Tabloid Terrors

 

(Opening Chapter)

 

More Adventures of Maxi & Moxie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teel James Glenn

 

 

 

 

 

BooksForABuck.com

2016

 


Copyright 2010/2016 by Teel James Glenn, all rights reserved. No portion of this work may be copied or duplicated in any form without express written permission from the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people or events is strictly coincidental.


 

 

Dedication:

 

To

Rob Preece who has had the faith in the
Donovans and me to back my play

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements:

 

To my Wonderful Canadian, who is there for me constantly and gives me hope for the future.


 


Table of Contents:

Foreword: The World of the Dovovans. 7

Abracadanger, Alikablam! 9

Prologue: A Hard Act to Follow.. 9

Chapter One: The Hand is Not So Quick. 15

Chapter Two: Thinking Outside The Box. 20

Chapter Three: Celebration/Misdirection. 25

Chapter Four: After Dinner Treats. 30

Chapter Five: Where There is a Will... 35

Chapter Six: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. 40

Chapter Seven: Memories Can Hurt 45

Chapter Eight: Death from the Past 50

Chapter Nine: How to Disappear a Body. 55

Epilogue: Sleight of Handless. 59

Were Goes There?. 61

Chapter One: 61

Chapter Two: 64

Chapter Three: 68

Drawn from Life. 72

Chapter One: A Close Death with Brush. 72

Chapter Two: In Between and Out of It 76

Chapter Three: Meet The Neighbors. 84

Chapter Four: A Lot on the Lot 88

Chapter Five: Duck Ala Leblonde. 93

Chapter Six: The Bite of it All 99

Chapter Seven: Road to Ruin: 104

Chapter Eight: Scoping Things Out 110

Chapter Nine: Orange you glad I stopped by?. 117

Chapter Ten: Hiding in PlainJane Sight 122

Chapter Eleven: Not so Obscura. 127

Chapter Twelve: Art Hurts. 133

The Legacy of Sawdust Joe. 139

Prologue: Things outside the Cage... 139

Chapter One: Not only skeletons in the closet... 144

Chapter Two: Sawdust Joe Donovan. 150

Chapter Three: Sawdust and Skullduggery. 155

Chapter Four Booked! 162

Chapter Five: The Circus of the Darned. 166

Chapter Six: Spare the Whip ... 173

Chapter Seven: Things in a Hole... 176

Epilogue: Square Truth from a Round Hole. 179

Flames at Sea. 181

Prologue: Not so Jolly. 181

Chapter One: Ship of Ghouls. 185

Chapter Two: Lief Me Alone... 190

Chapter Three: A Tattoo is also Beat 195

Chapter Four: All at Sea... 200

Chapter Five: Passion Play. 205

Chapter Six: All At Sea. 210

Chapter Seven: The Weighting Game. 215

Chapter Eight: Fire when you see their monocles... 218

Epilogue: Byline, the Brig! 223

About the Author 226

Books by Teel James Glenn. 226

 


Foreword:
The World of the Dovovans

1938 was a lynchpin year in the world. In many ways it was the last of an old world and the beginning of a new. The depression was fading, the crippling horror of the rampant poverty that followed the crashes of 1929 and 1933 and the world was slipping inevitably toward World War Two.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President, Benny Goodman and his band became the first jazz band to play at Carnegie Hall.

A loaf of bread was nine cents, a hamburger thirteen cents and admission to the movies a nickel, for which one got to see a newsreel, a cartoon, a short, a second feature and an A picture. This was the year that the prototype Bugs Bunny premiered in a cartoon short.

People still read the papers as a daily ritual; radio shows like The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet and Sergeant Preston were the heroes on the airwaves and the public got to see the Republic film serial of the Lone Ranger up on the screen.

Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre of the Air launched a real panic with his fake invasion from Mars on the radio.

The Long Island Expressa devastating hurricanecut a path of destruction of the east coast of the U. S.

But while America was on the upswing from the recession of 37 the world around it was in turmoil.

Mexico nationalized all the foreign oil wells within its borders.

Hitler and his National Socialist Party were escalating their persecution of the Jews and had successfully bluffed Europe and fooled Chamberlain of peaceful intentions while annexing the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

In the Far East the Land of the Rising Sun was entrenched in Manchuria and had already begun the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians considered inferior and sub-human by the Japanese conquerors

In America the Nazi Bund was still a powerful force and beginning to alarm many in Washington because, as much as there were isolationists in many quarters, there were those that knew the ravaging winds of war were about to blow again.

This then is the world reporter Michael (Moxie) Aloysius Donovan and his actress wife Maxi live in. They meet the high and low, the famous and the infamous.

The first story in this collection takes place earlier in the lives of our hero and heroine (between The Beast of Governors Island and The Deadly Puppets for those keeping score), and the rest carry their adventures forward.

Come with us to those days not so long ago when there was hope and horror in equal parts, action and adventure and where a hero (or heroine) could always resort to a good right cross to dispatch an evil goon.

 

Teel James Glenn,

2/22/16


Abracadanger, Alikablam!

 

Prologue:
A Hard Act to Follow

Usually I come in late to things like murders and mysteries, often playing catch up to make my deadlines with the scoop, but this time I was sitting front row and center when long twisting threads wove together and death came to Broadway.

It as a warm June night and the Majestic Theatre on West Forty Fourth Street was packed. It was for a special variety fundraiser for the Actors Relief Fund on Monday, which was the dark night for the Great White Way.

I was seated right in front of the orchestra, the best seat in the house but this time not because of my press pass. This time Id paid for my ticket, both because it was a worthy cause and because my best girl Maxine Keller (aka Maxine Gladys Kellerman of the Bronx) was traipsing around on the stage, dancing, singing and acting as assistant to Greystone the Great in his magic act.

Any chance to see her in tights was worth it, but more so because Id missed her last show, The Cat and the Canary that only had a nine performance run. I was out of town for the whole thing chasing a story that turned out to be the one that got away. Her play had closed in the same theatre as the benefit two nights before but it didnt stop my red haired siren. She had already gotten the lead in another show.

On either side of me in the front row were a whos who of the magic trade, come to see a rare New York performance by the dean of the Mandrake tradeGreystone himself.

He was everything youd expect from a distinguished elder statesman of the conjuring crowd, with a Van Dyke beard, silver hair swept back from a high forehead and often wore white tie and tails when performing. He used to travel with a large and sizable cast of uniformed male and female assistants and for a number of years he toured in the Midwest, often performing throughout the day between film showings.

Hed retired a couple of years ago and settled down to a little castle on Long Island. I had actually met him when I worked in Kansas City years before and the old bird took a liking to me. When he decided to do the benefit, hed called me to ask if I knew anyone who was reliable and a quick study to be his main assistant. That sounded like Maxi to me.

Wed been dating for about seven months and this reporter, one Moxie Donovan, was about as smitten as smit can be.

Greystone remained silent during much of his big stage show, which was presented to the accompaniment of a pit orchestra and such lively tunes of the time as Who, I Know That You Know, and Chinatown.

Among his especially effective illusions was one in which Maxi was lying on a couch and covered with a gossamer shroud. He did some passes over her and she appeared to float high in the air and then vanish at the moment that Greystone pulled off the covering.

It was hocus pocus at its finest and all my reporter cynicism went out the window when my redhead vanished. I clapped and oohed and awed with everyone else. The magic mavens seated with me clapped politely but I suspected they were staring not in awe but jealousy at the maestros work, trying to figure out how he did it.

At the moment I didnt even try cause I knew I didnt have a prayer of figuring it out. I might even quiz him on how he did it afterwardthough I knew he wouldnt tell mewhen I used to get him soused in Kansas City he still honored the magicians code and was mum.

It was like when Maxi said she enjoyed my companyI just accepted it even though I didnt really believe it. She could have done a lot better: I was the one trading up.

Maxi did a little dance routine with a muscular chorus boy while the next piece of apparatus was rolled out onto stage. The orchestra struck up a scary tune and my doll stepped into a cabinet in front of many bright, clear, tubular incandescent light bulbs.

Greystone smiled at the audience and I thought he shot a look at the three other conjurors that had an awful lot of you wish you could do this in it. He looked my way and it made me wonder why he had asked me to be sure to have time to talk after the show. I have a writer question for you, he had said. My curiosity was piqued.

The magician suddenly pushed the perforated front of the cabinet backward. The light bulbs protruded through the holes in the front of the box (to the accompaniment of my ladys blood-curdling scream). I knew it was a trick but hearing her scream almost got me on my feet. Id heard that scream before when she and I had met.

I normally worked the crime beat for the New York Star and not the Broadway beat but Id drawn the short straw one day last winter and had to cover a film being shot on Governors Island. Maxi was the star with old mumble mouth himself, Bela Lugosi.

A madman had killed several of the crew and almost killed Maxi and yours truly. I heard her scream then and it sounded a bit too much like the one from the stage.

Greystone gestured and the cabinet revolved so that the audience seemed to see that Maxi seemed to be impaled by the blinding filaments.

I knew it was a trick but a chill went up my spine.

The master magician smiled with a devilish grin, flashing me a special acknowledgement of my terror, then dropped a curtain over the horrific sight. He clapped his hands and suddenly Maxi jumped out, fully intact and smiling.

It was a great trick and the house approved with thunderous applause.

The master magician then moved on to what he called his most dangerous illusion. Sawing a woman in half!

And that was my woman up there!

I was on the edge of my seat again as his assistants rolled out a big electric circular saw some three or four feet in diameter that was mounted on a swing-down arm. Greystone, with many expansive gestures, demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a piece of very real looking lumber.

Thats when Maxi, in the role of his faithful assistant allowed herself to be placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were clamped on her midsection. She flashed a smile at the audience then, for theatrical effect, her expression changed to one of apprehension.

At least I hoped it was for theatrical effect.

The blade whirred and with a very mischievous looking Greystone appeared to pass the steel saw through her body. A ripping a sound went through the entire theatre and I felt suddenly sick to my stomach that wasnt helped when she let out a blood curdling shriek, and particles of what looked like cloth from her costume were scattered by the whirring blade.

When the blade stopped she, of course, rose unharmed and took a bow. I let out my breath and relaxed a bit, hoping that my honey wasnt going to be subjected to any more faux abuse.

Again applause, even from the three magic mavens seated near me.

I eyeballed the Mandrake wanna-bes and thought about what Greystone had told me about them. They were the top three below him on the pyramid hierarchy of the magic game and I suppose they were a bit worried he might eclipse them with this rare return from retirement.

Gunter Halsted was much in the mold of Greystone, a silver haired and sharp featured Teutonic and was a decade younger than the maestro. Jonny Bolt (who billed himself as The Amazing Bolt) was as flashy as his name and looked more like an auburn haired lounge singer than the classical image of a stage illusionist. He was barely thirty, which made him the upstart in the trio.

The last of the Musketeers was Count Hideki Tagora, a Japanese who was a round-faced member of his race with dark intelligent eyes that were riveted to every move Greystone made.

Ladies and gentlemen, the British prestidigitator said in his cultured accent. His assistants moved the saw off leaving just him and Maxi alone on stage. I now present, for your edification my most deadly illusion; the Bullet Catch!

An audible gasp went up from the crowd and the three watching magicians leaned forward like children at a matinee.

Even I knew that the bullet catch was one of the tricks of the biz that most wannabe wizards would never even attempt; it was the one they called The cursed trick!

A target and a pane of glass was wheeled out onto the stage and one of the uniformed men brought out an old fashioned flintlock rifle in a firing vice, and a powder horn which he handed to Greystone.

I will now load and fire this rifle to show you that it works just fine, he smiled at the audience. The orchestra played a slow, tense tune and the magician proceeded to put powder, wadding and a musket ball into the barrel. He tamped it down.

As you can see, Greystone continued. This is a very real gun. He turned quickly and fired at the target across the stage. The target shuddered with the obvious impact of the ball.

There was tense applause as the audience took in the importance of what they were witnessing. A sense of apprehension spread through the house as the magician set about reloading the rifle, repeating the process of powder, wadding and tamping the bullet down.

Now I felt my palms sweating and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I was sure my heart pounding in my chest would drown out the orchestra and I was not sure I could sit there quietly if the magician pointed the loaded rifle at my gal.

He didnt. Instead, Greystone set the rifle in the aiming rack and stepped across the stage to stand before the target. His male assistant slid the glass pane between him and the rifle.

I will now attempt to catch the bullet between my teeth, Greystone said. Which my lovely assistant Maxine will fire. He smiled at my lady and waved a relaxed hand to her. Go ahead, my dear, I feel particularly hungry today; I think I need some iron in my diet!

Maxi smiled nervously at him and then stepped up to the clamped and pre-aimed rifle. I could tell she was uneasy with her job though Im sure she looked poised and professional to the rest of the house.

The orchestra stopped playing except for a timpani drum roll.

Go ahead, my dear, the magician assured her. These good folks are waiting.

Maxi swallowed, gave a game smile then pulled the trigger.

The explosion seemed particularly loud. The glass pane shattered and the magic master staggered back.

Everyone in the theatre held their breath.

Then Greystone stood up straight and smiled to reveal what appeared to be the bullet held in his teeth!

The house went wild with applause, Maxi looked relieved and I gave a little laugh of relief.

Just then the white shirt front of the master magicians shirt turned red, his face went pale and he fell over looking very, very dead!


Chapter One:
The Hand is Not So Quick

The whole of the Majestic Theatre was too stunned to move for a long moment save for a collective gasp. Then the women screamed, men began to yell and chaos rippled through the house.

On stage Greystone lay still on the stage and my redhead raced over to him, yelling Curtain! at the top of her singer lungs.

I was out of my seat and did a dive over the orchestra pit to roll onto the stage just as the fire curtain came down.

I went straight for the fallen illusionist but still managed to shoot my gal a glance. Her eyes were filled with terror but I saw a moment of thankfulness for my arrival.

Greystone was in a bad way. His shirt was stained crimson and I pulled back his jacket to see a hole cleanly through into his chest. He still had a musket ball in his teeth which he spit out as I knelt.

Michael, he whispered, using my given name. Not an accident.

Easy, Aleister, I said. Well talk about it later.

No time, he murmured. His face was ghastly white. The book. This to protect the secret.

I had pulled my handkerchief from my pocket and was pressing it against the wound, barely listening to him. Get a doctor, now! I yelled.

Maxi was right beside me, loosening Greystones tie and stroking a hand along his pale cheek.

I dont understand what went wrong, she whispered. It was just like in rehearsal.

Greystone made an attempt to shake his head. He did it. He whispered. Not you. His eyes darted from her face to mine. Take care of him.

The wounded magic man then took a deep breath, his whole body shuddered and then he was completely still.

MoxieMaxi said. is

Yeah, babe, hes gone.

She collapsed against me in a torrent of tears and Im not ashamed to say I teared up as well, but I stopped myself from losing it completely, choosing to let my anger well up instead. Us Irish folk can do thatanger now, pain later.

Two doctors who had been rounded up from the audience were attending to the fallen mage.

The stage was swarming with other performers now and the three magicians from the first row were standing like vultures at the edge of the curious and horrified crowd. I spotted a couple of other newsies in the group and was sure that more had already run to the lobby phones to call the story in but I wasnt even thinking about getting a scoop.

Moxie, my gal said as she hugged tight to me. He cant be gone.

He is, doll, but Ill make sure he doesnt go quietly. I was thinking about what he said, Not an accident. and He did it.

My friends death was not an accident; he was murdered, and I was going to find out who did it and make them pay!

****

The bullet catch is arguably the most dangerous illusion that a magician can attempt, even when performed in a controlled situation. Legends say that more than over a dozen magicians have been killed while performing it. Like many magic illusions, the gnome behind the counter said, there is no single way the bullet catch is performed. The method a magician may use will vary from performer to performer. Not surprisingly the gun or the bullet is rigged in some way.

My lecture was courtesy of Digger Tome who was Lord of the Stacks in the little bookstore on Thompson Street that he owned called The Tome Tomb.

Rumor had it hed done the carnival/vaudeville circuit with a memory act until hed saved up enough to open his bookstore. True or not he was a wealth of every kind of information a low-life tabloid reporter like me could use. He was my secret weapon to get good copy in record time. This time, though, I was there for personal reasons, not to please my editor.

Aleister said he had developed his own way, Maxi said, But that it involved switching the real musket ball with a wax one.

A traditional version, to be sure, Digger pontificated. It was amazing to me that he could form words at all the way his eyes devoured my redhead. To be fair to the little troll, she looked amazing in a tailored black dress that she was wearing to Greystones funeral later that day. Digger was a scowling gargoyle of a man, with thinning hair slicked back, wearing thick glasses and with the pallor of an undertaker though Maxis presence seemed to give color to his cheeks.

If the gun is to be loaded in front of the audience, Digger continued, a wax bullet is loaded into the firearm. The spray of liquid wax from the barrel of the gun is more than enough to break the pane of glass and convince the audience a real bullet is being used. A good magician is able to use misdirection to exchange the bullet he shows to the crowd with one made of wax and place the marked bullet into his or her mouth.

Thats what Aleister did, Maxi said. He even demonstrated me how he switched the wax ball for the steel ball he showed. There was a magnet on the end of the tapping rod that he used to pull the steel ball out.

The coroner said he was killed by a sliver of iron that entered his chest near the heart and spun like a top or a dum-dum bullet and cut him up inside. I said to add cheer to the conversation. They think it was a sliver of metal from inside the barrel of the gun.

Maxi gave me an accusing look so I quickly added, I dont think that, though.

How do you explain it then? She asked.

I cantyet.

I think I might be able to, Digger said. His pumpkin face split into a wide Jack-o-lantern grin. Me and my gal both turned to stare at him and waited but he wanted to stretch out his moment in the spotlight.

In the simplest form of the bullet catch, the gun fires nothing at all, just blanks. He said, The glass pane is actually destroyed using a squib. All the performer has to do in that case is keep the bullet in their mouth. But your friend chose the wax bullet, correct?

Yes, Maxi said with a little annoyed tone in her voice. I told you that.

I think, he continued, not the least bit cowed by my red haired gal, that what happened was that someone put that sliver of metal inside the wax ball that Mister Greystone used.

Inside of it? I asked.

Yes. He nodded which caused his glasses to slip down his nose. It would not be the first thing that hit the glass pane-but would continue on tumbling just like a dum-dum bullet would.

I stared at him as I considered his theory. Wow, I said. Thats diabolicalbut brilliant. Then I thought about it. It wouldnt be fool proof, of courseit might have missed him or just wounded him but, unless you were looking for it to be deliberate, you would conclude it was just what the police did. Brilliant.

Any time, Moxie, he said accepting the compliment I meant for the killer. Mister Greystone was a class act; you dont see his kind anymore; a real hero for what he did in Turkey during the war.

What did he do? Maxi asked.

He did his act for the hill tribesmen, I said. Aleister had told me a bit about it in one of our evening pub crawls.

When she looked at me like Id grown a second head I laughed. Really; he was able to sway a lot of the hill tribes of the Kurds and Arabs to the British cause. Much like Neville Maskelyne did in the Sudan the generation before. Those isolated tribes were a very superstitious lot, you know. He turned down a citation from the King for his work. He was a great man.

I smiled thinking of the old fellow telling me tales of his adventures charming the natives like he had charmed so many paying audiences in a fifty year career on the stage.

The three of us stood there in silence for a long moment considering what we had deduced. Then Digger reached behind his counter and brought out an old style glass flask.

A little nip to keep the brain sharp? He held the flask up and offered it to Maxi who looked at me. I nodded and she took it and, after a quick sniff took a stiff drink.

Wow! She said. Smooth single malt! She handed it to me and I took a pull before handing it back to the archivist.

To friends, he said before he took his snort. Here and absent.

Poignant little gargoyle almost got me teary eyed again over Greystone.

We had better get going or well be late for the funeral, Maxi reminded me.

Yeah, I said putting a fin on the counter for Digger. Ill bring you a bottle of Glenfiddich to follow this, Digger. Thanks.

I left with Maxi on my arm and hailed a cab to take us up to St. Patricks Cathedral where the funeral for the old magician would be held. Once in the cab we both lit up cigarettes.

What now? she asked me as the hack wove its way up Lexington Avenue.

Well, I said taking a long drag on the coffin nail. Now we know the how. Next step is to find the who and make them pay.

 

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About the Author

Teel James Glenn was born in Brooklyn and has traveled the world for forty years as a stuntman, fight choreographer, swordmaster, jouster, book illustrator, playwright, storyteller, bodyguard, ballyhoo for a haunted house and actor.

His stories have appeared in scores of magazines like Sherlock Holmes, Mad, Weird Tales, Black Belt, Blazing!Adventures, Steampunk Tales, Silverbalde Quarterly Spinetingler and Fantasy Tales. He has over three-dozen books in print in multiple genres.

He was awarded Best Pulp Writer by the 2012 Pulp Ark.

You can keep up on his adventures at theurbanswashbuckler.com.

Books by Teel James Glenn

Adventures in Otherwhen

Deadline Zombies*

Headline Ghouls*

Manchurian Shadows**

Shadows of New York**

Tabloid Terrors*

Three Deadly Shadows

Weird Tales of the Skullmask

 

* Moxie and Maxie Adventures

** Doctor Shadows Adventures