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Thrilling Detective, August 1944
Guinea Pig Money
By BENTON BRADEN
Blackie thought he had a good racket if his experiment
worked—but he based his trust on faulty reasoning!
HIL SPENCE, sergeant-ofdetectives, was red-faced, smarting,
as he came from the commissioner’s
office. Spence, with other detectives, had
received a blistering from the
commissioner because a series of crimes,
ranging from a snatch to hit-and-run cases,
had gone unsolved.
The newspapers had landed on the
department, and the commissioner had
taken it out on the dicks. Spence was sore.
He had been working his head off, trying
to get leads on some of those cases.
He went on down to his office,
recognized the big, fat, round-faced lady
who was sitting by his desk. Mrs. Moriaty
had been the victim of a hit-and-run artist.
She was a loud-mouthed woman and she
had expressed her opinion in brightly
colored phrases when the cops hadn’t been
able to grab the man who hit her.
Spence figured he was in for it again.
Mrs. Moriaty could lay it on in harsher
P
THRILLING DETECTIVE 2
terms than the commissioner. But this was
one case on which Spence had a good lead
and he knew he would have that driver in a
few hours.
“Good morning, Mrs. Moriaty.”
Spence spoke quickly to beat her to the
punch. “Now I can promise you that we’ll
have the man within twenty-four hours.
When we get him we’ll make an example
of him that will keep others from doing the
same thing. So you just give us twentyfour hours more—and we’ll have your
man in a cell.”
Mrs. Moriaty didn’t react as Spence
had expected. She didn’t raise her shrill
voice and bawl him out for not showing
her results instead of making promises.
Her attitude seemed restrained, almost
demure. “Sergeant,” she said slowly, “I’ve
been thinking things over. After all, I
wasn’t really injured in that accident. I
didn’t have a single bone broken. I really
wasn’t hurt at all.”
“No thanks to the guy that hit you,”
Spence said shortly. “He smacked you and
rolled you into the gutter, didn’t he? Then
stepped on it and got away as fast as he
could. You might have been laid up in a
hospital for months. We’re going to make
it hot for that bird—whether you were hurt
bad or not.”
Mrs. Moriaty didn’t show any
enthusiasm. She rolled her eyes a little.
“Sergeant,” she said, “I just wish
you’d—drop that case. I don’t want to
press the charges. The way things have
worked out—I’d rather drop the whole
thing.”
Spence stared at her. He knew what he
was up against now. A fix! The man who
had hit her had become frightened. He was
afraid he might be caught later. So he had
sneaked around and squared things with
her, hoping he could hush the whole
matter up. Spence began to get a bit mad.
“So you want to drop the case, do you,
Mrs. Moriaty? Yesterday you were in
here, reading the riot act to us and yelling
for blood. Now you’re doing a complete
about-face. I know the answer to that. This
guy made a contact with you, didn’t he?
I’ll bet he slipped you fifty or a hundred
bucks to make you change your tune. Isn’t
that a good guess?” Mrs. Moriaty suddenly
smiled broadly.
She opened her mouth and spoke
loudly—but not in vituperation.
“I’ll say he did!” she yelled exultantly.
“That guy came across and he came
across in a big way. Look!” She brought
her hand out from her purse and waved a
big roll of currency. “Five hundred bucks,
Spence. That’s more dough than I ever
saw in one piece in my whole life. Five
hundred smackers he gave me—and me
with hardly a bruise on me. Soft, huh? I’d
let him brush a fender off on me every day
for that kind of money.”
Spence frowned unhappily. He knew
he was going to pick that driver up, but it
might be hard to get a conviction if Mrs.
Moriaty behaved this way before a jury.
“I told you we were going to land this
man, Mrs. Moriaty,” he said sternly.
“When we do we’ll expect you to help us
prosecute him.”
“Prosecute him?” Mrs. Moriaty’s big
body shook with laughter. “You think I’m
crazy? You think I’m going to prosecute
Santa Claus? Well, you got another guess
coming. This guy just lost his head, that’s
all. He must really be a pretty nice man.
He said he didn’t care so much about
himself but he was trying to keep his wife
and family from being disgraced.”
“I get it,” Spence said in disgust.
“Before he gave you that five hundred he
made you promise to lay down on the
case. He made you—”
“He didn’t!” she denied. “I didn’t even
see him. I don’t know who he is. I just
GUINEA PIG MONEY 3
received a big brown envelope through the
mail and it had this five hundred bucks in
twenty-dollar bills in it—and a note.”
“You’ve got the note with you?”
“Sure. You can read it if you want to.”
Spence took the sheet of paper she
handed him. It was written in longhand
and the penmanship was very good. It was
mostly a sob story.
HE writer had a loving wife and three
babies and he didn’t want them to
suffer because of his thoughtlessness in
running away from the accident. The letter
concluded by hoping the enclosed five
hundred dollars would square things.
There was a promise of more money if
Mrs. Moriaty’s injuries proved to be more
serious than newspaper accounts had
indicated.
“You can see how I feel about it now,
Sergeant,” Mrs. Moriaty said, clutching
her five hundred in great satisfaction.
“Why should I pour it on a guy that tried
to do the right thing? So far as I’m
concerned he never hit me at all.”
“We’re going to get that lad!” Spence
said flatly. “We’re going to prosecute him
and send him to jail.”
Mrs. Moriaty flushed angrily. “Well,
you can count me out!” she declared
loudly. “I hope you never catch him, you
bungling flatfoot!”
With that she got up and flounced out
of the office.
Spence smiled grimly. He knew he
was going to have the last word in the
case. He had a witness that he had kept
under cover. That witness had identified
the hit-and-run car as an old blue coupe.
And he got the last two numbers on the
license tag. With that dope it was no more
than a matter of routine to find that driver.
They’d have him any minute now.
It was just an hour later when Logan,
one of Spence’s assistants, marched a
heavy-set man with a mean face into the
office.
“Here he is, Sergeant,” Logan
announced. “Your hit-and-run artist. Name
of Dan Steffen. Works in a mill as a
laborer. We caught him in that same old
blue coupe he was driving when he hit
Mrs. Moriaty.”
“How about it, Steffen,” Spence asked.
“You admit it?”
Steffen’s face twisted.
“Yeah, I admit it,” he grunted.
“Why didn’t you stop after you hit
Mrs. Moriaty?” Spence questioned.
“Because I was in for it either way. I
had a pretty good snootful when I had the
accident. I figured I wouldn’t get any more
for a hit-and-run than I would for drunken
driving.”
“Then you sat down and wrote Mrs.
Moriaty a letter—trying to square things?”
Steffen stared a bit stupidly.
“I didn’t write no letter to nobody,” he
said sullenly.
Spence blinked at that answer. It didn’t
add up. If Steffen had sent that money to
Mrs. Moriaty he would most certainly
admit it and claim it as a mitigating fact in
his favor.
“You married, Steffen?”
“No.”
“Are you in a position to help Mrs.
Moriaty out, pay her damages for the
injuries she suffered?”
“Nah.” Steffen shook his head. “I ain’t
worked for three weeks. I only got seven
dollars to my name.”
“But you own and operate a car.”
“I bought that car in a junk yard four
years ago and fixed it up with spare parts
so it would run. It ain’t worth fifty bucks.
Tires are about gone.”
Spence was thoughtful for a moment.
Then he leaned forward and said,
“Sit down in that chair, Steffen. Take
that pen there and write out a statement of
T
THRILLING DETECTIVE 4
the accident and what you did afterward.”
Steffen obeyed. He screwed his face
into a painful expression and wrote
awkwardly and with great effort. When he
had finished and signed his name, Spence
took the statement and read it. Every other
word was misspelled. The handwriting did
not even faintly resemble the neat script in
the letter Mrs. Moriaty had received with
the five hundred dollars of conscience
money.
Spence questioned Steffen some more
and then had him taken away.
“This is one for the book, Logan,” he
said to his assistant, after they had
discussed the case. “There is no doubt
whatever that Steffen is the man who
actually ran Mrs. Moriaty down and then
beat it. Steffen couldn’t have written that
letter Mrs. Moriaty received. We know he
didn’t have any five hundred dollars to
donate to her.”
“You could take one look at Steffen,”
Logan agreed, “and know he’d never
donate five C’s to anybody—even if he
had it. Now who could have been
interested enough in that case to have
parted with so much good dough?”
“Some smart lad, Logan. Some smart
lad with a smart purpose.”
Mrs. Moriaty started out on her
spending spree the next morning. In great
good humor, smiling from ear to ear, she
went from one store to another. Every time
she made a purchase she pulled out her
roll with a flourish and paid with twentydollar bills. She had parted with almost
three hundred dollars when she decided
she had better save some of it for a
possible rainy day. So at last she went into
the Corner Savings Bank and deposited
two hundred dollars.
Mrs. Moriaty didn’t notice that she had
been trailed during her journey by a
slender, dark-complexioned man in a
checked suit. Or that after she returned
home that man took up a position across
and down the street, from where he could
observe the entrance to the flat building in
which she lived.
She wouldn’t expect, of course, that
the donor of that five hundred would have
the slightest interest in how she spent the
money. That wouldn’t have anything to do
with his conscience.
OT long after Mrs. Moriaty returned
home Sergeant Spence came strolling
along that same street. From his manner he
seemed to be just whiling away the time.
He showed no particular interest in
anything until he came abreast of the
slender, black-eyed man. Then he stopped.
His eyes lighted in recognition.
“Well, if it isn’t Blackie Sturn,” he
said pleasantly. “Imagine meeting you
here. Haven’t seen you, Blackie, since I
picked you up for a stick-up more than a
year ago. Too bad I couldn’t make it
stick.”
“Blackie” didn’t smile, didn’t seem to
enjoy the meeting.
“You couldn’t make it stick because I
wasn’t guilty,” he retorted. “You can’t
stick a guy when he makes a habit of
stickin’ strictly to his own business.”
“And just what does your business
happen to be at the moment, Blackie!”
Spence asked.
“I’m not doin’ anything right now. I’m
out of work. Lookin’ for a job.”
“Are Big Joe Hamlin and Sniffy Blade
out of work, too? I suppose you’re still
palling around with them?”
“I ain’t see either of them for weeks,”
Blackie denied.
“I’ve got half a notion to pinch you,
Blackie,” Spence said. “Just for old times’
sake.”
“You ain’t got a thing on me! You
can’t pinch me for doin’ nothing.”
“I don’t know about that, Blackie,”
N
GUINEA PIG MONEY 5
Spence said easily. “Now I could pinch
you for hit-and-run.”
Blackie’s eyes flicked just a little.
“What hit-and-run?”
“A Mrs. Moriaty, Blackie. She lives
just across the street. She was knocked
down by a driver who kept right on going.
And here I find you standing across the
street, almost as though you were—
watching.”
“I ain’t watching nothing,” Blackie
said quickly. “I never heard of no dame
with a name like that.”
“Then you’re acting very peculiarly,
Blackie.” Sergeant Spence’s tone changed.
“Because you’ve been tailing her around
all morning. You watched her as she went
into certain stores. You watched her make
a deposit at a bank. There’s no use
disputing it because one of my men picked
you up and watched you.”
“That’s a joke,” Blackie said. “It just
happened by accident if I did. Why would
I be tailing around a dame I never heard
of?”
“To see how she spent that dough that
you sent her, Blackie. Mrs. Moriaty
received an anonymous letter in the mail.
In it was enclosed five hundred dollars in
twenty-dollar bills. It seems that the man
who ran her down was stricken with
remorse and wanted to square things—and
save his own hide.”
“When did that accident happen?”
Blackie asked quickly.
“Last Tuesday. About four in the
afternoon.”
“Tuesday, huh?” Blackie thought for a
few seconds. “You can’t hang that on me.
I haven’t even got a car. And I can prove
that I was in a certain dump drinking beer
all that afternoon. I never hit that Mrs.
Moriaty.”
“I know that, Blackie. Because we’ve
already got the guy that did the hit-and-run
job. But we’ve found out that he didn’t
send Mrs. Moriaty that five hundred
dollars. Somebody else sent it. Now that
was a puzzler. Somebody who had nothing
to do with the accident sent Mrs. Moriaty
that money. Why?”
“It was some nut that read about the
accident,” Blackie suggested.
“Or some smart guy, Blackie. Some
smart guy who got the impression, from
the newspaper accounts, that the hit-andrun artist would never be caught. And saw
an opportunity to use Mrs. Moriaty as a
guinea pig. The guy who had that money
suspected that it might be very hot,
possibly marked, and he got this bright
idea.
“If Mrs. Moriaty could spend that
dough in the stores,” continued Spence,
“deposit part of it in a bank, without
having the F.B.I. come down on her, he
could be pretty sure that he could spend
the rest of the money freely.”
Blackie was trying to smile
unconcernedly, but his smile was tight and
drawn.
“What money?”
“My guess is that it was the twentyfive grand that was paid over by Edward
Markham when his twelve-year-old son
was snatched. Markham played ball with
the snatchers, didn’t report to the cops
until he got his son back. As a matter of
fact he was on the level about the money.
The twenty-dollar bills he handed over
weren’t marked at all. But you didn’t
know that, Blackie. You and Big Joe and
Sniffy. You didn’t dare spend that dough
until you were sure it was okay. So you
used Mrs. Moriaty to—”
“You’re nuts, Spence! You can’t pin
that job on us!”
“I think I can, Blackie, now that I
know who did the job. Little Eddie
Markham is a pretty smart kid. The three
of you wore masks all the time you were
in his presence. But he had you tabbed for
THRILLING DETECTIVE 6
size pretty well.”
“There are thousands of guys about my
size.”
“You and Big Joe and Sniffy had slits
in your masks for your eyes and mouths,
didn’t you? Little Eddie could see your
mouths—and your teeth when you talked.
He said the big man had two prominent
gold fillings at the left side of his mouth.
The tallest man had very yellow teeth with
one that was almost black in the center.
How about you, Blackie? You’re the
slender man. How about that lower plate
of yours that keeps bouncing up on you
when you talk? It stands out like a—”
LACKIE’s hand moved. At first
Spence thought he was reaching for a
gun but Blackie’s hand went up above his
head in an odd gesture. And Spence, in
spite of the fact that he had thought
Blackie was alone in the street, knew it
was a signal to someone. Spence caught
that arm as it came down, spun Blackie
around, hugged him tight so he couldn’t
use his arms. Then Spence looked up the
street.
The help was corning from a car and it
was corning fast. Spence saw the face of
the man who was leaning out of the car. It
was “Big Joe” Hamlin. Big Joe was
bringing a gun over to get in position for a
shot. Spence jumped into a stairway,
dragging Blackie with him. He got out his
gun and quickly tapped Blackie over the
head.
Spence flattened against the wall of the
areaway, held his gun ready to shoot,
propping Blackie before him.
He saw the hood of the car appear. He
was shooting when Big Joe’s face came
into view again. Big Joe shot too and his
lead tore into the stairs in front of Spence.
Blackie slid slowly to the steps. Logan,
who had been planted across the street,
was taking a hand in it. Another dick,
stationed on down the street, was in action
too. The car went on by. Spence moved to
the sidewalk and emptied his gun.
He saw a tire blow out. The car
weaved crazily and caromed into a truck.
Big Joe and Sniffy had had enough. They
had their hands up as they staggered down
to the pavement. Big Joe’s right arm was
hanging awkwardly. Sniffy took two steps,
then dropped to his knees, and stayed
there.
Spence dragged Blackie out from the
stairway entrance. Logan had run up to the
car to take charge of Big Joe and Sniffy.
“Not bad, not bad,” Spence muttered
as he shook life back into Blackie. “We’ve
cracked two cases at once, one big one and
one little one. Even the commissioner
can’t squawk on that.”
B

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