Queen of the Flaming Diamond, p.1Leroy Yerxa
Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories January 1943. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
by LEROY YERXA
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[Sidenote: _There it was, in a night club, the biggest diamond in theworld. Why was it here when a whole race depended on it forexistence?_]
The Owl Limb Night Club was crowded with smoothly gowned women andpaunchy men as Owner George Lardner approached the hanging "mike" toannounce the midnight attraction. At Lardner's appearance "Puffy"Adams nudged his well-dressed boss in the ribs and whispered thickly.
"Come on, Jim. Let's get out of here."
Jim Drake lifted a tousled head from the smooth linen. He gazed at hisright hand man with a washed-out expression.
"Puffy" Adams stood up slowly. His coat was wrinkled and creasedacross his powerful back. He pulled it down impatiently and rubbed awarm hand across his face. Looking down at the unsteady figure of JimDrake he grunted. Three crooked teeth that seemed at odds with theworld, appeared coyly against "Puffy's" lower lip.
He was accustomed to this old routine. Placing both hands underDrake's armpits he lifted. Jim came to his feet with a surprisedgurgle.
"Wait a minute," he protested. "Wanta' see dance."
Puffy Adams pushed a thick arm around Drake and steered him across thefloor between the tables.
"Special feature tonight--diamond of mystery...." The night club ownerwas still talking, his voice drowning the murmur of voices and tinkleof glasses across the big room. "Sylvia Fanton--girl from nowhere--!"
Puffy struggled onward under the almost dead weight of his boss. Drakewas trying to hold back.
"You gave me orders to take you home at midnight," Puffy protested,"and, 'Cinderella' Drake, home you go."
He succeeded in dragging his charge up the three low steps that ledtoward the coat room. A silvery crash of music drowned out Puffy'svoice with the suddenness of striking lightning. He dropped his armfrom Drake's waist and pivoted, surprise on his broad face. Somethingweird and lovely about the sound turned them both toward the stage.His chin dropped in delight. This wasn't Lardner's usual nightlyfeature.
She went into a weirdly sensuous dance....]
They watched with hypnotized eyes as the girl's slim body twisted andswayed from between the bright shower of curtains. It wasn't the girlthat caught Puffy's gaze. Cupped in her slim hands was the biggestdiamond he had ever seen. The gem was skillfully cut with theperfection of a Tiffany. From its multi-faceted sides a million sparksof rainbow fire quivered and danced through the room. The shadowsseemed to come alive and burn under its presence.
Puffy gasped loudly.
"It ain't true," Puffy said. "A paste if I ever stole one."
Blake leaned on the low rail that bordered the dining room. His legswere spread wide, body balanced unsteadily with firm-gripped hands.George Lardner had picked a winner this time. Clothed in ankle-lengthsilver cloth, she wafted across the floor lightly as a breeze. SylviaFanton was a light, floating angel of beauty. Her hair was raven-blackdrifting to her waist and the eyes, dark as her hair, seemed caught inworship for the precious stone in her hands. She hardly danced yet thesmooth torso, the swaying hips held her admirers fixed.
A sigh of longing escaped Drake's lips.
"Wunnerful," he breathed.
"Yea!" Puffy was still watching the great gem. "Not real though."
"Perfect as a dream," Jim Drake went on, not hearing.
"Perfect phony," Puffy insisted.
Drake swung around unsteadily.
"Who you calling phony," he lisped angrily. "That's girl's wunnerful."
He staggered and collapsed against Puffy's barrel chest.
"Home for you," Puffy decided.
* * * * *
He retrieved Drake like a sack of spuds and placed him carefully onhis feet.
"We're going out." He took a last look toward the dance floor andpushed his boss through the curtains toward the outer lobby.
The music behind them stopped. The lights in the dining room blinkedout and a woman screamed somewhere in the darkness. Adams didn't waitto find out what had happened. He pushed Drake along the hall towardthe coat room. Beside the tall youngster, Adams assumed all theimportance of a harbor tug heaving away at an ocean-going liner.
Mary, the checkroom girl, was waiting. When midnight brought Drakefrom his whiskey, the girl had learned to expect a lavish tip. Shelooked at Puffy with a puzzled smile.
"What's wrong in there?"
"Revolution," he answered shortly. "Light went out. Lardner probablyforgot to pay the light bill."
Jim Drake fumbled uncertainly in his pocket and brought out a numberedticket.
"Coat please," he said stiffly. "Coat please!"
He waved the ticket under Mary's nose.
She took the stub quickly and returned in a minute with a woman'ssilver fox cape. It was a lavish, deeply rich fur.
"How long since you started wearing these things?" she asked andpushed it across the counter.
"Hey!" Puffy grunted. "That ain't ours."
Drake clutched the fur protectively.
"Here--here," he cried. "My coat. Just grew whiskers. My coat just thesame."
Before Adams could stop him, Drake was lurching toward the door andinto the waiting arms of the doorman. Puffy tossed a bill on thecounter and Mary's eyes popped a fraction.
"We'll bring it back when he sobers up," he said quickly. "Must havegot the wrong number."
"Forget it." He went toward Drake and the grinning doorman. Rescuinghis drunken charge. Adams helped him across the walk toward the car.
"Come on, Cinderella. You got a date with the sandman."
Somewhere down State Street came the mournful howl of a siren.
"Whee!" Drake waved the fur in the air above his head. "Fire--want togo to fire."
* * * * *
A crowd of patrons were pouring from the club behind them. With aquick push Puffy deposited Drake in the streamlined coupe and roundedthe rear tires on the run. He jumped behind the wheel and turned thekey. Sirens were whining in close now.
The door slammed and a girl landed squarely on Drake's lap.
It was the dancing girl, Sylvia Fanton. Her face was flushed brightlywith fright.
"Whee!" Drake shouted gleefully. "The Angel herself. Where's theTiffany?"
He threw his arms about her slim, silver-clad waist and planted apopping kiss on her cheek. The flat of the girl's hand caught hisface, hard. Drake sobered a degree.
"My jacket!" her voice was strained and tense. "Please! I must have itat once."
Drake was interested. His pale eyes started to show fight.
"Sure!" he said. "But it's _my_ jacket."
The sirens were dying now. A powerful police car shot to the curbbehind them. Puffy's eyes narrowed and he drove the coupe away fromthe club smoothly.
"Too hot around here," he said to no one in particular. "Can't standthe smell of copper's feet."
Sylvia Fanton's dress was badly ripped on one side. The silkenstocking and smooth flesh of her thigh was visible through the tear.
"Please!" There were tears in her cold eyes.
Drake was coy.
"Aw," he insisted. "I had a ticket for it."
She slipped between them, her arm around Drake's shoulder. Realizingthat he was drunk, she tried a different approach.
"Now what would you do with it?" she asked sweetly. "You would lookfunny wearing a silver fox jacket. You'd be just an old fox."
Jim hesitated. Then he slipped the jacket from his arm and around hersoft shoulder.
"I'll make a deal with you," he suggested. "Let us take you home andyou can have the old animal."
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Queen of the Flaming Diamond by Leroy Yerxa / Science Fiction have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes