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The Oubliette
by [?]

Billy Getz was a good example of the spoiled only son. He went in for all the vice there was in town, and to occupy his spare time he planned practical jokes. He was thirty years old, rather bald, had a pale and leathery skin, and a preternaturally serious expression. In his pranks he was aided by the group of young poker-playing, cigarette-smoking fellows known as the “Kidders.”

Billy Getz, as he read the last line of the thrilling tale of “The Pale Avengers,” tucked the book in his pocket, and looked up and saw Philo Gubb. The hawk-eyes of Billy Getz sparkled.

“Hello, detective!” he cried. “Sit down and have something! You’re just the man I’ve been lookin’ for. Was askin’ Pete about you not a minute ago–wasn’t I, Pete?”

Pie-Wagon Pete nodded.

“Yes, sir,” said Billy Getz eagerly, “I’ve got something right in your line–something big; mighty big–and–say, detective, have you ever read ‘The Pale Avengers’?”

“I ain’t had that pleasure, Mr. Getz,” said Philo Gubb, straddling a stool.

“What’s the matter? You’re out of breath,” said Pie-Wagon.

“I been runnin’,” said Philo Gubb. “I had to run a little. Deteckatives have to run at times occasionally.”

“You bet they do,” said Billy Getz earnestly. “You ain’t been after the dynamiters, have you?”

“I am from time to time working upon that case,” said Philo Gubb with dignity.

“Well, you be careful. You be mighty careful! We can’t afford to lose a man like you,” said Billy Getz. “You can’t be too careful. Got any of the ghouls yet?”

“Not yet,” said Philo Gubb stiffly. “It’s a difficult case for one that’s just graduated out of a deteckative school. It’s like Lesson Nine says–I got to proceed cautiously when workin’ in the dark.”

“Or they’ll get you before you get them,” said Billy Getz. “Like in ‘The Pale Avengers.’ Here, I want you to read this book. It’ll teach you some things you don’t know about crooks, maybe.”

“Thank you,” said Philo Gubb, taking the dime novel. “Anything that can help me in my deteckative career is real welcome. I’ll read it, Mr. Getz, and–Look out!” he shouted, and in one leap was over the counter and crouching behind it.

Billy Getz turned toward the door, where a short, red-faced man was standing with a pine slab held in his hand. Intense anger glittered in his eyes, and he darted to the counter and, leaning over, brought the slab down on Philo Gubb’s back with a resounding whack.

“Here! Here! None o’ that stuff in here, Joe,” cried Pie-Wagon Pete, grasping the intruder’s arm.

“I’ll kill him, that’s what I’ll do!” shouted the intruder. “Snoopin’ around my place, and follerin’ me up an’ down all the time! I told him I wasn’t goin’ to have him doggin’ me an’ pesterin’ me. I’ve beat him up twice, an’ now I’m goin’ to give him the worst lickin’ he ever had. Come out of there, you half-baked ostrich, you.”

“Now, you stop that,” said Pie-Wagon Pete sternly. “You’re goin’ to be sorry if you beat him up. He don’t mean no harm. He’s just foolish. He don’t know no better. All you got to do is to explain it to him right.”

“Explain?” said Joe Henry. “I’d look nice explainin’ anything, wouldn’t I? Hand him over here, Pete.”

“Now, listen,” shouted Pie-Wagon Pete angrily. “You ain’t everything. I’m your pardner, ain’t I? Well, you let me fix this.” He winked at Joe Henry. “You let me explain to Mr. Gubb, an’ if he ain’t satisfied, why–all right.”

For a moment Joe Henry studied Pie-Wagon’s face, and then he put down the slab.

“All right, you explain,” he said ungraciously, and Philo Gubb raised his white face above the counter.

* * * * *

Upon the passage of the State prohibitory law every saloon in Riverbank had been closed and there had been growlings from the saloon element. Five of the leading prohibitionists had received threatening letters and, a few nights later, the houses of four of the five were blown up. Kegs of powder had been placed in the cellar windows of each of the four houses, wrecking them, and the fifth house was saved only because the fuse there was damp. Luckily no one was killed, but that was not the fault of the “dynamiters,” as every one called them.