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The woman, named Ellen Mitchell, was still in her suit of latex—not rubber, as she had pointed out—when the police arrived. She wouldn’t strip it off without privacy and I wouldn’t let her have any. It wasn’t very long after the hackie radioed for help that the last of Diamond’s guests had fled. Some or all of his gang might have gone, too, but I had no way of preventing that. When no more cars came tearing away from the house I had the hackie park his machine across the blacktop. When the first prowl cars came into view I was outside the hack waving my arms. The flock of cars came to a stop and Tom Lang jumped from the lead one. He strode up to me in a high temper. “What the hell is going on here, Wells?” he demanded.

I took him the wrong way. “Since when do I play pranks?” I snapped.

Tom rocked back on his heels. “You reported a gunfight among Maxwell’s boys. I want to know what the situation is.”

“Oh,” I said, a little abashed. “Sorry. Well, when I left the party a few of Diamond’s gang had him pinned behind the desk in his office under the impression that he was me. That was a while ago. I’m not sure what the setup is like now. People started tearing away from the place once the shooting started. I don’t know how many of Diamond’s mob were among them, if any. I’d assume the situation is as bad is it could be if I were you.”

“I always do,” Tom answered. “We’re armed to the teeth. Just with lead, of course, but it will have to do.”

“By the way,” I said before he could say or do anything else, “I have a prisoner for you. Or maybe a star witness. I’m not sure yet which.”

“Show me,” he demanded.

“You asked for it,” I said. “She’s in the back of the cab.” Tom looked, recoiled in surprise, and looked again. “Latex,” I explained.

“Thanks for the warning,” Tom growled. “Henderson!” He shouted at the uniformed cop standing near the car he had been riding in. Into the back of the cab he said, “Please step outside, miss.”

The cop arrived just as Ellen Mitchell got out of the cab. She had the same effect on him that she had on the rest of us. “Take this woman into custody as a material witness. Snap the cuffs on her if she gives you any trouble.”

Henderson said he would and, projecting a leery expression, led the woman back to Tom’s car.

Tom then had a quick war council with his men. The job was divided up. Most were detailed to surround the house. They moved off before the remainder, me included, went with Tom. We left the cars where they had stopped for the cab. Naturally we didn’t just march right into the joint. We stopped on the lawn beyond the usual range of sproutella guns. A couple of men in protective gear went on up the porch while everyone else trained weapons on the windows and doors. When the two got to the front doors without drawing any fire, the rest of our scouting party followed. Tom was armed with a semi-automatic pistol loaded with soft-nosed bullets. Another had been loaned to me. The rest, six in all, had holstered pistols and shotguns in their hands.

We found no one on the ground floor. We went to the second, leaving a man at the stairs to warn us if anyone showed that way, and crept carefully down the hall. All seemed quiet. At the end of the hall, lying outside Diamond’s office door in a heap, were three sprouted souls. When we got closer to the door we could hear low but agitated voices from the room beyond. The cops in protective gear crept around the door jam. They waved the rest of us forward, motioning for us to be very quiet. There were two more sprouted souls just inside the door, not counting Harrison. One leafy leg stretched out from behind the desk (the owner I identified later as Diamond). Three other souls, the survivors of the battle, or at least those who stayed behind, had pulled aside one of the curtains to reveal a wall safe. They were too intent on trying to open it to notice our stealthy approach. A few quick, silent steps across the carpet, and the hoods were taken without a struggle. Five shotguns and two pistols pointed at one’s head tends to take the fight out of a man even when it’s merely lead. They were disarmed, cuffed, and taken away. After searching the rest of the dump we knew they had been the only ones left inside. The three were marched back to the cars. A small team of cops were detailed to occupy the house. I rescued my hat from the coat-check room and the rest of us, me in the cab, returned to the city.

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