True fans of the desert may not like it
but a western formula developed by Clarence Budington Kelland has been a potent
force in publicizing the Southwest country. Oren Arnold gives us a close up
view of the author of Scattergood Baines stories who a few years ago "went
desert" in a serious energetic way. He bought a home near Phoenix,
Arizona, and promptly started to turn out one novel after another telling the
country at large about the adventure and romance still to be found in the
A lovely eastern girl inherited a ranch in the
Arizona desert. She came west to run things, and two gents fell in love with her.
She married the one with the quickest pistol and the fewest buck teeth—then
faded with him and the saguaro cactus into the sun setting in Skeleton canyon. The End
THAT beautiful formula has
done more to publicize the desert country in the past 10 years than all the
desert chambers of commerce combine. It is the plot pattern used by Clarence Budington
Kelland, highest paid author in the world.
Whether or not it is a "good formula is
beside the point. It is good for Kelland. And it is good for the desert. With
variations, it has been written, broadcast and screened so many times that all
of us Americans should be sick of it. We aren't. It was an oId plot when
Kelland was born, and it will be new when he dies, We Americans like to see the
lovely girl triumph with her hero, and we especially like to see the
picturesque desert land, which is naturally keyed to adventure and romance.
Bud Kelland can turn out three novels a year and
do a lot of short stories, radio talks, politics, horseback riding, and
loafing, on the side. He is not a desert citizen by birth or rearing. In fact
he started his personal and professional life away hack East, began writing
nearly fourty years ago on tile once distinguished American Boy magazine. He
created Scattergood Baines, a Vermont philosopher. He did a lot of
didn't—by his own admission—get his journalistic stride until he discovered the
desert. And that happened by accident, He was rolling from civilization to
California (a New York neighbor said that!) when his trailer house broke down
in that wild western region called Arizona. For several hours he had to wait
there amid loneliness and prickly pears. A rancher rode by looking for steers.
"Good afternoon,- Mr. Kelland greeted.
"Howdy, pardner. Nice day."
"Yep it is. Say I want to know something about this country. I am
Clarence Burlington Kelland."
-Um," grunted the rancher, "right smart stretch of name, stranger, What
do yore friends call you?"
The distinguished author swallowed. "Bud," he said then, grinning.
"All right, Bud. Mine's Ike. Ike Bane, Now this country is a great place for
either cows or minin'. Me, I'm in the cow business here, you want a cigarette
makin'?—because they are more shore. A man cain't eat a gold mine he don't
find, but I can always manage to eat my own beef if I have to. Hanh?"
That was enough! Two smart men, each salty and wise in his own way,
had all they needed in common. They didn't stay strangers long.
came on into Phoenix, and walked around down
town. Several people in the banks and the hotels discovered he was Clarence
Budington Kelland—but not a doggone one fell over himself begging for
autographs! Nobody gasped and looked at him with awe. Yes, they knew about him.
Kelland, the famous author. What of it? Looks like a good egg. Lots of good
fellows come out here. How do you do, Mr. Kelland; make yourself at home.
It was a new live-and-let-live sincerity. He
hadn't expected it. These Westerners, these desert folk, just didn't give a
whoop how important he was; they liked him because he was likeable. So Bud
Kelland promptly bought himself a $50,000 home near this desert town of
Phoenix, and he expects to grow old gracefully and die there.
It wasn't many months after that when the
Saturday Evening Post burst out with the first of the famous Arizona trilogy in
fiction. It was a serial called "Arizona." The girl this time was
even more impossible than his heroines usually were and more lovable. She baked
pies and she swung a blacksnake whip—remember? The Post circulation jumped up.
The book version of the story sold fast. The motion picture was filmed on the
open desert near Tucson—in the grandest set ever created out of Hollywood, a
re-creation of historic old Tucson, adobe walls and all.
Next one was about Prescott and third one about
Phoenix, the same plot retold with new details, the same general setting. Again
they clicked high everywhere. The Post ballyhooed them on its cover. The screen
called them epics, which they weren't. The public loved them. "Valley of
the Sun" was the Phoenix story, and it was partially true. It got Mr.
Kelland in good with the citizens of his new home town.
Since then he has done several other desert stories—nobody ever tries
to keep up with his titles, because they come too fast‑and all of them
have ranged toward best-seller class. As recently as 1940 Bud Kelland was rated
by the profession (as reported in Writer's Digest) as the highest paid author
in the world, and 90 percent of his output was concerned with the desert. He
sees in every storied hill a new setting for his romance. He reads a bit of
history about an old mine, a picturesque rancho, a wagon train, an Indian raid,
and goes to his workshop out back of his residence, He types for three hours,
then rides a horse on the desert nearby. Next day he types some more. That's
all the "inspiration" he seems to require.
Bud Kelland is no arty author. His
stories lack the pompous importance of Zane Grey's westerns, and because of
that is probably closer to real literature than anything Grey ever wrote, Kelland's
novels are sassy, pert, cute; never heavy or profound. Dialogue is as rich and
spicy as a high school girl's. Philosophies are elemental and sound and so
simple that Ike Bane can understand them, are in reality Scattergood Baines'
reasoning redressed for desert use. In short, Kelland stories are not the
enduring classics we might like them to be, but they are tops in
entertainment. That's all their author ever has claimed for them. That's the
only goal he has ever set.
As a craftsman, he is good enough now never to rewrite, edit
or even read his own stuff. (Among us lesser hacks, that fact will be
"At nine o'clock each morning I sit
down at my typewriter," says he. "I put in a clean white sheet and
three carbons. 1 pause a moment, and then I begin to type.
"By 12 o'clock, almost invariably,
I have done about 1,000 words. That's where I quit for the day. One thousand
words a day is enough for any writer. That means 30,000 words a month. That
means a novel complete in two months, or a little more.
"I do not bother to read what I
have written. It is not necessary. I do not edit my own stuff, nor have any one
else do it. I do not even have it copied. If some young squirt editor back east
wants to change a word or two, it's up to him,"
Actually, the young squirts don't
bother. Bud Kelland has them all bluffed, has editors begging him for
manuscripts night and day at his own rates—which automatically makes him the
patron saint of all other writers, who have been slaves to hope and revision!
wasn't always like that with Kelland. And in this lies the inspiration for us
all. His career, no less than Lincoln's and any
other rags-to-riches man's, started from scratch. About the turn of this
century, 25-year-old Buddie Kelland had been striving to sell fiction for seven
long years before one story finally clicked. An editor paid him $7.50 for
He spent the next six months in
celebration, went back to work and eventually sold a second yarn for $10.
Since then, some statistician has estimated, Americans have spent 10,000 years
reading Bud Kelland stories. (Figuring the average time to read the average
story, by the average number of readers of magazines in which his stories
appear.) Many more aggregate centuries have been spent by us Americans looking
at his stories on the screen. In his 60's now, his production is still amazing,
and demand for his work is greater than ever. There's no guessing what sort of
desert romance may pour out of his agile brain when he turns loose on desert
army camps, aviation centers and the like. The war situation is bound to
Now with such a phenomenon as that
publicizing the desert —what is the desert people's opinion of him? Do they
approve of him? Do they like him personally? Does he "belong"?
To the latter question, the answer is
yes and no. He offended a great many folk by being superficial in his
historical novels of Arizona. It was a justifiable offense—most of us feeling
that some great (which is different from popular) writer could have made
"Arizona" as distinguished a novel for the West as "Gone
With the Wind" is for the South. Answer to that, however, is that the gate
is still open. America has known only two truly epic periods of history, the
antebelium South and the Wild West. Margaret Mitchell did the former in her
incomparable novel. Who among us will do the West?
is regarded as an eccentric now. Which means he has to maintain a sort of
crusty guard against pests who bedevil him to read manuscripts and to speak to
the ladies' society pink tea. He is not tough, or hard to talk to. He is
exceedingly fond of children, He loves horses, dogs, and wild critters that
bark and yap and scream in the desert nights.
His idea of a good time is to play a round of golf with some
salty friend like Guy Kibbee, who plays Scattergood in the movies, then go for
a desert horseback ride. Often he rides alone. He may just sit out on a desert
rock and think—or, as the feller says, just sit. It's a pretty good form of
Any famous author is held to be wise, and perhaps that is
so. This wise Mr. Kelland, then, admits in formal interview that life is sadly confusing, and that he isn't
sure what he'd do with the U.S.A. if somebody thrust a dictatorship into his
lap. He will occasionally venture a generality or two.
"Work, work, work!" he almost
shouted at me once, when I asked him how to prevent unemployment. Work to
prevent unemployment? It calls to mind another sage observation made by another
wise man; Calvin Coolidge himself once said, "When a great many people are out of work, unemployment
But when he isn't dodging, Bud Kelland does better. "I
think we grew into a spoiled-brat nation," said he, on another occasion,
"because we had too much luxury. Luxury is enervating. When the reaction
set in, we soon had thousands of people floundering around like cry babies, and
eventually we had to face a war because of it.
"America wasn't made in the first place by whiners. It
was made by pioneers who felt not that the country owed them a living, but that
they owed the country a living."
And that statement ought to bring nods of agreement around
(Final novel in the Arizona Trilogy, set in Prescott.)
Watch for new paperback and ebook editions of the entire trilogy in 2017 from Digital Parchment Press.
A gentleman with a past commits a
murder, and a gentleman with a future goes after him.
FOR all that John Meaney held a
disagreeable job, he was a companionable fellow, and young Alderman Tommy Rouse
used to drop in at his office in the basement of the county building for a late
evening's chat. This office adjoined the morgue, for Meaney was county
undertaker. He intended some day to run for coroner and then for sheriff—for in
that city it seemed to be a law of natural progression to pass through that
series of offices.
Naturally John was glad to receive
Tommy, for the youthful alderman was rapidly becoming a political personage to
be taken into consideration. Even Commissioner O'Brien, who was at the head of
the city machine, and County Supervisor Mattison, who was all-powerful in the
country districts, were commencing to trim their sails to Tommy's breeze.
Ted Plank, of the Press, was
there when Tommy came in to take his casual chair.
"If we had another we could start a heart game,"
said Meaney. "Anything special, Alderman?"
"No," said Tommy. "Just dropped in. I like to
drop in places."
Which was true. Tommy had erected what success already was
his upon a foundation of dropping in. He
made a profession of it. Knowing everybody in town well enough to drop in on
him was Tommy's ambition, and, curiously, he was always welcome. Not on account
of his conversation, for there wasn't much of that, nor was that little
especially brilliant. But he was an expert listener, and he was genuinely
interested in what he heard.
Presently the telephone rang and Meaney
answered: "Where? Vineland Avenue and Nixon Street? Gosh! That's way out
by Red River, ain't it? Oh, they fished it out of the crick, eh? Start right
He turned to Tommy and Ted Plank. "Got to take the
ambulance out where the sun goes over the fence. Fished one out of the water.
Nice night for a ride. Want to come along?"
"Sound like anything?" asked the reporter.
"Never can tell," Meaney
replied. "The coroner's starting and I want to get there about the time he
does. How about it?"
"Guess I'll come," said Tommy. "Know some
folks out that way. May get a minute to drop in on 'em."
Meaney put a long wicker basket in the ambulance. Ted and
Tommy crowded onto the seat with him and they sped westward.
A FEW minutes later they arrived at a
point where the little river flowed through a rice marsh—a lonely spot with the
twinkling lights of the city far behind them—and saw by the river's edge a
little knot of people. There was a uniformed policeman, three boys, the adipose
figure of the coroner with his clerk, and the well-set person of Detective
Sergeant Banks from headquarters.
"Huh," grunted Ted Plank, "somethin'
They walked forward and greeted the officers who stood about
a shapeless bundle half concealed by the reeds.
"What you got?" asked the
"Woman," said the coroner. "Kids after
bullheads fished her out."
"If she did," said Coroner
Briggs, "she did a good job. Never heard of anybody hittin' themselves on
the back of the head with a heavy blunt instrument."
"Gosh," exclaimed Ted, happy in an instant, for
here was a story. Already he scented it. A murder is a murder—it may be a good
murder or a bad murder according to newspaper standards, depending upon what
attributes of mystery or grimness, of family, of whatnot it may contain.
"Can't hold an autopsy here," said Briggs.
"Take her back and we'll do the job there."
"Identified?" asked Ted.
"I'd guess thirty."
"Please, oh, please," said Ted, "tell me she
"Not bad lookin', I'd say,"
said the coroner.
"That," said Ted, "is
enough for a start. Coroner's a conservative judge of beauty. If he says she's
not bad I bet she's a regular Cara Bow. Anything from you, Banks?"
"No," said the detective.
Tommy stood blinking at the sluggish
current of the stream. "Floating or sunk?' he asked.
"Sunk," said Banks. "Six bricks in the
"In a bag, eh?"
Tommy turned away to the uniformed
officer. "Found a house yet, Fred?" he asked.
"Nice little place on Jackson Street. The missus likes
"I'LL drop around and see it some night," said Tommy, and climbed
into the ambulance. Meaney and Ted Plank were already in place and the ride
back to the county building commenced. When they arrived they found the coroner
and Detective Banks and a county physician present.
"Work fast, boys," said Ted.
"The paper goes to bed at two—and here's the rest of the gang." This
was to three other newspaper men who arrived breathless and demanding to be
They sat about the office smoking impatiently
while the coroner and doctor went about their business in the next room, from
which they presently emerged.
"Talk quick, you birds," said
"She was about thirty," said
"You guessed that once. What's her name? How was she killed? Any
"She was struck on the head—"
"With a blunt instrument,"
"What about her hands?" asked
"I mean," explained the young
man, "did she do washings and have calluses and like that?"
"Her hands were small and very
well kept. Soft. Nails taken care of by somebody that knew how."
"That's the boy, Tommy,"
said. Ted. "How about clothes?"
"Not a rag."
"There was this," said the
detective and he exhibited to them a strip of wood perhaps five inches long by
three quarters of an inch wide and rounded at the ends. "Loose in the bag
"What is it?" Ted asked
Tommy glanced at it and chuckled. "Tongue
depressor," he said. "Hum."
"Exactly," said Banks. "Nobody has tongue
depressors around loose but doctors. Must
have tumbled into the bag in the general confusion."
"The hands," said Ted,
"indicate she was a young society woman. Would you say that?"
"I'll do my best for you,"
the coroner said with a grin.
"She might have been. About five feet four tall. Weighed a hundred and
twenty, maybe. Blue eyes. Light brown hair, kind of curly."
"Nary," said the doctor.
"No record of missing women at
headquarters," volunteered Beebe of the News.
"How long?" asked Tommy.
"I wouldn't say over twenty-four
The reporters headed for the door but Tommy stopped them.
"I wasn't here," he said.
"O. K.," promised Beebe.
It was too late that night to attempt
identification through routine channels; there was nothing specific upon which
to act, and Tommy, knowing there could be no more of interest until the next
day, said good night and went home.
IN THE middle of the next morning he
walked unchallenged into the office of Chief of Detectives Pung. Captain Pung
was an elderly man of distinctive appearance and vulgar speech. His fine head
and carefully kept, pointed beard and intelligent eyes did not match his
grammar or his inflections. One expected something cultured, almost scholarly
from the possessor of such a brow, and was rather shocked at the vocabulary
which issued from those finely molded lips.
"How be ye, Alderman?" he asked. "What's on
"Just dropped in," said Tommy.
"Yeah? Well, set. The boys hain't
dug up nothin' yit on this here woman-in-the-bag case." He mentioned in
choice epithets his opinion of the case—and of Detective Sergeant Banks who was
in charge of it.
"Where's Banks?" asked Tommy.
"Time he was reportin' in. Went to the buildin'
"To look up building permits?" asked Tommy.
"Nothin' in that. Gives me a cramp
in the leg." He turned like a terrier on Detective Banks, who came
energetically through the door. "Well? Well? Well?" he barked.
"You'll be poundin' pavements before this case is done. Bricks! Buildin'
Detective Banks was an imperturbable young man. His pleasant, round
face with Irish blue eyes and ruddy cheeks under hair which had turned white
prematurely, showed neither offense nor alarm.
"Hello, Tommy," he said.
"How many doctors," asked Tommy, "are
building brick buildings?"
"Seven," said Banks.
"Any of 'em off color?"
"None we ever had to notice. I got
six men out matchin' bricks this minute."
"You got bricks on the brain,"
said the captain. "Makes my ear ache."
Presently the telephone rang and Banks
answered. He listened briefly, said O. K. into the transmitter, and turned to
the captain. "Riley's got his brick matched. New garage. Doc Marley
Clarkson, corner of Vineland and Walters."
"Huh," snapped the captain.
"It's in the right neighborhood. Vineland runs right
down to the crick," said Banks.
"Call Vineland Station and have him hauled in,"
the captain ordered. "We'll put him over the jumps."
It was close upon five o'clock when
Tommy saw Precinct Detective Hawks make his way through the hall with a huge
young man in tow. They went to Captain Pung's door and entered. Tommy followed
in time to see the encounter.
"Doc Clarkson, eh?" growled the captain.
"That's my name. What's
"Buildin' a garage? Buildin' a
"Who are you?" asked the big young man, not
belligerently, almost placidly, one might say phlegmatically.
"You'll find that out soon enough.
Brick garage, eh? I'm Chief of Detectives Pung, that's who. What'd you kill her
The young doctor did not smile nor did
he start. His broad, pleasant face remained imperturbable.
"Who'd I kill?" he asked.
"And sunk her in the river with a
mess of your bricks," said the captain savagely. "We got it on you.
You even left one of them tongue depressors of your'n in the sack."
"Is this," asked the big young man, "what a
third degree is like? Did I autograph the tongue depressor?"
"We got you checked up. We know when she come to your
office and what fur. We had our eye on you anyhow—doin' that kind of
"Do you smoke in here?" asked Doctor Clarkson.
"Take him and make him look at her," said the captain.
"I'll go along," said Tommy.
Tommy studied the imperturbable young
doctor when he was confronted with the body of the woman he was accused of
killing. There was nothing to see.
"Who was she?" asked the young doctor, and turned
away as if he had no further interest in the matter.
"Back to headquarters,"
snapped the captain, and the little parade made its
way through the streets to the detective bureau. The doctor took a chair
uninvited and Tommy's eyes twinkled at the expression on Pung's face.
"You," said the doctor to
Tommy, "look as if you might answer a question. What's it all about?"
"You read the papers," said Tommy. "Oh,
"That was the young woman who was found in the
"I guessed that," said the doctor.
"And I guess you don't know who she is, and I guess that my connection
with it is a brick. I saw a brother snooping around the new garage with one in
his hand—like a woman matching a piece of cloth at a bargain sale. So let's get
down to cases. You lads are in a fog, so you pick on me, and there we are. When
you're through I'll go home and doctor a few measles."
"Huh," snorted the captain.
"Don't you recognize her,
Doctor?" asked Detective Banks more courteously.
"I wouldn't care to say
offhand," replied the young man. "And that's that. Do I go to the
bastile? If not, I'm running along."
"Not till I'm through with
you," bellowed the captain, and Clarkson shrugged his shoulders
resignedly, filled his pipe and commenced to smoke. Captain Pung did his best
in his blustering way, and staged a minor sort of a third degree, but it
carried the investigation no farther.
"I got a right to own bricks,"
said the doctor, "and it's your business to stop them from being swiped. I
guess you better fish or cut bait, Captain. Jail or home? Which?"
"Go on home," said the captain, "but we'll
have a man on you, mind."
"I guessed that," said the doctor. "Good
He went out--not exactly nonchalantly,
but certainly calmly.
"Cool cuss," said the
captain. And then to Banks: "That's what your bricks got us. Swell lead,
"Maybe," said Banks.
THAT evening Tommy dropped in at the Vineland station for a
chat with the lieutenant at the desk, and inspected the new horses at Engine
House Fourteen; after which he rang Dr. Clarkson's doorbell. The doctor's
office had just emptied itself and his office hours were over. He greeted Tommy
with humorously lifted eyebrows.
"Just had the other fellow in to
supper," he said. "Kind of a nice detective."
"I'm not a detective," said
Tommy. "My name's Rouse, and I'm an alderman."
"Thought I recognized your face.
Heard a lot about you. Where do you fit in?"
"Just thought I'd drop around," said Tommy.
"Kind of wondered why you didn't identify that woman."
The doctor considered. "From what I
heard around," he said presently, "you're pretty smart and you'd
rather get folks out of trouble than into it."
"I kind of liked your looks," said Tommy.
"That's why I came."
"Her name's Mrs. Whidden,"
said the doctor. "Janet Whidden. She was here a couple of times. Couldn't
sleep. Here the day she must have been killed, according to the papers, so I
wasn't anxious to identify."
"Around half past one or
"Hundred fourteen Vineland. Boarding house."
There was a pause while Tommy pondered;
then he rubbed his nose and looked at Clarkson out of the corner of his eye.
"Better tell me the rest of it, hadn't you?"
The office door opened a crack and a small voice
asked: "May I come in?"
"Always, anywhere and for nothing," said Dr.
A tiny woman entered—tiny in comparison
with her huge husband—and dainty and fair and rather prim to look at in spite
of her yellow hair and violet eyes. She seemed not more than twenty, and one
would have taken her for the sweet, clinging type without either brains or will
for anything but her personal appearance.
"Is he a policeman, too?" she
"This is Alderman Tommy Rouse, my dear. What do you
think of him?"
Mrs. Clarkson regarded Tommy with what
seemed to be the stare of a wax doll before she replied. Then she nodded her
head twice emphatically.
"Trust him," she said.
"We've been married six weeks," said the doctor.
Tommy clucked sympathetically, but his wife would have none of that. She
frowned as an expensive mechanical doll might frown. "None of that,"
she said. "I'm glad I married him before this came up. He's going to need
somebody like me. She was a bad woman. I was sitting in my room when she came
first, and I knew it."
"Oh, she was bad, eh?"
"Wicked," said Mrs. Clarkson.
"Harmful to people. Tell him, my darling."
"Well," said the doctor,
"she came here first for insomnia. Then in a couple of days she came back
again and demanded to be put on the payroll."
"Eh?" exclaimed Tommy.
"Yeah. You know it's fatal to a
doctor if he gets talked about. Sensitive profession. Hippocratic oath and all
that. If it gets whispered around that a doctor talks about his patients, or
that he is not absolutely impersonal with his women patients, he's in the soup.
Ruined and hung up to dry."
"Yes," said Tommy.
"So this woman told me she was going
to start the whisper, and write a letter to my wife, too, saying I had been
exceedingly personal on her first call." He grinned. "Imagine writing
such a letter to my wife!" He turned to look at her proudly.
"I'd have made her eat it," said little Mrs. Clarkson
"So," went on the doctor," she said she would
go on the payroll for ten dollars each and every week until death do us
"Only ten dollars!" exclaimed
"Queer, wasn't it? She didn't come so expensive."
"And what did you tell her?"
"I told her," said the
imperturbable young man in his most imperturbable manner, "that she'd
better go home and be nice, because if my wife got a letter, or if she started
any whispers, I would look her up very promptly and kill her as dead as a
"And he meant it, too," said Mrs. Clarkson,
"and the woman knew he did, and it scared her."
"When was she here last?" Tommy asked.
"The afternoon of the day she must have been
"Doctor," said Tommy, "it
looks as if you were in a fix."
"I'll be arrested?" asked the
"When the police run this down—as
they're pretty sure to do—I think you will."
"Aren't you going to tell
"Don't be silly," said Mrs.
Clarkson to her husband. "Of course he won't tell."
"I won't need to," said Tommy. "Well, I guess
I better be getting along."
"Good night," said Mrs. Clarkson, "and come
"Most likely I will," said
IT WAS early for him, so he took a
street car downtown and went to headquarters, where he found Sergeant Banks in
a little flurry of elation.
"I've got her identified," he
"A Mrs. Janet Whidden. Lived in a
boarding house on Vineland Street."
"How'd you run her down?"
"Figured she lived around there.
Guessed it must be a boarding house. No worried husband or relatives. The rest
was just plugging. Calling at boarding houses till I found the one. Nineteenth
place was it. Landlady said she hadn't been alarmed because the woman often
went away for days at a time without a word. Kind of mysterious woman."
"Where's Camera Eye?" asked
"Playing dominoes with the night
"See if Meaney's around the morgue.
I'd kind of like Camera Eye to look her over."
Camera Eye Higgins was a detective
lieutenant with a remarkable faculty for identifying criminals by rogues'
gallery photographs. There are half a dozen such men in the country, famous in
police circles. Perhaps their faculty is as much instinct as memory, but the
fact remains that they can look at one of those double-barreled photographs
which police departments circularize—full face and profile— and then, maybe in
ten years, recognize the original walking along the street.
"Meaney's there," said Banks.
"Tell him we'll be right over. Let's get Camera
They routed Higgins from his game of
dominoes and dragged him reluctantly away. They tramped over to the county
building and Meaney took them into the morgue.
"Got her," Higgins said presently.
"What?" exclaimed Banks.
"Sure. Gertie the Badger. Used to
work the Badger Game around Pittsburgh about seven-eight years ago. With a
feller named Prouty. White-Vest Prouty was his moniker. Let's git out. I got a
quarter on that game with the super."
ONCE IN the detective bureau again
Banks turned to Tommy. "What's the idea?" he asked. "What d'you
know? Why'd you think of ringing in Camera Eye?"
"Thought it might be a good notion," said Tommy.
"It was," said Banks,
"but what made you think of it?"
"Ten dollars a week," said
Tommy rather cryptically. "She was satisfied with ten a week. Couldn't
figure that out for a minute, but then it came to me that a lot of tens a week
count up. And it was kind of cool and efficient—and professional."
"Everything," said Tommy.
"Now you go out and see
how many doctors been paying blackmail to her."
"Gosh!" exclaimed the detective.
Detective Banks stared after him with a
look between admiration and fury.
IT WAS mid-afternoon next day when Tommy dropped in at the boarding house
where Janet Whidden had lived, and was shown by the landlady to the dead
woman's room. When he was left alone he sat in a chair and stared about him.
His eyes rested on a couple of paper-covered novels—which might have been
expected to be present. They lay upon a somewhat decrepit golden-oak table.
From between the pages of one protruded an end of paper and Tommy walked across to see what it might be.
Its nature rather surprised Tommy, for
it was a page torn from the catalog of a manufacturer of waxworks. He turned it
over in his long fingers and wondered how such a page came into Mrs. Whidden's
possession. Then he thrust it into his pocket. Presently he pulled out the
drawer of the table and scrutinized its contents. There was nothing. There was
nothing anywhere—which, thought Tommy, was as it should be. If he were right in
his surmises concerning Janet Whidden her room would contain few records of her
life or dealings.
When he was through he walked down Vineland Avenue toward
the heart of the city,
but his progress was not rapid. He stopped to chat for a moment with Patrolman
Williams, who was ringing in at a box on the corner; he encountered Doc Keegan,
tall and cadaverous in his silk hat, as that eminent medical man stepped out of
the door which led upward to the offices of Keegan and Kitteridge and their
medical museum for men only. They passed the time of day. Then he met Precinct
Detective Jacobs, to whom he chatted for five minutes before he asked that
officer to do an errand for him.
"I'm going to headquarters," he said. "Call
me there and tell me."
IN THE detective bureau Captain Pung was
in conversation with Detective Sergeant Pease when Tommy arrived, and looked up
with habitual grimness as the young alderman entered the room.
"Well," he said, "we're going to make the
"Doc Clarkson?" asked Tommy.
"Him. We got it on him. It seems this Whidden woman was
takin' it off the doctors."
"Yeah?" asked Tommy.
"We got a strong line on her. Well,
the afternoon she was killed she went to Clarkson's. Mentioned it to her landlady.
That's the last seen of her. Now, my theory is she was blackmailin' Clarkson
and he had had enough of it, see?"
"Good theory," said Tommy.
"Banks is goin' out to run him
"Any hurry?" asked Tommy. "Guess I'll go
along, but I want to get a telephone message first and send a wire to
Pittsburgh. Clarkson won't get away. Maybe an hour or so."
"He won't git away," said the
captain. "We got a man on him."
"Sure," said Tommy. "Smoke?"
"What's the idee?"
"Nothin' much, Cap'n. Just want to
see the pinch. Yeah. There's the telephone."
"For you," said Banks, who answered the ring.
Tommy placed the receiver to his ear.
"Yeah," he said. "Five years, eh? Before that, where?
Pittsburgh, eh? Sure? Much obliged, Jacobs. Say, who's the other fellow? Never
saw him? Imaginary, eh? Maybe so. G'-by."
He turned to the captain. "Goin'
up to the super's office. Can you wait?"
"No harm, I guess."
So Tommy climbed the stairs to find the superintendent
absent, which was perfectly satisfactory so long as the sergeant who acted as
secretary was in.
"Hello, Jim," said Tommy. "Want to send a
wire to Pittsburgh in the super's name. To the department there. Have 'em rush
Then Tommy sat down and considered matters connected with
the Clarkson case, and considered them with grim attention and tenacity. He had
an hour for this exercise before a long telegram was delivered which Tommy read
slowly and pocketed. "Much obliged, Jim," he said, and retraced his
steps to the detective bureau.
"All ready," he said to
They got out a department car and drove
westward in silence. Presently they stopped before Dr. Clarkson's office and
alighted. Banks rang the bell and the doctor answered in person.
"We come to take you to headquarters," said Banks.
"I'll tell my wife," said the doctor
"Bring her along," said Tommy, and the doctor
looked at him oddly.
"She thought I could trust you," said Clarkson.
"Ask her what she thinks
now," said Tommy, but that question was unnecessary, for little Mrs.
Clarkson appeared at her husband's side.
"I still think so," she said
gravely. "Wait till I get my hat."
IN THE car the doctor sat beside the detective while Tommy
sat with Mrs. Clarkson in the back seat.
"Banks," said Tommy suddenly, "stop
"Where? What's the matter?"
"Under the sign," said Tommy.
"We're all going upstairs."
"Say, listen here, Alderman," expostulated the
"Rather be a lieutenant than a
sergeant?" asked Tommy. "If you would I guess you better drop in here
with me. And fetch the doc and his wife along."
Mrs. Clarkson lifted her baby violet
eyes to the big sign which covered the upper half of the building and then
nodded her head emphatically. "I knew I could trust you," she said.
"I never did like advertising doctors."
"With waxwork museums," said
Tommy. "Nasty business. Nasty men do nasty business. How about it,
"Don't get me in trouble,"
said Banks, but all the same he followed with his prisoner as Tommy opened the
door and escorted Mrs. Clarkson up the stairs to the office of Keegan and
Kitteridge, who cured by mail when the patient could not arrange to come to the
"Do it quick," said Tommy to
Banks. "Surprise him. Arrest him for the murder of Janet Whidden. I mean
"What? Why?" demanded Banks.
"Because he did it," said
Tommy. "And then see what happens. I like surprises. They startle
Banks shook his head dubiously, but, as the door opened to
disclose the tall, spare frame of Dr. Keegan the detective stepped forward.
"Doctor," he said harshly, "I arrest you for
the murder of Janet Whidden."
"Known as Gertie the Badger," added Tommy.
"But not known so well as Dr. Kitteridge of the firm of Keegan and
suddenly pasty-faced,backed away and
tried to close the door in their faces, but Banks' foot was much too efficient
for that, and the handcuffs were on Keegan's wrists before he could make a
"I didn't," Keegan
expostulated. "I never saw the woman. I don't know such a woman." His
voice was unsteady and he mouthed his words.
"Good," said Tommy,
"then you'll produce Kitteridge. Lots of folks have been wondering about
Kitteridge. No good, Doc. It was twenty minutes past nine of the sixteenth when
you carried her out in a sack. Patrolman on the beat saw the sack and you.
Thought it was somethin' out of your museum. Then you stopped a minute at
Clarkson's new garage and got six bricks for sinkers, and then you drove to the
creek." He turned to Banks. "Kind of a partnership quarrel," he
explained. "Should have stayed in Pittsburgh, Doc. But Gertie couldn't
very well, eh? And Janet Whidden graduated as a nurse before she took up the
badger game and went in for retail blackmail on the side with Keegan here. Just
what was the quarrel, Doc? I bet she was hard to get along with, eh?"
"She—she was a devil," said Keegan
through his teeth. "She drove me to it. She drove me till I couldn't stand
"I bet you," agreed Tommy.
His eyes roved about the office, stopped a moment on the door which led into
the museum, and moved on to the desk on which stood a ball of glass whose
business it was to be a paper weight. "So you hit her with the glass ball,
"She bled me, and I couldn't get rid of her. She was a
bloodsucker," Keegan said hoarsely.
"D'ye know, Doc, I think you might
have gotten away with it if she hadn't meddled with the business here. Helped
you pick out wax figures for the museum and all like that, didn't she? You'd be
surprised how surprised I was when I found a piece of waxworks catalog in her
room. Yeah, until I walked past and saw your sign so handy. Maybe you'd have
been all right if it hadn't been for that. So I asked around and the patrolman
happened to see you lug down that gunny sack on the night you killed her."
Keegan shrugged his shoulders.
"This won't be any worse than going on like I was before," he said
hoarsely. "I'm glad I did it."
"When I got a report from the
Pittsburgh police about you and Gertie, why, I felt pretty well
convinced," said Tommy. "Some of the police sort of had an idea Doc
Clarkson did it. On account of those bricks and one thing and another. But he
didn't look to me like a man that would." He turned to Detective Banks.
"Got it all clear, Sergeant?" he asked. "Here's the piece of
catalog. Patrolman Williams and Detective Jacobs have a lot of facts they
didn't know they had. So go on down to headquarters and give Cap'n Pung a surprise
party. He'll enjoy it."
"Aren't you coming?"
"Guess not. I'm not in this at
all. But I'll give the story to the newspaper boys. Yeah. Ought to get you
graded up to lieutenant."
Banks stared at him. "Lots of
times I don't get you—quite," he said. "But much obliged."
"Welcome," said Tommy.
"I'll walk home with the Clarksons. Doc Keegan, that big sign was bad luck
to you. Advertisin' doctor! Mean business. If you hadn't advertised with that
big sign I bet I never would 'a' thought of you."
THE CLARKSONS were silent as they turned
up the street toward their home, and Tommy had nothing to say. It was not until
they reached the steps that the doctor said huskily: "I was in a bad hole.
I don't know how to thank you. I don't see how you ever figured it out."
Tommy glanced down at Mrs. Clarkson, who smiled at him but
"Just luck," said Tommy.
"If I hadn't dropped in to that woman's room I wouldn't have found that
waxwork catalog; and if I hadn't dropped around to chat with folks, and met
Keegan under his sign, and all, and kind of put two and two together, it would
have been pretty tough. But it come out pretty good, didn't it?"
"Come in, Alderman. I'll stir around and get us some
supper," said Mrs. Clarkson.
"Not tonight," said Tommy.
She smiled up at him again, and the smile became a sort of
"All right, then, Alderman," she said with
suspicious gravity, "but you will drop in on us some time, won't
"Apt to," said Tommy.
(Reprinted by permission the estate of Clarence Budington Kelland)