Jan 23, 2024










Use this link for Private Eyes – Part 1

Private Eyes Part 2

New York City, 1935

I went down to Bernie’s and hired a car. I’d decided to travel up to Boston in style, and if I needed to make a quick getaway, then I could. The car was a great looking job, but then it was a Chevy. I’ve always said that the Chevrolet is the greatest car ever built.

I stopped for the night at a motel, a real dingy, run-down sorta joint; a big dark house up on a hill off the main road, all dark and quiet. The guy in charge of the place looked real weird; the kinda guy I don’t trust in broad daylight on my own ground, let alone at night on his. I thought I heard a movement in my room when I took a shower, but it musta been the rats. Truth is, I was real glad to get outa the place in the morning, and head on up to Boston.

I got to Boston and stopped in a diner to find out how the ground lay.

The diner was a real crummy sorta joint, with a real crummy sorta broad behind the counter. I thought at first there was no one else in there, but then I saw two guys at one of the booth tables who looked like low-rent hoods. I reckoned I might be able to get some local information from them. But first I went up to the counter.

“Hi,” I said to the crummy broad. “Can ya do me a coffee?”

She put down the cup she was drying and fixed me with a hard stare. “If ya can do me a coupla cents,” she said.

I like a broad with a sense of humour.

I took the coffee and made my way to the two hoods in the booth.

“Mind if I sit down?” I asked, keeping my voice real polite.

“If ya must,” said one. He was wearing a blue necktie.

I sat down. “That’s real kinda ya.”

“Think nothing of it.” This was the other, who had a brown necktie.

“You from round these parts?” I asked, still keeping it polite.

Blue Necktie looked me up and down, then said, “sure Mac. Don’t think we made a special trip here, do ya?”

Brown Necktie sniggered at this. “You ain’t from round here though, are ya?” he asked.

“No I’m from New York.”

“That’s a hellava long way to come,” said Brown Necktie. “What ya here for?”

“Change of air,” I suggested.

“Sure, and I’m the President,” said Blue Necktie. He paused. “Are you a private dick?”

“What makes ya think that?

“Look about ya.”

“Maybe I am,” I said. “What’s it to you?”

“Maybe we got information for ya.”

“And maybe you ain’t.”

“We don’t do something for nothing.”

“No-one does.”

“But we don’t know what ya got.”

“No more do I know what you got, Mac.”

The broad at the counter put down her cup. “Jeez,” she muttered. “Ain’t none of you ever gonna come to the point?”

Blue Necktie put his fists on the table and stood up. “Keep it shut, sweetheart,” he growled at her, “and you won’t get hurt.”

This clearly didn’t worry the broad. “Cool it, Brutus,” she said, and started drying another mug.

“I’m looking for an old General named Franklin P. Hershenheimsbecker,” I said when Blue Necktie had sat down. “Know of him?”

“Sure, everyone around here does,” said Brown Necktie “What do you want with him?”


“You’ll have a whole lotta trouble, Mac. He don’t give interviews.”

“Might if I ask nice.”

Blue Necktie was back on his feet. “Ha!” he snapped. “Do you know who you’re talking about? This guy is a retired four star general. And you wanna talk to him? Are you nuts?”

“Sure he’s an old soldier,” I said levelly. “That don’t mean he won’t talk.”

“Fella, this one’s a recluse.” Blue Necktie sat down again. “He lives up at his big locked house with a dog and a gun, and he keeps to himself. He don’t even talk to his daughter.”

“Does he ever give parties?” I asked – although I reckoned I knew what the answer would be. The two hoods just stared at eachother and shook their heads.

“Someone’s duped ya, Mac,” said Blue.

“Perhaps.” I stood up. “I gotta see him.”

“And get your ass blown away? You’re kidding,” said Brown.

“If I wanna see a guy, I see him.”

“Like I said, and I’m the President,” snarled Blue.

“You go up there, and you go alone, buster,” added Brown.

“Ain’t there no way I could get in?”

“Perhaps…” said Blue.

I could see where this was going. I took out a $5 bill and put it on the table, but kept my hand on it.

Blue looked at it like a starving man looks at a hot dog. “Put another there, Mac” he said, “and perhaps…”

I took out another $5.

The two hoods looked at eachother and nodded. Blue reached for the notes, but I pulled them back. Then I put one note down on the table. Brown snatched it.

“We once cased that joint,” he said. “Every guy in town has. It’s all locked and barred. You can’t get in. But we did once see one window, second floor, which is usually left open. It’s by a tree. If ya lucky, ya might just make it to the window on one of the branches. Ya welcome to try, but if ya get a gut fulla lead, don’t come crawling to us. He’s one trigger-happy son-of-a-gun.”

“Thanks,” I said, handing over the other note. “You’ve been a lotta help.”

“Think nothing of it,” said Blue. “It’s your funeral.”




Later that night I found the Hershenheimsbecker mansion.

It sure looked impressive; I hadn’t seen a building as impressive as that since the time I went to Washington on the Senator Hadleigh case.

I took a quiet look-see. Two top floor rooms were lit up at either side of the front of the house. I felt uneasy – it seemed like these were eyes staring at me. I shook my head to clear the thought, then crept round to the side.

I could see the tree and the window to an unlit room – and the window was open, like the two hoods in the diner had said. The only trouble was, there was a thick wall all around the house. They hadn’t said anything about that. I reckoned I’d have to jump it. I stood well back, and ran at it.

Lucky I was the high jump champ for my senior year at high school.

I scrambled over the wall. On the other side, I ran for the tree and started to climb. Lucky I was climbing champ that year as well.

I scrambled along the branch to the window and crawled in, landing with a forward roll and springing lightly to my feet. Lucky I’d been the school tumbling champ, too.

It had been one hellava year at high school.

I was just standing up and trying to get a fix on my position in the room, when suddenly the light blazed on, and I was blinking furiously as a greybeard in a bath robe came through the door. In his hands was a full-bore shotgun, and it was pointing directly at the waistband of my pants.

“Hold it right there,” he growled, staring at me with eyes narrowed. “Who do you think you are, and what the hell are you doing in my house?”

“General Hershenheimsbecker?” I asked. He continued to stare at me, like I hadn’t said a word. I took his lack of denial as confirmation that I was right. “It’s OK,” I said with an attempt at a reassuring smile. “I just wanna talk.”

There was no reaction, except the muzzle of the gun started travelling upwards, until it was drawing a bead on my chest.

“Hey, General – I just want to talk!”

“Like hell!” he barked. “You’re after my money. They all are. They all try to come and get my money. All of them. And you. You want my money. Well, you’re not having it. No-one is. I worked for it, and I’m keeping it. It’s mine, do you hear? All mine!” A string of spittle appeared at the side of his mouth. “Do you want to say anything before I shoot you?”

“Look – I just…”

“…want my money. I know. Well, like I said, you’re not having it. You’re in my house, and you’ve broken in, so I’m going to shoot you. How do you like that, eh? Didn’t think you’d get shot when you tried to get my money, did you?”

I opened my mouth to say ‘no’, but it was like trying to hold back the tide.

“Well, you are,” he carried on. “Tough, isn’t it? I shot lots of people during the war; it comes easy, you know. Fact is, shooting you will be even easier. You know why?”

I shook my head.

“Because they were patriotic Krauts, fighting for their Kaiser, so at least I could respect them. But you, you’re just a dirty deadbeat, after my money.”

He pulled back the hammer.

“I just want to talk!” I yelled, loud enough to have most of Boston out of bed.

“The hell you do!”

Desperately I yelled even louder, “I… do…not… want… your… money!”

I think this finally got through to him. “Huh?” he said, looking puzzled.

I repeated it, quieter this time. “I do not want your money!”

The gun dropped again, but still no lower than the waistband of my pants, which was making me real uneasy. I looked down at it. “Really,” I said. “I don’t.”

“You’re just saying that.” His eyes narrowed, making him look almost disappointed.

“No, I’m not. Honest.” I cleared my throat. “Look, it’s about your daughter Kate.”

His eyes opened wide. “What about her? You don’t want to marry her, do you? I’ve already sent one young man packing.”

“No, of course not.”

“Good. The first was bad enough, but a crook…”

“I’m not a crook, I’m a Private Eye.”

“Same thing.” He raised the gun up to my chest again. “Are you sure you don’t want to marry her?”

“Sure. Can we talk?”

“I suppose so,” he said, “but not for too long. I want to go back to bed and I’ve got to shoot you first.” He stared at me a moment in silence. “What do you want to know?”

“Do you have a picture of Kate?” I asked.

His eyes slid over to a picture on a table. “There’s one over there.”

I looked over at the picture. It was a close-up of a blonde – definitely Monique.

So Jack was right – Monique had been Kate all along.

I took a breath. “See, she came to me a coupla days ago, and said she was being followed. She asked me to find out why, and by who. She pretended she was French. Can ya tell me why she did that?”

“Nope, she always was a bit paranoid.”

No prizes for guessing where she got that from.

“Well,” I continued, “then I was told she had some gems stolen, gems you’d bought her.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Well, I was confused.” I tried a smile, but it bounced off him like a ball off Babe Ruth’s bat. “So I thought I’d ask you.”

“I don’t know, and I don’t care, what she does. I’ve disowned her.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because she wouldn’t do as I said. She left me and went away to New York. I wanted her to stay in Boston and marry someone suitable, but she ran off with some yellow-faced young weasel and left me.” He made a noise like a horse snorting, which I took to be a laugh. “Looks like she strung you along too, boy. Sold you a right pack of lies.” He yawned. “Well, I must be going back to bed now,” he said. “It’s been nice talking to you and I’m glad you’re not after my money, but I’m still going to have to shoot you. I do so love shooting people, you see.” He pointed the gun barrel towards the corner of the room. “Right, turn round and walk slowly towards the corner…”

I realised I had to take some sort of action before this old fool peppered my ass with buckshot – or worse. I started to turn round, but instead of turning my back on him, I carried on turning till I was facing him again – but this time I had my own gun in my hand. Two quick shots was all it took to make the greybeard spin round and hit the floor face down.

I knelt down and put a finger to his neck to check for a pulse.


I stood up, took a quick look round the room, then climbed back up the windowsill, crawled along the tree and jumped down over the wall. Then I sprinted for the Chevy, thanking my stars I’d also been senior hundred-yard dash champ at high school in my senior year.

I got to the car and climbed in, then sat a while thinking back over the past few minutes.

So Hershenheimsbecker was a frosty old miser, whose daughter had left him – no surprises there. And a ‘yellow-faced weasel’ had wanted to marry her – could that be Ziegler? But if Ziegler was her boyfriend, why was he following her? And why was she pretending to be Monique?

With a sigh I started the engine and headed back to New York.




I got back to the city about mid-day; I’d driven kinda fast to get back as soon as I could – it would be good to be seen about town as soon as possible after the shooting; I don’t believe in taking chances.

Aileen met me when I arrived back at the office.

“Hi boss,” she said, as I hung my coat on the stand. “Did ya have a good time?”

“Sure kid,” I answered. Best not to worry her with the details. “Any messages?”

“Na.” She sat at her desk. “Did ya get any answers?”

“One or two, kid,” I said. “One or two.”

“Gee!” she squeaked, like an excited little mouse. “D’ya think ya can solve the mystery, Mr Kemp?”

“Reckon so…” I began, when the door was thrown open, and an old cowboy strode in. He had white hair and a long white beard, and a moustache that was bigger than a Harley’s handlebar. He was wearing leather chaps, leather vest, boots with spurs and a ten-gallon hat that looked like it coulda held at least a hundred.

He stuck his thumbs in his belt, leaned back and yelled “Hello thar!”

Then he gathered breath, as Aileen and I stared at him in amazement. “The name’s Clinton J. Hershenheimsbecker!” he yelled, loud enough to be heard up-state. “Are you Hemp?”

“Roscoe Kemp – yeah…”

“Private Dee-tective?”

“Yeah… Hang on, Mac,” I said, as a sudden thought struck. “Did you say ‘Hershenheimsbecker’?”

“Clinton P. Yep.”

“Oh.” Aileen and I looked at eachother in amazement. “Er… what can I do for ya?” I stuttered.

“Well!” he shouted, “I’m not from these parts, but I was passin’ through town today, when I got a wire tellin’ me that my poor dear brother, General Franklin P. Hershenheimsbecker of ol’ Boston Town, has been shot dead! ‘Well!’ I said. ‘Darn!’ I said.”

“Darn?” I repeated.

“Yep. ‘Darn!’ He fixed me with a watery eye. “Ol’ Frank, he was like a brother to me…” He paused, studying his silver toe-caps a moment. “Fact is, he was a brother to me, and a finer brother you could never hope to meet. So, like you’ll guess, I was mighty upset to hear how he’d been shot. Yessir, mighty upset!”

“But what can I do?” I asked.

“Speak up, sir!” he yelled.

“What can I do?” I repeated, louder.

“Well, what with you bein’ a private dee-tective, and me passin’ right by your door, I thought I might ask you to help me find the heinous, sneaky, low-down hound that did this dreadful thing. I’ll pay mighty handsomely, I’ll tell ya. Don’t no-one ever say Clinton J. Hershenheimsbecker don’t pay handsomely!”

“You want me to find out who shot your brother, Franklin P. Hershenheims…” I began very slowly.

“…becker,” he finished off. “Yep, sure do. So get to it, boy!”

“Why not a Boston ‘tec?” I asked. “I mean, I don’t know the scene there. I could put you onto a real good guy – Jack Morelli’s his name…”

“Na, boy!” he shouted, his moustache waggling like the tail of a rodeo horse. “I just came up here on an impulse, and I like your features. So you’ll do it boy, OK?”

“What then?” I asked.

Hershenheimsbecker scowled, and pulled out the largest six-shooter I’d ever seen.

“Well,” he said, “when you’ve found out who it was who shot my poor lil’ brother, I’ll shoot him, see! It’s what he deserves! Yessir, I’ll shoot him like a coyote!” He cocked the gun and I thought he was gonna blow a hole in our ceiling. “Like the varmint he is, goin’ in and killing my brother like that!” Thankfully, he put the gun back in it’s holster. “Musta been after his money, I guess. Most people are – see, he had lots of it.” His voice dropped to a regular shout. “Course, I s’pose I’ll get some of it now, and his daughter Kate, she’ll get most of it. A right purty lil’ kid is Kate; you’d like her.” He took out the gun again. “But, that won’t stop me from killin’ the evil guy who did this, let me tell ya, sir. Like a dog! Yessiree, I’ll shoot him dead!”

“You will?” I glanced at Aileen. She was white as a sheet.

“Sure will, boy! Sure will.” He holstered his gun again, then took out his card and dropped it on the desk. “I’ll wait for your call, and I’ll expect ya to have a name for me.” He put a $100 bill on the desk next to the card. “Here’s something on account – keep ya goin’. Bye sir. I’m relyin’ on you to produce results!” He tipped his hat to Aileen. “Good day to you too, ma’am.”

After the door had closed behind Clinton Hershenheimsbecker there was a long silence, broken only by the faint but unmistakable sound of his voice drifting up from the street below. “Like a coyote, yessiree, like a low-down, stinking coyote, that’s how I’ll shoot the varmint…”

Aileen’s brows came together into one – a sure sign she was working this through in her mind.

“Boss?” she said. “Was that the Franklin P. Hershenheimsbecker you went to see yesterday?”

I nodded “Uhuh.”

“Was it you who…?”

I nodded again. “Uhuh.”

“And the cowboy,” she pointed at the street, “he wants… you… to find out it was… you?”

I nodded again.

“So he can…” she made a pistol of her finger and thumb and pointed it at me.


“Gee…boss, that is not good.”

“No it ain’t,” I muttered. “No it sure ain’t.”

…to be completed…