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Though Prescott Hudson, the income tax collector, was poison to many
men, he proved to be an antidote to the corpse with a . . .

Cyanide Surtax

By Norman A. Daniels

PRESCOTT HUDSON was no fop, but he liked to dress precisely. He was skinny, tall, and wore pince-nez glasses that bobbed dangerously on a somewhat aquiline nose. He carried a black brief case and was an assistant deputy tax collector employed by the Treasury Department.

Prescott Hudson found the address to which he was destined, without any trouble at all. Prescott always knew exactly where he was going and where the address was. He turned into the entrance of a large house, rather isolated among skyscrapers. Its small estate seemed utterly out of place in a jammed city. Only a man of wealth could afford to run a place of this kind.

All of which confused Prescott Hudson's very orderly mind. For Willard Manning owned these premises and Mr. Manning had failed to pay the last quarterly installment of his income tax. It ran into some important figures, too.

Prescott Hudson didn't quite realize just what he was stepping into when he rang the bell and heard it gong somewhere deep within the house.

No servant let him in. That was done by Willard Manning in person. Hudson knew him from pictures he'd seen. A chunky man, handsome, with white hair and black eyebrows.

"My name is Prescott Hudson. I am from the Treasury Department about your belated income tax payment, Mr. Manning."

"Oh! Oh, yes," Manning said a trifle uneasily. "Come in. I meant to drop the tax collector a line about it, but I've been terribly busy. Not very well either, but better now, thank heaven. This way, Mr. Hudson. Please sit down."

Hudson sat on the edge of a huge overstuffed leather chair. He didn't shuffle his feet nor toy with the brief case, which he had placed against the side of the chair. Preciseness was his motto and nervous gestures didn't go with it.

"I'll be quite direct, Mr. Manning," he said. "You did not pay your last tax installment. It is rather large. Therefore we feel that the matter should be called to your attention."

"Really," Manning smiled, "you don't have to call it to my attention. I know all about the discrepancy. Frankly, sir, I've been hard up for money. Don't let this big house and estate fool you. I'm in a bad way financially. Nothing permanent, mind you. I'll come out of it all right. How long can I stall you people?"

"For some time?at six percent interest," Hudson said. "Can you give me some idea . . .?"

Manning nodded. "It will take about a week. I'm arranging a loan from a friend of mine. Jack Cabot, if you want to check up. It will come through shortly and everything will be settled."

"Excellent." Prescott Hudson didn't smite. "I think that will be quite all, sir. We shall expect the payment?plus interest?in a few days then. Thank you and good day."

Manning suppressed a grin. If anyone ever personified a dry, super-efficient tax collector; it was this man. He accompanied Hudson to the door and let him out.

HUDSON walked very briskly down the street, but with every step he knew something was wrong. Not about Willard Manning, but about himself. Then he realized that he didn't grasp his brief case as usual. With a small cry of horror at his neglect in taking the case, Hudson turned back. He reached the porch and extended a hand toward the bell button. Then he noticed the door wasn't tightly closed.

He pushed it open. Apparently Manning no longer had any servants on the place due to his financial embarrassment, so there was no use in bothering him. Hudson knew just where the brief case was. Anyway, forgetting to take it along was a grave breach in the efficiency he tried constantly to perfect. He would rather no one knew about his absentmindedness.

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