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home and confesses that it was all his fault.

      “After that, he gets some attorney and they rig up a case with the aid of stolen X-ray photographs, the insurance company makes the settlement and then they move on to their next victim.”

      Melvin’s jaw dropped. “You’re sure about this?”

      I said, “The police arrested Mrs. Bruno this morning. It turns out she’s Mrs. Foley Chester, the woman that the authorities thought had been murdered.

      “This time they used the nurse, not to steal X-ray photographs, but to steal a corpse. Then they dressed this corpse in Mrs. Chester’s clothes, set fire to the body and were prepared to collect a hundred thousand life insurance if they could, and, if they couldn’t, they were still going to keep their racket going of bilking the insurance companies on settlements of ten, fifteen and twenty thousand dollars.”

      “You’re sure?” he asked. “You have proof of all this?”

      I said, “You have a connection with the police force here. Get them to ring up Sergeant Sellers in Los Angeles and find out about the latest developments in the Chester case.”

      Melvin pushed back his chair. “Excuse me a minute,” he said. “I want to see my secretary about something.”

      He was gone about ten minutes; when he came back he was trembling.

      “Lam,” he said, “I want to assure you on my professional honor that I had absolutely no inkling of all this. I was acting in the highest good faith.”

      “Yes?” I asked.

      “Yes,” he said.

      I motioned toward the circular tin case with the motion pictures on his desk.

      “What about those pictures?” I asked.

      He looked at them, took a deep breath. I could see his mind working. “Pictures?” he said, vacantly. “Are those pictures?

      “They seem to be.”

      “It’s news to me. I’ve never seen them before. You must have brought them in.”

      “I’m taking them out,” I told him.

      I took the case, put it in my briefcase, and said, “Well, as you remarked earlier, it’s all in a day’s game. We’re each representing a client.”

      “I make it a rule never to represent a crook, Melvin said. This is a shock to me. A great shock.”

      “Where did you think those X-ray pictures were coming from?” I asked.

      “My client had them taken.”

      “You didn’t ask to interview the doctor?”

      “I— Well, I’ve been terribly busy,” Melvin said, lamely. Of course when it came time to prepare for trial, I would have investigated, but— You know, how those things are, Lam.”

      “I know how those things are,” I said, and walked out.

      Chapter 16

      A midnight plane got me back to Los Angeles so I was at Breckinridge’s office by the time it opened.

      Breckinridge came in, looking worried. There were puffs under his eyes and his usual jaunty appearance had vanished. There was nothing crisp or youthful about him now. He had all the snap of a wilted lettuce leaf.

      He registered surprise when he saw me there.

      “Lam!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here? You were supposed to be making a settlement in Dallas.”

      “I’ve made it.”

      “You’ve done what?”

      “I’ve made it.”

      “Did you get... everything?”

      I said, “You have a projection room here, don’t you?”

      He hesitated, then said, “Well, yes, but I don’t want to have one of the projectionists run any pictures you have.”

      “I’ll run them,” I said.

      “You know how?”


      We went to a projection room. Breckinridge saw the pictures. When we came out, he was shaking like a leaf.

      I handed him the roll of films. “You’ll know what to do with those,” I said.

      “How much did it cost?” he asked.

      “Well,” I said, “I’ve had quite a few expenses. I’ve been riding back and forth between here and Dallas on the jet planes. The hostesses think I’m a company representative and—”

      “Oh, that!” he said, waving his hand. “We don’t give a damn about expenses. How much did you settle for?”

      “Nothing,” I told him.


      “That’s right.”

      “How did that happen?”

      I said, “If you’ll read the noon papers you’ll find an article in there about how the extreme devotion to duty of Sergeant Frank Sellers, and Jim Dawson of the Sheriff’s Office in Kern County, solved one of the most perplexing murder cases the state has ever had to contend with.

      “At first the case seemed to be a typical accidental death. Probing deeper these veteran officers found evidence of a murder for insurance but since one or two seemingly trivial facts didn’t fit into the framework, they kept plugging away on a day-and-night basis until they uncovered a plot so bizarre that it once more proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.”

      Breckinridge said, “Do you mean to say those two... gentlemen... took all of the credit in the press?”

      “Sure,” I said, “Why wouldn’t they?”

      Breckinridge said, “That is unfair. I am not entirely without influence in police circles. One of the police commissioners is my close personal friend, and I...”

      He suddenly hesitated, and I said, “... While you have problems of your own.”

      He fingered the round can holding the motion-picture film. “While I,” he echoed, “have problems of my own. But if I can’t make it up to you in one way, I will in another, Lam — I not only have a bonus for you from my company but by this time tomorrow I’ll have a bonus from a dozen companies that will surprise you. This man, Melvin, has been a thorn in our side for a long time.”

      Breckinridge went out into the outer office and came back with a check.

      I looked at it whistled put the check in my pocket.

      Breckinridge thrust out his hand, “Lam,” he said, “this was a real pleasure. A real pleasure.”

      I let it go at that.

      Chapter 17

      I walked into the office. Bertha blinked her eyes and said, “My God, can’t you ever stay in one place? How are you going to get a job finished if you keep flitting back and forth?”

      “The job’s finished,” I told her.

      Bertha said angrily, “You were supposed to have three weeks to work on it. Three weeks at sixty dollars a day is—”

      I interrupted to toss Breckinridge’s check on the desk in front of her.

      She unfolded the check, started to say something, then her eyes began to get big.

      “Fry me for an oyster,” she said. And then after a moment, added, “And to think that somebody else was paying all the expenses.”

      “All except one five-hundred-dollar item,” I said.

      “A five-hundred-dollar item? What’s that for?” she asked.

      “A bonus for Elsie Brand,” I said, and walked out of the office while she was still sputtering.