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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:

HAWK-EYE DETECTIVE AGENCY.
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 Willie wore white collars that went out of date when the Kaiser got chased to the woodpile.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 ...

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