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NORBERT DAVIS

TAKE IT FROM ME

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First published in Dime Detective Magazine, Dec 1943

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-01-22
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Cover Image

Dime Detective Magazine, Dec 1943, with "Take It From Me"



Illustration

The object came up slowly from the water
and broke the surface in a rolling splash.



Dodd thought he could enjoy himself the after noon he gate-crashed into the social stratosphere of a lawn-party fête at J. Stuart Grant's, but murder followed him right up to the gate... Cellini, that old Roman, had been dead a long time, he discovered, but he could still cause a slaying or two.



TABLE OF CONTENTS



1. — MEEKINS GUESSES WRONG

DODD'S eyes were wide open, and so was his mouth. He stood there on the terrace and took it all in, and it was really quite something. The lawn was as big as a polo field, carpeted luxuriously with a very high grade of grass and spotted here, there and everywhere with white-legged glass-topped tables and beach umbrellas that bloomed like giant pink toadstools.

And then there were the people, although you could hardly let it go by just calling them that. These were persons. They were the types who got their names in the gossip columns and the cold cream ads, and they were assembled here in all their glory at a lawn fete that marked the end of the society Summer season.

Dodd was all dolled up, too, in a new gray suit with matching accessories. He had even mended his glasses with a clean piece of adhesive tape. He was tall and a little gawky, and his face showed a lot of wear and tear and a sort of hard, cynical alertness that was slightly out of place among all this frothy frolic, but he looked very presentable, nevertheless.

"Would you like something to drink, sir?"

Dodd jumped. "Eh?"

A bald, beefy man in a white mess-jacket had wheeled up a chrome counter laden with matched crystal decanters and parked it behind him.

"Something to drink, sir?" he repeated.

"What is it?" Dodd asked.

The bald man looked slightly pained. "Anything you wish, sir."

"Oh," said Dodd. "Sure. Give me a rye and soda."

The bald man chose a glass very nearly the size of a quart beer bottle, selected a decanter and poured about six ounces of its contents into the glass. Dodd blinked. The bald man added ice and a shot of fizz-water and handed it to him.

"Thank you, sir."

"What?" said Dodd. "Oh, not at all. Don't mention it."

The bald man leaned against the chrome handle and pushed the counter on down the lawn. Dodd took a sip of his drink, frowning a little. He was wondering how he was going to edge in on the refined gaiety that was going on.

"What's that?"


DODD looked down. A man had come up silently and was gazing at Dodd's drink with longingly thoughtful eyes. He was small and tubby, and he wore a double-breasted blue coat and cream-colored trousers and spotless white shoes. His face was very tanned, and his scant hair was dyed a shiny blue-black. His eyes were round and solemn and sad.

"What's what?" Dodd asked.

"This drink, you mean? It's rye and soda."

"Is it good?"

"Swell. Why don't you have one?"

"Ulcers," said the tubby man gloomily.

"Too bad," said Dodd.

"All I can drink is milk. Did you ever drink milk?"

"Not recently," Dodd admitted.

"Don't. It's horrible stuff." The tubby man sighed deeply and stared down the sweep of the lawn. "Did you ever in your life see such a group of sickening people?"

"Oh, I don't know," Dodd said. "They probably aren't so bad when you get to know them."

"They're worse."

Dodd stared at him. "What'd you come to this party for, anyway?"

"I didn't. I'm giving it."

"What?" said Dodd, startled.

"I'm the host. Just call me sucker."

"Oh," said Dodd. "Then you're J. Stuart Grant."

"That's right. Who're you?"

"William Dodd."

"Did you crash this party, or did I invite you to it?"

"Hey!" said Dodd indignantly. "What do you think—"

"Don't get excited," Grant said. "It doesn't matter a bit to me either way."

"It does to me, though. I paid out twenty bucks to get my name put down on your mailing list."

Grant looked up at him. "You actually paid money to come here? Why?"

"I wanted to sneak up on a guy."

"Who?"

"A fella by the name of Boyd Harkness. I've been trying to get hold of him for two months, but he's a very elusive gent. It said in the papers that he was going to be here, so I got myself invited."

"Harkness is a louse," Grant said indifferently. "What did you want to see him about?"

"His pappy just died, and his pappy owned the Commercial Trust Company. Harkness has been appointed the president of the board of directors of the trust company."

"I know. What of it?"

"The Commercial Trust has about seven hundred bonded employees. I'd like to collar that business."

"Are you in the fiduciary bonding business?" Grant asked.

"No. But I'd like to be."

"What business are you in?"

"Bail bonds," said Dodd. "I'd like to branch out a bit and work my way up in the world and what-not."

"I see. That's Harkness over there at the far comer of the swimming pool."


THE man had his back toward them.

He was tall and flat-hipped, and he had very wide shoulders that didn't look padded. He had his head tilted back, looking up at the girl on the diving board above him. She was well worth looking at, and her white satin bathing suit had been designed to prove it. She was slim and beautifully rounded, and she had a pert, tip-tilted nose and a dazzling smile.

"I don't think I'd better break up that conference," Dodd observed. "I haven't got any figures on hand that could compete with the one he's looking at."

"My daughter," Grant said.

"Oh," said Dodd. "Beautiful girl."

"She's a louse."

"Your daughter is a louse?" Dodd said.

"Yes. I don't like her. I hope she marries Harkness. It'll be good enough for both of them, only I suppose then I'd get presented with a litter of little lice for grandchildren. I guess I'll disinherit her, instead."

"What?" said Dodd blankly.

"I said I was going to disinherit her. I'm going to leave my money to found a dog pound or something. I've just made up my mind about that. I think I'll go and tell her right now."

"Hadn't you better wait a bit?" Dodd suggested. "Sort of cool off and sleep on it and all that?"

"Nope," said Grant. "Right this minute. Don't go away, Dodd. I'll be back."

He marched down the slope toward the swimming pool, his paunch pushed out belligerently ahead of him. Dodd watched him go, feeling a little confused by it all.

"Mr. Willyam Dahd," a voice called sonorously. "Mr. Willyam Dahd."

"Huh?" said Dodd. "Oh. Over here. I mean, I'm William Dodd."

A tall, very thin man came across the lawn toward him with precise, scissor-like steps. "You are wanted on the telephone, Mr. Dahd. Will you follow me, please?"

Dodd followed him across the terrace and through glistening glass doors into a small study lined from ceiling to floor with shelves of books that looked as though they had been washed and polished.

"There, sir," said the tall man, pointing to the scroll-legged period desk in the corner. He bowed stiffly and went out.

Dodd picked up the telephone. "Yes?"

"Are you having a good time, Dodd?"

"I was," Dodd said. "Until just a minute ago. Who is this speaking?"

"This is Sergeant Hennessey from Central Police Headquarters. Is there a lot of them pretty society débutramps kicking around the place, Dodd? I bet the joint is jumping with blondes and brunettes. How's for getting me a couple of fancy phone numbers, Dodd, old pal?"

"Listen, lame-brain," Dodd said. "Just who told you I was coming to a party here?"

"Well..."

"It was Meekins, huh? A fine confidential assistant he is! I can't leave him in charge of the business for a half-hour before he gets crocked and starts blabbing all he knows, which certainly wouldn't take him long."

"He ain't drunk, Dodd. Honest. He just thought I'd better maybe speak to you so you'd be good-humored and not blow a gasket or anything."

"All right. So now I'm good-humored. Where do we go from here?"

"Well, Meekins wants to talk to you."

"Put him on."

"Hello, boss," said Meekins. "I didn't want to call you up."

"Then what are you doing it for?"

"This is important."

"Listen," said Dodd. "This is important. I'm breaking out in high society here in a big way. I'm trying to close a deal that will net me plenty. I was even thinking of raising your salary. Now why don't you go sit down somewhere and let me alone? A financial matter like this takes a lot of profound concentration."

"Sure. Boss, do you know a guy by the name of Hots Hickey?"

"No, and I don't want to."

"Don't be too sure. Do you know a character by the name of Boris?"

"You mean that snide loan shark? Yes."

"Hots Hickey works for Boris. He hangs around dice houses and bookie joints and high-class gambling dives and grog shops and all such places and whenever he sees or hears of somebody that has got the financial shorts, he ups to this girty and tells him how pleased and happy Boris would be to make him a small loan." "So what?"

"Don't rush me," Meekins advised. "So, like I say, Hots Hickey ropes the suckers for Boris. When they come to get this loan from Boris, he charges them seven hundred per cent compound interest. That ain't legal, of course, but it don't seem to bother Boris any. I can never figure out how these parties will fall for such a sharp deal, but I think it's because they're afraid their husbands or wives or bosses will find out they are borrowing money for no good reason if they should try to get a loan through a bank or somebody halfway honest."

"Remember me?" Dodd asked. "I'm the guy who came here to go to a party. Just what the hell are you gabbling about, anyway?"

"It's coming. Well, I was sitting around here at headquarters, and there wasn't nothing doing. So I think I will chase out and buy me a beer, and then I think, no, I can't do that because Dodd is trusting me to handle things while he is out making his fortune, so I think I will have a game of pinochle with Hennessey even though he cheats all the time."

"That's a dirty lie, you dirty liar," Hennessey said, breaking in suddenly.

"Come on, come on, come on," said Dodd. "Get to the point."

"I am," said Meekins. "So I was here when they brought in Hots Hickey. It seems that he got mad at the guy that lives in the next apartment to him. So Hots busts the guy's door down and tosses the guy through his own window. The guy fell about twenty feet and lit on a garbage can and gashed himself up and fractured his skull and is like to die from it all. Hots Hickey was real mad with him, I guess."

"I'm going to get real mad with you in a minute."

"O.K., O.K. So they was gonna charge Hots with assault with intent to kill, but he gave me the wave so I yammered and yelled around here until I got it reduced to assault with the means and intent to do great bodily injury, and I got his bail set for twenty-five hundred fish."

"That's a lot of dough."

"I know it, but it was an aggravated case. It was the best I could do, and there was a lot of beefing about even that. So I put the bail up because I knew Hots worked for Boris, and Boris has got a billion or more socked away and will have to put out for Hots because Hots knows a thing or two that Boris wouldn't want talked around the town. But it seems that I was wrong."

"What do you mean, wrong?" Dodd demanded.

"Because Hots had no sooner blown out of here than Boris blew in. It seems he heard Hots was in the pokey and wanted to find him. He said he was going to mangle Hots and mash him into small bits. He was pretty griped when he heard we'd bailed Hots out. In fact, if Hennessey hadn't given him the old cold-eye I think he woulda bashed me a couple."

"It's too bad he didn't," Dodd said. "Wait a minute! Do you mean that Boris refuses to pay the bail bond fee on that twenty- five hundred we put up for Hots?"

"Yup."


DODD took a deep breath. "How about Hots? Is he good for it? Is there any way we can squeeze it out of him?"

"Nope."

"You gnat-head! Where is Hots now?"

"I dunno."

"Well, find him! Get the charge jumped. Throw him back in jail. Get us off that bond. He's liable to skip if Boris is out after him."

"That ain't worryin' me so much."

"Oh, it isn't! Well, it's worrying me plenty! Do you think I like to hold the sack for twenty-five hundred dollars?"

"Dodd, this Boris is sort of a large and rugged guy. He's got a mean temper. I hear that he's got a habit of seeing guys who don't pay back their loans on time and smacking these guys around something terrible."

"What of it?"

"He's mad at you now. He mentioned that he intended to have a chat with you, but I don't think he meant he was just gonna talk."

"Why should he be mad at me?" Dodd inquired.

"I told him you told me to bail Hots out."

"What did you do that for?"

"Well," said Meekins, "like I said, he acted like he was gonna bash me when Hennessey gave him the cold-eye, but I thought it might go further than that. I think if Boris had really bashed me, Hennessey wouldn't have done a damn thing about it."

"Yes, I would have," said Hennessey. "I'd have laughed and laughed."

"Get off the wire," Meekins ordered. "This here is a private conversation."

"Then why don't you spend a nickel once in a while instead of chiseling in on the police department phones?"

"Pipe down," Dodd said. "Let me get this straight. Not only am I out twenty-five hundred if I can't locate Hots, but I'm in for some lumps if Boris finds me. Is that it?"

"I guess so," Meekins admitted. "What had I better do, boss?"

"You'd better keep out of my way until you find Hots. Do you understand that? Find him. Get at it right now. I'll take care of Boris."

"Be careful, boss. He goes in for brass knuckles and blackjacks and sawed-off billiard cues."

"This is a fine time to start worrying about that! You should have thought about it before you opened your big mouth. Right now, you go find Hots."

"Okey-doke, boss."


2. — DEATH HAS A DUST-SCREEN

DODD slammed the telephone back on its standard, muttering to himself. He pulled the fancy dark blue handkerchief out of his breast pocket and wiped his brow absently.

"Do you know a gentleman by the name of Hots Hickey?"

Dodd jumped a foot. "Does everyone in this house sneak around like a bunch of Jap snipers? And what's the idea of listening to my telephone conversations?"

It was the tall, rigid man who had shown him into the study. He raised his eyebrows and his nose in a haughtily disdainful way.

"I'm not interested in the slightest in your conversations, telephonic or otherwise. I was about to inform you that there is a person at the gate who calls himself Hots Hickey who is inquiring for you."

"At the gate?" Dodd repeated blankly.

"Yes. The guard there refused, quite properly, to let him enter the grounds. He—the Hickey person—then demanded to see you."

"What for?" Dodd asked warily.

"He wants you to pay his taxi fare."

"Pay his—I should pay his taxi fare! Tell him to go and—No! Wait a minute! I don't want him going anywhere." Dodd picked the telephone up again and dialed rapidly.

"Police department," a voice answered.

"Give me the booking desk," Dodd requested.

Hennessey's voice said: "Booking desk here."

"Is Meekins there?" Dodd asked.

"Oh, no. He beat it outta here like a bat outta hell right after you quit talkin' to him, Dodd."

"Nuts to that noise," Dodd said. "I know he's sitting around there somewhere. Tell him that Hots Hickey is out here at the J. Stuart Grant place, at the front gate. Tell him to start the wheels so we can get off that bond, and to have a squad car pick Hickey up right away."

"All right, Dodd. I'll tell him."

Dodd hung up again and turned to the tall man. "Lead the way. I want to engage this Hickey in conversation and keep him happy until some friends of mine arrive."

He finished his rye and soda in two hasty gulps, discarded the empty glass, and trailed the tall man out along the terrace again. The party was livening up a bit now, and fluttery dresses and peek-a-boo hats and sporty flannels twirled and milled and paraded among the pink umbrellas and around the bar counter. Water gurgled and splashed in the swimming pool around the guests who had the best figures and deepest tans. It was all very gay and bright and cheerful, and Dodd wondered why there had to be people like Hots Hickey.

He followed the tall man down the side slope of the lawn on a walk of mathematically place white-washed rocks and along a high, thickly impenetrable hedge backed up against a close-mesh wire fence with some ugly looking barbed wire strung along the top. J. Stuart Grant evidently liked his privacy and intended to have it.

They turned through a little bushy arbor, and the tall man said: "There is the gate. If you'll excuse me..."

"Oh, sure." said Dodd. "Good-by."


HE went on alone around a hedge-lined curve in the walk and out on the crunchy gravel of the drive. The gate was big and thick and high, and it looked as though it could be not only ornamental but useful as well. One side was slightly ajar now, and there was a man in a spic-and-span brown uniform and shiny puttees standing in the opening, watching another man who was standing forlornly outside peering in through the bars.

"Hi!" he yelled hoarsely. "Hi, Dodd! Do you remember me? I'm Hots Hickey and—"

There was the sudden blasting roar of an automobile motor throttled up high in second gear. It was a heavy black sedan, and it went past the gate so fast that Dodd caught no more than a blurred glimpse of the flick and gleam of its sleek body, and then the cloud of white dust pulled up from the road by its passage billowed over everything in a choking, thick cloud.

Tires wailed in a thick scream of agony, and instantly shots slapped out—three of them in a string, very close together. Dodd heard the eerie sing of one of the bullets that ricocheted from the iron gate, but before he had time to realize what it was, the car motor picked up a higher driving roar, and the dust billowed heavier.

Hots Hickey was a dimly outlined shadow, turning around slowly and stumbling on bowed legs, and then he went down head-first in a lunging, awkward sprawl. The sound of the car motor thrummed away and was gone as suddenly as it had come.

Dodd ran for the gate, feeling the dust settle on his face in sticky, sharp mites. The guard gaped at him, rubbing his eyes dazedly.

"Dust," he muttered. "This road. Mr. Grant has asked them and asked them, but they say there's a war and there's no oil for laying dust. I watered it down this morning, but the sun..."

Dodd shoved him aside and slid through the gate. The dust was settling down now, slowly and reluctantly, and Hots Hickey lay flat and shrunken on it and under it. His face was turned to one side and his mouth was open. Blood spread and scummed and glittered under his head. Dodd knelt down beside him.

He made no attempt to touch Hots. It wasn't necessary. One of the bullets had caught him in the back of the head and the other lower down in the middle of his back. He was as dead as he would ever be.

"Gee," said the guard, looking over Dodd's shoulder. "Them—them was shots I heard! I thought all the time they was backfires. Gee. He's dead, ain't he?"

"Yes," said Dodd. He was staring down the long curve of the road, empty now and peaceful between its border of precisely trimmed, dust-laden trees.

"Gee," said the guard. "Dead."

"Did you see who was in the car?"

"Huh? That damned dust. I couldn't hardly open my eyes. It come so quick, and the dust was all over me before I even knew it was there. It was a black car—one of the big Buick sedans, or maybe a small Cad. But I didn't even see the guy that was drivin' it."


"HERE!" a voice said suddenly.

"Here, here, now! What's the meaning of this disturbance?" It was the tall, rigid man who had guided Dodd, and he stared disapprovingly at them through the opening in the gate.

"This man was murdered," Dodd said.

"Murdered?" the tall man repeated disapprovingly. "Here? In front of Mr. Grant's gate?"

"Yes," said Dodd.

"Are you sure?"

"He looks pretty dead to me," said Dodd.

"Oh," said the tall man. "I'll inform Mr. Grant at once, but he'll be very angry if his party is spoiled." He ran back up the drive, his tall body very erect, arms pumping precisely at his sides.

"Gee," said the guard. "Hadn't we better sort of haul him out of the way? It don't look right—him lyin' right in the road here."

"Better leave him until the police get here," Dodd said. "He won't mind."

Feet crunched on the gravel of the drive, and the tall man's voice sounded breathlessly: "It was a person to see that person with the glasses, sir. The uncouth person you were talking to on the terrace."

Grant peered through the gate. "Now, what's this? Who is murdered? I don't believe a word of it."

"Here's a body to account for," Dodd said.

"Hmm," said Grant. He came through the gate and leaned over Hickey and poked him gingerly with a forefinger. "Hmm. Yes. He's dead. Who did it? You?"

"No," said Dodd.

"Oh, no," said the guard. "Not him. It was a car. In the dust."

Grant looked at him. "This man has obviously been struck by bullets, not a car."

"I mean bullets from a car. I mean, it was all covered up in it—the dust."

"Try to make sense," Grant ordered, frowning.

The guard swallowed. "This guy was standing here, and there was a car come along in a lot of dust, and there was shots, and he fell down."

"Whose car?" Grant demanded. "What car?"

The guard shook his head. "I dunno. Just a car. It came and—and it went. In the dust."

"It sounds very unreasonable to me," Grant said. "People shooting other people in broad daylight in front of my gate. I don't like it." He scowled at Dodd. "Are you sure you didn't have something to do with it?"

"Now, look here," said Dodd. "I don't—"

Grant held up his hand soothingly. "Don't misunderstand me. I have no objections to murder as long as it doesn't take place practically on my doorstep. No doubt if you had some of your—ah—clients eliminate this gentleman, you had very good reasons. But I don't think it's a very nice way to repay my hospitality. Now honestly, do you?"

Dodd was saved the necessity of answering. A decrepit pink and green taxicab came puttering along the road toward them. A policeman was riding on the running board, and he dropped off when the cab pulled to a stop. He was red-faced and perspiring, and he waved his hand indignantly at the choking swirl of dust the taxi's passage had raised.

"All right now," he said. "All right. Now which is the guy that won't pay his fare?"

The taxi driver leaned out and pointed down. "That one."

"Passed out, huh?" said the policeman in disgust. "O.K. Pick him up and see if he's got—Hey! That guy ain't drunk!"

"He's dead," said Dodd. "Murdered."

"4600!" said the policeman, whirling toward the taxi driver. "So you had a beef with him about the fare, huh? But you didn't say nothin' about killin' him, did you? No! You forgot to mention that!"

"Hey!" the driver squalled. "I never even touched—I never did it!"

"Hah!" said the policeman. "Wanna act innocent, do you? We'll see about that."

"You lay offa me!" the driver yelled. "I'll have the company lawyer on you! I'll sue you for a million dollars if you lay one finger—"

"Get outta that cab!"

"He didn't have anything to do with it," Dodd said.

The policeman whirled again. "Who're you?"

"The name is Dodd."

"Bail-Bond Dodd?"

Dodd nodded. "Yes. This guy on the ground is Hots Hickey. He was waiting at the gate here when a car went by and someone in it let blast at him."

"I better call in," the policeman said.

Dodd pointed. "Here comes some help."

A squad car with dust coated thickly over its top and fenders rolled up and parked behind the taxi. There was a uniformed policeman driving, and now Detectives Limes and Lillicott climbed laboriously out of the back seat. They were square-faced, square- shouldered men, and they looked enough alike to be brothers, but they weren't. They weren't even friends. They were partners from necessity, not from choice. No one else would work with either of them.

"Hello, Dodd," Limes said. "Where's your bail-skip?"

"There," said Dodd.

Lillicott stirred Hickey with the toe of his broad shoe. "Hell, he's deader than a salted smelt."

"You're gonna go too far one of these days, Dodd," Limes told him. "You wanta get yourself off a bail bond, that's all right. But killin' a guy to do it is against the rules."

"I didn't kill him."

Lillicott looked at Limes. "He's innocent."

Limes nodded. "He's been framed."

"He wants his lawyer," Lillicott added.

"Oh, drop it," Dodd said wearily. "He was shot by a guy who drove past in a car."

"What kind of a car?"

"A big black one."

"That's a dandy description," Limes said.

"Did it have four wheels, too?" Lillicott asked.

"There's dust on the road," Dodd explained. "Look closely and you'll see it. The car went by like a streak and kicked up a cloud of it and then skidded and kicked up more, and then the guy shot. I couldn't see anything. This bird was right here, too."

"It was a Buick," said the guard. "Or a Cadillac. Or maybe a Packard."

"That helps," said Limes. "You sure it wasn't a General Lee tank?"

"I don't think so," said the guard seriously.

"Boy, do we get the breaks," Lillicott observed.


"I BEG your pardon," said J. Stuart Grant. "Just what do you intend to do about this body?"

"Oh, we'll just clown around for a while and then go home and bake mud-pies," Limes told him.

"Who wants to know?" Lillicott inquired.

"I'm J. Stuart Grant. I own this estate."

"Gee," said Limes, in an awed tone. "All of it?"

"Is it paid for?" Lillicott asked.

Grant made motions like a rooster about to crow. "You—you insolent, incompetent... I'll—I'll—"

"He'll have our badges," Limes said helpfully.

"He'll have us fired," Lillicott added. "Limes, what do you hear about that job guarding an aircraft factory?"

"Looks good."

"I'd take it if I were you. You'd meet a decent class of people then. Dodd, what was Hickey doing out here?"

"I don't know," said Dodd. "This tall bird came around and told me Hots wanted to see me down at the gate. He said Hots wanted me to pay his taxi fare."

"That right?" Limes asked.

The tall man shrugged. "The guard so informed me."

"You?" asked Lillicott.

The guard nodded. "He came in the taxi, and I wouldn't let him in because he had no guest card and the taxi looked like it was gonna fall apart on the lawn."

"What was that crack?" the driver demanded.

"Shut up," Limes said.

"Who's gonna pay what's on the meter?"

"Dodd will," said Limes. "He's lousy with dough. How'd you chisel your way into the fracas inside, Dodd?"

"I had an invitation."

"You must be hard up for guests," Lillicott told Grant. "What's the matter—don't you serve good liquor? You better give us a sample and let us test it."

"I—I wouldn't give you—"

"Now, now," said Limes. "Don't tell us. Let us guess. In the meantime, let's use your telephone."

"What about me?" the taxi driver demanded. "I can't sit here all day."

Lillicott nodded at the policeman. "Get his number and name. If he didn't commit this murder, he's probably committed some other crimes we can pin on him. Dodd, you can go, but stay near your telephone."

"I've got a party I want to see inside."

"Oh, I'll take care of that, Mr. Dodd," Grant said. "I'll see Mr. Harkness and recommend you very highly. I'll tell him you're a personal friend of mine."

"Thanks," said Dodd.

Grant entered the gate and leered back through the bars. "That will make it very certain that he never does any business with you. He despises me."

Grant turned around and marched up the drive with the tall, rigid man just a step behind him and Limes and Lillicott trailing aimlessly along at the rear.

"How about my meter?" the driver asked.

"You know what you can do with it," Dodd said, staring bitterly after Grant.

"Yeah," said the driver, "but I ain't gonna. And you ain't gonna get another taxi to come clear out here after you until three years from next Christmas. So you gonna walk, or you gonna cough up?"

"All right," Dodd said drearily, climbing in.


3. — "YOU'RE GONNA STAY ALIVE, YOU HEAR?"

DODD lived in an apartment building on top of the Courtland Street hill. He had picked the place because it had a view. That's about all it had to offer. It was a scabrous- looking building built of red brick, towering up skinny and dejected above its even lowlier neighbors.

The taxi pulled up at the curb in front, and the driver said: "Just pay me the meter, doc. You don't have to worry about a tip."

"Thanks a lot," said Dodd.

He paid and then went up the tilted stone steps into the gloom of the narrow, bare entrance hall. There were rows of brass-bound mail boxes along the wall, and Dodd was peering through the slotted front of his when a voice behind him said in a throaty rumble:

"I wanna see you, Dodd."

Dodd turned around slowly. Boris had come in the door behind him. He was a barrel-bodied man with long, sloping shoulders and bowed legs, and arms that hung heavy and thick and loose at his sides. He had a derby hat tilted down over his eyes.

"Why, hello, Boris," Dodd said pleasantly. "This is a surprise. How've you been, anyway?"

He held out his hand cordially. Boris reached for it, and Dodd clenched it into a fist suddenly and clipped Boris on the side of the jaw with his weight behind the blow. Boris' head joggled on his thick neck, and his derby slipped down over one ear.

"You," he said, and slid forward with his heavy arms reaching out.

Dodd was pinned in against the wall. He swung three times more with everything he had. His fists made sharp, quick splats landing on Boris' face, but they didn't stop Boris, didn't even seem to jar him.

He slid in closer, and then his arms gathered Dodd in and his hands locked in the small of Dodd's back. Dodd tried to knee him, but he twisted away from that, and then he gave a little satisfied grunt and began to apply pressure.

Dodd felt like his ribs had suddenly been dosed in a vise. He tried to hold his breath and arch his back against the intolerable pressure. He tried to jab Boris in the eye with his thumb, but Boris rolled his head down and sideways and ground his chin into Dodd's shoulder. Lurid purple lights exploded in front of Dodd's eyes, and his breath left his lungs with an agonized hiss.

His ribs creaked, and then there was a sodden, hard clunk. Abruptly Boris' arms had no more squeeze in them. They loosened and slid away. Boris stared at Dodd with bulging, incredulous eyes, and then he took a step back and went down all at once. His derby rolled around in a circle and pattered to a stop.

"Oh, no, you don't," said the taxi driver, glaring at Dodd. He had a short, tape-wrapped jack-handle in his hand, and he wiggled it meaningly under Dodd's nose. "Not again, you don't."

Dodd tried to speak and coughed. He coughed again, bending over, and then managed to pull air into his lungs. The driver's face swam hazily in front of him.

"What don't I?" he asked hoarsely.

"You don't get killed, that's what," said the driver angrily. "Not after you just got out of my cab. It don't happen twice in one day to me. You heard what that cop said out there. I give a guy a ride, and the guy gets killed, so right away the cop says I did it. So he didn't follow it up that time, but don't think he's forgot it. Oh, no! Just let it happen again, and they'd have me hung before I could turn around. That's the way them cops are."

"Thanks, anyway," Dodd said.

"I don't want no thanks. I see this bird hidin' across the alley, and I see him sneak in here after you, and right away I see myself slung in the hopper and gettin' slammed over the dome with a telephone book just because I don't confess I killed you. No, sir! You're gonna stay alive long enough for me to get away from here and get me an alibi, you hear?"

"O.K.," said Dodd. "I'll do my best. Give me that jack-handle a minute, will you?"

"What for?" the driver demanded suspiciously.

"I just don't want our friend to jump up and take another fall out of me before I catch my breath. I feel like someone has used my ribs for a washboard."

"He ain't gonna get up. Not for about a half-hour. Not even if he's got a cement skull. What you gonna do with him?"

Dodd took out his wallet. "Here," he said, handing the driver a five-dollar bill. "Take him this far and then dump him out. Want me to help you carry him?"

"Why should I carry him?" the driver asked. "I don't give no luxury service."

He took hold of Boris by one foot and dragged him toward the door.

"Wait a minute," said Dodd. "Give me your name. If I can ever do anything..."

"Oh, no," said the driver. "I don't want to know you any better than I already do. The kind of friends you got, I don't like. Good-by."


HE went down the steps backwards, and Boris thud-thudded loosely after him. Dodd sighed and felt his ribs tenderly. He went over and got in the self-service elevator, punched the button and waited while the elevator dragged its dreary, creeping way up to his floor. The hall was dim and shadowy, and he went down it to his apartment, unlocked the door and went inside.

He stood in front of the living room window for awhile, staring out at the view and scowling darkly. So far the day certainly hadn't been an unqualified success. Dodd added up the total and didn't like it a bit.

He took off his coat and shirt and tested his ribs again. They didn't feel good, and Dodd knew they were going to feel much worse before they felt better. Boris had a grip like a gorilla.

Dodd took off the rest of his clothes and padded into the bathroom. The apartment building was too old-fashioned to go in for stall showers. It featured an ersatz affair of pipes and a nozzle bolted to the wall at the end of the bathtub. A canvas curtain on a chrome rod extended around it to catch the splashes.

Getting inside it, Dodd adjusted the temperature of the water to suit him and stood there and soaked, staring gloomily at nothing until a bare, brown, slim arm slid through the opening in the curtains and turned off the faucets.

"Hey!" said Dodd in a strangled gasp. "What—"

The arm slid out of sight and then came back again with a towel draped over it. "Wrap this around you and come out of there."

"Here!" Dodd shouted. "What do you think—"

"I have a gun," said the voice. "I couldn't very well miss if I shot through the curtains, could I?"

"No," Dodd admitted. "Hold everything."

He swathed himself hurriedly in the towel and then parted the shower curtain and peered cautiously through the opening.

"You!" he said blankly. "What are you doing in my bathroom?"

It was J. Stuart Grant's daughter. She was wearing a sleeveless white sharkskin dress now, with a broad red leather belt and a bright red turban wound around her head. She looked cool and slim and beautiful and very determined. She had a stubby little automatic in her right hand.

"I want to talk to you," she said. "I'm Caroline Grant."

"Well, all right," said Dodd. "But I mean, there's a time and place—"

The automatic moved up a little. "Are you going to get out of there?"

"Sure," Dodd agreed. "Don't get excited."

He inched up the towel tighter and stepped gingerly over the edge of the tub.

Caroline Grant backed toward the bathroom door, holding the automatic leveled steadily. "Come into the living room."

"Sure," said Dodd. "Just be careful of that gun."

"I'm a very good shot."

"You don't have to prove it to me," Dodd assured her. "I believe you."


SHE backed through the door and into the living room with Dodd following her. Lillicott was standing in the center of the room. Limes was back of him, standing against the wall beside the front door. Dodd blinked once when he saw them, but he made no other acknowledgement of their presence and his expression didn't change.

"Sit there," said Caroline Grant.

"Wait until I get my glasses," Dodd said. "I'm blind as a bat without them. They're on the table. If you'll just back up a couple of steps more..."

Caroline Grant backed up the two steps, and Lillicott reached silently forward and pinched her elbow between his thumb and forefinger. She gave a startled gasp of pain and the automatic slid out of her numbed fingers and thudded on the floor.

She tried to whirl around then, her eyes wide and dark with fright, but Lillicott caught her other elbow and held her effortlessly.

"Easy does it," he said soothingly. Limes strolled forward and bent down to pick up the automatic. Caroline tried to kick him in the head, but he dodged it easily.

"Bad, bad," Lillicott chided. "Mustn't kick the nice policemans. Sit down over here."

He picked her up and carried her forward and then twirled her around and dropped her on the chesterfield. She bounced hard, making a furious little hissing sound between her teeth. Then she subsided, sitting rigidly erect, her full lips pinched into a straight, hard line.

Limes had pulled the clip out of the automatic and was counting the cartridges in it. "Full," he observed. He jacked the slide and ejected the cartridge in the chamber and squinted through the bore. "Dusty. Ain't been fired for months. Where'd you put the gun you shot Hots with, honey?"

"You big fool," said Caroline hotly.

"Oh, he ain't really foolish," Lillicott told her. "He's just ignorant, like me. But we're awful anxious to learn things. What did you want to shoot Dodd for? I mean, I know he's a rat and shoulda been murdered years ago, but what particular thing did he do this time that you didn't like?"

"I've only seen her once before in my life," Dodd told him.

"That was probably enough," said Limes. "It's your personality, I think. You're so repulsive you make a very bad first impression on people."

"Especially wrapped in a bath-towel," Lillicott added. "Come on, Caroline. Tell us what Dodd did."

"He stole something that—that belonged to me."

"Well, well," said Limes. "You're kinda branchin' out, ain't you, Dodd? What was it, sweetie?"

"A snuff-box."

"That's damned nonsense!" Dodd exploded. "What would I want with a snuff-box?"

"I dunno," Lillicott admitted. "Bail-bond brokers are peculiar people. What did he want with it, Caroline?"

"It's very valuable. It's a Cellini."

"That's a new brand on me," Limes stated.

Caroline's lips curled. "It's not a brand. Cellini was an artist—a Renaissance artist in Rome. The snuff box is made of porcelain and gold and ivory, beautifully carved and inlaid. It has a very great historical value."

"Where did Dodd steal it from?" Limes asked. "Did he pick your pocket?"

"It's none of your business."

"Oh, yes, it is," Lillicott assured her. "Did he happen to steal it from a gent named Bazooka?"


CAROLINE'S tanned throat moved convulsively, and her eyes grew wide and dark again. She shook her head mutely, pressing her lips together.

"Oh, come on, now," said Limes. "Bazooka isn't his name. It's Bazadalin."

"Say, what is this?" Dodd demanded.

"You should know!" Caroline spat at him. "It was your fault!"

"What was?" Dodd asked blankly.

"You hurt him! You—you crippled him! You beast, you! He'd never done anything to you! Why couldn't you leave him alone? Hasn't he suffered enough?"

"Hey!" said Dodd. "Whoa! I don't know anything about any snuff-boxes or bazookas or Romans or what-the-hell. I just peddle bail bonds. I'm not a crime wave."

Caroline looked at Limes and Lillicott. "Do you intend to arrest me?"

"That's what we had in mind," Limes admitted.

"Well, then, do it! I'm not going to stay here any longer looking at—at that! He nauseates me!"

"I understand how you feel," Lillicott told her. "He affects us that way too, sometimes. Let's away."

"Now wait a minute here," Dodd said. "I've had enough of you and your corny wisecracks. I want to know what's going on! You can't come in here and stick me up and accuse me of every crime on the calendar and then just walk out laughing!"

"Yes, we can," said Limes, taking Caroline by the arm and propelling her toward the door.

"Ha-ha-ha," said Lillicott, proving it by walking out of the apartment after them and closing the door.

Dodd swore in a bitter rush of words and dove for the telephone. He dialed violently, still swearing to himself.

"Police department," a voice answered.

"Give me the booking desk," Dodd requested.

"Booking desk," said Hennessey.

"Where's Meekins?"

"Huh? Oh, he's here. Meekins! Here's Dodd again."

"Hello, boss," said Meekins. "Where are you? Don't show up around here."

"Why not?" Dodd snarled.

"Say, there's a guy lookin' for you. A bird named Boyd Harkness, and is he burning! He's got blood in his eye, what I mean!"

"Just hold on to him, and I'll give him a fist in the eye! Now, listen. Find out the dope on a guy named Bazadalin."

"How do you spell it?"

"I don't know! Find out that, too. And look up the matter of a Cellini snuffbox."

"What was that again?"

"A snuff-box!"

"You mean the stuff that makes you sneeze?" Meekins asked, puzzled.

"Yes!"

"Dodd," said Meekins, "are you sure you feel all right?"

"Just dandy!" Dodd said thinly. "You get me that information and don't give me any arguments!"

He slammed the telephone back on the stand and started for the door. He had it open before he realized his current lack of costume. He banged the door shut again and began hauling his clothes on every which way.


4. — "GRIEF, GRIEF, GRIEF!"

THIS was business, and Dodd drove downtown in his own battered coupe instead of waiting for a taxi. The setting sun was throwing spindly black shadows ahead of it and reflecting greasy-red from the courthouse windows as he bounced up over the curb and rolled the coupe to a stop in the parking lot behind the jail building. He got out and started for the side door.

"Say, you!" a voice said suddenly and harshly.

Boyd Harkness was coming around the next line of parked cars. He looked even taller and wider in the shoulders than he had at the lawn party. He was scowling grimly, and he went for Dodd as though he meant to walk right over him.

"I want a word with you!" he said.

"Why, hello, Mr. Harkness," Dodd said cordially. "I was just thinking about you. How are you?"

He extended his right hand. Harkness didn't attempt to take it. Instead he slapped at it, but that was just as good for Dodd's purposes. He doubled his fist and hit Harkness neatly on the point of the jaw.

This time it worked. The blow caught Harkness with one foot raised, off-balance, and spun him around and knocked him head-on into the side of a car. He rolled loosely off the fender and hit the ground full-length in a sudden flurry and spatter of gravel.

"Very neat," said J. Stuart Grant. He leaned over the hood of the car Harkness had collided with and looked down at him. "Knocked him cold, eh? Although, as a matter of fact, he's so stupid I always have trouble telling whether he's conscious or unconscious. Was that a sample of your regular sales-talk or something special?"

"I'm getting a little tired of people pushing me around," Dodd said. "What are you doing here?"

"I came down to get my daughter out of jail," Grant said. "With her, if it isn't one thing, it's another. Grief, grief, grief! That's all she ever gives me."

"What's this Harkness mad at me for?"

"That's something else Caroline—my daughter—is to blame for," Grant explained. "At least, so I judge from what Harkness told me. Caroline won't speak to me any more since I disinherited her. Caroline told Harkness that someone named Hots Hickey had beaten up a friend of hers and that Hots Hickey was not a free agent but was employed by someone else to do the job. When Hots Hickey showed up at the place this afternoon asking after you, she immediately assumed that you had hired him."

"There are too many people making assumptions around here," Dodd stated. "What friend did she think I hired Hots to beat up?"

Grant sighed. "That's another thing. Another burden I have to bear. Now it's refugees. Caroline is interested in helping refugees. She was sponsoring a man named Bazadalin. He was the one who was beaten up."

"Why?" Dodd demanded.

Grant shrugged. "I know nothing of Caroline's affairs. I'm only her father, after all. Anyway, she told Harkness that you were to blame for it all, and then when she got arrested she called him up and told him you'd done that, too."

Dodd started for the jail again. "I'm going to have a chat with her."

"Oh, she's not in jail now. She was bailed out."

Dodd stopped short. "Who put up the bail?"

"You did."

"I was afraid of that," Dodd said.

"You'd better run along," Grant advised. "Our mutual friend is showing signs of life. If you should meet him in the near future, it wouldn't be wise to try that commando trick of yours again. He'll be watching for it, and he's an amateur light heavyweight boxing champion."

"I'll remember," Dodd said absently.


HE went along the alley and in through the side door of the jail building. Meekins was coming toward him, halfway down the long hall that led to the booking room. He stopped short when he saw Dodd and started to backpedal warily.

"Now wait a minute, Dodd," he said. "Take it easy. I can explain everything." He was a thin, wiry, nondescript little man, neither tall nor short, and he could have been almost any age from seventeen to seventy-two. In any event, he was old enough to be bald and young enough to be sensitive about it. He never removed his hat unless the rules required it.

"What did you put up Caroline Grant's bail for?" Dodd demanded dangerously.

"Now, look," Meekins said. "Limes and Lillicott brought her in, and they were going to charge her with assault with a deadly weapon, but they said that they didn't think they could make it stick, because you were the guy it happened to and you were griped with them because they had been needling you. So they just made it disturbing the peace. Then Caroline's old man and her boy-friend came in and started to holler. Now you know disturbing the peace is a charge with a set bail. Putting it up is just a formality, and you're a licensed broker, and you can't turn down business when it's backed up with a credit rating like Grant and Harkness sport. And anyway, if I hadn't done it they'd have put it up in cash."

"All right, all right," Dodd said wearily. "Turn it off. What about this guy Bazadalin?"

"That's the bird Hots Hickey worked over."

"I know it. Why?"

Meekins shrugged. "Don't ask me. Anyway, it don't look like it's a very safe thing for a person to do, because Hots didn't last long after he did it. I called up the hospital, and this Bazadalin party is still unconscious from falling in the garbage can, so it must be he has friends. Did you see Boris?"

"Yes," Dodd answered absently.

"What did he do?"

"Fell down," said Dodd. "Haven't you got any more dope on Bazadalin?"

"Yeah. He's a refugee. I got Hennessey to get the dope on him from the F.B.I. He was an Austrian, and Hitler chased him out of Austria, so he went to France. Then when Hitler tackled France, he quick enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. Then Hitler captured him and slung him in a concentration camp, but he escaped and came over here. He's the genuine article with no cards up his sleeve. The F.B.I. gave him a clean bill of health. He's an artist, and he's got quite a big reputation in them circles in Europe. He's been trying to get started again over here, and Caroline Grant has been helping him."

"What kind of an artist?"

"I dunno. Just an artist."

"What about that snuff-box?"

"Say, you don't want much for your money, do you? It's lucky I'm so smart. I thought you were a little crazy when you were talking to me about it, but I called up Benny the Second-Hand Man, because he knows something about anything you want to name. Benny says some snuff-boxes are valuable. People collect 'em, even. Can you imagine—"

Dodd said: "Never mind that. What about this one?"

"I remembered you said it was a Cellini, so I told that to Benny, and he says to call the art museum. So I do, and a guy says ..." Meekins fumbled in his pocket and found a piece of paper. "...says that this Cellini was an artist that hung out in ancient Italy and made all kinds of junk like salt-shakers and silverware, aside from statues and—"

"Tell me about the snuff-box, stupid!"

"Well, I am," Meekins said in an injured tone. "This guy said he made some snuff-boxes, too, and if this was the genuine article it was worth one hell of a lot of dough, because Cellini worked with all kinds of precious metals and was a real ring- dinger when it came to turning out stuff that was strictly class. He said people paid almost anything for samples of his work, depending on who he made them for and what out of, because of the historical associations and all like that."

"O.K.," said Dodd, frowning absently.

"What do you want a snuff-box for, Dodd?" Meekins asked curiously. "You don't use the stuff."

"Don't bother me."

"Well, look. If you really want one, Benny says he's got some nice antiques made out of buffalo horn and stuff like that, and he'll sell you any one you choose wholesale. Hey! Where are you going?"

"For a ride," said Dodd.


5. — THE JOKER IN THE PACK

IN the dusk the double line of trees looked like shadowy, tired sentinels drooping wearily under the weight of dust that weighed their dry leaves. Dodd drove along slowly past the front gate of the Grant estate, on along the high, wire- backed hedge to where it made a right-angled turn. He kept on going and turned into a narrower road.

The hedge was at his right now, further away, looking as solid and sturdy as a stone wall. A lane turned off the side road. Dodd stopped the car and got out. He walked up the lane and came to another gate, a slightly shoddy duplicate of the front one. It was open.

Dodd went through into a wide, cinder-paved courtyard. The garage was a long, peak-roofed building ahead of him. There were spaces for five cars. Two of the doors were open, showing empty stalls behind him. Evidently the servants' quarters were in the second story of the garage, but no lights showed through any of the windows there.

No one was in sight anywhere. The courtyard was uncannily still with that breathless, distorted silence that dusk can bring to empty places. Dodd found himself walking on tiptoe and he grunted in disgust at his caution. He walked more normally on around the end of the long garage and found a graveled path that wound through a thicket of ornamentally weird bushes.

Suddenly, right ahead of him, there was a gurgling splash. Dodd dodged around the last turn of the path and came out on the tiled edge of the swimming pool.

"Hey!" he shouted, and his voice seemed to tear the silence into jagged pieces.

J. Stuart Grant was down on his knees at the deep end of the pool. He was threshing frantically at the surface of the water with a long pole he had in his hands.

"Help me!" he said breathlessly. "I can't swim. He's down here..."

Dodd's heels smacked hard on the tile. He ducked under the diving board and around the corner of the pool.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"A man," Grant gasped. "He fell... I think he hit his head on the edge..."

The pole had a heavy, rigid piece of bailing wire bent in the shape of an oval attached to its end. It was a tool commonly used by lifeguards to pull swimmers who were in trouble toward the edge of the pool.

Dodd jerked it out of Grant's hands and knelt and pushed the wire loop deep into the blue-greenish depths of the pool. The wire touched something and dragged on it. Then it caught solidly, and Dodd heaved up and back.

The object was heavy, and it came slowly up from under the water and broke the surface in a rolling splash. It was Boris, and his heavy face stared at Dodd with the same incredulous surprise it had had when the taxi driver had hit him in the lobby of Dodd's apartment. But now there was a gash, purple and jagged- looking, on Boris' low forehead, and his mouth was open in a soundless shriek with the water gurgling frothily in it.

His thick body rolled loosely, slipped out of the wire loop and slid down again toward the distorted, shimmering tile bottom. Boris' long arms were spraddled out, and his passage in the water moved them slowly and languidly, and he turned with a horrible, inert grace as he sank.

"He's dead," Dodd said numbly. "His head's smashed wide open."

"He fell," Grant said. "He was running along the edge of the pool, and his feet slipped, and his head hit the sharp edge. He never struggled after he hit the water."

Dodd looked at him. "What was he running for?"

"He was chasing me," Grant said, staring down into the pool with fascinated distaste. "Now I'll have to drain all the water out of this."

"Why was he chasing you?" Dodd asked.

"What? Oh, because he didn't want me to telephone the police."

"What were you going to do that for?"


GRANT looked up. "To have him ejected, of course. I was going to have him arrested for trespassing, too. All the servants are gone, you see. I had to let them have time off after the party. There was no one to deal with him except me, and he was very violent."

"Do you know who he is?"

Grant nodded. "Yes. His name is Boris. He's a money-lender of the more predatory variety. He's been here several times, but this is the first time he succeeded in getting into the grounds. The servants must have left the back gate unlocked again. They always do that. They're too lazy to get out and close it when they leave."

"Who did he come to see?"

Grant sighed. "My daughter—wouldn't you know it? I suppose she's been gambling again and borrowed some money from him. I don't know what I'm going to do with that girl. She's always been terrible, and lately she's been getting worse. I can't understand it."

"If she was," Dodd said, "I could."

"What?" said Grant.

"If she was terrible, I'd know where she got it. She would have inherited it."

"You're talking a little foolishly, aren't you?" Grant asked.

"No," Dodd said, taking a firm grip on the end of the rescue pole and watching Grant's face. "No. You're the little joker in this pack. You shot Hots Hickey, and you just now slammed Boris over the head with a crow-bar or something and dumped him in the drink."

"Why?" Grant inquired politely.

"You're broke," Dodd said.

Grant smiled and made a delicate little gesture indicating their surroundings.

Dodd said: "The joint is mortgaged to the hilt, if not more so. You're a smooth little guy, but when Limes and Lillicott pulled those stupid cracks of theirs about you not owning the place and serving bum liquor, you nearly jumped out of your skin. And I know who has the mortgage. Boyd Harkness' Commercial Trust Company. You thought the only way you could skin out of that was to have Boyd Harkness marry your daughter."

"You know," Grant said reflectively, "you look very stupid, but you do have a sort of animal cleverness, don't you?"

"I can count on my fingers," Dodd answered. "Your daughter didn't want any part of Boyd Harkness, and that's why you've been beefing with her. She was interested in a refugee artist—very interested. You decided to put him out of the running for a while."

"Did I?" Grant asked absently.

"Yes. You went to him. You were Caroline's father, and he was anxious to do anything for you that would put him in good with you and with her. You confided that you were short of cash—just temporarily, just a little. It was very hush- hush. You couldn't tell anybody, so you said, or it would ruin your credit. The poor guy didn't have any dough to lend you, but he did have some sort of a snuff-box that was very valuable."

"A Cellini snuff-box?" Grant inquired.

Dodd tightened his grip on the pole. "Yes. You got him to borrow dough on the strength of that from Boris through Hots Hickey. Then you turned right around and told them that the box was a fake. You're certainly a twister. You knew they'd bounce him around if they thought they'd been chiseled, and they're the type that would just think so off-hand without investigating."

"Indeed," Grant said vaguely.

"Yes," said Dodd, "Hots Hickey did bounce the artist guy around, but he began to get smart right afterwards. Evidently the guy didn't react like he ought to. He knew the snuff box was genuine. He must have put some doubts in Hots' mind even if Hots did slam him around. Hots came right out here to see you—not me. He knew I was here because Meekins, my runner, had told him. He asked for me to get him inside the grounds because he had an idea you wouldn't let him in. But your butler—that tall guy—told you he was there before he told me. You went out back here and got one of your cars and drove around front, shot Hots and drove right around back again.

"It was cute, but you gave yourself away. The first thing you asked the guard was whose car had gone past. You were afraid he had recognized it even in the dust. You're a fast worker, but you skid on the corners."

"Very interesting," said Grant. "By the way, do you think I'm going to let you hit me with that pole?"

Dodd swung it up and back.

"You can drop it now," Grant said. He had a shiny, thin- barreled revolver in his hand. "I'm a very good shot. I have cups to prove it."

Dodd let the pole slide out of his hands. "Do you think this will get you anywhere?"

"Yes," said Grant. "I seem to remember you had an altercation with Boris earlier today. You must have met him here and finished it. I think he must have shot you, and then in your death agony you hit him on the head and he fell into the pool. Don't you think so?"

Dodd's tongue was suddenly dry and thick in his mouth, and the barrel of the revolver gleamed a little as it leveled at him.

"Uh!" said Grant in a startled gasp.

His head jerked, and his body thrust itself violently forward, and then he was teetering, twirling helplessly off balance on the edge of the pool. He yelled, and then he went over and the water swallowed him in a sullen, resounding gulp.

Caroline Grant was standing right where he had been, glaring at Dodd. "I heard every word he said! Oh, I don't ever want to see—Oh!"

She whirled and ran up the slope of the lawn toward the big house. She was staggering a little, and Dodd could hear the thin, bitter sound of her sobbing.

Grant broke the water of the pool, threshing with frantic fury. "Help! I can't—can't—"

He went down again. Dodd seized the rescue pole and extended the loop out over the water. Grant came up, still threshing, and Dodd hooked the wire over one of his arms.

"Dodd!" a voice yelled.

Limes and Lillicott came pounding down the slope of the lawn.

"Dodd!" Limes said. "What'd you do to that gal to make her cry?"

"What the hell are you doin' there?" Lillicott demanded. "Why, that's Grant in the water! Pull him out, Dodd! Quit this clowning around and go sell a bond. We solved your murder for you."

"Sure," said Limes. "It's easy when you know how. The guy is in jail already. Case closed."

"Who is in jail?" Dodd asked.

"Boyd Harkness. He did it. He was nuts for this Caroline Grant and this here refugee artist, Bazooka, was cutting him out, so he hired Hots Hickey to beat the guy up. Then Hots put the squeeze on Harkness for more dough or something, so Harkness shot him. He just pulled a car out of the garage here and drove around in front and did it and then drove back around again. Give me that pole, stupid!"

Dodd gave it to him. "Pull it in carefully and you'll get a prize. A nice, slightly worn murderer. You dimwits, Harkness had nothing to do with any of this. Grant did it. He can't swim. Just push him under a couple of times, and he'll tell you why."

Grant cried out in a gurgling, despairing wail.

"What?" Limes said. "Who?"

"Hey!" said Lillicott. "Dodd! Where do you think you're goin'?"

"To sell a bond," said Dodd. "To sell lots of bonds. To Mr. Harkness before he gets out of jail."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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