Illustration for "The Devil in Disquise" by Sheik. Copyright (c) 2018. Used under license.

Devil In Disguise Part 1 of 3

Story by Nick Swain

Illustration by Sheik


You fooled me with your kisses,

You cheated and you schemed

Heaven knows how you lied to me,

You’re not the way you seem.

-Elvis Presley

Part 1: Bad Dreams


His name didn’t matter; it never had.  But hers did.  And watching her lying on her stomach, smoking and reading a dime-store magazine – no doubt something elaborate, where the good guy comes out on top and gets the tough-talking blonde who had just innocently enough been wrapped up in the scheme of things the entire time – he imagined it always would.

Amelia LeMaire; that was her name.  And as she lay there on what that slum of a hotel used for a mattress, the nameless man lying beside her couldn’t help but stare.  She was dressed in only her two-tone black patterned brassiere and matching bottoms; black, straight-laced nylon stockings embellished her long legs that swayed leisurely in the air behind her.  And with her jet-black bangs draping down over her carefully maintained brow, she looked exactly like Bettie Page.

But it wasn’t her spell bounding beauty that had captured his curiosity – or possibly just his paranoia.  It was her manner.  So, absent and uninvolved in his being there.  So, different.

After bed, it would typically be half an hour before she’d crawl out naked from under the sheets.  But this time, once it was done she rolled over, took a cigarette from his pack, and got out of bed to get half dressed.  After that, she’d started away, seemingly to the restroom, but she stopped and laid on the end of the bed; where’d she’d been reading quietly since.

Nerves, he thought.  Though he never thought he’d see the day; but today wasn’t just any day, and she’d held it together perfectly through the job – better than most men would even.  And if she was ever to be entitled to a moment of nerves, now would be the safe time.  After all, she was only human.


She looked up to him.

“Give me one of those.”

She picked up the pack and gave it a slight, experienced jerk forward; knocking a single Lucky loose for him.  He took it, but he took it slowly.  And in that moment of eye contact, he sent a thousand questions from his grays into her enigmatic blues; and those stony blues of hers delivered a single answer back to him through the glossy locks of hair they hid behind:  those eyes said that she wasn’t afraid; not of the cops, of the mob, of the others, not even of him.  But those ruby lips and painted eyes couldn’t hide the fact that something heavy was festering inside that pretty little head of hers, and though he’d tried dismissing it as nerves, it still plagued him with questions: why is she so different now, after the danger?  Why not while she was skidding through the streets behind the wheel of a stolen sedan, with three armed assailants accompanying her and the smell of gunpowder still fresh?  Why now, when it was only the two of them?  How’d they’d wanted it.

“Somethin’ eating you, doll?”

She shut her magazine and got off the bed, then snapped her garters back into place while the smoldering butt charred loosely from her lips, “You know you’ve never even told me your name,” she said, taking a final drag and crushing the butt into the ashtray.  “And I think I love you, anyway.  What does that say about me, huh?  Loving a crook who won’t even tell you his name?”

“I told you from the start, baby.  I ain’t got one.”

She smiled, but not at him.  After sticking a fresh Lucky (her fifth in maybe twenty minutes) in her mouth, she thumbed on the Little Nipper radio on the nightstand; a wallowing voice came creeping out of the box, and Fats Domino was in the room with them.

“…ain’t that a shame… my tears fell like rain… ain’t that a shame… you’re the one to blame…”

“I just wanted to tell you that I love you anyway,” though she’d mumbled this through the music and smoke, he’d still caught it.  She left then, and went into the bathroom and shut the door, leaving him thinking… knowing… that he loved her, too.  This should have been a pleasant thought, and he supposed it was.  But it was also a dumb one; mugs in love fall off fast.  It does something to them, he’d seen it before.  Makes them dopey; chemically alters their brains to the point where they can’t see what’s what anymore.

But she could be different, couldn’t she?  Of course, she was.  She’d proved that today.

Despite the mind games unfolding in bed, the Man himself was calm.  The job hadn’t gone off as smooth as it should’ve, but it had been successful.  The take: just over $350,000.

There’d been some shooting; he’d worried about that before, and it was no great shock to him who had started it either: Isaac.  Isaac the Terrible; Isaac the too-tall brute, who’s mentality could only be compatible with a ravenous grizzly bear.  Between the other three men involved, Isaac was the one he figured most likely to turn it all into a mess, and what ‘a ya know?  Guys like Isaac didn’t have any business being involved in jobs that big.  He wasn’t a professional.  He wasn’t even a good thief.  He was just muscle that had a bad habit of getting hot under the collar and taking it out on whoever he figured he could.  But that wasn’t what happened today; today he just hadn’t been paying attention and had tried making up for it with his gun.

This hadn’t been their first job together.  But it had been the biggest, and it was going to be the last.  And now that he and Amelia had enough to be rid of this city – at least for a while – that’s exactly what they would do.  As soon as the heat in the streets died down a bit, and they could leave their room, and the others could leave theirs next door.

He hauled his legs out of bed and slid back into his trousers.  Then went over to the window and peeked from behind the drawn curtain; no new cars.  No one had found them, yet.

The black Attaché case holding the loot sat on its worn, wicker throne over by the tv set with antenna ears capped with tinfoil.  He flipped the top; large amounts of money never live up to those sumptuous expectations, but there it was more than three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  Even splits for all; five ways.  The others had been agreeable with the keeping of the loot in one room if they could keep the keys to the car in the other.  He didn’t think that was a bad idea, but he noticed how clearly it had been thought of beforehand.  They didn’t need to worry about him; at least, not as long as he didn’t need to worry about them.  Play it straight down the line, just like they’d said in that movie he’d taken Amelia to the other week.  He liked that, and he wished everyone played it by those rules.  There might not have been trouble if they had.

He heard the bathroom door open then.

“You hungry?” he asked, eyes still inside the case.  “We can’t stay, but I thought we could get something from that diner across th…”

The gleam the bathroom light gave off against the plate of the pistol was what caught his eye; the stainless steel and pearl handle of the tiny automatic she held in her hand shined brighter than any of the diming bulbs the room’s lamps had to offer.  The eye of the gun was on him.  He opened his mouth, found there was nothing to say, and instead used his eyes to do his questioning, just as he had before.

But she shut hers and pulled the trigger.  Pulled, not squeezed.

There was an explosion, and all at once he felt the wind go out of him.  Nothing more.  And then there was a tightening; like she’d shot a Boa Constrictor into him, instead of a bullet.  Suddenly there was blood seeping from somewhere high in his chest.

He collapsed backward, desperately grasping for a handle on one of the dresser drawers, but clutched nothing and hit the floor sitting up.  She was coming at him, still in her underwear, still pointing the gun his direction.

And that damn radio was still playing: “…ain’t that a shame…”

He fought against the pull of gravity tugging him by the throat to the ground and waited for that final flash and instantaneous boom; the kill shot.

She was above him now, looking down, but he couldn’t read her anymore; his world was quickly turning cloudy.  All he was sure of was that her finger was still caressing the trigger.

From there, he couldn’t be sure – as he was bordering that fuzzy world of unconsciousness – but he could’ve sworn that he watched her fading shape lower the gun before making a gesture – that he must’ve mistaken for wiping away tears.  After that, the shape got dressed, shut the briefcase on the chair above him, took it, and left.  He thought he heard the thud of heels moving from hotel carpet, to hotel concrete, but that could’ve just been the reverberations of his head hitting the floor as he went spinning down into that long, surreal spiral of blackness he was so sure was death.

A Man without a name, wearing only his suit pants, lay on the floor bleeding from a gunshot wound and into the carpet of room 263.  The door was ajar, and rock ‘n roll leaked out into the parking lot.

“… oh, well… goodbye… although, I’ll cry… ain’t that a shame…”




The Daily’s Post, Sept 16 1963.  Crime column; article by Robert Pullmin

The long-standing resort, The Seashell Motel, located off Ventura Boulevard, was the scene of a gruesome discovery yesterday afternoon.  Three-year employee, Tyra Lanks, was in the midst of her afternoon rounds when she came across the open door to one of the hotel’s rooms, where she found an unresponsive man lying in a pool of his own blood.  “I was so sure that he was dead,” says Tyra. “I’d never seen so much blood, and no matter how many times I hollered ‘” Mister! Mister!”’ he just wouldn’t answer.  He wouldn’t even open his eyes.  There was no way he was hearing me.  After that, I ran back as quick as I could to the office, told Jerry (the manager) to drop that coffee and get an ambulance and the police down here as fast as he could.”

As of yet, the wounded man remains unidentified, but detectives on the case are confirming that the man suffered a single gunshot wound somewhere to the upper torso and that it is likely he will recover.

This is not the first instance that the Seashell Motel has been the scene of violence.  As recently as April…




He knew that he was still alive when he saw the gleaming.  He flinched into the conscious world because he believed it was her – still holding that silver pistol.  But that shine wasn’t coming from a gun; it was coming from a badge.

It was attached to the uniform of a pudgy, rose-cheeked lawman, standing behind a plainclothesman who was clearly his superior.  The detective pulled a tiny notebook from his jacket as he greeted the Man: “Welcome back.  You gave us quite a scare, you did.”

“Where am I?” the Man croaked.

“You’re in the county hospital.  You sure are a lucky s.o.b. That slug they pulled out of the door might’ve been tiny, but if it’d been half an inch lower you would’ve bled to death in that cockroach-bed of a room.”


“Yea, right there in your chest,” he pointed at the patchwork on the Man.  “Straight through you and into the door.  They say technically you got it in the outer sub-clavicle, or whatever the fuck it is.  But that’s a chest shot if I’ve ever seen one, what about you Marvins?”

“If I ever saw one, sir,” the uniform stated ambiguously.

“Shot…” the Man repeated.  He remembered alright; he’d been dreaming of being shot when this screw had woken him up.  Or maybe it had been the bang from the gun that did it…

“Yea, that’s right.  And now that the doctors put you all back together and got you coasting on painkillers, we’ve got a few questions for you.  Let’s start with your name.”

“My name.”

The detective tipped his hat impatiently, “Yea, your name.  We found no form of identification on you, pal.  That means right now you’re just some guy we pulled out of the grave.”

He shook his head, “whoever clipped me must’ve made-off with it.”

“So, you don’t know who shot you?”


“Well, maybe you could tell me why they’d take your ID and not your wallet?”

Fuck no he couldn’t.  He said nothing.

“Like I said,” The detective grinned, “let’s start with that name.”

“Doe,” the Man responded.

The detective began scribbling a letter in his book before he stopped and said, “Let me guess, John Doe, right?”

The Man didn’t respond.

The cop flipped his booklet shut, “You sure you wanna play it this way, pal?”

The Man said nothing at first; he knew he was in a hole, and if he talked to the law he’d just dig himself farther in the wrong direction.  “I don’t want to talk to you.”

The detective shrugged and nodded to his partner, who produced a pair of restraints and proceeded to cuff the Man by his left hand to the hospital bed.

“Just so you won’t go getting restless on us.  I want you to think about all this, how lucky you really are.  I gotta assume whoever plugged you wasn’t just trying to send you on a trip to the doctor’s office.

“We’ll be back.  And then you’ll talk to us.  Or we’ll just have to assume the worst, won’t we, Mr. John Doe?”

They left then, and the Man was alone, chained to his bed.  After a while, the morphine set back in, and he couldn’t help but let it take him back into the world he’d just come from.  A world where the dreams were really just memories.  And the memories were nightmares.

Suddenly he could hear her voice.  He could smell the burning tobacco boxing the room, the grease of half-eaten burgers brought by Chowder to the meet.  Raw memories, so fresh, it was like Isaac was still beside him, expressing his clear disapproval to certain aspects of the plan.

“You’re sure?” Isaac had kept asking Chowder.  “You’re sure about that, right?  You damn better be.”

“What’re you worryin’ about, pops?  I’m tellin’ ya, it’ll be a jazz.”

“What the fuck does that even mean, Chowder?”

“Both of you, can it,” the Man ordered.

There were five of them in that same stuffy hotel room, where later in the day one of them would be shot.  While the men sat around the table, Amelia stood, smoking by the window; watching the outside world through a half-drawn curtain as though it were an exhibit to some bizarre zoo she couldn’t get her money back from.

To the right of the Man was Isaac; a sandy-blonde behemoth that ran ramped through the gutters of an unprepared city.  The Man had never taken to Isaac, though this would be their third heist together.  They’d gotten along well enough in the beginning, but over time, it had become apparent that Isaac was transitioning into something that was wildly detrimental to any heister: unpredictable.

He’d split a man’s skull open on the last job, before cracking into a safe he’d stumbled across behind that man’s desk; not the safe they’d gone there for, mind you.  Greed would be Isaac’s undoing, and the Man had planned on cutting all ties to him before that undoing happened while he was around.  Only Chowder had shown up with a score; one too big to pass up on.  And the thing was, Chowder had brought Isaac in on it before coming to him; and of course, Isaac had accepted.

So, the Man made his decision.

“If you’re so worried about it, why didn’t you say somthin’ before?”  Across from Isaac, was Eddie; a sandpaper-faced man with a jagged scar running from behind his ear, down his neck and into his shirt collar.  The only thing the Man knew about Eddie was that he’d spent half his life in San Quentin on a manslaughter beef and that he was looking forward to “Giving that whop Cinelli a good kick where it mattered”.

“I ain’t worried about nothin’, Ed boy.  You just do your part and I’ll do mine,” said Isaac.

“I’m tellin’ you guys, it’ll be a cinch,” proclaimed Chowder – short for Chowder Head.  He’d always introduced himself by this name, and no one had ever bothered to tell him the boys in reformatory gave it to him as another way of calling him stupid; Chowder was stupid, but this wasn’t the first time he’d come across profitable information like this.  He made his living selling the secrets of other’s criminal enterprises to those interested, and somehow, he was still alive to be doing it again; rats seem to find their way into everyone’s walls.

A week ago, Chowder had sat all four of them down and filled them in on how Ricky Cinelli had hired him on for some pick-ups, here and there throughout the city.  He told them that for about a month now, he’d known the location of the warehouse where Cinelli was keeping the profits from a heroin operation, that everyone in the city (except for Cinelli’s bosses) knew about.  He explained how Cinelli was unable to bring this cash to his mob-friendly bank because his bosses would start asking questions about where it was coming from.  And if they found out what he was up to…

Chowder said the packages he’d delivered himself amounted to more than $125,000.

“Let’s go through it one more time,” the Man said.  “Make sure it’s clear.”

Chowder hunched back over the table, “Alright, this is the layout: downstairs, there’ll be at least three guys, all of em packin’.”

“And what do you do when we get there, Chowder?”

“I knock on the door, just like I always do, and when they see it’s me and open up, you guys rush through with the heaters, and tie me up with em’ so it looks like I was gettin’ held-up too.”

“What happens then, Isaac?”

“I know what I’m doin’.”

“So, let me hear it.”

Isaac gave an ostentatious puff of his cigarette smoke in the Man’s direction and said, “I keep em’ on ice downstairs, while you boys take the upstairs -”

“Where there’ll be at least two more guys,” Chowder cut in.

“Right,” the Man went on. “It’s important I get up there as fast as I can after we bust in – otherwise they’ll be ready for me when I get through that door.  You’re sure it’s a straight 10-case stair set? Don’t let me get there and find out I got to run up a flight of spiral ones.”

“I couldn’t swear to each individual step, but yea I’m sure it’s a straight shot.  You can see the door from the bottom.”

“Alright.  Now, what about you Eddie?”

“I go in behind you and tie-up those clowns upstairs – while you get the dough – then I go back down an tie up the ones Issacs’s watchin’.”

“Ay, be sure not to tie mine too tight, alright Eddie,” said Chowder.

“Yea, I’ll be real gentle with ya sweetheart.”

Isaac chuckled, and the Man only smirked before going on, “Now, after we -”

Chowder cut in once more: “What about her?”

Amelia whipped her head towards the table, showing the first sign that she was even aware of others in the room with her.  The change of atmosphere in the room was palpable.

“What about her?” the Man asked firmly.

“I’m just sayin’, she can drive, right?  Cause you said she could, and you’re gonna be ridin’ with the cash, so – “

This time it was Amelia that did the cutting in: “You just remember what they tell you, and be sure not to give yourself away, little boy.  Don’t you worry about me.”

They all got a laugh out of that one; except Chowder.

“I said she can drive, so that means she can drive.  And she’s right, all you need to be concerned with is yourself, cause after we scram out of there you’ll be left behind with the aftermath of it, and they’ll lean on you harder than the others.”

“I’ll sell it.  I’ll tell em’ you snatched me up off the street and stuck a rod in my back.  Didn’t give me no choice.  They’ll buy that.”

“You better hope they do,” said Isaac.

The Man stood and went into the room’s closet.  He came out with an army-green duffel bag and brought it to the bed; the same spot Amelia would lie half-naked; pondering.  He took out the contents of the bag and laid them on the mattress.  There were two .357 magnum revolvers and one .38; three ski masks, each with a different color stripe across the top; and matching trench coats.  The three stick-up men took one of each.

“Let’s get to it.”


— ♦♦♦ —

It was 10:47 in the morning and the sun was shining brightly when a grey Ford sedan came pulling into a small compound, located in the back of an industrial park.  A young man with clammy, shaking hands held the steering wheel as steady as he could while rolling past the trailer situated beside a gravel road that led to a single building less than twenty yards away.  In the trailer’s window, he could see a pair of eyes evaluating him from behind the single slit in the blinds.  The edgy man slowed, just enough so that the owner of those watch-dog eyes could see that it was him.  After a second, the blind dropped and the eyes disappeared; the mystery thug had failed to spot the three armed men hiding in the backseat and on the floorboard under a blanket.

Chowder pulled beside the building and parked away from the door (as per the instructions barked at him from the backseat), so that if anyone was watching from the peephole they wouldn’t see them all piling out of the car.

“Ok.  Ok, it’s clear,” whispered Chowder, after stepping out and giving a brief glance at his surroundings.

The blanket shifted, then stilled.  “Check again,” came the voice of a man whose name he didn’t know.

“Let go ‘a me.  Let’s do this thing,” from the voice of Isaac.

Chowder – whose hands were shaking very badly now – gave one more look around and said, “Yea, it’s ok.  No one’s out here.”

The blanket rose, and three men emerged dressed in brown trench coats and black masks; each had a sizeable revolver in his hand.  The masked men lined up against the building and moved stealthily to the door with Chowder; whose hands were now buried deep in his pockets.  He stood in front of the door and looked to the men creeping up beside it; each of their eyes visible and ominously bloodshot.  The one ahead, with a blue stripe across the top of his mask, nodded.

Chowder took a hand from his pocket and gave three short knocks, then after a second, three more (his hand trembled so badly the knocks had an uneven tempo to them).  After that, there was a minute that felt like an eternity, and Chowder’s mind ran wild with suspicions: they know, they must know, that’s why they haven’t answered yet.  He thought that any second a buckshot would come ripping through the door, and then he wouldn’t have to worry about who knew what.

Instead, there was a click, and he knew someone had unlatched the eyehole.  A single blue eye appeared in the door, looking almost alien by itself.  It blinked once, and whoever it belonged to shut the latch and shifted something on the other side of the door they all knew to be the lock.  And then it was open.

A grey-haired man, stripped of his jacket and wearing his tie loosely appeared behind the half-open door.  “Chowder, what the hell are you doing here?  No one said nothing about -“

The door thrust violently into the man’s face, bashing his nose; he held it with both hands as he blindly stumbled farther into the room, before collapsing onto the floor.  Three masked men stormed inside, and the one with the Blue stripe shoved Chowder into a corner by the unconscious doorman and two others, who were sitting at a table and playing Ginn; these men watched in awe with their hands in the air, as the Blue striped robber ran past them, and darted up the stairs – skipping two at a time.  The one with an Orange striped mask pulled what looked like already-knotted rope out of his coat and followed Blue up the stairs while the remaining gunman stayed behind and demanded they use their left hands to slowly drop their guns to the floor and kick them over.  They did as he said. “Just take it easy, fella.”

Blue got to the top of the stairs in five seconds flat and flung the door open with his gun out in front of him.  There were two men in the room, and he had his revolver on one of them before he could turn around completely; his hand was wrapped around the stock of a shotgun in the slot of his desk.

“I’m already on ya, you wouldn’t get halfway around.  Drop it.”

After seconds thought, he did, and paced slowly to the corner with his friend; a short man wearing rimless spectacles and a blackjack dealers visor, who’d been sitting at the middle table littered with cash and scribbled notebooks.

“You’re a smart hombre, ain’t ya?” taunted Orange mask, fastening the rope around the first man’s hands and slipping another connected piece of rope around his friend’s.

“You guys got any idea what you’re doin’?  Who we’re with?”

Ohhhhhhh,” Orange mocked the man in dishonest fear, making his voice and gun-hand shake in exaggerated terror.

“Hurry up,” said Blue.  “Tape his fuckin’ mouth first.”




Thirty seconds later, after both of Cinelli’s men upstairs had been bound together, and while Blue finished raking in the last of the cash from the lockboxes, Orange went back downstairs with the second piece of rope.  He found his third accomplice, whose mask had a green stripe, still standing by the front door with his cannon up and on the men against the wall; each of the three conscious ones still had their hands raised above their head.  One of the men at the table had a cigarette in his mouth so close to the end that soon it would singe his lips.

“Bout time,” said Green.  “These mugs haven’t shut up about whose place this is.”

“Yea, same fancy talk upstairs,” Orange was fiddling with the rope he’d come down with, and when he pulled both ends to fasten the knot, it twisted apart, accordioned down, and straightened limply.  “Ah, shit.”

Green: “Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me?”

“I’ll fix it I’ll fix it, just a sec.”  Orange hadn’t been the one to tie both lengths of rope back at the motel, and now that a knot was undone, he didn’t seem to have any idea how to put it back together.

“Just use the fuckin’ tape on em”.

“I almost got – “

As the two masked men argued, the goon with the short cigarette in his mouth slowly moved his right hand down past his shoulder, down his hip, and to his ankle.  Sitting on the floor next to that man, was Chowder, who watched as the man eased his pants leg up – exposing an ankle holster.

“-take it easy.  I can just tie a diff- “

Suddenly Chowder was on his feet and shouting: “Gun! He’s got a gun!”

“You rat bastard!” screamed the man, scowling at Chowder and no longer being subtle in his go for the secret gun; he grabbed for it, unholstered a tiny snub-nose revolver, and started it in Chowders direction.  As the surprise gun was raised, the already-cocked back hammer to Green’s magnum fell and sent a round bursting through the drawing man’s chest – knocking him over in his chair and onto the floor.  Dead.

No one noticed the Blue stripe robber appear at the top of the stairs then.

The other man flung the table over and dove behind it.  His hand could be seen going for his dead partner’s gun on the other side of the table; and as his fingers clasped around it, bullets went ripping through his oak-shield from both the barrels of Green and Orange’s guns, and the grasping fingers went still.  Dead still.

In those same seconds, the broken-nosed doorman on the floor was suddenly alive – and had evidently not been searched because he was pulling a small automatic from his pants and moving it towards the two firing robbers.  Before the doorman could put anyone in his sights, the third robber shot from the top of the stairs; a single round went through the top of the doorman’s head and he dropped for the final time.

The others noticed Blue then.  He was glaring reproachfully at Green from the stairs.  “You dumb- “

“Oh, don’t go gettin’ soft on me,” Green interrupted.  “He didn’t give me no choice.  Screw em, three less guys who saw what happened.”

That made Blue think of something that hadn’t been considered, and he rushed from the stairs to the door.  Sure enough, four more gunzos were coming to their direction from the trailer; no doubt they’d heard all the shooting from next door.  He fired once their way – sending one of them fleeing the way he’d come, while the others scattered and dived for cover before shooting back.  A hail of bullets rained in on the buildings entrance and the car they’d arrived in; which must have meant they thought they were going to try and leave the way they’d come in.  Good.

“Time to go,” said Blue.

“Take me with you!” Chowder pleaded.  “You gotta take me! They’ll never believe me now!”

Blue grunted and pushed Chowder in the direction they were headed.  As Cinelli’s guns unloaded on the front of the building, the four men made their way to the back.  There was a tall, gravel slope that led to a storage unit; on the other side of which, was an abandoned lot, where Amelia would be waiting with the second car.

Before any of them made it to the start of the hill, a man holding a rifle appeared from behind the dumpster; it was the man that had turned and run when Blue started shooting.  Before he could process the encounter, all three men opened up on him and he went tumbling down the rocky hill; his mangled body beat them to the bottom after a series of grisly cart-wheels.

Once they made it to the concrete, shots rang out from above; the other gunmen had already raided the building and trailed them out back.

The sound of steel-on-steel echoed as the shots kept coming and hitting the storage units the men fled by.  None of the robbers were hit as they rounded the corner of the alley to the parking lot; where they found Amelia with the car running.

They piled in and found that she was calm, but ready, and had the Chevy in gear and skidding out of the lot before any of the men could shut their doors completely.  They swerved in and out of the mid-morning traffic (completely ignoring the car horns and angry demands of drivers who’d pulled over for a word or two) and eventually cut through an alley; as she slowed the sedan, giving the three-enough time to strip their disguises off, Chowder began to pant loudly.

“Shut up,” Isaac ordered from beside him, wrapping a green striped mask inside of his trench coat.

“You shot ‘em!  Why did you shoot ‘em, that wasn’t part of it! They saw me!”

“Shut up I said.  That was your fault, Chowder.  Remember that.”

“Did you get it?” asked Amelia; she was looking to the passenger’s seat where the Man was removing a ski-mask with a blue stripe.  An Attaché briefcase was positioned between his knees.

“Aren’t you gonna ask why Chowder’s here?”

She looked away and back out the window as they went rolling onto the boulevard (this time at a non-illicit speed) that would quickly take them to their hotel.  “That was my next question.”

From the backseat: “Oh Christ, they saw me…”

“Yea.  Yea, we got it.”

She said nothing after that; no one did.

And now, in his dream that would soon reach its conclusion, he wondered if he should have seen it coming, then; when she asked him right off about the money; when she didn’t ask him if he’d been hit after having to have heard all those gunshots; when he thought her silence was just a put-on for the others, but how it carried on when they were alone in the room; how at that moment, from the car and on – he’d been nothing more than another face; a stranger in an unfriendly world.

He dreamed on until that moment.




For the second time, he dreamed of her shooting him; just the way she had.

Only when she shot him in this dream, he didn’t wake immediately; he was slumped up on the floor, fighting for poise and control, and he looked up to see her peering down at him; and just before she shot him a second time, he saw that her eyes had turned black.

This bang woke him, and he was back in that depressing room handcuffed to that hospital bed.

He was here – while she… she was out there.

Amelia, sweet Amelia.

It had been Amelia who’d put him here; not Isaac; not Cinelli’s gunzos; It had been the one person he had ever considered completely trusting; the woman who had gotten him to let his guard down just long enough for her to try and put one in his heart.

Literally breaking it.  Funny, he thought.

Amelia hadn’t played it straight down the line; like that movie said.  It was funny he should be thinking about a movie date with the broad who’d plugged him, but he couldn’t help himself.  That movie had been called Double Indemnity, and the blonde skirt in it had crossed Fred MacMurray just like Amelia had crossed him.

No wonder she liked it so much; she could have played the part of Femme Fatale just as well as Ms. Stanwyck.

And no wonder he’d liked it…  Because he’d played the sap, just like Ol’ Fred had; buying every line she could lay on him about love and trust.  About not caring that he was a nobody in a world lousy with nobodies.

But she’d made a mistake: she hadn’t killed him.

And it didn’t matter where she went now because he would find her.

He would find Amelia.




The Daily’s Post, Sept 17 1963.  Crime column; article by Robert Pullmin.

The mystery continues, as the previously reported man, found shot and unresponsive inside of a room located at the Seashell Motel, has escaped from custody at the county hospital.  The man, who at this time remains unidentified, was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at the hospital, where he was being held for questioning by police.  This unidentified man allegedly took hold of a newly-hired intern (who has requested to remain anonymous) and held this young man by the neck until the point of unconsciousness.  The man then used a hypodermic needle taken from the intern to pick into the lock of his handcuffs; this needle was later found protruding from the keyhole of these cuffs.

Detectives are hesitant to provide further details, aside from that this man is believed to have been involved in at least one other violent crime, and should be considered at large and dangerous.

This man can only be described as a tall, white male with dark hair…


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Next Week: 

Thumbnail illustration for "Fixing The Race After the Finish" Copyright (c) 2018 by L.A. Spooner. Used under license.Fixing the Race After the Finish.  By Walter Giersbach, Art by L.A. Spooner

Shannon knew his life was going to get interesting when Cassidy’s secretary asked him to come see him.  “Your target is Pierre de Choissy, allegedly a French nobleman….”  Thus, began one of the strangest train rides he had ever taken.  While tailing his target, Shannon runs into an old female acquaintance and suddenly finds himself-neck-deep in mob business.  What else could he do but help his friend after she tells him the secret the mob knows about fixing the race after the finish?

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