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First published in Ten Detective Aces, August 1935

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Ten Detective Aces, August 1935, with "Witness to Murder"

The killer waited years to destroy the person whose corpse was worth fifty grand. And Private Detective Marty Quade barged into a murder frame-up to nominate a man as a death-house candidate.

MARTY QUADE got out of the elevator at the fourteenth floor. He said to the operator: "A gentleman by the name of Dave Sayre is coming from headquarters. He'll ask for me, and you'll bring him up here to Dr. Mordaunt's apartment. Till he gets here, you'll take no one up who doesn't belong in this house. Understand?"

The operator took a quick look at the private detective's badge that Marty had flashed on him, and nodded, looking a little scared. "Yes, sir, I'll see to it." Then he added timidly, "Is anything wrong with Doctor Mordaunt, sir. The doctor looked kind of excited and worried when he came in. You know, if you ask me—"

Marty shoved him back in the elevator with a palm against his chest. "Save it till I ask you," he told him. "Now get that cage downstairs, and keep your mouth shut, till Sergeant Sayre gets here."

He waited till the steel door slid shut, till the rumble of the cable told him that the elevator was descending. Then he turned, made his way across the wide corridor toward the door of apartment 14D.

The Belleville was a swanky building in the west seventies. There were six apartments on each floor. To the left, along the middle of the corridor, was a door marked Porter. A little further on was another door which said Service. There was another service door on the other side of the corridor, and Marty knew that these doors opened on to the hallways through which deliveries were made at the kitchen entrances of the various apartments.

He passed this service entrance, passed the door of 14C, and started to put his finger on the bell of 14D, below which was a neat, expensively engraved card reading: Dr. Ferdinand Mordaunt.

But his finger did not reach the bell.

From behind him there came a slight shuffling sound, so slight that it might have failed entirely to register with a man of less sensitive hearing.

Marty whirled, his hand streaking for his shoulder holster. The service door which he had just passed was now partly open, hardly more than a few inches. Through that crack, he had a brief glimpse of a weirdly distorted face, of slitted eyes behind a pair of pince-nez; the whole thing topped by matted, disordered gray hair.

The muzzle of a gun came into view, with a silencer screwed onto the barrel. Before Marty's revolver was out of the holster, the silenced gun spat with a sound like the popping of a champagne cork. There was a flash, and a slug stung past his head, smashed into the door of apartment 14D.

Marty dropped to one knee, swung up his revolver.

But he didn't fire.

The weird face disappeared, the service door clanged shut, accompanied by the clicking of the catch.

Marty leaped up, hurled himself at the door. It was locked.

He swung back to 14D, a puzzled look in his narrowed gray eyes. The distance from where he had stood to the service door was too short for anybody but a blind man to have missed with a rifle. Therefore the gray-haired person with the pince-nez must have missed deliberately.

Marty saw that the bullet had bored through the outer sheet of metal on the door of 14D, and was lodged in the thick wood beneath.

With the revolver still in his hand, he pressed the bell, kept his finger on it. He wondered why no one from inside had come to investigate the crashing sound the slug had made in burying itself in the door.

In answer to his insistent ringing, a feminine voice finally called out fearfully: "Who is it? What is it? What's the matter? Go away. We've called a detective!"

Marty called out irritably: "I'm the detective you called. Open up in there, quick. I got to phone down to the hall porter. Damn it—hurry up. There's a murderer escaping!"

The woman inside answered nothing, but a moment later a man's testy voice demanded: "What's the trouble, Mrs. Barth? Who's that outside?"

"He says he's the detective, Dr. Mordaunt. But he tried to smash the door down or something."

"I tell you," Marty shouted, "I'm the detective. I'm Quade. You sent for me. Let me in there!"

The testy voice inside ordered: "All right, Mrs. Barth. Let's take a look at him. If it isn't Quade, the detective, I'll shoot him to pieces."

Marty was disgusted. By this time the one who had shot at him had had time to run down the fourteen flights. He must be out of the building by now. He waited for the door to open, but instead the little grilled peephole swung wide, and a pair of gray eyes peered out at him.

He grimaced, took out his badge, and flashed it. "Listen, lady," he said earnestly, "this is no comic opera. There's a guy loose somewhere with a gun, and if he's the one that's trying to knock off Dr. Mordaunt, you're giving him every chance in the world to get away."

The woman said: "Wait just a minute, sir." And the peephole slammed shut. Marty's keen ears caught a low-voiced conversation. He heard the woman saying: "He looks all right, doctor. He has a badge, and there's an honest glint in his eye. I wouldn't say he was too smart, though."

Marty squirmed, and kept on waiting. There was another man in there beside the one with the testy voice—one who talked smoothly, swiftly. And there was a girl there, too, besides the woman. Marty heard her urge: "But, uncle, you phoned him to come up, and this must be he. His badge—"

"Bah! What's a badge! This might be Quade, or anybody else. I never saw him in my life. That's what I get for listening to you, and phoning somebody out of the red book. Anybody—"

Marty started, whirled. Behind him a door was opening. He twisted about, swinging his gun. It was not the service door this time, but the door of apartment 14C, next door. A woman was looking out into the hall, curiously. At sight of Marty's gun she screamed, slammed the door shut.

Marty cursed. He holstered his gun, banged on Mordaunt's door with his fist. "Listen, you people," he shouted. "My name is Quade, and I'm a private detective. I'm here because you called me. Now do you let me in, or do I go away and leave you to stew in there? Talk up quick. I'm sick of waiting out here like a sap!"

SUDDENLY the low-voiced colloquy inside was cut short, and the door swung open. In spite of himself, Marty had to grin at the small group of frightened people that was revealed.

There were four of them. The big gray-eyed woman in the house dress must be the one he had heard addressed as Mrs. Barth. The thin, ascetic-looking man in the dressing gown and the house slippers was, of course, Dr. Ferdinand Mordaunt. Marty immediately associated his appearance with the testy voice.

Dr. Mordaunt held a long-barreled old-fashioned rifle awkwardly in front of him, pointing it in the general direction of the door. His finger was crooked around the trigger, and Marty exclaimed: "Look out for that thing. Turn it away!" Dr. Mordaunt kept it in the same position. "Not till you've proved who you are, young man. Let's see your credentials."

Marty sighed, took out his wallet and exhibited his automobile operator's license. Dr. Mordaunt involuntarily stepped closer to examine it, and Marty grinned again. The fiery doctor had unconsciously deflected the muzzle of the rifle from Marty's stomach in order to get nearer.

"Look, doc," Marty said. "If I were the guy that's trying to knock you off, all I'd have to do would be to grab the gun out of your hand."

Mordaunt flushed, stepped back. "All right," he said reluctantly. "I guess you're really Quade. Come in."

Marty was already in. He closed the door behind him, looked at the other two people. The man was stocky, heavy set, with his hair closely cropped. He was smiling tolerantly at the doctor.

Mordaunt said: "This is Mr. Sprague, my insurance agent." Then with a nasty glance at Sprague: "He's the cause of all this trouble."

Sprague exclaimed: "Oh, I say, doctor—"

But the old man paid him no attention, went on with the introductions. "This is Mrs. Barth, my housekeeper," indicating the gray-eyed, gray-haired woman—"and this"—turning to the fourth person—"is my niece, Irma Dawson, who lives with me."

Marty nodded to Mrs. Barth, and smiled broadly at Irma Dawson. She returned his smile, her wide blue eyes gazing at him in admiration.

"You know, Mr. Quade," she said, "I've never really seen a detective, except in the movies!"

Marty grunted. Irma Dawson was pretty, with flaxen hair and a fresh, creamy complexion. She wore a neat green print dress that set off her figure very nicely. She was about twenty-three or twenty-four, Marty judged—old enough not to talk like a sixteen-year-old about seeing a detective for the first time.

She went on gushingly: "It must be awfully exciting, chasing criminals and—"

"Excuse me, Miss Dawson," Marty broke in. "I'm trying to catch one now—if you'll give me a chance." He swung on Doctor Mordaunt. "I've phoned a friend of mine at headquarters, and he's coming up here. It's all right," he added hastily, as Mordaunt frowned. "I told him that you have a swell society practice, and you didn't want any publicity. He'll keep it under cover—unless you get killed."

He grinned as Mordaunt flushed, clutched his rifle closer. The doctor turned, led the way toward the library. "Who was that banging on the door just now?"

"That was no banging," Marty told him. "That was a slug from a silenced rifle. It was aimed at me from behind the service door. I ducked, but your door couldn't."

The doctor said almost under his breath: "My God, it's coming closer and closer. Right at my door now!"

Irma Dawson followed him down the hallway, casting an arch glance at Marty as she passed. Mrs. Barth came after her, mumbling something indistinguishable.

Sprague, the insurance agent, took Marty's arm, whispered confidentially: "Look here, Mr. Quade, you want to handle the old man politely. He's nervous as the devil, and he never had a very good temper. This business has just about made life unbearable for his housekeeper and his niece."

"Thanks," Marty said dryly.

IN the library, Doctor Mordaunt seated himself in a deep armchair, making sure that the rifle was alongside him. He frowned at the others.

"Go to your room, Mrs. Barth; and you, too, Irma. Mr. Sprague, will you wait for us in the sitting room? I wish to talk to Mr. Quade in private."

Sprague said: "But, doctor—"

"Do as I say!" Mordaunt snapped at him.

Sprague shrugged, cast a significant glance at Marty, and turned to go. Irma Dawson and Mrs. Barth followed him out reluctantly.

Mordaunt held on to the rifle and kept tapping impatiently with his foot until the door had closed behind them. Then he began, speaking swiftly:

"Now, Mr. Quade, this is the situation—my life has been threatened, and I want protection. I've arranged for you to sleep here—"

"Just a second," Marty interrupted. "You know this is going to cost you dough?"

"How much?" the doctor demanded shortly.

"You can give me an advance of five hundred now—" Marty began.

"Five hundred! What do you think you are?"

Marty shrugged, went on unconcernedly: "An advance of five hundred now, and I'll tell you how much balance you'll have to pay after I size up the situation. In case you think that's too much, doc, you can let the police handle it. Your taxes will cover their services."

Mordaunt glared, but he reached across to a desk which was within arm's length of his chair, and started to delve in a drawer.

Marty wandered about the room, stepped to the window, which was open, and looked out. He frowned.

"You've got a terrace out here," he said, turning to the doctor.

"What of it?" Mordaunt exclaimed. "Did you come here to protect me, or to talk about architecture?" He had extracted a sheaf of money from the drawer, and he handed Marty ten fifty-dollar bills.

Marty raised his eyebrows as he noted that the drawer must contain two or three thousand dollars in cash. He folded the money, put it away.

Mordaunt remarked caustically: "Well, I suppose I'll get a lecture on architecture for my money."

Marty's face went a dull red. "Architecture," he said, "is what we're going to talk about now—whether you like it or not. You keep your door locked, watch it with a rifle, and you leave your windows wide open facing on a terrace."

"Nobody can get in through the terrace. It's a private terrace, and nobody can get on it. I have eight rooms in this apartment, and four of them face on the terrace. If Hillary can get in here through the windows, he must be a monkey."

"Who's Hillary?" Marty asked. Mordaunt was plainly laboring under a severe nervous strain. He ran a hand through his thinning hair, snapped: "Who's Hillary! Five hundred dollars fee, and he asks me who's Hillary!" He took his right hand off the rifle for long enough to shake a finger at Marty. "Hillary is the one that's trying to kill me. That's who Hillary is!"

Marty drew up a chair and straddled it backward, facing the old man. "All right, doc, let's not waste any more time. So far all you've told me about this Hillary is that he isn't a monkey. If you want to get your five hundred dollars' worth, suppose you tell me the story from the beginning."

Mordaunt lit a cigarette with shaking fingers. "Hillary is a chemist," he said jerkily, between puffs, "who was associated with me in developing a certain chemical invention. That was five years ago. Business was much better than it is today, and I had a good deal of ready money. I put up the cash to finance his experiments.

"Well, the invention was no damn' good. I found it out after Hillary had taken ten thousand dollars—all that was left of the money I had deposited to our joint account—and run off with it. I swore out a warrant for Hillary, and he was caught, tried for grand larceny, and sent to jail for five years."

Marty was listening closely. "And now Hillary is out of jail, and after your hide?"

Mordaunt sneered. "You think he would risk the electric chair just to get revenge? Not he. He's got something better than that. He can make fifty thousand dollars by my death!"

Marty's eyes narrowed. "How?" he asked softly.

Mordaunt hitched forward in the chair. "When we entered into the partnership, Hillary and I took out a joint business insurance policy. It provided that if either of us died, the fifty thousand dollars was to be paid to the survivor. Sprague—the man you just met here—sold us the idea. Well, after Hillary went to jail I forgot about that policy. In fact, I forgot about it until this evening. As—"

THE telephone jangled on the end table at his elbow, and Mordaunt picked it up, barked: "Hello, hello!"

He listened a moment, then handed the instrument to Marty. "It's police headquarters. They want to talk to you. Mind you now, I want no publicity!"

"Don't worry," Marty told him, "you won't get any. My friend, Sergeant Sayre, knows I'm on this case." He reached over the back of the chair, took the telephone. "Quade talking," he said.

It was Dave Sayre. "What the hell is this, Quade?" he demanded in a peeved voice. "I was in the radio room when a call just came in from a dame in the Belleville Apartments—apartment 14C. She says there's a wild man loose with a gun in the corridor. I thought I'd call before the flash goes out—"

"It's all right, Dave," Marty told him. "That was me. Somebody shot at me and scrammed down the service hallway. What the devil happened to you? Didn't you get my message to come over here to Doctor Mordaunt's apartment?"

"Sure I did," Sayre replied. "But I'm on homicide. You can call me when there's a stiff."

"Thanks," Marty grumbled. "I'll do as little for you sometime. Maybe you can do this without putting too much of a strain on your good nature—requisition the file on a guy named"—he glanced over at Mordaunt—"what's this Hillary's first name?"

"Roger," the doctor told him sourly.

"Roger Hillary," Marty said into the phone. "Did a term for grand larceny." He said good-by to Sayre and handed the instrument back to the doctor.

"Okay. You were saying you forgot about that policy till this evening. What happened to make you remember it?"

"Well," Mordaunt resumed, "I was coming home about seven-thirty. I got off the bus at Riverside Drive, and walked across. It's a bit dark over there, and lonely. Suddenly there was a flash of flame from across the street, and a bullet whizzed past my head. I must have started to run or something.

"I tripped over my cane and fell to the sidewalk. The person who had shot at me probably thought I was hit, and didn't wait for another shot. He ran back toward the Drive, and I caught sight of his face under a street lamp. I'll swear it was Hillary."

"I see," Marty said thoughtfully. "Did you call a cop?"

"No. There had been no explosion with the shot, and it attracted no attention. I got up and continued across, thinking if I saw an officer, I'd report it. But as usual when you need a policeman, there wasn't any. My niece, Irma, dissuaded me from notifying the police, because of the publicity, so I decided on a private detective."

"Where does Sprague fit in the picture?" Marty asked.

"I sent for him. I thought it would be wise to take out a little more insurance to provide for Irma and for Mrs. Barth in case anything happened to me. Well, do you know what Sprague told me?"

Marty grinned. "I bet he had no more application blank with him. He looks just that dumb."

Mordaunt stirred impatiently. "He told me that the old partnership policy covering Hillary and myself was still in force. Somebody has been paying premiums on it all these years!"

Marty whistled. "You mean to say that Hillary paid those premiums from jail?"

"I don't know how he managed it, but he could have done it easily enough if he had somebody working with him on the outside. We never recovered the ten thousand dollars that he embezzled."

"Where is that policy now?" Marty asked.

"I found it in my desk. It's in my work room. I'll get it for you."

Mordaunt rose, started for the door, then returned and picked up the rifle. "With all due respects to you, Mr. Quade," he said sarcastically, "I better carry my own protection with me."

"Suit yourself," Marty grunted. "As long as I have your five hundred."

THE doctor left the room, closing the door behind him, and Marty picked up the phone, asked for headquarters. When he got Sayre again, he said:

"Thanks for the swift action, Dave. You got the speed of a caterpillar."

"I was just going to call you, Quade," the police sergeant explained. "The file just came up this minute. What about this Hillary? Why are you interested in him?"

"You better send out a general alarm for him, Dave. I'm still getting the story from Doctor Mordaunt—"

"It must be a complete novel, from the length of time it's taking," Sayre laughed.

Marty went on, disregarding the comment: "And it looks like Hillary is out to get the doctor. You better put out the flash: 'Wanted for attempted murder.' What's his description from the file?"

"Wait'll I see. Here it is—five foot six, weight a hundred and thirty. Sallow complexion. Gray hair, brown eyes."

"Any record of defective vision?" Marty asked.

"Nothing here, Quade."

"Okay, Dave. Shoot out the alarm. And send a couple of men up here—not snooty homicide guys, but just plain dicks."

Sayre started to protest: "Listen, Quade, since when are you running the department? Anyone'd think—"

Marty didn't wait to hear him finish. He dropped the instrument, kicked over the chair, and leaped for the door.

FROM somewhere in the apartment, a girl's voice had risen in a high-pitched, strident scream of terror. Twice that scream sounded, inarticulate; then it resolved itself into words: "Help, uncle! Help! He—"

The voice stopped as if cut off by a knife.

Marty had already yanked open the door, pounded into the hall. He swung toward the right, instinctively sensing the direction of the scream.

And suddenly the lights blinked out.

The entire apartment was plunged in darkness. Marty cursed, drew his revolver, and got his flashlight out. Before he could click it on, he heard a stealthy movement behind him, and a heavy body smashed into him. Something hard swished down, grazed the side of his head, and struck the bone of his shoulder with painful force.

Marty slammed out with his automatic, drew a grunt of pain as he struck soft flesh. He fought silently in the dark with his unknown assailant, dropping the flashlight and clubbing his gun.

The other began to pant heavily. Suddenly two powerful arms encircled Marty's waist, tried to heave him off his feet. Marty grinned grimly in the dark, chopped downward with the clubbed automatic.

The other uttered a gasp. The encircling arms went limp, and a body thumped to the floor. Marty's gun had connected with a skull.

Marty knelt beside the inert body, felt around on the floor for his flash, and found it. He clicked it on, and it lit. He directed the beam of light at the body, started in surprise. The unconscious man was Sprague, the insurance agent. There was a bloody furrow along his forehead, and a rapidly swelling lump. But he was not very badly hurt.

Marty got to his feet, hurried down the hall toward where he had heard the girl scream. He passed an open door, looked in. His flash disclosed the figure of Irma Dawson, lying on the floor and stirring jerkily.

He rushed in and knelt beside her, raised her head. She opened her eyes, looked into the eye of the flashlight, and shuddered. She drew away in terror.

"It's all right," Marty reassured her gruffly. "This is Quade. Never mind the hysterics. What happened?"

Suddenly, as if his mention of hysterics had reminded her of something, she began to sob.

Marty shook her hard. "Quit it, you little fool, or I'll leave you here in the dark. Talk quick. What happened?"

She stopped sobbing as suddenly as she had begun, stammered: "T-there was a m-man out on the terrace. He—he had a gun—and the most awful face. He started to come in through the window, and I screamed. T-then—I—must have fainted."

"What'd he look like?"

"H-he had gray hair, and—and eyeglasses, and he was all twisted up. He—he must be Hillary." Suddenly she sat up violently. "Uncle! Where's uncle? Hillary will kill him!"

And just then, as if to bear out her words, there came from the next room the sound of shattering glass and a yell of rage. Almost simultaneously with the yell, there was the smashing sound of a bullet thudding into wood in the next room, followed at once by the crashing explosion of a single shot.

Irma Dawson clutched Marty's arm, exclaimed: "That's uncle's work room next door. He—he's shot uncle!"

Marty shook himself free of the girl, sprang out of the room into the hall. His flashlight picked up the bulk figure of Mrs. Barth, running toward him from the other end of the hall. She was holding a shoe in her hand, by the toe, and brandishing it.

"Police! Police!" she screamed.

EVEN as Marty watched her, Mrs. Barth tripped over the inert body of Sprague, whom she hadn't noticed, and went sprawling.

Marty swung away, ran to the next room, and tried the door. It opened under his touch. He sprayed the flashlight into it, stared at the figure of Doctor Mordaunt, standing over a body slumped on the floor, crumpled in death, and lying half in and half out of the French window.

Mordaunt was still holding his rifle. He turned, blinked into the flashlight, said weakly: "Well, I guess I—killed him. It's a good thing I had the rifle."

Marty said: "Yeah. But not for Hillary." He strode into the room, stood beside the doctor, and stared down at the dead body of the gray-haired man. The dead man answered the police description of Hillary. Beside him lay a pair of pince-nez which had evidently fallen off. The right lens was smashed.

Hillary's face in death was screwed into a mask of hatred. His features were broad, coarse. His coat was bloody around the heart, where the rifle bullet had caught him. Close to his right hand lay a heavy revolver to the muzzle of which was screwed a silencer.

Mordaunt said: "God, see if you can get the lights working again. I—I feel weak." He swayed, almost fell, but leaned against the rifle. "Never killed a man in my life before," he mumbled. "He—he shot at me and missed. I fired without thinking. Will—will they hold me for murder?" He walked unsteadily to a chair, slumped into it, dropping the rifle. "God! I never thought I'd really have to use it."

Marty bent, puzzled, beside the body of Hillary, picked up the eyeglasses, and pushed them on the dead man's nose. The skin cracked along the sides of the bridge as he forced them on.

Mordaunt exclaimed: "For God's sake, do something. What happened to my niece? I heard her scream just before he crashed in here."

"Your niece is all right," Marty told him. "She fainted, but she's better now. Wait'll I go out to the elevators and ring for the operator. He'll have to bring up new fuses, I guess."

Marty went out of the room. Irma Dawson was standing in the hall, her hand at her throat. "Uncle—" she asked. "Is he—"

Marty scowled at her. "Better not go in there. Your uncle is okay. He got Hillary."

He went on, passed Mrs. Barth, who was just succeeding in reviving Sprague. She had heard what he said to Irma Dawson, and she did not stop him to question him. She merely looked up at him with a stunned sort of expression.

Marty opened the outside door himself, took a couple of steps toward the elevators, and stopped short. His eye had caught the open door of the porter's pantry. He distinctly remembered that it had been closed when he had come up.

His lips tightened into a grim line. "What a sap I am," he murmured to himself.

He did not ring the elevator bell, but returned to the apartment, using the flashlight.

Mrs. Barth was helping Sprague into Doctor Mordaunt's room. Irma Dawson was trailing behind them, trying to peer over their shoulders.

Sprague glanced at Marty, said sheepishly: "I guess it was you I jumped out there. I thought you were the murderer."

Marty made no answer, pushed into the room. He looked at Doctor Mordaunt, who was sitting with his head in his hands.

"Listen, doc," he asked gently. "Did you ever know Hillary to wear glasses?"

Mordaunt took his head out of his hands, exclaimed short-temperedly: "Do you have to bother about eye-glasses at a time like this?"

Sprague answered from the doorway. "He didn't wear glasses, Mr. Quade, at the time I insured him. But he might have developed poor eyesight in jail."

"Yeah," Marty said slowly. "But would it surprise you to know that this is the first time a pair of glasses were ever on his nose? He never wore them while he was alive!"

SPRAGUE stood away from Mrs. Barth, walked over to the body and looked down at it. Then he turned to Marty. "What are you trying to do—say that this isn't Hillary? I'll identify him anywhere!"

Marty shook his head. "No, I don't say that isn't Hillary. I only say he never wore glasses."

Sprague stared from one to the other in the room. "But that's ridiculous. You yourself saw him out in the corridor—when he tried to kill you. Didn't he have glasses on then?"

"The man who shot at me," Marty said, "wore glasses. But it wasn't Hillary. It was the man who planned Hillary's death!" His eyes suddenly bored into those of the doctor. "What do you say, Doctor Mordaunt?"

Mordaunt stared at him, rigid, white lipped. "What do you mean, man?"

Marty laughed shortly. "I mean that you planned to commit legal murder! It was you who kept that policy alive all the time. When Hillary came out of jail, you brought him up here this afternoon, drugged him, and put him in the porter's closet. I couldn't figure that, until I saw the door of the closet open. The porter goes off at eight o'clock, so it wasn't he who opened that door."

Mordaunt was staring at him as if he were a ghost. Marty went on:

"This evening, after you had Hillary drugged, you stole out to the service door through the kitchen, and waited for me to come up. You shot at me and missed, so as to give me the idea that Hillary was alive and kicking at that moment. You put on a wig, and wore the glasses to disguise your eyes."

Irma Dawson cried: "What are you saying! Uncle is no murderer. Hillary attacked him. He was even at my window."

"Sorry, Miss Dawson," Marty told her, "but that wasn't Hillary. It was your uncle, all togged up in his glasses and wig. He first dragged in Hillary's body from the porter's closet, set it down right there where it is now. Then he poked his face at your window, came back here and staged the phony shooting act. He murdered Hillary while the man was unconscious—legal murder!"

Mordaunt said weakly: "You're mad. It's a wild story."

"Not so wild," Marty told him softly, "if you'll look in the mirror."

The doctor's eyes became like those of a hunted animal. He glanced from Marty to the others, inquiringly.

Marty said to him: "Your nose convicts you, doc. You've got the mark of those pince-nez on the bridge!"

Involuntarily Mordaunt's hand went to his nose. "Damn you, damn you!" he screamed, and snatched up the rifle.

Marty had the flashlight in his right hand, and was handicapped in going for his gun. He did the next best thing; he hurled the light straight at the doctor. It caught him in the forehead with a nasty thud. The doctor dropped the rifle from limp hands, sank into the cushions of the chair, unconscious. The room became utterly dark as the flashlight blinked out.

In the darkness Irma Dawson shrieked. Sprague started to shout something, but stopped as the doorbell rang.

Marty felt his way through the hall, opened the door to two plainclothesmen from headquarters.

"As usual," he grunted at them, "you're just in time to pick up the pieces. The case is all solved. There's been a murder, and I got the murderer—all inside of five minutes!"

Costigan, the taller of the two detectives, exclaimed: "No kidding, Quade, is this a bump?"

Marty nodded.

"And you got the bumper?"

Marty nodded again.

"All right," Costigan grunted. "We'll bite. How'd you get the bumper that fast?"

"By a nose, my boy," Marty told him. "By a nose!"

Costigan winked at his partner, jerked his head at Marty. "Look at the lug!" he jeered. "We get sixty per, while he does our work for love. I wish there was more of him. We could get some rest."

Marty whistled cheerfully as he led them down the hall. "You boys will never believe it," he threw back at them cryptically, "but the murderer paid me in advance—five hundred berries! He wanted me to be a—witness to the crime!"


Roy Glashan's Library
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