Tales of Murder, for readers with time to kill!
Gunning for Death by James L. Harfe
"It'll be easy to pass her death off as suicide …"
Professional Sleuth

Gunning for Death

by James L. Harfe

Smashing Detective | Sept. 1951 | Vol. 1, No. 3 THE RED FILE | Jan. 1, 2017 | Vol. 1 No. 1 Casefile No: 55ccf75fb3901011515aef02

Branded as a yellow dog who let his best friend die, Dan Wilkins strikes back at the unknown traitor in the department, who was profiteering in blood and murder.

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Table of Contents
  1. A Sniveling Quitter
  2. Suspects
  3. Pleven
  4. He's Got Her

Chapter 1

A Sniveling Quitter

Bars in the Nation’s Capital are mostly garish, red-leather-and-chrome affairs that do no more than add to the restless, tense loneliness that forever grips most of the populace. There are no neighborhood saloons, and there is no neighborliness. You have to be seated to be served a drink even of plebian beer. You can’t move about, but only stay at your tiny table, or cramped booth, while a who-the-hell-cares type of waitress infrequently appears discourteously to serve you another of whatever-it-is you’re drinking. A guy, looking for camaraderie, the good-fellowship that goes with imbibing, is better off taking a train to Baltimore.

I used to go to the Maryland metropolis to do my friendly drinking, but now I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted to be alone, to crawl into my dismal shell and get stinko. A Washington bar is just suited for that—that is, if you get one where the barkeep or the proprietor will continue to serve you. The law says you get no service if the server considers you’ve already had enough, or when he so considers. But it’s hard to tell if a man’s drunk when he’s sitting down; anyway, most places are too money-conscious to refuse you a drink no matter what your condition. I didn’t ever want to stop, unless I fell over.

But then this vision, this girl, slid into the booth, facing me, where I was proceeding to drown my woes. “It is Dan Wilkins, isn’t it?” she asked.

I nodded, trying to focus my eyes in the afternoon dimness of the place, trying to get into line the cherry-brown hair, the pert face beneath it, the firmness where her tight-fitting jacket only suggested a plunge. Light brown eyes looked into mine and helped me get the picture.

“Have a drink?” I queried. I held up a hand and the waitress appeared. “The same for me,” I said, which meant a double rye with water to wash it down.

“Planter’s punch,” the vision said.

“So?” I said, my head feeling light “So what do you see?”

Her eyes had raked me over and over and the rye in me rebelled at the inspection.

“A sniveling quitter,” she replied.

“What,” I growled, “business is it of yours? A great guy, my best pal, murdered, and me fired from my job because of it! Kicked out on my can! So I got a right to get plastered.”

The words rolled thickly off my tongue.

“A man would fight back.”

The way the dame accented the word, the disgust in her voice, roiled me and took the edge from my insobriety. Bitterness and a touch of honest shame—the girl was right— had a slightly sobering effect. A maddening one, too, so I grunted, “Who the hell are you, sister, and how did you find me? And what do you want?”

“I found you,” her brown eyes flashed, “by calling at your apartment-house and being told you were probably at the nearest cafe. I looked in on two others before I got to this one. The name is Dee Morgan and I want…”

“What?” I jumped at the name, quite sober now.

“Johnny’s sister,” she said, softly gravely.

“Johnny’s sister,” I gulped. “I knew he had one, in school somewhere, but I didn’t…”

“Cedar Crest College for Women,” she said. “I left the school yesterday to come here; I won’t go back until I find Johnny’s murderer. I thought you would want to help.” Her lovely face twisted into lines of pain, determination, vengeance.

~ End of Sample ~


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