Charlie Chan – Birmingham

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“Birmingham! You see man we follow? Where did he go? Charlie Chan spoke the words breathlessly. He and Number One Soo had just emerged from the mouth of an alley, running hard.

But of the quarry they followed there was There was only Birmingham, standing beside Chan’s parked sedan, where they hod left him, Birmingham, who pointed a shaking finger after a moving car far down the block, and whose voice came out in a trembling falsetto. “Yes, suh! I sho did. That’s him, driving away. But Mister Chan, that man had a gun. Seein’ as how he’s goin’ thataway, let’s ui go the other way!” . “A gun! Then you were right, Pop!” Number One Son leaped into the car, but Chan did not follow. Not at once.

Instead, he turned toward the patrolman who had just rounded the corner. “Officer! I am Inspector Chan. Call Head-quarters at once. Say that I am following Number Qne suspect in Banker’s Trust holdup. Suspect’s car now going North on Cedar Street. Green convertible with black top. No doubt will attempt to leave city.” The words took only seconds to say, but by then the other car was a mere speck. “Birmingham! Get to wheel, We must catch suspect.” Number One son grinned. “What’s the matter, Birmingham? Scared? Don’t you want to be a hero? “No, suh! I don’t. But I ain’t scared. if that’s what you mean,” Birmthgham slipped behind the wheal and the car took off. “I’m just careful.” It had been only a moments before that Charlie Chan had spied the sus.. and recognized him as a man wanted for holdup and murder. But the man had been on foot, then he had ducked into an alley — and out again. Now, the chase was on. “Number One Son does not know meet of fear, Birmingham”, Chan commented. “But neither does jackass. Faster!” Number One San’s grin vanished. Slowly, the gap between the two car s narrowed. Then, suddenly, there was a small town ahead. Both cars had left the city and were now racing through the night in the apen. Ahead, the road dipped, curved, an, thee entered the town. “Oh, me, oh, my.” Birmingham’s voice was a croak, this time. “Mister Chan, we’ve got to slow down. tf we hit that curve at this speed we’ll all be flyin’t With harps in our hands!”

“Do not slow down. Suspect will not wait for us?’ Birmingham shut his eyes — and pressed harder on the gas pedal. The speedometer hit eighty — ninety. Then it was at the curve. It tore around, hit the ridge and emerged at the edge of town. And the other car was gone.Vanished. But — cars do not vanish. Chan’s car halfway down the town’s main street when the convertible reappeared. It came out of a side street.

It struck Chan’s car dead center. There was a crash, the snarl of breaking glass, then silence. For one minute, two, three , Chan was the first to come bock to himself. And across the street was the murderer, in front of a shop on which was a sign: BICYCLES — MOTORCYCLES — REPAIRS. Before the shop stood half a dozen motorcycles — and te slayer had mounted one and was stepping on the starter “So this is Heaven! It shore don’t look any different than Brooklyn!” That was Birmingham, just coming too, beside Number One Son, who was also stirring. Chan leaped to his feet. “Ouickly! Suspect thinks to escape on stolen motorcycle. We will follow example. Police Department will have to repay owner of motorcycles for use of some after we capture slayer.”

In a moment the chase was on again. But this. time, Chan and son occupied a motor-cycle sidecar — and the chattering of Birmingham’s teeth was clearly audible ”Come on, Birmingham! Step on it.”

After ten miles, the two cycles were almost neck and neck — and just ahead, there was a road block. The police had gotten Chan’s message. But Number One Son had his own,ideas about who would make this capture. He rose precarious,. “Birmingham! Get elose to him. I’ll jump him. Slow down when you’re alongside.” Chan reached for his son. “No! Why risk neck to capture jet-propelled murder suspect when road block is just ahead?” “He might go around it!” Number One Son poised for the leap. “Birmingham! Slow down!” But — the cycle did not slow down. Birmingham pumped his brakes viciously. Only —. nothing happened. “I can’t. The brakes don’t hold!” The other cycle drew ahead — and despite his dangerous position, Number One Son hopped with rage. “He’s getting away! You don’t fool me! You’re just scared! There’s nothing wrong with your brakes — Look!” Ahead, the other cycle hod almost reached the roadblock.. Then, suddenly, it swerved. It hit the ditch at the side of the road, and passed the roadblock.’ “He’s passing the block! He’ll get away!” Number One Son was yelling now. “And we’re going straight for the roadblock! You can stop acting now! You and your brakes. Jam ’em! Jam!”

Charlie Chan gripped his hat brim — and closed his eyes. Because a miracle was hap-pening. Birmingham — Birmingham, of all people — was playing hero. The chau.ffeur had closed his eyes, too — and was driving straight at the road block. Crash! The cycle hit. Timber flew like match-sticks, but Birmingham was not yet done. Ahead, the culprit’s cycle was just coming back onto the road. Birmingham bore down on him — and circling- the roadblock had cost the killer a precious fevi seconds. Wham! This time, no timber flew. Instead, two cycles flew. Two cycles — and four men, one of whom, landed head first in the ditch, and came awake to find a State Patrolman busily snapping a pair of steel bracelets on his wrists. This was one slayer who would kill no more.

The excitement was over. But above, on the road, a much battered Chan and Son were. painfully picking themselves off the pavement. Nearby, Birmingham sat on the ground, holding his head.

“Birmingham, are you all right?” Chan was the first to reach the chauffeur. But Birmingham was okay. He nodded, unable to speak. And suddenly, Number One Son thrust out a hand. “Birmingham, I owe you an apology. And I thought you were a coward. Brother! I’d never have had the nerve to hit that roactblock like you did. I don’t mind telling you, I was scared when I yelled for you to jam on your brakes and you kept going.” “Jam on — my brakes?” Birmingham sh.k his head. “Oh, me, oh, my. Is that what you said?”

“Why, sure.” Number One Son said. “Wait a minute. You are a hero, aren’t you? You did run into that roadblock on purpose, didn’t you? Isn’t, that why you didn’t listen when I told you to jam on your brakes? When I hollered — jam ‘en,” But Mrminghom was no longer listening. He was collapsing, slowly. His voice emerged in a faint whisper just before he went out completely.