Big Bill Ryan knows Ed Jenkins is flat broke. Ed is a crook. Once his bankers found out, they quietly stole his money assuming he wouldn’t call the cops. If it’s any consolation to him, they will be jumping out of windows in a couple of years. I guess Ed wasn’t much of a crook; I don’t remember Don Corleone getting rolled like that. Bill has a job for Ed and hands him a note.
Two hours after you get this message, meet me at apartment 624, Reedar Arms Apartments. The door will be open — HMH.
Ed shows up at the address and finds a woman in a negligee despite the fact she knew a man would be there in 2 hours. Oh, right — I get it. The woman pulls out a $500 bill and hands it to the guy which is not the transaction I’m used to. She follows it with 19 others as payment for the guy to do a simple job. She wants him to steal a necklace, and to kidnap her niece. She says, “Mr. Jenkins, once you have my niece, you can do anything with her that you want. You must keep her for 2 days. After that, you may let her go or keep her.”
He declines. She counters that the necklace he would be stealing actually belongs to her. Also, she is the legal guardian of the niece and gives him permission to kidnap her. Not only that, she will let him meet the niece and she will agree to be kidnapped. It is just a ruse to get the insurance money for the necklace. I don’t get the role of the niece . . . although I could be talked into just about anything for $10,000 and a young woman to be named later. Somehow, Ed has the supernatural reputation of being able to get away with crimes even when caught, so the police aren’t an issue. Ed agrees to take the gig.
She arose, slipped out of the negligee, and approached the suitcase. From the suitcase, she took a tailored suit and slipped into it.
That’s it? These stories might have a better pedigree than the ones in the Spicy Adventure Megapack, but they are a lot less fun. This is especially maddening from Erle Stanley Gardner. His books often had really c*ckteasing titles and covers, but the insides never delivered.
The woman drives them to a large house where she introduces Ed to her niece
Ellery Queen Jean Ellery. Jean has inherited the family subtlety and asks, “I understand you are going to kidnap me. Are you a caveman or do you kidnap ’em gently?” She says, “Life here is the bunk.” She is happy to be kidnapped.
The woman explains this is the house of Arthur Holton and she is his personal secretary. Tomorrow night, he is going to announce their engagement and give her the necklace. At 9:30, she will pocket the original, let her niece test-drive a fake, and an assistant will grab Jean, tie her up and stow her in the trunk of a car that will be left for Ed. To convince the insurance company this was a legit robbery, she suggests Ed arrive at the party, announce he was shafted by Holton in a business deal, and wave his gun around at the guests. He will then escape to a seaside house the woman has rented for him where he and Jean will pose as a married couple. And, oh yeah, he must not open the trunk until he reaches the cottage. What the hell is this mysterious Clintonesque Get Out of Jail Free Card he possesses?
He worries about her double-crossing him and calling the cops although showing his face at the party, waiving a gun around, and kidnapping Jean might be enough to get their interest . . . you know, if not for the GOOJFC. She agrees to write an affidavit explaining everything, have it notarized, and filed with a trust company. We finally get her name — Hattie M. Hare. At the lawyer’s office, he catches the lawyer pocketing the signed confessions and handing the trust company an envelope of blank paper. And here we go.
Of course, “the niece” was not the niece. The real Jean never trusted her aunt and turns out to be cute, resourceful, and a graduate of stunt driving school. Hattie grabs Jean and Ed goes Brian Mills on her. He thinks back to “years I had been a lone wolf, had earned the name The Phantom Crook, one who could slip through the fingers of the police. There had been a welcome vacation while I enjoyed immunity in California, but now all that had passed.”
Hattie gets away, but Ed saves Jean just as the police show up. They are ready to haul him in, but everything is explained, showing him to be innocent. Jean’s rich father vows to see Ed’s “name is cleared of every charge against you in every state, that you are a free man, that you are restored to citizenship.” Well, it’s all well and good that her fat-cat father will bribe the judiciary in several states, but what had been keeping Ed out of jail all this time?
A pretty good one.
-  The niece is 20, so that’s not as creepy as it seems.
-  So much attention is devoted to cats — the title, Hattie’s cat-like eyes and movement, a leopard skin Davenport, a tiger rug, a painting of a cat — and Gardner names her after a rabbit?
- First published in the February 1927 issue of Black Mask.
- Also that month: Buster Keaton’s The General is released.
- The Kindle version repeatedly misspells Erle as Erie.