[Ed. note: Today your Lost Coast Outpost launches a new feature: STARK HOUSE SUNDAY SERIAL, a collaboration between the Outpost and Eureka-based Stark House Press (more about them at the bottom of this post) in which we aim to offer you, the LoCO faithful, a pulpy weekend escape.

Our first selection is Lionel White’s 1955 heist tale Clean Break, which would later be adapted by Stanley Kubrick as his 1956 film The Killing.

You may also note that Sunday Serial comes equipped with whimsical illustrations, a task the Outpost has delegated to some so-far friendly robots. Be nice to them now and maybe they’ll be nice to us in the future.

And now, on with the show…]

# # #



Lionel White

Summary: When Johnny gets out after four long, patient years, he is ready to pull the perfect heist. As he tells his girl, June, “That’s the beauty of this thing. I’m avoiding the one mistake most thieves make. They always tie up with other thieves. These men, the ones who are in on the deal with me—none of them are professional crooks. They all have jobs, they all live seemingly decent, normal lives. But they all have money problems and they all have larceny in them. No, you don’t have to worry. This thing is going to be foolproof.” 

And it was, at least until Sherry enters the scene.  

Chapter One


The aggressive determination on his long, bony face was in sharp contrast to the short, small-boned body which he used as a wedge to shoulder his way slowly through the hurrying crowd of stragglers rushing through the wide doors to the grandstand.

Marvin Unger was only vaguely aware of the emotionally pitched voice coming over the public address system. He was very alert to everything taking place around him, but he didn’t need to hear that voice to know what was happening. The sudden roar of the thousands out there in the hot, yellow, afternoon sunlight made it quite clear. They were off in the fourth race.

Unconsciously his right hand tightened around the thick packet of tickets he had buried in the side pocket of his linen jacket. The tension was purely automatic. Of the hundred thousand and more persons at the track that afternoon, he alone felt no thrill as the twelve thoroughbreds left the post for the big race of the day.

Turning into the abruptly deserted lobby of the clubhouse, his tight mouth relaxed in a wry smile. He would, in any case, cash a winning ticket. He had a ten dollar win bet on every horse in the race.

In the course of his thirty-seven years, Unger had been at a track less than half a dozen times. He was totally disinterested in horse racing; in fact, had never gambled at all. He had a neat, orderly mind, a very clear sense of logic and an inbred aversion to all “sporting events.” He considered gambling not only stupid, but strictly a losing proposition. Fifteen years as a court stenographer had given him frequent opportunity to see what usually happened when men place their faith in luck in opposition to definitely established mathematical odds.

He didn’t look up at the large electric tote board over the soft drink stand, the board which showed the final change in odds as the horses broke from the starting gate and raced down the long straight stretch in front of the clubhouse, on the first lap of the mile and a half classic.

Passing down the almost endless line of deserted pay-off windows, waiting like silent sentinels for the impatient queues of holders of the lucky tickets, Unger continued toward the open bar at the end of the clubhouse. He walked at a normal pace and kept his sharp, observant eyes straight ahead. He didn’t want to appear conspicuous. Although Clay had told him the Pinkerton men would be out in the stands during the running of each race, he took no chances. One could never tell.

When he reached the bar and saw the big heavy-set man with the shock of white hair, standing alone at one end, he shook his head almost imperceptively. He had expected him to be there; Clay had said he would. But still and all, he experienced an odd sense of surprise. It was strange, that after four years, Clay should have known.

The others, the three apron clad bartenders and the cashier who had left his box at the center of the long bar, stood in a small tight group at the end, near the opened doors leading out to the stands. They were straining to hear the words coming over the loud-speaker as the announcer followed the race.

There was a towel in the ham-like hand of the big man who stood alone and he was casually wiping up the bar and putting empty and half empty glasses in the stainless steel sink under it.

Unger stopped directly in front of him. He took the scratch sheet from his coat pocket and laid it on the damp counter, and then leaned on it with one elbow. The big man looked up at him, his wide, flat face carefully devoid of all expression.

“I would like a bottle of Heineken’s,” Unger said in his cool, precise voice.

“No Heineken’s.” The voice grated like a steel file, but also contained a gruff, good-natured undertone. “Can give you Miller’s or Bud.”

Unger nodded.

“Miller’s,” he said.

When the bottle and glass was placed in front of him, the bartender spoke, casually.

“Favorite broke bad—could be anybody’s race.” 

“It could be,” Unger said.

The big man leaned forward so that his paunch leaned heavily against the thick wide mahogany separating them. He kept his voice low and spoke in a conversational tone.

“He’s in the ten win window, third one down, next to the six dollar combination.”

Unger, when he answered, spoke in a slightly louder tone than was necessary.

“It is a big crowd,” he said.

He drank half his beer and turned away.

This whole thing, this extreme caution on Clay’s part, was beginning to strike him as a little foolish. Clay was playing it much too cagey. The man must have some sort of definite anxiety complex. Well, he supposed that was natural enough. Four years in state’s prison would tend to make him a trifle neurotic.

The studiously hysterical voice of the announcer came alive in a high, intense pitch of excitement, but at once the context of his words was lost as the roar of the vast crowd swelled and penetrated the amphitheater of the all but deserted clubhouse.

Over and above the anonymous thunder of the onlookers, isolated, frenzied cries and sharp, wild islands of laughter reached the little man’s ears. Too, there was the usual undercurrent of groans and the reverberations of thousands of stamping feet. And then there was the din as a terrific cheer went up.

Unger made his way, unhurriedly, once more toward the wide doors leading to the stands.

With definite interest, but no sense of expectancy, his eyes went to the tote board in the center of the infield. Number eight had been posted as the winner. The red letters of the photo finish sign showed for second place. As the horses which had reached the neighborhood of the third pole slowed to a halt and turned back toward the finish line, Marvin Unger shrugged and turned to re-enter the clubhouse. He went at once to the men’s room, hurrying in ahead of the crowd.

Placing a dime in the slot, he entered a private toilet. He sat on the closed seat and took the handful of pasteboards from his pocket. Quickly he found the ticket on the number eight horse. He placed it on top of the others and then, removing his fountain pen from the breast pocket of his jacket, he carefully wrote on the margin of the ticket.

It took him not more than twenty seconds.

Getting to his feet, he tore the remaining tickets in two and scattered them on the floor. He then left the booth. He hadn’t waited, outside there in the grandstand, to see what price the number eight horse paid. He had used his own money to place his bets, and although he was ordinarily an extremely prudent man as far as financial matters were concerned, he really wasn’t interested. Irrespective of what the horse paid off, it must be considered a negligible sum.

After all, a few dollars could mean very little to a man who was thinking in terms of vastly larger amounts. A man who was thinking in the neighborhood of say a million to two million.

Moving toward the rapidly forming lines at the pay-off windows, Unger thought again of Clay. He wished that it was Clay himself who was doing this. But then, in all fairness, he had to admit that Clay had been right. It would have been far too risky for him to have appeared at the track. Fresh out of prison after doing that stretch and on probation even now, he would almost be sure to be recognized.

As a small cog in the metropolitan judicial system, Marvin Unger had a great deal of respect for the forces of law and order. He knew only too well the precautions Clay would have to take. His appearance, and recognition, at the track would be more than sufficient to put him back behind bars as a parole violator.

Unger once more reflected that Clay was unusually cautious. However, that element of caution in the man’s character was all for the best. Even this more or less cloak and dagger method of making the initial contacts might prove to be the safest plan. They couldn’t be too careful.

Regardless of the logic of his reasoning, he still resented being the instrument used. He would have preferred that the other man assume the risks.

He found a place behind a large, perspiring woman in a crumpled print dress, who fanned herself futilely with a half dozen yellow tickets, as the long line slowly moved toward the grilled window. It was the ten dollar pay-off window, the third one, and the one next to the six dollar combination.

The fat woman had made a mistake and she was told to take her tickets, which were two dollar tickets, to another window. She protested but the cashier, in a tired and bored voice, finally straightened her out. The annoyance of having to start all over at the end of another long line, however, failed to wipe the good-natured expression from her heavy face. She was still very happy that she had picked the winner.

Unger looked up at the face of the man behind the iron grillwork as he pushed his single win ticket across the counter. The ticket was faced down.

Without apparently observing him, the man’s hand reached for the ticket and he turned it over and looked at it for just a second. Expressionless, he tore off one corner and then carefully compared it with the master ticket under the rubber at his right. As he did so he memorized the writing which Unger had put on the ticket in the men’s room.

His face was still completely without expression as he read: “712 East 31st Street room 411 8 o’clock.”

A moment later he tossed the ticket into a wicker basket under the counter and his lean, agile fingers leafed through several bills.

“Fifty-eight twenty,” he said in a monotonous voice, shoving the money under the grill.

For the first time he looked up at Unger and he was unable to completely conceal the glint of curiosity in his faded, gray-blue eyes. But he gave no other sign.

Unger took the money and carefully put it in his trouser pocket before turning away from the window.

Clay is being overcautious, he thought, as he went out through the clubhouse and into the stands. It would have been safe enough for that bloated, red-faced Irishman back of the bar to have given the man the address. However, Clay had insisted that he knew what he was doing. He wanted to take no chances at all.

Marvin Unger remembered Clay’s words when he, Marvin, had protested that the whole thing had seemed far too complicated.

“You don’t know race tracks,” he had said. “Everybody is watched, the bartenders, the waiters, the cleanup men—everybody. Particularly the cashiers. It will be dangerous enough to have us all get together in town—we can’t take any chances of arousing suspicion by having Big Mike and Peatty seen talking together at the track.”

Well, at least it was arranged. Peatty had the address now and Big Mike also had it. It had been written on the edge of the scratch sheet which Unger had left on the bar when he had finished his beer.

Unconsciously he belched and the thin corners of his mouth tightened at once in annoyance. He didn’t like beer; in fact he very rarely drank at all.

Unger sat far back in the grandstands during the rest of the day’s card. He made no other bets. A quick mental calculation informed him that he was already out approximately sixty dollars or more as a result of his activities. It bothered him and he couldn’t help resenting the expenditure. It was a lot of money to throw away for a man who made slightly less than five thousand a year. It was a damned nuisance, he thought, that Clay lacked the money to finance the thing himself. On the other hand, he had to admit that had Clay possessed the necessary capital, he, Marvin Unger, would never have been taken in on the deal.

He shrugged it off and stopped thinking about it. What, indeed, would a few hundred or a couple of thousand mean in comparison to the vast sum of money which was involved? His final thought on the subject was that he was lucky in at least one respect—he might have to put up the expenses but at least he wouldn’t have to be in on the violence. He wouldn’t have to face the gunfire which would almost be sure to take place when the plan was ultimately consummated.

His naturally aggressive personality, the normal complement of small stature and the inferiority complex he suffered as the result of an avocation which he considered far beneath his natural intellectual abilities, didn’t encompass the characteristic of unusual physical courage. His aggressiveness was largely a matter of a deep-seated distaste for his fellow man and a sneering condescension toward their activities and pastimes.

Waiting stolidly until the end of the last race, Marvin Unger joined the thousands rushing pell-mell from the track to crowd into the special trains which carried the winners and losers alike back from Long Island to Manhattan.

He reached his furnished rooms on Thirty-first Street, on the fourth floor of the small apartment house, shortly after seven o’clock, having stopped off first for dinner.

# # #


Michael Aloysious Henty was exceptionally busy for the first twenty minutes after the finish of the last race. The usual winners stood five and six deep, calling for Scotch and rye and Bourbon and anxious to get in a last drink or two before joining the lines in front of the pay-off windows. The excitement of having won was still in them and the talk was loud and boisterous. A few of the last minute customers, however, leaned against the bar and morosely tore their losing tickets into tiny fragments before scattering them to the floor where they joined the tens of thousands of other discarded pasteboards which had been disgustedly thrown away by those without the foresight to select the winning horse.

Big Mike always hated this last half hour of his job. There was far too much work for the four of them and then there was always the argument with the half dozen or so customers who wished to linger on past closing time. Even after the final drink had been served, there was the bar to he cleaned up, the glasses to be washed and the endless chores of getting the place in order. Invariably the bartenders missed the last special train of the day and would have to wait an extra twenty or twenty-five minutes to get a regularly scheduled train back to New York.

Mike was always in a hurry to get on that train. He was an inveterate gambler and in spite of endless years of consistently losing more than half of his weekly pay check on the horses, he still had a great deal of difficulty knowing just where he stood at the close of the last race. He had no mind for figures at all.

Of course, as an employee of the track—or at least of the concessionaire who had the bar franchise at the track—he wasn’t allowed to make bets at the regular windows. Instead, each night he would dope the following day’s events and then in the morning, on his way to work, he’d drop off at the bookie’s and place his bets. A solid, dependable man in spite of his weakness for the horses, he was given credit by his bookmaker and usually settled up at the end of the week when he received his salary check.

It was during the long train ride home that he would take out his scratch sheet and start figuring out how he had made out on the day. On this particular day, he was more than normally anxious to begin figuring. Because of what happened—of Clay getting in touch with him and the excitement and everything—he had been a little too optimistic and bet a good deal heavier than usual.

He knew that he had lost on the day, but he wasn’t quite sure how much. Not only had he a poor mind for figures, but he couldn’t remember pay-off prices from one minute to the next. He was only sure of one thing; he had bet a total of well over two hundred dollars on the afternoon’s races and only one of his horses had come in.

There was a deep frown on his smooth forehead as he thought about it. And then, oddly enough, the same fragment of a thought passed through his mind which had passed through that of Marvin Unger.

What the hell was a few dollars, after all, in comparison to the hundreds of thousands which had preoccupied his mind these last few days?

Big Mike was suddenly aware of a commotion at the end of the bar and he looked down to see a tall slender girl who couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty, laughing hysterically. The girl screamed something to her companion, a fat, middle-aged man with a bald perspiring head, and then, with a snake-like movement, she lifted the tall glass in her hand and dumped the contents down the front of the man’s gaily flowered sport shirt.

Two of the other boys were already straightening things out and a private track policeman was rapidly moving toward the group, so Mike turned back to the work in front of him.

There was a look of stern reproach on his wide, flat face. Big Mike was a moral and straight-laced man, in spite of a weakness for playing the horses and an even greater weakness for over excess in eating. Sixty years old, a good Catholic and the father of a teen-aged daughter, he highly disapproved of the younger generation. Particularly that segment of it he saw each day lined up at the bar in front of himself.

Automatically he picked up a handful of used glasses from the bar and went back to thinking of money. Once more he thought of that vast sum—a million, perhaps even two million dollars. And then, from the money, his mind went to Johnny Clay.

Johnny Clay was a good boy. In spite of the four years in prison, in spite of his criminal record and everything else, Johnny was still a good boy. Mike’s vanity had been very pleased when Johnny had remembered him from the old days and had looked him up, once he was out of prison and back in circulation.

Big Mike had known Johnny from the time he was a tow headed kid on the Avenue, when Mike himself was behind the stick at Costello’s old bar and grill. Even in those days, when he had been still in knee pants, Johnny had been wild. But his heart had always been in the right place. He’d been smart, too. A natural-born leader.

Mike remembered him later, when he’d begun to hang around the bar and play the juke box. He’d never been a fresh kid and he drank very little. He’d never given Mike any trouble at all.

Of course Big Mike hadn’t approved of the way Johnny got by. There was no doubt but what he’d been on the wrong side of the law. And Mike had been pretty upset when the cops had finally picked up young Johnny and put him away on that robbery rap.

It was only in recent years that Mike had become a little more liberal in his thinking. The endless poverty of his life and his constant struggle to get along on a bartender’s salary—a salary which he invariably shared with a series of bookmakers—had embittered and soured him. When he thought of all that money which went through the grilled windows of the track every day, he began to wonder if there would be really anything wrong in diverting some of it in his own direction.

He had thought about it often enough, God knows. But it was only when Johnny got out and had approached him with the idea that the thought was anything but an idle daydream. Well, if anything could be done about it, he reflected, Johnny was certainly the boy to do it. That night he’d know a lot more about the whole thing. He tried then to remember the address which had been written on the side of the scratch sheet the man had left at the bar. He couldn’t remember it, but the fact didn’t worry him. He had the sheet in his coat pocket.

He did remember that the time had been set for eight o’clock. He’d have to hurry through his dinner to make it. Mary would be annoyed that he was going out for the evening. He had promised her he would talk with Patti.

A worried frown crossed his heavy face as he thought of the girl. Lord, it seemed like only yesterday that she was a long-legged baby in bobby socks, her flaming red hair done up in two stringy braids.

Patti was a good girl, in spite of what her mother, Mary, said. It was the neighborhood, that was the trouble.

Money, money to get away from the Avenue and out into the country some place. That’s all that was needed.

Mike would like to move himself. He hated that long train ride from New York to the race track and back each day. Yes, a small, modest little house with a garden, somewhere out past Jamaica—that would be the ticket. It began to look as though the old dream might really come true.

By the time the Long Island train was roaring through the tunnels under the East River, Mike had figured out that he’d lost a hundred and twenty-two dollars on the day. His furrowed forehead was pale and beads of sweat stood out on it. A hundred and twenty-two dollars—Jesus, it was a lot of money. Almost half what he had promised to get together for Patti so that she could take that stenographic course at the business college.

Big Mike got to his feet while the train ground to a stop at Penn Station.

What the hell, he thought, another month and he could be giving that kind of money away for tips. He was one of the first ones out of the car; he was in a hurry. He had a lot to do before eight o’clock that night and he didn’t want to be late.

# # #


George Peatty caught the same train which had taken Big Mike back to Manhattan. He had even seen Mike, ahead of him in the small crowd at the station, but he had made no effort to reach the bartender’s side. He had known the other man for a number of years, but they were only acquaintances—not friends. This, in spite of the fact that Mike had been responsible in a way for getting him his job at the track.

It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other; it was merely that they had nothing in common. Nothing that is except George’s mother, who had been a girlhood friend of Mary McManus, who later became Mary Henty, Mike’s wife. But George’s mother was dead and it had been all of ten years since she had induced her friend Mary to intercede with Big Mike in order to get her son an introduction to one of the track officials.

George had, of course, been duly grateful. But it had ended there. George had always felt a sense of embarrassment with the older man. Big Mike had known a little too much about him; had known about the early days when George was pretty wild. He had had a bad reputation for getting into scraps.

But that had all been a long time ago; long before he’d met Sherry and fallen in love with her.

Watching Big Mike enter the train, George turned and walked down the side of the car until he came to a second car. He climbed aboard and found a seat well to the rear.

At thirty-eight, George Peatty was a gaunt, nervous man, who looked his age. His brown eyes beneath the receding line of thin, mouse-colored hair, had a tendency to bulge. His nose was large and aquiline and he had a narrow upper lip which unfortunately failed to conceal his crooked, squirrel like teeth. His chin was pointed and fell in an almost straight line to his overlarge Adam’s apple.

He had the long fingered hands of a pianist and kept them scrupulously clean. His clothes were conservative both as to line and price.

The moment he was seated, he unfolded the evening paper which he had picked up at the station newsstand. He started to read the headlines and his eyes remained on the page, but in a second his mind was far away. His mind was on Sherry.

After two years of marriage he still spent most of his idle time thinking of his wife. He was probably, now, more obsessed than he had ever been, even in the very beginning.

George Peatty’s feeling toward his wife had never changed since the day when he had first met her, some year and a half before they were married. He loved her, and was in love with her, but even beyond that, he was still wildly infatuated with her. Marriage had served only to intensify the depth of his passion. He had never recovered from his utter sense of bewilderment when she had finally agreed to share his bed and his life. He still believed that he was the luckiest guy in the world; notwithstanding the fact that he fully realized that he was far from being happy. Luck and happiness were, for him, two completely different things, although he recognized that in his case they were the reverse sides of the same coin.

Thinking of Sherry, he began, as he always did on the train ride back to his apartment on the upper West side, a silent prayer that Sherry would be there when he got home. As a man who had spent years unconsciously figuring odds, he knew automatically that the chances were about one in ten that she would be.

The heavy vein in the right side of his neck began to throb and there was a nervous tick at the corner of his eye as he thought about it. As crazy as George Peatty was about his wife, he was not completely blinded to her character or to her habits. He knew that she was bored and discontented. He knew that he himself, somehow along the way, had failed as a husband and failed as a man.

In the hard core of his mind, he blamed the thing not on himself and certainly not on Sherry. He blamed it on luck and on fate. A fate which limited his earning capacity to what he could make as a cashier at the track. A fate which had made Sherry the sort of woman she was—a woman who wanted everything and everything the best.

Not, George thought, that she didn’t deserve everything. Anyone as lovely as Sherry should be automatically entitled to the best that there was.

Dropping the newspaper in his lap, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back. He was suddenly relaxed. It wouldn’t be long. No, it wouldn’t be long before he would be able to give her the things which she wanted and deserved.

His lips moved slightly, but wordlessly, as he said the words in his mind.

“Thank God for Johnny.”

At the moment he was only sorry about one thing. He would have liked to have told Sherry about the meeting he was going to at eight o’clock that night. He would have liked to have told her about the entire thing. Even now he could see her smoldering eyes light up as he would outline it to her. But then, almost at once, he again began to worry about whether or not she’d be home.

Getting off at the station in New York, he stopped at a florist shop in the Pennsylvania arcade and bought a half dozen pink roses before getting into the subway and taking the express up to a Hundred and Tenth Street.

# # #


Looking down at the shock proof silver watch on his large wrist, Officer Kennan noticed that it was twenty-two minutes before six. Carelessly he swung the wheel of the green and white patrol car and turned into Eighth Avenue. He would just have time to drop by Ed’s for a minute before taking the car into the precinct garage and checking out for the day.

Time for two quick ones and a word or two with Ed and then he’d be through for twenty-four hours. God, with the traffic the way it was in New York these days, he could sure use the rest. It was murder. He was not only thirsty but he was thirsty for a couple of good stiff shots. Thinking about Ed’s he began to worry about the chances of running into Leo. Christ but he hoped that Leo wouldn’t be around. He was into him now for well over twenty-six hundred dollars and he hadn’t made a payment in more than three weeks.

Not that Leo really worried him; he would be quick enough to tell the little bastard where to get off. The only thing was that Leo had connections. Important connections with some of the big brass in the department. That was one reason Leo had not hesitated to loan him money when he needed it. It was the reason Leo confined the bigger part of his loan shark business to cops and firemen. He had political pull.

For a moment Randy Kennan, patrolman first class, considered the possibility of passing up Ed’s. But once more he shrugged. He wanted those two drinks and Ed’s was about the only place he knew where he could walk in and get them without trouble and without embarrassment. Also, without money.

He drove to Forty-eighth Street and turned east and went a half a block and then pulled over to the right hand side of the street. There was a mounted patrolman leaning over the neck of his horse, talking to a cab driver, not far from the corner. The street was crowded with traffic and hurrying pedestrians, but Officer Kennan didn’t bother to pay them much attention.

He left the keys in the car and pulled up the brake as he opened the door. A moment later he walked several hundred feet down the street and turned into a bar and grill.

There were a couple of dozen customers lining the bar but Randy Kennan walked directly through to the back room. Ed saw him as he passed opposite the cash register and looked up with a nod and a friendly smile. Randy winked at him.

He liked Ed and Ed liked him. It wasn’t like shaking a bartender down for a couple of fast shots. They were friends. Had been friends now for a good many years. In fact from the time they were kids together over at St. Christopher’s.

He was about to push through the swinging doors into the kitchen when he heard his name called. He didn’t have to look.

It was Leo and Leo was sitting where he usually sat, in the very last booth at the left. He was alone.

Randy hesitated a second and looked over at him. Then he sort of half nodded his head toward the kitchen door. He didn’t want to go to the booth, even if Leo was alone. It would be bad enough if some passing lieutenant or captain wandered in, finding him there at all. It would never do to be found sitting in a booth in uniform.

There were two Italian chefs and a dishwasher in the kitchen but Randy gave them not the slightest attention. He walked over to a counter and picked up a slice of cheese from a plate. He was munching it a minute later when the swinging doors opened and Ed came in. He carried a bottle of rye in one hand and a glass in the other.

“Hot day, kid,” he said as he sat them on the table next to Randy. “I see your pal Leo outside. He wants to talk to you.” Randy smiled at his friend, sourly.

“Tell the sonofabitch to come in here and talk,” he said. “He knows damn well I can’t…”

“I’ll tell him, Randy,” Ed said.

“How about joining me in one,” Kennan said, looking up from the drink he was already pouring.

“Hell boy,” Ed said, “I’m just coming on. You’re going off, aren’t you?”

Randy nodded.


Ed left a half minute later to get back to the rush of customers. Leo passed him in the doorway.

Everything about Leo Steiner was bland. His soft brown eyes were almost childlike in their innocence; the large, unwrinkled face was heavy with good nature and friendliness. He always spoke as though he were half laughing. Leo wore a nylon sports shirt with the top button fastened and no tie. He affected sports jackets and flannel trousers. There wasn’t a thing about him which wasn’t completely deceptive.

“Randy boy,” he said. “How’s tricks?”

Officer Kennan nodded in a noncommittal way. He indicated the bottle of whiskey with a nod of his head.

“Drink?” he asked.

“You know I never touch the stuff,” Leo said and laughed as though it were a joke. “My nerves. It gets my nerves.” 

Randy smiled wryly. Nerves? Hell, Leo Steiner had about as many nerves as a hippopotamus.

Leo leaned back against the table so that he half faced the other man.

“You know, kid,” he said, “I’m in a little trouble. Maybe you can help me out.”

Randy nodded again. Here it comes, he thought.

“Yeah,” Leo said, looking anything but like a man in trouble. “It’s money. Gotta raise some quick dough. What do you…” 

“Look, Leo,” Randy said. “You don’t have to beat about the bush. I know I’m late and I know just what I owe you. But I gotta have a little more time. Things have been breaking bad lately. I need time.”

“Boy,” Leo said, “I know just how it is. I sure want to give you all the time in the world. But the trouble is, I just can’t do it. I need to get up some cash and right away. Guess I’ll have to get say around five notes from you this week.”

Randy reached for a second drink and swallowed it hurriedly. He turned to the other man and spoke quickly.

“Leo,” he said, “I can’t do it. I just can’t make it this week!”

“You get paid this week,” Leo said.

“Yeah, I get paid. But I’m in hock to the pension fund for a loan and when they take out theirs, I got just about nothing left at all. I gotta have a little more time.”

Leo shook his head, sadly.

“How much time, Randy?”

Randy looked directly at the other man and spoke slowly.

“Listen,” he said. “I got something good coming up. Real good. But it takes time.”

“What is it,” Leo asked. “Not another horse, Randy?”

Kennan shook his head.

“No—not a horse. This is a sort of private deal. All I can tell you is, just give me say another thirty days, and I think I can take care of everything.”

Leo nodded slowly.

“It’s twenty-six hundred bucks now, Randy,” he said. “All right, suppose we say another thirty days—let’s say I can do that. And we’ll call it an even three grand—thirty days from now.”

Randy Kennan’s eyes narrowed and there was a mean line around the corners of his mouth.

“Three grand—Jesus Christ! What kind of goddamned interest is that to ask a man.”

“It’s your idea, Randy,” Leo said, his voice soft and almost sympathetic. “You want the thirty days—not me. I just want my money. In fact, Randy, I gotta go out now, on account you’re not paying me anything, and borrow the dough. I gotta probably borrow it from my friend the Inspector—and you know how tight he is.”

Kennan caught the full significance of the threat. He would have liked to grab the fat man by his lapels and slap him until he was silly. But he didn’t dare. He knew what Leo could do; he knew Leo’s connections.

“O.K.” he said. “O.K. Shylock. Three grand in thirty days.” 

Leo reached over and patted the big man on the shoulder. 

“Good boy,” he said. “I know I can count on you, pal.” 

He turned and went back into the barroom.

Randy Kennan took a third drink. His hand was shaking and he gritted his teeth in anger as he poured from the bottle. 

“The bastard! The fat bastard,” he said under his breath. 

Well, in thirty days he’d pay him. He’d pay the sonofabitch his three grand.

He began to dream of the future. He’d stay on the force for another six months, he figured, once it was all over and done with. Yeah, that would be the safest bet. But then, when things quieted down, he’d get out and get out fast. Someday, someday in the next few years he’d catch up with Leo. He smiled grimly when he thought of what he’d do to Leo Steiner.

He sat his glass down and looked again at his wrist watch. It was getting on and he’d have to hurry. He still had to turn in the patrol car, sign out and get showered and dressed in his street clothes. He wanted to find time to get something to eat, too, before he showed up for the eight o’clock appointment.

He was looking happier as he left Ed’s place. He was thinking of that appointment.

It was luck, real luck. Running into Johnny like that, the very day he’d been sprung upstate, was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Yeah, that was the break he’d been waiting for for a long, long time now.

# # #

Tune in next week for the next chapter of Clean Break!

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