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The Color Of Murder

By Robert Leslie Bellem

I WAS driving home through a midnight fog on the Sunset Strip when a shapely little blonde cutie bounced out of a snazzy café and made a bee-line across the path of my jalopy. She had her skirt pulled up around her so she could run faster, and she was screaming at the top of her adenoids.

I swerved my wheel, slapped on my emergency anchors, missed the yellow- haired wren by a whisker. Then, as I skidded to a stop, I tabbed her. She was Kathie Denniston, current wife of Terry Denniston, the movie ham. And she was scared spitless.

She had plenty of reason to be frightened. From the cafe, her famous-profile husband came pouncing after her like a crazy guy. He was brandishing a steak-knife, and he was swacked to the nostrils. He yelled: "I'll teash you to meddle in my affairsh! I'll cut your heart out, you nagging harpy!"

That startled the bejaspers out of me, because Denniston was supposed to be on the wagon. After divorcing his previous wife, Diane Ravenne, he had married Kathie; and she had straightened him out, made a new man of him. Up to that time, he'd been on the greased skids. In spite of his top-notch acting rep, no studio would hire him. He was too unreliable; was always going on rip-snorting benders. Sometimes he even had a secret crack at the needle—or that's what the gossips whispered.

Then, just a year ago, he'd married Kathie; and in twelve short months she had put him back on top of the heap. He had quit guzzling and hitting the hype. He had accepted minor roles; gradually worked himself back to star caliber. Right now he was playing the lead in a new Colorvox production; and if the opus clicked, Denniston would be rolling in geetus. So would the newly-organized Colorvox outfit.

Denniston owed his come-back to his blonde bride. She'd babied him, encouraged him, worked for him like a slave. Now he was showing his gratitude by being drunker than a fiddler's witch; was showing it by trying to open her with a shiv.

I SQUIRMED out of my bucket. At the same instant, Kathie tripped and went sprawling face-downward in the street. The hem of her skirt skidded up to her lacy step-ins and her bare thighs gleamed creamily in the fog. She moaned as her hubby hurtled at her.

I barged into him full tilt, swatted the knife out of his mitt. Then I spooned him a serving of knuckles, smack on the dimple. I put a lot of heft behind that poke. I could feel the jar of it running up my arm to my shoulder.

Denniston's kisser smacked the asphalt. He was out like a match in a hurricane.

I leaned over his wife, touched her shoulder. She screamed: "No— no, Terry— don't k-kill me—!"

I said: "I'm not Terry. I'm Dan Turner, private dick." I put my hands under her arms; lifted her up on her feet. My fingers accidentally sank into yielding flesh through her frock, and it felt damned nice. I swung her around to face me. "What shall we do with the ruins?" I asked her, pointing to the unconscious hambo.

She got pale. "You—you've hurt him!" she whimpered. She reached out to claw at my puss with her fingernails.

I grabbed her wrists; held her. "He's okay," I said. "Just slightly unconscious from a bash on the button. What put him in the notion of carving chunks out of you?"

Her dainty breasts heaved up and down under the tightness of her silk frock. "He w-was supposed to show up at the studio for some important retakes tonight," she said dully. "When he didn't arrive, they phoned me at home. I t-traced him here to this c-cafe; f-found him with Diane Ravenne . . ."

"His ex-frau, huh?" I said.

She nodded. "He was d-drunk. I tried to reason with him, and he got m-mad at me . . ." All of a sudden her blue glims puddled up. "I know what Diane's t-trying to d-do to him! She w-wa...

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