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Authors: A. A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)

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Gold Comes in Bricks

BOOK: Gold Comes in Bricks
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NO HOLDS BARRED

The case started with a Japanese Judo Master, who threw Donald Lam for a painful loss.

Then the action shifted to a potbellied millionaire whose cash offer put a stranglehold on Bertha Cool’s imagination.

That was before an innocent-looking young lady tripped Donald up, a smooth-talking lawyer dealt him a very low blow, and an extremely knowing lovely put her arms around his neck and would not let go.

Lam’s pride was battered, his body was bruised, but he really couldn’t complain— yet. At least he wasn’t dead, as everybody else was turning out to be. ...

GOLD COMES IN BRICKS

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

writing under the name of

A. A. Fair

A DELL BOOK

Published by
DELL PUBLISHING CO., INC.
750 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10017
Copyright 1940 by William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Copyright © renewed 1968 by Erie Stanley Gardner
All rights reserved.
Dell ® TM 681510, Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
Reprinted by arrangement with William Morrow & Company, Inc.
New York, New York
Printed in the United States of America
Previous Dell Editions #836, 2952
New Dell Edition
First printing—December 1971

CHAPTER ONE

B
ERTHA
C
OOL SIGHED DEEPLY
and overflowed the edges of the collapsible wooden chair. She lit a cigarette, and her jeweled hands became semicircles of brilliance in the bright lights which beat down on the padded canvas. Against the gloom of the big deserted gymnasium, her glittering diamonds sparkled like drops of ocean spray in the sunlight.

The Japanese, naked except for a breechclout and a light-colored coat of the texture of heavy linen, braced his feet and looked me over. His face was expressionless.

I was cold. The coat which he had given me was too big. I felt naked in my short trunks, and there were goose pimples on my legs.

“Give him the works, Hashita,” Bertha said.

There were just the three of us in the big, barnlike room. The Japanese smiled at me with his lips, and I saw white rows of glistening teeth. The pitiless lights, imbedded in the trough-shaped cradle of tin which was suspended over the padded canvas, beat down upon me. The Japanese was well fleshed, firmly muscled. When he moved, I could see his muscles ripple beneath skin that was like brown satin.

He said to Bertha, “First lesson please. Not too severe.”

Bertha inhaled a deep drag from her cigarette. Her eyes grew hard as her diamonds. “He’s a smart little runt, Hashita. He learns fast, and it’s
my
money. I want to get value received.”

Hashita kept his eyes on me. “Jujitsu,” he explained in a swift monotone, “is like lever please. Other man furnish power. You only change direction.”

I nodded, because in the silence which followed his remark, I knew I was expected to nod.

Hashita reached in his loincloth and pulled out a short-barreled revolver. The nickel plate was peeled, the barrel rusted. He opened the cylinder to show me the gun was unloaded.

“Excuse please,” he said. “Honorable pupil take gun, hold in right hand, raise gun, and pull trigger. Quickly please!”

I took the gun.

Bertha Cool’s face held the expression which I have sometimes thought must adorn the faces of women at bullfights.

“Quickly please,” Hashita repeated.

I raised the gun.

He reached smoothly forward and contemptuously pushed my hand down. “Not so slow please. Pretend I am very bad man. You raise gun. Very quickly you pull trigger before I move.”

I remembered reading somewhere that the Western bad-man had been at his most deadly efficiency when he was cocking the gun while raising it. It was a double-action revolver, and I started pulling the trigger as I snapped the gun up.

Hashita was standing in front of me, a broad target. I could feel the hammer coming back as I jerked my wrist.

Suddenly, Hashita wasn’t there at all. He had simply dissolved into motion. I tried to move the revolver to follow that streak of human agility. It was like trying to keep pointing at a lightning flash.

Thick brown fingers coiled around my wrist. Hashita was no longer in front of me and no longer facing me. He was under my arm, with his back turned toward me. My arm was over his shoulder. He jerked my right wrist down. His shoulder smacked under my armpit. I felt my feet leave the floor. The bright lights in their tin cradle and the canvas mat reversed position. I seemed to hang suspended in the air for several seconds, then the padded canvas rushed up to meet me.

The jar made me sick.

I tried to get up, but couldn’t make my muscles respond. There was a quivering in my stomach. Hashita leaned over, caught my wrist and elbow, and lifted me to my feet so quickly it seemed I’d bounced up off the canvas. His teeth were now flashing in a wide grin. The gun lay behind him.

“Very simple,” Hashita said.

Bertha Cool’s diamonds flashed back and forth, up and down, as her hands moved in applause.

Hashita took my shoulders and pushed me back, raised my right arm. “Hold very steady please. I show you.”

He laughed—the nervous, mirthless laugh of a Japanese. I seemed to be standing still in the center of a room which was swaying back and forth on a huge pendulum.

Hashita said, “Now watch closely please.”

He moved slowly, but with such perfect rhythm there was no jerk to his motions. It was exactly as though I’d been watching his image projected on the screen in a slow-motion-picture shot. His left knee bent. His weight slid forward and on his left hip. As he dipped, he turned. His right hand moved forward. The fingers slowly clamped about my wrist. He twisted the ball of his left foot on the canvas. His left shoulder started coming up under my right armpit. The tension of his fingers increased. My right arm was twisted so I couldn’t bend the elbow. He exerted pressure, making a lever out of my own arm. The fulcrum rested on his shoulder, back under my armpit. He tightened the pressure until I could feel pain, and then feel my feet lifting from the canvas.

He relaxed his grip, turned smoothly back into position, and stood smiling! “Now,” he said, “
you
try. Slowly at first please.”

He stood facing me with his right arm extended.

I reached for his arm with my right hand. He pushed me back. There was impatience in his gesture. “Honorable pupil remember left knee please. Bend left knee at same time reach with right hand, then turn foot at same time as twist on right arm, so elbow cannot bend.”

I tried it again. This time it was better. He nodded his head, but there was no great enthusiasm in the nod.

“Now try quickly please, with gun.”

He took the gun in his hand, raised his arm, pointing the gun at me. I remembered my left knee and flashed out my hand for his right wrist. I missed it by a good two inches and stumbled forward off balance.

He was too polite to laugh, which made it a lot worse.

I could hear the thud of steps along the bare board floor of the gymnasium.

Hashita said, “Excuse, please,” straightened, and turned. His slanting eyes were squinted as he strove to peer out from under the glare of the lights into the darkness of the big room.

I could make out the man coming forward. He was smoking a cigar; a short man in the forties with glasses and brown eyes. His clothes had been carefully tailored to emphasize his chest and minimize his stomach, but, even so, the narrow slope of the shoulders and the watermelon stomach dominated the suit.

“You the wrestling instructor?” he asked.

Hashita flashed his teeth, and walked toward him.

“My name’s Ashbury—Henry C. Ashbury. Frank Hamilton told me to look you up. I’ll wait until you’re not busy.”

Hashita wrapped sinewy fingers around Ashbury’s hand. “Very great pleasure,” he said with a hissing intake of the breath. “Will honorable gentleman please be seated?”

Hashita moved with catlike swiftness, picked up one of the collapsed wooden chairs, jerked it open so swiftly that it sounded as though the chair had exploded in his hands. He placed it beside Bertha Cool’s chair. “Wait for fifteen minutes?” he inquired. “So sorry, but have pupil taking lessons.”

“Sure,” Ashbury said, “I’ll wait.”

Hashita bowed and apologized to Bertha Cool. He bowed and apologized to me. He bowed and smiled at Ashbury. He said, “Now we try again.”

I looked over to where Ashbury was sitting beside Bertha Cool. His eyes were fastened on me with mild curiosity. It had been bad enough putting on a private exhibition for Bertha. The presence of a stranger made it unbearable.

“Go ahead,” I said to Hashita. “I’ll wait.”

“You’ll catch cold, Donald,” Bertha warned.

“No, no. Go right ahead,” Ashbury said hastily, placing his hat on the floor by the side of his chair. “I’m in no hurry at all. I-I’d
like
to see it.”

Hashita faced me, teeth glittering. “We try again,” he said, and picked up the gun.

I saw his arm coming up. I gritted my teeth and lunged. This time I caught him by the wrist. I was surprised to find how easy it was to pivot. My shoulder came up under his armpit. I jerked down.

Then unexpected things happened. I knew, of course, that Hashita had given a little leap as I pulled, but the effect was spectacular. He came up over my head. I saw his feet fly up and his legs silhouette against the blazing brilliance of the lights. He twisted suddenly in the air like a cat, wrenched his arm free, and came down on his feet. The gun was lying on the canvas. I was certain he’d dropped it purposely. But that didn’t detract from the effect on the audience.

Bertha Cool said, “I’ll be damned! The little shrimp!”

Ashbury glanced swiftly at Bertha Cool, then stared at me, startled respect in his eyes.

“Very good,” Hashita said. “Very,
very
good.”

I heard Bertha Cool say casually to Ashbury, “He’s working for me. I run a detective agency. The little runt is always getting beaten up. He’s too light to make a good boxer, but I thought the Jap could teach him jujitsu.”

Ashbury turned to take a good look at her.

He saw only Bertha Cool’s profile. She was watching me with hard, glittering eyes.

There was nothing soft about Bertha. She was big and well-fleshed; but it was hard flesh. She had a big neck, big shoulders, a big bosom, big arms, and a good appetite. Her face had that placid look of meaty contentment which comes to women who have quit worrying about their figures and feel free to eat what they want as often as they want it.

“Detective did you say?” Ashbury asked.

Hashita said, “Now I show you slowly please.”

Bertha Cool kept her eyes on us. “Yes. B. Cool Confidential Investigations. That’s Donald Lam doing the wrestling.”

“He’s working for you?”

“That’s right.”

Hashita took a rubber-bladed dagger from his loincloth and presented the hilt to my fingers.

“He’s a little runt, but he’s brainy,” Bertha Cool went on, talking over her shoulder. “You wouldn’t believe it, but he was a lawyer, got admitted to the bar. They kicked him out because he told someone how to commit a murder and go scot-free. Smart as a steel trap—”

Hashita said, “Stab please with knife.”

I grabbed the knife and doubled my right arm. Hashita stepped smoothly in, caught my wrist, and the back of my arm, pivoted, and I went up in the air.

As I got to my feet I heard Bertha Cool say, “. . . guarantee satisfaction. A lot of agencies won’t handle divorce cases and politics. I’ll handle anything there’s money in. I don’t give a damn who it is or what it is, just so the dough’s there.”

Ashbury was looking exclusively at her now.

“I suppose I can trust your discretion?” Ashbury asked. Bertha Cool seemed to have lost interest in me. “Hell, yes. Absolutely! Anything you say to me stops right there. . . . Don’t mind my cussing.”

“Advisable not to light on head please,” Hashita said. “Honorable pupil must learn to twist in air, so to come down on feet.”

Bertha Cool flung over her shoulder, without even looking at me, “Get your clothes on, Donald. We’ve got a job.”

BOOK: Gold Comes in Bricks
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