Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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It took more than fast forty-fives to buck a crook of Pete Lucie's stamp... But Ed Race could juggle wits as well as weapons.
THE message to stop in at Ma Gibson's had been urgent. Ed Race had picked it up at the desk at the Longmont Hotel, where he always stayed when he played New York.
Earlier in the day, immediately after checking in at the Longmont, he had brought the big forty-fives that he used in his star vaudeville juggling act over to Ma Gibson's place, to be thoroughly overhauled. She ran a little old-fashioned gunsmith and repairing shop on Forty-fifth Street, and Ed never failed to have her go over his revolvers when he hit town.
Now he wondered why she had left so urgent a message. He couldn't call her up, for she had no phone in the place, so the only thing to do was to go there.
However, he did not head directly for his destination; there was something else that had been on his mind all day and which he decided to take care of now.
For he knew that he had been trailed ever since he arrived at Grand Central Station; trailed by a man who stuck like a leech, but had not been particularly successful in concealing the fact.
Ed stopped now under the marquee of the Grand Theater, sensed rather than saw that his shadow had stopped not ten feet behind him. Ed glanced up at the electric sign over the entrance, which flashed his own name—The Masked Marksman. Ed still got a thrill out of seeing himself up in the bright lights in the Big Town. His specialty act was deservedly headlined. It consisted of juggling the six heavy forty-fives to which he gave such loving care—juggling them as guns had never been juggled before, with the climax of the act coming when he had three of the revolvers in play in the air at once, and shot out the flames of a row of candles thirty feet across the stage with each gun in turn as it came down into his hand. The Masked Marksman was in a class by himself in vaudeville.
Not even the fact that he had a sideline which furnished plenty of excitement could wean him away from his first love—the stage. His sideline was that of private detective, and though Ed Race held licenses to operate in a dozen states, he preferred to revel in the crashing plaudits of a packed house night after night, as he performed his miraculous feats of dexterous juggling and unequalled marksmanship behind the warm footlights.
Now as he stood under the marquee of the Grand, his mind was divided between the electric sign and the problem of why he was being shadowed. Ed was in New York now, though it was not in his regular schedule until January, through a special rearrangement of his bookings at the request of the District Attorney's office; he was wanted to testify as a witness in a case on the calendar of the Court of General Sessions for that week. Perhaps this trailer...
Ed noted his shadow out of the corner of one eye, glanced at his wristwatch. It was eight-thirty—almost two hours before he had to go on. His eyes gleamed as he stepped up to the ticket booth, counted out eighty-three cents, and got a ticket. His trailer would no doubt think he was crazy—paying admission to the show he was appearing in. In the glass of the booth he saw the man's reflection; he had joined the line right behind him. Ed nudged with his arm at the forty-five strapped under his left armpit, and stepped back heavily, the heel of his shoe crushing into the man's instep.
His maneuver was rewarded with a bellow of rage. The man, his face contorted with pain, reached out and gripped Ed by the shoulder. "Get off my foot, you monkey!" he howled.
Ed got off the foot, whirled around, and gripped the man by the front of his coat. He said very calmly, "You shoved me and you called me names. I'm not a monkey." The man was heavy, but Ed shook him easily, his fingers retaining their grip on his coat lapels. "I'm going to call a policeman and have you arrested for using abusive language."
THE evening throngs were pouring into Broadway at this hour, and it took no time for a crowd to gather. Ed saw Detective Sergeant Bland shoving through the crowd, and started to grin.
Bland demanded, "What's this, anyway?" Then he saw Ed Race and the other man, and his face fell; he looked sheepish.
Ed, still clutching the man's coat, said, "Hello, Steve. This man shoved me and used abusive language. It's terrible the way some people have no manners."
Bland glared at the man Ed was holding, took Ed's arm and guided them both into the lobby of the theater. When they were away from the crowd Bland said to the heavy man, "You're a hell of a trailer, Grogan. Here I drag you all the way in from Richmond so we'll have someone that Race wouldn't remember, and the first crack out of the box, he spots you!"
Grogan stared murderously at Ed, mumbled, "He stepped on my foot. I'll break his neck."
Ed said nothing, grinning broadly as if he was enjoying himself. Bland shrugged disgustedly. "All right, Grogan. Beat it back to the precinct house and report out. You can go home. You're no damn good here anymore." He gave the plainclothes man a little shove, and sent him on his way.
Ed kept on grinning, extracted a cigarette from a pack, offered one to Bland, who waved it away impatiently. "Look, Race," he burst out, "I only put the tail on you for your own good. Tomorrow, Orpen goes on trial for murder and kidnapping. It took us almost a year to catch him, and you're the people's star witness."
Bland poked a finger up, wagged it in Ed's face, and went on. "But you know damn well that Orpen's got powerful backing—you know as well as I, that he isn't the Big Gun. It's Pete Lucie that really figured out that snatch racket for Orpen; only nobody can touch Lucie. And Lucie isn't going to let his man take the rap—if only to keep up his reputation." Bland stopped a minute, regarded Ed with smoldering eyes. "You're a crazy fool for walking the streets tonight, for even thinking about stepping onto the stage of this theater tonight. You won't live till morning if you don't have some kind of protection."
Ed flicked the ash from his cigarette. "So you give me that ham of a Grogan? Thanks. I can do better by myself. When I yell for help it'll be plenty time for you to butt in."
Bland bit his lip. "I've half a mind to take you in and hold you till tomorrow. You'll be a hell of a lot safer in a cell tonight."
"Why don't you try it, Steve?" Ed asked softly. "I can tell you right now that my act goes on tonight—Lucie or no Lucie. I haven't missed an appearance in six years, and I'm not starting now. And if you should have any cockeyed ideas about taking me in, Steve, I warn you that the shock of being arrested would completely ruin my memory. I bet Orpen would get an acquittal without my testimony."
Bland turned away resignedly. "Don't I know it? Well, all I can say is, take care of yourself. And after the trial—I hope you croak!"
Ed thoughtfully watched the detective sergeant's back mingle with the sidewalk throng. He was watchful now, awake to his danger; and without appearing to do so, he was inspecting the men entering the lobby of the theater. Abruptly his eyes narrowed.
Two men who had bought tickets while he was talking to Bland were crossing the lobby toward the doorman, studiously avoiding looking at him. Ed remembered them both very well—Gene Glutz and Joe Spinelli. They were two of Pete Lucie's shock troops over at the Wineland Casino on Forty-fourth, where everything went, and where Lucie made his headquarters as head of the fastest growing heroin and cocaine business in the country. Ed thought it strange that these two should suddenly exhibit an interest in vaudeville just as the Wineland was opening for the evening.
He followed them past the ticket taker, through the door, into the inside lobby. They were going slowly, side by side, toward the orchestra entrance. Ed turned right, started up the stairs toward the mezzanine. His back was to them now; he couldn't see what they were doing.
A couple was going up just ahead of Ed, the young man's hand caressingly on the girl's shoulder. A middle-aged woman appeared at the head of the stairs, on the way down. She came down toward Ed, tactfully refraining from looking at the ascending couple in front of him; instead she glanced down toward the foot of the stairs. Ed watched her, saw her eyes widen with amazement and sudden fright.
Ed stopped and whirled. His gun was out of its shoulder holster and barking with flaming streaks of death down at the figures of Glutz and Spinelli, who stood at the foot of the stairs, each with a heavy automatic in his hand!
ED'S action had been a symphony of coordinated rhythm, like his timed movements on the stage. Glutz was the first one hit, and his body hurtled backward, struck the deep carpeting, bounced once, rolled, jerked, and lay still. Spinelli's gun exploded again and again as his convulsively twitching fingers contracted on it; but the muzzle was in the air, and the slugs shattered glass in the immense chandelier in the ceiling. Ed's second shot had got him just over the heart, as he was raising his gun.
The rumbling of the explosions came back from the roof of the theater, increased to a tremendous crescendo by the acoustic properties of the place. Mingled with the roaring echoes were the screams of women and the excited shouts of men. Ed turned, holstered his revolver, and dashed up the steps past the dazed couple, past the limp body of the middle-aged woman who had fainted after uttering a single shriek.
Upstairs, a wasp-waisted usher came running toward him, bewilderedly looking for the source of the trouble. He paid no attention to Ed, and the actor slipped past him into the darkness of the mezzanine. Patrons were turning uneasily in their seats, craning necks, their attention distracted from the acrobatic troupe that occupied the stage.
Ed Race made his way quietly along the rear of the mezzanine to the other side of the house. He went out into the corridor, passed two more scurrying ushers, and descended the stairs which brought him out at the Forty-third Street exit.
A radio car was screaming its way east against the one-way traffic. Ed ducked across the street after it passed, and headed west, walking quickly, but not fast enough to attract attention. It would have been foolhardy to remain behind to be picked up by the police. The shooting was as clear a case of self-defense as could be found, but even if he had been able to bulldoze Bland into letting him go, it would have meant a trip down to headquarters, delay, while Ma Gibson was waiting for him.
He passed rapidly growing numbers of people hastening toward Broadway, attracted by the radio car sirens and by the sight of the crowd that had formed as if by magic in front of the Grand Theater. He turned the corner into Eighth Avenue, went up to Forty-fifth, and walked over a half-block. He descended three steps into a dimly lit store in the basement of a private house. The built-in window of the store was littered with junk, knickknacks and guns. The only lettering on the window was the name, Gibson's.
The store was long and narrow, with a small counter at the rear. When the door opened, a bell jangled upstairs. A moment later heavy footsteps sounded, the curtain behind the counter parted, and a big woman appeared.
She weighed fully two hundred and ten pounds, and she waddled. She had four chins and pinpoint eyes, but there was a smile of good nature on her face that made one forget the fat. She was comparatively young, perhaps not over forty, and her black hair was combed severely back from her ears, which looked ridiculously small in juxtaposition to the rest of her.
Ed said, "Hello, Ma, anything wrong? Are my guns ready?"
She nodded. Though her eyes reflected nothing of what she felt, there was deep perturbation in her voice. "They're ready, Ed. But it wasn't about that. I shouldn't really have called you; but I couldn't help it—I was so worried. It's about—Judy!"
Though he had never met her, Ed had heard much about Judy, Ma Gibson's only daughter, whom she supported at boarding school out of the small income she derived from the store.
"What about her?" he asked. "I hope she's not in any trouble."
"It may be, Ed. She always writes me twice a week, and I write her. You know, I never have her come home for the holidays; I'm always afraid that somebody'll whisper in her ear that her mother was once—"
"Never mind," Ed said hastily. "Let's not mention it. You've quit all that now."
"Thanks to you, Ed." She leaned over the counter, and there was a depth of emotion in her face that one would not have thought possible. "Thanks to you, I've been able to bring Judy up like a lady. But now, I don't know—"
She stopped, and gulped.
"Go on," Ed urged. "Tell me all about it."
"Well, she hasn't written for a week, hasn't answered my letters. Today, I got to worrying, and I went out and called up the school on the long distance. And what do you think, Ed? They told me that Judy hasn't been there all day. She hasn't been seen since last night! They were writing to me about it today!"
Ed said, "There must be a logical explanation of it. Tell you what I'll do. Tonight, after the show, I'll take a late train up there, and look the situation over—provided she hasn't been heard from by then."
Ma Gibson said fervently, "Thanks, Ed. I knew you'd do it. I—can't go myself. I don't want her swell chums to see—what kind of a mother Judy has!"
Ed lowered his yes. "All right, Ma, that's settled. Now—" He took out his revolver—the one he had used in the Grand—and laid it on the counter. "Bury that for me."
She picked up the revolver, looked at him with troubled eyes. "You in a jam, Ed?" Suddenly she put a pudgy hand on his sleeve. "It ain't that Glutz and Spinelli killing, is it? I got it on the shortwave."
"Never mind, Ma," Ed rebuked her. "Just get to work."
He lit a cigarette and waited for her to return. Soon there came the whirring of an electric file from behind the curtain, and after a few minutes she came back, put the revolver down on the counter.
"That'll fool 'em," she said. "I filed the breech smooth, then I put a couple of extra furrows in it. If they get this gun down in the ballistics bureau, it'll never shoot a bullet like any that it ever shot before. You practically got a new gun, Ed, but with the same number." At the same time she lifted a neatly wrapped parcel from under the counter, handed it over to him. "There's your six regulars, all cleaned and oiled."
Ed put a fifty-dollar bill on the counter and started out. "Don't worry any about Judy, Ma Gibson," he called back to her. "I'll start up there tonight."
He worked his way back to Eighth, then down again to Forty-fourth, keeping a wary eye on the passing crowds, as well as on cars that might house machine-gunners. Pete Lucie would know about the Grand Theater business by this time; would, no doubt, be trying again. Lucie was not the kind of man to give up—especially in a matter like this.
However, nothing happened, and Ed walked unmolested into the Wineland Casino—Lucie's headquarters. He looked at his wristwatch. Nine-fifteen—plenty of time before he'd have to go on at the Grand.
The town was coming to life; taxis were depositing parties at the Casino door; the gay strains of dance music came from the dining room on the first floor.
Ed crowded into the elevator with half a dozen other people, remained there while most of them got off at the dining-room floor. Two men who seemed bent on a wild night of gambling stayed on and got off at the next floor, where the games were in progress behind steel doors. That left only Ed and one man and a woman. The woman was young, a little embarrassed; the man, eager. They got out at the fourth, where the private dining rooms were located.
The elevator operator seemed a little surprised to find he still had a passenger. Ed said, "I'll take the top."
The operator was a beefy man with coarse features, who looked out of place in the natty khaki uniform provided by the Wineland. "There's nothing upstairs, mister," he said. "Whachu want—eat? That's downstairs."
"I want to see Pete Lucie," Ed told him. "In the office upstairs!"
The operator started the car downward. "Nobody goes up there. You'll have to talk to the manager on the second floor."
"Suppose we cut the argument short," Ed suggested. He poked his revolver into the man's ribs.
The operator stiffened when he felt the gun, brought the car to a halt between the third and fourth floors. He turned slowly, surveyed Ed. "What is this, a stickup?"
"Hell, no. Just a little social call. I'm Ed Race. I thought I'd step in and save Lucie the trouble of sending out for me."
The man stared at him, then shrugged. "Race, huh? I heard you was crazy." He pushed the lever over, shot the car upward again. "Well, you're askin' for it. It'll be your own funeral."
At the top Ed got out, waited while the operator closed the gate and shot the cage downward. The last thing he saw as the gate closed was the broken-toothed grin of mockery on the operator's face.
ED was in a narrow corridor. In the wall opposite was a small grilled window, and, a few feet to the left, a heavy door. There was nobody at the window. Ed peered through it and saw that it opened into a sort of anteroom. Beyond the anteroom was a short hall with another door at the end.
Just beneath the window was a small monitor switchboard. It started to buzz with an incoming call, and Ed put down on the floor his package with the oiled revolvers, reached a hand in, depressed the end key, and lifted the headset from its hook on the board.
"Hello," he said.
The voice of the elevator operator came to him. "Hello, Ryker? Say, that was Ed Race himself I just took up. I couldn't help it—he put a gun to my back. Do you want I should send some of the boys up?"
Ed growled, "No!" disguising his voice. "Leave this floor alone till you're called."
He clicked the key up, replaced the headset on its hook. Then he went to the door and tried it. It was locked. His little black bag, containing instruments that would have opened the lock without difficulty, was back at the hotel, where it could do him no good now.
He returned to the grilled window, reached in and depressed the operator's key. Then he pressed the key just beneath it, and the phone bell on the monitor board began to ring. Ed kept his finger on the bell key for a moment, rang it again, then pulled his arm out from between the bars of the window and pressed himself against the wall, taking his revolver out again.
In a minute the door at the far end of the hall opened, and a stocky, broad-shouldered man came out, calling back into the room, "It was ringing in here, Chief. That dopey dame must have forgot to connect the board inside."
The stocky man closed the connecting door and came over to the switchboard. He bent to lift the headset, and Ed stuck his gun through the grille-work. The muzzle just touched the man's temple, and he sprang back with a startled oath.
"Take it easy, Mister Ryker," Ed said.
Ryker gasped. "How the hell did you get up here, Race?"
"That's another one of those puzzles." Ed's voice became curt. "Just walk over and unlock that door from the inside. Without arguments!" he added as the other raised his hand in a gesture of refusal.
Ryker looked into Ed's steady eyes, lowered his gaze, and went to the door. He unlocked it, swung it open. "What now?" he asked sulkily.
Ed had his gun through the grille, trained on Ryker. "Now," he ordered, "lift those mitts of yours over your head and stand still."
Ryker raised his hands. Ed withdrew his arm from the grille, leaped to the doorway.
But Ryker had taken advantage of the moment during which he was not covered. His hand flashed down toward his armpit. Ed came through the open doorway just as Ryker's gun was halfway out. Ed didn't hit him with his revolver; but acting with the speed which had made his motions on the stage resemble masterpieces of swift precision, he drove his left fist out into Ryker's face in a pistonlike blow.
Ryker was catapulted backward into a filing cabinet. The cabinet tipped under the sudden impact and went down over on the floor with a resounding crash. Ryker joined the cabinet on the floor and lay still.
Ed stepped into the office after him, just as the connecting door at the far end of the short hall was thrown open. The man who stood in the doorway was tall, thin almost to emaciation, with deep-sunk eyes and gaunt cheeks—Pete Lucie.
He, too, had a gun in his hand. His eyes flicked from the unconscious Ryker, sprawled over the cabinet, to Ed. He said in a cold, precise voice, "What do you want, Race?"
Ed smiled thinly. "Your friends—Glutz and Spinelli—" he told Lucie, "have been trying to use me for a target. It gave me an idea for a new routine for my act... I'm going to practice making a human sieve—and I'm starting with you."
LUCIE'S face paled. He started to raise his gun. Ed had his revolver swinging easy in his hand, waiting for the other's gun to come up before raising it to fire. But Lucie suddenly lowered his gun.
"Let's talk about it, Race," he said in the same expressionless voice.
"Okay," Ed told him. "Make your speech."
Lucie was silent for a moment, appraising the actor-detective. He was a keen judge of human nature, which accounted for his success and power. Finally he spoke, making his bid for truce.
"It's true, Race," he said, "that I've—sent the boys after you. Glutz and Spinelli were only the first—teasers, sort of. I've already worked out another stunt for taking care of you. In fact, I've been planning it for a week now, and it's sure-fire—even if I should get killed! The works are in for you, Race. It's impossible for you to live till morning unless I, personally, change the plans. Will you take fifty grand in cash and leave New York now?"
Ed shook his head. "I've got a show on tonight, Lucie. And besides, Orpen was a dirty, double-crossing skunk, and I'm giving my testimony in court tomorrow—and taking my chances on your plans. And maybe Orpen will open up when he faces the chair, and maybe that'll be the end of Pete Lucie."
Slowly and carefully Lucie put his gun back in his pocket, making sure that his hand didn't jerk when he did it. "I've seen your act on the stage, Race," he said then, "and I'm not trading shots with you. If you came here to kill me, it'll do you no good. You shoot me now, and there'd be a hundred people up here in a minute. My body'd be found without a gun in my hand—and you can't get away with cold-blooded murder."
Ed had no chance to answer, for the elevator door out in the corridor clanged open. He glanced through the grilled window, and hastily pocketed his revolver. For Detective Sergeant Bland and another plainclothes man had stepped out of the cage.
Lucie's face broke into a smile of relief. He exclaimed, as Bland stepped through the doorway, "You certainly are welcome, Sergeant! This madman was beginning to get on my nerves."
Bland nodded curtly to Lucie, and said glumly to Ed, "I guessed you'd come up here. It's just like a crazy actor. Sorry, Ed, but I got to place you under arrest for the killing of Glutz and Spinelli. Let's have your gun."
"Sure," Ed grinned. He handed over the revolver.
Lucie stepped forward. "Look here, Sergeant, this man knocked out Ryker here, and threatened to kill me—said he'd make a human sieve out of me. It's a good thing you came when you did!"
Bland grunted as he led Ed Race out. "I'm damn sorry I didn't get held up five minutes or so. It would be a good thing for the town."
Lucie had recovered his poise. Disregarding Bland, he called after Ed, "Don't forget to be careful tonight, Race—in case they don't put you in jail!"
JOHN HAGAN, Inspector of Homicide, looked more like an insurance salesman than a cop. He was a man of slight build who affected an extreme nattiness of dress. His blue serge, double-breasted suit was always carefully pressed, while his tie, socks and shirt always matched in an appropriate shade of blue. His passion for blue was carried out further in the handkerchief that peeped out of his breast pocket.
Ed Race, who, being an actor, might have been expected to be careful of his appearance, made a striking contrast to the inspector in his rumpled gray suit, white shirt and nondescript tie. He sat on the desk now, grinning down at Hagan.
"I'll bet you five bucks," Ed was saying, "that my gun doesn't check with the bullets that came out of Glutz and Spinelli."
Hagan glowered up at him. "Lay off the innocent stuff, Race. Bland saw you go in. You always use forty-fives. Forty-five slugs were found in both those stiffs. The old dame couldn't pick you out of the lineup because she was all broken up. It's just your luck so far, that the only one who saw the actual shooting should be a fidgety old dame." He leaned forward in the swivel chair, and his hard features twisted themselves into a smile that was a travesty of mocking sweetness. "I suppose when Bland comes up and reports that Ballistics finds it's your gun that fired the slugs, you'll be the most surprised person on earth. You just won't be able to understand how it could have happened! Haha! What a laugh that'll be!"
Ed kept on grinning. "I tell you, Hagan, you aren't going to get any kind of report like that from Ballistics."
Hagan guffawed. "The hand is quicker than the eye—yah! All you wise birds trip up. You're licked, Race." He became confidential. "Why don't you come through with the story, Race? No jury would convict you. It's a perfect S. D.—they gunned down on you, and you shot them in self-defense. Better talk now; after the report comes in I might not want to listen to you."
He looked up as the door opened and Bland came in, looking glum. He had Ed's gun, which he handed back to him. "No soap, Inspector," he told Hagan. "The slugs in Spinelli and Glutz were never fired from this gun. Maybe it was one of those." He indicated the opened package of guns which Ed had gotten at Ma Gibson's, and which they had brought along from Lucie's office.
Ed holstered the gun, stood off the desk. "Sure," he said bitterly. "If I didn't do it one way, I did it another. You know damn well those six guns haven't been fired—they're all freshly oiled and cleaned. Why don't you admit your case is as flat as a pancake? Anyway"—he poked Bland in the chest—"you guys are a swift pain in the neck. Why don't you forget about it when somebody does you a favor and rubs out two leeches like Glutz and Spinelli!"
He turned to Hagan and said, "Well, your honor—I await your apologies!"
Hagan half-rose in his chair, spluttering. "Why, you—you—"
He was saved the necessity of finding an appropriate word by the abrupt ringing of the telephone. He glowered at Ed, then picked up the phone. "Hagan talking," he growled. "Yeah, he's right here. Wait a minute." He handed the phone to Ed. "Another stunt of cheap hybrid actors," he remarked sourly. "Having themselves paged wherever they go!"
Ed took the instrument, and his eyes snapped to attention at the first words of Ma Gibson at the other end. "Ed!" she exclaimed. And it was the first time he had heard her on the verge of hysterics. "Oh, Ed, I know you're in trouble, but there's nobody else I can call. I just got a special delivery letter from her, Ed. Do you want I should read it to you?"
Ed's voice was suddenly parched. Though he had never met Judy, he knew she was the very life of this motherly woman.
"Read it," he said huskily. He saw the eyes of both Hagan and Bland on him, but paid them no attention. "Go on, read it!"
"'Dear Ma,' it says, 'I am quitting school. This is no place for me after what I know. I'm going to New York, but not to live with you. Ma, I've found out what you used to be; and I know who made you do it. And I can't face you till I've killed the man who made you commit crimes. I've learned all about him. I know where to meet him. After I've killed him I'll come back to you. Dear Mother, I can't stand to think of all the sacrifices you've made to keep me in school. Goodbye, Ma. I'll see you soon.'"
Ma Gibson's voice ended in a half-gasp as she finished reading. "What does it mean, Ed? I don't understand what she's talking about. There's no man that made me commit crimes. It sounds like a dope dream. Somebody's told her all about me—and twisted the story. What'll I do? Think of Judy somewhere in the city, bent on murdering a man!"
"Take it easy, Ma," Ed soothed her. "Tell you what you do—you come over to my hotel right away. I'll meet you there. Now don't let yourself break up—it won't help you at all. There's a nice girl."
When he hung up, his mouth was a grim line. "You holding me, Hagan?" he demanded sharply.
"I suppose not," Hagan grumbled. "Just so you do your proper stuff at the Orpen trial in the morning. And don't forget, you ham actor, that I could slam you in a cell if I wanted to. So don't go around beefing that we ride you!"
Ed was wrapping up his guns. "Sure not. You love me—like a stepbrother with the mumps. The only reason you're not sticking me in the can is because you want my testimony tomorrow." Then, as Hagan started to get red in the face, he added hastily, "But don't worry—I'll go through for you." He swung around and buttonholed Bland. "You'd know about this, Steve. How's Pete Lucie's snow racket coming along? Has he been out of town in the last few weeks?"
"We can't get a thing on him on the snow angle—or any other angle, for that matter. And the Feds can't get to first base on him either. About his being out of town, he was up in Cliffside last week, and again the day before yesterday. He was tailed, but the only report I could get was that he was hanging around with some of the co-eds up there. Why? You still after him?"
Ed was on his way out. "Uh-huh."
Bland watched him disappear into the corridor, then shrugged and turned to Hagan. "That boy is sure hard to stop when he's rubbed the wrong way. I think Lucie picked himself a Tartar this time."
"I wish the lad luck," Hagan grumbled. "He riles me at times, but—I sorta like him in spite of himself."
Bland whistled. "If you ever told that to Ed Race he'd drop dead of the shock!"
ED RACE was extremely careful on his way back to the Longmont, looking out for Pete Lucie's next offensive. But nothing happened; evidently Lucie was planning something more complicated than hired gunmen this time.
At the hotel he left his package at the desk. When he got his key the clerk said to him, "There's a girl waiting for you in the rear lounge, Mr. Race. She wouldn't give her name."
"What kind of girl?" Ed asked.
The clerk smiled knowingly. "She's about seventeen or eighteen. I didn't think she was your style, but she kept insisting she had to see you. So I told her to wait, figuring you'd probably stop in on the way to the theater. She's not bad, Mr. Race. You got good taste."
"Why don't you go and wash your brains with soap," Ed said. "You've got a dirty mind."
He went into the rear lounge. There were only two people in it as he entered. One was a girl whom he immediately recognized from pictures Ma Gibson had fondly showed him. Her long, bobbed hair was a deep, soft brown; she wore a simple tailored suit, and held a purse in her lap. It was her eyes that interested Ed; they were black, widely dilated.
The other person was a man who sat in the far corner in an easy chair, reading a newspaper. The paper was spread so that it hid the upper part of his body.
Ed came up to the end table alongside which the girl sat, rested his hands on it and said, "Did you want to see me, Miss Gibson? My name is Race."
She had watched his approach from the door, her hands moving nervously in her lap. She looked up at him now, her little mouth pressed tight, her eyes burning into his.
"Edward Race?" she asked. He nodded.
She arose, fumbling in her handbag. "Edward Race," she said as if repeating a lesson by heart, "I've come to kill you for what you did to my mother. You're a beast!"
She pulled a small, ivory-handled revolver from the purse.
Ed acted with concentrated speed. His two hands clutched the end table, and he heaved. The table went over, catching her in the legs, driving her backwards. She lost her balance, stumbled backward on her heels.
Ed let go of the end table, allowed it to fall, and leaped around it. He seized the hand which held her gun, caught her as she fell, held her helpless.
She struggled to wrench her hand free, sobbing in frustration as she realized she was beaten. Ed's arm tightened around her slim waist. His left hand squeezed until the revolver fell to the floor.
She shrieked again and again, "Damn you, damn you, damn you! I'll kill you!"
Her voice reached a high pitch of hysteria, resounding shrilly through the whole hotel. Ed slapped her hard in the face—the best treatment for hysterics.
"You little fool! You've been listening to stories! And you've been fed dope! You're out of your head!"
Suddenly she sagged in his arms.
There was a crowd milling in the doorway behind Ed. He looked up just in time to see that the man who had been reading the newspaper had arisen from the easy chair in the corner and was on the way out through the rear door. Ed started to lower the body of Judy Gibson to the chair, when the man turned.
Ed's eyes narrowed, for the man now had a handkerchief over the lower part of his face, and a gun in his hand, which he was aiming at them.
Instead of lowering the girl into the chair, Ed swung her inert body in a continuous sweep to the floor, pushed her away from him, and rolled over. His hand clutched Judy's gun, which was lying on the thick carpet, came up with it and fired once—before the other's gun exploded!
The action had been a single, continuous blur of motion—almost instinctive with Ed, for his muscles were trained to perfect coordination by daily performances on the stage.
The man in the doorway uttered a screech like a frightened hen. He jumped in the air as if stung. Then he collapsed.
Ed dropped the revolver and got to his feet. The crowd from outside stormed in now that the shooting was over, and several officious men bent over Judy.
Ed said, "She's not hurt—just fainted."
Someone brought water, and soon Judy was sitting up with a dazed expression, as if she were coming out of a bad dream. From the doorway came a low moan, and Ma Gibson rushed to her side, cradled the girl's head in her arm.
Ed started to walk over to the dead man in the rear doorway. He stopped, heard Inspector Hagan's booming voice.
Hagan took in the scene in a twinkling, rushed past Ed and snatched the handkerchief from the dead man's face.
"It's Lucie!" he gasped.
"Yeah," said Ed. "And this time I'm not admitting I shot him—I'm boasting of it!" He glanced at his wristwatch. "Hell! I got a curtain call at the Grand in fifteen minutes!"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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