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Bright Bulb

Sam Merwin, Jr.

A quick-thinking girl photographer throws some
light on the subject when the law's in the dark

BENDING almost double so that the gardenia in her newly set brown hair would not be knocked awry, Rae Gibson slipped underneath and in back of the bar. Nudging Gus, the barman, out of her line of fire with a sharp, white-gloved little elbow, she lined up her target.

She readied the bulb in her Speed- Graphic and rose swiftly, a slim, pretty girl with curves in the right places and a determined little chin. The bulb flared briefly, blindingly, and Zelda Handley, sensational blond star of the Zombie Revue, was registered, cooling over a drink with her newest escort.

It would, Rae reflected, be a good shot in spite of the big lug with the dark glasses who had elected to play human cyclorama to the more engaging foreground couple. Deftly she ducked back out from under the bar.

As she straightened up, Rae found her passage blocked by Zelda Handley's companion. When she had snapped him, he had been smiling. But he wasn't smiling now.

"Okay, miss," he said in a low voice, which managed to convey plenty of force. "I'll take that film." He was holding a ten- dollar bill.

"Sorry," said Rae. "No sale."

She didn't know why she had said it, once it was out. Ten dollars was a lot more than the picture was likely to be worth. But something about this tall stranger's assumption of command rubbed her the wrong way.

"I shan't raise the ante," he said, polite but still firm. "Miss Handley doesn't wish to be photographed."

Rae snorted. Zelda Handley didn't want publicity any more than a shark wanted food—and more food. Since scoring her success in the Zombie Revue, the oh-so- blond Zelda had been photographed in various states of fetching dress and undress from photographers' studios to the North River piers by way of the Bronx Zoo, where she had posed willingly with a lioness to compare tawniness of tresses.

Rae's interlocutor had the grace to turn red. But he failed to give ground.

"Do you like photographing people against their will?" he inquired. "Are you happy at this sort of thing?"

"I couldn't be happier, really I couldn't, or could I?" countered Rae, resenting his sarcasm.

"Okay, I'll make it twenty," he said grudgingly.

"Keep on talking," said Rae. "You might as well, since your damozel seems to have lammed. Meanwhile, I have business to attend—"

SHE stopped, for he had vanished as suddenly as he had app...

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