Double For Death
by Arthur J. Burks
Popular Detective, April, 1941
When His Cop Brother Shows Yellow, Jack Leysen Puts Himself on the
Spot and Cleans the Family Name With a Blood-Bath!
JACK LEYSEN and his brother faced the chief of Homicide. The chief,
whose name was Madsen, whistled softly. The brothers were used to that.
People usually whistled when they saw them together.
And which of you, he asked, is which?
I am Jack Leysen, said Jack, and this is my brother Creyton. We're
easy to remember. Jack Leysen and Creyton Leysen, see?
Jack Leysen grinned. The chief grinned back. The brothers looked like
peas in a pod. Strangely enough, however, they were not twins, yet
twins could not look more nearly alike. Jack Leysen was a year older
than Creyton Leysen. Together, they had become plainclothes men, and
been assigned to Homicide, which was why Madsen had never seen them
before. New York's police force was a large one, and even twins could
be lost in it.
No, said Madsen, I don't see. But if you say so, it's okay with
me. And I'm telling you something, you gents. You came to Homicide at a
bad time. There's a wave of gang killings going on, and we can't seem
to do anything about it except get our men killed off. Oh, we get a few
gun punks here and there, but nobody who really matters much. You're
going to run into trouble.
However, it occurs to me that if you two are good enough to be
assigned here, on your records, some sort of a flim-flam, if the
opposition didn't know you were twins
We're not twins, said Jack Leysen. I'm a year older. Both of us
throwbacks to the same ancestor, I guess. But we could be twins, if you
said so. However, if you don't mind, don't separate us to pull this
flim- flam you're suggesting.
We've sort of got into the habit of working together since we were
brats in school. When we were eighteen and broke I used to go into one
of those places where you can eat all you want for a quarter, eat all I
could, then sneak Creyton in to eat all he wanted, and nobody the
I get it, said Madsen. Well, I won't try any flim-flam just yet,
but stick around. There may be a call for your talents at any moment.
Both expert pistol and rifle shots I see. Also both good with your
We practise our dukes on each other, said Jack Leysen.
Doesn't your brother ever have anything to say? asked Madsen,
I never let him get started, said Jack Leysen quickly. He never
runs down if I do.
IT WASN'T long after that, at three in the afternoon, that the first
call came. There was a big fight over a gambling layout, in an old
building on Second Avenue that everybody thought was empty according
to the police. A lot of gunfighting and knife-using was going on.
The police were to smash into the business and cart away the wounded.
Madsen made it plain that the law wouldn't mind if the rival outfits
sort of ate each other up. However, plenty of ritzy people patronized
gambling lay-outs, so something had to be done. Police, after all, were
servants of the public, and the public sometimes consisted of strange
Chief Madsen led a flock of police cars to the place on Second
Avenue. The two Leysens, riding with him, looked at each other. Jack
Leysen was excited. This was going to be something like it! Then, he
saw the white face of his brother, and felt as though somebody had
slugged him with a sledge-hammer.
Of course, he had always sort of fronted for Creyton, but that was
because he was older, not because Creyton ever really needed it. But
now there might be a showdown, somebody might even get killed. Creyton,
Jack thought, was handsome, handsome as the very devil. The fact that
it might have been his own face, looking back at him from a mirror,
didn't change Jack's mind about that. But Creyton, he thoughthe hated
to think what he thought.
They reached the place, to find it all staked out by the Law, which
was ready to move in. The battle going on inside seemed to be staged
within a monster drum. There were plenty of bullets flying, and the
general public were giving the place a wide berth. Madsen chuckled, had
You two gents going in side by side will give 'em a turn, anyway. If
one gets killed, the same guy that killed him sees the other one right
away, he'll faint with
But they weren't listening. They hadn't ever faced anything like this
before, and Jack Leysen suddenly wondered if there wasn't some way to
keep Creyton out of itthat is, he did wonder, until Chief Henry
Madsen spoke again, this time, grimly.
This is getting to be too much, he said. We're going into the
joint. All right, lads, have at it! You're public servants, remember,
and taxpayers get indignant.
Madsen had a strange sense of humor, considering the circumstances.
But Jack Leysen, obeying orders, stepped out with his Police Positive
in his hand, Creyton running along beside him. Coppers were charging
the doors. Pistol shots were still coming out the windows, together
with the shrill chattering of tommies, as the charge started.
Jack Leysen glanced aside at Creyton, noted that his face was paler
than usual, that he even staggered a little as he ran. Had Creyton got
a bullet in him somewhere? It was quite possible, for plenty of them
were flying. It was almost as though the warring factions inside had
joined forces against the police.
A few harness bulls were down, kicking their lives away. It was
swiftly becoming a major battle, wherein all the forces of law and
order might be involved if there were not a quick decision. Creyton
kept on going beside his brother, and Jack knew he hadn't been hit.
Then, if he hadn't been hitJack began to wonder about this
pea-in-a-pod brother of his, to wonder about his brother's courage.
Hell, he thought, it can't be that. Never! Not Creyton!
And yet, when they got inside, he wasn't sure. The bullets were
flying thick and fast. A brace of coppers with tommies were cleaning up
a hallway at the top of a stairs when the two brothers breasted those
same stairs, looking about for something to get going on.
The coppers were spraying walls, shooting lintels off doorways, doing
everything in their power to make the gang inside keep their heads
down. The rooms must have all been connected, for when the brothers ran
past open doors, they could see empty rooms, or rooms in which there
were dead men who didn't count. The tommy artists were driving the
enemy into cover. And the same thing was going on all over the house,
ONE of the coppers yelled: Come out, Jepson, and come out with your
hands up! Tip your hoods to come the same way!
Jepson! Jack Leysen had heard that name often enough. The name of a
big-shot gambler, racketeer, of anything that smelled of fast easy
money in huge quantities. A bad, unsavory name. Also a name for plenty
of guts. Leon Jepson wasn't just the sort of guy to call quits without
Just as Jack Leysen thought that, the hoods of Jepson came boiling
out, straight into the muzzles of those two tommies. They came out from
two doors, on either side of the hall, and they came with their own
tommies flaming. Some of them had both hands filled with gats, and
their faces were fixed in set snarls of rage. They came into that lead
like robot soldiers, knowing as they came that some of them were sure
to go down.
We're next, Creyton, after the coppers! yelled Jack Leysen. He
began to run forward, sending bullets between the two tommy men, who
were against opposite sides of the hallway. Dimly, as from a far
distance, Jack could hear the rolling of pistol fire all through the
building. The mopping up was going forward, but a good price was being
Creyton moaned a little as they raced forward, as though he were in
pain, but Jack now had no time for him. He would come through, as every
New York copper always did, in uniform or out. Jack was fumbling for
more ammunition when the charging hoods got in their best licks on the
tommy coppers. The two coppers went down, almost together, folding up
like toy balloons with all the air rushing out. And the two brothers
were all that remained between the hoods and the end of the hall and a
chance to make a break for freedom. Behind the hoods, screened by their
bodies, was the manLeon Jepson.
Jack Leysen snapped a shot at him, and got one of the hoods between
the eyes. Then the other hoods, as though seeing the brothers for the
first time, threw down on them. A wild cry came from Creyton Leysen. He
flung his arms about Jack, pulled him to the floor, just as Jack would
have got a clear shot at Jepson. Jack Leysen, going down, cursed
Creyton from the bottom of his heart.
The white face of his brother was close above his own. There was
sweat on it and droplets of blood. He looked as though his face had
been systematically stabbed with pins. Splinters from the wooden wall
had done that, Jack supposed. Bullets even now were probing for them
There was a rush of feet toward them, and the guns were whanging
right in their faces. The brothers were all tangled up together. Leon
Jepson was yelling.
Make for the street. Cover me, you fools! You know where the cars
are. Don't stop for anything. Mow down anybody in your path!
Jack Leysen's right hand came up, to snap another shot at Jepson as
he went past among his hoods, like a condemned man marching to the
execution chamber at double-quick, between his guards. Creyton grabbed
Do you want them to know we're not dead? he asked fiercely.
His heart was a cold stone in his breast as Jack Leysen heard that.
It told him so many things he had never even suspected about his
brother, told him things he would never have believed possible. And
then, the hoods were past, and Creyton was clinging to Jack as though
for dear life, and something like a sob was issuing from his throat. It
sounded as though it were filled with terror, to Jack Leysen. He felt
all squirmy and sick inside, as though his stomach were filled with
moths that fluttered endlessly.
AND then, there was a sudden, deathly silence in the building. The
law had probably triumphed. The brothers got to their feet. Creyton did
not look at Jack. Jack could not bring himself to look at Creyton. But
Jack thought that Creyton must surely know what was in his mind, his
heart, must even know the meaning of those moths that fluttered inside
It was something he couldn't bring himself to talk about. Jepson, the
gambler, racketeer, brute, brought out something in Creyton that Jack
would never have wanted to find there had he so much as guessed it.
The two brothers went back out on the street. Chief Madsen was beside
his car, directing his men in bringing out the wounded, telling
stretcher bearers where to find the dead. He glanced at the Leysens.
His face was gray. There was blood dripping from the fingers of his
right hand. He held his right arm with his left hand, convulsively
Jepson got away, he said dully. This has all been wasted. Ten men
are dead. We've got it all to do over again. He's got a hundred
hideouts in the city. I can't understand how he got past. Every pair of
coppers was supposed to be covered by another pair, and another
Still Jack did not look at his brother Creyton. He could not, dare
not, else he would have smashed his brother in the face with all the
power of his right fist. Creyton Leysen had shown yellow, had even
guarded his own body against bullets by shielding it with Jack's.
However, Jack didn't mind that. It was simply the idea of the whole
thing, and what the members of the force would say if they knew the
Back at Headquarters, Jack Leysen excused himself, still without
looking at Creyton, save to mumble that he would see him later at the
quarters they shared in a mid-town lodging house. Then he went out,
with the intention of getting stewed to the eyebrows. But he couldn't
bring himself to drink.
A searing fact burned into his heart and soul. His brother, whom he
idolized, was as yellow as all hell! A sniveling, whining coward. He
had been afraid from the beginning. He would have run out if he hadn't
been more afraid of showing his fear than he had been afraid of what he
must face in that place on Second Avenue.
Jack Leysen harked back to when they had been kids together, had been
left to shift for themselves. Creyton had been twelve, he had been
thirteen. Their parents had died of typhoid, within two months of each
other. But they had managed, not only to get along by selling
newspaperspeople sort of liked to patronize lads they took to be
twinsbut later on to pay their way through high school and college.
Their parents had been ambitious for them both to have a college
Jack Leysen, harking back, remembered quite too many things. How,
when Creyton had got into a fight of some sort, or was being bullied by
a bigger boy, Jack had sailed in and taken the fight off his hands. If,
then, Creyton were a coward, Jack was to blame. But should he take the
responsibility? When a man was yellow, he was simply yellow, that was
all, and nobody was to blame except himselfif anybody could be
blamed. Men weren't always born with courage.
And yet, the man who didn't know fear could claim no glory for the
fact. If a man were afraid, yet overrode his fear, there was a man to
tie to. A man should have the courage to override, and Creyton hadn't
done that. He had turned his back on danger, and that the same back
hadn't been filled with lead was simply part of the luck which had
always been part and parcel of Creyton's life. He'd always had luck.
Most of it was spelled J-a-c-k. Jack had always looked after him. Jack
had always been right there, ready.
JACK groaned and put his face down in his hands. He wishedhe
wishedhe didn't know what he wished, except that he had never seen
the white face of Creyton, or the droplets of blood, or made this grim,
fearful discovery of his. If only Creyton hadn't come with him to
Homicide! But then, he wouldn't have been able to cover up for him as
he now must do, or Creyton would be forever disgraced.
What was he to do? Why didn't Creyton say something to him? Why
hadn't he followed, had it out with him, explained, even admitted that
he was afraid, ask him to help whip the demon of terror? Creyton hadn't
done that. Realizing that Jack knew his secret now, he still had said
nothing. Afraid, then, of the judgment even of his own brother.
I'll go back and beat the daylights out of him, he told himself.
Instead, he went back to Chief Madsen.
It's probably my fault that Jepson got away, Chief, he said grimly.
I'd like to get a crack at him myself. Let me have a week to see if I
can find out where he's holed up. He'll be running floating games, even
while he's on the dodge, won't he?
Yes, until he's got to his mouthpiece, and squared himself with
someone high in the department. Nobody knows just who it is, but
there's someone, and he's always managed before.
Chief Madsen stared at Jack Leysen, looked him over closely. Then, he
I've got it figured out, he said, how to tell you apart, I mean.
You're Creyton Leysen.
Opening his mouth to correct the chief, Jack Leysen closed it like a
trap. If the chief were still unable to tell the difference, then so
would all the others be. And why shouldn't he double for Creyton, and
cover the guy with gloryand then beat his face off if he didn't live
up to it?
It wouldn't he the first time he had administered a good licking to
his brother, who had, on occasion, returned the compliment, just to
show that he could. The brothers often fought to a finish, in high
delight, for no other reason than that they enjoyed fighting each
other. Yes, that's what he would do.
Go ahead, Creyton Leysen, said Madsen. Taking your brother with
Not this time. And if you don't mind, I'd like to do this on my own.
You know how it is with brothers? They get in each other's way
sometimes. Too much concerned with their welfare, each other's, I mean.
He'd cramp my style. I can do better by myself, what I have to do.
Besides, peas-in-a-pod would be too conspicuous. Jepson might remember
having seen us together.
Madsen shrugged. Keep me posted, he said. And when you've run
Jepson to earth, if, as and when you do, don't try to take him by
yourself. He's tough, and can burn already for plenty, so he won't mind
burning down a few more police officers.
Jack Leysen, without contacting his brother, left Headquarters on his
own. He began to make discreet inquiries. He started in Chinatown. Then
in the Bowery. He was, he said, in town on the loose, with a little
dough, and looking for some action for it. If anybody knew where he
could find a good fast gamedice, craps, roulette he'd like a bit of
play. Limit no real object, because he was hot and would soon take the
limit off. Jack dressed the part, and people listenedbut shook their
In all probability, he thought, a description of him had gone to
Jepson within fifteen minutes after he had started asking around. He
didn't care. He hoped so. It would be one way to find out things.
Jepson wouldn't be much afraid of just one man, unless that man found
him, and reported to the cops. Leysen knew, right then, that if he
tried to get back to Madsen, after all the questions he had asked, he
would probably stop a lot of slugs. So, he felt as though he must play
the game through to the bitter end.
He tried his best to push Creyton out of his mind. He was pretty
bitter about it. If Creyton were to show up now, he would smash in his
face. Not that he didn't love him, as brothers were supposed to love
and, even, sometimes did, but it was only that he was so bitterly
disappointed in Creyton.
Finding no information of value, but having talked plenty in
Chinatown and the Bowery, Jack Leysen, went up around Times Square, and
along Sixth Avenue, and west of Broadway, where he had heard that all
sorts of information could be found. He didn't look like a Broadway
character, and might never get anywhere, but Jepson wouldn't ignore him
all the time.
Meanwhile, some hours earlier, Creyton Leysen had gone to Chief
Madsen. Where's my brother? he asked, simply.
Oh, said Chief Madsen, grinning, watching the face of the brother,
you mean Creyton?
Creyton's eyes bugged, but he bit down hard on what he would have
said. If Jack had allowed Madsen to think he was Creyton, then he had a
very definite reason. Trying to figure out what it was, brought that
dead whiteness back to the face of Creyton.
Yes, he said grimly, Creyton. Where is he?
Went gunning for Jepson, but I don't know where. Were I in his place
I'd maybe start in the Bowery, then work uptown to Times Square. He's
been gone long enough to have got to Times Square by now, if he hasn't
burned his fingers first. I meant to put tails on him, but he got away
Creyton, it appeared to Chief Madsen, could get away just as
fastrather Jack could get away just as fast as Creyton, for he
turned and practically dashed out of the place.
Madsen sighed and returned to the reports over which he had been
working. This business of twin brothers who were not twins could get
him down if he allowed it to. He dismissed them from his mind.
But Jack Leysen, all unknowing, had a tail, within fifteen minutes
after he had started asking questions in Times Square a skillful
tail, too who could keep out of sight when he turned and looked back.
He turned hopefully, and looked back, because he wanted tails,
A SCRAWNY man with a lump on his back sidled up to Jack Leysen. I
hear you're looking for something,
fellow, he said, out of the side of his mouth.
Nothing penny-ante, said Jack Leysen, while his heart hammered with
excitement. Beat it!
Aw, don't be like that! said the little fellow. How'm I to get my
beans an' buns if you guys don't cooperate?
You guys who follow the floating games? I know something about them,
see? I get a percentage of the take when I bring in suckers.
The man was engagingly frank, it appeared. Jack Leysen walked on. The
little man drifted with him.
If you go to Room twelve-thirty-four, Hotel Alfiers, tell 'em that
Rossi sent you. Only, if you're a dick, tell me right now, so's I can
scram to Jersey City or somewhere.
Jack Leysen shrugged, kept right on going. Rossi would have to look
out for himself. He wasn't telling anybody his connection with the law.
Men like Rossi walked with death always, anyway. It shouldn't matter
much to Rossi. Besides, Rossi probably even knew, and was sending him
into a trap.
So, within half an hour, he knocked on the door of 1234.
Rossi told me I'd find action here, he whispered.
They let him in. There was a dice game going on, but he didn't see
any faces he had ever seen before. He played a bit, because he had to
or be suspect. He concentrated on the dice, to the exclusion of all
else, while he actually listened with all his ears.
But nobody was saying anything that would help. He carried no weapon.
He'd considered that point a lot, and decided against it. There would
be weapons around he could, maybe, get his hands on, if he got a break.
Certainly there were plenty here, and he'd wager nobody had permits for
A buzzer sounded, and the players moved with magic speed.
Here, said Jack Leysen, you're gathering in my dough!
Keep on my tail, said the man running the game, and you'll get it
back. That buzzer means cops. Scatter. Try Room seventeen-A, Hotel
Nighton, next. Scatter now. And if you're caught, blow the whistle and
get your throats cut!
Jack Leysen, leaving the place by the service elevator, realized that
he had won five hundred dollars. He wondered if it might not be bait,
so that he would follow, and decided not to question his luck. A bit
later, he was in the Nighton, Room 17-A, and the same crowd was coming
in, one at a time, that he had just left.
The man who ran the game tossed him a roll of bills. There was a
fifty wrapped around it. Jack guessed that there might be another five
hundred in that pile. He'd started playing with two hundred dollars.
Not too bad!
The door was shut, after much reconnoitering in the halls, and
locked. Another table, which might have been a pool table, by the look
of it, was uncovered and the game went on. Jack Leysen felt a bit
uneasy, for there was something different here. He could feel eyes, he
thought, playing over his back, his face.
But when a newcomer entered, from an adjoining room, he didn't feel
the eyes any longer. The newcomer didn't even look at him, at first. He
was Leon Jepson, and he took charge of the game.
When the dice came to Jack Leysen he tossed down two hundred dollars.
Leon Jepson looked at him for the first time.
We don't play penny-ante here, fella, he said. You ought to know
that. Put up a grand, or go homeand keep your mouth shut.
Jack Leysen stared at this wanted man, so impeccably dressed, so fat
and well-fed looking, this man who had caused the death of so many
other men, and Jepson stared back.
Haven't I seen you somewhere before, and not at any game, either?
he asked. There was a stillness after he had spoken, a sighing of
indrawn breaths, a tensing. How did you get here?
Followed the leader, Leysen said boldly. Rossi sent me to the
Alfiers. When the game floated I floated with it. That's all. And
here's a thousand bucks.
Got any more? asked Jepson, nastily.
Fade first, and we'll see, said Jack Leysen. A grand is all I need
in this dinky game. Who's fading?
JEPSON, never taking his eyes off Jack Leysen, motioned back the
others who brought fists crammed with money out of their pockets.
I'll fade you, sucker, said Jepson. Let's see what you can do to
Leysen, moving about the table, and back and forth as he handled the
dice, knew where the nearest gat was. He'd felt it against the hip of
one of the players.
That man was almost against him now.
Jack Leysen grinned engagingly, though his heart hammered in his
chest and his temples throbbed with the rush of blood. If he lost that
grand, he would have to leave, or play his string out right here. Maybe
Jepson knew. Maybe he simply didn't know Leysen. Maybe he did
remember him, and another just like him crouched in a hallway on Second
Avenue, while hoods blasted their way out through a welter of uniformed
Jack Leysen threw the dice. He didn't even look at them. The men
gasped. Jepson looked, and his face did not change.
I'll fade you for the two grand, fella, said Jepson. You can't be
lucky all evening.
Why can't I draw down? challenged Jack Leysen.
You can, said Jepson, if you got more back of you. Roll, or let us
see the color of your dough.
Jack Leysen, his heart in his mouth rolled again. Another sigh went
Fade for the four, said Jepson.
Keep that up, said Leysen, and what chance have I got?
Who gave you a right to a chance, barging in here like this? Roll, I
tell you. Roll!
Jack Leysen rolled again, knew by the difference in the sigh, and the
look on Jepson's face, that he had crapped out.
Somebody said snake-eyes, and for just that split second, all eyes
were on the dice. And exactly then, Leysen stepped back and the gat
he had felt in the pocket of the nearest man was in his hand.
Throw up your hands, Jepson, he said, not minding how melodramatic
it sounded, since it was exactly what he meant. The rest of you face
the wall, and reach as high as you can.
You're a copper, snarled Jepson. I knew it all the time, and now I
know where I saw youin the hallway!
Shut up, said Jack Leysen.
AND then, all at oncethere must have been a signal from somewhere
that Jack Leysen had not heardguns were going off and bullets were
flying wild. The men who had been playing were spreading out to care
Jack got two of the men, one of them between the eyes, one in the
guts, and Jepson swore, because one of them, falling, had diverted his
aim at Jack Leysen.
Jack found himself down on the floor, with no clear idea of how he
had got there, down, and rolling back and forth, trying to dodge
bullets that were ripping into the floor and bouncing. If a ricochet
hit him, you'd be able to drive a truck through the place where it came
out. Only, he wouldn't know about ithe hoped.
He kept firing. Someone went down right in front of him, dropping a
gat which slithered along the floor. It came so slowly, it seemed to be
taunting him. Jepson was yelling:
Stand aside. Give me a shot at the blundering fool!
Jack Leysen kept right on shooting, until something hit him in both
shoulders at once, and his own gun slid from his hand, and he couldn't
reach for the other one. All he could do was try to keep rolling, out
of the way, when he might as easily roll into a stream of bullets as
out of it.
His eyes were growing dim, when he heard window glass smash out, and
saw somebody coming in. He heard hammering at the door, but he knew
that it would take a battering ram to down that door. He rolled to the
threshold of the door out of which Jepson had come, with some idea of
preventing his escape.
And he was lying there, with no clear idea left of where to go next,
or what was due to happen, when somebody got astride of him. The sides
of the feet were against his sides, and the guy above started blasting
away with two gats, holding the left one low, so that the recoil of the
right wouldn't throw off its aim.
Dazedly, dimly, Jack Leysen peered up along those two columns of
The guy standing over him was Creyton, and he was doing as cool a job
of shooting into hoods who were shooting back, as Jack Leysen had even
seen. Jack yelled at him to sprawl out, not to make such a good target
of himself, but his voice didn't carry. He grabbed at Creyton's legs to
bring him down, but he couldn't do much grabbing, either, on account of
the slugs in him. But the mere act of grabbing reminded him of
somethingof how another man had grabbed, and how mistaken a man could
be about motives. If Creyton, back on Second Avenue
Creyton dropped to his knees, right on Jack's chest, which hurt like
hell. But Creyton kept on shooting, though Jack could see that his left
arm was hanging free, and flopping all about. And then, Creyton was all
over Jack, getting blood on him, and keeping him from stopping any
bullets, until the bulls finally came through the door, and Jepson went
down as though someone had kicked his legs from under him. Then, Jack
Leysen, feeling pretty chipper in the circumstances, passed completely
out. He passed out with the knowledge that Creyton had tailed him,
sided him, fought to the last for him, without squawking.
He decided, at the last, that he would never bring the subject up.
Some subjects were embarrassing, even between brotherssubjects like
Two weeks later the Leysens faced Chief Madsen across his scarred
I never did know who really ran Jepson to earth, and nailed him to
the mast, he said. Which of you was it, Jack or Creyton?
It doesn't matter, Jack said. Not really. I'm Creyton if need be.
Creyton is me if things break that way. But, Chief, if you've got any
more Jepsons, just call us both in to tan their hides, won't you? Then
you can be sure who's out on the case and still likely to be there
when the smoke lifts. For Creyton wouldn't let me run out, would you,
Not, said Creyton, if I could run faster!
And anybody could take that as he pleased. Jack took it the way he
really wanted to take it, and felt nice and warm inside as a result.