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The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective(1)

By Charles Turner,2014-08-15 18:57
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The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective(1)

    The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective

    The Man Who Was Everywhere

    He first noticed the new manin the neighborhood on a Tuesday evening, on his way home from the station. The man was tall and thin, with a look about him that told Ray Bankcroft he was English. It wasnt anything Ray could put his finger on, the fellow just looked English.

    That was all there was to their first encounter, and the second meeting passed just as casually, Friday evening at the station. The fellow was living around Pelham some place, maybe in that new apartment house in the next block.

    But it was the following week that Ray began to notice him everywhere. The tall Englishman rode down to New York with Ray on the 8:09, and he was eating a few tables away at Howard Johnsons one noon. But that the way things were in New York, Ray told himself, where you sometimes ran into the same person every day for a week, as though the laws of probability didnt exist.

    It was on the weekend, when Ray and his wife journeyed up to Stamford for a picnic, that he became convinced the Englishman was following him. For there, fifty miles from home, the tall stranger came striding slowly across the rolling hills, pausing now and then to take in the beauty of the place.

Damn it, Linda,‖ Ray remarked to his wife, theres that fellow again!

    What fellow, Ray?

    That Englishman from our neighborhood. The one I was telling you I see everywhere.

    Oh, is that him? Linda Bankcroft frowned through the tinted lenses of her sunglasses. I dont remember ever seeing him before.

    Well, he must be living in that new apartment in the next block. Id like to know

    what the hell hes doing up here, though. Do you think he could be following me?

    Oh, Ray, dont be silly, Linda laughed. Why would anyone want to follow you?

    And to a picnic!

    I dont know, but its certainly odd the way he keeps turning up…‖

    It certainly was odd.

    And as the summer passed into September, it grew odder still. Once, twice, three times a week, the mysterious Englishman appeared, always walking, always seemingly oblivious of his surroundings.

     Finally, one night Ray Bankcrofts way home, it suddenly grew to be too much for

    him.

     He walked up to the man and asked, Are you following me?

     The Englishman looked down his nose with a puzzled frown. I beg your pardon?

     Are you following me? Ray repeated. I see you everywhere.

     My dear chap, really, you must be mistaken.

     Im not mistaken. Stop following me!

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    The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective

     But the Englishman only shook his head sadly and walked away. And Ray stood and watched him until he was out of sight

     Linda, I saw him again today!

     Who, dear?

     That damned Englishman! He was in the elevator in my building.

     Are you sure it was the same man?

     Of course Im sure! Hes everywhere, I tell you! I see him every day now, on the street, on the train, at lunch, and now even in the elevator! Its driving me crazy. Im

    certain hes following me. But why?

     Have you spoken to him?

     Ive spoken to him, cursed at him, threatened him. But it doesnt do any good. He

    just looks puzzled and walks away. And then the next day there he is again.

     Maybe you should call the police. But I suppose he hasnt really done anything.

     Thats just the trouble, Linda. He hasnt done a single thing. Its just that hes

    always around. The damned thing is driving me crazy.

     Whatwhat are you going to do about it?

     Ill tell you what Im going to do! The next time I see him Im going to grab him

    and beat the truth out of him. Ill get to the bottom of this…‖

     The next night, the tall Englishman was back, walking just ahead of him on the train platform. Ray ran toward him, but the Englishman disappeared in the crowd.

     Perhaps the whole thing was just a coincidence, and yet

     Later the night Ray ran out of cigarettes, and when he left the apartment and headed for the corner drug store, he knew the tall Englishman would be waiting for him along the route.

     And as he came under the pale red glow of the flickering neon, he saw the man, walking slowly across the street from the railroad tracks.

     Ray knew that this must be the final encounter.

     Say there!

     The Englishman paused and looked at him distastefully, then turned and walked away from Ray.

     Wait a minute, you! Were going to settle this once and for all!

     But the Englishman kept walking.

     Ray cursed and started after him through the darkness. He called out. Come back

    here! But now the Englishman was almost running.

     Ray broke into a trot, following him down the narrow street that led along the railroad tracks. Damn you, come back! I want to talk to you!

     But the Englishman ran on, faster and faster. Finally Ray paused, out of breath.

     And ahead, the Englishman has paused too.

     Ray could see the gleaming glow of his wristwatch as he raised his hand in a gesture. And Ray saw that he was beckoning him to follow..

     Ray broke into a run again.

     The Englishman waited only a moment and then he too ran, keeping close to the edge of the railroad wall, where only a few inches separated him from a twenty foot drop to the tracks below.

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    The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective

     In the distance, Ray heard the low whistle of the Stamford Express, tearing through the night.

     Ahead, the Englishman rounded a brick wall that jutted out almost to the edge of the embankment. He was out of sight around the corner for a moment, but Ray was now almost upon him. He rounded the wall himself and saw, too late, that the Englishman was waiting for him there.

     The mans big hands came at him, and all at once Ray was pushed and falling sideways, over the edge of the railroad wall, clawing helplessly at the air.

     And as he hit the tracks, he saw that the Stamford Express was almost upon him, filling all space with its terrible sound

     Some time later, the tall Englishman peered through a cloud of blue cigarette smoke at the graceful figure of Linda Bankcroft and said, As I remarked at the

    beginning of all this, my darling, a proper murder is the ultimate game of skill…‖

The killer is loose

    By John and Ward Hawkins

    Detective Sam Wagner was sleeping peacefully when the phone rang. He felt in the dark for the telephone peering sleepily at the clock beside it. It was two in the morning.

    This is Sergeant Baxter. Sorry to wake you, Sam, but Chief Brennan thought we ought to tell you right away. Leon Poole escaped from the prison farm.

    Sam sat up, wide awake, and turned on the light. Leon Poole? he said. How did

    he do it?

    Well, you know hes been a trusty on the farm for a year. One of the guards took him along as a helper on the truck late this afternoon, to deliver a load of vegetables to the city hospital. But the truck never got to town. It took us quiet a while to find it.

    What happened to the guard? asked Sam.

    Hes dead. Poole stuck a knife in his throat.

    Sam silently digested this surprising piece of information. The he said, Do you

    know where Poole went?

    Not yet. He left the truck in a ditch fifteen miles this side of Winston. The state and county police are out in force. They want him badly. Killing that guard in cold blood was dirty business.

    Is there anything I can do? asked Sam.

    No, but the Chief wanted you to know about it. After all, it was you who put Poole in jail. Be careful. Watch out for him, Sam.

    Thanks, I will. Said Sam. Goodbye.

    He sat on the edge of the bed, thinking about this news, and listening to the

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    November storm of wind and rain beating through trees and against the windows. His wife had awakened, and was sitting up in bed, looking alarmed.

    Sam, said Lila, who was that?

    She was a nervous woman and a light sleeper. She was always sure when the telephone woke her at night, that it was a signal of disaster.

    It was just Sergeant Baxter, said Sam. A trusty got loose from the prison farm

    and the Chief thought I ought to know.

    Why?

    Because Im a cop, and its my job to know. Now quit worrying, will you? He

    leaned over and patted her shoulder. Then he lay down again to go back to sleep. But Lila was a worrier by nature, and wasnt to be put off that easily.

Its Leon Poole, isnt it? I remember who he is. Hes the onehe I mean, it was

    his wife you killed, wasnt it?

    Well, he said I did, said Sam. Actually, she died with three bullets in her. One of them was mine. Who knows which bullet killed her? But Poole blamed it on me.

    Lila was remembering the courtroom when Poole was tried. She remembered very well what he looked like: a man of medium eight, soft and fleshy, with thick dark hair and staring, watery brown eyes. He had been wanted for robbing the bank where he had worked, his first offense, but to everyone‘s surprise he had resisted arrest, and in

    the gun battle with the arresting officers his wife had been shot accidentally. Poole had focused his hatred on Sam, who had been the detective responsible for finding him. Lila could still remember how uncomfortable she had felt when Poole had turned to ask his lawyer to point out Detective Wagners wife.

    I remember him in court. Hes dangerous, Sam, very dangerous. She said,

    tight-lipped with anxiety.

    He was just a thief, Sam said, and not a very good one, at that. To you, everyone is dangerous. Why not be sensible? Hes nobody.

    But he said you killed his wife.

    Nobody knows which of those bullets killed her. But he had to have someone to blame. I tracked him down and questioned him. So he chose to think that I killed her.

    But he said hed get even with you, she insisted.

    Quit worrying! snapped Sam. If you think Poole will get a chance to take a shot at me, youre very much mistaken. First of all, that kind of talk, about getting even, doesnt mean much. Lots of criminals say that. We hear it all the time, but nothing comes of it. In the second place, he hasnt a chance of staying loose long enough to

    try anything.

    What makes you so sure? asked his wife.

    Common sense. Hes wearing a prison uniform, with numbers on his back that are a foot high. He has no money, no car and no gun And every cop in the state is looking for him. A lot of men try to break out of Winston jail. Not one in a thousand gets more than a few miles Now quit worrying! Then, more gently than before, he added, I

    know what youre going to say now. You dont want to be policemans widow. And if

    I really loved you Id change my job.

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    I know you think Im selfish, she said, but its because I love you so much that I

    cant bear the worry.

    No, no, he protested. I know you worry because you love me and youre afraid

    something will happen to me. You can stop worrying any more than you could stop breathing. Thats how you are. Im sorry, but Im not going to leave the police force.

    Its my life, and youll just have tak me the way I am. Thousands of police officers live long, happy, useful lives. Their wives and children accept the work they have to do. You can our children, when we have them ,will have to accept it, too. I love you very much, and Ill do anything for you within reason, but what youre asking of me

    isnt reasonable. Now calm down, and lets try to get some sleep. And he kissed her

    good night.

    The next morning she was up before him, and the morning paper was set on the kitchen table beside his breakfast plate. There were big headlines about the murders of the prison guard.

    You didnt tell me he killed a guard, Sam, said Lila accusingly.

    And upset you even more, at two in the morning? I should hope not, he said.

     But dont worry, a guard is practically a cop, and a cop-killer never gets away with

    what a dumb thing to say to it. He could have bitten off his tongue. Cop-killer‖—

    Lila.

    Then cops do get killed? she asked.

    He let his breakfast get cold while he explained how a manhunt was organized. All the escape routes from the prison area were blocked the main highways, side roads,

    railroads and rivers. Then the enclosed area was searched, house to house, barn to barn, field to field. Every man, woman, and child would be on the watch for Poole, as well as policemen by the hundreds, equipped with tracking dogs, radios, even airplanes. Poole didnt have a chance to get away, on foot, and in prison clothes. But some criminals do get through, she insisted.

    Yes, but they have help, Sam said. They have a friend waiting in a certain place

    at a certain time, with money, clothes, and transportation. Poole didnt get help. He

    couldnt have known in advance that the guard was going to take him to town. He saw his chance, grabbed it, and ran. He wont get far.

    The doorbell rang. Lila jumped. He could see that his talking hadnt done much

    good.

    Ill get it, he said.

    There were two uniformed officers on the front porch, old friends of Sams. Were

    on special duty out here, they said. We are going to keep an eye on your place.

    Then Pooles still loose? asked Sam.

    Yes, but he wont be loose for long, now that it‘s daylight.

    Right, said Sam.

    Lila was waiting for him in the kitchen. Why are they here, and what do they

    want? She asked. Sam, please dont lie to me.

    All right. He put his big strong hands on her shoulders. If Poole gets through the

    road blocks, he might come here. Theres an awfully small chance of that happening,

    but its being covered. You see? Theres nowhere Poole can go that he wont find cops

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    The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective

    waiting for him.

    I see, she said, but her eyes told him she didnt believe him.

    Well, its time I went to work, he said.

    Quietly she said, Goodbye, Sam.

    Sam backed his car out of the garage and drove two blocks to the highway that led from the suburbs into Central City, and joined the stream of early-morning traffic that was flowing towards town. As he drove, he thought of Leon Poole. Poole was and odd man, clever in some ways, very stupid in others. Poole had been a respectable bank clerk in a town near Central City. He had arranged with another man to rob the bank at a time when an unusually large amount of cash was being held there. The other man had walked into the bank, waves a gun at Poole, who was on duty, and taken the money. Only three men had known when the money would be there, so it was obvious that someone inside the bank must have planned the robbery. Sam, the de-tective in charge of the case, questioned Poole and the others, and re-leased them, but had them all watched closely. Two days later Poole, thinking he was no longer under suspicion, arranged a meeting with the actual robber, who was a known criminal. The police arrested the robber, who was a known criminal. The police arrested the robber and got a confession from him. He named Poole as the man who had planned the whole thing.

    The three officers who went to arrest the fat, soft, bank clerk did not expect trouble. But Leon Poole turned out to have a gun, and used it when they knocked at his door. His bullet hit one of the officers in the arm. Naturally they had gone in after him, shooting.

    They had thought Poole was alone. Four neighbors had seen his wife leave the building. Nobody had seen her come back. But when it was over when the fat, weeping man had been captured, Doris Poole lay dead on the floor. While the police were hunting the armed man through unfamiliar dark rooms, Doris Poole had appeared in the wrong doorway at the wrong time. It had been an awful moment for the police, too. Three years later, Sam could remember the awful feeling of despair as he looked down at the dead woman. But you cant bring a dead woman back to life.

    You have to do your duty. And then you have to go on.

    Upstairs at police headquarters, Pooles picture was already on the wall with a

    reward offered for information leading to his arrest. Joe Dean was on duty at the desk. The Chief wants to see you, Sam, he said, about Poole. Hows Lila?

    Not very happy, Joe, said Sam. Baxter called me about Poole at two this

    morning. You can imagine how Lila felt about that. She worries about me at two in the afternoon when nothing is happening. Now, with a killer loose, who blames me for killing loose, who blames me for killing his wife, shes really scared.

    It wont get better, said Joe.

    What do you mean? asked Sam.

    The Chief will tell you, Joe said.

    The chief of detectives, Bob Brennan, was busy, with telephones ringing and reports piling up, police officers waiting to get words in. Two of them were from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Chief Brennan summed up the case.

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    The World Choice Works of Suspense and Detective

    Poole had been in Winston Prison for three years. He had been a model prisoner, eager to please from the first day. He seemed to want to pay his debt to society and

    make a new life. The police officers had been convinced by this performance, and had sent him to finish his term at the prison farm. This was institution without walls, where dependable prisoners were allowed considerable freedom. As a first offense, he had a good chance of being discharged early, for good behaviour. But he had been so eager for revenge that he had seized his first opportunity to escape, and had even killed a guard, also that he could get even with Sam Wagner.

    Sam said, If I had a dollar for every thief who threatened to kill me, Id be rich

    man.

    Sure, said the Chief, but this man is crazy. He doesnt want to kill you. He wants

    to kill your wife. He blames you for killing his wife, and he wants you to know how it feels. I expect hed settle for you, if he cant get your wife, but he wants go get her.

    Theyve questioned the prisoners who shared his cell. They said he talked about nothing else. He didnt care what happened to him, afterward, so long as he killed to cops wife.

    Its hard to believe, said Sam.

    He was willing to murder a guard in order to get out, Sam, Youd better believe

    it, said Chief Brennan solemnly.

    Sam Wagner looked at the faces of the other man in the room. They believed it. Then the phone rang. The chief answered it and listened for several minutes. Thanks, he said, keep me informed. He pushed the phone aside. Now hes got a

    gun, He reported to the others.

    Poole had broken into a hardware store in Tilden, a twon only thirty miles from Central City, and had stolen a revolver and a box of shells. This meant that somehow Poole had managed to get past all the police roadblocks surrounding the prison area. Now the police will being concentrated in the thirty miles between Tilden and Central City, and in the city itself. Sam was told to join the crew policing the railroad yards. Within an hour Sam was called back to headquarters, which by now was crowded with reporters and photographers as well as officers, to hear the news that Poole had found a Tilden man stopping at a crossroads on his way to work. He had gotten into the car beside him and forced him to drive into the countryside. There, he had hit him over the head, tied him up, and stolen his clothes, the car, and his drivers permit.

    Poole was near enough looks and size to wear the mans clothes, and get away with

    his driers permit. Thus he had been able to pass the policemen at the roadblocks with the greatest of ease.

    Just by chance, a farmers dog had come across the owner of the car, and eventually the theft had been reported, and an alarm was sent out. But by the time the police found the car, Poole had abandoned it in downtown Central City. Poole had also taken his victims money, so that he now had twenty-five or thirty dollars, more than enough to pay his way. After all, he only wanted to go as far as Sams house, which was a bus

    ride away, in the suburbs.

    Brennan looked at Wagner. He could have gone in half a dozen directions, Sam,

    all easier than the one he picked. But he came straight here. He wants a shot at your

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    wife.

    How is she getting on? Sam asked anxiously.

    Shes safe enough. The neighborhood and the house are full of policemen. Poole couldnt get at her if he had an armored car. But shes worried sick about you.

    Me? said Sam. Didnt you tell her that Pooles after her?

    Were leaving you to decide what to tell her, Sam.

    Well, I guess its my job, Sam said without enthusiasm.

    You know how much she can take, Brennan agreed. Now the problem is to get

    Poole. Any suggestions?

    Sam looked at the map of Central City that hung on the wall. It was a big city, and Poole could be anywhere in it. He could reach any part of it by bus. He wouldnt stay at a hotel, he said. Hed be too easy to find. On the other hand, he has no real criminal connections, and so he wouldnt be able to buy a hiding place,

    the way an old criminal would. Besides, it would be dangerous to try to help him when the police are after him, so a friend wouldn‘t dare take him in. Yet he couldnt

    take a chance on just walking around the trees, because someone would be sure to spot him. He knows he has to hide somewhere.

    With a gun, someone pointed out, he can walk into anyones home and frighten

    the family to shelter him. Everyone knows that he killed a guard, and that he wont

    hesitate to kill again. Theyll do what he asks out to be foolishly brave. Suppose Poole became nervous, impatient, or frightened?

    Yes, its a tough situation, said Brennan. Hes likely to kill someone else if we

    dont grab him soon. Ive had notices of the radio ad in the newspapers for everyone to keep an eye on his neighbors house. If he notices anything unusual about it, hes to

    call the police quietly. Its not much, but its something.

    No, its not enough, said Sam. Does Poole know that we know hes after Lila?

    No, said Brennan. How could he?

    Hell go look over my house, Sam said. But if he find the whole neighborhood

    full of cops, hell go back hiding and stay as long as he can weeks, maybe.

    Brennan nodded encouragingly. This was what he had hoped Sam would figure out. But, Sam continued, if it looks as if we didnt suspect anything, he might make

    an attempt right away to get his revenge. And when he does, if he doesnt find Lila,

    hell probably settle for a shot at me. He looked around, and saw that the other men had thought the same, but hadnt wanted to make the suggestion.

    Yes, said Brennan, if we could just get him to show himself before he does any more damage—―

    How, exactly? asked Sam.

    Well get out a radio announcement that we have him surrounded somewhere entirely differentout in the Kretlow Hills, for instanceand send a lot of police out

    therehell think hes in real luck, and grab the chance to go to your place when the police arent expecting him.

    Sound good, said Sam. Ill move Lila out. If shes not at home, shes safe. He

    wouldnt know where else to start looking for her.

    Joe Dean spoke up, Take her to my place. Ill call my wife and tell her to expect

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    you.

    While the police department was discussing how to catch him that morning, Leon Poole was walking in the rain along a suburban road. He had taken a half-hour to get to the neighborhood on the city bus. It was an area with small houses set at intervals, and young trees which right now were shaking in the November wind. At ten in the morning, few cars drove by, and Poole tried hard to look like an ordinary salesman making his rounds. His hat was a bit too small, but his suit and raincoat and bag were all natural enough. He was sure the drivers wouldnt notice him. He was finding it

    hard to look businesslike. He was cold and hungry and very tired. He was not a strong man, and it was his will that had carried him through the strain and activity since his violent escape from the prison farm. He forced himself to walk firmly, with his head up, as he read the names on the mailboxes by the road. Finally he found the house he was looking for. It was a small, neat house, set back from the road. There was a car parked in the drive, and the curtains were still drawn in the windows. He went past the front walk and up the drive, past the car, to the back door. Here the curtains were opened. He could see into the kitchen. He put one hand on the gun in his pocket, and with his other hand turned the handle and carefully opened the unlocked door. He walked quietly in to the house, through the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. Crossing the hall, he slowly opened the bedroom door. His cheek quivered with nervousness. He found the switch by the frightened man, wrapped in a dripping raincoat. Across the room, a woman sat up in surprise. Beside her, a man slept peacefully.

    Please dont scream Poole said.

    Who are you? What do you want? asked the woman in a thin voice, holding the

    bedcover to her.

    ―Will you wake your husband? Poole said.

    By now, the man was awake and sitting up. He was not frightened. Why,its Leon

    Poole, he said.

    The name of the man was Otto Flanders. He had been Pooles first sergeant in the

    Army during the war. He looked like one, even sitting in bed with no shirt on. Tough and confident, Poole had been a corporal under him.

    Well, said the sergeant, I was pretty surprised when I read that youd taken the

    banks cash and been put in jail. Not Corporal Poole. Not Fat Boy, I said, It cant

    be!‘‖

    Poole was not interested in being friendly, Get up, he ordered, pulling the gun

    out of his pocket. And remember, it was you who taught me how to use this. I

    escaped from jail later yesterday. I killed a guard. The police are looking for me. Now, will you get up?

    You killed a guard? The sergeant was finally convinced that this not joking matter. Yes, Ill get up. To his wife, he said, Take it easy, honey. Ill handle this.

    He got up without haste, nervousness, or fear, but with care. His eyes never left Leon Pooles gray face. When he had his trousers on, he said, Now, what do we do?

    Now well go out to the kitchen, and your wife will get up and get me something to eat. Ill kill one of you if the other one tries to scream or telephone or get away.

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    Flanders said, Do what he says, honey.

    His wife came out to the kitchen after them, and nervously started making breakfast. Her husband protested, Youre scaring my wife to death, Poole. Why did you have to pick us, particularly?

    You used to talk about this place in the Army, Poole said, Nice and private, you

    said, no close neighbors. Besides, the police dont know I know you, so they wont

    look for me here. I need a rest and some food before I go on and finish what I came for.

    If the police dont find you here, theyll find you soon enough, said Flanders.

    I know that, Poole said, I expect it. But I just want time to kill the woman Im

    after before they find me.

    Hows that again?

    The cop who sent me to prison killed my wife. I want him to know how it feels to have the woman you love murdered. After that I dont care what happenes.

    I guess you mean it, said the sergeant, but youll never get away with it. Youre

    too tired. Youre shaking right now. Remember, Ivehandled some pretty tough

    customers in my day. Ill get you when you relax your guard. Why dont you give up

    now, Fat Boy, and Ill treat you gently?

    Dont you try anything, said Poole, wearily. Im not joking.

    The coffees ready, murmured Mrs. Flanders.

    The sergeant saw his opportunity. Calmly he walked over to the stove and picked up the big coffeepot. He threw it fast, but Poole shot faster, and his bullet caught Flanders right in the chest. He dropped silently to the floor. In the corner, Mrs Flanders fainted, too frightened to scream. Leon Poole found a chair and sat down, trembling

    Im not sorry, he said to the silent room. I had to do it.

    Sam, meanwhile, was driving carefully through the rain-swept streets, with Lila beside him. He paid particular attention to the cars he passed which were driven by men alone. Now and then he glanced at Lila. She was sitting with her hands folded in her lap, her lips and chin firm in silent protest. Lilas silence was harder to take than

    other womans words.

    Any questions? asked her husband gently.

    One. Where are we going? she said. Wherever it was, she didnt want to go there.

    Her home had been ringed with policemen, and Lila hadnt thought much of that,

    either.

    Im taking you to Joe and Mary Deans. Youre going to stay with Mary until we

    get our hands on Poole.

    He hadnt told Lila that it was her life Poole wanted. He felt that she was already upset enough. Nothing could be gained by frightening her more. After it was over, when Poole was caught, would be time enough.

    Why are we going this roundabout way to the Deans?

    Thats obvious enough, said Sam impatiently. The man is loose somewhere in

    the town. He may have picked up another car. He might just try to trail me. Not likely, but possible. Were not taking any chances, Lila.

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