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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я


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THREE

Clare Gordon had finished her Old Fashioned when I went back to the stall. She was a little tighter. She laughed at me and asked: "How'd you make out?"

I handed her the I. O. U. "Is this your brother's signature?"

She nodded. "That's it."

"Then you're all set." I took out a match and burned the note. "Tell him he's in the clear. Also tell him to lay off crooked joints. Now, how about my job?"

"That's right," she said. "I told you I'd get it back. I've got a swell plan. I'm going to be kidnapped."

"What?" I cried.

"Sure. I'm going to be kidnapped tomorrow night at eight o'clock. By airplane."

Rigo went by the stall at that moment.

"Shh," I said. "Not so loud. Now, what in hell is this?"

"I just figured it out," she said, "sitting here. You write my folks a threatening letter, saying I've been kidnapped and that the ransom-"

I sighed. "Did you ever hear of the Lindbergh Law?"

"Sure, but what's the difference? All right then. I'll write my own letter. I'll say that I've been kidnapped and the ransom is two hundred thousand. I'll name you as go-between. Then I'll take off from home in my plane tomorrow at 8:00 P.M. and fly up to Binneybunk, Maine, where dad has a cabin. It'll be deserted there now. After a week or two, while you bask in the publicity of go-between and your paper cries for your services, I'll come back and tell a wild story."

"You're hopped," I said. "You're staggering. Forget it. I wouldn't go in on a plan like that for money."

"But I want to help you!"

"Help me? You want me to become a lifer in a Federal jug!"

Clare wrinkled her nose. "All right. But you can't stop me from doing it. And I'll write the ransom note and still name you as go-between."

"I'll blow up the story."

"And they'll pinch you for conspiracy or something. I'm telling you, Daffy. Tomorrow at 8:00 P.M. I hop off for Maine and kidnap myself. Them's the kind words that gets back your job."

Well, she meant what she said. I was sitting in my apartment the next night around eight thirty, bemoaning the lack of scoops in this dazzling world. I had had a hard day trying to find a story which would yank back my job, but no luck. My nose simply wasn't in the news. I was washed up. Then my telephone rang.

I answered it with: "Your nickel!"

It was my heart, Dinah Mason. She thrust aside the usual sentimental amenities and said: "Daffy, hell's broken loose!"

"Somebody bomb the office?" I asked cheerfully.

"It's Clare Gordon," Dinah said. "She's been kidnapped. Half an hour ago. She was taking off from her father's estate out near Huntington, Long Island. Three men jumped her. At least that's what the chauffeur says. The snatchers piled into the plane and they all took off for points unknown."

I chuckled. "Damn the gel! Any other fine points?"

"There was a ransom note left behind. It names you as go-between! The bulls have been here for you. They're on their way up there now! The Old Man is frantic, trying to find you. The last place we looked was home. You're seldom there."

"Listen, Dinah," I said, "don't get excited. The Gordon skirt framed this whole thing. I'll tell the Old Man when I see him. It was put-up."

"Are you sure, Daffy? It doesn't look like a frame."

"It's a frame, my chickadee," I said. "Forget it. Who's covering for the paper?"

"Harry Lyons."

"Oh me, oh my," I gloated. "What glorious fun! Abyssinia, my hour-glass. Look me up in Atlanta."

I hung up, threw on my hat and coat and took a powder before the police reached my place. I wasn't any too soon either. They roared up the street to the door, sirens going, just as I went down the block. I caught a cab, said: "Headquarters, Mac," and settled back on the cushions to enjoy the ride, which cost me seventy-five cents when I finally paid off in front of the Centre Street building at the other end.

I went up to see Captain George Shane, who, I figured, would be in charge of the case, even if it had taken place on Long Island. They centralise things like kidnappings, because one man has to stand in with the Federal authorities when they come searching. Inspector Calloran and Sergeant Bill Hanley of the Homicide Squad were both on the out in this snatch.

I was right. Captain Shane was my man. Every newshound in the city was outside his door, pounding on it, trying to get in and get hold of some facts. A cop-I recognised him as Curly Newton-was pushing them aside. In the midst of the holocaust I saw Harry Lyons. He had a bad eye where I had brushed him off. I said: "Gentlemen of the Press!"

There was sudden silence. They stopped pushing and turned around. Lyons yelled: "Daffy Dill!" and that started it. I forgot for a moment that I had been named go-between in Clare Gordon's screwy ransom note. I was a public figure in the case. They mobbed me for a statement while Curly Newton tore into Captain Shane's office. In a second or two, before I could say a word, Newton came out again and dragged me through the mob into Shane's office. He closed the door and I liked the quiet for a change.

Captain Shane was pacing the floor in front of Pemberton Gordon, Clare's father. He recognised me easily since I had interviewed him for the paper only the week before, as Clare had said.

There were two other men in the room too. They were Federal operatives. I could see it as plain as day.

"Daffy," said Captain Shane. "You heard what's happened?"

I nodded.

"You heard you've been named go-between?"

I nodded again, looking at Pemberton Gordon's face. He was scared to death. His hands were trembling. I could see a vein in his temple throbbing like hell. I felt sorry for him.

"Listen, Captain," I said, "I just heard about it and I came right down to blow it up. It's a fake."

"A what?"

"A fake, a pushover, sandy. It's a frame. The kid did it on purpose to help me get my job back."

Captain Shane stared at me. "Daffy, are you on the level?"

"You know me, Captain," I said. "I don't lie to you."

"Then start talking," he snapped. "Let's hear this one."

I talked and told him all that had happened, how I'd done the gel a favour (I didn't say what it was because her old man was there) and how she wanted to do something for me. I told how she said she'd kidnap herself, name me as the go-between so's I'd get the job back. Shane listened without saying anything, just nodding now and then, but I saw that Pemberton Gordon was regarding me with the kind of a look he'd give Frankenstein's monster. And the Federal dicks were giving me the kind of eye which meant a rubber hose. I prayed.

When I had finished, Captain Shane shook his head.

"Daffy," he said, "it sounds fishy. I've known you a long time and all that, but it sounds fishy. I don't like to say it-but it does. Now come clean."

"Chief," I said shortly, "that's clean. I wouldn't fool you."

"He's one of the gang!" Gordon exclaimed. "I know he's one of the gang. That's why he was named as go-between. He knows where Clare is! I want him arrested!"

One of the Feds said: "Don't worry about that none."

"Wait a second," I said. "Take it easy, boys. I'm telling the God's honest truth." I was sweating like a soda glass. "The girl is up at her father's cabin at Binneybunk, Maine. Why don't you check on that and see if I'm right."

Shane nodded. "That's sound."

"We'll do that little thing," one of the Feds snapped.

"Meanwhile," said the other, "you're being detained as a material witness or suspicious character or anything you'd like. Put him in the can, Captain."

"That's what I'll have to do, Daffy," said Shane. "Sorry."

"O. K., chief," I said. "Just so we clear the thing up. I told that scatterbrained frill I wasn't in on it. She said that wouldn't stop her."

"We'll wire the Binneybunk sheriff," said Captain Shane. "Sit tight in the jug. You'll know in an hour."


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