I’m a Dead Man – Four Stories by W.T. Ballard
Four novelettes of murders committed to cover up fraud and to exact revenge. But as smart as the murderers think they are, they always make a mistake.
I’m a Dead Man – Four novelettes of murders committed to cover up fraud and to exact revenge. But as smart as the murderers think they are, they always make a mistake.
I’m a Dead Man (1946) – Now that he was dead, Gately was sure he could find his murderer! An eight chapter novelette.
Slay Ride (1947) – He had promised a certain, sweet one that he would do his best to clear her brother’s name but the job turned out to be more than a little bitter—because DeLane found himself in the middle of a killing combine’s activities that labeled him the next victim!
Chapter II Gumming Up the Works
Chapter III Tough Baby
Chapter IV Hunting Trouble
Chapter V A Lot of Nerve
Chapter VI Hidden Airport
Chapter VII Licked
Death on the Ways (1943) – Those who own guilt-edged stock can expect to be paid dividends in blood. A four chapter novelette.
The Second Act is MURDER (1946) – When hideous death stalks, playwright Mark De Cloudt stakes his life in a grim gamble as he strives to snare a killer!
Chapter I Theater Project
Chapter II Death in the Garage
Chapter III Killer at Bay
Chapter IV Corpse on a Rope
Chapter V Evil Unmasked
Willis Todhunter Ballard (1903-1980) born in Cleveland Ohio, was known for his western and detective fiction. Ballard wrote thousands of magazine stories and over fifty TV and film scripts. He was one of the classic writers for Black Mask magazine in the 1930s when the hard-boiled detective was being invented. Ballard was one of Black Mask’s most popular authors, along with Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Earle Stanley Gardiner. His first cousin was author Rex Stout.
I’m a Dead Man contains 17 illustrations.
Excerpt: I’m a Dead Man
“HE’S BEEN murdered,” Cordel said, and hung up the phone on the sputtering police operator. He turned around and looked down indifferently at Tom Gately. Gately lay on his back, his knees drawn up as if with pain, his eyes tightly closed, his mouth thin: and very still.
Toots Apple said from beside the apartment door, “Maybe he ain’t dead, Chief. Maybe you should make certain.”
Cordel still had his hand on the phone. He was a tall man with a long, darkly narrow face. His lips were tight and thin, giving his mouth a slit-like look. “If he isn’t dead now, he will be before the cops get here. A man doesn’t live with that much lead in his stomach. Look at the blood.”
There was a lot of it, staining the whiteness of Gately’s shirt a sharp bright crimson.
The little man beside the hall door stirred unhappily. “I still don’t get it. Why should you yell copper? It ain’t never smart.”
“In this case,” Cordel told him, “it was very smart indeed. The cops know that Tom was my bodyguard. Why should I shoot my own bodyguard?”
“Because he was a rat,” said the little man. “You had plenty reason to shoot him, Chief. Wasn’t he going through your desk when we walked in?”
“Sure,” said Cordel. “Sure he was. So I shot him, but then, we’ve got a body on our hands. It’s not smart to move bodies; so, we’ll let the cops move it for us. We’ll say we came in, and someone took a shot at us. We don’t know who, and Tom got it in the stomach. Poor guy. We’ll give him a funeral. We’ll give him the best, even if flowers are expensive. Now, do you think it was wise to call the cops?”
“Toots Apple was not sure. Toots Apple was never certain of anything. He was a worrier and the boys laughed at him for it.
“Come on,” said Cordel. “Let’s have a drink. We’ll come back in a few minutes and make certain that he’s dead. We wouldn’t want him alive when the cops show, but I don’t think he will be, I don’t think he is now.” He walked across the floor and used a pointed shoe to kick Gately’s side, then they went into the big front room, closing the door.
THE man on the floor rolled over and sat up. Pain twisted his mouth, but he did not cry out. He stared down at the blood on his shirt, at the heavy dented belt buckle. He couldn’t believe it. The bullet had struck directly on the buckle and coursed upward, digging a groove across his ribs and going through between his arm and side. It was from this groove that the blood had come and there was plenty to make it look convincing.
“The force of the bullet had knocked the wind out of him and doubled him over. Cordel wasn’t the only one in the room who had thought that he was dead. Tom Gately had been certain of it.
He’d always heard that a shot in the stomach hurt, bad. He’d writhed on the floor trying to get his wind. He hadn’t known exactly when he realized that he wasn’t going to die, but the realization had come swiftly, and with it the certain knowledge that if the gambler standing over him guessed that his victim was not seriously hurt, he would send a second bullet.
Gately had lain still. It had taken a lot of will power. But when your very life depends on what you do, you have the will. He’d been surprised to hear Cordel calling for the cops and a ray of hope had come to give him added strength. He breathed in little dribbles, so lightly that the motion of his lungs hardly stirred bis chest.
If he could but escape detection until the cops arrived. But Cordel’s last words before leaving the room had sealed the doom of that. The gambler would return and make certain that his victim was actually dead. He had to get away from there.
He moved quickly to the connecting door, listening for a moment. The murmur of Cordel’s voice came to him indistinctly. There was no chance to go out that way, but there was the fire escape.
He knew the building like a book. Three weeks ago when he had first taken the job of guarding the gambler he had investigated the place thoroughly. It was not a new building, and he wondered sometimes why Cordel chose to stay there, but he was not thinking of that now as he crossed the room and opened the window.
The gash in his side was beginning to burn, but he took no heed. His shirt was a mess and he buttoned his coat over it, regretting that he had no overcoat. Then he stepped out onto the fire escape and went downward into the sheltering darkness.
Excerpt From: W.T. Ballard. “I’m a Dead Man.”
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