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Years Pass and the Ways of Men part – But the Hideous
Poison of Vengeance Remains Alive!
ODDY JENKS stood in rigid
astonishment. It was Martin all right. Ten
years had made him greyer, more flabby.
But despite the fact that he was the last person in
the world Jenks expected to see in this big hotel
lobby crowded with men at the Retail Hardware
Dealers’ Convention—here he was, standing over
there with a group of men, smiling with that
damnable ingratiating smile—that dirty doublecrossing smile with which he had won Fanny.
It shot a wild thrill of triumph through Jenks
so that he tensed, drawing back against one of the
ornate onyx pillars of the old-fashioned hotel. Ten
years! The old hate surged through Jenks, as
strongly as it had ten years ago. His twitching
fingers crept to his inner pocket. The folded,
ivory-handled knife was there. For ten years he
had carried it. And now at last the time to use it
had come!
Jenks edged into the throng of men, pressing
forward to get closer to Martin. There were two
hundred men or more here in the jammed lobby.
Author of “Snatch,” “Boxed Death,” etc.
Jenks pounced and struck
C. K. M. Scanlon Page the Murderer Popular Detective, April, 1937
All, Jenks and Martin included, were wearing the
convention badges—little brass medallions with a
pendent white silk ribbon—and the dealer’s name
and city was written on a card in the center of the
medallion. Concealing his face, Jenks slouched
past Martin and took a swift look at Martin’s
Jacob Hartwell, San Francisco! Damned
double-crossing coward! He had stayed in the
hardware business because that was the only
business he knew. But he had changed his name
and gone all the way to the Coast, and started over
again. No wonder Jenks had never been able to
locate him.
Jenks had shoved his way to the hotel desk.
A crowd of men were standing there three deep,
importuning the clerk, who was far too busy to
notice Jenks as he took a swift look at the hotel
Jacob Hartwell, San Francisco, Room 814.
The room was marked single. No one else was
here with Hartwell. Jenks moved away—
Jenks had Room 920. It was almost over 814,
one flight above. But there was no fire-escape;
nothing to connect the two rooms.
The evening session of the convention was
finished. Martin would be coming up to bed
presently. Jenks took the crowded elevator to the
ninth floor. When the elevator was gone, and the
hall momentarily empty, he darted to the stairs,
went down to the eighth floor.
The padded, old-fashioned halls were dim.
At the recess of the stairhead, Jenks was almost in
darkness; and he crouched, staring along the hall
to where he could see Room 814.
He had only a minute to wait. The elevator
presently disgorged the big flabby Martin, who
with his familiar shambling gait, went to his door,
opened it, went in and closed it after him.
For another minute Jenks stood tense, with
his heart pounding against his ribs; and his fingers
clutching the ivory handle of the knife which now
was out of its sheaf, ready and waiting after ten
His gaze darting watchfully around the hall,
Jenks rapped softly on the door of 814. Martin
hadn’t been inside more than half a minute; he
came to the door at once. It was a big, heavypaneled door; it would muffle the sounds from
within—and Jenks would take good care that
there was no scream.
ARTIN opened the door a few inches;
Jenks shoved his foot into the opening.
“What do you want?” Martin said.
Jenks’ head was down. He mumbled, “A
message—” He shoved at the door so that the
surprised Martin stepped backward—and Jenks
darted through, closed the door and stood with his
back to it. The door had a spring lock. Jenks heard
it click as it closed.
“You!” Martin gasped.
“Yes. It’s me. Caught up with you at last!”
Jenks hardly moved. His right hand dangled
at his side so that the bared knife blade was partly
behind him. The dim light from a table lamp
showed the small bedroom, with its single bed; a
wash-stand in the corner, and a single window.
Jenks’ darting glance saw that the window shade
was drawn fully down.
Martin had staggered backward, bumped into
a chair and slumped into it where he sat gasping
like a frightened toad. The color had drained from
his face.
“Why—how are you, Roddy?” he gasped. Sit
down, Roddy. How—how you been all these
“I’ll stand,” Jenks said. “So you dropped the
Martin? Hartwell now?”
“Oh—you know that? Why, yes, Roddy. Fan
thought—you know, a new start and all that—”
“And then she died,” Jenks murmured.
For all that he was chattering with terror,
Martin tried to summon a little spunk, “I treated
her well,” he mumbled. “As good as you would
have, Roddy. She’d made a mistake—she didn’t
love you. She had bad lungs—you knew that.”
Martin and Jenks had been pretty well down
and out, ten years ago. Then, together, they’d
pulled the holdup of a wholesale hardware store in
which Jenks was clerk. Eight-thousand-dollar
payroll. A man was killed. Martin had blamed
Jenks for that—but what the hell? The murder was
They had split the eight thousand. Then
Martin, dirty double-crosser, had persuaded Fanny
that Jenks was no good—
ENKS was saying, “I told Fanny what I was
going to do to you—that day I found her in
C. K. M. Scanlon Page the Murderer Popular Detective, April, 1937
your flat—and she was dying then. I waited for
you that day—”
Martin’s eyes clung to Jenks’ face with a
fascinated stare; his big flabby hands were
writhing in his lap.
“Did you, Roddy? That’s too bad. I did
come, later. She—she told me what you’d said.”
“An’ then you beat it,” Jenks rasped. “She
was dead when I got back there at midnight.
Couldn’t even get a doctor for her, could you?
Afraid I’d come in, you damned—”
“Now, Roddy—don’t get excited. That was
ten years ago, Roddy. You’ve got it all mixed.
We’ve both prospered since, haven’t we? So
you’re in the retail line, same as I am? Hope
you’re doing well, Roddy—”
Jenks took a step forward. And then Martin
saw the knife. His fingers gripped the arms of his
chair, half lifting his flabby body as though he
didn’t have the strength to jump to his feet. And
he gasped:
“Why—why, Roddy, don’t be a fool! That’s
all forgotten—I don’t bear any malice—”
He saw the knife coming. It was only a
second, as Jenks pounced and struck. The scream
choked in Martin’s throat; his flabby hands
futilely tried to ward off the knife, but it cut
through their fumbling clutch.
Just a second or two, with Jenks stabbing and
twisting the knife deep into the flabby chest. He
held one hand on the knife handle, and the other
clapped over Martin’s mouth. Got him now! Knife
in his heart! God, why wouldn’t he die! It was like
fighting with a dead man, for the flabby bulk had
surged convulsively upward. The hands were
trying to clutch at the panting Jenks. The
goggling, watery eyes were staring with the agony
of death in them.
Just a second or two. Jenks was aware of a
clink on the board floor; then all at once the life
was gone from Martin so that he sagged, slumped
and tumbled against the small side table that held
the light. It crashed to the floor, with Martin’s
body half on it. The light was extinguished.
Done! The thing was finished. In the silence
and darkness there was only Jenks’ panting
breath. The drawn window shade was now a big
yellow rectangle from the light outside. It filtered
in, enough so that now Jenks could see the dead
Martin lying twisted on the floor with the knife
handle sticking up from his chest.
Triumph swept Jenks. Nothing to do now but
get out of here. But he must wipe the fingerprints
off that knife handle. He knelt, carefully wiped
them off with his pocket handkerchief. Martin was
dead, unquestionably.
The knife sheath! Jenks still had it in his
pocket. Like the knife, it could never be
identified. He took it out and dropped it on the
floor. Now to get out of here. Too dangerous to
In the silence of the dark bedroom suddenly
there was a tiny, muffled voice:
“Hello! Eight-fourteen! Hello—”
The telephone! It had stood there on the little
table behind the lamp, had fallen to the floor
where it was lying now with the receiver off the
hook and the startled operator’s voice coming
from it!
Panic swept Jenks. Should he replace the
receiver? What had the girl heard? He must get
out of here! The hotel employees would be
coming any minute. But there was still time. It
was only twenty feet down the hallway to the hall
Jenks swung for the door and suddenly
checked himself. A stabbing memory transfixed
him. That clink on the floor, during those seconds
while he had fought with the dying Martin! What
had clinked?
Mechanically Jenks’ hand went to the lapel
of his jacket. His medallion badge! In the struggle
it had been knocked to the floor.
ELLO! What’s happened up there?”
Insistent, microphonic voice,
engulfing Jenks with panic, as though a third
person were here, to be a witness to this killing.
But he mustn’t get rattled. His fumbling hands on
the floor found the medallion, shoved its tab back
into his buttonhole; and in another second he was
cautiously opening the door.
But there was no one; and he darted out,
closed the door, gained the dark seclusion of the
staircase and crouched, panting, with the panic
dropping from him now and triumph taking its
All finished! So simple! He was no different
now than all the other two hundred men here in
the hotel who soon would be startled to hear that
C. K. M. Scanlon Page the Murderer Popular Detective, April, 1937
one of their number had been mysteriously
The alarm came even sooner than Jenks had
anticipated. A narrow escape indeed, for almost as
he reached the stairway, the elevator stopped,
disgorging hotel employees who in a moment
were pounding on Martin’s door; pounding and
shouting so that other doors began opening.
Like fire in prairie grass the alarm spread
throughout the crowded hotel. The eighth floor
corridor all in a moment was thronged with
jabbering, excited men. The rapidity of it
confused Jenks. He started up the stairs. But the
shouting voices and the pounding had carried up
there. Guests were at the staircase head; then they
started down.
Jenks retreated back to the eighth floor, and
from the stairs, unobtrusively he mingled with the
crowd in the hall.
“What’s up?” he demanded. But the man
beside him did not know. At 814 the door was
being pounded. Somebody said it was the night
manager and the hotel detective. Then a bellboy
arrived with a pass-key. The door opened. The
manager and the detective burst in.
The word rippled over the jostling crowd,
bringing an awed silence. Then the babbling
voices broke out louder than ever.
“Murdered! Who is he?”
“Holy Mackerel!” Jenks murmured to the
man beside him. “Come on—let’s take a look—
’spose they’ll let us?”
But the hotel detective shoved them back.
And presently the local police arrived. The door
of 814 admitted them and banged closed.
“Jacob Hartwell, his name was,” somebody
Nobody seemed to know him.
“A pistol shot?” Jenks said.
Nobody knew; then a man said he had heard
a bellboy say it was a knife stab. The telephone
got knocked over, is how it happened to be
discovered—but the telephone girl didn’t hear
anything that could indicate who the killer was.
Jenks chuckled to himself. What a cinch!
Then suddenly Jenks’ heart leaped; his blood
turned to ice. Down through the crowded hall a
uniformed bellboy was saying:
“Call for Roderick Jenks...Call for Roderick
It seemed for that second as though all Jenks’
senses were wafting away into an abyss of horror,
so that the stuffy, crowded hall swam before his
“Call for Roderick Jenks... Call for Roderick
Jenks... Call for Roderick Jenks...”
Jenks clutched for his scattered wits. What
was this?
“Call for Roderick Jenks—Oh, hello, Mr.
Jenks—there’s a call for you—”
Damnable that this bellboy so quickly
spotted him—damnable that the bellboy knew him
by sight. Because Jenks had ordered a drink and
cracked ice, and then cigarettes at suppertime
tonight, and had given the boy a lavish tip for his
triple errand.
“Oh—call for me?” Jenks said. “Telephone?
Which way do I go?”
Then a big, solemn-faced man materialized at
the bellboy’s elbow. “This way,” he said. “The
captain wants to talk to you.”
The captain! What did that mean! What was
wrong? The numbed Jenks felt himself being
shoved down the hall, and around him the men
were staring with sullen silence. Then there was
the door of 814. It opened; yawned with light.
Jenks was shoved over the threshold.
“What’s happened? What’s the matter?”
In the glare of the room light, the big,
uniformed police captain loomed over Jenks.
“You’re Roderick Jenks? Room Ninetwenty?”
The bellboy had edged himself in here.
“That’s him.” His voice was high-pitched, treble
with excitement, “I know him—”
“Y-yes, sir,” Jenks stammered. “That’s me.
What can I—I don’t know anything about—”
A flashlight darted to Jenks’ chest. And the
captain’s heavy voice was booming, with a grim,
ironic menace:
“So we just had to page the murderer—and
he comes with all the evidence!”
“Page me?” Jenks stammered. “Why—why
should you—”
“Because you left your name on the floor
here,” the captain retorted. “Naturally we paged
Name on the floor? That little clink as he had
struggled with the dying Martin!
C. K. M. Scanlon Page the Murderer Popular Detective, April, 1937
Jenks saw his metal medallion as the captain
dangled it before him. And with a rush of horror
he understood. He had stabbed almost into
Martin’s badge.
It, too, had been knocked off in the struggle.
Fatal mischance! Jenks’ hand went to his
coat lapel. Numbly he stared down. It was the
badge of Jacob Hartwell hanging on him, with its
little silk ribbon crimson with blood.

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