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EMILE C. TEPPERMAN

CURTAIN CALL FOR THE CORPSE

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First published in The Spider, May 1939

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version date: 2020-10-01
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

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The Spider, May 1939, with "Curtain Call for the Corpse"



In his stage career as the Masked Marksman, Ed Race had brought down the house with fancy shooting—but it was nothing like the gun-tricks he had to perform, to save two innocent lovers from a monster who was hunting them down with dope-crazed killers!




FROM where he sat, Ed Race could command a view of the entrance to the restaurant, as well as of the street beyond the ornate plate-glass windows. Lambini's was crowded tonight.

Most of the people who had spent the winter in Florida were back in town, and patronizing the theaters, enthusiastically. After the show, the place to go was Lambini's. Everybody who was anybody drifted in there off Times Square at some time during the course of the night. In addition, a goodly portion of the guests of the two-thousand-room Pemberton Hotel, of which Lambini's Rotisserie occupied the entire ground floor, took their meals here.

Ed ordered clam chowder and frog's legs, and turned his attention to the patrons of the restaurant. Any one of them might be the person who had sent him the telegram he now had in his pocket. It had been delivered to him at the Clyde Theater a half hour ago, just after his act was over. A property man had given it to him as he came off the stage, and it read:


LAMBINI'S AT MIDNIGHT. A TABLE NEAR THE SIDE-STREET EXIT. SIT FACING THE BROADWAY ENTRANCE. BRING ALONG THE ARTILLERY.

A FRIEND OF BINGO.


The evening newspaper which Ed had just bought before coming into the restaurant carried big black headlines about Bingo. But the newspapers and the police knew him by another name—Barry Payne.


"Barry Payne Escapes From State Prison!" screamed the headline, and underneath it:


EX-VAUDEVILLE ACROBAT ESCAPES BY
SWINGING THIRTY FEET OVER JAIL WALL
ON ROPE SUSPENDED FROM PRISON ROOF!


HAD SERVED SIX YEARS OF FIFTEEN YEAR
SENTENCE FOR WOUNDING ACE CADOGAN, GAMBLER.


There were two columns, and several pictures. Ed Race's picture was among them. He had been Barry Payne's best friend. They had toured vaudeville circuits throughout the country for years, each in a separate act, but frequently appearing on the same bill. Barry Payne had been billed as "The Flying Yank." He took tremendous risks on the swinging trapeze, never working with a net. It was that agility of his, Ed reflected, which had enabled him to escape from prison tonight.

Ed Race, himself, was billed as "The Masked Marksman—the Man Who Can Make Guns Talk." A great friendship had sprung up between Ed and Barry. "Bingo" was the nickname Ed had for him. It was a personal nickname between them, so Ed Race knew that the person who had sent the telegram was really a friend of Barry Payne's. The "artillery" of course, referred to the heavy .45 caliber, hair-trigger revolvers which were part of the six weapons used in the Masked Marksman's number. Ed had two of those guns in his shoulder holsters now.

He looked at his wristwatch. It was ten minutes before midnight.


A MAN came into the restaurant and stood at the door for a long minute, letting his keen, hawk-like eyes travel from table to table until he spotted Ed Race. Ed frowned. Of all the men he knew, this one was the last he wanted to encounter tonight. Inspector MacSpain, dour and grim, boss of the Broadway squad, was a hard man to fool.

MacSpain smiled tightly and threaded his way among the tables. Without asking permission, he seated himself in the vacant chair facing Ed.

"I was looking for you," he said. "I tried Dempsey's, and Gitlow's, and then I looked in here."

"What's on your mind, Mac?" Ed asked.

MacSpain studied him with piercing, shrewd eyes. "You know what's on my mind, Ed. Barry Payne is a friend of yours. He escaped from state prison today. The chances are ninety-nine out of a hundred that he'll be heading back toward New York. He'll need money and help."

Ed Race was poker-faced. "So what?" he asked.

"So this," MacSpain said grimly. "It's almost a sure bet that Barry Payne will try to get in touch with you somehow. What are you going to do—help him, or turn him in?"

Ed Race's eyes met those of the older man. "What would you do in my place, Mac?"

MacSpain lowered his eyes first. He sighed. "I was afraid of that, Ed." He stood up. "We've been friends a long time, and I know how you feel about Barry Payne. But I'm a police officer. So you can't blame me if I put a tail on you. I'm going to have you shadowed twenty-four hours a day—until Payne is caught. Any move you make to help him—I'll know it. And I'll have to place you in custody."

Ed Race gave him a twisted smile. "So it's to be war, Mac?"

The inspector nodded. "For your sake, I hope Payne doesn't try to communicate with you. It'll only lay you open to a charge of harboring a fugitive from justice."

MacSpain stalked out of the restaurant. Ed watched his broad, unyielding back, and saw him talk to two men, out in the street. Ed knew both of them—Tyler and Hemming, two of the keenest plain-clothesmen attached to the Broadway squad. MacSpain spoke only a few words to the two detectives, and then left them. Tyler remained on Broadway, in front of the restaurant, and Hemming came inside, selected a table not far from Ed's. He gave Ed a thin, unfriendly smile, and proceeded to order a cup of coffee in a loud rasping voice.

Ed's clam chowder arrived. He looked at it sourly. He stole a glance at his watch. Midnight. The appointment here had become a trap for Barry Payne.

Without appetite he began to eat the chowder. It was excellent, savory. But he didn't enjoy it. Lambini's made a specialty of clam chowder. They served it in a deep bowl containing almost a pint of the thick, luscious soup. It was fifty cents a bowl, and well worth it.

But Ed hardly knew what he was eating. If only he could guess who this friend of Bingo's was, he might warn him. For it was certain that MacSpain's men would shadow anyone who contacted Ed tonight.

Ordinarily, the police were inclined to work with Ed Race. The salary which he received for his gun-juggling act, under the name of the Masked Marksman, was sufficient to provide him with everything he needed in life—except excitement. His high-strung nature required something more than the adulation and applause he found in the theater. So he had adopted a hobby—that of criminology. He held licenses to operate as a private detective in a dozen states, and he was always ready to place his services at the disposal of acquaintances in trouble. In the case of Barry Payne he had far more than an academic interest. For Barry was more than an acquaintance.


SUDDENLY, Ed's eyes narrowed. A woman he knew had just entered the restaurant. Nina Cadogan—the wife of Ace Cadogan. She was slender and lithe, with a thin, perfectly-contoured face that might have graced the costliest cameo of the Renaissance. What was she doing here, tonight of all nights—the wife of the man whom Barry Payne had shot six years ago?

Nina Cadogan looked around the crowded restaurant much as Inspector MacSpain had done a few minutes past—with this difference, that she had rather the look of a frightened doe than of a hunter of men such as MacSpain was. She found Ed Race with her glance. There was a sudden tensing of her features, and she started to make her way directly toward him.

In a flash Ed Race realized the situation. Nina Cadogan was the friend of Bingo!

He glanced sideways at Hemming. The dapper Broadway detective was eyeing Nina Cadogan with a queer mixture of suspicion and puzzlement.

She reached Ed's table and slipped into the seat opposite him. She was even more beautiful at close range than at a distance. Ed remembered when she had been a musical comedy star. He had known her pretty well, in those days, and so had Barry Payne. Barry had taken her out a lot. Then one day she married Ace Cadogan, the gambler—Ace Cadogan, who controlled the gambling racket in New York with an iron hand, and who had enough money even in those days to give her anything she might want.

Two years after she married Cadogan, Barry Payne had walked into a police station one night and nonchalantly informed the desk sergeant that he had just shot Ace Cadogan. Nobody had connected Nina with the possible motive at that time. Barry's story was that he got into an argument with Cadogan about a gambling debt, and shot him. Cadogan, when he came out of the hospital, told the same story. Barry's confession was enough. He got fifteen years.

Ed faced her across the table, and his eyes narrowed speculatively. He wondered now if there hadn't been some other motive behind that shooting...

Nina Cadogan put a slim hand across the table.

"Ed!" she breathed. "I sent you that telegram. You—you'll help Barry, won't you?"

"Careful, Nina," he started to say. "We're being watched—"

And then he broke off, because he felt her pressing something into his hand.

"Take it!" she said urgently. "It's the key to Room Sixteen-sixteen in the hotel upstairs. Barry is there. He won't open for anyone. Just use the key."

Ed palmed it. It was a small key, with a pressed-metal tag attached to it, probably bearing the room number. He just felt it, but didn't dare open his hand to look at it, under Hemming's eyes.

"What happened?" he asked Nina Cadogan. "Why did Barry do such a desperate thing? He would have been eligible to parole in three years more."

There was haunting terror in her eyes. "He wouldn't wait. He—he wants to kill Ace—my husband. God help me, I arranged his escape. But I didn't know that was the reason he wanted to get out. I—I thought he'd take passage on a freighter that I arranged for him, and go to South America. But—but he came to New York instead. He swears he'll kill Ace and then give himself up again."

Ed looked at her keenly. "Why? Why does he want to kill Ace Cadogan? And why did you arrange his escape?"

"Because I love him!" she said simply. Then she leaned forward, a bright flush coloring her cameo-white skin. "Go upstairs and see him, Ed. For God's sake, make him give up that mad idea of killing Ace. Make him take the boat—leave the country."

Ed laughed bitterly. "There isn't much chance. MacSpain's men are shadowing me. And from now on they'll be shadowing you—"

He froze into silence at a warning glance from her. He turned and saw that Hemming had risen from his table and was coming toward them very purposefully.

Nina Cadogan spoke swiftly, rushing her words. "I'll lead him away, Ed—take him off your trail. Then you can go see Barry. Good-by. Good luck!"

She pushed back her chair, got up, and turned and ran toward the Broadway door. Her intention was apparent. She hoped, by acting so, to make Hemming take after her. But she didn't know about Tyler. And Hemming didn't rise to the bait. He stopped alongside Ed, and grinned.

"Nice going, Race. Tyler will get the Cadogan dame. And it looks like I'm in luck. She handed you something over the table. Can't fool old Eagle Eye. Maybe it's a message from Barry Payne, eh? Maybe it's the address of his hideout." He thrust out a hand, palm up. "Give!"


OUT of the corner of his eye, Ed saw that Nina Cadogan had stopped near the door. She was not looking back, but was facing two men who had just come in. One of them was Inspector MacSpain. The other was Ace Cadogan—Nina's husband.

Just behind Cadogan was another man—a big hulk of a fellow, with a gorilla-like face, flat nose, and big ears that were battered around into little cauliflower ridges. That was Joey Gluck, one-time ham prize-fighter, who, after being barred from the ring, had gotten the job of bodyguard to Ace Cadogan. Joey Gluck had very few whole bones in his hands, so his fists weren't much good. But he could use a gun very well, and rumor had it that he had performed several executions ordered by Cadogan.

Ace Cadogan had grabbed Nina by the arm, and was leading her back to the table. MacSpain came along, smirking. Joey Gluck brought up the rear. Dozens of patrons craned their necks to see what was happening, but when Joey scowled at them they hastily looked away.

The small group reached Ed's table. Cadogan spoke first. He was tall and thin, and his eyes were closely spaced, narrow and black. His mouth was a thin scar in a pale, emotionless face. His long hard fingers were pressing painfully into Nina's arm. She was biting her lip to repress an expression of pain.

"Let's see what's been going on here," Cadogan said tauntingly. "I didn't know you were making a play for my wife."

Hemming didn't let him go on. He blurted, "Inspector! Mrs. Cadogan came in and talked to Race. She gave him something. I think it's a message from Payne. Maybe the location of his hideout. There—" he pointed—"Race just put it in his pocket!"

Cadogan's thin lips twisted into a mocking smile. "Well, what do you know about that!" he said to Nina. "So you've been in touch with Payne all these years! And helping him escape from jail, too. Well, well."

MacSpain pushed Cadogan out of the way and faced Ed Race.

"I'm going to search you, Ed. I want that thing that Mrs. Cadogan gave you."

Ed shook his head. "You know you can't search me, Mac. You know you've got to arrest a man before you can search him."

"Then I'll arrest you. I can charge you with suspicion of harboring a fugitive." His voice was almost pleading. "Don't make me arrest you, Ed."

Suddenly Ed nodded. "All right, Mac. I'll let you search me."

For the first time since returning into the restaurant, Nina Cadogan spoke.

"No, no!" she cried. "You can't—"

She became silent at a glance from Ed. Her eyes were agonized, seeking some reassurance from him that MacSpain would not find the hotel key on him.

MacSpain stepped quickly to Ed's side and thrust a hand into the pocket that Hemming had indicated. He brought out a package of cigarettes and a book of matches—nothing else. He opened the matchbook, and tore apart the cigarette package. He found nothing.

He turned a heavy glance on Hemming now... "Are you sure he put it in that pocket?"

Hemming shrugged. "Maybe he just put his hand in his pocket to fool me. Maybe he ditched that thing." He got down on his knees, and searched the floor all around the table. Then he moved all the plates on the table, and lifted up the table cloth.

"It's not here, Inspector. He must have it on him some place. His hands move so fast, he might have put it in one of his other pockets."

MacSpain nodded. "We'll go in the men's room, Ed."

Together, they made their way toward the rear. Nina Cadogan watched them, full of anxiety and fear—Ace Cadogan, sneeringly; Detective Hemming, puzzledly; Joey Gluck, gloweringly.

At last the door of the washroom closed behind Ed Race and Inspector MacSpain. The group waited in silence. Tyler came in from outside and joined them. All eyes in the restaurant were focused on them.

Hemming turned and said to Nina Cadogan, "You did give him something, didn't you?"

She pressed her lips tightly together, lowered her eyes.

Ace Cadogan, still gripping her arm, laughed bitingly. "You wouldn't want Nina to incriminate herself, would you, Hemming?" He turned to her, and his close-set black eyes burned hatefully. "But you'll tell me all about it when we get back to the club, won't you, Nina, darling?"

She shuddered, but did not reply.

After what seemed an eternity of time, the door of the men's room at the rear opened, and MacSpain came out first, followed by Ed Race.

Nina Cadogan grew tense. She watched the two men hungrily, as if trying to read from their faces whether the key had been found on Ed.

The two men came up to the table, and MacSpain grimaced at Hemming. "You must have been mistaken. I searched him down to the skin. He hasn't a thing on him."

Nina Cadogan expelled a great sigh of relief, while her eyes reflected puzzled wonder.

Ace Cadogan shrugged. "In that case, I guess you won't want Nina any more. If you should, you'll find her with me at the club."

He started to lead her away. She held back. "I—I think—"

"Never mind what you think!" Cadogan snarled at her. "You're coming with me!"

When they left, MacSpain said, "I'm sure she did give you something, Race. She's tied up with Barry Payne in some way. She tipped you off where he's hiding out. And I'm sorry for her. When that fiend of a husband of hers gets to working on her..." He shrugged. "It's no skin off my teeth. Maybe he'll make her tell where Payne is holing up. As for you, Ed, I'm keeping you shadowed every minute. Don't forget it."

He nodded to Tyler and Hemming, and went out after Cadogan and Nina.

Ed smiled engagingly at Hemming. "Too bad, old man—"

He made an awkward motion with his hand, and struck the bowl of clam chowder, which was still on the table. It went hurtling off to the floor, and Ed uttered an exclamation of dismay, stepped backward and tripped over the chair. He fell to the floor, almost in the mess of clam chowder.

Swiftly his hand felt around on the floor until he touched the hotel key, which he had dropped into the bowl when MacSpain had offered to search him. He palmed the key and scrambled to his feet, looking ruefully down at his coat and trousers, which were spattered with soup.

"I guess I better go inside and clean up," he muttered, and made for the men's room. Hemming hesitated a moment, then followed him, while Tyler remained at the table.

Ed entered the men's room, with Hemming close behind him.

"I'm sticking to you, pal!" Hemming said. "There's a back door out of this men's room, into the hotel lobby. I'm not letting you cop a sneak on me."

Ed said, "Thanks for the information, Hemming. I had some such idea myself." And he brought up his right fist in a short crackling arc to the point of Hemming's chin.

The detective's head snapped back, a little grunt escaped him, and he gently folded up. Ed caught him, eased him down to the floor, and hurried out the back door, into the lobby of the Pemberton Hotel.


HE took the elevator up to the sixteenth floor. He inserted the key in the door of 1616, and pushed inside. The room was dark, the shades down. He could see nothing. He closed the door behind him, and groped for a light switch. Suddenly a flashlight from somewhere in the center of the room beamed into brilliance, spotting him.

A voice said, "Stand still!" and then, almost at once, "Ed! Good God, I thought you wouldn't come!"

Ed grinned into the flashlight, and flicked on the light switch.

Barry Payne was sitting on the bed. He put away the gun and flashlight and sprang across the room, took Ed's hands in both of his.

Barry Payne was slim and wiry. He was handsome, with dark curly hair, and a straight, patrician nose. But his cheeks were pale, sunken from his long years of confinement. He was nervous and tense, too.

Ed put a hand on his shoulder. "Bingo! Why did you do it? You could have got paroled in three years, and come back and lived like a man—instead of being hunted like this."

Barry Payne slumped on the bed. "I've come back to kill Cadogan," he muttered.

Ed Race stared down at him, frowning. "Do you hate him so much, Bingo? You tried to kill him once, six years ago. Why not let it rest?"

Payne raised stricken eyes to his friend. "No, Ed. I—I didn't try to kill him six years ago. I—didn't—shoot—Cadogan!"

Ed's eyes narrowed. Slowly he sat down on the bed next to Payne.

"Say that again, Barry."

"It's the truth, Ed."

"But you walked into the stationhouse and confessed," Ed insisted. "You took the blame for it. My God, Barry, why have you kept silent for six years? If you had told me that in the first place, I'd have gone out and found the guilty party—"

Payne smiled at him twistedly. "That's just what I didn't want you to do, Ed. That's why I kept silent—even with you. I—I know who the guilty party is!"

"Nina Cadogan!" Ed breathed.

Barry Payne nodded.

"That evening—" his voice was charged with emotion brought to him by remembrance of that night six years ago—"I went to see Nina at their home. I loved Nina. She was going to ask Ace Cadogan for a divorce. We were going to tell him frankly that we loved each other. I found the door open, and I heard Joey Gluck's voice inside, talking over the telephone. He was saying, 'For Gawd's sake, doc, hurry over. The boss has been shot!'

"I pushed the door open a little, and saw Cadogan on the floor, unconscious. I didn't go in. I went away. Downstairs, I saw Nina. She was walking up and down in front of the building, and she looked nervous. I didn't let her see me. I went out the back way. I knew what had happened. She had started to tell Ace Cadogan about me, not waiting for me to get there. And he must have taunted her, perhaps struck her. Then she must have shot him. And she was waiting down there to tell me about it."

Barry Payne buried his head in his hands. "God, Ed, you don't know what it means to think of the woman you love going to jail. She wouldn't have got any mercy, especially when the jury learned that she loved another man. And Cadogan would have seen to it that the jury learned everything."

Ed Race nodded, somberly. "I can understand that, Bingo. Cadogan is a sadist. He enjoys making her suffer. I saw that in the restaurant tonight."

Barry's fists clenched. "He still does that. I know it. She as much as told me so, the last time she visited me in jail. That's why I made her help me escape. The last thing I do in this life will be to free her from Ace Cadogan! I'll do that now!"

Ed put a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy, Bingo. What did you do after you saw her walking up and down in front of the building?"

"I couldn't let her take the rap for it," the other said. "So I headed her off. I went to the stationhouse and gave myself up, and said that it was I who had shot Cadogan. I hoped Cadogan would let it ride like that. I hoped he'd be satisfied with seeing me punished. And he did. When he came out of the hospital, he told the same story I had told. You know the rest."

Ed was silent for a long time. Then he asked in a strange voice, "And Nina—she let you make the sacrifice? She didn't object?"

"She never spoke about it. It must have been a devilish shock to her. You know how some people are—they can't bring themselves to speak about certain things that have shocked their nervous systems."

Suddenly, Barry Payne jerked to his feet. "That's all there is to it, Ed. Now I'm going." He hefted the gun in his hand. "There are seven slugs in this automatic. I'll put six of them into Ace Cadogan's body—make sure I kill him this time. And the seventh is for me. I had to see you before I went through with it, though. I couldn't kick the bucket having you think the wrong thing about me. Now you know. Take care of Nina. She'll be a widow—and probably broke, because Cadogan's gambling racket will topple when he passes. You'll look after her, Ed?"

Ed Race got to his feet. "Yes, Bingo. I'll look after her. And after you, too, you damned Quixotic fool!"

Payne stared at him. "What do you mean?"

"This!" said Ed.

For the second time that evening he hit a man. He gave Barry Payne everything he had, right on the button.

His blow practically lifted Payne off his feet and deposited him sprawling unconscious, on the bed.

Ed caressed his knuckles and looked down affectionately upon his inert friend.

"Sorry I had to do that to you, Bingo," he murmured. "But you need a guardian. I guess I'm it!"


HE took one of the pillow-cases off the bed, and tore it into strips. He started to tie Barry Payne's hands, when the phone at the bedside rang with an alarming jangle. He looked at it for a moment, frowning. Then he shrugged, picked it up.

"Ed!" the voice was that of Nina Cadogan, charged with terror. "You have to get him out of there;—quick!"

"Wait a minute, Nina," Ed said. "I want to ask you something first—"

"But there's not time, Ed—"

"This is important," Ed insisted. "Barry is at the end of his rope. He was crazy to come to New York. Now there isn't a chance in a thousand of his getting out. They'll surely catch him, sooner or later. And he'll have years added to his sentence for the jail break. There's only one way to save him—that's to prove him innocent."

"I—I don't understand," she quavered.

"If the person who really shot your husband were to come forward and admit it, it would mean that Barry was innocent in the first place, and he'd rate a full pardon. The jail break wouldn't be held against him."

"But—but Ed! Barry did shoot Ace—"

"How do you know?" he demanded.

"He admitted it."

"Didn't you shoot Ace?" he asked.

"I?" There was a moment of tense silence. Then, "Ed! Is Barry there? Does he say he didn't do it?"

"Barry is here. He tells me he took the blame because he thought you had done it. He saw you outside the building that night—"

"Oh, God!" the words coming over the wire seemed to be torn from her throat. "And I thought Barry had done it! Ed, I swear to you, I didn't shoot Ace. I had just come home, and I heard a pistol shot. Then I heard Ace cry out. I—I thought Barry shot him. So I ran out. I watched in the street, waiting for Barry to come out, so I could warn him if the police were coming. But he never appeared. He must have left by the back way. The next thing I knew, he had surrendered."

Ed Race groaned. "You two little fools! Keeping silent all these years, and letting each other think in circles!"

"But, Ed—who did it?"

"I don't know. I'm going to find out—"

"There's no time!" Her voice rose shrilly as she thought of the reason why she had called. "You must get Barry out of there. Ace took me back here to the club and beat me. Then he went through my handbag, and found the duplicate key to that room. He—he guessed that Barry is there. He sent Joey Gluck to kill Barry!"

"To kill him?" Ed frowned. "Why? All he had to do was to notify MacSpain."

"I don't know what's in his mind. I—"

Above the sound of Nina's words in the receiver, Ed caught another sound. A key was being gently inserted in the lock. His eyes leaped to the doorknob, saw it turning slowly.

"Hang up, Nina!" he whispered into the phone. He clicked down the receiver, replaced the instrument and snatched up the strips with which he had been about to tie Barry Payne. Then he leaped across into the bathroom. He was only just in time. The door began to open slowly. The bathroom was dark, and Ed was in shadow. He saw Joey Gluck come into the room.


JOEY came in stealthily, a gun in a gloved hand. His gorilla-face was twisted into an expression of extreme slyness. When he saw Barry Payne on the bed, he exhaled a breath of satisfaction.

Ed tensed, thinking Gluck might shoot Barry at once. But instead, Joey tiptoed over to the bed and looked down at Barry, then bent over and listened to see if he was breathing.

Ed watched with narrowed eyes. Gluck picked up Barry Payne's limp right hand and placed it around the stock of the gun he had brought with him. He pushed Barry's forefinger over the trigger. Then he turned Barry's hand and the gun, so that the muzzle was close to Barry's right temple.

Then Ed Race came out of the bathroom. Two quick steps brought him behind the gunman. Joey Gluck must have sensed his presence. He whirled, leaving the gun in Barry's hand. His own hand streaked up to his shoulder holster. But Ed Race's big .45 was already boring into his side.

Gluck's mouth dropped open. He let his gun slide back in its holster, and slowly raised his hands.

Ed gave him a grin. He dipped in and took Joey's gun out of the holster.

"Turn around and lie down on your face on the floor," he ordered.

Joey Gluck looked into Ed's eyes.

He got to his knees, and then stretched out on his face on the rug. Ed straddled him and tied his wrists with the strips of pillow-case. Then he tied his ankles, and ran the strip to the bedpost, tying one end there. But he intentionally made it long enough, so Joey could get almost to the head of the bed.

"Funny," he said, taking the gun out of Barry Payne's limp hand. "You bringing a gun to plant on Barry and make it look like he killed himself. Wouldn't it have been easier to tip the cops to this room?"

Joey didn't answer.

"And how come you went ahead and used this gun, when Barry's own gun was lying here on the bed?"

He saw that Joey had turned his head and was looking up at him queerly. Ed could read the gunman's mind. Joey was wondering if Ed would forget to gag him. Ed said, "Well, so long, Joey. Be seeing you in about twenty minutes."

He backed out of the room, closing the door behind him. In the hall he almost bumped into Inspector MacSpain.


THE inspector laughed grimly. "Joey Gluck led me here without knowing it. That guy is too dumb to spot a good tail. I got the floor from the elevator operator, and what do I see when I get off, but you, backing out of a room!" Abruptly, MacSpain's tone grew ominous. "I'm sorry, Ed, but if Barry Payne is in that room, I'll have to arrest you."

Ed Race broke in, talking impetuously. "Give me a five minute break, Mac. Come on downstairs. I'll explain on the way. Inside of five minutes I hope to clear the whole thing up. Barry Payne never shot Cadogan, in the first place!"

They took the down elevator, and on the way Ed told him about Joey Gluck in the room. "I gave him just enough rope to reach the phone alongside the bed. He can knock it over and make a call. I hope to heaven he isn't too dumb to think of it!"

He rushed MacSpain across the lobby to the telephone switchboard, and got MacSpain to show his badge to the girl.

"Is there a call coming through from sixteen-sixteen?" he demanded.

She pointed to one of the lights on the board. "Just asked for a number," she told him. "Edgeware Four-one-four-one-four."

Ed's eyes flashed. "That's the Club Cadogan! Plug us in so we can listen!"

She took off her earphones. Ed and MacSpain put their heads together, each listening in on one of them. The connection had already been established, and they could hear the cold voice of Ace Cadogan.

"What's the trouble, Joey?" came the question.

"For Gawd's sake, boss, you better come up and get me, quick. That mug Race got the drop on me and he's got me tied up like a mummy. Only the sap forgot to gag me and I managed to knock over the phone—"

"What about Payne?" Cadogan asked. "Did he get away?"

"No. He's right here on the bed," Gluck said. "He's out cold. I started to work on him. I put the gun in his hand, and before I could give it to him, this guy Race jumped me—"

"Did Race get the gun?"

"Yeah," said Joey. "And the cops have the bullet that was taken outa you, six years ago. If they check it with this gun they'll see it's the same—"

"Shut up, you fool! You're on an open wire. I'll be right over!"

Inspector MacSpain put down the earphones and took a deep breath. "Boy! Then Payne didn't shoot him!" he said.

"I think," Ed said, "that there must have been an accident that night. Joey Gluck may have shot Cadogan by accident. Or Cadogan may have shot himself. Then, when Barry confessed, he practically framed himself for them."

"How is Cadogan going to get in that room now?" MacSpain asked.

Ed grinned. "I left the key in the door. I made it as easy for him as I could. The Club Cadogan is only around the corner. He ought to be here in a couple of minutes. I'm going upstairs. You stay down here and take the next elevator after him."

MacSpain nodded, and Ed left him. He hurried upstairs and went into 1616.

Joey Gluck had worked around on his back now, and the telephone was lying on the floor beside him. He had somehow managed to get the receiver back on the hook.

Barry Payne was beginning to stir on the bed, but he was not yet fully conscious.

Ed said, "I just came back to see how you're making out, pal." He pretended not to notice the telephone. "I have to go out again. I'll be back soon."

"Go on and scram!" Gluck spat out. "See if I care!"

Ed grinned. "Turn around on your face again—or I'll smack you!"

Gluck complied sullenly. Ed pulled a blanket out from under Barry Payne and threw it over the gunman's head.

"So long, Joey," he sang out. He went noisily to the door, opened it and scraped his feet, then slammed it shut again. But he remained inside, and swung into the bathroom.

As soon as the door closed, Joey Gluck shucked the blanket off him. He started to struggle with his bonds, swearing.

After three or four minutes of this, the corridor door opened. Gluck looked up eagerly. "Gawd, boss, I couldn't help it—"


ACE CADOGAN came into the room. Behind him was another man, smaller and thinner than Cadogan, with the pinched features of a cokey. Ed knew that other one. He was Sam Coney, a professional killer.

Coney kicked the door shut and leaned against it, with a gun in his hand. Ace Cadogan also had a small, gun-metal automatic. He looked down at Gluck.

"You're too damn dumb, Joey," he said softly. "That time when you shot me by accident, I let it go because it was a chance to frame Payne. But now you go and get yourself in a mess. Race saw you here and tied you up. He got that old gun of yours too, that you were going to plant on Payne. Where do you think he went?"

Joey Gluck was watching him with slowly widening eyes. "To—to the cops?"

"Exactly!" Cadogan smiled grimly. "This is the first time the cops will have anything on you. I've always planned things for you so you would be in the clear. Now they can take you downtown and sweat you. And you'll open up about a dozen other things, because you can't take sweating any more."

"Gawd, boss, I been loyal—"

Cadogan shrugged. "Loyal but dumb. Now you're dangerous to me. So Coney here is going to give it to you, and to Payne while he's still out. Then we'll untie you. It'll look like some sort of scrap between you two." He now smiled crookedly.

Coney had a silencer on his gun. He spat on the rug, grinned, and lifted the gun.

Joey Gluck suddenly screamed hoarsely, "Wait—"

And Ed Race appeared from the bathroom. He had no guns in his hands, which were swinging loosely at his sides.

"That would be murder," he said.

Ace Cadogan and Sam Coney spun around at the sound of his voice. Both their guns swung toward him viciously. Cadogan was at his right, Coney at his left. Their slugs would criss-cross in his body.

Ed Race's hands moved with such blinding speed that they seemed not to move at all. But those two heavy forty-fives appeared by some uncanny magic.

He did that trick every day on the stage for the benefit of the audiences of the Follies. Each night he would come on the stage and send four china balls juggling high in the air. Then he would wait until they came down close to the floor. At the moment when the audience thought that they would surely fall to the ground, his two guns were out and roaring, and those four little balls would be smashed.

Now he did the same trick, with his life at stake. He did not uncross his hands over his chest. He fired the right-hand gun at Coney, the left hand one at Cadogan. Both men fell before they could pull the triggers of their own guns. It is doubtful if either knew what hit them. But they were both dead.

And on the heels of the shots a terrific pounding was set up on the door. Ed reached over and opened it, and MacSpain came barging into the room.

"You did a good job, Ed," he muttered.

Ed nodded. "I think you'll get all you want from Gluck. He ought to talk his head off. I just saved his life."

Barry Payne was stirring on the bed, with his eyes open. He was staring uncomprehendingly at the scene. He raised a hand and felt of his jaw, then looked accusingly at Ed.

"Why did you hit me?" he asked.

Ed grinned. "I wanted to be sure you wouldn't hog the credit for shooting Cadogan this time. As soon as the red tape is all cut, you can go and get Nina. And then you can spend the rest of your lives telling each other what saps you've both been for the last six years!"


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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