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Better Corpses

by Carroll John Daly

A Race Williams Story

MARY MORSE, heiress to one of the oldest jewelry firms in New York, finds that her uncle has been using the business as a "front" for some highly criminal activities. Immediately after this discovery she receives blackmailing letters, threatening to expose the whole racket unless she pays up. Unable to help herself, and fearing to go to the police, she at last, in desperation, turns to Race Williams for practical assistance.

Now Race Williams is a character worthy to be placed among the great ones in criminal Action. He is a gunman and a killer, but he is not a crook. He operates midway between the police and the gangster fraternity. And in this case, when he comes to Mary's aid, he finds himself up against a gang who are determined to get the better of him. Again and again he finds himself in situations from which it seems that nothing but his corpse can emerge, and each time he manages to extricate himself through his own dexterity and courage.

Mr. Daly writes the story from the first-person view of Race Williams, a detective with a fast wit and faster gun. If ever a detective story can ever be humorous and thrilling at the same time, Daly has created it in Better Corpses.

THEY were doing a poor business at the bar of the Royal Hotel. Just a couple of customers up front. I walked down the length of it, stood at the far end. When the bartender, who didn't have any drinkers to serve, kept wiping glasses, I tapped on the mahogany with a two-bit piece.

He looked annoyed, glared at me, then, wiping his hands on his apron, came slowly down. He didn't say in so many words that I should have come up, but he meant that. Yep, he put it all into the simple words:

"What'll it be?"

"Rye. Straight." And when he started carrying the sour puss away with him, I added:

"And not the kind of whisky that tosses you for a loss."

He walked leisurely back with the glass, pounded it on the bar, and stood watching me as I ran the liquor below my nose-made a face and let it roll. Then I spun him a quarter.

He stopped it by planting his index finger on the edge held it so, said:

"Thirty-five cents, Mister. You asked for good stuff."

"Sure," I agreed. "I asked for it, but I didn't get it. The two-bits stands."

He flipped the quarter into the air, caught it in the palm of his hand, leaned both his hands on the bar, said:

"You're looking for trouble, eh?"

"I'm always looking for trouble. Name of Williams-Race Williams. Now what?"

The ugly sneer went off his face as if you'd grabbed up the bar rag and rubbed it away. His hands came off the bar and he rocked back. The ruddy complexion wasn't so good either. And I liked it. Damned if I didn't. Conceited? Maybe. But it's nice to know you've built up a name along the old Avenue that saves you a lot of back room brawls.

The bartender said, and a sweetness had crept into his voice; a sweetness that you'd never suspect from that hole in his face:

"I didn't recognize you, Williams. On the level, Race, I didn't place you." And after a gulp: "The boss said you'd give me the tip-off. Go through that door there-down the hall to the right, and up the stairs." He shot the quarter along the bar to me. "On the house, Race. It's an honor to have you drop in."

I picked up the quarter. It was as good in my pocket as in his, and the liquor was lousy.

Price: $4.95

Format: Electronic PDF File
97 Pages
First Published: 1940

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