Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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Few people ever got the drop on Ed Race—and made it stick. But when that frail, hungry, lovely girl tried it, Ed was as meek as a lamb. Some folks even claim he helped her!
ON Saturday night Ed Race finished his engagement at the Palm Beach Theater. Sunday afternoon he went up to Daytona Beach to give a benefit performance for the Florida Easter Fund, and it was at Daytona that the telegram from Leon Partages caught him. Partages was the owner of the vaudeville circuit for which Ed worked, and Ed always had a soft spot in his heart for the kindly, genial, old gentleman. Partages generally did the craziest things on the spur of the moment, and it appeared from the telegram that he was now doing one of them:
C/O DAYTONA THEATER DAYTONA FLORIDA
YOU ARE OPENING IN MIAMI BEACH MONDAY STOP GO THERE TONIGHT INSTEAD AND BUY A HORSE NAMED REDTAIL FROM ARTHUR FRINK ITS PRESENT OWNER STOP THIS HORSE IS A WOW STOP IT HAS WON FOUR RACES STRAIGHT AND IT IS ENTERED IN THE FOURTH AT HIALEAH TOMORROW AGAINST BANG-UP WHICH IS ANOTHER GOOD HORSE THAT WON THE DERBY STOP ARTHUR FRINK IS BROKE AND THEY HAVE ATTACHED HIS SHARE OF THE PURSE IF REDTAIL WINS STOP HE WILL GLADLY TAKE TWELVE THOUSAND FOR THE HORSE STOP I HAVE WIRED YOU THE MONEY AT WESTERN UNION STOP GO THERE AND PICK UP THE TWELVE THOUSAND AND SEE FRINK AT MCCORMICK HOTEL STOP PAY HIM THE MONEY IN ADVANCE STOP HE WILL GIVE YOU BILL OF SALE DATED TOMORROW AS REDTAIL IS STILL GOING TO RUN UNDER HIS COLORS IN TOMORROWS MEET AT HIALEAH BUT HE NEEDS THE CASH TODAY STOP ALSO TRY TO KEEP LEE LINTON HIS JOCKEY ON THE JOB I WANT HIM STOP COMING TO MIAMI WILL ARRIVE TUESDAY MORNING BY TRAIN AS I GET SICK EVERY TIME I GO BY PLANE STOP SO LONG STOP THIS TELEGRAM IS COSTING ME TOO DAMN MUCH ALREADY STOP THANKS. —LEON PARTAGES.
ED RACE did a lot of grumbling, but he went to the Western Union office after the benefit performance, and picked up the twelve thousand in cash. Then he caught the Florida Special for Miami, which was two hours late at Daytona.
The rush of tourists for the warm climates was still strong, and there wasn't a parlor chair available, so Ed got in the day coach. There were three coaches hitched on behind the engine, and they were all pretty full. The only seat unoccupied was next to a blond young lady who was avidly watching the scenery roll by.
Ed raised his hat, inquired politely: "Is this seat taken, miss?"
The young lady had her chin cupped in her left palm, her elbow resting on the window ledge, and her eyes glued to the view outside. She didn't hear him. Rather than disturb her, Ed slid into the seat quietly, after throwing his hat upon the rack. He had no baggage with him, having checked it through to the Seaview Hotel at Miami Beach. His theater properties were also going through to the Spray Theater on the beach, where he was scheduled to open that evening.
The girl didn't budge, seemed not to be aware of his presence...
Ed glanced around the car. His seat was well toward the rear, and he had a good view of the rest of the occupants. This was a smoker, but there was a goodly percentage of women. Halfway down the car, four men were playing pinochle in a double seat, using a suitcase on their knees for a table. Further down, six men cramped into another double seat, were playing stud poker. Each game had its contingent of kibitzers, and wisecracks were flowing freely. Tobacco smoke and good nature permeated the coach. All these people were coming down for a holiday, getting away from the severe cold of the north. They had left their inhibitions and their false prides behind. Back in the Pullman cars, people would be sitting stiffly, keeping to themselves, conscious of their own importance. Here everybody was having a good time...
ED RACE took out a cigarette, and abruptly became aware that the girl next to the window was looking at him. He turned, to find her wide blue eyes fixed on him. He noted, in the quick glance he gave her, that her features seemed a bit pinched, as if from privation, and that there were dark circles under her eyes. But she was pretty. Her skin was soft, smooth, her features small and well modeled.
He smiled, extended the package of cigarettes. "Have a smoke?" he asked.
She hesitated only a fraction of a second, then her face was transformed by a smile, and her long, slim fingers extracted a cigarette.
"Thank you," she murmured.
Ed held the light for her, and he noticed that her hand shook as she held the butt to her lips. She inhaled deeply, let the smoke trickle through her nostrils with a deep sigh of contentment. Her eyes strayed back to the window. "Isn't it beautiful?" she exclaimed. "Oranges are growing on trees, everything green and blooming. And up north—it's hard to believe that only twenty-four hours ago I was freezing in New York!"
Ed appraised her keenly. She was wearing a cheap, tweed coat, unbuttoned to reveal a tan sweater and skirt underneath. Her hat was up on the rack, and her glorious, bobbed hair seemed to make the tawdriness of her clothes negligible.
"This your first trip south?" Ed asked her sympathetically.
She nodded. "I've heard so much of Florida. But it's better than one can imagine!"
She was smoking the cigarette fast, gulping the smoke as if her lungs were starved for it. "You—you come down often?"
"Every year," Ed told her. "It gets in your blood."
She became wistful. "This is my first time—and I'm afraid it's the last."
She shook her head. "I haven't worked for two years. I guess I'll have to start again now, though."
Ed followed her glance down to her left hand, where there was a thin, white gold, wedding band, but no engagement ring. He hadn't noticed it before, because she'd been resting her chin on that hand. It came to him as a distinct shock that this frail, china fragile young thing should be a married woman. Two years, hmm! She couldn't have been more than eighteen then, when she was married!
Just then, a colored porter in a white coat came into the car with a tray of sandwiches and a pitcher of coffee. Coach passengers generally didn't patronize the expensive dining cars, so they sold sandwiches and coffee at intervals.
Ed had eaten in Daytona, but he looked at the girl's pinched face, said: "How about a snack? It'll be more than three hours before we hit Miami—"
He stopped at sight of the sudden agony in her face. She was biting her lip. "N-no, thank you. I—"
She grew silent, and Ed saw that her little hands were clenched in her lap. The cigarette she was holding was being crushed.
"Look here," Ed exclaimed impulsively. "You're hungry!"
She closed her eyes. "No, no. Really I'm not!"
Ed paid no attention to her feeble protest, but motioned to the porter. "Three ham sandwiches, and two cups of that mud," he ordered. He paid sixty-five cents, took the paper cups of coffee, and handed one to the girl. There was no more resistance in her. She accepted it, as well as the two sandwiches he placed on her lap. Though he was not hungry himself, Ed ate the third sandwich, watching the girl wolf down her food. He even thought he saw color coming into her cheeks as she ate.
When she was finished, she turned to him impulsively, said: "That's the first thing I've eaten since I left New York. I—I had no money with me."
Ed raised his eyebrows. "It's a long trip to take without any money. Can I—?"
"No—no, thank you. You've been kind enough. I'll be—all right when I get to Miami. And I must pay you back for this. Won't you please tell me where I can send you some money?"
"That's an insult," Ed told her. "I'll be more than glad to see you in Miami—if you'll promise not to try to be absurd. If you'd care to have dinner with me some time—"
HE was carefully refraining from asking her for any explanation of why a girl should take a fourteen hundred mile trip without enough money in her purse to buy a sandwich. If she didn't want to explain, that was all right with him. He tore a thin strip from the margin of his timetable, wrote his name on it, and the address of the Spray Theater. He handed it to her. "I hope you'll look me up."
She took the slip of paper, glanced down at it, and suddenly her face went paper white. She uttered a little gasp, and immediately began to cough as if she were trying desperately to cover up the sudden confusion that had assailed her. Ed asked her, puzzled: "What's the trouble? Does my name mean anything to you?"
"Why no, of course not. I mean, yes, I've heard of you. I—I really didn't think a celebrity like you would be traveling in a day coach. You're the man who juggles forty-five caliber guns on the vaudeville stage aren't you? You do acrobatics, and juggle guns at the same time, and shot out the flames of a row of candles while you do somersaults? I've seen you—at the Clyde Theater in New York. I think your act is marvelous!"
She was talking very fast, as if she were afraid of stopping.
Ed nodded thoughtfully. "That's right," he said. "I'm billed as The Masked Marksman."
She smiled. "The Man Who Can Make Guns Talk. I've seen that line on all the billboards. And they say you always carry two of your guns with you in twin shoulder holsters. Is that true?"
Ed nodded again. He was thinking very fast. Not one person in ten thousand knew that Ed Race was the Masked Marksman. He always appeared on the stage with a mask. How did this girl, meeting him apparently by chance on the train, know his identity? If he was tempted to quiz her on that point, he lost the opportunity, for at that moment a small, scrawny man with a bald head got up from the poker game down front, and came walking up the aisle disconsolately. He was a dapper individual, neat looking in spite of the obvious fact that he must have been sitting up in the day coach overnight. His ears were small, stuck close in to his skull, and his eyes were also small and very close together over a thin, almost midget nose. His mouth was drawn down at the corners, and he looked as if he had just learned of the loss of his dearest relative.
Ed saw him, and grinned, calling out: "Hello there, Mac!"
The man raised his eyes from the floor, and suddenly let out a whoop of joy at sight of Ed. "Ye gods and little fishes!" he shouted, startling everybody in the car. He raced up to the seat, seized Ed's hand and pumped it up and down with a vigor and strength unsuspected in such a little man. "If it ain't Eddie Race in person! God's gift to Danny McGlone in his hour of desperation! Eddie, you're a lifesaver! Lend me fifty, will you? Those buzzards cleaned me out in stud poker, and I'm just beginning to feel lucky!"
Ed grinned, dug into his pocket, and peeled a fifty dollar bill off a sizable roll." How much did you drop, Mac?" Ed asked him.
"Two and a half C's, Eddie—all the dough I owned. And I was all set to make a killing with it down at Hialeah tomorrow. I got to get my dough back."
Ed Race glanced at the girl, said: "Mr. McGlone, I want to you to meet Miss—er—"
He waited, and she had to supply the name: "Mrs. Linton," she said, after a moment's hesitation.
McGlone, eager to get back to the game, started to say hastily: "Pleased to meetcha—" and then stopped short, his eyes narrowing. "Linton? Did you say Linton? You any relation to Lee Linton, the jockey?"
Her face was flushed a bit. "Yes. I'm his wife."
McGlone murmured: "Oh, yeah? I see." He was silent a minute, then: "Well, Eddie, I got to get back in the game. Look me up at the Hotel Tropical. I'll have the fifty for you any time after the races tomorrow."
HE left them, and Ed turned to the girl, found her looking at him queerly. Ed had sensed something peculiar about the way McGlone reacted upon learning her name. To put her at her ease again, he tried to make light conversation.
"You know, McGlone is probably the most unscrupulous person I know. He used to be a handicapper at Saratoga, but he was barred from the track. And yet, he has his good points. For instance, I'll get that fifty back, just as sure as the sun will rise in Miami tomorrow."
She didn't seem interested. She was still regarding, with a strange, speculative look, the unfinished sandwich in one hand, the paper cup of coffee in the other. She finished eating in silence. The train was racing through a kaleidoscope of glowing, sun warmed country. The trainman came through, announced: "The next stop will be West Palm Beach."
She crumpled the empty paper cup, put the waxed paper from her sandwiches carefully into it, and crushed the whole thing. Ed did the same with his, took the cup from her and went to the rear, deposited both in the waste receptacle under the water-cooler. When he came back, she had finished powdering her nose. She said casually: "That was an awful lot of money you took out just now, when you gave that man the fifty dollars."
Ed nodded. "There's twelve thousand dollars in that roll." He watched her out of the corner of his eye. "I'm going to buy a horse for a friend of mine."
She didn't answer. The train began to slow down for the West Palm Beach station. Then she said vivaciously: "Is it really true that you carry two guns with you?"
He laughed. "I certainly do."
"W-would you let me see one of them?"
Ed drew the heavy forty-five from his left holster, handed it to her, butt first. She took it, hefted it in her hand.
"You want to be careful of it," Ed told her. "It has a hair trigger."
She seemed to be tensing herself for something. The train was pulling into the station. Suddenly she turned, poked the muzzle of the gun into Ed's side. Her lips were trembling, and there was a frantic light in her eyes. "Give me that money in your pocket!" she commanded.
Ed looked down at the gun, saw that it was shaking in her hand. He sighed, said: "I've heard of this sort of thing being pulled by hitchhikers, but not in a train. You have your nerve with you!"
"It's not nerve," she said tightly. "It's desperation. I'll shoot if you don't give me that money before we stop."
Ed slowly put his hand in his pocket, took out the thick roll.
"You can take off two hundred dollars for your expenses," she said.
Ed grinned sardonically. "Very considerate of you," he murmured, and peeled off two bills, handed her the rest. "Would you care for my wrist watch, too? It's a very fine watch. Fourteen carat gold, eighteen jewel—"
She broke in. "Whatever you think of me, I deserve it—repaying your kindness this way. But believe me, I'm at the end of my rope. I'm so desperate that neither your life nor mine can stand in the way!"
Ed said nothing, but watched her. The train had stopped. "Give me your other gun!" she ordered.
He took it out, handed it to her, butt first, as he had done with the other one. She placed it under her coat, and stood up, still keeping him covered. People were moving down the aisle, getting off, and no one paid them any attention. She held the gun with which she covered him close in the folds of her coat.
Ed asked her curiously: "How are you going to get off the train? You know I could come after you the minute you turn your back. You surely aren't going to shoot at me through all that crowd of innocent people?"
"You're coming with me!" she told him. "Get up and walk to the front of the car. Keep right in front of me, and don't try to run. If you do, I swear I'll shoot!"
SHE moved out into the aisle, and Ed got up, smiling faintly. He made his way along the aisle, with the girl close behind him. When he passed the seat where the poker game was going on, McGlone looked up at him with a long face. "Hiya, Ed? The fifty's almost gone. I can't get a break with these here vultures. Stick around a couple of minutes. Maybe you'll bring me luck."
Ed felt something hard poked against the small of his back, and he said pleasantly to McGlone: "Sorry, Mac. If I don't get out in the fresh air, I'll die. It's too damn stuffy in here."
He passed on into the vestibule, stepped down onto the station platform. He could have twisted to one side there, and gotten out of range of the girl's gun, but he didn't. He waited very docilely for her to come down after him. Her capacious tweed coat hid the gun effectually. She stepped up to him, her eyes burning feverishly out of a flushed face. "Go through the station," she ordered, "and hail a cab."
The hot sun was pouring down on the station. The train would stop here for ten minutes, and hundreds of passengers were out on the platform, enjoying their first whiff of Florida air.
Ed said: "Lady, I want to compliment you. You're a first-class bandit and kidnaper. You couldn't get rid of me now, if you wanted to. I've got to stick with you and see what your play is going to be."
He pushed through the station to the curb, and motioned to a cab. They got into it, and the girl said: "Drive us to the nearest bank."
Ed started to chuckle, but immediately stopped, studying her in a puzzled way.
She sat in the corner of the car, half facing Ed, with the gun wrapped in her coat. She was breathing hard, almost panting. Ed could see that the nervous strain under which she was laboring was terrific. She forced herself to calmness, and said: "When we get to the bank, we're going inside, and you will open an account in your own name, and deposit this twelve thousand dollars. I'll be standing right behind you, and if you should try to spoil it in any way, I'll shoot you!"
Ed asked her: "You mean that you've done all this, just to get me to deposit the money in a bank?"
"Lady," he said, "you're full of surprises. Can it be that you're not a bandit at all, but just a high-powered salesman for a bank?"
She didn't answer, just sat there looking at him.
From the direction of the station they heard the departing whistle of the Florida Special. Ed said: "There go our hats!"
The cab stopped, and the driver announced: "Here it is, lady. You wanted the bank, didn't you?"
Ed opened the door, held it for her. She got out awkwardly, because she was still trying to keep him covered. She started to say: "Pay the driv—" but stopped short, her face paling, as her eyes lighted on the bank. She gasped: "Why! It—it's closed!"
Ed grinned. "Most banks are closed on Sunday. It's an old banking custom."
She swung on the cab driver. "Why didn't you tell me?"
The driver shrugged, winked at Ed. "It wasn't none of my business, lady. You said you wanted to go to the bank, so I brung you. How did I know you had the days of the week mixed? You might of just wanted to show this here gentleman the arkytechure. It's a swell looking building, ain't it?"
She was wavering now, full of indecision. Ed took out some change, paid off the cabby. "Beat it," he said.
The driver pocketed his fare and the tip. "You ain't sore, are you, mister? Why don't you let me take you back to the station or someplace? It's pretty hot, walkin'—"
"That's all right, my friend," Ed told him. "We'll wait here for the bank to open."
The driver stared, and then shrugged. "Okey doke by me, mister. I'll come back for you Monday morning."
He threw the car in gear, and pulled away. Ed turned to the girl. "Well, Miss Bandit, where to now? You've still got the gun—"
HE was interrupted by a hoarse shout. A second taxicab had pulled in at the curb, and Dan McGlone erupted from within it. His face was red with excitement, and he had a small, gun- metal automatic in his hand. He hurled himself across the sidewalk, and poked the automatic into the girl's side.
"Drop that gun!" he snapped at her. "Drop it quick!"
Startled, the girl let the heavy revolver fall from the fold of her coat. It banged on the sidewalk, but did not explode. McGlone swung on Ed. "I seen that something was phony, when you was walking down the aisle in the car. So I looked out the window, and seen you two get in the cab. In my life I have known many a guy to be taken for a ride, and if this wasn't the goods, I'd of eaten my shirt. I could of sworn that she was holding a gun on you. So I got out of the train and followed. And here we are!"
He spoke triumphantly, like one who has accomplished a deed of rare heroism.
Ed Race said sourly: "Thanks, Mac. Your intentions were fine. But you didn't have to worry." He stooped and picked up the revolver, broke it, exhibited an empty chamber. "This revolver was unloaded. I carry the cartridges in my pocket, because my guns have hair triggers!"
McGlone swore disgustedly, and put his automatic away. His cabby came over hesitantly, said: "Would yoh mind payin' yoh fare, mistah?" He glanced timidly at the big revolver that Ed still held. "Not that I insist, of co'se, but I have a wife an' foah kids at home, and I could use the money—"
McGlone shifted uneasily from one foot to another, looked sheepishly at Ed. "Say, Eddie—could you maybe fix this guy up? I—I happen to be flat again—"
Ed raised his eyebrows, took out some more change, and paid the man. When the driver had gone, Ed asked McGlone: "What happened to the fifty, Mac?"
McGlone lowered his eyes. "I—er—aw, hell! Those buzzards were too good for me. I'm clean again!"
Ed grinned. "The wisest guy is always a sucker for somebody else's game, Mac. Take you for instance—you take 'em over at the tracks, and drop it all in poker. You—say—!"
The girl had been standing quietly. Now she had turned suddenly and had started to run at breakneck speed away from them, toward the main highway, a block away.
McGlone exclaimed: "Hell, what a wildcat!" and started after her. But Ed caught his arm, held him back. "Take it easy, Mac. It's my money she has. If I want her, I'll go after her."
They watched her run, with the coat flapping awkwardly behind her. On the way, something fluttered out of her pocket, unnoticed by her, and dropped to the sidewalk. She kept on without stopping. They saw her reach the highway, look back, and raise a thumb toward a passing car. It sped past her without stopping, but a second one, right behind it, a beautiful, maroon sedan with six wire wheels, ground to a stop, and they saw her get into it, saw the car pull away toward the south...
Ed sighed. "That's that!"
McGlone asked: "Has she got your dough?"
"She has. Twelve thousand dollars."
McGlone whistled. "You crazy, Eddie? You let her get away!"
"Well, not exactly. I intend to follow her. I want to see where she goes and what she does when she gets to Miami. There's something damn queer in the wind—"
"But how the hell you gonna follow her? That car's traveling like—"
"She left me two hundred dollars, Mac. Very kind hearted of her." Ed walked him down the street, picked up the red-white-and- blue bordered envelope which had fluttered from the girl's pocket. "We'll locate the airport and hire a plane. It's only sixty miles to Miami. We should be there in a half hour. We'll watch for that maroon sedan."
McGlone shrugged. "You're the boss, Eddie, I haven't got a sou, so I'll string along with you. But I think you're nuts just the same. First you let a dizzy dame hold you up with an empty gun, and then you let her get away with twelve grand, when you could have grabbed her as easy as you could say Jack Robinson!"
ED wasn't listening. He was keeping an eye out for a cab, and at the same time he was loading his revolver from a box of cartridges he had taken from his pocket.
By the time he got the gun loaded, a cab hove into sight. It was the same driver who had brought Ed and the girl to the bank, and he leaned out, grinned. "I got an idea you might get hungry, waitin' for the bank to open, mister, so I figured I'd come around and take you to a restaurant."
"Very thoughtful of you," Ed told him. "I'll tell you what you do—drive us to the airport—and make it snappy!"
The driver looked at McGlone, asked Ed: "Where's the lady, mister?"
Ed climbed in the cab, scowled at the driver. "She's still looking for a bank. Get going!"
On the way to the airport, Ed kept fingering the envelope he had picked up, turning it over and over in his hands. It was an airmail letter, with the postage canceled, and it had evidently been received, opened and read. It was addressed to Mrs. Mary Linton, Hotel Channing, New York City. The return address was: Lee Linton, McCormick Hotel, Miami, Florida.
McGlone, who had grown morosely silent, suddenly started to talk: "Look, Eddie, I'm dead broke now, but you see how much you can hold on to out of that two hundred the dame left you. The plane fares shouldn't be more than fifty bucks for the both of us. If you have a hundred and a half left, I know how I can make us a couple of G's at the track tomorrow."
Absently, Ed said: "Yes? How?"
"It's a sure bet, Eddie," McGlone told him eagerly. "You keep this to yourself, now. I got connections with a betting syndicate in New York, an' they're throwing the works on Bang-Up in the fourth at Hialeah tomorrow. It should pay about twenty to one. And this is no hooey, Eddie. You know I get 'em straight."
Ed sat up. "Bang-Up? Isn't that the race where Redtail is running?"
"That's right, Eddie. But Redtail won't win. Artie Frink owns her, and he's up against it. He's talked his jockey, Lee Linton, into throwing the race. That's why I was sort of stunned when you introduced me to Linton's wife back there on the train. But see, Eddie, that makes Bang-Up a sure winner. We put a hundred and a half on her on the nose—"
"How do you know that Linton is going to throw the race?" Ed asked it calmly, but he was queerly cold. He was thinking of the desperate eyes of Mary Linton.
"How do I know? Because Frink wired the syndicate in code. He wanted to borrow ten grand to bet against himself on Bang- Up, and he had to tell them all about it. They would only give him two grand. They wired it to him. But the syndicate is betting about a hundred grand all over the country with the different handbooks. They're not placing it at the track, so as not to pull the odds down."
"I see," Ed said softly. He understood now why Frink wanted the twelve thousand in advance. He wanted it to bet on Bang- Up. At twenty to one, he could clean up a quarter of a million dollars.
Ed said softly: "Hell, I've got to read this!" He pulled the letter out of the opened airmail envelope. There were two things in it—a letter and a telegram. The letter read as follows:
I'm going to throw that race for Frink. I'm afraid of what they'll do to both of us if I refuse. I'm broke, and I haven't been able to send you any money for a month. And Frink's gang here will kill me if I don't play ball with them, and then where will you be, without a nickel of insurance? Frink and his crowd are desperate enough to commit murder—or worse. And they've promised me five thousand dollars out of the profits. Mary, I know how you feel about it, but it's better to do this thing than to be dead. See if you can dig up enough for coach fare to come down here. Yours,
The telegram was addressed to Mrs. Mary Linton on board the Florida Special at Jacksonville:
PARTAGES BUYING HORSE FOR TWELVE THOUSAND STOP PAYING IN ADVANCE STOP FRINK USING THE MONEY TO BET ON RACE STOP PARTAGES SENDING MONEY BY ED RACE WHO IS THE MASKED MARKSMAN STOP RACE WILL BOARD YOUR TRAIN AT DAYTONA STOP KEEP OUT OF HIS WAY SO HE WONT RECOGNIZE YOU LATER STOP HE WILL PROBABLY BE IN PULLMAN SO YOU WONT MEET HIM STOP SORRY DEAR I GOT YOUR WIRE BUT I CANT BACK OUT NOW STOP IT WILL ALL COME OUT ALL RIGHT STOP WHEN YOU ARRIVE COME DIRECTLY TO THE MCCORMICK. —LEE
ED was silent for a long time after he read those two messages. McGlone ventured: "Whatsamatter, Eddie? You look like you seen a ghost!"
"Yes," Ed said somberly. "A very disgusting ghost."
The driver swung the cab in a wide circle into the graveled driveway of the airport. "Here you are, mister. When you see the lady, give her my regards."
EXACTLY thirty-five minutes later, Ed and McGlone landed at the International Airport in Miami. And nine minutes after that they were at the desk of the McCormick Hotel, on the Bay Front. "Mr. Race to see Mr. Frink," Ed told the clerk.
The clerk phoned up, then said: "You can go right up, Mr. Race. Mr. Frink is expecting you. Room 307."
Ed and McGlone went up in the elevator. The door of 307 was open, and Frink was waiting for them. He was a squat, bullet- headed man, with very thin eyebrows and a wisp of a mustache. His reputation as a sportsman was not of the best, but he was tolerated on the tracks because his family had been breeders for generations back. He greeted Ed cordially, but when he caught sight of McGlone he frowned.
McGlone greeted him familiarly. "Hello there, Frinky old boy! I'm sitting in on this here game. The boys back in N.Y. tipped me off all about it. So you don't have to worry about me."
Frink admitted them, and nodded to a slim, sandy haired young fellow who was sitting in an easy chair sipping a highball, "Mr. Race and Mr. McGlone, I want you to meet my jockey, Lee Linton."
Lee Linton was slight of build, and there was a sort of innate fineness in his face that made it hard to believe he could have been intimidated into throwing a race. At the same time, Ed could easily see how he had been forced to agree, for there were three other men in the room, whom Frink pointedly omitted to introduce. They were all sitting around, drinking highballs, and Ed had never seen a tougher collection outside of the Tombs.
Frink was impatient to get down to business. "I was just having a little—ah—conference with these—er—business associates of mine. But they don't mind waiting, I'm sure."
The three of them grinned. One, a burly chap with a shiny set of false teeth, waved his glass. "Sure, Mr. Frink. Go right ahead. We're comfortable. Don't mind us." Then, after a short pause: "You didn't introduce us to your friends, boss."
Frink grimaced. "This is—er—Jake," indicating the one with the new teeth, "this is Nick, and this is Manny. Mr. Race and Mr. McGlone."
Ed smiled at all three of them disarmingly. Jake grinned, waved his glass negligently; Nick bobbed his head, and Manny got up, bowed mockingly. Jake said: "We're sure pleased to meetcha, Mister Race an' Mister McGlone."
Lee Linton suddenly put his glass down, stood up determinedly. "Look here, Mr. Race," he began, "You represent Mr. Partages, and I'm sure that if your principal knew how his twelve thousand dollars was to be used—"
He stopped short, for Jake had arisen, moving swiftly for such a bulky man, and taken a position right behind Linton, very close to him. He had his hand in his pocket, and the pocket was very close to the jockey's back. He said with deceptive mildness: "You ain't got no call to annoy Mr. Race, now, Lee. Don't you see he wants to get done with this business?"
Linton gulped, looked desperately around the room, and sat down without saying anything further. There was a slight tension in the room which McGlone broke by saying: "Geez, I'm thirsty?"
Jake laughed, went to a decanter on the sideboard, and poured whiskey into a tall glass, then seltzer. He started to fill another one, but Ed said: "None for me, thank you."
Jake raised his eyebrows, handed the glass to McGlone.
Frink stirred impatiently, said to Ed Race: "Now, to get down to business. You—ah—have the money with you, Mr. Race? Twelve thousand dollars, I believe, was the sum that Partages and I agreed on over the phone. I have the bill of sale ready here, dated tomorrow. The understanding is that I get the cash now, and you take possession of Redtail tomorrow after the fourth race—"
Ed interrupted him. "Unfortunately, Mr. Frink, I haven't got the money!"
There was a stunned silence in the room. Frink repeated dully: "You—haven't got the money?"
Ed shook his head. "I—er—was relieved of it. Perhaps a check—?"
"Hell!" Jake growled. "A checks no good—unless we can cash it. They don't take nothing but U. S. currency at the track—"
HE stopped, as if he had said too much, but he was saved embarrassment by the abrupt ringing of the telephone. Frink answered it. He listened a second, exclaimed: "What? His wife? Wait a minute!"
He covered the mouthpiece with his hand, said hoarsely: "It's your wife, Linton. What's she doing here?"
Linton answered defiantly: "I told her to come down. If I'm going to do that for you, I want Mary near me—"
Jake laughed harshly. "Sure, sure. Thats all right. Tell her to wait downstairs a few minutes."
Frink nodded, spoke into the phone again: "Tell her to wait. We'll be through—" he stopped, listened to the clerk again, then: "She is? Didn't I tell you to have her wait? No, I didn't say send her up, you fool, I said for her to wait. She's in the elevator? Well, okay!"
He slammed the receiver down, glowered at Linton. "The clerk misunderstood me. She's on her way up!"
Jake and his two companions were plainly nonplussed. There was a half glad light in Linton's eyes. Frink tugged at his lower lips, glancing from Ed to McGlone. "You'll pardon me, Mr. Race," he said, "but for certain personal reasons, I do not care that Mrs. Linton should be here while we straighten this matter out. Would you be good enough to go into the adjoining bedroom while we talk to her? I assure you it will only take—"
"That's all right," Ed told him heartily. "Glad to oblige. Sure. Just rap on the door when you're through."
He propelled McGlone by the elbow into the next room, closed the door behind them. They were in the bedroom of the two room suite, and they could hear distinctly every sound that was made in the next room. Florida hotels are far from soundproof. Some of them have been built in as little as six or seven weeks.
There was the sound of a tap on the door of the sitting room, and then they heard Mary Linton's voice. "Lee! Dearest! You mustn't do it!"
"Mary! S-sh! Don't talk so loud. It's too late now. I told you in the telegram. I can't back out."
"But you must back out. Mr. Frink! Please don't make Lee do a thing like this!"
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Linton," came Frink's suave voice. "Everything's arranged. Lee should never have told you about it in the first place. Now he must go through with it—eh, Jake?"
Ed looked at McGlone, as Jake boomed in the next room: "I hope to tell you, lady. He goes through with it—or else!"
"Well then," Mary's voice, defiantly, "I tell you that you won't profit by it. You've got to have the twelve thousand dollars from Partages to bet against yourselves; well, you won't get it! I took the money from Mr. Race, on the train. I'll give it back to him tomorrow—after the fourth race!"
Ed thrilled at the triumphant note in the girl's voice. Even through the closed door, he could sense the throbbing note of defiance.
Frink's voice came to them now, venomous and repressed. "You didn't do anything of the kind. Race is too keen a man to let you take his money away—"
"You think so? Well, here it is. I've got it all. I'm going to keep it—till tomorrow!"
Ed glanced at McGlone and groaned: "The little fool! She's just begging for trouble!"
McGlone said, exhibiting remarkable knowledge of human nature: "I think she wants trouble, Eddie. She wants to wake up that husband of hers—"
Mary Linton's hysterical voice came to them suddenly: "Stand back. Keep away from me! Don't you try to take this money. I've got a gun here!"
McGlone gripped Ed's sleeve, whispered hoarsely: "My God, Eddie! It's your empty gun!"
Another voice was raised now—Lee Linton's. There was a new note in it. "Damn you, you get your hands off my wife! Look out!"
There was the sound of a thudding blow, a falling body, a muted scream.
Ed said to McGlone: "Enter—us!" He pushed open the door, barged in...
MARY LINTON was backed against the wall, her eyes wide with terror. Lee Linton lay at her feet, groaning, with a split lip. Frink stood a little to the left, holding an automatic, while Jake, Nick and Manny, each with a gun, were crowding Mary Linton, who clutched Ed's thick wad of bills in her left hand, and Ed's heavy revolver in her right. At the sound of the opening door they all turned.
Ed said deprecatingly: "Gentlemen! Gentlemen! I'm surprised!"
Jake scowled. "You stay outta this, Race. This don't concern you!"
"On the contrary," Ed said mildly, "it concerns me very much. That money happens to be mine. Why fight over it?"
"That money," said Frink, stepping forward, with the automatic in his hand, "is to be paid to me. Therefore I am interested in getting it."
"I'm sorry, Frink," Ed said coldly, "but after hearing what has been going on, I've decided that Mr. Partages would rather not do business with you. I withdraw the offer to purchase Redtail." He looked across at the girl. "If you'd told me all this on the train, it would have saved a lot of trouble."
She shook her head. "You don't understand. Mr. Race. I had to see how Lee would act." There was a glow in her eyes as she glanced down at her husband, struggling to his feet. "And I'm—glad!"
Frink snarled: "Take 'em, boys. That money stays here!"
He stepped back, covered Ed with the automatic. Jake exclaimed: "Yeah!" and stepped forward toward the girl. Linton was on his feet again now, and he drove a weak blow at Jake, who parried it, brought up a terrific uppercut that drove Linton off his feet back against the wall. At the same time, Mary Linton cried out, raised the revolver, and pulled the trigger, aiming it at Jake. The hammer clicked on an empty chamber, and Jake, who had cringed away, uttered a yell and ran at her, with Manny and Nick coming in from either side.
Ed said: "Sorry, Frink," and kicked him in the shins, hard.
Frink yelled, dropped his gun hand for an instant, and Ed's hand flashed in and out from his shoulder holster with the same eye defying speed that had made him a headliner on the vaudeville stage, came out with the loaded revolver. Manny and Nick saw him, and swung their guns toward Ed. Ed sidestepped, slipped behind Frink, gripped him by the collar so he couldn't duck away, and fired twice. Nick and Manny were hurled back against the far wall as if they had been struck by huge catapults. A forty-five slug in the chest will do that to you. Frink squirmed, struggled, but Ed held him fast.
Jake had reached Mary Linton, seized her by the arm, and was swinging her around to make a shield of her just as Ed had done with Frink. Jake fired once, and Frink jerked, moaned, and fell limp. His moan was drowned by the third thunderous explosion of Ed's heavy revolver. Ed's slug caught Jake between the eyes, and the big man was dead before he hit the floor.
Ed let Frink drop, and the racing owner slumped, like a sack, at Ed's feet. Jake's shot had killed him.
Mary Linton was stooping beside her husband, cradling his bleeding head against her breast. "Lee! I knew you'd come through! I knew you weren't yellow!" The wad of money was lying on the floor now, scattered, forgotten.
Ed Race looked around the room for McGlone, couldn't find him, and looked in the bedroom. "Come out of there, Mac!" he called. "It's all over!"
McGlone crawled out from under the bed, dusted himself off. "It ain't that I was scared, Eddie," he said, "but a lady once told me I was born to be hung. And I hate to disappoint her."
Ed went back into the sitting room, and opened the door to the corridor. There was a crowd of frightened people out there, and a couple of bellhops. "You can tell the cops it's all right to come up now," Ed told one of the bellhops.
"W-what happened, mister?"
"Exterminators were here," Ed told him shortly, and turned back.
Mary Linton was supporting Lee, who had gotten to his feet. Linton looked at Ed, said: "I guess I was pretty yellow for a while, Mr. Race. But who could stay yellow with a wife like Mary? Maybe I've got no job, but I've still got her!"
ED smiled, went to the table and picked up the bill of sale which Frink had already signed. "You still have a job, too, Linton. Redtail belongs to Leon Partages now, and you're going to race her for him. I know you'll ride a good race!"
Mary Linton's eyes were wet. She left her husband, stumbled over to Ed, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him on the lips. "We—we'd do anything for you—Lee and I!"
Ed grinned. "You can name the first one for me!"
He turned, frowning, to find McGlone plucking at his sleeve. "Geez, Eddie," McGlone said, "you'll have to lend me another fifty to get back to New York. I don't know how to make money on straight races!"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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