HANK THE SWANK – THE CROOK WITH THE LOOK
Complete Story taken from The Wizard issue 1795 July 9th 1960
We coppers had a different name for him. I’m Detective-Inspector Jellicoe, and Hank Hamilton was just a pain to me. As I say, he thought a lot of himself. Only the best was good enough for H. Hamilton, Esquire. The best meant fancy silk shirts, forty-guinea suits, and hand-made shoes. Hank also paid frequent visits to a posh barber’s for a styling and a manicure. He even had his own special hair oil made up for him, with a very individual scent. Yes, he liked to be smart did Hank – hence his nickname, Hank the Swank. Of course, all this cost money. Hank hadn’t got a job. The money had to come from somewhere. It was no secret to us how Hank got it. He just helped himself from the pockets of more honest citizens. Our only difficulty was in proving it. Then we got our first chance. Hank made one move too many, and we nailed him. Mind you, it looked at first as if he was going to get away with it again. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Mr Mortimer and his dog – but I’m over-running my story. The story started one day when Hank turned his pockets out and discovered that funds were low. So he got together with Sammy Sims and Needle Wall, two layabouts that he had worked with on crooked jobs before. These three bright boys decided to raid a jeweller’s shop. Hank did the planning. The other two weren’t so good at that kind of thing. Sammy had more brawn than brains. Needle hadn’t got much of either – he was called Needle because he had only one eye, not because he was clever. But he was handy with a car. Hank got things all organised, and timed to a second. At the appointed hour, when the street was quiet, Needle drove up in a stolen car and stopped outside the jeweller’s shop. Hank and Sammy were in the back of the car. They hustled across the pavement, pulled scarves over their faces, and barged into the shop. Hank wagged a pistol at the jeweller. The jeweller was an elderly fellow, but he had plenty of nerve. He reached out for an alarm button. Before he could press it, Hank clouted him over the head with the pistol. The jeweller collapsed behind the counter. Hank and Sammy stuffed their pockets full of rings and watches. Then they shot out of the shop again. So far, so good. But this was where they struck a snag. Hank came belting out of the shop and ran smack into a fellow who was passing. This man had a dog on a lead. He went staggering back, and Hank gave him an extra shove to help him on his way. The two crooks ran for the car and jumped in. Needle had the engine running and he pulled away. “Did that fellow get a look at you, Hank?” panted Sammy. Hank squinted through the back window. “No need to worry about him,” he said. “He’s blind!” Sure enough, the fellow that Hank had run into was blind. His dog had been leading him along in the way that guide dogs do. But now the man was lying on the pavement. Full of high spirits, Hank and his cronies whizzed away to their hideout to gloat over their loot. Meanwhile, Sergeant Potter and I came into the picture. An emergency call took us to the jeweller’s shop. Of course, at the time we didn’t know any of what I’ve just been telling you. All we knew was that some thieves had pulled a nasty hold-up, and also handed out some rough treatment to a blind man. We didn’t get much to help us at the jeweller’s shop. The jeweller had recovered, but he couldn’t give a useful description of his attackers, and nothing at all of their faces because of the scarves. I had a talk with the blind man, whose name was Mr Mortimer, but naturally he couldn’t tell me much. We got the usual routine working. We sent out details of the stolen jewels, and got our underworld contacts nosing around for information. But nothing came up. We pulled in some likely customers for questioning. Among the suspects were Hank, Sammy and Needle. Hank protested loudly at this treatment of an honest citizen. He complained again when he was put up for identification. “Take your hands off me!” he told Sergeant Potter, who wasn’t very gentle in pushing him against a wall. “This suit cost good money!” We had the jeweller in to look at our bright boys, but he couldn’t make any identification. He just hadn’t had a good look at the hold-up men. We had to let Hank and his pals loose.
They went off laughing. I had a nasty feeling that they knew quite a lot about that jewellery job, but I couldn’t prove it. It was a pity that I wasn’t able to hear a conversation the crooks had when they were clear of the police station. “Well, that lets us out!” said Hank. “You know how to handle things, Hank,” said Needle, full of admiration. “Of course I do!” said Hank. “That jeweller was the only hope the police had. He never stood a chance of identifying us with those scarves over our faces, so we’re in the clear.” “What about the fellow we ran into?” said Sammy. “Be your age!” said Hank. “He was blind.” “Yes, but what about his dog?” said Sammy. “What about it?” said Flash. “Suppose they use the dog to track us down?” suggested Sammy. “What are you getting at?” said Hank. “The coppers use tracker dogs, don’t they?” said Sammy carefully. He was slow, but once he got an idea it was hard to shift. “Well, how about if that dog got a sniff at you when you barged into the blind geezer? Suppose the cops get the idea of using the dog to scent you out?” “There might be something in that, Hank,” said Needle, a bit nervous. “Yeah, I suppose so,” admitted Hank. As a matter of fact, I had already suggested that idea to Mr Mortimer, but he hadn’t been very hopeful. “What had we better do, Hank?” asked Needle. “You leave it to me!” said hank. “This is going to be easy. I’ll go looking for this blind bloke. He probably goes past the jeweller’s shop pretty regularly. He should be easy to find.” “What do you want to do that for? Asked Needle. “To find out if the dog recognises me, of course!” said Hank. “That’s just what we don’t want,” said Needle. “You let me do the thinking!” said Hank. “The blind fellow can’t harm us, can he?” Well then, all I do is walk past him in the street. If the dog starts acting as if it recognises me, I run. The blind fellow won’t be able to stop me. And before the dog starts any clever tracking stuff, we put it out of the way.” “That’s smart, Hank!” said Sammy. “Yes, that’s smart!” So the three crooks started hanging round the streets near the jeweller’s shop. Mr Mortimer lived in the neighbourhood, and it wasn’t long before Hank and his pals caught sight of him. Mr Mortimer was strolling along, holding on to the guide harness of his dog. “OK, here we go,” said hank. The three of them were sitting in a car parked at the kerb. Hank got out and walked after Mr Mortimer. Needle moved the car slowly after him. The idea was that if the dog showed signs of recognising Hank, he would jump for the car. Hank walked right up to Mr Mortimer. The dog took no notice of him at all. Hank turned and grinned at his pals. He walked on, then swung round and came back again. Once again he went right up to the blind man and his dog. The well-trained dog paid him no attention as Hank approached the second time. Mr Mortimer walked on, the dog plodded at his side. Hank passed so close that he and the dog almost touched. Then Hank turned to the car with a thumbs-up sign. At that moment the dog jumped at him. Mr Mortimer let go the harness, and the heavy dog hit Hank smack in the middle of the back. Hank went down on the pavement, and the dog stood over him. The noise the dog was making was quite bloodcurling. “Sammy! Needle!” bawled Hank. His pals moved fast. But not to Hank’s rescue. They didn’t fancy the look of that dog. Needle smashed through the gears, and the car roared away. Hank squirmed, and the dog’s white teeth clashed near his ear. Hank was still lying on the pavement when Sergeant Potter and I got there. Mr Mortimer called the dog off, and Hank looked quite relieved to crawl into our police car. “That’s the man you want, Inspector,” said Mr Mortimer. “Thanks,” I said. “We know his pals. We’ll soon have them behind bars.” Mr Mortimer patted his dog. Hank squirmed deeper into the car. “Keep that brute off me!” he gulped. “So your dog did smell the crooks out after all, Mr Mortimer,” I remarked. “You told me you thought it wouldn’t be able to pick up the scent.” “It didn’t,” said Mr Mortimer. “I did!” “You did?” I echoed. “When the hold-up man bumped into me outside the jeweller’s shop, I got a whiff of very unusual, fancy hair oil,” explained Mr Mortimer. “Being blind, I’ve learned to use my other senses more. So when a man passed me twice today and I got the same smell of that very distinctive hair oil which I’d only ever smelt once before, I let the dog go. I whispered, ‘Get him’ and the dog did the rest!” Hank’s expression was worth watching. His snappy turnout had let him down at last. Where he is now, he gets no chance to use fancy hair oil. The prison barber’s given him a very close crew-cut.
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2003