The Black 13 – Ellery Watson Calder (1935)

sascoverAfter the last couple of racially-charged stories, I was relieved to see the title referred to a roulette wheel.

Steve King plunks down his last $5 on the titular black 13.  In a million-to-one [1] shot, his number actually hits and the croupier pushes $175 his way.  Another gambler reaches for it and says, “I beg your pardon.  That was my bet.” Fortun-ately she is “a young girl.  And damned attractive” or she would have ended up like Jake Jennings.

Inexplicably, he lets the girl have the loot and strolls out of the casino.  He hears someone come up behind him.  “It was the raven-haired wren who’d cabbaged my thirty-five blue chips.”

She knows King and his tragic story.  He was a pilot who crashed a plane in the desert, killing 3 passengers.  Though he was found to be drunk, she knows that he was set up. After the crash, someone poured gin down his throat while he was unconscious.  If he goes back to the US, the FCC will put him in jail (the FAA being 23 years in the future).  She also knows that his plane was sabotaged.

The girl hands him $175 which is precisely opposite to the transaction that I am used to with women.  She was just trying to get his attention with the cash grab.  She tells King to come to her room at 11 pm.

“She had discarded her evening gown.  She was clad in a diaphanous, flowing negligee. Black crepe it was, and her white body showed through it like a Turk’s dream of paradise.”  She immediately tells him to hide in the closet.  “What kind of shenanigan is this?” he asks.  Who says these stories aren’t educational?  I didn’t even know it was possible to have a single shenanigan.

Another man is coming to her room in 10 minutes.  Her plan is for King to conk him on the head.  They will then haul his body to an airplane which they will take back to El Norte.  King says he’s in enough trouble already and declines.  The girl starts coming on to him.  Looking a gift-ho in the mouth, he wants to know if she thinks he’s cute, or just needs his help.  His solution: “I ripped the negligee all the way open and fondled her breasts.”

She actually just needed his help, so throws him out . . . thus no longer having his help. King is a good egg, though, and circles around behind the building.  Knowing the girl is in trouble, he climbs the fire escape to her window hoping to witness her visitor; and maybe her boobs again.

The man comes in and grabs the girl.  She does not toss him out as she did King.  After producing some secret plans he asked for, she has a secret plan of her own.  She attempts to slip a Mickey into his drink, but he catches her.  As he begins roughing her up, King smashes through the window.  He conks the man on the head, so the original plan is back on track.

As she races to get dressed, King gets glimpse of her “white melons”.  They had been mere “hillocks” 2 pages ago.

On the way to the airport, the girl says there was a government agent on the plane King had crashed.  An organization of international spies coincidentally called Black 13 sabotaged the plane.  After the crash, they swooped in, lifted the secret plans off the agent’s dead body, poured gin down King’s gin-hole [2], and stole 500 packs of peanuts. She finally reveals her name — Yolande Carteret — and says the agent was her brother Ted Carteret!  King collates these facts . . . roulette, black 13, Black 13, government agent, secret plan, sabotage . . . and concludes Yolande Carteret is not married — ha cha cha!

Black 13 intercepts them at the airport and plans to drop them over the desert from 5,000 feet.  There is a double-cross, a fake double-cross, gun fire, a barf-bag, and the other shenanigan.  King is able to save the day.  The spy ring is smashed, his name is cleared, and he gets the girl.  He celebrates by pawing the “creamy white, velvety surface of her swelling  white breasts” like a TSA Agent right there on the tarmac.

Another pretty good outing for what it is.


  • [1] And, by “million”, I mean thirty-seven.  Odds are 36-to-1 on a French wheel. This story takes place in Mexico, though, so I’m going with the American version. Why is ours 37-to-1?  Donald Trump is right — we get screwed on every deal!
  • [2] i.e. alco-hole.
  • First published in August 1935.
  • Also that month in plane crash news:  Will Rogers dies.
  • Ellery Watson Calder was previously heard from with The Tattooed Blonde.
  • Heh, hehe . . . cabbaged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.