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Dead Man's Nerve

By Jack Bradley

Old Jimmy Cantrell of the Force starts off on the last tour of his beat—and runs smack into a gruesome case of murder!

THEY had all been nice down at the station house before he set out. Everyone had been careful not to notice that his shoes were unshined and his shabby old uniform unpressed. And, above all, they had been careful not to notice the smell of liquor on his breath. Some of the older cops, whose lives he had saved during the wild raids and gunfights of the crazy Prohibition Era had come up to grin embarrassedly and shake his hand. One of the police reporters had even done a brief article about him with the headline:

VETERAN PATROLMAN TO RETIRE

Old Jimmy Cantrell's Last Tour Tonight

The article was a brief sketch of his twenty years as patrolman in Hell's Kitchen. It told of innumerable fights and raids in which he had taken part. The time he had shot down three of the Krumer mob. Of a night when he had walked into a hail of lead, his own gun shot out of his hand, to smash down an escaped convict with his nightstick.

It was a nice story and old Jimmy Cantrell rather enjoyed being the center of attraction for once. If only it hadn't been for that talk with Captain Marvin.

Marvin had called him into his office just a before he left.

"So this is your last tour, eh, Cantrell?" he had asked quietly. "You're letting your application for retirement stand?"

Cantrell turned his head a bit so the Captain wouldn't smell the liquor on his breath.

"Yes, Captain, I'm letting it stand. I— well, I guess I'm getting a little too old to pound a beat, sir."

Marvin looked at him somberly for a moment.

"All right, Cantrell," he had said then. "That's your privilege. Only we do need cops pretty badly these days, you know."

Before Cantrell could answer, young Lloyd Marvin, the Captain's son, had walked into the office. As always, Cantrell had felt his heart leap at the sight of the trim, athletic young cop. He was so young! So young and clean-looking!

If only things could have been different and he could have had a kid like that on the Force! His fingers had tingled with desire to muss that mop of unruly blond hair, and he had tugged embarrassedly at his tunic, ashamed of the wild intensity of his emotion. It was plain Hades to love another man's son like that.

"I just wanted to speak to Jimmy before he left," Lloyd had said easily.

"Save it until he comes off duty, Lloyd," his father had said curtly. "We'll both see him then. Right now, I'm talking to him myself."

"Okay, then. See you later, Jimmy." Lloyd had grinned and gone out.

WHEN he had left, Captain Marvin had cleared his throat uncomfortably a couple of times before he could blurt out the question he wanted to ask.

"Uh—that trouble you told me about that time—you know. That still as bad as ever?"

Old Jimmy had looked stonily at a map on the wall.

"Yeah. Just the same as it has been ever since that fight with Tiny."

Marvin nodded understandingly. "I see. Well, then, maybe it's better this way. It's just that I'm worried about Lloyd. He's been seen going into Tiny's club a couple of times lately, and I can't understand it. I know the boy's ambitious and it might be that he figures Tiny can help him get ahead. That no-good is swinging a lot of weight in the precinct, ...

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