Fenner arrived at Key West about nine. He checked in at a nearby hotel, got himself a cold bath and went to bed. He was lulled to sleep by the drone of an electric fan that buzzed just above his head.
He had two hours’ catnap, then the telephone woke him. The telephone said “Good morning” and he ordered orange juice and toast and told the brittle voice at the other end to send him up a bottle of Scotch. While he was waiting he went into the bathroom and had a cold shower.
It was half past eleven when he left the hotel. He walked south down Roosevelt Boulevard. All the time he walked he kept thinking about the heat. He thought if he was going to stay long in this burg he’d certainly have to do something about the heat.
He stopped a policeman and asked for Buck Nightingale’s place.
The cop gaped at him. “You’re new here, huh?”
Fenner said, “No, I’m the oldest inhabitant. That’s why I come up an’ ask you. I wantta see if you know the answer,” and he went on, telling himself that he’d have to be careful. The heat was doing things to his temper already.
He found Nightingale’s place by asking a taxi-driver. He got the information and he got civility. He thanked the driver, then spoiled it by not hiring the cab. The driver told him he’d take him all over the town for twenty-five cents. Fenner said that he’d rather walk. He went on, closing his ears to what the driver said. It was too hot to fight, anyway.
By the time he reached Flagler Avenue his feet began to hurt. It was like walking on a red-hot stove. At the corner of Flagler and Thompson he gave up and flagged a cab. When he settled himself in the cab he took off his shoes and gave his feet some air. He’d no sooner got his shoes off than the . cab forced itself against the oncoming traffic and pulled up outside a small shop.
The driver twisted his head. “This is it, boss,” he said.
Fenner squeezed his feet into his shoes and had difficulty in getting his hot hand into his trouser pocket. He gave the driver twenty-five cents and got out of the cab. The shop was very clean and the windows shone. In the right-hand window stood a small white coffin. The back of the window was draped with heavy black curtains. Fenner, fascinated, thought the coffin looked lonely all by itself. He read the card that stood on a small easel by the coffin.
LOOK AFTER YOUR LITTLE ONE
IF THE LORD DOES NOT SPARE HIM?
Fenner thought it was all in very good taste. He went over to the other window and inspected that too. Again it was draped in black curtains, and on a white pedestal stood a silver urn. A card bearing the simple inscription “Dust to Dust” impressed him.
He stepped back and read the facia over the shop:
B. NIGHTINGALE’S FUNERAL PARLOR.
“Well, well,” he said, “quite a joint.”
He walked into the shop. As he opened the door the electric buzzer started, and stopped as soon as the door shut. Inside, the shop was even more impressive. There was a short counter dividing the room exactly in half. This was draped with a white-and-purple velvet cover. Several black leather arm-chairs dotted the purple pile carpet. On the left of the room was a large glass cabinet containing miniature coffins made of every conceivable material, from gold to pine wood.
On the right was a six-foot crucifix cleverly illuminated by concealed lights. The figure was so realistic that it quite startled Fenner. He felt that he’d wandered into a church.
Long white, black and purple drapes hung behind the counter. There was no one in the shop. Fenner wandered over to the cabinet and examined the coffins. He thought that as a permanent home the gold one was a swell job.
A woman came quietly from behind the curtain. She wore a tight-fitting black silk dress, white collar and cuffs. She was a blonde, and her big gashlike mouth was very red with paint. She looked at Fenner and her mouth shaped into a smile. Fenner thought she was quite something.
She said in a low, solemn voice, “Can I help you, please?”
Fenner scratched his chin. “Do you sell these boxes?” he said, jerking his thumb in the direction of the glass case.
She blinked. “Why sure,” she said. “They’re just models, you know; but was that what you wanted?”
Fenner shook his head. “No,” he said; “I was just curious.”
She looked at him doubtfully.
Fenner went on. “Nightingale in?”
“Did you want to see him particularly?”
“That’s why I asked, baby. Tell him Ross.”
She said, “I’ll see. He’s very busy right now.”
Fenner watched her go away behind the curtain. He thought her shape from behind was pretty good.
She came back after a while and said, “Will you come up?”
He followed her behind the curtain and up the short flight of stairs. He liked the scent she used, and halfway up the stairs he told her so. She looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. She had big white teeth. “What do I do now?” she said. “Should my face go red?”
He shook his head seriously. “I just like to tell a dame when she’s good,” he said.
She pointed to a door. “He’s in there,” she said. Then, after a little pause, she said, “I like you. You’ve got nice eyes,” and she went downstairs, patting her blonde curls with long white fingers.
Fenner fingered his tie. “Some frill,” he thought, and turned the door handle and walked in.
The room was obviously a workshop. Four coffins stood in a line on trestles. Nightingale was screwing a brass plate on one of them.
Nightingale was a little dark man with thick-lensed steel-rimmed glasses. His skin was very white, and two large colorless eyes blinked weakly at Fenner from behind the cheaters.
Fenner said, “I’m Ross.”
Nightingale went on screwing down the plate. “Yes?” he said. “Did you want to see me?”
“Dave Ross,” Fenner repeated, standing by the door. “I think you were expectin’ me.”
Nightingale put down the screw-driver and looked at him. “So I was,” he said, as if remembering. “So I was. We’ll go upstairs and talk.”
Fenner followed him out of the workshop and up another short flight of stairs. Nightingale showed him into a room which was large and cool. Two big windows opened out to a small balcony. From the window, Fenner could see the Mexican Gulf.
Nightingale said, “Sit down. Take off your coat if you want to.”
Fenner took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. He sat by the window.
Nightingale said, “Perhaps a drink?”
When the drinks were fixed, and Nightingale had settled himself, Fenner sparred for an opening. He knew he’d have to go carefully with this little guy. He didn’t know how far he could trust him. It was no use getting him suspicious.
He said at last, “How far you carryin’ me?”
Nightingale fingered his glass with his thick weak fingers. He looked a little bewildered. “All the way,” he said. “That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
Fenner stretched out. “I want to get in with the boys. New York’s got too hot for me.”
“I can do that,” Nightingale said simply. “Crotti said you were an all-right guy and I was to help you. Crotti’s been good to me; I’m glad to even things up with him.”
Fenner guessed Crotti was the guy Ike got on to. . “Maybe five C’s would be more concrete than Win’ Crotti,” he said drily.
Nightingale looked a little hurt. “I don’t want your dough,” he said simply. “Crotti said ‘help this man,’ and that’s enough for me.”
Fenner twisted in his chair. It quite shocked him to see that the little man was sincere.
“Swell,” he said hastily. “Don’t get me wrong. Where I come from there’s a different set of morals.”
“I can give you introductions. But what is it exactly that you want?”
Fenner wished he knew. He stalled. “I guess I gotta get into the money again,” he said. “Maybe one of your crowd could use me.”
“Crotti says you’ve got quite a reputation. He says you’ve got notches on your gun.”
Fenner tried to look modest and cursed Ike’s imagination. “I get along,” he said casually.
“Maybe Carlos could use you.”
Fenner tried a venture. “I thought Noolen might be good to throw in with.”
Nightingale’s watery eyes suddenly flashed. “Noolen? Noolen’s the south end of a horse.”
“Carlos has Noolen with his pants down. You won’t get any place with a piker like Noolen.”
Fenner gathered that Noolen was a wash-out. He tried again. “You surprise me. I was told Noolen was quite a big shot around here.”
Nightingale stretched his neck and deliberately spat on the floor. “Nuts,” he said.
Nightingale got back his good humor. “He’s the boy. Now Pio’ll get you somewhere.”
Fenner slopped a little of his Scotch. “That his name—Pio Carlos?”
Nightingale nodded. “He’s got this burg like that.” He held out his small squat hand and closed his thick fingers into a small fist. “Like that—see?”
Fenner nodded. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll be guided by you.”
Nightingale got up and put his glass on the table. “I’ve got a little job to do, and then we’ll go down and meet the boys. You rest here. It’s too hot to go runnin’ around.”
When he had gone, Fenner shut his eyes and thought. The lid was coming off this quicker than he’d imagined. He’d have to watch his step.
He felt a little draught and he opened his eyes. The blonde had come in and was gently shutting the door. Fenner heard her turn the key in the lock. “Jumpin’ Jeeze,” he thought, “she’s goin’ to grab me!”
He swung his legs off the chair Nightingale had sat in, and struggled to his feet.
“Stay put,” she said, coming over. “I want to talk to you.”
Fenner sat down again. “What’s your name, honey?” he said, stalling for time.
“Robbins,” she said. “They call me Curly round here.”
“Nice name, Curly,” Fenner said. “What’s on your mind?”
She sat down in Nightingale’s chair. Fenner could see bare thigh above her stockings. He thought she had a swell pair of gams.
“Take my tip,” she said, keeping her voice low, “an’ go home. Imported tough guys don’t stand up long in this town.”
Fenner raised his eyebrows. “Who told you I was a tough guy?” he said.
“I don’t have to be told. You’ve come down here to set fire to the place, haven’t you? Well, it won’t work. These hoods here don’t like foreign competition. You’ll be cat’s meat in a few days if you stick around.”
Fenner was quite touched. “You’re bein’ a very nice little girl,” he said; “but I’m afraid it’s no soap. I’m down here for, a livin’, and I’m stickin’.”
She sighed. “I thought you’d take it like that,” she said, getting up. “If you knew what’s good for you, you’d take a powder quick. Anyway, watch out. I don’t trust any of them. Don’t trust Nightingale. He looks a punk, but he isn’t. He’s a killer, so watch him.”
Fenner climbed out of his chair. “Okay, baby,” he said. “I’ll watch him. Now you’d better blow, before he finds you here.” He led her to the door.
She said, “I’m tellin’ you this because you’re cute. I hate seein’ a big guy like you headin’ for trouble.”
Fenner grinned, and, swinging his hand, he gave her a gentle smack on her fanny. “Don’t you worry your brains about me,” he said.
She leaned towards him, raising her face; so, because he thought she was pretty good, he kissed her. She wound her arms round his neck and held him, her body close to his. They stood like that for several minutes, then Fenner pushed her away gently.
She stood looking at him, breathing hard. “I guess I’m crazy,” she said, color suddenly flooding her face.
Fenner ran his finger round the inside of his collar. “I’m a bit of a bug myself,” he said. “Scram, baby, before we really get to work. Beat it, an’ I’ll see you in church.”
She went out quietly and shut the door. Fenner took out his handkerchief and wiped his hands thoughtfully. “I think I’m goin’ to like this job,” he said aloud. “Yeah, it might develop into somethin’,” and he went back and sat down by the open window again.
Nightingale led him through the crowded lobby of the Flagler Hotel. Fenner said, “This guy does himself well.”
Nightingale stopped before the elevator doors and thumbed the automatic button. “Sure,” he said; “what did I tell you? Pio’s the boy to be in with.”
Fenner studied the elaborate wrought ironwork of the gates. “You’re tellin’ me,” he said.
The cage came to rest and they stepped in. Nightingale pressed the button for the fifth, and the cage shot them up. “Now I’ll do the talkin’,” Nightingale said, as the lift stopped. “Maybe you won’t get anythin’, but I’ll try.”
Fenner grunted and followed the little man down the corridor. He stopped outside No. 47 and rapped three times fast and twice slowly on the door.
“Secret signs as well,” Fenner said admiringly.
The door opened and a short Cuban, dressed in a black suit, looked them over. Fenner shaped his lips for a whistle, but he didn’t make any sound.
Nightingale said in his soft voice: “It’s all right.”
The Cuban let them in. As he shut the door after them, Fenner saw a bulge in his hip-pocket. The hall they found themselves in was big, and three doors faced them.
“The boys in yet?” Nightingale asked.
The Cuban nodded. He sat down in an arm-chair by the front door and picked up a newspaper again. As far as he was concerned they weren’t there.
Nightingale went into the centre room. There were four men lounging about the room. They were all in shirt-sleeves and they all were smoking. Two of them were reading newspapers, one of them was listening to the radio, and the fourth was cleaning a rod. They all glanced at Nightingale, and then fixed wooden looks on Fenner.
The man with the rod got up slowly. “Who is it?” he said. He’d got a way of speaking with his teeth shut. He wore a white suit and a black shirt with a white tie. His wiry black hair was cropped close, and his yellow-green eyes were cold and suspicious.
Nightingale said, “This is Ross. From New York. Crotti knows him. He’s all right.” Then he turned to Fenner. “Meet Reiger.”
Fenner gave Reiger a wintry smile. He didn’t like the look of him.
Reiger nodded. “How do,” he said. “Stayin’ long?”
Fenner waved his hand. “These other guys friends of yours, or are they just decoration?”
Reiger’s eyes snapped. “I said, stayin’ long?” he said.
Fenner eyed him. “I heard you. It ain’t no goddamn business of yours, is it?”
Nightingale put his hand on Fenner’s cuff. He didn’t say anything, but it was a little warning gesture. Reiger tried a staring match with Fenner, lost it and shrugged. He said, “Pug Kane by the radio. Borg on the right. Miller on the left.”
The three other men nodded at Fenner. None of them seemed friendly.
Fenner was quite at ease. “Glad to know you,” he said. “I won’t ask you guys for a drink. Maybe you don’t use the stuff.”
Reiger turned on Nightingale. “What’s this?” he snarled. “Who’s this loud-mouthed punk?”
Miller, a fat, greasy-looking man with a prematurely bald head said, “Somethin’ he’s dug outa an ash-can.”
Fenner walked over to him very quickly and slapped him twice across his mouth. A gun jumped into Nightingale’s hand and he said, “Don’t start anythin’—Don’t start anythin’, please.”
Fenner was surprised they took any notice of Nightingale, but they did. They all froze solid. Even Reiger looked a little sick.
Nightingale said to Fenner, “Come away from him.” His voice had enough menace in it to chill Fenner a trifle. Curly was right. This guy was a killer.
Fenner stepped away from Miller and put his hands in his pockets.
Nightingale said, “I won’t have it. When I bring a friend of mine up here, you treat him right. I’d like to measure some of you heels for a box.”
Fenner laughed. “Ain’t that against etiquette?” he said. “Or do you take it both ways? Bump ’em an’ bury ’em?”
Nightingale put his rod away, and the others relaxed. Reiger said with a little forced smile, “This heat plays hell.” He went over to a cupboard and set up drinks.
Fenner sat down close to Reiger. He thought this one was the meanest of the bunch and he was the one to work on. He said quietly, “This heat even makes me hate myself.”
Reiger looked at him still suspiciously. “Forget it,” he said. “Now you’re here, make yourself at home,”
Fenner rested his nose on the rim of his glass. “Carlos in?” he said.
Reiger’s eyes opened. “Carlos ain’t got time for visitors,” he said. “I’ll tell him you’ve been in.”
Fenner drained his glass and stood up. Nightingale made a move, but Fenner stopped him with a gesture. He stood looking round at each man in turn. He said, “Well, I’m glad. I looked in. I thought this was a live outfit, an’ I find I’m wrong. You guys are no use to me. You think you’ve got this town by the shorts an’ you’re fat an’ lazy. You think you’re the big-shots, but that’s not the way I spell it. I think I’ll go an’ see Noolen, That guy’s supposed to be the south end of a horse. All right, then I’ll make him the north end. It’ll be more amusing than playin’ around with guys like you.”
Reiger slid his hand inside his coat, but Nightingale already had his rod out. “Hold it,” he said.
The four men sat still; their faces made Fenner want to laugh.
Nightingale said, “I asked him to come along. If he don’t like us, then let him go. A friend of Crotti’s is a friend of mine.”
Fenner said, “I’ll drop round some time an’ see you again.”
He walked out of the room, past the Cuban, who ignored him, and took the elevator down to the street level.
The commissionaire at the door looked as if he had some brains. Fenner asked him if he knew where he could find Noolen. The commissionaire said he’d got an office off Duval Street, and beckoned a cab. Fenner gave him a fin.
The commissionaire helped him into the cab as though he were made of china.
Noolen’s office was over a shop. Fenner had to go up a long flight of stairs before he located the frosted glass-panelled door. When he got inside, a flat-chested woman whose thirties were crowding up on her, regarded him suspiciously from behind a typewriter.
“Noolen in?” he asked, smiling at her, because he felt she could do with a few male smiles.
“He’s busy right now,” she said. “Who is it?” .
“Me? Tell him Ross. Dave Ross. Tell him I ain’t sellin’ anythin’, and I want to see him fast.”
She got up and walked over to a door behind her. Fenner gave her a start, then he took two strides and walked into the room with her.
Noolen was a dark, middle-aged man, growing a paunch. He’d a double chin and a hooked nose. His eyes were hooded and mean. He looked at Fenner and then at the woman. “Who’s this?” he snapped.
The woman jerked round, her eyes popping. “Wait outside,” she said.
Fenner pushed past her and wandered over to the big desk. He noticed a lot of spots on Noolen’s vest. He noticed the dirty nails and the grubby hands. Nightingale was right. Noolen was the south-end of a horse.
Fenner said, “Ross is the name. How do?”
Noolen jerked his head at the woman, who went out, shutting the door with a sharp click. “What do you want?” he asked, scowling.
Fenner put his hands on the desk and leant forward. “I want a hook-up in this burg. I’ve seen Carlos. He won’t play. You’re next on my list, so here I am.
Noolen said, “Where you from?”
Noolen studied his dirty finger-nails. “So Carlos couldn’t use you. What’s the matter with him?” There was a sneer in his voice.
“Carlos didn’t see me. I saw his flock of hoods an’ that was enough for me. They made me puke, so I scrammed.”
“Why come to me?”
Fenner grinned. “They told me you were the south-end of a horse. I thought maybe we could do something about it.”
A faint red crept into Noolen’s face. “So they said that, did they?”
“Sure. With me, you might have a lotta fun with that gang.”
Fenner hooked a chair towards him with his foot and sat down. He leant forward and helped himself to a thin greenish cigar from a cigar-box on the desk. He took his time lighting it. Noolen sat watching him. His eyes intent and bright.
“Look at it this way,” Fenner said, stretching in the chair; “my way. I’ve come from Crotti. I want a chance like the rest of you for some easy dough an’ not much excitement. Crotti said either Carlos or Noolen. Carlos’s mob is too busy big-shotting to worry about me. I can’t even get in to see Carlos. You—I walk in an’ find you sittin’ on your can, with a flat-chested, bird outside as your muscle guard. Why did Crotti tip you? Maybe you’ve been someone an’ Crotti’s getting behind in the news. Maybe you are someone, an’ this is a front. Take it all round, I think you an’ me might get places.”
Noolen gave a little shrug. He shook his head. “Not just now,” he said. “I don’t know Crotti. I’ve never heard of him, an’ I don’t believe you’ve come from him. I think you’re a punk gunman bluffing himself a job. I don’t want you an’ I hope I’ll never want you.”
Fenner got up and yawned. “That’s swell,” he said. “I can now grab myself a little rest. When you’ve looked into things, you’ll find me at the Haworth Hotel. If you know Nightingale, have a word with him—he thinks I’m quite a boy.”
He nodded to Noolen and walked out of the office. He went down the stairs, called a cab and drove to his hotel. He went into the restaurant and ordered a turtle steak. While he was eating, Nightingale came in and sat down opposite him. .
Fenner said, with his mouth full, “Ain’t you got any boxes to make, or is business bad?”
Nightingale looked worried. “That was a hell of a thing to do—walking out like that.”
“Yeah? I always walk out when I get a Bronx cheer. Why not?”
“Listen, Reiger ain’t soft. That ain’t the way to handle Reiger.”
“No? You tell me.”
Nightingale ordered some brown bread, cheese and a glass of milk. He kept his eyes on the white tablecloth until the waitress brought the order, and when she had gone away he said, “This makes it difficult for me.”
Fenner put his knife and fork down. He smiled at the little man. “I like you,” he said. “You’re the one guy who’s given me a hand up to now. Suppose you stick around, I might do you some good.”
Nightingale peered at Fenner from under his hat. The sun, coming in through the slotted blinds, reflected on his glasses. “You might do me some harm, too,” he said drily.
Fenner resumed his eating. “Hell!” he said. “This is a hell of a burg, ain’t it?”
When they had finished their meal, Fenner pushed his chair away and stood up. “Okay, pal,” he said. “I’ll see you some time.”
Nightingale said, “We might talk some time.” He said it hopefully.
Fenner took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know,” he said vaguely, “I don’t know.”
He nodded to the little man and went out to the office. The hotel manager was busy at the desk. He looked up as Fenner passed and gave an oily smile.
Fenner said, “I’m goin’ to sleep. This place’s killin’ me.”
Before the manager could say anything, he went on up the stairs to his bedroom. He shut the door and turned the key. Then he took off his coat and hat and lay on the bed. He went to sleep almost immediately, a pleased smile on his mouth.
The phone woke him. He sat up with a jerk, glanced at the clock, saw he had slept for two hours, and reached out for the phone.
A voice said, “Come over to the Flagler Hotel right away. The boss wants you.”
Fenner screwed up his eyes. “Tell the boss I came this mornin’. I don’t visit the same place twice,” and hung up.
He lay back on the bed and shut his eyes. He only lay there a minute or so before the phone went again.
The same voice said, “You’d better come. Carlos don’t like bein’ kept waitin’.
Fenner said, “Tell Carlos to come out here, or tell him to go roll a hoop.” He put the receiver on the prong with exaggerated care.
He didn’t bother to answer the phone when it rang again. He went into the little bathroom, bathed his face, gave himself a short shot from the Scotch, put on his hat and coat and went downstairs.
The heat of the afternoon sun was blistering. The hotel lobby was deserted, and he went over and sat down near the entrance. He put his hat on the floor beside him and stared out into the street. He knew that he wasn’t going to get very far with this business unless he turned up Marian Daley’s sister. He wondered whether the cops had found the two Cubans and the remains of Marian. He wondered what Paula was doing. From where he sat he could look into the hot, deserted street. A big touring car suddenly swept into the street, roared down to the hotel, and skidded to a standstill.
Fenner relaxed into the long cane chair and, reaching down, picked up his hat and put it on.
There were four men in the car. Three of them got out, leaving the driver sitting behind the wheel.
Fenner recognized Reiger and Miller, but the other guy he didn’t know. They came up the few steps quickly and blinked round in the semi-gloom. Reiger saw Fenner almost at once. He came over.
Fenner looked up at him and nodded. “Want to see anyone?” he said casually. “The clerk’s gone bye-bye.”
Reiger said, “Carlos wants you. Come on.”
Fenner shook his head. “It’s too hot. Tell him some other time.”
The other two came and stood round. They looked mean. Reiger said softly, “Comin’ on your dogs, or do we carry you?”
Fenner got up slowly. “If it’s like that,” he said, and went with them to the car. He knew Reiger was itching to slug him and he knew it wouldn’t do any good to make too much fuss. He wanted to see Carlos, but he wanted them to think he wasn’t too interested.
They drove fast to the Flagler Hotel in silence. Fenner sat between Reiger and Miller, and the other man, whom they called Bugsey, sat with the driver.
They all went up in the small elevator and along to No. 47. As they entered, Fenner said, “You could have saved yourself a trip by playin’ ball this mornin’.”
Reiger didn’t say anything. He crossed the room and rapped on another door and went in. Bugsey followed behind Fenner.
Carlos lay on a couch before a big open window. He was dressed in a cream silk dressing-gown, patterned with large red flowers. A white silk handkerchief was folded carefully in a stock at his throat, and his bare feet were encased in red Turkish slippers.
He was smoking a marihuana cigarette, and round his brown, hairy wrist hung a gold-linked bracelet.
Carlos was young. Maybe he was twenty or maybe he was twenty-four. His face was the color of old parchment and he had very red lips. Thin lips, paper-thin lips, and red, just like someone had slit his throat with a razor and moved the wound above his chin. His nose was small, with very wide nostrils, and his ears lay tightly against his head. His eyes were large and fringed with dark curly eyelashes. He had no expression in them. They were like dull pieces of black glass. His hair grew away from his forehead on either side of his temples. It was black, glistening and inclined to wave. Take a quick look at Carlos and you’d think he was a pretty handsome guy, but when you looked again you got an eyeful of his mouth and his lobeless ears, and you weren’t sure. When you got to his eyes you were dead certain that he was bad.
Reiger said, “This is Ross,” then he went out with Bugsey.
Fenner nodded to Carlos and sat down. He sat a little way from the sickening smoke of the marihuana cigarette.
Carlos looked at him with his blank eyes. “What is it?” he said. His voice was hoarse and unmusical.
“This mornin’ I came round to see you, but your hoods told me you were busy or somethin’. I ain’t used to bein’ handled that way, so I went back to my dump. I ain’t sure I wantta talk to you now.”
Carlos let his leg slide off the couch on to the floor. “I’m a cautious man,” he said; “I have to be. When I heard you’d been in, I got on long-distance to Crotti. I wanted to know more about you first—that’s reasonable, I think?”
Fenner’s eyelids narrowed. “Sure,” he said.
“Crotti says you’re all right.”
Fenner shrugged. “So what?”
“I can use you. But you gotta show me you’re my type of guy.”
“Let me hang around for a bit. Maybe, you ain’t my type of guy either.”
Carlos smiled. There was no mirth in it. “You’ve got a lot of confidence. That’s all right in its way.”
Fenner stood up. “I get along,” he said abruptly. “Where do we go from here?”
Carlos got off the couch. “Go out an’ talk to the boys,” he said. “Then we’ll go down to the waterfront. I’ve got a little job to do. It’ll interest you.
Fenner said, “Do I come on your pay-roll?”
“Suppose we say a hundred bucks until we get used to each other?”
“We’ve got to get used to each other pretty quick,” Fenner said without humor. “That’s chicken-feed to me.”
He went out and shut the door behind him.
Fenner, Carlos, Reiger and Bugsey entered a coffee shop an hour later. The place was full, and curious eyes watched them walk to the back, through a curtained door and out of sight.
Fenner found that Bugsey was ready to be friendly. He was a short, thick-set man, very much inclined to fat, with a round mottled face, gooseberry laughing eyes, and lips like sausages.
Reiger hated Fenner, and they both knew it. He walked with Carlos, and Fenner and Bugsey tagged along behind. They went down a short passage and down a flight of stairs. It was dark and rank in the passage, and very silent. At the bottom of the stairs was a door. Carlos unlocked it and went in.
The room was very large and Fenner noticed, when Bugsey pushed the door to, he had to use a lot of beef. The door was solid and shut to with a thud.
The room was dark but for two clots of brilliant light at the far end. Carlos and Reiger went towards the light and Fenner stood still. He looked inquiringly at Bugsey.
Bugsey pursed up his mouth. “This is his office,” he said in a low voice.
“What do we do—just stand around?”
Carlos sat down at a big table under one of the pools of light. He said to Reiger, “Bring him in.”
Reiger went into the darkness, and Fenner heard him unlock a door. A minute or so later he came back dragging a man with him. He led him by the front of his coat just like he was a sack of coal, not looking at him, not seemingly aware that he was bringing him in. He went over to a chair close to Carlos and dumped the man into it.
Fenner wandered a little nearer. The man was a Chinaman. He wore a shabby black suit and he sat huddled in the chair, his hands under his armpits and his body bent double.
Fenner looked at Bugsey, who again pursed his lips, but this time he didn’t say anything.
Reiger came round and knocked the Chinaman’s hat off. He took the rolled pigtail in his fist and dragged the Chinaman’s head back.
Fenner made a slight movement forward, then stopped. The Chinaman’s face glistened in the bright light. His skin was so tightly stretched that his face was skull-like. His lips had shrunk off his teeth, and only black shadows showed where his eyes were.
Carlos said, “You goin’ to write that letter now?”
The Chinaman just sat there, silent. Reiger jerked on his pigtail, wrenching his head back and then jerking it forward.
Carlos smiled. “An obstinate bastard, ain’t he, Reiger?” He pulled open a drawer and took something out, which he put on the table. “Put his hand on the table.”
Reiger put his hand on the Chinaman’s skinny wrist and pulled. The Chinaman kept his hands hidden under his armpits and Fenner could see the tremendous effort he made to keep them there. There was a long silence while Reiger struggled. Fenner could see the hand coming inch by inch from its sanctuary. Beads of perspiration started out on the Chinaman’s face and a low moaning sound came through his teeth.
Fenner said to Bugsey, “What the hell’s this?”
Bugsey waved at him, but said nothing. He just stared at the group at the table as if fascinated beyond speech.
The thin claw-like hand gradually came into view and Reiger, his mouth set in a hard grin, forced the hand on to the table. From where he stood, Fenner could see red-stained rags tied round each finger.
Carlos pushed a cheap pad of notepaper, a small bottle of ink and a brush towards the Chinaman. “Write,” he said.
The Chinaman said nothing. He did nothing.
Carlos looked at Reiger. Reiger, with his free hand, pulled the rags off the Chinaman’s fingers. Fenner sucked in his breath sharply. All the fingers were sodden lumps of red oozing pulp.
Fenner said, “For God’s sake!”
Carlos started and looked in his direction. “Come here,” he said; “I want you to see this.”
“I can see where I am,” Fenner said evenly.
Carlos shrugged. He picked up the object that he had taken from the drawer and carelessly fitted it on to one of the Chinaman’s fingers. The Chinaman made no effort to take his hand away. He sat huddled up, moaning like a dog in pain, his hand held by Reiger.
Carlos said spitefully, “I’m gettin’ goddamn sick of you. Will you write that letter, or won’t you?”
The Chinaman said nothing. Carlos savagely twisted the butterfly screw, crushing the sodden flesh. Reiger then took the Chinaman’s wrist and, lifting it up, smacked his hand several times down very hard on the table-top.
Fenner turned his back slowly on the group and took Bugsey’s arm. “If you don’t tell me what this means, I’m going to stop it,” he said hoarsely.
Bugsey’s face was like green cheese. He said, “The old guy’s got three sons in his home town. Carlos wants him to send for them, to hook them up in his racket. Those three guys are worth four grand a head to Carlos.
A sudden exclamation came from the other end of the room. Fenner turned his head. The Chinaman was writing. Carlos got to his feet, his dull eyes watching every stroke of the pen. When the letter was finished, the Chinaman fell back in the chair. He said in a thin, cracked voice, “Take it off . . . take it off . . . take it off.”
The thumb-screw still dangled from his finger. Carlos said very softly, “Of course I will. You shouldn’t have been so obstinate—you lousy fool.” He put his hand on the thumb-screw and jerked it. Fenner felt his stomach heave and he shifted his eyes. The Chinaman gave one little squeal and fell forward on his knees.
Distastefully, Carlos tossed the thumb-screw on the table. It slid a little on the white wood, leaving a red smear. Then, without looking at anyone, Carlos put his hand inside his coat and pulled a .25. He took a quick step towards the Chinaman, put the muzzle of the gun at the back of his head and squeezed the trigger. The crash of the gun sounded incredibly loud in the silent room.
Carlos put his gun away and walked over to the table. He picked up the letter, folded it carefully and put it in his wallet. “Tell Nightingale to get rid of him,” he said to Reiger, then walked directly over to Fenner. He stood and looked at Fenner narrowly. “Now do you like my racket?” he said.
Fenner itched to get his hands on him. He said very gently, “Maybe you’ve got a reason, but right now I think it’s a little too tough.”
Carlos laughed. “Come upstairs. I’ll tell you about it.”
The coffee shop had an air of reality, not like the room downstairs that gave Fenner the jitters. He sat down at a small table in a corner and took three quick deep breaths of hot air. Carlos sat down opposite him. Bugsey and Reiger went out and disappeared down the street.
Carlos pulled out a pouch and began to roll a cigarette. The tobacco was stringy and yellow-brown. A mulatto girl with enormous eyes brought two small cups of very strong black coffee. When she had gone, Carlos said, “You’re in this game now. If you don’t like it, say so, and you can get out. If you want to go ahead, I’ll tell you how it works. Once you know how it works, you’ll have to stay in. Get the idea?” He smiled bleakly.
Fenner nodded. “I’m stickin’,” he said.
Carlos said, “Don’t rush it. A guy who knows too much about my affairs is likely to run into a lot of grief if he wants to get out sudden.”
“What have you gotta worry about? If I don’t like it, that’s my funeral.”
Carlos sipped his coffee and stared across the cafe with blank eyes. Then he said abruptly. “There’s a big demand on the West Coast for cheap Chinese labor. When I say cheap, I mean cheap. The authorities look on Chinks as undesirables, so they won’t let them in. Now that’s a cock-eyed way of doin’ things. The demand’s there, but the guys who want them can’t get them. Well, that’s my racket. I get ’em in.”
Fenner nodded. “You mean you smuggle them in?”
“It’s easy. On this coast there are hundreds of places I can get them in. The coast guards don’t give me no trouble. Sometimes I’m unlucky, but I get along.”
Fenner scratched his head. “There ain’t any dough in this line, is there?”
Carlos showed his teeth. “You ain’t quite got the angle,” he said. “Look at it this way. First, the Chinks are crazy to get in here. I’ve got a guy in Havana who contacts them. They pay him to smuggle them across the Gulf. These Chinks are so hot to get in that they’ll pay as much as five hundred to a thousand dollars. We take a load of twelve Chinks at a time. Once those guys have got on one of my boats and have coughed up the dough, they become my property. I see them to the West Coast, and a good Chink will fetch again as much as five hundred bucks.”
Fenner frowned. “You mean the Chinks pay to get in, then you sell them once they’re in?”
Carlos nodded. “That’s it,” he said. “A two-way pay-off. It’s quite a game. I’ve shipped fifty Chinks over this week. Taking everything into consideration, I’ll pick up around thirty grand for that bit of work.”
This quite startled Fenner. He said: “But why in hell don’t these Chinks squawk? What happens to them?”
“How can they squawk? They got no right to be here. They can’t go to the cops. It’d mean jail and bein’ deported again. We send them up the coast and they get their food and that’s all. You can find ’em workin’ everywhere. In wash places, restaurants, laundries, everywhere.”
“Why did you want the old guy to write that letter?”
Carlos looked at him. “I’m tellin’ you quite a lot, ain’t I?”
Fenner met his glance. “Be your age. You don’t have to worry what you tell me.”
“That old guy’s got three sons in China. We ain’t gettin’ enough Chinks over. I got him to write to his sons askin’ em over. You know the stuff, sellin’ them the idea of what a grand time he’s havin’ and what a lot of dough he’s makin’. They’ll come all right. Those Chinks are suckers for that stuff.”
Fenner pushed back his chair. “Where do I come in?” he said.
“Maybe you’d like a trip over the Strait and collect some cargo for me. I’m sendin’ over in a day or so.”
Fenner nodded. “Sure, I’ll do that,” he said. “I’ll look in each day. Your joint’s a little too elaborate for me. It makes me feel coy. I guess I’ll stick to the Haworth for a while.”
Carlos shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said; “Bugsey’ll keep in touch with you.
Fenner nodded and pushed back his chair. “Sure,” he said.
He went out into the street, leaving Carlos still sitting at the table.
Bugsey suddenly appeared from nowhere and tagged along behind Fenner. Fenner turned his head, saw him and stopped. Bugsey drew up with him, and they went on together.
Fenner said, “Quite a racket this, ain’t it?”
Bugsey nodded. “It’s all right if you’re some big-shot,” he said, without enthusiasm. “I ain’t gettin’ places.”
Fenner looked at him sideways, thoughtfully. “Ain’t you gettin’ anything out of this?”
“Sure, sure,” Bugsey said hastily. “I’m not grumblin’.”
They wandered along the waterfront. Fenner thought this guy looked simple. He began to get ideas. He said, “What’s your rake-off?”
Bugsey said, “A hundred bucks.”
“Sure, but it’s tough these days.”
Fenner agreed that it was.
They moved along the waterfront, idly watching the shipping. Fenner paused suddenly. He regarded a large luxury motor-launch that was lying off the short jetty. He said, “Swell boat.”
Bugsey screwed up his eyes. “Yeah,” he said wistfully. “I’d like a tub like that.”
Fenner looked at him curiously. “What in hell would you do with it, anyway?” he asked.
Bugsey heaved a sigh. “Me? I’d get a flock of dames an’ I’d take ’em out in that tub. When I got in the middle of the Strait every one of ’em would have to jump through the hoop or swim home. That’s what I’d do.”
Fenner wasn’t listening to him, he was staring at a girl who had come up from the big cabin. She was a red-gold blonde with a high-breasted body, long legs, and long, narrow feet. She wore white trousers, red sandals and a red high-necked jersey. Fenner felt a little prickle of excitement. He knew who she was. He could see the points of likeness. He had come upon Marian Daley’s sister.
Bugsey noticed her too. He whistled softly. “What a frill!” he said.
Fenner said, “Know who she is?”
“Me? Don’t make me laugh. Think I’d be standin’ here if I did?” Bugsey looked at her wistfully. Then he said, “Think the breastworks are the McCoy, or is it a French trick?”
Fenner didn’t hear him. He saw the name on the boat, Nancy W, and he wandered on. “Havin’ you around cramps my style,” he said. “Alone, I’d’ve made that dame.”
Bugsey sneered. “You wouldn’t’ve got to first base. A frill like that’s class She’s got no time for hoods.”
Fenner led him to a bar. “All the same, pal, I’m goin’ to have a try,” he said.
When the barman came to take the order, Fenner said, “That’s a swell boat out there.”
The bartender stared vacantly out through the open door and nodded. “What’ll you have?” he said.
Fenner ordered two gin slings. When the bartender brought them back he tried again. “Who owns her?”
The bartender scratched his head. “What boat is it?”
“ Nancy W.”
“Sure, that’s a swell boat. Thayler’s the guy. He’s gotta heap of jack.”
Bugsey sighed. “You’d wantta heap of jack to rate a dame like that.”
“Thayler? What’s his line?” Fenner went on.
The bartender shrugged. “Just spends dough. One of these rich playboys, I guess.”
“Does he live around here?”
“A gay don’t want to live around here when he’s got a boat like that, does he?”
Fenner lowered half the gin sling. “Who’s the dame?”
The barman grinned. “I can’t keep up with them,” he said. “I guess that guy’s got a contract with the authorities to test them.”
Bugsey said, “That’s a swell job. Maybe he could do with a little help.”
Fenner said, “Where can you meet a guy like that?”
“Meet him? He gets about. He’s out a lot at Noolen’s Casino.”
“So, Noolen’s got a casino, eh?” Fenner said, looking at Bugsey.
Bugsey sneered. “Noolen’s the south-end of a horse.”
Fenner put his glass down on the counter. “I’m beginning to believe that,” he said, and putting his hand under Bugsey’s arm, he led him into the sunlight.
Noolen’s casino was close to Hemingway’s house at the corner of Olivia and Whitehead.
Fenner stopped his cab to get a look at the Hemingway house. Then he went on to the casino.
It was a hot evening, full of noise and river smells. The casino stood back in a landscape garden, with a half circular drive leading to the big double front doors. Double porches and arched windows, fitted with yellow slatted shutters, gave the big house a touch of distinction.
A lot of cars crawled up the drive, unloaded, and crawled on back to the street.
Fenner paid off his cab and wandered up the long flight of broad stone steps. The front doors were open, and he could see a brilliantly lighted lobby as he mounted.
There were two men standing by the door who looked at him hard. He put them down as Noolen’s muscle men. He went on through the lobby into a big room where two tables were in action. He wandered around, keeping his eyes open and hoping to find the girl on the boat.
He hadn’t been in the room five minutes before a short Cuban in evening dress came up to him. “Mr. Ross?” he said politely.
“What of it?” Fenner said.
“Will you come into the office a moment?”
Fenner smiled. “I’m here to enjoy myself,” he said. “What do I want in your office?”
The two men who had been standing at the door suddenly moved through the crowd and stood each side of him. They smiled at him, but the smile didn’t reach their eyes.
The Cuban said softly, “You’d better come, I think.”
Fenner shrugged and moved with him. They crossed the room, went out into the lobby and into a small room on the left.
Noolen was walking up and down, his head on his chest, and a big cigar clamped between his teeth. He glanced up at Fenner as he came in.
The Cuban shut the door, leaving the other two men outside.
Fenner thought Noolen looked in better shape. He seemed cleaner and his tuxedo suited him.
Noolen said, “What are you doin’ here?”
“This is public, ain’t it? What’s bitin’ you?”
“We don’t have any of Carlos’ mob in here.”
Fenner laughed. He went over and sat in a big leather arm-chair. “Don’t be a mug,” he said.
Noolen stood very still. “You better get out an’ stay out. . . .”
Fenner raised his hand. “Send the monkey away—I want to talk to you.”
Noolen hesitated, then he gave a sign to the Cuban, who went out.
“You’re not going to get anywhere being tough with Carlos,” Fenner said, stretching his long legs. “Why don’t you get wise to yourself?”
“What’s your game?” Noolen said. “There’s something about you I don’t trust...”
Fenner said seriously, “I don’t know. But string along. If my bet comes right, I may have to bust this town wide open. To do it, I might want you. I don’t like Carlos and I don’t like his racket. I think I’ll wash him up.”
Noolen laughed. “You’re crazy, Carlos’s big enough to smear you.”
Fenner nodded. “That’s how it looks, but that isn’t the way it’ll pan out You’d like to see that guy go, wouldn’t you?”
Noolen hesitated, then nodded. “Yeah,” he said; “but he ain’t goin’ in my lifetime.”
Fenner studied the toes of his shoes. “You got a mob if I wanted one?”
Noolen came and sat down. “I’ve gotta mob,” he said cautiously, “but they’re not in the same class. They’d be scared to start anything.”
Fenner grinned. “Not when Carlos starts to slip. That’s when your mob’s got to go to work.”
Noolen clasped his hands. There was a long silence while he brooded. Then he said, “You’re playin’ a tricky game. Suppose I have a little talk with Carlos.”
Fenner shrugged. “Why should you? You’ve got everything to gain by just sittin’ on your can waitin’ for me to clean up the town.”
“Okay. Then go ahead. I’ll come in when I see you gettin’ somewhere. Don’t think you’re going to clean my territory, because you ain’t. One move from you I don’t like, an’ I’ll clamp down on you.”
Fenner got to his feet. “We won’t worry about that for a little while,” he said. “There’ll be plenty of time to take care of that angle later.”
Noolen looked up at him suspiciously. “I don’t trust you, Ross, you’re too cagey.”
“Who’s Thayler?” Fenner asked abruptly.
“Thayler? What’s he to you?” Noolen’s eyes were suddenly hot and intent.
“Saw his boat this afternoon. Swell job. Heard he came out here. Thought I’d like to look him over.”
Noolen got up and walked to the door. “He’s out there now.”
Fenner followed him into the main hall. “Show him to me,” he said. “I want to meet him.”
Noolen wandered through the crowd, looked right and left, then said, “He’s playin’ on the third. The guy sittin’ next to the blonde twist.”
Fenner saw the girl. She looked fine sitting there. The soft light reflected on her red-gold hair, making deep shadows of her eyes and making her red lips glisten. She was wearing a black dress that fitted her too well.
Fenner said, “Who’s the frill?” He said it very casually.
“Glorie Leadler. She’s good, isn’t she? The best of her is under the table.” The blood had mounted in Noolen’s face, and his blue eyes were watery. Fenner looked at him curiously. Noolen went on, “You’ll have to wait if you want to meet Thayler. He won’t want to be interrupted.”
“That’s all right. This Leadler girl, what is she?” Noolen turned his head and looked at Fenner. “Why the excitement?”
“Why not? She’s a riot, ain’t she?”
Noolen sneered. “I’ll leave you for a little while. I’ve got things to do,” he said, and walked away.
Fenner looked after him, wondered what it was all about, and walked over to the small bar at the other end of the room. He ordered a rye and ginger and leaned against the bar. From where he stood he could just see Glorie’s head and shoulders. He looked at Thayler and studied him, a big man with a very sunburnt complexion and black crinkly hair. His china-blue eyes and his long thin nose made him look handsome.
When Fenner glanced at Glorie again he found she was looking at him. Fenner regarded her thoughtfully, wondering at the uncanny likeness. If this dame wasn’t Marian Daley’s sister, then he was a three-legged horse.
Thayler leaned over a little and spoke to her, and she started. Fenner couldn’t be sure, but he thought she had smiled at him. He thought maybe it had been a trick of the light, but it certainly had seemed that she’d given him a come-hither. He watched her closely, but she didn’t look in his direction again. He stayed there for several minutes, then he saw her speak to Thayler, and stand up. Thayler looked angry and put his hand on her wrist, but she shook her head, laughed at him and walked away from the table. Thayler screwed his head round to watch her, then turned back to the table again.
She came over to the bar. There were two other men standing close by, and the small Cuban manager. Fenner said, “Drinking alone is a vice. Will you have one with me?”
She didn’t look at him, but opened her small bag and took out a ten dollar bill. “I like vice,” she said softly, and ordered a gin sling. She stood with her back three-quarters to him. He could just see the lobe of her ear and the strong line of her chin.
Fenner finished his rye and ginger quickly and signaled the bartender for another. He studied her back thoughtfully, wondering. When the bar tender put his order down on the polished wood, and had gone away, he said, “Miss Leadler, I want to talk to you.”
She turned her head. “Me?”
“Yeah. That’s your name, ain’t it?” Yes.” Her gaze began to embarrass him. He had a sudden uncomfortable feeling that she was seeing him naked. No one had ever given him that feeling before, and it confused him.
“My name’s Ross. I’m staying at the Haworth. I want—” He broke off.
Thayler was coming over fast. A heavy scowl darkened his face, and he came up to the bar with long quick strides. He said to Glorie, “For God’s sake, can’t you just drink?”
Glorie laughed at him. She said in a clear voice, “I think he’s marvelous. I think he’s absolutely incredibly marvelous.”
Thayler looked uneasily at Fenner. “Cut it out, Glorie,” he said under his breath.
She went on. “He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. Look at his arms Look at the size of them. Look at the set of his neck—the way he holds his head.”
Fenner took out his handkerchief and wiped off his hands. He finished his drink. The Cuban manager was watching him, a cold look of contempt on his face.
Thayler said savagely, “You don’t have to rave about his arms or his neck. I know what you’re raving about all right.”
“Ask him to have a drink. He’s cute. Do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘Drinking alone is a vice.’” Glorie turned her head and smiled at Fenner.
Thayler said to Fenner, “Get out of here, you dope.”
Glorie giggled. “Be friendly. You’re making him embarrassed. That’s no way to talk to a lovely man like that.”
Fenner said, “Watch yourself, playboy! you’re a little too soft to talk big.”
Thayler made a move, but the Cuban manager slid between them. He said something to Thayler in a low voice. Thayler looked at Fenner over the top of the Cuban’s head, his face was flushed with suppressed rage; then he turned, took Glorie by the wrist and walked out of the room.
Fenner said to the Cuban, “Case of hot pants?”
The Cuban said, “Maybe you’d better go, too,” and turned away.
Fenner stood thinking, then he snapped his fingers and left. He ran through the lobby, out into the black night. A cab shot up to the entrance and the driver swung the door open. Fenner said, “Waterfront, fast,” and climbed into the cab.
Although the cab went fast, Thayler was already on board the Nancy W. when Fenner arrived. Fenner saw the light in the cabin flash as he paid off the cab driver. He looked hastily up and down the deserted waterfront, then ran along the jetty and climbed on board. Moving quietly, he reached the cabin. By lying full length, he could look down through the glass panel which was half open.
Glorie was standing in the middle of the cabin, rubbing her wrist and looking at Thayler, who was leaning against the door. “It’s time we had a showdown,” he said. His voice came quite clearly to Fenner. “I’ve been a sucker long enough.”
Glorie turned her back on him. “Once I get out of here,” she said unevenly, “I never want to see you again.”
Thayler went over to the sideboard and poured himself a drink. His hands shook so that the liquor slopped on the polished surface. “I’ve done a hell of a lot for you,” he said. “It’s always the same. I know you’re like that, but can’t you try? That’s what gets me, you don’t even try.”
Glorie moved round the room. She reminded Fenner of a caged animal.
“I’m sorry for you,” Thayler said.
She spun round. “You’re crazy. Do you think your sorrow means anything to me?”
“No one’s sorrow has ever meant anything to you. You haven’t any feeling, anyway.”
“Yes, I have.”
“Not that sort of feeling.”
Thayler held the glass in his hand very tightly. Fenner could see his knuckles were white. “After this, I’m through with you. I’m not going to have another evening like this one.”
Glorie laughed suddenly. “I’m sending you away, not you sending me. Shall I tell you why?”
“I’m sick of hearing it. I know it backwards.”
Glorie said spitefully, “No, you don’t. It’s because you’re no good. You never were any good and I waited and waited, hoping you’d get used to me, because you looked good. But you’re a flop. You don’t know anything about it. You only think you do.”
Thayler put his glass carefully on the table. He walked up to her and put his hands on her shoulders. His face was very white. “You know that’s a damn lie, don’t you?” he said.
She flung his hands off. “You’re hoping it’s a lie, aren’t you? You want to save some of your silly little pride.”
He moved forward and, reaching out, he ripped the front of her dress down to her waist. She threw up her hands. “What are you going to do?” she said, her voice suddenly hoarse. “You going to beat me again? That’s all you’re any good at, isn’t it? You can’t take a woman like any other man, you’ve got to do other things.”
Fenner pushed his hat to the back of his head and moved a little further forward.
Thayler stood very still, looking at Glorie. Fenner could see he was trembling. He said at last in a low, jerky voice, “I think I’ll kill you for that.”
She shook her head. “Try loving me instead,” she said. Thayler clenched his fists and took a step towards her. “Get out!” he said wildly. “Get out!”
She put her hand to her waist, loosened a catch and dropped the dress around her feet. She walked across the cabin to the big divan in the corner of room. She sat down, and crossing her leg, undid the suspender and rolled down her stocking. She looked up at him. “Show me I’m wrong ” she said, and giggled.
Fenner drew away from the cabin roof and stood up.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said unsteadily, and turning, he left the boat and headed for his hotel.