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Death Scoops A Columnist

By Joe Archibald

Police Detective Pat Kenna barges into a baffling kidnapping case that puts wheels within wheels of mystery in motion!

IF THERE was anything Pat Kenna hated worse than being thumped roundly on the back it was to have Ray Darcy do it.

Thousands of people in the big town would have been flattered by the Darcy familiarity, for the big fellow with the crisp, curly hair wrote a syndicated gossip column for the News-Record. He broadcasted three times a week over the radio and once he wrote a book called "By Keyhole to Success."

Pat Kenna coughed, spun around and glared at the columnist. He wiped some beer from his coat.

"Some day, you boudoir Brummel," he said, "I'm going to plaster you so hard you won't be able to put curlers in your hair for a week!"

Darcy grinned. "You caught the geezer who bumped off Little Eddie Anselmi? Let's see—it was nearly six months ago, Kenna. The grass is a foot high over his grave. If you cops would be nicer to me maybe you wouldn't have to mark down so many flops. Your public don't like it, Kenna."

The detective disliked Ray Darcy from away back. Darcy had been a police reporter until he was caught taking gravy from the dishonest element. After that, Darcy made a precarious living for five years, until the News-Record blossomed out in the city's Fourth Estate and the publisher happened to be an agnostic, an iconoclast and a misguided crusader rolled into one. Darcy was his breed of cats, so Darcy had been given a job.

"You don't like me, do you, copper?" Darcy grinned, and ordered another Martini.

"Why, in my book you are a hundred per cent, Darcy," Pat Kenna said. "Fifteen per cent ability, thirty-five per cent gall and fifty per cent bluff. A bunch of morons have built you up to a big shot who sees and hears and knows all. To me you will always be the biggest false alarm in the business. You hire a dozen punks to snoop around town for dirt while you sit around and conduct your side line."

"Which is?"

"I wish I could think of a nicer name for it, Darcy," Kenna said. "But it is blackmail."

DARCY drained his glass and set it down gently. The muscles around his jaws were oyster-white.

"Some day you're going to be plenty sorry for the things you say to me, Kenna," he said, without looking at the detective.

"Yeah?" Kenna said. "Better make your threat good fast, pal. I have heard that you sort of helped a certain gee into a hot seat. His name was Lefke. I have also heard that Lefke had friends of a kind."

"Somebody had to get rid of the rat if the cops are that dumb they never even got a lead on him," Darcy said. "You should read my column more and maybe between the lines you would find a tip or two."

"I still prefer the comic books," Kenna said.

He walked out of the hotel bar and headed for the nearest subway kiosk, but he was not smiling. This Ray Darcy was not funny, but he had to admit the punk had plenty of nerve at times. Too often he had made the cops look silly, and even some of the better newspapers had posed a question to the Commissioner he could not answer.

Why could a gossip monger get information regarding certain crimes and crooks when the Police Department could not? No, Darcy was not to be laughed at.

It was almost a week later that the cops got something far ahead of the columnists. The D.A. called Kenna and four other plainclothes men into his office and introduced them to a perturbed elderly gentleman named Henry Comstock. He explained that Comstock was in the employ of Berton J. Stendahl, owner of a chain of grocery stores.

"Mr. Comstock has brought me a letter," the D.A. said. "It is a ransom note. It is plain that Stendahl's daughter, Marcia, has been kidnaped. Her father, for obvious reasons, could not come himself."

"Marcia Stendahl?" a detective said quickly. "The one they call Miss Commando around the night spots?"

The D.A. frowned. "This is a serious matter, McLane. This letter demands that Stendahl turn over the Koonah diamond before he sees his daughter all in one piece again. The diamond is worth about a hundred thousand dollars."

Pat Kenna pursed his lips. "That's a new angle, D.A. We're dealing with some smart boys who know how easy it is to trace currency by the serial numbers. You can get a diamond cutter to make a hundred sparklers out of that Koonah and they never could be traced."

The D.A. agreed. Comstock removed his pince-nez and wiped his ruddy face with a big handkerchief.

Kenna asked for the ransom note. He saw that it had been typed on a machine that had been kept in such good condition that not one letter was smudged, and all were plainly defined. He guessed that the cops could spend five years trying to tie the note up with the typewriter. He looked up.

"How long has Marcia Stendahl been missing, Mr. Comstock?"

"Almost a week," the little man said. "But her parents did not think too much about it a...

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