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Claw of The Kidnapped Idol
A Bicarbonate Johnny Story

Marcus Lyons
Author of "Killer of Fire" etc.

Bicarbonate Johnny didn't have to believe in the super-natural
to know that this idol was deadly—both to the persons who stole
it and the whoever tried to get it back
.

RITA'S PERFUMED figure and pilfering fingers had nudged Bicarbonate Johnny into a hole before, but this one promised to make the others look like thumb-prints on a mudpie. Long before Sergeant Sean had finished talking, Johnny's normal Gregory Peck expression had been vanquished by the Ned Sparks one.

"—so we left it like it was an' called you," Sean said, his voice still oddly subdued. "The girl ain't located yet. I thought maybe you could dig up somethin'—"

"The thought," Johnny said greyly, "does more credit to your heart than your brains, Sean. Let's take a look."

Despite the advance warnings he had had, the upstairs room gave Johnny a nasty turn. It was at the back of the house, and its sole contact with the real world was a twisted corridor which angled into darkness. At its end was a dim purple glow and a glowing scarlet monster with a face like a mad boar.

"Cripes," said Johnny feelingly. "Is this all the light there is?"

"There's white lights," Sean muttered uneasily. "But this is the way we found it."

The room was completely hung with tapestries, the gloomy indirect lighting emanating from the high molding; and the figures in the tapestries were frozen in attitudes of formal menace. They shone in livid colors, seemingly by their own light.

The snouted creature on the back wall held in tusks and claws a huge wheel, in which tiny human figures scurried frantically as if in a squirrel cage. To the right stood the empty pedestal.

"You shoulda seen the place when the ruby was here," Sean whispered. "It was right at the foot of the pedestal. When you came in it looked like the edge of the rug had just caught fire.

"Glowing, eh?" Johnny said. "Hmmm." He crossed the silent carpet. The perfume in the air was unpleasant, half incense and half drug; it had a stupefying quality. A man relaxed in the big chair opposite the pedestal might starve to death for sheer lassitude.

"All right, turn on the overheads."

In the flat, yellow glare the things on the tapestries were just pictures, but the atmosphere was still oppressive. Johnny examined the floor around the pedestal carefully, then the pedestal itself. "Have this dusted, Sean. Don't think you'll find anything, but there's a chance. This is the first idol-napping I ever he...

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