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Dealer In Human Parts

By Noel Loomis
Author of "Murder Goes to Press," "Murder Beats the Drums," etc.

The Man Was Dead—But There Were Fresh
Footprints of Ghastly Horror In the Snow
!

THE street lights were burning early tonight. A moist snow drifted down through the gloom, but only in isolated spots did the prints of human feet break the white surface that covered the sidewalks of Iron City.

The courthouse reared upward, blackened with age. The clock in the tower was entirely lost in the falling snow, and only one window among the hundreds showed a light. Inside, the big building was deserted. The corridors were in darkness. The marble floor gleamed faintly.

But up on the fourth level, behind a door marked "Assistant District Attorney," Leonard Gault paced his office. He was not seeing the falling snow or the grayness of the sky outside. He was listening.

"There'll be another one before midnight," he muttered. "He hasn't passed up a night like this in three years." He stopped before his desk and lit a cigarette. Sometime between now and midnight he would hear the siren. The ambulance would race by. Police headquarters would be deathly still, waiting for a patrolman to call.

"Shabbily dressed man found dead in the gutter," would be the report, and the commissioner, with dull fear in his eyes, would call the morgue and ask for an immediate autopsy. That was the only way they could tell about the bodies.

One more would finish Leonard Gault. There would be no marriage to Julia at Christmas, for her father was the richest man in Iron City—and Leonard would be out of a job by Christmas. Julia would marry somebody else. Perhaps it would be the district attorney himself—W. L. Bishop, sleek, fat, prosperous.

Bishop had been smart. After these mutilated bodies had been turning up for two years and the entire city was afraid to go out after dark, Bishop had called Leonard into his office one day.

"Do you want to make a name for yourself?" he asked.

"You bet your life," said Leonard eagerly.

"All right. I'm turning the Mad Mangler case over to you. It's the kind of a case that can give a man a big reputation." He smiled paternally. "Of course it could break you, too."

"I'll take it," said Leonard. "I'm not afraid of it."

He wished now he had been afraid.

Leonard suddenly stopped his pacing and stiffened. He heard the siren now, like the moan of a lost wind streaming down from the black mountains. It went by on the street below. He heard it die fast as the ambulance stopped. He walked to the telephone and waited. It rang.

The desk sergeant's voice was husky. "I guess we've got another one," he said.

"Call me as soon as you get a preliminary report from the medical examiner," said Leonard.

HE put the instrument back in the cradle and stood there a moment. He was just about through. His career was to be sacrificed to save the reputation of the district attorney. Somebody had to be the goat.

He phoned Julia.

"I won't be out for dinner tonight," he told her.

"Surely you won't have to work late again, dear." Julia's soft voice was a little impatient.

"I'm terribly busy," he told her.

"But everything is planned. It's—"

"I'm sorry. I'll call you later."

"You don't need to—ever," she snapped, and hung up.

Leonard opened the door and went out to the hall for a drink of ice-water. It was almost dark now. Everyone else in the district attorney's department had gone home early, glad to get away and leave him to fight it out alone.

Maybe he could find this Mad Mangler if he dressed like a bum and went wandering down Third Street as bait. Sometimes the murderer struck twice on the same night.

The phone jangled inside.

"I got a report on that last D. O. A.," said the sergeant's voice. "Both kidneys cut out."

Leonard groaned. His face was pinched in the darkness.

"Here's more," the sergeant went on. "Two small boys reported seeing what looked like a ghost driving a car in the vicinity of Third Street and Harrison Avenue, where the body was found."

"Listen, sergeant." Leonard's voice was pleading. "Do ghosts drive cars?"

"Don't put me on the spot, Mr. Gault." The sergeant's voice was pleading, too. "I don't know anything about this except what I'm tellin' you."

"Did the boys give any description?"

"They said it looked like a wisp of snow behind the wheel."

"Okay. I'll—"

He stopped, twisted his body until he faced the door. An icy wave swept over him. He heard something that sounded like the rustle of sheets. He tiptoed to the door, jerked it open. There was movement in the hall, the gritty sound of something scraping on the marble, then a swirl of white at the far end.

"Stop! Come back here! I'll shoot!" But he had no weapon in his han...

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