Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Burglar and the Babe"



Willie “The Bat” Jones slipped through the window and came down silently onto the floor in a crouch. He wore tight black leather gloves, and in his left hand he carried the leather case containing his tools and the carefully-folded nylon loot sack. His right hand he held straight out before him in the darkness, fingers outspread and slightly quivering, like antennae. The house would most likely be completely unoccupied for at least two more hours, but nevertheless (and as was his usual modus operandi) Willie did not risk using even a penlight. Instead he closed his eyes, breathing slowly and regularly, and waited patiently for one full minute. When he opened his eyes again his vision had adjusted to the darkness, and now he continued the doing of his business, his trade, his art.

After cleaning out the safe in the study and then collecting the two antique Purdey shotguns from the library along with several rare first editions of Pope, Swift, and Smollett, but before going into the master bedroom, he went into the daughter’s room and headed immediately for the Harry Winston jewelry box he knew to be on the dresser in there.

The light next to the bed switched on, revealing a very pretty young woman sitting up in the bed.  She wore a nightgown that revealed more of her breasts than it concealed.

“Have you come here to kill me?” she asked.

“No,” said Willy. “I came here to rob you.”

She reached over to the night table and took a cigarette from an engraved silver case which Willy's practiced eye identified as Bailey, Banks & Biddle, worth a grand if it was worth a dime. She lighted the cigarette (with a Tiffany lighter, 18-karat yellow gold) and slowly exhaled smoke in Willy's direction.

"How would you like to make some real money?" she asked.


The Burglar and the Babe, by Horace P. Sternwall; an Ajax paperback original, 1954; republished as The Burgled and the Damned, by “Harrison P. Shockley”, in paperback, by The Faber Workman’s Library (UK), 1956.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of some other fine but sadly out-of-print novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

2 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

Smollet? New to me. Wonder how old the girl is? A Babe?

Dan Leo said...

Tobias Smollett -- author of "The Adventures of Roderick Random", one of the first wave of English novels and one of Sternwall's favorite books.

And this babe is no babe in the woods!