One, Two, Three – Paul Cain (1933)

Great, a story told in 1st person so I will never know who the speaker is unless he talks in front of a mirror.  When in Rome, IL . . .

I was trailing a man named Healey.  He had slipped out of Chicago two hours ahead of me and headed for Los Angeles.  Gard, an op from another agency, mentioned that Healey had been seen in Caliente, Nevada.  I mistakenly went to see Frank Caliendo in Las Vegas, then after the show headed to Caliente.  Healey was in the second place I looked; the first being all the places he wasn’t.

He was in a small-time poker game.  During a break he bought cocktails for the rubes at his table, while having lemonade himself.  I asked if he knew a bookie from back east named Lonnie that I knew he knew but he didn’t know that I knew.  We became thick as pudgy thieves, even though only one of us was; a thief I mean.  Frankly, both of us could lose a few pounds.   Healey had ripped off a railroad for $150k and nearly been busted when he tried to put a hotel on it.

That night, Healey came to my room.  He needed to get out of town quick before the missus caught up with him again.  There was a deal with blackmail and also a deal with a white male who claimed to be her brother.  Healey was just in Nevada to get a quickie divorce at the Elvis Divorce Chapel & Muffler Shop.  I agreed to drive him back to Los Angeles.  He had no luggage, like many boobs leaving NV with just the shirt on his back.

While I was waiting for him in the car, I heard 5 shots from the hotel.  Like a dope, I went back in.  Upstairs, I found Healey dead of gunshot wounds and his wife stabbed to death with a pistol in her mitts.  Witnesses had seen Healey picking his teeth with the knife at the 24 hour buffet.  Among the missing:  $150k, less some chump-change in the chump’s pocket.

My guess was that Healey had gone upstairs to knock off his wife, using me as the getaway driver.  Her alleged brother must have interrupted, shooting Healey in the back after he had stabbed the woman.  Now he had looted the loot.  This seemed plausible until Gard told me the dead woman was not Healey’s wife.

Gard and I paid a visit to the real Mrs. Healey.  She was a hot dame with snappy gams, a real pip.  She seemed genuinely distraught at Healey’s murder.  She had been hoping they could patch things up.  Plans had already been made to ship her husband’s dead body back home to Detroit where it would not be noticed.

Back at my hotel, I got a wire from Chicago.  The dead woman was a contortionist extortionist who worked with her husband Arthur Raines, who pretended to be her brother for 23 hours and 58 minutes each day.  Her fake brother’s real brother William Raines was listed as a contact — and I’m assuming it is his brother — this is 1933, for God’s sake.

I staked out casa de Raines until I saw a man I assumed to be him get in a cab.  We followed the cab until the driver looked back and our eyes met.  I had seen him at the scene of the crime!  Then he took off, leaving us in the dust.  I cursed and embarrassed myself in front of the cab driver — dammit why do they all speak English!

Thinking about taking a train back to New York, I drove by Mrs. Healey’s apartment one last time.  I spotted a blue Chrysler out front that I had seen in Nevada.  I slipped the spick elevator boy a buck, and went up — er, I hope no one reads this in 84 years [ed:  probably close to the truth].  I could hear through the door that the man and Mrs. Healey were talking, but why would they be together?  Hearing a scream, I busted in.

Mrs. Healey — and by this point, I really wish I had gotten her first name — was up against a wall as two men wrestled on the floor.  Arthur Raines and my pal Gard were fighting for a gun.  I was able to easily pick up the gun and conk Raines on the noggin. Then Gard conked me.  Then Mrs. Healey conked Gard.  The titular One, Two, Three.

When we all regained consciousness, Raines explained the whole complex story.  My head was still pounding; mostly from hearing the whole complex story.  Mrs. Healey fled to New Zealand and wisely bought property in The Shire.

I found out the next day I had a concussion and was kept in the hospital for 9 days until they realized there was no such thing as HooverCare.  The whole Healey ordeal cost me about a grand.

While I enjoyed this story, I’m not sure I enjoyed it so much that facing another 1,125 pages isn’t scaring me.


  • First published in Black Mask in May 1933.
  • Also that month:  the Loch Ness Monster was first spotted.  Possibly related, this was 2 months after Prohibition ended . . . well, 4,000 miles away.  But the Scots were probably loaded anyway. [pffft – various accounts suggest other dates]
  • Written by Paul Cain.
  • No wait, that was a pseudonym for Peter Ruric.
  • Not so fast, that was a nom de plume used by George Carrol Sims because he had a girl name; no, I mean George.

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