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Non sibi sed omnibus
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Marty Quade, super-sleuth of Mazda Lane, left his stamping grounds on the strangest mission of his career. For he had to meet a client he did not know, and deliver him, not to freedom—but to the hot seat.
MARTY QUADE didn't know a soul in Spartanville; and nobody knew him, which was just as well as far as Marty was concerned. He had no baggage, so he was one of the first through the platform gates. His eyes narrowed when he saw that two men were stationed at the gate, inspecting each person who came out. They were hard men, cold-eyed, tough-looking customers. But they only gave Marty a cursory glance and made no effort to stop him.
Marty walked across to the news-stand and bought a street-map of Spartanville, and then he went over to a bench and studied it. He found where the Spartan County Criminal Court was located, and also where the river lay in reference to the railroad station. Then he looked for the corner of Grove and Vine where Judge Sutherland's house was located.
All the time that he studied the map, he also watched the activities in the station. He saw that there were other men at the gates of other incoming-train platforms, and also that there were men at the various street exits of the station. None of these men wore badges. There was nothing to indicate whether they were officers of the law, or not. But one thing was certain—whoever they were looking for would not get through this station unobserved.
Marty's eyes were cold and hard as he arose from the bench and strolled over to the telephone booths at the other end. He had seen the two men from his gate walking over in that direction. Marty hurried just a little and came up close behind them. The two men were talking disgustedly.
"We been meeting trains here all day, Nick!" one was grumbling. "How long do we have to keep it up?"
"Only till midnight," the other told him. "Madrigal burns at midnight. All we got to do is watch till then. After that, we don't care if fifty of his brothers come to town!"
The other chuckled. "It must be tough on Madrigal—knowing his brother is trying to get through, and knowing that we ain't gonna let him!"
"Yeah," said Nick. "He must feel fine, sitting there in the death house, waiting for a reprieve that can't reach him in time!"
"Serves him right. He should never have tried to tangle with Cadogan!"
Marty fell a little behind as the two men approached a third, who was standing near the phone booths. This third man had a long sheet of paper in his hand, and he was marking it with a pencil. He looked up at the two and said, "No luck yet, huh?"
"He wasn't on the seven-fifteen from New York," said Nick.
"All right," said the man with the paper. "The next train in is the seven-thirty-two from St. Louis. You can take that one. Track nineteen."
"Okay, Slagle," said Nick. The two men turned and almost bumped into Marty, who had come up close behind them again.
"Excuse me," Marty said, pushing in between them, and stepping into one of the phone booths.
The man with the paper—Slagle—gave Marty a keen look. "Say, mister!" he said. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
Marty stopped, just inside the phone booth. He half turned so that he was facing Slagle and the other two men, who had stopped, sensing from Slagle's tone that this was no mere idle question.
"I beg your pardon?" Marty said.
Slagle's eyes had become very narrow. "I was asking if I didn't know you from somewhere."
"Could be," said Marty. Slagle did know him from somewhere. Marty had thought he would pass unrecognized in Spartanville, at least for a while. He hadn't counted on this. Five or six years ago, he had met Slagle, when the latter had been employed by a shady detective agency in New York. He had met Slagle under very unpleasant circumstances, and in the course of the meeting his fist had come into violent contact with Slagle's jaw. Slagle's recollection was distinctly an unpleasant one, as evidenced by his sour expression; but it was evident that he did not remember the exact event. Possibly, in due time, he'd remember.
"Listen," he said. "What's your name?"
"Evanevski," said Marty. "Nicholas Alexandrovitch Evanevski."
"H'm," said Slagle. "I certainly don't recall that name. Mine is Slagle. Glad to know you."
"I doubt it," said Marty. He moved all the way into the phone booth and closed the door. He saw Slagle outside, peering suspiciously through the glass panel, but he turned his back on him, slipped a nickel into the coin-box, and dialed a number. He held the receiver against his ear while the phone rang exactly seven times at the other end. Then he pressed down on the hook, and the connection was broken and the nickel returned. He pocketed the coin, opened the door, and stepped out of the booth.
THE other two men had gone, but Slagle was still there, watching him. Suddenly, a great light dawned in Slagle's eyes. "By God!" he exclaimed. "I know you now! Quade! Damn you!"
"At your service," said Marty.
"You're here to help Madrigal!"
"Well, you'll never get out of here alive! I have fifty men in this station!" He turned and started to utter a shout, but Marty stepped up close to him, with one hand in his coat pocket. The gun in his pocket pressed close against Slagle's side.
"The last time we met," Marty murmured, "I broke your jaw, I see it's healed okay. But what this gun of mine will do to you won't heal so easy."
Slagle gulped hard, and swallowed the shout he had been about to utter. "Now wait, Quade. Don't be a fool. You'd never get out of here if you shot me—"
"Maybe not," said Marty. "Maybe we'd both go to the morgue together. So suit yourself."
"Take it easy, Quade. I won't yell."
"That's fine, Slagle. Just oblige me by stepping into that phone booth. There, that's a nice fellow. I knew you'd listen to reason!"
Slagle edged into the phone booth. Marty pressed in close behind him, blocking the entrance with his broad shoulders, and resting his elbow upon the telephone box so that his gun was raised above the other's head.
Slagle was sweating a little. "Now listen, Quade. I don't know where you fit in this game, but if you came to Spartanville to help Madrigal the smartest thing you can do is to take the next train back home."
"Cadogan framed Madrigal, didn't he?" Marty asked softly.
Slagle's eyes became veiled. "I don't know what you're talking about, Quade. All I know is, that Guy Madrigal is in jail for murder, and he's slated to burn tonight. Ned Madrigal, his brother, is supposed to be coming to town tonight. Ned phoned in to the district attorney that he committed the murder that Guy is slated to burn for, and the D.A. said there was only one way for Ned to save his brother and that was to come to Spartanville and give himself up."
"H'm," said Marty. "And you boys are on the watch for Ned Madrigal, eh? Your idea is to knock him off before he can reach the D.A.?"
Slagle shrugged. "All I can say is that Cadogan wants Madrigal to go to the chair tonight. And when Cadogan wants something to happen, it happens!"
"Well," said Marty, "here's something Cadogan wasn't counting on!" He brought his gun barrel down hard against the side of Slagle's head. There was a wicked thump, and Slagle emitted a long, painful sigh. He slumped down, and Marty stepped out of the phone booth, closing the door quickly. From out here, Slagle's body was not visible, for only the upper half of the door had a glass panel.
Marty slipped the gun back in his coat pocket, started to whistle a tune, and sauntered out into the street.
MARTY chose to walk from the railroad station rather than take a cab which might later be traced. On the way, he bought a local newspaper, and glanced at the headlines. One story read:
MADRIGAL DIES AT MIDNIGHT
ONLY A REPRIEVE FROM THE GOVERNOR
CAN NOW SAVE CONVICTED MURDERER
Marty frowned and dropped the newspaper in a trash receiver. He walked north through the city until he reached the corner of Grove and Vine. Judge Sutherland's house was an old, ivy-covered mansion sitting incongruously on a luxurious corner plot, with a tall apartment building on one side of it on Grove, and a row of smart stores on the other side, on Vine Avenue. Though it was only eight o'clock in the evening, the house was entirely dark except for one window on the ground floor.
Marty did not go into the house. He walked past on Vine, on the opposite side of the street, noting the car parked near the corner, and noting the man who loitered on Grove in front of the entrance. He continued on, halfway down the block, and entered a drug store. He went into the telephone booth and dialed the same number which he had dialed from the station. Once more he let it ring exactly seven times, then hung up and got his nickel back.
He came out of the drug store and stood at the curb, watching Judge Sutherland's house. In a moment, the light in the ground floor room was extinguished, then immediately relit.
Marty nodded in satisfaction. He crossed the street, loitered along Grove for half a block, then crossed over to the side of Sutherland's house and ducked into an alley between two apartment buildings. He made his way down the length of the alley to the rear, stopped there and waited in the dark. Pretty soon he distinguished the figure of a man approaching through the back yard. He whistled softly and the man replied. In a moment, the shadowy figure joined him.
Judge Sutherland was a tall man, with iron-gray hair, and a strong jaw.
"Thank God you got here, Quade!" he whispered, as they shook hands. "I was afraid they'd manage to stop you, too!"
The judge glanced nervously around, as if fearful of being spied upon, even here in the protective curtain of darkness. He drew Marty closer into the lee of the tall building.
"I got your signals, Marty, first from the station, and then from across the street. Then I signalled back by blinking my light, and stole out the back way to meet you. It's lucky we arranged for those signals. They're watching me like hawks; and my phone is tapped."
"It looks like they have your friend, Guy Madrigal, sewed up tight, eh?"
"Indeed they have, Marty. Guy Madrigal has been the spearhead of the reform element in Spartanville county for years. Now, at last, he was in a position to challenge Cadogan's supremacy. He announced that he intends to enter the primary race against Cadogan for district attorney. Cadogan has been district attorney for five terms and is the political boss of the city."
"Ah!" said Marty. "If Madrigal is nominated and elected, he'll have access to all files. He'll be able to expose the stuff that Cadogan has been pulling in this county!"
Sutherland nodded. "It would be the end of Cadogan—not only politically, but in every other way. Cadogan has done a thousand things for which he could go to jail, maybe to the electric chair, if another man were district attorney. He's fighting not only for a continuation of his power, but for his very life. His back is against the wall. He's determined to see Guy Madrigal burn tonight!"
"I see," said Marty. "And I suppose it was Cadogan who prosecuted the case against Guy Madrigal?"
"Of course. It was Cadogan who started the ball rolling in the first place. It was Cadogan who jockeyed Guy Madrigal's younger brother, Ned, into a position where he killed a man. Then Cadogan fixed it so Ned Madrigal could escape; and he framed Guy for the crime."
"H'm," Marty said thoughtfully. "And now Ned Madrigal is on his way back, to give himself up?"
Judge Sutherland laughed bitterly. "Ned Madrigal is frightened. He's yellow. It's only my daughter, Joan, who's forcing him to do the honorable thing. Joan is Ned Madrigal's wife. She chose to go with him when he fled from the city, and she's been with him ever since, trying to make him see that the only thing he can do is give himself up in order to save his brother. If he does, Cadogan will be compelled to ask the governor for a reprieve."
"So Ned's on his way in?"
"Yes. But Cadogan's men are everywhere, watching for him. They'll kill him when he shows up—and leave Guy Madrigal to go to the chair."
"And you want me to help Ned Madrigal get into town, past that cordon of killers?"
"I want you to do more than that, Marty. I want you to meet him, and see that he reaches Cadogan's office alive. And I want you to see that Cadogan asks for that reprieve. In other words, I want you to save Guy Madrigal's life!"
"All right," Marty said quietly. "Ill do it."
"There's not much money in this for you, Marty. I know you're the highest-priced private detective in New York. I know you're making a great sacrifice to come here and help an old friend—"
"Forget it," said Marty. "I told you once that you could call on me for anything at all. And I meant it."
"You see," explained Judge Sutherland, "it's my daughter, Joan, that I'm worried about. She's a high-spirited girl. She's only been married to Ned Madrigal for ten days. She should have left him when he got into trouble, right after their marriage. But not she. She said she married him for better or for worse, and she'd take what came along. So she went with him. And now she's trying to get him to do the only thing that a man can do—give himself up so that his brother won't die in his place."
"How's he coming into the city?" Marty asked.
"By ferry, from Oldenburg, across the river. He'll be on the Exeter Street Ferry. It leaves Oldenburg at eight-thirty. It takes nine minutes across the river, so he'll be here at eight- thirty-nine. You haven't much time if you're going to meet him. He'll have a written confession with him, which he'll give to you—in case he's killed."
"They'll be watching the ferry, of course," Marty said.
"Naturally. They've been watching the railroad station and auto approaches to the city all day long. Cadogan fixed it so that a rumor spread that the Touhey gang was heading this way, and that gave them an excuse to set up barriers and stop all cars. He's brought hundreds of shady men in from New York and Philadelphia—men who are ready to kill for a price. He's deputized them, and placed them at every train, bus and ferry terminal. You don't know how vicious those men are—"
"I think I know," Marty said drily.
"How will I recognize this Ned Madrigal? Is he tall or short, fat or skinny, light or dark?"
"He's a young fellow, about twenty-five, and very slightly built. He's about five feet five, thin, only weighs about a hundred and ten. Dark hair." The judge paused, hesitating, then went on. "I arranged with Joan over the phone for him to wear an identifying mark, so you'd have no trouble picking him out. He'll have his coat collar turned up, and there'll be a little gold pin showing on the underside of his right lapel. It's Joan's graduation pin. But you see, the trouble is that I think my phone was tapped at the time I talked with Joan!"
"Ah!" said Marty. "So Cadogan's boys will also be able to pick him out easily!"
Sutherland nodded miserably. "And I have no means of getting in touch with him!"
"How nice!" Marty growled.
Judge Sutherland put a hand on his arm. "I won't blame you if you give this up, Marty. The situation is so hopeless, I don't see how you can do anything. I—"
He broke off, startled, as the scraping sound of a footstep sounded off to the left, in the darkness of the back-yard. Marty tensed, his hand dropping into his overcoat pocket. The beam of a flashlight flickered into life, and swept along the yard, missing them by inches. A low voice spoke from behind that light.
"I'm sure the old bloke sneaked out the back way. I was watching in the back, all the time, but I just went around the front when you signalled me that he'd put his light out. When I got back, I saw the kitchen door swinging open, so I went in and looked over the house. The judge wasn't there."
Another voice said caustically, "Boy, will Cadogan be sore when we tell him we let the judge slip out without tailing him! He's probably gone to meet Ned Madrigal. It was just what we were waiting for, and we missed out on it!"
Hearing those two men talk, Marty pushed the judge close up against the wall, and brought the automatic out of his pocket. He waited, tense, with his finger around the trigger, while the flashlight swept out across the yard, then came back toward the mouth of the alley, where Marty and the judge stood.
THE light splashed across Marty's taut figure, and the two searchers uttered sharp exclamations. A gun barked, and a slug spanged into the wall of the building, close to Judge Sutherland's head. But Marty's automatic was already spitting flame as he fired four times swiftly, into the eye of the flashlight. The light disintegrated, and a man uttered a sharp cry. Then another gun began to thunder as the second man began shooting. Lead spattered around Marty, and he turned to seize the judge's arm. "Let's go. We're late for the ferry. We can't stop—"
He broke off, gasping, as he turned to see the judge slumped down against the wall, with his right arm hanging limp.
"Get going, Marty," the judge gasped. "The police'll be here in a minute. For God's sake, don't let them catch you—or you'll never get to the ferry!"
Marty's face was grim. What the judge said was utterly true. Though the unseen assailant had ceased firing, he might still be lurking out there in the dark, waiting for a chance at another shot. But Marty couldn't afford to stay—not even to ascertain the extent of the judge's wound.
"I'll be back!" he said bleakly, and slipped into the alley.
Momentarily, he was silhouetted against the faint light from the street, and the unseen killer's gun blasted. A slug whined past his head, ricochetting off the side-wall of the adjoining building. But Marty didn't even turn to answer that shot. He bent low and ran down the alley, hugging the wall at the right. No more shots came, but he heard heavy footsteps pounding after him, rounding into the alley. Then he heard a cry, and a sudden crashing fall.
"Damn you, you tripped me—"
Marty grinned thinly as he raced down the alley and swung into the street. The judge must have stuck a foot out to trip that running killer—to give Marty the extra time he needed to win free of pursuit.
MARTY slowed to a walk as he came into the street. He heard a policeman's whistle around the corner, and the shouts of people sticking their heads out of windows, asking where the shooting had come from. His face expressionless, he forced himself to walk, not run, down the street, in the opposite direction from the policeman's rapidly approaching steps. At the corner, he turned off and accelerated his pace. He saw a cab, and this time he did not hesitate to flag it. Time was growing short. It was eight-thirty, and he must be at the ferry by eight-thirty-nine.
And as the taxi rolled across town, he grimly removed the partly-used clip from his automatic and inserted a full one. Tonight, his life—and the lives of others—might depend on one extra cartridge.
FRONT STREET was a-hum with activity. Spartanville was a coal center for the mining country in the surrounding hills. Day and night, trucks came rolling into town; and day and night the coal was transferred from the trucks to the barges in the river. Up and down the waterfront from Exeter Street, as far as the eye could reach, coal chutes rumbled and winches creaked under the subdued glow of shaded electric lamps, and men sweated in the wintry night.
But Marty Quade had no eye for all of this. His watch showed that it was eight-thirty-five; out in the middle of the black and swirling waters he saw the ungainly shape of the ferry boat cutting across the stream from the opposite shore.
Soon it was heading in closer, and Marty could distinguish individual figures on the foredeck, waiting to step off as soon as the ferry docked. He moved out on to the pier, and at once spotted the men who must be watching for Ned Madrigal's arrival. There were two of them, just as there had been at the train platform.
They were standing at either side of the runway, down which the passengers would have to walk, upon leaving the boat. Each of those men had a hand in a pocket, and they were tense and wary. As the time grew closer to midnight, they would redouble their watchfulness, for they were sure that Ned Madrigal would attempt to come through. And if they had really had Judge Sutherland's wire tapped when he had talked with Joan, then surely they must know that Ned was on this particular ferry.
Marty glanced around the dock. He saw now that there were others, watching from other vantage points. He spotted half a dozen other men, some engaged in idle conversation, others watching the approaching ferry with concentrated gaze.
Even as he watched, he saw one of those men exchange a signal with the watchers at the runway. Then those scattered watchers began to move forward, closing in on the ferry exit.
Marty's blood raced. He glanced down along the side of the pier where he stood, and saw a small motor launch down there, with two men in it. One had the wheel, while the other crouched up forward, holding a dark and bulky object close against his body. Marty caught a glimpse of an ugly black snout, and he knew that the object was a sub-machine gun. Both those men were watching the approaching ferryboat, their attitudes tense and wary.
This then, was the ultimate precaution which Cadogan's men were taking! If their quarry should scent danger and should jump into the river in a desperate attempt to swim for his life, they would cut him down in the water with the sub-machine gun.
Now Marty understood the odds which faced him.
Cadogan's men knew that Madrigal was on this boat!
The odds against getting Ned Madrigal alive through this closing cordon of killers were fantastic. And the time was so short; a matter of minutes now, before the ferry would be nosing into the slip...
EVEN as these thoughts flashed through his mind, Marty was moving closer to the edge of the pier, until he stood directly above that little motor launch. And with the urgent pressure of time at his back, he took the automatic out of his pocket. He bent his knees, leaned forward, and jumped.
He landed lithely on the deck, directly behind the man at the wheel. The fellow turned, uttering a grunt of surprise; and then the grunt changed to a pig-like squeal as Marty's gun-butt came up in a vicious swipe to meet the fellow's chin. Metal crashed against bone, and the man's head snapped back. He staggered into the wheel. His body made a half-turn, and he collapsed on the deck, with blood streaming from his chin.
The man up forward with the sub-machine gun had swung around at the first sound. For a moment he did not comprehend what was going on behind the wheel-house. But then he saw Marty's shape coming around toward him, and he uttered a hoarse cry. He brought the sub-machine gun up, with his finger on the trip, but he never fired it, for Marty's automatic blasted once, and the slug caught him in the right shoulder, spun him around off balance, and over the side.
The man screamed as he went over and let go of the sub-machine gun, throwing up both hands in a frantic effort to clutch at something that might save him. But there was nothing but air for him to grasp at, and he went over into the black water, between the boat and the pier, his scream cutting through the night with a sharp and frantic edge of terror. The machine gun thudded on the deck, and slid down between Marty's feet.
The man's scream brought a rush of people toward the edge of the pier; some of them the executioners who had been waiting for the ferry-boat to dock. But Marty Quade had already swung in behind the wheel, pushing aside the inert body of the man he had knocked out. He reached down for the starter and pushed the button. The starter whirred as Marty choked her. On the pier, men were crowding close to the edge, looking down, not quite understanding what had taken place. And by the time they realized that an interloper was sitting in on their game, the engine caught, kicked, and roared into life.
Marty opened the throttle wide, and the launch leaped away like a fiery thoroughbred under the spur.
Marty felt the cold spray sweeping his face. The wind caught his hat and carried it away, and billowed his overcoat wide open, dragging it out behind him like some weird bat's wings. He gripped the wheel, fighting for a footing on the whipping deck, and headed the launch parallel with the pier, then swung her out across the bows of the approaching ferry-boat. There was barely ten feet now between the ferry and the slip, and Marty sent the launch darting into that space like a comet; then, before he passed the prow of the broad ferry, he threw the engine into reverse, and the launch almost stood on its head, but it stopped for an instant.
Marty threw her into neutral, and peered up at the crowded deck of the ferry, into the faces of the excited, jabbering passengers; seeking one face, a face he had never seen—seeking the slight figure of a man with his coat collar turned up, and a bit of a gold pin on his lapel.
Up above, on the bridge of the ferry-boat, a bell jangled as the cursing captain signalled the engineer for full speed astern to avoid running down the madman who had cut across his bows in that launch.
The ferry-boat jolted and jarred to a stop as the engineer obeyed; and for an instant both boats seemed to hang motionless upon the water, while the men on the pier crowded close to the end, with guns drawn openly now, understanding that their prey was about to be snatched virtually from within their jaws.
Marty's desperate glance ran up and down the passengers on the ferry, failing to spot the man he sought. He raised his voice and shouted into the night: "Madrigal! Where are you? Come on, you fool. Jump for your life!"
A gun blasted from the pier head, and a slug gouged into the deck almost at Marty's feet; then a second and a third shot, coming uncomfortably close. Marty's heart sank. If Madrigal wasn't on the ferry, Marty had made a prize fool of himself. More than that, he might finish up in the morgue with nothing to show for his effort but a collection of bullet holes.
He ducked down alongside the wheelhouse just as a second volley blasted from the pier. Bullets smashed into the deck, into the wheelhouse, and into the unconscious body of the man who lay on the deck. If Marty hadn't ducked, he would have been riddled.
It was getting too hot to remain here. The captain was leaning out of the window of his bridge, shaking his fist and yelling imprecations, and the fusillades from shore would soon make a sieve of the launch.
Once more Marty raised his voice, in a last try. "Madrigal! Are you there—"
As if in answer to a prayer, the slight figure of a man came thrusting out through the crowded mass of passengers on the ferry's deck. Marty's blood pounded with sudden fierce satisfaction. It was Madrigal. His coat collar was turned up, he wore a cap low on his head, and there gleamed the bit of gold pin on his turned-up lapel.
"Jump!" Marty yelled. At the same time he picked up the sub-machine from between his feet, and sent a short burst high over the heads of the snipers on the pier. It had the desired effect. They dropped flat on their faces, and the barrage ceased for an instant.
In that second there was a thud on the deck, and Marty glimpsed the slight figure of Madrigal landing on all fours.
"Hold on!" Marty yelled, and opened the throttle wide. The launch leaped away, clearing the ferry-boat in a second, and Marty guided her upstream, with a hail of lead pursuing them. But in another minute they were out in midstream, beyond range of the shore, and Marty had time to see Madrigal picking himself up, gripping the rail hard with both hands.
"Well!" he grunted, "We got you out of that. Now how the devil are we going to get you into town before midnight?"
Madrigal didn't answer. He kept his grip on the rail, and edged over toward the wheelhouse where Marty stood. His foot touched the body of the man who lay there, and he peered down and saw the scuppers full of blood. Madrigal put both hands to his face, uttered a little sound like a smothered scream and swayed dizzily. Then his knees buckled and he sank down in a dead faint.
Marty Quade swore lustily. "You damned yellow little cur! This is no time to faint at the sight of blood!"
He closed the throttle down to idling, locked the wheel, and bent over the slight figure. He got hold of him roughly by the lapels, and lifted him easily that way with one hand.
"Snap out of it!" he barked, and slapped him hard in the face.
Madrigal's cap was jolted off his head by the slap, and thick golden hair, which had been piled high underneath, billowed out in a yellow cascade.
Marty's eyes popped. He almost lost his balance and went overboard.
"Holy Jumping Jehosephat!" he croaked. "A girl!"
SHE opened her eyes, and there was a silly expression on her face. Her left cheek was stinging red where Marty had slapped her. She put a hand up and touched it, and said wonderingly, "Did you hit me? Why did you hit me?"
Marty choked back the strong language he would have liked to use. Instead, he pointed to the bloodstains all over her clothes.
"You fainted when you stepped in the blood," he said, "Now—who the devil are you?"
She was still a little groggy but she answered promptly, "Joan Sutherland Madrigal."
"I thought as much!" Marty grunted. "What was the idea of coming in that get-up? Did you have some idea of taking your husband's place?"
"I had to come," she told him swiftly, looking up into his face. "Ned went into a blue funk at the last minute. He—he couldn't face it. He refused to take the ferry. So I took his clothes and the signed confession, and came instead. I hoped that you might be able to do something with the confession."
"From what your father tells me," Marty growled, "we need Ned Madrigal here. He's the only one who can save Guy Madrigal. Here it's almost nine o'clock, and Guy burns at midnight!"
He swung away from her angrily, and unlashed the wheel. But his anger was not for her. Looking at her over the wheel, as she stood hopelessly, hanging on to the wheelhouse rail, with her golden hair streaming out behind her, he thought that a girl as gorgeous and as brave as this one deserved a better husband. True, she had fainted at the sight of all that blood; but it had only been a momentary reaction. She was keeping her chin up right now.
"What are we going to do?" she asked in a lost little voice.
Marty laughed harshly. He jerked his head down-river, toward the eye of a powerful searchlight which had suddenly sprung to life across the water. It was fingering out toward them.
"What we have to do right now," he told her, "is to try and get ashore in one piece. They're after us—and how!"
He opened the throttle wide, and the launch's prow rose high as she cut through the water. The vibration of the straining engine almost made the deck-boards dance under their feet.
BEHIND them, the pursuing craft gained, and the searchlight caught up with them, bathing them in its merciless glare. And the huge eye began overhauling them.
Then, a burst of fire from the pursuing boat crashed into the stern of their launch, and another stream of fiery tracer bullets whined almost in their ears.
"Here, grab the wheel!" Marty shouted. He caught her arm, pulled her around in front of the wheel, and she put both hands on it.
"Keep her zigzagging!" Marty ordered. Then he picked up the sub-machine gun, and dropped to one knee. He pulled the trip back and swivelled the muzzle around, sending a sweeping hail of lead at the pursuers. Then he steadied the gun on the searchlight, and gave it another burst. He grinned tightly as the searchlight's eye died under the volley, leaving the river in sudden blackness.
"Hard aport," Marty ordered. "And then cut the engine!"
Joan obeyed mechanically. The launch veered over toward the opposite shore. The engine's staccato roar trickled into silence as she cut the ignition. They drifted quietly across current through the blackness.
NOW the only sound was the powerful purr of the engine in the pursuing speed-boat. The sound of men's voices carried to them across the intervening stretch of water.
"They must be drifting close by. Keep your gun ready, and your eyes peeled. We'll run close to them on this course. They can't drift far. The minute you hear a sound, gave it to them!"
"Where's the other boat? It ought to be here by this time."
"Here it comes! It's got a light. Now we can go to work!"
Almost simultaneously, another searchlight cut through the night, this one coming from up-river and the great bulk of a cabin-cruiser came sweeping down on them. The light played across the water, and picked up the other pursuing boat first, passing within a dozen feet of Marty's launch.
"We have to abandon ship!" Marty whispered in Joan's ear, "The minute they spot us with that light, they'll have us between them. Can you swim?"
Marty reached in and fumbled in the dark, inside the wheelhouse, and came up with two life-belts. He strapped one around Joan, and the other around himself. Then he put his hand on the starter button.
"Jump!" he ordered Joan. "Head for the Spartanville shore. I'll follow you in a second."
She hesitated for an instant, and he growled, "Well, what are you waiting for?"
She smiled at him in the dark, and he was barely able to tell that she was smiling. "I think you're okay, Marty Quade!" she said softly. Then she took a clean dive into the river.
Marty waited while he counted sixty, to give her a chance to get some distance from the launch. The searchlight was sweeping back toward him, would catch him in a moment. Just before it reached the launch, Marty opened the throttle wide and set it. Then, crouching low, he jabbed the starter button with his finger, and catapulted himself off the deck in a low, long dive. Just as he hit the water he heard the launch's engine burst into life, and he caught a glimpse of the launch racing across-current through the water toward the opposite shore.
The life-belt kept him high in the water, but he didn't have to fear detection at the moment, for frenzied shouts went up from both hunting boats.
"There she goes! Get the light on her! Give her a burst!"
FOR the moment, the attention of both boats was focussed exclusively on that scooting little launch. They had no way of telling that their quarry had flown from its deck, for the searchlight only caught it momentarily in its crazily erratic course. If anything, the crews of the two pursuing craft must, have thought that the fugitives were wounded and lying on the deck in their own blood.
Marty swam strongly toward the Spartanville shore, and in a moment he spotted Joan's figure, just ahead of him. She was doing a nice, competent side-stroke that carried her through the water at a satisfactory rate. Marty moved up alongside her and called out in a low voice, "Nice work, Joan. Take it easy. It's only about sixty yards more."
He turned over on his back in order to get a view of the river. Out there, other searchlights had come into play as more boats joined in the chase. He caught a glimpse of a long police boat nosing the launch over toward the far shore. Now they would discover that their prize was empty, and know that the fugitives had taken to the water.
Marty turned over in the water, and began stroking again. They were close to shore, a couple of miles above Exeter Street dock. Farther down the river, hundreds of people were lining the docks watching the exciting chase. But the alarm had not yet spread this far up.
"Go slow now, Joan," Marty warned. "We can't tell what we'll run into."
They were abreast of a low white building with a pennant and an American flag flying over it. There were several launches tied up here, and a companionway leading up to a catwalk along the rear of the building.
"It's a boat club," said Joan. "I know the place. There won't be anyone here this late, except the caretaker."
"All right," said Marty. "Up you go!"
He followed her up the ladder.
With the water dripping from their hair and faces, they clumped silently along the rear of the building. From here they had an excellent view of the river. The searchlights were criss-crossing the dark waters, sweeping up and down as they sought the fugitives.
Marty grinned. "Pretty soon now, they'll get the idea that we made it into town!"
"What'll they do then?" Joan asked.
Marty shrugged. "They'll probably get an alarm out for Ned Madrigal and one John Doe, They don't know who I am, and they think you're Ned Madrigal. If we can only get some towels and dry clothes, we can go to work."
"Sure. The time gets shorter every minute. We have to work fast to stop Guy Madrigal's execution at midnight!"
She started to speak, but Marty suddenly clamped a hand over her mouth. They listened, and heard a man's heavy steps somewhere inside the building.
Marty put his mouth close to her ear. "The caretaker must be coming out to see what's going on in the river!"
They stood motionless, hugging the wall. The footsteps stopped, somewhere close by, and a lock grated in a door. A moment later, a door opened, just a few feet away from them. Already, Marty had his wet automatic in his hand. He moved like a cat toward that opening door, and when the figure of the caretaker appeared, he thrust the gun into the man's ribs.
"Don't move, pal!" he whispered.
The watchman had a flashlight in his hand, and a revolver holstered at his side. But he made no attempt to use the gun. He raised his hands in the air. "Don't shoot," he said. "Just take whatever you want and beat it. We're insured. But there isn't much of anything, except some clothes."
"Clothes!" said Marty. He had moved over behind the watchman, so their victim couldn't see his face. He reached around and took the revolver from the man's holster. "I'm going to have to tie you up, pal. Do you mind?"
"Go ahead," said the watchman. "I'd prefer it. Otherwise they might not believe my story."
Marty marched the man inside, and they found several lengths of rope in a locker. They got the watchman tied, and left him as comfortable as they could, and then moved into the main section of the club-house. Marty found the electric light switch, and turned on the lights. He grinned, and pointed to two doors. One said, "Ladies' Locker Room." The other said, "Men's Locker Room."
"Make it snappy, Joan," he said. "See you in five minutes. Don't wait to powder your nose. And don't leave anything to identify you!"
IN the men's locker room, Marty found everything he needed for a dozen complete changes. There were yachtsmen's costumes and fishing clothes hanging in the open cubbyholes, and a plentiful supply of freshly laundered towels on a shelf. He got rid of his soaking clothing, removed everything from the pockets, and ripped his tailor's label from inside the coat.
He selected a very handsome blue yachting costume, with an appropriate stiff-visored cap. He found a blue shirt to go with it, and a bow-tie, and even some nice fresh underwear. In one of the cubbyholes he found shoes and he tried one pair. They fitted him well enough, and he sighed with relief.
For all his care in selecting the proper clothes, he worked smoothly and speedily. He was through, and out in the main room several minutes before Joan. When she appeared, her golden hair was braided neatly, and tied in a halo. She was ravishingly attractive in a pair of corduroy slacks and a corduroy blouse, and a pair of low-heeled, felt-soled shoes. She had her gold pin pinned to her blouse.
Marty left her there for a moment, and went back to the rear room where they had left the watchman tied up. He took several bills from his roll of damp money, and laid them down beside the bound man, weighting them with his flashlight.
"I'm leaving two hundred dollars," he said. "That should cover everything we took from here. I'm keeping your revolver, temporarily. I'll mail it back to you tomorrow."
He left him, and returned to Joan, and they made their way out through the front to the street. As they walked west, away from the river, they made a very impressive-looking couple indeed. A police radio car was parked at the next corner, and Joan faltered, but Marty took her arm and urged her forward. The two policemen from the car were out on the sidewalk, one of them with their car's riot gun under his arm. Marty approached him and asked, "What's all that excitement on the river about, officer?"
"There's a couple of killers loose, sir," the cop explained. "We don't rightly know who they are, but they're desperate and well-armed. They seem to be trying to get into Spartanville. The radio orders are to block every street, and to shoot to kill. You better get the lady away from the waterfront."
"Thank you, officer, I certainly will!" Marty took Joan's arm, and hurried her past the two policemen. They walked three more blocks before they found a cab and got into it. Marty glanced at his watch. It was twenty minutes after nine. Only forty minutes had elapsed since he had leaped down into that launch alongside the pier!
The cab driver swung the flag down, and asked, "Where to, please?"
"Criminal Court Building," Marty told him.
As the cab started, Joan uttered a gasp. "We—we're not going to see—Cadogan?"
"That's exactly where we're going!" Marty said grimly.
AS the cab crept downtown, keeping well within the new speed regulations, Marty carefully dried all the parts of his automatic, and made sure that the immersion in the Spartan River had not affected its efficiency. Joan turned on the radio, and they got in on the middle of a nine o'clock news broadcast from a local station. The announcer didn't yet have the story of the motor launch chase in the Spartan River, but he had plenty of other stuff.
"Tonight, Guy Madrigal sits in his cell, in the Spartanville County Jail, adjoining the Criminal Court House, awaiting execution for the crime of murder in the first degree. Though the case was ably prosecuted by District Attorney Cadogan, and Guy Madrigal was convicted by a jury of his peers, there are many who believe that the full story of the murder has not yet been told. People who know him say it is hard to believe that Guy Madrigal is a murderer. Yet he offered no defense at his trial, preferring not to take the stand. For some strange reason, Guy Madrigal—gifted orator and himself a candidate for the position of District Attorney at the next election—remained mute before the accusation of murder."
MARTY glanced sideways in the cab, and saw Joan sitting tensely, with her little fists clenched hard in her lap. "He was protecting his brother!" she exclaimed in a low voice. "He knew Ned had committed the murder. But Ned is his kid brother. Guy has been taking it on the chin for him all his life. I—I didn't know anything about all that, when I married Ned. I thought Guy was going to ask me to marry him, but he didn't. I know now why he didn't; he was stepping aside for his kid brother!"
Marty grunted. "I hate these self-sacrificing men!"
The announcer was continuing:
"District Attorney Cadogan announced that he wished to give Guy Madrigal every chance for his life. He is waiting in his office until midnight, so that he can immediately phone the Governor for a reprieve in case any new evidence is presented..."
Joan's face was flush. "That's not the reason he's staying in his office tonight!" she exclaimed. "He's waiting there so he can destroy any new evidence that comes in!"
She dipped a hand into her blouse and drew out an oilskin envelope. Out of the envelope she extracted a sheet of paper and unfolded it. "Here's Ned's confession. You take it."
Marty took the paper and read it swiftly. In that confession Ned Madrigal told how he had been married once before, while away from home for a year; how he had deserted his first wife in Toledo and never seen her again; how he had married Joan Sutherland without ever getting a divorce from that other girl. He told how a certain man named Folger had come to him on his wedding night and had whispered to him that he knew that Ned was a bigamist, and had demanded money for silence.
Folger was a cheap shyster lawyer who worked for Cadogan. Ned Madrigal had no such sum as Folger demanded, and he had shot the man to death in desperation. Then he had told Joan of his deed, and she had helped him get out of town.
That was the sorry, sordid confession of Ned Madrigal, and there was no doubt in Marty's mind as he read it, that Cadogan had sent the man, Folger, to blackmail Ned Madrigal.
He tapped the paper, and looked at Joan. "When did you find out about this?"
"The day we were married!" she said breathlessly. She shuddered. "I mean, about Folger. It was right after the ceremony that Folger took Ned aside, in another room. I—I didn't know what Folger wanted, but when Ned came out of that room, he looked wild. He took me into a corner and said, 'Joan, I've just killed a man!'"
"Nice," said Marty. "Hearing that from a fellow you've just married!"
She closed her eyes, as if to shut out a horrid picture. "I didn't know what to think. All I knew was that a girl marries a man for better or for worse. I told Ned to meet me at the corner. I went upstairs—the wedding was in dad's house—and packed a bag. I sneaked out the back way and met Ned, and we took the ferry over to Oldenburg. Ned didn't tell me much—only that Folger had been blackmailing him, and that he had shot him. We went out to the outskirts of Oldenburg, and I waited in the road while Ned went and hired a room in a tourist house.
"I left him there, and returned to Oldenburg and took a room in a hotel. I've stayed in that hotel for the last ten days, trying to work things out. Once a day I would meet Ned at a little hot-dog stand on the Oldenburg Highway. I tried to convince him that the only thing to do was to give himself up and save his brother. It was only yesterday that he agreed to sign the confession. Imagine my feelings when I learned that I was never his legal wife, that the thing Folger had been blackmailing him on was bigamy!"
"I can imagine!" said Marty. He put his big hand over hers. "You're a brave kid. You didn't have to do what you did. But you knew your duty. Damned few women would have taken the risks you did for a man who was a husband not even in name!"
Grimly, he stuffed the confession into his pocket. The news announcer was saying:
"But there seems to be a jinx—a hoodoo of some sort—upon everybody connected with Madrigal. Only this evening, Judge Sutherland—Guy Madrigal's best friend, and the father-in-law of the missing Ned Madrigal—was shot behind his house by a burglar. He was taken to St. Mary's hospital, and is reported in good condition, but frantic about the fate of Guy Madrigal..."
Joan's face went white at the news. She looked at Marty. "Dad! You didn't tell me about that—"
"He'll be all right. Don't worry about him."
"I've got to go to St. Mary's—"
"You're going with me!" he told her harshly. "I need you tonight. After midnight, you can go to the hospital and stay there as long as you like!"
She lowered her head. "You're right, of course. I'll do anything you say."
He handed her the automatic pistol. "Stick that inside your blouse," he ordered.
"But what about you?"
He showed her the heavy revolver he had taken from the caretaker at the boat club. "I'll use this one. The automatic will be a sort of reserve." He stuck the revolver in the waistband of his natty blue trousers, and buttoned the yachting jacket over it.
She forced a smile. "Then—then I'm to be a sort of gun moll?"
"Right, kid!" he said, grinning.
The cab pulled up in front of the Criminal Court Building, and they got out. They mounted the broad stone steps, and Marty said, "You know this building?"
"I've been here before."
"Take me directly to Cadogan's office. If anyone stops us, let me do the talking!"
She nodded, and led the way. The color was high in her cheeks, and she held her shoulders straight.
Inside the Criminal Court Building, there was a good deal of bustling activity, as there always is, everywhere, on the night of an execution. Reporters milled around, buttonholing anyone who looked like an official, demanding statements for publication.
Joan pushed through the crowds, with Marty close at her side. She avoided the elevator at his whispered suggestion, and led the way up two flights of stairs. On the second floor there were more reporters in front of a door marked: "District Attorney's Office." A uniformed attendant stood before it, keeping everybody out.
One of the reporters recognized Joan and exclaimed, "Miss Sutherland—I mean, Mrs. Madrigal! May I have a statement, please?" His eager eyes swept over her corduroy outfit, then flitted to Marty's yachting costume. "Where is your husband, Ned Madrigal? Why did he leave town? What are you doing about getting a reprieve for Guy Madrigal?"
Joan smiled at the reporter, "I'll have a statement for you as soon as I've talked with District Attorney Cadogan. In the meantime, I can only tell you that we have new evidence."
They left the reporter and reached the door where the attendant stood on guard.
"We want to see Cadogan at once," Marty said. "We have new evidence in the Madrigal case."
"Name?" the attendant demanded.
"Tell Cadogan that it's Commodore Nicholas Alexandrovitch Evanevski."
The attendant was puzzled, but manifestly impressed by Marty's natty uniform. He opened the door a crack and poked his head into the office and spoke to someone inside. "Tell Mr. Cadogan that there's a Commodore Evanevski out here with new evidence in the Madrigal case."
Only a moment later a voice from inside said, "Mr. Cadogan wants that man brought in here. Don't let him get away!"
The attendant held the door open, and Marty passed through, with Joan on his arm. She looked up at him doubtfully. "What do they mean—don't let you get away?"
"I imagine it has something to do with a little incident at the railroad station this evening," Marty murmured.
THERE were two men in the reception room which they entered. Both those men had revolvers in their hands, and they covered Marty.
"Keep going!" one of them ordered. "Inside there!" He motioned toward an open door, which led to the private office.
Marty raised his eyebrows. "Tut, tut," he said. "I come in peace, and you point guns at me."
One of the men closed and locked the corridor door. "Maybe you come in peace, but you'll go in pieces, Wise Guy. Get inside—you and the dame."
Marty shrugged. "Come, Joan. There's no use bandying words with gorillas with low foreheads."
He led her into the private office, the two men following. In there, District Attorney Oswald Cadogan was sitting behind his desk. He was a tall, thin man, with narrow-spaced eyes and a pointed chin. His black hair was combed meticulously back from his forehead. His ears were small, almost feminine, and they seemed to be pasted to his head. From the moment Marty entered, Cadogan's eyes never left his face.
At the side of Cadogan's desk stood an old friend of Marty's—the man Slagle, whom he had knocked out in the telephone booth at the railroad station. Slagle had a bandage around his head, and his eyes were slightly bloodshot. He drew his lips back from his teeth in a snarl. "That's the guy, boss! That's the guy that slugged me. His name ain't Evanevski any more than mine. He's Marty Quade, a tough private dick from New York!"
"So!" said Cadogan. "A tough private dick from New York!" He glanced swiftly at Joan. "And Mrs. Madrigal! Mrs. Ned Madrigal! So you managed to meet, eh?" He swung his gaze back to Marty. "You're the one who got Ned Madrigal off the ferry boat!"
"Really?" said Marty.
"Where have you hidden him?" Cadogan demanded.
"I didn't get Ned Madrigal off the ferry boat," Marty said mildly.
"Wasn't it you that jumped my men in the launch? Wasn't it you that cut off the ferry boat so Madrigal could escape?"
"I'm the one who took your launch."
"Ah! Then you admit that you got Madrigal off the ferry, and smuggled him into Spartanville!"
"I admit nothing."
"Well, Mr. Tough Marty Quade from New York, we have enough on you to send you up for life!" He motioned to one of the two men with guns. "Frisk him, Franz. We can't take any chances with him."
Franz nodded, and said to his companion, "Keep your gun poked in his spine while I frisk him, Jake. Don't let him fool you by that soft way of talking. He's real tough. I've heard of him."
Marty offered no resistance while Franz frisked him thoroughly, and took the heavy revolver from his waist band. He put it on Cadogan's desk. "He's clean now, boss."
Cadogan nodded with satisfaction. "Now that your teeth are drawn, Quade, we can get down to business. We want to know where you've hidden Ned Madrigal."
"Why? So you can send men to kill him?"
Cadogan scowled. "I think we can teach you not to ask questions but to answer them." He motioned to Franz again. "Just a little treatment, Franz."
"Sure," Franz said cheerfully. He came around in front of Marty, hefting his revolver, and grinning.
Marty said, speaking to Cadogan, over Franz's head, "I wouldn't try that if I were you, Cadogan."
The district attorney was studying Marty's face, his narrow eyes shrewd. "Wait, Franz." He looked at Marty. "Maybe we can do better by talking to a man like you. What did you come here for? You said you had new evidence."
"That's right," said Marty. "I have a full confession, signed by Ned Madrigal, to the effect that he committed the crime for which his brother was convicted."
"Where's that confession?"
"Right here." Marty raised a hand to his inner pocket, but Cadogan called sharply, "Stop! Let Franz get it!"
Marty smiled twistedly. "Don't you take Franz's word that I'm clean?"
Cadogan didn't answer. "Get it, Franz," he said.
Franz put his hand inside Marty's jacket, and brought out the envelope, and put it on Cadogan's desk.
Joan, who had been standing unnoticed, threw Marty a disappointed glance as if to say, Is that what we went through that ordeal in the river for—merely to turn the confession over to Cadogan so he can destroy it!
But Marty only winked at her.
Cadogan drew the confession out of the envelope, and read through it swiftly. His eyes gleamed triumphantly as he raised his head. "So this is the best you could do, eh?"
"It's enough," said Marty.
"Not enough," Cadogan said emphatically. "I issued a statement to the papers. The law covers the case explicitly. A confession of murder by a person not in custody, will not serve to stay the execution of a convicted man. It would be too easy for anyone to write such a confession, thus achieving a stay of execution without peril to himself."
"This is different," said Marty. "If you will call the governor and ask for a stay, we'll tell you where to apprehend Ned Madrigal."
"Sorry," said Cadogan. "It can't be done." His eyes were gleaming with vicious triumph. He tapped the paper with his finger. "This confession is witnessed by Joan Sutherland Madrigal."
"What of it?" Marty demanded.
"We'd have to use it as evidence to convict Ned Madrigal, wouldn't we?"
"Well!" Cadogan's voice rose high on that same triumphant note. "We can't use this as evidence! Didn't you ever hear of the law that a wife can't testify against her husband on a murder charge? This confession is no good unless Joan swears that she saw him sign it. And she can't testify to that, because she's his wife!"
Marty Quade didn't seem in the least put out by that devastating statement. His voice was still low, soft, mild. "May I call your attention, my dear Cadogan, to the fact that Joan Sutherland is not the wife of Ned Madrigal? Since he was never divorced from his first wife, the marriage to Joan was never legal. She is not his wife, and she can testify against him. The confession is legal, and binding; and you—as District Attorney—have no alternative but to accept it, and phone the governor for a stay of execution!"
"Ah!" said Cadogan. He dropped his eyes to the document. He was silent for a long time, studying it. Slagle, at his elbow, fidgeted uncomfortably, and glared at Marty with hatred in his eyes. He put a hand up to his head, where the bandage lay. Franz and Jake kept their guns ready. They stood on either side of Marty, but their eyes were on Cadogan. Joan stood stiffly against the wall, breathing fast.
THE electric clock above the desk showed that it was nine-fifty-six. The second-hand kept sweeping around inexorably. Four minutes of ten. Guy Madrigal would be communing with his spiritual adviser in his cell. By this time, he would have given up all hope. In a few minutes they'd be coming in to slit his trousers, and prepare him for the electrodes that would conduct two thousand volts of electricity through his body...
At last, Cadogan looked up from the confession. His eyes were narrow and shrewd, and merciless. "I'm afraid you're right, Quade," he said. "This confession is legal. It would free Guy Madrigal. Therefore, I will have to destroy it!"
"You can't," said Marty. "We've already told the reporters that we had new evidence. They'll want to know what it is."
Cadogan smiled thinly. "Unfortunately, neither you nor Miss Sutherland will be here to tell them. You'll both be dead—lying here on the floor!" He picked up Marty's revolver from the desk, and hefted it.
"Miss Sutherland," he said thoughtfully, as if building the plan in his mind while he talked, "will have a bullet from this revolver in her heart. You, Quade, will be full of holes. Our story will be that you pulled the revolver and began firing, and hit Miss Sutherland, and that we had to shoot you down like a mad dog!"
"You'll have trouble making that story stick," Marty said. "I have influential friends in New York. They'll want to investigate."
"Let them investigate," said Cadogan. "Slagle and Franz and Jake will stick to the story through hell and high water. And remember that I am the district attorney!"
Slagle showed his teeth in a vicious grin. "Boy, and I'm the one that's gonna empty a whole clip into you, Mr. Tough Marty Quade! And the best part of it is that this place is soundproofed. We can shoot you where you won't die right away. We can watch you die for a few minutes, and then open the doors to the reporters. They won't even hear the shots!"
Cadogan's face was a mask of remorseless cruelty. Slowly, he began to tear up the confession.
Marty's face was long and resigned. He moved over to Joan Sutherland, and put his arm around her, with his back to the others in the room.
"I guess it's the end, Joan," he said lugubriously. He held her close, with his right arm around her. "Keep your chin up, kid. Life isn't such a much that it's worth fussing about."
As he spoke he held his left hand in front of him, between himself and her, and his fingers touched the automatic which lay inside her blouse. She uttered a little gasp, but quickly smothered it as she realized what he wanted. She undid the lower button of the blouse, drew the automatic out, and laid it in his hand. His left hand.
Marty's eyes glittered. Behind him he heard Cadogan say, "All right, Quade. Turn around. Let's see how you can take it!"
Marty took his arm from around Joan's shoulders. He gave her a shove that sent her spinning away from him. He whirled, transferring the automatic from his left hand to his right, and flicking off the safety with a quick, mechanical motion. He saw Franz and Jake with their guns ready, and he pulled the trigger fast. The pistol bucked and barked in his hand, and slugs smashed first into Franz, then into Jake, hurling them back like puppets. He shot for the heart each time, and he didn't even stop to see whether his aim was good, but swung the muzzle around to cover Cadogan and Slagle.
The thunder of the shots in the close confines of the soundproofed room was deafening, drowning out the thud of the falling bodies of Franz and Jake as they hit the floor.
Cadogan had been holding the big revolver, but had not been planning to use it. He swung the muzzle around to cover Marty, but Marty fired a second before him, sending a slug into his right shoulder. Cadogan was pushed back into his chair as if by a giant hand, and the revolver fell from his nerveless grip.
Slagle threw both hands frantically high in the air, and screamed above the reverberating gunfire, "Don't shoot, Quade! For God's sake, don't shoot!"
Marty moved in on him grimly, thrusting the muzzle of the hot automatic almost in his face, "I give you one chance, and one only, Slagle. You can turn State's evidence and spill everything, or you'll never stand trial. I'll put a slug right through your skull."
It was Slagle's third experience with Marty Quade. The first time he had taken a broken jaw; the second time a broken head; this time it looked like curtains. He caved in. "Let me talk, Quade. I'll talk for you. Don't shoot!"
Marty jerked his head at Joan, who was getting shakily to her feet from the corner where Marty's shove had landed her. "Get on the phone!" he ordered. "Call the governor!"
THREE minutes later, he was talking earnestly into the phone, while he held the gun on Slagle and the wounded Cadogan. On the desk lay the torn bits of the confession—mute proof that Cadogan had tried to destroy evidence.
The clock showed seventeen minutes after eleven when he finished talking to the governor. "Just a minute, sir," he said, "I'll let Slagle tell you his end." He thrust the phone at Slagle.
The shivering gunman took the instrument and began to speak into it, glancing at Cadogan, who lay back weakly in his chair, the blood welling from his wound in the shoulder, through the bandage which Joan had applied.
For five minutes Slagle talked swiftly, then handed the phone back to Marty.
"I am granting a stay of execution, Quade," the governor said. "The state owes you a vote of thanks. I want you to come up here some time, and tell me just how you did it."
Marty grinned. "I did it by dumb luck, sir—and with the help of a gorgeous gal!"
He hung up, and met Joan Sutherland's glance. "All right, kid," he said. "You can open the door and let the reporters in. And you better hurry over to the jail. You'll want to be there when the governor phones the stay of execution."
Joan came over to him, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him. "I—I don't know what to say, Marty—"
She blinked hard, and hurried out to open the corridor door. Just as the reporters came trooping in, the telephone on the desk began to ring. Cadogan's bloodless face was twisted with pain. He did not have the strength to reach for the phone. Marty picked it up and said hello.
"This is Oldenburg Police Headquarters," said a voice from across the river. "Let me talk to District Attorney Cadogan."
"This," said Marty Quade, "is Mr. Cadogan's secretary. Can I take a message?"
"Yes. Tell him we just picked up a suicide. Man turned on the gas. We've identified him—name of Ned Madrigal."
"Thank you," said Marty. "I'm sure Mr. Cadogan will be glad to hear the news."
He hung up, smiling, and his eyes met Joan Sutherland's. "Ned Madrigal is dead," he said. "Better hurry over to the jail."
Blindly, Joan turned and made her way out. Marty faced the reporters. "Gentlemen," he announced, jerking his thumb at Cadogan, "meet Spartanville's prize heel. The next time you interview him, he'll be in the cell now occupied by Guy Madrigal!"
"Who the devil are you?" demanded one of the reporters.
Marty shrugged. "Oh, just a private dick from New York!"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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