Read Miss Callaghan Comes To Grief Online

Authors: James Hadley Chase

Miss Callaghan Comes To Grief

Miss Callaghan Comes To Grief

James Hadley Chase

Table of Contents

Miss Callaghan Comes To Grief........................................................................................................................1

James Hadley Chase................................................................................................................................1

PROLOGUE............................................................................................................................................2

PART ONE..............................................................................................................................................6

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PART TWO...........................................................................................................................................59

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James Hadley Chase

Banned in the UK! Author and Publisher Fined! Not seen in 70 Years!

This is the story of Miss Callaghan. Not of any particular Miss Callaghan, but of the hundreds of Miss Callaghans who disappear from their homes suddenly and mysteriously and are seen no more by those who knew and loved them.

This is also the story of Raven, who played with clockwork trains, the leader of the White Slave Ring in East St. Louis, who was responsible for the keeping to full strength the army of women for the service of men.

James Hadley Chase needs no introduction now. He has established a reputation for unmitigated toughness and plain writing. Under his blunt treatment, the traffic of women in America is shown to be what it isa loathsome, corrupt stain on the pages of American history.

Miss Callaghan Comes To Grief

JAMES HADLEY CHASE

PROLOGUE

IT WAS A HOT night. Oven−heat that baked the sweat out of the body and played hell with the dogs. It had been hot all day, and now the sun had gone down the streets still held the stifling heat.

Phillips of the
St. Louis Banner
sat in a remote corner of the Press Club getting good and drunk. He was a long, thin bird, with melancholy eyes and lank, unruly hair. Franklin, a visiting reporter, thought he looked like a bum poet.

Phillips dragged down his tie and undid his collar. The long highball slopped a little as he groped to put it on the table. He said, “What a night! What's the time, Franky?”

Franklin, his face white with exhaustion and his eyes heavy and red−lidded, peered at the face of his watch. “Just after twelve,” he said, letting his head fall back with a thud on the leather padding of his chair.

“After twelve, huh?” Phillips shifted uneasily. “That's bad. That's dug my grave good and deep. Know what I should be doin' right now?”

Franklin had to make an effort to shake his head.

“I gotta date to meet a dame tonight,” Phillips told him, blotting his face and neck with his handkerchief.

“Right now that babe is waiting for me. Is she goin' to be mad?”

Franklin groaned.

“Franky, pal, I couldn't do it. It's a low trick, but not on a night like this. No, sir, I couldn't do it.”

“Break it up,” Franklin pleaded, scooping sweat out of his neckband. “I want to freeze myself to death in a big refrigerator.”

Phillips raised himself slowly. A look of faint animation came over his thin face. Drunkenly, he patted Franklin on his back. “You've got somethin' there,” he said. “Gee! The guy's got brains. I've been doin' you dirt. Boy, you've certainly got somethin' there!”

Franklin pushed him away. “Sit down,” he said crossly; “you're tight.”

Phillips shook his head solemnly. “Come on, bud, you've given me an idea.”

“I ain't moving. I'm staying right here.”

Phillips grabbed his arm and hauled him out of the chair. “I'm goin' to save your life,” he said. “We'll take a cab an' spend the night in the morgue.”

Franklin gaped at him. “Wait a minute,” he said. “I ain't goin' to sleep with a lotta stiffs. You're crazy.”

“Aw, come on. What the hell? Stiffs ain't goin' to worry you. Think how cold it'll be.”

Franklin wavered. “Yeah,” he said, clinging to the table, “but I don't like it. Think you can get in?”

Phillips leered. “Sure I can get in. Know the guy there. He's a good guy. He won't mind. Now come on, let's get goin'.”

Franklin's face suddenly brightened. “Sure,” he said; “it ain't such a bad idea. Let's go.”

Out in the street they flagged a taxi. The driver looked at them suspiciously. “Where?” he demanded, not believing his ears.

Phillips shoved Franklin into the cab. “The County Morgue,” he repeated patiently. “We're passin' in our pails. This is just a matter of convenience, see, buddy?”

The driver climbed off his box. “Now listen, pal,” he said, “you guys don't want the morgue. You wantta go home. Just you take it easy. I'm useta handlin' drunks. You leave it to me. Where do you live? Now, come on. I'll have you in bed before you know it.”

Phillips peered at him, then put his head inside the cab. “Hi, Franky, this guy wants to go to bed with me.”

“Do you like him?” Franky asked.

Phillips turned his head and looked at the driver. “I don't know. He seems all right.”

The driver wiped his face with his sleeve. “Now listen, you guys,” he said pleadingly, “I ain't said nuttin' about gettin' into bed wid youse.”

Phillips climbed into the cab. “He's changed his mind,” he said mournfully. “I've got a mind to slosh him in the puss.”

“Well, maybe you're lucky. I thought he'd got a foxy smell about him. I don't think you'd've liked that.”

The driver came close to the window. “Where to, boss?” he asked, in what he thought was a soothing voice. “This ain't the time to fool around. It's too goddam hot.”

“The County Morgue,” Phillips said, leaning out of the window. “Don't you understand? That's the one cold spot in this burg, an' we're headin' for it.”

The driver shook his head. “You'd never make it,” he said; “they wouldn't let you in.”

“Who said? They'll let me in all right. I know the guy there.”

“That on the level? Could you get me in too, boss?”

“Sure. I could get anyone in there. Don't stand around usin' up air. Get to it.”

Franklin was asleep when they got to the morgue. Phillips hauled him into the hot street and stood supporting him. He said to the driver, “What are you goin' to do with the heap?”

“I guess I'll leave it here. It'll be all right.”

They stumbled into the morgue, making a considerable row. The attendant was reading a newspaper behind a counter that divided the room from the vaults. He looked up, startled.

Phillips said, “Hyah, Joe, meet a couple of buddies.”

Joe laid down his newspaper. “What the hell's this?”

“We're spendin' the night here,” Phillips said. “Just look on us as three stiffs.”

Joe climbed to his feet. His big fleshy face showed just how mad he was. “You're all drunk,” he said. “You better scram outta here. I ain't got time to horse around with you boys now.”

The driver began to edge towards the door, but Phillips stopped him. “Listen, Joe,” he said; “who was the swell dame I saw you with last night?”

Joe's eyes popped. “You didn't see me with no dame last night,” he said uneasily.

Phillips smiled. “Don't talk bull. She was a dame with a chest that oughta have a muzzle on it, an' a pair of stems that cause street accidents. Gee! What a jane!” He turned to the other two. “You ain't seen nothin' like it. When I thought of that guy's poor wife, sittin' around at home doin' nothin', while this runt goes places with a hot number like that, I tell you, it got me.”

Joe undid the counter−bolt and pulled back the little door. “Okay,” he said wearily, “go on down. It's a goddam lie, an' you know it, but I ain't takin' chances. The old woman would just like to believe that yarn.”

Phillips grinned. “Down we go, boys,” he said.

They followed him down a long flight of marble steps. At the bottom there came to them a faint musty odour of decomposition. As Phillips pushed open a heavy steel door the pungent smell of formaldehyde was very strong. They all entered a large room.

The sudden icy atmosphere was almost too violent after the outside heat.

Franklin said, “Jeeze! There's hoar frost formin' on my chest hairs.”

On one side of the room were four long wooden benches. Round the other three walls were rows of black metal cabinets.

Phillips said, “If you don't think about it you'd never know there were a lotta stiffs in those cabinets. I like comin' here. I jest sit around an' cool off, an' it don't worry me at all.”

The driver took off his greasy cap and began twisting it in his hands. “That where they keep the corpses?” he said, his voice sinking to a whisper.

Phillips nodded. He went over to one of the benches and laid down. “That's right,” he said. “You don't have to think about that. Just settle down an' go to sleep.”

With his eyes on the cabinets the driver sat down gingerly. Franklin stood hesitating.

“I wonder if Joe would stand for me phonin' my girl friend to come on down,” Phillips said sleepily. He shook his head. “No, I guess he wouldn't stand for it.” He sighed a little and settled himself more comfortably.

“Franky, put that light out, will you? It's tryin' my eyes.”

Franklin said, “If you think I'm goin' to stay here in the dark, you're crazy. This place gives me the heebies.

I don't mind stayin' here so long as I can see those cabinets, but in the darkwhy, hell, I'd be thinkin' they might be gettin' out an' lookin' me over.”

Phillips sat up. “What you mean, gettin' out? How the hell can a stiff do a thing like that?”

“I'm not sayin' that they'd do it. I'm sayin' what I think they might be doin'.”

“Don't be a nut.” Phillips swung his feet off the bench and got up. “Now I'll show you somethin'. Let's have a look at some of these guys.”

Franklin backed away. “I don't want to see them,” he said hurriedly. “This burg's spooky enough without lookin' at corpses.”

Phillips went over to the cabinet and pulled out a drawer. It slid out silently on the roller−bearings. In the drawer was a big negro; his pale pink tongue lolled out of his mouth and his eyes seemed to be bursting out of his head. Phillips hastily slammed the drawer shut. “That guy was strangled,” he said shakily. “Let's try another or I'll dream about him.”

The driver edged close, but Franklin went over and sat on the bench. Phillips pulled another drawer open.

An elderly man, his face covered with a good half−inch stubble of beard, came into view.

“You wouldn't think he was dead, would you, boss?” the driver said.

Phillips shoved the drawer to. “Naw,” he said, “he looks like he was stuffed.” He walked over to the other side of the room. “Let's have a look at some of the dames.”

The driver's face brightened. “That's an idea, boss,” he said. “Can you unwrap 'em?”

Phillips looked over at Franklin. “For Gawd's sake, did you hear that?” he said. “This gaul wants to see some Paris pictures.”

The driver looked abashed. “Don't get me wrong, boss,” he pleaded. “If you don't think I oughtta look, I won't.”

Phillips was pulling open drawers quickly, peering inside and hastily shutting them. “Real hot numbers don't seem to die these days,” he said regretfully. “All old dames here.” He paused and pulled a drawer open further. “Say, this looks better. Hi, Franky, come an' look at this.”

Franky got up slowly and came over, impelled by irresistible curiosity. They all stood looking down at the girl lying in the drawer. She had flame−coloured hair, that showed a darker brown at the roots. Her thin pinched face wore a tragic look of one who has missed the good things in life. Her lips were gentle in death, in spite of the almost pathetic smudge of the lipstick that smeared her chin.

Phillips pulled off the sheet that covered her.

The driver said, “Oh, boy!” and trod on Franklin's toes to get nearer.

She was slender, but firmly rounded. Her body was as perfect as the three men had ever seen.

Franklin took the sheet from Phillips and made to cover her again, but Phillips stopped him. “Let her lie,” he said, “she does somethin' to me. By God! She's nice, ain't she?”

The driver said wistfully, “It'd take a heapa jack to play around a dame like that.”

Phillips continued to stare at the girl. He pulled the tag of identification from its slot in the drawer and studied it. “Julie Callaghan,” he read. “Age 23. Height 5 ft. 4 inches. Weight 112 lbs. Address not known. No relations.” He pulled the tag out further. “Cause of death: Murder by stabbing. Profession: Prostitute.”

He released the tag, which snapped back into its socket. “Well, well,” he said.

The three men stood silently looking down at the figure in the drawer, then Franklin said, “You never can tell, can you? Here I was workin' up some sympathy for her, and she turns out to be a whore.”

Phillips glanced at him. “What's the matter with that?” he said. “Can't you give her any sympathy?”

Franklin threw the sheet over her and closed the drawer. “You ain't one of those guys who tries to put glamour in that type, are you?”

“You've got the angle wrong. That dame's doing a job of work. Maybe it ain't a good job of work, but all the same, she's human, ain't she?”

Franklin wandered to the bench and sat down. “Come off it,” he said, “that don't hold water. I'll tell you something. I hate these broads. I despise them. To me, that dame is just one more of 'em out of the way. She got what was comin' to her. She was too damn lazy and too damn brainless to do anythin' else.”

Furtively the driver had opened the drawer again and was looking with fascinated eyes.

Both Phillips and Franklin took no notice of him.

Phillips said, “Some of these girls are forced into the trade, Franky. You ought to know that. Gee! You ought to be sorry for them.”

“Don't talk a lotta bull. Sorry? That's a laugh. Listen, there's too much crap going around about forcin' janes into prostitution. If a woman don't want to do it, you just can't make her. They do it because they want the things in life the easy way. They've got what you want, and they make you pay for it. They give you nothing. They'll cheat you, rob you, lie to you, and they certainly hate you. They're a breed on their own. To hell with them!”

The driver said, “Maybe this was one of Raven's girls.”

The two looked at him. “Why do you say that?” Phillips asked. “Are you sure?”

The driver closed the drawer regretfully. “No, I ain't sure, but he always had the best girls; and she's a honey, ain't she?”

Phillips looked at Franklin. “You're wrong, Franky. Some of these girls had a bad time. Raven's girls had a terrible time. It's hick−minded to group them all together.”

“Who's this Raven you're talkin' about?” Franklin wanted to know.

Phillips exchanged glances with the driver. “So you don't know Raven?” he said. “Well, well! Where've you been all this time?”

Franklin sat down. “Okay, okay, I'll buy it, just so long as you'll stop this sissy talk about whores. Tell me.”

Phillips reached for a cigarette. “Raven was quite a boy,” he said, setting himself comfortably. “He came to this town about a year ago. As a matter of fact, one of our crowd, working on the old rag, first got on to him. It was odd how it started. Damned odd. If old Poison's wife hadn't gone off the rails, maybe Raven would still be operating right now. It happened this way....”