Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Sometimes There Ain't No Justice"

"Account Settled."
By Robert Zacks (1915-95).
First appearance: Bestseller Mystery Magazine, March 1959.
Short story (8 pages).
Online at UNZ (HERE).

"Alice Robbins was a sweet young thing with everything to live for—but she killed herself when her boss left town with a $10,000 necklace that wasn't his . . . Big Bill Johnson figured he'd just have to find the guy and pin it on him—which proved surprisingly difficult." 
Same old story: Like the moth to the flame, a small-town kid gets an overload of bright lights, big city, starts hanging with the wrong people, and ends up paying an extended visit to the morgue. Once she's found out just how rotten the man she's working for is, he does a bunk with some valuable jewelry which the Acme Collection Agency has an intense interest in, and she winds up dead. For Big Bill Johnson, Acme's best bill (no pun intended) collector, track-ing this individual down will take him from New York, to smalltown America, and finally to the Chicago office of an extremely nervous, uncertain man with a gun in his desk drawer and a strong motive to use it . . .

The characters:
~ Big Bill Johnson:

  "Boss, this is a tough one. I'm getting nowhere."
~ Doc Watson:
  "If we can catch up with this guy and squeeze the ten thousand out of him, we make ninety-five hundred dollars profit."
~ McGillicudy:
  "We're in a funny position. As far as we're concerned it's suicide without question. He's got a right to disappear if he wants to. It's a free country."
~ The landlady:
  "It's a lie. I didn't find any money."
~ Carruthers:
  "When his eyes adjusted to the semi-gloom and indirect lighting he saw Carruthers of the Gazette at the bar. Carruthers, small and egotistical, was a good friend of Bill's."
~ Reverend Smith:
  "The Reverend was a kindly, loquacious man with graying hair. He'd heard about Alice Robbins' death, it turned out."
~ Dr. Lord:
  "He looked at Big Bill with pain-filled eyes, and in them was a flicker of hope, a moment of indecision."
~ Randall Craig:
  "This guy is deadly. His advertising agency is a front—his business is blackmail."
~ Alice Robbins:
  "Alice Robbins was an orphan and poor. Alice helped Sybil spend her money. Probably the first good time Alice ever had in her life. Made her yearn for the big city."

- To judge from FictionMags, Robert Zacks specialized in crime fiction and SFF, getting published in the pulps and the slicks from 1945 to 1959; "Account Settled" was apparently his last story.
- Zacks's comparatively small SFF output is listed on the ISFDb (HERE); he also has five screen credits on the IMDb (HERE).

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