There was an unhurried bustle about the Police Station that was like balm to Mr. Bingler’s quivering nerves. He scuttled through the doorway, passed unnoticed into the waiting room, knocked timidly on the door marked Captain Donovan.
The knock went unnoticed, and he mopped his forehead with a large handkerchief, tried desperately to control his shaking knees. But there was a light in Mr. Bingler’s eyes, for he believed that he was on the track of some master criminal; and such was his makeup that he was like an eager pup chasing a bus, anxious to catch it but not knowing what he would do with it if he should.
Mr. Bingler gulped, pushed open the door, went in without further knocking. He sidled to one side, watched the Captain of Detectives with worshipping eyes, amazed at his temerity at invading the office.
“Well, what is it now?” Captain Donovan snapped without looking up.
” — er, Captain?”Mr. Bingler said nervously.
“Oh, so it’s you, Mr. Bingler?” the detective said disapprovingly, “Well. I’m sorry but I can’t talk to you right now; I’m terribly busy.”
“But, Captain,” Mr. Bingler said hurriedly and mysteriously, “I think I’ve uncovered a crime!”
Captain Donovan seemed to shrink within his uniform, and his eyes lifted in a silent plea. He started to speak, was interrupted by the buzz of the annunciator. He listened a moment, then his voice raised in a bull-like roar.
“Now get this,” he bellowed, “You shake down every house on Fraternity row. You tell those half-baked brats that if that body isn’t returned to the laboratory within an hour, I’ll personally see to it that all fraternities are barred from the campus!”
He snapped the switch, glared unseeingly into, space. “Those damned college bids drive me nuts!” he said finally, “Them and their initiations! Now they’re stealing stiffs from the medical laboratory at the school.”
“Yes, sir,” Mr. Bingler agreed bewilderingly.
He stood there, a quaking little man, realizing suddenly how foolish and quixotic had been his impulse to bring this pitiful mystery to the harassed officer’s attention. He shifted nervously from one foot to the other, his white hair a tousle, the derby and sword-umbrella in one veined hand, his mind trying to fashion a valid excuse for his being there.
Captain Donovan’s eyes softened a bit, as he watched the meek little man before him. “I checked up on Trotter,” he said. “He and a man he called Simpson murdered a gem salesman. The police caught him, but Simpson got away with eighty thousand dollars worth of unset stones. Does that help any?”
“Yes, thank you!” Mr. Bingler said.
The annunciator buzzed briefly. “Yes?” the detective said sharply, his face hardening. “All right, we’ll go right up. Get Sweeney and Carpenter, and call headquarters.”
* * * * *
He switched off the annunciator, strode around the edge of his desk. “There’s been a murder uptown, some guy named Miller, so your mystery will have to wait. If you want to hang around, I’ll talk to you when I get back.”
Without waiting for an answer, he was gone through the door. His voice sounded for a moment in the outer room; there was the shuffle of feet on the floor; then a siren wailed from the street, the tones diminishing in the distance.
“Oh, dear!” said Mr. Bingler unhappily.
He stood indecisively for a moment, debating the best course to follow. He frowned a bit, realizing that he alone could not hope to cope with a master-villain, knowing that he should go home and forget his romantic notions about being a crime crusader before he got his small head shot from his narrow shoulders.
But there was a bit of character in Mr. Bingler as unbending as chrome steel. He blinked with sudden resolve, went toward the files at the rear of the office. He found the City Directory, carried it to the desk, flipped through the pages.
Mr. Bingler beamed benevolently on the book, nodded relievedly. The decision had been forced upon him, because Captain Donovan had not paused long enough to hear of the murder that was to happen, or … the ghastly thought set Mr. Bingler’s head to swimming … had already happened.
Yes, Mr. Bingler had to pinch-hit for the police in this emergency.
He concentrated for a few minutes on the fine print, frowned slightly when he found that Harvey Wilson and James Reeves were partners, jointly owning and running an importing concern.
That information made the coming crime even worse. A partner was about to kill the man he was in business with — with the obvious motive of inheriting the entire company under a partnership contract.
Mr. Bingler girded up mental loins, went unhesitatingly toward an imaginary lion’s den.
* * * * *
Mr. Bingler hesitated on the street, the blood of some Scottish ancestor rebelling against wasting more money on a taxi ride. He clambered aboard a passing bus, seated himself on a rear seat of the upper deck.
He knew now what he had to do; he must go to Harvey Wilson and warn him that his partner was preparing to murder him before the night was gone.
· END OF part 5 ·
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