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First published in The Spider magazine, April 1938

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version date: 2020-10-01
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The Spider, April 1938, with "Murder Matinee"

The bloody curtain had gone up on the last grim act for old Mingo, the clown—but Ed Race, the Masked Marksman, knew how to ring that curtain down again with a happy ending blasted out by bullets!

IT was eight minutes to three when Ed Race got to the Citizens' Deposit National Bank. He glanced up and down Broadway, looking for old Sam Mingo, but at first didn't see him. Then he saw a cab at the curb, and another one pulled up about fifty feet behind it. From the first of the two taxis Sam Mingo now got out.

Mingo, the clown... Ed had seen the old man do his clown act on the vaudeville circuits for ten years now, and God knew how long he had been doing it before that—before Ed had joined the Partages Circuit, himself, as the Masked Marksman. Mingo was a little slow lately—his joints weren't so flexible. But he still managed to give the crowds a good fifteen minutes of side-splitting fun.

Now, however, there was no levity in Sam Mingo's countenance. His wrinkled face was pale, and a quick, urgent fear showed in his eyes.

"I knew I could count on you, Ed!" was his greeting.

Ed Race's lips tightened. "I don't know what you want the money for, Sam, and I'm not asking. You can have it, of course. But I can see you're in some kind of trouble. Maybe, if you told me the whole thing, I could help."

They were inside the bank now, Ed writing a check at one of the accommodation desks along the wall.

Mingo the clown smiled sadly. "No, Ed. This is something I've got to face myself. There's no one I'd rather tell than you—but I've got to keep it to myself."

Ed nodded. "Just remember, if you should need help." He walked over to the teller's window, slid the check in.

The teller raised his eyebrows. "How'll you have it, Mr. Race?"

Ed threw a questioning look at Mingo, and the old clown said, "In hundreds."

In a moment they were walking away from the cage, and Ed handed Mingo five thousand dollars in hundred-dollar bills. "There it is, Sam—and I hope it helps you."

Mingo sighed. "To tell you the truth, Ed, I don't know if it will. I—I may not live to see the end." He thrust a slip of paper at Ed. "Here's my note for five thousand. I have insurance. If anything should happen to me, you can collect from my estate."

Ed took the slip of paper, folded and put it in his pocket without a glance. "If anything should happen to you, Sam," he said softly, "I'll see that whoever is responsible pays double."

They were in the street again, and suddenly, Ed felt the old man's slight figure stiffen beside him. His glance followed Mingo's wide-eyed stare, and he, himself, became taut. He swung forward slightly, on the balls of his feet. His shoulders hunched forward, almost imperceptibly, so that the weight of the two shoulder holsters, sheathing the twin .45's under his armpits, moved forward, with the butts of the guns almost peeping out from under his coat lapels. His eyes, narrowed almost to slits, were fixed upon the two men who had just emerged from the taxicab parked behind Mingo's.

Ed's lips hardly moved, but the name he uttered was distinctly heard by the old man beside him. "Moulson!"

The taller man, whose name Ed had breathed, had a patch over his right eye. He was long, gaunt, narrow-waisted and narrow-shouldered. His companion was stocky, his thick neck bulged out of a tight collar—and his eyes were those of a killer.

Mingo said hurriedly, "The short one with Moulson is Milo Tyker. He's as bad as Moulson." Suddenly Mingo's voice broke. "God! I didn't realize they had followed me!"

Ed Race didn't take his eyes from the two men approaching. "Can I do something for you?" he asked old Mingo.

"Yes, yes, Ed. It—it's deadly important that I get away from here in my cab, without being followed by Moulson and Tyker. It—it means everything to me. I hate to ask you, Ed, but do you think you could... detain them?"

Ed's eyes were glowing. "I can detain them," he said.

MOULSON and Tyker were abreast of them now, having pushed through the moving pedestrians on Broadway. Moulson's cadaverous eye had flicked carelessly over Ed Race; and he nudged Tyker, who moved up in such a way that he stood almost alongside Ed. The thick-necked man's hand slid into his jacket pocket.

Moulson paid no more attention to Ed, as if he were sure that Tyker would easily dispose of him. His cadaverous eye rested ironically on the bulge in Mingo's coat over the breast pocket, where the package of money lay. "Looks like you've drawn some money, Mingo. Where were you going with it?"

Mingo said, "Damn you, Moulson, leave me alone. You've done me enough harm as it is."

Moulson's lips were sneering. "I'm not leaving you alone, clown, till you've talked to me—told me what I want to know." His gnarled hand came out and gripped Mingo's arm, so that the old man winced. "If you want to call the police, it's all right with me. But you're not calling any police. We're sticking with you till we get what we want."

Ed Race took one short step backward, which brought Tyker in front of him. "You're mistaken, Moulson," Ed said mildly. "You're not sticking with him. He's getting in that cab, and driving away. You're going to stay here—not follow him."

Moulson's eyes had switched to him the moment Ed began to talk. "You better stay out of this," he said, "if you want to remain healthy. You know who I am, fellow?"

Ed watched both Moulson and Tyker. Tyker's hand was slowly coming out of his jacket pocket. "Yes, I know who you are, Moulson," Ed said. "You're a murderer—but the police have never been able to get anything on you. This little gunman of yours does most of your dirty work, together with a half dozen more. You've got good lawyers, and plenty of money. But all that won't help you if you're dead. I promise you that you'll be dead sixty seconds after you start anything."

Ed had spoken in a cool, deliberate voice, as if he were discussing the condition of the stock market. But his eyes had gone a blank slate-grey, become cold and bleak. He said to Tyker, "I wouldn't pull that gun all the way out, if I were you. Maybe if I tell you who I am, it'll explain why. For your information, I'm Ed Race."

Tyker's face went white. He gulped. His hand checked in his pocket. Moulson's face showed no emotion whatsoever, but there was just a little stiffening of his gaunt jaw.

Both knew Ed Race by reputation, as did all of the underworld. Ed Race, the Masked Marksman of vaudeville fame, who received top billing in all the vaudeville circuits of the country, who performed incredible feats of marksmanship on the stage, who juggled with six heavy .45 caliber, hair-trigger revolvers—the way another might juggle dumbbells.

They knew, too, that Ed Race could use those guns off-stage as well as on-stage. They knew that his insatiable appetite for adventure had sent him into the field of criminology, as a side line. They had heard of deadly killers who had gone up against Ed Race, and never lived to tell just how fast those two .45's of his had leaped out at them, bucking, roaring, belching flame and death. Ed Race held licenses to operate as a private detective in a dozen states. He never used them to make money, because he earned far more than he needed on the stage. But he was, nevertheless, more deadly than a mercenary detective, for it was his friends only whom he helped, and he hated the wolves who preyed on them...

THAT was why Tyker's hand slid back into his pocket, and why small beads of sweat began to stand out on the stocky gunman's forehead. But his small eyes mirrored the vicious hate that was festering in his rat-like killer's soul. He was a killer—but he wasn't going to try his luck against the Masked Marksman until he got more than an even break.

Moulson said jerkily, "Damn you, Tyker, I thought you had guts. Keep him from interfering. They won't dare to call the police—will you, Mingo?"

Old Sam Mingo's face was haggard. "You'd better forget it, Ed. I—I don't want trouble."

Ed Race laughed harshly. He took another step backward, with his hands at his side. "You're going away from here, Sam, alone—whether you like it or not. Go on—get in that cab, and drive away. If these men try to follow you, I'll stop them. If they fight, I'll shoot them."

Moulson sneered. "We're not threatening you, Race. If you shoot, you'll go to the chair. It'll be murder."

Ed smiled thinly. "We'll see about that." He gave Sam Mingo a little push. "Go on!"

Dazed, almost unwillingly, the old man started toward the cab at the curb. It seemed that there was some one in there who had been waiting all this time, for the door was opened from inside.

Moulson threw a quick, worried glance at Ed, and started to go after Mingo.

Ed Race took a quick step forward, seized Moulson by the collar, swung him around violently and sent him spinning back against the wall of the bank building.

Moulson screeched, "Tyker! Get him! He attacked first!"

Ed Race stood there, smiling coldly, his eyes bleak and grey, his hands loose at his sides.

He was ready.

Tyker had seized the opportunity while Ed's eyes were off him, to get the gun out of his pocket. It was halfway up now, and he was snarling, eyes red with killing lust, his confidence supreme that Ed couldn't beat him to the draw. No living man could have drawn a gun and fired it in the flashing split-second of time that it would take for Tyker's automatic to come up that fraction of an inch and belch lead into Ed's body.

But Ed Race had more than one trick up his sleeve. On the stage, from coast to coast he was used to performing miracles of acrobatic marksmanship. His favorite number—one that never failed to bring down the house—was to juggle his six revolvers in the air, get them all up high at once, then do a back-somersault. As he came out of that back-flip, he would catch the descending revolvers one at a time, fire each one once—and each shot invariably extinguished the flame of one of a row of candles at the other end of the stage. In ten years, he had never missed a candle. A wealthy skeptic had once followed him from town to town for a year, watching each performance and waiting for him to miss. The skeptic had finally gone home—convinced.

Now, on Broadway and Forty-Eighth Street, with pedestrians passing, Ed Race gave the same performance—but with far more at stake than the gratification of an audience.

Under Tyker's eyes, Ed suddenly fell into a disconcerting back-somersault that carried him ten feet away along the sidewalk. Tyker's gun exploded, and the slug shrieked in the air where Ed had been, flashed past pedestrians, and flattened itself against the masonry of the building opposite.

Tyker's eyes bulged, trying to follow Ed's swiftly moving figure. He lowered the muzzle of the gun for another shot, but he never pulled the trigger. Ed Race was coming to his feet now, and there was a gun in his hand. Still in motion, he snapped a single shot. The heavy .45 thundered in the street, and a woman screamed. The scream mingled with the deep-toned detonation of the revolver, and drowned out the agonized screech that burst from Tyker's throat. Blood gushed from the spot under his chin where Ed's slug had caught him. The automatic fell, and his empty hands clawed at his throat for the fraction of an instant as he went hurtling backward from the force of the impact. Then he fell flat on his back on the pavement, twitched, and lay still.

Ed swung his gun toward Moulson, but the gaunt man still lay where he had fallen, hands raised in the air.

Ed Race uttered a short, brittle laugh, and turned away from Moulson, contemptuously slipping his gun into its holster.

THE crowd which had gathered stared at Ed with wide, amazed eyes. They had just seen him kill a man, and yet there was no faintest sign of emotion in his face. He was not immediately recognized, for though many of these people had seen him on the stage, he always appeared masked. But they had witnessed those swift instants of deadly action, had seen him shoot down a man about to fire at him. They connected that exhibition of lightning-like motion with the legends that were already rife about Ed Race. Here and there in the crowd ran whispers, "It's the Masked Marksman. He's at the Clyde Theater this week... They say he's death on crooks... Looks like those stories are true they tell about him!"

TEN minutes later, there were squad cars, headquarters men, reporters and photographers. A shooting on Broadway was a matter for headlines. And naturally, dour old Inspector MacSpain arrived.

MacSpain had worked with Ed Race several times in the past. He grimaced when he recognized the dead man.

"Tyker, eh?" There were crinkles around his eyes. "The city ought to pay you to stay in town, Ed. If you stuck around Broadway for a year, there wouldn't be any mobsters left."

There were a dozen witnesses eager to testify that the killing was self-defense. No one was really sorry that Tyker was dead. Ed said nothing about Mingo... Neither did Moulson. Queerly, Moulson in his statement said that Tyker had attacked Ed in the street without provocation...

Ed raised his eyebrows when he heard Moulson dictate that to the police stenographer. He looked up to find MacSpain watching him quizzically—and Moulson threw him a vitriolic glance as he left.

IT was late in the afternoon when Ed left headquarters, after the district attorney's office sent over word that there would be no prosecution.

MacSpain walked out to the street with him. "Look here, Ed," the inspector said. "There's something that you and Moulson haven't told. There's something you're both hiding." MacSpain jabbed a forefinger into Ed's chest. "I'm the one that got the D. A. to drop this thing. He could just as easily have made you stand trial. Of course," he added hastily, "I grant you would never have been convicted. But it would have been damned inconvenient for you."

Ed grinned at him. "Think how silly the D. A.'s office and the police department would have looked, prosecuting a man for killing a gunman like Tyker!"

MacSpain nodded. "That's right, Ed. But remember, I saved you a lot of trouble. You know I always play ball with you. Don't you want to talk to me about—anything else?"

Ed shook his head. "Sorry, Mac."

The inspector glanced at him shrewdly. "I talked to some of the people around the bank building. I talked to the teller in the bank. He says you were in there a minute or two before the shooting, with another man. Somebody in the street identified that man as Sam Mingo. Sam Mingo lives in the same hotel you live in. Yet you met him at the bank."

MacSpain lowered his voice. "All right, you don't have to talk, Ed. But I just want to tell you this: There was a bank job pulled last month. You may have read about it in the papers. Two hundred grand in negotiable securities was grabbed. We don't know who did the job. But we're damned certain—morally—that Moulson was behind it, and is going to fence the stuff when it cools off. Now—" MacSpain's voice took on an edge it had not had before—"if this shooting this afternoon had anything to do with that bank job, Ed, it wouldn't be smart of you to hold out on me."

Ed said, "I give you my word I know nothing about that job, Mac. I read about it—the Intercontinental Trust. But I'm sure this doesn't connect. I'll tell you this much. Sam Mingo is in some sort of trouble, and he doesn't want the police—"

MacSpain nodded dourly. "I could have told you. His son has disappeared. He's up in Missing Persons—reported by his fiancée, Nola Anglin."

Ed's eyes grew thoughtful. He could trust MacSpain. "I wonder if that's why Mingo borrowed five thousand from me this afternoon."

MacSpain smiled. "Thanks for telling me. I knew it from the bank teller."

ON the way back to the hotel, Ed wondered if he should have told MacSpain that Mingo had been mortally afraid of Moulson and Tyker, that the two of them had seemed to possess some sort of hold on the old man. He shrugged, and dismissed the matter. He was satisfied that Mingo had gotten away without being followed. There had been some one in the cab with the old man—Ed had caught a glimpse of a woman's hand on the door.

But that was all. If Mingo needed the money for a woman, then that was all right with Ed, too.

Ed reached the Hillmont.

HE was just washing the razor when the phone in the bedroom rang. Ed turned off the water, came out of the bathroom, and the bell tinkled twice more before he got to it. He picked it up and spoke into the transmitter. But there was only a faint gurgle at the other end, followed by a flat, slapping sound.

Ed frowned, and said 'hello' once more, in a slightly irritated voice. He waited a moment, was about to jiggle the hook, when a smooth voice spoke into the receiver: "Is this Room Fourteen-ten?"

Ed said, "No. This is Eight-four-six."

"Sorry. I got the wrong room. Will you hang up please?"

Ed Race's eyes narrowed. That voice sounded troublesomely familiar. He had heard it somewhere recently, but couldn't place it. He laid the phone back in the cradle, waited a moment, then picked it up again. Something was happening here.

The operator down at the switchboard answered, and Ed said, "Some one rang here just now. Did the call come from outside?"

"No, sir. I handled that call myself. It was from Room Eleven-o-five, upstairs."

Ed tensed. "That's Mr. Mingo's room, isn't it?" He didn't wait for her to answer. "But it wasn't Mr. Mingo talking. Did that party ask for me, or for Room Fourteen-ten?"

"He asked for you, Mr. Race, and I'm sure it was Mr. Mingo himself. I know his voice."

Ed thanked her, and hung up. He moved fast now. He didn't bother with shirt or tie. He slung on his shoulder holsters, put on his coat, and made tracks for the corridor, where he punched the Up button. His face was grim, bleak, as the cage deposited him on the eleventh floor.

There was a Do Not Disturb sign on the knob of 1105. But the radio was going full blast inside. Ed opened his coat over his undershirt, so that the shoulder holsters swung loose. He rapped on the door.

The radio stopped playing abruptly. Some one inside growled, "Yes?"

Ed's lips tightened. It wasn't Mingo's voice. He said, "It's the bellboy, Mr. Mingo. I have your suit from the tailor's."

There was a moment of silence, then the voice inside said testily, "Can't you see the sign? Bring it back later."

Almost at once, the radio began to bleat.

Ed Race glanced down the hall, desperately. He had recognized the voice now. It was Moulson... Moulson, in there with Mingo, and the radio going...

THIS was the west wing of the hotel. It fronted on Broadway, and there was a setback here on the eleventh floor. Ed knew, because he had occupied rooms on almost every one of the Hillmont's floors in his many stops in New York. Now he walked swiftly down the corridor to the end window. It was frosted glass, shut tight. Ed tried to raise it, but it wouldn't budge.

Ed took off his hat, wrapped it around the butt of his revolver, and smashed at the glass. It fell outward, tinkling on the pebbled ledge. He chipped away the rough edges, stepped through and climbed out on the ledge. It was a six-foot wide setback, high up over Broadway, and from here one could see uninterruptedly across the Hudson and over the Palisades. But Ed wasted no time on the view. Pebbles crunched under his feet as he moved along the wall toward Sam Mingo's window. The shade was drawn but there was a light behind it, and the raucous sound of the radio was even plainer here.

Ed wasn't looking anywhere but at the window, so that he failed to notice the dark shape which had suddenly moved away into the shadows. Now however, he detected a faint hint of motion, and his hand streaked in and out from his shoulder holster.

Then he uttered a low ejaculation of bewilderment. The shape had resolved itself into the slim figure of a young woman.

Even in the comparative darkness of the ledge out here, Ed recognized her at once. "Nola Anglin!" he exclaimed.

She had begun to back away, but at the sound of his voice she stopped. She was clutching a long envelope to her breast.

Her picture had been in all the papers a week or so ago—Nola Anglin, the new star in the operatic firmament. At twenty-five, she was to sing Aida at the Metropolitan. She had just started her career, but the critics already prophesied a glorious future for her... and here was Nola Anglin, on the terrace outside the window of a vaudeville clown!

Ed looked into her eyes, and saw there fright and a panic that bordered on hysteria. She started to say, "They—they're killing him in there—"

But Ed Race had already turned away from her. He knelt at the window, and peered in through the half-inch between the bottom of the shade and the sill. His body grew taut, and his hand tightened on his gun.

Sam Mingo was taking a terrible beating to the accompaniment of the radio. The old man was on the floor between the bed and the window. He was on his face, arms thrown up over his head.

One of the two men was Moulson. The other was a small man with a bald head. They were both working over Sam Mingo. The bald-headed man had a gun in his hand, and was bringing the barrel of it down rhythmically, methodically, in slashes to the bare back of Sam Mingo.

Mingo's shirt had been torn from his back and Ed Race could see the long gashes where the barrel of the bald man's gun had raked him. Little ridges of muscle stood out at the sides of Ed Race's jaw as he watched the beating. He stepped back from the window, and reversed his gun, raising it to smash the glass.

Before he could strike, he felt a tug at his arm. Nola Anglin was close to him.

"No, no!" Her voice, though still pitched low, assumed a note of frantic desperation. "You—you mustn't."

Ed growled deep in his throat. He shoved her with his elbow.

"Get out of the way!"

SHE gasped with the pain of the blow, but she was right back, before Ed could lift the gun again. Her arms went about his hand, dragged it down, held it tight against her breasts. "You mustn't. I tell you—you mustn't go in there." Her voice grew desperate, pleading. "I know who you are. I saw you today when you went to the bank with Sam to get cash for him. I was waiting in the cab." Her words tumbled over one another.

"You're Ed Race, the Masked Marksman," she said. "You're a killer, too. I know about the men you've killed—criminals. Those two are the same—they deserve to be killed. But this time you must stay out of it. If you kill them—you'll break old Sam's heart!"

Ed stared down at her white face. "I almost believe you," he muttered. "But why? Why are they beating him? Why must I let it go on?"

"I—I can't tell you," she stammered.

Ed looked at her closely, searchingly. "You're engaged to young Charlie Mingo. What has all this to do with him?"

He raised his clubbed gun once more, and she uttered a desperate cry. "Wait!"

The words came tumbling out, once more. But her eyes were lowered, her fingers fumbling at the envelope. "Sam wouldn't want me to tell you. But he also wouldn't want you to interfere. It's about Charlie. Charlie was drunk and took part in a bank robbery. Moulson and Tyker, and this man here—Kelder—were all in it. After they'd made their getaway, Charlie realized what a terrible thing he'd done, and wouldn't go through with it. He got away from Tyker and Kelder, and took the loot with him. He was going to return it."

She looked up at him, and shuddered. "I—I can hardly go on—"

Ed said gently, "You don't have to. I understand the rest. Charlie wants to return the bonds, and leave the country. Old Sam borrowed the five thousand from me, to send him away with. And Moulson is trying to make Sam tell him where Charlie's hiding out!"

She nodded. "Can't you see why Sam doesn't want interference? If the police came in on it, and if Kelder and Moulson are arrested, they'll talk first, knowing that Charlie is going to turn back the bonds anyway."

Ed's lips were tight. "So he's taking a beating for that son of his! And you—"

Her face was pale in the semi-darkness. "It's not for Charlie any more. It's because of old Sam. I've come to know him well since I've been engaged to Charlie. I love him like a father. I've learned to respect his fierce pride in his name. It's to save his name that I was going to help get Charlie out of the country. He gave me the money you loaned him, and we were making our final plans, when Moulson and Kelder arrived. I had just phoned Charlie at his hideaway, told him I was coming right over."

She went on. "Then when those two arrived suddenly, Sam pushed me out here on the ledge, and opened the door for them. He thought he could hold them here while I made my way out of the hotel to Charlie. But when he saw they meant to torture him, he tried to call you, and they stopped him. I—I saw everything from the window here, and I couldn't go..."

Ed cursed under his breath. Some one was pounding at the corridor of Sam Mingo's room.

Ed threw a quick glance at Nola Anglin, then dropped to his knees to peer under the shade...

HE saw the man, Kelder, turning off the radio. Moulson had a gun out now, too. He motioned to Kelder to open the corridor door, while he, himself, stepped behind it.

Old Sam Mingo raised his bloody back from the floor, and shouted something toward that door. Ed heard part of what he said, "Get away! They'll kill you..."

Then the door was open, and a young man came barging into the room.

Ed heard Nola Anglin's, "Charlie!"

Inside the room, Kelder gave ground before the furious entrance of Charlie Mingo. Charlie was carrying a thick briefcase under one arm, and had an automatic in his other hand. He didn't bother to look behind him, didn't see Moulson was stealing up at his back.

Ed Race jumped to his feet. His gun butt smashed at the windowpane, crashing the glass inward. Then he reached in and yanked the shade off the roller. The room was revealed to him, its occupants frozen in the positions he had last seen them—even to Moulson with the raised gun butt in his hand.

Ed had both his revolvers out now, and squeezed the trigger of the right hand weapon. It thundered, bucking and kicking in his hand. A round black hole appeared in Kelder's forehead. He twisted around ludicrously, slumped down.

Charlie Mingo stood petrified, but Moulson jumped back, sheltered by Charlie's body, and reversed his gun again, so that he was holding it by the butt. He kept behind Charlie Mingo, and shouted.

"Stay out there, Race, or I'll kill Mingo's kid!"

Old Sam, still on the floor, raised a grief-stricken face to his son. "Charlie! Why did you have to come—"

Charlie Mingo said, "Hell, Dad, I'm rotten—but not rotten enough to let you take this rap for me. I figured they'd work on you—"

He whirled suddenly, and poked his gun at Moulson, pulling the trigger three times quickly. But Moulson had already backed out into the corridor, and ducked around the lintel. Charlie Mingo's shots missed him. Moulson's gun came around the edge of the door, and he fired once.

Charlie staggered backward.

And then Ed Race was in the room, leaping over the dead body of Kelder, over the struggling figure of old Sam Mingo, past Charlie, and out into the corridor.

Moulson was down the end, near the fire-exit. He couldn't get the fire-door opened. He turned, snarling like a trapped rat and raised his gun.

Ed Race laughed a deep, booming laugh, and fired once with his left hand gun. Moulson shrieked, and fell forward. Ed turned away without looking at him a second time. He had aimed for the man's heart, and he knew he had hit.

He disregarded the craning necks in a half-dozen suddenly opened doors.

Old Sam Mingo and Nola Anglin were bending over young Charlie, who lay on the floor on his back, with blood gurgling out of a wound high up on the left side of his chest.

There were tears coursing down Nola's cheeks, but old Sam Mingo's face was white and expressionless. His back was raw and bleeding, but he didn't seem to feel it. He had his son's head cradled in his arms. Charlie smiled faintly behind the blood.

He gasped hoarsely, "This is the best way Dad. At least, I'm going out like a—man!" Then his head fell back, dead.

SAM MINGO stayed there on the floor, cradling his son's head. Nola Anglin got up, listlessly. She was still holding the envelope. She extended it to Ed Race. "That's the money you lent Sam," she said in a dry voice. "It was to take Charlie out of the country."

Silently, Ed pocketed the envelope. He heard the crowd that was peering in through the open door, heard a brittle, authoritative voice, and turned to see Inspector MacSpain pushing through.

"It's that Intercontinental Trust case, Mac. Young Charlie Mingo here, got on to the fact that Moulson and this bird were the ones who pulled that job. He trailed them, and somehow he got the bonds away from them. They came here to torture his whereabouts out of Sam. Charlie and I got here in time."

MacSpain said skeptically, "I see." He took the briefcase which Ed handed him, and peered inside. The bonds were there. MacSpain's face cleared.

Old Sam Mingo took Ed's hand, and pressed it. "Thanks for that lie, Ed. Thanks for keeping the name clean. I'm only a clown—but—" his eyes watered—"well, I'm glad my son didn't die with a rogue's name." He swayed a little.

"Keep your chin up," Ed said. "We both go on tonight at the Clyde!"

The eyes of Mingo the Clown were misted. But he straightened his shoulders, quieted the twitching muscles in his face. "That's right," he muttered. "We have a curtain." He laughed hollowly. "On with the Show!"

Ed Race and Nola Anglin led him gently into the next room, where a doctor was waiting to treat his raw back, so he would not be late for his curtain call.


Roy Glashan's Library
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