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Clue in Crimson

By Ray Cummings
Author of "The Dawn Came Clear", "Beau Brummel Murder," etc.

A tiny spot of blood was the only positive clue to the identity of Clark Douglas' murderer—but Dr. Feather knew how to make that bloodspot talk!

THE big rambling bungalow of Clark Douglas—Willow Grove's fiery newspaper editor—stood bathed by the moonlight as Dr. Feather's limousine rolled swiftly up the tree-lined driveway.

"Park here, Kit," Dr. Feather said.

A physician's coupe stood under the porte cochere, with a police car and two motorcycles beside it. Dr. Feather's eighteen-year-old daughter swung expertly to one side.

"Shall I come in, Father?"

"Why, of course, child... Oh, there's Sergeant Tripp now." Dr. Feather hopped agilely from his car; he was a small man, bareheaded, dressed in a rusty black alpaca suit. The moonlight gleamed on his shaggy mane of iron-gray hair.

"Here we are, Sergeant," he called. "Is he still alive?"

The big police sergeant met them at the doorway. "Just about, an' that's all; Doc Allen's with him now. He's still unconscious." Tripp sighed. "Guess he'll die without tellin' us anything."

"Dear me. That's too bad, Sergeant."

The silent Kit joined them as they went inside, into the dim bungalow's long central hallway. It was about two a. m. now—a warm summer night. Less than an hour before, the somnolent telephone operator in Willow Grove's Central office had been startled by a call for help—a choking cry coming from the home of Clark Douglas here at the edge of town. There was a crash, then silence, and the line remained open.

The operator had notified Sergeant Tripp. "Everybody was asleep when we got here," the sergeant was saying now to Dr. Feather. "I routed 'em out an' we found Clark Douglas lyin' on the floor of his study, where he had fallen with the telephone beside him. Stabbed, and pretty badly slashed. He's a big powerful man. Looks like the killer left him for dead. But he didn't die. He recovered enough to get to the telephone an' call for help. Then he dropped unconscious."

"You said something about a window in the study being broken open," Dr. Feather suggested.

"The screen is cut."

"And you don't think it's an inside job, Sergeant?"

Tripp rubbed his bluish jowls. "Somebody climbed in that window an' attacked him. That's pretty obvious. An', my Gawd, with those editorials Douglas writes, there's a thousand people in this county would like to kill him."

"I dare say, Sergeant. Who was in the house, family and servants?"

"They're all here now—you can look 'em over, Dr. Feather."

"My goodness, yes, I certainly shall. Who are they?"

"Couple of maid servants. An' a butler. Fellow named Butterworth. One of those 'Yes, sir, thank yon, sir,' butlers with a fishy stare. Damned if I can make anything out of him."

"And the family?" "Well, there's Douglas' wife. Handsome young woman. She's collapsed—Doc Allen's got her on his hands, too. An' there's a William Mallory, old friend of the family. Used to be in love with Mrs. Douglas—I got that out of one of the servants."

"Don't theorize too much, Sergeant. Good gracious, in every family people have motives for murder. Anybody else?"

"One other. Young Creighton Forbes. He's Mrs. Douglas' brother. Out of a job, living off Douglas' hospitality. But hell, Douglas himself, he's been attacking the gambling and liquor people in this county so you'd won...

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