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Race Williams—the classic hard-boiled detective from the pages of Black Mask Magazine—takes on the biggest blackmailing scheme of his career. Plus a bonus Daly hard-boiled classic: "Paying an Old Debt." Story #2 in the Race Williams series.Carroll John Daly (1889–1958) was the creator of the first hard-boiled private eye story, predating Dashiell Hammett's first Continental Op story by several months. Daly's classic character, Race Williams, was one of the most popular fiction characters of the pulps, and the direct inspiration for Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.
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Carroll John Daly
© 2017 Steeger Properties, LLC. Published by arrangement with Steeger Properties, LLC, agent for the Estate of Carroll John Daly.
“Three Thousand to the Good” originally appeared in the July 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask magazine.
“Paying an Old Debt” originally appeared in the April, 1923 issue of The American 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.
“Race Williams” is a trademark of the Estate of Carroll John Daly. “Black Mask” is a trademark of Steeger Properties, LLC, and registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
My little office looked good from the outside with its big gold letters—
Detective and Private Investigator
That I am not a regular detective is of little importance; just simply a gentleman adventurer who lends his services against the crooks for the benefit of innocent humanity and—and pecuniary gain—the two of them running neck and neck for honors. Besides it helps as an excuse for hanging out so much in the underworld and getting a beat on what the crooks are going to pull off next. It also sort of eases up that friendly interest which the police show in a good citizen trying to earn a little honest money. For after all the ethics of my profession is on the level even if I do occasionally slip over that uncertain line which divides the law-abiding citizen from the criminal.
Well, I was sitting in that office one afternoon when Abe Nation walked in. Of course he was a familiar figure to me though I had never met him personally before but everybody knows Abe, The Fixer.
No sooner was he in the door when he started off with a little blarney.
“You have been recommended to me, Mr. Williams—well recommended. I think that I have a little business for you.”
I simply nodded as Abe’s shrewd little eyes ran up and down me and along my desk. Then, after first assuring himself that no one was listening, he sat down and handed me an earful.
“You, I believe, have upset the plans of more blackmailers than any man in the country,” he said with some truth. “That you are a good shot and somewhat feared is proved by your still being alive. No, Mr. Williams, I would not fancy being in your shoes. But to the point!
“There was a bit of a railroad strike out in Penn—just a small thing which I felt that I could fix. You understand the game—but there—why go into detail?”
He took a letter from his pocket and tossed it on the desk before me.
A glance was enough. It was blackmail pure and simple. Abe Nation had written a letter to a certain labor leader stating the terms for fixing the strike. It was plainly apparent that Abe had started that strike for his own benefit and was splitting with some labor official. His letter had been stolen and was now in the hands of a regular gang of blackmailers. I’ve handled hundreds of such cases and know the professional touch when I see it. There was a demand for ten thousand dollars or the public display of the letter in the newspaper.
“You see that the final time for turning over the money is tonight. I want you to pay the money and get the letter—there will be a cool hundred in it for you and only an hour’s work. Good! Eh!”
Abe looked up at me with well stimulated enthusiasm.
“Not so good,” I smiled. “I never work for a hundred.”
“But you have nothing to do but hand over the ten thousand which I give you and bring me the letter,” he objected with what appeared to be surprise that I would hesitate for a moment.
“Then why don’t you do it yourself?”
One had to be careful when dealing with him.
He eyed me a moment and then seeing that he made no impression tried again.
“Besides I’m a wealthy man. They might kidnap me—for ransom you know.”
But that didn’t go with me. Oh, I had heard that his daughter Rosa was a tough little citizen alright but I had also heard that Abe wasn’t afraid of anything.
“Too thin!” was all I said in answer to his questioning look.
“Well—” he seemed to think a moment. “Suppose I made it a thousand and if you come back with both the money and the letter— How’s that, better?”
I braced up a bit. I think I see what’s under his hat and why he waits until the last minute before coming to me. He’d tried to think out a way of doing the crooks but they’re too many for him so on the chance of saving some dough he trots over to me.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” I make him a real offer. “Twenty-five hundred if I bring back both the letter and the money—nothing if I only bring the letter.”
“And suppose they put it over on you and you lose both? What then?”
“They won’t.” I’m emphatic there. “But it’s your party and I put up nothing; you can be dead sure of that.”
“Make that fifteen-hundred and it’s done,” he says, looking for a bargain which ain’t coming.
I’m a one price man.
Well, we threw it back and forth for five or ten minutes, Abe telling me that he never really wrote the letter ’cause he’s got position in life and his daughter and him are just about ready to break into society and the notoriety might be unpleasant. And he seemed to know quite a lot about me. He must have to be willing to trust me with ten thousand bucks but why he’s so coy about his morals I can’t see. Anyone would know that he wrote that little note. I always knew he was a bad actor but I guess the gang what had nailed that letter was worse. Yes, siree, Abe and me had been about half a block ahead of the police for years.
But at length he comes to my way of thinking and says he’ll pay the twenty-five hundred cold. And seeing that I’m to have the handling of the ten thousand berries it don’t look like he could gyp me. At first he kind-a hints that I oughta lay out the big roll to show I’m on the level. But that only gives me a laugh. I got ninety-nine reasons why I shouldn’t and the first one is enough. I ain’t got it.
Then when he sees he’s got to dig he starts in to pat me on the back.
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