OCTAVUS ROY COHEN December 1 1950


OCTAVUS ROY COHEN December 1 1950



THE pavement was too treacherous for their favorite pastime: automobile poker. They’d played that ever since they’d become partners. Next car to pass would be Marty’s, the one after would be Joe’s. They’d make poker hands from the numbers on the license plates. Zeros were tens, ones were aces on low straights and jacks on high straights. The letter X was played as a wild card.

They gambled heavily: never less than a thousand dollars a hand, sometimes more. Joe kept a record in a little book, and, as things stood now, he owed Marty $83,000. Of course they had no idea of paying off: it was just something to kid about, to relieve the tedium. When they got serious, one would say, “Next pair of cars, we’re playing for coffee and doughnuts for real,” and they’d

get pretty excited about who would have to pay.

On the dashboard they carried the daily list of hot cars. Playing poker that way, it was easier to compare the licenses with the numbers on the hot sheet. They’d had more than their share of luck, but chiefly the game was a bond between them, something to kid about. But tonight: no soap. Marty, who was at the wheel, had to concentrate on his driving. Headlights rushed at them out of the fog and rain, red tail lights passed them too fast. This was a night for vigilance, not for games.

They worked Central Division and were crawling through an uninspiring section of the city which was busy enough in the daytime, but was almost deserted at this hour of the night. It wasn’t even a good commercial district: most of the warehouses were old, some were deserted. Marty had turned

into this street because Joe Ferguson told him to, but it didn’t make sense. Nobody here; nothing to look for, really. But Ferguson was a thorough guy: give him a district to cover, he covered it. And sometimes they got a break that way. They’d made a half dozen pinches in the past six months, usually on Joe’s hunches.

Marty hoped some da}r to be half as good a cop as Joe Ferguson. Joe wasn’t the spectacular sort, but things stuck in his mind. He knew his Division and his radio district. Marty couldn’t understand why he’d never made sergeant, and when he asked, Joe shrugged. “I ain’t the examination type,” he explained. “I’ve made the list three times, but always so far down that they never got to me.” He didn’t seem to worry about it. His $340 a month appeared to be adequate for himself and his wife. Six more years and he’d be able to retire on a pension of 40% of his pay. He liked to talk about buying a trailer then and touring the country, but Marty had the feeling that he’d never retire—not unless he had to. I. O. D. Maybe—Injured on Duty. Something that would put him physically behind the 8-ball.

They’d been patrolling now for more than ten minutes without talking. Marty was watching traffic, Joe was watching everything else.

No calls for Car No. 11. No excitement. No nothing except boredom and dampness and cold. Then Joe Ferguson spoke sharply.

“Turn right at the next corner, Marty. Then pull up to the curb and stop.”

“See something?”

“Guy back yonder. Got a quick look under the light. Near that old warehouse. We’ll shake him

First pedestrian they’d passed in a long time. Marty figured the fog was doing tricks to his partner, except that Joe could see things other cops would miss. “Somebody special?” asked Marty.

“Could be.” Joe Ferguson whipped out a bulging wallet which contained his notebook and a fistful of mugs. He turned the dashboard light higher and thumbed swiftly through the pictures, selecting one and showing it to Marty.

“Feller back yonder: That’s who he looked


Marty made his right turn, stopped at the curb, cut off his headlights. He turned a pocket torch on the mug shot Joe was presenting for his inspection. He saw a full face, plus a profile, of a dark man with narrow eyes and a cruel mouth. He looked on the reverse side and read the description:

“Gus Ackerman, alias August Jones, alias Gus Acton. Male. 36. 5 ft. 10 in. 170 pounds. Hair, brown. Eyes, brown. Convicted and served for armed robbery. Two-time loser. Wanted now for robbery here. Usually carries a gun. Approach this suspect with caution. Continued on page 42

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He is known to be dangerous.”

Joe was already out of his side of the car, headed for the corner a few steps away. Marty joined him, and said, “Hell! Joe, you couldn’t have got that good a look.”

Ferguson shrugged. “I’m probably wrong.”

“What’d he be doing in this part of town?”

“That’s what I’d like to know.” Joe’s voice took on the faintest note of authority. “Keep behind me and to the side. Have your gun and flashlight handy, just in case.”

They rounded the corner. The sidewalk was deserted. Nothing to be seen but fog and gleaming pavement and lights that shone without radiance. The warehouses on the long block were dilapidated at best, some of them decaying.

“He’s on the block somewhere,” said Joe, “unless he went up a driveway and over a wall. There’s a deserted warehouse just about where we passed him. I got a hunch we’ll find him there.”

Marty wasn’t too enthusiastic. He said, “Why don’t we call in for help,


“For a routine shakedown? The guy turns out to be okay—or else we don’t find him: Would we look silly !”

They kept their eyes on the doorways along the street. They were all closed tight until they reached the abandoned warehouse Ferguson originally had designated. The door of that one was ajar. “He’s got to be in there,” stated Ferguson. “Didn’t have time to get to the corner, even running. I’m going in. Give me a half minute, then follow.”

He pushed open the door just wide enough to admit his slim, wiry body, then vanished into the blackness. The door hinges creaked. Marty noticed that just before Joe went in he’d drawn his gun, the regulation .38 Police Special. He’d pulled back the hammer. His flashlight was in his left hand.

MARTY was alone in the street. No traffic now. Nothing. For no reason he could understand, Marty was afraid. He’d been afraid before: Who hadn’t? But he’d always managed to do what he was supposed to do.

He remembered the warning on the back of the mug shot of Gus Ackerman: “Approach this suspect with caution. He is known to be dangerous.” That sounded bad. And even if this wasn’t Ackerman, even if Joe had been wrong, the man they were hunting was no lily. A citizen who was clean would have continued walking down the street. He wouldn’t have ducked into hiding just because he saw a couple of cops in a radio patrol car.

Marty thought be saw a beam of light inside the warehouse. It disappeared almost the instant he saw it.

’I hen, close together, came two shots. The interior of the ancient building gave off weird echoes. He thought he beard Joe calling him. Standing with gun and flashlight in hand, Marty hesita ted.

Then his police training compelled him to move, to fight down the unreasoning panic. He drew a deep breath and stepped quickly inside the gloomy warehouse, jumping to his right and flattening himself against the wall. He heard nothing, saw nothing. He was breathing with difficulty and his legs felt like jelly.

He grew rigid as he heard a groan and then the voice of Ids partner. “Marty .?”

“That you, Joe?”

“Yell. 1 ’m hit.”

Marty tiptoed toward the voice. “Bad?” he asked.

“Dunno. Feel like I might pass out.” There was a long silence—or what seemed like a long silence—and then Joe said, with an effort, “My flash caught him, Marty. It’s Ackerman, all right. Fe ran up those stairs.”

Marty poked his tongue between his lips, trying to moisten them. Fe said, “I better get you out of here, Joe ” “For what?”

“I’ll take you to the car. Radio in for help.”

“And let Ackerman get away? Like hell you will.” Joe’s voice was noticeably weaker. “No exit . except that front door. Side door barred. No way down from upstairs except the way he went. We leave here, he gets away. Big stuff, Marty. Go get him.” As simple as that. Go get him ! Walk up a flight of steps to an unknown second floor to capture an armed man

who was a two-time loser and had just shot a cop. Yeh, sure—if the positions had been reversed, Joe Ferguson would have done it. And if Joe hadn’t been hit, Marty would have gone along with him, scared as he was. But this . this was different.

Marty’s heart was pounding. He started toward the rear of the warehouse, knowing he’d never go through with it. He didn’t even dare use his flash. No sense making a sitting duck out of himself. It occurred to him that he wasn’t paid $340 a month to get himself killed. He was more important than a dozen Ackermans.

He didn’t even know where the stairs were. But he did know that at the top an armed and desperate man was waiting: a man who cheerfully would shoot a second policeman and then get away with time to spare. He retraced his steps toward the spot where he figured he had left his partner. But he’d lost his bearings. He stood motionless, listening.

No sound from Joe. Maybe the guy was already dead. Certainly he was unconscious.

It occurred to Marty that if either premise were correct, there would be no one to check on him. VVliat was the sense of being a dead hero, of sticking bis neck out in a gun battle with a criminal who held all the aces?

He moved toward the sliver of light that came in through the open front door. Maybe if he ran for the car Ackerman wouldn’t know he’d gone. Maybe he’d still be holed up when help arrived. At worst even if Ackerman got away they might get Joe to the hospital in time to save bis life. So he was doing it for Joe, he told himself; knowing that he was lying.

He backed against the wall near the door and edged toward it. Then he leaped into the street, risking the danger of a sind from Gus Ackerman.

He moved fast, racing down the fogbound block toward the corner near which their car was parked. He leaped into the front and grabbed the mike from its book on the dashboard:

“Car 1 1 t i Communications.

Car 11 to Communications Come in. Emergency.”

Communications answered. Marty said, “Help needed . ” He gave

their location. “Armed suspect trapped. Officer Ferguson shot. Send ambulance.”

From City Hall the call went out. “Officer shot. Help needed. All cars proceed to . Code three.”

Within a radius of miles police cars and motorcycles picked up the call: radio cars, detective cars. “Officer shot help needed .” Within

a few seconds Marty could hear the welcome wail of the first siren. Then more and more and more.

THEY poured into the street from both directions. They found Marty Wilson standing in front of the warehouse, gun and flashlight still in hand. He told a sergeant briefly what had happened. A half dozen men raced in, Marty with them. He wasn’t alone now, and so most of his panic had vanished. He knew, too, that one reason he went bravely in was because there was nothing else he could do.

While others dashed up the stairway, ready and eager to shoot it out with Gus Ackerman, Marty probed with his flash. He found Joe Ferguson.

Joe was unconscious. There was a pool of blood on the floor near his left side. Somebody said, “Bad shoulder wound, I think ” but that didn’t mean a thing. Could be a bullet through the lungs.

A lieutenant showed up, and then an inspector. Men came down from upstairs and reported that the bird had flown. The Inspector asked Marty how about it, and Marty told the story that he wished were true.

“I went up myself,” he said, “right after Ferguson was shot. I think now that this guy was downstairs all the time, that he made his getaway when he heard me going up them stairs.”

He was wondering at just what moment Joe Ferguson had lost consciousness. Did Joe know that he had chickened out? Did Joe know he’d never gone upstairs? That made all the difference in the world. If Joe Ferguson knew if Joe Ferguson talked — the least that could happen to him would be ostracism. Dishonorable discharge, maybe.

But nobody questioned Marty’s story. It never occurred to any of the policemen present that he hadn’t gone upstairs to get the man who had shot his partner.

1 he ambulance attendants came in.

A slim young interne made a quick examination and gave the unconscious Joe a shot of something. They put him on the stretcher and carried him off to General Hospital. Marty climbed into his car and started back to Central to make his report.

A wail was sent out, minute description of Ackerman was broadcast. All Points Bulletins were teletyped, police forces outside the city were alerted.

When Marty went off duty that night he was feeling rotten. He didn’t know what had happened to him, or why. Fear had struck suddenly find without warning: he had known then, and he knew now, that it would be impossible for him to have gone up that stairway alone.

He couldn’t sleep. He’d doze occasionally, and start re-living the scene in the warehouse. Then he’d get up and sit by the window and smoke cigarette after cigarette. By ten the following morning he was on his way to the hospital.

He dreaded his first meeting with Joe, was afraid of what he would see in Joe’s eyes. Of course, there was the hope that Joe didn’t know, that he’d

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been unconscious when Marty was supposed to have been conducting his search of the second floor.

He breathed a deep sigh of relief when they told him that Joe couldn’t have visitors: not that day or for several days. Yes, they thought he’d live, they had operated the previous night and extracted the bullet. But the guy was hurt bad. If he pulled through he’d have the doubtful satisfaction of knowing that he couldn’t come closer to death and still survive.

MARTY went out with a new partner that night, a man named Robinson who was more nearly his own age. Robinson was excited over the affair of the previous night. Marty made his retelling as brief as possible; the enormity of his lie seemed worse every time he put it into words.

Marty went to the hospital every day. On the fifth day they let him see Joe. Ferguson was in a room alone. He looked tired out, his brown eyes too large for his thin face. This was the second hardest thing Marty had ever had to do. He was prepared for anything, and a feeling of guilt walked into the room with him.

He said, “Hi, Joe,” watching his partner’s eyes for any telltale reaction.

Joe tried to smile. He said, “Hiya, kid.”

“How you feeling?”

“O. K., I guess.”

They looked at each other. Marty couldn’t read Joe’s eyes or what was behind them. He said awkwardly, “Ackerman got away.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Sure, kid; sure.”

The nurse came in and signaled that it was time for Marty to leave.

Marty left the hospital knowing less than when he went in. Joe might know everything, or nothing.

Joe Ferguson’s convalescence promised to be long and tedious. Marty called on him frequently, making each visit as short as possible, coming away each time more uncertain than ever. And as the days passed, Marty Wilson knew one thing for sure: he knew that he never again wanted to ride radio car with Joe Ferguson. There was too much unfinished business between them now, too much that Marty couldn’t talk about, and Joe wouldn’t.

Marty put in for a transfer to another division. He didn’t care where they sent him, or what they gave him to do when he got there.

He saw Joe only twice, and then briefly. Ferguson was out of the hospital now, then Marty heard he was back on duty. Same old car.

GUS ACKERMAN was still at large. The dragnet they’d put out for him had yielded nothing. He could have made a clean getaway, or he could be holed up somewhere around town. The cops would all be watching for him, but time was playing into Ackerman’s hands. Even the best policeman can’t keep an edge on all the

Marty was feeling better and better, until one day he reported for work and was ordered into the office. The Lieutenant was grinning. He said, “(lot a new partner for you, Marty,” and Marty turned around to look into the eyes of Joe Ferguson.

Joe was smiling, but only with his lips. He held out his hand and said, “Hiya, Kid,” as he always did.

“Heard they transferred you,” explained Joe. “So I put in for out here. They said okay, and the Skipper said he'd be glad to shove us in the same car. Just like old times, ain’t it?”

They went to roll call, were briefed

on hot cars and special assignments. A half dozen men who had worked with Joe Ferguson in other divisions came up to congratulate him on his recovery, and on again being teamed up with his old partner. Joe took it all in stride, his expression, betraying nothing.

They started patrolling. Beautiful, clear night. Plenty of traffic: lots more than they’d encountered on an average night at Central. Several routine calls: a couple of fights, a prowler that they snagged and brought in, a dead body— suicide, two routine shakedowns of cars that didn’t look quite right. They were becoming accustomed to their new call number. It wasn’t so easy picking out 66 when you’d taught yourself to jump at the call of 11.

Cars passed them in a steady stream. Marty kept watching Joe out of the comer of his eye, hoping the older man would say something about playing automobile poker. That would have told him a lot.

But Joe didn’t say anything about playing poker. Joe was casual, he was polite. He was even friendly. He always greeted Marty cheerfully, “Hiya, kid,” when they met at roll call, he did his part on each assignment and took it for granted that Marty would do the same. But the old intimacy was gone, the old lightness.

THEY hit rain one night, and fog.

It was like the night at the warehouse downtown. Marty avoided the customary griping about the weather, and Joe didn’t refer to it.

Another night they picked up a couple of punks in a stolen car. Marty pulled out his field wallet and started thumbing through a bunch of mug shots. The picture of Gus Ackerman was there, and it jumped at both of them. Marty felt himself getting hot, and he looked up to find Joe’s eyes steadily on him. Neither said anything. Marty was having a bad time of it. He wanted to get away, wanted a change of Division, a change of partners. Anything. But he didn’t dare make the move. Joe had followed him. Why? Because he knew, because he didn’t know, or because he wasn’t sure?

It was on one of Marty’s days off that he found himself downtown in search of a movie he hadn’t seen and might enjoy. He was standing in front of an exclusive haberdashery shop marveling at the high prices of handpainted neckties and fancy sports shirts when a man passed him, walking

At first Marty didn’t notice him. He gave him only a brief glance out of the corner of his eye, as a policeman learns to do. He himself was inconspicuous. He was wearing casual clothes and two belts. The second was his gun belt which held his holster and service revolver.

Six o’clock. Night was falling. Traffic was heavy. The man Marty had noticed so casually made a crossing just as the light turned from green to red. He registered vaguely, and, chiefly because he had nothing else

to do, Marty followed when the light turned in his favor. The other man was more than a half block ahead.

Something clicked. Marty drew a deep breath and felt a tightening throughout his body. Ackerman! The idea was preposterous, yet—on second thought—Marty knew that it could be. He saw his quarry turn into the lobby of a big, expensive hotel. Then it figured.

You could always play a man like Gus Ackerman for smart. He’d know that every crummy hotel in the city would have been given a thorough going-over long since. What better hiding place, then, than a swank hostelry, provided he lived quietly, soberly and peacefully and kept mostly to his room.

Marty stood just outside the big double doors opening from the street into the lobby. He saw the other man get a key from the desk and start for the elevator. He got a good look at him then. It was Ackerman, all right.

This was the payoff. He could put in a single phone call, and he’d get a truckload of help. Then a new thought hit Marty: This was radio district 66. Joe Ferguson was on duty. The first car to reach the scene would bring Joe and his substitute partner.

That, reflected Marty bitterly, would put him and Joe right back where they had started. Gus Ackerman holed up, armed and dangerous. He wasn’t thinking of Joe as much as he was thinking of himself right then. He’d rather face Ackerman’s gun than to ride around night after night with the inscrutable Ferguson beside him.

He went to the desk and summoned the clerk. He showed his badge and said he was a police officer. He said, “That guy who just went up in the elevator—the last one to get his key from you: What’s his room number?” The clerk hesitated, but only briefly. Then he said, “That was Mr. Watkins. He’s in 1002.”

“When did he check in here?”

The clerk consulted the records. Mr. Watkins, it seemed, had been a guest of the hotel since about eight days after the shooting of Joe Ferguson.

“What does he do?” asked Marty. “Has he got a job?”

“I don’t know, really. He’s been an excellent guest. Doesn’t go out much. Plays his radio a lot, but not loud enough to draw complaints from the other guests. Eats a lot of his meals here. Pays his bills promptly.”

“Get much mail?”

“Well, no—corte to think of it. I don’t think he gets any.”

The clerk was becoming more interested. “Anything wrong, Officer?” “Naah. Just want to have a chat with him. I’ll go up. Don’t let him know he’s about to have a visitor.”

MARTY stepped into the elevator and asked for the ninth floor. The hallway was deserted. It was long with dark green carpeting and light green walls. The doors were all alike except for their numbers. There was a wi:..'ow at either end of the hall, and in the middle another corridor jutted off nt right angles. 1002, reflected Marty, would be a corner room, most probably with two exposures. He tried to visualize the inside of the room. Bathroom would be on the near side, of course, the bed probably backed up against the wall of the hallway. There’d be a dresser against the opposite wall, and perhaps near the west window there would Isa desk and a straight chair. An easy chair would logically be placed between the dresser and the desk.

The lighting in the hall wus dim but adequate. Not nearly as bad ns that warehouse in the fog, hut still bad

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enough. He again recalled the warning on the mug shot he carried: “Approach this suspect with caution. He is armed, and known to be dangerous.” Well, that was something Marty knew from bitter experience. He didn't need to be reminded of it. He paused long enough to consider what his next move should be. He could rap on the door and say he was a bellboy. If Ackerman hadn’t sent for a bellboy, he'd be alerted by that ruse. Marty then considered saying it was a telegram, but Gus Ackerman wasn’t getting telegrams. And as for simply knocking on the door and saying nothing, that was out.

Marty turned down the angle of the hall, walking away from the corridor on which 1002 was located. He found a maid and show-ed his badge.

“There’s a man in 1002 I want to see. I’m sure he won’t let me in. I want you to wait until I get near the door. Then you’re to walk up. rattle your key ring, put the passkey in the lock and rap. When he asks who it is, say you’re the maid—and this is important —be unlocking the door at the same time. As soon as you’ve got it unlocked. open it a few inches then duck.”

The maid’s eyes were popping. “You’re not fixin’ to have any bad trouble, are you?”

“Of course not. I’m trying to avoid it.”

Convinced against her will, obeying only because she stood in awe of a policeman, the maid walked with him to the turn in the hallway, and down to the end where Ackerman’s room was located. Marty motioned for her to slow up a bit while he preceded her. He took up his post near the hall window, and, with his back still to the maid, took out his gun and checked it. He pulled back the hammer and held the weapon down against his leg.

He nodded to the maid. She hadn’t missed the byplay with the gun, and was terrified. Marty made an imperative gesture. She rattled her keys, inserted one in the lock and tapped on the door. A hoarse masculine voice came from inside: “Who’s that?”

“Th-the-th’ maid, sir.” Her voice sounded frightened and unnatural.

“I didn’t send for no maid!”

She didn’t need Marty’s gesture of dismissal. She took off down the hall, and kept going.

The hoarse voice came again from inside the room: “What goes on here?”

Too late now for Marty to call for help. Right or wrong, foolish or not, he’d made this play on his own. “It’s the police, Ackerman. Toss your gun into the hall and come out after it w-ith your hands up.”

There was a long, tens«' silence. Then Ackerman said, “You w-ant me, Copper— come get me.”

Fear crawled over Marty Wilson once again. He’d been a damned fool. Well, he didn’t have to keep on being one. He could back all the wav down the hall with gun ready in case Ackerman changed his mind, he could ring for the elevator and tell the operator to call police. Then all he’d have to do would be to wait.

Rut something kept Marty Wilson rooted to his post. It wasn’t common sense, it wasn’t heroism. It was something which had grown in him since he’d been back on radio patrol with Joe Ferguson, something he’d caught in Joe's eyes, something Joe had said without uttering a word.

Joe Ferguson! He suddenly had liecome more irn|>ortant than Marty would have believed any man other than himself could Is-.

He heard footsteps coming up the fire stairs The fire door was down the other end of the hall, a long way

off from 1002. He saw it open, and two men in blue uniforms stepped into the hall.

One of the men he knew only by sight. The other was Joe Ferguson.

It didn’t require more than a splitsecond for Marty to figure what had happened. Chances were that when he’d flashed his badge downstairs, the clerk had become suspicious. He’d probably telephoned the station to report that a man in civilian clothes had shown a police badge and gone upstairs after a hotel guest. That would call for investigation, and of course the first pair of cops on the scene would be the men working car 66.

Marty saw Ferguson and his partner draw their guns. Plenty of help now— help he’d have welcomed if one of the men hadn't been Ferguson. He

couldn’t pass the buck to Joe again.

He raised his gun and tensed himself. He heard Ferguson’s voice, “Hold it. Marty!" But he didn’t hold it.

Marty gambled. He kicked the door open and jumped into 1002. He

turned his gun toward the wall where he figured Ackerman would logically be standing, and squeezed the trigger. Ackerman fired too.

Marty fired again, this time at a definite target. But Ackerman didn’t shoot a second time. Marty saw the figure of the other man slumping toward the floor. He’d been standing just where Marty figured he’d be.

Joe Ferguson and his partner burst into the room. They were on Ackerman. pinioning his arms, kicking his gun out of reach, frisking him for a second weapon.

Marty stood motionless. The air of the room was pungent with the sharp odor of cordite. Marty seemed to be out of it. more a spectator than a participant. He felt no definite emotion: no triumph, no fear, no exaltation.

He heard noises in the hall: doors opening and closing, a babble of voices, the sound of the elevator, feet pounding. A half dozen more cops hit the room. He heard Joe’s voice, as though from a great distance:

“It’s Ackerman, all right. Marty Wilson got him, alone."

He said it matter-of-factly. ns though what Marty had done was the most natural thing in the world.

A tall, rangy detective suggested that Marty ride back to the station with him to make out a report. They rode downstairs together. Joe wasn’t anywhere around. Later, he got to the station just as Marty was leaving. They nodded to each other, and Marty went home. He stretched out on the bed, not expecting to sleep and the next thing he knew it was nine o’clock.

He put on his uniform at home, and walked to the station. The boys grinned at him. Joe Ferguson was there, and he said cheerily, “Hiyn, kid!”

A half hour later they climbed into their car. Marty took the wheel, and Joe started checking the hot sheet. The n«dio on the dashboard was busy: usual police chatter. There didn’t seem to In* anything for 66.

After a long time Joe Ferguson said, “That was a damfool thing you done, Marty.”

Marty looked straight ahead. Then he said, quietly, “I had to, Joe.”

He drove silently, keeping his eyes glued to traffic. No calls for 66. Just routine stuff.

Jssaid. “Next two cars, Marty. Okay?”


A si-dan zipped past them. JIMsaid, “Two pair: eights over sixi-s."

“Not gooil enough,” answered Marty Another car passed. “Told you.” he said triumphantly: “Three