The Shanghai Jester – Robert Leslie Bellem (1934)


Every time Cliff Downey thought of that cablegram, his square jaw jutted, his icy gray eyes narrowed and his mouth became a grim slit in the hard granite of his face.

Downey is following a .38 automatic with his hand on the butt of a “chink” [1] bellhop — no wait, he has his hand on the butt of a .38 automatic and is following a “chink” [1] bellhop. Yikes — I guess that’s not much better!  This is clearly from a different era.

As the “yellow boy” [1] (OK, enough of that — you get the idea) raises his hand to knock on the hotel room door, Downey slaps it away. He is tracking a man named Muller but must be careful as the cable warned him that competitors at The Argus Detective Firm are also on Muller’s trail.  Downy has traced him over three continents to find him here in Shanghai.

Muller stole $750,000 of jewels from the Vandervorts in Chicago of the Chicago Vandervorts who are offering a $10,000 reward.  He doesn’t trust the Argus gang not to let him do the legwork, slip him a shiv, and steal the jewels from him for the reward. Muller does not answer the door, though . . .

He stared into the piquant, youthful features of a girl — a slender, elfin person whose tawny yellow hair tumbled in a glorious cascade over bare and intriguing shoulder, whose hazel eyes were demurely fringed with gentian lashes, whose bee-stung lips were parted to reveal two rows of tiny, even teeth.  Her boyish body was clad in a negligee that had fallen open at the throat to disclose creamy expanses of smooth girl-flesh swelling into twin firm half-globes straining beneath the soft silken restraint of a diaphanous brassiere.

The good news is, she is Muller’s daughter.  She calls her father out and Downey prepares to haul him in.  He asks Downey to wait until his daughter Babs goes to lunch so she doesn’t see her father perp-walked out.  She goes out, presumably after covering up her firm twin half-globes.  Quite the civilized gentleman, Muller tells Downey that he has the jewels, why not just let him go for his daughter’s sake — and Downey agrees.

Downey is no fool, though, and a few minutes later spies on the couple.  Muller tells Babs, who is not really his daughter, to go to Downey’s hotel, slip him some cyanide and steal the jewels back.  Babs braves the rain to go to Downey’s hotel.  In his room, he gallantly suggests she get out of those wet clothes, and she agrees.

Shortly she reappeared clad only in a bathrobe he had handed her.  His eyes drank in her beauty.  The robe had slipped down over her shoulders, revealing more than a glimpse of the firm contours of her bare and jutting breasts.  her unclad legs and creamy thighs peered forth boldly from the robe as she walked toward him.

Babs admits that she is actually Muller’s mistress.  But a girl’s gotta have standards — him being a jewel thief is just unacceptable to her, so she wants out.  You know, now that he’s busted.  She asks Downey to take her back to America and shows off “her smooth body, her perfect breasts, firm and pink-tipped and provocative.” Babs hands him the drugged drink which he covertly dumps; he then pretends to fall into “deadly sleep”.

Back in Chi-town [2], Downey’s boss chews him out because he heard the Argus Firm was handing over Vandervort’s jewels for the reward at that very minute.  Not so, Downey says — he had immediately pegged Babs as the Argus operative even though she was more of a Vargas operative.  The tip-off was that no man would call his daughter “Babs”.  Downey switched out some fake jewels to make her think she got away with the real jewels so the Argus Firm wouldn’t cut off his family jewels.

About what you would expect from a 1934 magazine called Spicy Adventure Stories.


  • [1] A quote, hence the quotes.
  • [2] This is ironic as he was earlier in Chai-town . . . OK, Chai is a word for tea derived from the Mandarin word chá ().  And the Chinese dialect spoken in the titular Shanghai:  Mandarin.  Now that’s weak tea.
  • First published in Spicy Adventure Stories, July 1934.
  • Also that month:  Dillinger shot.  I guess the cops won again.
  • Also, FDR is the “1st sitting president to visit South America.”  What the — is that a wheelchair joke?
  • Robert Leslie Bellem was previously heard from in Blood for the Vampire Dead.
  • Bellem is apparently best known for his creation of detective Dan Turner.  Good article here that makes me want to read more by him.

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