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Transcript

Popular Detective, January, 1947
FIT TO BE TRIED
By JOE ARCHIBALD
Willie Klump, the Hawkeye Hawkshaw, tackles a tangled case
of murder and loot, and gives the miscreant plenty of rope!
T WAS a morning when the mail at
the Hawkeye Detective Agency was
quite heavy, and William Klump,
President, was as excited as a moth
feeding on Lana’s shirred beaver coat
when the postman dumped it on his desk.
“You sure rang twicet this mornin’,”
Willie said. “Join me in a crumb bun an’ a
cup of coffee.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” the postman said,
then quickly took a gander at the mail.
“Oh, I almost done it again. This stuff, all
but three letters, belongs to the Hawker
Disinfectant Company next door. I’ll take
a little sugar in my coffee.”
“I just happened to think,” Willie
snapped, “I am short of crumb buns this A.
M. An’ I’ll need all the coffee I got. I am a
I
POPULAR DETECTIVE 2
busy man so run along.”
“Yeah?” the postman griped. “I hope
what letters you got are dunnin’ you for all
the dough you got.”
“You come under Civil Service, don’t
you?” Willie sniffed. “Then try actin’ civil
before I report you to Farley.”
“Farley? He ain’t been postmaster
since—”
“I didn’t see the newspapers this
mornin’,” Willie snapped. “Now go
away.”
Willie Klump opened his mail. One
letter was soliciting funds for an
organization that had been formed for the
purpose of suppressing crime.
“That is a lot of senst,” Willie scoffed.
“They would ask me to support the
Temperance Union if I owned a chain of
breweries.”
The second letter was from the
Policemen’s Benevolent Ass’n, and
contained four tickets at three dollars per.
The typewritten message assured William
that he would send a check immediately.
“It is intimation!” he grouched. “They
are worst robbers than they go out huntin’
for. What’s the use of lookin’ at any more
mail?”
Willie ate the rest of his breakfast and
was tidying up when a tall, cadaverous
citizen walked in. Willie almost told him
that he must be mistaken about an address,
as U.N.R.R.A. was in Washington.
Anyway, the wheat shipments were none
of his doings.
“Ah, Mr. Klump, I presume?”
“Have a chair,” Willie said. “You’re a
client, I presume?”
“I am. I note that you find missing
persons.”
“If they’re above ground, we find
‘em,” Willie said.
“I am Humphrey Buff. Perhaps you
know I am appearing at Radio Theatre this
week.”
Willie shook his head.
“My specialty is escaping from safes,”
Buff said, lifted the skirts of his plaid coat,
and sat down. “Once, I had a partner.”
“I begin to see,” Willie said, assuming
a professional mien. “He got in a safe
oncet an’ was stumped. Somebody moved
the safe and you never got the forwardin’
address.”
Humphrey Buff swung his head
around on his turtlelike neck and read the
letters on Willie’s door as if to make sure
he had come to the right place.
“Nothing of the kind,” he said, eyeing
Willie again. “It was because poor Elbert
could not tolerate hunger any further, my
friend. Fifteen years ago, vodville became
a precarious method of making a living,
and Elbert packed up one night and left
Kankakee where we were showing. I have
not seen him since. Now that it has come
to pass that trodding the boards is once
more a lucrative—”
“His full name?” Willie interrupted,
reaching for paper and pencil.
Elbert Eely, Escape Artist
Extraordinary!”
“H-m-m,” Willie said.
“I—er—changed my name when I
went back to the stage again, Klump. In
those days we were known as
Squirmerhorn and Eely. I have an old copy
of Variety I shall leave with you. When I
knew Elbert last he was about five feet,
eight, had a black mustache and a mole
over his left eye. If you find him, Klump, I
will pay you five hundred dollars.”
“Dear or alive?” Willie said sharply.
“Well—er—no. If you find that Elbert
is defunct, the fee will be three hundred.”
“It is harder to find citizens who no
longer walk about,” Willie pointed out.
“But it is a deal. Of courst, there will be
expenses.”
“Keep them down, Mr. Klump,” Buff
said.
FIT TO BE TRIED 3
“Supposin’ I locate him in
Manchuria,” Willie argued. “I do not own
my own airplanes.”
“Let’s stop being silly, Mr. Klump. I’ll
see you are adequately reimbursed.”
“It was the pay I was worried about.
All right, I’ll take the case. All right, you
give me the addresses where you’ll be the
next six months or so. Glad to have met
you, Buff.”
The actor placed an old magazine on
Willie’s desk, and Willie picked it up and
tucked it away among his comic books on
top of the filing cabinet. For an hour after
Buff had departed, the president of the
Hawkeye Detective Agency wondered
where in the world he would start looking
for Elbert Eely.
“I better sleep on it,” Willie said. “I
wisht I was half as smart as Satchelfoot
Kelly thinks the D.A. thinks he is. First, I
could maybe canvass the morgues
everywhere by mail. I never had such a
stiff assignment. Oh, well, I can afford to
take my time as the dividends should start
rollin’ in soon. Mr. Plochnitz said I could
expect ‘em the first of the month. Hah,
wait until I show Gertie the check. I’ll
show her how dumb I really am!”
The phone rang as Willie started
visualizing a twelve-cylinder jaloppy with
plush upholstery and a built-in frozen food
cabinet.
“Hello,” Willie said. “Hawkeye
Dividend and Limousine Co. I mean—”
“This is Kelly,” a voice said.
“Up to now I was havin’ one of my
good days,” Willie snapped. “What you
want?”
“Do you know a Gasper J. Plochnitz?”
“I—I do. But how would you,
Satchelfoot?”
“Oh, I meet all kinds in this business,
Willie. I threw him in the hoosegow last
night. He had a sucker list on him, and
guess whose name was on it?”
“Mine,” Willie said. “That is, I was
one of the preferred clients.”
“Ha-ha!” Kelly laughed. “Atomizers,
Incorporated. How much you buy,
Willie?”
“A thousan’ shares at fifty cents a
share,” Willie said, beginning to feel a
little woozy.
“Yeah? Atomizers. Ha-a-a-a-ah!”
“Atoms is everything today,” Willie
said. “Mr. Plochnitz says after they
blowed up Bikini, the stocks would rise
like jet planes. There would be atoms
workin’ electric toasters an’—”
“We raided Plochnitz’s office. There is
a little store-room with about a hundred
atomizers in it. The glass ones with the
rubber bulbs you spray cologne with. Oh,
Willie!” Satchelfoot howled.
Willie hung up and fell into his chair
as limp as garbage pail lettuce. Five C’s
had taken wing, had flown the coop more
conclusively than had Elbert Eely. Gertie
would find out before the noon whistles,
and she would have a dozen more
synonyms for the word “moron” when he
met her face to face.
“I can’t be as dumb as I act,” Willie
told himself. “Who could? But I must have
been. Well—”
Again the public utility necessity
clamored to be answered. At first Willie
ignored it, hardly in the mood to argue
with Gertie Mudgett over the fact that
there might be insanity in his family most
anywhere. But he concluded that he might
as well take the rap sooner as later. He
snatched up the phone.
“All right, go ahead!” he yelped. “Say
it all at oncet, you—”
It was not Gertie’s gravelly voice. It
was a scared squeaky one.
“Please come to Four-ninety-seven and
a half West Twentieth Street at once,
please!” it said. “It is a robbery. Oh, do
hurry!”
POPULAR DETECTIVE 4
“You should of called the public
detectives!” Willie said. “I’m a private . . .
Hello! Hel-l-llo! She’s hung up. Oh, what
a day so far! I got to look for a missin’
person I can’t never find. I get bankrupt,
and now—well, I’ll call Kelly and the real
cops. What am I sayin’?”
Willie did not call Headquarters until
he got to a cigar store a block from the
scene of the felony. Then Willie Klump
went on and rang the bell of an old
brownstone that looked as if it had not
been lived in since Dewey smeared the
Spaniards at Manila. A little wrinkled doll
opened the door. She let Willie into a
place that was an antique dealer’s dream.
Smells belonging to the Gay Nineties
slapped Willie in the face.
“Oh, thank heaven, you got here,” said
the little old doll. “I’m Miss Penelope
Paisley.”
ENELOPE wore a taffeta dress that
Hetty Green must have tossed away.
She swung a lorgnette and had a big
tortoise shell comb sticking out of the pug
at the nape of her neck. She led Willie into
a library that would have tickled Karloff.
“There is poor Mr. MacGonigle tied up
there,” she said.
Willie looked at the trussed flunkey.
Nothing had ever been tied up more
thoroughly, not even a trust fund.
“He been here all this time?” Willie
asked.
“Of course,” the little doll snapped.
“And I know my detective stories. I didn’t
disturb a thing.”
“Glub-ug!” the butler said.
“That is not a Scotch dialect,” Willie
said.
“He is gagged, you lunkhead,”
Penelope Paisley sniffed. “Are you a
detective?”
“The bonner fide ones are on their
way,” Willie explained. “You got me by
mistake.”
“I figgered that when you got here,”
the old girl countered. “Have patience,
MacGonigle, they’ll be here any minute to
untie you.”
Willie was lolling on a horsehair sofa
when Satchelfoot Kelly and his men
arrived. Kelly snarled at the private
snooper and threatened to make Willie
take his name out of the phone book.
“I pay my telephone bills,” Willie said.
“Everybody makes mistakes.”
“You been robbed?” Kelly asked
Penelope.
“Why, no! I been havin’ a scavenger
hunt. We play like this often, me and my
butler. When are the real police comin’?”
Willie Klump went into stitches.
“Well—er—were they valuable, what
was took?” Satchelfoot went on, picking
up a bronze statue and looking nasty at
Willie.
“What do you think? They only
belonged to Catherine the Great of Russia
once. Ivan the Terrible give ‘em to her.”
The ancient eccentric sniffed.
“We all have forgot somethin’,” Willie
offered. “Don’t you think the butler would
like to git loose?”
“First I got to look at him as he is,”
Kelly said. “Huh, quite a knot on his
noggin. The intruder used more than a
banana on him. Untie him, men.”
The detectives had to cut MacGonigle
loose. They ungagged him and Penelope
ran out and came back with a bottle all
covered with cobwebs. “I bet that is prewar,” Satchelfoot said.
“For once you are right,” Penelope
said. “My grandfather bought it when
Lincoln was elected. This should revive
MacGonigle.”
P
FIT TO BE TRIED 5
The butler took a heavy snort, worked
his arms and legs to get back into
circulation, then dropped into a chair.
“Awright, start in from the beginnin’,”
Kelly said.
“Well,” Willie said. “This is not like in
books. This time how could the butler of
done it?”
“You shut up, Klump, or we’ll throw
you down the cellar stairs!” Satchelfoot
howled. “Go on, MacGonigle.”
“Le’s see now. Yeah, I was in the
lib’ary here sortin’ out some books last
night about eleven when somebody walks
in quiet as a mouse. At first I think it is
Penelope—Miss Paisley. But when I turn
my head I see it is a burglar. I always kept
a gun over on the shelf in the corner, so I
was ready for him. He was quick as a cat,
though, and was springin’ at me when I
fired. I missed him, an’ then somethin’ hits
me on the head, and when I come to, I am
tied in a chair. That’s all I know.”
“I come in late from a D.A.R.
meetin’,” Miss Paisley said. “I went right
upstairs and went to bed and it wa’n’t until
ten o’clock this mornin’ I come down and
found MacGonigle.”
Satchelfoot stroked his chin and then
asked the butler to show him where he
stood when he fired off the Betsy.
MacGonigle got up and went over in a
corner. He kicked his foot against
something and was about to stoop down
and retrieve it when Satchelfoot warned
him.
“If that’s the Roscoe, an’ I see it is
now, you keep your mitts off it!”
Willie Klump watched MacGonigle go
through some pantomime. Satchelfoot
Kelly walked over to the moldy portieres
and finally located a hole that never had
been made by a moth. And from that
moment things got so complicated that
Willie Klump’s head buzzed like a bee
farm.
HE hole in the drapes was nearly six
feet from the floor. Satchelfoot went
into the next room and found bloodstains
on the floor. He jumped back into the
library.
“You didn’t miss the burglar like you
thought!” he yelled at the butler.
“But you shot at him in here, didn’t
you?” Willie asked.
“Sure,” MacGonigle said.
“So he didn’t bleed until he got in the
middle of that parlor in there, hah?”
William Klump scoffed. “Maybe he could
suspend his animating and stop his heart at
will.”
“I pass,” the butler said, and pawed at
his bony face. “You got me there,
awright.”
“Willie, you keep out of this or—”
“An’ how could you of hit the burglar
in the first place, Mac?” the president of
the Hawkeye insisted. “To of nicked him
in the flesh, he would have to of been
eight foot tall. So there is a clue, Kelly. A
circus freak is the suspect. Why is it I
always have to start you off on the right
foot?”
“You’ll git my foot in a minute, you
mushmouth!” Kelly raved.
“You got to admit the guy is right,
Kelly,” a cop said.
“Are you on my side or his,
McNinney?” Satchelfoot pouted.
“Well, somebody better get the
culprit!” Penelope Paisley snapped. “I was
only robbed of a quarter of a million worth
of jewels. Maybe you think they grow on
privet hedges!”
Satchelfoot gasped. “W—was they
insured?”
“No. So do somethin’ right away.”
Satchelfoot’s nerves acted up. “Stop
scratchin’ your head, Willie. You make
more noise when you—”
“That is just some rats in the
woodwork,” Penelope sniffed.
T
POPULAR DETECTIVE 6
“Maybe one wearin’ shoes is hidin’ in
there with ‘em,” Willie said.
“Where is the safe?” Kelly asked
suddenly.
“Huh, I wondered how long it would
be before you thought to ask,” the
wrinkled doll said. “It is in the wall out in
the parlor behind my dear brother’s
picture.”
Willie followed the cops into the next
room. The picture of Penelope’s brother
was leaning against the wall, sideburns
and all. An iron door swung open. There
was a high chair standing against the wall
under the gaping square hole in the faded
wallpaper.
“Photograft everythin’, men!”
Satchelfoot yelled. “Now we’re gettin’
somewheres. The guilty citizen stood on
that old chair to reach the safe an’ maybe
left a footprint.”
Willie Klump sat down near an old
etagere, and wondered why he tried to
think of something all of a sudden.
However, whatever thought had occurred
to him ducked back out of sight in one of
his few brain cells. He digressed, thought
of a citizen named Plochnitz, the new blue
serge suit he was going to purchase with
the first dividend from Atomizers, Inc.
He was definitely atomized himself for
the next few minutes while Satchelfoot
and his men combed Penelope’s old
pueblo. Satchelfoot’s cry of triumph
scattered his fogginess. Willie got up and
hurried out into the library.
“Who did it?” he yelped.
“While you was asleep as usual, I got a
suspect,” Kelly said. “We found the gas
man’s book and pencil right at the head of
the stairs leadin’ to the cellar. He better
prove he dropped it some other time than
last night. He could of carried it along so’s
if he got caught in the house he could say
he forgot to read the meter and come back
to do it. If he has been shot any place, he is
cooked. If the boys in the lab can tell the
blood we got a sample of comes out of the
gas man—”
“He could have an alibi where he was
last night,” Willie said. .
“He better,” Kelly snapped, “We’re
goin’ after him right now. I bet we got this
solved, Miss Paisley!”
“I got my doubts,” the old doll said.
“Shake on that.” Willie grinned, and
Penelope did.
“Awright,” Kelly huffed. “I’ll show
you septics.”
Willie did not bother going along with
the cops. It sounded too pat all around. He
went back uptown to his office and
proceeded to forget about the jewel
robbery. He had a missing person to find.
That afternoon the papers said Kelly
was holding one Elmore Boody for
questioning in connection with the big
robbery on Twentieth Street. The gas man,
according to Satchelfoot, could not prove
where he was while the outrage was
perpetrated. He couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Once, Boody told the cops, he had
suffered from amnesia. The only thing that
puzzled the law was the fact that there was
not a scratch on the suspect. Kelly
promised he would make Boody confess
all, however, within a day or two.
“Huh,” Willie said. “I better write
some things down. Like if the butler
missed when he fired at the burglar, how
could he have drawn blood? An’ how the
wounded citizen waited until he got in the
parlor to start bleedin’. And he would have
had to of been bleedin’ while he tied
MacGonigle up, as it must of took him
quite some time. If the gas man was
somewhere else at the time, why can’t he
say he was? Maybe Satchelfoot is right for
oncet, as nobody can be wrong forever.”
Willie, after he had noted these
thoughts in an old case-book, turned his
attention to the disappearance of Elbert
FIT TO BE TRIED 7
Eely. He asked himself where he would go
if he was a disheartened Thespian, and
tried to think of a likely place. He
remembered the colored gentleman who
had found a mule that had been lost when
all other searchers had given up, because
he had figured where he would go if he
was a mule, and went there, and there the
mule was.
“I don’t think that would work,” Willie
sighed, and struck off on another tangent
just as the phone rang.
“Hello,” Willie said.
“You dope! Of all the lame-brained
crackpots! I heard about that stock, Willie
Klump! You muddle-skulled stooge for a
village idiot! I thought you was the mos’
beetle-brained gland case before, but
now—”
“Wrong number,” Willie gulped, and
hung up. “Gertie must of waited to think
up all of them insults before she buzzed
me. I wisht I was sure she wa’n’t right,
though. Oh, well.”
Willie Klump slept fitfully that night
wishing a man with a mustache and a mole
would stop sitting on his chest every time
he dropped off.
He was pulling on his blue serge pants
at eight a. m. when the landlady yelled his
name. He went down in the hall and
picked up the receiver and heard
Satchelfoot’s excited voice.
“Start all over,” Willie said. “Or wait
until you finish eatin’ the banana!”
“The cops up in the Bronx picked up a
stiff, Willie. Who you think it was?”
“Hitler? I told everybody he wa’n’t
dead.”
“No, no, Willie!” Kelly yelled. “It was
MacGonigle, that butler, who was tied up.
I don’t get it, Willie.”
“For heaven’s sake!” Willie choked
out. “They could of rubbed him out easier
las’ night, couldn’t they?”
“They got him in the morgue, Willie. I
. . . Why am I telling you about it? I’ve
been so excited an’ upset I don’t know
what I’m doin’. You keep out of this
thing!”
“You won’t let me, it looks like,”
Willie retorted.
The president of the Hawkeye
Detective Agency was curious. He hurried
to the morgue, and who was already there
looking at the remains of MacGonigle but
Penelope Paisley!
“It’s him, the poor man,” the spinster
gulped, and reached into her old reticure
for a nose doily. “Oh, hello, Mr. Krump.
Who would want to murder such a faithful
servant?”
“I wisht I knew,” Willie said, and kept
looking at the physiognomy of the corpse,
and wondering about a certain little
blemish thereon.
“Would you please see me home, Mr.
Frump?” Penelope requested. “I’m so
nervous and all. A maniac is at large.”
Willie took the old doll downtown. He
was about to take his leave of her after he
had gone in the house, when he saw some
old clothes piled up on an old sofa in the
hall.
“Don’t tell me you are disposin’ of the
butler’s duds so soon, Miss Paisley?” he
queried, eyeing her askance.
“Oh, those are old clothes that
MacGonigle got together to give to the
poor Europeans,” Penelope said. “You
even suspect me, don’t you, Krump?”
“Klump is the name,” Willie said.
“Er—I’ll take these over to where they’re
shipped out if you want. Why, this blue
suit is the color I wear. He had good taste,
didn’t he?”
“That will be wonderful,” the spinster
said. “Thanks for thinkin’ of it.”
“Not at all,” Willie said, and left.
He felt elated for a change, told
himself that charity begins at home.
Maybe there would be a few alterations,
POPULAR DETECTIVE 8
but it would be a saving of forty bucks,
even if he’d had forty to save. When he
got to his room, he made sure the pockets
of the hand-me-down were empty. They
were, save a slip of paper that was part of
a letterhead advertising a place called
“The Excelsior A.A. 1987 Second
Avenue.”
N THE paper MacGonigle had
evidently scrawled:
Jiving Jane—Hialeah. 20-1
“That is race track talk,” Willie said.
“Why, I bet the butler played the
hayburners. He got in deep an’ owed some
tough boy a load of cabbage an’ . . But he
was the one tied up! This gets worst all the
time H-m-m, Excelsior A.A. I wonder if
there are birds of a feather there. Well, for
oncet I am not goin’ to stick my neck into
no door of a mortuary an’ say yoo-hoo,
here I am for keeps. I will pack a Betsy.”
The weapon was over at his office so
Willie scooted over there and pulled at a
drawer of the file cabinet that took a
notion to go on strike. Willie yanked and
nearly pulled the whole works over on top
of him and a lot of magazines, mostly
comics, piled up on the floor at his feet.
He was picking them up when he
recognized the old copy of Variety, the
journal devoted to the activities of
Thespians.
“Huh, I forgot all about it,” Willie
said. “I wonder why Buff left it.”
He sat down and riffled the pages,
came to a place marked with pencil. It was
an ad and it said:
OPEN FOR ENGAGEMENTS.
Squirmerhorn
&
Eely Escape Artists, Ext’y.
The fine print had let it be known that
Elbert Eely was a wonder, even in reverse.
He could truss himself up as easily as he
could release himself from any kind of
cord known to the trade. He was a twoway wonder who had performed for
crowned heads.
“What do you know?” Willie
mumbled. “Fancy that? Wha-a? He can tie
himself up? No, I don’t believe it. I
shouldn’t think on the spur of a moment!
But—but—but— That corpse at the frozen
cadaver plant, there was a spot over one of
the eyes. No, even this couldn’t happen to
me. Oh, I know mustaches an’ moles can
be took off, but—”
Willie went over to the window and
got some fresh air. Then he went over to
the file cabinet and found a Roscoe he had
purchased from a G.I. Ten minutes later he
was on his way to the Excelsior A.A.
Willie appraised the building carefully
before he took action. The Excelsior A.A.
was on the second floor, above a
delicatessen store. He looked harmless
enough as he stood there, and so a flashylooking individual sauntered up to him and
mentioned that it was a nice day.
“Sure is,” Willie said.
“You figurin’ on goin’ upstairs, pal?
Bet you just got in town.”
“Why—er—not exactly,” Willie said.
“Okay, so le’s be friends, huh? Want
to lay a little bet, Hiram?”
“Uh—er—I would if it is goin’ to
win,” Willie said, acting much dumber
than he actually was.
“Follow me, Buster,” the come-on
said. “I can pick winners nine out of ten
times.”
“Well, awright,” Willie said.
He trailed the gee up a flight of steps
and into a big room where several rough
characters were sitting. There was a
counter along a wall and it was lined with
telephones. There was a board on the wall
O
FIT TO BE TRIED 9
with the names of bangtails and the races
they were running in.
“Sit down, kid,” the rough boy said.
“I’ll get Nick Lutzig an’ interduce you.”
“I’m crazy to meet him,” Willie said,
and meant it.
A few moments later, a squat taxpayer,
wearing a plaid gray suit and checkered
shirt came toward Willie. The gee limped
noticeably and cold chills began to run
along Willie’s bones close to the marrow.
“Hiya, pal. Winky says you want to
make yourself some dough. Why don’t
you come in my private office an’ have a
drink first? I always like the personal
touch an’ like to git acquainted with my
customers.”
“Yeah, it is more clubby, ain’t it?”
Willie gulped.
He followed Nick into a back room. So
crooks were smart, were they? They didn’t
know from nothing, believed Willie. He
sat down and Nick locked the door.
“Well, flatfoot, you should have had
more sense than to just come an’ ast fer a
slug!” Nick growled. “You think we take
chances? We’ve got every bull in this
town cased, even you private dicks. Okay.
What do you know, Klump?”
“I know I should of stood in bed,”
Willie choked out.
“Of courst you know they’ll find you
in the river tomorrer or nex’ day,” Nick
said. “How did you happen to come here
so soon after that job over on Twentieth
Street, huh?”
“Seein’ as I will get shot anyways,
what can I lose by answerin’?” Willie said.
“That bullet MacGonigle fired nicked you,
huh? Nick. Your name on it. Not bad.
Ha!”
“Yeah. An’ I still don’t know how he
knew I was standin’ on that chair gettin’ at
the safe. But he lets go with a gat without
even comin’ into the room. That gee was
hard of hearin’, too, an’ I don’t think he
knew I was there. I am sure as all get-out
puzzled, Klump.”
“So you got the jewels, huh?”
“Not the first time,” Nick smirked.
“The safe was empty. So I knew
MacGonigle had got to ‘em first an’
doublecrossed us. That punk got into us
deep bettin’ on the nags an’ we threatened
to tell the old dame, and he told us how we
could all come out on top if we’d hold
off.”
“An’ you figured to get the rocks all
by yourself, too,” Willie said. “You was
crossin’ your pals up, too. Won’t there
ever be no honor among crooks?”
“Yeah.” Nick grinned. “I still can’t
figure how he shot me, though. And it’s
got me gaga about his bein’ tied up an’
gagged like he was. Well, anyway, we
tagged him when he sneaked out of that
house, an’ knocked him off. We only got
about ten grand worth of rocks offen him,
though.”
“It is quite a puzzle, isn’t it?” Willie
said. “I am startin’ to add up a little,
though. Funny how good your mind works
when you are close to gettin’ the final
curtain. Here I got a missin’ person I was
hired to look for, but he’ll git buried
before I get paid, an’ I’ll get buried before
I can tell his old pal. Life is complicated,
ain’t it?”
“Too bad, Klump,” Nick said. “You
ain’t a bad guy personal. But you see why
I got to rub you out, don’t you?”
“You couldn’t do nothin’ else. Let’s
see if we can reach an agreement, huh?”
Nick Lutzig polished the barrel of his
Roscoe with a handkerchief.
“No use,” he said. “You might as well
try an’ make a deal with Russia, Klump.
Of courst you know you got frisked of that
gat the minute you got inside, don’t you?”
“I did?” Willie gulped, reached for his
pocket, and found it as empty as his
midriff.
POPULAR DETECTIVE 10
“Winky lifted a bass viol out of a night
club orchestra oncet, and nobody knew it,”
Nick said. “The place was packed, too. I
got a hunch MacGonigle was tryin’ to sell
those sparklers a little bit at a time, an’ the
rest are still hid in his room.”
“I would say that,” Willie mumbled,
and looked for an out.
He could not see one and he looked
back at the gun Nick was fondling, and
suddenly Willie’s ears quivered and his
teeth snapped together. He remembered
what he had forgotten.
“Yeah, your Roscoe, Klump,” Nick
grimaced. “Kraut Walther, huh? I never
believe in shootin’ two guys twice with the
same gat. Makes the cops work harder!”
Willie got up and charged like a
cornered rhino.
“It ain’t loaded, you crook!” he yelped.
“That trick is older than—”
Nick Lutzig aimed at Willie and pulled
the trigger. Nothing happened.
“Why, you wasn’t kiddin’!”
He took Willie’s noggin in his solar
plexus just as he screeched for his
reserves. Willie got him as he bounced off
the wall and hugged him to him just as the
door broke open.
“Awright, you punks!” Willie flung in
the teeth of three gorillas. “Start shootin’
and work your way to me through Nick’s
grisket!”
Willie Klump did not think they
would, but they did. A bullet tore through
the plaid at Nick’s shoulder and stung
Willie’s right ear-lobe. Nick, his marbles
back, screamed bloody murder.
“You wouldn’t shoot me, Winky?”
“Oh, wouldn’t I?” the mug mocked,
and was getting closer to make sure of a
vital spot when there was a battering and
crashing sound in both the front and rear
of the building.
“The cops!” a bull-like voice roared.
Glass splintered and partitions caved
in. There were shots.
“A raid!” Nick gulped. “I lose
anyways.”
Willie flung the dishonest citizen right
at the cops when they burst into the office.
“For oncet,” Willie said, “you snails
was on the ball. This is Nick Lutzig who
killed MacGonigle, the butler.
MacGonigle robbed that safe of
Penelope’s. It is lucky I forget so easy or
you could just as well have forgot to raid
this joint today anyway. Who carries
aspirin with them?”
“It’s that Willie Klump,” a cop said.
“Search this joint for some jewels
before you go,” Willie said, and sat down
to loosen his nerves. “I got to phone.”
ILLIE picked one up, and a voice at
the other end said:
“Hold your rompers on, Nick. They
ain’t even at the post for the third yet.”
Willie decided to call Satchelfoot from
the precinct house. . . .
“It was this way,” Willie Klump
explained later, with a D.A. and three
assistants, and Satchelfoot Kelly looking
on with lower jaws drooping.
“MacGonigle got to playin’ the hayburners
but picked too many goats and was in
hock to Nick Lutzig and his hoods. So to
escape being ventilated he made a deal,
but decided to cross the illegal citizens, at
about the same time Nick decided to cross
him. I happen to know MacGonigle used
to be Elbert Eely, escape artist, and could
tie himself up solo. Well, the butler took
the sparklers out of the safe, took them
upstairs and stashed them. Then, seeing
that Penelope Paisley was out to the
D.A.R. he had plenty of time to stage the
phony burglary.”
“I need some digitalis,” Satchelfoot
gulped.
W
FIT TO BE TRIED 11
“What for?” Willie needled. “You
never had a heart. As I was sayin’—now,
the butler come downstairs an’ fired off a
gun at random, but happened to hit Nick
who had come in meanwhile. Nick was
standin’ on a chair, openin’ the safe an’
findin’ somebody had beat him to it when
he got shot. He lams, but MacGonigle
don’t hear him, as the butler is a little deef.
Well, MacGonigle tosses the gun to the
floor, whangs himself over the coco with a
book-end or somethin’, then gags himself
and trusses himself up.
“You already know how I got a new
suit an’ found evidence the butler played
the nags, an’ how I started thinkin’ when I
saw the little white spot over the eye of the
corpse. He’d had a mole took off.
MacGonigle was on his way to convert
part of his loot into lettuce when Nick and
his pals rubbed him out. You found the
rest of the jewels in the guy’s room, huh?
No wonder butlers are always suspects in
them books, huh?”
Satchelfoot Kelly loosened his tie,
unbuttoned his shirt collar.
“Water—water!” he gasped.
“Well, why didn’t the gas man give us
an alibi if he was innocent?” the D.A.
fretted.
“I wouldn’t know,” Willie said.
“Maybe he was just stubborn. Maybe gas
men meet lots of lonesome wives in their
business. Some wives have husbands who
would just as soon strangle you as not.”
“You get a thousand dollars from the
old babe for a reward,” the D.A. said.
“Yeah,” Willie said. “Let any wise guy
try and sell me no more stock whicht has
no horns on it. I also git three C’s from the
late butler’s old partner, Humphrey Buff.
So if you’ll excuse me I will go an’ call
him up.”
“How does he do it, Kelly?” the D.A.
asked, in a froggy voice. “He never uses
no mirrors. Maybe it is because he knows
he is stupid but won’t admit it.”
“That don’t make sense,” Satchelfoot
sighed. “But what does when Willie
works? You got anythin’ to drink handy?”
William Klump dragged the world by
the tail as he went to his office the next
morning. The phone was ringing when he
walked in. He answered it, expecting to
hear Gertie’s humble apologies. But a
male voice twanged his eardrum.
“Mr. Klump? Say, this is Draper of the
F.B.I. Want to congratulate you. Don’t be
surprised if you get a letter from Mr.
Hoover any day now. He’ll want you to go
to work for him maybe.”
“Who you tryin’ to kid this time?”
Willie sniffed. “He is not president no
more an’ couldn’t hire nobody. You call
up the aquarium if you want to talk to an
easy fish. G’bye!”
Willie clenched his teeth. This was one
day he would live through without getting
taken in.
The door opened suddenly. Before
Willie could spin around in his chair,
Gertrude Mudgett had crossed the floor
and was in his lap and throwing her arms
around his neck.
“Oh, Willie, you are wonderful! The
papers said you—”
There was a flash of light that made
Willie blink, and there was no
thunderstorm going on anywhere on the
Atlantic seaboard.
“Yeah, hold it!” a voice said. “It’s a
natural!”
“Pitchers!” Willie screeched. “I been
compermised. It is a badger’s game!”
He jumped up, and Gertie Mudgett slid
off his lap and sat down hard on the floor.
“You give me them plates!” Willie
yelled, but the photographers were already
jumping into the elevator when he got out
into the corridor.
POPULAR DETECTIVE 12
Willie stormed back to his office.
“You—you adventurish!” he yelled at
Gertie.
“I never had nothin’ to do with it,
Willie Klump,” the Mudgett protested.
“But what a break for me, ha! I’ll order six
of the snaps, an’ when you think you want
to cast me aside . . . Willie, why do you act
so cold at times?”
“If you got into hot water as much as I
did, you’d want a change,” William
Klump yelped, and picked up the phone.
He gave the operator the first number
that came in his head.
“Hello, hello, Mr. Miffnish? About
that fugitive you want me to shadow up in
the Yukon. I’ll take it. Be there right away.
G’bye!”
He snatched up his hat and ran out of
the office. Gertie’s shrill voice turned the
corner and followed him to the elevator.
“Willie, you can’t go dressed like that!
You’ll freeze up there with just—er . . .
Why that dirty fakir!”
She went after Willie.
On the other side of town, an
undertaker banged down his telephone,
and scratched his noggin. The thing that
puzzled him the most was the fact that his
name was Miffnish.

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