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Attention to Trifles

Tom Thursday

 

 

 

Crack Detective Stories , May 1946

Obie Jones just didn't seem to understand that there were certain matters to which the police were expected to keep their eyes closed, tightly.

OBIE JONES joined the emergency force the day after the murders of Special Officer Frank Hammond and John Bailey, a taxi- driver. The regulars got a big giggle out of most of the wartime emergency cops, especially hicks like Obie Jones. He was from Redsoil, Georgia, hardly a whistle-stop compared to Ami City. A slight limp in the left leg had planted him in the 4-F field. He had got the limp while running a tractor back on the farm.

According to city standards Obie was a sap of saps, but he was honest and shot square from all angles. Such qualities, unfortunately, were not too much in demand by all members of the force.

“Some of them new cops,” said Traffic Officer Pete Malloy, “are much better than a movie. No foolin', if they saw Jesse James and John Dillinger comin' out of the First National bank they would help 'em carry the bags.”

“You said it,” agreed Squad Carman Joe Bunch, who never passed a fruit stand without grabbing samples. “Specially that new plow-pusher, Obie Jones. You know what, Pete? The dope is goin' around his beat with a copy of the city ordinances under his arm. And he's studyin' them all the time. Haw!”

Obie took all the joshing, some cruel, a little good-natured, with calmness and a quiet grin. He had made up his mind to be a good cop and do his best to see that laws were enforced.

During the first week that Obie Jones was on the force he got his name in the papers. Mayor Zane Hooker had two pet dogs, full-grown snappish boxers. They had a coy habit of taking nips out of the legs of passing citizens. Not that they were hungry; it was their canine conception of fun and amusement. On more than one occasion the mayor's unsocial dogs were called to the attention of the police by folks who apparently lacked a keen sense of humor. Strangely, or perhaps it wasn't, all such complaints got sidetracked into the nearest cuspidors.

Now the City Fathers—grandfathers would be more accurate—had passed an ordinance, three months before Obie had joined the department, stating that all owners of dogs must have a dog license, complete with tag. This tag should be placed around the pet's neck. Any pooch, rich or poor, without a tag would be sent to the pound. If not claimed by the owner within two weeks, Fido or Nellie would be passed on to another world.

Mayor Hooker considered the dog tag ordinance quaint and quacky. He had no time to “mess” with it, as he would put it. The mayor could do no wrong and his head was just that shape. In short, a political punk of the first water, only he never drank water.

Obie Jones was patrolling Central Avenue around midday, happy to give a smile to anyone who would give him one. Halfway down the block he heard the bark of two dogs. He noted that they were parked in a car and their yelping indicated that they would like nothing better than to get out and sample a few passing shinbones.

Obie stopped beside the dogs and they paid him extra-special attention. They howled their displeasure in a much higher and more vicious octave.

HIS HONOR came out of the bank and noted the rooky cop parked beside his car. “Ah'm sorry, suh,” said Obie, “but I see that your dawgs have no license tags. Accordin't to city ordinance No. 23456 you-all should have them.”

The squinty brown eyes of the mayor became wide and owlish, while his complexion turned a deep crimson.

“Young man,” snorted His Honor, “I'm Mayor Zane Hooker. Or don't you know me, you clunkhead?”

“Ah shore didn't know who you was, suh,” admitted Obie Jones. “Howevah, suh, the ordinance says—”

“Ordinance be damned!” frothed the mayor. “Get away from here before I break your neck!”

“Ah guess you-all don't understand,” said Obie calmly and a bit sadly. “In that case, suh, it is mah duty to give you a summons.”

He wrote one and gave it to His Honor. The mayor promptly tore it to bits and tossed it out the car window.

“Now beat it!” roared the mayor. “And, get this, stupid; you may consider yourself off the force by 6 o'clock tonight. Out of the way, yap!”

Obie scratched his chin meditatively and decided that he had had enough. He yanked open the car door, warding off the thrusts of the two dogs, and sat beside Zane Hooker.

“Suh,” he said, “ah'm obliged to place you under arrest for resistin' an officer of the law. Youall will now drive to puhlice headquarters.”

Something in the gray-green eyes of the rooky told the mayor that this new cop wasn't fooling. He decided to obey the command; however, when he got to headquarters he would see to it that this dope was fired, and he did mean canned.

As they entered the police station both Hank Reno, of the Herald, and Steve Harris, of the News, were batting the breeze with Captain Hardy Bryan. When Obie and His Honor entered, the eyes of the reporters popped and almost crossed. The mayor, noting the two newspapermen, greeted them cordially and gave them both a large smile. He had brains enough to be deferential to the press, knowing that both papers were fed up with local graft and general corruption. Moreover, they were about to do something about it.

“Ah arrest this man,” said Obie, “for failure to procure a dawg license, as it says in city ordinance 23456. That is all, suh.” He saluted the captain and left.

Steve and Hank began to kid the underpants off His Honor. That afternoon the News printed the story, not without deft touches of sly humor. It also wondered, editorially, if His Honor would dare to discharge a policeman for doing his duty? His Honor forgot the whole thing. Obie Jones remained on the force.

During the next week Obie continued to enforce all city ordinances, much to the dismay and disgust of certain citizens and sundry members of the department. If he had a thought of catching the murderer of Special Officer Hammond and John Bailey, the taximan, no one would ever notice it. Of course he knew about the case but he figured that the detective bureau would take care of it in due time.

Hammond had been shot through the stomach while questioning a man who acted suspiciously. Without a word, the man had shot Hammond. In turn, and with a fatal bullet in his abdomen, Hammond had fired three shots at his fleeing assassin. On his death bed, Special Officer Hammond had stated, “I'm sure I hit him once.” The next morning the police found a long, thin trail of blood, proving that Hammond was right.

As to John Bailey, the taxi-driver, he was found the morning after the Hammond shooting, in a clump of bushes, covered with brown wrapping paper. He had been shot twice; once in the back of the neck and again in the left eye. Ballistic tests proved that all bullets had been fired from the same gun. In short, the same killer had fired all shots. To date, no trace of the murderer had been found, not a single worthwhile clue.

MEANWHILE, Obie Jones became girl- conscious. He was just turning 24, single and, while on the farm, had had little time for love and romance. But from the first day he began to eat his lunch at Sloppy Slim's Bar B Q, and observed Betty Lynn behind the counter, he was interested. He liked the looks of her mouse-brown hair, dark eyes, and two-cheek dimples. Until the arrival of Obie the only type of male who tried to Romeo Betty Lynn was the “Hiyah, Babe!” variety. And they bored her to disgust.

The suntanned and serious face of the new cop intrigued her. He made no sub-rosa wisecracks, no stupid passes, and always thanked her for her services. Soon they were attending the movies, occasional dances, and ice-creaming together.

Came the day when he found the somewhat ancient car of Betty Lynn parked neatly in front of a fire hydrant. He knew that ordinance by heart and promptly stuck a ticket on her windshield. When she came for her car, noted the ticket and the name of the issuing officer, all she could say was, “My, what a man!” But later, when she called at the traffic bureau to pay her fine, she was amazed to learn that it had already been paid.

“Obie,” she said to him that evening, “I never met a guy like you in all my born days. First you give me a violation ticket, then you pay it. It doesn't make sense. It's just like giving yourself a ticket, since you paid for it.”

“I guess that's the way ah am,” drawled Obie Jones. “If I didn't give you a ticket, that wouldn't be fair to others.”

Meanwhile, the search for the killer of Hammond and Bailey went on. The more they searched the less they found. There were plenty of clues, all of them misleading and worthless. The police were handicapped because they did not have the slightest description of the fellow. All Hammond could report was that he was certain the killer was a man; at least, his form in the darkness of the night indicated that.

Apparently uninterested in the search for the double murderer, Obie Jones went on about his business of enforcing all the city ordinances—thus made many enemies among cops and politicians alike. The entrenched gambling syndicate, for one, considered him a terrific pain in the neck, which also took in the region of the pocketbook. Had they not got the “green light” or “go signal” from the right politicos? Quite so. And did this payoff not entitle them to run some dice games, chuck-a-luck and the like? It certainly did, brother, and what the hell was Ami City coming to when a hick rooky from Georgia could upset the works? The damned emergency cop had actually walked into Joe the Jerk's bar for a drink of water—yeah, water—had overheard a few gents in the back room begging the dice to please buy baby a new pair of shoes—with or without coupons—and had then summarily yanked Joe the Jerk to headquarters.

This was a scandal of the first magnitude. Even Captain Hardy Bryan gasped when he noted the fish that Obie Jones had hooked.

“Ah arrest this man for ownin' and operatin' a gamblin' house,” said Obie, “which is against city ordinance 789.” He saluted and walked out.

JOE THE JERK was one of the main mugs in the syndicate and he had seen the right people before he opened his joint. Naturally, Joe the Jerk felt outraged that he should be so embarrassed as to have to appear in a police station and actually make bond or cool off in the cooler. His fellow artistes or gamboleers, hearing of Joe's awful maltreatment, let go with some sizzling squarks. They demanded to know how come a sappy rooky, with corn still in both ears, could pull off something that even the chief of police was afraid to do.

The News and Herald, both trying to win public favor in their efforts to clean up the town, stood squarely behind Obie Jones, and this powerful press was something neither the gamblers nor crooked politicos cared to yelp back at. What's more, they couldn't. Due to the newspaper publicity Obie became Public Figure No. 1 in Ami City and letters from readers poured in, suggesting that he run for sheriff in the next election. This startled the incumbent sheriff to such a degree that he immediately announced he would clean up the city at once. The two papers replied that he should start cleaning up the sheriff's office, including a few deputies, and that made the sheriff very upset, indeed. The old burg wasn't what it used to be.

A part of Obie's beat took in the railroad station. About three weeks after the double-

murders he walked through the waiting room and noticed a strange-looking woman sitting alone. Obie observed that the eyebrows were too long and heavy and that the sitter had thick hair on her legs. Another look and Obie was convinced that he had a man impersonating a woman. This was strictly against city ordinance 589.

Obie stepped up and suggested the lady accompany him to the police station. Without a word, the demure creature let go with a corking right to Obie's chin. It was a neat hook and had plenty of steam. Obie shook his head and countered with a left and right to the chin and belly. While the impersonator reclined on the floor, taking a swift course in pictorial astronomy, Obie put on the handcuffs. Next stop, headquarters.

“Ah arrest this man for impersonatin' a woman,” said Obie. Then he took a peek at the right thumb of the fellow. It was bound with adhesive tape. Obie ripped it off and saw that the wound was a rather large hole. “Incidentally,” went on Obie Jones, “ah also arrest this man for investigation in the murders of Hammond and Bailey.” He saluted and walked out.

Next day he was called to the office of Chief Clarry. Surrounding the chief were all the brass hats on the force.

“Jones,” said the chief, “I congratulate you on the capture of John Fowler, the man who killed Hammond and Bailey. Tell us something; how did you know he was the murderer?”

“Suh,” said Obie, “ah sure didn't. Ah just arrested him for breakin' city ordinance 589, which is against impersonatin' a woman. Then ah noticed he had some tape on his thumb. Ah took it off and looked at the wound. Years ago, when ah was workin' back on the farm, ah went huntin' with muh brother. He accidentally shot me in the thumb. You never see so much blood. Ah left a trail from the woods right up to the house, nearly half a mile. Wal, suh, ah recalls that Special Officer Hammond says he hit him once and ah also recalls that there was a long trail of blood. That's all, suh.”

Chief Clarry turned to his assembled brass hats, and said, “Gentlemen, you will please issue an order to all men under your commands to pay more attention to trifles. Good afternoon!”

(THE END)


Etext from pulpgen.com - 2005 Blackmask Online.