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ARTHUR LEO ZAGAT

DOC TURNER'S DEATH NUMBER

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A DOC TURNER STORY



First published in The Spider, August 1936

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-02-11
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

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The Spider, August 1936, with "Doc Turner's Death Number"



Those numbers brought a horrible death to the cluttered doldrums of Morris Street and told old Doc Turner, guardian of the poor and oppressed, that a new and sinister menace was bleeding his people of their pitiful earnings—was threatening little children with starvation!



SHE said tremulously: "They're starving!" Anxiety darkened Ann Fawley's petite, elfin features as her slim, white fingers tapped nervously on the edge of the drugstore counter. "The children in my class and in those of the other teachers are absolutely famished, Dad Turner. They sit and stare at us out of sunken, puzzled eyes. They don't understand what we are trying to teach them because of the awful hunger in their little tummies."

Andrew Turner's white eyebrows knitted, his blue, age-faded eyes squinted through narrowed lids. Beneath the nicotine-stained silver of his bushy mustache his mouth was thin-lipped and bitter. "I know," he murmured. "I've seen them out there on the sidewalks, not playing because they have no strength to play. There are more jobs than there have been for years. The men are working, but the children aren't being fed. It's even worse for the babies."

The old druggist's gaze, bleak and troubled, sought the open door of the ancient pharmacy. Noises seeped in—the shrill chaffer of a beshawled housewife; the raucous, strangely desperate note of a pushcart huckster's cry; the muffled thunder of an "El" train on the trestle straddling the debris-strewn cobbled gutter. The train sound was like the boding rumble of a new menace to the people of the teeming slum. They had somehow won through the long agony of the depression and now, just when a little ray of hope was breaking into the blackness of their despair, the storm clouds were gathering again.

"Worse for the babies," Doc Turner repeated. "Their milk costs only pennies, Ann, but something is taking the pennies, and the hard-earned dollars, from their fathers' paltry pay-envelopes."

"You've got to do something about it, Dad Turner. You've got to find out what it is and stop it. It's up to you."

"Up to me?" Doc sighed. "Yes, I suppose so." It did not occur to him to question the girl's statement. The bewildered aliens of Morris Street were his people. For more years than he cared to remember he had ministered to them—advised them, fought those who schemed to rob them of their pathetic little. The veined nostrils of his big nose flared. "I smell wolves once more." How often had he hunted them, and brought them down, the gaunt, slinking human wolves who batten on the helpless poor! "But this time they're covering their tracks too well. Or is it that I'm so old, my dear, and so very tired?"

"You're ancient as Methuselah, and you aren't fit for anything but the bone-yard." Ann's red lips puckered teasingly, but the glow in her hazel eyes was the light of a deep, abiding affection, and the touch of her fingertip on Doc's seamed cheek a feathery kiss. "But the underworld still whispers about Doc Turner's deadline that they're afraid to cross."

"Someone has crossed it!" The old man closed a gnarled, almost transparent hand over that of the girl who was so poignantly like the Mab whom he had loved and lost when Morris Street was a tree-shaded suburban Lane. "And I can't find out who. I've tried. Desperately hard. But no one will tell me what is going on. No one will even admit anything is going on. My people have shut me out. That never happened before."

"They're terrorized..."

"No. It isn't fear. I know them well enough for that. Or rather it is fear—of me. Fear that I will interfere with some queer madness that grips them. That's what makes it almost impossible to..."

A shout from the street drowned Doc Turner's voice. Something crashed, and a gush of potatoes cascaded across the sidewalk, bounced into the store and rolled across the floor. It was a tan-smocked peddler who yelled with frenzied elation as he danced over the pushcart he had himself upset, waving grimed hands over his unkempt shock of black hair while a torrent of guttural, foreign sounds poured from his grinning, toothless mouth.


RUNNING feet thudded, feet of a polyglot crowd converging on the man who was distrait with joy. "A tousand dollar!" the huckster yelled. "A tousand..."

Doc Turner reached his store door, stepped on a rolling potato, caught at the jamb to save himself from falling. The sidewalk outside was black with a jostling mob that closely ringed the dancing peddler. Eyes stared out of avid, writhing faces, eyes black with a glittering, uncanny fever. There was a newspaper in the shouting man's fist. Most of those in the crowd held newspapers. Queer, that, the druggist thought. Those newspapers were printed in English—and not one in twenty of those people could read English...

"Yitzuk!" a woman's voice was shrill. "A tousand dollar!"

"Votch out, Becky!" warned her swart-visaged husband whose leather jacket was redolent of salt fish. "He hear wot you say..."

There was a sudden silence. Guilty looks flicked to the old druggist, jerked away.

Doc pushed through, got fingers on the arm of the peddler who had caused the disturbance. "What's it all about, Winkvitch?" he asked. Perhaps in the man's half-crazed exuberance he could startle an answer out of him. "What's the good news you've got?"

Winkvitch whirled; thrust the newspaper almost into Turner's face. "Loog, Duktor," he sputtered. "I..." And suddenly he was silent, a gray film underlaying the high-cheekboned ruddiness of his countenance. "Nodding," he said slowly. "I got no good news. I drink, maybe, a leetle too mooch vodka."

No odor of alcohol tempered the seal-lion pungency of his breath... The paper was open to the financial sheet, of all things!

Doc was conscious that he was alone with the man, that the crowd—strangely—had melted away. The murmur along the line of pushcarts had a queer, burring note to it, like that of a swarm of disturbed bees, and sellers and buyers alike were much too obviously absorbed in a hundred petty transactions in which no money seemed to pass.

"You're lying, Winkvitch. You were just shouting about some luck you've had. Haven't I been a good enough friend to you and your family for you to tell me about it?"

The peddler towered above the druggist's age-shrunk form, and his rough-hewn visage was a stolid mask devoid of all expression. "You frand, yes," he muttered. "Boot you gan nod understand." Then he had wrenched free of the druggist's grip and had plunged away.

Doc Turner stood among the scattered potatoes, staring after the Russian's lumbering form, and a sense of dreary frustration invaded him. After all these years, after all he had done for them, he was still a stranger to the denizens of Morris Street, still shut out of their lives. All he wanted of them was a chance to help them, but they would not let him. He turned wearily and reentered his store.

"I'd better go back to my pill rolling, Ann," he said. "That's all they want from me. I..." He checked himself. Ann wasn't there. She had gone, and with her a light seemed to have gone out of the store, leaving the showcases grimier than ever...

Well, he was an old man, and Jack Ransom, carrot-headed, barrel-chested, his freckled smile endearing, was just around the corner in his garage. Youth called to youth. Andrew Turner had lived too long. No one any longer had any use for him, not even those to whom he had devoted his long and lonely years...

What could there have been in the newspaper to have sent Winkvitch into such a frenzy of elation? There was a copy on the corner of the counter near the door, sent in from the widow Ninelio's stationery store up the block. Doc picked it up, turned to the financial reports.


STOCKS MOTIONLESS IN DAY OF DESULTORY TRADING. BONDS LETHARGIC.


There hadn't been enough change in prices to have meant... This was balderdash. Winkvitch, nor any one else on Morris Street, had any money to dabble in the Stock Exchange, even if they didn't eat at all... But distinctly it had been something on this page that set off his explosion. It had been this page to which all those other papers had been turned. And yet to most of those who had flaunted them only the numbers would be intelligible...

The numbers! Was that it? Was that where the answer lay? The druggist peered closer. Total Sales, so many million. Bank Clearings, so many billions. Treasury Balance...


ANN FAWLEY threaded through the bustling throng of the slum street. Her girlish figure brushed past shuffling, long-bearded patriarchs in long, loose coats whose black was greenish and stained, past emaciated women prematurely aged by unremitting toil, past children pasty-faced and gaunt with famine. She saw none of these. Her eyes were fixed on the dapperly clad man she was trailing, and a quivering excitement jittered behind her high, white brow.

That man had signaled, furtively, to Winkvitch, and the peddler had gone dumb, shutting thick lips on whatever revelation he had been about to make to Doc Turner. Ann had caught the look on his sharp featured, predatory face as he had turned away, and instantly had determined to follow him.

The face she had glimpsed had been thin-lipped, cruel. Weasel-like. He was altogether like a weasel; his thin frame was built for slinking, rapacious raids on the defenseless rabbit-folk of the tenement warrens...

He turned off Morris Street, prowling down a narrow side-street lined by the sleazy facades of broken-windowed dwellings. The sidewalks of Fanston Alley were less thickly populated than those of Morris Street—would he notice that she was shadowing him? Ann shrugged, went around the corner. Her little heels tapped crisply on the concrete as she walked purposefully down the Alley's slope toward the River. She must look as though she were on her way to visit the home of one of her pupils, she told herself, who had been absent without explanation. She must look preoccupied, teacher-like.

The man slowed and she had to go past him. A muscle twitched, uncontrollably, in her cheek. Had he glanced at her as she passed, his black, feral eyes stabbing at her? Had he slowed deliberately to get a chance to inspect her?

He was behind her now, and she dared not turn to see what he was doing. He had outwitted her.

Ann realized that she had paused, uncertain of what to do. Her heart thumped, and she stifled a gasp of dismay. Now she had given herself away. Womanlike, she fumbled at the clasp of her pocket-book, and the bag opened. The corner of some note she had made at her desk protruded from the jumble within it and an idea flashed on her. She fished out the bit of paper, looked at it, half-turned to peer up at the door of the building beside her, as if to compare the number on it with an address on the slip of paper in her hand.

From the corner of her eye Ann glimpsed her quarry going up a high, broken-stepped stoop two numbers behind. He vanished into the vestibule.

Far behind, Winkvitch lumbered around the corner. A swart-visaged Italian came up to him, stopped him. The Russian seemed anxious to get away, but the other grabbed his lapel, gestured with his free hand. Winkvitch jabbed a gnarled, grimy fist at the newspaper he still carried.

The Winkvitch children were in her class, and Ann knew they did not live in Fanston Alley. Was their father on his way to meet the weasel-faced man? If so...

Ann went down creaking, wooden stairs, went under the stoop and into the garbage-odored cellar dimness of the tenement before which she had halted. A fetid murk closed about her. She was through the basement and out in daylight once more, out in a backyard over which stretched line upon line of fluttering clothing. She twisted sharply to her left.


THE partition fences long ago had been destroyed for firewood. Ann Fawley ran to the left, passed one cellar entrance, ducked into the next. Her vision accommodated itself to the miasmatic darkness, and she made out the vague lift of inner stairs rising to the first floor. Then she ascended them.

The door at the stair-head was split by a great, vertical gash, through which she could peer. The outer door was a luminous oblong, dead ahead. A shadow moved against tattered netting some long vanished janitress had hung over its glass—the shadow of the man Ann had followed.

His lair was not in this house, then. He was waiting here for someone... For Winkvitch. The Russian's bulky silhouette joined the other, and the boom of his heavy voice filtered through to Ann.

A pulse pounded in her wrist and elation ran warmingly through her veins. Luck was with her. She slid out of her covert, moved soundlessly to that outer door and crouched against it.

"Sure," the smaller man's thin voice was muffled by the glass between. "Sure it's coming to you. But you got to wait till Saturday for the payoff."

Winkvitch's heavy countenance purpled. "Why should I waid?" he grunted. "Loog!" His ham-like hand thrust a slip of white paper into the other's face. There were numbers written on it. "Dwo—four—dree. And loog, here dey is in de paber," he thumped the sheet. "De last dree noombers of de top noomber like you say. Dwo-four-dree. I win a tousand dollar and I wand it right now."

"I said not till Saturday. Maybe someone else hits it this week and the prize has got to be split. You meet me here Saturday and I'll have it here for you."

"Bud I god to have it now. I spend all de money I god for dickers and my children god to eat."

"Hell, here's a fin." A five dollar bill changed hands. "That'll carry you over. You go back and peddle your potatoes, and keep your mouth shut to that nosy druggist... Saturday you'll get the rest."

"Podadoes!" Winkvitch snorted. "After Saturday no more podadoes." His fingers lashed out, dug into the other's arm. "You bedder give me Saturday, or..." His other hand fisted, a fleshy sledge-hammer. "Or..."

"I'm tellin' you you'll get it. Right here—Saturday at one o'clock. Don't send anybody else, it's only you who gets the grand. Now scram, you nutty squarehead. I got to pick up some collections. Scram and keep your lips buttoned."

The alien turned away, and his figure blurred, going down the stairs. What she had learned by her eavesdropping whirred in Ann's brain. It was some sort of lottery that was draining Morris Street, the winners determined by the accident of the final three numbers in the stock market's total sales. The prize was a thousand dollars—a week! Good Lord! How could it be? All the laborers in the slums didn't earn a thousand dollars a week...

She must hurry back to tell Dad Turner about this. She turned, thudded to her knees as her heel caught in a hole in the worn rug. The pain wrenched a choked cry from her.

The door slammed open, behind her.

"Cripes!" a thin voice squealed.

Ann sprang...

Into a wiry arm that clamped around her as she came up. A palm snapped across her mouth, stifling the scream that rasped her throat...


DOC TURNER dusted lycopodium over the perfect pills he had made, closed the round paper box and wrote the directions. He thrust aside the grime-stiff curtain hanging in the arched opening between the prescription department and the rest of the store.

Something blocked the wan light coming in from the open door. "Hello, Doc!" Jack Ransom's hearty voice bellowed, and he looked up to see the youth striding toward him, broad-shouldered, powerful.

"Jack!" None of the usual grease was smeared across Ransom's face. Instead of the overalls he should have been wearing, a neatly pressed brown suit did its best to cover his muscled bulk. "Loafing again?" A dull premonition stirred queasily within the old man. "What have you done with Ann?"

The carrot-head's heels pounded, as he came to a halt, and the grin was erased from his lips. "Isn't—isn't she here? She said she'd meet me here when I could get off."

"She was here over an hour ago. She went out—I thought to your garage."

"No. I told her that was no place for her to hang around. She—she was going to meet me here." Jack repeated it, disappointment almost ludicrous in his expression. "Where could she have gone?"

The faded old eyes, the young ones, met, and a message of dismay passed between them. Surely there should be nothing in the vagaries of a maid to disturb them. But these two had been through too many perilous adventures together not to have become endowed with some almost psychic sixth sense that warned them of danger.

"Maybe she went home to get a prettier hat," Doc tried to reassure himself. "Or something else like that."

"She would have left some word for me. I'll go see," Jack wheeled.

"Come back and let me knew," Turner said, going with him to the door. "I want to talk to you about... Hey! Look at that damn fool...!"

A black sedan swept around the corner, so fast it was canted over on two wheels. It went past the first pushcart, slewed inward to the second. Its hood picked the Russian peddler, Winkvitch, neatly away from the cart in which he was rearranging his scattered potatoes. The drab-clad form arced into mid-air, smashed down...

The sedan roared away, black lightning streaking under the barred canopy of the "El" structure. A scream; scarlet, hideous; sliced through that fading roar...

Doc was on his knees beside the moaning, broken mass that an instant before had been a man. "On purpose," Jack grunted, above him. "He did it on purpose. I'll swear..."

"Get into the store and phone for an ambulance," Turner snapped. Then he was bending lower. "Winkvitch," he said. "Who did it? Who would want to hurt you?" The man was conscious, his eyes staring their agony from a gory, contorted visage, but Andrew Turner had too often looked at death not to know that if the peddler did not speak at once he would never speak again.

"Nobody. No."

"There must be." Doc recalled Winkvitch's paroxysm of joy, was it only an hour ago? "The thousand dollars," he said. There was some connection, instinct told him. "Who was going to give it to you?"

"Jo—Joniss... Oh-o-o." The shattered form writhed in a paroxysm of sudden torture. "Ohhhhh..." A fountain of blood spurted from the wailing mouth—and Winkvitch was very still.

He was still but his eyes remained open. There was a pitiful look of non-comprehension in them, of appeal. They glazed over...

Doc pushed himself erect. He was surrounded by a close-clustered crowd, a stockade of pale faces, of dilated, morbidly curious eyes. "Who is Jones?" he blurted at them. "Who knows who this Jones is?"

The faces went blank, the eyes curiously expressionless. They knew, these fools. They knew, but they wouldn't tell him.

A younger man might have flown into useless rage. Doc Turner simply turned, and moved slowly back to his store. A path opened for him.


THERE was the clangor of an ambulance bell, the blood-chilling shrill of a cop's whistle. "Doc!" Jack met him, his face white. "Here's Daphne. She hasn't seen Ann since school."

"Hello, Gramp," cried the black-haired little girl who was Ann Fawley's ward. "I saw the crowd and I came running, but Uncle Jack won't let me see what it's all about. Why won't he?"

"There are some things, honey, that little girls shouldn't see." The old man lifted Daphne Papolos, kissed her. "Now you run right back home and see if Ann hasn't got there yet. You will, won't you, like Gramp's own little girl?"

"If you say so I will." She scampered away. Turner watched her go. There had been tragedy enough in her life, a nightmare of murder from which he had rescued her. God grant that tragedy was not to touch her once again.

"Doc," Jack's voice was tortured. "We've got to find Ann."

"We've got to find the man who killed Winkvitch," the aged pharmacist responded, his eyes burning coals in an ash gray face.

"Damn Winkvitch!" The youth's big hand closed on the druggist's bony shoulder, dug in. "It's Ann we've got to look for."

"That's what I mean." Doc tugged gently at Ransom's arm. "If you'll stop trying to break my old bones I'll tell you why."

"What are you maundering about?"

"Listen." Crisply, briefly, Turner told what had happened. "Winkvitch stopped talking as if someone had tipped him off to stop. Ann may have seen who it was, followed him—and got into trouble. It sounds far-fetched, but it's the only logical explanation. Surely she would have waited to say goodbye to me if there had been any other reason for her leaving."

"Maybe you're right," Jack groaned. "But that only makes matters worse. We haven't got the slightest idea of who was in that car or where it came from. We haven't the slightest idea what the whole thing's all about."

"Yes, I have. Look here." Doc held out a tiny slip of blood-stained paper. "This was pinned inside the pocket of Winkvitch's smock, as though it were something precious. And it is."

There were three figures in ink on the paper—2-4-3. "I don't get you," Jack blurted. "What does that mean?"

"Nothing in itself. But here," the pharmacist picked up the newspaper from the counter, "is the report of the total sales on the Stock Exchange today. See here, 1,356,243 shares. Somebody's running what they call the 'numbers game' on Morris Street. The last three figures in the total sales matched up with the digits on Winkvitch's ticket and he won a thousand dollars. Thought he won—they never intended him to have it. That's why he was run down and killed. Whoever did that is holding Ann a prisoner..."

"A prisoner," Ann's lover husked. "If only..."

"At 249 Fanston Alley. Look here." Turner pointed to a faint penciled scrawl on the numbered ticket. "There it is. Winkvitch went around into Fanston Alley, came back after a little while and went to picking up his potatoes, muttering to himself. He must have gone there to meet this Jones."

"The sedan came from the other end of the block, from Hogbund Alley."

"That's what makes me think we'll find a trail starting in Fanston Alley. Jones had to get from there to Hogbund, had to get Ann from there."

"Come on," Jack almost screamed. "What are we waiting for?"


THE first floor hall of 249 Fanston Alley was drab, dim and odorous with the stale smell of long past meals, of sweaty, unwashed bodies.

"This rip is new," Ransom grunted, spraying a tear in the rug with his flashlight. "Looks like a heel caught in it, not long ago. But hell, that doesn't mean anything. We aren't going to find anything here, Doc. We're licked."

"If anything happened here in the hall, he wouldn't have dared carry her upstairs," Doc mused. "Too much chance of someone popping out of a doorway. Down the cellar would be more likely... Throw your light this way, Jack. Up against the basement door."

The luminous disk moved, steadied. Doc bent, snatched at something, came up with it.

"Good girl," he whispered. He held out his hand to his companion. "Look at this."

Tiny, fragile and utterly feminine—a lavender cylinder lay in his palm. A lipstick!

"La Lise!" Jack exclaimed. "It's the brand she uses. I bought her that one!"

"Of course it's hers. She kept her wits about her. Instead of fighting uselessly, and being killed, she went with Jones, apparently willingly, and managed to drop this out of her bag as she went. There will be more things down there..."

There were more. A lacy handkerchief on the slimy concrete of the basement, a spray of face powder at the yard-door, the box itself in the areaway outside, a compact dropped at the cellar entrance of a tenement opposite.

"In here," Jack exclaimed. "He took her in here." His fingers closed on the doorknob.

"Wait!" Doc exclaimed, his voice low-toned, but sharp. "If we burst in there this way, he might..." He didn't finish the sentence, didn't need to. "Listen at the door. Do you hear anything?"

Jack's carrot hair was like flame against the weathered gray of the wood, his brunt-jawed profile carved marble. "Yes," he grunted. "Something—something padding about—snuffling—a dog! Damned big, to judge by the way his paws thump."

"A dog—" Turner's thin lips tightened to a straight line. "That's good news, and bad. Jones hasn't any human accomplices to leave on guard over Ann. But a dog is harder to outwit than a man. Harder to fight."

Ransom straightened, his big fists opening and closing against his flanks, throttling an imagined throat. "No dog's going to keep me from Ann," the words dripped from his lips. "A hundred dogs couldn't..."

"But Jack!"

"No buts, Doc. I'm running this now. You'll do as I say, this once. This door opens outward. Get over here, on the hinge-side. When I give the word, pull it open."

"All right, my boy. But be careful."

"Careful be damned." Turner was in position. Jack rapped sharply on the wood. There was a scurry of clawed feet from within, the door shook under the impact of a heavy weight. Jack's foot jammed against it, kept it from opening.

"He's big," Doc hissed. "Tremendous... And savage," he added as a ferocious growl came through the portal.


RANSOM rapped again. Again the dog pounded against the wood. "Now!" the youth shouted. Turner jerked the door open...

A huge, tawny body floundered through, the force of its leap broken by the momentary resistance. Before the beast could recover itself Jack had pounced on it. His great hands flashed to the animal's neck, locked around it.

The mastiff's great body jerked, rocking Ransom's spraddle-legged, great-muscled body. Slavering jaws were wide; gleaming sabre-teeth foam-flecked, black tongue lolling. The man's fingers tightened, inexorably. The dog's gray belly heaved, agonizedly. Its legs flailed, their claws ripping open Jack's vest, tearing his shirt, tearing a livid, ghastly weal in his belly. But his fingers held, tightened...

Abruptly the mastiff hung limp, motionless from the hands that had throttled it.

Ransom staggered, clutched at the door-edge to keep himself from falling. "Come on," he gasped. "Come on."

This basement was dark, malodorous, as like the one from which they had come as though the two had been poured from the same mold. No... In one corner there was a splintered wood partition, a door with a heavy padlock holding it shut.

"In there," Turner said sharply. "But that lock..."

He heard a growl, his heart leaping into his throat at the thought that the mastiff had recovered, was leaping at them. But it wasn't the mastiff that had growled, it was Jack Ransom. The youth went stiff-legged past him, reached the door. His foot lifted, planting its soles against the wood. His hands closed on the padlock.

"Jack," Doc exclaimed. "You're mad. Insane. We've got to get a lever, a crowbar. I'll look around for one."

But he didn't move, held fascinated by what was happening there in front of him. He saw muscles writhe across Jack Ransom's back, saw their reptilian coiling even under his coat's thick fabric. He saw the youth's biceps swell till his columnar arms seemed to be inflated to twice their natural size. He saw glistening cords ridge a sweating neck, saw clasped hands twist, twist...

Metal shrieked. Wood split, with a thunderous detonation. Jack fell back, the padlock in his hands.

The two men were through the unlocked door. "Ann!" Ransom's shout blasted in the small, wood-partitioned room. The girl was on a cot against a white-washed foundation wall, bound hand and foot, her eyes staring. The youth jumped to her, cut her bonds, had his arms around her. "Ann," he sobbed, brokenly. "I thought..."

Doc pulled his eyes away from a reunion too poignant for even him to witness. A rude table was cluttered with slips of white paper like that which he had taken from the slain Winkvitch's smock. He reached for a big-mouthed bottle. It held indelible ink. This was the racketeer's workshop, evidently.

"Hello," a voice said. "I've got visitors. Up with them, bozos. Reach!" Doc twisted. A gun snouted from the doorway, the man who held it was small, wiry, cruel-faced. "You're getting it, right now."


DOC'S arm lashed out. A spray of jet black ink from the bottle in his hand spurted out. The man's weasel countenance was suddenly black as the ink splashed over his face. A shot crashed...

It was as though the ink jet pulled the old man with it, as though he had thrown himself with the same motion that he had hurled the thick liquid. His frail body struck the killer at the waistline, the two pounded to the floor. Doc was the center of a maelstrom of furious combat. Something crashed against his temple and the black ink was a pool inside his skull, blotting out consciousness.

"Dad!" The daughter he never had was calling to him, was drawing him out of the blackness. "Dad!" Perhaps, dreams come true in this land beyond the veil that separates the here from the hereafter.

Doc opened his eyes. Mab—no, Ann—was bending over him, hazel eyes moist with tears. "Thank God," she exclaimed. "You're alive. You're all right. Are you all right, dear, dear Dad?"

"Yes. I think so... A few bruises. They'll mend." Sudden fear darted through him. Ann was crying... That shot! "Jack! Is Jack...?"

"Here, Doc. A gash across my side, but otherwise fit and rarin' to go. Thanks to you. You deflected his aim enough for him to miss by that much, and then you kept him busy long enough for me to come down on him like a ton of bricks."

The aged pharmacist struggled to a sitting posture. The ferret-faced man, Jones, was stretched on the floor alongside him, tied up with the same ropes that had bound Ann. His face was black—like a Hack hood had been pulled down over it. They cover the faces of condemned men with a black hood just before the switch on the electric chair is thrown...

"He—he was the one who was taking the money from my people," Doc murmured. "The money that should have been buying food."

"Yes. Oh Dad, the children won't starve any more. They won't..." The girl's voice broke. Great, retching sobs tore out of her.

"Ann!" Jack jumped to her, held her in his arms. "Ann. Don't. Don't cry now. There's nothing to cry about. It's all over."

"It's just beginning," Doc smiled, although he knew they didn't hear him. "That's why she's crying. Those are tears of happiness."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
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