Magick7's Moonlight Stories Index

 

 

 

 

Alibi Bye

Joe Archibald

 

 

 

Popular Detective , June, 1941

When Lady Luck Knocks On Willie Klump's Door, the Ingrate Detective Checks Up On Her Fingerprints

Author of “No Place Likes Homicide,”

“Scent to the Jug,” etc.

WILLIE KLUMP was flush again. As owner of the Hawkeye Detective Agency of New York, Willie's last case had thrown a sizable bunch of scratch his way. The suit he wore, however, as he sat in his office that fine morning, was a rusty blue ensemble that any hungry moth would shy at unless it was on the verge of starvation. His shoes were scuffed to the color of an abject coward's spine.

Willie had a face as innocent of guile as that of an hour-old sprout. Unbelievable but true was the fact that he actually had a reason for appearing seedy. It was uncanny how the word got around when Klump got back on the gravy train.

Three days after a chunk of reward dough was in his pocket, he had been interviewed by a smooth character who had proceeded to relieve Willie of just half his fresh bale of hay.

“How can you lose, Klump?” the visitor had urged. “Mink coats sell for three thousand bucks! You buy a pair of minks up on the farm and, before you know it, they got little minks who grow up and have little minxes. In no time you sell a dame on Park Avenue a fur coat—six hunnerd per cent profit!”

Willie had been more than impressed. He had handed over five hundred dollars for a pair of minks, which included their board and lodging for a year. Two weeks later, he had received a phone call.

“Mr. Klump?” a citizen asked.

“Sorry, them two minks of yours got sick and died. So long.”

Thus ended the short but painful career of Trapper Klump. However, he still had five Cs left and he intended keeping it. Nor was the experience wasted. Unhappy though it was, he had learned to view everyone with alarm.

A rough-looking citizen, with a cap pushed back over his bullet-shaped noggin, slid into the office. Willie immediately put up his hands.

“Aw, I don't look that hard, Mister Klump.” The visitor grinned out of one corner of his mouth. “Look, I'm Slug McGee and I belong to the Taxi Drivers' Benevolent Association. The boys are gettin' up dough to throw a gallop in Cooley's Hall on East Thirteenth Street and we're sellin' chances on a Gnash Eight. How about a book, Klump? Only two-fifty for five chances.”

“Glad to help out worthy causes,” Willie said and dug down.

He got a book of tickets and wrote his name and address on the stubs. Tearing off the five tickets he was to retain, he looked at the numbers which ran from 5010 to 5014. He shoved them into his pocket.

“I never had no luck,” Willie said. “If you sell ten thousand of those, and everybody but me and another guy holdin' the tickets drop dead, the other guy will win.”

“You kill me, Klump,” the taxi driver said. “That reminds me. You a bein' a private dick, musta heard about Hy Capstan, the fight manager, bein' found croaked in his office just awhile ago. I wonder who done it. They're suspectin' another pug maestro by the name of O'Berl.”

“What?” Willie yelped. “A murder, and me just sittin' here? Hy Capstan? His boy fought just the other night in the Garden and kayoed Palsy Walzi! Where's my hat?”

“On your dome, Klump. Well, good luck.”

Slug discovered he was alone. The great detective had already left.

WILLIE found quite a fuss in an office building on Upper Seventh Avenue. The remains of Hy Capstan still reposed on the floor of his pugilistic clearing house. Some citizen had caressed him with a bronze statuette of Gene Tunney. The corpse appraiser was telling the assembled that Hymie had been across the River Styx for roughly four hours. Aloysius “Satchelfoot” Kelly, from the D.A.'s office, was busily officiating.

“Tunney never hit nobody harder, huh?” Kelly was quipping when Willie finally squeezed into the office.

Klump was aghast.

He knocked off Capstan? This is an awful scandal. Why, he was supposed to quit boxin' and start readin'!”

Willie took off his coat and draped it over a chair. Satchelfoot Kelly picked up the haberdashery and tossed it out into the hall.

“Follow it, you dime-store dick,” Kelly growled. “I won't stand for you clutterin' up this case.”

Willie went out into the corridor and picked up his mustard-colored overcoat. Papers had fallen out of the inside pocket and were strewn on the floor. A character from Cauliflower Alley helped him collect the documents. He handed Willie a handful of auto raffle tickets and other papers of doubtful value.

“Everythin' here but a check for a short beer, pal.”

“Thank you,” Willie said. “I would be lost without these notes. When I think up somethin', I have to write it down so I will not forget.”

He went right back into the office again and almost tripped over the corpse. There was a rough-looking taxpayer, telling all he knew. He had big nubs over his peepers, which resembled purple dough surrounding shriveled huckleberries.

“Yeah,” the character was saying, “O'Berl and Capstan had woids right after the fight. The sport boys know that O'Berl climbs into the ring after Palsy Walzi takes the count and tells Hy he was crossed up, O'Berl was. He says he will kill Hy, see? The smart boys says that Hy's battler, Mickey Finlan, wasn't supposed to lick Palsy, because Mickey won the last time. There was almost a big fight between Hy and O'Berl in a joint.”

“I see,” Kelly snapped. “Hy got nice odds on Mickey as he was supposed to do a Brodie.”

“That should not be allowed,” Willie Klump stated. “It is not honest.”

“Look, Willie,” Satchelfoot said, holding up the investigation for a minute. “Like even the worst doctor, I got some patience. But you keep outa this or you will see the beast in me.”

“All right, Kelly,” Willie said. “I won't stay here another minute.”

“Now ya hoit his feelin's.” A pughandler grinned. “You want crime to spread in this burg, Kelly?”

Willie went out of the office, walked into one right next door. There were pictures of fighters all over the walls, besides a small switchboard and two easy chairs. Shuffling to the chair behind the board, he looked through a little square opening in the wall. He could see and hear everything going on in the late Hy Capstan's tin-ear butcher shop.

TWO big boys from downtown were dusting the bronze statuette with white powder. A man with a camera was taking pictures. Satchelfoot Kelly straightened up from the corpse just as two men in white came in with a long basket.

“Only one set of prints on this statue, Kelly,” a cop said. “Wasn't handled much, or maybe it was dusted off nice before the murderer swung it. When O'Berl comes in, we'll nab his prints and compare 'em. He won't have a leg to stand on. He's a coldblooded character, Mike is, eatin' corned beef sandwiches with his victim.”

“That is silly,” Willie muttered. “They was hungry. Temperature ain't got nothing to do with it.”

At that moment, two husky cops in mufti tossed an unpleasant-looking character into Hy Capstan's inner office. Mike O'Berl looked as tough as a life sentence and he wore a crude mistake on the part of clothing manufacturers. It had big checks and little purple dots, that on him, was not becoming.

“There!” Satchelfoot Kelly yelped. “Look at your vile deed, O'Berl. You rubbed out Capstan! Don't start makin' a confession till I get my fountain pen out.”

“Huh?” Mike O'Berl gulped. “Hy! Speak to me, pal!”

“If he does,” Willie mumbled, “I will sell him to Ripley.”

“You was here late last night,” Kelly stated.

“Y-yeah, b-but not s-so late,” O'Berl protested. “I come to Hy and ast him like a pal to gimme some of the scratch he got for framin' that fight. After that I went out and sashayed around town. This is awful!”

“It ain't good,” Satchelfoot agreed sourly. “Where was you between the hours of three and five this A. M.? That was when Hymie was erased.”

“That's easy, Kelly. I was—er—I won't tell you!”

Willie saw O'Berl take out a purple handkerchief and mop the fretting oil off his crank-face. He glared at the cops.

“No alibi,” Kelly said triumphantly. “Get that ink pad and some paper and we'll fingerprint the defendant. You are a cold-blooded killer, Mike. You et with your victim and with each swallow you took, you plotted this awful deed. Hy and you plotted to cheat the public. Mickey Finlan was supposed to lose, but he didn't. He kayoed your Palsy Walzi. Somebody cleaned up and some other characters were busted. Let's hold hands, O'Berl.”

Willie watched them take O'Berl's prints, then compare the results with the marks left on the bronze statue.

“The same, Satchelfoot!” a cop said. “Look at 'em through this magnifyin' glass. Arrest O'Berl for the murder of Hymie Capstan!”

Willie groaned. It looked to him as if Satchelfoot Kelly really had solved a crime. It was unbelievable.

“I want a lawyer!” Mike O'Berl howled. “I didn't kill Hy, but I won't tell you where I was when he was killed. I got my reasons.”

“You better get two lawyers,” Satchelfoot advised. “From Philadelphia, Mike.”

A BIG calendar was fastened to the wall near the switchboard. It drew Willie's attention. A certain date, ringed with a pencil, seemed to be trying to tell him something.

“When I was in to see Hy early yesterday mornin', I picked that statue up to admire it,” O'Berl said. “It was awful pretty.”

“Gimme Headquarters,” Satchelfoot said through the opening in the wall of the office.

“You bet, sugar,” Willie piped in a convincing falsetto.

“The dame in there has moxie,” Kelly said. “I will see her in a minute or two.” He picked up the phone. “Hello, this is Kelly. I nabbed Capstan's killer. Bringin' him in. Got his prints and—”

“Keep your hair on, big boy,” Willie squeaked. “You have the wrong number. This is Clara's Beauty Parlor in Yorkville.”

Klump vacated the switchboard before Satchelfoot could get his head through the opening in the wall. There was no doubt that the office building took pride in appearances, for Satchelfoot banged his face against the clean glass.

“I'll kill that dame!” Kelly raged. “Somebody get me a towel. Oh, my nose! When that cupcake gets a load of what 1 gotta say—”

“Huh?” a flat-nosed character said. “She heard there was a stiff in here and beat it downstairs and didn't come back.”

Satchelfoot sat down on a chair and got first aid. As his ponderous mental machinery began to turn over, he detected a familiar ring in the voice at the board. He went berserk and ran out into the corridor. Seeing Willie Klump leap into the elevator, he made a grab and almost lost four fingers when the elevator man slammed the door.

William Klump, president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency, sauntered toward his office, a pleased grin on his face. He had a calendar stuffed into his coat pocket, though he did not know why he had stolen it. He stopped in front of a jalopy salesroom and admired a Gnash Eight.

“I guess Gertie would sit up and take notice if I stopped in front of her house in that,” he mused. “But I never was lucky at winnin' nothin'.”

Arrived at his office, he pulled the calendar out of his pocket and put it on his desk. He took paper and pencil from his pocket and tried to think. Slowly he immortalized his thoughts.

No. 1. O'Berl is guilty. His prints were on Tunney and it was Tunney who hit Hy on the head.

No.2. O'Berl had an alibi but wouldn't say where he was, so the alibi was no good.

Hy cleaned up by betting on Mickey Finlan because Mickey was supposed to do a dive. I bet some gamblers are sore.

No.3. Why did I take the calendar out of the office? Dates are funny. Last night can also be this morning, if it comes after twelve midnight. I must try and think. Why waste my time, though? O'Berl is guilty and Satchelfoot arrested him. I must look for cases that are not solved.

 

Willie opened a couple of letters that a mailman slipped under his door. One was from a shoe establishment that specialized in gum-soled shoes. Another was from the Peerless Handcuff Company, announcing a sale of fetters for the trade.

Willie was quite frugal by nature. He went to a little safe in the corner and withdrew some sandwiches he had left over from lunch the day before. After nibbling on one, he fell asleep.

THE president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency awoke with a start. “Paper, Mister?” a little urchin yelled at him from the doorway. “Evenin' paper?”

“Why, it is late,” Willie said. “Yes, I will have a paper.”

On the front page of the organ of public opinion was a sour note. Satchelfoot Kelly and another slewfoot were photographed holding a prisoner between them. A headline screeched :

MICHAEL O'BERL

ARRESTED FOR MURDER

The article stated that the purse of one Mickey Finlan was held up until the Boxing Commission could investigate the alleged malpractices. O'Berl, it averred, had no alibi and was going to be held without bail for the heinous crime. Of course Detective Aloysius Kelly had shown uncanny speed in the solving of the Capstan liquidation.

“Nerts,” Willie sneered. “I wish a client would call up or come in. Huh, O'Berl was heard threatenin' to kill Hymie in the Garden. Why, I heard thirty thousand people threaten to fracture an ump's dome when the Giants was playin' the Brooklyns. Why, even I planned to kill Satchelfoot three times.”

The door opened. A middle-aged female citizen stalked in and banged her reticule down on Willie's desk. She took a chair without being asked and pointed her finger at Willie.

“Are you a detective?”

“Certainly,” Willie said. “What do I look like?”

“I'm a lady! Anyhow, Mr. Klump, I want to hire you.”

Willie beamed. There was still a sandwich left on his desk. He offered it to his client.

“What's in it?” the woman said.

She had a build like Superman, with the head of a Tugboat Annie placed on top of it. Her jaw was as hard as a Siberian winter and she had a pair of eyes that could back up a grizzly. About her mink coat was enough costume jewelry to sink a rowboat.

“Roast beef,” Willie said.

“You got a nerve, Klump. My name's Mrs. Michael O'Berl.”

Willie almost fell out of his chair. “He knocked off Hy Capstan! Didn't you know?”

“I been hearin' things, Klump.” Mrs. O'Berl bit out. “I got to have proof. I didn't go to the cops because they are too sure, so I hunted through the phone book for a private detective and saw your name. There ought to be a law against you bein' listed. If my corns weren't roasting, I'd go and look up a real detective.”

“I am very deceivin' in looks,” Willie said. “But I can show you results if—”

“Let's get down to brass tacks. O'Berl is no chump. He didn't rub out that Hy Capstan. He's so tenderhearted, he made me throw out a mouse-trap once. I saw him go in and say his prayers after he killed a fly. I'm goin' to find out if he's got an alibi and if it is what I think, maybe he'd rather go to the hot seat than come home.”

“I don't get it,” Willie bleated.

“I want you to go around places where a fight manager would hang out,” Mrs. O'Berl instructed. “Find out who his friends were. I want to know why he won't alibi. There is a hundred bucks in it for you, anyway. If you find out things, I double it.”

“I'll take the case,” Willie said weakly, because he did not dare to refuse.

“Okay, Klump,” Mrs. O'Berl snapped. “Here is fifty bucks retainer. Start snoopin'. You should be ashamed eatin' that kind of sandwich. Well, you look like a heathen. I am leavin' my phone number on that slip there.”

AFTER she steamed for home Willie sat there, his brain addled. He looked at the sandwich that had insulted Mrs. O'Berl, then scratched his noggin to see if it would not start perking. The calendar on his desk stared up at him.

“Last night could also be this A.M.,” Willie repeated as he perused his notes. “Why did I write that?” Suddenly he jumped up and slapped both hands to his head. “Corned beef, roast beef! I knew I was tryin' to think of somethin', but it wouldn't shake loose. I got it! Where is there a pencil?”

William Klump sallied forth that very night. He ankled into a bistro known to all the plungers in the sock market and picked himself a table. He asked questions about Mike O'Berl. The waiter declared that the murderer of Hy Capstan had left Bindy's at two o'clock the night before. Nobody had seen him since that time.

“To think he left the place to go and kill Hy!” the waiter protested to Willie. “You just can't figure guys, huh? Maybe you are a murderer, too.”

“Me?” Willie gulped.

He paid for his short drink and started making the rounds. Tavern keepers do not like characters barging in who do not drink at least one snort, so at three in the morning, Willie staggered along Lexington Avenue. The sidewalk kept coming up and hitting the soles of his shoes before he could touch it. His eyes were out of focus and there were bees in his noggin.

A pair of citizens confronted Willie. One of them was Satchelfoot Kelly. The other was Gertie Mudgett, Willie's torch on most occasions. Satchelfoot had twenty cent's worth of adhesive tape on his face.

“I can't believe it, Kelly,” Gertie sniffed. “He's got a load on that would weigh down a stevedore. Willie, I am ashamed of you! What drove you to it?”

“I went to—hic—thirty plashes. One li'l drink in each plashe. I—hic—bet shomebody shlugged me. Where am I, huh? O'Berl'sh innershent. Sh! Don't tell nobody. Sho long, old palsh of mine, old shnakes in the grash!”

“Somethin' is funny about this,” Kelly said as he watched Willie make a third attempt at turning the corner. “He is tryin' to forget.”

“That ain't hard for Willie when he is sober,” Gertie sneered. “Well, I'm through with that idiot. To think he would take to drink! Now I've seen everythin', Kelly.”

Willie had a terrible headache the next morning. His tongue tasted as though the Italian army had retreated across it with no shoes on. What made him feel worse was that he had found out nothing about Mike O'Berl.

All that morning Willie stayed in bed. Then a bright idea hit him. He would go down and see Mike O'Berl.

HE HAD a hard time crashing the gate in the Tombs, till he asked an official to call up the prisoner's spouse. She vouched for Willie being in her hire.

“Only until tomorrow morning, though,” Mrs. O'Berl said. “Then he is fired.”

“Look, Mike,” Willie said, when he reached the prisoner at last. “You did not rub out Hy Capstan, but who did? Look, was you ever in the electric chair? It is awful. Come clean with an alibi.”

“I got an alibi, I admit,” O'Berl snapped, “but it is tongue-tied. I'm takin' the easiest way out of this world, Klump. Now just go and leave me alone. I'll take my chances with a mouthpiece. I have plenty of trouble without you. Beat it.”

“A strange case,” Willie groaned and went out. “I hate Satchelfoot like I do broccoli, but I would hate to think of Kelly havin' the blood of an innocent man on his head. Satchelfoot is pretty dumb or he would know what I know, but it wouldn't hold in court.”

Willie was fired by Mrs. O'Berl the next morning.

“You couldn't find a frostbite in Little America, Klump,” Mike's spouse said. “O'Berl has an alibi, only it says 'Papa' when you squeeze it.”

“A doll?” Willie blurted. “No guy would fry because he was ashamed of a double life.”

“You don't know me, Klump,” Mrs. O'Berl retorted. “Mike does!”

“Well, I'm a monkey's aunt,” Willie said, hanging up.

Two days went by. Then Willie was hailed that afternoon as he passed a taxi stand.

“Hi, pal!” It was Slug McGee. “The gallop is tonight. You gotta be there to collect the Gnash, Mr. Klump. Anyway, get yourself a cookie an' go, as it will be some brawl.”

“I never was lucky,” Willie said. “But I might come to forget my troubles.”

“If you ain't got a friend, Klump, look me up when you get there. I know some swell numbers.”

“What could I lose?” Willie said.

He walked along and picked up a newspaper. It said that O'Berl had been indicted for first-degree murder and that the D.A. was sure of a conviction in record time.

“Yeah?” Willie said cryptically, even for him. “A citizen might two time his ball and chain, but not his chances for a ringside seat up in the clouds. Anyhow, not a character named O'Berl.”

THE dance held by the Taxi Drivers' Benevolent Association in Cooley's Hall was something for the book. Willie Klump, all dressed up in a new blue serge suit, had himself a time. Slug McGee had seen to it that Willie had four dolls lined up for the evening's trot.

Willie was glad when the lights went on and the orchestra stopped pounding away. His collar was wilted and his feet felt like two bunches of bananas. He was swooning from perfume and there was lipstick on his chops.

The master of ceremonies announced that the drawing for the Gnash Eight was about to begin. Willie did not bother to look at his tickets, for they were in the pocket of his benny out in the check room.

“Win it, handsome,” his girl of the moment trilled. “You need it. With the face you drew, you ought to have something. They're picking the number now. It won't be long, sugar.”

“I never was lucky,” Willie said pessimistically.

“The winnah, folks—seven-eleven- seven. How could the guy lose? The lucky gentleman is Mr. Al B. Griper, One hundred and thoity-three Crestona Avenya, Bronx, New York. Is Mr. Griper here with his ticket?”

“I never was lucky,” Willie said. “Nerts.”

“Here!” a deep voice boomed and a big citizen, clad in a spiffy tuxedo and wearing a nifty brunette on his arm, pushed through the crowd. “I am Al Griper.”

“Okay, pal. Just hand me your ticket.”

“Why, I ain't got it,” Griper said. “But my name and address are on the stub. I mislaid the ticket someplace. Ha-ha! We ride home in the new boiler, honey.”

“Now, Mr. Griper, you know the rules—no tickee, no washee,” the announcer said. “Well, we can draw again, ladies an' gents. We will now—”

Al Griper got nettled over the whole thing.

“A gyp, huh?” he roared. “I take that jalopy, see? You wise guys are playin' a game, huh?”

“Go away, Mr. Griper,” the tough- looking announcer said. “You bother me. Gimme your ticket and you get the car. Otherwise, scram!”

“No kiddin'?” said Griper.

The master of ceremonies took a clout on the chin, but he had friends. One hung a sweet hook on Griper's chin. A pal of Griper's knocked that citizen kicking. A neutral party took a punch at the nearest person to him. Then everybody invited himself in and the riot was on.

“A fight!” Willie Klump yipped.

“Goody!” the doll with Willie said. “I bet it will be the best one we ever had. Hit somebody, Klump. Don't be a wall- flower.”

SOMEBODY hit Willie first and he spun around in a circle. When he got his marbles picked up, he was near a door that said “exit.” He barged through it and nearly went over the fire-escape. The sounds of battle back in Cooley's Hall increased in violence. Willie heard a cop's whistle. The president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency scampered down and dropped to the safety of an alley. An empty bottle flew out of Cooley's Hall and nearly brained him.

“It is a mess,” Willie said and got to the main drag. A police car whizzed by, siren yelping. Three others followed.

Willie waited at the corner until the fight was broken up. A load of brawlers were carted to the nearest clink and order prevailed. Then he went into Cooley's and claimed his hat and coat. Escaping the taxi drivers' ball as fast as he knew how, he sought the sanctuary of his room over on East Forty-sixth Street.

He sighed and pulled out his Gnash Eight tickets, letting them flutter to the floor.

“I never was lucky,” he mused.

His eyes stared at the little slip that fell against his boot. Willie pinched himself and blinked, shut his eyes and counted to twenty. When he opened his peepers, the ticket was still there. The number was 7117.

Willie gathered up his raffle tickets. There was six of them, whereas he had purchased five. He thought back, though he always had trouble thinking back further than yesterday.

“Now, take it easy, Willie,” Klump said to himself. “The citizen who started the fight had that number. I will call up Mrs. O'Berl and ask does she know Griper. I may get that other dough she promised me.”

Willie went out into the hall and called Mrs. O'Berl.

“Somethin' funny turned up,” he said. “Do you know a guy named Al Griper? This is Willie Klump.”

“You called me outa my bath, stupid. I could kill you.”

“One murderer in a family is enough, ain't it?” Willie wanted to know.

“Griper?” she repeated, chastened. “He's a gambler. He won ten grand on the Pete Vizic-Little Montana scrap. Nobody gave Montana a chance. Hy Capstan handled Vizic that time. So what?”

“So I am goin' nuts,” Willie said. “I'll be seein' you.”

“Not this way!” she howled.

Willie ran back into his room and got his notebook and a pencil. He wrote:

Things are adding up. Griper bet on another long shot once. Why? Because Hy was in the know and had that battle in the bag, too. Hy was a pal of Griper's and tipped him off to clean-ups. Palsy Walzi was supposed to win but didn't. Did Hy tell Griper to bet on Palsy Walzi? Looks like it. Where did I get the lucky ticket? I know. The end.

WILLIE KLUMP hurried to the nearest drug store on Lexington and looked up Griper. There was the citizen's address, as plain as the idiocy on Willie's own pan.

“Corned beef, huh? Now I will call the cops downtown.” He dialed Headquarters. “You got a citizen named Mike O'Berl ignited for murder down there. You better let him go, as I know who killed Hy Capstan. I am Willie Klump. I used to work there.”

“You cut out the gags?” a rough voice said, “or I will have the D. A. take away all tin badges.”

“Well, I am on my way uptown to arrest Al Griper,” Willie said. “There will be some peace disturbed, so send a few cops up there to arrest me. The address is One thirty-three Crestona Avenue, Apartment B-three.”

Willie Klump hung up, had a coke and watched the clock on the wall until it ticked off fifteen minutes. Then he went out of the drug store and grabbed a cab.

In due time William Klump arrived at the door of an apartment marked B3. Hearing voices, he glued an ear to the door for a minute.

“Imagine them crossers, huh? Gypped me outa that boiler. I wish I knew where I left that ticket. I bet you got it, goin' through my pockets, Toots, and lost it.”

“Stop squawking!”

Willie drew a deep breath and knocked. The doll opened the door. Over his shoulder he saw Al Griper.

“Who are you?” the male citizen growled. “You can't be as dumb as ya look.”

“I—er—found this,” Willie said.

He handed the gambler the ticket for the Gnash Eight. Griper took a gander at it and read off the numbers. The doll threw her arms around Willie.

“Where did you get it, pal?” Griper said. “You're gonna be first to get a ride in it. The Gnash Eight, huh?”

“M-mr. Griper,” Willie faltered, “it was found right close to the body of Hy Capstan. You are wanted for the m- murder. You come quietly now, or—”

“Huh?” Al Griper choked out.

“Kill him, Al,” the doll yelped. “Oh, you dumb cluck!”

William Klump had his moments when he was not such a dope. On the way in, Willie had looked for the position of the light switch. Just as Griper grabbed for his Betsy, Willie gave the rough persons a blackout. Then the president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency stukaed to the carpet and wriggled under a divan.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

“S-stop, Al,” Willie heard the torch screech. “I am over this way. Shoot for the door before he tries to get out!”

“Yeah, Toots.” Bang! Bang! “How did that creep get that—”

There was a terrible hubbub outside and Al Griper yowled:

“Out the winder, sugar! The cops have followed this punk here. We gotta scram!”

KLUMP slid out and grabbed at Griper's ankles, bringing him down with a loud wallop. Then a flock of gendarmes broke into B3 and turned the lights on.

“Stop where you are, everybody!” a familiar voice barked.

“Hello, Satchelfoot,” Willie said. “Grab Al Griper quick, as he knocked off Hy Capstan. He hit him with the statue of Tunney, only he held it by the dome and then wiped prints off it afterward. The ones O'Berl put on it, when he picked it up like he said, was close to the feet and was left on. This character dropped a raffle ticket out in the hall near Hy's office. I was to a dance where he claimed a jalopy the ticket was for.”

“H-huh?” Satchelfoot gulped. “You mean this guy—”

“I didn't have anything to do with it,” the doll shrieked. “I am not taking a rap with this mug. Yes, he went to see Hy late that night—”

“I'll croak you for that!” Al Griper howled.

“Get out of them cuffs I put on ya,”

Kelly said, “and you'll be Houdini. How did I figure it was O'Berl so quick? I wished I didn't always jump to conclusions.”

“You was dumb, Satchelfoot.” Willie grinned. “Else you would know O'Berl wasn't sharin' corn beef with Hy that night.”

“I don't get it,” Kelly groaned.

“A guy named O'Berl,” Willie said, “eatin' meat on Friday—and the Thirteenth at that? Why, Satchelfoot, you should be ashamed.”

“Ah, nuts,” Kelly said.

“No wonder Griper only bought one ticket,” Willie said, “with a lucky number like seven-eleven-seven. He played hunches, being a gambler. Hy told him to bet on Palsy Walzi and then fixed the fight and forgot to wise up Griper. So Griper goes to see Hy for a settlement and he don't get it, so out goes Hy. It is all very simple when you know. Griper put a ticket on a corpse and it come home to roost. The day you throwed my coat out, my raffle tickets flew out and went all over the floor. A little pug helped me pick 'em up.”

“But O'Berl didn't have no alibi,” Satchelfoot argued.

“We will ask O'Berl when we get downtown,” Willie said. “Your face is healin' up nice, ain't it?”

AN HOUR later, Mike O'Berl spilled it, but not for publication. “Sure, I'm with a swell doll all that time. Then I hear he's been murdered and the cops are lookin' for me. I asks the doll to front for me. She says nerts, as she is a sweetie of a very tough character who has to hide out in Newark. If her pitcher gets in the paper and he sees it, her life ain't worth a promise from Hitler. He already has rubbed out two dolls, she tells me. Then there's my wife. If she saw that, I would not be able to settle for a compound skull-fracture and a severed jugular. So you see, I was takin' my chances of a quick and painless death.”

“It sounds fantastic, don't it, Kelly?” Willie grinned. “But it wouldn't if you knowed Mrs. O'Berl. Well, she will gimme that other dough now for savin' Mike. And Mike should do well by me. If I tell his battle-ax—”

“You get two Cs, Klump,” Mike promised hastily. “Whew! I been practicin' keepin' a stiff upper lip for the last mile for four days.”

“Well, I must be goin' now,” Willie said. “If the newspaper guys want me, I will be at my office.”

“It ain't fair,” Al Griper yapped after he had signed his confession. “Detectives should look and act like detectives.”

“Picket me,” Willie said. “Ha-ha!” He went out and plodded to the nearest subway, envisioning headlines in the next day's journals:

KLUMP DOES IT AGAIN!

The D. A. sent for Willie the next A. M. When Klump emerged from his office building, a little character asked him to take a chance on a new radio.

“Nothin' doin',” Willie said. “I never was lucky. Why, only the other day I— er— Hey, gimme five!”


EText from pulpgen.com - 2007 Blackmask Online.