[ "title": "To A Wax Doll", "author": "Arnold Marmor", "body": ""

Barbara lay on her side, facing me, beautiful with the relaxed softness of sleep. My wife was thirty-two, but in sleep she looked no more than twenty. I studied her face a moment, and then, knowing how little it took to wake her, I got out of bed carefully and walked on bare feet to the bathroom. She was still asleep when I finished dressing and left for the station house.

\n\n

In the squad room, I lifted a container of coffee from Joe Hayes’ desk, and drank half of it.

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“Don’t drink it all, Walt,” he said.

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“I’m tired of waiting,” I said.

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“You talking about Liddie White again?”

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“That’s right.”

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He frowned.

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“Don’t get any crazy ideas, Walt. The lieutenant won’t like it.”

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“To hell with him.”

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“Why don’t you wait a couple of days? Hell, Tim Casey is one of the best men on the force. Liddie wouldn’t be getting dope without his seeing it.”

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“She’s getting it somewhere,” I said.

\n\n

“Maybe she’d stocked up on the stuff. You ever figure that?”

\n\n

“Sure, I figured it. And I’m still tired of waiting.” I handed the coffee back to him. “I’m going over there.”

\n\n

Tim Casey was on his way toward my car even before I’d cut the motor. He saluted, grinning at me. “Hello, Sergeant.”

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“Hello, Tim. Any action?”

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“Not a damn bit. She hasn’t been out at all.”

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“Okay. Well, as long as I’m here, we might as well make the most of it. Why don’t you go down the street and have some breakfast? I’ll spell you a while.”

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“Thai’s a hell of a good idea. Sergeant. I’ll make it fast.” He turned and walked off toward the diner at the corner.

\n\n

I left the car and headed for the brownstone where Liddie White lived. The building was near the middle of the block, flanked by a cut-rate drugstore and a grimy-windowed bar. I climbed three flights of sagging stairs, walked along a dark corridor, and knocked on Liddie’s door.

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The door opened a little, showing one gray eye and part of an unnaturally white face. The eye narrowed, and Liddie started to close the door. I got my foot in it.

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“Open up, Liddie,” I said.

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“What the hell do you want?”

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I pulled the door all the way open and stepped inside. Liddie slammed it shut behind me, and then leaned against it, staring at me.

\n\n

“What the hell do you want?” she said again. She was a very pretty woman, Liddie was, even when her gray eyes were angry and the uncombed auburn hair splayed loosely across her back and shoulders. Her body, beneath the thin material of her housecoat, was lush, and she had the smallest waist I’d ever seen.

\n\n

“Don’t you go out any more, Liddie?” I asked.

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“Look, copper. I’ve been a real good girl. You got no right to come barging in here like this.”

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“I didn’t barge in,” I said. “You invited me in. You insisted on it. Remember?”

\n\n

“You’re just like all the others. You haven’t even got a warrant.”

\n\n

I muled at her.

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“That’s right. Liddie. No warrant. You could probably get me in a lot of trouble.”

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She glared at me.

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“Damn you. You know I can’t get anybody in trouble.”

\n\n

I nodded. “Just so we understand each other, Liddie.”

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“If you’re looking for Horse, you’re wasting your time. There isn’t any here.”

\n\n

“It’s here,” I said. “It has to be. We’ve had a tail on you for almost two weeks. You haven’t made a buy in all that time. And with a big habit like yours, Liddie, that means you’ve got a supply right here.”

\n\n

“Since when arc cops interested in users? What’ll it get you to hang a beef on me? You think the commissioner will give you a gold star?”

\n\n

“I’m not interested in you, Liddie. I want your pusher.”

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“You crazy? You think I’d cut off my supply?”

\n\n

“You can always get another. Who’s the guy, Liddie?”

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She took a slow step toward me, and there was fear in her eyes now. “Give me a break, for God’s sake.”

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“I’m giving you one. I know you’ve got heroin here. I’m not even going to look for it. All I want is the name of your pusher, and an idea of where to find him.”

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She bit at her lower lip a moment. “What’ll I do when the pile’s gone?”

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“You’ll find another pusher. You junkies always do.” I paused. “This is the last time around, Liddie. Tell me who and where.”

\n\n

She told me who and where.

\n\n

I let myself in with one of my skeleton keys. There was no one home. I went through the pusher’s apartment until I found the stuff. I’d expected more, but there were only seven packets of it. I stuffed them into my pocket, darkened the room, and sat down in an easy chair to wait.

\n\n

An hour crawled by, and then another, and finally the door opened. I got up silently, slid my hand down into my trenchcoat pocket, and worked my fingers around the butt of my short-barreled .38. The guy was fumbling for the light switch, a very tall guy with outsize shoulders.

\n\n

When the light came on, I said, “Easy, Carter. Keep your hands in sight.”

\n\n

He closed the door slowly, and if there was any expression at all on his face, it was only a very mild surprise.

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“You a cop?” he asked.

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“That’s right. Come over here.”

\n\n

He stayed where he was. “You been here long?”

\n\n

“Long enough to find the stuff.”

\n\n

“Yeah. Well, that’s not so good, is it?” His right hand came up to one of the buttons on his coat and he began to toy with it.

\n\n

“I told you to come over here,” I said.

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“Can we make a deal?” he asked. “I’ll make it pretty good.”

\n\n

“No deal,” I said.

\n\n

He nodded slowly, as if thinking it over, and then suddenly his hand was inside his coat.

\n\n

I could have shot him then, but I didn’t want to ruin a good trench coat. I jerked the .38 out and shot him twice, once in the stomach and once in the face.

\n\n

When I got home, the first thing I noticed was the ash tray. It was loaded with butts. I closed the door and took off my coat.

\n\n

Barbara came in from the kitchen. I tried not to look at her face. I knew what I’d see there.

\n\n

“Any luck?” she asked. “I — I’ve been going crazy, Walt.”

\n\n

“In my trench coat pocket,” I said.

\n\n

She grabbed up my coat and shoved her hand into one of the pockets.

\n\n

She was so jittery she dropped the coat. She picked it up and clawed through the other pocket, whimpering a little. I had to look away from her.

\n\n

“Is this all?” she asked. “Just two?”

\n\n

“There were only seven packets to begin with,” I told her. “I had to take five of them to the station house, to book as evidence.”

\n\n

“You turned over five of them? Why? Damn you, Walt!”

\n\n

“There’s a man dead because of this,” I said. “I had to make it look good.”

\n\n

But she wasn’t even listening. She was too busy tearing open one of the packets of heroin.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Losing Winner", "author": "", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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Affluence Rather Than Good Taste

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Berkeley square underground station has never been busy, for Berkeley Square is quiet, sedate, and remote from shops and offices.

\n\n

On this particular occasion, shortly before 10 p.m., it was deserted, except for three people who stood a few feet apart from one another at one end of the platform.

\n\n

There was a young man reading an evening paper; a thick-set, red-faced man, of forty or so; and a slim, glamorously-dressed lady, whose glossy, high-heeled shoes, fur wrap, and vivid red dress and hat combined to speak of affluence rather than good taste.

\n\n

The woman and the young man were both preoccupied with their own affairs, but the older of the two men was jovially tipsy, and disposed to take notice of his surroundings.

\n\n

He peered over the young man’s shoulder at the headline in the paper.

\n\n

“Monravian Sweepstake ‘Curse’, “ he read out. “Huh! What I say is — just lemme win one o’ them fifty-thous’nd-pound prizes, an’ you can curse me till you’re blue in the face.”

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The young man grinned, and grunted his approval of this sentiment. The woman, however, standing three or four yards away, paid no attention to the men, but continued to stare across the line at the opposite wall.

\n\n

Then, conceiving a sudden affection for the young man, the tipsy fellow produced a visiting card from his waistcoat pocket, and thrust it upon him.

\n\n

“That’s me,” he said, “John Blake’s the name. Mecca Traction Comp’ny. Any time you wanna buy a shteam roller, jus’ remember. I’m your man.”

\n\n

Mr. Blake had by this time moved over to the lady, and was now raising his hat, and asking her if she was, by any chance, one of the three sisters — Faith, Hope and Charity.

\n\n

He was very properly snubbed. The lady drew her coat collar a little more closely about her face, and strolled on towards the extreme end of the platform.

\n\n

Blake came back mumbling.

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At this juncture the train came in at the other end of the station, and John Blake and the lady got in the front carriage, which was empty.

\n\n

The young man remained on the platform, his being the next train.

\n\n

An instant later, the train had pulled out, and the young man had entirely dismissed the incident from his mind. He was engrossed in the paper once more, little dreaming that he would be figuring in its next issue as an important witness in a murder case.

\n\n

It was a case which eclipsed the Monravian Sweepstake Curse in public interest, and everybody had been reading about that.

\n\n

Tommy Burke was discussing the “curse” with his employer, Dixon Hawke, when Detective-Inspector Gray called at the Dover Street chambers, and the Scotland Yard man contributed his opinion.

\n\n

“As I see it,” he said, “this Archbishop’s denunciation of the sweepstake has just been made use of by the sensationalists to air a pet theory. I see nothing remarkable in the fact that half a dozen winners have come to grief since this so-called curse. A sudden windfall’s always liable to be bad for the man who hasn’t been used to money.”

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“The chap who’s just committed suicide, apparently for no reason at all, is the third to do so,” commented Hawke. “Another died from heart failure about three years ago on hearing of his good fortune.”

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“That was immediately after the Archbishop’s denunciation had been pronounced,” put in Tommy.

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“The others,” said Gray, “drank themselves to death, and I guess they just happened to be the kind who would have done that anyway.

\n\n

“Enough of that,” he went on briskly. “I didn’t come here to talk about the Monravian Sweepstake. I came to tell you we’ve pulled in the man who seems to have committed this underground railway murder.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

\n\n

The Mysterious Note

\n\n

Hawke picked up his morning paper, and glanced at a paragraph in the stop press.

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“Mrs. Watson,” he said, after he had read it, “of Waverley Court, Berkeley Square. Understood to be living apart from husband — h’m — fractured skull — powerful blow with some metallic object.”

\n\n

He shot an inquiring glance at the inspector.

\n\n

“A young chap named Edward Thomas,” explained the latter, “saw that paragraph, and came along to tell us a fellow named John Blake, who had given him his card, got in the train with her at Berkeley Square, two stations before she was found murdered.

\n\n

“We called on John Blake,” he continued, “and found blood on his coat sleeve. He admits that he’d had too much to drink, and that he made a fool of himself by speaking to Mrs. Watson in Berkeley Square Station. His story is that he got off at Park, the next station to Berkeley Square, leaving the woman quite O.K.”

\n\n

Gray paused to light a cigarette.

\n\n

“He wants you to act for him,” he said.

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“Then perhaps,” replied Hawke dryly, “he really is innocent of the crime. How does he explain the blood on his sleeve?”

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“He says that, being slightly unsteady on the feet, he stumbled on the steps when he was coming out of Park Station, and fell on his nose, causing it to bleed. Nobody was about who could bear witness to this, and he’s quite unable to prove that he did get off the train at Park.”

\n\n

“Well, what happened to Mrs. Watson?”

\n\n

“The next station after Park,” proceeded Gray, “is Chester Road, and a crowd of people were waiting for the train there. The first few who got in saw the woman sprawled on the floor. Her hat lay a few feet away, and there was blood on her forehead.”

\n\n

Hawke was frowning thoughtfully as he packed tobacco in his pipe.

\n\n

“Let me see,” he said. “I believe it’s an exceptionally long run from Park to Chester Road. Isn’t there a disused station on the way?”

\n\n

“That’s so. Newbury Street. Been closed for some years. It’s a derelict place — all in darkness — but if you’re thinking that somebody might have broken through the boarded-up entrance and got on the train there, I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong tree, old man. The train doesn’t stop there. Goes through at express speed, in fact.”

\n\n

“Really! My recollection is that the trains very often draw to a standstill along that stretch.”

\n\n

“Ah, but not at the old station. Some little distance before. There’s a junction just ahead, and the signals are very often against the train. It’s quite impossible for anyone to board the train in the tunnel. It fits too neatly.”

\n\n

“You’re depressing me,” said Hawke with a frown.

\n\n

The inspector grinned, and pulled out his wallet from his breast-pocket.

\n\n

“There’s just one tiny outlet for your activities,” he said. “It may mean nothing, or may serve only to convict Blake, should it transpire that he knew the lady.”

\n\n

He handed over a half-sheet of grubby notepaper.

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“This was in her handbag,” he remarked.

\n\n

Hawke read the following message, which was scrawled in pencil:

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“Shall want to see you before you go, and, as you’re in such a hurry, you’d better get on to the 9.58 southbound at Berkeley Square to-night. We’ll have a talk about the money.”

\n\n

Hawke studied the message for some moments, and when he glanced up his face reflected something of the interest it had aroused.

\n\n

“Is John Blake connected with the railway?” he asked, after he had read the note.

\n\n

“No. He sells traction engines and steam rollers.”

\n\n

“That’s very interesting.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 3

\n\n

An Interview with Blake

\n\n

Gray scowled slightly. “What’s interesting about it?” he demanded.

\n\n

“It’s a bit early for anyone to start making suggestions,” answered the criminologist, rising. “We’ll go and see Mr. Blake, and hear what he has to say for himself.”

\n\n

Tommy accompanied his employer to the cells, where they found the commercial traveller looking very sorry for himself.

\n\n

“I felt a bit hilarious when I was on the platform,” he said in answer to Hawke’s queries, “having just celebrated a successful deal, and I made a fool of myself. I never saw her before in my life, and I didn’t speak to her in the train. I sat at the back end of the coach, and she sat right up at the front.”

\n\n

“And you’re quite sure there was no one else in the coach?”

\n\n

“Quite positive.”

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“And no one got in that coach when you alighted at Park Station?”

\n\n

“I don’t think anyone got in the train at all. Two or three others got out — from the rear coaches.”

\n\n

Hawke next visited the police surgeon, who told him:

\n\n

“There are marks round the neck of the victim, Mr. Hawke, and she has a fracture of the skull. It looks as though the murderer seized her by the throat with one hand, and dealt the death blow with the other.”

\n\n

The detective and his assistant next visited the block of flats where Mrs. Watson had lived.

\n\n

They were rather high-class flats, and Captain Willoughby, who occupied that next to Mrs. Watson’s, was a man of culture and some social standing.

\n\n

“She held parties in her flat,” he informed the detective. “My wife and I were always being invited. We only went a couple of times. Mrs. Watson struck me as a sort of social climber. Newly rich, and all that — little bit ostentatious with her money, and a shade over-careful in her speech. Never revealed anything of her past history.”

\n\n

“How long had she been here?”

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“About eleven months. There was a husband in the background. Only came here once or twice.”

\n\n

“What sort of man was he?”

\n\n

“Well, from what little I saw of him, I should have put him down as a working man in his Sunday suit. I don’t hold that against him, of course. She seemed anxious to keep him in the background, though once, when my wife came on the scene, she was prevailed upon to introduce him.”

\n\n

“And she introduced him as her husband?”

\n\n

“Yes.”

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“You would recognise him again?”

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“I think so.”

\n\n

Hawke expressed his thanks, and left the building.

\n\n

Outside he bought the mid-day edition of an evening paper. It contained pictures of Mrs. Watson, of the young man, Edward Thomas, of John Blake, and of Edward Higgins, driver of the train on which Mrs. Watson had met her death.

\n\n

“Well, guv’nor,” asked Tommy, “what do you make of it all?”

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“I’m somewhat bewildered as to the circumstances under which Mrs. Watson met her death, but perhaps it won’t be long before the air is cleared, since we now know who the real murderer is.”

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“Since we what?” gasped Tommy.

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“Perhaps I am being a little rash, but the facts all seem to point to one man.”

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“And that man is — ?”

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“Really, Tommy, I must call upon you to do a little constructive thinking.”

\n\n

“He is not John Blake?”

\n\n

“I’ll put it this way. If John Blake is innocent, there can only be one other man who could have committed the crime. And the evidence we have so far all goes to show that it was, in fact, that one other man.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 4

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A Photograph Proves Useful

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Hawke called a taxi, and directed the driver to take them to the offices of the Evening Globe, where, twenty minutes later, he was interviewing the art editor.

\n\n

“Yes,” said that gentleman. “I can supply you with copies of any pictures that have appeared in the paper.”

\n\n

“I’d like one of your retouching artists to do a little work on one of them for me.”

\n\n

When they came out of the newspaper office, Hawke was in possession of a quickly-dried photographic print of a man who, in the words of Captain Willoughby, looked like “a working man in his Sunday suit.”

\n\n

Back at the block of flats, Willoughby identified him instantly.

\n\n

“That’s the fellow,” he said. “He is Mrs. Watson’s husband. I’ll swear to it.”

\n\n

He called Mrs. Willoughby, who confirmed this opinion.

\n\n

“It is still a difficult thing to prove,” said Hawke, when he and Tommy left the flats. “Pop over to that call-box, Tommy, and ring Gray. Ask him if he can arrange for us to see the train on which the murder was committed.”

\n\n

There proved to be no difficulty about this.

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The train had been taken off the regular service, and was at one of the suburban sheds, at the disposal of the investigators.

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In company with a railway official and a police inspector, Hawke spent some time examining the front coach.

\n\n

He examined it with great care, inside and out. The search took him along the footboards to the driver’s cabin, where he seemed to develop an interest in the control levers.

\n\n

“I would like to question driver Higgins,” he said at length, “as to whether he had occasion to pull up between Park and Chester Road.”

\n\n

“He’s in the office at the other end of the shed,” said the official. “I’ll fetch him.”

\n\n

The driver, wearing his railway uniform and shiny peaked cap, presently appeared on the scene. He was a man of medium height and powerful build, and his manner, as he answered Hawke’s questions, was somewhat brusque, as though he resented other people’s presence in his driver’s cab.

\n\n

“I did have to pull up for a few seconds,” he said in answer to Hawke’s question. “Just before we reached the old Newbury Street station.”

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“It’s rather important,” said Hawke, “that I should know the exact spot.”

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The driver glared at him for a moment.

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“Well,” he said at length, “I could show it to you, if we went there. There’s a lamp at the side of the tunnel, just above the cables, with a battered top. I couldn’t swear as to how far that lamp is from the old station, but I’d recognise it again.”

\n\n

Hawke persisted with his point, and after he had drawn the attention of the railway official to the fact that a man’s life was at stake, it was arranged that Higgins should take him for a run on the train at three o’clock the following morning — in the interval between the cessation of night traffic and the commencement of the morning traffic.

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“You can ride in the cab with Higgins,” said the official.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 5

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The Ambitious Wife

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Hawke and Tommy’s appointment in the early hours was at a junction in North London. Having left their car at an all-night garage nearby, they entered the deserted station in which their footsteps echoed strangely.

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The train was waiting for them at the down platform, the morose-looking driver, its sole attendant, leaning against the door of the control cabin.

\n\n

Hawke stepped into this tiny compartment, and, there being only room for the driver, in addition to himself. Tommy got into the first coach.

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Higgins moved the brass lever on top of the control box and set the train in motion.

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It was one of the queerest trips the detective had ever taken.

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At first he found the sensation of rushing headlong into a black chasm a trifle unnerving, but he quickly accustomed himself to it.

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Station after station flashed by as the train sped on its journey south, all the time getting deeper below the street level.

\n\n

The end of a tube section, opening on to a station, would appear, at first as a tiny pinpoint of light, rapidly enlarging until they rushed through into the station, and they would then be rushing along at express speed towards the circle of solid blackness at the far end of the platform.

\n\n

The train’s speed was rather higher than that normally maintained, and the unladen coaches rocked crazily from side to side.

\n\n

Eventually they reached Berkeley Square Station, and, at Hawke’s request, the driver pulled up.

\n\n

“Now,” said the detective, “start off, and proceed exactly as you did on the occasion of the murder.”

\n\n

The train journeyed to Park Station at rather slower speed, and stopped.

\n\n

“This is where Mr. Blake says he got off. Carry on — and pull up exactly where you pulled up before.”

\n\n

The train drew to a standstill after another quarter of a mile or so, and its light showed the deserted platform of the old Newbury Street Station a few yards ahead.

\n\n

“Carry on,” directed Hawke, and the train proceeded until the first half of the front coach was actually in the station. Then Hawke signalled Higgins to stop again.

\n\n

“Now, Higgins,” he said, “with the object of saving Blake, whom I believe to be innocent, from the gallows, this is the suggestion I am putting forward. You did not stop the train back there in the tunnel, as you suggest — but just here. The others in the rear of the train would not know, that part of it being in the tunnel, of course.”

\n\n

“Well,” snapped the other, “what about it?”

\n\n

“Having stopped the train here, you left your cab, and stepped into the passenger-carrying section of this front coach, with the idea of having a brief word with your wife, before the signals changed.”

\n\n

“My wife! What are you talking about?”

\n\n

“Your photograph appeared in the evening paper. You were in uniform, but I had the picture retouched by an artist, who sketched in civilian clothes. That picture was instantly identified by Captain and Mrs. Willoughby. They were positive you were the man whom Mrs. Watson had introduced as her husband.”

\n\n

The driver did not answer.

\n\n

“I suggest that seeing the coach deserted, except for your wife, you gave vent to your anger with her and killed her.”

\n\n

“How?”

\n\n

“With that control lever. It is detachable, of course, and you always take it with you when you leave the train, so that it may not be started by an unauthorised person. You had the handle with you when you stepped into that carnage, and you struck her with it. I found bloodstains on it.”

\n\n

Higgins looked as though about to deny the suggestion, but then he appeared to give way to a mood of dejection and resignation.

\n\n

“All right,” he said. “You win. I don’t particularly want another man to hang for what I did, and can’t say I care overmuch what happens to me. I’m fed up with everything.

\n\n

“I did kill her,” he went on. “I suppose it’s just that the curse got me after all.”

\n\n

“The curse?”

\n\n

“Just superstition that, of course, but it’s played on my mind like superstitions do. You see, I won a first prize in that Monravian Sweepstake about fifteen months ago, and I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to let it make any difference to my way of life.’ Every winner says that, I know, but I was an exception. I meant it and stuck to it. Twenty-four years I’ve been on the railway, and a railway worker I decided to stop.

\n\n

“It didn’t suit my wife,” he continued. “And I said to her, ‘You go on and have a good time. We’ll go our separate ways for a while.’

\n\n

“That suited her, and I thought that when she got mixing with a lot of stuck-up people out of her natural class she’d soon get fed up with it and want to come back to the old life.

\n\n

“She didn’t like the sound of the name Higgins,” continued the man with a bitter laugh. “Too common. So she used her maiden name, Watson, and went to live in a posh flat. More and more money she had, and more and more she wanted. I let her have it, until I began to realise I’d lost her for keeps. She was ashamed of me. She wanted to go over to Paris with some of her fine friends, and she wanted an extra large sum of money out of me. I found there was another man in the picture helping her to spend my money, and I determined to have it out. She was going the day after, and I sent her a note to say that I wouldn’t send the cheque she wanted unless I saw her before she went.

\n\n

“I told her to get on this train, and — well — you seem to know all the rest. I — I coshed her,” he added with a strange, hysterical laugh, “coshed her with this.”

\n\n

As he spoke, he pushed over the control lever.

\n\n

He pushed it farther and farther, and the train accelerated sharply. He pushed the lever to its limit, and Hawke saw that he was laughing crazily.

\n\n

“Here,” exclaimed the detective, “steady!”

\n\n

“… with this — I coshed her with this.”

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He had taken the control lever off, and was waving it about.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 6

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A Leap for Life

\n\n

Before Hawke could act — could even suspect what he was about to do — the man had thrown the lever out of the window.

\n\n

“You fool!” shouted Hawke. “How are you going to stop the train?”

\n\n

Higgins was laughing, almost uproariously.

\n\n

“When we come to the buffers,” he said. “Then it’ll stop.”

\n\n

Crack!

\n\n

Hawke shot out his fist, and dealt the mad driver a heavy blow on the jaw, so that he slumped senseless to the floor.

\n\n

Hawke turned his attention to the control box, but there was nothing but the square end of the key shanky and human fingers were not powerful enough to move it.

\n\n

He did not understand the mysteries of the box, which was locked, and did not know whether it was possible to stop the train by pulling out a fuse.

\n\n

He searched feverishly through the senseless driver’s pockets in the hope of finding the key of the control box, but he found no key.

\n\n

The train plunged madly on, and was presently racing up a gentle slope into the pale light of early morning.

\n\n

The lamps along the track were still alight, and it was possible to see for some distance ahead.

\n\n

“What’s up, guv’nor?”

\n\n

Hawke turned to see the startled face of Tommy peering in at him. The youth had climbed along the footboard, and was holding on to the frame of the open window.

\n\n

The detective motioned him to move back along the footboard, and, opening the cab door, stepped out by his side.

\n\n

“He’s thrown the control lever out, and I can’t see any way of averting a crash,” answered Hawke grimly.

\n\n

The train was going at a speed which made the senses reel, and it was grim work holding on until they were able to climb into the passenger compartment.

\n\n

“We shall stand a better chance at the rear end,” said Hawke, and they ran to the other end of the coach.

\n\n

It was impossible to get through into the second coach without climbing out on to the footboard again.

\n\n

They were about to make the perilous trip when Tommy pointed to some iron rungs set in the end of the second coach.

\n\n

“What about the roof, guv’nor?”

\n\n

Hawke nodded, and the young man scaled the rungs, his employer following.

\n\n

They reached the rounded, swaying roof to find a horrifying state of affairs.

\n\n

About two hundred yards ahead the track crossed a river over an iron bridge, and a hundred yards or so beyond the bridge, on the same line, was a stationary train.

\n\n

A crash was inevitable within the next few seconds.

\n\n

“We must jump, Tommy,” shouted Hawke. “Into the river! Jump when we reach this near side bank. Our speed will carry us into the middle.”

\n\n

They jumped together almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

\n\n

They cleared the iron parapet, and felt themselves sailing on across the river whilst in process of falling.

\n\n

Both were horrified to see timber-laden barges below, and it looked as though they must be dashed to pieces on these.

\n\n

However, they hit the water between two of the barges with only ten or twelve feet to spare on either side of them.

\n\n

Their heads had scarcely come above water when the district was fit up by a dazzling, blue-white flash.

\n\n

At the same time there was a terrific crash and next moment bells and sirens sounded, and there were excited cries from all sides. Fortunately, no one was killed, except the unhappy sweep winner.

\n\n

Blake was released after Hawke had outlined to Gray all that had taken place.

\n\n

“It seemed obvious to me, from the very first,” ho explained, “that Mrs. Watson must have had an appointment with a railwayman. The note in her handbag referred to the 9.58 southbound train. Are there many people in London, other than railwaymen, who know the exact times of tube trains — which arrive and depart within a few minutes of each other?”

\n\n

“H’m. I never thought of that. And it is rather a point, isn’t it?”

\n\n

Hawke smiled.

\n\n

“Keeping that idea in mind,” he concluded, “I was looking for a railwayman as the possible murderer, and it wasn’t long before I saw that train driver was our man.”

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Playing Straight", "author": "Lucas Mortimer", "body": ""
\n
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Chicken

\n\n

Tell y’u we don’t want a piefaced, sawed off little runt like y’u in th’ gang. Yer middle name’s Chicken, and y’u ain’t got th’ nerve t’ scare a woodenlegged cop. Beat it before I push yer face in.”

\n\n

“Big” Bill, boss of the Maude Street gang, banged the table with the flat of his hamlike hand and jerked his head in the direction of the door. The freckled, sallow-faced youth standing before him, ventured a protest. Membership in the toughest gang of the neighborhood was an honor, and carried with it a prestige that was coveted by all the young wasters and loungers within a mile circle of the gang’s headquarters.

\n\n

“Aw, Bill,” said “The Bantam Kid.”

\n\n

“Y’u don’t mean that. Y’u ain’t goin’ t’ run me outer th’ ole gang f’r nothin’. Y’u can’t —”

\n\n

“I can’t!” exclaimed Big Bill, with vicious ferocity. “Watch me an see if I’m a liar.”

\n\n

The Maude Street leader wiped his lips on the back of his hairy fist, and, assuring himself by a swift glance around the room that there were no gun-toting sympathizers with The Bantam Kid, shot out his long left arm. His victim wriggled and swore and clawed like a wild cat; but the grip on his neck tightened, and he was forced face down on the table. A glass overturned and crashed to the floor. The Kid’s snub nose was squashed into a pool of beer dregs.

\n\n

“Goin’?” asked Big Bill. “Or have I gotter use y’r face t’ swab up this here table?”

\n\n

A howl of bestial laughter went up at this novel exhibition of brute strength. The herd of assembled toughs behaved as a mob always does — they followed the example of a popular leader. The same animal instinct of savagery that sets a pack of wolves to tearing and devouring a weaker or wounded member, swayed the crowd that gathered, jostling and gloating, round the table. With no more effort than if he were holding a kitten, Big Bill carried out his threat. The Bantam Kid’s face made a wide, circular smear on the filthy table, and the mob hastily parted as Big Bill literally flung his captive through the air.

\n\n

The Bantam Kid landed in a heap ten feet away, and, bellowing with laughter, the gang leader stood waiting for the vain threats, the futile splutter of curses that he expected would follow the rise of The Kid. His laughter ceased, and the others expectant of a frenzied outburst from the slowly rising victim, stood silently waiting.

\n\n

The spell lasted until The Bantam Kid got to his feet and reached the door. There he turned and faced the waiting crowd. Then, in absolute silence, The Kid opened the door and passed out. He had spoken no word, made no gesture; but the stony stare of his light-gray eyes had conveyed the impression of an unbreakable resolve. He had been thrown out of the gang. Broken and disgraced he had gone, yet every tough in that room was convinced of one thing: some time in the future a bullet or a knife thrust would land in the small of Big Bill’s back, and a new gang leader would be required.

\n\n

“Some nerve!” muttered Bill. “Let’s have another drink.”

\n\n

For the rest of the evening, Big Bill’s laugh was as loud as usual, his words as boastful; but now and again a look of haunting fear crept into his crafty, peering eyes. The poison installed in his mind by The Bantam Kid’s wordless threat was beginning to work.

\n\n

The next day, Bill made the discovery that his assault on The Kid had failed of its real, ulterior purpose. He had wanted the Kid out of the gang, but that had not been Big Bill’s sole reason. There was a girl, and in evidence that she resented Bill’s coarse overtures to replace The Bantam Kid in her affections, she scared the gangster’s cheek with three long scratches.

\n\n

“The Kid’s gone,” she said shrilly, “but I tell y’u he’ll be back. Come near me ag’in an’ I’ll scratch yer eyes out, y’u big bluff! Watch out fer Th’ Kid. He’s comin’ back!”

\n\n

Big Bill swore vindictively, but for weeks he never turned a comer without keeping a hand on his gun, or passed a darkened doorway without a sidelong, furtive glance. He lost weight and the constant strain of the fear of sudden death wore his temper to shreds of peevish irritability. His nerve broke.

\n\n

One night he glimpsed a shadow lurking behind him. He fired and ten seconds later discovered he had almost killed a policeman. Fortunately for him he was not recognized and the policeman recovered. But day and night Big Bill’s thoughts and dreams were tortured by visions of disaster. In fancy he died a thousand deaths. By the end of a year after The Bantam Kid’s disappearance, Big Bill was bolstering his courage with booze, and his power as a leader of the Maude Street gang was fast dwindling. Has beens are of no more use in the underworld than they are in legitimate business.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Return of the Bantam Kid

\n\n

Then The Bantam Kid returned, and the manner of his coming was far removed from all conjecture. According to all precedent, he should have come with a gun or knife, have carried out his revenge, and slunk again into hiding. He should have reappeared with a scowl on his freckled face, instead of which he came with a smile and, what was more astounding still, with money to bum. He radiated prosperity and forgiveness of all wrongs.

\n\n

With one or two exceptions the same members of the Maude Street gang that had witnessed his going, were present on his return. And the same waiting silence fell upon them when he opened the door. Over in a corner Big Bill sat with his finger crooked round the trigger of his automatic. His coarse mouth agape, he stared fixedly at The Bantam Kid.

\n\n

The tension was electric, the release amazing. Smiling at his enemy, The Kid placed a finger and thumb in his vest pocket and drew out a twentydollar bill.

\n\n

“Drinks round,” he said, smiling,

\n\n

Naturally enough, the Maude Street gang did not at once accept The Kid’s hospitality without mistrust and many sidelong glances and whispered words. Big Bill’s piggy, suspicious gaze did not miss a single move of The Bantam, but neither he nor any of the others failed to absorb the rounds of drinks that came out of the twenty-dollar bill.

\n\n

As the evening wore on, it became evident that The Bantam Kid was determined to ignore all reference to the time when he had been so badly mauled and jeered at. It was generally agreed that he was all yellow and had come back to make a splurge and a show of his money. But whatever opinion was held by each member of the gang, it did not prevent any one of them from guzzling at The Bantam Kid’s expense. Some of Big Bill’s bombast returned, but he led the others in toadying to The Kid.

\n\n

“May as well play up t’ him while he’s got th’ coin,’’ he muttered in the ear of a fellow gangster. “He must ha’ struck it rich, but y’u can bet it ain’t goin’t’ last long.”

\n\n

For over a week, The Bantam Kid showed up at the gang’s headquarters, but though he changed either a twentyor a fifty-dollar bank note each night, his wealth showed no sign of diminishing.

\n\n

“He must ‘ave got a roll as long as my arm,” said the gang leader at a secret conference. “But he don’t never carry more’n one bill on him or —”

\n\n

Big Bill’s pause was significant of what would befall The Bantam Kid if he were fool enough to carry his money in one wad.

\n\n

“How’d he get it?” inquired one who had laughed loudest and now drank deepest at The Kid’s expense.

\n\n

Big Bill snorted in disgust.

\n\n

“How should I know,” he muttered. “He ain’t got no nerve nor no brains either, but he must have got the coin somewhere. It ain’t phony, an’ y’u don’t pick up a’ roll like he’s got, on th’ street. What’s th’ answer?”

\n\n

No one could say.

\n\n

That night, various clumsy attempts were made to get The Kid to talk, but although he admitted that his funds were inexhaustible, he would not disclose how he had made his pile. The gang’s interest in the mystery became an obsession. Curiosity and greed grew to a frantic desire to learn the truth, and Big Bill brooded over the deed of violence he would commit if he could find out the place where The Kid kept his money. In the presence of The Bantam, Bill’s bloated visage wore a fixed grin, but there was murder in his drink-muddled thoughts.

\n\n

Then, in the monotony of The Kid’s nightly distribution of free drinks, there came an astounding break — and still more convincing evidence that his roll was no padded fake. He drove up to the dive in an automobile with a mustard-yellow body and cherry-red wheels. On the seat beside him sat the girl whose finger nails had left their mark of disapproval on Big Bill’s cheek. A diamond as big as a navy bean glistened on her finger. She rustled in silk.

\n\n

The gang gathered in the doorway of the passage leading to the back room, where they held their meetings, and craned their necks in wonder. A crowd blocked the sidewalk and a policeman came up. He eyed the resplendent car with a hungry, speculative look; but although he and every detective in the precinct were aware that The Bantam Kid was scattering money like a crazy millionaire, they were powerless to do more than think.

\n\n

Every one was certain that The Bantam Kid had pulled off some clever bit of crooked work; but the police were in exactly the same position as the Maude Street gang. They were all guessing.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Invitation

\n\n

Leaving his girl in the car, The Bantam Kid stepped out jauntily. He was dressed to kill and the smoke of his huge cigar drifted in tantalizing wreaths past the cop’s nostrils. The Kid’s grin was impudent, but it held the quality of assurance.

\n\n

“You may sniff at my sec-gar,” he murmured, “but y’u can’t lay a finger on me.”

\n\n

Then he pushed his way through the gang, wedged in the passage, and when they were all assembled in the back room, he made a little speech.

\n\n

“Boys,” he said, “me an’ th’ kid outside is goin’t’ be spliced t’night. We’ve got th’ house all fixed up, th’ sky pilot’s waitin’, an’ th’ eats an’ th’ re-freshments is all laid out.”

\n\n

The Bantam Kid paused to let this information sink in; then he continued: “I dessay y’u fellers, not fergetting’ Bill here, is all wonderin’ how it is I come t’ be so friendly after th’ way I quit this place more’n a year ago. Well, I reckon I’ve already showed y’u that I ain’t holdin’ no ill feelin’s. To tell y’u th’ honest truth, I owe every cent of this pile of kale I’ve got, t’ Bill. I hit on a line of graft that’s a sure winner, an’ if Bill hadn’t did what he done, I’d never’ve been worth a brass nickel. So I ask all you boys t’ pile in an’ celebrate.”

\n\n

Grunts and murmurs of approval signified that the gang was willing to partake of anything that was free, and when The Bantam hinted that he would disclose the secret of his wealth, Big Bill led the stream of eager gangsters out to the car.

\n\n

With careful observance of the speed limit, Bantam drove some twenty miles out of town. The car drew up in front of a large, isolated house, and The Kid conducted his party to a big front room. A table was loaded with food, and the buffet was packed with bottles.

\n\n

“Th’ sky pilot ain’t come yet,” muttered the Bantami Then he added mysteriously: “Tell y’u what, I was goin’ t’ keep th’ little surprise I have fer y’u until after we got outside them eats and drinks. I guess I’ll show y’u right away.”

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Phony

\n\n

Thirsty but curious, the gang followed the small, dapper figure to the basement. The Kid flung open a door and switched on the light. He pointed to an object that stood in the center of the bare room. It was shrouded with canvas, but there were bulges and inequalities in the gray surface that suggested some kind of machine.

\n\n

“After t’night,” said The Kid, “I’m going t’ break it up. It’s safer. I’ve got all th’ dough I’ll need f’r th’ rest of my life, in th’ bank.”

\n\n

Big Bill strode forward.

\n\n

“Y’u mean t’ tell us you’ve been makin’ phony bills!” he exclaimed as he wrenched off the canvas. The rest crowded round, eager to see the marvel that could turn out unlimited wealth. Then the light went out and the door closed. Blank, impenetrable darkness fell on the stunned and fearsmitten gang. There came the rattle of a can, and the muffled voice of The Kid.

\n\n

“There’s five gallons of gas runnin’ under th’ door,” he said. “If any of you boobs strikes a match y’u all go to — pieces. Don’t try no gun play, either. Wait fer th’ nex’ act.”

\n\n

A curse came from Big Bill, and the toughs, panic-stricken, started walking wildly about the enclosure. The stench of gasoline stung their throats and they broke into hoarse pleadings to be released.

\n\n

A sound from above stilled them to silence again and they looked up. In the ceiling was a dim, circular hole. With uplifted heads and staring gaze the gang bunched beneath the opening.

\n\n

“Y’u got yer own back, Kid,” shouted Big Bill. “Now let up and —”

\n\n

A thump that shook the house to its foundations cut short the gangster’s plea.

\n\n

An avalanche of thick, viscid fluid poured over the edge of the opening and dropped in a flowing blanket over the gang. Howling with new dismay, the bunch of men broke apart but although they crouched against the wall and sought the farthest corners of their prison, they could not escape the final touch of artistry that The Bantam Kid bestowed upon them. A soft, fleecy cloud enveloped them. Then came darkness again.

\n\n

Two minutes later, a yellow and red car was speeding away from the isolated house.

\n\n

“Honey,” whispered The Bantam Kid, “we start west t’night. I’ve been spendin’ a lot of cash lately an’ we gotten settle down t’ a quiet life. It’s a shame t’ leave all that booze an’ stuff behind, but I had t’ do things proper an’ convincin’.” Then he sighed contentedly. “The tar an’ th’ feathers an’ that junk printin’ machine was cheap, though.”

\n\n

Five miles farther on, the girl nestled to The Bantam’s side. “An’ from now on you’ll go straight?” she asked.

\n\n

The Bantam Kid laughed.

\n\n

“Surest thing y’ know, kiddo. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve got a hundred and ninety thousand dollars in th’ bank. I ain’t done a crooked thing since Bill chucked me out of th’ gang.”

\n\n

“Then how —”

\n\n

The Bantam Kid explained the mystery in twenty-one words: “I went to a uncle’s in Chicago. Played straight with him, an’ the ole boy died an’ left me his money.”

\n\n

“What a slice of luck!” exclaimed the girl.

\n\n

“Dunno ‘bout that,” murmured The Kid. “If Bill hadn’t cut up rough. I’d never of quit. Say, I guess I’ll hop off here an’ phone th’ cops there’s a bunch of blackbirds waitin’ for ‘em.”

\n\n

He stopped the automobile, went into a drug store, and sent a message to police headquarters. When he reentered the motor car, he was smiling broadly.

\n\n

“Gee, kid,” he said, “I’d like to pipe off those guys when the cops walk in. But we’ve important business of our own on hand, ain’t we, girlie? Full speed ahead!”

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Is Carelessness A Crime?", "author": "Edward Orleans", "body": ""

The Russian Supreme Court has been reported to have decreed recently that carelessness, resulting in the breaking of machinery, etc., in factories and on farms, will be adjudged a crime. Offenders found guilty will be imprisoned or exiled. The defendant’s plea of “accident” is to be ignored. The fact that the offender was careless enough to permit it will be considered sufficient grounds for conviction.

\n\n

Under the new ruling it will no longer be necessary to prove that workers who started fires or damaged machinery did so on purpose. Muddle-headedness and general stupidity will be regarded as criminal traits.

\n\n

This new Russian decree will be hailed as one of those highly debatable rulings, with the sentimentalists lined solidly against the courts.

\n\n

However, carelessness, regardless of criminal intent, is in effect a crime.

\n\n

In this glorious land of free and relatively untrammeled indulgence in bootleg hooch and hoop-la we had, during 1929 and 1930, 29,531 deaths from automobiles alone—a sufficiently large number of fatalities to satisfy the blood-lust of even the most vehement warrior.

\n\n

And Heaven only knows how many lives were lost, and what uncounted millions of dollars in property and forest preserve were burned up by careless or reckless fools, who, if they had their just deserts, should have been stood up against a wall and shot.

\n\n

Whether carelessness is a crime or not, the victim of its effects suffers just the same. If Billy Bohunk is cleaning a shotgun, which should have been unloaded, but which accidentally fills your valuable skin full of bird shot, you arrive in the hospital, or in the morgue, almost as certainly as though Legs Diamond himself, or one of his gallant aides, had turned a sub-machine gun loose on you.

\n\n

Modern existence is cribbed and confined by a flock of addle-pated fools, who make life infinitely more hazardous and difficult for us than it has any reason for being.

\n\n

At the intersection of any principal street in America we run the risk of imminent death a thousand times a year. Were it not for the splendid and really heroic work of our traffic cops, we’d be dodging wildeyed motorists, careening around a corner on two wheels, about half our time. And they couldn’t always miss us.

\n\n

We all have heard the expression “criminally careless”, but have we ever known the expression to be more than an empty phrase? Apparently the Russian government is going to hold the term at its face value. Certainly it will be interesting to note how far their action is valuable in reducing accidents.

\n\n

There is a lot to be said in commendation of the Russian idea of penalizing those responsible for accidents. It might be well if we were to take a leaf from their book. Life might not be quite so exciting. But quite a few of us would live longer—and have many more legs and arms to show the undertaker when we came to die.

\n\n

Again we have passed through another Fourth of July to read the next day of hundreds of deaths over the country from explosives, from drowning, from automobile and aviation accidents. How many of those could have been prevented?

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Love Monster of Fall River", "author": "John N. Makris", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

A Slaughter House

\n\n

Dawn slowly forsook the last remnants of velvety darkness, breaking over the horizon amid a cyclonic whirlpool of raging winds. Inspector Abel J . Violette shivered. His partner, Inspector Hugh Bogan, had suddenly called his attention to an almost indistinct object a dozen odd yards from the mouth of Eagan’s Court. No amount of wind could have made Violette shiver like that. The 5:30 AM, telephone call to the Fall River, Massachusetts Police Headquarters reporting a woman screaming probably was of no minor nature. Somehow, Violette harbored instincts tor the worst …

\n\n

They made their way in slowly. They stopped quickly, stared down.

\n\n

“For the luvva Mike, Abel,” exclaimed Bogan. “It’s a woman.”

\n\n

The wind moaned eerily through the underpass, plaintive with whispering sighs of despair. Began shook himself, muttered: “She’s dead!”

\n\n

Murder lay sprawled at their feet.

\n\n

She was crumpled on her right side, her knees almost doubled up to her stomach. Beneath the guise of distorted features stamped by inexorable death, her voluptuous beauty remained unmarred. Violette bent over her. Her throat had been slashed with such terrific ferocity which made Violette wonder what kept it on her shoulders.

\n\n

“I’ll get the Medical Examiner,” offered Bogan.

\n\n

Violette nodded. Bleak, greyish light filtered into the murder court, bathing the squat brick buildings, revealing scores of neighbors with their faces pressed against window-panes. Others, braving the howling and whipping wind, drifted near Violette end the gruesome corpse. Violette wondered who made the call to headquarters, which resulted in the assignment of Violette and Bogan to investigate weird screams of terror in the vicinity of Eagan’s Court which ran 03 Spring Street.

\n\n

Violette asked questions, endeavoring to establish the slain woman’s identity. She remained a question mark. The crowd of morbidly curious increased. Violette’s continued interrogation proved no headway. To the neighbors, strangely enough, she remained unrecognizable.

\n\n

A little later, Bogan arrived with Medical Examiner Doctor Thomas Gunning. The Doctor examined the woman carefully.

\n\n

“A terrible way to die,” he commented, standing up. “Head nearly severed. Violette. Practically to the cranial vertebrae. It took a remarkably strong wrist to do that, now mind you, in one cruel sweep. As for the lethal

\n\n

“Doubtful,” he said. “The condition of her clothed lower exterior belies that. However, an autopsy will prove definitely whether or not.”

\n\n

While the woman was being prepared for removal to the morgue, Violette let his eyes wander keenly over the gathered crowd. His eyes fastened on a woman who elbowed her way through the crowd, her eyes widening into incredible pools of horror at the nearing sight of the slain woman. ‘Violette reached her just about as she opened her mouth to scream.

\n\n

“Don’t,” he said, not too harshly. “You know who she is, don’t you?”

\n\n

The woman looked up at him, her eyes glazed. Violette turned her away from the gruesome sight, repeated his question. The woman shook her head, ridding herself of a numbing lethargy of horror. She moved her lips soundlessly. Then the words tumbled out over each other: “Yes, yes. I know. It’s Domka.” She broke Violette’s restraining grip on her arm, spun around and pointed “It’s Domka!”

\n\n
\n\t\"Domke\n\t
Domke Perembyda: She loved — then hated. But she could not escape the terrible doom destiny had in store for her.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

“Domka, what?” Violette asked. “Where does she live?”

\n\n

The woman was on the verge of replying when a tall middle-aged man hurried over. Disregarding Violette, man and woman conversed excitedly in a foreign tongue.

\n\n

Russian, thought Violette.

\n\n

Impatient at the interruption, Violette horned in. At his barrage of rapid-fire questions, the man said he was Jacob Maker, and the woman that Violette had been questioning, was his wife. They ran a variety store just around the corner, and their home was directly in back, right where the slain woman was found. The dead woman, Maker said, was Domka.

\n\n

The name was familiar to Violette, but much to his disgust at the moment, he couldn’t place it. Her identity thus established, Violette told Bogan to comb the neighborhood and find out all he could about the victim. Then Violette, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Maker, walked into their store on Spring Street to question them further.

\n\n

The Makers seemed reticent to talk. Too uneasy and ill-at-ease, thought Violette. Why? After a little verbal prodding, Mrs. Maker said that Domka was a good girl that did her work satisfactorily and never went out evenings. That, for Violette, wasn’t enough. He wanted to know how long she worked for the Makers? Where had she come from? And why didn’t she go out evenings?

\n\n

Violette’s last question seemed to strike the Makers between the eyes. They glanced at each other apprehensively. Violette was convinced that he had struck something tangible here. Was the fear of death the reason Domka Peremybida stayed in evenings?

\n\n

“Now, look,” Violette said. “I don’t want to rush you. I want to get everything straight. Let’s start from the time you hired Domka.”

\n\n

“She’s been with us for five months,” Jack Maker said. “We needed a girl to keep house, so we advertised for one. Domka answered, so we hired her. We got along fine. I’ve never met such a clean and industrious girl. She did the house-work. My wife and I were in the store earlier than usual this morning. We had new stock in last night that had to be stacked and put away. When Domka didn’t appear at the store this morning, we thought she overslept. You see, she was up at five every morning to light the stove. Then she’d leave the house and come to the store through Eagan’s Court. We have a little kitchen in back of the store. Domka prepared the breakfast. Then she’d go back to the house, rouse the children and prepare them for school. Of course, she had the house work to do, too. Such a pity she had to die.”

\n\n

When Violette reverted back to his questions about Domka’s friends, relations, and her strange reluctance to go out evenings, Maker shrugged helplessly.

\n\n

“Nobody ever came to see Domka, Inspector. We know nothing of her past life. But we did notice something strange.”

\n\n

His wife started to weep softly.

\n\n

“My wife and I couldn’t but help feel that poor Domka lived in great fear of her life. We know that she fastened all her windows and bolted the door before retiring.”

\n\n

“In other words,” mused Violette, “there is a person from whom she lived in mortal fear?”

\n\n

The Makers nodded.

\n\n

“You haven’t told me enough,” Violette said. “In the five months that Domka stayed with you-you can’t tell me that you don’t know much about her. It isn’t possible. Try to think-of letters, pictures, anything. Living in fear of someone means that she knew who-“

\n\n

“I think it’s a man,” Maker said suddenly.

\n\n

Violette’s eyes slowly narrowed. “So you think it’s a man, eh?” he asked softly. “Why?”

\n\n

A frightened look passed between the Makers. The husband wet his lips nervously, shifted uneasily.

\n\n

“A man has been watching my store for the last ten days. Every night he’d be out there, watching. I grew nervous, thinking maybe he was going to rob me. Well, on March 13, he walked into my store. I didn’t know what to do. The man scared me. I asked him what he wanted. He said he wanted to speak to Domka. I refused him, and he got angry. When I said I’d call the police, he hurried away muttering —”

\n\n

“Muttering, what?” snapped Violette.

\n\n

“It was Russian,” Maker said, “and I understood every word. He said: ‘I’ll have my way with her or one of these days —’ He left and I haven’t seen him since.”

\n\n

Violette’s brain bristled with angles. There was only one serious drawback. He didn’t know enough about the slain woman’s past to formulate more conclusive theories. However, one fact was certain. The slaying had two possible motives. Either jealousy or killer-inspired rage of a thwarted lover. Domka’s fears were well-founded, and her reluctance to venture out evenings was now explainable.

\n\n

The man who watched Maker’s store for ten days and then asked for Domka, mused Violette, was the killer. There appeared no other feasible solution at this early stage of the investigation. On that particular assumption Domka Peremybida met sudden and horrible death that very morning of March 14th.

\n\n

Assured that Jacob Maker would know this man if he met him again, Violette walked out. He found Bogan at the murder scene. Bogan hadn’t obtained any helpful information. If Domka Peremybida was an enigma to the Makers, she was a riddle to the neighbors.

\n\n

Without wasting time, Violette and Bogan went about their investigation methodically. The corpse had been removed, but an ugly smear of crimson stained the underpass. The trail of blood receded backwards from the congealed pool where Domka had collapsed to the back door of Jack Maker’s home. The investigating Inspectors climbed the stoop into a dark hallway. Bogan used his flashlight.

\n\n

Crimson tell-tale hand prints were on the wall where Domka Peremybida, her throat slashed, had placed her blood-drenched hands for support. Her intention, assumed Violette, was to reach the outside to summon aid. At the end of the narrow corridor, a door gaped open. They picked their way across the intervening space carefully, avoiding the dark pools of blood on the floor. They froze on the threshold of the kitchen … .

\n\n

“My God!” husked Bogan. “It looks like a slaughter house.”

\n\n

Violette thought so, too. The linoleum was smeared with a coating of blood. There was a long smear where some one had slipped. Most of the kitchen furniture was over-turned. Directly under the only window lay a blood-stained razor. The sash still swung in the raging wind. Violette walked over. There were red marks on the sash. On the roof of the leanto, beneath the window, were scores of crimson spots.

\n\n
\n\t\"Escape:\n\t
Escape: Arrow points to window where a murderer manage to crawl through and escape.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

“Here’s the exit of the killer,” Violette said, “and also his entrance. It’s easy to figure. Domka came down here to light the stove. She never had a chance. Most likely, she never had even a split-chance to put the light on. The killer waited for her in the dark. He suddenly grabbed her by the hair, forcing her head back. There’s no question but that she knew her attacker. She screamed in terror. The murderer then slashed her throat with the razor he brought with him, dropped it, and escaped through the window. Domka, still alive, managed to get out to the underpass where she collapsed and died.

\n\n

“It’s a wonder Maker’s kids didn’t wake up,” Bogan said. “From what I gather, the screams had the neighbors scared witless.”

\n\n

“Youngsters are hard sleepers,” Violette said. “Even if they did awake, they’d be at loss, and probably fall back asleep. Now, this man that kept tabs on Maker’s store. He planned this murder. He knew he’d have to catch Domka alone and he did. He must have spotted the Makers opening up early, so he walked through the underpass, climbed into the kitchen up from the lean-to. No doubt, his purpose was to find Domka’s bedroom, but she walked into the kitchen and then-“

\n\n

“A murder for us to crack,” Bogan said soberly.

\n\n

The blood on the window sill showed that the killer had cut himself, mused Violette. He picked up the death weapon, and carefully wrapped it in his handkerchief.

\n\n

They searched the Maker house carefully in hopes of picking up a clue. They were disappointed. All they had was a razor of foreign-manufacture. However, Violette had hopes about the murder weapon. It was a peculiar type, hand forged.

\n\n

The day of the murder, March 14th, wound up with straight routine investigation. The following day, Violette and Bogan endeavored to seek, if possible, any means from which they could delve into Domka Peremybida’s past life. It didn’t seem possible that she was friendless. Violette couldn’t console himself there. She was too attractive. There was something about her, even in death, that had stirred one word within Violette’s brain.

\n\n

Sex!

\n\n

Violette felt that that was the answer to the whole perplexing mess, and the key was the man who had demanded to see Domka in Maker’s store. All roads leading in and out of the city were put under strictest surveillance. Railroad stations and freight-yards were watched night and day. The description of the mysterious man wanted in connection with the murder was circulated throughout Fall River, and practically every major city in New England. The waterfront was carefully searched. Suspects, of Russian and Polish birth, were picked up and questioned. They were released upon subsequent proof of their innocence.

\n\n

“We know that he’s a Russian,” Violette said to Bogan. “I’m riding a hunch that Domka wasn’t his wife. I’ll give you odds that we’re bucking a sex slaying, Hugh. Doctor Gunning’s report shows that she wasn’t criminally assaulted at the time of the murder. Hugh, according to Gunning, there were peculiarities on her body that convinces me, we are up against a sex-maddened sadist.”

\n\n

“You’re spoofing,” joshed Bogan.

\n\n

“Am I?” snapped Violette. “Listen Hugh. There were thin welts on Domka’s thighs and back. Almost invisible, but there just the same. They’re not recent, I’ll grant you that. Where would she get welts like that unless she was mixed up with a sadist? We can check our records on all persons involved in sex cases. Maybe we’ll come across a lead. Anyway, why didn’t she have friends? Why didn’t she go out evenings?”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

So He Finally Killed Her!

\n\n
\n\t\"Chief\n\t
Chief of Police Abel Violette: “We're up against a peculiar type of criminal — perhaps a madman — he must be brought in.”
\n
\n\n


\nLate that day, the 15th, the first major clue in the fiendish murder of Domka Peremybida cropped up. Captain Martin Feeney of Division Two made his findings to Chief of Police Medley, Violette and Bogan. One of his men, investigating throughout Fall River to discover more information about the dead woman, found her former residence at 2 Hall Street. Violette and Bogan hurried out, finding that residence to be a two story weather-beaten house. A kindly faced woman of Polish extraction answered the door. Upon introducing themselves, the woman bade them to enter.

\n\n

Violette said: “Do you know Domka Peremybida?”

\n\n

The woman smiled in recollection. “Indeed. Very well … She boarded here. She moved away five months ago. I hope there’s nothing wrong.”

\n\n

“Domka is dead,” Violette said without preamble. “I’m sorry to say that. She was murdered! You wouldn’t have any idea of who might have wanted to kill her, have you?”

\n\n

The woman’s otherwise normal breath became a sibilant hiss. Her gentle eyes dilated with terror. Her body grew rigid, her hands clenched. For a moment Violette thought he’d have a case of hysteria on his hands. But, then, the woman made a quick recovery of her facilities, paced the room nervously, avoiding Violette’s inquiring gaze. Finally, as though making up her mind, she faced the waiting Inspectors.

\n\n

She said: “So he finally killed her!”

\n\n

Violette’s head jerked up with surprise. Here was their first major clue that he felt positive would lead to the apprehension of the fiendish killer.

\n\n

“Who did kill her?” he bit out. “What was his name?”

\n\n

“So he finally killed her,” the woman repeated. “He’s a devil that Anton. I told poor Domka to watch out for him.”

\n\n

Emotion overcame, suffused her eyes with blinding tears. She collapsed limply into the nearest chair. “Oh, the devil. His name is Anton Retkevitch. I hadn’t heard about Domka’s death. Everybody in the neighborhood knew that it would happen sooner or later. It was bound to happen. The devil just couldn’t leave Domka alone. Oh, God, oh … .”

\n\n

It dawned on Violette suddenly. Now he recalled where he had first heard of Domka Peremybida. The name Anton Retkevitch limned the picture. About six months ago, a man named Anton Retkevitch had been sentenced to thirty days in the New Bedford House of Correction for assault on a woman named Domka Peremybida! Slow, but sure, Violette’s afore-mentioned deduction of the motive materialized. For a half hour, they listened to an unbelievable tale pouring from the landlady’s trembling lips. Violette shook his head in disbelief. It was too fantastic, but he didn’t doubt because he knew it was logical. The extremes were what amazed him. After securing Retkevitch’s address, they left.

\n\n

Retkevitch boarded at 27 Hall Street, and the landlady, Mrs. Bertha Fishstein, admitted them upstairs to Retkevitch’s room. Violette knocked, and a voice said to come in. Entering, Violette’s eyes rifled the room in one sweeping glance. The owner of the voice sat sprawled on the bed reading a book. The room was ship-shape. Frankly, Violette didn’t expect to find Retkevitch in the room. The killer’s past experience with Domka Peremybida was too well known around the neighborhood for him to linger around after her death. Provided of course, and yet to be definitely proven by Violette, that Retkevitch was the killer.

\n\n

“You’re the man that shared this room with Anton Retkevitch, aren’t you?” Violette asked sharply.

\n\n

The man nodded, swinging his legs off the bed. Violette showed him the murder razor, asked him if he recognized it. The man nodded, said it belonged to Retkevitch. Upon being asked where Retkevitch was, his roommate shrugged. He asserted, however, that Retkevitch had mentioned something about going to Pittsburgh about a week ago.

\n\n

“What time,” Violette asked, “did Retkevitch leave the morning of Tuesday, the 14th? That was the morning Domka Peremybida was killed. Give me a straight answer now.”

\n\n

“Four thirty,” he answered promptly. “I heard his alarm clock ring, and I woke up. He wouldn’t tell me where he was going.”

\n\n

Further questioning failed to divulge any information of importance. Once outside, Violette and Bogan separated, each taking a different side of the neighborhood. Violette wanted the story told by the dead woman’s exlandlady to double check. Three hours later they met in the Inspector’s quarters on the second floor at headquarters. They exchanged looks of stunned disbelief. They sat down without speaking for several minutes, dragging furiously on their cigarettes.

\n\n

“I’ll be damned,” Bogan finally exclaimed. “I still can’t believe it, Abel. We’re modern, civilized. Gosh! Stuff like that defies the imagination. Like a chapter from the life of DuBarry when she wasn’t a lady.”

\n\n

Violette laughed grimly. “I was closer than I thought, Hugh. Sadists may be one name for them, but monsters fits them better. They’re humans like you and I. Only they are insane subjects with an incurable lust. Retkevitch is a sadist. A dangerous one. Now, let’s see what we’ve got … .”

\n\n

Domka Peremybida had arrived in Fall River about six months ago. She took lodgings at 2 Hall Street, and found work in one of the numerous cotton mills. She minded her own business, and was well liked. She did, however, mention the fact that she came from Pittsburgh. Several weeks later, Anton Retkevitch came and immediately boarded at 27 Hall Street. Several days later the wheels of the first chapter of this strange drama which culminated into horrible death, took place early in the evening. Domka and Retkevitch met. As testified by numerous neighbors, Domka was terrified upon seeing Retkevitch. As one man had put it: “My God! She looked as though the very devil himself stood before her.”

\n\n

They quarreled bitterly on the street corner. She left him in a smouldering rage, shouting threats. Then Retkevitch floated talk around that she was his wife. Domka vehemently denied this-saying she hadn’t married Retkevitch in Pittsburgh or any place else. The one notable feature was the strange power Retkevitch held over her. She’d never avoid him when he spoke to her. She’d listen-like a person fascinated by a deadly cobra coiled to strike at the slightest move. Then, apparently weakened by his persistence, she started losing ground.

\n\n

She was a woman undecided to a point of distraction. She avoided whatever few friends she had made. She stayed in her room. Her landlady, passing outside her room one night, heard Domka talking to herself in a despairing voice. It wasn’t a question of eavesdropping; she, too, knew about Retkevitch. She wanted to help Domka.

\n\n

The words sifted through the door: “Oh, why can’t he forget the past. I’ll go crazy thinking about it. I am no longer like that. I never want to be like that again. I — I want a good man for a husband. I want babies. Oh, I want to be happy. What can I do so that he will leave me alone?”

\n\n

“Then,” said the landlady, “late one afternoon the neighbors were amazed to see Domka and Retkevitch enter this house. Retkevitch wasn’t seen leaving. Fear for Domka’s safety impelled the neighbors to know what was going on in Domka’s room. Opposite the room which she rented from me was an unoccupied apartment. Because of this, Domka never pulled down her window shade. The neighbors gathered in the empty flat, watching, hardly believing what they saw. They could see into the room-they could see Domka and Retkevitch in close embrace. Suddenly Retkevitch tossed her on to the bed and came at her with a heavy belt upraised. He whipped her unmercifully across her bare back and shoulders. She lay there cowering, arms uplifted as if beseeching him to desist. Raw, red welts appeared on her white flesh. Finally, exhausted, she fell back on the bed, out of range of the astounded watchers.”

\n\n

Violette shook his head as he clipped the sheaf of reports together.

\n\n

“For a woman that hated a man,” he said, “she couldn’t do much about it. She was completely under his control, and had she lived, it would have been the same old story. But she tried darn hard —”

\n\n

It was true. She tried to throw off Retkevitch’s domination by refusing to see him. One night, as she returned home from work, Retkevitch, lurking in the hallway, grabbed her and attempted to assault her. She did the unbelievable. Something that threw hims off entirely.

\n\n

She screamed — long, terrified screams of terror. The neighbors responded to her appeal for help, and Retkevitch was held for police arrival which netted him a thirty day sentence in the House of Correction.

\n\n

“And while that filthy rat served time,” rejoined Bogan, “she packed dunnage and left Hall Street.”

\n\n
\n\t\"Raging,\n\t
Raging, cursing, he struck her again and again until she fell back unconscious. (specially posed)
\n
\n\n


\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

Domka’s Innocent Slip

\n\n

From their files, Violette secured a mug-shot of Retkevitch and hurried to Jacob Maker’s store. Maker took one look at the picture, and nodded his head Violently.

\n\n

“That’s him, Inspector,” he shouted. “That’s the man.”

\n\n

Back to headquarters, the Inspector-partners found new orders awaiting them. Chief Medley had checked their reports, and ordered Bogan to leave immediately for Pittsburgh to check the Retkevitch-Peremybida state of affairs. Violette was ordered to pursue his investigation in Fall River.

\n\n

Working on his own, Violette found the sledding tough. There wasn’t a single opening to actually work from. Circulars bearing the likeness and description of the fugitive killer were sent throughout New England.

\n\n

Retkevitch was around 35 years old, stocky build, and weighed 160 pounds. He had a mustache, dark eyes and hair.

\n\n

Three days passed with no progress. Violette fumed with impatience. He knew a denouement was somewhere in the offing. Three days later Bogan returned from Pittsburgh with a story that merely corroborated what had transpired on Hall Street.

\n\n

With the help of the Pittsburgh police, Bogan finally traced the former residence of the couple to Carnegie, a small railroad construction camp belonging to the Pennsylvania Railway. They operated a boarding house catering to the railroad employees, living as man and wife. But soon their neighbors and boarders got wise. They acted too unnatural and quarreled too much to be man and wife. Then they began to see things.

\n\n

The people resented Retkevitch’s brutal treatment of Domka. Fearing bodily harm, Retkevitch left the town hurriedly with Domka. They landed in the small town of Conemaugh, established themselves in the restaurant business. Their life was violent. Retkevitch was maddened with lust beyond reason. She rebelled-not openly to Retkevitch, but to her better senses. She wrote Retkevitch a letter, telling him they were all through, that she was leaving, and for him not to follow her. She left, and wound up in Fall River.

\n\n

But she made one innocent slip that cost her life. Naturally, after what she had been through, she couldn’t forget Retkevitch very easily. She wrote to a friend of hers inquiring about him, enclosing her forwarding address. This friend showed the letter to Retkevitch, and only God knows what was in the heart of the lustful beast when he left for Fall River.

\n\n

Days sped by, and no progress was made. The case against Retkevitch, however, was now air-tight. There wasn’t the slightest doubt as to his guilt. Violette knew every angle of the case by heart. Despite what had occurred when Retkevitch caught up with Domka in Fall River, she had managed to shake off his sinister influence, and had him arrested. That was the turning point. He brooded over his lost power, grew antagonistic and plotted revenge. Then he murdered her.

\n\n

The clew that finally opened the trail to Retkevitch cropped up on March 28, 1914, two weeks after the wanton murder in Eagan’s Court. Thomas McGlyn, a local letter carrier, had a letter for delivery to Anton Retkevitch. It was sent in care of a grocer on Hall Street.

\n\n

The letter carrier knew that Retkevitch was wanted for murder so he turned the letter over to Postmaster Durfee who, in turn, took it personally to Chief Medley. The Chief called in Violette and Bogan. They examined the letter. It had been sent by a man named Mike Petroky with 103 Salem Street, Boston, as a return address. The letter in itself was friendly. It informed that Petroky had lost his old job in Carnegie, Pa., and had come to Boston in search of work. He requested that Retkevitch write to him if there was any work in Fall River. Nothing more. It was obvious that Petroky knew nothing of the crime Retkevitch had committed.

\n\n

“Well, that’s that,” Chief Medley said: “Another blind trail.”

\n\n

Violette looked thoughtfully at the letter. “I wouldn’t say that, Chief,” he said suddenly. “That letter may, after all, do the trick and result in Retkevitch’s capture. Here’s my plan. Frankly, it’s a gamble. We’ll mail a reply to this letter to the return address with Retkevitch’s signature affixed to it. We’ll state that there’s no work here in Fall River, but that Retkevitch had had a good job on a railroad construction outfit offered him. Then we would specify that Petroky meet Retkevitch at the return address and they’d go together.”

\n\n

Chief Medley approved the plan. The letter was mailed at once. Violette followed it on the first train to Boston, praying that somebody would claim the letter, and with the odds one thousand to one, to strike the trail of the wanton killer of Domka Peremybida. On his arrival in Boston, Violette discussed the case with the local police authorities. Inspector William Rooney was assigned to help him.

\n\n

With Rooney, Violette made his way to Salem Street. The street was in Boston’s North End. It was no more than a narrow thoroughfare infested with all types of foreigners. Aged and weatherbeaten homes housed a conglomeration of men that, Violette knew, nothing short of a dynamite blast would pry a word loose from.

\n\n

Walking casually past 103, they noted it was nothing more than a foreign mail exchange. Foreigners landing in Boston and with no specific mailing address, used the general delivery of 103. The place was operated by Morris Bernstein.

\n\n

Violette, to enlighten the situation, hardly appeared like a police officer on the trail of a dangerous criminal. He was dressed in rough woolen pants tucked in his boots. A heavy mackinaw swathed his upper body. His beard was two days old. Conferring hastily with Rooney, the Boston Inspector sauntered casually across the street, and took position in a doorway. Violette walked into the mail exchange.

\n\n

The main room of business was large with tables and chairs scattered around. A large, pot -bellied stove threw forth heat from the center of the room. On the right of the entrance was a long counter with an iron grillwork. Violette made his way over to the wicket, beckoned to the man behind.

\n\n

The man was Morris Bernstein. Violette flashed his badge, and said: “Where can I find Mike Petroky?”

\n\n

The owner said he didn’t know.

\n\n

“How about Anton Retkevitch?”

\n\n

Again Bernstein shook his head in negative response.

\n\n

“Look, then,” Violette said to him. “I’m sticking around. When anybody calls for mail to either of the two men, you nod.”

\n\n

Violette took a seat near a grimy window, watching unobtrusively the assortment of Greeks, Poles, Russians, and other foreigners that inhabited the room. Every time the door opened, his eyes rifled over to it. Several hours slipped by, and Violette began to wonder whether or not he had himself assigned to a wild-goose chase.

\n\n

The door opened suddenly. Violette riveted his eyes on it. A roughly dressed man stood on the threshold, his eyes taking in every occupant of the room. He was heavily bearded, bundled up in a long overcoat. He hesitated for several minutes before he finally made his way toward the wicket. With his heart thumping against his ribs, Violette watched Bernstein. He had a feeling, a funny feeling like a premonition. Something told him that the climax was near.

\n\n

The bearded man said something to Bernstein in a low, surly voice. Violette couldn’t get the drift. However, Bernstein turned his back to the stranger and almost imperceptibly, he nodded his head. Violette got to his feet slowly, and made his way across the room. He had never seen Retkevitch personally, and this fellow in no way resembled the picture they had of the killer. The unkempt beard hid most of the stranger’s features. But Violette had that feeling. He was practically atop the man, his fingers locked on his service revolver in the roomy mackinaw pocket. He stood directly behind the stranger-

\n\n

“Haven’t seen you for a long time, Anton,” he said harshly.

\n\n

The stranger stiffened without turning. He was staring at Bernstein with eyes that suddenly flicked fire in their depths. Then he turned, slowly. Violette ran his hands over the stranger’s person. He was unarmed.

\n\n

“That beard isn’t very becoming, Anton,” Violette remarked.

\n\n

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the stranger said. “My name is Philip Peremybida.”

\n\n

It was Violette’s turn to stiffen, but with surprise. His lips curled with distaste.

\n\n

“You louse,” he rapped out. “You weren’t satisfied in killing poor Domka, but you had to use her name.”

\n\n

The stranger, however, insisted that his name was Peremybida. If that was the case then, Violette hammered back, why did he call for mail belonging to either Petroky or Retkevitch.

\n\n

The stranger had no answer. Then the telltale signs of a perverted degenerate crept out. He was yellow clean through. Despite his bulk and strength, he had a case of jitters.

\n\n

“You-you’ve made a mistake,” he stammered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Petroky is sick, and he asked me to come after his mail.”

\n\n

“Is that so,” Violette said. “Well, we’ll see. Come on, let’s go and see Mr. Petroky.”

\n\n

Outside, Rooney came over, and Violette told him who he had.

\n\n

“He claims he isn’t Retkevitch, but he’s a liar.”

\n\n

The man led them to 62 Salem Street, a broken down three-decker.

\n\n

At Violette’s curt command, the fellow led the way up to the second floor. He paused outside the nearest door. Violette jabbed him With his gun. The man opened the door. They walked in. Rooney kicked the door shut.

\n\n

The room was poorly furnished, and reeked with tobacco and stale am A man lay fully clothed on a duty bed. As he spotted the gun in Violette’s fist, he jumped up excitedly. Violette shoved him back on the bed, said it was police business.

\n\n

“You can’t push me around,” the man protested. “I didn’t do anything. What do you want?”

\n\n

“What’s your name?” Violette said.

\n\n

“Mike Petroky.”

\n\n

“Fine. So who is this man?”

\n\n

And Violette swiveled his gun around to the stranger.

\n\n

“Why, that’s Anton Retkevitch —”

\n\n
\n\t\"Anton\n\t
Anton Retkevich: He insisted that he was not the man the police wanted.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Petroky stopped short by the warning gleam in the stranger’s eye.

\n\n

“Anton Retkevitch,” snapped Violette. “Don’t tell me you haven’t done anything Petroky. You’re under arrest for harboring and abetting a murderer.”

\n\n

“Murderer,” whispered Petroky. “Him!” His face grew waxy. He implored to Retkevitch, “Is 1t true, Anton? Did you commit murder?”

\n\n

Violette was temporarily convinced that Petroky knew nothing of Retkevitch’s crime. Answering Violette’s questions, Petroky asserted that several hours after he had mailed a letter to Retkevitch in Fall River, the killer arrived in Boston. Then when Violette informed Petroky who Retkevitch had murdered-Petroky stared dumbfounded at Retkevitch.

\n\n

“You couldn’t have done that to Domka,” he cried in disbelief. “Oh, Domka —”

\n\n

Late that evening, Violette arrived in Fall River with his two prisoners. Retkevitch was booked for murder, and Petroky was held as a material witness. They had no trouble in establishing the fact that the bearded man was Domka Peremybida heartless killer, Anton Retkevitch.

\n\n

Retkevitch’s trial came up soon, and he went on the stand a marked man. There was no doubt of his guilt. He seemed a man haunted with torturing visions of the woman he had so damnably abused and then butchered with a razor in frenzy. Every statement he made was proven a pack of lies.

\n\n

To the presiding judge, to the police officials, to the spectators and public in general-Retkevitch was a murderer with a leprous stench that polluted the very courtroom air. In short time, Retkevitch was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death in the electric chair.

\n\n

On the morning of March 14, 1915 — exactly one year from the date of the murder, Anton Retkevitch died in the electric chair. And the Fates must have laughed-for on the hour that Domka Peremybida’s killer died, she too, had died!

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Satan's Protégé", "author": "William Campbell Gault", "body": ""
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\n
Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

The Land of Opportunity

\n\n

He was unbelievably big and incredibly dirty. To call him a brute would be hasty thinking. He didn’t read, or listen to music, or converse with his friends. Man can live by bread alone, and he did. That, and what his two acres would produce. He could read, a little, but not enough to make it a pleasure. He had no music to listen to and not enough personality to attract friends.

\n\n

He lived in a shack on the two acres, about fifty yards back from the road. The shack was in the shadow of a huge elm tree, a tree that would have furnished him with stove wood for many a winter night. Hut he hadn’t cut it down. So perhaps man can’t live by bread alone.

\n\n

And he liked to look at the stars. Winter and summer, he enjoyed that, though he couldn’t have told you why.

\n\n

He’d never been taught cleanliness, or any of the other virtues. People drove by, on the highway, but he had no contact with them, no way of knowing how they lived, or why.

\n\n

In winter, at Christmas, a few men would come, men who called themselves Good Fellows, and brought clothes and food, but they never stayed long. They seemed to be afraid of him, silent as he was, and dirty, and so big.

\n\n

It was January, a cold, windy January night that the visitor came. He was a short man, with a high forehead, with eyes that seemed to glow like the stars. He was carrying a suitcase which must have been heavy, for it dragged his shoulder down on that side.

\n\n

The visitor said, “My car’s off the road. You have a phone?”

\n\n

“Car? Phone?” the big man said, like a child trying out new words.

\n\n

The eyes like stars seemed to burrow right into the big man’s head. After a while, the visitor smiled. “No, you would have no phone.”

\n\n

“Cold,” the big man said, and gestured his visitor in.

\n\n

Cautiously, like a fox around a trap, the smaller man came in. The glowing eyes took in the wood stove, the candles for illumination, home-made candles, the sagging couch and bed.

\n\n

“America,” the small man said. “The land of opportunity. What is your name?”

\n\n

The big man frowned. “Carl — Carl Mueller.”

\n\n

The small man smiled. “German, yes?”

\n\n

Carl frowned again. “I do not understand.”

\n\n

“Your country, your country,” the little man said. “Germany.”

\n\n

Carl shook his head. “Here. America.”

\n\n

Impatience on the little man’s face, and then the smile again. “You will see what I mean, but later. It’s too cold to go on.” The eyes were not like stars, now, but like the fire when it is getting small and dim. “I could stay here, out of the cold, tonight?”

\n\n

The big man nodded. “We can stay warm, here.”

\n\n

He pointed outside. “The car?”

\n\n

He wanted to show he understood about cars.

\n\n

“It will stay where it is.” The little man was looking around the room. “I, too, knew this kind of poverty.” He still had the suitcase in his hand, and he put it under the couch. “In the morning a friend will come. He has gone on to town, but he will be back.”

\n\n

Carl watched as the smaller man stretched out on the couch, arranging his overcoat around his feet and legs. Then the fiery eyes studied Carl’s face thoughtfully and the smaller man nodded, as though in satisfaction.

\n\n

Carl watched him until the eyes closed and the man’s breathing grew heavy and regular. Outside, the wind whined at the door, and the sides of the shack trembled slightly from time to time.

\n\n

No one but Carl had ever slept in this shack which he had built. After a little while, he filled the stove, checked the draft, and blew out the candles.

\n\n

The darkness was absolute, but he could hear the other man’s heavy breathing, and it soothed him, much as the wind soothed him. But he didn’t fall asleep for a long time. He kept thinking of those magnetic eyes, and the fervor in the small man’s voice. Surely, this was an unusual man, different from those fat and soft-faced men who’d come at Christmas. This man was like a weasel, small and quick and alert.

\n\n

Just before he fell asleep, a memory disturbed him; he’d seen the face before, a picture of it, at least. But he couldn’t remember where or when.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

They Fear the Strong

\n\n

When he woke in the morning, the shack was cold and he could see his breath. He could see, too, the small man standing near the front window, his lips moving, his eyes staring at nothing. He was wearing his overcoat.

\n\n

Carl stirred and the smaller man looked his way, and his lips stopped moving. He smiled at Carl.

\n\n

Carl smiled back, and threw off the covers. He crumpled paper and put it in the stove, and picked up some kindling, piling it in slowly and carefully.

\n\n

There was a piece of birch about two inches through the middle, too long for the stove. Carl snapped it like a match stick.

\n\n

The small man was at his side, now, watching. He stared as Carl put the two pieces of birch into the stove.

\n\n

“Strong, aren’t you?” the smaller man said.

\n\n

Carl nodded, smiling.

\n\n

“Strong and poor,” the other man said. “You know that’s wrong, don’t you?”

\n\n

Carl frowned. He could not follow this.

\n\n

“Strong and yet oppressed,” the man went on, and his voice had the magic in it again. “So it was in my country. They fear the strong, those who are weak. They keep them down. I changed all that.” It was as though he were talking to himself.

\n\n

Carl lighted the fire and watched the first flames start to climb. He watched it, fascinated as always, and then opened the draft.

\n\n

The frying pan was still on the stove, the grease in it hard and ridged, flecked with black, lie watched the grease start to melt and went to the corner to get some potatoes out of the box.

\n\n

“I have food here,” the smaller man said. “My friend brought it this morning, before you were awake.”

\n\n

Carl looked at the other man, and then at the huge box near the door. “For me?”

\n\n

“For us. My friend took the car away. I thought it would be all right if I stayed here with you, for a while.”

\n\n

“Live here?”

\n\n

The small man nodded. “There are men who do not like me. I would be safe here. You mt, they thought they killed me once, and they would kill me now if they knew I was alive.”

\n\n

Carl was staring at the smaller man. “To kill is wrong. Who would kill?”

\n\n

“To kill,” the other man corrected him, “is the privilege of the strong. When I was strong, I killed, had people killed. And I will be strong again.”

\n\n

Carl smiled. “Strong — you?”

\n\n

The smaller man seemed to bristle. “Strong, yes. In the mind, I was strong.” He tapped his forehead.

\n\n

“In the mouth, too,” Carl thought. The little man was right; he made strong talk.

\n\n

There was oatmeal for breakfast, and eggs and little pork sausages. There was coffee. There was talk.

\n\n

Always, with the little man, there would be talk. The Talking Man, Carl called him in his thoughts. Though he didn’t mind it. He could shut off his ears from the talk, after a while, and listen when he grew weary of looking at the fire, or the snow drifting down outside.

\n\n

The friend came back, after supper, just as the stars started to fill the sky.

\n\n

The friend was a thin, blond man, much taller than the visitor, but with something of the sameness about him, a sort of fire like his in the eyes. The friend brought magazines and newspapers and more food.

\n\n

He was a fine man, and looked scrubbed and rich. He said, “Leader, we can find you a better place than this.”

\n\n

His thin nose wrinkled, and he looked around the room, as though he was smelling something.

\n\n

But the smaller man shook his head. “No, Otto, I have an instinct about this place. I can always trust my instincts.” He nodded toward Carl. “One of ours. Strong, and with a virgin mind. What a trooPer he would make.”

\n\n

They started to talk in another language then, quietly, but there was that thing in the smaller man’s voice that kept Carl from turning off his ears. That was his strength, all right, that voice. A man would believe any thing that voice told him.

\n\n

After the friend left, Carl asked, “That is your name Leader?”

\n\n

The other paused, then nodded. “Because I lead. Is that a name you would like to call me?”

\n\n

“I’ll call you that,” Carl agreed. “You have a strong voice. I think that is your strength.”

\n\n

“Only part,” Leader said, and tapped his forehead again. “Here is my real strength. Carl, your strength will help us, too. And your loyalty. You will be rich, Carl.”

\n\n

Carl frowned. “Rich?”

\n\n

“Money, you will have plenty of money, you Aryan giant. You will be our American symbol.”

\n\n

The voice went on, but Carl didn’t hear. He was standing by the window. The snow had stopped falling, and the air was clear as glass. The stars were bright, and so close, and all around he could see the clean white of the hills, and to the north the black trees standing sharply against the whiteness.

\n\n

When he went over to check the fire, Leader was reading one of the pile of papers Otto had brought. He was smiling as he read.

\n\n

In a little while, he looked up from the papers. “Confusion, resentment, class and race hatred, mistrust. The time is almost ripe, Carl.”

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

To Kill Is Wrong

\n\n

Carl nodded as though he understood, watching the eyes and listening to the voice. He sat on his bed, his huge shoulders hunched forward, his gigantic hands interlaced.

\n\n

Leader’s voice went on and Carl heard the words strong and discipline and cause related often.

\n\n

Once Carl asked, “You came here for a reason, to this town?”

\n\n

Leader studied him. “It’s a logical town to start operations in. Many of our countrymen are here. But there must be no mistakes. The exactly right moment must be determined, and the way prepared, the organization ready, and needing but a leader. It’s drama these Americans relish. Can you think of the impact my appearance will have at the right moment? And talking to them in their language. I have learned it well, these past years.”

\n\n

Carl continued to nod, fascinated by the voice, not understanding exactly what all the words meant.

\n\n

Leader frowned. “You do not seem impressed, Carl. You have no sense of the importance, historically, of what you are a party to.”

\n\n

Carl could see Leader was annoyed. He said humbly, “I like to listen to your voice. I can believe what you tell me.” Now Leader smiled and said, “My Carl. My Aryan giant. I’ll clean you up and buy you a dozen bright uniforms. You will be a figurehead. You will have all the food you can eat. And money, Carl, great amounts of money.”

\n\n

“The rich have the money,” Carl said. “Not me.”

\n\n

“The rich will be dead, and the strong will be rich, Carl. We are the strong.” He flexed his arms. “You here.” He tapped his forehead. “And I here.”

\n\n

“We will have their money?” Carl asked.

\n\n

“And their power.”

\n\n

Carl frowned. “They will be dead. We will kill … . It is wrong to kill!”

\n\n

“The strong can do no wrong, Carl. You are strong. We will take what we need, for our purposes. That you must learn. The strong can do no wrong, and in this country, money is power, the big power, the only power, really.”

\n\n

“I believe you,” Carl said, and nodded, though it wasn’t anything he could digest in a short time.

\n\n

But this man was his friend, bringing good food and plenty of talk, not ashamed to live with Carl, this little nun he’d seen a picture of somewhere. Carl squinted a little, in the dim light, studying that pale face.

\n\n

Leader said. “You’re looking for the mustache, Carl?”

\n\n

That was it Carl’s mind groped and remembered the pictures, and he said softly, “Hitler.”

\n\n

“So long it took.” The voice wasn’t much more than a whisper. “And now you appreciate the historical impact?”

\n\n

They were not words Carl understood.

\n\n

He said simply, “I believe you, Leader.”

\n\n

The small man seemed to glow.

\n\n

“They thought I was dead.”

\n\n

Again, he tapped his forehead.

\n\n

“As if any of them can kill this. You believe in me; there are others, many others who will believe. Strong men will be needed soon, Carl. Leaders. The time is coming when the confused, the depressed, the fearful will look for leaders, and figure-heads and symbols to renew their faith and their spirit. We shall come, before any others can seize that moment. Not only here, but in our mother country, Carl, the lines are again forming. In all the countries of the world, we have our workers.”

\n\n

Carl tried to understand, but his attention was wandering. He didn’t think Leader would like it if he went to the window again, but he wanted to see the white hills and the bright stars. He could pretend to check the stove and thus get a glimpse of the flames.

\n\n

He went to the stove. He bent to pick up a stick of fire wood, and remembered how his strength had pleased Leader. Smiling, he took an even larger stick and snapped it in his hands.

\n\n

“The strong,” he said. “We will be on top.” He displayed the broken pieces.

\n\n

“You understand,’’ Leader said quietly. “Otto would not believe I could make you understand. They don’t know how well I understand you.”

\n\n

Carl smiled and watched the flames. But he continued to think of the stars, and he could stay away no longer. He went swiftly to the window and looked out.

\n\n

“Someone’s coming?” Leader’s voice was sharp.

\n\n

Carl shook his head. “No, I wanted to look at the stars. I like to look at them.” Leader came to stand next to him, and he pointed out at the road, where the headlights were sweeping by.

\n\n

“There,” he said quietly, “are the stars you should watch. That is our world, Carl.”

\n\n

“But not pretty,” Carl said. “Nothing to watch.”

\n\n

“We shall remake it to suit ourselves.” He put a hand on Carl’s arm. “They need me, my workers. They would not understand a man like you, or how to deal with them. That is why I cannot be replaced. They would think you stupid, because you are quiet and strong. They do not understand the strong nor the mystical as I do. You will be high in the party, Carl.”

\n\n

Carl smiled. “And rich. A lot of money.” He thought of the fat-faced Good Fellows, so superior and quick to leave. “We will kill the fat, rich ones and take their money. It is not wrong for the strong to kill.”

\n\n

“To improve the race, or get the things we need, it is not wrong to kill,” the man said.

\n\n

A vagrant thought, born of his memory of the Good Fellows, came to Carl. “Does Otto hate my smell? He wrinkles his nose.”

\n\n

Leader chuckled. “You are watchful, my Carl. Otto will wrinkle his nose many times before we are through. But he will come along with us, because he is a snob, and the wrong people are in power. We will buy Otto a gas mask if the odor gets too strong.”

\n\n

He laughed, and Carl laughed, too. Carl watched the car’s headlights until Leader sat down with his papers again. Then he watched the stars, and the woods and the white, clean snow. Behind him, the fire crackled, and the pages of the newspaper rattled, and he felt secure and good.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

To Kill Is Not Wrong

\n\n

Later, when the lights were out, when there was no sound but the crack of the cold outside, and the cracking of the fire in the stove, Carl lay with his eyes open, going back over the flood of words. He could remember the ones that had been repeated often — kill, purpose, strong, money, fools. He fell asleep with the words running through his mind.

\n\n

The days went on, and the cold held, but Carl didn’t mind staying inside. He had Leader for company and good food and pictures in the magazines to look at. Otto the nose-wrinkler came quite often, and each time after he left, Leader would frown for a while, as though the news was bad.

\n\n

“Something is wrong?” Carl asked one day.

\n\n

Leader nodded. “The time is not ripe, here. But in my own country many in the party are again in power. They are the efficient ones, you see, and needed. It is possible I will go back there first.”

\n\n

“You will leave me?” Carl asked.

\n\n

“For a while. You will be forgotten, Carl. Destiny has chosen your humble shack as a shrine. Your time will come.”

\n\n

Carl thought of the food he’d eaten these past days. That would go with leader.

\n\n

The stars were not as bright to Carl, thinking of the food he would be missing. He didn’t hear Leader’s monologues, remembering the steaks and chops, the white rolls and rich butter. Otto had brought chickens, already roasted, from town, and hams, and duck.

\n\n

One afternoon, Otto brought Leader’s car back. The cold was less and the sun bright, and Leader went out in the yard to talk to Otto.

\n\n

Carl sat inside, near the stove, a coldness in him as be thought of the good life he would be missing. If Leader had never come, it wouldn’t have mattered. But leader had brought food and talk to shorten the cold days, leader had stirred him to what could be, with power and money.

\n\n

He saw Otto and Leader shaking hands in the yard, and then Otto went to another car that was waiting on the highway, the motor running.

\n\n

When Leader came in, he smiled at Carl. “They worry about you. But I don’t. You will keep our secret. You are one of us now.”

\n\n

Carl nodded, not thinking of the words. He had some words of his own. “You are leaving?”

\n\n

“Tonight. When the stars are out. I will drive all night, so this afternoon I must rest. You will miss me, Carl?”

\n\n

Carl nodded, thinking of the chicken and duck.

\n\n

Leader pulled the suitcase out from under the bed, the suitcase he hadn’t moved through all the days.

\n\n

Leader said, “Germany is ready, and I am going back. But I will come here, again, to this very place. And you will be waiting, Carl.”

\n\n

Carl was at the window, looking out at Leader’s car.

\n\n

“When will you come back?”

\n\n

“Who knows? A year, a decade. This much I know — I will be back. Patience, Carl.”

\n\n

Carl turned to see the suitcase open, open and crammed with money. His eyes widened.

\n\n

“This must be distributed to the organization,” Leader was saying. “I will leave it with our organization leaders before I sail. But you are a part of the organization now, Carl.”

\n\n

He pulled out a thin packet of bills and handed them to the big man.

\n\n

Carl couldn’t keep his eyes from the rows and rows of money still in the suitcase. He took the thin packet of bills and looked sadly at leader. He went over to sit on his bed.

\n\n

Words and pictures were moving through his mind, the pictures of food, the words the Leader’s. He put his head in his hands, thinking of the fine rich food.

\n\n

“Parting with friends is always sad,” Leader said quietly, “but remember I will be back, Carl.” He was stretching on the couch. “I must rest. It will be a long drive to the boat.”

\n\n

Carl’s mind was confused and he sought through the maze of pictures and words to find some to express what he felt. Then the vision of the food left and he kept seeing that money in the suitcase. That was food, too.

\n\n

But it was Leader’s. To steal is wrong. To lie for a purpose might be right, to kill

\n\n

The shack was getting colder, and Carl went over to put some more wood in the stove. Leader was breathing steadily and heavily, now, his eyes closed.

\n\n

The words came to Carl, the repeated words, The strong can do no wrong. To kill is not wrong. To improve the race, to kill for a purpose.

\n\n

The piece of wood was heavy in Carl’s big hand and he stared at it for seconds before he walked quietly over to the couch.

\n\n

The first blow was at Leader’s strength, at his forehead. The skull cracked like a walnut with the blow. Carl was still pounding long after the head and face was just a pulp … .

\n\n

Later, Carl tried to dig a grave for Leader, but the ground was so hard that he quit after digging a few feet. He put the suitcase in the hole, for safekeeping, and leveled the ground after burying it.

\n\n

Leader he carried out to the car waiting near the road, and put him in the back seat, and closed the door again. Now he would have ducks and chickens and steaks. He would tell no one about the money; it was his. He had killed for it.

\n\n

When the men came, later, to ask about the body of Leader in the car, Carl shrugged and lied, because lying is not wrong. But they saw the dried blood all over his hands, and finally, in that smoky room in town, he admitted it was his work.

\n\n

“To kill is not wrong,” he told them. “He told me that, to kill is not wrong.”

\n\n

“Did he, now?” one man said. “And who was he, Carl? You knew him well?”

\n\n

But that was Carl’s secret, and he just shook his head and repeated, “To kill is not wrong. The strong can do no wrong.”

\n\n

So Leader was listed as unidentified, and properly buried in the charity graveyard, and Carl went to prison. There was no capital punishment in this state.

\n\n

It was a big gray building, but warm, and the food was better than Carl had known before Leader. After a while he even had a cellmate, a talkative little Irishman, and at night, through the bars, he could see the stars. It wasn’t so bad.

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Portrait of a Killer", "author": "Dan Sontup", "body": ""

There is no law against being fond of playing the horses; and even if a man is unemployed and on relief and has a wife and four kids to support, there’s not too much you can do to him if he still retains his fondness for betting a few bucks on the ponies. But Vernon Oldaker’s list of “credits” went far beyond this. He was a former bookie, a bigamist, a man who had deserted two wives, a convicted thief — and, finally, a murderer.

\n\n

The ironic part of it all is that he not only killed the one woman who had gotten him on relief and who had added to this by continually giving him money out of her own pocket, but he also left enough obvious clues to point to himself as the killer and ended up by virtually inviting the police to come and get him.

\n\n

Vernon, his wife, and his four children all lived in what was little better than a shack on the outskirts of town, and it was only through the kindness of Anne McKee, an elderly and very wealthy philanthropist, that none of the Oldaker family starved. Miss McKee saw to it that Vernon was placed on relief, that he got his check regularly, and that he didn’t lack for a few extra dollars, which she gave to him herself. But, even so, the family came close to starvation many times because Vernon liked to play the horses.

\n\n

It was an old story — he’d bet and lose and then bet some more trying to make back his losses. The only result was that the relief money seldom went for feeding and clothing his family. Instead, it was spent on Vernon’s efforts to prove that he was a first-class handicapper — which he certainly wasn’t.

\n\n

One March morning, Vernon woke up to the fact that all his relief check had been spent. He was broke, but he was sure that this was only temporary. Miss McKee would take care of him again, and Vernon was positive he could pick a real winner this time.

\n\n

He wasted no time in going to her house, and he found the old woman alone in the big house — alone and not exactly anxious to give him any money this time.

\n\n

She refused flatly, even though Vernon tried to play on her sympathy by pointing out that his family would starve unless he got some money to feed them. It didn’t work. Miss McKee knew from bitter experience in the past with Vernon that any money she’d give him would go to the nearest bookie and not to the neighborhood grocer.

\n\n

Vernon kept on begging, then he started to argue, but Miss McKee was adamant — she wouldn’t give him a cent. Finally, when Vernon became even more persistent, Miss McKee told him to follow her and she’d show him that, even if she wanted to help him, she didn’t have any money in the house that day.

\n\n

She led him out into the hallway to where her purse was lying on the table. Vernon noticed a hammer there also, but didn’t bother to think about who had been using it or how it had gotten on the table.

\n\n

Miss McKee picked up her purse, her back to Vernon — and that’s when Vernon lost control of himself.

\n\n

He grabbed the hammer and swung it at Miss McKee’s head. He missed, and the hammer went over her head and thudded into the wall. Vernon drew back his arm and swung again before Miss McKee could get away from him. He hit her this time, and then he kept on swinging, the hammer missing and striking the wall almost as many times as it hit the woman.

\n\n

When it was all over, and Miss McKee had fallen to the floor, Vernon had hit her four times in the head.

\n\n

She looked dead. There was enough blood all over her head, but Vernon had to make sure. He went out to the kitchen, picked up the sharpest knife he could find, and came back to the hallway. He made certain by using the knife.

\n\n

He was sure she was dead now. He dropped the knife and dragged the body back into the living room. Then, remembering that he had come there for money, he searched her desk, found a checkbook, and tore out a handful of blank checks. He went back to the hallway, got her purse and the hammer, and left the house.

\n\n

There was only nine dollars in cash in the purse, and Vernon tossed it and the hammer into the river before clearing out of town. He had left the knife behind, and while this might not have been an important clue, it didn’t really matter because Vernon proceeded to put the finger on himself as the killer.

\n\n

He forged Miss McKee’s signature to five of the blank checks during his travels — and he was foolish enough to make out three of the checks to himself.

\n\n

Naturally, the bank reported the matter to the police when the checks came through, and the police now knew for certain who the killer was. The usual bulletins went out, and the usual routine search was started for a wanted man.

\n\n

Vernon eluded the police for a while, but then he apparently decided that it was time he wrote home to find out how his wife and family were making out — since he had left town without even letting them know about it. He wrote to his wife from another city, being careful not to include a return address. It was never made clear just what he hoped to accomplish by writing to his wife and not giving a return address, but the police now had a definite lead as to his whereabouts.

\n\n

They checked the postmark, informed the local authorities in that city, sent along a description of Vernon, and the rest was just a matter of time. Vernon was picked up on the street just a few days after he had mailed the letter.

\n\n

He broke down easily under police questioning, and confessed to the crime. At his trial, he tried to plead insanity. Even though he certainly had behaved in a peculiar manner — not trying to cover his trail after the killing — the plea wasn’t allowed. It may have helped, though, because Vernon did manage to cheat the chair.

\n\n

He was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life in prison — where going on relief and playing the ponies are not a part of everyday life.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Double Cheque", "author": "", "body": ""
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\n
Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Bernard Dobie’s Judgement

\n\n

The visitor to Dover Street leaned forward anxiously in his chair.

\n\n

“I — I just had to come, Mr. Hawke! You see, I’m worried out of my mind.

\n\n

And the police — “

\n\n

“Suppose we begin at the beginning, Mr. Humphrey,” said the famous private detective gently. “I see from your card that you’re manager of the Tottenham Court Road branch of the Home Counties Bank.”

\n\n

“For the moment,” said Mr. Humphrey bitterly. “They’re going to transfer me any day now. As it is, the branch is being supervised by the inspection staff. After thirty years of service and experience, Mr. Hawke! That’s what riles me. They’ll put me back as a clerk again — and say I’m lucky to be so well treated!”

\n\n

There was no doubt that the bank manager was in a very worried state of mind. His drawn face and his dark-ringed eyes showed clearly that he had not slept for nights.

\n\n

“I’ve had a customer at my branch, Mr. Hawke, for about eighteen months. A youngish man named Bernard Dobie. Well-spoken sort of fellow, always very pleasant. Neither my clerks nor myself have ever had any trouble with him. He seemed to have a private fortune of some twelve thousand pounds, which we kept for him — in cash.”

\n\n

Dixon Hawke looked surprised.

\n\n

“A little unusual, surely? All that money, yet not invested?”

\n\n

“No, it wasn’t unusual in this case, for the simple reason that Dobie used to act as a sort of money-lender in West End circles. And sometimes he’d even go in for big-scale gambling. He was very shrewd, and he very rarely lost money — most times he made a handsome profit. He’d come in and draw a cheque for several thousands, and a few days or occasionally a month later he’d pay in a cheque for the same sum, plus a handsome percentage of profit.

\n\n

“He’d back some new theatrical show he had confidence in — or perhaps some new restaurant that was opening — that sort of thing. And his judgment was usually pretty sound.”

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Manager’s Misfortune

\n\n

Mr. Humphrey sighed sadly.

\n\n

“Well, about a week ago — on September the seventh, to be accurate — he came in and wanted to draw the sum of nine thousand pounds. Naturally, a thing like that couldn’t be dealt with at the counter, and my cashier brought him into my office. He signed the cheque to self in front of us and we were able to secure the necessary money in hundred-pound notes within about twenty minutes. You understand, Mr. Hawke, that branches rarely carry big reserves of the higher-valued notes, but can get them delivered by messenger from other branches or from the City.

\n\n

“During the whole of that twenty minutes Bernard Dobie and I were talking together, I never suspected that anything was wrong. When the notes were ready he took them away, and I didn’t think any more about it. Why should I? Dobie often came in like that to draw large sums.

\n\n

“Three days later I received a letter from an address in Sussex — a country hotel — written by Dobie and asking me to credit the local branch with ten thousand pounds in his name. Well, as his account now stood at only just over three thousand, I had a bit of a shock, and immediately telephoned the hotel.

\n\n

“When I explained, he said I’d been tricked, that he hadn’t called personally at all on the seventh, that, as a matter of fact, he’d been staying at the hotel ever since the sixth. Naturally, I asked him to come up to London at once. I told the head office, and they called the Yard in.

\n\n

“And all that the Yard have been able to do so far, Mr. Hawke, is to prove that Bernard Dobie was down in Sussex all that day he was supposed to be cashing the cheque to self in my office! And I’m to be the scapegoat because the head office think I was slack.”

\n\n

Mr. Humphrey jumped out of the chair excitedly.

\n\n

“But I wasn’t slack, Mr. Hawke! I swear I wasn’t! That man looked like Dobie, talked like him — he was even dressed in a suit I’ve seen the real Dobie often wearing. And he signed the cheque in front of me! “

\n\n

“Was it a perfect signature?” asked Hawke.

\n\n

The bank manager frowned and seated himself again. “Well — since — under the microscope, experts have spotted one or two little discrepancies. That’s where I’m criticised. But when you see a man you know well sign a cheque in front of you, when you can recognise every inch of him just like you’d know your own son — “

\n\n

Dixon Hawke nodded sympathetically.

\n\n

“Besides,” Humphrey went on, “I’d have expected his signature to be a little wobbly. He’d got two damaged fingers on his right hand — he told me he’d caught them in a door. The nails were black; I saw them. Very black. That’s one of the reasons the man couldn’t really have been Dobie, because there’s nothing wrong with Dobie’s right hand, and never has been. And these bruised nails would have taken weeks to heal.”

\n\n

“What about the cheque-book?” asked Hawke. “Surely you could have checked if it had been issued to Dobie?”

\n\n

“The impostor didn’t use a book. He said he’d run out of cheques, and we issued him a new one. Why not? There was no reason to be suspicious.”

\n\n

“And he used the first cheque from the new book?”

\n\n

“Yes. And the rest of the book was found two days ago in a flower-bed in St James’s Park. As we have our address on the cheques, it was sent to us by the park-keeper who found it.”

\n\n

“It certainly seems you’ve been very neatly tricked, Mr. Humphrey,” said the Dover Street criminologist. “But just how do you think I can help you?”

\n\n

“By finding out the truth! I’m convinced that if the truth is known, there isn’t a man in the banking profession who could blame me for what has happened! Whereas now — “

\n\n

“But if the Yard — “

\n\n

“They’re beaten, Mr. Hawke. So is the bank’s detective. They can’t find any trace of the impostor. He’s clever enough to outwit them, yet I’m blamed for being taken in by him. I say he must have been Dobie’s double.”

\n\n

“Who’s in charge for the Yard?”

\n\n

“An Inspector Harris.”

\n\n

Dixon Hawke’s eyes twinkled. He and Harris had crossed swords before.

\n\n

“Very well, Mr. Humphrey, I’ll see if I can help you,” said Hawke.

\n\n

“Thank you! “ exclaimed the bank manager. “It — it isn’t the loss of salary I’m worried over. It’s the shame, the disgrace — to be pushed down after — after — “

\n\n

“I know,” said Hawke gently. “I’d feel the same way about it. By the way, this impostor fellow didn’t make up any sort of story as to why nine thousand pounds was wanted!”

\n\n

“No; oh, no.”

\n\n

“Wasn’t that suspicious?”

\n\n

Humphrey shook his head.

\n\n

“Dobie always kept things to himself. If he told me anything, it wasn’t till afterwards.”

\n\n

“I see. Pretty secretive about his coups?”

\n\n

Yes,” said Humphrey miserably.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Less than an hour later Hawke had secured a reluctant interview with Inspector Harris.

\n\n

“Had the sauce to hire his own detective, eh?” snorted that official. “That won’t make the bank like him any better. A bit of impertinence, that’s what they’ll think about it. Same as I do. Everything’s being done that can be. If Humphrey hadn’t been such an incompetent fool in the first place — “

\n\n

“You’re making headway, then?”

\n\n

“Well, the imposter was obviously either Slim Vincent or Bugs Carter; they’re the only two clever and cool enough to tackle this sort of job. We thought Vincent was still in the States, but perhaps he’s slipped back again. We’ll soon get the scent of both of them, anyway.”

\n\n

“You’re certain this Dobie fellow —”

\n\n

Harris waved a sheet of paper under Hawke’s nose.

\n\n

“Take a look at that, if you want to waste time! Eight witnesses! Except for intervals of less than half an hour, Dobie was seen in the hotel or grounds right through the day.”

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

A Talkative Porter

\n\n

Hawke studied the neatly-compiled time-table that Inspector Harris handed him. It showed that Dobie had watched tennis on the hotel court, had slept in a deck-chair in the garden, had strolled in the hotel grounds, had read in the lounge, had had breakfast and lunch and dinner — and had been witnessed doing these things by no less than eight reliable pairs of eyes!

\n\n

“Think you can break that up by suggesting the witnesses were all in collaboration, eh?” inquired Harris nastily.

\n\n

Hawke did not appear to have heard the gibe.

\n\n

“Is Dobie still at the Tenfield Manor Hotel?” he asked.

\n\n

“Yes.”

\n\n

“And does he stay in like this every day?”

\n\n

“No. Apparently he thought he’d got a cold coming on. He’s been going about since.”

\n\n

“Humphrey told me that Dobie had arrived at the hotel the day before the fraud.”

\n\n

“Yes. In the evening. Signed the book — no doubt about the signature. A darned sight better than the one on the cheque which your fool of a client passed! “

\n\n

“Did he stay in all that night as well?”

\n\n

Inspector Harris sniffed. “How should I know? We’re not worried about what happened on the sixth, are we? It’s the seventh we’re working on — the day it happened! “

\n\n

The Dover Street man smiled.

\n\n

“I think I’ll take a trip down to Tenfield. You never know, do you?”

\n\n

Two hours later Hawke arrived at the Tenfield Manor Hotel. He had left Tommy Burke a few moments before in the High Street of the old Sussex market town.

\n\n

“Just in case,” he had said, “that it turns out better for us to seem unconnected.”

\n\n

Bernard Dobie was out, and Hawke contented himself with checking up the accounts of the various witnesses as to Dobie’s whereabouts on the day of the fraud.

\n\n

As he had expected, however, there was no loophole to be discovered. Harris’s work was invariably sound and methodically accurate.

\n\n

The porter was the most talkative and observant of those he questioned.

\n\n

“Now, tell me,” said Hawke, “what did Mr. Dobie do when he arrived? The first night, I mean.”

\n\n

“Had dinner.”

\n\n

“And after that?”

\n\n

“He went for a stroll, sir.”

\n\n

“And for how long?”

\n\n

“Well, the nights are drawing in now — he was back as soon as it was really dark. Couldn’t have been gone for more than an hour, sir.”

\n\n

“I see. What time was dinner over?”

\n\n

“Seventy-thirty or so.”

\n\n

Hawke nodded. “So he was strolling from, say, seven-thirty to eight-thirty?”

\n\n

The porter nodded.

\n\n

“That’s about it, sir, I reck’n.”

\n\n

“He didn’t go out the next night, I suppose?”

\n\n

“No — not at all that day, I don’t think. ‘Ad a bit of a cold, he did.”

\n\n

“Do you know when he left the hotel the next time?”

\n\n

“Yes, sir. Next morning before breakfast. Got up early, he did. I know that because I met him in the hall, and I asked him if ‘is cold was better. He said it was and he was going out to get up an appetite.”

\n\n

“What time was that?”

\n\n

“Well, I was doing the porch over, so it must ‘ave been about eight.”

\n\n

“And he was back at nine for breakfast?”

\n\n

“Yes. Pretty close on, anyway.”

\n\n

“H’m. An hour again,” murmured Hawke. “Well, thanks very much,” he said in a louder voice, pulling some silver from his pocket. Five shillings exchanged ownership. “Now, just keep quiet about this little chat, and I may want you to repeat it.”

\n\n

He was in the act of turning away when another point seemed to cross his mind, and he wheeled round on the porter with the question :

\n\n

“By the way, what does Mr. Dobie do with himself down here, do you know?”

\n\n

“Fishing mostly. Down on the Bedder, sir. Anyone who stays here can use the fishing — special arrangement it is.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

“Dr. Miller’s” Mistake

\n\n

Hawke drove back to the town well satisfied with these preliminary inquiries. He found Tommy Burke in the newspaper room of the Public Library, as they had arranged.

\n\n

“Youngster,” he said, “I want you to do some research. I believe a car has pulled up recently at some lonely spot on the London road about half a mile or three-quarters from the Manorly Hotel.

\n\n

At any rate, about as far as a man could walk in fifteen or twenty minutes. There may still be traces.”

\n\n

Tommy grinned. “If there are, I’ll find ‘em, guv’nor.”

\n\n

“Unfortunately, if it did happen, it’s eight days ago,” Hawke went on. “Other cars may have pulled up since. But wherever you find any signs of them, search the whole vicinity — collect anything and everything that might mean a clue. The weather’s been dry — that at least is in our favour.”

\n\n

After a few further words telling Tommy his future plans, Hawke proceeded to the station and went back to London and Dover Street.

\n\n

When at nine that night a car pulled up outside the Manor Hotel, and a boarded, scholastic-looking gentleman inquired if he could stay for a few days, not even the talkative porter recognised Hawke’s voice or face.

\n\n

To the reception-clerk he gave his name as : “Dr. Miller. Philosophy, not medicine! I always say that — in case someone’s taken ill and time is lost looking for me. I’m told the fishing’s very good here.”

\n\n

In less than half an hour the inhabitants of Tenfield Manor Hotel were only too well aware that an excessively talkative addition had been made to their community.

\n\n

Hawke soon spotted Bernard Dobie. He was reading a paper in the lounge and looking restlessly bored. The disguised criminologist pounced on him.

\n\n

“Excuse me, sir, but haven’t I seen you before?”

\n\n

Dobie looked up irritably, but before he could say a word Hawke answered his own question.

\n\n

“No, I can see now — it’s someone frightfully like you. Almost your double, but not quite. Very peculiar. And I’ve seen him several times in the last few days, too. In London, of course — in London. Not here.”

\n\n

Dobie’s face paled slightly. “Er — that’s interesting,” he said slowly. “Where — where abouts?”

\n\n

“Oh, in the West End, you know. I’ve been having a little holiday myself there, you see. But I’m glad you aren’t the fellow I saw — for your sake.” Hawke laughed feebly. “He’s rather gay, I fear.”

\n\n

“Gay — gay? — What do you mean? Drink?”

\n\n

Hawke nodded sadly. “I fear so. That’s why I’ve noticed him. Twice I saw him in Piccadilly, and — “ Hawke sighed and shook his head.

\n\n

“Look here, was he really like me?”

\n\n

Hawke raised his eyebrows at the sharpness of Bernard Dobie’s tone. “Why, do you actually know someone who might be your double? How odd! People so rarely meet their own doubles.”

\n\n

“Well, I don’t, anyway,” snapped Dobie. “Only if he’s like me, as you say, people might make mistakes. I happen to be quite well known in the West End myself.”

\n\n

“How very awkward! I — I wish I’d said nothing. I’ve disturbed your peace of mind. Thoughtless of me. But perhaps he isn’t so much like you after all — “

\n\n

Dobie got up abruptly. “Excuse me,” he said. “I have to go out.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

“Number, Please!”

\n\n

A minute or so later Hawke saw him come downstairs in a light coat, and go out of the hotel.

\n\n

At a discreet distance Hawke followed, exercising all his long experience in the art of seeing without being seen. As he had expected, Dobie stopped as soon as he came to the nearest public telephone box, and went inside.

\n\n

The call lasted ten minutes.

\n\n

Dobie emerged from the box, and turned back to the hotel. Hawke hid himself in the bushes at the side of the road, and waited for Dobie to pass. Then he hurried on to the call-box.

\n\n

“Operator,” he said, “you’ve just got a number for the last user of this line. Probably a London number. I want you to jot it down before you forget it.”

\n\n

“But — “

\n\n

“I’m not asking you to break your regulations and give it to me. But I’ll call at your exchange to-night with the proper authority to demand it. So just make a note of it! My name’s Hawke — Dixon Hawke — and I’m on a case Scotland Yard are interested in.”

\n\n

“Well, all right,” said the operator doubtfully.

\n\n

Hawke immediately hurried into Tenfield. There he made for the police station and introduced himself.

\n\n

“You don’t look like the pictures I’ve seen of Mr. Hawke,” said the sergeant in charge.

\n\n

“I’m glad to hear it. I’m doing my best not to,” Hawke chuckled. “Put a call through, to the Yard and try to get Inspector Harris. He’ll tell you I’m supposed to be in Tenfield, if you’re doubtful.”

\n\n

It took time. Harris was only reached at his home. But eventually the message came through.

\n\n

“Well, I suppose it’s all right, sir,” said the sergeant. “What do you want us to do?”

\n\n

“I want you to come with me to the local telephone exchange,” Hawke explained. “They put through a call for someone to-night and I want to know the number! “

\n\n

The sergeant’s authority was sufficient to impress the operator. The number Dobie had rung was Trafalgar 2376, and Hawke’s mouth set itself in a line of grim satisfaction as he noted down the information.

\n\n

When Hawke got back to the hotel he found that his room had been searched in his absence. There was no untidiness, but things had been slightly moved from their proper places.

\n\n

He smiled. He was too experienced to let down his disguises with undisguised luggage. There was nothing in his room that might not have belonged to the tedious Dr. Miller.

\n\n

Dobie was rattled, was he?

\n\n

The next morning Hawke ran the car into Tenfield, and contacted with Tommy.

\n\n

He saw at once from Tommy’s face that his assistant had something to report.

\n\n

“I found one place,” said the young assistant. “Just off the road on the common. The grass had been crushed down by a car, and there were stains as if oil had dropped. And I found this near it.”

\n\n

“This” was a small piece of cotton wool. About half of its outside surface was hard and matted where a pinkish deposit had dried and bound the fibers together.

\n\n

“I could never have hoped for so much proof,” said Hawke.

\n\n

“I found the spot last night, and I spent more than an hour up there before breakfast to-day,” said Tommy. “But that was all I could find — “

\n\n

“Ah! “ smiled the famous criminologist. “Enough to transform pure guesswork into hard fact! “ He got into the car again. “I’m going up to the Yard. Meanwhile, I want you to keep your eyes glued on a man here.”

\n\n

Hawke described Bernard Dobie. “I don’t think he’ll risk leaving Tenfield — but he might,” he concluded as he climbed into his car.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

Dobie’s Double

\n\n

In little over seventy minutes Hawke’s car was running over Westminster Bridge. Removing his facial disguise in the nearest cloakroom, he went straight to New Scotland Yard. Harris was in his office.

\n\n

The Dover Street man smiled at the pile of papers on the inspector’s desk.

\n\n

“Back soon,” Harris grunted.

\n\n

“Yes. It’s got a bit too big to handle from Sussex.”

\n\n

Harris jerked his head up. “Eh?”

\n\n

“The impostor you want is keeping himself quiet at the address corresponding to the telephone number, Trafalgar 2376. I want you to dig out that address from the G.P.O., and then we’ll go there together.”

\n\n

“Yon mean he’s the man who cashed the cheque — “

\n\n

“No! “

\n\n

Harris snorted. “Then what the dickens do you mean?”

\n\n

The famous criminologist explained developments to the amazed Harris as the two left the office.

\n\n

Half an hour later the two detectives arrived at 33 Gwynn Street — the boarding-house in the Covent Garden area that corresponded to the Trafalgar telephone number.

\n\n

The landlady was quickly impressed by Inspector Harris’s official manner. Yes, one of her lodgers was in — the others all had work and were out, but this one didn’t.

\n\n

Nervously she led them upstairs to the top landing.

\n\n

She knocked on the door. “Mr. Brown, some gentlemen to see you.”

\n\n

“Who? No one I want to see! “ a voice answered.

\n\n

“I think you’d better see us,” said Harris loudly and firmly.

\n\n

“Who the devil are you?”

\n\n

“Scotland Yard!”

\n\n

There was delay and the sound of movements. Hawke motioned to the landlady to stand well aside.

\n\n

“Come on — open up, now! “ Harris shouted.

\n\n

Hawke placed himself close against the wall on the lock side of the door.

\n\n

Suddenly the door swung violently open. A man rushed out and hurled a handful of some powdery substance straight in the face of Inspector Harris. Harris reeled back choking.

\n\n

Dixon Hawke Hung himself on the man’s back. Tears ran down both their eyes during the struggle as grains of pepper spread in the narrow space. But the man was flabby and no match for Hawke’s trained fitness. In a few minutes he was pinned down and winded.

\n\n

“Very silly to throw pepper,” said the criminologist. “Now we can arrest you — not just ask questions! “

\n\n

Slowly recovering from the effects of the pepper attack, Inspector Harris handed Hawke the “bracelets.” Hawke snapped them over Brown’s wrists.

\n\n

Then he studied his prisoner’s face and build.

\n\n

“Yes, you’re very like Dobie, aren’t you? A little older, a little paler — but make-up would soon change that.”

\n\n

“I — I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Brown, in a desperate attempt at a final bluff.

\n\n

“No? Where were you from the night of September the sixth to the morning of the eighth? Here? Or at Tenfield?”

\n\n

“I — I went away. I — “

\n\n

“Remember, we shall check up on anything you say. We know the part you played in this affair.”

\n\n

Brown squirmed. A bitter expression set in on his face.

\n\n

“He’s ratted, has he?”

\n\n

“No, not yet,” said Hawke smoothly. “But he will — when he meets you face to face at Tenfield this afternoon! “

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\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 7

\n\n

Quick-Change Artists

\n\n

At four o’clock a police car glided through the narrow streets of Tenfield. Dixon Hawke sat in front with the driver; Harris in the back with the now resigned Brown.

\n\n

As they drove across the ancient bridge that spanned the Bedder, Hawke caught sight of Tommy Burke leaning over the parapet.

\n\n

“Stop!” he said sharply. “Our man must be here.”

\n\n

The car slowed down and Hawke leapt out.

\n\n

“Well, youngster?”

\n\n

Tommy jerked his head towards the river below. “There he is.”

\n\n

The detective saw Dobie sitting on a small canvas chair and holding a rod listlessly over the water.

\n\n

He turned round and beckoned to the occupants of the car.

\n\n

Then, with Brown firmly pinioned between them, Hawke and Inspector Harris went down the steps by the side of the bridge on to the towpath.

\n\n

“Good-afternoon, Mr. Dobie,” said Hawke as they drew near the angler.

\n\n

Dobie looked up and gave a gasp of astonishment.

\n\n

“Who — who are you?” he spluttered.

\n\n

The man from Dover Street enlightened him as he slipped a pair of handcuffs on his wrists. Dobie was too overcome by surprise to offer either resistance or protest.

\n\n

At a quiet tea party in the grounds of the Manor Hotel after Dobie and Brown had been safely housed at Tenfield Police Station, Hawke explained.

\n\n

“I never felt that the impersonation took place at the bank. How much more likely that the real Dobie did call at the bank while the impostor took his place at the hotel. The hotel was far easier to bluff — nobody there really knew Dobie.

\n\n

“The more facts I learned, the more probable this theory became. At the bank Dobie’s signature wasn’t quite a perfect specimen. Also, he had his finger-nails coloured to look bruised. Why? To make his visit seem like an impersonation afterwards.

\n\n

“Yet it was a perfect signature in the hotel register. Which showed that the real Dobie had arrived there. But he left for an hour’s stroll immediately after dinner that night, and he did the same before breakfast the morning after the fraud. At once I guessed that these strolls were the occasions for the changeover at the hotel.

\n\n

“At some pre-arranged and lonely spot Dobie and Brown exchanged clothes that first night. And Brown came back to the hotel. All the next day he stayed in with an assumed bad cold. Remember, there is plenty of evidence that he was seen — but the same evidence establishes that he did practically no talking. The following morning out goes Brown, the process is repeated — and back comes the real Bernard Dobie again.

\n\n

Hawke paused and smiled.

\n\n

“I guessed that the impostor was lying low somewhere in the West End. Dobie moved about in the West End — it seemed probable that the plot had been hatched there. I took a big chance and startled Dobie by making him think his accomplice had been doing some dangerously public celebrating. It came off and Dobie was terrified.

\n\n

“The urgent telephone call followed and the rest you know.”

\n\n

Hawke fumbled for a moment in his pocket.

\n\n

“Oh — and there’s this clue,” he added. “Maybe you’d like it, Inspector. Brown being paler than Dobie, a little make-up was needed. This is a piece of the cotton-wool it was wiped off with — carelessly dropped on the morning Dobie came back. Tommy found the spot where the exchange of identity took place.

\n\n

“I guessed it must be about fifteen or twenty minutes’ walk from the hotel. Nearer would have been risky; farther would hardly have allowed enough time for the dressing and undressing. A car must have been used, so that Dobie wasn’t seen on his journeys — as he would have been had he gone by train.”

\n\n

Harris gave one of his customary grunts.

\n\n

“But where’s the money — the nine thousand?” he demanded.

\n\n

Dixon Hawke smiled.

\n\n

“Why worry where they’ve hidden it? It’s Dobie’s own money, anyway! My client, Mr. Humphrey, was perfectly correct — it was Dobie who visited him that day, and Dobie had every right to draw nine thousand pounds.

\n\n

“Dobie intended to draw the whole of his account, and so make the bank lose the nine thousand an ‘ impostor ‘ had drawn in his name.” Hawke got up. “Now I’m going to telephone Mr. Humphrey and tell him he’s absolutely cleared, and then my job’s done.”

\n\n

“Well, it beats me,” said Inspector Harris. “I could have sworn it was one of Vincent’s or Carter’s jobs.”

\n\n

“You looked for the impostor at the wrong end,” grinned Hawke.

\n\n

A few weeks later Dobie and Brown, who proved to be a cousin of Dobie’s, were sentenced to two years imprisonment each for attempt to defraud the Home Counties Bank.

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "They Can't Make A Coward Out of Me!", "author": "George Creel", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

The state tried Dr. Hyde for the murders of Colonel Thomas H. Swope, James Moss Hunton, and Chrisman Swope, and with having attempted the deaths of Mrs. Hyde’s four sisters, co-heirs of Colonel Swope’s great fortune. Found guilty and condemned to life imprisonment, he appealed the case, and the Supreme Court of Missouri declared him the tragic victim of an organized hate.

\n\n

The opinion flayed the prosecution, and after three subsequent trials. Dr. Hyde was released, an innocent man, in the eyes of the law. But he was to learn that his release did not return him to his old standing in society, although the law had not found him guilty.

\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

After the Trial

\n\n

Incredible as it may seem, all that Dr. Clark Hyde suffered while undergoing trial as a fiendish poisoner — the pain, the shame, public hate, and the shadow of the gallows — was as nothing compared with the years of heartbreak that followed his acquittal. He who had been in hell for so long a time was forced to plumb new and deeper hells by the mean fears of his fellow men, in December for old friendship’s sake, seeing him for the first time since what was supposed to be his Vindication. Had he remained in prison, locked in some dungeon away from the sun and air, the years could not have treated him more savagely.

\n\n

Snow white hair thatched a face scored with lines that looked to have been gouged out by some jagged flint, and the bright blue eyes, from the very fixity of their courage, were weary eyes, unutterably sad for all their challenge.

\n\n

We talked for hours, and as the floodgates of his heart opened wide, he told of the loss of wife and children, of false friends and malignant enemies, of ostracism and shattered hopes, of loneliness and struggle, yet never once, in all the swift stream of his speech, was there a note of hate or bitterness. Strange indeed, for if ever one had the right to curse God and man, that one is Dr. B. Clark Hyde.

\n\n

Much of the tragedy lay in its unexpectedness. In April of 1917, when the state abandoned its prosecution, and the law confessed his innocence, Clark Hyde faced the future in joy and confidence. No doubt marred his happiness; no foreboding chilled the iron courage that had sustained him throughout his terrible ordeal. At his side stood the wife who had broken with mother, brothers and sisters out of her love for him, her faith in him; and two children, a boy and a girl, who had come to take the place of the little one who died at birth, in 1910.

\n\n

He was only forty-five, strong, resolute and still possessed of the splendid abilities and dynamic energy that had carried him to the forefront of his profession. And what more natural for him to assume than that society, having whipped him with thorns, would rejoice at the opportunity to atone for the cruel injustice that had brought him so close to a shameful end on the scaffold. What he did not count upon was the moral cowardice that squirms in the mud at the bottom of human character.

\n\n

At the time of his arrest and arraignment in 1910, Clark Hyde had been the examining physician for two life insurance companies, and while these posts had not been of any large importance in his days of pride, he now turned to them as a quick and necessary source of income. On presenting himself at the offices, however, he met with embarrassed attempts at evasion, and on pressing the matter, learned that the executives were of the opinion that his retention would “hurt business.” It was not that they doubted his innocence, they assured him glibly but simply that the notoriety of his case made further employment unwise.

\n\n

When the Swopes branded him as a poisoner, Dr. Hyde had also been on the staff of two principal hospitals, and in the absence of any formal notification of discharge, he assumed that the places were still open to him. The hospital authorities, however, received him as had the insurance companies. They, too, were full of congratulations on his acquittal, and voluble in assurances that they had never believed in his guilt, but in the matter of any further connection with their institutions, they felt that his association might “prove detrimental.”

\n\n

When the Sons of the American Revolution, of which he had been an honored member, ignored his existence, and when other societies dropped him from their mailing lists, Dr. Hyde began to see what he was up against. He saw it still more plainly when men who called themselves friends came to him with the advice that he go to some foreign country and start life over again under a new name. But there was fighting blood in Clark Hyde — blood of Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon, and blood of General George Rogers Clark — and the suggestion that he turn tail and run fired him to battle pitch.

\n\n

“No,” he cried. “They may starve me, they may kill me, but by the living God, they can’t make a coward out of me. After fighting for seven years to prove my innocence, am I now to confess guilt by sneaking off to some hiding hole?”

\n\n

Jaws squared, he opened an office and set grimly to work to regain the profitable practice he had enjoyed before the charge of poisoning was brought against him. At the very outset, however, he was struck down by the action of his own profession. A Library Society had been recently formed by certain physicians — more of a social body than official — and Dr. Hyde was invited to join. He had no need of it and even the small annual dues were more than he could afford, but he leaped at the invitation, seeing in it the hand of fellowship and affection. His name went to a vote and was blackballed.

\n\n

For once his iron control broke down and out of his rage and hurt he wrote a letter to the president, charging that the action had been due to the enmity of members who had been on the pay roll of the prosecution throughout the trials, and who sought his continued disgrace in order to justify their acceptance of blood money. An angry letter, indiscreet in every line, and the Jackson Medical Society, obtaining it, straightway accused Dr. Hyde of “unbecoming conduct,” and moved for his expulsion.

\n\n

There was a vote of the full membership, and when a majority refused to uphold the charges, the matter was carried to the State Medical Society, and this body, by an absolutely arbitrary exercise of power, ignored the vote and ordered Dr. Hyde’s expulsion. Now came a complicated series of court proceedings. A circuit court judge denied his petition for a mandamus, the Court of Appeals overruled the circuit judge, and the Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals.

\n\n

“Had my client been any other man,” his attorney told him, “I would have won. But the prejudice against you is so great that I doubt if you could recover on a promissory note past due and unpaid.”

\n\n

Whichever way the marked man turned, he found advancement blocked. It was not so much that people were hostile as that they were afraid. He was the “notorious Doctor Hyde,” and what did it matter that the notoriety had not been of his seeking, and that a high court had found him the victim of persecution?

\n\n

The brave thing was to take him by the hand; the easiest thing to avoid him, and so it was that he found himself imprisoned by a wall of ostracism as high as that of any jail yard. And in the hour when his dauntless spirit flagged a terrible and unexpected blow struck him down. His wife sued him for a divorce.

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Mrs. Hyde, even more confidently than her husband, had counted upon his acquittal to work a change in public opinion, believing implicitly that he would be restored to his former high standing without question. The action of the insurance companies, the Sons of the Revolution and the hospitals, followed by his expulsion from the Jackson County Medical Society, were cruel disappointments, and as the months went by without any lessening of the organized avoidance, a profound despair possessed her.

\n\n

Back of this breakdown of spirit were many physical and psychic shocks, each one more violent than the other in its attack upon the seat of reason. The ghastly charges leveled against her husband; the break with her family; the three terrible trials; the death of her five — hour — old boy in 1910; her own long convalescence, with its overhanging fear of cancer; the anguish of soul to find that Dr. Hyde’s acquittal was without power to change the prejudices and fears of the community — what wonder that the unhappy woman gave up the fight and surrendered to melancholia?

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Dr. Hyde saw her condition not only with the eyes of a husband, but the eyes of a physician, and frightened as never before, he fought desperately to beat back the danger that threatened the foundations of his home. With the two little ones digging at his side, he grew the mother’s favorite flowers in the small backyard; at night he taught them those poems that she loved most, and sought to hedge her about with tenderness.

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Chapter 2

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Divorce

\n\n
\n\t\"Dr.\n
\n\n


\n\n

For a while it seemed that normality had returned, and when Mrs. Hyde and the children left for the north in the summer of 1920, the parting was most fond. Dr. Hyde himself went to Washington on a business trip in September, but when there came a sudden cessation of letters from his wife, he hurried home in the grip of a vague alarm. He found an empty, shuttered house, and on visiting Mrs. Hyde’s lawyer, an old friend, to discover the whereabouts of his family, received the curt information that they did not mean to return to him. Everything, the attorney assured him, would be conducted in such a manner as to avoid notoriety, but even as the stricken man stumbled out into the street, newsboys were calling extras that carried the news in huge headlines.

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“I am instructed by Dr. Hyde neither to dispute nor deny,” said his attorney in open court. “The memory of her unfailing love, his deep and lasting gratitude for her years of courage and sacrifice, close his lips. Whatever she wishes is his wish. Whatever she wants he will do. There is just one question

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I must ask in justice to my client. Mrs. Hyde, is your divorce action based in any degree on a doubt as to your husband’s innocence of the crimes that were charged against him?”

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“No,” she answered firmly. “I am absolutely confident that Dr. Hyde is altogether innocent. I know that he is absolutely innocent.”

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Engrossed by the consideration of his own and his wife’s problem, Dr. Hyde had forgotten the children. Or, rather, it had not entered his mind that he would not be permitted to share in their custody, or, at least, to visit them regularly. Now, striking through his daze like a lightning bolt, he heard the judge enter an order that forbade him ever to see or to communicate with his wife or his little ones. Leaning forward, with all the agony of his soul in his eyes, he implored Mrs. Hyde with a looked but she refused to lift her eyes.

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Chapter 3

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Destitution and Disillusion

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Small wonder that the man’s iron courage gave way. Throughout the seven years of accusation and trials: throughout three years of unsuccessful struggle to regain his place in society, never once had he bowed his head, but as he walked out of the courtroom, suddenly bereft of wife, children and home, despair engulfed him. Giving up his offices, and abandoning the profession to which he had devoted his life, the wretched man found work as a common teamster in the employ of a sand company. Two days only did he held the job and then the boss issued a curt notice of discharge.

\n\n

“Why?” asked Dr. Hyde.

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“We don’t need you. That’s reason enough.”

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With what little money was left to him, he entered an automobile school, and took a course in mechanics, but when he had finished it and looked about for work, he found every avenue of employment closed against him. Now virtually destitute, he turned his face to Lexington, a little town some fifty miles from Kansas City where he had Spent his boyhood, the son of a loved and honored Baptist divine.

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A sister lived there, and from her he borrowed the money to go to New York for study that would fit him as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. For a year he toiled day and night, and then returned to Lexington and resolutely swung his shingle to the breeze.

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A typical Southern county seat, this little town of Lexington, its people kindly enough, but intensely conservative. They met Clark Hyde courteously enough on the streets and in the church, but they did not take him into their homes nor did they throng his waiting room. For ten weeks he sat in his office, and not once in the whole of that time did he hear a footfall outside his door or see the knob turn under the touch of a hand.

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The sweat stood out on his forehead as he talked of those terrible weeks. What if no one ever came? The fear froze his heart! To be forced to accept defeat — to creep away from the regard of those who knew him as though he were indeed evil and depraved — to drag out his days in some obscure corner of earth. No, no! Better death!

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Chapter 4

\n\n

Courage In His Eyes

\n\n

At last one evening, just as he was preparing to lock up and go out for his lonely meal, there sounded a knock and in walked a worker from the coal mines on the edge of town. A stranger, knowing nothing of Hyde or his history, he had seen the doctor’s sign in passing, and came in to ask about a serious ailment of the ear canals.

\n\n

“Your first patient after ten weeks?” I exclaimed. “How did you feel?”

\n\n

“I could hardly see him for my tears,” answered Dr. Hyde.

\n\n

The miner sent others, and through the break in the Chinese wall soon poured an increasing stream of patients. Gradually, as the people of Lexington saw him in church and watched his life, a certain amount of friendly feeling succeeded suspicion and avoidance. But like that unhappy master, whom disaster followed fast and followed faster, some blast of the old hate would blow in from outside just as he seemed to have won his fight.

\n\n

In 1929, for instance, a well-known lawyer of Detroit published a book on “The Cross — Examination of Witnesses,” and in it he spoke of Dr. Hyde as “the heartless murderer of Colonel Thomas H. Swope,” the author of “a series of horrible events unparalleled in the annals of American criminology,” and gave the impression that Dr. Hyde was an inmate of the Missouri State penitentiary, serving a sentence of life imprisonment. Under instant threat of a libel suit, the publishers called in every book, and accepted Dr. Hyde’s own statement of the case for insertion in the new edition.

\n\n

“If only they had charged me with anything but poisoning,” he said somberly. “No other accusation carries such horror or creates a more lasting aversion. There is something about it so cowardly, so creeping, so unspeakably reptilian, that one’s shrinking is almost instinctive. But I win back,” he continued, his voice determinedly cheerful. “I win back.”

\n\n

Turning around, he pulled out some programs that showed his membership in the Lexington Men’s Chorus, and a clipping from the local paper that commented on his interest in securing federal help for the improvement of Lexington’s battlefield. He put them forward with an effect of casualness, as if they were unimportant, but, shooting an upward glance, I saw a passion of pride in his eyes, a gratification so pathetic in its intensity that I could not swallow for the lump in my throat.

\n\n

To talk to the man is to come to instant appreciation of his essential loneliness, for every word shows that his companions have been books rather than human beings.

\n\n

“Have you never lost courage?” I asked him.

\n\n

“No,” he answered. For a moment he sat silent and then raised his head. “Don’t you see, George, I dare not. If I lose my faith in God and His ultimate justice, where am I? Where am I?”

\n\n

Pain and weariness stood revealed as the cry came from him, but as I turned back after leaving him, I saw him straightening his shoulders bravely enough, setting his face in its former effect of determined cheerfulness, and putting the courage back into his eyes.

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Witness Stand", "author": "", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n

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Again we place on the records the results of a brief investigation into the lives and habits of two outstanding contributors to The Illustrated Detective Magazine. The authors of “Science Fingerprints a Ghost” and “The Hollywood Bridal Night Murder” (both of which will be available on the site in coming weeks!) have submitted to our questioning.

\n\n

Summarizing the involved cross-examination:

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Hereward Carrington

\n\n
\n\t\"Herewood\n\t
\"Herewood Carrington\"
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Hereward Carrington was born October 17, 1880. He was educated in England and this country, and became a member of the Society for Psychical Research in 1900, when but nineteen years of age. He has made this subject his lifework ever since, visiting Europe several times in the course of his investigations, as well as traveling all over the U. S, and Canada.

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He has “sat” with nearly all the important mediums, during the past thirty years, and has carried on an extensive correspondence with the more prominent researchers throughout the world. He is a Member of the Society for Psychical Research, permanent American delegate to the International Psychical Congresses — attending , the first, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1921 — Research Officer of the American Psychical Institute and Laboratory, and was a member of the “Scientific American” Committee of five, appointed to investigate occult phenomena.

\n\n

Probably nowhere in the world is there a person who has devoted himself so completely and so wholeheartedly to the investigation of psychic phenomena as Dr. Carrington.

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He attended more then half a hundred seances with the medium Margery, and as many with the famous Eusapia Palladino; he has “sat” also with Mrs. Piper.

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He is the author of some seventy books on psychic and allied topics, covering all phases of the subject. His latest book “The Story of Psychic Science,” is a complete summary of the subject from the Greek Oracles to date. Dr. Carrington is thus a noted author and lecturer, as well as an investigator of international repute, and has earned for himself a reputation of being a sane, cautious worker along these lines. His estimates of phenomena may always be taken as fair, clear, and impartial.

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Dr. Carrington is also noted as a bridge player, and has published a book on the subject. He is tall; his hair is almost white; and he is distinctly good-looking. At one time he estimated that if all the time he had spent in a dark room (for his seances) was put together, it would amount to three years.

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Beyond this point, the Court ruled, Dr. Carrington need not testify. All further facts concerning his work could be found in his writing.

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\n\n

Octavus Roy Cohen

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\n\t\"Octavus\n\t
\"Octavus Roy Cohen\"
\n
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Octavus Roy Cohen was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on the twenty-sixth day of June, 1891.

\n\n

He attended — but insists was not educated in — the Porter Military Academy. After intermediary years in which he devoted himself to newspaper work, and the law, he sold his first story (the 130th he had written!).

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Mr. Cohen alternated thereafter between his continued assaults on editorial citadels.

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One series of his negro short stories has run over thirteen years.

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In 1914 he married, and since 1915 has made his home in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1916 his son was born and Mr. Cohen reports that helping the boy with his homework has been giving him a belated education.

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In 1927 Birmingham-Southern College made him a Doctor of Literature.

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Mr. Cohen has always been an enthusiast on sports, playing handball at least three times a week. He enjoys golf and tennis, is a baseball fan and a lover of football.

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Basketball, six-day bicycle racing and ice hockey are also among his hobbies. In the South he is considered a football authority.

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At one time he was known as an amateur boxer.

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In personal appearance he is five feet, eight inches tall; blond; slender; weighs 145 pounds in his clothes.

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He has sold more than forty motion pictures, twenty-three books, and has had five plays produced.

\n\n

He is a member of the Authors’ League of America, Roebuck Golf and Country Club (Birmingham), Artists’ and Writers’ Golf Association, Omicron Delta Kappa fraternity and Birmingham Athletic Club.

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~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Girl Friend", "author": "Allen Glasser", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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On the Legit

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Nick Pavoni’s stall was a cafe he called Caesar’s Grill.

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Upstairs were a dozen private dining rooms. Behind these rooms was Nick’s office, which had a private stairway leading down to an alley. The affairs of the cafe were managed from the steward’s office downstairs. Nick’s office was for his private and most profitable business. It was also a meeting place and council chamber for Nick’s mob.

\n\n

In his youth Pavoni had been a window washer. There was a certain organizing ability in the man, and he became a contractor with some dozen window washers in his employ. While poised on the sills of office windows, Pavoni’s eyes had many times rested on shiny, black, fat safes. Ideas came to Pavoni and in time he sold out his business, Pavoni was a rugged, powerful man. He had a very wide head with florid cheeks. His eyes were calm, almost gentle in their depth of brown. They were partly screened by thick black eyebrows. He had a wide, thick-lipped mouth. He liked to grin, chiefly to flash the gold front teeth of which he was very proud.

\n\n

He turned his brown eyes gently on “Stormy” Lake.

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“I sent Mario and Tony out to knock over some filling stations,” he said. “You got to keep these young ones working. Mario, he won’t be much good. But Tony is going to come up. I want you to watch him, Stormy. Next time we, have something big. I think maybe you can take him along. That boy is made for better things than filling stations, remember that. Next time you crack a box. I think you take him, eh? Take him for target. He’s not afraid to use a gun, but he’s no fool. That’s the trouble. They either turn yellow in a pinch, or they go killing a lot of people and get the whole town turned upside down.”

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Stormy Lake flipped a cigarette into a cuspidor. His blue eyes were suddenly strained. He started to speak, but Nick Pavoni cut him off.

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Red has found us a box. I tell you there’s another good one — Red. That boy hustles, and he’s in the know. It is at the Murdock Mills. They pay off on Saturday, but draw the cash Friday afternoon. It is at the mill office all Friday night. There is a watchman. Johnny and Angelo will take care of him. Tony will go with you and stay outside. Phil will drive. You can make the safe very easy; it is a Reliance … .”

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“I can’t, Nick! That’s why I wanted to see you … .”

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“You can’t!” Pavoni leaned far back to laugh. “You’re the quiet one, Stormy, the modest one. That’s why I like you. There’s no big talk … .”

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“But I can’t, Nick. I mean it. I’m through — quitting!”

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“What!” Nick struck his hands to his thighs. He said in almost a whisper: “You do what?”

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“I’m going to quit. Getting married, Nick. Going into business on the legit.”

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Nick laughed jovially. “Oh, is that it? Well, Stormy, that’s O.K. What kind of business?”

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“I’m buying a garage. Good stand.”

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“That’s fine. You’re the wise one, Stormy. A garage — that will give you a front, a stall. And besides it will be useful. If she is O.K., getting You know better it will be useful, married is not so bad, than to blab.”

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“You don’t get me, Nick. This isn’t a front. I’m quitting. Cutting the whole business out. The garage will be on the up-and-up. The girl won’t stand for me being on the hook. You’ll have to get somebody else.”

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Those gentle brown eyes clouded, then glowed with a sullen fire.

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“Are you crazy? Do you know what you say? Gees, do you think being in a mob is like jerking soda water or slinging hash, that you can go to the boss and say, ‘Get somebody else, I’m through’? What the hell are you trying to put over, Stormy? Is this some double-cross?”

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Pavoni kicked his chair to the wall. He swaggered across the room, smashed a card table from his path, and stormed back with face blood red and eyes ablaze.

\n\n

He halted suddenly.

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“Last year your cut was eighteen grand. This year it is twelve already. And you come to me and say, ‘I quit’. Just when things go so smooth. Everybody satisfied. No bulls stirring us up. No trouble. I am thinking tonight — I am saying to Red when he tells me of this job, ‘Stormy will open it. Stormy is the goods. No foolishness. Always ready. And never bungles. A man that can use a gun to open a getaway without leaving any meat behind. That’s what I say to Red. That’s what I think of you. And now you have turned yellow for a twist. You’re sure crazy, Stormy.

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“There is no quitting. When you are in a mob, you are in! You know that. Did you ever hear of anybody pulling out of a mob? If I tell the boys, you know what they will do. But I like you, Stormy. You’re my right-hand man. We worked this bunch up together.”

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Pavoni’s voice dropped to a whisper.

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“I don’t say a word to anybody. We just forget it. Ditch this dame that is taking the stuff out of you.”

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He stopped to pat Stormy on the shoulder.

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“Tell me what you need for Friday night.”

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Stormy stood up.

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“You sure are making this tough, Nick. Yeh, I know I cut plenty dough with you. But who opened the cans and got the dough? I figure we’re about even on that. As for all the tripe about nobody ever quitting a mob, that may go for some of these cheap guns you got out kicking over filling stations, but not for me. I’m through with the racket. You can get somebody else for my end of your capers.

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“You don’t need to suppose I’m going to turn stool because I’m getting married. Where would I get off? I’m in as deep as anybody. You’re a hell of a friend, you are. I thought you’d grab my mit and slip me a present or put on a banquet for me.”

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“Forget that cheese.”

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Nick waved his arm at the door.

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Stormy turned.

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“Good-by, Nick.”

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Chapter 2

\n\n

Stormy Is Through

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Pavoni did not answer. Stormy stood in the door. Tall, dark, clear-eyed, he was good looking in a rather hard way. Pavoni watched him for a long minute. Then he paced along the floor. He reached out his hand.

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“All right, Stormy, we may as well be friends, I guess.”

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Stormy’s face relaxed. He shook Pavoni’s hand vigorously.

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“You’ll get somebody else for Friday night?” Pavoni grunted.

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“But drop in before then, if you change your mind.”

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Pavoni sat very still for a long time after Stormy left. At last he pressed a button for a waiter.

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“Is anybody here, Slats?”

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The waiter nodded. “Johnny and Angelo are in seven with a couple — “

\n\n

“Chase Angelo in.”

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Angelo had been drinking. He slapped Nick on the back and called him “Big Boy.”

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Pavoni scowled and waved Angelo to a chair.

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“What’s up? You look like you was headed for the hot squat.”

\n\n
\n\t\"Angelo\"\n\t
Angelo had been drinking. He slapped Nick on the back and called him \"Big Boy.\"
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Pavoni swore softly.

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“Maybe I am. You too — and all of us.”

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Angelo’s eyes lifted.

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“It is Stormy,” Nick said quietly.

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“Gees! You mean he’s picked up an’ squealed?”

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Pavoni shook his head.

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“Not yet. But Stormy tells me he is through. He is getting married and quitting the racket.”

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Angelo lighted a cigarette. “Well?”

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Pavoni pressed a buzzer. “Bring a couple shots for me and Angelo, Slats.”

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It was the first time Angelo had seen Nick really drinking whisky.

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“Who is this jane that makes so much trouble?” Pavoni asked hopelessly.

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Angelo shrugged.

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“You know Stormy. He tells nobody nothing. He brings no women here.”

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“You remember Butch, Angelo?” Pavoni asked.

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Angelo nodded. “They fired him for some cigar store stand.”

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“You’re right, Angelo. Butch and Scar Maloof and a kid named Strenger pulled it. Butch and Scar got fried. They caught them because some witness drove into a garage one day and seen this Strenger kid working there. The witness called the cops. The garage boss said Strenger had been working for him a year and was a fine kid. The witness must be mistaken. The cops took Strenger anyway. They worked on him. That stick-up was a year and a half before. The kid hadn’t fired the shot that killed the sap. Now he was going straight. So he pilled and rapped Butch and Scar. They got the juice. The kid was held for about six months. Then they gave him probation.

\n\n

“You see what happens when a guy goes straight? He turns yellow.”

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Angelo leaned forward.

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“What’re you going to do? Put Stormy on the spot?”

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Pavoni grinned and shook his head. “There is another way. We try that first. Maybe then Stormy comes back to us. He is a good man, if this girl had not made him yellow. You know the Clinton School? Well, on Tenth Street by the school is a little store. It is one of these stores near schools that are kept by old women and sell penny candy and pencils.

\n\n

“This store is run by Mother Molloy. The store is a front. Mother Molloy is a fence. She is an old friend of Stormy. He told me once when we were all in a jam that she keeps his money planted for him. That is so he can get it quick and easy. Stormy has not yet bought this garage.

\n\n

“Mother Molloy closes her place at nine o’clock. You and Tony will go there. You see that nobody but the old woman is in the store, then at nine o’clock you enter. Tony covers her. You lock the door and pull down the shades. Take her into the back room and make her tell you where her money is hidden.

\n\n

“Tie her up and stuff something into her mouth so she can’t yell. Take a candle with you. That would be a good way. Hold the candle to her foot. She will tell you. That way we get Stormy’s dough and he can’t buy his garage. Be careful what you do out there. I don’t want any killing. You had better cover your faces. So long as you don’t kill her everything will be fine. She can’t holler copper.”

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Chapter 3

\n\n

Out To Murder Stormy

\n\n
\n\t\"Stormy\n\t
\"A fine break those hyenas of yours gave me! Sit down!\"
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Twice Angelo and Tony went out and found men in the store at nine o’clock. The third night they caught her alone. Angelo told her to nod her head when she was ready to come across. Tony wielded the smoking candle. Angelo watched her face.

\n\n

She was a tough old woman and held out for a long time. The first time they stopped she tried to scream for help when they took the gag out. There was no fooling about the second time.

\n\n

They found fourteen thousand dollars and a handful of diamonds that had been torn from their settings.

\n\n

Pavoni was very pleased when they got back to Caesar’s Grill. It was the best haul of the year, apart from the disciplinary effect on Stormy. Pavoni took half, the rest was split two ways.

\n\n

But Friday came and Stormy had not returned to the gang. And they could not try the safe without him.

\n\n

Pavoni waited two more days; then sent Angelo and Tony out to murder Stormy. There was nothing else to do. Pavoni hated trouble. But you can’t let a fellow live after he’s turned yellow. One question from a cop and he’ll fall apart and spill everything.

\n\n

Pavoni lay sprawled on a couch in his office while he waited for Angelo and Tony. At his elbow was a bottle of whisky and cigarettes.

\n\n

Slats, the waiter, knocked at the door. Pavoni asked what he wanted.

\n\n

“O’Day and Schultze are downstairs. They asked for you and are coming up. What’ll I tell them?”

\n\n

Hell! Here was a break. Angelo and Tony had gone out to kill Stormy and were not back. And these two bulls had come. Pavoni was sitting upright and wiping sweat from his face.

\n\n

“What’ll I say?” hissed through the door.

\n\n

From the lowered voice Pavoni knew the detectives were coming up the stairs. Maybe it wasn’t about Angelo and Tony. There was no use staving these dicks off. He’d have to see them eventually.

\n\n

“Let ‘em in,” Pavoni growled.

\n\n

He heard Slats’ footsteps go and return. A knock on the door.

\n\n

“Come in!” Pavoni boomed.

\n\n

O’Day and Schultze entered.

\n\n

“Hello, boys. Have a smoke?”

\n\n

O’Day shook his head.

\n\n

“You been here all night, Pavoni?” he asked.

\n\n

Pavoni glanced at his watch.

\n\n

“Since seven o’clock,” he answered. “Why?”

\n\n

“What are you sweating about, Pavoni?” O’Day demanded.

\n\n

“Nothing. It’s hot up here.”

\n\n

The two detectives laughed.

\n\n

No one spoke for a minute that seemed endless to Pavoni. Then Schultze asked: “Where’s Angelo and that fellow he’s running with?”

\n\n

Pavoni spread his palms.

\n\n

“How would I know? Angelo, I think he was here tonight. He eats downstairs.”

\n\n

The two detectives laughed again.

\n\n

“They’re friends of yours, ain’t they?”

\n\n

“Sure, they’re my friends. Quit stalling and tell me what you want. What’s the matter with Angelo?”

\n\n

“Oh, nothing much,” Schultz said. “We picked him and that other kid up tonight.”

\n\n

“What for?” breathlessly.

\n\n

“They were trying to drive two ways on a one-way street,” O’Day chuckled. “Traffic cop followed them. Thought they were drunk. They used the whole street from curb to curb. But they weren’t drunk. They were just shot! Both of ‘em. In the right arm. They got dizzy trying to drive some place to get their wounds dressed. The young kid had fainted. Angelo was at the wheel. Of course Angelo didn’t know who did the shooting. They were just waiting for a couple of girls, Angelo said. Some fellow walked up to them and bang! bang! They both got it in the arm.”

\n\n

“That’s too bad,” Pavoni commented. “It’s getting fierce the amount of lead that’s slung around these days.”

\n\n

“You don’t know who might have done it, Pavoni?”

\n\n

“How would I? They’re young fellows. They been horning in on a tough guy’s girl, maybe.”

\n\n

“Funny about them both getting it in the right arm,” Schultz observed.

\n\n

They started for the door and Pavoni sighed his relief.

\n\n

O’Day turned.

\n\n

“Anyway, we’ll cool those boys off for six months when they get out of the hospital. They were packing rods.”

\n\n

“Like hell you will,” Pavoni muttered when the door was closed.

\n\n

Pavoni stood helpless for a minute. There were a lot of things to be done. He must first learn what hospital they’d been taken to. Then he must get a lawyer to them. And he must send one of the boys over to put the fear of hell into Tony. It was the kid’s first pinch and he might get careless with his tongue. Angelo was all right. Angelo knew the ropes. Angelo was smart. But he hadn’t been smart enough to give Stormy the bump!

\n\n

Someone knocked on the door to the private stairway. Pavoni glided across the room.

\n\n

“Who’s that?”

\n\n

“S-sh! Open up, Nick. It’s me, Angelo!”

\n\n

Nick wanted to laugh. Angelo was smart. A bolt slid back.

\n\n

“Get a move on!”

\n\n

“All right, all right,” Pavoni answered. Angelo’s voice sounded funny. Sounded like he was crying. Again Nick wanted to laugh. Imagine Angelo crying. But that arm hurt, maybe. Pavoni turned another lock and opened the door.

\n\n

A revolver stuck its ugly mouth into the room. The firm hand that held it appeared. Then Stormy.

\n\n

Pavoni made one play for his revolver. Stormy’s gun jumped six inches. Pavoni dropped his hand and sighed.

\n\n

Stormy reached a hand back, closed and locked the door. He crossed the room and slid a bolt on the other door that led to the hall.

\n\n

Pavoni’s eyes followed that leveled revolver around the room in a nauseating fascination. He suddenly felt old and weak. He was sick. There was a horrible hard ball in his stomach. He was icy cold and shaking.

\n\n

He tried to speak, but his throat was so dry he choked. At last he managed to curl his tongue into words. They came fast and in a whispering hiss:

\n\n

“Stormy! For God’s sake! We been pals. You’d give a fellow a break … .”

\n\n

“Yeh, a fine break those hyenas of yours gave me! Sit down!”

\n\n

“Stormy. I swear it! I don’t know what you mean. Why did you say you were Angelo? Why do you come like this with a gun to an old friend and say I gave you no break? I have done nothing to you. If you kill me this second, I die swearing I am your friend and have not hurt you.”

\n\n

“Well, don’t fall apart. If I was going to kill you, would I have locked my getaway door? Where’s your brains?”

\n\n

Pavoni sighed and relaxed. Of course, he had been a fool not to think of that.

\n\n

Stormy’s left hand was in his coat pocket.

\n\n

“Sit down at your desk,” he said.

\n\n

Pavoni obeyed.

\n\n

Stormy flung a package of typewritten sheets before Pavoni.

\n\n

“Read em.”

\n\n

Pavoni picked up the papers. He saw they were carbon copies. He started to read and gasped explosively.

\n\n

He looked again and his jumping eyes followed the words:

\n\n
\n\n

\"NORTHERN FUR ROBBERY AND MURDER.

Red Scanlan located job. Nick Pavoni organized and led the raid on this warehouse. I, Stormy Lake, went along to open safe. Robbery netted furs valued at $60,000, which were fenced to Joseph Bloom $12,000, and $8,000 cash in safe.

Members of gang committing robbery were: Nick Pavoni, Angelo Nicassio, Johnny Wills, and myself, with Skeets Mullin driving stolen truck.

The watchman was lured to a back door and slugged by Angelo. While the furs were being loaded watchman came to. Angelo saw the watchman's open eyes taking in the bunch, and slugged him again. The watchman was found dead.

The weak sisters in on this job are Johnny Wills and Bloom.\"

\n\n
\n\n

Pavoni looked up, trembling. His fingers massaged his thick neck. “You had this on you when — when … .”

\n\n

“Yeh, when Angelo and Tony tried to bump me,” Stormy finished. “Read some more. It’s all there. Thirty-eight jobs. Three murders.”

\n\n

Pavoni fingered the pages.

\n\n

“Well, what do you want, Stormy?”

\n\n

“Not a thing. I just wanted you to see those sheets. The originals are in a sealed package in my lawyer’s safe. They remain there as long as I live. When I pass out, the package goes to a relative of mine. He’s on the level and you don’t know him. If I die a natural death, the package will be burnt without the seal being broken. If I don’t die a natural death, the package is to be taken to the district are attorney. Think that over, Nick.”

\n\n
\n\t\"Stormy's\n
\n\n


\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Helen Barlow

\n\n
\n\t\"Helen\n\t
Pavoni rather admired and respected Miss Barlow.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

At one o’clock the next day. Pavoni was in the office of Charley Gaige, criminal lawyer extraordinary.

\n\n

Helen Barlow, Gaige’s secretary, smiled and said Mr. Gaige was out to lunch, and that he wouldn’t be back that day as he was going to court.

\n\n

Pavoni knew Miss Barlow slightly. He admired her, and respected her inaccessibility to a man of his type.

\n\n

He grinned amiably now and said he didn’t want to see Mr. Gaige.

\n\n

She showed him a surprised smile, and waited.

\n\n

Pavoni leaned over the railroad partition. “I just wanted to see you, Miss Barlow. You can help me — we’re old friends, eh?”

\n\n

“Of course, Mr. Pavoni,” she laughed.

\n\n

“Well,” Pavoni said with oily smoothness, “I just wanted to know if Stormy, Mr. Lake — you know Mr. Lake?”

\n\n

“Of course, we know Mr. Lake. He’s with you, isn’t he? Or one of your friends, anyway.” ‘

\n\n

“Yes. Stormy’s with me. And I just wanted to know if he left that package — that sealed package — for Mr. Gaige to keep in his vault?”

\n\n

“Oh, Mr. Pavoni. I know Mr. Lake is a friend of yours, but I don’t know if I should tell you anything like that. Won’t you call Mr. Gaige at his home this evening? I’m sure it’s perfectly all right, or you wouldn’t ask me. But Mr. Gaige would think I was careless or didn’t have the proper respect for the confidence — ‘”

\n\n

Pavoni laughed heartily.

\n\n

“That’s all right. You told me now. Because if he hadn’t left it, you would just have said ‘No’.”

\n\n

Miss Barlow bit her lip.

\n\n

Pavoni chuckled.

\n\n

“It is nothing. Don’t look worried. Now I want to do you a big favor.”

\n\n

She looked puzzled.

\n\n

“First I want you to come to dinner with me at the Ritz tonight.”

\n\n

“Oh, Mr. Pavoni!”

\n\n

“Well, why not?” Pavoni asked. “I’m a harmless old fellow. It just happens that I could do you a big favor. I could put you in the way of making a lot of money. Don’t ask me how. I’ll tell you this evening. You’ll come? If you don’t want to go into it, no harm done. Shall we say six — thirty, or seven?”

\n\n

She bit the end of a pencil, smiled doubtfully, but at length said, “Seven.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

Money Would Tempt Her

\n\n
\n\t\"Nick\n\t
She passed him the envelope and took the balance of the money.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Pavoni left the office satisfied. He had guessed shrewdly. Gaige was the attorney of all the big shots in town. He was Pavoni’s lawyer. And naturally be was Stormy’s lawyer. The thing that had puzzled Pavoni for a time was how to reach that vault. His gang could break into Gaige’s office. But as well to contemplate the Federal Reserve vaults as that one of the lawyer’s. Gaige had built his practice through a reputation for squareness. He had never thrown down a client. Had never broken faith with one. But Miss Barlow was the weak spot in Stormy’s armor. She was a fine young woman, Pavoni conceded. But she was poor; and, he was confident, money — a lot of it, of course — would tempt her.

\n\n

She was waiting for him at the hotel. He strode over to her with an easy grin on his florid face.

\n\n

“Oh, Mr. Pavoni, I’ve been so worried. I don’t think I should have come. I think Mr. Gaige might not consider it right for me to have dinner with a client — at least without his permission.”

\n\n

Pavoni closed his big hand around her slender, soft arm. “Don’t you be foolish, Miss Barlow. Gaige wouldn’t care. Besides, it’s after office hours. You’re not working for him now.”

\n\n

Reluctantly, she let him lead her to the dining room. Pavoni knew how to buy favors. They had a sheltered table for two near, a window. But the dinner was not a great success. Pavoni felt out of it here. He was too big, too rough, for this fine place. Miss Barlow was nervous. She picked at her food and gave all her time to anxious glances about the dining room.

\n\n

When nothing remained on the table but small blacks, Pavoni got to business.

\n\n

“You’ll be wanting to know what I got up my sleeve, Miss Barlow?”

\n\n

He laid his big elbows on the table and leaned toward her. “I don’t stall, Miss Barlow. I want that package Stormy left with Gaige. It’s worth ten grand — ten thousand — to me.”

\n\n

He sat back and waited. He hated to pay that much, but Miss Barlow wasn’t cheap. Nothing but real money would make her a crook.

\n\n

She gasped and looked at him intently.

\n\n

“That’s impossible. Terrible. I must go. Why, you’re insulting.”

\n\n

Pavoni’s arm shot out. He almost held her in the chair.

\n\n

“Listen. You won’t be hurting Gaige. You won’t be hurting Stormy. There is nothing in that package that’s worth a dime to Gaige or Stormy. But it’s worth ten thousand to me.”

\n\n

“No.”

\n\n

Pavoni sighed.

\n\n

“Fifteen thousand,” he offered.

\n\n

“Please take me out of here. I don’t want to create a scene.”

\n\n

“For God’s sake, girl, you’re mad! Twenty thousand. That’s what I’ll give you! Think of it. Twenty thousand in one lump. Do you know any other way you will ever get your hands on that much at one time? What can you do with that much coin? You’re young, and smart. Think what it means!”

\n\n

Pavoni was holding her arm all the time. He felt a little quiver run through her body, then a slight relaxation. He let her play with the figures a while.

\n\n

“Oh, but I couldn’t, betraying Mr. Gaige.”

\n\n

“He’ll never know, Pavoni said quickly. “You get me that package. Then I’ll fix it up and you can put it back in there. Nobody will ever know it’s been opened. And you’ll have your stake.”

\n\n

“No. I couldn’t do it. I’m ashamed to stay and talk to you about it. It’s wrong.”

\n\n

Her refusal was not quite so vigorous now. But Pavoni was nearly crazy with worry. He couldn’t sleep while that cursed history of the gang lay in Gaige’s vault. Suppose some other gang took a shot at Stormy? Suppose the damned snitch got himself killed in an automobile accident? Pavoni and the gang would burn sure. He broke into a sweat. If it cost every dime he had in the world, he must get that package. He’d put the gang on the hustle to make up what he paid.

\n\n

“Please call for the check and take me out of here,” the girl begged again. “Please!”

\n\n

Pavoni smiled at her. He wanted to clamp his big fists around that slim white throat. For a minute the rage that boiled in his brain held him breathless. He made a last desperate plunge.

\n\n

“Thirty thousand dollars!” he whispered.

\n\n

She moaned, and Pavoni knew he had her. People near by glanced up.

\n\n

“Smile!” he hissed.

\n\n

Her eyes gleamed with tears; but her lips turned up in a miserable smile.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

Who Did She Marry?

\n\n
\n\t\"Nick\"\n\t
Pavoni was nearly crazy with worry. Gaige must never find out.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Pavoni wasted no more time. He pressed ten one thousand dollar bills into her palms right then. Safer to let her play with some of the money than with the idea. He made swift arrangements for the transfer of the package and the balance of the money. He took her to a taxi and drove home with her. He kept her jollied up with visions of what she could do with thirty thousand dollars.

\n\n

Her decision made, she brightened a little. Pavoni left her confident that she would live up to her bargain.

\n\n

And for himself, he intended to live up to his. He hated to throw out that much money, but he had to shoot square with this girl. If he tried any double-cross at the final exchange, there was no telling what she would do. She might go and confess everything to Gaige. Pavoni would have the telltale papers, anyway. But there was no telling when you needed Gaige. Why, it might be worth a hundred grand to have Gaige with you.

\n\n

Pavoni chuckled as he dropped into bed. If Stormy managed to keep alive for one more day, the gang was safe. And twenty-four hours after Pavoni got that package, Stormy would be a dead man.

\n\n

Pavoni waited in the lobby of the McClellan. In two minutes she should come. He broke into a sweat as he thought of the possibility of an accident to her. Now that the package was nearly his, he was mad with anxiety. A wave of relief that left him weak passed through his body. She was coming.

\n\n

He nearly dragged her to a secluded corner. She reached within her coat. Pavoni watched her with wolfish eyes. Her fingers held a long white linen envelope.

\n\n

Pavoni smiled, and brought a wallet from his pocket. She passed him the envelope and took the money.

\n\n

“Count the money,” he urged.

\n\n

She ran her fingertips across the edges of twenty one-thousand-dollar notes. Pavoni was examining the envelope and its seal. He smiled.

\n\n

“You better get that to a safe deposit box, if you have one,” he advised.

\n\n

She nodded. “Good-night, Mr. Pavoni.”

\n\n

He walked downstairs to the washrooms.

\n\n

His fingers tore futilely at the linen envelope. Luckily, he had a knife. In the envelope were many sheets of typewriter paper. On the top sheet, Pavoni read the words:

\n\n

“A Gangster Never Squeals”

\n\n

He turned over the other sheets.

\n\n

They were all blank.

\n\n

“I be damned! I be damned!” Pavoni stood for five minutes repeating the words. He couldn’t think straight. Where did he stand? He felt the dazed freedom of an unfettered slave. Relief. Joy. Anger. He felt them all; but which was right?

\n\n

He caught himself saying, “Good old Stormy.”

\n\n

Then next second remembered he had planned to murder Stormy. He hurried down to Caesar’s Grill. Had a bottle of whiskey sent up to the office and lay on the couch drinking. At midnight he dozed off in a drunken sleep. It was the third time in twenty years that Pavoni had been drunk.

\n\n

It was nine in the morning when Pavoni came out of his sleep. He had a mean head and was ugly. He didn’t give a hoot if the girl didn’t know what was in the package. He’d get that dough back if he had to throw the girl and Gaige both through their windows.

\n\n

He had to wait in the corridor for twenty-five minutes before Gaige arrived.

\n\n

The lawyer unlocked the door. “Come on in.”

\n\n

Gaige held a gate open for Pavoni to precede him into the lawyer’s private office.

\n\n

Pavoni shook his head. “I want to see Miss Barlow.”

\n\n

Gaige was surprised. “She won’t be down. She has left me.”

\n\n

Pavoni gasped.

\n\n

The lawyer looked puzzled as Pavoni stood there rooted to the floor. “Miss Barlow has gone away,” he added with a smile.

\n\n

“Where?” Pavoni snarled.

\n\n

Gaige laughed. “Well, she didn’t say exactly. But she told me she was leaving the city for good — with her husband. She got married yesterday morning.”

\n\n

“Who?” Pavoni roared. “Who did she marry?” -

\n\n

“Didn’t you know?” said Gaige. “Stormy Lake!”

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Rainbow Lure", "author": "Marie Loscalzo", "body": ""

Late morning sunshine tried to chase the gloom from the room where Cora Shepard ranged in restless impatience. Her too old young face was white where the carelessly applied rouge did not light false fires, and her usually carefully dressed brown hair was rough and tumbled. The soiled kimono she held about her by one twitching hand was torn at the shoulder to show unbelievably white skin, as soft as any petted lady’s.

\n\n

As the door swung open she snapped querulously:

\n\n

“‘S a fine time to bring breakfast” and stopped short as a tall man gently closed the door behind him.

\n\n

“Not your old Katie with the toast, my fine girl, but your Corrigan with a jolt for you. Katie had hers when I made her let me in — now — let’s see.”

\n\n

Cora did not answer, but turning her back, went to gaze unseeing out of the window — at least there was freedom there.

\n\n

“Might as well be sweet about it, Cora, for you know we have been watching you night and day. And you might as well come clean with all the dope on the Westerman girl’s murder, for we have your friend Frank, and we’ll get your brother Bill, too. But listen, now; if Frank would give us a nice neat little confession, we could see the way clear to forgetting a lot of things — such as your look-in with the Norton blackmail, the Hotaling forgery, and so on. We know your brother is guilty as hell, of Course, and you know it, too, but the thing is to get the proof.

\n\n

“And how the papers are roasting the ‘chief, and the whole department. Somebody’s gotta be the goat, that’s all. We’ve sure got the pan hot, and gotta have somebody to fry.

\n\n

“Give us time and we could hang the murder on your brother, but time is one little thing we ain’t got, with the papers and the public, too, yapping on our heels.

\n\n

“Now, listen here, sister, do me a favor, and save yourself — and save Bill — from the chair. Y’see, this Frank of yours is crazy to see you — why, I don’t know, for he was loony about the Westerman girl. Fact is, that’s why we can slam the murder on him so dead easy. He was there that night, we know, but your brother was there, too, after Frank. But we can’t find a witness, that is, a witness that’s any good, for what you say wouldn’t go far with a jury — and you Frank’s common-law wife.

\n\n

“So there’s only one thing that’ll clear your brother, and that is for Frank to come clean with a confession. That’ll give you and your no ‘count brother time to clear out. No doubt Frank will only be sent up for a few years–some soft governor will let him out. It’s your only chance, Cora, for I tell you we’ve got a bad case on Bill.”

\n\n

The detective sauntered to the window, where he stood by Cora’s side, looking out, for a moment.

\n\n

Suddenly she flung away from him as if he was poisonous.

\n\n

“Get out of here! When I want to see Frank, I know where he is, and as for a fake confession, I’m not your stool-pigeon, Corrigan!”

\n\n

“Fake? How’d you get that way? How’d you know he didn’t kill the Westerman girl? Believe me, my fine girl, he thought enough more of her than he did of you — enough to kill her if he thought she was double-crossing him. You know what he cared for your tantrums. Yeh! and for you, and what name you had left, too! Why, he used to lay bets on you — down in Tony’s — bets — God, how rotten a guy .can get! And you think he loved you? Say, that’s the limit! I’ve seen Frank Conroy kissing the paper that had Ruth Westerman’s name on it — after he had made your name one that — “

\n\n

He paused, for the fury in Cora’s eyes startled him.

\n\n

Hoarsely she muttered: “All right — bring him along. I’ll find out — find out — — “

\n\n

The detective looked pleasantly cheerful as he swung about to open the door. The bell had been ringing some minutes, but Cora’s maid was too terrified by Corrigan’s authority to answer.

\n\n

“Ah! Here we are!”

\n\n

Two plain-clothes men entered with a handcuffed man between them.

\n\n

“Morning, Frank. Lil’ call on Cora, eh? You’re the boy for the early visits to your lady friends, what? Cora here is all out of sorts, because I’m just telling her she’s booked for a trip up the river; her and that no-good brother Bill of hers. Queer how you guys expect to get away with things. Cora’s been the queen blackmailer of Riney the Rat’s gang for too long, and now Bill goes and croaks your jane, Frank! Some speed to Bill’s trip to the chair, I’ll say!”

\n\n

Corrigan seemed pleased with his little monologue, and after a glance at Cora, whose back’ was turned, seated himself comfortably in an arm-chair.

\n\n

“Now, boys,” he said to the plain-clothes men, “you can beat it out a while. I’ll manage this little seance. The main thing is to let the lady and the gent have a farewell chew.”

\n\n

The men let themselves out, and Corrigan yawned.

\n\n

“Well, folks, speak up! Can’t you say ‘dayday’ to Frank, Cora? I ain’t got all day to hang around. If you got anything to say, get it over. Me, I’m all in. I’ll just park myself on that lounge I lamped in the back room as I came through the kitchen a bit ago. Give you half an hour for your love spiel,” and he leered.

\n\n

Gone, the room became a dead place without the vividity of his presence.

\n\n

Cora still stood gazing blankly from the window, and Frank was apparently rooted to the spot, speechless.

\n\n

After a moment he licked dry lips and spoke:

\n\n

“Cora, Cora, can’t you even speak to me? I begged them to let me come, for I knew you’d get some garbled tale of the killing, and though I was sure you would not believe it!”

\n\n

She whirled on him.

\n\n

“Believe you had anything to do with it? And why not? Where were you that night — that night when I had dared you to go there! She was always hanging after you and poor Bill, and now it’s you or Bill — yes, and me, too, for Corrigan is after blood, right or wrong!”

\n\n

She began to wring her hands.

\n\n

“And it will be the chair for Bill, for he threatened her so often, because she was so crazy about you. And he’s all I have.”

\n\n

“All you have? How about me, Cora? Ain’t I been true to — “

\n\n

“True?”

\n\n

Her voice rose to a rasping scream.

\n\n

“True? Don’t come here and tell me that! I know how true — I know — Oh, God!” She broke down into weak crying — the crying of a heartbroken child. It seemed the sobs would tear the slender frame to bits as she leaned against the window frame, her face buried in the curtains.

\n\n

Frank remembered a time when as a boy his little sister had cried so over the death of a pet dog. He could see yet the writhing form of the child as grief was succeeded by horrible convulsions, and he heard even now the terror of his mother’s voice as she demanded who had hurt her darling.

\n\n

Now Cora was suffering — and he to blame. And she would suffer more if he did not speak.

\n\n

Awkwardly he advanced to the sobbing girl.

\n\n

The handcuffs bothered him, but he must manage somehow.

\n\n

“Cora!”

\n\n

He spoke low, and as gently as ever he had in the days when Cora had first been his “jane.”

\n\n

“Cora, listen! Don’t cry so. Listen now. Maybe I did go to Westerman’s a bit too much; but you were letting that ivory-topped Louis Michaels stick around here, and I got it straight that you were fixing to give me the go-by — Bill told me so. Bill was there at Westerman’s that night of the killing, but — “

\n\n

“But what?”

\n\n

Cora’s sobs had stopped, and she peered at Frank’s face in an agony of waiting.

\n\n

“Why do you want to know so bad what real]y happened?”

\n\n

Frank bit off the words — his white.

\n\n

“Why is it so much to you what happened that night? ‘Would you care if I went to the chain? Not much, my girl! I’ve got your number — I’ve had it — think I’ll give up my freedom and my life — for the like of you — why you care as much for me as — “

\n\n

“No, no, Frank — it’s not that — not that at all. I do love you — but I was mad with jealousy of the Westerman girl — I could have — could have — . But they say Bill killed her, and he’s only a kid, Frank. He’s all I’ve got — your own folks are different, Frank. I can’t see him die for what he didn’t do. He didn’t — didn’t. Can’t you — for me — Frank.”

\n\n

She was whispering now — for Corrigan, she well knew, was not asleep.

\n\n

“Frank, remember, remember those first days we had together? Up in the Bronx, in the little house? You used to say that forever and ever–no matter what happened — you’d love me. Through heaven or hell, you said — we had our heaven — didn’t we, Frank — dear?”

\n\n

Her arms were about his neck now, and her tear-stained cheek lay just where he could touch it with his lips if he bent his head ever so little.

\n\n

The pleading eyes that had once meant the face grown light of the world to him now sought to look into his own evading ones.

\n\n

“Frank! Don’t you remember?”

\n\n

The lips that had not always been so white and drawn reached up seeking comfort.

\n\n

Blindly he bent down, found the praying mouth, and for a moment or two time rolled back, and it was a summer day with nothing on earth to do but dance while Love piped.

\n\n

Then he straightened. He threw off the years of mildewing underworld association, and became a mah. He spoke aloud, and clearly:

\n\n

“A’right, then, Cora! It’s good-by, my girl!”

\n\n

She fell bask, white and shaking, but he frowned and shook his head, and went on:

\n\n

“A’right! We’re quits! Sure I did the Westerman girl. I stayed after Bill went. Fact is, I kicked him out, and she was so damned crybaby about it that we had some words — and you know my temper, Cora. I shoved a gun at her … was one around there — and first I knew she had it right in the heart. And I beat it. Never noticed it was Bill’s gun. Tough luck, a flattie had to lamp me as I was strolling out the door. ‘Sall there is to it. Wish I had a smoke.”

\n\n

Corrigan stood grinning in the door. He glanced at Cora’s rigid form — like a statue of horror she was.

\n\n

“Can you beat the dames?” he muttered. “She’s got what she wanted and acts like it was her getting sent up.”

\n\n

Corrigan started to call his men to take their prisoner back to jail, when with a scream of madness Cora flung herself on Frank. -

\n\n

“You didn’t do it! Say you didn’t! It means the chair — to end like this! My God! My God!”

\n\n

Whimpering and clawing at the prisoner, Cora ceased to be a woman, and was only an animal clinging to all she loved on earth.

\n\n

“Frank, Frank, it must have been Bill — it was, I saw him leave after you — I was watching from across the street. I could not bear for you to be in there with her so long — and while I waited for you to get out of sight, he slipped out of the front door like a thief — or — or a murderer.”

\n\n

Cora whispered the last word, and cowered over Frank’s arm to which she hung with a grip of death.

\n\n

Corrigan tried to loosen the vise-like fingers; he spoke gently to her, but in vain. Then he lost his temper and said: “Here, what’s the game anyway? If Frank croaked the girl, or Bill did, we gotta get out of here, and stop this flying through the air. I gotta get back and see if they’ve found Bill. Maybe he will have a little confession in his pocket, too. This is a popular case!”

\n\n

The whir of the telephone interrupted Corrigan’s sarcasm. He went into the hall to answer it, and did not notice the wizened face of the little old woman peering around the portieres that served as door to the dining-room.

\n\n

Corrigan seemed put out at the telephone message.

\n\n

“The deuce you say! What do you know about that, now? Well, I’ll be I’ll tell the world another case like this would drive me batty for fair. And so that’s straight, eh? Oh, signed by a priest as witness, and all? Well, I’ll bring Frank along back. Sure is O. K. then. Yes, I’ll ‘fix that. Sure. Oh, yeh, sure. I’ll be right back, chief. G’by.”

\n\n

As he stepped back to the living room With a perplexed frown creasing his brew, the same little old woman laid a hand on his arm.

\n\n

“Oh, you’re Cora’s maid, eh? Well, what now?”

\n\n

“If you please, I just want to see you a minute — out back” The old lips were shaking, and the fated blue eyes were wide with something that puzzled Corrigan. He had seen that look in the eyes of men who were about to pay the supreme penalty for crime.

\n\n

“Well, be quick about what you say — and say it here — I got this man to watch — and this woman, too. I’ll get a stretch up the river myself if any more bobbles are pulled in this case.

\n\n

The old woman seemed not to hear him.

\n\n

She picked at her quivering lips With one knotty hand, while she held on to Corrigan’s sleeve with the other, as if clinging to any support, in dire peril.

\n\n

“I’m just tellin’ you — let Cora go — she never done it; nor Frank, nor Bill. I was scared to tell. I thought they’d never put it on Cora, and Bill said they couldn’t hold him — and Frank is so smart — I thought he’d get off. But now you’re holding Cora — and — you don’t mean to let Bill go, either — I can tell! They’ll all get long stretches, and Cora — it’s not right for a girl to go to prison. Me, it don’t matter, but Cora — and Bill — they sh’an’t go. It was for them I did it, anyway. I followed Cora that night, when she -went after Frank. I know she oughtn’t to have carried on like she done with Frank — but she was always spoiled — and Frank’s legal wife was in the asylum — and they were young and in love. After he began running with the Westerman girl Cora was like crazy. She never cared for anything on earth but Frank, and I put up with her rages, and stuck by her, because she needed me, and the people who come here thought I was only her maid because I wouldn’t take even enough of that kind of money to dress decent.

\n\n

“And then Bill got to running after the Westerman girl, and wild as Bill was, that finished him, for she was bad. ‘ But I’m tellin’ you — “

\n\n

The weary old voice was stronger now, and the bent shoulders were erect. Cora was at her side and was trying to silence her, but the older woman threw her back and resolutely kept on:

\n\n

“That night when Cora followed Frank I slipped out after her, and watched from across the street. I saw Frank come out’ of the Westerman house, and almost right away Bill. Cora went after Frank and I was ready to go, too, when Bill came back and went in. I hurried over, and finding the door not quite closed, I slipped into the hall. They were in the little room old man Westerman used for an office, right off the hall, and I heard every word. The girl was tempting Bill — offering him money if he’d go into some swindling scheme that she was too nice to soil her hands with — and she was planning how, that done, they’d make a get-away with the loot, And she was bad — bad. I couldn’t stand it, and I stepped into-the room and told her what she was — plenty. And she went wild with anger — and — and called me things — and struck at me — like a street woman. So I shot her. I had the gun with me — Cora’s. .And Bill made me swear I’d not tell — he said it would be all right — but it’s not. You can see here where the woman struck and choked me.”

\n\n

She pulled aside the scarf she had wound about her neck.

\n\n

“Maybe I wouldn’t have killed her, but Bill had snatched up a knife from the table when she struck me — and I knew he would do for her if I did not. I’m old — it don’t matter a few years less for me.”

\n\n

The old head drooped now. The fire of sacrifice was burned out.

\n\n

Cora had pulled the old woman into a chair, and was sobbing on her shoulder.

\n\n

The tears were running down Frank’s face, and Corrigan blew his nose several times while swearing a steady stream.

\n\n

Finally he said: “Me, I’m off the force for life! This sure has got me for a finish! Not ten minutes ago they telephoned me from headquarters that they got Bill over on Tenth Avenue some place, got him while he was havin’ a little stickin’ party with a buncha wops, and Bill got his — and passed out. And before he does, he does a little confessing, too; says he shot the Westerman girl to save his mother’s life — and as his dope is signed and witnessed — goodnight!”

\n\n

The worried Corrigan mopped his brow and thought a bit. Then he went to confer with the men outside.

\n\n

Cora turned to Frank with not a word to say, but a universe of pleading in his eyes.

\n\n

He did not speak either, and slowly the invisible chains which bound them tightened and drew them together.

\n\n

“Well, Cora, girl.”

\n\n

His eyes were very tired, and he spoke like a man who has run a long way for a treasure and found nothing at his goal.

\n\n

Cora did not speak for a bit, and then she said:

\n\n

“You’ll be out by night — can’t we start over — go away — far away?”

\n\n

He motioned with his head toward her mother — huddled in a chair, the picture of despairing, lonely sorrow.

\n\n

“I forgot!”

\n\n

Cora had been forgetting so many years.

\n\n

“Yes, Cora, you forget her, just as you forgot some other things — and I did, too. Trouble with us has been, we’ve been chasing rainbows — for the pretties at the end. And now we’ve found there ain’t no such thing. All is, now, we got to make the best of it, and not look any more for the Pollyannas in the sky. When she’s clear — they’ll soon free her — we’ll all get out — somewhere.”

\n\n

Cora felt a chill as of Winter come over her, but she tried to throw it off, and clung to Frank in a long kiss as Corrigan entered with the plainclothes men.

\n\n

“Well, well,” he said cheerfully. “Break away for a bit. Frank will have to go along with me for his walking papers — he’ll be right back. And as for this lady — “

\n\n

He paused before the old woman’s chair. She still sat hunched in woe.

\n\n

“I’d give all I’ve got salted away to have had her keep her mouth shut. But it’s done now–she’ll not get a sentence, even. But I’ll have to take her, I suppose.”

\n\n

He gently touched the old arm; looked suddenly at the half-hidden face; turned up to the light the eyes set in eternal peace.

\n\n

“No, I won’t have to take her. She’s gone on ahead to the Judge.”

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Manslaughter", "author": "Henry Ewald", "body": ""

The guy they’re holding for manslaughter is named John Madden. They’ve got five witnesses who saw him start a ballroom brawl, slug a guy and knock him down. The guy hit his head on the corner of the bar rail when he fell and he died later of a fractured skull.

\n\n

Madden’s going to be sent up.

\n\n

He hasn’t got any defence. He was drinking and he started the brawl, but they know he isn’t the real killer. The real killer is a girl who never saw the dead man in her life and who was ten miles away from the fight when it started.

\n\n

She’s a little brunette named Mary Brown, and she forgot to make a telephone call.

\n\n

Madden — the guy they’re holding — was a salesman, but he’s been out of work for six months and now his wife is going to have a kid. The Maddens have been living on money borrowed from Madden’s life insurance.

\n\n

When he worked, he had the same boss as Mary Brown had, but he got to drinking too much on the job and he was fired. Since then, he’d been trying to get into something steady, without much luck.

\n\n

Yesterday he went back to see his exboss. He told him about the kid on the way and he begged for another chance.

\n\n

The boss knows that Madden is a good worker when he’s sober, and good salesmen don’t come a dime a dozen. So he told Madden he’d think it over, and he said he’d call Madden if he decided to put him back on the job.

\n\n

Madden went home hopeful last night. He was sure he’d get another chance, and he was pretty happy about it. He and his wife were excited, talking about how they’d get things going right again, and how they’d manage better this time on the money he’d be earning. They were both real happy.

\n\n

This morning, Madden’s old boss remembered his promise, and he told Mary Brown to call Madden’s home and tell him to report for work.

\n\n

Mary Brown made a note of the phone number on the cover of her notebook. She intended making the call before she started to transcribe her dictation. Before that, though, her boy friend called her. After she had made a date with him she started right in typing letters, without ever thinking of Madden again.

\n\n

All this time, remember. Madden was sitting at home. He and his wife were waiting for the phone to ring with the message that would mean a fresh start for both of them.

\n\n

At first they were talking and joking a lot, but as the morning wore along without a phone call, the talk died down.

\n\n

They ate some lunch and Madden said he wouldn’t leave the house because if he did he might miss the phone call. Mrs. Madden said she hoped it would come soon. It was terrible, she said, to live the way they were living.

\n\n

Madden blew his top then. He said he was trying every way he knew how to find work, and even if it was all his fault, for God’s sake, he wasn’t the first guy in the world to make a mistake. He wanted to know if she was ever going to quit nagging him about it, and he said he didn’t enjoy the way they were living any more than she did but he wasn’t going to cry about it for the rest of his life. There were some things about his wife, he said, that didn’t suit him too well, but he wasn’t going to cry about them, either.

\n\n

One word led to another and they ended up by shouting at each other.

\n\n

Then Mrs. Madden went into the bathroom to cry and Madden put on his hat. He said to hell with waiting for the phone to ring, and he left the apartment.

\n\n

He hadn’t had a drink for about three months, but he got to thinking that neither his wife nor his boss believed in him, and so what good was it to try and make a comeback? He stopped at a bar and got a double whisky. After he had sat around for a while he had another. ‘Hut made him feel better, and he told himself he didn’t give a damn what his wife or his boss thought about him.

\n\n

He didn’t go home for dinner. Mrs. Madden waited for him and when he didn’t show up she began to worry about him, fearing that he had started — as he had — to drink again.

\n\n

About eight o’clock that evening, Madden was pretty drunk, and he had no money left to spend. He hated to go home and face his wife, though, because he was beginning to realize what a fool he had made of himself. What started to work on him and make him irritable, looking for a fight — not at all like his usual self.

\n\n

Somebody at the bar was talking about Senator McCarthy and what a good job he was doing on the Reds. Madden, still sore at the world, said to hell with that stuff, and that started the argument. The guy who liked McCarthy called Madden a dirty subversive and a Commie, and said he ought to be run out of the country.

\n\n

Madden said: “Well, you might try to make McCarthy run me out of the country, but first I’m going to run you out of this ginmill.”

\n\n

Then he slugged the guy.

\n\n

But Madden didn’t really kill the guy. Mary Brown killed him.

\n\n

If Madden had gotten that call, the guy he slugged could have gone on talking about McCarthy all night and neither Madden nor anybody else would have cared. There wouldn’t have been any cops in the barroom to grab Madden for manslaughter if he’d gotten his call.

\n\n

But there’s a guy dead and somebody has to be charged. There’s got to be a patsy and that patsy is John Madden.

\n\n

It’s a rotten jam and it’s going to wreck three lives.

\n\n

But there’s a lawyer arranging bail now. Once you’re out on bail you’re free, until the case comes up. And you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

\n\n

So when I get out on bail I’m going to find Mary Brown and I’m going to kill her. Me. John Madden.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Super Thief", "author": "A. D. Cade", "body": ""
\n
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Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Doesn’t Make You A Good Detective

\n\n

The inspector in charge of the Homicide Bureau said gently, “I know how you feel, Mr. Torrington. But don’t do it — you’re an actor and a good one, but that doesn’t make you a good detective. Every man to his own trade. Maybe we’ll have some news for you soon — we can’t solve every case.”

\n\n

“And mine’s one of those you can’t solve, is that it?”

\n\n

“It’s a tough one — — you’ve got to admit that. All the information your sister was able to give us was that there were two masked men, one shorter than the other that they grabbed about sixty thousand dollar’s’ worth of jewelry, including a valuable diamond necklace, all insured, and — “

\n\n

Torrington spoke low and through gritted teeth: “Hell with the jewelry! I’m not thinking of the jewelry. It’s just that scum like that have no right to live!”

\n\n

Torrington’s mother had died of the shock and the beating administered by the callous thieves who had entered her home during the night; his sister was in the hospital as a result.

\n\n

“How about the clue that one of them had only four fingers on his left hand? Didn’t that help you any?”

\n\n

Torrington himself had only four fingers on his right hand — a souvenir of an accident when he was a boy. The inspector’s eyes rested on the hand absently.

\n\n

He said, “There’s only one four-fingered crook I know — Nick Trout. He was in the hospital when the crime was committed.”

\n\n

“Sure of that?”

\n\n

“Absolutely. That’s where we found him when we went looking, two days after the crime — and he’d been there for two weeks. He’s out now. Hospital records corroborate it; nurses, interns, orderly, all back it up. He was on his back with pneumonia. It’s not his kind of a job anyhow. He goes in mostly for robbing other thieves-finds out when one of them has made a haul and comes down on him — takes it away.”

\n\n

Torrington stirred, suddenly interested. “When can I see this Nick Trout? I’ve got to see him at once.”

\n\n

The inspector studied him fixedly. He said, “Bird dog, hey? We might be able to bring him down here tomorrow morning — say ten o’clock. If he’s still in circulation.”

\n\n
Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

Four Fingers!

\n\n

At ten sharp, John Torrington was there. In the Detective Bureau, Inspector Sheldon introduced Nick Trout, a slender man with an unusually fine complexion and light blue eyes.

\n\n

“You can use the room next door if you wish to talk privately,” Sheldon suggested.

\n\n

They went into the next room.

\n\n

Trout was puzzled and defiant. He said, “Hey, what’s this all about? Anytime anybody steals anything in this man’s town, the cops run to me to ask questions.”

\n\n

“Sit down!” Torrington’s tone was brusque. He got a chair for himself and placed it opposite Trout. He said, “Let’s see your left hand!”

\n\n

Silently Trout extended it.

\n\n

“Four fingers!” the actor said thoughtfully.

\n\n

Trout flared up at that. “I know what you mean, Mister! Listen: I was on my back and fightin’ pneumonia when that job was done. Cripes, do I have to get blamed for everything?”

\n\n

But he was half-smiling, a look of amusement in those cold blue eyes of his; he met Torrington’s boring glance without flinching.

\n\n

“Don’t you believe me, Mister?”

\n\n

“My name is John Torrington. If I didn’t believe you,” — -Torrington’s voice was as cold as the other’s eyes — “I’d strangle you with my bare hands — right here in this room!”

\n\n

He glared at Trout; Trout frowned but said nothing.

\n\n

“Whenever you begin getting an idea this is funny,” the actor gritted, “remember it cost my mother her life!”

\n\n

And the look on Torrington’s face was such that even Trout, hard character though he was, finally turned away.

\n\n

Trout said, “Let’s get down to cases. What d’ya want me to do?”

\n\n

“It’s worth ten thousand dollars in cash to me, to find out who the men were that did it!”

\n\n

There was no mistaking the greedy gleam in the jewel-thief’s eyes. “Ten grand, hey? How would I know it’s on the level?”

\n\n

“I’ll give it to you in writing.”Torrington took out a memorandum book, scribbled rapidly, tore out the sheet and handed it to Trout.

\n\n

Trout read the memo slowly. He slipped it into his pocket. “Okay, Mr. Torrington. If them guys can be got — if they was regulars — — I’ll get them. Got no use for guys like that anyhow — only a coupla women in the house they didn’t have to get rough.”

\n\n

“I’m not a welcher, Trout. Now, keep in touch with me. You’ll find me at the Friars almost every night.” He gave Trout the address. “I’m depending on you — I’ll make it worth your while. Play square with me, that’s all I ask.”

\n\n

“I gotta play square with you … you’re a friend of the inspector’s, aintcha? My flat is at 302 East 116th Street — you see how fast the cops got me when they wanted me.” He went out.

\n\n

Torrington went into Sheldon’s office and told him what he had done.

\n\n

“Well” — — Sheldon looked thoughtful — -“he’s a damn good bird-dog — he might lead you to them all right. Then again — and this is a lot more likely — he won’t. We’ve never been able to get him to sing, and we’ve put the heat on him plenty. Maybe the ten grand might do the trick, but I don’t think so. I think he’ll give you the double-cross — grab the stuff for himself, if he locates it — rather than squeal”

\n\n

Torrington said slowly, “Glad you told me — I won’t let him out of my sight. He’s starting on the job tomorrow — I’ll stick closer to him than his shadow.”

\n\n

The inspector appraised John Torrington’s well-known features and six feet of good-looking masculinity with a quizzical smile. “You couldn’t shadow him for a block without his spotting you!

\n\n

“And don’t let him kid you about his starting tomorrow — he’s starting tonight! He knows just where to go.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Old Double-Cross

\n\n

The inspector was mistaken.

\n\n

At seven o’clock in the evening, the shabby-looking elderly man saw Nick Trout enter the house at 302 East 116th Street, and although he waited outside of the house until after midnight Trout did not come out again.

\n\n

But the next morning at ten, Trout issued forth, looking as spruce as a salesman in a swell clothing shop. Behind him and on the other side of the street, a fireman in uniform strolled along. Trout went down in the subway, walked across town, and went upstairs in a building on Second Avenue near Seventh Street. He came down, grabbed a cab like a business man in a hurry, and Torrington had a job then to find another cab and follow him quickly enough not to lose him. Trout got out in front of a poolroom on Christopher Street, went inside. He came out almost an hour later.

\n\n

Torrington caught sight of him at once, and followed him to the subway. Trout got off at the Fulton Street station, and walked straight to a building in the jewelry district on John Street. Torrington followed him to the second floor, and lingered on the stairs, watching as Trout paused in front of one door and studied it. Trout hesitated, turned and threw a quick look at Torrington, who seemed to be on his way upstairs. Then, without going in, Trout descended to the street again.

\n\n

An hour later came the disappointment. Trout entered a hotel — and disappeared! Torrington waited for two hours; during that time he wandered through the hotel lobby half a dozen times, and finally discovered the door on the side street, through which Trout must have exited unseen.

\n\n

Trout did not go home that night, and his door was still locked the following morning at seven, when John knocked. Baffled then, the actor called Inspector Sheldon on the telephone, and Sheldon sent out his emissary to bring Nick in. The officer came back with the report that no one in the neighborhood, and none of Nick’s intimates, knew where he had gone.

\n\n

“I told you he’d give you the old double-cross,” Sheldon said cynically. “They just don’t squeal — it isn’t safe. Not even for a super-thief like Nick Trout, who preys on lesser thieves. They hate a squealer!”

\n\n

Torrington thought of the office door on the second floor of the house on John Street, at which Trout had gazed with so much interest. He went back to his apartment and changed his costume. It required every bit of skill John possessed — it was one thing to dress up and fix up to appear on the stage, and quite another to make up for the street, where his disguise would have to stand the light of day.

\n\n

But he got through, finally, and went to John Street by subway. He climbed two flights of stairs and stood in front of the door that had attracted Nick Trout. The name on it was “Prentice & Co.” Under it was the inscription, “Diamonds and Precious Stones.”

\n\n

He went downstairs to look it up, but there was no “Prentice & Co.” in the telephone book. A new firm?

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

The Jeweler

\n\n

The man inside the one-room office cast a quick look at the farmer standing on the threshold, and rose from the chair on which he had been lounging with an open lack of enthusiasm, and a curt, “Well — what can I do for you?”

\n\n

“Dunno! Mebbe you kin do something, mebbe not! All depends!” The farmer stared at the jeweler, noted particularly his hands. There were the usual five fingers on each.

\n\n

“Oh, it all depends! Well, what is it that depends — what can I do for you, Silas?” The jeweler’s frown of annoyance changed suddenly into a grin. He said, “I’m not the guy who sold you the Brooklyn Bridge, Si — that was another guy named Elmer.”

\n\n

Impassively the visitor took a step inside and closed the door behind him. He scratched a hairy neck with a dirty finger, and squinted through his spectacles. “Beats me,” he murmured, “what makes you city slickers think you’re so durned smart!”

\n\n

“Okay, okay — no offense!” The jeweler sat down again.

\n\n

“Nobody ain’t sold me no bridge and no city hall, Mister — I know my way about.”

\n\n

“I’ll bet you do — -I’ll bet you’ve seen all the sights, too — and that’s more than I’ve done. How do you like this town, pal?”

\n\n

“You couldn’t sell it to me for a dime! Say, have you got a diamond ring for a bargain? This size?” He held out a piece of string.

\n\n

Prentice took it from him. “For your wife or your sweetie?”

\n\n

“For my wife. Looka here, Mister — I won’t be intrested in nothin’ that ain’t real handsome. When I got married — Goshamighty, it rained cats and dogs — and I had to borrer five dollars for to buy a plain gold band. Yes siree — and couldn’t pay it back for nigh two years! Wal — now that I kin afford it, I’m flggerin’ some of that oil comin’ outa my farm oughta pay for a surprise for Lucy! Yes siree! I might buy two rings — pervidin’ you’ll sell them at a bargain.”

\n\n

The gray eyes behind the spectacles read the self — condemnation the jeweler was heaping on himself as he came forward.

\n\n

The jeweler asked, “What did you say your name was?”

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“I didn’t say — yit! Don’t matter anyhow — money talks, I reckon! Name’s Bunting — — Ed Bunting!”

\n\n

“Mine is Prentice,” said the jeweler quietly. He extended his hand, and after a moment’s hesitation, the farmer took it. “To tell you the truth, Mr. Bunting, I feel a little ashamed of myself-took you for just an ordinary dirt farmer.”

\n\n

“Jest what I am.”

\n\n

“A man who feels the way you do about his wife … no, sir … if you’re an ordinary farmer, what must the unusual farmers be like? Don’t blame you for feeling the way you do about Mrs. Bunting. When you didn’t have it, she didn’t make any complaint, I’ll bet. All the more reason to be generous with her when you can afford it.”

\n\n

“Reckon that’s puttin’ into words jest how I feel.” Bunting permitted his antagonism to evaporate under the jeweler’s sincere admiration. “We ain’t had no easy times, Lucy and me — dry spells that burnt up the crops, and wet ones that drowned ‘em — and dust storms. Say, you city folks don’t know how easy you got it! Wal — reckon I’ll look at a few rings now.”

\n\n

Silently Prentice took off his glasses and wiped them with an air. Then, with reverence, he took a blue plush box out of the small safe in the office.

\n\n

“Here’s a beauty! Three carats — a flawless blue diamond — platinum setting — there’s real class! Here, take a peep through this magnifying glass!

\n\n

It you find a flaw, you can have it for nothing. No yellow in that one — not a streak. Blue diamonds like this one are the kind the Four Hundred wear.”

\n\n

The farmer examined the ring without much enthusiasm. It was not part of the loot taken from the Torrington home.

\n\n

“Don’t give a durn about no Four Hundred — it’s what Lucy likes,” he grumbled.

\n\n

“Well, she’ll like this one, all right. It’s the right size, too.”

\n\n

The prospective customer verified the measurement himself. “Seems like it’s the right size,” he admitted grudgingly. “How much?”

\n\n

“Eight hundred and twenty-five dollars! It cost me eight hundred — all I’m making is twenty-five dollars!”

\n\n

“Give ye six hundred!”

\n\n

“Eight hundred!”

\n\n

“Six fifty — won’t give ye a dollar. more’n that!”

\n\n

“Seven hundred — take it or leave it! I’m losing money on it.”

\n\n

The farmer said, “I’ll take it — don’t think I don’t know you’re robbin’ me. But the durned thing does look right handsome. You want check or cash?”

\n\n

“Well now” — -Prentice’s smile was deprecatory — “this being our first transaction — and after all, I don’t know you . . .”

\n\n

“That’s all right — don’t make no difi’rence to me.”

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Bunting drew forth a large, greenish-black wallet, shabby but well filled., Prentice’s eyes glittered at sight of it.

\n\n

“Here you are — seven hundred dollars!”

\n\n

The farmer put the money into Prentice’s hand, returned the wallet to his inside pocket, and dropped the plush box into a side pocket. He buttoned his coat and started for the door. “Reckon I’ll look ‘round a little — — ain’t a-goin’ home with jest one ring — no, sir. Now I’m started, I’m aimin’ to bring Lucy a handful of them gewgaws to play ‘round with.”

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Prentice swallowed and drew a long breath.

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Chapter 5

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A Necklace Like That

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“What’s your hurry, Mr. Bunting? Sit down — here, have a smoke.” He handed the farmer a cigar; the farmer put it to his nose, then said, “Thank ye,” as Prentice lighted it for him. “I should have known you’re the kind of man who has the money and doesn’t care about appearances,” Prentice said.

\n\n

The farmer sat down. Probably a waste of time, he thought; there was no basis on which to believe that this jeweler knew anything about the Torrington crime except that Nick Trout had been interested in the sign on the door. The ring he had just bought was not worth the money; he had overpaid. However …

\n\n

“Ain’t got no million dollars, and don’t go thinkin’ it,” the farmer stated. “What I got I aim to hold on to.”

\n\n

“Of course, of course. But take that ring, as an example: you could convert it into cash any time you had a mind to. Listen: I’ve got something I want to show you — mind, I don’t want to sell it to you — I want to show it to you — that’s all! I have it at home. A diamond necklace that will make you dizzy just looking at it!”

\n\n

The farmer was dizzy, all right. It took all his artistry to suppress the surge of excitement, hatred, eagerness, that swept him. He succeeded in looking only mildly interested.

\n\n

“I allus thought necklaces was made outa pearls,” he said.

\n\n

“Oh, there are pearl necklaces, and there are diamond necklaces. But no one buys pearls who can afford diamonds. Now this necklace I’m talking about — my own wife is wearing it — being in the business, you can believe that I’m giving her only what’s real classy. Of course, that necklace costs money.”

\n\n

“I was thinkin’ of rings,” Bunting protested.

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“Aw, rings! Everybody has rings in your neck of the country — I’ll bet on it. But who do you know owns a diamond necklace? Another thing: you can always get your money back on a buy like that.”

\n\n

“Full amount — not the full amount?”

\n\n

“Oh no, not the whole amount — but pretty near it. A necklace like that is like an investment. Anyhow, I’m not asking you to buy it — just want you to see it. Give you something to talk about when you get back home.”

\n\n

Prentice fell into a reverie, and the farmer waited.

\n\n

“Tell you what” — Prentice roused — “you come home with me and fill up on some real home cooking. Let’s go now — the hell with business — let’s get acquainted.”

\n\n

Indecisively Bunting scratched his neck — scratching his neck seemed to stimulate his mental processes. “Wal, I dunno — “

\n\n

“Now, now — I won’t take no for an answer. If I were visiting your town and happened to run into you, would you let me get away without at least one visit? Wait here a minute — I’ve got to go down the hall to tell a man something.”

\n\n

He went out, and Torrington began to wonder what crooked, devious scheme the jeweler was hatching. It might all be on the up and up, and even if it were an attempt to swindle a too-trusting farmer, there might be no connection with the Torrington robbery.

\n\n

Somehow, however, Torrington sensed danger. This was a small office, Prentice had seen a well-filled wallet, and he seemed to be a pretty smooth article. If the necklace he wanted to show

\n\n

Torrington was the one which had belonged to Torrington’s mother, then Prentice was either one of the murderers, or a fence. Murder may become a habit. He was going to Prentice’s home … a micky finn, a blow from a blackjack, even a bullet, were all little contingencies not to be dismissed from consideration. Prentice might feel that it was unnecessary to trade jewelry for money when he could have both.

\n\n

Of course, it was quite possible the necklace might not be the one. Nevertheless, Torrington stepped to the telephone and dialed Police Headquarters. Sheldon was out, but he talked to an assistant in Sheldon’s office.

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Chapter 6

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Mrs. Prentice and the Maid

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The Prentices lived in a furnished apartment on the ground floor of a house in West 91st Street. Apparently Prentice had telephoned they were coming. A shapely blonde maid opened the door, and in the living room, Mrs. Prentice greeted Bunting effusively.

\n\n

“Why, Mr. Bunting — you’re not giving us any trouble at all. I’m the one that’s obliged to you — for bringing my husband home so early. And anyhow — anyone coming from a farm — my dad was a farmer, you know.”

\n\n

She was a female benison as she hovered over Prentice, her large, calcimined face exuding hospitality, her greenish-brown eyes literally beaming. No make-believe beam, either, reflected Torrington. The thought of that wallet made her amiability both spontaneous and real.

\n\n

The maid brought cocktails, and then Prentice disappeared for a few minutes. He came back with the necklace.

\n\n

He said, “There it is, Bunting — what do you think of it?” And held it up.

\n\n

It would have surprised him to know that his guest knew more about that necklace than he did. It would have surprised him if he could have read Torrington’s mind that instant, and seen the red rage that swept the actor’s brain, that curved his fingers into claws which literally itched to grip the jeweler’s throat.

\n\n

But looking at the farmer, Prentice saw nothing unusual.

\n\n

After he had given his prospective customer a chance to see the necklace, Prentice dropped it carelessly into his pocket. He said, “We’ll look at it some more later — let’s see what Clara’s got for us.”

\n\n

They sat down at the table, and the blonde maid brought in the fruit cocktail. There was something about that blonde maid which attracted Torrington’s eye, and watching him as his eyes followed her, Prentice winked at his wife.

\n\n

When the soup came, Bunting hitched his chair forward, arranged his napkin under his chin, and picked up the wrong spoon.

\n\n

Watching covertly, the actor saw Prentice cast a droll look at his mate — and stare in surprise. Torrington’s glance flashed to Mrs. Prentice. She was staring at him, and the blood left her face, leaving it mottled. Torrington could not understand what had frightened her.

\n\n

She was looking at his hands; Prentice’s gaze followed his wife’s.

\n\n

Then Torrington realized. What a fool he’d been! His hands were smooth and white, certainly not the hands of a farmer. He had forgotten about them in making up.

\n\n

But his swift glance at Prentice, at the panic in the jeweler’s face, told him something else — something that flashed through his mind with the recollection that Nick Trout had only four fingers on one hand — his left hand, to be sure, whereas Torrington’s four fingers were on his right hand. But these crooks might be thinking he was Nick Trout — Trout had a reputation — not many knew him personally, but every crook had heard of him, according to Inspector Sheldon.

\n\n

They thought he was Nick Trout!

\n\n

Something was impending; Torrington could tell by the sudden stillness. Poor actors, both these crooks — they couldn’t hide their fear. Clara Prentice’s face had become alrnost green under her paint.

\n\n

Prentice rose and the farmer looked up alertly. Prentice managed a smile, a poor attempt. He said, “Excuse me — I’ll get a couple of cigars.”

\n\n

“Cigars with the entree?” Torrington put down his spoon, grinned broadly, spoke normally. “You shouldn’t — it isn’t being done in the best circles, Prentice. But I don’t think you’re going after Cigars — I’ve got a notion you’re going for a gun!”

\n\n

His hand darted into his pocket; when it appeared, a black muzzle pointed at Prentice. Without even waiting to be told, Prentice raised both hands high.

\n\n

“Attaboy!” approved the actor. “Sit down — and keep your hands on the table. You too, Mrs. Prentice — if you please!”

\n\n

She obeyed. Then he saw it! A finger was missing from her left hand! The short robber who had broken into the Torrington home that terrible night! Mrs. Prentice in male attire!

\n\n

Torrington looked at her with hatred. He gritted, “You must look wonderful in men’s clothes, you fat beauty!”

\n\n

“Listen — listen, Nick — I’ll give you the necklace,” Prentice chattered. “It’s in my pocket — you can have it!”

\n\n

He was sure Torrington was Nick Trout. Evidently he had heard of the super-thief, but had never seen him. The actor glared at him.

\n\n

A subtle expectancy in the attitude of the precious couple puzzled Torrington. Some sixth sense warned him of danger.

\n\n

He watched them narrowly.

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Then a voice behind him ordered sharply, “Drop that rod — -put your hands up!”

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Chapter 7

\n\n

Double-Crosser

\n\n

Torrington dared a swift glance over his shoulder. There stood the maid, two feet away, pointing a gun at him. She could not possibly miss. He dropped his weapon and elevated his hands.

\n\n

Stupid of him. Anybody working in an establishment of thieves like this one was worth watching. He had completely overlooked danger from the blonde maid. That one glance told him that she was dressed for the street and the look in her light blue eyes convinced him that she could not be trifled with.

\n\n

“Step to your right!” she commanded curtly. “Move — move!”

\n\n

He obeyed, and she walked over and picked his weapon from the floor. Then she turned her attention to Prentice.

\n\n

“Get out that necklace and put it on the table!”

\n\n

Apparently the order astonished him, but he obeyed promptly. She took the necklace and thrust it into her blouse.

\n\n

“Now be good everybody — -stay right where you are! Anybody let’s out a yip is asking for the undertaker!”

\n\n

Mrs. Prentice shrieked suddenly, “Betty — wait for us! We’ll go along with you!” And she made one impetuous step, overturning a chair in her haste.

\n\n

The look in the maid’s eyes became feral and deadly. “You stay where you are, you fat fool! And don’t do that again unless you’re tired of living. I’d just as lief put a slug in you as not!”

\n\n

The ingratitude and disloyalty made Mrs. Prentice jump. She cried out, “You double-crosser! You — “

\n\n

Betty took one long stride toward her, and instantly Mrs. Prentice froze into frightened silence.

\n\n

Betty asked, low, “What did you say?” and waited, her finger crooked on the trigger. “Open your mug once more and I’ll blast it!”

\n\n

Slowly she moved backward toward the door, she cautioned ominously, “the first one pokes his nose outa that door gets a chunk of lead!”

\n\n

Reaching behind her, she turned the knob, stepped back and vanished, closing the door softly.

\n\n

At once Prentice started after her. He paused and asked Torrington, “You aren’t gonna let her get away, are you, Nick?”

\n\n

He rushed toward the door without waiting for a reply.

\n\n

With two long bounds the actor overtook him. He smashed Prentice to the floor with a solid punch.

\n\n

Slowly Prentice sat up. He seemed dazed. Through bleeding lips he protested, “You got any idea what that necklace is worth, Nick? I wanted to get it and split with you. Maybe we can still catch her!”

\n\n

“Don’t worry about her,” said Torrington. “I’m not Nick Trout, you swine.”

\n\n

“You aren’t?” The crook’s bloody face held a bewildered expression. “I thought you were Four-finger Nick. What are you — a dick?”

\n\n

There was a banging on the door; then it opened wide. Betty came in. Behind her was the propelling power of a strong — armed plainclothesman; behind him came two others. Betty’s blond wig was awry, disclosing a shock of brown hair, darker in color than the wig.

\n\n

One of the officers explained, “She tried to pull a gat, Mr. Torrington, so we had to muss her up a bit. Only she isn’t a ‘she’ — she’s a ‘he’!”

\n\n

Torrington stared at the maid. “Nick Trout! You damned weasel!” He growled, “What a female impersonator!”

\n\n

Nick said pridefully, “Say, didja think you were the only good actor in this town, Torrington?” He added, “You never thought I could put on an act like that, did you? Know when I got wise you was following me? I saw you on the stairs in that John Street building — that fireman’s uniform didn’t fool me for a minit. But I fooled you, didn’t I?”

\n\n

One of the officers put handcuffs on him.

\n\n

Torrington took off his spectacles and walked over to Prentice. He said, “I’ll take that seven hundred I gave you for the ring — and here’s your ring.”

\n\n

“Nothing doing — got to leave everything as is.” A detective interposed between them.

\n\n

Prentice said, “It’s his money — I’m willing to give it to him.”

\n\n

“Can’t allow it,” the detective insisted. He looked quizzically at Torrington. “Pretty good disguise, all right. Takes an actor.”

\n\n

“Didn’t fool me,” Trout bragged. “I knew who he was as soon as he came in.”

\n\n

“You didn’t, did you?” Torrington’s grim glance rested on Prentice. “I’m John Torrington, the man whose mother you murdered, you murderous rat!”

\n\n

“Take it easy, Mr. Torrington,” a detective said soothingly. Another put a detaining hand on Torrington’s shoulder.

\n\n

Prentice wilted, shrank back. He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

\n\n

“Oh, yes you do,” Trout broke in unexpectedly. “Heard you two shootin’ your mouths off about it.” His voice rose to a very creditable falsetto. “You shouldn’t talk secrets in front of your help.”

\n\n

The jeweler glared bitterly at his wife. “You sure pick your maids good, don’t you?”

\n\n

“Like you pick your guests,” she shrilled back at him.

\n\n

Nick stood there grinning malevolently at them. He didn’t have their reason for worrying. All he could be accused of was trying to rob a couple of other crooks — and he might beat the rap by turning state’s evidence.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Extra Branch", "author": "", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

\n\n

A Knife Doesn’t Go Off With A Bang!

\n\n

Detective-inspector Gray sat in his Scotland Yard office facing a small group of very odd people, who were recounting an equally odd story.

\n\n

Roland Malo, bearded Bloomsbury poet, was the chief narrator, and he told of the bewildering tragedy in Kew Gardens with such an eye for effect that the hard-boiled officer was left wondering just where fact ended and the imaginations of these artist people became the dominant influence.

\n\n

“Now, look here,” said Gray, thumping his desk. “A man is killed by a knife thrust, and you people were all within twenty yards of him at the time, though none of you actually saw what happened. So far, so good. That’s straightforward enough. But, confound it,” he went on, “when you all tell me you heard a report like a pistol shot, you introduce a crazy element. A knife doesn’t go off with a bang!”

\n\n

“Nevertheless,” said Malo suavely, “there was a bang. Wasn’t there?”

\n\n

The question was addressed to his four companions — three men and a woman — who were seated around Gray’s desk.

\n\n

Gray stared at the visitors, as though despairing of understanding them.

\n\n

Two of them were tall lean fellows, with slightly stooping shoulders and pale faces, and the other was a medium-sized man, rather older than the others, noteworthy for a pair of large, dark eyes, which surveyed Gray with sympathetic concern.

\n\n

The inspector felt an urge to shout at this man, whose name was Ivor Vilnikoff, and who was understood to be the husband of the extremely attractive woman who sat by his side.

\n\n

Then he regained his self-control and surveyed the company almost apologetically.

\n\n

“There is no knife,” he said quietly. “Keepers and police were on the spot immediately, and you all submitted to a search. Moreover, nobody could possibly have got away, nor remained in hiding, and the ground was searched very carefully. But there was no knife. Just think of it! What on earth is it all about? There’s the sound of a pistol shot, and the victim receives a gash in the neck such as could only have been inflicted with a large, razor-edged knife. The surgeon says the wound is such that the blade must have been at least ten or twelve inches long. Well, where is it?”

\n\n

“You’ve had the ground dug over?” asked Malo.

\n\n

“Yes. I’m quite satisfied in my mind that there is no knife there.”

\n\n

“It’s very queer,” said Malo, “particularly in view of that strange phobia which poor Mather had about gardens.”

\n\n

Gray showed signs of returning impatience.

\n\n

“That,” he said, “may be intriguing to a literary man like yourself, Mr. Malo, but it isn’t very interesting to a police officer. Most of us have a mild phobia of some kind. But perhaps it is rather remarkable that this man should have had a life-long dread of quiet gardens. I dare say a psychologist could easily explain it, but that wouldn’t help me to solve the mystery of his death.” This last remark seemed to set him off on a new line of reflection.

\n\n

“Perhaps,” he said presently, “it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I think I can get hold of a gentleman right away who has devoted much time to the study of the psychological aspect of crime — Mr. Dixon Hawke. No doubt you’ve heard of him. He’s a friend of mine, and I’d like him to hear your story.”

\n\n

He picked up the telephone from his desk and dialled a number.

\n\n

“Hawke,” he announced, after a brief conversation, “is coming over here right away.”

\n\n

Ten minutes later Malo was repeating his story to the visitor from Dover Street, who had arrived in company with his young assistant, Tommy Burke.

\n\n

“This man, Wilson Mather,” said the poet, “was a playwright.

\n\n

“He had repeatedly told us about a constantly recurring dream, in which he found himself walking in a vast garden filled with ornamental trees. He was alone in this dream of his, and the silence was absolute. Some horrible menace seemed always to be waiting him behind the next group of shrubbery, or the next tree.”

\n\n

“So somebody suggested that the best way of ridding himself of this troublesome obsession was to visit some such place as was depicted in the dream — preferably in congenial company.”

\n\n

“And you straight away thought of Kew Gardens?”

\n\n

“Naturally. That was the place that seemed to fit the bill.”

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Chapter 2

\n\n

A Quarrelsome Couple

\n\n

Gray passed the criminologist a photograph of an arborial group, which included two poplars and an ash tree.

\n\n

“This is where Mather fell,” he remarked, indicating a pencilled cross near the ash.

\n\n

“And,” said Malo, “that’s exactly the sort of spot that Mather described as dominating his dream. Strange, isn’t it?”

\n\n

“Yes,” said Hawke. “Very.”

\n\n

“I don’t know whether you’d care to go to Kew and have a look at the scene for yourself,” put in Gray.

\n\n

Hawke answered quickly.

\n\n

“I think not. You’ve had the place searched since the crime was committed last night?”

\n\n

“Yes. It happened just before dusk, and when they were about to close the gardens. These people were the only members of the public anywhere near that spot. They — er — understand their position in the matter.”

\n\n

“Of course,” said Vilnikoff, “we are suspect. I take it that we can expect to be under observation until this is cleared up?”

\n\n

“I’m sure Mr. Gray won’t find that necessary,” said Hawke. “There are a great many crimes which, unfortunately, have to go unsolved. Everything has been done that can be done, and there is nothing for it but to pigeonhole the matter until there is some further development. Isn’t that so, Gray?”

\n\n

The Dover Street man spoke genially and lightly, but the inspector sensed that there was subtlety in this, and promptly gave the answer that seemed to be expected of him.

\n\n

“Yes, you’re right there. I don’t see what more we can do in the matter. I have a couple of plain-clothes men at Kew Gardens now, but they’ll have to be taken off, I’m afraid.”

\n\n

“Do you mean,” asked Malo in surprise, “that you are content to leave it as an unsolved crime?”

\n\n

“We are decidedly not content,” answered Gray, “and if there is any further little detail which occurs to any of you people, at any time, please get in touch with us.”

\n\n

When the little company left a few minutes later, they looked as though they were far from impressed with the efficiency and intelligence of the police.

\n\n

“Well, Hawke,” said Gray, after they had gone. “What next?”

\n\n

“Have you got to know all about those people?”

\n\n

“Malo’s a poet; the two tall ones, Drewitt and Smith, are artists; Vilnikoff does a little bit of sculpture, and Mrs. Vilnikoff’s an actress.”

\n\n

“And their relations with the dead man?”

\n\n

“That I don’t know a great deal about. I believe Wilson Mather was very friendly with Vilnikoff’s wife, but, then, so are the rest of them. You never know where you are with a bohemian crowd like that.”

\n\n

Hawke paced the carpet with his hands interlocked behind Ills back.

\n\n

“Those two fellows Drewitt and Smith didn’t have very much to say for themselves, did they?” he remarked.

\n\n

“No.”

\n\n

“Nor did the lady. She’s English, isn’t she?”

\n\n

“Yes. Norah Daley is her stage name. Also her maiden name.”

\n\n

“Married to a Russian! A sculptor! Has he always been a sculptor?”

\n\n

“I understand he’s been all sorts of things. He was in a circus at one time, though I don’t know what his line was.

\n\n

After Hawke had copied a list of the names and addresses of the five people who had just left, he and Tommy returned to Dover Street.

\n\n

“More data is required,” he said, after they had arrived back at the flat. “See what you can do about it, will you? Here are the addresses. You might glean something from people in the vicinity.

\n\n

“Keep the Vilnikoffs in mind for a start. Follow up any line of inquiry that suggests itself as you go along. Use your initiative. I can’t give the matter any more of my attention at the moment. There’s a lot of correspondence to be attended to.”

\n\n

“OK, sir. I’ll do my best. See you later.”

\n\n

Hawke had cleared up the correspondence and set his typist to work when Tommy returned.

\n\n

The youth did not consider that he had discovered anything of startling importance, but, nevertheless, the message he brought was sufficient to increase his employer’s interest in the Vilnikoffs.

\n\n

“I can’t help feeling that there is something to be learned from those two,” said the detective. “You say they are known to quarrel at times — violently?”

\n\n

“Yes. They live on the third floor of a big block of flats just off Tottenham Court Road. There is a newspaper man living in the adjoining flat whom I know slightly, and he told me that Vilnikoff had been known to set about her with a whip. At other tunes they are like a couple of love-birds.”

\n\n

“They sound an interesting couple,” said Hawke. “I think I’ll go and call on them.”

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Chapter 3

\n\n

In Cossack Costume

\n\n

It was after dark when Hawke arrived outside the block of flats, and standing near a street lamp where he had a clear view of the entrance was a Scotland Yard man whom he recognised.

\n\n

“I take it,” he said, “you’re watching for the Vilnikoffs?”

\n\n

“Yes, Mr. Hawke. Tedious job it is, too. They’re both in. Came home about an hour ago.”

\n\n

This chance conversation proved of considerable importance, for when Hawke presented himself at the flat he found Mrs. Vilnikoff alone.

\n\n

“I don’t know where Ivor’s gone,” she said, “nor how long he’ll be, and I don’t care.”

\n\n

Hawke found this interesting.

\n\n

“Has he been gone long?”

\n\n

“About ten minutes. He’s got one of his fits of bad temper. Does this black eye show much?”

\n\n

“No,” reassured Hawke.

\n\n

“I usually find that face-powder turns a black eye green.”

\n\n

In these disconcerting circumstances Hawke would normally have excused himself and departed immediately, but he was curious to get a look at the contents of the flat, and so he accepted the woman’s invitation to a glass of wine.

\n\n

The main living apartment seemed to reflect the clashing of temperaments, and the pictures on the wall showed similar violent contrasts of taste. Etchings clashed with photographic groups and tinted portraits.

\n\n

One of the latter depicted Vilnikoff attired in Cossack dress and holding a leather whip.

\n\n

The woman saw Hawke looking at it. “Sometimes he seems to think he’s still a circus performer,” she said, “and that I’m an unbroken horse.”

\n\n

During the ensuing conversation, Hawke’s mind was busy.

\n\n

The chance talk with the detective outside had disclosed the fact that Vilnikoff had not left by the front entrance. Why not? How had he left? By the back way, of course. And for a building in this particular situation, that was decidedly unusual.

\n\n

“We’ve been talking about Mather,” said the woman presently, “and Drewitt says he thinks the wound may have been caused by a vulture or an eagle or something. You do hear of these things escaping from aviaries, he says. He thinks the bird could have swooped down and up again amongst the trees without our noticing it. And he thinks that report might have been caused by one of the bird’s wings smacking Mather across the back.”

\n\n

Hawke stared.

\n\n

“It’s an ingenious explanation,” he said. “Mr. Drewitt appears to be a very considerable thinker. Are there any other interesting things he’s been thinking?”

\n\n

“Yes. He thinks the police are a lot of fools. And he thinks the same about you. My husband doesn’t, though. My husband thinks you could unravel the mystery if you gave your mind to it.”

\n\n

“And perhaps,” replied Hawke, “I will give my mind to it. Meanwhile, I must be off.”

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Chapter 4

\n\n

The Concealed Knout

\n\n

Outside the building Hawke hailed a taxi.

\n\n

“Drive me to Kew Gardens,” he instructed the driver.

\n\n

It was whilst inspecting that picture of Vilnikoff in his Cossack uniform that the detective had suddenly recalled the photograph which Gray had shown him, and now, in his mind’s eye, he had a vivid picture of the ash, with its thin branches trailing down to the ground.

\n\n

Hawke dismissed the taxi at Kew Bridge and walked for about twenty minutes until he came to a secluded spot where it was possible for him to scale the high railings unobserved.

\n\n

This accomplished, he made his way in the direction of the spot where Mather had met his death. The newspaper accounts of the affair had given him a fairly accurate idea of its location, for he knew the gardens quite well.

\n\n

In a few minutes Hawke reached the ash, around which was an extensive area of newly-dug and sifted soil, covered with footprints, and, after a cautious look round, he plunged in amongst its curtain of drooping branches.

\n\n

The ground at the base of the tree had been carefully turned over, and possible hiding-places for a knife had been sought for in this and other nearby trees, but Hawke was not looking for a knife. He was examining the branches, one by one.

\n\n

He gripped them and tugged at them gently, and presently his fingers closed round one which yielded to his pull.

\n\n

He uttered an involuntary grunt of satisfaction as he tugged this smooth, rope-like “branch “ down from the tree.

\n\n

It was not a branch at all, for it was made of leather and was an object which achieved notoriety as an instrument of torture in Russia many years ago. It was known as a knout.

\n\n

This particular knout was representative of its kind, being some twenty feet in length. It was smooth, pliable, gradually-tapering leather for the greater part of its length, but about eighteen inches from its tip, it was hardened and flattened, having been pressed out to form two knife-like edges.

\n\n

Hawke was examining his find, partly concealed beneath the branches, when, for some reason, which he could not accurately define, he found himself suddenly, startlingly alert.

\n\n

He sensed some other presence.

\n\n

The stock end of the knout was lying on the ground, and the detective was holding the tip of it in his hands, when suddenly it was wrenched away, cutting his fingers.

\n\n

Someone who had been standing very close to him had seized the stock, and taken possession of the knout.

\n\n

Hawke thrust aside the branches and came out into the open.

\n\n

A most fortunate thing occurred as he did so.

\n\n

A stray branch swung back and pushed his felt hat over his eyes, and an instant later he received a terrible, stinging blow across the forehead.

\n\n

He felt the sting of it even through the felt and the leather hand inside the hat. Hawke knew he had received a blow from the knout.

\n\n

Pushing the hat back to its proper position, he beheld a crouching figure a few yards distant, actually in the process of raising his arm to take another crack at him.

\n\n

Hawke turned and ran. He knew by this time, exactly in what capacity Vilnikoff had earned his living in the circus.

\n\n

Vilnikoff was running, too.

\n\n

His secret was out — unless he could manage to give Kew Gardens one more mysterious tragedy.

\n\n

Hawke realised that his only chance was to get into a confined space where the Russian would not have a chance of wielding the knout. Then he might find an opportunity of getting him at close quarters.

\n\n

Accordingly, he sprinted in the direction of one of the vast hot-houses, and reaching it, ran in between one of its sides and a brick wall.

\n\n

Here Vilnikoff made a mistake. He rushed in after the detective, and was met with a punch on the jaw which sent him reeling, and he crashed to the ground unconscious.

\n\n

A few moments later a uniformed night watchman was on the scene.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

A Jealous Husband

\n\n

Vilnikoff afterwards became resigned to his fate and admitted that it was jealousy of Mather’s attachment for his wife that had caused him to kill Mather.

\n\n

“It was the one way in which I was really competent to kill him,” ho told the police, “and it was such an unusual way that I stood every chance of escaping detection. But I wanted the right opportunity, and space in which to wield the knout.

\n\n

“The opportunity came when the visit to Kew Gardens was suggested. It was I who suggested it, though nobody seemed to recall that fact when the inquiries were being made.

\n\n

“There was something about the idea of justifying Mather’s tree phobia for him which appealed to my sense of the dramatic. The knout was one which I used in my circus days. I coiled it round my waist, and took it to Kew concealed beneath my waistcoat. We spread out as we strolled aimlessly along. I dropped behind Mather, and the others went ahead.

\n\n

“My opportunity came at an excellent moment. We were just passing that ash, and after I had made effective use of the knout I stepped in among the branches and threw the stock end over a high fork, so that the lash draped down on either side, unnoticeable, except as one of the branches.

\n\n

“The police, of course, were looking for a knife. I didn’t think it would occur to them to look for a whip — and I was very nearly right.”

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Phoney Buyers", "author": "", "body": ""

This is a sweet little swindle, and for a long tithe was a splendid revenue to the men who started it. Gradually more and more of the get-rich-quick gentry heard about it, and the field became overcrowded. But unlike many similar rackets, it has not been done to death, and is lying fallow until the advent of an administration that isn’t so hard on the smart boys.

\n\n

Let us say you are in the candy business –your advertisement appears in the papers. You receive a letter or a postal-card from Smith & Jones, Resident Buyers, requesting you to call and bring samples of your commodity.

\n\n

You call at the time specified, and are ushered into.an office where a curt, businesslike individual listens to your story and gradually unbends as you explain the good points of your product. After a while, the man behind the desk becomes quite cordial and friendly. He tells you to leave your samples, and he’ll call you after he has had an opportunity to examine them. Incidentally, he explains that his firm does the buying for thousands of stores in the South and Middle West — some in the farther West, too.

\n\n

When you leave his presence, a warm, optimistic feeling permeates you. You have found the outlet you were looking for. This firm of resident buyers, for a reasonable commission that is half of what you pay a salesman, will represent you all over the country.

\n\n

Fine so far.

\n\n

In a few days along comes the letter you expect. Your merchandise is quite good — in fact the writer likes it and wishes to talk to you about it if you will call at such and such a time.

\n\n

Promptly on the minute you present yourself, trying not to beam. Yes, Mr. Jones, of Smith & Jones, to whom your goods were shown, thinks they’re just what the firm has been looking for. They’re going in to exploit them heavily for you. All they want is their commission on any merchandise they sell.

\n\n

Oh yes — there’s going to be the postage on the twenty-five or fifty thousand letters they’re going to send out to all their correspondents, with your prospectus in it. They send out their letters by first-class mail — about two hundred dollars will cover it. And you’ll be kind enough to send Smith & Jones enough circulars so there won’t be any delay.

\n\n

You come across with that two hundred dollars — and you might as well kiss it goodby. Your circulars are sent out, it’s true! Post Office inspectors can’t be treated lightly — they’ll come around, and ask questions if a complaint is made.

\n\n

But your circulars and the circulars of half a dozen other dupes like yourself are put into one envelope — and sent as printed matter — cheap, oh so cheap. There is a nice little profit on the transaction for Smith & Jones, and where is your kick? You say the two hundred was to cover first-class mail? It’s your word against the word of Smith & Jones.

\n\n

It was mailed to the stores in the South and Middle West — and farther West, too. They have the list, and inquiry of any of the names will confirm their statement — if the recipients of the circulars happen to remember.

\n\n

Yes, once in a blue moon you may even receive an inquiry from one of the stores. Manna once came down from heaven, too.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Silvered Sentinel", "author": "Schuyler Hamilton", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

\n\n

Reflection

\n\n

De Collyer grimaced slightly at his reflection in the long pier-glass as he applied the rabbit’s foot to his eyebrows in a final, deft movement. If it is true that nine-tenths of the actor’s art is comprehended in the knowledge of make-up, De Collyer was an artist to his fingertips — long, sensitive, slender — the fingers of a man with imagination — and something more.

\n\n

De Collyer, or it was the face in the mirror, mouthed an unintelligible guttural in a voice thick, turgid, a burring mumble, husky with age, and a sort of senile mirth:

\n\n

“Heh! Heh! Heh!

\n\n

“I don’t know nothin’ … I ain’t wantin’ nothin’ … thankee … I minds m’ own business … “

\n\n

De Collyer leaned back in his chair, and a throaty chuckle escaped him. He spoke in his natural voice, but with no boastfulness:

\n\n

“Perfect … perfect … to the letter … and … and … “

\n\n

He paused as if a sudden thought, and a little smile twitched the comers of his mouth — a wolfish grin.

\n\n

De Collyer did “imitations” when he could get booking, which had become increasingly difficult as he had acquired and fostered an increasing fondness for strong drink, despite its growing scarcity and the difficulty of acquisition.

\n\n

Besides his really remarkable mobility of features and genius at make-up, he was a superior mimic, but it had availed him little of late. For he had come to the pass where he would lie, beg, borrow, or steal for a drink. And perhaps, if the provocation were strong enough … Already he owed his landlady, Mrs. Finchley for three weeks’ board — and he had had no booking for months.

\n\n

His face held a brooding, introspective look not pleasant to contemplate. De Collyer was desperately in need of money — and he had exhausted every possible source of revenue except — one.

\n\n

The previous night, with his eye at the keyhole of a locked door leading to the room next his own, he had seen that which had inspired him with a plan — a sure way, as he told himself — out of his difficulties. All that it required was nerve — just a little nerve — the silencing of a conscience already almost atrophied in the sordid business of his hand-to-mouth existence.

\n\n

Hurriedly, with flying fingers he obliterated the face in the mirror as a heavy step sounded in the hall without. It passed on — hesitated — paused at his door. It was locked, and the key turned to prevent its being pushed inward from without, but, of course …

\n\n

De Collyer held his breath, but Mrs. Finchley evidently had reconsidered. Already he owed her for three weeks’ board. Well — he would owe her more than that before he had finished …

\n\n

It would be a near thing, he decided — but — it could not fail.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

\n\n

Th’ Last Word from Luther D. Gammage

\n\n

Old Luther Gammage was a “character” who never spoke unless directly addressed, and then in monosyllables.

\n\n

“I minds m’ own business,” he had vouchsafed on one occasion to the somewhat indiscreet advances of a fledgling boarder. “I ain’t got nothin’ — I ain’t wantin’ nothin’ — heh — heh — heh!”

\n\n

Rumor had it that he was a miser — but even this speculation had died with the passage of years.

\n\n

Gammage, however, did have a hobby, and a rather unusual one, namely, the collection of orchid blooms and their culture, and it had been the actor’s attempt to foist upon him a counterfeit seed of the rare, greenish Crane-Fly orchid which had aroused the old collector’s undying enmity — and suspicion.

\n\n

This hobby, however, he had concealed as effectually as the source from which he derived his income. For he always paid cash. How De Collyer had accomplished the discovery of Gammage’s small conservatory in a cypress swamp in the outskirts was his own secret, but he had kept himself out of sight most effectually — a specialty of his — biding his time with an infinite patience which, valuable as Gammage’s collection undoubtedly was, was yet not aimed at the specimens which the silent old man had accumulated.

\n\n

Truly, De Collyer knew nothing of the five tribes, the 370 genera, or the five thousand species, and cared less. It had been from an altogether different motive that he had approached Gammage with his crude conterfeit — it was, after all, a seed, and, in his way, De Collyer was a rather clever sower of such …

\n\n

Now, on a misty evening of late Autumn, supper being over, Gammage approached Mrs. Finchley in what she afterward described as a kind of breathless excitement — for him. Afterward she declared to the coroner’s jury that she felt in her bones that something was wrong — there had been something — a premonition, a presentiment — but the good lady did not express it in just that fashion:

\n\n

“He ain’t never spoke three words in a month, gentlemen — not him — an’ this mornin’ he seemed all of a tremble, like — he says t’ me, he says: ‘Mis’ Finchley,’ he says, I’m goin’ a journey,’ he says, ‘an’ I mayn’t be back till late.’

\n\n

” ‘You ain’t well, Mr. Gammage,’ I says. ‘You better not go out t’day,’ I says. For his breath come sort of whistlin’ in his throat.

\n\n

“An’ then, f’r th’ first an’ last time in th’ days I knew him he seemed t’ get excited — a kind of queer fever come in his cheeks. ‘No, no, Mrs. Finchley,’ he quavers — ‘No, no — I must go — I gotta — but I’ll be back — t’night — late.’

\n\n

“An’ that’s th’ last word I had from Luther D. Gammage, gentlemen — th’ very last word, though 1 must say as I don’t rightly un’erstand … “

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Old Orchid Hunter’s Fear

\n\n

Luther Gammage left Mrs. Finchley’s a little while after supper, and he returned — late — as he had promised. He left the house openly, walked a matter of six blocks to a little-used car line, and there boarded a trolley which ran to the city limits.

\n\n

Half a mile from the end of the tracks he entered the cypress swamp. For a heart-beat he stood, with his head upon his shoulder, listening — then plunged into the swamp as a man who burns his bridges behind him.

\n\n

It was a gray evening, but even at high noon of blazing sunshine here there was perpetual twilight — greenish gray, sombre, repellent, daunting to a dweller of the sun-washed world without. Round about, for a radius of five miles, there were no houses, no living human abode in this whispering labyrinth, but there were not wanting tales of sights and sounds, witch-fires, will-o-the-wisps, which, rumor had it, were uneasy ghosts, pale wraiths whose luminance rose upon the fetid night in an unspeakable suggestion of old crimes, ancient victims.

\n\n

The seed planted by De Collyer had borne fruit. As he went forward, delicately, across a quaking bog, Gammage’s hand felt for something in his pocket: something cold and hard and smooth — and a sudden, red rage possessed him as he envisaged the spoiler at his work …

\n\n

As he approached the conservatory a brooding silence, like the dead, lifeless silence before storm, had settled upon the swamp, like a vast and smothering hand. Presently, just ahead, he made out the dim bulk of the building, squat, and somehow shapeless, sinister, silent.

\n\n

He paused then, and waited, tense, quivering, but no sound nor sign issued out of the dimness. A minute passed — a minute of time, an hour of thought.

\n\n

Suddenly, as he watched, a thin, red pencil of light grew and broadened to a fanlike arc of yellow flame — a broad blotch of radiance quivered and died across the marsh.

\n\n

“Anstey!” he called suddenly, in a high, eager voice.

\n\n

Anstey was the caretaker. But with the words the light winked out, and as suddenly he remembered — or did he? Wasn’t this the day for the caretaker’s weekly trip to the city for supplies? Yes, of course, it was … it — - it was true, then …

\n\n

“Hophead” as well as drunkard, De Collyer, Gammage was convinced, would not have paused at murder for the accomplishment of his ends — and with the thought of a sudden, desperate resolution girded his sinews with steel. He covered the intervening space at a stumbling run — circled the corner of the low building — and came face to face with the intruder.

\n\n

And at what he saw in that face — the strangeness of it — the old orchid hunter’s fear and fury simmered to a sort of boiling quiet. He knew now what he had come to do. His resolution was taken.

\n\n

“You … you … damn ye, De Collyer!” he said evenly. “So that’s y’r game, hey? Well — I knowed ye first off … now … whut hev ye done with Anstey?”

\n\n

In the dim twilight the face of the actor appeared oddly contorted. There was infinite venom, and an ugliness of unspeakable suggestion in his words as he answered lightly, hardily:

\n\n

“Whut hev I done with Anstey?” he mimicked. The tone was perfect. He went on in his natural voice:

\n\n

“Why — not a thing, old man,” he said. “I haven’t even seen him, if you ask me.”

\n\n

A chill wind rose and grew, like the whispering voices of dead fears upon the night. Had De Collyer … had he … something up his sleeve. To Gammage his collection was his life. Now, as he faced the sneering interloper before him, his rage and fear caught, as it were, a sudden, leaping spark from the green.eyes which mirrored his own — a premonition — a warning which burned into his with a sudden, leaping flame.

\n\n

As if at a silent signal there came a sudden rush — the impact of two straining bodies — the flat crack of an automatic — then a dull, crunching thud — a quick heave — a stirring of the osiers at the edge of the deep tarn below. There followed a heavy splash — a gurgle — and the viscid slime heaving throughout its oily surface.

\n\n

One more had been added to the grisly toll of the cypress swamp.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Out of the Swamp

\n\n

Out of the swamp presently there emerged, alone, the bent and shuffling figure of the little old man, but now he walked as with an added burden of years, for behind him there stalked a Shadow — a shadow which henceforth would be with him, waking and sleeping — a shadow with stiff fingers and sightless eyes — a shadow reaching — reaching from the black ooze and the slime and the whispering silence which he had left behind.

\n\n

He shivered a moment in the warm air as he waited for the trolley which presently roared down upon him with clanging bell and sharp screaming of brakes. He boarded it silently, a drab, inconspicuous figure which gained but a perfunctory notice from the conductor and the few passengers.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

Murderer!

\n\n

Luther Gammage left Mrs. Finchley’s a little while after supper — and he returned — late — as he had promised.

\n\n

A pin-point of gas burned in the narrow, malodorous hallway. It was the custom of the boarding-house that any lodger returning after midnight and finding the gas alight should extinguish it. Doubtless Mrs. Finchley’s star boarder remembered this. He extended a hand; the light winked out, and the thick darkness of the sleeping house took him to its heart.

\n\n

He reached the hall above. His door was to the left — at the stairhead — and usually he could have found it blindfolded. For he was invariably a creature of habit.

\n\n

He went forward a few paces. Now his groping hand, thrust out before him, fumbled at a door-knob, and then withdrew nervously at the feel of the cold, porcelain surface. Gammage’s door-knob was of glass, six-sided — - whereas this was round, and cold, and smooth — like the … like the … top of a skull.

\n\n

It was De Collyer’s door. He paused as if to listen to the deep breathing within — but there was no sound that he could hear — his pale lips in the darkness trembled.

\n\n

Murderer! The word seemed to stand out in letters of fire, etched upon the black pall of the night like a corroding flame. For he had killed a man.

\n\n

No one had seen. No one would ever discover the grisly evidence save at the beckoning finger of a remote and unthinkable chance. And yet … he had killed a man …

\n\n

De Collyer had simply disappeared. He had often disappeared … for days at a time … He had sunk into that oblivious sea of missing men from which no faintest bubble of doubt or hint or trace would evermore rise upward into the ken of humankind. And there would be none to mourn him.

\n\n

He wheeled to the right-about — and this time his thin fingers closed on the glass outline of the door-knob he sought.

\n\n

He opened the door, stood for a moment, trembling as with fatigue, and then, steering an uncertain course in the velvet black, brought up sharply against the foot-board of an old-fashioned bed.

\n\n

Darkness plays strange tricks with one’s sense of direction … that bed had always stood … somewhere else … it was in the wrong place! Mrs. Finchley did not as a rule move her boarders’ furniture without due notice, but this … this …

\n\n

With fumbling fingers, after several attempts, at length he lighted a match — and gargantuan shadows ran along walls and ceiling, in caricature of a little old man, lean, old. bearded and be whiskered of face.

\n\n

He lit the gas. The bed was in its proper place, facing a blank wall between two closets, behind it the windows. Well … the darkness plays strange tricks with one’s sense of direction …

\n\n

He gazed about him as one who sees that which is familiar and yet unfamiliar, his eyes flaming beneath their pent-house brows. Then, in a sudden, senseless panic he gained the door, laid his hand upon the bolt. With shaking fingers he slid it home.

\n\n

It shrieked, rasping — not loudly — but with the quick squeak of a mouse in the wainscot. He moved backward to the bed, which stood, immovable, steadfast, facing, as it had always faced, the blank wall with its pattern of blood-red roses …

\n\n

He undressed with a fumbling, clumsy haste, his fingers all thumbs, snapped out the light — to lie with staring eyes envisaging the impenetrable blank above him. After a while he closed them — but not to sleep …

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

You’re In the Wrong Seat

\n\n

Luther Gammage had always been an early riser. And this morning his seat was occupied when Mrs. Finchley came into the basement dining-room. None of the other boarders had as yet put in an appearance, and at the landlady’s :

\n\n

“Good morning, Mr. Gammage!”

\n\n

“Mornin’, ma’am,” he mumbled, as he conveyed the spoon to his mouth, spilling a little of its contents on his none too immaculate stock.

\n\n

Suddenly the landlady, who had been scrutinizing him oddly, remarked with an air of stolid wonder:

\n\n

“Why — why, Mr. Gammage — you — you’re in the wrong seat — you’re … “

\n\n

“Heh?” came the muttered answer.

\n\n

“You — you’re in — Mr. De Collyer’s place.”

\n\n

A little silence fell — like a stone dropped into the placid surface of a pond, the ripples widening — expanding … in waves of suggestion. De Collyer’s chair! Coward conscience — mental suggestion — was that what it was? Well … he would have to be careful.

\n\n

A sudden, silent panic seized him, so that it seemed that his heart, throbbing dully within his ribs, would every instant betray him. What was it that was written of murderers … what was it?

\n\n

*“In the deep night; in the dark night Will I search thee out …

\n\n

Yea, though thou coverest.thyself As with a mountain, yet will I find thee …”*

\n\n

It seemed to the woman that the silent figure in the chair had aged overnight. She thought he looked ill, with a deep-seated illness. For he was a creature of habit, and as such it must be something more than mere absentmindedness which had caused him to depart from the habit of years — to pass his own accustomed place and to take the place of another. But before he could reply the landlady had gone on hurriedly:

\n\n

“Oh — but it don’t make no difference — of course … you stay right where you are, Mr. Gammage … De Collyer, now, he … he ain’t got exactly a mortgage on that seat, ‘f you ask me.” She released a laugh of blended sarcasm and friendly familiarity — turned — went to the window, fussed a moment with the shade — and then bustled outward to the kitchen.

\n\n

His breakfast over, the little old man returned to his room, where, once inside, and the door closed and bolted, he stood a moment uncertainly — then, abruptly, there appeared in his face and bearing a sudden, startling transformation. He appeared to straighten visibly — his lips lost their accustomed slackness of age — his eyes glowed with sudden, biting life. He seemed to be in the grip of an overpowering and hard-held excitement.

\n\n

A small, leafed panel in the old-fashioned escritoire fell open at his touch. His exploring fingers thrust inward, and came away — empty. With a little, darting rush he was at the bureau — had ransacked the drawers in a twinkling — then turned to an ancient clothes-press, the which he laboriously explored — to no avail.

\n\n

That which he sought still eluded him. Could it — was it possible that someone had been before him? No — -it was unthinkable — it simply could not be — it must not. Otherwise …

\n\n

Haste, haste, and more haste — speed, speed, and yet more speed! And yet — and yet — above everything he must avoid the appearance of hurry. That grisly Something by now fathoms deep in sludge — who could find it — who would even think to look …?

\n\n

He glanced at his watch with a nervous, sidewise jerking of the head; then at an ancient clock set on a heavy, imitation porphyry base which stood on the mantel.

\n\n

Ah! Now he remembered — stupid to have so forgotten! Was it …? Yes! Nerves … nerves … what a devil they played with one!

\n\n

For with a quick, grasping movement he had lifted the clock — and there, wedged in at the bottom, between its four sprawling legs, was a bankbook — his bankbook.

\n\n

“I need a rest, that’s certain — that’s what I need,” he muttered. “Travel — that’s th’ ticket — a long trip.”

\n\n

There sounded in the hall without a step — muffled voices — they were — they were approaching his door. His knees trembled, his hand stole with a convulsive gesture to the automatic in his pocket. There sounded a double rap upon the door, firm, authoritative, like a summons of doom.

\n\n

At last!

\n\n

An hour — an aeon — an eternity was compassed in his brief passage to the door. Under his futile fingers the bolt clanged and rattled — of what use to resist, unless … unless … Then it seemed as if the heavy door was flung inward from without, and in the aperture there loomed the vast bulk of brass-buttoned Authority: a policeman, behind him the grey face of the landlady. It had come, then!

\n\n

“We’re looking for … a gent named De Collyer,” came the booming voice. “This lady here … “

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Before he could continue, or the other answer, came the landlady’s voice, apologetic, hurried:

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“Th’ officer’d like a description, sir. I — I give it to him, but he says mebbe y’ c’d tell us something else. He — he’s wanted f’r larceny, an’ I don’t know what-all.”

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Wanted! The orchid-hunter gulped, swallowed, managed to articulate: “Why — I dunno, officer — he — I wasn’t — ain’t — he’s wanted, ye’ say? Well, well!”

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His tones seemed suddenly more virile, but on the instant he seemed to shrink within himself. He seemed what he was: old, broken, as he continued :

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“I — I ain’t extry well, sir — I — I finds it hard to remember — hut — but — well — he wuz always hard up, I reckon … he wuz always broke, s’far ‘s I know. Heh — heh — heh! That’s ‘bout all I kin tell ye.”

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The policeman grunted something inarticulate — swung on his heel without ceremony, glanced at the landlady, received a significant look, and the two turned, and passed on down the stairs.

\n\n

Scraps of talk floated upward: “A regular title-taper, ‘f you ask me”; “A fine crook, sir!”

\n\n

“That’s what he was — a fine crook! An’ him owin’ me th’ best part of three weeks’ board … “

\n\n

The little old man closed the door softly. He gave a smothered, nervous laugh. He was getting old — that was it — he had been growing older all the time — and now, at one stride, as it were, he was reaping the result. The door again bolted, he glanced carefully over the array of figures in the pass book, and a breathless ejaculation escaped him. He peered closely, as if disbelieving the evidence of his eyes — then slumped downward into a chair, muttering as if in disbelief.

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Presently he sat up — leaned over the old-fashioned marble-top table, drew toward him paper and pen, tracing words put down aimlessly in a meaningless repetition of the name: “Luther Gammage,” many times repeated. He ceased finally with a grunt of satisfaction:

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“‘s good,” he muttered. “Couldn’t challenge that!”

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A senile cackle sounded in his throat. “What’s in a name? A … a rose … by any other name … an orchid … money … money … money — that’s it — money — that’s in a name … my name.”

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Then: “The pen is … is … mightier than the … than the …”

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A curious expression, almost of fear, passed like a shadow over his face. He rose abruptly, and jamming the passbook in an inside pocket, descended the stairs. He met no one. The front door opened — clicked shut behind him — and he was gone.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 7

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All About the Murder of …

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Gammage’s bank was the Thirteenth National, and thither, after leaving the boarding-house, the little old man proceeded. He was secure — safe — he told himself — both as to this and as to that other secret even now sunk fathoms deep in those unplumbed depths — but as he passed along the street he felt rather than saw a shadow detach itself from the opposite curb: a lean, hawklike face, hanging for a moment in a sort of vague menace, like a face without a body, projected out of the kaleidoscope of shifting humans, and then withdrew even as he looked.

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In the brief instant that he had seen the face he had been conscious of its malevolent interest: the sardonic flicker of a ghastly meaning in the eyes … he shivered in the humid air.

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He became aware that a ragged nondescript was following him, or so it seemed — was keeping pace with him, step for step … . With a tremendous effort of the will he glanced sidewise at the features of the newsboy: pinched, young-old, wise beyond imagining, and he fancied he detected in its expression that same calculating, studied appraisal.

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“Paper — sir — paper!” the gamin shrilled suddenly … . “All about …”

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And as suddenly he knew, with a curious, dread, shivering certainty, what he was about to hear: “All about the murder of … of …”

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Proffering a coin with shaking fingers, he snatched the extra — then gasped almost audibly in overwhelming relief, as he made out to see, in one blinding survey, that it was the famous case of the “Pine-Tree Murder,” figuring a corpus delicti which had baffled the best efforts of the most efficient detectives. And now — and now — despite the more than Satanic ingenuity of the crime — the diabolical cleverness of its simplicity — they had — caught the murderer! And in his own case he knew but too well of what avail would be his plea of self-defence.

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“In the deep night; in the dark night Will I search thee out … Yea, though thou covercst thyself As with a mountain, yet will I find thee …”

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He entered the bank, and as he went through the marble portal a man brushed by him furtively, yet with a certain meaning in his look, he could have sworn. And — was it the face he had seen in the crowd? Something told him that it was — an inner voice which he felt somehow to he an enemy — why, he could not have told. He noticed particularly the shoes: broad, square-toed, such as are worn commonly by plainclothesmen.

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Like a wind-driven spectre of fear, he walked into the bank: a little, old, bent, gray, shuffling figure of a man — bearded and bewhiskered — like an elderly and timorous mouse. That was the word the voluble Mrs. Finchley had used afterward at the inquest — a ghastly simile, indeed, when the amazing and unbelievable finale was written — when the face in the shadow had withdrawn forever — when behind the arras of Eternity there remained merely the voiceless answer of an impenetrable and infinite Silence … .

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Chapter 8

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A Little — Unpleasantness

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The murderer passed, with his dragging shuffle, down the ornate marble foyer, and approached the paying teller’s wicket.

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“Er — how much will it be this time, Mr. Gammage?” inquired the teller, perfunctorily. “The — the same, I presume, as usual?” Then, at the other’s muttered, scarce audible rejoinder: “Why — why — Mr. Gammage — “ he replied–“all of it?”

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The teller gave an almost imperceptible shrug. “Very well, Mr. Gammage,” he pronounced. “Just as you sir … of course. … “ Automatically he pushed a white square of paper, together with a pen, across the space between them for the other’s signature. Idly the teller watched the long, slim fingers as they pot together the words:

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Luther D. Gammage Something — some seeming incongruity began tapping at the back of his brain, like the shadow of a suggestion, in a vague effort to recall — now, just what was it? But this passed in a fugitive glimmer of diminishing recollection as he recovered the slip, scanned it casually, made the usual comparison, and with a mechanical exactitude placed it in its proper compartment.

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But — $17,000!

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He would have liked to question the old man about it, but instead he asked merely:

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“How’ll you have it, Mr. Gammage?” at the other’s reply pushing a number of bills with saffron edges through the wicket, when there came a sudden, startling interruption: a long, gray-clad arm thrust between — there came a voice, hoarse, excited:

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“Mr. Dinsmore — just a moment …”

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With the bills almost in his hand the bent figure stiffened — his mouth opened, then closed in a tight, quivering line as the teller disappeared from the window.

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It had come, then! It was upon him! In some unforeseen, some unexpected, some inexplicable way, they had found him out!

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But while he waited, in a sort of numb expectancy, for the hand on his shoulder and the word which should spell his doom, behind him there arose sounds of a scuffle, oaths, a quick panting.

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He turned with an effort, in time to see a little knot of men split suddenly apart — the flash of steel — a gruff order — then two sullen individuals herded toward the offices in the rear by the uniformed man in gray and another in plain clothes. After an interval the face of Dinsmore, the teller, appeared, unwontedly flushed.

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“Ah … you’ll pardon me, Mr. Gammage. Just a little — unpleasantness … . I’m sorry … but it’s quite all right now, sir … . Here’s your money.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 9

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The Disappearance of De Collyer

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But the little old man did not return immediately to the boarding-house, where, after notifying Mrs. Finchley of his intention of an indefinite leave (he would make it definite enough!) he meant to spend his last night in the city. It would not do for him to disappear too abruptly, although an insistent voice within him, an urgent, frantic voice dictated haste, haste, while there was time, while there was yet time. He had sent the caretaker a verbal message — the latter would question him in nothing — and as for that — that which was buried against all resurrection in the blind depths of the swamp — Anstey knew nothing — he would be as silent as his master. It was inconceivable that it would ever be found … .

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Still, he would leave nothing to chance — he would turn in his key in regular order to Ma Finchley, give up his room, and — disappear, like a stone sunk in a fathomless pool of silence and unplumbed depth. The encounter in the boarding-house; the face in the street; the preferred newspaper; the meeting in the doorway of the bank; the sudden apprehension of the bank-sneaks; these, whatever their significance, had left him curiously shaken.

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Gammage had never been what is known as a drinking-man, but now he pushed open the swing-doors of a cafe on a side street, where, despite the Prohibition Act, certain commodities were dispensed on occasion for a price. Now, as he entered its cool gloom things were happening at Mrs. Finchley’s — things insignificant enough in themselves — neutral threads, if you will — but which, when woven into the tragic tapestry of my tale, showed bright scarlet against its sombre background of high light — and shadow:

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Threads of Destiny!

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Bustle of activity in the second floor as something tall and oblong and heavy was shunted into Gammage’s room. The old man had always wanted it — why, no one knew exactly — and now Mrs. Finchley had been able to gratify his wish, or whim, or whatever it was — since, and this was made possible by event number.

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The disappearance of De Collyer, the impecunious actor, whose room was “done up” in preparation for a future tenant, and the door locked. The day passed, and at the supper hour Mrs. Finchley wondered vaguely at the continued absence of Gammage.

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Chapter 10

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Macbeth Hath Murdered Sleep

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Shadows were massed solidly so that the street seemed a canyon of darkness, a black well of silence without sound, yet curiously fluid, like a tide rising between the houses, which thrust upward on either hand in a dint jumble of roof and skylight and shaft. Presently there would be a moon, but just now there was deep, smothering blackness.

\n\n

Out of this dense darkness there emerged suddenly a lesser shadow — a grotesque, he seemed — a shadow figure in some curiously terrible pantomime in the faintly luminous dusk filtering downward from the remote pall of the sky.

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A key clattered in the latch — the door swung inward noiselessly — long, tapering fingers reached upward to the light, and a monstrous, leaping silhouette fled along the wall like a gigantic and menacing hand. Then the light winked out — there followed the muffled sounds of the ascent — heavy breathing.

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The door of Gammage’s room opened silently — there came the brief noise of a scratching match — a creak of protest sounded from the ancient bed — the muffled thud of a shoe falling upon thick carpet — then a heavy, stertorous breathing. Long he slept, when presently, above the dreaming roofs, there grew a pale radiance — uprose the moon, like a silvered sentinel of night.

\n\n

The sleeper stirred, moaned, tossing his arms abroad like a man in the grip of a viselike and inexorable terror — of a malignant and vengeful personality. Then, suddenly, with a strangled gasp, he awoke, and before him, upon the black wall of the night, in his mind’s eye — as one sees the after-reflection of a dazzling light upon the blackness — he beheld a vision: the grim portal of the swamp … facilis decensus Avemi … thither at whispering dusk, had he gone … and behind him had stalked … a Shadow … . For in truth had he murdered … sleep:

\n\n

Macbeth hath murdered sleep, and therefore Banquo Shall sleep no more; Macbeth shall sleep no more … .

\n\n

Once more the sleeper seemed to see the swamp with its green glooms, its strange and perverted beauty of decay, in its heart that strange, amorphous excrescence of rocky ledge rising like a wart out of the morass. Here might one find, down-flung like a pale star at thunderous dawn, the exotic blooms of crane-fly or cyprepedium. Yet Gammage had gone far afield to fill his storehouse with the plunder of the outlands. And as such was it not worth the taking?

\n\n

And out of the swamp, presently, there had emerged, alone, a little old man, bearded and bewhiskered … alone … and yet behind him there seemed to peer another … behind …

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“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

\n\n

The words seemed suddenly alive — hoarse with a sort of hypnotic cadence. Like a cinematographic impression, the vision persisted: the face, its lips writhed backward in a soundless snarl of rage and terror and surprise, appeared to stay — to remain — unfading, almost, he might have thought …

\n\n

Into the shadows at the foot of the bed there penetrated a long shaft of radiance, like a leprous-silvered finger, striking at the blank wall between the two closets — the rising moon. And in that ghostly radiance the face which he had seen moved — it was coming toward him — and upon it was the same expression of horror and surprise that it had worn when … when …

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“Dead men rise up never!”

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A lie — it was a lie — a cheat — for this was no figment of the imagination — it was real, it was horrible … it was … it was … .

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Back to Top
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Chapter 11

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Reflected In the Mirror

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With a windy shriek De Collyer fell backward upon the bed, the mounting tide of his alcoholic frenzy culminating in an overwhelming wave of insane and blasphemous mouthing: the grim justice of a retributive madness.

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For the face which he had seen had indeed been that of Gammage — and yet as in a glass darkly — for, by a strange, retributive, poetic justice, he had seen it with his own eyes, indeed: the bearded image of his victim — the perfect likeness which he had counterfeited — the speaking likeness, indeed, which he had put on in the cypress swamp and since retained — reflected in the mirror which in his absence the landlady had caused to be transferred from his own room to the bare space between the closets at the foot of Gammage’s bed!

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THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Poison Pen", "author": "", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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The Letters

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Dixon Hawke glanced at the photographic prints which Tommy Burke had just placed on his desk.

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The prints were enlargements of snapshots which Tommy had been assiduously collecting since he had acquired a new camera some weeks before. The enlargements were also his own work; he had fitted up a homemade apparatus in Hawke’s laboratory.

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Dixon Hawke treated this new phase of his assistant’s with good-natured tolerance, and had consented to pose for some indoor time exposures. Tommy was now inviting criticism, and lifting one of the prints, Hawke said with feigned nonchalance:

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“H’m, not bad for an amateur,” and bent his head to hide the twinkle in his eye.

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Tommy opened his mouth indignantly.

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“An amateur —” he began, but the shrill ringing of the doorbell interrupted him.

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Tommy glanced quickly at his master. It was late Saturday forenoon, and they had just completed their business of the week; no callers were expected.

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As the housekeeper was out, Tommy hurried to the door and ushered in a young lady, who introduced herself to the detectives as Miss Irene Walsford.

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Miss Walsford was a tall blonde, with delicate features and wide blue eyes.

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Hawke had risen to meet his visitor, and his practised eye noted that she was suffering from great mental agitation. He at once set about putting her at her ease.

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“I don’t think we have met before, Miss Walsford, but your photograph is known to me. In fact,” he smiled, “since your engagement to Mr. Litteton I might say it is very well known.”

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The girl smiled wanly.

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“Yes, the newspapers have made a fuss. You see, Ralph is so well known in the City. We are to be married in three months, and —and that is —well, er —I —. Please read these, Mr. Hawke.”

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Fumbling in her handbag, Miss Walsford handed the detective five letters.

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As he scanned the letters Hawke’s brows contracted into a frown. He was amazed and disgusted at the temerity of the unknown writer.

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The letters were addressed to Miss Walsford, and purported to give her information of the supposed nefarious conduct of her fiancé, Ralph Litteton. Mention was freely made of “another woman,” together with reports of drunken orgies at obscure night clubs.

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Dixon Hawke threw the letters on the desk with a gesture of distaste, and turned to his troubled client.

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Miss Walsford was biting her lip nervously. It was easy to see that, although she was shocked at the letters, they had created a suspicion in her mind. Hawke said abruptly:

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“Miss Walsford, I forbid you believing one word of what is written here. Furthermore, I suggest that you show Mr. Litteton these letters immediately. I gather you have not done so.”

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The girl looked up, startled.

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“No, no, Mr. Hawke, I couldn’t do that. I don’t want to worry Ralph. That is why I came to you.”

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“But why have you waited so long?”

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“I —I thought if I simply took no notice of them they would stop. I have received one every Monday, and —well, I simply could not bear to wait this weekend. The suspense is terrible. But, please, there must be no publicity. The scandal would be dreadful.”

\n\n

The detective frowned.

\n\n

“There is only one way to stop this sort of thing, Miss Walsford, and you are playing into the writer’s hands in refusing to prosecute. I must insist that you prosecute and that you tell Mr. Litteton at once.”

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“Very well, Mr. Hawke, if you think that is best. But leave me to tell Ralph.”

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Dixon Hawke picked up the letters and the envelopes.

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“As you wish, Miss Walsford. However, you might leave them with me for the present. I shall have copies made and return the originals to you shortly. I see the postmarks are all different. Here is one marked Liverpool.”

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“That was the first. Then Manchester, Leeds, York, and Hull.”

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Hawke noted the sequence on the envelopes and continued with some routine questions.

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Miss Walsford was unable to supply any further information, and a few minutes later she left the criminologist’s rooms.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

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Find the Motive!

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When the door had closed, a transformed Hawke turned back to the desk and Tommy sprang to do his bidding as Hawke handed him the letters.

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“Get busy with that camera of yours, Tommy. Give me enlarged prints of each of those letters.”

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The young assistant was not long in carrying out the order, and, leaving the damp prints to dry, Tommy hurried into the office, to find Dixon Hawke studying a map of England and a Post Office Guide.

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Hawke looked up as his assistant entered.

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“We’ve got to find a motive, Tommy. Find out Litteton’s address in the City. We’ll start there.”

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Litteton & Company were wine importers. Although Ralph Litteton was a director of several businesses, his main interest was in the offices at which the two detectives called.

\n\n

Proffering his card to the girl who inquired his business, Dixon Hawke and his assistant were ushered into the inner office.

\n\n

Ralph Litteton greeted Hawke affably.

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“This is certainly an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Hawke. I don’t think we’ve met, but your name is well known.”

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Hawke smiled as he gripped the outstretched hand. “If you don’t mind, Mr. Litteton, I should like to put a few routine questions.”

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“What! Don’t tell me you suspect me of being an international crook.”

\n\n

Dixon Hawke laughed and briefly explained to Litteton that he was on the track of a man or men whom he believed had been employed by the wine importer.

\n\n

Litteton pursed his lips.

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“Afraid I can’t help you very much there. There are quite a few men in the warehouse here, and, although I engaged them and so forth, I leave all supervisory work to my foreman, Brown. To tell you the truth, these last two or three weeks I have been so busy I have been taking very little interest in the business here.”

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“Perhaps I could see Brown.”

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“Yes, that would be best.”

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Litteton pressed the bell, and, to the girl who answered its summons, he said:

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“Miss Wilson, take Mr. Hawke to the warehouse and instruct Brown to give him all the help he can. You’ll excuse me if I don’t come along. I’m rather busy, and I —”

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Dixon Hawke interrupted quickly.

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“Quito all right, Mr. Litteton. I am sure Mr. Brown will take very good care of us.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 3

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The Dismissed Clerk

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When Dixon Hawke had explained his business to the warehouse foreman, Brown looked doubtful.

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“Well, there’s been two men sacked here recently, Mr. Hawke,” he said.

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“The first was Oxenam, one of the carters, and the other was a clerk, Meazer.”

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Hawke looked interested.

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“And the reason?”

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“I caught Oxenam beating one of the horses, and Meazer —”

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While the man was talking they had been walking through the warehouse.

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At this moment they were passing through a room where three clerks were working at a long desk, and Brown was interrupted by a cry from the outside.

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“Bottles.”

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Instantly one of the clerks left his desk and crossed the room to where a narrow conveyor belt emerged from the left wall, and terminated in a large tray. Below the tray a larger belt continued across the room, disappearing through the right wall.

\n\n

Seating himself on a stool, the clerk pulled over a switch, and the belts whirred into motion. Long-necked bottles appeared on the narrow belt, and began piling up on the tray. Waiting until a number had gathered, the clerk pulled a small lever, and the tray tilted, depositing the bottles on the lower belt, where they were whisked out of sight. At the same time the clerk made a note on a paper by his side.

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The two visitors watched the operation with interest.

\n\n

“Quite an ingenious idea,” Dixon Hawke commented.

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“Yes, it was Mr. Litteton’s idea,” Brown explained. “You see, we unpack imported wines on the right, and they have to be carried through to the left, and the clerks have to count and check them.”

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Hawke watched the clerk closely.

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“By the way,” he said, “that man was writing with his right hand when we came in. I see that he made these notes with his left. Is he ambidextrous?”

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“Er —ambi —”

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“I mean, can he write with both hands?”

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“By Jove, you have quick, eyes, Mr. Hawke! No, that’s just a trick they learn working those belts. You see, the lever is on the right side and there is only room for their book on the left, and it is easier to write with the left. They don’t actually write, of course. Just scribble a number and some code letters, then enter them in the ledgers here. That reminds me. This is where that fellow Meazer worked, until I discovered he was slipping bottles off the belt and biding them behind the switchboard there. He walked out at night, as calm as you please, with a bottle under his coat.”

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“You sacked him?”

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“Well, I reported him to Mr. Litteton, and he told me to get rid of him.”

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Continuing the conversation, Dixon Hawke was gratified to learn that Brown could give him particulars of the whereabouts of the two men.

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Oxenam, it appeared, had learned to drive a car, and was working as a lorry driver between London and the Midlands, whilst Meazer had a position with a firm of wholesale manufacturers.

\n\n

After a short tour of the warehouse the two detectives bade good-bye to Brown.

\n\n

Leaving the warehouse, they made their way to the addresses which the foreman had given them, and confirmed the information about Oxenam, at the same time eliciting the fact that Meazer was employed as a commercial traveller, working a Midlands district.

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Chapter 4

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Tracking Down Meazer

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Dixon Hawke looked thoughtful as he returned to the office.

\n\n

Taking the dry prints from Tommy, he studied them carefully. For some ten minutes he concentrated his attention upon the enlarged writing, and Tommy Burke, watching closely, strove to follow his master’s line of thought.

\n\n

The writing in each of the letters was identical. It was slow, laboured writing, sprawling all over the page, and had evidently been the subject of much concentration on the part of the writer. It resembled the painful efforts of a child. Suddenly Hawke looked up.

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“Go down to Simpson’s, the hardware manufacturers, and ask for the loan of a sample bag —a small one will do —and an order book.”

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Tommy Burke looked surprised, and Hawke smiled.

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“Go along, my lad. I’m not thinking of changing my profession, if that’s what is troubling you. Bring that bag to the station; we are going to Sheffield. I’ll pack everything we need personally.”

\n\n

An hour later Dixon Hawke and his assistant were entrained and speeding towards Sheffield. On the rack above their heads reposed a leather bag containing samples of Simpson’s manufactures, and from Hawke’s pocket protruded a blue order book.

\n\n

In Sheffield Dixon Hawke hailed a taxi. To the driver he explained that he and Tommy were commercial travellers new to the district, and asked the driver to take them to some good hotel where they might meet some fellow-travellers.

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“I know the very place you want, sir,” the man answered. “The Bank Hotel, in Swintell Street.”

\n\n

After they had arrived there and Hawke had signed the register as Mr. Robertson, he engaged the clerk in conversation.

\n\n

“By the way,” he said casually, “I think an acquaintance of mine comes here —a Mr. Meazer. Will you tell me if he arrives to-day?”

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“Oh, yes, I know Mr. Meazer, sir,” the clerk answered readily. “He arrived only a short time ago. He comes here every five weeks.”

\n\n

When the clerk mentioned the name, Tommy Burke’s eyes instantly dropped to the register. A few names above their own, the name “Meazer” was inscribed.

\n\n

Tommy was bitterly disappointed; the writing was in no way comparable to that of the letters. Once again Tommy found himself stumped, and the clerk was speaking again.

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“Why, there is Mr. Meazer now, sir. Just going into the dining-room. Shall I call him?”

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Hawke answered quickly:

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“No, no. I’ll look him up after tea.”

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Tommy Burke needed no prompting. He followed their man into the dining-room and took a table some distance from the corner where the man was seating himself.

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Completing his arrangements at the desk, Dixon Hawke joined his assistant, and they observed Meazer order tea.

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“That’s our man, Tommy,” Hawke whispered.

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Tommy accepted the information without question.

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“How are we going to get him, guv’nor?”

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Dixon Hawke pursed his lips.

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“That’s it, my lad. We have no definite proof. We shall have to wait developments. Keep an eye on him, but be careful he is not aware he is under observation.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 5

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Caught in the Act

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After tea Tommy Burke followed Meazer closely, but two hours passed before he observed any suspicious move.

\n\n

Meazer wandered around the hotel, read a paper, spoke to a few men, and generally behaved in the manner of a man idling away his time. Suddenly, as if the idea had occurred to him or he had come to a decision, he made his way to the writing-room.

\n\n

As this was late Saturday afternoon the writing-room was empty.

\n\n

Meazer made his way to one of the writing-tables. Taking a piece of paper from his pocket, he picked up a pen and began to write.

\n\n

Tommy Burke, watching from the doorway, gave a gasp of excitement. Meazer was writing with his left hand. From the awkward manner in which the pen was held, it was easy to see that this was not the writer’s normal position.

\n\n

Tommy Burke hurried off to find his master. Returning with Hawke to the door of the writing-room, he pointed to the bent back of the industrious Meazer and whispered:

\n\n

“He’s using his left hand.”

\n\n

Dixon Hawke smiled.

\n\n

“Easy, isn’t it, Tommy? However, we’ve got to get that letter. Go into the room, pick up an envelope or something, and stumble against Meazer. Make no noise, and try to catch a glimpse of what he is writing.”

\n\n

Tommy carried out the instructions carefully.

\n\n

As the lad stumbled against him, Meazer instantly covered his work and cursed the apologising Tommy profusely.

\n\n

Tommy, however, had seen all that was necessary. The letter began — “Dear Miss Walsford.”

\n\n

Picking up some sheets of writing-paper, Tommy renewed his apologies and hurried from the room.

\n\n

Dixon Hawke nodded approval at his assistant’s information.

\n\n

“Now we’ve got him. Just give him a few minutes to settle down again.”

\n\n

Meazer watched Tommy’s exit suspiciously, and, muttering to himself, turned once more to his letter. For a few minutes he considered what he had written, then bent to his task.

\n\n

Then a hand like a steel vice suddenly seized his wrist.

\n\n

“Quite a pleasant after-dinner recreation, Mr. Meazer,” Hawke said.

\n\n

Starting back in his chair, his eyes dilated with terror, Meazer gasped: “Who are you?”

\n\n

Dixon Hawke ignored the question and glanced at the letter on the table.

\n\n

The scandalous contents of the latest epistle were enough to prove beyond all shadow of doubt that Meazer was responsible for the poison-pen letters.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

What the Letters Revealed

\n\n

In his office that Saturday night was enacted a little drama which gave Dixon Hawke great satisfaction. Miss Walsford had just arrived, summoned by an urgent telephone message, and with her came her fiancé, Mr. Ralph Litteton.

\n\n

“Look here, Mr. Hawke,” he burst out as the detective greeted him. “I wish you’d find the rat for me. You can claim any fee you like.”

\n\n

Hawke smiled as he motioned him to a seat.

\n\n

“I can appreciate your feelings. I presume Miss Walsford has acquainted you with the facts?”

\n\n

“Yes. She told me the wretched story.”

\n\n

Litteton took a seat beside his fiancée. As he did so he became aware of a man seated in a corner of the room.

\n\n

“Hello, Meazer. What are you —By Jove, you —you are —”

\n\n

With a start Litteton jumped to his feet, but Hawke intervened.

\n\n

“Please, Mr. Litteton, you must remain quiet.”

\n\n

Walking across the room, Dixon Hawke addressed the girl:

\n\n

“Miss Walsford, I am glad to be able to give you a certain amount of satisfaction in this painful business. I have brought the author of those letters here to offer an apology. I regret this distressing scene, but since you do not wish publicity, I feel this my only alternative.”

\n\n

Turning to the cringing Meazer, he continued:

\n\n

“Now, please make your statement.”

\n\n

Meazer rose from his chair and addressed the girl.

\n\n

In halting sentences the man told how he had been employed by Litteton, and had been dismissed for pilfering. The dismissal had rankled in his mind until the announcement of his ex-employer’s engagement had given him the opportunity for revenge, and he had attempted to wound Litteton through the girl. He ended with an abrupt apology.

\n\n

During this time Miss Walsford made no remark. It was obvious that the interview was as painful to her as it was to the wielder of the “poison pen.” When the man had finished Dixon Hawke stepped across to the door and pulled it open. On the threshold stood a man with a notebook in his hand.

\n\n

“Did you get it all, Inspector?”

\n\n

“Every word,” the man replied, and slipped handcuffs on Meazer, whom he led away.

\n\n

When the police officer had gone with his prisoner, Hawke turned to Miss Walsford.

\n\n

“I must apologise for the deception. Miss Walsford, but you realise that you owe that to the public. I think this fright will cure Meazer of any further “poison pen” attempts. There will be no names given at the trial, and you need fear no scandal.”

\n\n

Alone with Tommy Burke after his clients had gone, Dixon Hawke turned to his assistant.

\n\n

“I see the questions in your face, Tommy, and I think I owe you an explanation. I shall try to explain my line of deduction.”

\n\n

Seating himself at his desk, Dixon Hawke arranged the letters and photographic prints before him, while Tommy watched his chief closely.

\n\n

“You see,” Hawke began, “in the first place, the writing is laboured, which offers the obvious explanation that the writer was illiterate. If you will study the letters closely, however, you will see that they are balanced and written in good English. You will also observe certain characteristics —a certain flourish which denotes the practised writer. Now, when I write with my right hand there is a flourish to my writing which is the outcome of years of constant use of the pen; when I take the pen in my left hand I not unnaturally attempt to write my normal style. This is a mistake, as my left hand must be trained from simple forms, as has been my right.

\n\n

“One other point. All normal people form the letter ‘o’ anti-clockwise. In these letters the word ‘ on ‘ occurs frequently, and friend Meazer in the first of the letters has formed the ‘o’ clockwise, which is easier with the left hand, but towards the end he has reverted to his normal style.

\n\n

“There are other small points —for instance, where he has retouched with his right hand, but these are the main features. From them I concluded that the writer was a practised penman, and someone who, although not ambidextrous, had at least some skill with his left hand. Our little tour of the warehouse confirmed my deductions.”

\n\n

“And Sheffield, guv’nor?”

\n\n

“Well, the letters came from towns forming a circuit. I chose Sheffield as the next largest town on the circuit.”

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Judgement", "author": "G. H. Williams", "body": ""

In twenty years he’d never had to use the gun. Now it looked as if he might have to break his record …

\n\n

Jess had kept his eye on the two since they had come in. Both of them were young, hardly more than kids, dressed “cat” style in Mr. B shirts, draped coats and peg pants. They had not caused any trouble. All they had done was sit quietly at the end of the bar drinking beer.

\n\n

Still Jess did not like their looks. Hoods he could handle because he always knew what they were thinking. Kids were different. They were always surprising you. You couldn’t trust any of them.

\n\n

Standing behind the bar he watched the place slowly empty. The two of them did not move.

\n\n

Jess was not afraid. He had owned the bar for twenty years and had yet to use the forty-five that rested on a shelf beneath the register. Occasionally, he would have a trouble-some drunk but very seldom. Usually the drunk would take one look at the scar tissue around Jess’ eyes, his flattened nose, and cauliflower ear, then decide to move on.

\n\n

Finally the kids were the last customers left. Slowly, dabbing at glass rings on the bar with a rag, Jess moved down toward them.

\n\n

“I’m sorry, fellows,” he said, “I’m closing up. You’re going to have to come back another time. Sorry.”

\n\n

He grinned, showing his two gold teeth.

\n\n

They only stared at him and drank their beer.

\n\n

Little punks, he thought. Trying to act smart. They’re all alike. They’re what’s wrong with the world. Punks.

\n\n

“It’s after curfew, so I can’t serve you, anyway. So would you mind finishing up and moving along?” Jess was still grinning. “Come back any time between five and midnight. I’ll be glad to have you.”

\n\n

One kid turned to the other.

\n\n

“Did you hear the man say something, Phil?”

\n\n

“No, I sure didn’t. Maybe he just coughed.”

\n\n

“Yeah. That must have been it.”

\n\n

“He’s real clever,” the one called Phil said.

\n\n

If it had not been for the hardness in their eyes Jess would have laughed at them. They were talking like a couple of movie, tough guys.

\n\n

“I’m going to have to ask you to move on,” Jess said again.

\n\n

“I don’t think he wants us here, Phil. He’s trying to get us to beat it.”

\n\n

“That makes me feel lousy, when somebody tells me to leave a place.” Phil sipped his beer. “I hate for people not to like me. It makes me feel lousy. Know what I mean?”

\n\n

Jess wanted to tell them to act their age but instead he said, “Look, I know how it is when you’ve had a couple too many. Go on home and sleep it off. No hard feelings.”

\n\n

“That’s damn white of you,” Phil said. “It makes me feel good all over. There’s only one thing that would make me feel better.”

\n\n

Phil grinned and took a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket.

\n\n

“You know what that is?”

\n\n

He lit a cigarette and blew a stream of smoke through his nose.

\n\n

“Well, it would be for you to open that register and give us a little going-away present. That would make us feel real good.”

\n\n

All the time the boy had been speaking the two of them had not taken their eyes from Jess. He was beginning to sweat. He felt it trickle down his back and knew his shirt was turning dark beneath the arms.

\n\n

“All right,” Jess said, making his voice hard, “you guys had better cut it out now and beat it. Go on now and I won’t remember what you look like. If you don’t, I’ll see that you spend a little time on the roads. If you don’t believe me, just keep up the way you’re going.”

\n\n

“You’re real tough, aren’t you?”

\n\n

“Tough enough to handle two punks like you.”

\n\n

Phil put his hand inside his coat and let it stay.

\n\n

“If I have to take my hand out you know what’s going to happen, don’t you?”

\n\n

“You’re making a big mistake,” Jess said.

\n\n

“Yeah. I’m going to lose all kinds of sleep over it.”

\n\n

“Cut out the stalling,” Phil said. “Open the register.”

\n\n

Jess watched the two of them as he edged toward the register.

\n\n

“You kids had better think this over.”

\n\n

“Come on.”

\n\n

As Jess reached the register he laid his hand on the butt of the forty-five resting on its shelf. It felt cold and heavy in his hand as he turned and fired.

\n\n

He had hurried his first shot a bit and it was wild, smashing the neon clock above the men’s room. But the next two shots were not wild. The kid beside Phil was hurled from his stool to the floor beside one of the booths.

\n\n

It was not like the movies. He didn’t wobble or groan. One moment he was sitting on the stool, the next he was laying on his back beside one of the booths.

\n\n

Phil had dropped down beside his stool, sobbing, “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. I don’t have any rod. For God’s sake, we were only kidding. Don’t shoot.”

\n\n

Jess walked around the bar and stood looking down at him. He was crouched beside the stool, unable to keep his eyes from the body beside the booths.

\n\n

“Get up,” Jess said.

\n\n

Phil stood, muttering, “You didn’t have to level on us. Why the hell did you do it?”

\n\n

Jess lowered the gun.

\n\n

“Don’t try nothing, punk. Just stand easy.”

\n\n

He went to the pay phone and put in a call to the police. All the time he was talking he did not take his eyes from the kid.

\n\n

When he came back the kid had stopped sobbing.

\n\n

“Look, mister,” he pleaded. “You got to let me go. I never done nothing like this before. Honest to God. It will kill my folks.”

\n\n

Jess looked at him.

\n\n

Punk kids, he thought, are what’s wrong with the world now. He’ll get a couple of years in the reformatory and be back out to bother innocent people.

\n\n

“All right, kid,” Jess smiled. “Beat it.”

\n\n

“You mean it?”

\n\n

“Sure. Go ahead.”

\n\n

The kid stood in the doorway without moving, watching him coldly.

\n\n

Jess said: “What are you waiting for? I’m not going to tell the police anything about you.”

\n\n

“You’re damn right you’re not,” the kid said thinly.

\n\n

Jess never felt the bullet that smashed into his brain.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Police Sometimes Guess Wrong", "author": "Harold Ward", "body": ""
\n\t
\n\t\t
Table of Contents
\n\t
\n\n
\n

\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Somebody’s Snuffed Old Levi Jones’s Lights Out

\n\n

My visitor dropped wearily into the chair across the desk from me, a look of horror on his pale, weak face.

\n\n

“There’s been a murder!” he gasped thickly. “Old Levi Jones — Jones, the money lender! Stabbed! Safe opened and rifled — everything taken!”

\n\n

“Who killed him?” I snapped.

\n\n

“I — I don’t know.” He buried his face in his hands and sobbed softly for an instant. “I went there to rob him. I found somebody had beat me to it and had — killed — him! Oh, God! It’s horrible!” he ended, sobbing again.

\n\n

“Let’s get the straight of this,” I commanded gruffly. Police chiefs are not usually the sweetest tempered men in the world, and I am no exception to the rule — especially when I have been without sleep for forty-eight hours, as in the present instance. “You say that old Jones is dead — murdered — his safe robbed? I’ve had no report of it. Now who the devil are you and how does it come that you know so much about the affair?”

\n\n

My visitor stopped his snivelling abruptly.

\n\n

“I’m Tompkins,” he answered shortly, as if the mention of his name settled the whole affair.

\n\n

“That fails to enlighten me,” I growled. “Elucidate.”

\n\n

“I am — or was until this afternoon — Jones’ clerk. We had a racket — a quarrel — and he fired me. Let me go without a second’s notice. And he owed me four hundred dollars commission for dirty work that I’ve done for him. Refused to give me a cent of it. Told me to go to the devil when I threatened to tell the police of some of his crooked deals. Said that I was as deep in the mire as he was in the mud and that his word, because he was rich, would go farther than mine anyway. That’s why I — that’s the reason I went there to rob the safe tonight — just to get what was coming to me. I swear I didn’t intend to take a cent more than he owed me.”

\n\n

I nodded uncomprehendingly.

\n\n

“All right. Now go ahead with your story,” I said, a trifle more gently than before.

\n\n

Tompkins dabbed at his eyes with his handkerchief.

\n\n

“I went to the office tonight just about midnight,” he explained, “intending to let myself in with my passkey. When we had our racket today the old man forgot to ask me for it and I was too sore to give it to him — me who’s done his dirty work for five years past and then getting fired that way.

\n\n

“I knew that he hadn’t had the combination on the safe changed, and he and I were the only ones who knew it. I knew that if I got the four hundred he owed me he’d never dare squeal. And even if he did I’d be far enough way by morning to be out of danger. You know where his office is? — fifth floor of the Torrence Building. I climbed the stairs rather than take the elevator, figuring on not taking any chances.

\n\n

“I didn’t meet a soul on the way going up. The office was dark. I let myself in with my passkey, stood inside the door listening for an instant, then pulled down the shade so that there would no light show through the ground-glass panel of the door. Then I tiptoed my way to the two windows and pulled down their shades and then punched the electric-light button. I don’t know why I tiptoed. No one knew that I had been fired, and anyone in the building would have presumed, had they noticed me, that I was there working overtime, as I often have in the past. I suppose that it was the natural caution a man feels when he knows that he is somewhere he hadn’t ought to be.”

\n\n

He hesitated a second. Then: “I suppose that you’ll think I’m a darned liar when I tell you what happened,” he finally resumed.

\n\n

“Go ahead!” I said shortly.

\n\n

“When the lights flashed on I naturally took a survey of the room. The safe was standing open with a lot of papers that had been in it strewn about the floor.

\n\n

“I knew then that somebody had been there ahead of me — might be there then. You can bet that I lost no time in making for the door.

\n\n

“I was scared — scared all over. I had that creepy feeling that a fellow gets at such times. And just as I got my hand on the knob I heard a noise from the private office — the office the old man uses — used, I mean — in which to receive his clients.

\n\n

“It sounded like a moan — a sort of dull, throaty groan!

\n\n

“Every hair on my scalp rose straight up. I turned my head involuntarily in the direction from whence the sound came.

\n\n

“Through the door I saw the old man sitting behind his desk, his head hanging over the hack of his chair! The handle of a knife was sticking out of his chest, and his whole breast was covered with blood!

\n\n

“Right then and there I opened the door and fled. You couldn’t have held me in that room with a million dollars.”

\n\n

“Did you see anyone in the corridor as you passed out?” I asked.

\n\n

Tompkins looked sheepish.

\n\n

“That’s one of the reasons I hurried right here, Chief,” he answered. “One of the fellows who cleans the rooms — janitors I guess you’d call ‘em — was puttering around in the hallway a dozen doors down. I’m pretty certain that he saw me. They all knew me by sight, probably, and I knew that as soon as the murder was discovered he’d remember seeing me come out and report me.

\n\n

“My first idea was to beat it out of town. But I’m short on money and I knew that you’d get me sooner or later anyway. So I decided to get to you first, make a clean breast of what actually happened and turn myself over to you for attempted burglary before you got me for murder.”

\n\n

“How long ago did this happen?” I demanded.

\n\n

Tompkins shuddered.

\n\n

“Not over ten minutes,” he answered. “You know the Torrence Building’s only six blocks away and I hurried here as fast as my legs would carry me.”

\n\n

I jabbed the button which brought Moore of the Detective Bureau to my side.

\n\n

“Get a couple of your best men and come with me!” I told him. “Somebody’s snuffed old Levi Jones’s light out.”

\n\n

Moore gave a quick glance at Tompkins.

\n\n

“The old devil’s been flirting with trouble for the past ten or fifteen years!” he remarked dryly, as he turned to obey my order. “Meet you in the hallway, Chief, with Dugan and Miles, in about two minutes.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

Food For Thought

\n\n

Things in Jones’s office were as Tompkins — who was shaking as if with the ague when we entered the room — had described them. In the outer office the lights were still burning as he had said he had left them. They disclosed to view a safe rather larger than the ordinary, the door of which was standing wide open. Drawers had been pulled out and their contents scattered about the floor.

\n\n

Giving Dugan, who was a finger-print expert of more than ordinary ability, his instructions, the remainder of us entered the smaller office.

\n\n

Jones was seated in a high-back, broad-armed, leather-upholstered chair, his right side turned toward the door. His body was slumped backward, his head hanging over the back of the chair in an indescribable — almost grotesque — position. His eyes were wide open, staring glassily at us. Never a handsome man, with his long hooked nose and thin, cadaverous face surmounted by its thatch of unkempt hair, in death he was positively repulsive.

\n\n

From his left breast protruded the handle of a knife. It had evidently been driven from behind over his shoulder and with tremendous force straight to the heart. That death had been instantaneous there was not a doubt. A thin stream of blood had flown from the wound, staining the shirtfront a dull brownish crimson.

\n\n

I took one of the old man’s claw-like hands in my own. The body was already beginning to grow cold. I deduced — and Moore and Miles agreed with me — that he had been dead at least an hour.

\n\n

I turned to Tompkins, who had dropped into the nearest chair and was again sniveling to himself.

\n\n

“Have you ever seen that knife before?” I asked, pointing to the weapon in the dead man’s breast.

\n\n

Tompkins nodded.

\n\n

“God! Yes!” he answered. “It was his. Somebody gave it to him once — always kept it on his desk for a paper weight and letter opener.”

\n\n

I called Dugan from the other room.

\n\n

“Look that knife-handle over for prints!” I told him.

\n\n

The little detective busied himself with his magnifying glass for a brief time. Then he turned to me with a shrug of his thin shoulders.

\n\n

“Th’ fellow that did this job didn’t even go to the trouble of wearin’ rubber gloves, Chief. He did the same with this handle that he did with the safe — wiped everything off with a cloth. Maybe used alcohol. There isn’t even a chicken track on either one of them!”

\n\n

I turned to Moore.

\n\n

“Find the caretaker and have him bring up the janitor who takes care of this floor,” I instructed.

\n\n

Then I commanded Tompkins to make a hurried inventory of the contents of the safe. He skimmed over the various papers inside of the pigeonholes and on the floor, completing his task inside of five minutes.

\n\n

“There was over five thousand dollars in there when I quit this afternoon,” he announced. “In addition several securities that I have noticed in one of the drawers — valued probably at ten or fifteen thousand — are gone. I know that they were there when I left the office, because the old man had been checking them over, and I saw him put ‘em back. It was past banking hours, then, so that the thief must have taken them.”

\n\n

I looked at Dugan.

\n\n

“How was the box cracked?” I asked.

\n\n

The little detective grinned.

\n\n

“‘Twasn’t cracked. Chief,” he answered. “The fellow that got inside that box worked the combination. The only fellow that I know who’s clever enough for such a job is Eddie New.”

\n\n

The sniveling Tompkins let out a lusty squawk.

\n\n

“I tell you it can’t be!” he wailed. “Nobody knew the combination except old Jones and myself!”

\n\n

I turned to the telephone on the desk and called up Headquarters.

\n\n

“Lenny,” I instructed the sergeant who answered, “look up the records and tell me where Eddie New is right now.”

\n\n

In less than a minute the answer came back over the wire: “Chief, Eddie’s laid up with a broken leg — result of an automobile smashup — in Greely’s hangout. Got hurt the week after he got out of stir.”

\n\n

I hung up the receiver with a bang.

\n\n

Obviously the murderer and thief was not Eddie New, the only crook in the city really competent of opening a strictly modern safe such as that before us without damaging the mechanism. Nor was Eddie New the sort of man to commit a murder; he was of the more modern, “Jimmie Valentine” sort — clever with his fingers, clever with his head, planning his work as carefully as a business man plans his deals, guarding every contingency before taking a step.

\n\n

There was a bare possibility that Jones had opened the safe himself while entertaining some visitor, and that later the visitor had taken his life and made away with the money and securities. But granting that such was the case, why had the murderer gone to the trouble of carefully wiping the finger prints off from the safe? For in such a case the only prints would be those of the dead man himself. Verily the affair was assuming some angles that gave food for thought.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

A Package of Bills

\n\n

Moore entered with Grady, the head janitor, and a pale, dull-appearing man whom he introduced as Billy Murphy, who, according to Grady, did the cleaning on the fifth floor. Tompkins identified him at once as the man he had seen cleaning the corridor at the time he made his escape from the office after discovering the murder.

\n\n

Murphy, readily admitting that he had noticed Tompkins leave the office hurriedly about midnight, came forward with a story which complicated matters worse than ever:

\n\n

He had been working some distance down the hallway between ten and eleven o’clock. At that time, chancing to pass Jones’s office, he had seen a light shining through the ground-glass door. About half an hour later, again passing the door, he had heard the sound of voices — one low and indistinct, the other plainly recognizable as that of the money lender himself.

\n\n

He imagined that he had heard a cry. Yet he was not certain. At any rate, Jones’s voice had stopped suddenly, but inasmuch as he, Murphy, was moving down the corridor at the time, he had given the matter no more thought.

\n\n

Later he remembered again passing the office and noticing that the light had been extinguished. That was all that he knew about the affair until he saw Tompkins rush out of the place about midnight.

\n\n

The man was plainly nervous and ill at ease, as is usually the case of the more ignorant when brought face to face with the law for the first time. Yet something about his manner caused me to do some hurried thinking. When he had completed his story I ordered him searched.

\n\n

Hidden in his inside coat pocket Moore found a package of bills amounting to nearly one thousand dollars!

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

The “Third Degree”

\n\n

Whence came that money? Hundred-dollar-a-month janitors are not apt to be carrying huge amounts of cash about their clothes. Breaking down under our questioning he said that he had found the money in the hallway close to the door at the time he had passed the office a third time and discovered it dark. He was a poor man, he said, with a wife and family to support. He had at first intended turning the money in to Grady, his superior, but later decided to keep it, hiding it until the hue and cry which was certain to follow its loss had blown over, when he would bank it a small amount at a time.

\n\n

There was nothing for me to do but hold William Murphy for the murder of Levi Jones.

\n\n

He confessed.

\n\n

Yet after he had admitted to the killing of Levi Jones I felt that he was a liar even though his confession as I had written it and with his rambling signature at the end lay before me. The pieces refused to dovetail together.

\n\n

Although policemen refuse to admit that there is such a thing as the “Third Degree,” seldom is a confession secured without using some method which would not stand the limelight of publicity. The newspaper boys know it and wink at it. It is necessary and, in some form or another, is used the world over. It is part of the price the criminal pays for his war against society. I used the “Third Degree” on William Murphy.

\n\n

A glance at his peculiar complexion and the nervous twitching of his facial muscles showed that he was a “dope.” The presence of a small quantity of cocaine in his pocket substantiated the fact.

\n\n

It was nearly morning when we arrested Murphy. He had been working all night. Naturally, he was tired and sleepy. For the remainder of that day and half of the following night Moore, Dugan, Miles and myself took turns keeping him awake. We questioned him constantly and from a thousand angles. He refused to tell a different story than the one he had given us at first — that of finding the money in the hallway.

\n\n

On the table before his weary eyes we laid a big package of “dope.” At frequent intervals we brought into the room other “snowbirds.” We gave them free rein to the “snow.” The joyous light that overspread their features as they sniffed the poison was enough to break a stronger will than that of William Murphy. He finally gave up.

\n\n

I read to him the confession as I had reconstructed the crime. According to my deductions Jones had gone to his office to work. He had opened the safe and was in his private office when Murphy entered to do the cleaning. In front of Jones was a package of bills he was counting. The paper cutter lay before him. Naturally he thought nothing of seeing Murphy — a man who was in the office daily — busied about his duties.

\n\n

Working up to a point close to the money lender, Murphy had suddenly leaped forward, seized the old man by the throat with one hand and with the other plunged the knife into his breast. Even if there had been an outcry, no one would have heard it at that time of night and on that deserted floor. Recalling the stories he had heard of the folly of leaving finger-prints, he had hastily wiped off the knife-handle and the safe dial with his dust cloth — after looting the safe — and hurried back to his work, springing the lock on the door after him.

\n\n

This was the crime as I reconstructed it and the confession in substance that Murphy signed.

\n\n

He repudiated it next day at the preliminary hearing, upon the advice of his attorney.

\n\n

And I, despite the fact that he had confessed to me, felt that the confession was a falsehood. For there was one weak spot in the whole affair.

\n\n

Tompkins stuck to his assertion that there had been at least five thousand dollars in cash in the safe and securities amounting to between ten and fifteen thousand dollars. There was every reason to believe that as Jones’s clerk he knew what he was talking about. We had found less than a thousand dollars on Murphy when we searched him.

\n\n

Granted that I was right and that the confession I had forced from the janitor was the truth, what had become of the remainder of the money? Murphy was not clever enough to hide it and keep it hidden in the face of the terrific grilling we had given him. Nor, on the other hand, was he clever enough to act as the tool for someone else, the payment being the money we had found on his person, and keep from disclosing the fact under the “Third Degree.”

\n\n

There was something decidedly rotten in Denmark. I was man enough to admit this fact to Moore and his men during the recess after Murphy had taken the stand at preliminary hearing and to admit to them also that if Tompkins confirmed his statement regarding the amount of money when he took the stand that we would have considerable trouble in getting a conviction when the case came to trial. For the court had appointed to defend the janitor a young attorney of more than ordinary ability — a man who might be expected to do his utmost for his client on account of the advertising he would receive in case of an acquittal.

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Chapter 5

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The Handle of the Knife

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Tompkins was the first witness called after recess. He was visibly nervous, yet he retold the story he had told to me almost word for word. The prosecuting attorney was about to turn him over to the attorney for the defense for cross-examination when, like a bolt out of a clear sky, the truth suddenly came to me.

\n\n

I leaned across the table and whispered to the prosecutor. A startled look flashed across his face, and an instant later he was on his feet moving for an adjournment. His motion was granted. Five minutes later he, Tompkins, Murphy and his attorney, Dugan, Moore, Miles and myself were closeted in the prosecutor’s rooms.

\n\n

I turned upon Tompkins.

\n\n

“You cur!” I shouted, shaking my fist under his nose; “you killed Levi Jones yourself, and I, like a fool, almost sent an innocent man to the gallows for your crime!”

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He shrank back, while a gasp of astonishment went up from the others in the room.

\n\n

“I — I — “ he commenced to stammer. But I stopped him.

\n\n

“Let me tell you just what happened,” I went on. “You and old Jones were working in the office during the early part of the evening. Murphy says that he saw a light when he passed the door. You lie when you say that Jones fired you during the afternoon. The truth of the matter is that the altercation took place at the time when Murphy says that he heard angry voices as he again passed the door.

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“You had probably often quarreled before. Therefore, Jones had no suspicion when you passed behind him. You seized the knife and plunged it into his heart!

\n\n

“The remainder was easy — for you are a smooth customer — so smooth that you had me hoodwinked all the way through! You rifled the safe, wiped off the finger-prints from it and the knife-handle, and then, watching your chance, tossed the roll of bill out into the hallway where you knew Murphy would find them when he started his cleaning. You knew that he was simple-minded — a dope fiend — knew just what his mental process would be and that he would admit anything under the terrors of the “third degree.” That you guessed right is proved by the result.

\n\n

“Then you turned out the lights and watched your chance. You probably had the door open a crack. You saw Murphy pick up the roll of money, stuff it into his pocket and, after looking around to see that he was unobserved, busy himself with his pail and mop. Then, when you were certain that he could see you, you rushed from the office and past him to the stairway.

\n\n

“Your scheme was clever — diabolically so. I’m intensely human — human enough not to suspect a man who openly confesses that he went to a place to commit a burglary and finds that a murder had been committed. I swallowed your story like a veritable boob.

\n\n

“You realized that, under ordinary circumstances, you would probably be suspected. Therefore, by coming straight to police headquarters, admitting your premeditated guilt and telling of the murder, you threw any suspicions I might otherwise have had to the winds. I went into the investigation firmly convinced that you were innocent. I might have run into evidence against you, but you had it all discounted in advance.

\n\n

“You made one fatal mistake. I made the other. Mine nearly hanged poor Murphy, here, while yours will hang yourself.”

\n\n

Tompkins gulped. Then: “All right, Chief, you’ve got me foul, I guess. I put the money and securities in an envelope addressed to myself and dropped it down the mail chute. It should have been delivered yesterday afternoon at my home address. There’s just one question I’d like to ask:

\n\n

I nodded. “Fire away.”

\n\n

“I’ll admit that I thought I had things fixed up so that you wouldn’t suspect me. And besides I’m a pretty fair actor and I pulled the sob stuff pretty decently you’ll admit. But you say that I made one mistake. Do you mind telling me what it was?”

\n\n

It was my turn to smile. “Tompkins,” I said, “your story was too perfect. Remember you told me — and you repeated the same story on the witness stand just now — that you seized the knob of the outer door ready to bolt when you heard a moan. You turned quickly, you claimed, and through the door you saw Jones sitting at his desk, his head hanging over the back of his chair, the handle of a knife sticking out of his chest and his breast covered with blood. That’s where you made you big mistake.”

\n\n

Tompkins looked puzzled.

\n\n

“I’m still in the dark,” he declared.

\n\n

“Because,” I answered, “the position of Jones’s desk is such that he was seated with his right side toward the door. He was slumped down in his chair — which is leather upholstered with huge arms, his head hanging over the back and side. It was not until you told your story a second time on the witness stand and I visualized the scene of the crime that the truth suddenly flashed over me.

\n\n

“From the position of Jones’s desk and the way he was sitting with his right side turned toward the doorway, a man standing at the outer doorway couldn’t see the handle of the knife which was plunged into his heart!”

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Pistol-Packing Cyclists", "author": "Freeman H. Hubbard", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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Ingleside

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Hard-riding hombres of the Old West laughed in decision on hearing the strange news. Two pistol-fading gents who never forked a bronc had succeeded the Renos, the Daltons, the Youngers and the James boys in the train-robbing business. This pair looted the steam cars and made their getaway on bicycles. It sounded funny.

\n\n

But Big Jim Browning and his small partner, Jade Brady, were not characters to be laughed at. This fact Connie Stagg learned a split second too late. Connie happened to be a tough guy himself. His last mistake was thinking that the stickup of his roadhouse at Ingleside, near San Francisco, on the dark foggy night of May 5, 1895, was a practical joke.

\n\n

Connie sat at a little table in his barroom playing poker with Adolf Huber. All the other customers had gone home. Oil lamps shed a dim light over the wall clock that was just about to clasp its hands in midnight embrace. Beneath a cruddy painted “Venus at the Bath,” the bartender slowly polished his schooners, killing time until the boss wanted to close. A waiter had just begun to sweep out. There was nobody else around.

\n\n

The door opened. Big Jim and his pal entered with a swirl of fog. Both were masked. They carried wicked-looking six-shooters leveled for action. The tall man barked:

\n\n

“Hands up, everybody!”

\n\n

Three pair of hands reached for the ceiling. Connie grinned and slapped a card on the table.

\n\n

“Hello, boys! This ain’t masquerade night. But go ahead and have your fun!”

\n\n

Browning snarled: “I said hands up!”

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The roadhouse owner was still smiling pleasantly. “It’s not safe to play with them things. They might be loaded.”

\n\n

“For the last time — “

\n\n

“All right,” beamed Connie, “I’ll play too.”

\n\n

His right hand reached jestingly under the table. Two six shooters spat vicious flame. Connie’s smile faded. He clutched the table, wobbled crazily, and fell to the floor. Browning bent over him.

\n\n

“Dead as a mackerel!”

\n\n

While the short man was rifling the pockets of the late proprietor and the others. Big Jim ransacked the cash drawer. They stuffed the money, two watches and a diamond stickpin into their own pockets. Big Tim croaked a warning as they backed to the door:

\n\n

“See that clock? Don’t move till it says ten after twelve! Anyone who does’ll get a dose of lead.”

\n\n

There was no doubt that the tall man meant what he said. The three murder witnesses waited tensely till twelve-fifteen. Then they phoned the police. By the time the hands reached twelve-thirty, bluecoats and enraged neighbors were scouring the town of Ingleside and its vicinity. But the killers had vanished into thick white fog, silently pedaling away on bicycles. How they escaped was not learned till weeks afterward.

\n\n

The clue came with an epidemic of armed robberies in the gas-lit streets, stores and homes of San Francisco. The crime wave lasted more than two months. People feared to venture outdoors after dark. Most of the holdups during that period ran true to pattern: a tall man, a short man, both masked, armed and riding bikes. It was easy for the police to connect this reign of terror with the roadhouse murder.

\n\n

San Francisco’s detective force was concentrated on this case. Every night a hundred sleuths in plain clothes roamed the streets, hoping the cyclists would try to rob them. Police were told, “Shoot to kill!” On two or three occasions the, bandits were sighted pedaling away, but fled unscathed after an interchange of bullets.

\n\n

Newspapers printed a police notice: “All men are warned not to ride bicycles in pairs at night, lest they be mistaken for the two robbers and shot oil sight.” Another notice advised people who traveled the streets after dark to carry little or no money with them.

\n\n

In July of that year, detectives learned the names of the bicycle bandits and checked up on their records. Both had served prison terms in San Quentin for grand larceny, were released in 1892, and subsequently worked as ranch hands in various parts of California. Shortly after these facts came out, the two men ceased to operate in San Francisco.

\n\n

The city had become too hot for them. Besides, they aimed at bigger stakes. They knew that the express cars of through trains carried safes filled with money. One lucky haul could give them a life on Easy Street.

\n\n

They studied Southern Pacific timetables. The southbound Oregon Express, thundering through the night from Portland to Oakland, looked like a perfect setup. It crossed the Sacramento River at the California state capital under cover of darkness. The opposite side of the river was pretty much deserted. They cruised around the spot on bicycles, noting every detail.

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“Good place to bury the loot,” said Brady, nodding toward a clump of bushes.

\n\n

His partner rolled a cigarette and lit it.

\n\n

“Couldn’t be better. We’ll hide our bikes an’ a shovel near the river bank an’ meet the train on the bridge when she’s goin’ slow.”

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Chapter 2

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The Oregon Express

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Came the night of August 25th — less than four months after the roadhouse murder. A bright moon. The Oregon Express rumbled hollowly across the bridge and was just about to pick up speed when two masked figures darted out of the shadows and swiftly climbed onto the tender. Each had a burlap bag sticking out of his left pocket.

\n\n

Drawing revolvers, Browning and Brady worked their way down the dark shifting coal pile and stepped across the gangway into the lighted engine cab. Engineer and fireman whirled around.

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“Robbers!” gasped the engineer.

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Big Jim stood with feet apart to brace himself in the swaying cab. There was a hard grin on his face and his eyes glittered as wickedly as a rattlesnake’s.

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“See these guns? I’m givin’ the orders. Now stop this train damn quick!’’

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With a deft movement of each hand, the engineer shut his throttle and set the air brakes. The Oregon Express jerked violently to a stop. Wheels ceased rolling on the far side of the bridge, about a mile from the village of Washington. Following their pre-arranged plans, Brady kept the engine crew covered while Browning uncoupled the first car, the Wells Fargo express, from the other cars.

\n\n

Then, to the engineer: “Pull ahead a few hundred yards! … Okay, stop here! … You two get off an’ walk back to the train! An’ don’t look around!”

\n\n

Browning and Brady then turned their attention to the treasure car. In each of their burlap bags was wrapped a stick of dynamite. One stick shattered a car door that the express messenger refused to open. The bandits climbed in. Big Jim pointed to the safe with his pistol.

\n\n

“Open that!’’

\n\n

“I can’t,” protested the Wells Fargo man. “That’s a through safe. The company locks it in Portland and doesn’t open it till we get to Oakland. I don’t even know what’s inside.”

\n\n

“The hell you don’t!”

\n\n

Jim’s pistol butt swung down on the messenger’s head. Dazed and bleeding, the man stuck to his story. Browning hit him again. At last he was satisfied that the messenger was telling the truth. He turned to Brady.

\n\n

“Okay, Jack, we’ll use your dynamite now.”

\n\n

The wrecked safe yielded a fortune. There were fabulous piles of large-denomination bank notes, crisp and neatly wrapped, as well as small white sacks stenciled Wills Fargo Express Co. Each sack was bulging with shiny gold coins. Expert fingers counted the booty — about fifty thousand dollars! The bandits gloated as they dumped it into the bags.

\n\n

These they lugged over to the bushes, glancing back at the dismembered train to see if they were being watched. Then they buried the treasure by moonlight, patting down the black earth with care.

\n\n

Finally, mounting their bikes, they rode away. Neither suspected that a stranger, peering through the shadowy march tules at the river’s edge, had witnessed the burial with greedy eyes.

\n\n

Meanwhile, telegraph and telephone wires were carrying news of the crime all over the state. Trainmen and passengers had run from the stranded cars to Washington village and spread the alarm. Even before Browning and Brady left the express car, posses were being sworn in at the state capital, Sacramento, just across the river, to track them down.

\n\n

At first the law officers were mystified at the getaway, for nobody had seen horses or heard the thud of hoofs. When the Wells Fargo man described his assailants as “one tall, the other short,” law officers quickly connected them with the cyclists who had terrorized San Francisco during the summer. But no hint of this conclusion was allowed to reach the newspapers.

\n\n

As one sleuth put it:

\n\n

“We mustn’t tip ‘em off that we think they robbed the express. If they abandon their wheels they’ll be harder to catch.”

\n\n

And so, lulled into false security, Browning and Brady pedaled back to the river one day to dig up the fortune. Their spirits were high. As they rode along that day in early September, 1895, they talked of plans they had already made to travel abroad.

\n\n

But at the burial spot a rude shock awaited them. The money was gone! Someone else had gotten there first. Frantically they searched, turning up the black soil. No luck!

\n\n

“Don’t look at me that way!” croaked Big Jim. “You know I didn’t take it an’ I know you didn’t.”

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“Then who did?” the short man demanded.

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“How in hell should I know? Mebbe some lousy gumshoe. But I ain’t bawlin’ over spilled milk. It’s gone now an’ we’re almost flat busted. We gotta pull another job.”

\n\n

A few days later the partners in crime went to Yuba City, California. After hiding their bikes under a bridge, they hired a farmer to drive them in his buggy to the Davisville station of the S. P. There they bought tickets, boarded a late afternoon train, and sat in a day coach.

\n\n

They did not expect to find valuable express cargo on this train, but they did know that its Pullmans usually carried a lot of miners and farmers who had just collected money in San Francisco. Their plan was quite simple. Pull the bell cord near Yuba City to stop the train. Walk through the Pullmans with guns drawn and collect from the passengers. Escape as usual on bicycles.

\n\n

One detail they overlooked. Further down the aisle in their day coach sat a former convict who had known Browning and Brady at San Quentin. He recognized them, but they did not see him. Walking casually into the car behind, he found the conductor.

\n\n

“Do you remember the Connie Stagg murder case?” he asked in a low tone.

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“Yes, what about it?” replied the trainman.

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“The killers are on this train. I know them both. A tall guy and a short one, sitting together near the front of the car ahead.”

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The conductor took a good look at them. Then, at the next stop, he sent a telegram asking Sheriff Bogard of Yuba County to meet the train at Marysville. He knew that the two suspects had bought tickets for a point further on.

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When the train ground to a stop at Marysville, the sheriff and a posse climbed aboard. The conductor pointed out that two cyclists. Bogard covered them with a Colt .45.

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“You’re under arrest!”

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Those were his last words. With a lightning draw, Big Jim drilled him through the heart. But the dying sheriff fired also, and Browning toppled over dead. Before the other passengers could guess what was happening, the deputies had overpowered Jack Brady.

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Chapter 3

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Galloped Away on Bicycles

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After that the frightened little man talked. He spilled details of the Ingleside case, the San Francisco holdups, and the Oregon Express robbery. For his part in these crimes Brady was given a life term. On November 27, 1895, the great iron door of Folsom state pen clanked grimly behind him. But what had become of the fifty thousand dollars?

\n\n

Brady felt so sure that a detective had discovered the money that he stubbornly refused to go into details about it. All he would say was, “ I guess you fellows know where to find it.”

\n\n

In prison, however, he took a liking to the warden and told him what he knew. The warden arranged for Brady to be taken to the Sacramento River, under guard, and the prisoner pointed out where the fortune had been buried. Officers dug feverishly. They found nothing but an empty Wells Fargo sack.

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“Do you think Browning doublecrossed you?” a detective asked.

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Brady shook his head.

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“He couldn’t. We never left each other’s sight.”

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“Do you think some farmer living near here may have come upon the hiding place by chance?”

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“Mebbe. Who knows?”

\n\n

For months, detectives shadowed all the farmers in that vicinity. They checked up on bank balances, mortgages, house improvements, and the like, but found no evidence of sudden wealth. Finally Wells Fargo gave up the search and charged off the fifty thousand as dead loss.

\n\n

Then came an amazing sequence to the case of the bicycle bandits. Some time in 1896 a man who described himself as Baron von Hofen, a German nobleman, arrived in San Francisco on a liner from the Orient. He had letters of credit for large sums, opened checking accounts at several banks, lived in the Palace Hotel, and spent money like a drunken sailor. Reports said he bathed in champagne. Sometimes he paid in gold.

\n\n

Women fawned on him. Blondes, brunettes, redheads. For one chorus girl, Mary Williams, he was said to have bought three thousand dollar’s worth of jewelry. And while he was guzzling champagne, he disclosed a very important secret. Later, he regretted very much having told her.

\n\n

The baron’s downfall came when police recognized among his expensively dressed friends a man whom they had known but a short time before as a ragged hobo. They arrested and grilled him.

\n\n

“I don’t know where the baron got his money,” said the prisoner. “I don’t know nothin’.”

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Mary was then pulled in for questioning. Her regal gems were just too dazzling for a lady of the chorus. Mary lost her nerve and told everything. The lavish spender was not a baron at all but a former tramp known as “Dutchy.”

\n\n

He had watched two men hide the Wells Fargo loot. As soon as they left, he had dug it up and started on a global tour that cost him forty-five thousand dollars. All he had left was a measly five thousand. This he turned over to the cops.

\n\n

“After all that excitement you need a change,” said the judge. “Five years in jail at hard labor!”

\n\n

Thus ends the strange true story of Western bandits who robbed the Oregon Express and “galloped away” on bicycles.

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Wins Pardon By His Fiddling", "author": "", "body": ""

Virtually fiddling his way to a full pardon from the State penitentiary, of Huntsville, Texas, is the experience of Enrique Rosoplo, a Chilian artist and musician found guilty of the charge of stealing diamonds in El Paso. Rosoplo is nothing if not a sentimentalist, and his experience has taught him the part that music plays upon the human emotions.

\n\n

When he learned recently that Governor Pat M. Neff (28th Governor of Texas, from 1921 to 1925) was planning to make a visit of inspection to the penitentiary, he obtained permission from the warden to send to his old home in El Paso for his violin. For several days before the date set for the governor’s arrival, the convict spent all his spare time practicing his most appealing selections.

\n\n

On the day of the inspection, Rosoplo asked for and received permission to play for the governor. The convict entertained for an hour, playing as he had never played before, and concluding with “Home, Sweet Home.” This was rendered with so much feeling that Governor Neff was much impressed. The convict then made his plea for freedom and received the promise of a pardon.

\n\n

An investigation showed that Rosoplo was a noted painter and musician of Mexico, where he was well known to many persons of political and social prominence.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "On the Trail of the Red-Haired Man", "author": "Frederick J. Jackson", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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Trouble at the Bungalow Investment Company

\n\n

Bradford Kerry, president and general manager of the Bungalow Investment Company, of Los Angeles, was in a bad way financially — thanks to a “sure-thing” stock tip that had gone wrong. His company, too, had one foot over the brink of ruin and a rollerskate on the other one.

\n\n

Very comfortable was Mr. Kerry’s bodily posture as he cogitated on this. He was leaning back in his swivel chair, his feet resting on an open drawer of his desk. A fat, expensive cigar was between his thin lips, and a favored bottle stood handy to his reach.

\n\n

What really concerned Mr. Kerry more than any financial trouble was the fact that he wanted to go fishing; spring fever was in his veins, but he did not dare to seek the wildwoods that he craved. He was afraid — afraid that in his absence one of the directors might go through his books.

\n\n

Fishing, with Mr. Kerry, was a serious business of life. No one day’s jaunt to a near-by, fished-out stream would satisfy him. He wanted to get far into the mountains, to lose the world of business entirely for a fortnight. Local sportsmen quoted him as an authority on the art of deceiving the elusive mountain trout. Bitterly he cursed the stock market and his inability to take a vacation.

\n\n

Business had been bad, very bad, for some months. Given unlimited authority by the board of directors of the Bungalow Investment Company in a desperate effort to keep the company solvent, he had juggled its resources in a way that would have been the envy of a vaudeville performer.

\n\n

As a matter of fact, at this time Mr. Kerry was the “company,” for, confident of his ability to pull things through, as he had done before, the board had turned most of the company’s available assets over to Mr. Kerry’s personal account, taking his notes in exchange. This was not strictly according to the letter of the law regarding the conduct of such companies, and it was kept under cover.

\n\n

Abstractedly Mr. Kerry ran his fingers through his mop of red hair — flaming red hair; then absently he puffed again at his cigar. The scowl deepened as he thought of the situation. This time, apparently, nothing could keep the firm from the rocks toward which it was drifting. Twice had it been necessary to postpone dividends, with a resulting decline in the price of stock. The trouble — Mr. Kerry knew all too well where the main trouble lay; in plain language, the company had bitten off more than it could chew.

\n\n

It had gambled too heavily on the home-seeking instincts of people newly arrived from the East. Much land had it purchased, built standardized bungalows thereon, and disposed of houses and lots at a profit that would have made an Eastern real estate man turn a rich emerald hue in sheer envy. For the greater part these domiciles were sold on such low terms as ten per cent down, and one per cent a month; anywhere from eight to twelve per cent interest being charged on unpaid balances.

\n\n

This was well enough — and the company had prospered amazingly in the past. But the board of directors had voted for expansion on a larger scale, and to purchase the McDonald ranch in the suburbs of south Los Angeles. There were six hundred and forty acres in this tract, and to acquire it the company had obligated itself for something over half a million dollars.

\n\n

Ordinarily this would have been all right, for it had been the boast of the company that it had sold an average of more than one bungalow a day. They had made good on this — up to six months ago.

\n\n

But in the last half year, for some unexplainable reason, bungalows had become a drug on the market. The company now had exactly one hundred and twenty-seven unsold houses on its hands, and still more were being built — per contracts. Carrying this load was causing the foundations of the firm to wabble.

\n\n

This explains why the directors had been glad to pass the buck to Mr. Kerry. And the latter worried. Reaching into his vest pocket for a bank book, he noted the balance therein. A trifle over twenty-five thousand dollars of the company’s money was deposited to his order.

\n\n

But what good was it — he sighed bitterly at the thought — when interests and payments on contracts that must be paid on the nail and fell due within a fortnight aggregated a total of over sixty-thousand? And the assets of the company were already hypothecated to the limit. Money was abnormally tight, anyway, and it seemed impossible to raise any now that a psychological panic was upsetting real-estate values. These conditions have been set down herewith as the explaining causes of Mr. Kerry’s deciding to flee to other climes with what money he could reach.

\n\n

His musings were broken into by the entrance of the office boy, who announced the coming of one Bill Hendricks, real-estate broker.

\n\n

“Show him in!” was the order. Hendricks entered the office, tossed his hat onto the desk, and announced, point-blank: “We want to buy the southwest hundred acres of the McDonald ranch.”

\n\n

“Oh, you do!” It was glad news to Mr. Kerry. “What have you got up your sleeve this time. Bill? Who you representing?”

\n\n

“Sh-h! That’s a secret. We’ll pay eight hundred an acre.”

\n\n

“The devil you will!” rudely exclaimed Mr. Kerry. “You know darned well that we paid over nine hundred.”

\n\n

“Sure!” Hendricks grinned broadly. “My clients also know that you are in a devil of a hole, and might he willing to listen to eight hundred.”

\n\n

“I’ll take it!” snappily retorted Mr. Kerry. “Cash — this week!”

\n\n

“Not a question about it. It’s ready when you hand over the deed.”

\n\n

“That’ll be to-morrow. I’ll call a special meeting of directors to fix it up regular, so there’ll be no comeback.”

\n\n

This happened on a Monday. Tuesday evening the money subject to Mr. Kerry’s personal control had swelled to one hundred and five thousand dollars. Things looked better for the company — at present. But the future was still black.

\n\n

Then he thought of the private transaction of which the directors knew nothing.

\n\n

“Well,” he said, debating, to himself, “it’s a case of either myself or the company going up the flue, so by a unanimous vote of one the company is elected to hold the bag.”

\n\n

Arriving at this pleasant decision, he locked up all incriminating data, and announced to the office force that he was to be absent from the office all the following day. That night he left for San Francisco. Arriving in the bay city Wednesday morning, he went directly to a large employment agency. Nearly one hundred men were lounging in the waiting room, and Mr. Kerry looked them over carefully, finally picking out one with flaming red hair the color of his own.

\n\n

“Would you like to make one hundred dollars?” he asked.

\n\n

“Quit your kidding!” responded the other, who needed a shave. He looked Mr. Kerry up and down, noting every evidence of his prosperity.

\n\n

“No kidding; I’ve got use for you. Look here, you have the same color hair that I have, and the same shade of eyes. Take it all around, you would answer a general description of me. Now, I’m in trouble with my wife — and I want to skip out. Understand? I want to make a clean get-away. I’ll give you one hundred dollars and pay all your expenses if you’ll agree to impersonate me for a while.”

\n\n

The other grinned.

\n\n

“Bo, it can’t be done. You can’t fool a woman. I resemble you in coloring and height, but we ain’t no twin brothers, by a long shot.”

\n\n

“You don’t quite understand. I only want you to take my name, and sail for Honolulu next Sunday. Let everybody on the boat know that you’re Bradford Kerry, real-estate man, from Los Angeles. I’m away behind in my alimony, and my wife will put the officers on my trail. Then they’ll arrest you instead of me, and bring you back here. It’ll be a big joke when my wife sees you. She’ll bawl out the officers proper, and you’ll be released. To earn your money you must not deny your identity as Kerry when they arrest you. Just sit tight, and laugh at them.”

\n\n

“One hundred dollars for getting arrested in your place and letting you make a clean get-away? Huh!”

\n\n

“I’ll make it two hundred.”

\n\n

“You’re on! D’ye know, I had begun to think there wasn’t that much money in the world.”

\n\n

“All right,” smilingly said Mr. Kerry. “Meet me in the lobby of the Palace next Sunday morning at ten o’clock, and I’ll have your steamer ticket ready for you. Here’s twenty for expenses until then. That’s in addition to the two hundred. Come to think about it, better get a decent suit of clothes and a traveling bag — if you have none. Here’s fifty more.”

\n\n

“But I don’t quite like the idea of getting arrested.”

\n\n

“You’ll have to in order to earn the two hundred. Admit that your name is Kerry, and say no more. Just laugh at the officers, and let them bring you back to the coast. Then, when my wife sees the mistake the officers have made, she’ll throw a duck-fit. I’ll leave your trail wide open, and quietly disappear myself.”

\n\n

“Very good,” said the other. “I understand the scheme now. I’ll meet you Sunday morning.”

\n\n

After leaving this employment agency, Mr. Kerry made inquiries as to the whereabouts of several others. Two hours later he had located another redhaired man, and made the same bargain — with this difference: on Sunday this second man was to leave for the East.

\n\n

Well satisfied with these initial steps, and chuckling to himself, Mr. Kerry boarded the next train for southern California.

\n\n

On Friday he entered the Los Angeles office of the Oceanic Steamship Company and openly engaged a stateroom on the Alameda, which sailed from San Francisco for Sydney, via Honolulu, the following Sunday afternoon. The next morning he visited the uptown ticket office of the Southern Inland Pacific Railroad and bought a ticket for New York, by way of San Francisco. He was scheduled to leave Los Angeles on a train that evening and connect with an east-bound train in San Francisco the next day.

\n\n

Mr. Kerry had a slight acquaintance with the ticket clerk.

\n\n

“Going to remain long in the East?” inquired the latter.

\n\n

“Yes; indefinitely. Pleasure combined with business, you might say. But keep it quiet until to-morrow that I’m going. The president of the Pacific Bank expects me to go yachting with him to-morrow, and I’m going to leave him flat as the easiest way of getting out of it. He bores me to death with his stale anecdotes when he gets me cornered on his boat.”

\n\n

“Sure, I’ll keep it under cover,” agreed the clerk, thinking, meanwhile, that it was a hastily conceived excuse to cover something else — something big in a business way, perhaps.

\n\n

Mr. Kerry had been very friendly, indeed, with the president of the Pacific Bank. Therefore, when Mr. Kerry had telephoned to him for one hundred thousand dollars to be sent over to the office of the Bungalow Investment Company, there had been no question. Sometimes, the president knew, the actual cash was handed over in a big deal, when either of the parties concerned wished the details to be unknown even to bank employees.

\n\n

That evening the Northbound Limited carried Mr. Kerry in a private compartment. In San Francisco the next morning, after his leaving the Townsend Street depot, he left a blank trail as far as he himself was concerned. But of other trails there were a redundancy. Some people even went so far as to suspect Mr. Kerry of possessing a sense of humor.

\n\n

At first, on Monday morning, when Mr. Kerry did not appear at the offices of the Bungalow Investment Company, no alarm was felt. At eleven, after unsuccessful attempts to reach him by telephone, the vice-president sent a messenger to try to locate him. By noon the vice president smelt a rat, and went to the Pacific Bank to investigate, for a large interest payment fell due that very day.

\n\n

Then the story leaked out, and the early afternoon editions carried front-page scareheads of Mr. Kerry’s disappearance with one hundred thousand dollars. Ironic comments were made upon Mr. Kerry’s philanthropy in leaving five thousand in the bank. But even figures had been one of his hobbies.

\n\n

The clerk in the uptown office of the railway company, reading of this, telephoned at once to the vice president. The latter smiled grimly upon receiving the information that Mr. Kerry was bound East, and hastened to notify the authorities. A late extra that evening announced that the absconding official had been apprehended as his train pulled into Salt Lake City. He admitted his identity, the papers stated, but refused to talk for publication. Also, he waived extradition, and would be returned immediately to Los Angeles.

\n\n

So far-so good, but when the redhaired man claiming the name of Kerry arrived from Salt Lake City on Wednesday in the custody of an officer, there was a crowd at the depot to meet him, composed, for the greater part, of minor stockholders in the Bungalow Investment Company. Some of the excited ones were in favor of violence, and the police reserves were called to escort the prisoner out of the depot. Some of the officers knew Kerry by sight, and were puzzled at seeing the stranger.

\n\n

“Why, this isn’t the Kerry we want,” spoke a sergeant to the Salt Lake officer. “Mighty good of your department not to wait for us to send a man after him, but there’s a mistake somewhere.”

\n\n

He went on to elaborate the story of Kerry’s defalcation.

\n\n

“So this Kerry gink skipped out with one hundred grand,” broke in the prisoner, heatedly. “I thought those Salt Lake people were trying to run a rannygazoo on me when they sprung that, so I earned my money by making a noise like a clam. Golly, he slipped a beaut over on me, telling me he was trying to get away from his wife! I could sympathize with him there. He paid me two hundred to use his ticket going east, and to keep my mouth shut if I got pinched.”

\n\n

As newspaper copy this was A-1 stuff, and the headline writers made the most of it. Then, further sleuthing established the fact that Kerry, while throwing this blind on his trail, had sailed for Australia. At least he had purchased a ticket for the antipodes. The Evening Eagle scored a beat by wirelessing to verify Kerry’s presence on the Alameda. He had evidently, the Eagle stated, made a miscalculation in the time it would take to bring the other man back from Salt Lake City. Ordinarily the Salt Lake officials would have held the man and waited for a Los Angeles officer to come after him. There had been cases when the department had been hard put to spare a man to make a like trip, and a delay of some little time had resulted. But as it stood, the Alameda was still halfway between San Francisco and Honolulu.

\n\n

Then the authorities received an answer to their wire. Kerry had been placed under arrest by the captain. So the frenzied stockholders sat tight and waited for the time to elapse that it would take to bring him back from Hawaii. The Great Northern was due to sail from San Pedro for Honolulu the next day, and a man from the sheriffs office was sent on her. This officer, by the way, was not acquainted with Kerry. Sixteen days later he returned with his prisoner.

\n\n

This time the newspapers set their humor specialists to write the story, and they unanimously agreed that Mr. Kerry was a smooth proposition. Too smooth, in fact, for he had obtained a clean start of nineteen days on the authorities, and might by this time be in hiding anywhere between Honduras and Greenland.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

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Van Crom’s Surprise

\n\n

For years the Los Angeles Evening Eagle had been the joke of the newspaper game. Then Carl Bjorkman took it over. A stubborn, canny Swede, who had come to the United States with his parents when he was not quite two years of age, he had gotten his first job on a newspaper before he was twelve. Four years later he had graduated from office boy to cub reporter, from a foot job to the copy desk, and at thirty he had been assistant city editor on a morning paper in Los Angeles. Then his father died, leaving him considerable money, which had been made through pure luck when a worthless homestead developed into rich oil land.

\n\n

With that Carl had gone into business for himself. The Evening Eagle was on the market — had been for some time — but no one else wanted to tackle such a hopeless proposition. With Bjorkman it was different.

\n\n

“New blood,” was his watchword.

\n\n

After subscribing to a good news service, worthwhile syndicate articles, and an expensive comic section, he began to boost the circulation of the Eagle by boldly attacking the rottenness of the city administration. Private detectives gathered information for him, while disgruntled politicians gave him still more. Rapidly, the Eagle passed one of the evening papers in circulation and was hot on the heels of the other, the Daily Sphere, when the Kerry story broke.

\n\n

As a sort of heritage with the Eagle, when Bjorkman took it over, had come an old-time reporter by the name of Van Crom. On the Eagle in its rundown days he had been a star — at twenty dollars a week. As he was the best on the old staff, Bjorkman kept him on at the same salary, but shunted him off onto police-court routine, for he was a faithful, methodical plugger.

\n\n

To the younger men he brought in, Bjorkman paid more money. This being pushed aside as a hopeless has-been hurt Van Crom more than a little, but he kept silent, for twenty dollars a week is better than nothing when one has a family to support. He was called old, but he was less than fifty. In the past years twenty dollars had sufficed for the needs of his family, but now he had been reduced to the most, pitiful economies. Each day he rode into town from the suburbs — a fifty minute ride with poor car service — for in his desire to own a home he had purchased a cheap one from the Bungalow Investment Company. He paid installments of twenty-two dollars a month, these payments including interest, taxes, and insurance. The future looked hopeless. Each month it grew harder and harder to meet the payments going, and even though he could keep them up, it would take nine more years for him to own the house.

\n\n

Things had come to a pass where he was forced to have more money. So he bearded Carl Bjorkman in his office.

\n\n

“Mr. Bjorkman,” he began respectfully, “I have a family to support, and would like a chance to make a little more money.”

\n\n

“Not a chance!” said Bjorkman, shortly. “If you aren’t satisfied — quit!”

\n\n

“I’m not satisfied. But I dare not quit. My wife is ill, and —”

\n\n

“I know,” said Bjorkman, interrupting, “you don’t have to wade through the old story. I’m in favor of putting a younger man on your job, anyhow.”

\n\n

Disappointed, humiliated. Van Crom passed out of the office with bowed head. He was sick at heart at his very helplessness. Making his way around to the reporters’ room in the police station, he slumped into the seat at his desk. Half an hour he sat there, and his thought finally strayed from what he considered the injustice of Bjorkman. Prompted by some subconscious thought, he began to concentrate on the mystery of Kerry’s disappearance.

\n\n

A little later he walked back to the office of the Eagle and again entered Bjorkman’s office.

\n\n

“Well?” questioned the latter. But his tone was mildly interrogative; he had lost his bad humor of an hour before.

\n\n

“You are trying to get a larger circulation than the Sphere, aren’t you?” Van Crom stated this more as a fact than as a question. “If you located Kerry and got an exclusive story — one that the other papers would have no inkling of until the Eagle appeared on the streets — would it help?”

\n\n

“It would,” admitted Bjorkman, displaying a little more interest “A clean scoop on an item of such tremendous local interest would just about be the finishing touch. Do you know anything?”

\n\n

“Not yet.”

\n\n

“Then, why take up my time?”

\n\n

“Because I want more money. Would you pay me forty dollars a week, and give me a chance at bigger stuff, if I get a clean beat, and let the Eagle get the credit of locating Kerry where the police have been baffled?”

\n\n

“I’d pay fifty dollars,” said Bjorkman, tapping his desk nervously with his pencil as he licked his lips and looked shrewdly at the other. “But I think you have been taking it in the wrist. Every paper in town is on its toes to locate Kerry. I have several of the cleverest men in the country working for me on the Eagle. How do you expect to succeed where they have failed?”

\n\n

“These men of yours are all young — and younger men, as a rule, have not made much of a study of psychology. Why, I warrant that not a one of them has even read Spencer — or, granting that he has skimped through, that he has not made a real study of the first principles of psychology.”

\n\n

“What of it?” was the blunt demand. “I’ve never read him myself.”

\n\n

“Fifty dollars a week, and a chance at big stories to the man who locates Kerry!” repeated Van Crom.

\n\n

“I have one religion,” frowningly said Bjorkman: “I always keep my word! If you think you can locate Kerry by using applied psychology, go to it. But I have my doubts, so don’t bother me again.”

\n\n

“I should like to have a few days off.”

\n\n

“Sure,” agreed the other.

\n\n

“Without pay,” he added cannily.

\n\n

Seething with his big idea, Van Crom left the office. Later he went up the street to the Daily Sphere building. From there he went around to call on the sheriff of Los Angeles County, an old friend of his. He was smiling as he finally boarded a car and went home to his wife. At home he carefully loaded a revolver and stuck it into a hip pocket. A clean collar and a toothbrush completed his arrangements for traveling, and he returned to the city. There, he visited a bank, where he withdrew his entire savings account — forty dollars in all. Then he used the street-car transfer he had so carefully saved from his return trip from his home, and rode down Fifth Street to the Southern Inland depot. He was seated in the smoker, frugally rolling a cigarette, when the next train pulled out for the San Joaquin Valley.

\n\n

In the morning he alighted from the stage in front of the only hotel in Galena, an isolated town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. What meager fame Galena held in the outside world came from the whopping trout reputed to be found in Galena Creek. But few sportsmen cared to hazard the trip, however, for Galena was far from a railroad, and the connecting road for the greater part was of the uncomfortable species known as “corduroy.” Entering the ramshackle hotel. Van Crom addressed the proprietor.

\n\n

“Is Mr. Gilroy in?” was his question.

\n\n

“No,” was the reply, “Mr. Gilroy went fishing early this morning.”

\n\n

“Fishing,” repeated Van Crom softly, and he smiled.

\n\n

Rolling another cigarette, he selected the best chair in the dingy little hotel office and sat down to wait. At eleven o’clock a man, black-haired and wearing enormous, yellow-lensed horn-rimmed glasses, entered the hotel. He was laden with fishing paraphernalia. Van Crom examined him narrowly, studied his profile, then smiled again, inwardly.

\n\n

“Kerry!” he called out suddenly to the man’s back.

\n\n

Involuntarily the man started, checked himself as he turned to look at the speaker, and continued across the office.

\n\n

Van Crom arose to his feet, shifted his gun to his right-hand coat pocket, and followed the newcomer.

\n\n

“Mr. Gilroy,” he questioned, “may I have a few words with you?”

\n\n

“Certainly,” was the reply, and the reporter noted a curious little tightening paleness around the lips of the man he knew was Kerry.

\n\n

In a corner of the office Van Crom removed his hand from his coat pocket. In it he held the gun; he was taking no chances, for Kerry outweighed him by forty pounds.

\n\n

“The game’s up, Kerry,” he announced. “I’m taking you back to Los Angeles with me. Will you come quietly? Good job, by the way, that you did with the hair dye.”

\n\n

“Who in the devil are you? You’re making a mistake in identity. My name’s Gilroy. Say, you’re a newspaper man, aren’t you? Used to be on the Eagle. Where do you get this stuff of trying to arrest a man?”

\n\n

“Sheriff deputized me yesterday.” Van Crom showed the badge. “Are you coming back without kicking up a fuss? I know I have no authority in this county, but I’m going to take it, anyhow.” He shoved the revolver forward another two inches.

\n\n

“All right,” said Kerry submissively, his eyes glued on the gun, “I’ll go back with you. But it’s got my goat how you located me here, and recognized me.”

\n\n

“That,” said Van Crom, “was a matter of psychology. Here,” he displayed a pair of handcuffs with which the sheriff had supplied him, “hold out your hands.”

\n\n

“You win!” Kerry wilted absolutely, seemingly hypnotized by the revolver. Van Crom had done the right thing in showing the weapon, for Kerry was gun-shy. Otherwise he would certainly have shown fight, taking a chance on overpowering the smaller man and escaping to the mountains.

\n\n

On the afternoon stage they started back to the railroad. There was no sleep for Van Crom that night on the train; he sat up watching his precious prisoner. His future and the future comfort of his family depended upon the bringing of Kerry into Los Angeles. The reward — strange to say. Van Crom had forgotten entirely about the thousand-dollar reward that had been offered by the board of directors for Kerry’s return!

\n\n

At the Fifth Street depot in the morning he ushered his prisoner into a taxi and drove to the office of the Eagle. Straight through the editorial room he marched Kerry, into Bjorkman’s private office.

\n\n

“Here’s Kerry!” he announced; “get his story; don’t turn him over to the police until he comes through with the whole tale, and, for the love of Morpheus, let me get some sleep.”

\n\n

“Kerry!” exclaimed Bjorkman, “And with black hair! Shades of Diamond Dyes! But there’s no sleep for you. Van, until we get your story. Spill that psychology stuff you were ranting about.”

\n\n

“Well,” began Van Crom, “when Kerry sent out two red-headed men to lay false trails, I figured that he would change the color of his hair. Was I right? Then, the strongest point was that Kerry, who has lived all his life in Los Angeles, would have a morbid desire to read what his former townsmen were saying about him. Besides, from the local papers, he might glean valuable information as to how close the police were on his trail.

\n\n

“I have worked on the Eagle for twenty years, and watched the town grow from a small village. In that time I have come to know practically every business man in Los Angeles, knowing many of them intimately, their likes, dislikes, and hobbies. Kerry’s passion, I knew, was trout fishing. I began with that, together with the sneaking notion that, under another name, he would subscribe to a Los Angeles paper. So when I left you the other day I went into the circulation department and examined the list of recent out-of-town subscribers. I found nothing there, however, to give me a clue. But I still had faith in my hunch.

\n\n

“Next, I went over to the circulation department of the Sphere. A chum of mine works there, and he fixed it up for me to go through the new out-of-town list. There I noted the name of H. P. Gilroy, whose address had changed three times in the last two weeks. All three addresses were places in the mountains where there is good fishing. Why, do you know that as soon as I spotted those addresses, Gilroy spelled Kerry to me. So I took a chance, went to the last address sent in, and found him.”

\n\n

To Van Crom’s surprise, Bjorkman had doubled up in a violent fit of laughter.

\n\n

“Wow!” he exploded, red in the face, “Wow! This is rich! The idea of going over to the office of my dearest rival to get Kerry’s address. Man, I love your nerve! And I’m going to print it, too — the whole story. Oh boy! but I’m going to rub it into the Sphere. You may call that stuff psychology, but I’d say it was the most beautiful example of enterprising gall that I have ever heard of.”

\n\n

“Do I get my sleep now?” queried Van Crom.

\n\n

“Sure. Hit the hay. I’ll get the story from Kerry.” He turned to the prisoner; “Going to come through with the yarn?”

\n\n

“What’s the use of doing otherwise?” returned Kerry, and he spat disgustedly as though to remove an offensive taste from his mouth. “After the story Van Crom just told of how he located me, I have such a small opinion of myself that I think I’d walk up Broadway in a bathing suit if it would please you any.”

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "On A Saturday Afternoon", "author": "Roger Masterson", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

The Message

\n\n

When he came back to his hotel, Terry Bradford found a note awaiting him. The young lady at Lawyer Starrett’s office had a message for him from New York — would he please come and get it?

\n\n

Terry had spent the entire morning in Starrett’s office, and he remembered the young lady … quite an attractive number. He went there at once.

\n\n

Even as he turned the handle of the door, a queer premonition held him. It was after two of a warm Saturday afternoon in August, and the entire building seemed empty. The elevator was not running; he had had to walk upstairs. He surmised that the message was from his chief, Lije Prentice, President of Mammoth Oil, and might be important.

\n\n

Finally he decided that the straw of the last few days had made him a bit nervous. A lot of people would have been immediately amused by that idea, people who had seen the black-haired thunderbolt in action. Whenever there was trouble, the Mammoth Oil Company called for, its general utility man, its Mr. Fixem, Terry Bradford.

\n\n

Nevertheless he opened the door cautiously and peered in. It occurred to him that the message might have been left on Starrett’s desk in his private office, the door of which was closed. Suddenly impatient with himself, Terry strode across the long room and threw the door open.

\n\n

A masculine falsetto called, “Come in, sweetie — pie!”

\n\n

He sprang back and reached for the forty-five under his coat — and as quickly stopped. Suicide did not appeal to him.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Patent Assignment and the Plans

\n\n

There were two men in the small office, and the window-blind was down. Their guns pointed straight at him. One, who sat behind Starrett’s desk, was a big fellow with meaty shoulders and a moon-like face. His right ear was a cylinder; the hand which held the gun was huge. The other, standing against the wall, was dark, slender, immaculately dressed in a gray suit à la Broadway. There was a significant sureness about the way he held his weapon in a smooth brown hand.

\n\n

The big fellow said jocularly, “Come in, Mr. Bradford, dew come in! The dame said to apologize for not keepin’ the appointment. Didn’t she, Harry?”

\n\n

He seemed to be enjoying himself hugely.

\n\n

Harry said unsmilingly, “Yeah!”

\n\n

He closed the door behind Terry.

\n\n

He said, “Hey, pull up that blind a few inches, Marty. It’s hot as hell in here!”

\n\n

“Sure, sure!” Marty complied. “Terry ain’t gonna holler and disturb the neighbors, are you, Terry? He ain’t that dumb — from all I hear he’s a real smart guy!”

\n\n

Without replying, Bradford seated himself close to the desk and watched them through alert gray eyes.

\n\n

“See, he’s gonna be nice!” approved Marty. “Why the hell should he get hisself bumped off for some oil company that don’t give a damn about him? What does a good-lookin’ guy like him wanna get slugs through his belly for? He’s got too much sense. Don’t he look like any who’s got sense to you, Harry?”

\n\n

“He’d better have!” said Harry.

\n\n

Bradford said coolly, “I’d like to get my cigarettes out of my pocket, if it won’t make you bozos nervous.”

\n\n

“He wants to smoke,” Marty commented. “Do you think it’s good for him to smoke, Harry?”

\n\n

Harry seemed to consider. “No, better not. Cigarettes might stunt his growth.” His diction was better than Marty’s.

\n\n

“In what reformatory did they preach that to you?” asked Bradford quizzically.

\n\n

The big fellow laughed with great glee. “Say, he must know your family, Harry.” He scratched his nose with his gun-barrel, and Terry wished fervently that it would go off.

\n\n

Harry commanded grimly, “Stand up, Bradford! Raise your hands–now turn around and face the wall.”

\n\n

“You been a bad boy!” explained Marty. “Teacher is gonna punish you.”

\n\n

For an instant Bradford toyed with the idea of a swift snatch at the little fellow’s gun, followed-by a blow to one of several vulnerable spots whose location he knew. But he abandoned it. For all his frivolity, the big fellow was alert, his gun steady. Reluctantly he raised his arms and turned about, tensing involuntarily for the blow that might come. But Harry only reached for the gun under Terry’s coat, and threw it on the desk in front of Marty.

\n\n

With a bear-like left hand, Marty picked it up, opened the cylinder, and glanced at the lead noses of the cartridges reposing there. He snapped the gun shut. Bradford sat down again.

\n\n

“Got two rods now!” Marty remarked. “I certainly could ruin you, Bradford, if you got me peeved. But you wouldn’t do that, would you? Get poor old Marty worked up in this hot weather? Just come across with that sketch and the — the — what do you call it?”

\n\n

“Patent assignment,” suggested Harry. “No, we don’t want the assignment — he hasn’t got it anyhow–it’s the plans we want.”

\n\n

“Yeah, them — and then we’ll all go in swimming! It’s too nice to stay in this office on a scorcher like this, or” — -his face suddenly became grim — “in a morgue.”

\n\n

Harry added to that: “So bring out those things before we begin working on you, Bradford.”

\n\n

“Now look here, you wise guys”–Bradford pretended to lose patience — “you’re talking screwy. What patent? What plans?”

\n\n

“He’s callin’ us names,” chided Marty, “and us so nice to him — thinkin’ he’s a right guy. Should we slug him first and then search him, Harry, or visey-voisey?”

\n\n

“Marty isn’t fooling,” admonished Harry. “He’s a good-natured guy, but when he’s crossed he gets mad — and the next thing you know, there you are in an undertaker’s back room, giving work to unemployed embalmers!”

\n\n

“He looks tough,” admitted Terry mildly.

\n\n

“I’m no angel myself, but Marty’s got no heart at all. Don’t be a sap, Terry — there are other jobs but you’ve got only one life. Come across with the plans — I happen to know you mailed the patent assignment.”

\n\n

Bradford understood. If they got the plans, whoever was behind them would manufacture a similar gadget, and take a chance on fighting it out with the Mammoth on an infringement suit.

\n\n

“Those plans,” Bradford stated, “were mailed to Mr. Elijah Prentice in New York.”

\n\n

“Quit trying to kid us!” Harry’s smile was complacent. “This morning you got the plans and the patent assignment from Bruce Kingsberg’s lawyer, right here in this office, and you gave him a check for two hundred and fifty grand. Then you called old man Prentice and he told you to mail the assignment, but bring in the plans yourself. Now do I know what I’m talking about? Come across and stay healthy, Bradford — I’m speaking to you like a pal.”

\n\n

Marty commented admiringly, “Ain’t he got the gift of gab, Bradford? I always tell him he shoulda been a mouthpiece. You kin see he’s dead right, can’t you? He’s talkin’ for your good, sweetie — pie.”

\n\n

“How would you like to go to hell?” Bradford was irritable. “You’d make a swell comedian — up the river.”

\n\n

“I was there!” bragged Marty pridefully. “I played on the football team — right guard. I was good, too! Ask anybody.”

\n\n

They were certainly well-informed; Bradford wondered where they had obtained such accurate information. A leak somewhere. Arranging the trap in the very office where he had consummated the deal that morning was fast work. And neither of these two looked as though he had any more conscience than a weasel, and no more aversion to killing.

\n\n

There was no doubt in Terry’s mind that McMahon of the Benton Motor Company was their employer. The stake was a huge one, and McMahon was not one to be deterred by scruples. Those patent rights and the plans had cost Terry’s company a quarter of a million dollars, but they were worth millions. He remembered how it had all come about.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Invention

\n\n

Some weeks earlier, a letter had come to the New York office of the Mammoth Oil Company signed by one Bruce Kingsberg, of Springfield, Massachusetts. In it the writer stated that he had perfected and patented an invention which would enable automobiles to travel two hundred miles on one gallon of gas.

\n\n

It was turned over to the company’s representative in Springfield, with instructions to interview the writer and report immediately. In a short time the reply came that Kingsberg’s invention seemed capable of doing just what he claimed. Also, and what was more serious, that the inventor had also written the Benton Motor Company for a bid.

\n\n

At once Bradford was dispatched to Springfield with a skilled engineer. The engineer confirmed the report already received, and the matter was then referred to Elijah Prentice.

\n\n

That invention might mean the loss of millions annually to the oil company; the laying off of thousands of men; general ruin and havoc in the industry. Kingsberg’s contrivance could be used not only in automobiles, but in any type of gasoline-driven motor. It would curtail the use of gasoline fifty to sixty per cent.

\n\n

So Bradford was sent back to Springfield with a blank check. And just about the time he was through negotiating with Kingsberg, the Benton Motor Company descended on Springfield like a wolf on the fold. The Benton’s interests lay on the other side of the fence from the Mammoth. With this patent, every car sold would have to pay a royalty to the Benton Company. A contrivance that would enable a Benton car to run two hundred miles on one gallon of gas was worth anything the inventor asked.

\n\n

The Benton Company’s representative quickly persuaded Kingsberg’s lawyer that his client was not being paid enough for so valuable a patent. The lawyer advised Kingsberg to break his agreement to sell to Mammoth. But Kingsberg, a Canadian, happened to be the sort of man who believed in the sanctity of a promise, written or verbal. To him the price he had agreed to accept was ample. Disregarding his lawyer, he went through with the deal and sold out to Mammoth.

\n\n

Right up to the last minute, all kinds of pressure had been exerted on Kingsberg by the Benton Company’s representatives … even threats of violence. But these only made the Canadian more resolute. And so that morning the final papers had been signed and executed in the office of Kingsberg’s lawyer, and delivered to Bradford in exchange for the firm’s check.

\n\n

Old Elijah Prentice had told Bradford over the telephone substantially what Harry had quoted: “Mail in all the papers, including the patent assignment, Terry — everything but the plans. Those are too valuable to be sent by mail — bring them in yourself. And watch your step. McMahon wouldn’t stop at murder to get them.”

\n\n

Bradford had promised grimly, “I’ll bring them in, Chief — don’t lose any sleep worrying.”

\n\n

It seemed safer to go home by train; Bradford had decided that in a car there would be the risk of a holdup or an accident.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

A Desperate Plan

\n\n

Well, he just hadn’t been careful enough. It looked very much as though curtains would shortly be rung down on the exciting career of one Terry Bradford, trouble-shooter for the Mammoth Oil Company. But if he felt any fear, he didn’t show it.

\n\n

“So you got the information that I’m carrying those plans back myself?” His laugh derided them. “You really think they’d trust them to me, instead of to the United States mail? Old Lijah foxed you, that’s all — and you fell for it. Those papers are all In the mail. You’ re barking up the wrong tree.”

\n\n

The man called Marty turned a questioning look on his accomplice. But Harry shook his head.

\n\n

“He’s lying, Marty. I’m going through him. If he hasn’t them on him, he knows where they are … We may have to get rough with this baby. Here, you, stand up and turn around.”

\n\n

“Sure, sure!” Bradford stood up and stretched his arms. “I suppose getting rough with me is going to get you the sketch, isn’t it?”

\n\n

“Shut up!” ordered Harry without heat. He went through Bradford carefully, even forcing him to remove his hat and shoes.

\n\n

Then, “Take your coat off,” he directed, and Bradford obeyed. With two swift rips, Harry tore the lining away from the inside.

\n\n

Bradford said bitterly, “That suit cost me fifty bucks, you heel!”

\n\n

He was facing Harry again.

\n\n

“Heel, am I?”

\n\n

Harry was suddenly enraged. His upper lips drew back from his teeth, fang-like. “Gabby guy, aren’t you? They’ve been telling you you’re tough until you got to believe it. Well —

\n\n

“Swing your toe into the seat of his pants!” advised Marty.

\n\n

“Hell with that!” crackled Harry. “Let’s quit fooling around: Where are those papers, wise guy?”

\n\n

His gun-barrel dug savagely into Bradford’s stomach. Death glinted in the dark depths of his blazing eyes.

\n\n

Marty said ominously, “Better talk quick, teller!”

\n\n

He had Bradford’s gun on his lap; his own pointed at Bradford’s heart. “It’s easier to frisk a stiff than a live one.”

\n\n

A lethal silence hung in the close, heated air. From the street below came the sound of traffic; the August sun drove hot rays through the cracks in the shade and whitened the window-sill beneath it.

\n\n

A plan took tenuous form in his mind … a desperate plan, with all the odds against success. But he decided it was worth a try. If it failed he wouldn’t be there to worry over it.

\n\n

He said with apparent reluctance, “All right, you win. The plans are in my grip at the hotel. I was coming back for them in time to make the four-ten train to New York.”

\n\n

“At the Brunswick? That where you left it? In your room?” Harry jabbed him again.

\n\n

“Yes.”

\n\n

“What’s your number? Where’s your key?”

\n\n

“Room number 565. I left my key with the hotel clerk.”

\n\n

Marty said, “Aw, you don’t need his key,” and pulled out what looked like a cylinder with a buttomhook attached.

\n\n

“Here, Harry, you know how to use this can-opener, don’tcha? I’ll keep this mug here till you come back!”

\n\n

His light blue eyes had begun to redden.

\n\n

“If those papers ain’t there, I’m going to blow your head off, teller! I feel like doin’ it anyhow! You got a nerve callin’ Harry a heel!”

\n\n

Harry said, “I’ll be right back!” and went out.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

Paper Wad

\n\n

All the false jocularity had disappeared from the gunman’s face. His eyes held no more mercy than those of a hungry tiger.

\n\n

“Turn around! Sit down!” he snarled. “Unless you want to go for me! Come on, try it! I heard you was tough. Where’s your guts?”

\n\n

Only one man to tackle, now, thought Bradford. Swiftly his mind revolved and discarded one expedient after another.

\n\n

He said with his disarming smile, “All right; I know when I’m licked. I’m no glutton for punishment. You’re on top and you’re getting what you’re after. What the hell more do you want? Give me a cigarette.’

\n\n

Marty threw over a cigarette with his left hand.

\n\n

“If we get it …”

\n\n

His tone was significant. “If we don’t … well, they’ll find you here on Monday, but you won’t look so nice.”

\n\n

Bradford demanded, “What’s McMahon paying you for, to bump me off or to get that sketch? Will he take the rap for you when it comes time for you to burn!”

\n\n

He loosened his collar and tie; it was hot.

\n\n

“Hell, you shoot your mouth off too much!”

\n\n

But now there was less rage and more amusement in the crook’s voice.

\n\n

“Don’t worry about what we’re gettin’. He’s payin’ us enough. We ain’t no pikers, Harry and me.”

\n\n

There could be no further doubt of the intentions of these two men. They meant to kill him as soon as they had the plans.

\n\n

Marty had admitted that McMahon was paying them because, reasoned Bradford, there could be no harm in making such an admission to a man who would not be alive to tell tales.

\n\n

“You go clear if you give up those plans,” offered Marty. “All we want is to get them, give them to McMahon and get our dough.”

\n\n

Bradford knew he had to act quickly. The Brunswick Hotel was only three blocks away, and Harry would be back any minute. He would come back with empty hands, because the papers were not in his grip. Bradford visualized the paroxysms of rage and the swift finish — with himself as the victim.

\n\n

“Listen, Marty,” he began quietly, “I want to give you a friendly tip. You remember calling on Kingsberg, the inventor, and threatening him? It was you, wasn’t it? Sure! He’ll be able to identify you if anything happens to me. There’s nothing against you in this transaction yet–at least nothing but threatening Kingsberg, and that don’t amount to much. But if you rub me out — “

\n\n

Now the gunman was his jocular self once more, and as nasty as a fly in a bowl of soup. “S’pos’n I do? I ain’t sayin’ I will, but s’pos’n I do? How’ll they know it was I done it? There’s a lot of other guys would bump you off for less’n we’re gettin’. Who’d know Harry and I done it?”

\n\n

Bradford puffed at his cigarette and reached across for the ashtray. He said scornfully, “First thing, Kingsberg would go through the picture gallery, and he’d have to be blind not to recognize you, having seen you at his house. Then again–have you ever heard of the science of ballistics? They’ll find that gun of yours and — “

\n\n

Marty interrupted, “Jeeze, but you are a dope, ain’tcha? Why couldn’t I bury the gat somewhere — get rid of it? What kind of a sap do you take me for? Or — hell, I don’t even have to do that!”

\n\n

He put his gun down and picked up Terry’s — the very thing Terry had been hoping he would do.

\n\n

“How ‘bout my pluggin’ you with your own gun? Suicide! You was in love with some gal here in town, maybe — and she give you a standup and you committed suicide!” He chuckled self-approvingly. “Say, that’s a good one, too, ain’t it? You won’t be around to say it ain’t so!”

\n\n

“Oh, hell, I suppose you got me!”

\n\n

Terry rose dejectedly and put his hands into his pockets. The gun in Marty’s hand followed him, and Marty’s eyes were alert, his lips twisted into an amused sneer as though he suspected Terry intended to attack and was quite ready to let him commit self-destruction. Terry strolled forward a step.

\n\n

At the corner of the desk, Terry turned and faced Marty. He began, “Listen, Marty …”

\n\n

Then he threw himself forward in a fierce, lunging dive — one hundred and ninety pounds of mauling ferocity.

\n\n

His fangs showing like a wolf’s, Marty pulled the trigger of Bradford’s gun. A futile pop resulted. Yelling hoarsely as Terry struck him, Marty dropped Terry’s revolver and tried to pick up his own. But now Terry’s fists smote him in the softness between chin and collarbone, and abruptly the big fellow went limp. To make doubly sure, Terry banged him over the head with his own forty-five, scooped up the other gun, and stepped away. Marty slid half off his chair, and Terry let him lay. The gunman was out cold.

\n\n

His eyes on the door, Terry grabbed the telephone. In another moment he was speaking to the Springfield chief of police.

\n\n

“Hiyuh, chief — this is Terry Bradford! I’m in Starrett’s office on Abington Street, suite 404. Got a prisoner for you — attempted murder and a couple of other things. His side kick is due here any minute … . What? Yes, I’m all right now, bu’ I wasn’t a little while ago. Say, I really ought to duck this bird that’s coming here … got no right to take chances with what I’m carrying … only I happen to be sore at him for ruining my coat.

\n\n

“The fellow I have here is one of the two who threatened Kingsberg — remember? They tried to finish me off … . I just happened to be lucky. Hurry over here, Chief!”

\n\n

He put down the instrument and ran out, closing the door of the inner office behind him. He raced through the outer office, into the hallway to the elevator shaft, and pressed the button several times. Then he remembered the elevator hadn’t been running when he came.

\n\n

To his ears came the sound of footsteps climbing up the stairs. He went back into the outer office and stood to one side of the closed door.

\n\n

A moment later the door opened almost noiselessly. He could see Harry’s form through the opaque glass. Harry carried a suitcase — Terry’s.

\n\n

Silently Terry rose behind him. The butt of his revolver came down with a vicious swing over the gunman’s ear. Harry staggered sideways, his knees started to buckle. Then he folded up like an accordion. Terry let him fall. He straightened him out and went through the inert form with expert fingers, removing a gun and a blackjack. Opening the suitcase, he put Harry’s weapons into it. He stuck Marty’s gun into his own pocket … he might need it.

\n\n

It was a quarter of three, still almost an hour and a half short of train time. He made up his mind he would spend that hour and a half in the police station. He had no right to take any more chances with those plans.

\n\n

Then, smiling to himself, he drew out the cylinder of his own forty-five. All the cartridges were intact. And Kingsberg’s sketch, made on tissue thin onionskin paper, had been rammed into one of the cartridge cases — after it had been emptied of powder. That cartridge case had been one bullet removed from the firing-pin. Marty’s shot had been ineffective because when he pulled the trigger, the firing-pin had fallen on a paper-wadded cartridge.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Crime Cavalcade", "author": "Vincent H. Gaddis", "body": ""

Time to Practice

\n\n

In Los Angeles recently, Vernon Bronson Twitchell had the unique opportunity of studying his own book behind bars. The author of Living Without Liquor, Twitchell began a 6o-day sentence for drunken driving. Police said it was the 32nd time he had been arrested for drunkenness.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Squealer

\n\n

Washington, D. C. police, tracking a $650 robbery, visited the home of James Morgan to question him. Vehemently he denied all knowledge of the money. The police were just leaving when the tea kettle began to whistle. An alert officer lifted the lid — and found the stolen money floating on the boiling water.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Repeater

\n\n

In Pittsburgh, Pa., Morris Lebovitz, lost a 1953 Cadillac by theft. Eventually, tired of being car-less, he bought a 1954 model. Several days later the new car was stolen, and the old, in excellent condition, was left in its place.

\n\n

This time police found the culprit, Clarence Bailey, 26, who had stolen both cars.

\n\n

He was sentenced to two to six years in the penitentiary.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Matrimonial Antics

\n\n

In Los Angeles a man arrested for marrying four separate females in less than twelve months declared aggrievedly: “I had to have something to do on my days off!”

\n\n

In Knoxville, Tenn., a husband sued for divorce on the grounds that his wife wrote a song entitled Thirty Months in Hell just to describe their marriage.

\n\n

While in Hartford, Conn., police entered a restaurant to arrest for non-support a part-time piano player, Paul H. Scott, 34, and found him playing his heart out. The song he was beating out on the ivories was I Wish I Was Single Again!

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Bargain

\n\n

Harvey Thompson, waiter at The Barbecue Pit in Dallas, Tex., knows a good offer when he gets it. Threatened by a holdup man who gave him a note reading, “Give me forty dollars. If you don’t have forty, give me ten,” Thompson handed over $10 and kept the change.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Willing Victim

\n\n

A Nashville, Tenn. newspaper printed a letter from a convict aged 21, serving five years for robbery, who declared that he was anxious to marry “any widow, regardless of age, so long as she has enough money to educate me and knows the governor well enough to get me a pardon.”

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Futility

\n\n

Atlanta, Ga. burglars, escaping with a safe containing $5000 from a supermarket, successfully loaded it onto their truck. But as they drove off, the safe slid down onto the pavement where it remained for the police.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Imitation Rigor Morin

\n\n

A suicide using a gun may unintentionally mimic rigor mortis in the fingers only — provided he keeps a tight hold on the revolver. For some unknown reason a cadaveric spasm may occur which makes the hand stiffen tenaciously onto the weapon, while the rest of his body remains limp. Normal rigor mortis, affecting the entire body, will not reach the hands for at least two hours after death.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Blue Law Bandit

\n\n

A grocer in Yuma, Ariz. is being forced to close his store on Sundays against his will. Twice a masked robber has taken $6,000 from store owner George Spurling. Each time the bandit, operating on week days only, tells Spurling the robberies will continue “as long as you stay open Sundays.”

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Fragrant Hideout

\n\n

Another grocery store in the Southwest, this time in Dallas, Tex., was found by several squad cars answering an alarm to have its back door wide open. After a fruitless search of the place, officers were about to leave when Police Sgt. Ted Cain and Detective T. T. Lord lifted the lid of a garbage can. Crouched moistly inside was the 19-year-old burglar.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Friendly Custom

\n\n

Police in Knoxville, Tenn., were instructed by Mayor George Dempster never to swear when making arrests.

\n\n

“A man,” the mayor told them, “ought to reserve profanity for his friends and not just spread it around.”

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Sleepytime Boys

\n\n

In Seattle, Wash., a frustrated citizen trying to guard against burglars reported to police that he locked and bolted his door, hid $40 in his sock, and wore the sock to bed. In the morning the sock was still on his foot, but the $40 was gone.

\n\n

Gerald Blanchard, of Marinette, Wis., confessed to police in Marquette, Mich, a unique method of picking his hotel robbery victims. Blanchard, a beauty shop supply salesman, listens for snores. There’s a certain rhythm, he insists, that makes it safe to enter for an overhaul of billfolds and purses.

\n\n

And in Inverness, Calif., Vadim Turkan fastened the doors of his grocery with heavy chains and went to bed in the back room. Neighbors were awakened when burglars took off the chains and fled with 19 cases of beer before the police arrived. Turkan slept on.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Monkey Business

\n\n

Officers Johnny Coles and Jim Harp of Tulsa, Okla., arrested M. L. Sharp for illegal possession of whiskey, then couldn’t find the liquor in the house. But a search of the back yard revealed a pet monkey in an old chicken coop, playing with a full half pint. Near him were 16 more pints.

\n\n

“That damned monkey,” Sharp groaned, “Last week he broke 12 bottles.”

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Female of the Species

\n\n

An odd “crime” occurred in Liege, Belgium, one afternoon in January, 1911, when Auguste Clemond, wealthy widower, summoned police after the death of his only daughter, Marie. She had been engaged to a law clerk, Raymond Hamelle, but was fiercely jealous of his affection for her more attractive cousin, Jeanne.

\n\n

Several nights before her death, Hamelle had promised to come to discuss wedding details, but when he failed to arrive by 9 p.m., Marie dashed furiously out into the storm. Two hours later she returned soaked and shivering. Pneumonia set in, and as the end drew near, her father sent for Hamelle. Until three in the morning the young man watched beside her bed, then told M. Clemond that Marie had sent him away, asking her father to come instead. Alone with her parent, Marie, barely able to whisper, told him just before she died that Hamelle had opened her jewel case and stolen a diamond.

\n\n

Investigation revealed that Hamelle had courted Jeanne until won over by Marie’s money and her vigorous pursuit. Jeanne swore that although Hamelle had not seen her since the engagement, Marie was mad with jealousy and constantly spied on her. It was also revealed that Jeanne was next of kin since her cousin’s death, and under the will of Marie’s grandfather would inherit the family property. Marie had died suddenly. Was it possible, police wondered, that Hamelle was guilty of murder as well as theft?

\n\n

An autopsy gave the answer. Contents of the viscera revealed not a trace of poison — but within Marie’s stomach was the missing 7- carat diamond, swallowed in a deathbed revenge by the jealous girl.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

An Ounce of Prevention

\n\n

In Dallas, Tex., arresting a man who had slugged his wife with a sledge hammer, police learned from him that she “always got cranky” when the weather was bad. So, fearing another twister because of a threatening sky, he told them he had forestalled a scene by bopping her over the head and sending her to the hospital.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Payoff In Blood", "author": "Roy Lopez", "body": ""
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\n
Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Tony Marko Was Out

\n\n

Judd Kamler stared over the rim of his newspaper at the girl who paced the living room floor with long cat-like strides. Judd’s gray eyes were bleak.

\n\n

“What the devil is the matter with you?”

\n\n

Laurette whirled on him.

\n\n

“Why should anything be the matter?”

\n\n

Something sure as hell is. You’ve been wound up like a two-buck watch for the last few days.”

\n\n

Laurette didn’t answer. The soft curves of her full, rounded figured like quicksilver beneath the red-panelled black crepe hostess gown. His wife’s pantherish beauty could still do things to Judd even after these six years of virtual isolation, with only Laurette for company. But her present attack of the fidgets really bothered him.

\n\n

He watched her pour in inch of whiskey into her half-empty highball and drain the glass.

\n\n

He said, “You’re not worrying about Tony, are you, angel?”

\n\n

She banged the empty glass hollowly on the table.

\n\n

“Sure I’m worried. Anybody but a dope like you would be too.”

\n\n

“Take it easy,” he said. “Tony couldn’t find us in a million years.”

\n\n

“But if he did — “

\n\n

“Forget it. He can’t. We’ve moved a half a dozen times these past six years. We’ve covered our tracks every step of the way. Who cares if he’s out? He wouldn’t even know where to start looking.”

\n\n

Laurette glared at him and reached for the bottle again. Her nervousness began to get through to Judd. For the first time doubts began to stir in his own mind. He thought he had hidden his tracks so that Tony could never find him. But how could he be sure?

\n\n

It was not a pleasant thing to think about. Six years ago he and Tony Marko had pulled a payroll job back East. The caper had blown up in their faces. The guard had shot Tony in the leg, anchored him there for the cops to grab. Judd had finished the deal, taking a cool hundred thousand plus away with him. But he had killed the guard in doing it.

\n\n

The outcome had had its good points. Laurette had been Tony’s girl, but she had weighed Judd’s hundred grand against the prospect of starving while she waited for Tony, and the hundred grand had won out.

\n\n

All during her trial she and Judd had watched the papers, wondering if Tony would sing. He hadn’t. Apparently he was willing to ride the rap alone on the chance that Judd would protect his share of the take.

\n\n

Judd had smiled about that at the time, when it became apparent how Tony’s mind was working. Tony was still a kid then. He probably really expected Judd to stick by him, keep his fifty thousand all packed up in cellophane and ready to hand over whenever Tony slipped his bonds.

\n\n

Instead, Judd had spent those six years carefully cutting off every possible trail that could ever lead Tony Marko to him. He had married Tony’s girl and taken Tony’s fifty thousand with him, and he had no intention of ever letting Tony get a look at either of them again. He and Laurette had holed up in Chi, in Mobile, in Dallas. Now they were in California, in a lonely mountain house far above the tiny village of Esperanza.

\n\n

And Tony Marko was out. With a game leg, the newspaper had said. The guard’s bullet had done a permanent job.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Angry Night

\n\n

THE angry night wind whirled around the top of the mountain and rattled one of the living room windows like a dog worrying a bone. Judd swore at it under his breath and put down his paper. He crossed the room and threw the window open, working to jam a piece of cardboard back between the loose frame and the sash.

\n\n

A sound reached his ears and he froze. He knew without turning that Laurette had heard it too.

\n\n

The car was already half way up the tortuous mountain road. Judd could practically pinpoint it by the sound of the laboring motor, fighting against the steep grade and the corkscrew turns. There were few houses below this one, and none above. Judd listened, his heart rumbling in his thick bull-like chest.

\n\n

He strained to hear, to read the message the gusts of wind were carrying up to him. Laurette was standing close now and for once the heady perfume she wore meant nothing to him. He was listening to that car motor, listening and figuring.

\n\n

It would be passing the canyon house three miles below about now. That was the last house short of Judd’s. He waited for the motor to die. It kept coming, slowly, steadily.

\n\n

Laurette’s gasp at his shoulder was tight and strangled.

\n\n

“He’s a stranger, Judd! He shifted to second! He doesn’t know the road!”

\n\n

The back of Judd’s neck began to ache. He and Laurette often laughed at how easily they could tell whether the few cars that climbed the dangerously narrow road were driven by natives, just by following the sound of the motors echoing back and forth between the mountains.

\n\n

But Judd was not laughing tonight. He remembered how he too had been frightened at first by the deep canyons which gaped at either side of the road. It had been months before he had dared make the drive in anything but second and low.

\n\n

The motor he was listening to now was telling him something, as clearly as if it could speak. It was telling him that the driver of that car had never driven this road before.

\n\n

“It’s Tony,” Laurette whispered. “I know it is.”

\n\n

“Damn it, it can’t be Tony! There’s no way he could trace us, no way at all!”

\n\n

She didn’t seem to have heard him. He stared down into the canyon again, saw a shaft of light move hesitantly across the face of the opposite mountain and disappear. The motor whined on, louder now.

\n\n

“It’s somebody from the village,” Judd said. “It must be. Get away from the window so he won’t think we’re watching for anything.”

\n\n

“Stop giving me orders, Judd. I — “

\n\n

“Get away from that window!”

\n\n

Laurette flopped defiantly on to the couch and crossed her legs. Her pale blue eyes, hard and bright beneath her soft chestnut hair, met Judd’s. He sat down and picked up his newspaper again but it lay flat and unnoticed in his lap.

\n\n

Minutes passed. The car came closer, its motor protesting. Another shaft of light flared in the front window as the automobile turned the final curve, slowed down.

\n\n

Judd made a dive for the big table, yanked out his gun.

\n\n

The car motor coughed into silence. The door opened and closed. Feet shuffled on gravel, then footsteps sounded hollowly on the wooden stairs leading up to the porch.

\n\n

The tightness at the base of Judd’s neck spread into his shoulders, down his back. He stared at Laurette horrified, not daring to believe what he heard.

\n\n

A heavy step, then a lighter one. Heavy. Light. A man climbing the porch stairs, one step at a time.

\n\n

A man with a game leg.

\n\n

Judd clutched the gun in his coat pocket and watched the door, fascinated. He counted the steps as though hypnotized, the two sounds for each step. Then an uneven scraping on the porch.

\n\n

The rasp of the buzzer set a million tiny needles in motion, jabbing at every inch of Judd’s big frame. He walked slowly to the door, his hand in his coat pocket. The doorknob was wet as he turned it.

\n\n

“Hello, Judd,” Tony Marko said.

\n\n

He wasn’t the way Judd remembered him. He had been a big, happy blond kid when Judd had picked him up. He had owned a smile that paid off, a smile which had worked miracles on the jury that had tried him. The smile was still there today, but it was an imitation now. It was as though somebody had taken an impression of Tony Marko’s face as it used to be, and then chiseled a copy of it out of unpolished marble.

\n\n

“Hello, kid.” Judd’s mouth felt crammed with gauze. “Come on in.”

\n\n

He saw Tony’s eyes travel to Laurette. The girl’s lips showed dark red on a face drained of color.

\n\n

“It’s been a long time, beautiful,” Tony mocked. He limped into the room, the game leg stiff and useless, and sank heavily into Judd’s chair.

\n\n

“Drink, Tony?” Judd said.

\n\n

“Why not?”

\n\n

He made the highball in the glass Laurette had been using. Laurette didn’t notice. She and Tony were staring at each other. He saw Laurette’s mouth working as though she were trying to think of something to say.

\n\n

“How did you find us?” Judd asked casually.

\n\n

Tony accepted the highball and sipped it. He seemed completely at ease.

\n\n

“You didn’t cover your tracks as clean as you thought,” he said. “I didn’t have too much trouble.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

Tony Demands His Cut

\n\n

Judd stiffened. He had expected Tony to have some definite answer rigged up. Instead Tony was dodging the question.

\n\n

“We were planning to contact you, kid,” Judd said. “Soon as you had been out a little while. We just didn’t want to stick out necks out too soon so the cops would get a lead on us. That wouldn’t have helped anybody.”

\n\n

“Sure,” Tony said. “I know.”

\n\n

“How did you get out so soon?” Laurette found her voice.

\n\n

“Soft-hearted parole board,” Tony said. “And the witnesses, bless ‘em all, who saw it was Judd who killed the guard, not me.”

\n\n

“Maybe there’s more to it,” Judd said thinly. “Maybe they sprung you so they could follow you and see what happened.”

\n\n

“Don’t worry. Nobody followed me here. I didn’t sweat out those six years just so I could turn my fifty grand back to the cops. I’m not dumb, you know.” He looked up and his smile vanished. “I’ll take that fifty now, Judd.”

\n\n

Judd saw Laurette watching him. The gun was a hard, reassuring lump in his pocket. But he couldn’t kill Tony. Not yet. It was still possible that the kid had tracked him down to put the finger on him. There still might be police breathing down his neck, no matter what Tony said. He had to stall, try to find out more.

\n\n

It never occurred to him to give Tony his share and forget about it. He couldn’t afford to. Laurette was in his blood now and Laurette cost money. There wasn’t much of Judd’s own fifty thousand left after these six years. With Tony’s split gone, Laurette would vanish, too.

\n\n

“It’ll take time, kid,” he said.

\n\n

“How come?” There was steel in Tony’s voice.

\n\n

“You can’t pull that kind of money out of a hat, at a moment’s notice. Some of it’s in the bank down in Esperanza, most of it is in Los Angeles banks. I can get it, sure, but I can’t pull every cent all at once. That would be a skull play for both of us.”

\n\n

“The real skull play,” Tony said, “would be for you not to get that dough all at once. I told you a minute ago that I hadn’t led to cops to you. That don’t mean I can’t change my mind if you get any ideas about crossing me.”

\n\n

“Who’s talking about crossing anybody? I’m just trying to explain — “

\n\n

“Suppose I do a little explaining, chum. Everybody back East knows I didn’t kill the guard. The murder charge is still wide open. Up to now I haven’t tied you in because I wanted my cut. But if I don’t get it. … “ He snapped his fingers. “You’re through. Really through.”

\n\n

Judd swallowed. Laurette was watching him too and he tried to avoid her eyes.

\n\n

“All right,” he said finally. “I’ll get as much as I can tomorrow. I can drive down to L.A. in the morning and pull some of it. Maybe not the whole fifty at one time — “

\n\n

“Make it close to fifty. Six years is all the waiting I intend to do.”

\n\n

Judd nodded. “Where are you staying? Down in Esperanza?”

\n\n

“That’s right.”

\n\n

“Where?”

\n\n

“What difference does it make? I don’t mind driving back up here for a haul like this.”

\n\n

Judd smiled grimly. “Those five-hundred foot drops don’t seem to bother you much.”

\n\n

“I can handle the road. Don’t worry about it.”

\n\n

“It’s still no good. I’d rather bring the stuff to your place. The fewer cars come up that road and stop here, the better.”

\n\n

Laurette said, “You’re crazy, Judd. It’s just as dangerous for you to be seen too much in town.”

\n\n

“What’s the address?” Judd broke in.

\n\n

Tony shrugged.

\n\n

“It’s a rooming house at Thirty-Seven Obispo Street. My flat is number five. What time will you be there?”

\n\n

“Let’s say eleven tomorrow night. Okay?”

\n\n

Tony pulled himself to his feet. “Okay,” he said. “Nice to know you protected my slice for me, Judd. I figured I could count on you.”

\n\n

He hobbled out without looking back. His game leg banged unevenly on the outside stairs, then the car pulled cautiously away for the tortuous drive back into the valley.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

The Stall

\n\n

As the sound dimmed Laurette whirled on Judd.

\n\n

“What’s the idea of the stall?” she demanded. “What’s with that story about the money being in banks? You’ve got every cent that’s left right here in this house.”

\n\n

“Tony doesn’t know that.”

\n\n

“I still say it stinks. The guy served your time for you and kept you clean.”

\n\n

Judd’s hand tightened around her arm and twisted. Laurette glared at him and bit her lip.

\n\n

“Whose side are you on, beautiful?” he muttered. “I thought you had smartened up by now. Or maybe your memory’s short. Maybe you’re forgetting that when I picked that kid up, he was nothing but a garage mechanic pulling down a lousy twenty bucks a week.”

\n\n

“Six years in the stir — “

\n\n

“It’s still cheap for what he stands to get. I’m not holding out on him. I’ll take him the dough tomorrow. But I’ve got to protect myself too. If I had given him the stuff tonight, he could have taken it back to town, sent the cops up after me and beat it. Think I’m nuts?”

\n\n

Laurette squirmed out of his grasp and went upstairs. Judd watched her thoughtfully. It was a full hour before he followed her. There were a lot of things he had to think about.

\n\n

One of the most important was the question of how Tony had trailed them. And Judd was pretty sure he knew the answer to that. It was why he had taken the trouble to get Tony’s address in town. Maybe Laurette had known before where Tony would be holed up. Now Judd knew it too.

\n\n

A fog settled over the mountain top during the night and the next morning broke damp and sticky. Just before lunch Laurette said, “I’ll be going down into town this afternoon.”

\n\n

“What for?”

\n\n

“I have an appointment at the beauty parlor.”

\n\n

Judd thought back. It was just three days ago that she had been to the beauty parlor last. She probably thought he wouldn’t remember.

\n\n

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll drive you down.”

\n\n

Laurette hesitated.

\n\n

“I don’t mind going alone.”

\n\n

“Forget it. I’ve got some things to do in town anyway. We’ll go together.”

\n\n

She left it there. After lunch Judd drove down through the fog bank which clung to the mountain like damp wool. He dropped Laurette at the beauty parlor and said, “What time will you be ready?”

\n\n

“Couple of hours.”

\n\n

Judd was practically certain now. Her calmness was forced, too forced.

\n\n

“Pick me up at four thirty.”

\n\n

He nodded and drove off. He turned right at the next corner, right again, and parked. He walked two blocks, keeping an eye out for Laurette, and found himself on Obispo Street.

\n\n

Thirty-seven looked like any of a dozen other rooming houses spotted about the village. Judd walked past the doorway and looked in. He saw nobody. Most people living in a place like that would be out to work this time of day. He mashed out his cigarette, glanced up and down the narrow street again and ducked inside.

\n\n

He paused in the entryway, listening. Somebody had a radio tuned in to a soap opera in one of the first-floor rooms. It was the only sound he heard.

\n\n

He found room number five at the top of the stairs, but he passed it without knocking. Instead, he tried the one unnumbered door in the hallway. It was a linen closet. He slipped inside and waited. The soap opera from the downstairs flat was a mumble which rose and fell indistinctly. But Judd could still hear it. The doors and walls seemed to be paper thin.

\n\n

He didn’t have long to wait. Twelve minutes after he arrived, light footsteps clicked hurriedly up the stairs. There was a sharp rap at number five Judd waited till the door opened, then he risked a look.

\n\n

The girl was Laurette, but she didn’t notice him. She was too busy throwing her arms around Tony Marko and crying, “Tony, darling!”

\n\n

Tony said, “It’s been a long time, baby,” and drew her inside. The door clicked shut.

\n\n

Anger coursed inside of Judd like molten metal. He crept to the door and listened, his hands wadded into iron fists in his pockets. He could hear Tony and Laurette as clearly as if he were in the room himself, and after a few minutes all of his own questions had been answered.

\n\n

“I was wondering if you would be able to get away today,” Tony said.

\n\n

“Don’t worry,” Laurette laughed. “I’ve got Judd wrapped up tight. He’s still crazy about me.”

\n\n

“I can understand that, baby. Has he caught on yet that you were the one who tipped me off where to find him?”

\n\n

“He hasn’t said anything about it.” The laughter went out of her voice. “But I think he does know, Tony. He was so sure you’d never get a lead. He’s bound to figure it that way.”

\n\n

“Don’t let him scare you,” Tony said. “He won’t be on your neck any more, once I’ve got my cut.”

\n\n

Judd wanted to tear the door off its hinges and smash it over Tony Marko’s head. He fought to keep still so he wouldn’t miss anything.

\n\n

“You can’t trust him,” Laurette said. “He lied about the money being in banks. He’s got it in the house, what’s left of it.”

\n\n

Tony muttered something. Laurette rushed on, “You can’t trust him, darling. If he comes here tonight, he won’t bring the money with him. He’ll be planning to kill you.”

\n\n

And then Judd heard what he was waiting for.

\n\n

Tony said: “He won’t kill me. And he won’t bother either of us again after today. By eleven o’clock tonight, Judd Kaniler will be dead.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

The kid was doing him a favor

\n\n

Judd didn’t wait any longer. He had his answer now, and he knew that if he staved there another minute he’d break the door down and blow his top. The stakes were too high for a move like that. He was ahead of Tony now, way ahead of him. It would be simple to handle the deal from here on.

\n\n

He got out of the neighborhood, being careful to avoid any streets which could be seen from Tony’s window. He went back to the car and sat there, thinking, planning.

\n\n

Serve Laurette right if he snuffed her out the same time as Tony. But it wasn’t the way Judd planned to play it. He still wanted Laurette around, even if she had ratted on him. And the strange thing was, he knew she would stick with him once Tony was out of the picture. He knew her after six long years, knew her money-crazy mind inside out. With Tony gone and Judd still holding over fifty thousand in cash, she’d stick. Judd was positive.

\n\n

Tony was the only one to worry about. Tony had said Judd wouldn’t be alive to keep that appointment at his flat at eleven that night. That meant he’d be coming up to Judd’s place on the mountain some time earlier in the evening, on some pretext or other. A killing in that remote spot might not be discovered for weeks.

\n\n

Judd smiled grimly. The kid was doing him a favor.

\n\n

He picked Laurette up in front of the beauty parlor and pretended not to notice how nervous she was on the long drive back up the mountain. He made the run in high, and for once Laurette was too pre-occupied to be scared of the hairpin turns and the sharp drops. She chain smoked, staring straight ahead and saying nothing.

\n\n

After dinner Laurette said, “What time will you be going down into Esperanza to see Tony?”

\n\n

“I don’t know,” Judd said easily. “Ten-thirty maybe. That would give me plenty of time.”

\n\n

The girl made herself a stiff drink and turned on the radio. Judd said, “Cut it off, angel.”

\n\n

“Why? They got some good shows on tonight.”

\n\n

“Turn it off and keep it off. I feel like reading.”

\n\n

He could see her watching him, trying to figure if he was on to what was coming. He ignored her glance and pretended to read a magazine. He wanted no radio, no conversation — nothing which could prevent his hearing any car which climbed the mountain. The window which had been rattling the night before was thrown wide open tonight.

\n\n

Laurette set up a card table and tried to concentrate on solitaire. Judd watched her make a dozen misplays but he said nothing. The ashtray she was using filled up in no time with red-tipped cigarettes, mashed out with only a half inch smoked away.

\n\n

He was watching her when he heard the car. He saw her grow rigid, and the card she was holding dropped to the table top. Judd remained motionless. The car was moving in second gear, somewhere in the canyons below. Then the motor died and the silence of the night closed in again.

\n\n

Judd frowned slightly. That could have been someone turning in at the house three miles below. He couldn’t be sure. He held his breath, straining to hear. He heard nothing.

\n\n

It was five minutes past nine.

\n\n

“For Pete’s sake!” Laurette burst out. “Can’t I have some radio now?”

\n\n

He shook his head. Laurette shuffled the deck of cards on the table and went back to the kitchen for another drink.

\n\n

The clock dragged to nine-thirty, then ten. Judd began to tighten up, the way he used to do before a big job. He wanted to have a drink himself but he held off. The chips were down tonight. And Tony Marko no dope.

\n\n

If the blasted kid would only show! Judd was ready for him. His gun was in his pocket again, and he was set for anything Tony could throw at him. But there had been no more cars since the one which had died out into silence miles below …

\n\n

A gasp of bad air ripped from Judd’s straining lungs. He had heard the noise from outside the house. And at the same instant he knew what was happening. The other car had been Tony’s. Tony had finished his trip on foot. He was outside now. Outside this house. Maybe his gun was leveled at Judd right this minute, through a window … .

\n\n

Judd rose to his feet and moved as quickly as he dared toward the cellar door.

\n\n

Laurette glanced at him sharply and he mumbled, “Don’t like the way the furnace is going.”

\n\n

He wondered at every step if he’d hear the crash of a shot, and he swore at himself for not figuring Tony’s plan.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

You Killed Him

\n\n

He reached the cellar door and exhaled sharply. He closed it behind him and felt his way down, not daring to turn on the light. But he didn’t go all the way into the cellar itself. He climbed the opposite stairs and opened the slanting doors to the clear star-filled night outside. His right hand was damp around the cold handle of his gun.

\n\n

He waited, then leaped out and crouched in the shadows, letting the door drop noiselessly into place behind him. No telling where Tony Marko was now. Somewhere out here in the darkness, sure. But where?

\n\n

Carefully he moved forward, hugging the wall. He strained his eyes at the clumps of flowering shrubs which rustled gently in the wind. Any of them could conceal a man, a man who had waited six years and traveled two thousand miles to kill him.

\n\n

He ducked around the corner and flattened himself against the house. The stone facing was cold at his back and his lungs ached again. Slowly he crept on, waiting, searching … .

\n\n

Then it happened. A figure appeared suddenly around the corner of the garage, a tall figure silhouetted against the gray night.

\n\n

Tony Marko.

\n\n

There was a strangled cry. Judd’s gun coughed the night’s stillness. Tony staggered back and sprawled into a shapeless heap against the back of the garage. Four bullets smashed into the body of Tony Marko. And when the mountains had swallowed up the noise, Tony Marko was dead.

\n\n

The back door flew open and Laurette rushed out. Her eyes glowed wildly in the darkness.

\n\n

“You killed him!” she screamed. “You killed him!”

\n\n

Judd’s throat was hot and dry. He grabbed the girl and shook her like an animal.

\n\n

“Snap out of it,” Judd shouted. “It’s over now.”

\n\n

Laurette was going to pieces and Judd knew there was no time to lose. Somebody might have heard those shots down in the canyon. He dropped the gun in his pocket and swung hard with his free hand. His fist cracked against Laurette’s jaw and she immediately went limp in his arms.

\n\n

Working fast, Judd dragged her into the garage and dumped her into the front seat. He threw Tony Marko’s body into the back. Laurette would stay out long enough for him to get half way down the mountain and throw what was left of Tony into a canyon. It might be months before the corpse would be discovered and maybe by then it would be too late for any positive identification. Laurette could be handled when she came to. If she couldn’t — then she could always be taken care of the same way Tony had been.

\n\n

Judd hurried into the house long enough to grab the remainder of the original hundred thousand. He tossed it in the car, leaped in himself and kicked his motor into life. He was glad he had always made a habit of garaging his car backwards so that he could head out in a hurry in any emergency.

\n\n

Laurette Scathed heavily at his side as he roared out of the driveway and started down the mountain. For the first time he felt safe. Tony was dead. The last person outside of Laurette who could ever finger him for that killing back East was out of the way. He still had the money, and even more important than that, he still had Laurette … .

\n\n

His face blanched as he realized he was moving too fast. There was a curve ahead, the first hairpin turn with a vertical drop into nowhere. Judd’s feet slammed the brake pedal.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 7

\n\n

A Wide, Black Pool

\n\n

Nothing happened. The car bowled forward, gaining more and more speed by the second.

\n\n

Suddenly Judd’s whole body went limp with horror. His feet pumped impotently at a brake which was not there. He grabbed at the emergency. It was a loose piece of metal in his hand. The brakes had been gimicked.

\n\n

In one blinding instant Judd realized what had happened. Tony hadn’t come up that mountain to shoot him. Tony had been a garage mechanic when Judd had picked him up. He had a weapon even better than a gun, for a man who was planning to drive a car down the mountain to keep an eleven o’clock appointment. He and Laurette would wait for the crash to tell them Judd was dead, then they’d grab the money and escape in Tony’s own car.

\n\n

Judd’s face was a mask of terror. He tried to jam the gears into second but it was too late. He wrenched at the wheel as the curve drew closer. Laurette groaned and rolled over against him.

\n\n

The tires squealed and gave. Judd screamed.

\n\n

The canyon yawned beneath him like a wide, black pool — a pool which had no bottom.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Who Killed Dolly Reynolds", "author": "Marjorie Mears", "body": ""

Three juries voted and the public said, “Let it drop!”

\n\n

Now that more than thirty years have passed, can you explain the murder of the Belle of Mount Vernon? Why was she killed? Why was such a weapon used? Who killed her?

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Broadway is no older than its butterflies; no longer than the list of these beautiful young girls, whose dancing feet have at last become entangled in the dark ways of crime. Like Dot King and Louise Lawson, her latter-day counterparts, Dolly Reynolds fluttered awhile in the bright lights before she met a violent death.

\n\n

On the morning of August 16, 1898, the front pages of New York newspapers were devoted to Dewey’s capture of Manila, and the murder of Dolly Reynolds in the Grand Hotel at Broadway and Thirty — first Street. Who killed the pretty twenty-one-year-old daughter of a respectable Mount Vernon family, and why, was to puzzle private citizens, detectives, and district attorneys for many months.

\n\n

At nineteen, Emelyne Reynolds, nicknamed Dolly, was the belle of Mount Vernon. She was beautiful and she loved pretty clothes, jewelry, and champagne. A willing New York broker was on hand to provide her with these commodities. And it was not long before Dolly decided to leave her father’s house and live in New York. Her ambition ran toward the stage, but in the meantime she pursued the less glittering profession of book agent. When Dolly returned on visits to the parental rooftree, she often drove up in “a stylish trap.” Her clothes were fashionable. And there were rings on her fingers.

\n\n

But father and mother Reynolds were simple, unimaginative folk. They wondered a little how Dolly could afford to buy these things, and maintain her luxuriously furnished flat at the corner-of Ninth Avenue and Fifty-eighth Street, and why she preferred to be known at that address as “Mrs. E. C. Reynolds.” But she had always been an independent young woman and they did not question her too closely; they were only glad that the book business was so good.

\n\n

It is doubtful if the beautiful brown-haired book agent ever sold many sets of “The Literature of All Nations,” in ten volumes. But she learned a lot about the prices of diamonds, lobsters and champagne.

\n\n

Dolly Reynolds had the combination of avarice and stupidity which usually characterize Broadway’s gay moths. And it was the prospect of making a fortune by a dubious race-track scheme that took her into the Grand Hotel on that hot August noonday.

\n\n

Carrying a black shopping bag tucked under the pink arm of her shirtwaist, she told the desk clerk that her husband would join her later, signed the register, “E. Maxwell and wife, Brooklyn,” and was assigned to Room 84, on the fourth floor. Miss Reynolds then ate her luncheon in the hotel cafe and went out. About 5:30 in the afternoon, she returned accompanied by a tall, dark man with a black mustache. And shortly thereafter a pint of champagne and two glasses were delivered on order to Room 84.

\n\n

At 7 o’clock, “Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell” went out, returning about midnight. Patrick Lenihan, the night elevator man, took them up to the fourth floor. At about 2 A. M., Lenihan was mildly surprised to see his mustachioed passenger descend the marble staircase alone — and leave the hotel. Night clerks have reason to be particularly interested in guests who walk out at such ungodly hours, and from behind his desk John Gregory took a good look at the departing profile.

\n\n

Nothing more was seen of the occupants of Room 84, until 10 o’clock the next morning, when, after repeated knockings, the chambermaid entered it.

\n\n

On the floor, between the center table and the lounge, lay the body of a young woman — her head in a pool of blood. The horrified maid gave the alarm. When the police arrived on the scene they discovered a curious weapon on the floor near the dead woman’s head. It was a foot length of lead pipe, crooked at one end, and wound with tire tape at the other. An iron rod had been fitted into the bore at the taped end. Bloodstains showed on the tape where it had struck the victim’s head, breaking her neck. She was fully dressed.

\n\n

There were no signs of a struggle, except for a turneddown stocking, the loosened buttons of her shirtwaist, and the fact that the lobe of one ear was torn, as though an earring had been unceremoniously removed.

\n\n

On the mantelpiece was a black shopping bag. An unknown hand had been in such haste to get at the contents that, rather than fumble with the catch, it had ripped a slit through the leather side.

\n\n

From cards and papers in the bag, detectives learned that the dead woman was not Mrs. E. Maxwell of Brooklyn, but Mrs. E. C. Reynolds of 370 West Fiftyeighth Street, from which address Dolly’s colored maid was brought down to the Grand Hotel, where she identified her mistress’s corpse.

\n\n

When the body was being prepared for the autopsy a bunch of bank notes and a check were discovered underneath the corset. There was only $9.00 in money, but the check was for $13,000. This slip of paper interested Captain McCluskey, chief of the Detective Bureau, exceedingly. It was drawn on the Garfield National Bank, payable to Emma Reynolds, signed by Dudley Gideon, and endorsed on the back by S. J. Kennedy.

\n\n

Down at the bank on Sixth Avenue and Twenty-third Street the cashier informed the detectives that they had no account with a Dudley Gideon, but they did have a depositor named S. J. Kennedy. He was a dentist, with offices at 60 West Twenty-second Street. When the handwritings were compared, the signature of the endorsement tallied exactly with that of the respectable dentist around the corner.

\n\n

Detectives then sought Kennedy at the oflice where he and his father practised dentistry together. The doctor’s answers were so contradictory, that he was conveyed to the Teni derloin Police Station, where hotel employees identified him as the man who had come to the Grand Hotel with Miss Reynolds — and left it , alone. None of Kennedy’s three different accounts of his movements on the night of the murder was satisfactory.

\n\n

His wife and baby being in Massachusetts, he said he had gone to Proctor’s Theater alone, but didn’t remember any of the acts on the stage. His story of how he then went home to New Dorp, Staten Island, where he lived with his parents, was an incriminating tangle of ferry-boats which didn’t land where he said they did; rides on trolley cars whose conductors denied his presence that night, and a four-mile woodland walk, that would have daunted a veteran tramper.

\n\n

Finally, Dr. Kennedy fell back on the time-worn excuse, “I don’t remember.” Except for the fact that he had put on a new pair of socks, and drunk one cocktail in the office, the dental mind was an abysmal blank from 5 o’clock Monday afternoon, until 7 o’clock the following morning, when he remembered being awakened in their New Dorp home.

\n\n

Pieced together fragments of paper found in the waste basket, matched pages in Dr. Kennedy’s prescription pad. The words “E. Maxwell and wife, Brooklyn,” written on it, tallied with his handwriting. Thus, said the detectives, had he instructed the young woman to register. The incriminating check was a form long discarded by the bank, and a book with the same kind of blanks was found in the doctor’s home.

\n\n

A piece of lead pipe which exactly fitted that of the murderer’s bludgeon, and bore corresponding cutting marks of a vise, was discovered in the Kennedy cellar. With the same deadly precision, an 8-inch dark stain on the inside of his right trouser leg, and on his newly purchased underdrawers, fitted the mark that such a piece of lead pipe would make if carried hooked on the drawers’ belt. And what was more natural than tire tape in the tool kit of so ardent a bicyclist as the doctor?

\n\n

Only one link was missing. The hotel employees agreed that the man they saw, had worn a straw hat, and although it was proved that Kennedy had bought a new straw hat on the afternoon of the murder, ‘it could never be found.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n
\n\t\"Dr.\n\t
Dr. Samuel J. Kennedy, a Jekyll and Hyde of real life.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

Why a man like Dr. Kennedy should have chosen that brutal weapon puzzled even the police, and led some people to believe that the murder had been committed by a desperate burglar. It was a thug’s billy. And a robbery had taken place in the hotel that night. Also there were the woman’s missing 3-carat earrings and rings worth several thousands of dollars. But the jewels came to light some time later, on a pantry shelf in the Ninth Avenue apartment, although detectives had previously searched the place; a wakeful woman who had occupied a room directly below number 84, further destroyed the “burglar on the fire escape” theory, and Dr. Kennedy was said to have kept even more sinister company than Dolly Reynolds.

\n\n

The police were interested to learn that he had been emulating the famous firm of Jekyll & Hyde. The devoted father, and respected citizen of New Dorp, was also a familiar figure in New York’s tenderloin, and a heavy plunger at race-tracks. He was said to have previously invested money for the Reynolds girl, giving her the worthless check as her share of the winnings. Presumably, Dolly went to the Grand Hotel to hand over more capital, since four days earlier, she had drawn $500 from her Mount Vernon savings account, telling her mother that she was going to meet Dr. Kennedy on Monday. He had told her to bring this sum in a satchel, she said, and he would have more money to put in it. Why her partner in beating the horses did not simply deduct the $500, if he really had further profits to give her, apparently never crossed her mind.

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n
\n\t\"The\n\t
The notorious room --- 84 of the Grand Hotel --- as seen by a contemporary artist.
\n
\n\n


\n\n

The police version of the real reason for that fatal appointment was that Kennedy took the girl to the hotel for the purpose of recovering the tell-tale check, whose presentation at the bank would mean his discovery as a forger. Failing to extract it by any other means, he had killed her. The slit bag, unbuttoned shirtwaist, and turned-down stocking, indicated that he had looked for it — but those search-proof corsets of the nineties had beaten him.

\n\n

Dr. Samuel J. Kennedy was brought to trial for the murder of Emelyne Reynolds, before Justice Williams, in the Criminal Branch of the Superior Court, on March 22, 1899. His defense was a complete denial of the murder charge, and the handwriting on both check and memorandum. His lawyers produced numerous character witnesses from New Dorp, including the pastor of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. A rather vague woman testified that she had seen him in the Staten Island ferry-house at a crucial hour on the night of the murder.

\n\n

His weeping wife, and his 72-year old father, both took the witness stand and denied that the handwritings in question were Dr. Kennedy’s. All in vain. A level-headed jury listened to the iron-clad evidence presented by the prosecution, including a surprise ear-witness, who testified that from her hotel room directly beneath that occupied by “E. Maxwell and wife,” she had heard at 11:50 on the fatal night, the footsteps of two people, then the thud of somebody falling, and later only one person walking around the room. And after three hours deliberation, the twelve men brought in a verdict of guilty of first degree murder.

\n\n

Dr. Kennedy’s lawyers immediately began to work for a new trial, and in February 1901, this was begun. After it had lasted several weeks, the jury found themselves unable to agree. The State then decided to hold a third trial. Handwriting experts now testified both ways. And it was not surprising that after three years, some of the witnesses were dead, and others contradicted themselves. There were those among the jurors who felt that the prisoner’s identification was inadequate. Others thought the motive was insufficient, and the murder not premeditated. Kennedy’s good reputation in his home town impressed them.

\n\n

After twenty-one hours, they were still unable to agree, standing eight for acquittal, and four for conviction. And on June 16, 1901, a third jury was discharged and Dr. Kennedy was released on $10,000 bail.

\n\n

Dolly Reynolds had been ornamental, but her life had not been that prescribed by moralists, and she was dead, whereas Dr. Kennedy was a live and useful member of society. He could still pull teeth. And that, said the dentist, was exactly what he intended to do in the sanctity of New Dorp, “as soon as he was rested, and had gotten his tools and materials in orderf’

\n\n

The surety was released in February, 1903, and about a month later the indictment for murder in the first degree was dismissed, leaving the man who had once spent twenty-one months in the death house at Sing Sing wholly free to cast his life in pleasanter places.

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Dope Smugglers Use Apes As Decoys", "author": "", "body": ""

Investigators employed by the United States on the Texas border have discovered that a new wrinkle is being used by dope smugglers in order to carry on their traffic in drugs.

\n\n

The discovery was made at Galveston, Texas, where a ship which put in from a foreign port was observed to have on its deck two very playful baboons. Playing with the baboons were two sailors who also figure in the plot.

\n\n

When the ship tied up at the wharf, the baboons leaped from the deck and hid behind some boxes on the wharf, followed by the two sailors, presumably to search for the baboons. Shortly after the two sailors returned, together with their baboons, but not until they had loaded their blouses with cocaine and morphine, which they had found behind the boxes on the wharf where it had been left for them.

\n\n

After the ship had been searched for possible stores of drugs, the sailors got out their cocaine and morphine and peddled it to the addicts. According to the story told by Howard J. Brooks, narcotic agent, the sailors have been working the scheme for months.

\n\n

Brooks said he remembered the occurrence of the “playful baboons” when the ship last made port at Galveston.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Hobgoblin", "author": "Rex Whitechurch", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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The Young Hardware Clerk

\n\n

We found the young hardware clerk from Tilson’s Store in the Water Moccasin Slough about two miles up Big Saffron Creek. Those of us who knew this weird, narrow, and sometimes deep stream, would’ve had trouble, despite our familiarity with the countryside, locating Joseph P. Casson, had it not been for some duck hunters. Bold adventurers they were, meriting admiration.

\n\n

In the first place the immediate vicinity of the sluggish yellow stream was practically untenanted of human beings — but the ground was fairly littered with wild creatures, and the water — aye, there was something for you. Predatory fowl, mud turtles, pertinacious moccasins and, incidentally, some of the biggest catfish you ever saw, inhabited Big Saffron. Stunted trees, some cypress and some dwarfed swamp oak, gave it almost a perpetual shade; and if the sun ever shone on the creek or on Water Moccasin Slough (the latter being one of the principal tributaries of Big Saffron), it was never surprised doing it. Along the banks were decayed tree-stumps like you find rotten teeth in the gums of some negligent old person. Vines clung to the sodden earth, with horseweeds and rank, colorless grass growths. Occasionally a predaceous fowl flapped away with a live fish wriggling in its back, or an unseen, furtive animal crushed dry sticks in flight. Or summer ducks fled tree high.

\n\n

Nobody ever understood Big Saffron, but that was because nobody ever went to the trouble of exploring it. That is — not in late years. The creek began on Lafe Martin’s three hundred acre farm, six miles due south of Mason City; it ended somewhere in the Mississippi River, as though it hadn’t been meant to travel very far, and had only a sinister purpose to serve in this world. It was like a river in Hades, or as this writer would imagine such a river to be — one drink of its water would kill a normal human being — a one way river, fit only for the devil’s navigation. The stench on this humid, sticky day was so sharp as to draw tears from your eyes; the smell of gumbo, rotting weeds, decomposed fish and animals, and above all, the bitter acrid stink of deteriorated human flesh. Southeast Mississippi sweltered under a flatiron heat.

\n\n

There was small wonder that buzzards soared over us, their long, featherless necks craned out full length, their projectile shaped bodies making dark blurs through the open branches of those Satanic trees. But the funniest part of it was the way the dead man’s bier was a mound of burlap bags completely covered with rat poison.

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“Why didn’t they throw him into the creek?” asked little Sheriff Homer Custard. “Why go to all the trouble of piling those gunny-sacks under the body?”

\n\n

“At least they took precaution to see the corpse was protected from beasts and buzzards,” I said. “But — let’s get out of here as soon as possible.”

\n\n

Squire Pete Grately, the richest banker in Mason City, lashed his mud besmeared plaid breeches with a looped horseweed.

\n\n

“What killed him?” he grunted.

\n\n

I could understand his wheezing and grunting. He was fat, tall, and his bay window always made me think of the legendary or mythical Paul Bunyan’s enormous chest. Forty eight inches of belly. Close-cropped irongray hair, a jutting chin, a short, red, corpulent neck; dark copper spotted skin, bags under the eyes. It seemed his head had outgrown his skin, and his body had crowded nature’s suit to the bursting point. He was in his shirt sleeves; his blatant plaid coat was folded over his left arm. A black Homburg had been pushed to the back of his cranium.

\n\n

“Cause of death?” I peered up at him, stuck the point of a red pencil (which I afterward threw away) against a blue hole in the back of Casson’s head.

\n\n

“A 22-rifle in the hands of a slow, deliberate killer.”

\n\n

“There goes that damned FBI stuff again,” Grately admonished, turning to the skinny little sheriff. “Why don’t you stop sending Indian George to them criminology schools?”

\n\n

Sheriff Custard grinned. “Because this county want to keep up with the new methods the FBI schools are inaugurating to make murder a lot more unprofitable than it’s ever been before.”

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The acrimony in Custard’s voice belied the expansive grin on his face.

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The banker coughed.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

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A Strange Whistling Sound

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Suddenly I heard a strange whistling sound, not exactly a whistle, not a tune, but a whistler who was imitating something like a creaking wheel. It puzzled me. and I guess it puzzled the banker. I saw him cant his head to listen.

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The sheriff whipped round, stared off through the trees. However, I knew nothing but blue haze met his probing eyes.

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“Never heard anything like that before,” Custard said. “Must be a strange bird. You recollect the duck hunters said they heard someone whistling just before they found Joe Casson? I wonder — “

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“Sure, but they didn’t see who it was,” I said.

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Sweat gleamed on Grately’s face.

\n\n

“Let’s be moving,” he said uneasily. “Let’s be getting out of here. You want to stay here all day? Indian George has looked around for footprints and other clues, without finding anything. Doesn’t this about wind us up?”

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The sheriff turned to me, blinked his blue eyes and said, “See if you can locate the bird that done that whistling. Then come on over to Lafe Martin’s. We’ll truck the body over there for the inquest.

\n\n

Silently I faded off into the blue gloom.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 3

\n\n

Looking for Signs

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But I didn’t find the whistler.

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Nor did I hear the sound again.

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“That’s a weird bird,” I said to myself. I thought I’d heard all the birds that frequented our country, but that was a new one — if it was a bird. I bent over, kept my eyes on the soggy earth. No prints. There wasn’t a solitary footprint —

\n\n

Oh but there was, too. I saw definitely where the weight of a body on solid leather heels had crushed twigs an inch in diameter into the slush of mud. Encouraged, I bent my best efforts to the task, found other signs barely visible to the naked eye. Someone had stood here and moved about, and over beyond the footprints I observed thin wheel tracks, the width of the steel tires were less than those of a common lumber wagon, yet they weren’t buggy tracks. Maybe a buckboard.

\n\n

Well, here was one for the books. Knowing Big Saffron was shunned by the neighboring farmers, that only rarely did a duck hunter venture here on his way to Giant Lake a mile west, the wheel marks and footprints bothered me. I wasn’t quite sure there wasn’t a whistler, that the duck hunters were fooled by the sound. But as carefully as I searched I was unable to follow the trail of the phantom vehicle beyond a narrow rutted lane at least half a mile from Big Saffron.

\n\n

And when a Sioux Indian can’t find such evidence, I can tell you right now it can’t be found. And that’s another one for the books.

\n\n

I thought of young Joseph Casson, how he’d come back from the war to inherit his father’s estate, after being given up for dead in the Pacific. Lafe Martin’s rural empire wasn’t Lafe Martin’s any more. It belonged to Joseph Casson, junior; and now it belonged to the young man’s heirs.

\n\n

The latter had been a money-maker, but his father had been a better one. Young Joe had been thrifty, but not as thrifty as his father had been. Young Joe had hired out to Tilson’s as a hardware clerk. Lafe Martin, unable to pay Joe what he’d owed his dad, was now preparing to move off the farm. Joe had held the mortgage which was worth more than the little empire, including all the livestock and implements, and the last rich grain crop.

\n\n

There was something — yeah, for the books. Lafe Martin’s sixty thousand dollar farm might’ve spelled young Joe’s doom. Had the boy been out here looking around, meandered down to Big Saffron and Water Moccasin Slough, and been ambushed? Certainly nature had never provided a better ambuscade.

\n\n

Slowly, through the suffocating heat, I headed for a narrow dirt road, came to a stake-and-rider fence, paused to look this way and that. My eyes fell upon my leather boots, saw the muck, and with a handful of grass I wiped the boots clean. This mud was of a different hue and texture, and you could tell at a glance it had come from the spongy bogs around Big Saffron — if you knew anything about Big Saffron.

\n\n

I felt of the gun on my right hip, set my hat firmly on my head and headed for Lafe Martin’s farm. A man was coming along the lane between the wooden fences, and he stopped when he saw me. I knew him. His name was Clare Muff, and he was a recluse who lived in a small shack on the Martin farm and sometimes worked for the former owner of the land.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Been a Killing

\n\n

I knew, too, that he never talked to anyone, never even exchanged a greeting with anyone. He’d write his grocery order down and present it to the merchant from whom he’d make the purchases without a single word; and no merchant who knew him would speak to him. Tragically different from any character I’d ever known, Clare Muff seemed harmless enough. His unorthodox nature was revealed, too, in his skinny, long neck his uncommonly long arms, his pale, bony face, his colorless deep set eyes, his unkempt sandy hair, his sharply pointed chin. He just shuffled along, a battered straw hat going to seed on his head, a topknot of hair sticking out through a hole in the crown. And he was barefooted, his overalls cut off about to the knee.

\n\n

He stared at me, and I let him pass without a word. I felt sorry for the damned fool. He was no dunce, he was just a clever actor. But he wasn’t getting any fun out of living, if I knew what I was talking about. He padded on away, not looking back, going toward Big Saffron. And I watched him leave the road, take to a field, disappear away down there in the blue gloom.

\n\n

The I heard the rattle of a spring wagon. Horses were pulled to a stop. It was Lafe Martin who held the reins.

\n\n

“Are you goin’ over to my place, George?”

\n\n

“Yes,” I nodded, clambered aboard the rig and he touched the rumps of the horses with a switch.

\n\n

“Been a killing. Over on Water Moccasin,” I said.

\n\n

He didn’t answer for a moment. The warped wheels of the rig creaked dolefully, like they were lamenting about something. Then Lafe said heavily, “Jest the kind of a place you’d expect it to happen in, George. Who got killed?”

\n\n

“This will floor you,” I said amiably. The big red headed fellow was sort of likeable. His green eyes were like green safety lamps. But he had a stubborn, reddish stubbled jaw. He wore a hickory shirt and a broadbrimmed black, shapeless hat. “Yeah, it’ll floor you, Lafe — bein’ the victim’s little Joe Casson — “

\n\n

His explosion of amazement cut off my speech like he’d snipped it in two with wire clippers. “Jo-ey — Oh. My Lawd!”

\n\n

But I saw the sweat smelling giant spat sedately upon the wagon-tongue, and the tobacco quid stuck there.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

Just Inquirin’

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“Joe say he was coming out here?” I asked, after a polite pause. “Did he say he was coming to see about your — well, your little deal?”

\n\n

“He’s been out here twice already,” Lafe Martin said. “I don’t think he’s missed a foot of the three hundred acres. He didn’t miss an ear of corn in the cribs either.”

\n\n

“That was like him,” I agreed. “He was an ambitious youth. When was he out here the last time?”

\n\n

“Yistiddy,” Martin said, switching the horses again. He seemed to have it in for the corpulent bay mare on the right. He put it on her rump harder than he did the little roan “He was out here yistiddy morning.”

\n\n

“Yessir,” I said. “Long about then he was killed. It’s been hot, rained some but rained fire and brimstone, and the body’s right bad off. What time did Joe leave your place, and which direction did he follow, Lafe?”

\n\n

“He walked right down this road about ten in the morning. He had a brand new .22 rifle with him.”

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“He what?” I swallowed hard, grabbed my hat. Well, there was one for the books. I began to fan myself vigorously.

\n\n

“‘Said he was takln’ a right smart interest in target shootin’,” Lafe said indolently. “He was walkin’. I wanted to haul him to town. He said he’d pick up a ride. I reckon maybe he did, too — ride with someone that had it In for him, good and heavylike.”

\n\n

I rode in silence, the sound of the thin wheels reminding me of a muted flute.

\n\n

“Where you keen, Lafe?” I asked suddenly, skewing round on the hard teat.

\n\n

“Been?” His green eyes flashed coldly, like surgical steel. I thought I saw red glints in them. Green lights turn to red, you know. “Why — dang it, I been over to the No’th sixth. Is that any skin offen your shins, George?”

\n\n

I didn’t get mad, because there wasn’t the right amount of animosity in his voice.

\n\n

“Nope,” I said. “Just inquirin’. Of course you’ll be asked a lot of questions by Sheriff Custard, Lafe. I’m not so danged sure you won’t be directly accused of shootin’ Joe Casson in the back of the head with a .22 rifle — the brand new one you say he was packing. Bein’ as how you’re about the only one who could profit by the dastardly deed.”

\n\n

He didn’t get mad either. He sat there scrooged up like a frog on a log or a bug on a shimmering leaf; but obviously he was ready to hop off if given reasonable provocation.

\n\n

“I reckon,” he said. “I reckon so, George. But when you come right down to it, how could I profit? He was going to let me stay on and work for him. He said I could stay as long as I pleased. It was my home, he said. I could have it for grain rent. Where else could I go? What else could I do? I been a farmer all my life. This has been home sweet home to me. My father farmed it before me. I was brought up on the place. Now — with Joe Casson a goner, why I’ll have to look around for another place to go, and it’s not going to be easy finding one.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 6

\n\n

The Face of the Thing

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The barns and other outbuildings were in better state of preservation than the one-story unpainted house Lafe Martin lived in. It had thick, native lumber clapboards, a rickety front porch. Behind the biggest barn where they’d taken the body (having hauled the cadaver up from the creek in a small flat truck) was an apple orchard. And standing in the barnlot, with a raft of morningglories twining around a board fence behind it was the freakiest-looking scarecrow I had ever seen. It was a direct effigy of Banker Squire Grately, even to the protruding belly, the sporty Homburg and the garish plaid clothes Grately always wore when he dressed up.

\n\n

The face of the thing — danged if it didn’t resemble the squire if you didn’t look at it close enough to see it had been painted on a board with a small brush and barn paints of variegated hues. The clothes were a castoff suit of the squire’s, too, Lafe told me when I asked him.

\n\n

“He gave me the suit when we was friends, George,” the farmer explained. “He said I could have it made over for my nephew who is now off at college learning to be a doctor.”

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“When you were friends?” I snapped, picking up this lead.

\n\n

“What you mean?”

\n\n

We’d stopped at the windmill for a drink. Lafe sent the gourd to the bottom of the galvanized pail, brought it up dripping with cold water and handed it to me.

\n\n

“We fell out when Grately began crowding me. He was looking after old man Casson’s business, and Grately’s a hard one to deal with. I’d been rained out five years in succession. The high water got up, everything went wrong. He jest won’t give me a reasonable chance. I told young Joe about it when he came back from the war, and it made the boy mad. But I don’t know what he ever done about it.”

\n\n

“When the squire sees that dummy,” I said, barely able to control my mirth but without my face showing how tickled I was, “he’ll blow a fuse.”

\n\n

“Maybe he will. I sure hope he does. I got it ready a long time ago, so when he came out to drive me off the farm he’d see what I thought of him.” It didn’t make rhyme or reason, but it was kind of smart, so to speak. And as I always say — there was one for the books.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 7

\n\n

The Same Weird Whistle

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I gazed into the crowd, found the sheriff and told him what I’d gleaned from Lafe Martin. I knew skinny little Homer Custard didn’t have his heart in it when he said he’d have to arrest Lafe for Joe Casson’s murder, if he couldn’t find an out for himself. He meant an alibi.

\n\n

The barn was jammed with curious neighbors. You take a killing in the country and a crowd always gathers as if pouring out of the skies. I reckon the party lines got busy and all the receivers came down at once.

\n\n

The squire kept urging Sheriff Custard to take immediate action against Lafe Martin.

\n\n

“Of course you’ll say I’m prejudiced,” he declaimed, “but my aim isn’t to cause an innocent person trouble. I feel that Lafe Martin’s the power behind all this sinister stuff. Furthermore, the dummy isn’t as harmless as it appears to be. It would seem on the face of it that Martin’s idea was merely to make me a laughing stock. His real motive for erecting the effigy can’t be seen with the naked eye. You’ll find out, Homer. You’ll find out.”

\n\n

“You’ve no proof of Martin’s implication in Casson’s murder,” the sheriff averred. “We’ve got no grounds to arrest him, at least none that would stand up in court.”

\n\n

“At the proper time I’ll show my hand,” Squire Grately said. “Right now I want to delve a little deeper into this thing. But — mark my word, Homer — if you don’t arrest him, you’ll be sorry!”

\n\n

Then we heard someone whistling. Again the banker canted his head. Again sweat gleamed on his face too thick to run, and it adhered to his eyebrows like little specks of flour dough. The front of the old man’s shirt didn’t appear to have a single dry spot on it. He looked around, up and down the yard, but none of us could ferrit out the whistler because the sound had ceased to be, and only its echo remained.

\n\n

The sheriff looked at me and I looked at him. Then we both looked at the garishly clad scarecrow. Clouds scudded over the sun. There was a distant rumble of thunder. Abruptly a cool breeze came across the level fields to dispel the killing humidity.

\n\n

“It’s the same sound we heard out by Water Moccasin Slough,” I said. “The same whistler. You can’t fool me on the sound. What does it remind you of?” I asked bluntly.

\n\n

“Squeaking wheels,” Sheriff Custard said. “Dry squeaking sheets — “

\n\n

The squire was mopping sweat. “Well, damn it, let’s get the work done. Have the coroner call his jurors. Pick out six men and put the facts before them. I’ll be one — “

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“I reckon the corner selects his own jury,” the little sheriff said. “We’ll see.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 8

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Coroner’s Jury

\n\n

We marched across the porch into the front room of the bedraggled frame house. The parlor was full of stale air. I saw a few horse-hair upholstered fixtures, a huge writing desk, a standtable bearing a stereoscope and several boxes of slides, a heavy family Bible, and a thick album with a mirror in the cover. The coroner sat down at the desk, picked out his six men. Banker Grately was included. Chairs were brought for them and lined up against the wall.

\n\n

“I allow the verdict should be the victim met death at the hands of a person or persons unknown,” I said to the sheriff.

\n\n

“I’m not so sure,” Homer Custard said. “I’m not sure what’s goin’ to happen here before we can get away, George.”

\n\n

The first witnesses were called. These were the duck hunters. They described how they’d found the body on the pile of burlap sacks, and the rat poison that was sprinkled around the corpse so that the animals and buzzards had let it alone.

\n\n

Then Lafe Martin was called for. But he wasn’t in the house. The sheriff told me to stay there, he’d find Lafe.

\n\n

Banker Grately moved up from the jury box.

\n\n

“If it pleases you, sire,” he said to the coroner, “I’ve changed my mind. I’d like to be excused from jury duty. I know it’s late for that. But I’ve just thought of something. I have some testimony I’d like to present to the court — some light to shed on the tragedy. I suggest you let me talk before they find Lafe Martin —

\n\n

The coroner muled this over in his mind. He was a slow, deliberate person. He said, finally, he’d make allowance for that. And a man was chosen to take Grately’s place in the box. They started all over again. A neighboring farmer was called to the stand, and he told what amounted to an accusation against the absent Martin. The farmer was a shy, modest person. He rubbed his pants with his sweaty, nervous hands. He related how Joe Casson had been contemplating moving Lafe Martin off the place. When asked how he knew this, how he’d found it out, the man said, “My banker told me.”

\n\n

“Who is your banker?” the coroner asked.

\n\n

“Squire Grately,” the farmer said. “Joe Casson transacted all his business with Squire Grately, and so did Joe’s father. That’s why Lafe Martin made the scarecrow, jest to humiliate the Squire if the Squire ever should come out to force a sale or anything “

\n\n

The scarecrow was proving absolutely demolishing to Lafe Martin’s best interests. It had begun to rain. I said to myself, “That dummy out there will sure send Lafe Martin to jail. Why did he do such a damnation crazy thing?

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Back to Top
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Chapter 9

\n\n

The Whistler

\n\n

We suddenly heard someone in vicinity of the barn behind the house pounding on steel, like maybe he was changing a tire on an automobile. Squire Grately was called to the chair.

\n\n

The squire spoke calmly.

\n\n

“I’ve handled their business twenty years,” he began. “Old Joe Casson was my best friend. He didn’t like Lafe Martin. Lafe was always making excuses for not paying him, first one crazy reason and then another. Old Joe said for me to make sure his son got what Lafe Martin owed him or the farm one, it didn’t matter which. That’s what I meant to do. Joe came home from the war and we had a serious talk. At first he was reluctant to foreclose on Lafe, but he changed his mind when I told him his father had insisted on making Lafe Martin pay in full. Young Joe said he’d have it out with Lafe; he did, and Lafe who was already sore at me, got killing mad. He made that dummy out there, and tried to pass it off as a joke. But every time I got close to the dummy it chilled my blood. There’s something more sinister about it than can be seen with the eye. Lafe Martin killed Joe, but he — “

\n\n

His lips smacked as he puffed at a burnt out cigar.

\n\n

The vicious pounding of steel on steel suddenly stopped. From close to the house came that eerie whistling, the same we’d heard near Big Saffron and from around the barn.

\n\n

And Squire Grately jumped; he gave an awful shriek, dropped the cigar from his twitching lips and fell forward in a half stumble from his chair. He groped, with his arms above his head, lunged, then made a jerking dive for the open door. It was then that he collided with Sheriff Custard who’d just emerged from the languid shadows of the porch. There was a solid thump as their heads came together.

\n\n

But it was the squire who was up and away before Sheriff Custard recovered his equilibrium. His boots stomped in a run across the planking of the porch; his lurching shadow spurted across the yard.

\n\n

But upon reaching the door, with excited men piling around me and scuffing the floor with harsh boots, the sight that met my eyes was so startling, I just stood and gulped. Under one of the ancient cottonwoods, locked in a desperate struggle was the squire and the scarecrowish figure of weird Clare Muff. He was trying to stick a knife in the banker’s breast, but the latter had both pudgy hands clasped around the hobgobblin’s wrist so he couldn’t push the blade in. I tore out, yelling at Clare, and reached them just as they both fell to the ground. The lithe, smaller man had wrested himself free, and now his heels flashed upward, to catch me in the chest, as I bent over to grab him. Naked, calloused heels.

\n\n

I was sent hard against the tree and showered cotton down upon the grass. A gun ground out a jangling crash, and the scarecrow of a man jumped, struck against me and slid to the ground. He was clutching madly at his shirt. Buttons were scattered in every direction. He kicked, flailed with his feet and even after I’d grabbed him and got myself covered with blood, he continued the struggle. Homer Custard put his smoking gun in his pockets and seized Clare Muff, pinning him on the ground.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 10

\n\n

The Hobgoblin

\n\n

“He was hiding behind the tree to warn Lafe if you started out to look for him. Lafe was trying to get a tire on his car so he could escape. I recognized Clare’s whistling signals as the same we’d heard before, and got too mad to sit still and wait any longer when I doped out what was going on. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Clare Muff whistle like that when we three were riding in Lafe’s spring wagon; he was always trying to imitate the dry grinding of the rattling wheels.”

\n\n

“You mean Lafe killed Joe Casson?” I demanded aggressively.

\n\n

“No, not with his own hands,” the squire said. “They meant to get me, not Joe. Lafe figured I stood in the way and if he could rid the community of my presence for good, he’d be able to pull the wool over Joe Casson’s eyes. I met Joe coming from this place yesterday morning. We’d been discussing cutting a road through the swamp, and putting a bridge across Big Saffron to save distance to Mason City. I told Joe it was a good time to look the situation over and we drove down to the road bridge in my car and walked up to Water Moccasin Slough. Just as the ambusher fired the gun Joe moved into the path of the bullet. I ran, knowing it was me they were after, that they’d made a horrible mistake.

\n\n

“Why didn’t you tell us about it?” Sheriff Custard asked.

\n\n

“I wanted to do my own detective work, figured you’d doubt me. When Lafe slipped away from the house, I knew he was trying to make his escape, that he’d failed to convince you of his innocence.”

\n\n

“Come on out to the scarecrow in the barnlot,” Sheriff Custard said. “I want to look that thing over. I’ve got Lafe bound hand and foot in the barn. I think he’ll be willing to talk now, with Clare Muff dead.”

\n\n

We trudged out to the hobgobblin and Homer Custard and I took it down. It lay on the straw and wheat chaff of the barnlot, looking almost like the squire, even to his bay window. It surprised me how heavy the thing was when I tried to lift it. Homer removed the coat while I held it off the ground. He slit the fancy shirt open, and drew the flaps back. Then I got a jolt, believe me.

\n\n

The dummy was full of bullet holes. Somebody had been using it for a target. And those slugs had been stopped by a thick mattress like padding, and every damned one of the leaden ball was in the scarecrow. No wonder it was so heavy.

\n\n

When Homer cut it open with his jackknife we began to pluck those bullets out of the dummy. And I’m not lying to you when I say we counted five hundred and sixty three twenty-two slugs as we piled them on the earth beside the hobgoblin.

\n\n

“Everytime he put a slug into the belly of the effigy he was getting the same satisfaction he would’ve experienced from murdering me — almost,” the squire said.

\n\n

But we got another surprise. When Lafe Martin confessed he said Clare Muff had done the shooting. He’d hired Clare to kill the squire and had seen to it that he was a crack shot before he let him make the venture. Besides, the reason he’d dressed the dummy in Squire Grately’s old clothes was to make sure when the little weird guy fired from ambush he got the right man.

\n\n

As I say — there’s one for the books.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Man Who Knew Too Much", "author": "John D. Swain", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

\n\n

The Trouble With Me

\n\n

“The trouble with me,” said the last patient of the day, “is that I know too much.”

\n\n

The statement did not surprise Arbuthnot, the consulting alienist. The patient who had just left his office had assured him that he was perfectly all right save for a glass heart, which he lived in constant terror of cracking by colliding with somebody, or by slipping on a wet pavement.

\n\n

Before him, there had been a pretty girl bubbling with enthusiasm over a scheme for curing stammerers by intravenal injections of parrot’s blood. And so it went, every afternoon from two until four. Arbuthnot elevated his brows politely, and gazed upon the pale, emaciated man of sixty-odd who faced him across the wide table.

\n\n

“You know too much — about what?”

\n\n

“Everything! Big things, and trifles. All my senses are abnormally keen. Without in the least wishing to do so, I overheard all your conversation with the patients who preceded me, through your soundproof door. Coming downtown, I passed seven hundred and thirteen pedestrians; and I could describe each one so minutely that any reasonably intelligent police officer could identify him at sight. On the street cars, I can hear the ticking of every watch, and distinguish the minute differences in beat and pitch. Yesterday I rode for two miles along the principal business street of a Jersey city. I can write out for you every sign, every scrap of lettering on the shop fronts of the side I was facing, along the entire route. When I smell a perfume, I at once identify each of the dozen or more coaltar derivatives from which it has been built up.”

\n\n

Dr. Arbuthnot nodded.

\n\n

“I have treated cases not unlike yours,” he said. “There is no cause for alarm. You are probably overworking. Drop everything and play for a while. Golf. Or long tramps in the country.”

\n\n

“No use. I should count the apples on the trees, and if I laid down to rest I should hear the grass grow and the earthworms burrowing far beneath. I can stand it daytimes, but of late my mind retains its activity until I sink into a sort of stupor toward dawn. I am sixty-three, and I’ve never used drugs of any sort. Now I want something to make me sleep, at least every other night.”

\n\n

The alienist made the customary examination, with stethoscope and opthalmoscope; tested his reflexes, and questioned him upon his family history.

\n\n

John Slade’s father had been of a type not uncommon in rural New England, although dying out. Self-taught, save for what the village academy could impart, he knew a little about many things. He was a naturalist, of sorts. Was always pointing out glacial scratches on the rocks in the neighborhood, and finding Indian arrowheads. Had a fine collection of butterflies, and knew them all by their Latin names. Botanized a great deal by day, and read the stars by night through a rusty old telescope. Understood the ways of fishes and wood creatures. Could enjoy his New Testament in both Greek and Latin. With his hands he was able to repair sewing machines, pumps, typewriters, or clocks, and could design and build a modest house unaided. Knew surveying, and served as the local undertaker. With two or three simple tools he could do things that would have baffled a master mechanic, — yet could not have passed an examination as plumber’s assistant. A gentle, visionary man, the only resident of his county to whom Spinoza and Descartes and Einstein meant anything at all, he lived and died as poor as a church mouse.

\n\n

Slade’s mother was a French-Canadian, unable to read or write. She had the illiterate peasant’s extraordinary powers of minute observation, was a neat housewife, a mixture of cunning and credulity, and a devout Christian.

\n\n

John Slade himself cared nothing for money. When he needed any, he invented something. His education, begun by tramping the countrywide with his father and absorbing all sorts of illassorted facts, had been pursued in many lands. At one time he buried himself in Johns Hopkins, engrossed in biology and embryology. Next he was heard of at Oxford, steeped in medievalism. Physics at Leipsic and Prague. Chemistry at Bonn. Back again to the States, he flitted from Massachusetts Tech to the Edison laboratories. Always learning. Never producing — save when lack of funds drove him to some hack work: a course of lectures before the Lowell Institute, the invention of a crankless ice-cream freezer, an article for some technical publication.

\n\n

“I know too much,” he repeated after answering all of Arbuthnot’s questions. “That is the trouble. And now I cannot sleep!”

\n\n

The physician gave him some advice as to exercise and diet, to which he listened abstractedly. Then he handed him a little vial of the lethal tablets which would, for a time at least, permit his distracted brain to forget.

\n\n

Usually he was able to dismiss his patients from his mind after he had done what he could for them, and filed their cards away. He did not find it so easy to forget Slade.

\n\n

For one thing, he came upon articles written by him from time to time, in the journals to which he subscribed. His fellow practitioners mentioned him occasionally. Slade was a sort of mystery, with it was admitted that he knew more about embryology and chemistry than they did themselves. Nobody could tell just how much the fellow did know! Whatever he said or wrote was uttered with authority and was hard to refute. He had a laboratory which none of them had ever seen, and where it was rumored that he carried on extraordinary experiments, the nature of which was unknown.

\n\n

Nevertheless, Arbuthnot had very nearly forgotten him when, six months after his call, he received a brief note requesting the alienist to visit him the following afternoon, upon a matter of life and death.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

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A Menace to God Almighty

\n\n

Promptly upon the departure of his last patient at a little after four next day, Arbuthnot stepped into the taxicab he had already summoned, and fifteen minutes later was admitted by John Slade himself to his quarters on the top floor of a wholesale storage house well downtown. There was nobody about except the janitor, who took him up in a rickety freight elevator and indicated the door bearing Slade’s card.

\n\n

He had become much thinner, more haggard, the physician’s swiftly appraising glance told him, as he took his dry, skinny hand in greeting. The eyes seemed to have retreated deep into their bony sockets, and were now magnified by thick toric lenses. The man’s bare feet were thrust into sandals, and he wore a light, loosely belted linen robe falling to his knees. He took Arbuthnot’s hat and indicated an easy chair.

\n\n

The room was evidently Slade’s general living quarters. It was large, square, lighted on two sides by windows. Its utter lack of the atmosphere of the conventional bachelor’s “den” struck Arbuthnot at once: There were no hospitable glasses, or tea-things, nor so much as a pipe rack or ash tray. The place was as ascetic as a monk’s cell; an effect heightened by Slade’s girdled robe and the sandals. Books — ranks and columns of them — in built-in cases along three sides of the wall. A great flat table, with reading lamp and precise stacks of papers, a rack of sharpened pencils, an open volume with fresh marginal annotations. A wide couch bed at one end, its blankets neatly folded. Filing cases at its head and foot. Through a half-open door Arbuthnot glimpsed the famous laboratory — mostly a gleam of white enamel, against which glimmered the blue-green of retorts and the glitter of polished brass.

\n\n

Slade seated himself.

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“Do you believe that suicide is ever justifiable, Arbuthnot?”

\n\n

The physician started.

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“Certainly not!”

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Slade laughed.

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“Old inhibitions, doctor! First, your Hippocratian oath –which was never composed by Hippocrates, and is a jumble of pompous platitudes. Then, your religion. We mustn’t take life–because that power is the only one we hold in common with God. Therefore — God is jealous!”

\n\n

Arbuthnot scanned the face before him, scored deeply with the lines of insomnia, strangely illuminated with the vast mental energy going on within.

\n\n

Everything at top speed, — he thought without replying. Blood pressure too high, of course. Pulse rapid and wiry — you could catch its flutter over the hollow temples. Breathing short — and stirring only the upper chest. Burn out pretty fast, at this rate … .

\n\n

“I told you what my trouble was,” Slade continued in his tired voice. “I know too much. And I know more now than on that day when I consulted you. Oh, very much more!”

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Still the alienist uttered no comment. Let the poor devil talk. It was a relief — sort of safety-valve.

\n\n

“The fact is, I know so much that I am a menace to God Almighty! One of us — so it seems to me — must go. And you sit there, smugly, and tell me that suicide is wrong. As one would tell a naughty child not to bite its nails.” Slade closed his eyes for a moment and inhaled a deep breath. Then he pulled open a drawer in his table and held out a little oblong glass slide.

\n\n

“Bits of protoplasm, Arbuthnot. Life cells. And all the scientists in the world, with their most cunning microscopes and reagents, cannot isolate one of them and say whether it would have developed into a rear-admiral or a cucumber; an elephant or a moth; a theologian or a toadstool! Am I right?”

\n\n

The physician half smiled.

\n\n

“With certain reservations you are perfectly correct,” he admitted.

\n\n

“One step separates me from divinity,” Slade remarked. “I haven’t yet actually created a life cell, but I stand on the threshold. And then — what?”

\n\n

“Many have stood on the threshold a longtime, Slade. With the eggs of sea urchins and — “

\n\n

“Grammar school stuff! Piffle!! I tell you, in less than a year, probably within three months, I can from inorganic substances form a living cell. Then, having the power of creating and destroying life, I shall emerge, the lone pioneer, the first human being to rise to godship. And I don’t dare. I tell you, I am afraid! What of? I don’t know. Not of anything that can happen to this wreck of a body. Not of any hell-and-damnation stuff. Not of pure annihilation. But I am horribly afraid — of something. So much so that I am withholding my foot just as I lift it to take that final step that divides men and gods.”

\n\n

“I think you are perfectly right,” Arbuthnot assented in soothing tones. “I’d feel the same way about it myself!” Slade stared at him for a moment before his yellow face broke into a myriad of little wrinkles, and his voice into cracked laughter.

\n\n

“You’re only a little fellow in your profession, after all! You think I’m demented — even now you’re figuring on how to keep me quiet till you can get a message to the Psychopathic Hospital.”

\n\n

The alienist went mottled-red. It was precisely what he was thinking–but he was a man of great dignity, and hated to be mocked even by a lunatic.

\n\n

“You’ve no right to say that,” he parried. “I simply agreed with you.”

\n\n

“Well — even alienists know enough not to contradict their patients, don’t they? You didn’t dispute that chap when he told you he had a glass heart! Humor us, my learned friend. Humor us!”

\n\n

Instantly dropping his banter, he leaned forward, his voice falling to a whisper.

\n\n

“What would you say if I told you that I could take any life cell and make of it what I choose? What are the determining factors?. Light — heat — moisture — food — what we term in general, environment.”

\n\n

He touched a thick, leather-bound book on the table.

\n\n

“Here are the formulas, all worked out. What will you, my good Arbuthnot? An oak tree, or a lizard? A pretty girl, or a serpent — or, if you like, both in one?”

\n\n

He rose jerkily, and beckoned his visitor to follow him into the other room.

\n\n

Arbuthnot, now thoroughly on his guard against any sudden violence directed by Slade against either of them, followed him into a room twice as long as the other, and fitted up as a laboratory.

\n\n

Even in his anxiety, the extraordinary neatness and order of the room caught his notice. There was none of the litter familiar to such places presided over by man, with only vestigial housekeeping instincts. Brass and nickel were gleaming. Test tubes, glass jars, stood in racks or on shelves. Rows of labeled bottles were not sticky or stained by escaping drops of their own contents. Tables, floor, walls, showed no trace of dust or grime. A tall threeleaved screen cut off one end of the long room, which was lighted from a skylight, it being too early to turn on any of the numerous incandescents.

\n\n

Slade crossed over to where, apparently, a huge steel safe was set in the wall, and opened the thick door. It swung easily and noiselessly upon its oiled pinions, revealing a closet the height of a tall man, with a perforated disc upon the floor, and a grill of shining rods extending to the top. Overhead was an oblong box thickly wound with heavy copper wire. A number of dials, indicators and gauges were attached to a heavy plate screwed to the inside of the door. Slade turned to the silent physician.

\n\n

“This is my lethal chamber,” he explained. “One who enters this steel chest and throws this switch, ceases to exist. He disappears. More scientifically, since in our universe nothing can be destroyed, he is transmuted into material not identifiable by our imperfect senses. Simply open the door five minutes after I enter, and you will see. Or rather, you will not see!”

\n\n

Arbuthnot made an involuntary step toward the other, who smiled and closed the heavy door.

\n\n

“Do not be alarmed! I have other things to show you.”

\n\n

He pointed out a few of the ingenious contrivances in the laboratory, calling especial attention to his electric incinerator and showing his guest how, by turning a small lever, a globular furnace became white hot in a minute or two. Anything placed therein would shrivel almost instantly to ashes.

\n\n

“And now for the real exhibit,” he said, leading Arbuthnot to the far end of the room and around the screen which he had noted on entering.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 3

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Part Man — Part Seaweed

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Late afternoon had set in; and the dusk revealed nothing but a long row of square glass cases standing upon a trestle and emanating a sickly greenish light in the afterglow which slanted down through the skylight.

\n\n

Slade switched on some incandescents.

\n\n

Details leaped out at Arbuthnot. He noted that some of the glass tanks contained a fluid, while others were dry. Electric wires were connected with each, and thermometers indicated their interior heat. Faint stirrings — a little scraping on the sand of one of the dry containers — indicated some sort of life within. Slade touched his sleeve and directed him to the end of the row.

\n\n

Peering within, the alienist made out some creature which he could not identify, nor even classify as plant or animal. It swayed gently in the water, its eight or nine inches erect, with a bulbous head and a suggestion of human features; but its limbs were like some unwholesome plant, with twigs for hands and feet. It seemed rooted in a yellowish-gray clay at the bottom of the tank. Little bubbles rose continuously from its mouth.

\n\n

“Part man — part seaweed,” observed Slade. “What do you think of it?”

\n\n

Arbuthnot bent closely over the stagnant water. A feeling of horror crept through his veins like iced water. The homunculus turned its head — if it was a head — upward, and its eyes, whitish and without expression, seemed to look through the viscous fluid into his own. A rudimentary nose — a wide mouth–sessile ears — these he made out before the thing seemed to take fright and slithered down to burrow into the clay in which its lower limbs were rooted.

\n\n

Without a comment Arbuthnot permitted himself to be led to the next tank.

\n\n

Here was, unquestionably, a miniature woman. Beautiful and shapely as a fairy, with perfect breasts and an exquisite little head swaying upon a slender neck, her skin shimmered silverygreen in the water. Arbuthnot turned deathly sick as he saw that below the waist she — it — was seemingly a slimy eel!

\n\n

Concerning the occupants of the other glass boxes he retained only a jangled sense of hideous and unclassifiable monstrosities. There were serpents that were part vegetable; plants that mocked humanity. There were other things that fascinated by a sort of loathsome beauty. Sickened to the soul, he was dragged back to a consciousness of the present by the low-pitched voice of John Slade, whose presence he had forgotten.

\n\n

“I don’t suppose that I can possibly explain my feelings toward these little creatures. We have no adjectives, no similes for it — because it isn’t a human emotion. I am the first man ever to know it. There is nothing of sex in it, you see; nothing comparable to love of wife, or parents, or offspring. It is the yearning of the creator over the people he has created. God feels it, I suppose, for us; but in depicting God’s love we grope for words and say that he cares for us as a father for his son.”

\n\n

He moved from the blue-green tanks with their faint stirrings of a nameless life shadowing the translucent glass. At the end of the screen he turned to look squarely back at Arbuthnot.

\n\n

“Although a narrow and unimaginative man, you are an honest one,” he said. “You will know what to do. I am going back to nothingness!”

\n\n

The physician heard him cross the room, caught the soft click of the lever as he threw open the great steel door. He leaped forward, overturning the screen, and beheld Slade with a quick motion cast aside his single garment and shuffle off his sandals. His naked body stood out for a second against the dark interior of the metal closet; and then the door closed noiselessly behind him.

\n\n

Arbuthnot’s impulse to rush forward and open the door was arrested by a deep, musical tone which came from the closet. Slowly, and by infinitesimal tonal shadings, it rose through the scale, culminating at length in an incredibly thin and high note, like the keenest harmonic of a violin. It died away into silence; but he had a feeling that the sound was still mounting up and up, though now far beyond the range of his ear. Then he turned, steadily enough, and switched on the current in the electric incinerator.

\n\n

The half-hour that followed was never anything save a horrible nightmare. The details were not clear, and he made no effort to recall them. On many a sleepless night he prayed to be able to forget them all.

\n\n

When the furnace was white hot he began dropping into it, one by one, the living organisms from their glass tanks. As he moved back and forth, there were times when he felt that he was a malignant deity destroying a world. A sense of megalomania, like that induced by certain drugs, obsessed him. The poor creatures didn’t want to die; that was plain enough. They clung to their bleak, arid lives, and they feared and hated him. When Slade had approached their tanks they had evinced a feeble pleasure or, at least, a sluggish indifference. But from Arbuthnot they shrank, seeking to hide away among the pebbles and sand and fragments of coral. And into his mind came the words of Scripture, how on the Last Day the human mites shall call upon the mountains to cover them!

\n\n

The little tree-man fought with a futile rage, seeking to bite his fingers, and making no more impression upon the skin than if it had been buffalo hide. Its tiny twig-like fingers struggled ceaselessly; and it seemed to feel acute pain as he uprooted it from its bed of clay. But the eel-woman offered no resistance; and her tragic despair was the harder to bear. She covered her wee breasts with her hands, and tears unbelievably minute rolled down her face.

\n\n

Down Arbuthnot’s streams of perspiration poured, as one by one he dropped Slade’s creations hissing into the white-hot incinerator. When at length he had done, ending by burning the great book, filled with the formula; which might conceivably enable another to recreate a forbidden microcosm, his limbs were trembling and his pulse racing.

\n\n

Ordinarily, he would have dreaded to open the steel door which Slade had closed behind him; but after what he had done, anything else seemed commonplace. His nerves refused to react further. Listlessly, and almost incuriously, he crossed the room, turned the lever and pulled open the door.

\n\n

A wave of heated air swept out, stirring the damp hair upon his forehead. But there was no one inside.

\n\n

The steel closet was shining and empty.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Sleuthing For Beauty", "author": "Sally Sherlock", "body": ""

Suzanne and I staggered into her pretty apartment late one afternoon. We collapsed in comfortable chairs, and packages dripped from our limp fingers onto the floor.

\n\n

“Ooooff!” said Suzanne.

\n\n

“Ooooooh!” I moaned.

\n\n

“Honestly, Sally, I didn’t know that shopping could be such a task, did you? It’s really hard work.”

\n\n

“Infant,” I said, adjusting my feet to a comfortable height, “if shopping killed me, I’d still love it. And there’s the comfort of knowing that you have such a lovely trousseau and you’ve been so sensible about money!”

\n\n

My little neighbor sighed contentedly as she murmured–“That sports suit is a ducky thing, isn’t it, Sally? And my wedding dress! But I did hope we’d find time to get the beauty aids you think I ought to have for a honeymoon. You know, Sally — you old beauty-sleuth — I’d like to take you right along with Bob and me.”

\n\n

“You’ve got to think of Bob’s feelings now, as well as your own,” I reminded her. “Besides, you won’t need me or any one else along, when we get through planning this beauty kit. A necessary kit, for Love isn’t so blind that he can’t see beauty!”

\n\n

Suzanne nodded her head in agreement.

\n\n

“Anyway.” I went on. “I’ve got to go shopping by myself, tomorrow — l want to buy a wedding present for a very dear friend of mine. Now get a paper and pencil, and we’ll just run over what you need for that honeymoon kit.”

\n\n

Suzanne finally located a pencil, and took off her shoes before she got settled. Then she wrote HONEYMOON BEAUTY KIT across the first page, and looked up at me, her eyes sparkling.

\n\n

“We’re off!” she said gaily — Shoot!”

\n\n

“Well, first of all, tell me where you’re going to spend your honeymoon,” I asked.

\n\n

“But that’s a secret,” Suzanne teased.

\n\n

“Then you get no beauty kit from me,” I said firmly. “How in the world do you expect me to advise you about the hundred and one things you’ll need to know, unless I know where you’re going?”

\n\n

“But I’ll need the same things wherever I am, short of the North Pole or the Equator,” argued Suzanne. “It will still be my face.”

\n\n

“You’re positively old fashioned,” I sniffed. “You don’t have anywhere near the same beauty problems when you’re in different parts of the country. Now — where are you going?”

\n\n

“On a motor trip,” said Suzanne meekly, “through the mountains and down south to New Orleans, and then up through the southwest to California. And I love the idea, Sally, but even a fifty-mile auto trip makes my skin burn, and my eyelids get red, and I look a perfect mess! And, of course, I can’t carry a whole beauty store with me, or stop every five miles to fix m.V complexion. :lob hates fussy women.”

\n\n

“Most men do.” I agreed, laughing at Suzanne’s mournful picture of her honeymoon. “But the first thing you must learn is — that happiness is the greatest beautifier you can have. We’ll put that down on the list first.”

\n\n

My neighbor bent her head over the list and wrote in large capitals.

\n\n

“Now the next thing we have to plan,” I went on, “is the type of cosmetic kit you are going to carry. If you can possibly manage one, I’d suggest a small, separate case for all beauty aids. This you can carry yourself, and you won’t have to unpack a suitcase when you want to freshen up pronto. If space is very valuable, however, get one of those rubberized kits with a zipper attachment. They can be tucked into any corner of the suitcase and they’re really helpful, too.

\n\n

“To put in your kit, you’ll need a good cleansing cream first. The one you use now is good — it’s quick melting and put up in a tight jar. I’m sure you won’t have any difficulty getting a fresh jar of the same brand in any town you visit.”

\n\n

“That’s right,” said Suzanne brightly. “I really don’t need to carry a lot of things, Sally, because I can always replace them when I need to.”

\n\n

“Don’t depend on that too much,” I cautioned. “If Bob doesn’t like fussy women, he won’t care for a wife, either, who insists that he run down to the drug store for cold cream. Next — in the kit — — you’ll want cleansing tissues, and a nourishing cream to pat under your eyes every night. You’ll need to use that cream a great deal when you are traveling through the south. Then, your skin is so dry that you won’t need an astringent, but a skin tonic is a necessity. If you get a brand that is fragrant, you’ll find it most refreshing and restful to use.”

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“That isn’t much, so far,” observed Suzanne, looking critically at the list.

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“We won’t make it a long one,”

\n\n

I assured her, “but there are several more beauty aids we must include. First, a liquid powder. This will protect your skin from windburn or sunburn and keep the dust of the road from getting deeply into the pores. Also — you’ll look fresh and lovely for many miles without having to use a powder puff over and over. That’s particularly bad on a motor trip, for you simply add powder to cover up the grime, and the puff becomes soiled after a few applications.

\n\n

“And either a liquid or rouge paste ought to be in the beauty kit, too. Naturally, you’ll have face powder–a heavy, clinging kind is best for this type of trip. And by all means pack a deodorant talcum and some drying talcum for your feet. There are several good foot powders that are scented and cooling. You’d better take care of your feet, in case you have to walk back home!”

\n\n

“I’ll never do that,” laughed Suzanne, “but I’ll keep my feet in good condition, anyway — I might have to run after Bob and bring him back when he gets a glimpse of some of those southern beauties.”

\n\n

“Oh — we’ll make you just as lovely,” I promised. “N ow — on with the list. You can get a sun-proof cream or lotion instead of that liquid powder I spoke of a few minutes ago. The sun-proof cream might be the very thing for you — ask for a small jar tomorrow, and try it out for the next few weeks. You’ll need a hand cream, too. There are so many non-greasy ones, you can just take your choice. Use it every morning and night — not just in emergencies — and then your hands will keep lovely. Oh yes! — and add a small package of powdered boracic acid — it is such an excellent eyewash.

\n\n

“Well, I guess that covers the essentials for a beauty kit,” I said, “except those beauty tools that we all just have to have.”

\n\n

“What do you mean — brush and comb, and things like that?” asked Suzanne.

\n\n

My little neighbor bounded off the chair in her excitement. “I forgot to show you,” she said breathlessly, dashing into the bedroom, “my Aunt Clara’s wedding present that came this morning.”

\n\n

In a second she was back, carrying a great, satin-lined box that contained a gorgeous set of toilette accessories from a mirror to a cuticle knife. It was elaborate, but pretty.

\n\n

“That’s one of the most beautiful sets I’ve ever seen,” I assured Suzanne — “simply scrumptious.”

\n\n

“Isn’t it?” she asked happily. “You see, Sally, I won’t have to worry about anything but an orange wood stick — everything else is here.”

\n\n

“And that’s where it ought to stay,” I told her. “Take along only what can be replaced easily and inexpensively at the next town.”

\n\n

Suzanne carried the case back to her room. “You’re right, of course,” she said, “but I never had a grand set like this with everything matching, and I wanted to show off a little bit.”

\n\n

“You wouldn’t care much for it by the time you finished your trip?” I gathered up my handbag, hat and gloves and prepared to return to my own apartment, next door. “What you ought to get, Suzanne, are light, simple accessories — and not so many of them. Your hairbrush should be firm, with a wooden back. The comb ought to be light weight, too. And with a flexible nail file, an orangewood stick and a nail brush, you will have enough to keep your manicure looking well for days at a time.

\n\n

“There’s another little item, too, Suzanne, that you’ll have to think of long and hard if you don’t have a separate case for your cosmetics. Look at those new leak-proof bottles that are being sold at most cosmetic counters. They save you many miles of worry when you have to pack liquids along with your best chiffons. If you can’t get them, then get an extra supply of all size corks. Many of the creams I mentioned come in tubes, too. They are, of course, lighter to carry, and many women prefer them because they are so sanitary.”

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Suzanne came to the door with me and stood waiting until I reached my own apartment. “Just one question — “ she said.

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“What’s that?”

\n\n

“Will you help me make up on the fatal day?” said Suzanne.

\n\n

“You couldn’t keep me away with wild horses,” I promised her. “Brides are easy to make look beautiful–and Bob is going to be glad he asked you when you walk toward the altar. But give the beauty sleuth a chance.”

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“How do you mean?” asked my little neighbor.

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“Get some rest,” I answered, “Good night!”

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THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Forty Grand Fadeout", "author": "Benton Braden", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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First National Bank of Clayville

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Jim Forde moved slowly, apparently aimlessly, down the short main street of the village of Clayville. At each step his feet seemed to move more sluggishly. His relaxed figure indicated complete lack of purpose. Yet not for an instant did his eyes waver from the front doors of the First National Bank of Clayville.

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The bank was across the street, on the corner, and in exactly three minutes it would close. Jim Forde was timing his steps so that he could cross the street and enter the door just a few seconds before it was scheduled to close.

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Forde, although almost a stranger in the village, knew a great deal about that bank and the young man, named Bert Orton, who managed it. It was a one-man bank. It never carried more than five thousand in cash. Five thousand was ample to care for the ordinary needs of the few business houses in the village. The bank shipped its excess cash to banks in nearby cities where it could be drawn upon when needed.

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Forde’s eyes glittered a little as Sam Weisner, who owned and operated two of the local stores, emerged from the doors of the bank. An empty bag swung from Weisner’s wrist. He had just made his last deposit for the day. He hurried on up the opposite side of the street.

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Forde reached the corner. He glanced at his watch and moved his left arm a bit to assure himself that his gun and holster hadn’t slipped out of place. Then he crossed the street, still walking deliberately. It was fifteen seconds to three o’clock when he pushed open the door of the bank and stepped inside.

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As he closed the door he unobtrusively threw the inside bolt so that no one could enter behind him. A quick glance told him that Bert Orton was alone in the single cage that the bank boasted. Orton appeared not to notice that the bolt had been thrown, but he thrust his head through the opening in the grille and looked sharply at Forde.

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The questioning look in his eyes was natural. Bert Orton had never seen Jim Forde before. But there was no threat in Forde’s pleasant features. He was smiling.

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“What is it?” Orton asked quickly. “The bank is closing — right now.”

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“I guessed as much.” Forde’s smile widened as he spoke. “I took the liberty of throwing the bolt as I entered. I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t be interrupted.”

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Orton looked startled, took a step backward.

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“You needn’t be alarmed,” Forde held up the-palms of his hands reassuringly. “It’s not a stickup. I only want to ask you a few questions. I closed the door so that a late customer couldn’t interrupt us. My name is Forde — Jim Forde. Here’s my calling card.”

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He took a small leather case from his pocket as he advanced to the window, opened it, held it up for Orton’s inspection. Orton took a very deep breath as he looked at it, then expelled slowly.

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“You — you,” Orton stammered and he lost a little color in his face, “you’re what the papers call a — a — “

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“A G-man?” Forde chuckled. “Right. I’m from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

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‘What — what business could you have here?” Orton asked weakly.

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“I’ll explain that,” Forde replied, his tone a little brisk now. “But suppose I step into the space back there behind the counter where we can sit down and talk things over.”

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Chapter 2

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Forty Thousand Dollars In Deposits

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Without waiting for Orton’s consent he moved past the cage toward the rear and swung open the gate in the railing. His eyes were very alert now. There were two other exits from this space. One led into the cage and the other was a door that obviously led into a room in the rear of the bank. There was also, of course, the door that led into the vault. The vault door was still open.

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Forde had already taken a chair when Orton came slowly from the cage, swinging the grilled door shut behind him. Orton hesitated a moment, then sat down in the chair that faced Forde.

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“The First National Bank of Clayville has been doing a very nice business lately, hasn’t it, Orton?” Forde began abruptly.

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Orton’s tongue flicked out and dampened his dry lips. “Well, yes,” he admitted. ‘We’re not complaining any. But that isn’t remarkable. We always do a pretty good business at this season of the year.”

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“Do your deposits always take a jump at this season of the year, too?” Forde demanded.

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Orton’s right hand instinctively went to his collar band, loosened it. “Just–just what are you driving at?”

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“I’m asking you about your deposits, Orton,” Forde said tersely. “I think you know exactly what I’m driving at, but I’ll be plainer. You have, within the last week, increased your deposits substantially, haven’t you?”

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“Only — only a trifle,” Orton faltered. “Our deposits have gone up a little, but — “

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“I’m not referring to the total amount of your deposits, Orton!” Forde interrupted, and his voice was harsh now. “I’m referring to special deposits made by special parties — in very unusual sums for a village of this size.”

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Orton moved his head and neck uncomfortably. His lips parted, then closed again without speaking.

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“I am reliably informed,” Forde went on, “that normally you carry around five thousand in cash in this bank to take care of the village business. When your cash gets beyond that amount you ship it to larger banks nearby where you can draw on it when you need it. Is that right?”

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Orton blinked, then nodded confirmation.

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“During the early part of this week,” Forde went on relentlessly, “you forwarded forty thousand dollars in currency. You shipped twenty thousand to one bank, twenty thousand to another.”

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“The money was deposited by customers of the bank,” Orton offered nervously. “The books will show that.”

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“I don’t doubt it,” Forde said dryly. “I don’t doubt that your records are above reproach. I don’t doubt that the deposits were actually made in the same denominations, in the same currency, that you shipped on to the other banks. It was all in five, tens, and twenties. In the whole forty thousand there was not a single one-dollar bill, nor a fifty. Isn’t that a bit remarkable?”

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“I don’t think so.”

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Orton’s face was red now. He seemed to have lost some of his nervousness, and his eyes showed determination to keep control of himself.

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“I hardly ever see a bill as large as a fifty in this bank. And the smaller bills are generally kept by the merchants to make change.”

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Forde leaned forward a little.

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“But your merchants never saw any of that currency that you shipped out this week, did they?” he asked softly. “That money wasn’t deposited by any of your regular customers, was it?”

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“No. No, it wasn’t.”

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Orton’s eyes showed a little defiance now. “But what difference does that make? A bank is more or less of a public institution. We try to extend our accommodations to all who ask for it.”

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“Of course, of course,” Forde conceded. “And just who were the parties you accommodated in this case? Who was it that walked into this bank and planked down forty thousand dollars in currency? No citizen of Clayville, I’ll gamble.”

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“No, the parties didn’t live in Clayville.”

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“You mean that there was more than one person that deposited that money, Orton?”

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Chapter 3

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Mob Money

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Bert Orton delayed his answer a fraction of a second. During that fraction of a second his eyes went in a fleeting glance to that door that led into the room at the rear of the bank. Then his eyes were meeting Forde’s again.

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“There was more than one person,” he said flatly. “There were four persons. Each one deposited ten thousand dollars. The books show that.”

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“I won’t dispute your books — for the time being,” Forde told him with a touch of sarcasm. “At the same time, I’ll admit I’m surprised to hear it. I was quite sure that I would find the money was all deposited by one person.”

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“What — what would make you think that?”

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“The fact that the forty thousand dollars came from a common fund, Orton–a fund that was presumably under the control of one man.”

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“You mean,” Orton’s voice was hollow, “that you think there was something wrong with that money?”

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“Wrong?” Forde snorted. “There was plenty wrong with it. It was mob money. It came from one of the dirtiest crimes ever committed in this country — the Wainright snatch. But,” his tone dropped until it was softly insinuating, “I wonder if it’s any news to you. I wonder if you didn’t have a pretty good idea where that jack came from when it was passed over the counter to you.”

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“I didn’t know anything about it,” Orton denied steadily. “Perhaps it did occur to me that it was a bit unusual that four strangers should choose this bank for such deposits. But it was all in the ordinary course of business. I wouldn’t refuse to accept deposits unless I had a substantial basis to believe something was wrong.”

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“I guessed that would be your story, Orton. We’ll see. Maybe you can give me a good description of the four persons who made the deposits. I’m waiting.”

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Orton gulped and cleared his throat. Again his eyes went to the door of that rear room in a darting, apprehensive glance.

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“They were men — all four of them. They came in together, said something about having just concluded a cash sale. Said they wanted to deposit here and check it out as they needed it. I’ve got the deposit slips and their signatures on file in the — “

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“But the descriptions, Orton,” Ford© interrupted firmly. “Can you give me the descriptions of those four men?”

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“It ain’t necessary, you lousy Fed!” a voice crackled from Forde’s left rear. “I’m all four of ‘em. Take a good look at me and you got your descriptions.”

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Jim Forde slowly turned his head, saw first the threatening muzzles of the two leveled guns, then the taut, snarling face of the man who held the guns. The man was of medium height, thin-shouldered, black-haired and black-eyed. The lines of his face were sharp and cruel. Obviously he had made his entrance from the room at the rear.

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“It’s your tough luck!” he snapped at Orton, whose face had gone white. “We were playin’ you for a sucker both ways, though, so it can’t make much diff to you. … So the Wainright money was tabbed, was it? Well, that was our play — to find out. How,” he demanded of Forde, “was it spotted?”

\n\n

“Serial numbers,” Forde said calmly.

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“The dirty rat!” the gunman exploded. “Old man Wainright crossed us. He swore by all that was holy that the money wasn’t tabbed in any way. He was so frantic about the kid that we thought he was on the level about it. Still, we wasn’t takin’ all the chances. We talked Orton here into shovin’ a bit of the jack for us to see if it was all right. So we’re out forty grand of it and the rest is so hot we won’t know what to do with it. It’s a laugh. I’ll bet you G-guys threw a duck fit when you found out forty grand of the Wainright dough had showed up?”

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“It created something of a sensation,” Forde admitted with a smile. “We were expecting some of it to be passed — but not in such large quantities.”

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“That was Red’s bright idea!” the mobster snarled. “Red figured the jack was okay, so he decided we might as well shoot the works on a big scale and find out. He’ll blow up when he gets the news. Now, stand up — both of you. Hands high!”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 4

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The Vault and the Gunman’s Escape

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Forde remained motionless as the gunman cautiously tapped him and removed his weapon from its shoulder holster. The gunman stepped back.

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“Into the vault — both of you!” He followed them, both guns again in his hands. “Get on back in!” he ordered as they hesitated, just inside the vault door.

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He laughed loudly as they backed on into the far end of the vault.

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“It ain’t so bad from our angle as you might guess it is, Orton,” he boasted. “I’m goin’ to take that five grand or so in currency that you keep in the cage. It ain’t no sudden thought, either. I been all set to play it that way if anything went wrong. It’ll kinda balance things up for the forty grand we tossed off. All right, Mister G-man. See if you’re smart enough to get out of here.”

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He swung the vault door shut, pulled down the lever, and spun the dial. He showed his teeth in a grin as he holstered his guns.

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He reached in his inside pocket and removed a round piece of paper that was red on one side. He licked the opposite side with his tongue, crossed to the window, and pressed the paper against the window glass, held it there for a moment until it stuck securely.

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He turned and ran to the cage, slipped the grilled door back, went inside and stuffed the currency that he removed from the drawers into his pockets. He left the cage and went to a position near the door of the rear room. From there he could observe the street without being seen. He waited hardly more than two minutes. He grinned again as the black coupé came into view.

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He ran into the rear room and unlatched the side door that opened on the street. He opened it, closed it behind him, stepped nimbly across the sidewalk and around the waiting coupé. He climbed in beside the white-faced girl who sat beneath the wheel.

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“Step on it, kid!” he commanded.

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“What happened?” she gasped.

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“Plenty, Winnie. It’s the old blow-off. A G-guy showed up and started askin’ the boy scout some pointed questions. I stepped in, accordin’ to the plan we already had worked out. I locked ‘em both in the vault, grabbed the dough, and beat it. I think I got better than four grand. Not so bad, huh? About the softest bank job that was ever pulled.”

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“Maybe and maybe not,” she commented coolly as the car left the village and shot at high speed into the open road. “The G-boys may be planted all over the landscape.”

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“I don’t think so,” he told her. “That G just happened to be the first one on the job. He hustled over to Clayville to see what kind of a smart job was bein’ pulled. He’d never dream that one of the mob was actually on the job, in the bank.”

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“I hope you’ve got it straight, Flint. Personally I’ll feel a lot better when we pull into Red’s hideout … .”

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* * * * *

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It was pitch dark and very stuffy inside the small bank vault. The two men stood in silence for a minute or two.

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“You might as well give me some of the details, Orton,” Forde said. “How did the mob happen to pick on you to handle the Wainright money for them?”

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“It was through a girl named Winnie Lang,” Orton replied quickly. “I knew her pretty well about three years ago. She was a hostess in a dime-dance place in Capital City where I worked then. About ten days ago she came into the bank. She was dressed like a million dollars and talked about easy money. I was curious and played up to her. She evidently got the impression that I’d play the game. Of course, I didn’t dream that she was tied up with a mob. I thought she was hinting at some kind of a confidence game.

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“Four days later she came back with that gunman. His name is Flint Bovan.”

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“I knew him — from his picture,” Forde admitted.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 5

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The Thing Was Fixes

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“Bovan evidently thought everything was fixed,” Orton continued. “He didn’t tell me where the money came from. He just told me how it was to be handled and told me what would happen to me if I crossed them. He laid the forty thousand down on my desk and told me to get busy. From that moment on he hardly let me out of his sight. He made me introduce him as my cousin to my housekeeper and other persons who might be suspicious. Every day he sat in that rear room. I wasn’t permitted to phone unless he was listening. When he wasn’t with me, Winnie Lang kept an eye on me. I don’t mind admitting that I was badly worried.”

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“I can imagine,” Forde chuckled. “It’s lucky for you that Sam Weisner was as smart as you thought he was. He might have blurted something out, exposed you, the first time you started scratching the dope on his deposit slips. I have no doubt that Flint Bovan would have shot you down if he had suspected that you were crossing him.”

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“He didn’t suspect a thing,” Orton said with satisfaction. “Sam is always in the bank four or five times a day anyway. I tried to get all the important dope written on those slips. I didn’t want some constable or deputy sheriff to rush in here, not knowing that Flint was waiting with his guns in the back room.”

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Muffled movements sounded on the other side of the vault door. “That will be Weisner now,” Forde said. “With Stillson, the president of your string of banks, with the combination to the vault door. In a minute we should be — “

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They blinked as the vault door swung open.` Then they stepped uncertainly out into the light.

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“You boys all right?” Sam Weisner asked anxiously.

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“We’re all right,” Forde assured him. “No excitement outside, I hope.”

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“None at all,” Weisner stated, “I watched the bank, and it all happened just about as you said it would. That girl drove the black coupé up to the rear door, and the black-haired man jumped in. They went away fast. It’s over my head. I don’t understand why you didn’t have the place surrounded and grab them.”

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“Because Flint Bovan and Winnie Lang are only two members of the mob,” Forde explained with a smile. “There are four others, including Red Cordage, the brains of the mob and as desperate a criminal as there is in the country. We want Red. We want them all. Now there’s no need to let the rest of the townsfolk in on what has happened here this afternoon. They’ll get the whole story later if our plans work out according to schedule.

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“I suggest, Mr. Stillson, that you have another man here in the morning to take charge of the bank temporarily. Then if a member of the Red Cordage mob should take the trouble to see what has happened, he will conclude that Orton has been quietly arrested and removed for questioning. And Red Cordage, knowing that Orton can’t give any information that will be of the slightest help to the cops, will figure that his mob is in the clear.”

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Chapter 6

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Big Red’s Hideout

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Big Red Cordage gulped down his whiskey and deposited the empty glass on the table.

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“Boy, this is the life!” he exclaimed boisterously. “We got all the comforts of home here, and we’ll take it easy till I can figure out another job. I used my head when I picked this joint for a hideout.”

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His eyes wandered complacently over the large and comfortably furnished living room of the mountain cabin. The other members of his mob were scattered about the room, drinking and smoking. A radio blared dance music.

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“You sure did use your head, Red,” Flint Bovan agreed noisily. “You was smart in havin’ us come in separately and rent three cabins on the same hillside. That way, nobody would suspect nothin’ and they’d think it was perfectly natural for us to get acquainted and start partyin’ together. And there’s no trail for the Feds to follow.”

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“I’ll bet them Feds are madder as hell,” Red chortled. “When they found that Wainright jack floatin’ in the banks, they thought they had us. It never occurred to that dumb G that we’d have a man right in the bank checkin’ up. I’ll bet he choked when you walked in and shoved the gats in his face, Flint.”

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“Yeah, he did,” Flint smirked. “He looked like he was goin’ to drop right through the floor. But Wainright is the guy that gives me a headache. We ought to go back and bump him for handin’ us that tabbed jack. If he’d kept his word and given us straight dough we’d be sittin’ pretty now instead of havin’ a measly four grand — and it goin’ fast.”

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“Cripes, Flint!” Red growled. “Don’t bellyache about that four grand. It was a life saver. If it hadn’t been for that we’d be havin’ to take a chance and pass some of the rest of the Wainright dough. That would keep us hoppin’ around and would be plenty risky. Now we got that four grand of good bank dough to live on till I can figure out a quick play.”

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Flint glanced at his watch and rose to his feet.

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“Come on, Winnie,” he yawned. “It’s two A.M. and we might as well go back to our shack and hit the hay.”

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The party broke up. Winnie strolled to the door of the living room, which opened on the front porch, and pulled it open. She stood there, staring out at the blackness of the mountainside, waiting for Flint to join her,

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Flint reached the door, turned and said: “So long, gang.” He took a step out on to the porch and started to close the door behind him.

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The sound that blasted the stillness of the night came from directly in front of him, and to Flint and the men in the room behind him, it was unmistakably the sound of a pistol shot. Flint caught Winnie by the arm, jerked her back into the living room and kicked the door shut. The other men had leaped to their feet.

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“What the hell?” Flint rasped.

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“Take it easy!” Red Cordage snapped, “just stay where you are for a minute and see what happens. Ten to one it was just a hill-billy on his way home, lit up and celebratin’.”

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They waited in silence for perhaps two minutes. Then Red grinned and relaxed.

\n\n

“That was it,” he said confidently. “One of these yokels, lit up on corn, cut loose with his rod to show his good spirits. All right, Flint. Try It again. You and Winnie walk right out the front door and go on to your cabin.”

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Flint warily opened the door and thrust his head out. He blinked at the darkness. There was no sound or movement out there. He threw the door open.

\n\n

“Come on, Winnie. Red was right. It was a false — “

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He leaped backward as orange jets of flame spurted from the blackness in front of him. The roar of a sub-machine gun echoed deafeningly up the mountainside. Two short bursts that splintered the lattice work beneath the porch. Then silence again.

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“Douse the lights!” Big Red yelled as Flint leaped back inside. “Get the guns! Make for the back door! We got to fight our way out!”

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The mobsters grabbed their guns and piled through the short hall that led to the kitchen and the rear porch. But they had hardly reached the kitchen when a second sub-machine gun chattered from the woods beyond the clearing at the rear of the house.

\n\n

The cabin was suddenly illuminated by wavering white lights that seeped in at the windows and cast ghastly shadows in the rooms. The mobsters rushed back into the living room and shrank against the inner wall.

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Flares! Blazing white light burning from the ground on each side of the cabin made the clearing an oasis of brilliance in the blackness.

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Chapter 7

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You Tipped Us Yourselves

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There was absolute silence again in the timber beyond the clearing.

\n\n

“You can all have one guess!” Red Cordage snarled. “We’re in a spot. If we walk out of any door or try to make it from a window, they’ll knock us off before we get started. I think I get the idea. They’re gonna hold us here like this till daylight, then make us give up or gun us. So what are we gonna do?”

\n\n

“We can make a run for it — go out shootin’,” Flint suggested.

\n\n

“Yeah, we can do that,” Red agreed. “We all boasted that we’d never be taken alive. But when a guy says that he’ll never be taken alive he means that he’ll shoot it out with the cops if he’s got so much as a long chance. Here — we ain’t got a chance. All of you that want to commit suicide, march right on out and try to run those flares. Personally, I’m goin’ to wait for daylight and see what happens.”

\n\n

Big Red guessed right. No more flares came from the timber when it was light enough to see.

\n\n

Jim Forde bellowed his ultimatum through a megaphone. He gave the mob ten minutes to think it over. They walked out in two minutes, Big Red leading the procession with his hands high above his head. The G-men closed in, searched them and cuffed them together.

\n\n

“Who tipped you that we was holed up here?” Red asked.

\n\n

“You tipped us yourselves,” Forde chuckled.

\n\n

“How?”

\n\n

“The way you handled the money. You see, Red, Bert Orton wasn’t quite the sucker that you thought he was. He tipped off the situation in the bank by writing notes on the deposit slips of the bank’s best customer, Sam Weisner. Sam called us. When I walked into the bank just before closing time I knew the setup, knew from the description that Orton gave and the fact that forty grand was being floated, that it was Flint Bovan who was parked in the back office, that it was your mob behind the play. I could easily have grabbed Flint and Winnie right there, but I wanted the whole mob — you in particular.”

\n\n

“I don’t get it,” Red growled. “You didn’t manage to tail Flint and Winnie to this hideout?”

\n\n

“No, I didn’t. But I guessed just what would happen if I walked in the bank and started asking Orton questions. I guessed that Flint, if he was sure that I was alone, would grab the cash in the till and beat it. That’s what he did.”

\n\n

Red stared, a large question in his eyes.

\n\n

“So just before closing time I had Sam Weisner go into the bank and pretend to make a deposit. Instead of making a deposit, he made a trade with Orton. Orton slipped him the currency that was in the drawer. Weisner slipped Orton a little over four thousand in currency-currency that was marked in a manner that any banker could detect at a glance. Before that trade was made, the necessary information was on the way to every bank in this section of the country. When some of that money showed up at the bank at Green Falls, just eight miles from here, we got busy in short order. You spent that bank dough freely, never suspecting that it could be traced. You bought groceries, a radio, tires — “

\n\n

“I get it,” Red grimaced. “It was a cinch for you to ask the yokels questions and spot us here. It’s our tough luck. We were hooked all around on tabbed jack. I’d like to get my hands on that two-timin’ Wainright. He crossed us after we handed him back his kid just like we promised we’d — “

\n\n

“That’s another little mistake you made, Red,” Forde grinned. “Wainright didn’t cross you. You could have passed that money anywhere in the country without the slightest risk. The money was not marked. The numbers weren’t taken. But it was a cinch to figure out that it was the Wainright money that you were putting through. Even without Orton’s description of Flint, we would have known it. We’ve pretty well cleaned up the snatch mobs. The Wainright job was the only unsolved case that involved as much as forty grand.”

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Two Little Hands", "author": "Fletcher Flora", "body": ""

I shouldn’t have done it to Obie. I keep telling myself that he’s really better off, that he might come to even worse end if it hadn’t happened the way it did, but I know that isn’t true. I know I played a dirty trick on the only guy who ever really loved me and I know I’ll remember it as long as I live and think about it the last thing before I die. I keep thinking how he loved to work in the fields under the hot sun with sweat seeping through his rough blue shirt in a great dark stain until the whole shirt was sopping wet, and about how he used to take a dip afterwards in the deep pool at the bend of the creek and then sit naked on the bank like a small, innocent boy and watch the shifting pattern of sunlight and shade and listen to the stirrings and splashings of small life along the bank and in the water. You can’t do things like that where Obie is now. Not in a mad house.

\n\n

He isn’t really crazy, no matter what they said. It’s just that he isn’t bright. I don’t know much about the technical gradations of intelligence, but I guess you’d call Obie an imbecile, maybe. He was a good worker, but you always had to tell him exactly what to do. You’d tell him to get the ax, he’d get the ax. You’d tell him to chop some wood, he’d chop some wood. Then, unless you’d tell him to put the ax away, he’d leave it right out in the God damn rain or anything else. The only time he ever went ahead and did something on his own, without being told just what, was the time I’m telling about, the time I played the dirty trick on him. It got pretty trying sometimes, telling him just every little thing to do that way, and I lost my temper and cursed him more times than I can count, but I regret it now, and wish I hadn’t done it, and most of all I wish I hadn’t done what I did in the end to get him put away. I miss Obie. It’s lonely around here without him.

\n\n

It happened the day I heard him singing Two little Hands out behind the barn. Two little Hands is a religious song, a kind of hymn, I guess, and it’s all about someone having two little hands for Jesus, and it’s supposed to be sung by kids in Sunday School and places like that. Someone had got hold of Obie early and taught him a few simple things about religion, and he was always singing this little song that he’d picked up somewhere. He only knew a few lines, because that was all he was capable of remembering, but he liked to sing what he knew, and he sang it every time he thought to, or someone asked him to, and it was sort of funny and sad at the same time to hear the big lug do it, especially because his hands were really about the size of a brace of snow scoops.

\n\n

I heard him singing this song behind the barn, and then I heard someone start to laugh as if it was the funniest God-damn thing that ever happened. There were two voices laughing, that is, a man’s and a woman’s, and I knew it was Ivy and Gunner Hoke back there with Obie. I began to feel sick then, partly because I didn’t like anyone poking fun at Obie, but mostly because it was Ivy and Gunner doing it. Ivy was my step-sister, no blood relation, and Gunner was a tall lean guy from in town who came out to see her. He was doing more than seeing her, too. I knew that as well as anything, even though I couldn’t actually prove it, and for a long time I kidded myself that I hated Gunner for that reason, because I didn’t approve of such goings-on, but now I that I’m making a clean breast of everything and telling the whole story, I may as well admit that it was really because I wanted to take Ivy for myself and never could.

\n\n

She was enough to make anyone want to. Gunner and I weren’t the only ones by any means, and so far as I know maybe Gunner wasn’t the only one who managed it. She did everything she could to put it in a guy’s mind, that was sure. She was certain to be sloppy fat someday, like her old lady, my stepmother, but now her body was just full and ready, like it had been tree-ripened in the hot summer sun for picking, and it had a way of projecting itself through the thin cottons she wore around the place. She knew the effect she had on me, all right, I wasn’t fooling her any, and she got a hell of a bang out of it even though she never intended to give me any house. I guess I hated her in a way just as much as I hated Gunner, but I’m trying to be honest, and I can’t be sure, because it was all mixed up with my wanting her the way I did.

\n\n

I went around behind the barn, and there was Obie singing this little song about two little hands for Jesus, and he was standing like a kid speaking a piece for the parents on the last day of school, with his big feet together in the dust and his huge, bony hands hanging down at his sides below knobby wrists that looked like they’d been swollen and crippled by arthritis. He had a pained look on his face, just like he always got when he sang, his pale eyes staring straight in front of him and filled with a kind of misery, as if it hurt him to try to remember the words in the order they were supposed to come. Tears were rolling down his cheeks, and his slack mouth that was never quite closed, even when he wasn’t talking or singing, leaked saliva at the corners, and the saliva ran down over his chin. He was a big, lank guy at least three inches over six feet, and his bones were thick and knobby at all the joints just like at the wrists, and /e looked like just what he was, a big boob without the brains to know when someone was making a damn fool of him, but I didn’t think it was funny.

\n\n

Ivy and Gunner did, though. They were leaning against the barn with their arms around each other, and they were laughing fit to kill. Ivy with an abandon that was almost hysteria and Gunner more quietly, in his own way, his bright red lips drawn back off white teeth in an expression that was somehow canine and cruel.

\n\n

I went over and grabbed Obie by an arm and jerked him around. His song ended with a little squawk in his throat, and he stood looking down at me with his mouth hanging open and his pale eyes clouded and confused in the wav they got when anything happened too suddenly or was a little different from anything that had happened to him before.

\n\n

“What’d you do that for, Jake?” he said. “I was singing my song for Ivy. You oughtn’t to stop me when I’m singing my song for Ivy.”

\n\n

“God damn it,” I said, “can’t you tell when someone’s making a damn clown out of you? Haven’t you even got that much brains?”

\n\n

He shook his head slowly from side to side, laboring to understand what I’d said, taking each word one at a time in the darkness of his brain and figuring it and then putting them all together at the end like a little kid just learning to read.

\n\n

“You oughtn’t to say that, Jake. Ivy’s my girl. You know Ivy’s my girl. Ivy wouldn’t do anything like that to Obie.”

\n\n

“Don’t be any more of a fool than God intended you to be, Obie. Ivy’s just stringing you along. She’s Gunner’s girl, not yours. Why would she laugh at you if she wasn’t? Why would she stand there laughing at you and letting Gunner laugh with her right in front of you if she wasn’t?”

\n\n

It was true that Ivy teased Obie. She was cruel by instinct, and it gave her a big bang to work him up to the point where he was leaking saliva through his loose lips and shaking like a bird dog evacuating peach seeds, and you’d have thought it was a dangerous game for her, that a big powerful guy with no brains to evaluate consequences might have just slapped her down and had what he wanted, but she knew it wouldn’t happen because Obie had this simple religion in him and a rudimentary kind of morality that had been drilled into him for his own protection that said you never bothered anyone, least of all a woman, and that any kind of physical intimacy, no matter how bad you wanted it, was evil and strictly taboo. He’d never have touched Ivy, or Gunner, either, if it hadn’t been for me. Never on earth.

\n\n

He swung his head around and looked at Ivy and Gunner by the barn.

\n\n

“Gunner oughtn’t to do that to Ivy. Ivy doesn’t like it. Ivy wouldn’t even like Obie to do something like that.”

\n\n

Gunner let his hand slip off her and stepped forward, bending a little at the waist like a man ready to attack. He was looking at me, not Obie, and his eyes were as black and shiny as two chips of anthracite, and his face, though he had quit laughing, had the same expression as before, his red lips drawn back in the shape of cruel pleasure without sound. Ivy, in an unconscious gesture, lifted her hands to her armpits and ran them down the sidelines of her body as if she enjoyed the feel of herself.

\n\n

She said softly, “Don’t pay any attention to Jake, Obie. He’s just jealous. He’s jealous because I’m your girl instead of his.”

\n\n

Obie shook his head again, his sparse dry hair falling down over his eyes. No. Jake’s Obie’s friend, Jake’s Obie’s friend, and Ivy’s Obie’s girl.”

\n\n

It was as simple as that to the big boob. He couldn’t see any conflict. He couldn’t sec any reason at all why it shouldn’t be that way.

\n\n

Gunner laughed with a sound that was no more than a long breath hissing through his teeth, “Jake’s a sneaky little mouse, that’s what he is. Jake’s a slimy, panting little jerk who can’t get what he wants and doesn’t want anyone else to get it.

\n\n

My hate was too big for me then, and I stepped forward and started to swing at him, but he was much too fast for me and hit me flush in the mouth, and I was suddenly on my back in the hot, dry dust with blood in my throat. After fifteen seconds or so, I got up to do the best I could, but it wasn’t necessary, because Obie was standing between me and Gunner, and his huge hands were clenching and unclenching slowly.

\n\n

“Don’t hit Jake again,” he said to Gunner. “Don’t hit Jake and don’t touch Ivy.”

\n\n

Gunner was lean and mean and fast as hell, but he didn’t want any part of Obie. Obie would simply have waded into him and taken him in his big hands and crushed the life out of him, and Gunner knew it. In his eyes were fear and sudden withdrawal, but in Ivy’s eyes there was nothing but the crazy, shining excitement that was always her reaction to violence or the sight of blood as the symbol of violence.

\n\n

“Come on, Obie,” I said. “Let’s cut out. I want you to help me down in the fields.”

\n\n

I took him by an arm and led him down the cowpath into the pasture at the lower end and across the pasture toward the creek, and all the way he kept turning his head every few steps to look back toward Ivy and Gunner by the barn, and I could tell he was trying to figure it out, what had happened and why I had stopped him from finishing his song and why we had all said and done the things we had. My lips were split and beginning to swell, and one tooth was so loose that I could push it around with my tongue, but that wasn’t what hurt. A few cuts and bruises didn’t matter a damn. What hurt was the festering hatred and humiliation inside me that made me want to vomit and was all the worse because I couldn’t think of anything to do about it. At the edge of the timber along the creek I stopped and looked back myself, and I could see Ivy and Gunner walk across the barnyard and into the barn with their arms around each other, and I knew all of a sudden without any doubt at all just what they were going in there for. I think I knew because I understood that it would be necessary for Ivy to complete the cycle of intense physical excitement that the brief episode of violence and blood had aroused but hadn’t satisfied.

\n\n

“What we stopping for, Jake?” Obie said. “I thought we were going to the fields.”

\n\n

If he hadn’t said that, maybe I wouldn’t have done it. Maybe just a little thing like his saying something at the wrong time was the difference between doing it and not doing it.

\n\n

“I just remembered that we’ll need a pitch fork, Obie,” I said. “Go back to the barn and get one.”

\n\n

“What we need a pitch fork for?”

\n\n

“Never mind that. Just go get it. It’s sticking in the hay in the loft.” He started back the way we had come, and when he’d gone a few steps, I said, “Wait a minute, Obie. Listen to me. You be real quiet going in the barn. Don’t let anyone see you or hear you. You understand?”

\n\n

His eyes got clouded and confused from the effort of trying to understand why I was telling him to get the fork in a way that was different from the way I had always told him to get it before.

\n\n

“Why, Jake? Why don’t you want anyone to see me?”

\n\n

“Never mind. I’ve got my reason. Will you do it the way I say?”

\n\n

“Sure, Jake. If you say so.”

\n\n

“Don’t forget, now. Promise?”

\n\n

“Sure, Jake. I promise.”

\n\n

He turned and started again, and I stood and watched him, watched his long, loping gait eat up the distance to Ivy and Gunner in the barn, and then I went on through the trees to the bank of the creek and sat down. I gathered a handful of pebbles and threw them one at a time into the dark green water, watching the little concentric circles move outward from the place where the pebble went in, and then, after the water had smoothed out, I lay back on the bank and closed my eyes and began to count, and I had counted a long way, I don’t remember how far except that it was a long way, when I heard Obie’s big clod-hoppers thumping the ground, and he came through the trees and sat beside me. He was breathing very hard. His breath was like a whinny in his nostrils.

\n\n

Without opening my eyes, I said, “You get the fork, Obie?”

\n\n

“Fork?”

\n\n

“What’s the matter, Obie?”

\n\n

He didn’t answer, and I guess he didn’t even hear me, but after a while he said more to himself than to me, “He oughtn’t to have done it. She oughtn’t to have let him.”

\n\n

I knew then that it was both of them. I knew that he had seen what I’d sent him to see and that he’d done what I’d thought he might do. I couldn’t stand the sight of him sitting there crying, so I rolled over and buried my face in my arms, but I could still see him just the same, and I can still see him now and I only wish they had, in the place where he is, a field where he could work under the hot sun with his big hands, and a creek where he could go when the work was finished.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": ""This Is A Stick-Up!"", "author": "Edwin MacLaren", "body": ""

Clarence Stierwalt, a young man with a purpose, stood at the “World’s Busiest Corner” State and Madison Streets, Chicago — in serious meditation.

\n\n

It was twenty minutes past four o’clock on Monday afternoon, October 9, 1939.

\n\n

The crowds swirled and eddied around him, but Clarence paid them no heed. Clarence was cogitating on a matter of grave concern. He had a small bit of money in his pocket and he needed a great deal more. But he was newly released from state’s prison and had arrived in Chicago from Paducah, Kentucky, only a few hours before, and among the countless thousands of persons streaming endlessly past him there wasn’t one that he knew. How, then, could he get this money?

\n\n

He turned and stared intently at the nearest store. Then he walked inside and exchanged the money in his pocket for a small bright object of curious design. He thrust the object in the lower pocket of his vest, buttoned his coat over it and walked back to the teeming street.

\n\n

He floated along with the milling crowd and stopped in front of another store a few doors farther south. This was Berland’s Shoe Store at 16 South State Street.

\n\n

He went inside. The store was swarming with customers. The manager, Sam Bloomberg, stepped forward smilingly.

\n\n

“Something in shoes, sir?” said Mr. Bloomberg.

\n\n

“No,” said Clarence, unbuttoning his coat. “Something in cash.”

\n\n

He pointed to the shining object protruding from his vest.

\n\n

Mr. Bloomberg’s eyes widened at the object; a snubnosed automatic pistol.

\n\n

“This is a stick-up. I want all the money you got in this joint,” said Clarence, speaking low from a corner of his mouth, “and I want it, quick.”

\n\n

“Step this way,” said Mr. Bloomberg, and led him to the cashier’s cage.

\n\n

“Miss Kay,” he said to” the cashier, “give this man what he wants. And please don’t alarm the other — customers.”

\n\n

There was $250 in the till. Miss Rose Kay, the cashier, gave it all to Clarence.

\n\n

Clarence shoved it into his pockets and buttoned his coat. Then he bowed to the cashier and lifted his hat, and turned and walked outside. Nobody else in the store was aware that it was being robbed. So it was as simple as that!

\n\n

Emerging to the sidewalk, somewhat hurriedly, Clarence collided with another man.

\n\n

“Hey!” exploded this man. “Can’t you watch where you’re going?”

\n\n

“Sorry,” said Clarence. “I’m in a hurry.” He started to push on through the crowd.

\n\n

But the man detained him. “Say,” he said, looking curiously at Clarence’s face, “haven’t we met somewhere before? St. Louis, I think it was.”

\n\n

“I’ve never been in St. Louis,” said Clarence. “If we met at all it was in Paducah.”

\n\n

“But I’ve never been in Paducah,” said the man.

\n\n

Clarence had the vague feeling he had heard something like this before, and he was about to supply the last line to the gag: “It must have been two other fellows,” but now, suddenly, he heard a shout behind ‘him:

\n\n

“Hold that man! Don’t let him get away!”

\n\n

Clarence looked over his shoulder. Policeman Martin Sullivan, on traffic duty at State and Madison, was barging toward him through the crowd, elbowing people right and left, service revolver in hand. Following him was Manager Sam Bloomberg.

\n\n

Clarence tried to run, but he hadn’t a chance. The stranger, who thought they had met in St. Louis, held him in a bearlike grip.

\n\n

A moment later Officer Sullivan was clamping the handcuffs on him. The stranger, having performed his duty as a citizen, disappeared in the crowd without giving his name. Probably he was still pondering on how he could have met Clarence when he had never been in Paducah.

\n\n

Mr. Bloomberg, watching excitedly, uttered a warning: “Take care, Officer. He’s got a gun in his pocket.”

\n\n

Officer Sullivan, preparing to take his prisoner to the call box and send him to the Detective Bureau, jerked open Clarence’s coat and snatched the snub-nosed pistol from the lower vest pocket. Then he gave a hearty laugh. It was a toy cap pistol such as children use when playing “cops and robbers.”

\n\n

Clarence had bought it with his last thirty-five cents.

\n\n

THE END

\n
Back to Top
\n"" ] , [ "title": "Three Guesses", "author": "David Goodis", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

The First Guess

\n\n

It was one of those white stone places up in the east seventies.

\n\n

Plenty of class, Frey thought as he walked up the steps. He turned and looked at the guy waiting in the car. He shrugged, and the guy shrugged back.

\n\n

Frey was in his early thirties. He was five eight and he weighed 170 and it was packed in like steel. He was a private dick and he was reckless. It showed in his grey eyes and the glint in his carelessly combed light brown hair and the set of his jawline. It showed in the thin grin of his lips.

\n\n

His lips grinned like that as the door opened. A servant, a Jap.

\n\n

“Yes, please?”

\n\n

“I’d like to see Miss Rillette.”

\n\n

“She busy.”

\n\n

“Not too busy to see me,” Frey said. “I’m coming in.”

\n\n

Japs are either very tough or they are very timid, and the servant was of the latter stamp. He stepped aside and Frey walked through a pale orange room, then through a burnt orange room and then into another pale orange room.

\n\n

“Nice place you’ve got here, Miss Rillette,” Frey said.

\n\n

She was small and slim and even in the frock of a sculptress she looked delicate and graceful. In one hand she held a chisel. In the other she held a mallet. She was working on a chunk of marble and she had the forehead and general scalp contours almost completed.

\n\n

When she turned around she showed a good looking set of features. She had dark brown hair coming in bangs to the eyebrows, and her eyes were gold-hazel. Her mouth was a little too wide, but still she was a good looking girl. She was in her late twenties.

\n\n

“Just who are you and what is the meaning of this?” she said.

\n\n

“My name is Frey, and I’m a friend of Harry Duggin.”

\n\n

“Is that so?” she said. “How is Harry?”

\n\n

“He’s dead.”

\n\n

She blinked a few times and then she said, “What happened — and when?”

\n\n

Frey said, “He was murdered — this morning. Knifed.”

\n\n

She blinked a few more times and then she looked at the floor for a few seconds. Frey was watching her and then he was glancing sideways to a little jade box that held cigarettes. He took one up, eased a stray safety match from his vest pocket, flicked it with his fingernail, and lit up.

\n\n

He took a few deep drags and said, “I got an idea that you know something, Miss Rillette.”

\n\n

Her face showed no emotion as she said, “I thought you said you were a friend of Harry’s. You sound more like a detective.”

\n\n

“That’s right. Harry was a good friend of mine. We went to law school together. He became a successful corporation lawyer and I starved for a while and then I became a private detective. I lost touch with Harry for a year or so and then last week he called me up and asked me to do a favor for him. He asked me to follow you.”

\n\n

She said, “Indeed?”

\n\n

“That’s right. He must have been looking around for a private dick and then he found out that I was in business and he asked me to follow you. He said that in return for the favor he would give me one hundred and fifty bucks. So you see, Miss Rillette, I have nothing against you personally. I just have to make a living, that’s all.”

\n\n

“Why did he want you to follow me?”

\n\n

“You don’t have to ask me that. Miss Rillette. You know the answer. In fact, you know all the answers. I found that out through seven days of following you.”

\n\n

She blinked some more and then she reached out to the little jade box and took a cigarette. Frey flicked one of his safety matches with his fingernail and gave her a light.

\n\n

“What am I supposed to say?” she murmured.

\n\n

He knew he was going to have trouble with this girl.

\n\n

“You don’t have to say anything. I’ll write out a confession outline and you sign it. If you want to, you can fill all the gaps. But what I want most is a signed confession — “

\n\n

“What did you say you were?” she murmured.

\n\n

“A private detective.”

\n\n

“Beginner, aren’t you?”

\n\n

That made him sort of sore. But he swallowed it and said, “Maybe, but I’m not an amateur. I make a living out of this.”

\n\n

She blinked and dragged half-heartedly at the cigarette and then she turned and looked at the marble she was doing. She looked back at Frey and her eyes were tired as she said, “How close did you follow me?”

\n\n

“Here’s what you did,” Frey said. ‘On Sunday you attended an exhibition at the Wheye Galleries, up on 57th Street. From there you went to Larry’s, in the Village, where you had a dinner engagement with a man named Lasseroe. From there this guy took you to a party at the Vanderbilt. He went home alone. You stayed at the Vanderbilt. You stayed there for five days, with your very good friend, Daisy Hennifer, the jewelry designer. You had a few luncheon and dinner engagements with Lasseroe. You went to a few shops with Daisy. Then early last night you left the Vanderbilt and I lost you in Fifth Avenue traffic. I went back to tell Harry about it and to get your home address, because in all the days I’d been following you — well, you didn’t once touch home. When I got to Harry’s apartment, his valet informed me that Harry was out for the evening.”

\n\n

“That’s as far as you got?”

\n\n

“Hardly. I went to Harry’s apartment again this morning. The valet came to the door and told me that Mr. Duggin was sleeping. I explained that it was certainly most important and I went in. But I couldn’t wake Harry up, because he was dead. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. You know it already.”

\n\n

“How did you get my home address?” She was still blinking a lot, but she wasn’t excited.

\n\n

“The valet gave it to me.”

\n\n

“You told him — ?”

\n\n

“I didn’t tell him anything. I came out of the bedroom and told him that Mr. Duggin was still sleeping. Then I asked him for your address. Maybe he still thinks that Harry is asleep. Or maybe he’s found out already and the police are in on the case.”

\n\n

She looked at the ceiling and then she looked at the floor and then she looked at Frey and said, “Now let me understand this. You say that I murdered Harry. You want me to sign a confession.”

\n\n

“That’s all there is to it,” he said. “You’re going to place yourself in a lot of difficulty, Mr. Frey,” she murmured. “I advise that you give this matter a little more thought before you accuse anyone else — “

\n\n

“I’m not accusing anyone else,” Frey said. “What are you going to do?”

\n\n

She blinked and then she looked at her wrist watch and then she looked at the marble.

\n\n

“I have a lot of work to finish before three thirty this afternoon,” she said. “Please go now.”

\n\n

She turned, took up her mallet and chisel, and started to work on the marble. She acted as if Frey had already walked out of the pale orange room.

\n\n

He shrugged and walked out.

\n\n

The Jap servant followed him to the door. He said to the Jap, “Tell Miss Rillette that I’ll be back — after three thirty.” He walked down the steps and stepped into the parked coupe.

\n\n

He turned the key in the ignition lock and said, “No go.”

\n\n

“What happened?” this other guy said. This other guy was Mogin. He was about as tall as Frey and he weighed a little over 200 pounds. He had close-cropped blond hair and pretty blue eyes and he was a very tough boy.

\n\n

“She don’t know from nothing,” Frey said. He took the car around the corner and stepped on the gas.

\n\n

“What do we do now?” Mogin said.

\n\n

“Well, we could go to a double feature and kill the afternoon that way. Or we could go up and visit this Lasseroe.”

\n\n

Mogin shrugged.

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\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Second Guess

\n\n

It was a new apartment house near Morningside Heights. It was elegant and smooth and important.

\n\n

“Do I wait?” Mogin said.

\n\n

“Maybe you better come in with me.”

\n\n

They went in and rang Lasseroe’s number and he must have been expecting somebody because he buzzed an answer right away and the door opened. When Frey and Mogin stepped out of the elevator, Lasseroe was standing at the door of his apartment and when he saw them he expected them to walk right by. But they came up to him.

\n\n

He was a man of medium height and he had a good build for a man of forty-five. He had a square, rigid-boned face, and deep-set dark grey eyes, and a good head of black hair threaded with silver. He was wearing a long collared silk shirt and an expensive cravat and an expensive silk lounging robe.

\n\n

“Hello, Lasseroe,” Frey said.

\n\n

“I beg your pardon — “

\n\n

“You don’t have to beg anybody’s pardon,” Frey said. “All you have to do is answer a few questions. If you don’t mind we won’t waste time out here in the hall. We’ll go into your room and talk.”

\n\n

“I presume you are thieves?” Lasseroe said. He wasn’t excited.

\n\n

“No, we ain’t thieves and we don’t like funny boys,” Mogin said.

\n\n

Lasseroe walked into the apartment and Frey and Mogin followed.

\n\n

“Now, gentlemen?”

\n\n

“My name is Frey. This is my assistant, Mr. Mogin.”

\n\n

Lasseroe ignored Mogin.

\n\n

He said, “What do you want with me?”

\n\n

Frey began to talk. He didn’t look at Lasseroe. He looked out the window and talked slowly, taking his time.

\n\n

He said, “You got a nice business, Mr. Lasseroe. You are an expert appraiser of art, and you take good fees from various dealers. Sometimes you hit healthy money. You check up on a Rembrandt and you give your okay to a buyer and the dealer gives you a sweet kick-back. It is all very legitimate and lucrative — “

\n\n

“What are you, a census taker?” Lasseroe said.

\n\n

“Quiet,” Mogin toned.

\n\n

“A short time ago you figured out a few new angles,” Frey said. “You weren’t doing so good on the old stuff and you reasoned that you might be able to make up for the deficiency by a few transactions with the modern boys and girls.”

\n\n

“Just what do you mean by — “

\n\n

“Quiet,” Mogin toned.

\n\n

“So here’s what you did,” Frey said. “You rounded up several of the more snooty painters and sculptors — the artistic boys and girls who have a lot of dough because their parents or some uncle or somebody had a lot of dough. You told the suckers that you’d boost their work in return for tribute. Then you went to the dealers and told them that you had several sensational new artists whose work would bring high prices. You’d give that work a big build-up in return for the kick-backs. It worked.”

\n\n

“Now just a moment — “

\n\n

“Quiet,” Mogin toned.

\n\n

“Everybody was happy,” Frey said, “because nobody really lost out. The artists made dough and the dealers made dough and the customers thought they were getting high class stuff. One of these customers was Harry Duggin, the successful corporation lawyer.”

\n\n

Lasseroe opened his mouth to say something. Then he closed it and looked at Frey and looked at Mogin and looked at Frey again.

\n\n

“You sold Duggin a few pieces of sculpture done by a girl named Tess Rillette,” Frey said. “Duggin liked the sculpture and he wanted to meet the girl. You introduced him to Tess and he went crazy. He worshipped her. He asked her to marry him. She thought it was funny and she told you about it. You didn’t think it was funny. You saw a new dodge — “

\n\n

“Now damn you —”

\n\n

“Quiet,” Mogin toned.

\n\n

“Duggin was out of his head because of Tess Rillette. And of course he bought up every piece of sculpture that Tess turned out. This sort of thing went on for more than a year, and Harry didn’t know that sculpture takes a long time and a high-class artist can turn out so many pieces and no more in a certain period. In other words, Harry didn’t stop to figure that you were selling him stuff that Tess Rillette had nothing to do with. That is — he didn’t stop to figure about it until he found out that Tess had fallen for you.”

\n\n

“Now you look here — “

\n\n

“Quiet,” Mogin toned.

\n\n

“Harry could be clever when he wanted to be, and he was always clever when he was good and burned up. He checked up on that stuff you sold him, found out that it was phoney. He got in touch with you, told you that you were slated for jail — but that you could snake your way out of it — by giving up those happy little plans for yourself and Tess Rillette. By that time, you were serious about Tess and you wouldn’t give her up for anything. So you went and murdered Harry Duggin.”

\n\n

“What?”

\n\n

“I said — you murdered Harry Duggin.”

\n\n

Lasseroe stared at the lavender rug. He raised his eyes and said, “Is Harry — dead?”

\n\n

Frey reached in his pocket and pulled out a safety match and flicked it with his fingernail. Then he remembered he had no cigarette in his mouth and he reached out and Mogin took out a pack and gave him one.

\n\n

He lit the cigarette and he said, “I’m a detective, Lasseroe. I’d like you to tell me how you did it.”

\n\n

“I didn’t do it.”

\n\n

“No?” Frey looked at Mogin. Mogin shrugged.

\n\n

“No, I didn’t do it,” Lasseroe said. “Let me see your badge.”

\n\n

“I don’t have a badge. I’m a private detective.”

\n\n

Lasseroe said, “I’ve a good mind to call the police.”

\n\n

“You don’t have to call them,” Fry said. “They’ll be here soon anyway.” He walked to the door. Mogin followed.

\n\n

Lasseroe stood there in the center of the lavender rug. He said, “You gentlemen have wasted your time.”

\n\n

“Quiet,” Mogin toned.

\n\n

In the elevator Frey said, “Maybe we can still make that double feature.”

\n\n

“I’m getting hungry,” Mogin said. “How about some lunch?”

\n\n

Frey parted his lips and the cigarette fell from his mouth. He stepped on the stub and said, “We’ll have lunch and then we’ll visit another party.”

\n\n

“No double feature?” Mogin said.

\n\n

“No double feature. We’ll visit the third party and if we strike out we’d better leave town for a few days to avoid a lot of aggravation. See what I mean?”

\n\n

“I see what you mean,” Mogin said. “Who do we see now?”

\n\n

“We see Daisy Hennifer, the jewelry designer,” Frey said. “We go to the Vanderbilt Hotel.”

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\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Third Guess

\n\n

They faked a story that they were representatives of a big Manhattan lapidary. That got them up to Daisy Hennifer’s suite. It was topaz yellow, ceiling, walls, rugs and furniture — all topaz yellow. Daisy had on a topaz yellow gown and she had topaz yellow hair.

\n\n

“You won’t be able to stay long, gentlemen,” she said. “I’ve a cocktail engagement at hof post threh — “

\n\n

“What’s that again?” Mogin said.

\n\n

“Skip it,” Frey said.

\n\n

Daisy was frowning.

\n\n

“What did you do last night, Miss Hennifer?” Frey said.

\n\n

Her topaz eyes started to glow and she said, “Just what do you mean by coming up here and — “

\n\n

“Don’t get excited, Miss Hennifer. We’re just doing our job, that’s all.”

\n\n

“But you said you were — “

\n\n

“No, we don’t represent a lapidary. We’re just up here to ask you a few questions, that’s all.”

\n\n

“You’re not police — “ She was wearing four rings and she was twisting them about her fingers. They were all big yellow topaz stones.

\n\n

“Not exactly — “ Frey said.

\n\n

“Well then — “

\n\n

“Do you know Harry Duggin?” Frey said.

\n\n

“Why — yes. In fact, I was to see him this afternoon — “

\n\n

“You won’t see him, Miss Hennifer,” Frey said. “He was murdered this morning.”

\n\n

“Oh — “

\n\n

“He was a fine sort, Miss Hennifer. You shouldn’t have done it.”

\n\n

“Done what?”

\n\n

“Killed him.”

\n\n

She was twisting the topaz rings. They circled fast about her long fingers, the nails of which held topaz yellow polish.

\n\n

“You’ve been friends with Harry for a long time, Miss Hennifer,” Frey said. “As far as you were concerned, it was more than friendship. You went for Harry. But he wasn’t serious. And he finally gave you up altogether because he was getting big ideas concerning Tess Rillette. You hated Tess. You had known her for some time and you had paid no particular attention to her, except to laugh behind her back. You looked upon her as a girl with a lot of money and no brains and no real ability as a sculptress. When you saw her at teas and parties you just saw her, that was all. But when Harry fell for her, you had to pay attention, and you hated her. You — “

\n\n

“How do you know this? Who are you? What — ?”

\n\n

“Please be quiet and listen,” Mogin droned.

\n\n

“It was sort of natural that you should begin to cultivate this Tess Rillette’s friendship. You wanted to talk to her about Harry. You wanted to find out just how much she cared for the guy. And then you found out that she didn’t go for him at all. She adored another man. That made you hate Harry. But at the same time you still weren’t giving up hope. You went to Harry, told him that Tess Rillette was after another man. You begged him to marry you. But instead of helping the situation, your visit made things worse. Harry began to look into the matter. He found out about Tess and this man Lasseroe. He wanted to make doubly sure. He was worried about a lot of things. He had a private investigator follow Tess around during this past week.”

\n\n

Mogin threw a cigarette. Frey caught It and flicked a safety match with his fingernail.

\n\n

Daisy Hennifer was saying, “All this — it’s — I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to say.”

\n\n

“You don’t have to say anything,” Frey said. “Just write me a confession note, that’s all. Just write out the confession and sign it and you won’t have to say anything.”

\n\n

“But — but — “

\n\n

“It was convenient for you, Miss Hennifer. Lasseroe had a good motive for killing Duggin. So did Tess Rillette. At first she was indifferent to Harry. And after he threatened to have Lasseroe jailed, she hated him. But your feelings were even stronger. It was your kind of hate that turned to murder.”

\n\n

“You’re wrong,” she said. She was excited. “I didn’t do it.”

\n\n

“A confession will get you off easy.”

\n\n

“I’m not signing any confession,” she said. “I didn’t do it. I had nothing to do with it. I adored Harry. I — “

\n\n

“You’ll save yourself a lot of misery —” She started to sob. “I didn’t do it. I — “

\n\n

Frey looked at Mogin. The short, heavy guy shrugged.

\n\n

“Is that all, Miss Hennifer?” Frey asked. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

\n\n

She stopped sobbing. Her topaz eyes were dull now.

\n\n

“Are you going to take me away?”

\n\n

Frey shook his head. “We can’t take you away. We’re not cops.”

\n\n

She stared. “Then — what are you?”

\n\n

Frey shrugged. “Maybe were just a couple of damn fools.”

\n\n

He nodded to Mogin. They went out of Daisy Hennifer’s suite.

\n\n
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\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Back to Tess Rillette’s

\n\n

They were walking toward the coupe. Mogin was saying, “It’s almost three.”

\n\n

“We’ll have something to eat and we’ll go back and sit in the coupe and wait a while,” Frey said. He put his hand in his change pocket and took out two half dollars, three quarters, six dimes, four nickels. “We’ll eat a classy lunch on this,” he said. “Then we’ll wait around for a little while and we’ll see where Daisy Hennifer goes.”

\n\n

“It’s all right with me,” Mogin said: “Anything’s all right with me — as long as we eat.”

\n\n

They lunched at the hotel and then they walked out to the lobby and sat down and smoked. At twenty past three, Daisy Hennifer walked through the lobby and Frey and Mogin took their time and followed her.

\n\n

A cab was waiting at the curb and Daisy got in.

\n\n

The coupe followed.

\n\n

Up Fourth avenue and two turns to blade through heavy uptown traffic and then down the street where Tess Rillette lived. The cab stopped outside the white stone house and Daisy got out.

\n\n

The coupe went once around the block and then Frey parked it at the corner.

\n\n

“This looks good,” he said.

\n\n

Mogin nodded.

\n\n

Frey said, “Maybe you better wait here. If I’m not out in thirty minutes maybe you better come in and see what’s happened to me.”

\n\n

Mogin said, “Maybe you better take this.”

\n\n

He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a little pistol. Frey looked at it and made a face.

\n\n

“I hate to use those things.”

\n\n

He took the pistol and put it in his pocket and walked up the white stone steps. The Jap came to the door and Frey said,

\n\n

“Well — it’s past three thirty. Miss Rillette is expecting me, isn’t she — ?”

\n\n

The Jap shook his head. “Miss Rillette is busy. You must call later.”

\n\n

“Tell Miss Rillette that I — “

\n\n

He braked his tongue and said, “No — don’t tell Miss Rillette anything. “In fact — maybe you better take a walk around the block.”

\n\n

The Jap started to get excited. He said, “You were not among those invited — “

\n\n

“Take a walk around the block,” Frey said. “Look, I’ll help you down the steps — “ He grabbed hold of the Jap and hustled him down the steps. Mogin saw the deal and opened the door of the coupe. Frey pushed the Jap inside.

\n\n

“What’s this?” Mogin said.

\n\n

“A glimpse of the Far East,” Frey murmured. “Take him to a show. Take him to a dance. I don’t care what you do with him, only keep him away from the house for a while. He’ll get in my way otherwise.”

\n\n

The Jap started to yell.

\n\n

“Tag him,” Frey said. He looked up and down the street and he saw that it was all right. Then he heard a click and he saw Mogin s fist bouncing away from the Jap’s chin. The Jap went to sleep.

\n\n

“I’ll drive around the block a few times,” Mogin said.

\n\n

Frey went up the steps again and took his time going through the pale orange room, the burnt orange room. Then he was moving slowly and very quietly as he heard voices coming from the other pale orange room. The orange door was closed but Frey managed to get in a look through the side windows of the studio. The windows were slits of glass running from the floor to the ceiling, and through them Frey saw Tess Rillette and Lasseroe and Daisy Hennifer.

\n\n

They were all talking at once and at first their voices were low but then they started to argue and Frey got in on it.

\n\n

“Clever, weren’t you, Daisy?” Tess Rillette was saying. “You asked me to be your guest at the hotel, and I thought it was hospitality. But what you really wanted was to keep me away from here. You didn’t want Harry to get in touch with me.”

\n\n

“That’s a lie,” Daisy said. “I asked you to stay at the hotel purely for business reasons. I wanted you to work on those inlaid ivories — “

\n\n

“That’s what I thought — at first,” Tess Rillette said. “But I know the truth now. You wanted to keep me away from Harry. You thought maybe you had one last chance of winning him back. And when you found out it was futile — you killed him!”

\n\n

“She’s right, Daisy,” Lasseroe said. “You killed Harry Duggin. You worshipped him — and hated him!”

\n\n

He got out of the chair and pointed at her, and a few glasses on a cocktail tray tipped over.

\n\n

Daisy was shouting, “You’re both lying! You’re trying to place the blame on me and switch things around so that I’ll be put out of the way. You’re trying to commit — double murder!”

\n\n

“Just what do you mean by that?” Lasseroe said.

\n\n

Daisy’s voice was lowered as she stared at the art appraiser and said, “You killed him. You had every reason to kill him, and you did it. And now you’re trying to get me out of the way. I know the truth about you, Lasseroe. I know how you’ve been swindling art patrons, charging them exorbitant prices for cheap junk such as Tess puts out — “

\n\n

Tess Rillette wasn’t taking this sitting down. She started to call Daisy a lot of nasty names. It was all very unpleasant.

\n\n

And then Lasseroe said, “You’ve got a lot of influence around this town, haven’t you, Daisy?”

\n\n

She liked that. She nodded. And there was a mean smile on her lips. Lasseroe was moving slowly toward her, and his face was pale. There was a light in the man’s eyes that told Frey a lot of things. Frey reached into his coat pocket and touched the revolver to make sure that it was still there.

\n\n

“You’ve got a lot of mouth, too,” Lasseroe was saying.

\n\n

“Just what do you mean by that?” Daisy looked at him straight.

\n\n

“You may turn out to be quite an annoyance,” Lasseroe said. He kept moving toward her.

\n\n

Tess Rillette was grabbing Lasseroe arm, saying, “Please — enough has already happened — “

\n\n

But Lasseroe was excited and he was pushing Tess Rillette away and then he was making a grab for Daisy. She fell backward and he went over with her and he got his fingers around her throat. She managed to scream once and then she started to gurgle. Frey opened the door and took out his revolver and pointed it at Lasseroe’s spine.

\n\n

“All right,” he said, “Let’s stop playing.”

\n\n

But Lasseroe was out of control now and he was choking the life out of Daisy Hennifer. He didn’t seem to hear Frey, and he increased the pressure of his fingers around Daisy’s windpipe. Tess Rillette was screaming and putting herself between Frey and Lasseroe, in an ungraceful try at the old martyr act.

\n\n

Frey knew that he couldn’t stand on ceremony. He had to break it up and break it up fast. He pushed Tess Rillette and she didn’t like being pushed. She was screaming now, and she threw fingernails at his face. He let her have a slow right to the jaw and it sent her across the room, spinning.

\n\n

Then he had a try at Lasseroe.

\n\n

He tried to pull Lasseroe away from Daisy Hennifer, who by now was in a very bad way. But Lasseroe was a maniac now and he wanted to take the life away from the jewelry designer. Frey knew that he would have to use the revolver. He lifted it and then allowed the butt to come down and make contact with Lassereo’s skull.

\n\n

Lasseroe went to sleep.

\n\n

“We’ll take them all down to Harry’s apartment,” Frey said. “If the cops aren’t there already, it’ll be a good idea to finish the case right on the spot where it started.”

\n\n

“That’s a very good idea,” Mogin said. “I have a hunch that this will put us on the map.”

\n\n

Frey nodded. He prodded Lasseroe with the revolver and said, “You and Miss Rillette will sit in the opera seats with me. Miss Hennifer will ride in front.” He touched the shivering Jap on the elbow and said, “The studio is in quite a bad state. Better go in there and rearrange things. If you have any questions to ask Miss Rillette, maybe you better call the police station. That’ll be her temporary address before she goes away on a long trip.”

\n\n

He stepped into the coupe and closed the door. Lasseroe was manacled to him and Miss Rillette was manacled to Lasseroe. Daisy was still groaning as Mogin put the car in first and sent it whizzing down the street.

\n\n

“You’re making a big mistake,” Lasseroe said.

\n\n

“I wouldn’t talk about making mistakes if I were you,” Frey said lightly. He felt very good. All a private investigator needed was one good break like this, and he was made. The cases would come in thick and fast, and so would the dough. Frey smiled.

\n\n

Tess Rillette was saying, “I told you, Mr. Frey — you were letting yourself in for a lot of difficulty, and — ‘’

\n\n

“Do I turn here?” Mogin was saying.

\n\n
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\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

It’s the Harry Duggin Case

\n\n

There were a few police cars in front of the high-class apartment where Harry Duggin had lived, and where he had died. The coupe parked across the street and Frey saw the crowd and the reporters. He said, “All right — here we go.”

\n\n

Everyone was looking and murmuring as the five of them went into the apartment house. A cop walked over and said, “What’s this?”

\n\n

“It’s the Harry Duggin case,” Frey said. They stepped into the elevator and went up seven floors to the apartment. There were a lot of cops up there, a lot of plain clothes men and lads from the homicide bureau. Reporters and photographers and a doctor.

\n\n

“What’s this?” a plain clothes man said.

\n\n

“It’s the Harry Duggin case,” Frey said.

\n\n

The mob crowded around. This little deal was taking place in the living room of the apartment.

\n\n

The dick was saying, “Carven is in the bedroom. He’s talking to Duggin’s valet.”

\n\n

He frowned at Frey and said, “What have you got?”

\n\n

“Enough,” Frey said. He pointed to Lasseroe. “Here’s your baby. I’m going in and talk to Carven.”

\n\n

As he started for the bedroom door he heard Lasseroe saying, “You’re making a big mistake — “

\n\n

Frey smiled.

\n\n

He went into the bedroom and he saw Carven, the big shot detective. He saw the two cops in there and he saw the valet, and then the corpse of Harry Duggin. Carven had the valet by the back of the neck. Carven was a big man and he was forcing the valet to look down at Harry Duggin’s dead face.

\n\n

Carven was saying, “Look at him. He’s dead. Do you get that? He’s dead. You called us in here and you figured that would automatically put you out of the picture. And you told us that a guy by the name of Frey came in here this morning and killed him. But Frey’s an old pal of mine. Frey’s a private dick — a lousy one, reckless and careless, but still he’s a dick and your story didn’t go. You killed Duggin — why — why — ?”

\n\n

Not only was Carven big, he was plenty tough. He gave the valet a short left and a mean right to the ribs. The valet broke.

\n\n

“I — I killed him,” he said, and it turned into a sob. “I — I wanted something that he owned — “

\n\n

“What was it?” Carven said. He raised his head, clipped to one of the cops, “Take this down.”

\n\n

The valet was sobbing, saying, “He had a fortune in little marble statues. He was always talking about those marble statues, telling me how priceless they were. He — kept talking about those statues all the time, telling me that the greatest sculptress in the world made them — and that money couldn’t buy them. That’s all he talked about — the statues made by Tess Rillette. He — drove it into me — made me crazy with the desire to own them. I — I — put a knife into him — “

\n\n

Carven grinned. He looked at the cops and said, “Pretty fast, wasn’t it? We came in on this case exactly two and a half hours ago. I can well imagine what happened to that wise guy Frey. He came in here this morning and he saw Duggin lying dead in bed and he figured he’d go out with his stooge Mogin and do big things. I’d like to see his face when he finds out — “

\n\n

Then he turned and saw Frey’s face.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

A Late Double Feature

\n\n

Mogin was talking loud and fast.

\n\n

He was saying, “What’re you crying the blues about? It was just a bad break, that’s all. And at least we pinned something on somebody. We got that smart bird Lasseroe locked up for fake art manipulations, and — “

\n\n

They were walking toward the coupe. Frey was shaking his head and his head was hanging low. He said, “Can we make a late double feature?”

\n\n

“Sure,” Mogin said. He put his heavy hand on Frey’s shoulder and said, “It’s a good idea. We’ll go to the movies and get it off our minds. Don’t worry, pal. Better days are coming. Hey — where you goin’?”

\n\n

Frey was walking away from the coupe, toward a corner drug store.

\n\n

“I’ll be right back,” be said. “I just want to go in here and take an aspirin. It’ll help me wait for the better days,”

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Stolen Handcuffs", "author": "", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

The History of Cranleigh Abbey

\n\n

The legend of Ulric, the Cistercian lay brother who became a hooded robber by night, was apocryphal in the extreme, but the public showed a growing disposition to believe in him.

\n\n

“Rather an odd coincidence, isn’t it,” queried Dixon Hawke of his old college friend, the Rev. Austin Bowen, rector of the old-world village of Cranleigh, “that Ulric s ghost should suddenly start haunting the abbey after you’d publicised him in your book?”

\n\n

Bowen also smiled.

\n\n

“It’s wonderful what the power of suggestion will do, old man,” he said.

\n\n

He pointed to the open book, “The History of Cranleigh Abbey,” which lay on the table at the visitor’s side.

\n\n

“I drew on my imagination a bit for that chapter about Ulric,” he confessed, “and it inspired the reviewers. Since when four trippers have been scared out of their wits by a shadowy figure they think they saw within the ruins.

\n\n

” It’s been good for trade, though,” he added, his smile broadening as he pointed through the leaded drawing room window at the gaunt figure of a grey-haired, bushy-browed man who was carrying a coil of hosepipe across the perfectly-kept lawn.

\n\n

“Ask old Carter. I allow him to charge visitors threepence a time for his services as guide, on condition that he hands over fifty per cent, to the Abbey Church Restoration Fund, and twenty-five per cent, to the Old People’s Relief Fund.”

\n\n

Hawke, whose visit to Cranleigh had been prompted partly by curiosity concerning the ghost of Brother Ulric, and partly by a desire to renew an old acquaintanceship, gazed abstractedly through the window for a moment.

\n\n

“You must come and meet Carter,” said Bowen. “He is that curious institution of village life known as the local character.”

\n\n

Together they strolled out to the grounds of the rectory.

\n\n

Away to their right, as they crossed the lawn, some thirty people, in straggling file, were labouring up the gravelled path towards the creeper- covered abbey ruins, and parked near the ancient stone parapet by the river were two yellow motor-coaches and a number of cycles, motor-cycles and cars.

\n\n

“Carter will be pitching them a fine tale presently,” chuckled Bowen. “What he doesn’t know about the abbey he invents. The old rascal tells them he knows where Ulric’s treasure is hidden, but intends to let it stay lest he be stricken low by the unknown.”

\n\n

A few moments later Bowen was effecting a one-sided introduction, in which the formality of handshaking was waived.

\n\n

“Friend of mine, David,” he said, indicating Hawke with a sweep of his arm. “He wants to know if you’ve seen Ulric’s ghost.”

\n\n

“Perhaps,” was the grim reply, “but you know I never speak of such things.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

What the Rector Saw

\n\n

From Bowen’s frivolous demeanour and David Carter’s exaggerated show of attention to his words, Hawke gathered that there was something a little queer about the man.

\n\n

Just how queer Hawke was to learn in the rectory library about an hour later, after Carter had seen the touring party off.

\n\n

He brought in a pocketful of coppers, which the rector counted out and divided into three piles, one of which he returned to the man.

\n\n

“Oh, David,” called the rector as Carter was about to leave. “I rather prize that book-end you’ve just put in your pocket. I’ll have it back, if you don’t mind.”

\n\n

Without any show of embarrassment Carter produced a carved book-end from his voluminous jacket-pocket and put it down on the table.

\n\n

“An accident,” he said evenly.

\n\n

“Quite,” answered Bowen.

\n\n

Hawke stared at the rector in surprise after Carter had gone.

\n\n

“Kleptomania,” explained Bowen. “The funny thing is he can be completely trusted with money. He steals odds and ends, irrespective of their value.”

\n\n

“And is this trait of his generally known in the village?”

\n\n

Bowen nodded.

\n\n

“They invariably search him before he leaves the village inn, having missed numerous tankards, ashtrays, and so on, and he is actually credited with having got away with the village policeman’s handcuffs.”

\n\n

“What exactly,” asked Hawke with a grin, “is his function in life?”

\n\n

“Organ-blower, sexton, and general handyman.”

\n\n

Hawke frowned thoughtfully at the carpet.

\n\n

“He sounded to me,” murmured the detective presently, “as though he might really believe in this legend about Ulric’s ghost. Or is he simply trying to create an impression?”

\n\n

It was the rector’s turn to frown.

\n\n

“I’ve been trying for some time to settle that point, but without success. The village is content to label him ‘Daft David,’ and leave it at that, but I — I’m not so sure. He’s capable of astonishing depth of thought at times.”

\n\n

Hawke stared at his old friend.

\n\n

“What’s going on at the back of your mind, Bowen?”

\n\n

The rector coloured slightly, and then coughed.

\n\n

“Well,” he said, “I suppose this is where you get a good hearty laugh at my expense. I — I’ve seen the ghost myself.”

\n\n

“Tell me about it,” said Hawke. Bowen looked momentarily uncomfortable.

\n\n

“It’s a story I’m not particularly proud of,” he stated. “You sec, I ran away from the blessed thing. My only excuse is that, I was just recovering from a bout of flu, and my nerves were all to pieces.”

\n\n

“What, for goodness sake,” asked Hawke, “was it like?”

\n\n

He was surveying Bowen with a kind of dumbfounded curiosity, for the clergyman was decidedly not the type to let his imagination run away with him.

\n\n

“It — it was like nothing in particular. Something disturbed me during the night. A noise of some kind from just below my window. I looked out and saw nothing at first, except the odd shapes of the broken stone walls of the abbey in the moonlight. Then I saw something move. It was almost the same colour as the background. A kind of light beige colour, similar to that of the Cistercians’ garb.

\n\n

“The thing was about man size,” went on the rector, “but shapeless, except — “

\n\n

“Yes,” encouraged Hawke, “except what?”

\n\n

“Except that it gave me the impression of raising one of its draped arms and beckoning to me.”

\n\n

Hawke inclined his head in the direction of Bowen’s book.

\n\n

“In accordance with the tradition?”

\n\n

“Well, there is a story to the effect that Ulric beckons his victims on towards his treasure hoard, and that they are afterwards found lying horribly strangled.”

\n\n

“Well, what happened?”

\n\n

“I was as bold as could be while I was indoors, and I swaggered out to investigate. I crossed the kitchen garden, which has no fence, and walked across the strip of ground in front of the cloister walls.

\n\n

“The thing had retreated, and was standing, quite still, against one of the walls. I continued to walk towards it, and it continued to remain perfectly still. I involuntarily slowed my pace, and then I stopped.

\n\n

“There it was, just a weird, shapeless apparition, waiting. That was what broke my nerve. The suggestion that it was waiting, d’you understand? Just waiting. I turned and sprinted back indoors, and spent a busy night fighting down my shame by telling myself that it was the aftermath of my ‘flu. I took another look out of the window before getting into bed, but the thing had gone.”

\n\n

“Probably it was all due to the ‘flu,” ventured Hawke. “Your fancy is apt to play tricks with you when you’re recovering from an illness.”

\n\n

Bowen agreed, but with no great show of conviction.

\n\n

“Don’t forget,” he said, “that four visitors claim to have had the same experience.”

\n\n

“Yes, but after the publication of your book. You yourself hinted at the power of suggestion.”

\n\n

Bowen conceded the point.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Sexton’s Story

\n\n

The following afternoon Hawke and his young assistant, Tommy Burke, accompanied a party of visitors, whom Carter showed over the ruins.

\n\n

Carter surveyed them all with a kind of fierce dignity as he told them that he knew where the treasure hoard was.

\n\n

He was proof against such badinage as that levelled at him by a London member of the party.

\n\n

“Why don’t ye dig it aht, chum? I pay the best prices for old gold an’ joolry.”

\n\n

“It stays where it is,” declared Carter solemnly, “and I’m not telling.”

\n\n

He then went on to relate, with showmanlike declamation, how Ulric’s ghost was sometimes to be seen standing guard over his plunder, and woe betide any who approached within reach of the apparition.

\n\n

Hawke took him to task after the party had gone, but the sexton stuck to his story.

\n\n

“I’m not telling lies,” he protested. “There is a treasure hoard, and I know where it is. D’you think I’d deceive these visitors? That would be obtaining money by false pretences.”

\n\n

“And have you seen the ghost?” Carter hesitated.

\n\n

“I’ll say nothing about that,” he declared with finality.

\n\n

Hawke later repeated the conversation to Bowen, who said:

\n\n

“As I told you, David’s scrupulously honest over money. He’d scorn to gain any by deceit. Though I can’t quite understand his insistence on that story about the treasure.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Tommy Gets a Fright

\n\n

Two nights later events took a sudden, startling turn.

\n\n

It was one of those glittering moonlit nights, the landscape being thrown into sharp, purple shadowed relief.

\n\n

Hawke had retired to bed at about eleven, and was aroused from his slumbers a little over an hour later.

\n\n

Drowsily he realised that the cause of the disturbance was the rattling of his bedroom door handle, and he got out of bed and unlocked the door.

\n\n

It was thrust open, and he was almost pushed back into a sitting position on the edge of his bed by Tommy Burke.

\n\n

The youth was half-dressed, without jacket or waistcoat, and his feet were encased in bedroom slippers.

\n\n

His physical appearance gave Hawke a shock.

\n\n

Gone was the normal ruddy complexion, and the shaft of moonlight which streamed in through the window showed a chalk-white face under a ruffled mop of hair.

\n\n

There were two long scratches across the young man’s forehead, and a thin, vivid trickle of blood ran down his right cheek.

\n\n

His breathing was laboured in the extreme, and his first attempts at speech were abortive gulpings.

\n\n

“What’s happened? Here, take it easy, son. Sit down and get your wind before you start talking.”

\n\n

“I — I’m all right, guv’nor, only — bit of a shock, that’s all.”

\n\n

“Yes? What kind of a shock?”

\n\n

Tommy then proceeded to relate a story almost identical with Bowen’s, except that it went further and had a remarkable conclusion.

\n\n

“It sounds silly, sir, but d’you think there can be such things — I mean, I seem to have read somewhere of spirits that cannot make themselves visible, but have the power to inhabit clothing — and make themselves visible that way.”

\n\n

“I have heard such stories but never treated them seriously, of course.”

\n\n

“No. Quite.”

\n\n

Tommy gulped once more, and then, seeming to get a grip on himself, proceeded:

\n\n

“It was out in the kitchen garden when I first looked through the window, but when I got outside it had retreated to that bit of wall near the old cloisters.

\n\n

“When I got within ten yards of it I felt my back hair creep. The thing was about your height, and sort of bulky at the top. It was the same colour all over — a kind of light brown — and the face, if there was any face, was entirely hooded.

\n\n

“I wanted to bolt, but I didn’t dare turn my back on the thing, guv’nor. I had the feeling that it would catch up with me in a flash.

\n\n

“After standing still for a second, I took a pace backwards, and it — it — “

\n\n

“Yes?”

\n\n

“I didn’t get any farther away from it, because it took a pace forward.”

\n\n

Tommy paused to dab his brow with his handkerchief.

\n\n

“So,” he continued, “I went forward again, simply because — because I found it impossible to do anything else. I got about as close to it as I am to you, guv’nor, and then — gosh!”

\n\n

Tommy gulped once more.

\n\n

“It suddenly pounced on me, guv’nor. I shall never forget it as long as I live. It didn’t make a solid impact, but all the same I rolled on the ground under it, kicking and struggling like mad with it.

\n\n

“As soon as I’d recovered some of my wits,” concluded the youth, “I realised that I wasn’t struggling with anything at all. It was just — cloth. There was nothing else there.”

\n\n

“What kind of cloth?” asked the astonished detective.

\n\n

“It was the dust sheet off Mr. Bowen’s car. I’ve put it back.”

\n\n

The two stared at one another while the seconds ticked by.

\n\n

“So you think,” said Hawke at length, “that the sheet was pulled off the car by some supernatural agency and temporarily — inhabited?”

\n\n

Hawke strolled to the window and stood looking out towards the abbey ruins for a moment. Then he suddenly peeled off his pyjama jacket and reached into the wardrobe for his clothes.

\n\n

“I’ll go and have a look round.”

\n\n

“I’ll come with you, guv’nor. It’ll help to restore my nerve.”

\n\n

The two were presently strolling through the ruins, gazing keenly about them.

\n\n

Tommy, pointed out the spot where the apparition had stood, and signs of a scuffle on the hard, gravelly ground bore testimony to the accuracy of his story.

\n\n

Hawke idly picked up a short broken pine branch which lay on the ground, and stood moodily beating his log with it as he stared at the marks.

\n\n

He then wandered round to the other side of the wall, which was in shadow, and again examined the stony ground, this time by the light of his pocket torch.

\n\n

He stooped and picked up what Tommy at first took to be small, white stones, but which proved, on closer examination, to be pieces of broken porcelain, one of the fragments of which was perforated.

\n\n

“What is it, sir?”

\n\n

“I don’t know. Piece of a china ornament or something that somebody has trodden on.”

\n\n

He continued his inspection of the ground, and proceeded eventually to the shed where the rector kept his car, and where Hawke’s car was also parked.

\n\n

It is a rare thing for cars to be stolen from remote places like Cronleigh, and the rector seemed sufficiently conscious of this fact to dispense with shed doors. A light brown sheet protected his car from dust.

\n\n

Hawke and Tommy related their adventures at breakfast next morning, and Bowen was excited and quite patently relieved that someone else besides himself should have encountered the apparition.

\n\n

“I knew it. I knew it,” he said. “There’s something queer about the atmosphere of this place. I’ve felt it. Dash ! Look, I’ve ruined my kidneys and bacon. Mary, why on earth must you leave the lid off this pepper-pot?”

\n\n

He had tipped a heap of pepper on to his breakfast dish, which the apologetic maid hastened to replace, amid protests that she had not touched the pepper-pot.

\n\n

“Tommy,” said Hawke suddenly, “did you say that apparition bulged out at the top and was thin at the foot?”

\n\n

“That’s right, sir. Why?”

\n\n

Hawke smiled faintly.

\n\n

“I’ll be on the look-out for it,” he said.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

Ulric’s “Treasure”

\n\n

The story of Tommy’s experience spread as only small villages can spread such things, and two newspaper reporters called during the day.

\n\n

The resultant publicity brought a new and bigger influx of curious sightseers, and Carter reaped a rich harvest for himself and the church funds.

\n\n

Hawke, having perambulated about the abbey on four successive nights without result, was due to return to London, and was almost in despair of clearing up the mystery.

\n\n

On the fifth night, the last of his stay at Cranleigh, he quietly left the rectory shortly after everyone had retired, and commenced his usual patrol of the grounds.

\n\n

He was passing by the shed where the cars were kept when he noticed something that aroused his interest.

\n\n

The dust sheet was missing from the rector’s car.

\n\n

As on the night of Tommy’s adventure, a brilliant moon was shining from a cloudless sky, and a very faint, almost imperceptible breeze rustled the ivy leaves on the abbey walls.

\n\n

Hawke stepped cautiously round the end of the rectory, and then, a few seconds later, his attention was attracted by a slight movement.

\n\n

There was the shrouded figure against the cloister wall, exactly as Tommy had described it.

\n\n

Hawke walked steadily towards it and then affected to hesitate, exactly as Tommy had done, whereupon the shape seemed to quiver slightly, and to thrust itself a little forward.

\n\n

The detective continued his advance for a few paces, and then made a movement which, to an onlooker, must have been as unexpected as it was swift.

\n\n

He ran at a low part of the wall a few feet to one side of the “apparition,” and vaulted it nimbly.

\n\n

Plunging into the deep shadow on the other side of the wall, he encountered something a little more solid than Tommy had done. There was clothing, and inside the clothing was a creature of flesh and blood.

\n\n

A pair of strong hands closed round the detective’s neck, and in a second he was hitting out in a desperate struggle with an adversary who was possessed of considerable strength.

\n\n

He rolled over, and his opponent rolled on top of him. The grip on his throat tightened, but a sharp, left-arm jab which caught the other a painful crack on the elbow joint caused the grip to loosen.

\n\n

An instant later Hawke got in a telling right to the jaw, and freed himself of the clawing, horny hands.

\n\n

He had mastery of the situation when he heard the sound of running feet on the other side of the wall.

\n\n

Tommy and the rector came on the scene, and helped Hawke to drag his captive out into the moonlight.

\n\n

“David !” exclaimed Bowen.

\n\n

“Yes,” Hawke said. “It’s Mr. Carter. The gentleman who took the porcelain top off your pepper-pot.”

\n\n

“David, you fool, what have you been playing at?”

\n\n

Hawke stepped forward and picked up a broken pine branch, similar to the one he had previously found.

\n\n

“He had the dust sheet draped over this,” he said, “and stood behind the wall, peeping over the top as his victim approached. D’you realise,” he snapped, turning on the shamefaced sexton, “that you might have caused somebody’s death by fright?”

\n\n

Carter, in a whimpering tone, admitted that he hadn’t thought of that aspect of it.

\n\n

“Practical joking at your age, David!” chided the rector.

\n\n

“It wasn’t practical joking,” interrupted the man. “I wanted to draw the visitors.”

\n\n

“You certainly did that all right,” said Hawke, “but I thought you told me you were above deceiving them. When I questioned you about that plunder hoard story of yours —”

\n\n

“There is a plunder hoard. There had to be a plunder hoard.”

\n\n

A few moments later Carter had pulled aside a few bricks from the base of the wall, and there, before the astonished eyes of the onlookers, was the plunder.

\n\n

It is a matter of eternal speculation with Hawke and Tommy as to exactly how far Carter was rational and how far he was mad. Where exactly did reason leave off and idiocy begin ruling the man’s actions? He stuck to his peculiar idea of honesty all the way, and there was undeniable logic in all his actions.

\n\n

There had to be a plunder hoard, and there was a plunder hoard.

\n\n

It consisted of such widely varied things as tankards and ashtrays stolen from the village inn; spoons, the works of an alarm clock, a door-knocker, and — the village policeman’s handcuffs!

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Codes and Ciphers", "author": "Histaeus", "body": ""

One of the earliest cipher methods is recorded by Herodotus, was shaved, and the message tattooed on his scalp. After his hair had grown, he was sent on his way. When he reached his destination his head was again shaved, and the message read.

\n\n

This article must be in part a taking of time-out to offer something besides thanks to the many who have sent in messages to be deciphered. The thanks are there, and deeply expressed; but with them there must go a word of criticism, to wit: several messages which entirely defied my best efforts proved, on consulting the enclosed key, to be undecipherable even with the full directions in view!

\n\n

I have in mind particularly one most tantalizing array of figures: it ran something like this: 3158742785183775492, etc. It contained a prime number of figures, so that it could not be broken up into groups for possible addition; there seemed to be no recurrences, though there were a few promising-looking doubles. Now logic will show that it is impossible to make a substitution alphabet using single figures for letters, as there are only 9 figures — or 10, if you count zero — whereas there are 26 letters.

\n\n

One of the elemental laws of cryptogram-deciphering is that when one finds a message composed wholly of figures those figures must be in combination, in some way or other.

\n\n

Well, in this particular message, in despair I opened the sealed key, and found that the contributor had made two circles of cardboard, each divided into 9 parts and turning on a common center. In the inner circle were written the numbers from 1 to 9, in scrambled order; in the outer was the alphabet, in nine groups of three letters each, except one, which contained only two letters. To code, the inner circle was placed in one position, and the required letter was given the number that happened to come under it; then the outer circle was moved clockwise one space, and the second letter coded by its figure; and so on.

\n\n

The worst of it was that even with the key and full directions it was impossible to decode the message!

\n\n

The first figure was 2; it was under the division containing the letters DEF. How could I — or anyone else — know which of the three letters was the right one? The second figure was 7, and fell under PQR; what help was there? One might guess that R, as a common letter, was the second letter of the message; but a word could begin with DR, ER, or FR; moreover EQ could have been a perfect beginning — EQUAL, for instance; and the farther one went, the more tangled the whole thing would be. So let me stress a point once more:

\n\n

A code to be of any use at all must be practical.

\n\n

Nothing would be more easy than to compose a code which I could not decipher; in fact, there are plenty of straight codes which I should hate to tackle without unlimited time at my disposal; but there is always the danger that in being extremely secretive the composer will be so secretive that he will fool everyone, including the recipient of his message. Obviously a method of secret communication must be open to the holder of the key, or it becomes useless.

\n\n

This is, of course, the basis for the original claim that what one man can invent another can decipher. It is presupposed that with the key the message can be read; the job of the decipherer is to find the key.

\n\n

Having pushed which out of our system, let us return to more practical matters.

\n\n

Enough, it seems to us, has not been made of the so-called “Dictionary” ciphers, or “Book” ciphers. This is a very simple method, easily disguised and difficult of decipherment. The method of coding is easy: a book — usually a small dictionary — is agreed upon between the parties; the message is coded by taking words — not letters — from the book and sending a series of numbers to indicate the page and the location of the word on the page. In the case of a dictionary, in which the words would be arranged in columns, three numbers usually represent the words — page, column, and position in the column. The small pocket dictionaries, which contain from fifty to a hundred thousand words, are excellent for this purpose.

\n\n

I have, let us say, such a dictionary, containing 400 pages. I wish to send the message “If you will meet me at one o’clock I will tell you everything.” I search for the word “If,” and find it to be the fifth word from the top in the second column on page 147. I write 5-2-147, and proceed to “You.” This is the eighth in the first column on page 397, and is coded 8-1-397. “Will” occurs as 11-2-306, “Meet” as 16-1-201, “Me” as 22-2-200, “at” as 11-2-16, and so on. These are actual codings, by the way, from a real book. The message is sent like this:

\n\n

52147 81397 112306 161201 222200 112016, etc., etc.

\n\n

Note that in the last number the page — 16–was given a zero in front of it. This was so that the recipient of the message would not imagine, as he might, that the word was the first word in the first column on page 216, as it would seem if written 11216. The receiver takes the last three figures of each number, which gives him the page; the next figure is the column, and the first figure or figures the word itself.

\n\n

How can such a message be decoded?

\n\n

There are several tables which give the proportion of words in dictionaries according to their initials; the alphabet itself is a fairly good guide. Thus M is the middle letter of the alphabet, and M falls nearly in the middle of any dictionary. A is, of course, at the beginning, and Z at the end; the other letters fall pretty much where you would suppose. If you open a dictionary three-quarters of the way from the beginning you will land in the S’s, almost certainly.

\n\n

It is unlikely that a dictionary used for coding will have pages numbered in more than three figures. A book of over 1,000 pages would be bulky to handle and would contain far too many useless words. Assuming that the dictionary is small, the first task of the decoder is to try to find the numbers which represent the pages. Remember that in a message of any length the same words are certain to crop up — AND, OF, WITH, etc. We omit THE because it is probable that such a message would omit this word, as is done in telegraphing. If, however, the decoder found several numbers which were very small he would be justified in assuming that these represented words beginning with A; and if the same numbers were repeated it would be a sure sign that they stood for common A-words like AND, AT, AM, ARE. Repeated words with very large numbers would be near the end of the dictionary — probably YOU or YOUR. Note in our own message, also, the consecutive page-numbers 201-200. In a 400-page book these would be about the middle — M-words — and the fact that they were so close together would suggest some such combination as MEET ME.

\n\n

We are aware that this sounds like rank guesswork; and we admit at once that the solving of Dictionary ciphers involves the least straight reasoning and the most assumption. There are ways of scrambling the numbers, too — for instance, the first two and the last figure might represent the page, the second one or two the number of the word, and the remaining figure the column. To code Word 14, column 2, page 363, we would write 36-14-2-3, only of course the hyphens would be omitted–361423. Not an easy task for a would-be decoder!

\n\n

The difficulty with dictionary codes is the likelihood of getting the figures so scrambled that the receiver, even with the key, may be led astray. He might even confuse BUY with SELL, which could be highly disastrous. In the effort to insure understandability certain give-aways are likely to crop up; for instance, few small dictionaries have more than two columns to the page; the decoder, noticing that 1 or 2 is always in the same place in each number, receives a strong hint. Even if the columns are not indicated there is bound to be a series of numbers running regularly from small to large, which will furnish a clue.

\n\n

Andre Langie, the French cryptographer, tells of deciphering a dictionary-coded message from which he obtained the meaning “Either X or Y warmly recommended.” The actual meaning of the message, it developed, was “Both X and Y absolutely unknown!” The numbers had been skilfully scrambled so as to lead the solver far astray. This, however, could hardly be done in a message of any length.

\n\n

We recommend dictionary codes to our readers as simple and certain, as well as difficult to decipher.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "You Can't Mince Homicide", "author": "Robert S. Fenton", "body": ""
\n
\n
Table of Contents
\n
\n\n
\n

\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Last Inning

\n\n

Detective Jim Toller was half asleep. Out of the radio cabinet on the table near his elbow boiled the voice of an excited mike ragger, but his words barely registered on the headquarters man’s soporific brain.

\n\n

” — Last of the eighth. It’s the Blues at bat, fans. They’ve got the only run of the game and this one run looks bigger every minute. This game means the pennant for whoever finishes out in front. Big Joe Waltham is up there swinging his big bat and the crowd is still making a lot of noise. Beginning to rain a little harder now — “

\n\n

Jim Toller had wanted to see that game between the Centralia Blues and the Midville Mudhens. He guessed that about everybody in Centralia had gone to that night baseball game over in Midville. The town had been baseball crazy for a week. But Jim Toller had had a tough day of it trying to get the goods on a pair of hot-car dealers. He yawned, stretched and reached out to turn the radio on louder.

\n\n

” — Raining pretty hard now. There are no covered stands here in Midville, but the crowd doesn’t seem to mind about getting wet.”

\n\n

Jim Toller idly reached out for a paper. Headlines barked at him:

\n\n
\n

FATHER’S MONEY SAVES PLAYBOY FROM JAIL\nManslaughter Charge Against Young Manther Dismissed\nCase Settled Out of Court

\n
\n\n

The detective smirked. Like most of the people in Centralia he had been hoping that Ted Manther would get the limit. The story had inflamed the citizens of the small metropolis for weeks. Young Manther had been in plenty of trouble long before running over and killing a child in the street.

\n\n

Jim Toller had been at police headquarters when Manther had been brought in. The millionaire manufacturer’s son had had no recollection of having hit anybody — he had been that drunk. A burly policeman had beaten a lot of the liquor fumes out of the playboy’s brain that night, and Jim Toller had itched for a chance to get in a few punches of his own. Outside the jail a crowd had gathered yelling for young Manther’s blood.

\n\n

Jim Toller threw the paper aside and mumbled: “That kind of guy would get off. Been somebody like me — “

\n\n

He stretched, fell back in his chair and the voice issuing from the radio gradually grew fainter in his ears.

\n\n

” — Raining pitchforks here now. Last of the ninth. The Mudhens have two more men coming up. Lefty Hoyt’s got one out. Only two more and the Blues win the pennant, fans.”

\n\n

Jim Toller was asleep. The insistent ringing of the telephone woke him up almost an hour later. He glanced at the clock, forcibly banishing the sleep from his eyes, and reached for the jangling phone; the hands of the clock said eleven-fifteen as he barked: “Hello?” into the transmitter.

\n\n

“Headquarters calling, Jim? We’ve been ringin’ for five minutes. Car’s on the way there now to pick you up,” a gruff voice ran on. “Nobody but T. J. Manther’s been bumped off. Yeah — Roy Manther found him when he got back from the ball game. Looks like that no good rat of a brother of his got himself into a real jam this time.”

\n\n

Detective Toller banged the phone onto its cradle, snatched up his topcoat and hat from where he had thrown them hours before, and went out of his little flat on the double. A police car was crowding toward the curb when he got out into the street. While it was still rolling the detective climbed in and fell into the back seat between two burly cops.

\n\n

“Big stuff!” he cracked.

\n\n

“You won’t need to do much snoopin’,” one of the cops said. “Y’know that Manther kicked the kid outta the house after he got him out of that last mess. Cost him close to fifty grand, I heard. Young Manther’s been next to broke an’ he got kicked out of his club. Been living in that little caretaker’s cottage right near the main road.”

\n\n

“Yeah,” Jim clipped, “I guess I won’t never get a chance to show the chief anything. The only big bump-off since I turned in my night stick, an’ it’s all cut an’ dried. Nuts!”

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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Manther’s Gabled Mansion

\n\n

The Manther’s had a show place three miles outside of Centralia. It was a huge, gabled mansion half hidden by tall pine trees, and from the eminence on which it was built it seemed to look down with disdain upon the rest of the habitations sprawled around it. When the police car climbed the winding road and rolled into the big front yard, Jim Toller saw a long sleek coupe standing in front of the house, its lights still on. The detective eyed the ornamental car with a bit of envy as he followed the cops up to the door.

\n\n

A tall man in his late thirties opened the door suddenly as they approached. His hat was off and a camel’s hair polo coat dangled loosely from his broad shoulders. Roy Manther’s face was pale, the whiteness accentuated by the hall light. Jim Toller had seen him around town a lot. The elder of the two Manther sons was like his father, as different from his brother, Ted, as milk is from wine. He was the son who had been content to go into his father’s business and make a go of it.

\n\n

Jim Toller followed the nod of Roy Manther who said in a tight voice: “In there.”

\n\n

All the men went into a large room that was lined with shelves on three sides, all completely filled with books.

\n\n

A bulky man with iron-gray hair was slumped sidewise in his chair, one arm hanging over the arm, fingers just short of touching the rug. There was an ugly hole between his eyes and an unwholesome blue-white pallor to his face. In one corner of the room stood a thin, gaunt man, a soiled terrycloth robe wrapped around him, wide eyes staring at the dead body of the man known to the world as the great “T. Jay.”

\n\n

Detective Toller said to the dead man’s son: “You — you’ve got a pretty good idea who did it, I guess. Sorry to have to speak so bluntly but — “

\n\n

Young Manther nodded.

\n\n

“He’s down there in that cottage near the road. Hasn’t hardly drawn a sober breath since we got him out of jail. I went in there. He’s lyin’ on the bed with the pistol in his hand. He must — have — shot dad from the open window because he was not allowed in the house. He hasn’t a key and dad would have seen him if he had tried to get in through that window.”

\n\n

Manther plunged his hands into the pockets of his loosely worn coat, idly took one out and looked at a folded square of pasteboard that it held. Jim Toller took swift notice, saw that it was a score card.

\n\n

He suddenly said:

\n\n

“Where’s the coroner, Mike? He ought to be here.”

\n\n

Roy Manther swore softly, and Toller thought that a little sob came out of his throat.

\n\n

“To think we have to go all through this after what has already happened. He must have sobered up — a little, then came up here to — He was a crack shot with any kind of a gun. He belonged to the gun club in town. He — “

\n\n

Brakes squealed outside and tires bit into gravel. A few moments later a small, fat man bustled in breathing fussily. The cops stepped aside and let him have room to open his ominous black bag and go to work. Jim Toller knelt down and picked up an unlighted cigar from the floor. It bore mute evidence of the murdered man’s mood at the time of his death, for fully two inches of the rich weed had been chewed to shreds.

\n\n

“He always did that when he was angry or worried about anything,” Roy Manther volunteered, speaking of his father.

\n\n

Before Jim Toller could respond, the coroner made a blunt statement.

\n\n

“Been dead a couple of hours — not more. Looks like a bullet — about a thirty-eight — went into his brain.”

\n\n

The fat little man thrust a pudgy hand into his black bag and pulled out a long, thin, shiny instrument. Toller and two of the cops turned away.

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\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

Shot From Beyond the Window

\n\n

The coroner finally snapped his black bag shut, called to Toller. The detective stepped up close. Roy Manther was just behind him.

\n\n

“The bullet did not go very far into his head. I’d say he wasn’t shot from very close up,” the medical man said. “A good shot could have stood out beyond the window and nailed him, Toller. That slug would have gone right through his head if a man had stood — say, right here.”

\n\n

Jim Toller looked at Manther, said: “Looks like this won’t be much of a case. Your brother could have made a shot like that.”

\n\n

Manther tightened his lips, said: “Yes. You’d better go down to the cottage and pick him up.”

\n\n

Jim Toller said: “If he is as drunk as you say, he’ll wait. After he killed his father, he must have gone down there to pack a bag. His nerves were ragged and he took a stiff drink. He took a couple more and then forgot what he had intended to do.”

\n\n

He stabbed a finger at the gaunt man who still stood as if mesmerized by the sight of the dead man.

\n\n

“You find the body?”

\n\n

The servant said: “Beg pardon. I did not catch — “

\n\n

Roy Manther cut in: “No. I came in, Toller, and saw him like that.”

\n\n

“You mean,” the headquarters man shot at the servant, “that you didn’t hear a shot?”

\n\n

The frightened retainer shook his head.

\n\n

“N-no, I did not. I sleep on the third floor and I sleep very heavy, too, sir. Mr. Manther let me retire about nine o’clock. I’m getting quite hard of hearing, sir.?

\n\n

“Any other servants in the house?”

\n\n

“None,” Roy Manther answered. “We discharged the housekeeper a couple of days ago. Incompetent,” he added crisply.

\n\n

“I left for Midville just after dinner. I stopped in to see Ted — my brother down at the cottage — and asked him if he felt in shape to go with me. He growled something about getting thrown out — said he might make it tougher than the old man thought. Anyway he said something that sounded like that. He had a terrible hangover, looked pretty bad.”

\n\n

“Hmm,” commented the detective. “He had been tossed out. He needed money, eh? You think that was what he wanted? That because your father wouldn’t give it to him, he — “

\n\n

Roy Manther did not respond. His eyes were on the wall near the front of the house.

\n\n

“Behind those books there,” he said, “is a safe. Somebody’s been moving the books!”

\n\n

Jim Toller followed him across the room. Manther yanked some loose books out of the case and dumped them into a chair. In the space thus revealed, the detective saw a small safe door standing open about an inch. The dead man’s son swung it wide and plunged a hand into the black depths of the built-in safe. He pulled out a lot of papers and hurriedly examined them.

\n\n

“There was five thousand dollars in here last night,” he said excitedly. “Dad put it there. I brought it home with me.” He looked out into the night, his face hard, eyes stormy. “The rat — the no-good rat! I ought to kill him!”

\n\n

Jim Toller thought awhile. Then he said: “He shot his father first so that there would be no angry outcry to reach up to where the butler slept. He knew there would be a fuss once his father saw him coming in. When the job was done, he came in through the window and robbed the safe.”

\n\n

Toller turned to Manther and a couple of men from headquarters.

\n\n

“Let’s go down and take him.”

\n\n

Toller and Roy Manther and the cops went down to the little cottage at the end of the winding driveway in a headquarters car. They found Ted Manther, fully clothed, lying on a bed. There was a whiskey bottle on the floor. Jim Toller found five thousand dollars in his pockets. The gun that had killed the man up at the gabled house was clutched in his hand. Roy Manther lifted him up, cracked the palm of his hand against his brother’s face a half dozen times. The drunken man’s eyes opened suddenly and he babbled something.

\n\n

“The dirty louse,” a cop said, “too bad they can’t give him the chair.”

\n\n

“Why can’t they?” Roy Manther ground out. “He — “

\n\n

Jim Toller nodded, said: “He was drunk. A jury — “

\n\n

He dragged the drunken man off the bed, shook him savagely. “Come on, kid. We’re goin’ up to the house and show you somethin’ nice. Maybe you’ll save the state a lot of trouble by telling us everything.”

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\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Ted Manther, Arrested for Murder

\n\n

The car went up to the mansion again, and Toller and the cops half dragged Ted Manther inside.

\n\n

The dead-wagon crew stood waiting for permission to remove the body, but Toller said as he shoved his prisoner toward the corpse: “In just a minute, boys.”

\n\n

Ted Manther gazed at the corpse dully for several moments. Then his brain was shocked free of the numbing fumes of liquor, and he cried out: “He — No! No, he can’t be — Where’s Roy? Roy!”

\n\n

“Here I am, you rat!” his brother snarled at him. “Look at what you’ve done now. This time nothing can save you. He’s dead — and you killed him! You hear?”

\n\n

“N-no!” Ted Manther shuddered and pawed at his pasty face with his free left hand. His red-rimmed eyes were glassy, but he had been shocked sober.

\n\n

“I — I didn’t — I c-couldn’t. Oh-h-h, my — “

\n\n

“Get him out of here!” Jim Toller said tersely. “Book him for murder. I’ll be downtown later. Maybe Mr. Manther” — he turned to Roy — “maybe you will drive me back?”

\n\n

“Of course,” Roy Manther said, visibly shaken. “Excuse me for awhile, will you ? I — I need a drink myself — right now.”

\n\n

“I should think you would,” Jim said. He strode to the window and called out: “Mike, before you go, snap out the lights on that coupe out there, will you?”

\n\n

He turned back into the room then and watched while the body of T. J. Manther was being placed in the undertaker’s basket and carried out. The engine of the dead wagon raced and soon it went out of the grounds, tires crunching gravel.

\n\n

Jim Toller grinned icily, took a pack of smokes out of his pocket. He selected a cigarette, touched a match to it and sucked sweet smoke into his lungs. It stimulated his brain, a brain that had been working with well-attuned mechanism for the past ten minutes. He crossed the library and picked up the score card that Roy Manther had tossed to the table. He opened it and saw that the Blues had won the game.

\n\n

“Ha,” he chuckled, “I win five bucks!” and he slipped the card into his pocket.

\n\n

Jim Toller crossed the room again to where the body had been found. He stood looking at the blood-stained chair for several moments, then stooped over and picked up something that had been wedged between the big cushion and the arm of the easy chair. Apparently it had fallen from the dead man’s clothes. It was a small chunk of partially charred stuff that the detective pulled at with his fingers. It was wadding, and Toller knew it had come out of a cartridge. But why?

\n\n

The detective suddenly snapped his teeth together with an audible click and swung around to look at the window. He smiled thinly, crossed the room slowly as Roy Manther came out of the hall.

\n\n

“If you’re ready, Toller,” Manther said, “I’ll drive you into town.”

\n\n

He picked up his hat and went out again.

\n\n

Jim Toller said, almost unaware of it; “Okay, I’ll be right out.”

\n\n

It was five minutes before he left the room. During that time, a lot of loose ends had been gathered in, and Jim Toller nodded grimly as he walked out of the house.

\n\n

Roy Manther had the engine of his coupe running. He seemed to be a little impatient when Toller got in, and the detective apologized.

\n\n

“Sorry to put you out like this,” he said. “Especially at a time like this?

\n\n

“Oh, that’s all right,” the bereaved man replied. “I couldn’t stay in that house tonight, anyway. Maybe I won’t — ever again. I’d keep seeing him there — like he was — I’ll stay at a hotel.”

\n\n

“Pretty terrible when you think of it,” Jim Toller remarked as the big coupé went down the winding road to the main highway. “A son killing his own father. Know how you must feel, Manther.”

\n\n

He was silent for quite a while after that. Then: “Some game last night. I didn’t figure the Blues would cop.”

\n\n

“It was a great game all right,” Roy Manther said. “Lefty Hoyt sure mowed down those Mudhen sluggers. But — listen, Toller, would you mind if I don’t — talk about it. If I had only stayed home!”

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\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

The Acrid Smell of Cordite

\n\n

Toller nodded amiably, his brain still trying to tell him something. He turned the handle on the side of the door and opened a small window to let in some air. Sparks flew from his cigarette and bit into the driver’s face.

\n\n

“Sorry,” said the man from headquarters, taking the cigarette from between his lips. He leaned forward to put it into the ash receiver, but it slipped out of his hands. A sudden, brief hissing sound came from the rubber matting on the floor of the coupe, and Jim Toller looked down, eyes a little wide.

\n\n

The coupe swung toward the ditch and Toller yelled: “Look out, Manther!”

\n\n

The driver bore down on the brake pedal. Tires squealed as he swung the wheel sharply and brought the car back onto the macadam. Jim Toller swung his face toward Manther, startled out of his usual calm by the narrow squeak. Roy Manther swore and ripped out: “My nerves are shot. Guess there was a little water there on the floor.”

\n\n

Jim Toller said nothing. His nostrils flared, and he sat there with an acrid odor biting up into his brain.

\n\n

“Sorry to give you that scare, Toller,” Manther apologized. “I’ve been through a lot tonight, y’know.”

\n\n

His passenger nodded, eyeing the floor at his feet.

\n\n

“Some boiler,” he commented. “They say these cars can do a hundred, Manther.”

\n\n

He gazed ahead at the road unwinding before the wheels of the smoothly running car.

\n\n

“Yes, it can. Never had it wide open, though.” Manther said no more after that until the coupe slid into the cheap section on the outskirts of Centralia.

\n\n

“I suppose I’ll have to go to the trial,” he said then. “Stand all that nasty mess. I’m glad Mother never lived to see all this hell.”

\n\n

“Money sure ruins a man if he gets too much of it,” Jim Toller said abstractedly. “Anythin’ can happen to a guy who drinks like your brother. Does things he doesn’t know he’s doin’. People sure must have taken advantage of him — gamblers, dames — “

\n\n

“Let’s not talk about him,” Roy Manther said sharply. “Haven’t I been through enough without that?”

\n\n

“Turn here,” the detective said suddenly. “It’s a short cut to the station, Manther.”

\n\n

Obediently Roy Manther turned the car through a dark side street. It purred along over four blocks of a wide thoroughfare. Then Jim Toller indicated another turn. Up ahead was a big, white, illuminated globe, and on it was printed in black letters the word POLICE. Roy Manther braked the coupe, swung toward the curb and drew to a stop. The plainclothes man went into the station house with Manther at his side. All of the newspaper men in town seemed to be gathered around the sergeant’s desk.

\n\n

“Hello, Jim,” said the officer on duty behind the desk. He nodded to Roy Manther, waited for Toller to explain the man’s presence.

\n\n

“This is Roy Manther, Pat,” said Jim. The sergeant’s eyes swung toward the prisoner’s brother. “Want to see your brother, eh?”

\n\n

“No,” Detective Toller answered for Manther. His next statement electrified his hearers. “He’s come to confess to the murder of his father, Pat!”

\n\n

Roy Manther stiffened as though he had stepped on a live wire, swung startled eyes toward Jim Toller. Newspaper men gaped foolishly at the detective, then surged forward. A cop ripped out: “What did you say, Jim?” as though he could not credit his own hearing.

\n\n

“He’s crazy!” Roy Manther ground out. “The man’s out of his mind!”

\n\n

“Oh, yeah?” the plainclothes man drawled. He pulled the score card out of his pocket and tossed it to the sergeant’s desk. “Take a look at that, Pat. It’s been filled out with an indelible pencil. And it’s not blurred at all.”

\n\n

“I don’t get you, Jim,” responded Pat. “No? Well, I was listening to that game over the radio,” the detective declared. “It was raining pretty hard from the seventh inning on, over in Midville, and those stands ain’t covered. So why didn’t this score card get wet, unless a man was sitting in a car when he filled it out? A guy who listened in on the radio like I did. Catch on, Manther? That was a bad slip. You wet indelible lead and it smears.”

\n\n

“I still say you’re crazy, Toller,” Manther roared. “I can prove I was at that game. I’ve got a stub to prove it — a rain check. The man at the ticket office spoke to me when I went in. I know him, see? Get him here tomorrow and he’ll tell you! What’re you trying to pull, Toller?”

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\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

Smeared Lead

\n\n

Jim Toller to the cops:

\n\n

“Watch him close, men,” he said, “while I explain to the gentleman what I mean. That score card put the skids under him — pointed out other slips. Sure — he went to the game. It’s only twenty miles to Midville, and the road is good. He could get there in that car of his in twenty-five minutes the way he drives. He could buy a ticket, go inside and get a score card, then leave. They open the gates an hour before the game time up there. He could get back to some spot near his father’s house in time to tune in on the game. He figured that out. Sat in his coupe listening and keeping score — with that pencil. Maybe his nerves were on edge and he forgot to take into account what water does to indelible lead. He didn’t know some of the cordite he took out of a shell fell on the floorboards of his car.”

\n\n

“That’s right, Jim,” a burly cop said. “That lead would’ve smeared if he was writin’ out in the rain. It sure was raining pitchforks.”

\n\n

“You can’t frame me, Toller!” Roy Manther snarled. “You and your guessin’ game. You’ll sweat for this. You’ll be walking a beat again before the week’s out. Of all the wild, crazy — “

\n\n

Despite his blustering, Roy Manther’s upper lip was beaded with sweat and there was a drawn, blue look about the corners of his mouth.

\n\n

“Oh, I’ll tell you more, Manther,” Jim Toller hammered the man relentlessly. “You said that your brother came up from the gate-house and killed your father. Maybe. But there was dust on the window sill he was supposed to have climbed through, and it wasn’t disturbed! No wonder your father fired the housekeeper. But that wasn’t the payoff, Manther. It was the cartridge you fired in that thirty-eight. Yeah — the shell you fired! You had it figured out a long way ahead. You knew an expert pistol shot would be blamed for it — your brother!

\n\n

“You emptied a lot of cordite out of that shell while you were in that coupé of yours and put wadding in to compensate for it. Then you put the bullet back in it again. That’s why the bullet only went inside your father’s head a little more than an inch. But you forgot that that wadding came out, too. It proves to me and everybody else that your father was killed by a man who stood close to him! If that pistol had been fired from where you tried to make me believe it had been, the wadding would not have gone right in your father’s lap.”

\n\n

Roy Manther seemed to be shrinking inside his clothes. His demeanor had changed from defiance to panic. Fear was in his eyes now, and the color had receded from his face. In desperation he forced a jerky laugh.

\n\n

“After you killed your father,” Jim Toller said, “you wiped the prints off Ted Manther’s gun and carried it down to the cottage to plant it in his hand. You most likely brought him that bottle of whiskey he almost finished, too. You planted some of that money you stole from the safe on him. How much did you keep, Manther? You worked fast. You hurried to where you left your car and drove toward Midville because you knew that traffic would be heavy with all the fans coming home from the game and nobody would think anything about another car coming out of a filling station and heading right back from the direction it had come. You drove right back home, and it took you a little more than an hour. It all figures up by the clock!

\n\n

“You left your lights burning in that roadster when you got to the house because you knew what you were going to find. Ordinarily you would have put it in the garage for the night. Anyway, under normal circumstances, you would have turned out the lights. It meant that you had jittery nerves even before you found your father’s body. You wanted money, Manther. Some of it quick. The rest when your father’s affairs were settled. Come clean, Manther. You think a man with a terrible hangover could have figured all that out? You think that even a crack pistol shot wouldn’t have pretty shaky hands after being on a bender for a couple of days? You think he would bother about fixing a shell so that — “

\n\n

“Dead to rights,” a newspaper man clipped suddenly.

\n\n

Roy Manther broke. He dropped his head in his hands and reeled against the wall.

\n\n

Jim Toller went on: “I’m guessing he spent a lot of money, too. Not with cheap bookies and gamblers like his brother, but with big-shot clubmen and society card sharks. He was a rat, too, but he had his fur polished. Did I figure right, Manther? And here’s another angle in case you haven’t enough already. I looked at the dial of your radio set in that coupe, and the arrow is turned to that little one-horse Centralia station, WXYB. Now why would you have it turned there with all those big stations putting out nice music? Figured it would be pretty easy hanging it onto your brother — with the rep he’s made for himself, huh ? Put him in the cooler, Pat. He looks too sick to stand up.”

\n\n

“Damn you! You snooping louse! You — “ Roy Manther choked on the epithets he called the detective.

\n\n

“I bet the commissioner won’t call me them names,” Jim Toller grinned. “Well, you see you can’t always judge a book by its cover, boys!”

\n\n

The newshawks were already scrambling for possession of two telephone booths. Jim Toller grinned as he leaned against the desk and watched the cops take a fear-ridden man into the cell room and saw them bring a bewildered one out.

\n\n

“Sometimes things are too obvious even to a dumb dick like me,” Jim Toller said to the desk sergeant. “Manther puts that score card right where I can look at it when we get up to the house, Pat. Hands me an alibi and I ain’t even asked for it. And how many guys keep score cards? You know, this detective business is a soft racket sometimes, don’t you think?”

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "When Henry Fell", "author": "Robert Winton", "body": ""

Chapter 1

\n\n

Henry’s

\n\n

From pretty laughing girls to sumptuous places of amusement, there are many attractions at Palermo Beach. It is a place of sunshine by day and semitropic loveliness by night. It is a resort for the idle rich, who go there especially to employ themselves very busily killing time. Not being able to spend as much money as they want to on legitimate extravagancies, the very wealthy get rid of their surplus evening hours and throw away a good deal of their money at Henry’s.

\n\n

Everybody who is somebody knows Henry’s, but neither he nor his house is supposed to exist. Henry’s is there, but not officially. Henry is a fat and smiling agent of the Goddess of Chance. He keeps, in magnificent style and with due regard to secrecy, a gambling house. Henry’s is a miniature Monte Carlo, but there is nothing small about the money that goes into the pockets of Henry. There is no limit to his capacity for absorbing all the cash his patrons care to throw away.

\n\n

In order to get into Henry’s one must be of the very elect, or sponsored by some one who will vouch for the visitors discretion and ability to lose money without making a fuss. Yet, there are occasions when the crowd at Henry’s includes a number of guests who keep the outwardly suave and bland Henry in a condition of nervous apprehension. Henry would rather lose a few hundred than have some transient gambler go broke and perhaps give the place a bad name by throwing away his life as well as his money.

\n\n

It was this dread of having an unwelcome publicity thrust upon himself and his ornate temple of luck that caused Henry to listen with intent gravity when one of his immaculately attired aids came into his private room and reported that a newcomer had just enriched the roulette table by seven thousand dollars. It was no unusual thing for a regular patron to go away from Henry’s the poorer by fifteen or twenty thousand dollars. On these occasions Henry would chuckle over his gains, but strangers he was afraid of.

\n\n

“Hows he taking it?” he inquired anxiously.

\n\n

The gentleman in the tuxedo shrugged his shoulders. “He seems to be quiet enough, but you never can tell. It may be a case of still waters run deep, you know. Better have a look at him.”

\n\n

Henry followed his watcher into the pillared hall. Grouped at the various tables, as orderly and impassive as if they were in their own offices, were scores of men who could buy and lose costly chips as freely as the average person spends cigarette money. These were the men Henry liked to have around. They could afford to lose.

\n\n

“Wheres that fellow? Who brought him here?” asked Henry as his glance roved about the gaming crowd.

\n\n

“He came with the Matidell party. A guest of theirs, no doubt, and of course there was no stopping him from coming in. Old Mandell will go right up in the air if we so much as look twice at any one he brings along. Theres the chap right now. Coming toward us. Going home, I guess.”

\n\n

“All right, leave it to me,” grunted Henry, and, under lowered brows he took stock of the man who had just dropped seven thousand.

\n\n

As was very natural, Henry was a fair judge of character, a reader of expressions, and he seldom ever forgot a face. At a quick pace the man came toward him, and Henry had very hastily to make up his mind what he was going to do. With all his faculties of observation keyed up to the utmost, he strove to make certain what was passing through this losers mind.

\n\n

Was he despondent? Was one of those weak-minded fools who step over the border when, through their own fault, destiny hands them misfortune? Should he stop the man and play the generous and return him part or all of his losings?

\n\n

Henry’s face grew grim at this thought. He was not one to part with any of his gains if he could possibly help it. Yet, he knew full well it would pay him far better to make some compromise than to have talk and gossip of a suicide drawing attention to his gaming house. That was not good advertising and not conducive to the retention of the patronage he now enjoyed. Still, unable to read the mans face with certainty, Henry hesitated. His greediness to hold what he had, pulled him toward the opinion that he was safe in letting the man go. While he balanced between safety first and taking a chance, another guest joined the man he was watching and the two passed out of the house.

\n\n

“That settles it,” thought Henry. “Hes gone and there’s no good worrying about the matter.”

\n\n

So it was that Henry, clever man of his world, killed his doubts with a reasoning which fitted his desires.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Hysterical Woman

\n\n

Among the many who seek Palermo Beach because they have the means of paying the price of its ultrasmart pleasures, are a percentage of foolish fakers who skimp and save just to have a brief moment among the glittering figurings of society. There is a pathetic side to this craze for pretending to be something which one is not hardearned dollars melt away as snow before a tropic sun and all real enjoyment is spoiled by the haunting fear that the hotel bill will exceed the limits of that painfully acquired vacation fund.

\n\n

Others there are who go to Palermo with the hope of increasing their capital. They desire to profitably prey instead of paying. Sometimes fortune favors the crooked, but not often. Palermo is carefully guarded for the protection of its rich visitors. As for Henry’s, it is ringed and protected by all the means that money can buy. Still, no place is impregnable, and, given the incentive and the opportunity a woman can often do a lot more than a man.

\n\n

Some hours after the departure of the gambler who had lost seven thousand dollars, Henry retired to his private office for the pleasant task of recording the total of the nights winnings. Behind his chair was a safe of the most noted make. In front of him, on the table, was a basket containing a small fortune in ready cash. On his blotter was a leather-bound book fitted with a lock.

\n\n

This was Henry’s register of takings, or more properly speaking, pickings. Under separate headings the gaming-house keeper entered the receipts of his tables. When he came to the entry of the amount taken in at the table where there was included in the total the item of seven thousand dollars, Henry did not give a thought to the doubts and misgivings he had had earlier in the evening. He was on the right side and could well afford to have a short memory. On the other hand, the man who loses is likely to remember and talk.

\n\n

“Good business,” muttered Henry as he lighted a cigar and started adding up the columns of figures. “Down here its not a case of one being born every minute. They come in pairs.”

\n\n

Just then Henry’s thoughts went scattering. He looked up from his book. He stared at the closed door. His cigar sagged from his mouth. What was that he had heard? Was there some disturbance outside, a scene within the exclusive portals of his house?

\n\n

“Sounded like a woman’s voice,” he muttered and, rising from his chair, made for the door. Before he could reach it there came a babble of voices. High above the deeper tones of men’s protests rose the shrill cry of a woman.

\n\n

“I must — I will see Mr. Henry,” she cried.

\n\n

“Hysterical. Cant have that. Making trouble. Howd they come to let her in?”

\n\n

Muttering to himself, Henry opened the door. His first thought was to preserve, at all costs, the dignity of his place. It was possible that the woman might start screaming. Her cries would be heard outside the building. Then — there would be talk, talk of a kind that might lead to unpleasant results.

\n\n

“Let the lady pass,” he ordered, but the look he gave the doorman was not good to see.

\n\n

With her handkerchief pressed to her mouth with nervously trembling hands, the woman entered the office. She sank into a chair and commenced to sob pitifully.

\n\n

Scowling with annoyance the gaming-house keeper snapped at the attendants to go about their business, and closed the door. He stood for a moment in silence. He knew that there was trouble brewing, and all his pity was for himself.

\n\n

It is very annoying for a man of wealth and power to be disturbed by a strange woman, especially when she came with no suggestion in her manner of going away without getting what she wanted. She was in tears, but that did not imply that she would listen to reason. Quite the contrary.

\n\n

Henry straddled his legs and bit off the end of his cigar. He was bracing himself to handle the situation firmly and with dispatch.

\n\n

“What can I do for you?” he asked. The immediate answer was a choking, inarticulate sob.

\n\n

Henry grunted and repeated his question.

\n\n

“My — my husband,” faltered the woman. “He — he is ruined. He came here this evening. He lost — everything.”

\n\n

“That is not my fault. I never asked him to play. He took his chance like the rest. Whats his name?”

\n\n

“Randall, Richard Randall.”

\n\n

“Don’t know him. You must have made a mistake. He didn’t lose his money here.”

\n\n

“But he did. He told me how he got in with the Mandell party. He said he could make a fortune for us. And now — “

\n\n

“How much did he lose?” inquired Henry, his mind at once returning to the man his attention had been called to by his watcher. He guessed what the woman’s answer would be.

\n\n

“Seven thousand dollars,” she murmured brokenly.

\n\n

“Then what do you expect me to do?” asked Henry brusquely. “I’m not a philanthropist. I’m conducting a fair-and-square gambling house. If I lose I pay. Your husband will have to set to work and make some more money. That’s all there is to it.”

\n\n

The woman raised her face. Her tragic eyes fixed on the gamblers. In those eyes of hers was not only sadness and despair, but a look of desperation that caused Henry to shiver for his good reputation.

\n\n

“He will not be able to make any money,” she said with odd quietness.

\n\n

“You mean he has “

\n\n

Henry paused on the word that would suggest tragedy, but the woman was quick enough to seize the unsaid.

\n\n

“No,” she exclaimed, “he has not done away with himself. Not yet. He has gone. But he will not escape. He cannot; the police — “

\n\n

“What do you mean? What have the police got to do with it?”

\n\n

“Everything. That money did not belong to us. My husband will be arrested. He will be sent to prison. He — I — “

\n\n

To Henry this news was even worse than if the man had committed suicide. There would be a trial; the newspapers would ferret out all particulars. Henry would be ruined. The affair would be reported all over the country. There was only one thing to do. In one stride Henry reached the basket of money.

\n\n

“Do you know where your husband has gone?” he asked. “Can you reach him by wire?”

\n\n

The woman’s gaze fastened on the bank notes in the gamblers hand. She sprang to her feet.

\n\n

“I can do better,” she cried. “I can go to him.”

\n\n

“Then you had better do so right away,” said Henry, and since circumstances had forced him to part with the money, he added as he handed over the seven thousand dollars, “Don’t let anybody tell you I ain’t got a heart.”

\n\n

The woman’s face shone with joy. Henry’s smile of benevolence was somewhat crooked. It had been a matter of good policy to return the money, but it irked him to have done it. He turned to his desk.

\n\n

Murmuring a stream of grateful words the woman walked to the door.

\n\n

“Mind,” exclaimed Henry sharply as she laid her hand on the knob, “your husband is never to come here again.”

\n\n

“I’ll promise you that he will not,” said the woman, and softly closed the door.

\n\n

Three weeks later Henry came to a frowning halt as he strolled round his gambling hall. Play was in full swing. The tables were crowded, but — there was one person too many there. Henry went over the roulette table and touched a man on the shoulder.

\n\n

“Come into my office,” he whispered. “I must have a talk with you at once.”

\n\n

Stifling an expression of surprise and displeasure the man complied.

\n\n

“What do you mean by coming here again ?” demanded Henry when they were in the privacy of his room. “Didn’t I give your wife back the seven thousand you lost here? Didn’t she promise me that you would never come here again? I dont have to ask your name. Your face is enough for me, Mr. Randall. I remember you.”

\n\n

For a moment the other stared at the gaming-house keeper as if he thought he had taken leave of his senses. Then he laughed. The impudence of it enraged Henry. He became abusive. For a little while the other man let him have his fling. Then he held up his hand.

\n\n

“That’ll do,” he said curtly. “I’m going to let you down lightly, for its quite evident to me that you have been badly stung. My name is not Randall, and I have no wife. It is true that I was here about three weeks ago. It is also true that I lost seven thousand dollars. Since then I have been away on a trip. Golf does not come as high as roulette. I came back here to-night to give you some more of my good money. You are insulting a paying guest, Mr. Henry.”

\n\n

“But your — the woman?” gasped out the gambler.

\n\n

“Ill leave you to find the woman,” returned the other coldly. “All I can imagine is that she must have overheard me talking to some one in the hotel. She framed up a nice little sob story. Scared you, I suppose, and — got away with it. There’s only one thing for you to do.”

\n\n

“Whats that?” asked Henry eagerly.

\n\n

“Cherchez la femme,” retorted the other, and laughed cruelly.

\n\n

Henry has not yet found her.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Opportunity", "author": "Russel E. Bruce", "body": ""

I was working the late rewrite trick when the call came in. The night city editor took it, then cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and yelled at me.

\n\n

“This girl says she’s going to pull the dutch act. Talk to her while I try to trace it.”

\n\n

I cursed silently as I cut in on the extension. God damn women; there’s always one phoning the City Room and saying she’s going to kill herself. Either they’re drunk or want assurance that their homemade sendoff will make page one.

\n\n

I asked the girl her means of exit.

\n\n

A gun, she said.

\n\n

A gun, I told her, leaves a mess. So why didn’t she hike down to the corner drugstore for some sleeping pills?

\n\n

She started whimpering.

\n\n

That did it. I said this was a damn busy newspaper and suggested she hang up like a nice girl and hit the sack. Her voice became apologetic. She had mailed the newspaper a letter. Would I personally watch for it? She described the stationery and I said I would. She thanked me and blew her brains out.

\n\n

Later I went back to Morgue for a routine background check before I wrote her obit. I didn’t expect to find anything; her name meant nothing to me. But there was a skinny folder with Ann Hastings typed neatly in the corner. Inside were two clips — a brief story and a picture.

\n\n

The story told of her graduation from college with highest honors three years ago. The picture showed an attractive brunette accepting congratulations from her parents. But it was a dark little man standing slightly to the side that caught my attention. I put an eye glass on him to make sure. It was Louis J. Oriole.

\n\n

Louie was top bully for the local political machine. A real nice fellow who got his kicks clobbering old women and children.

\n\n

What the hell was a guy like Louie doing at the college graduation of a girl like Ann?

\n\n

I went off duty at five in the morning and spent three hours in a bar trying for the answer. It wouldn’t come. I told no one about the picture or the letter. If there was a story, I wanted it for myself.

\n\n

I returned to the office just in time to catch a copy boy coming in off the early morning mail run. He tossed the first class mail on a desk and I picked out the letter in a couple of seconds — a blue envelope with red lettering.

\n\n

Inside was a key to a locker at the Central Bus Terminal.

\n\n

The brief case wasn’t locked. I pulled out a batch of papers. On top was a short letter signed by Ann Hastings.

\n\n

It said her father was a ward leader who had borrowed money from Louie to put her through college. Louie, quite by accident, met her and his interest became more than academic. He offered her a job when she finished college. She accepted and inside a year was visiting him at home, on demand.

\n\n

Three weeks ago she had learned she was pregnant. She went to Louie. He gave her a thousand bucks and told her to make tracks — for keeps.

\n\n

She decided to solo into eternity. But as a lasting memento to Louie, here were a few items the newspapers might be interested in.

\n\n

Sweat erupted op the back of my neck. The story was mine, exclusive. It would be spread all over page one, under my by-line. There would be a bonus, journalism awards. I would be famous.

\n\n

I dashed to the street, looking for a car …

\n\n

I was smiling as I slowly returned to the bus station, put the brief case back in a locker, dropped the key in an envelope, addressed it to myself and mailed it.

\n\n

Then I headed for Louie’s office.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Born To The Badge", "author": "Stuart Friedman", "body": ""
\n
\n
Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Juror No. 5

\n\n

Brad walked leadenly, eyes lustreless below his hatbrim, head turtled in the upturned collar of his overcoat. He didn’t know what he was going to do from one aimless step to the next. He began looking in the windows of the bars he passed. He might get drunk. Even a hangover would be pain that a man could deal with, something to blot out the deeper pain.

\n\n

One hour ago he had been suspended as a Special Agent of the FBI. He, Brad Keating, was the sort of man who created feelings of fear instead of respect for the Bureau. As a trial witness he had sounded vindictive, inhuman, the Federal Prosecutor had said. He had swung jury sympathy, despite irrefutable evidence, to transform a vicious, murdering rat into a martyr. So the jury had failed to reach a verdict and Brogan was out on bail.

\n\n

Abruptly Brad stopped walking as he stared through the window of a bar. Sitting sideways on a front stool was the young woman who had been juror number five. She was looking across the shoulder of her caracul fur coat toward the window.

\n\n

As at the trial, she wore her dark hair sleeked tight to one side of her head and massed loosely on the other side. It gave her a look of always carrying her head at a slight, mocking tilt. A beauty mark in the outer corner of one of her long, black eyes made that eye look longer. It accented the look of mockery, of secret knowledge, on her thin, pretty face.

\n\n

The sight of her made Brad’s fists knot in his pockets. He was sure she was one of the jurors who had ignored all evidence and logic to side with a killer. Maudlin minds like hers, filled with muzzy ideas of criminal glamour, made a farce of the law. His face, with its strong upper breadth and sharp, decisive tapering below the cheekbones, came alive with anger.

\n\n

The girl leaned forward slightly, her eyes slitting, the mass of hair along one side of her face swaying forward. She seemed to recognize him. Brad moved irritably away and stood against the wall, nerves and muscles locking against his raw fury.

\n\n

He fought to distract himself. The walks surged with homebound office workers. Bright-faced girls hugging purses to their coats hurried along in groups, galoshes dumping the wet cement, their pent-up spirits spilling in exuberant chatter. Lights from cars, stores, marquees diffused softly through a lazy drift of fast-melting snow.

\n\n

He looked and listened and still that mocking face was the only reality. He knew if he went near her his anger would whiplash. He forced himself to walk past the entrance door. But the tension held, relentless. He turned back and entered the bar.

\n\n

Just inside the door he stopped himself again, probed under his coat and got cigarettes from his suit pocket. He looked at everything but the girl once he had lighted up. A man left a back bar stool for a telephone booth, a waitress slapped playfully at a man drinking with a party in a booth.

\n\n

The prosecutor had exaggerated Brad’s conduct as a witness. But the defense lawyer had made him lose his temper. He saw with a sudden insight that it would be intimidation of a juror, terrorism, for him to approach that girl in anger. He would be really proving that he was unfit to represent the Department of Justice.

\n\n

He went over to the comer of the bar, his features eased.

\n\n

“Yours, sir?” a pleasant-faced bartender asked.

\n\n

“Bourbon. Any brand. Make it double. Water on the side.”

\n\n

He felt sober enough now that he had his perspective to trust himself with a good drink. He let his glance slide toward the girl. She was staring fixedly at him. He nodded in simple, impersonal recognition. She seemed to wince, and her eyes widened.

\n\n

At the sound of a phone, its ring subdued under the pleasant blurr of talk through the bar, the girl’s head snapped around. She stared as the proprietor at the cash register halfway down the bar answered the phone. There was a brittle set to her clear profile.

\n\n

“Is that call for me?” she called in a thin, almost shrill voice. “I’m Mrs. Mac-Nair. I told you I was expecting — “

\n\n

As the proprietor nodded and came carrying the phone on an extension cord, the MacNair girl stood and reached for it. She grasped the handset before the proprietor had the instrument set on the bar in front of her. In her nervous haste she answered before the mouthpiece was near her face.

\n\n

“Hello,” she repeated. Her voice was ragged with anxiety. Several people along the bar stopped talking to look at her.

\n\n

There was an intent set to her profile as she listened. Brad saw that she was swallowing repeatedly.

\n\n

“But I didn’t call them!” she blurted. “Wait. Please, wait. I swear I didn’t. I don’t know why. . . . Hello — hello — “ She began to jiggle the breaker bar. “Hello!” she said desperately.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Kidnappers

\n\n

A hush had fallen over the bar. She started to replace the handset when her thin hand began to shake violently. One end of the handset fell out of the cradle noisily.

\n\n

“You all right?” the proprietor asked worriedly, cradling the handset, peering at her as she slumped back on the stool.

\n\n

She nodded numbly. She turned her head and directed a glassy stare at Brad. Her features showed the pallor of shock. She kept looking at him, and although she seemed unable to speak he knew she was trying to communicate with him. He went to her.

\n\n

“Why did you come here, Mr. Keating?” she said, barely aloud. “My little girl has been kidnapped. Now they may kill her. They think I called the FBI.”

\n\n

Her anguish, somehow more terrible because of her effort to control it, made Brad’s throat constrict. He checked the flood of extraneous questions he wanted to ask.

\n\n

“When they contact you again — “

\n\n

“They won’t!” she cried.

\n\n

“Tell them I was suspended. I’m not an FBI man. Tell them to check. It’s true. And I know they’ll contact you again.”

\n\n

He spoke rapidly, then turned and edged through the little group that had crowded around. He moved rapidly back along the bar, his gaze trained narrowly on the phone booth. It was empty. He scanned booths and bar and failed to see the man who had gone to that phone booth just after he came in and just before the call to Mrs. MacNair.

\n\n

Brad veered over to a vacant bar stool, beckoned the bartender who stood drawing a beer and peering toward the activity in the front.

\n\n

“Do you remember a short, thick-set man in a light gray hat and dark blue overcoat who was sitting along the bar here?”

\n\n

“Yeah. Ed Kromm. He went back to the phone. What happened to Mrs. MacNair up there? What’s she crying about? You a cop?”

\n\n

“I’m not a cop. I’m just looking for this guy. He’s not in the phone booth. You don’t remember seeing him come out?”

\n\n

“I didn’t even know he wasn’t still back there,” the bartender said, squinting toward the booth. “I guess he must be up front.”

\n\n

A blonde with a Martini at the next stool motioned to Brad with her head. He moved near.

\n\n

“That fellow he called Kromm went out the back way. He just left just before you came back here.”

\n\n

“Thanks.”

\n\n

Brad went through the back door into a deserted rectangular areaway at the foot of the building’s back stairs. He stood an instant listening for a footstep or a telltale creak from above. Hearing nothing, he moved silently across to the pair of double doors which he calculated would open into the alley. Then he looked down at the concrete floor. It was bone dry.

\n\n

Brad depressed the latch-release crossbar of one of the doors, opened it experimentally. As he had anticipated, an inward draft brought the snow swirling inside. It lay a slanting wet strip on the concrete.

\n\n

Brad went back into the bar, his eyes flicking at once to the place where his helpful blonde friend had sat. She was gone. He spotted her an instant later hurrying along in back of the short, stubby overcoated figure of Ed Kromm.

\n\n

They were out the front door before Brad was halfway to the front. Following swiftly, he angled his glance toward Mrs. MacNair, who sat covering her face with her hands, the center of worried attention from a dozen people including the proprietor. A quick pang went through Brad’s chest. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to her little girl as a result of his coming in here, with hate in his heart.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

Kromm and the Blonde

\n\n

Outside, Brad saw Kromm and the blonde getting in a cab twenty feet to the right. When the blonde was in, Kromm paused to stare back at the bar. Even through the luminous snow curtain Brad knew Kromm saw him. If it had been Kromm who phoned Mrs. MacNair, he would figure Brad as one strand in a closing FBI net. His nerve might unravel to the point of killing the child under that pressure. Kromm ducked swiftly into the cab.

\n\n

Brad set out at a driving, broken-field run, leaving a wake of startled pedestrians. The blonde’s face showed in a ghostly oval at the back window as Brad left the curb, his slamming feet splashing the gutter slush. The cab’s motor growled and an expanding vapor plume rose from the exhaust as the cab rolled away in first. Brad spurted and shot an arm ahead. He struck with the flat of his hand against the high rear fender several times.

\n\n

The loud drumming alerted the driver, who locked brakes. The sharp red glare of brake lights leaped to life and smeared in a vivid pink cloud through the exhaust vapor. The cab rocked gently on its springs as Brad grabbed the back door handle and wrenched the door open.

\n\n

On the seat beside the open door Kromm’s thick upper body leaned forward toward Brad like a tilted block. His head tilted back like a smaller counterbalance, green eyes looking up at Brad. The top button of Kromm’s dark overcoat was unbuttoned and his right hand was thrust in under the coat. He sat frozen in the middle of a draw from a shoulder holster.

\n\n

Brad raised his hand very slowly and unbuttoned the top button of his overcoat. There was a deadly, nerveless control in the motion of his fingers. Threat lines formed about his eyes and hardened the sharp lower part of his face like a cutting wedge.

\n\n

Kromm sat spellbound, his awe of an FBI man’s reputation for speed and accuracy turning him into a spectator watching a miracle. Brad slid his hand under his opened coat and then remained as motionless as Kromm. He didn’t have a gun. But Kromm didn’t know it.

\n\n

Kromm blinked rapidly and some of the dark color of his square red face seeped away. He waited for Brad to break the stalemate. Brad did nothing for what seemed an eternity. He let the pressure build.

\n\n

Then Kromm began to seem aware of the crowd gathered on the sidewalk, of the slack-mouthed blonde beside him, of the cabbie staring hypnotized back at them. He kept looking back at Brad, but it was clear he wanted distraction, escape; he couldn’t bear the tension. And that was just the advantage Brad wanted to make sure that that motionless gun ann of Kromm’s stayed harmless.

\n\n

Brad said quietly, “Maybe you know that a special agent never draws a gun except as a final resort. Before an FBI man draws a gun he must be convinced that there is no other way out except by shooting to kill. I hope I never have to do that. Take your hand slowly out of your coat, mister. Bring it out in the open very, very slowly, and empty.”

\n\n

The blonde shrilled, “Do like he said, Ed! He ain’t going to shoot unless you shoot. Do like he said!”

\n\n

Kromm withdrew his hand, empty. Brad ducked into the cab, shutting the door to extinguish the interior lights. Crouching over Kromm in the semi-darkness, he reached in and withdrew the flat, heavy .45 automatic from the shoulder holster. Palming the gun, he pulled out a jump-seat with his other hand. He eased his weight onto the seat, facing back toward the pair, covering them with the gun. The crowd of curious onlookers on the walk was growing.

\n\n

“Let’s get away from the crowd,” Brad told the driver. “Go around the block, then stop at the bar just back of us.”

\n\n

“Suits me.” The cab pulled away. “You’re a Fed, huh?”

\n\n

Brad sidestepped an answer. “This is a kidnap case. Did they tell you where to take them?”

\n\n

“Kidnap!” The driver swore as they had to stop in a line waiting for a traffic signal and revved the motor with noisy impatience. “They give me an address. Fifteenth and Eastway. I’m knocking my brains to remember what’s special out there…. Hey — I got it! A girl’s boarding school is there in the old General Herschell home.”

\n\n

As the cab moved and made the corner turn. Brad directed his gaze at the blonde. “That where the kid is?” he asked.

\n\n

She regarded him in sullen silence. He could see only one of her hands, resting on the suede purse on the lap of her fur coat. Her other hand was in the purse. He reached out, locked his fingers around the forearm of the hand inside the purse. He jerked her arm straight up.

\n\n

“What the hell!” she shrilled as the purse contents spilled onto her lap, the seat and floor. He could feel the steely set of her forearm muscles under her coat sleeve.

\n\n

“Unclench the fist, honey,” Brad said smoothly, tightening the pressure of his fingers. He freed her arm suddenly as a shiny little nickel-plated revolver dropped from the purse. He caught the gun as it slid from her coat to the seat space between her and Kromm. He pocketed the gun.

\n\n

“Now, what were you saying about Fifteenth and Eastway?”

\n\n

“Nobody said nothing!” Kromm blustered.

\n\n

“Have it your way,” Brad said. “But don’t tickle my trigger finger by finding more guns before I can frisk you.”

\n\n

The crowd had dispersed when the cab completed circuit of the block. Brad spoke tersely to the driver.

\n\n

“This is the bar,” Brad said. The cab parked. “The mother of the victim is inside. A Mrs. MacNair, a dark-haired pretty woman, about twenty-five. She’s at the front.”

\n\n

“I’ll get her.” The driver crossed the walk at an aggressive swagger, head ducked forward. He opened the door of the bar, planted himself on the sill and bellowed.

\n\n

“Where’s Mrs. MacNair? You her, lady? C’mon, follow me then. It’s important.”

\n\n

The driver marched back to the cab, scowling. The MacNair girl followed, trim legs in fur-top galoshes in rapid motion, the strip of dark pleated skirt below the hem of her caracul fur coat jouncing. Flakes of snow caught briefly in the soft mass of hair along one side of her head. Brad swung the door open for her, pulled down the other jump seat.

\n\n

“What is it, Mr. Keating?” she said, her voice low and vibrant. She blinked away a weightless flake of snow that settled in her eye lashes as she entered. She sat on the jump seat and swivelled her body around.

\n\n

The driver shut the door and got in. “Fifteen and Eastway, chief?”

\n\n

“Right,” Brad said.

\n\n

The MacNair girl caught the back of the front seat and the back of the jump seat, balancing her taut body between her hands as the cab started with a jolt. Her dark eyes cast nervous, questioning’ glances at the pair on the back seat, at the gun Brad held, at Brad’s face.

\n\n

“Do you know these people, Mrs. MacNair?”

\n\n

“No I don’t,” she said, staring fixedly at Kromm and then at the blonde.

\n\n

“Mr. Kromm is going to talk to you,” Brad said. “See if you know his voice.”

\n\n

Kromm sagged lumpishly against the back cushion, directing a steady, baleful glare at Brad. His mouth tightened visibly.

\n\n

“Mr. Kromm,” Brad repeated, leaving a threatening space between each word, “is going to talk to you. He will say: ‘Mrs. MacNair, you were warned not to call the FBI.’ “

\n\n

The girl’s upper body stiffened. “That’s almost exactly the words the man used,” she breathed.

\n\n

Kromm shifted irritably. One side of his face was illumined from store lights through the windows. Brad could see the quick pulselike bulging and relaxing of his jaw muscles.

\n\n

“Why won’t he talk?” the MacNair girl cried angrily. “If he’s not the one then he’s not.”

\n\n

Kromm’s voice exploded in profanity. Then he demanded. “Take me in and book me so I can get a mouthpiece, G-man. I know my rights. Book me. You got nothing on me.”

\n\n

Mrs. MacNair spoke, and for a moment her voice shocked Brad. There was a coldness and a hollow quality to it as though it rose from a deep cavern.

\n\n

“That’s the man who telephoned me, Mr. Keating. That is the voice. Where is Sandra, Mr. Kromm? Where is my child?”

\n\n

“Look here, I never phoned this babe. I don’t know nothing, G-man. Take me in right now, see? I want a mouthpiece.”

\n\n

“I am not a G-man, Mr. Kromm. I was fired this afternoon.”

\n\n

“Then leave me out of here, damn you! You got no right to hold me.”

\n\n

The MacNair girl said: “He’s the man, Mr. Keating.”

\n\n

“I know it. Kromm, I told you I’ve been suspended as a special agent. I was suspended because 1 sounded like a terrorist at a murder trial. I’ve never had the pleasure of letting down the bars and acting like one, though. Nothing’s stopping me now! I’m free of obligation to treat you as though you were entitled to civilized judicial processes. And if you don’t lead me to that child I’m going to kill you.”

\n\n

“Hell, what more you want, huh? You’re goin’ to the kid, ain’t you?”

\n\n

The blonde cried: “Listen, that kid don’t even know she is kidnapped. All we done was take her and put her in the school. We just wanted Mrs. MacNair to think the kid was kidnapped, that’s all!”

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“All!” Mrs. MacNair cried. “I’ve been crazy with it!”

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Chapter 4

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The Note

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She turned forward on the jump seat. Brad watched in puzzlement as she crossed a leg over her knee. She bent and tugged her furtop galosh off. The shoe came with it. She thrust a hand inside and maneuvered the high-heel black suede pump out. She began to gouge with her nails at an edge of the sole. She worked a finger into a gap and then pulled, ripping the stitching of the sole. She took a folded envelope out.

\n\n

“I saved this,” she said tensely, turning sideways on the seat toward Brad, unfolding the envelope. She pulled out a sheet of paper.

\n\n

“Read this.”

\n\n

“I can’t, now. Read it to me.”

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“It’s typed. It says: ‘We have Sandra. If you want to see her again do not report this. Vote for acquittal. It is up to you to be there to vote, so don’t try falling sick or in any way disqualifying yourself. Save his life, save her life. Bribe the bellboy to get you to a phone. Call your home to verify. Warn your sister and brother-in-law to remain as silent as you. Destroy this.’ It wasn’t addressed to me by name, and it wasn’t signed.”

\n\n

“It mentions bellboy,” Brad said. “Did you get it while you were in the hotel where the jury was quartered?”

\n\n

“Yes. The bellboy came with icewater that I hadn’t ordered. Last night. He gave me the note. He thought it was a message about my little girl from my family; he knew I missed the baby and he thought he was doing me a favor.

\n\n

“I didn’t have to bribe him to get to a phone. He spirited me to a room that I could call from. We weren’t permitted outside phone service in the rooms assigned to us, you know. We weren’t supposed to talk to anybody. I phoned Sis. I live with her and her husband since my husband died two years ago. Sis told me it was true, the baby was gone. I swore her and my brother-in-law to secrecy. I said I’d stay on that jury and keep it from convicting.

\n\n

“Mr. Keying, I knew he was a murderer, and a terrible man. The evidence you presented, and all your testimony showed it; it was so horribly clear just what sort Brogan was, that — that I was paralyzed. I had to vote as I did. I didn’t have any real choice.”

\n\n

“Of course you didn’t,” Brad said, his voice soft. He turned to Kromm and said harshly: “How’d you get the child?”

\n\n

The blonde answered.

\n\n

“I had a phony policewoman’s badge and fake credentials. The credentials were all ready for me when me and Ed hit town yesterday. Brogan’s mouthpiece gave them to me.”

\n\n

“You mean,” Brad asked incredulously, “that you were actually aided and abetted by an attorney in kidnapping for the purpose of intimidating a juror? And he provided the means for impersonation of an officer of the law for criminal purposes?”

\n\n

“In English, hell yes.”

\n\n

“And you two were imported for the job? Where from?”

\n\n

“L.A. — Brogan’s mouthpiece phoned the boss out there, offering five Gs for imported talent. Things ain’t been goin’ so good for me in the acting business for a few years, and Ed here lost his private-eye license. We were into the boss for over a grand. We never knew what the setup was going to be when we hopped the plane. All we knew was it was a job.”

\n\n

“In eager innocence you thought it would be a part in a show for the benefit of homeless crippled orphans!” Brad said bitingly.

\n\n

“How’d you guess? Well, anyways, J. Brogan’s mouthpiece had everything set up. He’d had private eyes getting the lowdown on every juror. He knew all their family connections. The MacNair dame here had a setup that looked like she’d hurt easiest. So it wasn’t nothing personal with me. That’s how life Is, ain’t it? Find out the soft spot and hit there.

\n\n

“So I went out to the MacNair dame’s sister and I had a typed note with a fake signature. I showed my badge and said I was attached to the court and I didn’t know what was in the note, but I knew the juror had received permission to have her little daughter spend the night in the hotel with her. I showed my gun and convinced her I intended to protect the court’s interests, and the child was the court’s interest. I gave a little line about being a mother myself — so anyway I got the kid.

\n\n

“Ed and me brought her to the school. I posed as the kid’s aunt. I told the woman who runs the place that the kid had been promised she’d see her mother, so she might cry, but it was impossible for her mother to get back to town for another day, and I had to leave. The school wasn’t suspicious because nobody knew there was a kidnapping. Then Ed phoned the sister and told her it was a snatch and to keep her trap shut until she heard from the kid’s mother. By then Ed had figured the bellhop would have got the note to Mrs. MacNair.”

\n\n

“Hell!” Brad said. “Brogan’s lawyer went through all that? For what? He couldn’t intimidate the whole jury. Brogan will be re-tried. He’ll never get acquittal!”

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Kromm laughed coarsely. “Don’t bet on that, Fed!”

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Chapter 5

\n\n

The School

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Brad’s motion was so unplanned, so swift that it shocked him. He lashed out with the gun and clubbed Kromm over the eye. The MacNair girl gasped involuntarily beside him. The blonde merely stiffened, watching apprehensively. Kromm made a short, grunting sound and put his hand up to his head. The blow had cut the skin, and a little blood trickled down toward the corner of his eye.

\n\n

Brad eased back, feeling the rapid pound of his heart. He had to keep a better grip than this on himself — at least until that child was safe.

\n\n

The driver called back: “Next street’s Fifteenth, chief. The school’s around the corner on Fifteenth.”

\n\n

“Good. Sooner we’re there the better. Soon as you drop us off call the police, will you?”

\n\n

“Sure will, chief!”

\n\n

Kromm hunched forward and spoke in a grating jeer.

\n\n

“Brogan’s next trial will be another song, Fed! The government didn’t show all its hand to get the indictment. But it put every card on the table during that trial, pal. Including a couple of witnesses you had kept secret. Well, they ain’t secret now. And by the next round in court they won’t be worth a damn as witnesses. They got families, too! Like Mrs. MacNair! Get it? And furthermore that mouthpiece is smart enough to take every other point of evidence that you laid out on the table for him and knock the props out from under it. And if you blast me to hell, remember, Fed, I’ll be laughing at you down there — and waiting for you. And I won’t have to wait long!”

\n\n

“He sure won’t,” the blonde said. “Because, tough-guy Fed, Brogan knows that you ain’t the kind of a witness that can be intimidated. He knows there’s only one way to stop you. Keep thinkin’ about it!”

\n\n

The cab was turning the corner onto Fifteenth. Mrs. MacNair gave a final tug to her galosh, then sat biting her underlip, peering ahead. Suddenly she reached over and clutched the sleeve of his overcoat, as though she had to cling to something.

\n\n

“I can’t stand it,” she whispered hoarsely. “They wouldn’t talk that way to you if they didn’t think you might kill them. And you wouldn’t kill them unless — unless — “

\n\n

“Don’t lose your grip! The child will be there. And safe. I know that. I know!” He repeated, needing the emphasis to convince himself.

\n\n

The cab slowed before the twin globes of light surmounted on pillars flanking the schoolgrounds entrance. Beyond the gates, which were closed, Brad could see the glow of lights from all the four floors of the converted mansion. The cab stopped, and he spotted an open walk alongside the driveway gates. Opposite the grounds was a big, blue sedan parked across the street.

\n\n

Mrs. MacNair swung open the door, stepped out. Brad followed shortly, backing his way out, keeping Kromm and the blonde covered. Brad spoke rapidly over his shoulder, giving orders to the MacNair girl:

\n\n

“Go on into the grounds, fast. Get inside the school. Get the police from there. Run!”

\n\n

She didn’t answer in words, but streaked through the walk entrance and out of sight. Brad glanced again over the top of the cab at the sedan. It seemed to be unoccupied. Both the blonde and Kromm were looking transfixedly at that car, moving in slow-motion silence to get out of the cab. Then they were on the walk beside him. He shut the cab door and the driver pulled away fast, the cab tires kicking up a spray.

\n\n

Brad said: “Even if that is Brogan’s car across there it won’t do you a damned bit of good. Get headed up the walk to the school.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 6

\n\n

J. Brogan

\n\n

There was a sharp crack of sound. Kromm coughed, a deep, choppy sound, and his mouth fell open and he stared and toppled toward Brad. Brad whipped around, dropped to one knee and fired across at the sedan. One of the windows was down, and the barrel of a rifle pointed toward them.

\n\n

His first shot shattered a front wing window. The rifle fired again and he heard the bullet rip into Kromm’s body.

\n\n

The blonde had started to run, shrieking in terror, along the sidewalk toward Eastway. She ran past the school entrance and the glow from the globes atop the entrance pillars outlined her clearly. Suddenly her arms leaped up and to the sides as though she had taken off into space flight. But the impact of the rifle bullet in her back drove her upper body too fast for her legs and she hit the wet cement walk face down, and she didn’t stir or make a sound.

\n\n

The rifleman’s body had been clearly visible for seconds, but it dropped from view as the blonde fell. Brad held his fire and charged the car. The rifle barrel came out the window at an upslant, and started to lower as the rifleman’s body came up into view.

\n\n

Brad didn’t give him a chance to take aim. He fired at close range through the window. He fired again and a third time. The rifle thumped onto the floor inside the car. Brad pulled open the door, and Brogan with his face half shot away fell out onto the street, dead.

\n\n

Brad let him lie. He went into the school grounds and up onto the veranda of the old building. A group of elderly women and high school girls in starchy white-collared gray uniforms were clustered about the open door. They stared at him as if he were a ghost and opened a path for him.

\n\n

The MacNair girl was in the office laughing hysterically, one arm convulsing and relaxing around the chunky little body of a solemnly pigtailed little moppet in a pinafore. The moppet squinted up at him suspiciously and suddenly asked indignantly :

\n\n

“Did you get my Mommy drunk?”

\n\n

“No, darling. No.” He crouched down before her. “I just told her funny stories.”

\n\n

“Well, I don’t think I want you to do that any more.”

\n\n

“He won’t, baby. He won’t.”

\n\n

“Would you like it if it was you I told the funny stories to?” Brad asked, grinning.

\n\n

“Yes.”

\n\n

“All right, it’s a date. Tomorrow night.”

\n\n

He got up and went over to a telephone on a rolltop desk. He started dialing the local FBI number, watching the two of them.

\n\n

The MacNair woman looked across her daughter’s head at him. That look of mockery was illusory, he was sure. But whether or not, it was going to be decidedly worth while finding out.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Told In Glass", "author": "C. S. Montanye", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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News About Old Man Johnson

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The neighbors on Christopher Square called him Old Man Johnson. He had a little basement shop where he dealt in second hand automobile parts. He lived in the rear of the store and the Square knew him as an inventor. It did not know what he invented, but it was accustomed to seeing a light in the store at all hours. If one looked down into the black areaway they could see the old man at work among his tools, his ragged gray beard drooping over his bench.

\n\n

One day Christopher Square hummed with news concerning Old Man Johnson.

\n\n

Big Harry Westley, the King of Con Men, discussed the news with Lefty Blumfeld, alias Morrison Taylor, over a table in the front room of the West Side Social Club, located at the end of the Square. Westley was large, florid and impressive. Crook-dom respected his genius. It was said that Westley could cut Central Park up into building lots and sell them for cash. He had served two jail terms, but had lost none of his nerve or pompous exterior.

\n\n

Lefty Blumfeld, alias Morrison Taylor, was undersized. He was built along the lines of a gorilla. He had a low, bulging forehead and beady black eyes. His bull neck was short and thick. His hands were covered with coarse black hair. They were gnarled and pitted from laboratory work. He made nitro-glycerine for petermen and blasters when he was not out on a job himself. He had done a stretch of six years in the State penitentiary and was as rapacious and merciless as a colled cobra.

\n\n

“Did you hear the news about Old Man Johnson?” Westley inquired, lighting a fat cigar with a flourish.

\n\n

Blumfeld tossed off three fingers of underground rye whiskey. He dried his lips on the back of his hand.

\n\n

“No. What about him?”

\n\n

The big con man tilted back his chair and chuckled.

\n\n

“Everyone is talking about Old Man Johnson. He sold an invention to some big company up the state. He’s been paid ten thousand dollars in advance royalties. Charlie Hill saw the check and so it’s not air. The old geezer has cleaned up. Ten grands — I guess that’s rotten.”

\n\n

Blumfeld ran his finger around the inside rim of his whiskey glass.

\n\n

“What’s the invention?” he asked after a pause.

\n\n

Westley shook his head and shrugged.

\n\n

“Search me. Nobody seems to know. Charlie Hill asked him, but Johnson said it was a secret. It must be something good or he wouldn’t have got such dough.”

\n\n

Blumfeld nodded moodily.

\n\n

“Yes, it must be,” he said.

\n\n

Westley flicked the ash from the end of his cigar and chuckled again.

\n\n

“Ten thousand dollars,” he observed reflectively, “is a lot of dough. I’ll have to wander up to Moy Ling’s after awhile and smoke a couple of pipes of scatnish. Poppy makes me dream clever schemes. I was full of hop the time I took that Florida lawyer for his currency kick. Old Man Johnson isn’t used to sudden wealth. I’ll dream out a way to separate him from his cash. When I get it I’ll buy you the best dinner in town, Lefty.”

\n\n

“Like hell!” Blumfeld grunted.

\n\n

Westley smiled and looked at his watch. He stood up and pulled down his waistcoat. He placed seventy-five cents on the table to pay for the liquor he had consumed and fingered his closely shaven chin.

\n\n

“Well, I’ve got to be moving. Be good to yourself and be leary of the red-necks. I’ve just got about six minutes to grab a short.”

\n\n

He nodded affably and moved away. Through the front windows of the club Blumfeld saw him stride briskly across the square. The nitro-glycerine expert sat stiffly still. Ten thousand dollars! He hardly knew there was so much money in the world. And it was in the possession of a doddering inventor who lived in a mean cellar!

\n\n

Blumfeld’s beady eyes glittered. When he considered the magnitude of the sum he felt dazed. For a long interval he sat with expressionless face and staring eyes. After a time he got up. He took a few steps toward the door, returned and picked up the seventy-five cents Big Harry Westley had laid on the table. He shoved it into his pocket, deciding he needed it more than the waiter.

\n\n

Slouching out of the club, he descended the front steps and stepped onto the cracked pavement of Christopher Square. The late September afternoon was dying in a conflagration of sunset fire. The sky was brazen with raw scarlet, amethyst and silver-and-purple. Lights were winking in the waterfront rigging, a block distant. The river was boisterous with the voice of sirens and the shrill of whistles. The wraith of evening shook out her black draperies that were pinned with stars.

\n\n

Blumfeld turned east. He walked two blocks. He came in sight of the building in the cellar of which Old Man Johnson maintained his shop. He saw the inventor’s ancient sign hanging from its metal stanchion like a one-legged acrobat. Drawing close to the areaway, Blumfeld leaned over and peered down. Somewhere in the shop below an oil lamp burned. In its uncertain radiance Blumfeld observed the stooped figure of the proprietor.

\n\n

Turning to the iron stairway that led steeply down into the basement, Blumfeld drew his lips back over his teeth and smiled. He descended the steps and opened the front door. He entered and closed it after him.

\n\n

The shop was warm and stuffy with the odor of paint and grease. Blumfeld hardly noticed it. His quick gaze darted to the work-bench over which Old Man Johpson hung. He saw the inventor was old and feeble. The eyes of the man were blue and faded. His skin was wrinkled like yellow parchment. He wore a disreputable old pair of oil-stained trousers, a collarless flannel shirt that exposed his turkey neck and a pencil-stuffed vest held together by one button.

\n\n

“You got a second hand drive shaft for a Brown and Blue taxi?” Blumfeld said, as the inventor looked up.

\n\n

Old Man Johnson shook his head.

\n\n

“No, I haven’t,” he said in a thin husky voice.

\n\n

Blumfeld allowed his gaze to wander about the place.

\n\n

“Got any gears or transmission parts?”

\n\n

The inventor shook his white head again.

\n\n

“No, I don’t think I have. All the parts are piled up in the corner over there. I’m going out of business, so if you find anything you can use you can have it at your own price.”

\n\n

He indicated a heap of metal stacked up in one corner. Blumfeld shuffled across to it. He pawed idly over it. While he did this he plumbed the room with his beady eyes. He made a mental photograph of the way the shop was arranged, of a single window that opened on to an alley running past it, and of a door that went into what was presumably the living quarters of the inventor.

\n\n

When he had observed all that interested him, Blumfeld straightened up and turned his back on the heap of metal.

\n\n

“Find anything?” Old Man Johnson asked.

\n\n

Blumfeld shook his head.

\n\n

“No. I’ll come around next week. Maybe you’ll have a shaft picked up by then.”

\n\n

The inventor smiled faintly.

\n\n

“I won’t be here next week. I’m selling out. I’m going out of business. I’m leaving for Rochester on Monday. I’m an inventor and I only kept this little place here until I struck oil.”

\n\n

Blumfeld allowed himself to look impressed.

\n\n

“Is that right? So you struck oil. I guess that means you sold an invention. You must have knocked out large kale if you’re going to Rochester.”

\n\n

The interest of his caller appeared to please the old man. He wiped his hands on a piece of cotton waste and put some tobacco in the bowl of his black pipe.

\n\n

“It took me twenty years to perfect my invention,” he explained, with a touch of pride. “Many times I thought I had made it, only to discover some hidden flaw. People I told about it said it couldn’t be done and thought I was crazy to even try it. Three months ago I knew I had triumphed. I put the invention to every possible test and it made good. I applied for a patent and sent my work to a big manufacturing concern in Rochester. They tested it for two months and then agreed to purchase the right to manufacture it. They sent me ten thousand dollars and a contract. I’m going to Rochester, as I said, to take charge of the making of them.”

\n\n

Blumfeld, receiving verification of Big Harry’s statement, felt satisfaction tingling keenly within him. He had almost believed that it was opium that put the words in the mouth of the big con man.

\n\n

“So you got ten thousand dollars,” he murmured. “That’s a lot of money. You want to hold on to it tight. I guess you know the Square is a pretty tough place. Don’t let no one bunk the jack away from you, or stick you up for it.”

\n\n

Old Man Johnson looked serious.

\n\n

“Never fear, I won’t. I have it hidden where no one can find it. It’s safe.”

\n\n

Blumfeld smiled.

\n\n

“That’s the eye! Hang onto it. I’m sorry you ain’t got what I’m after. Good luck to you when you get to Rochester.”

\n\n

At the door Blumfeld stopped, seized by a sudden thought.

\n\n

“By the way,” he said, “what was it you invented?”

\n\n

The inventor picked up a file from the bench.

\n\n

“It’s a secret,” he replied slowly. “It’s a secret until it’s put on the market — “

\n\n

At eleven o’clock Blumfeld emerged from the east side stuss house where he had run his purloined seventy-five cents up to six dollars. A pleasant sense of success swam in his blood. His good fortune was an omen that fickle Luck smiled upon him. On such a night as this he might conquer in any deed in wdiich he figured or any endeavor he applied his hand to.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

\n\n

The Pleasant Stream of Imagination

\n\n

At the corner of the street he traversed he boarded a surface car. He rode twelve blocks and transferred to a cross-town car. The second car took him as far as Harrigan Avenue, where he alighted. He continued east, treading a labyrinth of side streets that emptied like sewers along the waterfront. Where the river’s breath was damp, foul and cold, Blumfeld turned south. A few minutes later he entered Christopher Square by its west termination.

\n\n

He passed the social club where he had sat and talked with Big Harry. The strains of jazz crept out through lighted windows. Evidently a dance was in progress. He wondered if it was all right to stop oft for a hooker of illicit whiskey. He decided not to and quickened his step as if to outpace temptation. When the ten thousand dollars of Old Man Johnson’s was his he could buy a hundred cases of hootch. He could fill a tub full of rye and bathe in it if he so desired.

\n\n

The pleasant stream of imagination he floated down emptied him into the bayou of Broken Dreams. He shook himself as he sighted his destination. The hanging sign of the inventor loomed before him — the black areaway of the basement shop which was as dark as the inside of a pocket. Blumfeld made sure his movements were not being observed and squatted down. He looked into the shop as far as he could but saw no trace of any light.

\n\n

Arising, he surveyed the Square. Music still seeped out from the club. No loiterer shuffled through the shadows. He descended the areaway stairs. The door he had opened earlier in the evening confronted him. Quick inspection told Blumfeld it was locked and bolted on the inside in such a way as to make forcing it impossible. He muttered a curse and crept down the area way. He climbed a fence and dropped down into an alley that fringed the building. He came upon the single window of the shop and drew a breath of satisfaction when he found the top pane was lowered an inch or two. It was the work of a minute to draw the lower sash up, swing quietly across the sill and step down onto the floor of the store.

\n\n

So much accomplished without mishap, Blumfeld grew cautious. Old Man Johnson was an inventor. It was likely he had rigged up some device that would make known the presence of an intruder. Blumfeld knew he would have to be wary or he would stumble into a snare. He opened the blade of a large, heavy knife and felt his way to the door that opened into the living rooms beyond.

\n\n

Twice he stubbed his foot on some bit of metal lying about. He reached the door without accident otherwise and felt about the frame. At first he discovered nothing, then as he dug his nails into the plaster he found the presence of a number of fine, silk-covered wires. He cut them one at a time and dropped a hand to the knob of the door.

\n\n

It opened at his touch with scarce a creak.

\n\n

Blumfeld passed into stark blackness perfumed with the reek of a kerosene lamp. Its odor took him carefully across the room. He discovered the location of the lamp and felt its chimney. Its warmth told him it had been extinguished only a short time.

\n\n

Blumfeld turned slowly. He must learn if this room was the bedchamber of the inventor or not. He longed to kindle a match, but knew its glare would betray him if Johnson was awake. He began to step forward, laying his hand against the furniture it encountered. He touched a chair and a small table, but they told him nothing. He had no way of knowing where he was until his knees suddenly came in contact with something cold and hard and investigation caused him to expel a breath of relief. His exploring hands felt a mattress and a blanket.

\n\n

While he considered the next move, Blumfeld stiffened cautiously. The bed creaked with the weight of some one turning over in it. After what seemed an eternity, a thin, husky voice came out of the staring murk.

\n\n

“I have a fully loaded revolver covering you! I will — “

\n\n

Blumfeld did not wait to hear the rest of it. With a snarl he flung himself forward. He crashed against a figure that fell back with a soft cry, a cry that was abruptly shut off by the grip of his fingers.

\n\n

Something hard clattered to the floor with a dull, metallic ring.

\n\n

Wisps of heard scratched Blumfeld’s face.

\n\n

With his free hand he ripped a piece from the blanket, wadded it together and stuffed it into the man’s mouth, forcing his jaws open and digging a knee into his stomach so that no scream might awake discordant echoes.

\n\n

When he had neatly gagged his victim he ended weak struggles with a vicious blow and using other strips of the blanket bound Johnson’s wrists and ankles tightly together.

\n\n

Stepping away from the bed Blumfeld struck a match.

\n\n

He turned up the wick of the oil lamp and lighted it. The room boasted two windows and both displayed drawn shades. It was sparsely furnished as a bedroom, containing a bureau with a mirror, table, chair and trunk. Blumfeld dropped down on the top of the trunk. He dug out the stub of a cigarette from his pocket and after kindling it looked casually at the trussed up man on the bed. He grinned when the faded blue eyes met his bravely and steadily.

\n\n

“I came back,” Blumfeld said. “I came back to get them ten thousand smackers you were bragging about. If you come clean with me you won’t get hurt. If you try any funny stuff you’ll never go to Rochester. You’ll go to a place where money ain’t no use. Nod your head if you understand.”

\n\n

The inventor nodded. Blumfeld picked up the revolver from the floor and pocketed it.

\n\n

“Are you ready to tell me where the money is at? Nod yes or no.”

\n\n

The old man inclined his head. Blumfeld crossed to him and leaned over.

\n\n

“I’m going to slip the gag out of your peep. If you open your trap to yell I’ll cave in your conk!”

\n\n

He removed the makeshift gag and the inventor licked his lips.

\n\n

“C’mon, spit out the dope!” Blumfeld ordered impatiently.

\n\n

“I will tell you nothing!” the old man said huskily. “What it took me twenty years to earn I will share with no one! No matter what you do to me no information will pass my lips! I will meet my fate unafraid! And I will know that you cannot escape the consequences of your crime! The work of my hand and the child of my brain will reach out, even from the grave, and overtake you!”

\n\n

With a snarl Blumfeld jammed the gag back into the inventor’s mouth. He pushed the old man savagely back among the pillows and struck him again with his fist. For a few minutes he sat silent, his face dark with thought. At length he stood up, slapped his thigh with a exclamation and walked to the lamp. He opened the blade of his heavy knife and laid it across the mouth of the chimney, looking back at the cot with a wide grin.

\n\n

“Maybe a little burning on the soles of your feet will make you loosen up! I’ll torture you before I croak you, and even if you don’t tell me what I want to know I’ll find out! I’ll turn these rooms upside down!”

\n\n

He lifted the knife from the chimney and saw that its blade had turned white-hot. He wrapped his handkerchief around the handle and with a single move drew the sheets and blankets off the bed. …

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Invention

\n\n

Three days later as Blumfeld slouched out of the east side lodging-house where he roomed, a man stepped across the pavement and laid a hand on his arm. Synchronously another man stepped out of the passing crowd and caught hold of his left arm, moving it up and out.

\n\n

Before Blumfeld could draw a breath, something cold encircled each wrist — a sharp click sounded.

\n\n

“You are wanted, Lefty!” the first man said briefly. “Charge of bumping off Old Man Johnson, the inventor, down on Christopher Square last week!”

\n\n

Blumfeld lifted his face, his lips drawn back over his yellow teeth.

\n\n

“You’re crazy with the heat!” he snarled. “I haven’t been on Christopher Square in two weeks. I’ve been away. I’ve been in Chi — “

\n\n

The second man smiled.

\n\n

“There is no use of lying, Lefty. We have Old Man Johnson’s invention down at headquarters. It showed us who croaked him and told us who to look for. We’ve got the man — you are he!”

\n\n

Blumfeld licked his lips.

\n\n

“What invention are you talking about?”

\n\n

His first captor exchanged a look with his companion.

\n\n

“Something that’s going to stand this country on its ear when it hears about it,” he answered. “The old man invented a mirror. He had one in the bureau in his bedroom. It’s a mirror that retains the reflection of the last person who passes before it.” …

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "No Half Cure", "author": "Robert E. Murray", "body": ""

For one of the few times since he had become an analyst, Doctor Kleist felt something very close to euphoria. He smiled at the woman across the desk from him, savoring this moment. It was one of the good times. It was times like these that keep a man from going back to the more profitable field of surgery. A complete recovery like this is one that made a grim profession worth while.

\n\n

“You’re certain, Doctor?” the woman asked, and there was an almost breathless pleasure in her voice.

\n\n

Doctor Kleist laughed. “Yes, Mrs. Clinton, I’m quite certain.”

\n\n

“And there’ll be no — recurrence?”

\n\n

“No. Kleptomania has been one of my specialties for a number of years, Mrs. Clinton. I feel, in all modesty, that I know more about it than almost any other analyst to whom you might have come.” He paused. “I’ve never been more certain of a complete recovery. And, Mrs. Clinton — I’ve never been made happier by one.”

\n\n

It was true, he reflected. He’d grown quite fond of Mrs. Clinton, and of her husband, and he’d always remember them warmly. Her husband had brought her to this office ten months ago, a lovely, cultured woman in her early thirties, a woman wealthy in her own right and married to one of the city’s most successful corporation lawyers — and the thief of worthless baubles from dime stores and bargain counters. On the day before her husband had brought her here, Mrs. Clinton had been arrested for stealing a thirty-nine-cent compact. The magistrate had released her in her husband’s custody and recommended Doctor Kleist.

\n\n

“I’ll be forever grateful,” Mrs. Clinton said. “You don’t know how much —”

\n\n

“But I do,” Doctor Kleist said. “I do indeed. I think it’s been a very rewarding experience for all of us.”

\n\n

“I’m afraid I was pretty difficult to get along with. Doctor.”

\n\n

He smiled. “Extremely.”

\n\n

“And uncooperative.”

\n\n

“That, too.”

\n\n

She laughed softly and stood up. “I can scarcely wait to tell Walt. The poor darling, sometimes I think he’s endured even more with me than you have.”

\n\n

“Husbands often do,” Doctor Kleist said. “Especially someone like Walt. But that’s a thing of the past now. In a case like this, an analyst likes to feel he’s been responsible for not just one, but two recoveries. It’s a very pleasant feeling, I assure you.”

\n\n

He came around the desk and walked with her to the door.

\n\n

“It’s almost like being … well, reborn,” Mrs. Clinton said.

\n\n

He nodded.

\n\n

“This will be the last time, of course,” he said. “The last time you’ll have to come here. But I hope you’ll drop in now and then. And bring Walt with you, if you can. I like to admire my handiwork.”

\n\n

For a long moment after they had said goodbye, Doctor Kleist stood quite motionless before the door, listening to the sound of Mrs. Clinton’s high heels fading away in the direction of the elevator. Then he turned and walked slowly back to his desk and sat down in the deep leather chair.

\n\n

A wonderful woman, he thought, a truly wonderful woman. He envied her husband. A fine man, that Walt Clinton. He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes, fantasying the way it would be with Walt at the moment his wife told him their mutual nightmare was over.

\n\n

Then, humming softly to himself, he drew a ruled yellow pad from a drawer and began the draft of a paper he wanted to read at the next congress of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. He had, in Mrs. Clinton’s case, gained new insight into certain facets of kleptomania, and he was anxious to share them with his colleagues.

\n\n

He had been working steadily for over an hour when the phone rang.

\n\n

He lifted the phone absently, still writing rapidly.

\n\n

“Doctor Kleist.”

\n\n

“Hello, Doctor. This is Walt Clinton.”

\n\n

Doctor Kleist smiled and put down his pencil.

\n\n

“Well, Walt. How are you?”

\n\n

Walt, he was sure, had just received the good news and was calling to add his thanks to those of his wife.

\n\n

“Doctor, is my wife still there at your office?”

\n\n

“Why, no, Walt.” He glanced at his watch. “She left better than an hour ago.”

\n\n

“Oh, Well, I just wondered. She said she intended to come straight home. We had an engagement, and … well, never mind, Doctor. She probably forgot. Maybe she stopped off to do a little shopping.”

\n\n

He laughed, a little thinly.

\n\n

“You know how women are.”

\n\n

“I know,” Doctor Kleist said. “She’ll be along soon, Walt.”

\n\n

“Sure. Well, I’m sorry I bothered you for nothing. Doctor.”

\n\n

“No bother at all,” Doctor Kleist said. For a moment he debated hinting to Walt that there was a bit of wonderful news coming his way, but decided against it. That should be Mrs. Clinton’s show.

\n\n

He had scarcely replaced the phone in its cradle when it rang again.

\n\n

It was Mrs. Clinton. “Something ridiculous has happened. Doctor Kleist . . .”

\n\n

“Really? What’s that?”

\n\n

“Well, I went several places before I came to your office this afternoon. I’ve just finished revisiting the last of them, and — this is really ridiculous — I thought I’d better call and — well, the thing is that I’ve lost my cigarette case somewhere. I didn’t use it while I was in your office, and I don’t think there’s much chance it could have fallen from my purse, but . . .”

\n\n

“I’m sorry,” Doctor Kleist said. “It isn’t here, Mrs. Clinton. You say you’ve gone back to the other places you visited?”

\n\n

“Yes. I just can’t imagine … It’s one Walt gave me on our anniversary, and that’s why it’s so important.”

\n\n

“There’s only one thing important today, Mrs. Clinton,” he said. “And that’s the news you have for Walt.”

\n\n

She was silent a moment.

\n\n

“Yes. Yes, I guess you’re right. It is silly to let such a small thing … “

\n\n

“Of course it is.”

\n\n

He said goodbye, put the phone down very gently, and then reached into his inside jacket pocket for the thin platinum case.

\n\n

It was a shame he didn’t smoke, he reflected. But still, it would give him so much satisfaction, knowing it was there in his desk drawer with all the others.

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n
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\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Gypsy's Warning", "author": "", "body": ""
\n
\n
Table of Contents
\n
\n\n
\n

\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

The Death of Walter Webster

\n\n

“Hullo, Tommy. Is the boss in?” The inquirer was a young man in a soft felt hat and a discoloured raincoat, and the question was addressed to Tommy Burke, Dixon Hawke’s assistant.

\n\n

Tommy was sitting at his desk in his employer’s office at the Dover Street chambers, and he surveyed the caller, a journalist friend of his, with interest.

\n\n

“No, Beverley. He’s week-ending out in the wilds.”

\n\n

Beverley’s face fell. “I’ve been asked to write a series of articles about uncanny experiences in crime detection, and I wondered if Mr. Hawke could help me.”

\n\n

“Detectives deal in hard, everyday facts,” stated Tommy. “They’re about the last people to apply to for uncanny experiences.”

\n\n

“I know. But I was hoping — “

\n\n

Tommy suddenly rose from his chair.

\n\n

“Listen,” he said eagerly. “I think you’ve come to the right shop. What about the death of Walter Webster?”

\n\n

“You mean the writer of those books on the supernatural?”

\n\n

“Yes.”

\n\n

“Hawke was on the case, wasn’t he?”

\n\n

“He was. And what’s more, the full story of it has never been told. Further, it’s the very story you are looking for, my lad. And, as it happens, I am the one person capable of telling it the way you want.”

\n\n

He waved his arm towards a chair. His manner was impressive.

\n\n

“Sit down,” he said. “Help yourself to the guv’nor’s cigarettes, and wrap your ears round this.”

\n\n

* * * * *

\n\n

Webster lived with his wife in a lonely house near the village of Scorewell, pronounced Skorrel (said Tommy), and a more outlandish spot you never did see. It’s a thousand feet above sea level, and is in the wildest part of the Peak District. You know what it’s like. Hill and moor land, scattered with monstrous lumps of rock and deep ravines.

\n\n

The house was called Mount Pleasant, and it was situated in what I thought was a pretty dangerous spot — near one of those ravines. There was only a rickety wire fence to prevent you going over in the dark.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Fortune-Teller

\n\n

Webster was a queer sort of bird — a mystic, y’know — and quite a contrast to his rather flash-looking wife. She was thirtyish, and he was about ten years older.

\n\n

There came a time when Webster felt he was on the verge of staggering this world by clearing up the mysteries of the next. He went so far as to claim that he was about to settle the question of exactly what we can expect after death, and this caused excitement in the scientific world, because Webster was no mere charlatan, as you know. He stood high in the estimation of all who know what’s what, and what isn’t.

\n\n

He rang up Professor Larcombe one night, in a fever of excitement, and announced that he was motoring to Morecambe, where lived a medium, the daughter of a farm-worker, who would enable him to prove his theories to the world. It was not merely a test, mind you. He claimed to have made all his tests. This was the Proof, with a capital “P.”

\n\n

He set off on the long run, taking only a flask of tomato juice by way of refreshment. He was one of those birds who believe in keeping fit by scientific starvation.

\n\n

There was a full moon, and it was one of those quiet, breezeless nights. I don’t know whether you’ve ever been in a mountainy district on a night like that. It’s queer. Everything seems twice its normal size, and the landscape’s all yellow and purple and grotesque and unnatural.

\n\n

That’s how it was on that straight stretch of narrow, white road between a couple of beetling mountain sides, when Webster spotted a petrol-station — a forlorn-looking shack looked after by one man.

\n\n

Webster knew that his tank would want replenishing before long, so he pulled up.

\n\n

The petrol-man was a cheerful sort of cove named Brown. The guv’nor and I interviewed him afterwards, and it’s from him that I got this part of the story.

\n\n

After telling Brown to fill her up, Webster asked if his petrol station was on the phone, and Brown said it was. The place, in fact, was quite civilised, for there was a post-box there as well.

\n\n

Webster got out of the car, went inside the hut, and put through a call.

\n\n

When he came out, Brown was putting the petrol-pipe back on its hook and on the opposite side of the roadway was a gipsy caravan, with a bony, dispirited-looking horse between the shafts.

\n\n

Brown saw Webster staring, and he turned. He afterwards told the guv’nor that he got quite a start, for he had neither seen nor heard the thing approaching, although there are no bends in the road for several hundred yards.

\n\n

Sitting up in front of the caravan, holding the reins, was a tall bloke wearing a wide-brimmed felt hat with a high crown. I remember I was sort of impressed with old Brown’s description of that hat, and I can picture it quite well. These gypsies don’t bother to dent ‘em in like trilbies. It was not quite of the sugar-loaf variety, but rather like a trilby run to seed.

\n\n

The fellow’s face was completely in the shadow, and Brown never glimpsed his features at all.

\n\n

By his side was the oldest-looking woman Brown had ever seen.

\n\n

She had a gaudy ‘kerchief bound closely round her head, and this seemed to emphasise the bird-like qualities of her shrivelled old face. Her nose was like a vulture’s beak, and the moonbeams caught the whites of her eyes, so as to give them a baleful, unearthly appearance.

\n\n

The old woman turned and looked at the two men, but the man by her aide looked neither to right nor to left.

\n\n

Slowly and laboriously the old woman climbed down from the caravan and approached Webster.

\n\n

“Tell your fortune?” she croaked. “Cross my hand with silver.”

\n\n

Brown told us that, in a way, it was a whining plea, and yet there was something compelling about it — as though she offered Webster no alternative but to cross her hand with silver and have his fortune told.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

A Curious Experience

\n\n

Webster chuckled, but seemed a little bit uneasy. Brown, too, had a vague feeling of that sort.

\n\n

“It’s funny,” Webster remarked, “but I feel I have met you before — years and years ago. So many years that I can’t remember. All right, my good woman. Here’s half-a-crown. Will you tell my fortune for that?”

\n\n

The old woman took the money, and, beckoning him to follow, went to the back of the caravan, pulled down the wooden steps, and climbed up inside. Webster followed.

\n\n

Brown, whose curiosity was all worked up, strolled round to the back and glanced in. The door was open, and the moon shone in, slantwise, so as to light up the interior sufficiently for him to see the gipsy woman sitting on one side of a table gazing into a crystal, and Webster sitting on the other side watching her.

\n\n

Brown strolled back and stood leaning against a petrol-pump, and after a minute Webster came out of the caravan holding a sealed envelope.

\n\n

“Well,” asked Brown, as the old woman climbed back up beside the driver, and Webster moved away from the caravan, “what’s your fortune, sir?”

\n\n

“I asked her whether it was good or bad,” answered Webster, smiling faintly, “and she said I might be inclined to think it bad. So I said — ‘I’m off on an important mission which won’t fail — which mustn’t fail — so I don’t propose troubling my head with thoughts of bad fortune. Write it down, and stick it in this envelope. I’ll read it later. He was about to put the letter in his pocket when his eye alighted on the posting-box, and he was struck with a sudden whim.

\n\n

“I’ll address it to myself,” he said, “and post it.”

\n\n

He took out a fountain pen and wrote the address of a Morecambe hotel, which Brown was afterwards able to recall. Then he took a stamp out of his wallet, and dropped the letter into the box.

\n\n

“I had a very curious experience in that caravan,” he said, after a thoughtful pause. “I don’t know. I suppose it was just my fancy, but somehow I felt that the interior was all familiar. And that old woman — “

\n\n

“She’s a rum ‘un,” agreed Brown.

\n\n

“Although she had her face down,” went on Webster, “I had the uncomfortable feeling that she was staring at me all the time. It was as though she had wide-open, penetrating eyes in the top of her head.”

\n\n

“Funny ‘ow nerves can play you up, sir. Crumbs, sir! That thing’s made good going, sir. It’s gone.”

\n\n

They both stared down the road, but there was no sign of the caravan. The horse had only been crawling along, and it seemed impossible that it should have travelled out of sight in that short space. They could only conclude that, being engrossed in conversation, they had lost track of the time.

\n\n

Webster paid for his petrol and got back in his car.

\n\n

“I’ve got some coffee,” said Brown, “if you want any refreshment before you carry on.”

\n\n

“No, thanks,” said Webster, “I have some tomato juice.”

\n\n

He took a pull at the flask which he produced from the pocket of his car, nodded good-bye to Brown, and started away.

\n\n

Now we come to the real substance of the story.

\n\n

Webster had gone about a couple of miles down the road when his car hit the stone parapet of a bridge and hurtled over into a stream. He was killed, and his car was completely wrecked.

\n\n

His great discovery was lost to the world.

\n\n

The police thought that something might have gone wrong with the steering and they inquired at Brown’s petrol station. In the course of the interview Brown mentioned the gypsies, but expressed the opinion that they had had no chance of interfering with the car. Anyway, the police failed to trace the gypsies. You never can. They move about all the time, and you can’t tell one from the other.

\n\n

The guv’nor came into the case in the ordinary course of duty in the service of an insurance company that pays him a retaining fee. Webster’s life had only recently been insured, and the fatality set the company back ten thousand of the best. Mrs. Webster was the beneficiary.

\n\n

We both went along to that lonely stretch of road, arriving there before Webster’s car tracks had been obliterated by other vehicles.

\n\n

We traced them on foot from Brown’s petrol station to the bridge where the accident occurred, and found that for the first half-mile they went straight and clean along the centre of the road. Then they jerked suddenly to the side, and there were skid-marks, as though the driver had suddenly tried to dodge something.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

An Awkward Interview

\n\n

The guv’nor spent some time searching about the road at this point.

\n\n

“That’s odd,” he remarked to me, “there’s no sign of any other vehicle which might have occasioned this sudden swerve.”

\n\n

The tracks were wobbly for another half-mile, and were close in to the side of the road — so close that, in places, only the tracks of the offside wheels could be seen.

\n\n

“Something seems to have been squeezing him in,” I remarked, “but I don’t see any tracks.”

\n\n

We came to a bend, and there Webster’s tracks crossed over to the wrong side of the road, and continued there for several hundred yards. Back they came again, and, for the next mile before we reached the bridge they followed a fairly even course along the middle of the road once more. Just in front of the bridge they veered suddenly to the left, and there were several stones missing from the parapet.

\n\n

After that the guv’nor inspected the wrecked car, which had been taken to a garage in the nearest village — and, my! how he inspected it!

\n\n

Frankly, old man, it’s a little bit embarrassing to be with him sometimes, because he doesn’t care two hoots about people thinking him ridiculous. There was a smirking police inspector making sarcastic remarks to the garage manager, while the guv’nor examined every square inch of that car through a magnifying glass. When he pulled Webster’s task of tomato juice from the pocket and asked to be allowed to take it away, there were undisguised jeers.

\n\n

We drove back and had a long talk with Brown.

\n\n

The guv nor was intrigued by his story of the gipsy — unreasonably so, it seemed to me. To be quite honest, I was a little irritated with him when he sent me to Morecambe to retrieve the letter winch Webster had posted to himself.

\n\n

My irritation was justified, because the trip was quite unnecessary. The letter had no bearing at all on our inquiry. But that’s how it is with him at times. It’s the eccentricity of genius, old man.

\n\n

When I got back to the village inn at Scorewell, where we were staying, I found him in the sitting room examining some of his own visiting cards under a pocket microscope. No, that wasn’t eccentricity. They weren’t ordinary cards. They’re kept for a special purpose. The surface is treated with a sensitive solution, and, when you want somebody’s fingerprints on the sly, you hand him a card and then make an excuse to get it back. Tell him it’s your last one. Or else, if he puts it on his hallstand, which he generally does, retrieve it surreptitiously.

\n\n

The tomato juice flask stood on the table in front of him. It was covered with a black powder, and clusters of fingerprints were discernible on it. The stopper was off, and it lay amidst a collection of saucers and bottles containing chemical reagents.

\n\n

I was about to question the guv’nor as to the meaning of if all, when he happened to glance out of the window.

\n\n

A passer-by in the village street was the object of his attention.

\n\n

I followed the direction of his pointing finger, and saw a big man striding along, glaring at the ground as though he dared it to give way beneath his feet.

\n\n

“That’s Mr. Reginald Sellers, Tommy. It would be difficult to find anyone who dislikes me more than he does.”

\n\n

“Who is he anyway?”

\n\n

“A friend of Mrs. Webster’s. He’s a guest just at the moment at Mount Pleasant.”

\n\n

“Oh,” I said, noting the curious, grim way in which the guv’nor watched the passing figure. “Oh — oh! In fact — oh!”

\n\n

“I called at Mount Pleasant to ask Mrs. Webster a few formal questions,” the guv nor went on, “and she insisted on her friend, Mr. Sellers, being present during the interview. She seemed reluctant to answer my questions, and Mr. Sellers was frankly resentful of my presence.

\n\n

“I shall call back there this evening,” he added, “to ask further questions, and I imagine their resentment this time will be infinitely greater.”

\n\n

As is often the case — I suppose I’m slow-witted — I suddenly realised that we were in the midst of something fishy which the guv’nor had sensed some time beforehand.

\n\n

I thought about those car tracks and about the guvnor’s fierce attack on the case — on all fronts, as it were. I realised that he had sent me to Morecambe simply because he became suddenly keen to lay hold of every tiny fact connected with the case, however remotely.

\n\n

I produced the letter, but, as I say, it didn’t have any bearing on our investigations.

\n\n

The guv’nor was intent upon dealing with the very material matter on hand, and this seemed no occasion for worrying about fortune-tellers.

\n\n

It was getting dark, and there was a stiffish wind blowing up when I got the car out of the pub garage. The guv’nor got in beside me, and we set off up the steep, winding road which led to the Webster home.

\n\n

The guv’nor was very preoccupied, and several of the questions I asked him went unanswered.

\n\n

The breeze grew stronger, and the night grew darker. I shall never forget it. When it’s stormy in that district, you hear a kind of moaning and whistling, as the wind cuts round the crags.

\n\n

“Wait out here for me,” said the guv’nor, when we finally pulled up. “You can get the car turned round. It’s not improbable that our next call will be at the police station.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 5

\n\n

Tommy “Listens In”

\n\n

We had drawn up outside the house and were looking over that ravine which runs up by the side of the garden. As you near the top of that road, you get the impression that you are driving over the edge to your doom.

\n\n

Having turned the car round and put the brakes on, I sat there for a few seconds and then began to think things too tame.

\n\n

There was a light from one of the down-stairs windows facing me, and, the curtain not being drawn, I could see into the room.

\n\n

I saw Mr. Sellers pass across and stand by the fireplace, and I also caught a glimpse of Mrs. Webster.

\n\n

They were looking towards the doorway, where, I gathered, the guv’nor was standing, and, as the windows, which were of the casement type, were partly open I guessed it would be possible to hear what was going on if one were close enough.

\n\n

I proceeded to disobey orders, and was presently standing outside a window, eavesdropping.

\n\n

“You say, Mrs. Webster, that you have never, on any occasion, touched the task in which your husband carried his tomato juice,” said the guv’nor.

\n\n

“That’s what she said,” snapped Sellers; “can’t you take her word for it? And, besides, what’s the flask got to do with the accident?”

\n\n

“Perhaps Mrs. Webster can explain how her finger-prints come to be on the flask at the present moment.”

\n\n

There was a half-stifled cry from the woman, and Sellers broke in with an angry shout.

\n\n

“What is all this stuff and nonsense? How can you know whether her fingerprints are on it?”

\n\n

“I secured an impression of them on a specially-prepared visiting-card.”

\n\n

“You did? Pretty low, despicable sort of business yours, isn’t it?”

\n\n

“No. My business is to deal with low and despicable actions, such as insurance fraud and murder.”

\n\n

The woman shrieked.

\n\n

“Murder! What do you mean?” yelled the man crazily.

\n\n

“Frankly, I think Webster was murdered. I have made a test of the dregs of tomato juice, and I shall request the police surgeon to be on the lookout for evidence of strychnine poisoning when he makes the autopsy. Goodnight.”

\n\n

I turned and nipped back down the path and got in the car, feverishly figuring it all out. if you try to do the same, Beverley, you’ll see it was a dashed ingenious idea. Strychnine poisoning causes convulsions, and is easy to detect, provided you happen to be looking for it.

\n\n

But are you likely to look for it when making a post-mortem examination of a mangled corpse — the obvious victim of a car crash?

\n\n

The convulsions rendered the man at the wheel helpless. Probably his leg stiffened so that his foot pressed down on the accelerator, and all he could do would be to hang on to the wheel like a drowning man clutching a straw. They must have visualised all that — and also the possibility of the car catching fire after the crash, so that all evidence of the real cause of death would be destroyed.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 6

\n\n

A Murderous Attack

\n\n

I sat behind the wheel for a moment or two, and as the guv’nor didn’t come I opened the door and looked up the path.

\n\n

What I saw gave me the prize scare of the century.

\n\n

Sellers had followed the guv’nor and pounced on him, thinking to hurl him over the ravine. I ought to have been on the lookout for some such move, and so, for that matter, ought the guv’nor. He was the one man who stood between them and their continued existence, and — well, people do sometimes fall into ravines in that district; it would have been fairly easy to pass the guv’nor’s death off as an accident in the dark.

\n\n

There were two things that Sellers hadn’t allowed for. One was the possibility of the guv’nor having somebody with him, and the other was the possibility of the guv’nor having the strength of about two ordinary men.

\n\n

Sellers was half a head taller than the guv’nor, and nearly a couple of stone heavier, but he was having a mighty rough time of it. They had both crashed through the fence and were struggling on the sloping, slippery ground which fell away to the cliff edge.

\n\n

Just for a second I stood holding my breath, for there seemed nothing to prevent the pair of ‘em going over.

\n\n

Then I got possession of myself again and I whipped back the car seat and seized a big spanner.

\n\n

I stood over the struggling pair, and when Sellers came uppermost I brought the spanner into play to perform its natural function. I loosened his nut for him!

\n\n

He would have gone bowling over the edge, his dead weight dragging the guv’nor along, too, but I managed to grab one of his ankles and dig my heels into the ground.

\n\n

The guv’nor scrambled to his feet and we got the unconscious bloke’s hands tied behind him.

\n\n

After some little thought we decided that it was our duty to take the pair of ‘em to the police station in our car. But the little drama was not yet played out.

\n\n

When he went back into the house the guv’nor found Mrs. Webster lying on the floor groaning.

\n\n

She had taken the strychnine that had been left over, and there was nothing we could do. She died in a very short space of time.

\n\n

I needn’t trouble you with the rest of the details of our night’s work, except to say that Mrs. Webster had scribbled a last frantic note on the telephone pad. It said: “The insurance was Mr. Sellers’ idea. He made me do it. Heaven forgive me.”

\n\n

Later a chemist, who saw Sellers’ photo in the paper, identified him as a man who had bought strychnine from him, signing some other name in the poison register.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 7

\n\n

The Pencilled Message

\n\n

The journalist had listened to this story with close interest, and as the young detective sat back and regarded him quizzically from under lowered lids, he frowned in perplexity.

\n\n

“But,” he said, “where does the gipsy come into it?”

\n\n

“Nowhere — so far as we are concerned,” grinned Tommy.

\n\n

Beverley showed signs of irritation.

\n\n

“I don’t quite get you. I can see that Hawke first got on to the scent when he saw those skid marks on the road. He realised that the driver had suddenly been taken ill in the car and he began searching for the cause of the illness. I don’t see what the gipsy had got to do with it.”

\n\n

“Neither do I.”

\n\n

“What are you driving at?”

\n\n

“The guv’nor didn’t have to concern himself with the gipsy. He’d done his job. He’d uncovered an insurance fraud and caught out a couple of murderers. He’s a criminologist, not a necromancer.”

\n\n

“What about the gipsy’s note? You say that had no bearing on the case.”

\n\n

“What I’ve told you, old man, is a matter-of-fact, materialistic crime story. That, for us, is the beginning and end of it. What you’re after is the Uncanny Experience aspect of it. You must give the gipsy a good write-up.”

\n\n

The exasperated reporter, conscious that Tommy was deliberately holding something back, at last hit on the vital question.

\n\n

“What was in the confounded letter?”

\n\n

“Ah! I’ve often wondered if the materialistic part of the story would have been any different if Webster had read it at the petrol-station. Whether that devastating secret of his would have been revealed to the world — “

\n\n

“What was in the letter?”

\n\n

“We never traced the gipsy, of course, and — “

\n\n

“I’ll give you one more chance,” said Beverley, beginning to pull off his coat, “before we make a rough-house of it. What was in the letter?”

\n\n

“The envelope contained a half sheet of notepaper, and on it was a pencilled message in block capitals. The message was: ‘YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO REACH YOUR DESTINATION.’”

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Just Half Smart", "author": "Verne Athanas", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

A Hunch About This Business

\n\n

The light panel delivery job was a smart piece of work. It wasn’t new enough to be noticeable, nor was it shabby. It showed signs of use, and it was lettered with a business-like and ambiguous company name. Eureka Distributing Company.

\n\n

It came wheeling out of an alleyway between two dark warehouses, running without lights, and Johnny Packer had to climb a curb to avoid a crash. Then he caught the tinny clamor of an alarm ringing inside one of the warehouses. The panel was nearly to the corner, doing maybe forty-five per, and picking up speed.

\n\n

“Well,” said Johnny softly, “what do you know when he reefed the coupe off the curb and tramped down on the accelerator.

\n\n

This could be the break he needed. Because, of all the lunatic coincidences, this was Johnny’s assignment of the moment. For thirty days he had been battering his stubborn head against this business of the warehouse thieves.

\n\n

He was a good cop, Johnny Packer. He came from the wrong side of town, to begin with, and he came up the hard way. He pounded a beat, and he drove a patrol car. He worked hard, and he got a few breaks, and he made the plainclothes division. He was a good cop, and the worst part of the job was the all-too-many times he had to bring in one of the boys he’d grown up with, over on the wrong side of town … .

\n\n

The panel job took the next corner on screeching rubber, and by the time Johnny had the coupe around it, he could see that the panel truck had lights now. Smart again. Even on this quiet street at this time of night, a car without lights would be noticed.

\n\n

Three blocks straight ahead the panel went, and then made a tight, noisy left turn. Johnny followed, wincing a little at the squeal of his tires. The panel was really rolling now, and had gained nearly half a block on him. They’d spotted his lights, obviously, for they wheeled into the next turn without the least slackening.

\n\n

“Well, all right,” he said to himself, and clamped his stubborn jaw as he juggled the wheel into the tight turn.

\n\n

He’d had a hunch about this business — well, maybe not so much a hunch as a shrewd bit of reasoning. This would be Squeaky Antle’s type racket. He knew Squeaky from way back, from the time they’d grown, up and fought together back in the old neighborhood.

\n\n

Squeaky was always the smart guy. Shooting the angles, playing the wise money. Smart enough to have done pretty well if he’d wanted to play it legit; half smart, Johnny always figured, because Squeaky wanted no part of the legit. That was for the suckers. Of course, it made a good front, which was why Squeaky owned a piece of a crummy amusement park with his brother-in-law.

\n\n

There’d been the little touches. Warehouse watchmen were conveniently absent, or asleep, when a job was pulled. Alarms failed to work. One watchman who went to the lavatory found himself locked in, without seeing who did it, and it was half an hour before he thought about shooting the lock out.

\n\n

Little touches like this panel truck now, with its innocuous lettering and its air of respectable usage.

\n\n

Johnny Packer made no attempt to keep his distance now that he was sure that they knew he was tailing them. He tooled the coupe with the touch he’d learned on the patrol car. There are ways of pinching off a car, if your nerve and skill holds. At fifty miles per, it takes nerve, too.

\n\n

At that, he was almost suckered. The tail light on the panel flared up as the driver hit the brakes, and the nose slewed for a narrow alleyway.

\n\n

Johnny wasn’t ready. He knew in that split second he couldn’t possibly make it, and he growled deep in his throat and yanked the wheel over, hard. He stabbed the brakes as he reefed the wheel, and he threw the coupe into a deliberate, fast broadslide. He threw himself sidelong on the seat at the last possible instant, and then they hit, in a jarring crash of smashing fenders. That hurt. This was his private car, and a plainclothesman’s pay won’t buy many fenders.

\n\n

Then he clawed open the door and hit the pavement, crouching low as he came around the turtleback of the coupe.

\n\n

“All right,” he said sharply, and he brought the Police Positive .38 out from under his arm. “Hold it right there!”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Shoot Out

\n\n

A black little .32 made a loud, unpleasant crash almost in his face, and he hit the ground rolling. The flash was blinding, and little flaring saucers dotted his vision. But he’d filled his hunch. That was Squeaky Antle’s face behind the gun.

\n\n

Johnny’s own shot tore the night apart as he rolled, and he heard the spiteful slap the lead made on the door of the panel. Then he heard the pound of feet in the alleyway. He rolled on to the nose of the panel, got his knees under him and fired again. He got a short frightened yell and a crash as one of them went down. Then the man screamed and screamed and screamed.

\n\n

Johnny said sharply around the radiator of the panel, “Throw the rod away.”

\n\n

“I dropped it,” the man howled. “Geez, I’m hit! I’m hit bad! I quit — don’t shoot no more!”

\n\n

Johnny risked the flashlight then, holding it at full arm’s length. His man was down, and one leg was spreading a puddle below the knee. His gun was lying three feet away.

\n\n

Johnny kicked the gun back toward the panel and took a quick look around. Then he dragged the man a couple of feet and cuffed one arm to a barred basement window. He cursed the time it took, for the running sound of Squeaky’s feet was only a faint murmur at the far end of the alley.

\n\n

“You’ll be all right,” he retorted shortly to his man’s protesting squealing. “There’ll be someone to check on this shooting in a few minutes.”

\n\n

He took the alleyway at a driving run, the urgency of finishing this tingling inside him. He knew Squeaky. Let him get clear, even for an hour, and he’d have an iron-clad alibi. He’d make a point of meeting Johnny later. And he’d grin, that tough wise grin of his, and maybe he’d put into words what his mocking eyes were saying.

\n\n

“Dumb flatfoot. Half smart, you call me.” And then he’d laugh. “What does that make you, flatfoot? I suckered you and where does that leave you?”

\n\n

He came to the end of the alley, and he deliberately let his feet slap hard on the asphalt. He slid to a stop just at the angle of the wall that marked the corner.

\n\n

Instantly the .32 lashed out from the side. The bullet spat brick dust from the wall, and then took up a high scream as it somersaulted out over the rooftops. Johnny let loose a return shot and heard his own bullet smack deep into the bricks across the way. Then he could hear Squeaky’s scuffling flight again.

\n\n

He turned the corner, crouching, and he took perhaps half a dozen running steps. Then the .32 blinked brightly at him again, and something took him by the arm and flung him against the wall. He leaned there, numb and vaguely sick, and suddenly very, very tired. Then the pain came, and it woke him up, sharp and demanding.

\n\n

“Bull-headed,” some said of Johnny; and “Tough flatfoot,” said some. Stubborn, he was, and a good cop, and now he shook his head and set his square chin, and again he pounded after Squeaky.

\n\n

He knew where Squeaky was heading now. It was only a block to Squeaky’s amusement park, and Squeaky could melt into a dozen hiding places there. A few minutes would be enough. By then he’d have ditched the gun, have a drink or two under his belt, and be sitting in a friendly poker game — where he’d been for hours. With witnesses. Johnny lengthened his stride.

\n\n

There was a gate, and then a flimsy door. The whole place was dark. Johnny tested the door and then lunged into it with his right shoulder. Something gave, and he crashed through.

\n\n

Dark. Black as pitch. Black as hell. And quiet. The loose flooring sighed gently under his feet, and it was the only sound in the building. But Squeaky was there. Somehow, he knew that Squeaky was there, and so was his flat little .32, and it was a damned uncomfortable sensation.

\n\n

He stood stock still for a moment, his ears alert to catch the faintest of sounds, but nothing came. He sidled up the hall, keeping close to the wall, but even here the boards whispered and sighed under his feet.

\n\n

Another door, and a sudden turn to the wall, and he stopped and cocked his head again. He thought of the flashlight in his hip pocket, but his right hand was filled with the Police Positive, and his whole left arm was a great jumping toothache. He felt a little budding of sweat on his forehead. Squeaky was in here.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

A Distorted Reflection

\n\n

Suddenly, blindingly, light burst all around him. Not ten feet away, facing him, was a ten-foot giant, a grotesque figure with a barrel chest and pipe-stem legs and an ape’s face, pointing a gun the size of a jug at him. He almost fired, before he saw what it was.

\n\n

It was his own reflection in a distorted mirror. They were all about him, making crazy senseless angles of the room. At the same instant, he heard the door click shut — a chilly sound, like the click of handcuffs, or the clack of a sprung trap.

\n\n

He swung around quickly. Nothing but more mirrors. No sense, no sane regularity to anything. Just his own reflection, peering at him from a dozen crazy angles, twisted, nightmarish. There was no door, any more.

\n\n

Then he heard Squeaky’s voice. Like the mirrors, it was unreal, distorted by the hidden microphone that fed the speaker somewhere over head.

\n\n

“All right,” Squeaky said, and some of the gasping from his hard run came through.

\n\n

“All right, you dumb flatfoot. You’re smart, you think. Well you’re not. You’re dumb — and you’re dead, you dumb, lard-headed flattie!”

\n\n

His voice took on a pointed jeering.

\n\n

“Come and get me, flatfoot! I’m right over here. No, wrong way, copper!” The speaker made flat jarring little sounds of laughter.

\n\n

“I can see you, Johnny Packer. And I’m going to kill you. But you don’t know from where. Front, back, side — you don’t know where I am, do you, flatfoot?”

\n\n

Again he laughed his jarring little laugh.

\n\n

Johnny turned slowly on his heel, the .38 ready in his right hand. And, the sweat popped afresh on his forehead.

\n\n

There was nothing. Just himself. Fat, over yonder, not over four feet tall, and nearly as wide. Tall again, there, but with legs that slanted to the side. Clubfooted, here, with shoulders resting on his hips and a neck three feet long, and a wide silly smile.

\n\n

In the corner, a nightmare version of the tailor’s pier-glass. In the center, himself, stocky, solid, crouching a little, with a bloody sleeve and a bulldog set to his jaw. To the left, a scrawny beanpole caricature, and on the right, a squat disdainful dwarf.

\n\n

His eyes caught there, and then he made them go on, and he made a slow turn on his heels, and he let his lips sag away from his teeth for a few seconds.

\n\n

“Better give up, Squeaky,” he said aloud, and even to himself his voice was dull and hopeless. Squeaky laughed.

\n\n

“Sweat, damn you!” he rasped savagely. “It won’t be for long.”

\n\n

“There’ll be cops here in a minute,” retorted Johnny desperately.

\n\n

“You won’t tell ‘em nothing, flatfoot.”

\n\n

Easy, said Johnny Packer to himself. Relax. Keep him talking. Don’t look too long at any one spot. Keep moving. He suddenly felt a crawling spot between his shoulder blades.

\n\n

Squeaky’s voice was tightening. He was screwing himself up to killing pitch, and it showed in his voice.

\n\n

“All right, flatfoot,” came his rasp, “get ready to take it!”

\n\n

The slick metallic sound of the safety catch being clicked off came over the speaker.

\n\n

Johnny croaked wordlessly, and backed up, letting the panic show on his face, and his eyes rolled wildly from side to side. Then quite suddenly, he swung the Police Positive in a short, quarter-arc and pumped his last three shots into the corner where the three mirrors angled together.

\n\n

The speaker squawked hoarsely, and then set up a penetrating buzz. Glass jingled musically to the floor, and then Squeaky Antle came through, rolling forward as he hunched his shoulders and hugged both arms to his belly. He crashed down amid the mirror fragments, and kicked twice. Then he was dead.

\n\n

Johnny Packer told it to his chief, in his verbal report:

\n\n

“Like I always claimed, Squeaky was only half smart. He had me sewed up in a sack, and ready to dump, but he had to brag a little. I figured he had to be behind a two-way mirror. You know, one of those trick things you can see through from the back, while the guy in front only sees his reflection.”

\n\n

The chief nodded.

\n\n

“Well, I had time to take a good gander. I turned clear around, and I looked at every mirror in the room. That one in the corner was the only one that didn’t make a monkey out of me. In it, I looked natural. So that’s the one I shot up. A little rough on Squeaky.”

\n\n

“Johnny,” said the chief, “you’re a good cop.”

\n\n

“Just half smart,” said Johnny modestly.

\n\n

THE END

\n"" ] , [ "title": "She Who Laughed Last", "author": "Richard Huzarski", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

Shadows

\n\n

I didn’t sleep well that night. A man my age seldom sleeps well. Captain Emery’s raving and groaning in the next room kept me awake. But I couldn’t understand a word he said. Maybe there were no words, maybe they were foreign. The man had traveled and studied a lot.

\n\n

I finally dozed off, but a while later a scream woke me up. I propped myself on my elbow and looked out. The moon was high over the sea, and lighted our grounds brightly. Near the park wall a girl was running — running fast.

\n\n

She screamed again. Not so loud this time. Perhaps she didn’t want to wake up the “Home,” or maybe she was so frightened her throat was tight. I couldn’t say. But right away I found an explanation. That girl must be the new gatekeeper’s wife. The fellow must have been drinking again, and was chasing her.

\n\n

She disappeared behind the lilacs then, and I would have forgotten all about it, except that all at once I thought I saw a head with a pair of short, curved horns floating over a bush. After that something awfully low and broad streaked after her across an open space.

\n\n

Funny, the way those shadows will take queer shapes at night, I told myself, and waited for her to show up from around the shrubbery. But she never did. The gatekeeper must have caught up with her, I decided, and had taken her back to his house.

\n\n

But the memory of those “shadows” kept me thinking. If it weren’t for my bum leg I’d have got up to take a look, but I couldn’t. And I didn’t feel like waking anybody else, just to make a fool of myself by butting in on a family squabble. I finally fell asleep.

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

The Gatekeeper’s Wife

\n\n

In the morning Yorgo Sarafoglou came to help me up. That leg of mine where a shark had stripped some muscle is all right once I’m on it, but getting up by myself is impossible.

\n\n

“Did you hear anything queer last night, Yorgo?” I asked him.

\n\n

“If you mean Captain Emery’s raving, Captain Williams, I sure did. Couldn’t understand any of it though, except the name of a woman he kept repeating. Sounded Greek to me.”

\n\n

I thought Yorgo was joking, seeing how he’s Greek himself, and I meant to tell him a dying man’s a poor joke. But what kind of humor can you expect from a man who’s been a cook on a sponging schooner? “Calm Bay Home” for disabled sailors disregards former rankings. We got to tolerate each other. Besides, Yorgo had seemed dead serious when he said it.

\n\n

“There’s something else,” he added, dusting off my uniform with his one good arm. “I’m not supposed to tell you, but you’d find out anyway. There’s been a murder. The gatekeeper’s wife.”

\n\n

“The gatekeeper’s done it,” I said with conviction.

\n\n

“Nope, Captain Williams. The guy was drinking with the janitor and the cook when it happened. Perfect alibi. Besides, a man didn’t kill her. No man could have — like that.”

\n\n

“What do you mean?” I said, and something cold began to crawl up my spine.

\n\n

“She’s horribly ripped to shreds. Ripped by animal tusks. A big animal, the policeman said, after he covered her up. The tusks were no less than three inches long, and sharp. Not even the cap could guess what it might’ve been. And there are queer prints we found on the path and the beach. Cloven feet, Captain. As I live and breathe. Real big ones.”

\n\n

He looked at me sort of confidentially.

\n\n

“You suppose the Sea Devil come back? I’ve heard — “

\n\n

“Sea Devil, my eye!”

\n\n

I hobbled past him to the refectory. I meant to tell Commissioner Guire of what I’d seen in the night, and I wanted to ask Doc Gillen how Emery was. But Guire was out, probably with the police, and Doc Gillen started talking before I could ask him anything.

\n\n

“You’re a pretty good friend of Emery’s, Captain Williams,” he said. “You should call on him.”

\n\n

“Is he any better, Doc?”

\n\n

Right away I knew that was a dumb question. How can you expect a man to get better when he’s eighty, and sclerosis plugs his veins up with lime, till his legs get to swelling bigger and bigger, and he’s too weak to stand an operation?

\n\n

The doc shook his head.

\n\n

“You may cheer him up a bit, now that he’s conscious. Try it, anyway.”

\n\n

I figured what I had to tell the commissioner would keep, while Emery maybe wouldn’t. So I got Captain Gustafson — at Calm Bay we’re all captains — to come with me to see the sick man.

\n\n

We didn’t know it then, but Doc Gillen had been wrong. Emery wasn’t conscious. He couldn’t have been, judging by the crazy yarn he told us. At least, that’s what Gustafson thinks. I’m not so sure.

\n\n

When we came in Miss Stenger, the nurse, was propping Emery’s shrunken body in the hammock bed he’d woven himself. His eyes were closed as always, for he was blind.

\n\n

Only today the scars over his lids and sockets stood out red and ugly with fever.

\n\n

“Morning, Captain Williams — how are you, Captain Gustafson?” he greeted us weakly.

\n\n

It gave me the creeps to think that this blind man could tell us from six hundred others by our tread only. I hobbled to a chair where his blue uniform with foul-anchor buttons was hanging. Gustafson cupped his big hands where his ears used to be, one ripped off by a Spanish bullet at Manila, the other by a yataghan on the Mediterranean. He would hear a bit better this way, but not too good.

\n\n

I tried to think of something cheerful, to say.

\n\n

“Understand you was having dreams last night, Captain Emery. Talking with a lady friend most of the time.”

\n\n

I had to say it loud for Gustafson’s sake, and because the sea was beating hard at the cliffs right past Emery’s window.

\n\n

The sick man jerked up. And all at once I knew it was the wrong thing to say. His thin hands started shaking all over the hammock cover of his own scrimshaw work.

\n\n

“A lady!” he screeched, and there was something queer, birdlike in his voice. “Did I call her? What was her name? No! No! For God’s sake, don’t say it! Don’t ever mention it!”

\n\n

Miss Stenger came toward him, but he was already quiet. His head slipped down on the pillow, and now I saw how his face had swollen overnight, making his small hooked nose look even smaller, sharper. Like a beak.

\n\n

“It’s over,” he whispered. “All over. Give me death. Quick, clean death. Before she — “

\n\n

The sea drowned the rest. The sea that had maimed us, and cast us like useless jetsam here into Calm Bay, was still reaching for us, trying to destroy us.

\n\n

“Don’t ever mention her, men,” Emery moaned. “Don’t ever call her name. If you do, she’ll come, and you … But you won’t. Not after I tell you about her. You won’t dare then.”

\n\n

He paused, as if listening to the sea, or to Miss Stenger’s even breathing

\n\n

from the arm-chair. She was asleep there already after the night’s vigil. He started to talk, then. And this is the story he told …

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Back to Top
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Chapter 3

\n\n

The Captain’s Tale

\n\n

I was on the Principessa, under Captain Noregard. It doesn’t matter how I got on her. I’ve been a lot of places since I ran away from the divinity school in Boston. Too much Latin, too much Greek in school for me. Out I went, and kept going till I found myself on the Principessa.

\n\n

She flew the Rumanian flag and had a steady run between Constantinople and Piraeus in Greece, and what she carried for cargo only her captain knew. You’d see him bring on a small box in the Golden Horn at Constantinople. Then we’d nose her through the Marmora and the Dardanelles into the Aegean.

\n\n

In Piraeus he’d walk off the ship with that box. That was all. I used to wonder about it. Smuggled jewelry, opium — you couldn’t tell. But I got paid well for tending the steam engine. That was one of the first steam engines on those waters.

\n\n

Everything went smoothly till one spring night a Turkish coast guard took after us. A funny hybrid, with one stack and three masts. Maybe she could have caught us, maybe not. Anyway, she fired a four-pounder across our bow.

\n\n

Noregard yelled for full speed ahead and turned south. A cold wind was blowing in from the Black Sea, chasing up thick yellow fog. You know how many islands there are in the south Aegean. We could have hidden among them from the whole British fleet, except that after awhile the coast guard fired again — a lucky shot. We didn’t have time enough to find out if it was our boiler explosion that killed most of the crew, or if the shell did. There wasn’t time to think.

\n\n

We took to the life-boat, all that was left of us. Captain Noregard, a Greek stoker, a fat Turk who kept counting amber beads and mumbling, an Armenian about as young as I was, but taller, and myself. The Greek and I took the first shift at the oars. The skipper was at the helm, but you could tell he didn’t know where he was going and didn’t care as long as he got away from the coast guard.

\n\n

All night we rowed, bailing out what the waves splashed in over the gunwales. By morning we saw the island. It wasn’t big. Mostly green, coppery rock and, like on all of them, some Judas trees in bloom, and wild grapes beyond the beach.

\n\n

“What place is this?” I asked.

\n\n

Noregard couldn’t tell, but just then we turned a small peninsula, and the Greek stoker got up, his hairy hand pointed at something on the shore, and it seemed as if his face turned to ice suddenly, so white and blue it got. I looked where he pointed. There wasn’t much to see. A tiny chapel hewed right in the rock, small columns, steps, and all. You could see such columns, only bigger, lying all over the Acropolis, and the Aegean islands are full of old Greek shrines.

\n\n

Just then the Greek began to screech:

\n\n

“Not here, Captain! Turn back! Don’t land here!”

\n\n

That was darn queer, asking us to turn back to the coast guard, and the sea that was swelling. And us with neither food nor water.

\n\n

“Sit down, Nick,” the captain said.

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But it was plain that the Greek was out of his head. He jumped at Noregard and tried to tear him away from the rudder. And all the time he was yelling, “Turn back!” and looking at the shrine.

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Chapter 4

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She

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Noregard tried to push him off, but you can’t argue with insanity. The third time Nick came up at the captain, the captain’s gun came up faster. The Greek splashed backward into a wave. His head bobbed up once. I’d expected him to scream or beg or fight, but that big face of his was smiling.

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He said, “Thanks, Captain,” and went under for good.

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We landed right after that. Not by the shrine, but farther toward the village that showed up, stuck to the cliffs. The people who lived there must have heard Noregard’s shot, for men were piling out, and then we knew we were in for it.

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Lazzes, every last one of them, descendants of the Levantine corsairs. You could tell by the red sashes they wore, with knives and flintlock pistols stuck in. A mean breed, fishing only when they couldn’t rob.

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They came toward us, slowly and silently. The captain reached for his gun, but still they kept coming. There was one funny thing about that crowd — it wasn’t made up of men alone. Their animals were mixed in. Shoulder to shoulder with the Lazzes stalked their horses and dogs and cats. It gave us the creeps to see them slinking along without a sound.

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The captain had his gun out when suddenly a young bull broke loose from among them and charged full speed at us, his horns low. We turned and ran along the beach, all four of us. The young Armenian was first, then the Turk and I. Noregard, the oldest, was behind. The crowd wasn’t silent now. Howling, barking, neighing, men and animals tore after us.

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It couldn’t last long, not with the animals running us down. A big black dog tangled with my feet. I plowed headfirst into the sand, turned over just in time to give him a chance to spring at my throat. Noregard fired, and the dog went up squealing. There was no fight left in him when he hit the ground. His squeal changed to a low moan that sounded funny for a dog.

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I started running again, with Noregard’s bullets whistling past me as he tried to stop the bull. The Turk was tearing the biggest cat I’ve ever seen off his fat neck.

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I glanced back to see how close the pack was, and something colder than fear squeezed at my stomach. Where the wounded dog had fallen now there was a man, groaning and jerking. Maybe the captain’s bullet had got him and he had fallen there on top of the animal. But the bull was too close behind me to think about it any more.

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The crowd, beasts and men, had formed a crescent, the fastest of them at the points, trying to close in on us, pressing us toward the peninsula. They would have cornered us there easily, except that the little temple caught the young Armenian’s eye. I don’t know what power guided him to it, but there he ran, and we followed.

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And then, all of a sudden, laughter came to us over the howling pursuit. A woman’s laughter. She was standing between the columns at the shrine’s portico. I’ve never seen anyone stop so fast as those Lazzes stopped. They fell to their knees. That is, the men did. The animals just stopped, looking at the men who were continuously beating salaams on the sand.

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The woman started down the stairway, still laughing, her eyes on the Armenian. I slowed down. Maybe I was too tired to run fast, maybe something warned me not to approach that woman. I can’t tell. I only knew I wished then that I were back in the divinity school, studying dead languages and theology.

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She was close to the Armenian. No one said a word. We were too breathless from our flight, too breathless from this beauty of hers. She wore a single white robe that fell in folds, covering her feet, so that she seemed to float instead of walk. And she was tall, taller than I, and blond, which is rare for the Levant these days.

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We looked into her eyes, as blue as the Aegean water where the ship’s screw churns it. So beautiful they were that we didn’t even see all the evil in them — not till later. The Lazzes were still salaaming behind us, but we’d nearly forgotten about them.

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The woman began speaking. I didn’t catch on at first. But it came to me suddenly. She was speaking, Greek. No, not the jargon in which the money changers in Constantinople try to outshout each other. This was the old Homeric Greek, the Greek of the heroes and the gods.

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I guess I was the only one who could understand.

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“You run fast,” she said to the Armenian, and her eyes were burning into the lad. “Fast and graceful — like an antelope.”

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Then she smiled at him and started backing away. There was nothing on his face but admiration. Without a word he followed her up the stone stairway and through the portico.

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They disappeared inside. We could hear their voices, hers laughing, his imploring.

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Captain Noregard tried to smile at me.

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“Love at first sight,” he said, and I knew from the twisted grin, from the unsteadiness of his voice, that he was jealous enough to curse.

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“I wonder who she is?” I remarked. “Do you suppose she’s a priestess of some kind?”

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He shrugged his shoulders, and just then the Armenian’s voice in the temple stopped. In its place sharp sounds came to us, like the clicking of hard hoofs upon the stones.

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“I’m wet and hungry,” the fat Turk said. “Do you think she’d feed us if we asked?”

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“We can see,” said Noregard. “Let’s go in.”

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It was a good idea for, with the woman’s disappearance, the Lazzes got up from their knees and they and their animals came closer.

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But we didn’t find her. We thought she might have gone to a grove of olives that we could see on the other side of the temple, past a stone fountain. From the marble basin below that fountain a big antelope, the kind with short, curved horns, was drinking.

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“You run fast — like an antelope.”

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The woman’s words came back to me as I watched the graceful creature. I guess he was the tamest antelope I’ve ever seen. He just looked up at our approach, then came to us. It gave me the creeps, the way he stared, and it set me thinking.

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The Turk reached for his knife.

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“Maybe a steak. Captain?” He waited for approval.

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Chapter 5

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The Eyes

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Something worse than seasickness hit my stomach at his words. I grabbed his arm as the animal looked at me. Those eyes — I never could forget them! There was so much sadness in them they seemed ready to cry.

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The captain saw it too.

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“Let’s wait for her,” he said. “The Lazzes aren’t coming any closer. Maybe the place is taboo for them. We’ll ask the woman about grub when she comes back. I hope she comes soon.”

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Poor, foolish Captain Noregard. He didn’t know what he was hoping for.

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I sat on a stone and the antelope came to me. It made me feel funny, the way he nuzzled at my shoulder, as if he were trying to tell me something. I was thinking of the things I’d studied back in school, and watching the fat Turk. But the hunger had gone out of his pudgy face as he looked at the animal. And slowly fear crept into his eyes. Maybe he, too, had read the Odyssey. Maybe someone had told him of the witch who changed Ulysses’ men into beasts.

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But what was I thinking of? I — a man of some learning. I tried to laugh, but the antelope nudged me harder, and I couldn’t.

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“Emery, you fool,” I could only say to myself. “Forget these crazy thoughts. This animal is just tame. That’s all. The Armenian and the woman are having a good time somewhere in the olives. It doesn’t make sense the other way. Nothing fits. Not even the name those dumb Lazzes called her by. It isn’t the same, Emery.”

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But then, names change through the ages, get corrupted. Homer might have had it wrong.

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“Where the devil did they go?” Captain Noregard grumbled, and the jealousy was still gritting in his voice.

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His big fingers played with the gun that had a shot or two left in it. He looked ugly, with his short black beard matted and wet from the sea.

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The Turk was shaking harder and harder — maybe from the morning chill. Finally he picked up some twigs and branches and started himself a fire by the fountain. But that didn’t help him.

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He was still shaking when the woman came out of the grove. The Armenian wasn’t with her, and I didn’t ask her where he was. I was afraid of what she might tell me.

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The captain jumped to his feet at the sight of her. But she looked at the Turk and burst into a peal of silvery laughter.

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“You big fat pig!” she said, and laughed again. “You big fat shivering pig.”

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Those huge blue eyes of hers were on him across the fire, and he backed away. But he didn’t back far, for her eyes caught his and stopped him. I saw him strain to break away. A strong, heavy man pulling like a newly caught Indian elephant at his chain. He couldn’t make it. Then he reached for his knife, but his fingers opened the moment he grasped it. It fell to the ground by the fire, as step by step he went toward her, and she began to lead him toward the grove.

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That was too much for Noregard. Jealous rage got the best of him. He whipped up his gun and sprang between her and the Turk. Maybe he would’ve shot the fat man, but she stepped in front of the captain, and her eyes caught his. She smiled understandingly at him, which was enough to make him drop his gun.

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“Why is the black-haired man angry?” her rich voice lilted. “Does the black-haired one with bristles on his face like a hedgehog want to come with me, too?”

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Chapter 6

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The Boar and the Hedgehog

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THE captain couldn’t understand her words. He didn’t have to. That flowing movement of her body, that age-old beckoning of her eyes were plain enough. Side by side with the Turk he went.

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It was then that I couldn’t stand it any longer. I couldn’t stay alone with the antelope, the sea, the Lazzes, and my own doubts. I couldn’t stay and wait — for what?

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“Captain Noregard — stop!” I yelled, and started running after him.

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He wasn’t a big man, but a hard, close-knit one. Without even taking his eyes off her he struck me with his forearm. I reeled back and stumbled. The stone balustrade of the fountain caught me on the temple. For a moment I heard the woman’s laughter growing wilder and wilder. Then the sun went out….

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The antelope’s rough tongue on my cheek brought me to. One look at him and I remembered where I was, and knew that I had to get away. But where?

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Now that the captain had drawn the Lazzes’ blood, now that the woman was gone, they wouldn’t stop at robbery. They would kill me as slowly and painfully as only they could. The sea? The hope to live was strong in me, for I was young. Perhaps I could sneak through the grove, past the woman.

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I picked up the Turk’s knife and crept among the olives. There weren’t many of them. I could see right through the grove as soon as I was in it. Nothing but cliffs behind it. One steep wall of cliffs where an earthquake had once sheared the island.

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And something else I saw — something that sent me running back faster than I came. In a small clearing she was sitting by a marble amphora like the ones I’d seen in the museums. From a shallow goblet she was drinking a liquid that was red and sticky. And she kept smiling as she watched a huge boar chasing a little hedgehog in front of her. Murder was burning in the boar’s mean, bloodshot eyes. The hedgehog’s black quills stood up on edge defensively around the cringing body that was smaller than a rabbit’s.

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There was really no fight at all. There couldn’t have been. Maybe the quills did hurt the boar when his tusks closed on that little animal. I don’t know. I turned away, sickened by the crunching of thin bones.

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The woman hadn’t noticed me yet, but I couldn’t reach the cliffs. If a twig snapped under me, if she turned her head, she would see me. Then she would look at me, and I was sure our eyes would meet, and after that … Yes, if our eyes met I’d become —

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Suddenly I knew what I had to do. It was ghastly, but it didn’t frighten me — not half as much as the thought of the antelope, the boar, the hedgehog, and the Lazzes’ animals.

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I went back to the fire that was still smoldering. A few more dry sticks brought it to life. Then I thrust the Turk’s knife into the flames. Fast! I had to be fast, before she tired of her sport, before she came for me. The blade got sooty at first, then started to glow. When it was cherry red I took it out.

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My hand shook terribly, but I closed my eyes and touched the flat side of the knife to my lids. Oh, yes, it hurt — hurt so that I wished I’d lose consciousness.

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Chapter 7

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Call For Me

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Maybe I would have, but I heard steps — her light steps. She was coming from behind me, and couldn’t see my face even when she stopped.

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“Don’t you want to come with me?” she asked. “Don’t you want to belong to me, like the others?”

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I didn’t answer. How could I, with that pain and the fear?

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That must have made her angry.

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“Look at me,” she ordered, and for the first time the lilt was gone from her voice. “Look at me, little man. After you do, you’ll follow me and drink my red wine of — “

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I turned my face slowly. She must have seen the burned wounds on my eyelids for she broke off abruptly, and it made me glad to know that I had won, that she couldn’t reach me. So glad that I tried to laugh. It was a gasping, agony-distorted laugh. I stopped, for when she spoke again the lilt was back in her voice.

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“You’re wise,” she mocked. “Wise as an old owl. You think you have outwitted me. For the time, maybe you have. But you have seen me, heard my voice. Though your eyes are gone, before the eyes of your soul you’ll carry my image as long as you live, and you’ll long for me. And when your longing gets so bad you can stand it no more, you’ll call for me. I’ll come then, and bring your friends with me. And then you’ll become — “

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I don’t remember the rest. The pain in my eyeballs tore at my brain. Crawling on my hands and knees, I got away from the place, away from her. On, on — any place.

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The Lazzes must have found me later. I don’t know when or how. There is some nobility left in that old race, it seems. Fighting and running, I’d been their foe. But now that I was blind, they didn’t harm me. Later on that summer, when their barrels were full of herring, they sent me with the fishing fleet to Constantinople where the American consul …

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* * * * *

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Miss Stenger, the nurse, woke up suddenly and jumped from the rocking chair.

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“Captain Williams — Captain Gustafson!” she cried. “You shouldn’t have let him talk so much. He’s tired out. Go away now, please. He must have rest.”

\n\n

We went out slowly while she lowered Emery onto his pillows. Outside, Gustafson looked at me sadly and shook his head, his big hands still cupped around his earholes.

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“Emery must be going fast. I didn’t hear all he said, but what I did hear proves he’s out of his mind. I’m going to miss him a lot, poor fellow.”

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Chapter 8

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He’s Gone

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We parted there. I didn’t feel like discussing Emery by shouting into Gustafson’s cupped hand. I did a lot of thinking during the day, though, and tried to get hold of Commissioner Guire to tell him about Emery’s story and the shadows I had seen the night before. But Guire was busy with the police who had come to investigate about the gatekeeper’s wife. So I gave it up. He probably wouldn’t have believed me, anyhow.

\n\n

I didn’t sleep well that night, tossing and thinking. Once I thought I heard a woman’s laugh. It might have been my dreams, or maybe it was Miss Stenger, though I couldn’t see why she would laugh beside a dying man.

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Then, early in the morning, a scream woke me out of a doze. Of course, I couldn’t get up by myself, though I tried to. I had to wait for Yorgo.

\n\n

“What was all the screaming about?” I asked. “How’s Captain Emery?”

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“He’s gone,” said Yorgo, and reached for my uniform.

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“What do you mean? Did he die?” I liked old Emery a lot. Maybe that’s why my voice sounded so hopeful.

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“I guess so,” Yorgo replied. “Last night Miss Stenger snoozed off, she claims. When she woke up toward morning the screen on the window was torn out and Emery was missing. He must have crawled out and fallen off the cliffs into the sea. Though how he did it with both legs dead I can’t tell.

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“And a funny thing, Captain Williams. The night light in his room being on, and the screen out, a big owl must have flown in. It scared Miss Stenger so she yelled when she woke up. Took me quite a while to chase the blooming bird out. It beat around the walls for a long time, as if it couldn’t find it’s way. And when I finally pushed it out with a broom, it flew straight away over the sea. It seemed to be blind. But then, it was pretty light already, and all owls are blind in daylight.”

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I intended to tell him he was wrong, that normal owls see in daytime almost as well as at night, in spite of popular belief. But what was the use of arguing with someone who had been a cook on a Greek sponger?

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THE END

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\n"" ] , [ "title": "Bulling the Bulls", "author": "Walter Scott Story", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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Seat Engaged?

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Young Ryan looked down the Worcester platform through the canyon formed by the mail and express cars. Catching the desired final signal, he passed the word to his chief, Carruthers.

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Carruthers unthrottled the giant at his command; and the long heavy Boston express got under way, with a deep and mighty puffing of the engine, the dull grind of its reluctant wheels, the clank of trucks and the clink-clank of the couplings as each preceding coach began to move and communicated motion to the following.

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As the train gathered way rapidly — fifteen minutes behind schedule on its way to Boston — a tall man in a dark blue suit emerged from somewhere among the clutter of trunks and crates and bales and, running alongside of the smoking car, grasped the rail of the end of the car and after a few paces swung himself aboard, going swiftly up the steps and entering the coach.

\n\n

He passed up the car looking from left to right. The car was exceedingly crowded, some men sitting on the arm rests of the seats, and even then in the middle of the afternoon it was almost dusky because of tobacco smoke.

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The tall man went up the car slowly, but saw no vacant seat. There were two or three groups of card players, but, notwithstanding this, all the seats seemed to be taken. The traveler who had made the train by the skin of his teeth, as the saying is, passed the groups of players and went on.

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The fourth seat from the front of the coach on the right-hand side was occupied by but one person — a stout, sleek, prosperous-looking man of fifty or thereabouts, dressed in a neat gray suit and wearing a mouse-colored fedora. At this seat, the tall man halted.

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“Seat engaged?” he asked.

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The other man looked up and smiled slightly in good humor. He had a merry, but very keen blue eye, and his face had a healthy glow of red and tan — the face of an outdoor man or of a business man who is faithful to his golf. He shook his head and moved in a trifle farther toward the window.

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The tall man sat down and relaxed, leaning his trim, broad shoulders back against the seat. He was a fine-looking man between thirty-five and forty, with a hawk-like, yet boyish face. After a covert scrutiny of his seatmate from deep-set, keen dark eyes, he drew down his felt hat somewhat over his forehead and seemed to compose himself for a nap.

\n\n

While he sat in this position with his eyes closed, the stout man looked him over, studying his face and clothes — apparently puzzled. The tall, athletic man was neatly dressed, but, somehow or other, he seemed to give his clothes distinction and seemed not to get from the clothes the setting proper for such a trim, handsome fellow.

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The forward door of the coach opened, and the conductor, spectacles perched on the top of his nose, came in, followed by an assistant.

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When the door opened, Durkee, the tall man, opened his eyes and began leisurely to reach into his pockets for ticket or money. From the first pocket his hand came out empty, and an odd expression came across his face. He sat upright and hastily, but without flurry, searched for the necessary tender. Presently, he gave a shrug of the shoulders and sat back. He was a man of the world — that was clear — but, notwithstanding, he was mentally squirming as the conductor, a grizzled-haired man with a stiletto eye and a very short, but polite tongue, collected from one man and then another.

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Durkee gave an inaudible breath of embarrassment and vexation as the official at length stood next to him, actually touching him as he leaned over to give a mere glance at the stout man’s punched slip tucked in the hold in the seat ahead.

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“Ticket, sir,” said the conductor,

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Durkee looked up, a slight smile on his dark, handsome face.

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“I came away in a hurry,” he said, “and I haven’t a red cent on me as far as I can find.”

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There was just a moment of silence, and Durkee felt that embarrassment which any roan, no matter how practiced a traveler he may be, feels when he is without funds and left to the mercy of a man who daily has to judge between humbugs and innocents.

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“We stop at Framingham, sir, I’m sorry, but” —

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“Beg pardon,” interposed the stout man, turning to Durkee with a smile. “Where you going?”

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“Boston?” answered Durkee.

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“What’s the tax, Doctor?” inquired the stout man, blandly.

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The conductor named the price and prepared a rebate slip and passed it to the stout man when he had paid Durkee’s fare.

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“I haven’t even my watch on,” said Durkee when the conductor had passed on. “I’m very much obliged to you.”

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“Don’t mention it, my friend. I’ve been in similar predicaments.”

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They conversed for a little while on general topics of the time — cautious on the subject of politics — but presently lapsed into silence and rode on for ten or fifteen minutes without speaking.

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“Live in Boston?” asked Grant, breaking the silence.

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“No,” returned Durkee. His tone was not of rebuff, but he volunteered no information about himself.

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“By the way,” he said, at length, “if you’ll give me your name and address, I’ll send you my fare.”

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Mr. Grant waved his hand and uttered a little laugh.

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“That’s all right,” he said.

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“It’s not all right,” declared the other, mildly emphatic. “There’s no reason why you should pay my fare.”

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Mr. Grant half turned and looked his seatmate over with a marvelously quick glance.

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“If that’s the way you feel about it, Mister,” he said slowly, “it may be you can do a little bit of a favor for me.”

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Durkee in his turn eyed his seat-mate again in a furtive manner, his deep-set, sharp eye missing nothing. A little curve appeared at the corners of his mouth — but went quickly away.

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“The fact is, I’m in a mean little fix,” said Grant. “I suppose I can rest in confidence upon your word of secrecy if you don’t care to help me?”

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“Yes — if I pass my word,” responded Durkee.

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“And do you pass the word?” asked the other, quickly.

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“Yes.”

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“Well, this is the case. Maybe you’ve heard of the Pelton bank robbery a few days ago?”

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“No,” said Durkee. “Don’t recall hearing about it.”

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The stout man looked surprised, seemed about to say something, then apparently changed his line of thought and speech.

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“Well, there was one there, and they say the robbers got away with about — I think about twenty thousand, or something like that. There was a lot of talk about some of the town police being mixed up in the business, and some of the — er, officers are in a peck of trouble over it.”

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“All news to me,” asserted the tall man, carelessly.

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“The truth is, Mister, I’m one of the officers there in Pelton, and definite charges have been made against me. In fact, confidentially, I was to be arrested, and I’m on my way to Boston to see some friends — high-up fellows who can do things. See?”

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“Yes.”

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“As I say, the fellows are out to ‘get’ me — it’s a frame-up back there, you see; — and I got a feeling that I may be pinched in the South Station. Now, you can see — any man of good sense knows how these things go — that if I don’t get to my friends first I’ll be in a pretty pickle. That’d be a trump play against me. I don’t want to be caught in Boston and sidetracked and have it come out in the Boston papers and copied at home.”

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“I don’t blame you,” commented Durkee, looking at the other from the corner of his eye, a thrill running through him.

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“No, I don’t think anybody can blame me,” said Grant — “anybody who knows about politics. Now, the idea that came to me was this — that you and I put on a pair of handcuffs and give those fellows the slip in the station, just as if you were taking me down. Get the idea?”

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“Yes, but I don’t carry such articles with me — not as a rule,’’ responded Durkee, with a grin.

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“Well, I always do, of course. Do you think you could help me, through the crowd, taking the part of an officer conducting me to the authorities?”

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Durkee smiled, looking at the other covertly with a queer light back in his keen eyes.

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“Suppose I can’t bluff the thing through, my friend, if you’re right and someone’s waiting for you? — what then?”

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Grant turned and looked squarely at him for an instant.

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During that instant all the humor was absent from his blue eyes, in its place a hard, very hard look.

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Then he laughed shortly, that odd gleam disappearing.

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“Why,” he said, at length, “I’ll release you and do the best I can.”

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“They might hold me under the circumstances. Couldn’t blame them much. It’s pretty risky, Mister, I should say.”

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Grant looked out of the window for a few moments and then turned back to the other, failing to see the look of satisfaction or triumph — or whatever it was — that passed over Durkee’s face.

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“I shall be glad to give you say, fifty dollars, young man. I mean, of course, this in addition to your fare,” he supplemented, jokingly.

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“I don’t see that it can do much harm, anyway,” remarked Durkee, rather carelessly. “The only danger is that they might make things unpleasant for me.”

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“Oh, I’ll see that you don’t get in wrong, anyway.”

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“Well, then, I’ll try to help you out,” promised Durkee. “Got ‘em?”

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After a careful glance about. Grant produced a pair of handcuffs. He clicked one hold on his left wrist, and then Durkee, after a slight hesitation, linked his thin, sinewy, long-fingered hand to the other’s.

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In this fashion they rode the rest of the way to Boston, avoiding the subject which linked them together and chatting casually on various matters of interest to ordinary citizens.

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Chapter 2

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Huntington Station

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The express stopped at Huntington Station. A few people got off, and a few got on. Two broad-shouldered, keen-eyed men, obviously together, came into the smoking-car by way of the forward door and came down looking from left to right. They noted Grant and Durkee and the bond that held them, and without comment passed on, swiftly, but in a very business-like way.

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“No one I know,” announced Grant, as the two went on after the first glance.

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He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, but Durkee perceived that he was really much relieved. The train got under way after a very short stop and sped on, finally coming to journey’s end under the mammoth shed of South Station.

\n\n

Durkee and Grant descended promptly from the smoker and went up to the shed with the crowd. The tide of people converged and narrowed as it approached the gate of the shed and, passing through the entrance, spread out into the open space and began immediately to lose its entity among the throng scurrying here and there in every direction.

\n\n

As Durkee and Grant passed through the gateway and bore off to the left, neither hurrying nor lagging, a burly, ruddy-faced man in dark clothes came from the fence — noting them as soon as they issued from the shed.

\n\n

“Well, well — hello, Kelly,” he said, mockingly jovial, but with an under-note of real and intense satisfaction, and as he gave the greeting he grasped Mr. Grant by the arm, apparently ready for trouble, as if he knew something about the peculiar light that could shine in the other’s eyes.

\n\n

At the same moment he noticed Durkee and the bond between him and the stout man he addressed as Kelly. He lifted his eyebrows in surprise and favored Durkee with a steady and half-hostile look.

\n\n

As this man accosted and touched Grant, another big man of the same cut approached from another direction and joined the trio, a little grin coming to his face as he saw Grant.

\n\n

“Hello, Kelly,” said this newcomer, speaking very much as the other stranger had spoken. “At last!”

\n\n

“Hello, Moran,” returned Mr. Grant, with composure.

\n\n

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” put in Durkee, promptly and courteously, “but it’s hands off for you. Nothing doing at all. I got Kelly for the First National break in Portland two years ago. Lighted on him in Worcester by accident. Sorry” — a tantalizing slight grin came on his hawk-like face — “but you can come up and have him in just about twelve years.”

\n\n

The first burly man drew back a pace, scowling. Then he shrugged his broad shoulders resignedly and used strong language feelingly.

\n\n

Kelly, for his part, shot a quick glance at the man whose fare he had paid, his blue eyes like rapier points; but after that look he glanced at the disappointed Boston men and laughed at them.

\n\n

“Tough luck, boys,” said Durkee, “but you can have him when we’re through. Come on, old bird.”

\n\n

He gave Kelly a slight tug, and, Kelly grinning queerly, they walked elbow to elbow through the throng and out of the station.

\n\n

Durkee secured a taxicab and, having given his direction — North Station — entered the designated cab with his captive.

\n\n

When they were in the vehicle, Durkee pulled the curtain on his side half way down, Kelly following suit at his request.

\n\n

“Well, I’ll be confounded!” exclaimed Kelly as they crossed the tracks and went into Atlantic Avenue. “You got a quick wit, my friend.”

\n\n

He looked steadily at his companion through half-closed lids. Producing a key, he reached over to insert it.

\n\n

As his right hand came down, Durkee’s left hand, with long, sinewy fingers, closed over it with a grip of steel and suddenly twisted the key from the other’s possession.

\n\n

Kelly, protruding his head bellicosely, glared at Durkee, his eyes now green and glinting; and Durkee met his glare with a dancing light in his eyes.

\n\n

“Come across now, Kelly,” said Durkee coolly, a grin coming to his face.

\n\n

“So you’re the real thing, are you,” exclaimed Kelly with a vicious sneer — “a real bull, eh? Walked right into you, didn’t I? Funny, too, ‘cause I had a feeling before we got to Boston that there was something off about you. Well, well.”

\n\n

He spoke evenly and smoothly now, and settled back a little.

\n\n

Durkee held his free hand to the window and kept his eye upon the other man.

\n\n

“Don’t you pull that gun, Kelly,” he said, quietly, in a quick warning. “or I’ll drop the key and smash you. And come across!”

\n\n

“That’s your game, eh?”

\n\n

“That — or delivery in Portland. I knew you were Kelly two minutes after we began to talk?”

\n\n

“How much? — a hundred?”

\n\n

Durkee laughed mirthlessly, and dexterously released his right hand from the cuff and slipped the key in his pocket.

\n\n

“All you got on you now,” he answered, sitting tense like a coiled spring.

\n\n

As he spoke, Kelly — having hesitated just long enough to let Durkee free his hand, although noting his action — drew back with a jerk; and at the instant he drew back, his hand whipping behind, Durkee fell upon him like a bolt of lightning.

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

Well, Who Are You?

\n\n

Kelly was a hard man and a fighter; but the younger man, trim and lithe, was a tiger, and in less than two minutes he had him half throttled and had his right hand in the hold of the cuff he himself had worn.

\n\n

He took Kelly’s automatic from the hip pocket and placed it upon his own person and then, ruthlessly bearing the stubborn, undaunted bank robber down, made an exceedingly rich haul from various parts of Kelly’s clothes — -thousands of dollars in notes of large denominations — all of which he placed in his own pockets, despite the other’s vicious struggling.

\n\n

As soon as he had convinced himself that he had taken all the money Kelly had, Durkee signaled the taxi chauffeur to stop, and when the car had come to a standstill at the curb he opened the door and stepped out into the late afternoon sunshine and the atmosphere of fish and dirty water.

\n\n

“Kelly,” said he with a grin, “I’ll give the key to his nibs here and tell him to unlock you at the North Station. From there you may go anywhere you please.”

\n\n

“Who the blazes are you, anyway?” demanded Kelly, after delivering a volley of vituperation — the only effect of which was to make the other man’s grin broaden.

\n\n

“See here, Kelly,” said Durkee, calmly, making no response to the question, “you haven’t any kick coming. I got you through the line all right, saved you from a lot of trouble, and I know you got a lot of stuff somewhere. I kept my word not to squeal, and you can afford to pay. So quit your growling.”

\n\n

“Well, who are you?”

\n\n

“Really like to know?”

\n\n

“Yes,” returned Kelly with a savage, almost frenzied growl.

\n\n

“Well,” said Durkee, smoothly, with great gravity — mock, maddening gravity — “I’ll tell if you think it will make you feel better. My name is Ricker H. Tucker in real life. By profession I am, like you yourself — a bank robber; but an unfortunate one, mediocre, and until two days ago I was incarcerated in a New Hampshire retreat, I had just worked down to Worcester, and there, as you know, fortune brought me face to face, side by side, with the master of our craft — Aloysius Kelly — fortune at the same time giving me an opportunity to run the Boston lookout and to fill an empty pocket. I admire you, Kelly — I take off my hat to you” — the tall, eagle-faced rascal who had indulged himself in the luxury of several truthful statements took off his hat with an ironical bow — “and as one who has done time, I admiringly admit that you’re the better man, and — I thank you.”

\n\n

Durkee slammed the door, gave the handcuff key to the chauffeur and told him to drive to North Station and there release Kelly. He was sport enough to pay for the ride, too, — with a bit to spare.

\n\n

As the cab darted from the curb with the frantic Kelly, he looked after it for a moment with a smile, then, turning, walked swiftly back in the way he had come.

\n\n

That same night Mr. Durkee sat smoking contentedly on the deck of a barkentine passing the Graves en route for Rio de Janeiro. He was thinking of the stout man whom he had helped as desired — the king of bank robbers who had never served a sentence, whose reputation he himself had that day saved — but was not worrying about him or his welfare. It was natural that he should think of him, for he had secured from brother Kelly the snug sum of $15,000 plus. But mostly he was letting his mind dwell virtuously upon reform under comfortable conditions, upon a life of strict obedience to the law — at least while the money lasted.

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "He Risked All For the Thrill!", "author": "Charles Somerville", "body": ""

Is the Great Reporter Detective Only a Memory? Where Are the Stars Today?

\n\n

He has gone. Or, at any rate, all but passed off the lively, vivid newspaper stage where once he played its most romantic and brilliant roles–the star reporter.

\n\n

He would be as desirable as ever in an editorial room. But he is scarcely to be found in any of them any more.

\n\n

The newly created schools and colleges of journalism do not, it would appear, breed him, nor does the modern newspaper develop him. There are some of the Old Guard left. But few — very. The ranks have grown exceedingly thin. And no replacements in sight.

\n\n

The star reporter was a rare being. He was a ferret for facts and a poet for fancy — a de luxe combination for his craft. He could sit in the wild turmoil of a huge political convention, look into it with a cool, analytical eye and produce a crisp, colorful, historical classic of reporting before the roars around him subsided. Or he could step into a sordid police court and come out of it with a piece of literature.

\n\n

Aside from the versatility of his writing gift, the vital characteristic of the star reporter was his intense curiosity regarding human life. He scorned to view it from a club window or a mount of philosophy or through a cold scientific lens. He wanted to be of it, with it, see and study it “close-up,” all phases of it, high, middle, and low. And then tell his fellow men about it accurately and picturesquely. And what made him a star reporter was that he always did–always delivered. Physical weariness following the gruelling pursuit for information amid disasters and vast public events, illness, personal worries and griefs couldn’t beat him down. He always “came through” and that brilliantly with his “yarn.” He played his health and safety recklessly in the high adventures his profession offered him.

\n\n

His country might come first but certainly his “sheet”, his “rag”, his paper came closely next in his devotion and loyalty. He’d risk his neck any time for it. No command could be too bizarre, no “stunt” too hazardous. He was underpaid, knew it, and didn’t care. He loved the game, loved the epithet of “Staff Man” that carried him into the acquaintance of statesmen, kings, queens and princes, inventors, soldiers, generalissimos of industry, actors, artists, dramatists, poets, novelists, political bosses, cops, cabbies, newsboys, adventuresses, the great beauties of his time, the great criminals of his era of both sexes. He loved the game, loved the thrill of looking with his own eyes on the wonders of the earth — the magnificent, the beautiful, the strange, the queer, the brilliant and the drab. That was his pay and he deemed it rich. Unless he moved onward to become a successful novelist or playwright, he invariably died poor, hands stainless of the thousands of dollars of bribe money that could countless times have been his for the contemptible taking.

\n\n

Every one of him I ever knew affected a tremendously cynical air. But what his editors knew and what he himself thoroughly well knew was that the diamond of his quality lay in that he was a sheer romantic, that to the end of his existence he was squarely gifted to look upon the spectacle of life with the keen, excited interest of youth! And convey what he heard and saw in buoyant, striking, sparkling words back to his fellow man.

\n\n

The number of really great reporters to have been given the blazonry of public fame as star reporters — many afterwards attaining it in literature and politics — is scant. In days not very long past the accolade of having one’s name signed to his “story” was sparingly accorded — given only on the achievement of a superlatively momentous “scoop” or brilliantly written article. Men had to step high and fast to win it. All were sufficiently human to desire it. But above it they valued the honor they had earned among the men of their guild. And this they got openly from the cordiality of their editors to the mute hero worship in the eye of the office boy.

\n\n

One thinks of Henry M. Stanley as the first of the star reporters brilliantly carrying through the assignment from the New York Herald to succor Dr. Livingston in the heart of the African jungles. Spick and span Richard Harding Davis, as romantic and handsome a figure as ever a moving-picture star could simulate. And a great reporter. Big Karl Decker rescuing Evangelina Cisneros from the Morro Castle, Sylvester Scovel taking a smack at General Shafter for getting in the way of his story at the triumphant raising of the flag of the United States on the surrender of Spain.

\n\n

James Creelmen interviewing monarchs and premiers right and left and for whom even the doors of the Vatican, in his time closely shut against publicity, opened for his admittance to the Pope. Irvin Cobb taking rank as a national humorist by way of his despatches describing the RussoJapanese peace conference at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

\n\n

Will Irwin and his page story modestly signed at the bottom, of the San Francisco earthquake disaster — a story that was pasted up on every editorial room bulletin board in every city of the country. Isaac White of the World identifying by means of the single clue of a button the man who had tried to kill Russell with a bomb but blew himself to atoms in the attempt.

\n\n

Mrs. Gilmer (Dorothy Dix) who in active days reported celebrated murder trials, small, all womanly, eschewing the reporters’ tables for an obscure seat among the spectators. O. K. Davis, Ralph D. Paine, Herbert Bayard Swope —

\n\n

But I must put up the traffic signal against this procession of newspaper stars who became popular notables, in favor of some of the great star reporters of whom you never heard.

\n\n

The last banquet ever held at historic Delmonico’s was tendered by New York newspapermen to Dr. Eliphalet Cohen on his seventieth birthday anniversary. He was the dean of the star reporters of three decades and active to within a few weeks of his death, writing into succinct, graceful English the cruder efforts of new reporters. The urbane Jack Slaight of the World before whom walls of secrecy always crumbled. Martin Green, George Buchanan Fyfe, Lindsay Denison, Edwin C. Hill, “Willie” Willis, the O’Brien brothers, Joe and Frank, “Deacon” Terry, all that shining company I knew and a host more — expert delvers for fact and information, discerning, deductive of mind, swift word painters in sharp and vivid colors. And Gus Roeder of the World! Told to find out the destination of a Navy cruiser just departing and refused the information, no sooner was the anchor chain hauled in than Gus went up with the anchor and found out where the cruiser was going by going with it! In irons.

\n\n

I have mentioned only some of the “big shots” and only of the New York field. Every other large city, of course, had its brilliant coterie.

\n\n

But he’s gone, has the star reporter. It certainly looks it. If he hasn’t, where was he hiding during the World War?

\n\n

Not one of them showed in it or came out of it. I could mention Roy Howard — but he was no longer a reporter; he was head of a great newspaper chain when he pulled off the armistice scoop. And Frazier Hunt and George Pattulo — but they were writers.

\n\n

If he still exists where the devil has he been during all the great air adventures of the decade? He has figured in only two. Payne of the Mirror who lost his life in a transAtlantic try, von Wiegand, the only reporter on the world ‘round trip of the Graf-Zeppelin. Both bred in the star reporter era, however. The “last leaf” would seem to be Russell Owen, once “baby member” of the Sun staff, who accompanied the Byrd arctic expeditions and wrote beautifully about them.

\n\n

My flesh creeps at the thought that the once sturdy, heroic field of journalism is doomed to dwindle to a mere bed of blushing violets!

\n\n

~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "The Case of the Left-Handed Footman", "author": "", "body": ""
\n
\n
Table of Contents
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\n\n
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\n\n

Chapter 1

\n\n

A Game of Murder

\n\n

Sometimes even the best of parties seem to go flat for a few minutes for no apparent reason. That is what happened at the dance which Colonel MacIntyre gave at Glen Erradale House.

\n\n

It was a small dance, with fifteen or twenty people, and just before midnight everyone seemed to go stale. They stood about in little groups, talking in low voices.

\n\n

One man alone was at his ease. He stood with his back to the wide oak mantelpiece, a black pipe gripped between his teeth and a faint smile creasing the tanned smoothness of his face. Dixon Hawke was a friend of the Colonel, and he had come north for the shooting, accompanied by Tommy Burke.

\n\n

Colonel MacIntyre waylaid his nephew, Hugh Charteris.

\n\n

“For goodness sake, Hugh, my boy, think of something,” he whispered urgently. “They’re standing about like a lot of sheep on market day.”

\n\n

Hugh grinned. “It’s all right, Uncle. I’ve a scheme that’ll waken ‘em up all right.” He turned towards the room.

\n\n

“Listen, folks!” he shouted. “I’ve got an idea. What about a game of ‘Murder’?”

\n\n

There was a murmur of interest, and the guests crowded around him.

\n\n

“In case some of you don’t happen to know it,” he went on, “I’d better explain the game.

\n\n

“It’s like this. We each pick a card from a pack containing the same number of cards as the number of people present. The pack always includes the ace of spades and the ace of hearts. Whoever gets the ace of hearts is a detective. Whoever gets the ace of spades is the murderer. And any of the rags is the murderee. The lights are switched off at the main. The murderer murders one of you. And the detective has to find out who the murderer is. The victim screams once when he’s being ‘murdered.’ Then the murderer gets half a minute before the lights are switched on again. Get it?”

\n\n

There was a shout of approval. The party had miraculously come to life again. Hugh found a pack of cards, and when they had been dealt out, Colonel MacIntyre sent word to the servants’ quarters that the lights were going to be switched out. Then he went to the cupboard in the main hall, where the main switch was situated, and a few seconds later Glen Erradale House was plunged into darkness.

\n\n

The guests began to spread out over the house, feeling their way along walls and banisters. It was their object to keep as far apart from each other as possible, for no one knew for certain that a companion might not also be a potential “murderer.”

\n\n

Moonlight streamed in through the high old windows, and the breakers of Loch Erradale growled ceaselessly on the rocks of the shore below.

\n\n

Suddenly a scream rang out. And when the lights were switched on and the guests began to gather again in the big lounge that had been cleared for dancing, they found Hugh Charteris lying on his back on a sofa. A handkerchief tied round his neck showed the manner in which he had been “murdered.”

\n\n

Everyone waited expectantly. Then Dixon Hawke stepped forward and laid the ace of hearts on the arm of the sofa.

\n\n

“H’m! Strangled! Poor fellow!” he said gravely.

\n\n

Colonel MacIntyre came into the room. Hawke turned quickly and pointed to him.

\n\n

“Arrest that man!” he said crisply.

\n\n

“What the devil —” the Colonel spluttered. “How the deuce did you know, Hawke?”

\n\n

“You took rather over a minute to get back and switch on the lights again, Colonel.”

\n\n

There was a roar of laughter, and the Colonel said dryly, “Well, I suppose we’d better try again. But you and I won’t play this time, Hawke. Carry on with the deal, Hugh.”

\n\n

“Wait a minute,” said Hugh. “Where’s Jane?”

\n\n

Jane Corry was the only one of the guests who had not returned. She and Hugh were engaged.

\n\n

The Colonel chuckled. “Jane has probably very wisely found herself a corner where she can hide. She’ll turn up all right. Carry on.”

\n\n

Hugh said nothing, and began to deal out the cards.

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Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 2

\n\n

Jane Corry’s Fate

\n\n

When Colonel MacIntyre went to switch off the lights again, Hawke accompanied him. They stood together at the door of the cupboard for some minutes, and then, for the second time that night, a scream shattered the stillness that hung over the old house.

\n\n

The Colonel counted thirty slowly. Then he threw up the main switch, and, blinking in the sudden glare, he and Dixon Hawke went out into the hall.

\n\n

Already people were beginning to gather there. Hugh Charteris, with an ace of hearts in his hand, came in.

\n\n

Well,” he said. “ Where’s the body? I can’t very well —”

\n\n

He stopped suddenly. Hawke, following his eyes, saw a dark girl, Mary Cullies, the daughter of a neighbouring laird, swaying in the curtained entrance to a passage. Her lips were trembling, and her face white as a sheet. She was falling when Hawke took three quick steps forward and caught, her.

\n\n

” What is it?” he demanded. “What’s the matter?”

\n\n

She had difficulty in speaking. But at last she said:

\n\n

“In the cloakroom — the one next Colonel MacIntyre’s study. There’s something behind the door. I think it’s a — a body!”

\n\n

She broke down then, and Hawke handed her gently to the Colonel. With Hugh Charteris at his heels, he brushed aside the curtain and went into the passage. It was half a dozen yards in length, with only two doors in it. One was that of the study, and the other opened into a small, seldom-used cloakroom. Hawke pushed this open, noticing that it moved sluggishly. What seemed to he a heavy bundle of coats was hanging on the hack of it. Hawke threw the topmost coat aside, and Hugh Charteris, behind him, gave a choking cry. For Jane Corry was hanging by a coat-belt from the hook.

\n\n

Hawke pushed him gently outside, and called urgently to the Colonel. Together they lifted the girl down, but Hawke’s experienced eye had already told him that she was dead.

\n\n

“Better take her into your study, Mac,” said Hawke crisply.

\n\n

“I’ll get some of my men along at once, too,” said the Colonel. He was the Chief Constable of the county.

\n\n

Tommy Burke appeared at that moment, and helped to carry the girl into the study.

\n\n

“I’ve told everybody to wait in the lounge, guv’nor,” he said breathlessly.

\n\n

Hawke nodded. “That’s right, my lad. Go along there now and see that none of them leaves the room.”

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Colonel’s Shotgun

\n\n

Tommy went back down the passage, and while the Colonel was telephoning, he examined the cloakroom. It was a small room about ten feet square, with coat-hooks round three walls and a handbasin in the fourth. It had no window.

\n\n

When he had finished. Hawke went into the study. Colonel MacIntyre replaced the receiver and turned to him.

\n\n

“This is ghastly, Hawke. It’s poor Hugh I’m most sorry for. And in my own house —”

\n\n

Dixon Hawke nodded absently. He was standing at the side of a couch, staring down at the dead girl.

\n\n

“What makes you so sure that it’s murder?” he asked.

\n\n

“She’d have had to stand on something and then kick it away,” said the Colonel quietly. “There was nothing in the cloakroom that would have served. Besides, there was no earthly reason for suicide.”

\n\n

“You’re quite right,” said Hawke slowly. “It was murder, planned to look like suicide. And it wasn’t committed in the cloakroom.”

\n\n

“How do you know?”

\n\n

“One of her shoes is missing. Came off in the struggle, I expect. There must have been a struggle. She was strangled by hand. You can tell that from the marks on her throat.”

\n\n

“Then where the shoe is, she was murdered?”

\n\n

Hawke nodded his head. “Very possibly. And she wasn’t killed, for example, in the lounge and carried here across the hall, or in one of the bedrooms and carried downstairs. It’s only logical to suppose that she was killed in the only other room in this passage.”

\n\n

“You mean in here, Hawke — in my study?”

\n\n

“Yes.”

\n\n

“But where’s the shoe?”

\n\n

“I don’t know. It may have been thrust into a drawer. Your men can look for it when they come.”

\n\n

A few minutes later, a sergeant and two constables were shown into the room.

\n\n

One of the constables was sent to round up the servants and take them to the lounge, and the sergeant and the other constable were instructed to search the house, particularly for the missing shoe.

\n\n

The Colonel himself searched the study. While he was doing so, Hawke looked slowly round the room. His eye finally came to rest on a sporting gun resting on two hooks on the wall near the door. He stared at it for a moment with a puzzled frown. Then he said: “I didn’t know you were left-handed, Mac.”

\n\n

The Colonel straightened himself. “I’m not. Why?”

\n\n

“Do you clean your guns yourself?”

\n\n

“No. Except that one you’re looking at. I wouldn’t let anyone else handle that. It’s a special Purdy I got as a presentation.”

\n\n

“Curious,” mused Hawke. “Do you notice that the barrel’s on the right and the stock on the left? A right-handed man would put it up the other way — with the stock to the right. Try it yourself.”

\n\n

The Colonel picked up the gun, frowned, turned it about and replaced it.

\n\n

“You’re right, Hawke,” he said. “It’s been moved.”

\n\n

“By a left-handed man. Now, I wonder —” said Hawke.

\n\n

“I don’t see that it has anything to do with the case, anyhow,” said the Colonel. “Some deuced inquisitive servant been examining it, I suppose. Now I think we’d better interview these people.”

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

Whose Falsehood

\n\n

It was a tiring interview. All the guests had the same story to tell — of edging along darkened corridors with nerves pleasantly tingling, of fitful moonlight streaming through windows that framed a dark vista of Loch Erradale, and the black shapes of the hills on the far shore. Mary Gillies told how she had gone to the cloakroom by the Colonel’s study to hide, how she had felt the hanging form behind the door and had screamed in terror and rushed out to the hall.

\n\n

The servants’ stories were equally unhelpful. The butler, a grave, portly man, said that while the lights were out some of the servants were up in their bedrooms. He himself had been in the servants’ hall. He did not know where Charles, the footman, had been.

\n\n

The footman was the last to be interviewed. He was thin and dark, with a tanned skin that seemed strangely out of keeping with his calling.

\n\n

“How long have you been employed here?” Hawke asked him. Colonel MacIntyre and he were the only others present in the lounge by this time.

\n\n

“A matter of weeks, sir,” said the footman. “I am employed in a temporary capacity at the moment.”

\n\n

Hawke glanced at the Colonel, who nodded.

\n\n

“He was in my employment once before — “

\n\n

Hawke looked up at the footman. “When?” he asked.

\n\n

Charles looked momentarily startled. “Well, sir, I’m not quite sure. It would be during the war, I think.”

\n\n

“Where were you employed before this?”

\n\n

“I was a ship’s steward, sir.”

\n\n

“Anything you can tell us that might help?”

\n\n

“I’m afraid not, sir. I was in my room all the time that the lights were out.”

\n\n

“That will do, then,” said Hawke abruptly. “There’s a wineglass on the floor behind the door. You’d better remove it as you go out, in case someone breaks it.”

\n\n

The footman hesitated at the door. Then he bent down swiftly, and with an expert movement, scooped the wineglass up by its stem.

\n\n

Hawke watched him curiously. As the door closed softly, he turned to the Colonel.

\n\n

“Wonderful how adept these fellows get when they’re trained as stewards,” he remarked. “But I’m afraid he wasn’t telling us the truth. Or else your butler wasn’t.”

\n\n

“How do you know?” asked the Colonel curiously.

\n\n

“When we were standing at the door of the switch-cupboard a man crossed the hall in the darkness. But he passed through a shaft of moonlight from the window at the top of the stairs. And it flashed on silver buttons.”

\n\n

The Colonel nodded. “And they’re the only two, of course, with silver buttons. But I can’t believe that Graham would lie, and Charles — as he said — was with me once before.”

\n\n

“When?”

\n\n

“I can’t just recollect the exact circumstances. But I knew his face the moment he applied for this post. And when I asked if he’d been with me before, he said yes.”

\n\n

Hawke’s attention seemed to have drifted away as the Colonel finished speaking. Suddenly he gave a low whistle and slapped his knee.

\n\n

“Got it! “ he exclaimed. “I see it all now. Where do you keep your tobacco, Mac?”

\n\n

The Colonel’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “In my tobacco jar — on the little table by the fireplace in my study. Why?”

\n\n

“It wasn’t in the room when we went in with the dead girl. I knew something was missing, but I couldn’t think what. And when you unwound the coat-belt from her neck you laid it down on that very table — where the tobacco jar should have been.”

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Back to Top
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\n\n

Chapter 2

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An “Accidental” Murder

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The door opened, and Tommy thrust his head round it.

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“Sergeant’s out here with the shoe, guv’nor. Will I show him in?”

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Hawke nodded, and Tommy and the sergeant came into the room. The sergeant had a black evening slipper in his hand.

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“It was in Miss Margaret Charteris’s room, sir — she is a sister of Mr. Hugh,” he reported. “It is next door to the dead young lady’s room.”

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“Where are these rooms, Colonel?” asked Hawke swiftly.

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“In a passage near the back of the house.”

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“And the passage leads to —? “

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“There are one or two other rooms in it. And at the end a service stair.”

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“Good! “ said Hawke. “I think we have him.”

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He rose suddenly to his feet and strode across the room. “But I still can’t find the motive.”

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He stood thinking for a moment. Then he took an old envelope from his pocket, scribbled something on the back of it, and handed it to Tommy.

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“Off you go, my lad,” he said crisply. “And take care. I don’t want to lose you.”

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Tommy glanced at the paper, grinned at his chief, and went out.

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“Anything of value in the house, Mac?” Hawke asked.

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The Colonel thought for a moment and shook his head. “No. No, I don’t think so. I’ve one or two trinkets in the safe in my study —”

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“In the study? A safe? I didn’t see it,” said Hawke sharply.

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“It’s a wall safe,” explained the Colonel. “It’s concealed behind a picture. But there’s nothing of direct value in it. Some trinkets worth a few pounds. And some War Office documents. I shouldn’t like to lose them. They deal with naval bases on this coast. Half the lochs on this part of the coast, you know, are seaplane or submarine bases.

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“Look here, we’d better go to the study to see if they’re still safe,” added the Colonel anxiously.

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“I think we had,” agreed Hawke, and they quickly made their way to the study. The Colonel switched on the light and crossed to a picture which he removed, disclosing the safe behind. Swiftly he dialled the combination, and in a moment the door swung back. Then the Colonel gave a sigh of relief.

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“Thank heaven, they’re still here,” he said, turning over the documents in his hand.

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“I suggest,” said Hawke quietly, “that an attempt to steal the documents is at the bottom of our mystery. The thief must have been interrupted before he actually got to work on the safe. He counted on escaping detection as the murderer of Miss Corry, and hoped to carry out the theft of the plans later. He calculated that it would be safer not to go on with his original intention of securing them to-night.”

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Hawke knocked out his pipe in the fireplace and began to refill it, pacing slowly up and down the room.

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“I see it all now,” he mused.

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“When he heard that the lights were to be switched off at the main he decided that this was as good a chance as any. People would be moving about all over the house, and he would be able to move himself with a certain amount of freedom. He went down to the study. Five minutes would have been enough for him. I fancy he is an expert. But, unfortunately, Jane Corry decided to do what Mary Gillies did later — to hide in the cloakroom. That’s a sound enough supposition. And perhaps she saw a light flicker beneath the study door and went in to investigate.

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“She saw at a glance what was happening. With admirable presence of mind she grabbed your Purdy from its place on the wall. But she had no chance in the darkness — once he had switched off his torch. I’ve no doubt he had one. He closed with her and tore away the gun. They struggled. He had her by the throat to prevent her crying out. But he was too rough, and before he knew it — murder would be the last thing he wanted — she was dead.”

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“Who the devil are you talking about?” demanded the Colonel.

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Hawke scarcely seemed to hear him. He was piecing together the whole incident in his mind, and thinking aloud.

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“He thought desperately. His only chance was to make it look like suicide. But he had very little time. He carried her through to the cloakroom. Tied her to the hook as we found her and threw a coat over her. A silly thing to do, but the natural inclination to conceal the body was too strong. Then he went back to the study to clear up the traces of disturbance. The tobacco jar had been smashed in the struggle. He gathered up the pieces, perhaps straightened a rug, and put your Purdy back in its place. Then he found her shoe. He was about to go and put it on her. But something interrupted him. Hugh’s shout, doubtless, as he was being ‘murdered’ He didn’t know what it meant. But he had a shrewd idea that the lights would go on before long. He wasted no time. His quickest way of escape was upstairs and down to the servants’ quarters by the service stair. On the way he thought of returning the incriminating shoe to its owner’s bedroom. That would heighten, if anything, the appearance of suicide. But he made a mistake and put it in the wrong bedroom. Then he went down to the servants’ quarters. It fits the facts exactly, Colonel. And I think Tommy will be able to cap it.”

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“As I said before, Hawke,” said the Colonel in a tone of exasperation, “who the devil are you talking about?” Hawke looked at him in surprise.

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“I thought you were following, Mac. I’m talking about. Charles, of course. Don’t you understand? Do you remember the way he scooped up that glass by the stem between two fingers? He thought we were trying to get his finger-prints. And though he probably used gloves, while he was at work in the study, he picked the glass up so that it wouldn’t give any prints. That suggests that he’s an old hand.

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“Moreover, it was with his left hand that he picked it up. Simply because he’s left-handed. And what better job could you think of than that of a ship’s steward for bringing a man in touch with people who would — well, who would be interested in these naval and air bases?”

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“But, Hawke, he’s been in my employment before. Why should I suspect him? I remember him distinctly. I remember his face, anyhow.”

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“Probably from a Scotland Yard circular,” said Hawke. “And when you played into his hands by asking if he’d been with you before, he did the obvious thing.”

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“I see,” said the Colonel slowly. “But I’m still not quite clear about — “

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He was interrupted by the sound — muffled, as though from a distant part of the house — of two pistol shots in quick succession.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 5

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A Short-lived Escape

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Hawke sprang to the door, calling to the Colonel:

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“Quick! The servants’ quarters. Which way?”

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“This way,” shouted the Colonel, and he brushed past Hawke and made for the stairs.

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They took the stairs two at a time, sprinted down a corridor, with the sergeant and one of the constables at their heels, bundled down another flight of stairs and along a tiled passage.

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Graham, the butler, met them at a door at the far end. He was shaking with fright. He pointed to a spiral stair that led up to the servants’ bedrooms.

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“Up there, sir! “ he gasped.

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Hawke brushed him aside, but before he had reached the foot of the stair Tommy appeared from above and clattered down. He was wildly dishevelled, and his jacket was torn.

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“He’s got away, guv’nor,” he shouted hoarsely. “He came in when I was searching and tried to brain me with a chair. He got away by a fire-escape. I was following when he took a couple of pot-shots at me. I thought I’d better get hold of you. He can’t go far.”

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“Is it there?” Hawke asked.

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Tommy nodded. “It’s in his room. Up this way.”

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He led the way up the stair to a small, severely-furnished room. The bottom drawer of a small chest of drawers had been pulled out, and lying on the top of a pile of disordered clothing were the broken pieces of Colonel MacIntyre’s tobacco jar.

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Hawke pulled out the other drawers rapidly, and in one of them he found an expensive camera, a couple of spare lenses, and some odd pieces of photographic apparatus. He gave a grunt of satisfaction.

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“H’m. If he’d had any luck, you’d never have known anything about it, Colonel. He’d have photographed your papers and returned them to the safe.”

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He went to the window and threw it up. It looked out over the dark waters of the loch. The moon was hidden by a bank of cloud.

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Faintly out of the darkness came the sound of an outboard motor-boat.

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“His plans have been laid for an emergency apparently,” said Hawke. “There’s a little bay on the far shore of the loch. The road runs quite close to it. A car was parked there the other day when we passed, and if I’m not mistaken that’s where he’s making for. Get the Bentley out, Tommy.”

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Five minutes later the big car was roaring down the road from Glen Erradale House, with Hawke himself at the wheel. The surface was bad, but Hawke was a fine driver and they kept up a steady speed.

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After a couple of miles he drew into the side and stepped out.

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“Carry on, Tommy,” he snapped. “You and the Colonel go on by road until you come to the parked car. The sergeant and I will cut across the moor. I don’t know which way will be the quicker, and we can’t risk losing him.”

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Tommy slipped into the driving-seat, and the Bentley drew away. Hawke led the way across the rough heather until it dipped down to the black water. Then they circled round by the shore, going silently on the grass by its verge.

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Hawke was listening intently. No sound broke the stillness, save the whisper of a breeze in the sedges down at the water’s edge.

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Then they heard the sound of an outboard motor-boat. Hawke gripped the sergeant’s arm, and they dropped where they stood.

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After a few moments the boat materialised out of the darkness, the motor was switched off, and the vessel glided towards the shore, grounding on the shingle. Like a dark shadow a man scrambled out and began to run up the hill. He was within a yard of them when Hawke rose to his feet and closed.

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The man fought like a tiger. The sergeant ran forward to help, tripped, and went full-length. The murderer’s foot found the side of his chest, and he groaned and rolled down the slope towards the beach.

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Hawke held on grimly, waiting his chance. It came; there was a sharp, clean snap as Hawke’s fist connected with his jaw, and Charles dropped in the heather without a sound.

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Hawke ran lightly down to the beach to help the bruised and winded sergeant to his feet and send him to bring back Colonel MacIntyre and Tommy with the car for their prisoner.

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~THE END~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "This'll Kill You", "author": "James Mort", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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Spoken Like A True Bigot

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Wilson had no idea of using force on Jordan. He was certain his gift of gab would do the trick. He climbed the porch and rang the bell, smiling faintly.

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Leslie Jordan opened the door, gazed at him in surprise for a moment, then invited him in. Wilson found himself in a clean, well-kept living room. The room was warm and Wilson felt the sweat break out on his forehead. He loosened his collar with a huge forefinger.

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“I guess you think I’m a rat,” Wilson said as Jordan offered him a chair.

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Jordan’s eyes were cold.

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“After what I saw this afternoon, what else can I think?” Wilson could sense Jordan’s dislike growing deeper every second. “But it didn’t come as a surprise,” Jordan continued. “I suspected you were cheating on your wife a year ago.”

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Wilson took out a white silk handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his forehead. He kept his eyes fixed on Jordan, probing for a weakness. Jordan was middle-aged, with a thin austere face and a body so skinny that it made Wilson think of an undernourished child. Unconsciously Wilson compared the strength in his own huge body with Jordan’s weakness. He had noticed the look of grudging admiration that flitted over Jordan’s face at the sight of his broad shoulders and trim hips.

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Wilson said, “Suppose I did cheat on my wife — does that make me an ogre?”

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Instantly Wilson realized his words were a mistake. He could sense Jordan’s disgust. Jordan had gone to an easel, taken up a paint brush which he had been twirling rapidly between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. As soon as Wilson spoke, the twirling stopped. Jordan threw him a quick glance.

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“I don’t know what you call a man who cheats on his dying wife,” he said. “Ogre seems a hit mild.”

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He daubed the brush in purple paint and added a faint shadow to the canvas he was working on.

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“You don’t mind if I work, do you? This piece has to be in the hands of my agent tomorrow morning. A commercial artist lives by the clock, you know.”

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He added four swift strokes to the canvas and two large crosses appeared against a background of two struggling figures.

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“I’m doing an illustration for a new movie,” he continued. “It seems to fit in with our conversation. The picture’s named ‘Double Cross’.”

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Double Cross! Someday this little punk would go too far with his name-calling and his moral snobbery and Wilson would break his skinny neck.

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Wilson licked his lips.

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“Okay, so I’m a rat. But why kill your sister to get at me?”

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Wilson was a fluent talker. He made it sound reasonable. What happened to himself was unimportant. But surely Jordan must realize that Mary was in no conditon to stand a severe shock. The news of her husband’s infidelity would kill her just as surely as a bullet.

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“Under the circumstances can you afford to tell her?”

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“Yes!”

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Jordan kept his brush busy, pausing only now and then to get a fresh perspective on the painting, then plunging back to work again. The canvas had come alive. Two figures, locked in a life and death struggle, slowly came to life in the shadows cast by the giant crosses.

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“Her death will be on your hands.”

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“Aren’t you the one who did the cheating?”

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Wilson bit his lower lip.

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“Spoken like a true bigot,” he said. “If this is your moral code, you can keep it.”

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He swallowed hard, then added, “You don’t love your sister — all you love is your own bigotry.”

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“You’re a fine one to talk about love.”

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Wilson hesitated. He had never expected Jordan would cling to his scruples even if it meant the death of someone he loved dearly. But there was no doubt of it. Jordan’s face was like a chunk of granite in its frozen determination.

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Even before he spoke, Wilson knew the answer to his next question: “But at least you’ll wait a few weeks — till she’s a little stronger?”

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“I’m going to tell her this afternoon.”

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His face twisted in disgust and he avoided Wilson’s eyes.

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Wilson cursed under his breath. He was beaten. What could he do now? In despair he heard Jordan saying:

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“You’re trying to picture my sister as a whimpering coward — but you see, Wilson, I know her well enough to realize she’d rather face the truth, no matter how bitter, than continue to live in a fool’s paradise.”

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Back to Top
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Chapter 2

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Half A Million Dollars

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There went a half-million dollars!

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Gone! The chance of a lifetime, because of one small indiscretion. All his work, all his scheming would count for nothing. From now on he would have to sweat for his money like the rest of the chumps.

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What made it really hurt, though, was that it had to happen now, on the eve of success. Only yesterday the doctor told him that the cancer had gotten out of hand and Mary would die in less than six months. Six months more — one hundred and eighty days — and he would have been rolling in money, sole heir to his wife’s fortune.

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What a fool he had been to take up with that little blonde! He should have waited. Six months from now he could have gotten a thousand dolls like her — just by whistling.

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Helpless rage tore at him as he stared at Jordan. This meddling fool was going to shoot off his mouth and ruin everything. He stood there like a little tin god, with his nose about a foot in the air, and thought he could pass judgment on his betters. Wilson fought desperately for self-control. At least he wouldn’t give Jordan the satisfaction of —

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“You never loved my sister,” Jordan was saying. “You’ve simply hung around like a vulture waiting for her to die so you could squander her money.”

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“You dirty — “ The words stuck in Wilson’s throat. Blood was hammering, in his ears. His hands closed into tight fists.

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“But you couldn’t wait till she was dead.”

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“Shut up! I’ll — “

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Through a red haze, Wilson saw Jordan’s face twist in loathing. He was on his feet before he realized it. His fist smacked on Jordan’s cheek bone.

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Jordan spun sideways, then thudded to the floor. Blood spurted from a gash in his cheek. Wilson threw himself on Jordan’s body and smashed it with all the power in his 225 pounds.

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Jordan threw his arms around Wilson’s back, trying to draw him close enough to smother those sledge-hammer blows. Wilson struggled to free his arms, then suddenly his fingers were around Jordan’s throat.

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Jordan’s hands beat a brief tattoo on Wilson’s back; then after a moment they were still.

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Wilson let his fingers relax on Jordan’s throat. He got to his feet. His mind refused to grasp what had happened. He kept staring at that twisted body on the floor. Then all at once he realized … MURDER!

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He fought down a panic-stricken impulse to run. That would never do. His fingerprints were all over the place and quite possibly he had dropped something during the struggle.

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He must be calm. Think! Think! Suddenly he remembered that no one had seen him enter the building a half-hour before. It would be a simple matter to erase his fingerprints, leave the apartment without being seen … . Then who could prove he’d ever been there?

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He whipped out his handkerchief. Within five minutes he’d gone over everything in the apartment he could possibly have touched. Then he dropped to his hands and knees and examined every inch of the floor. Now that he had decided on a course of action he was calm, and as he straightened up a smile creased the corners of his mouth. Perhaps it was better like this after all. Jordan would never get in his hair again.

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He put on his hat, took one last look around. Satisfied, he let himself out of the apartment, making sure that the safety lock clicked behind him.

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Luck was with him. The elevator was not in use, and a few seconds later he found himself on the ground floor. Now came the tough part. The door of the elevator was solid steel and he had no way of knowing what lay outside in the foyer.

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He took a deep breath, jerked open the door and stepped through — right into the arms of a tall, heavy-set man in a blue serge suit.

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“Something wrong?” The heavy-set man eyed Wilson suspiciously.

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Back to Top
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Chapter 3

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Double Cross

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There was only one thing Wilson could do.

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“I suppose it’s really nothing,” he bluffed, “but an hour ago I got a call from my brother-in-law, Mr. Jordan. He asked me to rush over right away. Said it was important and to tell the truth he did sound a bit upset. And now — when he doesn’t answer his doorbell … .”

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The heavy-set man rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

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“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to check. I’m the manager here and of course 1 have a pass key.”

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At the door of Jordan’s apartment, the manager took a ring of keys from his pocket and chose one. He pushed open the door.

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“My lord!” The manager froze.

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Jordan’s body lay exactly as Wilson had left it. Sightless eyes glared up at the ceiling. The lingers curved like the claws of a beast ready to spring. And the lips, torn and bloody, curled luck in a silent snarl.

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Wilson fumbled for the telephone.

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“Get me policy headquarters,” he stammered, and the horror in his voice was real enough. Before his mind’s eye flashed the picture of a hangman’s noose.

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* * * * *

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The police sergeant was big and beefy and he chewed a black cigar. He had just come out of Jordan’s apartment and joined Wilson and the manager in the hallway, where they had waited ever since the police arrived. Inside the apartment, a squad of detectives methodically turned the rooms upside down.

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The sergeant carried a black notebook in his hand.

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“You were saying a little while ago that Jordan was in some kind of trouble ?”

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“Just a rumor,” Wilson said reluctantly. “Jordan was supposed to have been playing around with some fellow’s wife, but of course I don’t believe it. Jordan — “

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“Never mind what you believe,” the sergeant interrupted. “What else did you hear?”

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“It’s really a lot of talk … .Well, anyway, this fellow was supposed to have threatened Jordan’s life.”

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The sergeant looked up.

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“Who?”

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“I did catch a glimpse of him one afternoon on the street.”

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Wilson dipped into his imagination and drew forth a complete man. He made it convincing. No longer was he afraid. This dumb cop was going for his story hook, line and sinker. For a few months they would look for this mythical man, send out his phony description to every police station in the country; then they would forget about the case and file it away in the “forever file.” Another unsolved murder!

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“I understand this fellow drifted into town a few weeks ago,” Wilson was saying. “He was a gambler, I believe. Came from somewhere back east.”

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The sergeant wrote something in his notebook.

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“Anyway Jordan met him at a card game.”

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Wilson took off his overcoat and laid it across the banister. It was hot and stuffy in the narrow hallway and he was beginning to sweat profusely.

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“Then Jordan met this fellow’s wife,” he continued, “and — well, you know the rest of the story. I still can’t believe he’s — “

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Suddenly Wilson realized something was wrong.

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The sergeant had stopped writing In his little red notebook. He stood staring at Wilson with an odd look in his eyes. “Would you mind turning around again?”

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“What’s this, a gag?”

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Wilson’s face was calm but inside his chest his heart pounded like a jackhammer. Something was wrong — but what? He slowly turned his back to the sergeant.

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Behind him the sergeant suddenly chuckled. “You know for a moment you had me convinced.”

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“What do you mean?” Wilson spun around.

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“Take off your suit coat and look at the back of it.”

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Wilson tore off his coat On the back of it were several streaks of lurid red paint. The streaks were broken and faltering, as if drawn by a shaky hand.

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“I forgot to tell you,” the sergeant said, “we found a paint brush in Jordan’s hand.”

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Wilson’s mind raced back to the fight. Suddenly he remembered how Jordan’s arms had been around his body, how Jordan had clawed at his back. That cursed paint brush! Jordan had kept it clutched in his hand during the struggle. Wilson groaned. He’d been too busy erasing his fingerprints to notice the brush.

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The sergeant stared at the red streaks for a moment, then drew out his handcuffs.

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“It’s funny,” he said, “those streaks on the back of your coat form a couple of rough crosses.”

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He laughed.

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“Double Cross.”

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~ The End ~

\n"" ] , [ "title": "Crime Digest", "author": "Zeta Rothschild", "body": ""

LINCOLN, ILLINOIS

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A burglar leaving with a load of copper wire under his arm was suddenly dazzled by the flash of an exploding bulb. Quickly he wrecked the photographic apparatus attached to the bulb, only to learn to his chagrin that this had been a “dummy” and that his photograph had been taken by a concealed camera.

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BOLIVIA, SOUTH AMERICA

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This country doesn’t hold that, though two men have been convicted as equally guilty of the murder of a third, both should die. The “anfora reos,” (criminal vase) contains several balls, one black. And when Francisco Mamani drew this black ball, he alone atoned with his life for the murder of Domingo Quispe, while his confederate in the murder, Julio Zagarra, escaped the death sentence.

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MARIETTA, OHIO

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A jail background did not lessen the prestige or make him less desirable as a guardian of the peace, decided fellow citizens of John Arthur Dunn. And though he had fifteen rivals, Mr. Dunn, in jail serving out a fine of $25 and costs imposed when he pleaded guilty to petit larceny, was elected a constable of Marietta township.

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HUNGARY, EUROPE

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Caricaturists usually depict criminals with flat heads, shifty eyes and low-slung ears. But scientists protest there is no generally accepted type so easily recognize . Yet recently Police Councillor Max Tisza of Miskolc, Hungary, after making an extensive study of convicts has decided that one group rarely, if ever, goes in for law breaking of any kind. People with dimples are immune from such impulses.

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Dimples show a high standard of morality, says this criminologist, based on his contact with a variety of burglars, embezzlers, defrauders and murderers. Dimples are a trademark of honesty. Usually.

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KINGWOOD, WEST VIRGINIA

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Sheriff Carl Roth of this community will henceforth have a kind word to say for the men in his care. Last winter while taking three prisoners from the jail to the courthouse the sheriff slipped on the ice, broke a leg, lay helpless. His prisoners might have made a break. What did they do? Instead they toted the sheriff to the courthouse and helped rush him to a hospital.

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KANSAS CITY, MO.

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Anyway, it is some consolation to Tavern Keeper John Girard to know that the burglars who stole 84 bottles from his display were headed for a great disappointment. For the bottles, instead of containing beer as their labels promised, were filled with tea-tinted water!

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DARTMOUTH PRISON, ENGLAND

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Even London, with its blackout and bombs, is a more cheerful place than Dartmouth Prison, complain warders transferred from the city to the prison house isolated on the moors. They have no “bright life,” complain twenty-five of the warders who have organized to agitate for brighter prisons.

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

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Hold-up men were responsible for more than one half the jaw fractures treated at Hines Memorial Hospital during the past seven and a half years, says Dr. C. M. Logson in an article in the March issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association. Automobiles come second on this list as jaw-breakers.

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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

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Overweight is seldom an asset. But a defendant in a local court on a lottery charge came up before a judge who, deciding the 520 pounds of flesh carried by Preseton Taylor, a negro, a guarantee he would not try to run away, released him without bail.

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“I know you can’t run fast enough to get away,” commented the Judge.

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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

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The number thirteen, held unlucky by the superstitious, turned out to be Just that for one Paul Fazekas, who specialized in poisoning his relatives by putting arsenic in the flour used by the women folks. He was born on a 13th, the three murders he committed were each carried out on a 13th, he was arrested on a 13th, sentenced on a 13th and was hanged-on last July 13th.

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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

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Even bandits have principles and prejudices. Recently Arthur West, owner of a service station, was held up.

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“Is this station one of a chain system?” asked the bandit, as he ordered West to open the till.

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“It’s mine,” answered West.

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The bandit put his revolver away.

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“I need the money bad,” he told the astonished man, “but I wouldn’t rob a private owner.”

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And walked out.

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~ The End ~

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Back to Top
\n"" ] , [ "title": "Laughing Death", "author": "Charles Conger Stewart", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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You Don’t Know Anything About Me

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The girl on the park bench moved restlessly. Every few seconds she would turn her head and stare away down the long gravel walk — that brown line along whose either side sat the wearied, the hopeless, the migratory. As the flame of a candle, caught by wandering airs, flickers up and down, so fear played in her eyes — deep, dark-brown eyes, a richness and warmth that told of emotions unplumbed. This was a girl of possibilities; she might be anything, might do anything. At this moment, however, she was openly nervous, abstracted, fearfully expectant — all this, while the young and exasperated man beside her was asking her to marry him!

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To outward view, at least, he offered no reason why the brown-eyed girl should not listen most breathlessly to his tale. His body was normal and pleasing to the eye; his clothes were neat and well chosen; and his finely shaped head and high brow advertised intelligence and plenty of it. But his eyes were what first caught the interest of observers; and soon made good their promise of charming. Blue — blue they were — clear and true and pure; a blue that is the sign of power of thought and sanity of soul; a blue that dares and does.

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Perhaps the depth of brown eyes shrank from the penetration of blue; but certainly the now peevish young man had no such thought.

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“Oh, cut it out, will you?” he frowned. “Every time I coax you into the park you’re about as quiet and restful as a pinwheel. Sit still! Do you know I’m asking you to marry me?”

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“But Jim,” she said, even then turning from him, and watching anxiously the long gravel path, “you don’t know anything about me — except my first name, and — “

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“I’m getting so I’m not sure of that,” he muttered.

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“And I — I wish you wouldn’t,” she ended; and the deeps of the brown eyes flashed to the blue a look of mingled yearning and terror.

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For a fleeting moment Jim Dean felt a prickling fear and a strange wonder as he saw the terror and a thrill of surging longing as he sensed her yearning. Then it all passed and he remembered only his grievance.

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“Great snakes, Hester,” he said childishly, “anybody’d think I was about as inviting a prospect for a husband as that poor bum over there!”

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Hester hastily glanced at the wreck of a man on the bench opposite. From the listless heap of sunken body and tattered clothing glowed a pair of black eyes.

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“I wish you did look like him,” she answered sincerely.

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“What!” Dean sat up, amazed.

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“I know you don’t understand. And I can’t explain. But if you did look like him I wouldn’t be so afraid that — “

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She broke off, clutching him. Again Dean felt the stab of emotion — a sharp, formless warning of danger, he followed her straining glance. All that caught his eye were two persons coming up the walk, a young woman interested in getting somewhere quickly, and far back of her a short, fat man strolling leisurely up the middle of the gravel.

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“What the — “ he began disgustedly.

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Suddenly she swung full to him, and Dean saw that the smoldering fear in her eyes had shot to a pleading, flaming panic. Her fingers dug into his arm, and her voice dropped to a low, fierce whisper.

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“Jim — let’s go! Anywhere but here!” She shook his arm, the while glancing over her shoulder. “Jim — it’s he! Oh, I knew it — I was a fool ever to come here! Jim — Jim — hurry! I can’t tell why, but there’s awful danger! He’ll spot you the first thing! Jim — you say you love me — then come!”

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Dean crossed his legs comfortably, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and smiled invitingly toward the fat man, still far down the path. He was happier than he had been for weeks.

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“My dear, my greatest hope in life is that he will spot me. If he doesn’t, I’ll introduce myself. Maybe he’ll let in some light on my darkened brain and — “

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An ill-suppressed cry from her interrupted him.

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“Don’t say that!” she exclaimed, rising, and pulling at him.

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He grunted derisively and jerked his arm away.

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“That howl of yours, without any sense or reason, is just a sample of what I’ve been up against for three months. Nothing from you but mystery and fidgets and an everlasting order for me to stay out of this park. I tell you I won’t go and I’m sick — “

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“Jim,” she interrupted, “you’re a fool not to listen. But I’ve got to run. I don’t dare be seen with you. If you love me, do this — it’s your only chance. Don’t look at him — read your paper — pull your hat over your eyes — anything. I’ll be back after he’s gone. Remember — don’t look at him!”

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She hurried off across the grass.

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Chapter 2

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The Eyes

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Dean didn’t even glance to see where she had gone. He took his hands out, but only to throw his paper away and take his hat off. Then, with keen, alert blue eyes, he watched the fat man.

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The bum on the opposite bench stirred, and for the first time in half an hour seemed interested. The black eyes took on an added glow as the short, chunky figure waddled nearer.

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Dean scanned the man closely. He guessed the fat person was about fifty, and that he had a surplus of flesh even on his tongue. The flabbiest, most jellied creature he had ever seen, he thought — until he noticed the hands. Enormous, gigantic in both length and breadth, with fingers long, narrow, a musician’s fingers; the hands were never still.

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As the lower arms of a wooden toy are pulled by a string, his arms moved back and forth automatically, with the live, sensitive fingers restlessly feeling — feeling delicately, inquiringly, if they had eyes in the tips and searched endlessly for something they momentarily expected to touch and grasp.

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The sight of them reminded Dean of crawling bugs and the feelers of insects; and he experienced a slight, but definite, aversion.

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When the rotund being with the quivering antennae had rolled to within fifty feet, Dean forgot the fat and the fingers in the wonder of the face. Cut deep into the wabbly rolls of flesh was the widest and most fixed smile Dean had ever seen. And as he stared, and half wondered at and half despised the shrinking within himself he hoped he’d never see another like it.

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The slit was as if one had taken a short, curved sword and slashed into a shapeless mass of dead face that lacked a mouth; and had given it a mouth and a smile — a smile that would have made a child run shrieking to its mother.

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As the squat figure arrived on a line with Dean and the bum, he cut his ridiculously short steps to almost nothing. From one side black eyes glared at him under the brim of a veteran felt hat; from the other watched the clearest and finest of blue eyes, open, curious. The fat man handed the bum the merest speeding glance. He turned and gave Dean a direct, examining look — and came to a decisive halt.

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Dean met the eyes — tiny eyes almost lost in the hanging, flapping flesh — pig’s eyes. Against his will his hair bristled and his fingers clenched. The dots of eyes seemed blue — maybe they were green — even a gray — Dean wasn’t sure which. He was more interested, with a sort of repellent fascination, in their expression — or was it a total absence of meaning that held him?

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“A lovely day,” said the fat man, in cold, monotonous tones — and laughed. The face undulated; the body quivered. “Very jolly!”

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“Right,” answered Dean, briefly, but not rudely. He didn’t like the smiling pile of flesh; but it undoubtedly was connected with the mystery of Hester, and so merited attention.

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The man advanced toward him, shaking with ingratiating good nature. Dean wished the gimlet eyes would waver, if only for a restful second. And those snaky fingers!

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“Wonderful eyes!” continued the dead voice. “Perfect! Yes, yes, most unusual! And a fine head!”

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The waving fingers darted up toward Dean, and as suddenly down. Dean felt like dodging.

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“Excuse me! Nervous, old man! Lovely day — beautiful eyes — clever young man — all fine! Oh, quite jolly!” And with another wide gesture expressive of apology, he slid away, his flesh fairly tumbling with laughter, and fingers feeling about with frantic rapidity.

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Dean and the bum gazed after him, crawling up the path. Dean was glad, yet sorry to see him go. The man was a horror; but he meant something in Hester’s life, and should have been encouraged to sit down and talk. As he rebuked himself, the bum slouched to his feet and stepped toward Dean. Then he saw something behind the young man, and fell back.

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The bum had seen Hester returning. She slid into the seat beside Dean, with a quick, panicky glance at the back of the slowly departing fat man.

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“Jim,” she reprimanded him, “you stubborn — Oh, why didn’t you do as I told you? I saw him stop here. Tell me — what did he say?”

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“Oh, he was a fine old chap,” said Dean, lying, still vexed with himself, and, of course, with her. “Good-natured, with a smile a mile wide. Said it was a jolly day, and made a fuss over my perfect blue — “

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“I told you! Oh, I told you not to look at him!” exclaimed Hester, in an agony of reproach and fear. “Jim, there is just one way to be safe — promise me you’ll take it! Stay out of this park, Jim, that’s all — please!”

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“More likely to move in here,” muttered Dean. “I’m not going to sit around any more and watch you jump. I’m going to find out what’s the matter with you, since you won’t trust me and tell — “

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“I can’t!”

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“Well, you can tell me what this man is to you!” he said angrily. “He isn’t your — “

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He broke off.

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“You wouldn’t play with me that way, would you, Hester?” he ended, his anger subsiding.

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For a sweet moment the brown eyes filled with longing. Fear was forgotten.

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“Oh, Jim boy, I wish I could ask you to help, for I’m in an awful place. But you’d only hurt. There, he’s reached the end of the path and is coming back! How I hate him! But I must get in before he does! Oh!”

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She shot a look at Dean. He suspected she had said something impulsive, not meant for him.

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“Good-by. And, for your life, stay out of the park, Jim,” adding, with a pleading smile, “dear!”

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More baffled than ever, Dean watched the lithe, graceful girl cut diagonally across the park to the nearest street. Suddenly he became aware of the bum standing over him.

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Chapter 3

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The Park Killer

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“Say, young feller,” drawled the battered owner of the piercing black eyes, “I dunno what that young lady was throwin’ into you, but I bet she was tippin’ you off on that fat slob. Now, I ain’t got nothin’ against him, an’ dunno nothin’ about him, but I’m plumb scared o’ him, an’ so are mah pals. Most of the park calls him ‘The Laughing Man,’ but us select gents of leisure — well, to us he’s ‘The Park Killer.’

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“Of course we dunno,” he continued, with a sidelong glance up the path, “but we think he did for several of our bunch. Only yesterday my own pal vanished — a good old scout he was, with the reddest hair and the bluest eyes ever. Blue as yours, they were. The last I saw o’ him he was sittin’ on a bench, gabbin’ with that oily, chucklin’ corpse. He’s sneakin’ down on us now. So long, pard, and excuse — I just thought I’d back up the young lady.”

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“Much obliged,” replied Dean, cordially, not knowing what else to say. “Guess I’ll wander out with you. I didn’t take to him, either.”

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Down the gravel they walked — at a fair pace — the black-eyed bum, and the blue-eyed young man, both fleeing from a smile, though one frankly admitted it and the other did not. And most of Dean’s thinking concerned the fate of the red-head and the meaning of Hester’s “I must get in before he does!”

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For three days Dean neither saw Hester nor heard from her. Her custom had been to telephone him that she would be at a certain corner or drug store at a certain time; all their meetings had been arranged that way. What he hated most was that she would never let him take her home; she always had stopped at one of several corners and had told him to be a nice boy and run along. And now, even of that silly dismissal, there was no more. All he knew was that he loved the most maddening, baffling girl that ever drew a man with, her dark eyes, and that apparently she had vanished from the earth.

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Then, by chance, he glimpsed her walking fast through the twilight. His impulse was to run to her. Instead, he trailed her. In a little side street, one of a row of dark, secretive houses — all of a kind — swallowed her. Dean noted the street and number, and was turning away, when a thought stopped him.

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Under cover of a deserted doorway, he watched a half hour — to have his patience rewarded by the sight of a man silently disappearing into the same house which hid Hester. It was the fat man!

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“I must get in before he does,” rang again in Dean’s ears. And he knew there was but one thing to do — the only way to settle his doubts and fears; and that was to go into that house.

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Chapter 4

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Warm Sun, Blue Sky; Blue As Your Eyes

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The very next day, therefore, a young man, whose clothes cried for extensive repairing and whose manner indicated that he had abandoned all hope, sat on a park bench and turned a nice blue eye, now and then, on the length of the gravel walk. He ceased even this mild interest as a fat, smiling man took a snail’s pace up the path. With body slumped, the young man stared dully into space. His only movement pushed his shapeless hat back from his eyes.

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The fat man paused directly in line with the brooding eyes. Slowly the blue eves rose and m%t the bright, steely points of the other. The doughy, pendulous mass of the face wabbled with laughter.

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“My young man with the beautiful eyes,” droned the hard voice. “Very jolly! May I?”

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His seemingly boneless bulk melted onto the bench, bringing altogether too near the playing fingers and that inhuman grinning cut.

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“Remember me?” The emotionless sound went on. “Name’s Rudah. Like you — liked you the other day. Wonderful eyes — oh, jolly! See you’re in hard luck. What’s the matter?”

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“Same old tale,” muttered Dean, shuddering within at the close contact. “Gambled — was fired — sold even my clothes to pay my debts. And now I’m a bum — own all the time there is and nothing else.”

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“That’s quite jolly — tough, I mean! Never mind — everything’ll be happy yet. Yes, yes! How about a job with me? I’m a scientist — want a man to keep my stuff in order. Everything lovely, eh?”

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“Sure.” Dean agreed quickly. Then, fearing he might have been too eager: “Oh, I don’t know. I’m no good — what’s the use?”

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“Be jolly — lots of use — very useful to me! Any relatives?” Rudah’s laughing question made Dean swallow — he knew not why.

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“Not a soul,” he said brazenly. “Glad of it now.”

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“Fine — fine! — Come right along!

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“Perfect day,” was Rudah’s comment as the two rose, and Rudah started off with a celerity Dean had thought impossible for the ducklike waddle. “Warm sun, blue sky; blue as your eyes!”

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The fat man’s speed and happiness increased as they approached their destination. Everything was lovely; even the hot sun, almost down now, was jolly. But Dean could not class his laughter as contagious; and kept his eyes from the flowing fatness beside him, and his thoughts on Hester.

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Neither man ever looked behind him, and so did not see another following far in the rear — a man in ragged clothes and with smoldering fire in his black eyes.

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“Here we are! No palace — just a jolly place to work!” Rudah, chuckling, turned in where Dean knew he would — the same silent sepulcher of a place in which yesterday Hester had disappeared. Would she be in there? Would she see him — and if so, what would happen? He went up the stone steps after Rudah, every nerve high-strung, expecting anything.

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As the door closed on them, the black-eyed bum sauntered by the house — then paused as if in uncertainty. In a moment he shook his head and started off slowly. He had the air of one in doubt.

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Within the house, Dean felt that he was in a place in which there never had been a sound. Not a warm human whisper ever had confronted the ear; here was only a strong smell of chemicals and of old, musty coolness — an odor which meant rats and rotten flooring.

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He almost jumped as Rudah’s living fingers touched his head. An electric shock thrilled him. It was as if the fingers had pressed on the very brain!

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“Pardon — just taking off your hat!” And Rudah dropped it on a dusty chair. Dean, still flooded with horror by the uncanny touch, felt that, oppressed though he was by this tomb, he must speak.

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“That’s all right,” he began lamely — but was cut short by a fearful scream, a sharp cry that split the house.

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Dean’s eyes shot toward the floor above, and, through the gray twilight of the interior saw a face, white and wide-eyed with terror, leaning over the railing. The face vanished — but not before he had recognized it. It was Hester!

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With speed miraculous for his bulk, the fat man already was ascending the stairs.

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“Just a minute,” he chanted over his shoulder calmly,” my wife — not well!”

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Dean’s muscles had gathered to dart after him and to Hester, but at the words “my wife” a sickness clutched him, heart and throat, and he stared dumbly into the darkness above. His wife! So Hester had cheated him — made a jest of his manhood! The wife of this laughing fiend — this poisonous satyr!

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The tension of the nerves snapped, and Dean dropped into the dusty chair. Not a sound in the house — though his cars still hurt and sang with that scream. A wave of recklessness and self-contempt swept over-him. Hester had tricked him; he was one more whom life and love had fooled; let the Park Killer —

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He caught the sound of a key softly turning, and then the creaking of the old stairs as Rudah descended. The fat man advanced on him, bubbling with apology and cheerfulness.

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“All jolly now — yes, yes! She’s resting — lying down! Nervous, like me! This way,” paddling off down the long, dusky hallway; “want to show you your job. Yes, indeed” — a hideous gurgle — “you’ll be very useful!”

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Utterly careless of self, with scarcely a trace of curiosity as to what would befall him, Dean did as he was bid. At the end of the corridor, Rudah, with loathsome deference, ushered him into a totally dark room. Dean would have sworn that those long, writhing fingers — those grasping, sucking tentacles — played about his head. Instinctively he jerked away his head and put up his hands.

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But only a light snapped on — and there was Rudah at the switch, a dozen feet away, laughing like a ghoul. Dean’s hands dropped and he sniffed at his childish fear of the dark.

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“Your job,” Rudah began. “See! Hooks in a mess, tools in a mess, bottles, jars — all in a fearful, jolly mess! You pick ‘em up keep ‘em in order. Easy, lovely job, eh?”

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Dean nodded, agreeing more with the mess than with the ease of the job. Everything was in disorder; books scattered about, shelves of tubes and bottles in disarray, gleaming knives, scissors and other instruments here and there, a heavy stationary table in the middle of the room, and, over in a corner, a sort of table or bed on wheels, on top of which lay something covered with a cloth. Dean noticed that the window’s had been boarded up and that all the light came from powerful hanging globes. So strong was their combined force as to pain his eyes.

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Not knowing what else to do, and hoping that if anything were going to happen it would, hurry up, Dean began an investigatory stroll. With him went Rudah, explaining happily where everything belonged. Like incessant lightning the fingers vibrated, while the sickish, slashed face quavered like a disturbed quicksand.

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“He looks like a swamp,” thought Dean, sensing danger and glad of it. “What in thunder does he want with me — the grinning devil!”

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Chapter 5

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Shooting the Heart

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In his tour, Dean came to the cloth-covered table in the corner. Impelled by some perverse desire and half suspecting what he would see, he drew back the cloth. Just behind him he could feel Rudah spilling with laughter.

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Under the sheet lay a man. The eyes that stared unwinking up at the glaring lights were blue and strikingly clear; and the mop of hair and coarse beard were a dusty red.

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“Of course,” said Dean. Before him lay the black-eyed bum’s pal!

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“Jolly fellow — that!” Rudah, unruffled, informed him. “Used to have your job. Good man — lovely eyes — heavier than I thought, too!”

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Dean gave these enigmatic and perhaps startling phrases little attention, suddenly having become interested in something about the farther side of the man’s head. He leaned over to see more clearly. As his eyes gazed upon the mutilated skull, his nerves telegraphed a subtle but sharp alarm and both brain and body prepared instantaneously to turn and defend him.

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But he was too late. Giant’s lingers — irresistible bands of steel — were about his neck; and he knew, with his first agonizing struggle, that he could not turn and that his spark of life lay wholly at the mercy of this laughing, living death.

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“Easy! Easy! Everything’s jolly!” The cold, even, mirthless tones floated to Dean’s darkening consciousness. “Won’t hurt you — must have a bandage — glorious eyes — best I ever had! Oh, jolly!”

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And with a sort of silly, formless thought that Hester surely couldn’t love a monster like this, Dean fell swiftly into a pit of blackness.

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As his spirit took hold on life again, he dreamed that soft, warm lips had just been lifted from his. Weakly he hoped that the dream would return. Consciousness flowed back stronger. Once more came the kiss — sweet, cleansing, driving blackness before it; and he knew it was no dream. Some one in the darkness — but why was it so dark? — was kissing him tenderly.

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Gentle, woman hands passed healingly over his cheeks and bruised throat. He heard a wordless, soothing whispering. He strained his eyes; but could make out nothing. And yet, when that giggling beast had throttled him, the room had blazed with light. Had that flabby horror — Was — oh, was he blind!

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Of a sudden his lifted eyelashes shot a message to his brain, and a new tightness about his head confirmed his lightning suspicion. His eyes were bandaged. He remembered that, before darkness had swallowed him, Rudah had mentioned a bandage. Then he was not blind.

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But — sickening reaction — if he were blind, surely he would be conscious of at least a faint glow from the flood of light, though the bandage were the thickest. With mind now painfully alert, he started to rise — and could not. For the first time, he realized his hands were bound!

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As he moved, there floated to him a faint, thankful sigh. The next second, lips touched his ear and breathed low, trembing syllables.

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“Jim — why did you — oh, no time for that now! He locked me in, but I crawled out the transom. I’m going for help now. He’ll be back any minute. If he should shoot you, hold perfectly still, and you’ll be safe!”

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In the darkness, Dean sneered. If you are shot, hold still, and you are magically invulnerable! A genial household, indeed!

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“Oh, don’t bother about me.” He spoke sullenly, not caring particularly whether Rudah heard him or not. “Let him shoot. Only — I’d like to flatten him out — the bloated, yellow thing — even if he is your — “

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He broke off, suddenly feeling, as he shifted the position of his body, something strange.

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“What’s this thing on my chest? Hands tied, eyes bandaged, probably blind, too — and now here’s something pressing on my lung! What the dickens does this all mean?”

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“S — sh! I put it there!” He felt the tickle of her hair. “Good-by. Remember — if he shoots, don’t move!”

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Gick! The lights flamed on, and Dean knew from the immediate rush of dimmed rays to his eyes that he was not blind!

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Beside him Hester caught her breath. And he could positively feel that swollen animal, standing by the electric switch, slopping with laughter. A thin-edged silence — then —

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“Ah! Sweethearts! Of course — your cry, my dear. Should have known it; brown-eyed women full of sentiment, but no brains. Still, you have been helpful. — must admit it. But no more — no more. Not so jolly now — bad, bad!”

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Dean felt the floor shake as Rudah paced up and down, muttering to himself.

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“Untie my hands, you fat devil,” burst out Dean, “and I’ll make things jolly for you!”

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Hester put a hand over his mouth.

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“Don’t,” she whispered. Then to Rudah, in tones hard, biting, with but the trace of a quiver: “You shall not have him — as you have the others!”

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“So?” Rudah did not cease his heavy glide. “But I will! Hands itch to get at him now! Glorious eyes — splendid head! But you — you dark eyes! That’s the problem: — what — to — do — with — you. You love — and all love is foolish, useless; no love in the brain, just in the red heart. You are no good to me, now; can’t stay here, can’t go away. Meddlesome police here in no time. Dear, dear! And everything was so jolly!”

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For a half minute there was quiet. Slowly an idea penetrated to Dean that Hester was in danger; and he tried to convince himself that he did not care. His test of self resulted in complete, admitted failure. He knew that always he would care.

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Without warning, Hester made a rush for the door. Dean was fairly jolted as Rudah’s gigantic bulk moved to intercept her. He cursed his uselessness, and dragged himself to a sitting posture against the wall.

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“No — no — dear lady,” came in cold, merciless tones, “don’t go! May be useful yet! Oh, yes, yes! Why, this is fine — all jolly again! Why didn’t I think of this before?”

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Chapter 6

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Miles Away In The Darkness

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“You fiend!” Hester’s voice was clear, furious. “If I hadn’t been such a fool as to scream, I’d have — “

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“Never mind; all lovely now! You are lovers. Brown eyes and blue — wonderful chance for comparing opposing types, eyes, brains! Yes, yes! never had such an opportunity! Both very valuable. Must get right at it!”

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“Go ahead,” Hester said coolly. “Only I warn you — twenty-four hours after you kill me, you yourself will be either dead or in prison!”

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Hester to die! That foul, grinning death would kill his own wife just because she was mixed up in this silly rigmarole about blue eyes! He could die, he felt, almost carelessly, because love’s light for him had been darkened. But Hester — —!

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Dean scrambled to his feet and stood, straight and strong, a defiant figure of young manhood, against the wall. He spoke — and his voice rose to an echoing crescendo of command and courage.

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“Kill me, you scum, but let her go! If you have tricked me here to get my eyes, why, take them! I admit I love her, and you, her husband, should! If you have the shadow of a soul, be kind to her. And for Heaven’s sake,” he said, drawing a deep breath, and throwing his bandaged head high, “take off this thing and let me die like a man!”

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“No — no.” Rudah chuckled. “Light would hurt beautiful eyes. But hold that position — please.”

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A sharp cry from Hester.

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“Makes a lovely shot!” “Jim — he’s going to shoot! Keep still — he always shoots the heart — you’re safe! Oh — Jim!”

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With the flash of a thought that Hester must have gone, mad. Dean laughed wildly and rushed toward the spot whence had come the expressionless, evil voice. With hands tied, eyes darkened, and this puzzling weight on his chest, he felt helpless enough. His only desire before death should blast him was to hurl himself on that loathsome bulk and with drive of shoulder or kick of foot to hurt it. Oh, to flatten it — bury it — especially that laughing mask!

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“A jolly shot,” said Rudah — and fired.

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Dean felt an awful shock — a weakening nausea — knew dimly that he had been shot over the heart. And for the second time in an hour, he slipped away into nothingness, his last impression being a sound of crashing, ripping boards.

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The nothingness became something. From miles away in the darkness came a confused murmur; then a sharper tone of command; a sound of heavy bodies moving off. A rest — a pause while his vital forces gathered — and life and understanding flowed back.

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He opened his eyes, and looked up into sweet mirrors of deepest brown, from which all fear had fled. His head was in Hester’s lap; his eyes and hands were free, and that mysterious weight over his heart was gone. He smiled.

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“You are safe, Hester?”

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“Yes — and for all time, I hope,” she said tremulously, “with you!”

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“With me!” The meaning in her words gave him strength to sit up. “What about Rudah, your husband?”

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“Jim — Jim! As if — That liar and murderer is now on the way to iron bars, where he has belonged for many a day — thanks to this — ah — gentleman.”

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Dean turned and saw an individual in not the best of clothes, gazing down at the body of the redhead. Shaking his head mournfully, he slouched over to the couple sitting on the floor. Dean recognized the black-eyed bum.

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“Thanks, lady, for the kind word” — he said with the hint of a grin. “All right now, young feller? Yeah — me and the cops breezed in through that lumber,” indicating the smashed boarding over the windows. “I trailed you here; didn’t like the looks o’ you with that greasy, grinnin’ hog. When you disappeared in this black old dump, I didn’t know what to do — just wandered around. But my hunch that somethin’ was rotten kept botherin’ me, so I beat it for the station and gave ‘em an earful.”

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“You saved both of us,” murmured Dean, rising, and extending a cordial hand to the bum. “A few minutes later — “

\n\n

“I’m all right. I wanted to see if I was right about poor old ‘Red.’”

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He looked sorrowfully toward the sheeted figure.

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“Well — must be runnin’ along. Glad we pinched that laughin’ monster. So long!”

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He turned at the doorway, his black eyes alight.

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“Take it from me, young feller, whenever that young lady talks, you listen!”

\n\n

They threw him a laughing farewell.

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“Good advice,” murmured Dean. “Come on now — out with it all!”

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“That’s easy,” replied Hester, happily. “I’ve been aching to tell you for months, but didn’t dare. First of all, Jim dear, you must know that I used to be a trained nurse, but for the last two years have been a detective. This Doctor Rudah, who was once a well-known surgeon and psychologist, had been suspected for some time of causing the disappearance of several poor chaps, hangers-on of the park. Because of my medical knowledge, I was put on the case, and managed to get a job as his assistant. I soon found out what was wrong.”

\n\n

“Why, he’s crazy, isn’t he?” interrupted Dean. “Plain nutty!”

\n\n

“Yes — nutty, but not plain! He was insane without a doubt, but so shrewd and apparently normal that I could never catch him with any damning proof. He told me that all these bodies he operated on were unidentified suicides and that sort. Perhaps you saw the hole in that poor fellow’s head over there.”

\n\n

“That’s what I was looking at when he choked me.”

\n\n

“Well, his particular style of mania connected itself with blue eyes. That’s why I was so afraid for you. Did you ever bear the theory that blue eyes indicate intellectuality, as opposed to dark eyes, which signify emotional temperament?”

\n\n

“Sure — something like that.”

\n\n

“There’s some truth in it. Well, when Rudah went mad, he was a brain specialist. In his craze he believed that blue eyes meant a greater weight of brain and complexity of gray matter — both of which are held to indicate great brain power. The bluer the eye, the greater the weight of brain — and of fascination for him. That’s why he was so pleased with you. And because he wanted the head to examine, he always shot his victims through the heart!”

\n\n

“I see.” Dean grinned. “That’s the reason you hollered at me not to move. I thought you were batty. Still, I don’t see why I wasn’t — “

\n\n

“This is the reason.” Hester picked up a thick flatiron without a handle, from a table. “Knowing his methods, when I found you bound here in the darkness, I stuffed this in your shirt pocket over your heart. I knew he was a crack shot, and anyway, Jim, I had to do something quick, and that was the best I could think of.”

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“It did the business, sweetheart.” His arm slid around her. “But even now I am ignorant as to the most important bit of the mystery. What is your honest, un-detective name — the name I can kiss you by?”

\n\n

“Why, Jim, you knew that long ago.” Brown eyes fled from blue, and a head of dark hair snuggled into his shoulder. “It’s Hester — Hester Dean!”

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~ The End ~

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\n"" ] , [ "title": "Beau Brummel Murder", "author": "Ray Cummings", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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Fashion Plate

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They called him Fashion Plate. George Bryan didn’t mind it. They were just ignorant village louts, loafers around the pool hall, stationery store and the little railroad station of Shady Valley; they thought, because Bryan took pride in being always carefully dressed, that he was something to jibe at. Beau Brummel. Young George Bryan secretly was pleased at being likened to the famous English dandy. Beau Brummel’s name, also, had been George Bryan.

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The thoughts were roaming in Bryan’s mind tonight, as alone in his car he drove from New York City, out the main highway toward Shady Valley. His nickname of Fashion Plate — surely that would be an advantage this momentous night. Who would ever suspect the immaculate, soft-spoken George Bryan of a deed of violence? He chuckled to himself. The villagers might think of him as a sissy, but never as a murderer …

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At the crossroads where the highway went on into the village, Bryan turned off onto the Lake Ontara side road. He watched his chance, so that nu one saw him. The time was quarter of ten — a hot July evening. Queer what a breathless night it was! He was conscious that his heart was pounding; his chest seemed to have a weight or, it. Was he frightened, now that his chance had come? Nonsense! Just excited. Fate was with him. Every circumstance was just right. Peter Rawlings would be coming along this lonely road by the edge of the lake, in five or ten minutes now. The thing would be done, in a few minutes after that.

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The idea of killing Peter Rawlings had come to Bryan from Rawlings himself. Rawlings had said:

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“You know, George, I’m determined to teach myself how to swim this summer, if it kills me.”

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Just a little thing like that. But Grace — Bryan’s sister, who was Raw- lings’ wife — had heard it; and so had others. It was Bryan’s chance. Nothing could seem more obviously accidental than the drowning of a man who had declared he was going to teach himself how to swim, even if it killed him!

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And now had come the first breathless, hot night of the summer — just the sort of night that would tempt one to take a dip in the lake. Bryan could see the lake now between the trees that lined the rocky little side road. The water was a big, lead- grey mirror, dark and sullen under the glowering clouds. There might be people and small boats over by the distant opposite shore, far behind the big wooded island, but there was no one here.

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At a place where bushes clustered to shroud his car, Bryan turned off the road and hopped out. He was a young fellow, handsome, and as always, immaculately dressed. In the heat, he had taken off his hat and blue serge jacket and laid them on the car seat. His figure was a white blob of white shirt and carefully pressed white linen trousers, as he crouched in- the bushes, waiting for Rawlings to come along. It surely wouldn’t be long now. Rawlings was a methodical fellow, a creature of habit. You could always depend on him doing the same thing at the same time. He had married Bryan’s younger sister, Grace about two years ago. He was rich, or at least comfortably well off — one of those fellows who watched every penny and wouldn’t lend a cent to a relative without bankers’ security. He owned a small but prosperous department store in Thomasville, some twelve miles away. He closed it at nine-thirty; and every night like clockwork he drove home alone, leaving Thomasville at quarter of ten and coming along this lonely little side road past Lake Ontara.

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For another ten minutes Bryan silently crouched. He was tense, alert; his mind was clicking with details of just what he would do so that there would be no possibility of error. There would be no footprints here; no tracks which could be identified as the tread of his tires. The road was hard and dry; the ground all around here was rocky, right down to the rocky shore where the water lapped with a sullen murmur in the stillness.

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And suddenly now, faintly in the distance he heard the chug of Rawlings’ old, outmoded car. Right on schedule. Bryan’s heart leaped, but he steadied himself. He stood in the shadow of a tree-trunk until he could see positively that it was Rawlings, and then he jumped forward. Rawlings, in white shirt and trousers, was a dim white blob behind the wheel. For just a second Bryan thought that there was someone in the back seat of the car behind him, but when he got closer he saw that no one else was there.

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Chapter 2

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Two Little White Blobs

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“Well, I say, that you, Peter?” he called.

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Rawlings saw him and pulled up.

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“Hello, George,” he said. He was never very cordial. “What are you doing out here?”

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Bryan mastered his breathlessness. “Just coming back from New York. Wretchedly hot, isn’t it? I thought I’d take a swim. Cool off.” He gestured easily with a graceful hand. “My car’s down the road a way — thought I’d take a ten-minute dip. Too bad you can’t join me, old fellow — you’ve no idea how invigorating — “

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Queer how difficult it was to keep his soft, suave voice normal! This damnable breathlessness! But Rawlings didn’t notice. And it wasn’t hard to persuade him.

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“The human body really floats in water, you know,” Bryan was presently saying. “It’s lighter than water, when you immerse nearly all of it. But that’s the trouble — the beginner wants to climb out of the water and that’s what makes him sink.” Gruesome words. Somehow they made Bryan shudder inside. He had had no idea it would be so difficult to do this thing.

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“Why not master your fear once and for all?” he added persuasively. “Once you do that, I can teach you to swim in two minutes.”

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Abruptly Rawlings set his jaw. “All right,” he agreed. “I’ll do it.”

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Perfect! Nothing could go wrong now. There was no one to see them as they went down the dark declivity, just two little white blobs down on the sullen shorefront where in a moment tumbled clusters of rocks and the rise of ground hid them wholly from the road. Hastily they undressed. “I’ve only got one towel,” Bryan was saying smoothly. “But it’s a big one; we can both use it.”

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He had brought the big bath towel from New York. But Rawlings wouldn’t be the one to use it; he’d be lying floating in the shallow water … There mustn’t be any outcry now. Just a little splashing and gurgling. Rawlings was a man about Bryan’s height and build, but older, not so muscular. It wouldn’t be hard to hold him under — just for a minute and then he’d inevitably gulp in water and start to strangle. There mustn’t be any marks on him; nothing that would show violence …

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“I guess — I guess this is deep enough,” Rawlings quavered as his instinctive, abnormal fear of the water made him tremble.

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“Just a little further,” Bryan urged. “I say, old man, don’t be such a coward.”

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It was pathetic to see Rawlings trying to conquer what he knew was an idiotic terror. That was queer, too; Rawlings with that terror all his life, as though something within him, deep beneath his conscious brain, had always known that he was destined to meet his death like this.

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“I’ll do it if it kills me,” Rawlings was muttering. “Damn it, I will.”

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Gruesome prophesy … why did he have to say that so much? As though something were making him say it so that Bryan would shudder, with a racing heart and excited, taut nerves to make him fumble this thing? But he wouldn’t fumble it … Get him to lie on his back now; and then shove him down, sit on him … Hold him, just for a moment.

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Bryan’s chest seemed bursting with the excitement of it. But he kept his wits. Water a bit less than waist deep. That would be ideal.

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“Now, relax,” he heard himself saying softly. “You’re tense as the devil, Peter. Don’t be like that. I won’t even let your face get wet. I promise. Come on now, lie back — stretch out. I’ll put my hand under your neck. Can’t you trust me, old fellow? Think how pleased Grace will be if she can go swimming with you next week.”

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So easy. A faint smile of triumph twitched at Bryan’s lips as he stood beside the shivering, naked Rawlings and the taut body of the older man eased backward with his feet coming up.

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“Don’t let my head go under, George!”

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“No. Of course I won’t.”

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Chapter 3

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The Dead Fingers Clinging

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Now, down with him! Bryan shoved suddenly. There was only a little floundering splash; air bubbles rising, with the water down there choking Rawlings’ first startled scream. And then it was a grim, silent struggle under water, with all the weight of Bryan’s body pressing his victim’s head and shoulders against the bottom. Less than three feet of water; most of the weight of Bryan’s body was out of it as he sprawled, with his knees and hands down. Rawlings was like a great, floundering trapped fish. Weirdly, unexpectedly strong at first as Bryan desperately clung to him. His legs were up now, churning the water, beating it white. God, why wouldn’t he die?

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It was a chaos of horror to the panting Bryan. But he kept Rawlings’ head under … A minute. Two minutes. There were no air bubbles now. The air had all come out; water was going in. From his first gasping, under-water scream the inexperienced Rawlings had been strangling. But his struggle was ghastly. Like fighting with a great white thing that ought to be dead, but still lunging. More feebly now. Got him!

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Hold him! Never mind his threshing legs; keep his head and shoulders down! Three minutes. Four perhaps. It seemed an eternity to Bryan’s whirling senses while he sprawled there and clung. Like fighting with a dead man. Limp, gruesome white thing that still waved its arms and legs and feebly, aimlessly twitched.

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And then even the twitching was stilled. The dead fingers clinging to Bryan’s arms relaxed, slipped away, the legs floated up, weaving a little from the movement of the water, as though the ghastly limp white thing were still alive.

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For another moment the cold, shaking Bryan clung; and then he staggered to his feet. And the dead thing floated up beside him, with water lapping over its goggling face.

\n\n

Horrible. He had no idea it would be like that. He stood ankle deep in the water, shivering, numbed, with a sudden panic sweeping him. What a chance he had taken! Suppose someone had come along and seen him? Could you see down here from any part of the nearby road? Suppose someone came along now?

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The wild panic swept Bryan as he Stood shivering there in the dark; a panic of haste and terror. But he fought with it; conquered it. The thing was done, and triumph swept him. He dried himself carefully with the towel and dressed. His hair wasn’t wet; that was lucky. It wasn’t even mussed. There wasn’t a mark on him from the struggle with the drowning Rawlings whose gripping hands had only clutched so futilely at his arms.

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But this panic was horrible. Despite the heat of the night, Bryan’s teeth were chattering, but as he dried and dressed he felt warmer. It was the cold water, but mostly it was the excitement. He mustn’t get rattled now and forget the towel. The towel with which he had dried himself was a little white blob at his feet. He snatched it up; ran for the road and his car … Yes, from farther along here you could faintly see that weird white thing, half-immersed there in the shallow water of the shore. Somebody would pass here and see it, tonight perhaps, or certainly in the morning.

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With the panic still on him, mingling with his chuckling triumph, Bryan climbed back into his dark little car and swiftly drove away. He did not head for Shady Valley; he was too clever for that. Instead, driving as swiftly as he dared, he circled back around Thomasville, then cut across and hit the New York Highway at a point far below Shady Valley and the Lake Ontara side road. He passed two gas stands where he was known; drove slowly enough so that the attendants would see him and respond to his wave of greeting. Exactly as though he were on his way home from the city; no possible connection with Lake Ontara …

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Chapter 4

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Mr. Rawlings — Guess He’s Dead

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He had stopped at the bridge over Sunapee Creek, tied a big stone in the towel and sunk it. The panic was gone now; there was nothing but triumph. Nothing ahead of him now but Rawlings’ money. Grace, a shocked, grieved young widow, wouldn’t be niggardly with her sympathetic brother, of course. She had already done her best, pawning her jewels to help Bryan out with his gambling debts. Bryan was senior teller at the little Shady Valley bank. Grace didn’t know about his six thou- sand-dollar shortage there, of course. That would have been discovered next week, when the bank examiners arrived; but it would be made good by Grace now, of course. He shivered at the closeness of his escape.

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It was nearly eleven o’clock when presently he was entering the somnolent little tree-lined street of Shady Valley. He had adjusted his collar and tie in the little rear-view mirror. His hair was sleek and in perfect array, as always. Everything was perfect. Nothing ahead of him now but gentle sympathy with Grace; and then the spending of Grace’s money on Vivian. The thought of Vivian, her dark eyes, her beauty, thrilled him. Vivian was worth spending money on.

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As he reached Center Avenue, Bryan’s heart jumped. Down the broad shaded street, where the cluster of lamps over a stoop marked the brick building, which was the Shady Valley Police Station, a little commotion was evident. A group of people was on the sidewalk; a big sedan was there at the curb; and inside the building there was evidently unusual activity.

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Bryan hopped out and joined the crowd. “I say, what’s happened?” he demanded of a pimply-faced youth.

\n\n

“Oh, you, Fashion Plate.” But the village boy wasn’t jibing. He was awed; excited. “Your brother-in- law,” he said. “Mr. Rawlings — guess he’s dead — he was found down in the lake near the Thomasville cut-off.”

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Then the milling little crowd saw Bryan. Everyone always stared at him, stared with a secret envy, Bryan thought. They stared at him now as he stood, immaculate in white linen trousers, with a carnation in the lapel of his blue serge jacket. And they crowded around him; gave him swift, incoherent details … a night-driving tourist, through Thomasville, heading for Albany, had seen the white thing in the lake, momentarily disclosed by his headlights as he rounded a bend in the road. He’d brought it in a rush here to the police station. The> policemen inside now were trying artificial respiration.

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That made Bryan’s heart leap into his throat. Suppose they succeeded … Surely that wasn’t possible now …

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“Not a damn pulmotor in this burg,” somebody was saying. “There’s one coming from Thomasville, but what the hell — “

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“Why — why, good heavens, that’s terrible — my brother-in-law, you say?” He knew that he should force his way into the police station. That was the normal thing to do — a shocked relative … He’d phone poor Grace from inside …

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The tourist appeared on the stoop. “Not a chance,” he said to the crowd. “He’s a goner.”

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A vast relief flooded Bryan as he shoved his way to the steps. But why was everybody looking at him so strangely? All these young loafers in the crowd who knew him so well, all staring at him, murmuring to each other.

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“Lookit Fashion Plate!”

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“Oh my goodness, how disgraceful!”

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Chapter 5

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White Linen Trousers

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What the devil! Bryan’s heart was racing. The accursed village louts were jibing at him. But they seemed puzzled, too, standing away from him, staring at him. He realized that he was in the light of the police station now.

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“My Gawd,” somebody gasped, “Why does he look so frightened?” Fashion Plate! Accursed nickname. Accursed reputation. Without them, no one would have noticed him …

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“Why — why — “ he was stammering. “I say, don’t push me like this. What’s the matter with you fellows?”

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He was in the police station now, with two or three uniformed men clustering around him. It was all a blur to his terrified sight. A ring of staring eyes; voices … “Lookit him! Fashion Plate never looked like this before.”

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“Why is he so frightened?”

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“Damn queer — something queer about this, fellers — “

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Hands were plucking at him. What in heaven’s name could this mean? Then suddenly he realized that the policemen were searching him; taking things from his pockets. His familiar things from his jacket pocket …

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Then abruptly one of the big policemen’ was saying:

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“You, Bryan — when did you last see your brother-in-law?”

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“Me? See Peter? Why — why, I haven’t seen him for a week.”

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What was this? What was the matter with everybody here? These things they were taking from Bryan’s pockets —

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“Didn’t see him tonight — not at all today?” the policeman persisted.

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“No. No, of course, I didn’t.” “Didn’t happen to go swimming with him tonight by any chance, did you?”

\n\n

What in the devil? The scene was swaying before Bryan’s terrified gaze. He fought for calmness, mustered his courage to grin.

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“Say, what’s the matter with all you people? Is this some kind of joke? Of course, I didn’t go swimming. Haven’t seen Peter in a week, I told you.”

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“But you’re a good swimmer?” “Yes. Sure I am. What in hell has that — “

\n\n

“You wouldn’t let your brother-in-law drown waist deep in water, would you now?” the police sergeant said ironically. “Funny thing, Bryan — the lake there where he drowned — only waist deep. Not over your head anywhere near there — and no current, no tide in the lake to wash the body from somewhere else. Especially since he was found when he had been dead only a few minutes. It was murder, Bryan — “

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“Murder?” Bryan stammered. “Why — why, how awful — “

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“Yes, isn’t it? And if you didn’t go swimming with Rawlings — “

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The big sergeant gestured with grim irony to the things he was taking from Bryan’s trousers’ pockets … A memorandum dated today, on a billhead of Rawlings’ store … A telegram to Rawlings …

\n\n

“He got that telegram at nine o’clock tonight,” the sergeant said. “Stuffed it here into his trousers’ pocket — “

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Sickened with horror, Bryan stared down at his white linen trousers, and his whirling mind swept back … that dark cluster of rocks on the- shorefront where he and Rawlings had undressed … Their clothes had been in separate piles. Except the white trousers. He realized it now — the white trousers, both so similar, laying partly on top of each other, with the white towel on them — just dim pallid blobs down there in the darkness of the ground. And as he dressed after the murder Bryan had been in such a panic of haste and excitement he had had no time to think o himself at all, nor in his dark car until he had come here … The first time in his life that Beau Brummel had neglected his appearance!

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“We’ve got you, Bryan — “

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“Yes, you — you’ve got me — “

\n\n

He hardly realized he was saying it. He was still blankly staring down at his white linen trousers. But they were Rawlings’ white linen trousers rumpled and dirty, very far from being neatly pressed because Rawlings was no Fashion Plate!

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~ The End ~

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\n"" ] , [ "title": "Gunsmoke In Her Eyes", "author": "John Bender", "body": ""
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Table of Contents
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Chapter 1

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A Brand-New, Imported Convertible

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Marcia nosed the long convertible up to the huge double gates of the Turner Shipyards and touched the horn lightly, twice, in her special signal. Old Mac, the gateman, peered at her car, then swung open the gates smartly.

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“Well, well. Missy!” he said. “How’s my girl?”

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“Fine, Mac,” Marcia Bramson said. As one of her father’s oldest employees this man had been a special confidant in her youth. But now, with her father dead and herself a woman grown, she did not feel the closeness of years ago.

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“How’s little Miss?”

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“Splendid,” she said “Away at school.”

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Marcia looked toward the building which housed the Turner Shipyard offices.

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“Is Paul — is Mr. Bramson still here?”

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Mac nodded.

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“Saw your husband heading out to the Navy contracts, hour or so ago. Some keel-laying there this morning.” The old man nodded at the car. “New one, eh? Foreign?”

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“Yes,” she said, “it’s a surprise for — “

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Quickly she caught herself. There was no point in going into details about the car with Mac.

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She parked and got out and walked toward the office building, annoyed at the look in old Mac’s eyes — the knowing, pitying look — which said that he knew all about Marcia and Paul Bramson.

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The way everyone knew, she realized. Once upon a time there was a girl named Marcia Turner whose very wealthy father bought her a nice, handsome Navy officer for a husband. Now, with father dead, the very wealthy girl was trying to buy the nice, handsome husband’s affection still. He strays, you see. Not too openly, but …

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So the very wealthy Mrs. Bramson gives him the presidency of the Turner Shipyards. Or a big new house up in the Heights. Or a fine, blooded saddle horse.

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And now a brand-new, imported convertible.

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At least she had an excuse this time. Their eighth anniversary. Eight years since that afternoon when her father had given her hand over to the slim young Naval officer, and Marcia Turner had thought herself the luckiest girl alive — war or no war. She’d been nineteen, shy and plain and immature, but deliriously happy in an unhappy world.

\n\n

She had yet to learn of young love growing brittle when it finds no answering love, no true and honest sharing. When it struggles against fawning greed … . But she had tried, giving what she could — first her love; and when that was not enough, a child. But that, too, had not proved the binding agent. And thus, because she had nothing else, her money …

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The door at the end of the corridor was lettered chastely, in gold, Paul Bramson, President. Inside, Dorene Chandler, Paul’s secretary — a beautiful pale blonde — sat with the air of a golden queen behind her desk.

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“Yes?” she inquired languidly as Marcia entered. “Oh, Mrs. Bramson! How are you?”

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“Fine,” Marcia lied again. “Is Mr. Bramson inside?”

\n\n

The girl nodded.

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“I’ll tell him you’re here.”

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“Never mind.”

\n\n

Marcia let herself into her husband’s sumptuously appointed office, and he looked up from his desk when the door swung inward.

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“Well — well, Marcia! A bit off your course, aren’t you?”

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Chapter 2

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Death Threat

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He was a tall, dark man, superbly tailored, matching the fine appointments of his office. His face held a look of deep concern — but certainly nothing of the dark rage which he had worn two nights ago, after their last blowup, when she had mentioned divorce and he had gone storming off to his club. The club to which she had bought his membership.

\n\n

He swept a pile of morning newspapers off his desk into the leather-tooled wastebasket.

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“And to what am I indebted for this — visit? Just checking up on me?”

\n\n

“Please, Paul!”

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All of her pleading for their tottering marriage was in her voice; all of the love for him which she could not cut out of herself.

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“I didn’t mean to disturb you. I just thought — well, our anniversary and all.”

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She pointed at the banks of windows which commanded the yards.

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“Remember that English convertible we saw, Paul?”

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He looked at her sharply, the storm points clearing from his eyes.

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“Marcia!” he said; brightly, like the spoiled, petulant child she knew so well. “Why, darling! Don’t tell me — “

\n\n

They stood at the windows and looked down at the automobile for long, quiet moments. Then they went out together, hand in hand, past the surprised Miss Chandler. For the next hour or so, speeding through the Spring-touched countryside, they were almost as they had been so long ago, companions in a beginning dream that knew no threat of wakefulness.

\n\n

In the flush of her excitement, Marcia suggested that they drive up to The Oaks — the small hideaway estate which her late father had given them for a honeymoon present. And abruptly Paul sobered, his lips going thin in his face.

\n\n

He shook his head.

\n\n

“Something — er — something’s come up, Marcy. I — I don’t want anyone to think I’m running away, right now.”

\n\n

On the drive back home he told her about the letters threatening his life.

\n\n

Back at the house, he produced a letter, and Marcia read it with a growing dread.

\n\n

The note was brief and to the point:

\n\n

You are going to die, Bramson. Don’t think you can escape.

\n\n

The words had been cut from newspapers and were pasted on a sheet of plain white paper.

\n\n

Paul stood frowning in front of the fireplace, a drink tinkling in his hand.

\n\n

“I got the first one a week ago,” he told her. “I thought some crank was pulling a gag. Then, day before yesterday, this one came to the office.”

\n\n

Beyond her fear, Marcia felt the first faint stirring of hope. If this had been on Paul’s mind the last few days, it accounted for his moodiness, his irritability. It wasn’t just herself he found displeasing!

\n\n

“You’ve called the police, haven’t you, Paul?”

\n\n

“Now, don’t you go worrying.”

\n\n

He crumpled the sheet of paper and tossed it into the roaring fireplace. “I can handle this without publicity — without a houseful of big-footed cops. I don’t have that gun collection just to look at!”

\n\n

Over her protests, he took one of his small automatics with him when he went out to the new car. He said he’d be very careful, of course, on the drive to pick up his things at the club. Despite the nagging worry, Marcia Bramson felt better than she had in days when her husband kissed her good-by.

\n\n

Paul was back in less than an hour. Marcia heard the front door open, the murmured conversation with the maid, then he came into the sitting room where she waited. All of the eagerness drained out of her when she saw his face.

\n\n

“Paul — what’s wrong?” She was at his side instantly.

\n\n

“They — they weren’t fooling,” he said hoarsely. His fingers trembled as he lit a cigarette. “They weren’t kidding at all.”

\n\n

He took a deep drag of smoke.

\n\n

“Somebody shot at me, Marcy, just before I turned into our drive.” He laughed nervously. “A miss, thank God. But they put a pretty convincing hole through the windshield.”

\n\n

In her quiet voice she said, “I’m going to phone the police.”

\n\n

The expected defiance did not come.

\n\n

“Yes,” he said, “I guess you’d better.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 3

\n\n

The Attempt

\n\n

Plainclothes Sergeant Fernold was a younger man than Marcia had expected, but he looked hard and competent. He asked his questions economically, nodding as they confirmed a point, or raising his thick eyebrows in a demand for further clarity.

\n\n

“You destroyed both letters?” he said, tapping his pencil against his notebook. “Too bad. But whoever wrote it was probably careful about prints, anyway. We’ll check the car and see what Ballistics can come up with.”

\n\n

He put the notebook and pencil in his pocket.

\n\n

“I won’t pretend we got much to go on. No known enemies — no leads to follow. So we play it close and careful. Check the servants, people at the ship-yards, tradesmen — everybody. I’ll stay here — go back and forth to the office with you.”

\n\n

They finished the drinks Marcia had fixed, and Fernold suggested Paul show him around. Paul and the sergeant went outside, checking doors and windows on the ground floor, while Marcia and the butler toured inside, locking up.

\n\n

When she joined the men downstairs, Paul was answering questions about the main gate. Fernold decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a look, and the three of them walked through the chill Spring twilight down to the road, where the sergeant examined the tall stone wall that bordered the estate.

\n\n

“Nobody’s cracking that,” he said, “without a ladder, or maybe a highvanned truck. We’ll put a guard on the grounds.”

\n\n

There was some traffic on the road that ran past the gate, and none of them was paying much attention to it. Suddenly, Marcia felt Paul grab her roughly by the arm and shove her toward the stone wall.

\n\n

“Look out!” Paul screamed. “Look out!”

\n\n

She caught a glimpse of the car, then — a big, black sedan bearing down on them. It all happened in a flash — the car swinging in off the road, hunting them, the motor roaring like an angry beast. The hood of the sedan growled to within a few feet of them before its driver had to twist away to avoid hitting the wall, then the car was spitting mud and dirt back into their faces as it roared away down the road, rocking, building speed.

\n\n

She heard shots — Fernold pumping his pistol after the car; then the sedan vanished around a bend in the road.

\n\n

“You okay, you okay?” Fernold was asking.

\n\n

Shaken, mud-stained and trembling, Paul said, “Close! That was too damn close!”

\n\n

“Mrs. Bramson?”

\n\n

“I’m — all right,” Marcia managed.

\n\n

In the house, Paul made a round of stiff drinks while Fernold called Headquarters. There wasn’t much any of them could give them about the murder car beyond a pretty general description.

\n\n

Throughout dinner Paul ate very little — and drank more than was usual, even for him. His nervousness was in plain sight for Marcia and Fernold to see.

\n\n

“Dammit!” Paul exploded finally. “If only we had some idea who it could be — what’s behind it all — something we could work against!”

\n\n

Fernold nodded. “We’re in the dark, all right. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to be a sitting duck. You can count on us for protection twenty-four hours a day.”

\n\n

“Sure, sure,” Paul sneered. “Like before, out on the road! I’ll bet the Police Department will even guarantee a motorcycle escort for the funeral!”

\n\n

He finished his drink in one gulp.

\n\n

“Maybe it would be best if my wife and I did clear out for a while, Sergeant.”

\n\n

Of course, she thought. Just get in the new car and drive — anywhere. Put distance between themselves and this unknown terror that was stalking them … .

\n\n

“We’ll leave tonight,” she said. “I can throw our things in a bag. We’ll slip away in the dark.”

\n\n

Fernold growled. “You’re safer here — believe me. Sit tight and everything will be okay. You get outside and you’re a real target.”

\n\n

Paul slammed down his empty glass.

\n\n

“Dammit, at least I’ll feel I’m doing something — not just sitting waiting for some nut to kill me!”

\n\n

His lips thinned as he looked at Marcia.

\n\n

“I — I can do this alone, Marcy. I mean, you don’t — “

\n\n

She shook her head.

\n\n

“If you go, I go.”

\n\n

“Let me send a man with you,” Fernold suggested. “At least — “

\n\n

“You keep working this end.”

\n\n

Paul smiled grimly.

\n\n

“If you fellows don’t know where we are, stands to reason no one else will know, Sergeant.”

\n\n
Back to Top
\n\n
\n\n

Chapter 4

\n\n

End of the Ride

\n\n

They went north on the back roads until they were well clear of town, then Paul took the long convertible over to the main highway and sped them through the night. They drove in silence for over an hour, with Marcia twisted around in the seat, peering anxiously behind, reading danger into each new set of headlights her eyes picked up. She wanted to be somewhere far away, safe and secure in Paul’s arms, finished with this dreadful night … .

\n\n

She heard Paul say, “So far, so good. I think I may be in the clear, Marcy.”

\n\n

He stretched at the wheel, easing the tension in his shoulders.

\n\n

“Light me a cigarette, will you?”

\n\n

She got one from her purse and fumbled for the matches. Her hand touched the cool, reassuring bulk of the gun that she had taken, unknown to Paul, from his collection. In their last-minute packing, it had seemed a good idea — a positive action on her part. It was foolishly feminine, probably, but the gun gave her a feeling of satisfaction, of courage, almost. If there were trouble, she could be of some help to Paul.

\n\n

“Well?” he asked crossly.

\n\n

“I’m sorry,” she said, handing over the cigarette.

\n\n

She could tell from the way he shoved it to his mouth that he was still shaken. He took long, lung-filling puffs of the cigarette, and the faint red glow gave his face an almost Satanic cast. She found her heart pounding uncontrollably again.

\n\n

And when he pulled the convertible into the side of the road and jammed on the brakes, naked fear clutched her at the throat.

\n\n

“What is it? Why are we stopping, Paul?”

\n\n

Without speaking, he got out of the car and came around to her side. In his hand she saw a gun, in his eyes a terrible hatred.

\n\n

“Paul! Paul, what is it?”

\n\n

But she did not have to ask the question, nor hear his answer to understand.

\n\n

“End of the ride, Marcy. The finish of this little game I’ve been playing … .”

\n\n

Like a suddenly remembered nightmare, she saw the complete shape of this day out of their lives — this day of anguish and uncertainty and pain. The letter … Paul’s claiming he’d been shot at … the automobile that didn’t kill him …

\n\n

“Yes, Marcy,” he said. “Me. Your husband. Your widower. It was clever, don’t you think? Sending myself those threatening letters, shooting a hole in the windshield. Having that fool Fernold right there when the car attacked us.”

\n\n

“You’re mad, Paul!”

\n\n

“No, darling.”

\n\n

She was conscious of the irony of the term; he had not called her darling in weeks.

\n\n

“Just fed up, with you, with us. But I had to devise a — separation that would permit me to retain your fortune. Now when I report your death to the police, and tell them how I battled against these unknown fiends who have been threatening to kill me, and how they killed you before I drove them off — “ he laughed — “even Fernold won’t suspect, darling!”

\n\n

“Paul — you can’t — “

\n\n

“But I can, darling.” He brought up the gun.

\n\n

She could not tell from what depth of her fear she summoned the will, the strength, to throw herself to the side and grab the gun in her purse. She could not remember the sequence of her movements, or of Paul’s, in that wild, blast-shattered sequence that was both instantaneous and eternal at once — a time of terror and surprise and unconscious reaction … .

\n\n

And death … .

\n\n

***

\n\n

She could tell Sergeant Fernold only that part of it which she could understand herself, when she fully realized that Fernold was real and there beside her.

\n\n

“You were never too far out in front of me,” he explained. “But I couldn’t catch up to you — in time.”

\n\n

“I didn’t want to kill him,” she said. “I didn’t mean to. But he was mad. It’s all mad!”

\n\n

In his police car, the sergeant carefully started the words for her, asking without demand, helping her get it out into the open. She told him what she knew, what Paul had told her, about this horrible pattern of murder which Paul had so carefully created.

\n\n

“I got one lead on the radio from Headquarters,” Fernold said. “The car that tried to run us down this evening is pretty much like one Dorene Chandler — that secretary of his — has been driving lately.”

\n\n

Marcia put her face in her hands.

\n\n

Fiercely, she said, “It’s not just for myself, Sergeant. My daughter, Missy — All this. … “

\n\n

She began to cry, the sobs wracking her.

\n\n

“Missy,” she moaned.

\n\n

Fernold put in a call for the Medical Examiner’s crew, and someone to drive back the convertible. He gave Marcia a cigarette and lit one for himself.

\n\n

After a moment he said:

\n\n

“Look, this thing can work more than one way, you know. It doesn’t have to go any further than you and me. Officially, well, the Department can pretend it’s still looking for these ‘unknown killers’ that were after your husband. The ones who got him,” he added carefully. “You don’t have to figure in it all.”

\n\n

He put the car in gear and turned it toward the city.

\n\n

“Leave it to me,” he said simply.

\n\n

Marcia raised her eyes and faced the road ahead.

\n\n

“Yes,” she said. “Oh, yes.”

\n\n

She did not look back.

\n\n

~ The End ~

\n
Back to Top
\n"" ] , [ "title": "In the Light of the Red Lamp", "author": "Maurice Level", "body": ""\n\n


\n
\n\n


\n\n

Seated in a large armchair near the fire, his elbows on his knees, his hands held out to the warmth, he was talking slowly, interrupting himself abruptly now and again with a murmured: “Yes … yes …” as if he were trying to gather up, to make sure of his memories; then he would continue his sentence.

\n\n

The table beside him was littered with papers, books, odds and ends of various kinds. The lamp was turned low; I could see nothing of him except his pallid face and his hands, long and thin in the firelight.

\n\n

The purring of a cat that lay on the hearthrug and the crackling of the logs that sent up strangely shaped flames were the only sounds that broke the silence. He was speaking in a faraway voice as a man might in his sleep:

\n\n

“Yes … yes … It was the great, the greatest misfortune of my life. I could have borne the loss of every penny I possess, of my health … anything … everything … but not that! To have lived for ten years with the woman you adore, and then to watch her die and be left to face life alone … quite alone … it was almost more than I could bear … . It is six months since I lost her … . How long ago it seems! And how short the days used to be! … If only she had been ill for some time, if only there had been some warning! … It seems a horrible thing to say, but when you know beforehand, the mind gets prepared, doesn’t it? … Little by little the heart readjusts its outlook … you grow used to the idea … . But as it was …”

\n\n

“But I thought she had been ill for some time?” I said.

\n\n

He shook his head:

\n\n

“Not at all, not at all. … It was quite sudden … . The doctors were never even able to find out what was the matter with her. … It all happened and was over in two days. Since then I don’t know how or why I have gone on living. All day long I wander ‘round the house looking for some reminder of her that I never find, imagining that she will appear to me from behind the hangings, that a breath of her scent will come to me in the empty rooms. …”

\n\n

He stretched out his hand towards the table:

\n\n

“Look! Yesterday I found that … this veil, in one of my pockets. She gave it to me to carry one evening when we were at the theatre, and I try to believe it still smells of her perfume, is still warm from its contact with her face … . But no … . Nothing remains … except sorrow … though there is something, only it … it … In the first shock of grief, you sometimes have extraordinary ideas.

\n\n

… Can you believe that I photographed her lying on her deathbed? I took my camera into the white, silent room, and lit the magnesium wire: yes, overwhelmed as I was with grief, I did with the most scrupulous precaution and care things from which I should shrink today, revolting things … . Yet it is a great consolation to know she is there, that I shall be able to see her again as she looked that last day.”

\n\n

“Where is this photograph ?” I asked.

\n\n

Leaning forward, he replied in a low voice:

\n\n

“I haven’t got it, or rather I have it. … I have the plate, but I have never developed it … . It is still in the camera. … I have never had the courage to touch it … . Yet how I have longed for it!”

\n\n

He laid his hand on my arm: “Listen … tonight … your visit … the way I have been able to talk about her … it makes me feel better, almost strong again … . Would you, will you come with me to the darkroom? Will you help me to develop the plate?”

\n\n

He looked into my face with the anxious, questioning expression of a child who fears he may be refused something he longs to have.

\n\n

“Of course I will,” I answered.

\n\n

He rose quickly.

\n\n

“Yes … with you it will be different. With you I shall feel calm … and it will do me good. … I shall be much happier … you’ll see …”

\n\n

We went to the dark-room, a closet with bottles ranged round on shelves. A trestle-table, littered with dishes, glasses and books, ran along one side of the wall.

\n\n

By the light of a candle that threw flickering shadows round him, he examined in silence the labels on the bottles and rubbed some dishes.

\n\n

Presently he lit a lamp with red glass, blew out the candle, and said to me: “Shut the door.”

\n\n

There was something dramatic about the darkness relieved only by the blood-red light. Unexpected reflections touched the sides of the bottles, played on his wrinkled cheeks, on his hollow temples. He said:

\n\n

“Is the door closely shut? Then I will begin.”

\n\n

He opened a dark slide and took out the plate. Holding it carefully at the comers between his thumb and first fingers, he looked at it intently for a long time as if trying to see the invisible picture which was so soon to appear.

\n\n

“She is there,” he murmured. “How wonderful!”

\n\n

With great care he let it glide into the bath and began to rock the dish.

\n\n

I cannot say why, but it seemed to me that the tapping of the porcelain on the boards at regular intervals made a curiously mournful sound: the monotonous lapping of the liquid suggested a vague sobbing, and I could not lift my eyes from the milk-colored piece of glass which was slowly taking on a darker line round its edges.

\n\n

I looked at my friend. His lips were trembling as he murmured words and sentences which I failed to catch.

\n\n

He drew out the plate, held it up to the level of his eyes, and, as I leant over his shoulders, explained:

\n\n

“Its coming up … slowly … My developer is rather weak … But that’s nothing … Look, the high lights are coming … Wait … you’ll see ; . .”

\n\n

He put the plate back, and it sank into the developer with a soft, sucking sound.

\n\n

The gray color had spread uniformly over the whole plate. He explained, his head lowered:

\n\n

“That dark rectangle is the bed . . , up above, that square”— he pointed it out with a motion of his chin—“is the pillow; and in the middle, that lighter part with the pale streak outlined on the background … that is … Look, there is the crucifix I put between her fingers. My poor little one … my darling …”

\n\n

His voice was hoarse with emotion; the tears were running down his cheeks as his chest rose and fell.

\n\n

“The details are coming up,” he said presently, trying to control himself. “I can see the lighted candles and the flowers … her hair, which was so beautiful … the hands of which she was so proud … and the little white rosary that I found in her Book of Hours … My God, how it hurts to see it all again, yet somehow it makes me happy … very happy … I shall see her once again, my poor darling …”

\n\n

Feeling that emotion was overcoming him and wishing to soothe, I said: “Don’t you think the plate is ready now ?”

\n\n

He held it up near the lamp, examined it closely and put it back in the bath. After a short interval he drew it out afresh, re-examined it, and again put it back, murmuring:

\n\n

“No … no …”

\n\n

Something in the tone of his voice and the abruptness of his gesture struck me, but I had no time to think, as he at once began to speak again.

\n\n

“There are still some details to come up … It’s rather long, but, as I told you, my developer is weak … so they only come up one by one.”

\n\n

He counted: “One … two … three … four … five … This time it will do. If I force it, I shall spoil it …”

\n\n

He took out the plate, waved it vertically up and down, dipped it in clean water, and held it