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Blonde Madness

By Arthur Humbolt

"Blonde Beauty Murdered," blared the headlines. Innocent young girls had been slain? mutilated! Was it the work of some maniac killer—some fiend in human form?

IT was twenty minutes to nine P. M. and Hal Parker had his battered coupe up to its wheezy limit as he batted along the ten mile strip of concrete between Sharpsburg and Marvin. He was already ten minutes late for his regular Wednesday night date with the most glorious blonde in the world, Anita Moss, and dates with Anita were warm, blissful events to remember for days. Marvin was still well over ten minutes away.

A grin twisted Hal's wide, hard-lipped mouth as he pictured the stubborn set of Anita's sweetly curved body, her full, hot lips, and he trod heavier on the gas pedal. He'd been late last week, and the week before that. Anita's be plenty sore; but, heck, a cub reporter on a sheet like the Sharpsburg Star had to stay on the job, or else.

The tanned skin of his square-jawed face wrinkled about the corners of his wide-set brown eyes as he squinted through the headlights streaking over the pavement

What was that up ahead? Looked like—yeah. A down-and-out bum stumbling out of a side road on the right. Probably stewed to the gills and might wander in front of a speeding car.

Unconsciously, Hal's foot eased up on the gas as he neared the swaying figure, then his muscular body stiffened abruptly, his feet tramped the brake. and clutch.

That bum wasn't drunk! He was half-running, half- staggering looking back over his shoulder as if afraid. He was running from something!

Even as Hal looked, the bum struck the edge of the pavement tripped and went sprawling. He pawed frantically to his feet and staggered toward the car. Hal could see that he was a typical Weary-Willie, clad in cast-off clothing.

Brakes squealed as the reporter jammed to a stop beside the man. He kicked open the right hand door of the car.

"What's the matter with??" he started, then stopped, his hands clammy, gripping the wheel, the cold chill of horror racing up his spine.

THE man framed in the open doorway was a blood- smeared human scare-crow. Blood-shot eyes stared wildly from a bony, un-shaven face. There was a streak of dried blood slashed across the narrow forehead. Stringy hair jutted from numerous holes in a battered hat His skinny, rag-clad body jerked spasmodically and ropy saliva drooled from his blubbering lips. His left hand was covered with a sickening mess of blood that reached to the bony wrist

"God, Mister!" he croaked, pawing at the open door to keep his grotosque body erect. "She ain't got no arms! I tell you, she ain't got no arms!"

Hal felt the hair on his neck stir. He'd seen that face before—staring from a warning poster at the Sharpsburg Police Headquarters. The words of the warning bit like fire into his brain. The bum was a mad fiend wanted for the brutal assault of at least three young women!

And the reporter was without a weapon. He wetted his dry lips.

"Who hasn't any arms?" he asked, keeping his voice steady with an effort. "Where?"

The bum looked fearfully over his shoulder at the dark side road and pushed closer to the reporter. Hal caught the rank odor of unwashed clothing and flesh, pushed back under the wheel and lighted a cigarette blowing the smoke out through his nostrils.

"D—down, that there side road, Mister," whimpered the bum. "I was comin' out to the highway to t'umb a ride, an' it was dark an,' I couldn't see nothin'. I tripped over somethin', an' I struck a match to see what it was, an' it was a dame, Mister! A little blonde dame! She aint got no clothes on, an' she ain't got no arms!"

"Yeah?" the reporter queried through the smoke cloud about his head. Humor the man, kid him along and try to get him back to Sharpsburg. "Climb on the running-board, buddy," he invited. "We'll run up that side road, take a look at your armless nightmare, then roll on to Sharpsburg." The bum started to protest. "Get on!" urged Hal "I'm in a hurry!"

TWO hundred feet down the dark side road and Hal felt cold sweat bead out over his body. The bright shaft of his headlights had picked up the white figure of a naked woman lying in the dust of the road some distance ahead. He jam...

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