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Bird Cagey

Joe Archibald
Author of "Double Doublecross," "Dressed to Kill," etc.

A Fowl in the Hand May Be Worth Two in the Hedge,
But Willie Klump Goes After Two Jailbirds with One Grindstone!

WILLIE KLUMP lost his meal ticket down at Police Headquarters because Willie was the type of citizen who liked to sleep late in the mornings and he hated orders like a bunion-puppied waiter who has spent ten years juggling trays in a beanery. Willie always said that competition was the life of trade so he went out and opened an office in a building that was not doing so well. On the frosted glass of the door he had painted the sign:

W. Klump, Pres.

The boys down at Headquarters got a laugh out of that, particularly a big flatfoot who had once pounded a beat with Willie and whose name was Mike Gilhooley.

"It's like a mouse tryin' to spit in a tiger's eye," Mike grinned. "I always said Willie couldn't find a pair of chopsticks in China."

A Gotham gendarme with a head shaped like an over-sized darning egg snorted disdainfully.

"Yeah," he nodded, "he's the guy that started everybody callin' me 'Satchel Foot.' Mike," he complained, "my feet ain't big. It's these shoes that—"

"Well, they ain't exactly pea pods," Mike qualified. "Now if anybody asked me, I'd say you must have to back up to open a door, Kelly."

"Say," exclaimed Pat Murphy who was standing near the sergeant's desk, "ain't that Willie comin' in now? What's he want?"

It was Willie. His grinning face reminded everybody who saw him of husking bees and contented cows. Willie wore white collars that went out of date when the Kaiser got chased to the woodpile. The edges of them had worn a permanent red ring about his neck but he was always deaf to a haberdasher's argument when he went collar shopping.

WILLIE'S nose was the largest permanent fixture on his face. He had a pair of ears that looked as though they had been starched and then pushed out from the back, there to remain. His wrinkled blue serge suit had a shine like the bottom of a Dutch Hausfrau's dishpan and it fit him here and there. If Willie looked like a detective, a horned toad and a caterpillar are twins.

"Hello, Mike," said Willie. "I came down to get some collars I left here."

"How many crimes have you solved lately?" Mike tossed at him. "Too bad you got fired. Maybe you could've solved the rubout of Cornelius Drupe."

Willie raised his eyebrows but did not respond.

"Hello, Satchel Foot," he flung at the big cop who had been christened Ignatius Kelly. "How's Gertrude?"

"How should I know?" Satchel Foot roared. "You doublecrossed me with her, you comic strip Sherlock, an' don't you think I'm forgittin' it either."

"My, my, so I did," Willie beamed. "I have stole so many dames I kind of forget. Hah, so you haven't found the corpus delicti of Mr. Drupe as yet, Mike? You know the citizen was rubbed out but you can't find his shell, huh? It all seems kind of silly to me as maybe Mr. Drupe took it on the lam somewhere to get his nerves ironed out and did not even tell his wife. Maybe he went to Tahiti and didn't come back. They tell me once you meet them dolls in Tahiti—"

"Willie," Mike Gilhooley sniffed, "you are screwy. Drupe was bumped off and somebody hid the remains. Unless we find them, we will have to let a certain citizen out of jail. Without a corpus delicti or—"

"Well, they would fire me," Willie Klump interposed, mildly reproachful. "I would have busted that case wide open if I'd stayed on. You shouldn't expect to ask me how to solve it now, ha. And how is the D.A.'s liver?"

It is best that we go back and tell you about the strange disappearance of Mr. Cornelius Drupe which occurred two months ago. Mr. Drupe made quite a lucrative thing out of appraising gems of all sorts and he had been on his way to the home of one J. Gadby Digges on the night of his alleged assassination. Digges, according to witnesses the gendarmes rounded up, was a very boon companion at times of Cornelius Drupe and he admitted that Drupe had been on his way to the Digges' abode to give the head of the house the lowdown on quite a chunk of jade he had picked up on a recent trip to China.

J. Gadby Digges told the cops that he had let Drupe take the chunk of jade home with him two nights before. It seemed that Cornelius had desired peace and quiet in which to appraise the gem and that he had had his own methods of appraising and preferred to do it in secret.

Now the manhunters of Gotham figured that Cornelius had taken a runout powder with the hunk of jade and they sent out the alarm for his apprehension. That was before they found Mr. Drupe's hat in Mr. Digges' living room where the skypiece had been jammed behind a radiator. That, of course, was a very black mark against the surprised and extremely indignant J. Gadby Digges. And, before he could bat an eye he was put down as public suspect number one.

"There, Willie," Mike said, as he finished reviewing the case, "it maybe is clear enough, huh? Drupe got here all right an' Digges rubbed him out for something or other, don't you think?"

"You have got to have a motive," Willie argued. "If you found a tallow candle in my pocket, would I be an Eskimo? I think you are quite hasty about all this, Mike. Now what would be the motive for Digges rubbing out Drupe? It was his chunk of jade anyway, wasn't it?"

"Right!" Digges exploded. "Mr. Klump, I am glad to see that some of the slewfoots have a fragment of brain. Can I give you a Scotch an' soda, Mr. Klump?"

MIKE GILHOOLEY at once snagged Digges' butler and took him into a private room to deliver the works. The butler, whose name was Jeepers, told Mike and Willie that the last time Drupe called on his master there had been quite a scene and Jeepers had been afraid that it would lead to fisticuffs.

"Mr. Digges is very fond of his parrot," Jeepers said. "He is quite jealous of Captain Bligh, too, and—er—that's the parrot's name. Mr. Drupe brought the bird a handful of sunflower seeds the last few times he was here and I must say that Captain Bligh went positively screwy over them. He got so he called Mr. Drupe by name and Mr. Digges did not like that. He told Mr. Drupe that if he did not stop feeding Captain Bligh, he would hang a shanty over Mr. Drupe's eye—whatever that means, Mr. Gilhooley."

"It means," Willie explained, "that instead of taking a shine to a guy, you give him a shiner. Ain't that so, Mike?"

"Shut up, you screwball!" Gilhooley countered. "Get everybody here, Jeepers. Everybody who might have had a hand in this thing. Now let's go out and give Digges a cleanin'."

J. Gadby Digges admitted his jealousy of Captain Bligh's affections but he failed to see what-in-hell that had to do with the disappearance of Cornelius Drupe.

"Ya don't, hey?" Gilhooley cracked. "Well, Drupe come here an' fed some more seeds to the squawker an' you seen red an' bashed him. Ya hit him a little too hard an' put him into the next world. Where'd ya hide the corpse, Digges?"

"Go milk a seacow!" Digges rudely retorted. "I don't know anythin' about it. You haven't even proved he's dead yet, you egg-headed cluck!"

"You're under arrest," Gilhooley yapped. "I guess you think that red stuff on the hat there is a strawberry birthmark, huh? You're goin' to the icebox, Digges. You got a complex about that parrot and maybe a noggin examiner can prove you've got some brain cells that ain't workin' right."

"I think you'd ought to wait awhile, Mike," Willie said mildly. "You could get in a lot of trouble arrestin' an innocent guy."

Another citizen entered the Digges house just as Mike Gilhooley was getting out his steel wristlets. He was a young taxpayer who was dressed like they tell you to in College Humor, and he seemed quite indignant about having representatives of the law under foot. He told the detectives that his name was Clarence Stubb but not to let that fool them. Clarence worked in a bank and was J. Gadby Digges' nephew on his mother's side.

Willie Klump asked Clarence where he had been on the night of the supposed erasure of Drupe and the young citizen offered an alibi that sounded very good to everybody. The upshot of it was that Mike Gilhooley took J. Gadby Digges down to Headquarters and charged him with suspicion of rubbing out Cornelius Drupe, giving the skypiece with the bloodstains to the D.A. as evidence until better came along. And all this had taken place two months ago. Nothing more had been heard of Mr. Drupe so it seemed a safe bet that the gem expert was no longer in circulation.

"Well, I would suggest that you policemen do something," Willie said when he went out of Gilhooley's office. "Mrs. Drupe is getting very impatient as she cannot collect life insurance on Corny until they find his shell and Mrs. Digges has already hired ten lawyers from Philadelphia to get her husband into the clear. It was not very smart to refuse the citizen bail either, Mike. Well, good day to you all, you great big manhunters, you. I would imagine that Mrs. Drupe could use a detective who has no strings on him."

WILLIE KLUMP smiled very cryptically when he left Headquarters and headed for the nearest telephone directory. While his erstwhile brothers in duty fumed impotently, Willie was looking up Drupe's address. Soon thereafter he hopped a subterranean rattler uptown. In about half an hour Willie was ankling through a side street that leads off the Bronx River Road. At the Drupe residence he paused to check up and then hopped up the steps. It occurred to Willie that the neighborhood was quite suitable for the concealment of a corpus delicti as it was surprisingly countrified to be a part of Gotham.

Private Detective Klump, late of the plainclothes service, was admitted to the Drupe foyer where a tall, thin doll with more wrinkles than a barrel of prunes eyed him obliquely as he handed her a card.

"Hmm!" remarked Madame Drupe. "A detective. So what? Up to now I could have done as well with choir boys. You don't look like one to say the least. You're a mess, I might add, and if I were not thinking of my poor missing husband, I would burst out laughing. Sit down, Mr. Klump."

"That is the idea," Willie beamed. "If I looked like a detective, I would not be one. When I go into a den of dishonest characters, they laugh at me. That is better than bein' shot at, ain't it? That is why I will be a very good man for you, Mrs. Drupe. I have left the employ of the city and am on my own so I have not told the D.A. a lot of things I have been thinking since Mr. Drupe dropped off the tax list."

"Hurry up," Mrs. Drupe snapped. "I've got a cake in the oven."

"Now," Willie began unhurriedly, "Cornelius Drupe left home one night at ten-thirty, I think it was. That was in May and it was a very dark night. There are lonesome spots on the Bronx River Road, we know, especially on the edge of the river. He used to walk to Mr. Digges' home always. How far away is that, huh?"

"About a mile and a half," Mrs. Drupe replied. She added impatiently: "Oh, they dragged the river but they didn't find anything. I am sure he was killed by that terrible Digges. They say he talked to that parrot like it was a son and anybody who grow, Mrs. Drupe," Willie said with a funny grin. "Nature is funny that way. But no matter who is arrested, we got to have a corpse to show or we don't have a case, see? The idea is to find Mr. Drupe before we do anything else. Now I am just starting out in business an' I can't eat my desk an' chair so if you want Mr. Drupe cleared of suspicion of taking it on the lam with Mr. Digges' jade and if you want some proof that he was rubbed out so the insurance companies will listen to you, er—I'm willin' to listen to a reasonable offer." He grinned broadly, wiggled his ears and waited hopefully.

"I'll pay you two thousand dollars," Mrs. Drupe declared, "if you find—er— my husband. Oh-h-h-h, isn't it terrible?" she wailed.

"It is no Keystone comedy," Willie admitted. "Well—I'll—there's the doorbell. Never mind answering it as he is already coming in. Hel-lo Mike!"

"What're you doin' here, you crackpot?" Mike Gilhooley snorted. "If you interfere with the processes of law—"

"Tsk-tsk, Mike," Willie countered, "it interferes enough with itself by hiring detectives like you. Mrs. Drupe has hired a good one—me—to clear up the disappearance of Cornelius Drupe. I cannot remain to bandy words with you as I do not let grass grow under my feet when I am on a case."

"Mrs. Drupe," Mike thundered, "I come here to ask some more questions. You should not be impatient as the State of New York is no penny-ante concern. This punk here could not catch a criminal if he was stuck in a telephone booth."

"He could not do worse than you people from Headquarters," Mrs. Drupe retorted. "What have you caught?"

"Give us time, Mrs. Drupe, give us time. Findin' a body ain't no cinch when it ain't got a headstone or nothin' over it,"

got too friendly with it was chased out of the house. There are all kinds of insanity, aren't there Mr. Klump? Oh-h-h, poor Cornelius!" She covered her seamed map with one hand and waved the other in the air.

"The butler now," Willie went on. "Jeepers, I understand? Ha, he sure thinks his boss killed Corn—Mr. Drupe—all right. He spilled a lot down at Headquarters and I found out why, Mrs. Drupe. Jeepers did quite a stretch up in the big house and he got the sentence because Mr. Drupe testified at the trial. He was quite a smart boy. He lifted the rocks from a doll coming out of a Broadway hot spot and then went down and had a set of paste ones made and offered them to the doll through the Lost and Found columns for a thousand bucks' reward.

"He turned over the phony rocks and kept the real ones plus his thousand. But the guy who made the paste sparklers for Jeepers didn't get what was coming and he squealed. Mr. Drupe, I recall, testified as to the paste rocks to help cinch the case against Jeepers. Jeepers guessed that Mr. Drupe might have recognized him and would be thinking of spilling his past to the boss so it would be to his advantage to have Mr. Drupe—er—put away. I get around a lot, Mrs. Drupe. I picked up a letter that Jeepers had dropped in his room the night Mike Gilhooley and me put him through the mill.

"The print on it I had matched with some that they've got downtown. So there is a good chance that Jeepers is the assassin and he no doubt got that hunk of jade, too. He would plant the hat in Mr. Digges' living room to make it look—"

"THEN arrest that man!" Mrs. Drupe shrilled. "What're you waiting for?"

"Oh, it takes things a long time to grow, Mrs. Drupe," Willie said with a funny grin. "Nature is funny that way. But no matter who is arrested, we got to have a corpse to show or we don't have a case, see? The idea is to find Mr. Drupe before we do anything else. Now I am just starting out in business an' I can't eat my desk an' chair so if you want Mr. Drupe cleared of suspicion of taking it on the lam with Mr. Digges' jade and if you want some proof that he was rubbed out so the insurance companies will listen to you, er—I'm willin' to listen to a reasonable offer." He grinned broadly, wiggled his ears and waited hopefully.

"I'll pay you two thousand dollars," Mrs. Drupe declared, "if you find—er— my husband. Oh-h-h-h, isn't it terrible?" she wailed.

"It is no Keystone comedy," Willie admitted. "Well—I'll—there's the doorbell. Never mind answering it as he is already coming in. Hel-lo Mike!"

"What're you doin' here, you crackpot?" Mike Gilhooley snorted. "If you interfere with the processes of law—"

"Tsk-tsk, Mike," Willie countered, "it interferes enough with itself by hiring detectives like you. Mrs. Drupe has hired a good one—me—to clear up the disappearance of Cornelius Drupe. I cannot remain to bandy words with you as I do not let grass grow under my feet when I am on a case."

"Mrs. Drupe," Mike thundered, "I come here to ask some more questions. You should not be impatient as the State of New York is no penny-ante concern. This punk here could not catch a criminal if he was stuck in a telephone booth."

"He could not do worse than you people from Headquarters," Mrs. Drupe retorted. "What have you caught?"

"Give us time, Mrs. Drupe, give us time. Findin' a body ain't no cinch when it ain't got a headstone or nothin' over it," Mike argued. "Willie, you get in my way an' I'll massage you, you—"

"I will not fight in the presence of a lady," Willie said sternly. "But if you care to step outside, I will hit you in the nose so hard you will have to sneeze backward for the rest of your life."

"Oh ye-e-e-a-a-a-ah? Well, here's what I'll do, you—"


"That's what I did!" Mrs. Cornelius Drupe yipped. "Now get out, you big halfwit, or I will hit you with the mate to that vase. Mr. Klump, I will be waiting for news from you. Good day!"

"I'll get even!" Mike Gilhooley howled as he clambered to his feet and brushed glass out of the brim of his hat. "You wait, Willie Klump! I'll—"

"Here's my card," Willie said, tossing one into Mike's hat. "If you want police protection in the future—ha-ha!"

Willie went downtown to his office and looked over the mail. There were two circular letters from a loan association and one from the outfit that owned the building. They wanted Willie to pay some rent. Undismayed, Willie tossed the mail into a basket and began to jot down notes on a tablet of paper. Willie wrote:

No.1—Drupe didn't run away with the gem. His hat was left behind and it sure wasn't ketchup that was on it.

No.2—Digges might have killed Drupe because he kept feeding sunflower seeds to Captain Bligh. Guys go screwy in lots of ways. But if he did, where did he hide the corpus delicti without nobody seeing him?

No.3—The Bronx River Road is lonesome and has a lot of places where there's no houses. Drupe could have been murdered there. But Digges would not take Drupe's hat back home with him. The hunk of jade would be in Digges' house, too, but nobody has found it after turning the place, upside down.

No. 4—Jeepers could have bumped off Drupe. The bosco had a reason. Jeepers could have got out that night from the room without Digges or the family knowing it and he could have waylaid Drupe and dusted him off. But the cops never found a place that looked like it had been dug up along the edge of the river. So where was Drupe buried? That's the ketch!

No.5—Clarence. He don't look as if he would have the nerve to go out at night less to a hot spot where there was lots of lights. Clarence says he was in a Harlem night club the night Drupe evaporated and the owner of the hot spot says so too. He ought to know as he took Clarence for a thousand bucks in a crap game. Dresses nice, Clarence does. That was a new paternity pin he had on his watch chain. Looked pretty shiny. Had a diamond in it. Clarence don't need money if he can buy them things after losing that much dough with the galloping dominoes.

No.6—Mrs. Drupe. Maybe she wanted Corny's insurance and conked him herself that night. She could burn him up in the furnace and then—nope, how would she get his hat into Digges' house? Looks like it was Jeepers or maybe Drupe did light out with the hunk of jade and made it look like he was crooked. Tough case.

WILLIE KLUMP thought he would go and call at the Digges domicile after he had wrestled with his notes for awhile. He went back uptown and found Mike Gilhooley leading Jeepers out the front door of the Digges' abode.

"Well, Willie, you're a little late," Mike chortled. "I got the guy who bumped off Drupe now. We'll sweat him dry an' make him tell where he buried the remains. Too bad, an' you needin' money so bad, Willie! Jeepers here is an ex-con and he bumped off Drupe because he figured he'd lose his job and at the same time he counted on using a piece of jade. It takes real detectives to hunt down dishonest criminals. Willie, if you need a buck or two—"

"It is quite all right," Willie interrupted blithely. "I don't expect to win my first case, Mike. I knew all the time that Jeepers did a stint in the stir on the Hudson. It did not mean anything to me because you still have no corpus delicti to go on, have you? And I imagine Jeepers will be quite close-mouthed no matter how much rubber hose you wear out on his noggin. Did you find the morsel of jade in his room?"

"Oh, we'll make him squawk," Mike said confidently. "He'll tell us where Drupe is, or else—"

"Good luck," said Willie, "but don't forget to duck when they release J. Gadby Digges, will you? I have an idea he will be pretty sore about his stay downtown."

It was five o'clock when Willie went down to his office and took a suitcase from under a small secondhand couch. Willie shaved and put on a clean collar and was ready for a heavy date. Willie could see no reason why he should not sleep in his office, too. Why owe rent on two places? He would get a small electric stove on which to cook when he got paid for a case, if ever.

Willie went over to Fifty-second Street and Eighth Avenue and waited outside of a small lunchroom until a slim blond doll came forth. He tipped his hat and grinned: "Hello, Gertrude. You're a bigger eyeful than a cinder. Let's go where there is music and whoopee!"

"Willie Klump," the blonde scolded, "if cocktails were selling at a nickel a washtubful, you would not be able to buy enough to paste down a cowlick in your hair. It's the 'Automat' for us."

"Aw," objected Willie, "I still have eleven dollars. I figured on havin' two grand in a few weeks or less. Tonight I am a playboy. Let's go to 'The Full House,' Gertie."

"Don't you think you ought to hunt for a job?" Gertie asked Willie when the headwaiter had hidden them behind a post. "Maybe you ain't a detective."

"They said George Washington wasn't an electrician until he flew the kite the day of the thunderstorm," Willie retorted.

"That wasn't Washington, you dumbbell," Gertie snapped. "That was Thomas Edison. You'd ought to have stayed in school, Willie. Maybe you ain't cut out to be a detective."

"No? Well, I'll show 'em yet! I— where's my knife? How can I eat without—hey waiter!"

"Knife?" Gertie repeated disgustedly. "You got it in your left hand, flea-brain. Willie, you give up tryin' to find crooks. If you lose somethin' you got a hold of—"

"Let's dance," Willie suggested. "That is one thing I am a wow at."

After a couple of whirls around the floor Gertie wailed: "You ought to have four legs, Willie, then maybe you could keep two feet on the floor. Let's sit down before I am crippled. I don't know why I ever give up Kelly for you. You don't seem to amount to nothin'!"

"Oh no? Well—ugh! Pardon me, ma'am. I wasn't lookin'."

She was a very spiffy looking number that Willie had bumped into. The citizen with her was boiled to the scalp and Willie was quite amazed to see that it was Clarence Stubb.

"Uh—er—hello, Mr. Butt," he called out. "Funny us meetin' here, huh? Guess you remember—"

"Wha-a-a-a? You inshulted my frien'," Clarence gurgled. "Meansh coffee an' pishtolsh at shunrishe. Here—look—I shlap you in fashe—shee? My shecond'll tell you where we fight duel—pinshtolsh or shworsh, you c-cad—hic!"

"No sweet-smellin' gigolo kin swat me," Willie yipped, trying to detach himself from a pair of waiters who looked as if they had been weaned on tiger chops. "Duel, huh? I only need my dukes— lemme go! I am a detective an'—"

THE waiters let Willie go. He ended up out in the street. He was sitting on the sidewalk looking at the card Clarence Stubb had given him when Gertie tripped out. Her chin was pointed toward a Wrigley sign and she passed Willie by as if he were a disreputable stogie butt.

"Bum!" she remarked in passing. "I never was so embarrassed in my life."

"That is dames for you," Willie said when a cop told him to scram before he tossed him into the clink. "His card, huh? He was scalded all right, that playboy. Huh, a duel at sunrise. I wouldn't get up before eleven to fight nobody. He'll get stood up, the fathead."

A little bruised from bumping downstairs from The Full House, Willie limped across town and went into the office building where he had his alleged place of business. He went up via the freight elevator and entered his sanctum and snapped on a light. At his desk he proceeded to study Clarence Stubb's card.

"Well, well," said Willie, "citizens like Clarence should not get spiffed. He got his signals mixed. Gertie give me the air, huh? Well wait until she reads about me in the papers." Having unburdened himself of these observations, Willie Klump, president, vice-president, secretary- treasurer of the Hawk-Eye Detective Agency, pulled some blankets and a pillow out of an old file cabinet and made his bed.

Willie Klump awoke much refreshed and counted his capital.

"Ha-ha," he chuckled, "they tossed me out before I paid the bill. Why should I have got sore? Now I can eat once more." After he had shaved he went down to the street and bought a newspaper which he read while dunking doughnuts in his java.

There was a story about the arrest of another suspect in the supposed rubout of Cornelius Drupe and whoever had written it had put in a lot of nice things about Mike Gilhooley. Gilhooley, said the scribe, was the type of detective that the taxpayers did not mind supporting as Gilhooley got results. Jeepers, it seemed, was the assassin as he had motives from no matter what angle you looked at it. He had a yen for gems that belonged to other people and his stretch in the pen had proved it. Mike Gilhooley was quoted as saying:

"Yeah, Jeepers is the guilty man. All we got to do is find where he unloaded the hunk of jade and then we'll have him booked for the hot seat with Exhibit A— Drupe's hat. He'll own up where he hid the corpse when we find where he disposed of the jade."

"Nice work," Willie said aloud and the counterman looked at him and picked up a carving knife for protection. "It's a caution how people believe everything they read in the papers. The boys downtown have overlooked a very important angle. They have forgotten about Captain Bligh. But not so William Klump. A certain taxpayer will wish that parrot never was born if we get nice weather for the next few days. I would hate to work too much out in the open when it is raining." And Willie dug down into the pocket of his shiny blue serge vest for another look at a calling card.

Three days later Horatio Jeepers, J. Gadby' Digges' butler, was still emulating the well known clam. Willie Klump went downtown one afternoon to see Mike Gilhooley work on the flunkey and Jeepers just sat in a chair and looked straight ahead as if he were at the movies.

"So ya won't talk yet, ha-a-ah?" Mike ripped out.

"That is not very original," Willie chided him. "Why don't you say 'please' to the nice mans?"

"Who let you in?" Mike bellowed. "Get out of here, you—"

"I am a detective retained by the wife of the corpse you are trying to find," Willie stated. "I know my rights, ha-ha! Jeepers, maybe you will answer me if I whisper in your ear. Did you ever hear of a taxpayer by the name of Willoughby Sharper?"

"It's a lie!" Jeepers suddenly coughed out, his poker pan turning the color of a mackerel's tummy.

"That is all I wanted to know," said Willie Klump, and Mike Gilhooley howled: "What did you ask him? Look here, Willie Klump, you let us police in on—"

"You couldn't pay me," Willie reminded Mike. "Anyway, it is just a hunch I got. Well, so long! I hope you've enjoyed your little chat with Jeepers."

WILLIE KLUMP worked fast after eleven in the morning. He was a slow starter, like a ten-year-old four- cylinder jalope, but once in high, he stepped. He hustled from Headquarters to an address on John Street and went up in a creaky elevator to the seventeenth floor. On a certain door there was a name but there was nobody behind the door. Willie sought out the superintendent of the building and he told Willie that the citizen in question had lammed owing a month's rent.

"I am not surprised," said Willie. "Well, I guess I have things pretty near cinched if I only get in a few nice strolls along the Bronx River Road. Lonesome country up there, y'know. Three or four houses along there empty and fences around 'em."

The superintendent's eyes bugged out and he started to back away. "What're ya talkin' about?"

"Oh you wouldn't know," replied Willie abstractedly. "Thanks an awful lot an' here's a cigar—two of 'em. If they ain't good, I'm out a nickel."

A week later Willie Klump boarded a rattler that carried him uptown. In mid- afternoon of a very balmy day, while Mike Gilhooley and all the other detectives on the big town payroll were still trying to sweat Jeepers, the butler, into a confession, Willie walked aimlessly along the Bronx River Road. Two blocks from the street leading to the Digges' residence, Willie ambled off the beaten path and went into a lane that was very rustic looking for a city as big as New York.

There were two or three houses on that undeveloped street with windows which literally yawned their emptiness. Willie stopped in front of one and looked about him. Deciding that he was unobserved, he ducked in through a gate into a backyard. He glanced around hastily, then shook his head and went out again. Next he cased the neglected garden of the second house. There Willie Klump let out a very surprised exclamation.

"An empty house," Willie commented. "Nothin' been planted here for a couple of years, I bet. So what is that sunflower doin' in the corner of this yard? A very big sunflower it will be, too, and it should have very big seeds when it is grown up." Willie took a deep breath and approached the plant. Down on his knees, began to dig.

About four inches down, Willie's fingers came into contact with something that was very clammy and he felt his spine curl up like a burning match. He brushed beads of sweat as big as ping pong balls from his brow, leaving muddy streaks in the furrows. Willie got up on wabbly legs, left the neighborhood and followed the River Road until he came to a drug store at a small business intersection. There he called up the nearest precinct station.

"Hello. Yeah. This is W. Klump, president of the Hawk-Eye Detective Agency. I have just located the missing corpse of Cornelius Drupe. Come right away, all you boys, so's you will be on deck when he is all dug up. I want you to bring a shovel if you don't mind. I will be waitin' in front of the Wakefield Arms so you pick me up."

"If this is a gag," a voice growled over the wire, "we'll make somebody sweat for it."

"I ain't kiddin'. Step on it."

A car filled with cops picked Willie Klump up a few minutes later and he showed the way to the vacant house and the one-corpse graveyard out in back. Two husky gendarmes went to work unearthing the remains of Mr. Drupe. When the unlovely specimen which was uncovered was examined more closely, Mr. Drupe was found to be clutching something in his fist. The sunflower had taken root quite close to Mr. Drupe's chest.

"THAT was what I was hopin'," said Willie. "That he would be carryin' some of them seeds to feed Mr. Digges' parrot with. I guess I could've located him sooner but I ain't no farmer and don't know how fast sunflowers grow. I guess I know what is in Mr. Drupe's hand, too. It is a paternity pin. I want you should immediately arrest Mr. Digges' nephew, Clarence Stubb."

"You sure don't look bright," a big cop grinned, "but ya can't judge a book by its cover, huh? Willie Klump, huh? Detective."

"Here's my card," said Willie.

Now the terrific piece of news that went thundering downtown tipped Mike Gilhooley and the D.A. right out of their swivel chairs. They went up to the morgue to take a gander at the remains of Cornelius Drupe and Willie was right at the door to meet them.

"Come in, boys," he greeted them. "Glad to see you. You can forget all about the Drupe case as it is washed up like a fifty-year-old southpaw. Yes, Clarence was apprehended just twenty minutes ago. He broke down and spilled the works. It seems Clarence was a high stepper and needed ready sugar as a Harlem hot spot owner had quite a habit of loading his dice. Dames are expensive, too, and Clarence had a passion for them. I bumped into his latest one at The Full House one night. Clarence got very nasty and challenged me to a duel at sunrise. You know how silly that was. Imagine a detective gittin' up before eleven when he's in business for himself! He was swacked and he handed me his card—or that was what he thought. It was really the card of a very dishonest person who handles hot gems as I soon found out when I mentioned his name to Jeepers. I went down to call on that citizen but he had taken it on the lam. Well, when I first met Clarence, I noticed that he wore a very brand new paternity pin and as he had been out of college maybe ten years, why should he have to buy a new one? So I said to myself, Willie, maybe Mr. Drupe ripped it off Clarence's watch chain while he was being croaked on the lonesome river road and Clarence did not discover it until he had buried his victim. And of course Clarence could not take a chance on diggin' him up again because—am I goin' too fast, boys?"

"Nuts," Mike Gilhooley snorted. "Of all the lucky—"

"Clarence probably got the jitters just thinkin' about the defunct after it was all over. You see, he knew that Drupe was coming to his Uncle Cornelius' house to return the jade and he figured it was a likely way to get mazuma. Then he figured he'd better plant the hat so's Digges would get blamed if it was found. Quite a rat, Clarence, ain't he?" Willie shook his head dolefully. "Now why didn't you think that Cornelius Drupe might've had sunflower seeds on him when he was assassinated, huh?"

"I give up," Mike groaned.

"You'd oughter," Willie said severely. "Well, I must collect my fee now. Clarence must have parked a shovel out there the night before he croaked Drupe because them lily-white fingers of his never could dig a grave. Premeditated murder, that's what. He'll get the hot seat sure. Clarence must've used a piece of lead pipe to croak Cornelius with as you have all seen what Mr. Drupe's noggin looks like. Wonder why dishonest criminals don't remember that crime don't pay? Hm, good evenin', gentlemen."

NEXT day Willie Klump deposited a good-sized check in a bank near Headquarters. When he emerged from the imposing portals, a familiar voice hailed him.

"Oh, Willie," Gertie Mudget called, "you're simpully won-n-der-ful!"

"Beg pardon?" said Willie, eyebrows vanishing under his hair. "You have made a mistake, lady. I never seen you before in my life."

Two hours later Willie woke up. He had an igloo of fair proportions on his noggin and there were newspaper reporters all around his hospital bed.

"Who slugged you, Mr. Klump?"

"Some friend of Stubb's tried to get you, huh, Mr. Klump?"

"Did you get a look at the guy, Mr. Klump?"

"I ain't talkin'," Willie replied weakly. Privately he wondered why some dames carried anvils in their handbags.