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Clancy, Detective

The first of a captivating series detailing the exploits of
the most interesting detective since Sherlock Holmes
the author of "Madagascar Gold" and "Geyser Reef."

By H. Bedford-Jones

HALF a second more, and the truck would have backed the little old man out of existence. It was one of those traffic jams for which Paris is famous, at the corner of the narrow Rue Caumartin. Caught between two lines of taxicabs, oblivious of the truck coming at him from behind, with everybody vociferously shouting at everybody else, the old chap stood bewildered and hesitant, or so I thought.

Consequently, I made a grab for him, rushed him under the nose of a taxi, and literally carried him to the sidewalk. There, to my surprise, he turned on me savagely with a flood of French.

"Save your breath," I said. "I don't savvy half what you say, anyhow—"

His face lighted up and he switched into English.

"American, are you? Well, what the purgatory do you mean by assaulting me that way?"

"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "When a man saves your life, you jump on him! In another—"

"Oh, you make me tired!" he snapped. "You're another fool tourist who thinks this is America. Don't you know such things don't happen here? They have jams, but accidents are rare, and they never run over anyone except—"

"Suit yourself," I told him. "In another jiffy you'd have been the exception, that's all."

He laughed suddenly and put out his hand. "Thanks," he said. "I was thinking about something, to tell the truth. Perhaps you're right. Allow me—"

He extended a card. I read: "Peter J. Clancy, D.D.S.," and then heard the suggestion that we have a drink. I assented.

"Sorry I haven't a card, Doc," I said. "My finances haven't extended that far yet. I came over here to take a newspaper job, got done out of it, and am on my way to book steerage home again. Here's a cafe. My name's Jim Logan."

We strolled into the cafe and ordered a drink, and I took stock of Clancy.

He was a queer duck. He was small, about five foot five in his boots, and had long gray hair and a gray imperial. His clothes were black once, perhaps, but now they were greenish and frayed; he wore the red ribbon of the Legion in his buttonhole. His face was wrinkled—kindly, shrewd wrinkles, they were—and his eyes were very bright, of a piercing gray. He wore the wide-brimmed black felt hat of the Parisian, and looked as French as they make them.

"Glad to meet you, Logan," he said. "I've lived here fifteen years, and sometimes I get pretty homesick. So you're going back steerage, eh?"

"Anyway at all," I said, sipping my Rossi. "This is the land of liberty, all right, but what I need is a job and not liberty."

"Very well," he said, with a nod. "I'll give you a job—if you can tell me the difference between a Sydney View and a Saint Helena grilled."

FOR a moment he had me stumped, until I saw in his eyes that he was earnest enough, and deadly serious. Then I laughed. If this was a test, he had chosen it just right for me!

"The difference would be about a hundred dollars, if both were in good condition," I said. "Or, the difference between high value and worthlessness, as you prefer."

"Good!" he exclaimed. "Then you collect stamps?"

"I don't," I told him frankly. "But I used to. And I know a good deal about 'em. Do you?"

"Everybody in France does," he said. "Bless my soul, this is providential, Logan! Do you know, I'm really in need of you? Can you speak French?"

"Army French," I said. "I can understand it perfectly, but I'm no linguist."

"Better and better! And I perceive you're something of a boxer, from the way you handled your feet. You're powerful, you have a good brain, and you're not afraid to look at a dead man, or you'd not be in the newspaper game. I can use all these qualities."

"How?" I asked, rather amused, to tell the truth. "Pulling molars?"

"No." He glanced at his watch and paid for the drinks, with a careful French tip. "We've got time—just. Have you a pencil? Give me that card of mine."

I gave him card and pencil. He scribbled a few words in French and returned them to me.

"My office is at 33 Bis, Rue Cambon," he said. "Second floor, French style—you'd call it the third. You have some money?"

"Enough for my steerage passage home."

"Good. I needed a messenger—and I have him." He drew me out on the sidewalk as he spoke. "Take a taxi and go to the Préfecture of Police, the central bureau on the Ile de la Cité. Ask for the préfect himself—show this card. It'll get you instant admittance. Tell him I want to take over the case of the stamp dealer Colette, who was murdered this morning in his shop in Rue St. Honoré, just around the corner. Tell him I'll go there at twelve-thirty and want him to have all arrangements made to put me in charge."

I took him by the arm.

"Listen, Doc," I said quietly. "This cat can jump three ways. Either you're crazy, you're trying to work a practical joke on a tourist, or else I'm in over my head. Which is it?"

He looked at me, and broke into a laugh.

"Oh! I forgot to explain, Logan. You see, I'm pretty well known at the Préfecture, but my connection must remain unknown to the public at large. I often take over interesting cases. This is most interesting—"

"Are you a dentist or a detective?" I demanded.

"Both," he said. "And good either way, young man! I'll give you a hundred a month—not francs, but dollars—and all the rewards that happen along, to throw in with me."

"You're on," I said. "I'll take a chance once, anyhow, and if the préfect kicks me out, no harm done. I'll be back at your office by noon, if this is on the level; if not, I'll be back there before then."

I hopped a passing taxi and went on my way.

TO be honest, it seemed to me that the little dentist was probably just a bit cracked in the upper story. From what I had seen of Paris, however, this was nothing extraordinary, as anybody would know from walking down the street a few blocks. If, by any accident, he could make good on his promises, I would get on the inside of a few police jobs and this would mean the glad hand to me at any newspaper office. I was risking nothing except being kicked out at police headquarters, so it was a good gamble.

As my taxi purred up the quay toward Notre Dame, however, and I thought things over, I grew less positive as to Clancy's mental disturbance. Those sharp gray eyes of his were very sane, very humorous, sparkling with vigor and acuity. It was much more likely that he was putting over a practical joke, and that I would find myself politely deposited outside the Préfecture with a gendarme for company.

"Well, I can risk that, too," I reflected. "Wonder if there was a murder in Rue St. Honoré this morning? Come to think of it, I did see quite a crowd down toward Castiglione. But that test question of his—there was a queer one!"

No mistake about it, either. Only for the odd chance that I knew something about stamp collection, about which all the French are crazy, Clancy would not have gone on with his line of talk. This went to show he was in earnest, and the whole affair left me up in the air and puzzled.

WE got to the Préfecture at last, and I passed the sentries without difficulty. Having applied for a card of identity after being tipped off how to do it easily, I knew how much stock to take in the usual methods of reaching anybody in Paris. Pull, influence and the back door were all invented by Frenchmen.

I reached the offices of the prefect, and they were crowded. I beckoned the gendarme and gave him Clancy's card. It bore, in French fashion, a tiny miniature cross of the Legion of Honor after his name. With the card, I gave him a ten franc note.

"My business is important, and I'm in a hurry," I said.

He shrugged and disappeared through a doorway. In two minutes he was back again, holding the door open for me. Then I had an idea whether or not my friend Clancy was crazy.

I was ushered into an office, where the préfect sat behind his desk, talking with a man whom I recognized instantly from his pictures. He happened to be the Premier of France, the actual ruler of a nation whose president is a figurehead meant to preside over charity bazaars. I waited. The Premier rose, shook hands, and departed. The chief of police looked at me and then stood up for the usual handshake and polite phrases.

Summoning up my best French, which was perfectly understood by chauffeurs and the usual Parisian, but which made educated Frenchmen grin, I gave him Clancy's message. He fingered his flowing whiskers, and then nodded.

"Very well, it shall be as M. Clancy wishes," he said. "Tell him, however, that there is no mystery whatever in this case. Certain fingerprints were found, left by the murderer. They were investigated. The man who made them was arrested forty-five minutes ago. He cannot account for his whereabouts during the early hours of the morning, and M. Colette was murdered shortly after nine o'clock, upon his arrival to open the shop. The murderer had been hiding there. He is a common Apache wi...

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