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´╗┐Title: "And That's How It Was, Officer"
Author: Sholto, Ralph
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""And That's How It Was, Officer"" ***

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    _When Uncle Peter decided to clean out the underworld, it was a fine
    thing for the town, but it was tough on the folks in Tibet._


                            "And that's how
                            it was, officer"

                            By Ralph Sholto


 David Nixon,
 Chief of Police,
 Morton City.

Dear Chief Nixon:

No doubt, by this time, you and your boys are a pretty bewildered lot.
You have all probably lost weight wondering what has been going on in
Morton City; where all the gangsters went, and why the underworld has
vanished like a bucket of soap bubbles.

Not being acquainted with my uncle, Peter Nicholas, with Bag Ears
Mulligan, with the gorgeous Joy Nicholas, my bride of scarcely
twenty-four hours, or with me, Homer Nicholas, you have of course been
out of touch with a series of swiftly moving events just culminated.

You, above all others, are entitled to know what has been happening in
our fair city. Hence this letter. When you receive it, Joy and I will be
on the way to Europe in pursuit of a most elusive honeymoon. Uncle Peter
will be headed for Tibet in order to interview certain very important
people you and your department never heard of. Bag Ears will probably be
off somewhere searching for his bells, and I suggest you let him keep
right on searching, because Bag Ears isn't one to answer questions with
very much intelligence.

So, because of the fact that a great deal of good has been done at no
cost whatever to the taxpayers, I suggest you read this letter and then
forget about the whole thing.

It all started when Joy and I finally got an audience with Uncle Peter
in his laboratory yesterday morning. Possibly you will think it strange
that I should have difficulty in contacting my own close relative. But
you don't know Uncle Peter.

He is a strange mixture of the doer and the dreamer--the genius and the
child. Parts of his brain never passed third grade while other parts
could sit down and tie Einstein in knots during a discussion of nuclear
physics, advanced mathematics or what have you. He lives in a small
bungalow at the edge of town, in the basement of which is his
laboratory. A steel door bars the public from this laboratory and it was
upon this door that Joy and I pounded futilely for three days. Finally
the door opened and Uncle Peter greeted us.

"Homer--my dear boy! Have you been knocking long?"

"Quite a while, Uncle Peter--off and on that is. I have some news for
you. I am going to get married."

My uncle became visibly disturbed. "My boy! That's wonderful--truly
wonderful. But I'm certainly surprised at you. Tsk-tsk-tsk!"

"What do you mean by tsk-tsk-tsk?"

"Your moral training has been badly neglected. You plan marriage even
while traveling about in the company of this woman you have with you."

Joy is a lady of the finest breeding, but she can be caught off-guard at
times. This was one of the times. She said, "Listen here, you
bald-headed jerk. Nobody calls me a woman--"

Uncle Peter was mildly interested. "Then if you aren't a woman, what--?"

I hastened to intervene. "You didn't let Joy finish, Uncle Peter. She no
doubt would have added--'in that tone of voice.' And I think her
attitude is entirely justified. Joy is a fine girl and my intended
bride."

"Oh, why didn't you say so?"

"I supposed you would assume as much."

"My boy, I am a scientist. A scientist assumes nothing. But I wish to
apologize to the young lady and I hope you two will be very happy."

"That's better," Joy said, with only a shade of truculence.

"And now," Uncle Peter went on. "It would be very thoughtful of you to
leave. I am working on a serum which will have a great deal to do with
changing the course of civilization. In fact it is already perfected and
must be tested. It is a matter of utmost urgency to me that I be left
alone to arrange the tests."

"I am afraid," I said, "that you will have to delay your work a few
hours. It is not every day that your nephew gets married and in all
decency you must attend the wedding and the reception. I don't wish you
to be inconvenienced too greatly, but--"

Uncle Peter's mind had gone off on another track. He stopped me with a
wave of his hand and said, "Homer, are you still running around with
those bums from the wrong side of town?"

       *       *       *       *       *

These words from anyone but Uncle Peter would have been insulting. But
Uncle Peter is the most impersonal man I have known. He never bothers
insulting people for any personal satisfaction. When he asks a question,
he always has a reason for so doing.

By way of explaining Uncle Peter's question, let me say that I am a firm
believer in democracy and I demonstrate this belief in my daily life.
More than once I have had to apologize for the definitely unsocial
attitude of my family. They have a tendency to look down on those less
fortunate in environment and financial stability than we Nicholases.

I, however, do not approve of this snobbishness. I cannot forget that a
great-uncle, Phinias Nicholas, laid the foundations of our fortune by
stealing cattle in the days of the Early West and selling them at an
amazing profit.

I personally am a believer in the precept that all men are created
equal. I'll admit they don't remain equal very long, but that is beside
the point.

In defense of my convictions, I have always sought friends among the
underprivileged brotherhood sometimes scathingly referred to as bums,
tramps, screwballs, and I've found them, on the whole, to be pretty
swell people.

But to get back--I answered Uncle Peter rather stiffly. "My friends are
my own affair and are not to be discussed."

"No offense. My question had to do with an idea I got rather suddenly.
Will any of these--ah, friends, be present at the reception?"

"It is entirely possible."

"Then I could easily infiltrate--"

"You could what?"

"Never mind, my boy. It is not important. I'll be indeed honored to
attend your wedding."

At that moment there was a muffled commotion from beyond a closed door
to our left; the sound of heels kicking on the panel and an irate female
voice:

"They gone yet? There's cobwebs in this damn closet--and it's dark!"

Uncle Peter had the grace to blush. In fact he could do little else as
the closet door opened and a young lady stepped forth.

In the vulgar parlance of the day, this girl could be described only as
a dream-boat. This beyond all doubt, because the trim hull, from stem to
stern, was bared to the gaze of all who cared to observe and admire. She
was a blonde dream-boat--and most of her present apparel had come from
lying under a sun lamp.

Uncle Peter gasped. "Cora! In the name of all decency--"

Joy, with admirable aplomb, laughed gayly. "Why, Uncle Peter! So it's
that kind of research! And no wonder it's top-secret!"

Uncle Peter's frantic attention was upon the girl. "I was never so
mortified--"

She raised her hair-line eyebrows. "Why the beef, Winky? Aren't we
among friends?"

"Never mind! Never mind!" Uncle Peter fell back upon his dignity--having
nothing else to fall back on--and said, "Homer--Joy--this is Cora, my
ah--assistant. She was ah--in the process of taking a shower, and--"

Joy reached forth and pinched Uncle Peter's flaming cheek. "It's all
right, uncle dear. Perfectly all right. And I'll bet this chick can give
a terrific assist, too."

I felt the scene should be broken up at the earliest possible moment. I
steered Joy toward the door. I said, "We'll see you later, then, Uncle
Peter."

"And you too, Miss Courtney," Joy cut in. "Make Winky bring you and
don't bother to dress. The reception is informal."

I got Joy out the door but I couldn't suppress her laughter. "Winky,"
she gasped. "Oh, my orange and purple garter-belt!"

       *       *       *       *       *

We will proceed now, to the reception, which was given by my Aunt
Gretchen in the big house on Shore Drive. We were married at City Hall
and--after a delicious interlude while the cab was carrying us
cross-town--we arrived there, a happy bride and groom.

I am indeed fortunate to have wooed and won such a talented and
beautiful girl as Joy. A graduate of Vassar, she is an accomplished
pianist, a brilliant conversationalist, and is supercharged with a
vitality and effervescence which--while they sometimes manifest in
disturbing ways--are wonderful to behold. But more of that later.

The reception began smoothly enough. The press was satisfactorily
represented, much to Aunt Gretchen's gratification. Joy and I stood at
the door for a time, receiving. Then, tiring of handshakes and
congratulations, we retired to the conservatory to be alone for a few
minutes.

Or so we thought.

Almost immediately, Aunt Gretchen ferreted us out. Aunt Gretchen has
long-since lost the smooth silhouette for which the Nicholas women are
noted. She has broadened in all departments and she came waddling along
between banks of yellow roses in a manner suggesting an outraged circus
tent.

"Homer," she called. "Homer!"

I reluctantly took my hands away and answered her.

"Oh, there you are! Homer--I want an explanation."

"An explanation of what?"

"There is a person at the door who calls himself Bag Ears Mulligan. He
has the audacity to claim you invited him to--to this _brawl_ as he
terms it."

I must here explain--with sorrow--that my Aunt Gretchen is a snob. There
is no other term for it. It has gotten to be such a habit with her that
any friend of mine is automatically a person to be looked down on.

And Bag Ears Mulligan is one of my dearest friends. Of course I had
invited him to my wedding, and felt honored by his attendance. Bag Ears
is a habitue of one of the less glittering places I frequent in search
of lasting fellowship--Red Nose Tessie's Bar, to be exact. A place of
dirty beer glasses but of warm hearts and sincere people.

"I'll see this man, Aunt Gretchen," I said with calm dignity. "He is to
be an honored guest. While somewhat rugged in appearance, Bag Ears has a
sensitive nature and must be treated with understanding."

Aunt Gretchen's lips quivered. "Homer--I'm through--absolutely and
finally through! You can get someone else to handle your next wedding
reception. Hold it in a barn or a stable. Never again in my house."

After this tactless outburst, Aunt Gretchen came about and sailed out of
the conservatory. Joy and I followed wordlessly.

Upon arriving at the front door, we found Aunt Gretchen had spoken the
truth. Bag Ears was waiting there. He had been herded into a corner by
Johnson, Aunt Gretchen's stuffed shirt of a butler, who was standing
guard over him.

Bag Ears grinned happily when he caught sight of me and I smiled
reassuringly. While Bag Ears is not too richly endowed with good looks,
he has a great heart and at one time was possessed of a lightning-fast
brain. However, he took a great deal of punishment during his
unsuccessful climb toward the lightweight title, and his brain has been
slowed down to the point where it sometimes comes to a complete halt.
His features reflect the fury of a hundred battles in the squared ring.
They are in a sad state, his ears particularly. They hang wearily
downward like the leaves of a dying cabbage plant.

Also, Bag Ears has fallen into the misfortune of hearing bells at
various times--bells that exist only in his poor, bewildered mind. But
he is cheerful and warm-hearted nonetheless.

He said, "Homer, this character says I should o' brung along my invite.
But I don't remember you givin' me one. You just ast me to come."

"That is true," I returned, "and you are most welcome. You may go,
Johnson." I gave the butler a cold look and he stalked away.

       *       *       *       *       *

I then introduced Bag Ears to my new bride. "This is Joy. I am certainly
a lucky man, Bag Ears. Isn't she the most beautiful thing you ever saw?"

Bag Ears was of course impressed. "Golly, what gams!" he breathed. His
eyes traveled upward and he said, "Golly, what--what things and stuff."
He came finally to her face. "Baby, you got it!"

Joy was rocked back on her heels. Caught unawares by the open admiration
in his eyes, she whispered, "Oh, my ancient step-ins!"

But she rallied like a thoroughbred and gave Bag Ears a dazzling smile.
"I'm delighted, Mr. Mulligan. Homer's friends are my friends--I
think--and I'm sure everything will turn out all right."

Bag Ears said, "Lady--leave us not be formal. Just call me Bag Ears."

"Of course--Bag Ears--leave us be chummy."

He now turned his remarks to me and evinced even more intense admiration
for my bride. "She reminds me of a fast lightweight--the most beautiful
sight in the world."

"Let us repair to the conservatory," I said, "where we can have a quiet
chat." I said this because I felt that some of the other guests might
not be as tactful as Joy and might make Bag Ears feel uncomfortable.
Aunt Gretchen had rudely vanished without waiting for an introduction
and the actions of the hostess often set the pattern for those of the
guests.

As we moved toward the rear of the house, Joy took my arm and said,
"Speaking of being stripped down for action--what do you suppose
happened to Uncle Peter? I haven't seen him around anywhere."

"He gave his word, so I'm sure he'll come."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

"I don't understand."

"I don't quite understand myself, but I feel uneasy. I remember the
calculating look in his eye when he suddenly agreed to honor us with his
presence. There was something too eager about that look. And his asking
whether any of your friends would be here."

"Uncle Peter is basically a good follow. I think he envies me my wide
contacts."

"Maybe."

"If he seemed a trifle peculiar, you must remember that he is a
scientist. Even now he is engaged in some important project--some
experiment--"

"I know--we met her."

"Joy! Please!"

"--but I wouldn't think he'd have to experiment at his age. I'd think--"

I put my hand firmly over her mouth. "Darling--we have a guest--Bag
Ears--"

"Oh, of course."

Safely hidden behind a bank of tropical grass, I took Joy in my arms and
kissed her. Bag Ears obligingly looked in the other direction. But Joy
didn't quite get her heart into it. She seemed preoccupied--I might
almost say, bewildered.

"Bag Ears," she whispered to no one in particular, "and what did you say
the lady's name was? Oh--I remember--Red Nose Tessie." She pondered for
a moment and then smiled up at me dreamily. "Darling--I never realized
what a versatile person you are--"

Bag Ears perked up. "Verseetile? You ain't just a hootin', babe. And
_tough_. You should see his right."

I strove to quiet him down. "Never mind, Bag Ears--"

But Joy evinced great interest. "Tell me--"

"Babe--the kid could be the next heavyweight champ in a breeze. I mind
me one night a monkey comes into the tavern rodded--"

Joy held up a hand. "Just a moment. I don't like to appear stupid,
but--"

"A moke wid a heater--a goon wid a gat."

"Oh--you mean a man with a gun."

"Sure--that's what I said. Anyhow, this droolie makes a crack about
Tessie's beak--"

"An insult relative to her nose?"

"Sure--sure. And Tessie's hot to kiss him wid a bottle when he pulls the
iron."

"Imagine that," Joy said, and I felt a slight shiver go through her
body.

"Then Homer here, gets off his stool and says very polite-like, 'That
remark, sir, was in bad taste and entirely uncalled-for. I believe an
apology is in order.' And the monkey standing there with the gat in his
mitt. What Homer meant was the jerk'd cracked out o' turn and to eat his
words fast."

"I gathered that was what he meant."

"But the screwball raises the hardware and--wham--Homer hits him. What a
sock! The goon back-pedals across the room and into a cardboard wall
next to the door marked 'ladies'. He busts right through the wall and
lands in a frail's lap inside who's--"

"Powdering her nose?"

"That's right! What a sock!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Joy's eyes were upon mine.

"Darling! I didn't have the least idea. Why, it's going to be wonderful!
Never a dull moment!"

I kissed my bride, after which she said, "I think I could do with a
drink, sweetheart."

"Your wish is my command."

I got up and started toward the liquor supply inside the house. Joy's
soft call stopped me.

"What is it, angel?" I inquired.

"Not just a drink, sweet. Bring the bottle."

I went into the kitchen and got a bottle of brandy. But upon returning,
I discovered I'd neglected to bring glasses.

But Joy took the bottle from me in a rather dazed manner, knocked off
the neck against a leg of the bench and tipped the bottle to her
beautiful lips. She took a pull of brandy large enough to ward off the
worst case of pneumonia and then passed the bottle to Bag Ears.

"Drink hearty, pal," she murmured, and sort of sank down into herself.

I never got my turn at the bottle because, just at that moment, Aunt
Gretchen came sailing like a pink cloud along the conservatory walk. She
was no longer the old familiar Aunt Gretchen. Her eyes were glazed and
her face was drawn and weary.

Bag Ears looked up politely and asked, "Who's the fat sack?"

I was hoping Aunt Gretchen hadn't heard the question because she would
fail to understand that while his words were uncouth, he had a heart of
gold and meant well. And I don't think she _did_ hear him. She didn't
even hear Joy, who replied,

"That's the dame that owns the joint."

Aunt Gretchen fixed her accusing eyes upon me to the exclusion of
everyone else. Her button of a chin quivered. "Please understand,
Homer--I'm not criticizing. Things have gotten past that stage. I've
merely come to report that the house is filling up with an astounding
assortment of characters. Johnson resigned a half-hour ago. But before
he left, he suggested a man who could handle the situation far better
than he himself. A man named Frank Buck."

"But, my dear aunt," I protested. "There must be some mistake. I did not
invite any unusual people to this reception. I issued only three
invitations. I invited Willie Shank, who could not come because of a
dispute with the police over the ownership of a car he was driving
yesterday; John Smith, who could not come because this is the day he
reports to the parole board, and my good friend Bag Ears Mulligan."

"How did you happen to overlook Red Nose Tessie?" Joy asked.

"The poor woman is emotional. She does not enjoy wedding receptions. She
weeps."

"So does Aunt Gretchen," Joy observed.

Aunt Gretchen was indeed weeping--quietly, under the blanket of reserve
with which the Nicholases cover their emotions. I was about to comfort
her when she turned and fled. I started to run after her but decided
against it and returned to Joy.

"Perhaps," I said, "we had better investigate this strange turn of
events. Possibly our reception has been crashed by some undesirable
persons."

"Impossible," Joy replied. "But it might be fun to look them over. Shall
we have a quick one first--just to stiffen the old spine a bit?"

It sounded like a good suggestion so we stiffened our spines with what
was left in the bottle, and quitted the conservatory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Back in the house, one thing became swiftly apparent. We had guests who
were utter strangers to me. But it was Bag Ears who summed up the
situation with the briefest possible statement. "Jees!" he ejaculated.
"It's a crooks' convention!"

"You can identify some of these intruders?"

"If you mean do I know 'em, the answer is without a doubt, pal. Somehow,
the whole Cement Mixer Zinsky mob has infiltered into the joint."

"Cement Mixer Zinsky," Joy murmured. "Another of those odd names."

"It's on account of he invented something. Zinsky was the first gee to
think up a very novel way of getting rid of people that crowd you. He
got the idea to mix up a tub of cement--place the unwanted character's
feet in same and then throw the whole thing into the lake. Result--no
more crowding by that guy."

"He was the first one who thought of it? A sort of trail blazer."

"Of course Cement Mixer is a big shot now and his boys take care of
things like that. But sometimes he goes along to mix the cement--just to
keep his hand in you might say."

"A sentimentalist no doubt."

"No doubt," Bag Ears agreed.

I patted Joy's hand and said, "Don't be alarmed, darling. I will take
care of everything."

The situation was definitely obnoxious to me. Tolerance of one's fellow
men is one thing, but this was something entirely different. These
people had come uninvited to our festive board and were of the criminal
element, pure and unadulterated by any instincts of honesty or decency.
And it made me angry to see them wading into Aunt Gretchen's liquor
supply as though the stuff came out of a pump.

They were easy to count, these hoodlums, segregated as they were. The
more respectable of the guests who had not already left, were clustered
together in one corner of the living room, possibly as a gesture toward
self-protection. None of these elite were making any effort to approach
the buffet or the portable bar at the other side of the room. And in
thus refraining, they showed a superior brand of intelligence. Under
present circumstances any attempt to reach the refreshments would have
been as dangerous as crossing the Hialeah race track on crutches.

In fact, as I surveyed the scene, one brave lady made a half-hearted
attempt to cross over and spear a sandwich off the corner of the buffet.
She was promptly shoved out of range by a lean, hungry-looking customer
in a pink shirt, who snarled, "Scram, Three Chins! You're overfed now."

Unhooking Joy's dear fingers from my arm, I said, "You will pardon me,
but it is time for action. Bag Ears will see that you are not harmed."

I started toward the buffet, or rather toward the crowd of male and
female hoodlums who completely blocked it from my sight. But Bag Ears
snatched me by the sleeve and whispered,

"For cri-yi, Homer! Don't be a fool! This mob is loaded wid hardware.
They don't horse around none. Start slugging and they'll dress you in
red polka dots. Better call in some law."

I shook my head firmly and pulled Bag Ears' hand from my sleeve. But,
his attention now turned in another direction, he held on even harder
and muttered,

"Jeeps! I'm seeing things!"

I glanced around and saw him staring wide-eyed at the entrance hall, his
battered mouth ajar. I followed his eyes but could see nothing unusual.
Only the hall itself, through an arched doorway, and the lower section
of the staircase that gave access to the second floor of the house. It
appeared to be the least-troubled spot in view. I frowned at Bag Ears.

"Maybe I've gone nuts," he said, "but I'll swear I just saw a face
peeking down around them stairs."

"Whose face?"

"Hands McCaffery's face! That's whose!"

"And who is Hands McCaffery?"

Bag Ears looked at me with stark unbelief. "You mean you don't know?
Maybe your mom didn't give you the facts of life! Chum, they's two
really tough monkeys in this town. One of them is Cement Mixer Zinsky
and the other is Hands McCaffery. At the moment they're slugging it out
to see which one gets to levy a head tax on the juke boxes in this
section. It's a sweet take and neither boy will be satisfied with less
than all. Seeing them both in one place is like seeing Truman and that
music critic sit down at the piano together. And I know damn well that
Hands is up on them stairs!"

"You are obviously overwrought. If I have this type of person sized up
correctly, none of them would be dallying on the stairs. If this Hands
person were here, he'd be at the buffet fighting for a helping of
pickled beets and a gin wash. Pardon me--I have work to do."

But there was another interruption. I froze in sudden alarm when I
realized Joy was no longer at my side. Just as I made this discovery,
there was an upsurge of commotion at the bar; a commotion that went head
and shoulders over the minor ones going on constantly. A short angry
scream came to my ears, then a bull-voiced roar of agony.

       *       *       *       *       *

The crowd at the buffet surged back and I saw a bucktoothed hooligan
bent double, both hands gripping his ankle. Thick moans came from his
lips.

And standing close to him was my Joy. But a new Joy. A different Joy
than I had ever seen. A glorious Joy, with her head thrown back, her
teeth showing, and the light of battle in her eyes. She was holding a
plate of jello in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other and was
shouting in outraged dignity.

"Watch who you're shoving, you jug-headed gorilla! And keep your mitts
out of the herring! Eat like a man or go back to the zoo!"

With that she placed an accurate kick against the offending character's
other shine-bone and aimed the beer bottle at his skull.

Joy turned and smiled gayly. "He pushed me," she said. "It's the most
wonderful wedding reception I ever attended. Have a pickle."

But surprise was piling upon surprise. Again I froze as a new phase of
this horrible affair presented itself.

Uncle Peter.

Clad in apron and cap, he was behind the bar serving out drinks. This
shook me to the core. It was a little like seeing Barney Baruch hit a
three-bagger in Yankee Stadium and slide into third base.

But there he was, taking orders and dishing out drinks with an attitude
as solemn and impersonal as an owl on a tree branch.

Also, he had an assistant--his blonde bombshell. She was fully dressed
now and I was struck by the peculiar manner in which this peculiar team
functioned.

Uncle Peter would mix a drink, glance at his wrist watch as he served
it, then turn and whisper some sort of information to the girl. She
noted it down in a small book and the routine was repeated.

At this exact moment, I felt a sharp dig in the ribs. This brought my
attention back to Joy, who had done the digging.

"I'm still here, husband mine. Your bride--remember? Or are you waiting
for that blonde hussy to start stripping?"

"Darling, I'm afraid you're not paying close attention to things of
importance. Don't you see Uncle Peter there--serving drinks?"

"Of course I see him. What of it? If the old roue feels like dishing
out a little alcohol to the boys, what--"

"It's absolutely beyond all conception. Uncle Peter never does anything
without a good reason. And _this_--"

My reply was cut short by a cold, brutal voice that knifed through the
room and put a chill on all present. "Hold it, everybody! Stand still
and don't move a finger!"

Not a finger in the room moved. But all eyes turned toward the arched
doorway leading to the entrance hall. In its exact center, there stood a
man--a short man of slight stature. He stood spread-legged, wearing a
colored kerchief over the lower part of his face. Only his eyes were
visible--icy, black, narrowed. Those eyes seemed to be smiling a grim
smile. Possibly his hidden teeth were bared in a snarl. But no one cared
about that. Everyone was far more interested in the black Thompson
sub-machine gun he held cradled over one arm.

He toyed with the trigger, knifing the room with quick side glances. He
said, "Okay. Start sorting yourselves out. You, pretty boy, and the
frail with the beer bottle--out of the line of fire." He motioned with
the gun barrel and I drew Joy toward the wall.

"Now you, Cora--and old puddle-puss. Out of the way. And not a peep out
of anybody."

No one was inclined to peep, and now the stage was set in a manner which
seemed to satisfy the masked gunman. The Cement Mixer Zinsky crowd was
clustered, cowering, around the buffet, staring at the machine gun as
though it possessed the hypnotic eyes of a snake.

The situation was entirely plain. The masked man fully intended to break
the law by committing murder in Aunt Gretchen's living room. The only
moot point seemed to be whether he intended to slay the whole mob or be
selective and cut down only important members. His trigger finger turned
white at the knuckle.

Then Uncle Peter stepped forward to hold up a protesting hand. "You
mustn't fire that weapon, my good fellow. Indeed you must not."

His matter-of-fact attitude, rather than his words, was what gave the
gunman pause. He had hardly expected the display of completely
impersonal bravery that Uncle Peter put on. The gunman asked, "Are you
nuts, fiddlefoot?"

"Far from it. But you must not, under any circumstances, fire that gun.
It will upset one of the most important experiments in the history of
science. That experiment is now in progress."

"Look, brother. I came here to mow down Zinsky and his mob. And I'm
mowing. The St. Valentine's deal in Chi'll look like a Sunday school
binge after this one."

"Possibly it will not be necessary to use your weapon."

       *       *       *       *       *

Uncle Peter's words, it seemed, were prophetic. At that exact moment,
Cement Mixer Zinsky exploded. Not violently, or with any peril to those
standing close by. Yet no other term can describe it. There was a soft
pop--as though a large, poorly inflated balloon had been pricked with a
pin. Zinsky seemed to go in all directions--fragments of him that is.
Yet, as each fragment flew away from the main body, it shriveled up so
that there was no blood, and no bystander suffered the inconvenience of
messed-up clothing. Just the _pop_ and Zinsky expanded like a human bomb
and then turned into dust.

As this phenomenon occurred I saw Uncle Peter nod with great
satisfaction and consult a passage in the book presided over by his
blonde assistant. He made a check mark in the book.

Then a second member of the buffet group went _pop_. The masked man
stared in slack-jawed wonder. In fact his jaw went so slack the kerchief
dropped away revealing his entire visage. He lowered his head and looked
down at the gun in his hands; the gun that had not been fired.

Two more members of Zinsky's party followed him into whatever oblivion
was achieved by going _pop_ and dissolving into dust. Uncle Peter
evinced bright interest and made two more check marks in the book.

The balance of the mob moved as one, but in many directions. They paid
no attention to their own weapons as they headed for cover. One of their
number exploded as he was halfway through the French doors. Uncle Peter
checked him off and Bag Ears said, "Jeeps! tomorrow every juke box in
town can play 'Nearer my God to Thee.'" Then he added, "Leave us blow
this joint. Goofy things is happening here. I don't like it."

I was perspiring. I mopped my forehead. "A most amazing occurrence," I
observed.

Joy was digging the fingers on one hand into my arm. I had been watching
Hands McCaffery back crestfallen out of the living room and toward the
front door, terrific slaughter having been accomplished without the
firing of a shot. I turned my eyes now to follow the direction in which
Joy pointed with her other hand and saw the blonde assistant hauling
Uncle Peter through one of the French windows. He did not seem to be
enthusiastic about leaving. In fact he appeared to argue quite
strenuously against it, but her will prevailed and they disappeared out
onto the lawn.

Now, with all the danger past, people began fainting in wholesale lots.
Aunt Gretchen was resting comfortably with her head braced against the
brass rail of the portable bar. Those who didn't faint contributed
variously intonated screams to the general unrest. And over all this
brooded the dank clouds of acrid dust that had so lately been Cement
Mixer Zinsky and certain members of his mob. Indeed, the scene took on a
startling semblance to one of Dore's etchings in an old edition of
Dante's Inferno.

"I repeat," Bag Ears bleated plaintively. "Leave us blow this joint. It
ain't healthy here."

"He's right," Joy said. "A lot of explanation is wanting. There are some
people we've got to catch up with. Let's go."

With that, she drew Bag Ears and me toward the French doors through
which had recently passed some of the fastest moving objects in this or
any other world. We made the flag-stone terrace above the drive where
Bag Ears cordially grasped my hand and said,

"Well, it was a nice party, folks, and if I ever get spliced I'll sure
give you a invite and I sure had a swell time and remember me to your
aunt when she wakes up and--"

He was backing down the steps when Joy cut in with, "Bag Ears. Don't be
so rude. You're in no hurry."

Bag Ears slowed down and allowed us to catch up with him. He gave us a
sickly smile. "That's where you're wrong, babe."

"Bag Ears," Joy went on. "I heard you whisper to Homer that you know who
that blonde is."

"What blonde? Me? I don't know nothing about no blonde no-how."

"Don't hedge. I mean the girl who was assisting Uncle Peter behind the
bar. Who is she, really?"

"Oh--her. Everybody knows her. She's Hands McCaffery's moll. He likes
'em blonde and--"

Bag Ears was on the move again, striding in the direction of the gate.
We hurried to catch up. "That babe's poison," he told us. "Any skirt
that'd flock with Hands McCaffery is poison. I'll tell you kids what I'd
do. If she drives south--I'd drive north. Goodbye now."

Just at that moment a big blue sports roadster pushed a bright chromium
nose around the corner of the house. I took a firm grip on Bag Ears'
collar, grabbed Joy by the arm, and the three of us leaped behind a
bush. The car rolled past us. We saw the blonde behind the wheel and
Uncle Peter seated beside her, evidently still protesting the hasty
exodus.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the girl looked very sharp and businesslike; the way a girl would
look who knew where she was going and why. The car picked up speed and
swung north.

"I wonder," Joy murmured, "how Uncle Peter happened to select Hands
McCaffery's girl friend as his assistant."

"She was a burlycue queen last time I heard of her," Bag Ears said.
"Still is, I guess."

"That could explain it," I told Joy. "You see, Uncle Peter has--ah,
facets to his personality. A tendency to admire women. Ah--"

"Women--period; isn't that what you mean?"

"Well, it would be perfectly logical for Uncle Peter to select an
assistant from the stage of a burlesque theater."

"Enough of this," Joy snapped. "We're wasting time. Go get--oh, never
mind! Wait here."

Joy was off in the direction of the garage and in no time at all she was
back in my Cadillac convertible. As she sailed by I managed to hook a
finger around the door handle and get a foot inside.

This was no mean feat, as I was also occupied in hauling Bag Ears along
by the collar. I managed to deposit him in the seat beside Joy and
squeeze in beside him.

"A burlycue queen, eh?" Joy was muttering. "Well, she's not so much! If
she couldn't get her clothes off she'd starve to death."

"Darling," I said, "I don't think this is the sort of thing you should
be doing. It's far too dangerous for a girl."

"Or anybody else," Bag Ears moaned. There was a bleak look on his face.
"I don't like playing around with a guy like Hands McCaffery or friends
of a guy like him. It's a good way to collect your insurance."

"She's heading for Higgins Drive," Joy observed.

Which was entirely true. The roadster had made a turn on two wheels and
was going west.

"But our honeymoon," I said, plaintively.

"Yeah," Bag Ears repeated, "what about our--your honeymoon?"

Joy's eyes were sparkling. She turned them on me. The car lurched. She
returned her eyes to the road. "Yes, darling. Our honeymoon! Isn't it
wonderful?"

"But this isn't it! This isn't what people do on their honeymoons."

"Oh, you mean--but don't worry about that, darling. We'll have plenty of
time for--"

"Lemme out o' here," Bag Ears moaned. "I got a date to take Red Nose
Tessie to the movies."

Joy apparently did not hear him. "I wish we had all the parts to this
puzzle. It looks as though somebody put somebody on the spot for a
rubout. But it would seem that somebody else got the same idea but
didn't know that somebody else was going to achieve the same result in a
more spectacular way and--"

"I think you've figured it out most accurately."

"Some of it fits together. Uncle Peter was no doubt responsible for the
Zinsky boys coming to our reception. We'll get the dope on that when we
catch up with him. But the blonde must not have known what was going to
happen, so she tipped Hands off that he could find the whole Zinsky mob
at the reception. He decided it would be a good place to settle certain
matters of his own."

"But why did Uncle Peter want them there?"

Joy glanced at me with love in her eyes. "Darling, we're going to be
wonderful companions through life, but most of the fun will be strictly
physical. Mental exercises aren't your forte."

"When Red Nose Tessie makes a date with a guy," Bag Ears said, "she
expects the guy to keep it."

"The blonde Cora is no doubt heading for a rendezvous with Hands
McCaffery," Joy went on. "And she's taking our dear uncle with her."

"Okay," Bag Ears replied. "So we mind our business and keep our noses
clean and live a long time."

Joy was weaving through traffic, trying to keep the roadster in sight.
"Turn on the radio," she told me. "There might be some news."

I snapped the switch and we discovered there was news indeed; an evening
commentator regaling the public with the latest:

"--an amazing mass phenomena which leading scientific minds have
pronounced to be basically similar to the flying-saucer craze. Relative
to that--you will remember--otherwise reliable citizens swore they saw
space ships from other planets hovering over our cities spying on us.

"This phase of the hysteria takes an entirely different turn. It seems
now that these otherwise entirely reliable citizens are seeing other
citizens explode and vanish into thin air. The police and the newspapers
have been deluged with frantic telephone calls. In the public interest,
we have several persons here in the studio who claim to have seen this
phenomena. Your commentator will now interview them over the air.
You--you, sir--what is your name?"

"Sam--Sam Glutz."

"Thank you, Mr. Glutz. And will you tell the radio audience what you
saw?"

"It wasn't nothing--nothing at all. That is--this guy was running down
the street like maybe the cops was after him--I don't know. Then--there
wasn't nothing."

"You mean the man disappeared?"

"He went pop, kind of--like a firecracker only not so loud--and then
pieces of him flew all over and they disappeared and there wasn't
nothing--nothing at all."

"Thank you, Mr. Glutz. And now this lady--"

"Turn it off," Joy snapped. "The blonde's pulling up."

       *       *       *       *       *

This was evident to all three of us. "And by a cop yet," Bag Ears
marveled. "Looks like they're going to give theirselves up."

It was Uncle Peter who got out of the car and approached the traffic
officer standing at the intersection.

"What'll we do?" Joy asked. "Do you want to try and keep the old goat
out of jail or shall we let him go to the chair as he deserves?"

The possibility stunned me to a point where it was hard to think
clearly. "Good Lord, Joy! Think of the scandal! I don't care about
myself, but Aunt Gretchen would never live it down! She'd be
black-balled at all her clubs and--"

"Then," Joy replied sweetly, "I'd suggest you get out and slug that cop
quick and grab Uncle Peter before he makes a confession."

I had come to the cross-roads, so to speak. The necessity of a weighty
decision lay upon my shoulders. Was blood thicker than water? Was I
justified in breaking the law--assaulting an officer in order to keep my
uncle from becoming a blot on the family name?

I decided, grimly, that one owed all to one's relatives and I was
halfway out of the car. Then I paused. Uncle Peter did not seem to be
making a confession at all. He chatted easily with the officer and
indicated my Cadillac with a movement of his thumb. Something passed
from his hand to the hand of the policeman and the latter looked toward
us and scowled.

"Uncle Peter is pulling a fast one," Joy said. "The cop's coming after
_us_!"

I was uncertain as how to proceed now. I watched the scowling policeman
approach our car while Uncle Peter got back in with the blonde Cora and
drove away.

"Are you going to hang one on him, sweetheart?" Joy asked.

"What--what do you recommend?"

"I've got a hunch that if you don't, we go to the pokey and Uncle Peter
will be left free to blow up everybody in town."

I don't believe the officer meant to arrest us but at the moment my mind
wasn't too clear and I accepted Joy's point of view.

I doubled my fist as the officer approached. He wasted no time in
getting acquainted. He said, "How come you guys are tailing those guys?
You figuring a stickup or something?"

It was now or never. I hunched my right shoulder and aimed a stiff
knockout jolt at the officer's jaw. It wasn't too good a target because
he had a lantern jaw and it was bobbing up and down as he munched on a
wad of chewing gum.

But I did not connect. As my fist completed but half its lethal orbit,
the officer blew up in my face! He went _pop_, just as so many others
had gone _pop_ at our wedding reception; his entire anatomy flying in
all directions, to turn into a cloud of sooty smoke and mix with the
elements.

I was frozen with consternation. But not Joy. Instantly she dragged me
back into the car. "Don't you get it? Uncle Peter gave him that stick of
gum!"

"You're damn right!" Bag Ears stated. "The old monkey's gone clear off
his trolley. Maybe he plans to clean out the whole town!"

Joy, her eyes slitted, was weaving in and out of traffic so as not to
lose track of the blue roadster. "It's as plain as your nose! He's hand
in glove with McCaffery and that blonde is bird-dogging him around town
and pointing out McCaffery's enemies. Uncle Peter is knocking them off
like clay pigeons."

I was amazed at this revelation, but was also thunderstruck by the
underworld jargon flowing so easily from Joy's luscious lips. "Angel," I
gasped. "Where did you learn to talk like that? Those underworld terms!"

"I read all the true detective magazines I can get my hands on," she
said. "They're good fun, but that's beside the point. We've got to nail
Uncle Peter and nail him quick, or Aunt Gretchen will ring up a nice big
zero in the social world."

"How about nailing him without me?" Bag Ears suggested. "It's nine
o'clock and Red Nose Tessie never likes to miss none of the show."

"I'm sure, Bag Ears," Joy said, "that Tessie would sympathize with our
efforts to keep Uncle Peter out of the electric chair."

"I doubt it," he replied dubiously. "Tessie's brother got burned in
Frisco for knocking over a bank clerk and Tessie never even attended.
Let him fry in his own grease was what she said about it."

"Nevertheless," Joy said, "I have no time to stop and let you out."

A fast, fifteen-block chase followed. Once we lost the blue roadster
completely, but, by sheer luck, picked it up three blocks further on as
it came wheeling out of a side street.

We were in a quiet residential section now, so there was no one to
interfere as Joy skillfully forced the roadster to the curb. I jumped
out and leaped swiftly toward the driver's door.

       *       *       *       *       *

The blonde sat behind the wheel with a sullen look on her face. "What is
this?" she asked. "A stickup?"

"Don't be vulgar," I replied. "We are here to take charge of my uncle.
This weird slaughter must cease!"

Joy was by my side now, but Bag Ears hung back as though somewhat
worried about the possible consequences of our act.

I heard him muttering: "What if he can just shoot the stuff in your eye
maybe? What if a guy doesn't have to swallow it--?"

Joy's gayety was again coming to the surface. Her eyes were bright and I
was struck by the fact that she seemed to thrive on this sort of thing.
"Hello, Blondy," she said. "Get out from behind--"

The blonde's eyes threw sparks. "Who you think you're talking to, you
lard--"

"Not Truman," Joy said. "Now get--"

I seized Joy's wrist. "Angel! He's gone! Uncle Peter isn't here!" I
stared at Joy in horror. "Do you suppose he inadvertently chewed some of
his own gum?"

Joy did not reply. She shouldered me aside, opened the car door and
surprised me by getting a very scientific grip on Cora.

"Okay--where is he? What did you do with him?"

"He's not here!"

"Any fool can see that. Did he blow up?"

"Of course not. He went to keep a date."

The blonde jerked herself loose from Joy's hold and was sullenly
straightening her clothing. "I don't see why you and Pretty Boy have to
stick your big noses into this. It's none of your business."

"We're making it our business."

"You don't seem to realize," I said stiffly, "that Uncle Peter is very
dear to me. He has performed some horrible deeds, and as his loving
nephew--"

The blonde seemed puzzled. "You're off your crock! Pete's okay. He just
entered into a little private deal to help out Hands McCaffery. I don't
see where it's anybody's business, either. If he wanted your help he'd
ask for it!"

It made my blood run cold to hear this girl refer so casually to the
wholesale slaughter that had been going on around us. I strove to find
words to shame her, but Joy cut in. And apparently my dear wife was more
interested, at the moment, in the details of the affair rather than the
morals involved.

"McCaffery and Uncle Peter haven't got any deal," she said to the
blonde. "You lie as easily as you undress. If they had an arrangement to
knock off all those parties at our wedding reception, how come McCaffery
brought a machine gun along?"

The blonde had an answer. "Hands was a little doubtful. He didn't think
Pete could do it--blow people into thin air just from something they et.
He was willing to go along with the gag but he wasn't going to pass up
an opportunity to rub out the Zinsky gang--or as many as he could
hit--if the gimmick didn't click. That's why he brought the Tommy--just
in case."

Joy turned to me. "It fits," she said. "I've been trying to give Uncle
Pete the benefit of every doubt, but it looks as though you've got a mad
dog sniffing at the trunk of your family tree."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cora frowned. "You've got him all wrong. He's not--"

I continued with the questioning. "You are denying that Uncle Peter had
anything to do with this deadly serum that disintegrates people before
one's eyes?"

"I'm _not_ denying it."

"Then it follows that your moral sense is so badly corroded you no
longer consider murder to be a crime--"

"Now listen here!"

"In law," I went on, "the victim's standing in society is not taken into
consideration where murder is involved. It is just as wrong in the eyes
of the law to murder Cement Mixer Zinsky as the pastor of the First
Congregational Church."

The blonde looked wonderingly at Joy. "Is this guy for real?"

Joy reestablished her hold upon the blonde's anatomy. "Never mind that.
All we want from you is answers. Where did Uncle Peter go? Tell me!"

"Nuts to you!" Cora replied. "He doesn't want you bothering him."

Joy applied pressure. Cora squealed but remained mute. I stepped
forward. "Darling," I said grimly. "This sort of thing is not in your
line. I realize this woman must be made to talk so I will take over. It
will be distasteful to me, but duty is duty."

I got a withering look from my dear wife. "Distasteful? In a pig's eye!
You'd like nothing better than to get your hands on her--by way of duty
of course."

"Joy!"

"Don't Joy me." And with an expert twist, she flipped the struggling
Cora out of the roadster, goose-stepped her across and into the back
seat of the Cadillac.

"You and Bag Ears get in and start driving--slow. I'll have some answers
in a minute or two."

We did as we were told and I eased the car away from the curb. I had to
watch the road, of course, so could not turn to witness what was going
on rearward. In the mirror I saw flashes of up-ended legs and, from time
to time, other and sundry anatomical parts that flew up in range only to
vanish again as the grim struggle went on.

Bag Ears, however, turned to witness the bringing forth of the answers.
His first comment was, "Oh boy!"

Joy was breathing heavily. She said, "Okay, babe. Talk, or I'll put real
pressure on this scissors!"

Bag Ears said, "Man oh man!"

Joy said, "Quit gaping, you moron! I'm back here too."

I gave Bag Ears a stern admonition to keep his eyes front.

"Give," Joy gritted.

"Ouch! No!"

"Give!"

Cora gave forth an agonized wail. Then an indignant gasp. "Cut it out!
You fight dirty! That ain't fair!"

"Give!"

"All right! All right. Pete's meeting Hands
at--ouch--Joe's--ouch--Tavern on Clark Street. Ouch! Cut it out, will
you?"

And it was here that I detected a trace of sadism in my lovely wife.
"All right," she said regretfully. "Sit up. Gee, but you talk easy."

"Just where is this tavern?" I asked. "And what is the purpose of the
meeting?"

Cora's resistance was entirely gone. "In the 2800 block. Pete went there
to get some money from Hands to skip town with."

Joy now spoke with relish. "Lying again. I'll have to--"

"I ain't lying!"

"Don't give us that! Uncle Peter is wealthy. He doesn't need Hands'
money. Come here, baby."

"Wait, Joy," I cut in hastily. "The young lady may be telling the truth.
Uncle Peter is always short of funds. You see, Aunt Gretchen holds the
purse strings in our family and Uncle Peter is always overdrawn on his
allowance."

"Then let's get to that tavern and find out what's going on."

It took ten minutes to reach the tavern; a standard gin mill with a red
neon sign proclaiming its presence. We quitted the car and I entered
first, Joy bringing Cora along with a certain amount of force, and Bag
Ears bringing up the rear.

And I was just in time to prevent another murder.

As I came through the door, I saw Hands and Uncle Peter leaning casually
against the bar. There was no one else in the place. The barkeep was
facing his two customers and there were three glasses set before them.
The barkeep held one in his hand.

Uncle Peter had just finished spiking the barkeep's drink with a clear
fluid from a small vial. Uncle Peter said, "It's something new I
invented. Pure dynamite. You haven't lived until you've tasted my
elixir."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hands said, "Go ahead. Drink it. I want to make sure I wasn't seeing
things back at that dame's house."

The barkeep said, "Pure dynamite, huh?"

"Your not fooling, chum."

He raised the glass and grinned. "Salud."

I got to the bar just in time to knock the glass out of his hairy paw.
He grunted, "What the hell--oh, a wise guy, huh?" and started over the
bar.

I yelled, "It's murder. They're trying to poison you!"

"Oh, a crackpot!"

He came toward me, shaking off Uncle Peter's restraining hand. I took a
step backward, thankful he was coming in wide open because I had seen
few tougher-looking characters in my lifetime.

I set myself and sent a short knockout punch against his chin. It was a
good punch. Everything was in it. It sounded like a sledge hammer
hitting a barn door.

The barkeep shook his head and came on in. I stepped back and slugged
him again. No result.

Then Joy slipped into the narrow space between us. She was smiling and,
with her upturned waiting lips, she was temptation personified. The
barkeep dropped his hands, paralyzed by her intoxicating nearness.

She said, "Hello, Iron Head. How about you and I taking a little
vacation together somewhere."

He grinned and reached for her. This, it developed, was a mistake,
because Joy reached for him at the same time. She lifted his
two-hundred-odd pounds as though he were a baby and he went flying
across the room like a projectile. He hit a radiator head-on and lay
still.

Again I was stupefied. It seemed I knew nothing at all about this girl
I'd married. She smiled at me and said, "Don't be alarmed, angel.
There's an explanation. You see, my mother gave me money for piano
lessons and I invested most of it in a course of ju-jitsu. I thought an
occasion like this might arise sometime. Do you want to take McCaffery,
or shall I do it? I doubt if he'll come to the station peaceably."

But Hands McCaffery was not to be caught flatfooted. Without his machine
gun he was just an ordinary little man who didn't want to go with us. He
took one look at the prone barkeep, muttered, "Geez!" and headed for the
back door.

"Get him," Joy yelled. "Maybe we can make a deal with the cops to fry
Hands in place of Uncle Peter!"

I started after Hands and as I went through the back door I heard Uncle
Peter protesting feebly. "I say now. This is all uncalled-for--"

"Don't let him get away!" Joy called. "He's got the serum!"

That cleared things up somewhat and made me even more resolute.
Evidently we had interrupted Uncle Peter and Hands in the process of
doing away with all the latter's enemies. With that bottle in his
possession, he was a menace to the entire population of the city. A man
of his type would certainly have far more enemies than friends.

Outside in the dark alley, I was guided only by footsteps. The sound of
Hands' retreat told me he was moving up the smelly passageway toward
Division Street. I went after him.

I am no mean sprinter, having won laurels in college for my fleetness in
the two-twenty and the four-forty, and I had no trouble in overtaking
the little assassin. We were fast approaching the alley entrance where I
would have had the aid of street lights and could have swiftly collared
McCaffery whose heavy breathing I could now hear--when disaster struck
in the form of a painful obstacle. It was heavy and it caught me just
below the knees.

I tripped and fell headlong, plowing along a couple of yards of slippery
brick pavement on my face. I got groggily to my feet and shook my head
to clear my brain. From the deposits of old eggs, rejected tomatoes and
other such refuse in my face and ears, I gathered that I had tripped
over a garbage can.

This delayed me for some moments. When I finally staggered out into
Division Street, a strange sight met my eyes. Hands McCaffery had been
apprehended. It seemed that the police had orders to pick him up because
two uniformed patrolmen had him backed against the wall and were
approaching him with caution. They had him covered and were taking no
chances of his pulling a belly gun on them.

But he did not draw a gun. Instead, while I stared wide-eyed, he raised
Uncle Peter's vial to his lips and drank the contents.

I will not bore you with details of his going _pop_. If you have read
this letter carefully, the details are not necessary.

I turned and retraced my steps, realizing Hands McCaffery had been
vicious and defiant to the last. Rather than submit to arrest, he had
taken the wild animal's way out.

I arrived back in Joe's Tavern to find the barkeep had been revived and
bore none of us any ill-will. This no doubt because of Joy's persuasive
abilities. Cora was sulking in a booth and Uncle Peter was patching the
gash on the barkeep's head.

       *       *       *       *       *

I entered with a heavy heart, realizing, as a good citizen, I must turn
my own uncle over to the police. But there was an interlude before I
would be forced into this unpleasant task. This interlude was furnished
by Bag Ears. After I acquainted the group with the news of how Hands had
taken the easy way out, Bag Ears' face took on a rapt, silent look of
happiness. He was staring at Joy. He said, "Pretty--very pretty!"

Joy said, "Thank you."

Bag Ears said, "Pretty--pretty--pretty."

Joy looked at me. "What's eating _him_?"

There was a bottle on the bar together with some glasses. I stepped over
and poured myself a drink. I certainly needed it. "Bag Ears isn't
referring to you, dear. He's alluding to his bells. He's hearing them
again."

"Oh, my sky-blue panties! Pour me a drink."

I complied. "You see, Bag Ears is somewhat punch-drunk from his years in
the prize ring. I've seen this happen before."

We sipped our brandy and watched Bag Ears move toward the door.

"That's the way it always is. When he hears the bells, he feels a
terrific urge to go forth and search for them. But he always ends up at
Red Nose Tessie's and she takes him home. It's no use trying to stop
him. He'll hang one on you."

As Bag Ears disappeared into the street, there were tears in Joy's eyes.
"He's dreaming of his bells," she murmured. "I think that's beautiful."
She held up her glass. "May he find his bells. Pour me another drink."

I poured two and we drank to that.

"May we all someday find our bells," Joy said with emotion, and I was
delighted to find my wife a girl of such deep sentiment. "Pour me
another."

I did. "Your quotation was wrong, sweetheart," I said. "Don't you mean,
'May we all find our Shangri-La?'"

"Of course. Let's drink to it."

We drank to it and were rudely interrupted by the barkeep who said, "I
hope you got some dough. That stuff ain't water."

I gave him a ten-dollar bill and--with a heavy heart--turned to Uncle
Peter. "Come, Uncle," I said gently. "We might as well get it over
with."

"Get what over with?"

"Our trip to the police station. You must give yourself up of course."

"What for?"

I shook my head sadly. Uncle Peter would never fry. His mind was
obviously out of joint. "For murder."

He looked at Joy. He said, "Oh, my broken test tube! There is no need
of--"

"I know it will be hard for them to convict you without _corpus
delicti_, but you must confess."

"Let's all go over to my laboratory."

"If you wish. You may have one last visit there."

"Excellent--one last visit." He smiled and I wondered if I saw a certain
craftiness behind it.

Cora voiced no objections, seemingly anxious to stay near Uncle Peter.
When we got to his laboratory, he went on through into his living
quarters and took a suit case from the closet.

"What are you going to do?"

"Pack my things."

"Oh, of course. You'll need some things in jail."

"Who said anything about jail? I'm going to Tibet."

"_Tibet!_ Uncle Peter! I won't allow it. You must stay here and face the
music."

"The music is in Tibet, Homer. That's one of the reasons I'm going
there. To a monastery high in Himalayas. There are some wonderful men
there I've always wanted to meet--yogis who have such control over
natural laws that they can walk on water and move straight through solid
walls."

"But, Uncle Peter! If you want to go to Tibet, you should have thought
of it before. It's too late now. You've committed murder."

"Bosh! I haven't killed anyone. The serum I discovered is one of
transition, not murder. It causes the stepping-up of the human physical
structure into an infinitely higher rate of vibration. Two controls are
distilled into it. One is a timer that sets off the catalysis, and the
other is a directive element based upon higher mathematics which allows
the creator of the serum to direct the higher vibratory residue of the
physical form to be put down at any prearranged point on the globe
before the reforming element takes effect."

Joy said, "Oh, my painted G-string!"

I strove to absorb all this. "You mean those people weren't destroyed?"

Joy was quicker on the reaction. "Of course. I couldn't picture Uncle
Peter as a killer somehow. He merely picked them up here and set them
down in Tibet. Can't you understand? He just explained it to you."

Of course I didn't want to admit my mental haziness to Joy, so I skipped
hastily over it and pointed an accusing finger at Uncle Peter. "But why
couldn't you have conducted your experiments on a higher plane. Why did
you have to consort with law-breakers?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Joy had apparently lost interest. She planted a wifely kiss on my cheek
and started toward the door. "I'm going back to Joe's Tavern," she said.
"It's more fun there. When you get all this straightened out, come on
over."

I moved to protest but she waved me down. "Never mind. I'll take a cab."
She smiled at me sweetly. "And don't stay too long, darling. I'm sure
Cora is anxious to get her clothes off."

Cora distinctly pronounced an unprintable name but Joy did not hear it.
She was already gone.

I turned to Uncle Peter. "You did not answer my question."

"It's very simple. Even one of your limited brain power should be able
to understand it. You see, with finishing my experiments I was not
averse to doing the city a favor. Why not, I asked myself, perform them
upon persons undesirable to our law-abiding populace? Cora was
acquainted with Hands McCaffery and it was through him that I learned
who the really undesirable people were."

"But why did you invite them to my wedding reception? I'd think you
could find a more appropriate place to carry out your--"

"It was an ideal place to get the Zinsky mob together. Like your Aunt
Gretchen, Mr. Zinsky has social ambitions, and he anticipated no danger
at the reception."

"I can see your point."

"Also, I wanted to get back at your Aunt Gretchen. She's been very
niggardly with funds lately and I wanted to highlight my displeasure in
a way she would remember."

I had a fairly clear picture of things now. But I still felt Uncle Peter
should be upbraided on a last point. "Uncle Peter, I think it was
shameful of you to inflict those hoodlums on the monks in that monastery
in Tibet. They'll be in panic."

"No. I was careful to send along two policemen to keep them in hand."

"So you're leaving for Tibet?"

"Of course. I've got to follow up and check on the success of my serum,
though there is really no doubt as to its potency. Also I'll be able to
achieve a life-long ambition--that of meeting the yogis from whom I
should learn a great deal."

I glanced at Cora. "Are you taking her with you?"

"Of course."

"But yogis are above things of the flesh."

Uncle Peter looked me straight in the eye. "Maybe the yogis are, but I'm
not."

There seemed nothing else to discuss, so I left Uncle Peter's chambers
and went back to Joe's Tavern. My mind, now at ease, was filled again
with thought of the honeymoon to come. I would pick up Joy and we would
be off to pink-tinted lands.

But there was a slight hitch. When I arrived at Joe's Tavern, Joy was
gone.

I inquired of the barkeep and he brought me up to date. "That screwy
dame that can throw a guy around? Sure, she was here. She had a few
drinks and then left again. She said something about having to help a
friend find some bells he lost. I don't know what kind of bells they was
but that dame can locate them if anybody can."

As I was about to leave the tavern, it occurred to me you would want to
know the truth of what's been going on, so I'm now in the backroom
writing this report which I will drop into the nearest mailbox. Then I
will go out and find my bride and start upon a well-earned honeymoon. If
you have any questions, they'll have to wait until I get back.

                                                Yours truly,
                                                       Homer Nicholas.


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _If: Worlds of Science Fiction_ July
    1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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