A hoarse voice from the police car shouted, “Hold it,” and two cops came pounding toward them with drawn guns.

Bing began cursing in a low monotone, and dropped his gun. Shayne sat up and grinned at the cops. “You got here just in time, boys. Watch that one on the ground. He may still be able to pull a trigger.”

They came up, grim-faced and watchful, and one of them kicked the gun out of Monk’s hand.

Walter Bronson stepped from the car with his hands in the air, shaken and fearful, and stammering over and over, “What is it? I don’t understand. What is it?”

Shayne said, “Put the cuffs on all three of them, boys, and we’ll talk this over at headquarters. I guess you saw it all. I’ll swear out a complaint of assault with deadly weapons against them.”

“Shayne!” Bronson started forward impulsively. “If we can talk this over-”

“There’s nothing to talk over,” said Shayne grimly. “You and your hoodlums are in this up to your necks. Better see about Monk,” he advised one of the officers.

The cop bent over the hulking figure. “Pretty bad. We’d better get him to a doc fast.”

“You’re the private dick we were trailing,” the other officer said angrily to Shayne. “I don’t get any of this. What in hell-”

“Ask your questions at headquarters,” Shayne snapped. “Load those three into the big car and let’s get the wounded man to a doctor.”

Shayne walked around to the front of the two cars, looked at the crumpled fenders, and saw there was no real damage done. He got in his coupe and backed it away.

One of the policemen came up beside him, breathing heavily. “I’ll take that gun you flashed.”

Shayne handed him Gentry’s. 38. “I’ve got a permit and you saw me use it in self-defense when they jumped me just because we scraped fenders.”

“We saw it,” the officer grunted sourly, “but I still don’t get it. How come we were trailing you so slick?”

“You trailing me?” Shayne asked.

With the other officer at the wheel of the limousine and the three men in the rear seat, the big car swung in an arc in front of Shayne’s coupe and turned back on the boulevard.

“It was just lucky, I reckon, we got on your tail,” the cop said to Shayne.

“Lucky for me,” Shayne agreed. “You want me to go on ahead?”

“Yeh. I’ll be trailing you. Take it easy right into the station.”

The limousine was parked and emptied of its passengers by the time Shayne reached the station. The officer who had trailed him drew up beside Shayne’s coupe and they both got out and went in to Painter’s office.

Chief Painter was listening to Walter Bronson’s statement, a frown of indecision between his black eyes and a nervous index finger caressing the thin black line on his mobile upper lip. Neither Bing nor Monk was in sight.

Painter looked far up into the redhead’s face when he entered. He demanded angrily, “What’s this all about, Shayne? I can’t make heads nor tails to it.”

“That depends on what kind of a story Bronson is handing you,” Shayne said calmly.

“He claims he was driving along peacefully and you rammed into his car and jumped out and started shooting at him and his friends.”

Shayne raised a rugged red brow. “Driving along peacefully, with a pair of armed hoods hidden in the back of his car?” Shayne demanded harshly.

“I didn’t know they were armed,” Bronson said. He had his hat off and was mopping his heavy face and bald head. “I’m completely bewildered by all this. If you and I could talk this over privately, Shayne-”

“We’ll do all our talking in front of witnesses,” Shayne interrupted.

Painter got up from his desk chair and strutted toward them. He demanded of Shayne, “Who telephoned in that tip on you?”

“A tip on me?” Shayne managed to look completely nonplussed.

Painter squinted up at him and said, “The tip that sent one of our radio cars after you-rather providentially, it seems to me.”

Shayne shook his head wonderingly. “I don’t know anything about that. I admit it was lucky your men were right there and saw the whole thing.”

The Beach chief whirled on Bronson, turning on one foot. “Why did you have the two gunmen in your car, Bronson?”

The editor hesitated. He wet his lips nervously with a thick tongue, gave Shayne a murderous look, and burst out, “I had them along for protection. I charge Shayne with attempted extortion. I believe a citizen has a right to protect himself under such circumstances.”

“How about that, Shayne?” Painter asked.

Instead of replying, Shayne asked, “Have you picked up a man named Smith this evening?”

“A couple of Gentry’s men turned a man named Smith over to us on a concealed weapon charge,” Painter admitted. “What’s that got to do with this?”

“A lot,” Shayne told him. “Have you run a comparison test on the Colt thirty-two automatic he was carrying?”

“Gentry’s men suggested we do that,” Painter said grudgingly. “I don’t know what the results are yet.”

“You’d better find out.”

Again Painter studied Shayne with sharp black eyes. “I will,” he snapped, swung around, and went out a side door, calling to his underlings who had brought the men in, “Back here-all of you.”

One officer went ahead of Shayne and Bronson, the other bringing up the rear. As Bronson and Shayne went through the door, the editor said in a hoarse whisper, “See here, Shayne, I’ll get you the money. I swear I will if you’ll just-”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Shayne interrupted him sharply. He moved on into the room and sat down.

One of the officers withdrew. Bronson went to a window and stood staring out into the night while the other officer leaned against the doorsill and began picking his teeth.

A few minutes later Painter hurried in excitedly. He pounded his right fist into the small palm of his left hand and said to Shayne, “I don’t know how the devil you guessed it, but that gun we took off Smith fits the bullet that downed Timothy Rourke.”

Bronson’s huge frame stumbled to a chair near by. He slumped into it. His heavy shoulders shivered, then settled rigidly.

Shayne asked, “Where does Smith say he got the gun?”

“Claims he found it,” snorted Painter. “Looks as though we’ve got our killer all right. When we get through checking up on Smith we’ll know where we stand.”

Shayne lit a cigarette, drew on it hard, and set a puff of smoke roiling through his nostrils. He said, “Why don’t you call Will Gentry and ask him if he has a record on the gun,” blandly.

“Look here, Shayne-what-how much do you know about all this. If you’re holding out on me, by God, I’ll-”

“I’m not asking you to take my word for anything.”

Painter glared at him, trotted over to the phone, and called Gentry. He said, “Looks as though I’m about to clear up the Rourke case, Will. Do you happen to have any record of a Colt thirty-two automatic, serial four-two- one-eight-nine-three?”

Shayne’s head rested easily on the back of the chair. He continued to puff smoke through his nostrils, watching Bronson and Painter through narrowed eyes. Bronson was sitting rigidly on the edge of his chair, his torso forward, as though he were about to spring up.

Painter’s breezy air of self-assurance appeared to slowly ooze out of him as he listened to Gentry’s voice rumbling over the wire. The chief of detectives of Miami Beach said weakly, “I see. Well… I see. Thanks a lot for the dope, Will.” He replaced the instrument carefully, leaned back with his small mouth tightly compressed. After a moment he snapped, “How did you know so much about that gun this afternoon, Shayne?”

Shayne shrugged and waved his cigarette. “I was always a couple of jumps ahead of you in the old days. Remember?”

Painter’s eyes blazed with anger. He jumped up and confronted Bronson. “What do you know about it, Bronson?”

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