OLD Dr. Reistach lived alone in a three-story house on a side street in the upper Eighties. He had helped me considerably in the days when my buoyant securities allowed me to go big game hunting in Africa. Now that he had returned, friendless, to the city I visited him every Thursday night.
The doctor was greatly interested in present-day crime and in Vee Brown, first-grade detective assigned to the District Attorney's office. I had been associated with Vee Brown for some time and was still sharing his luxurious penthouse on top of one of Park Avenue's most pretentious apartment houses. Indeed, the lease was in my name, for no one but myself knew that the small, almost delicate detective, who was feared by all criminals, was also Vivian- the unknown writer of many of our most sentimental song hits, the enormous income from which he kept secret.
Occasionally I wrote articles for Jack Ferris, editor of the Evening Globe, on the cases of Vee Brown. These were written more or less to show the public and the hostile news sheets that Vee Brown did not kill unnecessarily as was more than once hinted editorially.
"Killer of Men," he was named by the Police Department and the criminal world. "Master of Melodies," he was called on Tin Pan Alley.
It was hard for me even after I had seen Vee Brown use that gun, to connect the acquaintance of my college days with the gun-toting, gun-using detective who now terrorized the half-world of a great city. Vivian Brown who had failed at things physical! Now the deadliest shot in the city.
"This taking of human life- doesn't it bother him, make him morose?" the doctor asked.
"On the contrary, he's generally most cheerful after a desperate gun-battle." I could answer that easily enough, it had puzzled me for some time too. "He calls himself a machine, a crime machine operated by the state. And as an agent of the state he claims as much right to take a life as the man who swings the switch of the electric chair. He has never shot a man except in defending his own life or the life of another. He believes that to check crime today the police must meet violence with violence, gunfire with gunfire and death with death. He always gives a criminal an even break--but he'll shoot it out with any gunman, any where. That's why he's feared."
It was late when I stood up to leave the doctor, and he was still talking to me about my promise to bring Vee Brown to visit him some time.
"I envy you your association with this Vee Brown, Dean," he said at parting. "I worry about you, of course- but I envy you the very air of danger that you breathe."
"Don't!" I laughed as he held the door open. "Gunmen; racketeers; murderers--they have no interest in me. It's just Vee Brown they want to kill."
"Yes- certainly." The shrewd old man nodded his head as I went down the stone steps. "But did you ever think that they might try to strike at him through you? Take care of yourself."
That was all. As I reached the bottom step Dr. Reistach closed the door, and I was alone on the deserted street.
Format: Electronic PDF File
First Published: 1933
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