FLETCHER FLORA “Loose Ends.” Novelette. Percival ‘Percy’ Hand. First published in Manhunt, August 1958. Reprinted in The Second Pulp Crime Megapack (Wildside Pres, Kindle edition, 2016).

   Fletcher Flora had one only series character in a long career of crime fiction writing, a policeman by the name of Lt Joseph Marcus, who appeared in six stories for the digest mystery magazines of the 1950s. He missed a bet, though, in not writing another story about Percy Hand. “Loose Ends” is a good one.

   He’s hired In this one by Faith Salem, a very good looking woman, especially while tanning herself outside on her terrace. It seems as though he’s thinking of becoming wife number four to man with whom she presently has an understanding. She is wondering, though, why wife number three just suddenly disappeared without a trace. The police didn’t work very hard on the case, though, since the man she presumably was having an affair with disappeared at exactly the same time.

   What Faith Salem wants Percy Hand to do is the obvious. Find out what really happened. And so he does, with adeptness and efficiency. Roots in the past are involved, as is true for a good percentage of all good PI stories.

   And not only is Hand very good at his job, but author Fletcher Flora is also very impressive as a wordsmith whose words I ought to have reading all this time, and I’m sorry to say that I haven’t.

   Some examples:

   Faith asks: “Do you remember what happened to Graham’s third wife?”

   “I seem to remember that she left him, which wasn’t surprising. So did number one. So did number two. Excuse me if I’m being offensive.”

   “Not at all. You’re not required to like Graham. Many people don’t. I confess that there are times when I don’t like him very much myself.”


   I went on out and back to my office and put my feet on the desk and thought about her lying there in the sun. There was no sun in my office. In front of me was a blank wall, and behind me was a narrow window, and outside the narrow window was a narrow alley. Whenever I got tired of looking at the wall I could get up and stand by the window and look down into the alley, and whenever I got tired of looking down into the alley I could sit down and look at the wall again, and whenever I got tired of looking at both the wall and the alley, which was frequently, I could go out somewhere and look at something else. Now I simply closed my eyes and saw clearly behind the lids a lean brown body interrupted in two places by the briefest of white hiatuses.

   One more. Percy has gone to see the missing man’s brother, a high class gangster. In the room is Robin Robbins (not her real name):

   Silas Lawler says: “The man you are trying to insult, honey, is Percy Hand, a fairly good private detective.”

   “He looks like Jack Palance.”

   “Jack Palance is ugly,” I said.”God, he’s ugly,”

   “So are you,” she said.

   “Thanks,” I said.

   “In a nice way,” she said. “Jack Palance is ugly in a nice way, and so are you. I don’t really care if you’re poor.”