An excerpt from the recently reprinted pulp classic
A Dum-Dum for the President
by Martin Brett


.......She sat at the other side of my desk, tall, cool and sophisticated-looking; ash-blonde hair, long grey eyes and a Rodin body. She was beautiful. She was haughty, expensive, vaguely insulting in her manner, and a liar.

....... Instinct only. I couldn't have proved it.

....... I said, "You're up from Boston to find a girl named Gloria Davenport. Why do you think she's in Montreal?"

....... "She was seen getting on the plane."

....... "I charge money," I said. "The local police would trace her for free."

....... "I should have contacted the police had I wanted them," she said.

....... "I guess so."

....... I walked over and looked out of the window. A traffic jam on St. Catherine Street. Five-thirty on a Friday evening in late autumn, a rainy week-end promised by the Weather Bureau, but no one deterred. They were all going north to the Laurentians, to prepare their cabins against the first snow.

....... "How come you picked me?" I turned back to her.

....... "A recommendation by a policeman", she said. "A man in a patrol car. I had already visited one detective. I got his name from the phone book. He proved unpleasant."

....... I could guess what kind of unpleasantness. She showed no signs of it. She showed no signs of anything, which was strange in a woman who had come all the way from Boston to find somebody. "You have no photograph of Mrs. Davenport?" I said.

....... "No."

....... "You want me to find her in a city of two million from her description and name. She may have changed the name."

....... "Possibly. But she's almost certain to be at a hotel."

....... It was not certain at all.

....... I said, "When and if I find her you want me to watch her for a couple of days. Without making my presence known. Why?"

....... "Personal reasons."

....... "I would have to know them."

....... She shrugged. An elaborate shrug because she needed time to think up a new lie. It was made more annoying by her drawly Boston accent. She said, "Gloria's been ill. I should want to judge her mental condition before she suffered the shock of being found."

....... Silence.

....... I sat down at the desk. My legs stretched through the kneehole and accidentally brushed her calf. She shot me a glance from ice-maiden eyes, changed her position and looked down her nose. She said, "Well?"

....... "I don't handle divorce cases."

....... "That means nothing to me."

....... "It should," I said. "Gloria Davenport has run off with your husband. You've traced them to Montreal. A wife doesn't keep pictures of her husband's mistress so you have no photograph. The couple are probably at a hotel as you say and you might find them yourself, but you need a witness. That's me. If I watch her for a couple of days I shall be watching him. As a client I should have a duty to you. You might try to subpoena me. The story about sickness comes of the cop telling you that I won't touch a divorce case with a grappling hook."

....... She opened her mouth a little. The tip of her tongue rested reflectively on her lower lip. She looked me over to check if I was worthy of trust, then favored me with a smile because I had passed the test. The thaw was on.

....... "Not a good guess," she said, "but basically correct."

....... "Then good evening. I didn't catch your name and it doesn't matter now."

....... She said, "Martha Davenport." She didn't move.

....... This time she examined her fingernails. She frowned at them, narrowed her eyes at them, made quite a performance of it. Then the clear-eyed smile. The confidences were coming.

....... She said, "My name is Martha Davenport and I am not married. Gloria is my brother's wife. She claims to be visiting her parents in California. She was seen boarding the Montreal plane with Wilfrid Denning, one of our better-known local satyrs. Wilfrid has his reputation and sex is Gloria's hobby. The object of their journey can not be doubted."

....... "But your brother was not interested enough to come himself."

....... "My brother," she said, "is twenty-two. He's not bright. He married Gloria on a Maryland bender one night and hasn't sobered up yet. He's probably the one person who doesn't know what she's doing. He wouldn't believe a word against her without impartial evidence."

....... "Which might mean he's in love with her," I said. "So leave him in his ignorant bliss, go home and mind your own business."

....... The smile disappeared. "I don't like your tone, Mr. Garfin."

....... I said, "I don't like divorce cases, Miss Davenport." I got up and went round the desk and opened the door. "I don't like the taste of them, don't like to spy, don't like keyholes. And I like least of all the busy little families who interfere. Good-bye, Miss Davenport. I'm shutting the office."

....... She rose with the graceful co-ordinated movement of a mannequin, lovely to watch, and said, "Mr. Garfin, it seems to me that for a man in such an unpleasant profession you give yourself unwarranted airs. Do you refer to yourself as a gumshoe or a snooper?"

....... "Neither," I said, "but thanks for the benefit of your college education." Then I kissed her.

....... She responded briefly. Her mouth opened, we almost fused. Then she broke away. She said blandly, "You're that type of man."

....... "Is there another type?"

....... "A tiresome lout who fancies himself a Don Juan." She smiled again, not disdainful so much as amused. "Well, since you started the scene in the traditional manner I'd better conclude it the same way." She lifted both hands and hit me a stinging blow across the chops.

....... She stepped back and surveyed me for an instant. She said, "And good-bye to you, Garfin," and went through the reception room, out of the door and down the stairs. Her heels click-clacked into silence.

....... There was a blast of horns from the street. I touched my face, then picked up the handbag from where she had left it hanging on the back of the chair, opened it and checked the contents.

....... Lipstick, compact, comb. Driver's permit, letter with nice Boston address, no Montreal address. One hundred and seventeen American dollars and some small change. An airline stub dated yesterday from Boston to Montreal.

....... She would be back.

....... Half an hour. The phone rang. Al Harvey said, "Mike, we start tomorrow noon. Up to my cabin for a week's duck-shooting. Coming?"

....... "I'll let you know."

....... Fifteen minutes more.

....... She wasn't coming, not tonight. She would eventually. Good. I liked the way she had carried off the scene. I locked the bag in the safe, shut the office and went out. The traffic was still thick. I had to run across the street to the usual bar for my nightly drink.

Copyright by Martin Brett.


......

Martin Brett (a pseudonym of Ronald Douglas Sanderson) was British by birth but later became a Canadian citizen. He wrote several documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and later returned to Europe. Besides the Mike Garfin books, he wrote several other hard-boiled novels (sometimes under the pen name of Malcolm Douglas) in the fifties and sixties, including Exit In Green, Flee From Terror (set in Yugoslavia), Murder Comes Calling, Pure Sweet Hell, Rain of Terror, Prey By Night, And All Flesh Dies, The Final Run, Dead Connection, Shout For The Killer and The Deadly Dames (featuring Montreal P.I. Bill Yates, who bears a suspicious similarity to Garfin.)

For more on Brett/Douglas/Sanderson, be sure to read "Hard, Tough & More Than a Little Nasty: Martin Brett's Mike Garfin Novels" by Kevin Burton Smith.

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