Sunday, November 1, 2015

"So Cunningham Is the Man You Didn’t Kill, Eh?"

"Sleuth of the Air Waves."
By Emile C. Tepperman (1899-1951).
First appearance: Ten Detective Aces, January 1942.
Short story (10 pages).
Parental caution: Strong language.
Online at Roy Glashan's Library HERE.
"Rod Mallory, the Air Wave Detective, pulled his most sensational radio scoop. For, in full sound of millions of listeners, he was announcing the report of the gun that would end his own life."
You never know what you'll get when you stop for hitchhikers, such as the accused murderer of the local District Attorney:
. . . The girl took a small twenty-two calibre automatic pistol out of her handbag, and pointed it at him. "In case you don’t know it, I’m wanted for murder, and I’m trying to get away. I’d just as soon shoot you as not."  . . .
Unfazed by this threat, Rod Mallory sees an opportunity to exploit the situation:
. . . "I’m going to put you on the air tonight. I have an hour and thirty-five minutes to go before broadcast time. I think I can manage it. In return for your guest appearance, I’ll guarantee, on behalf of my sponsor, to hire the best lawyer in the state to defend you. If you’re innocent, we’ll get you acquitted. If you’re guilty, we’ll try to squeeze you past the electric chair. That ought to be fairly easy with your looks."  . . .
On their way to the radio studio, however, Mallory and his unexpected passenger run into the police, who are already predisposed to hostility towards him ("for stealing a march on the police department," he boasts) and an unfortunate tendency towards conclusion-jumping:
. . . "We thought the Blake girl would identify him [the killer] from the picture—since she saw the actual shooting. But instead, what does she do? She kills the D.A. It was cold-blooded murder, I tell you, and she’ll fry for it!"  . . .
Mallory, no dummy, manages to evade the cops, but now it's a race against time, as he sets a dangerous trap to catch the real murderer of the D.A. using a fifty thousand-dollar bribe, an open telephone line, and a very frightened girl with saggy pants:
. . . "Remember—you told me that you know how I work, and I know how you work? Well, you were wrong. I know how you work, all right; but you don’t know how I work!"  . . .
- A short article about our mysterious author is available HERE at The Vintage Library, while the usual bibliographical data are HERE (FictionMags) and HERE (ISFDb).

The bottom line: "I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio." — Rodney Dangerfield

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