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EMILE C. TEPPERMAN

DEATH'S BOOKING AGENT

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The Spider published two different "Masked Marksman" stories
under this title. The first was printed in the April 1935 issue.




Ex Libris

First published in The Spider, June 1940

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version date: 2020-03-05
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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The Spider, June 1940, with "Death's Booking Agent"



Ed Race, who could shoot a gnat's eye out at twenty paces, didn't move when he felt the pick-pocket's hand in his coat. Later, he wished he had—because the hand, instead of taking something, left more blood-stained money than Ed might have needed to buy his way out of the murder frame that followed!




TIMES SQUARE hadn't changed much in the two years that Ed Race had been away on his coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. There were the same flaring electric signs, the same crowds, the same bustling and shoving. A few new restaurants, yes. And some familiar faces missing. But the Main Stem was largely the same.

Ed breathed in large gulps of Broadway air, and liked it. He was standing in front of "Frenchy's" Cigar Store and looking directly across the maze of traffic at the marquee of the Clyde Theatre, where they were changing the letters on the electric sign to announce next week's show. They were putting him up there. He was the star attraction at the Clyde for next week. It was many years since Ed had first seen his name go up in electric lights, but he always got a renewed thrill out of it. The sign read:


THE MASKED MARKSMAN
THE MAN WHO CAN MAKE GUNS TALK!


The general public didn't know the true identity of the Masked Marksman, but the insiders on Broadway knew, and Ed received many a happy greeting as old friends passed.

Abruptly, he became tense. He was conscious that a hand had been surreptitiously inserted in his right coat pocket.

His first instinct was to whirl around and catch the thief's hand. But he held himself in check, a curious smile tugging at his lips. He had, perhaps, eighty or ninety cents in the change pocket there. Let the fellow get it. He was obviously an amateur. To create a scene would bring the police, and the poor chap would get ninety days in the workhouse. Ed was the last one in the world to encourage crime—but he didn't want to be responsible for sending a pickpocket to jail. There were plenty of more vicious criminals who needed attention.

The hand was still in his pocket, apparently having trouble. This was certainly no experienced pickpocket. An expert would have been in and out long ago, with the swag.

At last the hand was withdrawn.

Ed decided he'd like to get a look at the bloke who had taken his eighty cents. His eyes widened as he turned around.

It was a girl.

She had fluffy blonde hair. She was wearing a light summer dress. Her face was small, the features clear and perfect like those of a Dresden doll. Her eyes were sea-blue, and there was terror in them.

She met Ed Race's glance, and uttered a frightened gasp as she darted away into the moving throng of pedestrians. Ed got a quick glimpse of her hands. They were long and slender—and empty. Not even a purse.

She hadn't taken anything, after all!

Ed touched his pocket and frowned. Instead of taking anything—she had put something in!

His fingers touched paper-currency. It was a package of hundred dollar bills—flecked with blood!

He felt the sudden exhilaration which always came to him when life presented him with mystery or excitement. He had been following the girl with his eyes as she darted through the crowd, heading for the doorway of the Scrogg Building. He started to follow her, and then stopped short as he heard a familiar, unpleasant voice behind him.

"There she is, Monk! Grab her, quick!"


HE knew without looking, that the voice belonged to Detective Sergeant Lomas and the instructions were directed at First Grade Detective Monk. Those two were the most despicable team of cops on the Broadway beat. Among police, as among every other class, there were good and bad. It had been Ed's experience that in New York's police force the good far outweighed the bad. But a pair like Lomas and Monk went far to mar the reputation of an otherwise clean and honest body of men.

Ed wasn't sure how they had got their assignment to the Broadway squad. There had been wire-pulling somewhere, and it was suspected that they owed their jobs to the influence of Luke Bilbo. It was Bilbo who had taken over the vice and narcotic empire of Lucky Luciano. He modernized and streamlined it so that it ran just as efficiently as ever before, if not quite so blatantly.

Ed wouldn't have relished the thought of a stray dog at the mercy of those two strong-arm dicks—much less the thought of that blonde, fragile girl with the frightened eyes.

He heard Monk's wheezing breath as he brushed past, and the urgent voice of Sergeant Lomas yelling behind him: "Hold that girl! Stop, you, or we'll shoot!"

He saw the girl hesitate in the doorway of the Scrogg Building, not knowing which way to flee, for there was no back entrance. Once inside, she'd be cornered.

Ed Race acted upon instinct alone. He thrust out a left foot, and tripped Detective Pete Monk, who went sprawling into a crowd of people. Lomas, who was close on his heels, fell over him, and the two of them scrambled awkwardly on the ground. For some reason, they had drawn their guns, though God knows there was little enough necessity for weapons in apprehending a frail and frightened girl.

Monk's gun went flying out of his hand, but Lomas held on to his. He squirmed up to his feet, and a look like the bowels of hell disfigured his ugly face.

Ed looked over in the girl's direction, and nodded to her, reassuringly. She flashed him a grateful, half-frightened glance, and darted into a cab which was parked at the curb. The door slammed and the taxi pulled away, while Ed wondered a second what she was going to use for money to pay the fare. He was sure that the girl was as innocent and guileless as a newborn babe. The fact that Lomas and Monk wanted her proved she couldn't be guilty of anything terrible—even though she had shoved a package of bloody money into his pocket.

And he was sure of another thing. That she hadn't chosen him by accident to be the recipient of that money. There must be five thousand dollars in that package. She wouldn't have stuck it in any stranger's pocket, no matter how desperate she was. Ed reasoned that she must be a member of the theatrical fraternity, and probably knew him by sight. Among the troopers on Broadway there were hundreds whom Ed Race had never met, but to whom he was known. And the one thing they could always be sure of was that he would never refuse to help a fellow Thespian in trouble.

But now—right at this minute, he was in a jam.


SERGEANT LOMAS was on his feet holding the service revolver in a tight grip. Behind him, Monk was getting to his feet, and looking around for his gun.

Lomas's face was black with anger. He waggled the revolver at Ed. "You tripped us on purpose, damn you, Race!" he bellowed. "You deliberately made us lose that dame!"

Ed Race looked hurt. "Sergeant Lomas! How can you say such a thing? You and Monk should look where you're running."

"Yeah? You lie, you dirty son—"

He stopped abruptly, seeing the look in Ed Race's cold grey eyes.

Perhaps he remembered that Race had plenty of connections in New York, too. And possibly he remembered that Ed Race carried two heavy forty-five caliber revolvers in his shoulder holsters, and could use them as no man had ever before been able to use them. Lomas knew who Ed was. He knew that every night, six nights a week for the last ten years Ed Race juggled six of those forty-five caliber, hair-trigger revolvers in his act in the various top-notch vaudeville theatres all over the country. And catching those dangerous weapons as they came down into his hands, he fired each one successively at a row of candles thirty feet across the stage. In ten years the Masked Marksman had never missed one of them. A noted millionaire had once followed him from theatre to theatre, betting that he would miss once before the tour was over. The millionaire had lost.

Lomas had also seen the second number of Ed's show, where he came on to the stage empty-handed, with a girl assistant who had a handful of silver dollars. The girl would begin to flip them into the air in front of a padded mattress. Ed would go into a back somersault. When he came out of it, he had two revolvers in his hands, miraculously drawn from their holsters while he was somersaulting. And those revolvers would start barking before he landed on his feet. With each thunderous explosion, another of the spinning silver dollars would be smashed into the mattress.

Perhaps it was that amazing draw of Ed's which Lomas remembered, and which kept his ugly temper in check. He swallowed hard.

"That dame is wanted for murder, wise guy. She just stabbed Douglas Mayberry to death, in his office, and grabbed five grand. If it hadn't been for you, we'd of nabbed her!"

A crowd was gathering around them, listening eagerly.

Ed made a clucking sound. "Tsk, tsk. How do you know she killed Mayberry?"

Lomas glared at him. "How do we know? Because she had the dough with her, that's how. There's blood on that money—Mayberry's."

"How do you know she had the money?" Ed persisted.

Lomas's face became apoplectically red. "How do we know? By God, Race, I think you're in cahoots with her! I'll show you—"

In his bursting anger, he forgot for a moment what he knew about Race's reputation. He raised his revolver to slash with the sights at Ed's face. "You punk, I'll show you—"

And then something strange and mystifying happened. To the bystanders who were watching avidly, it seemed that the tall man with the cold grey eyes had not moved at all. Yet, miraculously, a heavy, forty-five caliber revolver appeared in his hand. It must have come out of his shoulder holster, but no one had seen it come. Like a blur before their eyes, that forty-five flashed upward to meet the down-slash of Lomas's gun-hand. The sergeant's wrist struck against the barrel of Ed's gun, and his hand went limp. A look of pain crossed his thick face, and the service revolver fell from nerveless fingers.

Lomas's face was a twisted mask of hatred. He glanced sideways and gasped hoarsely, "You take him, Monk!"

Unseen by Ed, Detective Pete Monk-had recovered his gun. He felt it in his right side and heard Monk grate: "Resisting an officer, huh!"


ED RACE knew by the vicious glint in Monk's eyes that he was going to pull the trigger. These two hated him, and here was the best chance they'd ever have. The street was full of bystanders who would testify that Ed Race had drawn a gun. What more justification would they need for shooting him down?

Now Ed Race did a thing which he did every night on the vaudeville stage before a paying audience. Only here, the audience was free, and his life was at stake.

He went into a back somersault.

He moved with dazzling speed, into the back flip. His left hand touched the ground, and his feet came up to complete the somersault, just as Monk's gun exploded. That swift and puzzling action had spoiled the dick's aim. The bullet went a foot wide of the mark, and chipped plaster off the entrance of the Scrogg Building.

Monk's lips were twisted in a snarl as he swung his muzzle after Ed's body for a second shot.

But he never got in that second shot, because Ed Race was already coming out of the somersault, and his heavy forty-five spat flame in a belching explosion as he fired a snap shot. The bullet smashed into the stock of Monk's service revolver. It went hurtling out of his grip, while the detective stood with a stupid expression on his face, staring down at his numbed and empty hand.

A babel of shouts arose from the crowd around them. "My Gawd!" yelled a man. "That must be the Masked Marksman! Ain't no one but the Masked Marksman can shoot like that!"

Ed holstered his gun, and faced the two detectives. "Well, gentlemen," he asked courteously, "was there anything else you wanted?"

Sergeant Lomas was holding his sprained wrist, and the looks he was darting at Ed might have been barbed with poison.

"You're damn right there is! You're under arrest—"

He stopped, swallowing hard, as a level cold, authoritative voice interrupted him. "What's going on here?"

Ed Race's face lighted up. "Mac!" he exclaimed. He turned to meet the calm but friendly gaze of Inspector MacSpain.

MacSpain was a powerfully built man, with iron-grey hair and a pair of shrewd eyes which saw everything and were fooled by nothing. He and Ed had been friends for years, ever since the old days when Patrolman MacSpain had walked a beat on the East Side, and let a kid named Eddie Race touch his service revolver with loving and reverent fingers. They had both come far since those days. And it was partly because of MacSpain that Ed Race had turned to the study of criminology as a hobby.

Ed's contract with the Partages Circuit paid him enough money so that he could have lived on the fat of the land. Instead, his nervous energy and his craving for excitement had driven him to take up the pursuit of criminology as a sideline. He held licenses to act as a private detective in a dozen states, and there had been more than one occasion when he had helped his friend to obtain promotion with the aid of his famous forty-fives.

"Hello, Eddie," MacSpain said sourly. "You in trouble again?"

Ed Race didn't have a chance to answer because Sergeant Lomas burst in. "I've just placed him under arrest, Inspector. He attacked me, and fired at Monk, here!"

MacSpain raised his eyebrows. "You don't say! How come?"

"We were chasing a dame for the murder of Douglas Mayberry. He helped her to escape. Besides the charge of resisting an officer, I charge him with aiding and abetting a fugitive!"

There was a gleam of triumph in Lomas' eyes. He knew of the friendship between these two men, and he hated MacSpain as much as he hated Ed Race. He was glad of the chance to rub it in, and added spitefully, "I suspect that he's implicated in Mayberry's murder!"

Inspector MacSpain raised his eyebrows. He looked at Ed. "Are you?"

Ed grinned. "Not guilty."

Lomas shook a finger in his face. "Then why did you try to help that girl to escape?"

"Why did you and your pal trip over my foot?"

Lomas spread his hands in a gesture of resignation. "You see, Inspector, he admits that he tripped us. I insist on taking him in on suspicion of complicity in May-berry's murder. Maybe if we search him, we'll find incriminating evidence on him."


ED felt a chill in his bones. If they found that blood-stained money on him, Lomas would crucify him.

MacSpain was plainly in a dilemma. As Inspector of Homicide, it was his duty to hold Ed. With the charge which Lomas had placed against him, he would have held any other suspect. But he was sure that his old friend had not murdered Mayberry.

Ed solved the problem for him. "I'd like to oblige you, Lomas, but I can't take the time to be arrested right now. I've got a midnight show at the Clyde in an hour and a half. But I'll tell you what—I'll come down to headquarters after the show, and you can give me the third degree if you want."

MacSpain smiled. "I'm sure we can do that." He glared at Lomas. "Ed Race is well-known in New York. He certainly isn't going to run away on us."

"All right," Lomas said reluctantly. "But only on one condition—that Detective Monk stays with him every minute of the time. I want to make sure he doesn't meet that girl!"

"Okay!" Ed agreed. He clapped MacSpain on the shoulder. "Better be down at headquarters later, Mac. I hate to trust myself with that baby in the third degree room. I might beat him up!"

Lomas scowled, and MacSpain grinned, as Ed started across the street, with Pete Monk at his elbow.

"Remember, Monk," Lomas bawled after them, "that Race is in custody!"

"I'll remember, all right!" Monk growled, giving Ed a dirty look.

Ed refrained from mentioning to MacSpain, Monk's practically deliberate attempt to kill him. He was aware of the amount of drag possessed by Lomas and Monk, and he didn't want to cause his friend any unnecessary embarrassment. Ed felt able to fend off any other attempt which Monk might make.

They started to cross the street, and he noticed a showy sedan drawn up at the curb, with the short-wave radio going full blast.

Ed knew both the men sitting in that car. The flashily dressed, hawk-faced man on the near side was Luke Bilbo, the vice czar whose vicious organization had secured Lomas and Monk their jobs. The one behind the wheel—with the twitching nether lip and the shifty eyes—was known in the underworld as Dopey Leo.

Although it had never been proved, Dopey Leo was said to be Luke Bilbo's knife-man. Bilbo didn't use trigger men in the manner of Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, and the old order of mobsters. Guns made too much noise, attracted too much attention, and were too easy to check by ballistics. Knife men were effective. A knife is silent, and you don't need a permit to carry one, and it can't be traced. In six months, fourteen men had died from stab wounds. The rumor was, that Dopey Leo had collected five grand a piece for those killings. And, by a strange coincidence, several of the murdered men had been competitors of Bilbo—aspirants to his vice throne.


BILBO leaned out. His dark, hawk-face was inscrutable. "Hello, Race," he said.

Monk slowed down as Ed paused alongside the car. Dopey Leo was fiddling with the radio. He tuned it up high, moving it from the short-wave to the regular band and catching a news announcer:


"... Douglas Mayberry, the Broadway loan broker, was stabbed to death at 10:25 this evening. The murderer escaped, leaving the knife in his victim's body. Police are investigating, and we hope to have another flash for you in a short while. Keep tuned to this station..."


Bilbo scowled. "Turn it off, Dopey!"

"Okay, doke, Boss!" chirped Leo, with a smirk. He twirled the knob, choking off the announcer.

Bilbo looked up at Ed Race, and winked broadly to Monk. "This the guy that killed Mayberry, Pete?"

"I dunno, Luke," Monk growled. "Maybe we'll pin it on him yet, at that."

"Wasn't there a dame?" Bilbo asked Monk.

"Yeah. But she got away. It was that Selma Williams girl. She or her brother did it. And Race, here, helped her escape."

Ed Race went taut at mention of the girl's name. Now he knew who she was. Evan Williams was one of the greatest acrobats the vaudeville stage had ever seen. Ed had shared billings with him on many occasions. And Evan had always talked about his kid sister, Selma, whom Ed had never met. But she would certainly know him, from the picture which Evan had at home. That's how she had recognized him. But what in the world would Evan Williams, or his sister, have to do with the loan shark, Douglas Mayberry? Williams had plenty of money—

His thoughts were interrupted by the drawling voice of Luke Bilbo. "Well, Race, I hope you squirm out of this one—on a marble slab!"

Dopey Leo, sitting next to his boss, began to laugh. "Haw, haw! That's rich! On a marble slab! That's in the morgue! Boss, you tickle me!"

Bilbo grinned thinly. "Shut up, Leo," he said over his shoulder.

Ed looked down speculatively at Bilbo. "Where were you and Leo at ten-twenty-five?" he asked softly.

Luke Bilbo stopped laughing abruptly. "Another crack like that out of you, Race, and—"

"Yes?" Ed asked, his eyes suddenly icy cold. "Yes, Bilbo?"

The vice czar lowered his eyes quickly. "It's up to the cops to question me," he grumbled. "Not you. If you know where that girl is, you better tell Monk."

"Why?" Ed asked. "Why do you want to know? So you can have Dopey knock her off?"

Bilbo's face flushed, but he didn't answer. Dopey Leo was looking at Ed with glittering eyes. His hand was hidden under his coat. "Mister Race," he said, "some day I'm gonna carve your liver right outta you!"

"You're welcome to try, Leo," Ed told him. "But don't forget to bring your own coffin along."

Bilbo was watching Ed with narrowed eyes. "I've often wondered about that," he whispered. "You know, I really think Leo could throw his knife faster than you could shoot, Race!"

Ed grinned. "Bring him up on the Clyde stage some night. We'll have a match!"

He turned and strode away, with the sour-looking Monk at his elbow.

Instead of crossing directly to the Clyde, however, he angled diagonally up toward Forty-ninth Street.

"Hey!" protested Monk. "You're at the Clyde Theatre. Where you going?"

"To my hotel, to change, and pick up my other guns."

Monk accepted the explanation, and accompanied him over to the Longmont, where Ed invariably stayed when in New York. They always gave him the same room, 716, and his key was always available at the desk to anyone whom the clerk knew to be a friend of Ed's. Anyone with a worry on his mind, a problem to solve, or a touch to make, was sure of a welcome when Ed was in town.

Monk glowered as they went up in the elevator, but he said nothing. On the seventh floor he marched side by side with him to the door of 716, and watched morosely while Ed unlocked the door.


ED pushed in first, blocking the doorway with his broad shoulders. He took one look into the room, and smiled wryly. He had been afraid of this. Selma Williams was sitting on his bed.

There was a smile on her face and she started to say something, but smothered her words at sight of the frown on Ed's face. He stopped short in the doorway and Pete Monk came up against him.

"What the hell is the idea—" Monk glowered.

"Mr. Monk," Ed said apologetically, "I assure you I am very sorry to have to do this."

"Do what?"

"This!"

Ed brought his right fist up from the hip, and it landed flush on Monk's jaw. The detective's head jerked back and his eyes went glassy.

"Shut the door, quick!" he ordered Selma.

"O-oh!" she breathed. "That—that's the detective that was chasing me! You hit him!"

"Yes," said Ed. "I hit him." He plopped Monk onto the bed, and went to rummage in the closet. He returned in a moment with a spare garter. He wadded a handkerchief over Monk's mouth, and then tied it with the garter, making a very effective gag. Then he twisted Monk's hands behind his back, and manacled him to the bedstead with his own police handcuffs.

He turned away from Monk and faced the girl. For a long minute he looked down into her sea-blue eyes.

"Tell me, child. Did you stab Douglas Mayberry to death?"

Her eyes widened like saucers. She shuddered. "No! No!"

"Who killed him?"

"God help me, I don't know!"

"Why did you put the package of money in my pocket?"

He took it out and held it up before her.

She made no attempt to touch it. The blood stains seemed to fascinate her so that she was speechless for a minute. At last she gulped, and stammered, "I—I f-found it—beside Mayberry's body. There were f-fingerprints—bloody fingerprints on the bills, and I thought they might be the killer's p-prints, so I t-took it."

"You poor little kid," he said. "Didn't you know the prints would be rubbed off?"

"I—I didn't think of it. I—I was afraid. Those detectives were chasing me, and I w-was frightened. I saw you, and it s-seemed to be a good idea to p-put it in your pocket and come and get it later."

"Selma," he asked quietly, "are you sure you don't know who killed Mayberry?"

"Y-yes."

"Did your brother—Evan—kill him? Weren't you trying to get rid of the package because you thought it might have Evan's fingerprints?"

He felt her slender body stiffen, as her two little hands rose to her breasts. She stared up at him, wide-eyed, and a tortured sob gushed from her throat.

Ed let her chin drop, and turned away. He took a bottle of Canadian whiskey from the dresser. He poured some in a glass and added a little water.

"Drink that," he told her.

She gulped the liquor, and coughed, but the color came back to her cheeks.

"All right, Selma," Ed said quietly. "Now tell me all about it."

She looked at him piteously. "If—if Evan killed Douglas Mayberry—w-would you help him—to escape?"

"Not to escape, my child," Ed told her gently. "I know Evan too well. There'd be no peace for him anywhere as a hunted man. But I give you my word I'll get him the best lawyer in the country. He'll have every chance. There must have been some reason—"

"No, no, you mustn't say that. I—I'm not sure Evan killed him. Evan came home drunk tonight—"

"Drunk?" Ed's voice held an edge of surprise. Williams never drank.

"Yes. Evan was drunk, and fighting mad. He'd been out of town, and while he was away, I got a job—with Mayberry. Evan hated and despised Mayberry, and had warned him once, to keep away from me. But I thought I should support myself, so when Mayberry offered me the job in his loan office, I took it. Evan found out when he got back from a tour this morning, and he w-went to see Mayberry. He came home drunk, and said something about having had a fight. Then he passed out. I—I was scared, so I dressed and went over there. And—"

She sobbed, and covered her face with her hands.

Ed patted her shoulder. "You found Douglas Mayberry stabbed to death, eh? And you naturally assumed that Evan had killed him?"

She nodded dumbly.

"The knife was in his back?"

"Y-yes."

"What happened then?"

"I—I saw the money, and picked it up, and hurried out. Just as I got to the street, those two detectives—Monk, here and that other one, came toward the building. They saw me with the money, and the other one whispered to Monk. Then they chased me. I was scared they'd find the money with Evan's fingerprints on it, so I ran."

"I see," Ed said thoughtfully. Suddenly he straightened. "All right, Selma. I'm going to see your brother. Where is he?"

She gave him the address of the boarding house on Fifty-third Street where they lived. "What—what are you going to do?"

"I'll have to talk to him before I decide. In the meantime, you stay here—"

"No. I want to go with you—"

"Impossible, Selma. There'll be an alarm out for you."

He thrust the package of money in his pocket and took a black chamois case from his dresser drawer. It contained four more revolvers. They were the guns he used in his Masked Marksman act. He picked out one of them and gave it to Selma.

"You sit right here in this chair, and keep this gun. If Monk gets loose, or if anyone tries to break in, shoot!"

She nodded, holding the gun gingerly.

"It's a hair trigger," he told her. "Be careful of it."

He left her sitting in the chair, and went to open the door.

He stepped back, with an oath as three men barged in. Sergeant Lomas was in the lead. Luke Bilbo and Dopey Leo were behind him.

Sergeant Lomas and Luke Bilbo had guns in their hands, and Dopey Leo held a long, glittering knife.

Bilbo kicked the door shut behind them as Lomas stuck a gun against Ed's chest.

"Put your hands up, Race!" he grated. "You're under arrest! Make a single move, and I'll blast you!"


ED backed up, with his hands in the air. Lomas wasn't fooling. There was no doubt that he'd shoot if Ed made a move.

He dipped his hand into Ed's pocket, and brought out the blood-stained package of money. "Here we are, boys!"

Dopey Leo licked his lips, and fastened his glittering eyes on Ed. "Boss," he asked, "how much will you pay me to carve this mugg up for you?"

"Shut up!" Bilbo grated. "You've done enough damage for one day!"

Ed kept his hands raised shoulder high, and looked square in Lomas' eyes. "It wasn't the girl you wanted, was it, Lomas? It was just that package of money!"

Lomas didn't answer. His eyes were mere pin points. But Bilbo spoke. "Smart, aren't you, Race? You know what we wanted the dough for?"

"Sure I do. You paid Dopey Leo, here, to kill Douglas Mayberry. He got himself coked up and went and stabbed him to death. But while he was doing it, he dropped this package of money—the five grand you had paid him for the murder."

Watching Bilbo, he knew he had hit the truth.

He went on. "Dopey told you about it, but he was afraid to go back and get the money. You were afraid Dopey's prints would be on the bills. So you got hold of Lomas and Monk in a hurry and sent them to retrieve the package."

Bilbo's eyes flickered. He glanced at Lomas. "Too bad, isn't it?"

Ed nodded. "I thought you'd see it that way. Are you going to kill us both?"

"Yeah. For resisting arrest."

Ed'S eyes had flicked over to Selma. He realized that she had reached under the cushion and was gripping the heavy revolver he had given her. There wasn't a chance that she could shoot it out with both Lomas and Bilbo, and escape Leo's knife. But he could tell from the glint in her eyes that she was going to try.

"Throw it to me!" Ed shouted, and went into a back somersault.

Lomas's gun exploded, but Ed was no longer there!

Ed had no gun, but he hoped desperately that Selma had understood his order. As he came to his feet his eyes flicked toward her, and he saw the revolver spinning through the air in his direction.

She had understood!

Bilbo's gun cracked, and Lomas' revolver spat flame, almost simultaneously. But Ed had dived head-first toward the spinning gun, and their shots smashed into the wall where he had been but a second before. Now he caught the revolver in midair, and went into a forward somersault.

He pulled the trigger only three times, but each shot did its duty. Lomas was smashed back against the wall with a slug in his forehead, and Bilbo took one high in the chest.

Dopey Leo's arm was moving forward in a dexterous knife-cast, when Ed's shot struck him in the right shoulder. He dropped the knife and yelled, "Don't shoot no more! I'll talk!"

Ed was breathing regularly, showing no exertion from his double somersault. Monk, still handcuffed, lay on the bed, wide-eyed. Selma Williams had not moved from the chair. Her eyes were shining as she looked at Ed. "I—I never—saw such shooting!"

Ed grinned down at her. "Come to the Clyde tonight and you'll see more of it!"

There was a pounding at the door. Ed crossed and opened it, to admit MacSpain.

The Inspector looked around the room as he pulled at his ear. "My God, Eddie," he said, "are you still in trouble? I saw these bozos go up in the elevator. It looks like I'm a little late."

"Not at all, Mac," Ed said. "You're just in time to take over. Dopey Leo here, wants to talk. And I've got to go."

He went over to the dresser and once more took out the chamois case, then he picked up his two revolvers which Lomas had taken from him. He took Selma by the arm, led her to the door.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" MacSpain demanded.

Ed grinned. "Did you forget I have a midnight show at the Clyde?"

"Well, I'll be damned!" said MacSpain.

"Me, too!" Dopey Leo said gloomily.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
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