Monday, December 28, 2009

Satan Hall 6: Death by Appointment

In this tale from 1933, pointy-eared Detective Frank "Satan" Hall slaps down a mob gunny named Chet Barloff, putting "the mark of Satan" on him. Now Barloff must try to kill him, or bear that mark of shame.

Satan allows himself to be lured into a trap in the back room of a nightclub, where he enjoys a glass of (no kidding!) sarsaparilla. A few excerpts from the scene:

A voice spoke. A voice directly behind Satan; a voice that he recognized.

“Don’t so much as move a muscle,” said the voice. “My gun’s less than six feet from your head; just the right distance to blow the top of it off.” And the voice was the voice of Chet Barloff.

Looking up into the mirror on the wall in front of him, Satan saw those sneering lips; those gloating eyes. A panel in the wall had slipped noiselessly back - a panel wide enough to admit the head and shoulders of the killer; a necessary device of pre-Volstead days for a Sunday can of beer.

Satan didn’t move and he didn’t speak. He cursed softly beneath his breath. If his right hand was only free? But it wasn’t free. He couldn’t get the glass onto the table without attracting Barloff’s attention.

Remarkably, though Satan can see Barloff in the mirror, Barloff is so focused on the back of Satan’s head that he pays no attention to the mirror. So he fails to notice as Satan’s left hand snakes a gun from under his right armpit and up toward his right shoulder. Satan’s best hope is to get one desperate shot off before he dies.

Then Barloff finally looks in the mirror.

For a split second Barloff’s eyes were fastened on Satan’s left hand - on the gun that left hand held. The right hand was forgotten.

Satan let his right hand fly back as he pitched himself forward onto the table. He heard the roar of Chet Barloff’s gun, the curse too that preceded it. For a split moment in the mirror Satan saw the glass strike the wall above Barloff’s head - saw the bits of glass scatter and the dull brown liquid run over Barloff’s face.

There was the smell of burnt powder in Satan’s nostrils, and a cold stab along the side of his face as if a piece of ice had been dragged across his cheek.

Satan hits the floor, twisting his body. And his left hand if finally free. He looks Barloff straight in the eyes.

Satan didn’t see the lust to kill in those eyes now. He saw fear - even terror.

Satan’s green eyes narrowed; his thin lips were a straight line. His finger closed once upon that trigger.

They fired together. Barloff with a hand that shook - with a finger that closed frantically - desperately.

A chip of wood from the table tore across Satan’s cheek. He nodded grimly and his lips parted. Clearly he saw the round hole almost in the center of Chet Barloff’s forehead; a small round hole that was growing larger and turning red.

“Just as I always thought,” Satan thought, half aloud. “No nerve. When he faced the gun in my hand he turned yellow.”

Sarsaparilla saves the day!

Satan's earlier adventures are chronicled HERE.


Richard Robinson said...

What a great start to the week between the holidays, Evan. Thanks!

I haven't had any time to dip into the Dan Turner books yet, but hopefully things will quiet down this week and I'll have curl-up-in-a-comfy-chair time.

I put a list of the books a received on my blog.

Brian Drake said...

Carroll John Daly and sarsaparilla. Why am I not surprised? As much a fan of Daly as I am, you can tell he's never been in a fight or (maybe) even had a drink in his life. Can you imagine Mike Hammer drinking sarsaparilla? He'd shoot you for even asking. Even Philip Marlowe would pass. Spencer might drink sarsaparilla, but only in scenes with Susan.

Evan Lewis said...

Early hardboiled stories (Daly's in particular) are often compared to westerns, but this is one of the most bald-faced I've seen yet. All it needs is a quick-draw duel in the street.