16 November 1934 1510
Don't hardly anyone 'round here likes
November weather. Windy 'n cold, grey skies, an' all that.
Most people sorta sulk indoors, readin' what little is in the Mirror.
Even the yeggs kinda take it easy. You'd never
figger crime's gotta off-season, wouldja?
I say don't hardly anyone, 'cause the
only one I wuz seein' that seemed to like the weather wuz my boss,
Detective Inspector Stagg. Him 'n me, we're the whole
'tective Division of the Spontoon Islands Constab'lry. Anyway,
*he* likes the weather. 'course, back where he came from,
way off 'n gone in New Haven, they had weather like this.
Used to be a bigshot in their police force. That was 'fore
the rev'lution in those parts, though. Stagg got out with
the clothes on his back, an' a busted right hoof, an' that's the lot.
He was splittin' his down time writin' some notes, an' readin some
Roman poet, name of Juvenal. Me, I was readin' the
afternoon edition of the Mirror for like
the fourth time.
Anyhow, things was pretty quiet, only
sound was the rain drummin' offen the windows (some of it leakin' in
through one busted pane), when one of the Chief's sec'taries gives a
real quiet tap on the door, an' pokes her lil' pink nose inta the
office. She coughs, real delicate like, to get Stagg's
'tention. Gist of it was, there was some big badger
thumpin' the Chief's desk, complainin' bout bein' cheated at cards, an'
here he wuz, a taxpayin' cit'zen, an' what wuz he, meanin' the Chief,
gonna do 'bout it? She pads off, in a lil' swirl of
tailfur, leavin' Stagg lookin' up from his poetry book.
"Card shapring? The menu
seems to be a little brief in the off-season, Sargeant."
"I got two-an-six sez it's all 'bout the
doin's over at Borzoi's."
Stagg looks over at me, raisin' a brow,
so I dug out the Mirror
from two days ago (it wuz holdin' up my
desk to keep it from wobblin'), an' found a bit in the gossip
page. Ain't hard ta find, since not much gossip 'round
November. "See, Borzoi's
is what they call a "gamblin'
club." Ain't like onea the glitzy casinos, see?
Just about two rooms. But lemme tellya, these rooms,
they're like somethin' you see in a London genneman's club."
"Not personal observation, I take?"
"Naw. Ain't never had no
call to go over there. The gang over there, just
high-rollers in evenin' dress. Only thing worse'n bad
credit over there is bad manners. 'course, they serve
vintage bubbly an' meals cooked up by some chef Borzoi brought over
from the old country, fine china, crystal."
"Sounds a bit odd, having an
establishment like that here in the Islands."
"Not really. See, worda
mouth. They don't never advertise. Just
sorta whisper 'bout. No limits, good food, an'
such. Oncea you get an invite from a guy witha card, you're
in. Way I hear it, ain't unusual to see thirty, forty
thousand pounds cross the table. Like a few nights 'go."
Showed Stagg a bit in the Mirror.
Seems fella named Colonel Jabez Q. Cougar,
late a' Lexington, 'tucky, was doin' real well. Wit
sparklin' like the fine champagne bein' served, an' takin' some Greek
shipowner in a seven-hour poker game for the nice, round sum of 9,000
pounds. An' that was 'fore this badger guy givin' hell ta
the Chief upstairs. Guy's shtick is silver.
Black suit, silver vest with silver watch. Ebony cane with
a silver knob on top, silver cigar box with Havanas, silver soda gizmo,
silver mint julep cups, the works. Could see how the Mirror would
think this guy's a godsend, comin' in the
offseason. Stagg takes all of this in, real quiet
like. Pulls out a small note card, makes onea his lil' tiny
notes, an' stuffs it back in his jacket pocket.
Sure enough, we get onea the
Chief's memos. Asks us to go real quiet like to Borzoi's
joint, an' have a look 'round. One paragraph on orders,
three on manners. Kinda resented the sentence on gettin' my
shoes polished. Least the Chief didn't give me no orders on
what fork to use.
16 November 1934 2035
Stagg made a few calls. Not
much on this Cougar fella. Record clean as a
whistle. Luggage checked by customs, not a thing outa
place. Customs guys sure recalled him.
Tipped each a' em 20 pounds. Whatever he wuz, he sure as
hell wasn't tryin' to be no wallflower.
So we pull up to Borzoi's
joint. Quiet side street, parta town where the houses are
behind these thick walls an' iron gates. No sign, no brass
plate, no nothin'. You don't know it's there, it ain't
there. Doorman at the gates, sez the Chief 'phoned, we're
expected. An' then sends us 'round to the "tradesman's
entrance." Things went a lil' down from there.
Borzoi himself stalks out to see us, all
dolled up in white tie an' tails. First guy I seen in the
Islands who's big enough to look down at Stagg. Physically and
all else too. Fixes Stagg this real nasty glare through a
"I trust you will make this
investigation brief, yes? I have no desire to experience
inconvenience to my guests."
"Well, Mr. Borzoi, one of your members
visited my superior..."
"EX-member. This disgrace of
calling in the police, I shall not have. Nekulturny."
that as it may, Mr. Borzoi, I feel
it is necessary to at least observe a night's play, especially if Col.
Cougar is playing tonight. Is he, in fact, expected?"
Borzoi clenches his fists, an' you
can see him quiver all over, like he had a chill.
Claps his paws sharply, an' up scurries a waiter.
They shall be observing the gaming tonight. Have the chef
make them each a hamburger and a Nootnops." He looks us
both over. We sure as hell ain't up to the dress code,
'specially with Stagg's old, wornout linen suit. "And make
sure they dine in the kitchen." An' with that, he flounces
Stagg let me have his
burger. Gotta say, best burgers I've ever had.
Mebbe burgers taste better on Dresden china, I dunno.
16 November 1934 2115
Stagg dawdles over his coffee,
thinkin'. One of the waiters comes back to the kitchen, an'
whispers in Stagg's ear, pointin' outside. Looked like the
festivities had started.
Me an' Stagg, we go inta one of the game
rooms. Mahogany panelin' on the walls, marble fireplace,
deep carpet, cut-crystal chandelier, an', in the centre of it all, a
big mahogany table with green baize toppin', far from any mirrors or
other such on the walls. There's a smallish crowd in the
room. Every gent in there in white tie. Every dame in there
in a dress that I bet cost more than what I get paid in two
years. Whole lotta looks at us. Mostly over an'
down noses. We then get politely ignored, as the star of
the show comes in.
'course, he came in after his
props. The waiters come in with all sorts of glitterin',
polished gear on silver platters. Soda gizmo, cigar box,
flask, ice bucket, small cups, small platea mint leaves.
An' then Col. Cougar enters. Now, some folks would come off
as pompous, but this guy, he's the soul of gentility.
Shakes paws with all the gents, makes a few polite, flatterin' comments
to the dames, an' sits down. He ain't in evenin' dress, but
his duds are sure tailored. Black 'n silver, down to the
fancy silk cravat he has on, with a silver 'n gold stickpin, shinin' in
"Well, now, ladies and
gentlemen. Is there anyone who would care to dance a
quadrille with Lady Luck, tonight?" There
wuz. Four guys take some seats, an' take out rolls of
bills, rolls you could choke on. Soon they gotta bunch of
chips stacked up like castles in front of 'em. Stagg
whispers quiet-like to me to keep track of who deals, an' who wins on
Gotta say, it was kinda tough
keepin' my mind on the job. Cougar kept up a constant
stream of patter, an' he had a whole lotta funny stories. I
don't mean stories people give polite laughs at, an' I don't mean the
ones 'bout the travein' salesman in Hawai'i. I mean the
real funny stuff. I think the juleps he was downin' was
helpin lubricate his tongue, too. He was pretty free
with sharin' out Havanas from his box, too, 'specially after a guy lost
a big hand; it wuz always open. The audience was enjoyin'
this. They wuz seated 'bout a few yards back from the table, an'
many were whisperin'
and gettin' up to have somethin' from the buffet, or havin' some
cocktails an' such.
He was prolly up 'bout 5,000
pounds when he makes like he sees us for the first
time. "Well now, Ah declare. Am Ah
addressing some fine representatives of the local constabulary?"
Stagg looks up. He'd
been readin' from his Juvenal. Doesn't do much, just
politely nods, an' goes back to his book. Cougar doesn't
seem angry. Hell, he's laughin'. "Well now,
seein' as Ah'm under the *strict* supervision of the law, it would
behoove me to ask for some
fresh cards now, wouldn't you say, sir?" Waiter runs up
with a few packs on a silver salver. Cougar waves him over
to 'nother fellow, and has the other guy break the seal, and shuffle
the cards. This whole business of getting fresh cards
happens about every ten hands or so for the rest of the
night. Cougar's got the brass to wink right at me as
one guy is carefully shufflin' the cards. Makes a whole gag
about showin' that he ain't got nuthin' up his sleeves, 'ceptin a
handkerchief. Which he uses to blow his nose.
He also uses Stagg as astooge, too. Spots the Juvenal
in his paw, an' starts recitin' some of the funnier stuff in
it. Nearly blew his deal, laughin', an' he laughed some
more, when he won that pot with three twos. By about
midnight, the other guys throw in
their hands. I figure they're down 'bout 11,000
pounds. Cougar had an OK night, but most of his winnins
came on three big pots, an' one huge pot, a 7,500 pot he took with a
straight, knave high against a full house a' queens and
nines. I know those guys did eat a good dinner, but that
sure was one expensive poached salmon those guys had.
Me 'n Stagg, we get escorted back out the "tradesman's entrance" by a
"What did you think of the performance,
Sergeant? Col. Cougar seemed to be in rare
form. He was also letter perfect in his Juvenal
recitation, by the way."
"Missed his callin'. Shoulda
been a magician, especially with that getup he had, an' that non-stop
Stagg, who wuz walkin' along thinkin',
suddenly stops, an' gives me a look. He tilts his head at
me, an' half closes his eyes. After 'bout 15 seconds, he
nods, and then walks on wit' me, not sayin' a word, as we head on home.
17 November 1934 1015
Stagg 'phones me up to tell me to fix it
with the wife to be out today, on a Saturday. He's up ta
somethin', but I don't know what until I get into the
office. He's cleared off his desk, an' laid a cloth on
it. An' he's gotta pack a playin' cards, which he's
shufflin' in a sorta moody way, thinkin'.
"Pinochle is my sorta game, sir."
Stagg gives one of his wint'ry lil'
smiles. "I had another guest in mind, Sergeant.
In fact, he appears to be right on time, if I'm judging correctly from
the laughter I'm hearing outside."
Sure enough, in walks Col. Cougar
himself. Same getup as last night, but fresh as a
daisy. Not a hair on his hide outta place, and grinnin'
broadly an' flourishin' his ebony an' silver walkin'
stick. He walks in, an' spots Stagg's setup.
"Well now, sir. You have me
at a positive disadvantage, as Ah was not expecting a game of chance at
this fine hour of the morning. Ah so rarely do anything
"I was thinking, after seeing you last
night, Colonel, that I would like a game with you."
"Ah do not mean any offence to you, sir,
but as a man of the world, Ah am familiar with the means of most police
officers, and it is rare indeed to see one who plays for the kind of
stakes Ah am used to."
"Well, Colonel, perhaps you would be
willing to give me some security on this." Stagg pulls out
a folded sheet of paper, and hands it the Colonel, who opens it, an'
gives a good squint.
"It would appear, sir, that you suspect
me of some sort of wrongdoing, as you have handed me an arrest
warrant. Now, where Ah come from, we take this sort of
thing very seriously, and few countenance rash accusations of
Stagg waves a paw to the one good
chair we got in the office. "Please have a seat,
Colonel. I realize that these are not the sort of
surroundings you usually play in."
The Colonel, nods, and sits
down. He don't look rattled, so Iwunner what Stagg is
"You are, Colonel, a man of both
exceptional eloquence and intelligence."
"Ah thank you kindly, sir."
"Nearly every one of the standard
methods of cheating at cards, you cheerfully and with great
showmanship, showed not to be in operation. The table was
set far away from the mirrors. You had no devices on your
person to hide cards. You demanded, and got, fresh
packs of cards and allowed others to shuffle the
cards. Even if many thought I had my nose in my Juvenal, I
did notice that the onlookers were seated in a way that would have made
tipping off the hands to you nearly impossible.
Sergeant Brush tells me that the breakdown of winning hands was fairly
even, and that it was only a few very large pots that allowed you to
win so handily last night."
"Lady Luck, sir, is very
sociable. She does not give her favours to one person
"Which brings us both to this
table, Colonel. I'm sure that you would like to show how
Lady Luck smiles on us both. I regret that I do not have
any mint juleps to offer you, but perhaps you can refresh yourself from
your flask. If you brought it with you. I
notice you don't use it that often."
Cougar doesn't bat an
eye. Hell, he grins. "Welllll now,
sir. Surely a man can be partial to mint juelps in the course of
an evening's gaming?"
Stagg points to
me. "Sergeant Brush made one perceptive comment to me on
our way home last night. He compared you to a
magician. Magicians use patter and misdirection to perform
their art. In your case, you kept up a stready stream of
anecdotes and wit. To distract people from the fact that
you were dealing the cards slowly over your flask. Your
polished silver flask. Which acted as a mirror, allowing
you to see the cards that were dealt. You didn't have to
cheat on many hands. Just a few big ones. And
you would come out ahead."
Stagg placed the deck in
front of Colonel Cougar. "So there you are,
Colonel. I admit I haven't played much since I was in the
Great War, but I'm sure it will come back to me readily
enough. How much are you willing to advance me on your
The Colonel leans back in
the chair, an' gives a slow, rumbly chuckle. "Sir, Ah do
declare that you are a sportsman and a gentleman. Coming from me,
Ah assure you, there is no higher compliment. Ah will
advance you 2,500 pounds on mah arrest warrant. Cut for
18 November 1934 0250
So Stagg and the Colonel
went at. Nothin' fancy, just staright five-card
stud. The Colonel didn't have none of his toys, but he
showed he didn't need no toys if he had to. I sit in back
of Stagg, watchin,' but I didn't say nothin. Things sorta
went back 'n forth, but gradually Stagg got the advantage.
Near dinnertime, the Colonel sends back to his hotel for a bigger
bankroll, an' soon the stakes began gettin' a bit higher.
Stagg bluffed the Colonel outa 9,500 on one pot alone, an' that was
just the warmup to the last showdown, way after midnight.
'bout 30,000 in the
pot. Each of 'em has a full house, but Stagg takes the pot
with aces over knaves. The Colonel is cleaned out.
though. He ain't sore. He gets up, gives a
little stretch, an' then bows to Stagg. "Ah regret, sir,
that Ah must let you go. This has been most enjoyable, sir,
and, if Ah do say so, educational. You will permit me, sir,
to have a souvenir of this encounter?" With that, he takes
the arrest warrant, and folds it carefully into his jacket pocket, an'
then turns to the door. Just 'fore he leaves, he spots
Stagg's old cane propped up against his chair. With a real
actor's flourish, he turns, bows, and tosses his ebony an' silver cane
onto the table, like a field marshal surrenderin' his
baton. An' with that, he marches off into the night.
Stagg yawns, an' rubs his
eyes, an' looks bleary-eyed at the pile of dough mounded up on his desk.
"Count out the money,
Sergeant, and see to it that the complainant is given his
restitution. You might also telephone Mr. Borzoi, and ask
if the monies the Colonel won from his members should be sent to him
care of the Mirror.
I'm sure he will appreciate the
courtesy. If there's anything left over, you might have a
word with the officer in charge of the Constables' Benevolent Fund."
"Aintcha gonna get
somethin' out of it, sir?"
Stagg picks up the
cane the Colonel surrendered to him. "A sportsman isn't in
it for the mere money, Sergeant." An' with that, he hobbles
"Telephone Inspector Stagg!"