FICTION

Where Was Conway Praed?

BENGE ATLEE March 15 1939
FICTION

Where Was Conway Praed?

BENGE ATLEE March 15 1939

Where Was Conway Praed?

BENGE ATLEE

I HOPE,” said the girl with a little laugh as Hicks ushered her into the living room, “I’ve come to the right place.”

“So do I,” Kent Power replied—for she satisfied. She was tall and moved serenely; she had lovely eyes that saw through you without annoying you about it; she had a figure with just the ripeness of September apples—and the sort of skirts around which children could cling.

“You are a private investigator, aren’t you?” she asked, seating herself so gracefully in the chair he offered that she seemed to confer a favor.

“I do more or less rescue the perishing,” he replied, dropping into one opposite.

“Perhaps”—her expression went suddenly sombre— “you know Mr. Conway Praed?”

“I know he’s Montreal’s outstanding criminal lawyer.

I know he has a complex which forces him to espouse the underdog too often for his own good. And I know he has the name of being a straight shooter. Don’t tell me he’s perishing.”

“He left his office Tuesday morning and hasn’t been back since. I’m his secretary. Mary Parker.”

“And today’s Thursday, with no word of him?”

“Yes, I’m very worried.”

“Any particular reason for that?”

She hesitated. “He has never done anything like that before and ...” Perhaps she thought this conveyed too great a sense of the proprietary, for she let it go at that.

“What you’re trying to tell me is that you were pretty close to him, and that his disappearance has caused the bond between you to more or less quiver with apprehension?”

“Yes.” There was something tragic in her dark eyes— and then he remembered that Praed’s wife was in a sanitarium for the insane, and that Praed in this respect as in others would be a Don Quixote. Yet he knew he must probe deeper into that pain. “You don’t think he has run away from a situation he couldn’t face any longer?” It said a good deal not only for her intelligence but her courage that she refused to fence with the question. “He’s not that type, Mr. Power. He has never run away from anything in his life.”

“Are you suggesting that he’s been—taken away?” “Someone was in his office Tuesday night. His private files had been gone through.”

“Perhaps it was Praed himself.”

She shook her head quite definitely. “No; I’m quite sure it wasn’t he.”

“So you want me to see if I can find him?”

Something of relief flooded the valleys of her fear. “If you’d be so good.”

IT WAS not one of the best streets in Outremont in which Power parked his coupé the following night, yet it represented the end of the single tenuous thread he had found to follow in what was becoming more and more of a mystery quest. He had interviewed every client who had called at Conway Praed’s office in two days, except the last client. The last client had proved to be entirely elusive. The name he had given Mary Parker was J. J. Brown—but the three J. J. Browns in the city directory to whose addresses Power had gone had none of the last client’s lineaments. “Perhaps,” Power told her at the end of sleeveless errands, “Brown is a phony name; just a little less so than Smith or Jones. Did Praed keep a scratch pad on his desk?”

“Yes.”

But the scratch pad was blank, and the wastepaper basket had been emptied. The affair ended with Power and the building janitor going through a great heap of rubbish in the basement, out of which came a crumpled sheet of paper that fitted the pad on Praed’s desk. It held in the lawyer’s writing the single word. Cooper.

“He must have written it Tuesday morning,” Miss Parker declared.

“There was nothing on the pad when I arranged his desk.”

“I wonder why he crumpled it and threw it away,” Power exclaimed.

“Was he one of those idle scribblers?”

“No; he seldom wrote memos.

Unless a thing was very private, he had me make a note of it.”

“Let’s suppose that Tuesday morning’s last client used a phony

Kent Power, scientific detective, in the Case of the Terrified Laundrymen

name to get past you. That would mean that lie was particularly anxious to have no one know he was here. But he had to disclose his real name to Praed. In doing so he urged Praed to put nothing in writing about his visit. Praed agreed, but made a note of his name—to fasten it in his memory—and then crumpled the memo and threw it in the wastebasket. Does that sound reasonable to you, Miss Parker?”

She agreed that it did.

“But it seems to me,” he went on, staring at the slip of paper in his hand, “that anybody who'd choose a name like Brown when he had the whole gamut of Carmichaels, MacDougals and Harrisons to get a real alias from, would be simple enough to stick his real initials in front of it. I’m going to spend the night looking for J. J. Coopers. How many are there in the directory?”

There was only one, and he lived in this street in Outremont. and in this very set of drab brick flats toward which Power had walked from his coupé parked discreetly distant. In the hallway none too well lit—a faded card in a battery of post boxes disclosed that Mr. Coojx.*r lived on the third floor. Power ascended the deserted central staircase.

There was no answer to his knock, nor to his second and third knock. He turned to go, deciding that Mr. J. J. Cooper’s acquaintance must await another day. What brought him back might have been stubbornness, and it might have been intuition. Yet it was with rather a sense of shock he discovered that the door of J. J. Cooper’s apartment was unlocked.

Stepping inside, he shut the door behind him and flipped the wall light switch. Its click brought no response, and the stuffy darkness of the room caused him a sudden sense of danger. He tried to assure himself

that It wasn’t the darkness, that it was merely the reaction to the unexpectedly open door and a switch that refused to do what it ought to do. Perhaps there was another room beyond, whose incandescence was untrammelled. I íe moved forward gingerly through the murk and suddenly something was pressed into the middle of his back.

A low voice whose intonations carried the categorical imperative, said, “Reach!”

HE HAD his ixxkets patted, and then another voice directly in front of him said. “Kent Power?”

“That’s right.”

“But it’s not healthy.”

“Where’s Conway Praed?” Power asked coolly. He could see the man only as a shadow against a shadow so intangible as to be unreal. The reality consisted of that voice, and that hard circle that was still being pressed into his back.

"How should I know?”

“Aren’t you J. J. Cooper?”

It brought a cold, contemptuous laugh. “That . . . ” The name used wasn't pretty.

“Don’t like him. eh?” Power tried to keep his tone light, but there had been something in that voice that caused him a very real fear, despite the fact that he felt the voice was disguised.

“No,” it answered, “and it’d be better for you, Power, to keep out of any business he's mixed up with.”

“Thanks for the warning.”

“Better heed it . . okay, Joe.”

The certainty of crisis tightened, and Power half turned to meet it. The fortuitous movement saved him its full impact. Nevertheless the butt of the gun. grazing the side of his head, staggered him. It was his native wit that sent him to the floor in a heap.

There was swift movement above him. I íe turned dazed eyes toward the door, against which momentarily two figures silhouetted themselves. Then they w'ere blotted out and the lock clicked.

He staggered up, but the door balked him. 1 hat crack on the side of the head had dissolved considerable of his strength. I íe found a table with a lamp on it which refused to switch on. And then he discovered that tire bulb was loose. Screwing it home, he tried again. The room flooded with light; and suddenly he had again the feeling that he was not alone. He turned slowly, warily.

Spraw led in a large old Morris chair sat a fattish man with a drooping heavy mustache and the look of long acquaintance with liquor. Here there had tx-en no fortuitous dodging from a gun butt; the top of the bald head had been crushed in. Blood dripixd in a series of cascades from it to the shoulder, to the left arm, to the lkxrr; the man was dead.

Power found a telephone in the bedroom beyond, strangely enough with the receiver off and lying on the table where it had evidently been laid in a great hurry. I lis hand went out toward it until realizing suddenly that here lay another tenuous thread of possibility, he swung about and dashed from the room.

A moment later he was calling down from one of the living-room windows to a woman who was passing in the street below w ith a market basket on her arm. “Missus — hey, missus!"

As she halted and glanced about like a bewildered hen he urged, "Up! Up!” And when she upped. "I’m locked in here. Would you mind getting the janitor to let me out?” By that time half a dozen other windows had been shunted skyward. Voices were saying into the night, "Somebody’s locked in Mr. Cooper’s Hat!” "Hey. Tom. there’s a guy can’t get outa old Coop’s flat looks like a thief!”

A janitor, whose haste had been so great that his galluses trailed him aloft, an aggressive little man with shaggy whiskers and a let-me-at-him air. unlocked the door.

“What the heck are you oh !" He had suddenly caught sight of the figure in the chair.

“Better let me have that key.” Power said, stepping out. Before the other had recovered his w its. the dx)r was locked, and Power had turned to the young couple who stcxxi framed in the door of the next flat. "Can I use your phone?”

“Ain’t got a phone.”

"Hey, mister, you can use ours!” It was a tousle-headed kid down the stairs.

T)OWER followed him down and into a room, to reach the far wall of which he had to wade through a covey of sprawling young, for whom the boy seemed sole shepherd. He dialled a number on the phone, and then said hurriedly,

“Mr. Stewart ! As quick as you can !” And then in a minute, "That you. Bill? . . . Kent Power . Want you to trace a phone connection from J. J. Cooper.” He gave the name address of the apartment. "It’s urgent, old son !”

I íe turned to the boy who had followed him in. “Did you hear anything funny upstairs about five minutes ago? A shout —or a fall?”

The boy shook his head, and then said suddenly: “Gee, mister, you’re bleedin’!”

Power grinned at him. "I must have bumped into something.”

Bill Stewart was taking a long time about it. Probably it was a lost hope anyway. Even if J. J. Cooper had laid down the receiver to go immediately to his death, and even if he, Kent Power, had landed in the moment afterward, there was little chance that the party at the other end would be still hanging on. With these dial phones, both parties had to be unhooked to enable a connection to be traced.

A voice crackled over the wire. “Your party is T. P. Rollins, Orchard Street. We barely snaffled the link when he hung up. You always were lucky.”

“Thanks a lot.” Power hung up, and then dialled Sergeant Papineau.

The janitor was waiting outside in a belligerent mood. "Look here, mister, I wanta know what this is all about, see?” The other residents of the apartment, grouped in a circle behind him, seemed to want to know, too.

“I don't blame you.” Power said, pushing past him up the stairs; and he was able to let himself into Cooper’s flat again and lock the d(x>r before the surging mob could follow.

He walked over and took a closer look at the dead man. was still engaged in that business when Papineau arrived.

"Saaé nom!” gasixxi the rotund detective. "What is this? You ’ave done that?” He pointed at the sprawled figure.

"No.”

“Then ’ow ’ave you got that crack on the ’ead?"

Power told him the story.

“So you t’ink there is the connection between this unfortunate man” -he indicated the third member of their conference "and M. Conway Praed?”

"I'm not sure; it may be pure coincidence.”

“But it is certain that these men you 'ave found ’ere killed M'sieu Cooper?”

"I don't think there's any doubt of that. The body’s still quite warm.”

“You were able to see these men?”

Power shook his head. "I just got a brief silhouette of them as they shot through the door. It was pretty hazy.” They went into the kitchen. The dead man had evidently just finished a self-prepared meal before going in to telephone. The place was rather flyblown, despite the two strips of sticky flypaper, one of which hung from the electric light above the table. Another, which lay on the floor before the open window, had evidently been attached to the blind cord.

It was Papineau who discovered that this window opened on the fire escape, and suggested that the intruders might have entered this way.

THE HOUSE on Orchard Street before which they pulled up half an hour later, presented something of a surprise; it was not the sort of house with which one would have associated the late J. J. Cooper. Solid, well architected, it suggested, if not great wealth, at least a considerable affluence, and stood back slightly from the street on a raised grassy terrace set with flowering shrubs. No less than three cars were drawn up under the wide portecochere, and another was parked against the curb fifty feet ahead.

A white-coated manservant answered their ring. While they waited in the hall, Papineau gazed about interestedly. The wide hall, with its mahogany and mirrors, had the look of those “better” homes pictured in magazines. In short, it had elegance rather than character.

The manservant came back with a tall, baldheaded man gone somewhat to paunch, yet wearing the ruddy health of the middle-aged golfer. “You wish to see me?”

"You’re T. P. Rollins?”

"That's right.”

"Did you get a phone call”—Power glanced at his watch -“somewhere around a quarter to nine?”

The rather protuberant grey eyes took on the sort of look with which they’d greet three aces in the deal. “No !” But the reply came a thought too brusquely.

Nor did this escape Papineau. "Perhaps, m’sieu.” he said, “vou should know that I am Sergeant Jules Papineau of the Mo’real police. This is my frien’. Kent Power.” "That still makes the answer no,” tire other replied curtly. “You’re entertaining some friends, aren’t you?” Power asked.

“Yes.*

“Mind if I take a look at them?”

Quite plainly Rollins didn’t like it. but as plainly he was afraid to refuse. “Very well,” he said.

They went into a library at the back where four men were seated around a table. They had been playing poker. “I’ve just come,” Power told them, “from the flat of one J. J. Cooper.”

And suddenly the same thing happened to their faces as had happened in the hall outside to their host’s when he was asked about a phone call.

“I found the receiver of nis telephone lying loose on the table, and central traced the connection to this house. I'm very anxious to know whom Cooper was speaking to and what he was speaking about.”

The bulk of T. P. Rollins seemed to interpose between Power and the others. “They must have made a mistake,” he grunted. “We know nothing about—”

“Just a minute,” Power said, raising one hand. “I think you ought to know that Cooper was murdered by two men who interrupted him while he was talking to you.”

It rather stunned them—yet somehow it was not quite the surprise it should have been. For there was a certain fatalism in their silence and their bearing, as though perhaps J. J. Cooper's death had been written on the sands.

“Which of you did he ring?”

They seemed to lean together for support, to glance at one another for mutual guidance. And then one of them said, “He rang me.” He was the oldest man in the room, one of those young-faced greyheads with clean-shaven, mobile features and keen dark eyes, who are so characteristic a production of executive business life in America.

“Your name please, m’sieu?” Papineau asked.

“Perry Hallett.”

“Mind telling us the nature of the phone conversation?” Power queried.

Did the others seem to stiffen with apprehension while Hallett cleared his throat? Yet his answer came quite frankly. “It was purely a business matter. Cooper used to collect some of my bad accounts from time to time. He rang me up to tell me he’d landed one of the worst duds.”

IT BROUGHT a loosening to the tension about him.

Rollins struck a match and relit the cigar that had gone out.

“It was certainly zealous of him, rooting you out here to tell you about it,” Power said.

“ Un zèle très extraordinaire,” Papineau echoed, sceptically.

“We heard the conversation,” Rollins said. “There’s the phone over there.” He pointed to the small side table

“What strikes me as odd.” Power exclaimed, “is why you hung on so long at this end.”

Hallett shrugged. "He asked me to hang on.”

“And you’re asking me to believe that you did that for what must have been not less than ten minutes simply to hear more about the collection of what you’d thought was a bad debt?”

“I’ve held on for longer than that to hear good news about twelve hundred dollars.” Hallett snapped back.

“Did you hear anything while you were hanging on? A cry? Other voices?”

The other man hesitated the barest instant before answering, “No.”

“You didn’t think it was odd that Cooper didn’t return?” “Not particularly.”

“You ’ave perhaps not the suspicious nature, m’sieu.” Papineau suggested.

That seemed to annoy the short, red-headed man sitting next Hallett. “Did nobody ever run out on a phone conversation that way with you? Perry waited a bit and then hung up. What’s funny about that?”

Power turned to Rollins. “Perhaps it isn’t funny that you denied there’d been a phone call here when I asked you.”

“You asked me if I'd got a phone call,” Rollins retorted with a shrug that spoke its own triumph. “I told you the truth. I hadn’t.”

“You seem to follow the letter rather than the spirit of truth,” Power said with a twisted smile. “Let’s try another line. When did you gentlemen start your game?” “Shortly after eight,” Rollins replied.

“No one has left the house since?”

“No.”

Power turned to the others. “Is that so?”

It was apparently so.

“In that case,” Power said, “you won’t mind if we take a look around.”

In the hall outside he said to Papineau: “We’re looking for gloves—and hot tires.”

They found gloves, in the dash compartments of two of the cars outside, which evidently had been used for changing tires. They looked, despite the fact that Power pocketed them, innocent enough. And then they found tires hotter than other tires. The coupé that had come last into the driveway had them, and an engine that still radiated the heat of fairly recent action.

“Looks as if we’d run into the old brotherhood of Ananias,” Power said grimly. “Let’s go back and see if we can’t blast something more out of ’em.”

The five in the library had not resumed their game, and sat around the table with the air of men who had been considering grave matters. Power went right aboard them. “Somebody’s lying,” he said. “That coupé out there has been driven since eight o’clock, and driven fast. Suppose we play a little game of truth for a change.” They stared at him for a moment, and then Perry I Iallett leaned forward. “You’re a young man, Power, and you ride a high horse. We’ve ridden our high horses toobut they're no gxd when you’re in mud up to the stirrups.”

“What I want to know,” Power said quietly, “is who rode that coupé down there.”

1 Iallett shrugged, and it was the gesture of a man mounting the scaffold. “All right,” he said, “you can have it. There’s something going on in this city that you perhaps don’t know anything about. It’s the sort of thing that makes ” There was a sudden crash. And then the lights went out. That was Sergeant Papineau. As the bullet, I whose heat flecked I lallett’s cheek, cracked against the wall beside him, Papineau had reached for the electric switch behind him. After that he followed Power’s flying figure into the hall. They had reached the front steps when the

car that had been {barked at the curb in front of their own, shot away from its place.

"Let’s go!" Power grunted.

THE CHASE led cityward. But what with traffic and darkness, Power had to confess as he swung into Peel Street that he was not sure the car they were then following was the one they had started after.

“Me,” Papineau agreed, “I am not sure either.”

When they drew up behind it in front of the Mount Windsor Hotel, it proved to lx* a taxi. The three men in dress clothes who debouched from it were paying the driver when Power and Papineau reached them.

“ ’Alio!” exclaimed the sergeant, beaming. "C'est Maxie! Bo' soir. Maxie!”

The three gentlemen were what are known as snappy dressers. Their white neckties were over-authentic; their tail coats had the sort of waists that are the envy and despair of sophomores; their dark features had the slick patina of the well barbered. But the slender young man in the centre stood out like a lily against two dandelions. He had dark, quick, dangerous eyes. He had a thin-lipped mouth that smiled in a twisted way. He had the look of an eagle— and the eagle is a bird of prey.

“Well, if it ain’t the old sarge!” he exclaimed. “How's tricks?”

"Fine!” Papineau replied. “Meet my frien’, Kent Power.”

“How ya, Mr. Power? Nice night!”

“It's a great night,” Power agreed, “if you’re not in a hurry.”

“That’s us, Mr. Power. We’re late for this here dance.” “Ha-ha!” Papineau exclaimed jovially. "I should arrest you, Maxie, for reckless driving on the Côte des Neiges Road.”

The eagle flung out his hand in an un-Anglo-Saxon gesture. “What a pal!" he cried; and then, as though something had suddenly struck him: “When was I speedin’ on the Côte des Neiges Road, sarge?”

“We ’ave just followed you in.”

“Then I got a double. I just come from my fiat. Ain’t that right, boys?”

The dandelions agreed. Sure, it was right. Papineau stèpped to the curb from which the taxi was drawing away and leaped to its running board. "Revenez, s’il vous plaît!” The taxi backed into the curb again. “You ’ave just brought these messieurs from where?” Papineau asked the driver.

“Drummond Street."

“You ‘ave come straight ’ere?”

“Yeah.”

Maxie was grinning when Papineau came back. “Satisfied, sarge?”

“Absolument!” the detective agreed with his most unctuous smile.

"Happy days! Glad to have met you. Mr. Power.” The eagle and his satellites disappeared into the hotel.

“And who,” Power wanted to know, “is Maxie?” “Maxie St ross.”

“That means nothing to me.”

“You 'ave seen jxrhaps the slot machines?"

“Sure.”

“Maxie is the king of the slot machines."

They got into the coupé again, and Power sat for a moment gazing through the windscreen. “It lx)ks very much as if we'd run down the wrong fox." he said finally. “Too bad. Your pal, Maxie, fits the jxirt— but the two gentlemen at J. J. Cooper’s fiat were not wearing tails. As I've told you, I got a sort of dazed silhouette of them as they dashed out and they were not wearing tails.”

“Perhaps they 'ave changed in the meantime,” Papineau suggested hopefully.

Power shook his head. “To do that they’d have had to travel from Outremont to Drummond Street and then back to Rollins’place. Even if they’re quick-change artists, they couldn’t have done that between the time they left Coojxr’s flat and the time that shot was fired at Perry Hallett. So while Maxie teases the imagination, he seems to lx* just one of fate’s red herrings. Shall we call it a day?”

Papineau stared at him with amazement. “Sacré vom. you do not intend to return to hear the disclosures of M’sieu Hallett that were interrupted?”

“It’d just lx* a waste of time. Pap. That shot was fired to put a scare into our poker-playing friends. I’ve an idea it succeeded; in which case the Ix*st we can hope is that a night’s sleep will put fresh courage into ’em. In the meantime a jittery cow yields no milk. We’ll try ’em again tomorrow after we’ve given Cooper’s flat another dekko. Keep one of your men there all night—and tell him to touch nothing.”

BUT HIS first visit next morning was to Conway Praed’s office. Handing Miss Parker, who wore the harassed look of sleepless nights, a list of five names, he asked her if Praed had ever had any dealings with any of them.

She breathed, after glancing at the slip. “Perry Hallett !” “Why Perry Hallett?”

“Mr. Prat'd handled his wife’s divorce before the Senate two years ago.” j "Is that all? I thought from the way you spoke his name, that there might have ; been gold in them thar hills.”

She glanced at him for a moment, biting her lip from the concentration of her thought. "It wasn’t a very nice case. Mr. Power. He came to Mr. Praed, trying to persuade him to withhold some of the evidence. He got very angry when Mr. Praed refused."

Power shook his head. ‘Tm afraid that’s too long a bow . . . Read the papers this morning?”

“No.” She still looked as though she thought he was dismissing history brusquely.

“Then you didn't see that J. J. Cooper was murdered last night?”

Her face paled; she caught him by the arm. “Then they’ve killed him, too?” Her “him,” he knew, was Praed. He laid a hand on her shoulder. “The people who murdered Cooper aren’t squeamish about leaving bodies around. If the same crowd had killed Praed, we’d have found him before this—if there’s any cheer in that.”

Sergeant Papineau was already at Cooper’s flat when he arrived. As they proceeded to go over the place again, Power said: “It’s been sticking in my

mind all morning that I've neglected something here, but I’m darned if I can remember what it is.”

“Perhaps it is in here.” Papineau started into the bedroom, in front of whose door he had been standing. “We ’ave not really searched this room.”

“We don’t need to.” Power said.

“And for why not?” Papineau demanded belligerently. “It is part of this ’ouse.”

“If the men who murdered Cooper had gone in there, they’d have seen the telephone receiver down and they’d have replaced it.”

“Me, I do not see it that way,” the other man said stubbornly. “If they do, what ’appens? M’sieu Perry Hallett says to himself. ‘This is a funny t’ing. Why does Cooper hang up wit'out speaking?’ ” “Have it your own way.” Power said with a shrug, stepping toward the kitchen —and then a minute later, he cried, “Eureka!”

It was the roll of flypaper lying on the floor in front of the window which drew that ejaculation from him. He went into the living room and met Papineau coming from the bedroom. “This is now our little white hope.” he said.

“Per’aps.’’ the other replied with a curt shrug.

TN THE small laboratory at the back of his flat half an hour later. Power looked up from the microscope and said: “That roll of fly-doom was hanging from the window blind. I’ve an idea it was dislodged by those gents when they came in through the fire escape. In the process it gathered moss. Take a dekko. See those colored threads?”

Papineau agreed that he saw' colored threads.

“The flypaper brushed the shoulder of a coat. I’ve counted four separate fields, and I get a proportion of eight green to four blue and three white. I think that's going to be helpful."

Papineau smiled at him oddly, in the way a father will smile at one of his offspring presenting a possible miracle for display. “I ’ope so.” he said.

Power seemed to miss the mood. “Were vou able to get anything on Rollins and I Co ?”

“Only that they are a kettle of the same j fish. M’sieu Rollins is owner of the Star ! Laundry, M’sieu Perry Hallett. of HalI lett’s Wetwash, and Messieurs J. H. j Parks. Harry Johnson and T. J. Murphy j also make it their business to keep us

clean. If cleanliness is next to godlinessthey are—”

“Laundrymen, eh?” Power was staring at him concentratedlv now. “That’s funny. Why were they playing poker at Rollins’ last night? Business rivals aren’t usually so pally.”

“Perhaps like sheep they gather together because a wolf is howling.”

“They might have gone there to await a message from Cooper. Somehow he doesn’t strike me as a wolf. I wonder what his link with Conway Praed was. Do you suppose all this is one chain, with Praed at one end and those laundrymen at the other?”

Papineau declared that he retained the open mind.

Power slipped the smallest of his microscopes into its case and handed it to the other man. Thrusting some other material into his little black bag, he led the way downstairs to the waiting car, and they set off eastward. He pulled up shortly in front of a drugstore in which he bought a fresh roll of flypaper. Then they were off again—had gone little more than a hundred yards when he said sharply: “Take a

dekko through the rear-view mirror!” “Someone,” murmured the sergeant, “follows us!”

Power’s little tailor was glad to see him. “I intended ringing you up the first of the week, Mr. Power,” he declared, rubbing his hands together expectantly. “My new fall suitings have arrived. Some of them —I don’t exaggerate—are gems.”

“What I’m really looking for, Boggs,” Power told him, “is a piece of cloth wdth a thread ratio of eight green to four blue and three white. What can you do for us?” Little Mr. Boggs shrugged deprecatingly. He had never delved into thread ratios. “My flair is for the effect of color, not its constitution, Mr. Power.” Nevertheless he tumbled bundles of samples onto his cutting table. “You might find what you want among these.”

Power began to cut short lengths of flypaper which he pressed gently against the naps of certain cloths, and then transferred to the platform of the microscope. Finally he held one of the cloths out to Papineau and said, “That’s about it.”

“Sacré nom d'un nom!” gasped the sergeant, wide-eyed. “It was a suit of similar color M’sieu—”

“Exactly !” Power said. “Let’s go into a huddle in Boggs’ private office.”

AS A result of that huddling Papineau did some telephoning, and then they went along to Hallett’s Wetwash. Perry Hallett was inclined to be irascible wdth them. Perhaps it was the constant comings and goings of underlings with papers to be signed that caused him his harassed look.

“Well, what is it this morning. Pow'er?” he snapped.

“The same as last night. Mr. Hallett. You were on the point of disclosing something when that pot shot missed you.”

The laundryman looked him straight'in the eye. “I don’t think so.” he said.

“You are afraid per’aps someone will take the pot shot this morning also, non?” Papineau suggested.

“I’m just telling you”—Hallett’s face was grim—“that I have nothing to say.” Power laid a soothing hand on his shoulder. “The sergeant and I are only doing our duty. Murder’s a nasty thing.” “There are worse things!” the other growled.

“I suppose that could be argued,” Power said gently. “Do you mind if I set my microscope up on your desk?”

Hallett stared at him with the wary look of a bear walking around a trap. He continued to stare as Power placed a small strip of sticky flypaper under it and proceeded to examine it. And then he found himself being asked the point-blank question: “What were you doing in J. J.

Cooper's flat last night?”

He leaped to his feet. “You can’t pin Cooper’s murder on me!”

“But I can pin on you the fact that you climbed his fire escape, and entered his flat through his kitchen window. You either loosened or tore from its mœrings a strip of flypaper that was dangling in it.” Hallett settled back into his chair, somewhat paler now, and frankly incredulous. Power went on. “The flypaper touched your shoulder and removed some of the nap from your coat. A minute ago, while urging you to calmness I did the same thing with another strip of the sticky stuff. There’s no doubt that both pieces came into contact with the same cloth— or that you were wearing the same suit last night that you have on this morning.”

"In effect, m'sieu,” Papineau said suavely, “it is better that you come clean.” Hallett’s dark eyes had a rather feverish look. “I was in Cooper’s flat,” he growled, “but I didn’t murder him. He was dead already.”

"You will per’aps find it difficult to prove that, m’sieu.”

Power leaned sharply forward. “Was there a light on in his living room?” “Yes.”

“Why did you use the fire escape?” “There was a crowd of people on the main stairway.”

“And you didn’t want them to see you. But you heard them talking. You knew that Cooper was dead. Why did you still feel the yen to enter his flat?”

Hallett shut his mouth sharply. “I’m not saying anything more until I consult my lawyer.”

“Perhaps you won’t object to talking past history,” Power said. “If I remember rightly, there was trouble in the laundry world something over a year ago. Vans of laundry were destroyed with acid, their drivers so badly beaten up that they quit their jobs. Isn’t that so?”

Hallett admitted, though guardedly, that it was.

"Could it be possible that this vandalism settled down so rapidly because you and your associates agreed to pay blackmail to a racket? That in some way poor old Cooper was able to get something on your racketeer which, if properly handled, might have freed you from his clutches? But you are afraid to touch it. so you send him to Praed. who’s the sort of man to go gunning after racketeers on purely crusading grounds. Would you care to corroborate that kind of conjecture?”

Hallett shook his head, yet with more of sorrow than stubbornness. “I’m sorry, Power. I daren’t. It's not for myself; there are too many people who’d —”

“ be put on the spot if you did.” Power finished, when the other hesitated. He turned to Papineau. “Looks as if our surmise back at Boggs’ office was correct. Those three thugs must have changed into evening clothes in the taxi between Cooper’s flat and Rollins’ house. Too bad we didn't search it after you got it backed into the curb.” He faced Hallett again. “Would you feel different if a gent named Maxie Stross were safely under lock and key?”

rTHE OTHER man leaned forward eagerly. "Have you got him under lock and key?”

“Not yet. but—”

“Then I’m not talking.”

“So it is nothing to you.” Papineau exclaimed indignantly, "that M’sieu Prat'd who was prepared to take the risks to free you from this parasite, is in great danger? You ’ave seen the unfortunate Cooper murdered; you are willing to see another man die also!”

It stung Hallett into action. “Wait a minute!” he grunted, and reached for his telephone. He rang four different numbers. In tlie end he turned to Power. "All right.” he said, “we were paying blackmail to Stross. Perhaps you think we were yellow-

livered to do it. But we all have children; he threatened us with kidnapping. You know what happens to kidnapped children.”

“Have you got anything on him in writing?”

“No; that was why Cooper seemed such a godsend. A few months ago Stross extended his operations to the restaurateurs. Perhaps you remember that mysterious fire that almost gutted The Blue Lagoon?” “Oui!" Papineau exclaimed with suddenly sharpened interest.

“It was done brazenly in full daylight. Two men got into the yard at the back, threw gasoline over some barrels of garbage. set them on fire, and slipped out through an alley into the next parallel street.”

“ ’Ow do you know that, m’sieu?” Papineau exclaimed. “I ’ave investigated that fire myself. No one was seen.”

“One of these youngsters with the amateur-photography bug was fiddling with his camera in a back window overlooking the scene. He took a snap of them in the act of setting the fire. How Cooper got into possession of the snap I don’t know, but he brought an enlargement of it to us. The two figures were in overalls, but one of them was unmistakably Stross. As you surmised we were afraid to touch it ourselves, and sent him to Conway Praed—”

“Was Praed your idea?” Power asked. “He was not !” the other snapped. “The others insisted on him—and I gave way. Last night Cooper rang me up in considerable distress to say that Praed had disappeared. Suddenly he stopped in the middle of a sentence. And then, after about a minute. I heard his voice—a faint, far-off shout that sounded something like, ‘Don’t!’ It struck me at once that he’d run into' some trouble, and naturally I thought of Stross. My next thought was the snapshot—had they found it on him or not? I felt that it was worth almost any risk to get hold of it if they hadn’t. But they had. When I got there his pockets were empty.”

Papineau leaned forward eagerly. “While you are listening at the phone, m’sieu, after that poor Cooper has cried, ‘Don’t!’ ’ave you heard any movement?”

“I didn’t, but Rollins did. He kept hanging on in the hope that—”

“He probably heard me.” said Power, rising and moving toward the window.

“What sort of a sound ’as he heard, m'sieu?” Papineau persisted.

“Like something being torn,” Hallett replied.

“Ah !” Papineau’s eyes glistened with a look of vindication.

Power strode back from the window. “A little while ago,” he said to Perry Hallett. “you suggested that you were afraid of Stross because of your family. Are you willing to risk your own life to help put him where he belongs?”

Hallett rose solemnly from his chair. “Power,” he said. “I’d take any personal risk to end the hell of these last months.” "All right then, come with us. Three men in a car followed us here. When they see you with us. I’ve a notion they’ll continue to follow us wherever we lead—and Sergeant Papineau has already picked the ideal spot. Come on.”

' I 'HEY WENT out to Power’s coupé and squeezed in. He headed north. From time to time Papineau ejaculated. “It makes!” They had left the city behind and were on the Ste. Agathe Road. The speedometer crept up to sixty—sixty-five —even touched seventy when the turns straightened out.

“Do we have to drive this fast?” Hallett asked nervously, as the needle on the dash quivered beyond St. Jerome at seventythree.

Papineau chuckled. “Several times I ’ave prophesied the bloody end to my frien’, Kent Power.”

Power swung a few minutes later onto the side road, followed it two miles and then turned into yet another—a wood road

this time, in the centre of whose tracks the grass kept reaching higher and higher. Finally, just beyond an abandoned shack, he pulled up. They were in the centre of thick woods.

“Let’s get out and stretch our legs,” he said to Perry Hallett.

They got out.

“I wish to heaven you’d tell me what this is all about.” the laundryman growled. “I’ve had enough suspense in the last—” The nose of another car came around the corner behind them and skidded to a halt. Three gentlemen stepped out; the slim, natty figure of Maxie Stross and his two aides advanced upon them. There was a dirty look on Maxie’s lean, dark face, as his glance fastened itself on Hallett. His “Hullo, sarge!” was curt.

“I’d have brought a picnic basket.” Power said, “if I’d known you were going to join us, Stross.”

Maxie’s dark eyes became half-lidded, like a vulture’s. “What you guys doin’ out here?”

“We make the search for M’sieu Conway Praed. Maxie,” Papineau chuckled.

For a moment something incredulous came into the half-lidded eyes, and then Maxie threw back his head and laughed. He turned to one of his aides. “We joined a man hunt! That’s hot, eh, Joe?”

Joe agreed that it was hot; he was laughing too.

“As a matter of fact,” Power said earnestly, “we’re looking for J. J. Cooper’s ghost.”

And that, oddly enough, brought Maxie back to earth. His eyes narrowed dangerously; his hand went under his armpit.

Power said sharply, “I wouldn’t if I were you. Take a look behind that tree— any tree you like.”

The spruces came to life. Papineau’s phoning at the tailor shop had come precisely home to roost. Twelve eager policemen with guns in their hands came circling in.

“Better stick ’em up, Maxie,” Power advised.

For a nasty moment, during which Perry Hallett could feel the white hair rising on his head, the trio hesitated. But the policemen were close now.

Papineau took their guns, but he took more from Maxie. There was an enlarged snapshot which he handed to Perry Hallett. “Wit’ my compliments, m’sieu!” And then from the right lower vest pocket he took a slip of paper. He unfolded it. It had a telephone number on it. He held this also out at the laundryman. “You recognize that number, m’sieu?”

“Yes, it’s T. P. Rollins’ phone number.” “Merci! Our poor Cooper has looked up the number and written it on the pad beside the telephone, so he will not forget. It gets torn off by our Maxie.” He swung triumphantly on Power. “Regardez!” In his other hand he held a pad. He fitted the slip to the pad. “So, my frien’, there ’as been somet’ing in that bedroom, non?"

Power grinned. “You win, kid,” he said, and then turned to look Maxie straight in the eye. “Where’s Conway Praed?”

DUT Maxie, in this query, had discovered one forlorn hope. “I guess you’d like to know that pretty bad, eh?”

“Sure.”

“There’s just one way you’ll ever find out.”

“Hunting for bargains, eh?”

Maxie’s manner was almost eager. “You give me an’ the boys a start, an’ Praed goes free.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“Then I don’t talk any more.”

“That your last word?”

“You bet it is !”

Power turned to Papineau. “In that case, you and your regiment had better take Joe and his pal with you. You can go with them. too. Hallett. Maxie and I’ll be along later.”

When they had gone. Power said to the racketeer. “You and I are taking a walk. Continued from page 32 Maxie.” He stepped to the other side of the road and cut himself a nice thick length of alder, which he proceeded to trim.

“What’s the idea?” Stross’ face was dark.

"It’s about thirty miles through the woods to St. Julienne and the going’s rough.” Power kept whittling. “Personally I do quite a lot of walking. Don’t suppose I you do. You look soft.”

Power dodged the quick left and sent the alder cracking against Maxie’s shin. It ; caused Maxie to drop to one knee and grab the sore place. His twisted face spoke of I pain.

“We don’t have the third degree in I Canada." Power said quietly, slipping his I jienknife into his pocket, “so we have to go j walking. Of course if you want to tell me i where Conway Praed is . .

I “I ain’t tellin’ you nothing!” the other : growled.

“Okay, then, let’s go.”

For a moment Maxie hesitated, but a gentle movement of the thick alder made his mind up for him. He marched. And not so badly for the first few miles. After that, however, he began to wilt under the unaccustomed effort. Power spurred him on with gentle prods of the alder and a flow of soft raillery. “You’re soft, Maxie, like most of your ilk. You had to have the palms without the dust. If you’d followed the old motto. Per ardua ad astru, there’d be more stiffening in your knees, and your feet wouldn’t blister so easily.”

For that was Maxie’s trouble now; his ! feet were hurting him. Perhaps that was ! why he missed his footing jumping the brook whose wooden bridge had fallen in.

He got out of that looking not unlike a drowned rat, and presently his feet began to hurt him worse. At the fifteenth mile he was sobbing. At the seventeenth he dropped, babbling hysterically that he could go no farther.

Power lifted him gently to the sore dogs. “Might as well read the writing on the wall. Maxie. Whatever happens to Praed, that snapshot that Sergeant Papineau lifted off you isn’t going to do you any good. And if it fails to put a rope around your neck, the slip of paper with Rollins' phone number certainly will. No jury in the world'll believe that the man who had those in his possession didn’t kill poor old Cooper—or superintend that killing.”

But even without this argument, Maxie was through. When he had sobbed an address in Tetrauville, Power put two fingers into his mouth and whistled. Presently three perspiring policemen hove up. “Sorry, boys,” he said to them, “but I’m afraid you’ll have to burden yourselves with this carrion the rest of the way to St. Julienne.”

Conway Praed, when they had removed the adhesive plaster from his eyes, arms and legs, was grateful. “At first.” he said, “all they wanted from me was that photograph. They thought Cooper’d given it to me. But when I heard them say they’d killed him. I knew they’d have to silence me the same way.” The tale of the walk through the woods brought a roar of laughter from him. “How the deuce did you know you’d be able to bring him to boot out there at the end of an alder rod?”

Power grinned. “In my experience, his kind have devilment without guts. Minus a gun. Maxie was just another punk.”