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The Case of The Squealing Duck

by George B. Anderson

Danny Dole tried to put them in the aisles as a comedian, but the Crime File of Flamond said something about murder—and it wasn't funny...

FLAMOND'S office door swung open and framed an amazing little man in a brilliant purple suit. A yellow sports shirt and violent hand-painted necktie added voltage to the ensemble, but the clothes weren't as loud as the little man who filled them. He looked explosive.

Flamond's jaw hung open. Even Sandra Lake, his sleek blonde secretary who had grown accustomed to startling clients, looked a trifle startled herself.

The little man took two quick, short steps forward and then a long, slow one. It was an entrance. When he spoke in a raspy, metallic voice, both the detective and his secretary had to stifle an impulse to laugh.

"My name's Danny Dole, Flamond," the little man said. "I guess I don't haffta tell you any more."

"Not unless you want to, I suppose," Flamond answered.

Sandra turned on her smile. "Oh—the night club comedian—of course!"

That clicked the switch and Danny Dole lit up. "Yeah—night club, musical comedy, movies, radio—I guess they know me just about any place."

Flamond was unimpressed. "I don't go in much for night life."

"That's right, doggone it," Sandra grinned. "But you really are a night club celebrity, Mr. Dole."

Danny lit a cigaret with a flourish, focusing an invisible spotlight on his gold- ribbed Dunhill lighter. "Yeah," he said, "I suppose I am. I always think, the celebrities come to catch my act—but I guess I'm one, too. And I'd sorta like to go on bein' one."

His voice went to an amazing falsetto. "My problem, Mister Ant'ony, is—aw nuts, it ain't funny. Here!"

He shoved a penny postcard at Flamond. Scrawled in pencil across the face of the card were the words, "You're a dead duck, Danny."

Flamond came to attention. "You think this is a death threat?"

"I dunno," Danny admitted. "Whatever it is, it isn't good. Somebody's tryin' to louse me up, for sure."

"There've been attempts against your life?"

"Not that." Danny shook his head. "But somebody is tryin' to crab my act, kill my laughs, keep my best material from gettin' across."

Flamond made a wry face. "Mr. Dole," he said, "I don't know a thing about night club material. I don't know how people kill laughs. When I investigate a killing, it's another kind."

Dole grinned. "I know all about you. I listen to your radio show every week. 'Flamond,' " he mimicked the announcer's voice, " 'famous psychologist and character analyst, who looks beyond laughter and tears, jealously and greed, to discover their basic origins.' Your bein' a showman was one reason I came to you."

FLAMOND winced. "I'm not a showman. My more interesting file cards are used for a series of radio mystery dramas."

"And this psychology business of yours," Dole continued. "I like that because there's some of the old psychology stuff connected with what's bein' done to me. There's angles I don't get; and they tell me you're the hottest guy on angles in the country."

"Just what," Flamond demanded, "are you worried about—your life or somebody spoiling your night club act?"

"Both," Danny said solemnly. "With me, bein' made to look like a cellar-club ham is a matter of life and death. If you'd spent years learning your timing and how to sock a gag, and you'd learned your lessons to the point where they'd started payin' off—after sluggin' your way to the top—and all of a sudden you started playin' to audiences that acted like you was givin' a funeral sermon for their best friend—" He looked to Sandra for help.

"Who's trying to spoil your act, Mr. Dole?" she asked.

"And why should anyone be that jealous of you?" Flamond demanded.

Danny tapped the ash from his cigaret onto the carpet. "You know what I'm drawin' down at the Club Lisetta? Fifteen hundred bucks a week. And not newspaper publicity dough, either. Cash."

Flamond was thoughtful. "That postcard threat looked like a death threat," he admitted. "Any idea where it came from?"

"Sure," Danny said. Flamond and Sandra both showed surprise. "The same person that killed my duck-hunting gag deader than a stiff on a morgue slab last night." The thought of it brought anguish to his face.

"What was the gag?" Sandra prompted.

"It's a wow, the way I do it." Danny went into action. "Never fails to get five boff laughs with a sock finish. Stops the show cold sometimes. It's a whole routine, see? I go through the imaginary motions of gettin' ready to shoot. I'm crouched down in the duck blind. I get my shotgun up to my shoulder—all make believe, see? No gun, no nothin'. And then I make with the imaginary trigger."

Flamond was dead-pan. "When does the laugh come?"

"Right then. When I make with this imaginary trigger, a dead duck drops down from the ceiling, right over the heads of the customers. It's the funniest, bedraggledest-lookin' duck you ever see in your life. I had it made up special."

Sandra made a face. "How cute," she said. "Flamond, wouldn't it be a scream to get a dead duck in your soup?"

"That's where the laugh comes," Danny protested. "Nobody gets the duck. Everybody's scared they're gonna. But this duck is suspended by a thin wire. On accounta the dim lights an' all, you can't see what's holding the duck up, but it quits fallin' about ten feet above the folks' heads."

"Yes." Flamond nodded thoughtfully. "I can see how that might get a laugh. The discomfiture motive."

"It's a socko," Danny agreed, "but last night it was strictly from hunger. I pull the trigger and nothin' happens. There I am caught with my pants in the sprocket and my New Departure coaster brake not workin'."

"Mechanical contrivances sometimes get temperamental," Flamond suggested. "Did you look over the gadget that's supposed to release the duck?"

"Sure," Danny said. "An' somebody'd put in a new spring and release lever that was too strong to let the duck fall. I got a hunch it was Sheila Ray."

"SHEILA RAY! What a nice name," Sandra said.

"There's nothin' nice about her," Danny said. "She gets by on her looks and," he eyed Sandra appreciatively, "you could give her eight to five odds there. But if it wasn't for her—uh—curves, her voice wouldn't get her a job callin' trains in Winapausaukee, North Dakota. She drools songs into a mike, and had the top spot on the show til I come in. Then she got second billing. She stayed."

"Do you have any proof that she rewired your duck gadget," Flamond asked.

"Not an eye-ota," Danny admitted. "But it sure killed my big laugh."

"I think somebody's interested in killing more than laughs, Mr. Dole," Flamond said. "We'll catch your act tonight and then talk things over after the show."

"Fine," Danny beamed. "I'll see you get a ringside table. And don't worry about the tab. It's on me." H...

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