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Queen of the Flaming Diamond by Leroy Yerxa

QUEEN

OF THE

FLAMING DIAMOND

by LEROY YERXA

* * * * *

[Sidenote: _There it was, in a night club, the biggest diamond in the world. Why was it here when a whole race depended on it for existence?_]

The Owl Limb Night Club was crowded with smoothly gowned women and paunchy men as Owner George Lardner approached the hanging "mike" to announce 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 his right hand man with a washed-out expression.

"Huh?"

"Puffy" Adams stood up slowly. His coat was wrinkled and creased across his powerful back. He pulled it down impatiently and rubbed a warm hand across his face. Looking down at the unsteady figure of Jim Drake he grunted. Three crooked teeth that seemed at odds with the world, appeared coyly against "Puffy's" lower lip.

He was accustomed to this old routine. Placing both hands under Drake's armpits he lifted. Jim came to his feet with a surprised gurgle.

"Wait a minute," he protested. "Wanta' see dance."

Puffy Adams pushed a thick arm around Drake and steered him across the floor between the tables.

"Special feature tonight--diamond of mystery...." The night club owner was still talking, his voice drowning the murmur of voices and tinkle of glasses across the big room. "Sylvia Fanton--girl from nowhere--!"

Puffy struggled onward under the almost dead weight of his boss. Drake was 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 led toward the coat room. A silvery crash of music drowned out Puffy's voice with the suddenness of striking lightning. He dropped his arm from Drake's waist and pivoted, surprise on his broad face. Something weird and lovely about the sound turned them both toward the stage. His chin dropped in delight. This wasn't Lardner's usual nightly feature.

[Illustration: She went into a weirdly sensuous dance....]

They watched with hypnotized eyes as the girl's slim body twisted and swayed from between the bright shower of curtains. It wasn't the girl that caught Puffy's gaze. Cupped in her slim hands was the biggest diamond he had ever seen. The gem was skillfully cut with the perfection of a Tiffany. From its multi-faceted sides a million sparks of rainbow fire quivered and danced through the room. The shadows seemed to come alive and burn under its presence.

Puffy gasped loudly.

"Shhhhh!"

"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 legs were spread wide, body balanced unsteadily with firm-gripped hands. George Lardner had picked a winner this time. Clothed in ankle-length silver cloth, she wafted across the floor lightly as a breeze. Sylvia Fanton was a light, floating angel of beauty. Her hair was raven-black drifting to her waist and the eyes, dark as her hair, seemed caught in worship for the precious stone in her hands. She hardly danced yet the smooth torso, the swaying hips held her admirers fixed.


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