Sneed and the Loud Suit
Policemen quailed, fair damsels swooned, as into a startled world swaggered a new and glittering Philip Sneed
MR. SNEED’S eyes popped. (. . . Fiendish “Mike The Pipe,” his contorted features working like a barrel of mash, crept silently along the darkened hallway to the room of pretty Kitty Carstairs, who had spurned him. “Mike The Pipe” fumbled clumsily for the doorknob . . .)
With the current issue of “Terrifying Tales” propped up against the sugar bowl, practically dripping into his cornflakes, Philip J. Sneed that morning was far out of this world. The voice of Mrs. Sneed came to him thinly from a great distance.
“The laundryman,” Mrs. Sneed reminded him, “always calls on Tuesday.”
“Yes, dear,” said Mr. Sneed.
(. . . “Mike The Pipe” stepped into the room, closed the door softly behind him . )
“Let’s run over the list again.” suggested Mrs. Sneed helpfully. “Seven pairs of socks, three suits of underwear, four shirts, and your sheets. And don’t forget to change your socks. The last time 1 went away, you wore one pair of socks a whole week. The laundryman told me so.” “Yes, dear,” said Mr. Sneed.
(. . . There was a spurt of flame, a deafening report. “Mike The Pijn*” fell grovelling to the floor . . .)
“Wash your dishes every night,” urged Mrs. Sneed, “and they won’t pile up like they did last time. I don’t want to come home again and find you eating out of the cat’s old bowl.”
“No, dear,” said Mr. Sneed.
(. . . Pretty Kitty Carstairs was in for it now. How could the poor child know she had a perfect case of self-defense? She must dispose of the body ! Her eyes wildly sought the dumb-waiter shaft . . . )
“You may have five dollars this week,” said Mrs. Sneed generously. “And you may have five dollars next week, too. But don’t forget to put the balance of your cheque in the bank. I’ll take care of the bills when I return.”
“All right, dear,” said Mr. Sneed.
(. . . The dumb-waiter shaft was going to be a tight squeeze. . .)
“I don’t believe you've heard a word I said.” protested Mrs. Sneed. “Philip, for one minute please put down that trashy magazine!”
“All right, dear.” Mr. Sneed sighed gently. Not until his lunch hour now would he know whether pretty Kitty Carstairs had succeeded in stuffing “Mike The Pipe” into the dumb-waiter, or whether she had been forced to drop him down piece by piece. But Mr. Sneed was not resentful. In demanding his full attention, particularly at the point of leaving him for two weeks, Mrs. Sneed was clearly within her rights. Mrs. Sneed, for that matter, was always within her rights.
In his own inarticulate fashion, Mr. Sneed was exceedingly fond of her. She was industrious, frugal, efficient and resourceful. For thirteen years she had made every major decision, had budgeted his small income, kept him solvent, comfortable and complacent. Mr. Sneed had his limitations. As she frequently, but not unkindly, pointed out, he was a day-dreamer, impractical and visionary, but reliable enough under direction and discipline. Mrs. Sneed had graciously accepted him as her cross to bear. Occasionally Mr. Sneed felt he didn’t deserve her, and whenever he voiced this sentiment, Mrs. Sneed was touchingly grateful and expansively forgiving.
"Shall I accompany you in the cab to the station,” he asked, “and then continue to the office?”
“No, dear.” she said. “I think you had better take the bus as usual. It would run the cab bill too high. ”
Mr. Sneed carried her luggage down from the porch, and kissed her.
“Well, have a good time.” he said. That sounded rather formal. He added, impulsively: “And don’t drink too
much cheap whisky.”
“Really. Philip!” Mrs. Sneed objected.
“It was just sort of a little joke,” Mr. Sneed apologized to Mrs. Sneed and the cab driver.
“Be careful what you eat.” Mrs. Sneed called. “I don’t want to come home and find you taking pills again.”
Mr. Sneed, hurrying to his bus stop, didn’t hear her. He was deep in an imaginary discussion of the Dennis case with Inspector of Detectives MacDonald.
(“Sneed.” Inspector MacDonald was frankly pleading, “we need you! This case has got us licked. Somehow I feel it was murder.”
“Of course it was murder!” Mr. Sneed said lightly.
“How do you know?” asked Inspector MacDonald.
“Easy,” said Mr. Sneed. “The gun was found in his right hand. Dennis was left-handed.”
“Amazing!” cried the inspector. “And who do you think did it?”)
Mr. Sneed did not answer. The bus conductor shoved him roughly forward, jolted him back into a world of reality. Some day this rude fellow would become too officious even for the mild-tempered Mr. Sneed . . . Mr. Sneed, clinging to a strap in the swaying vehicle, studied a beautiful girl in a soap advertisement through half-closed eyes. Some evening he might find her seated on this very bus. The conductor would come forward, making sly and improper advances. She would turn eloquently appealing to Philip Sneed for protection.
(“Get back to your platform,” ordered Mr. Sneed, “or I shall have to teach you some manners!”
“You and who else?” sneered the conductor.
Mr. Sneed hit him a terrific blow. The unfortunate man sailed clean through a window, fell limply to the pavement outside.
“You’ve broken his neck,” said the ambulance surgeon gravely.
“He was annoying this young woman,” said Philip Sneed coldly.
The coroner’s jury filed slowly in. The young woman stood apprehensively beside him, her hand in his.
“Gentlemen, have you reached a verdict?”
“We have. Justifiable homicide.”
Sobbing happily, the young woman threw herself into Philip Sneed’s arms.)
Mr. Sneed moved back to the rear platform.
“I’m getting off here,” he said stiffly.
“Watch your step!” cried the conductor. “And step lively !”
AT THE entrance to the Exchange Building Mr. Sneed 4Y fell in step with a fellow-employee, Chester Woodward of the Domestic Pet Supply Department. Mr. Woodward was quite a fellow, and slated for big things. Singlehandedly he had invented the Colter International Novelty Company’s fastest-selling item in the domestic pet supply line— the reversible catnip mouse. And even at this moment he was perfecting another device which would cause competing houses many a headache in months to come—a self-winding clockwork penguin with three speeds forward and one in reverse.
“Hello, beautiful,” Mr. Woodward gaily accosted the young woman elevator operator.
“Hello, handsome!” she replied.
To Mr. Sneed, however, she merely nodded. Young women rarely ever gave Mr. Sneed a second glance, and sometimes he wondered why. He guessed he just wasn’t interesting. He often thought the invariability of his appearance had something to do with it. Summer or winter, Mr. Sneed wore a blue serge suit. Mrs. Sneed selected his clothes. In the early days of their marriage Mr. Sneed had occasionally asked for a brown worsted or tweed, but Mrs. Sneed had argued, with unanswerable logic, that when a man is limited to one new suit every two years, he had better hold to a single color scheme.
It takes more than clothes to make the man, however, and Mr. Sneed knew that young women are frequently given to dissembling, pretending an indifference to those in whom they actually have a crushing interest. It was not impossible, therefore, that this very operator might be nursing a secret, unrequited passion for Mr. Sneed; that a day would come when she and Mr. Sneed would find themselves alone in her elevator. She would stop between floors, and she would turn with an odd and pretty boldness, saying:
“I can’t help it. I can’t go on any longer this way. You must know. I'm crazy about you !”
“You poor child!” Mr. Sneed would say . . .
Mr. Sneed was only thirty-six, but he felt as old and settled as the Rockies.
Mr. Sneed walked down through the vast room that served as the Colter International Novelty Company’s main office, and entered the railed enclosure he occupied by virtue of being advertising director. “Advertising director” was, of course, a misnomer. Such advertising as Mr. Sneed prepared seldom appeared in anything but trade papers. Oh, occasionally he might produce a oneor two-inch masterpiece for insertion in magazines of general circulation—like “Make Big Money in Your Leisure Time With the Little Giant Corn-Popper !”—but mostly he wrote descriptive pamphlets to accompany merchandise. These, following a formula laid down by Mr. Colter himself forty years ago, were as colorless and unimaginative as one of Mr. Sneed’s own neckties. When Mr. Colter had an exceptionally sensational item to exploit, he enlisted the services of an agency. Mr. Colter had never given Mr. Sneed an opportunity to get his teeth into a campaign of such proportions, preferring mistakenly to believe that
Mr. Sneed’s horizon was limited. And, moreover, although Mr. Sneed was permitted to attend staff meetings in Mr. Colter’s office every Friday afternoon, he was rarely given an opportunity to say more than “Good afternoon.” It was invariably the smooth-spoken, self-possessed Woodward who kept the conversational ball rolling with “I think you’ve got something there, B. W. !” and “B. W., you certainly hit the nail on the head that time, all right!” There were about Mr. Woodward, in fact, all the signs of incipient vice-presidency, even to the folded linen handkerchief in the breast pocket. And. although Mr. Sneed had sometimes dreamed of it. he knew full well in his saner moments that there was little likelihood that, he, instead of Woodward, would be invited to succeed old Mr. Lonsdale who was retiring next month—old Mr. Lonsdale who had been skyrocketed to prominence through his single inspiration for the Kitty Dish, the words, “Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty,” in raised gold letters on the rim.
Still a man never knew. Mr. Colter might yet call him in. “Sneed,” Mr. Colter would say, “I’ve been watching you. As you know, Mr. Lonsdale is leaving us soon. You’re the man for the job. What do you say to about $750 a month to start with?”
Mr. Sneed fumbled with his morning mail. “Dear Sir, Yours of the 23rd inst. received, and would beg to reply ...” Miss White, Mr. Colter’s private secretary, stopped by his desk.
“Mr. Colter wants to see you,” she said.
Mr. Colter removed his glasses, swung about in his chair, and stared out the window.
“Ah, Sneed.” he began, and paused.
“Ah, Sneed,” said Mr. Colter, groping for the right words, “there is a little matter that has come up ... Of course you know Mr. Lonsdale is leaving us, and ...” “Yes, I do.” said Mr. Sneed eagerly.
“Ah, yes. ” said Aír. Colter. “Well, naturally, there will be some little reorganization around here—just how much we haven’t decided yet.”
“I should imagine,” said Mr. Sneed, scarcely daring to hope.
“I think I ought to tell you, in all fairness,” said Mr. Colter suddenly, “that there has been some thought of abolishing the post of advertising director.”
Mr. Sneed was stricken speechless.
“Of course,” Mr. Colter hastened to assure him, “that doesn’t mean you will quit the employ of this firm. By no means, Mr. Sneed. We’ll find a place for you somewhere. I’ll personally promise you that. It’s—well, it’s rather unsettled as yet, but you might be assigned to assist Mr. Woodward.”
Mr. Sneed gulped.
“But you needn’t worry about your job or salary,” Mr. Colter declared. “The Colter policy, you know, has always been one of fair play, with its employees. We look after our men, Mr. Sneed. Indeed, yes.”
“But, Mr. Colter,” interrupted Mr. Sneed unhappily, “who’s going—who’s going to handle the descriptive matter—the pamphlets, and all that?”
“Mr. Woodward has suggested, in the interests of efficiency,” said Mr. Colter, “that we co-ordinate our regular and special campaigns by having one outside agency handle everything. Mr. Woodward is inclined to believe that we here in the office are too close to the product to do it full justice. Of course, there’s nothing personal in this, you understand. And, anyway, as I said before, we haven’t agreed on any final action yet. I’ll let you know in a week or two.”
Mr. Sneed tottered back to his desk, absently picked up a bright red Disintegrator-Ray Water Pistol, for which he had been about to prepare some copy.
Mr. Sneed fingered the pistol, sought desperately to marshal his thoughts.
“Every red-blooded boy,” he dictated slowly, “wants to own a Colter Disintegrator-Ray Water Pistol ! The Sixteen Sure-Shot Repeating Weapon that Wolf Rugged used to Repel the Invaders from Liars! BOOL1!”
“Boom?” asked his stenographer doubtfully. “A water pistol, going boom?”
“Never mind,” said Mr. Sneed. “Let me think about it a little longer, Lliss Wilkeson. I’ll call you again when I’m ready.”
MR. SNEED was wondering what Llrs. Sneed would say. He was wondering if he ought to telegraph her. Suddenly there was a voice at his shoulder. “Now just take a look at some of these samples, friend.” the voice suggested. “Feel the goods!”
“No,” said Mr. Sneed automatically.
Continued on page 46
Sneed and the Loud Suit
Continued f rom page 13 —Starts on page 12
“For a dollar a week,” the gentleman urged. “What can you lose? At the end of thirty-five weeks, what do you get? I’ll tell you, friend. You get a marvellous, genuine hand-tailored, bench-made suit, worth fifty dollars in any other shop in town. I don’t know how we do it ! On this big introductory offer we are losing money.”
“No,” said Mr. Sneed. Perhaps it was too early yet to tell Mrs. Sneed. After all, Mr. Colter had said . . .
“The man says no!” cried the gentleman in shocked disbelief. “Look, friend, maybe you ain’t got the whole idea. Maybe I ain’t made myself clear. You ain’t only buying a genuine handmade suit, you are also buying into a ¡xol. Supjxjse you win the draw in a couple of weeks? It could happen. Mow much are you out for your suit? I’ll tell you—a couple of bucks, for a suit that would cost you anywheres else fifty dollars, maybe a hundred.”
“I haven’t got a dollar,” said Mr. Sneed. "The man hasn’t got a dollar!” cried the gentleman, rolling his eyes toward heaven to bear witness. “So what’s that you’re wadding up in your hand? A cigar coupon, maybe?”
In his preoccupation Mr. Sneed had removed from his vest pocket the iivedollar hill Mrs. Sneed had given him that morning. Mr. Sneed was trapped.
“All right,” he said. He was in no mood for argument. He wanted to be alone.
“You’re not making any mistake, friend,” said the gentleman gratefully. “I don’t mind telling you that we would like to do a little business in this office, and you’re the first one to join. You might be very lucky. It just might happen.” He winked knowingly. “Yes, friend, 1 wouldn’t be surprised if I had some good news for you pretty soon !”
The inference was lost on Mr. Sneed. At noon Mr. Sneed picked up “Terrifying Tales,” put on his hat and crept out of the office to the lunch counter down at the corner. Kitty Carstairs, he noted with little interest, was still trying to get “Mike The Pipe” into the dumb-waiter shaft. Mr. Sneed closed the magazine. As he chewed his peanut butter sandwich on white, and gulped down a glass of milk, he glumly took stock of himself.
Mr. Sneed was still floundering waistdeep in a morass of self-analysis when he returned to the office. The gentleman from the suit club, grinning broadly, awaited him.
“Good news, friend,” he said. “If I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn’t believe it was possible. They had a drawing this noon, and whose ticket comes out of the barrel hut yours! It’s uncanny! So bust right down and get yourself a suit made, and when folks around here ask where you got that swell-looking garment, don't forget to mention the suit club, hey? It’ll help!”
“Do you mean I’m to get it made right away?” Mr. Sneed asked, troubled.
“Why, certainly, friend,” said the gentleman. “Time is what we call the essence, hey?”
“1 generally like to have my wife along,” Mr. Sneed objected. “She’s out of town.”
“That’s tough, friend,” said the gentleman, “hut I’m sort of counting on you wearing this suit right soon. There’s a twenty-four-hour limit on these draws. You’d better get down there this afternoon.”
"Well, all right,” assented Mr. Sneed doubtfully.
“Just give them this handsomely ongraved certificate, friend.” the gentleman said, “and now I’ll wander around the office here and tell the folks about your good fortune, hey?”
Unfortunately for him, the first prospect he tackled was Mr. Colter.
“Get out of here!” Mr. Colter replied. “This is a business office. No pedlars or agents allowed.”
“Okay, okay, friend,” said the gentleman blandly. “But first run your eyes over a couple of these—”
“I said get out!” thundered Mr. Colter.
The gentleman’s manner turned suddenly from one of ingratiating helpfulness to one of black malevolence.
“Keep your shirt on, grandpop,” he sneered, packing up his samples. He approached Mr. Sneed unpleasantly. “Say, listen, friend,” he said. “Gimme that certificate back, will you? I just remember I forgot to get it endorsed. I’ll mail it hack tomorrow.”
“Perhaps you didn’t understand me!” screamed Mr. Colter, following him.
“All right, all right, so watch your blood pressure,” grumbled the gentleman and departed.
“Ought to get the Better Business Bureau after those fellows,” said Mr. Colter angrily.
"V^R. SNEED took the certificate that afternoon to the tailoring shop. A ponderous, flashy individual, rolling a dead cigar between his teeth, perused it distastefully.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “You must be that guy up at the Exchange Building. Well, it seems like a slight mistake was made in your case. We got the numbers mixed. It wasn’t your ticket that come out of the barrel, after all. We just discovered it a little while ago.”
That, apparently, ended the matter. The man turned his back. A great sense of wrong settled on Mr. Sneed. The cumulative disappointments of the day provoked him to an extraordinary belligerence.
“This certificate says I’m entitled to a suit,” he began tentatively. “I ought to get the Better Business Bureau after you fellows.”
The man wheeled.
“Now wait, chum,” he said. “Of course, if there’s going to be any hard feelings . . . why, rather than have a fellow walk out of here with hard feelings I’d make him a suit. Sammy, bring me, please, that nice piece grey-striped suiting on the back shelf That piece we just got in from England. It’s imported.”
“The only thing we got back there, Mr. Kline,” said the youth addressed as Sammy, “is that stuff we’ve had ever since ...”
“Listen to him!” cried Mr. Kline. “He’s around here a couple of years yet, and already he don’t know the stock.”
With a look of low animal cunning, Mr. Kline unrolled the bolt under the dim and fittul light of a twenty-five-watt globe.
“I can't see it very well,” objected Mr. Sneed. “It’s—it’s a little loud, isn’t it?”
“Loud!” Mr. Kline echoed in amazement. "Why, chum, this is absolutely the latest. It's practically conservative. You want to be in style—you should wear stripes!”
“Could I take it out to the light?” asked Mr. Sneed thoughtfully.
“Look, chum,” said Mr. Kline severely. “I am a busy man. If you want a suit, this is it. If you don’t want a suit, I got other things to do.”
“Well, all right,” said Mr. Sneed.
“Look, Sammy,” said Mr. Kline, suddenly inspired. “You take his measurements. Give him something snappy. You got to learn some time.”
“Gee, thanks!” cried the youth.
“It'll he ready in a few days,” said Mr. Kline. “We’ll skip the fitting. There ain’t no profit in a dollar suit. We got to cut the corners somewhere.” He walked away.
At home that evening Mr. Sneed gravely
debated whether he ought to write Mrs. Sneed about the situation in the office. After making a dozen false starts, he decided against it. The thing was difficult to put on paper. It were better, he guessed, that Mrs. Sneed hear it from him in person. Mr. Sneed, troubled, went to bed.
Mr. Sneed was not a vindictive person, but Mr. Woodward’s openly patronizing manner in succeeding days provoked him. Sneed was appalled to discover that on many subjects Mr. Woodward, frankly, knew nothing. In a moment of vexation, he incautiously told Mr. Woodward as much.
“Well, I had rather hoped for your cooperation, Sneed,” Mr. Woodward had commented stiffly. “However, I am glad to know how things stand between us.” He licked his lips ominously. “We shall have to thresh out a few of these matters in staff meeting tomorrow afternoon.”
IT WAS during the afternoon of the day before the staff meeting that Mr. Sneed picked up the new suit, or, more accurately the new suit picked up Mr. Sneed.
“Well, well, well,” Mr. Kline smiled. “Come in, please, Mr. Sneed. It’s a pleasure. So I have seen the new suit! What a suit, Mr. Sneed ! You will easy be the most distinctive dressed man in town.”
Back into the same dim light at the rear of the shop Mr. Sneed was led.
“We are taking off first, please, the old blue serge,” said Mr. Kline expectantly. Mr. Sneed stripped to his underwear. “We are bringing in now the new suit,” said Mr. Kline, rubbing his hands. “Oh. Sammy !”
Mr. Sneed blinked.
“Good heavens!” he cried. “Aren’t those stripes a little—well, too pronounced?” “Of course.” said Mr. Kline happily. “In a high-class stylish suit you are certainly not getting pin stripes this year.” “You ought to have a stronger light,” complained Mr. Sneed. “I can’t see it clearly.”
“H’mm,” said Mr. Kline. “It’s fitting very well in the shoulders.”
“But the waist appears a little too waspish, don’t you think?” asked Mr. Sneed doubtfully.
Mr. Kline looked pained. “Look, chum,” he said. “We are not making bags in here.”
“I’ll tell you what,” decided Mr. Sneed suddenly. “I’ll wear my old suit. Just wrap this one up in a box.”
“Well, now that’s just too bad,” said Mr. Kline sorrowfully, “because your old suit has just gone away in the cleaner’s wagon.”
“But I didn’t ask to have it cleaned!” Mr. Sneed protested violently.
“It’s free,” said Mr. Kline pleasantly. “It’s part of the Acme Suit Club Service. In two, three days, maybe a week, you come back for the old suit.”
At the front of the shop the timorous Mr. Sneed suddenly caught a reflection of himself in a full-length mirror. He shuddered. What he saw was a well-dressed lightning rod salesman of twenty-five years ago, about to step into a circus parade.
“Great Scott!” he cried. “I can’t wear this thing. Look at it! From a distance of ten feet, the more subtle parts of the design fade away, and all you can see is inch-wide stripes. Why, I have the appearance of a tough or gangster!”
“Look, chum,” said Mr. Kline, openly leering. “You are getting a certificate for a suit. Yes? All right, we are giving you a suit. So it’s costing a dollar, you want to look like a fillum star. Good night!”
The front door closed on the sound of horrid, explosive laughter. As he proceeded down the avenue, covertly studying his reflection in show windows, Mr. Sneed became progressively paler. He was quite conscious that people were staring, even turning back to look again.
At the next intersection a seedy individual sidled up.
“What’va got for the third race tomorrow. bud?” he asked.
“What did you say?” Mr. Sneed asked. The fellow looked into Mr. Sneed's face enquiringly.
“Excuse me, bud,” he mumbled, “I thought you was from out at the track.” Dusk was gradually settling over the city. Mr. Sneed decided to walk home. It was a good ten miles, but better than the brilliantly lighted bus. On his way past the Exchange Building he slipped unobtrusively through a side door into the corner lunchroom and seated himself well in the rear. The little blond waitress with the curls came back for his order.
“Hello,” she said, smiling warmly. “It’s going to be a lovely evening, isn't it? Full moon and everything.”
Mr. Sneed gasped. In three years this same young woman had never said more than “What’ll you have?”
“Yes, it is.” Mr. Sneed replied feebly.
“I been reading in the papers.” she volunteered, “where we’re going to have some hot weather.”
“Is that so?” remarked Mr. Sneed.
“I’d sure like to go down to the beach tonight,” she said hopefully.
“I’ll have the steak sandwich,” said Mr. Sneed quickly.
A ÆR. SNEED was moving stealthily up Russell Street, in the heart of the night club district, carefully avoiding all bright patches of light, when to his vast horror he suddenly espied Mr. and Mrs. Colter emerging from a restaurant not half a block distant. Mr. Sneed ducked into a convenient doorway.
A hand pressed his arm softly.
“Dude?” a young woman whispered. ! “You’re late. The boss has been waiting | half an hour.”
“Eh?” said Mr. Sneed. Mr. and Mrs. Colter were rapidly approaching.
“It’s all set.” she continued. “He’s j .ready. Half a grand tonight, the rest on Saturday. He’s waiting inside.”
“I got to get away,” said Mr. Sneed desperately.
“In here.” said the young woman. She held the door open. Mr. Sneed plunged inside.
“I don't know quite how to thank you,” he began gratefully. “It’s a little awkward to explain. You see my—”
“Here he is, Joe,” the young woman called. “Danny The Dude from outa town. From the description. I’da recognized him anywhere.”
“They told me you run to fancy duds.” said Joe, “but I never had no idea ...” He shuddered. “Boy,” he concluded feebly, “that’s really a hunk of suit, now ain’t it?”
“I believe there is some misunderstanding,” said Mr. Sneed. “I only—”
“Okay,” Joe assured him. “You don’t have to play dumb. We was tipped you was expected tonight. We don’t want no trouble in this joint, and if you guys can furnish us the protection, why, that's all we can ask. Here’s the half a grand. You better count it.”
Mr. Sneed stared stupidly at a fat packet of small notes which had been placed in his hand. He was only dimly aware of the sudden closing in of half a dozen individuals in baggy clothes.
“Okay, boys,” said a voice. “Take a look outside for any more of them.”
“I can explain,” said Mr. Sneed trembling. “I was only—”
“Save your singing for choir-meeting— at headquarters. We’re going to introduce you to the old choirmaster himself, hey, fellows?”
The room was filled with raucous laughter. From the windows of the speeding squad car Mr. Sneed looked dully out upon a world that lay in ashes. He had nothing left now—no dignity, no job. and probably no Mrs. Sneed.
Inspector of Detectives MacDonald swung about in his chair.
“Sa-a-ay.” he said, “will you look at that suit! All right, punk. Start talking.” Mr. Sneed resented his attitude. This
wasn’t the same helpless and grateful Inspector MacDonald he had often pictured.
“There isn’t anything to say,” began Mr. Sneed.
“Convince him, Herman,” commanded Inspector MacDonald wearily. “Convince him we ain’t playing.”
With a purely impersonal manner, the gentleman named Herman cuffed Mr. Sneed lightly.
“That’s a sample,” he said.
"All right,” said Mr. Sneed with a sudden maliciousness, “I’m the guy you been looking for in the Dennis case.” “Now we’re getting somewhere,” said Inspector MacDonald pleasantly. “Herman, make a note of that.”
“Last year,” continued Mr. Sneed, “a girl named Kitty Carstairs and me blasted a guy named ‘Mike The Pipe,’ and we dropped him down a dumb-waiter shaft.” “Phone the commissioner, Herman,” said Inspector MacDonald. “We really caught us someone.”
“And a couple of years ago,” said Mr. Sneed, warming to thesubject, “I strangled a bus conductor out west with my own two bare hands. The guy was pushing me around ...”
F TWO o’clock the next afternoon Philip Sneed strode boldly out of ixdice headquarters. There was a spring in his step, and an unwonted briskness in his manner. All through the night and morning—in fact, right up to the moment that bewildered officers finally strapped him to a lie-detector—Mr. Sneed had been quite a fellow; a dangerous man to trifle with; ruthless, daring, resourceful and invincible. For the first time in years, he simply didn’t care a hoot. The feeling persisted now'.
“But, Mr. Sneed,” protested the exhausted Inspector MacDonald, “what was the idea of sitting here and stringing us along. You could have explained and been out of here in an hour.”
"You weren’t in any mood for explanations,” said Mr. Sneed. “You wanted a confession.”
“Well, it’s been quite a little joke at that,” the inspector laughed lightly. “I’m sorry it happened.”
“It’s been no joke,” said Mr. Sneed, “and you will hear from my attorneys.” Mr. Sneed walked to a cab stand.
“The Exchange Building,” he commanded.
'I he driver slowly folded his newspaper. “Make it snappy,” said Mr. Sneed. “What are you gawking at? Maybe you don’t like the suit, eh?”
“No, sir,” said the driver. “You got me wrong. I think it’s great.”
Mr. Sneed was on his way to the staff meeting, probably his last. Mr. Sneed w'as going to tell off Mr. Woodward.
“What the devil.” said Mr. Sneed aloud, “I can always get a job somewhere.”
Mr. Sneed entered the conference room noisily. Mr. Woodward was speaking. Mr. Woodward paused, and with ah expression of mild annoyance turned toward the disturbance.
“Why. look!” he burst into laughter. “It’s Barnurn and Bailey!”
The remark provoked a chorus of guffaws.
“It couldn’t be,” said Mr. Sneed bristling, “that you don’t like my suit?”
“I had a suit like that once,” said Mr. Colter thoughtfully. “On my honeymoon. Best suit I ever had. I was very fond of it.” “Looks like good material.” said Mr. Stone of the shipping department.
“Nice cut, too.” said Mr. Jacobsen of the auditing department.
“Very snappy,” decided Mr. Rue of the sales division.
“I’m glad to see,” said Mr. Colter, “that someone has the courage to break away from the old traditions. We men have been dressing like undertakers too long. Well, as you were saying, Mr. Woodward?” “What I was trying to put across, B. W.,” continued Mr. Woodward lamely, “is this: What is the hottest thing in the
country today with the kids? Indians! What are they all talking about? Indians! Now, my idea would be to get out a Colter De Luxe Indian Suit Set, complete with feathers and a couple of artificial scalps to retail, say, at four or five dollars.”
"Indian suits smell.” said Mr. Sneed.
“I’m afraid I didn’t catch that,” said Mr. Colter.
“I said the idea smells,” said Mr. Sneed sourly.
“Why, Mr. Sneed!” exclaimed Mr. Colter in amazement. “I think you ought to explain yourself.”
“The only reason kids are playing Indian,” said Mr. Sneed, “is because they can’t think of anything else. Somebody’s going to come along with a snappy new idea, and Indians will be a dime a dozen. So will Indian suits. What’s the matter,
anyway? Aren’t we smart enough around here to think up new ideas?”
“Well,” said Mr. Woodward slyly, “perhaps Mr. Sneed could give us a sample of some of these snappy new ideas he’s been talking about.”
“Certainly,” said Mr. Sneed, groping. “I think it might be— You might say— Mr. Woodward was grinning happily. “I’ll tell you what,” Mr. Sneed said, suddenly inspired. “The Colter Little Giant Set For Junior Detectives ! Complete with a lie-detector. Not merely a toy, gentlemen, but the real thing. It works! What red-blooded boy doesn’t want the same machine that police use in their toughest cases! Your friends can have no secrets from you !”
He dropped his voice. “Mr. Colter, we can make it out of a few yards of rubber
hose, a tin box, a dial and a pointer. It’s a simple device, only an adaptation of the thing a doctor uses to take blood pressure.”
“Why, Mr. Sneed >” beamed Mr. Colter. “That’s little short of genius ! It’s wonderful ! We’ll get into production immediately. You’re in charge of all phases!”
The meeting was concluded.
“Sneed,” said Mr. Colter warmly, “there is a matter I’d like to discuss with you privately.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mr. Sneed, glancing at his watch, “but I’ve got to go and meet my wife at the station.”
“Mr. Sneed,” said Mr. Colter sharply, “I was about to tell you that I have perhaps underestimated—that I liad some rather good news. However, if you—”
“Frankly, Mr. Colter,” said Mr. Sneed airily, “I’m not sure I'm interested. I have been looking around since you told me about the reorganization, and I have one or two rather good offers I am not at liberty to—”
“Now, Sneed,” protested Mr. Colter, “you know the rule works both ways. The Colter policy has always been one of fair play with its employees, but in return we expect a certain measure of loyalty.”
“Well, perhaps you are right,” relented Mr. Sneed. “I’ll let you know definitely tomorrow.”
“You want to talk it over with the little woman, eh?” Mr. Colter nudged him.
Mr. Sneed glanced down at his suit.
“I think not,” he said. “I think not. We’ll have so many things to talk over this evening, I doubt if we will get around to that. And, anyway”— he squared his shoulders—“I make the important decisions in my family.”
Whistling cheerfully, he walked toward the station. On his way, however, he had another little matter to attend to.
“Look, Sammy,” said Mr. Kline, staring out of the big front window of the Acme Suit Club, “it’s coming—the suit ! But it don’t look like the same man. No, it is the same man. And he’s looking mean. Quick, Sammy, better run down the comer for the policeman, we shouldn’t have trouble.”
Mr. Sneed strode into the shop.
“Look, chum,” said Mr. Kline, backing away. “It could be a mistake. Maybe it could be changed—”
“I want,” said Mr. Sneed, “another pair of pants.”