Chet Lacey, Private Investigator, deals with the low life grifters that surround high society. Sometimes those low life grifters ARE from high society. Six stories about a hard-boiled private eye.
Murder Mustn’t Miss (1947) – Private Investigator Chet Lacey takes the case of a lovely suspected murderess, and makes photographs point out the clues!
Bullets For Free (1948) – Chet Lacey simply had to take on the case when his old flame, Vera Manners, suddenly had her husband’s corpse on her hands!
And Let That Be A Lesson! (1948) – Chet Lacey saves an old man from sorrow and a young lady from folly— but almost doesn’t save himself from death!
Catch Me A Killer (1948) – When you try to pin a rap on Lacey, you never can tell when he’ll turn right around and pin it back where it belongs!
Guns Are Handy Things (1948) – Chet Lacey takes on a tough and dangerous chore when he attempts to bring the straying Alec Keltner home!
Kill Me Next Time (1949) – When Private Eye Lacey collects a big, fat fee, he doesn’t mind throwing in a small corpse or so!
Robert Sidney Bowen, Jr. (1900–1977) was a World War I aviator, newspaper journalist, magazine editor and author. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and died of cancer in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is best known for his boys’ series books written during World War II, the Dave Dawson War Adventure Series and the Red Randall Series.
Chet Lacey: Guns Are Handy Things has 7 illustrations.
“THREE times I watched the office doorknob turn a little, and then turn back. The fourth time was just once too many. I got up from my desk fast and yanked the door open. I don’t know what I expected to see out in the hall, but it certainly wasn’t that old woman. She was knee high to a grasshopper, with a sweet face lined deep with toil and worry, and hair as white as snow.
“Looking for somebody, Mother?” I asked gently with a smile.
She clutched her shoddy handbag tightly, nodded, and tried to return my smile, but without much success.
“Are you Chet Lacey?” she wanted to know. And as I started to nod, she added quickly, “I’d like to talk to you, Mr. Lacey. It’s about Alec. I’m his mother.”
“Who Alec was I had no idea, but I couldn’t pop questions at her while she was standing in the hall. I ushered her in and over to my most comfortable chair. She sank into it as though she hoped she never would have to get out of it again. I sat down behind the desk again and smiled some more.
“Alec who?” I asked. “I know quite a few men by that name.”
“Alec Keltner,” she replied. “He used to work in the Union Garage where you keep your car. Alec has often spoken of you, so I thought maybe—”
She hesitated, stopped, and fumbled with her bag. I did a quick bit of checking. Alec Keltner was a good looking kid about eighteen or nineteen, and a sweetheart on cars. He could fix anything anytime, and he often had my heap of junk. And, come to think of it, I hadn’t seen Alec around for a few days.
“Yes, Mrs. Keltner?” I murmured as she went on staring down at her bag.
When she raised her eyes the look in them went straight to my heart.
“I’m worried about Alec, Mr. Lacey, terribly worried,” she said. “Four days ago he told me he was taking a new job, a job that would pay him twice the money he’d been getting. He explained it was driving for a man who had several cars, and keeping them in good working order. He said he might not be home that night, but it’s four nights, now. I —I don’t want to go to the police. I thought that you knowing Alec, maybe you’d—”
SHE let the words slide again, and fiddled with her bag some more.
“I wouldn’t worry, Mrs. Keltner,” I soothed her. “Maybe Alec had to take a trip for his new boss, and couldn’t let you know.”
“Yes, yes, that’s what I thought,” she said and bobbed her head. “But I was telling a friend about Alec’s new job, and she said that the man who hired him was a no good and that I shouldn’t let Alec have anything to do with him. But Alec is a good boy, Mr. Lacey, and so I shouldn’t really worry, I suppose. Only it’s been four days and nights. Alec’s never been away that long before, without letting me know. What do you think Mr. Lacey?”
“What’s his new boss’ name?” I asked. “Maybe I know him.”
“A Mr. Danny Donnigan,” was the reply I got. “My friend says he runs a pool hall and is always in trouble with the police. But how could a man who just runs a pool hall own lots of cars?”
“I didn’t answer that one. She’d handed me a jolt, all right. Danny Donnigan? Make a snake, a rat, and a skunk into one animal, and you have Danny Donnigan. There wasn’t a single thing rotten or crooked in town that he didn’t have a finger in. But only a finger, mind you, which he could always jerk out when things went wrong. Danny Donnigan had a slick craftiness you’d find in very few members of the underworld. He also had strings that led to high places, too, which often helped. Danny Donnigan and I had never tangled —yet.
“Donnigan runs several kinds of businesses, Mrs. Keltner,” I said. “And what your friend thinks about him is true. He’s certainly no boss for Alec. But, what do you want me to do?”
She opened her purse and pulled out a tight little roll of much used bills. She held it out to me.
“Here is thirty-six dollars, Mr. Lacey,” she said. “I have a little more in my savings account. Find Alec, and get him away from that Donnigan man. Alec likes you, and I know he’ll do what you say. Please, Mr. Lacey! Alec is all I have. He’s a good boy. He’s— he’s just terribly ambitious, that’s all.”
The sight of that sweet old lady holding out that roll of worn bills made something choke up in my throat. If Alec had walked in at that moment I believe I would have tanned his hide for a solid hour. I shook my head, waved the money away, and got control of my voice.
“Never mind any money, Mrs. Keltner,” I said, maybe a little gruffly. “Alec’s a friend of mine. I’ll look and ask around, and let you know. Just give me your address and phone number, if you have one, and I’ll get in touch with you later. Meantime, don’t worry. I know that Alec’s a good kid, too. And maybe his being away for a few days doesn’t mean a thing. I’ll get in touch with you. Okay?”
Five minutes later she was gone. I pushed aside some paper work on an insurance fraud I was working on, and reached for my hat. The name, Danny Donnigan, was significant to me.
The fancy sign outside Donnigan’s hangout proclaimed that it was “The Victory Billiard Academy,” but inside it was just another poolhall and jukebox emporium. Upstairs in back was where Donnigan maintained his office for his various “enterprises.” I went inside, ignored the slanted looks I got from some of the punks lounging at the pool tables, and up the back stairs to Donnigan’s office door.
As I was reaching for the knob a hamlike hand shot out of nowhere, spun me around, and jerked my face close to a face that was puffy and red, with two lumps of gray clay for ears.
“Where do you think you’re going, bud?” The words were sprayed in my face.
I didn’t answer. I never do to that kind of a question. I brought up my right knee to his body and buried my left fist in his stomach. As he toppled back I tagged him dead center on the nose with my right. He hit the hall floor as I turned the office door knob, and pushed it open. I walked in.
Head and shoulders bent over a fancy desk straightened up. Mean, black eyes blinked, and then got meaner. Danny Donnigan’s trick little jet black mustache twitched, but his lips hardly moved.
“How’d you get in here, gumshoe?” he snapped. And as he said it a gun came into his hand and got pointed at me.
Excerpt From: Robert Sidney Bowen. “Chet Lacey: Guns Are Handy Things”
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