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Copper Cobra

By Norman A. Daniels

Attorney Stan Leonard's first case promised to be his last
when he took a treatment from the health cult whose cure
meant death

STAN LEONARD walked briskly into police headquarters and laid his brand new brief case on the lieutenant's desk. Leonard was twenty-four, dressed somewhat conservatively, but he was big enough to draw attention.

"I want to see Dr. Madison," he announced with a certain air of importance. "I'm his— lawyer."

And into that last word went all those years he'd slaved as a counterman half the night, studied Blackstone between hamburgers, and worked like a horse in college all day.

The desk lieutenant's lips quivered as though he were trying to prevent a smile. If he was, it didn't work. A moment later he burst into a gale of laughter.

"So you're the mouthpiece the judge assigned to 'Pills' Madison, eh. Tell me, young fellow, does that judge hold anything against you?"

"Not unless it was because I trimmed the britches off his son. He went to another college and was supposed to be their champ boxer."

The desk lieutenant sobered quickly. "You don't know what you're up against, do you? Well, I'll broadcast a hint. Madison is no doctor although he's gone under that title for many years. Here, we call him Pills Madison. His racket has always been to bleed money out of suckers by fake medical cults and new-fangled health cures."

"Go on," Leonard said slowly and without quite so much pride in his profession.

"Well, Pills got himself a brand new one this time. He started a health outfit that provided the suckers with cobra poisoning. Mind you—snake poisoning. Of course, it was supposed to be administered only in minute doses and, according to Pills' statements, it made a person live about ten years longer than his normal span of life."

"I understand Dr.—I mean Pills—is in for murder," Leonard said.

"He is. What I'm trying to get over is the kind of job you've got ahead of you. One of the clients at Pills' health institute was killed. He got too much venom—direct from a cobra. Pills kept a few of 'em around for advertising purposes. What's even worse, the dead man happened to be Ben Turner, a big shot with lots of money. Very important guy."

"I—think I'd better see Madison," Leonard said. "Frankly, Lieutenant, it did strike me odd that I was appointed by a court to handle a murder case for a man without enough money to hire his own attorney. Just the same, I'll see it through."

The lieutenant pushed a button and summoned a turnkey.

"By the way, attorney," he bent over the desk, "have Pills tell you all about the metal cobra on his desk. The one that came to life and bit Ben Turner. It's a howl of a yarn."

LEONARD followed the turnkey to Pills Madison's cell. Pills turned out to be a man who looked more like a doctor than a composite of fifty physicians. He even wore glasses on a ribbon, a white-edged vest and spats.

Leonard sat down beside him. "My name is Stan Leonard. The court appointed me as your attorney. If I'm going to handle your case, Madison, I must have the truth. Perhaps it would be better if you threw yourself on the mercy of the court."

"The mercy of the court," Madison jibed in a melancholy voice. "They'll have mercy on me all right—when the judge gets a gander at my record.

It's longer than your arm. Just the same, I never killed anyone. Least of all, Ben Turner. I liked the old coot."

"Let me get it straight," Leonard said. "You ran a health clinic illegally, of course. You gave cobra venom to people foolish enough to believe it would help them."

"I never handed out any cobra venom in my life," Madison groaned. "The stuff they got was sarsaparilla flavored with a couple of harmless drugs that gave it a funny taste. They paid me fifty dollars a shot. The stuff cost a little less than four cents to prepare. But I didn't kill Ben Turner."

Somehow, Leonard found himself believing this man. Of course, he was noted as one of the greatest confidence men in the business. The desk lieutenant had been clear enough on that topic, yet he did seem to be in earnest now.

"Could Turner have been...

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