Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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When Lilybud, the twelve-year-old nag that had never won a race in her life, copped the Crater Lake Sweep, Horse Car Jackson had fifty bucks on her nose—at two hundred to one! But it was Dodd who had to collect the little bum's freak bet—or forfeit his life as well as his bail-bond.
IT WAS a hot night, and Dodd had thrown all the covers off the bed. He was lying flat on his back, long arms and legs thrust out in all directions, snoring like seven hundred dollars, when the telephone on the night-table rang suddenly and shrilly.
"Uh?" said Dodd, not moving. The telephone rang again. "Oh," said Dodd vaguely. "Wait." He groped out in the darkness and picked the instrument off its stand. "Hello. What?"
A voice said: "This is Hennessey, Dodd."
"Who?" Dodd asked.
"Hennessey. Sergeant Hennessey from Central Police Headquarters."
Dodd yawned. "Hello, Hennessey. What are you doing on duty now? I thought you were working days."
"I ain't on duty. I'm in the hospital."
"Oh," said Dodd. "That's too bad. What's wrong with you?"
"There ain't nothing wrong with me. It's Meekins."
"Dodd," Hennessey said patiently. "Wake up, will you? Meekins, the little bald rummy that works for you, is here in the Emergency Hospital."
Dodd yawned again. "Is he? What's the matter with him? Has he been drinking bad liquor again?"
"No. He got shot, and he got his skull caved in."
DODD sat up with such a violent start he dropped the telephone on the floor. "What?" he yelled. He lunged over the side of the bed and fumbled wildly for the telephone. "Hennessey! What did you say about Meekins? Shot ... Skull cave in ... Hennessey!"
"I'm still right here, Dodd. Take it easy."
Dodd clutched the telephone with both hands. "Hennessey! What about Meekins? Is he—is he—"
"Naw. He ain't dead. At least, I don't think so. Not yet. They got him in the operating-room."
"Wait there!" Dodd ordered, turning on the night light. "I'm coming!"
"Don't get so jumpy, Dodd. You can't do nothing down here right now. They won't let you in the operating-room. They wouldn't let me in even with my badge. I am calling now from the pay phone in the hall right outside. I can see the door of the operating-room, and if they bring Meekins out I'll find out how he is."
"Who did it?" Dodd demanded. "Just tell me the guy's name, that's all."
"I dunno. But I think a guy by the name of Horse Car Jackson was in there somewhere."
"Horse Car Jackson?" Dodd repeated. "I never heard of him. Who's he?"
"He is an old bum that follows horse races from track to track all over the country. He never has no dough to pay bus or train fares, so he rides in the cars with the horses. That's why they call him Horse Car."
"What's he got to do with Meekins?"
"I'm telling you. He was picked up as a vag last week. I was there when he was brung in, and so was Meekins. Meekins looked over his stuff when I searched him to see did he have enough dough to pay for some bail. He only had a dime on him, so of course Meekins wouldn't put up no bail for him. In fact, all he had was this betting slip, and that was a very funny thing."
"Well, it showed that Horse. Car had put down fifty smackers at two hundred to one in Lilybud."
"On what?" Dodd asked.
"Lilybud. It's a horse. Well, that's the joke, really, because Lilybud ain't a horse. It's strictly a dog."
"Just translate," Dodd ordered. "What are you talking about?"
"This Lilybud is nothing but a wienie, Dodd. It is twelve years old, and it ain't never won a race in its life. And it is entered in the Crater Lake Sweep with nine other nags that are really first class. So it is a joke that this old bum of a Horse Car puts down fifty smackers on it. It ain't got no more chance of winning that race than I have of being the next police chief. Meekins and me ask Horse Car what he throws his money away that way for, and it seems he rode thousands of miles with Lilybud and thinks it is an awful nice horse. He says Lilybud has lots of character, so when he wins fifty bucks in a crap game, he bets it all on the old glue pot. That just goes to show how crazy Horse Car is."
"If he's crazy—how about the fellow who entered the horse in the Crater Lake Sweep?"
"Oh, he ain't crazy," Hennessey answered. "That's Bimley. He has eight or nine horses—pretty good ones—aside from Lilybud that he is racing out on the Coast. So they close the tracks out there on account of the war—like they are using Santa Anita for a Jap concentration camp—and catch Bimley short. He has to get in on some Eastern tracks. So he enters Lilybud in the Sweep to get stable rights at Crater Lake. He don't expect to win. He just wants an entry under his name. It is such a smell that even the sports writers are giving him the bird about it."
"ARE you watching that operating-room?" Dodd demanded. "Sure. I got my eye right on it. So Meekins and me have a laugh on Horse Car, and he goes up before Judge Tracy and gets sentenced to sixty days for vagrancy and put away in jail, and we don't think no more about him until we are listening to the Crater Lake Sweep on the radio this afternoon. Man, you can't guess what happened!"
"Yes, I can," said Dodd. "Lilybud won."
"Aw, you was listenin'. But did you hear how it happened, huh? That was something like ain't never been seen before. At the half Lilybud was already trailin' by twelve lengths, and the other nags was all bunched, and this guy that was ridin' third tried to pull between the two leaders, and they crowded him, and all three of 'em went end-over-end. And the whole field piled right in. Three more went down, and one bucked his rider off, and one started runnin' the wrong way. And then Lilybud came around clear on the outside—"
"Yes, yes," said Dodd. "I'll read it in the paper. What has this to do with Meekins?"
"Well, right away he thinks of that betting slip of Horse Car's. He wants me to give it to him so he can go collect it for Horse Car, but I can't do that because it is sealed up in Horse Car's property envelope and there was three cops fired just last month for monkeying with them property envelopes. So he wants me to let Horse Car out for awhile, but I can't do that neither because the commissioner has been raising particular hell about us sendin' prisoners out to do errands for us. So Meekins runs out and gets Dunstead."
"Dunstead?" Dodd repeated.
"That crummy little lawyer who is always hanging' around police court. Meekins and him get up before old Judge Barth—you know, the dumb one that sort of drools in his beard when he chews tobacco—and they put on an act like you wouldn't believe. They tell the judge that Horse Car is a man of property and substance who is wrongly accused and that he is a deacon in a church and has a wife and six kids dependent on him and that his life will be ruined if he don't get out of the sneaker right away. So Barth paroles him."
Dodd was trying to get out of his pajamas one-handed. "What?" he said in a muffled voice. "A parole? On a vag charge? From the county jail?"
"It sounded kind of funny to me, too," Hennessey admitted.
"Who did he parole him to? Meekins?"
"No. To you. On account of you had to put up the bond."
"Bond?" said Dodd.
"Yeah. For Horse Car's good behavior."
"How much?" Dodd asked grimly, feeling for his socks.
"Just five hundred."
"Just!" Dodd echoed, breathing hard. "All right. Tell me the rest."
"That's about all. Meekins went off with Horse Car to collect this bet. He' asked me would I keep an eye on things for him. So I sat around there for three hours after I was off duty, and I was gettin' pretty mad because I figured they had collected that bet and then gone off on a tear. Then I hear they picked up Meekins sort of in pieces in an alley off Ventner Street near Tenth. So I come over here."
"Stay there until I get there," Dodd said. "I'm on my way right now."
DODD pushed back the heavy swing door with a sudden whoosh of compressed air and entered the bright, antiseptic coolness of the hospital lobby. He looked harassed and mad and sleepy all at the same time. His coat collar was turned up, and his tie was jerked around under one ear, and his adhesive-patched horn-rimmed glasses were set askew on his long nose. His heels raised smacking echoes as he headed across to the small reception desk in the corner. "How's Meekins?" he asked. The receptionist wore a starched white uniform and a white nurse's cap. Her hair was gray and smooth, cut very short, and her lips made a thin, prim line in a face that was so sallow and colorless it looked faintly dusty.
"I beg pardon?" she said in a frigid tone.
"Meekins," Dodd said impatiently. "Meekins. My runner. How is he?"
"I'll look up the records."
"No, no," said Dodd. "He just came in. He was shot or something."
"Oh," said the receptionist disapprovingly. "That one. I imagine he is still in the operating-room. It's on the second floor. You may wait in the hall up there, if you wish. You will find a police person also waiting to see this Meekins. Did you say his first name was Runner? How very peculiar."
"No," said Dodd, heading for the stairs. "I said he was my runner. I'm a bail bondsman. He works for me. I don't know his first name. I don't think he has one."
He trotted up the rubber-treaded steps and turned into a long, glistening hall. Hennessey was sitting slumped down on a bench in front of two gray doors, elbows on his knees, chin in his hands. He had his uniform cap tipped on the back of his head, and his normally round face had sagged into lines as disconsolate as those of a bloodhound's.
"Heard anything?" Dodd asked.
"Naw," said Hennessey. "These guys around here don't give out with nothing but the brush-off."
"Are they still working on him?"
"Yeah. I'm worried, Dodd. You know these butchers they got around this joint. They cut people up for fun if they ain't got nothing else to do. But anyway, I got Meekins' wallet, so they won't swipe his dough."
Dodd held out his hand. "Let's see it."
Hennessey gave him a worn, bulging wallet. Dodd opened the bill compartment and found that it contained three crumpled one dollar bills. He looked accusingly at Hennessey.
"So now you've taken to robbing the dead and wounded, have you?"
Hennessey looked up at him with round, innocent eyes. "What's that, Dodd? Oh, you mean that betting slip? He didn't have it on him. I looked all through his clothes."
"I mean the money," said Dodd. "I gave Meekins a twenty-buck advance on his salary this morning. You know Meekins. He never spent seventeen dollars of his own dough in one day in his life. Give."
Hennessey reluctantly produced a folded five dollar bill. "Well, he owes me this, and it won't do him any good if he's gonna die, and anyway I didn't take it from him. I got it from Crestwick."
Dodd put the five dollar bill in with the three ones. "Who is Crestwick?"
"The driver of the ambulance that picked Meekins up. He frisked Meekins, and he kinda misplaced the five in his own pocket while he was doin' it. I had an idea he might have did something like that, so I bumped his head against the wall a couple times and he coughed up. He didn't have the betting slip, though. I don't think Meekins had it on him at all. He tried to get it away from Horse Car at the station, and Horse Car kicked up a hell of a beef."
"Let's talk some more about that betting slip," Dodd said. "I don't play the horses, but it seems to me that two hundred to one on fifty dollars is a little out of order. That means a ten thousand dollar pay-off in case of a win."
HENNESSEY nodded. "Yeah. I think it's sort of a joke bet. Horse Car tells Meekins and me that he goes all over town trying to get odds on Lilybud and all the bookies laugh at him because he is such an old crumb and because Lilybud couldn't possibly win that race unless all the other horses fell down. They did, like I tell you."
"Where did he place the bet?"
"With Dom Carlos. He ain't really a bookie. He's a betting commissioner. He hangs around at the Stagland Bar in the Savoy Hotel, and he'll take a bet on anything you want to name—like how long it will take a bug to crawl out of a bottle or whether the next guy that comes in will put his right or left foot on the bar rail first. There's a very flash crowd that hangs around the Stagland, and Dom Carlos does pretty well for himself because he is a bear-cat at figuring odds. From what Horse Car said, I think he sneaked into the Stagland and braced Dom Carlos in front of some of his ritzy pals. Dom Carlos takes a look at Horse Car and figures he don't have more than a dime, so he quotes the two hundred to one, and then he can't back down when Horse Car outs with his fifty."
"What do Dom Carlos' betting slips look like?"
"Fancy," said Hennessey. "Green with his name printed on them in gold. They are bigger than average because he has got to write bets with screwy terms. You can easy spot one if you see it."
"All right," Dodd said. "Have you got any lead at all on Horse Car? Has he been seen or heard of since Meekins was picked up?"
"Nope. He blew himself away like a puff of smoke. But I figure he is the innocent by-stander here anyway, Dodd. Where would he get a gun? And anyway, he is a scared, puny little bird that don't weigh more than a wet dish-rag. I figure somebody tried to stick him and Meekins up for that betting slip, and Meekins beefed, and Horse Car ran."
"I want to ask him a question. Where was he picked up on the vag charge?"
"On Water Street near Crail."
"Has anybody checked up on Dom Carlos?"
Hennessey pursed his lips. "Not unless it was Lieutenant Gudolfson."
Dodd stared at him. "Who?"
"Lieutenant Gudolfson. You heard of him. Whenever the cops make a real bad butch, why Lieutenant Gudolfson gets the blame for it in the newspapers and reports and stuff and gets fined and suspended and dismissed and sent out to herd goats and all that. There ain't really no such person, of course. We just use the name to take the heat off the police department so them reformers won't be clawing us all the time. Lieutenant Gudolfson is investigatin' this business about Meekins, unless you say different."
"How was that last?" Dodd asked.
Hennessey shrugged. "I figured maybe you'd want to look around a bit and wouldn't want to be trippin' over cops while you was doin' it."
Dodd smiled slowly. "You're kind of a handy person to know at that, Hennessey."
"Now and then," Hennessey said blandly. "You know, that Meekins is a pest. He gets in my hair something fearful around the station, and he is always playin' snide tricks of one kind and another, but I'm sorta used to him now."
Dodd nodded in an understanding way. "So am I, Hennessey."
"Don't get caught killin' nobody, Dodd."
"No," said Dodd absently.
THE gray doors across the hall opened, and a man in a white surgeon's smock came out. He was tall and thin and sharp-featured, and he had an air of cynically bored superiority.
"Are you two waiting to hear about this man, Meekins?" he asked.
"Yes," Dodd answered. "How is he?"
"He was shot twice—once in the right thigh and once in the left calf. The bullet in his calf fractured the leg bone but didn't splinter it. The X-rays show he doesn't have a skull fracture, but he has a concussion and severe lacerations about his head. He was struck several times by a heavy instrument with sharp edges—probably a revolver—while he was lying on the ground, shot, I should judge."
Dodd said: "Well, is he all right? I mean, will he recover?"
The doctor was lighting a cigarette. "Oh, I imagine so. Unless complications set in."
"Where is he now?"
"We're putting him in the out ward to await transfer. He can't stay here, you know."
"Oh yes, he can," Dodd said flatly.
The doctor looked up in faint surprise. "We have no facilities to care for any except temporary patients here. This is the Emergency Hospital."
"You have rooms on the third floor," said Dodd.
The doctor's thin lips tightened. "They are not open to the public."
"I know," Dodd agreed. "They're for city officials and other rummies who get a free medical ride from the taxpayers. But Meekins stays in one just the same, with a day and night nurse. Run him up there."
"That's quite impossible," said the doctor.
"If I was you, Doc," Hennessey said conversationally, "I would kind of do like Dodd, here, suggests. He's a bail bondsman, and he gets around quite some. If he should get mad, he might call up the mayor or the health commissioner and start talkin' to them about a lot of things they'd just as soon not talk about, and if that happened some innocent third party—like yourself—would get his teeth kicked right in."
The doctor lost his superior air. "Well, of course, it might be dangerous to move the patient at the moment ... We might make an exception."
"Do that," Dodd said. "And just see that you stay on the job yourself."
The doctor stiffened up again. "I'll do my best."
"I wouldn't stop there, if I was you," said Hennessey. "If your best wasn't good enough, lots of queer things might happen all of a sudden around here."
The doctor ignored him pointedly. "Please sign for the patient at the reception desk. I will inform the nurse in charge, of the circumstances. Good-evening." He walked down the hall, shoulders very stiff and straight.
Hennessey was scowling in concentration. "Say!" he said suddenly. "I just got an idea! How much is eight from twenty?"
"Twelve," said Dodd. "Why?"
"You said you advanced Meekins twenty bucks this morning. He's got eight now, countin' that five I shook out of Crestwick. You said Meekins wouldn't spend seventeen bucks of his own dough in one day. I don't think he'd spend twelve, either. Do you?"
"No," Dodd admitted.
Hennessey slapped his fist down heavily on the bench beside him. "That damned Crestwick! He held out on me! Why, that guy is nothing but a crook! I'll fix his clock for him!"
He heaved himself off the bench and lumbered purposefully down the hall toward the back. He had gone about ten paces when he stopped and turned around.
"How much did you say you advanced Meekins?"
"Fifty dollars," said Dodd.
Hennessey nodded once. "That's what I thought you said. I'll make that Crestwick cough up." He started on down the hall again.
DODD went the other way and descended the front stairs to the lobby. The receptionist was bent over the desk filling out a white card. She ignored Dodd.
"Ahem," he said, after a moment. "Excuse me, but I'd like to make out an entry blank or whatever it is for my man, Meekins. He's staying here."
"I'm well aware of that," said the receptionist in a spitefully disapproving voice. "I'm filling out his card now. I took the particulars from his draft registration. He was identified by that when he was picked up."
"I see," said Dodd.
"Doctor Burns has informed me of the circumstances," the receptionist added, pen scratching furiously, "and I must say I think they are highly irregular. Fill out this, please. Name, address, relation to patient, and occupation—if any."
"Yes, ma'am," said Dodd mildly.
He filled out the blank spaces on the card and handed it back as Hennessey came puffing down the stairs. He held his right hand up in front of Dodd's face and waggled his thick fingers.
"Look. That first knuckle again. I bet it's gonna swole up."
"Swell up!" the receptionist snapped.
"I like swole better," said Hennessey. "It sounds more like my knuckle feels. You was right, Dodd. That Crestwick went and lifted the whole of that sixty-five smackers you advanced to Meekins."
"Sixty-five?" Dodd said. "Is that so?"
Hennessey counted crumpled bills on the desk. "Yeah. Here it is. I'm holdin' out five dollars on account I figure Meekins owes me a reward or something for collecting, and anyway I want to buy him some flowers. I know a very tony florist that is a bookie on the side, and you'd be surprised how many flowers a cop can get in his place for five bucks."
"Scandalous!" said the receptionist.
"Aw, no it ain't," said Hennessey. "The guy just likes cops. Some people do."
"Bookies and other scum, no doubt. Mr. Dodd, Doctor Burns spoke of you desiring special nurses. You will have to make additional arrangements for them."
"I'll attend to it myself," Dodd told her. "I'll get some from an outside agency. I don't like the looks of the ones they keep around here."
"That feeling is quite mutual. Instruct them to report to Doctor Burns. The patient, Meekins, is assigned to Special Suite Number 6 on the third floor. Are you leaving now?"
"Yes, thanks," said Dodd. "Coming, Hennessey?"
"Naw. I'll stick around. That there florist delivers, and I want to chat with Meekins when he gets conscious—if ever—and cheer him up."
"You can't!" said the receptionist flatly. "The patient is under the influence of the anesthetic and will be for several hours, and you can't talk to him even when he comes out unless the doctor authorizes visitors. It is useless for you to wait."
"Aw, I got lots of time," said Hennessey.
Dodd nodded to the receptionist. "What's your name? I mean, in case I want to call up and find out about Meekins I'll ask for you."
"The name is Nurse Parr, if it is of any interest to you, but we do not give out information over the telephone concerning patients."
"Oh, now," said Dodd. "Not even for me? I'll have Hennessey give you some of Meekins' pretty flowers if you will."
Nurse Parr straightened up with a jerk. "I do not accept gratuities—nor bribes!"
"Good-night, nurse," said Dodd, heading for the door.
THE Savoy Hotel was old-fashioned and proud of it. Dodd entered through the side door and went down a long, stiffly formal corridor lined with shiny Empire chairs and octagonal mirrors with deep brass borders. There was not a soul in sight, and the corridor looked like a museum display from the last century.
Dodd turned to the right and went down two steps and pushed open a leather padded door and stepped right back into the present. A subdued roar of noise welled around him. The Stagland Bar was for men only, and it was full of them now. They were all along the dimly lighted bar in gesticulating knots and crowded over the red-topped tables like flies over sugar.
Dodd worked his way through the press to the end of the bar and waited until the bartender approached at a dignified waddle.
"Your pleasure, sir?" said the bartender.
"Is Dom Carlos here?" Dodd asked.
The bartender shook his shining head slowly and sadly. "I regret to say that he is not now present, sir."
"How can I get in touch with him?"
"I am at a loss to tell you, sir. May I serve you with some libation?"
"No," said Dodd.
He turned away and started back toward the door.
"Dodd!" a shrill voice called. "Oh, Dodd!"
Dodd turned around and waited, and his mouth dipped down a little at the corners.
"Just happened to see you," said the other man in breathless, quick spurts. "Wanted to speak to you."
He was small, and there was a round sleekness about him. He wore very nice clothes, and they were clean and pressed, but in spite of that he managed to look just slightly soiled. It was nothing you could point out specifically. It was just his general air. He had a furtive smile that came and went without any apparent reason.
"About Meekins," he said. "Shocking thing. So sorry. Wanted to tell you."
Dodd waited, staring at him.
The small man cleared his throat. "Well, you know me! You've seen me hundreds of times around the courthouse. My name is Dunstead. I'm an attorney. Don't you remember?"
"Yes," said Dodd. "I remember."
"Oh," said Dunstead uncertainly. "Well, I wanted to tell you. Think you should be informed. There's some sort of a conspiracy of silence about the course of the investigation into Meekins'—ah—accident. I asked at the police station and couldn't find anything out. Met with the most evasive answers. I was referred to a Lieutenant Gudolfson. I can't find any trace of any such lieutenant."
Dodd leaned forward a little. "Why were you asking about Meekins?"
Dunstead popped his eyes in surprise. "Eh? Why, my client. Interests of my client. Must protect them, you know."
"Mr. Jackson. Mr.—ah—Horse Car Jackson."
"Where is he?"
Dunstead spread his hands helplessly. "I don't know. That's why I'm so concerned. In view of what happened to Meekins, his absence at this time is very damaging. Almost incriminating. I must find him and tell him to report to the authorities and give his explanation of the affair and clear himself of any suspicion."
"Have you seen Dom Carlos?"
"Who?" said Dunstead, puzzled.
Dodd leaned further forward and tapped Dunstead gently on one shoulder. "I know what's giving you that gleam in your eye. It's a matter of ten thousand dollars. And now I want to tell you something. Don't try cutting any corners in front of me, or I'll make you hard to find."
Dunstead smiled and then stopped smiling and backed away a step. "Threats," he said breathlessly, "threats of physical violence don't frighten me. I shall do my duty by my client."
"Don't let me catch you at it," Dodd advised.
HE LEFT Dunstead standing there and went out through the padded leather door and up the steps into the corridor. He turned to the right and went on along the corridor, turned again and entered the empty majesty of the hotel's main lobby. A clerk behind the long desk in the alcove nodded deferentially and smiled at him. "Yes, sir?"
"Where's the manager?" Dodd asked.
"Right behind you, sir," said the clerk.
Dodd swung around and looked down at a worried, bald, little man who was watching him anxiously through rimless glasses that were fastened to his coat lapel with a broad black ribbon.
"You—wanted me?" he asked timidly.
"No," said Dodd. "I want Dom Carlos."
"Is—is your name Dodd? Bail-Bond Dodd?"
"Well, would you mind proving it, please?"
•"Not a bit," said Dodd. He brought out his wallet, opened it, and extended it on his palm.
"That's my draft registration. Want to see my driver's license?"
"No, no," said the manager. "Thank you very much. I have a message for you. A message from Dom Carlos."
"What is it?" Dodd demanded.
"Well, I don't know. It's difficult to explain... If you'll just step in the credit office right here and wait for a few minutes, he'll call you."
"I don't like this Japanese spy stuff," said Dodd. "Where is he?"
"I don't know!" the manager wailed. "He calls here every half-hour, and he told me to have you wait if you came in, and he'd talk to you. He's due to call in just seven minutes. Please, just step in here ..."
"All right," said Dodd.
They went into a small, square office equipped with an enormous flat-topped desk and a whole wall of filing cases.
"If you'll just sit here beside the desk," said the manager. "Here's the telephone—"
It buzzed suddenly under his fingers, and the manager started so violently that his glasses dropped off.
"That—that can't be he. He calls right precisely on the minute. Pardon me ..." He picked up the telephone gingerly. "What is it? ... What? For Mr. Bail-Bond Bird-Brain Dodd? Why—why, I don't—"
"Give it to me," said Dodd. He took the telephone from the manager and said: "Hello."
"I bet you can't guess who this is, Dodd."
"Hennessey," said Dodd wearily.
"Bet you can't guess where I am, though."
"In Meekins' room," said Dodd.
"Aw, shucks. You always guess right."
"How'd you get in there?"
"That was fancy, Dodd. I was waitin' out in front for them flowers I ordered, and when they come I see the delivery boy has on a uniform, so that gives me an idea. So I ditch my gun and my badge and stuff and have the flower guy pile flowers on me until they hide my face and all the rest of me except the edges, and then I walk right in the lobby and tell that old sourpuss of a Nurse Parr that I got to deliver the flowers right up to the room so I can arrange 'em, and here I am yet, still arrangin'."
"How is Meekins?"
"He's not so good. In fact, he looks like hell. But that old sourpuss in the lobby was cuckoo, Dodd, because he is conscious. Of course, he is full of dope and stuff, but he is almost as sensible as he generally is. Say, Dodd, did you pick out that nurse you sent up here person-ally?"
"No," Dodd answered. "I just called the medical bureau and asked them to assign a couple to Meekins. Why? What's the matter with her?"
"Man!" said Hennessey fervently. "There ain't nothin' the matter with her. She looks just like Lana Turner. Honest she does, Dodd. It's wonderful, but it's too bad."
"Make some sense," Dodd invited impatiently.
"I mean, it's too bad Meekins can't see her when she's so wonderful. His eyes is swole tight shut. They look like a couple of blue balloons. The swellest shiners, bar none, that I ever did see."
"Can he talk to me?"
"He ain't supposed to. The nurse just went out to get him some gruel or something, and she gave me strict orders that I wasn't to talk to him. Huh? Wait a minute, Dodd ... Hey, Meekins says he can talk, all right, if you can understand him. He has got his jaw in a sling. I'll give him the phone. Here, Meekins. Be careful, now."
MEEKINS' voice was a blurred, feeble croak. "Hello, boss. It's me again."
"Hello, fella!" said Dodd warmly. "How do you feel? Is it—is it pretty painful?"
"Naw. I can't feel nothin'. I'm wrapped up like a mummy and blind as a bat."
"Look, Meekins," said Dodd. "I don't want to upset you, and I'm not mad, but just what the hell kind of a fandango were you trying to pull with Horse Car Jackson and that betting slip?"
"I wanted to help the old dope, Dodd. The cops that pinched him said that he'd been wavin' that betting slip all over Water Street. Lots of people knew he had it. They'd remember when they heard Lilybud came in and come swarming around and roll the old boy before he could wink. And then I figured we might as well make a small piece of change out of it for being so kind-hearted."
"Sure. So what?"
"Well, he was in the jail on a bum rap, Dodd."
"Why?" Dodd asked.
"He was in for vagrancy. A vagrant is a guy that is destitute and poverty-stricken and all that. A guy with ten thousand bucks certainly don't fit that definition."
"No," Dodd admitted.
"Well, so when Hennessey couldn't cooperate, I got hold of Dunstead because I was in a hurry."
"I know. You couldn't have picked worse. I just saw the little rat. He's hanging around here to get a line on Horse Car or Dom Carlos. He says he wants to protect Horse Car's interest. You know what will happen to that ten thousand if he does."
"Well, Dodd. He ain't Horse Car's lawyer. He's your lawyer."
"What?" Dodd said, startled.
"Yeah. I figured he'd try to chisel, so I drew up a little receipt and had him sign it. I paid him ten bucks of my own dough as a retainer. In that receipt, I put it that he was our lawyer and that our interests were opposed to Horse Car's because we were on his bond. Dunstead was so boggle-eyed over that betting slip that he never read the receipt, but it puts him on notice. He can't represent both sides of a case. If he tries it, we'll jerk him up before the Bar Association."
"Where is that receipt?" Dodd demanded tensely.
"In my wallet."
Dodd slapped his side pocket and felt the weight of the wallet and breathed a deep sigh. "That's good! I'll fix the little rat the next time I catch up with him. Wait a minute. You said you paid him ten dollars of your own dough. How much did you have left of that twenty I gave you?"
"Eight bucks. Why?"
Dodd chuckled. "Tell Hennessey that sometime, but not now. What about this parole idea?"
"That was Dunstead's notion. He couldn't figure out any way to get Horse Car out of the cooler right away, and so he says he will try this gag on old Judge Barth. Dunstead quoted a lot of phoney cases and reeled off some double-talk he claimed was in the Civil Code or somewhere, and Barth was so dumb he took it in. That old boy is half-witted."
"Now we come to the squeeze," said Dodd. "How about that bond on Horse Car?"
"That's us, Dodd. That's our cut. When I told Horse Car that Lilybud had won the Sweep, he nearly went nuts. He's a very suspicious old guy, and he was sure somebody would cheat him or something if he didn't get right out and collect his bet. So I say I'll try to get him out, but it will cost some dough, probably. He says he'll pay it. So, before I sign that five hundred dollar bond, I ask him about it. He says if we put up the five hundred so he can get out he will pay us five hundred when he collects from Dom Carlos. That's a hundred per cent on a bond, boss. That's good business."
"You bet," Dodd agreed. "Then what happened?"
"Well, Horse Car is so afraid somebody will cheat him that he is nuts. He gets that betting slip in his mitts, and he won't let go. I mean, for a fact. He holds it like a kid holds a piece of candy he's scared of losing. So I see the old guy is a little off his trolley, and I think I better tag along and collect for us."
"Sure," Dodd agreed. "Go on."
"DOM CARLOS has a drop at the Allied Apartments on Tenth near Ventner where he pays off his bets. It is dark by the time we get there, and Horse Car is seeing hob-goblins behind every fire plug, so we sneak in the alley heading for the back door. Somebody just up and shot at us without no warning at all. It felt like somebody hit me in the legs with an axe. I fell down and started to roll, and then this party hit me on the dome with something heavy. That's all."
"Did you see the guy at all?"
"I saw his legs when I rolled over. He was wearing white shoes and white pants."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. They showed up in the dark. I think Horse Car got away O.K., because the last thing I can remember is hearing his feet going down that alley like a machine gun. He was really runnin'. You got any line on him at all?"
"No. Not yet, but—"
Hennessey's voice sounded, faint but frantic: "She's comin' back! Gimme that phone! Gimme—Yes, Mr. Magruder! Yes, Boss! I'm right here now, and I arranged them flowers just like you told me, and they sure are pretty ... What, ma'am? ... Me? Oh, no! I wouldn't let him talk on the telephone, not after you told me—"
There was a faint scrabbling sound, and then a feminine voice that sounded pleasant even when it was angry said furiously: "Who is this? Who is on this line?"
"Mr. Magruder," said Dodd. "From Magruder's Flower Shoppe."
"Were you talking to my patient?"
"Oh, no," said Dodd. "I just wanted to check up on my assistant. He's very untrustworthy and unreliable—"
"You don't need to tell me! I can't see why a florist would hire a big hulk who doesn't know a lily from a gardenia and tries to put his arm around people and kiss them. I don't think you have a flower shop at all but don't—you—call—my—patient—again!"
The line snapped so violently that it popped in Dodd's ear. He put the telephone carefully back on its stand.
The manager was jiggling from one foot to the other in an agony of nervousness. "You talked past the time Mr. Carlos was supposed to call! Now you'll have to wait—"
The telephone buzzed again.
"Oh!" said the manager. "Thank goodness! He must have got a busy signal and tried again!"
Dodd picked up the telephone and said: "Dodd speaking here."
There was a humming silence for a good ten seconds, and then a smooth, low voice said: "This is Dom Carlos, Dodd. I want to see you."
"All right," said Dodd. "When and where?"
"Go out the Third Street entrance of the hotel and walk west. A cab will pick you up within a half-block. He knows where to take you."
The line clicked softly.
"Is it—is it all right, Mr. Dodd?" the manager asked anxiously.
"It had better be," said Dodd. "Thanks for the service."
He went out of the office and crossed the lobby and pushed through the doors on the Third Street side of the hotel. It was late now, and a cooling breeze stirred away the remainder of the day's heat and felt fresh and soothing against Dodd's face. He started walking west, his footsteps sounding loudly hollow in the darkness.
Ahead of him and across the street, a car starter let go with a sudden rip. Headlights bloomed and then shined squarely on him as the car swung around in a U-turn and coasted in along the curb.
"Your name Dodd?"
"I think so," said Dodd.
A door latch snapped, and light bloomed softly yellow in the interior of the cab. There was no one in it but the driver.
Dodd got in and sat down, and the cab slid smoothly down the street.
"Want me to close my eyes and promise not to peek?" Dodd asked.
"I don't know nothin' about nothin', chum," said the driver. "I'm ignorant."
HE MADE no attempt to complicate his route. He turned off on Travel Boulevard and went straight across town, heading up into the exclusive apartment house district on Bryant Hill. Halfway up, he turned off on a narrow side street, went two blocks and part of another, and then made a swing up the steep slope of a private drive and rolled down into a gloomy, cavern-like garage.
An attendant ib white coveralls was polishing a car beside the grease-pit, and he stopped and came toward the cab immediately, tucking the polish rag into his hip pocket. He opened the cab door and said: "This way, please, Mr. Dodd."
Dodd got out. "Do I owe you anything?" he asked the driver. "Nope."
Dodd followed the attendant back farther into the garage. The attendant stopped in front of a wide white door and pressed a button beside it. They waited for a moment, and then the latch clicked. The attendant opened the door. There was an elevator on the other side.
"Step right in," the attendant invited. "I'll ride you up."
He got in the elevator after Dodd and pressed one of the buttons on the control panel. The elevator rose slowly, wheezing a little, and stopped at the fifth floor.
The attendant slid the door back. "It's 502, Mr. Dodd. Right ahead there."
The hall had white walls and a thick, bright pink carpet on the floor. The doors along it were the same shade of pink with spider-like numerals in-set in the panels. Dodd knocked softly on 502.
Dodd opened the door and stepped inside. This was a single apartment—one long room not much wider than a pullman car, all modernistic and built-in, with indirect lighting like over-bright sunshine. There was no one in sight.
"Put up your hands, Dodd."
Dodd located the voice. It came through a half-opened door, the only one in the apartment, ahead and to his left. He raised his hands slowly.
Dodd turned around. Feet whispered lightly on the rug behind him, and a round object poked warningly against his back between his shoulder blades.
A hand patted him quickly and expertly, under both arms, both hips, around his waist.
"All right. Go over and sit in that chair."
Dodd strolled over and sank down into fibroid cushions that looked hard but were surprisingly comfortable. He looked up at the other man and smiled thinly.
"You've been seeing too many gangster movies."
"Probably," said Dom Carlos. "But I've heard a lot about you, Dodd. You've got a reputation for being tough, rough, and nasty in a clutch. I wanted to make sure I had a chance to talk to you before you started rolling."
HE WAS thick-set and taller than average and very fit-looking. He was deeply tanned, and he had black hair with streaks of gray in it and a black pencil-line mustache. He was the type that would have seemed very much at home on a polo field or at a hunt club or even on a yacht. He was wearing a black dressing gown and black silk pajamas. In his right hand, he was holding a stubby hammerless revolver, and he dropped it into the pocket of the dressing gown now.
"All right," said Dodd. "You talk. I'll listen."
"About your runner," said Dom Carlos. "This man, Meekins. I had nothing whatsoever to do with that deal. I was over at the Allied Apartments when the shooting happened, but I was in my own apartment at the time. I can prove it."
"Sure," said Dodd.
Dom Carlos made a helpless gesture.
"That's just what I was afraid of! Good God, Dodd, be reasonable! Do you think I'd try to murder somebody just to keep from paying off a bet?"
"Ten thousand dollars ain't hay," said Dodd.
Dom Carlos walked the length of the apartment and back again. "I know it isn't. Two hundred to one. Good God! I've been kicking myself ever since!"
"I thought it was sort of off-center," Dodd commented.
"I'll tell you how it was. I was in the Stagland in the afternoon talking to some members of the Stirrup Club. They were having a polo game the next Sunday with that Army outfit from Fort Clark. They didn't have a chance against the Army—as a matter of fact they were beaten IS to 2—but I was needling them a little to see if I couldn't get them to put some dough down at odds on themselves. This damned Horse Car sneaked in through the kitchen and braced me for odds on Lilybud. I tried to brush him off, but then he started to yell about me being afraid to take a bet. I could have had him thrown out, but it wouldn't have looked very good. Not when I was trying to needle these other boys into betting. You see what I mean?"
Dodd nodded, interested. "Yes. Go ahead."
"This Horse Car was obviously a bum. I was sure he didn't have more than four bits on him. So I said two hundred to one. And then he came up with fifty dollars, and I had to take it. Good God, Dodd, two hundred to one is only one-half of one per cent return on your money if you win. You don't think I could stay in business if I made deals like that?"
"No," Dodd admitted.
"I never make a bet at those odds unless it's for nickels to tease a sucker along, but as a matter of fact two hundred to one was fair enough in the circumstances. I've got lines on every track. That Lilybud was always a hay-bag, but I happened to know that Bimley had retired it. It wasn't even in training. It was out at pasture. But Bimley couldn't get any of his other horses back from the coast on account of war railroad priorities. He had to enter something to get his stable rights for the meet."
"I know," Dodd said.
Dom Carlos took another turn up and down the room. "I'm not claiming I can pay out ten thousand without weeping in my beer, but I thought I'd just make the best of it and use the deal for advertising. I figured on sticking the receipted betting slip up in the Stagland and letting people see what a sucker I was. I'd have made it back. I'm not fooling you, Dodd. If you will make several bets with me and let me name the odds, I can take you every time."
"I believe you," Dodd agreed.
Dom Carlos picked up a big manila envelope from the table and flipped it into Dodd's lap. "I'm ready to pay off. I'm not trying to dodge it."
The envelope had Lilybud scrawled across it. The flap wasn't glued, and Dodd opened it and looked inside. The envelope was packed full of hundred dollar bills.
"Count them," Dom Carlos invited simply.
Dodd sighed and shook his head. He shut the envelope reluctantly and put it back on the table.
"Have you heard from Horse Car at all?" he asked.
"No. Not a word."
"How do you know he hasn't called at your drop over at the Allied Apartments?"
"I've got a man over there. I told him to send anyone who tried to collect over here."
"Anyone?" Dodd repeated sharply.
DOM CARLOS moved his heavy shoulders. "Now that's what puts me behind the eight-ball. I have to pay off on the slip, Dodd. No matter who has it or how he got it. I couldn't run my business any other way. That slip is a receipt and a claim on me. I have to honor it and no questions asked. That's why I've been trying to get hold of you—to tell you that. I can't hold the pay-off back for you or Meekins or Horse Car or anybody else."
"I see," said Dodd slowly. "I don't want trouble with you, Dodd," said Dom Carlos earnestly. "I'll tell you who collects, but I can't stall him. In fact, you can sit here and wait for whoever comes around, if you want."
Dodd shook his head. "I want to find Horse Car—if someone hasn't found him already."
"How much are you in him for?"
"Five hundred dollars. For his bond."
"That's bad," said Dom Carlos. "I can't even hold out that for you. You can see why. I'm sorry about this whole business, Dodd. I'm right in the middle. It's no pleasure for me."
"Meekins didn't have fun, either," said Dodd. "Do you play tennis?"
"What?" said Dom Carlos blankly. "Tennis? Why, sometimes?"
"Do you ever play at night?"
"No," said Dom Carlos, puzzled.
"Were you playing late yesterday afternoon?"
"Did you see anyone around the Allied Apartments that had been or was going to?"
"No," said Dom Carlos. "But why?"
"Just checking up. Do you know anybody off-hand who makes a habit of wearing white shoes and white trousers at night?"
Dom Carlos shook his head slowly. "No, I don't."
"Somebody does," said Dodd. "Or did. I'd like to locate him. He's a man I want to meet."
A telephone bell hummed softly somewhere. Dom Carlos went over to the streamlined bureau, opened the top drawer, and took a telephone out of it.
"Yes?" He waited for a moment, listening intently. "Who? Lieutenant Gudolfson? I don't know him."
Dodd sat up straight suddenly.
"What?" said Dom Carlos into the telephone. "An assignment? That can't be—"
"What is it?" Dodd interrupted.
"Wait," Dom Carlos said into the telephone. He nodded at Dodd, scowling. 'This is the man I left over at the Allied Apartments. He says a detective by the name of Lieutenant Gudolfson is there with what he claims is an assignment of Horse Car's interest in my betting slip. He hasn't got the slip, but it's described in the assignment. He claims the assignment takes precedence over the betting slip because it's a legal instrument—"
"Oh-oh," said Dodd. "Tell your man to put Gudolfson on the wire. I'll talk to him."
"Let me talk to Gudolfson, Dick," Dom Carlos requested. He handed the telephone to Dodd.
Dodd said: "Hello, Dunstead. This is your client."
THERE was a long silence, and then Dunstead's voice asked cautiously: "Who—did you say you were?"
"Your client, you louse. Dodd is the name."
"Oh! What? Why—why, I'm not—you're not my client I'm representing—"
"Me," said Dodd. "I've got it down in black and white. You should have read that receipt Meekins had you sign."
"Receipt?" Dunstead repeated. "I didn't—I mean, I resign! I'm representing Mr. Horse Car—"
"Oh, no," said Dodd. "I refuse to accept your resignation without due notice. And even if you do resign, you can't represent Horse Car because the receipt states that his interests and mine are opposed and that you understand they are. Do you understand that?"
"I didn't—it didn't—you can't—"
"Any more of your lip, and we'll argue it out in front of the Bar Association," Dodd warned. "Now listen, Dunstead, I've got a job for you. I've decided to lease the Empire State Building in New York City. I want you to make out a master lease on it and a separate lease for each tenant in the building, giving all particulars in detail."
"What? Empire State? Why, there are hundreds of tenants—"
"Haste is imperative," said Dodd. "I want everything ready by tomorrow afternoon."
"I couldn't possibly—"
"You get it done. Start working right now and don't stop until you're finished. If you're not ready on time, I'll sue you for a billion dollars and have you pinched for impersonating an officer and disbarred for trying to represent both sides of legal case. Now, scat."
Dodd handed the telephone back to Dom Carlos. "He won't bother you any more. I've got to run along now."
Dom Carlos put the telephone back in its drawer. "Do you mind telling me where you're going?"
"Down on Water Street. I figure Horse Car will head for his old hangout if he wants to get under cover. If you want to get in touch with me, try the Emergency Hospital."
Dom Carlos frowned thoughtfully. "Water Street. Are you going down there alone?"
Dom Carlos took the stubby revolver from the pocket of his dressing gown and extended it butt first. He didn't say anything.
Dodd nodded once and put the revolver in his coat pocket. "Thanks. I'll see you."
WATER STREET was rough and tough and—literally—full of fleas. Formerly it was accustomed to roll over and roar every Saturday night, but since the war industries had opened up the town it roared every night. It was after two o'clock in the morning now, but the sidewalks were full of tramps of both sexes and bums of every hue. Store-fronts and saloons dripped blindingly incandescent streaks of neon, and shills lay in wait in every doorway, ready to grab you and drag you inside if you so much as glanced at a window display. This had been posted out-of-bounds for soldiers, sailors, and marines, and there were no uniforms visible except for an occasional shore patrol or military police detail.
Dodd got out of a taxi at the corner of Crail Street and stood there for about ten minutes, watching the crowd stagger past. After awhile, a voice spoke to him from just below the level of his left shoulder.
"I can't pay you tonight, Dodd." Dodd looked around. "What did you say?"
"I can't pay you tonight. I can't pay you for another couple weeks. I can't pick no fifty bucks off a bush. I got to put out for the stuff. They ain't gonna give me no tea on credit. I told Meekins that."
He was a very small man, very thin, dressed in a dark suit that was shiny at the seams. He had a still, dark face, and the skin was pulled so tightly over his cheekbones that it glistened. He opened his mouth a little when he talked, but he didn't move his lips.
"Meekins said it was O.K.," he went on.
Dodd remembered him now. His name was Benny Beef, or so his record stated, and he had been arrested for every petty crime the state legislature had been able to discover and make a law against.
"You peddling marihuana now?" Dodd asked him.
"Sure. Only to my pals, though. Strictly private. I ain't no wholesale house. Roll 'em up myself. Cost me a nickel apiece. Sell 'em three for four bits."
"Have you got any on you now?"
"Naw. I got six or eight drops along the street where I keep 'em stashed away. I can easy get you some, though. All you want. Compliments of the house."
"No, thanks," said Dodd. "I just didn't want to talk to you if you were carrying any. This district is floating with feds. I don't want any part of them."
"You and me," Benny Beef agreed. "They don't bother with no small-time stuff, though. Japs, they're lookin' for, and fifth columns and blast-boys and like that."
"I want some information," Dodd said. "I'm looking for Horse Car Jackson."
"Sure," said Benny Beef. "Everybody is—or was."
"What do you mean?" Dodd demanded.
Benny Beef licked his colorless lips. "Fifty fish at two hundred to one. And Dom Carlos pays off like the U. S. Mint. Sure, everybody was lookin' for Horse Car."
"Why aren't they still looking for him? Did someone find him?"
"Naw. Not yet—I don't think. Red Tano put the word out that he was poison."
"Come again," Dodd invited.
"Red Tano," said Benny Beef. "He runs the Ritz-Plaza Cocktail Salon. He's got fifty-sixty guys out scoutin' for Horse Car. Them guys put the word out that Red Tano don't want to hear of anybody else lookin' for him."
"Is Red Tano a tough guy?"
BENNY BEEF'S lip curled slightly. "He claims. He gets funny with me he's gonna get a knife stuck in that fat pot of his. I don't like his business methods."
"Such as what?" Dodd asked curiously.
"The Ritz-Plaza is nothing but a smoke-hole. Why, he makes his whiskey out of anti-freeze fluid and rubbing alcohol and like that. Sells it for a nickel a shot. He's ruinin' a lot of my customers' healths."
"You think marihuana would be better for them?"
"Well, sure. Mary-Jane don't hurt you. I smoked it for years, and look at me."
"I am," said Dodd. "But I'd rather look at Red Tano. I'll forget that fifty bucks if you'll come along and introduce me to him."
"It's a deal," said Benny Beef. "Only I tell you, I don't like that guy. I don't figure he's ethical. We had words about it more'n once. I tell him the last time that if he lays any more of my customers away with that there acute alcohol poisoning, I'm gonna cut out his heart and feed it to him."
"How about his fifty or sixty tough guys?"
Benny Beef looked up slowly, and his eyes were all shiny black, dilated pupil. "Why, I ain't scared of no fifty-sixty guys, Dodd."
"Oh-oh," said Dodd, swallowing.
Benny Beef smiled, showing dark, wide-spaced teeth. "Now don't worry, Dodd. I ain't loaded up. I ain't smoked more than two or three or four, I don't think. I'm just feelin' normal-like. You can see that."
"Sure," said Dodd warily. "But maybe we'd better forget Red Tano—"
"Come on along," said Benny Beef. "This way. It's only a block."
He began to drift along with the crowd in a peculiarly effortless, gliding walk. Dodd hesitated a moment and then shrugged his shoulders and followed him.
People muttered and milled around them, and the air was full of rackety swing and the hibber-gibber of sidewalk barkers and a complicated miasma of odors that hung over the street like a fog.
"Right here," said Benny Beef.
He turned into a pitch-black alley, and the bricks were unpleasantly slimy under Dodd's feet.
"Keep in the center," Benny Beef advised. "There's garbage cans and drunks and stuff along the walls."
Dodd stopped short. "Wait a minute. I can't see a damned thing. Let me put my hand on your shoulder."
"Here I am," said Benny Beef.
Dodd groped in the darkness and located his narrow, thin shoulder. "Lead on."
Benny Beef either could see in the dark or felt it wasn't necessary, because he went right along regardless. The air moved and stank and whispered invisibly around them. Dodd was beginning to feel very edgy. He put his free hand in his pocket and gripped Dom Carlos' stubby revolver hard. Benny Beef was whistling a very complicated arrangement of a popular tune. "Turn," he said, and did so.
DODD stumbled around behind him. A weary light gleamed over a white-painted door ahead of them. Benny Beef walked up to it and kicked it open, and sound funneled out at them like banshees howling from the bottom of a well.
The Ritz-Plaza Cocktail Salon was a long room, unpainted and unadorned with anything resembling furniture. The customers roamed back and forth between the walls until they fell down and stayed there or got up again. They yelled and argued with each other and themselves, too. They were all filthy and stinking drunk and some of them were obviously mad, and the all-over picture was something that had to be seen to be believed.
Benny Beef pushed one man in the face and elbowed another in the stomach and walked right through to the short, narrow bar at the far end of the room. The bartender had no front teeth and only one ear.
"Is Red in the back room?" Benny Beef asked him.
The bartender spread two enormous hands flat on the top of the bar and leaned forward. "Scram, muggles-pincher! We don't want no reefers today!" he said.
There was a little snap and a glittering flick in the air, and Benny Beef pressed the blade of a knife delicately and gently against the first knuckle of the forefinger of the bartender's right hand.
"You're so sweet," he said, smiling, "that I think I'll hack me off a souvenir to remember you by."
His knife was the type known as the Arkansas toothpick, sharp-pointed with a thin, cruel blade. The bartender looked at it, and he didn't move. He stood as rigid as a statue, slowly turning green around the mouth. There was another snap and a flick, and the knife disappeared.
"Joke," said Benny Beef, winking. "Ha-ha. Is Red in the back room?"
"Yes," said the bartender, with a gulp.
"Come on, Dodd," said Benny Beef.
He went around the end of the bar and pushed open another door. Dodd followed him into a narrow hall with walls that were greenish and mildewed and peeling away in ragged strips.
Benny Beef pointed to a door at the side. "Exit," he explained. "In case we come out fast. Gives out into an alley that leads to a parking lot that faces on Crail below Water. Catch?"
"Catch," said Dodd. "But let's not come out fast."
"You never can tell," said Benny Beef. "I'm riding, and when I'm riding you just never can tell. Come on."
HE WENT on down the hall and opened the door at the end and walked through. Dodd followed him gingerly. There was a bridge lamp with a blue shade in the middle of the room and an iron cot with a striped mattress on it against the far wall. A man lay like a great wheezing, inert mound on top of the mattress
"Hi, Red," said Benny Beef. The man wheezed louder once, and then said thickly: "You tea-dancer, you're fulla hop or you wouldn't dare show your ugly puss around here. Who's that droop with you?"
"Dodd," said Benny Beef. "Bail-Bond Dodd. This is Red Tano, Dodd."
Dodd nodded. "Hello. I want to talk to you."
"I don't want to talk to you. Get the hell out of my place."
"He's sassy," said Benny Beef. "Fat and sassy."
Red Tano rolled over, and the springs on the cot groaned under him. Puffing laboriously he pushed himself up to a sitting position. His face was as big and flat as a snare drum and redder than the fringe of rusty hair that circled an immense, nakedly gleaming expanse of skull above his wrinkled forehead.
"Get the hell out," he repeated.
"Relax," Dodd advised, closing the door behind him. "I hear you're prowling around after Horse Car Jackson. What for?"
"Owes me dough."
"How much?" Dodd demanded.
"He won it here in a crap game."
"How does that make him owe it to you?"
Benny Beef was leaning against the wall in an elaborately graceful way. "That's the way it is in this dive. Red runs a crap game in front when he can find anybody with dough, but nobody but him ever walks away with any winnings. If Red can't take 'em away with loaded dice, he gives the guy a mickey and rolls him when he passes out. When the guy comes to, Red tells him he spent all the dough on drinks, and the guy feels so bad he thinks maybe he might have."
Red Tano didn't trouble to deny it. "You two blow outa here. Don't want you around. Beat it, or you get some trouble."
"How did Horse Car get out with the fifty?" Dodd asked.
"Ran like hell," said Red Tano. "You guys gonna leave—under your own power?"
"When we get ready," said Dodd.
Red Tano bounced once on the creaking bed, preparing to heave himself to his feet. Dodd took the stubby revolver out of his pocket and pointed it casually at him.
"Sit still, fatso."
Red Tano relaxed and wheezed thickly. His lips pulled back from teeth that were as sharp and yellow as a wolf's.
Dodd said: "Listen. I'm taking care of Horse Car. You leave him alone. Call in your boys and keep out from under my feet."
There was a sudden pound of footsteps in the hall, and a fist slammed against the door.
"Hey, Red!" a hoarse voice said. "I got somethin'."
Dodd stepped sideways away from the door. He moved the revolver meaningly and nodded at Red Tano. Tano sat mountainously silent, glaring at him with red-rimmed eyes.
"Hey, Red!" said the voice outside.
Dodd murmured softly: "Maybe I'm fooling. Maybe this gun isn't loaded."
"Come on in," Red Tano called sullenly.
THE door opened, and a heavy-shouldered man in a patched red sweater and a checked cap slumped through it and with a contemptuous heave hauled another man in behind him and dumped him in a heap on the floor. The heavy-shouldered man opened his mouth to say something to Tano, and then he caught sight of
Dodd's gun. His mouth stayed open.
"Shut the door," Dodd said.
The man groped behind him with one thick arm, finally hit the door and knocked it shut. Nobody moved for a long, dragging moment. The man on the floor lay like a bundle of rag-clad sticks, and now he raised a smeared, sick-white face and peered around with eyes that seemed to cringe in their sockets.
"What's your name?" Dodd asked the heavy-shouldered man.
Dodd jerked his head toward the thin little man on the floor. "Where'd you get this, and what did you have to tell Red about him?"
Haley looked at Red Tano questioningly.
Dodd moved the revolver. "Talk to me. Red's sitting this one out."
Haley moistened his lips. "The guy's name is Sailor. I caught him buyin' food."
"What of it?" Dodd demanded.
Benny Beef said: "The old bird is a canned-heat drinker, Dodd. They don't eat."
"What?" Dodd said, startled.
Benny Beef shrugged. "Well—hardly any. Just what they can pick off garbage cans and like that. No canned-heat drinker would buy food. It ain't that important to him. That's why Haley nabbed the old boy. He was buyin' the food for somebody else. Some pal who is under cover and don't want to come out and buy it himself. Catch?"
"Yes," said Dodd. "You, Sailor. Who were you buying that food for?"
Sailor stared with eyes that were bleary, watering slits. He shook his head once, and then he wound his skinny arms around his head and waited, resigned for whatever came next.
"Now you're going to have a hell of a time," Benny Beef said. "Them canned-heat bums get numb from drinkin' so much of the stuff. You can stick pins in 'em, and they don't even know it. No use beatin' the guy up to get him to talk. It won't hurt him."
"Haley," said Dodd. "What did you get out of him?"
Haley said: "Nothin'. I slapped him around, but he wouldn't talk."
"Does he know Horse Car?"
"Yeah," Benny Beef answered. "I seen 'em together. Horse Car was tryin' to reform him. That Horse Car has got some cylinders missin'."
Sailor unwound his arms slowly and cautiously. "That's a dirty lie. Horse Car's as smart as anybody, and he's a nice fella, and you better leave him alone." He glared malignantly at Haley. "That fella took somethin' else from me besides the two bits."
"What?" Dodd asked quickly.
"Piece of paper. With writin' on it."
"Let's see it," Dodd ordered.
Haley reluctantly produced a ragged slip of paper from the pocket of his corduroy trousers. He held it out, and Dodd stepped closer, reaching for it.
"Look out!" Benny Beef yelled.
Haley grabbed Dodd's hand and tried to snap a wristlock on his arm. Dodd slashed him across the nose with the blunt barrel of the revolver. Haley yelled, and Dodd jerked his arm away, spinning around.
RED TANO fell flat on his back and flipped one arm over and back of the cot. He came up to a sitting position again, not wheezing and panting at all now, but moving as smoothly as a coiled spring. He had a sawed-off shotgun in his hand, and he swung it at Dodd.
Before Dodd could move there was a' quick whicker of steel in front of his face, and the toothpick knife hit Red Tano with a little slapping sound just under the fat bulge of his chin. It stayed there, black handle jutting straight out and trembling.
A hand clawed across Dodd's back, and he spun again, ducking, and tripped over Sailor's stick-like leg. He fell flat on his back, and Haley loomed over him, arms spread wide and blood from his nose smeared across one cheek.
"Back up!" Dodd shouted.
Haley dived head-first at him. The stubby revolver jumped and roared in Dodd's hand, and Haley writhed in midair and fell sprawling and leadenly motionless over Dodd, knocking him backwards. Dodd's head banged against the floor, and Benny Beef went over him in a cat-like leap.
Benny Beef was laughing crazily. He was clear out of this world now, and he went for Red Tano, whipping out one hand to grab for the hilt of the knife.
"Yeeah!" yelled Benny Beef.
The shotgun thundered. Benny Beef went whirling across the room as if he had no weight at all, and his face was a formless red smear. He hit the wall and bounced off and fell flat on the floor. He didn't move again.
Dodd sat up and looked at Red Tano. The shotgun slipped out of Tano's freckled, fat hands and thumped on the floor. He sat there, hunched forward a little, chin propped on the knife handle, staring blindly ahead. Then he made a noise like a cough. Blood came out of his mouth in a dark, welling flood. He fell forward off the cot in a quivering, jelly-like heap.
Dodd got up stiffly. The smell of powder smoke bit at his nostrils and made him choke with nausea.
"Oh!" Sailor whimpered. "Oh, oh!"
Dodd leaned down and caught him. "Come on. We've got to get out of here."
"My paper," said Sailor.
He scrambled across the floor and picked up the ragged scrap of paper. Dodd hauled him to his feet and thrust him toward the door.
Dodd opened the door and looked down the hall. The one-eared bartender was thrusting through it, a sawed-off billiard cue swinging in one hand. Dodd fired twice, shooting high, and the bartender howled and jumped back out of sight.
Taking a firm grip on Sailor, Dodd pulled him along the hall to the exit door Benny Beef had pointed out. Dodd knocked up the latch with the barrel of his revolver and thrust Sailor through into steamy, squirming darkness, slamming the door violently shut behind them.
"Run!" he ordered.
The mud was slippery over cobblestones under their feet. Dodd slammed into a garbage can and sent it rolling tinnily and stepped on something soft that roared a drunkenly incoherent protest. Sailor was as light as thistledown, and he tried to jerk away now.
"No, you don't!" said Dodd, getting him by the nape of the neck.
THEY ran on in a kind of shuffling lock step, and then blurred lights showed ahead, and Dodd steered Sailor sideways between rows of dusty cars packed into a long, narrow parking lot. Apparently there was no attendant on duty this late, and Dodd pulled up, breathing hard, between two of the cars. He listened intently, but there was no sound of any pursuit from the alley. He sighed and dropped the revolver into his coat pocket.
"You—you lemme go," Sailor whimpered.
"Sit," Dodd ordered, pushing him down on the running board of one of the cars. "Where's that piece of paper, Sailor?"
"I et it."
"What?" said Dodd blankly.
"I swallered it."
"Well, why?" Dodd demanded.
"'Cause that's what I was supposed to do if anybody tackled me. I woulda done it before, only that Haley grabbed me before I could. I ain't gonna tell you nothin' about Horse Car, not even if you was to kill me."
"So," said Dodd. "You do know something about him?"
"I ain't gonna tell you nothin'. He's my friend, and he's nice to me. Go ahead and beat me. I don't care."
"Now listen to me," said Dodd. "I want to help Horse Car. I want to locate him before these wolves around here find him and pull him down. In fact, I have already helped him. I'm the one who got him out of jail. My name is Dodd. Didn't he say anything about that?"
Sailor's eyes were blearily suspicious. "Bail-Bond Dodd?"
"What's the fella's name that works for you?"
Sailor nodded slowly. "Yeah. That's what Horse Car said. He was right sorry Meekins got shot. He said Meekins was tryin' to help him collect his bet. He's awful scared now, Horse Car is. He says them shots Was meant for him—not Meekins."
"They were. What were you supposed to do with that piece of paper he gave you—I mean, besides eat it?"
"Call the number that was on it on the telephone."
"Whose number was it?"
"What were you supposed to say when somebody answered?"
"Just tell 'em that Mr. Jackson was awful sick and to come down and get him."
"Is he sick?"
"Nope. Just scared."
"Do you remember the number?"
Sailor hesitated warily. "You sure you honest want to help Horse Car? You ain't lyin' to me and foolin' me?"
"Do you think I'd have a gun-fight with Red Tano just for a thrill?" Dodd asked. "Didn't I advance Horse Car five hundred dollars to get out of jail? Doesn't that prove I'm a friend?"
"I guess so," said Sailor, still doubtful. "Well... The number was Center 4567. I remember because it was like countin'."
"That sounds like an official number," Dodd said slowly. "Did you call it?"
"Yeah, and I said just like Horse Car told me to and then hung up quick, and then Haley grabbed me."
"Where is Horse Car now?" Dodd asked casually.
SAILOR studied him in silent misery. Dodd said: "You'd better tell me, Sailor. You saw what happened in Red Tano's. Just the thought of that ten thousand makes these boys around here get red in the eye. If I don't help him, someone else will find Horse Car, and that'll be the end of him for sure."
Sailor swallowed. "At 18 Calcutta Street. Number 82—upstairs in back."
"Thanks," said Dodd. "You'd better go a long ways away from here—quick. People are going to be looking for you. Here."
He took Meekins' wallet from his pocket and pulled out the bills Hennessey had collected from Crestwick. He wadded them up and put them in Sailor's grimy hand.
"Gee," said Sailor in an awed whisper.
"Lay off the canned-heat until you get out of town," Dodd advised. "Scram now, Sailor."
Sailor scuttled away, ducking expertly around and between cars, and disappeared without a trace. After a moment, Dodd walked the length of the parking lot and came out into the shadowy quiet of Crail Street. He went on up to the corner of Water and looked down the block.
There were two police prowl cars and a shiny white ambulance parked at the mouth of the alley into which Benny Beef had led him so confidently. As Dodd watched, two uniformed figures carrying an empty stretcher came slouching disgustedly out of the alley. They heaved the stretcher into the back of the ambulance.
"Hey!" called a policeman who was pushing the crowd along the sidewalk. "Was it a false alarm?"
"Why don't you guys look before you start hangin' on the telephone?" one of the ambulance attendants answered. "Them guys is dead. Call the morgue."
Dodd stood rigid, watching the attendants climb into the front of the ambulance. His eyes were wide and startled behind his glasses. The uniforms the attendants wore were white. So were their shoes...
He found that he was staring absently at a sign across the street that spelled out in red neon script the words:
UNCLE LEMUEL'S LOANS.
Dodd walked across the street and went through a narrow doorway into the incredibly cluttered interior of the pawnshop. Uncle Lemuel, behind the high counter at the rear, was young and sleek and beady-eyed. He wore a pink suit and a pinker shirt and a turquoise necktie.
Dodd nodded. "Hello, Lem. Have you got a few .38 Short revolver cartridges lying around that you don't want?"
"I ain't supposed to sell cartridges or even give 'em away free, Dodd, but right now I got asthma something terrible and I positive got to step out and catch a snort of fresh air. If you looked in the second drawer of this desk while I was gone, could I help it?"
"Thanks," said Dodd, going behind the counter. "Can I use your phone?"
"I ain't stopping you, am I?" asked Uncle Lemuel, strolling elegantly out.
DODD pawed around in the drawer until he located an opened box of cartridges that fitted the stubby revolver. He reloaded it and dropped several more cartridges into his pocket. Sitting down on Uncle Lemuel's stool, he lifted the telephone and dialed Center 4567.
"Hello," a voice answered at once.
Dodd's head jerked back, and he stared incredulously into the mouthpiece.
"Well," said the voice, "are you gonna talk or ain't you?"
"Hennessey!" Dodd exploded. "Where are you?"
"Well, right where I been all the time. At the Emergency Hospital."
Dodd's lips pursed in a silent whistle, and then after a second he asked: "How come you're answering the telephone?"
"Meekins, that big rat, went and peached on me. He told his nurse—is she gorgeous!—that I wasn't no delivery boy for no florist, so she slapped my face and threw me out of his room. So I come down to the lobby and waited."
"What for?" Dodd asked.
"Well, I ain't gonna give up that easy, Dodd. You should see that nurse. She's wonderful. Pretty soon she's gonna feel sorry she slapped me, I bet, and then I'm gonna quick ask her for a date. So I been waitin' for her to get sorry and chattin' with that sourpuss, Nurse Parr. She is not so bad when you get to know her, Dodd, although she is full of some of the screwiest ideas I ever heard. So she has to go to the rest-room and powder her nose and what-not, and there ain't nobody to relieve her, so I say I'll handle the board at the reception desk for a moment. How am I doin'?"
"Fine," said Dodd. "Listen. You said that Crestwick, the ambulance guy, picked Meekins up. Are you sure he did? Or did he just search Meekins when they got him back to the hospital?"
"I dunno, Dodd."
"Find out. And also find out if Crestwick plays the races."
"He does. I found a Racing Form in his pocket when I shook him down. So does that doctor that is fixin' Meekins. He has had three calls from a bookie since I been on the board here."
"O.K.," said Dodd. "I'll see you soon. Keep the home fires burning."
He put the telephone back on its base and went to the front of the store. Uncle Lemuel was lounging in the doorway.
"Where's Calcutta Street, Lem?" Dodd asked.
"Down Water a block this side of the piers. It ain't what you'd call elegant. I was wondering—did I see you tonight, Dodd?"
"No," said Dodd.
"I knew all the time it wasn't you," Lemuel told him.
IN THE old days Calcutta Street was infamously known and cursed on every sea in the world. Crimps roved up and down its roaring length with a bottle of doped whiskey in one pocket and a blackjack in the other. They offered you the whiskey first. If you refused it, you got the blackjack without any more argument. You woke up in a hell-ship with the rats gnawing at your toes.
All that was gone now, with the sailing ships, and even the War hadn't stirred the street out of its aged, evil decay.
Number 18 Calcutta was only a half-block up from the piers, standing gaunt and blackly ancient between the squatter ruins of two abandoned warehouses.
A single bulb burned at the front, and below it the door gaped like a toothless mouth. Dodd went into a narrow hallway. There was a desk at the side, and a yellowish skeleton of a man slept in the swivel chair behind it, tipped far back, with saliva making a glistening line through the stubble on his cheek.
Dodd went softly up the flight of narrow stairs and came out into a long, narrow hallway at the top. There was no one in sight but behind one of the closely spaced doors someone was moaning in a dreary cadence and behind another someone talked in a raving monotone that went on and on without pause for breath or punctuation. Dodd walked down the hall and stopped in front of the door numbered 82. He knocked softly and said in a hoarse murmur: "Horse Car, it's Sailor."
There was no stir, no sound, from behind the door. Dodd tried the greasy knob. It clicked, and he pushed the door back with a squeal of rusty hinges.
Dodd didn't attempt "to enter. He stepped back and sideways, revolver balanced in his right hand. The room was dark. Dodd found a match with his left hand, snapped it alight.
The flame painted a quick, smeared picture of utter barrenness. The room was as narrow as a grave and contained nothing but a shelf-like bunk. Dodd went on in and pulled the knotted string dangling from the unshaded bulb that hung down from the ceiling.
HORSE CAR was lying on the bed. The crusted blanket under him had soaked up most of his blood, but there was a thick little pool of it under the fingers of the hand that dangled lifelessly toward the floor. A thin safety razor blade glistened brightly against the red background. There was a small red nick, no more than half an inch long, under Horse Car's ear, and he had been dead for about an hour.
Dodd began to swear to himself in a soft, bitter whisper. Someway, the whole time, he had felt this was going to happen. Events had been marching inexorably toward this very climax, but it didn't make him feel any better to see it. That betting slip had been Horse Car's death warrant, and after it had become valid he had just been living on borrowed time. The horrible part of it was that he had known it. He had run as fast and far as he could and hidden as deeply, but it hadn't been good enough.
Dodd put the revolver back in his pocket and reached up to turn out the light. There was nothing more he could do. He froze suddenly, then, staring incredulously. Horse Car's left hand, pulled in close against his side, was doubled into a fist, and the edge of a green piece of paper peeped out between the rigid fingers.
Still incredulous, Dodd stepped closer and leaned down. Very gently and slowly, he worked the paper loose from Horse Car's grip. It was crumpled and sweaty, and Dodd unfolded it carefully. He saw the name Dom Carlos printed in gold at the top and under it, written in red ink, Fifty dollars at two hundred to one—Lilybud—Crater Lake Sweep and the swirling initials D.C.
It was Dom Carlos' betting slip. The murderer certainly couldn't have missed it, had he searched at all. It didn't make any sense at all, and Dodd had a creeping, uneasy feeling that made the sweat come out cold on his forehead. He went down the hall, trying to look in every direction at once. He went down the stairs, and the yellowish man was still snoring behind the desk.
He found a taxi on Water Street. "Emergency Hospital," he said hoarsely.
"You do look kinda sick, at that," the driver observed.
DODD came into the lobby of the hospital in a hurry. He was scowling, and his eyes were narrowed and hard and puzzled behind the lenses of his glasses. His heels cracked hard on the tile floor, and Nurse Parr, behind the reception desk, looked up with annoyance.
Hennessey was sitting on the bottom step of the stairs. "Hi, Dodd," he greeted. "I was wonderin' if you would get here in time. Listen, I want you should go up and tell that nurse that it's time she should go home and have a rest, and you're gonna give her a police escort—"
"Shut up," said Dodd. "What did you find out about Crestwick?"
"Well, he was the one that picked Meekins up just like he said. If you think maybe he is the baby that blew at Meekins, you are wrong. The neighbors called in not five minutes after the shootin', and Crestwick was here then."
"What about that doctor?"
"I dunno about him. You didn't ask me to find out."
Dodd turned toward the reception desk. "Nurse Parr, do you know if Doctor Burns was here in the hospital when that call on Meekins came in?"
"He was," Nurse Parr snapped. "He was operating. I know, because some bookie person wanted him. He made such a nuisance of himself that I went to see if the doctor was busy finally to get rid of him. Doctor Burns is an excellent physician, but this vicious craze for gambling that has him in its grip will result in his certain ruin. I warned him."
"You see?" said Hennessey. "I told you. She has nutty notions."
Nurse Parr's sallow face flushed slightly. "I'll thank you to keep your mouth shut! I know whereof I speak. The greatest calamity that ever befell this state was when gambling on horse races was legalized. I fought it with all my power. I wrote letters to every member of the legislature but they ignored me."
"You're very bitter," Dodd observed.
Nurse Parr raised her voice. "I have the right to be! Gambling on horse races broke up my home—ruined my marriage! My husband loitered at horse race tracks!"
"Gee," said Hennessey. "Did he beat you, too? I don't see hardly how he could have helped it."
Dodd asked confidentially: "Your husband's name wasn't Parr, was it?"
"No! I wanted no reminder of him and his evil ways. I gave him his choice—horse races or me. He chose, and then I resumed my own name, but I've never divorced him. His name was Jackson."
Hennessey jumped. "What?"
Dodd said: "Your husband is dead now, Nurse Parr. He was murdered."
"That is of no interest to me," said Nurse Parr spitefully. "He invited it by his gambling and his vicious life. Now I suppose I'll have to pay for his funeral. I'm certain that he'd leave no estate."
"I wonder," said Dodd slowly. "Hennessey, you said Horse Car had a dime on him when he was picked up."
"Well, he had two nickels," said Hennessey. "That's a dime, ain't it?"
Dodd nodded. "Two nickels. He used them both—in telephone calls. He called the same number both times—this number. Didn't he, Nurse Parr?"
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," said Nurse Parr.
"Horse Car must have been a little crazy," Dodd said thoughtfully. "He had kept track of you, and he still loved you, even after the permanent brush-off you gave him, and the first thought he had was to share his good luck with you. He called you up and told you all about it. About Dom Carlos and the ten thousand dollars and where and when he was going to get paid off. Only you didn't want to share with him, did you? You wanted all of that ten thousand. You waited in the alley and shot at him, but you hit Meekins instead."
DODD was watching Nurse Parr. "You borrowed the revolver from Crest-wick or someone else. But you'd never shot one before, I don't suppose, and you missed badly. You hit Meekins, and you smacked him over the head to keep him from seeing who you were. He caught a glimpse of white shoes and what he thought were white trousers. You wear white stockings. They were what he saw."
"That's childish nonsense," she said. "Horse Car didn't recognize you in the dark," Dodd went on. "He had no idea that you would try to kill him. So the poor guy gave you another chance. He didn't have anyone else to turn to. He thought he could trust you. He had his friend call and say he was sick at 18 Calcutta Street. He knew you'd get the message and understand. Unfortunately for him, he was right. You went down there. This time you didn't trust to a revolver. You've had training as a surgical nurse. You knew just how to nick that artery in Horse Car's neck, and he bled to death because he wouldn't call out or seek help because he didn't want to involve you."
Nurse Parr smiled primly. "Mr. Dodd, I think you must be quite mad—as well as stupid. You know very well that you can't prove one word you've said."
"Here's one thing I can prove," said Dodd. "You should have studied that law that legalized betting just a little more closely. You left that betting slip in Horse Car's hand because you wanted it found on him. You thought you'd inherit the ten thousand dollars that way. That's why you mentioned, just now, that you were his wife. You were already starting to lay the foundation of your claim. But that law that legalized betting legalized it at the race track through mutuel machines. It didn't legalize betting with bookies. That's just as illegal as it ever was. A bet like the one Horse Car made with Dom Carlos is an illegal debt, and you can't collect it through an action at law. You can't inherit it."
Nurse Parr sat perfectly still and frozen. "You're lying," she whispered.
"Naw, he ain't," said Hennessey. "Do you think that if that there bookie-florist was legitimate he would have give me all them flowers up in Meekins' room for only five bucks?"
Nurse Parr screamed. The sound went on and on endlessly and crazily until it filled the whole lobby, and the cords stood out rigid on Nurse Parr's neck. Her face was a queer dusky purple. And then suddenly she collapsed. Her head banged down on the top of the desk and rolled a little, and her white cap fell off. She made little whimpering sounds.
"Say!" said Hennessey. "That there betting slip! You said she left it on Horse Car! Somebody's liable to steal it! It may be an illegal debt, but Dom Carlos will pay off on it and right now!"
"Is that a fact?" said Dodd blandly.
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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