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Authors: Kelley Roos

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Ghost of a Chance

BOOK: Ghost of a Chance
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Persons this mystery is about

JEFF TROY,

resourceful, wise-cracking photographer, has a reputation for being no slouch as a detective. Jeff has a talent for getting mixed up with people who don’t like cops, and a capacity for getting out of tight spots almost as fast as he gets in them.

HAILA TROY,

Jeff’s lovely, clever, and very competent wife, takes it for granted that she accompany Jeff when he goes “detecting.” Quick on the draw mentally and verbally, she comes through with some timely assistance at the most crucial moments.

FRANK LORIMER,

a stranger to the Troys, telephones Jeff an urgent, desperate message concerning an unnamed woman about to be murdered.

AUNT ELLIE,

Haila’s aunt, has added her presence to the Troy household for a long visit. She is a character from her fat little feet to the tight brown artificial curls atop her empty head.

SALLY KENNEDY,

an heiress who will gain control of the bulk of her father’s estate in a few days, has the face, figure, and hair of an angel. She is certain she is not the intended murder victim.

THELMA KENNEDY,

Sally’s aunt, is a flashy, fundless, middle-aged sweater girl. Her husband is reported to have died in a boating accident.

MAY,

Thelma’s roommate, aged 40, thinks Thelma’s a scream, and together they put on a good “Marx Sisters” act.

EDDIE JOYCE,

caretaker of a boarded-up house, has a prominent nose and jutting chin. His young but stooped figure gives him a menacing bearing. He is supposed to be Frank’s friend.

CARL DOBBS,

tall, spare, and forbidding, is the lawyer for the Kennedy estate. He thinks all this talk of an impending murder is the figment of an alcoholic dream.

DETECTIVE LIEUTENANT HANKINS,

laboring under difficulties not the least of which are Jeff and an understaffed force, is dubious about Jeff’s fears of a murder.

What this mystery is about

… A MURDER that is about to take place any minute— but which of New York’s three million women is to be the victim … A MATCH PACKET on which an important message is printed … A DEAD MAN who holds the only available key to an imminent murder … A HORSE’S NAME tattooed on a dead man’s arm … A PRISON in a boarded-up house … A PAIR OF SHOES with a man in them waiting for a girl to come just a little closer … A GARAGE DOOR put to an extremely uncommon use … A SCRIBBLE on a hatbox which is an innocent appointment with death.

 

Wouldn’t you like to know …

How to get to a victim-to-be when the only blessed thing you know about her is that she is going to be murdered any minute?

Why kindly old Pop, who was a friend to everyone—and to no one—was so desperately worried?

What convinces Jeff and Haila that two more names have been added to the killer’s list?

Why the man with the blinking eyes behaves as he does?

How to escape alive from a house of murderers?

 

YOU will learn the answers in this absorbing mystery story which is an entertaining mixture of wit, lively action, thrills, and suspense. Jeff and Haila Troy are as delightful a young couple as ever set out to foil a mob of killers.

Copyright © 1945, 1947 by William Roos and Audrey Kelly Roos

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Ghost of a Chance

Chapter One: Murder – Any Minute

Jeff straightened up and stepped
triumphantly back off the hearth. A chorus line of tiny flames danced up the side of the log, got a foothold and went to work. A moment later the fire was blazing cozily, our living room no longer resembled a three-sided bus station, and I stopped thinking about Miami, Florida.

“There’s no place like New York in December,” I said.

“December,” my Aunt Ellie said-and put down her crocheting.

Quickly Jeff said to me, “Haila, I wonder if I should go out and buy some more logs.”

“You can’t buy logs on Sunday,” I said.

“Sunday,” Aunt Ellie said and cleared her throat.

“Besides,” I said rapidly, but not quite as frantically as Jeff, “you’d never get back. You’d perish.”

The three of us looked through the back windows and watched the snow battle its way through the freezing wind to a resting place in our frozen garden. Each of us shuddered and turned gratefully back toward the fire. Jeff sat down on the love seat opposite Aunt Ellie’s and mine. Aunt Ellie reached across the coffee table and patted his knee with her plump little hand. She smiled at him cozily and Jeff smiled back at her with all his might. She returned happily to her crocheting.

This was the beginning of Aunt Ellie’s third week with us. For thirty years she had been saying, over and over again, that wild horses couldn’t drag her to New York. But finally they had and it looked as if those wild horses had had enough of Aunt Ellie and had no intention of dragging her back to Terre Haute. I sympathized with them and I sympathized with Jeff. Aunt Ellie, from her fat little feet to the myriad of tight, bright brown and artificial curls that swamped her empty little head, was a one.

“Let’s have a beer,” Jeff suggested.

“Beer,” Aunt Ellie said and, without the breath of a pause, she rushed on. “Never will I forget little Haila and the sip of beer.”

Gently, so that I could give her my undivided attention, she confiscated the pencil I was using on a double-crostic puzzle. “Little Haila was six years old and she was spending a week at our house. Pinky Pinkham had just got married and he brought Bunny over to meet us. Of course, that called for a celebration. Well, Pinky gave Haila a sip of his beer. And you should have seen her face!” Aunt Ellie laughed and laughed; Jeff mechanically handed her his handkerchief and she expertly dried her tears of hilarity. “You should have seen that child’s face! She couldn’t swallow the beer and she was too well brought up to spit it out. So she just stood there!”

“What did she finally do with the beer?” Jeff asked, but Aunt Ellie was too convulsed to answer. “Haila,
what did
you finally do with the beer?”

“Nothing. It’s still in my mouth.”

“She just stood there!” Aunt Ellie giggled. “Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear! Jeffie, you don’t know how lucky you are!”

“What?” Jeff inquired.

“To have married a girl like Haila.”

“Yes,” Jeff said. “I am lucky.”

“Lucky,” Aunt Ellie said. “Once Haila leaned too far out a window when she was five and…”

“Five,” Jeff said. “When I was in high school our basket-ball team was going to play…”

“Play,” Aunt Ellie said. “Never will I forget the first play that Haila ever…”

Jeff suddenly got up. “Excuse me.”

“What is it, darling?”

“The phone, Haila.”

“I didn’t hear it.”

Jeff went into the bedroom, closing the door after him. I sneaked my pencil out of Aunt Ellie’s hand and went back to work on my puzzle. My Aunt was usually quiet when someone was temporarily out of the room; she didn’t want anyone to miss anything she said. Occasionally she giggled and I knew she was lining up a list of sidesplitting anecdotes of my childhood with which to beguile us. Jeff came back and walked slowly to the windows. He stood looking into the garden.

“Who was it?” I said.

“Frank Lorimer.”

“Who’s he?”

“I don’t know,” Jeff said. “Do you?”

“I’ve never heard the name.”

“Lorimer,” Aunt Ellie said and she said it twice more. “It strikes me there was a Lorimer at home years ago. Yes! He was the milkman. I never really knew his first name, but I always had the feeling it might be Frank. Isn’t that strange?”

“Yes,” I said. “Jeff, what did your Frank Lorimer want?”

“He wants me to help him. He says that a friend of his—a lady—is going to be murdered. Any minute.”

“Jeff, did you say…”

“Murdered.”

Aunt Ellie screamed.

Quickly, I turned my back on her; she never fainted unless someone was looking. “Jeff, tell me.”

“Mr. Lorimer wants me to help keep his lady friend alive. He suggests that I come to the Belfast Bar on Thompson Street and talk to him about it. He seems to take for granted that I’m the type that likes ladies to stay alive.”

“Why doesn’t he go to the police?”

“Maybe he thinks Sunday is their day off.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Then again he might not like policemen. So many people you get mixed up with, darling, don’t approve of policemen. And vice versa.”

“Mr. Lorimer sounded like a respectable citizen.”

“Respectable,” Aunt Ellie said. “Then why doesn’t he meet you at his home? Instead of a bar? On Sunday.”

“I don’t know that,” Jeff said. “Perhaps he doesn’t have a home.”

“Poor man,” Aunt Ellie said. “Homeless.”

“Jeff,” I said, “why did he call you for help?”

“He believes all that stuff he read about me in the newspaper last week. You know, that I solved six murders which baffled the best police minds in the city, solved them single-handed while simultaneously practicing my hobby of earning a living being a photographer, whipping up exotic curries in my streamlined kitchen and munching an apple… And it is with regret, Aunt Ellie, that I must leave you now.”

“Jeff,” I said, “I’m going to the Belfast Bar with you.”

“You stay here with Aunt Ellie.”

“No, you need me more than she does. Aunt Ellie, a woman’s place is at her husband’s side, isn’t it?”

“I often say that,” Aunt Ellie said. “But in this case…”

“Jeff, what do we do exactly?”

“Have a drink at the bar. Mr. Lorimer saw that picture of me in the paper. He says he’ll recognize me. He’ll join us there.”

“With his lady friend?”

“He didn’t specify that.”

Aunt Ellie said, “You’re going to leave me alone here? Alone in this apartment? With a murderer loose in New York?”

“You’ll be safer here, dear,” I said.

Aunt Ellie screamed again.

“My God!” Jeff said.

“I thought I saw something moving! In the corner there. But it seems to be gone now. Well,” Aunt Ellie said and sighed resignedly. Her resignation was a work of art, early primitive. “You two just run along. I’ll manage somehow, although I don’t know how. And give my regards to Frank Lorimer. Frank Lorimer, of all people!”

“This can’t be your Frank Lorimer, dear.”

“You just ask him if he ever had a milk route in Terre Haute. No, come to think of it, his name wasn’t Lorimer. It was Frank Lanson. Jeffie, are you sure the man on the phone didn’t say he was Frank Lanson? I’d like to see Frank again.”

“Lorimer,” Jeff said. “Lorimer.” He helped me into my coat, then dutifully kissed Aunt Ellie. “Good-bye, we won’t be any longer than necessary. And I hope for Frank’s lady’s sake it won’t be necessary to be long at all.”

“Good-bye,” Aunt Ellie said. “Don’t worry about me. Just forget about me, that I’m sitting here. Alone. In fear and trembling. I’ll be all right.”

BOOK: Ghost of a Chance
8.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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