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Carroll John Daly
© 2018 Steeger Properties, LLC. Published by arrangement with Steeger Properties, LLC, agent for the Estate of Carroll John Daly.
“Three Gun Terry” originally appeared in the May 15, 1923, issue of Black Mask magazine.
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher.
MY LIFE is my own, and the opinions of others don't interest me; so don't form any, or if you do, keep them to yourself. If you want to sneer at my tactics, why go ahead; but do it behind the pages—you'll find that healthier.
So for my line. I have a little office which says "Terry Mack, Private Investigator," on the door; which means whatever you wish to think it. I ain't a crook, and I ain't a dick; I play the game on the level, in my own way. I'm in the center of a triangle; between the crook and the police and the victim. The police have had an eye on me for some time, but only an eye, never a hand; they don't get my lay at all. The crooks; well, some is on, and some ain't; most of them don't know what to think, until I've put the hooks in them. Sometimes they gun for me, but that ain't a one-sided affair. When it comes to shooting, I don't have to waste time cleaning my gun. A little windy that; but you get my game.
Now, the city's big, and that ain't meant for no outburst of personal wisdom. It's fact. Sometimes things is slow and I go out looking for business. About the cabarets; in the big hotels and even along the streets I find it. It's always there. I just spot some well-known faces playing their suckers, and that's my chance. A bit of trailing; I corral the bird, offer my help, and then things get lively. Blackmail it is mostly, but it doesn't matter to me. And then the fee; a hard-earned but gladly paid fee—that's me! I'm there forty ways from the ace.
So it comes that things is slow, and I'm anxious to chase down and corner a little of the ready. I guess I blow in nearly twenty bucks, jumping from joint to joint; but it's expense money, so I just shrug my shoulders when nothing turns up. Oh, I see crooks galore, but they ain't having no more luck than I am; which ain't the usual run of things.
Along about one-thirty I start for home—I got a car, but I ain't using it—the subway is my ticket that night. I just come out of a high-class robbers' den over on Sixth Avenue, and start toward Broadway; it's Fifty-sixth Street that I trot down, and it strikes me a wonderful place to pull off a murder—dark and quiet.
Then, when I'm halfway down the block, a woman shoots out of a brownstone front and skips down the steps toward a waiting taxi. She's just about to pull open the door and jump in when I see her draw back suddenly, stand undecidedlike a second, and then, turning, make a sudden dash for the steps. But she's too late. Two chaps hop out of that taxi and go after her. Now, I don't say that she mightn't 'a made it, for she had a start on them, but another lad steps out of the basement way and heads her off.
And let me give those boys credit for working fast; they sure turned the trick like professionals; there ain't no more than a scream and a couple of kicks when them birds have whisked her up and run her into the taxi. A crank of the motor, and the car is speeding away. Is that young lady lost forever? Not so you could notice it, she ain't! If they worked fast, so did I. I couldn't stop them—not me—but I had run across the street and as the car shot past me, I made a grab and swung up on the spare tire.
As we turn into Sixth Avenue, I see a window go up in the brownstone house, and I think I catch a shout. Then we ride. Things weren't so dead after all, and it looked as if I might get some return on that twenty.
There's three men and a driver, and you think the best thing I can do is to holler at the first cop we pass. But not me! He might stop us, and then again he might not. Also, I might get shot off the back of that speeding car, which was not exactly my most cherished thought. Besides, at the best, the police could only make a capture and give me a vote of thanks, with a misspelling of my name at the bottom of the page of the evening papers. No, I'm not looking for honor—there would probably be jack in this for yours truly.
It ain't cold, and the ride ain't so bad; not so good either, but then I couldn't be particular. As far as being worried about the end of the trip—not much! There were four of them—all armed I guess—but then I had a couple of guns of my own, and I'd be the one with the drop.
At last the ride was over, and we pulled up on a lonely street in the Bronx. It was an empty street, but on the next block was a row of two-story frame houses. I guess they didn't want to attract attention by arriving in style and would hoof it the rest of the way. There is some delay about them getting out of the cab, and I drop off the tire, and stretch my legs, and shake out enough kinks to account for a fifty-mile trip in a lizzy; also I might make mention of the fact that I played with my automatics—being overfond of such toys on certain occasions—and this was one of them. Of course, those birds couldn't know I had come along with them; they was too busy with the struggling girl when I swung aboard. So everything was rosy.
At length, they opened the door, and after stalling around a bit, one of them got out and leaving the door open beat it up the street. I guess he was going to get things set before he took the girl in. Well, I give him a chance. I like to do things right, and I waited to see which house he went into. Then I stepped around from the back of that car and slipped in. Yep, just slid right in and took the empty portable seat which he had left.
I get a laugh yet when I think of the expression on them lads' faces—the two of them, with the girl bound and gagged between them. There in the pale light of a dull moon, she sat, every muscle tense—her eyes wide and frightened.
But the two lads—regular tough birds they were too—no, their muscles weren't tense, they just sat there loose and staring, their eyes near popping out of their heads. Prepared! Why one of them held a gat right on his knees, but he never made no move to use it. Not that he got the chance, for I had rapped his knuckles with the barrel of my gun—not the butt but the barrel—and his gun just slid down his feet, to the floor. Of course, it's a bit risky using the barrel for such things; once in every so often the gun goes off, 'specially a light shooter like mine; but then you can't really bother about such little accidents; you can see where it would be his hard luck, not mine.
Say, there wasn't a yip out of either of them—their hands went up with such a goodwill that I thought they'd stick them through the top of the car. Very obliging they were, and I hadn't said a word yet. I just grinned. As for the lad in the front—well—I had the other cannon poked so hard into his spine that he was sitting straighter than he ever sat before in his life.
"Young lady," I says to the girl. "You got to help, as I can't keep more than half an eye on the driver—so just please close your left eye if he don't keep his hands well up and empty. That's the girl," I added as she nodded. "If you wink the left, I'll plug him. And don't be overparticular—I'm not of a sentimental nature."
Now most of this was only for effect. I didn't really think that the girl was able to help much, but it would give the chap in the front something to think about and make him behave. I didn't need much time because I work fast. Even this kind of a situation wasn't new to me.
In thirty seconds, I had them gunmen standing on the sidewalk, their backs to the car and their hands stretched toward the heavens, like they were listening to Walter Camp.
"Now," I says to the driver. "Let the hands drop and we'll go—back to where you came from. And pray that nothing happens to your car. For the first time that she slows down, I'll drill a hole in the back of your neck and do a little driving myself."
I didn't have to shout at him—you see, the window was down, and his attention was perfect.
And now for the first time, one of the lads on the pavement got his wind back and opened up.
"Better stay out of this," he warned me. "It will mean death for you—sure."
He spoke in broken English and his voice trembled with rage.
"All right Mr. Wolf," I chirped cheerfullike. "But Little Red Riding Hood and me will trot along. If she wants to come back to you later—why, well and good." Then turning to the driver I said sharp, "Let her go!"
And the driver being a man of sound judgment, we went.