The following is an excerpt from one of my stories in an anthology now under production and soon to be available on Amazon. This book is a selection of 24 stories from the many that I wrote in the pulp days, when guys could go to to a dance hall and get a partner for ten cents a dance, folks at home could read short stories for ten cents a magazine, and pulp authors got paid one cent a word. I came on the scene in 1945, about ten years before the end of the heyday of the pulps. I wrote suspense, mystery, detective, surprise-ending, and western short stories and novelettes. I also wrote for Hitchcock and other digests. In addition, I wrote a mystery pulp novel titled TONKY TONK GIRL under my pen name, Charles Beckman, Jr. It is available on Amazon.
This excerpt comes a story called “Blackmail is a Boomerang,” from the anthology SUSPENSE, SUSPICION, & SHOCKERS. It is the first page and a half of the story.
BLACKMAIL IS A BOOMERANG
The hotel was very quiet, asleep too, beaten down by the day’s heat. A stair creaked under my foot. The gun in my hand felt heavy. In a few minutes it would destroy the stillness, and death would settle over the hotel like a fog.
Somewhere a typewriter clicked. Busy little machine, clicking off the minutes. The FBI agent, Gordon Knaves, typing a report that would never be finished.
I stood before his door. Light crept under it, a hopeful finger of life probing the black darkness of the hall. Somewhere a mouse scurried. In a room down the hall, a woman laughed.
Max, are you watching? You have a ringside seat, you know, right across the street. Front row, center aisle. Curtain going up. First and last performance. Play named Murder.
I stood before the door. My hands dripped sweat and the gun became slippery and hard to hold. I thought, standing there, that once a man becomes enslaved to evil there is no depths to which it cannot drag him. The devil was my master and had commanded me to do murder. And I did dare not disobey.
I turned the knob, stepped into the room. It was careless of the man to leave the door unlocked.
He glanced up from his desk. His fingers were hovering over the keys. Dead fingers, still alive. The report in his machine. The paper that wouldn’t be finished. Stopped in the middle of a sentence.
He looked up at me, the slim, dark young man. Gordon Knaves, agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Did he have a family, I wondered? A wife? Was she waiting for him somewhere miles away, like Donie was for me? Was his little boy saying a prayer?
The gun in my hand made a terrible racket. I didn’t know there was that much noise in the world. It seemed to split the hotel apart, shaking windows on every floor. Three times it blasted that way, and my body shuddered and my teeth clicked with every report.
The man, Gordon Knaves, half rose. He kept staring at me. He fell forward, over the little table, knocking to the floor the portable typewriter and the report that wouldn’t be finished tonight.
The hotel sucked in its breath. Then it screamed. Down the hall, the woman who had laughed, screamed shrilly. The mouse vanished, frightened back into hiding by the strange carryings-on. Footsteps pounded. The elevator creaked. Men’s voices yelled hoarsely.
I shook myself into motion. I ran down to the end of the hall. The woman was standing in her doorway in a loose negligee, clawing at her throat, her mouth wide open and screaming.
I yanked the window up. My shoes scraped on the rusty iron fire escape. The alley, then. Stumbling over a barrel of trash. A frightened cat squalling. Lights flashing on everywhere. A world full of lights splitting the darkness.
The car, Max. Please, the car. You promised.
There it was, now. Pulling away from the curb across the street. A black sedan. Swerving toward me, tires howling. I hit the running board fast. A door opened and I fell inside and the car leaped away with a jet burst of speed.
In the dark corner of the back seat, Max’s cigar tip glowed. It danced around in the dark and his face pressed toward me, a round moon face, smiling, pleased.
“Nice, Tommy. Nice all the way through. We watched it all from the room across the street. We could practically see the surprised look on Knave’s face.”
“Shut up,” I whispered, my face dripping sweat. My voice crawled up an octave and my stomach turned over. “For Lord’s sake, shut up!”
I was remembering when I had received my orders, and learned I had to kill.