Cart
(
Lady From Spain by Alan Ritner Anderson
Yost tried to duck.
Legal

Lady From Spain

Complete J. Fenimore Yost Novelet

by Alan Ritner Anderson

Crack Detective Stories | Oct. 1947 | Vol. 8, No. 5 THE RED FILE | Apr. 22, 2018 | Vol. 9 No. 35

Only J. Fenimore Yost could have put such diverse elements as a dead kitten, a trunkful of lottery tickets, and a long-lost daughter together and make them spell murder!

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

You're A Foxy Fellow, J. F.

J. Fenimore Yost stepped on the brake pedal. The taxi stopped so abruptly that he lurched forward against the steering wheel. The horn blared.

"Sh!" he warned. "Sh!"

He took out a handkerchief and wiped his fingerprints from the wheel.

Switching off the lights, Yost hopped out of the cab and ducked into the apartment house entry. The stillness of the early morning hour was shattered by wailing sirens.

"Ha!" he chortled. "Not even close. Of course they didn't expect me to drive through the railroad tunnel. You're a foxy fellow, J. F. Let's have a drink!"

He whipped a pint of Guggengust's Best Gin from his hip pocket and toasted himself with a hearty nip. The sirens grew louder. Yost pawed through his pockets and found the right key handily — it was fastened to a sink stopper for that very purpose. He got the door open on the sixth try and waddled into the gloomy lobby.

A man confronted him. A black man. A small, grotesquely shaped black man with hips wider than shoulders, a big pot belly, bowed legs. The man wore a tuxedo, but his dress shirt was as black as his round face and the derby perched atop his head.

Yost was not courageous, but he was full of gin and it added up to a lionlike bravery. He charged forward arms windmilling. He struck the mirror under full steam, bounced back a good three feet, and sat on the floor with a dismal thud. His fat, red nose began to dribble. He pulled out a handkerchief to blot it and a piece of coal skidded across the floor.

"Fie and lackaday," ha cried, staggering to his feet. "I escaped via the coal bin. Therefore, ipso facto and junk, I am slightly soiled around the edges."

He got into the automatic elevator and drained the bottle on the way up.

"Just under the wire," he mused, thrusting the empty bottle through the latticelike inner door. It caught on a passing floor level, broke and showered down the shaft with a glassy tinkle.

He pranced out of the elevator and came to a snappy stop in front of the door. Bending with feet straddled for steadiness, he rested the top of the derby against the door and began to jab the key at the metallic glint of the lock.

The door swung inward, fast. Bent almost double and considerably off balance, J. Fenimore Yost shot into the apartment like a Green Bay Packer cracking the line. His immediate object was to run his big feet under his face and straightened up. He sped across the foyer, dashed the length of the living room fairly flew across the dining room. His head whammed a wall. Yost sat down with his derby mashed down over his eyes. Plaster showered down around him.

"Blind!" he bleated. "Stone blind. Blind as a bat. It must be the cheeseburgers I had for lunch."

Someone yanked off the derby. Yost blinked and massaged the top of his bald skull. Somebody helped him up. He got his eyes into focus and rammed the key into his pocket.

Back to Top

Chapter 2

The Man and the Blonde

The man was tall and blonde with a dapper little mustache and cold gray eyes.

He said, "Blackface or not, I'd recognize that fog horn voice anywhere. I should," he went on savagely, "I heard it plenty in court when you nicked me for ten grand."

"My client did," said Yost cautiously. "I believe, sir, that you are none other than Max Manner, owner of the swanky gambling spot atop Stinky Drake's warehouse. Ha! Electronic roulette wheels. Spin them fast enough and they'd generate enough electricity to light an army searchlight."

"See here, J. Fenimore Yost!" warned Manners, fire in his eyes.

"Wait!" The woman's voice came out of thin air.

Yost reeled around like a hound dog hitting a fresh spoor. She was sensational. The lounging pajamas of heavy white silk accented her sultry dark beauty.

"The lady from Spain!" cried Yost. He bowed low and gallantly. and three lumps of coal leaped from his vest and scratched little lines across the polished table top.

"A thousand pardons, gracious lady," apologised Yost, quite abashed, "but I just got through surveying a coal mine."

"They tell me you're the finest lawyer in the country," she said. "The best ever."

"Dan Webster's been dead a few years," admitted Yost with becoming modesty.

"I'm Rosita Ravier," she said, giving Manners a haughty glance. "I'd like you to take my case."

"Consider it won," declared Yost. Her smile did things to him. She had full lips and very white teeth. Yost had very white teeth too, but they weren't his own. Hers were her own.

She said, "Mister Manners will give you the details.''

She glided away. It was a fine sight. Yost clapped his hands.

"Bravo! Bravo!" he cheered. "What a dish. A true Junoesqne figure. Alas and Iackaday, most females today are veritable bean poles. Not her. Lush Latin curves. Beef in the right places. Hoy, hoy!"

Max Manner said, "I've got her marker for fifteen Gs."

Yost belched.

"A lot of cabbage," he confessed. "She played at your electronic tables, I presume."

Manners' voice went hard. "I've only been in town a short time. I've got Rosita Racier's signature on a duly notarized legal demand note."

Yost yawned. His eyes widened as he looked around.

"Ho!" he cried. "Someone changed the furniture while I was out. A very tasty job, though slightly on the frilly side."

Manners ground his teeth together.

"This is the seventh floor," he said. "Your apartment's on the sixth."

"Don't change the subject!" Yost warned. "It's plain to be see that my client's penniless, broke, destitute, and even a few bucks in debt. I'll have her tossed into bankruptcy."

Max Manners sneered. "Did you catch the last name, bud? She's Warwick Ravier's daughter. He's only worth a hundred and fifty million."

Back to Top

Chapter 3

J. F. Meets Mr. Ravier

It was the gambler's exit line.

Yost began to teeter back and forth as the door closed.

"Hum! Rich too," he mused. "Ha, after all, I'm only forty-six. In the prime of life. I'll buy a pair of elevator shoes and make a pitch for the nut-brown maiden. But first I'll rustle up a drink and get the coal dust out of my bilge."

He staggered around and finally located the kitchen. There was a cat curled up on the tiles there. A very small cat. Its mouth was agape and a whitish substance spread out on the tiles beneath its head.

"Mixing your drinks, eh?" Yost said.

The cat didn't move. Yost said, "Scat" and Boo." the cat didn't stir a whisker,. He bent over and patted it on the head. It was cold. It was dead.

"Alas and alack!" Yost gloomed. "A stiff kitty. I will give the beast a decent burial in the cat cemetery and spare the lady from Spain the hoohoos." He scooped up the cat and stuffed it into his right coat pocket.

A kitchen cabinet held liquor galore. Yost snagged a bottle of English gin and sampled it.

"Fie!" he snorted. "No flavor. No robust bouquet. Probably three juniper berries in a quart of distilled water. I better go home and have a conference with myself over a few drams of Guggengust."

He was halfway across the living room when a short, stocky man came in from the foyer. No mistaking that granite jaw, the graying blonde hair, the frosty blue eyes. Warwick Revier, industrialist and international financier. Yost stopped.

"And what are you doing in my daughter's apartment at this outrageous hour?" Ravier demanded in no uncertain tones.

Yost blinked. The moment was fraught with tragic possibilities. Acquiring an enemy with a hundred and fifty million was certainly no way to get ahead in the world.

Yost asked, "What'd you say?"

The blue eyes took in the coal smeared shirt front, the black face, Yost's rather glassy eyes. Ravier strode to the door that led to the hallway to the bedrooms.

"It's locked," he said.

Yost nodded with vigor. "If I had what she has. I'd lock myself in too."

"I demand to know what you're doing here!" Ravier said.

Yost excelled as a trial lawyer because of his ability to think fast under pressure. His agile brain whipped up a gem.

"It's labor trouble," he cried. "I, J. Fenimore Yost, renowned barrister, am suffering from a dirty, stinking, vicious, underhanded, wildcat strike."

Warwick Ravier blinked.

"Strike?"

"I own the building," said Yost. "My janitor demanded a closed shop. The ungrateful knave walked out. The humiliation, the disgrace. At every court recess I have to dash over here, fire the furnace, empty the slop cans, mop the lobby. Every morning at this hour I check the apartments. The door was open. So I came in and investigated."

The little lawyer thought it was pretty touching. He sighed heaved his shoulders, trembled his lower lip. Warwick Ravier, however, was moved to rage, not pity.

"Very clever," he said icily. "But it so happens that I own the building, it's heated with city steam, and I shall certainly make a report of this to the proper authorities."

Yost rocked back on his heels. But, as in court, he countered a serious setback with a spirited frontal attack. His brain cells fairly popped.

"Flim-flam!" he cried. "What father calls upon his daughter it this craven hour?"

"I have a room here," said Ravier coldly. "I just got in from Washington. I should have arrived at midnight, but I missed that train."

Yost turned on his best sneer.

"A red herring," he avowed. "Something's rotten in Copenhagen. I, air, am in avid reader of the "Advice to the lovelorn" column. It's on the society pager. I gander the pictures there too. I am well aware that you have four daughters, sir. But, like you, they have blonde hair and blue eyes. Egad! Do you take me for a dunce, a simpleton, a ninny, a childish dolt?"

Yost snapped his fingers in the grand manner and stalked out of the apartment without looking at the financier.

"Right smack in the teeth," he chortled. "J. F., if you were at your best I'll buy an extra poke of Guggengust's for that little oration."

Back to Top

Chapter 4

Cigarette Girl At The Kit Kat Klub

He reeled into the elevator feeling beautiful. He held his lighter to the push buttons, jabbed No. 6 with great care. The cage lowered a floor. Yost opened the doors and stuck his head out.

"Sixth floor!" he bawled. "Ladies' wear. Brassieres, girdles, stepins, black lace nighties, stuff and junk, yuk-yuk, cheerio, and woo-woo."

The girl in the corridor spun around. Her tan trench coat opened. She wore black, patent leather boots that reached just below her rouged knees, black velvet shorts that were just that, a scarlet blouse of some slinky material. The effect of the gaudy hues against her blondeness was enchanting.

Yost fell flat on his face. The girl rushed up and gave him an assist. He got up chortling and cooing and blowing little bubbles.

"A pack of Turkish round ovals!" he cried. "If it isn't Gwendolyn Glay, cigarette girl at the Kit Kat Klub. The honey-blonde heat wave. Bravo! Yip, yip, talley-ho and pip-pip."

She was surprisingly strong. She shook him until he had to clamp his mouth shut to keep his teeth in his face.

"Shut up!" she raged. "I'm in trouble; I'm scared silly. Where's your key?"

Yost gave her the key. She steered him into the foyer, left him teetering there, and returned with a big suitcase. She locked and bolted the door. Taking Yost by the arm, she guided him into the living room. Having partied there, Gwen Glay knew her way around. The next thing he knew she was cleaning the coal dust from his face with an ice cold wash cloth.

"Where have you been?" she demanded. "It's dawn. I saw you get out of the cab. Then I saw Warwick Ravier come to visit his daughter."

"Flim-flam!" Yost protested. "Don't give me that hocus-pocus. His daughters are all horsey blondes."

"Don't be evil minded! Where were you last month? Didn't you read the papers?"

"I was at the capitol having a verbal duel with the Supreme Court," said Yost, a vague uneasiness chilling his brain.

"Rosita is Warwick Ravier's daughter by his first wife, a South American woman. They were divorced when Rosita was two years old. Her mother took her to South America. The mother died a month ago. Rosita came back by plane. The papers were full of the happy reunion after twenty years separation."

"Woe is me," Yost lamented. "Worry, worry, toil and trouble. I have just cut my own throat with my big fat mouth."

"Where have you been?" Gwen asked.

"At a moving picture show," he said morosely.

"At this hour? Don't be absurd. The last show's out at midnight. You weren't at any movie."

"I was too," declared Yost stoutly. "At the South Side Chowder and Marching Society. Unfortunately, the cops got wind of the party, pulled a sneak raid, and snitched the films. I got out through the coal bin, stole a cab, drove through the railroad tunnel, and changed the course of my life by getting off at the wrong floor and flapping my trap."

Back to Top

Chapter 5

Mixed Signals

The blonde went out to the foyer. Yost shoved his hand down in back of the chair cushion and pulled out a pint of Guggengust's which he speedily uncorked and sampled.

Gwen came back with the suitcase which she parked at the end of the long table behind the davenport.

Yost's eyes sparkled.

"Bravo!" he cried. "When comes the trunk, my pretty maid?"

"Whoa, J. F.! You've got your signals mixed. I've got my troubles in the suitcase. Five thousand Cuban lottery tickets."

"I couldn't win if I had five million," he gloomed.

The blonde appraised him critically. The big slug of gin had glazed his eyes and curled his lips puckishly, an indication that he was contemplating a diversion such as throwing eggs at the pictures on the walls — as he'd done at the last party she'd attended.

She took off her coat and sat down on the davenport. Crossing her shapely legs, she fussed with her honeyyellow hair with quick, slim fingers. It was quite a sight. Yost lurched to his feet clapping furiously.

"Bravo!" he bawled. "Bring on the blue spot! Roll the drums! Take it off!"

He brandished the gin bottle overhead.

"Step right up! A prize in every box, gents. Triple whipped, nut-covered, marshmellow fudge. Lookit! Lookit! See what the man in the front row got. Yes, sir. A ten ply tractor tire. Who's next? A prize in each and every box, gents. Two-bits a toss. Yuk-yuk!"

Gwen sat spellbound. Then realizing she'd overdone it, she got up and gave J. Fenimore Yost a gentle push in the face. He sat down with a hearty belch, said, "The defense rests."

"Stay put!" she warned. "I'm going to make coffee."

"Spill your troubles, my little thrush!" Yost suggested. "I'm going into executive conference with myself."

The blonde eyed him doubtfully.

"Well," she finally said, "I've been selling lottery tickets to the sports. They flash me a signal. I give them a cigar that comes in a little cardboard box. The ticket's inside. Tonight a guy asked for his change from a five spot. There isn't any. I knew that he'd given the signal, by accident, maybe. But I gave him his his change and saw a badge on his vest."

"Lackadayt" Yost cried. "You never dealt me in. You know I gamble on anything and everything."

"You smoke cigarettes shipped direct from the factory," Gwen pointed out. "And I always have to circle your table wide because of that long reach of yours."

"Too true," he confessed. "It's the caveman in me, the sly rascal."

"Wolf," she corrected.

"Just junior grade. I used to be a cub wolf."

"I don't know what wolf rank you hold," she said with a watery sigh, "but you sure as hell belong to the Busy Bee Patrol."

Back to Top

Chapter 6

Toil And Trouble

On that note, she marched out to the kitchen and he heard the rattle of pots and pans. Yost had a drink. It occured to him, come what would, he was entertaining one of the fanciest blondes in the city.

"Fiddle-de-dee," he chuckled. "I'll dim the lights, put a soft music platter on the record player, and serve her a turkey sandwich with that two quart beer mug full of champagne."

The happy thought brought him to his feet.

There was a knock at the door. The buzzer whirred. Out in the kitchen Gwen was singing throatily and banging stuff around.

"Toil and trouble," he groaned. "If I am not at home, I am the culprit who filtched the cab at the South Side Chowder and Marching Society. And, or also, and such, it may be the lady from Spain."

There was no time to change to pajamas and a robe. Yet he couldn't go to the door as he was. The black shirt bosom gave mute evidence of his journey over the coal pile even if his ace was clean.

He compromised. Grabbing the neck of the shirt, he gave a savage yank. He was disconcerted when undershirt and vest came off along with it. He glanced down at the pink swell of his bare stomach.

"Quite a pot," he admitted, worming off his shoes and kicking them under the chair. The impression, he hoped, would be that he'd leaped out of bed where he'd been sleeping raw and put on tux coat and pants which had been on the chair next to the bed. He forgot about Gwendolyn Glay.

Yost crawled under the table behind the davenport to hide his clothes there.

The man was face up. He was short and skinny, with a long, sharp nose and thin lips. He wore a shabby blue suit and his face was very dark and discolored.

"Toil and trouble," Yost groaned. "The corpse wore blue. A fine kettle of fish."

He parked his shirt and stuff on the corpse's chest. The knocking had become thunderous and the buzzer was giving out with a steady hum. If the police were after the body, they'd get in if they had to chop the door down.

J. Fenimore Yost went out to the foyer and opened the hall door.

It was quite a delegation. A detective named Ewing, three cops, a lot of newspaper men. The Express_s photographer was there with Speed Graphic and flash attachment. _The Express would have liked to fry J. Fenimore Yost in oil.

Yost retreated to the doorway to the living room and stood blocking it. The men trooped into the foyer.

Ewing smiled evilly, said, "There was a smoker tonight."

"Do tell," said Yost. "I was sitting up with Salvadore."

"Who's Salvadore?" someone asked.

"The parrot I bought from the Spanish sailor," Yost said. "He's got the jim-jams. Ate too many bananas."

Ewing said, "It was at the South Side Chowder and Marching Society."

"Never heard of it," said Yost carelessly.

"Judge Stix looked up the charter and you're listed as president," Ewing said.

The photographer laughed and said, "Stix doesn't like you, J. F. Didn't you try to get him impeached?"

"Almost did," Yost admitted, sweating at every pore. "Got tackled at the goal line."

"So," said Ewing, "here's a pretty paper for you to appear before the judge at eleven."

Back to Top

Chapter 7

A Collector's Item

Yost took it with his left hand and pulled out his handkerchief with his right. He mopped his steaming skull. The photographer's jaw went slack.

"What's that in your pocket?" he asked.

"What pocket?" Yost asked.

The photographer pointed, cried, "It's a cat."

"Oh, that," said Yost matter-of-factly. "Yes, indeedy. A cat. A pussy cat. A tabby cat kitty. The small economy size."

"Why doesn't it move?"

"It's dead," Yost exclaimed. "Dead cats don't move. Perish the thought! Whoever heard of a dead cat moving?"

"Why?" asked the bug-eyed photographer.

"Why what?"

"Why the dead cat?"

Yost lit a cigarette. He needed a drink. A big drink. He needed distance from the spot — about seven thousand miles.

He said, "It's a collector's item?"

Even Ewing's jaw sagged on that. He said, "Collector's item?"

Yost nodded. "A gift from the Spanish sailor."

Yost assumed his most scholarly expression.

"The cat belonged to Queen Cheeka-Bas," he said. "It's over three thousand years old. Hence, therefore, and ipso facto, it's a collector's item. Queen Cheeka-Bas was the wife of Tutnose the sixteenth, although she didn't work hard at it. One day her husband got slightly stewed on that good Egyptian beer, and went for a chariot ride. Coming down the straightaway, he stuck his his head, over the side of the chariot to see if the wheels were on the ground end had the misfortune to stick his noggin through the spokes. The good queen had this cat's life snuffled out, mummified, and buried with her defunct spouse. It's a dwarf cat from the upper Nile. The Spanish sailor came across it in a crap game on a Greek freighter. Fine specimen. I'm going to present it to the museum as soon as I find time to write a fitting speech."

J. Fenimore Yost was just getting wound up.

Back to Top

Chapter 8

The Suitcase Full of Lottery Tickets

Then came the interruption.

Gwendolyn Glay came in from the kitchen in her fetching costume and carrying a tray loaded with a silver coffee service. She took one startled look at the assembly, screamed, tossed the tray over her shoulder, then lost her head completely and made a frantic dive for the suitcase. She knocked it to the floor where it obligingly opened and spewed five thousand lottery tickets across the wine colored carpet.

Yost backstepped for no reason at all. The blonde grabbed his left arm and launched into a fine case of hysterical weeping.

The flashbulb went off with a bedazzling brilliance.

"I'm shot!" Yost bleated.

Ewing cried, "Hey! I see a man's feet."

"A likely tale," Yost scoffed, but betrayed his agitation by hauling out the dead cat and wiping his sweaty face with it. A fresh flashbulb exploded as Gwen yowled and tried to climb up Yost's side as if he were a step ladder.

A reporter said, "A lottery ticket."

"Naturally," Yost said. "The Spanish sailor packed some old, beat-up lottery tickets around the cat when he brought it up in the suitcase. Mumified cats fall apart easily."

"The man hasn't moved," said Ewing morosely. "Not a peep."

"You characters make me sick." Yost said. "Always expecting dead things to move."

There was a startled silence, then a concerted rush into the room.

Yost beat a retreat to the kitchen with Gwendolyn Glay hanging on to his coat tail.

"Don't run out on me!" she warned.

"J. Fenimore Yost flee a honeyblonde beauty? What an insult!" he cried. He took the top off the garbage can and pulled out a pint of Guggenguat's. Gwen sat down at the kitchen table.

"Will they print the pictures?" she asked.

"Time will tell," he mused. "Lackaday and worry, I am slightly baffled as to why a guy should croak under the table."

The blonde beat the table edge with her fists.

"The humilation, the embarrassment," she moaned. "I think my blouse slipped off my shoulder on the second picture. I'll be the laughing stock of the town."

"What'll my upper crust clients think?" Yost demanded.

"You draped around my neck in next to nothing, a stiff under the table, five thousand lottery tickets on the floor. And what am I doing? Wiping my face with the dead cat. Zounds and yoicks! What'd I do with the cat?"

"It's in your pocket," said Gwen, sniffling, her eyes tear brimmed. She snatched the gin from his hands and took a cautious poke.

Yost took the lid off a cookie jar and pulled out another bottle of gin.

"Shoving lottery tickets is a mild rap," he said. "We'll take it to trial. Get a pair of black mesh hose and a formfitting black satin dress. The jury'll hang the judge."

Gwen's blue eyes went stormy.

"Fool!" she snapped, "I'm worried about the guy with the whiskers. What if he finds out I've got a ten room apartment, three mink coats, a Caddy convertible, a cottage on the lake, and a thirty-eight foot cabin cruiser? My reported income for last year was twenty-six hundred."

Yost batted his eyes a few times.

"All that plus a body like Venus and a face like Helen of Troy's," he said, sighing. "Ah, sweet mystery of life. Have you ever considered marriage, my dear."

"No," her voice flat. "I'm doing all right."

"You could support a husband in fine style," Yost pointed out, then shrugged. "Ah, well and avast, it comes to me that I have a small share of trouble shoved off on me. I can prove that I didn't murder the character in the front room. But how? By simple facts. I arranged the stag party with the tasty art movies; I stole the cab and drove through the railroad tunnel. I grossly insulted the next to richest guy in the world. I, me, myself, and J. Fenimore Yost did these dastardly things. Alas and alack, I just thought of something else."

"What?" asked Gwen anxiously.

"I heard a funny noise in the tunnel. I think the taxi threw a switch. What if there's a train wreck? I can't blame everything on the Spanish sailor."

The blonde bedazzled him with a smile and said, "That was sweet of you, J.F."

"What?"

"To say that the Spanish sailor brought you the lottery tickets. I love you for it."

Back to Top

Chapter 9

It's Cyanide Poisoning

Yost was touched, overwhelmed.

He bowed low, had to flap his arms to get erect.

"Chivalry lives on as long as J. Fenimore Yost sucks air. Ah, you remind me of the sweet lady the orphanage farmed me out to at the age of eleven. Such sweet innocence, such courage, such fortitude. Such verve, such grace, such regal beauty. A good cook, too."

Yost's eyes spilled over and he began to blubber. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the dead cat. He was about to blow his nose on it when Gwen screeched a warning. He dropped it into the cookie jar and replaced the lid.

Gwendolyn Glay went coy with a pucker and a pout.

"You won't let anything happen to poor little itsybitsy me, will you, J.F.?" She smiled redly, crossed her lovely legs, and riffled her yellow hair.

Yost sat down at the other end of the table from her.

"You underrate yourself slightly," he observed. "This lottery rap has a few vicious angles. I'm afraid there'll be a few items of expense such as … "

Gwens' eyes went frosty.

"How much are you going to sting me? I know you, and … "

She shut up abruptly as Detective Ewing came into the kitchen. He said, "The medical examiner thinks it's cyanide poisoning."

"Could have told you myself," Yost said. "Typical facial discoloration. I used to eat my lunches at the morgue when I was a reporter working my way through law school. A nice hangout. Quiet, air-conditioned, and the employees play a fancy brand of pinochle."

Ewing said, "Sergeant-Detective Baylor, who'd be a lieutenant if it weren't for you, is in charge of the case."

"Fate," Yost gloomed. "Kismet, so to speak. Once again destiny has tossed me snake eyes."

"Baylor has a theory," Ewing said.

Yost nodded. "The corpse grabbed my shirt and tore it off just as he dropped dead."

Ewing gulped, blinked, rubbed the back of his neck. "How — "

"That presupposes and stuff," said Yost, "that my glands are chockful of cyanide venom. Fie! Do I look like a spitting cobra? Or do I deal out the kiss of death? It's plain to be seen that in the act of robbery, the culprit snitched a piece of cheese and bit the dust."

"What's that got to do with it?" asked the slaphappy Ewing.

"The cheese was loaded with rat poison. I left it here on the kitchen table while I went in to console Salvadore because of his jim-jam bellyache."

Ewing looked worried. He said, "I guess maybe we better call the district. attorney."

"He's against me," Yost cried. "I've taken him ten cases in a row. And he comes up for reelection next year."

"We call the D.A.," said Ewing firmly.

"I demand the presence of the police commissioner," Yost said. "He's nonpolitical, full of civic pride, independently rich, honest, and a defender of justice. Beside, we're fellow lodge brothers."

"I'll call Commissioner Brownell," Ewing agreed, went out vaguely troubled and not liking involvement in a case with a legal shark of Yost's calibre.

"Hum," Yost mused. "The South Side Chowder and Marching Society swings a lot of votes. Mayhap the D.A. will see that the cops misplace those films. I'll square the cabby with a century note. Warwick Ravier presents a pretty problem. But first, foremost, and heading the list, I must block these vicious attempts to wrap me up in a murder charge."

The blonde said, "Could you think better if I got some breakfast?"

Yost took a big drink of gin.

"Open a can of cold saurkraut," he suggested. "Tones up the system, if you can keep it down."

Back to Top

Chapter 10

The Lady From Spain And Two Of The King's Chevaliers

The little lawyer was facing the dining room doorway. A delegation of three loomed there. Yost's eyebrows went up. Gwen turned around and, vastly impressed, turned on her best smile — the one that dimpled her cheeks.

Rosita Ravier led the way, dark and sultry in a pale green dress. Max Manners trailed her, his face dead pan. In rear, grim and angry and frosty-eyed, stalked Warwick Ravier.

The conclusion was obvious: Ravier had awakened his daughter, Rosita had blabbed, Max Manners had been called in for a showdown.

Yost lurched to his feet, clapped hands violently. The gin sailed up to his brain, frying it gently and turning his eyes to glass.

"Yuk-yuk, talley-ho, and pip-pip!" he chortled. "The lady from Spain and two of the king's chevaliers. Knighthood rides rampant. Chivalry shivers. I raise my visor and doff my helmet, gracious lady."

He grabbed his bald skull, was chagrined that there was no helmet there. In lieu of it, he snatched up the gin bottle, made as if taking it from his head, brought it around in a wide arc and rested it against his left shoulder. They watched spellbound.

Yost bent fast from the waist in a courtly, old-world bow. Too late he saw the white table top leaping up at him. His face connected with it and they shuddered at the squashy splat of his flattening nose. Six armored divisions thundered through his skull firing tracer bullets from big guns and making a terrific din.

The two women screamed in unison. The cops came in fast.

Yost's ears filled with a raucous din. He worked his Adam's-apple and felt the pleasant scald of Guggengust's Best Gin course down his throat. He cracked an eye open. They had him on the red leather davenport in the den. Hot sunlight slanted through the Venetian blinds. His nose felt bigger than his head. Yost sat up.

The parrot swung crazily in his cage yelling bloody-murder.

"Shut up!" Yost bawled. The parrot stopped yelling. Yost fingered his nose. It was all over his face.

"Halp!" he bleated. "Halp!"

He heard Gwen say, "The medical examiner stuffed your nose with cotton."

"Feels like steel wool," he said. The room came into a bleary sort of focus — like looking through a frosted window pane. The district attorney, Police Commissioner Brownell, the Raviers, Max Manners, Ewing and Baylor. Gwendolyn Glay had her coat on. He tsk-tsked in disgust at the sight of her.

"The Express is out with both of those horrible pictures right on the front page," said Gwen tearfully.

"Hip-hip and hurray!" Yost cried. "Rushed to print without consulting their attorney. I've got the slobs over a barrel."

"They ran off a few hundred, killed the pictures, and are around picking up the newsstands copies" said the district attorney uneasily. The Express was on his side of the political fence.

"Fie! Jess, the crippled newsboy I set up in a stand at Sixth and Main will have a few copies."

Gwen said, "I told them the lottery tickets are yours."

"A gift from the Spanish sailor," avowed Yost. "Possession is not illegal, only the selling, hawking, and merchandising thereof. And I defy the law to make anything of it."

The district attorney wasn't even interested.

"Who's got the bottle?" Yost asked. "I feel faint. A slight giddiness hither and yon. I'm thirsty, too."

He looked around. They were all sullen and frustrated. He sighed, slipped his hand under the davenport cushion and pulled out a fresh pint. They watched him uncork it with the speed of a magician, take a big drink.

Back to Top

Chapter 11

The Rat Poison Angle

Commissioner Brownell said, "The man was Shirty Verne. A sneak thief with a long record of breaking and entering."

"The rat poison angle looks good to me," said the D.A.

"Pure flim-flam," Yost avowed. "A mere fabrication on my part to get out of a tight corner."

The phone rang. Baylor started toward it.

"Avast!" cried Yost, staggering to his feet "It's a call from the secret police on the subject at hand."

He did a snake dance over to the desk and picked up the phone.

"J. Fenimore Yost," he bawled, "barrister, lawyer, and attorney at large, owner of the Clancy Street Bowling Alleys, and all-round good fellow."

A timid voice said, "Mister Yost, I'm Jake Hanning. I saw the pictures in the paper and read about the lottery tickets. I got one at the Kit Kat Klub. It was in a little cigar box. I figure the cigar wrapper down in Cuba lost it out of his shirt pocket or something."

"Marvelous logic," said Yost, phrased his question cannily. "What is the nature of your duties, sir?"

"You mean, what do I work at?"

"Precisely, sir."

"Oh, I'm a meter reader for the as company. I was wondering where could find the winning numbers in this lottery."

"Call at my office this afternoon," said Yost, hung up looking solemn. His brain spun. Meter readers wore badges, Gwen Glay's guilty conscience had merely done her dirt. He looked at the blonde, shrugged woefully. He saw her lovely face go pale.

The D.A. said, "What was that crack about the rat poison?"

"Never use it," Yost said. "I hunt the beasts with a baseball bat. So, ipso facto and junk, Shifty Verne was a suicide or he was murdered."

The district attorney leaped to his feet.

"It was an accident," he yelled. "You know I've got two unsolved murders and the opposition papers are riding me."

Yost took a short drink. "Boost your stock if you were to solve a murder practically before the public got wise to it," he mused. "Indeed it would, I think."

The D.A. took the little lawyer by the arm and led him into a far corner of the room. "If it's murder," he said, "And you can tie it up, what's it going to cost me?"

"Three reels of films," said Yost.

"Stix would be furious," said the district attorney.

"The old goat isn't coming up for election," Yost pointed out. "And, my dear chap, the reels might turn out to be Mickey Mouses when you run them for the judge."

The D.A. said, "I'd be in a spot if the word got out that I sprung you from a jam and you turned around and sued my supporting paper."

"Bet your father was a horse trader, you sly rascal," Yost said. "Those films are coming very high. But I, me, myself and J. Fenimore Yost do agree not to sue The Express for libel."

The D.A. nodded. Yost was a rumpot, a gambler, an avid womanchaser, but his word was as good as twenty-four carat gold.

He said, "You'll get the reels this afternoon if you prove this is murder and wrap it up neat."

Back to Top

Chapter 12

Special Beverages

Yost staggered back to the center of the room and jabbed a finger at Warwick Ravier.

"You, sir!" he thundered. "Do you keep any special beverages In your daughter's apartment ?"

"Yes," Ravier snapped. "Napoleonic Brandy. So what?"

"Fie, foop, and fiddle, my good man," Yost said. "You are a very lucky individual, thanks to missing that certain train."

"What nonsense are you talking about?" Ravier demanded.

Yost took a drag of Guggengust's.

"Why, sir," he said. "Had you arrived at midnight, you would have rushed upstairs, had a snort of brandy, then tossed a convulsion on the floor and have ended up as dead as a coffin nail."

There was a long, tense silence. Yost took a drink, beamed.

"You're mad," Ravier gasped.

"Like the fox is," Yost agreed. "Unwittingly I have been holding back evidence. It's in a cookie jar in yon kitchen."

"The cat!" Ewing croaked.

Yost pointed his right index finger ceilingward, thundered in the beat tradition of Daniel Webster, "After twenty years separation, you would have done well to investigate the credentials of your daughter, sir. She is, in the parlance of the race track, a ringer, a phony, an imposter, an impersonator. Your death would have netted she and Max Manners a tidy s«m, an offspring in this state entitled to a proportionate share of the estate regardless of the terms of the will."

The last item brought an agreeing nod from the bug-eyed D.A.

Max Manners clawed his midrift. He came up with a .38 automatic. He snapped a shot at Yost just as the little lawyer was taking a drink. Yost heard the thunder of the report, saw the blast of flame, felt the bullet fan his cheek.

"I'm killed!" he yipped. He heard another, louder report. Then he fainted gracefully away, sinking down on rubbery knees, but his right hand clutched the pint of Guggengust's Best Gin to his flat chest.

Once again the acid bite of Guggengust's brought him around. He was on the floor. Gwen was bending over him. She was down to boots, panties, and blouse again. It was wonderful.

"Yoicks and yuk-yuk," Yost chortled, sitting up groggily. "Bless my soul, knee dimples. Bravo! Bravo! Hand me down my walking cane! Lackaday, alas and stuff. If you would only give me the shirt off your back! Hoy, hoy!"

Brownell and Ewing got Yost off the floor and seated at his desk. Ravier stood in the center of the room like a man in a trance. The others had gone.

"You owe me a coat," said Gwen icily. "I held your head in my lap and you got sick."

"Nervous shock," said Yost lightly. "Happens every time I get shot at."

Brownell said, "Manners is dead. The medical examiner gave an off-the-cuff opinion that cyanide killed the cat. It's at the lab."

"Cyanide's used commercially a lot," said Yost. "Electro-plating, heattreating, gilding, and photography. Some silver polishes are loaded with the wicked stuff."

Said Ravier dully, "It makes sense now. Rosita pretended not to care for her stepmother and half sisters. I humored her. I gave her the apartment. It served as a hideaway for me."

"Did she blab?" Yost asked, turning to Commissioner Brownell.

"Yes. She's a Mexican-American. Manners had met the real Rosita in South America. When he saw this girl in California the striking resemblance gave him the idea. They flew down to South America. Luck was with them when the first Mrs. Ravier died. Then there was an auto wreck. A quick switch of identity, and the victim became a Hollywood extra named Maria Morales."

Yost belched. "Good actors, both of them," he admitted. "I barged in. Manners had to have a reason for being there. They dreamed up a fake gambling debt to make them appear to be enemies, not partners in crime."

Asked Ewing respectfully, "How do you case it, J.F.?"

Back to Top

Chapter 13

"Ravier due back at by midnight. They poisoned the brandy and established an alibi for the approximate time of death. They came back and were horrified to see that a sneak thief had crossed them up. I should have asked Manners how he knew my apartment was a floor below when I barged in. He knew because they'd salted the body here."

"Why?" asked Brownell.

"They had to put him some place," Yost said. "I guess they figured I'd move the body again. They'd have me over a barrel if their plans backfired and they'd blackmail me into defending them."

Gwen said, "When was all this? I was up here at three-thirty."

"I figure between one and two," said Yost. "Unknown to them, the kitty walked in and sampled the spittle Shifty Verne had left on the floor. I walked off with it. I saw the facial discoloration of the body under the table. Typical of cyanide. When I wiped my face with the pussy cat I detected the aroma like that of the inside of a peach pit. Also typical of cyanide. Ipso facto, and junk, man and kitty died at the same place. Not here, because I knew that I had no cyanide around."

The phone rang. Yost scooped it up. It was his hatchet-faced spinster secretary.

"There's a cabby here," she said, "who says something's worth fifty bucks and you know what."

"Give him a hundred," Yost cried.

"I've got twenty copies of The Express. Jess brought them."

"Bravo! Bravo!" Yost yelled, hung up, explained largely, "Brisk trading on the stock market this morning."

Brownell said, "The exchange is closed today. A holiday."

Yost didn't bat an eye.

"Shanghai," he said, "the Foo-Fang Tea and Poppy Seed Company. It's tomorrow over there, or yesterday. Depends if you go East or West, and how fast."

Brownell sighed, admitted, "How do you do it?"

Ravier stuck out his hand.

"I'll phone your secretary for an appointment," he said. "I can use a competent lawyer to handle a large real estate transaction on a commission basis."

Ewing and Brownell held Yost up while he shook bands. Then he and Gwendolyn Glay were alone with the desk between them.

"How much?" she demanded.

"You're flashing too many assets," said Yost, then laughed gleefully. "Ho-ha! Get it? That's a joke, son. Too many … ."

"I get it," she said sourly. "How much?"

"One mink coat and the cabin cruiser," said Yost. "I ran my sloop up on a reef last week. We'll transfer the property here and now. Your reported income is as stated." The little lawyer got out paper and pen, wrote industriously.

"How about the Caddy and other stuff?"

"From a boy friend," Yost said.

"The goofball was nuts about you."

"They'll question him," she protested.

"Question Max Manners? How? Here, sign both papers. One's a tentative transfer. The other is authority for me to sue The Express for libel in your name."

"How much do you get?"

"Sixty per cent," he said. "We'll sue for fifty grand."

"It's an outrage!" Gwen avowed.

"We play it cagey," Yost explained. "Just you sue. I have grounds for criminal libel, too, but if I agree not to sue, they'll come to terms quick. If we both sue, they fight us for years."

The blonde signed, said, "You're really a legal wizard, J.F."

"I love you too," Yost cried. He toasted his mental prowess with a lusty drink, staggered to his feet with eyes bright and lips pursed puckishly.

"Stay 'way!" Gwen warned. "Stay 'way!" She looked around for something with which to cover the charms displayed by her scanty costume.

"Yoicks! Yoicksl" Yost yipped. "Wheel out my coal black charger! Sharpen my spurs and hone my sword! Knighthood is in flower. Chivalry takes the high road. I'm off to save a milk-white maiden from the wicked dragon. Sir Fenimore rides again."

The janitor and an ice man found him in the stair well between the first and second floor where his coal black charger threw him for a loss. Yost was sleeping.

The ice man said, "Did you get a load of the blonde honey running across the lobby? What was she hiding her face in?"

"It adds," said the janitor. "Him here, her scramming. That was the cover to Salvadore's bird cage."

"He's sure got a head lock on that gin bottle."

"This here is J. Fenimore Yost," avowed the janitor with pride.

~ The End ~

Back to Top


Since you liked Lady From Spain, you'll love this MYSTERY novelette.

Download it FREE (normally $2.99) in ePub & Kindle formats

Blueberry Pie, by Thrya Samter Winslow

Blueberry Pie
By Thrya Samter Winslow
(56 min read)

The Black Mask | Aug. 1922 | Vol. 5 No. 5

The story about the execution of Stuart Dennison shook Irma as she recalled her old life back in New York. Before she was Irma Martin. When she was Mrs. Stuart Dennison.


* gain access to all 32 novelettes when you download BLUEBERRY PIE today

X

Your email address is secure and will only be used to communicate with you from this site. Your data will NEVER be sold, traded, or given away.