at the United Nations Conference on Human Rights: “Man should have no rights that place him in opposition to the community. Man opposed to the community is nothing”. If the translation is correct, Mr Koretsky was talking nonsense. An individual can be in opposition to a society, e.g., if the cellist plays out of tune, but if the rest of the quartet love the music of Mozart and he detests it, this simply means that there are two communities, a community of Mozart lovers and a potential community of Mozart haters, for a community can begin with a single individual, while a society cannot exist until all its members are present and correctly related. There are two kinds of communities: closed or unfree, and open or free. The members of a closed community have a common love but they have not chosen it for they are unaware of any other love which they could prefer to, or reject for, the love they have. The members of an open community have consciously chosen their love out of two or more possible loves. Art as looking glassIf I understand either the myth of Orpheus or Aristotle’s doctrine of catharsis correctly, the Greeks held what is, to me, a false theory of art which has plagued the world ever since, namely, that art is a magic device for arousing desirable emotions and expelling undesirable emotions, and so leading to right action. If this were so, then I think Plato’s censures of art in The Republic and Tolstoy’s in What is Art? are unanswerable. For me the correct definition is Shakespeare’s holding the mirror up to nature, i.e., art does not change my feelings but makes me conscious of what I have in fact felt or what I might feel, and of actual or possible relations between my feelings. The world of art is a looking-glass world, i.e., a possible image of the actual world where emotions are observed, divorced from their origin in immediate passion. It is the business of the artist to make a mirror which distorts the world as little as possible and reflects as much of the world as possible. Bad art distorts; minor art reflects only a small or trivial corner of the world. Art does not judgeArt has two values: firstly it gives pleasure, the pleasure of idle curiosity; secondly, it enlarges the field of freedom. If man had no imagination, he could not make a choice between two possible courses of action without taking both, or make a value judgement about a feeling of his until he had felt the opposite. Art does not and cannot influence the choice or judgement man actually makes, it only makes it more of a conscious choice. Reading Macbeth, for instance, cannot prevent a man from becoming a murderer, but the man who has read Macbeth knows more about what becoming a murderer would be like than the man who hasn’t, so that, if he chooses to become one, he is more responsible. Art, in other words, is never a means for converting a bad community into a good one, it is one of the great means by which closed communities are turned into open communities. Art can do harm in two ways. Firstly by failing to be good art and giving the wrong kind of pleasure thereby. If the reflection of the world which it offers is distorted, if it flatters the spectator by omitting the possibilities of evil or draws him to despair by denying the possibilities of good (which, surprisingly enough, can also give pleasure), then it injures him. Secondly and more seriously, because the better the art the greater the danger, it may ensnare the spectator in the luxurious paralysis of self-contemplation so that, like Hamlet, he fails to choose at all. The danger of great art is narcissism. Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it was beautiful but because it is his own in all its endless possibilities. One can tell the myth in another way: Narcissus was a hydrocephalous idiot; catching sight of himself in the pool, he cried: “On me it looks good”. Or again: Narcissus was neither beautiful nor ugly but as commonplace as a Thurber husband*; catching sight of himself in the pool, he said: “Excuse me, but haven’t we met before some place?” Art can encourage the formation of two kinds of bad communities, the community of those with false pictures of themselves, and the parody of a free community in which the knowledge of good and evil is turned against the will, till it becomes too weak to choose either. Every work of art is the focus of the potential community of those individuals who love it or could love it. Such a community is free if the artist could have created something else but chose to create this work, and vice versa, the spectators or readers could have chosen to look at or read another work but chose to look at or read this. If the artist creates a work which no one but he appreciates or a spectator cannot find any work which he likes, there is no lack of freedom, but simply no community. Freedom can be curtailed in two ways; the artist may be forced to alter his work so that the character of the community is other than it would have been if he were left alone; or people may be prevented from becoming acquainted with his work so that the community is smaller than it might have been. CensorshipCensorship can be of two kinds, an unplanned economic censorship where the artist cannot afford to create as he wishes or the public cannot afford to become acquainted with his work, and the planned censorship of authority. Economically the freedom of art is best attained if there is as great a variety of publishers, booksellers, libraries, galleries, etc. as possible and if some, but not all, of these are large-scale organizations. If there are too new agencies, above all, if there is a state monopoly, the variety of works distributed invariably declines even if there is no deliberate censorship. If all are on a small scale, costs are too high for some of the potential public. The obstacle on which liberalism has so often come to grief is the fact that we find it easier to respect the freedom of those to whom we are indifferent than the freedom of those we love. A parent or a government who believes something to be good or true knows well enough that it is possible for their children or their people to choose what, to them, is evil or false, and that, if the wrong choice is made, those they love will suffer and they themselves will suffer with them; further, they and those they love will no longer belong to the same community. However, to love one’s neighbour as oneself means precisely to be willing to let him make his own mistakes and suffer with him when he suffers for them, for no man can himself consciously wish not to be responsible for his thoughts and actions, at whatever cost. Every man knows for himself that right and duty are not identical, that he has a duty to choose the good, but a right to choose the evil, that, as Kafka says: “A man lies as little as he can when he lies as little as he can, not when he is given the smallest possible opportunity to lie”. Authorities who are more concerned that their charges should do the right thing than that they should choose it are always tempted to look for a short cut. In the short run, a man in a passion acts quicker and more effectively than a man who has reached the reflective stage of desire. Usually therefore, authorities would like the artist to arouse in others a passion for the good instead of making them conscious of good and evil; they would turn him, if they could, into Plato’s Noble Liar. Art has hardly ever been censored for aesthetic reasons because artists have rarely been in authority, which is perhaps just as well. In my own daydream state, for example, people caught reading Shelley or listening to Brahms are sentenced to the salt mines, and the possession of a juke-box is a capital offence. The usual reasons for censorship are two: either that the work is immoral, i.e., will incite the public to act immorally or illegally so that society ceases to function properly; or that it is heretical, i.e., will induce the public to adopt other values than those held by the authorities, causing them to desert the latter’s community for a new one. Censorship always implies two things: that there is a potential public for the work and that its members are incapable of making a responsible choice. It is therefore only permissible under two conditions: for minors who are legally presumed to be as yet incapable of responsible choice; and for adults who have chosen their censor and are free to disregard him if they cease to believe in his authority. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, does not violate the freedom of its members by putting books on the index, because no one is obliged to be a Roman Catholic and to choose to be one necessarily implies believing in the authority of the Church to decide what the faithful may read. No State has such a right because one becomes a member of a political society by being born, an act of chance, not a choice. Revolutions and human freedomEach major revolution in history is concerned with some particular aspect of human freedom, and has its representative human type. Each establishes its kind of freedom once and for all. The success of each is threatened by its own false claim to be the revolution, i.e., that the aspect of freedom with which it is concerned is the only freedom that matters. Since the particular aspect with which any revolution is concerned is one conspicuously ignored by the revolution before it, it is apt in its just criticism of the latter’s failing to be hostile to the freedom for which it fought. Nevertheless the fates of all revolutions are bound up with each other; they stand or fall together: if the preceding revolution had not won its battle, its successor could not be fighting its own. In any revolution, therefore, the gains of the revolutions before it have to be defended if the present revolution is to succeed. The Papal Revolution of the eleventh and the twelfth centuries established the freedom of an individual to choose between loyalties, his right to leave one community and join another, his right to belong to two communities at the same time. Its typical figures are the contemplative international priest and the activist local soldier. The revolution of the Reformation in the sixteenth century established the freedom of the individual to choose his career, his right to leave the society to which his father belonged and join another. Its typical figure is the professional man. The French and Industrial Revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries established the freedom of the individual man of talent to develop himself freely and compete for public attention, the right of the individual mind to change the community or lead a society if he can. The typical figure is Figaro. L’esprit seul peut tout changer.  De vingt rois que l’on encense  Le trépas brise l’autel  Et Voltaire est immortel.   (Only wit can make a difference.  Out of twenty kings who wear a crown  Death breaks the altar,  But Voltaire is immortal.)   One of the world crowdOur revolution of the twentieth century is trying to establish the freedom of the individual body to determine its satisfactions, to grow and be healthy. Its typical figure is the anonymous naked man with a dog-tag number, not yet a member of any society or any community, but simply one of the world crowd. Hence the preoccupation of our time with medicine and economics, its activism, its hostility to the achievement of the French Revolution, freedom of speech and thought, which it sees as a threat to unanimous action. At the physical level all are really equal in their needs and individual differences of temperament or talent are irrelevant. In our revolution, therefore, focused on winning freedom from physical want**, all the freedoms gained by preceding revolutions are threatened as never before. The French Revolution is denied wherever there is a controlled press and a censorship of art and science; the Reformation is denied wherever a state dictates what career an individual citizen shall follow; the Papal Revolution is denied wherever a monolithic state claims unconditional authority. The talented individual today is being punished for the airs he gave himself in the past two centuries. Poets are not the unacknowledged legislators of the world and never were and it is a good thing that they should be made to realize this. Those who preached a doctrine of Art for Art’s sake or Art as a luxury were much nearer the truth, but they should not then have regarded the comparative frivolity of their vocation as a proof of their spiritual superiority to the useful untalented worker. In actual fact, the modern censor and the romantic artist are alike in thinking art more important than it is. What role for the poet?“Once he looked rosy, now he looks blue. / Nurse is wondering What shall I do?” sings the poet in the sick room. If patient or nurse were to say to him “For God’s sake, stop humming and fetch some hot water and bandages” it would be one thing. But neither says this. The nurse says: “Tell the patient I am the only one who can cure him and I will give you a passport, extra ration cards, and free tickets to the opera. If you tell him anything else, I shall call the police”. And the poor delirious patient cries: “Persuade me that I am looking and feeling fine and I will give you a duplex apartment and a beautiful mistress. If you can’t do that, I shan’t listen to you”. Perhaps the poet, if he really loved the patient and the nurse as himself, would be silent and fetch the hot water, but as long as he continues singing, there is one commandment which his song must obey, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”.   Published in The Unesco Courier under a Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC-BY-SA 3.0 IGO licence. This text was Auden’s response to UNESCO’s 1947 survey on the philosophical foundations of human rights. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literature“Real Life”, by Lewis Shiner It’s dinner time, but I can’t get my wife’s attention. She’s killing Ants. Not little black ones out in the garden, but six-foot high Ants with space ships and photon torpedoes. So I pop a cup of alphabet soup in the micro and sit down with the evening paper. Here’s President Quayle on the front page, shaking hands with John F. Kennedy. What? Dinner’s ready. I pour it into a bowl and the letters spin queasily. They’re forming words. The words say, EAT ULTRAVIOLET DEATH, TERRAN SCUM. Days like this, you wonder what the hell ever happened to reality. My wife has her answer. For her it’s a glove studded with wires and sensors and a helmet with built-in goggles and headphones. For the Associated Press it’s digitized wire photos that they can change with a stroke of the light-pen. But that still doesn’t explain what’s going on in my soup. Life here in the nineties is weird and getting weirder. Me, I like to seek solace in literature. Back in the eighties I used to be into William S. Burroughs. Wasn’t everybody? I mean, the guy was practically a pop star, with everybody from the Soft Machine to Steely Dan to Thin White Rope ripping their names off from his books. It was hip to be paranoid, random, ironic, perverse. To be literate and still get to toy with all that slightly tacky genre stuff–private eyes, heavy-metal addict aliens, pornographic sex. Not just hip, it was downright postmodern. Burroughs’ vision started losing it when Bush went to war on drugs. It was no longer cool to enjoy being stoned or even to talk about it–especially if you wanted to keep your job. Reality was turning into serious business, government business, multinational business. Do not try this at home. Then technology got away from the guys with pocket protectors and suddenly there was Computer Aided Design and digital audio and hand-held video-games. Reality changed. In fact reality was getting harder to pin down every day. If the eighties were William S. Burroughs, then the nineties are Philip K. Dick. You remember Phil Dick. He’s the guy they took Blade Runner and Total Recall from. Now all of sudden everybody is asking the same questions that Dick started asking back in the fifties, and kept on asking right up until he died. How do you tell robots from human beings? How do you know that’s really your memory, and not some construct that’s been planted in your head? Are we fighting a real war, or are we being manipulated by politicians and corporations to keep spending money–money that is itself just electromagnetic data? Only Dick was no William S. Burroughs-style rock star. He was overweight and dipped snuff and cruised mental wards for dates. Where Burroughs was a literary darling, Dick was stuck in the SF trash/pulp ghetto and never got out. He mixed up high and low culture, like Burroughs did, everything from Heraclitus to pulp sf to the Holy Bible, but for Dick there was no irony involved. If there was such a thing as the “information virus” that Burroughs talked about, Dick believed it was benign. He wanted answers for the weird shit in his life and he didn’t care where he got them. Now everybody’s life is a little like that. There’s information everywhere and “high” and “low” doesn’t mean much anymore. The science fiction stuff from Dick’s books is now physically out there. And there’s more weird shit than most of us can handle. Those moments when the whole facade starts to break down and the word “reality” no longer means anything at all. Like that nasty moment when the helmet comes off and the “virtual” reality just goes away. Okay, okay, we all know what reality really is. Reality is smog alerts, crowded freeways, famine in Africa, AIDS and drug wars and the homeless. Ozone holes and global warming and disappearing rain forests. But who wants to live in a world like that? When we can have infinite mental playgrounds that range from the geometries of Tron to the virgin planets and blazing space of Star Wars? After all, if we didn’t believe in the power of illusion, why would we have elected Reagan and Bush and now Quayle? In books like Time Out Of Joint and The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, Phil Dick told us, over and over, that Things Are Not What They Seem. He said that the measure of humanity is kindness–caritas–not the ability to look good on TV. He said that no matter how much you believe you’re in sunny Southern California, sooner or later you’re going to wake up to a lipstick scrawl on the bathroom mirror that says we’re all wasting away in an underground hovel on Mars. It’s the same feeling you get when your air-conditioned, cellular-phone and CD-stereo equipped town car breaks down and you have to climb out into the heat of the ghetto. There’s another world out there, and it’s just dying to meet you face to face. It’s the feeling you get when the power goes out in the middle of the Cosby Show. When that wino wanders into your restaurant and ruins your New American Cuisine. When a computer virus takes you down right in the middle of your spreadsheet. When you’ve been talking to a salesman on the telephone for two minutes before you realize it’s a computerized recording, or, here in the nineties, a full-fledged expert system that can bother a thousand people at once. And in the time in between, when life seems to glide happily along, you may find yourself asking more and more questions. Is it live, or is it maybe Memorex after all? Is that Schwarzenegger blowing up pretend villains or is that news footage from El Salvador? Is Coke, in fact, the Real Thing? And what is that in my soup? The text above was retrieved from Shiner’s own website, where it was published under a creative commons license. Below you can read Robert Crumb’s comic book about Philip K. Dick from > Like this:Like Loading... 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creative writing / literatureMaking it as a script writer in Hollywood is not easy. There is a whole support industry for creating stories, classes on almost every corner in Tinseltown. One of the more dedicated teachers of the craft is professor Ken Dancyger of New York University. We spoke to him about his work as a teacher of writing, and about the realities of the business. When did this notion of a “script guru” become common? What sets such a person apart from, let’s say, a professor of literature? Professor Dancyger: The “script guru ” for me started with Syd Field. I remember going to see him in Toronto along with 400 others and being outraged by his ideas about scripts. He made me define where I stand on the vital issues about how to write a strong script. At that point I myself had written, alone or with partners, 10 scripts. The first secured me a Hollywood agent, the second sold to Canadian television. I seemed on my way. A script guru is very different from a Professor of Literature. A Professor of Literature is well-read and has an area of interest. He or she may or may not be a novelist. Script guru is much closer to the popular arts i.e. the media. Certainly the guru may borrow ideas from literary critics such as Northrop Frye but his or her knowledge base is strongly rooted in the hundred plus history of Film. The earliest writers about script were often playwrights and so ideas about plays, their structure, was much more likely to influence Script gurus than Academic Professors of Literature. They must get their ideas from somewhere? Do you read a lot of academic literature, and then translate this into practical advice? Or have you done the empirical work yourself? Professor Dancyger: I read a lot of history as well as literature and see many plays and of course I see every film I can, always with an eye to what makes the work compelling. The scripts I’ve written, the writers I’ve worked with, the classes I’ve taught are all laboratories where I define and refine my ideas about storytelling and what constitutes a strong screenplay. If you were to give a little praise to one of your colleagues or competitors, who would that be, and why? Professor Dancyger: I like David Howard from USC and Judith Weston who teaches acting for Film and Television. David is very good on character-driven stories and Judith is excellent on character arcs and their importance. Both have written strong books. The late Syd Field was famous for his 3 act-theory. Robert McKee also presents a lot of rules about what constitutes a good script. What is your main dictum on how movie scripts should be constructed? Professor Dancyger: My approach is as follows: In a feature length screenplay a character changes. What is the issue (crisis) when we meet the main character? How does the character change by the resolution or end of the screenplay? Who/what changes him (relationships and plot)? Next what will the dramatic arc (plot) be? Every genre has a different dramatic arc. What genre is your story? Genre is pliable in terms of how it is used. What tone will you use? (light, realistic,dark). Will you alter any genre expectations? (How you begin or end, the nature of relationships). Screenplay that succeed often surprise is in our expectations. Will your screenplay defy our expectations? Can you really create a norm for what a good script is? If you look at prose, some writers excel on plot construction, like Agatha Christie, others on their poetic qualities? Wouldn’t the same thing be true for a movie script? Professor Dancyger: There is a norm for expectations of what a script will be. This is based on how particular story forms have been used over time. Writers differ, some are strong on plot, others on character, yet others on dialogue. Robert Towne is very good on dialogue, David Rayfiel is very good at story construction, Francis Coppola is very good at tone. Each is unusually gifted in their area but few writers are good at every thing. What is the best way of breaking into the hollywood script business? Do you just email your script to someone? Or do you need to know a lot of people in order to make it? Professor Dancyger:  Working in the business at all levels is the way into a career. Schools help as you can make a good short film that will get you attention. At that point the door may well open for you. Have a well written feature film script written. That too will help. At the moment CONTENT is king in Film and Television. The opportunities are abundant. It remains tough but this is a good time for writers. I have seen European writers and directors go from a nominated foreign film to a Hollywood opportunity. This is the competition students who graduate from Film Schools face. When your script has been bought, it may be reworked by someone else, might it not? So the end result doesn’t really have to look anything like you originally intended? Isn’t this frustrating? Professor Dancyger: The realities of the industry is that many voices will impact your script, in both Film and Television. It might be frustrating but my advice is get over it. Its the way of this world.. When I was a student, my professor told me a story about the Irish Nobel laureate, Samuel Beckett, and how he was rejected many times, only to become famous as a mature man. At what point should one give up, and simply accept the fact that perhaps one’s talent isn’t sufficient for a career in Hollywood? Professor Dancyger:  Persistence is more valuable a trait for a writer than in many fields. There is no one path. Everyone has talent, not everyone is persistent. You must have read thousands of scripts, what would you say is the most common mistake that young or novice writers make? Professor Dancyger: The most common mistakes early writers make are, in order: Excessive reliance on dialogue.  Not understanding how much change in the main character has to take place in the Feature film and how many barriers to the main character’s goal need to be overcome in the course of the screen story. That plot an external pressure on the main character, needs to be deployed and that it should have surprising twists and turns. Tone is how your unique voice underlies the story. Genre or story form matters and given its plasticity it can make your story seem fresher. What is the best movie script of all time, and why? Professor Dancyger:  The best movie script of all time is a tough nut. I have many favorites: Casey Robinson’ NOW VOYAGER for story construction Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD for character and dialogue Samuel Raphelson’s SHOP AROUND THE CORNER for sheer pleasure Federico Fellini’s 8/1/2 for creativity Elem Klimov’s COME AND SEE for daring and passion I could go on but will stop… Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureIn Praise of Fanfic I wrote my first story when I was six. It was 1977, and I had just had my mind blown clean out of my skull by a new movie called Star Wars (the golden age of science fiction is twelve; the golden age of cinematic science fiction is six). I rushed home and stapled a bunch of paper together, trimmed the sides down so that it approximated the size and shape of a mass-market paperback, and set to work. I wrote an elaborate, incoherent ramble about Star Wars, in which the events of the film replayed themselves, tweaked to suit my tastes. I wrote a lot of Star Wars fanfic that year. By the age of twelve, I’d graduated to Conan. By the age of eighteen, it was Harlan Ellison. By the age of twenty-six, it was Bradbury, by way of Gibson. Today, I hope I write more or less like myself. Walk the streets of Florence and you’ll find a copy of the David on practically every corner. For centuries, the way to become a Florentine sculptor has been to copy Michelangelo, to learn from the master. Not just the great Florentine sculptors, either — great or terrible, they all start with the master; it can be the start of a lifelong passion, or a mere fling. The copy can be art, or it can be crap — the best way to find out which kind you’ve got inside you is to try. Science fiction has the incredible good fortune to have attracted huge, social groups of fan-fiction writers. Many pros got their start with fanfic (and many of them still work at it in secret), and many fanfic writers are happy to scratch their itch by working only with others’ universes, for the sheer joy of it. Some fanfic is great — there’s plenty of Buffy fanfic that trumps the official, licensed tie-in novels — and some is purely dreadful. Two things are sure about all fanfic, though: first, that people who write and read fanfic are already avid readers of writers whose work they’re paying homage to; and second, that the people who write and read fanfic derive fantastic satisfaction from their labors. This is great news for writers. Great because fans who are so bought into your fiction that they’ll make it their own are fans forever, fans who’ll evangelize your work to their friends, fans who’ll seek out your work however you publish it. Great because fans who use your work therapeutically, to work out their own creative urges, are fans who have a damned good reason to stick with the field, to keep on reading even as our numbers dwindle. Even when the fandom revolves around movies or TV shows, fanfic is itself a literary pursuit, something undertaken in the world of words. The fanfic habit is a literary habit. In Japan, comic book fanfic writers publish fanfic manga called Dōjinshi — some of these titles dwarf the circulation of the work they pay tribute to, and many of them are sold commercially. Japanese comic publishers know a good thing when they see it, and these fanficcers get left alone by the commercial giants they attach themselves to. And yet for all this, there are many writers who hate fanfic. Some argue that fans have no business appropriating their characters and situations, that it’s disrespectful to imagine your precious fictional people in sexual scenarios, or to retell their stories from a different point of view, or to snatch a victorious happy ending from the tragic defeat the writer ended her book with. Other writers insist that fans who take without asking — or against the writer’s wishes — are part of an “entitlement culture” that has decided that it has the moral right to lift scenarios and characters without permission, that this is part of our larger postmodern moral crisis that is making the world a worse place. Some writers dismiss all fanfic as bad art and therefore unworthy of appropriation. Some call it copyright infringement or trademark infringement, and every now and again, some loony will actually threaten to sue his readers for having had the gall to tell his stories to each other. I’m frankly flabbergasted by these attitudes. Culture is a lot older than art — that is, we have had social storytelling for a lot longer than we’ve had a notional class of artistes whose creativity is privileged and elevated to the numinous, far above the everyday creativity of a kid who knows that she can paint and draw, tell a story and sing a song, sculpt and invent a game. To call this a moral failing — and a new moral failing at that! — is to turn your back on millions of years of human history. It’s no failing that we internalize the stories we love, that we rework them to suit our minds better. The Pygmalion story didn’t start with Shaw or the Greeks, nor did it end with My Fair Lady. Pygmalion is at least thousands of years old — think of Moses passing for the Pharaoh’s son! — and has been reworked in a billion bedtime stories, novels, D&D games, movies, fanfic stories, songs, and legends. Each person who retold Pygmalion did something both original — no two tellings are just alike — and derivative, for there are no new ideas under the sun. Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. That’s why writers don’t really get excited when they’re approached by people with great ideas for novels. We’ve all got more ideas than we can use — what we lack is the cohesive whole. Much fanfic — the stuff written for personal consumption or for a small social group — isn’t bad art. It’s just not art. It’s not written to make a contribution to the aesthetic development of humanity. It’s created to satisfy the deeply human need to play with the stories that constitute our world. There’s nothing trivial about telling stories with your friends — even if the stories themselves are trivial. The act of telling stories to one another is practically sacred — and it’s unquestionably profound. What’s more, lots of retellings are art: witness Pat Murphy’s wonderful There and Back Again (Tolkien) and Geoff Ryman’s brilliant World Fantasy Award-winning Was (L. Frank Baum). The question of respect is, perhaps, a little thornier. The dominant mode of criticism in fanfic circles is to compare a work to the canon — “Would Spock ever say that, in ‘real’ life?” What’s more, fanfic writers will sometimes apply this test to works that are of the canon, as in “Spock never would have said that, and Gene Roddenberry has no business telling me otherwise.” This is a curious mix of respect and disrespect. Respect because it’s hard to imagine a more respectful stance than the one that says that your work is the yardstick against which all other work is to be measured — what could be more respectful than having your work made into the gold standard? On the other hand, this business of telling writers that they’ve given their characters the wrong words and deeds can feel obnoxious or insulting. Writers sometimes speak of their characters running away from them, taking on a life of their own. They say that these characters — drawn from real people in our lives and mixed up with our own imagination — are autonomous pieces of themselves. It’s a short leap from there to mystical nonsense about protecting our notional, fictional children from grubby fans who’d set them to screwing each other or bowing and scraping before some thinly veiled version of the fanfic writer herself. There’s something to the idea of the autonomous character. Big chunks of our wetware are devoted to simulating other people, trying to figure out if we are likely to fight or fondle them. It’s unsurprising that when you ask your brain to model some other person, it rises to the task. But that’s exactly what happens to a reader when you hand your book over to him: he simulates your characters in his head, trying to interpret that character’s actions through his own lens. Writers can’t ask readers not to interpret their work. You can’t enjoy a novel that you haven’t interpreted — unless you model the author’s characters in your head, you can’t care about what they do and why they do it. And once readers model a character, it’s only natural that readers will take pleasure in imagining what that character might do offstage, to noodle around with it. This isn’t disrespect: it’s active reading. Our field is incredibly privileged to have such an active fanfic writing practice. Let’s stop treating them like thieves and start treating them like honored guests at a table that we laid just for them. Originally published in Locus, May 2007. Included in Cory Doctorov’s collection Content, published under a creative commons license. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyThe crowds waited in anticipation as the pompous fanfares marked the opening of the red carpet, a crowd of slick journalists rushed to the front fence. An even larger crowd consisting of “common men” were held back at the perimeter – like some reserve force. And then they arrived, the dashing superstars in their lavish costumes. The simultaneous flashes of hundreds of cameras enlightened the long expected arrivals from constantly shifting angles. Some of them sweated, others blinked, but they all kept their faces. They smiled because they were used to it, and they lifted their arms and waved. They paraded along the marked lines giving autographs, and they were all in a splendid mood. “The film was excellent, Mark Thompson! How did you feel upon receiving the award”“It was a great honor, of course.”“How do you feel about being nominated as the most sexy man in the business”“I appreciate good taste when I see it”, the middle aged actor said and put on his best grin.Those who heard him – and there were plenty of these – roared with laughter. They would have escorted him to his limousine, but sunglassed guards – probably picked or perhaps even bred for size and grim appearances – blocked their way. Strangers struggled, they shouted after him, and for their sake Mark Thompson stopped, walked over to the fence where they stood and signed several autographs. Then he moved on to the next fence closer to the parking lot. There were three of them along the way, and Mark Thompson radiated even more humor and wit at the two next ones. He was warming up. Only the last two hundred meters did he walk a little faster when he noticed an open limousine waiting for him. He sighed when the car doors slammed shut behind him, because he now was protected from a multitude of stares by bullet proof colored glass. But a sigh was all he could manage because even if they could not see him, he was able to see them, the vast moving crowd, an organism by itself, twisting and turning, giving off sounds of hysteria, of admiration and sometimes – more often than people realize – of disgust and resentment. The car navigated through the streets of the city center, and stopped by the venerable Grand Hotel. The door opened, and again he was exposed. But there was that million dollar, tastefully bleached smile that had melted so many hearts, and there was that sharp tongue that always knew how to dodge awkward questions. It had served him so well, and it only became more and more efficient with age. It ripened like a fine wine. At the reception, men and women he had never met and sometimes not even knew existed told him from a mahogany podium about how he had completely altered their lives, sometimes saved them from bad marriages, improved their sex lives and prevented suicides. Of course, he had no choice but to be humbled by his enormous power, such good fortune that life had bestowed upon him. He was obliged to tell them of his own struggles, and how thankful he was that he had made it, arrived at his station, and how they too could make it if they just followed their dream. Ever onwards and upwards. There was fine dining, exquisite cuisine, which he enjoyed in silence, while hum and chatter, and toasting glasses sounded over his head. Then he got up, excused himself and rushed through the velvet corridors for the bathroom. But a young blonde had made it passed the guards, was blocking his way and was flashing her excellently sculpted breasts. Then, there was a bizarre situation in which a gigantic two meter black body guard chased the tiny creature down the corridor. Mark Thompson walked by and smiled.“They never stop”, he told the guard, “they can’t help it. You’re doing a great job, thank you, but be gentle on her. She is drunk and very young.”“Yes sir”, said the giant bodyguard. He did his thing in the toilet, washed his hands in the gilded sink, and returned to his seat. His agent was on the phone, several radio stations wanted his views on some matter. He found a quiet corner, and called them. He preferred these brief phone interviews. No one could see his face, he could even do them in the nude at home, if he wanted. But somehow it never seemed right. Even in their voices, he could sense their eyes. At ten o’clock that evening he called it a day. He had been at it since morning. Then there was the routine of leaving the building, the choreographed exit, the waiting door. The relief of departure, the oddness of seeing those ordinary people walking along the bar strip as his limousine passed. The loud music, the distant laughter. He had been 18 once, hadn’t he? He had not always had this life. Many many years ago, he too could walk down that strip, and no one would even look twice at him, a pimpled mumbling nerd. The girls had even giggled at him with pity, the pathetic boy who would never get laid. The cortege struggled through traffic, but as they entered the more affluent areas, people and vehicles magically dispersed. He was left with majestic glass and steel constructions, all polished and glimmering, fancy restaurants with private entrances and then the villa area: well kept gardens with pools hidden by carefully landscaped residential palaces. As dusk fell, the stars had come out and they hung over his home, stretching endlessly towards a million dollar horizon and view. Below them lay the vast pulsating metropolis. On top of the hill stood his isolated palace, his marble columns, his tiled walkways. Another open door was waiting for him, and he rushed towards it. He had made sure that it had been made of the most quirky wood he could find. It stood out because it had the texture of an English cottage door. The faces that met him, his servants, were friends at least, he thought. He paid them enough to fake it.“Is she still awake?” he asked as the maid took his coat.“Yes, sir. She is awake”He then stopped by the stairs, and wondered whether he would he would be brave enough to enter her room. But the memories overwhelmed him, and he bit his lip as climbed the steps.There was the door he dreaded. He leaned his forehead against it as he knocked. It squeaked open, and the silhouette a huge bed and a dying woman was visible against the moon light from a half open window. He walked those final steps to the vacant chair, and an imperceptible breeze silently swung the door shut behind him. by Mchael Henrik Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / movies  Despite the hardships of war, the 1940s are usually considered a golden age of British cinema. TV was not yet introduced into the homes, and during the worst fighting the audience flocked in their millions to see the Noel Coward films of David Lean, the collaborative work of Powell & Pressburger or Gainsborough melodramas (1943-49). After the war there were of course Ealing comedies (1947-57) to cheer you up. How did the British manage to maintain such an output of quality productions during a period when sacrifices were so great? We had a brief chat with movie historian Charles Drazin.  How were films financed during the war? Charles Drazin: Dominating production at this time was the Rank Organisation, which provided the lion’s share of financing for most of the prestige films that are still remembered today. (The Rank Organization was the media empire founded by J. Arthur Rank, and owned everything from studios to the cinemas where the movies played.) Was there much censorship? Charles Drazin: Mainstream movies had to respect the British Board of Film Censorship and, if they wanted to get into the profitable US market, the Hollywood Production Code, and also of course any wartime regulations relating to national security, but I think what was more notable was the freedom that film-makers had to express themselves. A good example is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). Churchill wasn’t able to prevent the film from being released although he disapproved fiercely of its content. Were movie people exempt from military service in any way? Charles Drazin: They could be if they were in a “reserved occupation” deemed to be necessary for the furtherance of the war effort. How do British wartime movies compare with the similar productions in Germany? Charles Drazin: Filmmakers were “free” in the sense that no higher government authority was telling them what to say. Obviously film-makers were encouraged to make films that support the war effort, but there was a diversity and authenticity of spirit that comes from free expression. The British film industry was of course engaged in a kind of propaganda but it was soft propaganda as opposed to the hard propaganda of the Nazis. I like the comment someone made about the great British documentary film-maker Humphrey Jennings that he was making “propaganda for the human race”. Were the movies distributed among the troops? Charles Drazin: Most certainly. What about availability of raw film? Certainly that would have to be rationed during the war? Charles Drazin: Yes, very significantly. Like so many other things at this time raw film was rationed. How did the moviegoers during WWII react to the realism of some films, such as One of our Aircraft is Missing? Charles Drazin: The critics thought such realism was the crowning glory of a British film renaissance – what made it stand out from the phoniness of Hollywood – but of course over time audiences grew tired of it. In the second half of the war the most successful movies were the escapist Gainsborough romantic melodramas. These melodramas were very much aimed at women. (The men were mostly off to war, or perhaps home on leave.) Did the army have any role in the production of the film like In Which we serve (1942) or One of Our Aicraft is Missing (1942)? Charles Drazin: The armed forces would provide support in the form of men and equipment to films that the Ministry of Information considered to be in support of the war effort. What would you say were the major forms of innovation in British cinema during the war years? Charles Drazin: The major achievement in my view was breaking away from formulaic, genre cinema to say something important to a mass popular audience. There were all sorts of style innovations, but it was the coming to age of the cinema as a serious medium in Britain that made such innovations possible. One of Our Aicraft is Missing (1942)  Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history A crowd of millions cheered as Ghana became independent in 1957 (audio above). “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent”, Kwame Nkrumah boldly declared on the day of liberation. Yet a couple of decades later, Nkrumah has been toppled from power, has ended up in exile on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, and his pan African dream lies in ruins. In some ways, his own personal fate mirrored that of a whole continent. We talked to professor Jeffrey Ahlman, a specialist on the Ghanaian statesman, about what happened to Nkrumah, and what has been the lasting legacy of his ideas.  Let us begin at the end of Nkrumah’s life. He had quite a sad demise. He was ill, paranoid and afraid of western intelligence agencies. And he lived in exile. Did he have reason to be afraid? Professor Ahlman: There was significant reason for Nkrumah to have concerns about US and other western subversion in Ghana. In African history, the year 1960 is often remembered quite jubilantly as the “Year of Africa,” marking not only the independence of Nigeria and the Congo, but also the many states that comprised French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa. However, from the perspective of radical anti colonial figures like Nkrumah, the year opened not with jubilance, but with the troubling independence of Cameroon under a government viewed by many as an appendage of the French state. The rushed independence of the Congo and the political chaos that ensued—much of it the result of US and Belgian Cold War intrusion into Congolese democratic politics—only further added to Nkrumah’s wariness, especially as his government had committed a significant number of Ghanaian troops to the UN peace mission to the Congo. However, it was the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s assassination that dramatically shook Nkrumah as, for him, the assassination marked the extremes to which capitalist powers would go to subvert the autonomy of African independence. Meanwhile, in Ghana, Nkrumah survived a number of attempts on his own life. The most famous one being the bombing in the far northern Ghanaian town of Kulungugu in August 1962 in which at least two people were killed and Nkrumah himself suffered significant injuries—injuries that some Ghanaians argue was a cause of the cancer that killed him a decade later. Eyeing what had happened to Lumumba a year and a half earlier, Nkrumah and his government read the Kulungugu attack, among the others he endured, as at least in part efforts by capitalist countries like the United States, Belgium, and Great Britain to subvert his vision for Ghana and for Africa. Given this context in Ghana and Africa more broadly, yes, he did have reason to be afraid. How did he become involved with the struggle against British Colonial Rule in The Gold Coast? Professor Ahlman: In his autobiography, Nkrumah argues that he first became aware of the “wickedness of colonialism” while in the UK while waiting for a visa to the US as Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. According to him, the expressionless response from men and women on the streets as the newspapers’ headlines announced the invasion awakened in him a desire to “play my part in bringing about the downfall of such a system.” In the United States, Nkrumah attended Lincoln University and later UPenn, while also seeking connections to African student groups as well as a number of black political and cultural institutions during his time in the country. After a decade in the US, he traveled to the UK, where he joined the political network of the Trinidadian pan-Africanist George Padmore and played a key role in helping to organize the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester—a congress that demanded an immediate end to colonial rule in Africa. It was approximately two years after the Manchester Congress that Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast at the invitation of the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), a political party often maligned as being too moderate. During his time as the UGCC’s general secretary, he clashed with the convention’s other leaders before leaving the convention—or getting expelled depending on whose version one accepts—and forming his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), under the mantra of “Self-Government Now.” Why the CPP is so important to African history is that it was one of the first mass political parties on the continent, drawing supporters from a wide range of walks of life (educated, uneducated, farmers, urban dwellers, youth, women, etc) and, for many, providing a new sense of belonging in a period of rapid political and social change following WWII. Like Gandhi he was partly educated in Britain, in what way did this influence his ideas? Or were his years in the United States more significant? Professor Ahlman: I think the fundamental elements of his political education occurred in Great Britain as he came under the tutelage of George Padmore. It was here, I believe, where his ideas began to mature and gained their first coherent form in his 1947 pamphlet Towards Colonial Freedom. However, one cannot underestimate the role of his time in the US, for he arrived in the US in the midst of the Great Depression and stayed through the war years. During this time, he not only actively sought out readings by such people as Marcus Garvey and associated with Paul Robeson’s Council on African Affairs, among others, but was forced to live in the highly racialized social environment of the United States as a black man. It is hard to imagine that such an experience did not help shape his understanding of the world, colonialism, and race. Was he always a leftist? Professor Ahlman: I think in terms of his adult life, yes. When he became PM of the newly liberated Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) he was quite popular. How popular were his ideas of pan-African unity? Professor Ahlman: I think you have to add more nuance to the question. In principle, I think many Ghanaians were supportive of some sort of largely undefined pan-African unity, especially one that—like Nkrumah suggested—placed Ghana at the center of an emerging pan-African politics. Part of this was pride; part may have been—and still may be—an authentic hope for what unity could bring to the future of both Ghana and Africa. On the other hand, many questioned the resources spent in pursuing Nkrumah’s continental ambitions. This included the aid Ghana offered to other countries and liberation movements as well as the time Nkrumah spent away from the country. By as early as 1958, if not earlier, criticism of the resources spent on Nkrumah’s pan-African policies had become a potent critique of the government when marshaled by some opposition officials. Why do you think the idea of pan-Africanism failed? Professor Ahlman: I don’t believe it did, particularly because I don’t think we can talk about pan-Africanism in the singular. There were/are many different pan-Africanisms—diasporic, continental, political, social, cultural, economic, etc. What may have failed was Nkrumah’s particular vision of a United States of Africa. However, even Nkrumah shouldn’t be beholden to that singular definition of pan-Africanism, especially when answering rather normative questions like whether he succeeded or failed. In his life, Nkrumah came to influence, embody, interact with, and shape a number of competing, if not contradictory forms of pan-Africanism. His flirtation with Garveyism may not have meshed organically with his socialism and aspects of the Ghanaian nation-building project at home and the Ghanaian exceptionalism that seemed to follow in its wake does not easily fit within the continental vision he so famously articulated. He launched quite a lot of programs in those early years, how successful was he in modernizing Ghana? Professor Ahlman: Ghana has not seen a leader like him to date. He transformed the country politically, socially, culturally, economically, and infrastructurally. He shepherded in the development of the city of Tema, transforming a previously small fishing village into the industrial engine of the new Ghana. Similarly, he also ushered in the damming of the Volta River that, through the electricity it produced, electrified much of the country and still does so today. However, the greatest impact his government had was in its promotion of fee-free primary education. This program democratized education in the country, allowing untold numbers of boys and girls who may not have had the opportunity to go to school before gaining an education. When did his downfall begin? And why did he eventually lose his grip on power? Professor Ahlman: His downfall began with the 1966 coup. People were talking in unspecific ways about what Ghana might look like without Nkrumah prior to the coup. However, it was always in vague terms. He and his government appeared strong on the eve of the coup and the coup surprised many. This is not to say that many were content with the state of affairs in Ghana at the time. The reality was much more complicated. Instead, even as late as the month of the coup, many people had come to terms with a reality that the one-party political context created by Nkrumah and the CPP represented the reality that they must live with for the foreseeable future. In what way would you say the Cold War affected the idea of pan-Africanism? Professor Ahlman: I think it constrained the possibilities open to African thinkers and leaders as they sought to reimagine the new world created by decolonization. As individual countries and  liberation movements faced pressures from the US, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Soviet Union, many found it difficult to break from the bifurcated global model that so defined the Cold War in their efforts to make a reality the futures they imagined. How is Nkrumah remembered in Ghana today? Do they celebrate him, or lament his failings? Professor Ahlman: Nkrumah and his ideas appear to be gaining in popularity in Ghana again. However, Ghanaians tend to have a complicated relationship with Nkrumah, especially those who lived through his rule. Many truly appreciate how he transformed Ghana into a major player on the international stage during his tenure and, at the same time, built roads, schools, healthcare facilities, etc. Yet, many of the same people recall the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that accompanied a government that in many ways policed many forms of political and social expression, particularly those forms did not fit within the ideological confines of an orthodox decolonization-era Nkrumahism. What is the legacy of Pan Aficanism today? Professor Ahlman: I’m not sure how to answer this given that there are still pan-African thinkers today, both in Africa and the diaspora. They are actively trying to reflect on the legacies of earlier generations of thinkers like Nkrumah, Du Bois, Padmore, Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X, and others. At the same time, they are actively trying to construct their own pan-African visions that not only take into account contemporary realities in Africa, the diaspora, and the world, but are also experimenting with methods and ideas—small and large—to bring their visions for the future into a reality   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / moviesWhen we read speculative fiction, our minds conjure up the most fantastic creations. Through writers like H.G. Wells we are able to transcend time and space, even envision the most terrifying aliens. How these creatures look, however, is entirely dependent on our own imagination. Ed French is an Oscar nominated and Emmy Award winning special effects make-up artist whose job it is to bring such dreams into the realm of reality. He has worked on some of the most successful science fiction franchises, Star Trek and the Terminator series, and now, more recently, on Westworld. We asked him some questions about his job in the entertainment industry. How does one become a special effects man in Hollywood? Ed French: Talent and perseverance. Luck plays a part. I think you have to love the whole process of film making . Most of the people I know that do this for a living dreamed about working in movies from an early age. How much of what we see on TV and cinema is produced by make-artists and special effects men (and women), like yourself, and how much is the vision of the director Ed French: On T2, James Cameron had a very clear, specific vision about every aspect of his him. He made his own drawings. When I worked on Star Trek VI, Nicholas Meyer wouldn’t micro-manage. He gave me complete freedom to create the alien characters the way I saw them. I’ve often worked on projects where I was contracted to create a character based on a drawing by an art director or rendered by a production artist. In the end though, when that character arrives on set, the finished work of the makeup artist will determine if the “vision” has succeeded. Do you have a particularly well-developed imagination? Ed French: I think that as A Special Effects Makeup Artist I’m a conduit for other people’s imagination. I’m a creative person. I feel as though I’ve come up with some imaginative ways to make characters or certain effects believable to the camera’s eye. Interesting question. Quite often I’m required to create an effect such as say, an autopsy makeup with an actor lying in a morgue with a closed, sewn up “Y incision” scar and 3 bullet holes in the chest. That should appear exactly the way the audience EXPECTS it to look. How do you know if an alien is realistic on not? Are you inspired by creatures in nature? Ed French: I don’t consider most of the aliens I ’ve done to be “realistic.” Star Trek is to realistic aliens as “The Wizard of Oz” is to realistic lions…perhaps the most “realistic aliens” were the ones in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” They were mysterious entities beyond our comprehension and Kubrick depicted them as such. Sometimes the alien makeup concepts I do will integrate elements from a creature in nature. I try to make them appear somewhat plausible. Organic. Some of the make-up work is extremely elaborate. What is the longest make-up session you have had? Ed French: “White Chicks.” It took almost 5 hours to turn Sean Wayans (an African-American comedian) into a white woman. And after that, constant touch-ups were required. I was trying to maintain a “beauty” makeup over prosthetics that transformed a black man into a hot young white woman. I would start at 3:30 AM and work till 7P.M. And then I had to clean the prosthetics and body paint off, which usually took about an hour. There were a few shooting days when the turnaround was about 6 hours. You have worked with some pretty famous actors. Do you ever get star struck? Ed French: I’ve worked off and on for 15 years creating the autopsy and “scene of the crime” trauma and casualty make-ups for N.C.I.S. spending a lot of time in “Ducky’s” forensics lab in scenes involving David McCallum. When I was kid, his early TV appearances on The Outer Limits and The Man from U.N.C.LE. made a huge impression on me. I’m always a bit in awe when I’m working around him. He was Illa Kuryakin! What is your favorite type of job? Do you prefer regular make-up, aliens, monsters or period drama? Ed French:  I like my job because I get to do all those makeup categories. I particularly enjoy creating historical look-alikes. I like to feel like I’m an entertainer. It’s magical when you make someone up to look like Albert Einstein or even the Frankenstein Monster. Everything stops on the set and everyone wants their picture with the character. How much has CGI and computers affected the special effects make-up business? Ed French: It has eliminated a lot of “creature effects” that use “practical” makeup, prosthetics or creature suits, animatronic puppets and so forth. A lot of my colleagues have reservations about CGI being used to “touch up” their makeups or replacing makeup altogether. I think its fabulous if it can correct a prosthetic makeup that NEEDS a touch up. In the series Westworld, the characters are human robots. Did this pose any special challenges? Ed French: This is where C.G.I. hasn’t quite taken over completely. We had robot actors that required full body makeup. In cases where the robots went back for repairs we would apply prosthetics simulating the effects of massive trauma injuries. Chests ripped open, skulls partially blown off, arms missing, etc. There were some fun challenges. We did authentic period makeup for the “old West.” Facial hair and Beards for the men and cowboys. Native American makeup too. There were a few days when I got to do a Samurai makeup with a bald pate. You are also blessed with a wonderful reading voice, and publish audio narratives on youtube. How did you get into audio production? Ed French: Thanks. Through a circuitous route. I was a radio announcer for a couple of years back in the 70’s. I would have been more at home with radio during its golden age. Radio drama and comedy, all that stuff was long gone by the time I sat behind a microphone. I abandoned radio for theatre and as that career sort of fizzled out I found a niche in Special Makeup Effects just as it was gaining momentum in the 80’s. It was fortuitous. However, I never lost the urge to want to perform. I think it was 9 years ago (?) I discovered that the equipment to make professional audio productions at home was available commercially. When I was in radio everything was analog. We recoded on big magnetic Ampex tape reels. There was a learning curve with the digital software. I’m still astounded by what you can create with just a lap top, and audio box, Audacity WAV editor and a microphone . It has enabled me do my “Day Job” and play the storyteller on the side. What is your favorite piece of speculative fiction? Ed French: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine comes to mind when you ask that. Or The Invisible Man. There’s a man with imagination. He wrote before the cinema invented, or at least before the techniques of film story telling had moved beyond the “staginess’ of the early silent movies. His work, particularly The Invisible Man is cinematic. When I was recording it I could see vividly how every scene would be filmed. Close-ups, wide shots, shock cuts. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story1. From the village “Kosisochukwu my son!” Ozioma called repeatedly as she ran along a slightly dangling narrow bamboo bridge towards a building at the fringe of Udi village. It was a small building constructed on the top of a creek that had been rendered lifeless by oil spillage; nearby rivers and streams where they once drank from were equally useless. There were other similar buildings above the creek and they were all constructed with split tree trunks, old planks, and bamboo trees. Important men, of course, did not have roofs of raffia leaves, for they could afford old corrugated sheets to roof their houses. It didn’t matter whether there were perforations in the metal left by nails from the original buildings. These buildings were linked to one another by bamboo bridges. The people were careful to rebuild them at least once a year after harmattan seasons, which dried up and made brittle the wild creepers with which the bamboo logs were bound. These bridges were not stable, and there had been occasions when someone had slipped off and landed into the water. But such occasions only provoked hearty laughter instead of pity. In fact, the villagers considered themselves fish ‘that can never be drowned’, for as far as they could remember, only a toddler had succumbed to such a fate. It had been her mother’s fault, though. She had forgotten to close the opening where they pass out feces, urine and other rubbish into the water, and left to check what she was cooking in the kitchen. When she returned to the room, the child was missing. The mother realised she had not only left the hole open but also the door to the restroom. The lifeless child was picked from the bed of the black creek. “Kosisochukwu my son please leave immediately before they get here!” Kosi heard her mother’s voice and rushed out of the building to the veranda. He was bare-chested with only a very tight short on, his India hemp sticking out and smoking between his dark lips. “Mama, what is the problem!” he called. By now Aisosa was standing at the door post, leaning lazily on the left frame. “Run! Run! Police. Your brother has been…” A gunshot was heard and Ozioma dropped dead on the bridge. Aisosa yelled and wanted to rush to Ozioma’s aid, but Kosi caught her wrist just in time and dragged her into the building. Before long, three heavily armed police men were running towards the house. One stopped by Ozioma’s corpse and pushed it into the creek with his boot. “Level the house. Fire!” shouted one of them, obviously their leader. Bullets perforated the building until it caught fire and burned to the ground. “Any need to check for their corpses?” asked the policeman who had pushed Ozioma into the creek. “No,” the police chief replied. “They’re obviously dead.” Kosi had dropped into the creek with Aisosa through the building’s shithole before the shooting began. It was a narrow escape though, for a bullet had nearly hit his head. He had tilted his head to peep through a crack when the first shot sounded. The bullet smashed a mirror behind him. They vanished undetected in the water under cover of noise and commotion; Aisosa had even let out a loud cry when her ankle hit one of the poles that supported the building. They escaped through a trench which Kosi had deliberately dug and hidden in between hedges for occasions such as these, gunshots echoing in their minds. He covered Aisosa’s mouth with his right palm and then lowered her into the trench. A week earlier, a white man who worked with one of the oil companies in that region had been kidnapped, and the kidnappers demanded a hundred million naira ransom which the company was unable to pay because government had recently criminalized ransom payment. The militia group gave a one day ultimatum which elapsed without the company or the government doing anything to that effect. Mr Richard Anderson was promptly executed. To spite the government, the militia group filmed the atrocity and released the video. The militia leader was heard in the video saying: “You cannot deny us food and expect us to let you eat in peace. You have killed our fish and our fishermen can no longer survive. You have turned our waters into poison with your oil and rendered our farmland barren. You have deliberately starved our children for generations, and you tell us to go to hell when we protest with placards and helpless songs and chants. This time we will protest with guns and bullets and knives and monstrosity, and nothing will stop us. So go ahead and criminalize ransom and watch us answer you with more blood and death and vandalism.” As expected, the government responded by sending heavily armed police to the village with a special order to kill on sight. They arrived at the village with saboteurs and collaborators, those who feed fat off the misfortune of others. Names of militant leaders were mentioned, and Kosi was one of them. Although Kosi was a leader of a militant group, he was not part of the group that killed Mr Richard Anderson. In fact, he learned about this after the attack on his house. His only brother was shot in the head by the police that humid morning when they had reached his home. When the police discovered their mistake, they pursued Ozioma, whom they saw escaping through the back door. Later, Kosi’s second-in-command calmly laid the facts before him, and in addition added the name of the chief betrayer. His name was Chief Amayenabor. Chief Amayenabor lived in a luxury mansion in the best part of the town, two or three miles from the creek. Kosi puffed his weed, and listened to his second-in-command in their hideout. It was a bunker, squeezed between the trench that led to his house on one side and a mosquito-infested swamp on the other. Air and rays of light entered the tunnel through a square opening in the roof. There was silence as the story was told, and puff after puff rose through the dim air. In the end Kosi stood up abruptly, dipped his left hand into his trouser’s left pocket and brought out a pill, a tramadol tablet. Two 500mg pills were placed on Kosi’s tongue. He dipped his right hand in the other pocket and brought out a small bottle of codein, a cough syrup, opened it, filled his mouth and swallowed. “Target!” he shouted as though the startled Target wasn’t sitting at his left side. “Chairman!” Target answered, leaping to his feet. “I dey your side chairman,” he added, drawing heavily from his smoldering weed. “Correct!” Kosi replied. “E no go better for chief!” he added. “E no go better for chief!” said Target, as Kosi extended the pack of pills to him. ” Ready the confirms, put plenty groundnut seed for inside and carry others follow body,” Kosi instructed. “Confirm. At your command Chairman,” Target said. “Government!” Kosi yelled, and the Second-in-Command rose to his feet. “Chairman,” he answered, his weed hanging from his lips, smoke oozing from his nostrils. “I be your loyal boy. Command me.” “Chief go fall today.” “I hear you, Chairman.” “Get the other boys ready at once! We’re out of here,” Kosi said and marched into the jungle. They went by boat in the night. Before dawn Chief Amayenabor was missing and three of his personal security personnel were confirmed dead. Two days later, his head was found hanging on a stake before government house, and three days after this his headless body floated down the creek. The killing of a high government official like chief Amayenabor was an assault on the government, an unpardonable offence, according to the 9:00pm Newscaster on NTA. The government was determined to crush the riff-raff and have normalcy in the region. That day, the Inspector General of Police deployed twenty-four police officers from the dreaded Special Anti-Crime Squad unit to the village. This time they were to intensify their operations. Unfortunately, these men were met with a kind of fierce resistance they never envisaged, and during one of the gun battles which had lasted for the whole night, twenty-one out of the twenty-four police men were killed. The three who made it out of the village that night didn’t do so unharmed, for one of them later died in a general hospital at Abuja where they were all hospitalized. The militants counted only lesser casualties, and this infuriated the authorities even more. For three weeks, there was a news blackout, nothing was mentioned publicly. It was as though normalcy had truly returned, and the militants halted their operations. Then one night, the whole village was awoken by the sound of jets piercing the heavens. A sudden blast from one dead end of the village shook buildings, and brought others to the ground. The village was under siege, and screams and cries of women and children rose to the moonlit sky. Beneath the bombs, helter-skelter through a hail of bullets, villagers ran in all directions. Some made their way over the bamboo bridges to nearby bushes, and were cut down with machetes by soldiers. That night, two thousand five hundred villagers died. Kosi, Aisosa and his militant group were in their bunker when the noise reached them. From their position of safety, Kosi escaped to Benin City where he met Omos and Efe, and planned to travel out of Nigeria. He was a wanted man in Nigeria, and had to flee for his life. Omos, on the other hand, wanted to leave the country because there were no jobs for him, not even with his university degree, ten years of training as a mechanical engineer. Efe’s reason for leaving was not clear.   2. Across the sea “Omos!” Kosi shouted from the sinking edge of the deflating balloon boat. There were over a hundred of them stuffed in this bloating object and that was probably why it deflated too soon, and it happened far from shore. “If you survive this please don’t tell Aisosa that I am dead! Tell her that I shall return to marry her! Tell her to name our child Ozoemela!” That was Kosi’s last words before the next wave knocked him off the balloon. In his Igbo ethnic group, name must be significant, for it was beyond a mere means of identification. Names to the Igbos were marks that followed children from the spirit world, and most times the living knew about them even before the children were birthed. So a name must represent at least an event, and it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad- as long as it highlighted and emphasized something; if he must be called Bush, then his mother must birth him in the bush. Ozoemela is a name with a deep meaning, filled with pity and grief. It pleads for another, Ozo, not to happen again. Some things should never be repeated. Many in this makeshift boat ended their journey on the sea bed, those who could not swim, or those who were caught up by rolling waves as the boat capsized, and currents drove them apart. Those born near rivers and creeks kept themselves afloat for a very long time, and were for the first time in their lives grateful for having been exposed to the dangers and hardships of unknown waters while growing up. Efe was the most grateful, for all he could remember when he regained conscioussness was that he had let out a muffled shrill with his last strength and then began to sink. Omos was as much grateful even though he could not remember anything beyond drinking a lot of the salt water when his arms became numb and could no longer move to keep him afloat. He lay face-up on the shore, his eyes wide-open yet, not fully alive. The Libyans who found them on the beach walked about. From time to time, they bent over their motionless bodies for a closer look. Omos thought they were shadows, nameless creatures pulling him down towards the depths of the ocean. A half dream, from which he struggled to escape. “He is stirring,” one of the Libyan rescuers yelled and signaled his colleagues, “this one is still alive.” “Mop up the water running from his nustrils,” the other said. And as the man lowered his face a little closer and was about touching Omos’ nose with a piece of cloth, Omos jerked fully awake, throwing up on his face and all over his body, brown water that smelled like urine. “Let me be!” Omos yelled in a panting fright. “You black piece of shit!” the man said and hit his mouth so hard that it bled. Efe was lying beside him still unconscious. “What’s the problem?” a voice asked in Arabic. The man responded in Arabic too and then fixed an irritated gaze at Omos as he gradually stood up. “Come on black ass; your mates are eating inside!” The voice came again, but this time in English. But the accent was a caricature; a mockery of the English language. When the man left, Omos sat up properly and tapped Efe on the shoulder. Efe didn’t stir, then he tapped him again and again until he sneezed and blinked his eyes open. Omos helped him sit properly. Efe gently surveyed his surroundings and asked where they were. He, too, would occasionally cough up brown water. ” Thank God we’re alive, ” Omos said in almost a whisper. “Where are we?’ “On a shore in Libya. “ “Where is Kosi?” Omos turned his head, “Maybe in that metal house?” Efe yawned and stretched his hands above his head. “Hungry?” Omos asked. “No, famished.” “Let’s hurry into the house, I think some of us are already eating there.” “Some of us?” “Yes. We aren’t the only survivors.” Halfway to the metal house, a few yards from the sea, a heavily-bearded Libyan with a perfectly round face and an AK47 rifle hanging from his left shoulder threw the door open. With a broad smile he beckoned them to move faster. He cursed them in Arabic and introduced himself. “Come inside and eat, you black idiots. I am Ahmed Abdulahi, the head of the rescue team. Thank Allah, you’re alive!” He patted them on their shoulders and stepped aside to let them enter. Omos sensed something sinister in his eyes. The man’s handshake was too loose. There was an impenetrable darkness waiting inside the metal house. “It would have been a great loss for us if you hadn’t made it to the shore alive,” Ahmed added. Omos stared at his brown teeth and a long scar that ran from the corner of his left eye and crossed his nose bridge to the corner of his mouth. Omos thought of a gunshot, but finally concluded it was a slash by a very sharp-edged weapon. Ahmed must have noticed their hesitation and said, “Now let’s go in”, and led the way. Omos was relectuant, but there was no choice. He was the last to enter, and the door was shut with a metallic clang that startled them both. They heard a chain dragged across the lock behind them. “Are they inside?” a voice asked from one end of the darkness. Loud and ominous, the statement ended with a few Arabic mutterings. Then a switch was pulled and there was light. Not very bright, but at least there was relief. What then revealed itself to Omos was very unexpected. Where were the meals and his mates? Where was Kosi? Five men stood in that vast room. Ahmed Abdulahi was by the door with his rifle, by his side a man whom Omos remembered from the beach. One rifle leaned against the wall. At the far end Omos saw a man seated in front of a table. On the table, another rifle. He saw the aging hands of a black man in a grey hood resting on the table by the door as he was leaning forward. As soon as the light came on, he turned quickly to another Libyan that was standing behind him. “Are they your cargo?” the man in front of the table asked. “Yes, they are,” the black man responded. The accent was Nigerian, Edo precisely. “Here is the check,” the Libyan said, handing the sheet to the black man, who took it, frowned and grumbled. “You know this is the first time this has happened. That’s all I can pay for the two. We lost so many of them at sea,” the man added. “Well, I understand,” the Nigerian said. “Another boat is on the way.” “Let’s hope they arrive safely. It’s a pleasure doing business with you.” The two shook hands, and the black man turned and made towards the door, his eyes fixed to the floor. As he approached, Omos and Efe gave way for him to pass. Ahmed Abdulahi opened the door and light from outside shone bright on his face, and just then Omos recognized him. “Uncle Irobosa!” he shouted, hurrying towards him. But it was too late by then, for the rays of light vanished and the door shut with a heavy bang. In the dark, Omos crashed his head against the damp metal wall. Suddenly he was unconscious on the floor. The last he heard was a muffled scream from Efe. Within seconds, Efe too was knocked down from behind and unconscious. When Omos opened his eyes, he was naked on a narrow bed in a very small room. He could see and hear, but his body was unable to move. This bed was almost a solitary piece of furniture positioned very close to the window. There were voices, not far off beyond the glass pane. By the foot side of the bed he suddenly noticed low stool with a silver tray containing surgical equipment. There was a pair of bloodstained rubber gloves. A gown hung on a pole close by. He wanted to shift his gaze when someone shouted. It was the voice of the man he had seen in front of the table in the dark room. “This is not what we bargained on the phone! A kidney costs more than this and you know that! Do you how much I pay to get them here? “ “Well, gentlemen, I don’t think it has come to this. I am only but a middle man in this business,” another voice said. “If I…” “Then tell your master what the market price is. Don’t come here with few dollars and expect to go back to Saudi with this!” the harsher voice said. “Get him on the phone right now!” “Erh…he wouldn’t want to be disturbed, and moreover I, we have…” “Get him now or I drill your skull with a bullet! I pay that doctor over there, or you think he’s doing this job for free? I want to speak to the big man directly.” “You can’t speak directly to my master. He is a busy man, but you can talk to his doctor in Saudi.” “Then get me the damn doctor!” Somebody was speaking Arabic on a phone. When he was done, he switched back to English. “Well, he has agreed to pay thirty thousand. He’s also interested in the second kidney at the same price. But we can’t do that without ending him. “ “In that case, we shall wait until Mr Chin Lu arrives for the heart.” Omos tried to lift his head towards the window, but his neck was stiff and firm. He rolled his eyes to his left hand and discovered that he was not only on a drip, but also restrained. His hands and legs were chained to the bedframes. Suddenly, he felt moisture in his right abdomen. Blood was dripping out, he was cut. There was a sharp pain and an urge to scream, but his voice was long gone. By Ify Iroakazi Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“Tribal Mark” by Iroakazi Ifeanyi here I come from, scars are just enough to tell if you are good enough, especially when they appear on your face. They are not just the regular scars from mosquito bites or accidental injuries. They are deliberate scars that you carry from cradle to grave. So they come first before anything else. Your tongue is next before whatever hidden treasure you may think hiding beneath your skull, in your heart, or wherever- it can suit itself for any occasion! Sometimes the scars appear on your cheeks, close to your nose; at the corners of your eyes, close to the brow tails; between the brows on your forehead, and other time they appear like a cat’s whiskers, growing from the corners of your mouth up until they ended just below your ears. You could get any of these and they set you apart to either make or mar you, but it all depends on the scars of those you meet. I remember the day I took Amina to see my parents years ago. Amina suggested that because she had just said YES to me a week ago, and I was so happy and eager to show this narrow-faced, slim, and tall beauty to my parents that I decided it would be the following weekend. She was a perfect woman for me-maybe I never stared into her face long enough-she always teased me about being too shy to gaze at her without blushing. You’re too shy for my liking, she would say, laughing and tickling my nipples. I so much love to be tickled because it makes me laugh like a fool even at thirty-five. I would laugh until my head muscles begin to ache. My parents were much happier when I called them. My only son is finally getting married, I heard my mother say in the background as she handed the phone to my father. Congratulations son, my Dad said. He has never used plenty words- he only give orders. My father was an ex Biafran soldier; one of those gallant soldiers who taught the Nigerian troops an unforgettable lesson at Abagana. He would often recount how he was nearly blown up while igniting the local made explosive, Ogbunigwe. One morning he had fallen off his wheelchair and after helping him up, he began to sing a particular Biafran war song that he always reminiscence his soldiering days with and as he sang, he looked up to the sky, saluting half of a yellow sun that was just breaking in the East. He began to grow gradually hysteric and soon he fell off again. It had always been funny but this time, he was seriously shedding tears and cursing Nigeria, Britian, Russia, and Egypt for confining him on a wheelchair for almost five decades. He was a boy when he lost his feet in the war and he has nursed the pain, and his hatred for the enemies to this day. When I told Abike, my ex fiance, about my father, she said hers was like him, and for sure it did end things between us few months later. Amina had something similar to tell about his uncle. Thank God it wasn’t her father. My mother was so happy that I was coming home with a woman that she prepared a mountain of Fufu and a full pot of my favorite soup as though a community of people were visiting. When we arrived at a park close to my mother’s wretched bread store, I noticed her running towards us with her whole snow-white teeth bare; her face bright and lovely; her cooing voice endearing and warm, but as she drew closer, her lips began to gradually hide the teeth and soon the smile was gone; her mouth twisted, her face furrowed. Her ‘ welcome son’ , her ‘ nwunye m’ all lacked life, though I made it looked as elaborate as it could have been if I had come with a girl with a round face, broader nose, and who doesn’t pronounce ‘Papa’ as ‘ Fafa’ when greeting my father. Amina was beginning to notice the death of the distant excitement but she just kept her calm. She was before me, rushing to embrace her soon-to-be Mother-in-law whom she had prepared so much to meet. Ndewo Mama, she greeted in my dialect, swatting. I taught her that greeting for only one night and she learnt it perfectly. My mother opened her arms, Amina hurried, I was flustered; smiling stupidly because I knew my mother was already praying in her heart for her God to intervene. Not again, she must have said countless times. When Amina buried herself in her embrace and she began to run her trembling fingers about her facial scars, it became obvious from the disappointment in her eyes as she stared still at me over Amina’s shoulder that my beauty wasn’t good enough for me. Although she pretended everything was alright afterwards, I did too, but Amina understood it was over. Her kinsmen maimed mine and crippled my father and we must punish her for that. She bore the scars of an alien, the mark of the enemies, so we had no place to exist together. That was my father’s verdict and it can’t be appealed. by Iroakazi Ifeanyi, 2019. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureOur new podcast  series, “At the Bottom of the Sea”, starts one rainy afternoon in Tromso, a small town in North Norway some time in the near future. We follow a number of characters as they board a helicopter. There is Frank Hansen, a military diver, Fatima Ali, the cook and several others. The aircraft are heading to a converted oil rig in the middle of the North Sea. There, a diving vessel will take them to the sea floor and a research base, a permanent settlement 2000 m below the surface. However, something goes wrong, and soon events unfold which baffle the imagination and test them all. The Cast Frank Hansen (military diver) Krister Brandser Fatima Ali (cook) Julie Hoverson Peter Edwardsen (base leader) Peter Yearsley Henrik Abelsen (genius mathmatician) George Snow Hans Storm (biologist) mentioned character Egon Gundersen (engineeer) mentioned character  Schultz (chief engineer)  mentioned character Inga & Nils (twins, kitchen help)  mentioned characters The play was written and edited by  Michael Henrik Wynn ( editor) Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 1. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 2. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 3. Listen to “At the Bottom of the Sea” episode 4. (conclusion) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storypublished  in All-Story Weekly September 7, 1918 Francis Stevens (real name Gertrude Barrows Bennett, 1884–1948) t was upon the waterfront that I first met her, in one of the shabby little tea shops frequented by able sailoresses of the poorer type. The uptown, glittering resorts of the Lady Aviators’ Union were not for such as she. Stern of feature, bronzed by wind and sun, her age could only be guessed, but I surmised at once that in her I beheld a survivor of the age of turbines and oil engines—a true sea-woman of that elder time when woman’s superiority to man had not been so long recognized. When, to emphasize their victory, women in all ranks were sterner than today’s need demands. The spruce, smiling young maidens—engine-women and stokers of the great aluminum rollers, but despite their profession, very neat in gold-braided blue knickers and boleros—these looked askance at the hard-faced relic of a harsher day, as they passed in and out of the shop. I, however, brazenly ignoring similar glances at myself, a mere male intruding on the haunts of the world’s ruling sex, drew a chair up beside the veteran. I ordered a full pot of tea, two cups and a plate of macaroons, and put on my most ingratiating air. Possibly my unconcealed admiration and interest were wiles not exercised in vain. Or the macaroons and tea, both excellent, may have loosened the old sea-woman’s tongue. At any rate, under cautious questioning, she had soon launched upon a series of reminiscences well beyond my hopes for color and variety. “When I was a lass,” quoth the sea-woman, after a time, “there was none of this high-flying, gilt-edged, leather-stocking luxury about the sea. We sailed by the power of our oil and gasoline. If they failed on us, like as not ’twas the rubber ring and the rolling wave for ours.” She referred to the archaic practice of placing a pneumatic affair called a life-preserver beneath the arms, in case of that dreaded disaster, now so unheard of, shipwreck. “In them days there was still many a man bold enough to join our crews. And I’ve knowed cases,” she added condescendingly, “where just by the muscle and brawn of such men some poor sailor lass has reached shore alive that would have fed the sharks without ’em. Oh, I ain’t so down on men as you might think. It’s the spoiling of them that I don’t hold with. There’s too much preached nowadays that man is fit for nothing but to fetch and carry and do nurse-work in big child-homes. To my mind, a man who hasn’t the nerve of a woman ain’t fitted to father children, let alone raise ’em. But that’s not here nor there. My time’s past, and I know it, or I wouldn’t be setting here gossipin’ to you, my lad, over an empty teapot.” I took the hint, and with our cups replenished, she bit thoughtfully into her fourteenth macaroon and continued. “There’s one voyage I’m not likely to forget, though I live to be as old as Cap’n Mary Barnacle, of the Shouter. ‘Twas aboard the old Shouter that this here voyage occurred, and it was her last and likewise Cap’n Mary’s. Cap’n Mary, she was then that decrepit, it seemed a mercy that she should go to her rest, and in good salt water at that. “I remember the voyage for Cap’n Mary’s sake, but most I remember it because ’twas then that I come the nighest in my life to committin’ matrimony. For a man, the man had nerve; he was nearer bein’ companionable than any other man I ever seed; and if it hadn’t been for just one little event that showed up the—the mannishness of him, in a way I couldn’t abide, I reckon he’d be keepin’ house for me this minute.” “We cleared from Frisco with a cargo of silkateen petticoats for Brisbane. Cap’n Mary was always strong on petticoats. Leather breeches or even half-skirts would ha’ paid far better, they being more in demand like, but Cap’n Mary was three-quarters owner, and says she, land women should buy petticoats, and if they didn’t it wouldn’t be the Lord’s fault nor hers for not providing ’em. “We cleared on a fine day, which is an all sign—or was, then when the weather and the seas o’ God still counted in the trafficking of the humankind. Not two days out we met a whirling, mucking bouncer of a gale that well nigh threw the old Shouter a full point off her course in the first wallop. She was a stout craft, though. None of your featherweight, gas-lightened, paper-thin alloy shells, but toughened aluminum from stern to stern. Her turbine drove her through the combers at a forty-five knot clip, which named her a speedy craft for a freighter in them days. “But this night, as we tore along through the creaming green billows, something unknown went ‘way wrong down below. “I was forward under the shelter of her long over-sloop, looking for a hairpin I’d dropped somewheres about that afternoon. It was a gold hairpin, and gold still being mighty scarce when I was a girl, a course I valued it. But suddenly I felt the old Shouter give a jump under my feet like a plane struck by a shell in full flight. Then she trembled all over for a full second, frightened like. Then, with the crash of doomsday ringing in my ears, I felt myself sailing through the air right into the teeth o’ the shrieking gale, as near as I could judge. Down I come in the hollow of a monstrous big wave, and as my ears doused under I thought I heard a splash close by. Coming up, sure enough, there close by me was floating a new, patent, hermetic, thermo-ice-chest. Being as it was empty, and being as it was shut up air-tight, that ice-chest made as sweet a life-preserver as a woman could wish in such an hour. About ten foot by twelve, it floated high in the raging sea. Out on its top I scrambled, and hanging on by a handle I looked expectant for some of my poor fellow-women to come floating by. Which they never did, for the good reason that the Shouter had blowed up and went below, petticoats, Cap’n Mary and all.” “What caused the explosion?” I inquired. “The Lord and Cap’n Mary Barnacle can explain,” she answered piously. “Besides the oil for her turbines, she carried a power of gasoline for her alternative engines, and likely ’twas the cause of her ending so sudden like. Anyways, all I ever seen of her again was the empty ice-chest that Providence had well-nigh hove upon my head. On that I sat and floated, and floated and sat some more, till by-and-by the storm sort of blowed itself out, the sun come shining—this was next morning—and I could dry my hair and look about me. I was a young lass, then, and not bad to look upon. I didn’t want to die, any more than you that’s sitting there this minute. So I up and prays for land. Sure enough toward evening a speck heaves up low down on the horizon. At first I took it for a gas liner, but later found it was just a little island, all alone by itself in the great Pacific Ocean. “Come, now, here’s luck, thinks I, and with that I deserts the ice-chest, which being empty, and me having no ice to put in it, not likely to have in them latitudes, is of no further use to me. Striking out I swum a mile or so and set foot on dry land for the first time in nigh three days. “Pretty land it were, too, though bare of human life as an iceberg in the Arctic. “I had landed on a shining white beach that run up to a grove of lovely, waving palm trees. Above them I could see the slopes of a hill so high and green it reminded me of my own old home, up near Couquomgomoc Lake in Maine. The whole place just seemed to smile and smile at me. The palms waved and bowed in the sweet breeze, like they wanted to say, ‘Just set right down and make yourself to home. We’ve been waiting a long time for you to come.’ I cried, I was that happy to be made welcome. I was a young lass then, and sensitive-like to how folks treated me. You’re laughing now, but wait and see if or not there was sense to the way I felt. “So I up and dries my clothes and my long, soft hair again, which was well worth drying, for I had far more of it than now. After that I walked along a piece, until there was a sweet little path meandering away into the wild woods. “Here, thinks I, this looks like inhabitants. Be they civil or wild, I wonder? But after traveling the path a piece, lo and behold it ended sudden like in a wide circle of green grass, with a little spring of clear water. And the first thing I noticed was a slab of white board nailed to a palm tree close to the spring. Right off I took a long drink, for you better believe I was thirsty, and then I went to look at this board. It had evidently been tore off the side of a wooden packing box, and the letters was roughly printed in lead pencil. “‘Heaven help whoever you be,’ I read. ‘This island ain’t just right. I’m going to swim for it. You better too. Good-by. Nelson Smith.’ That’s what it said, but the spellin’ was simply awful. It all looked quite new and recent, as if Nelson Smith hadn’t more than a few hours before he wrote and nailed it there. “Well, after reading that queer warning I begun to shake all over like in a chill. Yes, I shook like I had the ague, though the hot tropic sun was burning down right on me and that alarming board. What had scared Nelson Smith so much that he had swum to get away? I looked all around real cautious and careful, but not a single frightening thing could I behold. And the palms and the green grass and the flowers still smiled that peaceful and friendly like. ‘Just make yourself to home,’ was wrote all over the place in plainer letters than those sprawly lead pencil ones on the board. “Pretty soon, what with the quiet and all, the chill left me. Then I thought, ‘Well, to be sure, this Smith person was just an ordinary man, I reckon, and likely he got nervous of being so alone. Likely he just fancied things which was really not. It’s a pity he drowned himself before I come, though likely I’d have found him poor company. By his record I judge him a man of but common education.’ “So I decided to make the most of my welcome, and that I did for weeks to come. Right near the spring was a cave, dry as a biscuit box, with a nice floor of white sand. Nelson had lived there too, for there was a litter of stuff—tin cans—empty—scraps of newspapers and the like. I got to calling him Nelson in my mind, and then Nelly, and wondering if he was dark or fair, and how he come to be cast away there all alone, and what was the strange events that drove him to his end. I cleaned out the cave, though. He had devoured all his tin-canned provisions, however he come by them, but this I didn’t mind. That there island was a generous body. Green milk-coconuts, sweet berries, turtle eggs and the like was my daily fare. “For about three weeks the sun shone every day, the birds sang and the monkeys chattered. We was all one big, happy family, and the more I explored that island the better I liked the company I was keeping. The land was about ten miles from beach to beach, and never a foot of it that wasn’t sweet and clean as a private park. “From the top of the hill I could see the ocean, miles and miles of blue water, with never a sign of a gas liner, or even a little government running-boat. Them running-boats used to go most everywhere to keep the seaways clean of derelicts and the like. But I knowed that if this island was no more than a hundred miles off the regular courses of navigation, it might be many a long day before I’d be rescued. The top of the hill, as I found when first I climbed up there, was a wore-out crater. So I knowed that the island was one of them volcanic ones you run across so many of in the seas between Capricorn and Cancer. “Here and there on the slopes and down through the jungly tree-growth, I would come on great lumps of rock, and these must have came up out of that crater long ago. If there was lava it was so old it had been covered up entire with green growing stuff. You couldn’t have found it without a spade, which I didn’t have nor want.” “Well, at first I was happy as the hours was long. I wandered and clambered and waded and swum, and combed my long hair on the beach, having fortunately not lost my side-combs nor the rest of my gold hairpins. But by-and-by it begun to get just a bit lonesome. Funny thing, that’s a feeling that, once it starts, it gets worse and worser so quick it’s perfectly surprising. And right then was when the days begun to get gloomy. We had a long, sickly hot spell, like I never seen before on an ocean island. There was dull clouds across the sun from morn to night. Even the little monkeys and parrakeets, that had seemed so gay, moped and drowsed like they was sick. All one day I cried, and let the rain soak me through and through—that was the first rain we had—and I didn’t get thorough dried even during the night, though I slept in my cave. Next morning I got up mad as thunder at myself and all the world. “When I looked out the black clouds was billowing across the sky. I could hear nothing but great breakers roaring in on the beaches, and the wild wind raving through the lashing palms. “As I stood there a nasty little wet monkey dropped from a branch almost on my head. I grabbed a pebble and slung it at him real vicious. ‘Get away, you dirty little brute!’ I shrieks, and with that there come a awful blinding flare of light. There was a long, crackling noise like a bunch of Chinese fireworks, and then a sound as if a whole fleet of Shouters had all went up together. “When I come to, I found myself ‘way in the back of my cave, trying to dig further into the rock with my finger nails. Upon taking thought, it come to me that what had occurred was just a lightning-clap, and going to look, sure enough there lay a big palm tree right across the glade. It was all busted and split open by the lightning, and the little monkey was under it, for I could see his tail and his hind legs sticking out. “Now, when I set eyes on that poor, crushed little beast I’d been so mean to, I was terrible ashamed. I sat down on the smashed tree and considered and considered. How thankful I had ought to have been. Here I had a lovely, plenteous island, with food and water to my taste, when it might have been a barren, starvation rock that was my lot. And so, thinking, a sort of gradual peaceful feeling stole over me. I got cheerfuller and cheerfuller, till I could have sang and danced for joy. “Pretty soon I realized that the sun was shining bright for the first time that week. The wind had stopped hollering, and the waves had died to just a singing murmur on the beach. It seemed kind o’ strange, this sudden peace, like the cheer in my own heart after its rage and storm. I rose up, feeling sort of queer, and went to look if the little monkey had came alive again, though that was a fool thing, seeing he was laying all crushed up and very dead. I buried him under a tree root, and as I did it a conviction come to me. “I didn’t hardly question that conviction at all. Somehow, living there alone so long, perhaps my natural womanly intuition was stronger than ever before or since, and so I knowed. Then I went and pulled poor Nelson Smith’s board off from the tree and tossed it away for the tide to carry off. That there board was an insult to my island!” The sea-woman paused, and her eyes had a far-away look. It seemed as if I and perhaps even the macaroons and tea were quite forgotten. “Why did you think that?” I asked, to bring her back. “How could an island be insulted?” She started, passed her hand across her eyes, and hastily poured another cup of tea. “Because,” she said at last, poising a macaroon in mid-air, “because that island—that particular island that I had landed on—had a heart! “When I was gay, it was bright and cheerful. It was glad when I come, and it treated me right until I got that grouchy it had to mope from sympathy. It loved me like a friend. When I flung a rock at that poor little drenched monkey critter, it backed up my act with an anger like the wrath o’ God, and killed its own child to please me! But it got right cheery the minute I seen the wrongness of my ways. Nelson Smith had no business to say, ‘This island ain’t just right,’ for it was a righter place than ever I seen elsewhere. When I cast away that lying board, all the birds begun to sing like mad. The green milk-coconuts fell right and left. Only the monkeys seemed kind o’ sad like still, and no wonder. You see, their own mother, the island, had rounded on one o’ them for my sake! “After that I was right careful and considerate. I named the island Anita, not knowing her right name, or if she had any. Anita was a pretty name, and it sounded kind of South Sea like. Anita and me got along real well together from that day on. It was some strain to be always gay and singing around like a dear duck of a canary bird, but I done my best. Still, for all the love and gratitude I bore Anita, the company of an island, however sympathetic, ain’t quite enough for a human being. I still got lonesome, and there was even days when I couldn’t keep the clouds clear out of the sky, though I will say we had no more tornadoes. “I think the island understood and tried to help me with all the bounty and good cheer the poor thing possessed. None the less my heart give a wonderful big leap when one day I seen a blot on the horizon. It drawed nearer and nearer, until at last I could make out its nature.” “A ship, of course,” said I, “and were you rescued?” “‘Tweren’t a ship, neither,” denied the sea-woman somewhat impatiently. “Can’t you let me spin this yarn without no more remarks and fool questions? This thing what was bearing down so fast with the incoming tide was neither more nor less than another island! “You may well look startled. I was startled myself. Much more so than you, likely. I didn’t know then what you, with your book-learning, very likely know now—that islands sometimes float. Their underparts being a tangled-up mess of roots and old vines that new stuff’s growed over, they sometimes break away from the mainland in a brisk gale and go off for a voyage, calm as a old-fashioned, eight-funnel steamer. This one was uncommon large, being as much as two miles, maybe, from shore to shore. It had its palm trees and its live things, just like my own Anita, and I’ve sometimes wondered if this drifting piece hadn’t really been a part of my island once—just its daughter like, as you might say. “Be that, however, as it might be, no sooner did the floating piece get within hailing distance than I hears a human holler and there was a man dancing up and down on the shore like he was plumb crazy. Next minute he had plunged into the narrow strip of water between us and in a few minutes had swum to where I stood. “Yes, of course it was none other than Nelson Smith! “I knowed that the minute I set eyes on him. He had the very look of not having no better sense than the man what wrote that board and then nearly committed suicide trying to get away from the best island in all the oceans. Glad enough he was to get back, though, for the coconuts was running very short on the floater what had rescued him, and the turtle eggs wasn’t worth mentioning. Being short of grub is the surest way I know to cure a man’s fear of the unknown.” “Well, to make a long story short, Nelson Smith told me he was a aeronauter. In them days to be an aeronauter was not the same as to be an aviatress is now. There was dangers in the air, and dangers in the sea, and he had met with both. His gas tank had leaked and he had dropped into the water close by Anita. A case or two of provisions was all he could save from the total wreck. “Now, as you might guess, I was crazy enough to find out what had scared this Nelson Smith into trying to swim the Pacific. He told me a story that seemed to fit pretty well with mine, only when it come to the scary part he shut up like a clam, that aggravating way some men have. I give it up at last for just man-foolishness, and we begun to scheme to get away. “Anita moped some while we talked it over. I realized how she must be feeling, so I explained to her that it was right needful for us to get with our kind again. If we stayed with her we should probably quarrel like cats, and maybe even kill each other out of pure human cussedness. She cheered up considerable after that, and even, I thought, got a little anxious to have us leave. At any rate, when we begun to provision up the little floater, which we had anchored to the big island by a cable of twisted bark, the green nuts fell all over the ground, and Nelson found more turtle nests in a day than I had in weeks. “During them days I really got fond of Nelson Smith. He was a companionable body, and brave, or he wouldn’t have been a professional aeronauter, a job that was rightly thought tough enough for a woman, let alone a man. Though he was not so well educated as me, at least he was quiet and modest about what he did know, not like some men, boasting most where there is least to brag of. “Indeed, I misdoubt if Nelson and me would not have quit the sea and the air together and set up housekeeping in some quiet little town up in New England, maybe, after we had got away, if it had not been for what happened when we went. I never, let me say, was so deceived in any man before nor since. The thing taught me a lesson and I never was fooled again. “We was all ready to go, and then one morning, like a parting gift from Anita, come a soft and favoring wind. Nelson and I run down the beach together, for we didn’t want our floater to blow off and leave us. As we was running, our arms full of coconuts, Nelson Smith, stubbed his bare toe on a sharp rock, and down he went. I hadn’t noticed, and was going on. “But sudden the ground begun to shake under my feet, and the air was full of a queer, grinding, groaning sound, like the very earth was in pain. “I turned around sharp. There sat Nelson, holding his bleeding toe in both fists and giving vent to such awful words as no decent sea-going lady would ever speak nor hear to! “‘Stop it, stop it!’ I shrieked at him, but ’twas too late. “Island or no island, Anita was a lady, too! She had a gentle heart, but she knowed how to behave when she was insulted. “With one terrible, great roar a spout of smoke and flame belched up out o’ the heart of Anita’s crater hill a full mile into the air! “I guess Nelson stopped swearing. He couldn’t have heard himself, anyways. Anita was talking now with tongues of flame and such roars as would have bespoke the raging protest of a continent. “I grabbed that fool man by the hand and run him down to the water. We had to swim good and hard to catch up with our only hope, the floater. No bark rope could hold her against the stiff breeze that was now blowing, and she had broke her cable. By the time we scrambled aboard great rocks was falling right and left. We couldn’t see each other for a while for the clouds of fine gray ash. “It seemed like Anita was that mad she was flinging stones after us, and truly I believe that such was her intention. I didn’t blame her, neither! “Lucky for us the wind was strong and we was soon out of range. “‘So!’ says I to Nelson, after I’d got most of the ashes out of my mouth, and shook my hair clear of cinders. ‘So, that was the reason you up and left sudden when you was there before! You aggravated that island till the poor thing druv you out!’ “‘Well,’ says he, and not so meek as I’d have admired to see him, ‘how could I know the darn island was a lady?’ “‘Actions speak louder than words,’ says I. ‘You should have knowed it by her ladylike behavior!’ “‘Is volcanoes and slingin’ hot rocks ladylike?’ he says. ‘Is snakes ladylike? T’other time I cut my thumb on a tin can, I cussed a little bit. Say—just a li’l’ bit! An’ what comes at me out o’ all the caves, and out o’ every crack in the rocks, and out o’ the very spring o’ water where I’d been drinkin’? Why snakes! Snakes, if you please, big, little, green, red and sky-blue-scarlet! What’d I do? Jumped in the water, of course. Why wouldn’t I? I’d ruther swim and drown than be stung or swallowed to death. But how was I t’ know the snakes come outta the rocks because I cussed?’ “‘You, couldn’t,’ I agrees, sarcastic. ‘Some folks never knows a lady till she up and whangs ’em over the head with a brick. A real, gentle, kind-like warning, them snakes were, which you would not heed! Take shame to yourself, Nelly,’ says I, right stern, ‘that a decent little island like Anita can’t associate with you peaceable, but you must hurt her sacredest feelings with language no lady would stand by to hear!’ “I never did see Anita again. She may have blew herself right out of the ocean in her just wrath at the vulgar, disgustin’ language of Nelson Smith. I don’t know. We was took off the floater at last, and I lost track of Nelson just as quick as I could when we was landed at Frisco. “He had taught me a lesson. A man is just full of mannishness, and the best of ’em ain’t good enough for a lady to sacrifice her sensibilities to put up with. “Nelson Smith, he seemed to feel real bad when he learned I was not for him, and then he apologized. But apologies weren’t no use to me. I could never abide him, after the way he went and talked right in the presence of me and my poor, sweet lady friend, Anita!” Now I am well versed in the lore of the sea in all ages. Through mists of time I have enviously eyed wild voyagings of sea rovers who roved and spun their yarns before the stronger sex came into its own, and ousted man from his heroic pedestal. I have followed—across the printed page—the wanderings of Odysseus. Before Gulliver I have burned the incense of tranced attention; and with reverent awe considered the history of one Munchausen, a baron. But alas, these were only men! In what field is not woman our subtle superior? Meekly I bowed my head, and when my eyes dared lift again, the ancient mariness had departed, leaving me to sorrow for my surpassed and outdone idols. Also with a bill for macaroons and tea of such incredible proportions that in comparison therewith I found it easy to believe her story! Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyIn 2016, China’s submission to the Academy awards followed a 7th century monk on his journey of exploration to India. The record of Hiuen-Tsiang’s (b. 602– dec. 664) travel has had an enormous impact on Chinese culture, inspiring one of the country’s age-old novels. The manuscript also contains one of the most detailed descriptions of the old Nalanada monastery in India, an intellectual powerhouse that dominated the world for a thousand years, before being reduced to ruins. In this text from 1911, a prominent sinologist comments. “Centuries before biography became a business, before the peccadilloes of royal mistresses and forgotten courtesans obtained a “market value’ the writing of the Master’s life by some cherished disciple was both an act of love and piety in the far East. The very footprints of the famous dead became luminous, and their shadows shone in dark caves that once withheld them from the world. Memory looking back viewed them through a golden haze; they were merged at last in ancient sunlight; they were shafts of God rayed in the tangled forests of time. In this spirit, then, the man of compassionate feeling, the Shaman Hwui Li took up his tablets and wrote the life of Hiuen-Tsiang. The Master had already written his immortal Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (published 646 AD), yet the sixteen years of that wonderful quest in far-off India, of cities seen and shrines visited, of strange peoples and stranger customs, cannot be crowded into one brief record. And so we watch the patient disciple waiting on those intervals of leisure when the task of translation from Sanskrit into Chinese is laid aside, when the long routine of a Buddhist day is ended, waiting for the impressions of a wandering soul in the birthplace of its faith. The Life is supplement to the record. What is obscure or half told in the one is made clear in the other. Hwui-Li begins in the true Chinese manner with a grand pedigree of his hero, tracing his descent from the Emperor Hwang Ti, the mythical Heavenly Emperor. This zeal for following the remotest ancestors over the borders of history into the regions of fable may be largely ascribed to a very human desire to connect the stream of life with its divine source. We are chiefly concerned to know that he came of a family which had already given notable men to the State, and was launched in the troublous whirl of birth and death but a little distance from the town of Kou-Shih, in the province of Honan, in the year 6oo A.D. Here and there biography leaves us a glimpse of his outward appearance as boy and man. We are told that at his opening life he was rosy as the evening vapours and round as the rising moon. As a boy he was “sweet as the odor of cinnamon or the vanilla tree.” A soberer style does justice to his prime, and again he comes before us, “a tall handsome man with beautiful eyes and a good complexion. He had a serious but benevolent expression and a sedate, rather stately manner.” The call of the West came early to Hiuen-Tsiang. From a child he had easily outstripped his fellows in the pursuit of knowledge, and with the passing of the years he stepped beyond the narrow limits of Chinese Buddhism and found the deserts of Turkestan between him and the land of his dreams. Imperfect translations from the Sanskrit, the limited intelligence of the Chinese priesthood, the sense of vast truths dimly perceived obscurely set forth, the leaven of his first Confucian training—all contributed to the making of a Buddhist pilgrim. The period of his departure, 629 A.D., was an eventful one for China. Taizong (b.598- d.649), the most powerful figure of the brilliant Tang dynasty, sat on the throne of his father Kaotsu, the founder of the line. The nomad Tartars, so long the terror of former dynasties, succumbed to his military genius, and Kashgaria was made a province of the Empire. Already the kingdom of Tibet was tottering to its fall, and Corea was to know the devastation of war within her boundaries. Ch’ang-an was now the capital, a city of floating pavilions and secluded gardens, destined to become the center of a literary movement that would leave its mark for all time. But the days were not yet when the terraces of Teng-hiang-ting would see the butterflies alight on the flower-crowned locks of Yang-kuei-fei, or the green vistas re-echo to the voices of poet and emperor joined in praise of her. Only two wandering monks emerge furtively through the outer gates of the city’s triple walls, and one of them looks back for a glimpse of Ch’ang-an, the last for sixteen eventful years of exile. Others had crossed the frontier before him, notably Fa-hian and Sung Yun in the fourth and the fifth centuries AD, others in due course would come and go, leaving to posterity their impressions of a changing world, but this man stands alone, a prince of pilgrims, a very Bayard of Buddhist enthusiasm, fearless and without reproach. As we read on through the pages of Hwui-li the fascination of the Master of the Law becomes clear to us, not suddenly, but with the long, arduous miles that mark the way to India and the journey home. Take the Master’s tattered robes, let the winds of Gobi whistle through your sleeve and cut you to the bone, mount his rusty red nag and set your face to the West. In the night you will see ‘ “fire-lights as many as stars” raised by the demons and goblins; travelling at dawn you will behold ‘ “soldiers clad in fur and felt and the appearance of camels and horsemen and the glittering of standards and lances; fresh forms and figures changing into a thousand shapes, sometimes at an immense distance, then close at hand, then vanished into the void.” The time comes when even the old red steed avails not, the Great Ice Mountains loom in front of you, and you crawl like an ant and cling like a fly to the roof of the world. Then on the topmost summit, still far away from the promised land, you realize two things—the littleness of human life, the greatness of one indomitable soul. But the superman is also very human. With the vast bulk of his encyclopedic knowledge he falls on the pretentious monk Mokshagupta in the Kingdom of Agni, he flattens him and treads a stately if heavy measure on his prostrate body. And withal clear-sighted and intolerant of shams, he is still a child of his age and religion. With childish curiosity he tempts a bone to foretell the future, and with childish delight obtains the answer he most desires. In the town of Hiddha is Buddha’s skull bone, one foot long, two inches round. “If anyone wishes to know the indications of his guilt or his religious merit he mixes some powdered incense into a paste, which he spreads upon a piece of silken stuff, and tlien presses it on the top of the bone according to the resulting indications the good fortune or ill fortune of the man is determined” Hiuen obtains the impression of a Bodhi and is overjoyed, for, as the guardian Brahman of the bone explains, “it is a sure sign of your having a portion of true wisdom (Bodhi).” At another time he plays a kind of religious quoits by flinging garlands of flowers on the sacred image of Buddha, which, being caught on its hands and arms, show that his desires will be fulfilled. In simple faith he tells Hwui-li how Buddha once cleaned his teeth and flung the fragments of the wood with which he performed the act on the ground ; how they took root forthwith, and how a tree seventy feet high was the consequence. And Hiuen saw that tree, therefore the story must be true. But it is not with the pardonable superstitions of a human soul of long ago that we need concern ourselves. The immense latent reserve, the calm strength to persist, is the appeal. It comes to us with no note of triumph for the thing accomplished or the obstacle removed, but rather underlies some simple statement of fact and is summed up in these few trite words: “We advanced guided by observing the bones left on the way.” The little incidents of life and death are as nothing to one who looks on all men as ghosts haunted by reality. And so the Master of the Law resigns himself to the prospect of a violent end at the hands of the river pirates of the Ganges, to the miraculous interposition of a timely storm, with the same serenity with which he meets the long procession streaming out of Nalanda in his honor, with its two hundred priests and some thousand lay patrons who surround him to his entry, recounting his praises, and carrying standards, umbrellas, flowers, and perfumes. “The tradition of the old people is this: To the south of the convent, in the middle of an Amra garden, is a pool. In this pool is a Naga called Nalanda, and the convent built by the side of the pool is therefore called after his name. Again there is a saying that Tathagata whilst a Bodhisattva was the king of a great country and built his capital in this place. He was deeply affected towards the orphans and destitute, and, ever moved by this principle, gave away all he had for their good. In memory of this goodness they named the place ”doing charitable acts without intermission,” The place was originally the garden of the lord Amra. Five hundred merchants bought it for ten lacs of gold pieces, and presented it to Buddha. Here Buddha preached the law for three months, and most of the merchants obtained the fruit of Arhatship, in consequence. After the Nirvana of Buddha an old king of this country called Sakraditya, from a principle of loving obedience to Buddha, built this convent. After his decease his son seized the throne, and continued the vast undertaking; he built, towards the south, another temple. Then his son built a temple to the eastward. Next, his son built a temple to the north-east. Afterwards the king, seeing some priests who came from the country of China to receive his religious offerings, was filled with gladness, and he gave up his royal estate and became a recluse. His son succeeded and built another temple to the north. After him a king of Mid-India built by the side of this another temple. Thus six kings in connected succession added to these structures. Moreover, the whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall, which encloses the entire convent from without. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls, standing in the middle. The richly adorned towers, and the fairy -like turrets, like pointed hill- tops, are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapours of the morning, and the upper rooms tower above the clouds. From the windows one may see how the winds and the clouds produce new forms, and above the soaring eaves the conjunctions of the sun and moon may be observed.” There are moments of sheer delight when scenes of physical beauty are fair enough to draw even a Buddhist monk from his philosophic calm, when even Hiuen-Tsiang must have become lyrical in the presence of his recording disciple. Who would not be the guest of the abbot of Nalanda monastery with its six wings, each built by a king, all enclosed in the privacy of solid brick? “And then we may add how the deep, translucent ponds, bear on their surface the blue lotus, intermingled with the Kie-ni flower, of deep red color, and at intervals the Amra groves spread over all, their shade. All the outside courts, in which are the priests’ chambers, are of four stages. The stages have dragonprojections and colored eaves, the pearl-red pillars, carved and ornamented, the richly adorned balustrades, and the roofs covered with tiles that reflect the light in a thousand shades, these things add to the beauty of the scene.” Here ten thousand priests sought refuge from the world of passing phenomena and the lure of the senses. Wherever our pilgrim goes he finds traces of a worship far older than Buddhism. He does not tell us so in so many words, yet underneath the many allusions to Bodhitrees and Nagas we may discover the traces of that primitive tree and serpent worship that still exists in remote corners of India, as, for instance, among the Naga tribes of Manipur who worship the python they have killed. In Hiuen’s time every lake and fountain had its Naga-raja or serpent-king, Buddha himself, as we learn from both the Si-yu-hi and the Life, spent much time converting or subduing these ancient gods. There were Nagas both good and evil. When Buddha first sought enlightenment he sat for seven days in a state of contemplation by the waters of a little woodland lake. Then this good Naga “kept guard over Tathagata ; with his folds seven times round the body of the Buddha, he caused many heads to appear, which overshadowed him as a parasol ; therefore to the east of this lake is the dwelling of the Naga.”…. The Buddha sat for seven days contemplating this tree ; “he did not remove his gaze from it during this period, desiring thereby to indicate his grateful feelings towards the tree by so looking at it with fixed eyes.” Hiuen Tsiang himself and his companions contributed to the universal adoration of the tree, for, as that impeccable Buddhist the Shaman Hwui-li rather baldly states, “they paid worship to the Bodhi-tree.” How did Buddhism come to be connected in any way with tree and serpent worship? The answer is, through its connection with Bralimanism. As Buddhism was Brahmanism reformed, so Brahmanism in its turn was the progressive stage of tree and serpent worship. Siva the destroyer is also Nag Bhushan, “he who wears snakes as his ornaments.”… But Hiuen-Tsiang was born into a world that beheld the tree of Buddhism slowly dying from the top. He bore witness, if unconsciously, to a time of transition and a noble faith in decay, and the swift, silent growth of jungle mythology around the crumbling temples of Buddha. His record of these sixteen years of travel is a priceless one, for through it we are able to reconstruct the world and ways of Buddhist India of the centuries that have passed. Yet far more priceless still is that record, read between the lines, of a human soul dauntless in disaster, unmoved in the hour of triumph, counting the perils of the bone-strewn plain and the unconquered hills as nothing to the ideal that lay before him, the life-work, the call of the Holy Himalayas and the long toil of his closing years. It is difficult to over-estimate his services to Buddhist literature. He returned to his own country with no less than 657 volumes of the sacred books, seventy-four of which he translated into Chinese, while 150 relics of the Buddha, borne by twenty horses, formed the spoil reverently gathered from the many lands we call India. And so we leave him to his rest upon Mount Sumeru, where once his venturous soul alighted in the dreams of youth, with the serpents coiled beneath its base, with its seven circling hills of gold and the seven seas between, and the great salt ocean encompassing them all. May 6th, 1911″ by sinologist Launcelot Alfred Cranmer-Byng (1872-1945).   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story“Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” by Kelly Link (1969- ) Dear Mary (if that is your name), I bet you’ll be pretty surprised to hear from me. It really is me, by the way, although I have to confess at the moment that not only can I not seem to keep your name straight in my head, Laura? Susie? Odile? but I seem to have forgotten my own name. I plan to keep trying different combinations: Joe loves Lola, Willy loves Suki, Henry loves you, sweetie, Georgia?, honeypie, darling. Do any of these seem right to you? All last week I felt like something was going to happen, a sort of bees and ants feeling. Something was going to happen. I taught my classes and came home and went to bed, all week waiting for the thing that was going to happen, and then on Friday I died. One of the things I seem to have misplaced is how, or maybe I mean why. It’s like the names. I know that we lived together in a house on a hill in a small comfortable city for nine years, that we didn’t have kids—except once, almost—and that you’re a terrible cook, oh my darling, Coraline? Coralee? and so was I, and we ate out whenever we could afford to. I taught at a good university, Princeton? Berkeley? Notre Dame? I was a good teacher, and my students liked me. But I can’t remember the name of the street we lived on, or the author of the last book I read, or your last name which was also my name, or how I died. It’s funny, Sarah? but the only two names I know for sure are real are Looly Bellows, the girl who beat me up in fourth grade, and your cat’s name. I’m not going to put your cat’s name down on paper just yet. We were going to name the baby Beatrice. I just remembered that. We were going to name her after your aunt, the one that doesn’t like me. Didn’t like me. Did she come to the funeral? I’ve been here for three days, and I’m trying to pretend that it’s just a vacation, like when we went to that island in that country. Santorini? Great Britain? The one with all the cliffs. The one with the hotel with the bunkbeds, and little squares of pink toilet paper, like handkerchiefs. It had seashells in the window too, didn’t it, that were transparent like bottle glass? They smelled like bleach? It was a very nice island. No trees. You said that when you died, you hoped heaven would be an island like that. And now I’m dead, and here I am. This is an island too, I think. There is a beach, and down on the beach is a mailbox where I am going to post this letter. Other than the beach, the mailbox, there is the building in which I sit and write this letter. It seems to be a perfectly pleasant resort hotel with no other guests, no receptionist, no host, no events coordinator, no bellboy. Just me. There is a television set, very old-fashioned, in the hotel lobby. I fiddled the antenna for a long time, but never got a picture. Just static. I tried to make images, people out of the static. It looked like they were waving at me. My room is on the second floor. It has a sea view. All the rooms here have views of the sea. There is a desk in my room, and a good supply of plain, waxy white paper and envelopes in one of the drawers. Laurel? Maria? Gertrude? I haven’t gone out of sight of the hotel yet, Lucille? because I am afraid that it might not be there when I get back. Yours truly, You know who. The dead man lies on his back on the hotel bed, his hands busy and curious, stroking his body up and down as if it didn’t really belong to him at all. One hand cups his testicles, the other tugs hard at his erect penis. His heels push against the mattress and his eyes are open, and his mouth. He is trying to say someone’s name. Outside, the sky seems much too close, made out of some grey stuff that only grudgingly allows light through. The dead man has noticed that it never gets any lighter or darker, but sometimes the air begins to feel heavier, and then stuff falls out of the sky, fist-sized lumps of whitish-grey doughy matter. It falls until the beach is covered, and immediately begins to dissolve. The dead man was outside, the first time the sky fell. Now he waits inside until the beach is clear again. Sometimes he watches television, although the reception is poor. The sea goes up and back the beach, sucking and curling around the mailbox at high tide. There is something about it that the dead man doesn’t like much. It doesn’t smell like salt the way a sea should. Cara? Jasmine? It smells like wet upholstery, burnt fur. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose Dear May? April? Ianthe? My room has a bed with thin, limp sheets and an amateurish painting of a woman sitting under a tree. She has nice breasts, but a peculiar expression on her face, for a woman in a painting in a hotel room, even in a hotel like this. She looks disgruntled. I have a bathroom with hot and cold running water, towels, and a mirror. I looked in the mirror for a long time, but I didn’t look familiar. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a good look at a dead person. I have brown hair, receding at the temples, brown eyes, and good teeth, white, even, and not too large. I have a small mark on my shoulder, Celeste? where you bit me when we were making love that last time. Did you somehow realize it would be the last time we made love? Your expression was sad; also, I seem to recall, angry. I remember your expression now, Eliza? You glared up at me without blinking and when you came, you said my name, and although I can’t remember my name, I remember you said it as if you hated me. We hadn’t made love for a long time. I estimate my height to be about five feet, eleven inches, and although I am not unhandsome, I have an anxious, somewhat fixed expression. This may be due to circumstances. I was wondering if my name was by any chance Roger or Timothy or Charles. When we went on vacation, I remember there was a similar confusion about names, although not ours. We were trying to think of one for her, I mean, for Beatrice. Petrucchia, Solange? We wrote them all with long pieces of stick on the beach, to see how they looked. We started with the plain names, like Jane and Susan and Laura. We tried practical names like Polly and Meredith and Hope, and then we became extravagant. We dragged our sticks through the sand and produced entire families of scowling little girls named Gudrun, Jezebel, Jerusalem, Zedeenya, Zerilla. How about Looly, I said. I knew a girl named Looly Bellows once. Your hair was all snarled around your face, stiff with salt. You had about a zillion freckles. You were laughing so hard you had to prop yourself up with your stick. You said that sounded like a made-up name. Love, You know who. The dead man is trying to act as if he is really here, in this place. He is trying to act in a normal and appropriate fashion. As much as is possible. He is trying to be a good tourist. He hasn’t been able to fall asleep in the bed, although he has turned the painting to the wall. He is not sure that the bed is a bed. When his eyes are closed, it doesn’t seem to be a bed. He sleeps on the floor, which seems more floorlike than the bed seems bedlike. He lies on the floor with nothing over him and pretends that he isn’t dead. He pretends that he is in bed with his wife and dreaming. He makes up a nice dream about a party where he has forgotten everyone’s name. He touches himself. Then he gets up and sees that the white stuff that has fallen out of the sky is dissolving on the beach, little clumps of it heaped around the mailbox like foam. Dear Elspeth? Deborah? Frederica? Things are getting worse. I know that if I could just get your name straight, things would get better. I told you that I’m on an island, but I’m not sure that I am. I’m having doubts about my bed and the hotel. I’m not happy about the sea or the sky, either. The things that have names that I’m sure of, I’m not sure they’re those things, if you understand what I’m saying, Mallory? I’m not sure I’m still breathing, either. When I think about it, I do. I only think about it because it’s too quiet when I’m not. Did you know, Alison? that up in those mountains, the Berkshires? the altitude gets too high, and then real people, live people forget to breathe also? There’s a name for when they forget. I forget what the name is. But if the bed isn’t a bed, and the beach isn’t a beach, then what are they? When I look at the horizon, there almost seem to be corners. When I lay down, the corners on the bed receded like the horizon. Then there is the problem about the mail. Yesterday I simply slipped the letter into a plain envelope, and slipped the envelope, unaddressed, into the mailbox. This morning the letter was gone and when I stuck my hand inside, and then my arm, the sides of the box were damp and sticky. I inspected the back side and discovered an open panel. When the tide rises, the mail goes out to sea. So I really have no idea if you, Pamela? or, for that matter, if anyone is reading this letter. I tried dragging the mailbox further up the beach. The waves hissed and spit at me, a wave ran across my foot, cold and furry and black, and I gave up. So I will simply have to trust to the local mail system. Hoping you get this soon, You know who. The dead man goes for a walk along the beach. The sea keeps its distance, but the hotel stays close behind him. He notices that the tide retreats when he walks towards it, which is good. He doesn’t want to get his shoes wet. If he walked out to sea, would it part for him like that guy in the bible? Onan? He is wearing his second-best suit, the one he wore for interviews and weddings. He figures it’s either the suit that he died in, or else the one that his wife buried him in. He has been wearing it ever since he woke up and found himself on the island, disheveled and sweating, his clothing wrinkled as if he had been wearing it for a long time. He takes his suit and his shoes off only when he is in his hotel room. He puts them back on to go outside. He goes for a walk along the beach. His fly is undone. The little waves slap at the dead man. He can see teeth under that water, in the glassy black walls of the larger waves, the waves farther out to sea. He walks a fair distance, stopping frequently to rest. He tires easily. He keeps to the dunes. His shoulders are hunched, his head down. When the sky begins to change, he turns around. The hotel is right behind him. He doesn’t seem at all surprised to see it there. All the time he has been walking, he has had the feeling that just over the next dune someone is waiting for him. He hopes that maybe it is his wife, but on the other hand if it were his wife, she’d be dead too, and if she were dead, he could remember her name. Dear Matilda? Ivy? Alicia? I picture my letters sailing out to you, over those waves with the teeth, little white boats. Dear reader, Beryl? Fern? you would like to know how I am so sure these letters are getting to you? I remember that it always used to annoy you, the way I took things for granted. But I’m sure you’re reading this in the same way that even though I’m still walking around and breathing (when I remember to) I’m sure I’m dead. I think that these letters are getting to you, mangled, sodden but still legible. If they arrived the regular way, you probably wouldn’t believe they were from me, anyway. I remembered a name today, Elvis Presley. He was the singer, right? Blue shoes, kissy fat lips, slickery voice? Dead, right? Like me. Marilyn Monroe too, white dress blowing up like a sail, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Looly Bellows (remember?) who lived next door to me when we were both eleven. She had migraine headaches all through the school year, which made her mean. Nobody liked her, before, when we didn’t know she was sick. We didn’t like her after. She broke my nose because I pulled her wig off one day on a dare. They took a tumor out of her head that was the size of a chicken egg but she died anyway. When I pulled her wig off, she didn’t cry. She had brittle bits of hair tufting out of her scalp and her face was swollen with fluid like she’d been stung by bees. She looked so old. She told me that when she was dead she’d come back and haunt me, and after she died, I pretended that I could see not just her—but whole clusters of fat, pale, hairless ghosts lingering behind trees, swollen and humming like hives. It was a scary fun game I played with my friends. We called the ghosts loolies, and we made up rules that kept us safe from them. A certain kind of walk, a diet of white food—marshmallows, white bread rolled into pellets, and plain white rice. When we got tired of the loolies, we killed them off by decorating her grave with the remains of the powdered donuts and Wonderbread our suspicious mothers at last refused to buy for us. Are you decorating my grave, Felicity? Gay? Have you forgotten me yet? Have you gotten another cat yet, another lover? or are you still in mourning for me? God, I want you so much, Carnation, Lily? Lily? Rose? It’s the reverse of necrophilia, I suppose—the dead man who wants one last fuck with his wife. But you’re not here, and if you were here, would you go to bed with me? I write you letters with my right hand, and I do the other thing with my left hand that I used to do with my left hand, ever since I was fourteen, when I didn’t have anything better to do. I seem to recall that when I was fourteen there wasn’t anything better to do. I think about you, I think about touching you, think that you’re touching me, and I see you naked, and you’re glaring at me, and I’m about to shout out your name, and then I come and the name on my lips is the name of some dead person, or some totally made-up name. Does it bother you, Linda? Donna? Penthesilia? Do you want to know the worst thing? Just a minute ago I was grinding into the pillow, bucking and pushing and pretending it was you, Stacy? under me, oh fuck it felt good, just like when I was alive and when I came I said, “Beatrice.” And I remembered coming to get you in the hospital after the miscarriage. There were a lot of things I wanted to say. I mean, neither of us was really sure that we wanted a baby and part of me, sure, was relieved that I wasn’t going to have to learn how to be a father just yet, but there were still things that I wish I’d said to you. There were a lot of things I wish I’d said to you. You know who. The dead man sets out across the interior of the island. At some point after his first expedition, the hotel moved quietly back to its original location, the dead man in his room, looking into the mirror, expression intent, hips tilted against the cool tile. This flesh is dead. It should not rise. It rises. Now the hotel is back beside the mailbox, which is empty when he walks down to check it. The middle of the island is rocky, barren. There are no trees here, the dead man realizes, feeling relieved. He walks for a short distance—less than two miles, he calculates, before he stands on the opposite shore. In front of him is a flat expanse of water, sky folded down over the horizon. When the dead man turns around, he can see his hotel, looking forlorn and abandoned. But when he squints, the shadows on the back veranda waver, becoming a crowd of people, all looking back at him. He has his hands inside his pants, he is touching himself. He takes his hands out of his pants. He turns his back on the shadowy porch. He walks along the shore. He ducks down behind a sand dune, and then down a long hill. He is going to circle back. He is going to sneak up on the hotel if he can, although it is hard to sneak up on something that always seems to be trying to sneak up on you. He walks for a while, and what he finds is a ring of glassy stones, far up on the beach, driftwood piled inside the ring, charred and black. The ground is trampled all around the fire, as if people have stood there, waiting and pacing. There is something left in tatters and skin on a spit in the center of the campfire, about the size of a cat. The dead man doesn’t look too closely at it. He walks around the fire. He sees tracks indicating where the people who stood here, watching a cat roast, went away again. It would be hard to miss the direction they are taking. The people leave together, rushing untidily up the dune, barefoot and heavy, the imprints of the balls of the foot deep, heels hardly touching the sand at all. They are headed back towards the hotel. He follows the footprints, sees the single track of his own footprints, coming down to the fire. Above, in a line parallel to his expedition and to the sea, the crowd has walked this way, although he did not see them. They are walking more carefully now, he pictures them walking more quietly. His footprints end. There is the mailbox, and this is where he left the hotel. The hotel itself has left no mark. The other footprints continue towards the hotel, where it stands now, small in the distance. When the dead man gets back to the hotel, the lobby floor is dusted with sand, and the television is on. The reception is slightly improved. But no one is there, although he searches every room. When he stands on the back veranda, staring out over the interior of the island, he imagines he sees a group of people, down beside the far shore, waving at him. The sky begins to fall. Dear Araminta? Kiki? Lolita? Still doesn’t have the right ring to it, does it? Sukie? Ludmilla? Winifred? I had that same not-dream about the faculty party again. She was there, only this time you were the one who recognized her, and I was trying to guess her name, who she was. Was she the tall blonde with the nice ass, or the short blonde with the short hair who kept her mouth a little open, like she was smiling all the time? That one looked like she knew something I wanted to know, but so did you. Isn’t that funny? I never told you who she was, and now I can’t remember. You probably knew the whole time anyway, even if you didn’t think you did. I’m pretty sure you asked me about that little blond girl, when you were asking. I keep thinking about the way you looked, that first night we slept together. I’d kissed you properly on the doorstep of your mother’s house, and then, before you went inside, you turned around and looked at me. No one had ever looked at me like that. You didn’t need to say anything at all. I waited until your mother turned off all the lights downstairs, and then I climbed over the fence, and up the tree in your backyard, and into your window. You were leaning out of the window, watching me climb, and you took off your shirt so that I could see your breasts, I almost fell out of the tree, and then you took off your jeans and your underwear had a day of the week embroidered on it, Holiday? and then you took off your underwear too. You’d bleached the hair on your head yellow, and then streaked it with red, but the hair on your pubis was black and soft when I touched it. We lay down on your bed, and when I was inside you, you gave me that look again. It wasn’t a frown, but it was almost a frown, as if you had expected something different, or else you were trying to get something just right. And then you smiled and sighed and twisted under me. You lifted up smoothly and strongly as if you were going to levitate right off the bed, and I lifted with you as if you were carrying me and I almost got you pregnant for the first time. We never were good about birth control, were we, Eliane? Rosemary? And then I heard your mother out in the backyard, right under the elm I’d just climbed, yelling “Tree? Tree?” I thought she must have seen me climb it. I looked out the window and saw her directly beneath me, and she had her hands on her hips, and the first thing I noticed were her breasts, moonlit and plump, pushed up under her dressing gown, fuller than yours and almost as nice. That was pretty strange, realizing that I was the kind of guy who could have fallen in love with someone after not so much time, really, truly, deeply in love, the forever kind, I already knew, and still notice this middle-aged woman’s tits. Your mother’s tits. That was the second thing I learned. The third thing was that she wasn’t looking back at me. “Tree?” she yelled one last time, sounding pretty pissed. So, okay, I thought she was crazy. The last thing, the thing I didn’t learn, was about names. It’s taken me a while to figure that out. I’m still not sure what I didn’t learn, Aina? Jewel? Kathleen? but at least I’m willing. I mean, I’m here still, aren’t I? Wish you were here, You know who. At some point, later, the dead man goes down to the mailbox. The water is particularly unwaterlike today. It has a velvety nap to it, like hair. It raises up in almost discernable shapes. It is still afraid of him, but it hates him, hates him, hates him. It never liked him, never. “Fraidy cat, fraidy cat,” the dead man taunts the water. When he goes back to the hotel, the loolies are there. They are watching television in the lobby. They are a lot bigger than he remembers. Dear Cindy, Cynthia, Cenfenilla, There are some people here with me now. I’m not sure if I’m in their place—if this place is theirs, or if I brought them here, like luggage. Maybe it’s some of one, some of the other. They’re people, or maybe I should say a person I used to know when I was little. I think they’ve been watching me for a while, but they’re shy. They don’t talk much. Hard to introduce yourself, when you have forgotten your name. When I saw them, I was astounded. I sat down on the floor of the lobby. My legs were like water. A wave of emotion came over me, so strong I didn’t recognize it. It might have been grief. It might have been relief. I think it was recognition. They came and stood around me, looking down. “I know you,” I said. “You’re loolies.” They nodded. Some of them smiled. They are so pale, so fat! When they smile, their eyes disappear in folds of flesh. But they have tiny soft bare feet, like children’s feet. “You’re the dead man,” one said. It had a tiny soft voice. Then we talked. Half of what they said made no sense at all. They don’t know how I got here. They don’t remember Looly Bellows. They don’t remember dying. They were afraid of me at first, but also curious. They wanted to know my name. Since I didn’t have one, they tried to find a name that fit me. Walter was put forward, then rejected. I was un-Walter-like. Samuel, also Milo, also Rupert. Quite a few of them liked Alphonse, but I felt no particular leaning towards Alphonse. “Tree,” one of the loolies said. Tree never liked me very much. I remember your mother standing under the green leaves that leaned down on bowed branches, dragging the ground like skirts. Oh, it was such a tree! the most beautiful tree I’d ever seen. Halfway up the tree, glaring up at me, was a fat black cat with long white whiskers, and an elegant sheeny bib. You pulled me away. You’d put a T-shirt on. You stood in the window. “I’ll get him,” you said to the woman beneath the tree. “You go back to bed, mom. Come here, Tree.” Tree walked the branch to the window, the same broad branch that had lifted me up to you. You, Ariadne? Thomasina? plucked him off the sill and then closed the window. When you put him down on the bed, he curled up at the foot, purring. But when I woke up, later, dreaming that I was drowning, he was crouched on my face, his belly heavy as silk against my mouth. I always thought Tree was a silly name for a cat. When he got old and slept out in the garden, he still didn’t look like a tree. He looked like a cat. He ran out in front of my car, I saw him, you saw me see him, I realized that it would be the last straw—a miscarriage, your husband sleeps with a graduate student, then he runs over your cat—I was trying to swerve, to not hit him. Something tells me I hit him. I didn’t mean to, sweetheart, love, Pearl? Patsy? Portia? You know who. The dead man watches television with the loolies. Soap operas. The loolies know how to get the antenna crooked so that the reception is decent, although the sound does not come in. One of them stands beside the TV to hold it just so. The soap opera is strangely dated, the clothes old-fashioned, the sort the dead man imagines his grandparents wore. The women wear cloche hats, their eyes are heavily made up. There is a wedding. There is a funeral, also, although it is not clear to the dead man watching, who the dead man is. Then the characters are walking along a beach. The woman wears a black-and-white striped bathing costume that covers her modestly, from neck to mid-thigh. The man’s fly is undone. They do not hold hands. There is a buzz of comment from the loolies. “Too dark,” one says, about the woman. “Still alive,” another says. “Too thin,” one says, indicating the man. “Should eat more. Might blow away in a wind.” “Out to sea.” “Out to Tree.” The loolies look at the dead man. The dead man goes to his room. He locks the door. His penis sticks up, hard as a tree. It is pulling him across the room, towards the bed. The man is dead, but his body doesn’t know it yet. His body still thinks that it is alive. He begins to say out loud the names he knows, beautiful names, silly names, improbable names. The loolies creep down the hall. They stand outside his door and listen to the list of names. Dear Bobbie? Billie? I wish you would write back. You know who. When the sky changes, the loolies go outside. The dead man watches them pick the stuff off the beach. They eat it methodically, chewing it down to a paste. They swallow, and pick up more. The dead man goes outside. He picks up some of the stuff. Angel food cake? Manna? He smells it. It smells like flowers: like carnations, lilies, like lilies, like roses. He puts some in his mouth. It tastes like nothing at all. The dead man kicks at the mailbox. Dear Daphne? Proserpine? Rapunzel? Isn’t there a fairy tale where a little man tries to do this? Guess a woman’s name? I have been making stories up about my death. One death I’ve imagined is when I am walking down to the subway, and then there is a strong wind, and the mobile sculpture by the subway, the one that spins in the wind, lifts up and falls on me. Another death is you and I, we are flying to some other country, Canada? The flight is crowded, and you sit one row ahead of me. There is a crack! and the plane splits in half, like a cracked straw. Your half rises up and my half falls down. You turn and look back at me, I throw out my arms. Wineglasses and newspapers and ribbons of clothes fall up in the air. The sky catches fire. I think maybe I stepped in front of a train. I was riding a bike, and someone opened a car door. I was on a boat and it sank. This is what I know. I was going somewhere. This is the story that seems the best to me. We made love, you and I, and afterwards you got out of bed and stood there looking at me. I thought that you had forgiven me, that now we were going to go on with our lives the way they had been before. Bernice? you said. Gloria? Patricia? Jane? Rosemary? Laura? Laura? Harriet? Jocelyn? Nora? Rowena? Anthea? I got out of bed. I put on clothes and left the room. You followed me. Marly? Genevieve? Karla? Kitty? Soibhan? Marnie? Lynley? Theresa? You said the names staccato, one after the other, like stabs. I didn’t look at you, I grabbed up my car keys, and left the house. You stood in the door, watched me get in the car. Your lips were still moving, but I couldn’t hear. Tree was in front of the car and when I saw him, I swerved. I was already going too fast, halfway out of the driveway. I pinned him up against the mailbox, and then the car hit the lilac tree. White petals were raining down. You screamed. I can’t remember what happened next. I don’t know if this is how I died. Maybe I died more than once, but it finally took. Here I am. I don’t think this is an island. I think that I am a dead man, stuffed inside a box. When I’m quiet, I can almost hear the other dead men scratching at the walls of their boxes. Or maybe I’m a ghost. Maybe the waves, which look like fur, are fur, and maybe the water which hisses and spits at me is really a cat, and the cat is a ghost, too. Maybe I’m here to learn something, to do penance. The loolies have forgiven me. Maybe you will, too. When the sea comes to my hand, when it purrs at me, I’ll know that you’ve forgiven me for what I did. For leaving you after I did it. Or maybe I’m a tourist, and I’m stuck on this island with the loolies until it’s time to go home, or until you come here to get me, Poppy? Irene? Delores? which is why I hope you get this letter. You know who.   Originally published in the collection Stranger Things Happen (2001), released under a creative commons license.  Like this:Like Loading... [...]
literatureMorocco is a land of contrasts, with scenery ranging from the most beautiful mountain valleys to deserts and sprawling metropolitan areas. It is also a land of unequal wealth, a gap between the rich and the poor- prostitution and crime. Yet, while the arab world has been in turmoil, Morocco has remained fairly stable. It is perhaps not so strange then that the country is the center of an unlikely arabic revival: the police procedural. We talked with the founder of the arab noir genre, Abdelilah Hamdouchi, and we followed the literary traces of his hero, detective Hannach, through some distinctly Moroccan alleyways. Tell us a little about your background. When and how did you decide to become a crime writer? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: When I decided to write my first crime novel in late 90s, Morocco had just started a new political experience under the banner “A Government of Change”. This change followed a general amnesty for all political prisoners. Also, some democratic practices began to take hold in the running of the state and society, to the extent that a former convict and exiled leftist became head of the government. In those days, I had penned novels about social affairs, but no one took notice of these writings. So I decided to try the crime novel, even if I only was familiar with Agatha Christie in this niche. A while back I heard a theory that no crime novel could exist in a non-democratic country, simply because the citizens in dictatorships didn’t trust the police? Yet, your Moroccan police procedurals show otherwise? Do Moroccans trust the police? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: This is relatively true, the crime novel finds its space in democratic countries; or human rights and the law. Russia, for example, never knew this kind of literature during the Soviet era, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and the Francoist Spain neither, and the first crime novel in Spain was written after the death of dictator Franco in Spain in 1974. This can be said of dictatorships in Africa and in Latin America. But, of course, it does not prevent exceptions from emerging, like the author Leonardo Padura, who wrote the crime novels in Cuba. My country, Morocco, is a special case in the sense that we have always lived under a regime that adapts by drawing red lines not to cross, including the kingship, the territorial unit and the Moslem religion, Malekite. If someone goes beyond these red lines, he is overtaken by the law. Otherwise everything is subject to opinions and criticisms freely. When did Moroccans begin reading crime fiction, and what sort of crime fiction do they prefer? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: My experience is unique and even avant-garde in Arab culture. In part, this has left me with almost a feeling of rush to be translated into English and other languages. The Hoopoe Publishing House has commissioned me for a series of Moroccan thrillers whose hero is a certain Hannach. The crime novel is almost absent in our literature and Moroccan cultures in particular and Arabs in general. Even translations are limited to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. They say many Italian police procedurals have open endings or let the bad guy get away because they reflect public expectations of corruption and incompetence in the police force? Is there a similar tradition in Morocco? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: We must not forget that Italy is the country of the Mafia and organized crime. The majority of the crimes in Morocco are of individual nature or connected to family affairs, and the motives are often money-related or sentimental. Organized crime, like in Italy, is almost absent. It is true that Moroccans are part of mafia organizations, but the majority of crimes are individual. What sort of hero is Detective Hannach? How does he compare with let’s say Mankell’s Wallander? Does he drink? Is he flawed in any way? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: Hannach is fond of life: he loves beautiful women and has experienced both good and bad times, against a backdrop of corruption, he has a good heart. How does he go about solving his crimes, does he have a method or does he just stumble his way towards a solution in the manner of Philip Marlowe? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: First, he has a proper background. He worked in the narcotics brigade in Tangier and built a career.  He then joined the criminal brigade in Casablanca, where his experience with the drug squad helped him in his new mission, especially since he is intelligent and organizes his teams with professionalism. Before solving the crime, he asks all his colleagues their opinion. What about yourself, how do you write your novels? Do you write on instinct or do you outline the plot in advance? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: In general, before I start writing, I have a pretty clear idea of ​​my subject. I am inspired by various facts; to put my writing technique at the service of the crime novel with everything that leaves the reader in the pleasure of reading. Do you have any literary role models, writers who inspired you when you started writing? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: In principle I have no model, I read a lot, literature, crime novels, other than that I admire the clear and transparent style of Paul Auster. Also I much admire Henning Mankell. You were among the first to write modern police procedurals in your country. Have you met with any difficulties? How were your first novels received? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: My first crime novel was about the world of Hashish, and lower-ranking police officers who made a considerable effort to dismantle the traffic, and who see their effort in the water following the interventions of the officers. The purpose of this crime novel was to convey a certain message. This first noir was well received, both commercially and critically, which resulted in the making of a TV movie. According to Al Jazeera, Maurice Leblanc’s golden age rogue, Arsene Lupin, is popular in the arab world. Would you say that the cozy 1920’s crime puzzle still fascinates Moroccans? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: I’m not so sure about Al Jazeera Television’s conclusions, but the Arab reader does not consume a lot of crime novels, due to a lack of available translations. Apart from yourself, are there other major crime writers in Morocco? Abdelilah Hamdouchi: Yes, there is another author who writes in French, and who (coincidentally) has the same surname as me, Miloudi Hamdouchi. He was a very popular detective writer in the 90s and was known as “Colombo” in the popular press. You can buy 3 of Hamdouchi’s latest thrillers at Amazon. Whitefly (2016) The Final Bet (2016)  Bled Dry (2017) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyHe claimed to be sexually active as a 5 year-old. «He has visited all the most famous homes in London. Once» Oscar Wilde stated. Frank Harris was one of the most controversial characters of the Victorian era. A self-proclaimed sex-guru, hypochondriac and editor with upper class access, he was a colorful addition to the revolt against late Victorian morality. Ireland, at the middle of the nineteenth century, was on the brink of trouble. Hunger had just arrived and gangs of smugglers ravaged the coastlines. Thomas James Harris was named after his father, Thomas Harris, who worked for the British Coastguard. His father spent a lot of time at sea and the two were never close. His mother was a distant figure, even if he never disliked her. It was the violent and aggressive father he hated, and later he changed his name to Frank Harris. The young Harris left for England to attend a boarding school. There is something confined about his childhood memories, something unpleasant about his description of the masculine boarding schools. He left a dysfunctional home for a school system in which the teachers turned a blind eye to abuse. In this unfriendly environment, he learnt to fight back. He taught himself boxing and achieved the respect of his peers. He grew emotionally and made his sexual debut. Across the Atlantic At the age of 16, he sets out on a journey to America, without any goal and almost without money. He makes acquaintances on the ocean liner and on embarking in New York. He finds a girl and works full-time on the construction of Brooklyn bridge. At this time he came to a painful realization: He was ugly. This was, according to his autobiography, a sinister moment in his life, «but it only motivated me to greater achievements in the bedroom» From New York Harris headed west toward Kansas where his older brother was already settled. In Kansas he became a cowboy on the great trek north. He was also a witness to the great fire that struck Chicago at this time. He believed that vaporized water added air to the flames, and consequently he did his utmost to prevent anyone from throwing water on the flames. Student After a short business career, Harris attended the University of Kansas. After finishing his law degree he works his way via San Francisco back to Europe to continue his studies in Germany. His social skills were modest, and he is expelled from the University of Heidelberg for beating up a student that bumped into him on the street. He finishes his studies at Gottingen and then returns to Ireland. There he finds a deaf and whitebearded father and his mother’s grave. A year later Harris is in London. The center of the empire was alive with activity. Socialists were beginning to organize, unions were formed and the proletariat were challenging the aristocracy and the nouveau rich. Harris is transformed politically and becomes a member of Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation. However, due to disagreements, he leaves the organization. According to Hyndman, Harris was an eloquent speaker who passed through almost every political affiliation. London contained many of them, and was the center of the imperialist economic system. Harris was not only caught up in the political turbulence of the capital city, later, as a publisher, he was forced into an alliance with the new commercial interests. Editor and society The lawyer Frank Harris arrived in London with a recommendation from his old professor Byron Smith. He met Thomas Carlyle, who after half an hour, became so intimate that he confided his own impotence. Through Carlyle, Harris met Richard Sutton, the editor of The Spectator. Harris gained experience from The Spectator and The Fortnightly Review and became editor of the conservative newspaper London Evening News. The circulation plummeted and the paper was desperate. Harris cut the staff and promoted sensational celebrity gossip. He seduced the masses and the circulation exploded. Frank Harris, the tabloid journalist, was born out of gossip and innuendo. A power struggle forced Harris to leave the editorship of the London Evening News, but now he had proven himself. From the 1880s he worked as editor of two of the most famous contemporary publications: The Fortnightly Review and the Saturday Review. He met all the celebrities, such as Karl Marx. «While Herbert Spencer was contemptuously angry when he was opposed, Marx was politely inattentive», Harris commented. Harris built a career on gossip. In Contemporary Portraits, a series of 5 volumes, Harris continues his description of contemporary greats. He describes how famous personalities breaks wind at the dinner table, why Thomas Carlyle never had sex with his wife (according to Harris he was gay) and how a man like Randolph Churchill drifted into madness. On request, he passed his dirty stories on to the prince of Wales and he had a close relationship to princess Alice of Monaco. He ran for office for the Tories, but lost because he defended Charles Parnell who had been unfaithful to his wife. Blackmail Because of his tabloid journalism, Harris was often in trouble with the authorities. He bragged of the fact that he had blackmailed celebrities for money and that he had participated in orgies with 13 year olds. One of his siblings had died of consumption and Harris was convinced that such afflictions were hereditary. He thought that stomach aches were due to too little movement of the relevant muscles, and he developed a routine of daily exercises. When he over ate, he resorted to a stomach pump. At the end of the century; Harris left journalism to become a writer. «Like mothers , we writers tend to judge our offspring by the pain the cause us,» he remarked, « and we worship them to compensate for a cruel world.» Even if he had made money on the private lives of others, Harris developed an ambiguous relationship with public life. When Oscar Wilde was jailed for “sodomy”, Harris advised him to leave the country. After 2 years Wilde was released from prison, and Harris was one of very few to still acknowledge him. War and Exile At the outbreak of WWI Harris fled his sanctuary in France. England had betrayed both him and Wilde, and America was the only option. In New York, he sided with Germany against England, and was labeled a German agent. Depressed and isolated life became a struggle for existence. «The truth is, I assume, that my vanity is as abnormal as my ambition». He failed as a novelist, but he was hungry for recognition. For a short period, he reaches his former glory as editor of Pearson’s Magazine. He begins a crusade against poverty and bourgeoisie hypocrisy. When Theodore Dreiser had one of his novels cut by the censors, Harris, who sees a similarity between Wilde, Jesus and himself, rushes to his defense. Society had forced Harris into a corner. The postal service refused to distribute his publications, and he faced the threat of legal sanction. He was on the verge of financial ruin, and he wanted to return to Europe. Death and the moral France was hardly an improvement. In the absence of publishers, he was forced to publish his own works. He begins his autobiography, a monstrous volume which he finishes over a period of several years. My Life and Loves had the subtitle «the most candid biography ever written». Everybody got what was coming to them. Harris opened the closet to expose skeletons and intimate details. He was declared persona non-grata in America. Bookshops in France, America and England were rushed and copies of his biography confiscated. Once he was even stopped in customs because his autobiography was considered pornography. Tired and abused he died in the arms of a nurse in 1931. A few years after the publication of his autobiography, a reply was published in the form of the book The Lies and Libels of Frank Harris, penned by some injured parties from his dubious past. His ability to emphasise himself at the expense of others made him many enemies. The bourgeoisie choked on his many shameless descriptions of sexuality. At dinner with the social elite he produced witticisms in the style of «new cunt, new hope» George Bernard Shaw’s wife would not have anything to do with him and even faithful friends turned their backs to him. In 5 volumes Harris portrayed himself as a hero who mastered life and conquered women. But the truth was obvious to everyone. Despite his photographic memory, Harris carefully selected his facts. He lied about his own past a cowboy, he exaggerated his own role as war correspondent in the Russian- Turkish war, he lied about how popular he was and how good he was in the sack. There was a vulnerability behind this total lack of irony. The roles he took on where as feigned as his new name, Frank Harris. The pauper, Thomas James from Galway, had turned his own life into a gossip column. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Jack Boyle (1881- 1928) A MASSIVE safe, seemingly impregnable, was in the corner of the darkened office. Before it stood ‘Boston Blackie, chief of the “mob” of “peter” cracksmen. Gray-haired, stern-faced, laconic and efficient, Blackie had made his criminal profession an exact science. Given a strong box of certain dimensions, certain thickness and certain make, he knew to a fraction of a drop how much “soup,’—as the profession styles nitroglycerin,—would force the steel door from its hinges and drop it with the least possible noise on a bed of mattresses, placed by his assistants. In his eyes, a drop too much was a stupid blunder, a drop too little an inexcusable catastrophe. Snapping on an electric torch he carefully examined the plaster of soap with which he had made air-tight the tin; crack between the door and the safe walls. In the center of the door at the top fashioned a soap cup capable of holding a couple of tablespoonfuls of liquid. At the inner and lower edge of this cup a tiny orifice, unsoaped, in the crack of the door, made room for the explosive to trickle down behind it. Satisfied with his inspection, the chief turned to one of the two men behind him. “Gimme the ‘soup,” Cushions.” “THE youngster called “Cushions” produced a bottle with hands that were not quite steady. Uncorking it, the cracks man poured a couple of teaspoonfuls into a physician’s measuring glass, then, examining his measure with infinite care, he added a couple of drops and was satisfied. Returning the bottle to the youth, he poured the heavy fluid into the soap cup. A few drops spilled on the cement floor by a shaky hand would have ended the careers of the trio. But Blackie’s hands didn’t shake. Taking a fulminating cap from his pocket, he placed it firmly against the crack through which the explosive had flowed into the safe and crushed the soap cup over it to hold it in place. A six-inch fuse dangled from the cap. ” K. Y. , give Jimmy the signal,” was the next command. The third man who, until now, had neither spoken nor moved, slipped silently away toward the front doors of the store. A moment later a peculiar tapping, scraping sound made with the backs of the finger nails was heard on the glass. It was the opium-smoker’s “rap,’—a signal familiar the country over to users of the drug. In answer, from across the street came a few whistled bars from a popular song. “Everything’s O. K.” reported K. Y., noiselessly re-entering the office. In his absence Blackie and his helper had covered the entire safe with heavy blankets, filched from the store’s shelves. “Get the mattress,” ordered Blackie. The two men dragged in a big double mattress and laid it on the floor in front of the safe door, “A little to the right and a couple of inches farther back,” instructed the “mob” leader, measuring the door with his eve. “Get down behind that counter out there and lie close to the floor. Here she goes,” he said, striking a match and igniting the fuse. Then, with the same match, he relighted the cigarette between his lips and, without any haste, slipped through the doorway and dropped down d the counter where his pals laying. There was a hissing, sputtering sound as the fuse burned, then a smothered detonation that rattled the store windows, followed by a puff of smoke, and the great outer door of the safe, torn from its place by the irresistible power behind it, sagged outward and dropped squarely in the center of the mattress, still swathed in the torn folds of the blankets. In a second Blackie was at the inner door of the safe, testing the combination with fingers of experience. Taking a light sledge from among the tools laid out ready on the floor he laid it flat against the door near the top and brought it down with a sharp tap on the combination. It dropped, cut off as cleanly as by a knife. Then with a steel punch he forced the broken shank back into the lock, using a leather-covered hammer to deaden the noise. A few turns of the knob and the broken tumblers and disks slipped apart. A moment’s prying and the wrecked door swung open. The safe was cracked. Unhurried and without excitement, but quickly, Boston Blackie forced drawer after drawer, tossing out flat packages of bills to the men behind him, and finally emerging himself with a coin sack marked “Gold”. This he dropped into a concealed pocket inside the lining of his overcoat. “That’s all. Let’s go, boys,” he said. The tools were left on the office floor. Sledges and hammers, drills and a few punches, are cheaply bought at midday. They are hard to explain away, however, if found on a man in the vicinity of a wrecked safe at three o’clock in the morning. DIAGONALLY across the street from the store they had just left, an automobile engine began to cough. Crossing to the machine, in which sat a driver, muffled and goggled, Blackie and his companions climbed into the tonneau and the car shot away into the night. A half hour later the quartet lay on their hips in a circle, an opium “layout” in their midst, while the erstwhile chauffeur, called “Jimmy the Joke,” rapidly toasted the pungently sweetish brown pills, as the pipe passed round and round the circle from lip to lip. There was no discussion of the “job” they had just turned, no excitement or exultation over its success. It was all a part of the day’s work with them and, anyway, opium smokers in the throes of a “habit” have no desire for speech. Boston Blackie, whose piercing black eyes and New England birthplace had won him his nickname, lay in the position of precedence to the left of the “cook.” Next came K. Y. Lewes, second in command, whose drawling Southern accent betrayed his Kentucky boyhood. Pillowed on him was the “Cushions” Kid, so called because once when the rest piled into a freight car to make a short trip he paid his last five-dollar bill for a railway ticket—and went hungry for twenty-four hours in consequence.” And, lastly, there was “Jimmy the Joke” who had been christened James Tener. Long ears before, he had done a “jolt” in a Western penitentiary. The judge sentenced him to ten years. “Is that meant as a joke, Your Honor?” queried the prisoner blandly. “A joke!” ejaculated the old judge. “Yes, Your Honor,” replied the prospective convict. “Didn’t I just understand you to say a ‘tener’ for Tener?” AN HOUR passed. Each of the four was beginning to feel the physical relaxation and mental exhilaration that binds its victims to opium. A knock—the “fiend’s rap”—sounded on the door. “Come in,” called Blackie. The owner of the “joint” in which they lay entered—a haggard-faced skeleton of a man called “Turkey-neck” Martin. “Good evening, Blackie,” he commenced, after carefully closing the door. “Hello, boys! How’s every little thing? The Joke’s ‘cheffing,” as usual, eh? Some cook, you are, Jimmy, old boy. Need any more ‘hop’ yet, Blackie?” “That’s not what you butted in here for, What is it you’ve got to say?” This from Blackie. ‘The human wreck half-cowered under the reprimand. “Well, it’s this way, fellows—not that it’s really any of my business,” he began hesitatingly, “but knowing what a ‘right’ crowd you fellows are, and how you put up the dough for that Denver Kid’s bonds, and—” “Aw, cut that stuff and get down to what you’re trying to say,” growled Blackie. “It’s this way,” began Turkey-neck again, “The pinch come off yesterday. They’ve got him right, and it’s a trip over the bay to the Big House if it aint squared. l’i’e’s broke, and the boys are taking up a purse.” “Who’s pinched, you gabbling fool ” interrupted Blackie. “Why, ‘Mitt-and-a-half’ Kelly. He—” “What?” cried Blackie raising himself on his elbow and glaring at the flustrated joint keeper with more excitement than any of his listeners had ever seen him show. “You come to me from that white-livered rat! Why, he just misses being a copper. I don’t put it past him to ‘stool’ at that. We’re a different breed here from that skunk. Tell him fi;)rn me that he’s safer behind the bars than—” But the joint keeper had slipped from the room and Blackie choked Ezck the flow of his indignation. His three friends waited in silence for the explanation they knew would come. BLACKIE took the next pill in a “long-draw,” inhaling the smoke until his lungs seemed bursting, then exhaling slowly in short puffs. “I’m going to tell you the story, boys, of a fellow who had principles and paid for them, same as we all must pay for anything that’s worth while having,” he commenced. “The man I mean is “Three-Fingered Mac.” “Poor old Mac! I remember when he got his ‘jolt,’” chimed in Jimmy. “He did one before that,” went on Blackie. It was characteristic of him that, having smoked, he dropped the aror of the Joint bit by bit, and reverted to the clean speech of his college days. “Fifteen years is what they gave him. It was a bank safe job. Fifteen years! That’s nine years, five months solid, allowing for good conduct ‘copper.’ judge can say fifteen in a fraction of a second, but it’s a long, long stretch when you have to do it—one day at a time. “Mac had a woman, loyal and true as steel, who did his jolt too, on the outside— one day at a time. That’s the worst of this rotten business. Our women have to do our time the same as we do, if they’re worth while, which Mac’s wife was. Almost all the money he’d laid away went to his ‘mouth-pieces” (lawyers) at the trial, so she opened a little millinery shop and took care of herself and the kid while Mac was ‘buried.” She wrote every week and never missed a visiting day in all of those long years. Well, at last he got his time in and they turned him out at the gate to start life with a five-dollar gold piece and a ‘con’ suit. I ran across them on the train to the city—Mac, his wife, and a long-legged boy who had been an infant when Mac went across. I was looking for a man to fill in my ‘mob’ just then, and felt him out. He shook his head. ““Blackie,” he said, ‘I’m done, I haven’t lost my nerve and you know I’ve always been “right.” But look at that little woman there. She’s waited and worked for me for nine years and five months. She’s saved enough to buy us a little chicken ranch up Petaluma way, and I’m going in for the simple life, with her and the boy to hold me straight when I get restless for the old, exciting days.’ “I SHOOK hands with him and told him how lucky he was to have a woman like that,” continued Blackie. “Then he asked me where Mitt-and-a-half Kelly was living. He had a message for him from a pal who was doing twenty up above. “He’s living at the Palm, same house with me,’” I said, ‘but he’s under cover. You and the folks come on to a show with me and I’ll take you up to see him afterward.” “‘Not tonight,’ he said. ‘Im going to spend this night at home with them, nodding over his shoulder at his wife and son. I’ll meet you to-morrow might, though, for we leave for the country the next morning.” “We went to the Orpheum the next night and Mac missed half the show explaining to me how much money could be made with chickens. Afterward, we went up to the Palm, looking for Kelly. He was out. I asked Mac down to my room, but he refused. He knew I was due to smoke and didn’t want to tempt himself with even the smell of ‘hop,” he said. So I let him into Kelly’s room with a passkey, and went down-stairs to my own layout. It was midnight then. “It couldn’t have been over half an hour, for I was still smoking off my first card, when I heard a copper’s tread on the stairs. Then two more of them. I planted the layout and lamped out through the transom. I could see them at the head of the stairs, hammering on Kelly’s door, and every man had his gun out. Mac opened the door, and in less time than it takes me to tell it they had three ‘rods’ at his head and the cuffs on his wrists. Then, after searching the room, they took him away, along with a bundle of clothes they had found. “I stepped down from the transom laughing to myself. I knew the coppers were working a ‘bum rap’, for Mac had been with me all night. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that they would have to turn him loose in the morning. When they had gone, I slipped down-stairs, for I wasn’t any too eager to interview the chief myself just then. All the way down on the stairs there was a plain trail of blood, and in the doorway a big splotch where a man had stood while he used his latchkey. I knew then that somebody had got in bad and had been hurt. “I SPENT the rest of the night at the joint and got the first editions of the papers. I found what I was looking for plastered all over the first page. A ‘peter’ mob had been surprised at work on a safe out on the south side by a ‘harness bull’ (uniformed policeman) just as the midnight watch was changing. “There was a lot of shooting. The copper got his and died on the operating table at the hospital. One of the mob, too, was hurt, the paper said, for a trail of blood led up the street in the direction theyhad gone. A later edition announced the capture of Three-Fingered Mac, a desperate criminal just released from the penitentiary. In his room at the Palm Hotel he was caught stripping off his blood-soaked clothing. A policeman, noticing blood on the sidewalk, had traced it to the hotel and up the stairs to Mac’s room. In the room they found a bloody handkerchief and a .44 Colts with every shell exploded. The prisoner had no visible wound except a gash on his head, probably made by a night-stick. The blood on his clothing, it was explained, came from the wounds of the dead policeman with whom the prisoner had a hand-to-hand struggle as he fled. I knew then that poor old Mac wasn’t going to start for that chicken ranch the next day. I went down-town and sent a lawyer up to him, and then went out myself to break the news to that little woman of his. She hadn’t been to bed, and was waiting for him. It was the toughest job I ever tried, to hand her that paper. “He’s innocent as you are, ma’am,” I said. “He was with me from eight o’clock until midnight, and this job was done before twelve.” ”I TOOK her up to the lawyer’s office, and we waited all day for him to get to Mac. When the mouth-piece finally came in he had a worried frown and I could see more trouble ahead. ““You’ve given me a crazy man for a client,” he said, irritably. “He swears he is innocent, but admits he knows the guilty man. Says this mysterious friend came in with a bullet wound in the arm and that he dressed and bandaged the hurt. Then the fellow changed clothes, threw his revolver in the bureau drawer and skipped out, knowing the police would follow the trail of blood he left behind. While Mac was washing the blood off his hands, the coppers came battering at the door. He opened it and «Bull” Dunnigan rapped him on the head with his stick, cutting a long gash in the scalp. Then he was pinched. Not a bad yarn that, true or not. But right there’ he “crabs” it all, He absolutely refuses to tell who this other man is. Says he’ll take a jolt rather than turn informer. Can you beat that for idiocy? He says he has an alibi—that he was at the theater with a friend and didn’t leave him between eight and midnight.” “That’s true. I’m that friend,” I interrupted. “We went to the theater, sat through the whole performance— here are our seat checks —and then went up to the hotel. It was just midnight when Mac went upstairs to wait for his friend. I know he couldn’t have had a hand in that job.” “Your testimony will help, Blackie”, the lawyer went on after a moment’s thought; “but you know you’re not exactly a witness that will carry weight with a jury. Mac says there is a bullet hole in the right sleeve of the coat belonging to his friend. Mac’s coat is bloody, but there is no hole in the cloth and no wound in his arm. If I had that coat, I’d acquit him. But listen to this: Mac says Bull Dunnigan has been trying to force him to betray this friend of his He told the detectives the same story he told me. Dunnigan came out flatly and told him he believed he was telling the truth, but that somebody would have to swing for killing that policeman. “It is either you or your friend, Take your choice,” said Dunnigan. “You’ll come through or you’ll swing, and I don’t give a finger-snap whether you are innocent or guilty. I’ll get you. And Mac swear he’ll never “stool”. Can you beat it?’ “Mac’s woman had been leaning forward looking at the lawyer with a light in her eyes that would asbestos. She had aged ten years since I saw them on the boat two days before, all so happy and carefree “My, poor boy, my poor,” she cried. I can’t dose Dim again, I won’t—not when I know he isn’t guilty. Oh, Mr. S–, save him some way, save him from himself. You’ll have to do it all yourself, for Mac won’t help vou. He’ll never “snitch” on a friend. I know him. I can’t see him go buck there to prison. Only yesterday I was so happy, so hopeful, and now,—oh, it drives me mad!” THEN she broke down and the tears came. I was glad. Anything is better than the terrible dry-eyed grief of a woman who sees her man being torn from her—and unjustly at that. “She told the lawyer all their plans about the chicken ranch, and he perked up a bit. He told her not to worry and finally sent her home, heartened up some because he assured her that her testimony would help more than anything that had turned up. When she had gone, he turned to me. “Is that yarn true?’ he asked. “Absolutely, every word of it.” “If I could get that coat with bullet hole in it, I’d acquit him. But, Blackie, will wil we ever see that coat?” He looked at me questioningly. “Not if those framing coppers are wise that it will acquit Mac. Dunnigan will railroad him for this as sure as eggs make omelets, unless he snitches, and he won’t,” I replied. A MONTH later they put Mac on trail. All through that month I had been expecting Kelly to show up and do something. I thought he’d get his mob. together and stick up the patrol wagon taking Mac to and from the county jail to curt. But he didn’t show. The trial wasn’t long. The papers all took it for granted that Mac was guilty, and the jurors admitted reading about the case but declared that they had no ‘fixed” opinions and could give him a fair trial. That word “fixed” muse save many a juror’s conscience, if any of ’em have any. “The coppers testified about the trail of blood that they had traced almost from the scene of the crime to the room where they found Mac washing his bloody hands and wiping blood spots from his clothes. Then they produced the revolver and the empty shells and proved that the policeman was killed with that sized gun and that it smelled of fresh powder when found in the room. Then Dunnigan filled in all the gaps in the chain of evidence. First he told what a desperate criminal Mac had been and produced his photograph in stripes taken at the penitentiary. The judge refused to permit this in evidence then, but the jury had all seen it before it was ruled out. Then he swore that Mac had a scalp wound received before he was arrested, presumably, from intimations by the prosecution, in the dearh struggle with the murdered policeman. Then Dunnigan settled Mac’s chances with the foulest perjury I ever heard. He told how he reached the dying policeman’s cot in the hospital ten minutes before he died. “Did he know who shot him? asked the prosecutor. “He didn’t know him by name, answered the detective slowly, turning to the jury would be sure to get every word, “but he said the man was a big fellow with dark clothes, and he said also that two fingers were missing on bis gun hand and chat he had a scar from his eve to his chin on the right side of his face.” THERE sat Mac in full view of the jury with his mutilated hand in plain sight and the scar on his face turning fiery red as he heard the lie that damned him for life. 1 knew it was all off then. The lawyer did his best, but we were beaten before we started to put a defense in. I told my story—the exact truth—bu they sprung my record on me, and I knew by their looks that the jury wasn’t even paying attention to me and my story. Mac’s woman made a great witness. I tell you, boys, no one who heard her tell about their plans for that chicken ranch, and how her husband had determined to live square, could help believing her. There was something that choked up my throat in the desperation with which she fought every step of the way for her man. The jury seemed impressed for a few moments, but it didn’t last until they commenced balloting. “The landlady of the Palm was called to prove that Mac did not rent or own the room where he was caught. As ill luck would have it, Kelly had go: me to rent the room for him, he being under cover, and old Mother McGunn showed my name on the books and swore she didn’t know whether one or twenty men visited the room, as long as the rent was paid. We demanded the coat with the bullet hole in it and made an awful howl when the police denied even seeing it, but the jury set it all down as a fake of ours. “Mac made a good witness. He told the truth in a straightforward manner— that is, all but Kelly’s name. On cross-examination the district attorney asked just one question: “Who was this man you say came in wounded just before your arrest?” “Every drop of blood seemed to leave Mac’s face. He started to speak, stopped, looked over at his wife in whose eyes there was the look of Death itself. He hesitated a second, then turned to the jury: “I refuse to answer,” he said. “Thank God it isn’t my business to be a copper like chat lying perjurer there,” pointing at Dunnigan. “I’ve never betrayed a friend or sent a man to jail yet, and I never will!” Mac was convicted anyway, but that refusal settled every doubt. The jury was out just long enough to get a dinner at the expense of the county, and then brought in a verdict of guilty and fixed the penalty at life imprisonment. A couple of them objected to hanging. As they took Mac back to jail, Dunnigan passed by him. “Just remember while you’re doing another man’s time,” he whispered, “that I said I’d get you, and I did” Mac leaped at him and would have brained him with the handcuffs if the deputy sheriffs hadn’t overpowered him. The papers next day called it “a desperate murderer’s attempt to escape.”” A HALF-DOZEN times the pipe went round the complete circle before other word was spoken. “What did the woman do?” asked Cushions at last. “There are some things too painful for even hardened crooks like us, and sometimes those same things also are too fine and sacred for a bunch like this to talk over in a place like this. That little woman and her dead hopes and plans for that ranch are among them,” answered Blackie slowly. “And now, boys, you know why I said what I did about Mitt-and-a-half Kelly. Mac is doing ‘all of it’ (life imprisonment) because he was too right to snitch even on a skunk. Kelly didn’t do a thing for him—not even as much as sending dough for his defense. Cushions, my boy, when your turn comes to do time, and it will if you stick by hop and us, remember Mac who had principle and paid for it like a man. What a price, though, when you think of that wife and boy of his!” Jimmy the Joke toasted the last pill of hop and handed the pipe to Blackie. Lewes, pulling back the heavy curtains, let in a ray of bright morning sunshine. They all bundled into their overcoats. “I’m going,” said Blackie. “You know the meet for us to-night. Eight o’clock sharp. You three go out one at a time five minutes apart. No bunching up on the street. And Lewes, you size up that ‘hock’ shop job this afternoon. Press the button for Turkey-neck and his bill.”The joint keeper came shuffling in. “There’s an extry just out,” he began in his quavering voice. “Another swell job’s come off. That peter mob that has been doing the whole of this rough stuff around town got another one last night—it’s the Boston Department Store this time.” “Good for them,” said Blackie without interest. “About that dough to spring Kelly from jail. We—” “Let it go; let it go,” Turkey-neck broke in. “The moment you refused the money—” “Refused the money!” cried Blackie turning on the astounded joint keeper like a flash. ““Refused nothing! I said Mitt Kelly is a low-lived skunk who ought to be shot on sight. But I didn’t say I wouldn’t chip in dough to help him beat the Big House. I’d give up my last five-case note to keep the fleas on a yellow dog from doing time. We’ll put in fifty dollars. If you don’t get enough, say 50 to-night and I’ll make up the rest. But tell him from me, that he has the black curse of the snitch on him now and forever. Hell never have a day’s luck while he lives, and he’ll die in the gutter like the cur he is.* So long, fellows.” “The man described here as Mitt-and-a-half Kelly was found shot to death in a doorway near an opium joint in Seattle some six months after the date of the incidents in this story. No trace of his murderer was ever found.” Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyn the year 1841, there resided, at different points in the State of Illinois, three brothers by the name of Trailor. Their Christian names were William, Henry and Archibald. Archibald resided at Springfield, then as now the seat of Government of the State. He was a sober, retiring, and industrious man, of about thirty years of age; a carpenter by trade, and a bachelor, boarding with his partner in business—a Mr. Myers. Henry, a year or two older, was a man of like retiring and industrious habits; had a family, and resided with it on a farm, at Clary’s Grove, about twenty miles distant from Springfield in a northwesterly direction. William, still older, and with similar habits, resided on a farm in Warren county, distant from Springfield something more than a hundred miles in the same northwesterly direction. He was a widower, with several children. In the neighborhood of William’s residence, there was, and had been for several years, a man by the name of Fisher, who was somewhat above the age of fifty; had no family, and no settled home; but who boarded and lodged a while here and a while there, with persons for whom he did little jobs of work. His habits were remarkably economical, so that an impression got about that he had accumulated a considerable amount of money. In the latter part of May, in the year mentioned, William formed the purpose of visiting his brothers at Clary’s Grove and Springfield; and Fisher, at the time having his temporary residence at his house, resolved to accompany him. They set out together in a buggy with a single horse. On Sunday evening they reached Henry’s residence, and stayed overnight. On Monday morning, being the first Monday of June, they started on to Springfield, Henry accompanying them on horseback. They reached town about noon, met Archibald, went with him to his boardinghouse, and there took up their lodgings for the time they should remain. After dinner, the three Trailors and Fisher left the boardinghouse in company, for the avowed purpose of spending the evening together in looking about the town. At supper, the Trailors had all returned, but Fisher was missing, and some inquiry was made about him. After supper, the Trailors went out professedly in search of him. One by one they returned, the last coming in after late teatime, and each stating that he had been unable to discover anything of Fisher. The next day, both before and after breakfast, they went professedly in search again, and returned at noon, still unsuccessful. Dinner again being had, William and Henry expressed a determination to give up the search, and start for their homes. This was remonstrated against by some of the boarders about the house, on the ground that Fisher was somewhere in the vicinity, and would be left without any conveyance, as he and William had come in the same buggy. The remonstrance was disregarded, and they departed for their homes respectively. Up to this time, the knowledge of Fisher’s mysterious disappearance had spread very little beyond the few boarders at Myers’, and excited no considerable interest. After the lapse of three or four days, Henry returned to Springfield, for the ostensible purpose of makings further search for Fisher. Procuring some of the boarders, he, together with them and Archibald, spent another day in ineffectual search, when it was again abandoned, and he returned home. No general interest was yet excited. On the Friday, week after Fisher’s disappearance, the Postmaster at Springfield received a letter from the Postmaster nearest William’s residence, in Warren County, stating that William had returned home without Fisher, and was saying, rather boastfully, that Fisher was dead, and had willed him his money, and that he had got about fifteen hundred dollars by it. The letter further stated that William’s story and conduct seemed strange, and desired the Postmaster at Springfield to ascertain and write what was the truth in the matter. The Postmaster at Springfield made the letter public, and at once, excitement became universal and intense. Springfield, at that time, had a population of about 3,500, with a city organization. The Attorney General of the State resided there. A purpose was forthwith formed to ferret out the mystery, in putting which into execution, the Mayor of the city and the Attorney General took the lead. To make search for, and, if possible, find the body of the man supposed to be murdered, was resolved on as the first step. In pursuance of this, men were formed into large parties, and marched abreast, in all directions, so as to let no inch of ground in the vicinity remain unsearched. Examinations were made of cellars, wells, and pits of all descriptions, where it was thought possible the body might be concealed. All the fresh, or tolerably fresh graves in the graveyard, were pried into, and dead horses and dead dogs were disintered, where, in some instances, they had been buried by their partial masters. This search, as has appeared, commenced on Friday. It continued until Saturday afternoon without success, when it was determined to dispatch officers to arrest William and Henry, at their residences, respectively. The officers started on Sunday morning; meanwhile, the search for the body was continued, and rumors got afloat of the Trailors having passed, at different times and places, several gold pieces, which were readily supposed to have belonged to Fisher. On Monday, the officers sent for Henry, having arrested him, arrived with him. The Mayor and Attorney Gen’l took charge of him, and set their wits to work to elicit a discovery from him. He denied, and denied, and persisted in denying. They still plied him in every conceivable way, till Wednesday, when, protesting his own innocence, he stated that his brothers, William and Archibald, had murdered Fisher; that they had killed him, without his (Henry’s) knowledge at the time, and made a temporary concealment of his body; that, immediately preceding his and William’s departure from Springfield for home, on Tuesday, the day after Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald communicated the fact to him, and engaged his assistance in making a permanent concealment of the body; that, at the time he and William left professedly for home, they did not take the road directly, but, meandering their way through the streets, entered the woods at the northwest of the city, two or three hundred yards to the right of where the road they should have travelled, entered them; that, penetrating the woods some few hundred yards, they halted and Archibald came a somewhat different route, on foot, and joined them; that William and Archibald then stationed him (Henry) on an old and disused road that ran near by, as a sentinel, to give warning of the approach of any intruder; that William and Archibald then removed the buggy to the edge of a dense brush thicket, about forty yards distant from his (Henry’s) position, where, leaving the buggy, they entered the thicket, and in a few minutes returned with the body, and placed it in the buggy; that from his station he could and did distinctly see that the object placed in the buggy was a dead man, of the general appearance and size of Fisher; that William and Archibald then moved off with the buggy in the direction of Hickox’s mill pond, and after an absence of half an hour, returned, saying they had put him in a safe place; that Archibald then left for town, and he and William found their way to the road, and made for their homes. At this disclosure, all lingering credulity was broken down, and excitement rose to an almost inconceivable height. Up to this time the well-known character of Archibald had repelled and put down all suspicions as to him. Till then, those who were ready to swear that a murder had been committed, were almost as confident that Archibald had had no part in it. But now, he was seized and thrown into jail; and indeed, his personal security rendered it by no means objectionable to him. And now came the search for the brush thicket, and the search of the mill pond. The thicket was found, and the buggy tracks at the point indicated. At a point within the thicket, the signs of a struggle were discovered, and a trail from thence to the buggy track was traced. In attempting to follow the track of the buggy from the thicket, it was found to proceed in the direction of the mill pond, but could not be traced all the way. At the pond, however, it was found that a buggy had been backed down to, and partially into the water’s edge. Search was now to be made in the pond; and it was made in every imaginable way. Hundreds and hundreds were engaged in raking, fishing, and draining. After much fruitless effort in this way, on Thursday morning the mill dam was cut down, and the water of the pond partially drawn off, and the same processes of search again gone through with. About noon of this day, the officer sent for William, returned having him in custody; and a man calling himself Dr. Gilmore, came in company with them. It seems that the officer arrested William at his own house, early in the day on Tuesday, and started to Springfield with him; that after dark awhile, they reached Lewiston, in Fulton County, where they stopped for the night; that late in the night this Dr. Gilmore arrived, stating that Fisher was alive at his house, and that he had followed on to give the information, so that William might be released without further trouble; that the officer, distrusting Dr. Gilmore, refused to release William, but brought him on to Springfield, and the doctor accompanied them. On reaching Springfield, the doctor re-asserted that Fisher was alive, and at his house. At this, the multitude for a time, were utterly confounded. Gilmore’s story was communicated to Henry Trailor, who without faltering, reaffirmed his own story about Fisher’s murder. Henry’s adherence to his own story was communicated to the crowd, and at once the idea started, and became nearly, if not quite universal, that Gilmore was a confederate of the Trailors, and had invented the tale he was telling, to secure their release and escape. Excitement was again at its zenith. About three o’clock the same evening, Myers, Archibald’s partner, started with a two-horse carriage, for the purpose of ascertaining whether Fisher was alive, as stated by Gilmore, and if so, of bringing him back to Springfield with him. On Friday a legal examination was gone into before two Justices, on the charge of murder against William and Archibald. Henry was introduced as a witness by the prosecution, and on oath re-affirmed his statements, as heretofore detailed, and at the end of which he bore a thorough and rigid cross-examination without faltering or exposure. The prosecution also proved, by a respectable lady, that on the Monday evening of Fisher’s disappearance, she saw Archibald, whom she well knew, and another man whom she did not then know, but whom she believed at the time of testifying to be William, (then present,) and still another, answering the description of Fisher, all enter the timber at the northwest of town, (the point indicated by Henry,) and after one or two hours, saw William and Archibald return without Fisher. Several other witnesses testified, that on Tuesday, at the time William and Henry professedly gave up the search for Fisher’s body, and started for home, they did not take the road directly, but did go into the woods, as stated by Henry. By others, also, it was proved, that since Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald had passed rather an unusual number of gold pieces. The statements heretofore made about the thicket, the signs of a struggle, the buggy tracks, &c., were fully proven by numerous witnesses. At this the prosecution rested. Dr. Gilmore was then introduced by the defendants. He stated that he resided in Warren county, about seven miles distant from William’s residence; that on the morning of William’s arrest, he was out from home, and heard of the arrest, and of its being on a charge of the murder of Fisher; that on returning to his own house, he found Fisher there; that Fisher was in very feeble health, and could give no rational account as to where he had been during his absence; that he (Gilmore) then started in pursuit of the officer, as before stated; and that he should have taken Fisher with him, only that the state of his health did not permit. Gilmore also stated that he had known Fisher for several years, and that he had understood he was subject to temporary derangement of mind, owing to an injury about his head received in early life. There was about Dr. Gilmore so much of the air and manner of truth, that his statement prevailed in the minds of the audience and of the court, and the Trailors were discharged, although they attempted no explanation of the circumstances proven by the other witnesses. On the next Monday, Myers arrived in Springfield, bringing with him the now famed Fisher, in full life and proper person. Thus ended this strange affair and while it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted whether a stranger affair ever really occurred. Much of the matter remains in mystery to this day. The going into the woods with Fisher, and returning without him, by the Trailors; their going into the woods at the same place the next day, after they professed to have given up the search; the signs of a struggle in the thicket, the buggy tracks at the edge of it; and the location of the thicket, and the signs about it, corresponding precisely with Henry’s story, are circumstances that have never been explained. William and Archibald have both died since—William in less than a year, and Archibald in about two years after the supposed murder. Henry is still living, but never speaks of the subject. It is not the object of the writer of this to enter into the many curious speculations that might be indulged upon the facts of this narrative; yet he can scarcely forbear a remark upon what would, almost certainly, have been the fate of William and Archibald, had Fisher not been found alive. It seems he had wandered away in mental derangement, and, had he died in this condition, and his body been found in the vicinity, it is difficult to conceive what could have saved the Trailors from the consequence of having murdered him. Or, if he had died, and his body never found, the case against them would have been quite as bad, for, although it is a principle of law that a conviction for murder shall not be had, unless the body of the deceased be discovered, it is to be remembered, that Henry testified that he saw Fisher’s dead body. Published by Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1846 Listen to a reading of the story:   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storymagine traveling through space at lightening speed, exploring the deep recesses of the universe to unveil her deepest secrets. “Are we really alone?” is one of the most fundamental questions that future generations must explore. The questions really makes my heart beat. Somehow the notion of that grand future, of all those limitless possibilities makes me relax, bringing balance to a boring life. I am a social worker, you see, for a private company. I make rounds helping old people, geezers, hags and cripples. Perhaps they need something. Then I will provide it for them. I will even wipe their bottoms if they need it. Naturally, I often hate my job and like most people I sit on my couch and dream of becoming a millionaire or I get completely wasted and pretend to be one. Sometimes I feel as if I would care for anything or anyone provided the pay was satisfactory. Science Fiction writing is therefore a great passion of mine. When I write about the future, a world of possibilities and probabilities opens up to me and I can mould it into a format I can accept. I will become the next Arthur C. Clark. In the meantime, I will, for a modest fee, remove your excrements and make your bed. In January a few years back, I was given a new patient to take care of, a certain Mrs. Jackson whose husband had died suddenly in a horrible accident a few years earlier leaving her all alone with failing memory. She lived a nice house on the west end of town, with a patch of grass outside and a white fence to match. It would have been a paradise for someone healthy. What it was for Mrs. Jackson, I cannot say. She sat in a wheelchair as I entered, but I don’t think she was physically dependent upon it. When she saw me she was immediately disgusted. “Who are you?” she said. “I am Michael, your new social worker? Don’t you remember?” “No.  Will you be taking care of me?” “Yes.” “Well you damn well better. Crazy old cow like me, sitting here all alone!” I soon found out that Mrs. Jackson had many needs that needed to be fulfilled. She had a schedule to keep and if it was not kept to the letter, she would become hysterical and utter words I have never heard from people her age. Other times – I think this was in her best periods- she would get flashes of clarity and her eyes gleamed of doom and tragedy. “I am so lonely”, she would say. One day she was looking for her glasses in the living room. “Michael! Michael Michael” she shouted as she paced across the room. I ran down the stairs from the upstairs bedroom where I was making the bed thinking that she had suffered some form of injury. When I arrived she said “I cannot find my glasses. I know they are here. Perhaps they have taken them from me?” “Who?” I replied. “Don’t get funny with me! You know very well who I am talking about. Anyway it’s 3 o’clock and you haven’t finished the bedroom yet. That means that you will be late for cleaning the kitchen at 4 like we normally do. I always have the kitchen cleaned at 4. Why can’t I find my glasses”, she said as she sunk down in her chair. I could see now that she was crying. I was going to her side, but something held me back. Then she made it easy for me as she said “Go away!”. “I know what I want”, the old woman said. “I want to be human. You all want me dead. That is what you really want. Actually, if you are going to continue with that sort of attitude, I don’t see how we can work together. I honestly don’t. Where are my glasses? I want my glasses, damn it” The old woman had turned mean on me. Her face was stone cold, even her wrinkles seemed inanimate. I studied her expressions, but I could not find a hint of compromise. “Do you want me to leave Mrs. Jackson?” “Yes” I sighed and gathered my things. As I was leaving, I heard her shout after me: «And don’t bother coming back». The next day I returned to have the matter settled. I expected that she simply didn’t like me and that she would prefer to have someone else in her house, perhaps a woman. Surprisingly she seemed cheerful in her chair by the window. She greeted me and smiled. I sat down, began politely by saying that I understood her situation, that it was her choice and that I was willing to have the company find a replacement within the month. She looked at me and laughed “My dear, what are you rambling about?” “Don’t you remember that you shouted at me and called me a liar?” “No” “You said I had a bad attitude.” “My dear young man, I have never seen you before in my life. I bear grudges to no one, especially not a complete stranger such as yourself. Now be a dear sweetheart and give my pills, will you.” At first, I thought she was playing with me, but her act seemed so natural and her expression so innocent that I discarded the idea. “Mrs. Jackson, do you remember my name?” “John?” “No, it’s Michael.” “Such a nice name too,” she said and touched my hand. I now began wondering what she really remembered from our past encounter. What did it matter what I did, if she would never remember it. Normally I bring some cake every Friday to my patients, but in view of recent events it would seem a waste of time. She always asked me if we had cake on Friday, and having assumed that she simply needed to have the obvious confirmed; I thought she remembered. From that day on I brought no more cake on Fridays. Certainly there was no reason to bring the actual cake. When she asked me if we had cake, I told her we had and she was just as happy as if she actually did. Pretty soon other changes occurred. I no longer needed to follow her stringent rules. She would always ask me if I had done the kitchen at 4 like she wanted it done, and I replied yes, and that was that. I had no qualms about what I was doing because it meant nothing to her now. I started wondering whether there was even any need for kindness. I thought I could insult her one day and come back the next as if nothing happened. But, such deliberate cruelty was beyond even me. Things were bad enough. There was no need to rub it in. The situation with Mrs. Jackson soon started to depress me. Somehow I blamed her for her effect on me, and I am afraid I at times was not as polite to her as she deserved. Seeing her sit there, asking me every time who I was and what I was doing there, got to me in a way that I didn’t understand. It was as if I saw in her my own situation magnified. I began searching for something to do, something that could take my mind of the job. I found it in a newspaper ad. A local writer was organizing a course in creative writing. But it was too expensive for me, a 1000 dollars. The opportunity that presented itself to me at the end of May that year now fills me with shame, although there are parts of me that think I deserved something in compensation for the way she made me feel. Mrs. Jackson’s failing memory had brought more of her practical affairs to my attention. When there was something that needed to be fixed, local taxes or gas bills, I stepped in to pay them for her. Naturally she had given me all her papers and permission to withdraw any amount from the bank. Legally she was in need of a guardian, and in the absence of relatives, the system left those tasks temporarily to me. I now realized that Mrs. Jackson was a very rich woman. In fact, I was told that she owned as much as a million, and that there were no close relatives to inherit the money. In fact, the money would probably be donated to charity when she died, or even worse, it would confiscated by the government. 1000 dollars to her was nothing. It was a drop in the ocean. I would get my writing class, and then I would be a better nurse to her. She might actually want that. Surely, in the end this was something that I did for her too, seeing that she was helpless and needed constant assistance from strangers. I was a tip. Yes, that’s what it was. The next day I withdrew the 1000 dollars from her account and enrolled in the writing class. I was very excited at first. I never thought that I would have any kind of talent for writing. I never compared myself to great writers, but I thought that might actually be able to write for the mass marked rather than for the sophisticated critic, who it was impossible to please anyway. The classes took place every Friday at some shabby downtown haunt. Unfortunately the classes took place at the same time as my Friday appointments with Mrs. Jackson, but I discovered that if I arrived 2 hours later and stayed a few minutes longer, she would never even notice that I was gone. There were about 10 of us and our teacher was just as eccentric as I hoped he would be. Everybody knows that anyone who tries to teach writing to others must be certifiably insane. He was a tall skinny character with bushy hair and a wild staring gaze. Apparently he had published some novels himself, although I had never heard of any of them. There were several people who considered themselves artists in the true sense of the word. They quoted Russian novelists and spoke of literary theory with great insight. Naturally, none of them had ever published anything and in my opinion they were all idiots. When I announced my intention to write about aliens for the mass marked, they said I was insincere. “Don’t you know”, I said, “that the future is a very exciting subject? New developments in biotechnology will revolutionize our treatment of disease and new information technology will bring all the knowledge of the world into our living rooms. In the future, I believe, all humans will learn faster because they can take drugs to improve their memory. We will all become geniuses.” “Interesting”, the teacher said, and stared at me with his crazy eyes. “Very interesting. What do the rest of you think, will there be a brave new world of tomorrow? Hm Hm Tell me.” His eyes searched the room for an opinion. “Well, I think he is on to something”, a girl replied. “I can sort of see the sense of it”. She looked at me with deep brown eyes and smiled. I felt my heart skip a beat. I don’t get many smiles from women. Next time the class gathered, the teacher was late and I got her into a conversation. She was very pretty, too pretty for me actually. She had quiet, subdued manner about her, she never looked straight at me. It occurred to me that she was painfully shy, even delicate. “What do you do?”, I said, “I mean when you are not writing” “I’m a psychologist”, she said. “Really”, I replied, “I am a social worker.” We soon discovered that we had much in common. A few minutes later we talked about personal matters, things that we both seemed concerned about. She had some oddities though, but I easily forgave them considering how beautiful she was. For instance, she would always ask me if I thought she was fat, even though she was extremely skinny. When I told her that I thought she could well gain a few pounds, she gave me a very irritated look, as if I was lying to her. However, most of the time we talked about other things, such as the best Sci-Fi movies and who founded modern science fiction, Mary Shelley or H.G. Wells. Very soon I realized that I was in love with her. This blessing was a tragedy in disguise. I could hardly work anymore without having all sorts of plans for our future in my head. Her face seemed to haunt me constantly, even when I worked with Mrs. Jackson. Once Mrs. Jackson eyed me suspiciously and said “Michael, are you in love?” “Of course not”, I said. “Don’t be silly.” After that I decided that I should not talk to her the rest of the week. After all, I could start talking to her in a week when I had calmed down and she wouldn’t remember a thing. That weekend Lisa and I went up to a cottage she had in the country. It was one of those perfect moments that are forever imprinted in your memory. We drove into her valley and we felt happy. The cottage lay on the bank of a slow moving river that glittered where the landscape opened up into a wide-open space. I think I told myself that this was too good to be true, fearing that I could wake up at any moment. The following week we met regularly, and it goes without saying that I partly neglected my duties with Mrs. Jackson. However, she did not suffer any distress in the sense that her physical needs were ignored. She had food, her house was clean and she never complained. Lisa and I had now become intimate and I cherished the memory of her naked body, elegant and dexterous as it was. I could sit by myself and think about it for hours on end. Sometimes I would catch myself in red-handed apathy and at those occasions I would humour myself with the idea that the senile Mrs. Jackson and I after all were not much different, comfortably seated in our chairs, staring into oblivion. My writing classes were now drawing to a close. I think we had about a week left. To be honest I had not produced much. Lisa had found an expression for her obsession with dieting and produced the first draft of a book for overweight women. I had only produced the first draft of a story about time travel. Our teacher, however, now declared the course a complete success. Some day, he predicted, several people in our class would win the Nobel prize and then we would be grateful for the advice he had given. I think he was just making excuses for our obvious lack of talent, but I went along with it because I wanted to close on a good note. Lisa and I had made plans for a travel to Europe. It was kind of a honeymoon for us. We wanted to travel in France and make love like they do in all the clichés. However, the journey was quite expensive. I had not told her any details about my financial situation. I barely got by on my present salary. The truth was that not only did I not make enough money to live in the dream world we wanted, my house was heavily mortgaged. I therefore asked for extra hours at work. I would stay with Mrs. Jackson the whole week and help her in any way I could. It would be much easier if she had one person to relate to instead of all the people that she had coming and going all week. Perhaps then she would remember my name. I assured my employer that that would be very unlikely. One day Mrs. Jackson came to me and asked me to get her some medicines from the pharmacy. They were very expensive, but she would give me the money like she usually did. I was surprised to find that she had large sums of cash stored in a box in her closet. She handed me a roll of notes, and as I held them in my hand, I could not help thinking what would happen if I took some of it. After all, I had done it before and gotten away with it. Was I stealing from her? She was wealthy and had no one to inherit her money. If I didn’t take it, the money would simply go to waste. I decided to steal yet another time. On the way from pharmacy the remaining notes found their way into my pockets. That evening I called Lisa and told her I bought the tickets. She laughed and said we would have the time our lives. I repeated that phrase over again as I went asleep that night “the time of our lives”. As the morning broke the next day I felt alive for the very first time. It was as if everything was clearer now. I noticed the slow movements of the morning mists and watched the dewdrops on the windowpane. I made my sandwich and prepared for my final day at the writing class. It was, ironically, Friday and we were having a cake baked by our mad teacher. I took the bus through the city as usual, but found that traffic was especially annoying this morning. Cars, streetlights and sirens seemed to conspire against us in a futile attempt to nag me. But nothing could touch me now. I got off the bus and made my way through the crowded park to the building and classroom. As I entered the classroom I found everyone in a strange, almost quiet mood. “Hi guys,” I said defiantly, “guess what”. “Michael, you’d better sit down. Something has happened. Have you not heard about the accident? They are dead.” “What do you mean, ‘They are dead?’ Who is dead? When did they die?” “This morning, in a car crash. Lisa and her sister.” “You are lying? They are not dead” “Yes, they are, ask anyone. I looked at their faces and they all nodded “But I have made plans. We are going to Europe. I have bought tickets. The worst thing about it is that I can’t get a refund now. They don’t give refunds on cheap tickets. It’s funny really because I seldom travel. And I know they like traveling. Most people like traveling. It’s not like I am an astronaut or anything. Imagine going on a spaceship to the moon or something. I just like to see new things you see.” They all gave me a strange look, my hands suddenly started shaking. I was unable to control them, so I stuffed them in my pockets. I began laughing at my own clumsiness. Those damn hands, I thought. Well I have something to do, I said, got up nodded reassuringly to them and left. I shall not bother you with the details of my sorrow. It is, after all, not much different from that which most people experience at some point in their lives. It took me about a month to compose myself. I then took up my job for Mrs. Jackson, who still sat in her chair by the window. “Who are you?” she said as I entered. “I am your social worker. Michael is my name”, I said. “Don’t you remember?” “No” Michael Henrik Wynn (written at the end of the 1990s) Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storySCARFACE, a short mafia novel by Maurice R. Coons (1902-1930) CHAPTER I Tony Guarino, destined to be the greatest of all America’s notorious gang leaders, was eighteen when he committed his first serious crime. And the cause, as is so often the case, was a woman. But what a woman! Standing there in the dark alley that gave access to the street from the sheet-iron stage door of the cheap burlesque house, Tony could visualize her easily. A tall, stately blonde with golden hair, and a pink and white complexion and long, graceful white legs. From the audience he had watched those legs many times while she danced her way through the performance and they never failed to give him a tingly thrill that left him rather breathless. The stage door opened suddenly, letting a square of yellow light out on the throng of dark, overdressed men and older boys waiting, like so many wolves, for their night’s prey. Then the door slammed shut with a dull clang, plunging the alley into darkness again, and a girl swished rapidly through the crowd, seemingly oblivious of the hands that reached out to detain her and of the raucous voices that brazenly offered invitations. It was she! None but Vyvyan Lovejoy used that particular heavy, sensuous perfume. Tony plunged after her, toward the lights and noise that indicated the street. She paused at the sidewalk, a lithe, slender figure, overdressed in a vivid green ensemble suit with a skirt that was both too short and too tight, and glittering with much imitation jewellery. People with a proper perspective would have recognised her for the false and dangerous beacon of allure that she was, but to Tony she was marvellous, something to worship and possess. He moved up beside her and took off his cap. That was one of the things he had learned from the movies, the only social tutor he had ever had. “Good evening, Miss Lovejoy.” She turned on him the face he thought so lovely. He couldn’t see that its complexion was as false as her jewellery; couldn’t see the ravages of dissipation that lay beneath the paint and powder; didn’t notice the hard cruel lines about the garish mouth, nor the ruthless greed in the painted, rather large nose. As she surveyed him, contempt came into her hardened bold face and her greenish eyes took on a strange glitter. “You!” she said. “Again.” “No – yet.” Tony laughed at what he thought a brilliant witticism. “And I’m going to keep on being here every night till you give me a date.” The girl laughed, a short, sharp, mirthless sound that was more like a grunt. “Can you imagine the nerve of the punk?” she demanded as though addressing an audience, but her cold green eyes bored straight into Tony’s defiant black ones. “Just a mere child without even a car and trying to date me up. Say, kid, do you know who my boyfriend’s?” “No, and I don’t care,” retorted Tony with the passion-inspired recklessness of the Latin. “But I’m going to be.” “Well, it’s Al Spingola.” Something inside of Tony suddenly went cold. Al Spingola was one of the city’s important gang leaders, a ruthless man with a big income, a lot of hoodlums who were loyal to him because they feared him and he paid them well, and a quick trigger finger himself. A dangerous man! “Aw, I bet he ain’t so hot,” answered Tony stubbornly. “Well, maybe not,” conceded Vyvyan, “but at least he can give a girl sonip’m more substantial than kisses … whenever you get a flock o’ dough, kid, an’ a big car, why come around and then maybe I’ll talk to you.” She laughed again and stepped out to the curb as a big shiny limousine drew up with a rush and stopped. Tony started after her. Then he paused as he recognised the man at the wheel of that car. It was Al Spingola! A heavy-set, swarthy man with hard, reckless dark eyes and a cruel mouth with thick, brutal lips, handsomely dressed in grey and with an enormous diamond glittering in his tie. As everyone knew, the most important part of his dress lay snugly against his hip, a snub-nosed blue steel revolver seldom seen, but when it was, sure to be heard and felt by someone. Tony realised that for him to say another word to Vyvyan then would be certain death. Not at the moment, of course, because that place was too public. But within a few days his body would be found in an alley somewhere. Spingola glanced at Tony as the girl climbed into the car. And the boy felt cold and nervous until the expensive machine purred away at high speed. Spingola, like other of his ilk, always drove at high speed, thereby lessening his availability as a target. Tony watched the car race away, then he put on his cap and lighted a cigarette. Walking around the corner to a poolroom which was his main hang-out, he sat down in one of the high chairs to think out this thing that was his first adult problem. Usually his mind, even though uneducated, was alert and precise, its processes rapid and sound. But now it was dulled by the gnawing, overpowering hunger of his first great passion. Of course he had had any number of affairs with the neighbourhood girls; no boy as good-looking as he could help that. But somehow they hadn’t satisfied him. He wanted something bigger, more mature than the shallow, entirely physical emotion that these girls offered. He was shockingly old for his age, as is almost every boy from such an environment. He looked twenty-five with his wise eyes, cynical mouth and well-developed beard that left a heavy pattern on his swarthy cheeks. And he possessed more actual knowledge of mankind and its vagaries than most men acquire in a lifetime. You could have set him down flat broke in any city in the world and he wouldn’t have missed a meal. Nor would he have needed to steal; stealing was the way of people without brains. He held a contempt for thieves; particularly those of the petty larceny variety. “Say!” whispered a surly voice in his ear. Tony looked up into a rat face topped by a dirty, rumpled checked cap. “Well?” he said coldly. “Some of us are going out and knock over some gas stations,” answered the other boy hoarsely. “Want to come along?” “No.” “It’ll be an even split all round.” “No,” I said. I ain’t risking a pinch for a coupla bucks.” “Aw, there’ll be more than that, Tony. All those places got fifty, sixty bucks laying around. An’ there’ll only be about four of us.” “Screw!” snarled Tony. “Before I paste you one.” The other boy hurried away, muttering to himself. To the other boys who loafed around this poolroom, Tony was a puzzle. They never became intimate with him the way they did with each other. Somehow it just never occurred to them to do so. They realised the difference; so did he. But neither of them knew the reason. A psychologist would have explained it by saying that Tony had a mental percentage on the others, it was the difference between a man destined for leadership and men destined to run in the pack. Most of the boys in the neighbourhood made illegal forays nightly. Never in their own ward, of course, because that would have alienated the alderman. Whereas when they made raids only in outside wards, their own alderman – in case they were arrested – would come down to the station, tell what fine reputations they had in their neighbourhood, and help get them out. Then on Election Day, each hoodlum not only voted fifteen or twenty times, but hordes of them swept through the ward and threatened everyone with dire reprisals if the alderman were not re-elected by a handsome majority. And the people, realising the truth of these threats, re-elected the alderman, even though they knew he was a grand old thug. Tony always refused to join these nightly expeditions for ill-gotten gains. “Petty larceny stuff,” as he contemptuously referred to their depredations, did not interest him. He wanted to be a big shot, a leader, perhaps a politician. He had a hunger for command, for power, for wealth. And he meant to have it all. In the meantime, though he had no job that anyone knew of and although he refused to fall in with the criminal ways of his neighbours, he dressed better than they and seemed to have all the money he needed. Many of the boys wondered about that, but inasmuch as he chose to volunteer nothing, it was likely to remain a mystery for, in that neighbourhood, one did not inquire into the source of income of even an intimate friend. And Tony had no intimate friends. There was a sudden commotion at the front door of the poolroom and several burly men came in. Some of the people already present tried to escape by the back door, only to be confronted and driven back in by other burly men coming in there. Detectives, of course, going to look over the crowd. Knowing that they had nothing on him, Tony watched with faint amusement and a large sense of virtue while the dicks went through the poorly lighted, smoke-filled room, tapping hips, asking questions, occasionally bestowing a hard, backhand slap on the ugly mouth of some hoodlum who tried to talk back. As he had expected, they made no move to molest him. “This kid’s all right,” said a man he recognised as Lieutenant Grady from the neighbourhood station. “He’s Ben Guarino’s brother.” “That means nothing,” retorted a burly, cold-eyed man whose hard-boiled demeanour identified him as from headquarters. “Does to Tony!” snapped Grady. “We’ve never heard of him being outside, the law yet, either in this ward or any other.” “Thanks, Lieutenant!” smiled Tony. “Can’t I buy a cigar for you and the boys?” They all laughed at that. Not a man of them but what was old enough to be his father, yet he called them “boys” and they liked it. With all the poise and self-possession of a judge on his own bench, Tony led the crowd of officers to the front of the poolroom and purchased cigars for them all. Then they exchanged cheery “Good nights” with him and departed. Already Tony had learned the manifold advantage of having a good rep with the cops. Also he knew the great power that came from having people in one’s debt, even for such little things as cigars. Tony seldom accepted a favour from anyone, but if he did, he always tried to return one twice as big, thus removing his moral debt to them and making them indebted to him. He had the mind and soul of a master politician. Tony suddenly realised that the stuffy, smoke-filled atmosphere of the poolroom had given him a headache, and decided to go home. Except for occasional oases like the poolroom, the neighbourhood was a desert of gloom and deserted frowziness. Street lights were infrequent and those that existed were of the old-fashioned, sputtering type that, like some people, made a lot of noise but accomplished little. It hadn’t rained that night, yet there was an unhealthy dampness about. The dingy old buildings, with their ground-floor windows boarded up like blind eyes, seemed to hover malevolently over the narrow, dirty streets. One street that served as a push-cart market by day was littered with boxes and papers and heaps of reeking refuse. An occasional figure, either hunting or hunted, skulked along. Infrequently, a car raced past, awakening echoes that could be heard for blocks through the quiet streets. Over all hung a brooding stir of ever- present menace, an indefinable something that made sensitive strangers to the neighbourhood suddenly look back over their shoulders for no good reason. This was the setting of gangland, its spawning place, lair, and one of its principal hunting grounds. It was also Tony’s neighbourhood, the only environment he had ever known. But he could not see that a great scheme of circumstances, a web much too intricate for him to understand, had gradually been shaping his destiny since the day of his birth, that it was as difficult for him to keep from being a gangster as it was for a Crown Prince to keep from becoming King. Tony reached the little grocery store that his parents owned, and above which the family lived, passed to the door beyond, inserted his key and clattered up the dirty, uncarpeted steps. A light was on in the dining room, which also served as the parlour. Seated in an old rocker which had been patched with wire, sat Ben Guarino reading the paper, his blue uniformed legs and heavy, square-toed black shoes resting on the dirty red and white checked tablecloth. His revolver, resting in its holster, hung suspended by the cartridge belt from the back of another rickety chair upon which rested his uniform coat and cap. As Tony came in, Ben looked up. He was a stocky chap in the middle twenties with a brutal mouth and jaw and defiant dark eyes that usually held a baleful glitter. For a number of reasons, all of which he kept to himself, Tony felt that his brother was going to be a big success as a policeman. To Tony, the only difference between a policeman and a gangster was a badge. They both came from the same sort of neighbourhoods, had about the same education and ideas, usually knew each other before and after their paths diverged, and always got along well together if the gangsters had enough money. “Where you been so late?” demanded Ben truculently. “What the hell’s it to you?” retorted Tony, then remembering the favour he was going to ask, became peaceable. “I didn’t mean to be cross, Ben. But I got a nasty headache.” “Down to that O’Hara joint again, I suppose?” “Well, a fellow’s got to have some place to go in the evening. And the only other place is some dance hall with a lot o’ them cheap, silly broads.”“Getting choosy about your women, now, eh?” “Yes.” “Well, that’s right,” answered Ben with a grin. “There’s nothing will take a man to the top – or to the bottom – faster than a high-toned woman egging him on.” Suddenly his feet struck the floor and he leaned forward, his eyes boring straight into those of his brother. “Say, what’s this I hear about you delivering packages for Smoky Joe?” “Well?” “Didn’t you know there was dope in them packages?” “No, I didn’t. But now that I do, it’s going to cost him more.” “You let that stuff alone.” “Oh, all right. I suppose some cop belly-ached to you about it. Well, he can have that little graft, if he wants it. I got other things I can do.” “Yes, I guess you have,” agreed Ben drily, “from all I hear. So you been a lookout down at Mike Rafferty’s gambling joint, too?” “Yes. And why not? That’s a decent way of making a few bucks. Would you rather have me out pullin’ stick-ups like the rest of the guys in the neighbourhood?” “Of course not.” He leaned forward and spoke seriously. “Don’t ever get in no serious trouble, Tony; it would ruin me at headquarters.” “I won’t. Don’t worry about me. You got enough to do to watch your own step.” “What do you mean?” “Nothin’,” answered Tony casually with a smile, enjoying the sudden fear that had come into his brother’s face. “That’s just a friendly tip from a fellow that knows more than you think he does.” “Who?” demanded Ben hoarsely. “Me.” Tony grinned again and flipped his cigarette ashes on the bare floor. “Say, Ben, can I have your car tomorrow night?” “No. I’m using it myself. That’s my night off.” “How about the next night?” “No. You’d probably get in trouble with it. Kids and cars don’t go together.” “All right. I’ll have one o’ my own pretty soon and I’m going to get it as easy as you got that one.” With which parting shot, Tony went in to bed, slamming the door shut behind him. How a fellow making a hundred and fifty a month could acquire honestly a car that cost nearly six hundred sixteen pounds was too much for Tony. But then all policemen had big cars, and captains had strings of apartment buildings and sent their children to European finishing schools. The strange quiet that momentarily descended over the Guarino household at this time of night was balm to Tony. It was the only period of the twenty-four hours that he could spend at home without feeling that he was about to go crazy. The rest of the time it was … noise … He wondered if other people’s homes were as uninviting and repellent; all those he had ever seen were. He undressed quickly and climbed into the grimy bed which he and Ben shared. He wanted to sleep before Ben came in so that they couldn’t argue any more. But his mind was racing and it kept swinging around to Vyvyan Lovejoy. Even to think about her made him alternately hot and cold all over and left him trembling with anticipation. He would have her; none could stop him – not even Al Spingola. The fact that the woman he wanted belonged to another made not the slightest difference to Tony. All life was a battle and the strongest man got the gravy. Anyway, she had said she would talk to him if he had a car and some money. Well, he’d get them both and be back at that stage-door tomorrow night. CHAPTER II Promptly at ten-thirty the next night Tony Guarino entered the dark alley that led to the sheet-iron stage door of the tawdry Gaiety Theatre. And he swaggered a little as he walked. He felt big and powerful and grand, an unnatural exultation due partly to his having visited three saloons on the way over – an unusual occurrence for him – but due mainly to the fact that he was ready for anything. At the curb stood a fast and expensive sport roadster that ordinarily saw service in more nefarious enterprises. He had rented it for the evening – -just why he didn’t know. According to the people who were in that racket, stealing a car was about the easiest of all crimes, both to commit and to get away with; it was the way ninety per cent of criminals started. But he didn’t intend to be pinched the very first time that Vyvyan honoured him with her company – because she was going to go with him tonight, even if she didn’t know it yet – so he had rented the roadster for the night. In his pants pocket bulged a wad of bills that totalled £41.07 – all the money he had in the world. It was so arranged that a crisp new bill of £20.54 denomination served as wrapper on the outside. The inside, a few fives but mostly ones, expanded the £20 note until the roll looked to be worth ten times its real value. Thus he had everything she had asked for. But he also had something else. In his right hand side coat pocket rested an ugly blue steel revolver he had bought that afternoon. He had never carried a gun before and he found in it a big thrill. It gave one a sense of security and power, of equality with all the world. Why, with this revolver in his pocket he was just as good as Al Spingola. Thus Tony argued himself into a state of exaltation and high courage. But deep in his own soul he wondered just how he would act if he should be forced into an actual life-and-death encounter with Spingola. Vyvyan came prancing out a little early, glittering and fragrant as usual, an enormous picture hat framing her hard face. “Well, for God’s sake!” she exclaimed when she saw him. “Mary’s little lamb is on the job again.” “Bet your life,” grinned Tony. “An’ I got the car an’ a flock o’ dough like you wanted.” “You have?” she said mockingly. “Well, that puts little Johnny at the head of the class.” Tony’s grin faded suddenly and he grabbed her arm. “Listen, sister, don’t try to kid me!” he snarled. “You an’ I are going stepping tonight.” “Yeah?” “Yeah! So you might as well make up your mind to it and come along.” “Well,” she said wearily, “I’m not to see Al till tomorrow night so I suppose I might as well take a chance on you now. But I don’t want anyone to see us, so that he’ll hear about it.” She shivered slightly. “Al’s dangerous, kid. So drive to the corner of Taylor and Sangamon and wait for me there. I’ll take a taxi and be along within five minutes.” “You’re not giving me the run-around?” “Absolutely not. I’ll be there.” “Well, you better,” said Tony darkly. “Or I’ll be back tomorrow night and shoot up the place.” He entered the roadster and roared away, feeling very important. At the appointed corner, he waited nervously, muttering dire threats to himself. But she came, and hurriedly climbed in beside him. The narrow confines of the roadster caused their thighs to touch for their whole length and he felt a sudden thrill from the contact. When she looked up at him suddenly with a queer light in her greenish eyes, he knew she had felt his revolver. “It’s all right, baby,” he grinned reassuringly. “I won’t use it unless I have to.” He drove her to a North Side restaurant that was noted for its discretion. Seated opposite each other in a small private dining room on the second floor, they consumed a fine and expensive meal, and two bottles of champagne. Those were the days when real champagne could be had at almost any restaurant. The meal over, and with only another bottle and glasses on the table, Tony moved his chair around beside Vyvyan’s. She had progressed nicely and by now had reached the stage where she occasionally blew a long breath upward along her face with a loud whoosh as if to blow her hair out of her eyes. “Well, kid, how do you feel?” asked Tony, reaching for her hand. “Kinda warm,” she giggled. “So do I.” When he took her home shortly before five in the morning, she kissed him good night and climbed out of the roadster with a heavy sigh. “Boy, you sure can love!” she said weakly and tottered into her cheap hotel. Tony arose at noon that day. A close shave with plenty of powder at the end made him look a little less haggard. There was a curious sense of elation singing within him. At last he had mastered a real woman, a woman much older and more experienced than he. He had found, too, that it was the mastering of another that he enjoyed in love. The thirst for power was almost a mania with him. And the fact that circumstances and conditions made it so that he had no right to ever expect to have any made him want it all the more. His sister, Rosie, a tall, pretty girl of sixteen, cooked a meal for him. The six other children were at school. He ate hurriedly and in silence. There was so much to do now. Clattering down the stairs, his mother’s raucous, commanding shout reached his ears. He hesitated a moment, then entered the store, looking sullen and defiant. Mrs. Guarino was a squat, wrinkled Italian woman of fifty, with a figure like a loosely packed sack tied tightly in the middle, dressed in a shapeless, indescribable grey wrapper whose waistline was invisible from the front due to her breasts dripping over it. Her un-bobbed grey hair was drawn up all around and screwed into a tight knot atop her head. Heavy, plain gold ear-rings hung from holes punched through the lobes of her ears. Yet despite her ugliness and barbaric appearance, her features were good, indicating native intelligence and honesty. Carlotta Guarino was a good citizen. If only she could have made her children as good citizens as were she and their father – but then that was impossible, though she didn’t see why, nor did they. “Where’re you so late?” she demanded in rapid-fire Italian. “It’s after five when you came in.” “Aw, I was talking business with someone,” answered Tony in English. “What kind of business could you talk at that time of the morning?” she demanded again in Italian. “You come home earlier. You be a good boy like Ben and don’t get us into any trouble.” “All right,” assented Tony and hurried out, relieved at escaping after so short a grilling. That was the way it always went, reproaches, recriminations, cautions. She and his father could think of more things he shouldn’t do. It never occurred to him that they were endeavouring to implant in him their own code of ethics and honesty. Their crudeness of expression kept him from realising that. Even if he had realised it, he wouldn’t have accepted it. Because, while he loved his parents with the fierce, clan-love of the Latin, he did not respect their ideas. There were many logical reasons for that – their inability to learn English well, their inability to keep step with the times and country, their bewilderment – even after twenty years – at the great nation which they had chosen for their new home, the fact that even with his father working hard every day and his mother tending the little store they had been able to make only a bare living for the large family. So why should he accept their ideas on ethics? Where had those ideas gotten them? Tony didn’t intend to live in squalor like this all his life; he meant to be a big shot. Thus another decent home spawned another gangster, as inevitably as an oyster creates a pearl. There were other factors, of course, that contributed strongly in making Tony a gangster. His attitude toward the law, for instance. His first contact with it had come at the age of six when, hungry, he had snatched a pear off a push-cart and a policeman had chased him. Thus, from the first, he had known the law as an enemy instead of a protection, as something which stood between him and the fruition of his desires. His affair with Vyvyan seemed to have crystallised all this within him, to make him think and act with a ruthlessness and lawlessness hitherto foreign to him. From a booth in a corner drug store he telephoned her at her cheap hotel. “Hello, darling!” he said. “How do you feel?” “Not so hot,” she answered wearily. She sounded as if she had just awakened. “I’m kinda tired myself,” he admitted. “But it was a great night, so what’s the difference … Listen, Vyv, don’t forget that we got a date again tonight?” “I’m supposed to see Al tonight.” “To hell with Al!” Tony burst out angrily. “You’re seeing Al no more. Get that, baby. An’ if he gets rough, I’ll take care of him. I can gather up just as many gorillas for a battle as he can. So don’t worry about him. Leave as early as you can tonight – he never gets around till late – and meet me at the same corner where we met last night. An’ be there, baby, or there’ll be hell to pay.” The rest of the day Tony spent in making an inventory of all his rackets or ways of making money, with a few calls putting into smooth running order those that he had neglected somewhat recently and with other calls starting brand-new ones which were not a bit popular with the unwilling customers but which were going to be profitable to him. From now on he could afford to be interested only in the most profitable ones because he had a hunch that Vyvyan was going to be a mighty expensive proposition. Lounging early that evening in his usual poolroom hang-out, Tony looked up in surprise as an ugly man slunk into the next chair and nudged him. “Well?” said Tony coldly. “You’re Tony Guarino, ain’t you?” “Yeah. What of it?” “Just this. If you go out with Al Spingola’s moll again, you won’t last a week. And that’s from de boss himself.” “What do you mean?” demanded Tony, though he knew well enough. “Don’t be dumb. They’ll find you in an alley some night with your throat cut.” “I’ll take my chances with him and his gorillas,” bluffed Tony, and laughed. “A gun’s better than a knife anytime and I can shoot better than any of them. So run along, sonny and tell your whole damn gang to chew that on their back teeth.” Tony laughed outright at the expression of amazement on the henchman’s ugly face, then with a sneering smile watched the fellow move away. In his side coat pocket that revolver still rested comfortably and reassuringly. It was amazing how much courage that weapon put into him. It bridged the difference between a David and a Goliath – it always does to a born gangster. Also that afternoon he had, arranged for a friend of his who was a good shot to trail him everywhere he went at night now, and be ready to shoot down from behind anyone who tried to get Tony in the same way. Vyvyan was nervous and shivery when she arrived at the appointed corner in a taxi and climbed into the roadster beside him. “I’m scared, Tony,” she said and gripped his arm while she looked back over her shoulder. Then she half screamed. “Oh, there’s another car starting up after us,” “Don’t worry; that’s my bodyguard.” “Oh! … Well, just as I started into the theatre tonight the meanest looking man I ever saw stepped right in front of me and jammed a note into my hand. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had started to murder me right there. But he went on. When I got into my dressing room I read what he had given me. It was written in pencil, all scrawled and dirty, but plain enough. This is what it said: ‘If you stand me up again, your life won’t be worth a lead nickel. Remember that!’ It was from Al, of course,” she finished. “Yeah. Another one o’ his mugs tried to bluff me at the poolroom tonight but I told him I was able to take care of myself with Spingola or anyone else.” They drove to the same restaurant as the night before and were shown to the same little private dining room. Half an hour later the door was thrust open violently and Al Spingola stood framed in the opening. His swarthy face was a sort of ghastly grey, his eyes blazed with the fires of hell, and his brutal mouth was set in a nasty snarl. Most important of all, his right hand was plunged deep into his side coat pocket. Tony had turned a strange greenish white and his eyes were glazed. The encounter between himself and Spingola had come at last and that it was a life-and-death fight was obvious. “Al!” gasped Vyvyan. “Don’t do–” Her voice trailed off. Tony and Spingola were staring straight into each other’s eyes. The younger man looked nervous; it isn’t easy to kill your first man. “So you couldn’t take a warning, eh, you two punks; you thought you could get away with giving me the run-around.” “Who are you?” asked Tony, knowing that to be the most disconcerting thing he could say. “Who’m I?” spluttered Spingola. “I’ll show you–” And at that instant Tony fired through his coat pocket. He had been reaching for his napkin when Spingola came in. Immediately but without perceptible movement, his hand had shifted to his gun. He had had the drop on Spingola the whole time and had merely created a little diversion to make absolutely sure of winning his first gun battle. Spingola looked surprised, then sagged to the floor. With a handkerchief Tony quickly rubbed his gun free of fingerprints, then threw the weapon out the window into the alley below. “Come, dear,” he said coldly, reaching for the shaking Vyvyan’s arm. Now, that the deed was over, he felt strangely calm and strong, ready for anything. He dropped a £10 bill on the table and rushed the girl down the back stairs. Through the alley they hurried, to where their roadster was parked. They raced away down an impenetrably dark street just as two uniformed policemen hurried in through the cafe’s front door. Tony wasn’t worried. He knew that the owner and waiters would give a description of the people who had occupied that private dining room but it would be so vague, in case it were not actually false, that it would be absolutely valueless to the police. CHAPTER III The killing of Al Spingola created a sensation. It happened just before America entered the World War, long before gang-dom had achieved anything like its present power or affluence or willingness to murder in unique fashion. Fights were plentiful, of course, and an occasional stabbing did not arouse great excitement but actual gunplay was rare. Spingola had been about the first of the city’s gang leaders to enforce his power with a gun and his being dropped off so suddenly was most disconcerting to the other leaders who had been about ready to use the same methods. But now they couldn’t decide whether a gun was the best source of power or not. The morning after the affray, Tony rose early, feeling a little rocky, and immediately induced his mother to sew the small burned hole in his coat, explaining that he had done it with a cigarette. Then he wisely decided not to wear that suit on the street again. He went first to Klondike O’Hara’s saloon. Klondike himself was behind the bar. A burly, red-faced young Irishman, he cut quite a dash in his own neighbourhood as a gang leader and had been one of Spingola’s most faithful enemies. “I’m Tony Guarino,” announced the boy, “from over on Taylor Street.” “Yeah?” “I suppose you read about Al Spingola gettin’ his last night.” “Yeah,” assented O’Hara cautiously, chewing on a black cigar. “Well, I know you and him were enemies so I thought if they took me up for his death you’d see that I had a good lawyer and so on.” “You? Did you get that rat – a punk like you?” “I didn’t say so,” retorted Tony doggedly. “I just wanted to know if they picked me up if you’d get me a lawyer.” “Bet your life. An’ from now on you’re welcome around here any time. I can always use another kid with guts.” “Thanks.” From O’Hara’s saloon, Tony went to see Vyvyan at her cheap little hotel. She was nervous and tearful but back of the nervousness he could detect a new attitude of overbearing hardness, and behind the tears her green eyes held a glitter that did not reassure him. He wondered if she knew how much her silence meant to him – and decided that she probably did. “You’ve taken Al away from me,” she sobbed. “So now you’ll have to take care of me the way he did.” “Shut up!” snapped Tony. “I’m going to. Let’s rent a nice little flat today.” Thus within the space of twenty-four hours, Tony Guarino killed his first man, joined a regular gang and took unto himself a common law wife. Events move rapidly in underworld neighbourhoods. Tony didn’t intend to move away from home himself just yet; it wouldn’t look right to his folks. Again he crossed the deadline between the domains governed by the Irish and those governed by the Italians, and started for O’Hara’s saloon. A heavy car drew up to the curb and stopped with a screeching of brakes. “Hey, kid!” shouted a raucous voice. “C’mere.” Tony’s first impulse was to run, but having recognised the car as one of those from the Detective Bureau, he realised that to do so would mean being shot. So he walked over to them. “Get in!” commanded a burly brute. He practically dragged Tony into the tonneau and the car raced away. Arrived at the bureau, the whole party with Ton/in the centre, ascended to one of the con-ference rooms on the second floor. “I suppose you heard about Al Spingola being bumped off last night,” said the man who appeared to be the leader of the party. “Yes,” assented Tony, not to be outdone. “I read it in the morning paper.” The half dozen men laughed nastily. “The hell you did!” said the first one. “You knew all about it a long time before that. Because you killed Al Spingola.” “Has the heat gone to your head?” demanded Tony coolly. “Don’t try to stall or it’ll go hard with you. We know all about it. C’mon now and spill it.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” retorted Tony as if greatly bored by the proceedings. “Oh, you’re going to be tough, eh?” “No. Just truthful.” “Where were you last night from twelve to three o’clock?” “Home in bed.” “Can you prove it?” “My whole family would swear to it.” “Where’d you get that?” demanded another detective suddenly. He thrust before Tony’s astonished eyes the revolver with which the Spingola killing had been committed. The boy gulped but with a terrific effort retained his outward calm. “I never saw it before,” he retorted doggedly. He wondered just how much they did know. It looked bad. For those were the days when the police took the same interest in a gang killing as in any other murder and made, just as eager and earnest an effort to solve it. Well, the only thing to do was bluff it out. “I never saw it before,” he repeated, straightening up defiantly. The leader of the party suddenly struck him a hard backhand slap across the mouth. “Quit stallin’,” he snarled. “C’mon an’ tell us the truth.” “Cut the rough stuff!” snapped Tony coldly but his eyes were blazing. “I’ve got a brother that’s a cop and I know all about the way you do people. Furthermore, I got a lot of powerful friends and I’m going to be a big shot in this town myself someday. So treat me decent an’ it’ll be better for all of us.” “Well, would you listen to that?” jeered one, of the dicks. “Of all the big-mouthed punks I ever seen–” “I hear you been going around with one of Spingola’s girls,” said the leader. Tony smiled. “From all I’ve heard, he had so many that half the girls in town were his.” “Naw, I mean his particular steady girl – his moll. You know the one I mean – that tall, spindly-legged blonde down at the Gaiety Theatre.” “Don’t know her.” “There’s been talk about you an’ her going around among the wise-guys in your neighbourhood the last two, three days. Everyone’s been looking for trouble over it. An’ now Al’s dead.” “Well, that don’t prove nothing against me,” argued Tony. “Even if all you say was true, it would be him that had a motive for bumping me off. And anyway, do you think as good a gunman as Spingola would ever let a kid like me get the drop on him?” “It’s unlikely,” admitted the leader of the squad. There was a sudden commotion outside the door and a bright-eyed, be-whiskered little man came bustling into the room. “I’ve here a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Mr. Tony Guarino,” he announced with dignity and flourished a document. The detectives gasped. For a writ to be run so soon indicated that the prisoner had connections. They had never dreamed that this kid was hooked up with the systematized elements of the underworld. But here the writ was. As they hadn’t sufficient evidence to place a charge against Tony, book him, they had to honour the writ, and release him. “No hard feelings, boys,” he said pleasantly as he followed the lawyer out. CHAPTER IV Tony found his connection with the O’Hara gang active and pleasant. At first the Irish boys were somewhat suspicious of an Italian in their midst but when it was whispered around that it was he who had shot the redoubtable Al Spingola, their hostility vanished like fog in sunshine and they welcomed him with open enthusiasm. Tony himself never mentioned the occurrence, neither denying it nor bragging about it. But day and night he was watching for a reprisal from some of Spingola’s henchmen. He still had his armed bodyguard following behind every time he went outside and not even the members of his own gang knew that. Tony’s executive ability soon revealed itself and before long he was acting as O’Hara’s lieutenant. He made it plain to Klondike from the first, however, that he would not take a hand in second-story jobs, robberies, hold-ups or burglaries of any sort. And he explained his stand with his little phrase that later was to become so famous: “I ain’t risking a pinch for a couple of bucks.” It wasn’t a matter of ethics with him; it was a matter of economics, the balancing of probable gain against probable risk and finding-out whether it was worth it. Anyway, there was no fun to rough stuff, no adventure or sportsmanship about it. Tony liked the smoother and wittier forms of larceny, those that bordered on extortion and blackmail. For instance, he could convince a small storekeeper in a few minutes that £1 or 2 a month was very cheap protection against having his store robbed or himself knocked on the head when he went home at night. And there were any amount of ignorant, fearful mothers who could be convinced readily that £0.05 or £0.1 per month per child was cheap insurance against having their children kidnapped and held for ransom. And once convinced, they paid their tribute regularly and un-whimpering-ly whenever he sent his collector around, just as they would insurance. He could think up two or three new schemes like that a day, and they always worked. As he said to O’Hara: “What’s the use of sticking people up or banging them on the head when you can talk them out of it? My way’s not only a lot safer but more fun.” On all sides now he was accorded the greatest respect. And he knew why; it was because the word had gone around that he was a killer. He had killed only once, really in self-defence, and actuated largely by fear, yet he was marked as a killer and through life he would be subject to the advantages and disadvantages that went with the appellation. His income now was running about three hundred a week – which was enormous for a gangster before Prohibition came along and made them millionaires – and with Vyvyan’s help he was managing to have a nice time. He had taken a nicer flat for her by now and she had quit the show. “I just can’t bear to think of other men staring at them pretty legs of yours, kid,” he explained when insisting that she quit. “I’m making plenty o’ dough for both of us, so throw up the job.” Being fond, like most blondes, of an easy life secured with the smallest possible expenditure of energy, she obeyed orders. Tony himself was still living at home but intended to move as soon as he could get up the necessary courage. His brother Ben, the policeman, hearing of his headquarters grilling over the Spingola killing, had given him another one at home while the rest of the family wailed in the background. But the wily Tony had been grimly silent at the right moments and suavely voluble at others, with the result that he convinced his family, just as he had the detectives, that he had nothing to do with Spingola’s demise. Tony went to Vyvyan’s flat shortly before seven one Saturday night, feeling in rather high spirits. “Well, kid, what do you want to do tonight?” he asked. “Let’s go to Colosimo’s.” “No, I don’t like that joint. Let’s go out to one of those nice North Side places.” “No, I want to go to Colosimo’s.” Her lower lip puckered threateningly. “No, I don’t like that joint, I said.” “Why not?” “A lot of the old Spingola mob do their stepping out there on Saturday night.” “Afraid?” she sneered. She seemed to be in a nasty humour tonight. “No!” he snapped. “But I never liked the idea of being shot in the back.” “Oh, all right, if that’s the way you feel about it. How about Ike Bloom’s?” “Well, it ain’t very far from Colosimo’s, but it has a lot nicer people. All right, we’ll go there if you want to.” Tony kept most of his wardrobe at the flat. He bathed and shaved now, and dressed carefully in a well-tailored, nicely pressed tuxedo. But when he stepped out into the living room, there was a revolver in a shoulder holster hanging in his left armpit, and a tiny blue steel automatic fitted snugly into his right vest pocket. Vyvyan was quite stunning in a flashing green evening gown and a soft white cloak. They made a handsome couple as they descended to the street and entered the waiting limousine. It belonged to Tony; he had made good his promise of having a car better than his brother’s and of getting it as easily. At Ike Bloom’s enormous and beautiful cabaret on Twenty-second Street, they took a table at the edge of the balcony, a point of vantage from which they could see everything without being at all conspicuous themselves. And they were around at one end of the horseshoe-shaped cafe, so that Tony might have his back to the wall and therefore enjoy the evening more. They had a splendid dinner, with excellent champagne, saw the sparkling if somewhat naked revue, then relaxed – smoking, drinking, chatting – -until the evening’s gaiety began shortly after eleven. Tony scrutinized carefully the other guests as they entered. But by twelve-thirty, when the place was practically filled, he hadn’t seen an enemy, nor even anyone of whom he was suspicious. So he consented to dance with Vyvyan. They took advantage of almost every dance after that, drinking and nibbling at various inconsequential but expensive items of food between times. And every hour a new revue was presented. During the presentation of one of these shows, while a huge woman with a nice voice and too many diamonds, crooned something about loving in the moonlight, Tony suddenly sat straight up, I his gaze riveted to a woman straight across from him at the other end of the balcony. She was a brunette, a stunning brunette, obviously young, and dressed in a gorgeous white evening gown. The bulky young man with her looked like a prize-fighter. “What a dame!” breathed Tony in admiration. “Where?” snapped Vyvyan. “That brunette over there in white.” Vyvyan looked, anxiously and with narrowed gaze. Then she glanced back at Tony. “I can’t imagine what you see in her,” she snapped scornfully. “Jealous?” “Of that? I should say not. And that bum with her looks like a burglar.” “Maybe he is,” assented Tony imperturbably. “There’s worse professions. But she’s a stunner. I wonder who she is.” “Some common hussy, I’ll bet.” “Well, I’ll bet she ain’t,” snapped Tony, and Beckoned the waiter over. “Say, do you know who that dame is – the good-looking brunette in white over there?” The waiter looked, then smiled. “That’s Miss Jane Conley,” he answered. “Never heard that dame before,” muttered Tony. “Perhaps you’ve heard of her under her other name,” suggested the waiter. “She’s known mostly as ‘The Gun Girl.’” “My God!” gasped Tony. “Is she the gun girl?” “Yes, sir. Though we like to keep it quiet because we don’t want any trouble here.” “No, of course not,” agreed Tony drily. “Who’s the gun girl?” demanded Vyvyan snappishly when the waiter had gone. “Well, kid, I’ll wise you up a little on underworld stuff, though God knows that ain’t the only thing you’re dumb in. A really good gunman is usually pretty well known, not only to other crooks but to the cops. Whenever they see him on the street, they stop him and frisk him, to see if he’s up to something. He can’t go two blocks in any direction without being stopped and frisked by someone – either dicks or harness bulls. So he has to have someone else – usually a good-looking well-dressed girl that none would suspect – carry his gat for him and trail him till he’s ready to use it. Then she hurries up, slips it to him and strolls slowly down the block. He pulls off his job and runs down the street, slipping her the gat as he goes past. Immediately she disappears – street-car, taxi, or afoot, anyway – but without looking like she’s in a hurry. So if he should git pinched, they, can’t find anything on him. See?” “I don’t see anything so grand in that.” “You don’t, eh? Well, let me tell you, there’s nothing scarcer than a good gun girl. It takes brains and a lot of guts. That girl across there – if that waiter didn’t lie to me – is the most famous of all of them. She’s known as The Gun Girl. I’ve heard about her for a couple years but I didn’t even know what her name was. She started out in New York, working with Leech Benson. When he finally got sent up she switched over to Lefty Kelly and when he got killed she come out here to work for Ace Darby. I guess she’s still working for him. I wonder if that’s him with her now.” “No, it isn’t.” “How do you know?” “Because I met him one time – at a party.”They went down to dance again. The Gun Girl and her escort also were dancing. And the fascinated Tony, finding the girl even more beautiful and charming at close range, kept his glance on her so much that it was some time before he realised that a man was trying to flirt with Vyvyan. A large, bulky man dressed in a grey business suit that fitted him none too well, a man who looked old enough to know better. He was dancing with a tiny blonde that he folded up in his arms as a child would a doll. Evidently he had a weakness for blondes. But he was no gentleman. He was obviously drunk and making a show of himself. He waved at Vyvyan and winked portentously as the two couples came near each other for an instant. Tony’s swarthy complexion began turning a sort of deep purple. The next time the two couples converged, the man spoke: “Hello, cutie!” he exclaimed with a grin. “How about the next dance?” Tony released his partner, snatched the little blonde out of the big man’s arms and clouted the man solidly on the jaw, a blow so hard that it not only knocked the man down but slid him ten feet along the dance floor. “Come on, kid, let’s get out of this,” snapped Tony and grabbed Vyvyan’s wrist. There was a small, seldom-used stairway that led up almost directly to their table. They hurried up and Tony beckoned frantically to the waiter. That was a grand sock you gave him, sir,” smiled the waiter as he quickly added up the check. “And he sure had it coming to him. But there’s sure to be an awful row when becomes to. You know who he is, don’t you?” “No.” “Captain Flanagan.” “Oh, my God!” Tony glanced at the check, then threw down a £10 bill and rushed Vyvyan out of the place. “Who’s Captain Flanagan?” asked the girl as they raced away. “Chief of Detectives, and supposed to be the hardest-boiled man on the force.” “Do you suppose you’ll have any trouble over this?” “Well, it’ll do me no good,” retorted Tony grimly. ‘ Four blocks away he slowed down to allow his rear guard to catch up to within half a block. Then when he saw the other car’s headlights reflected in his side mirror he increased his speed again. They drew up in front of Vyvyan’s flat and she climbed out quickly. Then a car rushed past, spouting fire and bullets, and whizzed away into the night. Vyvyan screamed and turned back. “Tony!” she called. “Are you hurt?” He crawled up from the floor where he cautiously had thrown himself the moment he heard the high-pitched song of the other machine’s racing motor. “No, they didn’t touch me!” he growled. “But it wasn’t their fault. Lucky you were out of the car because there wouldn’t have been room for two on the floor … Say, you got out in an awful hurry. Did you know anything about the arrangements for this little party?” “Why, Tony, how can you say such a thing?” “A man can say a lot of things when someone’s just tried to kill him.” CHAPTER V Captain Flanagan showed his teeth immediately. Monday noon a squad of detectives from the bureau burst into Klondike O’Hara’s saloon, singled Tony out from the crowd lounging about and ordered him to come along. “I know what this is all about,” said Tony to the bewildered and apprehensive O’Hara. “And I think it’ll come out all right. Anyway, wait a coupla hours before sending down a mouthpiece with a writ.” They took Tony straight to the detective bureau and ushered him roughly into Captain Flanagan’s office, then slammed the door, leaving the two men alone. Flanagan rose and came around from behind his desk. He was a big man, broad and thick, with a belligerent jaw, a nasty sneering mouth and gimlet-like, bloodshot grey eyes that were set too close together. “So you’re the hoodlum that socked me at Ike Bloom’s the other night, eh?” he snarled. “Yes, sir,” said Tony calmly. “And anyone else would have done the same. You would have yourself if someone kept insulting the girl you were with.” “Is that so? Well, I don’t imagine a hood like you would have a dame with him that could be insulted. So there!” Without warning, he gave Tony a terrific backhand slap across the mouth, a hard stinging blow that staggered the boy for a moment and made him draw in his breath sharply as he became conscious of the pain in his bruised lips. Then his eyes glinted with fury and his hands went up. “Don’t lift your hands to me, you punk!” snarled Flanagan. “Or I’ll call in a dozen men from out there and have them beat you half to death with rubber hoses.” “You would,” assented Tony bitterly. “You’re the type.” “What do you mean – I’m the type?” “Nothing.” “What’s your game, anyhow?” “I’ve none.” “No? Well, you hang around with Klondike O’Hara’s mob, and they’re a bunch of bad eggs. Come on now, quit stallin’ – what’s your racket?” “Nothing – in particular.” “Well, what do you do for O’Hara?” “Obey orders.” “Oh, a smart guy, eh?” sneered Flanagan. He slapped Tony again, then reached for his hip as the boy automatically lifted his hands. “Put down your hands, you thug. I’ll teach you to have some respect for your betters. Come on now, what’s your game – second-story, stick-up or what?” “I never was in on a stick-up or any other kind of a rough job in my life,” retorted Tony proudly. “Well, just how do you get all these good clothes and the big car I understand you own?” “I got ways of my own.” “I don’t doubt it,” agreed Flanagan with dry sarcasm. “That’s what I want to know about – these ways of yours. Come on now and talk, or I’ll have the boys give you a pounding you’ll never forget.” “I wouldn’t if I were you,” answered Tony, his eyes and tone coldly menacing. “I might be a big shot in this town yet – and paying you off.” “What do you mean – paying me off?” snarled Flanagan. “Do you mean to say that I could be bought?” “I don’t see why not – -all the other dicks can. You’d be an awful fool not to get yours while you could.” “Of all the impudent punks!” gasped the chief of detectives. His rage was so great that he seemed to be swelling out of his collar. “Listen here, you,” he said finally. “I ain’t got any more time to waste on you. But I’m giving you just twenty-four hours to get out of town. And you better go. Get me?” “Yeah. But that don’t mean I’m going.” And the boy strode out of the office. Tony went back to O’Hara’s saloon with cut lips and murder in his heart, and explained the whole thing to Klondike himself. The gang leader was obviously upset. “It’s bad business, kid,” he said slowly. “Flanagan’s hard-boiled and he can make life miserable for anyone if he wants to.” “To hell with him!” scoffed Tony. “He ain’t so much.” Tony remained in town beyond his allotted time. And he soon discovered that Klondike O’Hara was right. For he found himself involved in a police persecution more complete than he had thought possible. He was halted half a dozen times a day, in O’Hara’s place, on the street, anywhere and everywhere, stopped and searched and questioned. He dare not carry a gun because if they found him with one he knew they’d give him the works; yet he knew that the remains of the Spingola gang were actively and murderously oh his trail. It was a nerve-racking week. The detectives even burst into Vyvyan’s flat one night when he was there and turned the place upside down on the pretext of looking for stolen property. And they questioned her with more thoroughness than gallantry. “So that’s the dame you swiped from Al Spingola?” said one of them to Tony with a leer in Vyvyan’s direction. “Well, I don’t blame him for getting mad. She sure ain’t hard to look at … How about a little date some night, kid?” “Listen–” began Tony ominously. “I don’t even speak to dicks if I can help it,” retorted Vyvyan and turned away with her nose in the air. “Well, there’s probably been a good many times in your life when you couldn’t help it,” snapped the detective. “And there’s going to be a lot more if you keep hanging around with the likes of this gorilla. So don’t high-hat us, baby; we might be able to give you a break sometime.” On Friday Klondike O’Hara called Tony into the office, a cluttered frowsy little room with a battered roll-top desk and two once golden oak chairs. The Irishman was coatless and his spotted, unbuttoned vest flapped unconfined save for such restraint as his heavy gold watch chain strung across its front placed upon it. His derby was pushed forward over his eyes until its front almost rested on the bridge of his nose, and a thoroughly chewed, unlighted cigar occupied one corner of his slit-like, tobacco-stained mouth. “Sit down, Tony,” he invited. Tony sat, feeling very uncomfortable and wondering what this portended. Ordinarily O’Hara gave orders, received reports and loot, and conducted all the other business of his gang over one end of the bar. When he held a conference in the office, it was something important. “I been worried all week,” began the leader, “about you. The dicks are after you, kid; there’s no doubt about it. And because of that Flanagan business, they’re going to keep after you till they get you. Flanagan’s hard-boiled and he hangs on like a bulldog – when he wants to. If you was big enough to pass him a heavy piece of change every week he’d probably lay off. But you ain’t. So you got to take it. In the meantime this is going to get me and the whole mob in Dutch at headquarters. Those dicks that come poking around here every day are after you, of course, but just the same they’ve got an eye out for anything else they can see. If they keep that up long enough they’re bound to see or hear somep’n that’ll ruin us. So I’m going to have to ask you not to come around here.” “So you’re giving me the gate, eh?” demanded Tony coldly. “Not that. Jeez, kid, I like you and I’d like to have you with me always. But don’t you see that being under the police spotlight this way is sure to ruin us?” “Yes, I guess maybe you’re right. But what about the ideas I give you, the schemes I started?” “You’ll keep getting your cut on them every week; I’ll send it every Saturday night any place you say. And I’ll play square with you, kid; I want you to have everything that’s coming to you. But I just don’t dare let you stick around here; it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the boys.” They shook hands and Tony walked out, dismissed because of the unwelcome attention that his persecution by the police was bringing down upon the whole gang. In the bar, one of the O’Hara henchmen sidled up to him. “Listen,” he said out of one corner of his mouth, “I heard today that the Spingola mob’s out to get you.” “They’ve tried it before,” retorted Tony coldly. “I know. But this time it’s for blood; they say they’re not going to miss.” “Thanks,” said Tony. “Well, I guess I’ll have to go back to packing a gun, dicks or no dicks, and take a chance on being able to throw it away if they pick me up.” Tony moved slowly out to the sidewalk and beckoned his bodyguard, who was lounging in a doorway across the street, smoking a cigarette. The boy came across the street, a slender, white-faced chap with a weak chin and burning black eyes. “I just got a tip that the Spingola mob’s after me right,” said Tony. “And I ain’t got a gun. I’m going to the flat now to get my artillery. So watch sharp.” He glanced quickly up and down the street then he timed and started down the sidewalk, walking briskly, his keen glance roving suspiciously in all directions, the other boy trailing along some thirty yards behind, his hand plunged deep into his right coat pocket. Vyvyan was beginning to grow restive under the strain of this constant surveillance and heckling by the police. She was wrought up and irritable at dinner and Tony went out to a movie alone. America had entered the World War but a few days before and the screen flashed an appeal for volunteers to join the army for immediate overseas service. Tony wondered what sort of saps would fall for that. Not he. What did he owe the country? What had the country ever done for him? He was chuckling cynically to himself as he walked out at the conclusion of the show. His glance roved over the crowd, seeking possible enemies, either those of the law or those outside it. But he saw none and started home, walking briskly, for his car was not yet out of the garage where he had placed it for repairs following the attempt on his life in front of Vyvyan’s flat the Saturday night before. Turning off the business thoroughfare of the district and plunging deeper into the dark, deserted side streets, Tony suddenly became aware of other footfalls besides his own. Turning his head cautiously, he saw three men across the street but a little to the rear, and walking in the same direction as himself. Something seemed to grow cold within him and his hand quietly sought the ready gun in his side coat pocket. But first he must test his Belief that these men were after him – that they were killers from the Spingola mob. At the next corner he turned to the left and increased his pace. Quickly the other men crossed the street and followed, half-running until they were again in their preferred position across the street from him and slightly to the rear. Tony realised that their task of the night was to assassinate him, that they were only waiting until he reached some prearranged or some favourite spot of theirs. And there was no possible way of escaping their murderous attentions. To run would only hasten their fire; to shout would accomplish the same end and no one would come to his assistance, for minding one’s own business had been developed to a fine art in this neighbourhood. There was nothing to do but wait and shoot it out with them when they opened the attack. The horror of his situation, of being trailed to his death with almost the same inevitability as a legal execution, never struck him, for, like all gangsters, Tony was totally without imagination. The men suddenly swerved and began crossing the street, moving toward a position directly behind him. Knowing the tremendous value of a surprise attack, Tony decided to pull one. With the swiftness of a shadow, he faded into a doorway and began firing. The guns of the three men answered viciously and bullets thudded and whined about the boy. From beyond he could see the flashes and hear the reports of his bodyguard’s gun. The assassins were between two fires. Tony himself, partly sheltered and cold as ice, was firing slowly but with deadly effect. He saw one of the men go down and stay down. He saw another go down for a moment, then scramble to his feet and flee, limping, with the third. The enemy had been routed. In the distance he heard the peculiar “Clang-clang-clang!” of a detective bureau squad car. Undoubtedly they had heard the shots and now were racing there. Tony dodged out of the sheltering doorway and hurried past the inert figure without pausing to glance at it. Catching up with his bodyguard, he led him into a dark, smelly alley at a run. “Good work, kid!” panted Tony as they ran and slipped the boy a £5 bill. “We bumped off one and winged another. But we got to cover our tracks fast and complete. Throw your gun over one of these fences.” His own went over and the other boy’s followed. “Now, if we’re pinched, there’s nothing on us. But we don’t want to get pinched. At the end of the alley we split. Get as far from here as you can as quickly as possible but don’t move so fast that you’ll attract attention. If you should be picked up, you haven’t seen me all evening. You been to a movie. See?” The boy nodded and as they reached the end of the alley on another street, swerved to the right and disappeared in the darkness. Tony turned to the left. Within five minutes he was seven blocks away from the scene of the shooting. In that hurried walk, he had done a lot of thinking. Undoubtedly that dead man was a member of the Spingola mob. The police who found him would know that, of course, and they would have a pretty good idea as to how he came to his death. Tony realised that they would begin looking for him immediately. Between the police and the Spingola mob – for tonight’s occurrence would only increase their thirst for his blood – the town was going to be too hot to hold him for a while. He would have to leave for a few months. But where could he go? What could he do? Then he remembered that appeal on the movie screen tonight. And he chuckled. He would join the army. It had a lot of advantages, now that he began to catalogue them – none would ever think of looking for him there, he’d do some traveling and see a lot of new things at no expense to himself, and so on. The war wouldn’t last long, now that America was in it; he’d have a nice vacation for a few months. In the meantime, his predicament was serious. The police were sure to be looking for him immediately in all his known haunts. He dare not go home, nor to Vyvyan’s, nor to O’Hara’s place. He went into a drug store and telephoned O’Hara. “Hello, Klon,” he said in a guarded tone. “This is Tony. I just had a battle with some of the Spingola mob. Bumped off one and nicked another. I suppose the dicks will be looking for me right away. I’ve decided to get out of town for a while. And I want to see you and Vyvyan before I go, but I don’t dare come either to your place or hers. Where can we meet?” “Better meet at the flat of one of my dames, I guess,” answered O’Hara. He gave the name and address. “We ought to be safe there. I’ll hurry right over there and be waiting for you.” Tony telephoned Vyvyan, then hailed a cab. The address proved to be a large apartment house in a quiet section. Ascertaining that the flat he wanted was on the third floor, Tony hurried up and knocked quietly. O’Hara admitted him and introduced him to a large horsy blonde named Gertie. Gertie had lots of yellow hair, pale, empty-looking blue eyes with dark circles of dissipation under them, and an ample figure wrapped in a lavender negligee with quantities of dyed fur. She wore lavender mules with enormous pompoms but her legs were bare. She laughed loudly and hollowly on the slightest pretext and seemed to have a consuming fear that everyone wouldn’t get enough to drink. The apartment was a rococo affair done in French style, with the walls hung in blue taffeta, and jammed so full of ornate furniture that one could hardly walk. Tony quickly explained the situation and his plan of getting away for a while. O’Hara approved it and promised to send Vyvyan and Mrs. Guarino money every week, Tony’s share of the profits from the rackets he had conceived and instituted. Then Vyvyan arrived and O’Hara, with a penetration rare in one of his type, led Gertie out into another room so that Tony could be alone with Vyvyan for a few moments. Quickly he explained everything to her, then told her of his resolve to join the army. “But you might be killed,” she objected. Tony grinned. “Well, if I stay here, I’m either going to get bumped off or be sent away for a few years.” “But, Tony, I can’t do without you,” sniffed Vyvyan. “I’ve arranged with O’Hara to send you money every week,” answered the boy shrewdly. “So you’ll manage to get along for a few months – till I get back. Oh, I’m coming back – don’t worry about that. And when I get back,” he said with an ominous edge in his voice, “I’ll expect you to be waiting for me.” “I will, Tony, oh, I will.” She was clinging to him now, kissing him with great fervour and sobbing furiously. “Oh, I love you so, kid. Please come back to me.” He kissed her with all the passion that had made him risk his life to get her that had made him kill for her, then hurried out with O’Hara, her sobs and pleas for his return ringing in his ears. O’Hara drove him to South Bend, Tony lying down in the tonneau of the car until they were beyond the city limits. There was a New York train that came through there shortly after one in the morning. Tony caught it. Two days later he was in the army, and lost from all his enemies. They did not ask many questions of men who wanted to be a soldier then. CHAPTER VI Tony Guarino made a good soldier. They put him into a machine gun company and he loved it. Officers considered his nerveless coolness under fire remarkable. They didn’t know that being under fire was an old story to him, and that he was unaccustomed to having countless thousands of men to help him repel the attack. Trenches, too, were a protection unknown in the street battles back home. All in all, he considered war a rather tame proposition and plunged into it with gusto. Within six months he was first sergeant of his company. The men, being mostly country boys and therefore having nothing in common with him, didn’t like him very well personally but he had that indefinable “it” of the born leader that would have made them unquestionably follow him anywhere. They had to, once. It was a nasty night engagement in the woods. Tony came staggering out of the dark, carrying the unconscious captain on his back, and almost blinded by his own blood, to find all their officers down and the leaderless men on the verge of panic. Tony let the captain carefully to the ground, instructed two men to do what they could for him from their first-aid kits, then dashed the blood out of his eyes and quietly took command of the situation. Shortly after dawn the amazed colonel discovered Tony in command of three companies, with his position well consolidated and holding his section of the line comfortably. Tony himself was sitting on a little hillock, in deadly peril from snipers, with his automatic lying on his knee and with his keen glance wandering up and down the line in an effort to find some man who seemed disposed to retreat. He was somewhat of a sight, with his legs bare and muddy, and his head tied up in bloody handkerchiefs and his puttees; only his eyes and mouth remained uncovered. “Of all the dashed impudence!” exclaimed the colonel to the officers with him. “Taking command of the whole works and running it better than many a major could have done. If the Heinies had penetrated through here, they’d have wiped us out. Say,” he called to Tony from the shelter of the messy trench through which he was making his way in an effort to gather up his scattered regiment, “come down from there and go back and have your wounds dressed.” “We ain’t got any officers,” retorted Tony doggedly. “Most of them got bumped off during the night but a few only got nicked and I sent them back to get patched up. They wouldn’t have gone, of course, if they’d been conscious but they was all out like a light so I didn’t have any trouble with them. The men fight grand when there’s someone to see to them,” he continued, “but they’re a little skittish when there ain’t. So I’m seeing to them till some officers’ get here.” “Damn!” exclaimed the colonel to his staff. “Can you beat that; argues with me to stay up there and get his head blown off?” Then he raised his voice and called to Tony again: “I’m Colonel Riley. I’ll have Captain Stone here to see to your men. Now you come down from there – at once, do you hear? – And go back and have your wounds dressed. I can’t afford to have a man like you getting infection and dying on me.” So Tony scrambled down from his dangerous observatory hillock, saluted the colonel, who silently shook hands with him, and reluctantly started for the rear. Before the day was over, Colonel Riley was in possession of a complete story of the night’s activities and he sent a report into G.H.Q. that would have made Tony’s ears ring. They gave Tony the D.S.C. and the Croix de Guerre for that night’s work and he couldn’t see what for; he’d merely done what the situation demanded, the same as he would in a street fight back home. Eventually came the Armistice and Tony was sent home. He was ready to go home. Being a shrewd gambler he had taken the saps for a ride, running his small capital up to something over £1232 that he carried in cash in a belt around his waist under his tunic. And there had been many a time in France when he would have given all of it for an hour with Vyvyan. Having perfected him in every branch of the fine art of murder and having made every effort to readjust his mental processes so that he was willing at any time to translate this knowledge and technique into action, the government, in turning him loose with its blessing in the shape of an honourable discharge, seemed to expect him to forget it all immediately and thereafter be a peaceable, law-abiding citizen. Which was a lot to ask of any man, much less Tony. He had come home with a new face and a lot of new ideas, ideas that were going to be profitable for him but detrimental to the community in which he put them into practice. That awful night battle in the woods which had gained him the medals – he had them buttoned up in an inside pocket, not even showing the ribbons where anyone could see them – had also left him with a long livid scar down the left side of his face, a heavy scar running from the top of his ear to the point of his chin. In some manner the nerves and muscles around his mouth had become involvedin the matter and now the left corner of his mouth was drawn upward permanently, not much but it had changed his appearance surprisingly. When he smiled, that corner didn’t, and it gave his face an amazingly sinister look. He hurried eagerly out of the depot, looking boyish and jaunty in his uniform and overseas cap. He had a grip and in the side pocket of his tunic a German officer’s automatic that he had brought home as a souvenir. Now that he was home, the first thing was to see Vyvyan. God! Wouldn’t it be grand to have her in his arms again, to feel her lithe, supple body pliant and vibrant against his? He hailed a taxi and gave the address, ordering the driver to step on it. His hungry eyes recognised the building, even in the dark, two blocks away, and his glance sought their old apartment. Yes, there was a light. She was home! That is, if she still lived there. He added that as an afterthought, as a dreadful possibility. Then he grunted and grinned. Vyv would be waiting; he remembered how she had sobbed and promised that night he left. He gave the driver a handsome tip for his speed and, hurrying inside, eagerly scanned the names beside the letter boxes. Yes, there it was in the same place – Vyvyan Lovejoy. What a surprise his coming would be to her; he hadn’t written for two months, there’d been so much else to do. He tried the hall door on the chance that it might be open. It was. He hurried softly upstairs and with his breath catching in his throat knocked at the familiar third floor door. He heard a sort of scuffling sound inside but no one came. He knocked again, loud and a little impatiently. Then the door opened slightly. Tony’s ready arms dropped to his sides and his eyes suddenly flashed fire. For holding the door was a man, a ratty-looking young fellow with a crook’s face but sensual lips and a passionate nose. He was in his shirtsleeves. With a lunge, Tony flung the door wide open, almost overturning the other man as he did so, and plunged into the room. “Where’s Vyvyan?” he demanded. She came hurrying out of the bedroom, wrapped in a beautiful negligee that he had bought her. He could see that she had on only pyjamas beneath it and that her legs were bare. “Who are you?” she demanded furiously. “And what do you mean by breaking in here this way?” Tony caught his breath; she didn’t recognise him. “Why, I’m Tony. I know I’ve changed a little,” his fingers unconsciously felt that awful scar on his left cheek, “but surely you–” “Tony!” she exclaimed in amazement and came closer to stare wonderingly up into his face. “Why they reported you killed about six weeks ago; it was in the papers.” “Well, I wasn’t. I’m right here, and as good as ever.” Then he suddenly remembered that strange man, who had closed the door by now and was waiting behind him. He whirled, facing them both accusingly. “Who’s that?” he demanded, and in his voice was a tone that made Vyvyan cringe. “A – Friend of mine,” she answered. “A friend of yours, eh?” he repeated bitterly and stared contemptuously at the other. He whirled and rushed back to the bedroom. There in the closet, all mixed up with Vyvyan’s things, he found a man’s shoes, half a dozen masculine suits, even a man’s pyjamas. His things had been there when he went to war; but they were all gone now – these things were strange, evidently the property of that rat-faced crook in the parlour. Tony rushed back there, trembling with fury. “So you two-timed me, you little bitch!” he snarled through gritted teeth. “I suppose you’ve been feeding him out o’ the money I had Klondike O’Hara send you every week.” “No, Tony,” gasped Vyvyan breathlessly. Her hands fluttered to her throat and she seemed to find it almost impossible to speak. “Tony, you mustn’t think what you’re thinking. I never looked at another man all the time you was gone, not until that report about you being killed; I swear to God I didn’t.” “Well, you didn’t wait long after; a woman don’t go to living with a man the first night she meets him. You didn’t take the trouble to find out if that report was true; you didn’t wait for a little while to see if I might come back, like I did. No, you grabbed somep’m else right away. And I don’t see any mourning among your clothes; they’re all just as wild and gay as ever. A lot you cared about me, outside of a meal ticket.” Suddenly he saw red; his mind seemed frozen with rage. Automatically his hand darted to that pistol in his pocket. “You didn’t give a damn about me, you lousy little– ” The dreadful word he flung at her was drowned in the roar of the gun. She clutched at her throat and fell, a fluffy, blood-stained heap. The man had dodged and was trying to hide behind a chair. But Tony mowed him down with deadly precision. Then he secreted the empty pistol under the cushion of an overstuffed chair and hurried out of the apartment, still carrying his bag. CHAPTER VII It was after midnight. He saw no one on his way out. He had seen no one on his way in. He felt sure he was safe from identifying witnesses. Two blocks away he hailed a taxi and gave the driver the name of one of the best hotels in town. The police, even if they were looking for Tony Guarino, would never think of looking for him at a hotel like that. There were many uniforms on the streets and even in the lobby of the rather expensive hotel to which he went. It was not a conspicuous costume. He registered as I .H. Stevens, Denver, Colorado and was shown to a handsome room with private bath. He removed his tunic and stretched out in an easy chair to smoke and think. He had killed Vyvyan and her new lover. There was no doubt of that; three or four shots from a Luger aimed with his skill would finish anyone. And he did not regret his act. Vyvyan never had loved him; he could see it now. In fact, he felt a sense of relief that her mouth was, shut forever. She could have turned him in for that Spingola killing any time she liked, and she Was just the type to do it if something made her jealous or mad. Yes, he could breathe easier now that she was gone. So he had been reported killed, eh? He wondered if Vyvyan had been lying about that, if she had only used it as a subterfuge to try to justify her conduct. He must know; for the answer to that question would have a large part in shaping his future course of action. He reached for the telephone at his elbow and called Klondike O’Hara’s saloon. “Let me talk to Klondike,” he said in a hoarse, disguised voice. “Klondike was bumped off about six months ago,” answered a strange voice. “That’s too bad. I been away for some time and I hadn’t heard about it. What I wanted was to find out where I could reach a kid that used to work for Klondike – Tony Guarino, his name was.” “Him? Aw, he got patriotic and joined the army right after war was declared. And he was killed in France just a week or so before the Armistice.” “How do you know he was?” “It was in the papers – in a list of killed and wounded. Say, who are you, anyway?” But Tony had hung up. And in his eyes flamed a great elation. So it was true. Everyone here at home thought he was dead. No longer would the police or the Spingola mob be looking for Tony Guarino. That his appearance was changed even more than he realised was proven by the fact that even Vyvyan had not recognised him at first. His old identity was dead; he would let it stay dead and go on his way as a new man. That course would cause his family no suffering; they already had done, of course, the same grieving as if he really had been killed. He laughed aloud. What a break! He arose late, after a good sleep, and went down to a large store adjoining the hotel, where he purchased a complete outfit of civilian clothes. Leaving instructions to have the packages delivered to his hotel room immediately, he returned to the hotel lobby, purchased the morning papers and ascended to his room. He found the killing of Vyvyan and her lover featured prominently in all the papers. And it was played up as a deep mystery. He discovered from the articles that the man in the case was “Frog” Merlin, owner of a North Side gambling house and reputed bootlegger. The death weapon had not been found and there were no known clues to the perpetrator of the crime. Detective Sergeant Ben Guarino was in charge of the case. Tony read that last line three times then laughed uproariously. So Ben was a detective sergeant now. Well! Well! Wouldn’t it be funny if they met some time? Then Tony’s face hardened. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so funny. When the packages arrived, Tony donned his new outfit, then descended to the street. After a hearty breakfast he went out to the old neighbourhood. It was an almost irresistible temptation to rush to the little grocery store and see the family but he steeled himself and turned in the opposite direction. He saw many people that he knew but he gave no sign of recognition, and none of them even gave him a second glance. He spent the day in various illicit barrooms, listening to everything he could hear, asking as many and as detailed questions as he dared. He found the situation about as he had expected. The booze traffic was making the gangsters wealthy, and already the competition over the enormous profits was beginning to become acrimonious. Killings were liable to commence any time. One man had held complete control of the situation for some little time after Prohibition came in. Then he was killed by being thrown from his horse on the Lincoln Park bridle path – what a horribly prosaic death for a gangster, for a man who had lived violently and who had every right to expect to die the same way. All of his lieutenants had tried to succeed him but none had been strong enough to gain the support of a majority of the gang. So they had split, each taking those loyal to him, and now there were half a dozen main gangs spread over the city,, each holding sovereignty over a certain section and daring the others to trespass. Tony could see that the big profits ultimately would go to the man with a well-oiled organisation which was run as any other business enterprise. For he knew that the average gangster – even the leaders – had no more executive ability than the revolver with which he ruled. The only thing he knew was the old law of the survival of the fittest – might made right and the devil took the hindmost. But when you fought him with brains as well as strength, you had him licked. Tony’s, inquiries showed him that the best executive of the lot was Johnny Lovo, who had his headquarters in Cicero, a rather large but somewhat frowsy suburb which joined the city on the west. Though the stranger could not discern where the city left off and the suburb began, Cicero was a separate entity with its own government and the city police had no right to meddle there. It impressed Tony as an ideal place from which to operate and that night he went out to see Johnny Lovo. Those were the days before the present great secrecy as to gang leaders’ movements and whereabouts was necessary and Tony had no difficulty in locating his man at his headquarters on an upper floor of a hotel whose appearance was far better than its reputation. Lovo was a short, squat, dark man of perhaps thirty-five, with fine clothes, a large diamond ring and stickpin, and a ready smile on his not unhandsome face, who constantly chewed a long black cigar. He had been prominent in Cicero for some years as an operator of vice and gambling dens. Prohibition had merely placed in his hands another weapon with which to continue his pursuit of enormous wealth. Tony liked him instantly. Here was a man who not only could act and give orders but who could plan. “I just got out of the army two days ago,” explained Tony without preliminaries. “And I wanna get in this racket. I’d like to join up with you.” “Yes? Who’re you?” asked Lovo with the natural suspicion of his kind. “Tony – Camonte.” His former identity was dead; he intended to let it remain so. “Ever been with any mob before?” Lovo’s keen eyes were examining him thoroughly. “Yes, sir. I was Klondike O’Hara’s main lieutenant before the war. But of course I don’t want that known now; I want to forget it.” “Don’t blame you. That was small-time stuff.” “Not so small,” defended Tony quickly. “My end used to run around three hundred a week.” “Really?” Lovo was viewing him with heightened interest. “You must have been clever.” “I was,” admitted Tony frankly, then added proudly: “And I never pulled any rough stuff either, no second-story jobs or stick-ups or anything like that.” “I understand,” smiled Lovo. Already his quick mind had seen the picture of Tony’s former activities. “And I think you may be very valuable to me in time. But you’ll have to start at the bottom, of course, and I’ll have to test you awhile first. I’ll give you a job driving a truck at a twenty-one pounds a week.” Tony’s heart sank. Driving a truck – he who had never been a roustabout but always a white collar gangster who had never done any but the smoother and more gentlemanly types of gangster activity and who had been somewhat of a figure in that small-time pre-war gangland. But then these were different times and this was a much bigger game that he wanted to sit in. “All right, sir,” he assented. “But I don’t want to do that any longer than I have to; there’s plenty of common hoods that can be hired for jobs like that.” “You can shoot?” queried Lovo softly.“Yes; I have.” “In the army, you mean?” “Yes. And before I went into it.” “Interesting. No, I don’t think you’ll be driving a truck very long … Got a gat now?” “No, sir.” “We’ll furnish you one … broke?” “No, sir. I got about six grand of my own.” “Good. But don’t let anyone else know it. Rent a safety deposit box tomorrow at that bank across the street and put it away. Never carry a lot of money around with you; it isn’t healthy. Be here at noon tomorrow.” And Tony became a real modern gangster, a member of a big, powerful, wealthy organisation that collected more than a third of all the profits that came from liquor, gambling and vice in America’s second largest city and a considerable territory around it. Tony spent most of his time driving alcohol from the innumerable stills that were being operated for Lovo in all the western suburbs to the big plant in Cicero where the whisky was manufactured. He was never molested by officers; they were all being paid by Lovo. His only concern was hijackers, who were beginning to become active. But he always carried two guns – a six-shooter and an automatic – in the truck and his lips tightened when he thought of hijackers. At last an idea came to Tony. Why not have all the trucks equipped with enclosed cabs of steel and bulletproof glass so that an attacked driver could defend himself and his employer’s goods with impunity? He went to Lovo and presented his idea. “Great!” approved the gang leader. “I’ll have it carried out at once. Here’s a little bonus.” From a thick Toll he peeled off a £20 bill and tossed it across the desk. “I think you’ve driven a truck long enough, Tony. Be here at nine tonight; I’ve got a little job I want you to handle for me.” Tony returned to Lovo’s office promptly at the appointed hour, feeling considerably elated. He had been promoted; he was going to get somewhere in this racket yet. “The North Side gang’s been cutting into my territory,” explained Lovo, and his dark eyes glittered with a hard, vindictive light that Tony had never seen in them before. “I don’t want to open up a big battle with them if I can help it. But I do want to throw a good scare into the saloonkeepers and hold them in line so they won’t buy from anyone else. Now, here’s what you’re to do.” Tony listened carefully to his instructions, then hurried out with both his hip pockets very heavy. Fifteen minutes later he walked slowly into a large corner saloon in a rather ratty district. Lounging against the bar, he ordered a drink and paid for it. Then he walked nonchalantly down the room until he finally stood at the end of the bar, a position from which his eyes and guns would command the situation without possibility of upset. In addition to himself and the owner, who was acting as his own bartender, there were perhaps forty men in the place, the loud, rough, mixed crowd that one would expect to find in a frowsy saloon in a cheap neighbourhood. Deliberately Tony lit a cigarette, then with an incredibly quick movement he pulled his two guns. One he pointed down the bar, while the muzzle of the other roved about. “Step right up, boys, and have a drink,” he commanded quietly. “It’s all on me.” They stared at him in amazement. But the guns looked ominous and, though obviously puzzled by the whole proceeding, the men flocked to the bar. The surprised owner nervously began serving, his glance often wandering to that revolver pointing fixedly at him. After that first drink, Tony quietly commanded them to have another, and another and another. Whisky, gin, wine, beer – it was all swilled down until not another drink was left in the house. Then with one of the guns, Tony motioned the owner to him. “Don’t buy any more stuff from that North Side outfit,” he commanded in a low tone. “Stick with Lovo, where you started. If you don’t, the next time I drop in one of these pets of mine is liable to go off. Goodnight!” He backed out of the door, ran half a block, and dodged through an alley to the next street, where he hailed a taxi. CHAPTER IIX You did a good job, Tony,” commended Lovo when the boy reported the next morning. “I think it’s awfully funny, you telling that saloonkeeper that it’s all on you.” He threw back his head and laughed heartily. Tony’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t tell you I said that.” “No,” admitted the gang leader. “But I know you did say it. You see, I had two other men there last night – to help you in case you needed it.” That explanation did not fool Tony for a moment. Those other men had been there to watch him, to see how he worked on a high-pressure job. Johnny Lovo was even cleverer than Tony had given him credit for. “You carried it off in great shape, kid. I’ll have some more particular little jobs for you soon. And from now on your salary’s two hundred a week.” Tony’s new assignment was to visit saloons, keeping in line those who were already customers of Lovo, and trying to persuade the others to change their business to – the Lovo organisation. It was a dangerous assignment but Tony loved it. Undeniably he had a gift of gab far beyond the average boy of his education and environment. And he could put the screws on with a smiling suavity that was little short of masterful. His success was surprising. As he made his rounds one afternoon, a heavy car screeched to a halt at the curb beside him. “Hey, you!” snarled an ugly voice. “C’mere.” Tony turned. There were four toughs in the car and the ugly snouts of sawed-off shotguns pointed directly at him. For an instant he felt the helpless, strangling sensation of a drowning man, past events rushing through his mind in the same kaleidoscopic fashion. Was this to be his end, an ignominious death at the ruthless hands of a band of thugs? To attempt to draw his own gun would mean certain death; so would an attempt to escape. There was nothing to do but obey. He crossed the sidewalk to the side of the car. “Well?” he said coldly. There was about him not the slightest suggestion of fear. “Listen, you!” snarled the apparent leader, an ugly brute with a flattened, misshapen nose and tiny, granite-like grey eyes. “You’re going around trying to steal the North Side outfit’s business, trying to make the saloonkeepers switch over and buy from Lovo. Well, cut it out, see? We’re only going to warn you this once, like we have the other Lovo men. Then you’ll be taken for a ride.” The car raced away, leaving Tony staring after it. Taken for a ride – so that was what they threatened him with, the most feared of all gangland reprisals. A ride always ended in death – the body was usually found out in the country somewhere – but what happened before death was oftentimes an awful thing. Bodies of gangsters had been found without ears, without tongues, hacked in various ghoulish ways, bearing all too plainly evidences of dreadful torture before bullets had mercifully ended it all. But then that was the purpose of a ride – it was as much a warning to others as it was a wreaking of vengeance upon one man. It was characteristic of Tony that he did not halt his activities after this warning. But he added another gun to his equipment and kept them handy at all times; he watched his step with greater care than he ever had before and he resumed his old practice of having an armed bodyguard follow him. At noon one day, Tony received a rush call from Lovo to come to the leader’s office immediately. He found Johnny seated at his desk, his swarthy face pale and set, in his black eyes the bright ominous glitter that can be seen in the eyes of a rattlesnake when it is about to strike. “Sit down,” commanded Lovo. There was no greeting; no smile. Tony knew immediately that something serious either had happened or was about to happen. “Al Swali’s been taken for a ride.” Tony gasped and his own swarthy countenance paled slightly. Al Swali was one of Lovo’s best men, who had been on the same sort of assignment as himself. So those thugs had made good their threat! “They found his body out the other side of Melrose Park,” continued Lovo bitterly. “Tied hand and foot with wire and shot a dozen times. He was identified from some papers in his pockets and they telephoned me a few minutes ago.” “It was the North Side gang, that got him, of course,” said Tony in a low tone and told Lovo of the warning that had been given him a few days before. “I suppose you’re marked to ride next,” said Lovo with matter-of-fact resentment. “Well, they’re not going to get you or anyone else in my mob. I’m going to put the fear of God in them and do it quick. Are you game to help me pull something daring?” “Absolutely.” “Good. If you put it over, there’ll be a grand in it for you. Be here at eight in a tux … have you got one?” “No.” “Well, buy one – -with all the trimmings. You’ll probably need it often. You got to be fixed up fashionable to pull the job I’m planning … Don’t forget – eight o’clock here and be all togged out. I’ll have a gun girl here to go with you.” Tony hurried out, feeling strangely excited. He knew that it was a killing on for that night and there is always a thrill – even to an experienced gunman – in going after such important game. And Lovo had said that a gun girl would go with him. He wondered if it would be the gun girl, that noted one about which he had heard so much, that striking brunette that he had seen in the cabaret the night he knocked down Captain Flanagan for insulting Vyvyan. It wasn’t likely, of course, yet it was a possibility. He looked forward to the night’s activities with keen anticipation. He approached Lovo’s office that evening with his heart pounding. Would it be the gun girl? He certainly hoped so; he’d always wanted to know her. In conformity with orders, he was attired in a dinner jacket with all the trimmings. And quite handsome he looked, with his erect, well-built figure and thoroughly barbered countenance. He knocked, then turned the knob and crossed the threshold. Lovo was seated at his desk just as Tony had left him hours before and by his side sat the gun girl. Tony recognised her instantly and a gasp of admiration caught in his throat. God! She was beautiful! A lithe, slender brunette with a superb figure cunningly revealed by the close-fitting, very low cut evening gown. Its sheer whiteness provided a startling contrast with ‘ her vivid dark beauty, the ivory tint of her skin, the long, fashionably coiffed hair so black that its depths held bluish glints like fine gunmetal, the great dark eyes with their hints of hidden inner fires, the beautifully shaped red mouth. “Jane, Tony,” introduced Lovo briefly. “Sit down, kid. You look great.” Tony sank into a chair, feeling trembling under the appraising stare of the girl’s great dark eyes. “This is a big job I’m trusting you to handle tonight, Tony,” said Lovo. “Perhaps it’s too big for you. But I don’t think so and you’ve proven yourself so damn loyal to me that I’m going to give you a crack at it. Of course, if you fail, you’re through with me and I’ll have someone else do it. But I’m not expecting you to fail. I want you to get Jerry Hoffman.” “Jerry Hoffman!” exclaimed Tony. The girl said nothing, not even indicating the surprise she must have felt. “Exactly,” continued Lovo. “Jerry Hoffman, the biggest guy on the North Side and leader of that whole mob. Right now, there’s none big enough to step into his shoes and his death will ruin the whole outfit. They’ll know, of course, that some of my mob did it but they won’t know exactly who pulled the job – that is, if you two are as clever as I think you are – and his being bumped off will throw them into such a panic that I think they’ll be afraid to try any jobs on us for a long time. It’s high stakes we’re playing for, folks, but the reward will make the risk worthwhile.” “All right,” said Tony shortly. “I’m game. What’s the plan?” “I’ve found out that Hoffman is giving a little party tonight at the Embassy Club.” “Him – at the Embassy Club?” exclaimed the girl incredulously, speaking for the first time. And her voice – rich, full, throaty, gave Tony as big a thrill as did her appearance. “Oh, yes,” answered Lovo with a short laugh. “Surprising the places you can buy your way into – if you’ve got the price. Well, he’s giving a little party there tonight. Very select affair, couple of judges and an assistant district attorney or two and so on. He won’t have the slightest suspicion of being attackedthere and in that company, so he won’t have his bodyguards around, and as he doesn’t know either one of you by sight it ought to be easy for you to get him. I’m not going to give you any orders as to how to handle the job. Work it out on the spot as you think best. But get him! Got a gat on you, Tony?” “Certainly.” “Give it to me. Jane does the gat carrying tonight – she’s got it on her now. When you’re ready and want it, she’ll give it to you. The minute you’ve pulled the job, slip it back to her at once and she’ll hide it again. Then if some wise guy should recognise you and have you frisked, you haven’t got a thing on you. See?” Reluctantly Tony passed over his own gun, accepted the admission card to the Embassy Club which Lovo handed him, and escorted the gun girl out to the waiting limousine which Lovo had provided. The Embassy Club was the most exclusive of the expensive night clubs which had sprung up since the war – and Prohibition. As well as providing food, dancing and entertainment, it sold the best of liquors and one had to have a card to gain admittance. Where Lovo had secured the card which now rested in his well-filled pin seal wallet, Tony had no idea, but as the gang leader had said – money would do amazing things. A large table, handsomely set for ten or twelve, indicated where the Hoffman party was to be and Tony maneuverer the head waiter into seating him and his companion directly across from it and not more than thirty feet away. It was a splendid position, too, for a strategic retreat, being in a direct line with the door and not far from it. Tony felt a little nervous as he ordered. This was the first time he had ever worked with a gun girl and he found it a strange sensation not to have his own gun where he could reach for it whenever he wished. But Jane was as calm as though they were there bent only on pleasure and her calmness finally soothed him. God! She was beautiful! What he would give to have a woman like that for his very own. They chatted about this and that as they ate. But she did most of the talking. Tony was quite content to just sit and watch her, drinking in her beauty. The little pauses that fell between them now and then were tense to the point of being electrical. Tony, believed he was making progress. There was considerable hubbub when the Hoffman party came in. It required the attentions of the owner, the head waiter and half the other waiters to see that the party was properly seated. Truly, money – regardless of its source – commanded respect and service. Tony stiffened and his keen glance surveyed the situation. He recognised Hoffman immediately – a tall, rather heavy man with a red face and sandy hair. Tony scanned the rest of the party carefully but he could find none that looked like a gunman or a bodyguard. Now Hoffman probably felt entirely safe there in that exclusive cabaret in the company of men whose importance was unquestioned. It would be a cinch to bump him off there; the only thing was to pull the job at the proper time. Tony waited, smoking one cigarette after another with an outward calmness that was the result of iron self-control. Jane was chatting gaily about nothing in particular and occasionally laughed lightly for no reason. Tony realised that she was playing her part well, giving their table an air of casualness and gaiety. He tried to join in with her but; he was naturally a silent type and now he could hardly keep his eyes off the man who was soon to be his target. Champagne corks were popping at that other table and there was much loud laughing. Tony called for his check and paid it. Then the main lights were snapped off, a spotlight centring on the small dance floor. A brash, overdressed young man stepped out into its glow and began telling about the show that was to follow, interspersing his remarks with supposedly funny wisecracks. Now was the time to pull the job, when everyone’s attention was centred on the show. Tony looked at Jane and nodded slightly. She gave him a look of understanding, then, with every appearance of affection, caught his right hand and gently manoeuvred it beneath the table. His hand found her knee, rested there. And he thrilled at the contact. But she did not shrink. Then he felt cold steel against his flesh and his eager fingers clutched an automatic. His thumb slipped off the safety catch and he waited. Some woman sang a comic song that made Tony laugh – even in the tenacity of the moment – then the chorus came on. While doing a fancy dance routine, they sang at the top of their voices, the jazz band blared madly, and the customers beat time with little wooden mallets provided for the purpose. The din was tremendous. Tony brought the gun up into his lap, then cautiously reached out, holding the weapon close beside the table and well below the level of its top. None yet had been seated on that side of them; at the moment not even a waiter was there. Tony took careful aim and fired three times, so rapidly that the reports almost merged into each other. He saw Hoffman slump forward as he jerked the pistol under the table and slipped it back to Jane. Her fingers were cool and steady as she took it from him. The noise of the shots had penetrated even that din, of course, and there was a sudden commotion. The main lights were snapped back on and everyone stood up, staring horror-stricken at that table where Hoffman lay slumped low in his chair, an ever widening spot of crimson disfiguring his snowy shirtfront. Then began a mad scramble to get away before the police should arrive. These people had no wish to be questioned about a murder, and have their names and perhaps their pictures in the papers. Tony and Jane were in the van of that frantic, fear-struck mob. Within less than two minutes they were comfortably seated in-‘ their limousine and were being driven rapidly away from the scene. Tony took a long breath. “Well, that’s done,” he said calmly. Now that it was all over, he felt calm, even gay. “We’ve done a good night’s work for ourselves. And for Lovo. He won’t forget it either, I think. But say, girlie, you sure have got guts.” “A person has to have to get along these days,” answered Jane Conley quietly. He reached out and caught her hand, fondled her fingers. It thrilled him to see that she made no effort to pull away. “You and I will probably work together quite a bit from now,” he said huskily. “Why can’t we be good pals and – play together, too?” “Perhaps we can.” Obeying a sudden irresistible impulse, he caught her in his arms and kissed her with all the frantic ardour of a strong, eager passion long repressed. And she made no effort to resist. CHAPTER IX Jerry Hoffman’s death created a sensation and for days the city was rife with conjectures as to who could have carried out such a daring murder plot. But the police and gangland both had a good idea as to who was responsible. The dicks took Johnny Lovo down to headquarters and questioned him for half a day but he told them nothing beyond proving an alibi for himself. Nor did he give the impression of defiantly holding back something. On the contrary, he blandly and smilingly convinced them that he actually knew nothing. But the North Side gang was far from convinced and some day they meant to have vengeance for the death of their chief. Neither Tony nor Jane was ever mentioned in connection with the affair. Lovo gave them £206 each and thanked them profusely, promising to let them handle any other little jobs he might have in the future. In the meantime he sent an enormous and elaborate floral piece bearing his card to Jerry Hoffman’s garish and expensive funeral and gave Tony various assignments in connection with the gang’s activities. But he didn’t send Tony back to the interesting but perilous task of proselytizing saloonkeepers – he considered the boy too valuable an aid now to risk in such reckless fashion. No, Tony had become a staff officer now. His work consisted mainly in relaying Lovo’s orders to the powerful leader’s henchmen and in receiving reports that Lovo himself was too busy to hear. There was no detail of the gang’s operation that Tony did not come to know. He spent all his spare time in pursuing Jane Conley. And the more he saw of her, the more fascinated he became with her. Yet there was something elusive about her. He could never feel that he had a definite grasp upon her. Yet he finally got his courage up to the point of proposing that they take a flat together. “I’m not interested in marriage,” she answered with a shake of her shapely head. “Neither am I,” agreed Tony quickly. “But who said anything about marriage? I said I thought it would be nice for us to have a flat together.” Again she shook her head. “I’ve never lived with a man.” “Well, you might find it a pleasant experience.” “Yes,” she admitted frankly, looking him straight in the eye. “And then again, I might not. I’m afraid it would be too – intimate; that people, even if they were very much in love – when they started, would surely tire each other finally.” “Is there – someone else?” “Not particularly.” “But there is someone?” he persisted jealously. She laughed lightly. “There is always someone else. Any girl knows more than one man and often likes more than one very much.” “Then you do like me a little?” He was at her side with her hand caught in both of his. She nodded. “And you will think about what I proposed?” “Yes, I’ll think about it.” And with that he had to be content. This Jane Conley was a very strange woman, he reflected. He often wondered who she was, where she came from. As much as he had been with her, he really didn’t know her at all. And he knew enough about women to realise that that very mystery and elusiveness was one of the main reasons why she fascinated him so intensely. But he had enough on his mind without troublesome love affairs. Contrary to expectations, the North Side gang had found a new leader and apparently an able one, a wily little Italian rightly named Schemer Bruno. Rumour had it that he was reorganising things in every direction and preparing to set out on a campaign of reprisals and business-getting that would set the city by the ears. That he was utterly ruthless and intended carrying on with gusto the feuds begun by his predecessor was proven by the fact that another of Johnny Lovo’s best men was taken for a ride, his body discovered out in the country with a scrawled note, In Memory of Hoffman, tacked to his chest with the blade of a pocketknife. “I tell you, Tony, I don’t like this,” said Lovo after the man’s body bearing its gruesome message was brought in. “Not getting scared, are you?” demanded Tony. He talked to Lovo now with the freedom of a privileged counsellor. “Hell, no!” snapped the gang leader, but he talked like a man who is assuming a falsely ferocious air to maintain his own courage. “But just the same I don’t like it. It may be you next – or me. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life having someone shot and trying to keep someone else from shooting me or my employees.” “Forget it!” advised Tony. “It’s all in the game. We’ll fight them to a finish and get this Schemer guy too if necessary.” “No, not yet. Maybe he’ll quit now. I don’t want to spend all my time in a war; it takes too much time away from making money.” Tony departed from that interview much disgusted with Johnny Lovo. He did not realise the essential differences between them; that Lovo was merely a shrewd and unscrupulous man willing to do anything for money; that he was much more a business man than a fighter; and that he had had none of Tony’s war experience which had taught the younger man such a supreme contempt for human life. Then for the first time Tony actually saw the close contact which exists between crime and the law. Lovo was summoned to the District Attorney’s office and he took Tony along as a sort of bodyguard and aide-de-camp. The District Attorney was a little man with a flat nose, an undershot belligerent jaw and mean little eyes. “This shooting has got to be stopped,” he barked at Lovo. “It’s–” “But I’m paying–” “Of course you are. And you’ll keep on paying if you want to keep on doing business. It isn’t your business that I’m objecting to; it’s this damned shooting that’s going on among you. It’s getting the city a bad name and what’s more important, the newspapers are beginning to ride me and my administration. I don’t want to interfere with you boys any more than is absolutely necessary, but this killing has got to be stopped.” “I’m willing. It’s that North Side outfit.” “And they say it’s you. I had this Schemer Bruno in here for an hour this morning and he promised his mob would do no more killing if yours didn’t. So that’s settled, then. Now I don’t want to hear of any more gang wars.” For six months there was peace, that is, on the surface. There were no killings but fist-fighting and stabbings occurred with too great frequency to be accidental. Therivalry for business was becoming keener and bitterer daily, and all sides knew that it was merely a question of time until someone blew the lid off and started the old feuds all over again. The two South Side factions also were beginning to meddle in districts which belonged to other gangs and on the near west side a crowd of five brothers had suddenly set up in the bootlegging and allied rackets with a strong gang of their own. Tony was growing restive from inaction. And he was deeply resentful of many things, of the fact that the last murder of a Lovo man was still unavenged, of the fact that other gangs were beginning to encroach upon the Lovo territory and that they were not being challenged by the bullets that should be poured into them. He had just about decided to begin a lone war of reprisal when the lid was blown off. He and Johnny Lovo were dining at a table in the ground floor restaurant of the hotel where Lovo had his headquarters and which he owned. Suddenly there was a rapid staccato rattle of shots from outside somewhere, the tinkling crash of shattered plate glass windows and the spiteful whizzing of bullets. With one sweep of his arm, Tony overturned the table and dragged Lovo down behind it. He had recognised that peculiar stuttering of those guns outside. Machine guns! Why hadn’t someone used them before? Why hadn’t he, an expert machine gunner, thought of them and brought them into play in this other war that was for money only? Well, if that was the way they were going to play now, he’d give them a nasty dose of their own medicine. That shooting had been a direct attempt to get Johnny Lovo himself. It was the most daring move of the enemy so far. And it had been partly successful. Lovo had been hit in the shoulder. It wasn’t a serious wound but the fact remained that he had been hit for the first time and it brought a hunted look into his eyes that remained there forever after. Johnny wasn’t a warrior when his own person was involved; his nerves weren’t constructed to stand the strain. That attempt to kill Lovo made Tony furious. He felt that it was a gesture of contempt which must not be allowed to remain unanswered if the Lovo organisation was to continue and to endure. Without saying a word to anyone, he managed to purchase a machine gun himself. Then one night he set out on a little war of his own. The headquarters of the North Side gang was upstairs over a florist’s shop which had been the property and hobby of the gang’s first and greatest leader, the famous Tommy Martin, who had been shot down among, his own flowers – the first post-war gang leader to die from the bullets of an enemy. The shop, which was directly across the street from a large cathedral, was located on a thoroughfare which was dark and quiet at night. Sitting in the tonneau of the car with his machine gun on his lap, Tony ordered his chauffeur to drive slowly past the shop. As the car moved deliberately along, Tony lifted the machine gun to his shoulder – it was one of the new type that are operated much as a rifle – and riddled the front of the shop, both upstairs and down. There had been a light on the second floor which went off the moment he started firing and he had no means of knowing if he hit anyone. But he had certainly done plenty of damage, he reflected happily as the car raced away from the scene. He’d given them as good as they sent, and with their own weapon. Since machine guns had been introduced into the war, the score was even. CHAPTER X At first Tony had considered that long scar on the left side of his face a blessing because of the change it had made in his appearance. But now, he was beginning to regard it as a curse. It was making him a marked man. Already he was known through the underworld, not only to the members of the Lovo gang but to those of other mobs, as “Scarface Tony.” And to be so well known that he could be easily identified was distinctly not a part of his plans. He felt, too, that that scar might be hurting his suit with Jane Conley, the gun girl. Women could not make themselves love men who had disfiguring marks of any kind and that scar, even though it was becoming less noticeable as time went on, was not a thing of beauty. He and Jane were the best of friends, often going places together and seeing a great deal of each other. Yet he felt that he was actually no closer to her than he had been the first time they met the night they had disposed of Jerry Hoffman. But the lure of her was growing upon him more and more, if such a thing were possible. “Listen, girlie,” he said one night, “I love you – more than I could ever tell you; I’m not much good at talking. But all I want is a chance to prove it. Please say ‘yes’ to that proposition I made you a long time ago.” Jane looked him straight in the eye for a moment and the directness of her gaze was rather disconcerting. “All right,” she answered. “We’ll look around tomorrow for a place.” “You’ll do it?” he cried, almost beside himself with elation. “For one month – on trial. If at the end of that time I am not pleased with – everything, I am to leave and you are to say nothing, not even seeing me again if I ask you not to. Those are my conditions. Do you accept them?” “Yes.” “Very well; it’s a bargain.” “And if you are pleased with – everything?” he queried. “The arrangement will probably last some time,” she answered quietly. Tony went away from the house that night, almost choking with triumph. At last he had won; that glorious creature was about to become his – even, if only for a month. But he meant to make things so pleasant that the arrangement would last much longer. But he said nothing about it to Lovo when they met next morning. In the first place, it was a private matter and none else’s business; and in the second, the gang leader was obviously preoccupied. Tony watched him pace nervously around the office, his unseeing gaze now on the ceiling, now on the floor, with a funny little sense of fright catching at his heart. What’s troubling Lovo? “I want to talk to you, Tony,” said the other finally. “Sit down.” Tony took his place on the other side of the desk, feeling an odd sense of drama as though important events were about to transpire. Finally Lovo sat down himself in his big chair and lit another cigar. “I’ve heard about your shooting up the florist shop the other night,” he began. “Yes?” said Tony uneasily. He wondered if he was to be sharply reprimanded. “It’s daring and all that but terribly dangerous. You must learn not to risk yourself like that.” “I – I’ll try. But there’s a lot of fun in pulling a job like that.” “I suppose so,” assented Lovo. “For those that like it. Well, I’m not one of them. I’d rather be peaceable and make money. When they drag in machine guns, it’s a bit too much. I’ve got plenty of money, Tony; more than I can ever spend if I use common sense. I think I’ll take a trip, to Monte Carlo or Havana or some other gay sporting place where life is pleasant.” “For how long?” “Years. In fact, I doubt very much if I’ll ever return.” “But the mob! You can’t let it break up and go to pieces–” “It would be a shame to let such a complete organisation wreck itself, wouldn’t it? Well, can’t someone else run it?” “Certainly.” Then remembering to whom he was talking, he added: “Perhaps not as well as you’ve run it, but they’d hold the crowd together and keep things moving. And there’s so much jack laying around just waiting to be picked up.” His voice almost became a groan as he remembered and mentioned the large illicit profits waiting to be garnered. “I know,” assented Lovo. “I’m not through with those profits yet myself … listen, Tony, do you think you could run this mob?” “I know I could,” answered the young man eagerly. “I wish you’d give me the chance.” “I’m going to, It’s a heavy responsibility for a young fellow or even for an old one. But I’m going to take a chance on you and I believe you’ll make good. You’re to send half the net profits to me every month wherever I direct. If my payments don’t come through regularly, of course I’ll have to come back and – make other arrangements!” Their eyes met as he said that and it was evident that they understood each other completely. “Of the other half, you’re to keep two-thirds of it and give the other third to your first lieutenant, Steve Libati.” “You want him to work that close to me?” asked Tony. He disliked Libati intensely. “Yes. He’s much older at the game than you are and can give you good advice. Besides, he’s always been completely loyal to me and I know he would never do anything that would hurt the organisation. If – anything should happen to you, he is to take command.” “Does he know about all this?” “No. But I’m going to tell him in an hour or two, after you and I have gone over some details.” For two hours the gang leader and his successor, discussed various aspects of the mob and its activities. Tony merely assented to whatever Lovo said but his own mind was formulating rapidly a plan of campaign, an aggressive, ruthless campaign that would leave the Lovo organisation in command of the field. His eyes glinted as he thought of the many daring moves he wanted to make. At last Steve Libati was called in and apprised of the situation. He was an ugly brute in the late thirties, a gangster of the old school, the type that wore sweaters and shapeless checked caps and lounged in front of frowsy corner saloons with a cigarette dangling from one corner of their ugly mouths while they talked hoarsely from the other. He had hard grey eyes and a nose bent slightly to one side and a mean mouth that sneered easily and nastily. Tony disliked him intently and he had never evidenced any particular affection for Tony. They represented two entirely different epochs in gangland, and had practically nothing in common. Steve was of the pre-war strong-arm type, who knew nothing except the law of might. Tony was of the dapper, business-like, post-war type that went in for efficiency and regular business administration in crime, and that handled its necessary rough stuff with a breath-taking speed and thoroughness that accomplished the end without leaving, any traces of the perpetrators. Furthermore, Tony had none of Lovo’s faith in either Steve’s ability or his loyalty. He had never seen the fellow do anything that proved either one. And he resented having the man handed to him on a plate and being told to make the best of it. But already he had resolved one thing – if he and Steve didn’t get along well together, he intended to rid himself of the fellow. There were ways … “Well, kid, we’ll hit it off together in great shape, won’t we?” exclaimed Steve with a great show of heartiness when the conditions of Lovo’s virtual abdication had been explained to him. But there was a sly look in his hard eyes and a patronising note in his rough voice that angered Tony. “I hope so,” he said coldly. He turned to say something to Lovo. Tony walked out of the hotel in the grip of a strange mixture of emotions. He was elated, of course, at being elevated to command of the big Lovo organisation – it furnished him with the break he had always wished for and which would give him a chance to make good in a big way and clean up. But he resented Steve Libati. The more he thought about him, the more he disliked and distrusted the fellow. He could see him only as a spy for Lovo and as a general meddler. Oh, well, that problem would work itself out in time. He met Jane and they went flat-hunting together. He told her of his big promotion and she was as excited as a child over a new toy. “What a marvellous opportunity!” she exclaimed repeatedly. “You ought to be able to clean up and retire in a couple of years.” “Who wants to retire?” he demanded. “I want to live. Just because I’m the boss don’t mean that I’m going to hide myself in an office some place and let someone else have all the fun. I’m going to be out on the firing, line myself every now and then. You and I are going to pull some more little jobs, girlie; don’t forget it. And there’s going to be plenty of jobs to be done. If I’m to run this mob, I’m going to run it, and no halfway business. Moreover, I’m either going to run the competition out of town or kill them off.” They found a handsome furnished apartment in a large building in a fashionable section. The rent was enormous but they both liked the place and Tony was a big shot now. They rented the place for one month and he paid the rent in cash. And the following day found them installed, Jane as tremulously happy as a bride on her honeymoon. Lovo departed on Friday. Tony drove him to asmall station on the far South Side where he took a train for New York. Thus, there were no reporters or photographers around and the public at large had, no inkling that he was gone. Tony wanted to have everything running smoothly and have his own position and leadership thoroughly established before Lovo’s absence was known. Returning to Lovo’s former office in the hotel to take command, Tony found Steve Libati comfortably established there, tilted back in Lovo’s big chair, his feet on the desk, smoking a cigar. “’Lo, kid!” he greeted Tony. And again his voice held that patronising tone that made the younger man furious. “Would you mind moving to another chair?” asked Tony coldly. “I want to sit there.” “Oh, all right.” Steve shifted to another chair and Tony sat down at the desk. “As we’re going to run the mob, I thought you and I ought to have a little talk.” “I don’t know what about,” retorted Tony coolly, picking up some papers and riffling through them in a this-is-my-busy-day manner. “I’ve decided on no definite plans yet. When I do, I’ll let you know and give you your orders for your part in them.” For a long moment the two men stared at each other. Tony’s right hand had moved quietly to his side coat pocket. He was waiting for definite insubordination. It did not come. Steve’s mean eyes narrowed and his ugly mouth twisted into a snarl. Then he relaxed and forced a smile. “All right,” he said, “if that’s the way you feel about it.” He picked up his hat and walked out. Tony had won the first tilt. But he realised that the inevitable serious trouble between them had only been postponed. Tony worked hard the rest of that day and evening and all the next day and evening, getting things organised both in his head and on paper. The gang had been gradually falling lately, both in efficiency and income, because of Lovo’s reluctance to carry out reprisals. There was much to do. The first thing was to carry out successfully two or three daring coups – preferably killings – against the enemy so as to give the boys some confidence and pride in their own outfit. Then would come the serious organisation work that meant big profits. Within sixty days, Tony meant to have those profits bigger than they had ever been under Lovo’s leadership. It was almost ten o’clock on Saturday night when Al, the little rat-faced gangster who acted as guard and doorman for the office, came in to Tony. “Captain Flanagan’s here,” he announced. Tony looked up quickly. “Who?” he demanded. “Captain Flanagan, chief of the dicks at headquarters,” A grim smile played about Tony’s lips. So Flanagan was here! Well he remembered that bullying officer whom he had knocked down in the cabaret for insulting Vyvyan and who thereafter had practically run him out of town. The shoe was on the other foot now. Tony took an ugly automatic out of a drawer and laid it on the desk within easy reach. “Show him in!” he ordered grimly. CHAPTER XI Captain Flanagan, chief of detectives, came striding into the new gang leader’s office with the confident, arrogant air of one who is on familiar ground and who, though not expecting a warm welcome, realises that his position demands a certain courtesy and respect. Scarface Tony, seated behind the desk to which he had just succeeded, with his right hand resting lightly on the automatic lying on its top, watched the official enter. And a blast of rage as fierce as the heat from a suddenly opened furnace door swept through him. But the main thing he wondered was whether or not Flanagan would recognise him. Flanagan evidently did not see in this smartly dressed man with a livid scar traversing the left side of his hard face from ear to jaw the handsome boy who had knocked him down less than three years before and whom he later had practically run out of the city. For there was no hint of recognition in the officer’s granite grey eyes as he pushed his derby to the back of his head and with his big feet planted widely apart and his hands thrust deep into his pockets, stood staring at the new leader of the powerful Lovo gang. “Where’s Johnny?” demanded Flanagan. “Mr. Lovo isn’t in.” Tony’s eyes were as coldly impersonal as his tone. “I can see that,” snapped Flanagan, his cruel mouth twisting angrily. “I ain’t blind. Where is he?” “Out of town. And he won’t be back for some time.” Flanagan snorted. “Quit kidding,” he snarled. “Johnny’s always in on the first of the month – for me.” “Oh! I see. Just a moment.” From one of the desk drawers Tony produced a small notebook which contained the gang’s pay-off list, the names of those officials, high and slow, who had to be padded, and the amount of the monthly bit of each. The list was carefully arranged in alphabetical order and Tony soon ascertained that the Lovo mob’s monthly contribution to the happiness and prosperity of Captain Flanagan was £103. Tony dropped the little book back in the desk drawer. Then he pulled out a fat roll of money and peeling off five £20 bills, threw them across the desk in a manner most contemptuous. “There you are. But remember that we want some service for all this jack we pay out.” “As if you didn’t get it,” snarled Flanagan, snatching up the money and stuffing it into his pocket. “What I could do to this outfit if I wanted would be a sight.” “Yes, I suppose so,” admitted Tony reflectively. “Yet we boys have our own methods for discouraging our enemies.” “What do you mean?” “Nothing,” answered Tony calmly, but he could see that his veiled warning had registered. “And now, Flanagan, I think it might be a good idea for you and I to have a little talk. I’m Tony Camonte. And from now on I’m in command of this mob.” “You!” “Me,” asserted Tony solemnly. “Johnny Lovo left yesterday for a long vacation. He may be back sometime but I don’t think so. He’s got plenty of dough and he’s tired of this racket. Of course he’s still interested but he turned the active control of things over to me.” “Won’t some of his other lieutenants question your authority?” “Maybe. But they won’t question it more than once.” Tony patted the automatic and the glance he gave Flanagan was significant. “Well!” exclaimed the captain. “This is news. Though I been wondering lately if Johnny hadn’t lost his nerve or some p’m. This mob’s been pretty quiet for a while.” “Too damn quiet!” agreed Tony, his eyes snapping with energetic resolve. “But all that’s going to be changed now and changed damn quickly.” “That’ll be interesting to the other mob leaders.” “Let them find it out. They don’t have to be told anything. I don’t want this change spread around or leaking into the papers. But I wanted you to know about it so that if I give you a ring someday and want a favour done in a hurry you’ll know who I am.” Tony sneered at the captain’s broad back as Flanagan departed. There, he thought, was a good example of the men who are supposed to stand between the lawless and the law-abiding citizenry. Trafficking for his own profit with those he had sworn to hunt down. That was the nub of the whole matter, Money. The underworld now was too wealthy to allow itself to be hunted down. But even a cop was human, thought Tony; how could people be so foolish as to expect him to do his duty for five thousand a year – and sometimes less – when not doing it would make him twenty-five thousand and oftentimes more. A knock at the door roused him from his reflections on cops in general and Flanagan in particular. “Come in,” he called brusquely. He had the automatic trained on the portal before one could turn the knob. But it was only Al, the little rat-faced outer doorkeeper. “Someone just phoned on that back room wire at the cigar store downstairs,” he announced, “and said that Charlie Martino, one of our truck drivers was hijacked and shot a little bit ago. He’s at a garage in Maywood now – here’s the address – and whoever phoned said he needs a doctor bad.” “Wonder why he didn’t give them one of our numbers up here to call,” Tony said. “Probably didn’t want to give them to strangers. Charlie’s a good, reliable boy, boss,” said Al pleadingly, “I know him well.” “If it’s true, I want to help him all I can,” said Tony. “But most likely it’s that North Side mob trying to put me on the spot. We got to go careful on this.” Within five minutes – so thoroughly systematized was the Lovo organisation and its operations – Tony was in possession of Charlie Martino’s scheduled movements for the evening and also of his past record with the gang. The latter was unblemished, both as to loyalty and ability, over a period of two years. This evening Charlie was supposed to be bringing a load of raw grain alcohol from Melrose Park, a suburb where almost every house had a big still and the Italian inhabitants were making comfortable little fortunes by “cooking alky” for the big syndicates, into a warehouse near the gang’s headquarters in Cicero. A call to Melrose Park revealed that he had picked up his load and departed according to schedule. But another call revealed that he had not arrived at the warehouse. It looked as though the plea for assistance was genuine. “Tell six or seven of the boys downstairs to bring around a couple of cars and plenty of gats,” snapped Tony, his black eyes glittering with excitement, though his voice was as cool and calm as if he were giving a telephone number. “I’m going out and have a look at this.” Al hurried away, to relay orders to the cigar store downstairs which was a sort of squad room for the gang. Tony called a safe doctor – one of those rare physicians who, for enormous fees, will attend the underworld’s gunshot wounds without going through the prescribed formality of reporting them to the police – and giving him the address in Maywood, ordered him to proceed there immediately. Then he grabbed his automatic and hurried downstairs. In the dark alley back of the hotel – that was the gang’s headquarters because Lovo owned it – he found a group of shadowy figures moving about two large dark touring cars with drawn side curtains. The clank of metal came to his ears as he advanced. They were loading in the machine guns, of course. “Ready, boys?” he enquired. “Good! Let’s go!” He leaped into the tonneau of one car. Men piled in around him and in front and he saw the other men climbing into the car ahead. Motors roared into pulsing life and with a whine of racing engines the two carloads of expert gunmen sped away on their errand of either mercy or murder. Tony hoped it would prove to be both. To his left he could discern in the gloom the ugly snouts of two machine guns. He reached over and pulled one of them into his lap. “I’m with these babies like some people with a car,” he said with a laugh. “I feel safer when I’m at the wheel.” A block away from the garage which was their objective, they cut put the engines and coasted the rest of the way. But their practiced eyes found nothing suspicious on any side. Abruptly the engines roared again and the two big cars, bristling with the most modern death-dealing machinery, ready for anything, swept into the garage and ground to a halt. A man in greasy mechanic’s coveralls, came forward, wiping his hands on a bit of waste. Tony opened the door next to him and looked out. “We’d a call that there was a man here – hurt,” he said brusquely. “Yes. He’s back there in my little office. A doctor just came to see him.” The man jerked a dirty thumb toward a small coupe which Tony recognised as belonging to the doctor he had summoned. The gang leader lifted his machine gun to the floor of the car and stepped out. But as he followed the other man across the grease-spotted concrete floor, his right hand was plunged deep into his side coat pocket and his keen glance was searching the shadows on all sides. Behind him, he knew that other keen glances were doing the same thing and that he was covered by an amazing amount of artillery. As the two men entered the cluttered little space partitioned off from the rest of the building, the doctor looked up. He was a thin, nervous little man with a pallid complexion and shifty black eyes. But he knew his business, as many a live gangstercould testify. “Pretty serious,” he said with a gesture toward his patient who lay stretched out on a canvas cot, his eyes closed, his breathing slow and hoarse. “Shot twice through the chest. He’s lost a lot of blood. We ought to get him somewhere where I can work on him.” “Can he be moved?” asked Tony. “Yes. I’ll give him a stimulant.” The doctor quickly filled a hypodermic needle from some of the bottles in his grip and injected the contents into the patient’s wrist. In a few moments the boy – he was little more than that – opened his eyes. Tony walked over to him. “He’s too weak to talk,” cautioned the doctor. Tony grasped his henchman’s hand. Their glances met, held, and the boy’s vacant stare changed to happy recognition. “Was it the North Side outfit?” demanded Tony harshly. “Schemer Bruno’s mob?” The boy tried to speak but so much effort was beyond him. He nodded. “All right, we’ll see them, kid,” promised Tony gruffly and gripped that limp hand hard. The garage man’s eyes widened when he heard that ominous threat of gangland vengeance. When Tony turned on him, he told his story quickly. Returning from towing a car out of a ditch, he had come upon the wounded boy lying at the side of a lonely road, and had brought him on to the garage. The boy had pleaded with him to call only a certain number, a request to which he had acceded. “You see, I thought it’s probably a case that it’s best not to make too much fuss about,” he concluded. “You’ve done well,” Tony commended, and slipped him a twenty pound bill. ”.How’s your memory?” “Terrible, boss,” grinned the man with a knowing wink. “Why, I’ve to look up the number every time I wanna phone my own house.” Tony grinned himself and slapped the man on the back. Money and power on one hand and lack of them on the other has a way of making people understand each other quickly and thoroughly. They took the wounded boy back to a room in the hotel which was the gang’s headquarters and the doctor went to work on him in an effort to save his life. Tony retired to his private office and sent for Steve Libati, the man whom Lovo had appointed as second in command of the gang during his absence and who, Tony realised, was very jealous of his position as chief. He felt that now was as good a time as any to give the man an important assignment, to test his ability and his loyalty. CHAPTER XII Steve Libati came in looking somewhat sullen and defiant. A gangster of a somewhat older school than Tony, of the sweater-and-checked-cap era, he had never quite accustomed himself to the smooth, suave, business-like methods of the modern, post-Prohibition gangsters. Though he now wore the best clothes and drove an expensive car, he still talked from one corner of his cruel mouth and, at times, revealed other distressing symptoms of having been a common street-corner thug. “That North Side mob’s at it again,” said Tony, plunging immediately to the heart of the matter. “They hijacked one of our trucks of alky tonight and knocked off the driver. Kid named Charlie Martino. I took some of the boys and went out and got him a little bit ago. He’s down the hall here now and Doc’s working on him to try to keep him from croaking. Happened between Maywood and Melrose Park. That’s the first time that outfit has come that far into our territory and it’s going to be the last.” “Think you can stop them?” asked Libati calmly, his head cocked on one side and his left eye closed against the smoke curling upward from his cigarette. “I’m going to stop them.” Tony punctuated the statement with a sharp blow on the desk with his clenched fist. “If I have to have every man in the mob bumped off. Things have been too quiet lately; from now on, they’re going to see action that’ll curl their hair. Johnny thought that Jerry Hoffman being bumped off would ruin that mob but they found this Schemer Bruno guy and he’s turned out to be the best leader since Tommy Martin, better than Jerry ever thought of being. From now on, the war’s between that mob and this one; the others don’t cut much ice. Now, Steve, bumping’ off small fry like Charlie is a nuisance but it don’t really hurt a mob. You can always find plenty of kids who’ll take a chance for the price. To ruin a mob, you gotta get the leaders, the brains of the outfit. And you can bet this Schemer guy knows that as well as we do. So it’s just a matter of time till he takes a crack at me – or you. Well, I’m going to beat him to the draw and get him before he gets me. And I’ve picked you to do the job.” Steve tensed. His ugly features settled into an angry scowl. “Why me?” he demanded. “I gotta have someone reliable that I can trust to handle it right.” “Why don’t you do it yourself?” For a long moment Tony stared at his subordinate while fury gathered in his eyes. He strangled it with an obvious effort. “Because I don’t choose to. As head of the mob, I think my duty is to stay in the background and run things.” Libati laughed sarcastically. Tony’s eyes blazed. “I’d get Bruno,” he snapped furiously, “and do it within forty-eight hours. Don’t think I wouldn’t like to. And I will if necessary. But with my position now, I feel I shouldn’t take chances like that if I don’t have to. Just the same, I’ll never ask a man in this mob to do anything that I can’t or won’t do myself. I got Jerry Hoffman and I got others. A good many times I proved I got guts enough for anything. But I never heard yet of you proving that you’d any. Now’s your chance.” Libati paled at the insinuation and his cruel mouth set in a nasty snarl. For a moment it looked as though he was going to pull a gun. Tony hoped he would, for he himself was ready and that would settle his problem of what to do with Steve Libati. But the fellow had sense enough to regain his self-control. “You talk like you was the only big shot in this mob,” he snarled. “What about me? Ain’t I one of the leaders?” “Yes,” answered Tony quietly. “And I didn’t ask you to do the job yourself. But I want you to handle it, to get the dope about where and when he can be put on a spot and then get him. You can work it your own way, have any of the boys you want to help you, but I want it done.” “And if I don’t care to do it?” queried Steve impudently. “You’re through with this mob,” retorted Tony coldly. “After the orders Johnny left?” “That don’t cut any ice. There’s none stays in this mob a minute that don’t obey my orders. That goes for you as well as the truck drivers. And there’s my authority!” He whipped out his heavy, ugly automatic and slammed it down on the desk. Libati’s glance riveted to the gun for a moment, then he looked up at Tony and his eyes shifted again. He rose. “All right, I’ll do it,” he said and walked out. Tony smiled a little when the man had gone. Again he had won over the sullenly defiant Libati. He felt that he might yet master the fellow and make him a highly useful subordinate. Well, one thing certain; he’d either master him or make use of the authority he had exhibited to clinch his argument. For half an hour Tony sat quietly smoking while he thought over the situation. It began to look as if this Schemer Bruno had come by his name rightfully, as if he were a worthy foe. And as an instrument with which to carry out his schemes he had as powerful a gang as was to be found in the United States. Its personnel was at least as strong as that of the Lovo mob and had proved itself to be equally resourceful and ruthless. And under the able leadership of this Schemer Bruno it seemed to have set out on the same sort of ambitious program of expansion that Tony himself now intended embarking upon with the aid of the Lovo gang. Tony had heard, too, that the three most important gangs on the South Side were about to consolidate and, under a unified direction, attempt to extend their operations to the rest of the city. That meant three major organisations, each holding sovereignty over a certain section but struggling to gain the territory controlled by the others. It was going to be a grand fight, and a bloody one, with the big profits going to the gang that could shoot the straightest and whose leader could think the fastest. And Tony welcomed the coming battle, every wily, murderous phase of it. He reached under the desk suddenly and, pressing a button there, summoned Al, the little, rat-faced gangster who acted as office boy and outer doorkeeper. “I want someone to do something for me,” he said. “See who’s downstairs and let me know right away.” In five minutes Al was back and recited a list of the gangsters who were loafing in the cigar store below. Tony considered a moment. “Tell Mike Rinaldo to come up here,” he ordered finally. Mike proved to be a slender, dark young man, foppishly dressed in the latest fashion, and with a somewhat elegant manner. In evening clothes, he could have passed as a foreign nobleman at a Ritz reception. Yet he was chief of the Lovo gang’s gunmen and personally was the most daring and resourceful gunman Tony had ever encountered. “Sit down, Mike,” said Tony. “I’ve a little job for you.” Mike obeyed, carefully easing his pants over his knees so as not to spoil their razor-like creases. Then he lighted an imported, cork-tipped cigarette with an ornate silver and mother-of-pearl lighter, and looked up expectantly. “Do you know any of the men in the North Side mob?” demanded Tony. “A few – by sight,” answered Rinaldo cautiously. His eyes narrowed with suspicion at the unusual question. “I want one of them. And you’re to get him for me.” “I don’t think I quite get you, chief.” “I want one of Schemer Bruno’s men – the higher up in the gang he is, the better I’ll like it – brought here to me. I don’t care how you do it just so he’s alive when you get him here. I want to find out some details about how that mob operates.” “But, good God, chief, none of them would talk.” “The hell they wouldn’t!” snapped Tony. “Did you ever see that little room we’ve got down in the cellar here?” “No,” answered Rinaldo, suddenly pale. “But I’ve heard about it.” “Oh, he’ll talk all right,” said Tony with a grim smile. “All you have to do is get him here. And if you get me someone that knows something, there’ll be five G’s in it for you.” The gunman departed, his close-set eyes sparkling at the thought of making £103 in one chunk. It was now after one in the morning. Tony could think of no other important tasks which could be done that night and decided to go home. Jane Conley, famous in the underworld of half a dozen cities as The Gun Girl was still waiting up for him in the luxurious living room of the expensive apartment he had rented for the thirty-day period of unconventional trial marriage to which they had agreed. And he felt a quick surge of passion rush through him as his keen glance caught a suggestion of the alluring curves of her fine figure through the filmy folds of the flaming orange-and-black negligee which set off so brilliantly her vivid dark beauty. A magazine lay open in her lap but her eyes looked red and strained, as if she might have been weeping. “What’s the matter, dear?” he asked after he had kissed her. “Unhappy already?” She shook her head. “I’ve been thinking. And I guess it kinda got me upset. You know, Tony, you ought to watch yourself more. Now that you’re in Johnny Lovo’s shoes, all these other mobs are going to try to bump you off. You ought to have bodyguards with you all the time.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right, kid. I’ll see about that tomorrow.” “And I think we ought to be better armed here.” “All right. I’ll bring up a machine gun tomorrow night if you say so. None knows we’re here and if they did, they’ve got sense enough not to try to pull off anything in a place like this.” “You can’t tell, Tony. All the mobs are getting too ambitious and from now it’s going to be for blood.” “What’s the matter; losing your nerve?”“Not by a damned sight!” flared Jane, her eyes snapping. “You know damn well I’m not yellow; I’ve proved it more than once. But I think it’s foolish to take any more chances than you have to.” She came to him impulsively and laid a hand on his arm. “I – I’ve got some things on my mind/ Tony, and if anything ever happened to you, I could never forgive myself.” With the taciturnity and inarticulateness of his kind, Tony did not question her about that cryptic remark. But to himself he puzzled over it. And before long he was destined to puzzle over it a lot more. CHAPTER XIII GANGLEADER FLEES Tony read the newspapers next morning with unusual interest and a mounting fury. It was the big, black headline on all of them. Beneath that was a chronicle of Johnny Lovo’s abdication and departure and of the succession of Tony Camonte, a young, little known gangster to his place as commander of the mob. And all the papers carried an interview with Captain Flanagan, chief of detectives, in which he calmly assumed credit for having run Lovo out of the city. The captain also intimated in the interview that the Lovo mob had been so thoroughly harassed by the men in his department that it was completely disorganised and would soon be a thing of the past. The captain closed with a trite, high-sounding but really meaningless statement as to the inevitable triumph of law and order when properly administered and promised the people that he would continue to exert his utmost efforts to rid the city of gangs. It was easy to see where the papers had received their information; the temptation to grab unearned glory had been too much for the captain. “That bastard.” Tony’s voice crackled with venom as he spat out the epithet between clenched teeth. “I’ll get him yet.” Tony drove to his headquarters with a ferocity that brought down upon him the profane maledictions of innumerable pedestrians and other motorists. But by the time he reached his desk his fury had cooled to an icy, wordless anger infinitely more dangerous. Never yet had he failed to get even with a betrayer. “The DA’s been calling up every five minutes for the last hour,” said Al, the little, rat-faced doorman. “Said you was to give him a ring the minute you come in. Sounds like he’s awful upset about some p’m.” “To hell with him!” snarled Tony. “If he wants to talk to me, he knows where to find me. We ought to get some service out of that bit we pay him every month.” “Better be careful with him, chief,” warned Al. “He’s more dangerous than any mob leader in town: He’s got a strong-arm squad that’s took many a poor guy for a ride.” Tony considered a moment then, with an angry grunt, reached for the telephone and called the District Attorney’s office. At last there came to him over the wire a gruff voice that he recognised from that conference long ago to which he had accompanied Johnny Lovo. “Camonte?” barked this voice brusquely. “This is District Attorney Crowder. I see in the morning papers that Lovo’s left town.” “Yeah.” “And that you’re in command of his mob now.” “Yeah, that’s right.” “Well, I presume you are familiar with his – er – arrangement with me?” “Yeah, I got a complete pay-off list of the bits and I’ll keep takin’ care of them just as he did.” “Don’t say things like, that over the phone,” commanded the D.A. sharply, in his voice such concern that Tony grinned. “Then things are going to go right ahead?” “Yeah, only more so. This mob’s been too quiet lately.” “Well, keep things out of the papers.” “That’d be easy, if the dicks wasn’t so damn mouthy.” “I know. All right, then, I’ll send Moran out to see you tomorrow afternoon.” Tony hung up, his lips curved in a sneering smile. The DA had been worried about his monthly bit, now that Lovo had gone. And he was sending Moran out for it the next afternoon. Moran was one of his younger assistants, a brilliant prosecutor when he and his chief wanted him to be, but in the meantime the collector for his superior. Reporters besieged the headquarters all morning but Tony refused to see them or even to send out a statement. The less publicity he got, the better he liked it. Shortly before noon Al brought in a note to him. It was written on cheap white paper in a graceful feminine hand and read: Dear Mr. Camonte, May I see you for five minutes? Thanks! Katherine Merton Tony looked up, frowning in annoyance. “Who’s this dame?” he demanded. “Don’t know, chief. Never saw her before. But she sure is a swell looker.” “Yeah?” Tony seemed to brighten up a bit. “She don’t look like a gun girl or anything?” “No. A dame with eyes like this one’s got couldn’t hurt a kitten.” “All right, I’ll take a chance. Send her in.” A moment later Miss Merton came in and Tony’s first glimpse of her made him glad that he had granted the interview. Al’s description of a swell looker was all right as far as it went but it did not take into account her dignity and charm. She was the sort of girl that immediately and unconsciously made a young man ambitious for more intimate acquaintance and an old man regretful for his age. Tall, with an athletic figure and an easy, graceful stride, she walked into the office with a calm, un-brazen assurance. She was dressed in a grey tweed suit and a small grey and black hat that fitted closely the fine contour of her head. “How do you do, Mr. Camonte,” she said and extended her hand. “I’m Miss Merton.” Tony accepted the hand and felt sorry that he had no right or excuse for holding it longer than he did. Her voice was rich and soothing, well-placed and completely poised, and her frank blue eyes held an engaging twinkle of understanding good humour. “I want to ask a favour of you, Mr. Camonte,” she began. “I’ve found that men of your type are almost always chivalrous if they’ve the opportunity to be.” “Yeah, sure,” mumbled Tony, embarrassed. “Be glad to do anything I can.” “I thought so. Now, the problem is this: I’ve a job that I very much want to keep. And right now you’re the only person in the city who can help me keep that job.” “Yeah? How’s that?” “I’m with the Examiner,” continued the girl gently, almost regretfully. “And the city editor told me this morning that if I didn’t succeed in getting an interview with you he’d fire me.” “A reporter!” exclaimed Tony in amazement and his expressive black eyes flashed angrily. “I’m seeing no reporters.” “I knew you’d not, of course. And I understand just how you feel. But you see how it’s with me – I had to come out here and try to see you or lose my job. I guess though, that I’ll lose it anyway.” She sighed and, succeeding in looking small and miserable for a moment, sniffed audibly. Tony growled under his breath and lit a cigarette. “Well, miss, I can’t tell anything about my business,” he objected doggedly. “Of course you can’t,” she seemed amazed at the mere idea, “and I’d think of asking you nothing like that even to save my job. All I wanted to know was if Mr. Lovo really had left and if you’re really going to be the commander from now on – my, I’d think it would require unlimited brains and nerve to manage an – or – operation like this. And you look so young to have such an important position.” During the ensuing twenty minutes Miss Merton secured her interview. Her questions were adroitly harmless on the surface, dealing only with things which were already known or soon would be known about the gang and its operations, and Tony had no realisation of how much he had said. “I’ll bet you’d make a wonderful husband,” she said finally, her eyes sparkling in a way that gave him an unaccountable thrill. “Men who lead adventurous lives always do; they like the relief of a quiet, comfortable home.” Thus she steered the conversation into romantic channels and for some little time they dealt with love, marriage and so on. Mostly they talked in generalities but occasionally she elicited from him a personal opinion that would be meat for a sensational newspaper story on A Gang Leader’s Ideas of Love or some such shop-girl-appeal topic. “By the way,” she said at last, “did you ever know a girl named Vyvyan Lovejoy?” The question gave Tony such a shock that he almost cried out. Only his iron reserve enabled him to keep from betraying himself by an obvious reaction. Did he know Vyvyan Lovejoy? Did Romeo know Juliet? Vyvyan was the burlesque leading woman who had been his first love. He had killed Al Spingola, the city’s most important gang leader at that time, in order that he might have her for himself. It was his reckless love for her that had started him on his career beyond the law. And when he had come back from the war and found her living with another man he had killed them both. At the mention of her name, all these events had rushed through his mind like a private mental movie. As it came to an end, his eyes narrowed and his mouth set grimly. “No,” he said. “Why do you ask?” “I interviewed her once,” answered the girl smoothly. “And you look a great deal like a picture she’d. There’s something about the eyes–” Tony felt considerably upset. To his knowledge, Vyvyan had never had a picture of him. Nor had anyone else. In fact, he didn’t know of his picture ever having been taken. He didn’t believe in pictures; they were too liable to fall into the wrong hands and sometime be a means of identification. “And by the way,” continued Miss Merton smoothly, “do you ever see that stunning brunette who was with you at the Embassy Club the night Jerry Hoffman was shot?” At this question, Tony did start. Even his iron-like nerves could not withstand a shock like that. He and Jane Conley, “The Gun Girl,” the girl with whom he was now living, had killed Jerry Hoffman, then leader of the North Side gang, that night at the Embassy Club, the city’s most exclusive night resort. Johnny Lovo had given the orders and paid for the job being done. And so far as Tony knew, Lovo was the only other person besides himself and Jane who even knew that they had been in the club that fatal night. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You see I was there that night and my escort pointed out all the notables to me. You’re among them. He said he thought you’d make a great success in your chosen profession.” She laughed lightly. “Who was your escort that night?” demanded Tony. “Oh, I don’t think it would be fair to tell.” She rose, smilingly, and extended her hand. “I’ll take up no more of your valuable time now, Mr. Camonte. But perhaps some other time we can chat a bit. Anyway, thanks so much for a very interesting interview; it will enable me to keep my job.” And she departed, leaving behind her a much perturbed gang leader. Now that he was no longer under the influence of her personality – and her expert flattery – he realised that she was a smooth worker, that she had attained her objective in spite of him. And how had she known so much? And what could possibly have been her object in mentioning those past occurrences to him? The more he thought about it the more worried he became. At last, in response to a sudden awful suspicion, he picked up the telephone and, calling the Examiner, asked to speak to Miss Katherine Merton. A moment later he hung up slowly, feeling dazed and very uneasy. The Examiner had no one by that name. Then who was the girl? And what had been her object? CHAPTER XIV Charlie Martino, the alky truck driver, who had been hijacked and shot the, night before, died during the afternoon, without regaining sufficient strength to relate the details of what had occurred to him or to give a description of his assailants. Tony looked down at the boy a moment, then, using again that uncanny yet unconscious knowledge of psychology which he possessed, ordered every member of the gang who could be reached to come in a few at a time and view the body. He felt that the sight of one of their own dead would put the spirit of battle in them. At last he ordered a fine funeral for the boy and went back to his private office in grim silence, vowing vengeance on the North Side gang. Tony, in a savage humour from the day’s events, was just ready to go home shortly after ten that night when Mike Rinaldo, the dapper gunman, arrived. And the three men who followed him into Tony’s office proved that he had succeeded in his quest. For the man in the centre was obviously a prisoner. “Got him, chief,” announced Mike with an elegant gesture toward the glowering captive. “Who is he?” demanded Tony. His manner indicated that nothing short of Caesar would be acceptable. “Benny Peluso, one of the big shots in the North Side crowd.” “Frisk him?” “Certainly,” answered Rinaldo, evidently aggrieved at the query. “Found a nice load of gats too.” “Well, frisk him again here. Strip him to the hide.” From his vantage point behind the big desk Tony surveyed the captive while his three henchmen stripped the man and searched every inch of his clothing for possible weapons. The fellow was short and slightly stocky, with a heavy brutal face that instantly bred distrust. His black eyes, now blazing with anger, were shifty and set far too close together. Tony removed a heavy automatic from the desk drawer and laid it on the desk conveniently close to his practiced right hand. “All right,” he said when the three men had completed their fruitless search and the prisoner was indignantly donning his coat. “You,” pointing the pistol at the captive, “sit down there. The rest of you wait outside until I call you.” He toyed silently with the weapon until the door had closed behind his men. Then he looked at Peluso and stared at him until the man’s glance dropped. “Do you know where you are?” demanded Tony suddenly. “Yeah,” snarled the prisoner. “Speak nicer if you expect to get out of here alive,” snapped Tony. “Do you know who I am?” “No.” “Well, I’m Scarface Tony Camonte, the new chief of the Lovo mob. And I’m just about ten times as hard-boiled as Johnny Lovo ever thought of being. I’ve bumped off six or eight myself and another one – especially a rat like you – wouldn’t mean a thing in my young life. Get me?” “Yeah.” But the man’s tone now had changed from defiant anger to sullenness and his glance remained riveted hypnotically to that pistol. “There’re some things I want to know. And you’re going to tell me.” “You got the wrong man, bro. I won’t spill nothing.” “The hell you won’t!” Tony leaned across the desk, the pistol pointed unwaveringly at the hapless captive. “Do you want a load of that in you?” “No, course not. But if I talked, my own crowd would bump me off.” “Maybe not.” Tony leaned back. “How much jack do you make with your mob?” “’Bout three C’s a week. Sometimes more.” “Three C’s, eh? That’s not very much, is it, for all the work you do and the chances you take?” “I’m wort’ more,” agreed the man darkly. “Yeah. But you’ll never get it, not with this Bruno guy, from what I hear of him. Where do you think he got that name Schemer anyhow? When a guy’s a moniker like that hung on him there’s a reason for it. Now, Benny, I’m not a bad guy when you don’t cross me. And I’m always willing to see the boys get a piece of change for themselves.” He leaned across the desk. “How would you like to have three grand – in one chunk?” The prisoner’s eyes sparkled and he licked his lips. “Jeez!” he exclaimed. “That’s a lot to jack even if you ain’t got it.” “I’ve got it. And it’s yours if you want to talk.” “What do you want to know?” “That’s more like it,” smiled Tony. “I want to know a lot of things about the Bruno mob, where their warehouses are, and their breweries and their main alky cooking plants. I want to know what garages they keep their trucks in and what roads they use mainly in hauling their stuff in and out of town. I’ll think of a few more things as we go along.” “God! I couldn’t tell you all that stuff.” “Why not?” “They’d bump me off sure.” “Well, if you don’t tell me what I want to know, I’ll bump you off.” “An’ if I do tell you, they will. What chance has a poor guy got?” “Listen, mug!” snapped Tony. “Don’t you know that fifteen grand’s a lot of dough? That’s as much as you make in a year with the mob, and if you stay here with them you’ll never have that much in one chunk. If you had that much jack, you could go to Frisco or New York or even Mexico or some other crazy place and open a gambling house or get in some kind of a racket and be set for life.” “Yeah, I know. I – I’d like to have it all right. But those guys would follow me any place.” “They wouldn’t know where you was. They’d think you’d been took for a ride. Don’t plenty of mugs from these mobs around here disappear every year?” “Yeah, I guess they do. But I couldn’t do it. They’d get me sure. And what good’s dough to a dead man?” “Come on, now, don’t be a fool!” snarled Tony menacingly and aimed the pistol again. “Either you talk or you get it.” The man’s eyes glittered against the background of his ghastly pale face and he licked his lips constantly. “Well, I know I’m going to get it if I do talk,” he answered doggedly. “So I guess I’ll have to take my chances of getting it if I don’t.” “So you won’t spill it, eh?” gritted Tony. The hole in the muzzle of that automatic must have looked as big as a barrel to the prisoner. But he caught his breath suddenly, closed his eyes and shook his head. “I think you will!” said Tony. “Get up!” He called in his henchmen from the other room. “He’s a hard nut,” he explained. “Got to take him to the cellar.” Rinaldo paled. He could shoot a man down without even giving serious thought to the matter but the mere thought of what was in that cellar made him weak. “Come on!” snapped Tony and included them all with a comprehensive gesture of the automatic. “You taking me for a ride?” asked the prisoner as they descended in the elevator. “No,” retorted Tony grimly. “Not yet.” The place to which they took him was a sub-cellar beneath the regular cellar under the hotel. It was reached by a rather rickety wooden stairway and proved to be a large square room with concrete walls from which were suspended by chains various strange-looking iron appendages. Before Peluso could hardly realise what was happening he had been stripped to the waist and rigged up against the wall, his arms stretched high overhead, his body suspended from the wrists which were encircled by tight iron bands. Tony motioned to one of his men who stepped over to a small, furnace-like arrangement. Tony himself caught up a large, razor-edged knife and, fingering it significantly, looked at his prisoner. “You know, Benny,” he said grimly, “a lot of these mugs they find out on the road somewhere after they’ve been took for a ride don’t look so pretty; ears off, tongue out, and other little details like that. And all those things always happen before the guy is actually bumped off. Nice to think about, ain’t it?” Tony turned back toward the furnace. Rinaldo followed him. “I don’t like to say nothing, chief,” said the gunman hoarsely in a low tone, “but, honest to God, I don’t believe I can stand this.” “Then look the other way or get out. I don’t like it any better than you do but it’s got to be done. Makin’ this bird talk means that our mob will control the city before long. And don’t forget this, Mike; Bruno or any of that North Side mob of his would do this same thing to you or me or any of us in a minute if they had the chance.” He turned abruptly to the other man. “Ready?” he demanded brusquely. “Here you are, chief.” From within the furnace, the gangster drew out a long, thin iron bar. One end of it was red hot. Tony caught it up by the cold end and approached the trussed prisoner. “Now, damn you,” he snarled, “you’ll either talk or I’ll ram a hole clear through you with this.” And he started the sizzling iron bar slowly but surely toward the gangster’s bare flesh. The man cringed and his eyes widened with terror. Finally he yelled, though the iron had not yet touched him. “Go ahead and yell,” said Tony grimly. “No one will hear you.” Facing a pistol is one thing; facing red hot iron against one’s bare flesh and other unknown tortures is another. Peluso cracked. “I’ll talk!” he gibbered when the iron was yet half an inch from him. “God! Take that away.” For an hour they cross-examined him, Rinaldo and the others jotting down details while Tony asked the questions. The leader’s eyes were sparkling; he was gaining a complete knowledge of the operations of his most important enemy. “Well, do I get the dough?” asked Peluso when he finally had convinced them that he knew no more. “Yes,” retorted Tony. “After we’ve checked up on this story of yours and carried out a plan or two I’m hatching up right now. In the meantime, you stay here; I’m not takin’ any chances with you rushing to Bruno and blabbing everything to him so that he could change his whole line-up before I can ruin it for him.” Tony immediately selected his half dozen cleverest men – including Mike Rinaldo – and sent them out to investigate what Peluso had told. For over a week they worked day and night, circulating around the city, spying, asking apparently aimless questions, doing a great deal of motoring, snooping carefully but efficiently in many quarters. And they reported back that every detail of the prisoner’s story seemed correct. Elated, Tony at once set in motion the machinery over which he now had control. A dozen new machine guns were imported from New York by devious methods. And certain members of the gang who were acknowledged experts in that line were set to work constructing powerful bombs or pineapples as they are known in gang circles. Tony was a veritable dynamo of energy during these preparations and his vigorous – and murderous – enthusiasm gradually communicated itself to the others until the entire gang was a real fighting machine anxious to get a chance at the enemy. Libati came swaggering into Tony’s private office, late one afternoon. “Well, I guess we’re about all ready for the war to start. What’s the first move?” “I’ll let you know when I’ve decided,” retorted Tony coolly.“How about this mug, Peluso? What are we going to do with him?” “Do with him! Why, as soon as the campaign on the North Side gang is well opened up, I’m going to give him the jack I promised him and have him taken to a train for the West. I imagine he’ll be glad enough to blow town.” “I’d think so. But surely you’re not going to be such a sap as to pay him off now. He’s told us all he knows. Why not take him for a ride and save the dough?” Tony, unaccountably shocked by the cold-blooded proposal, looked up with flashing eyes. “I keep my word, Steve, whether to friend or enemy, and no matter what I’ve promised, either good or bad,” he retorted grimly. “The other day I gave you an assignment to get a certain man. You haven’t done it yet. Do you remember what I promised you if you didn’t carry it out?” Steve’s glance shifted uneasily. “Yes.” “Well, that stands. And I don’t intend to wait all summer either. Better get a move on.” CHAPTER XV Tony took Jane Conley the Gun Girl to one of the swankier night resorts that evening. They both enjoyed such high-powered diversion and it always brought back memories. It was at Ike Bloom’s that Tony first had seen her and been struck by her beauty. It was at the Embassy Club, while they sat waiting for Jerry Hoffman to come in so that they could carry out his death sentence pronounced on him by their employer, Johnny Lovo, that they really had become acquainted. Tony, his evening clothes immaculate and perfectly fitted save for a slight bulge under his left arm where an automatic hung suspended in a shoulder holster, looked about the luxurious but crowded and noisy place, then glanced at Jane with satisfaction glowing in his expressive eyes. She was the most beautiful woman in the place, or the joint as he mentally worded it. He wondered, with a sudden twinge of jealousy, if she would stick with him after the thirty-day probationary period had expired. He observed that she seemed somewhat distraught tonight, her hands fluttered nervously, little lines of concern wrinkle her forehead, and her glance kept wandering around as though she were looking for someone, yet hoping that she wouldn’t see him. “What’s the matter, baby?” asked Tony expansively. “Nothing. I just don’t feel very well.” “Aw, cheer up! Let’s dance!” They rose and moved out on the small, crowded floor, quite the handsomest couple in the place. Jane was a superb dancer and Tony, with his native Latin grace and sense of rhythm, equally good. None watching them would have dreamed that they both had killed, not in the heat of passion, but coolly and deliberately – for money; and that they would kill again whenever the occasion seemed to demand. And yet they were not murderers, except legally. In their own minds, they felt completely justified for everything they had done. And their operation never had been and never would be the slightest menace to the general public. When they stalked with murderous intent, they invariably were after some certain person who had it coming to him and who would have done the same to them without any more compunction than they showed. And they always took care not to harm innocent bystanders. When the cabaret’s gaiety was at its height in the wee hours, Tony saw Katherine Merton, the mysterious girl who, in the guise of a newspaper reporter, had visited him at headquarters and questioned him at length about many things. She was seated now on the other side of the club, attired in a somewhat daring evening gown of flashing sequins, and escorted by a dark, handsome man in a dinner jacket, whose general appearance, somehow, was anything but reassuring to Tony. He wondered suddenly why she was here, if there was anything behind her presence beyond participation in the general gaiety. The possibility worried him. He wondered if she had seen him, and hoped she had not. “Say, baby,” he said, “do you know that dame over there, the one with the diamond dress?” Jane turned and her glance searched the room. When she finally saw the mysterious girl, her eyes widened and she bit her lip. “No,” she answered sharply. Then, “Let’s go!” Puzzled, Tony escorted her from the club. He knew she had lied. But why? Newsboys were crying the early editions of the morning papers. Tony bought one, then his face set and an involuntary “Hell!” burst from his lips. “What’s the matter?” asked Jane anxiously. “Steve missed, the damn dumbbell!” snarled Tony. The girl took the paper from him and looked at it. An attempt had been made that night on the life of Schemer Bruno, now leader of the North Side gang. But miraculously he had come through it unscathed. Questioned by police, he had admitted that he had an idea who was behind the attack but had refused to give them any information. It was thought by the police that the attack meant the beginning of a new gang war. “The clumsy fool!” snarled Tony. “I’d have known better than to trust that job to him. Now Bruno will be after us right. And he’ll be so careful himself that we may not be able to get another crack at him for a hell of a while.” “Oh, Tony, that worries me!” said Jane. “You must be very careful.” He drove home in wordless wrath, his active mind racing with murderous plans for annihilating his enemies. In front of the luxurious apartment house where they lived he stopped and let Jane out. “I’ll put the car away and be right back,” he said absently. At the corner he swung to the left and headed for the garage a block away. Suddenly the angry whine of a heavy car approaching from the rear at high speed obtruded itself into his consciousness. Instantly suspicious, he increased his own speed. But the other car came alongside. He could see that it was long and low and black, with side-curtains in place – the typical death car. Then a thin red stream burst from its side, he heard the rattle of machine-gun fire, and bullets tattooed against the side of his own car. But the body of his sedan was heavy steel and the glass was bullet- proof. It shed bullets as a duck does water. Yet these enemies, whoever they were, would not be satisfied until they had accomplished their murderous mission. He realised that he dare not go into the garage for the death car would follow and finish him there. And: the employees would be of no help. He must get to his own district, where these men would hardly dare follow and where, if they did, his gangsters always loafing around that all-night cigar store on the ground floor of the hotel which was his headquarters would come to his assistance and make short work of them. Abruptly he pressed the accelerator to the floor and the big car leaped forward. At a crazy pace he raced through the dark, deserted city streets. And that other car hung doggedly to his trail. Several times they gained slightly, coming almost close enough to use their guns again. But always he managed to keep ahead of them. On and on and on went that strange race, for him a race for life, for them a race for death – his death; careening around corners, streaking along on the straightaway. If only he could reach his headquarters before something happened. Surely they would not dare to follow him there. From behind came the stuttering rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire again. Two of his tires, evidently pierced by the bullets, blew out with loud reports. The car slewed to the right, struck the curb with terrific force, and turned over. Tony felt himself falling then everything went black. When he regained consciousness he was lying prone but in an uncomfortably cramped position. There was a carpet under him and feet all around him and he was aware of a jolting, swaying motion. Abruptly he realised that he was on the floor of a car tonneau and that the car was moving. It couldn’t be his car. Then it must be that of the enemy. He sat up, wildly staring about him. There were two men in the rear seat but it was too ark to distinguish their faces. “He ain’t dead, after all,” said a strange voice. “Jeez! Ain’t that top bad?” “What the hell’s the idea?” demanded Tony. “You’ll know soon enough.” “Well, let me up on the seat there. This is too damned uncomfortable.” He tried to get up and found that he was weak and very dizzy. One of the men reached out and jerked him into the seat between them. He could see now that the front seat also contained two men. “You want to enjoy this ride, kid!” snarled a voice in his ear. “Because it’s the last one you’ll ever take.” Tony’s heart almost stopped. He’d faced danger and been in tight places before; but never a situation like this. He was being taken for a ride, about to be made the victim of the most feared and the most conclusive of all the means gangland used for ridding itself of its enemies. He turned to the man who had spoken. “This is some of that damn crooked North Side outfit, I suppose,” he said bitterly. “Yes.” “Who the hell are you?” “Me?” The man laughed mirthlessly, a menacing laugh strangely like the rattling of a snake about to strike. “I’m Jerry Hoffman’s brother.” CHAPTER XVI Mentally Tony rehearsed the steps ahead of him. The swift, ominously silent ride out into the country. Then when a sufficiently deserted spot had been reached, he would be kicked out of the car, riddled with bullets and left dead in a ditch, to be found by some passer-by or perhaps picked to pieces by buzzards if the place were remote enough. A fellow had some chance in a street gun- fight, no matter what the odds against him, but a ride was more inexorable than the death sentence imposed by a jury and court. For there was no appeal from it. There was no possibility of escape from it. It was carried out with the cool, precise deadliness of a state execution. And it was even more inevitable – at least it always had been. A nervous or sensitive man faced with cruel, and certain death within an hour would have shouted, screamed, pleaded, and perhaps battled his captors with that reckless strength born of despair. But Tony was neither nervous nor sensitive. A man who requires a steady trigger finger can’t be. Tony was thinking. Not with frantic, chaotic haste; but coldly, deliberately, resourcefully. The hopelessness of his situation did not appal him. It merely stimulated that abnormally keen animal cunning which had made him, while still in the twenties, the most daring and powerful gang leader in that city noted for daring and powerful gang leaders. And at last his agile mind found a possibility – focused upon it. It was a mad scheme; the chances were a hundred to one against his coming out of it alive even if it worked. He realised that, yet experience had taught him that a plan seemingly impossible of success sometimes succeeded because people thought none would be silly enough to try it. As things stood, he was sure to be dead within an hour; if he attempted his mad plan, he had a bare chance. He decided without a second thought to assume the risk. Calmly, coolly, he bided his time, sitting there in the tonneau of the big car between two of his captors while the other two occupied the front seat. At last he saw a car approaching from the other direction. His gaze narrowed as he tried to gauge their relative speeds and the distance between them. Then, with a sudden, panther-like spring, he leaped forward, launching a terrific blow at the chauffeur’s head and grabbing for the wheel. The speeding car staggered crazily. But the surprised driver was still hanging on. Tony was battering the man’s head, trying to strangle him, with one hand while he tugged at the wheel with the other. He felt blows raining on his own head and back, then a gun flashed and roared in the tonneau and he felt a sharp burning in his side. But he gritted his teeth and stuck to his task. The big car swerved to the right, dropped into the ditch with a blinding crash, then turned repeatedly, its engine racing madly with a shrill, agonized whine, and finally came to rest on its side, still quivering, like a stricken animal. Tony piled on top of the other two men who had been with him in the tonneau, shook his whirling head in an effort to clear it. His whole body seemed to be only a mass of excruciating pains, but he was still conscious. He realised dully that none of the others had moved or spoken. His left arm was twisted under him in an unnatural way. He tried to move it and found he couldn’t. It was hurting terribly, too. Cautiously he reached out with his right hand, feeling the pockets of his inert companions. Finding a familiar bulge, he reached in and pulled out a .45 automatic. The feel of the cold steel against his flesh, the realisation that he was armed again, revived him like cold water. He struggled upward, seeking a way out of the twisted wreckage. Thenhe heard approaching footsteps clicking on the frozen ground and a shadowy figure appeared beside the overturned car. That was someone from the other automobile, of course; he had counted on that. “Say!” he said hoarsely, and was provoked to find his voice shaky. “Help me out of here, will you?” A flashlight was snapped on, then its conic yellow beam penetrated the tonneau and finally came to rest on his face. “Sure!” said the stranger. “But I’m surprised any of you are alive. God! That was an awful sight!” He helped Tony out through a smashed and twisted door, then turned his light on the others. The driver and his companion were obviously dead, their faces horribly cut by the broken glass. The two men in the tonneau were unconscious but looked to be alive. “Come on, let’s go,” said Tony. “But the others–” objected the stranger in amazement. “To hell with the others!” snarled Tony harshly. “They’re gangsters and they was takin’ me for a ride. I hope they’re all dead. I guess I ought to make sure–” He produced the pistol and aimed at the two inert figures in the tonneau. “For God’s sake!” gasped the stranger, laying a trembling hand on his arm. “Don’t! You can’t–” Tony turned and stared at him for a moment, then shrugged contemptuously and allowed his gun hand to drop to his side. He had decided that it would probably be best not to do any murdering before a witness, especially when he needed that witness badly for the next half hour. “All right!” he growled. “But you’re going to take me where I want to go and fast. Come on!” He prodded the stranger with the automatic then almost grinned as the man shivered and hastily began leading the way back to his own car parked on the road. Tony ordered the man to make all speed for the gang’s headquarters then silently settled back in the seat with a sigh of relief and began making plans for vengeance. But his own misery would not allow his mind to dwell on that enticing problem. His left arm was broken; his right side throbbed and burned from the bullet wound; he found it impossible to assume a position which was even remotely comfortable. And pain and warm little trickles warned him that his own face had not escaped the flying glass. Altogether he felt, and imagined that he looked, a total wreck. The man beside him obviously was burning up with curiosity. Several times he tried to question his passenger but Tony either answered in grunts or not at all and he finally gave it up. But he drove like fury; they pulled up before the hotel gang headquarters much sooner than Tony expected. “You’re all right,” said the gang leader briefly, reaching for his wallet. He found it contained £70 and generously thrust the whole wad of bills into the surprised stranger’s still trembling hand. “There’s a little gas money,” he said with an attempt at a smile. Then his face sobered into a frown and his voice came hoarsely from between gritted teeth. “But keep your mouth shut about this!” he commanded savagely. “Or you’ll get what they tried to give me tonight.” Even at that hour of the morning, there were a few gangsters lounging in the all-night cigar store and in the small, dark lobby of the hotel. Tony’s entrance in such a condition created a sensation and they all looked eagerly curious. “Been in an automobile wreck,” volunteered Tony curtly, then immediately ascended to his own private quarters on the top floor and called a doctor. An hour later, his wounds dressed and his broken arm set, Tony went to bed. He felt certain he would be unable to sleep, yet it was after noon when he awakened. Laboriously he hauled his weary, battered frame out of bed and tried to dress. But with only one arm, and it so stiff and sore that he could hardly move it, he had to call Al, the little, rat-faced doorkeeper to help him. Fortunately Tony kept part of his extensive wardrobe at the hotel; he would have looked funny transacting the day’s business in evening dress. He had a big breakfast sent up then went to his desk and sent for Steve Libati. And his eyes flashed as he gave the order. This was to be a day of settling scores. CHAPTER XVII The assistant chief of the powerful Lovo gang came in with an air of genial assurance that somehow seemed forced. His ugly face bore a smile but his eyes were narrowed and searching, as if he were anxious to know what sort of reception he was to receive. “Sorry to hear about your accident, boss,” he said. “The cops phoned that your car had been found out on the North Side somewhere. There’s been a lot of reporters out here this morning, too; they say there’s bullet-holes in the tires. But I told them you wasn’t around–” “Yeah,” growled Tony sourly, “you’re a big help to me.” He stiffened and leaned across the desk, his mouth twisted in an ugly snarl. “What the hell did you miss Bruno for?” he demanded. Libati shrugged. “Just a rotten break.” “What do you mean – a rotten break?” demanded Tony savagely. “Bullets go where they’re aimed … How’d you try to pull the job, anyway?” Libati explained. One of the two gunmen that he had selected to help him murder Schemer Bruno, wily leader of the strong North Side gang, had discovered that Bruno was to visit a certain place at ten o’clock the night before. In a parked car across the street, they had lain in wait for him. He came out in a few minutes and just as they were ready to fire, another car had run through the street, obscuring their human target for a moment. When their opportunity finally came, he was walking rapidly toward his car. They had all fired a volley at him and then fled in their car, before his friends inside the saloon could pile out and make the gun fight two-sided. “All three of you put a rod on him?” demanded Tony. “Yeah.” “And all three of you missed?” “I – guess so. The papers this morning says he wasn’t hit by this mysterious attack!” “Well, what a fine lot of gat-packers you are,” snarled Tony in disgust. “Why, I could throw a gat at a guy and hit him with it … Why in hell didn’t you finish the job?” “But the guys’ inside–” “If there’s anything I hate, it’s a quitter … I suppose you didn’t know that if you missed, Bruno was sure to know who was behind the attack and set all his gorillas on my trail … Listen, Steve, there’s two kinds of guys that this mob ain’t big enough to hold – -those that can’t obey orders and those that won’t obey orders. And I think both counts fit you.” Libati flushed slowly until his swarthy complexion had turned a sort of dull purple. And his shifty black eyes had taken on a glittering menace. “I – don’t think I get you,” he said slowly and his lips compressed into a thin, hard line. “No? Well, I’ll put it plainer, so plain that even you can get it. Either you and the men you picked to help you get Bruno are no good or you sold out to the enemy and missed on purpose.” “Damn you!” gritted Libati, leaping to his feet, his right hand darting for his side coat pocket. But Tony had lifted his automatic from the desk with the smooth ease and incredible rapidity of the expert and had it trained on his lieutenant’s middle coat button before the man was completely out of the chair. “Don’t pull, you fool!” hissed the leader. “I don’t weaken and I don’t miss. And you better not let that right mitt of yours get nervous again while you’re in my presence. It’s only my left arm that’s broke, you know,” he added with grim humour. Steve let his gun hand fall to his side, then ostentatiously lifted it to light, a cigarette that he had taken from his left hand pocket. “You’ve been after my job ever since Johnny left,” said Tony. “And you ain’t the type to be particular how you got it – or anything else, for that matter. If I was dead, you’d have it, see? That’s why it would be so nice for you to have Schemer Bruno still alive so he could get me. Well, I ain’t dead yet, Steve, and I don’t intend to be for a long time. So I think you’re wasting your valuable time around here waiting for me to drop off.” His voice dropped to the cold, monotonous level of a judge pronouncing sentence. “You and those two mugs who was with you last night are through with this mob.” “Don’t talk foolish!” snapped Steve. “You can’t fire me out of this mob. Johnny–” “Johnny’s gone. And he left me the boss. There’s my authority, lifting the heavy automatic and gazing at it – fondly. “From today on you don’t get a dime out of here and if I hear of you hanging around here, it’s liable to be curtains. You’re all through, see? You can either go out like you are or in a hearse, I don’t care which.” For a long moment the two men looked into each other’s eyes. Tony’s were cold, hard, steady; Steve’s shifty, and blazing with fury. Rut at last the erstwhile lieutenant turned without a word and strode out of the room. Again Tony had won; permanently this time, it seemed. Tony’s next act was to arrange a bodyguard for himself, an ample one. Then, with a retinue befitting a person of his importance – and danger – he returned to his apartment. From now on he would travel as he was doing now, between two watchful henchmen in the rear seat of a sedan with a steel body and bullet-proof glass while the well-armed chauffeur and the man beside him, as well as the four men following closely in a similar car maintained a constant vigil in every direction for suspicious automobiles or people. Tony entered his luxurious apartment briskly, his hard eyes glinting with anger. There were a lot of things he wanted to ask Jane. He found her curled up in a big chair in the living room, reading a novel and munching a box of chocolates with what he considered unpardonable placidness. She looked up in surprise at his entrance, then her eyes widened in shocked amazement as she noted his appearance. “Why, Tony!” she exclaimed. “What’s happened?” “A lot you care!” he growled. “I go around the corner to put the car away, don’t come back till the next day, and you look as if you hadn’t even wondered what kept me.” “But I have wondered, Tony. I’ve been terribly anxious. But I supposed that you knew your own business and I thought you might resent my butting into your affairs.” “Yeah? Well, the Bruno mob tried to take me for a ride last night. And I think you knew they were going to.” “Tony!” The girl’s face had gone deathly white and her eyes were glittering. “How can you say–” “Who was that dame at the cabaret last night, the good-looking moll in white with that dark mug in a dress suit?” “I – don’t know.” “Yes, you do. I pointed her out to you and I could see in your eyes that you knew her.” He went close to her, caught her arm in a vice-like grip and twisted cruelly. “Who was she?” he rasped. “She’s – a gun girl,” panted Jane finally. “Schemer Bruno’s moll.” “So that’s it, eh?” He released Jane’s arm and stepped back, gazing down at her with sneering contempt. “Was that Bruno with her?” “Yes.” “God! If I’d only known that,” gritted the gang leader, murder in his eyes. “And you knew it all the time and wouldn’t tell me?’ “No. If I had, you’d have tried to bump him off right there. And you would have either been killed by some of his mob – he always has a bodyguard with him – or been pinched by the cops and tried for the job.” “Humph! Don’t make me laugh! They’d hang nothing on me in this town.” “Don’t be too sure! Bootlegging’s one thing; murder’s another.” “What made you want to leave right away when you saw her and Bruno?” “I – was afraid they might be going to try to pull something. I wanted to get home – to get out of their reach.” “Humph! Looks to me like you were more afraid of your own hide than mine.” “What if I didn’t want to get bumped off?” demanded the girl, a trace of her usual defiant assurance returning. “None wants to croak at my age. But I was worried about you, too, Tony,” she continued hurriedly as she saw the storm clouds gathering in his face. “Haven’t I tried for days to make you fix a bodyguard for yourself?” Tony considered, realising the truth of that. She had pleaded with him for the past two weeks to arrange a competent bodyguard for himself. But he had hesitated, feeling that to move around constantly surrounded by a squad of gunmen was areflection upon his own courage and marksmanship. Yet he could not rid himself entirely of the idea that she had been treacherous to him. And his ruthless direct mind could find only penalty for treachery – Death. “I love you, Tony,” she went on while his piercing glance surveyed her. “And I’ve been doing everything I could to protect you.” “Yeah? Well, I have my doubts. But I’ll give you a chance to prove it. If you love me, get Schemer Bruno for me.” Her eyes widened slowly as she realised the enormity of the assignment and the thoughts within his mind that must have prompted it. Tony laughed. “Lost your nerve?” he demanded. Jane gazed at him with sudden contempt. “Of course not!” she snapped. “I’ve as much guts as you – any day in the week, bigshot.” “Yeah? Then prove it and your love for me by getting the Schemer.” “What a nice chivalrous mug you turned out to be!” she rasped contemptuously. “Handing me the job of bumping off the biggest rod in town – next to you. And alone. You know damn well, Tony, that I never pulled a job by myself. But I’m quite a help, if you’ll just remember back to the time that we got Jerry Hoffman together that night in the Embassy Club. But if you’ll help, I’ll do my part. I’ll snoop around until I find when he’ll be on a spot. Then we’ll pull the job together.” “Well, all right,” he growled. He had cooled off considerably from his first anger and as he surveyed the girl’s ample charms, but ill-concealed by an expensive negligee, he decided that it probably would be best not to lose her just yet. But of course he must not let her realise that. He stepped forward and caught her arm again. “But you little devil;” he rasped through gritted teeth, “If I ever catch you turning me up or doing me any kind of dirt, it’ll be curtains. See?” So these two who never had failed to complete a killing assigned them, assigned one to themselves and verbally signed Schemer Bruno’s death warrant. Yet Tony’s doubts and the ensuing quarrel had opened in their relations a rift which was to have far-reaching consequences. CHAPTER IIXX Tony immediately set out on a reckless yet precisely deadly campaign of reprisal against the North Side mob led by the redoubtable Schemer Bruno. He was beginning to have a sneaking respect for the notorious Schemer. He had seen plenty of examples of that wily leader’s sagacity and ruthless courage and that business at the cabaret had been the final touch. A man who could, an hour after an attempt had been made on his life, sit in a cabaret but a few tables away from the man he knew to be responsible for that attempt, was a man worthy of admiration. But the realisation of his opponent’s courage and ability only strengthened Tony’s will to win and forced him to plan out amazing coups. They bombed warehouses, hijacked trucks both singly and in fleets, intimidated still-owners who helped supply the North Side outfit into moving and shot a few as an example to the others; browbeat saloonkeepers into shifting their allegiance and promised them ample protection for doing so; killed off half a dozen of Bruno’s best gunmen and threatened others with the same fate if they didn’t leave town; repeatedly held up and robbed gambling houses known to be owned by Bruno and bombed those that put in the speakeasy system of locked steel doors and peep-holes: and in general harassed the other gang in every way possible to a daringly resourceful leader and a powerful organisation. When his campaign was rolling merrily along, Tony had Benny Peluso, the former Bruno lieutenant, who had been captured and forced to talk, brought before him. After all, the success of his present campaign was due largely to the information which Benny had unwillingly given. The squat, ugly gangster looked sullen and more than a little frightened as he came in between the two gunmen who originally had captured him and brought him in. “Well, Benny,” said Tony, “the dope you gave me has proved ok. And here’s the dough I promised you,” tossing an envelope across the desk. “These men will take you to a train bound for the West; they’re to guard you from any of the Bruno mob who may try to get you.” The little gangster who had been compelled to squeal on his associates for a price seized the envelope and greedily thumbed through £3080 it contained. Then he looked up at Tony and smiled gratefully. In gangland, it was indeed a pleasure to find an enemy – or even a friend – who kept his word when he didn’t have to. “Thanks,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d come through!” “I always keep my word – good or bad,” retorted Tony, his former enemy’s sincere gratitude touching him as much as anything could. “On your way – and good luck!” Tony’s own gunmen, the dapper, polished Mike Rinaldo in command of the little party, escorted Peluso away. An hour later, Rinaldo returned, looking rather downcast. “Got a little bad news to report, chief,” he said. “On the way down to the depot, another car forced us into the curb and a couple o’ hoods bumped Benny off before we could pull our gats. We jumped out of the car and beat it before the cops came. Some of the Bruno mob must have found out we had him here and been on the lookout for him to come out.” “All right,” said Tony wearily. “I suppose the cops and newspapers will blame me for having him bumped off because so far as they know he was still an enemy of ours … See that we get the car back.” Tony thought over that report for some time after the dapper but dangerous Rinaldo had gone. He was wise in the ways of gunmen and he had a strong hunch that Rinaldo and his assistant had murdered Peluso themselves for the £3080. But there would be no way of pinning it on them; the savage enmity that the Bruno mob was sure to feel against Peluso if they suspected what he had done prevented direct suspicion being levelled against the two gunmen. Well, what was the difference; he had kept his end of the deal in good faith, and Peluso was a yellow rat anyway. In his heart, Tony knew that they were all yellow rats when faced with a situation that demanded character and moral courage. His suspicions were verified, to a certain extent, when Rinaldo appeared the following week driving an expensive new car. Tony again directed his attention to the campaign against the North Side outfit with undiminished zest. For Schemer Bruno was not lying supine under the onslaught of his enemies. He was fighting back with every resource of his wily, daring brain and his strong organisation. Altogether it was as desperate a reign of terror as has ever been produced on this continent in time of peace. And the newspapers began to howl about the rights of citizens, the danger to the lives and property of innocent bystanders. “Damn them!” growled Tony to Jane one night. “Don’t they know that we don’t hurt none but hoods? Neither I nor any of my men ever hit anyone except the mug we was after. And I never heard of any other mob that did. And we never throw a pineapple unless we know what’s going on inside the place. If decent citizens own some of the property, let them keep the racketeers out; you can’t tell me that a man don’t know what’s going on in a building he owns. If he wants to take the chance to get a bigger rent, he’s no better than the hoodlums he rents to and he’s got to take the chance of the place being blown up.” But the next morning Tony received a telephone call from the District Attorney. “Camonte?” demanded the familiar overbearing voice. “I wanna see you this afternoon. Suite F, in the Sherman Hotel. Two o’clock sharp.” “Why not at the office?” objected Tony. “What’s up anyhow?” “Never mind. Be there, that’s all.” And the DA hung up. Until one-thirty Tony puzzled over that official command. He couldn’t figure it out. For a while he suspected a trap and almost decided not to go, then he realised that the District Attorney would not dare to be in on a murder plot against a leader as prominent as he. But one thing certain, it boded no good. He was still sunk in gloomy and somewhat uneasy thought when he rode downtown accompanied by his bodyguard. Piling out of their two cars in front of the huge hotel, the men formed a close circle around him and escorted him inside. They crowded quickly into an empty elevator, practically filling it, then commanded the operator to take them to Suite F, and “make it snappy.” The operator hesitated, waiting for two or three more passengers, then took another look at those he already had and obeyed their command. Released into the hallway of an upper floor, the entire party was immediately surrounded and taken in hand by a dozen detectives, who began disarming them with systematic and none too gentle thoroughness. “Hey! What’s the idea anyhow?” demanded Tony belligerently. “You’ll find out soon enough,” retorted a burly dick. “Pass over your gats, too. There’s going to be none bumped off here today.” Tony ground his teeth but he offered no resistance. Killing a detective in the heat and obscurity of an alley gun battle was one thing while shooting one deliberately in a prominent hotel in the presence of a dozen of his fellows was quite another. But Tony was outwardly very indignant and inwardly very uneasy. His followers were silent and docile,, as modern gangsters always are when disarmed and outnumbered. When the disarmament program had been completed, the crowd was led down the hall to an open doorway and Tony’s henchmen were herded inside. “You’re to stay in here until we come after you,” said the detective who seemed to be in command. “And don’t make any fuss or we’ll take you down to the bureau and give you all a treatment with the rubber hoses we keep on hand for hoodlums like you.” Then he locked the door, pocketed the key, and leaving two of his men on guard before the portal, led Tony on down the hall to a closed door marked key grate in the lock. Then his glance riveted upon the scene of which he had become a part and he stiffened. F. He knocked, then opened the door and practically shoved Tony inside. Tony heard the door shut behind him. Around a large table in the middle of the luxurious parlour sat half a dozen men. There was one empty chair, evidently for him. Tony recognised all those men. At the head of the table, alone, sat the District Attorney, a squat, slightly corpulent man with mean little eyes and a heavy, bulldog jaw. The other men included every prominent gang leader in the city and county including Schemer Bruno. “Come on and sit down, Camonte,” snapped the DA brusquely. “The meeting’s ready to begin.” Tony walked forward slowly, assuming a bold air of cool calm that he did not feel, and sat down, glaring at Bruno, who allowed a slight smile to curve the lips of his lean, handsome face as he noted Tony’s left arm in its sling. It was their first meeting. “What’s the matter with your arm?” he asked. His tone and manner were polite, yet there was an underlying note of contempt and amusement that made Tony’s blood boil. “I was in an auto wreck the other night,” retorted Tony. “But there were other people hurt, too,” he added with grim relish as he remembered that overturned car with its cargo of dead and injured. Bruno’s smile faded like a dab of dirt that is wiped away with a quick dash of a cloth and his face froze into a hard, expressionless mask in which the eyes were the only sign of life. But they burned with an intense, malevolent hatred. From his own feelings, Tony knew that Bruno’s right hand was itching for a gun. “That’ll do,” snapped the DA. “I’m doing the talking today.” The six men, most important of the city’s underworld leaders and representing its every element except petty thievery, turned and looked at the man who was the most powerful of the law-enforcing agencies, the man who had been elected by trusting citizens to protect them from the machinations and henchmen of the men with whom he now sat in conference. All were paying him heavily and all despised him, feeling for him the contempt that must always be the lot of the one who betrays his trust. Yet secretly they all feared the great power which was his, the extermination which he could mete out to them if he wished. “This war’s to stop!” exclaimed the DA, pounding the desk to emphasize his command. “The newspapers are raising hell and even some of the big politicians are worried about it. Some of the influential men here have gone to the governor and told him that the city’s getting such a bad name people are afraid to come here and that it’s hurting business. There’s even talk of appointing a special prosecutor – some wealthy, fearless lawyer who couldn’t be reached – and a special grand jury to investigate the gang situation. And you know what that would mean.” The gang leaders shifted uneasily. They did know what such an investigation would mean – a lot of unpleasantness and, perhaps, extinction. “Camonte,” continued the DA, glaring at Tony, “I know that you and Bruno are the guilty ones in this latest outbreak, the most savage we’ve ever experienced. But I also know that the only reason you other fellows aren’t in it is because you’re not big enough to compete with these two and you’ve got sense enough to know it … there’s enough business here for all of you and you’ve got to declare a truce and operate peaceably, all taking your share.” “Do you think he’d keep a truce?” demanded Bruno with a contemptuous nod at Tony. “You wouldn’t, that’s one damn sure thing,” blazed Tony, his mouth curled into a nasty snarl. “I wouldn’t dare to – with you. Who wants to be shot in the back?” “Why, you dirty–” “Shut up!” snapped the DA savagely. “And listen to me. Or I’ll run you out of town.”“You’d lose a good part of your income if you did,” sneered Tony, roused to fury by his altercation with Bruno. Stung to anger by the impudent remark, the DA frowned and turned upon him a baleful glare. “I’d better have a part of my income than none at all,” he retorted through gritted teeth. “Another crack like that out of you and you’ll be the first to go.” Tony subsided but he was seething with fury. Given sufficient time he would get all his enemies, perhaps even the DA himself. Stranger things had happened, and he certainly had it coming to him. The District Attorney had spread out on the table a large map of the county, which included the large city which took up most of it. Already the map was divided by red lines and inside of each square thus produced was written the name of one of the men present. “Here are the territories I’ve assigned to each of you,” continued the DA. “And I think all of you will agree that I have been very fair. You big fellows have been allotted most of it, of course, but the little mobs have their proportionate share because they have to get along, too.” The gang leaders stared at the map. And in their own hearts they all realised that the DA had made a fair division of the territory. Each of them also realised that within the district assigned to him for sovereignty lay sufficient business to keep him and his mob busy and to make them exceedingly prosperous. Yet their code had always been to hold their own territory and fight the other fellow for his, just as they expected him to fight them for theirs. And to the victor belonged the spoils of both. “Here are other maps just like this one, a copy for each of you, with your territories outlined on it,” continued the D.A., passing the folded papers around. “And the first man who oversteps his bounds gets run out of town, I don’t care who he is. Furthermore, you are to report this arrangement to your respective gangs, acquainting them thoroughly with the limits in which they may operate, and see that they obey. Each man is responsible for the acts of his mob; if he can’t control his men and make them obey his orders, he’s not fit to be leading the mob. And no more shooting or I’m going to prosecute the guilty people for murder, I don’t care who they are … You can go now – Camonte, you first with your men. You others can go later one by one after he and his bodyguard have left. And be sure you leave at once, Camonte. I have detectives watching outside and any loitering in the expectation of exacting vengeance upon anyone here will be met with arrests and prosecution.” Tony rose and surveyed the gathering, giving Bruno a particularly thorough stare, then turned and strode out of the room. For him, the conference had served one good purpose – he had met Schemer Bruno face to face. He knew exactly what his arch enemy looked like and, from now on, would be able to identify him with certainty even at some little distance. Which was a great help for accurate night shooting. CHAPTER XIX For a while, almost four months in fact, things were quiet. Everyone was making money and there were no killings. Then the men began to grow restive, as men of action will after a certain period of inactivity. The resumption of hostilities began with minor affrays between insignificant members of the various gangs which usually resulted in nothing more serious than bloody noses and black eyes. Then an occasional stabbing began to creep in among the hitherto comparatively harmless sport, and finally a shooting or two. The anxiety for action, for war and vengeance, became more marked. A tense air of watchful waiting, of incipient menace, hung over the headquarters of the various gangs. The men mentally were like bloodhounds straining at the leash. Tony sensed the situation. He was weary of inactivity himself. And he was becoming suspicious of the prolonged quietude of his enemies. He knew that they and their men were no more capable of interminable peace than were he and his mob. It was rapidly narrowing to a question of who would strike first. Among Tony’s various valuable possessions were a number of gambling places. One of these was a second-floor establishment in the heart of the city. Despite its central position, it was located on a street which contained no department stores and in a block which consisted of wholesale barber supply stores and other such enterprises which dealt with few customers. Which made foot traffic on its sidewalks quite light. Tony visited the place almost every day, a fact which he had never tried to conceal. As he stepped out of his sedan in front of the place one afternoon and paused an instant for his bodyguard to gather around him, he heard the sudden stuttering rat-tat-tat of a machine gun. He saw two of his bodyguard go down before the deadly hail of lead and the others, darting low to take advantage of all the shelter the two sedans offered, look frantically about in an effort to find the source of the attack. Tony himself leaped inside the doorway that led to his second-floor establishment, but not before he felt a dozen heavy blows against his body. The marksmanship of his assailants had been deadly accurate, all right, but he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. In the comparative shelter of the narrow hall that led to the stairway, he turned. Already his automatic was out, ready for execution. He could see two of his men firing upward at the windows of the small hotel across the street. But with his own disappearance the vicious stuttering of the machine gun had ceased. He imagined that the attackers already were in flight, trying desperately to make their escape before the arrival of the police. And his own men must do the same, to avoid arrest and serious charges. A daylight gun battle in a downtown street was no simple matter to adjust with the authorities. He stepped to the doorway and searched the windows of the hotel with a quick but careful glance. He saw nothing suspicious. “Cut it!” he snapped. “Into the cars, quick! Let’s go!” He made a flying leap for one of the sedans and clambered in. The men piled in around him and into the other machine. The two big cars roared away down the street. With only inches to spare, they swerved around a traffic cop who was frantically blowing his whistle at them, and raced onward, bound for home and safety. Tony’s eyes were glittering with cold, deadly fury but within him he felt a great exultation. The war was on again! “They’re on the third floor of the hotel, boss,” panted one of the men. “We see them plain – two of them. One of them was using a Thompson and the other one had a automatic.” A Thompson is that particular type of machine gun which is the favourite weapon of the modern gangster, an easily transported but wicked death machine which can be handled with the ease of a rifle and which, while weighing only ten pounds, will hurl one hundred bullets per minutes. When they reached headquarters, Tony went immediately to his private office and telephoned the District Attorney. “They just tried to get me from the third floor of the Victor Hotel,” he said almost gleefully. “I know. I just got a flash on it from the detective bureau.” “Must’ve been some of the Bruno mob. What are you going to do about it?” “Just what I promised at that last conference. As many of the North Side mob as we can get our hands on will he rounded up tonight, questioned and brought into court in the morning.” That sounded fine, thought Tony, but didn’t mean a thing. The chances were very strong that the actual assailants had made a clean getaway, none of the others would talk – in fact, they would probably know nothing of the attack until they saw it in the papers or were arrested – and the D.A.’s office would be able to prove against them nothing more serious than a charge of carrying concealed weapons. Tony realised that the whole round-up and subsequent activity would really amount to nothing more than a grand gesture for the benefit of the newspapers to pass on to the public. But, Tony felt that a round-up like that was too great an opportunity to be lost. He called in a dozen of his most reliable gunmen and for an hour drilled them in the details of a plan which would be the most daring gangland gesture the city had yet seen. The evening papers – always more sensational than those published in the morning – made a great fuss over the afternoon attack, giving it huge headlines and a great deal of space. And some of the information was of the afternoon attack, giving it huge headlines and a great deal of space. And some of the information was of great interest to Tony. The police, in the search of the hotel following the attack, had found in a third-floor room fronting the street a Thompson machine gun, an empty automatic and a dead man with half a dozen bullets in him. And the dead man later had been identified as Stave Libati. “The dirty–!” breathed Tony venomously. “Turned traitor, did he? And some of the boys got him. Either that or his own partner shot him in the back, afraid that he might turn him up later. Well, anyway, he sure had it coming to him.” Tony studied over the various angles of the occurrence for some time. The identification of one of the assailants as his former lieutenant brought in a new element. There was a chance, of course, that Steve had carried out the attack as a matter of personal vengeance. But it wasn’t likely. He didn’t have that much brains. No, the affair had been planned out by the crafty Schemer Bruno, who had used the ready Libati as a cat’s paw. The chances were that Steve, upon being fired by Tony, had joined the North Side outfit, being admitted because of the valuable information he could furnish Bruno and because of his avowed hatred of Tony. The morning papers, while showing a trifle more reserve about the whole matter, carried the news that the most thorough dragnet of years had been sent through the North Side during the night, with the result that a large portion of the notorious North Side gang – including the wily Schemer himself – had been rounded up and were now reposing in cells, from which they would be removed for court appearances that morning on various charges. At nine-thirty, Tony loaded his dozen carefully selected gunmen into two big sedans and set forth on the little expedition he had planned the day before. When slightly less than a block away from the police court where Tony knew the North Side mob would be arraigned, he ordered the cars parked – but with their engines kept running for an instant getaway – and instructed his men to spread out along the street. He watched them take their stations then smiled coldly with pleased anticipation. When Schemer Bruno and his men came out – as they were sure to do – they would get a terrific surprise. And of course, just coming from court, they would be unarmed. It looked as though this morning would put a terrible dent in the North Side mob. Suddenly the double doors of the police station – the court was above a station – swung open and a stream of detectives and uniformed officers streamed out and bore down on Tony’s men. “Hell!” gritted Tony who had remained sitting beside the chauffeur in one of the cars. “The cops have seen them. Step on it!” The big car roared into life and swerved around the corner, but not before two shots had rung out in the street and two bullets had thudded against the rear of the machine. “Stop!” commanded Tony, and the car ground to a halt. Close as they were to the station, they were out of sight of it. “Give me your gat!” The chauffeur quickly handed over his revolver and Tony calmly dropped it down a convenient open sewer. He tossed his own heavy automatic after it then removed his small vest-pocket automatic from its customary position and shoved it down inside of one sock. When two detectives came puffing around the corner with ready revolvers – as he knew they would – he was standing calmly beside the car. “Did you want to talk to me?” he demanded with a frown. “I’ll say so,” panted one. “It’s lucky Lieutenant Grady looked out the window and recognised some of them gorillas of yours hanging around outside, or we’d had a whole street full o’ murders on our hands.” “Lieutenant Grady, was it?” queried Tony pleasantly. “I’ll have to remember that.” “I don’t care what you remember. Just come along quietly, both o’ you mugs.” “Got a warrant?” “No, ‘course not.” “What’s the charge?” “Carrying concealed weapons.” “But I’m not carrying concealed weapons.” “No?” exclaimed the burly detective incredulously. “Humph! Trying to stall, eh? Keep the rod on them, Jim, while I frisk them.” Quickly and thoroughly he searched Tony but of course he did not extend it below the knees. Obviously puzzled, he hauled the chauffeur out of the car and searched him – without result. With evident bewilderment he surveyed these two men on whom he knew he should find guns. Then an idea occurred to him as it sometimes does to an unusually bright police detective. “I got it!” he exclaimed with sudden enthusiasm. “You dropped them on the floor or hid them in the car some place. That’s an old trick of birds like you.” He went at the car as if he were going to take it apart. And he did as well as he could without the aid of dynamite or tools. But he found nothing incriminating. “You see?” said Tony. “I told you the truth. I’m just out for a little drive this morning. And I don’t like being shot at without reason when motoring.” He produced two £10 and passed one to each of the puzzled detectives. “Now, boys, buy yourselves some cigars and forget that you ever saw me in this neighbourhood this morning. And I won’t tell anyone what a silly trick you pulled.” He climbed into his car and drove away, within three blocks removing the small automatic from his sock and placing it in his coat pocket ready for an emergency. “Jeez! Boss, that’s smooth work!” exclaimed the chauffeur admiringly.“If the cops was as sharp as we are, we wouldn’t have a chance!” answered Tony wisely. From his private office at his headquarters, he telephoned Captain Flanagan. “This is Tony Camonte!” he said brusquely. “I hear they picked up some of my men out at Lawrence Avenue.” “Yeah. Just heard about it.” “Well, how about springing them? I ought to get some service for that monthly bit.” “Sorry, Tony, but there isn’t a hell of a lot I can do. If they was here at the bureau, it would be different, but it would look funny if I interfered too much out there. Some snoopy reporter might find out about it and shoot the works. I’ll see, though, that none of them are booked for anything more than concealed weapons. But you better send down a mouthpiece to front for them.” So Tony telephoned one of the able attorneys on his staff to go out and represent his men at their hearing, then fell into a mood of vengeful brooding. One plan had failed. The next one mustn’t. CHAPTER XX In his mail one morning Tony Camonte received a unique communication, an ornate, engraved invitation to the opening of the Woodland Casino, a new road-house and gambling place some little distance out in the country, far beyond the jurisdiction of city authorities but not so far away as to be beyond the reach of city patrons. The invitation also conveyed the information that the opening night was to be a Bal Masque and that admittance would be by card only. Tony didn’t know what a Bal Masque was and he felt no urge to find out. But the other bit of information interested him somewhat. In common with other wealthy but socially ineligible people, he had an almost irresistible curiosity to see the inside of exclusive places. The realisation that hundreds of these invitations must have been sent out did not prevent his own vanity being tickled by receiving one; the fact remained that everyone who might want to couldn’t get in. For a moment he toyed with the pleasant thought that he was getting to be a man of some importance in the city. Then his suspicion of everything and everyone, born of native cunning and bitter experience, asserted itself. The thing was probably a plant of some kind; perhaps an attempt to put him on a spot. He looked closely at the enclosed engraved card. There seemed to be no identifying marks upon it but his momentary illusion of possible social grandeur had been dispelled by his innate caution. Half the gangsters in town were sure to be at a place like that; it sounded like just the sort of layout that appealed to them for sport. But did they think he’d be simple enough to fall for a game like that? He crumpled the invitation and card with strong, tense fingers and tossed them in the wastebasket. A few minutes later the telephone at his elbow rang. It was Jane. “Could you run home a few minutes, dear?” she asked. “I have something very important to tell you.” “Tell me now.” “Can’t. You never can tell when some nosy mug – a cop or someone’s – listening in on a phone.” “Won’t it wait till tonight?” “Yes, I suppose so,” doubtfully. “But I wish you’d come now.” “Oh, all right,” growled Tony. So he summoned his bodyguard and went home, ordering them to remain outside while he hurried up to his luxurious apartment, a vague uneasiness clutching at him. But Jane was happy and smiling. “Darling!” she exclaimed happily. “I’ve found the spot where we can get Bruno … he’s going to the opening of the new Woodland Casino tomorrow night. That’s our chance.” Tony’s sharp gaze narrowed. “Yeah?” he said. “How’d you find that out?” “Don’t ask me, please. I’m not very proud of the way I got the dope but I did get it – that’s all that matters. And that’s our big chance to bump him off, Tony. He won’t be looking for trouble at an affair like that and he won’t have a big bodyguard with him – maybe none at all. Anyway it’s a masked affair – everyone will be in costume and wearing masks – so none’ll know who we’re.” “No? Then how’ll we know who they are?” “It’s up to us to find out.” “Well, I’ll think about it.” He returned to his headquarters and rescuing the all-important admission card from the wastebasket, thought about it for the rest of the afternoon. Something warned him not to go, yet the chance of killing Bruno himself proved a temptation too strong to resist. He decided to assume the risk. The next morning, accompanied by four of his bodyguard, he went down and looked at costumes. But he selected nothing, because he did not want the costumer to know his disguise. He was afraid that such information might be passed on to his enemies and he realised fully that his safety lay in the strict preservation of his anonymity. But in the afternoon he sent down another man for a Henry the Eighth outfit. In his mind, he had chosen that during the morning inspection because a comfortable amount of artillery could be concealed under the voluminous velvet upper part and the false beard that went with it would effectually hide the scar on the left side of his face. He and Jane – she was lovely in a Juliet costume – drove out shortly after ten, taking with them a bodyguard of four fearless and expert gunmen. Two of the latter, who were sufficiently small and slender to get away with it were in feminine costumes, so that it seemed like a nice party of three couples. Tony had had one of his men rent a sedan for the night, a much smaller and less expensive car than he ever used, so that neither car nor license could give them away to possible watchful enemies. Yet it was a very fast car – he had made sure of that. A hundred yards from the place, Tony halted the car and they all affixed their masks. Then he drove up and parked facing the road. Tony was a little uneasy about the admittance of so large a party on the one card but the doorman, masked and attired in the ornate costume of a Turkish harem guard, bowed them all inside with eager welcome. With how eager a welcome, Tony had no idea. For there were certain things about this affair that Jane had not discovered and that he had not suspected. For instance, Jane had not found out that Schemer Bruno was the owner of this new place and Tony had never dreamed that the card sent to him was the only one which bore the word “Gambling” engraved in the lower left-hand corner. Thus they were identified the moment they entered the place. In fact, they were the guests of honour but they didn’t know it. The Woodland Casino was unusually spacious and elaborate for a place of its type. A large dining room, arranged in cabaret style with a dance floor in the centre, occupied most of the first floor. A good orchestra blared toe-tickling jazz from a dais at one end and waiters scurried about with trays of food and drinks. Tony and his party, unknowingly under the murderous gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes, casually surveyed the throng present, then moved upstairs. The second floor was divided into numerous gaming rooms, in which could be found every imaginable device for pitting one’s luck against the game-keeper’s skill. All the play was for high stakes. Tony abstractedly took a whirl at roulette and because he wasn’t interested in the game, caring for neither profits nor losses, won more than £411 in half an hour. The croupier, hoping to win it back for the house, urged him to continue but Tony shook his head and led his party away from the table. They went back downstairs. The crowd was bigger now and very gay. The noise was fearful yet somehow diverting. Tony and his accomplices would have enjoyed it a lot except for their deadly errand. Tony himself was tense and silent, as he always was just before pulling a job of murder. In whispers, he instructed his henchmen not to stick so closely to him as to excite suspicion, but to maintain a keen watch. He danced three or four times with Jane, his gunmen dancing close by. Then he led her aside. “Mix around a little,” he ordered. “See if you can find out whether Bruno’s here and if he is, what kind of a rig he’s got on.” Jane nodded and moved slowly away. Tony allowed his penetrating glance to make a deliberate search of the merry throng. If only he knew how Bruno was dressed. Here and there, he noted subconsciously an exceptionally striking woman. Then abruptly his gaze riveted to the most commanding feminine figure in the crowd. Tall and slender she was, regally attired in an obviously expensive white gown with a long court train. Resting atop her head to complete the effect was an ornate crown studded with flashing brilliants. She was walking when he saw her first and it was her walk that struck him particularly. It was graceful, regal, the proper walk for the Queen she represented. And he had seen it before somewhere. He tried to recall and found he couldn’t. But he was certain he had seen that identical walk before and, subconsciously, he knew that the remembrance was not pleasant. He watched her closely, still trying to remember, and found her receiving a great deal of attention from a cloaked figure of Satan, a tall, well-built, graceful man who moved with the lithe quickness of a trained body actuated by an agile mind. At last she moved away from her red-clad companion and began drifting toward him. She hesitated as she came opposite and looked at him deliberately. The mask made the glance curiously enigmatic yet the sparkling eyes behind the mask seemed to hold an invitation. Then she moved away again. Reaching the doorway, she paused and looked back, then stepped through the portal. It was all as plain as if she had spoken. She was going out on the big wide porch and inviting him to follow. Momentarily warming to the chase, he started forward impulsively. But at that instant he suddenly remembered where he had seen that walk before. She was Katherine Merton, the girl who had come to his office pretending to be a reporter and who, in reality, was Schemer Bruno’s moll. Then Satan must be Bruno. What a singularly appropriate costume for the Schemer, he thought. And that cloak would conceal an almost unlimited amount of artillery. He saw the whole plot in a flash now. How they had discovered his identity, he couldn’t imagine – but they had. And this moll was trying to lure him out on the porch so that they could bump him off without endangering the other customers. Clever, all right, but it wasn’t going to work. He darted upstairs and cautiously peered out a window. Four or five costumed and masked figures were moving slowly around in front of the place. And the cloaked devil was among them. It was a death plot all right. He hurried back downstairs and without any appearance of haste gathered his group around him. “Take Jane out and put her in the car,” he ordered one of the gunmen, one also dressed as a woman. “Don’t hurry … but have the car ready for a quick getaway … The rest of you come with me.” He knew that Jane and her companion would not be targets for assassins’ bullets. It was he they were after. He led his three gunmen toward the kitchen, to the right of which was a mahogany bar, now three deep with thirsty patrons. There would surely be another entrance from the kitchen. Then he saw it, an open doorway. Before the surprised chef and his assistants could object, Tony had led his gunmen across the kitchen and out into the night. Quickly but silently they stole forward and Tony cautiously peered around the corner of the building. The waiting men were still there, tensely expectant. On the porch, a white-clad figure was glancing back into the reception foyer. Evidently the moll couldn’t understand why he didn’t appear. “See those mugs out there?” demanded Tony in a hoarse whisper. “That’s Schemer Bruno and some of his mob waiting to get us. But we’re going to beat them to it. You guys take care of the rest of them. I’ll get the devil.” Slowly Tony lifted his heavy automatic and took careful aim. Then his steady trigger finger squeezed down and the weapon spoke with a thunderous flash. Elation surged through him as the red-clad figure staggered and crumpled to the ground, but he fired four more times with deliberate precision at the prone figure. His men were firing, too. Revolvers were flashing and cracking ill around him. But the others were fighting back. At the first shot they had all dropped to the ground, making themselves much smaller targets, and now they were firing savagely. Tony and his men could hear bullets whistling and thudding around them. At first there were four exploding revolvers in that line, then three … two … one. And finally it ceased. “Let’s go!” exclaimed Tony happily and ran for their car, fifteen yards away. They all piled in and it raced away at high speed. “Step on it!” commanded Tony. He knew there were more enemy gunmen inside that roadhouse and he didn’t care to battle them if it could be avoided. He looked back just in time to see a white-clad figure crumple to the floor of the porch and other people come streaming out through the double door. “God! That was a narrow squeak!” exclaimed Tony as the car raced back toward their headquarters. “If I hadn’t remembered that dame’s walk, they’d a got me sure as hell. They damn near put over a fast one! Say,” he said suddenly, turning on Jane with angry suspicion, “what do you know about this, anyhow?” “Why, what do you mean?” “You know damn well what I mean,” he growled. “Didn’t you know they had it all fixed to put me on a spot?” “Of course not! Tony, surely–” “Well, where’d you get the dope about him being out here tonight?”“From Katherine – his moll.” “From who? For God’s sake, how’d you get her to talk?’ “She’s – my sister.” “Oh, my God! Here I’ve been a sort of brother-in-law to the Schemer, my worst enemy all this time. Jeez! What a fine family mess I got into.” “I thought I was pumping her when we met yesterday, making her tell something that she didn’t wanna,” continued Jane in a strained voice. She was overwrought and on the verge of tears. “But I guess I only fell into the trap she was helping the Schemer bait for you.” “Well, it’s all right,” answered Tony generously. “We got the Schemer anyhow.” Schemer Bruno’s sudden and mysterious death was a citywide sensation for days. His funeral was a grand affair, attended by the District Attorney, the Chief of Police, eleven judges, and some two hundred carloads of politicians and other hoodlums. Tony sent a £41 floral piece and considered it the best investment he had ever made. His only regret about the affair was that he hadn’t had cause to send it sooner. CHAPTER XXI A year passed rather uneventfully. Tony’s power, undisputed save for sporadic, disorganised, short-lived outbreaks here and there, grew until it almost became burdensome. And his income had gone far beyond his wildest dreams. Always being written up and talked about but almost never seen, he had become a legendary figure, symbolical of underworld success. Two items in the papers concerning his own family had interested him. His father had died and his brother had been promoted to a detective lieutenancy. Tony’s answer to the first had been to arrange for one of his trusted attorneys to inform his mother of the death of some mysterious relative in the West and thereafter pay her £206 a month, supposedly from the deceased’s estate. His answer to the second had been a long, loud, ironical laugh. He had heard through various reliable sources that his brother was not averse to graft and was quite a devil with the women, despite his wife and child. Tony grinned when he thought what a stir there would be if it were discovered that the brother of Detective Lieutenant Ben Guarino was the famous gang leader, Scarface Tony Camonte. He and Jane were still together, constantly quarrelling a bit more, but still together. They moved often, as often as the owners of the luxurious apartment houses to which they confined their residence discovered their real identities. But they enjoyed the best of everything and waved wads of money in the envious faces of the stiff-backed genteel who snubbed them. Tony had no fault to find with the world so far. Success wasn’t difficult, if you weren’t squeamish about how you achieved it. He surmised wisely that many another millionaire had discovered that fact early in his career. But inactivity palled on Tony! He stretched and began looking around for new worlds to conquer. People said the East – New York – was the most lucrative liquor and racket section in the country. There were a lot of hoodlums in it, of course, but they weren’t used to the ruthless Middle West methods. Machine guns and bombs would give the more effete Easterners the surprise of their lives. At about that same time rumours that the Easterners were looking westward with avaricious eyes gained circulation and credence. It was said that the notorious Frankie Wales, most ruthless of the Eastern gang leaders, was planning an active campaign for the Middle West with the Middle West’s own methods and weapons. But Tony only laughed contemptuously when his lieutenants came to him with such stories. He was too powerful, too well known even in New York for any other leader to even dream of wresting his power and wealth away from him. But the suggestion of another hot battle brought back the old sparkle to his eyes. If anyone tried to cut in on him, he’d show them a thing or two. He’d not only hold his territory but he’d capture theirs, wherever it might be and whoever it might be. Tony didn’t believe the reports of the Eastern invasion until one night when he was eating dinner in the main floor dining room of his hotel headquarters. The sudden crash of shattering glass and the vicious stuttering of a machine gun in the street outside startled him from his complacent reverie. He ducked under the table and drew his automatic. That nasty rat-tat-tat was still going in the street, the big plate glass window up in front was still splintering. And he could hear whizzing bullets whining spitefully above his head. Then the machine guns hushed and he heard a powerful car roar away. There was no doubt as to whom they were after. Had he been a second later in dodging beneath the table, his well-tailored form would have been drilled by a score of bullets; the holes in the wall back of where he had been sitting proved that. He remembered suddenly that the North Side mob had scared Johnny Lovo into leaving town by that same trick. Well, whoever had pulled it this time, would find he wasn’t afraid of anything. If they wanted a war, they could have one. And he’d be glad to see that they got a good one. That his unknown enemies meant business was proved by their activities the rest of the night. They bombed his biggest warehouse and killed two of his henchmen who were driving the sedan which he ordinarily used. Things were picking up. Tony smiled with keen anticipation. Walking quickly into the lobby of the hotel the next night, following a tour of inspection and preparation at various outposts of his activities, Tony saw two people getting into the elevator. Mike Rinaldo, his prize gunman, and a girl. But the glimpse he got of the girl’s face before the door clanged shut and the car shot upward made his eyes widen and his breath catch. Surely it must be – he turned to a small group of his henchmen lounging nearby. “That girl who just went up with Mike,” he said slowly, coldly. “Do any of you know who she is?” “Why that’s one of the sweetest little propositions that’s turned up around here in a long time. But particular – Jeez! Mike’s the only guy in the mob that’s been able to make her so far. Her name is – let me see – I think it’s Rosie Guarino.” “God!” breathed Tony hoarsely. “What’s the matter, chief?” “N-Nothing,” answered Tony breathlessly. But his face had gone deathly white. His thoughts seemed to be trying to race frantically up a terribly steep hill. Rosie, his little sister Rosie, the one that had always been such a model little housekeeper while their mother tended to the store. He realised suddenly that she must be twenty-two or three now. And he had been thinking of her as a beautiful kid of sixteen. But here in this disreputable hotel, gone upstairs with Mike Rinaldo, the accomplished and unscrupulous heart-breaker who was the best gunman in the city … His sister … No, it mustn’t be … If she hadn’t sense enough herself, someone else – he walked over to the desk, his step a trifle unsteady, his eyes glazed in contemplation of a horror more terrible than any he had seen on French battlefields. “What number did you give Mike Rinaldo?” he asked. “Six-twelve,” answered the clerk. “But a lady went up with him, Mr. Camonte. Wouldn’t it be better to calf?” “Thanks. I – I’ll call him later.” He walked over and entered the elevator that had come back down. “Six,” he said dully and swayed a little from the sudden jerk as the car started upward. He had killed for money, for vengeance, for lust, for almost every reason except a worthy one. His sister … upstairs … in his own hotel … with one of his own gunmen … Of course, Mike was the straightest and most ruthless shot in the city. Tony realised he might be facing death, probably was. Mike was touchy about his heart affairs. But Tony had faced death before. He’d always won before. One of these days he was bound to lose – luck couldn’t run the same way all the time. But whichever way things went, he would always be facing it. The door clanged open and Tony stepped out into the hall, his right hand plunged deep into his side coat pocket, his lean fingers tensed about the cold butt of the heavy automatic there. CHAPTER XXII Slowly, yet with a tense, frantic haste, Scarface Tony Camonte went down the hall; peering intently at the brass numbers on the doors, his hand rigid about the butt of the heavy automatic in his side coat pocket. Then he found it. 612. He halted and turned toward the door, gathering himself like a furious animal making ready to spring. With the silent, effortless ease of a fatal snake, his practiced right hand drew the automatic, then gently dropped to his side. Then his left hand reached out to the door-knob, and he quietly tried it. But the door was locked. Tony’s lips curled into a vicious snarl and his clenched fist banged savagely against the polished wood of the fastened door. There was a pause. Then: “What do you want?” came the angry growl from within. “Come out here!” snapped Tony and instinctively moved aside so that when the door opened he would not be visible. “Go ‘way and let me alone,” came the retort. “I’m busy.” The gang leader’s face flamed with rage and his breath came in short, hoarse gasps. “This is Tony Camonte, the boss,” he gritted, his mouth close to the crack where the door met the jamb. “I want to see you now. If you don’t come out, I’ll send for a pass-key and come in.” He drew back again and his grip on the automatic tightened. He heard muffled sounds of stirring within the room and a feminine giggle. And he muttered an awful curse under his breath as the key turned in the lock. The door swung open. “Say, chief, what the hell’s the matter with you anyway?” demanded Mike Rinaldo’s voice. Then Mike himself appeared. His coat and vest were off, his collar open at the throat. His handsome dark face was flushed and his oily black hair tousled. His appearance alone was enough, under the circumstances, to give Tony the final impulse to murder, to furnish the igniting spark for the ready powder. Surprised and angry, Mike turned to face his employer. Tony’s right hand snapped up and the ugly black barrel of the automatic centred steadily on the gunman’s body a few inches above his shining gold belt buckle. “You rat!” snarled Tony. “You picked the wrong dame this time.” The two pairs of cold, hard, expressionless eyes, murderers’ eyes both, met, clashed. Then Mike’s widened at something he saw in those of his employer. He was staring death in the face and he realised it. His right hand darted for his hip. But he hadn’t a chance; Tony didn’t dare give him a chance. Under any other conditions, Tony would have been glad to meet him on even terms, but now the great gang leader felt that he dare not take any risks. He must make sure, because of that girl in there. In the language of their kind, Tony let him have it. The shots roared out. Half a dozen of them. Yet so close together that they seemed to merge into a single explosion as they reverberated down the hall. Mike’s jaw dropped and he gazed stupidly at his murderer through the haze of a bluish smoke. Then he passed a trembling hand bewilderedly over his suddenly ashen face and with a gasp abruptly sagged to the floor. Half a dozen spots of red had appeared on his hitherto spotless white shirt-front. Tony watched with interest as they enlarged, then finally merged into one big stain that grew bigger. Suddenly Tony laughed, a little hysterically. Then he became aware that the girl inside the room was screaming madly. That screaming cleared his head like a dash of cold water. With his foot, he moved the body beyond the doorway, then walked into the room. A beautiful dark girl, clad in pink silk lingerie and with a dress clutched in her hands, stood there shrieking. Her eyes dilated with terror as she saw him come in and she backed away, lifting one hand as if to ward off an attack. Tony stared at her a moment, feeling the bitter agony of coals of fire being heaped upon his head. His sister! To be found like that! But he was thankful that she didn’t recognise him. “Shut up!” he snapped. “Get your dress on and get out of here before the cops come.” “You murdered him!” she moaned. “Oh, you beast! You murdered him!” The bitter irony of the situation cut Tony to the quick. Reviled by his own sister for having saved her from the rapacity of one of his gunmen! He wanted to take her in his arms, comfort, explain everything, and warn her. But he didn’t dare. He realised that the knowledge that he was the notorious Tony Camonte would kill his mother. No, his family believed him dead; he must remain dead so far as they knew. “Shut up!” he commanded with vicious emphasis. “And get out of here!” Sobbing hysterically, she wriggled into the dress and donned her hat and coat. He took her arm but she flinched away from him and hurried to the doorway. There she paused and swayed unsteadily. Her horrified gaze had seen the bloody heap that was Mike. With a piercing scream shecollapsed across the body, frantically kissing the ghastly face. His own emotions stretched to the breaking point, Tony picked her up roughly and shoved her toward the elevator. “Get out!” he gritted. “And stay out! And keep your mouth shut!” She gazed back at him, deathly pale, wide-eyed with terror. “I hope they hang you!” she cried and began to run, sobbing in great choking gasps. She passed the closed elevator door and continued on to the stairway. Tony heard her rapid clicking footsteps and breathless, catching sobs die away. Then he went back and stared down at the body. “Too bad, Mike,” he said in a low tone, as if the inert figure of the dead gangster could hear. “But it had to be done.” He walked into the bedroom and picked up the telephone. “Mike just died,” he said dully, when the clerk answered. “I’ll see about arrangements later. Tell all the boys that if some nosy dicks come around, they ain’t got the slightest idea what was the name of the dame who came up here tonight with Mike, See? It’s curtains for the guy that squeals her name to anyone, hear?” he added viciously. “Tell them that, too.” The sharp thud of the telephone as he set it down on the little table penetrated the fog that seemed to have come up around his perceptions since that hoodlum in the lobby had identified Mike’s new girl. Well, she was gone now, anyway. If anything happened; she would be clear of it. He realised that the night’s events would kill his mother. But she wouldn’t know. What a blessing it was that most people actually knew so little. He walked to the doorway and stared down at Mike’s body again. Suddenly his eyes snapped and he hurled the automatic down. It struck the body then bounced away across the hall and lay still, an unerring instrument of death. The other killings that Tony had perpetrated had given him a thrill, a sharp, exhilarating sense of triumph, of having outwitted and conquered enemies who would willingly have done the same to him. But he felt none of that now. He was dazed, shaky, and very tired. He felt suddenly old. It seemed as if he had lived a century and yet. And yet, it must be less than fifteen minutes. He turned and went slowly upstairs to his private office. Sinking into the comfortable chair behind his big desk, he rested his elbows on its polished walnut surface and let his head fall forward into his hands. How long he had been sitting there that way he didn’t know. But he realised suddenly that the spacious room was filling with men. He looked up, to find Captain Flanagan, his revolver drawn, staring down at him with a grim little smile lurking around the corners of his hard mouth. “Well, Tony, I guess we got you this time, with the goods,” said Flanagan with relish. “So you killed Mike Rinaldo over a dame.” Tony stiffened and sat up straight, his eyes blazing as he stared at the crowd of officers. Who’d squealed? “Take it easy, Tony,” growled Flanagan warningly, sensing the gang leader’s sudden arousal. “You’re coming to the DA’s office with us. Stick out your mitts!” There was a metallic rattle as another detective stepped forward with a pair of handcuffs. Tony stared at them. Then an expression of disgust crossed his face and he looked up at Flanagan again with his usual defiant pride flooding back into his face and manner. “You need no bracelets for me!” he snapped. “I’m no cheap second-story man. I’ll go with you anywhere you want to take me but I’m going to call a mouthpiece to come down and see that I get my rights.” He reached for the telephone but one of the officers snatched it away from him. Half a dozen others closed in on him, their attitude obviously menacing. And Flanagan had lifted the muzzle of his revolver until it pointed at Tony’s chest. “Oh, you’re going, all right!” said the burly chief of detectives, seeming oddly elated. “And you’re going to wear the bracelets. We ain’t takin’ no chances. Ain’t often we get a chance to pinch a big shot like you,” he added sarcastically with a nasty grin. “And you ain’t calling none till after you been to the DA’s office.” “Listen, Flanagan, I’m due for all the breaks you guys can give me. The dough I’ve paid–” “Don’t know a thing about it, Tony,” lied the chief of detectives glibly. “Anyway, I’ve heard that you haven’t been so liberal since you got to be so strong.” Which was true. Now that he and his gang held undisputed sway over the booze racket and certain other underworld activities of the big city, he had trimmed the amounts that he paid out for protection. No use throwing away any more dough than you had to. If there were no other gangs that the authorities could throw their allegiance to, they’d ride along for smaller bits. They handcuffed him none too gently and led him downstairs. Tony had a glimpse of his gangsters congregating in the lobby staring at the party with amazed hate. And the realisation that his men had seen their master led out by the police, trussed like a common small-time burglar, galled him much more than the trouble ahead. He was hurried outside and pushed into one of the three big squad cars that had brought the party out from the detective bureau and which were now parked at the curb, guarded by half a dozen other officers, armed with small machine guns. The whole crowd acted as if they were executing a coup as daring as kidnapping Napoleon from the midst of his army. The three big cars raced downtown, their shrieking sirens clearing a path and making people turn to stare. Tony’s impenetrable silence masked a seething inward fury. Who had squealed? How had the dicks known about Mike’s death so soon and how had they known who to pinch for it? It looked as if someone, seeing a chance to get him, had taken advantage of the opportunity with all speed. But who? Well, one thing certain, they’d pay. It would be curtains for the guilty person. Moran, the first assistant district attorney, was awaiting them in the prosecutor’s offices on the second floor of the gloomy Criminal Courts building. And Tony grunted scornfully as he saw him. Moran was a good prosecutor, all right, the best they had; but he was also the collector for his chief. Tony had paid him thousands. He was a tall, lean young man with icy blue eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses and a nasty, cynical smile that held no mirth in it. “Well, Camonte, what have you to say for yourself?” he demanded. “Nothing – here,” snapped Tony. “You must think I’m dumb.” “Yes, I do.” Tony’s face flamed and the chain of the handcuffs rattled as his hands clenched and writhed. “I want to talk to you alone, Moran,” he gritted in a low tone. Moran surveyed him a moment then produced a revolver and laid it on the desk close at hand. “You fellows can wait in the outer office,” he said to the crowd of detectives. “I’ll call you when I want you.” As they trooped out, he looked up at the gang leader with a deadly glance. “One false move, Camonte,” he said coldly, “and I’ll shoot you down like a dog.” “Yes, I believe you’d like to get the chance,” agreed Tony bitterly. “It would save the state the expense of trying and hanging you.” Tony laughed harshly. “Don’t talk foolish! You couldn’t convict me!” “No? Well, watch us. Or rather, watch me. The Chief says I’m to prosecute.” “Where is he?” “At home, of course. You’re not important enough to get him out of bed in the middle of the night to come down here and question you.” “No? Well, I’m important enough to give him a nice big bit every month. And you, too. If anything happened to me, the gang would go to pieces and you wouldn’t get those bits any longer.” “If your gang was broken up, there’d be room for two or three other gangs, and each one of them would be glad to kick in with as much as you do. Competition is the life of trade, you know,” he added grimly. “I could increase my bits,” suggested Tony shrewdly. “Yes, but that wouldn’t interest us now. Three or four gangs spread around the city are a lot more help to a political machine than just one. And you’ve never shown any interest in helping us build up the machine, anyway. No, Camonte, this is our chance to knock you off your throne and we’re not going to miss it.” Tony’s face had frozen and his eyes glittered. “Listen, Moran,” he said, and his voice held a cold, deadly venom that made the assistant district attorney flinch, “if you bring me to trial, you and the D.A. will both be mighty sorry, before it’s all over.” “Are you threatening me?” blustered Moran. “No. Just trying to keep you from making a fool of yourself.” Moran laughed harshly, sarcastically. “Leave that to us! I’ll convict you all right. The girl’s testimony alone will–” “What girl?” demanded Tony tensely. “This Rosie Guarino, the one you killed Mike over. She’s the one that turned you up for the job and she’s volunteered to testify. Women! They’re the ruination of all you hoods. I guess you didn’t know that this dame and Mike had been secretly married down at Crown Point a week ago.” So that was what they thought, that he had killed Mike because of jealousy. No wonder Flanagan had looked at him with contempt. And she and Mike had been married. Good God! I’d had no right to – but how’d he know with Mike’s past what it’s? Weary and bewildered, his mind a confused maze, Tony was led away to a cell. CHAPTER XXIII The murder trial of Tony Camonte, the famous gang leader, who had come to be considered beyond the reach of the law, was the sensation of the year. The newspapers found it a godsend during a period when other news happened to be scarce, and devoted their front pages to little else. Public opinion as to Tony’s guilt and deserving of punishment was sharply divided. A certain cross-section of the populace poured down maledictions upon his head and consigned him to the gallows, with sighs of relief. But another group, equally numerous, who through the papers, had followed his daring exploits for years, had come to feel an admiration for this extraordinary man who had risen from vassal to czar. These people openly expressed sympathy for him and the hope that he would be acquitted. For Tony himself, the period of the trial was a time of soul-wrecking terror. Not because of fear of punishment, for he did not fear it; but because of his overwhelming fear that his real identity would be discovered. Moran prosecuted, assisted by one of the lesser-assistant DA’s, and it was obvious that they were fighting like tigers for a hanging verdict. Tony’s defence consisted of two of the most brilliant criminal lawyers in the city, one a former assistant district attorney. And the fee they had already received would enable them to live in comfort for two or three years. Rosie Guarino was the star witness for the state, of course, but only because Tony chose to allow her to be. His attorneys had relayed to him from his men various proposals for eliminating her from the case, scaring her out of the city, by bombing the Guarino store and home. They even planned kidnapping. And finally they decided upon a cold-blooded plan for shooting her on the witness stand from the window of an adjoining building. Tony had angrily vetoed them all, to the bewildered disgust of his lawyers and henchmen. He realised that he could stop her instantly by revealing his identity as her brother, but he was more afraid of that fact coming out than he was of the gallows. He had consented, however, to an offer of £10267 being made her to slip out of the city and remain away until he had been acquitted and the case forgotten. This offer she had spurned indignantly and promptly given the facts to the newspapers, thereby furnishing them with another sensational headline. Tony secretly was rather proud of her; she was his own sister, all right. The whole Guarino family was in court the day Rosie testified. Tony looked at them furtively from his position in the front of the courtroom before the judge. They were all well-dressed and they seemed well and happy. He felt a little thrill of satisfaction. His ill-gotten gains had done them some good anyway; the generous monthly sum that he gave them secretly through an attorney had assured those luxuries and advantages that they never could have enjoyed otherwise. He saw his mother, dowager-like in a glossy fur coat and a Parisian hat, look at him sharply. For a moment he thought she had recognised him and his heart sank, but he had taken his place so that the throng of spectators could see only the left, the scarred, side of his face. He saw his mother’s keen glance turn to contempt and he felt relieved. At that moment he saw himself as others must see him, as a bad boy who hadn’t grown up. He was pale and shaken when he turned his attention back to the witness stand. Rosie gave her testimony with proud defiance and more than one venomous look at him. The prosecution, of course, did not bring out Mike Rinaldo’s desperate character, and Tony had forbidden his own attorneys to do so; he refused tostain further the memory of his sister’s dead husband. When the state had completed its direct examination of her, one of Tony’s attorneys rose for cross-examination. “Was Mr. Rinaldo completely within your sight from the time he opened the door until you heard the shots and saw him fall?” asked the attorney. “Yes.” “Didn’t you see him suddenly reach for his right hip?” “Yes.” “Wasn’t that before you heard the shots?” “Yes.” “Then you didn’t actually see the defendant shoot Rinaldo?” “No, but–” “That’s all,” said the attorney brusquely. He turned away then smiled slightly at the sudden stir that appeared at the prosecution’s counsel table; the lawyers there were obviously disconcerted by the extreme shortness of his cross- examination of their star witness. It was plain that Rosie realised she had made admissions damaging to the state’s case. She remained in the witness chair, trying to qualify the statements she had made. But a court attendant ushered her out. There were other spectators in the courtroom that interested Tony. His moll, for instance, Jane Conley, widely known by reputation to police and the underworld as the Gun Girl but known by sight to practically none. He was a little puzzled about Jane. She hadn’t come near him during his period of incarceration. As she sat in the courtroom, stylishly dressed and easily the most striking woman in the throng of spectators, she gave him no sign of recognition. He resented her air of detachment. Yet, wanting to find an excuse for her seeming unfriendliness, he was able to find one. The fact that she was his moll had been kept a close secret and it was better that it remain so. The less that was known about the private affairs of a man in his position, the fewer loopholes his enemies had to try to strike him through. His brother, Detective Lieutenant Ben Guarino, was a constant and interested spectator at the trial. He was a little surprised at his brother’s appearance. Ben had taken on weight and his face looked bloated. He’d been hitting the high spots and it was beginning to tell on him. The last afternoon of the trial, Tony saw his brother seated beside Jane in the first row of spectators. Occasionally they chatted in whispers and several times he saw them exchange a smile. Jealous rage flowed through the gang leader like molten metal and his eyes blazed. With an effort he turned his attention back to the course of the trial. The climax was approaching rapidly. In their summation to the jury, Moran and his assistant obviously did their utmost to induce the twelve men to bring in a verdict of murder in the first degree. As they verbally flayed him with all the biting vituperation and sarcastic innuendo of which clever criminal lawyers are capable, Tony found it almost beyond his powers of self-control to remain in his chair. His strong hands gripped the chair arms until his knuckles gleamed white with the effort. His swarthy face flushed to a deep purple and his fingers itched to get at the throats of these hypocrites who characterized him an incorrigible menace to mankind. The automobiles in which they rode, had been paid for with his money. But he relaxed when his own attorneys had their inning. He even smiled slightly once or twice at some of their cleverly sarcastic quips at the expense of the prosecution. They made the thing out so simply; showed the whole charge to be utterly ridiculous and unproved. They characterized a possible conviction as the most monstrous miscarriage of justice that could ever blot the records of a state. But the jury seemed less interested in the vividly pictured horrors of guilty consciences for convicting an innocent man than they did in the appearance of ten of Tony’s best gunmen seated in the first two rows of spectators. They were swarthy, well-dressed young men who surveyed the jurors unsmilingly with cold, hard eyes. The judge had been paid £2054 to make his instructions to the jury as favourable as possible to Tony and he went as far as he dared, to earn his fee. The jury required just fourteen minutes to bring in a verdict of “Not guilty.” And everyone realised that those ten grimly silent young men had been the deciding factor. There had been instances where jurors convicting gangsters had been shot, their homes bombed or their children kidnapped. Law and order and duty were all very well, but there was no appeal from a bomb or a bullet. And the law is notoriously lax in protecting its upholders, once their usefulness has ceased. Tony shook hands with every juror. And some of them were as flustered as though meeting the President. The next day he sent each one a case of uncut whisky. Tony waited, chatting with his lawyers, until the spectators had dispersed, then he walked out of the courtroom a free man but a man full of deep grievances that must be avenged. In the doorway lounged Detective Lieutenant Ben Guarino, “You’ll get yours yet, Big Shot,” he rasped. Tony hurried on without indicating that he had heard. In the hallway, his bodyguard awaited him. Quickly they surrounded him as they had been trained to do and escorted him downstairs and outside to the big sedan with the bullet-proof glass. At a respectful distance watched a crowd that filled the street. The flutter and craning of necks that followed his appearance would have satisfied the greatest celebrity. Near by a half-dozen newspapermen clamoured for an interview and innumerable photographers were frantically trying to snap pictures. Being slightly shorter than the average, Tony purposely had chosen for his bodyguard the tallest men in his mob. Ordinarily they served to protect him from the bullets of ambitious assassins. Now the ring of men served equally well to protect him from the almost as annoying camera lenses. But he spoke to the reporters for a moment. “I’m through with all the rackets, boys,” he announced. “I’ve enough money and I’m done. Johnny Lovo had the right idea. I’m going into the real estate business.” He stepped into the sedan and the escort of three cars swept away. Tony Camonte was a czar again. CHAPTER XXIV Tony felt a trifle uncertain as he entered his luxurious Lake Shore Drive apartment half an hour later. And the cool, questioning way in which Jane surveyed him was not reassuring. “Jeez! I’m tired!” he exclaimed wearily. And he was. The strain of the trial had taken more out of him than he realised. “Listen, Tony,” said Jane and there was an edge in her voice, “just what’s this dame to you?” “What dame?” “This Rosie person, the one you killed Mike over.” “She’s nothing to me.” Jane laughed scornfully. “Do you expect me to believe that? Then why’d you bump off Mike for getting her?” “I didn’t. It was about some p’m else.” “Don’t try to kid me. You and Mike were the best of friends up to the night that happened. The boys say you turned absolutely green when you saw Mike come in with her. Right away you went upstairs and five minutes later Mike was dead.” “You’re crazy! I – I never saw her before. If she’d – meant anything to me, do you suppose she’d have turned me up the way she did?” “A woman’s feelings can change.” “So can a man’s.” He looked at her narrowly; his tone was significant. “Yeah? Well, don’t worry, Big Shot, there’s plenty of men that’d be glad to have me.” “Maybe. But you’d find it pretty hard to find one that could or would pay the price I do. For the amount I spend on you, I’d just about have my pick and don’t forget it!” “Why don’t you?” she demanded furiously. “Been too busy to think about it,” he retorted loftily. “But I may not be so busy later on … while we’re on the subject, I noticed you’re mighty chummy with that dick lieutenant in court?” “Which one?” “Were you chummy with more than one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But I only noticed one. Ben Guarino, the brother of this dame.” “Oh? So you know all about the whole family, eh?” “Shut up!” he snarled suddenly, advancing on her menacingly. “I’ve had all your lip I intend to take.” For a moment they gazed at each other with blazing eyes, their teeth gritted and their fists clenched. “What’s the use of us fighting this way, baby as long as we been together?” said Tony finally and his voice was weary. “Honest to God, I never had nothing to do with that dame. And there’s important things to be done now.” “For instance?” “Getting Flanagan and Moran, the damned dirty double-crossers. After all the dough I’ve paid them! Flanagan could give me a buzz and let me get out of sight that night. But did he do it? No, he comes out himself and nabs me. And even puts the bracelets on me, like I was a common, cheap, petty larceny crook. And Moran, that dirty Irish–” the oaths crackled off Tony’s competent tongue. “Him and that crooked DA boss of his. They knew they had a poor case and they knew that Mike’s being bumped off was a civic improvement. What they’d have done was forget it. But do they? No, they do their damnedest to give me the rope because they know they could collect more if there was a lot of big shots in the racket instead of just me controlling the whole works. Well, I’ve paid and what did I get? Tramped on, the minute they thought they had a chance to railroad me. Now, they’re going to pay and plenty.” And so they forgot their personal jealousies and differences while Tony outlined his plans for vengeance against those who had betrayed him. But the rift between them had widened. Doubt, once planted, is almost impossible to kill, and upon the slightest provocation can grow with appalling speed into conviction. Tony went out to his headquarters the next day. And his men greeted his return with the curious silence and the grim, tight-lipped smiles of their kind. But he sensed an uneasiness in their bearing. Something was wrong; he wondered just what it was. He had not long to wait. Within a few minutes half a dozen of his more prominent henchmen came up to his private office on the top floor of the hotel. One of them, a square-jawed, hard-eyed hoodlum named Finaro, cleared his throat noisily. “We’re wondering about that piece in the papers, chief,” he began. “About you going to quit the racket and go in the real estate business. That was just talk, wasn’t it?” “I haven’t decided yet,” answered Tony coolly. “I have got enough dough to quit and enjoy life if I want to.” “Yeah. But who helped you make it, chief? We’ve all had a hand in building’ up that pile you got. And you owe it to us to keep things moving and give us a chance to keep getting our bit. We’ve stuck by you through some damn tight times and now when the sailing’s easy, you gotta stick by us. If you quit now, the mob’d go to pieces overnight. And then where’d we be? You just can’t quit now and leave us in the lurch.” The others nodded in hearty assent as he finished. The man’s tone and manner had been respectful enough but his eyes were hard. Tony, his own eyes glowing with inward anger at this first sign of insubordination within the ranks, was about to dismiss them brusquely. But his better judgment told him not to. He sensed an air of menace in the attitude of the group. He realised suddenly that in organising and perfecting this powerful gang that ruled the underworld activities of a great city, he had built a Frankenstein, a monster that, acting upon the principles he had instilled into it, would feel justified in destroying him should he attempt to desert now. In one great vision, he saw that these men felt a loyalty to him only as long as his agile mind planned activities thatafforded them a handsome livelihood. The moment his value to them had ceased they would unhesitatingly turn upon him the assassin’s bullets that he now could command them to direct at his enemies. He could never quit; they wouldn’t let him. “Forget it, boys,” he said, trying to make his tone pleasant. “I was just talking for the benefit of the cops. Carry on everything as usual.” Tony lost no time in carrying out his vengeance upon those who had betrayed him. For five days he had Captain Flanagan shadowed day and night. Then, with the reports of his spies in hand, he spent two days in working out the actual plan. At last all was ready. At eleven o’clock one night he had himself driven home to the fancy apartment building where he and Jane lived. He gave the uniformed doorman a cigar and paused a moment to comment on the state of the weather. To the middle-aged, dignified elevator man he gave another cigar and, apparently doubtful of the accuracy of his watch, checked it up with that of the older man. Thus he had impressed his arrival and the time of it upon the two attendants. His apartment was on the third floor and at the end of the corridor was an iron fire escape that led both upward and downward: Carefully he opened the French doors that gave access to it, stepped out and closed the doors behind him. Then he climbed rapidly but silently down to the ground. His rubber-soled shoes making no sound, he flitted through the dark alley and stepped into the sedan waiting in the deserted street beyond. The big car sped smoothly away, preceded and followed by another just like it. At a quiet corner far out on the North Side the three cars paused. Then one proceeded easily through the tree-lined residential street to the next corner. Then another moved slowly forward. In the middle of the block and across the street from a brick two-story house which was still brightly lighted, it stopped against the curb. The four men in it crouched down so that the car appeared empty. Already one of the rear door windows was fully lowered, the cool night air fanning the flushed tense faces of the four men. Tony waited a moment, then nudged one of his companions. The man lifted a police whistle to his lips and blew three shrill blasts. Almost immediately two shots rang out at the next corner. Abruptly the front door of the house across the street flew open and a burly man emerged, a revolver glinting in his right hand. It was Flanagan! Another shot rang out at the corner. Flanagan ran down the steps, his revolver ready for action. Slowly Tony lifted the ugly black snout of a sub-machine gun, resting it on the car door, and took careful aim. Then with a grim smile he squeezed the trigger. The death rattle of the weapon deafened him and his companions but Flanagan crumpled to the ground, at least two-score bullets having found their mark in his body. The cars roared away down the street. Tony went to bed with exultation welling strong within him. He had returned the same way he had departed and, he was positive, without being seen. When the police questioned the attendants of the building as they were sure to do, the two men would earnestly and unknowingly furnish him with a perfect alibi, for there was no other available entrance to the building save the one at which they were on duty. Flanagan was gone. A score that had been accumulating for years had finally been settled. Now for Moran! CHAPTER XXV The newspapers the following afternoon gave Tony a shock. The Police Commissioner, in a lengthy statement about Flanagan’s daring assassination, said that he felt that younger men were necessary to cope with these modern gangsters, and announced the promotion of Lieutenant Ben Guarino to Captain and Chief of Detectives. The new Chief, in a statement of his own, announced it as his opinion that the affair of the night before was the work of Tony Camonte and his gang, and promised to run Tony out of town or kill him in the attempt. Tony laughed at that; then he frowned. It wasn’t a nice thought to know that your own brother had sworn publicly to hunt you to the death. God! This family mix-up in his affairs was beginning to get on his nerves. Then Tony’s jaw set and his eyes flashed. If they ever met in a situation where only one could escape, Ben would be just another dick in his eyes. Tony went down to dinner in the dining room of his hotel that evening feeling rather well pleased with himself. One of the waitresses came forward to serve him, her crisply-starched white uniform rustling stiffly. He gave his order without looking up. But when she served his soup, her finely manicured hands caught his attention. From the hands, his glance strayed to her figure, the perfection of which drew his gaze upward to the face. Then he almost jumped out of his chair. For the girl was his sister, Rosie. “You!” he exclaimed. “Yes,” she answered breathlessly in a low tone. “I hoped you wouldn’t notice. But I had to do something, now that Mike’s dead, and this was all I could find.” She hurried away before he could comment or question her further. Tony dipped his spoon into the soup, then paused. That explanation of her presence here did not ring true. He knew that she did not have to work; the monthly sum he had his attorney send to his family was more than sufficient to take care of them all in luxury. Then why was she here? Why, indeed, except to attempt vengeance upon him? He gazed at the soup, his black eyes glittering with suspicion. But the clear liquid told him nothing. Surreptitiously he emptied the contents of his water glass upon the floor, and poured some of the soup into the glass. Then he rose and, concealing the glass by his side, walked toward the door that led into the lobby of the small hotel. “I’ve been called to the telephone,” he explained with a forced smile as he passed her. “Be back in a minute.” Out in the lobby, he called one of his henchmen and handed the glass to him. “Take that over to the drug store across the street right away and have it analysed,” he ordered. “I’ll wait here till you get back.” His thoughts in a turmoil, he waited. But he was positive of the verdict even before his henchman returned and breathlessly announced it! The soup contained enough poison to kill a mule, much less a man! Tony walked back into the dining room with his face an expressionless mask in which only the eyes glittered with life. The nerve of the girl, to get a job in his own hotel so that she could have the opportunity of poisoning him, of exacting the toll for Mike’s death that the law had been unable to collect. God! She was his own sister, all right. He stood beside his table and she came forward, only her flaming cheeks belying her outward coolness. “You get off at seven, don’t you?” he said calmly. “Yes. Why?” “I’ve to go upstairs on business. When you get off, please bring the rest of my dinner up to my private office on the top floor of the hotel. There’ll be a big tip in it,” he added with an attempt at a smile, “and I want to have a little talk with you anyway.” He went up to his office, wondering if she would come of her own free will or at the behest of the gunmen he had ordered to keep a close watch upon her and bring her up in case she should try to get away without complying with his request. He hoped she would come by herself. She did, already attired in an attractive street costume, and carrying a large tray with a number of covered dishes. She set the tray down on his desk. He looked up at her grimly. “Are these things poisoned, too?” he asked. She jerked so violently that she almost dropped the tray and her eyes widened in terror. “I don’t know what–” she stammered. “There’s enough poison in that soup you served me to kill a dozen men,” he continued smoothly. “And they don’t usually poison it in the kitchen. So you must have done it.” “Yes, I did,” she snapped with sudden defiance. “I loved Mike and you murdered him. You cheated the law but I resolved that you shouldn’t cheat me. And I got this job so I could get you. But you’ve found it out. Now, what are you going to do about it?” The abrupt directness of her methods, so very like his own, disconcerted him for a moment. “I haven’t decided,” he admitted finally. “I ought to have you taken for a ride but I think you’re too brave to be finished up by a stab in the back like that. Do you realise the danger you’re in?” “Yes. I’ve known all the time what a long chance I was taking. But Mike’s dead; what difference did it make?” “Mike was a hoodlum,” snapped Tony harshly. “A gunman and a thug. He’d killed a lot of people and was always ready to kill more whenever I said the word and was ready to pay the price.” “I suppose you think you’re better,” sneered the girl. “That’s not the question. We’re talking about Mike. He wasn’t worthy of any girl’s love. But I want you to know that I had no idea you two were married. I thought he was just going to take advantage of you, as he had so many other girls. That’s why I – I bumped him off.” A tenderness had come into Tony’s voice. He caught himself as he saw her staring at him, wide-eyed. “What’s the matter?” he demanded. “N-n-nothing. For a minute, you seemed so much like – someone I – once knew.” Tony breathed hoarsely for an instant and turned away so that she could see only the scarred side of his face. She had almost recognised him. “I’m sorry about Mike. But it just had to be,” he said doggedly. “And you’ll be a lot better off. Someday you’ll thank me for what I did. So run along and forget Mike. And from now on, be careful of the guys you pick. You’re too nice a girl to be chasing around with gunmen.” “How would you like to mind your own business?” she blazed, her eyes glistening with incipient tears. “Fine. You might do the same. And don’t try to poison any more gang leaders; some of them might not like it … If you need any money–” “I don’t,” she snapped proudly. “And I won’t. We have plenty.” Tony felt a thrill of satisfaction. They would never know, of course, that their prosperity was due to him. But he was glad that he had been able to make them comfortable. “All right then – girlie,” he said slowly. “And just remember that you’re the only person that ever tried to kill Tony Camonte and lived to tell about it.” Still staring at him curiously, a perplexed frown wrinkling her brows, she finally departed. Tony heaved a long sigh. Well, that was over. Abruptly he switched his agile, daring mind back to the matter which had become an obsession with him – the wreaking of vengeance upon the officials to whom he had paid so much but who, in time of crisis, had betrayed him. And then he realised that there was something bigger to all this than venting his personal spite upon these officials who had betrayed not only him but their trust. For the first time in his hectic life he felt the social impulse which is, at once, the cause and the result of civilisation – the realisation that the welfare of mankind was more important than his own preservation, the realisation that he owed something to the world. In the grip of new emotions, of strange ideas and convictions hitherto foreign to him, he wrote steadily for two hours. When he had finished he read through the pile of sheets with grim satisfaction, then folded and sealed them, together with a small black leather-covered notebook, in a large envelope, across whose face he wrote: To be delivered unopened to the Evening American the day after my death. Then he locked it up in his desk. He realised, of course, the sensation that would follow its ultimate publication but he had no idea that he had just written, with amazing brevity and directness, the most significantly damning indictment of American political machines ever composed. Yet that proved to be the case. Its publication, unknown to him, was to cause the suicide of half a dozen prominent men, the ruination of innumerable others, a complete reorganisation of the government and police administration of not only that city but many others; and, by its revelation to the common voter behind the scenes of activities of so-called public servants, and their close connection with the underworld, was to prove the most powerful weapon of modern times for the restoration of decent, dependable government in the larger cities. But he would have laughed unbelievingly had anyone told him that now. And he wouldn’t have been particularly interested. This social consciousness that had come over him for a time was too new a thing to him to be permanent. Already he was hungry again for action, for personal vengeance against those whom he felt had it coming to them. His cunning mind leaped to the problem which was, momentarily, his main purpose in life – the killing of Moran, that ratty assistant district attorney. The telephone at his elbow jangled loudly in the complete silence of the room. He lifted the receiver, growled a curt “Hello,” and listened to the voice that came rapidly to him with its report. When he hung up, his eyes were sparkling. Five minutes later, he and four of his most trusted men – that is, best paid – drove away in a high-powered sedan. To the far South Side they drove rapidly, yet at a pace not sufficiently rapid to attract attention. For they were in enemy territory there. If their presence was discovered, a dozen carloads of gangsters, representing the various small and always turbulent south Side mobs – would be gunning for them. There was danger, too, from detective bureau squad cars. With the contents of his car what it was, Tony realised that it would be impossible for him to give a satisfactory explanation of his presence in enemy territory. And if they should happen to be picked up by a squad that wouldn’t listen to reason, they should probably find themselves in a nasty jam. Across the street from a saloon in a dark neighbourhood, they stopped. The engine of their car had been cut off a block away and they had coasted up to their objective, the carefulapplication of their well-greased brakes preventing any sound as they came to a halt. The chauffeur remained under the wheel, ready for the instant getaway that would be imperative, Tony and the other three men slipped on masks that completely concealed their faces. Then, carrying machine guns, they hurried silently across the street. Noiselessly as ghosts they appeared in the doorway, their weapons poised ready for instant destruction. A score of men were lined up at the bar. And at the end stood Moran, chatting chummily with four men who looked to be very improper companions for an assistant district attorney. In fact, two of them were prominent Irish bootleggers of the far South Side jungles, whom he had prosecuted unsuccessfully for murder not many months before. The bartender, facing the door, was the first to see the masked intruders as they stood silently side by side with ready weapons. The way he stiffened and stared attracted the notice of the others because they began turning around to see what held his fascinated gaze. “Hands up, everyone!” barked Tony brusquely. “My God! It’s–” cried Moran. But the rest of the sentence was drowned in the vicious stuttering of Tony’s machine gun. Without so much as a gasp, Moran fell forward, almost cut in two by the hurtling stream of lead. Behind his mask, Tony smiled grimly and swung the spouting black muzzle to include the two Irish bootleggers. Anyone that could stand being chummy with Moran was sure to be a rat and much better out of the way, and these two were notorious bad eggs anyway. As he watched them drop, Tony felt that he had accomplished a civic improvement. And undoubtedly he had saved the state the expense of trying to hang them again at some future time. Tony loosened the pressure of his forefinger on the machine gun’s trigger and the abrupt silence that followed the gun’s death rattle was startling. “Any o’ you other guys want a dose of this?” he demanded. The men cowered back against the bar, their lifted hands trembling. “Well, don’t come outside for five minutes or you’ll get it.” His henchman on the left turned and walked outside, on the lookout for danger from that direction. Tony followed, then the other two men backed out. During the hectic two minutes inside the saloon, the chauffeur had turned the car around and it stood humming angrily at the curb. They all leaped in and it roared away. Tony was exultant. He had settled all his local scores now, except that with the DA himself and the contents of that envelope he had sealed not long before would take care of him – and how! But there was that New York crowd that were trying to invade his domain and who had tried to bump him off just before his trial. Tony frowned and gritted his teeth when he thought of them. CHAPTER XXVI Money will accomplish miracles anywhere, especially in the underworld and within twenty minutes from the time of Rosie Guarino’s departure from Tony’s private office, Jane Conley’s hired spy had telephoned the information to her. He hadn’t been able to give her full details of what had transpired but he could testify that Tony had offered this girl money – which she had refused. Knowing Tony, Jane felt able to fill in the gaps herself. And it all left her gasping with fury. The fact that she was entirely mistaken in her conclusions made her rage none the less violent. She’d show him that he couldn’t two-time her and get away with it. She was fed up with Tony, anyway. Of late, she had felt an almost irresistible longing for the reckless doings and excitement of her former activities as a gun girl. But Tony wouldn’t permit it. As long as she was his moll, she had to stay at home and behave herself. And home life, even in the luxurious abode he provided, had become wearisome. She had been friendly with only one man. She had always had the retinue of admiring males that surround every beautiful woman, and she missed them now. She felt that she had become entirely submerged to Tony, just another of his many expensive possessions. His supposed philandering was merely the match that set off the powder. For more than two hours she brooded over it all, then she made up her mind. First she telephoned Captain Ben Guarino, and had a pleasant chat with him. It seemed reasonable to suppose that having the chief of detectives for a boyfriend would be a valuable asset to a girl like her. And then she telephoned Tony at his office. “I’ve been very busy tonight,” he said defensively the moment he heard her voice. “I’m sure you have,” she assented. He missed the edge in her tone. “And say, baby, Moran had an accident.” “Really? Were you there?” “Yeah. Just got back.” “That’s splendid. Listen, Tony, I got a real piece of dope for you. That New York outfit has called a big meeting at Jake’s Place for midnight tonight. Those big shots from the East are figuring on organising all the local guys that don’t like you – it’ll save them the trouble of bringing out a lot of their own mugs from New York.” “Jeez! Baby, where’d you hear that?” “Never mind! You don’t doubt it, do you? Didn’t they try to bump you off–?” “Yeah, sure,” asserted Tony eagerly. “And they’re all going to be at Jake’s Place tonight?” “Yes. The New York crowd will be in dark blue Cadillacs – three or four carloads of them – and they’ll probably have the side curtains up. It’s only about eleven-thirty now,” she continued smoothly. “If you hurry, you might be able to meet them on the way out.” “Much obliged, baby. I’ll sure do it.” Jane hung up slowly, a grim smile playing about her rather hard lips. If things went right, there’d be a nice story in the morning papers. If it didn’t, she’d probably wake up with a lily in her hand. Well, what the hell – a girl only lived once and she might as well get all the kick she could out of life. Tony’s headquarters was humming with activity. Quickly he assembled four carloads of gunmen, gave them strict orders, and then climbed in with the group in his personal sedan and the cavalcade raced away. Jake’s Place was a large saloon and gambling establishment catering largely to underworld customers. It was frowsy, sordid and dangerous. Located in a remote, still undeveloped neighbourhood almost at the city limits, it was an ideal setting for gangland deviltry. And it had been the scene of plenty. Tony halted his crew a block away while he took stock of the situation. There were a number of cars parked around the large, frame building but nothing unusual. And he could see no dark blue Cadillacs, either with or without drawn side curtains. Perhaps the boys hadn’t arrived yet; midnight was still ten minutes away. Ah! There they were, a line of cars approaching along the other road that led from the city. In the darkness they looked black but they might be dark blue and they were Cadillacs, all right. There could be no doubt of that. On they came, close together, four of them. Tony felt his heart leap and his, grasp on the machine gun resting in his lap tightened. This would be the biggest coup of his whole career, proving to the world at large that his domain was his, and his alone, not to be invaded by others, no matter how strong they might be in their own regions. He snapped out orders in a low, tense tone and sent a man to relay them to the other cars. Four on each side. One each! His plan was simple and direct. His column would move forward, swing into the road beside the other, then rake the enemy with a terrific fire, annihilating them before they could recover from their surprise at the sudden attack. Each of his cars was to confine its murderous attention to one of the others, the one nearest. Rapidly his column moved forward and swung into the other road. Tony lifted his machine gun and squeezed the trigger. The vicious rat-tat-tat deafened him but he could hear the same stuttering sound coming from his other cars. Then from the cars of the supposed enemy, clear and sharp above the firing, came the clang! Clang! Clang of gongs. “Jeez!” groaned Tony. “It’s cops!” Instead of gangsters, those four cars contained squads of detectives from the bureau. What a horrible mistake! Not that he hated shooting cops, but because of the consequences that were bound to fall upon himself and his men. Unless – Pandemonium reigned. Every one of the eight cars was flaming with gunfire. The banging roar was terrific. Tony tried to keep his head in the bedlam. His forces were in a panic; killing officers was far different than killing enemy gangsters. But there was no backing out now. It was a fight to the death. His chauffeur, too busy to fight and mindful of his own safety as well as his employer’s, tried to run for it. The big car leaped ahead, slewed around the first gang car and shot ahead. But one of the squad cars leaped after, like a spurred horse. For more than a mile the chase lasted. The cars swayed, swerved, bounced. Spurts of fire leaped from gun muzzles in both cars. Two of Tony’s men were unconscious from wounds and another, blood-covered, was raving incoherently, trying to climb out of the racing machine. Tony finally lifted a clenched fist and knocked him cold. He himself miraculously had not been hit. Nor had the chauffeur, apparently. But that squad car was hanging doggedly to their trail. Gaining a little, too. Beside himself with fury, Tony smashed out the back window and cut loose with his machine gun, the acrid smoke filling his nose and mouth and making his eyes smart until he could hardly see. The jolting and high speed made an accurate aim impossible but he knew that some of his shots landed. And nothing happened. They must have a bullet-proof windshield. Well, their tires weren’t bullet-proof. He depressed the hot, blazing muzzle of the machine gun, aiming for the tires. One of them blew out with a bang that sounded above the firing. The heavy car slewed around and toppled over into the ditch. Tony gave a hoarse, savage grunt of triumph. But it was short-lived. For at that moment his own car turned over. The chauffeur had misjudged a turn. Tony was still conscious when the big car ploughed to a stop, resting on its side. But there was no sound from the chauffeur. Tony vindictively hoped the fool was dead. His head whirling, his breath coming in short, harsh gasps that did not suffice, Tony untangled himself from among the heap of dead and wounded. Abruptly he stepped back behind the shelter of the car and rested the machine-gun muzzle on a fender. Two men had climbed out of the squad car and were walking cautiously toward him, revolvers glinting in their right hands. His teeth gritted, Tony squeezed the trigger. But nothing happened; it was empty. He drew his automatic, for so long his main bodyguard. Taking careful aim, he fired. One of the men dropped. The other, warned by the shot, threw up his head and lifted his revolver. But Tony only stared, fascinated, while his nervous fingers refused to obey the command that his numbed mind was trying to send. For the man was his brother, Captain Ben Guarino, the new chief of detectives. Tony saw the revolver flash, then his head snapped back from the impact of the bullet. Anyway, he had always faced it. Two hours later, Captain Guarino sat in his office at the detective bureau receiving the admiring congratulations of his colleagues and telling them the details of the furious battle which had accomplished the finish of the notorious Tony Camonte. “Tony’s old mole give me the tip,” he said complacently. “Suppose they’d had a fuss and she wanted to get back at him. She ain’t a bad-looking dame, either; I met her at Tony’s trial. Bet she got a wad of dough and jewellery outa him, too. Anyhow, she give me a buzz ’bout eleven-thirty tonight and said Tony and his mob was going to pull off a big killing out at Jake’s Place at midnight. And that was my chance to get him with the goods. I could see that myself so I got some of the boys and went out. But you know, I can’t see what made Tony and his mob start after us the minute they seen us – But God! Wasn’t it lucky his gun jammed? He was a dead shot, that guy; for a minute I thought sure I was going to wake up with a wreath on my chest. But you never can tell about an automatic.” But even an automatic cannot jam when the trigger has not been pulled. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
historyOn June 30, 1980, a promising young academic got into his car in Guyana. Minutes later a bomb detonated and he was instantly killed. That man was Walter Rodney, an influential historian whose thinking about Africa and the colonial legacy caused an uproar in the 1960s and 70s. But who was Rodney really and what was his academic legacy? And was his mysterious murder in any way connected to his revolutionary ideas? We asked Dwayne Wong Omowale, author of The Political and Intellectual Legacy of Walter Rodney. Why is Walter Rodney such an important character in African intellectual history? Dwayne Wong Omowale: Walter Rodney’s importance to African intellectual history is the work that he was doing was very revolutionary in many ways. He was a historian and political activist who challenged many of the racist ideologies and ideas that were prominent in academia at the time, but more so than challenging the often racist and Eurocentric narratives about Africa’s history, Rodney also spoke out against the injustices that were being inflicted against African people around the world. What is also especially noteworthy about Rodney is that he seemed to have left a profound impact wherever he worked, whether it was in Guyana, Jamaica, Tanzania, or in the United States. Prior to this death, Rodney was also planning to move to Zimbabwe because he was invited to work as a professor there. Very few Pan-African intellectuals left the type of global legacy that Rodney did. Tell us a little about his background, his family and education? Dwayne Wong Omowale: Rodney was born in British Guiana in 1942. His father was a member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which was led by an Indian man named Cheddi Jagan. At the time the PPP was the leading anti-colonial political party in British Guiana. Eventually there was a split between Jagan and Forbes Burnham, who was one of the founders of the PPP. Burnham would go on to create his own political party, the People’s National Congress (PNC). Burnham would go on to lead British Guiana into independence in 1966 and the name of the country was subsequently changed to Guyana after independence. In school Rodney was able to distinguish himself as a very brilliant student and he eventually earned a scholarship to study at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He then completed his doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England in 1966. Rodney was 24 at the time that he finished his doctorate. The interesting thing about this is that when Rodney began working as a professor in Tanzania some thought that he was one of the students because Rodney was actually younger than many of the students there. When did he start developing his theories about colonialism? Dwayne Wong Omowale: As I mentioned, Rodney’s father was involved in the PPP at the time. As a child Rodney was tasked with distributing party manifestos, so Rodney was introduced to politics and the anti-colonial struggle in Guyana at a young age. As an undergraduate at the University of the West Indies, Rodney was involved in campus activities, which included many of the political discussions that were being held at the time. In 1962, Rodney traveled to Cuba and returned with a book by Che Guevara. That same year Rodney also attended a congress that was held in Russia. It was during this period as an undergraduate that Rodney was being exposed to communist literature and this would continue when Rodney went to study in England. There Rodney was in contact with communists. C.L.R. James, who was from Trinidad, was a significant influence for Rodney. James was a Pan-Africanist and a Marxist theoretician. Rodney participated in study groups with James and other Marxists in England. Rodney’s theories regarding colonialism were developed during his years in college as an undergraduate and a graduate student, but Rodney was exposed to the anti-colonial struggle since he was a child. According to Rodney the West prevented Africa from developing after liberation. Especially the multinationals were blamed. With the benefit of hindsight, does his theories still hold water? Dwayne Wong Omowale: In hindsight much of what Rodney said regarding multinationals is still very much true. We can look at the blood diamond controversy for example. Civil wars in countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Congo were financed by Western diamond industries. In Botswana the San people took the government to court because the government of Botswana was trying to evict the San people from their land in order to gain access to the diamond deposits there. Aside from blood diamonds, there is also the issue of coltan from the Congo. Coltan is used for electrical devices such as smart phones. The mining of coltan has included forced labor, as well as child labor. These are just two quick examples of how multinational corporations have been exploiting Africa’s resources and hindering Africa’s development since Rodney died. There still is this persistent issue of foreign nations benefiting from Africa’s resources at the expense of the African people. Much of the mineral wealth and resources that is extracted from Africa benefits foreign corporations and foreign nations, but Africa remains underdeveloped and the African masses are still struggling. This relationship has not changed very significantly since Rodney was alive. What sort of reception did his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972) get? It was not as scholarly as his dissertation? Dwayne Wong Omowale: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is Rodney’s most well-known book. The reception to it has been very positive largely because Rodney was able to put Africa’s underdevelopment and poverty into its proper historical context. Rodney was not the first person to suggest that there was a relationship between Africa’s underdevelopment and Europe’s exploitation of Africa, but How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was a very extensive study of that relationship. It was also a very important work because it dispelled the idea that colonialism was a benefit for African people. Colonialism was often justified on the basis of bringing civilization or modern advances to Africa, but Rodney demonstrated that the technological gains that Africa made as a result of colonialism were very minimal at best and this was offset by the tremendous suffering that Africans endured as a result of colonialism. Medical care is one area that Rodney specifically addressed. Typically, the best medical care was reserved for Europeans who were living in Africa and Africans were forced to be treated in hospitals that were in very poor condition. In most cases Africans simply did not have access to hospitals at all because the European administrations decided not to build one. Rodney also criticized the fact that in many colonies the Europeans not only failed to provide medical care, but they also failed to train African doctors. The benefits of modern medicine from Western society was not something that the majority of Africans were not able to truly benefit from, yet Africans badly needed proper healthcare because they were being overworked and underfed by the colonial administrations. Malnourishment and curable diseases killed many Africans during colonialism. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was more of a polemic against colonialism in Africa than Rodney’s dissertation was, so it may not have been as scholarly in that regard, but How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was still very thoroughly researched and built on some of the arguments that Rodney had made in his dissertation. He was quite a controversial figure on Jamaica where he worked for a while. What were the 1968 Rodney Riots? Dwayne Wong Omowale: He was very controversial in Jamaica. At the time there was a growing Black Power movement in the Caribbean, which was influenced by the Black Power movement in the United States. Many in the Caribbean were frustrated with the fact that colonialism had ended, but there was still a lot of poverty in the region, so for the masses of people in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries independence did not bring about a significant change in their situation. Caribbean governments were very uncomfortable with this development. For example, Jamaica banned books by Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and other activists who were deemed to be too radical. What made Rodney so controversial is that he was very critical of the Jamaican government for neglecting the black masses on the island. Rodney himself wrote about meeting with people who lived in rubbish dumps. This was the type of abject poverty that existed in Jamaica at the time. Rodney was also preaching the same message of Black Power which the Jamaican government was attempting to censor. In 1968, Rodney went to Canada to attend a conference. When he attempted to return to Jamaica, he was denied entry into the country. What became known as the Rodney Riots was a reaction to the news that Rodney was banned. People in Jamaica took to the streets and began rioting to express their frustration that Rodney, who had become a very popular figure in Jamaica, was banned. Rodney was seen as a spokesperson for the struggling masses in Jamaica, so banning him sent the message that the Jamaican government truly did not care about the suffering of its own citizens. The Jamaican opposition also criticized the government’s decision to ban Rodney. Hugh Shearer was the prime minister of Jamaica at the time Rodney was banned and he would go on to lose to Michael Manley in the election that was held in 1972, so in a sense the Rodney Riots also represented an important shift in Jamaica’s politics. Unlike Shearer, Manley was much more supportive of the Black Power movement. In his writings Rodney often referred to “race” and “class”? Are these terms sufficient to explain the historical period he was writing about? Dwayne Wong Omowale: I would argue that these terms are sufficient. For Rodney, both race and class were important to truly understand the oppression of African people around the world. As an African descendant, Rodney was combating the racial oppression that African people were experiencing around the world, but he was also a Marxist who was fighting against the class structure of the global capitalistic society as well. Class was important to Rodney’s analysis because within this racist capitalist structure there were certain Africans who were able to amass somewhat of a privileged position. This included the Caribbean and African heads of government whom Rodney was very critical of. These Africans belonged to the class of people whom Rodney referred to as the “petit bourgeoisie.” Rodney included himself in this class as well because he worked in academia. Rodney saw this class of Africans—the petit bourgeoisie class—as people who benefited from the exploitation of the African working class. He included academics in this category because many of them earned a comfortable living working at public universities which were paid for by taxpayers, but few of these academics truly served the interests of the African working class. In Rodney’s view the struggles of African people around the world was not just a struggle against racism, but also a struggle against a global capitalist system which exploited working class Africans around the world and a system in which a particular class of Africans were benefiting from at the expense of the masses. Race and class were especially important in Guyana, where politics were polarized based on race. I mentioned the split between Burnham and Jagan before. This not only created a political split in Guyana, but a racial split as well, which resulted in violence between Africans and Indians in Guyana in the 1960s. When Rodney returned to Guyana in 1974, he joined an organization known as the Working People’s Alliance. The WPA was trying to create racial unity in Guyana and criticized both political parties for exploiting Guyana’s racial tension for their own purposes, so within that context the class structure of Guyana was just as important to Rodney as the racial make up of the country as well. What sort of views did Rodney have on the transatlantic slave trade? Dwayne Wong Omowale: In Rodney’s view the transatlantic slave trade began the underdevelopment of Africa, which is a process that would continue under colonialism. You mentioned Rodney’s dissertation before and the slave trade was a very central topic in his dissertation. In his writings Rodney mentions some of the ways in which the slave trade adversely impacted Africa’s development. He wrote that it completely changed the social and political organization in West Africa, as well as stagnating both Africa’s population and economic development. Rodney also applied his views of class and race to the slave trade. Rodney wrote that the European ruling class and the African ruling class jointly preyed on the African masses during the slave trade. Rodney argued that the slave trade not only sharpened class divisions in Africa, but that the slave trade was a forerunner for the present day “neo-colonial” situation in Africa in which African politicians and multinational corporations jointly work together to exploit the African masses. So, on an academic level the slave trade was central to Rodney’s work because the slave trade is not only where Africa’s underdevelopment began, but it is also where certain class formations began forming in Africa. Apart from Rodney’s views on the slave trade as a historian, the slave trade was also important to the work that he was doing as a political activist. The slave trade stole millions of Africans away from their homeland, so a lot of the work that Rodney was engaged in was an effort to reconnect with that lost African identity. This was one of the reasons why Rodney became so interested in studying African history and why he worked as a professor in Africa. Rodney felt that it was important for African descendants in the Americas to reconnect with their African roots and to take pride in their identity as descendants of Africa. Was there any relationship between Walter Rodney and Immanuel Wallerstein?  Dwayne Wong Omowale: I am not sure honestly. The two men shared many of the same ideas regarding the adverse impact that colonialism had in Africa and they were both very critical of capitalism, but the precise nature of their relationship is not something that I am aware of. I was able to come across information about a letter that Wallerstein had sent to Rodney, which included a cheque, but I am not sure what Rodney did to earn this cheque. That is the most that I know about the relationship between the two men. Who were Rodney’s chief academic opponents at the time? Dwayne Wong Omowale: That is an interesting question because usually the focus tends to be on Rodney’s political opponents, such as the governments of Jamaica and Guyana. Rodney was a Marxist, an anti-colonialist, and an anti-imperialist, so many of his academic opponents were typically people in academia who were opposed to the ideas that Rodney was putting forward. The example that comes to mind is a historian named J.D. Fage, who disagreed with Rodney’s views on the slave trade for many reasons. Fage argued that the slave trade was good for Africa’s political development, whereas Rodney held the opposite view. Fage also accused Rodney of romanticizing Africa. Rodney was challenging many prevailing ideas about Africa’s history at the time, such as the notion of Africa being a “Dark Continent” which had no civilizations of its own until Europeans arrived, so much of the opposition that Rodney received came from scholars like Fage who wanted to hold on to these ideas about Africa. There are many theories about his murder? Some speculate that the West was involved somehow? Is there any truth to this? After all, this was the Cold War and Rodney was a socialist? Dwayne Wong Omowale: It would be difficult to say how much Western involvement there was. I know there is a lot of speculation that the West was involved not only because of the political climate at the time, which you alluded to, but also because Burnham was someone who was helped into power by the United States and Britain. Jagan, whom I mentioned before, was a communist. Western countries saw Burnham as a more moderate alternative to Jagan, although Burnham was a professed socialist as well. Western countries intervened in Guyana to ensure that Burnham was the prime minister of Guyana by the time the country became independent. Burnham remained in power in Guyana from 1966 until his death in 1985. The view that some Guyanese have expressed to me is that the same CIA which helped Burnham take power in Guyana was still assisting Burnham to remain in power, so the CIA eliminated Rodney because of the threat that Rodney potentially posed to Burnham’s government. It is difficult to say with certainty because when Rodney was killed there was not a real investigation to find out what happened. The government at the time alleged that Rodney had killed himself with his own bomb, but there was never an official investigation. In 2015 there was a commission of inquiry held on Rodney’s assassination. The commission concluded that Rodney was indeed assassinated and that Prime Minister Burnham was complicit in the plot to kill Rodney. The commission also presented evidence to dispel the notion that Rodney had blown himself up with his own bomb. As to how much of a role the CIA or other Western entities played, I am not aware of any documents or evidence that directly links Western entities to Rodney’s assassination and this was not something that was discussed at the commission, although there is good reason to believe that the CIA may have been involved. What sort of reactions did his death cause at the time? Dwayne Wong Omowale: I have some personal experience with this because I was born in Guyana. My mother, who was still a child at the time, attended some of Rodney’s rallies. She told me that she was devastated, so much so that she had buried her memory of Rodney deep in her subconscious, until I reminded her about him more than three decades later. Many of the Guyanese who supported Rodney felt this same feeling of shock and devastation regarding Rodney’s assassination. It is estimated that as many as 35,000 people attended Rodney’s funeral. It is also important to understand what was happening leading up to Rodney’s death as well. Prior to Rodney being killed, there was a Guyanese journalist and priest named Bernard Drake, who was stabbed to death because of his criticisms of the government. There was also the Jonestown massacre which happened in 1978, so this was a very dark period in Guyana’s history and Rodney’s death added to the fear and uncertainty that Guyanese were feeling about the future of the country. Rodney inspired hope in many Guyanese, so to have him be killed—especially in such a horrible manner—was a very devastating blow to Guyana. What do you think Rodney would say about the way Africa is today, almost 40 years after his death? Dwayne Wong Omowale: As I indicated earlier, I think much of what Rodney said still applies today, so I am sure that much of what Rodney was saying about Africa in the 1970s is what he would be saying today if he were alive. Africa is still underdeveloped and the petit bourgeoisie African leaders that Rodney denounced when he was alive are still in authority in Africa today. I also think Rodney would be encouraged by some of the events that have been happening in Africa. In recent years there have been uprisings and protests that have resulted in regime changes in countries such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, and more recently the Sudan. Togo, which has the oldest military regime in Africa, experienced mass protests in 2017 and the Togolese activists are still fighting to end dictatorship in Togo. Rodney wrote a pamphlet titled, “People’s Power, No Dictator.” The pamphlet was directed specifically at the Burnham regime in Guyana, but in it Rodney also wrote very broadly about dictatorships and why the masses must organize to liberate themselves from dictatorships. Rodney argued that the people must mobilize to liberate themselves from oppression and this is something that we are witnessing today across Africa. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyBy Aleister Crowley atricia Fleming threw the reins to a groom, and ran up the steps into the great house, her thin lips white with rage. Lord Eyre followed her heavily. ‘I’ll be down in half an hour,’ she laughed merrily, ‘tell Dawson to bring you a drink!’ Then she went straight through the house, her girlish eyes the incarnation of a curse. For the third time she had failed to bring Geoffrey Eyre to her feet. She looked into her hat; there in the lining was the talisman that she had tested—and it had tricked her. What do I need? she thought. Must it be blood? She was a maiden of the pure English strain; brave, gay, honest, shrewd—and there was not one that guessed the inmost fire that burnt her. For she was but a child when the Visitor came. The first of the Visits was in a dream. She woke choking; the air—clear, sweet, and wholesome as it blew through the open window from the Chilterns—was fouled with a musty stench. And she woke her governess with a tale of a tiger. The second Visit was again at night. She had been hunting, was alone at the death, had beaten off the hounds. That night she heard a fox bark in her room. She spent a sleepless night of terror; in the morning she found the red hairs of a fox upon her pillow. The third Visit was nor in sleep nor waking. But she tightened her lips, and would have veiled the hateful gleam in her eyes. It was that day, though, that she struck a servant with her riding-whip. She was so sane that she knew exactly wherein her madness lay; and she set all her strength not to conquer but to conceal it. Two years later, and Patricia Fleming, the orphan heiress of Carthwell Abbey, was the county toast, Diana of the Chilterns. Yet Geoffrey Eyre evaded her. His dog’s fidelity and honesty kept him true to the little north-country girl that three months earlier had seduced his simplicity. He did not even love her; but she had made him think so for an hour; and his pledged word held him. Patricia’s open favour only made him hate her because of its very seduction. It was really his own weakness that he hated. Patricia ran, tense and angry, through the house. The servants noticed it. The mistress has been crossed, they thought, she will go to the chapel and get ease. Praising her.True, to the chapel she went; locked the door, dived behind the altar, struck a secret panel, came suddenly into a priest’s hiding-hole, a room large enough to hold a score of men if need be. At the end of the room was a great scarlet cross, and on it, her face to the wood, her wrists and ankles swollen over the whip lashes that bound her, hung a naked girl, big-boned, voluptuous. Red hair streamed over her back. ‘What, Margaret! so blue?’ laughed Patricia. ‘I am cold,’ said the girl upon the cross, in an indifferent voice. ‘Nonsense, dear!’ answered Patricia, rapidly divesting herself of her riding-habit. ‘There is nohint of frost; we had a splendid run, and a grand kill. You shall be warm yet, for all that.’ This time the girl writhed and moaned a little. Patricia took from an old wardrobe a close-fitting suit of fox fur, and slipped it on her slim white body. ‘Did I make you wait, dear?’ she said, with a curious leer. ‘I am the keener for the sport, be sure!’ She took the faithless talisman from her hat. It was a little square of vellum, written upon in black. She took a hairpin from her head, pierced the talisman, and drove the pin into the girl’s thigh. ‘They must have blood,’ said she. ‘Now see how I will turn the blue to red! Come! don’t wince: you haven’t had it for a month.’ Then her ivory arm slid like a serpent from the furs, and with the cutting whip she struck young Margaret between the shoulders. A shriek rang out: its only echo was Patricia’s laugh, childlike, icy, devilish. She struck again and again. Great weals of purple stood on the girl’s back; froth tinged with blood came from her mouth, for she had bitten her lips and tongue in agony. Patricia grew warm and rosy—exquisitely beautiful. Her bare breasts heaved; her lips parted; her whole body and soul seemed lapped in ecstasy. ‘I wish you were Geoffrey, girlie!’ she panted. Then the skin burst. Raw flesh oozed blood that dribbled down Margaret’s back. Still the fair maid struck and struck in the silence, until the tiny rivulets met and waxed great and touched the talisman. She threw the bloody whalebone into a corner, and went upon her knees. She kissed her friend; she kissed the talisman; and again kissed the girl, the warm blood staining her pure lips. She took the talisman, and hid it in her bosom. Last of all she loosened the cords, and Margaret sank in a heap to the floor. Patricia threw furs over her and rolled her up in them; brought wine, and poured it down her throat. She smiled, kindly, like a sister. ‘Sleep now awhile, sweetheart!’ she whispered, and kissed her forehead. It was a very demure and self-possessed little maiden that made dinner lively for poor Geoffrey, who was thinking over his mistake. Patricia’s old aunt, who kept house for her, smiled on the flirtation. It was not by accident that she left them alone sitting over the great fire. ‘Poor Margaret has her rheumatism again,’ she explained innocently; ‘I must go and see how she is.’ Loyal Margaret! So it happened that Geoffrey lost his head. ‘The ivy is strong enough’ (she had whispered, ere their first kiss had hardly died). ‘Before the moon is up, be sure!’ and glided off just as the aunt returned. Eyre excused himself; half a mile from the house he left his horse to his man to Lead home, and ten minutes later was groping for Patricia in the dark. White as a lily in body and soul, she took him in her arms. Awaking as from death, he suddenly cried out, ‘Oh God! What is it? Oh my God! my God! Patricia! Your body! Your body!’ ‘Yours!’ she cooed. ‘Why, you’re all hairy!’ he cried. ‘And the scent! the scent!’ From without came sharp and resonant the yap of a hound as the moon rose. Patricia put her hands to her body. He was telling the truth. ‘The Visitor!’ she screamed once with fright, and was silent. He switched the light on, and she screamed again. There was a savage lust upon his face. ‘This afternoon,’ he cried, ‘you called me a dog. I looked like a dog and thought like a dog; and, by God! I am a dog. I’ll act like a dog then!’ Obedient to some strange instinct, she dived from the bed for the window. But he was on her; his teeth met in her throat. In the morning they found the dead bodies of both hound and fox—but how did that explain the wonderful elopement of Lord Eyre and Miss Fleming? For neither of them was ever seen again. I think Margaret understands; in the convent which she rules today there hangs beside a blood-stained cutting-whip the silver model of a fox, with the inscription: ‘Patricia Margaritæ vulpis vulpem dedit.’ Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short story  “Karen’s Christmas” by Amalie Skram Translated by Michael Henrik Wynn At one of the steamship ports in Kristiania there was some years ago a gray wooden structure with a flat roof, no chimney, just over two and a half yards long and slightly shorter in width. At both end walls there was a small window, one slightly higher than the other. The door opened onto the waterfront and could be shut both from the inside and the outside with iron hooks that connected to eyes of the same metal. The hut was originally erected for the ferrymen in order to provide shelter from rainy days and winter chills when they sat waiting for travelers to demand passage. Later, when the small steamships assumed more and more of the traffic, the ferrymen moved elsewhere. Now, the building temporarily became a residence for whomever had a use for it. The latest occupants were some masons who, two at the time, used to eat their meals there when they one summer repaired a nearby quay. Eventually, nobody took any notice of the little old shack. It remained where it stood because the port authorities never conceived of the idea of removing it, and because nobody complained that it was in the way of anyone or anything. Then, one winter night in December just before Christmas. There wasn’t much snow because it melted as it fell, and that made the mud on the cobblestones of the quay even thicker and more sticky. The snow lay like a fine-meshed gray cover on the gaslights and the steam powered cranes, and if you reached the ships, you could see that it hung like a festoon from the masts and the riggings. The dirty yellow glare of gaslights burnt in the dark-gray humid air, while the lanterns glowed murky and red. Now and again a sharp chime cut through the damp atmosphere, when the watch on board struck eight bells. The constable who patrolled the quay stopped by the gaslights just outside the former refuge of the ferrymen. He pulled out his watch to check how late it was, but as he held up to the light, he heard something resembling the cries of a baby. His lowered his hand, looked about and listened. No, it couldn’t be? Then he looked at his watch again. Yet again there was the sound, this time mingled with a calming hush. He lowered his hand again, and again there was quiet. What kind of devil’s trickery was this? He looked around, but found nothing. A third time the watch was raised to the glare of the gaslight and this time he could, in the silent night, see that it was soon 4 o’clock. He drifted along the quay, passed the old shack, wondered a little, but then dismissed it all as pure fancy….Or how could it be? A little while later when he returned the same way, he approached the hut. What was that? Didn’t he detect movement inside? Light from gas-lamps flowed in through both the windows in the end walls, and made it seem as if the interior was illuminated. He walked over and looked in. Quite right. There was a shape on the bench right under the window, a tiny huddled up creature, who leaned forward fiddling with something, he could not see what. He stepped around the corner, stopped at the door and tried to enter. It was locked. “Open up!” – he shouted and and knocked with his knuckels. He heard someone startled. There was a faint exclamation, then all turned quiet. He knocked again with his fist and repeated: “You in there, open up! Open up this instance.” “What do you want? Dear God, there is no one here,” – said the terrified voice on the other side of the door. “Open up. It is the police!” “My goodness, the police–oh my dear, it is just little old me. I am not doing any harm, I am just sittin’ here, you see”. “Can’t you get a move on and open this door, or I will most certainly give it to you straight. Will you…” He got no further, for at that very moment the door opened, and in the next instance he hunched through the doorway into the tiny room, where there was barely enough space to stand upright. “Are you mad? Not allowing the police entrance! What were you thinking?” “I am so sorry Mr. Policeman, — I did open the door, you see.” “And that was the best thing you could have done,” he growled. “Who are you anyway, and who has given you permission to take up lodging here?” “It is just me, Karen,” –she whispered. “I’m sittin’ here with my babe” The policeman eyed her over closely. She was a slim little thing with a pale and narrow face. There was a deep scrofula scar, a straight line, on one cheek. She was barely an adult. She wore a light brown garment, some kind of sweater or jacket, with a cut that betrayed its age, and a darker skirt, which hung like rags down to her ankles. On her feet there were a pair of worn-out soldier’s boots, laces missing. In her one arm she held a bundle of cloth, which lay across her waist. Something white protruded from the top end of the bundle. It was a baby’s head, which suckled her meager breast. The woman had tied a ragged scarf around her head which was fastened under her chin. From her neck locks of hair stuck out. Her entire body shivered from cold, and when she moved, there came squishy and squeaking sounds from her boots, as if she was stepping in mud. “I didn’t think I would be a bother to anyone” she stated in her shrill voice – “the hut is here anyway, isn’t it?” The policeman suddenly felt uneasy. At first he had had intended to drive her out into the streets with harsh words – let her off with a warning. But then he saw the miserable wretch before him with a tiny child in her arms pushing up against the bench, so fearful and humble that she was afraid to sit down. He could not help but be moved. “But dear God, my child, what are you doing here?” She perceived the sympathy of his voice, her fears settled and she began to cry. The constable reached for the door and swung it shut. “Sit down for a moment” – he said – “the child is so heavy” She slid down unto the bench. “Now, then”- the constable said encouragingly and sat down on the bench opposite her. “Oh dear, Mr Constable – let me stay here” she lisped through her tears. “I won’t do no mischief – not the slightest – keep clean, I will. You can see for yourself, I am hygienic. What you see over there are breadcrusts “. She pointed to bundle on the floor. “I go begging every day –  there’s some water in the bottle. Let me stay the nights here, till I get back my job back – if only the Madame will come for me”. She blew her nose in her fingers and wiped them on her skirt. “And this Madame, whoever might that be?” asked the constable. “I was in her service, see. I had ever such a nice position with board, 4 shillings a month and breakfast. But then I got knocked up, you see, and then I had to go, of course, Madame Olsen herself went to the Charity and got me in. She is ever so kind. I was in her service right until I went there. You see, Madame Olsen is on her own, and she said she would keep me as long as I managed. But then Madame Olsen had to travel, see, she is a midwife. And then she got ill and bed-ridden out there in the countryside. And now they say she won’t be comin’ home till Christmas.” “But dear God, are you planning to roam the streets with this baby while you are you are waiting for this Madame! What good can come of this?” The constable shook his head. “I have nowhere to go” she whimpered. “Since my father died there is no one to help me when my stepmother throws me into the streets.” “What about the father of your child?” “Oh him,” she said and made a slight toss with her neck. “I don’t think he will be of much help either.” “But surely you know that you can get him sentenced to pay child support?” “Yes, they say so,” she replied. “But how are we going to go about it, when he doesn’t exist?” “You just give me his name,” the constable interjected, “then he will be produced, you will see.” “Yes, if I only knew,” she said casually. “What are you saying? You don’t know the name of the father of your own child?” Karen stuck a finger in her mouth and begun to suck on it. Her head tilted forward. She smiled in a helpless, silly way. “N-O” she whispered with a long emphasis on each letter and without removing her finger from her mouth. “Never in my life have I heard such a thing,” the constable began, “How on earth did you hook up with this man?” “I met him in the streets at night, when it was dark,” she replied without a hint of bashfulness, “but it didn’t go long before he was gone, and I haven’t seen him since” “Have you not made inquiries?” “Of course I have, but nobody knows where he has gone. He has probably gone into the country, because he either worked with horses or carriages, I could tell from his smell.” “My God, what a mess you are in,” the constable muttered. “you must report to the authorities,” he said more loudly, –“then they can work things out for you.” “No, I won’t do that,” she answered with sudden defiance” “Surely it must be better to go to the workhouse and receive food and shelter than what you are doing now?” the constable said. “Yes, but when Madame Olsen arrives — she is so kind, Madame Olsen — she will make me a temporary maid. I know this for a fact, because she promised me she would. Then I know a woman who will give us board for 3 shillings a month. She will look after the wee one while I am with Madame Olsen. And then I will help her out when I return from the Madame. It will all work out fine, when Madame Olsen comes. She will be here for Christmas, they say.” “Very well, my dear, every adult know their own business. But you have no right to stay in this here hut.” “What does it matter if I sit here at nights – does it harm anyone? Dear God, let me stay, the wee one won’t cry. Only till the Madame arrives. Dear Mr. Constable, only till the Madame arrives.” “But you will freeze yourself blue, you and the child.” He looked at her poor clothes. “Surely, this will be better than walking the streets? Oh, dear Mr. Constable- only til the Madame arrives.” “Really, you should have accompanied me to the station, you see,” the constable said and thoughtfully scratched his ear. She startled and moved towards him. “No, don’t do it,” she whimpered as her frozen fingers caught hold of his sleeve. “I beg you- in the name of our beautiful Lord – only till the Madame arrives.” The constable reconsidered. There were only three days till Christmas, he counted. “Very well,” he said as he got up. “You can stay till Christmas, but not a day longer. And mind you, no one must know that you are here.” “God bless you, God bless you, and thank you,” she exclaimed. But remember to be gone by 6 o’clock in the morning, before the rush of traffic begins out here,” he added when he was half-way out the door. The next night, when he passed the hut, he stopped and looked in. She sat leaning against the window, the profile of her scarfed head dimly visible against the glass. The child was at her breast suckling. She did not move and seemed to be asleep. Next morning, it was freezing. During the next day the thermometer dropped to 12 degrees below. It was bitterly cold, calm and cloudless. Rime formed on the windows of the tiny ferryman’s hut, the glass was no longer transparent. The weather changed again Christmas Eve. There was a thaw, and every surface seemed to drip. You almost needed an umbrella, even if there was no rain. The storehouse windows were frost-free, and the roads more slippery than ever. The constable arrived in the afternoon around two. His doctor had given him leave of absence from work the last few nights because of a feverish cold. Now he was coming down to talk with a man on one of the steamships. It so happened that he passed the hut on his way there. Even in the fading daylight he saw, at several paces, something which caused him to stop. It filled his mind with worry. There she was seated in precisely the same position as she was two nights ago. The same profile was visible against the glass. He really didn’t give it much thought, just felt a sudden horror at seeing the petrified figure. A sudden chill went down his spine. Perhaps something had happened? He hurried to the door, it was closed. He broke the glass in a window, got hold of an iron bar which he stuck through the opening and unhinged the hook. Then he slowly and carefully entered. They were both stone dead. The child lay on top of her mother and was still suckling, even in death. A few drops of blood had trickled from the nipple down the child’s cheeks and coagulated on her chin. The mother was terribly emaciated, but her faced seemed fixed in a tranquil smile. “Poor girl, what a Christmas she got,” the constable muttered rubbing his eye. “But perhaps it was for the best for them both. I suppose our Lord has a purpose with everything.” He left the hut, shut the door behind him and fastened the hook. Then he hurried to the station to report the incident. The first day of work after Christmas weekend, the port authorities demolished the hut and removed it. They couldn’t have it there attracting all kinds of vagrants.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Michael Henrik Wynn Before king Harald began the unification of Norway, the country consisted of many smaller kingdoms, often fighting among themselves. Bands of violent thugs roamed the countryside demanding protection money from peasants, blacksmiths, carpenters and traders. And many made a claim to divinity. In one such kingdom, located in a long and narrow valley, there was a hamlet in which there lived an ugly and childless woman in her mid fourties. Her loneliness was such that she frequented neighbors at all hours making a nuisance of herself. But she was intelligent, and read the minds of her hosts with just one glance. Therefore, she never stayed long out of fear of outwearing her welcome, and eventually became known as “wandering Hilde”. It was with a certain sadness that locals observed her walking down solitary paths in the evenings, her lamp was visible from great distance in clear weather. They would see it climb the side of the valley to her farm. At least, it was a comfort that her piece of land even though it was small, was the most fertile in the valley. So, she was never short of food, only a person with whom to share it. One winter there came news from afar that a great battle was brewing. The local king was in a bitter struggle for his life with the neighboring kingdom. Men and boys gathered what weapons they possessed, kissed their wives and mothers before they rode or walked off, and were never heard of again. It was said that the neighboring king was an extremely evil man, who enjoyed seeing his enemies suffer. He would engage in the most grotesque torture with a crooked smile upon his face. It was his right as king to hold lives in the palm of his hand, and to do with them as he pleased. At one point the cruel ruler came riding down the valley with his hord of savages, his long hair streaming like some torn grey banner in the wind as he rushed forward with his lifted, blood-soaked sword. They saw the fires spread from house to house. Screams echoed far through the valley unto the plains below. Who had died? What had happened to the children? But the fate of a king is never certain. He eventually miscalculated, underestimated the hatred he had stirred up, and in a flash a crowd had ambushed him, torn him from his proud black stallion, and stabbed him hundreds of times, before placing his decapitated head on a pole. The mob then did to their enemies what they had experienced themselves. New flames flickered under the starry sky, and many young died needlessly for the wrongs of their parents. It so happened that wandering Hilde stood at the top of the enemy’s valley one morning as dawn revealed columns of drifting thick smoke, and fields of golden wheat. She observed the sacking with the distance of an outsider. What did it matter what people did, their petty arguments, she was not part of their world. She knew that the law demanded revenge and that the Gods craved it. But she did not understand it. One of these murdered children could have warmed her heart, stoked her homely fires until her ship eventually sailed for the halls of Hell. She turned with her usual melancholy, and began on her solitary trek home. She crossed the creek, navigated the rutted tracks to the mountain pass. As she was passing the treeline, she heard the neighing of a horse. She stopped, looked in all directions, but could not, at first, understand where the noise was coming from. She heard it again, and walked towards a mighty pine with thick green branches that overhung a path. Underneath it she found a small mare, and by its feet a tiny red-haired child, a girl, five winters or so that seemed to have fallen off. The child did not cry, perhaps because she had been cushioned by the soft ground, or because she was still confused from her ordeal. For a moment wandering Hilde did not know what to do. If there was a child, there was most certainly a mother. But where? “Hello, little one, where is your mother?” The girl did not speak, but pointed towards a column of smoke that rose from treetops four hundred meters away. The child then drew her hand over her throat, as if to indicate that something had been cut. Hilde did not have time to reflect on the macrabre display, for in the very next instant male shouts were not far away, and hooves trampled. Instinctively, she drew the child towards her bossom, slapped the horse on its back, sending it off riderless. She then placed herself and the child as close to the trunk as she could. They were hidden by the low branches, invisible to the panting horses that moments laters raged by. She then realized that she had forgotten to place her hand over the child’s mouth. But, as she looked down she saw that she had no need to worry. The child had buried her face against her thigh, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. So it was that wandering Hilde’s heart melted, and that she brought home an enemy offspring to her own house, fed it and treated it as if it were flesh off her own flesh. But a child can never be invisible to any neighbor. Even if she managed to hide the secret for six moons, the seventh the game was up, and the whole village debated intensly who the child might be, what linage it might have, and whether it was right to feed the blood of an enemy. The average villager, of course, would never get beyond speculation, but there was a traveling merchant, who sometimes also collected taxes. He was by no means rich, but maintained halfway houses, where the earls and their men sometimes made stops. He was obliged to wait on these, and present them with such food and drink as they demanded. But he was handsomely rewarded, even if he almost never raised his voice, or offered any comments beyond those required by his function. He was a man of fifty winters, and the locals thought him wise, and often sought his councel on matters relating to the wider world. The child and her clothes were brought before him. Grey-bearded, bushy-browed and weathered, he sat quietly on a stone in front of a flickering fire, and examined the items in silence. He could find no mark on the child’s limbs that would give any clue. But he noticed that she was well fed, and that all her skins were of fine quality and had regular stitching. Still many men with large farms had daughters, but they were seldom lavished with jewels at that age. Finally, he found a little pouch, and in it a small medallion with an emblem. If anyone had seen his grey eyes at that moment, they would have noticed his schock. But the others had grown impatient, and were looking at the landscape and walking about. They had concluded that nothing out of the ordinary would be uncovered. He slipped the pouch into his pocket without anyone noticing, smiled and schook his head. “As far as I can tell, she is of wealthy kin, but I can say nothing more.” The others sighed, and they all rode to the house of wandering Hilde the very next morning. Four horses with the elders of the village climbed the paths to her farm. They found fires burning, food cooked, clothes hanging out to dry. When they saw the child stumble towards a smiling Hilde, they all sighed and shook their heads in dismay. A few evenings later Thor’s wagon thundered above the mountain, his lighetning split the sky over the valley below. Then there was heavy rain, which dripped from leaves and made stones and paths slippery. But then there was quiet, total silence as a slow fog drifted in from all sides. In that fog there was suddenly the sound of a horse, and solitary cloaked rider made his was to the merchant’s house over the mountain pass. In Norway, sea gulls – the white emissaries – drift in from the endless ocean on summer breezes. As the autumn chill and darkness descend from the mountains, however, they vannish. In their place murders of crows settle upon moist fences and thatched roof tops, greeting visitors with black blinking eyes. When the rider reached the merchant’s house, the gates and shutters were therefore secured and only distant caws were heard. The traveler dismounted, knocked on the door, which creaked open releasing a slit of light. The old merchant then appeared, and bid the stranger enter. Having dispatched the child’s pouch with a messenger some days earlier, the merchant was expecting somone to come. But when he saw the rider remove his clothes his heart froze and his eyes filled with tears. Before him stood Frey, the king’s beautiful sister – and his most feared assassin. “Your highness!” he exclaimed, and immediately went to fetch his best food and drink. Frey, although fourty winters, was a rank darkhaired woman with gleaming eyes. His hands shook as he served her. The story of Frey was well known among those who travel. She had been married three times, and each time she had failed to produce offspring – and blamed her husband. Every time she had sought the help of her brother the king, who each time lured the men to their deaths so that she might marry again. The third time, however, the king had told his sister: “Frey, three good men have met their end because you are barren. Three old mothers have wept not knowing why their son had perished. Honor now demands that you pay me back.” So it was the Frey, in the service of her brother, wielded her charm, exploited her good looks and made men lower their guards, only to plunge her long dagger in their hearts while they were sleeping. “You have guessed why I have come?” she said looking at the merchant. He lowered his gaze and sighed. “Yes” “Now, tell me the story of how the pouch was found” “There is a local woman called wandering Hilde who now mothers the child…” “Wandering Hilde? Does this name have any significance? Is she not a local woman?” A sudden thought came upon the old merchant, a weak glimmer of hope. He excused himself, complained about a bad back and took a seat on the other side of the table. “It is important, Your Highness, that you know all that there is to know” “Yes, naturally” The old merchant then told the legend of wandering Hilde, and in as many strong words as he could elaborated on her character. He described her lantern climbing the hillside in the evening, and how her shadow moved from door to door after dusk. But, he had no hope that anything would make any sort of difference. The woman before him, gorgeous and black-haired as he was, was known as the coldest and most calculating creature ever seen. So, he finished his story, got up and pointed out the window. “The light you see up there, Your Highness, marks the house where wandering Hilde now lives.” He felt Frey approaching him from behind, her cold breath streamed over his shoulder as her gaze followed the direction of his finger. She then whispered: “Thanks for the story, old man” And then she opened the door and melted into the night. Frey was not in a hurry. She walked her horse slowly along the path under the light of a bleak crescent. She made sure that not many people saw her. But it would have made no difference if they did. At foot of the hillside, she dismounted and then climbed on foot untill she stood hidden behind trees at the edge of wandering Hilde’s farm. There she stood for a while, and saw a fire flicker through an open window. A young girl giggled. A long silvery dagger was then unsheathed, and human form slipped quietly to the outside wall. One of the oak shutters had been closed, and in it there was a hole. Frey then placed her eye to the opening and peered inside. Wandering Hilde, an unusually plain woman, was standing in front of a bucket of water cleaning some cloth. In the background there was a loom, and in the corner of the cramped room stood a straw padded bed. That is where the child sat smiling, and dangling her feet. Wandering Hilde was very preoccupied. At one point she realized that she she needed more water, and reached for her bucket. She made her way towards the door, which slowly swung open releasing a warm and damp stream of light into the night. Wandering Hilde did not see Frey in the shadows behind her, with her dagger raised. Frey was about to enter the room, and kill the child when something unexpected happened. Hilde sang. A very slow lullaby to calm the child. She did not look back, but the sudden voice caught Frey by surprise and she withdrew back into the dark. There she stood for a moment, sweating and shivering, not knowing why. Moments later Hilde returned, closed and locked the door, and Frey felt the tremendous solitude of the universe suddenly fall upon her shoulders as it slammed shut. She felt dizzy, and looking up at the stars, that enormous multitude of distant lights were all staring at her. The icemaid fled. First to the trees, then to her black stallion and finally to the merchant’s house. There she demanded a room and left orders not to be disturbed. A volva had once told Frey that when a woman of a certain age climbs to a high mountain pond, and looks down upon her reflection in the water under the northern light, she can see herself the way she could have been. That night, as many other nights, the Arora Borealis twisted and turned like a celestial serpent above. Frey saw this from her window, and immediately asked the merchant whether there was a mountain pond nearby as she needed to brew a magical potion. The old man then told her that four hundred meters up the road, just above the treeline, not far from the mountain pass, there was such a pond. Frey then proceeded in the direction she was given. After walking quietly through the night, her lantern swinging back and forth, her thick cloak sometimes pulled by sudden gusts, she arrived at her destination. It was dark, and the opposite bank of the pond lay shrouded in mist. But on her side, the water shimmered quietly by the moss. This was indeed mirror enough to consult the Gods! As she peered into the water she was at first releaved. There was nothing there, only her own familiar face. She smiled, shook her head. She had been needlessly worried. But then she heard a rustle in the trees. She grabbed her dagger fearing an ambush. Then she spotted a black bird against the night sky, and heard the omnious cry of a raven. Her heart froze, the dizziness returned. She noticed that her feet were soaked, and as she again looked into the water her vision seemed blurred. Who was the shadow in her reflection? For a brief moment she thought she made out wandering Hilde in the ripples. It was just a brief sensation, a palpitation in the surface, but it was overwhelming enough to make her walk back to the old merchant.There she asked for provisions, saddled up her horse and returned to her brother, the king. Ten moons later, ten riders crossed the mountain pass. A herald preceded them summoning the villagers to the hall. Eight strong and grim warriors, all wearing long swords and crossbows, then surrounded the building, and two cloaked nobles entered to consult with the elders. There was murmur inside, the men looked at each other with questioning eyes and there was much speculation about what was about to happen. As the two visitors emerged into the light falling from a shaft into the center of the room, they saw that Frey and her brother, the king, stood before them. Then the brother raised his hand, ordered silence and spoke thus: “Villagers, I am your lawfull king, and I have come among you tell you that I have heard the story of wandering Hilde from my sister. I thought long and hard about it, but did not know what to do. I then fell asleep, and in my dream I saw the many mothers who have cried during our long war. A voice then came upon me saying “Enough!”. I woke from my delirium in a pool of sweat, and walked over to my window for air. I then found a raven purching on my sill.” At this news of this omen, there was much alarm. The villagers were anxious. “It is therefore my decision as king that no harm should ever befall the child while wandering Hilde lives, and that this outsider be treated as one of your own for that period. I have come to you in person to ask you to pay allegiance and swear this to me upon one-eyed Odin himself.” The men of village were obliged to do as any lord demanded. But they needed little persuasion because the king before them was missing an eye himself. The villagers gave their oaths and made their promises, and the king then told them of the orphan’s true linage and what had become of her family. Then the king and his sister left, and they never saw either of them again. Some years later, news reached the village that he had perished when his horse fell through the ice one winter when he was crossing the fjord. His son, Harold the fair-haired, was also a just man. But the son’s mind and ambition were always focused elsewhere, and the little cluster of houses in the remote valley was forgotten. There is moss on the old gathering hall in the village. It has been there throughout living memory. The cracked log walls, slimy in rain, were dry, brown and crisp in summer evenings. On such days, the smell of pine, the crackling of fires and the clanking of a hammer on anvils sounded from the nearby houses. Children laughed – as much as children then were allowed to laugh. Wandering Hilde was not a strict woman, and when she commanded Gudrun, as she had named her adopted daughter, she made sure that her voice was always accompanied by a twinkling eye and a smile. The elders of the village sometimes arrived at the hall robed in sheepskin, looking grey and solumn. It was clear that whatever they were up to, it merrited the raising of voices and the shutting of doors. Only rarely was there an envoy from afar. Then, of course, there was music, mead and minstrels reciting long poems. Occasionally, young Gudrun tried to peer through a crack when the door was open. But she was short of height and never saw much. The heavy wooden door always creaked on its rusty hinges and closed that world from her. Eventually, she gave up, and started doing what other young girls did, learning her womanly chores, preparing herself for that day when a man might arrive to take her away. When she had experienced six winters with her new mother, one of the men appeared in the doorway of the great hall one humid afternoon in autumn and invited her in. She could hardly believe it. As she entered, she saw walls draped with red and blue cloth, and small divinities of carved oak, and barrels of drink. At the summit of the room sat a stern elderly man, and around him children gathered. He told stories of a horrific king, who had murdered his three sons. The stories were full of drama, and all the boys smiled. She realized that the man often looked at her as he recounted his tales. And somehow she did not get a friendly impression of him. His pupils were cold. The stories, however, involved many things she did not know about the village, about the kingdom, and the world beyond the crest of the great mountain. It was not her place to ask impertinent questions. Like all the other children her imagination was captivated by sea voyages, armies and battles in far flung places. This seance became a monthly feature in the calender of the village young. And on all occasions, it would end the same way. “Do you see the golden amulet on that wall?” the man would say and point at what seemed like a holy relic on a shelf. “Who does that belong to?” he would ask. “The Beast King!” the children would shout in unison. And then they would all get up, and return to their chores. Gudrun would be full of excitement, and run her mother’s side to share her new stories. But mother would always ignore her, and declared that those lies were unfit for women, and suited only for boys, and that the best thing she could do was to avoid the evil geezer and his yarns alltogether. Her mother was so in earnest about this that eventually Gudrun stopped sharing her fantasies. In stead, she would sit quietly on a mossy stone, and look down upon the valley below, her thoughts soaring over the landscape like a seagull yearning for an ocean. Stories would always stir her soul, and she began dreaming of a life of her own – the great adventure that would come with independence. But no suitors appeared on Gudrun’s doorstep, and no local boy ever showed an interest in her, and the seasons passed as she flourished into a tall and rank red-haired woman – strong, intelligent and soft-hearted. Often she would bring food for the elderly, and she would clean and do things, as if she were a servant. And she would share of her food with passing strangers, and she would try to follow the example of her mother who had saved her all those years ago. In fact, so many years had passed that whatever preceded the life she now had – whatever it might have been – had vanished into a haze. And there was no way to get it back once it had gone. Old Hilde herself had found the company that was missing from her former years, her evening fires were indeed continously stoked, but age and new worries quickly colored her brows white, and the faint sun and the northern breeze left lines on her forehead. And her steps slowed with each winter, until she moved about like a wise hag with a cane. “Dear Gudrun”, Hilde stammered from her bed one day. The shifting lights from the fire made her dying eyes shine almost magically. “Come to my side, daughter!” Gudrun got up and moved next to her mother. She lifted a skin and placed it over her mothers feet. “Gudrun, I am soon departing this world”. “No, mother, do not give up” “I am old, I feel it coming. The winters weigh heavily on my bones, I cannot carry water. That is when my own mother died.” “Yes, mother.” “I am worried about what will become of you.” “Do not worry about me, mother. I have friends, and I have work at our neighbor’s farm.” “No, child. You do not have friends. When my body is cold, you must leave me unburied, and sneak out of the valley before anyone notices” “What do you mean?” At that very moment, there was a knock on the door, and her mother waved the daughter to the side. Gudrun immediately understood that private matters would be discussed, and went for a stroll along the valley in which she had grown up. She strolled by the clear river, and climbed to the shimmering pond. She even made her way to a crest above the pass, and studied her village from a high vantage point. And she spied passed distant white peaks, and imagined an endless expanse of water. She returned in the evening mist, and noticed a throng of neighbors by the well outside her house. Her brows dropped and eyes teared up as she approached. What she had dreaded had now come to pass. The men seemed to block her, and she found it difficult to penetrate the crowd. Eventually, she fought her way in, and saw her mother lifeless in her bed, her grey gleaming eyes open, staring skywards. Gudrun looked away, and placed her face in her palms. When she glanced up, she noticed the familiar face of wise Astrid. At first she was relieved. But then she saw that wise Astrid’s wrinkles seemed petrified. Her wool-covered figure, normally so crooked, seemed strangely erect, and there was an uncompromising determination in her narrow chin. “Be gone, spawn of Loke!”, wise Astrid whispered and spat before Gudrun’s feet. Gudrun ran out the door, only to feel a man’s fist in her face. She tumbled to ground and got up, and fled into the stable to Alas, her white mare. She mounted as quickly as she could and gallopped down the road in a cloud of dust. After a few minutes she glanced back and saw her childhood home vanish behind the pines. She pulled her reigns, and her horse neighed as she halted. She then dismounted and sat down in the grass to cry. But no tears came. There was simply too much at the same time, and she had no idea what had come over her old friends. But, a life may change with the snap of fingers, only a cold stone will move with the ages. Whether this was fear, sorrow or confusion did not matter, for soon there was trampling of hooves and angry male voices. She decided to mount her horse in a futile dash for the mountain pass. Even in a that humid evening, dark-green branches drooped over her path, casting distinct shadows. And she thought she heard the distant cries of many ravens, one over the other, until they combined into a primordial laughter. And thus it was that Gudrun was ambushed by a crowd of former friends at the mountain pass, torn from her old white mare, stabbed hundreds of times, and her decapitated head placed on a pole. This was done because she was the youngest daughter of the worst man that had ever lived – even if her lineage had been kept from her until the day of her death. In olden times, the word of a king was all that prevented a smiling neighbor from ending your life. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureEver since the invention of writing, authors have struggled with their craft. Modern writers apply word processing software, then email their text to editors, who comment and correct. Then, if they are lucky, the book is printed by machines and destributed via a modern transport network. Commercials market their work, and we pay for the product in stores. But what was the reality of writing and reading before all this, before the machines, the computers. How much has really changed? We asked a scholar of Latin and Greek classics. There are many ways of looking at ancient literature. In what ways would you say that writers during the classical period innovated, broke rules and experimented? Professor Richlin:  Ancient literature was like jazz:  a strong traditional basis, with performers or writers making a name for themselves by the way they riffed on what was given.  Vergil turned Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into an epic on the founding of the city of Rome; the anonymous players who made early Roman comedy took Greek New Comedy and stuffed it full of local shtick.  Likewise within each culture:  Attic Old Comedy sends up tragedy, and, within tragedy, Euripides plays around with his predecessors’ work and changes mythology. Today when we think of classical literature many think of rigid rules and pentameters that must be adhered to. Why do you think that is? Professor Richlin:  Maybe because of the way Latin is taught in school?  Because of the rules of grammar?  As with most languages, though, you have to trudge through the early stages of learning how the language works before you can understand what’s going on in literature.  And you have to know the rules in order to see how individual writers innovate. How did one become a writer in ancient times, were you hired by a theater company? How did you make a living? Professor Richlin:  It worked very differently in different times and places. Sappho lived in a culture where there was a place for poets in the world of ritual and dance; Pindar, also living in the Greek islands, made a living by praising kings and tyrants for the victories of their chariots in races, and all kinds of other poets made a living in the courts of kings, all over the Mediterranean, especially in the 300s BCE. Major cities like Athens commissioned plays and poems for their big festivals; in Rome from 240 BCE through the 160s and probably beyond, the city magistrates also paid acting troupes to perform at festivals. But these troupes, made up of slaves and lower-class men, had to live all year, and probably made money performing at markets and fairs all over central Italy. They wrote their own material. From the 300s onward, troupes of Greek professional actors performed everywhere from Babylonia to Sicily, being paid and honored by cities. Among Latin-speaking people in Italy from the 200s onward, and eventually throughout the West from Carthage to Gaul, slaves and lower-class people (mostly men) became upwardly mobile by teaching and, sometimes, writing; already by the time of the elder Cato around 200 BCE, writing prose and some kinds of poetry had become a pastime for upper-class men and a few women, and this continues into the 500s CE when those men were now bishops. Only a fraction of ancient literature has survived into the modern age? Have any new literary works been discovered recently? Professor Richlin:  Yes, a handful of previously unknown poems by Sappho have been found over the past ten years or so What do we know about the reading habits during ancient times? What was the degree of literacy, and to what extent did the average Joe have access to the great stories and drama? Professor Richlin:  It’s been argued that the rate of literacy was very low, but then again there are graffiti everywhere, some of which quote poetry or are written in verse, which I think argues for quite widespread literacy. In addition, although books were expensive, the rich people who had private libraries also had people to read to them, i.e. slaves, so that reading and books were not exclusive to the rich; moreover, since reading aloud was widely used as dinner entertainment, everyone present could hear. The average Jo(sephine) had regular access to drama through public performance, which was usually free or very cheap, subsidized by cities or by wealthy individuals. In cities, children were sent to school, where Homer was among the first texts they learned. Most of the ancient world was rural, though, and literature must have been relatively unknown in the hinterlands. On the other hand, folk tales, jokes, myths were everywhere, probably including large amounts of Homeric poetry that people had memorized. We have all heard about the great library of Alexandria, but were there smaller public libraries where text might be read, poetry, stories etc? Were there lending arrangements like in a modern library? Professor Richlin:  Yes, there were public libraries in Rome; the young Marcus Aureliuis jokes about having to seduce the librarian into letting him borrow a book he wants. There were also booksellers, and the poet Martial, at least, brags that his poetry books are popular throughout the empire. Reading, of course, depended on proper lighting in the houses. In Victorian Britain they had gas, as you know, but evenings remained dark. What sort of lamps would the Greeks and Romans have had access to? Professor Richlin:  Oil lamps. Once when I was living in New Hampshire, I had to get by with oil lamps for a week, doing the reading for my classes and grading papers, and it was pretty hard on the eyes. But they got up very early in the morning; Marcus Aurelius, as a student, was often up before sunrise, reading in the predawn light. What were the most popular literary genres and forms during the ancient period? I know they had comedy, tragedy and poetry? But did they have anything resembling a modern novel? Professor Richlin:  The Greeks seem to have invented novels, although Petronius’s Satyricon (60s CE) seems to be earlier than the earliest extant Greek novel. Since the Satyricon often parodies the norms of the Greek novels we do have, however, it seems clear that Greek novels started well before Petronius. Novels were tremendously popular; they morphed into saints’ lives, they were translated and adapted into many ancient languages (there’s one in Syriac about the biblical Joseph and his beloved Aseneth), they moved eastward through Byzantium and on into Russia, as far east as China, so I’ve heard. The Satyricon is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, it still makes me laugh. And only a bit of it is left! See below. Another great novel in Latin is Apuelius’s Metamorphoses, sometimes called The Golden Ass, about the adventures of a young man who gets transformed into a donkey, and that novel has survived in its entirety. The Greek novels are mostly “romances” — they have a marriage plot — but there are all kinds of others. The classical period spans hundreds of years. Did they have literary schools that reflected any modern sensibilities, such as the stress and anxiety of urban living in a modernist sense. Or perhaps romantic idealization of nature, the way it is seen by a city dweller? Professor Richlin:  Lots of romantic idealization of nature, the Greeks invented that, too (and the Roman poet Horace wrote a comic poem satirizing that). The Romans invented satire, and Juvenal’s Satire 3 is about the stress and anxiety of urban living, though not in a modernist way. Modernism is a rejection of the classic, really, so I don’t see a big overlap. In Umbert Eco’s The Name of the Rose, there is a crime plot centering on the rediscovery of an ancient text on comedy. Which lost text would you like to see rediscovered? Professor Richlin: The rest of the Satyricon! Medieval Arabic satire shows some remarkable resemblances to the Satyricon; I have a fantasy that, somewhere, the novel was translated into Arabic before most of the Latin text was lost, and that someday we’ll find that manuscript. And I’d give a lot to have the comedies of Naevius, Plautus’s predecessor, whose tantalizing fragments make me long for even one complete play of his. The memoirs of the elder Agrippina: oh, boy. Tacitus mentions them — they must have been pretty hot stuff, in terms of telling the inside story of the house of the Caesars. The lost books of Tacitus, ditto. In Greek: the rest of Sappho! And the other women poets, esp. Nossis, whose few remaining poems are so beautiful. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby Michael Henrik Wynn I have suspected my neighbor of using my garden hose without my permission for many years, perhaps even 20. Of course, I have never asked him about it, even if he sometimes comes to dinner in my own home. In stead, I have begun watching him. I sit by my window in the evening observing him as he goes about his business. My thought was that if I could catch him in the act then I would rush out and finally have my theories proven. I am retired, and I don’t have much else to do. After having been at my post every morning some years, I discovered that someone else, the neighbor one house up, was in fact using my neighbor’s garden hose in his absence, most certainly without his permission. Clearly, this was extremely immoral, and I would not stand for it. So, I got the idea that if I informed my long hated Nemesis about the fact that his neighbor was taking liberties, the two of them would bring about each other’s downfall. So, one morning I casually walked up to my dishonest neighbor and mentioned, almost in passing, that I had seen the neighbor one house down entering his house that morning. My neighbor did not say anything, but his eyes revealed a total shock. I was very pleased, and returned to my lookout post. The next day, I could see my Nemesis peering through his curtains, obviously trying to verify my gossip. He also began walking down the road, looking up at his neighbor’s house in disbelief. The two passed even each other in the street, and my Nemesis gave the neighbor a very nasty look. I almost had to smile. But what happened then was not what I expected. My Nemesis told me over dinner that he had discovered that the matter was related to a use of a garden hose, and that he had talked with his neighbor one house down, and that the garden hose would be placed in the shed, where they both could get to it with ease. The matter was settled, he said. This was not what I wanted, so I had to come up with something else in the spur of the moment. “And what about your car?” I asked. “My car?” said my neighbor. “Yes, I have seen your neighbor driving your car while you are away? I thought you had an agreement?” My neighbor was wonderfully shocked, threw down his dinner napkin and ran out the door. The next morning the two of them were shouting it out on the front lawn. I was hidden behind a semitransparent curtain in front of an open window. I could not see their faces, but I saw the distinct silhouettes of their waving arms and heard their mutual accusations and insults. I almost laughed when my long held Nemesis struck his neighbor in the face. Now it would be a matter for the police, and the courts would be involved. And I was quite right. I wandered down the road to the neighbor one house down. I have never known him very well. Still, I feel some connection to him because his sister is the ex-wife of my own brother. She is a very nice person, but I have kept my distance out of respect for my brother. They quarreled, you see. I found him frantically dialing something on his mobile phone. He had a black eye, and was very agitated. “Hello”, I said. “Have you been in an accident?” I pointed to my own eye to indicate what I meant. “No! I most certainly have not,” he said. “My neighbor has gone absolutely insane and has started to accuse me of using his car. It all started with me using his garden hose without his permission. I thought it would be no big deal.”“No big deal!!” I exclaimed. “Taking liberties with others is a huge breach of trust. And now he has struck you in the face! You must take legal action!”“I was planning to, but then I thought my credibility would be ruined by the fact that I had used his garden hose. I have admitted this in front of witnesses. But using a garden hose is not the same as using his car. Which is what he is now claiming.”“Well”, I said. “Your neighbor might not be as morally upright as he is pretending to be. In fact, I may be willing to testify in court to this fact. And as you know, I may be retired. But I have impeccable credentials after spending almost 40 years as a clerk in the legal department of the town property registry. No one will doubt my word”.“Really? You would do such a thing for me? But we hardly know each other?”“We do in a way. Many years ago, your sister was married to my younger brother. I have never mentioned it because they argued so terribly, and I kept my distance out of respect for my brother. But I have always liked your sister much better than my own brother.”“I see,” he said and thoughtfully scratched his ear. “Will you give me a week to think about this. I will do as you say. But I must find a good lawyer. Some are very expensive?”“Of course”, I said and smiled confidently. “I understand completely”.I then returned to my home, and had a full bottle of wine to celebrate. Finally, I would be given a chance to confront my best friend about his illegitimate use of my garden hose. The whole world would be able to read the court transcripts a hundred years from now. If there is one thing a legal clerk knows, it is that history does not remember things that are not written in black and white.A week later, I was informed that a date for a trial was set. Of course, the case was not given priority, so we all had to wait half a year. But it was worth the wait because matters of principle cannot go unsettled.The two of them appeared in court on opposite sides with each their own suited lawyers. I was seated at the back, and would appear as a witness later. They both knew this, but I had not been too specific about what I was going to say. I had mentioned the hose, but I thought I would air some other flaws in my Nemesis’ character that had annoyed me over the years.First, there was some legal mambo-jumbo, but then finally the man was on the stand telling the horrific story of the unmotivated violence to which he had been so unfairly subjected. I smiled as he recounted the unsubstantiated car story to the court. “But of course, this is nothing compared to the man who is about to appear as a witness. He always uses this man’s lawnmower when he is gone. And he also sometimes steals his mail.”“WHAT!!” I shouted from the back.“Yes, I can confirm this” my Nemesis said. “I have seen this many times. He is always taking liberties. He is not honest. I am very sorry for having struck you. Will you forgive me?”Then the two of them met in front of the judge, and hugged. The judge sighed. Then, he lifted his gavel and, almost in dismay, struck at the table as he said: “case dismissed”. My two neighbors and their lawyers then left, almost without looking at me.I sat alone at the back utterly confused. But then I got up and shouted at the judge: “I have NEVER EVER used someone else’s lawnmower without their permission. These are all lies, I tell you!”.   Like this:Like Loading... [...]
history / literatureIn the second week of February 1949, 3 men were charged with provoking the death of over ten people in Ecuador. The method of their crime: creating a radio play based on H.G. Wells and then letting it loose on an unsuspecting public. It was an incident far more sinister than the panics that followed the 1938 broadcast in America when Orson Welles had first dramatised H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on radio. Not even the effect of a similar 1944 radio broadcast in Chile could compare when it came to the number of deaths and the level of devestation. On the fateful night of February 12’th, writers for Associated Press and Reuters reported back to the US and Britain: «The mob attacked and burned the building of the newspaper, El Comercio, which housed the radio station and killed fifteen persons and injured 15 others.» Fake news The radio broadcast was the brain child of Leonardo Paez (top photo), director of art at Radio Quito and Eduardo Alcaraz, the station’s dramatic director. The two had become familiar with the 1938 incident in America and the 1944 incident in Chile, which both caused widespread panic, but which also exposed the power of radio. In both those cases, it was announced ahead of schedule that the broadcast would be a fictional dramatisation. Leonardo Paez, a native of Quito, was not only a journalist, but also a singer, composer, poet and producer of radio. In an interview with El Dia, Alcaraz later said that he begged Paez to announce at the beginning of the broadcast that what followed was a dramatisation, but that Paez had dismissed him. Even so, someone had planted bogus UFO reports in the newspaper El Comercio in the weeks before the broadcast. At 21.00 the night of February 12’th, the normal musical broadcast began. Halfway into a song, the news team interupted without warning stating that an attack on Ecuador was underway. Panic erupted in the streets and police were dispatched to the alleged location of a martian invasion, the town of Cotocollao. The imaginary invasion was gradually to proceed from the town of Latacunga, 20 miles south of the capital Quito, where a poisonous gas cloud was reported to kill everything in its path. Actors immitating well known authority figueres then appeared on radio confirming the crisis. Appology not accepted When the station realised that chaos was breaking out, they announced the hoax on radio. The crowd then gathered outside the radio station throwing stones and setting fire to the building. According to the Associated Press there were over a hundred people in the building. Some escaped through the back door. Others sought refuge in the top floors, where some of them jumped from the roof to escape the flames. The army was then called in with teargas and tanks to disperse the crowd and allow the firemen to do their work. At the end of the evening, bodies lay silent in the street, and the injured were shipped off to hospital. The station managers protested their innocence saying they had been unaware of the planned hoax, and the minister of defense himself was called in to investigate the incidence. Punishment Ten people were detained the night of the riot, and several were later charged, among these Leonardo Paez, Eduardo Alcaraz and the actor Eduardo Palace. Eduardo Alcaraz had fled Quito, but was arrested later in the town of Ambato. Paez, however, had escaped that night from the burning building. Seeing that his route of retreat was cut off by an angry mob and the police, he found a way of escaping via an old conservatory. A truck then took him a property near Ibarra, and he laid low until his legal difficulties were solved. 6 years later he left Ecuador and made his way to Venezuela. Paez lost his girlfriend and his nephew to the chaos created by his own radioplay. They died in the riots. He would never return to Ecuador or be convicted of anything, but in 1982 he published his account of the radio play he broadcast on that Saturday evening in 1949. His book is called Los que siembran viento (Those who sow the wind). How could it happen? There has been much speculation about the causes of the panic that erupted after so many broadcasts of War of the Worlds, in the US, in Chile and in Ecuador. Just a year after the Welles broadcast the psychologist Hadley Cantril conducted a study of the effects of the radioshow in which he claimed that the cause of the confusion following the broadcast was the standards of judgment that people applied to the information they heard on radio. They simply trusted the new media of radio, and couldn’t believe that someone would deliberately lie to them. Seing the effectiveness of the broadcast as perhaps being too calculated, the writer Daniel Hopsicker even speculated that the 1938 broadcast was a psychological experiment funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, a conspiracy theory which was dismissed by Orson Welles. Michael Wynn Like this:Like Loading... [...]
short storyby J.-H. Rosny published and translated by Santa Fe daily New Mexican. September 22, 1894. y first marriage, said Jacques Ferveuse, was of but a few hours’ duration and did not break my betrothal to her who afterward became my true wife. It was nevertheless a legal wedding and without doubt the best action of my life. I have pardoned myself for many faults on account of the happiness I gave to her who was my bride for a day. At the time of which I speak I used sometimes to dictate notes on a philosophical work to an old copyist who lived in Rue de l’Estrapade. He was one of the best men in the world, but had been brought to poverty by an unusual series of misfortunes which he had a weakness for recounting to all comers. I used to listen to him willingly, for his voice was charming and his words well chosen. While he spoke his daughter, a timid blonde, would sit near us copying papers. I found her alone two or three times and could not help remarking that she semmed greatly agitated in my presence. As she was quite pretty and I saw a look of infinite tenderness in her beautiful eyes when they met mine, I felt some vague inclination toward her, but I quickly stifled it. Yes, I often spoke kindly to her that she might see I did not think her displeasing. My gentle words impressed a soul so profound that I would have shrunk back afrightened could I have guessed its depth. We had known each other for some time when I was suddenly called away from the city, and during my absence I fell in love and became betrothed. The very morning of my return to Paris some one knocked at my door, and my old copyist entered. His thin figure was yet more meager, his face pale, his temples hollow and his eyes red with weeping. “Sir,” said he, “I trust you will excuse my coming thus, but you have always been so good – my daughter – she – I fear she is about to die.” “Indeed!” I responded with more politeness than emotion. “She is at the hospital, sir. I have come to ask you – to say to you” – He interrupted himself, stammering, incoherent, his eyes full of entreaty, and said abruptly, without further prelude: “My daughter loves you! Before her approaching death I believed you might be able” – And without giving me tim eto recover from this strange declaration he commenced a story of love which, though prolix, was so strange and pathetic that, when he ended, my eyes were wet with tears. “Will you see her? It would make her so happy! She has but a few weeks to live.” Three-quarters of an hour I was at the young girl’s bedside. Her face shone with that ineffable beauty with which coming death sometimes transfigures the features of the young. At seeing me there her great dark eyes lighted up with a joy that touched me to the heart. Almost at once she guessed that her father had revealed her girlish secret, and she commenced to tell me the sad, sweet story of her love; the pathetic romance of a poor little maiden resigned to death – a tale of infinite tenderness; how first she had known she loved me, then her fear that her love was not returned, then her illness and her wish to die. For an hour she talked thus., her blond head lying upon the snow white pillow, her beautiful eyes gazing into mine. Finally she asked in a trembling voice: “And you – Did you ever – ever?” What should I say? Should I play the cruel executioner by telling her the truth or mercifully console her with a lie? Pity moved me: “I? I have loved you long!” “Is it true?” “It is true indeed.” A look of joy such as I will never see again in this world – the joy of the despairing – overspread her face, and in that moment, if I loved her not, there was something very sweet in my soul- an atom of that boundless compassion which is the closest kin to love. I know not what led her during the following days to doubt me, but one afternoon she asked: “But will you ever marry me?” I swore to her that I would. She smiled up at me with adoration. She prayed aloud, thanking God for his great goodness. One day I was so moved by the depth of her love for me that I wished to give yet more happpiness, it would cost me so little. Alas! Was she not irredeemably condemned? “I am going to publish the banns,” I cried. Her joy was almost terrible in its intensity. Her face shone with a marvelous splendour, and while she drew down my face to hers, while she laughed and cied in reciting to me in broken words the prayer of her love while she spoke to me as fervent devotees to God, I felt that I had given to one human being the equivalent of a lifetime of happiness. I will not tell you how I arranged to obtain the consent of my guardian. I did not ask that of my fiancee I knew she would pardon me afterward. The banns were published, and I made all the preparations for a regular marriage. During the weeks which followed she lived in ecstasy. Her malady seemed relenting. A miraculous beauty seemed to shine about her like an aureole. She dazzled me; she filled my heart with a sad love, like that of mothers for frail, beautiful children who cannot live. I had her placed in a special room at the hospital, where she received the care of the best physicians and had a sister of charity to watch over her night and day. I passed the greater part of my time with her. I could not satiate myself with that adoring gaze, with that beatitude with each word, each gesture of mine bestowed. How well I remember the twilight hours when I would sit beside her, watching her pale face blend harmoniously with the shadows, while she murmured to me her words of love like the verses of a song: “Better than God! Better than the Virgin! Better than my life and the life of the universe!” Thus time flowed by, and the wedding day came. After the civil marriage they set up an alter in her chamber and dressed her in rich bridal robes. She seemed to live in an atmosphere of perfect bliss. She was as beautiful as a day in springtime when it draws toward sunset and a misty glory rises over the hills and lakes and the drowsy flowers droop their heads in sleep. She lived 20 years in that hour. I have but to close my eyes, and I see her again. Her eyes were so large and bright that they seemed to efface her pale visage. A saintly smile played upon her lips. Her little hands were clasped as she listened to the voice of the priest. Our fingers joined, and she trembled when, at last, she prnounced the great “Yes,” for she put in it all her religion, all the force of her being; then sank back, her strength exhausted. But what delicious fatigue, what blissful weariness! Tenderly she whispered as she dreamed and drew me near her lips. The murderous shadow of death crept rappidly onward. Her spirit wandered in the faroff land of twilight. I saw her cheek grow leaden hued and her temples hollow. She felt not the approach of death, but continued to love, to be happy, to forget herself in her dream divine. Her head was pillowed on my arm, and I watched her dark eyes grow wider, wider yet. Her hair shone upon her pillow like a mesh of gold. The silken bridal robe envoloped her like a cloud. The sun had set, and the daylight was fading, when she murmured: “Thou lovst me, Jacques? Thou lovest the poor girl? Mon Dieu! We will live long. I feel that I cannot die. I cannot die now.” Her voice sounds as if she had turned back at the entrance of that mysterious land to call to me once more – it is like bells heard far off upon the sea. Her body grows cold in its rich winding sheet, but she no longer suffers. She repeats: “I cannot die!” A vague smile hovers over her face, which always wears that look of infinite love, of happiness without a shadow. My heart is still. At that moment I am all that loves in the world – I am a mother, a father , a lover. She murmurs again: “I love thee. We will live in the country – the violets” – Her lips part with a smile of ineffable joy, and she is at rest forever. It is evening, and I gaze through the gathering shadows at the outline of the slender figure in its bridal robe. My sorrow is as profound as it is sweet, for I feel that much will be pardoned me because I have soothed one poor, loving little heart and sweetened with happiness the bitter cup of death. Like this:Like Loading... [...]