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First published in The Spider magazine, March 1936

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version date: 2019-04-21
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The Spider, March 1936, with "Overture to Doom"

Ed Race believed in himself, and in his shrewd judgment of people... So in the case of the pretty girl wearing the karakul coat, he backed his guess with a courtroom tangle and a six-gun showdown!

THE girl with the straw-colored hair had dropped her knife twice, shattering the dignified quiet of the Longmont restaurant with the din of the silver on china; her white, shapely hand shook a little now as she poured cream into her coffee cup. In her eyes there was a look that Ed Race recognized. It was the look of someone who is hunted—in fear of imminent danger.

Ed had been playing Broadway for a month now, and it looked as if he was set for a winter in New York. His acrobatic gun juggling and marksmanship act at the Clyde Theater had been welcomed back with extravagant acclaim by the jaded vaudeville public of the Big Burg. Kindly old Leon Partages, the owner of the Partages Circuit, had renewed his contract at an even higher figure than before; Ed was sitting pretty among friends and admirers. He should have been at the zenith of happiness in the earthly paradise of all vaudeville troupers—a long engagement in New York. But he was really down in the dumps. The same excess of nervous energy which had driven him to delve into criminology as a sideline was making him painfully aware that nothing exciting had happened in a whole month.

On the stage twice a day, Ed Race performed with six heavy forty-five caliber hair-trigger revolvers, performing feats of marksmanship and split-second drawing and shooting that would have made any of the legendary Texas bad men spit with envy; off the stage, he always carried two of those guns in the twin holsters beneath his armpits. He was licensed to operate as a private detective in a dozen states, and the fees for those licenses set him back a fat sum annually. Yet he never tried to make a profit out of them.

And somehow, he always managed to attract trouble. Those who knew him often wondered at his uncanny ability to be around when things happened. They said it was something psychic; that his craving for excitement and danger was like the pull of a magnet or like the force of gravity. And yet, there was more to it than that.

For instance, not one man in a thousand would have noticed the agitation of that girl with the straw-colored hair. Ed lived at the Longmont whenever he was in town, and took his meals in the Longmont restaurant half the time. While he ate, his alert mind was generally busy studying, cataloguing and card indexing the other diners.

The girl was a stranger here and therefore interested him. She was undoubtedly pretty, not over twenty-two, he judged; and expensively dressed. Her black suede handbag, which matched the modish karakul coat thrown over the back of her chair, seemed to be crammed with something or other that caused it to bulge.

But with all that, there was terror in her eyes...

Ed was seated at a table along the wall, directly facing the next table, at which she sat. Her back was to the main entrance from the hotel lobby, and she did not see the two men who entered, stood for a moment in the doorway, then spied her and started across the room purposefully.

But Ed saw them, and disliked them at once. They were both heavy set, square jawed and square footed, grim. They both wore dark overcoats, nondescript ties, and there was little to distinguish between them as to attire, except that one had on a derby, and the other a slouch hat.

The girl had finished her coffee, and had taken a powder compact from her purse, closing the purse carefully before beginning to dab the powder on her face with the pink little puff. The two men glanced sideways at each other, nodded as if in confirmation of some unspoken thought, and ranged up behind her chair. In their position, they were facing Ed now, but they paid no attention to him. Their faces now reflected the smug satisfaction that a cat must feel when it is sure that its mouse cannot escape, and watches for the victim to attempt to scurry away to safety before dropping a heavy paw on it.

And now the girl saw them—reflected in the mirror of her compact!

ED saw her start, saw her body stiffen as she let the powder puff drop from suddenly nerveless fingers into the dregs of the coffee. She seemed frozen, unable to move, under the spell of fear.

The man in the derby tapped her on the shoulder with a thick forefinger. "Well, Miss Sellers," he said loudly enough for Ed to hear, "it looks like we've caught up with you at last!"

A shudder ran through the girl's frame, and she snapped the compact closed. She half turned in her chair, looked up at the two men, and attempted a cool stare.

"I—I don't know what you mean," she said shakily. M-my name is—Smith. Mary S-Smith."

The man in the derby grinned, and winked at his companion. "Smith, huh! You can't pull that stuff on us. This is you, ain't it?"

Out of his breast pocket he pulled a photograph, thrust it in her face. "If you ain't Mimi Sellers, I'm a baboon. We traced you right from Pennsylvania Station—found the Paramount Cab driver that brought you here. You ought to've doubled around a little. You're Mimi Sellers, see?" He bent over her, gripped her shoulder hard, so that she winced. "And your uncle is here in town, too. He's waitin' for you at the Queen Hotel, and you're comin' with us. You better come quiet if you don't want to get hurt!"

The girl's face was gray. "I tell you," she protested feebly, "I'm Mary Smith. I—"

The man shook her hard, growled: "Lay off that stuff!" He half dragged her up from the chair. "You—"

He stopped, stared at Ed Race, who had arisen from his table, and was stepping over toward them.

Ed affected not to notice the two men. He smiled at the girl, said to her genially: "Hello, Miss Smith. Aren't the mosquitoes pesky these days?"

She glanced up at him, startled, and then smiled in sudden relief, understanding that he was coming to her rescue.

Ed swung his eyes to the two men, who were staring at him, openmouthed. He frowned at them; let his glance rest on the derby-wearing one's huge paw, which still clamped the girl's shoulder.

"Miss Smith is an old friend of mine," he said softly. "You two men are creating a disturbance, and annoying her. If you aren't out of here in one minute by that clock over there, I'll throw you both out!"

His cold gray eyes swiveled from one to the other.

The man in the derby took his hand from the girl's shoulder under Ed's gaze. "Looka here!" he blustered. "Who you think you are? We're depitty sheriffs from Omega County, Georgia, and we got a warrant for the arrest of this here woman, Mimi Sellers! You aimin' to interfere with the law?"

Ed grinned at them. "Sounds fishy to me, my friend. A Georgia warrant is no good in New York, and if you're deputy sheriffs, you ought to know it. Let's see that warrant!"

The man in the derby turned to his companion, said queerly: "Show him the warrant, Bastine."

Bastine had his eyes riveted on Ed. "Uh-huh," he said. "Sure I will." His hand went to the inside pocket of his overcoat.

Ed grinned tightly. He moved with all the speed and eye defying swiftness that characterized him on the stage. His left hand flicked out, seized Bastine's wrist in a powerful, punishing grip, wrenched and twisted. Bastine's hand came away from inside his coat, clutching an automatic.

Ed was grinning thinly as he twisted the man's arm without seeming to exert any undue effort. Bastine's face went gray with pain; he uttered a gasp, and let the automatic fall from his hand.

Ed shoved him away, hard, while his right hand thrust out, caught the gun before it reached the ground. He was used to juggling six revolvers at a time on the stage. This was child's play.

His thumb flicked off the safety of the automatic and he leveled it at the derby-wearing man, who already had a gun in his hand.

"Drop it!" Ed clipped.

The man dropped the gun. Bastine was crouching now, his teeth bared in a snarl, while Ed covered them both. The girl was watching the whole thing with wide eyes.

THE half dozen diners in the room had stopped to stare almost unbelievingly at this bit of gunplay in a restaurant in the heart of New York City. Several waiters were crowding as close as they dared. They all knew who Ed was, and naturally were glad to see him get the upper hand.

Ed kept his eyes on the two, motioned to Panesi, the headwaiter, who had bustled up. "The cops, Nick!" he ordered.

Panesi glared balefully at the two snarling men. "Sure, sure, Signor Race. I getta da cops. Queek!"

He turned to rush out, but the girl suddenly jerked out of her frightened lethargy, snatched at Ed's sleeve.

"No, no, please!" she exclaimed urgently. "Not the police!"

Bastine's mouth twisted in a leer. "Well, wise guy," he said to Ed. "What about your Miss Smith now?"

Ed called out: "Hey, Nick! Never mind. Come back here!"

Panesi hesitated, turned and came back reluctantly.

Ed frowned at the girl. "If these men are really deputy sheriffs—"

"You bet we are!" the one in the derby growled. "Here," he pulled back his coat, exhibited a shield, "take a look. I don't know who you are, but you sure cooked this dame's hash. She's Mimi Sellers all right, and we got a warrant for her all right—"

"Then why did you pull a gun on me when I asked to see it?" Ed demanded, puzzled.

Bastine spoke up. "We thought you was one of these here New York gunmen what we've been reading about. I guess we was right," he added ruefully. "You sure can scrap!"

The one in the derby started to bluster. "We was going to take her to her uncle, and give her a break by not calling in the New York police. But now, it's the works for her. Here's the warrant—" he extended his hand, and Bastine, under Ed's watchful gaze, gingerly pulled out a folded sheet of paper which he unfolded and held up for Ed to read.

It was a warrant of extradition, without mistake, and it was signed by the governor of New York. It charged that one, Mimi Sellers, was a fugitive from justice from the state of Georgia, and that she was wanted there on a charge of larceny, burglary and embezzlement.

"Now," Bastine snarled, "it's us that want the cops!" He swung on Panesi. "Go get 'em, you!"

Panesi glanced questioningly at Ed, who shook his head slightly in the negative, and winked. Panesi smiled sourly, and made for the door. Ed knew that he would stall around outside and return to say that he couldn't find a policeman. Panesi, as well as all the waiters and help in the Longmont, was an enthusiastic admirer of Ed Race, and sought every opportunity to please him.

Ed didn't know why he was still interested in helping the girl after her virtual admission that she was a criminal of some sort. Perhaps it was the hunted look in her eyes; perhaps it was the dislike he had taken at sight to these two blustering minions of the law.

"All right," he said to them. "Maybe you are honest-to- goodness deputy sheriffs. And maybe that is a real warrant you have there. But just the same, this young lady is Mary Smith, and you can't extradite her unless you prove her identity. I—"

He turned to her, and broke off, openmouthed, staring at the girl's empty chair. He and the two men had been so busy that they hadn't watched her. And now she was gone...

BASTINE swore luridly. The derby-wearing man swung his eyes about the restaurant, and started to run frantically toward the street exit, through which he had caught sight of the trim, karakul coated figure of the girl departing swiftly.

The girl had just had time to gain the street. Now she glanced back, saw the deputy sheriff coming after her, and broke into a run through the thick, evening Broadway crowds.

The derby-wearing man had almost reached the door when one of the waiters whom he passed deftly extended a foot and tripped him. He went crashing to the floor and the girl outside disappeared in the throng.

Bastine had started after her, too, and he gained the door unhindered, ran out into the street, and looked about helplessly. The derby-wearing man was picking himself up from the floor, his face red with anger. The waiter who had tripped him sidled around to Ed, grinned and whispered:

"How'd I do, Mr. Race?"

"Fine, Louis!" Ed beamed at him. "See me later. I'll take care of you."

Panesi, the headwaiter, came back in through the hotel entrance, and announced:

"I'm ver-ry sor-ry. But I no can find da cops!"

The guests were crowding around, having forgotten their food. Halloran, the redheaded house detective of the Longmont, pushed through, and eyed Ed and the derby-wearing man with a bilious eye.

"What the hell's goin' on here?" he demanded. He glared at Ed. "One o' these days we'll ask you to move, Mr. Race. This hotel hasn't been peaceful since you came to stay with us!"

Bastine came back in through the street door, lugging a patrolman. He pointed dramatically at Ed. "That's the guy!" he barked. "He helped the dame to escape. I want him arrested!"

The bluecoat looked sheepishly at Ed. "What's it about, Mr. Race? He claims you helped a fugitive from justice to escape."

Ed shrugged, handed the automatic back to Bastine. "Sorry if I messed up the works for you," he grinned. "How was I to know you were deputy sheriffs? You barged in here like a couple of yeggs."

"I don't care what you knew!" the derby-wearing one roared. "You obstructed justice, an' you're gonna get locked up! Take him in, officer!"

The bluecoat looked pained. "These two men are making a charge against you, Mr. Race. I guess I'll have to take you down to the precinct house. Accordin' to the rule book I got to make an arrest whenever it's demanded by a citizen. Of course," he turned and glowered at the two sheriffs, "if this should prove to be a false arrest you two birds will pay through the nose!"

"Go ahead!" Bastine shouted. "You'll see if it's a false arrest. Take him in!"

The cop shrugged, looked helplessly at Ed, who nodded at him. "You got to do your duty, Mason. Come on, let's go."

On the way out, he glanced at Halloran, the Longmont house detective. Halloran was smirking with satisfaction. "You had it coming to you a long time, Race. I'll be glad to be rid of you. Want me to send your bags over to the county jail?"

"Go to hell!" Ed told him.

NIGHT court was crowded. Peering out from the detention room, which opened into the courtroom, Ed could see lawyers, bondsmen, and curiosity seekers jamming in through the double doors. The seats were all taken, as usual. Court attendants strutted up and down the aisles, and a small group of men were clustered about the magistrate's bench, waiting to get a word with him.

The clerk bustled over and shooed them away—all but two men who he nodded to deferentially. One was fat little Leon Partages, the owner of the vaudeville circuit for which Ed worked; the other was Franklin Harrison, tall, gray-haired, dignified, with a look of supercilious distaste on his handsome, patrician features. Franklin Harrison was one of the most renowned members of the bar in the State of New York. He had been a justice of the Supreme Court himself, and had retired to private practice some years ago, handling only work of a nature that commanded hundred thousand dollar fees. He was the attorney for the Partages Circuit, and Ed grinned at the thought that good old Leon had dragged Harrison down here to night court to take care of the case. It was a safe bet that Harrison hadn't been inside a magistrate's court in the last twenty years.

The court clerk conducted the lawyer and Leon up to the judge's bench, and around in back. While spectators gaped, and Ed watched, amused, from the detention room where he stood next to a couple of drunk-and-disorderlies, the magistrate arose and shook hands with the great Franklin Harrison, and then acknowledged the lawyer's introduction of Leon Partages.

The three whispered for a few minutes, and then the magistrate beckoned to the clerk, gave him some instructions. The clerk nodded, picked out a sheaf of papers from a batch on his desk. Then he tapped on the desk with a gavel for order, and called out:

"Case of Edward Race! Short affidavit signed by Lewis Bastine and Theodore Ringler!"

The attendant in charge of the detention room nodded to Ed. "Looks like you got drag, guy—being called first!"

Ed walked up to the bench, grinned at Leon Partages, who shook his head disapprovingly. Franklin Harrison scowled. "This your man?" he asked Partages.

Partages bobbed his head. "Eddie," he reproved, "I never saw anybody who could scare up more trouble than you!"

Harrison said to Ed: "I've asked the judge to adjourn this for a week. I hope I can get you straightened out by that time. If we can find this girl, and turn her over to the complainants, they'll drop the charge—"

"Thanks," Ed said drily. "I'd rather not do it that way."

HARRISON'S scowl grew deeper, while the magistrate watched them. "Look here, Race, if I'm going to take care of this for you, you'll do as I say! Now just keep quiet!"

He nodded to the clerk, who called out: "The complainants in this case will step forward!"

From one of the benches the two deputy-sheriffs arose, and came up beside Ed and the attorney.

The clerk intoned: "Edward Race, you are charged with obstructing justice, with aiding a fugitive to escape, and with simple assault. How do you plead to all these charges—guilty or not guilty?"

Before Ed could answer, Harrison broke in suavely; "If your honor please, I suggest that this whole matter may be straightened out by our producing the young woman whom these officers are seeking. I have engaged a firm of private detectives who are even now combing the city—"

Ed broke in vehemently: "Excuse me, your honor. Being the defendant in this case, I have some rights. I don't want this man as my attorney unless he handles the case my way. I don't believe the young lady in question was guilty of any of the crimes charged against her. I think these two deputy sheriffs are a couple of crooks, and I want a chance to prove it. If you'll fix bail for me, I'll be glad to put it up, and then go about this in my own way!"

The magistrate looked perplexed, glanced at Franklin Harrison for guidance. The great attorney became apoplectic. "Well, I never!" he exclaimed. He turned to Leon Partages. "See here, Mr. Partages, am I handling this, or are you going to allow this scatterbrained actor to get himself all tangled up with the law? He doesn't—"

Leon Partages spread his hands deprecatingly. "I'm sorry, Mr. Harrison, but anything that Eddie does is okay with me. I've seen him in action plenty times before. Don't worry. He knows what he's about."

"I want those detectives of yours called off, Harrison!" Ed barked. "At once!"

Harrison glanced apologetically at the magistrate, and said to Partages: "Very well. Then I withdraw from this case. I will not be insulted—"

"If you withdraw from this case," Partages told him flatly, "you withdraw as the attorney for the Partages Circuit."

Harrison hesitated, gulped. The Partages Circuit paid him more than sixty percent of his annual income. "Very well," he snapped. "I'll handle this your way, Race. But don't blame me if you end up in the penitentiary!"

He turned to the bench, once more suave. "If your honor please, I will ask that you adjourn this case till next week and parole the defendant in my custody. I will be personally responsible for his appearance."

The magistrate nodded. "Case adjourned for one week. Defendant paroled in custody of counsel. Next case!"

The two deputy sheriffs started to protest. "Wait a minute, judge!" Bastine shouted. "We won't be here next week. We can't stay that long—"

"Next case!" the judge snapped.

THE attendant pushed the two protesting deputies out of the way, and Ed, grinning, took Partages by the arm, led him up the aisle. Harrison said goodbye to the judge, and followed them sourly.

Ed's eyes narrowed as he noted a young woman in a heavy black veil, seated at the end of one of the benches, near the door. Her hands were in her lap, and he thought he recognized their long, white slimness. But he said nothing, continued on out of the courtroom, and into the street.

Outside, Partages motioned to his limousine, drawn up at the curb, alongside the "no parking" sign.

"Come on, Mr. Harrison, the three of us'll go have a drink and talk this over. You don't want to get sore at me. I've known Eddie a long while, and I always back him up—the same as he's backed me up many a time." He pushed Harrison, slightly mollified, into the car, the door of which the chauffeur had opened, and turned to Ed. "Come on, Eddie, boy—"

"Sorry, Mr. Partages. I've got some things to attend to. You see that Harrison calls off his detective agency, will you?"

Partages looked at him for a long minute. "All right," he finally gave in. "I guess you know what you're up to, Eddie. Only don't go and get yourself arrested again. It's lucky tonight is Sunday and there's no show; or look, we'd been without your number at the Clyde."

"I'll be careful, Mr. Partages," Ed told him.

"This girl," the vaudeville owner persisted. "You know her well, maybe?"

Ed grinned. "I never saw her before tonight."

"And you took a chance on going to jail for her!"

"I'm sure she's not as bad as those hick deputies from Georgia want to make her out. There's something wrong with the picture, and I'm going to find out what it is."

"Good luck to you then, Eddie. And if you need me for anything you just call up. I haven't forgotten the things you've done for me."

Ed watched the limousine roll away, and then turned in time to see the two disgruntled deputies coming out of the courthouse.

They strolled down a few feet, and stood, talking and leaning against the building, their eyes on Ed.

Ed began to walk away slowly, across Fifty-Fourth in the direction of Broadway, and they immediately started after him. He glanced back, stopped.

They stopped, too.

Behind them, he could see the slim form of the veiled girl emerge from the court, stand uncertainly on the sidewalk.

Ed walked directly back toward the two sheriffs. They stood their ground. When he came up close to them, Ed said: "Do you bozos intend to follow me all night?"

They grinned. "You bet!" the derby-wearing Ringler said. "We're stickin' to you till we find out where you got that dame cached. We daren't go back to the Queens Hotel and tell her uncle that we lost her."

"You'd do much better," Ed told them mildly, "by turning around and going right back toward the court. You'd stand a better chance of finding her than by trailing me. But," he sighed, "I don't suppose you'll believe me."

"You're right!" Bastine said. "You bet we don't believe you. You and Mimi Sellers was hooked up to hoodwink us. Imagine—claimin' her name was Smith!"

RINGLER thrust his jaw out at Ed. "An' let me tell you, mister, there ain't no law to prevent us followin' you around—as long as we don't interfere with you. We're stickin' till we catch that dame. Sooner or later you got to pay a visit to where you got her holed up."

Ed shrugged. "Have it your way, gentlemen." He pushed past them, toward the courthouse. "Excuse me. I see someone I know."

He made for the slim karakul coated figure near the courthouse steps, and the two sheriffs sauntered after him slowly.

The girl saw him approach, saw the two men behind him, and seemed to be in a quandary as to what to do. Before she could make up her mind, Ed had come up beside her, taken her arm.

"It's all right," he said. "Those two Sherlocks won't think I'd have the nerve to meet you right under their noses."

She obeyed his hand on her elbow, allowed him to help her into a cab at the curb. "Drive uptown," he ordered.

He glanced back through the rear window, chuckled as he saw his two shadows getting into another cab.

He faced forward again, glanced at the girl, and saw that she had raised her veil.

"Why did you come down here?" he asked her. "You took an awful chance."

She shuddered. "I—I had to find out—what was going to happen to you. You were so k-kind to come to my aid. I—I couldn't b-bear to see you go to jail. If that had happened, I w- was going to give myself up."

"Attagirl!" Ed praised her. "Now let's hear the story of your criminal career. How come you got the bloodhounds of the law on your trail?"

"It's my uncle," she told him, "my Uncle George. He's been my guardian. He's the boss of the political machine in Omega County, and besides that he's the surrogate. When dad and mother were killed in an auto accident about ten years ago, he took over the management of the estate. There wasn't much cash, but there was the collection of Russian jewels which dad had built up. There are some pieces in that collection which are priceless. They come from the crown jewels."

Ed eyed her bulging handbag. "Your dad was a collector?"

"Yes. He'd been American Consul in Moscow, and he put all his money into buying those pieces. Well, Uncle George lost all his money not so long ago, and I began to see men come into the house late at night, and I found out he was selling the collection bit by bit. He could do anything he liked about it, because he was only accountable to himself, being surrogate as well as executor of dad's will, and my guardian.

"I protested to him, and he got very angry, and had two alienists come in and examine me, and they said I was insane. So Uncle George had me put away in the Omega County Home for Mental Incompetents. That was two years ago, before I came of age. Last week I tied some bed sheets together, shinned out the window, and escaped. I hitchhiked home, and stole into the house. I knew where the jewels were kept, so I took them, and got dressed up in all my best clothes, that I found in the closets. And here I am—with the jewels. N-now they w-want to t-take me back. Uncle George will have me locked up in the insane asylum for the rest of my life, and he'll sell them all."

"H'mm, very interesting," Ed remarked. "Uncle George must be a very nice man."

The cab driver turned around, said: "Look, mister, you said to drive uptown. Well, did you mean Forty-Second, or Ninety-Sixth, or the Bronx, maybe? I like to be accurate about them things."

Ed glanced out, saw that they were just passing Times Square. Looking back he saw the cab in which the two bloodhounds were following, close behind. They were sticking grimly.

"There's a cab following us," Ed told the driver. "Do you think you could shake them—for a ten dollar bill?"

"For a sawbuck I could try, mister," the driver said. "For twenty I could guarantee results."

Ed sighed. "All right, Captain Kidd."

At once the driver swung right into Forty-Fourth Street, slowed down and approached the green light at Sixth Avenue. Behind them came the other cab.

Ed's driver called back: "This is an old trick, mister, that's easy worth twenty to watch. It calls for perfect timing."

He rolled up close to the corner, and just as the traffic light began to change, he made a left turn into Sixth, in front of the traffic cop, who waved him on, but held up a hand to stop the cab behind.

Ed looked back, grinned to see the two sheriffs darting out of their taxi, paying off in a hurry, and starting out on foot.

The driver asked: "Did it work, mister?"

"It did. Now show a little speed. They're coming after us on foot."

"Okey doke, mister!" The driver made a left turn at Forty- Fifth, raced across to Broadway. "I guess that loses 'em, huh? Where to now?"

"Queens Hotel," Ed told him. "And here's your twenty—with two extra for the fare. You did fine!"

The girl beside him asked breathlessly: "W-what are you going to do? Uncle George is at the Queens!"

"That's right, Mimi. We're going to talk to your uncle George. I have an idea he needs a little talking to!"

BUT at the Queens Hotel Ed was informed that Mr. George Sellers was out, had left word that he would not be back till midnight. It was nine thirty.

They went back to the cab, which had waited outside, and Ed said: "To the Longmont, Captain Kidd. It looks like you're hired for the night."

"I only hope," Captain Kidd replied, "that some other goofs take the notion to trail you, mister. Twenty bucks a crack is better than regular hacking—and I know lots more tricks."

At the Longmont, Ed told Mimi to put her veil down again, and took her in through the side entrance, and up to the fourth floor, where his room was.

Ed fitted the key into the lock of his door, pushed it open, and stared at the tableau in the lighted room. Halloran, the redheaded house detective, sat in the only chair in the room, with his hands clasped awkwardly behind his neck. His face was red, and he was glaring at the dapper, black-haired man who sat on the bed and covered him with an automatic.

As Ed appeared in the doorway, the dapper man swung the automatic so that it covered Ed, too, and said genially: "Come in. We've been expecting you."

Halloran started to move, and the dapper man swung the automatic in his direction again, his eyes snapping viciously. "Keep those hands behind your neck!"

Halloran subsided.

The dapper man looked at Ed. "Well, I thought I told you to come in. Or would you like to be found with a bullet between the eyes, right across your threshold?"

"I'll come in," Ed said mildly. "I was just wondering if your name was George Sellers." As he spoke he tried to nudge the girl behind him away from the door, but she exclaimed: "It's Uncle George!"

Uncle George smiled thinly. "This is indeed a surprise, Mimi! Come in, too. I had anticipated a good deal of trouble in making Mr. Race, here, disclose your whereabouts to me."

Ed and the girl moved into the room, and Ed closed the door behind them.

Halloran, with his hands still behind his neck, said sheepishly: "This guy was fumbling around your door, Race, so I braced him. And he yanks a gat on me, and marches me in here!"

"Too bad, Halloran," Ed said, his eyes twinkling. "It's terrible how they treat detectives nowadays."

The dapper man got up from the bed, keeping his eyes on Ed. He moved around behind Halloran, put a hand in front of the detective, into his shoulder holster, and drew out the big service revolver that the house dick carried there. Then, still keeping Ed covered with the silenced automatic, Sellers raised the big revolver, brought it down hard.

The house detective grunted, slumped in the chair, then fell to the floor and did not move,

"That," said Sellers softly, "disposes of him, so that I can do my business with you." His automatic was fixed unwaveringly on Ed's stomach. "Mimi!" he ordered sharply. "Give me that handbag. You have the jewels in it?"

"I won't!" she flashed. "They were Dad's, and they're mine now!"

Sellers did not raise his voice. "Mimi," he told her, "I'm a desperate man. With those jewels that you took, was a list of all the items that I received from the estate. Over a dozen of those items have already been sold. I want that list. With it, you could send me to jail. Can you imagine me going to jail? Of course not. Believe me, Mimi, I would just as soon kill you and your big friend here, as well as this house detective, as go to jail. Now, do you understand how desperate I am? I want those jewels, and I want that list!"

All the time that he talked to Mimi he kept his eyes and his gun glued to Ed...

THERE was a cold, desperate glint in those eyes that told Ed the man meant every word he said. Men like this always became cold, dangerous killers when they stood in danger of losing the prestige and respect they had built up for themselves on a foundation of apparent respectability.

But the girl, Mimi, stood her ground. Apparently she didn't think that her Uncle George would go as far as actually killing her. In spite of the example of Halloran, who lay supine on the floor, she clutched her bag tightly against her breast. "No, no! I won't! You don't dare shoot!"

Sellers' lips tightened. The automatic swung just a little away from Ed, centered on the girl. "I hate to do this Mimi. I had hoped that Ringler and Bastine would be able to bring you here without publicity. But this blundering fool spoiled that. Now you must die!"

Even as he said the last, his finger started to contract on the trigger.

And Ed Race swung into that swift, blinding action which had dazzled the eyes of spectators at the Clyde.

He shouted: "Hey!" and drew the involuntary attention of George Sellers to himself. Sellers' gun swung toward him, as Ed's hand darted in and out, with lightning swiftness, from his holster.

At the same instant, Ed's body went into a double back somersault, just like the one that he did on the stage. At the theatre, Ed came out of that somersault with six guns in the air, caught them one at a time as they came down, and shot out the lights of candles thirty feet away.

Sellers' silenced automatic spat wickedly once, twice. The slugs missed Ed completely, because his body was in motion. But the heavy lead pill from his own .45 did not miss. It caught Sellers right between the eyes, hurled him back against the wall with a sickening crash. His body crumpled, slumped over onto Halloran's.

Ed Race came to his feet against the opposite wall, stood looking down at the man he had killed. The girl was still standing where she had been when the shooting started, rooted to the spot, still clutching her handbag.

Ed took the bag from her fingers, opened it and withdrew a chamois bag from within it. He undid the string that held it together at the top, and poured out into his hand a dazzling collection of pearls and diamonds, each with a tag on it. Among the stones was a small, folded piece of paper, which he opened:


Placed in the hands of George Sellers, executor without bond. Checked by Hayes, Hayes, Hinkle & Murphy: Certified Public Accountants.

"This is the list that would have sent him to jail," Ed said somberly.

The girl clutched at his sleeve. "I—I didn't think it meant anything! I—I almost threw it away!"

"It's a good thing you didn't. It forced your Uncle George out into the open. If it hadn't been for this list, he could just have sat tight and waited for you to be picked up for robbing your own estate!"

Halloran, on the floor, stirred, and moaned. Outside, someone was pounding on the door.

Halloran opened his eyes, felt the weight of Sellers' body on him, exclaimed: "Omigawd! What's this!"

"That," Ed told him as he went to open the door, "is the cue for you to start playing at house detective again!"


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