Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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MALCOLM MACE, President of Sidewalk Pix Company, ran a well-manicured hand along the fringes of his neatly-cropped black mustache and nervously adjusted his tie. The sixth squawk of the morning, in the person of an irate old gentleman, stood before his desk.
"A pack of highway robbers," the old gentleman stormed, "that's what your company is! Tricking innocent citizens with your blasted confidence game. Candid pictures, indeed!
"I must have been an old fool to send in my twenty-five cents to you sharpsters. 'Enclose a quarter in the envelope given you by our sidewalk photographer and receive three candid photos taken unobserved by you,' the old gentleman mimicked.
"Three pictures of the sidewalk, that's what I got for my quarter! Not a sight of me in any of them!"
Mace fished into his pocket and slid a quarter across the desk.
"Okay," he nodded wearily.
The old gentleman pocketed the quarter with a gnarled paw, and muttering direly about such matters as the District Attorney, stamped out of the office. Stamped out of the office to be immediately replaced by a pretty young blond thing who, from the look in her eyes, was to be the seventh squawk of the morning.
"I want my money back," said the blond young thing, getting directly to the point. "I sent in a quarter in an envelope given me by one of your sidewalk photographers. I was under the impression that your candid camera genius had snapped three shots of me when I was walking down the boulevard."
"And what kind," said Mace apprehensively, "what kind of snapshots were mailed to you in return?"
"These," said the young lady frigidly, hauling forth an envelope from her purse.
Mace picked the envelope from the desk and pulled out the snapshots. They were enough to make him shudder. Pictures of an old woman wearily teetering along the boulevard on a cane!
"Obviously," Mace looked at the trim young blond, "obviously these are not pictures of you." He fished into his pocket for the seventh time. "Here," he said, "is your quarter. There was some mistake. Our photographer must have given you the wrong envelope. Forgive us."
Grabbing the quarter, the blond young lady marched tight-lipped from the office, the seventh person likely to spread the rumor that the Sidewalk Pix Company was a gyp outfit.
Malcolm Mace peered out into the waiting room of his office, and sighed heavily as he saw that there were no more indignant citizens waiting there. Then, straightening his well-tailored shoulders once more, he walked back to his desk and pressed a buzzer.
A pretty, red-headed girl in a print dress appeared, arching her eyebrows inquisitively at him.
Ordinarily Mace would have favored his secretary with a leer. For he had worked himself into a definite state of mind over lovely Gail Lee. But other matters occupied his mind. Matters that made him set his rather weak jaw grimly, caused his eyes to blaze angrily.
"Gail," Mace snapped at his secretary, "tell that lumbering lunkhead, Mike Foy, to come into my office immediately!"
"Yes-yes, Mr. Mace," Gail Lee faltered, and Mace noted keenly that she paled ever so slightly.
A source of irritation to Malcolm Mace, these past weeks, had been the budding romance between his comely secretary and Mike Foy, his sidewalk photographer. Which, Mace thought with relish as he waited for Mike Foy to appear, was going to make firing the stupid ox doubly profitable. He would be saved asinine mistakes in the future, and would be able to make better progress with Gail himself.
MIKE FOY towered sheepishly in the doorway five minutes later. He was still wearing the gunnysack that served as an apron in his dark room, and his lank black hair hung disarranged over his forehead.
Mace wondered what in the hell Gail could see in a chump like that.
"Come on in, Foy," he said. "I've got a few bones to pick with you. I don't think you'll find them pleasant."
"What's the trouble, boss?" Foy entered, scratching his head. He wasn't any too quick on the uptake.
"The pictures you took two days ago, Foy," Mace said frostily. "What did you take them with, time exposure?"
"Y'mean when I was out on street work?"
"That's right," Mace continued sarcastically. "You catch on fast. What were you doing when you were taking those pictures—napping?"
"Naw, boss. Right on the job, I was. Honest. Took over four-dozen snaps." Foy seemed somewhat confused by it all.
"It might interest you to know that I've already had seven squawks on those pictures this morning," Mace said acidly. "It seems that you took two pictures of old men which, when sent to them, didn't reveal hide nor hair of said old men."
Foy opened his mouth to speak. Mace continued, ignoring him.
"You also took a snap of an old lady which, when sent to said old lady, showed the vacant reaches of an empty lot on Tenth Street."
"But boss—" Foy began.
"But nothing!" Mace cut back in irately. "You also took three pictures of pretty young damsels. Pretty young damsels who turned out to be in the vicinity of ninety years old, when the developed snaps were sent to said young cuties!"
Mike Foy scratched his head perplexedly. He shrugged his big shoulders lamely.
"All those people came into the office? You sawthe snaps?"
"I'm not," said Malcolm Mace in righteous hypocrisy, "in the habit of lying, Foy!"
"I know that the envelopes didn't get mixed up. I watched the numbering of the negatives very carefully," Foy tried a last protest.
"In that case, Foy," Mace declared with acid relish, "you are merely an incompetent photographer. We have no room for incompetent photographers in Sidewalk Pix Company. Draw your pay, Foy. You're fired!"
With intense satisfaction Mace watched Mike Foy move numbly out of the office, automatically removing his gunny apron as he walked. It was a wonder, Mace told himself, that he hadn't thought of tying the can to Foy sooner, before Gail worked up any interest in the lug.
At any rate, everything would be fine now. He, Malcolm Mace, would be able to make a little time with Gail Lee. And she would never be able to suspect that her boss had fired Mike Foy for any other reasons than the fact that he messed up seven sidewalk snaps.
AN hour later, however, Malcolm Mace was a little bit more than annoyed at the words spoken pleadingly to him by Gail Lee. His secretary was plainly distressed, had requested to speak to him alone in the privacy of his office.
"Please, Mr. Mace," Gail said, and Malcolm Mace stroked the fringes of his mustache to hide his irritation at the sign of tears in her eyes.
"Please, it's about Mike—Mike Foy."
"Yes?" Mace forced himself to make his voice understanding, sympathetic. "What about Mike, Gail?"
"I've heard you fired him."
Mace nodded, eyes drifting up and down the loveliness of Gail's figure. He nodded again.
"Yes, Gail, I was forced to. I didn't want to. But he botched things up so badly in his work two days ago that there wasn't anything I could do."
"Look, Mr. Mace," Gail went on. "Mike didn't tell you why those shots got botched up. He isn't the kind of man to whine. But I'll tell you why!"
Malcolm Mace tried to look interested.
"Go on," he invited.
"Sidewalk Pix Company has a policy which makes its photog men buy their own plates," Gail said, and Mace reddened at the implication in her voice.
Cheapskates, that was the implication.
"And since some of the photographers don't make any too much money from salary," Gail went on, "it becomes a problem to pay for plates every so often."
"If you don't agree with our company policy, which has been established for very good reasons—" Mace began in an injured tone.
"I'm not saying anything about it," Gail broke in hurriedly, "except to remind you that it exists, and to show that it's the reason why Mike Foy botched those shots." She took a deep breath and continued.
"Mike was flat broke two days ago," Gail said, "when he was going out from the studio here to take his pictures. He only had five-dozen plates to work with. So when the cat—"
"The cat?" Mace exploded in irritation. "What has a cat got to do with Mike Foy? Really, Gail, get on with the actual details."
"The laboratory cat, Muffin, the gray one that the photogs keep around their dark rooms," Gail said quickly. "Muffin was prowling around in Mike's dark room, just as he was getting ready to leave.
"There was a terrible crash, and when Mike went into the dark room, he saw that the cat had knocked over all his developing chemicals. They had spilled over a dozen of Mike's plates— fresh ones he had laid out for the day's work."
"So?" Mace's voice was a sigh. This was getting monotonous.
"So poor Mike had a dozen plates soaked with all sorts of chemicals, and no money to buy a dozen extra ones."
"If he couldn't save money enough to meet equipment shortage, I don't see where—" Mace began irritably.
"But you must see!" Gail's voice was pleading. "He had to use those soaked plates. He wiped them off as best he could, hoping that he'd have enough good plates to get through the day with.
"But it turned out that he didn't. He had to use seven of the twelve soaked plates. Those were the seven botched shots, Mr. Mace. I'm sure of it!" Gail ended in a breathless plea.
"So reconsider, won't you? Poor Mike feels awful about losing his job."
"I am most sorry," said Mace sympathetically, "that the cat spilled the chemicals. I am equally sorry that the chemicals spilled on Foy's plates. I am also sorry that he was too broke to get fresh ones.
"But," and here Mace paused dramatically, softening his tone, "I don't see where there's anything I can do to remedy the situation. Foy has been discharged. And might I say, without meaning to pry into your personal affairs, Gail, that he isn't worth the time you waste on him?"
"You might not!" the red-headed secretary snapped, eyes gone slate-gray with rage. "My own business, Mr. Mace, is my own business. Even when it involves Mike Foy!"
MALCOLM MACE choked back the rage he felt as he watched Gail Lee march out of his office, auburn locks shining defiance. If she wasn't so damned lovely, and if he didn't have the ideas that he had, he would have been prompted to fire her then and there.
"But no," Mace murmured to himself a moment later. "That wouldn't boost my stock any. And from now-on-out, believe me, it's going to hit a rising market!"
Idly then he glanced through the seven botched snapshot series, chuckling mentally at the circumstances of fate that had given him a reasonable excuse to fire Foy. Cat, indeed. The idea of a cat being responsible for this shot of an old lady—which really wasn't a shot of an old lady, but that of a billboard next to a vacant sidewalk— was more than laughable. It was a stupid excuse.
Malcolm Mace had been subconsciously staring at the snap, his mind automatically reading the billboard.
"Minton Circus," declared the billboard poster, "Coming Next Week— Sept. 25th."
Maybe, Mace thought in amusement, he could take Gail to the circus next week. Let's see. The 25th of September would be on— Mace suddenly stopped his mental musings. The 25th wasn't next week! The billboard was wrong, quite wrong. Why, this wasn't even September yet; it was June, three months away from September!
"Gosh," Mace muttered, "what a faux pas on the part of the billboard advertisers."
His eyes passed on to the shot which should have been that of the lovely blond thing, but showed a teetering old hag instead. Passed on, and stopped in stricken fascination. Mace had an eye for camera detail. He knew his lens. Consequently his sharp glance picked out even the most minute details. Details the ordinary eye wouldn't catch.
Such as the fact that the hag in the picture was passing a barber shop window.
Such as the fact that a calendar on the wall inside the shop could be read faintly.
Such as the fact that the calendar said "1980"!
Mace threw his hand before his eyes in a gesture of incredulity. No. It couldn't say that. Why, the thought was impossible! Must be something else. He seized a magnifier by bis hand, put it to the snap. Yes, "1980"!
Mace peered at the picture in breathless fascination, for beneath the calendar, now that he could see microscopically, was the name of the calendar advertiser, "Martin Automobiles." Above the name was a picture of the automobile—a sleek, incredibly strange-looking machine, utterly futuristic in design!
"No," Mace muttered hoarsely to himself. "No. This is impossible! Utterly, fantastically impossible. It can't be!"
Desperately, he tried to drive away the utterly absurd premonition plucking insistently at the back of his brain. A cat, some spilled chemicals resulting in an unknown catalystic effect—
"No," Mace repeated, "it couldn't happen!"
But in the back of his mind he remembered countless scientific wonders that had been the result of accidental chemical compounds. Too, he was thinking of the young thing, the lovely blond who had indignantly protested against the picturization of herself as a hag. And yet, if the date had actually been 1980—she would very probably be a withered-up old crone!
Mace pushed the pictures aside and rose from his desk. Pacing up and down the room, he battled futilely against this growing conviction. The future existed. Certainly the future existed! So, if the future existed, what was there to prevent it from being photographed with specially treated plates?
BUT these plates hadn't been specially treated. They had been accidentally drenched with a confusion of chemicals. Yet chance, Mace had to admit, had led to many, many revelations in science.
Mace returned to the pictures. If all this were true, then it was quite logically possible that the old man wouldn't have seen himself in a picture in the future. For the old man would have been dead by then!
Mace shuddered. Every single scrap of evidence fit unerringly into one pattern. Those accidentally doused plates possessed the properties to photograph the future!
"Good God," Malcolm Mace muttered hoarsely. "Good God!"
Then an expression of mingled excitement, shock and greed crossed his features. There were a dozen of those accidentally drenched plates. And Mike Foy, the lumbering idiot, had used seven. That left five. Five snaps of the future!
"Oh, gosh," groaned Malcolm Mace, "and I've fired him!"
He reached for the buzzer on his desk, pressing it wildly. Then an expression of infinite cunning crept into his eyes, and he smiled.
"No one," he told himself softly, "has any idea of what those plates can do, of what they've already done. No one but me. Not even Mike Foy himself! And he's got the plates."
His hands trembled as he lighted a cigarette. He steadied them on the desk. Gail would be in the office in a moment, and he couldn't let her suspect that anything was out of the ordinary. But it was horribly difficult to control the emotion that flooded through him. The mere thought of the power that those plates would give him was staggering. Money and power beyond the reaches of imagination!
Gail stepped into the office, sober and unsmiling. Her eyes were redder than before.
"You wanted me, Mr. Mace?" Malcolm Mace took a grip on himself, forced a calmness that he didn't feel. He smiled winningly.
"Gail, I've reconsidered Mike Foy's case. I'll take him back. Go downstairs and tell him I want to see him."
The expression in the eyes of Gail Lee was one of surprise and elation.
"Oh, Mr. Mace, that's swell of you, really! I'll tell Mike immed—" She stopped abruptly.
"What's wrong?" Mace said with a slight suggestion of a croak. "What's wrong?"
"Mike left the building about fifteen minutes ago. He took all his equipment with him," Gail gasped. "He didn't even bother to draw his pay. Said he'd be in to get it tomorrow."
"He took his equipment?" Mace bleated. "Everything? Plates and—and everything?"
Gail nodded dumbly. "But he'll be back tomorrow," she said with enthusiasm once more in her tone. "He'll be back tomorrow for his pay, and you can tell him that you'll keep him on then. Oh, he'll be so relieved, Mr. Mace! He felt so badly.
"He was going to use his last five plates, those practically useless ones, to take some shots which he hoped to sell to the rotogravure section in the Sunday paper."
"Rotogravure section? Sunday paper?" Mace was finding it hard not to scream, not to swoon.
"What," Mace managed to groan, "does he want to take rotogravure pictures for?"
"Why," Gail was logically cool, "he figured that since you fired him, since he was out of a job, he would have to free-lance that way until he landed another spot."
"Oh, Lord!" Mace rose with his hands to the side of his head. "Have you any idea of where he might be going? We have to find him!"
"But Mr. Mace," Gail was visibly perplexed. "Mike will be back tomorrow for his pay. Surely a day won't make any difference."
"You haven't any idea in the world what a difference a day will make!" Malcolm Mace almost screeched, grabbing his hat. "You haven't any idea! We must find him. Immediately!"
"But Mr. Mace," Gail began, "I don't—"
"Stop standing there spluttering!" roared Malcolm Mace, face purpling. "We have to find him. Get your coat. Come on. You can tell me where he intended to take those shots while we're driving!"
He seized the startled girl by the arm, half dragging her along with him.
GAIL LEE, astonishment written on her lovely features, watched Malcolm Mace savagely kick the starter on his sleek roadster some five minutes later.
"Mr. Mace, I can't understand. What has Mike done, that you have to find him immediately? What's it all about?"
"Never mind what it's all about," Mace snapped angrily, desperate at the thought that Foy was probably wasting precious plates at that very moment. "Just tell me where he intended to take those pictures, for the love of heaven, Gail. Tell me!"
"The zoo, I think," Gail began..
"The zoo!" wailed Mace. "Oh God, the zoo!"
"Yes," Gail frowned, "he thought that some clever studies of the baboons would—"
"Baboons?" Mace's voice was an almost hysterical bleat. In his mind was a confused panorama of baboons and billions of dollars. Mike Foy, snapping away the world on monkey pictures!
Mace swung the car out from the curb, pressing his fist down on the horn as he did so. They roared straight through a traffic light at the corner, horn blasting deafeningly.
"Please!" Gail was frankly terrified at the strange behavior of her boss. "Please, Mr. Mace, you'll kill us both. Slow down!"
"Shut up!" snapped the frantic Malcolm Mace, smashing down even harder on the accelerator. His face was a mask of furious frustration and hysterically desperate hope.
"Oh God," he groaned, "baboons!"
The thought prompted him to put on even more speed, and the roadster swung around onto the park drive on two wheels, blasting down the boulevard like a creamy streak.
White-faced and terrified, positive in the assurance that Malcolm Mace had gone stark raving mad, Gail buried her face in her hands, a futile effort to shut out consciousness of the nightmarish journey.
Five minutes later, with a terrifying screech of brakes, the cream-colored roadster jolted to a stop in front of the Municipal Zoo. Mace grabbed Gail by the arm, pulling her along with him as he half ran, half stumbled toward the monkey houses.
The fact that it was early afternoon explained the absence of the usual crowds of spectators in front of the monkey cages. But there was nothing to explain the absence of Mike Foy. He was nowhere in sight.
Mace turned furiously on Gail.
"I thought you said he was coming here! "he stormed.
Frightened, certain that she had to humor a lunatic, Gail Lee answered in a breathless spasm of terror.
"He said he was, honestly, Mr. Mace.
He said he was. I don't know why he isn't here!"
An attendant was sleepily sweeping out one of the cages. Mace spied him, and still holding Gail by the arm, hurried over to him.
"Did you see anyone around here taking pictures of the baboons?" he bleated.
"Hey?" The attendant scratched his head.
"Baboons, you fool! Did you see anyone around here with a camera, taking pictures of them?"
"Yer mean a photographer feller?"
Mace dangled, for an awful instant, on the verge of apoplexy. "Yes, yes, YEEEEEEESSSS! A photographer!"
The attendant smiled, languidly, thoughtfully.
"Waal, reckon I might have. Come to think of it—"
"Did you," Mace was-almost frothing by now, "or didn't you?"
"Yeeeeup, guess I did, awright."
"Where did he go?" Mace was fishing for his wallet with his free hand, still grasping Gail with the other. The attendant sighted the wallet, caught the implication, and closed his lips in a tight smirk, expectantly.
MACE frantically fished out a ten-dollar bill with his teeth, put back the wallet and hurled the bill in the attendant's direction.
"Where did he go?" Malcolm Mace screamed.
"Didn't talk much with him," the attendant began, pocketing the bill.
"I don't care if you sang hymns with him!" the frantic Mace screeched. "Where did he go?"
The attendant shook his head silently, as if to himself.
"He said something about taking a pitcher of them new petunia beds we got."
Mace's grip on Gail's arm tightened, this time as though for support.
"Pet — petunia beds!" he moaned horribly. "Petunia beds!"
"Yeeeeup," said the attendant, gazing somewhat narrowly at Malcolm Mace. "Petunia beds."
"Where are they?" Mace croaked hoarsely. "Where are these damned petunia beds?"
"Yonder," said the attendant, pointing vaguely at a building some two hundred yards away. "In that greenhouse."
Mace turned Gail and started off, then stopped abruptly. He shouted at the once more busy attendant.
"One thing more." His voice was as ragged as the edge of a saw. "How many pictures did that fellow take of the baboons?"
"One, I guess," the reply floated lazily back. "Can't rightly tell, though."
"Baboons," Mace babbled frenziedly, propelling Gail toward the greenhouse. "Baboons, and now petunias! Ohhhh, that leaves only four!"
He was wailing quietly to himself now, as they struggled breathlessly toward the greenhouse. Sobbing like a child.
"Four left," he murmured idiotically, "four left, and maybe less. Ohhhhhh!"
Gail was certain that Malcolm Mace had lost his mind. But she couldn't resist the question that had been burning inside of her.
"Four what, Mr. Mace? What is it that Mike has? What is it that you want?"
"Those damned plates!" Mace bellowed, digging his fingers into the girl's arm as though he could squeeze the plates forth. "I must have those damned plates!"
Gail shuddered inwardly. Mace was stark mad. That was all there was to it. Running wildly after poor Mike's half-shot plates. Plates that might be useless, for all anyone knew.
Gail's course was clear to her now. She would remain with Malcolm Mace. Try to help as much as possible, until she could steer him quietly and without fuss to his home. After that, with Mike's help, they could call in a private physician. But for the moment, she must stay by his side.
They entered the greenhouse in a stumbling run. Mace was perspiring freely, his tie askew, face streaked with sweat, eyes wildly searching up and down the place for some sign of Mike Foy.
A quiet, mild-looking old gentleman was standing over a potted plant, microscope in hand, peering down at the flora fondly. Mace grabbed him by the shoulder, almost jarring him off balance.
"Is there a photographer around here?" he screamed in the old man's ear.
The old gentleman blinked at him in shocked surprise. The surprise gave way to a rising indignation as he pulled his arm from the grasp of Malcolm Mace.
"Sir?" the old voice vibrated with righteous indignation.
"Photographer, don't you understand? Is there a photographer around?" Mace was pleading.
"He means," Gail cut in, "have you seen a man taking pictures in the greenhouse here? A big chap, black hair, rumpled tweeds, carrying a camera. Have you seen him?"
SOME of the rage subsided in the old gentleman as he gazed at Gail.
"Yes," he said, after a moment of reflection. "Yes, I think that I have seen a young man, answering to your description, taking a picture here."
"How long ago?" blurted Mace frantically. He was fishing into his wallet again.
"Hmmmmmm, perhaps five minutes ago," said the old gentleman thoughtfully. "Yes, I'd say it was five, possibly six minutes ago."
Mace held out a five-dollar bill, at which the old gentleman blinked bewilderedly.
"Here, Bud," Mace hissed hoarsely. "Five bucks for you, if you tell me where he went, and how many pictures he took here!"
The old gentleman gazed in astonishment at the bill resting in his palm.
"I don't—" he began.
"Okay, okay!" Mace was close to gibbering. "Here's five more, if that's what you mean." He pulled off another five from his roll. "Now, for the love of God, Bud, tell us where he went, how many shots he took of the damned petunias here!"
"There are no damned petunias here," the old gentleman replied frostily. "We have petunias, yes, but no damned petunias!"
Mace turned pleadingly to Gail, his face purple with frustration and frantic anxiety.
"Tell him," he moaned. "Oh Lord, tell the old goat what I want to know!"
The old gentleman looked at the ten dollars in his hand, still apparently uncertain as to how the bills got there. Then he looked at Gail, shrugging his old shoulders perplexedly.
"I don't quite know what this is all about," he said. "But the young gentleman who was taking pictures of the petunia bed left five or six minutes ago for the Lily Pond where, I overheard him say, he was going to take some pictures of the swans."
"Gluuumphuumph!" croaked Mace wildly, shrilly. "Now it's swans!"
"Yes," said the old gentleman. "Swans."
"How many pictures did he take of the petunias?" Gail asked.
The old gentleman frowned. He thought for a moment, to the accompaniment of Malcolm Mace's low gibbering.
"One," he said at last. "Just one, I believe."
He blinked his eyes as the foaming Mace and the girl turned and dashed madly from the greenhouse. Then he blinked at the ten dollars in his hand, blinked a third time, and pocketed the money. A moment later, and he was lost in microscopic contemplation of his potted plant.
WHERE IS the damned Lily Pond?" Malcolm Mace demanded of Gail Lee, as they stood for an instant outside the gates of the wild life section of the park.
"In there," said Gail.
"Why," screamed Mace hoarsely, "are we standing out here chatting, then?"
With that, the once-dapper and now disheveled Malcolm Mace seized the girl by the arm again and hustled her into the wild life preserve.
"Three left," Mace babbled incessantly, "only three! Maybe less, ohhhhhhhhhh!"
Gail looked at him sympathetically, wondering what had caused him to lose his grip, but said nothing. Two minutes later and they were beside the Lily Pond.
"This is it?" demanded Mace, eyes flicking left and right for a sight of Mike Foy. "This is it?"
"Yes, but I don't see Mike around," Gail answered, fearfully waiting another raving outburst from Mace.
Malcolm Mace opened his mouth to oblige with another demonstration of frothing lunacy. Opened his mouth, and snapped it shut again. His eyes suddenly gleamed, his jaws worked, he grabbed tightly at Gail's arm again.
"There," he husked, his voice a trembling whisper. He was pointing a shaky finger across the pond. "There he is. Oh, thank God! Thank God!"
Gail squinted. Then relaxed. It was undoubtedly Mike Foy on the far side of the pond. Mike Foy, beyond earshot, however, and intently fixing his camera on a floating swan!
"Foy!" Mace bellowed. "Mike Foy! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey! Stop! Foy, for heaven's sake, wait!"
But Mike Foy, unable to hear them, continued lining up his lens for a shot of the swan. Mace turned wild-eyed to Gail.
"How do we get around to the other side?" he demanded, his eyes glittering with a tinge of madness. "Quick, quick! How do we get around to—"
"Just a moment," Gail cut in. She wrinkled her pretty brows in thought. "We'll have to go back the way we entered the wild life section and go in through the west gate. That's probably how Mike entered."
"Come on, then! For the love of all that's holy, COME ON!"
Mace was tugging her along again, stumbling, sobbing, his lungs searing from the pace to which they'd been forced.
Somehow, they made the gate by which they had entered several minutes previously. Made the exit, and at Gail's direction had turned to find the gate leading to Mike's side of the pond, when a voice bellowed behind them, and a hand caught Malcolm Mace by the shoulder!
"There you are! Gotcha at last!"
Mace turned, white-faced and mad-eyed, and Gail wheeled also. Towering above them was a huge, perspiring policeman!
"Gotcha!" repeated the cop breathlessly, tightening his grip on Malcolm Mace's shoulder.
"Let us go!" Mace screeched. "I don't know what you want, but it's life and death for us. Let us go!"
The cop merely glowered.
"Don't know what I want, eh?"
"No," Gail cut in.
She was mentally debating whether or not to turn Mace over to the policeman. Then she decided against it. Better to get him home with Mike's help, as she had originally planned, and give him over to the care of his regular physician. It might, after all, be just a touch of the sun. She remembered that Mace had left the office early yesterday to play golf. There might have been too much sun.
"No," Gail repeated as soothingly as she could to the officer, "we don't know what you want."
"You people were in the cream-colored roadster that was parked outside of the Zoo, wasn't yuh?"
THE cop placed his hands on his hips and glared accusingly. Before Gail could stop him, Mace fished into his pocket and pulled forth his wallet.
"Yeah, yeah," Mace blurted hurriedly. "I suppose we're parked illegally. Okay, okay, we're parked illegally, then! Here's ten bucks, if you'll wait by the car for us!" He pressed a bill into the cop's paw.
The cop took the ten-dollar bill, scrutinized it, while red began to rise from his collar to his beefy face. Gail didn't have to be a mind-reader to tell that Malcolm Mace had made the wrong gesture.
"Sooooooo," spluttered the cop explosively, "it's bribery, eh? Yuh think yuh can bribe an officer, do yuh?"
Gail tried to think of something to say, something to soothe him. Mace had turned deathly white. His eyes were still darting desperately over his shoulder, to where the gate leading to Mike Foy was located.
"Yuh was speeding, from Tenth Av-enooo on, that's what yuh was doing, smart guy! Parking, indeed! That ain't what I got on yuh, Buddy. Speeding is the charge. I chased yuh in a taxicab from Tenth Avenoo to the Zoo here. Finally caught up wit' yuz! Yere coming along wit' me!"
"But Officer!" Mace croaked. "Officer, you can't DOOOOO this to me!"
The policeman's arm went tight around Malcolm Mace's well-tailored waist.
"Well, now," he said with heavy sarcasm. "Yuh was doing ninety-five on the boulevards, and yuh decide that I can't arrest yuh!"
"Please," said Gail, turning her red hair and gray eyes to full effect on the cop. "Please let me explain, Officer!" She managed a winning smile.
The big policeman hesitated, relaxed his grasp on Malcolm Mace. There was no question about the fact that Gail Lee had something. Something that made men forget their troubles. The same something that Cleopatra turned on Mark Antony to make him forget his duty.
The cop was hardly a Mark Antony. He hesitated, blushed.
"Well, lady, what yuh got to say?"
Gail stepped to the side a few paces, crooked a charming finger at the cop. He looked at Mace doubtfully, then leaned over next to her ear. Gail whispered. The blush that had started in a quiet tone of pink grew crimson, flooding the be-duped officer's face to the top of his head. He coughed discreetly, turned to Mace.
"Well—uh—that kinda makes it different," he stammered. "How wuz I tuh know that—er— Aw, shucks !"
He fished into his pocket and produced a cigar, which he stuffed into the grasp of the startled Malcolm Mace.
"Here," the cop blushed even more painfully. "Excuse me, mister. And congratulations!"
"W-w-w-w-w-w-we can go?" Mace bleated like a rescued mariner.
"Yeah," the officer blushed again, "and don't fergit my congratulations!"
Beaming, the cop watched the girl and the flustered, frantic, mustached man dash off toward the other entrance of the wild life section of the park. Suddenly the officer frowned, scratched his head. There was a dawning suspicion in his female-befuddled mind that something was not right.
It was occurring to the cop that he had been the victim of a hoax, a dirty rotten hoax, perpetrated through perfume and feminine wiles. For what would any sane, just-married couple, be doing dashing around a zoo for a honeymoon?
"Cripes," he muttered, "I've a hunch she lied to me!"
But the frenzied chap and the redheaded girl were now out of sight. The officer bit his lip in rage. Then he looked down at his hand, and his expression relaxed somewhat. He still had the ten bucks—honeymooners or not.
HE'S gone," wailed Malcolm Mace, standing beside Gail at the other side of the Lily Pond. "Foy has gone!" He was sobbing again. "That damned copper held us up until Foy left!"
Gail, however, was paying scant attention to the wailings of Mace. She was looking around the pond, around the grounds that surrounded it.
She spied a uniformed park attendant. Subconsciously, in addition to accepting the fact that Malcolm Mace had gone off the brink, she was also influenced by his nerve-shattering eagerness to find Mike Foy.
On a hunch, she approached the attendant.
"There was a young man here, taking pictures of swans a little while ago," she began.
"Yeah, lady. I seen him."
"Did he talk to you when he was working?"
The uniformed minion shook his head.
"No. Just when he was leaving. He asked where he could find the squirrels."
Gail was back beside the piteously moaning Mace in an instant.
"I've found out where he went," she said breathlessly.
Mace turned a haggard countenance to her.
"Where?" he said lifelessly.
"To the squirrel cages!"
Mace looked at her, eyes filled with infinite pain.
"Ohhhh, don't. Don't tell me that! Squirrels! I can't stand it," he sobbed. "First it's baboons, then it's petunias, next it's swans, and now it's squirrels! Stop! Don't tell me any more!"
"Come on," Gail urged soothingly. "We can catch him at the squirrel cages. Don't you want to find him any longer?"
Mace shrugged, giggled, shrugged again. The world had collapsed around his shoulders. He would lie here on the brink of the Lily Pond and die. If he didn't die immediately he would throw himself to the swans. They might possibly do him the courtesy of eating him alive. He didn't know. He didn't care. If the swans didn't eat him, perhaps the frogs would oblige by kicking him to death.
"He's used up all the pictures, all the plates," Mace answered tonelessly. "What's the use?"
"Have you gone utterly mad?" Gail stormed. "Of course he hasn't used all the plates! He must have one or two left. Otherwise he wouldn't want to go to the squirrel cages to take more pictures!"
Malcolm Mace sat bolt upright. He rose to his feet, the wild gleam of hope springing once to his eye. He had been mad, the strain had almost licked him. Of course there must be plates left! Even one. Even one—and his dream would be fulfilled. He'd have the world at his feet, even if he could only wrest one plate from that fool Foy!
"Where," he croaked, choking on the words, "are the squirrel cages?"
Wordlessly, Gail Lee grabbed his arm, steering him along the path to the wild life exit. Two minutes later they were stumbling gaspingly along the walk leading to the squirrel sections.
A minute after that, and they were peering into the barred enclosure — a sort of natural arena — in which gamboled the fury nut-eaters. For a moment Mace, hanging hysterically to Gail's arm, looked frenziedly around the enclosure. Then he squealed hoarsely, pointing through the bars.
"There he is! It's Mike Foy!"
Mike Foy turned his head at the voice—a difficult feat, inasmuch as he was hanging by his knees from a tree in the center of the natural arena. Hanging by his knees—upside down!
"Mike!" Gail shouted, while Mace babbled incoherently.
"Shhhhhhh!" hissed Mike Foy from his topsy-turvy position.
MIKE held his camera, and was trying to focus it on an assortment of squirrels beneath the limb from which he hung. In his free hand was a bag of peanuts which he let dribble one by one to the ground, in order apparently to gather more squirrels beneath the tree.
"Come down!" Mace had at last found his voice. "For heaven's sake, Foy, come down!"
He was praying desperately that Foy hadn't put one of the precious plates in the precariously dangling camera.
"Shhhhhhhhhhh!" hissed Foy, sharply. "Do you want to drive them away?" Then, "I've spent my last nickel on these peanuts, in an effort to get them to pose. Keep quiet. I've only one plate left, and I can't waste this shot."
"One plate!" Mace shrieked ear-splittingly. "Is that all?"
"Damn!" Foy exploded. "See what you've done! You drove them away!" The squirrels had scurried out from under the tree.
"Come down, Mike!" Gail put in sharply. "The squirrels don't make any difference!"
"Pleeeeease come down!" Mace had dropped to his knees before the bars of the enclosure. Tears streamed down his overwrought face. "I want to buy that plate from you, Foy! I can pay cash —cash!" he sobbed.
Mike Foy, still upside down, frowned.
"You mean this one?" he said, fishing a plate out of his camera and holding it loosely in the air.
"DOOOOON'T!" Mace bellowed hysterically. "Come down, don't dangle that thing, I'll pay you anything for it, Foy! Anything!"
All caution was thrown to the winds at the sight of Mike Foy nonchalantly dangling the priceless plate above the cement floor of the enclosure, while hanging upside down by his knees.
Gail Lee, looking with infinite alarm at Malcolm Mace, was never closer to being correct in the assumption that the man was slightly off balance. For Malcolm Mace, the one person in the world who had any idea of the value of that plate, was giddily approaching madness as he watched it dangle tantalizingly over the cement walk in the enclosure.
"Mace," Foy shouted from his perch, "what do you want with this plate? It might not even be any good on the squirrels. It's been drenched by developing fluids and chemicals."
"I'll show you what I want with it," Mace babbled frenziedly, "by offering you twenty-five thousand dollars!"
He reached into his pocket and grabbed for his checkbook. Gail Lee, wide-eyed in astonishment, but quick on the ball, fished into her handbag and gave him a pen. Hand trembling, Mace bent over a bank draft.
Mike Foy had almost fallen out of his tree from the shock of the statement and the sight of the checkbook. Had almost, in fact, let the plate slip from his nerveless fingers.
"Twenty-five thousand?" It was Foy's turn to croak.
"Okay, okay," babbled the now gibbering Mace. "Fifty! I have fifty thousand, every last cent I own. I'll throw in the business, too. You can have that. But I must have the plate!"
Mace was overwrought, he was near complete breakdown, but he was still shrewd. He knew that the plate was worth millions to one knowing its true value. Would be worth many millions if he could but get his hands on it.
"Mike!" Gail's voice was sharp. The woman in her was taking over. "Get down from that tree and make sure you don't drop that plate. Then come over to this side of the cage. You look too natural in there. We have some business to do with Mr. Mace!"
She hadn't the slightest idea in the world of Mace's reason for wanting the plate. Would never be able to figure out what the value of the thing was. But that was all right with Gail Lee.
Perhaps Mace was loony. So what? He had played some plenty loathsome tricks that she knew of, and therefore she wasn't burdened with any scruples concerning his money. If he wanted to pay out—that was his business.
FOY was around to their side of the bars now, brow wrinkled in a sort of eager bewilderment.
"Did he say what I thought he said?" he breathed. "Did he, honey?"
Mace nodded excitedly. "Here's a check for fifty thousand. Give me the plate. I'll turn over the business to you later in the day!"
Foy reached for the check, holding out the plate.
"No, you don't!" Gail had stepped between the two. "We're going back to your car, Mr. Mace. Then we'll drive to the bank, where Mike can get this cashed. After that, we'll go to the office. I'm a notary, y'know, and you can turn over the business to him there after we've drawn up legal papers. Then, and not until then, you can have the plate!"
Malcolm Mace looked at the plate, all the greed and eagerness shining forth from his eyes. Cunning too, however. Hell, what could he lose by a measly fifty grand and a business. He'd already figured out how he could utilize that one plate to make billions.
"You win," he said. "But make Mike let you carry the plate, Gail. He's so clumsy, I'm afraid he'll break it."
And as for Gail Lee, Mace thought as they walked to the car, Mike would probably marry her, what with wealth and a business to offer. But a million or a billion bucks would more than compensate for that. Mace smirked. He was still 'way ahead of the game.
THREE hours later, Mace left Gail Lee and Mike Foy in each other's arms, planning marriage and whispering sweet nothings. Life was going to be nothing but milk and honey for them —what with fifty thousand bucks and a profitable business.
"But I'm still miles ahead," Malcolm Mace told himself, looking at the precious plate he'd carried away with him....
"Miles ahead, and on my way to untold wealth and power," he muttered again, an hour later in his private camera lab. He had set up his lights, timed the camera exposures. They had to be quick, for he only wanted a glimpse into the very near future, perhaps a week or so away.
In front of the camera lens, underneath the glaring studio lights, Malcolm Mace had placed a newspaper. It was the evening paper, just purchased, and he had opened it to the stock market quotation page. The lens was centered on that page, a page of fabulous financial information once the picture was made.
For Malcolm Mace knew that a picture of that page a few days, or even a few weeks in advance, would give him all that he wanted, priceless information!
He inserted the precious plate. Set the lights a bit more carefully, snicked the shutter briefly.
IT was a matter of merely twenty minutes before Mace dashed forth from his darkroom with the precious developed print. The developed print that would show the financial page a few days or weeks in the future.
His hands trembled as if with ague, and his throat was choked and dry, filled with cotton. His heart hammered sickeningly against his ribs, while he placed the developed print, an enlargement, beneath his desk lamp.
Mace shuddered uncontrollably. It was like holding billions, holding that print.
He forced himself to gaze down at it, gaze down at his future revealed in a photograph.
Malcolm Mace opened his eyes—he had shut them in a brief instant of prayer—and looked at the developed print. It was an exquisite piece of photography, vivid in every last detail. Vivid even to the date at the top of the financial page.
For it was the financial page, of course. And it was the financial page at some time in the future, naturally.
Nevertheless, Malcolm Mace gasped. Gasped and stepped back from the print, throwing his hands to his face with a hoarse, incredulous sob. For the date on the page shown in the picture was the same date[*] as that on the page he had photographed.
Quite the same, with the exception of the fact that the page in the photograph was a trifle soiled, slightly yellowed, and wrapped around some garbage reposing on the top of an overfilled trash can in an alley!
[* Malcolm Mace, obviously, has forgotten one little
point—that the picture taken by the plate depicts only a present-day
object as it will ap.pear in future time. The plate does not forecast the
future; it merely shows what the future will be in relation to a specific
Had Mace understood this point, he would have gone downtown to the big display window in the city's leading newspaper, where the financial page was tacked on to a bulletin board each afternoon after the market's close.
The photograph of this page would obviously turn out to be an entirely different set of quota.tions, with a different date. Because the photo.graphic plate would depict that particular bulletin board as it would be in future time. The board would be exactly the same, but the page on it would be in the future, being changed each day.
Hence Malcolm Mace lost a fortune because he was too greedy to comprehend the larger as.pects of his great opportunity.—Ed.