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LEROY YERXA

LOUIE'S CAT EYE

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RGL e-Book Cover 2017

First published in Fantastic Adventures, December 1942
This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-10-05
Produced by Jerry Yeager and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Fantastic Adventures, December 1942, with "Louie's Cat Eye"



Louie got fired—and all he knew was taking pictures. Well, he's show the boss! So he bought a junky camera with a cat's eye for a lens—and took a pic of the end of the world!



Illustration

Illustration by Russell Milburn.



"LOUIE!" Sam Wallace's voice cracked out like a whip from the city desk. Louie approached slowly.

"Want me, Chief?" The question was unnecessary. He knew damned well what was coming. Louie's five feet of skin and bones were never cut out for a press photographer. He'd been waiting a long time for Wallace to find it out.

Sam looked up again from under the green eye-shade, squinted and growled.

"You're fired."

Louie gulped. He sidled around behind Wallace, forgetting the momentarily silenced typewriters and side-grins that greeted his downfall.

Sam was studying page one of the competitive City Journal. It carried a three column blowup of the Tony Rezzcheck funeral. It was a nice shot of a big-time gangster making his last trip to the cemetery. At Wallace's elbow a glossy photo spelled Louie's last stand. He had been on the Rezzcheck job—had one camera smashed by Tony's playboys, and finally come home with a nice print of a man's shoulder. It was a clear, well defined shoulder, perfect for reproduction purposes, but Sam didn't like it.

Louie gulped and departed.

The boys downstairs were very quiet when Louie came in. He stopped at the door, lips twisted into a wry grin.

"Exit one lousy photographer," he said.

Louie needed a beer. He took a few things from the locker. Pat Mullens stopped him at the outer door, looking sheepish.

"Heard you busted your box on that last job," he muttered. "Here's an old one I don't use much. Take it."

"Thanks, Pat. I can get along."

Louie choked and pushed past him. He couldn't see well in the sunlight outside. The light brought tears into his eyes. The Post gang were swell to a guy. Too darn swell. He fumbled in the baggy tweed coat and drew out the last ten-spot. Kissing it tenderly, Louie headed for Ray's Beer Hall.

"Whatever's on tap," he requested, and Ray slid a foamy one across the polished mahogany.

"What's the matter?" Ray looked him over carefully. "You look lower than a busted kite."

"I am," Louie answered, and slid down off the stool.

The telephone jangled loudly in the darkness at the other end of the bar.

"Yeah?" Ray answered it. "Hey, Brock," he said. "It's your girl. She says she expected you'd be here."

Louie came on the double, clutching the receiver to his ear.

"Kitty?" he questioned eagerly. 'Hello, Honey, where the devil are you?"

A pleasant tinkle of laughter came over the wire.

"Hello, Napoleon." It was Kitty Wallace, all right, fresh, and vibrant as a lake-shore breeze. "I'm in California. I've got such grand news, I had to call you at once—"

"California!" Louie's voice was incredulously startled, but he was singing inside at the sound of her voice. "When are you coming home?"

Kitty laughed again.

"Lonely?"

"I'm plenty low."

Louie told her about the job. Kitty was deeply concerned.

"But I'll be home tomorrow, cave man." She had a way of saying it that wasn't hard to take. "What I've got to tell you will make everything all right again."

"Yeah?" Louie was worried. "What do we furnish the bungalow with?"

"Love," Kitty answered. "And you know what else—"

"Your three minutes are up," the harsh, metallic voice of the long-distance operator cut in.

"Bye, bye," Kitty said. "Lots of kisses, and I'm taking the plane to night."

The receiver clicked. Louie stood very still for a minute, listening. Then he turned away toward State Street.

"California," he groaned. "A plane . . . What a girl!" And what was all this surprise business?


DOWN the street, he hesitated in front of Joe's pawn shop. Ten bucks, less one beer. He went in, feeling more comfortable in the half-lighted, shabby room. Joe came from the back room, hunched forward with a critical eye.

"Mr. Brock," he said with suspicion in his voice, "I ain't buying today."

"I am," Louie said shortly. He started to paw over the collection of battered cameras on the end of the counter. Joe leaned over, his stubble-covered chin close to Louie's.

"It's a camera you want?"

"You ain't got one in the joint," Louie was disgusted. "But I might take one of these boxes."

"I got good cameras." Joe was rising to the battle. He pushed the best of the lot forward. "A hundred-dollar Speed Graphic, this is, and in fine shape."

He turned it in his hairy fingers.

"Without a lens," Louie reminded him.

"So." Joe was unruffled. "I'm selling you a hundred-buck camera for ten ones, without lens."

"Ain't you got an old one I can use," Louie was beginning to get ideas. "That dead-eye won't help any."

Joe rummaged around in a grimy box. There was glass of all types in it. At last he drew something out and screwed it quickly into the camera.

"That's a good one." He held it up for Louie's approval.

The box was tight enough—no pin holes, but the lens stared at him like a cat's eye. It was pale green, with a deeper, pupil-like circle in the center.

"This is a glass eye," he sputtered, drawing back. "What in hell you trying to sell me?"

"Now listen, Mr. Brock," Joe clouded suddenly, "I'm selling you a hundred-buck camera, not the lens. Do you buy, or do I turn you around and throw you out?"

Brock hesitated.

"I'll take it," he said, "for five bucks."

Joe seemed about to disintegrate. Then realizing he still had the upper edge of the deal he held out his hand for the cash.

"Give."

Louie handed him the money and turned. His eye caught the twelve-inch figure of a cat sitting on a shelf above the door. It was of metal, and black with age. One green eye winked from the head as though begging for its mate.

"A very valuable number," Joe was on the trail of the other five, "A genuine Egyptian cat, dug from ancient ruins. Price, five bucks."

"What the hell would I do with a one-eyed cat?" Louie shot back. He left the shop and headed up State toward Madison. There was a plate left in the camera. An intriguing idea entered his mind. Why not take a shot and see how the world looked through a cat's eye? In front of the First National he spotted an old beggar. Lifting the camera, he aimed carelessly and released the shutter.


IN the dark-room under Mrs. Sherrigan's hall stairs, he went to work. With fresh chemicals mixed, Louie turned out the light and started making prints of his best work. Some of these were bound to sell to the syndicates. Cash was hash right now, and he needed food badly.

An hour later he stopped, then remembered the plate in Joe's bargain camera. Drawing it out, he doused it in the developer. To Louie's surprise dark spots began to appear on the face of the negative. The crazy lens had worked. Sweat oozed on his forehead and he bent over tensely. The blackness was spreading and figures stood out plainly. He nursed the plate into the hypo. Working carefully now he washed the negative and placed it on the drying-rack. It was too dark to make out the image.

Later, out in the brightness of the hall, he looked at what the cat-eye lens had captured. Louie almost passed out. There wasn't any beggar at all. This was a perfect shot of two coppers fighting a death battle with what seemed to be three bank robbers. He sat down on the stairs, wiping his face with a chemical-stained sleeve. It was an on-the-scene shot if he'd ever dreamed of one, and what staff photographer hadn't?

Dashing back to the dark room, Louie pulled down the enlarger and went to work. Common sense told him there hadn't been a robbery at the First National in ten years. He tried to convince himself as he stared at the finished prints, that he, Louie Brock, had seen this with his own eyes. It was no use. He'd seen one seedy-looking bum and that was all. Mumbling, he slipped the print into an envelope, put it carefully inside his coat and headed for Ray's.


"NOPE," Pat Mullens shook his head. "I haven't heard about it, and if the First National had been busted open, Sam woulda had me down there in twenty minutes."

"That's funny," Louie had to lie. "I heard a couple of guys talking. Must have been listening backward." He gulped another tall one and thumped the glass down with a note of finality.

"Next one's on the house," Ray offered.

"Thanks, fella," Louie climbed down. "Me—I need sleep, and very bad."

Pat looked after him as he went out the door. He turned to Ray.

"Funny what losing a job will do to a guy," he offered. "Louie's acting wilder than a tire-salesman."


WHEN Louie Brock woke up it was raining. The clock told him night was gone by five hours and Kitty would have long since arrived by the morning plane. His clogged nostrils smelled news. It whipped up through the smoky air of West Madison and brought his bare feet out on the damp floor. Then he realized what had called him from his dream of a thousand cat's eyes all staring at once.

A newsie was howling from the street.

"Hi-Ya. Read all about it. Cops fight gun battle at First National Bank. Three crooks killed. Hi-Ya. Read—"

Louie was half way down in his pajamas. Back up again, he flung the robe over his shoulders and almost fell down to the front door.

"Hey, Kid," he shouted. "Bring me a paper."

His heart was pounding. Safe in the room again, he read the first paragraph.


"The First National Bank was held up early today by three unidentified men who attempted to escape through the front entrance with ten thousand dollars. Only the speedy work of two officers on the beat prevented their"—He read on by jerks—"gun battle—two men killed—companion wounded badly."


This was it. This was the robbery he had a picture of—but how?

Louie's mind was whirling. He sat a moment on the bed, nursing a head that wouldn't stop pounding. Page one of the paper carried a single-column shot of the bank. Sam must have dug it from the morgue at the last minute. He got determinedly to his feet.


MADISON Street was a dirty spattering mess of mud and rain. Louie's slippers squished through it; his pajamas were wet to the knee. The topcoat might have been some protection if he'd remembered to button it.

In five minutes Louie was standing before Sam Wallace's desk. The precious envelope was clutched firmly in one hand. He passed it to Sam.

"Well, well," Wallace's grin was caricatured by an ink-stain. "If it isn't little Tom Thumb Brock back again. What can we do for you, sonny?"

"Nothing," Louie flared. "Just take a look at what you're missing."

Sam opened the envelope carelessly. The print flopped out on the desk top. He stared at it a second, then galvanized into life.

"How in—?" he started. "My God, man, do you realize what you've got here?"

"A gold mine," Louie grinned. "And all for the Journal."

Sam's expression softened.

"No employee of the Post will sell his stuff to that crackpot outfit. You're hired again with twenty-five a month as your first raise."

He turned in his chair and shouted like a bull moose.

"Ed, call the press room and tell them to hold everything. Junk page one and get the engraver up here. I want a cut of this print that will leave just room enough for the head and caption." He relaxed again. "Louie, a hundred bucks for the sole rights to this shot?"

"I oughta put in a clause where you'd have to take off your hat every time we meet," Louie said bitterly. "But maybe I won't."

"Thank you, Mr. Brock," Sam said, and left Louie twiddling his thumbs.

Louie sat down on the desk-top, listening to the pleasant humming of a city room in action. His stuff was opening their eyes, and promptly. In the back of Louie's head, that cat's eye glowed brightly. He blessed it. If the breaks held, Louie Brock would buy a house full of cats.


IT was a constant source of wonder to Pat Mullens how Louie ever managed to get Kitty Wallace from the grab-bag. She'd spent the better part of six months loving the half-pint Brock, and Pat was trying harder all the time to see with his thick rimmed glasses just what Kitty could see, and admire. Today, Pat was more worried than ever over the way Louie had called his shots on the First National job. He looked up, at least figuratively, to Louie, as some small image of a great man.

Kitty, trim, and with hair of warmest brown, came tripping into the beanery and sat down beside Louie.

"How—Great Chief." Her nose wrinkled a little at Louie's seedy appearance. ''You could stand a bath and some fresh linen, Laddie."

Louie groaned.

"Don't I know it." He tried to hide as much as possible under the edge of the table. "I—I've been a busy guy these last two days. Gee, Kitty, I'm sorry about this morning."

"It was lonely at the air field," she squeezed his arm. "But I guess you did pretty well, from what Dad tells me."

Her toe crept out and he felt its pressure against his. Everything was all right again.

"My midget does have trouble, doesn't he, Pat?"

Pat chuckled. "I'd like to hear one of the boys call him that!" He stood up. "This is where I came in."

Kitty grabbed his arm.

"So," she said sternly. "You'd walk out on us after I've been gone for two weeks."

Joe sat down again sheepishly.

"Me, I'm always in the way," he muttered.

"And a darned good place to be," Louie included. "When we get that 'want to be alone' feeling, we'll let you know."

Kitty's toe pressed a little tighter against his shoe. He blushed in spite of himself. Something about her complete disregard for his physical shortcomings made a big warm spot in Louie's heart.

"You won't even ask if I had a nice trip," she pouted a very little, her amazing light-green eyes twinkling with mystery. "Well, anyhow, I'm home, I have a big surprise for you in just a few days, and now let's have some spaghetti."

"Listen, Honey, don't you think I oughta know about this secret," Louie was wearing down. "It's been two weeks—"

"You will, cave man, when I get good and ready to tell you."

The spaghetti came, dripping with meat sauce, and the incident was closed. Kitty was like that.


SOME hours later, pleasantly smeared with lipstick and smelling pleasantly of Kitty's perfume, Louie Brock sat on a bench behind the Park Central Hotel. It had been a long time since his nose had met on even terms with Kitty Wallace's. The experience had been an old thrill renewed, with exciting promises for days to come. Louie felt fine. A swell girl, Kitty; and a swell job with a cat's eye camera. He had everything.

Louie thought about the camera. Something, and that was all he could call it, was making that camera register a scene just twenty-four hours before it actually happened. That something was making an actual prediction and backing it up in black and white. Something that had to do with Egypt, and history back at the time mummies were going around under their own power. Black magic, and right under Louie Brock's arm.

He'd have to be careful. If the gang found out he wasn't playing fair with them. . . .

A new camera! That was the thing. Buy a new camera for everyday shots, and keep the cat's-eye model out of sight. No good taking a picture of a visiting celebrity, only to find he had a print of the empty railroad station twenty-four hours after said celeb had vanished.


MORNING, and with the sun in his face, Louie felt better. He drove the Chevrolet along slowly. The state highway passed under him, with the smooth click of tar strips against his tires. The cry of the newsboys still rang pleasantly in his ears. "Pic of the Century" they called his shot of the First National robbery. Life, Look, Black Star—all wanted him on the staff. Kitty was the one thing that held him on the Post staff. A mighty firm anchor, at that. Kitty, surprise or no, was about all one man could ask.

Louie enjoyed the assignment this morning.

"There's an old screwball about eight miles west of town, just off the main drag," Sam had told him. "He thinks the world is going to end this week. After that pic you brought in, I'm not so sure but what he's right. At least it will make good Sunday Supplement stuff. Go out and bring him back alive."

Louie turned off the highway at Stateville, and followed his nose down beyond the railroad tracks. Here, in a secluded gully, washed out by a muddy creek, the Prophet had built his ark. Noah had nothing on this boy, Louie thought as he climbed out of the car. The ark was made from what was left of an old life-boat. It had been decked over with old timber and sheet metal. Top-side, it groaned under a small, tarpaper shack. This was the Prophet's living quarters which he shared with an unholy assortment of goats, pigs, dogs and cats.

Louie stood on the bank for a minute, looked at the smooth, soft yellow clay below and wondered how he'd get down. The Prophet came but and Brock's camera mind saw some nice shots immediately. The old gent was good material any day in the week. He had a gunny-sack wrapped and tied around his center overlapped by about three feet of whiskers. That was all.

He propped one skinny shank against the side of the boat and surveyed Louie's slight form.

"Welcome, son," his washed out blue eyes kindled with interest, and the high quaver of a voice was friendly. "Welcome to salvation."

Louie unlimbered the new Speed Graphic he'd purchased that morning and gathering up the cat's-eye model, started down the bank. He slipped, and riding on his back, hit the bottom with a muddy thump. He came up sputtering. The Prophet was properly shocked.

"Tut, tut, my son," he admonished, "such language is in vain."

"It wasn't," Louie said. "It did me a lot of good. Say, I'm out here to get some pictures of you. How about it?"

The Prophet's chin slipped a notch and his eyes clouded.

"Verily," he muttered, "I had hoped some poor sinner had seen the light. I felt that you were sent to join my heavenly caravan."

Then he saw the press-card that Louie was presenting for impression's sake. His face brightened.

"If the world would have one more look at my humble body, before its peoples are plunged into the whirlpool, you may take your tin-types as my last gesture of love."

He hoisted himself upright and stood tense and dignified at the end of the ark Louie judged to be the prow. A couple of cats nosed about his legs and he picked one of them up. Louie scrambled back up the clay bank. He snapped two or three shots of the gulch and the ark. Then, with his precious cat-eye he took another of the entire scene. This time, twenty-four hours wouldn't bring any change, not even the end of the world. Louie was assured of that as he headed the Chevy toward town.

Still, that cat's-eye lens was too much to pass over lightly. Just a chance that something might happen. Louie Brock had a healthy respect for broken mirrors, black cats, and superstitions in general. The old world was anchored pretty firmly for a complete washout in one day. He thanked the old duck and promised to look him up in Heaven.


BACK at the Post he turned the plates over to the engraver and headed for the boarding house. No good trying to find Kitty. She'd said she'd be gone all day. That might mean weeks. With nothing better to do, Louie headed for the dark-room, and his "end-of-the-world" picture. Without looking at the drying negative, he made a double-deck sandwich in Mrs. Sherrigan's kitchen and sat on the metal table top to digest it.

The negative dry, he went after it, still chewing on the cold bacon and lettuce. Back in the kitchen he plopped it down on the table and started munching again. The sharp outline of the negative flashed up from the table top and his jaw dropped. Louie swallowed the last mouthful of sandwich and stared.

The Prophet had been right. Tomorrow was the end of the world.

Here under his twitching nose was a picture of a great raging torrent. People were being flung about under its force, small heads drifting above the mass of dirty water. Some of them had reached the very bank he'd stood on this afternoon, and were hanging to the roots and underbrush, mouths open in despair.

Feeling very weak in the knees, he dragged himself into the dark-room. Working feverishly, he made an eight by ten print of the thing and tried to make out more of the details in the dim light. No good. The ark was there, he was sure of that, and the bewhiskered figure at its prow was familiar. Out into the hall he ran, the print still dripping. The door was open, and he ran to it, letting the sun pour over his shoulder. Then Louie Brock saw something that ended his own private world at a glance.

Stretched full length on the slippery river bank was Kitty Wallace. He tried to convince himself that it was a dream. No, she was there, her slippers gone, hair soaked and clinging against white shoulders. The dress, or what was left of it, lingered against her smooth body, accenting every curve. There was a mole, too. A little brown spot that branded her clearly. The mole, Louie thought with a blush, was right where it should be, and where no one but he should ever know.

That wasn't the worst of it. A tall, dark fellow bent over Kitty, arms about her slim waist. Held in close embrace, Kitty's lips were pressed against his cheek.

The world turned a dirty collection of terrible pinks and mangy greens. He started to tear the print in his shaking hands, thought better of it, folding it carelessly. He started blindly for Ray's place, minus hat and coat.


LOUIE drank the clock around. He went into an uncomfortable stupor on the bar. At eight in the morning Ray brought him gently to his feet.

"Better go home, Laddy," he said kindly. "You've had enough to sink the Axis."

Louie emerged into the sunlight, hiding it from his eyes. His hat was four sizes too small.

"Wish there wasn't any sun," he muttered. "Who started the idea anyhow?"

The sidewalk lurched up under him. He dodged it, saving himself a treacherous blow in the face. Traffic on State was all moving backward. Horns blasted at his eardrums in a continual scream, trying to undermine his last bit of morale. A man, at least ten feet tall emerged from the Post building and came toward him. It was Pat Mullens. His height shocked Louie.

"H'lo Pat, ol' boy," he murmured. "My, how you've grown."

"From your looks," Pat suggested, "I'd say your head was the biggest part of you."

Louie sighed, looking very sad. The minute he closed his eyes a dozen Kitty's all with big green eyes danced around' him, teasing wickedly. His stomach twisted savagely. Louie was going to die.

"I'm going on the ark," he said. "When you and the rest of 'em are drowning, I'll sit with the Prophet and float away from it all."

Pat took him firmly by the arm.

"You're going home, pronto."

Louie was deeply hurt. Pat couldn't understand him. Besides, Pat was a traitor. Finding he couldn't fool him with the tall-man disguise, Pat was getting short again. Very short, and spreading out all over the sidewalk. He looked like something under a steam roller.

Louie chuckled.

"Pat," he said, "you get around, don't you?" He leaned on a fire hydrant to steady himself, and it lurched from under him. Pat steered him into the car.

"Jeebies," Pat muttered. "You are lit."

"Nope," Louie was growing insistent. "And I ain't going home. The world is gonna end. Kitty's two-timing me, and I'm gonna get saved."

There was some grain of sense behind all this, Pat decided. When a man gets this bad, humor him. "Okay," he agreed. "Where are we going?"

Louie told him—with gestures.


LOUIE BROCK'S magic lens had scored a direct shot. The little gully beyond Stateville was a bedlam. Water, rising by the minute had filled its banks to the brim. The ark had swung into midstream, with the Prophet and his horde of wild stock on board. It hesitated there, about to break loose from the mud bottom.

People struggled in the water, sinking, to rise again, their heads floating on the surface. Some of them had crawled free of the rising water and were clinging to debris along the bank.

Kitty Wallace and her lover were among them. Her clothes were nearly torn from her. The soaked green dress left more in sight than to the imagination. Her arms were about the man with her. Their lips were pressed tightly together. Kitty was putting everything into that kiss.

"Help me, darling," she whispered, "I'm so helpless, but now—"

"I'm glad I came," he answered simply. "Without you, life wasn't worth living."

A motor roared above them on the road, then stopped. There was the slam of a door and Kitty sat upright. Her companion was deeply concerned. A small projectile of hate plummeted down the bank, slipping and howling bloody murder. He landed smack against the man at Kitty's side, sending him into a backward spin toward the water.

"You slimy, lousy, woman-baiting son of a spinach-eater," Louie screamed. The spinach-eater's offspring sank out of sight in the mud and water, came up spitting.

"Oh! Mister Slinkvitch," he shouted in a high tenor. "S-save me."

"Coming," a high voice sang out from the bushes behind Louie. A stout figure emerged, and knickered legs bore it down upon Louie. With three gallons of Ray's beer in him, Louie let go again. Mr. Slinkvitch sank out of sight beside Louie's first victim. Louie started up the bank for more of them, slipped, fell flat on his face in the mud. Kitty was by his side, helping him up. Tears coursed down her dirt streaked face.

"Oh! Louie," she wailed mournfully. "Look what you've done. You've ruined everything!"

There were more of them now, one fellow carrying a box on a tripod. Blinded, Louie ignored Kitty's cry and tore into the fray. He had all the gusto of a landing Marine. Louie took the big boy first and went into the drink with him, box, tripod and all. He came up, shouting:

"Goodbye, Kitty. Always remember, I loved—" there was a horrible gurgle as Slinkvitch clutched at his shoulder and drew him under water again.

He swallowed a gallon of water mixed with three pounds of wet clay. Something solid clutched his wrist and Louie felt the bank slide under him. Pat was drawing him to safety. He stretched out very still and white beside Kitty. For a moment something akin to discouragement was in her eyes. Then she smiled tenderly down at him.

"You've made an awful mess of things, cave man."

Louie tried to speak, but no sound came.

"Leave him there to die" The voice shook with rage. It was Sam Wallace, standing well in the background in a spray of mist. Louie shook his head and rubbed the water from his eyes. The rest of them were there. The guy who had kissed Kitty, Slinkvitch, Pat, Sam, and some others who had murder in their eyes.

"I should kick him," Slinkvitch screamed . "Already he's ruined a camera and a hundred feet of film. Five hours lost and all because of this dummox."

"Listen, honey," Louie groaned. 'I was tight. I saw that guy making love to you and blotto." He sank back again, found her knees cushioned under his head. A cool hand stroked his face.

Pat hunched down beside him.

"Listen, sap," he said. "I didn't know this was where you were headed for. This is the surprise Kitty was saving for you."

Louie looked sad.

"It was a surprise all right," he answered. "The biggest one I've ever had."

"Not that kind," Kitty reassured him. "Mr. Slinkvitch is a movie director. I got permission in Hollywood for a short feature test. He was directing the picture." She hesitated, smiling oddly. "That—that jar of cold cream you saw me making love to is the lead man."

"Yeah," Sam Wallace offered. "She was doing a good job until you flashed on the scene."

Slinkvitch entered the conversation abruptly.

"It's all off. My camera ruined, that coffer dam built for nothing. Extras paid, and all because I want to make an actress out of this cheap little—"

Slinkvitch had said the wrong thing. Louie tottered upright, trying to break the hold Pat had on his shoulder.

"Let me go," he howled. "Did you hear—?"

"You've done enough," Mullens answered. "Stay put— He pushed Louie down again, and held him there.

"I'll sue," Slinkvitch shouted. "It's an attempted murder. It's sabotage, assault—" as he wound up with a dozen very fitting adjectives.


THE cameraman leaned over and picked up a bit of folded paper that had dropped from Louie's pocket. His eyes feasted on it for a second, then he ran toward the disappearing figure of Mr. Slinkvitch. Beside the truck they had all come in, he stopped. The director went into conference, waving his arms aloft bitterly. Then he took the paper and studied it closely. Waiting for more action Louie saw Slinkvitch turn and retrace his footsteps. A broad grin was on his face.

"That's mine," Louie shouted, recognizing the print. Give it to me."

It was the print of the flood he'd taken the day before. Sam Wallace would see it, and then there'd be tall explaining to do.

Slinkvitch ignored him, going straight to Kitty Wallace.

"You are a natural," his thick lips working with pleasure. "This—this picture. I don't know where it came from, but it's got more on it than a thousand feet of film."

Kitty looked at it and blushed prettily.

"Who took this shot?" Sam asked, looking over Slinkvitch's shoulder.

No one spoke. Pat looked at Louie oddly. "You said it was yours."

"I'm saying a lot of screwy things." He wriggled uncomfortably. "Never saw it before."

"Such-such a-a-face," Slinkvitch was growing very red around the collar. "Such—"

Louie thought of the mole.

"Such a figure," he said. "Why don't you admit it?"

Slinkvitch ignored him. Turning to his men he said:

"Pack up what's left. I'm going down town and write that contract." He turned to Kitty. "Young lady, you got a job. Better yet, you got a position, with money—folding money."

The Prophet had climbed over his craft and waded toward them through the slowly sinking pond.

"When are you going to break the dam and let this water out?" His eyes were pleading. "It's awful wet around here."

He carried a big black cat under his arm, and it scrambled to safety, purring and rubbing on Louie's leg.

"Looks like you got a friend," Pat told him. "Guess he's got a lot of them."

Sam Wallace started after Slinkvitch. "You're a screwball, Brock, but with enough rope, you seem to hang on the right end every time."

Kitty put her arms around him.

"Are you going to kiss me, or would you rather have that cat?'

Louie picked it up, stroking its fur gently.

"Could I have both?" he asked mildly. "I'm—I'm very fond of cats."

"You're crazy," Kitty said, and stood on tiptoe, her bare feet buried in the mud. Puckering her lips she asked softly, "Now?"

Pat studied them quizzically, started to turn away then hesitated.

"Your love of cats is mighty strong, Mr. Brock," he said. "You must have developed it in a hurry."

Louie looked at him wondering how much he knew.

"You don't know the half of it," he grinned, turning his attention to the pleasant task at hand.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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