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ARTHUR LEO ZAGAT

KILLER'S STOOGE

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A DOC TURNER STORY


First published in The Spider, March 1937

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-04-12
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

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The Spider, March 1937, with "Killer's Stooge"



"Dead witnesses never testify!" Doc Turner knew that racket rule—and when a tommy-gun burned Sutro down beside Doc's counter, he saw sudden death looming for Molly Nolan and himself...


THE man popped suddenly into the drugstore, whirled as he closed the door, and peered through it as if to make sure no one followed him.

He didn't belong on Morris Street. His hat was a high-priced fedora. His suit, too gaudy in pattern for good taste, was yet unmistakably the product of a custom tailor. The price of the diamond horseshoe in his vivid-hued tie would have fed half the slum neighborhood for a month.

When he turned, his hand coming away from under his coat lapel, his flabby face was the color of unbaked dough. In his pouch-pocketed eyes there was a curious combination of shrewdness and cruelty and livid fear.

"Good afternoon," Andrew Turner said, his gnarled hand replacing a bottle of Rhubarb and Soda someone had disturbed from the display on the sales counter. "What can I do for you?"

"Two tubes of Triple Bromide Tablets." The thin, straight lips scarcely moved. "The big size." Slender fingers, too white and too carefully manicured, threw a five-dollar bill on the counter top. Those fingers were shaking with the palsy of nerves keyed to the point of hysteria.

"Two tubes!" Doc exclaimed. "That's forty tabloids. You..."

"Yeah. I know it's forty and that's what I want. There ain't no law against selling them, is there?"

"No. But..."

"Then hand them out." A pair of white spots appeared at the corners of the man's hawk-like nose, symbols of unreasoning rage kept under control only by tremendous effort. "And step on it. I'm in a rush."

"All right," the old druggist shrugged. "It's your funeral." He turned away and shambled through the grime-stiffened curtain in the partition doorway to the pharmacy's backroom, moved wearily to the shelf where the called-for medicament was stored.

If the fellow had been one of those in whose service Doc had grown white-haired and old and feeble-seeming, he would not so readily have given in. He would have explained that bromides, while not a narcotic, are almost equally as habit-forming and, taken in large doses, almost as dangerous. He would have tried to find out the cause of his customer's terror, not from curiosity but in order to help him fight it, as through more years than he cared to recall he had helped the poverty-stricken, friendless denizens of Morris Street fight so many perils. But this was a stranger, and he looked perfectly capable of fighting his own battles.

Turner sighed wearily, reached down two long, narrow blue boxes. The hinges of the front door squealed as someone opened it. Raucous shouts of pushcart peddlers came back to him, the pounding roar of an "El" train, and the sound of a small boy's stick drawn rapidly along a picket fence.

There was no picket fence on Morris Street, had been none for decades. And the sound was too loud. It was in the store, a crashing, venomous rattle!

Doc whirled. The vicious rat-atat-tat was cut off by door-slam as his frail form tangled with the doorway curtain. He got free of it, threw himself out between the end of the sales counter and a show case, darted toward the front...

Through the entrance door's glass panel he saw a black-coated figure leap from the curb into the dark interior of a sedan that was already moving. The car bounded into flight, slewed around the corner and vanished.

Turner's hand was on the door latch, but he did not use it. He turned, his seamed face bleak, his bushy white mustache quivering a bit.

The front of the sales counter was splintered in a long strip that angled downward at about its middle. The bright yellow shreds of raw wood made a dotted line like that in one of those action cartoons that have replaced the "Funnies" in the back pages of the newspapers, and it led Doc's faded blue gaze to a heap huddled on the floor.

The heap was very still. It was splotched with scarlet, and a scarlet pool grew slowly around it. Eyes stared out of the huddle, eyes that were no longer shrewd nor cruel. Sightless eyes that death had already glazed, to cover the fear of death that had dilated their pupils.

Someone moaned, alongside Doc. His head moved to discover the source of the low sound and he saw the girl in one of the two telephone booths that stood at right angles to the door.

She cowered back in it as far as she could get. The back wall had shoved her cheap straw hat over her forehead so that a pink- dyed cloth flower hobbled crazily against her nose. The back of one hand was against her mouth and its work-reddened fingers were working inanely, like the spring-wire fingers of a mechanical toy. The other hand still held the phone receiver against her ear. Her figure was thin, starved looking and her dress, while clean and neat, was threadbare, patched.

"It's all right, Molly," Doc said. "They've gone."

The door jolted against his back, and he knew without turning to look that curious countenances were pressed against the glass, trying to peer in past him, trying to see what was happening in here. He heard excited voices; shrill, foreign; and the high- pitched, breathless scream of a police whistle.

"I saw his face." Molly Nolan's speech was strangled, thick, behind her hand. "His collar was turned up but it come away w'en he pulled the tommy-gun out from unner his coat an' I saw it. There wuz a scar cut his lip in half an'..."

"Open up, Doc," a gruff voice shouted, behind him. "Lemme in."

The druggist glimpsed brass buttons gleaming on blue uniform cloth. "Don't tell that to the cops, Molly," he whispered urgently, "till I say when and how. You had your back to the booth door, and you saw nothing." Then he had completed his turn and was letting the officer in.

There was a momentary struggle to keep the shoving, morbid crowd from pouring in after him. The two men got the door closed on them, locked it.

"They said you was... Gees! What a mess!"

The policeman hammered thick-soled shoes on the floor, going toward that which lay at the rear of the store. "But I got ter tell about it," the girl whimpered from within the booth. "It wuz murder an' I saw..."

"I don't care what you saw." Keeping his tone low, Doc watched the cop bend to the corpse, his whole attention riveted on it. "Talk now and they'll lock you up as a material witness for the Lord alone knows how long. That will mean the Society shelter for Jimmy." Familiar with Molly Nolan's affairs as with the life of most of Morris Street, he knew the eighteen year old girl was mother and father to her small brother, caring for him by dint of long hours finishing vests in the single poor room they called home. "You wouldn't want that, would you?"

"No," Molly moaned. "The Saints forbid." She had straightened her hat. Brown-haired, gray-eyed, she would be pretty with a little padding of flesh over her bones, with a little color in her pallid cheeks.

"Then do exactly what I say." If the killer was caught and it came to a question of identification Doc would have to let the girl give her testimony. Till then she was safer, far safer, keeping silent.

"There isn't any need to call an ambulance, Carter." The policeman was straightening, was turning, his hand in his change pocket, his eyes going to the booths to tip-off his purpose. "The man's dead."

"Yeah," Carter grunted, getting into motion. "Deader'n Judas. It's Headquarters I'm callin'. An' maybe it ain't good news I've got fer Cap Jansen uh th' Gangster Squad. Yuh know who that is, Doc?" He paused at the booth, jerked a thick thumb at the dead man.

"Can't say I do."

"It's Friday Sutro, king uh the fish truck racket. Last Easter he give fifty grand to St. Michael's Cathedral, sort uh divvyin' wid th' Church five per cent uh what the good Catholics paid him every time they et fish. Guess it'll be Split-Lip Meyer'll be givin' out this Easter."

"Split-Lip..."

"Sure. Meyer's been tryin' uh long time ter crash Friday's racket an' he's worked it now. Sutro must uh seen this comin' an' wuz on the lam, but he didn't lam fast enough. Well," he sighed, "It only means we got ter get on Split-Lip's tail now. If it ain't one it's another." He went into the vacant booth, pinged a nickle into the slot, pulled the door around in its groove as he started to give his badge number to the operator to get a free call.

He hadn't, Doc was certain, noticed Molly, shrunk back as she was in the cubicle nearer the street.

"Now's your chance to skip," he muttered, looking anywhere but at her. "Get out and get home and keep mum till you hear from me."

He fumbled the door open just enough to let her through. The people outside wouldn't tell the police about her. They volunteered nothing to the cops, those aliens who had not yet forgotten their homelands where officialdom was aware of the disinherited only to harry and oppress them.

Carter rolled the booth door open again. "The worst of it is," he growled, "there's goin' ter be as much hell raised about this killin' as if it wuz a decent citizen got bumped. Yuh didn't see the guy who pulled it, did yuh?"

"I was in the back room and..."

"I didn't think yuh did. An' nobody in the street did either, tuh hear them tell it. I popped the question at 'em, thinkin' maybe they'd spill before they got themselves organized, but all I got was that a gink in a black coat wid his hat pulled down an' his collar turned up ran out uh here an' inter a blue sedan that got movin' fast—Hello..." He jerked around to the 'phone. "Headquarters? This is Officer Carter, badge twelve-forty-six, uh the thirty-second. Gimme Homicide. I got uh killin' tuh..." The rest was bolted out by the door, sliding closed on him.

Doc Turner pulled at his mustache. Had he done right, he wondered, in advising Molly Nolan as he had? No matter what the slain man had been, he had been murdered in cold blood and she could describe the assassin.

She could tell the police to hunt for a man with a scar dividing his lip. But that undoubtedly was Split-Lip Meyer himself, and Doc knew enough of police routine to be sure they would pick Sutro's rival gangster up for questioning. It would be time enough then for the girl to tell what she knew, and then it could be done circumspectly, making certain there would be no leak till she was actually required to go on the stand.

That was the real reason behind his injunction to her. If she told her story publicly, as she would have had to if she had remained here, someone among the horde of police and detectives and reporters who in minutes would be crowding in here would be certain to relay a warning to Meyer. He would hide out, and it might be months before he was caught. All those months she would be held in the House of Detention, penned in with the dregs of the feminine underworld, learning things it is not good for a penniless young girl to know.

Yes, she would have to be jailed. For her own safety. Gangsters have their own way of taking care of witnesses against them, and it is not a pleasant way.

If so much as a hint of what she knew got to Split-Lip Meyer and his mob, Molly would be in greater danger on the crowded sidewalks of Morris Street, or in the teaming tenement where she lived, than she would have been wandering alone in some carnivore-infested jungle...

"Hey, Doc," Carter surged out of the booth. "Wadda yuh know? That blue sedan skidded inter a lamp post over on Garden Avenue an' got wrecked. Meyer wuz in it. He wuz bunged up pretty bad an' they've got him in Misericordia Hospital."

"That's a break for you." And for Molly. Perhaps it wouldn't be necessary for her to show up in this at all. "You'll be able to match up his gun with the slugs in Sutro's body and convict him of the murder."

The cop shook his head. "Not a chanct. There wuzn't no gun in the car. The two guys wid Split-Lip skipped. They must uh taken it along."

"Listen, Carter. I..."

"Meyer's goin' ter be laid up fer a couple uh weeks. Mebbe Homicide'll be able ter turn up somethin' before they got ter let him go. His mob's kind uv a bunch uh dumb clucks an' maybe one uv'm ull shoot off his mouth where some stoolie ull get an earfull. Maybe—Hell! I got uh sort uh hunch this case is gonna break."

"You know," Turner said softly. "I think you're right." His course was clear now. He'd keep in touch with the murderer's condition. Just before they were ready to release the killer he would take Molly to the District Attorney to tell her story, arrange for a snap indictment and a quick trial. That would cut down her detention to the minimum...

The howl of the squad-car siren cut off his thoughts. The crowd was split by a flying wedge of officers. Carter unlocked the door, and the store was suddenly filled with broad- shouldered, grim-faced men.

Doc Turner smiled without humor as he watched them get to work. They'd start asking him questions in moments now, but he knew how to avoid giving any information while evading out-and- out lying.

Only the line of bullet-holes across the front of Doc Turner's sales counter, and a darker stain on the time-darkened floor of his store, were left of the afternoon's excitement. Outside the pushcarts had rumbled away, their human horses dragging them to cellar storage rooms in the side streets. The midnight crew of the Street Cleaning Department shoveled garbage, broken fruit cases, the debris of the open-air market, into a high-walled, clanking refuse truck. Then they too passed on, and Morris Street settled to its brief sleep under the shadowy lattice of the "El" structure.

Andrew Turner punched the "No Sale" button on his cash register, opening the drawer to total up his intake before he could leave for his own brief sleep.

He took out a pitifully small sheaf of tattered bills—threw them far back under the counter as the door opened! He could not mistake the character of the two men who entered, one of them stopping just inside the door, turning and looking out through it, blocking the view of any late pedestrian who might chance to pass, the other prowling back toward Doc with a curiously soft-footed, feral pace.

The old druggist was accustomed to shabby clothing and uncouth looks. It was not their appearance that made him so certain that here at last were the stick-up artists the eternal dread of whose coming every small shopkeeper knows. There was a wolf-like quality about both of them, a feel of brutish, hungry menace. The one at the door was barrel-bodied, simian-armed. The one coming toward him was taller, thinner, but even then his head was too small for his body.

He had no chin to speak of, his ears were shapeless lumps, his nostrils were black holes in his face. It was as though a child had modeled that gargoylesque countenance out of pink clay, using its fingers to poke in the features.

There was nothing childlike about the stub-nosed, blued automatic that came out of his pocket and snouted at Doc across the counter as he reached it. The old man's arms started to lift.

"Keep 'em down," the thug husked, his voice intonationless. "Spread your paws on th' wood."

The old druggist complied. "I deposited my bills in the night slot at the bank up the street an hour ago. There's only change left, about nine dollars' worth. I won't argue with you about that."

The fellow's lashless lids blinked over eyes that had no color at all. "This ain't no stickup," slid from him. "We don't want no coin from yeh. We just want some info."

"Information!" Doc's face was an expressionless mask, his voice steady, but a pulse jumped in his wrists. "You don't need a gun to get that from me."

"That's just to make sure yeh don't get funny ideas, like clamming up or yellin' fer the cops."

"Must be a queer kind of question you're going to ask me if that's what you're afraid of. What do you want to know?"

"Who the skirt is, an' where she dosses."

"The skirt?" Turner's scalp tightened, squeezing his skull, but only innocent bewilderment showed in his expression. "Whom do you mean?"

"Yeh know damn well who." The fellow's thick lips snarled away from his rotted teeth. "I mean the moll as wuz in the telephone booth and glommed the boss's phiz while he wuz burnin' Friday Sutro down. He didn't see her but the Ape there piked her off from the back uh the getaway car. He says she looked straight at the Big Shot."

The blood was icy in Doc's brittle veins. "She may have been staring right at him but she didn't see him." He had made a terrible mistake. He would give what little he had left of life if Molly were only behind the staunch walls, the steel bars, of the House of Detention. "She was too frightened."

"Maybe. An' maybe not. We ain't takin' no chances. Who is she?"

"I can't say."

"Yeh lie!" The thug's hand lashed out. Pain seared the old man's cheek where the gun-sight had slashed it, and he felt warm blood dribble down across his cheek. "There ain't no one lives around here yeh don't know. Yeh know her an' yeh're goin' ter tell us."

"All right." Turner's low speech was thin with agony. "I know who she is. But you'll never get it out of me."

"Cut that rough stuff, Pug!" The rumble of the other gangster's voice came back to him. "Why don't yuh be reasonable, pop? Clammin' up ain't goin' ter get yuh nothin'. Or her neither. I had a bead on her, an' I'd uh burned her only I was scared uh creasin' the boss. But I got a good gander at her, an' I'll know her anywheres. If yuh don't come across we'll keep huntin' till we find her. An' then we won't make her no proposish, we'll jest iron her out."

"You don't expect me to fall for that, do you?"

"She had a hat on wid a pink flower. She's kind uh thin an' she wore a dress wid big purple squares on it. She's got uh Irish kind uh face."

That, Doc thought, was that. The description was too accurate for a bluff. The sacrifice he contemplated would be futile. Even if he persisted in his refusal to betray her, and they killed him, they would still find her.

He lifted a hand to the throbbing pain in his cheek. "You didn't say anything about a proposition," Doc said quietly. "What's on your mind?"

Pug's lids narrowed. "We know she ain't squealed yet, an' that yeh didn't rap ter the cops about her bein' here. We figgered she'd play along. We figgered she'd take a C an' lam West. We got connections in Chi ud fix her up in business."

They were out to protect their leader, but they were not unwilling to make a little profit on the side. It wasn't hard to guess what their Chicago connections were or in what business they would set up the girl when she was frightened into flight there.

"An' we figgered yeh fer a smartie too. If yeh stooge fer us in this here act we kin keep on usin' yeh. De racket needs a guy kin make stink bombs an' stuff what'll ruin fish, an' a lot uh de mob ud be willin' ter pay heavy cush fer dope what ain't cut. Yeh kin be rollin' in it if yeh'll be reasonable. How about it?"

Doc shrugged. "You aren't giving me much choice. I suppose you want me to take you to Molly?"

"Yeh suppose right." A muscle twitched in the fellow's sallow cheek. "An' ter wise her up. She'll listen ter yeh."

"All right," the old man said wearily. "But you'll have to let me fix up my face first. I can't go out of here looking like this."

"Sure. Jest stand there till I frisk yeh."

Pug came around the end of the counter. His search of the old druggist's person was very thorough, but it unearthed no weapons. Then he was following Doc into the back room and was watching him narrowly while he bathed the cut on his face and treated it with antiseptics.

The old man pulled open a drawer in the bank under the prescription counter, rummaged in it. "The devil!" he exclaimed. "I'm sure there was a started roll of adhesive plaster in here, but I can't find it." He shoved the drawer closed with his thighs. "I'll have to open a new one." He turned, took a package from the shelf behind him, awkwardly reaching for it with his left hand, the one nearer the gangster. "My errand boy must have swiped it to take up a baseball. That's the way things go to waste in here."

"Cut the chatter," Pug growled. "We ain't got all night."

Doc stripped a length of the adhesive over his cut, donned his shabby overcoat, his battered felt. "All right," he said. "All I have to do now is put out the lights and lock the door."

They ranged on either side of him as he turned the key on the darkened store, but they did not notice the way his eyes lingered, probing the dim interior and fixing in memory beloved surroundings as if they were bidding farewell to the white store fixtures upon which they had looked for nearly half a century.

"This way," Doc said, and he started off through the nocturnal quiet of Morris Street, pinched between the two burly killers. "She lives around the next corner, on Hogbund Lane."

"No tricks, now," Ape warned. "Yuh try anything an' the first thing that happens is lead in yuhr guts. That lump yuh feel against yuhr side is a gat, an' I know how ter use it."

"I realize that," the old pharmacist answered. There was defeat in his muted tones, a cringing whine very unlike him. "I'm not going to try to get away from you. I know how useless it would be."

"Useless is right," Pug grunted. "Yehr a smartie all right."

They went around the corner Doc had indicated, into a block of drab-fronted, blind-eyed tenements whose high loom made of it a dim ravine filled with the dreary miasma of half-rotted foods and sweaty bodies that is the odor of poverty.

"Look here, men," Turner spoke again. "Do you trust me enough to let me handle this?"

"I trust my roscoe," it was the Ape who replied, "an' that's goin' ter be snoutin' at yuh all the time. What're yuh gettin' at?"

"Just that I don't want you to get impatient if I take things easy. I don't want to frighten the girl and start trouble. If she should be startled into screaming, for instance, that would upset this deal we've made and even if you did manage to shoot the two of us down you'd be in a fix. These tenements are like beehives, everyone in them comes swarming at the first hint of excitement."

"That makes sense. All right, pop. We'll let yuh chatter if you don't make it too long."

"I won't—Here's the place."

They went up a broken-stepped stoop to an unlighted vestibule. Doc tried the door and it opened. The abodes of the very poor need no locks against prowlers. The odor of stale corn beef and cabbage was thick around them, the noisome fetor of communal toilets none too circumspectly flushed. A pin-point gas jet showed a flight of stairs rising into obscurity, but Doc led the way past that, to a paintless door far back behind it.

"This is where she lives," he whispered. "You two stay back while I get her to open." He pointed to a line of light seeping over the door's threshold. "I see she's still awake."

From behind the flecked wood came a dull thud. A faint smile moved the old man's mustache as the sound was repeated. His fist lifted, knocked softly on the panel in front of him.

The thudding stopped. Doc knocked again.

The doorknob rattled. "Who's there?" a breath bated whisper came through the portal. "Who is it?" The barrier could not muffle the terror in it.

"It's Doc Turner, Molly. I've brought someone to talk with you about what happened this afternoon."

A lock-bolt scraped and the horizontal line of yellow light angled upward into a luminous slit that widened to reveal Molly Nolan in a dingy house-dress.

"Gee, Doc," she husked. "I'm glad you come. I been so nervous all evenin' I couldn't finish my vests till near half past twelve. Now I got to stay up all night pressin' them."

Heat gusted past her, and the crisp smell of hot cloth. "Maybe you won't have to work so hard any more, Molly, after you hear what these gentlemen have to say. But let us in. We can't talk out here."

"Please be quiet. Jimmy just fell asleep and he's got school tomorrow."

It was a two-burner gas-stove that made the room so unbearably torrid. Two flat-irons were heating on it, and another was upended on a padded ironing board bridging the backs of a pair of chairs. The vest Molly had been pressing was stretched across that board.

A big bed was crowded against the further wall, its brass columns tarnished and one of its pillows dented by the brown- haired little head of a sleeping small boy.

Molly turned to Doc, her colorless eyebrows arching in inquiry. Pug closed the door and locked it. The old man wandered to the stove, held his hands out to it, dry-washing them.

"That feels good after the cold outside," he murmured. "Oh, Molly. These gentlemen are..."

"Dicks. I know. You want me ter tell them about the man with the cut in his lip."

"No. Not exactly. They're..." Doc sneezed. "Phew, I must have caught cold, coming over. Ka-choo!" He got out a handkerchief, blew his nose. Held the white fabric against it as he went on. "They're not detectives. But they have something interesting to tell you. I'd advise you to listen to them."

The thugs were behind him, but he could see Molly, half- turning to look at them. Her pupils widened suddenly, so that her eyes were black soot marks thumbed into the gray mask of her face. Her mouth opened.

"No, Molly." Doc said sharply. "Don't scream. It won't do you any good." Keeping his handkerchief to his nostrils, he walked away from the stove, walked to the bed and turned, interposing his own body between the slumbering child and the mobsters he had brought here.

Both were fisting vicious-looking automatics, the barrel of one snouting it Molly, of the other at the old pharmacist. An evil leer made Pug's gargoyle mask more hideous than ever as he lipped:

"That's right. It won't do yeh no good ter yelp. It'll only bring lead inter yer, and inter the kid too. If yer a good moll an' come along quiet we'll let yer brudder stay asleep."

"But—but..."

"What's the idea!" Doc protested. "You promised me you'd let me handle this."

"An' yeh t'ought we would. Well, mister, get this. We ain't takin' no chances on no proposition. We're makin' sure the two uh yeh don't do no talkin'. De only say yeh got is whether you get it here, an' the brat too, or whether yeh go along with us nice and quiet and take it down by the River, an' save little Jimmy."

Molly gurgled something, twisted her head to stare reproachfully at Doc—and abruptly toppled! She was a spineless, boneless bundle of rags on the floor...

"Gees!" Ape grunted. "Look at dat. Now we'll have tuh gun 'em out—we'll have tuh—" He hacked. His free hand went to his throat. "Gaw! What's that damn stink. It's..."

Pug coughed. "Hell!" he squealed. "It's somethin' he chucked on the stove." His gat jabbed at the hot-plate, from which white fumes were spurting. "But he..." his trigger finger tightened... "won't get away..."

Doc's hands flashed backward, caught on the bed's horizontal iron, heaved. The couch up-sided, and he dropped to the floor in the same instant. Orange-red jet slashed across the room, stabbed harmlessly into the mattress. Gun roar sounded, a frightened youngster screamed, finding himself dumped abruptly out of bed...

Doc sprang up. The gunmen were gagging, were weaving in the grip of a strange daze. But the huge Ape thrust a spatulate hand against the wall to steady himself, slewed his gun around to bear on the leaping druggist...

Turner snatched a hot iron from the stove, hurled it straight into the gorilla-like countenance. Bone crunched sickeningly, and there wasn't any face there any more.

Red-hot fire lanced the old man's shoulder. Pug had fired from where he had tumbled to the floor. The other iron crashed into his twisting, agonized visage...

Doc kept moving. He got to the window, flung it up. Then he was clutching at the sill, the room whirling about him.

Splintering wood, shouts, pulled him around. The door was smashed in and a night-shirted individual, walrus mustached and wild eyed, was gaping in. Then the Swede was replaced by a burly figure in the welcome blue of the police.

"Phwat's goin' on in here?" the cop barked. He lunged in, bulldog revolver in one huge fist, nightstick clubbed in the other. "Phwat...?"

"Nothing, any more," Doc Turner managed to say. "But I think it would be a good idea if you'd get your handcuffs on the wrists of those two. They're Split-Lip Meyer's men and they'll be wanted as accomplices in his murder of Friday Sutro as soon as Molly Nolan comes out from under the chloral she breathed."

Doc Turner was very apologetic to that same Molly Nolan when she came to. "If I'd been able to see any other way out of it I wouldn't have brought them here. But they were watching me too closely, and the only weapon I could get hold of in the store was a small bottle of Chloral Hydrate that was in a drawer where I pretended to look for adhesive tape. I managed to slip that into my pocket without Pug seeing it, and then I spilled it on your stove while pretending to warm my hands.

"That stuff would knock out an ox when it's vaporized by heat. It got you first, but it got them too, just in time. After that it was easy."

"Easy." She looked at his bandaged shoulder, his blistered hands. "Maybe you call that easy, but I don't."

"Well," Andrew Turner shrugged. "They started their act a little sooner than the script called for. The stooge knew his part, but the principals almost crabbed the act."


THE END