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EMILE C. TEPPERMAN

CUE FOR A GUNMAN

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First published in The Spider magazine, October 1935

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version date: 2017-12-11
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

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Cover

The Spider, October 1935, with "Cue for a Gunman"



Ed Race, six-gun magician, realized that a fast horse, a crooked bookie, and a quarter million dollars—mixed together—meant big-time trouble... But Slingel's mob didn't know Ed could juggle hot dough just as well as hot revolvers...!



IT was about eleven o'clock in the morning when Leon Partages laid the five thousand dollars on the nose for Grey Mama to win the Preakness at Pimlico. It was in Kelty's restaurant on Broadway, and Ed Race had just come in for a late Sunday breakfast. Ed had nothing to do for the day except to appear in a Milk Fund Benefit along about midnight. He was looking for a little something in the way of excitement—and he found it.

He saw Leon Partages at a table in the far corner, counting a lot of cash across the table to Nick Slingel, the bookmaker. Ed didn't like Slingel at all, but he liked Partages a lot—not because the fat, shrewd, good-natured Leon was the boss of the vaudeville circuit for which he worked, but because he had developed a real affection for the man.

Ed crossed over to the table, kicked out a chair, and sat down. Partages looked up, said: "Hello, Eddie boy. Be through in just a minute." He went on thumbing out fifty-dollar bills. "Forty-five-fifty, forty-six hundred, forty-six-fifty—"

Ed glanced at Slingel, frowned. The bookie looked at him guilelessly out of his small, closely set eyes. He grinned crookedly. "Leon's got a hot one for the Preakness, Race. If she comes in, it'll send me to the poorhouse; I'm givin' him fifty to one."

Partages finished counting, pushed the pile of money over to Slingel. "There you are, Nick—five grand at fifty to one on Grey Mama on the nose in the Preakness."

Slingel grinned, pocketed the money, and scribbled something on a slip of paper. "There's your memorandum, in case you win!" He arose to go, but Partages stopped him.

"Wait a minute, Nick, maybe I'll let Eddie in on this." He turned to Ed. "Look, boy, this is a hot tip that I got from a bum on the bowery that I staked to a handout. I gave him a buck, and he says: 'Thanks, mister, you're a white guy. I'm gonna do something for you—I'm gonna give you the name of the winning horse in the Preakness today.' And he named this here Grey Mama. So I'm laying five grand on her!"

Ed sighed. "My God, Mr. Partages, do you mean to say that you're risking five thousand dollars on the word of a Bowery bum?"

"That's right," Partages assured him. "I've come through all my life, playing hunches, and this is one of them. You take a tip from me, and get in on this. Say the word, and I'll put up a thousand for you."

"No, thanks," Ed said. He glared at Slingel. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, letting Leon make a bet like that."

Slingel shrugged. "If it wasn't for guys like him, this would be a lousy business, Race. Look at the odds I'm laying him."

"If you pay off," Ed said sourly.

Slingel's face darkened. For a moment he looked almost dangerous. His mouth twisted nastily. "If anybody but you made that crack, Race—"

"Forget it," Ed told him. "Only if Mr. Partages wins, you better see that you do pay off."

When Slingel had gone, Partages turned a troubled face to Ed. "What did you mean by that, Eddie boy, about his paying off? It's not like you to insult a man without cause."

Ed toyed with a knife, muttered moodily: "There's a rumor going around, Mr. Partages, about Lou Donegan. Remember—he was found in the river with his throat slit?"

Partages nodded. "I sure do! And they never found the skunks that did it."

"No," Ed agreed slowly. "But the rumor goes that Lou Donegan had made a cleanup at the track—and that Slingel was the bookie who had to do the paying off. Only Donegan wasn't alive to collect."

Partages let out a long sigh. "God! Would he kill a man like Lou Donegan to save himself some lousy money?"


ED shrugged. "I don't know." He suddenly put a hand on the other's shoulder. "Only I want you to promise me something, Mr. Partages. If, by some freak of chance, Grey Mama should win this afternoon, you call me, and let me hang around with you till after Slingel pays off!"

That was at eleven; at six-thirty Ed got back to the Longmont, where he was staying, and picked up a newspaper at the stand in the lobby on the way up to his room for a quick shower before supper. It was a sporting final, and the black headline at the left-hand side of the page almost took him off his feet:


DARK HORSE WINS PREAKNESS PURSE

GREY MAMA LOPES IN AHEAD OF
THE TRACK AT ODDS OF FIFTY TO ONE


Ed was in the elevator when he read it, and he swore softly under his breath.

"What's the matter, Mr. Race?" the operator asked. "Bad news?"

"It sounds like good news, Al," Ed told him, "but there's no telling how it'll turn out. A friend of mine just made a quarter of a million dollars!"

Al whistled. "Boy, that don't sound bad, Mr. Race. I wish he was a friend of mine."

When Ed got in his room he didn't bother about the shower. He phoned Partages' home. The vaudeville owner's daughter got on the wire.

"Where's your dad, Elsie?" Ed demanded without preamble.

"He's gone to meet a man by the name of Slingel," Elsie Partages told him. "Didn't you hear about Dad's horse winning the Preakness? Dad had five thousand dollars on Grey Mama, and it came in first. I'm going to get a present of a brand-new racing yacht. Isn't that lovely? I—"

"Listen," Eddie broke in, "never mind about the yacht. Do you know where your father went to meet Slingel? He promised to call me."

"He did, Ed, but you hadn't got back to the hotel yet, and Mr. Slingel insisted on meeting him right away so he could pay him; so dad didn't bother to leave a message for you. He took a cab to Mr. Slingel's office on Forty-ninth Street."

"See you later, Elsie," Ed told her hastily, and hung up.

He kept his finger on the elevator button until the cage came up, and then made Al ride him all the way down without stopping. The Longmont was on Forty-third, and it was quicker to walk than to take a cab through the congested Broadway traffic.

Ed pushed through the crowds, bleak-eyed. He knew enough about Slingel to know that he wouldn't pay off two hundred and fifty thousand dollars without batting an eyelash. Slingel had pulled many a fast one in the past, and there were any number of killers in the city whom he could hire for a thousand dollars for any kind of job from murder down.

Slingel was reputed to be worth four or five million in cold cash, which he kept distributed in a dozen safe-deposit boxes throughout the city. In addition to his bookmaking, he lent out money at usurious interest, and enforced repayment with the threat of his hired killers. It was whispered about that in those deposit boxes, besides cash, there were signed promissory notes from judges, district attorneys and many other men prominent in city, state and national affairs.

There were plenty of people who hated Slingel, but he remained alive mainly because his death would have caused disgrace or worse to so many influential persons.

Ed Race himself had nothing to worry about on that score. He had always lived the simple life, even though he knew the Great White Way intimately. An acrobatic juggler by profession, he had made enough money in his eight years on the stage to have retired comfortably, if he had saved it.


HE had blazed a name on the vaudeville circuits from coast to coast, appearing as the "Masked Marksman." His specialty had no rival on the stage. He performed his feats of juggling not with clubs or trick weights, but with real, honest-to-goodness forty-five caliber revolvers, similar to the two which he now carried in the twin holsters under his armpits.

He had so mastered those six-guns of his that he performed almost incredible feats of marksmanship with them—feats that left the audience breathless with admiration.

But with all that, he found that his nervous system craved continuous excitement. The few minutes each day that he spent behind the footlights left him plenty of leisure; and in that leisure he had developed the hobby that gave him the additional quota of excitement he needed—he played around with criminology. He now had licenses to operate as a private detective in a dozen states, and he had earned the praise of numerous police officials as well as the hatred of many criminals.

Slingel, he knew, hated him; hated him in a malicious, envious way.

Slingel envied Ed's superb physique, his superlatively trained muscles that responded automatically to each impulse from his brain. Daily practice on the stage had developed a perfect coordination between mind and muscle that had got him out of many a tight spot where instant action—of the right kind—was the only barrier between life and death.

Now, as Ed Race turned the corner from Broadway into Forty-ninth, he saw the three-story brownstone building which Slingel used as an office and occasional residence. The front of the ground floor had been converted into a single, large, plate-glass window bearing in gilt letters the legend:


NICHOLAS SLINGEL CO., INC.
REAL ESTATE & INSURANCE
BAIL BONDS


SLINGEL wrote bail bonds for all the major underworld characters, and charged them exorbitant fees. His insurance business was tremendous—enough to have satisfied any legitimate businessman—but it was only chicken-feed to Slingel.

Ed saw a light behind the plate-glass window and started to cross the street toward the office. But two things happened at almost the same time...

A tall man and a short man came out of the brownstone building. The taller one was carrying a small Boston bag that seemed very full. They walked swiftly to the curb, entered a black sedan that was waiting for them with the motor running.

Ed's eyes narrowed, and he hastened his step. He knew both of those men. The tall one was Manny Sloss, and the short one was Joe Ricci. They were two of the "boys." Ed knew that they were on Slingel's payroll, and so did the police. But no one had ever been able to get anything on either of them. They literally got away with murder.

From their tense attitude as they crossed to the sedan, Ed knew that they were getting away with something right now. He started toward them but hadn't taken more than two steps off the curb when the second thing happened; something hard was poked into the small of his back, and a voice said:

"Don't look behind you, Race. Just turn around and walk back to Broadway. You're not wanted on this street." An additional jab of the gun emphasized the next words. "Get goin' now!"

Ed's face flushed a dull red. His hands clenched tight, and his whole body was taut as a spring. Deliberately he turned around to face the man who had spoken. At the same time he shouted loudly so that half a dozen passersby heard him:

"Go ahead and shoot, rat! You'll never escape with all these people to identify you! Go ahead, rat! Shoot me, and you'll burn!"

Ed was now facing the other squarely. The man was stocky, pimply complexioned. He was dressed in a light tan suit, and wore a brown felt hat. His chin was long and came to a sharp point under a pair of thick, red lips.

Those lips opened wide now in astonishment mingled with rage. He had his right hand in his jacket pocket, and the gun bulged there unmistakably, pointing at Ed's stomach.


FOR a moment Ed thought that the man was going to shoot anyway. He glared at Ed, took a short step back as if to give himself room to fire. Ed's body tingled in anticipation of the impact of the slug. He could do nothing about it. A crowd had gathered around them, attracted by Ed's loud cry; a gay, happy crowd that thought this was some new kind of advertising stunt. There were women and a couple of children in that crowd, and Ed was unwilling to endanger their lives. He had to depend on his trick to work.

The gunman's slow-moving intellect finally got the idea that he was in a spot. Here were more than fifty people who could identify him later, if he should pump a stream of slugs from the automatic in his pocket into Ed Race's body. No amount of influence could save him from the chair in the face of such evidence.

Ed took a step closer to him, saying softly: "It's no good, guy. You're paid for a quick job and a safe getaway. Your boss would never be able to drag you out of the hot seat if you used that gun now. Better fade away while the fading is good."

The other wavered. He didn't really know what to do. And in that second, Ed acted. He had edged close enough now.

His left hand streaked out, gripped the gunman's hand which was in his pocket, twisted it downward, tightening at the same time so as to hold the muzzle of the automatic pointing toward the ground.

Ed's right hand swung in a short arc to the gunman's chin; there was a short, ugly snap, the gunman's head jerked backward, and he was lifted from his feet for an instant, only to wilt to the ground with the automatic still unfired.

Ed stepped back, gazed around at the gaping crowd, and smiled.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said oratorically, "as you may have guessed, my friend here and I are selling something. We have just demonstrated one of the many methods of self-defense described in our new book, 'How to Protect Yourself Against Thugs.' You can see how efficient this method is. Those of you who wish to purchase a copy, please remain here until I get the book out of our car. My friend will come to in a few minutes."

Before anyone could muster up enough courage to stop him, he had pushed through the crowd, which had by now grown enormously, and crossed the street quickly. He entered the house next door to Nick Slingel's office, looked back and saw that he had got away just in time, for a bluecoat was rounding the corner.

Ed went through to the rear of the building, came out in a dirty, littered yard, climbed a fence, and was in the back yard of Slingel's building.

He tried the rear door, found that it opened, and stepped into a dark room. He worked across this without using his flashlight, went through another door, and suddenly heard a scraping sound. He stopped stock-still, his hand close to his left armpit holster. He was in the room behind the front room with the plate-glass window, and it was pitch dark in here.

The scraping sound ceased, and everything was quiet in the room. From out in the street came the sounds of excited people, the sound of the policeman's voice shouting: "Move back there. Get away from him; give him air, will you? His jaw's broken!"

Ed felt along the wall for a switch, and the scraping sound was resumed. This time it was accompanied by weird grunts and gasps.

Ed found the switch, got his revolver out, and snapped on the lights. He stared for a moment at the two men who lay, gagged and bound with wire, on the floor. One was, as Ed had expected, Leon Partages. The other was Nick Slingel!

Ed said: "Good evening, gentlemen. Am I intruding?"

They both glared up at him. They had been gagged with wads of newspaper stuffed into their mouths, covered with their own handkerchiefs, and tied with wire.


ED bent and untwisted the wire from Partages' mouth, removed the handkerchief and the newspaper. Then while he worked on the theater-owner's wrists, Partages spat out bits of pulpy newsprint, tried to get the taste of ink out of his mouth by rubbing his tongue against his lips.

"Damn it, Eddie," he finally exclaimed, "I've been held up! Robbed! They took my two hundred and fifty thousand that Slingel just paid me!"

"You don't say so, Mr. Partages," Ed said. "Who did it?"

"Damn it, I don't know. There was a tall man and a short man, and they wore some kind of hoods, with slits for eyes, so you couldn't see a bit of their faces. They busted in here just after Nick had given me the money and I'd given him a receipt for it. They tied us up, and cleaned out Nick's safe, too."

Ed clucked sympathetically. He finished with Partages, turned to Slingel and untied him. Slingel said nothing till he was free; then he stamped around the room, waving his arms to get the circulation back.

"Wait till I get a hold of those bums!" he raved. "I'll put them through the works. They'll wish they'd never been born. They got Leon's dough, and they took half again as much out of my safe!"

He swung on Ed. "You said I don't pay off. Well, I paid off all right—plenty! If I hadn't been so prompt to hand Leon his dough, this would never have happened!"

"Yeah," Ed said dryly. "I see you pay off. Who are the guys that held you up? Don't tell me you don't know them, either."

Slingel stopped pacing, faced Ed. "That's the truth, Race. I don't know who they were. Some hoods from out of town, probably, who were wised up about the amount of dough I keep around. Nobody in this town would have the guts."

Ed stared at him steadily. "Mr. Partages says one was tall and the other was short. How about Sloss and Ricci? They always work together, and it sounds like them."

Slingel guffawed. "Naw. They would never pull anything like that. Besides," he added hastily, "I happen to know where they are tonight. They're at a party down at Giuseppe's Restaurant in the Village. Not a chance of them getting away from the crowd without being noticed."

"I see," Ed said thoughtfully. He silenced Partages, who was about to break in. "By the way, Slingel, what's the name of that pimply faced guy that works for you these days; you know, the stocky guy?"

Slingel looked blank. "I don't know anybody like that, Race."

Ed grinned. "No? That's funny," he lied. "He told me you paid him to watch the street, and if I should show up while you were in here with Mr. Partages, he was to keep me away even if he had to shoot me."

Slingel almost snarled. "He told you that! He's a damn liar. I'll fix that skunk. Where did this happen?"

"Downstairs," Ed told him cheerfully. "By this time he's probably in the hospital. You see, he may be awful tough for your money, but I found out he has a glass jaw!" He added maliciously, enjoying Slingel's discomfiture: "And I expect you'll be having to bail him out when he's discharged from the hospital. They'll be holding him on a Sullivan charge. He had a gun in his pocket when the cop found him."

Slingel exclaimed: "Look here, Race, you got me all wrong. I—"

"Never mind," Ed told him. "You can save all that for some other time. Right now we're in a hurry."

He took the protesting Partages by the arm, piloted him out before Slingel could think of anything further to say. He led him through the back way, made him climb another fence, giving him a boost over. Then he cut through a back yard, negotiated an alley, and brought the theater owner out on Fiftieth Street.

"Look here, Eddie boy," Partages panted, "what's all this about? Where're you rushing me? I just got robbed of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and I don't even know who took it. You go and get Slingel sore—"

"If you don't know who took your money, Mr. Partages, you're not as smart as I thought you were," Ed said.

"You mean—Slingel?"

"That's what I mean, all right. I saw Sloss and Ricci coming out of there with a black bag. Slingel probably staged the whole thing. He paid you off first, and then had those two floods come in and take it away from you. To make it look good, he had them take his own money, too. They'll give it all back to him, and he'll pay them five thousand for the job—your five thousand. Net loss to Slingel on Grey Mama—nothing. Net gain to Leon Partages—minus five thousand dollars. Get the idea?"


PARTAGES wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Look, Eddie boy, you know I'm pretty well off. Two hundred and fifty grand is a lot of money, but I can live without it. Only I hate to think that Slingel put it over on me. The police?"

"Will do you no good, and you know it, Mr. Partages. Slingel will swear that the two men who held you up were not Sloss and Ricci. And those hoods will have iron-clad alibis. Didn't Slingel say that they were at a party at Giuseppe's Restaurant? The alibi was all set beforehand. There'll be a dozen people to swear that Sloss and Ricci never left Giuseppe's all evening."

Partages gave that some thought. Finally he said: "Listen, Eddie, can you get that money back?"

"I think so, Mr. Partages, but it will cost you plenty."

"Sure, sure."

"It will cost you one hundred thousand?"

"What?"

"To be donated to the Milk Fund. The show is on tonight, and the sale of tickets was poor. Depression, you know."

Partages stuck out his pudgy hand. "Okay, Eddie boy. Go to it. Only"—he held on to Ed's hand—"be careful. I'd rather have you alive than the money."

"I'll be careful, Mr. Partages," Ed told him grimly. He watched the theater owner get into a taxi headed for home; then he flagged one himself, said curtly, "Giuseppe's Restaurant!"


GIUSEPPE VERDADI PETRONESCA weighed two hundred and ten pounds. His round Venetian face, adorned with an immense walrus moustache, beamed good nature and convivial hospitality at Ed as the latter entered his restaurant.

"Gooda even', Mister Race! You no come here longa time. You gonna have dinner now? We gotta swell chicken dinner for a dollar and a half—an' you getta bottle of wine free. No cheap belly wash, but real Chianti!"

Ed said, "Hello, Giuseppe!" He looked around the restaurant at the dozen or so people who were eating.

Giuseppe had run a speakeasy here throughout prohibition, and now he operated a nice high-class restaurant, with a public dining room on the main floor and private rooms upstairs for parties and affairs.

Ed took Giuseppe by the arm, led him toward the rear, where a small door opened to the staircase. "Look, Giuseppe, I'm sure your chicken and Chianti are swell. But I didn't come to eat tonight. I have to see Manny Sloss and Joe Ricci. What room are they in?"

The proprietor stopped short in front of the door, faced Ed desperately. "Mister Race, you no go upstairs. I no want no fights in my place. Those guys gotta party upstairs, and they no want to be disturb'."

"I suppose they've been up there all evening?" Ed asked. "You didn't see them come down, did you?"

Giuseppe shrugged, his face blank. "I no see nothing, Mister Race."

Ed said softly, "Get out of the way, Giuseppe."

The fat man stared at Ed for a minute, and then lowered his gaze before the cold look in Ed's determined eyes.

Ed added, "It'll be better for you if I go up; it may save you a raid by the police. And I'll do my best to avoid a fight—though I can't promise anything."

The proprietor moved reluctantly aside. "They in room four, Mister Race." He put his hand on Ed's arm. "You try for make me no trouble?"

Ed nodded, stepped through the doorway, and mounted the flight of stairs. Room four was down the corridor, and he could hear sounds of merriment and laughter from behind the closed door.

He tapped on it softly, and the noise died within. A voice said gruffly, "Well, come on in!"

Ed turned the knob, stepped into the room.

Six people were seated around the table, eating. Beside the table was an iced wagon with champagne bottles, and there were three empty bottles on the floor.

Three of the six were girls, pretty, all blondes, lavishly lipsticked and painted, and all slightly gay. Manny Sloss and Joe Ricci each sat beside a girl, and the third man, who, Ed guessed, had driven the sedan in which they had left Slingel's office, had his head on the table. The girl next to him was trying to pour champagne down the back of his neck.

Sloss and Ricci tensed when they saw who it was and started to push their chairs back. Sloss exclaimed: "Hell! I thought you was the waiter!"

Ed grinned at them, said, "Don't be alarmed, gentlemen. I just want to talk to you."

Ricci asked, "About what?"

"About a lot of money in a Boston bag."

Ricci and Sloss glanced at each other. Sloss pushed his chair back and stood up. "We don't know what you're talking about, Race."

"Naturally," Ed told him, "you wouldn't. You've been here all evening, I suppose."

Ricci nodded quickly. "That's right. We're celebrating Mona's birthday." He indicated the blonde who sat next to him.

"So you wouldn't know," Ed went on, "that Slingel and Partages were held up and robbed of about a half a million dollars between them."

"You don't say!" they both exclaimed in unison.

"And now, gentlemen, I'd like to talk a little business with you"—and as they started to refuse, Ed added—"before the police get here."

Ricci glanced at Sloss, who pondered for a moment, then nodded. Ricci looked at the girls. "Scram!" he ordered.

Mona and the one who sat next to Sloss arose reluctantly. The one who was pouring champagne down the drunken man's neck looked up and protested shrilly: "Say, I ain't going to leave Mickey like this. Let me wake him up with champagne first!"

Ricci just looked at her fishily, repeated, "Scram!"

At the look in Ricci's eyes, she quickly put down the glass, arose and joined the other girls. When they had left, Ed said genially, "Now, gentlemen, I know just how bad you feel. You haven't got your guns with you because you parked them with the Boston bag. You wanted to be clean when you were picked up by the police."

He saw the faces of both of them turn a pasty green.

"But don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you."


RICCI said hoarsely, "All right, Race, we know you seen us coming out of Slingel's. But it's no good. Your word against the three girls', and Giuseppe and the waiters. They'll all swear we were here all the time."

Ed nodded. He said, as if talking to himself: "A man could go far with a quarter of a million dollars."

Sloss took a step nearer.

"What's the meaning of that crack?"

Ed smiled at him. "Here's a proposition, Manny. You give me back the money you took from Partages, and you can keep what you took from Slingel. I understand there was more in his safe than what Partages had."

Sloss frowned. "You're nuts, Race. If we did that, the country wouldn't be safe for us. You know how much drag Slingel's got. He'd bury us in the can for life!"

"I understand," said Ed. "But—suppose Slingel was dead!"

Both Ricci and Sloss gasped. "Dead!" Sloss exclaimed. "Boy, what a break that would be. We'd be left with the dough, and nobody to turn it over to!" A slow smile spread over his face, only to disappear immediately. "But—who?"

"Suppose," Ed said slowly, "I were to tell you that he's dead?"

Sloss and Ricci stared at him as if he were a ghost.

"You mean," Ricci demanded, "that you knocked him off in the office?"

Ed grinned. "If you'd just bumped somebody, would you go around talking about it? I'm not saying what happened. Mind you, I'm not saying I did anything at all. But if he were dead—how about my proposition? I'd see to it that Mr. Partages made no complaint about the robbery. You could go wherever you liked, and I'd forget about the whole thing."

Sloss asked eagerly: "Well, is he dead?"

"I don't know—yet," Ed said doubtfully. "Let me use the phone."

He stepped over to the corner where the instrument sat on a small end table, picked it up and gave the number of the State Emergency Hospital on Eighty-fifth Street.

Mickey was still dead to the world, with his head on the table, but Sloss and Ricci hung breathless on his every word.

When he got the hospital he asked for the emergency ward, then asked to talk to Nurse Sweeney.

"Hello, Elaine," he said. "This is your old friend, General Sherman."

"Well, if it isn't Eddie Race!" Elaine Sweeney exclaimed. "Imagine hearing from you! I thought you'd forgotten I was alive. What's new with you, Eddie? I saw your act at the Partages Theater last week, and it was a wow. The old eye is as good as ever. I was boasting to the girls about how you used to take me out—"

"Listen, Elaine," Ed interrupted, glancing at Sloss and Ricci out of the corner of his eye, how's that bird that was brought in to the hospital from Forty-ninth Street a little while ago?"

"Who, the one with the broken jaw? That was a nasty crack he got. You know him?"

"No, but I did it to him. Will he die?"

"Die? Of course not. Why should he die? It'll take a few weeks—"

"You don't say so!" Ed exclaimed. "He died ten minutes after he was brought in, eh? Too bad, too bad. Keep it quiet about my phoning, will you, Elaine? Well, goodbye."

Puzzled, Elaine demanded: "What's the matter with you, Eddie? Who said he died? What are you talking about? I said he'd be better—"

"Yes, sure," Ed interrupted. "I didn't think he'd live. Did he talk before he kicked off?"


ELAINE SWEENEY'S voice grew more and more exasperated. "Are you crazy, Eddie? Nobody died here today. I didn't say anybody died. Listen, Eddie, I hate to think it, but are you phoning from the nuthouse? You certainly—"

"He didn't talk at all?" Ed went on imperturbably, nodding violently to Sloss and Ricci. "Well, I didn't think he would. I'm surprised he lived that long."

He hung up on Elaine Sweeney's maddened voice: "Eddie, if you don't talk sense I'm going to hang up on you!"

He looked at Sloss and Ricci, and they stared back at him silently.

Finally Ricci said almost under his breath, "You—bumped—Slingel!" There was awe and admiration in his voice.

"I didn't say anything of the kind!" Ed Race said wrathfully. "What do you want me to do—sign a confession?"

"No, no," Ricci protested placatingly. "You don't have to admit anything. We'll keep it under our hats. No one'll ever get a peep outta us."

"All right," Ed said, mollified. "But get this—I never said anything about bumping Slingel. If you boys want to draw your own conclusions, okay."

"That's okay!" Sloss said hastily. "It's okay by us, Race!"

"All right, then. What about Partages' money?"

Sloss and Ricci were both laboring under great excitement.

"Sure, sure. You can have it back. We got plenty from Slingel—enough to take us to the coast. Come on—we'll take you where we cached it and give you Partages' share."

They lifted Mickey between them, helped him through the door, which Ed held open for them. Sloss explained:

"We can't leave him. He'd talk too much. Besides, there's plenty for the three of us."

Ed stopped them. "Just a minute, boys," he said tightly. "I hope you haven't got any ideas of crossing me on Partages' money. Because if you have—" He looked at them significantly.

"Don't worry," Sloss assured him. "You can come right with us and collect. We got the bag checked in the Grand Central Station. We were supposed to meet Slingel there at eight o'clock. Instead, we'll take a train for the coast."

They half-carried, half-dragged Mickey down the stairs. In the restaurant, the three girls were sitting at one of the tables. Mona came over.

"Well," she said, "I hope you're through with the heavy conference."

"Listen, kid," Sloss told her, "we got something big on. We'll be out of town for a week, maybe, and then we'll wire you dough and tell you where to come. Now, beat it, quick, the three of you."

Giuseppe stared unbelievingly at the sight of Sloss and Ricci coming out in such friendly fashion with Ed Race, but he said nothing, watched them leave with a puzzled expression.

Outside they hailed a cab, and Sloss said, "Grand Central, buddy—Vanderbilt Avenue-side."

Ed sat on one of the extension seats, and Sloss and Ricci put Mickey between them on the rear seat.

At the station, they left Mickey in the cab, went in with Ed and got the bag from the check room, returned to the cab. They told the driver to go and get himself a sandwich, then they opened the bag. It was crammed with bills of large denomination—none less than a thousand.

Ricci watched greedily while Sloss counted out two hundred and fifty thousand, handed the bulky wad to Ed, who distributed it in all his pockets.

Ed said, "Okay, boys. Don't bother to count the rest. It's yours."

"Listen, Race," Sloss said. "We're takin' your word that we don't get picked up before we leave town."

"You have my word," Ed assured him, "that Partages will make no complaint to the police. You won't be picked up on his account. I can't answer for how you make out with Slingel."

Ricci grinned. "You took care of him."

"What do you mean?" Ed demanded sharply. "Did I say anything about taking care of Slingel?"

Ricci continued to grin. "Sure not, Race, sure not! You never even seen him in your life. That's okay with us."

"As long as you understand that," Ed told them coldly.

He got out of the cab as the driver returned, watched them drive into the ramp of the Grand Central Terminal. There was a train leaving for the coast in twenty minutes, and he was sure they'd be on it.

He walked to the corner, went into the phone booth in Liggett's Drug Store, and phoned Partages.

"Listen, Eddie boy," the theater owner bubbled excitedly, before Ed had a chance to say anything, "come up here quick. Don't waste a minute. Slingel is here. And boy, will you be surprised!"

"What's the trouble?" Ed asked.

"Trouble? Plenty of trouble. Get down here quick!"

Ed hung up, went outside and got another cab up to Park Avenue and Sixtieth, where Partages' penthouse apartment was located.

The Jap servant let him in, conducted him to the library, where Partages was pacing up and down, his fat face bathed in sweat, while Slingel fidgeted on the edge of his chair.

Ed looked from one to the other. "You both look as if your wives have presented you with sextuplets," he commented. "What are you all stewed up about?"

Slingel smiled sourly, glanced at Partages. "You tell him, Leon."

Partages came over to Ed, grabbed the lapel of his coat. "Did you hear what happened?"

"You've got me all agog," Ed told him. "Hurry up and spill it before I have a nervous breakdown."

Partages fairly shrieked at him: "Grey Mama was disqualified after the race! She didn't win!"

"What!" Ed turned to Slingel for confirmation.

The bookie nodded. "You don't have to take my word for it, either. There's Leon's newspaper on the table."

"The whole story is in there," Partages hurried on. "They found out that Grey Mama was doped up, and they disqualified her. Payment on all bets is held up. Only for Slingel being so anxious to pay me off, I wouldn't have got the money at all!"

"So what?" Ed asked, looking at Slingel.


SLINGEL shrugged. "Well, Leon has to give me back the two hundred and fifty thousand. I paid it to him in good faith. But since he was robbed, I'm willing to take a licking; I've taken plenty of them in the past. He can give me fifty thousand, and I'll give him back his receipt and call it square."

"I won't do it," Partages said stubbornly. "I was robbed in your office. You should have given me some protection—"

He stopped and stared at Ed. For Ed Race had begun to laugh—loud and uproariously.

Slingel stood up, frowning. "Don't be a clown, Race. There's nothing funny—"

"Wait a minute—" Ed stopped him. "Maybe I can straighten this out. Let me talk to Mr. Partages in private for a minute, and maybe I can convince him that he ought to accept your proposition."

Slingel said incredulously: "You want him to do it?"

"Sure. You lost plenty on the deal, didn't you?"

Slingel regarded him suspiciously for a moment, then shrugged. "I didn't think you'd be for me, Race. I sure appreciate it."

He stepped to the door. "I'll wait in the foyer. Call me when you're ready."

When he had gone, Partages said resentfully, "Look here, Eddie boy, I'd of thought you'd be the last to want me to pay that skunk. I'm convinced now that the robbery was a frame-up—"

While he was talking, Ed was pulling money from his pockets, dumping it on the table. He counted out a hundred and fifty thousand, put the rest back in his pockets.

Partages gasped. "Where did you get it?" He clutched Ed's sleeve. "Eddie boy! You—got that money back for me!"

"There's a hundred and fifty thousand. One hundred thousand goes to the Milk Fund. You can give Slingel fifty thousand and still have a hundred grand left. Slingel expects to meet his boys at eight o'clock and get his money back. He has a surprise coming to him."

Partages scooped up the money, counted out fifty one-thousand-dollar bills, put the rest in the drawer of his desk. Then he waited until he had a straight face and went to the door. He called Slingel in.

"If it wasn't for Eddie Race," he told the bookie, trying to keep a serious expression, "I wouldn't do this. Here's fifty thousand."

Slingel brightened. He counted the money, put it away, and took from his wallet the receipt for the money, handed it to Partages, who tore it to bits.

"Well," said the bookie, "I'm taking an awful baking on this."

Ed grinned. "You don't look so sorry." He took Slingel by the arm, escorted him to the door, watched him until the elevator came up and the gate opened. Just as the gate was closing, he called after him: "Say, Slingel. If you see Sloss and Ricci, give them my regards!"

The gate closed on Slingel's startled face, and Ed came back into the library, chuckling.

He waved Partages aside, reached for the telephone, and called the State Emergency Hospital.

"Listen, Elaine, this is your nutty boyfriend. Don't get sore. I was just pulling a fast one on a couple of friends before. Can I make it up to you?"

"How?" she asked coldly.

"I'll take you to the Milk Fund Benefit tonight. There'll be big doings. I'm appearing, and also there'll be an anonymous contribution made, of a hundred thousand dollars. How about it, honey?"

"Okay, Eddie, I'll go, if you'll promise to act saner than you did on the phone before. Honest, I thought you were cuckoo. By the way, who's nutty enough to contribute a hundred thousand dollars to the Milk Fund in a lump like that? It wouldn't be you, would it?"

Ed chuckled, winked at Partages, who was watching him and grinning like a cat.

"Keep it to yourself, Elaine. The anonymous contributor is none other than Nick Slingel—only he doesn't know it yet!"


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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