Little Eva (Edith)
Pete Krovac (straw boss)
Edith Hudson (Little Eva)
Carl (head waiter)
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
The Efficiency Expert
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2000
A contemporary tale of love and murder originally published in the October issues of ALL-STORY WEEKLY, 1921. Illustrations by Roger B. Morrison.
The Efficiency Expert is one of a small number of "modern" tales told in real world terms. The settings are New York and Chicago (with a mention of Beatrice, Nebraska). The Mad King, The Girl From Hollywood, Pirate Blood, Marcia of the Doorstep, The Mucker, and You Lucky Girl embrace the times of their writing without relying upon the fantastic as is found in various Capsak, Tarzan, Pellucidar and Venus stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
What makes this charming little tale so unusual is the main character's best friends: a pickpocket studying to be a safe-cracker and a gorgeous little prostitute with a heart of gold. The Efficiency Expert was written in 1919 and is, in many respects, a slightly embellished autobiography of Ed Burroughs' own difficulties in keeping a job during his youth and at look at the various occupations he held before becoming a world-famous fiction author.
CHAPTER I. JIMMY TORRENCE, JR.
Jimmy Torrence, after four years of college, is a star athlete, yet is aware of certain academic shortcomings. The Monday following his fourth round win in a boxing match Jimmy is summoned to "Whisker's" office (university president). Torrence is warned of his low grades and potential failure. Asking for, and receiving, a second chance Torrence applies himself and graduates.
CHAPTER II. JIMMY WILL ACCEPT A POSITION.
Torrence spends time with a New York classmate who, like all of Jimmy's friends, thinks he will go far. Jimmy also believes his own press until a letter from his father (president of Beatrice Corn Mills, Incorporated, Beatrice, Nebraska) expresses doubts. Jimmy re-evaluates his accomplishments and goes to Chicago to make good. Torrence runs an ad in the "Situations Wanted" classified section.
CHAPTER III. THE LIZARD.
That evening, after theater and a lonely dinner, a young pickpocket is caught by Jimmy–and released when officer O'Donnell approaches. Later, at his hotel, the Lizard returns Jimmy's watch and stays at Jimmy's invitation to talk. Torrence learns something of the Lizard's shady occupations and the two part with respect for each other. The next day Jimmy visits the newspaper–there are no replies to his ad offering his services as "General Manager of a Large Business."
CHAPTER IV. JIMMY HUNTS A JOB.
After three days of no replies, Jimmy begins applying to help wanted ads–starting with managerial positions. Humiliated by the interviews, Torrence lowers his expectations until he's turned down applying as an office boy. With $1.60 in his pocket and two days left on his rent Jimmy writes a letter to his father admitting defeat and leaves his room to post it.
CHAPTER V. JIMMY LANDS ONE.
Elizabeth Compton is vexed with Harold's (Bince) amorous attentions, though she has agreed to marry him. She drives Bince to his downtown club and has a flat tire on the return. Torrence changes the tire, refuses a gratuity, and watches her drive away. He tears up the letter, more determined than ever to get a job. The next day Torrence is hired as a clerk in the hosiery department of a large store. His salary is $10.00 a week. Jimmy relocates to less expensive lodging and economizes where possible. Continued applications for other positions remain negative and his current situation appears devoid of advancement.
CHAPTER VI. HAROLD PLAYS THE RAVEN.
Mason Compton, president of International Machine Company, calls Harold Bince to his office to discuss profit discrepancies in the latest reports. Assistant Manager Bince offers explanations but Compton is unconvinced, believing the company should be doing better. Compton voices his concern about turning the company over to future son-in-law Bince. Bince promises improvement of the bottom line. Elizabeth and Harriet Holden arrive to get money or shopping. Speaking to Elizabeth in private Bince suggests the job is killing her father and he needs to take a long vacation; he speaks convincingly setting all of the girl's protests aside. Elizabeth eventually agrees to see what she can do.
CHAPTER VII. JOBLESS AGAIN.
Elizabeth and Harriet buy hosiery from Torrence, who recognizes the girl. Later, Jimmy quits, long unsatisfied with the work. Meanwhile, in the car, Elizabeth recalls the young man who changed her tire. Jimmy's job search continues. He pawns his valuables for living expenses.
CHAPTER VIII. BREAD FROM THE WATERS.
Torrence, fighting hunger, trades his suit for cash and hand-me-downs. At the boarding house Jimmy runs into the Lizard, who offers him a job doing crime. Though tempted, Torrence declines. The Lizard then promises to find Jimmy a real job, if he isn't particular, and stakes Torrence to $20.00.
CHAPTER IX. HAROLD SITS IN A GAME.
Mr. Compton rejects Elizabeth's suggestion he take a vacation and let Bince run the company. Later, when she tells Harold he is sour and cross. Bince leaves to join a card game where he loses $5,000.00 in addition to the $20,000.00 he has lost over the last few months. Harry, one of the players holding an I.O.U. threatens to speak to Compton. Bince begs for time. The Lizard gets Torrence a waiter's job at Feinheimer's Cabaret, which has an unsavory reputation after dark.
CHAPTER X. AT FEINHEIMER'S.
Jimmy waits tables. Meets Steve Murray, the labor leader–instant dislike. Little Eva (Edith) has breakfast every afternoon at 4 o'clock. The prostitute appreciates Torrence's good manners and quiet acceptance of her line of work. The Lizard appears and joins Eva. Torrence takes his order. The Lizard and Eva talk about Jimmy–they both like him. Weeks pass. Jimmy comes to like the sober Eva at "breakfast" and turns a blind eye to her evening activities.
CHAPTER XI. CHRISTMAS EVE.
Elizabeth and Harriet, driven by David the chauffeur, enter State Street after delivering Christmas remembrances to their friends. Harriet remarks on the nighttime appearance of the busy street. Elizabeth suggests a little wickedness of dining at Feinheimer's unescorted. Jimmy is surprised to see the girl, but says nothing as he waits on their table. Elizabeth and Harriet discuss Jimmy after he leaves the table. Steve Murray accosts the women, attempting to kiss Elizabeth. Torrence, coming from the kitchen, trashes Murray. David arrives to hurry Elizabeth and Harriet out–the latter pausing to give Jimmy her address. Little Eva defends Jimmy's action; Feinheimer fires him anyway.
CHAPTER XII. UP OR DOWN?
Murray's beating interests a fight manager who witnessed it. Torrence is offered a job sparring with Brophy, a fighter. Torrence learns Brophy is supposed to look good in public. January 15th Brophy viciously knocks Jimmy to the canvas while Elizabeth and Harriet and two young men look on. Ninety seconds later Jimmy knocks out Brophy and barely escapes retribution for wrecking the scam to fleece wealthy bettors.
CHAPTER XIII. HARRIET PHILOSOPHIZES.
That evening Jimmy chats with the Lizard. Both have admiration and trust for each other. Elsewhere, Harriet discusses the young man with Elizabeth. Harriet notes his performance in the ring and that he recognized them; Billy stated he was a "wonderful fighter." Elizabeth is not interested. They discuss Harold's grouchiness. Harriet states she believes Elizabeth is not in love with Bince, which Ms. Compton denies.
CHAPTER XIV. IN AGAIN–OUT AGAIN.
A week later, through the Lizard, Torrence is driving a milk-wagon. He takes a special delivery to Lake Shore Drive. Leaving, he encounters two girls on horseback–Harriet and Elizabeth. Harriet thanks Jimmy for his defense on Christmas Eve. Elizabeth is more critical. Torrence thanks Harriet for offering help to find a better job, declines, and departs. Harriet is intrigued by the man, Elizabeth is mildly caustic. Two weeks later the milk-wagon drivers go on strike. Torrence is out of a job for a month. About the same time a famous safe robbery occurs and the Lizard disappears.
CHAPTER XV. LITTLE EVA.
Coming from the pawn shop after hocking his watch again, Jimmy runs into Little Eva. Jimmy learns Feinheimer and Murray lost a bundle over the Brophy scheme. Little Eva insists on buying lunch for her friend. Looking through want ads, she finds one for an efficiency expert. Expressing her intuition, she forces Jimmy to take a loan for a suit.
CHAPTER XVI. JIMMY THROWS A BLUFF.
Bince confronts Mason Compton over the ad. Compton is unmoved by Harold's misgivings. Harold works on the payroll without Everitt's (cashier) help. The following afternoon Torrence calls on Mason. He feels guilty handing over fake letters of recommendation. Compton, letters aside, likes Torrence's looks. A salary arrangement of $250.00 a month is made. Jimmy fakes his "methods" by reciting chapter titles from an efficiency book he had purchased. Compton introduces Torrence to Bince.
CHAPTER XVII. JIMMY ON THE JOB.
Jimmy meets Eva at a restaurant to report his success and learns how she got the letters–she knew a printer friend and had once been a stenographer and typed the letters herself. Jimmy suggests she get a job as a stenographer. "There is no reason why I shouldn't except that there was no one ever cared what I did." O'Donnell arrives to run Eva off, then recognizes Jimmy from last July. Thursday morning Jimmy starts his job.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT.
Jimmy clashes with Bince over viewing the payroll. The animosity increases between the men. Torrence gathers information interviewing the workers and streamlines some operations that allow a five man reduction in the work force. Discussing changes with Compton, who has shop foreman Patton's glowing report in hand, Jimmy indicates a minor difficulty with straw boss Krovac. Torrence also suggests an audit by an accounting firm to streamline the bookkeeping. Compton asks if Jimmy knows a stenographer; thinking of Eva he answers yes. Later, Bince disagrees with Compton's employment of outside accountants.
CHAPTER XIX. PLOTTING.
Miss Edith Hudson (Little Eva) starts on Monday as Compton's stenographer. The certified public accountants start. Jimmy checks with Everitt and learns, despite five layoffs, the payroll check is $1,000.00 more than his interviews with the men indicate. Compton leaves with a headache. He remains home the next day, ill. Bince plots with Krovac regarding Torrence, to the tune of $100.00. The following evening two men attack Torrence after work. Jimmy knocks both out and enters the boarding house. Bince seems angry when the stenographers report Torrence at work the next day. Bince summons Krovac, who had enough of Jimmy and alludes to having enough to blackmail Bince. Bince changes tack. He wants the company records destroyed and Torrence framed. Bince is to go to Feinheimer's at 10:30 that evening.
CHAPTER XX. AN INVITATION TO DINE.
Edith wonders where she has seen Krovac before. Jimmy gets a phone call from Ms. Compton to dine with her father at home. Later, Elizabeth recognizes Jimmy, wondering how this might advantage Harold who has spoken to her of the efficiency expert's interference. She makes a snide remark; Torrence responds, equally polite, in a manner that reminds Elizabeth she has a few secrets she'd rather left unshared. Compton takes a phone call. Elizabeth delivers an ultimatum to Jimmy. Torrence lays his cards on the table: there's something wrong at the company and if she won't keep quiet until he can prove it, he will reveal her indiscretions to her father.
CHAPTER XXI. JIMMY TELLS THE TRUTH.
Compton, feeling the effects of impending influenza and not relishing further acrimony with Bince, discharges Torrence. Before leaving the house, Jimmy tells Compton he is being robbed at the rate of $1,000.00 a week via payroll. Compton reverses himself, keeping Torrence on the job. Compton retires. Jimmy has words with Elizabeth before departing. Harold calls, Elizabeth relates the evening's events. Bince is mortified. Torrence calls Edith, who agrees to meet him, wondering if he is "like all the rest." Torrence, however, only wishes to discuss his troubles. They see a movie then go to Feinheimer's for dinner. It is at this time that Jimmy understands his melancholy: the girl (Elizabeth) he thought he loved, but was always unobtainable, was not completely remote.
CHAPTER XXII. A LETTER FROM MURRAY.
Edith notices Bince and Murray together at Feinheimer's. The two leave before Jimmy and Edith. Jimmy takes Edith home and as he leaves, she realizes something has just happened. Alone in her room she gazes breathlessly at her reflection, then realizes the impossibility of a match and weeps. The next morning Compton comes to work. Bince, almost cheerful after his meeting with Murray, is unnerved to see Compton. Murray sends a letter to Bince which contains a threat from the I.W.W. (International Workers of the World) to show Compton. Compton is concerned. He gives Jimmy a pistol. Searching for correspondence Compton needs, Edith finds Murray's letter on Bince's desk and takes it.
CHAPTER XXIII. LAID UP.
Harriet, visiting Elizabeth, listens to the latter's anger toward Torrence. Elsewhere, the Lizard meets with Murray regarding a safe job and destroying some records. At 4 o'clock that afternoon Jimmy comes down with the flu and is hospitalized. Bince calls Murray to hold off until Torrence recovers or dies. Five days later Edith, who has come by daily, is allowed to see the recovering Torrence. She comes everyday thereafter. The nurse likes Edith and suggests the girl is in love with Jimmy. Torrence ponders that, then dismisses the idea, they are only good friends.
CHAPTER XXIV. IN THE TOILS.
The C.P.A. firm, with Bince nervously assisting, complete their work, but will not have the report ready until Saturday. Jimmy, learning of the report, goes to work on Friday. Bince calls Murray with the go ahead. The C.P.A.s are unable to complete on Saturday. Bince leaves and calls Elizabeth at 8 o'clock pm. She invites Bince over, saying her father went to the plant to review reports finished late in the afternoon. At 10 o'clock a figure moves in the alley behind International Machine Company. Meanwhile Torrence gets a call from the plant night watchman telling him to come to Compton's office. The Lizard enters the plant and hides when he hears another. A man passes, lights a cigarette revealing his face, then leaves. The Lizard goes to Compton's office, sees a surprise, and hurriedly leaves, his job unfinished. At 10:30 an anonymous caller tips the police; at the same time Jimmy finds Compton's body. Moments later two policemen arrive.
CHAPTER XXV. CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.
O'Donnell, promoted to detective, takes Jimmy into custody. At police headquarters Jimmy is questioned. Bince identifies the pistol found at the scene as the one Compton gave Torrence. Elizabeth Compton gives damaging testimony regarding Torrence. O'Donnell recognizes Edith as Little Eva and, because Jimmy has been seen with her and the Lizard, feels he has solved the murder. Jimmy is held over in jail for trail. A week later Harriet Holden visits. She believes him innocent, later she tries to convince Elizabeth as well.
CHAPTER XXVI. "THE ONLY FRIENDS HE HAS"
The next morning a well-known criminal attorney speaks to Jimmy. Torrence demands the identity of the person paying for the lawyer's services. When refused, he then insists the lawyer get Edith Hudson released as a condition of accepting the lawyer. Edith is followed from the jail. Ducking phone taps, Edith calls Carl, the headwaiter at Feinheimer's, to arrange a meet with the Lizard. They later meet in a taxi. Edith explains all that has happened, including Murray's letter now hidden in her desk. The Lizard retrieves the letters for Edith, but wonders about his fate if he turns them over to Jimmy's attorney.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE TRIAL.
Weeks pass-–Edith is concerned since the Lizard failed to deliver the letters. She attends Torrence's trial and visits him in jail. She occasionally sees Harriet Holden at court and jail. The trial does not go well for Jimmy. One day Edith is not there, Harriet says she is home with a bad cold. The trial has a deleterious effect on Bince, who urges Elizabeth to marry him. They are wed on Friday and then go to Jimmy's trial. Bince is stunned when Torrence's attorney introduces new evidence: an eyewitness to Bince paying off Pete Krovac, along with the admission it was a murder for hire that failed and that he had accompanied Krovac that evening. Steve Murray is cornered with the damning letters and implicates Bince.
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE VERDICT.
The Lizard takes the stand, explain his silence and all he knows, and directly identifies Bince as the man inside the plant when he arrived. Bince, unmasked, dives out the fourth story window. The verdict is not guilty. Torrence thanks all, but rushes to Edith's bedside, who reveals Harriet's involvement–and love for Jimmy–then dies of pneumonia. Later, at Harriet's, Elizabeth Compton apologizes and asks Torrence to run the company. He accepts. She goes to her room. Harriet is distraught to learn Edith is dead and speaks highly of the girl's loyalty and determination to free Jimmy. Torrence, his mind clear of all conflicts, asks Harriet to marry him. She accepts.