The D. A. Dies
by John L. Benton
, August, 1945
The Killer Had a Slick Murder Schemebut He Missed a Bet When He
Failed to Take a Girl's Keen Eyesight into Account!
DETECTIVE-SERGEANT BOB Heath, looking more like a prosperous young
business executive than a detective, stood in the doorway of District
Attorney Keene Adams' private office, staring at the slumped figure in
the chair behind the ornate desk. Over the place was the hush of death.
It was broken by the strained, shocked voice of the pale but pretty
blond girl who stood behind HeathMary Doyle, the D.A's secretary.
Oh, poor Mr. Adams! Mary said quaveringly. And he must have been
there like that all night! Even the cleaning woman had gone when I
left, because we worked late, Bob. Mr. Adams was still talking to
someonea Mr. Madisonwhen he told me I could go.
Heath walked over to the desk and looked closely at the body of
stout, middle-aged Keene Adams. But there was no doubt about it. The
best district attorney the little city of Bankford had ever had was
dead from a bullet in his heart.
He was murdered all right! Heath commented. I'll have Headquarters
send out an order to have Madison picked up and brought in for
That might not be so simple. Mary tried to speak courageously, but
the horror that had been etched on her face when she had found the
body, and somehow had managed to phone Heath, was still there. Even I
haven't the faintest notion who the man is, or where he can be found.
He was a stranger to menever saw him before last night.
What did he look like? Sergeant Heath s demanded. Tell me all you
can remember about him, Mary.
Well, the girl told him, all I noticed was that he was a
gray-haired man in a dark suit, dark necktie and white shirt. He
insisted on seeing Mr. Adams, as late as it was when he got heresaid
it was most important. Mr. Adams told me to show him in. They talked
for a while with the door closed, then Mr. Adams opened it and told me
I could go home.
Bob Heath nodded. He realized that it was natural for Mary to have
phoned him at once when she had received such a shock as opening a door
and finding her boss murdered. She would do thatof courseinstead of
calling the police. That would be the first thought of a girl engaged
to a detective-sergeant, at a time like that.
You're sure there was nothing special about this Madison, Mary?
Heath insisted. No scars or disfigurement, or eccentricities in speech
Not that I remember. Mary shook her head. Maybe I'll think of
somethinglater. All I can think of now is why did he kill Mr. Adams!
I don't know. Heath shook his own head. But I do know I've got to
report this. You wait in the outer office, Mary.
AS MARY backed away, Heath picked up the phone on the desk and called
Headquarters. His attention was caught by the memo pad the District
Attorney had been using. Adams had jotted down his appointments for the
day he would not live to see, and at the bottom of the pad was
Slick Weldon trial at 10 A.M.
Heath reported the murder to Chief John Parker who barked excitedly
over the wire that he would be at the District Attorney's office
himself with some of his men as fast as he could get there. He ordered
Heath to wait.
The detective-sergeant again glanced at the memo pad as he cradled
the phone. The Slick Weldon who was to come to trial was believed to
be the town's head racketeer, and it was pretty certain that he and his
men recently had been working the old protection game on Bankford store
Then Joe Small, a tailor, had been found beaten to death in his shop,
three days agowhich was Slick Weldon's hard luck. For he had been
seen coming out of the shop shortly after Small had been killed. He had
been picked up promptly, charged with the murder, and the trial rushed.
The racketeer didn't deny he had been to see Small, but insisted that
he had found the tailor dead when he had entered the shop. Weldon had
declared he certainly had not wanted to be mixed up with a crime like
that, so he had wasted no time in departing. But unfortunately he had
Weldon's trial was to have been started this morning, with Keene
Adams prosecuting. Probably it would be delayed now, by the death of
Adams. In a small city like Bankford the District Attorney had no
assistants, which meant a new man would have to be appointed to the
Maybe that's it, muttered Heath. That mysterious Madison man must
be in with Slick Weldon in some way, and killed the D.A. to delay the
trial. But what good that will do Slick or his gang remains to be
When Heath stepped into the outer office, Mary Doyle was at her desk.
She tried to smile at him, but it was a wan effort.
The Chief is on his way here, Heath told her, and sighed. Maybe
it's just as well, Mary, that the D.A. was a widower without any living
relatives. This would be a bad shock to anyone close to him.
It's been shock enough to me, Mary said tremulously. He was so
The office door was opened abruptly, and Heath spun around, with the
idea that Chief Parker had been speedier than usual. But it was not the
Chief who barged in. It was a slender, dark-haired young man wearing
light-colored shell-rimmed glasses, a light blue business suit, white
shirt and red tie.
I'd like to see Mr. Adams, he said briskly. I'm Fred Langford,
attorney for the defense in the Weldon case.
You could see himHeath's tone was drybut you wouldn't like it.
Mr. Adams is deadmurdered.
Murdered! exclaimed Langford, horrified. Who did it?
We're not sure yet, Heath said calmly. I'm investigating.
Detective- sergeant Heath studied the slender young fellow. I don't
believe I've ever run across you before, Mr. Langford. You're new in
town, aren't you?
Yes, Langford said impatiently. I've been here only a few weeks .
. . . How was Mr. Adams killed?
Shot, Heath said laconically.
But murder! repeated the attorney. It doesn't seem possible!
You're sure it wasn't suicide?
No gun, no motive, Heath said shortly. He was not impressed with
Attorney Fred Langford. The man was too curt and aggressive.
Chief Parker arrived at that moment, with two detectives and four
uniformed officers. They made quite a parade into the office. The Chief
looked pompous in his uniform. Heath had never seen him without it. He
suspected that Parker slept in it, ready for emergencies. But the
sergeant had to admit that though the gray- haired Chief had a face
like a hound dog, he knew his business.
Parker stalked over and looked at the D. A.'s body.
All right, Sergeant, he said then. What happened? The coroner's on
his way here.
Heath told the Chief what he had learned from Mary. He had reached
the point of telling how Attorney Langford had just showed up to
discuss the Weldon trial with the District Attorney, when he saw that
Langford had quietly departed. It was of no consequence, however, and
Chief Parker passed up Langford because the coroner had arrived. The
medical officer examined the corpse, and reported death by means of a
lethal weapon. He placed the time of murder as between six to eight
MARY DOYLE was questioned, and told to go home, but she was so
nervous and upset that Heath asked the Chief's permission to drive her.
The sergeant was sympathetic and gentle with the girl, but neither of
them said much during their drive across town, and that little was
casual and impersonal.
I'm expecting you for dinner tonight, you know, Bob, Mary said when
they reached her home. You'll be here, won't you?
Of course. Heath smiled at her, then sobered. Unless something
about your boss' murder detains me. If it does, I'll phone you,
He drove away, but he hadn't gone more than two blocks before he
discovered he was being followed by another cara gray coupe with two
men in it. Just to make sure, Heath swung his sedan into a side street.
The coupe followed.
Up ahead a truck pulled out from the curb and blocked Heath's car.
And for that moment the coupe speeded up until it was alongside Heath's
sedan, forcing him to swing in to the curb. The truck turned a cornet
Sergeant Heath? demanded the hard- faced man who was driving. The
detective recognized that driverBeef Logan, one of Slick Weldon's
gang. We got a message for you!
What? Heath demanded shortly. He was frowning heavily at a scraped
fender the coupe had damaged. Let's have it, Beef.
Logan blinked. Apparently he hadn't expected Heath to know him. But
Heath knew both men, though he didn't bother to say so. He knew the
other man's name was Bill Burke. And in Heath's estimation both Logan
and Burke were a couple of cheap gunmen in the class.
So you know us, hey? said Logan. Okay. So maybe you know somethin'
else we've been hearin' you know somethin' that'll clear Slick Weldon
of killin' that tailor when the case comes up in court this morning.
We're just warnin' youSlick better get off if you want to stay
Okay. Heath shrugged. Run along now, or you'll be blocking
The two men drove away without looking back. Heath grinned wryly. Bad
boys, eh, with their threats. He rather wondered what it was they
thought he knew. But their threats didn't interest him. Another thing
he had just heard did. It looked as if Weldon's men didn't even know
the District Attorney had been murdered.
Detective-sergeant Heath returned to the police station. He had not
been there long when he received a phone call from Fred Langford. The
attorney seemed excited.
Sergeant Heath, he said hastily, I've just learned something of
tremendous importanceabout that D.A. affair. I've got to see you at
onceMiss Doyle, too. I can't have you come to my office, so can you
meet me He hesitated as if thinking rapidly. Say, the courtroom
will be empty. Be sure to bring Miss Doyle!
We'll be there, said Heath.
He could not imagine what Mary could have to do with anything the
lawyer had found out, but he supposed he might as well play along. He
might find out something to work on anyway. Fred Langford represented
Slick Weldon, and the Weldon gang was in the murder mess somehow.
So he had a little talk with the Chief, and half an hour later he and
Mary Doyle arrived at the courthouse. With the Weldon trial postponed,
as Heath had thought it would be, and no other courts in session, the
courthouse was deserted.
Langford met them at the courthouse door. He wore no hat or topcoat,
but was carrying a big law book under one arm.
What's on your mind, Langford? Heath asked.
Come into the courtroom, Langford said mysteriously. We can talk
better there. He was absent-mindedly tugging at an ear as he led the
Inside, he closed and locked the doors. Then he walked over to a
table, placed the book on it near some others, and sat down.
I didn't have time to explain on the phone, Sergeant, he said, but
before I tell you what I have learned, I want to try a little
experiment that should prove its worth . . . Will you sit in the
witness chair, Miss Doyle? It's more comfortable than the hard
Heath's face was expressionless as Mary seated herself. Langford
glanced at her and smiled.
This may all seem ridiculous to youperhaps melodramatic, he
remarked. But I know who killed Keene Adamsand I am anxious to see
if you agree with me. It is possible that Miss Doyle will know, before
Who was it? Mary asked breathlessly.
A man named John Madison, Langford said flatly, again tugging at
his earan unconscious gesture. I can't go into details now, about
how I know, but I do! And the man was blackmailing the District
Attorneyknew something in Adams' past. Adams got tired of it. Last
night he threatened to expose Madison, so
So Madison killed him. Heath's tone was dry. And I suppose you
know because Madison told you.
SUDDENLY Mary was on her feet.
No! she cried. Oh, Bob, don't you see? This Langford himself is
Madison! He can't fool me any more. I know him now! He was disguised
when he came to the office last night, with that gray wig and allbut
I remember how the man who called himself Madison kept constantly
tugging at his ear! She pointed an accusing finger at Langford. Just
like you do!
I was afraid of that, Langford sighed. That's why I thought I'd
better talk to you alone. My experiment, you know.
How much did Weldon give you for killing Adams and delaying that
trial? demanded Heath, leaping forward. Or did you kill that tailor,
and when the D.A. found it out you had to kill him?
Adams did know too much, Langford said coolly, opening the law book
But both Mary Doyle and Heath saw the reason for that book on the
instant. The pages had been cut out, and in the hole left an automatic
rested! In one swift move Langford grabbed it and threw it up at Mary.
Bob! she screamed and sank back.
But Heath had answered her cry. Before Langford could shoot, the
sergeant had snatched his .38 out and fired. The bullet got the lawyer
in the shoulder. The automatic clattered to the floor.
Then out from the corridor leading to the Judge's chambers stepped
two men who could hardly have been expected to be thereBeef Logan and
Bill Burke. They stopped short, glowering at Langford.
The boss didn't hire this lug to bump off the D.A.! Logan growled.
None of us even knew he was dead till we seen it in the afternoon
I found that out when you stopped me in my car, snapped Heath. You
expected the trial to start this morning.
Then there were more visitors. The courtroom doors were burst open
and a crowd poured in. Chief Parker was at the head of the throng.
Heath grinned at him.
Glad to see you, Chief, he said. You're just in time for the
show-down. Remember I told you I had a hunch Langford might have
murdered the D.A.? After he phoned me to meet him here? Well, he
dideven if he did try to make Mary believe she had never seen him
before when he barged into the D.A.'s office this morning. There wasn't
any other reason for him showing up there. The prosecutor and the
lawyer for the defense don't usually consult with each other on the
morning a trial is to start. But Mr. Madison-Langford didn't fool
Mary not any. She's got good eyesight, Miss Doyle has.
Gosh! said Beef Logan. Why, you did clear the boss at that,
Sergeant! Good thing we trailed you and the dame here, wantin' to get
an earful. We didplenty!
Stop this chatter! wailed Langford. I'll admit everything! Just
get me to a hospital. Can't you see I'm dying?
We'll take you all right, Heath growled. After you tell why you
killed Joe Small, that tailor.
That's a personal matter, snapped Langford. You don't think I
wanted a former cell-mate hanging around, do you?
The courtroom was cleared, and Heath was left alone with Mary. It was
his first chance in a long time to kiss her. He did.
Dinner tonight will be fine, darling, he whispered. Case all
cleared up and nothing to worry about.