ALDERMAN TOMMY DROPS IN
By Clarence Budington Kelland
First published in Collier’s March 15 1930
(with the original magazine illustrations)
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 away."
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' doin'."
They walked forward and greeted the officers who stood about a shapeless bundle half concealed by the reeds.
"What you got?" asked the reporter.
"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 was beautiful."
"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 bag."
"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 it fine."
"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 told.
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 Ted.
"She was about thirty," said the coroner.
"You guessed that once. What's her name? How was she killed? Any identifying, marks?"
"She was struck on the head—"
"With a blunt instrument," interrupted Ted.
"What about her hands?" asked Alderman Tommy.
"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 it was."
"What is it?" Ted asked eagerly.
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 hours."
The reporters headed for the door but Tommy stopped them.
"I wasn't here," he said.
"O. K.," promised Beebe. "'Night."
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 your mind?"
"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' department."
"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' permits!"
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 wanted?"
"Buildin' a garage? Buildin' a brick garage?"
"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 for?"
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 business."
"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, yes."
"That was the young woman who was found in the creek."
"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 afternoon."
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, eh?"
"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 two."
"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. Clarkson.
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 asked.
"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 sweetly.
"So," went on the doctor," she said she would go on the payroll for ten dollars each and every week until death do us part."
"Only ten dollars!" exclaimed Tommy.
"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 herring."
"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 killed."
"Doctor," said Tommy, "it looks as if you were in a fix."
"I'll be arrested?" asked the doctor.
"When the police run this down—as they're pretty sure to do—I think you will."
"Aren't you going to tell them?"
"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 again."
"Most likely I will," said Tommy.
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 told Tommy.
"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 Tommy.
"Playing dominoes with the night super."
"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 Eye."
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 pinch."
"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 in."
"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 an answer."
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 Banks.
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 imperturbably.
"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 here."
"Where? What's the matter?"
"Under the sign," said Tommy. "We're all going upstairs."
"Say, listen here, Alderman," expostulated the detective.
"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, Sergeant?"
"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 office.
"Do it quick," said Tommy to Banks. "Surprise him. Arrest him for the murder of Janet Whidden. I mean Doc Keegan."
"What? Why?" demanded Banks.
"Because he did it," said Tommy. "And then see what happens. I like surprises. They startle folks."
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 Kitteridge, eh?"
Keegan, 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 second movement.
"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 any more."
"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, eh?"
"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 said nothing.
"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 impish grin.
"All right, then, Alderman," she said with suspicious gravity, "but you will drop in on us some time, won't you?"
"Apt to," said Tommy.
(Reprinted by permission the estate of Clarence Budington Kelland)