The Gat and the Mouse

Joe Archibald

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EText from pulpgen.com

Popular Detective, May, 1949

When the Hawkeye Hawkshaw meets up with Spelvin Sump, zany inventor of “atom bullet,” something's bound to explode!

AT SEVEN-FIFTEEN one morning William J. Klump saw an advertisement in a newspaper that said a room was for rent on East Fifty- First Street, and at seven-twenty-one he was ringing a doorbell at the aforementioned address. Eleven clamoring citizens were behind Willie when the landlady came to the door.

“I'll take it,” Willie gasped out. “An' even furnish my own soap an' towels.”

Five minutes later Willie had a roof over his head, not more than five inches from the top of his noggin. The skylight that acted in place of windows was stubborn when he yanked a chain but it finally opened and dumped two pigeon eggs onto his bed. There was also one chair in the room, a dresser with half the mirror, and a washstand that could easily have come over with John Alden and Priscilla. All of this was going to cost Willie eleven dollars every week. “There is even black markets in bedrooms,” Willie complained as he scattered his personal belongings about. “I wonder if the pigeon eggs are fresh. Ha, the old babe never told me breakfast come with the room the first day.” He took a pan from his straw suitcase and filled it half full of water and put this on his portable hot plate.

The eggs were delicious. Feeling much better, the president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency stowed his cooking utensils away in the closet that he was sure had not known a broom's kiss since the house was built. Willie picked some old papers off the floor and carried them to an old grocery carton that served as a waste- basket. Something fell to the floor and he stooped to pick it up. It was a snapshot of a very delectable blonde wearing a bathing suit. He turned it over and read:

 

To my darling—Hoping you won't stay away from me long.—Your Goldilocks.

 

“Huh,” Willie sniffed. “Who'd go away and leave her in the firs' place. I will keep this and burn Gertie with it sometime.”

WILLIAM KLUMP arrived at his office at ten A. M., wondering why he bothered. With Willie business was oknup which is a very expressive word spelled backwards and used by lots of citizens especially those who never studied with the Harvards. It seemed that all the dames in the city had stopped distrusting their husbands and that all characters were paying their debts on time and were being careful not to turn up missing just to spite the private eyes.

“I must git me a sideline,” Willie decided. “Maybe git the agency for a burglar alarm outfit. I'll look up some of them in the classified.” Willie could not find that type of directory so he phoned the telephone company. Getting the right party he wanted to know the reason for such poor service to customers.

“This is the Hawkeye Detective Agency, isn't it?” a very haughty voice replied. “Mr. Klump, we want you to understand that we are giving you prompt and efficient service. Your phone is being disconnected as of now.”

“Thanks,” Willie said. “I thought— wha-a-a?”

The president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency had no sooner hung up when the door opened. He swung around in his chair and saw a short and bulky character taking an uncertain gander at his layout.

“Sorry, wrong office,” the visitor said, but Willie detained him with an impatient gesture. “I should have a suit of seven offices all done in chromo and alligator hide, huh?” he asked. “Then crooks would know how successful I was catchin' them an' business would slow down. It is a blind, of courst.”

“You are Mr. Klump?”

“Who elst? Have a chair.”

Willie noticed that the client had oversized ears and arms longer than most citizens. They had muscles that bulged his sleeves out and the hands at the end of each extremity were almost as big as clowns' feet. His face certainly would never cause folks to get him confused with Van Johnson.

“My proposition must be kept in the strictest confidence, Klump. I am Spelvin Sump, an inventor.”

“Invent me a telephone, will you?” Willie asked. “Mine was just—er—go on, Mr. Sump.”

“You have heard of the atomic bomb?”

Willie nodded. “As long as I only hear of it and not at it, I am satisfied.”

“H-m-m-m,” Sump sighed. “Well, I am about to perfect the atomic bullet, Klump, and I have reason to believe I have enemies who will try and steal my handiwork—or kill me.”

William Klump stared at the visitor's vest to see if a strait-jacket might not be underneath. “Er, Mr. Sump, to make atoms you have a geranium mine.”

“Uranium, Klump,” the client corrected. “I have a friend who works at Oak Ridge and of course there are radioactivated particles left over from—”

“They are shipped to you in lead cans, huh?” Willie sniffed.

“To make a long story short I need a bodyguard, Klump,” Spelvin Sump said. “But I can only pay fifteen dollars each day.”

Willie's swivel-chair did one revolution before he braked it. “Fifteen dollars? Why Mr. Sump, I—that is, well, I will tell you what. I will make an inception in your case. I have four or five days before I get a report from my ops who are workin' on a big spy deal, so I'll give it a try.”

“Wonderful, Mr. Klump,” Sump said. “You carry a gun, of course?”

Willie shuddered. If there was anything he hated and did not understand too well, it was a heater with a trigger to it. It suddenly occurred to him that he did not look tough enough to be a bodyguard and that rough citizens would get a laugh before they ventilated Mr. Sump.

“Look, give me a day or two to think this over, pal,” Willie said.

“Okay, Klump,” Sump said. “I know you're a pretty busy man. But don't let me down whatever else you do.”

TWENTY minutes later Willie sat and thought it over and the more he thought the more butterflies settled in his stomach. He decided to discuss the dilemma with Gertrude Mudgett when he met her for a movie date that evening.

Gertie called Willie a heel, when they met and he'd given her a quick rundown of his assets.

“I should eat my cake an' let you keep it in the ice-box at the same time?” Willie sniffed.

“Never mind the incinerations,” Gertie snapped back at him. “Awright. Leave us go to a Shanty an' then we will see the pitcher at Looie's Lex. Humphries Bogard and Bacall are in it and it is called The Gat And His Mouse.”

Willie told Gertie about Sump after taking a bite out of a liverwurst sandwich.

“Of courst, you'll do it, Willie,” she said. “Fifteen bucks every day until Sump is shot or out of the woods! That ain't hay. You could make yourself look tough. Watch Bogard all durin' the pitcher tonight an' see how he does it.”

Willie did. He observed the Bogie technique as closely as possible but knew he could not get away with slapping Gertie in the chops. He studied Bogie's mannerisms and the way he spoke. He sat through the picture twice and then escorted Gertrude Mudgett to the street.

“Well, baby,” he said through his teeth. “You think we should lam this burg, baby?”

“Why, Willie, you are thrillin'!” Gertie exclaimed. “Only you should pull the brim of your hat down over your eyes an' get a clean shirt and a suit pressed.”

“Yeah? Who are you to tell me, baby?”

“Now wait, knucklehead,” Gertie yipped. “Don't overdo it or I'll hang one on you an' put you back in character.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah!”

“If you took off ten to twelve pounds and let your hair flop over your eyes, baby,” Willie said, “you could almost pass for Bacall. Come on, I'll bodyguard you home, baby.”

“I have got a hunch I started somethin' awful,” Gertrude Mudgett sniffed.

On his way to his office the next morning Willie stopped in at a drug store and purchased some cotton. The clerk mentioned that it was a nice day.

“What's good about it?” Willie tossed out.

“It's clammy, pal. An' leave us not git personal, see?”

“Sha-aa-addup!” Willie said, and walked out. He stood out in front for a moment lighting a cigarette the way Bogard had in the picture, and he peered at passersby from under the brim of his hat as if daring them to make something out of anything. Finally he swaggered down the street toward the building where he was behind a month in the rent, amazed at the change that he'd made in himself.

Willie, in the privacy of his office, slid rolls of cotton under his upper and lower lips and talked to a pretty doll reclining on a calendar tacked to the wall.

“Yeah, that's how it is, baby. We're through, see? Oh, yeah? So what?”

A half hour later Willie considered the Sump case and suddenly remembered his permit to pack a heater had expired. He went downtown to see an assistant D.A. he knew and soon had that little detail straightened out. The news spread through various offices and Willie had no sooner decided to hurry uptown and meet Spelvin Sump when Satchelfoot Kelly and two other cops intercepted him in the corridor. Kelly had a Roscoe in his hand.

“Look, Willie,” Satchelfoot said. “This is a gun. You hold it with this end, see? An' the bullet comes out the other. Here is where you put the cartridges an' always remember to put them in with the bullet-parts headin' out the barrel. An'—”

“Sha-a-a-ddup!” Willie snapped. “You want I should blast you, huh? Look, copper, you are as funny as a brace on a sprout's knee.”

“Huh?” Satchelfoot gasped. “What's come over the lemonhead? Is it them comic mags did this? An' he is goin' to carry a Roscoe!”

“Why not?” Willie yelped. “With the likes of you around there has to be somebody to protect scientrists while they make atomic—it is none of your business!”

SATCHELFOOT KELLY had to sit down after taking that one and he looked wonderingly at Willie Klump. “Where did you git the snow, Willie?” he finally asked. “An' now tell us you know where the Behr brothers stashed the hundred and thirty grand they took from the armored car over in Bayonne, ha!”

“Nobody will ever know where that is,” Willie sniffed. “You cops are stumped for keeps on that one, especially after that attempted jail-break at Trenton. I'll be seein' you coppers around.”

“Get him!” Kelly gulped. “A split personality, looks like. Gertie must've used a cleaver on him. I don't get it!”

“You will,” Willie said curtly. “Just keep astin' for it, bigmouth!” He slid a cigarette between his lips and nearly swallowed one of the rolls of cotton. On his way uptown he mentally reviewed the Bayonne robbery and' the corpses that became strewn in its wake. All of the guilty parties in the crime, that was now a year old, had got their come-uppance but over a hundred grand was still missing from circulation.

The job, the cops said, had been planned far in advance. One of the Behr boys had wheedled himself into a job with the armored car outfit. He had personally expunged a fellow-employee and had driven the C.O.D. sedan into the hinterland where he'd been met by the other Behr and two dishonest gees.

The swag jalopy had been dynamited and the contents taken. Several weeks afterward, the criminal characters had apparently put on a rhubarb over a split of the take and when the cops arrived in the back room of the Tenth Avenue tavern Louie Behr was quite dead. Another miscreant was tottering on the ragged edge when placed in the pickup truck of a healing hacienda and he sang the other Behr and his pal right into the Trenton pokey before he breathed his last.

Despite hours of cooking in the grill room, Waxie Behr and the other gee refused to divulge where they had stored the heavy lettuce. Waxie claimed that only Louie knew and that he was not a spirit medium. Six months after being convicted, Waxie Behr and his crony participated in a very spectacular attempt at breaking out of the Trenton klink and the last Behr absorbed half the ammo in a gun tower and was hustled to the pokey morgue. The only criminal character left of the original holdup gang was given an additional ninety-nine years, and so Willie figured he would not be interested in even a million bucks by the time he left the pen which could only be in a hearse.

One guard had been expunged during the attempted break and six had required more than a little first aid. The cops of two states had about made up their minds to forget it all, and had soothed their consciences with the thought that the crime had not paid.

“I am sure glad I never got mixed up with them tough Behrs,” Willie told himself, and a passenger across the way dropped his newspaper and eyed him askance.

“Who you starin' at, punk?” Willie said, the Bogard coming out in him once more, “I'm on edge, so you look out, see?”

Willie stopped in at a cigar store two blocks from his office to call Spelvin Sump. The client was very pleased to hear his voice and was no end pleased to hear that the Hawkeye was going to protect him by the day. Mr. Sump instructed Willie to be at his home up in the Fleetwood section of the Bronx at eight o'clock the next morning. He was to be escorted downtown to pick up some tools necessary to the secret work he was engaged in.

“I'll be right on the dot, pal,” Willie said. “Ah—how about a detainin' fee when I see you?”

“We will discuss that, Klump, when you get here,” the client said, and quickly hung up.

“H-m-m,” Willie said. “Who knows I may be guardin' a citizen more famous that Pasture or Madame Curry. The future of the world could be in my hands an'— yeah, when the great secret comes out my pitcher'll be in Life. I can't wait until Satchelfoot sees it.”

A series of startling events overtook William Klump the moment he rang the bell of Spelvin Sump's little abode on a shady side-street far uptown. They shouldn't have even happened to such as Willie. An angular female with her red hair full of steel clamps opened the door and glared at him.

“We got whatever you're sellin', so run along, Buster,” she snapped.

“I am here to see Mr. Sump,” Willie said. “He hired me to personally bodyguard him beginnin' as of now. I am to excort him downtown an'—”

“Wha-a-a-a? So he's like that ag'in, is he?” The irate female spat at Willie. “I should have you arrested for takin' advantage of my poor husband!”

SHE turned around fast and Willie was quite sure it was to pick something up with which to fracture his skull and so he turned and fled, a lot of the Bogard in him seeping out. He waited two blocks away to see if Spelvin Sump would appear and explain but an hour went by and no Mr. Sump. Willie Klump sadly trudged toward the Fleetwood railroad stop trying to figure it all out, but his noggin kept bumping against a dead end.

9:05 A.M. Willie Klump dropped into his chair at the Hawkeye Detective Agency feeling as much like Bogie at the moment as a smelt feels like a whale, and hoping that the niggardly Mrs. Sump's next batch of biscuits would burn to a crisp.

“Maybe I didn't git the right address an' there might be more than one Sump up there,” Willie mumbled, and reached into his pocket for his memo book. Out tumbled the picture of the mouse in the swim suit and Willie picked it up and had to admire it. He was holding it more up to the light when the door behind him opened. Too late he tried to ditch the snapshot and Gertie Mudgett leaped across the room and ripped it out of his hand. She took one quick gander at it and flung it away, picked up a dictionary and belted Willie on top of the head with same. All the words seemed to fly out of the dictionary, break up into letters and swarm around his noggin like bees. Faintly he heard Gertie's voice.

“So you didn't have the nerve to take that job, you jerk!” Gertie howled. “I come by to make sure an' here you are gloatin' over a pitcher of the doll you are twotimin' me with. I'll see a lawyer, Willie Klump, an' name her for annihilatin' of affections. Good—by!”

“Look, Gert,” Willie gulped out, when the smog was out of his glimmers. “If you'd just read on the back of the pitcher, you'd—hey, Gert!”

Willie Klump leaned forward and held his noggin in his hands and lost track of time.

9:22 A.M. The door opened once more and Willie spun around and saw Spelvin Sump. The character looked both apologetic and addled.

“Awright,” Willie said. “Make up your mind, huh?”

“Mr. Klump, I am so sorry,” the client answered. “You see I am keepin' it from my wife I am in danger. And certain people call me—well—eccentric like all inventors. She couldn't see why I should hire a bodyguard of course. Now to show my good faith I will pay your first day's— ”

Outside in the street a truck tire blew and Spelvin Sump nearly jumped out of his rompers. A strange look appeared in his eyes and he asked Willie Klump who he was and why he had been brought here.

Willie yelled at the top of his lungs when he asked what the gimmick was and Mr. Sump was quite startled again. His eyes changed back to their original expression and he laughed guiltily.

“Don't mind me, Klump. I was thinkin' of how to harness atomic fractions and was preoccupied.” Sump reached down and picked up something that had nearly slid out of sight under Willie's desk. He looked at the snapshot of the blonde and scratched his inventive head. Then he stared at Willie.

“My dame just caught me with that,” Willie sniffed. “She didn't give me no time to tell her I found it in my closet where I room. Some other roomer before me left it there. Well, give it here an' we'll talk business.”

“I suddenly do not feel well, Klump,” Spelvin Sump said in a very flaccid voice. “Some other time. Good day to you.”

“An' go jump in the river, you crackpot!” the president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency yelled. “Make up your mind if you are Mr. Hyde or Dr. Jeekle!”

Willie mopped exasperating dew from his face and reached for a tabloid he'd bought and forgot to read. Staring him in the face just as if he hadn't trouble enough was a half-tone of Aloysius “Satchelfoot” Kelly. A headline screamed:

 

ALERT DETECTIVE FOILS

ARMED ROBBERY!

 

Inside, on page 2, was the account of Kelly's brave deed. He had been off duty and walking past a bar and grill on Seventh Avenue when two rough characters ran out of a ginmill after shooting up two customers and the barkeep. Satchelfoot had tangled with both in a spirited gun battle and had triumphed. Police believed that the arrest of the two hoods would lead to the extermination of the gang that had been terrorizing the West Side for months.

“Now he won't be fit to live with,” Willie griped. “The only way he could ever nab crooks is to have them run into him with open arms like they did. Huh, they should have glued his ears back before muggin' him. He looks like a scairt door mouse.”

AT TWELVE o'clock Willie went to his filing cabinet and pulled out a drawer marked L. He came up with two soggy honey buns and a jar of cold coffee and was just spreading a newspaper over his desk when Spelvin Sump came in, more agitated than three eggs in a mixing bowl.

“Look, bud, I've only got so much patients with you,” Willie yelped loudly. “Leave us in on the act!”

“You must help me, Klump,” the strange client pleaded. “I am in dire peril an' don't dare go home. They are trailin' me. I saw 'em an' jumped in a cab an' come here. You must put me up for the night.”

“Where I sleep an extra lodger?” Willie yelped. “Even if he was a Singer midget who smoked too many cigarettes, he would over-crowd things,” Willie yelped. “Look, I will call your wife an'—”

“No! No! Not that!” Sump dropped into Willie's chair and wrung his hands.

“On second thought I wouldn't do that to a dog,” Willie sniffed. “Awright, but I want a detainer fee, if I am hired at last!”

“Here is ten dollars,” Spelvin Sump said, and dug down for his wallet.

“It is a deal,” Willie said. “Of course you will have to pay two bucks to share my room. I hope you will not judge the Hawkeye by where I live as who can't be particular nowadays, huh? I just missed a duplexus apartment by fifteen minutes this A.M. Sit down an' relapse, pal, and then we'll have a rummy game until it gets dark.”

“I shall never forget you, Klump,” the client said.

“Er,” Willie asked, “you wouldn't have atomic energy on you? I heard it soaks through.”

“No, Klump, I carry four lead pencils.”

“An antidope, huh?” Willie said. “That's nice to know.” Then he hunted up a deck of cards.

7:45 P.M. Willie Klump and Spelvin Sump left the office building and hailed a cab. En route to Willie's rooming house a stop was made to purchase sandwiches. They entered the skylight room around eight and Spelvin Sump remarked that lifers certainly must enjoy better accommodations at the State pens.

“Yeah, but you have to commit murder to git a room,” Willie said, and shooed a pigeon off the dresser. It took off and zoomed up through the skylight. “We will have to toss up to see who sleeps on the floor, huh?”

8:30 P.M. to 10:35 P.M. Sandwiches and more gin rummy. Then to bed.

Willie won the toss and he gave Sump the extra pillow and a blanket. The president of the Hawkeye Detective Agency had had a trying day and he had no sooner hit the sack when Morpheus slugged him between the eyes. Willie dreamed that he was in a dentist's chair and was being given gas just as a fire alarm rang. The molar mechanic ripped off his white coat and took off announcing that he was a volunteer fire-fighter. Willie tried to yell that the citizen had forgotten to turn off the sleep vapor. He woke up and discovered that a pillow was pressed against his face and that something heavy was on top of the pillow.

“M-m-mph-umph,” Willie choked out and began to struggle. He kicked with his legs and flailed with his arms and managed to squirm out from under and fall out of bed. Something landed beside him with a loud thump and he rolled over and covered it like a blanket and banged at it with his fists. It made noises like a man and then Willie remembered he'd brought his client home with him. He jumped up and pulled a light cord and looked down at Spelvin Sump.

“Why, you dirty strangler!”

Sump got to a sitting position and felt of a mouse under his eye as he looked up at Willie.

“W-Where am I, huh? Oh, it is you, Klump. It was awful as I dreamt I was murderin' my wife.”

“Yeah?” Willie asked, and shuddered. “So that was it? Well, I am sittin' up the rest of the night an' drinkin' black coffee as soon as I stew some up. You can have the bed.”

“I couldn't never go back to sleep,” Spelvin Sump said. “Let's play some cards until mornin', Klump.”

WILLIE, before he went back to gin, draped his coat over the back of his chair and felt of the Roscoe that was in the right hand pocket. It was beginning to dawn upon him that this client of his was just a little crazy. He sat down and watched Sump deal the cards and wondered at the changing lights in the character's peepers. He had forgotten all about Humphries Bogard now and thought only of Peter Lorry. Willie could feel little things running up and down his spine and their feet were as cold as a Gromyko's good morning.

Dawn finally came and it was the first time Willie ever realized it rode on the backs of turtles.

“You could sneak out now an' save two bucks,” Willie said. “Mrs. Kozowski don't git up 'fore seven. An' anybody who is chastin' you won't expect you to be abroad at this hour.”

“That is a splendid idea, Klump,” Spelvin Sump said and reached for his pants. Fifteen minutes later Willie Klump was alone and sitting on his bed trying to add things up. Crazier things could have happened to him before, he mused, but he could, not remember them. He finished the last of the very black coffee and then splashed cold water over his noggin. At seven A.M. he was down in the front hall calling Gertrude Mudgett.

Gertie was no end irked when she recognized Willie's voice. “Oh, it is you, you rooey!” she snapped. “First, you got a nerve callin' me anyways and secunt this is no time to git no lady out of bed. Git it through your thick skull I am through with you, you bum! Leave us forget an'—”

“Gertie, I can explain about the pitcher of the mouse,” Willie said in a hurry. “I just got to talk to you, baby. It is about somethin' that scares me. How's about tonight for dinner?”

“Mr. Klump, I am dinin' with a gen'leman frien' this evenin',” Gertie said haughtily. “He's had some nice publisticy in the papers if you've noticed.”

“Kelly, huh?” Willie sighed. “Well, how about after?”

“I am baby-sittin' at eight o'clock sharp, Mr. Klump. If you care to call at a certain address around nine I shall be at liberty for a few moments. Take this down.”

Willie scribbled an address on the wall near the common telephone as Gertie gave it to him. He was quite downcast when he hung up the receiver.

“Satchelfoot!” he choked out. “He'll be spendin' my savin's account yet if I don't work fast. Of courst I could perpose to Gertie tonight—er—there must be a better way out.”

At the appointed hour William J. Klump rang the bell outside the door of Apartment 7B in quite a genteel pueblo on East Seventy-Eighth. Miss Mudgett admitted him and she had a very precocious moppet by the hand. In her free hand she held a book.

“Good evenin',” Gertie greeted Willie coldly. “I'll give you two minutes.”

“I don't like him!” the moppet said bluntly, then hauled off and kicked Willie in the shins.

“Cute kid, huh?” Willie sniffed. “I am glad I brought a heater with me. What you readin' to her, the story of Jack The Ripper?”

“Nya-a-ah!” the sprout yipped, and stuck her tongue out at Willie.

“Now behave, Lucretia,” Gertie cautioned. “Or I shan't read no more of Goldilocks An' the Three Bears.”

“Her last name maybe is Boggia?” Willie asked, then felt something snap inside his head, “Wha-a-a-a? Goldilocks? The bears? Louie an' Waxie Behr? I found Goldilocks in the closet an'—Gert, I must be runnin' along! He wa'n't tryin' to rub out his wife. Oh, have I been dumb!”

“You're beginnin' to catch on, Willie,” Gertie threw after Willie as he legged it down the hall.

Willie had a dollar and eighty cents left so he took a cab to his rooming house. He was panting like a bloodhound after a mile run in August when he burst into Mrs. Kozowski's front hall. The landlady was just hanging up the telephone when he shut the door behind him.

“What ails you, Klump?” the landlady asked. “You look scairt to death!”

“I ain't laughin', I admit,” Willie gasped. “Anybody been here astin' for me? He's got long arms an' big hands, an' most likely wears a gray herrin'-bone suit. His face—”

“Why, that is odd,” Mrs. Kozowski nasaled. “A man like him went upstairs about twenty minutes ago. Carried a bag an' said he was an exterminator who went to Barber's college by the day so had to work at night. I told him it wouldn't hurt none to fumigate, not that there is a single bug in the—”

“No, they all have big fam'lies,” Willie yipped and started up the stairs, three steps at each jump. “An' he is not kiddin' about bein' an exterminater. Oh-hh-h!”

ON THE first landing Willie drew his Roscoe. He met an old doll in a kimono on the second floor and she immediately went into a swoon. Up to the third floor Willie ran and then stopped dead in his tracks. Light shone brightly under his door and he heard disturbing sounds.

William J. Klump advanced along the hall and paused, in front of his skylight room, peered through a crack in the door and saw Spelvin Sump kneeling beside the bed. Willie knew the citizen was not saying his prayers, not with a jackknife in his hand. Sump had stripped the bed and was inserting the blade of the shiv in one corner of the old lumpy mattress. A black bag was on the floor beside him and it was open.

Willie Klump stepped back, got set, then catapulted himself against the door. It shivered and cracked, held for a moment, then gave way. Willie went in pulling the trigger of his Roscoe and suddenly remembered he'd forgotten to load it when Sump jumped up and pulled a heater of his own. A bullet burned Willie's left ear and left it strumming like a plucked banjo string. Another slug made a mess of the padding at his shoulder. Then he closed with the intruder and a terrible struggle ensued.

Spelvin Sump's long arms and mighty hands wreaked havoc with Willie's anatomy and physiognomy for the first few moments. In a clinch Willie clamped his teeth on Sump's right ear and got hold of the erstwhile client's necktie and pulled with all his might. The intruder gasped for air and turned Willie loose and his knee hit Willie in the meridian and let all his air out. Willie, painfully waiting for his flat to be repaired, heard the clamoring of Mrs. Kozowski's other guests. Somewhere there was the screech of a cop's whistle.

Sump barricaded the door with all the furniture in the room, then went to work on the mattress. He slit it open and some familiar green stuff spilled out with the other stuffing. Sump feverishly grabbed it up and tossed it into his bag.

“You got no chance,” Willie yelped when his bellows responded, and wondered what his hand was pressing against. He looked down and discovered it was his Roscoe. He came up with it and threw it and it bounced off the side of Sump's head. The mysterious intruder blinked, swung his eyes toward Willie.

“It ain't possible,” Willie gasped. “Nobody has a noggin that hard. Well, I tried to puncture it.”

Sump's eyes looked very strange to Willie. The things the intruder started babbling pulled Willie's lower jaw down.

“Did they break out, huh? Waxie an' Louie? How did you git that suit of civvies, pal? Say, this don't look like the cell where—I guess Waxie hit me harder than I—” He looked down at the shiv he held and quickly dropped it. “It was a billy club I was holdin' when—for the lova Mike, say somethin'!”

“Dr. Jeekle again, huh?” Willie forced out. “Who are you anyways?”

“Dinsmore Ilch, a guard here at the pen,” the intruder said, and then fell forward on his face.

Willie was unsteady on his pins when the cops broke in and surveyed the shambles.

“Goldilocks,” he mumbled. “She knew just two Behrs. The payroll from the armored jalopy stuffed in the mattress. Yeah, Waxie Behr had this room oncet an'—he knew the clams would be safe in this mattress as it wouldn't be changed oncet in twenty years, but—”

“I had a suspicion he was a little crazy,” Mrs. Kozowski told the cops.

“I wisht you'd told me,” Willie yelped, spinning around to face her.

“I wa'n't talkin' about the poor man on the floor,” the landlady sniffed. “It is no wonder all my tenants the last few months who had this room complained about the lumps in the mattress. How much did you say was in there?”

“Over a hundred grand,” Willie said.

Mrs. Kozowski gasped for air and then fainted.

“Let us start at the beginnin',” a big cop said. “Who was it you was fightin' with over the swag, you punk!”

“Just a moment!” Willie said indignantly. “Take a look at my badge! I am Private Eye William J. Klump.”

“Mike,” another member of the force said, “It is him, no kiddin'. In a setup like this who elst could it be?”

“Never mind the flattery,” Willie said sharply. “Shall we pack up the dough and take it and the criminal character to the nearest Bastile or do I have to also do that solo? I can't wait until I find out how all this happened.”

AN HOUR later Dinsmore Ilch, after sampling certain restoratives, related a story that no reputable radio station would buy. Willie Klump had called up Satchelfoot Kelly immediately upon his arrival at the precinct station, and now Willie's pet aversion was sitting here open-mouthed, and braiding the two sections of his necktie.

“Sure, I was a guard at the Trenton stir,” Ilch said. “I got to know Waxie Behr. Once he showed me a picture of the blonde exactly like the one I picked up in Klump's office. Well, Waxie and four other cons figured out a jail-break, but they had to have a guard in with 'em to be half-sure it would work. Waxie started feelin' me out day by day an' finally he said if the break worked an' he got out where he'd planted the armored car scratch, he'd see I got fifty G's. I said for him to count me in. I was to be at a certain spot with a key that would get them out of the cell-block. Waxie was to tap me on the noggin just to make it look good for me.”

“I get it,” Willie cut in. “They crossed you up an' Waxie tried to tap you for keeps.”

“Shut up, Klump!” the D.A. snapped.

“Yeah, you're right, Klump,” Ilch went on. “I never was myself very often afterwards. I lost my job, of course. I remember somethin' about tellin' the Mrs. I was makin' atomic bullets out of uranium I said was in the rocks in the backyard. My brain kept gettin' mixed up. That picture of Waxie's moll I saw in Klump's office knocked me almos' sane for a couple of days. He told me where he'd found the picture and right away I guessed where Waxie or Louie must have stored the dough, so I worked it so's Klump would take me to that room of his where I tried to knock him off. It was awful—there was days an' weeks I don't even remember. Waxie hit me with a piece of lead-pipe, an' it sure scrambled me up.”

“I understand, Ilch.” One of the men listening nodded his scholarly noggin. “I am a psychiatrist. At times you were acting under a subconscious, plunged deep into your neurogliosis, and other times—”

“You mean he was just plain wacky!” Willie said.

“When I first began to act queer, my wife took me out of where we lived in Jersey an' moved up where we are now,” Ilch continued. “She figured I could change my name and it would be good for me psychological. Don't tell her I was in with Waxie on the break, as maybe durin' a subconscious I never told her.”

“I have a slight headache myself,” the D.A. sighed. “Klump, you said you caught on when you went to see your girl who was baby-sitting and readin' about Goldilocks an' the bears. Let us think up some other solution for the newspapers, shall we? I realize the public believes everything they hear at political conventions, but after all there's a limit to what they—ha, you understand, Klump?”

“I do not intend to hold none of the true facts from the citizens who pay salaries for the likes of cops,” Willie said indignantly, and felt the Bogie influence once more. “You coppers want to hog the credit, maybe. You think I was born yesterday?”

“Was you born?” Satchelfoot Kelly asked sourly.

“You wa'n't you dope,” Willie sniffed. “They found you under the leaf of a opium plant.”

“Lock me up,” Ilch begged. “If I listen to Klump anymore I will go stark and ravin' mad again.”

Satchelfoot Kelly arose and placed his slouch hat on top of his head on the bias and asked to be excused.

He stumbled toward an open window and a cop yelled, “Hey, that ain't the door!”

“Who ast you?” Satchelfoot flung back. “If I survive the drop I am goin' to look for that Snowy White and the seven dwarfs. I think they're runnin' a narcotics ring.”

The D.A. and three cops finally forced Kelly into a chair.

Willie said petulantly, “I don't see what ails everybody. You'd think it was the first time I ever solved a case.”

“That is what puzzles us, Klump,” the D.A. said pawing at his face. “As a detective you look absolutely insolvent.”

“Just what I've been tellin' all my clients,” Willie said, and yanked down the brim of his hat. “Well, so long coppers. I must call up Baby.”

Willie did after posing for some pictures.

“Oh, that will mean an awful big fee, you darlin'!” Gertie said gleefully.

“I hope you remember that ignorance of the law ain't no excuse,” Willie said. “Fee-splittin' is a criminal's offense. Sorry, baby. Be seein' you around.” He hung up quick, yanked at the brim of his hat. “Yeah, baby—yeah!” he said as he walked away. “So what?”