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Detective-Dragnet, December 1930

Three Smart Silks

By H. Bedford-Jones

Three clever silks cooked up an air-tight swindle. They laid the cards on the table—all above board—within the law! The bluff worked great—until a bigger bluff came along!

JOHN DRISCOLL looked up as Hopkins entered. The oil operator was frowning, intent upon a paper in his hand, and shoved it suddenly at his guest.

"A damnable outrage!" he exclaimed. "The third threatening letter this week—and this one has a kick in it."

Driscoll, unhurried, reached for a cigar. He did not look at all like a Canadian, or even a barrister; much less did he look what he was—one of the best lawyers in Toronto. His pleasant, even features, with their level eyes seemed younger than their years.

He had been here in Beverley Hills only two days, having come out from Toronto to consult with Hopkins about the latter's eastern oil business and its Canadian branch, and was the guest of Hopkins.

"Did you get the papers from White?" he asked casually. Hopkins nodded.

"Yes. He's dropping in on his way home—I was a bit upset about this letter."

Driscoll held up the scrawl, which was upon blank stationery:

PEMBERTON HOPKINS,
Beverley Hills

Fifty thousand in cash will save us a lot of trouble and will save you money and notoriety. Fraud charges filed tomorrow connection Oil Corpn. Unless cash deposited by eight tonight with Joe O'Meara. This is no bluff, brother.

COME ACROSS.

Driscoll's brows lifted as he regarded the letter, studying it carefully. His gray eyes scintillated, became alert with energy.

"I don't quite understand," he said. "The Oil Corporation?"

Hopkins made an impatient gesture. His iron- jawed features were a little weary.

"Yes, the combination, you know, of Coast companies—the Hopkins, Janiver and others. Three days from now we put it through; I'm to be president. Of course, if fraud charges are made, we'll have no end of trouble. My Hopkins Oil has wells in production up the San Carlos valley, with a lease on the entire Dominguez rancho, covering twenty thousand acres."

Driscoll frowned. "They can hit you, some way?"

"I don't know; my lawyers don't know. I've been pretty honest in my way, and I've made enemies. We know that for two weeks our stock has been heavily bought here and in 'Frisco. I whipped two big companies in a fight for that field, and they'd like to see me smashed—"

"What's this demand for fifty thousand cash to be given O'Meara? Blackmail?"

"I've just seen the postal inspectors; we don't know who writes the letters, and of course O'Meara would deny knowing. He's a shyster lawyer here, a personal injury shark with a big pull politically. No use trying marked money—we'd never catch him. He doesn't expect us to give him the money that way. This is to make us hold a conference with him and submit to robbery."

"It'd help you to know who wrote the letter, eh?" Driscoll picked up the paper and studied it again. As he was about to speak, Hopkins was summoned by the telephone buzzer.

"Send him right up," he said, and turned to Driscoll. "It's White."

"What time is it?" asked Driscoll. "Rather, what time do offices close here?"

"Four ten. Offices? Oh, about five or so."

Driscoll picked up a reading-glass from the table and studied the letter. He was still at it when White, chief of the legal firm handling Hopkins' affairs, entered. He was a worried-looking man of forty, and shook hands nervously with Driscoll.

"Any luck with those investigators you put on the blackmail hunt?" asked Hopkins.

White shook his head, as he opened his briefcase.

"I'm afraid we'll get nowhere, Hopkins. I can't unearth any hint as to what fraud charges they might bring, but I've found that O'Meara is pretty thick with a chap in the district attorney's office...

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