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First published in The Spider magazine, June 1936

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version date: 2020-01-07
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The Spider, June 1936, with "Murder on the Programme"

Ed Race was willing to let certain people gamble with his money. When a frightened girl tried it and won, he decided to help her push her luck—even when he knew the final payoff would be in hot lead and spilled blood!

ED RACE stood in front of a one-armed bandit, and kept feeding nickels into it.

Since the supreme court of the State of Florida had declared the slot machines legal, every store in Miami and Miami Beach had at least two of the "one-armed bandits" as the newspapers termed them. Some stores had five and six of them. There were nickel machines, dime machines, and quarter machines. Some of the swankier spots on the Beach even had half-dollar ones. The jackpots in all of them appeared chockfull of coins. You inserted your coin, pulled the handle, and the three drums began to spin. On the drums were colorful pictures of various fruits. If the drums came to rest after their spin, showing the proper combinations of fruits, the machine would click, tinkle, and a number of coins would come clattering out.

Two bunches of cherries paid three nickels; two cherries and a lemon paid five nickels; three oranges paid ten; three plums paid fourteen; three bells paid twenty; and if you were lucky enough to hit three medals, the jackpot opened up, and you took the whole kitty.

Everybody in Miami was pouring nickels, dimes and quarters into the machines. They were geared to pay out about eight percent of their intake, and the operators were making from a hundred to five hundred dollars per week on each machine. Figuring that there were about three thousand machines in the Greater Miami area, it can readily be seen that the slot-machine business had become the leading industry of Florida.

Ed Race knew it was a sucker's game, but kept putting nickels into the slot because it was only ten thirty, and he had finished his act at the Floridian Theatre, and he wasn't sleepy, and he had nothing better to do between now and the time his train left for Tampa in the morning. He had wandered into the Washington Drug Store, on Washington Avenue, had a cup of coffee and a sandwich, had given the cashier a dollar bill, and had asked for his change in nickels.

There was a crowd of perhaps twenty or twenty-five people at the row of machines. Some were playing, some were waiting for their turn, and others were just getting a vicarious thrill out of seeing other people pull the handles. Ed had started with sixteen nickels. He was down to his last two, and nothing had come out. He put the next to the last one in, pulled the handle, and frowned when he saw a lemon show on the first of the three drums. A man in back of him said sympathetically: "That's done, brother. You can't win with a lemon!"

Ed grunted, started to put the last nickel in, when he felt a timid clutch at his sleeve. He looked down to see a young woman of perhaps nineteen or twenty. She was blue-eyed, pretty, in an innocent sort of way. She was wearing a pair of shorts and one of those tight-fitting bodice brassieres which constitute the entire clothing of the female portion of the population of Miami Beach during the day. This was night time, though, and her attire seemed a bit out of place. Her face was even prettier than it might ordinarily have been, for she appeared to be flushed—whether it was sunburn, paint, or embarrassed confusion, Ed Race couldn't tell at the moment.

The girl was pulling at his sleeve and saying, "W-would you let me put that nickel in for you? I—feel lucky tonight."

Ed grinned broadly, said: "Sure, sister. Give it a try." He handed her the nickel, pushed aside, and watched her reach up to the slot, insert the coin, and pull the handle. He kept his eyes on her rather than on the machine, as she watched the drums breathlessly, one hand pressed hard at her throat. Her lips were moving as if she was praying...

THE drums came to rest, and she cried, "It hit!" Ed glanced at them; saw that they had settled on three bells. The machine clanged inside, and coins rattled out of it. She turned to him eagerly, eyes shining. "I told you! It paid twenty!"

"Sister," Ed told her, "you're good!" He scooped the coins out, counted them. There were twenty. He took her arm, pushed a way out of the crowd for both of them, and counted out ten nickels, and handed them to her. "Fifty-fifty. You earned it!"

She hesitated, then took them, flashed him a grateful glance, then went over to the cashier's desk. Ed watched her, puzzled, as she exchanged the ten nickels for two quarters, then made her way back to the machines. As she passed him, Ed said: "You going to play the quarter machine?"

She nodded. "Yes. I—I feel I'm going to win!"

Ed followed her to the machine. "I think you're goofy, sister, but I hope you're right!"

The two quarter machines weren't getting as much of a play as the dime and nickel ones, and she didn't have to wait. With Ed right behind her, she reached up, inserted her quarter, and pulled the handle. As the drums whirled, Ed leaned closer to her, and distinctly heard her whisper: "I've got to win! Please God, make me win!"

Her bare shoulders and back were tanned, smooth. There was a sweet perfume in her hair, which came up to just below Ed's chin. He could look over her head, could see the drums stop—with the pictures of three bells showing! Twenty quarters clanked out of the machine, and the girl scooped them up with trembling hands, stacked them in her palm.

She turned around, and Ed could see that she was trembling with a great sort of excitement. She looked up at him, and her eyes were swimming with moisture. "I knew it!" she said, almost to herself. "I knew I couldn't lose!"

She gave him a happy smile, pushed through the crowd, and went out into the street, followed by the envious glances of the less fortunate machine players. Ed was intrigued by the whole thing. The girl was so very evidently laboring under a terrific strain of some kind; it was quite chilly tonight, yet she wore nothing but a bathing costume that afforded her practically no protection.

He followed her out of the store. She was walking rapidly down Washington. Ed smelled activity, and he felt strangely elated. Here was mystery of some sort. And where there was mystery, you couldn't keep Ed away. He juggled revolvers on the stage for a living—a very good living. He was headlined from coast to coast as the Masked Marksman: "The Man Who Can Make Guns Talk." On the stage he performed feats of acrobatics and marksmanship that left the audience breathless at his sheer skill, the absolute mastery of the six forty-five caliber hair-trigger revolvers which were the props of his act.

Off the stage, he always carried two of those revolvers in the twin holsters under his arms. And his constant seeking after mystery and danger had often placed him in spots where he had all the need of the magic skill with firearms which he had developed in his years on the stage. For Ed needed excitement and danger the way the average man needs sleep. He dabbled in criminology the way other men might collect postage stamps and first editions. He had licenses in a dozen states to operate as a private detective, and his true name was known and feared in the underworld as much as his stage name was known and admired by the theater-going public all over the country...

HE could see the girl now, heading south on Washington. His Drive-It-Yourself car, which he was going to turn in before taking the train, was parked at the curb. He hesitated a moment, debating whether to use the car or follow her on foot, and in that second of hesitation he felt his elbow gripped tight, turned to see a sallow faced, narrow eyed man in a palm beach suit. The man wore a pearl-gray fedora, had an expensive diamond in the white tie which rested on his black silk shirt. He was narrow shouldered and narrow-waisted, and his lips were thin, stretched in a tight smile.

"I'd leave that girl alone, mister, if I were you!"

Ed started to twist his elbow out of the man's grip, but he suddenly felt something poked into his ribs on the other side. He stiffened, turned his head. Another man stood at his left, close to him. This man wore gray pants and a blue jacket. He had no hat, and black hair was combed sleekly back from a low forehead. His face was square, hard featured, and he held his left arm crossed over his stomach so that his left fist, with what he held in it, was jabbing Ed's side. Ed looked down, and saw the shimmering barrel of a gunmetal automatic in that fist. He raised his eyebrows.

The man with the automatic said: "That's good advice—what my friend gave you. You goin' to take it? Or do we take you?"

"Take me where?" Ed asked innocently.

"For a ride, guy, for a ride! Are you a sap? Don't you recognize the real business when you see it?"

Ed said dryly: "Yeah. I recognize the real business. What's the idea?" As he spoke he glanced furtively down Washington, made out the figure of the girl, more than a block away.

The man with the gun said tightly: "The idea is, we're kind of in a hurry, so you get a break. Scram, don't bother with that dame any more, and forget about this. Your health will be a whole lot better that way. Talk quick—yes, or no?"

Ed looked down at the gun, sighed: "Your argument is very forceful. I guess it ought to convince me."

The sallow man on the other side chuckled. "Smart man. Now you start taking a walk. Goodbye—and try to have a short memory."

Ed said: "Goodbye," and started to walk in the opposite direction from that taken by the girl, but toward his car. He heard the sallow man say to his companion: "Come on, Gilly. There won't be no trouble with him. He just got talking to her by accident—like I thought."

Ed walked down a little further, turned the corner, and then ducked into an alley that led him back to a second alley just behind the drug store. He poked his head out; saw the two men hurrying down Washington. He sprinted out, got into his car, backed it away from the curb, made a complete turn in Washington in defiance of the traffic regulations of the City of Miami Beach, and raced the car after them. He passed the two men, but they didn't know it. They were walking very fast, their hands in their pockets, and their faces grim. Two blocks further down Ed spied the girl. She was just turning left off Washington, and he came up to the corner, made the left turn, too, crept along after her.

Looking back in the rear view mirror, he saw Gilly and the sallow man also turning the corner. The girl turned right on Ocean Drive, and then stopped before a doorway with a staircase leading upstairs from the street level. The sign outside the building which she entered read: Parker's Beach Casino.

Ed knew Parker's. It was a recently opened gambling room, set up in haste to catch some of the easy money from the spendthrift throngs that had flocked south this year. Parker controlled all the gambling and slot machine activities in Southern Florida. In this place he had installed roulette wheels, a blackjack layout and three dice tables. He also made book on the horse and dog races, and the jai alai games. There were no costly or elaborate decorations here, for the casino was in the cheaper section of Miami Beach, right around the corner from the Burlesque Theatre Pier. Along the street here, there were frankfurter stands, penny gambling stores, a second-rate boxing casino, and a couple of third-rate restaurants. The section was reminiscent of Coney Island's Bowery at its poorest. And it was here that this half-clad girl with the frightened eyes had come!

Ed swung his car into the parking lot across the street, threw his quarter to the attendant, and raced up the stairs of Parker's after her. Just before he entered, he cast a glance down the street, saw the sallow faced man and the man named Gilly turning the corner from First Street, and looking about them uncertainly. There were a dozen places the girl could have gone into, and they would have to stop into each of them before they got to Parker's.

Ed took the wooden steps two at a time, entered the big gaming room. The bare walls looked unwashed; the odor of cheap hamburger and onions came up from the restaurant below, pervading the place. But the eager faced, hot eyed men and women who thronged about the roulette and dice tables paid no attention to the walls, to the odors, or even to the occasional cockroaches that scampered across the bare floor. They were those who did not have the means or the appropriate clothes to attend the swankier gambling establishments on the Beach, and Parker had shrewdly opened this place to take care of them.

Ed cast his glance over the room, failed to spy the girl at first. She was not at the roulette table, neither was she at the thinly patronized blackjack table. The greatest crowd was at the dice tables, of which there were three. Ed pushed around, failed to find her at the first, which was the quarter minimum table, but found her at the second, where a dollar was the lowest permissible bet. She was standing close to the tall ladder on which sat the strong-arm man with the gun holstered at his side. She was breathing hard, and watching the man who was throwing the dice at the moment. Ed saw that she still clutched her quarters close to her breast.

THE dice rolled on the table, and the house-man, standing on the other side of the table from the ladder, intoned: "Six! The gen'leman rolled a six, but eight's his point!" He deftly skimmed the dice back to the "gen'leman", using the long, curved rake, and skilfully avoiding the chips that were lying on the board. The "gen'leman" put the dice in the cup once more, rolled them out, and the houseman called out: "Seven! Seven to lose!" and raked in all the chips. "Who shoots next?" He looked around the table, and Ed saw the girl push forward, saying timidly: "Please, could I—roll them?"

The houseman grinned at her, while his eyes traveled over her abbreviated costume, as did the eyes of all the other men grouped around the table. There were some women there, and the women's glances were plainly contemptuous, sneering. The house-man said to her: "Sure, miss. You can have 'em!" He pushed the leather cup and the dice over to her, and she took her stack of quarters, laid them down in the box on the board marked: Win.

Ed was standing close behind her now, and he could almost feel her body tremble as she dropped the dice in the cup, started to shake them. The houseman pushed her quarters over to the cashier at the far end of the board, who counted them, substituted chips for them. Then the houseman pushed the chips back on the "Win" square. The girl took a deep breath, rolled the dice out of the cup with a half convulsive gesture. They bounced at the side boards, came to rest—with a five and a six showing!

The house-man announced: "Eleven! The lady throws a natural to win!" He deftly matched her stack of chips with another from his pile, pushed the two stacks over toward her, and raked the dice back. The girl shoved them all back on the square, picked up the dice again. She was letting them ride. Ed Race grinned sheepishly to himself, took out a ten dollar bill and put it on the "Win" square. He was going to ride with her. He sensed that some powerful need was driving her to do this, and he also sensed that there was a lucky streak running along with her tonight.

While the girl shook the dice, Ed kept his eyes on the entrance. The girl didn't know that he was behind her. If she knew that she had been followed by Gilly and the sallow faced man, she didn't show it. She never once glanced toward the door. She rolled out the dice, and there were amazed exclamations around the table. She had made another natural! The houseman called out: "Another eleven! The lady wins again!"

She had twenty dollars there, and she let it remain. Ed did the same with his twenty. Once more she rolled the dice. A six and a four—ten. Ed saw her face. She was pale, taut, as she cupped the dice to roll again. Ten was one of the two hardest points to make. Yet Ed felt sure she would hit it. He pulled out his roll of bills, placed a twenty in the next box. He would get odds of two to one if she made it. She rolled them out, and there it was—two fives! She had come right back with it.

The houseman said: "Ten and you win! Ten is the number. The lady made it the hard way!"

The girl now had forty dollars in chips. Ed had eighty, because he collected on his two-to-one bet in addition to the twenty he had bet to win. Ed watched her push all her chips into the box, and he did the same. Once more she rolled. Everybody around the table was watching her, but few were betting on her. The odds against her hitting three times in a row were too great. But she did. She hit another natural!

SHE let her chips ride, and so did Ed. She saw Ed reaching out to shove his $160 worth of chips into the square, and she looked up at him, recognized him at once, and uttered a little gasp. Ed grinned down at her, said, "Go to it, sister. I'm right with you!"

She murmured: "You—followed me?" He evaded the question. "I drove over from the drug store, and I saw you here. I knew you were lucky tonight, so I figured I'd ride along with you."

She accepted his explanation, picked up the cup, and threw out the dice. Ed didn't watch them to see what they would show, for he had just caught a glimpse of Gilly and the sallow faced man, coming up the stairs. They stopped at the entrance, looked all around the place. Ed bent his head, so they wouldn't see him. And he heard the houseman announcing in awed tone: "The lady did it again! Another natural! Seven to win!" He pushed the huge stack of chips over toward her, and then pushed over Ed's stack. But when he raked the dice in her direction, she shook her head.

"I—I would like to pass the dice," she said. "I—want to cash in."

The house-man shrugged. "Okay, lady. But with your luck, you ought to push 'em.

The girl didn't answer, but went around to the end of the table while the houseman raked her chips over to the cashier. Ed motioned to him that he wanted to do the same, and followed her around. The cashier gave them each a slip—the girl's for $160 and Ed for $320. "Take 'em over to the office," he said, "and they'll give you the cash."

The girl said to Ed; "I'm glad you made money with me. It was your nickels that started me off. I—need this money for—something special."

She started in the direction of the office, and stopped suddenly, her breath coming in quick, short gasps. Facing her were Gilly, and the sallow faced man, both with their hands in their pockets. The sallow faced man glanced up at Ed, said out of the side of his mouth: "Take care of the big palooka, Gilly," and reached out, gripped the girl's arm. "What you got there, Mrs. Frazer?" he asked, looking down at the pink slip in her hand.

The girl stood there, white-faced. She seemed paralyzed, unable to speak. Gilly came around on the other side of the girl, stood up close to Ed, with his right fist in his coat pocket, poking out at Ed. "You lookin' for trouble, huh?" he demanded.

Ed said mildly: "No, not at all, Mr. Gilly. I take it as it comes!" His left hand closed on Gilly's right wrist—the one that was in the big man's coat pocket—while his right fist came up in a smashing blow to the side of Gilly's jaw. Gilly's gun exploded in his pocket, the slug burning a searing streak of fire along his own trousers leg, then crunching into the wooden floor. At the same time, Gilly buckled over, slumped to the floor, moaning.

The sallow-faced man swung the girl around, dragging at his pocket, and shouting: "Take him, boys!"

Mrs. Frazer screamed to Ed: "Look out! They'll kill you! This is Parker!"

ED'S hands moved with the lightning speed that always characterized his actions on the stage. With eye defying speed, his two heavy forty-fives appeared. And almost with the same motion the gun in his left hand swept up, and then down, smacking against the bone of Parker's wrist as it came out of his pocket with a pistol. Parker dropped the pistol, still shouting: "Take him, boys!" The pistol clattered on the floor, and Parker leaped for it. Ed kicked him hard in the ribs, and he fell away from the weapon, rolling on the floor in agony. At the same time, a gun exploded back near the dice table, and a slug whined past Ed's head.

Ed swung, snapped a shot back, toward the man on the ladder, who had fired. The man uttered a scream, and toppled from the ladder. There were two more men on ladders at the two other dice tables, and they were both shooting at Ed. But when he swung his big forty-fives at them, they leaped from their high, exposed perches, took cover behind the tables, and kept on shooting.

The big room was in pandemonium now. Deafening explosions of the heavy caliber weapons rolled against the eardrums. Frightened men and women patrons milled around the place. Ed was straddling the fallen Parker, and trading shots coolly with the two men from the ladders, and with a couple of the housemen who had also produced guns. He shouted at the girl, who was standing there, dazed: "Get out! Quick!"

She shook her head, bent and picked up Parker's pistol, and started to shoot at the men who were firing at Ed. Ed grinned through the smoke. "Good kid!" he exclaimed, but his voice was drowned by the roar of his own forty-fives. He moved over a little, so that his body screened the girl's as much as possible. He fired coolly, methodically, not wasting his shots. The firing had diminished now, for the panic-stricken crowd, of patrons were all over the place, getting in the line of fire. Ed threw a shot at a head that showed over the edge of one of the dice tables, saw it disappear, then turned and seized the girl by the arm, ran with her toward the door, leaving Parker on the floor. There were no more shots now, but women were screaming, and men were shouting wildly.

Ed reached the head of the staircase, pushed a group of people out of the way, and ran down, still holding on to the girl's arm. He holstered his own guns, snapped to the girl: "Wipe that gun off, and drop it there!"

She obeyed, wiping it against her shorts, and letting it fall to the stairs. Then they were out in the street. A crowd had gathered in front of the door, and a police whistle was shrilling somewhere around the corner. Excited voices demanded of them: "What's the matter? What's happening up there?"

Ed said: "There's a shooting match. Some gangsters upstairs."

The police whistle sounded closer, accompanied by the whine of a siren. Ed pushed through the crowd with the girl, got to the other side of the street, and steered her into the parking lot where he had left his car.

The street in front of Parker's was suddenly flooded with police. The parking lot attendant had run across to see what all the shooting was about, and Ed drove out, with the girl crouching next to him, without being observed. He headed toward Fifth Street, then over on to the County Causeway leading off the Beach, across Biscayne Bay, toward Miami proper.

The girl sat silently beside him, clutching the pink slip of paper which she had failed to cash in Parker's. Ed glanced at her, gave her his own slip to hold. The girl said: "Y-you're doing an awful lot for me—without even knowing who I am. The police will be looking for us both now. S-some of those men back in Parker's were—hurt!"

ED laughed shortly, guiding the car expertly along the edge of the causeway. "I know who you are—now," he said. "You're Mrs. Hiram Frazer—the wife of the district attorney of Palm Beach County."

She uttered a little, startled gasp. "You—know?"

He nodded. "I heard Parker call you by name. Then I connected you up. I saw you last year at the Miami Biltmore, but I didn't remember you till he called you Mrs. Frazer." Ed slowed the car up, pulled up at the side of the road. A little beyond them was the flat ground of one of the several flying fields located on the causeway. These fields were all operated by fliers who took the public up for sightseeing trips over Miami, charging from two to three dollars per trip.

Mrs. Frazer looked back of them, through the rear window, apprehensively. "W-why are you stopping here?" she asked nervously. "They may be coming after us—"

"I'll tell you, Mrs. Frazer," Ed said seriously. "I got in a shooting scrape back there; I shot at least two men. Tonight I've got to go in to police headquarters and give myself up. I may have a tough time proving that I shot in self-defense. I may even go to jail. If I don't go to jail, I can at least expect to be held here for trial or until the district attorney gets good and ready to drop the case. And here you are, without any clothes and without any money. You need help. You're in some kind of jam. All right, I'll be glad to help you out if I can—but you'll have to tell me what it's all about. Why did Parker and that other bird follow you around? Why did they try to stop me when I came after you out of the drug store? And why are you parading around Miami Beach at night in that costume?"

She looked up at him diffidently. "It—it's all so terrible." She shuddered. "I didn't know men could be so vile!"

"That's fine for a starter," Ed told her. "Now let's get down to cases. There isn't much time. We're liable to hear a siren behind us any minute now:"

"All right. I'll try to tell it as clearly as I can. My husband, Hiram, has been fighting the gambling and slot machine interests in Palm Beach for years now. Parker is so entrenched though, that Hiram has never been able to do anything about it. Now that the slot machines have been declared legal, Parker has spread out more than ever; he's been taking in almost a million dollars a week net out of the machines, let alone his various gambling houses. His machines are spread all over Dade and Broward and Palm Beach Counties."

"So far, so good. You haven't told me any news yet."

"I'm coming to it. Yesterday, a piece of evidence came into Hiram's hands. He learned that Parker is wanted as a fugitive from justice in Oklahoma! Parker escaped from the detention pen in Oklahoma City, just as he was to be put on trial for a post office robbery. He killed a guard and got away, and was never heard from since—that's more than four years ago."

Ed's eyes narrowed. "You're sure of that?"

SHE nodded. "Uh-huh. Hiram got Parker's fingerprints on his application to operate slot machines in Dade County. Parker must have grown careless, or else he's sure of himself—he handled that application, and left his prints on it. Well, Hiram was getting ready to swear out a warrant for Parker, but there must have been a leak in the office. While Hiram was away, two men came to my house—we live in Palm Beach—and they said that if I went with them to Miami they would furnish me with additional evidence that would help Hiram to wipe out every bit of gambling from Palm Beach to Key West. They said that if Hiram could do that, he'd be the next logical candidate for governor. I tried to get Hiram on the phone, but they must have known I wouldn't be able to. They said there was no time to waste—"

"So you went with them!" Ed broke in.

"Yes. They had a car. They told me I would have to pay money for the information, and I dug up fourteen hundred dollars that we had in the safe. We stopped at the Golden Beach Hotel, down on the ocean front, and the men said that the person who would give us the information was one of Parker's disgruntled employees, and was waiting for us up in room eleven. We went up there, and there was nobody in the room."

She shuddered, covered her face with her hands, spoke through her fingers. "T-they t-took away all my clothes. T-they had a camera, and t-they were going to take a p-perfectly t-terrible p- picture of me, and s-show it to Hiram, and if he exposed Parker they were going to p-publish the p-picture. It—it would have ruined Hiram politically."

"Who were those men?" Ed growled.

"Parker, and that other one who followed me. I—didn't know at the time that he was Parker—and there he had been, promising to get evidence against himself!"

"I take it you got away from them?" While she talked he had been busy loading his two revolvers, and he holstered them again.

"Parker held me, while the other one got the camera ready. I bit Parker in the hand, and got away from him, and ran into the next room, and bolted the door. I—I had no clothes on, and they were beating against the door. I—couldn't dare to call for help. Imagine if I'd been found there—the wife of Hiram Frazer, naked in a hotel room! I found this bathing suit, and put it on, and climbed out the window. I slid down the drain pipe in back of the hotel, and ran away. I didn't know whom to call on here in Miami; I couldn't tell who was with Parker, and who was against him. And if I'd gone to the police, it would have got in the papers. They'd taken my money too, of course. The only thing I could think of was to p-play the machines. That was when I asked you to let me try."

Ed chuckled. "Damned smart—making Parker's own machines get you the money to go back to Palm Beach with!"

"B-but I haven't got the money. All I have is this slip. And I need some clothes. Now, if we're caught," she hesitated, "Hiram is a very proper person. He would never understand—"

"You could tell him you'd been kidnapped—"

"That's right. I never thought of that. But then—these clothes—?"

She stopped as the shriek of a police siren cut through the night from behind them on the causeway. She clutched at Ed's sleeve. "They're after us! Hurry—"

Ed shook his head. "We couldn't get away. We're bottled." He pointed ahead. The drawbridge on the causeway was slowly rising. "They must have phoned the bridge tender. And it wouldn't do us any good to get across. They've probably radioed ahead to the Miami police. There'd be a reception for us on the other side. We'll have to face it sooner or later. It might as well be now. You get down low. Don't show yourself for a while." She looked at him, puzzled, but obeyed.

TRAFFIC behind them had opened up for the police patrol car. There were two patrolmen in it, and two men in plain clothes on the running boards. The police car was moving along slowly, the officers peering in at the occupants of the halted autos along the road. When they came abreast of Ed's car, one of the civilians shouted: "There he is?"

Ed saw that the two civilians were Parker and Gilly. Both had guns in their hands. Gilly was on the right-hand running board and Parker on the left.

The car braked to a halt, and the two officers, with Gilly and Parker, surrounded Ed's car. One of the officers thrust a gun out. "Put your hands up! Come outta there!"

Ed said: "Okay, officer. We were waiting for you. You know I shot in self-defense, don't you?"

"Yeh, we know that. That's what we was told by the crowd. But you ran away. You'll have to come back—"

Ed said steadily: "Okay. But take Parker back with you. He's a fugitive from justice from the state of Oklahoma."

The officer exclaimed: "Huh? How come?"

Parker started to laugh. "That's a swell story. He's trying to pull a fast one. I'm goin' on to Miami. I'll be back in the morning to press the charge against this guy—"

"You'll come back with us," Ed told him. "You're going to be held for extradition. Your game is up in Miami—and everywhere else, for that matter."

The cop nodded. "You might as well come back, Parker. You're a material witness. You claim he started the shooting. An' maybe there is something to this man's story about you being a fugitive from justice—"

Parker said softly to Gilly: "I guess we give it to them, Gilly. There's a flying field right over there. We can make a clean getaway. Let's go!"

Parker's and Gilly's guns spoke at the same instant. They each fired into the back of one of the officers. The patrolmen died on their feet, buckled to the ground with their guns unfired. But the shooting didn't end. Ed had moved with lightning speed, almost before Parker had stopped talking. His two forty-fives were out, in his hands, and blazing even as Parker and Gilly turned their own guns on him.

The deep throated roar of Ed's heavy revolvers drowned the spiteful cracks of the two criminals' pistols. Lead slammed into them with unerring accuracy, and they were hurled back, their fingers contracting wildly on their triggers, their shots going up in the air. Huge blobs of crimson appeared on their chests. Gilly was whirled around by the force of the shots that struck him, and fell on his face, twitched, then became motionless. Parker, with a slug in his chest and one in his heart, tottered for an instant, while the gun fell from his nerveless fingers; then he slowly bent at the waist. His knees buckled, and his mouth was set in a furious, dead snarl. In death, his face had assumed a venom which would remain as a mask of death. He collapsed, and the causeway became stained with red around his body.

Ed pushed out of the car, went around on the other side and opened the door for the girl, drew her out. "Get over to the flying field!" he ordered. "There won't be anyone around this late. Go in the office and wait there for me. When I'm finished with the cops, I'll come back for you!"

As in a daze, she obeyed. It was several minutes before the scared motorists in the halted cars mustered up enough courage to approach. By that time, another police patrol car had arrived from the Beach, with Captain Stanley of the Beach Police Force. Stanley knew Ed, but even at that, Ed had to go back with him and with the bodies of the two cops and the two dead gunmen. It was another hour before they were able to match Parker's fingerprints and identify him as a fugitive from justice. It was one o'clock in the morning before the local district attorney, after a lot of wire pulling, agreed to release Ed in his own custody for the coroner's hearing in the morning.

CAPTAIN STANLEY accompanied Ed out of the station house. "You lucky stiff!" he grumbled. "You just happen in and grab yourself a guy that's wanted all over the country and that we had right here in our midst all this time! And the reward, too!" He sighed. "You don't need that dough either."

"I don't," Ed agreed. "And when I get it, I'm donating it to the Miami Beach Police Fund. Now I got to scram, if you don't mind—"

"Hey, wait a minute!" Stanley caught him by the sleeve. "There's something the D.A. forgot to ask you. Who was that dame, in the B.V.D.'s, that was at Parker's? Was she with you? They said she picked up a gun—"

Ed shrugged. "Just a public-spirited bathing beauty. I hope I meet her again."

"You don't know who she is?"

Ed took Stanley's lapel in his fingers, said confidentially: "Listen, cap, I know her so well, I'm going up for an airplane ride with her right now. We're taking a little spin up to Palm Beach!"

Stanley grinned at Ed's departing back. "Always the kidder, ain't you, Race!"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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