42 Days For Murder (1938) – It takes six weeks or 42 days to get a quickee divorce in Reno. A lot can happen in 42 days.
Private detective Shean Connell is hired to clear up a divorce case in Reno, Nevada, a wide-open little town rife with an assortment of gangsters and politicians running the gambling, prostitution, dope, and, of course, “easy divorce” rackets.
42 Days For Murder was the only full length novel that Roger Torrey ever wrote. It was originally published in 1938.
Over a thirteen year period, Roger Torrey (1901-1946) turned out about two hundred and eighty stories and novellas, and one novel. Over one hundred of them were cover stories in magazines like Black Mask, Dime Detective and Detective Fiction Weekly.
LESTER came in my office with the sun hitting his glasses and making them shine like headlights. He said: “Joey Free and some other man are outside and want to see you.”
He stopped, took off his glasses and started to polish them. He can’t see two feet in front of his nose without them, but he peered over toward where I was and added:
“Joey is drunk, I think. I think the other man is drunk, too.”
I said: “It’s early in the day for that, even for Joey. But I wouldn’t let it bother me.”
Lester’s tone showed it bothered him plenty. He had the notion Joey Free built the world and then a neat little picket fence around it. And Lester’s only nineteen and doesn’t appreciate the solid joy a drinking man takes with his drink.
Then Joey and his friend followed Lester in.
Joey is big and stocky, with a body like a keg. He was supposed to have a lot of money and to be spending it on women and liquor far too fast. It wasn’t gossip because I’d been to parties at Joey’s place. The man with him was tall and slat-like and looked very solemn and serious. I had to take another look before I could see the look was put on for effect; that the man was just carrying his liquor carefully.
Joey is ordinarily careful about his clothes. But he was dressed in clothes that looked as though they’d been thrown at him. The coat and trousers didn’t match, he wore no necktie, and his shirt was filthy dirty.
The other man looked no better; he couldn’t well have looked worse.
Joey gave me his big toothy grin and said: “Hi, Shean! I brought you a customer. We just got in. This is Tod Wendel. Toddy, tell the man your troubles.”
I said I was glad to meet Mr. Wendel and Lester put his glasses back on and scurried around and got chairs. I introduced him to Wendel, saw the doubtful look Wendel gave him, and let Lester do the explaining, which he always does. Lester said:
“My great-uncle left me some money so I bought an interest in Mr. Connell’s agency. I’ve always been interested in criminology. It’s a fascinating subject.”
Lester’s a lanky kid who looks sixteen and no older. I could see Wendel’s estimation of the Connell agency take a drop but Joey helped things out with:
“Shean got himself a partner and five grand along with him. Shean will do anything for money and admits it.”
I said: “Where in hell did you get the rig? You look like a bum, Joey.”
“In Reno,” he said. “That’s what Toddy wants to talk to you about. Toddy and I went to Yale together. I met him in Reno when he wired me.”
I said to Lester: “Ask Miss Gahagan to come in and make notes, kid,” and to Wendel:
“Suppose you tell me about it.”
Wendel told his story and it didn’t seem to make much sense. According to him, he was in the money; most of it in two little steamships and a South American importing business. He’d married a girl named Ruth Carstairs three years before and they’d never had a cross word between them. He swore to that, with tears in his eyes. He’d gone to South America two months before, and just returned to New York.
“And then he went home and found mama gone. Without a word or note left for him. Just a vacant apartment and empty closet space where her clothes had been.
He admitted he went a little goofy then. But he got himself together, found the apartment house manager, and discovered his wife and her maid had left for Reno, with the express purpose of divorcing him.
So he followed them to Reno.
Here Joey Free took up the tale. He said: “The first I knew about it was when I got a wire from Toddy. It just said ‘Meet me Golden Eagle Reno at once.’ Naturally I joined him there.”
“I probably wouldn’t have wired Joey,” Wendel told me, “except that Joey was in New York just before I left for South America and we saw a bit of each other. I remembered he lived here and I thought he might be able to help me.”
I said: “I don’t get the idea of you needing help. You must have walked on your wife’s pet corn some way you don’t remember. Why in hell don’t you talk to her and get it straightened out?”
Wendel looked as though he was going to break down and sob. He said, with tears in his voice: “That’s just it. She won’t talk with me. I tried to see her and she had me thrown out of the house. It was then I wired Joey; I was desperate.”
“And then what happened?”
Joey grinned and said: “We both got thrown out. And boy, what I mean we got thrown out. I’ve been heaved out of a lot of places during my sinful life but they did a masterful job. See!”
He pointed to his eye and I could see where it had been blacked. I hadn’t noticed this before because his face was so dirty. He went on with: “I argued with two of the tough babies she’s got guarding her and that was the wrong thing to do. They weren’t fooling. I thought I got a couple of broken ribs out of it, too, but they were just bruises.”
Wendel took up the tale of woe with: “And then we went to the police. I’d already been there but they’d said there was nothing they could do about it. That I had no right to talk with my own wife unless she was willing. But Joey knew a man who knew some of the police and we told him about it.”
“And got exactly nowhere,” Joey Free put in. “Ruth’s living at her lawyer’s house and the cops don’t want any part of him. He’s some big shot named Crandall; a pretty smart egg, I hear. So there was nothing else to do but go on a bat. Toddy was pretty low and my shiner and the bruises I’ve got to jigger with gave me an excuse. We put on a pip, Shean.”
“How come the tramp makeup?”
Joey had the grace to blush, which is something I never expected to see. “It was like this. We’d drink for a while and then buck the games for excitement. Someway we got to hell and gone out on Virginia Street and some thug held us up. And the dirty— …” He looked at Miss Gahagan, who was taking this all down in shorthand and said: “Excuse me!”
She said: “I’ve heard worse than that in this office,” and grinned at him.
“He grinned back at her and said: “I bet you never heard a worse thing than happened to us. He made us take off our pants, so we couldn’t chase him. He took the pants, every damned bit of identification we had, what money the games had left us, and ran away. We were in a hell of a fix.”
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.