A racket to mulct the multitudes is plenty reason for murder.
Mulct? Yep, real word.
Sam Cragg is the kind of guy who will repo a car at a funeral, i.e. efficient. He busts Anthony Druhar at his grandmother’s funeral. His entire family can only come up with $32, so Cragg agrees to stop by his house the next day for the balance.
It is a good day for Cragg as he finds Druhar dead, with his head twisted around backwards. So I guess he gets the $32 and the car. There is a piece of paper sticking out of Druhar’s pocket. Cragg reads, “For value received, I promise to pay Tony Druhar five thousand dollars — WC ROBERTS.” So, a pretty good day for WC Roberts, too.
A moment later, a character futurely known as Prince gets out of a cab. “He is wearing a black, single-breasted coat which is open showing a fawn colored waist-coat. Under it is a pair of striped trousers and below that, believe it or not, white spats. On his head, he’s got a pearl gray Homburg. He’s carrying a pair of pig-skin yellow gloves and a cane.” He introduces himself as Prince Peter Strogovich. He was just about to give Druhar a job.
The cops show up and briefly detain Cragg and the Prince, but neither is a suspect. On an unrelated case the next day, their paths cross again. Cragg sees him leaving a candy store that Cragg is heading for. Inside “sits the biggest woman I’ve ever seen in my life. She’s six foot two or three inches tall and big all around. She weighs 290 or 300 and none of it is flabby fat.” She asks what he is looking for and he says — heehee — “a dick magazine.”
He sees the Prince exit the saloon across the street where he must have only had a shot. The Prince hires Cragg to locate a man who owes him money — WC Roberts! He says that his cousin was the King of Serbia, Peter Karageorgovich.
Cragg goes to an address the Prince (because I ain’t gonna keep typing Karageorgovich) gave him. He asks the super where to find WC Roberts. The man laughs and pulls out his own $5k note signed by WC. He says the Irish are buying them for $5, but the Polacks and Serbians are paying up to $20. He says the Prince is in cahoots with WC and directs Cragg to a big Serbian hootenanny that night.
The Prince is giving a speech about how Edison and Westinghouse and Ford stole ideas from WC Roberts. The notes are to fund lawsuits against them. The giant woman is on the stage with them.
Blah, blah, blah. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. The story takes enough twists and turns that your time would be better spent reading the story rather than reading this blog. But really, what wouldn’t be? It zips right along and is filled with characters like the Prince, the giant woman, Cragg’s boss & secretary. Cragg sets a trap involving a children’s book and the post office.
It all good fun. Hopefully Frank Gruber shows up again in the anthology.
- First published in the March 1939 issue of Black Mask.
- Also that month, Howard Carter suspiciously succumbs to King Tut’s curse a mere 17 years after finding the tomb. And some Hitler stuff.