from Short Stories
Mike Flannery, Detective
by Ellis Parker Butler
Mike Flannery, the Westcote agent of the Interurban Express Company, bent down and picked up the wicked-looking automatic pistol that lay on the floor by his desk. He shook his head disapprovingly as he looked at the weapon.
"That's a bad wan," he said, wiping his forehead with the freckled back of his hand. "Twould make a hole in a man big enough fer a squirl t' leap through. Them guys was mean lads, I'm tellin' ye!"
He said this to no one in particular because he was alone in the place. Mr. Flannery had just had his first experience with masked robbers, and while he had been able to preserve the company's property intact he had been wounded in the short but violent battle with the intruders. The four knuckles of his right hand were skinned.
"Bandits! In Westcote! Think of that now!" he exclaimed as he laid the deadly weapon gently on top of his desk. "What will the world be comin' to next, I wonder? Anyhow --"
Hanging from his right wrist by its leather thong was a short butt of a billiard cue. With this he had valiantly defended the property of the Interurban Express Company. Mike Flannery seated himself at his desk and hung the club on the nail at the end of the desk where he always kept it. He looked at the abrasions on his knuckles and frowned at them and reached for a dog-eared and greasy small book in the upper right hand pigeon-hole of his desk.
"Bandits -- hold-up men -- robbers -- thieves," he said as he ran a finger down the index of the book of rules. "B for bandits -- and none of them. H for hold-up -- and not a blamed sign of it is there. R for robbers. 'Rates,' 'Re-claim-ations' -- 'Robbery, in case of,' page sivinty-two. 'In case of robbery or hold-up the agent will tellyphone comp'ny headquarters immejitly.' An' why not?"
He reached for the telephone.
"Hello! Give me sivin-six-four-nine Placid. Sivin-six-four-nine -- Hello! Is that -- Hello! Give me sivin -- Is that the Interurban Ixpriss Companny? This is Flannery, the agent, at Westcote -- Hello!"
He listened, looking at his knuckles. He put the first knuckle to his mouth. He licked all four knuckles, as a dog licks a wound.
"Hello! This is Mike Flannery, at Westcote," he said suddenly as a sweet voice greeted him over the telephone wire, "Rule three hunderd an' sivin, page sivinty-two -- This is Flannery. At Westcote. On Long Island. On page sivinty-two, clost to the top of the page -- Av coorse I want th' Interurban Ixpriss Companny! I'm tellin' ye the rules, in the book, on page siv -- Listen, you! The' was robbers here -- well, give me him, then."
Mr. Flannery waited a minute longer with the receiver held to his ear.
"I'm sorry," said the sweet voice of the headquarters operator. "Mr. Biedermann is in conference."
"Listen, darlin'," Mike Flannery said with equal sweetness. "This is Mike Flannery, the agent of the Interurban Ixpriss Companny, at Westcote, if ye ever heard of it, and there been robbers here. Hold-up gintilmin, so to say. The rules, in the book, on page sivinty-two, says 'Robbery, in case of --"
"Oh! Robbery?" said the sweet voice. "I'll connect you with Mr. Pellick, Legal Department. One minute, please!"
Mr. Flannery leaned his head on his hand and looked sideways up at the ceiling. He waited. He exercised his face by raising and lowering his eyebrows. He licked his knuckles again.
"Hello!" said a male voice over the wire. "Pellick speaking; Law Department -- Interurban Express. Who's speaking?"
"The' been robbers," said Mike Flannery. "Mike Flannery, Westcote, is tellin' ye. Two of thim -- hold-up men and bandits, like, an' by Rule Sivinty-two. I'm wrong!"
"Look here! What are you talking about?"
"'Tis not Rule sivinty-two," said Mike Flannery pleasantly. "'Tis Rule Three Hunerd and Sivin. 'Tis the page that is sivinty-two."
"What are you talking about? Who is this talking?"
"This is Mike Flannery, ixpriss agent for the Interurban Ixpriss Companny, at Westcote, on Long Island, in the State of New York," said Mr. Flannery patiently but with an air of resignation. "The' was robbers here. In the office. Two of thim. Wan! Two! A pair. Robbers. An' the book of rules says --"
"Oh! Robbers!" exclaimed Mr. Pellick. "Why didn't you say so? One minute, now. Westcote, Long Island? You say your name is Flaherty?"
"Finnerty? All right, Finnerty; I'll have two of our best men out there in half an hour. Don't touch a thing; don't move anything. Where are you now, Finnerty?"
"In me chair, sir, by me desk; in front of the desk as ye may say. Holdin' the tellyphone to me ear, like."
"Stay there. Don't touch a thing. I'm sending Dallas and Kerlong out there by car. Time is the important factor in these matters, Fogarty. And not to disturb any clues. How long ago did -- but never mind that. I'm putting Dallas and Kerlong on this case; do what they tell you."
Flannery heard the receiver click onto its hook at the other end of the line, and he hung up. He looked at his knuckles again, touching them gently with his left forefinger. He felt in his coat pocket for his pipe; then, by holding the other coat-pocket open with his left hand, he managed to get his package of tobacco without hurting his knuckles. He filled and lighted his pipe and put his feet on his desk, and leaned back in his chair. He had half an hour to wait for Mr. Dallas and Mr. Kerlong, the Interurban's star investigators.
Before the car arrived Mr. Flannery heard the distant and continuous scream of its horn, and the car stopped in front of the office with a shriek of its brakes. Mr. Dallas and Mr. Kerlong leaped from the car and fairly ran across the walk. They bolted into the office and confronted Mr. Flannery.
"You Finnerty?" demanded Mr. Dallas.
"There may be something to that, at that," said Mike Flannery, letting his feet drop to the floor and looking into the bowl of his pipe with seeming interest. "Me father pretindid me name was Flannery right along, but thim old folks was odd in their ways now and again. The county in Ireland was full of Finnertys in them days befoor me father fetched me from there."
Mr. Dallas and Mr. Kerlong glared at Mike Flannery.
"What you talking about?" Mr. Dallas asked roughly.
"He was a little short man," said Flannery.
"Who was?" asked Mr. Dallas.
"Me old man," said Flannery. "Short he was, but thim Finnertys was great large fellys like me. No doubt ye have the right of it, sir, and it's a Finnerty I am. Adopted-like. Not but what the Corrigans -- av which me mother, God rest her soul, was one -- was fine large fellys too. 'Mike,' me old man was always after sayin', 'ye take after yer mother in size, but 'tis after me ye take in the head. Thim Corrigans is all dumb," says he, 'so remirnber ye are a Flannery.'"
"Dippy," said Mr. Dallas to Mr. Kerlong. "They gave him a bump on the head, I guess."
"And how do I know," continued Mike Flannery, looking at his skinned knuckles, "that the whole caboodle of us was not Finnertys in the old country, takin' the name of Flannery when we come hither. There's the Polokowskys runs the newsstand was Polokowskys in Poland and is Polks now, d'ye see? And was not this felly Chris Columbus that come over the first of all known as Colon back among the Dagos where he come from? Belike the name of Flannery was a cammyflooge me old man was after takin' onto him, so go on an' call me Finnerty, sirs, if it gives ye joy. However --"
"What's the matter with you? Crazy?" asked Mr. Dallas, glaring at Mike.
"And I might be, at that," said Mike Flannery agreeably. "There's many a man goes along, one day after another, thinkin' he's no more crazy than the king of Roosha, and all of a sudden -- "
"Say, look here!" said Mr. Kerlong, pushing forward and pushing out his chin at Mr. Flannery. "I know what you are -- you're one of these smart guys, ain't you? You're trying to give my friend here the razz because he called you out of your name, ain't you! Well, that don't go with us, see? What is your name, if you're so particular about it?"
"Michael Flannery, with an M for Michael and an F for Flannery, and thank ye kindly fer askin', sir," said Mike Flannery humbly.
"Yeah? Well, Mr. Flannery, was there robbers here or was you just givin' Pellick one of these smart razzes of yours? What's it all about, hey? We come out to investigate this business, see? And we're here to catch these robbers, if the' is any, and not to go to no Irish vodville show. What's this gun?"
"That is the gun the little small fella poked at me," Mike Flannery explained. "It fell on the floor whin I socked him with me club. There was two of thim --"
"Now, hold on there!" said Mr. Kerlong, who seemed to have taken charge of the investigation, Mr. Dallas having taken out a small book and a pencil. "We got to get this straight. We got to get these fellas, see? That's our job, see? What we want to know, we'll ask you, and don't you go doin' a lot of useless talk. Time's what counts in nabbin' these guys, my friend. Now, how many of these robber guys were there?"
"Two of thim," said Mike Flannery. "I was in th' back room yonder when they come in --"
"Hold on! Hold on!" exclaimed Mr. Kerlong. "One thing at a time, friend. There was two of them. Dallas."
"Two of them," said Mr. Dallas making a note in his book.
"And where was you when they come in?" asked Mr. Kerlong of Mr. Flannery.
"I was in the back room yonder, pastin' way bills on the outgoin' consignments --"
"Wait now! Wait now!" commanded Mr. Kerlong. "He was in the back room when the robbers come in, Joe. The agent was in the back room. Finner -- Flannery was in the back room."
"Yeah! I got it," said Mr. Dallas.
"And what was you doing in the back room?" Mr. Kerlong asked Mike Flannery.
"I was pastin' waybill tags on outgoin' consignments in the back room yonder when I seen the two of thim -- the big tall one and the little small fella --"
"Wait, now! The agent, Michael Flaher -- Michael Flannery, was in the back room -- What you call that back room, Flannery?"
"The back room. I call it the back room because 'tis back of the front room, ye see," Mike explained.
"Yeah! Michael Flannery was in the back room, pastin' waybill tags on the outgoin' consignments when the robbers entered the premises, Joe," Mr. Kerlong explained to Mr. Dallas carefully, and then he turned to Mr. Flannery. "And what did you see?" he asked.
"I seen the two of them --"
"He seen the two of them," Mr. Kerlong explained to Mr. Dallas. "The two robbers," and then he asked Mr. Flannery, "Was they both the same size?"
"Wan was a little small fella, and wan was a big tall man," said Mike. "They had masks on -- black masks --"
"Wait, now! One was a small man of no great size," Mr. Kerlong told Mr. Dallas, "and the other party was of a larger -- uh -- was bigger. Tall, put it, Joe. It looks to me like it was them two the papers call the Long and Short, Joe them two that's been holding up the Interurban offices all around New York here. How does it look to you, Joe?"
"It looks that way to me, Ed," agreed Mr. Dallas. "One of 'em's short and one of 'em's tall, like the Long and the Short is, Ed."
"They's bad guys, them two," Mr. Kerlong said to Mr. Flannery seriously. "They're killers, they are. They must of been scared off or you'd be a dead guy now, fella! We been huntin' them guys down six months now, me an' Joe. They're slick guys. You seen 'em come in -- was they disguised, Flannery?"
"I don't know was they disguised or not," Flannery said doubtfully. "They --"
"Did they have masks on?" asked Mr. Kerlong as if Mr. Flannery would have known that that was what be meant, if he had not been too stupid to know anything.
"Yes," Mr. Flannery said.
"White or black?"
"Black," said Flannery. "So I knew what they was, d'ye see? 'Robbers!' I says t' meself, and I make a run for me desk here, where me club is on the nail, and --"
"One thing at a time, you!" said Mr. Kerlong. "Don't butt in that way, Flannery; we've no time to waste in idle conversation. What I want to know I'll ask you. It's up to me and Joe to get these guys, Flannery, and no time to throw away. Did you think these robbers was customers when you seen them come in?"
"I did not!"
"What did you think they were?"
"A couple of dirty thiefs," declared Flannery, "and I run for me club that was hangin' --"
"The agent recko'nized they was bandits," Mr. Kerlong explained to Mr. Dallas, who wrote it down. "You recko'nized they was bandits," he then said to Mr. Flannery. "How did you recko'nize they was bandits? What caused you to recko'nize the two parties that come into the office to be bandits? Did they have masks on?"
"Yes, and the little small fella had the gun in his fist --"
"They had masks on, Joe. which caused the agent to recko'nize without delay that they was bandits. What color was the masks, Flannery?"
"Black masks," said Mr. Dallas. "He said they were black masks, Ed."
"Yeah? Them bandits mostly has black masks. Sometimes they has white masks. What color masks do the Long and Short have mostly, Joe?"
"Black masks, Eddie."
"Yeah! I guess - it was the Long and the Short all right. Now, Flannery, when you seen these bandits enter the office here, did one of them have this gun in his hand?"
"He did that."
"Was it the big guy or the little guy?"
"'Twas the little small fella had the gun in his fist, like I was sayin'," said Mike Flannery.
"Yeah? Well, never mind what you was saying' -- I got to find out about this. We got to get them fellas. It was the little fella had the gun, Joe -- the one they call the Short. There ought to be his fingerprints on this gun, Joe; have they got the fingerprints of the Short, Joe?"
"No, they ain't, Eddie. They ain't got his fingerprints; he's a slick guy, he is; he wears gloves."
"Did this little guy in the black mask that had the gun have gloves on, Finnerty?" Mr. Kerlong asked.
Mike Flannery's eyes hardened. It was the express agent who stuck out his chin this time.
"Are ye callin' me out of me name on purpose, or are ye a plain danged fool?" he demanded. "Stop it! Flannery I was born, an' Flannery I was raised, and Flannery I am. F-l-a-n-n-e-r-y." he spelled. "An' no flat-foots from the city can make a fool of me, ayther," he added.
"Now, don't go and get like that," said
Mr. Kerlong in an appealing tone. "Gripes! We got a hard enough job gettin' these bandits without nobody gettin' sore at us. We don't mean nothin'. When we get goin' on a job like this we don't think of nothin' else, all we think of is the job we got."
"Huh!" said Mr. Flannery.
"Sure, that's how it is," said Mr. Dallas earnestly. "When I get started on a job like this a guy could call me Cohen and I wouldn't know the difference. Ain't that so, Eddie?"
"Sure!" said Mr. Kerlong. "All we think of is the detackative work we got to do. Now, did this little guy with the gun have gloves on, Flannerty?"
Mr. Flannery got out of his chair. His cap, with "Interurban" embroidered on the front, was on a nail behind him, and he reached for it and pulled it firmly down on his head. He put his pipe in his pocket and started for the door.
"Here! Where you goin'?" Mr. Kerlong demanded.
"Home," said Mr. Flannery. "Home. An' belike I will stop at the polis station an' tell somewan that knows me name is not Fogarty or Finnerty or Cohen or Oberhauser, nor yet Flannerty, that the Interurban Ixpriss office was entered by robbers."
"Aw, come back here!" said Mr. Kerlong disgustedly. "What you get like that for? Flannery -- does that suit you? Say, listen, Mike -- you an' us has got to work this together for the company, ain't we? We ain't got no need to get sore and all, you and us, when it's all for the company. Ain't that right, Mike?"
"Flannery to you, sir," said the express agent unyieldingly.
"Sure -- Flannery!" said Mr. Kerlong. "We got it right, now, ain't we, Joe? Our little mistake, Joe; that's all, wasn't it?"
"Sure! We don't mean nothing, Flannery," agreed Mr. Dallas. "We got to get these robbers that's been robbing the Interurban all over the place. That's all Flannery."
"We don't want to have to 'phone in to Pellick and say the agent here at Westcote ain't givin' us proper support, do we, Joe?" said Mr. Kerlong. "All we want is imfamation, Flannery. You got to think how it looks, holdin' back imfamation on us. Gripes! We don't want Pellick or nobody to think maybe you was standin' in with these stick-up guys because you hold back imfamation on us. We don't want nobody to think that, do we Joe?"
"All we want is to get the imformation so we can go out and get these stick-ups; that's all we want," said Mr. Dallas.
"Sure!" said Mr. Kerlong heartily and with every evidence of friendly good nature. "That's all there is to it, Flannery. Now, about them gloves -- did the little guy have gloves on?"
The express agent had returned to his chair.
"He did that," he admitted.
"No fingerprints," said Mr. Kerlong, and Mr. Dallas made a note of it in his little book. "No fingerprints on the gun, Joe."
Mike Flannery looked at his knuckles which were now beginning to smart considerably. He had a feeling that he ought to go over to the drug store and get something to put on his knuckles. Usually when he barked himself the skin healed quickly and he did not bother to do more than stick a piece of adhesive on the wound, but he had skinned his knuckles by hitting the taller bandit in the mouth. He had hit the bandit on the teeth with his knuckles, which was practically the same as if the bandit had bit his knuckles with his teeth. The teeth of a bandit might be poisonous.
"About them bandits --" he said.
"Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" said Mr. Kerlong, raising a silencing hand. "No fingerprints, Joe, on account of the bandits had gloves on. Did they both have gloves on?"
"Yes," said Mike Flannery, sinking back into his chair with a disheartened air. He crossed his hands on his stomach and looked down at his skinned knuckles. "They had, but I did not have."
"All right! Both of them had gloves on, Joe. Now, how much dough did they get away with?"
"Not wan cint!" said Mr. Flannery. "Divil a penny!"
"They didn't get anything, Joe," Mr. Kerlong informed Mr. Dallas. "They got interrupted. Is that right, Flannery?"
"With a club," said Mike Flannery. "'Bandits!' I says t' meself whin I see thim; ''tis time to interrupt thim!' I says, 'or sh'u'd I tellyphone Mr. Pellick,' I says, 'and desire him t' sind a pair of gintilmin from headquarters t' interrupt thim? What does th' rules say?' I says. Unfortunately I had no time t' look in the book, so I grabbed me club and lit into them, thus interruptin' thim, Mr. Kerlong, sir."
"He scared them off, Joe, before they got to the till," explained Mr. Kerlong. "Did you give an alarm, Flannery?"
"I did not!"
"You didn't call the cops?"
"I did not!"
"You didn't go to the door and yell for help?"
"I did not!"
"These bandits -- this Long and this Short -- did they come in a car?"
"Now, be hanged if I didn't forgit t' ask thim that wan!" said Mike Flannery. "We was in a sort av a rush," he explained, "an' did not have time for an ixtinded conversation, my attintion bein' occupied with the job av interruptin' thim, and thim dislikin' t' be interrupted. The nixt time I will remember t' ask how they come."
Mr. Kerlong gave Mr. Dallas a glance. He poked his massive jaw out farther than before, he had a faint impression that Mr. Flannery was playing with him. He did not like it.
"Look here, now; I want this straight -- were there any hold-up guys here at all? Is this some gag you're tryin' to put over on us? What's this all about, anyway? Did anybody try to hold you up or didn't they?"
"They did!" said Mr. Flannery positively.
"Just like you've been telling us?"
"'Tis the truth, the whole truth, and nothin' but the truth," said Mr. Flannery. "Two of thim."
"Well, Joe," Mr. Kerlong said, "I guess he's givin' it to us straight. How was they dressed, Flannery?"
"The little small fella was in dark clothes, like brown, it might be, an' th' other wan was in gray. Caps the both of thim had. But if --"
"Caps, Joe. Gray caps?"
"No doubt of that, sir, but if what --"
"Gray caps, Joe. How about shoes?"
"Tan shoes, the both of them, I'd be sayin'," Mike Flannery said. "But if what you --"
"Tan shoes. Anything else we want to know, Joe? Did they have any marks on them, Flannery? Scars or such?"
"Well, sir, the little small fella, after I interrupted thim, had a boomp on the head alongside an' above the lift eye of him that would do for an egg, but by now 'twould be bigger, I've no doubt. The big guy, follyin' the interruption, had a welt alongside the right ear like he had fell on the railroad track from off a house, an' the adjacency of his mouth was considerably busted where me fist jolted it into his teet'. Except for that there was nawthin' much except the black eyes, if any, but probably so by now."
"Bump on head, bump on ear, bruised mouth, probably black eyes," said Mr. Kerlong. "Well, Joe, we got something to go on, anyhow. The Short in a dark brown suit, the Long in a gray one. Caps. Tan shoes. I guess that's all we can get out of this guy -- somebody outside must have seen them. You ought to have looked to see what kind of car they made their get-away in," he told Flannery in the tone a father might use to a disappointing son. "We got a hard enough job, if we had all the facts there is, grabbin' off two slick guys like them. It ain't so easy goin' out an' pickin' up two smart fellas like them. You guys think us deteckatives has a cinch. What's that?"
Mr. Kerlong turned his head sharply. What had attracted his attention was a sound like that of a heavy sack of sand falling on the floor. It came from the rear room. Mr. Dallas also looked up the direction from which the sound came and he, too, said, "What's that?"
"I shouldn't wonder," said Mike Flannery, "if it was them two bandits I locked in the broom closet when I had completed the interruption of them, sir."