there was some stud leaning out Big Joe's bedroom window watching the play, too. This stud lifted the poke from the car seat and took off, but the manager saw him, and he and the cop took off after him-'

Brody cut him off. 'We know about that. What happened after Reverend Short got up?'

'I didn't know it was the preacher until he got up out of that breadbasket,' Johnny said. 'Funniest thing you ever saw. He got up and began shaking himself like a cat what's fell in a pile of dung. When I made out who he was I figured he was full of that wild cherry brandy and opium juice he drinks, then he took another drink from his bottle and went back into the house, tiptoeing and shaking himself like a wet-footed cat. Val was laughing, too. He said you can't hurt a drunk. Then all of a sudden I thought of how we could pull a good gag. I told Val to go across the street and lie down in the breadbasket where the preacher had fallen and I'd go around to Hamfat's all night joint and telephone Mamie and tell here there was a dead man there who'd fallen out of her window. Hamfat's place is on 135th and Lenox, and it wouldn't have taken me longer than five minutes to make the call. But some chick was using the phone and I figured by the time I got the call through somebody would have already found Val and the gag would have been lost-'

'How did you go to Hamfat's?' Brody interrupted.

'I drove,' Johnny said. 'I turned up Seventh Avenue to 135th Street and crossed over. I didn't know he'd been stabbed until Mamie told me on the phone.'

'Did you see anyone coming from the house, or anyone at all on the street when you drove up Seventh Avenue?' Brody asked.

'Not a soul.'

'Did you tell Mamie who you were?'

'No, I tried to disguise my voice. I knew she'd know it was a gag if she recognized my voice.'

'You don't think she recognized it?' Brody insisted.

'I don't think so,' Johnny said. 'But I couldn't say.'

'Okay, that's your story,' Brody said. 'Now what did you go to Chicago for?'

'I was trying to find out what it was Val wanted to tell me before he got himself killed,' Johnny admitted. 'After Doll Baby came to my house that afternoon right after the funeral and claimed that Val was going to get ten grand from me to open up a liquor store, I wanted to know what it was I was going to give him ten grand for to know. He never had a chance to tell me, and I had to find out for myself.'

'Did you find out?' Brody asked, leaning forward slightly.

Grave Digger bent over from the waist as though to hear better, and Coffin Ed stepped forward from the shadows.

'Yeah,' Johnny said in his toneless voice, his face remaining without expression. 'He was her husband. I figure he was going to ask me for ten grand so he could go away. I figure he was going to take Doll Baby with him.'

The three detectives remained alert, as though listening for a sound that would presage the instant of danger.

'Would you have given it to him?' Brody asked.

'Not so you could notice,' Johnny said.

'Was it his idea or hers?' Brody insisted.

'I couldn't say,' Johnny said. 'I ain't God.'

'Would she have done it for him if he had made her, tried to make her?' Brody kept on.

'I couldn't say,' Johnny said.

Brody kept hammering. 'Or would she have killed him?'

'I couldn't say,' Johnny said in his toneless voice.

'What was Chink Charlie doing in your house?' Brody continued. 'Was he blackmailing her about the knife?'

'I couldn't say,' Johnny said.

'Ten thousand dollars in hundred-dollar bills were strewn over the bed in the other bedroom,' Brody said. 'Did he come to collect that?'

'I couldn't say what he come for,' Johnny said. 'You know what he got.'

'It was your money,' Brody persisted.

'No, it was hers,' Johnny said. 'I got it for her when I came back from Chicago. If all she wanted out of me was ten grand she was welcome to it. All she had to do was take it and get out. It was easier for me to go in debt to give her ten grand than to have to kill her.'

'Do you have any idea where she might have gone?' Brody asked.

'I couldn't say,' Johnny said. 'She's got her own car, a Chevy convertible I gave her for Christmas. She could have gone anywhere.'

'Okay, Johnny, that's all for now,' Brody said. 'We're going to hold you on manslaughter and suspicion of murder. You can telephone your lawyer now. Maybe he can get you out on bail.'

'What for?' Johnny said. 'All I want to do is sleep.'

'You can sleep better at home,' Brody said. 'Or else go to a hotel.'

'I sleep fine in jail,' Johnny said. 'It ain't like as if it was the first time.'

When the jailors had taken Johnny away, Brody said, 'It looks to me as if she's our little pet. She killed her legal husband to keep from fouling up her little gravy train. Then she had to set a trap and get her illegal husband to kill Chink Charlie, trying to save herself from the electric chair.'

'What about the knife?' Coffin Ed said.

'She either had both knives, or else she got this one from Chink and left it there when she went out,' Brody said.

'But why did she leave it there where it was sure to be found?' Coffin Ed persisted. 'If she really had the second knife, why didn't she get rid of it? Then Johnny would be tapped for killing Val, too. He'd have to prove that he gave the knife to Big Joe, and Big Joe is dead. It would be an open and shut case against Johnny if it wasn't for the second knife.'

'Maybe Johnny got the second knife and put it there himself,' Grave Digger said. 'He's the smartest one of all.'

'We should have done like I said and brought her in last night,' Coffin Ed said.

'Let's quit guessing and second-guessing and go get her now,' Grave Digger said.

'Right,' Brody said. 'In the meantime I'll go over all the reports.'

'Don't take any unnecessary chances with those bad words,' Coffin Ed said with a straight face.

'Yeah,' Grave Digger amended with equal solemnity. 'Don't let none of them sneak up behind you and stab you while you're not looking.'

'What the hell!' Brody said, reddening. 'You guys'll be out chasing the hottest piece of tail in Harlem. I envy you.'


They found Mamie ironing the clothes Baby Sis had washed that morning. It was steaming in the kitchen from the pair of flatirons Mamie heated on her electric stove.

They told her Dulcy had left home, Johnny had killed Chink and was in jail.

She sat down and started moaning.

'Lord, I knowed there was goin' to be another killing,' she said.

'Where would she go, now that both Chink and Val are dead and Johnny's locked up?' Grave Digger asked.

'Only the Lord knows,' she said in a wailing voice. 'She might have gone to see the reverend.'

'Reverend Short!' Grave Digger said in a startled voice. 'Why would she go to him?'

Mamie looked up in surprise. 'Why, she's in deep trouble and he's a man of God. Dulcy's religious underneath. She might have gone to seek God in her misery.'

Baby Sis giggled. Mamie gave her a threatening look.

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