Doubled in Death
by Jack Storm
The clock on the dashboard of the radio car indicated two ten when
that scream shrilled above the drenching rain.
Patrolman Larry Ross, at the wheel, and Bill Forbes, his mate,
jerked to attention. Again the yell split the air. Ross gave the wheel
of the radio car a hard yank, turned around in the middle of the block
and headed for the avenue. As he turned the corner, Forbes gave a cry
Half a block down the avenue, a car was slowly rolling along, near
the curb. Two men were running from the lighted entrance to old Matt
Lynch's antique shop, Lynch himself came into view, waving his hands.
His mouth was wide open, but no sound emerged from it. The two gunmen,
heedless of the onrushing radio car, stopped long enough to pump five
bullets into Matt Lynch's scrawny frame. He reeled like a top and hit
the pavement. The killers jumped into the moving car, and it rapidly
picked up speed.
"Let's go!" Ross snapped. "By the looks of Lynch I don't think we
can help him. Anyway—there comes Anderson on the beat."
"Yeah!" Forbes had his gun out. "We'll follow that bus, and
Larry—chase 'em to Japan if you have to. They never gave Lynch a
The bandit car swerved around a corner on two wheels, narrowly
missed climbing the curb and straightened out with a shrieking of
tires. Ross took the corner just as fast but far more expertly. Forbes
shoved his head out of the window, leveled his gun and fired twice. The
rear window of the murder car showed streaks of cracked glass.
"Damn!" Forbes grated. "It's got bulletproof glass, and we're
traveling too fast for me to spot the tires."
"Aim for the gas tank," Ross ground out.
A streak of jagged flame lanced out from the bandit car and a
bullet whined by Forbes' head. He didn't duck. Instead he drew a bead
on the car and let go—four times. Ross cut in the siren and its wail
made a bedlam of the night, punctured by the crash of guns from Forbes
and the murder car.
Suddenly the bandits seemed to realize that the smaller, faster
radio car would soon overtake them. The driver slammed on brakes,
turned crazily and headed down a side street that was little more than
an alley. There was just room enough for one car and he was traveling
against the one-way sign.
"We'll bottle 'em up here." Ross gloated. "If they turn right, at
the end of the alley, it'll be dead end, and we'll have 'em."
Forbes stopped shooting, ejected fresh slugs from his Sam Browne
belt and began stuffing them into the hot service pistol.
The radio car was racing down the narrow street, its siren making a
devil's din because of the closeness of the buildings. Then something
dark shot out from a doorway. Ross' foot came down at the brake with
all the pressure he could exert. At the same time he gave the wheel a
savage wrench. He knew what would happen. There wasn't a chance of
missing a bad crash, but someone had stepped out in front of the car.
Better to risk injury to himself and Forbes than to kill a pedestrian.
The radio coupe careened crazily. There was a thump that made Ross
wince in horror. The same dark blob that had stepped in front of the
car was hurled fifteen feet away. Then a solid brick wall loomed up.
"Duck!" Ross howled and threw up his arms for protection. He heard
the crash as fenders crumpled and the radiator smashed to bits. The
motor of the coupe came plummeting up almost into Ross' lap. Forbes,
wholly unprepared for the crash, jolted forward. He gave a sickening
cry and slid to the floor. His head was bloody as it rested against
Ross jerked down the door handle but got no results. The smash had
jammed the door shut. He smelled gasoline and the horror of this new
menace made him shiver. He tried the door beside Forbes, found that he
could force it open by putting both feet against it. A tongue of flame
licked at the battered radiator. Ross squirmed through the door,
pulled it wider and hauled Forbes out.
By now the car was a raging inferno. The heat seared Ross' face and
hands. He smelled his own hair burning. But he was safe, and Forbes
was slung over one shoulder. He staggered about twenty feet from the
blazing wreck and put Forbes down carefully.
"You O.K.?" he asked
"My leg . . . it's broken," Forbes groaned. "What happened?"
MEMORY returned with a rush. Ross peered around and saw a dark
object a dozen yards away. He raced toward it, knelt and turned the
limp form over. What he saw made him shiver. The object he had struck
was a boy! At least it looked like a boy from the cut of the clothing
and the general outline of the body. It was impossible to tell from
the face. There just wasn't any!
The victim's clothing was drenched by the downpour. Ross slid a
band under the cheap coat, ripped open the shirt and felt for a
heartbeat. He didn't expect to find any; he was just going through the
motions. Next he violated the regulations of the police rule book. He
searched the pockets.
There was the usual junk a boy of about sixteen or seventeen
carries around: a rusty knife, a few chunks of pool chalk, and tucked
in a corner of the coat pocket, Ross found a cardboard match
container. It was wet through. He opened it and his eyes grew wide.
the matches were gone, but a one-hundred-dollar bill, carefully
folded, was wedged into the container. The match case bore the crimson
advertisement of the Superior Poolrooms.
More sirens renewed the din of a few moments before. Patrolmen were
running down the alley-street. Ross, on a sudden inspiration, tucked
the bill into his own pocket. then a tornado of excitement descended
on him, led by patrolmen and closely followed by a wild-eye Italian who
gave Ross a violent shove out of the way.
"My boy!" he screamed. "Rocco—my Rocco! He is dead! Dead!"
Ross gulped and felt a little giddy. He stepped over to the Italian
and put a friendly hand on his shoulder.
"What's his full name?" he asked.
"Rocco—Rocco Marco—my boy. He is dead Who did it? You are a
policeman, Find out who killed my boy."
"Take it easy," Ross said, forcing his voice to a state of
calmness. "Rocco stepped in front of my car. I tried to avoid him, but
I couldn't. This damned alley isn't wide enough. We were chasing- -"
Ross didn't get any further. The Italian suddenly leaped upon him,
clawing, kicking, biting. He cursed Ross, cursed blue uniforms, cursed
automobiles. Two patrolmen closed in, hauled him off and quieted him.
A lieutenant climbed out of a squad car that had just pulled up. Ross
raised his hand in a salute.
"It's an awful mess, sir," he said. "Forbes and I saw the murder of
Matt Lynch on Sixteenth Street. We were chasing the killers. They
turned into this street and we followed. Then that kid jumped out of
nowhere. I tried to miss him, but you see how it was."
"I see," Lieutenant Brady nodded, "but it's going to make an awful
smell, just the same. How is Forbes?"
"Broken leg," Ross said glumly. "I feel like the very devil,
myself. If it was anything but a boy. He must have been deaf. The
siren was screeching like mad."
"Better return to your precinct," Brady advised. "Make out a full
report. Have one of the radio cars drive you."
Ross rode away to the shrieking yells of the boy's father. "I sue!
I sue! My Rocco—he is dead!"
"Yeah!" Ross said softly, "He'll sue all right. It's the finish of
me, I guess."
"Aw, stop beefing," the driver said, "Anybody can see it wasn't
your fault. All radio cars are insured, anyway. The company will make
a settlement, and that's all there'll be to it."
Ross put his hand into his pocket, searching for a cigarette. His
fingers encountered the one-hundred-dollar bill and the paper match
container. He started! What was a sixteen-year-old boy doing with all
that money—and in one lump?
"Do me a favor," he said to the driver. "Roll over to Matt Lynch's
place. I'd like to look it over. Got to make a full report."
The radio car slid to the curb. Ross elbowed his way through the
curious crowd that had collected. Lynch's body lay as it had fallen,
but a white-haired man was pressing a stethoscope against the exposed
"He's dead—never lived two seconds after those bullets struck
him," he said.
Ross touched the doctor's arm and pointed to a heavy flannel cloth
around Lynch's throat.
"What's that for?" he asked.
"I'm Dr. Loring—office just up the street. Lynch was suffering
from laryngitis. I gave him an ointment to smear on his throat and
told him to tie a flannel cloth around it. Poor fellow—a sore throat
won't bother him again."
Ross frowned deeply and rubbed the back of his neck. Then he walked
to the radio car and was whisked to the precinct.
COMPLICATIONS arose during the next several hours. For one thing,
Ross' driving license was automatically suspended, and he was put back
on a beat. The dead boy's father filed an enormous suit against the
city, the police department and Patrolman Ross, personally.
"It's a tough break," the precinct captain told Ross.
"I know," Ross said soberly. "Captain—do me a favor, will you? I
know I'm back on the pavement and I'd like to be assigned to the beat
in that vicinity. I'm not entirely satisfied with this mess."
The captain let loose a gasp of astonishment. "Just how, Ross? What
do you mean?"
"Lynch—Matt Lynch," Ross said, "was suffering from laryngitis so
bad he couldn't talk above a whisper. He had been treated for it the
same day he was killed. You can ask Forbes to back me up on this—we
heard a good load yell for help. There wasn't another soul around
except Lynch and the murderers. I can't see those killers robbing
Lynch's store, moving him down with lead and yelling for the cops
while they did it, unless they had a reason. There simply wasn't anyone
else to do the yelling. Lynch couldn't yell; it was a physical
impossibility no matter how much he was scared."
Ross' skipper was a man of quick decisions. He nodded, warned Ross
to go easy and to avoid Marco and his neighbors as much as possible.
THAT night Ross began pacing the beat. There was a poolroom about
four blocks from the alley where he had crashed up. Ross walked into
Someone shouted, "Murderer!" A, man came shoving his way through
the tables, shrieking curses on Ross. It was Marco, the father of the
dead boy. Ross grabbed him, pushed him up against one of the tables
and held him there until he quieted down. Max Gorbin, the owner of the
poolroom, helped in calming the father. Gorbin was big, thickset and
"Listen, Marco," he said. "I been telling you it wasn't this cop's
fault. Rocco should have looked where he was going. This cop didn't
try to kill him."
Marco pulled himself free of Ross' grasp, muttered a strained
apology and walked away.
"Thanks, Max," Ross told the poolroom owner. "Say, that boy of his
worked here, didn't he?"
"Sure! Nice kid, too. I had him setting up pins in the alley
upstairs and taking care of the tables down here. How'd you know
Ross smiled. "He was carrying a lot of pool chalk on him and a
package of matches advertising your place. Say, Max, you keep ginger
ale on ice. Let's have a bottle."
Gorbin walked behind the bar where he served beer to his patrons.
He open a bottle of ginger ale and passed it to Ross. The patrolman
fumbled in his pocket, drew out the wadded one-hundred-dollar bill he
had taken from the pocket of Marco's boy and threw it on the counter.
"What's the idea?" he demanded.
Ross took a swig of the soda. "Idea? It happens that bill is all
I've got. If you can't change it, I'll have to owe you the nickel."
Gorbin picked up the bill, tuned to the cash register and rang up
five cents. Ross raised himself on his toes and peered into the cash
drawer. It was very well filled with currency. Gorbin counted out four
twenties, a ten, a five, four ones aud the necessary silver to make the
"You got a nerve spending a nickel and making me bust a century
note," he said. "So happens business has been good, and I had the
change. I'm no cheap skate, either, only I just don't make it a habit
of giving a cop anything. Gets you in trouble if things go wrong. Don't
worry about Marco, copper. I'll keep him cooled off."
Ross nodded, finished his drink and returned to his beat. Once out
of sight of the poolroom he stopped under a street lamp, took out the
bills Gorbin had given him and examined them intently. The four
twenties were new and crisp. Their serial numbers were in rotation,
something that rarely happened after currency had been passed around.
There was a bank, open until midnight, about two blocks off Ross'
beat. He put in his duty call and hurried over to the bank. The night
cashier looked over the bills.
"It is strange that you'd have received them in rotation like this.
I think they could be checked because they are so new. The Federal
Reserve would have a record of the bank to which they were sent. Want
me to see if I can find out? Someone will be there."
Ross did, and twenty minutes later he was mighty glad of his hunch.
The bills had been shipped to the Security National Bank and drawn out
to the order of one Hugh Clayton, a wealthy manufacturer. And what
made Ross gasp, was the fact that Clayton had drawn twenty-five
thousand dollars all at one time—from his personal account.
Ross left the bank, trying to figure out what it all meant. He
looked up Hugh Clayton's address in a phone book. It was at the other
side of town. If he went there, he'd be late on at least me duty call
and he'd be required to give a reason for it. All this might turn into
a fiasco of bewildering puzzles before he was finished.
ROSS hailed a taxi. He gave Hugh Clayton's address and was driven
there quickly. It was a pretentious house. A man in a smoking jacket
opened the door, saw the blue uniform and uttered a gasp of horror. He
tried to close the door, but Ross' foot prevented that.
"Just a moment, Mr. Clayton," he said. "Can't you see I'm an
Clayton grew crimson. "I . . . I'm sorry. I . . . I thought you
were just trying to force your way in. What do you want, officer?
Ross walked into the living room. Clayton's wife stood in the
center of it, her face ashen, her eyes brimming with terror. Ross laid
his nightstick on a table and faced both of them.
"There's nothing half so wrong with me as there is with you. What's
given both of you the jitters like this? And Mr. Clayton—why did you
draw twenty-five thousand dollars out of the bank six days ago?"
"Tell him, Hugh," Mrs. Clayton spoke in an agonized voice. "Tell
him! Anything is better than this uncertainty."
Clayton mopped his face. "I . . . I don't know how to begin,
officer. I—well, my son was kidnaped eight days ago. I was ordered to
pay a fifty-thousand-dollar ransom—in two installments of twenty-five
thousand each. I was told to spread these payments over a period of
thirty days and my son would be held until the kidnapers proved to
their own satisfaction that I had neither notified the police nor
marked the currency with which I paid them. When the second installment
was paid, my son would be freed. I know he's alive. I had a letter
from him only this morning. I should have told the police. But he's my
son—I couldn't risk it. Now you seem to have found out yourself."
"Have you the note?" Ross asked. "The letter your son wrote? And
any others he sent you?"
Clayton nodded, walked over to a living-room table and took four
letters from the drawer. He handed them to Ross. They were all written
in the same hand.
"My son wrote them. I'm positive of that," Clayton said.
Ross put them into his pocket. "Forget that I ever came here," he
said. "If the kidnapers contact you again, do as they order. Don't
tell a soul about it."
"But, officer"—Clayton grasped his arm—"I . . . I don't see why
they sent a patrolman. I thought detectives handled this sort of
"I'm in disguise," Ross said with a grin. "Anyway, trust me."
He left the house, hailed another cab and had himself driven to
headquarters. He slipped in through a side door, went to the police
laboratories and had a twenty-minute talk with the scientist in
charge. When Ross left, his face was grim.
He had missed one duty call, but that didn't worry him now. He
could call in, report he'd been busy.
As he swung around a corner at the end of his beat, he saw
Patrolman Hennessey walking up to the call box. Hennessey inserted his
key into the door, pulled it open and a bedlam of fury broke forth.
The call box ejected fire and death! Hennessey was blown back a dozen
feet, and then crumpled into the gutter.
ROSS began running like mad toward him, saw a shadowy form emerge
from a doorway and dart into an alley. Ross changed his tactics. He
went in swift pursuit, drawing his gun as he raced. There was little
doubt in his mind but that the explosive placed in that call box had
been meant for him. By missing his duty call, he'd avoided a horrible
death; but it had killed Hennessey. Ross' lips were tight, his face
grim, as he rushed into the intense darkness of the alley.
As he reached the end of the alley, he saw his quarry, silhouetted
by yellow light streaking down from a tenement above. Ross cut loose
with two quick shots. The man stumbled, almost lost his balance and
then plunged on. Ross came out of the mouth of the alley like a
tornado. That fact probably saved his life once more, for the bomber
was crouched in the gloom, waiting. His gun spat! A bullet whizzed by
Ross' head and he made a flying leap for the protection of an ash box.
Again the killer fired, and a chunk of wood chipped off the corner of
Ross risked a quick look, drew down and sent two slugs hurtling at
the man. He knew that he missed, but the killer was forced to duck
back for safety, Ross came around the ash box in a furious charge. The
killer heard him rushing in his direction. He stood up and Ross fired.
The killer decided things were too hot for him. He wheeled and began
running again, keeping close to the shadows of the big buildings so
he'd be more of a difficult target.
Ross lost him for a moment and took advantage of thee lull to
reload his service pistol. The killer gave himself away a moment later
by kicking a tin can and raising a metallic din. Ross was after him in
a flash and got a glimpse of the man. He seemed to have a definite
destination in mind for he ran straight, not the crooked winding path
of a desperate man who sought only to get away.
The killer reached the back of a huge, ramshackle old warehouse. A
small door at the back was wide open and he headed for it. Ross' jaws
clamped shut. If he was fool enough to dive into that maw of darkness,
he'd have him cold.
The fleeing man did just that. But as he crossed the cleared space
in front of the door, Ross sent a bullet smashing toward him. The
killer gave a yell of pain and fear. His foot caught on the single
step of the doorway and he slid forward on his face. Ross felt the joy
of triumph surge through him. He catapulted through that door and
launched himself in a dive calculated to end as he fell on top of the
killer. That happened as planned, but Ross didn't have a chance to
close manacles around his prisoner's wrists. For he heard footsteps
behind him and before he could turn and fight, the cold muzzle of a
gun was thrust against his head.
"Just stay where you are," someone hissed softly. "Let that roscoe
drop out of your hand. One phony stunt and you get it."
Ross groaned and let the gun fall. As he stood up, the man whom he
had been chasing rose to his feet and laughed harshly.
"Boy, am I smart," he gloated. "I led him right here. Wasn't that
slide I took the real goods though? This poor fool of a copper thought
he'd plugged me."
"You're a nitwit," the unseen leader snarled. "You should have
blasted his head off with that bomb I gave you. What happened?"
The slender killer shrugged. "This copper was late on his ring and
another comes along. see? When he goes to put in his call, I knew he'd
be blasted to pieces; so I was just goin' to yell for help and get him
away from the call box when Ross comes runnin' around the corner. So I
just let it go at that. Man, you should have seen that bomb go off. It
was a honey!"
"One cop less is some satisfaction," the leader snapped. "This time
I'll handle Ross myself. You guys get your guns ready. We're going to
plank him up against that farther wall and shoot him down. They'll
think he chased the guy who put that bomb in the call box and got
himself plugged for his trouble."
Ross felt sweat roll down his face. He'd never been so close to
"Keep your hands shoulder high," the leader warned in a soft voice.
"Now walk over to that wall. Walk slow and easy. Just even start to
turn your head and I'll blow it off!"
Ross began moving very slowly, "You're afraid to let me see your
ugly mug, eh? Afraid I might know you?"
"Shut up!" came the savage retort, "or I'll work over you with a
gun butt. Line up against the wall and put the palms of your hands
against it. Greg, turn on the lights so we can see to plug him right."
Lights were turned on. One of the three killers closed the door of
the warehouse. Then he ran across the huge bare floor to line himself
up beside his companions in crime. All three men sighted their guns!
The leader spoke:
"When I give the word, shoot—and keep on shooting so we're sure
this copper is stone dead. He must not live even ten seconds after
help comes, because he might talk. Ready?"
ROSS, facing the wall, saw exposed electric-light wiring run two
inches from his upraised hands. The wires were thin, held to the wall
by cheap porcelain clamps. Ross' right hand moved a trifle. His
fingers touched the wires, and he gave them a jerk, using every ounce
of strength he possessed.
There was a bluish flame near the ceiling as the wires parted. Then
the warehouse was plunged in intense darkness. Ross let himself drop
to the floor. The three guns blazed! Bullets slapped into the wall and
the roar of the guns was increased tenfold by the echoes that rang
through the empty building.
Ross scurried to one side and tried to penetrate the darkness for a
glimpse of the killers. That proved to be impossible. The warehouse
was not provided with windows and the gloom was as intense as that of
a coal mine.
Ross crouched and listened. He could hear rasping breathing to his
left. One of the thugs lurked in that direction. Quietly Ross bent
down, untied his shoes and stepped out of them. On stockinged feet he
made no more noise than a ghost.
"Greg," he hissed. "You there?"
The killer who lurked nearby was the man called Greg. Believing
that Ross would never dare give himself away by speaking, he answered
in sibilant hiss. Ross went into a dive before Greg finished speaking.
His outstretched hand touched warm flesh. A gun went off and the bullet
fanned his neck. He gripped the gun hand, turned it savagely and the
weapon dropped to the floor. Ross buried his fist into Greg's stomach,
felt around in the darkness for his head and his fingers closed around
a thick shock of hair. Now he had a real target. He drew back his
right fist and smashed home a terrific hook that crashed Greg full in
the face and put him out of the picture completely.
There was a lancing jet of flame to Ross' left and the roar of a
gun. Whoever fired was aiming in the general direction of the scuffle
and he missed by a dozen feet.
Ross fumbled around, found Greg's gun and pulled back the hammer.
He wondered where the third member of the grisly trio had gone. Unless
he was crouched in some corner, waiting for a chance to get in a
deadly bullet, he must have fled.
Ross slithered toward the wall. His foot struck a loose board and
it creaked under his weight. Instantly a gun cracked, but Ross was
ready this time. He fired directly into that jet of flame and drew a
scream of agony, the sound of someone flailing around and then a groan.
Silence settled over the big warehouse, aggravated by dust that
seeped down from the dirty walls and ceilings. Dust loosened by the
concussion of gunfire.
Gently, Ross began negotiating his way toward the small rear exit.
If the leader of the trio lurked in that vicinity, he was bound to
draw his fire, but anything was better than this awful uncertainty.
There was little chance of any help coming. The warehouse lay close to
the pier and it was early morning. There were no tenements nearby, and
no pedestrians would be walking this dismal section at such an hour.
Then Ross heard stealthy footsteps. They were high above him and
sounded as though the leader was sneaking down a stairway. Then Greg,
the man he had slugged, suddenly came back to life. He groaned
dismally and sat up. A flashlight broke through the darkness, swept
across the floor and across Greg's form. He lay face down. His suit
was dark and the collar pulled up as a result of his battle with Ross.
The killer on the stairway made a natural mistake He thought this was
"Take it, copper," he yelled.
Something hit the floor with a loud bang. A sheet of flame reached
out suddenly and an explosion all but deafened Ross who was crouched
in a corner fully forty feet away. The whole section of the warehouse
caved in Debris clattered down, huge beams smashed to the floor. Ross
hastily covered his head with his arms and prayed silently. One beam
landed within easy, reach and threw up a cloud of dust. Ross held his
breath, jumped over the debris and streaked for the small rear exit He
dived headlong out of it.
No shots came from the warehouse. Apparently the leader of the mob
kept some kind of crude laboratory upstairs where he manufactured
bombs. He had hurled his deadly missile and knowing his way around
this warehouse, had made good an escape.
Ross sagged limply against a fence and drew his forearm across his
face to wipe away sweat and dirt. Fire sirens were whining. A radio
car turned down the alley beside the warehouse. Ross hurried up to it.
"There are two men inside," he panted. "One must be dead The bomb
landed two feet away from him. The other mug has a bullet in his
carcass, but you'd better get inside and see if he's beyond help."
"What's it all about, Ross?" one of the patrolmen asked.
"Plenty," Ross snapped "Contact headquarters and have 'em send the
riot squad to the Superior Poolrooms over on Allen Street. Block off
every exit and tell them to be careful. The guy we're after is an
expert on bombs "
ROSS swung into the radio car, turned it neatly and shot back out
of the alley. He stopped the car a block from his destination, ran out
into the middle of the road and stared at the tall building that
housed the Superior Poolrooms. There was another tall building
adjoining it, with an alley no more than three feet wide.
Ross darted into the hallway of this next-door building, climbed up
what seemed to him a million steps, and reached the roof. Without
stopping, he sprinted across the flat, gravel roof, gave a leap and
cleared the space between the two buildings.
He looked around for the skylight, found it and went down the
ladder to the top floor. The poolroom was five or six stories below,
and the rest of the building was unoccupied. But despite that fact,
Ross moved silently, grateful that he still wore no shoes.
He went down the steps, sliding against the banister to avoid
putting his whole weight on the stairway. Then Ross stopped and
listened. He could hear voices coming from far down a corridor. Two of
them were familiar. The third, protesting volubly, was obviously that
of a boy.
"No—no!" one of the men shouted "You cannot do this. You will kill
"Listen, you half-wit!" The man who answered was nervous and
desperate "I bombed out that lousy copper. I know he's dead because
the bomb landed right beside him. What if it killed Greg and Tony,
too? If they'd been smart, all this wouldn't have happened. And this
damned kid—with his itchy fingers. Swiping dough that was bound to be
hot. Old man Clayton will pay for this."
"But what you gonna do if the cops come here?" the other man asked.
"Listen—they'll think Clayton's kid is up here, won't they? That
damned copper maybe forced Clayton to talk. Maybe he phoned the dope
to headquarters. Maybe he even mentioned names. We're getting
out—quick. If we're stopped—"
He ceased talking, for outside in the street sirens were wailing
and hoarse voices were giving the orders that hemmed in the building.
"He did it! Ross did it!" the voice of the leader rasped. "O.
K.—he's dead and they got nothing against us so far. We'll
proposition 'em. We'll hold the kid up to a window and threaten to blow
his head off unless we're given a break. That'll get 'em! It always
"But if they say no—" the other man countered nervously. "Then
what you do—shoot the boy? No—no!"
"You yellow double-crosser," the leader snarled. "Sure, I'll bump
him! You, too—unless you do what I say. Bring that kid near the
There was the sound of smashing glass; then the killer's raucous
voice made his proposition.
"I got Hugh Clayton's kid up here. See? I'm not kidding. Well, I
walk outta here with the kid right in front of me. My roscoe will be
pressed against his head. If anybody tries to stop me, I'll blow it
"Wait a minute," someone called up from the street. "You know it's
the chair, if you do. Let the boy go unharmed, come out with your
hands in the air and you'll get a fair deal."
"Yeah! Fair deal! You got two minutes by the clock to promise, or I
give it to the kid."
THERE was half a minute of silence. Ross crept forward. He had to
save that boy's life. Outside the open door, he thought the pounding
of his heart would give him away. Then Ross drew a long breath, took a
firm grip on his gun and stepped into the room.
Max Gorbin, who owned the poolroom below, spun. Consternation made
him a little slow. He made a grab for a swarthy-faced boy who stood
nearby and opened fire at the same time. Ross felt a bullet nick his
side. He snapped two quick shots from the hip. Gorbin gave a screech,
backed against the wall and his gun sagged from a hand gone limp. Ross
moved in, gun ready to blast this killer out of existence if he moved.
But Gorbin was past that stage. There was a slug through his shoulder,
another through his lung. Blood flecked his lips. He began to sag
toward the floor.
Ten feet away, Marco, the father of the boy whom Ross was accused
of killing, made a frantic start for the door. Ross headed him off,
fought the man back into the room and knocked him cold with a
jaw-breaking right. The boy was backing toward the door, too, eyes
wide in terror.
"Hold it," Ross snapped. "You're not in this mess too deep. but you
will be if you try a getaway."
The boy stopped and raised his hands. Feet pounded up the stairs.
The room filled with blue-uniformed men. Ross sank into a chair and
shook his head violently to dispel the cobwebs that threatened to
"Nice work, Ross." Lieutenant Brady elbowed his way toward him.
"You got the kidnapers and the boy as well."
"You're wrong, sir," Ross said quietly. "That kid isn't Hugh
Clayton's son. Look at him and look at Marco. That's Marco's kid."
"But I thought you ran him down—killed him—"
"The boy I hit was Hugh Clayton's son. Gorbin snatched him. He
forced the boy to write a series of letters. Then he demanded ransom
in two installments, stating he'd spend the first twenty-five grand
before he released the boy. Clayton couldn't notify us or refuse to
turn over the money. It wasn't marked and the numbers weren't
registered, but young Marco here swiped a one-hundred-dollar bill for
his cut. Then, that same night young Clayton tried a getaway and
Gorbin or one of his hoodlums killed hum. They had a corpse on their
hands and a good chance of missing out on the second ransom
installment, So they decided to get rid of the body in an easy manner,
and make some more money at the same time."
Lieutenant Brady grasped the set-up. "They dressed young Clayton's
body in this boy's clothes and hurled him in front of your car. They
even staged that holdup at Matt Lynch's to get a radio car on their
trail—and traveling at a fast clip. How did you get wise, Ross?"
"The clothing of the boy I hit was soaked. It was raining hard that
night. But when I felt for a heartbeat, I found his underclothing was
dry and, curiously enough, of an expensive weave. You couldn't
identify him because his face had been crushed, purposely, before I
struck him. Marco kept his son hidden up here. He was ready to collect
from the insurance company for the death of his boy. But I found a
one-hundred-dollar bill in one of the pockets of the boy I was supposed
to have killed. Also a package of matches from Gorbin's poolroom, I
went there and made him break the hundred. He recognized it, guessed I
was wise and set out to eliminate me. But in the change he gave me
were several twenty-dollar bills, with serial numbers in rotation. They
were new, traceable, and I found Hugh Clayton had drawn them out of
the bank. He broke down and told me the whole story."
"But how were you so sure it was Clayton's boy that was thrown in
front of your car?" Brady wanted to know.
"Those notes Gorbin sent to Hugh Clayton had all been written at
the same time. I had the police labs check on 'em. It's possible, by
comparing the fading qualities of the same ink, to tell how long ago
they had been written. I guessed the set-up then. That's why I wasn't
afraid to tackle Gorbin. He didn't have Clayton's son for a
hostage—only young Marco. You know, I think he'd have played it out
to the end —made you believe it was young Clayton he held. I think he
would have murdered this boy, too."
The older Italian was conscious and struggling in the grasp of two
patrolmen. "He made me do this! He knew I am an alien. He threatened
to have me sent back unless I obeyed. But now I tell everything."
Gorbin, bleary-eyed and pale, gave a groan of despair.
"Go ahead, Marco," Ross said. "Talk him straight into the chair. We
don't need your evidence, but it will save the State dough by making
the trial shorter. Go ahead and talk!"