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Popular Detective, November, 1948
CHAPTER I
Killer On A Rampage
T WAS Thursday, the day I was covering
the pawnshops. I was looking in the
window of the Central Loan Company on
Water Street near the Center City railroad
station, looking at the usual collection of
cheap musical instruments, clocks and
sporting goods. It was the ninth shop I had hit
that afternoon and I was getting tired.
I opened the door and went inside. A
rusted bell jangled feebly over my head. The
wrinkled old man behind the cashier’s grill
looked up at me.
“Oh, it’s you, Mr. Dobson,” he said. “I
thought for a moment it was a customer.”
“You never can tell, Mr. Greer,” I said.
“Some day I might come in and hock my tin
wrist watch.”
“No, not you, Mr. Dobson. I was just
telling my wife last night what a fine business
you do. You get more private detective work
than you can handle. I know. It’s too much for
one man. You should have a partner.”
“No, Sam. I like to work alone and I don’t
like to make too much money. I might get soft
and start to slip.”
“Well, maybe you’re right,” he said. “Me,
I work alone because I can’t afford to keep a
man. All hours, too. But it’s a living and I’m
not complaining. But you now, I suppose
you’re looking for something.”
“Yes. Jewelry. I’m working on the Binns
case.”
“The Binns case. My, my, that was some
robbery. Right in broad daylight, too. The
papers say it amounted to thirty-seven
thousand dollars. Newspaper talk, I suppose.”
“No,” I said. “That was the take. But the
Binns Company only had ten thousand dollars
coverage on it.”
“Too bad. But a big professional job like
that—they wouldn’t come to a little shop with
the stuff.”
“It’s a funny case, Sam. You know how
the insurance companies work. The Seaboard
Casualty has the usual reward out, twenty-five
percent of the coverage. So far we haven’t had
I
POPULAR DETECTIVE 2
a word from the usual places. Nothing’s
showed. We’re not sure it was a professional
job.”
“No wonder you’re not getting any
action,” Greer said. “You’re paying only
twenty-five hundred dollars for almost forty
thousand dollars worth of goods. How come a
big wholesale jewelry firm like Binns should
have such small insurance?”
“I told you it was a funny case, Sam.
Arthur Slater, the salesman whose car was
robbed, ordinarily handles less than ten grand
in samples. Tuesday, the day of the robbery,
he had a special account to see. That’s why he
carried the big load.”
HE old pawnbroker gave me a shrewd
glance, and then shook his head.
“Sounds like monkey business,” he said.
“Yes, but that part of it was all right. Slater
parked his car in front of Pierre’s, the big
account he called on. He brought the sample
cases in, got a big order, and came out. It was
noon. He locked the jewelry in the car and
went around the corner to have his lunch.
When he got back a half hour later the car was
still locked, but the stuff was gone. And right
downtown in Center City, too.”
“Monkey business,” Greer said. “I read
where he had a burglar alarm on the car, and
there was a cop directing traffic at the next
corner. The alarm didn’t go off? It was
broken?”
“No. It was perfect. We tested it ourselves.
The alarm is wired to a dry cell in the trunk.
There’s an alarm lock on the door. You can’t
open the door unless you first shut the alarm
off with a key. If you don’t the siren sounds
under the hood.”
“So they forced the trunk or hood and
disconnected the wires.”
“You can’t do that either. You can’t force
a door, window or the trunk or hood. The
whole, car is wired. The alarm would go off.
Slater didn’t lose the keys, either. He had
them with him.”
“It’s still monkey business,” Greer said.
“This Slater could have planned the whole
thing. He could have had extra key made and
given them to somebody to do the job.”
“He could have,” I said. “That’s what the
cops think.”
“But you don’t think so?”
I shrugged. “I’ve got a hunch the kid’s on
the level. He’s a new salesman and his wife’s
expecting a baby next month. His job is now
suspended until the bonding company clears
him. After the robbery he came to my office
and wanted to hire me. He was desperate. He
didn’t have much dough, but he said he’d try
to borrow some somewhere. That’s why to me
it doesn’t figure. Of course I told him to save
his dough for the new kid. I was getting paid
by Seaboard.”
“Then I hope you’re right,” Greer said.
“But I don’t know if I can help you. Business
has been very quiet and I haven’t taken in
much. How far back do you want it?”
“Just since Tuesday, Sam.”
He brought out a short list and I ran my
eye down it. I saw nothing until I hit the last
item. It was a seventeen-jewel, ten-carat, goldfilled Hamel wrist watch. The name said
Howard Jones.
I pointed to it.
“About two hours ago,” Greer said. “This
little fellow comes in and wants twenty-five
for it. I offered him ten. He took twelve.”
“Did he have it in the box?”
“He was wearing it, but it looked brand
new.”
“You said a little fellow?”
“That’s right.”
“A skinny little fellow, with small mean
eyes and a long nose. A nervous little guy.”
“That’s him.”
“Eddie Balkus,” I said. “An habitual small
time grab-and-run artist. We sent him up a
couple of years ago for stealing jewelry out of
a department store. He got two-to-five. I guess
he’s out now.”
I took out the notebook with the serial
T
SATAN HOLDS THE KEY 3
numbers of the Binns’ watches. Greer got out
the ledger. He turned it around the counter to
me. I compared figures.
“It’s a Binns watch, all right,” I said. “I’ll
give you a receipt for it and take it along.”
Greer went to the safe to get the watch. I
fished in my pocket for my cigarettes. The bell
jingled behind me. I heard the door open. I
twisted my head around to see who had come
in.
He was wearing a cheap blue flannel suit
and his face was pale and bony. He was small
and skinny and he had small mean eyes and a
long nose. There was a gun in his hand
pointing in our general direction.
My hand moved instinctively to my
shoulder holster. His eyes narrowed a little.
“Were you going to do something,
Dobson?” he asked.
I looked at the automatic he was holding
and dropped my hand.
“No, Eddie,” I said. “I wasn’t going to do
a thing.”
“That’s what I thought,” he said softly. “I
know you, Dobson, so no tricks. Move away
from the counter.”
EDGED away. Balkus moved in, reached
over the counter, and turned the portable
radio on loud. Then with his eye on me he
stepped around in back and pushed old Greer
against the wall with his free hand.
“Open the safe, Pop,” he said.
“It’s open,” Greer said.
Still watching me, Balkus turned the
handle on the old safe. With one hand, he
began stuffing things in his pocket. Going to
the cash register, he rang it open, snorted in
disgust, and closed it.
“You never were smart, Eddie,” I said.
“But this is about the stupidest stunt I ever
saw pulled.”
“No lip, Dobson. You ain’t so tough that
you can’t stop a slug.”
“Don’t push me, Balkus,” I said. “To me,
you’re still a two-bit punk.”
“This time I got insurance, wise guy,” he
said as he looked down at his gun.
“Remember that when you get a tummy full of
lead.”
He took me completely by surprise. He
turned to Greer who stood with his hands in
the air. He lifted the gun and shot Greer twice
in the face. 1 dropped at the sound of the first
shot and clawed for my gun.
As he swung the gun to me, my own was
out spitting flame. He shot at the same time,
the bullet whining off the steel cashier’s grill
near my head. Mine caught him full in the
neck. As he started to fall, I had another going
in to make sure. He dropped heavily to the
floor the jewelry spilling from his bulging
pocket.
Outside the store a woman’s scream
pierced the air as pedestrians scattered. I got
up off the floor and turned him over. He was
dead. I went behind the counter where Greer
was huddled like a bag of old clothes. I didn’t
have to feel his pulse; not after looking at
what was left of his face.
I got up from the body of the old man and
wiped my forehead although the air was cool.
I reached in my pocket and finally got out the
pack of cigarettes. I lighted one and took a
deep drag. Then I heard the wail of a siren and
a prowl car careened up to the front of the
store and squealed to a stop.
CHAPTER II
Brass Candlestick
IEUTENANT Gillis looked out of the
pawnshop window at the cops shooing the
crowd along. He took his hat off and ran long
white fingers through his sparse reddishbrown hair. Then he turned to me again.
“Too bad about Sam Greer,” he said.
“Nice old man. Been on this spot for fortyseven years. Ran a clean business.”
“Yes,” I said. “A rotten way to finish off.”
“Well, I’m the one who has to tell his
I
L
POPULAR DETECTIVE 4
wife,” he said, scratching his thin wise face.
“Mike, one of these days I am going to quit
this homicide business and get me a job as
custodian in a public library.”
“You’ve been saying that for years, Pete.
You’ll never quit. They’ll have to break your
leg to retire you. You were born a cop.”
“Maybe,” he said. “But I still don’t see
where the Binns job ties in here. Balkus could
have picked up that watch anywhere. I can’t
see a small time grifter like Balkus mixed up
in a big haul. He wasn’t that smart. He didn’t
think that big.”
I shook my head. “He could have been
part of it. Only he forgot he was finally in the
big time and pledged the watch for a piece of
quick change. The way it looks to me he was
stooging for somebody who had the brains.
Somebody who found out that Balkus hocked
the watch and spoiled the whole pitch. That
somebody made him come back to pick the
watch up and knock off Greer, or anyone else
around. They were taking no chances on an
identification.”
“Maybe,” he said. “But the Binns job was
smooth. So smooth that either the rankest
amateur or the slickest pro pulled it. The only
pro who could have pulled it was Jerry Noyes.
And if Noyes hadn’t been in the jug these four
years I’d swear it was his work.”
“Noyes?”
“That’s right, you were in the Army when
we grabbed him. Came into town and started
cleaning up the big homes in the Alton Park
district. Jewelry only. The stuff never showed
and we found out later that he had fences out
of state. He was smart. He pulled the jobs
during the summer when the people were
gone. Did them in broad daylight. Drove a car
with gas company seals on the front door
panels. We grabbed him by luck. A real gas
company man had a call next door to a house
Noyes was working on. The gas man got
suspicious and called the cops. It was one of
those thousand-to-one shots.”
“What’s all that got to do with this?” I
asked.
“Just reminiscing. I was thinking of
Noyes’s wife. Some black-haired ex-showgirl.
I saw her in the courtroom and I realized what
it must have meant to Noyes to cop fifteen
years. That was the first time I ever felt sorry
for a criminal. She was some dish.”
“Snap your mind back to the present.”
Gillis took a deep breath. “Okay. Here it is
in simple language. Balkus couldn’t have done
it alone. Noyes is in the pokey. That leaves
you with an amateur to find. No charge for the
advice, old boy.”
“Thanks,” I said. “What do I do? Buy an
ouija board?”
“You might tell Sergeant Truro to get off
his fat hams and squeeze Slater a little.
Slater’s an amateur. He might sing a pretty
song. I’ve seen those jobs pulled before, too,
you know.”
“You and your police mind. You wouldn’t
trust your own mother-in-law.”
“Not with thirty-seven thousand in
jewelry, I wouldn’t. Anyway, that’s Robbery
Squad’s headache—Truro’s headache—not
mine. My end here is all wrapped up. I can
close this as a routine stick-up. I’ll take you
downtown and square this justifiable homicide
rap. It won’t take more than an hour.”
“Let’s go and get it over with,” I said. “I
have work to do.”
At four o’clock I left the District Court,
got into my car, and drove back uptown.
Across from the Jewelers Building I found a
parking space and jockeyed my heap in. I got
out of my car and noticed I was parked in
front of a five and dime. There was a neon
sign in the window which said:
KEYS MADE WHILE U WAIT
I looked at it for a moment then crossed
the street into the Jewelers Building.
The elevator starter was a big fleshy man
of about forty. He was six feet tall and he
looked like he weighed two fifty. He had a fat
red face and blond bristly hair like a
SATAN HOLDS THE KEY 5
porcupine. He wore white gloves and a tight
fitting maroon uniform with brass buttons the
size of quarters. His name was Raymond
Asher.
“No,” he said after looking at my shield. “I
didn’t see anybody suspicious hanging around
Tuesday morning. Mr. Slater takes his stuff
down the freight elevator in back. There’s
always a guard there from the J.P.A. What’s it
all about, Mr. Dobson? The police asked me
the same thing.”
“Just making sure Mr. Asher,” I said.
E looked around, saw the first elevator
was filled, and signaled the girl with his
hand snapper. The elevator doors closed.
The second elevator had come down and
emptied out and I said thanks and went over to
the girl. She was wearing the same maroon
uniform but it did more for her than it did for
Asher. She was small and round and cuddly
with baby blue eyes and an innocent look on
her round face. She flashed me a big smile.
Her name was Lydia Earnshaw.
“You’re late,” she said with a smile. “The
police asked us all that yesterday. No, I didn’t
see a thing, Mr. – Do I have to call you Mr.
Dobson? Is that because you’re a married
man?”
“Nobody would have me,” I said.
“You’re kidding me,” she said. “You’re
cute, Mike. I didn’t know private detectives
were so good looking.”
“I was going to say the same thing about
elevator girls. Ever see this salesman, Slater,
talking to anyone here in the lobby?”
“No. I know who he is. He runs in and out.
Always a worried look on his face. You can’t
trust those quiet ones. These kind of robberies
have happened here before, if you know what
I mean.”
“I know,” I said. “But not very often.
Thanks for the information.”
“Oh, that’s all right. I’m always anxious to
please. . . especially somebody with big
shoulders.”
“They come with the suit,” I said, getting
away fast. I noticed the first elevator was
empty, that the operator was waiting for
customers. I went over to it.
This girl had jet black hair cut in a feather
bob. She had soft skin and no makeup except
for dark red lipstick.” She had a short nose
and a nicely rounded face. She was wearing
the same maroon uniform—the skirt flaring
out over a pair of well-rounded calves. She
smiled. She had nice teeth. Her name was
Mildred Case.
“The police asked me that,” she said. “I
told them I didn’t see a thing on Tuesday.”
She looked at me again, a little more closely.
“You look like you have an honest face,
mister.”
“It’s my only virtue,” I said. She smiled
again.
“I did see something funny that morning,”
.she said. “But I didn’t want to get mixed up
in any trouble.”
“There’ll be no trouble,” I said. “Just the
opposite. There’s a good reward out.”
“I don’t care about any reward,” she said.
“I mind my own business.” She looked at the
elevator starter and then back at me. “We’re
not supposed to talk to anybody while on duty.
They’re very strict about it here. I live in a
rooming house at Three-Twenty-Seven West
Linden Street. Tonight at eight o’clock. Room
four.”
I nodded my head.
I checked with the other two elevator girls
and found out nothing. I left there and drove
down to Police Headquarters. Detective
Sergeant Truro had just come in. He looked
unhappy.
“Just got back from Pierre’s and vicinity
again,” he panted, wiping the moisture from
his warm fat face. “It’s no use. Nobody
around there saw a thing. Nothing. What about
you? Heard you knocked off Balkus. What’d
they find on him?”
“Nothing except a gun, a pawn ticket, and
a few bucks. They’re checking the gun.”
H
POPULAR DETECTIVE 6
“And the watch?” he asked hopefully.
“All we have to do is to find out how
Balkus got it.”
“That’s all, just that,” he said. “Boy, this
one’s a beaut. Let me know if you find
anything. Let’s have some cooperation this
time.”
“You know me, Phil,” I said.
“That’s just the trouble,” he complained.
“I do know you. You’ll play it solo.”
It was seven-thirty when I showered and
shaved, got dressed, and slipped on my
shoulder holster and the .38 Smith and
Wesson. I left my apartment, got into my car,
and drove out to the west end of the city with
its long grimy rows of cheap tenements of red
brick and peeling paint. I turned up West Fifth
Street and passed used clothing stores, used
furniture stores, and cheap neon signs of
furtive seedy hotels. Scattered here and there
were the pawnshops I had covered in the
afternoon.
UMBER 327 West Linden Street was
sandwiched in between some old
brownstone houses. It was a two-story rundown job with dirty curtains in the windows
and a sign on the front door glass that said
Rooms.
I went up the front stairs and inside. There
were a row of moldy old bells with numbers
and cards underneath. I saw Number Four and
the card under it read Mildred Case. I pressed
the button and waited. I thumbed it again and
waited. The hall had that musty lodging house
smell of mice and old furniture and dust. Then
I started up the rickety hall stairs.
I passed rooms One, Two, and Three in
order. Number Four was the last door in a
narrow ill-lighted hall. I knocked. There was
no answer. I tried the door. It was locked. I
was about to turn away when I heard a sound
like a moan inside.
I went back and hit the door with my two
hundred pounds. The door gave. I kicked it
open and went inside.
The room was poorly furnished with an
old four-poster bed, some well worn
overstuffed pieces and a shredded old rug on
the floor.
There was a parchment shade lamp casting
a small light over a battered table.
At first all I saw was something that
looked like a rumpled brown dress on the
floor. But sticking out of the dress, clad in the
rolled stockings, were a pair of legs wearing
brown leather pumps. I went over fast and
looked at her. She was lying face down and
the back of her head was badly dented. Her jet
black hair was matted and the blood was still
oozing down to her neck from where it, went
sideways onto the floor and rug.
She moaned again. I lifted her head gently.
But as I did, she gave a gasp, some blood
trickled out of the corner of her mouth, and
she was gone.
I felt of her pulse but it was all over for
Mildred Case. I stood up and looked around
and then I saw a pair of black ankle strap
platform shoes protruding out from under the
curtain that was used as a closet.
In them were a pair of perfectly shaped
silken ankles.
I eased my gun out of the holster and
moved over to the curtain. I kept feeling I was
doing it all wrong. I started to turn around but
I never quite made it. There was a step behind
me—a slight, slithering sound—and
something hard came down on the back of my
head and exploded in a blaze of white sparks.
I saw the faded carpet come up to meet me as
I went out. . . .
When I opened my eyes again and sat up,
the body of Mildred Case was still there
across from me. Otherwise the place was
empty, the black shoes, and the legs with
them, were gone from behind the curtain. The
door to the hallway was closed. On the floor
was my twenty-dollar hat with the back of it
mashed in. I got up and put it on. Then I
looked at my watch. It was eight twenty-five. I
had been out twenty minutes.
N
SATAN HOLDS THE KEY 7
There was an old, heavy brass candlestick
on the floor. It had done a good job on me but
a better one on the body on the floor. I didn’t
touch it. I looked around for my gun. I
crawled under the bed. I went into the tiny
kitchenette alcove, I tore the closet curtain
apart. The gun was gone.
I went out and closed the door. There was
nobody around and the hall was silent. I went
down the stairs to the pay telephone on the
wall. I rested my aching head against the
faded wallpaper, fished a nickel in, and called
headquarters. .
“Let’s have Lieutenant Gillis of
Homicide,” I said.
CHAPTER III
Slater Remembers
HE police didn’t waste any time in
getting the investigation started. “Dead
about thirty minutes maybe more,” the M.E.
said with a frown. “Blunt object. The cause of
death was a hemorrhage from a bad fracture at
the base of the skull. Any further information
would have to come after the autopsy.”
Gillis pointed at the candlestick which
now lay on a white cloth on the table. “Could
that be it, Doc?”
The medical examiner looked at it. He
scratched a fat red ear. “Yes. That could be the
object, Lieutenant.”
Gillis looked over at the print man. The
print man looked sad.
“All smudges, Lieutenant,” he said. “But
we’re dusting the whole place.”
“I can see how this one is going to run,”
said Gillis. “All we’ll pick up here is plenty of
worry.” He turned to the doctor and the photo
men. “All clear?”
They said yes, packed their equipment,
and went out. Gillis spoke to one of his
plainclothes men. “Rafferty, tell the landlady
we’ll see her now.” Then he turned to me.
“Here we go again,” he said. “Every time I
bump into you we have corpses on the floor.”
“I’m just plain lucky,” I said. “I’m still on
the Binns job. And this is part of it.”
“No,” he groaned. “Don’t tell me you’ve
dragged me into it.”
“The girl was an elevator operator in the
Jewelers Building. I saw her this afternoon.
She said she had a lead for me.” I told him the
rest of it. I told him everything. He looked at
me thoughtfully.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“The shoes under the curtain,” he said. “A
Mrs. Peabody reported that there was a yellow
convertible parked near the pawnshop this
afternoon. A blonde girl was sitting in it with
the motor running. When the cops came she
took off fast.”
“Good. She get the number?”
“No. She was so busy admiring the girl’s
hairdo that she didn’t even know what the
make of the car was.”
“Lovely,” I said. “I can just picture Balkus
with a beautiful blonde. The next thing you’ll
have me doing is believing in Santa Claus.
What about Balkus’s gun?”
“A thirty-two German Walther. He could
have picked it up from anyone of five million
ex-G.I.s. Talking about guns reminds me they
took Mike Dobson’s gun away.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Mike Dobson, the tough private eye. The
Mayor’s favorite hero. The All American boy.
Just like he was a kid with a water pistol. It’ll
make nice reading in your favorite paper.”
“Go ahead,” I said. “Slap it on. I can use
it. It goes well with my headache.”
“So now we have three good clues. A
blonde, a pair of fancy shoes and your gun.
We mustn’t forget your gun, must we?”
“Fat chance I’ll have of you forgetting.”
”If you hadn’t stuck your neck out, if you
hadn’t tried to play it alone like you always
do, we might have bagged the whole thing
tonight.”
T
POPULAR DETECTIVE 8
“I play things alone,” I said, “because I get
better results that way. If I stick with cops,
everything’s got to be strictly legal. You can’t
do it in private work and get results. And if I
had told Truro about the lead, do you think he
would have bothered? He’d say ‘Run along,
Mike, and let’s know what you find.’ He’s got
a small squad. Murphy’s trailing the salesman.
Gilbert’s on the Mayberry job and he, himself,
is sending the jewelry readers over the
teletype and covering pawnshops at the same
time. How could he spare another man?”
“All right, all right,” Gillis said. “You
know we’re shorthanded. Why don’t you tell
your buddy, the Police Commissioner, that?”
“Anyway, the girl might not have known a
thing. She might have seen Slater wink at the
girl at the cigar counter once. That could have
been a lead.”
“Not any more, it could have been.”
“No, not now. She had something. But I
didn’t know. I’m no mind reader.”
“Look,” said Gillis. “Now he’s sore.”
HE landlady, Mrs. Troy, came in just then
with Rafferty. She was a middle-aged
harridan with red dyed hair and a big dirty
house dress on. She had bleary red eyes and a
thin compressed mouth.
“That poor, poor girl,” she whimpered.
“Did you hear anything, Mrs. Troy?”
Gillis asked the red-eyed woman.
“I didn’t hear a thing all night. I was in my
living room having a cup of tea with Mrs.
Frawley who occupies Room Three. I try to
keep a respectable place. I’m not a well
woman and the doctor said if I work too
hard—”
“What do you know about Mildred Case?”
Gillis asked.
“Not much. I don’t poke my nose in my
tenants’ affairs. I keep a respectable place and
I try to—”
“We know all that,” Gillis said. “How long
did Mildred Case live here?”
“Six months,” she sniffed, taking out a
dirty rag of a handkerchief. “A nice, sweet,
quiet girl. Minded her own business. Didn’t
have any visitors, and paid her rent regularly
every Friday. Just the type of tenant I keep in
this respectable place of—”
“Yes, Mrs. Troy,” sighed Gillis. “Where
did she come from?”
“She told me she came from a little town
called West Bend. She was an orphan and she
worked in a textile mill there. She got tired of
it and came to the city and got a job as an
elevator operator. A lot of good it did the poor
soul. This sinful city. I watched out after her
like she was my own daughter. And let me tell
you, her own mother couldn’t have—”
Gillis said: “You say she never had any
visitors?”
“Nobody. She’d go to a movie once or
twice a week and that’s all. She didn’t know
anybody in Center City.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Troy. That’s all for now.
You can go.” He turned to Rafferty. “Check
the other two roomers when they come in.
Also this West Bend business. Known
enemies, boy friends, relatives, previous
employment, debt, everything. I’ll talk to Mrs.
Frawley myself.” He looked at me and took
his glasses off. His face was pinched.
“A lot of good we’ll get out of that,” he
said. “It all comes back to the Binns case. I’ll
tell you where the tie-in is. It’s Slater. I’m
going to have him brought in right now. I’ll
sweat him myself. He’ll talk, or he’ll stay put
until he does. I’ll throw a charge on him if I
have to.”
“Look, Pete,” I said. “I’ve thrown a lot of
weight around this town, and my old man
before me when he was mayor. I remember
you before the clean-up when you were
growing hair on your ears as a sergeant in
Records And Identification. I helped get you
out and back into Homicide. I never asked you
for a favor and you never asked me. That’s
how clean it’s been, all the way. Now I’m
T
SATAN HOLDS THE KEY 9
asking you for one. A small one. Just lay off
the kid for another day.”
“Why?”
“Sure you’ll get him to talk. He’s in such a
bad way, he’ll say anything you want him to.
He’s young and he’s just starting out and he’s
had a lot of tough luck. And when the cops get
through with him he’s liable to get soured like
stale milk. He’s got a frightened wife, a kid
coming, and no job.”
“You still think he’s on the level?”
“I think so,” I said. “I want you to let me
work alone for another day. If I miss out I’ll
come in and bring Slater with me. Fair
enough?”
He thought for a moment.
“Fair enough, Mike.”
I stood up and felt my throbbing head.
“You all right?” he asked.
“My head hurts that’s all. I’m going
home.”
“Go ahead,” he said.
Later, back in my home, the ornamental
clock over the fireplace of my living room
said 10:15 when the door buzzer sounded. I
went over and opened the door. A man was
standing there. He was about twenty-four,
medium height, plain looking, with a plain
gray suit and a plain gray hat. His face was
pale and thin and he looked like he hadn’t had
much sleep lately.
“I came over as soon as you called,” he
said.
I shook his hand. “Sit down, Slater.
Drink?”
He said, “Yes, thanks.” And I poured him
a good hooker of good bourbon.
E took the drink fast—at one take—with
no chaser. I poured him another. The
color came back to his face a little.
“I just came from Mildred Case’s place,” I
said, watching his face. “She’s dead.”
He looked puzzled. “Mildred Case?”
“You don’t know her?”
“No.”
“Do you know any Mildreds?”
“No. The only Mildred I ever heard of is
an elevator operator in the Jewelers Building.
I don’t know her last name.”
“Her last name’s Case. She was murdered
tonight. That’s why I called you over here.
Tomorrow night the cops are going to take
you in and talk to you. They have ways of
making you say things.”
“What am I going to do?” he asked,
opening and closing his hands.
“Lieutenant Gillis won’t rough you up. He
has other ways of making you responsive. I
thought I’d ask a few questions first.”
“We went over everything Wednesday.
But anything you want to know Mr. Dobson.
Anything.”
“All right. Did you ever hear of a guy
named Eddie Balkus?”
“Not until I read tonight’s paper. I read
where he stuck up a pawnshop and you killed
him.”
“Never hear of him before that?”
“No.”
“Any stranger talk to you about your
business recently?”
He shook his head. “Not that 1 can
remember.”
“Anybody hang around the loading
platform?” I asked. “Now I know there’s a
guard there from the Jewelers Protective
Alliance. I mean any employee from another
company who had no business there.
Anybody?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Notice anybody follow you Tuesday?
Near Pierre’s? When you went to lunch?”
“No.”
“Arthur,” I said. “I’m in a blind alley. I
know you’ve contributed to this whole thing. I
can’t find out how.”
He stood up. His face was white again.
“I’d better leave,” he whispered. “You’re a
big man in this city, Mr. Dobson. Your father
was mayor for twelve years. You have big
connections. I know you’re the only one who
H
POPULAR DETECTIVE 10
could clear me. But now you don’t believe me
either. I don’t suppose it would do any good to
tell you I’m innocent, that I don’t know
anything about the robbery or the killings.”
“Sit down, kid,” I said. “You’ve got me
wrong. I didn’t mean it that way. I mean the
whole thing has been too slick. Those things
don’t happen just like that. Someway,
somehow, you contributed to it unknowingly.
You did something which, in itself, was
unimportant. Now I want you to think and
think hard.”
“I was thinking. 1 was thinking that a wax
impression could have been taken of the alarm
lock and a key made. There was plenty of
chances of that.”
“Not on your lock. Those locks are fixed
so wax impressions can’t be made.”
I got up, went over to the table, and got
myself a cigarette. I brought him one. We
lighted up. I sat down again.
“It’s those keys of yours,” I said. “I know
that’s where the connection is. You had those
keys on you at all times Tuesday?”
“Yes.”
“They never left you? Not for a minute?”
He hesitated. “Wait a minute. They did.”
“When?”
“A lot of salesmen load every morning on
the back platform. Sometimes I couldn’t get
my car in. So I’d leave it out front when I’d
come in in the morning and give the keys to
the elevator starter, Asher. When I was ready,
I’d call down to the lobby and Asher would
drive the car around back for me. That was so
I could stay with the stock when I brought it
down the freight elevator.”
“And this Tuesday morning Asher drove
the car around for you?”
“Yes.”
“Did you tell him you were going to carry
a heavy load?”
“Yes, I did,” he said. “I told him it would
take me half an hour to get it ready. The car
was waiting when I got out back.”
I went over to the desk drawer and took
out the big Colt .45, putting a full magazine
in. I slid it into my pocket. His eyes widened.
“You mean you have something?” he
asked.
“Just a good sized hunch, that’s all.”
“Then I’ll go along. I want to help, Mr.
Dobson.”
I went over to the wall switch and turned
the lights off.
“What’s that for?” he asked.
I called him over to the window and
spread one of the slats of the venetian blinds.
“Look out there,” I said. “In the doorway
across the street you’ll see a tall guy who
looks like the Washington monument with
ears. His name’s Murphy. He’s a cop. He’s
been on your tail steady since Tuesday. You
go home and stay home. That way you’ll take
Murphy with you and away from me.”
CHAPTER IV
A Trap Is Sprung
ONNOR, Night Superintendent of the
Jewelers Building, had a list of all the
building employees. He gave me Asher’s
address. It was 2012 Atlantic Avenue.
I came out of the building quickly and got
in behind the wheel of my car. I spun it around
and headed east. A light drifting fog had come
up, hazing the street lamps, and making the
pavements damp.
Atlantic Avenue was a cobblestoned street
running along the harbor and parallel to the
wharves. The fog was drifting in heavier,
bringing in the salt sea air. Foghorns were
now mourning in the harbor.
I cruised along slowly until I spotted the
number. It was a single doorway next to a
marine hardware store that had a second-story
apartment. All windows were dark.
It was 11:18. I stood outside the door
looking up. A police car went by slowly and
disappeared in the thickening fog. I tried the
door to 2012. It opened. I flashed my pocket
C
SATAN HOLDS THE KEY 11
light at the bell inside. It said Raymond Asher.
I moved upstairs on my toes. At the top
there was a narrow door facing me. I eased the
doorknob very slowly. It was locked. I got out
my steel wire and jiggled the old-fashioned
lock open. The door creaked as I went in.
I switched the lights on half-expecting to
find a body on the floor. I was wrong. There
was nobody home. It was a two-room flat and
a bathroom. The bedroom ordinary, maple
furniture, clean and masculine. The living
room simply furnished and well taken care of.
I began to dig. Everywhere. Everything. I
probed the upholstery in the living room
furniture, the walls, light fixtures and molding.
I tapped the water closet in the bathroom. In
the bedroom I hefted the mattress, ran through
three neatly pressed suits and three dresser
drawers of personal effects.
I flipped the pages of the few books and
magazines. I ran through the kitchen and even
knocked on the plumbing traps. I did a good
job. I found no jewelry, no safe deposit keys,
no names, no pictures, no claim checks, no
addresses. I found nothing.
I went over to the telephone table and
flipped the telephone book again. I shook it. I
opened the inside cover and then I noticed the
faint pencilling on the inside flap. It said
Valerie Clements and the number was 5-5700.
I thought about the two zeros for a moment
then ran through the classified section. I was
right for once. It was a hotel in a nice part of
town. I dialed the number and waited. The
switchboard at the other end said, “Sherwood
Arms” and I said “Miss Valerie Clements”
and waited again. Then the phone went up and
a voice answered.
“Hello,” I said. “Valerie?”
“Yes,” she said after a little pause. Her
voice was low and sultry and just a little bit
cautious. “Who’s this?”
“Say, I’m looking for Ray Asher,” I said
quickly. “Is he there?”
“Not right now—I mean—whom did you
say—?”
I hung up.
I went out, got in my car and drove over to
the Sherwood Arms.
It was a swank apartment hotel of white
limestone with a high arched entrance, a
fringed canopy, and a huge doorman with fifty
dollars worth of gold braid on his uniform.
I went through on the thick carpet and into
the big marble and gold lobby. At the desk
there was a thin clerk with thin hair and a tired
but polite smile on his face.
“Miss Valerie Clements,” I said.
“Whom shall I say is calling?” he asked.
“Tell her Vic Balkus. Eddie’s brother.
She’ll know.”
He picked up the house phone and spoke
into it softly.
“Go right up, sir. Suite Eight-Two-Five.
That’s on the eighth floor.”
The gold and glass cage glided up to a
smooth stop at the eighth floor and I moved
out over a hall runner that seemed a foot thick.
When I came to a door marked 825, I had my
hand on the Colt in my pocket. I pushed the
little pearl button and heard the chimes inside.
The door opened almost immediately. I took
my hat off when I saw her.
She wore her sleek blond hair in a long
bob with bangs in front. She had tiny jade
earrings in her small ears and a mouth which
was warm and sensual. Her face was oval with
a small tipped nose and tiny nostrils. She was
on the tall side with perfectly shaped legs
sheathed in sheer nylon and she was wearing a
skin tight green dress like she was poured into
it, with just the right curves in just the right
places.
She waved me in with lacquered red nails.
I went by her. Her perfume smelled like thirty
dollars an ounce.
“Sit down,” she said, flicking long
eyelashes over her lake blue eyes.
I SANK down into a down filled, gold colored divan and looked around. The place
was expensively furnished in light-colored
POPULAR DETECTIVE 12
mahogany and thick white shag rugs. There
was a Capehart playing muted music.
She sat down beside me and passed an
opened teakwood cigarette box.
“No thanks,” I said.
“Drink?”
“No. Thanks again.”
“You’re not Vic Balkus,” she said as she
curled her legs cozily under her. “Eddie didn’t
have a brother.”
“No. My name’s Dobson. Mike Dobson. I
knew Eddie only professionally.”
She picked up a silver cigarette holder
from the table and fitted a cigarette into it. I
lighted it for her.
“You’re the private cop who killed Eddie
today,” she said. “What are you looking for?”
“I was wondering how Balkus fitted in
with all this,” I said, waving my hand. “And
looking at you now I was wondering about
other things.”
“He didn’t. Is that all?”
“No. I’m looking for jewelry. I had a deal
from the Seaboard Casualty.”
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re
talking about, Dobson. Your hat’s over there.”
“You don’t care to have a little chat?”
“Your hat, Mr. Dobson.”
“Okay,” I said. “Those are nice shoes
you’re wearing. They stand out. Especially
under a closet curtain in a dead girl’s room.
Does that change your mind?”
She took a deep draw on her cigarette then
wreathed the smoke out through a perfectly
shaped mouth.
“That’s different, dear,” she said. “Let’s
talk, shall we?”
“Glad to. You must be an expensive girl
friend for Asher. How’d you chum him up?”
“I found he was the elevator starter at the
Jewelers Building. He was in a very good spot
and didn’t know it. I met him at a bar a week
ago. It was easy.”
I looked her over. I could see it was.
“What else do you know,” she said.
“I know that Tuesday, before Asher drove
the car around the block to Slater at the
loading platform, he gave the keys to Balkus.
Balkus ran into the five-and-ten across the
street and had duplicate keys made. Then
when Slater went to lunch Balkus went over to
the car and took all the stock out. He must
have worn his clean shirt that day.”
“He did. Eddie was instructed very
carefully.”
“It was a perfect job,” I said. “But
something happened. The elevator girl,
Mildred Case, saw Asher pass the keys. Asher
got suspicious at the way she was looking at
him. Tonight you and Asher went over and
killed her.”
She looked at me languidly. I might have
been talking about the price of copra in New
Guinea.
“There’s one thing I haven’t got straight,”
I said. “How’d you get Eddie Balkus?”
“My husband recommended him, dear.
He’s doing fifteen years. He met Balkus in
prison. When Balkus got out, Jerry sent him to
me.”
“Jerry,” I said. “Jerry Noyes. You’re his
wife. The hair fooled me.”
“It’s a woman’s privilege to change her
name, her mind—and her hair. Jerry did very
well in the jewelry business. He had contacts
out of state.”
“He’s got contacts inside the state now,
state prison. But if he’s a good boy he’ll be
out in five or six years. You don’t look like
the type who’d wait, though.”
“I’m not, dear. But he still has good ideas.
He spoiled me. He gave me expensive tastes.”
“Those tastes get you in trouble.”
“I manage, darling,” she said. “You said
you had a deal from the insurance company.”
“Had,” I said. “Past tense. There’s been a
couple of killings. All bets off.”
SHE looked at me calculatingly for a moment or two. Finally she spoke:
SATAN HOLDS THE KEY 13
“I still have the jewelry. Your job is to get
it.”
“I think we’ll find it. This looks like a
good place.”
“We could make a deal,” she said moving
closer. “I love to make deals.”
“You probably do all right, too.”
“I have a lot to offer.”
“I can see that. But I’ve got to cut two
others in on the deal. I’m not on this alone.”
“Who, darling?”
“There’s Lieutenant Gillis and Sergeant
Truro. They’d get mad if I didn’t let them in
on it.
I got up and went over to an ivory phone
on a desk. As I got there I heard a voice. A
man’s this time.
“Put up your hands, Dobson.”
I raised them and turned around. It was
Ray Asher standing in the door leading to the
bedroom. His face was flushed and he was
breathing hard. He had my .38 Smith and
Wesson in his hand. I looked reproachfully at
Valerie.
“That’s not fair,” I said. “He was here all
the time.”
She laughed, showing perfect teeth. “Why,
darling, you didn’t think I’d let you use the
phone? Not after me saying all those intimate
things?”
“It’s not cricket,” 1 said. “He isn’t wearing
his uniform. Not only that but he’s using my
gun.”
“No cracks,” he said. “See if he’s carrying
anything, Val.”
She glided over and patted me carefully.
She was sure not to get between me and
Asher. She found my Colt and took it out.
“It’s getting so you can’t trust anyone,” I
said.
“Get away, Val,” said Asher. “I’ll give it
to him right now.”
“Not on this nice white rug,” 1 said.
“Besides, what would the management say
when they saw you lugging me out on your
shoulder?”
“Raymond’s very impetuous,” Valerie said
to me. To Asher she said, “We’ll walk him out
of here. My convertible is parked out in front.
We’ll take a little ride and then we’ll drop him
somewhere, and the gun, too.” She sighed.
“Too bad, such a lovely hunk of man.”
“Get smart, Asher,” I said. “I know this
type. She’ll throw you to the wolves the first
chance she gets.”
“I’ll take my chances,” he said as Valerie
went into the bedroom to get her coat. She
came back and put the Colt in her large purse.
“Put your gun in your pocket, Ray, and
keep it on him,” she said.
We went out of the apartment. He had the
gun in his pocket pushed against my side. We
went down the golden cage together.
“Cozy, isn’t it?” I said in the elevator.
“Shut up,” he warned as we stepped out
into the lobby.
We started out to the entrance. When we
got halfway through I stopped.
“Get moving,” whispered Asher.
“I’m in no hurry,” I said. “I was supposed
to meet someone here.”
Valerie stopped and looked at me. “Too
easy,” she said softly. “Yes, indeed. I thought
he let us take him too easy.”
“I’ll shoot him,” Asher said.
“Not here in the lobby,” I said. “You’ve
seen too many movies, Asher. What would all
these well dressed people say? What would
the night clerk say? They’d be horrified.”
“I’ve got nothing to lose, funny man. I’ll
shoot and we’ll make a break for it.”
“You’ll never make it,” I said. “There are
cops all over the place.”
“You’re bluffing, Dobson,” he said.
“It’s no bluff, Asher.” I turned at the
voice. Asher tried to but he couldn’t.
Lieutenant Gillis had his long arms wrapped
around him. Another plainclothes man stepped
up and put his hand on Valerie’s bag. She
slapped his face as he took it. People began to
mill around us until two uniformed cops came
in and cleared a path to the outside and the
POPULAR DETECTIVE 14
waiting police cars.
“You’re a fine one,” I said to Gillis. “That
cost me five years of my life.”
“It was your idea,” he said with a straight
face. “You said you wanted to lead them down
here so we could grab Asher with the Smith
and Wesson on him.”
“Yeah, but I said to take him when we
stepped out of the elevator.”
“You wanted to be the guinea pig.” He
was grinning. “We had enough time. I wanted
you to appreciate the value of cooperation.”
I turned around and started back into the
lobby.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m still working for Seaboard on this
one. I’m going upstairs and pick up the
jewelry.”
I went up the elevator again to the eighth
floor. When I got in the apartment, the first
thing I did was to call Slater. After that I felt
better. I ran through the place. The jewelry
was easy to find. She had it all packed away
and locked in her luggage.
I didn’t check the jewelry myself, either.
Like the cop he is, Gillis sent two men along
after me.
Not that he didn’t trust me, he said.

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