This love business, Lt. Jim Dink of Homicide decided, had gone a bit too far. The crushed body on the pavement beside the Mardott Hotel was the fifth death for love in a month. Dink stepped away from the crowd on the lawn and looked upward, eight stories where drapes flapped out of an open window.
Instinctively his bulging green eyes traced the fall of the body, down before the height of brick and windows to the thin width of the walk that bordered the green lawn. Dink's wide lips shifted the frayed cigar to the other corner of his mouth. Beyond the police line, the curious crowd craned and gaped. Traffic on the boulevard that bordered Fall Creek was tied up in knots. There sounded the far-off wail of the ambulance.
One of the detectives had already given Dink a brief resume of what was found. This fellow, Werner, had typed a farewell note to his sweetheart and had deliberately walked out into thin air. It could happen, of course, had happened four times before. Dink wondered if Dan Cupid could be subpoenaed for murder.
Lieutenant Dink wished profanely that guys would take their loving or leave it, instead of taking nose-dives out windows because of some frail with a come-hither look. He pushed his soft hat back on his thinning hair and the tops of his big ears folded slightly under the brim. He bit down savagely on the cigar and walked away from the men around the body.
The drive of the Mardott Hotel arched in from the street between aloof potted plants and there was an aloof arch over the doorway. The uniformed doorman looked a little frightened. He saluted Dink.
"He's dead, sir?" he asked,
Dink stared up at the man. His own scant five feet made him seem a dwarf beside the tall expanse of uniform and braid. Dink noted sourly that the doorman was a handsome young fellow.
"Are you in love?" he asked abruptly,
The man looked startled and confused, "Why, yes, sir."
Dink pulled at one of his big ears. "Ever been jilted?"
The man grinned wryly, "Yes, sir. Several times."
Dink nodded and shifted the cigar again. "Did you ever want to end it all because some dame did you wrong?"
The doorman stared hard at the detective. He slowly-shook his head, "Not quite, sir. I've felt like hell sometimes, but never that bad."
Dink took the cigar out of his mouth and examined the frayed end. He decided it was good for a few more minutes. He looked hard at the doorman, "Take it easy, son. The love-bug's pretty deadly around here."
He pushed around the man and through the doors. The rich lobby was filled with an awed and frightened crowd. The manager was having a hard time explaining why such things happened at the Mardott. He saw Dink and came hustling over. His moon face was worried.
"Can't your men finish up quickly out there, officer?"
Dink's thick lips pursed. "Maybe. We must have pictures."
The fat hands fluttered in horror.
"I don't know why it should happen here! This is an apartment hotel with a fine and distinguished name. It will be hard on us."
Dink's green eyes glittered. "It was pretty hard on Werner, But you wouldn't know, would you?''
The manager showed a fleeting look of contriteness. "Of course it is very sad, officer. But it is also a shock to my guests. After all, I must think of them."
Dink nodded. "They're having the time of their lives, Jacobs. Nothing like a good suicide or murder to awaken a sluggish liver. I'll want to see you later."
He walked quickly to the elevator and the girl closed the ornate doors. The elevator started upward at a dignified pace. Dink leaned back against the wall and decided he liked what little of the girl's legs he could see below the conservative uniform. She had neat ankles and was pretty. Dink asked, "Did you know Mr. Werner?"
She nodded and kept her face turned, her eyes on the light panel. It wasn't very busy. "Yes, sir." Dink scratched his lean jaw. "A nice guy?"
"Oh, yes, sir!" she said abruptly and Dink saw the red flush at the back of her neck. "That is, he was quite a gentleman, sir, and very considerate."
Dink saw that they were passing the sixth floor. He pulled himself away from the wall. "I bet he was nice to you."
He caught a quick glance of brown eyes. He felt suddenly sorry for the girl. She was frightened. "Don't mind me," he growled.
"Thank you, sir." The doors slid open and Dink faced the hall that led to Werner's apartment. He could see the uniformed policeman before the door. He grinned into the girl's worried face and walked down the hall.
Prentice and Hall, from Dink's department, were looking things over. Prentice had the closet door open and was checking Werner's collection of suits. Hall had an open briefcase on a spindleleg table and was going through the papers.
He grinned up at Dink, "This guy did all right. Lieutenant. He lived in style."
Dink nodded and walked to the open window. He looked down at the little figures far below. The ambulance was just rounding the corner. Dink turned back to the room and walked over to a desk against the far wall. Its top was open and a portable typewriter glistened in the light. There was a sheet of paper in the roller.
Dink bent down and read the typing. The letterhead was engraved, announcing that Jefferson Werner sold preferred lists of bonds and securities. The message below was brief.
"I cannot live without you, Mary. Life has meant so much that it is blank and drear after you said all was over between us. I feel this is the only way out."
There was no signature, typed or written. Dink studied the note. The whole thing followed the usual pattern, still the note didn't ring quite true. He turned to Prentice, who had come out of the closet.
"Any idea who Mary is?" he asked. Prentice shook his head and pointed to a dresser near the bed. There's some frail's things over there that we found tucked around."
Dink pushed away from the desk, giving the note a second irritable look. He took off his hat and threw it on the bed. His baldness became immediately apparent and his ears looked bigger. His face was thin and bony, the nose large and predatory. His green eyes bulged slightly in the sockets and he always looked to be on the verge of an angry outburst. His lips were too wide for the face, and too thick. They always held an evil, frayed cigar.
He picked up a vanity case. It had a wing design with a lipstick container built into the top. Dink turned it over and read the manufacturer's name. It could have been purchased in a hundred places in the city. There was a brown bobby pin. There was a little square of white linen that had no laundry mark.
Dink held it to his hawk nose and sniffed. It faintly suggested face powder and nothing more. His green eyes glittered when he looked at the little .22-caliber revolver pushed back against a pair of military brushes. He turned to Prentice.
"The lady didn't like him or didn't trust him. Maybe Werner was a heel."
The detective grinned. "Sure. She fought for her honor and Werner got discouraged. He did a Brody."
Dink stood back and looked at the collection.
"Maybe you got something." He pulled at one of his big ears. "Prentice, there's a cute little dame on the elevator. Bring her in." The detective straightened. "Her! You mean this guy played around with the help?"
"How the hell do I know?" Dink growled and Prentice left the room. Dink stood by the open window again. He took out the frayed cigar, inspected its end. He sighed and threw the remains into a wastebasket. His bony fingers pulled out another and he thoughtfully chewed off the end.
He turned slowly, his eyes going over the room. Near the door, one edge of the rug was turned up and there was a big wrinkle in the fabric. A low table stood before two easy chairs. Powder made a peculiar pattern that caught Dink's attention.
He took his handkerchief and lifted the wing compact on the dresser. He crossed to the table and carefully lowered the metal box. The powder line on the table exactly framed the edge of the compact.
Hall looked up from the briefcase.
"Got something, Lieutenant?"
"Where did you find the compact and gun?" Dink asked.
Hall pointed to one of the chairs.
"The compact was down behind the cushion. The gun was over there on the dresser."
Dink nodded. "The handkerchief?"
"Right where it was, on the dresser."
The door opened and a fat detective, Donegan, filled the frame. f We're through down below. Say, this guy Werner didn't register for elective Service. Anyway, we can't find his card."
Dink's thin brows raised. Prentice looked over Donegan's shoulder.
"I got the girl here. Lieutenant."
Dink ordered the others out of the room. The girl was clearly frightened and nervous and Dink tried to make her comfortable in one of the chairs. She kept looking around the room and her hands wouldn't stay still in her lap.
Dink lit his cigar. It glowed a few seconds and then went out. He didn't notice. His bulging eyes watched the girl. She sat stiff in the chair. He saw that she had brown hair and that probably she used the same shade of bobby pin that he had found. He was satisfied to chew on the dead cigar and stare. The girl looked around the room, her eyes rested on the open window and skittered away. She twisted her fingers.
Finally she looked up, her forehead lined. "I can't tell you anything."
"Maybe, maybe not. Did you bring anyone up to see Mr. Werner today?"
"I don't know." She explained hastily when his thin eyebrow arched. "I've brought several to this floor, but Mr. Werner's wasn't the only apartment."
She hesitated noticeably. "Yes, three. One of them was Mrs. Morton, down the hall, I didn't know the other two."
Dink shifted the cigar. "Both of them young? Pretty?"
She dropped her eyes to her fingers, "One of them, yes. The other was about forty-five." She looked up and added quickly, "I don't know where they went."
Dink smiled. He shouldn't have done it. He looked like an inebriated gargoyle.
"What's your name?"
Dink seemed to go into a conference with the end of his cigar, considering it closely. He popped it back in his mouth.
"Did you come in here today?"
The girl's hands gripped the chair arms and there was strain in her face. She stared at him and Dink fixed her with his bulging green eyes. She licked her lips, then seemed to collapse back in the chair.
"Yes," she said in a choked, low voice. "I came just before I reported on duty." She jumped from the chair and her voice trembled in fear. "But he was all right then! I didn't have anything to do with this."
Dick managed to get her back in the chair, "You're not accused of anything. Miss Garson. What did you discuss?"
She had control of herself.
"I'll be fired for this. We are not supposed to become intimate with the guests."
Dink touched her arm reassuringly. "I don't think this will get to the estimable Mr. Jacobs. Let's have it now."
"Mr. Werner had taken me out several times. He was a nice and thoughtful man. We — that is, I thought a lot of him. We were to go to the Sapphire Room tonight. That's what we were talking about."
Dink picked up the compact in his handkerchief and held it before her, "Is this yours?"
She stared at it and shook her head. Dink replaced the box and shifted his cigar. He patted her arm twice. "That's all. Miss Garson. This won't get any further and you needn't worry about your job. Just give the officer in the hall your name and address. Don't move unless you inform the police, and don't try to leave town."
She arose uncertainly from her chair, dabbing at her eyes with a cheap handkerchief. Then she pushed back her slim shoulders, gave Dink a half smile, and walked from the room. Dink jerked his head at Donegan.
The big man came in, closing the door. Dink scowled at the compact.
"Well, here we go again, Donegan. This is murder. No guy with a date with a girl like Miss Garson is going to jump out of a window."
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Dink prowled around the room for a time after the girl had gone. He chewed hard on the cigar and stared blankly at the typewriter and the suicide note. Donegan had eased his bulk into one of the chairs and he followed Dink with his little blue eyes. Dink walked to the open window, stared across the Boulevard to a mortuary mansion and a sprawling tavern.
He pulled the cigar from his lips.
"Who lives across the hall?"
Donegan fished a battered notebook from his pocket and leafed over some pages.
"Porter Stanfield, registered from New York."
Dink drummed on the window sill a second, then turned.
"Stay put. I'm going to call on Mr. Stanfield."
He crossed the hall and pressed the pearl gray button in the white doorframe. The door opened almost instantly. A stocky man with wide shoulders and a square-cut face looked inquiringly at Dink.
Dink showed his badge.
"I'd like to ask a few questions, Mr. Stanfield."
Stanfield's hard gray eyes looked blank.
"I'm afraid I won't be much help."
"You never can tell. You're Werner's nearest neighbor and you might have seen something important."
Stanfield shrugged and stepped back. Dink walked into his apartment. It was a duplicate of Werner's except that the windows opened on a court. Stanfield waved to a chair near one of the windows and Dink sat down. He looked around.
Porter Stanfield walked to a table leaded with bottles and glasses.
Dink looked longingly at the bottles and sadly shook his head.
"No. thanks. I'm always a heel when I drink."
Stanfield looked surprised, then grinned. His square face lost its hardness and he looked almost youthful despite the touch of gray hairs at his ears. Dink had a favorable impression of the man. He was dressed in a dark suit that clearly spoke of money. The small diamond on his finger flashed a cold blue fire.
Dink rolled his cigar around in his thick lips.
"You've been a guest here for some time?"
Stanfield poured a drink and nodded. He sank down in a chair.
"Yes. about three months. My firm obtains defense contracts for manufacturing plants."
Dink nodded, "Have you ever seen the man across the hall?"
Stanfield nursed the whiskey.
"Several times, but only casually. A matter of nodding when we entered the elevator together."
Dink looked out the window at the expanse of brick and glass across the court.
"You've been here most of the day?"
"All day. I'm waiting tor a couple of deals to come to a boil and I wanted to be close to a phone."
Dink leaned forward. "Did you notice if Mr. Werner had any visitors?"
Stanfield looked up quickly. He tossed down the drink.
"I really can't be definite, Lieutenant. I did see one girl leave the elevators and ring his bell. There may have been others, of course."
Dink examined the frayed cigar. "Did she have brown hair and eyes?" Stanfield shook his head. "No, she was one of those blonde dames that belongs in a magazine."
The bulging green eyes gleamed and Dink pulled at the lobe of his ear. Stanfield seemed fascinated by their size. "You'll be in town for a while, Mr. Stanfield?"
The man shrugged. "Not too long, I hope. A week, maybe two, until these deals are finished."
Dink arose. "We might need you later on, Mr. Stanfield. You might be able to help us identify this blonde, if she's of any importance."
Stanfield looked puzzled and scratched his jaw.
"I heard rumors that Werner had committed suicide. You don't talk that way."
Dink shrugged and grinned. "A copper was born suspicious, Mr. Stanfield. We'll tell the papers suicide and maybe we'll come around to making that official."
Stanfield arose and escorted Dink to the door.
"If I can help in any way, Lieutenant, let me know."
Dink nodded. "Thanks a lot. You might begin by letting us know when you decide to move."
He waved his thin hand and crossed the hall to Werner's apartment. Donegan was still in the chair. He had found a bottle of scotch and looked happy. Dink raised an eyebrow.
"You're pretty careless, Donegan. Maybe someone poisoned that stuff." Donegan choked and looked unhappy. He replaced the glass on the coffee table and sat quietly as though waiting for some inner disturbance. He seemed to feel better after a few minutes. "What did you find out?" he asked.
Dink looked down out of the window. The body was gone and traffic was again moving up and down the Boulevard. There was still a small knot of curiosity seekers at the far corner but they wouldn't be there long.
Dink's fingers played a tattoo on the wall. "Stanfield doesn't know much. He gave us one lead, though. This Mary is a blonde and a swell looker. Now all we got to do is find her full name and where she lives."
Donegan reached out a hand for the whiskey glass, thought better of it and sank back in the chair. "Maybe Werner was playing her for a stock deal."
Dink turned. "Could be. Let's see if we can get a line on his customers."
He crossed to the table where the briefcase and papers lay. There were a few letters, a list of prospects with their addresses, booklets describing the strength of the stocks Werner had to sell.
It didn't take Dink long to discover that none of the names on letters or lists were Mary. He leaned back, discouraged. Donegan held up a letter.
"This guy Werner hit them all," he said wonderingly. "Here's that hot-shot writer in town, Stanley Crandall."
Dink made a wry face. Crandall wrote passionate love novels and made himself a nuisance at the better bars. Dink took the letter and looked it over. It confirmed an appointment for a day or two before. It was signed with Crandall's flourished scrawl. Dink was about to throw it back on the table when he caught the typist's initials — M.T.
He threw his cigar away and fished for another, his eyes grew thoughtful, "I wonder if Crandall has a secretary named Mary. It might pay for us to take a look." Donegan scowled and sighed, "More travelling around! I wish there was a case where a guy could just sit right still and get all the answers."
Dink snorted. "Haven't you any ambition? How do you want to earn your money?"
Donegan pulled his bulk from the chair. "The easiest way, and I'm tired already."
The Garson girl gave Dink an appealing look as they went down in the elevator but he said nothing to her. Dink left the fat detective in the lobby while he hunted up the manager. He found Jacobs in his office, slumped disconsolately behind his big desk, Jacobs pouted his lips distastefully when Dink came in.
"It should happen to the Mardott,'' he complained, "Police all over the place."
Dink dropped in a chair. "You worry too much, friend."
Jacobs shrugged his fat shoulders. "I'd worry less if you were out of my sight."
"You haven't the right attitude, Jacobs. You're not used to excitement and mystery."
"I don't want to be. They hurt business."
Dink sighed, "No appreciation for adventure, Jacobs, You'll probably have the misfortune to die very wealthy."
Jacobs sputtered a moment, then his eyes narrowed a the policeman, "What do you want now?"
"For the peace of the Mardott, I can report that the body has been taken away, all of the police are gone but myself and two detectives. I want the keys to Werner's suite. Then we can lock everything up nice and tight and there won't be any police at all — except now and then."
Jacobs looked puzzled.
"Why lock it, Lieutenant? I had thought to straighten it up and rent it again."
Dink pulled the cellophane from a cigar.
"Not right away, friend Jacobs." He grinned at the staring man. "You see, Werner did not kill himself."
Jacobs looked shocked.
"But he jumped — " He stopped, staring as Dink shook his head. The man licked his lips.
"You mean he was — "
"Murdered," Dink agreed affably.
Jacobs sighed, "Oh, my God!" and sank back in his chair.
Dink lit his cigar.
"Naturally, we won't want anyone messing around that suite for a while, so we'll have to lock it up for a day or two at least. By the way, Jacobs, did Werner have many callers?"
Jacobs stared horror-stricken, then visibly pulled himself together. He shuddered. "Suicide is bad enough and now you say murder. What the papers will do with that! My guests will all leave."
Dink shook his head and pulled at his big ear. "Not if you play ball with me, Jacobs. I haven't said a word to the papers about homicide. I won't, unless I have a lot of trouble."
Jacobs licked his lips. "I'll help you all I can." he said fervently.
Dink crossed his thin legs.
"Now about Werner's visitors. Did he have many?"
"I don't know. I seldom pay full attention to any one guest, Lieutenant. But the desk clerk should know. I'll call him."
He flipped the key on a desk box and spoke into it. He settled back in his chair to wait, his face showing his dismay and worry. Dink worked hard at chewing his cigar and was well along when the sleek young man came in.
He answered readily enough. "Mr. Werner had quite a few callers and he was constantly coming and going himself. He seemed to be a very busy man."
Dink brightened. "How about women?"
The clerk hesitated but Jacobs gave him a sign to go ahead with what he knew. The man cleared his throat. "I'm afraid there were some. Mr. Werner was not always discreet in that respect. However, he was very quiet and the desk could have no complaint. After all, our guests' rooms are their castles so long as they do not disturb anyone else."
"How about a blonde? A particularly beautiful blonde?"
The clerk's eyebrows raised. "Yes, there was such a person. She was here several times. She was so striking that I particularly noticed her, begging your pardon, Mr. Jacobs. Her name was Mary Taggart."
Dink gave the man a hard stare with his hypnotic green eyes.
"How did you know her name?"
The man blushed.
"She was striking, sir, and once there was a telephone call while she was in Mr. Werner's rooms."
Dink's eyes narrowed. "Did the caller happen to be Stanley Crandall?"
The clerk looked astounded.
"How did you know, sir?"
Dink grinned and waved the question aside. He turned to Jacobs.
"You've been a big help. Now if you'll lock that suite, we'll leave you alone for awhile."
Jacobs gave orders to the clerk and Dink left the office with the man. Donegan waited in a big leather chair near the elevators. Dink ordered the clerk to give the key to the officer on guard upstairs.
He turned to Donegan.
"Rise and shine, Fatso. We're going to call on the world's great lover."
Donegan looked surprised. "Who?"
Donegan's face fell.
"That lily! I'd like to give him a poke."
Dink grinned and turned toward the doors.
"Who knows what the day may bring, Donegan? Now if you're really a good boy — "
"Agh, cut it out!" Donegan growled. "I got prowl car around the corner."
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Donegan filled all the space behind the wheel and Dink was crowded against the door. The way led northward, up broad Meridian Street where aloof apartment houses and many-gabled mansions stared haughtily at the traffic. Dink watched the houses, a sardonic gleam in his eyes. Police work over a period of years had taken the glamor from extreme wealth. Jim Dink had long ago learned that a debutante will love and kill for the identical reasons that would affect the girl behind the dime store counter.
Donegan swung to the east, toward the road that would lead him to Woodbine, an ultra-snobbish suburb of the city. He shifted uncomfortably behind the wheel. "Maybe we could give this Crandall the murder rap. I never liked him."
"Donegan, you're a cold-blooded monster."
"No, it's just that I never liked that guy."
The rest of the drive went in silence. Finally Donegan turned off the state highway into a graveled drive that wound deep into a heavily wooded estate. The house was brick, its long and low expanse broken by huge windows. There were bright-colored canvas chairs in the yard.
Donegan made an unpleasant noise when he saw the man reclining in one of the chairs.
"There's God's gift to heels."
The man stood up and came toward the car in long strides. He was dressed in an open-throat shirt and cream trousers. He had a narrow face, black hair that was slowly retreating from his forehead, and a hawk nose. His lips were uneven, set in selfish lines.
His dark eyes flashed and his face was unplasant as he came up to the car. "You took long enough. Do you think I like waiting for you police?"
Dink had opened the door. He halted in surprise, staring at the man. "How did you know we were coming?"
Stanley Crandall threw his long arms wide in a gesture of despair. "Did they have to send the dumbest of a dumb force? I called you, how else?"
Dink threw a quick glance at Donegan, whose knuckles were white as he gripped the wheel. Dink shifted his cigar.
"Of course, Mr. Crandall. What's wrong?"
Crandall swore luridly.
"I told you over the phone. Theft! Someone has taken over a hundred thousand dollars in negotiable securities."
Dink whistled. "That's a lot of dinero. Any suspects?"
Crandall rolled a lot of dirty cracks up in one smile.
"Yes, but you'll probably let him get away. You'll probably stand here and argue and exercise your futile brains until he's escaped."
Dink held back his anger though his eyes glinted and his fist doubled.
"You're wasting time yourself," he said abruptly. "Name the guy, and your reasons."
Crandall's tone hit a new high in insults.
"This man has been here several times. He has made love to my secretary and she has completely lost her head. In fact, I think she probably was his accomplice. Jefferson Werner stole those securities, Or my secretary, Mary Taggart, or both of them working together."
Dink sat back in the car.
"Werner won't get away," he said slowly. "We've already got him — at the morgue."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"Just that," Dink said. "Werner's dead. My men have gone over his apartment with a fine tooth comb. There's no negotiable securities there."
"Then Mary killed him and ran away," Crandall said flatly.
Dink's voice lowered dangerously.
"How long has Miss Taggart been with you?"
"Aren't you pretty fast accusing someone who's been with you that long?"
Crandall drew up.
"You dolts wouldn't understand how a genius thinks. I know she has killed Werner, he probably jilted her. She has run off."
Dink sighed, counted to ten and then could talk again.
"You seem to have a lot of dough for a novel writer," he suggested.
Crandall flushed angrily.
"I do not sully my art. My father left me a sizable fortune, so I write as I please. It just happens they sell."
Dink nodded. "So I hear, Where does Miss Taggart live?"
Crandall told him. Dink obtained a list of the securities, looked at the wall safe in the over-rich office in the house. He discovered Werner had been eager to sell Crandall some mining stock. The novelist kept bringing the talk back to his secretary.
Dink left with the definite impression that Crandall was burnt up because Werner had taken Mary Taggart's interest.
Finally he came back to the car and climbed in.
"Let's get out of here," he growled at Donegan, "One more minute with that inflated crackpot and they'll be giving me the hot seat at Michigan City."
Donegan wheeled the car around. "Nature sure went off the beam when that guy was planned," he said acidly.
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They drove back to town and Dink directed Donegan to Mary Taggart's address. It proved to be a big house on a curving, tree-lined street. Dink opened the front door to a small lobby and saw the girl's name and apartment number on a mail box. The old mansion had been remodelled and cut up into small apartments. Dink walked up a winding stairs to the second floor. The girl's door was the second down the hall.
He knocked gently and waited. No one answered. Dink shifted his cigar and knocked again, just as softly. He thought he heard a furtive movement but couldn't be sure. He tested the knob and the door cracked open a little.
Dink shot a quick glance up the hall and slipped into the apartment. He closed the door and turned into the room. He froze.
A girl stood in a far door and she held a deadly little revolver. She was a beautiful girl but fright made ugly lines around her blue eyes and red mouth. Dink's bulging green eyes swiftly told him that he could never get across the room before she fired. She stared at him, wordless.
Dink slouched back against the door and took off his hat. He grinned amiably.
"You're Mary Taggart?"
For a moment she didn't answer. Then she nodded, "Yes."
Dink sighed deeply.
"Boy, I'm glad I found you! You're lucky I did, too."
The gun wavered a little.
"What do you mean?"
Dink stepped carefully to a chair and sat down, crossing his thin legs.
"Jefferson Werner has been killed. That prince of heels, Stanley Crandall, claims you stole a lot of securities."
"I didn't! Werner stole them. That's why I — " she broke off sharply. ''Who are you?"
Dink ignored the question.
"Did Werner have them?"
She shook her head and suddenly dropped the gun. She started crying, Dink crossed the room, picked up the weapon and led her to a chair.
"Tell me about it, Miss Taggart, I'm here to help you if I can."
She sobbed on and he could only catch phrases. "Werner said he loved me … tried to sell Crandall stock …Werner stole the securities … Stanley was always careless with the safe … I went to Werner to get them back. I wanted to kill him and I took a gun."
Dink listened, soothing her, trying to bring her around to tell a coherent story. He finally got it, and the reconstruction fitted in with what he knew. Werner had used his evident charms on Mary Taggart, becoming a constant visitor to the Crandall home. He had seen opportunity in the open safe door and had taken advantage of it. Mary realized who had stolen the securities when Crandall had discovered the loss.
She choked when she thought of the theft.
"I couldn't believe that Jefferson would do such a thing. I was crushed. I guess I lost my head. Anyhow, I got Crandall's gun and went to Jefferson's apartment."
Dink broke in.
"He was alive?"
She nodded miserably. "Yes, but I wish he hadn't been, I accused him of the theft, and he didn't deny it to me, I told him that I could not marry a thief."
She buried her face In her hands and her words came muffled.
"He laughed and said that he could not remember any words of marriage. That's when I pulled the gun. He was frightened for a moment and then he took it away from me. I couldn't stand it any longer and I ran out of the apartment."
Dink looked down at the gun he had taken from her.
"You evidently know of his murder."
"Murder! The papers say he killed himself."
Dink shook his head.
"That's what the papers say until I tell them different. I'm just working on a hunch at that. There was a note in his typewriter accusing you of breaking his heart. He had taken the easiest way out."
Mary stared hard at him.
"He didn't care for me at all."
"I can see that and it means my theory is right. You stick around close, Miss Taggart. We might want to talk about things later."
"I'm under arrest?" she asked fearfully.
"Not unless you've got another one of these playthings around. They're bad business for nice young girls. I'll be seeing you."
He rejoined Donegan in the car and leaned thoughtfully back against the seat. Donegan waited for instructions and started fidgeting under the wheel.
Dink pulled a cigar from his pocket.
"Let's go to the station. I think Jefferson Werner had concealed talents."
Donegan grunted as he started the car. "He ain't no more. Leastways, there ain't much he can do on a slab."
At the station, Dink made out a rough report and then read it carefully. He kept trying to rearrange the few clues he had so that they would make a logical pattern. He frowned, looking uglier than ever. Two things were clear in the summary.
There was nothing to prove that Werner hadn't done the highdive of his own volition. If it was murder, everything pointed to Mary Taggart with the exception of one important item. She didn't look strong enough to knock a man out and then push him through a window.
Dink called the laboratory for the fingerprint man. He asked about Werner's prints.
The man sounded excited.
"Yeah. I got 'em, and I got a surprise for you. Werner's prints were on file. Yeah, we got 'em about five years ago from the FBI. He worked a fake securities racket in New York under the name of James Fenton. Seems he had a partner in those days, John Ordren. They split up and Fenton dropped out of sight."
Dink asked about Ordren.
"We ain't got a thing on what happened to him. He might be in prison somewhere."
Dink replaced the receiver and thoughtfully tugged at his ear. He wished to hell he knew where this Ordren person could be found. He decided to check the modus operandi file and spent most of the afternoon there. He couldn't say that he learned very much.
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Leads in a case have a bad habit of suddenly going dead and Dink recognized the symptoms. Nothing new developed in the Werner case. He asked questions, went over and over the information he had and he might as well have been on a vacation for the week that passed.
He questioned Porter Stanfield at length again. The man wanted to be helpful, but he had little to offer. He did identify Mary Taggart from a photograph that Dink showed him, but that in itself meant little. It confirmed her presence just before the murder and it also confirmed Mary's own confession that she had been there.
Dink questioned the desk clerk at the Mardott, the housekeeper, the bellhops. Nothing came but what he already knew. Jefferson Werner was constantly going and coming and he had many visitors, the greater number women. Mary Taggart's photograph brought immediate recognition several times.
He went over the apartment again, very carefully. Jacobs sat in one of the easy chairs and watched him.
Finally Dink slammed the closet door and faced the fat man, his green eyes glinting angrily,
"Not a damned thing!"
Jacobs shrugged and looked up hopefully. "Look, can I rent this suite now?''
Dink popped a cigar in his mouth and bit viciously down on it. "Sure, go ahead. But, Jacobs, be careful of your tenants, I don't like 'em getting killed."
Jacobs shuddered, "You should be telling me! Lieutenant, I shall personally look them over, each and every one."
Dink nodded, grinned, and went to the door.
"The place is yours again, friend. Better luck next time."
Porter Stanfield was just coming from his apartment. He smiled at Dink.
"You're very busy on a suicide case, Lieutenant. Has anything new come up?"
Dink grunted and shifted his cigar. "It's still suicide. I just wanted to make sure."
Stanfield stepped into the elevator. "That's good news."
Dink growled, "Why?"
Stanfield shrugged. "Who would want a murderer running around loose in the hotel?"
Dink didn't answer. He drove from the hotel to the dirty gray stone Headquarters. He pushed upstairs to the Homicide room. No one was in and the telephone was ringing. He picked it up and snapped his name, "This is the First American Bank," a deep voice said. "We have just received a line on those stolen securities."
Dink shouted. "I'll be over. Hold everything."
In a short time he sat in a somber office while a somber man behind a somber desk answered his questions. "One of our clients purchased these securities from a dealer who called on him."
Dink felt his heart sink. This would come right back to Werner and he'd be no better off than before. The Fifth Vice-President folded his hands and went on. "The dealer's name was John Ordren and he does not seem to be licensed."
Dink's jaws clamped on the cigar.
"I have a line on Ordren. He's not exactly a righteous citizen. Where did your client meet him?"
The man shrugged. "The usual manner, a securities salesman calling on an executive. My client recognized the securities, and so believed the salesman was bona fide enough. The catch came at the discount offered on face value. My client became suspicious and checked with us."
Dink leaned forward.
"I'd like to know what this Ordren looks like."
The Fifth Vice-President reached for a piece of note paper. "I asked the same question. Here's a brief description. Stocky, with gray hairs at the temples. Square-jawed, forceful personality. Wears diamond ring."
Dink smiled and hastily arose. MW "l got it, and thanks. I think I can put the finger on friend Ordren. I'll let you know."
He fairly shot from the office and through the crowded bank. Donegan dozed in the car and Dink punched him awake, "The Mardott Hotel and use the siren. We got to get there."
Donegan flashed him a surprised look and his big foot came down on the starter. The motor roared to life and the red blinker light flashed on. They shot from the curb, the siren starting its high wail.
Traffic quickly parted for the car and Dink grimly stared out the windshield at the flashing street. He cursed himself for being sound asleep. He should have seen the connection long before. Donegan wheeled the car into the curved drive and Dink jumped toward the hotel doors.
Jacobs came running forward, horror on his face. Dink grabbed the man's lapels. "I want Porter Stanfield."
Jacobs looked blank and then startled.
"Mr. Stanfield checked out this morning."
Dink stared at him, still holding rightly to the black lapels. His bulging green eyes grew desperate.
"Checked out? He couldn't. You shouldn't have let him."
Jacobs angrily pried Dink's fingers from his coat.
"I believe we handle our own business, Lieutenant, There was no order to that effect from the police department. Something else, that red light and siren has done the hotel no good. I shall complain very strongly to the proper — "
Dink wasn't listening. He turned on his heel and ran to the desk. The clerk stared as though Dink was about to gibber. He was.
"Did Stanfield say where he was going?" It took the clerk a minute to catch up, then he shook his head.
"No, sir, he did not. He simply checked out."
"What cab did he take? Did he go to the railroad station?"
"He had his own car, sir. It was brought around from the garage." Dink held onto the counter and glared at the clerk. Then he snatched his hat from his head and slammed it to the floor. He cursed fluently, damning himself as a numbskull. His angry eyes happened to rest on the switchboard.
He paused in mid-action, sanity slowly returning to his green eyes. He crossed to the stunned girl and out of his anger somehow managed to drag a grimace that passed for a smile, "Did Mr. Stanfield make any calls just before he left?"
She shook her head.
Dink came close to losing his temper again but he counted to ten.
"How about last night?"
The girl consulted a black notebook.
"There was one made last night. Broadway 6592."
Dink grabbed the phone and dialed Headquarters.
"Whose phone is Broadway 5592?"
There was a long pause. Then the official voice answered.
"That's listed to Mr. Stanley Crandall, Woodbine."
Dink slowly lowered the phone. He impatiently waved Jacobs aside and walked slowly out of the hotel. He didn't answer Donegan's questioning look.
"Headquarters," he said briefly, and sank back against the seat.
He began to have faint ideas of what might have happened the day Werner, alias Fenton, was found smeared over the Mardott grounds. There were several big pieces missing, but if he could find Ordren, Dink felt certain he'd have the complete picture. He growled to himself at letting Ordren fool him in the guise of Porter Stanfield.
They arrived at Headquarters at last and Dink stumped up the stairs to Homicide and his own office. He slumped down in the chair and stared morosely out the window to the freight yards just beyond. Ordren's call to Stanley Crandall stumped him.
It was easy to see that Ordren might have worked with Werner in stealing the securities and later disposing of them. That would be smart. But if that were true, why had Ordren called Crandall?
Dink shifted uncomfortably and stared at the phone. He twisted his thick lips thoughtfully and rubbed his hand over his high, bald forehead. He snapped his fingers and picked up the phone.
Crandall answered and Dink tried to make his voice concerned. "This is the First American Bank. I believe you were worried about some missing securities?"
There was a second's hesitation, then Crandall's haughty voice snapped back. "I am not. I have changed my mind. They were not stolen."
Dink gasped and then remembered who he was supposed to be. "But we had word to look out for them. They have just turned up."
Crandall roared into the phone, "I don't give a damn what word you had or where they are! I said I've changed my mind. That is quite sufficient."
The receiver banged in Dink's ear. He stared into the mouthpiece and then slowly put the phone back in the cradle. He pulled at his upper lip. He picked up the phone again and asked that a prowl car be brought around for him.
A half hour later he wheeled the car into a side road and turned it around. From where he sat he could watch Crandall's drive, and there was little likelihood that he himself would be noticed. He made himself comfortable for a long vigil.
The afternoon wore on and Dink was close to the end of his cigar supply. He felt the first vague stirrings of hunger. He began to wonder if he had made another mistake in playing this hunch to watch Crandall. He looked at his watch and decided he'd stay on until dark.
A quarter of an hour passed. Dink felt definitely hungry and he kept himself from breaking the jacket on his last cigar. Suddenly he caught a glimpse of metal through the trees. He straightened. A roadster pulled out of Crandall's driveway and rolled smoothly toward the city. Dink caught a glimpse of Crandall's haughty face. Dink started the motor, waited a few seconds, then rolled out on the highway. Crandall's car was far ahead and Dink made no attempt to catch up for a while.
He closed the gap when the city limits came and the further they drove into the city proper, the more safe Dink felt. The man ahead drove without once looking back. He was headed for the heart of town. At last they were in the business district and twilight was upon them. Dink clung close to the roadster. At the famed Monument Circle, Crandall turned into a parking garage.
Dink hastily found an empty space along the curb and climbed from the car. He hurried across the street and caught a glimpse of the novelist as he left the garage. Dink stepped into a doorway as Crandall searched the street. Then the man turned around and headed around the Circle, walking fast.
Dink had to scurry to keep up with him. Crandall went into a large cafeteria. Dink slowed up and cautiously approached the door. The place was crowded and Crandall wasn't in sight. Dink pushed in. He saw Crandall far ahead in the line and Dink picked up a tray, ducking behind a heavy woman who eyed the steam tables with an avid gleam.
Crandall ordered and Dink watched a girl take his tray and follow him among the tables. In a short while Dink cautiously went along the wall, his eyes probing the tables. He spotted Crandall, and Dink had to suppress a shout. Porter Stanfield, alias Ordren, sat across the table from the writer.
Dink took a seat not far from the cashier and he could also watch the duo at the far table. He was thankful that his trailing had led him to a place where he could at least keep hunger from killing him. He gratefully cut into his steak.
He didn't have time to finish his coffee. Crandall passed something to Ordren and both men arose. Dink hastily picked up a menu and buried his face in it. The men paid their checks and left. Dink scrambled from the table.
Outside, he caught a glimpse ot the men, walking along and talking earnestly. Dink followed them right back to the parking garage. He crossed the street to the plain black prowl car and waited. The hunch was growing in him that the end of the trail was not far off. He wondered what the final answer would be.
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In a few minutes the roadster rolled out into the street, Ordren seated beside Crandall at the wheel. The novelist turned west. Dink started his own car and a sudden fear clutched at him. The airport was to the west and he remembered that Crandall owned a plane.
Crandall drove at a fast clip, yet, well within the traffic rules. Dink had to drop back several times when he was pocketed or a traffic light went against him, However, Crandall stuck to Washington street and Dink was able to keep him in sight, By now night had fallen and Dink felt better. There was less chance of Crandall discovering he was tailed.
Dink lit a cigar and comfortably started chewing on It, his green eyes steady on the two men in the roadster ahead. The city began to thin and shortly they came to the limits. Dink had to drop back though traffic was fairly heavy on the National Highway. At High School Road, Crandall turned south and Dink's heart dropped. They were going to the airport.
He wondered if he would have to tip his hand and have Ordren arrested on a theft charge. The theft must be cleared but Dink felt the solution of Werner's death to be the most important. He cursed silently at the run of luck he had encountered in this case.
He braked suddenly, for Crandall swung the roadster off the state road onto a gravel lane that led westward. Dink pulled his car to the shoulder, puzzled. Where was Crandall going? That lane had a dead end not more than half a mile ahead, no outlet. Dink switched off the motor and lights. He climbed from the car and loosened the automatic he wore in a shoulder holster. He slipped an extra pair of handcuffs in his pocket.
It was pitch dark and the lane was but a white blur that was quickly swallowed by the trees, Dink shifted his cigar to the other side of his mouth and started walking.
He went cautiously, his big ears strained to catch any sound, There was nothing alarming. Dink kept away from the lane, trying hard to be soundless. He stumbled once in a ditch and his leg plunged into tepid water. He cursed silently and went on.
A few yards further he stopped, frozen. He had heard the single blast of a shot. His thick lips set grimly around the shredded cigar and the automatic flowed into his hand. He started running.
He heard a motor start a short way ahead. Lights flashed on and swept in a half circle as someone turned the car around. He plunged into a small glade just as the roadster jerked forward.
Dink yelled, "Halt!''
The roar of the motor was deafening and the metal monster thundered down upon him. Dink blasted a shot to the windshield, then jumped for the side of the road. The car missed him by scant inches.
He twisted around and sent three fast shots after the roadster. A tire blew like blasting powder and the car jumped crazily from the road. It hurdled the shallow ditch and jarred to a halt against a tree.
Dink started forward, his face grim. There was a roar and a red tongue that licked toward him from the car. Dink heard the bullet sing close and he dropped flat, rolling to the protection of some bushes. Another bullet whined over his head but he made the bushes.
He discovered that he had lost his cigar and it made him angry. He swore fervently and peered toward the car. There was no sound and Dink wondered if the sharpshooter had scurried away. The man cut loose again, his lead searching the frail concealment of the bushes. Dink dropped flat and burrowed his nose in the ground.
The firing stopped and Dink was instantly on his feet. A man had jumped from the car and was zigzagging down the road. His running figure swiftly dimmed. Dink took careful aim and fired. At first, he thought he had missed. Then the man stumbled, caught himself and stumbled again. He took another step or two forward and fell flat.
Dink advanced cautiously toward the sprawled figure. The safety was off the automatic and he was taking no chances. He came closer. The man lay face downward. Dink rolled him over. Stanley Crandall's pale face showed white in the night. Dink struck a match.
There was a long wound along the man's skull where Dink's lucky shot had knocked him out. Other than that, he was not hurt. Dink snapped handcuffs on the limp wrists and another pair on the ankles. He straightened and turned back the way he had come.
Dink came to the end of the road, a blank wall of saplings and bushes. He peered into the darkness but could see nothing. He finally held matches low to the ground until he found the tire marks showing where the car had been halted and then turned around.
He worked in a circle from there and finally came upon a broken swath leading into the bushes. He trailed in. A few yards beyond the road, he stumbled over a body on the ground. He quickly recovered, stooped and lit a match.
Porter Stanfield, alias Ordren, was very dead, a bullet in his heart. Dink stared into the white face for awhile then snuffed out the light. He worked his way out of the bushes and back down the road.
Stanley Crandall had recovered consciousness. He was sitting up, staring at the manacles. Dink approached slowly and the novelist's arrogant face jerked up to him.
Dink sighed and he suddenly felt very tired.
"You do a messy job of murder," he said. "I found your handiwork back in the bushes."
Crandall was silent a moment. Then he spoke, his voice disdainful.
"He had it coming. He was a common blackmailer."
"I figured that angle. Crandall, you did a much neater job on Werner. Of course, I think you're a heel to have tried to turn suspicion on Mary Taggart."
Crandall shouted back.
"Why shouldn't I? She was turning me down for him!"
He broke off sharply and there was only the night noises for awhile. Then his voice came quietly.
"How did you know?"
"Oh, I figured it out from what was left laying around. I see the case this way. You told the truth about Werner calling to sell you stock. His real name was Fenton and that was his racket. I also knew that he played the ladies pretty heavy and it was obvious your secretary fell hard for him.
"You were also truthful in reporting the theft of the securities from your safe. Werner was an opportunist of the first order and an open door like that was too much to resist, But after that, Crandall, you tried fiction. You'd write lousy detective novels, judging from the way you tried to set this stage,"
"I'll be the judge of my own writing," Crandall snapped.
"Not much longer, I'm afraid. But here's what happened. Mary went to Werner, shocked at his theft. You also went to see him to recover the securities and to raise hell about Mary. You had to wait until she was gone and Porter Stanfield got a good eyeful of you hanging around. Enough to make him suspicious, in any case,
"Mary left and you went into Werner. Things got pretty hot and you slugged him. Maybe you hit him too hard, maybe his head cracked against some object. Anyway, you found you had killed him. You were jealous as hell of Mary Taggart and you wanted to get even. So you wrote the note in the typewriter, you set the whole stage, even to gun Werner had just taken from Mary when she was hysterical.
"It worked nicely, you figured. The stage set, you pitched Werner out the window and very calmly left the apartment. Two strikes were against you from the beginning. First, Stanfield probably saw you leave the apartment, but in any case, he knew you had been hanging around after the girl left.
"The second strike was Werner's way with the women. Mary wasn't the only one, and he had made a definite date with a girl for the night of his death. I never heard of a guy like that bumping himself off. It made your note look silly, and when the note was false, the rest of your setup was haywire.
"I suppose Stanfield told you what he knew and that he could easily have suspicion swung right around and you'd be in trouble. Probably, he pretended to be satisfied with the stolen securities at first. That's why you changed your mind."
Crandall growled, "Stanfield was too damned greedy."
Dink nodded. "All blackmailers are. He called you last night, figuring he could pull out of town safely enough now. But he wanted some more dough and you realized that you were in for a bleeding as long as you lived or your money held out. You figured you could never be sure Stanfield would be silent even if he was paid. So you pulled a second murder."
Crandall was silent. His voice came in a surly whisper. "I don't have to confess to anything, you know."
Dink sighed again. "That's right. But I can prove Stanfield's murder and you're burnt just as bad for one as for two. So you might as well come clean."
Crandall stirred uneasily. "I'll think it over. How about getting out of here?"
Dink pitched a key at his feet and he pulled the automatic from the holster, covering Crandall.
"Take 'em off your ankles. Think it over in your cell. I'll book you on tonight's killing and that's all I'll try to prove. But you'll get the chair, Crandall. Why not give Mary Taggart a clean slate?"
Crandall came to his feet. He smiled at Dink.
"She is a nice kid, isn't she?"
Dink growled, "The best. If I wasn't so damned old and so damned ugly — " He broke off.
Crandall chuckled as he turned to walk toward the police car. "You've got something there, Lieutenant. It's a good idea for a love story. Well, let's get going. I'll make a full statement in the morning."
They walked down the road toward the car, Crandall slightly ahead. Dink cursed silently and wished he had a cigar to chew. Except for that, everything was fine.
~ The End ~