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Secret Agent “X”, April, 1934
Chapter I
Close to Death
ENISON decided he was going to
have company. The woman’s figure
had passed and repassed before the
ground glass of the office door time
and again. She was patrolling the corridor
outside, it seemed, and had at last decided to
come in. He could see the outline of her
against the light in the hallway, past the
lettering on the door which announced to
passers, “Spartan Investigating Company.”
They were a division of the Spartan
Insurance Company and handled nothing but
that company’s matters—were, in fact, on the
tenth floor of the Spartan Building. Denison
was a new man and had been given the night
shift. He was alone now.
The door knob turned diffidently, the door
opened, and the woman came in. Denison
grinned appreciatively, she was a beautiful
work of art—tall for a woman, perhaps five
feet seven, her face an oval of cucumbercreamed whiteness, lips and cheeks properly
reddened, eyelashes mascaraed to a nicety of
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Secret Agent “X”
2
perfection. Her body, delightfully contoured,
was encased in a tailored suit that was a
miracle of fashion.
She smiled charmingly and said, with an
enticing hint of accent, “You ar-re een
charge?”
Denison got up from behind the desk and
said, “Yes, ma’am. Can I help you?”
“Yes,” she answered. She opened her hand
bag and took out a little gun-metal revolver
which she pointed at Denison unwaveringly.
The smile vanished. Her eyes had suddenly
become dangerous. She spoke low, almost
whispered: “If you have the eyes of Durga,
you will give them to me, pleas-se! If you do
not have them, it is too bad, for I shall kill
you!”
Denison said, “What do you want someone
eye’s eyes for—your own are pretty enough.”
She liked that. He could tell by the
momentary twitch of her lips. But she held the
gun steady. “Do not jest. You are close to
death.” She held out the other hand in an
imperious gesture. “Give me the eyes of
Durga!”
“If I knew what you were talking about—”
“Don’t lie! You must have them! I have
waited for Zadukian to come here for a halfhour. I must have missed him. He must have
been here before I came, and given them to
you. I want them!”
Denison was growing impatient. He never
liked to stay quiescent under the muzzle of a
gun—no matter how enticing its owner was.
He took a step toward her. “Listen, now—”
He stopped. Her finger had contracted
around the trigger. There was no panic in her
eyes. He knew she would shoot.
Suddenly there came the hurried clicking
of a pair of excited feet on the tiles of the
corridor outside. The woman became
breathless. “It must be Zadukian!” Her eyes
glinted. They darted around the office and
lighted on a door at the left. “Where does that
lead?” she demanded.
Denison was amused. This was getting
interesting. “That’s the door to one of the
inner offices.”
She ran across to it, the gun swinging in a
slow arc to keep him covered. “I will hide. But
I will leave the door open a crack. Be
careful—I shall keep this gun trained on you
all the time!”
She slipped behind the door.
ENISON frowned. The footsteps outside
had arrived at the corridor door. They
slowed, stopped. There was a shadow on
the ground glass, then the door opened.
A short, fat man in a wrinkled gray
business suit came in. His hat was far back on
his head. There was sweat on his brow. His
small, piggish eyes were restless, frightened.
His collar was slightly wilted, and the knot of
his tie a little askew.
He stopped, undecided, fat hands at his
sides, the fingers working nervously. “You—
you the boss?” he demanded jerkily.
Denison nodded. “I’m in charge at night.
What can I do for you?” Out of the corner of
his eye he tried to glimpse the door at his right
behind which the woman hid.
The fat man came up close to the desk.
“The eyes of Durga—your company has them
insured—no?”
Denison said, “I wouldn’t know about that.
I’m a new man here.”
The visitor gestured impatiently. “Yes,
yes. I know you insure them. You pay rewards
when stolen articles are returned?”
Denison nodded. “Yes.”
The fat man blew out his breath noisily
and leaned across the desk. “How much you
pay—to get back the eyes of Durga?”
“Who the hell is Durga—and what would I
want her eyes for?”
The fat man slapped the desk angrily with
the palm of his hand. “Fool! This is no time to
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The Eyes of Durga
3
joke. The eyes of Durga are insured with your
company for a hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. They are of the Masterson collection a
part. Tonight they were stolen. How much will
you pay to get them back?”
Denison said: “We haven’t been notified
of the robbery. But if what you say is true, I
can get you five thousand.”
“And no questions asked?”
“No questions asked.”
The little man said eagerly: “All right. You
come at twelve tonight to Number 1118
Worthing Avenue in the Bronx, Apartment
4D. Bring the money. I will have them for
you.”
“Hold on a minute,” Denison exclaimed.
“Where do you get that stuff? How am I gonna
get five grand this late at night? And how do I
know they’ve been stolen at all—these eyes of
whosis? And if they have been stolen, how do
I know you can deliver?”
“I will prove to you,” the other said
simply. He drew from his pocket a long,
glittering, platinum bar. There were a dozen
small diamonds in it, but at either end there
was an unfilled space. The prongs had been
bent back and two stones removed. “That is
the setting.”
“I’ll have to call my boss,” said Denison.
“Call now—I will wait. But remember, I
must have the money tonight. Tomorrow I will
be far away!”
Denison was about to reach for the phone,
but the woman’s voice cut at him from the
inner doorway. “You weel call no one!” He
stopped with his hand at the instrument.
The little man had gone a pasty white. He
trembled. “Nina!” he gasped. The fear of death
was on him.
The woman, Nina, said softly,
dangerously: “So, my friend, Zadukian, you
are what they call a twice-crosser! Give me
now the eyes of Durga—quick!”
Zadukian swallowed hard and spread his
hands in a pleading gesture. “Don’t shoot,
Nina. They are not here. I was afraid to bring
them.”
Slowly Denison’s hand slipped up to his
shoulder holster. He got his gun out. The
woman’s eyes were blazing at Zadukian; for
the moment she had forgotten Denison. She
turned to him, startled, as he covered her now.
Her gun wavered. It was trained on the fat
man.
Denison said: “Put the gun away, Nina.
We’ll just talk this over sensibly and find out
what it’s all about.”
She smiled at him, changing her mood
instantly. “Would you shoot a woman, Mr.
Detective?”
“I would,” Denison assured her. “I can get
you in the wrist from here. It’ll hurt like hell.”
She eyed him a moment, then she lowered
her gun. “I believe you mean it. You ar-re not
a gentleman!”
Denison grinned. “Nope, not if it means
getting shot at!” Suddenly Zadukian went into
a blur of motion. A gun appeared in his hand.
He was looking murderously at the woman.
DENISON acted fast. He swung his open left
hand down across the desk in a chopping
blow. It caught Zadukian’s wrist and slammed
it down on the glass top. The gun exploded
and a bullet crashed into the ground glass of
the corridor door.
The fat man uttered a yelp, and then a
scream of fear. Denison gasped. Out of the
corner of his eye he saw that the woman had
raised her gun and was coldly drawing a bead
on Zadukian.
Denison shouted, “Stop it, you!” He
yanked at Zadukian’s hand. The fat man’s
body followed the hand across the desk just as
her gun barked. The bullet missed Zadukian’s
head by inches. Denison’s action had saved
him.
Denison swung around the desk and
Secret Agent “X”
4
grappled with the woman. She raised her right
hand and tried to slash him over the head with
the barrel of her gun. Her white, even teeth
were bared in a vicious little snarl.
Denison caught her wrist, twisted it behind
her with his arm around her waist, and held
her tight. She stopped fighting and relaxed, her
head against his chest.
He grunted. “Can’t fool me, girlie. If I let
you go, you’ll start shooting again. Drop the
gun.”
She lifted her head with a jerk and raised
her free hand to his face and raked his cheek
with her long nails. He had his gun in his right
hand and could do nothing about it. He swore,
twisted at her left wrist, which he held
imprisoned behind her back, until she gasped
and let her revolver drop.
He swung her away from him, stooped and
picked up the revolver. “If you weren’t such a
little killer,” he said, “it would be a pleasure to
hold on to you?”
She stood erect, panting. Her suit was
slightly disarranged. She smiled at him, started
to say, “I like the way you—” Then she
stopped and gasped. Her gaze roved the office.
Denison swore. Zadukian was gone! On
the desk the platinum bar glittered under the
electric light.
CHAPTER II
TRIGGER FINGERS
ND then the telephone rang. Denison
sighed, bolstered his gun, and said,
“Well, I’m glad he’s gone. Now there
won’t be any shooting for a while.
The woman asked, “What ar-re you going
to do with me?”
“Wait’ll I answer the phone.”
She nodded and slumped into a chair. Now
that the fat man had disappeared, the fight
seemed to have left her.
Denison picked up the platinum bar from
the desk, pocketed it, and lifted the French
phone.
“Hello!” a voice barked into his ear.
“Spartan?”
“Right,” said Denison.
“Who’s this talking?”
“Ed Denison.”
“This is Detective Sergeant Rice,
Homicide Bureau. I don’t think I know you.”
“I’m a new man here. Used to be in
business for myself in Chicago.”
“All right. Better send a representative up
here to Raymond Masterson’s house—Fifth
Avenue and Sixty-eighth. It seems some stuff
you insure has been stolen.”
“Did you say—Homicide Bureau?”
Denison demanded.
“That’s right. There’s been murder here
besides robbery. Masterson’s been killed!”
Denison exclaimed, “The hell you say!”
Then: “Okay, Rice, thanks for calling. The
boss will appreciate it. We’ll have someone up
there right away.”
He hung up and looked at Nina. “Well,
lady, it’s murder!”
She shrugged. “Masterson was a fool. He
kept the eyes of Durga in a wall safe. They
had to kill him.”
“You’re in a tough spot, lady,” Denison
said. “Open up and maybe I’ll be able to help
you.”
“I deed not keel Masterson,” she said
matter-of-factly.
“Who did—Zadukian?”
She shook her head scornfully. “He has
no—what you call—guts.”
“Well, who did?”
She was silent, eyeing him appraisingly.
Then suddenly she leaned forward in her chair.
“I like you, Mr. Detective. You would make a
gr-rand lover; and I could make you happy—
so happy!” Her eyes were black, misty,
promising. “Let us go together to this address
in the Bronx that Zadukian gave you. We will
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The Eyes of Durga
5
together take from him the eyes of Durga, and
we will go away together. I know where I can
get much money for them—a hundred
thousand dollars! You and I will spend it
together—on the Riviera!” She breathed the
last throatily, hungrily.
Denison grinned. “That’s a good act, lady.
You missed your vocation.”
She snapped at him, “Fool! Men have—”
She was interrupted by the telephone.
Denison picked it up, still grinning.
It was Zadukian. “That woman—” he
demanded, “—she is still there?”
“Yes,” Denison answered guardedly.
“Be careful. She is dangerous.”
“I know it. Thanks for your interest. Is that
what you called for?”
“I wish to be sure that you come tonight to
Worthing Street. You will bring the reward?”
“Yes.”
“But come alone; No police. You promise
it?”
“Yes.”
“If you bring police, you do not get the
eyes of Durga.”
“You can take my word for it”
Zadukian hung up. Denison clicked down
the hook and dialed a private number. It rang
for two minutes before he got a sleepy
“Hello.”
“This is Denison, boss,” he said. “The eyes
of Durga—whatever they are—have been
stolen. Masterson, their owner, is murdered.
I’ve got a wild woman here in the office, who
wanted to shoot up the place. And I’ve just
promised five thousand reward to get those
damn’ eyes back—have an appointment for
twelve o’clock. Okay so far?”
Bannister, the boss, growled at the other
end. “Sure! Go up to ten if you have to. We
got them covered for a hundred and fifty
grand! Who’s the woman?”
“I don’t know yet. I don’t seem to know
anything. What the hell are these here eyes of
Durga?”
“They’re a pair of matched rubies that
came from a Hindu shrine once—the shrine of
some goddess named Durga.”
“All right,” Denison said. “Now I know.
Where can I get the five grand?”
“I’ve got cash here. I’ll meet you with it in
a half-hour at Masterson’s house. Who has
charge over there?”
“A guy named Rice. He’s the one that
called up.”
“Rice is okay. But watch your tongue up
there. If he gets wise to your appointment, he’s
liable to gum the works.”
Denison was about to answer when he
heard a startled exclamation from the woman.
He looked up, eyes narrowed. Two men had
just slipped in from the corridor, with drawn
guns.
One of them grinned wickedly at Nina, the
other covered Denison and clipped out, “Drop
the phone!”
Denison calmly held on and spoke into the
mouthpiece. “Two guys with guns. One is tall
and cross-eyed, the other is a little runt with
two broken teeth in front—”
HE tall man cursed and sprang across the
room. He brought the barrel of his gun
down on Denison’s head. Denison jerked
aside and the barrel raked his cheek. He
dropped the phone and sat still, looking into
the hole of the muzzle. He could hear
Bannister’s frantic voice coming out of the
instrument on the desk. “Denison! What’s
happened? Denison! Denison!”
The tall man motioned toward the phone.
“Tell him it’s a joke!”
Denison looked at the bleak eyes that
stared unwinkingly at him over the gun. He
shrugged, picked up the phone and said, “It’s a
joke.”
The tall man tore the phone from his
fingers and slammed it down in the cradle.
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Secret Agent “X”
6
“Funny, ain’t you?” he snarled.
The little man had come up close to the
woman. “Look who we got here, Gratz,” he
said in a deep voice that sounded queer
coming from such a small man. “Little Nina’s
playin’ wit’ the bulls now!” He put out a hand
and patted her shoulder.
She squirmed in her chair, her hands
tightly clenched.
Gratz growled, “Stow it, Bliss. We got
business.” Then to Denison, “Get up, you, and
come over here!”
Denison got up and came around the desk.
He touched his finger to the gash in his cheek,
left by the gun barrel.
“I owe you for this,” he said quietly.
The big man slapped him in the face with a
gloved hand. “You’ll owe me more yet!” He
said to the other, “Come over here and fan
him, Bliss.”
Bliss came around in back of him and ran
expert hands over his person. Gratz moved
back so that he covered both Denison and the
woman.
Bliss got Denison’s gun from the shoulder
holster, and the woman’s gun from the lefthand pocket. From his right-hand pocket he
took out the platinum bar. “Got it!” he
exclaimed. “This is the setting. He must have
the rubies, too!”
He searched thoroughly, feeling in the
lining of Denison’s coat, in the lining of his,
tie, under his garters. He apparently knew all
the places to look. Finally he said: “They’re
not on him, Gratz. He must have hid them
some place in the room. We’ll have to tear it
apart.”
“No time,” said Gratz. “That guy at the
other end of the phone wasn’t fooled. There’ll
be cops here any minute.” He poked his gun
into Denison’s chest. “Talk, guy! Or get
rubbed out!” His jaw jutted. “You know how a
guy feels with a slug in his lungs?”
Denison said, “I haven’t got them.”
“You have. We saw Zadukian come out of
here. You have the setting. He must’ve turned
them over to you for the reward.”
“No, he didn’t,” said Denison. “And
besides that, you can go to hell. You’re not
doing any killing now. I gave your description
over the wire just now. They’d pick you up in
half an hour!”
Gratz leered at him. “It don’t matter, guy,
we’re wanted for murder anyway! Now—
talk!”
Denison was silent.
“All right, guy, I’m giving it to you. We’ll
make the woman talk. Here goes!”
Denison lunged sideways. At the same
time his hand flashed up and struck at Gratz’s
gun wrist. The gun exploded and Denison felt
a flash of hot pain across his ribs. He
staggered back. The gun had been deflected
enough for the bullet to just graze his side.
Gratz snarled. He swung the gun into line
again. Denison felt a little dizzy. He wanted to
dive in at the big gunman but his legs
wavered. A forty-five will do that to a man,
even if it only tickles his ribs. He saw death in
Gratz’s trigger finger.
And it was the woman who saved him.
Suddenly she called out shrilly, “Gratz!
Don’t shoot! He has not the rubies! Zadukian
deed not bring them!”
Gratz stopped, looked at her. Bliss said,
“Get through, Gratz. The cops’ll be here!”
AND from the street, ten floors below, they
heard the thin, shrill scream of a police siren.
“The radio cars!” Gratz exclaimed. “Let’s
get out of here. Grab that dame, Bliss. We’ll
take her!”
Bliss seized the woman about the waist.
She struggled, scratched, kicked. Bliss raised
his fist and brought it down on the side of her
head. She gasped, slumped in his arms. He
raised her and carried her out over his
shoulder.
The Eyes of Durga
7
Gratz backed out after him, his eyes and
the muzzle of his gun boring at Denison.
Denison supported himself weakly, both hands
behind him on the desk, gathering strength. He
knew that Gratz wasn’t going to leave him
behind alive—knew it from Gratz’s face.
He saw the ridges of muscle tighten along
the tall gunman’s jaw. He saw the gun stop
wavering and settle, with the sight along his
chest. And he dived—dived a split second
before the gun roared and the window behind
him was shattered.
He struck Gratz below the knees. Gratz
stumbled backward out of the doorway.
Denison dropped behind the wall, out of sight
from the corridor. He heard Bliss call, “Come
on, Gratz. To hell with him. We got to run
down ten flights!”
He poked his head out of the doorway and
saw the two of them, Bliss still carrying the
woman, hurrying through the door with the red
light above it at the end of the hall. Gratz
turned and saw him, and fired once more. He
pulled his head in and heard the slug bury
itself in the woodwork.
He had struck Gratz with his shoulder. It
hurt badly. His side burned, too. He cursed
when he tried to stand up.
After a moment or two he made it, looked
cautiously out again. The others had
disappeared. He staggered out into the
corridor. The indicator on the elevator shaft
showed that a cage was racing up. The
indicator reached ten, and the door banged
open. Two policemen barged out, guns drawn.
“H’ist ‘em!” one of them rapped at
Denison.
Denison yelled, “Cut it, sap! I’m a Spartan
man. Those guys got away down the stairs!”
“Yeah? Hold him here, Jerry. I’ll go see if
he’s right.” He dashed for the stairway door.
“You damn’ fool!” Denison called after
him. “There’s two of ‘em with guns. Head
them off. Take the elevator down!”
The cop who remained with him shoved
him back with a hand on his chest. “Never
mind, bo. We know our business! Let’s go in
that office an’ see what’s what.”
Suddenly there came the sound of
gunshots from the stairway. They both ran to
the door, the cop cursing. They had to go
down three flights before they saw the body of
the policeman who had just left them. There
was a hole in his head.
CHAPTER III
THE ARMENIAN
HE cop who had come down with
Denison was a young rookie. He looked
sick. “God!” he whispered. “Grady’s
through! An’ he was just tellin’ me about his
kids not five minutes ago in the car!”
Denison said bitterly, “If he had only
listened to me! We could have headed them
off.”
“They’ll be headed off all right,” the cop
said grimly. “There was another radio car with
us. The crew is downstairs in the lobby.”
Denison shook his head. “No good.
There’s a mezzanine on the second floor. It
connects through with the next building. They
go through that and come out on Fifth
Avenue—in the clear.”
“What’ll we do?” asked the cop.
“Let me take Grady’s gun. They got mine.
I’ll go down after them.”
The cop shook his head. “No. I’ll go. I’d
like to get them in shooting distance!”
“A tall guy and a short guy,” Denison told
him. “One of ‘em will be carrying a woman.
Don’t shoot her.”
The cop went down the stairs. Denison
waited beside Grady’s body. Soon he heard
people coming down. It was a precinct captain
with a couple of plain-clothes men. With them
was Bannister, Denison’s boss.
The police captain swore when he saw
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Secret Agent “X”
8
Grady’s body.
“What’s been happening here?” Bannister
demanded. “I called headquarters after you
hung up and told ‘em to send the radio cars.”
“Those two guys,” Denison explained.
“They started shooting.”
“Know why?” one of the detectives asked.
“Nope. They barged in and started
fireworks.”
Bannister took Denison by the arm and led
him up to their floor. “Were they connected
with this Masterson business?”
“I’ll say they were, boss. They wanted
those damned eyes of Durga. Wouldn’t believe
I didn’t have them.”
He told Bannister everything that had
happened. “This Zadukian,” he finished,
“seems to have the goods. Promised to deliver
at Number 1118 Worthing Avenue, at
midnight.”
“If those two eggs that were here don’t get
to him first.” Bannister took out a long manila
envelope from his breast pocket. “There it is.
Five grand in hundreds, twenties, and tens. Put
it away and don’t let these coppers get wise
we’re going for the stuff. They’d raid the place
and scare him away.”
Denison had just put the envelope in his
pocket when the police captain appeared in the
corridor. He looked gloomy.
“Let’s go down to the lobby,” he said.
“We’ll see what luck they had.”
They got in the elevator. Bannister said:
“Those guys know their way around. They
wouldn’t take the lobby. They must have gone
through the connecting corridor and out on
Fifth Avenue.”
He was right. The policemen in the lobby
hadn’t seen anybody. One of the plain-clothes
men who had gone around the corner belatedly
said that a pedestrian had seen two men and a
woman take a taxi only a minute or two
before. He couldn’t recall what kind of taxi it
was.
Denison gave a close description of them,
and the captain snapped to one of the men,
“Phone down town. Get out an alarm.”
Bannister said, “Can I take my man along
now? I need him.”
The police captain eyed him shrewdly.
“You’ve got something up your sleeve,
Bannister. Come across.”
“I haven’t, Lacey,” Bannister assured him.
“Everybody knows you make deals with
these guys. All you want is to get the stolen
stuff back. I bet this is tied in with the
Masterson job!”
“If it is, we’ll find out soon enough. What
do you say—does Denison come with me?”
“Go ahead,” Lacey conceded. “But see that
he’s available when we need him.” He put a
big hand on Bannister’s shoulder as they were
about to leave. “Remember, Bannister—if
you’re holding anything out on me, God help
you! A cop’s been killed!”
HEY got in a taxi at the corner. Bannister
told the driver, “Sixty-eighth and Fifth.”
To Denison he said, looking at his wrist
watch: “It’s only ten-thirty. It shouldn’t take
more than a half-hour to get to the Bronx.
We’ll stop at Masterson’s place and see what’s
what. Maybe we can get a line on those two
hoods of yours. From what you tell me, they
must be the ones who killed Masterson and got
the rubies. If so, how the hell did this rat of a
Zadukian get them? And where does the dame
fit?”
Denison managed a grin. “Are you asking
me or telling me? I feel dizzy—like a merrygo-round.” He touched the gash in his cheek,
took out a handkerchief and wiped it.
Bannister asked, “How’s your side?”
“It hurts. But it isn’t bad. It was just
scraped—no fault of Gratz’s. He did his best
to make a good job of it.”
“Can you keep going? I’d hate to have
somebody else go up to the Bronx. Zadukian
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The Eyes of Durga
9
would probably fly the coop. He knows you.”
“I’ll last,” Denison said.
At Masterson’s home, Detective Sergeant
Rice shook hands with Denison at Bannister’s
introduction.
“Where did Masterson get it?” Bannister
asked him.
“Up in his bedroom. There’s a wall-safe
there. They must have known the combination,
because the safe was opened without soup.
Masterson must have come in on them while
they were working. He got stabbed in the
throat.”
“Let’s take a look.”
Rice grumbled. “We’re always helping
you guys out. And what do we get? You go
and make deals behind our back. All you’re
interested in is to recover the swag!”
Bannister patted him on the back. “I’ve
always treated you square, haven’t I?”
“Oh, nuts!” Rice growled. “Come on up.”
They followed him upstairs and into
Masterson’s bedroom.
“The body’s just been taken away,” Rice
told them. “But if you’ve had supper recently,
you’re better off not seeing it. There’s the wall
safe. Everything left in it but the eyes of
Durga. There were no other jewels. The rest
are in a bigger safe downstairs. He kept some
securities here, but they weren’t touched.”
Denison went over to the dresser on which
were spread a number of papers that Rice had
evidently been working on.
“Those are papers and things from the
servants’ rooms,” the detective sergeant
informed him. “I was just going over them.”
Denison picked up a flat little folder with a
stiff cover.
“That’s a seaman’s book,” Rice said. “It
belongs to Masterson’s valet, an Armenian
named Karabajian. This is his day off—hasn’t
been around since this morning. We’ll
question him when he gets back.”
Denison opened the seaman’s book. A
photograph of Karabajian was pasted to the
inside of the cover.
Rice came over and said: “Notice when he
came to this country—1929, off the Greek
steamer, Acropolis. He evidently jumped ship
and stayed in this country illegally. He can be
deported if we turn him over to the
immigration people. Funny how guys get in
trouble when there’s a murder. They think
they’re okay, then plop — someone gets
bumped and we go poking into their past life.
Take this guy Karabajian. He could have
stayed in this country for the rest of his life if
Masterson hadn’t got bopped.”
Denison was listening to Rice’s
disquisition with only one ear. For the picture
of the valet, Karabajian, was an exact likeness
of Zadukian!
HE telephone alongside the bed rang, and
Rice went to answer the call.
Denison said to Bannister out of the
corner of his mouth: “Take a look at this mug,
boss. It’s Zadukian—the guy I’m going to
meet at twelve o’clock!”
Bannister pursed his lips in a noiseless
whistle. “Holy Mike! The valet! He was in on
it, and it’s murder, Ed. If we trade with him,
we’re accessories after the fact!”
Denison put the picture down. “He didn’t
kill Masterson, boss. The dame told me he
didn’t. It’s Gratz and Bliss who are the killers
in that crowd.” He stroked the gash in his
cheek. “I’d like to get my paws on that Gratz!”
Bannister said, “Sh-h!”
Rice was through with the phone. He hung
up, looking grim, straight at Denison.
“So there was a little scrap over at your
office,” he said.
Denison grinned uncomfortably.
“Yeah. I got this—and this.” He indicated
his cheek and the rent in his coat where
Gratz’s bullet had grazed him.
Rice nodded. “Yeah. You left in an awful
T
Secret Agent “X”
10
hurry.”
Bannister protested. “Lacey said it was
okay.”
“Sure. That was Lacey on the phone just
now. He’s all in a sweat. Claims you talked
him into letting Denison go when he should
have taken him down town to look at pictures
in the rogues’ gallery. He’s supposed to try to
identify the two mugs that shot Grady.”
“Hell!” Bannister exclaimed. “He should
have thought of that before. We have to go
now. We got an appointment.”
“Sorry,” Rice said amiably. “The chief
inspector’s on the scene over there and he
bawled the sweat off Captain Lacey. So orders
is, Denison stays here till a squad car picks
him up.”
Bannister was red in the face. “But
listen—”
“Don’t argue with me,” Rice grinned.
“Argue with the chief inspector. I gotta follow
orders. Anyway, why get hot? It won’t take
long down town—a couple of hours. He’ll be
out by one or two o’clock.” He grimaced at
Denison. “You ought to be glad you ain’t held
as a material witness!”
Bannister stormed. “This is outrageous.
Let me take him with me now. I’ll guarantee
to bring him back by twelve-thirty.”
Rice shook his head. “Want me to get
suspended or something? Nix! Come on
downstairs till the squad-car comes.” He
thwacked Bannister on the back. “Take it like
a good sport.”
“It’s unconstitutional!” Bannister blazed.
“It’s interfering with the rights of a citizen. I’ll
get him out on a writ!”
“Take it easy,” Rice soothed, as he herded
them down the stairs. “I’ll begin to suspect
you got a deal on to get back the rubies.” He
stopped short on the steps. “Hell! I bet that’s
what it is! You two have an appointment to
pick up the rubies tonight! Well, you’ll just
stick around, boys—the two of you.”
Bannister controlled himself with
difficulty. Down in the hallway he buttonholed
the detective sergeant. “I’ve treated you fair in
the past, Rice,” he cajoled. “Don’t cross me in
this. It’s important”
Rice shook his head. “No, sir. We got to
get Grady’s killers. I don’t care if it costs your
damn’ company a million dollars!”
Denison was standing behind Rice. He
winked at Bannister, then put his hand to his
side and groaned.
Rice turned around.
Denison groaned again. “God, my side!
That bullet must have nicked a rib! I feel
weak!” He closed his eyes, clutched at Rice’s
sleeve, and allowed his body to sink down to
the floor.
Bannister cried, “He’s fainted!”
Rice said, “What the hell! We didn’t have
to argue. He couldn’t go with you anyway.”
Bannister knelt and cradled Denison’s
head under his arm. “He must be hurt worse
than he thought. Better get some water.”
Rice hurried to the back of the house,
toward the kitchen. As soon as he had
disappeared, Denison squirmed to his feet.
“Gimme your gun,” he said to Bannister. ‘I’m
on my way. Hold the bloodhound back.”
Bannister gave him his gun. “Good boy.
Go ahead. I’ll handle Rice. I know how to talk
to these boys.”
ENISON sneaked out the front door. The
uniformed patrolman outside the door
looked at him, said, “It’s a nice night,
ain’t it?”
“If it don’t snow,” said Denison.
He started up the street, trying to keep
himself from running.
And then he got a break.
A cab slowed up alongside the curb, the
driver evidently looking at house numbers.
Denison reached for the door, opened it,
started to get in.
D
The Eyes of Durga
11
The driver said, “Wait a minute, mister.
Sorry, but I can’t take you. I’m here on police
business.”
Denison got in and closed the door. “Drive
uptown,” he ordered. “You can tell me all
about it on the way. I’m in a hurry!”
“But I was told to ask for Captain Lacey.
They said at headquarters that he’d be here, at
the Masterson home.”
Denison flashed his shield. “Take a look,
bo. I’m Lacey. Get started!”
The driver turned his head, saw the glint of
the shield. “Okay, cap!” He stepped on the
gas. “Suits me.”
Denison looked out of the rear window
and saw Rice dash out of the house and stand
at the curb looking after them. It was too dark
to distinguish the numbers on the license
plates, and Denison felt reasonably safe.
“Where’ll I take you, captain?” the driver
inquired.
“Drive up the east side toward the Bronx.
Now tell me what it’s all about.”
“Well,” the driver said, “I had my radio
tuned in for the short wave, and I heard that
headquarters wanted information about three
people who took a cab on Fifth Avenue about
a half-hour ago—two men and a woman—in
connection with a cop gettin’ killed. So I
called up headquarters, an’ they told me to
shoot right up to the Masterson home, that you
were on your way over there.”
They made a left turn, then another left
turn, and sped up Madison Avenue.
Denison’s pulse raced. “What about those
three people?” he demanded impatiently.
“Well, I’m the guy that rode them. And
what’s more, captain, I know where they
went!”
CHAPTER IV
KILLERS’ TRAIL
HIS is where I dropped ‘em,” said the
cab driver. He had pulled up before a
shabby rooming house in the West
One Hundred and Thirties, off Seventh
Avenue.
“They went in there, the three of them. The
woman didn’t seem so happy about it, either.”
“All right,” said Denison. “Wait for me.”
He climbed the tall stoop and rang a dirty
bell. After a while the door was opened by a
lean woman with bleary eyes. She wore a torn,
cheap house dress.
“Yes?” she asked, as if she didn’t care
what he wanted.
Denison pushed the door open and walked
into the hallway.
The woman shrilled at him. “Sa-ay—”
Denison closed the door and faced her. He
flashed his badge. “A woman and two men,”
he said. “They came here a short while ago.
One of the guys is little with two broken front
teeth. The tall one is cross-eyed. Names of
Gratz and Bliss—or maybe different names.
What room?”
The woman eyed him defiantly. “Never
seen them, mister.”
Denison leaned close, whispered, “Will
you tell me, sister, or do I take the house
apart?”
She waved at him angrily. “Get out of
here! You can’t fool me. You’re only a private
dick. Get out before I call the cops!”
He caught her wrist. “This is murder,
sister. Don’t fool around with murder. You
show me their room or I’ll call the cops!”
She went pale. “You ain’t kiddin’, are
you?”
“No.”
“All right. It’s room eight. Up at the head
of the stairs. But the two men went out. It’s
their room. They said they were leaving the
woman to catch some sleep—she wasn’t
feeling well.”
Denison was halfway up the stairs. The
“T
Secret Agent “X”
12
woman came after him.
The door of room eight was locked.
“I have a pass-key,” she said. Her fingers
fumbled it nervously. “God,” she exclaimed,
“I hope I don’t get mixed in this. I can’t afford
to have cops comin’ in here. It’ll ruin
business.”
Denison took the key from her. He inserted
it in the lock, turned it, and flung the door
open.
The room was lit. It contained a bed, a
dresser, and one chair. On the bed was the
woman, Nina.
She was dead. There was a knife in her
throat. The blanket was red and wet. There
was a broad stain of crimson on the bosom of
her tailored suit. Denison shivered. He had
held her warm body less than an hour ago.
He approached the bed.
She had no shoes on. They lay on the
floor. Near them were numerous burned
matches.
The stockings had been ripped from her
legs. The soles of both her feet were blackened
and scorched. They told him a story. She had
been tortured for information and then killed.
She must have told them the address on
Worthing Street, where he was to meet
Zadukian. And then they had killed her. It took
him a moment to get control of himself. As he
turned to go, he almost stumbled over the
woman who had admitted him. She had
fainted. He stepped over her and dashed down
the stairs with teeth clenched tight.
Gratz and Bliss! Gratz and Bliss! He kept
repeating the names in his mind. He wanted
them now. He didn’t care about the rubies so
much any more. He wanted those two killers!
UTSIDE, the cab still stood at the curb,
but the driver was nowhere in sight. He
came close to the cab, and heard the radio
inside it. A voice was intoning: “Calling all
cars! Repeating instructions! Pick up Edward
Denison, private detective. Wanted as material
witness! He has a fresh scar on his left cheek.
Last seen in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue and
Sixty-eighth Street. May be riding in a taxicab.
Look out for tricks. He is very clever.
Calling—” And the voice went on, repeating
the instructions once more in a monotone.
Denison stiffened. He saw the taxi driver
come running down the street with a
patrolman beside him. The driver was pointing
to him.
Denison looked around. The street was
quiet, only one or two pedestrians. The driver
and the cop were still half a block away.
He got behind the wheel of the cab. The
motor was running. He shoved the stick into
first and stepped on the accelerator. The cab
lunged ahead, away from the two pursuers.
Behind him he heard a shout, then the shrill of
a police whistle.
He was in high now, racing toward Lenox.
He heard a shot from behind, then another. But
he was too far away from the cop.
There was a green light at Lenox Avenue,
and he rounded into it in a wide left-hand turn
at forty miles an hour. There was a red light at
the next corner. He made a right turn, shot
across town to Fifth, and across the bridge to
the Bronx.
Soon the radio in back began to stutter,
and the same monotonous voice began to
intone: “Calling all cars! Look out for Black
and Tan cab, license number 0453. Stolen by
Edward Denison. He has a gash—”
Denison swore. He pulled to the curb on a
dark street along the Yankee Stadium, cut off
the motor and got out.
He walked over to Jerome Avenue and
watched for a cab that didn’t have a sign,
“Radio Equip’t.”
He finally got one and gave the address on
Worthing Street. As the cab got under way, he
glanced at his wrist watch. It was eleven-fortyfive.
O
The Eyes of Durga
13
ORTHING STREET was in the
extreme East Bronx. Number eleveneighteen was a four-story walk-up
apartment house of the cheaper class.
Denison said to the cab driver: “Stick
around. Wait for me. And don’t go wandering
away listening to radios or anything. I’ll take
care of you.”
He went into the dark vestibule and
examined the names on the bells. Few of the
tenants had bothered to put their names in the
slides above the bells. This was a section of
the city where visitors were apt to be process
servers or men to take away unpaid-for
furniture. The tenants here evidently had no
desire to make it easy for such callers to locate
them. The name of Zadukian or Karabajian did
not appear.
Denison went on into the unlit hallway and
climbed the stairs. Apartment 4D, the number
Zadukian had given him, was on the top floor.
Denison negotiated the last flight
cautiously. The electric light bulbs were lit
only on the first and third floors. The second
and fourth were in darkness. He snapped on
his flashlight and managed to decipher a faded
“4D” on one of the doors. A sliver of light
shone under it. He transferred Bannister’s gun
from the shoulder holster to his coat pocket.
Then he knocked.
There was a slight sound of movement
from within, and almost immediately the light
went out. He waited, straining his ears. There
was no further sound inside.
He put out his flashlight, and tried the
door, turning the knob carefully.
The door was not locked!
He knelt down and pushed it open, then
crawled in on his hands and knees. Gently, he
closed the door, and stood up. He could see
nothing in the pitch blackness. He held his
flashlight at arm’s length and snapped it on.
He swung the beam around the room, and cut
off the light quickly. Then he changed his
position.
He swallowed hard. His hands were
clammy. For in the second that the light had
been on he had seen a terrible thing. The body
of Zadukian hung from the chandelier in the
center of the room!
His throat had been cut, and the head hung
at a queer angle, looking down at his dangling
heels. His white shirt front was coated with
blood, and there was a pool of blood on the
floor beneath him.
Denison crouched, listening. He had that
peculiar awareness that there were others in
the room with him.
His hand touched something, and he drew
it away quickly. He took out his gun. Then he
put out his hand again. It was a couch he had
touched. He ran his hand along it to feel the
contour.
E was sure now that there were others in
the room with him. But why hadn’t they
shot when he had lit the flashlight?
Perhaps they were closing in to use cold steel,
as they had done on Zadukian.
And suddenly somebody jumped him!
An arm clawed around his neck. He shifted
sidewise, carrying the other with him. There
was a hot breath in his face and something
swished by his cheek.
It caught him in the shoulder, ripped the
cloth of his sleeve, tore into his arm. And he
felt a numbing, searing pain from shoulder to
elbow as the knife raked him.
He raised his right hand and brought the
barrel down viciously. He felt it crunch into
bone. There was a gasp, and his attacker
slumped, sank down.
There was a cautious movement at the
other end of the room. A low voice demanded,
“Bliss! Did you get him?”
Denison fired at the voice.
There was a startled oath, and the sound of
W
H
Secret Agent “X”
14
someone stumbling. Then a gun roared from
the other side and a slug whined past
Denison’s head and thugged into the wall.
Denison fired again, a little to the right of the
gun-flash.
He heard a long sigh from the other side.
There were no more shots.
After a while he ventured to snap on his
light again. Gratz was sitting on the floor, his
back against the wall, panting. He was ghastly
white, and was holding both hands to his
stomach where Denison’s last slug had got
him, trying to stanch the flow of blood.
Denison swung his flashlight down to
where Bliss lay unconscious at his feet, with a
bloody gash in his head. Then he crossed the
room, past the grisly, hanging corpse of
Zadukian, and knelt beside Gratz.
Gratz was trying to say something. His
pallid lips were trying to form words.
Denison brought his ear close. Gratz was
saying, “Get a doctor, for God’s sake!” Even
as he said it, he closed his eyes and died.
Denison found the light switch and put it
on. He shuddered as the room became brightly
illuminated. Bliss stirred and opened his eyes.
Denison heard the mumbling of voices
outside. Evidently the neighbors had heard the
shooting, but were afraid to come in.
He knelt beside Bliss, gripping his gun by
the stock. He waved the barrel in front of the
little gunman’s eyes. “Talk,” he said, “or I’ll
rake you with the sight till your face is in
ribbons. Where are those rubies?”
Bliss was fully conscious now. There was
abject fear in his eyes as they looked into
Denison’s. “Gratz’s pocket,” he whispered.
Denison went over to Gratz and put his
hand in the dead man’s pocket. He brought it
out clutching the eyes of Durga. There was
blood on them, and blood on his hand.
He came back to Bliss. “You might as well
come through with the whole thing now.”
Bliss said weakly: “Nina framed it. She
had it on Zadukian—knew he was in the
country illegally. She made him open
Masterson’s safe and take the rubies. He knew
the combination. But Zadukian wouldn’t do it
except he had an out—wanted it to look like
an outside job.” He stopped, took a deep
breath, and closed his eyes. “My head hurts
like hell.”
“Never mind,” Denison ordered. “Your
head’ll hurt worse if I drag this gun across it.
Go ahead.”
‘Nina sent for us. We come from Detroit.
The lay was for Zadukian to take the rubies
out of the safe in the morning, before he went
off for the day. We were supposed to bust in
and mess the place up, make it look like an
outside job. But Masterson walked in on us
and I—gave it to him.
“Then Zadukian got cold feet and figured
he’d cross us, turn in the stones for the reward.
And Nina—” he managed a sickly grin, “—
she figured on crossing all of us. She wanted
to get the rubies from Zadukian and lam by
herself.”
Denison said, “What a gang!”
There was a noisy rush of feet on the
stairway outside. Excited voices shouted, “In
there—in 4D. Someone’s been shooting!”
And a gruff, authoritative voice, “Stand
back, everybody, we’re goin’ in!”
Denison opened the door. Outside there
was Captain Lacey, with Detective Sergeant
Rice and a squad of men. And next to Lacey
was Bannister.
Bannister grinned like a cat when he saw
Denison on his feet.
“Come in, boys,” Denison invited.
“Everything is under control.” He suddenly
felt very weak.
He stood aside while they trooped into the
room. Bannister grabbed his arm and he
winced.
“Hell, you’re all cut up!” Bannister said.
“No, just sliced here and there.”
The Eyes of Durga
15
Lacy exclaimed, “What the devil’s been
going on here?”
“I got worried about you,” Bannister told
Denison. “With the police after you, and these
gorillas on the other end, and everything. So I
opened up to Lacey. Told him where you were
going. That’s why we’re here. And Lacey
agreed to withdraw all charges against you. I
fixed everything.”
Denison tried to smile. “Yeah. You fixed
everything. Here’s your damn’ rubies.” And
he fainted.

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