Death Has An Escort – Two hard-boiled stories about showgirls, heiresses, love, pleasure, blackmail and murder by Roger Torrey.
Murder Backstage (1940) – Rawlin had been on the stage once, but he’d given up all that to become a private detective. In his acting days, women had been his chief weakness; and right now, the murder that confronted him was causing him no more trouble than the girls in the chorus!
Death Has An Escort (1942) – Give a couple of women plenty of money, turn them loose in a city where nobody knows what they’re doing, let them have all the leeway in the world to go chasing pleasure — and maybe it’ll be all right. And maybe it’ll lead to tragedy. . . .
Chapter II – Party Line
Chapter III – Friend of the Family
Chapter IV – Unwelcome Advice
Chapter V – Two Visitors
Chapter VI – An Invitation Outside
Chapter VII – Wrecked!
Chapter VIII – Love’s a Funny Thing
Chapter IX – In the Bag
Chapter X – A Chance for Sally
Chapter XI – A Few Letters
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. Torrey was as hard-living as his hard boiled characters. He died in 1946 of acute alcoholism and organ failure, in the arms of his long-time mistress.
SHE was too big and too buxom but she still was pretty. Her card said she was Mrs. Margaret Arvin, and she came in my office like I was the wolf and she was the lamb.
She looked as though she expected me to jump over the desk at her.
I said hello and she said hello and there we stopped. I waited and she waited, wetting her lips and giving scared glances back at the door as if to make sure she still had a way out, and I got tired of it.
“You wanted to see me?” I asked.
“It’s . . . I’m afraid to tell you.”
“Well, I’m no mind reader.”
“It’s . . . well, I’m in trouble.”
I nodded at the door. “It reads, Mrs. Arvin, ‘Investigations.’ It also reads ‘Strictly Confidential.’ I can assure you that if I didn’t handle my business just that way the police would close me up. That make you feel any better?”
She said it did and managed to get herself down in the chair across from me. She sat on the very edge of it, all ready to take off at the wrong word.
“I . . . I think I’m being blackmailed.”
“Don’t you know?”
“Well, I’m being blackmailed.”
“The Metropolitan Escort Service.”
I said: “You’re wrong. That’s another thing the cops keep an eye on.”
“It has to be them.”
I told her to tell me about it and she got red in the face and started to stammer. And after she got into the yarn I didn’t wonder. I felt sorry for her, and not just because somebody was putting the bite on her, either.
It was because she was so ashamed of what had happened.
SHE came from Hamlin, a couple of hundred miles upstate. Her best friend was another widow, this one named Sally Wells. Mrs. Sarah Wells, to be exact, though when she got into the story it was always Sally.
She and Sally had come to the big city some two months before then, for a round of shopping and shows and such things. They’d decided it would be devilish to make the rounds of the night clubs, and although they knew a few people in town, they did not call up and hint for invitations, but called the escort bureau instead.
I said: “But why? Certainly you and Mrs. Wells knew somebody that would take you out and show you a time. The visiting fireman always gets taken around.”
She blushed even redder and said: “We . . . well, everybody we knew was about our age, Mr. Boyle. You know. Sort of old and stodgy. It wouldn’t have been any fun.”
A last fling at romance with a capital “R.”
“The boys came to our hotel and got us and we gave them money for expenses. And for their pay, you know. That’s how they do, you know.”
I said I knew.
“Then we went to a lot of places and Sally and I both drank quite a bit, I’m afraid.”
“That’s something new?”
She straightened and looked across the desk at me and I said: “I’m not trying to be funny, Mrs. Arvin. I really want to know. I’m trying to find out if these boys tried to get you and your friend drunk. That’s all.”
“Both Sally and I drink, Mr. Boyle. That is, a drink now and then. It wasn’t the boys . . . it was Sally and I. They drank hardly at all.”
Boys on escort service aren’t supposed to drink much, so this checked. And I got the idea. The two gals figured that as long as they were going to have fun they might as well go whole hog on it. They hadn’t wanted to paint the town pink but a flaming red.
I said: “Saturday night stuff, eh?”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Pay night, eh?”
“I don’t understand.”
I said to let it go. That I’d just meant she and Sally were out for a good time and trying to assure it.
She admitted that was it, exactly.
“Well. . . well, that was all. The boys took us home. Then after I went home, back to Hamlin, I got the first letter.”
“It said I was to mail a thousand dollars to Howard Crashaw, General Delivery, here. It said that if I didn’t, he’d send pictures of Sally and me to Hamlin.”
“Who to? Who’d get the pictures?”
“He said he’d send them to our friends.”
“What would these pictures be about?”
“I don’t know.”
I said: “Now, now! We won’t get any place this way.”
SHE started to cry then and I got the rest of it. The boys had taken them home to their hotel, all right, and that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re not allowed to go upstairs to the customers’ rooms, even, and these boys hadn’t. They’d left the gals in the lobby, properly, but then the gals had sneaked out the side entrance and met the boys around the corner.
That way, in case of anybody checking up, everything was kosher.
It put the boys off the job and on their own time. If they wanted to party, it was their own business and that of the people they partied with.
She didn’t go into too much detail about what happened after that but she didn’t need to. She told me enough. Apparently they’d been a couple of smooth talking young heels and the two widows, half drunk and entirely out for a good time, had gone for the line.
They’d gone up to the boys’ apartment for some more drinks … the bars had closed by that time . . . and they’d stayed too long. That was as much as she’d admit, but she went so far as to say there might have been pictures taken. Both she and Sally had passed out after a while, according to her story, and she didn’t remember just what had happened.
Excerpt From: Roger Torrey. “Death Has An Escort.”
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