“You asking me?” Malone said.

“Certainly I’m asking you.”

“It’s a fraud,” Malone said.

“I suppose now you’re a movie critic.”

“You asked me, didn’t you?”

“Hello, Wes,” a man said. They were being nudged up the aisle by the crowd. “Good picture, I thought.”

“Yeah, Lew,” Malone said. “Very good.”

“Why is it a fraud?” Ellen asked in a whisper.

“Because it is. It makes them out a couple of heroes. Like they were Dillinger or somebody. In fact, they used some stuff that actually happened to Dillinger. You felt sorry for them, didn’t you?”

“I suppose. What’s wrong with that?”

“Everything. Nobody felt sorry for those punks at the time it happened. Even the hoods were down on them. The truth is they were a couple of smalltime murderers who never gave their victims a chance. Clyde got his kicks out of killing. His favorite target was somebody’s back. Hi, Arthur.”

“Great picture, Wes!” Arthur said.

“Just great,” Malone said.

“It got the nomination for Best Picture,” Ellen sniffed. “You’re such an expert.”

“No expert. I just happened to read an article about them, that’s all. Why kid the public?”

“Well, I don’t care, I liked it,” Ellen said. But she squeezed his arm.

The Malones came out of the New Bradford Theater and made for their car. Ellen walked slowly; she knew how tired he was. And how stubborn. Loney had insisted on following their Wednesday night ritual, which involved dinner at the Old Bradford Inn in midtown and the movies afterward, even though he had not slept eight hours in the past ninety-six. It was the only recreation she got, Loney had said, flattening out his chin, and she wasn’t going to lose out just because the flu hit the department and he had to work double shift four days running. He could get a night’s sleep tonight, Mert Peck was out of bed and Harry Rawlson was back on duty, too.

“How about a bite at Elwood’s?” he said at the car. It was a beatup Saab he had picked up for $650 the year before, their old Plymouth had collapsed at 137,000 miles. The big Pontiac special he drove on duty belonged to the town.

“I don’t think so,” Ellen said. “I’m kind of worried about Bibby. Nanette had to leave at ten thirty, her mother’s down sick, and I said it would be all right. But with Bibby home alone-”

“Sure.” He was relieved, she knew every pore in his body. Then she saw him stiffen and turned to see why.

One of the New Bradford police cars had torn past the intersection of Grange Street and Main along the Green, siren howling. It was being chased by several civilian cars.

“I wonder what’s up,” Malone said. “Something’s up.”

“Let it. You’re coming home with me, Loney. Get in, I’ll drive.”

Malone got in, and Ellen went round and took the wheel. He was looking back at Main Street and she saw him feel for the gun under his jacket. Ellen hated Chief Secco’s rule about his men carrying their revolvers off duty.

“Lay off the artillery, bud,” Ellen said grimly, starting the Saab. “You’re going nowhere but beddy-bye.”

“It’s something big,” Malone said. “Look, Ellen, drop me off at the stationhouse.”

“Not a chance.”

“I’ll only be a couple minutes. I want to find out what gives.”

“I’ll drop you off and I won’t see you till God knows when.”

“Ellen, I promise. Drop me off and go on home to Bibby. I’ll walk it up the Hill.”

“You’ll never make it, you’re dead on your feet.”

“That’s what I like about you,” he said, smiling. “You’ve got such confidence in me.”

Grange Street was one-way below Main and the Green, and Ellen sighed and turned into Freight Street and past the dark brown unappetizing railroad station. She had to stop for the light at the corner near the R.R. crossing. Malone was squinting to their right, across the bridge and the Tonekeneke and the cloverleaf to The Pike. Two state police cruisers were balling south on The Pike, sirens all out. Ellen deliberately jumped the light and turned left.

She made another left turn east of the Green, drove the one block up to Grange again, and swung right. The Colonial redbrick town hall stood at the southeast corner of the Green and Grange Street, extending into Grange; the New Bradford Police Department was near the rear of the building, with a separate entrance. The entrance was a little windbreak vestibule. There were two green globes outside.

Ellen stopped the car. He was on the sidewalk before she could put on her emergency.

“Remember, Loney, you promised. I’ll be hopping mad if you doublecross me.”

“I’ll be right home.”

He hurried inside and Ellen peeled off, taking her worry out on the Saab.

To Malone’s surprise no one was in the station but Sam Buchard, the night desk man, and Chief Secco and a middle-aged woman. The chief was over in the corner at the steel desk normally used by the Resident State Trooper, and he was talking to the woman seated beside the desk. Her makeup was smeared and her eyes looked worse than Malone’s. She was smoking a cigaret rapidly. Buchard was making an entry in the case log. The LETS- the Law Enforcement Teletype System out of the state capital-was clacking away as usual in its cubicle behind the desk.

Malone walked around the glassed partition to the working area. Chief Secco looked up with a disapproving glance and went back to his interrogation. The woman did not turn around. The desk man said, “What are you doing here, Wes?”

“Sam, what’s up?”

“Didn’t you hear?”

“I was at the movies with Ellen.”

“Murder and robbery over at Aztec.”

“Murder?” The last homicide in New Bradford had been four years ago when two men and a woman from downstate had decided to try some illegal night fishing off the railroad trestle over the Tonekeneke. They had been tanked up and the men had got into a fight over the woman. One of the men had fallen off the trestle into thirty feet of water and drowned. Malone and Mert Peck and Trooper Miller had fished his body out the next morning fifty yards downstream. Malone could not recall a bona-fide Murder One in all his years on the New Bradford force. “Who was murdered, Sam?”

“Howland, the bookkeeper. Shot three times in the chest. The payroll was stolen.”

Malone recognized her now. Sherrie-Ann Howland, the one the women called “the bloodsucker.” She had never even given Tom Howland the excuse of being unfaithful to him. Townspeople rarely saw her, she was said to be a secret drinker. She was sober enough now. Malone knew nearly everyone in town, its population was only 16,000.

“Any leads, Sam?”

“Not a one. The state boys have set up roadblocks throughout the area. Curtis Pickney found him by a fluke, and they say Howland wasn’t dead long. So maybe the killers didn’t have a chance to get away. Anyway, that’s the theory we’re working on.”

Malone knuckled his eyes. “Where was Ed Taylor?”

“We just found him.”

“For God’s sake, did Ed get it, too?”

“No, they slugged him, tied him up, and threw him in some bushes. Ed says there were two of them. No I.D., it was too dark. They took Ed to the hospital. He’ll be all right. He’s a lucky guy, Wes. They could have shot him, too.”

Malone hung around. Secco was still questioning Mrs. Howland. He took the log and pretended to read it. The familiar form-B. & E. and Larceny, One-Car Accident, Etc., Obscene or Harassing Telephone Calls, Non-support, Driving under Influence, Stolen and Recovered Motor Vehicles, Resisting Arrest, Destruction of Private Property, Attempted Suicide-had ghosts in it like the TV sometimes. He dropped the log and wandered over to the cabinets. Each officer had a drawer for his personal property. He opened his and fingered its contents-summons book, warning book, his copy of the motor vehicle laws, tape measure, a torn-off brass button Ellen had replaced and then

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