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Ed Lacy - Sin In Their Blood

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Sin In Their Blood
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Ed Lacy - Sin In Their Blood
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Sin In Their Blood

Ed Lacy

     This page formatted 2007 Munsey's.

      http://www.munseys.com

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

     MATT RANZINO

     Ex-fighter, ex-cop, ex-private detective. Home after fighting in Korea, he wanted quiet—but a killer had other plans for him.

     HARRY LOUGHLIN

     He and Matt had been partners before the war. Was now a professional blackmailer.

     FLO

     Sensual blonde Matt had gone with before the Army. Was now tied up with Loughlin. Matt couldn't see the combo.

     AUSTIN

     Pint-sized eccentric. Had a queer hobby which Loughlin used as a source of information for his blackmail racket.

     MADY

     Matt moved into her house to keep tabs on her— wound up falling for her. Was somehow tied up with the killer.

     SAXTON

     Hired Matt to find the murderer of his sister. Paid him a large retainer—but Matt wasn't sure Saxton was on the level.

MONDAY

     It was almost 10 a.m. and starting to warm up as I walked slowly down the main street, stopping every few minutes to rest my light bag. It's the kind of a street you think about a lot when you're out of town... and then return and wonder why the hell you ever looked forward to seeing it again. I took in the skyscrapers, the movie houses, the gin mills, the bookie joints that passed as cigar stores, the radio-station tower that disappeared into the blue sky, a modern monument to nothing. I watched the people hurrying by, the crowded restaurants and orangeade stands, the heavy traffic—and I knew the street didn't mean a thing to me any more. I suppose in the hospital I'd thought about it so often because it had been a dream then, a symbol of living. Now, as I looked up and down the busy street— this street that had been a big part of my life—all I could think was, where had I got it? In what bar or eating place or movie had somebody breathed deeply and given me the damn bug?

     There were lots of places I could have gone to but I didn't have anyplace to go to, so I dropped into the Baker, the best hotel in town. I had less than seventy bucks and this was strictly a lush spot, but after eleven months of hospital beds, I wanted a little luxury for a few nights. As I walked across the impressive lobby, Abe Berg, the house dick, came toward me like a wobbly tank. Abe was a rough joker, once he got his mitts on you. He'd been a professional wrestler and his face had been stepped on a couple of times—and put together again carelessly. Some guys get by on their size, or rough talk—Abe got by on his face. He said in a shrill voice, “Matt Ranzino! You big bastard, heard you were the hero of that mess in Korea!”

     “I was there,” I said, turning my head to avoid his breath as we pumped hands.

     “On a case here?” Abe asked, then being a real bright detective he noticed my bag, added, “Staying here? I can get you the professional rate—40 per cent off.”

     “I'm on nothing. Just got into town. Thought I'd put up here for a few days.”

     “I'll fix you up with the desk.”

     “Thanks.”

     He banged me on the shoulder with one of his meat-hooks, and I thought I was going to fall over. I let go of his hand, stepped back out of his reach as he said, “Boy, you look in top shape. Whatcha weigh?”

     “Two hundred... and five and a half ounces.”

     “And hard as that old brick house,” he said, trying to slap me in the guts with his heavy left hand. I pushed that aside, said, “Take it slow, Abe, I... eh... ate a minute ago.”

     “Sure. Stop in my office for a hooker?”

     “Too early.”

     We went over to the desk clerk, who looked as though he just had the cellophane unwrapped from him. Abe introduced me as a buddy-buddy and whispered something into the clerk's ear and it must have been good—I only had to pay three bucks for a room and bath. I wanted to go up and lay down for a while, but Abe wanted to talk. He told the clerk, “Matt here was the toughest private dick in town.”

     “Well, well,” the clerk said in a deadpan voice that must be an occupational disease with hotel clerks.

     “He was a rough cookie. Say, every time I see this Humphrey Bogart doing his stuff in the movies I say to myself, them Hollywood jokers ought to get Matt Ranzino on the screen and really see a rough clown in action.”

     “The house-dick business so bad you've become a publicity agent, too?” I asked Abe, and the clerk chuckled at this corn.

     “It's the truth, ain't no stuff,” Abe said as I picked up my bag. We walked over to the elevator and he asked casually, “What you going to do, Matt, get your license again?”

     “I don't know. Going to take it easy for a time.”

     “Heard about your partner, Harry Loughlin? He's in the big money.” Abe said it as though the words tasted bad. “So I heard. What kind of agency he got?”

     “You going in with him again?”

     “No.”

     Abe gave me a horrible leer that was a gold-tooth smile. “Good! Listen what Harry's doing is... well, I ain't for talking about it, but it stinks. Really stinks big, Matt.”

     “Harry's the lad to think up a fast hustle,” I said, moving into the elevator.

     “A hustle is a hustle but this...” Abe shook his big head. “This is real crummy, worse than a two-bit pimp, or a—”

     “See you around, Abe,” I said, motioning at the elevator operator.

     There was a bellhop waiting at the room and I had to give him half a buck for unlocking the door. But he tossed the change on the bed, said, “You don't have to give me nothing, Mr. Ranzino. I was coming from school when you busted that drunken driver's jaw and...”

     “Take the change.”

     “No, sir. They had a hell of a nerve busting you from the force just because he was the mayor's cousin.”

     “The mayor's family can never be a drunk,” I said. That was all only five years ago, now it seemed like another lifetime.

     “I followed all your cases in the papers after that, felt I was reading about a friend. I mean, because I was in on that first thing. My name is Jim, Mr. Ranzino, and I'm no movie-happy jerk, but if you should open your own agency again, I'd like a job as office boy. Anything to learn the business. I'm small but tough as...”

     “Ask Abe to tell you the secrets of the trade.”

     “That ape, thinks he's funny giving you a grip-of-iron handshake. He told me all he knows in two minutes. I'm serious Mr...'”

     “Don't know exactly what I'm going to do,” I said, “but I'll keep you in mind, Jim.”

     His face showed the let-down at the brush-off, but he said thanks a million and went out. I locked the door, opened my shirt, stretched out on the bed. It was a big, soft bed, a big room. I wasn't tired and I couldn't sleep. I wondered why I'd ever come back to this town. Pops was dead, I had no one. And Abe and this Korea hero crap. And this dizzy kid—must be almost 17 or 18, army-bait unless he was lucky enough to be a moron.

     I lay there, lazily wondering what to do—being out of a hospital was a little like getting out of stir. One thing, I'd have to find a room, give my change of address to the government as soon as possible. If my monthly check was held up too long, I'd be in a bad way.

     I'd look around out at the beach—be the best place to live. Air wasn't too damp. Get me a cheap room there tomorrow—hell with this big bed.

     I turned over and saw my wristwatch. It was after eleven and I went to the neat adjoining bath and washed out a clean glass thoroughly, was downing one of my multi-vitamin pills I had to take three times a day, when the phone rang.

     “Hear you just got into town, Matt.” It was the smooth, almost purring voice of my former partner— and as unpleasant sounding as ever. Harry must really be a wheel, for obviously although he hated him—or said he did—Abe had phoned him the minute I went up to my room.

     I asked, “What's new, Harry?” to be polite.

     “Plenty cooking. You feeling okay, Matt?”

     “Yeah—guess so.”

     “That's swell. Must of had yourself a time with those nurses, coming to your bed and throwing it at you all the...”

     “What's on your mind, Harry?”

     “Why Matt, this is the first time I've talked to you in a year. Get the cigarettes I sent you every month?”

     “No.”

     “That's odd, I sure sent them. Had Flo take care of it. Say Matt, like to make a little real talkie with you. How about dropping over to my office after lunch? Say about one-thirty?”

     “Okay.”

     “See you then, Matt boy. Got a deal cooking at lunch, otherwise I'd break bread with you. I'm in suite 2111, the Grace Building. See you.”

     I said okay and hung up. Harry was so smooth and full of crap it was comical... the way he told me he was in touch with Flo, and that my office jive. But I didn't give a damn about Flo or the office.

     It was almost noon and I was hungry. As I crossed the lobby Abe pretended to read a paper and didn't notice me.

     I walked down Main Street and all the eating places were full and I wanted to avoid crowds. Long as I was splurging, I dropped into The Glass Stem, one of the more expensive bars in town. The bar was crowded but most of the booths were empty. I took a booth, told the waiter, “Glass of milk and a lettuce and tomato sandwich on whole wheat toast.”

     He had fish-eyes and a skinny face and he almost looked pop-eyed as he asked, “You say milk or beer?”

     “Milk. Still serve that, don't you?”

     “Yes, sir.”

     “Make sure it's fresh.”

     “Won't serve it if it isn't.” He turned toward the bar and called out, “Bob, we-got any fresh milk?”

     The barkeep nodded.

     A fat, hard face peered out of the booth in front of me, repeated, “Milk?” It was Tops Anderson, a big-time goon, and when his drunken, bloodshot eyes got me in focus, he grinned, said, “Well for—Jesus—Matt Ranzino!”

     He got to his feet and I saw he'd put on weight the last year. He held out a pudgy hand and I shook it and he sat down opposite me, said, “Can't say you're a sight for sore eyes, but I always did like you. When you get back in town?”

     “Today.”

     “Bill!” Tops yelled. A lean young kid of about 20, with cool eyes and the cocky manner of a jerk who thinks he owns the world because he packs a gun, stood up in the next booth. He joined us, walking in a practiced, cat-like way. Tops said, “Bill, meet Matt Ranzino, one of the toughest dicks out. And say it with a 'D.'”

     We touched hands; the kid had no use for dicks.

     Tops went into the army hero pitch and when the waiter brought my milk, Tops said, “Forget that cow piss, bring us three ryes.”

     I took the milk, said I wasn't drinking.

     “What's the matter, used to lap it up. You don't want to drink with me?”

     “I'm on the wagon,” I said, sipping my milk.

     The snooty punk grinned and Tops shook his head. “You've changed. And things've changed since you been away, Matt. I own most of the juke boxes in town.”

     “All of them,” the gunman added. He had an odd way of talking, biting off each word as though talking bored him.

     I didn't say anything, went to work on my sandwich.

     “Yeah, I cornea long ways since that time you sent me up.” Tops turned to Bill. “Matt's the only copper ever got me.”

     “When was that?” the punk asked, to make conversation.

     “Three, four years ago. I don't know, maybe longer. I was working for... never mind who. I was just a rough bastard, bouncing guys. Tossed some nut out of this bar and he landed wrong, got a concussion or something. So the dope is silly enough to sue and I got to throw out the process server too. He returns with a dick—Matt. I go for the both of 'em and Matt here breaks my lower plate with the fastest left hook I ever seen.”

     The hood looked me over again, buttered up Tops with, “Beat you to the punch, boss?”

     The waiter brought two drinks and Tops took his down in one gulp while Bill toyed with his. The kid didn't look like the type that ever let himself get drunk. Tops burst out laughing. “Hell of it was, I've beat some rugged raps, but I couldn't square this simple assault charge. I did three months. Matt, you sure got a kick in your hands.”

     I finished my sandwich and milk, wondered if it was then I'd got it. But the doc had said it would have been during a strain, and Tops had been easy, he was one of those wild-swinging brawlers. And that had been too long ago—the bug would have died in my lungs before Korea.

     “Yeah, Matt packs a kayo. 'Course, you kind of took advantage of me. If I'd have known you was a pug.... I was a handy-andy with a blackjack... then. Bill, you're looking at a guy who could have been heavyweight champ of the world, maybe. Hey Matt, you know Pops died while you was away?”

     “I know.”

     “Pops and his boys. Bill, make sense turning down a ring career to become a cop? And Matt was real good at it, too.”

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