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EMILE C. TEPPERMAN

SONG OF THE GALLOWS

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First published in The Spider, November 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version date: 2020-06-02
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The Spider, November 1941, with "Song of the Gallows"



Ed Race couldn't let down a fellow performer—and he backed young Jerry's sleight-of-hand with his own gun magic. But Ed missed the cue of the cutthroat chorus who chanted the... Song of the Gallows.



ED RACE walked down Broadway, and stopped in front of Merker's Magic Mart. He smiled when he saw the crowd in front of the window. They were watching young Jerry Merker exhibit some sleight-of-hand tricks.

The kid was good, there was no doubt of that. Ed had discovered him a few months back, while visiting Madison High School, out in Brooklyn, on a War Bond Drive. The students had put on a show of their own, and admission had been by sale of War Stamps. Ed Race had been a sort of guest star, doing some of his acrobatic marksmanship stunts on the stage, and then he had gone down front in the auditorium to watch the rest of the show. Being an alumnus of Madison himself, he took pride in the school.

It was then that he had seen Jerry perform. They had billed him under the imposing title of: JARROLD MERKER, MADISON'S MASTER MAGICIAN. Ed had watched him do a couple of sleight-of-hand tricks which he had worked out himself, and had decided that the boy's talents should not be wasted. So after Jerry was graduated, Ed had set him up in this store on Broadway, where he had a chance to get the hang and feel of "magic" in all its ramifications. When he had gotten a little more experience, and had worked out a complete routine, Ed intended to get him a booking on the Partages Circuit, where he was himself a headline performer.

Standing on the fringe of the crowd now, Ed chuckled as he watched Jerry make a pack of cards disappear, then produce them, one by one, from various parts of his clothing. He even pulled one out of his fob pocket, where no card could possibly have fitted.

But Ed noticed that there was something wrong with Jerry. The lad's actions were smooth enough, and his hands moved with unerring rapidity to prove to the crowd that "the hand is quicker than the eye." But there was a hint of strain about his mouth, and his eyes were continuously roving over the crowd gathered in the street, as if seeking some one. When he saw Ed Race, he smiled with relief.

He went on to finish the illusion with the pack of cards, and then, while the crowd remained mystified, he held up a small card which read:


YOU CAN DO THIS TRICK YOURSELF
COMPLETE WITH INSTRUCTIONS
ONE DOLLAR!


Ed Race frowned. He knew that that particular trick was not for sale. And only an expert could do it. That "One Dollar" sign referred to some other trick. Jerry had held up the wrong sign. Ordinarily, he performed the card pack illusion just to interest the crowd.

Something must be radically wrong, for he was certain that Jerry hadn't held up the sign by mistake. He had even seen Jerry look at it to make sure what it said before holding it up.

Ed determined to investigate. This needed a looking into.

He moved around the fringe of the crowd to the door, and went in. As soon as he entered he sensed danger.

There were three men in the store, who were apparently customers. Two of them were standing about halfway down, leaning on the counter, and talking. The third was up front, close to the window, with one hand in his pocket, watching Jerry Merker's back.

Ed's face showed nothing. He walked in and went up to the counter, close to the two men who were talking. They were both thin men, and the one nearest to Ed smelled of horses. He had a sharp nose, and a pair of ears that stood out almost straight from his head. The other had a funny habit of blowing on his knuckles, as if he had just hit something very hard.


ED RACE pretended to be looking over the display of magic tricks in the showcase, and in a couple of minutes Jerry finished his demonstration in the window, and came into the store. He didn't even look at the man up front with his hand in his pocket, nor did he stop where the two men were. He came over to Ed Race, and his face showed no sign of recognition.

"Yes, sir," he said. "Is there something I can do for you?"

Ed took his cue. "I was interested in that trick you did in the window. A dollar seems cheap for it. I'd like to buy it."

"Sure," said Jerry. He reached under the counter and took out a pack of cards. Ed recognized the box in which the cards came. It was the "vanishing seven" trick, and had nothing to do with the one Jerry had done in the window. Nevertheless, Ed took it, and at the same time he took the bit of paper which Jerry had concealed in the palm of his hand.

He saw the two men on his left watching him keenly. He paid no attention to them, but took out a dollar plus one cent sales tax, and paid it over the counter.

"I hope I can learn this trick," he said. "They always look easy when you see them in the window, but then when you get them home it's a different story."

"Don't worry," said Jerry. "Just read the instructions carefully."

"I'll do that," Ed said, noting Jerry's emphasis on the word, "instructions".

He made his way out into the street again. Now that the free window demonstration was over, the crowd had gone, but two or three people were trickling in, as they always did after a demonstration. It was in this way that Jerry Merker made new customers, some of whom became "regulars"—that is, people who came in constantly looking for new tricks to take home.

Ed walked a few paces down Broadway, went into Marylin's Donut & Coffee Shoppe, and ordered a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Only then did he unfold the bit of paper which Jerry had slipped to him. His forehead wrinkled in a frown as he read it:


Dear Mr. Race:

I'm writing this on the sly, with three gunmen watching me. I'm hoping you'll come by, and I can slip it to you. For God's sake, don't let me out of your sight. It's a matter of life and death—for my sister, Myra, as well as myself. I'll be leaving in a few minutes with these three men for a town called Grayfield. Follow us. Don't lose us—"


The note stopped there, abruptly, as if Jerry had been interrupted before he could finish it.

Ed studied it a moment longer, trying to figure out just what kind of jam Jerry was in, and how Myra fitted into the picture. He had never met Jerry's sister, but he knew that she was married to a young newspaper editor in the southern town of Grayfield. It was eight hundred miles from New York—a healthy distance to have to follow Jerry and his three gunmen. But Ed Race didn't even think of passing it up. Jerry was a fellow performer and couldn't be let down.

In fact, this was the sort of stuff that made the blood flow faster in Ed's veins. It was the sort of stuff he lived for.

On the stage, he was headlined from coast to coast in the Partages Circuit of theatres as THE MASKED MARKSMAN—The Man Who Can Make Guns Talk. His acrobatic gun-juggling act always left the audience breathless and spellbound, and then when he went into the exhibition of marksmanship it always brought the house down in a thunderous roll of applause. His salary as the top headliner of the Partages Circuit was ample for him to live in leisure.


BUT that nervous energy which always tugged for an outlet had driven him long ago to adopt an avocation which would supply the added tingle of danger which alone could make life interesting for him. He had adopted the avocation of criminology. He held licenses to operate as a private detective in a dozen states and the two heavy forty-fives which he always carried in twin shoulder holsters served a double purpose—they were part of the six revolvers he used in his act; and they were also at the disposal of any unfortunate friend or member of the theatrical fraternity who might be in trouble with the underworld. Ed smiled grimly. He paid for his coffee, and went out. He wasn't a moment too soon, for he spotted the three gunmen coming out of the Magic Store with Jerry Merker. They were sticking close to Jerry while he locked up, and then the four of them hurriedly got into a car parked at the curb.

Ed saw Jerry glance around anxiously and spot him, and he nodded to him swiftly. The heavy-set gunman got behind the wheel, and they drove off. Ed got a taxi-cab and followed them, hoping they weren't going to drive all the way down to Grayfield. But the trail led only to Grand Central Station. The four of them, with Jerry Merker crowded close in among them, made for one of the outgoing train tracks, and Ed saw that it was a Baltimore train, due to leave in five minutes.

He hurried back to the ticket booth and bought a ticket for Grayfield, and just made it before the gate closed. It was an all-coach train, and plenty crowded. Ed moved down from car to car, passing up several chances at a seat, until he found the car where Jerry Merker and his three ghoulish companions were riding. There was one vacant seat near the rear, and Ed slipped into it. Jerry was sitting about three seats ahead, next to the window, with one of the thin men beside him, and the other two occupied the seat directly across the aisle from Jerry.

Ed Race settled back for the long, weary ride. His wrist watch showed that it was ten P.M. It would be six o'clock in the morning before they reached Grayfield. Fortunately, Ed had already finished his evening act at the Clyde Theatre, and he wouldn't have to go on again till four o'clock tomorrow afternoon. If he was lucky enough to get away from Grayfield in time, he'd be able to make it back to New York by plane. Otherwise, he'd have to phone the Clyde to substitute another act for his. In his ten years on the vaudeville stage, he had never missed a show, and he hated to break the record now. But Jerry's note had certainly been urgent enough to justify taking the chance.

As the train sped south through the night, passengers began to trickle out of the car on their way to the lounge.

Watching Jerry, Ed saw that the youthful magician had spotted his location. But it was not till after midnight that the four of them got up from their seats and made their way out through the rear. On the way they had to pass Ed's seat, and he bent his head low, so that the gunmen might not recognize him.

Jerry and his thin companion came first, with Jerry slightly in the lead. Behind them came the other two. And all three were watching Jerry like hawks.

But, being behind the young magician, they couldn't see him give Ed a wink. Neither did they see the little pellet of paper which Jerry dropped to the floor in front of him. As Jerry passed Ed Race's seat, he kicked the paper pellet over with his foot, so that it rolled out of the aisle, under Ed's feet.

Ed waited till they had gone, then he stooped and picked up the paper. He smoothed it out on his knee. How Jerry had managed to write this one, under the watchful eyes of the three ghouls, Ed didn't know. But he had done it. The message read:


Mr. Race:

They fooled me about the town. Its not Grayfield, but some other town, and they're not telling me the name. All I know is that we'll get off in about an hour. It seems that these men are part of a crooked crowd that has managed to take over control of this town, and they're fleecing it. They've got Myra in jail on a trumped-up murder charge, and if I don't do what they say they'll poison her. They think I can do all sorts of magic tricks, and they want me to help them open a bank vault. I can't do any such thing, but they seem convinced I can do it because they once read a book where it said that a good magician could open any safe or vault in the country. Now what'll I do? They have a legal right to hold Myra in jail, and there isn't any law I can call on, because they're the law in that town. Think of something!


Ed sighed. He started to fold the paper when he suddenly felt some one tap him on the shoulder. He looked up, caught a glimpse of the heavy-set gunman. The fellow had stolen back into the car, and now, as Ed looked up, he snatched at the bit of paper on which Jerry's message was written.

"I'll take that!" he growled.


ED jerked up an elbow and caught him in the chin, and the fellow's head snapped back. The other passenger turned around to stare, enjoying even the momentary lapse from the boredom of the long ride.

But the fight didn't continue, for the heavy-set man didn't make another effort to get the paper. Instead he stood in the aisle, massaging his chin, and looking at Ed out of narrowed eyes. His mouth twisted in a sneer.

"Maybe you better come out in the vestibule and talk this over," he said.

"Sure!" Ed agreed. "Gladly."

He got up, and the other turned and led the way out of the car. In the vestibule, the fellow turned and faced Ed.

"I recognized you in the car," he said. "You're the guy that stopped in the store for a minute. The kid must have slipped you a message. I wasn't sure about you, so I let the others go on ahead and came back for another look. I see the kid gave you another note."

"That's right," said Ed.

"I want it."

Ed smiled bleakly. "So I gather."

"Now listen," said the other. "You don't get the set-up. We ain't using any force on the kid. He's coming of his own free will. You come along with me, and we'll ask the kid, and I bet he tells you to give me that note."

"Sure," said Ed. "Because you've got his sister in jail."

"Aha! So he gave you the whole setup! He's crossing us!"

"You guys must be crazy to think you can get away with a stunt like this," Ed told him. "You're smart enough to know that the kid can't open a bank vault."

The other laughed. It was an ugly, sharp laugh. "We don't want the kid to open no bank vault. We want him for something else. He'll find out when we get down there. But you'll never find anything out any more!"

The fellow's hand flashed up under his left armpit, and he took a quick step backward. He moved fast, and his draw was devilishly fast. The wicked little automatic glinted under the light as it appeared in his hand, the muzzle swinging down to center on Ed Race's chest.

But if that gunman thought he had a set-up, he was in for an unpleasant surprise. On the stage, the Masked Marksman's opening routine was a simple exhibition of a quick draw. The routine consisted of flipping two silver dollars up in the air, one from each hand. Then, while the dollars were spinning downward Ed's hands would snake in and out from his shoulder holsters, there would be two simultaneous blasts, and the dollars would go smashing backward into the padded board, under the impact of the two powerful forty-five calibre slugs.

So now, as the gunman was bringing his automatic down to center on Ed's chest, he found himself inexplicably staring into the big black muzzle of one of Ed's forty-fives.

And then, before he could recover from his amazement, the barrel of the revolver swiped upward, cracked wickedly against the knuckle of his little finger, and knocked the automatic from his hand.

The fellow stood there with a stupid look on his face, nursing his injured hand.

Ed didn't give him time to regain his wits. He seized him by the shoulder, swung him around, and prodded him back into the car.

"In here, my friend!" he ordered, pushing him into the washroom. Inside, Ed reached behind him and locked the door. Then he smiled at the fellow.

"You and I are now going to have a little heart-to-heart talk, my friend," he said.


THE fellow saw the glint in Ed's eye, and backed away. Ed followed him up grimly, and raised his revolver. "How would you like me to cut your face to ribbons with the muzzle of this gun?" he asked softly, slowly hefting the gun.

"Lay off!" the other blurted. "You can't do that! I'm a deputy-sheriff of the town of Bayridge. You'll get twenty years if you hit me—"

"Then I better hit you good!" Ed snapped. He nicked the gun barrel downward, raking the fellow's cheekbone almost down to the chin. Blood oozed from the cut, and the fellow clapped a hand to his face, groaning.

Ed switched guns, and did the same to the other cheek.

"I'm not a mean man," he said evenly, "but when I think of what you're doing to that poor kid and his sister, I could keep this up all night!"

He raised the gun barrel for another swipe, and the fellow yelled, "Now wait! Wait! You win—"

Ed nodded grimly. "Okay, talk! What's the racket?"

The fellow slumped down in the chair. He took out a handkerchief and dabbed with it at the two cuts on his face.

"It ain't my racket, Mister," he said, plaintively. There was no more fight in him now. "I only work for the Big Boss, and so do those other two muggs. We just work for Todd Bayne, who's the boss of Bayridge. He's been running the racket for years now. We pick up a passing motorist on a speeding charge, or any other such violation, then we slap him or her in jail. We sock 'em with a ten-day sentence, and by the time they spend one day in our jail, they're ready to pay plenty to get out. So we have a lawyer who works for Bayne, and he goes to the sucker and says that for two hundred dollars he can get the sentence suspended."

"I see," Ed said. "If the motorist were merely fined ten or fifteen dollars, the money would go to the county. But this way, the money goes into Todd Bayne's pocket."

"That's right. The lawyer gets ten bucks, and Todd gets the rest."

"What has all this got to do with your taking Jerry Merker for a ride down to Bayridge?"

"Well, his sister—she's Mrs. Thorpe—was driving through, and we picked her up. She drew a ten-day sentence, but it turns out that her husband is an editor of a newspaper in Grayfield, and when she phoned him for two hundred bucks to pay a lawyer, this husband got sore and decided to make a issue of it. So he starts a campaign in his paper.

But Grayfield ain't even in the same state, and he can't do us much harm, only Todd Bayne got sore and decided to teach him a lesson. So he released the dame, and then had her arrested again on a murder charge. It so happened that some hobo got bumped off in the woods that day, and we pinned the rap on her. Todd Bayne could never make the murder charge stick, but what he could do is poison her in jail before she's released. He wants to hold her husband up for ten grand to release her, and he needs some guy to go and take the word to her husband. He sent us up to get Jerry. He figures if one of us guys takes the message to Thorpe in Grayfield, he could be held there for extortion. So he figures to send Jerry."

"Well, I'll be damned!" Ed said softly.

The gunman looked up at him. "Listen, Mister, my name is Gluckner. I been an honest gunman for fifteen years. I know the inside and outside of all the rackets. I'm telling you, you can't touch Todd Bayne. He's got himself elected Mayor of Bayridge, and he runs the law. The only way they could get Jerry's sister out of jail would be to file a writ of habeas cripes with the Supreme Court—"

"You mean habeas corpus—"

"What's the difference what you call it? By the time that writ was signed, the dame would be dead—poisoned. That ain't going to help her husband, is it? He's only got one thing to do—that's pay up!"

"We could have you go into court and tell the story you've just told me. That would put Todd Bayne behind the bars."


GLUCKNER laughed hollowly. "You ain't giving Todd Bayne credit for being smart, are you? He's got me fixed so I couldn't talk if I wanted to. There's a murder rap hanging over me, too. If I talk, Todd Bayne only has to whisper one word to a certain district attorney in a certain city, and I go to the gallows!"

"H'm," said Ed. "If you sing, you swing!"

"That's about the size of it!"

"But you've talked to me."

"To you, yes. But if you ever got me in court, I'd clam up like nobody's business. I'd deny everything. I'd say you forced me to make a phony confession."

They became conscious that the train was slowing up for a stop. Ed opened the washroom door and heard the conductor calling out, "Bayridge!"

Ed frowned, and closed the door again.

"Stand up!" he ordered.

Gluckner obeyed, looking puzzled. "What you gonna do? This is where my two pals get off with Jerry. I'm supposed to stay on the train and go on to Grayfield and wait for Jerry. After Todd Bayne tells him what to say to Thorpe, he'll send him to Grayfield, and I'm supposed to tail him there."

"Well," said Ed, "I'm afraid you're not going to do any tailing for a while. I'm sorry about this—"

He brought up his right fist in a haymaker that rocked the gunman's head back, and sent him crashing into the wall. The fellow slid down to the floor, out like a light.

Ed left him there, and slipped out of the washroom. The train had come to a full stop, and Ed swung down on to the platform. He immediately spotted Jerry and his two ghouls, down at the other end of the station. Jerry had his arms in the air, and they were fanning him for weapons. Now that they had him on their home grounds, they weren't pussyfooting around any more. They were right down to business.

Ed moved over closer to them, and heard one of them say, "Don't make no trouble, kid, and it'll be better all around."

Ed followed them out of the station. Bayridge was a one-street town, giving every sign of disintegration under the vicious, racketeering domination of Todd Bayne. The stores were dilapidated and slovenly kept, and the street was littered with papers and refuse. This street was part of the main highway south, and it was here apparently that they trapped the unwary motorists in their trade of extortion.

Directly opposite the station was a gray, dirty, ugly-looking building upon which there was a fly-specked sign proclaiming that this was the Mayor's Office and the Town Jail.


AS ed emerged into the street in the wake of Jerry and his captors, he was forming a plan in his mind. He hurried a bit, and brushed up against the trio in such a way that he came for a moment between Jerry and the man on his left. In that instant, he slipped one of his forty-fives into Jerry's coat pocket.

The two thugs swung around, saw Ed Race, and recognized him.

"Hey! You're the guy we saw in the kid's store in New York!"

"That's right," Ed said mildly.

"What you doing here?"

"I came down to protect Jerry's interests."

"Haw! You'll get a good chance to protect his interests, all right You're under arrest!" The fellow yanked out his gun and covered Ed.

Ed could easily have shot him dead before he had the gun halfway out, but he didn't move. He allowed the fellow to fan him, and take the remaining revolver out of the left-hand holster.

"What's the charge upon which I'm being arrested?" Ed asked, still very mildly.

"Disorderly conduct!"

"That's all right with me," Ed said. "I don't mind being arrested. In fact, I'm quite anxious to see the inside of your nice jail—and to meet your esteemed mayor!"

"You'll meet him all right! Come on!"

Ed winked at Jerry, and allowed himself to be led across to the jail.

Todd Bayne, the big shot, was apparently expecting them on this train. He sat in his office on the ground floor of the jail, looking like a huge, ugly spider. He was fat, and at some time in his career his eyebrows must have been singed off in a fire, because he had none. He fixed his small eyes on Ed Race and asked softly, "Who's this, Salucci?"

Salucci explained swiftly.

"So!" said Bayne. "Your name is Ed Race, and you're an actor, and you came down here to help this kid and his sister?"

"That's right," Ed said. "And since finding out all about your racket here, I have another purpose—to break you, Bayne!"

"Ha!" said Bayne. "A tough guy! Listen, Mister, you're going to eat those words. And you're going to crawl to me before I'm through with you. Down here, Todd Bayne is king. I'm the only law. I'm going to sentence you to ninety days for disorderly conduct—and before the time is up, you'll be bagging me to take every dollar you own in the world to release you!"

He waved to the two gunmen. "Take them away. Put them in opposite cells, right near the kid's sister. Are you sure they're clean?"

"Yeah," said Salucci. We fanned them both. I got the big guy's gun. The kid didn't have none."

"All right. Bring Jerry Merker to me in an hour. I'll be ready to send him to Grayfield with the ransom demand. I haven't decided yet how much to ask for. I hear her husband is pretty rich. Maybe I'll ask for a hundred grand."

"You know," Ed said, "I think you're crazy. How in the world do you expect to get away with anything like that? Suppose her husband refuses to pay?"


BAYNE smiled a slow, wicked smile. "In that case, we'll shoot a bubble of air into her veins with a hypodermic syringe. The air bubble will travel through her arteries till it reaches the heart. Then—pouf—she's dead. We perform our own autopsies here in Bayridge, and anyway, the Coroner takes his orders from me. But no doctor in the world could discover the cause of death. It would go down as heart failure. In case you're interested, that's what will happen to you, too—unless you crawl—and pay!" He glared at Salucci. "Take them out of my sight!"

Ed and Jerry were led through a back door into the jail. It consisted of a wide foyer, with six cells opening off it. Only one other cell was occupied. Jerry's sister was tall, dark-haired, and beautiful in spite of her imprisonment. She stood with her hands gripping the bars, her eyes wide with consternation.

"Jerry!" she exclaimed. "Did they get you, too?"

"It's all right, Sis," Jerry told her. "This is Ed Race. I've written you about him. Don't worry, he'll get us out of this!"

Salucci laughed raucously. "Yeah, sure! He'll get you out—on a slab, right next to himself!"

They put Ed in the cell next to Myra's, and Jerry in the one directly opposite. The second gunman went out, leaving Salucci on guard. He went over to a stool near the door, and seated himself, and picked up a sub-machine gun which hung in a rack. He laid the sub-machine gun on his lap, and grinned at them.

"Since we got such desperate prisoners here," he said, "we got to take special precautions. Don't get no funny ideas. All I need is a little encouragement to use this thing. I'm pretty good with it, too!"

He took the keys to the cells and put them in his hip pocket, then lit a cigarette and leaned back to enjoy it.

Jerry Merker looked across at his sister. "What have they been doing to you, Sis?" he asked.

"They're fiends, Jerry!" she exclaimed. "Oh, why did you let them get you down here?"

"I thought I could help you—"

"Forget about all that, Jerry," Ed Race interrupted. "Let's while the time away with some magic tricks. Can you make a dime float in the air?"

"Sure," said Jerry, who had been busy in his cell, with some material he had taken from his pocket.

Salucci sat forward in his chair.

"Huh? Did you say you can make a dime float in the air?"

"That's right," said Jerry. "Only I haven't got a dime."

"Here's one!" said Salucci. He took a dime from his pocket, got up and went over to Jerry's cell. He handed him the dime through the bars. "Now you better do the trick, kid. If you don't, I'll get a hose and play a stream of water on you for an hour!"

Jerry smiled wryly, and palmed the coin.

Salucci goggled. "Hey! Where's that dime?"


JERRY waved his right hand in the air, and pointed with his left. Sure enough, there was the dime, floating in thin air, above his head. The dime seemed to rest on nothing at all, suspended in thin air. Then Jerry waved with his right hand, made a couple of passes, and when Salucci looked again, the dime was gone!

"W-what happened to it?" Salucci gasped.

"Here it is!" said Jerry. He reached through the bars, and picked the dime out of Salucci's right ear.

"Well, I'll be a kangaroo's uncle!" said the gunman.

Ed Race laughed. "Now show us the remote control trick, Jerry."

"Remote control?" Salucci was still goggle-eyed from the other trick. "What's remote control? What's that?"

Ed Race explained swiftly, for he saw that Jerry was also puzzled.

"Why, Jerry can put any object in your pocket, while you're standing out of his reach. He does it by remote control."

Salucci looked unbelieving. "You gotta show me!"

"Well, I'll try," said Jerry. "Have you got something heavy—say a penknife?"

"Nix!" said Salucci, suddenly suspicious. "No knives!"

Jerry shrugged. "All right, make it anything you like."

"How about this?" Salucci demanded, taking a pair of brass knuckles out of his pocket.

"That'll do," Jerry said. He took the brass knuckles through the bars. They were shiny, gleaming brass knuckles. Salucci evidently took much pride in them, for he kept them brightly polished.

Jerry held the brass knuckles up in front of him, while Salucci watched through the bars. He held them in his right hand, and then passed his left hand across the right, then held up his right hand to show it was empty. A second later, he held up his left hand, and it was empty, too.

"Hey," said Salucci. "That's good. What happened to them?"

""They're in a state of suspension," Jerry explained. "Now I'm going to try to put them back in your pocket, from a distance."

"Aw," said Salucci, "how could you do that?"

"Just watch. Watch my hands. Now move back, please, till you're about ten feet away from the door."

Fascinated, Salucci began to walk backward across the corridor. He counted ten paces, and stopped. He was facing Jerry's cell, and about ten inches from Ed Race's cell, directly opposite.


JERRY squinted at him, holding his hands in the air as if he were conjuring the brass knuckles. "Just one more step backward, please—"

Salucci obeyed. The next step brought him up against the bars of Ed Race's cell.

Ed grinned, and thrust one arm through the bars and wrapped it around Salucci's neck, dragging him back against the bars in a merciless grip. Salucci tried to cry out, but his voice was throttled by the constriction against his throat.

Ed reached down through the bars with his right hand, and dug into Salucci's back pocket, and got the cell keys. At the same time, Jerry Merker produced the heavy revolver which Ed had slipped into his pocket, and covered Salucci.

Ed released the gunman, who stood still, trembling with rage and frustration, under the muzzle of the heavy revolver which Jerry trained on him.

Ed reached around with the keys and unlocked his cell door.

"That, my friend," he said in a kindly tone to Salucci, "is what we call the remote control trick. Don't ask us how we do it. We do it with mirrors!"

Ed opened his cell door, pushed Salucci into it, and locked it again. Then he crossed over and unlocked Jerry's door, and took the revolver from him.

"Very nice magic, Jerry!" he said. "I think you—"

He never got a chance to finish, because just then the door of the office was thrust open, and the other gunman appeared, with a sub-machine gun under his arm. Too late, Ed spotted the peephole alongside the door. The gunman in the office must have looked through and seen what had happened.

Ed turned, shot the gunman through the heart. Then Ed slammed into the office, blasted as Bayne reached for a gun.

Bayne screamed with the sudden agony, and raised his uninjured arm in the air.

"Don't shoot any more!" he screeched.

Ed scowled. "You're through, Bayne."

Now that the fear of Ed's gun was removed, Bayne regained a bit of his courage. He held his shattered arm close against his chest, and his eyes burned with deadly hate.

"Through? It's not me who's through, Race. It's you. Do you know what you've just done? You've attacked the duly constituted mayor of this town; you've used firearms to effect a jail break!"

Ed laughed harshly. "That would all be true—if you weren't a crooked extortionist."

"Prove it!"

"I'll have Myra Thorpe testify—"

Bayne jeered. "All she can testify to is that she was arrested and sentenced for speeding—and that after she was released she was arrested again for murder. We have a right to do that if we suspect any one of murder—"

"But you have no right to threaten to poison them!"

"I deny anything like that—"

He was interrupted by the entrance of Jerry and Myra from the jail. Jerry was grinning broadly. "Salucci doesn't like it in his cell," he announced. "Salucci wants to turn State's evidence."

"Ah!" said Ed. He looked at Bayne. "There you go! Salucci will put you behind bars!"

Just then the telephone on the desk rang. Bayne instinctively reached for it with his left hand, but Ed Race swept it up.

"This is State Police Barracks. We've just picked up a man named Gluckner who is supposed to be a deputy sheriff. He was unconscious, and one of our troopers recognized him as being wanted for murder in Pennsylvania."

"Let me talk to him," Ed said.

In a moment he was talking to Gluckner. "You're in a spot," he said. "Maybe I could help you. You aren't afraid of Bayne any more, are you?"

"Hell, no. That was the rap he was holding over my head."

"If you testify against Bayne, it may induce the Pennsylvania courts to grant you clemency. Bayne can't do anything for you. I've got him right here at the point of my gun."

"Okay," said Gluckner. "I'll talk."

"Stick around," Ed told him. "I'll be right over."

He hung up, and grinned down at Bayne, who was slumped in his chair, nursing his wrist.

"Damn you," he whispered. "I was going good. I had the tightest racket in the world. I thought nobody could touch me. But you broke it up. How the hell do you do it?"

Ed Race chuckled. He put his hand on Jerry Merker's shoulder.

"We do it by magic!" he said.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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