Thrilling Detective is really
pleased to present this entertaining short short,
by Robert L. Iles.
Now You See Her...
from The Adventures of
Peter B. Bruck, Private Investigator
by Robert L. Iles
from odd places.
........Take for instance
the one that came up around the poker table in Pighead's back
room one night. Doc Pott was collecting our money steady as a
clock, but that was all right, we were cheating to slow him up.
Known in polite society as George Potter, MD, Doc seldom spent
time in polite society, preferring to spend it playing the horses,
the piano and poker with the likes of us.
........But that night
he said he was trying to find a girl.
Pighead said. "You want a girl, I can--"
his head. "Not a girl, Pighead. A particular girl. I saw
her yesterday. A dancer--"
Pighead said. "Like I said, I can get you--"
his head again and smiled. "No, you don't understand. A
Broadway dancer who was my patient. She came to my office badly
bruised. Said she fell into the orchestra pit at rehearsal. I
patched her up and sent her down to x-ray. But she never came
back to my office. She was in a big hurry when she was there,
like someone was chasing her or something. Anyhow, she's not
in the phone book and the address she gave me would be across
the Hudson somewhere in the middle of the Jersey swamps if the
street numbers went that high."
your money, huh, Doc? Mickey could get it," Pighead offered.
his cigar to the other side of his mouth and gave Pighead a shut-up
play cards," Lew said.
about it, Bruck?" Doc said, "Got time in your crime-fighting
schedule to save a girl's life?"
be able to squeeze you in." I led the way to Pighead's barroom
up front. We took a booth. "Tell me about it."
obvious someone had beat her up," he said. "From the
marks on her arm, I'd say someone held her and punched her. It's
her broken ribs I'm worried about. If she's not careful they
could puncture a lung."
name and address did she give you?"
"I already checked--"
I know. Gimme."
over a piece of paper on which was written Shelly Barber, 570123
West 43rd Street. I smiled and he asked what was funny. "Maybe
she gave you the right address after all," I said.
........"What? I told you--"
Just a hunch. I'll check it in the morning. Let's go back and
see if anyone's punched Pighead in the mouth yet."
........The next morning
I walked down West 43rd and, not too surprised, found a converted
brownstone at 570. I was less surprised when I found that one
of the mailboxes in the entry hall belonged to a Barbara Shelly,
apartment 3B. I hit the buzzers of all the other tenants and
someone rang me through and I went up and rapped on the door.
is it?" The voice was muffled, masculine.
I answered in a high feminine voice.
........The door opened
on the chain and the muzzle of an automatic poked out. "Go
........I moved to
the side out of the gun's arc and shoved the door with everything
I had, snapping it off the chain and knocking whoever had the
gun back. I went in with my gun drawn and found a guy on the
floor, his gun just out of reach next to him. He stretched for
it and I stepped on his hand. I recognized him as one of Joe
Hugs' henchmen. Joe owned the protection rackets on the upper
east side and ran them with guys who belonged in the Bronx Zoo.
This one had a square head on a square body, black bushy eyebrows
and an IQ I'd guess about the same as his hat size.
to greet a visitor," I said, kicking his gun under the sofa
with my other foot. "What if I'd been the Avon lady?"
........I bent down
to put more pressure on his hand. Any normal person would have
howled with pain. He wasn't and he didn't. "Where's the
girl?" I asked.
........Not a whimper,
not a word, but I got him to make a face and he tried to wiggle
free. I twisted my foot and we both heard something crack. Now
he howled. I put my gun to his temple. "Where is she?"
sound, the bedroom door opened and a young woman wearing a scarf
and sunglasses and a long coat streaked for the front door. I
got a glimpse of purple and red bruises and puffy lips.
........In the moment
of distraction, Bushy Brows pulled his hand free, got to his
feet and drove his good fist into my midsection, then tried to
wrestle my gun from my hand. When he couldn't, he brought a knee
up into my groin. I went down, firing blindly through the pain.
........When I could
suck in air, I staggered after him. At the head of the stairs
an old couple had come to see what was going on. By the time
I do-si-do'ed around them and got down to the sidewalk, neither
the girl nor the guy was in sight.
a cop around when you don't want one. Here came one up the sidewalk,
gun drawn "All right, buddy, drop it You're under arrest."
Dick Pritchard of the 83rd Precinct wasn't buying. "You're
gonna have to do better than that, Bruck. A girl you don't know
at an address you somehow stumble on. She's injured so bad a
doctor is worried about her dying, but she runs away while you're
wrestling a convenient gunman. Who also gets away. Come on, why'd
you fire your gun?"
I said. "I confess. I was selling poetry door-to-door and
when she said no I took a shot at her." I held my hands
out to be cuffed. "Think the D.A.'ll let me off with life
in the chair?"
........His neck turned
red, indicating a direct hit. I watched the color flow up his
face to his hairline, at which point he popped. "Now you
lissen to me. You fired a gun and was apprehended waving it around.
I ain't gonna have nobody blasting away in my precinct--"
tch. Grammar. Why don't you go to the apartment and check? Look
under the sofa for the gun, look for a bullet hole in the wall?
Or would you rather let the gorilla get the girl?"
answer that. Finally: "If I find out you're pulling something,
you're going to jail for disturbing the peace, lying to a police
officer, discharging a firearm with reckless disregard--"
Dick, you been reading too many police manuals. C'mon, let's
........When we got
to the apartment, a young woman--no bruises, no puffy lips--answered
Shelly?" Pritchard asked.
Lieutenant Pritchard, NYPD." He showed his badge. "I'd
like to ask some questions."
........I was dumbstruck.
She didn't look anything like the girl I'd seen running from
the bedroom. She was taller, bigger, and wore so much make-up
she looked like a Max Factor demo. I had to check the number
on the apartment door to be sure we had the right place.
she said. "Come in."
........Dick and I
took a look around the room. No bullet hole. She offered us a
seat. "I'll be right back." She went into the kitchen
and came back with a china saucer and set fire to a Chesterfield.
"Now, what can I do for you?"
on the sofa, crossing her legs and flicking ashes into the saucer.
Maybe a few years past her prime as a glamor girl, but she still
had the equipment and knew how to use it.
........Dick ran through
his questions: Were you here earlier today? Yes. All day? Yes.
Have you ever seen this man, indicating me? No. Have you been
to see a Doctor Potter recently?
she said. "Now if you don't mind, I have to go out."
She snubbed her cigarette in the saucer to the punctuate the
a minute," I said. "You won't mind if I take a look
around." I checked the bedroom, the bathroom, the closet,
the kitchen--everywhere a body could hide or be hidden. Back
in the living room I got down on the floor and looked under the
sofa. No gun. As I was backing out I had an idea and rolled over,
face up next to the woman's legs. She gathered her skirt tight
and scooted away, looking a question at Pritchard: Is this guy
nuts? Pritchard looked an answer back: Probably.
to have bothered you, Miss Shelly," Pritchard said, coming
to pull me up. Under his breath: "C'mon, you idiot."
........Out in the
hall, he backed me against the wall and stuck a finger in my
face. "I don't know what you're up to but you ain't gettin'
away with it. Your story doesn't hold air, let alone water. Jerking
me around, bothering an innocent citizen. What kind of stunt
was that? You're going to jail if I have to--"
........I let him
rant, standing head down like a pup who'd pooped on a Persian
........When he ran
out of breath, I filled in. "Ya got me, Lieutenant. I guess
I'm headed for jail."
........But when we
hit the sidewalk, I told him, "Quick, in the car, so we
can follow her."
You are nuts. I'm not following--"
a bullet hole in the ceiling of that room," I told him.
"A good detective notices that kind of thing." He opened
his yap but I went on. "And she doesn't live there. When's
the last time you saw a smoker's apartment without any ashtrays?"
That stopped him. "Go on." I pushed him. "Get
in the car."
Less than a minute later she came out, pretended to feel around
in her purse for her car keys while looking up and down the street,
and got in a Dodge sedan and pulled out into traffic. Pritchard
tucked his city-issue Ford coupe two cars behind the Dodge and
followed up to 129th and Second Avenue. She parked and went into
a beauty parlor.
here a minute," I told Pritchard, "Unless I miss my
guess, someone we're interested in will go in or come out."
He grumbled about a wild goose chase.
the gorilla shambled down the street and into the beauty parlor.
of Joe Hugs' boys," Pritchard said.
for ten points. Wanted on more charges than you wanted to hang
on me. Want to try for twenty? Step over there and arrest him.
You get the jackpot if Joe Hugs is in there with our beautician
friend working on the damaged dancer."
........The next poker
night at Pighead's, the boys wanted to know how I'd done it.
complicated," I said. "Joe Hugs slapped his girlfriend
around once too often. To keep her from going to the cops, he
stationed the gorilla at her place. I showed up, the girl made
a getaway, the gorilla caught her and took her uptown to Joe."
woman you and Pritchard saw at the apartment, where does she
fit in?" Doc asked.
friend of Joe's," I told him. "He sent her to the apartment
to get the gorilla's gun and tell any cops who investigated there
was nothing wrong."
was Joe keeping Barbara at the beauty shop? Why not take her
to his place?" Doc asked.
idea, it seems, was to cover up the girl's bruises so she could
go back on stage."
thing for her you found her," Doc said. "If she had
tried dancing it almost certainly would have killed her."
thing for her, too," I said, "she was willing this
time to give the evidence that will put the gorilla and Joe Hugs
to know, "But, Bruck, how'd you know where to find her?"
are funny. When they have to come up with a false name quick,
they choose something close to the truth. Address, they do the
same thing. So I followed a hunch. The address on West 43rd was
obviously wrong, but the 1, 2, 3 on the end, they looked like
numbers just tacked on to the right numbers up front."
close to the truth," Pighead repeated. "I wonder what
I'd say my name was."
with S-H," Mickey said.
"Sheephead, you mean?"
up and play cards," Lew said.
Copyright (c) 1999 Robert L.Iles
Robert Iles is a professional writer who
switched from medical articles and books about three years ago
to write what he likes best, detective fiction. He's written
a dozen or so (and counting) stories featuring private eye Peter B. Bruck, which have been
all published or accepted for publication, in small-circulation
And head here for more Thrilling Detective Fiction!
Please direct comments on the above story
and inquiries about submissions to
the editor, or check out this page.
"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking
to a man that likes to talk."
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