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Deadline at Midnight

By Frederick C. Davis

They said that Johnny Foster had too many friends for a small-town cop. And when someone put the snatch on him, it looked like the critics were right. But Johnny proved that even dead pals can payoff for him in live lead.

IT WAS twenty-three hours now since Johnny Foster had disappeared. Nobody in town could explain it. He was simply gone with scarcely a trace—Fairview's favorite son and greatest hero, just home from the war. All we knew about it was that something strange and violent had happened to Johnny at a little past twelve o'clock last night.

So far Johnny Foster hadn't gone back to his old job as assistant chief of the Fairview police force, which numbered four men in all; he'd gotten his discharge only a few days ago. He was staying temporarily at the home of Chief Webb, a hulking man with grizzled hair who loved Johnny like a son.

The chief was surprised when Johnny didn't show up for breakfast this morning. Then he began to do a really man-size job of worrying because next he discovered that Johnny's bed hadn't been slept in.

Chief Webb had hustled right down to headquarters, where he'd found no sign of Johnny. Then he'd gone scouting around town with a dark frown and a pointed question for everyone he met, "You seen Johnny Foster anywhere?"

He'd learned first that Johnny had left the Fairview Inn bar at closing time, midnight, and had started walking toward the chief's home alone. No further information about him was to be picked up until the chief waded into Davey's Men's Wear. Arnold Davey, spruce as always, a spare man with a bobbing Adam's apple, thoughtfully adjusted his tie as he said, "Wonder if that was Johnny's voice that woke me up."

Then Davey explained, "Heard noises in the street. It was right after the courthouse clock struck twelve. Sounded like two men fighting. Then a car rushed off. Said ...

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