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First published in Mammoth Mystery, February 1945
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Mammoth Mystery, February 1945, with "The Case of the Cockeyed Cat"


A drunken cat is an oddity at any time, but more so when it
is a cat belonging to one who is supposed to be of the clergy.

SOMETIMES, like on this particular night, I felt sorry for Sloan. He was such an ordinary cop. Such a patrol-your-beat-and-don't-do-any-thinking sort of a cop. As much as I hate to say so, and as much as it limits this story in its dialogue, Sloan wasn't even Irish. He didn't even have a brogue to make his dullest remarks seem winsome and charming.

Sloan owned a short, squatty physique not given to too much fat. His hands were big, thick-knuckled, and beefy, his feet about what you'd expect to see on a man that size who'd been walking as long as he.

If there was anything different about Sloan, you couldn't tell it in his big red, unimaginative face. It was the face of a thousand coppers over a thousand years on a thousand beats.

On this night I refer to, Sloan's expression was as impassively ordinary as always, even though he knew he would have to go out of the restaurant and into the drizzling rain in a few minutes.

We had been sitting there having some coffee. I had just called my City Desk and told them that I was going home to bed and please don't bother me. Sloan, who had just checked in at his station round the corner, was going on duty.

"It's a helluva night for a rat race," I complained conversationally.

Sloan grunted into his mug of coffee and said: "You newspaper guys have it soft. You can get in outta the rain."

"But look at our hours," I told him.

"What's wrong with them?"

"All the time it's overtime," I said. "You don't get that in your job."

"I usta get it," said Sloan, "but then I was a young guy and I was eager. I usta ask for it. I wanted to be a plainclothes copper and then some day maybe a detective."

I was a little surprised at the hidden side of Sloan that had been briefly revealed in that remark. He'd been young once, and fired with ambition. I'd never have suspected it.

"Never got out of harness, though?" I asked.

Sloan gave me a glance of disgust. "Naw," he said.

I paid for our coffee and got up.

"You gonna walk?" Sloan asked.

I nodded.

"Wait for me. I'll be going in that direction. My beat starts about four blocks down. Kearny. You live that way, don't you?"

I told him I did. He gulped down the rest of his coffee, and rose, sighing, from the counter. We went out into the drizzle together.

FOR about a block and a half, we kept our silence. Then Sloan, to my surprise still thinking of his gilded youth, said:

"Funny the silly damn ideas you get when you're young. I wasn't gonna be no nightstick copper forever. No, not me. Not John Sloan."

I had been aware that Sloan owned a first name, but in the year or more that I'd seen him around the district station. I'd never heard it until now. Touched by his further intimation of humanity on his part, I tried a little buck-uppo.

"What the hell, forever isn't over yet, Sloan."

Sloan sighed. "In three years I come up for retirement." There was a great deal of satisfaction in his voice. "Then I'll have my pension and maybe get a job in some bank, too. That ain't bad."

We reached a corner where there was a call-box.

"Just a minute," said Sloan. "I'll call in from here." He pulled out his turnip watch, glanced at it. "It's midnight. Then I'll walk a little further with you."

I waited while Sloan called into his station. I lighted a cigarette and watched the thinning traffic squish along the wet, shining pavements. A drugstore across the street was turning out the lights and closing up. Half a block away from it some people were piling out of a big car and whooping into a tavern.

Sloan came back from the call-box cursing mildly.

"Gotta check an uncompleted call on Abbott Street. Fifteen hundred block. You'd think them guys in the nice warm prowl cars would check on this sorta stuff. But no. Sloan walks so nicely. Let Sloan walk over."

"That's in my direction." I said. "In fact I only live a couple of blocks beyond."

I didn't get any more philosophy from Sloan for the rest of the walk. Abbott Street was a small residential block, full of old houses that had once been ritzy as hell but were now mostly dumps.

"Fifteen hundred," said Sloan, "would be at the end of the block. An old redstone building."

At the end of the block Sloan said: "Lights are on. Let's have a look. Or would you like to wait here?"

"I'll go with you." I told him.

We climbed badly worn stone steps to a large, dirty stone porch. The building was three stories, and there were lights from the second-floor window.

"You see what a rotten job I got?" Sloan demanded, as he punched the bell. "Some old dame'll come to the door to say she was worried on accounta her daughter stayed out too late. But her daughter is home now and thank you very kindly. Nuts."

The door opened a moment later. There wasn't any old lady standing there, however. The man who stood there was middle-aged, a minister or cleric of some sort, dressed in black with his collar turned around. He was rather stocky, wide-shouldered. His accent, when he spoke, was Slavic.

"Good evening, gentlemen. What can I do for you?"

"There was a call to the station," Sloan said, "from this address. Who are you?"

Sloan had pulled out a frayed notebook and a stub pencil.

"I am the Reverend Zybrak." said the man in the door. "It is raining outside. Won't you gentlemen come in for a moment?"

I FOLLOWED Sloan into the house. Our host led us through a small, dark, musty hallway into a sprawling very old-fashioned living-room. Several lamps were on, and there was a fire going in the corner.

"Do sit down and get warm and dry a moment," said the Reverend Zybrak.

Sloan took a seat on the edge of a tired mohair couch I found a comfortable leather rocking-chair. The Reverend remained standing.

"About that call," said Sloan.

"But yes. I did call your station, Officer. It was too bad to have made such an unnecessary nuisance of myself. I thought I heard prowlers in the rear of my building. There were none, however. My prowlers," and here the Reverend laughs lightly, "turned out to be Membo here."

"Huh?" said Sloan.

I was slow on the draw, too, and then we both saw that the Reverend was pointing to a darkened corner of the room, where a small muff of black fur lay curled on a carpet.

"Oh, your cat!" I exclaimed brightly.

"Indeed, my cat," said the Reverend good-naturedly. "He had been on the back porch, and knocked over a small garbage can. When I discovered what the disturbance was, of course I didn't complete my call."

Membo, the cat, had come uncurled at the mention of its name. I was surprised to see what a big animal it was. And so, apparently, was Sloan. He was staring at it wide-eyed.

"Beautiful animal, isn't he?" the Reverend asked.

The cat arched its shining black back, stretched, then started lazily toward Sloan. Sloan moved back on the couch a trifle.

"Don't worry about Membo, Officer," the Reverend said. "He is a highly affectionate animal."

Membo was still moving toward Sloan, and the cop's red face was suddenly shiny with perspiration. The big, graceful cat moved toward him, now, with a peculiarly weaving gait.

The Reverend was instantly solicitous.

"Come, Membo. I'll keep him back, Officer, if he disturbs you."

"No," Sloan spoke suddenly, and with great effort. "No. I like cats. Honest I do. Come here, Membo."

The big cat was at Sloan's leg now, purring and rubbing against his trousers, his tail weaving in the air like a black snake and his luminous eyes shining love and tenderness at Sloan.

Now Sloan bent forward, and put his head next to the big cat's nose, cooing:

"Nice Membo. Nice kitty, kitty, kitty."

"He likes you, Officer," said the Reverend.

Sloan looked up. "Friendly cat you got there. Well," he rose awkwardly from the couch, "we'd better be getting on now. Thanks for letting us dry off and warm up a bit."

"Not at all," said the Reverend. "It is only too bad you cannot stay longer. Drop in again at any time you are in the neighborhood."

The Reverend led us to the door. Membo, the cat, was still purring and rubbing himself against Sloan's leg en route. Our goodnights were brief, and then we were out in the drizzle and cold again.

SLOAN didn't say anything until we got to the corner. I had expected to hear a gripe about the foolish calls he had to make, but instead his remark concerned Membo.

"I hate cats!" he exclaimed bitterly.

That explained, then, his first reactions to the animal. It surprised me, however, that he'd been polite enough to feign friendliness to the animal when it played up to him. I said as much.

"What the hell," Sloan observed, "I couldn't kick the cat in the teeth while his owner was beamin' on."

We walked along about a block. Then Sloan stopped.

"Want to have a look at something?" he asked.


"Don't bother if you don't want to," said Sloan. I'd never known him to be coy before.

"All right," I sighed. "Lead on."

To my bewilderment he turned the corner, we went up to an alley, and then began to go back in the direction of fifteen hundred Abbott Street. By following this alley, we'd wind up in the rear of the old house we'd just visited.

"What goes?" I demanded, when we were almost there.

"I just want to see something." said Sloan. "That cat mighta knocked over the small garbage can on the back porch. He was three sheets in the wind."

"Drunk?" I asked.

"Cockeyed drunk," said Sloan disapprovingly. "A Reverend's cat, cockeyed drunk."

"Well I'll be—"

"Shhhh!" Sloan said. "Here's the place."

We had stopped in the alley behind the big old redstone residence. There were no lights visible in any of the rear rooms, as we peered over a rusting iron fence.

Sloan found a gate and we went into the small, untended back yard. Now the dirty facade of the back porch was visible and I followed Sloan cautiously around an obviously neglected flower bed until we stood about a dozen feet from the porch.

From somewhere on his person. Sloan produced one of those fountain-pen flashlights. He clicked it on, and its pencil-thin beam began slowly exploring the porch.

Then he snapped it off.

"Just like I thought," he said.

"What's that?"

"No garbage can on the back porch. No garbage can anywhere but back there in the alley."


"So no matter how cockeyed the Reverend's cat is, he couldn't have knocked over no garbage can," Sloan said.

"Maybe he took the can inside, after the cat tipped it," I suggested.

Sloan considered this. "Maybe," he conceded.

I was opening my mouth to add something else, when Sloan suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me swiftly to one side.

"Shhhhhhh!" he hissed.

THE light in the kitchen of the old house had just gone on. And someone was opening the back door that led onto the porch.

Sloan had one arm against my chest, pressing me back, while he peered around the edge of the building.

"It's the Reverend," he whispered.

I couldn't see anything, pinned back as I was by Sloan, so I had to take his word for it. I heard a door slam, and then Sloan whispered:

"He's gone back in."

The light in the kitchen went off a moment later. Sloan still held me back, keeping both of us tight against the wall. Then he released his breath.

"Okay now?" I whispered.

Sloan nodded. "Yeah. But keep it low."

"What's this all about?"

Sloan was about to answer, when he cursed. And at the same instant I heard the soft loving purring. I looked down and saw Membo, its big saucer eyes bright in the blackness, rubbing itself contentedly against Sloan's leg.

I started to laugh.

"He put out the cat—" I began.

Sloan's glare silenced me.

"Look at the disgusting little stinker," he whispered, pointing to the contented Membo. "He's even more cockeyed than before."

"Where's he getting it?" I demanded.

"That's what I'm wondering," Sloan said. "And the little stinker can smell it on me. That's the only explanation."

"On you?" I was surprised. "I don't get you."

Sloan patted his back pocket. Then he brought out a small flask-shaped bottle. It was full of liquor.

"Brandy," he said. "Good stuff. Almost impossible to get these days. Always keep it handy on cold wet nights like this."

He must have read the expression on my face, for he uncorked it and handed it to me.

"Have some," he said.

I had some. Sloan was right. He knew good brandy. Another bit of unsuspected character to the man. I handed the bottle back to him. He took a long pull on it, smacked his lips, wiped them with his sleeve, and corked the bottle.

"Where is something like a saucer?" he demanded.


"Something flat, like a bowl," he said.

"Bowls are round," I reminded him. "And I don't carry saucers around with me. What you want one for?"

Sloan gave me a look of disdain, bent over and came up with a coffee-tin top in his hand.

"This will do," he said.

"For what?" I insisted.

"I've gone crazy," said Sloan, "but I'm going to buy some information for a few drinks from this damned purring collar piece."

HE put the coffee-tin top on the ground. The cat stepped back and looked at it suspiciously. Then Sloan uncorked his bottle, bent down and proceeded to fill the saucer-like tin top with his precious brandy. He recorked the bottle, stood up, put it in his pocket.

"All right, damn you," Sloan hissed at the cat, "drink up!"

The big black feline stepped up to the saucer-like container and tasted the contents gingerly with a pink tongue. Then she began lapping the brandy furiously.

"Smart cat," Sloan said wryly, "she was afraid at first it was cream."

"Good God," I groaned. "All that good brandy wasted on a cat."

"How do you think I feel?" Sloan demanded. "It's my brandy, and I hate cats."

Membo had lapped up all the brandy. Now he purred and came over to Sloan, weaving considerably this time.

"Drunk as a coot," I said.

"And wanting more," Sloan answered, "like any drunk."

The cat had its big shining eyes fixed hopefully on Sloan. Its snake-like tail was weaving like a cobra in a charmer's basket. It purred even more loudly, when Sloan made no effort to refill the tin.

"Not a drop more," Sloan said firmly. "You'll get no more whisky here. Get it where you get the rest of it."

The cat didn't move. It continued to stare at Sloan, its tail weaving.

"No more," Sloan told it. "Get!"

The cat seemed drunkenly puzzled, but it caught the import of Sloan's big foot moving back in a threatened kick.

It started slowly, tipsily away.

There was a majestic sort of drunken dignity to the animal's progress as it moved off.

"Okay," Sloan whispered. "Here's where we see if he acts like any other drunk and heads for the place where he knows he can get it."

It was more than a little ridiculous, the two of us, following on tiptoe the weaving leadership of a cockeyed cat.

Membo took us past the porch and around the side of the old building. There he paused, looked back at us, and purred reproachfully.

We had halted, and were waiting for the animal to make up its mind. But, quite suddenly, and to Sloan's infinite disgust, the cat sat down, slid forward on its front paws, and went to sleep.

Sloan cursed horribly under his breath.

"It looks like he's passed out cold," I said.

"I'll revive him," Sloan said grimly.

He tiptoed up to the cat, bent over the slumbering animal tenderly—and gave it a resounding cuff on the head.

The yowl wasn't really loud, but in the silence we'd been maintaining, it sounded ear-splitting.

THE cat was again awake, its eyes gleaming, its back arched, its fur ruffled, and its purrs changed to something more unfriendly. Sloan was holding a badly scratched hand and muttering direly under his breath.

But Membo was ready to stroll again, and we waited to follow. It was really only a few steps more.

Membo stopped her weaving lead about ten feet further on. Stopped in front of a boarded, ground-level, basement window. It was boarded almost perfectly, save for a small opening in one corner where a plank had been broken.

Now the cat looked right and left, like a tippler about to enter his favorite saloon and making sure that none of the neighbors were watching. He saw Sloan and me, decided we weren't going to cause him any more trouble and that the coast was probably as clear as it would ever be and squirmed out of sight through the opening in the planks.

"Well, I'll be damned!" I whispered "A speakeasy for cats!"

"Come on," Sloan said

We went over to the boarded window, crouched down beside it, and tried to peer in through the opening through which Membo had vanished. It wasn't any go. The window opened into a room of some sort and there was a light on in the room, but the vision from that point on was almost completely obstructed by heavy cases, stacked one on the other until they formed a small wall just inside the window.

There was one thing, however, that neither of us missed. It was the smell of liquor, strong and almost overpowering, that drifted up through that window.

"Whoooof!" said Sloan. "That's good stuff or I've wasted my misspent life."

I wasn't sure whether it was good or bad, but I was definitely certain. It was alcoholic. I was about to say something inane to this effect, when we heard the voice coming from behind the cases down there.

It was the Slavic voice of the Reverend Zybrak.

"Damn you, Membo," it was saying, "how did you get in here this time?"

Sloan turned to me, and there was something triumphant in his glance.

"See?" he muttered.

I nodded. "Sure I see. The Reverend. But it is the Reverend's house, and obviously his cellar. He's got a right there."

Sloan shook his head. "Maybe." he said dubiously. "But that cellar don't smell like no holy man's cellar to me."

I conceded that point. "What next?" I demanded.

Sloan beckoned to me, and we left the basement window. Around at the front of the house we again climbed the worn stone steps to the porch. There Sloan punched on the bell.

THERE were no lights in any of the windows, now, and hadn't been from the time we'd left the basement window at the side of the place. We waited perhaps three minutes there, then Sloan rang the bell once more—this time more insistently.

Still no response. After several minutes more Sloan turned to me.

"See, nothing seems right around here!"

"Perhaps he can't hear the bell downstairs. He's in the cellar, you know."

"And maybe," said Sloan ominously, "he don't want to hear it."

There was a stubbornness to Sloan's jaw that indicated argument was out from now on in. He gave me a hard stare, then said:

"You can go home now, if you want to. Maybe there'll be a charge of housebreaking and unlawful entry. No sense in both of us getting rapped on it."

"You're going in?" I demanded.

Sloan nodded. He was looking around the porch, obviously seeking a window entry to the house. He seemed disappointed, and was about to say something, when we heard the footsteps sounding in the hallway.

He grabbed my arm, swinging me along beside him, flat against the porch-side beyond view of the door. We waited.

"Get out and stay out!" a voice exclaimed. It belonged to the Reverend Zybrak.

The door opened at the same moment, and a hand tossed something black and furry and meowing out onto the stoop—Membo, evicted again.

Sloan stepped out of concealment, at that instant, very rapidly for a man of his size.

"Just a minute, Reverend," he said.

I stepped out behind Sloan then, and saw the Reverend Zybrak standing there in the doorway, looking extremely surprised and a little bit flustered.

"Well, I must say," the Reverend stammered. "What on earth is this?"

Sloan was pushing in through the doorway.

"That's what I've been wondering, Reverend," he said.

Zybrak turned bewilderedly, following behind him through the darkened hallway. Membo the cat weaved back into the house, and I was right behind him.

"See here," the Reverend demanded. "No one has given you permission to enter here. I demand that you leave, at once!"

"Not until I look around, Reverend," Sloan said. "I thought I saw prowlers around your house."

Sloan snapped on a light switch, and turned to face Zybrak in the narrow little hallway. I saw then that the expression on the Reverend's face was considerably more than indignant.

"Get out of here," he spluttered. "Get out, instantly!"

"Let's go down and have a look at your basement," said Sloan. "That's where the prowlers would be if there are any."

The Reverend was clenching and unclenching his big hands. He was, just from the standpoint of size, a rough looking customer. I wondered if there'd be a tangle. And then, suddenly, he cooled off a little.

"If you insist," he said. He turned, permitting me to pass him and join Sloan in front of him. "The basement is directly ahead of you. Through that door under the staircase."

"You show us the way," Sloan said.

"Gladly," said the Reverend Zybrak. "With your hands overhead!"

And, then, there was that .45 automatic in his hand, waving gently at us in invitation.

IT had happened so quickly Sloan hadn't had time to make a grab at his revolver. I doubt if he'd have been very fast on the draw, anyway.

I pushed air with my hands, and was glad of the chance to do so. Glancing at Sloan, I saw that the cop hadn't been slow about getting his own mitts ceiling-ward, either.

"Turn around." said Zybrak.

We turned. He removed Sloan's revolver from its holster, also the nightstick. Then, deftly, he frisked me.

We heard the nightstick thump as he tossed it on the floor. He must have pocketed the revolver.

"All right, hands still above you, go straight ahead. The door is right under the staircase, as I told you," Zybrak said.

I was the first to the door. I opened it.

"There is a light switch on the right," said Zybrak. "Turn it on."

I found the cord, running along the wall, snapped it on. The light revealed about a dozen steps, going down into a dank basement.

"You lead on," Zybrak said. "If you do anything stupid I shall kill the policeman. I am right behind him, and my gun is in his back."

"I've never been less stupid—" I said. My voice sounded too high, a little cracked and silly.

I led the way down the steps, Sloan and Zybrak following. The strong smell of alcohol came to my nostrils. And then I was standing in the basement, my hands above my head. Sloan, followed by the gun-toting Zybrak, was joining me. But I wasn't paying any attention to them. I was far too fascinated by what I saw in the corner of the basement.

There was a shovel, and a pick, and a mound of cracked cement and dirt. And beside it, stretched out rigidly and awaiting burial, was a body.


There, stretched out rigidly, was a body.

"All right." Zybrak's voice brought me out of it, "get over there, both of you, by that body."

It was then, as Sloan and I went over to the corner where the grave and body were, that I had a chance to look around the rest of the basement. It was almost completely filled with cases—liquor-cases, stacked in walled piles of ten or more boxes high. To the right, a pile had been tipped over. Broken bottles from the tipped cases had made a small pool of whisky around the debris, accounting for the strong odor of the stuff in the room.

"Very well," Zybrak said, "Stop right where you are, and turn around."

We were a few feet from the grave. We stopped and turned, hands still high. Zybrak faced us about a dozen feet away. The .45 was still trained on us.

"I was getting rather weary with the digging," Zybrak said. "I am fortunate, I suppose, that you two insisted on helping. Especially since the grave must now be enlarged."

I didn't like that crack at all.

Zybrak sat down on a small stack of liquor-cases, still, however, holding the automatic in a hostile position.

"You may lower your hands," he said.

WE lowered our hands.

"A custom I always enjoyed witnessing, when Der Fuehrer's troops brought order to my little country, was the digging of one's own grave. As one who helped Der Fuehrer keep the law over the more stupid of my people, I was able to direct many such scenes. I had thought that it would be some time again before I could enjoy such a spectacle, but now you two have generously provided me with it."

I felt I had to say something.

"Look," I said, and my voice was still high, still a little cracked. "Do me a favor. If we're going to share the same grave with the body behind us, maybe you'd tell us who our partner is?"

"You will take the pick," Zybrak said. "The policeman will use the shovel. The body with which you will be buried is my brother's. My brother is—was rather—a priest—the Reverend Frank Zybrak. You will have good company on your way to heaven."

"Then you aren't a priest," Sloan said triumphantly.

Zybrak shook his head. "No. I am not. I am merely clothed in my brother's clerical garments at the moment. For a little while I shall continue to pose as my brother. We look enough alike to pass as close twins. The pick and shovel, please. Get to work, both of you."

I took the pick, Sloan the shovel.

In about three minutes we were both sweating profusely. It was rough work. Zybrak had lighted a cigarette, and the smoke from it was the most tantalizing thing in the world.

"It is too bad my brother had to be so stupid," he said, after another minute or so of silence. "He was unreasonable. He could have cooperated beautifully with me in furthering Der Fuehrer's work here in the United States. He was a naturalized citizen, a religious man, no one would have suspected such a pious man of espionage."

I stopped digging. "How long have you been over here?" I asked.

Zybrak waved the .45. "Get back to work," he ordered. I got back to work.

"I arrived less than a month ago. Submarine. Excellent papers, all forged. I came here to my brother's house. He was happy to see me, thought I'd fled our country when Der Fuehrer came in. That was the story I told him at first. When this liquor began to arrive, he became suspicious. Priceless liquor, the finest liquor from the finest wine cellars in all of Occupied Europe."

Sloan stopped digging, wiped his red, perspiring brow.

"I knew it was good stuff," he said.

"Get back to work," Zybrak snapped. Sloan resumed digging.

"The liquors in this room are worth, particularly at black market prices, several hundred thousand dollars," Zybrak said. "Your Treasury Department has made it increasingly difficult for us to have American banknotes with which to carry out our espionage. They have closed most forms of exchange. Our Fuehrer's sources are limited. But we are able to sell some of the treasures of the old world, such as this, and thereby find our own funds."

My hands were getting blistered. My tongue was getting thick. I paused to wipe my forehead.

"Four feet deep," said Zybrak. "Don't tarry so."

I PICKED up the pick and went back to work.

"Yes," Zybrak reflected, "this liquor's arrival and certain of the visitors who called on me aroused my holy brother's suspicions. He demanded, tonight, to know the truth. I told it to him. I warned him that our relatives in the mother country would suffer if he betrayed me. He prattled about democracy, and two wrongs not making a right. He said that their lives were less than a dozen in number, and that he would sacrifice them to save hundreds more American lives. He was in a blind rage, and went to the telephone. That is when he started to call the police. I tapped him over the head, and he didn't complete the call. It is too bad he made it at all, otherwise you two would not be sharing a grave with him tonight."

"That," said Sloan, with surprisingly dry wit, "is a thought."

Our work had gone along too well. We now had a hole three and a half feet deep and about six by four feet wide. I tried to give Sloan an entreating glance to slow down. But he was working with the fury of a ditch-digger getting paid by the square foot.

"My brother came out of his coma when I brought him down here." said Zybrak. "He tried to struggle. In the struggle, we knocked over several cases of the invaluable liquor. They smashed, as you see. I was able to overcome him. Then I shot him through the heart."

I heard a soft purring, and looked up to see Membo, the huge black cat, stepping tipsily across the basement toward us. He ignored Zybrak, went over to the pool of spilled liquor, sipped daintily of the precious stuff, then weaved over to us. He stopped at Sloan's leg, and purring softly in affection, stared glassily up at the big cop.

"Get away!" Sloan said. "You drunken black soandso!"

Membo purred more loudly. Sloan cursed, stopped digging for a moment, leaned over and scooped the cat up in his big right hand.

"Damn you!" Sloan raged. "Git!"

It happened very quickly, and so naturally that Zybrak wasn't alert to what happened until Sloan had actually thrown the cat through the air, and straight at Zybrak.

Then Zybrak did two things at once. He ducked, instinctively, and fired at the same time.

THE yowl of the cat and the bang of the .45 were almost simultaneous. His ducking had made the .45 go wild, and I took that instant to let fly with the pick in my hand.

It didn't hit him, but it crashed into a case of liquor behind him, splintering wood and breaking glass and releasing a small torrent of alcohol.

Sloan had scooped up the shovel again, the moment he'd tossed the cat. Zybrak had gone to one knee to dodge the pick. Sloan caught him with a well aimed shovelful of cement and dirt flush in the face.

Zybrak's .45 went off again, chipping plaster from the ceiling above our heads.

Then Zybrak was clawing dirt from his eyes, cursing wildly, and Sloan was in on him with the shovel. Sloan's first swooping smash with the shovel sent Zybrak from his knees to his back. His second smashing blow caught him on the side of the head and knocked him out cold.

Sloan was breathing heavily and bathed in sweat when I came up beside him.

"What a job," I gasped thankfully. "What a job."

"I hate cats," Sloan said earnestly

LATER, after the story had been filed and the débris cleaned up and Zybrak hauled off by Federal Agents, I was able to have a few words with copper-hero Sloan.

"What made you so damned sure that cat was tight as a coot that first time you saw him?" I demanded.

"I hate cats," Sloan said. "I can't stand 'em. I knew this cat wouldn't have been cozy with me unless it was pickled to the ears."

"But why not?" I insisted.

"It's mutual," Sloan said, by way of simple explanation. "Cats hate me."


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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