Fenner was in Nightingale’s workroom, watching the little man staining a box, when Reiger came in.
Reiger said, “We got a job for you. I’ll pick you up here at eight o’clock.”
Fenner lit a cigarette. “What’s the job?”
“Listen, Reiger. You ain’t gettin’ that way with me. Either you work with me or to hell with it. What’s the job?”
Reiger scratched the side of his mouth with his thumbnail. “We’ve got a consignment of Chinks. We’re bringin’ them over tonight.”
Fenner said, “Okay, I’ll be here.”
Reiger went out.
“Friendly guy that,” Fenner said to Nightingale. “Somehow, I don’t think he an’ I hit it off.”
Nightingale looked worried. “You’re handlin’ that guy wrong,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s mean. You’d better watch him.”
Fenner drummed on the top of a coffin-lid with his fingers. “I’ll watch him all right,” he said. He nodded to Nightingale and went downstairs. Curly was sitting at the desk writing in a ledger. She looked up hopefully as he went past.
Fenner paused. “Hyah, baby,” he said. “That’s a nice face and figure you’re wearin’ this mornin’.”
Curly opened her big eyes. “Gee!” she said. “I don’t get much of that syrup.”
“Never mind. It comes as a nice surprise when you do.”
Curly nibbled the top of her pen. She looked at him with thoughtful eyes.
“You’re in this now?” she said.
“I’ve seen him.”
Curly sighed. “Ain’t he a beautiful guy?”
“I wouldn’t call him that. You don’t think a lot of him, do you?”
Curly said bitterly, “What does it matter what I think?”
Fenner had a sudden idea. He sat on the edge of her desk. “Wait a minute, baby, don’t get that way. Carlos mean anythin’ to you?”
Curly said, “No guy means anything to me. You keep your nose out of my business, will you?” Her eyes told him quite a lot.
He stood up and grinned. “Sure, sure,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I thought maybe you’d like to put your curly little head on my shoulder an’ tell me all your troubles.”
“Well, you’re wrong,” she snapped. “I’ve got no troubles.”
Fenner grinned again and went into the street. So that’s the way it is, he thought. Curly had gone soft on Carlos and was getting nowhere. It was tough to fall for a little rat like Carlos.
He walked for some time through the narrow streets, retracing his steps, going into a bar for a short drink, and all the time checking to find out if anyone was tailing him. When he was satisfied no one was, he headed downtown again.
When he reached the Federal Building, he loitered outside, keeping a close watch on the street; then he ducked into the building and took the elevator to the Federal Field Office.
The Federal Agent was named Hosskiss. He stood up behind his desk and offered a moist hand.
Fenner shook hands and sat down heavily in the chair opposite Hosskiss. He took some papers out of his inside pocket and handed them over. “The name’s Fenner. Here’s my license that permits me to operate as a private investigator. I’m on business for a client down here, and I want you to know some facts.”
Hosskiss examined the papers, frowned, and then said, “Fenner? You the guy who broke the Blandish kidnapping case?”
“"Well, that’s fine,” Hosskiss grinned. “I used to know Brendan. He told me all about it. Why, sure, if I can help you I’ll be glad.”
“I can’t give you all the facts, but I’m looking for a girl. Somehow or other Carlos is tied up to the business. I’ve got an introduction to Carlos which was a fake and I’ve got a hook-up with his gang. I want you to know about this because I don’t want to run foul of your boys. Tonight I’m going with Reiger to collect a cargo of Chinks. We are due to leave around eight o’clock. I thought maybe you’d like to hear about that.”
Hosskiss blew out his cheeks. “Hell,” he said, “you don’t seem to know what sort of an outfit you’re bucking. Listen, if Carlos hears about this you’ll be cat’s meat. That guy is the most dangerous rat on the coast.”
Fenner shrugged. “I know that,” he said. “I was careful. I don’t think anyone spotted me coming here. Why haven’t you clamped down on that gang?”
“No evidence. We know what his game is, but we’ve never caught him at it. We’ve got airplanes and boats watching the coast, but he seems to slip through easily enough. Once we did catch up with him, but he hadn’t anythin’ on board. They’re a tough gang. I’m betting they dumped the aliens overboard as soon as they saw our boat heading towards them.”
Fenner scratched his head. “If you catch up on us tonight, you’ve got to let me out somehow. It’s Reiger I’d like to see in a cage, but I’ve got to be in the clear so I can carry on with my investigation.”
Hosskiss said, “I’ll fix that for you. You wouldn’t like to tell me what it’s all about?”
Fenner shook his head. “Not right now,” he said cautiously. “I guess maybe I’ll need your help for the final clean-up, but all I want now is for you to keep me in the clear if trouble comes my way.” He stood up.
Hosskiss shook hands. “You don’t know your course for tonight?”
Fenner shook his head. “No,” he said; “you’ll have to find us.”
“We’ll find you all right. I’ll have the Strait lousy with boats.”
Out in the street again, Fenner went on to the waterfront and picked up Bugsey. They went on to the Flagler Hotel.
Carlos was by himself when they entered No. 47. He nodded to them. He said to Bugsey, “Go outside and rest yourself.”
Bugsey looked surprised, but he went out. Carlos looked at Fenner. Then he said, “Why did you go to Noolen’s joint the other night?”
Fenner said, “I’m workin’ for your mob, but I don’t have to play with them, do I?”
Carlos said, “You didn’t play. You went into Noolen’s office—why?”
Fenner thought quickly. Carlos was standing very still, his hand hovering near the front of his coat. “I did go in to play, but Noolen sent for me an’ told me to clear out. He didn’t want any of your mob in his joint,” Fenner said.
Carlos said, “You tried to talk with the Leadler woman—why?”
“Why not?” Fenner thought this was getting on dangerous ground. “Any guy would try for a frill like that. She was on her own, so I thought we might get friendly. What do you know about her?”
Carlos’s eyes snapped. “Never mind about that. I don’t like the way you’re acting, Ross. Both those stories come too easy. I think I’ll watch you.
Fenner shrugged. “You’re losing your nerve,” he said contemptuously. “You ain’t scared of Noolen?”
Carlos jerked his head. “You can go,” he said, and walked to the window.
Fenner went out thoughtfully. This guy wasn’t such a dope as he’d thought. He would have to play his cards carefully. He said to Bugsey, “I’ll he with you in a second. I wanna phone my hotel an’ tell ’em I won’t be in tonight.
He shut himself in a booth and called Noolen. Bugsey hung about outside. Fenner said, keeping his voice low, “Noolen? Ross speakin’. Listen, Carlos has got a plant at your gambling house. He knew you an’ me had a talk, and he knew other things. That Cuban manager of yours—had him long?”
“Two months.” Noolen’s voice sounded worried. “I’ll check up on him.”
“Yeah,” said Fenner grimly, “I’d get rid of that guy quick,” and he hung up. He walked out of the booth and took Bugsey’s arm. “We’ll go an’ take things easy,” he said. “Looks like I’ll have a little hard work tonight.”
Bugsey went with him. He said in a low, confidential voice, “I gotta date myself.” He closed his eyes and smiled.
Fenner showed at Nightingale’s two minutes before eight. Reiger and Miller were already there. Miller was greasing a sub-machine-gun. They both looked up as Fenner followed Nightingale into the workroom.
Fenner said, “I smell rain.”
Reiger grunted, but Miller said in a false, friendly way, “That’s what we want, rain.”
Nightingale said to Fenner in a low voice, “You got a rod?”
Fenner shook his head.
Nightingale went over to a drawer and took out a big automatic. Reiger jerked up his head. “He don’t want a rod.”
Nightingale took no notice. He handed the gun to Fenner. Reiger seemed to get quite excited. “I tell you he don’t want a rod,” he said, standing up.
Fenner looked at him. “Give it a haircut,” he said, “I feel safer with a rod.”
They stared at each other, then Reiger shrugged and sat down again.
Nightingale gave a peculiar smile. “You given up packing a rod?” he said to Fenner. “They tell me you’re dynamite with a trigger.”
Fenner balanced the automatic thoughtfully in his hand. “I get by,” was all he said.
Miller looked at the small watch that seemed out of place on his thick wrist. “Let’s go,” he said. He wrapped the machine-gun in his dust-coat and picked up his hat.
Reiger moved to the door. Nightingale said softly to Fenner: “Watch those two birds.”
There was a big sedan parked outside the Funeral Parlor. Reiger got under the driving-wheel, and Fenner and Miller got in behind. Fenner waved his hand to Nightingale as the car slid away. He caught a glimpse of Curly watching behind Nightingale. He could just make out the blurred outline of her face.
He said to Miller: “Carlos never comes on these runs, does he?”
“Why should he?” Miller said shortly.
Reiger swung the car south. “You’re always askin’ questions, ain’t you?” he said.
They rode the rest of the way in silence. When they got down to the waterfront they left the car parked and walked rapidly down to the line of small shipping. A tall Negro and Bugsey were waiting alongside a forty-foot boat. As soon as the Negro saw them coming he climbed aboard and disappeared into the engine-room. Bugsey stood ready to cast off.
Reiger said, while Miller climbed aboard, “You don’t do anythin’ until they come alongside. Then you gotta watch them as they come aboard. Not one of these Chinks must have guns. The safest way to deal with them is to make them strip as they come on board. It takes time, but it’s safe. If you think one of them’s got a rod, take it off him. If he looks like startin’ anything, give it to him. Miller will take them from you and put them in the forward cabin.”
Fenner said, “Sure,” and followed Reiger on board. Bugsey cast off and tossed the bowline to Reiger. He waved his hand to Fenner. “Nice trip,” he said.
The Negro started the engines and the boat began to shudder a little. Miller was already down in the cockpit, his hand on the wheel.
Reiger said, “All right—let her go,” and the boat began to show her heels.
Reiger went over to the small but powerful searchlight on the foredeck. He squatted down behind it and lit a cigarette. His back was intent and unfriendly, and Fenner didn’t bother to follow him. He climbed down into the cockpit with Miller and made himself comfortable.
“What time will you pick these guys up?” he asked Miller.
“Around about ten, I guess.”
As the boat headed for the open sea, it grew suddenly chilly, and a drizzling rain began to fall. There was no moon and the visibility was bad.
Fenner shivered a little and lit a cigarette. Miller said, “You get used to these trips. If you feel cold go into the engine-room. It’ll be warmer there.”
Fenner stayed with Miller a little longer, then he went off to the engine-room. He noticed Reiger still sitting behind the searchlight, immovable.
The boat bounced a good bit in the rough, and Fenner suddenly lost interest in smoking. The Negro didn’t say a word. Now and then he rolled his eyes at Fenner, but he didn’t say anything.
After some time, Miller yelled and Fenner joined him. Miller pointed. An intermittent flash of light came from a long way off. Miller had altered the course and the boat was running directly toward the light. “I guess that must be our man,” he said.
Reiger suddenly switched on his searchlight, and almost immediately he snapped it off again.
Very faintly Fenner heard the drone of an aeroplane. He smiled in the darkness. Miller heard it too. He bawled to Reiger, “There’s a plane coming.”
Reiger stood up and looked up into the blackness overhead. Then he hurriedly put out the running lights. The boat went on through the curtain of blackness.
Miller said savagely, “These goddam coast guards give me a pain.”
The aeroplane droned on, then, after a few minutes, faded away. Reiger flashed on the searchlight again, let the beam cut the darkness and then turned it off. The other light kept on flickering. It was drawing nearer and nearer.
Miller handed Fenner a torch. “Go forward,” he said; “we’re nearly there.”
Fenner took the torch and climbed out of the cockpit. He felt the boat roll as Miller cut speed.
Reiger, who was standing well forward, shouted, “Kill it,” and with a flurry the engines stopped. Reiger came over to Fenner, walking carefully as the boat rolled and heaved. “Get your rod out,” he snapped, “and watch these guys.” He was holding the sub-machine-gun. “I’ll pass them to you. Make sure they ain’t got guns, then pass them to Miller.’
They both stared into the inky blackness. Reiger flashed on a small torch suddenly. He had heard the creak of oarlocks.
A small rowboat came bobbing towards them. Fenner could see four men huddled in it and two men at the oars, then Reiger put his lamp out.
“Keep your ears back for that aeroplane,” Reiger muttered to Fenner.. Then, as the rowboat bumped gently alongside, he put his lamp on again.
A thin scraggy Chinaman came aboard. “I got four here,” he said to Reiger. “I’ll bring the others in four lots.”
“What about the special?”
“Sure, sure, I’ll bring the special last.”
Reiger said to Fenner. “Okay, let’s start.”
Fenner stepped back and waited. The Chinamen came on board one by one. Reiger counted them, letting only one come at a time, waiting for Fenner to pass them to Miller, who directed them to the forward cabin. Each Chinaman wore the same clothes, tight shirts and knee-length trousers. They stood sheeplike before Fenner, who patted them down and shoved them over to Miller.
Two more boatloads came out and it all took some time. The scraggy Chinaman, who had stood on the right-hand side of Reiger while this was going on, said, “Okay, that’s the lot. I’ll go back for the special now.”
Reiger said to Miller, “You locked those Chinks in?” His voice sounded uneasy to Fenner.
“Bolts on,” Miller assured him.
Fenner wondered what the ‘special’ was. He sensed a sudden tension between Miller and Reiger. They all waited in the darkness, their ears straining for the long-boat to return. At last they heard the faint splash of oars. Reiger snapped on his torch and, reaching out with a boat-hook, held the long-boat steady.
The scraggy Chinaman climbed on board. He reached down and the oarsman handed a small figure over to him. A quick pull, and the special was aboard.
“Don’t you worry about this,” Reiger said to Fenner.
Fenner flashed his torch on the special. He gave a soft grunt. It was a girl. He’d guessed as much. She was about thirteen or fourteen years old, Chinese, and pretty. She looked very scared and cold. She wore the same tight shirt and knee-length trousers.
With an oath, Reiger struck the torch from his hand. “Keep out of this,” he said between his teeth. “Miller, get her under cover.”
Reiger turned to the Chinaman, who gave him a package wrapped in oilskin, and then climbed into the long-boat, which disappeared into the night.
Fenner said between his teeth: “There’s a nice rap hanging to this sort of racket.”
Reiger said, “Yeah? You gettin’ milky?”
“I guess I was entitled to know you were runnin’ women. That ain’t a thing that gets passed over easily.”
“What do you think? A twist is worth ten Chinks, if you can get them. So shut up, will you?”
Fenner didn’t say anything, he let Reiger go to the cockpit. He stood there brooding. Was this the answer to the riddle? They’d picked up twelve Chinks and a woman. Was that what this sister of Marian’s was trying to hint at? Or was it just a coincidence? He didn’t know.
Miller shouted. “Take her back, Reiger, I’ve had enough of it.”
Reiger said, “Sure, tell the Nigger to start her up.”
The boat quivered as the engines sprang into life. Fenner sat down with his back to the cockpit roof and searched the darkness. His ears strained, hoping to pick up the sound of a patrol boat. He neither heard nor saw anything.
Reiger shouted suddenly. “Ross—where the hell are you? Hi, Ross!”
Fenner dropped into the cockpit. “What’s the matter?” he said. “Scared of the dark?”
“Listen, bright boy, suppose you lay oft the funny angle? I want you to go into the Chinks’ cabin and chain them together. There are the chains over there.”
Fenner looked at the heap of handcuffs linked together with rusty chains that lay in the corner. “What for?” he said.
“What you think? We gotta be careful, ain’t we? If a patrol boat gets on our tail, we shove the rats over. Chained like that they go down quick.”
Fenner said, “The things you think of!” He took the wheel out of Reiger’s hand. “Do it yourself. That ain’t up my street.”
Reiger looked at him in the dim light of the navigation lamp. “Somehow I don’t think you’re goin’ to be a lotta use with our mob,” he said, and picking up the chains, he climbed out of the cockpit and disappeared.
Fenner made a little face. He couldn’t see how much longer he was going to keep this up. He was nearly satisfied that he’d got as much information as he wanted. It depended on what this Glorie Leadler would have to say. If he got what he hoped from her, then he could strike and wash the whole business up.
A muffled sound of a gun going off jerked his attention to the boat again. He listened, peering ahead but seeing nothing. There was silence, and after a little while Reiger came back into the cockpit again.
Fenner glanced at him as Reiger took the wheel from him. Reiger’s face was hard and cold. “Trouble?” Fenner said.
Reiger grinned. “They don’t like the chains. I had to, shoot one of the bastards in the leg before they’d quiet down.”
Fenner ran his hand through his hair. It had stopped raining, but he felt cold and damp.
“Go along an’ tell Miller to watch that broad,” Reiger said suddenly. “She looked quiet, but if she starts a squeal, there’ll be hell on this ship.”
“I don’t get it,” Fenner said.
Reiger grinned. “Those twelve Chinks down there ain’t touched a woman for six weeks. If they knew one was on board they’d run wild. Jeeze! I’ve seen it happen. Once I took a boat out with a crazy loon to help me handle the cargo. We got a load of Chinks on and a little mulatto girl. This guy let the Chinks see her, and that started something. I had to shoot two of them and club another two cold. I’ve never seen anythin’ like it. The frill got so scared she tossed herself overboard.”
Fenner grunted and climbed out of the cockpit. He went aft to the small cabin behind the galley.
He walked into the cabin and stopped. Miller was holding the Chinese girl down on the floor and beating her about her face with his open hands. Her shirt was ripped to pieces and she was partly naked below the waist.
She fought him silently, blood running from her nose and from her lips.
Fenner took a step forward and grabbed Miller by his collar. He heaved, dragging Miller away from the girl. When he got him clear, he booted him hard, sending him sprawling to the other side of the small cabin.
The girl lay on her side with her knees drawn up and her arms held over her head.
Miller sat up slowly. His great white face glistened in the lamplight. He focused on Fenner by screwing up his eyes. “Get out of here, an’ leave me alone,” he said thickly.
Fenner didn’t say anything. He just stood, his hands hanging loose at his side. Miller looked round the cabin, saw the girl and scrambled over to her.
Fenner moved. His foot shot out and he kicked Miller in the middle of his chest very hard. Miller flopped over. His breath came out of his mouth in a rasping note, but he didn’t take his eyes off the girl. With one hand pressing his chest, he began to crawl towards her again.
Fenner pulled his gun. “Stop it!” he shouted. “Do you hear? Stop it!”
Miller took no notice of him. His hand went out and grabbed the girl’s ankle. Fenner stepped forward and stamped on Miller’s wrist. Miller wouldn’t let go.
Fenner, white-faced and thin-lipped, slid his gun so that he held it by the short barrel. He began to club Miller across his shoulders very hard with the gun. He didn’t want to put Miller right out. He might be wanted to handle the boat, but he had to stop this somehow.
Miller paused, heaved his shoulders, kicked out with his foot. Fenner sucked in his breath and hit him on the top of his head. Miller stiffened, went limp and dropped forward on the girl. He twitched once, as if trying to command his muscles, then his forehead hit the floor with a little thud.
Fenner shoved his gun away and pulled him off the girl. He took him by his arm and dragged him out of the cabin.
Reiger shoved his head over the top of the cockpit. “What the hell’s goin’ on?” he shouted.
Fenner took no notice. He dumped Miller in the scuppers and went back to the cabin. The girl had drawn up her knees to her chin again. Red-tinged bubbles kept breaking at her lips.
Fenner knelt down and put his arm under her head. She stiffened, then reached up and hit him hard with her clenched fist across his face.
Fenner let her go and stood back. He touched his face with his fingers, then pulled a blanket off the bunk and threw it over her. She lay looking at him with terrified eyes. He nodded and went out, shutting the door and turning the key. He pulled the key out and put it in his pocket.
Miller was sitting up, holding his head. He mumbled a hoarse stream of obscenities. Fenner didn’t look at him; he went over to the cockpit and climbed down.
Reiger said, “What’s goin’ on?”
Fenner had difficulty in keeping his voice steady. “That heel Miller was after the girl. I bounced him.”
Reiger shrugged. “She’ll get it sooner or later. Why not start now?”
Fenner didn’t answer. He was looking at a tiny moving light on their portside. He hastily looked away before Reiger noticed. He wondered if it was a patrol boat.
Miller, who had staggered to his feet, saw it,- and yelled a warning. Reiger looked and span the wheel.
“Coast guards,” he said; “maybe they won’t spot us.”
The boat was still running without lights, but the moon had climbed above the belt of clouds, and the big white wash showed up pretty well.
Fenner watched the light, saw it swing round a little and head towards them. He said gently, “They’ve seen us all right.”
Reiger yelled for Miller. He gave the boat all the gas she’d take. Miller came staggering down into the cockpit. He glared at Fenner murderously, but Reiger snarled, “Take the wheel. I’m gettin’ the gun out. Maybe this guy’s faster’n us.”
Miller took the wheel and Reiger disappeared aft. Fenner climbed out of the cockpit and followed Reiger. The light was coming up now, and as the moonlight began to flood the sea, Fenner could make out the boat. It was fast all right. He could see the way the bows were lifted right out of the water.
He said to Reiger, “This boat’s goin’ to catch us.”
Reiger shouted down into the engine-room, and the Negro handed up a Thompson gun. Reiger gave it to Fenner, and took another from the Negro. .
“You get on the portside,” Reiger said, lying down flat. “Keep firing at them.”
Fenner lay down. He fired two bursts, taking care that the bullets would go well over the top of the boat. Almost immediately Reiger fired with his gun. Even from where he lay, Fenner could see a shower of white splinters spurt from the bows of the oncoming boat.
Fenner ducked his head as the coast guards replied. He saw the long yellow flashes and heard the thud of bullets as they bit into the sides of the boat. The coast guards kept up such a heavy fire that it was impossible for either Reiger or Fenner to show themselves to fire back.
Miller, watching from the cover of the cockpit, screamed out, “Do somethin’. They’ll be up in a few seconds.”
Reiger peered from behind his cover, saw the boat was within six feet or so and ducked back as the wood began to splinter again.
Fenner turned his head. He could see Reiger lying flat. Reiger shouted to him, “Stand by for a headache,” and leaning over on his side he tossed a small ball-like object right into the other boat.
There was a blinding flash and a violent explosion and the coast guard boat immediately began to fall astern.
“Keep her going,” Reiger shouted to Miller, and sat up to watch the coast guard boat burst into flames. He scrambled over to Fenner. “That’s the first time we’ve tried that stunt. Carlos’s some guy with his ideas. If we hadn’t had that pineapple on board the Chinks would be feedin’ the fishes by now, an’ we’d have had a lost journey.”
Fenner grunted. He couldn’t take his eyes off the burning boat which was rapidly becoming a little red glow in the darkness. He got slowly to his feet. Reiger had already gone forward. He was pointing to a green light that flickered in the distance. Miller swung the wheel a little.
“That’s the guy who takes our load,” Reiger shouted to Fenner. “We’ve got through all right.”
Fenner stood watching the green light come nearer. He knew now that he must start things moving. He’d played with Carlos long enough.
It was just after two o’clock in the morning when Fenner got back to the Haworth. Before he switched on his room light he knew someone was there. He didn’t hear anything, but he knew he wasn’t alone. He stepped inside, feeling uncomfortably exposed in the dimly lighted doorway. There was something in the air, a scent. He reached inside his coat and pulled his gun, then he groped for the wall switch and flicked the light on.
A woman’s clothes on the floor at the foot of his he’d caught his eye. A black dress, a handful of lace and crepe de Chine, a pair of shoes.
Glorie Leadler sat up in his bed. Two bare arms curved up over the sheet, holding the sheet firmly against her body. When she saw who it was, she lay back again, keeping her arms out and arranging her red-gold hair on Fenner’s pillow.
Fenner put his gun away. The only thing he could think of was that he was tired and that he’d have to strip his bed when she had gone. He didn’t fancy sleeping on the same sheets.
Glorie smiled at him sleepily.
Fenner went over to the floor lamp, put it on, and turned off the ceiling lamp. The light was softer, but it lit up the floor brightly. He saw two little red marks on his carpet which hadn’t been there before. He looked at the red marks and then he looked at Glorie’s shoes. He moved further into the room. There were red marks on the shoes, as if Glorie had stepped in something. Without picking the shoes up, Fenner couldn’t be sure. He knew pretty well the marks were bloodstains, but he didn’t want her to know he’d seen them just yet.
She giggled suddenly. “I’m really in a risky position, aren’t I? I mean you could . . .
Fenner pulled up a chair near the bed and sat down. He put his feet on the bed and tilted the chair back. “What makes you think I’d want to?” he said casually.
She giggled again. “Everybody wants to,” she said. She said it as if she meant it.
“All right, all right. Let’s suppose that’s true,” Fenner said. “But why have you come here?”
“It’s you. You said Haworth. You said you wanted to talk. I came here and waited. I got tired of waiting, so I got into bed. I thought you wouldn’t come back tonight.”
“When did you come here?”
“What do you mean—when?” Her slaty eyes went a little cold.
“Nine o’clock. I waited until eleven and then I went to bed.”
“Anyone see you come in?”
She shook her head. Fenner thought she had gone a little white. She moved restlessly in the bed. He could see the long outline of her legs under the thin sheet. A lot of the bravado had gone out of her. She said, “You sound like a big policeman askin’ nasty questions.”
Fenner smiled bleakly. “Just rehearsing you, baby,” he said. “You haven’t much of an alibi, have you?”
Glorie sat up in bed. She said, “What—what are you saying?”
Fenner shook his head. “Get under cover. You’re too big a girl for this sort of thing now.”
She pulled the sheet up over her, but she didn’t lie down. “What do you mean—alibi?”
He reached over and picked up one of her shoes. He examined it carefully. The sole was covered with dry blood. He tossed the shoe in her lap. She gave a husky little scream and threw it from her. Then she lay back, put her hands over her face and began to cry.
Fenner went to a cupboard, took out a bottle of Scotch, and gave himself a drink.
He lit a cigarette and took off his hat and coat. It was very hot and close in the room. He walked over to the open window and looked into the deserted street. “You’d better tell me,” he said.
She said, “I don’t know anything about it.”
He wandered back to the bed and sat down. “Then the quicker you get out of this room the better pleased I’ll be. I don’t want to be dragged into a murder rap.”
She said, between choking sobs: “I found him. He was lying on the floor. Someone had shot him.”
Fenner ran his fingers through his hair. “Who?” he said gently.
“Harry—Thayler, the man I was with.”
Fenner brooded. “Where is he?” he said at last.
Glorie took her hands away. Fenner experienced a little shock. She certainly wasn’t crying. She was play-acting. She said, “On his boat.”
“When did you find him?”
“Just before I came to you.”
Fenner rubbed his eyes. He got up and put his coat and hat on again. “Wait here,” he said. “I’m goin’ down to have a look at him.”
She said, “I’ll come with you.”
Fenner shook his head. “You keep out of this. Stay here. When I get back I want to talk to you.”
Then he went out of the room and down to the waterfront.
He found Nancy W and climbed on board. He went down into the main cabin. It was dark and he couldn’t find the light switch. He used his torch, but he couldn’t find Thayler. He searched the whole boat, but he couldn’t find anything. The small sleeping cabin aft made him pause. He found a bundle of whips and a lot of other things he didn’t like the look of. He found a pair of very high-heeled boots with pliant rubber heels. He turned on the light in the cabin after closing the porthole. From the clothes lying about, he thought this must be where Thayler had slept.
He went through the chest of drawers carefully.
The only thing he found which really astonished him was a small photo of Curly Robbins taken, as far as he could judge, several years ago. He took the photo and put it in his wallet. Then he shut the drawer and snapped off the light.
He went back to the main cabin again and examined the carpet. It was only when he looked very closely that he could see that the carpet had been recently washed in one small patch. He stood up, scratching his head. He was quite certain now that Thayler was not on board.
Was Thayler dead? Could he rely on what Glorie had said? If he’d been killed, who had got rid of his body and washed up the carpet? Had Glorie killed him? The last time he’d seen those two together they weren’t exactly acting friendly.
He said with exasperation, “Nuts!” and went out of the cabin. As he stepped on the jetty he noticed a big sedan drawn up without lights on the other side of the waterfront. He gave it a quick look, and then dropped flat. A choked roar came from the car as he did so and he knew someone had let off a shotgun in his direction. He pulled his gun and lay flat. He heard the car start and the swish of tires on the sandy road. Then the car swept out of sight round the sandy corner.
Fenner got up and dusted himself. Things were getting complicated. He walked back to the Haworth, keeping in the shadows and using the back streets only.
Glorie lay just where he had left her. Her face was a little pinched and the smile she gave him was only a twist of the mouth.
He pulled up the chair again and sat down. “Was he in the main cabin when you saw him?” he said abruptly.
She said, “Yes.”
Fenner nodded, as if he expected that. “They’ve taken him away now,” he said. “I don’t know why they did that, because if they wanted a fall-guy you’d’ve been it. Either you killed him and tossed him overboard, or you didn’t and the killer came back for some reason or other and took him away. Maybe you tossed him overboard.”
Glorie showed her long arms. “Do you think I could do it? He was big.”
Fenner thought of the almost perpendicular stairs leading into the cabin, and shook his head. “No,” he said. “I guess that’s right.”
The color came back to her face and she didn’t look so drawn. She said, “If they hid him away, no one will know he’s dead, will they?”
Fenner yawned. “That’s right,” he said.
She curled down in the bed, pulling the pillow off the bolster. “Don’t you think I look snug?” she said, her eyes getting flirtatious again.
“Those comic things I found in Thayler’s cabin. Did he use them on you?” Fenner said gently.
“I don’t know. I didn’t know him very well.” She had hitched up the sheet so that he couldn’t see her face.
Fenner said, “Where’s your sister, Marian?”
She didn’t jump more than an inch, but it looked like a couple of yards. Fenner leaned over her and pulled her round. Her eyes were startled. “Where’s your sister?” he repeated.
She said, “What do you know about her? How do you know about her?”
Fenner sat down close to her. “You’re as like as two peas,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” He put his hand inside his pocket and took out the letter he had found in Marian’s bag. “Look at that,” he said.
She read it through blankly and then shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “Who’s Pio? Who’s Noolen?”
Fenner went over to the table, picked up a pad of notepaper and a pencil and came back to the bed. “Write that letter out for me,” he said.
As she struggled up, he said hastily, “Wait.” He went to the cupboard and got his pajama jacket and threw it over to her. Then he went into the bathroom and waited a few seconds. When he came out she had put the coat on and was rolling back the long sleeves.
She said, “Why do you want me to do this?”
“Do it.” He spoke very curtly.
She scribbled on the pad and then gave it to him. He compared the two handwritings. There was nothing similar about them. He tossed the pad on the table again, and began to walk up and down the room slowly. She watched him nervously.
“You’ve got a sister, haven’t you?” he said at last.
She hesitated, then she said, “Yes; but we haven’t seen each other for a very long time.”
“How long? Why haven’t you?”
“Four or five years, I forget exactly. Marian and I didn’t get on so well. She’d got ideas about how I should live. We didn’t quarrel, but she kept having ideas. So we split when Father died.”
Fenner said gently, “You’re lying. If you hadn’t seen each other for that length of time, why did she come to me all fussed because you were missing?
Two little patches of red burnt in Glorie’s cheeks. “I didn’t know she came to you. Who are you, anyway?”
“Never mind who I am. When did you last see Marian?”
Glorie looked sulky. “I was in New York with Harry. We ran into each other. It was about a couple of weeks ago. I was up there on a trip. Marian wanted me to come to her hotel. I said I would, because she was so insistent. I had Harry with me. It was awkward. Marian wouldn’t stand for Harry, so I gave her the slip and came back to Florida.”
Fenner came over and sat on the bed. “Either you’re telling a lot of lies, or else there’s somethin’ I’ve missed in all this,” he said.
Glorie shook her head from side to side. “I’m not lying,” she said. “Why should I?”
“Listen, did you say anything to your sister about twelve Chinamen?”
“Twelve Chinamen? Why should I?”
“Don’t keep sayin’ ‘Why should I?’” Fenner said savagely. “It confuses me.”
As far as he could see he was no further now he’d met this girl, than he was before. He thought, and then said, “Why Leadler? Why not Daley?” “Leadler’s my married name,” Glorie said. “I was divorced a year ago.”
Fenner grunted. “Where’s your husband?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “Why?”
Fenner didn’t answer. Instead he said, “Your sister was murdered last week in a house in Brooklyn.”
There was a long silence. Glorie said, “I don’t believe it.” Her eyes crawled up and down Fenner’s face.
Fenner shrugged. “You don’t have to,” he said; “but she was murdered all right. I liked that girl. She came to me for help. I didn’t like the way she met her finish, an’ I’m promising myself to fix the guy who killed her.”
Glorie took his coat in her hand. She twisted the coat and shook him. “Marian dead?” she said. “You sit there like that and say that to me? You haven’t any pity for me? Marian—Marian—”
Fenner put his hand on her wrist and jerked her hand away. “Cut it out,” he said. “You can’t act. You don’t give a hoot what happened to Marian.”
Glorie looked at him and then giggled. She put her hand over her mouth and her eyes looked shocked. “I shouldn’t’ve done that,” she said. “Fancy Marian getting murdered.” She rolled over in the bed and buried her face in the pillows. She began to shake with laughter.
Fenner had a sudden idea. He put his hand on her head, shoved her down into the pillow, and pulled down the sheet with his other hand. Still holding her, he jerked the pajama jacket over her shoulders and looked carefully at her back. Her shoulders and back were bruised, but they had none of the deep weals that Marian had had. He pulled the jacket down and pulled up the sheet, then he stepped back.
Glorie twisted round, her eyes bright. “Why—why did you do that?” she said.
“Did you know your sister had weals all over her back too?” Fenner said.
“You know everything, don’t you? We can’t help it; that’s the way we’re both made,” and she began to cry. When Fenner saw the tears running from her eyes, he walked away to the window. He began to feel horribly tired. He said abruptly: “I’ll see more of you tomorrow,” and walked to the door. The sound of her sobbing followed him downstairs. He thought, “I’ll go crazy if somethin’ doesn’t happen soon,” and he went to the night clerk to arrange for another room.
The bright sunlight came through the slatted shutters and lay like prison bars across Fenner’s bed.
He stirred restlessly as the clock downstairs faintly chimed ten. At the eighth chime he opened his eyes and grunted. His body still felt tired, and his head ached a little. He was dimly conscious of the sunlight, and he closed his eyes again. Then, as his mind struggled out of sleep, he was aware of a weight at the foot of his bed and scent on the air. As he groaned, Glorie giggled. He looked at her through half-closed eyes, and his half awakened senses said she looked very nice. She was curled up, with her back resting on the end of the bedstead, her long legs up to her chin, and her fingers laced round her knees. She rested her chin in the little hollow between her knees and regarded Fenner with bright eyes.
“When you’re asleep, you look kind and beautiful,” she said. “Isn’t that wonderful?”
Fenner struggled up in bed. He ran his fingers through his hair. He felt terrible.
“Would you mind goin’ away?” he said patiently. “When I want to see you, I’ll tell you. I dislike women in my bedroom on principle. I’m old-fashioned and I’m easily shocked.”
Glorie giggled. “You’re cute,” she said simply.
Fenner groaned. Now he was sitting up, his head ached sharply. “Run away,” he said. “Beat it! Scram!”
Glorie threw her arms wide. Her incredibly blue eyes sparkled. “Look at me,” she said. “I’m defenseless. You could do what you liked with me.”
Fenner said unpleasantly, “Will you run away?”
Glorie slid off the bed. She looked pretty funny in Fenner’s pajamas. They hung on her like a sack.
Fenner said rashly, “Anyway, you look like something the cat dragged in. Why not go away and get dressed, then maybe we’ll have breakfast and another talk.
Glorie clapped her hands. “Of course,” she said, and unbuttoned the coat. She took it off and threw it across the room.
Fenner said, “Hi! Stop it!” Her body had the splendor of clean-cut marble, and the luster of a pearl.
Fenner said, “Very, very nice. Some other time, perhaps. Right now, I want some coffee, very black and strong. The early mornin’ ain’t the time.”
Glorie giggled and began dancing round the room. Fenner thought she was the most beautiful bit of corruption he’d ever seen.
She laughed at him. “Like me?” she said.
Fenner sat up, leaning on his elbow. He said, “Put your nice pajamas on and go away. We can’t go on with this.”
Doubt had come into her eyes, like the slow movement of a cloud across the face of the moon. Her eyes began to lose their luster. She came over to the bed and sat very close to him. She said hoarsely, “What’s the matter with me? Am I so horrible that you can’t?”
Fenner shook his head. “You’re not horrible,” he said. “But that sort of thing means more to me than it does to you. Now, will you get dressed?”
Her eyes went dull and she stood up. She put on the pajamas slowly and wandered out of the room. She left the door wide open. Fenner got out of bed, kicked the door shut and went into the bathroom. He thought, “What a hell of a note to start the morning on.” After a shower he felt better and he rang for coffee. He was dressed when the waiter brought up the coffee.
Two cups put him right and he went along to Glorie’s room. She was dressed. Her black evening dress looked out of place in the sunlight. She was sitting by the window looking into the street.
Fenner wandered in and shut the door softly behind him. He said, “What are you goin’ to do?”
Glorie turned and smiled at him. It was quite a shock. Her eyes were wide, candid and friendly. She said, “What can I do?”
He leaned against the wall and stared at her thoughtfully.
He said at last, “You’re difficult to understand. I thought I was goin’ to have a lot of trouble with you. I see I was wrong.”
She swiveled round, her back to the window. “I still think you’re cute,” she said. Then she added, “I’m going to grow on you.”
Fenner’s eyes shifted past her, looked into the street. A black sedan was standing below. He’d seen that car before. Even as he started forward a man’s arm came through the curtained window. The sun reflected on a gun. That was the flash picture Fenner had, a picture that paralyzed him, making him seconds late. He heard a faint phut as Glorie screamed. Not a loud scream, soft, hoarse. Then she bent at the knees. Before Fenner could do anything about it, she slid to the floor.
The sedan went away fast. It all happened at such an incredible speed that no one seemed conscious of it in the street. Fenner leaned out of the window, saw the sedan swing round the corner and then disappear.
He stepped away and knelt down swiftly. As he turned Glorie, his right hand felt a wet patch on her side, just above her hip. She’d gone very white, but she was breathing. Fenner reached out and grabbed a cushion from a near-by chair and put it under her head. Then he ran into the bathroom. He filled a hand bowl with water, snatched up a small first-aid case he always kept with him and went back.
She watched him come across the room, her eyes wide with fear. She said, “I can’t feel anything. Am I badly hurt?”
Fenner knelt down. “Take it easy,” he said. “We’ll look an’ see.”
He opened the case and selected a scalpel. “I guess your dress’ll have to go,” he said, cutting the silk carefully.
She said, “I’m glad I was with you,” and began to cry.
Fenner cut the top of her girdle. “Keep yourself in hand,” he said, working quickly. “The shock’s bound to tilt you sideways.” He examined the wound, and then grinned. “Well, I’ll be damned. It’s only a nick. The slug’s just made a groove in your side.”
She said, “I was scared that I was going to die.”
“So was I.” Fenner fixed the wound with experienced fingers. “All the same, that was nice shooting. That guy was some sniper.”
Glorie said in a small voice, “It hurts now.”
“Sure, it’s bound to hurt.” Fenner straightened and looked down at her. “You’ll have to lie up for a few days. Maybe that’ll keep you out of mischief. I’m goin’ to take you home. Where do you live?”
She looked away from him, her face suddenly blank, then she gave a little giggle that finished on a gasp of pain. “I haven’t got a home,” she said, putting her hand on her side.
“Where did you live before you threw in with Thayler?”
She looked at him sharply, then looked away again. “I didn’t throw in with Harry—”
Fenner knelt beside her. “You’re a rotten liar,” he said. “You said last night you and Thayler were doing a trip to New York together. Then, before that, you said you didn’t know him very well. Now you say you didn’t throw in with him. Give it to me straight.”
She said jerkily, “I believe you’re a detective.”
Fenner snorted. “Listen, redhead, you can’t lie about floors all day. I’ve gotta get you somewhere. Either you tell me where you live, or else I’ll send for an ambulance.”
She said, “I want to stay here.”
Fenner smiled unpleasantly. “I’m not going to be your nursemaid,” he said. “I gotta lot to do.”
She said, “I’m safer here.”
Fenner paused, thought, and then said, “I see.” He went over to the bed and pulled the sheet down. Then he picked her up very gently, sitting her in a chair. She chewed her lip while he did this. He took the scalpel and cut the dress down each side. One side of her white shorts showed very red.
She said, “What a mess,” and went so white he thought she was going to faint.
“Hold it,” he said sharply, and stood her up. “Get your pants off,” he said; “it ain’t as if you and I are exactly strangers.”
She put her face against his and nibbled his ear. “You’re cute,” she mumbled in his neck.
He jerked his head away. “For God’s sake, cut that!” When she had stepped out of the shorts, he sat her down and wiped the blood on her thigh, then he carried her over to the bed and put her under the sheet. He was glad to get her covered up.
She lay with her red-gold head on the pillow and looked up at him. She looked suddenly very young and defenseless. She said, “I want to whisper.”
Fenner shook his head. “Try another one. That’s got whiskers on it.”
She reached up her two arms. “Please!”
He bent his head and she kissed him. Her lips felt very soft against his. It was just a youthful kiss, and Fenner quite liked it. He straightened and rumpled his hair. “Take it easy,” he said. “I’m going to fix things.” He pulled up the sheet to her chin, cleared her clothes and the rest of the mess into the bathroom and went downstairs.
The hotel manager looked at him with an odd expression. Fenner felt a little embarrassed. He said, “My girl friend’s run into a little accident. She’ll have to stay in bed. I want you to send someone out an’ get her a sleeping suit an’ whatever else she wants. Put it all on the bill.”
The manager said quite seriously, “This is a little irregular—”
Fenner interrupted him, “I’ll say it’s irregular,” he said shortly, “but it ain’t so irregular that it calls for a fan dance from you, so snap to it.”
He went over to a telephone booth and dialed a number. A hoarse voice floated over the wire.
“Bugsey?” Fenner asked. “Listen, Bugsey. I gotta job for you. Yeah, just the job you’ve been wantin’. Come on over to my dump an’ bring a rod.”
He went into the bar and ordered two fingers of rye. He felt he wanted a drink after all the excitement. While he waited for Bugsey, he remembered something. He took out his wallet. When he opened the wallet, a frown came to his eyes. He said, “That’s a very funny thing.”
His money and his papers were all on the right-hand side of the wallet, and he knew that yesterday they had been some on the right and some on the left. He went through the papers carefully and counted his money. Nothing was missing so far as he could remember. Then he said, “Well, well,” because Curly’s photo wasn’t there any more. He went through the wallet more carefully, but it wasn’t there. He put the wallet back in his pocket thoughtfully and finished the rye.
Unless someone had come in while he slept, someone other than Glorie, he knew he hadn’t far to look for the photo. He wasn’t going to get away as Ross any more. She or whoever it was must have seen his license papers. He lit a cigarette and waited for Bugsey. He knew it would be a waste of time to try and get anything out of Glorie right now. She’d just pretend she felt bad, and that would be the end of that.
Bugsey came into the bar with a look on his face a dog gets when he thinks there’s a bone around. He was wearing a stained suit of grey herringbone, and a greasy light felt hat. A red flower decorated his buttonhole. Fenner found himself wondering if it had grown there.
Bugsey wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked at the row of bottles with a smile of expectation. Fenner bought him a large beer and took him to the far end of the room. When they had settled, Fenner said, “Listen, pal, how would you like to work for me?”
Bugsey’s gooseberry eyes opened. “I don’t get it,” he said.
I gotta little job you might like to handle. Nothing very much, but it’s worth fifty bucks. If you an’ me get along, I might put you on my pay-roll, but it’d mean kissin’ good-bye to Carlos.”
“Ain’t you workin’ for Carlos no more?”
Fenner shook his head. “Naw,” he said, “I don’t like his game. It stinks.”
Bugsey scratched his head. “Carlos won’t like it,” he said uneasily.
“Never mind Carlos,” Fenner said. “If I don’t wantta play, I don’t.”
Bugsey wagged his head. “How do I earn fifty bucks?” he asked eagerly.
“This is a sweet job that means no work and not much worry. You remember the jane on the Nancy W? The one with the swell stems and fancy front?”
Bugsey passed his tongue over his lips. “Am I likely to forget her?” he said. “What a number!”
“She’s upstairs in my bed, right now.”
Bugsey slopped his beer. His moonlike face showed his surprise. He said, “In your bed?”
“What a guy!” Bugsey was almost overwhelmed with admiration. “I bet it cost you a heap of jack to get her in there.”
Fenner shook his head again. “Fact was, Bugsey, I had to fight to keep her out. She’s hot for me.”
Bugsey put the beer down on the table with a click. “You ain’t kiddin’?” he said. “You wouldn’t tell a lie about a thing like that?”
“No, she’s up there all right.”
Bugsey brooded, then he said in a hoarse, confidential whisper, “When she, you know, does she bite?”
Fenner thought it was time to get down to business. “Never mind about the details, pal,” he said. “Some guy pulled a rod on this dame and took a little meat out of her side. This guy might look in again and make a better job. I want you to sit around with a rod an’ see he doesn’t.”
Bugsey said in a faint, strangled voice, “An’ you’re payin’ fifty bucks for a job like that?”
Fenner looked startled. “Ain’t it enough?”
“That’s a laugh. I’d do it for nothin’. Maybe she’d go for me.”
Fenner got up. “Okay, come on up, I’ll introduce you. Only don’t go gettin’ ideas. You sit outside the door, get it? A dame like that hasn’t any time for hoods. That’s what you said, wasn’t it?”
A little crestfallen, Bugsey followed him upstairs. Fenner knocked on the door and went in. Glorie was lying in a pink satin nightdress, all ribbons and frills. She gave a little giggle when Fenner paused, staring at her.
“Isn’t it a dream?” she said. “Did you choose it yourself?”
Fenner shook his head. “I’ve got a bodyguard for you. This is Bugsey. He’s goin’ to hang around to keep off the nasty men.”
Glorie looked Bugsey over with surprised eyes. “He looks nasty himself,” she said. “Come in Bugsey, and meet a lovely lady.”
Bugsey said, “Jeeze!” and stood in the doorway gaping.
Fenner reached forward and pulled a chair out into the passage. “This suv’s goin’ to sit outside and work,” he said grimly. “That’s what I’m payin’ him for.”
He pushed Bugsey out of the room again and nodded to her. “I’ve got a little job to do, then I’ll be back for a talk. Take it easy, won’t you?” Then, before she could say anything, he drew the door shut. “Get busy,” he said to Bugsey, “and keep outta that room. No funny business. Get it?”
Bugsey shook his head. “I couldn’t start anythin’ with a dame like that. Gee! She makes my head spin.”
“As long as that’s the only thing that starts spinning, you’ll be my favorite son,” Fenner said, and went on down the stairs.
Away from the hotel, Fenner shut himself in a telephone booth and got the Federal Building. Hosskiss came on the line after a delay. He said, “Were you the guy who slung a bomb at one of my boats?” He sounded angry.
Fenner said, “Never mind about that. Your boys asked for it. They’re old-fashioned. This guy Carlos’s got all sorts of modern ideas. He’ll be usin’ poison gas soon.”
Hosskiss made growling noises, but Fenner broke in, “I want to locate a big black sedan with three C’s and two sevens in the make-up of the license plate. Can you get me that information quick?”
Hosskiss said, “You’d better come round. There’s a lot I want to talk to you about.”
Fenner glanced over his shoulder, through the dirty glass of the booth into the street. “I’m playin’ the game too close,” he said. “I ain’t showin’ up at your place any more. Maybe we’ll fix somewhere to meet later on. What about that sedan?”
Hosskiss said, “Hang on.”
Fenner leant against the wall of the booth and read the various scribblings on the white paintwork. When Hosskiss came over the line again, Fenner said, “This town wants cleanin’ up. The things you guys write in these booths—”
Hosskiss cut in, “Never mind about that. I think I’ve found your car. Would it be Harry Thayler’s bus, do you think?”
Fenner screwed up his eyes. “Yeah,” he said, “it could be.”
“There are others in the list, of course, but Thayler seems to be the best bet.”
“Never mind about the others. That’ll do to go on with. Listen, Hoss—”
How long he’d been standing there Fenner didn’t know. The light on his glasses hid his eyes, but Fenner could see some sweat beads on his face.
Fenner said, “Why didn’t you pick the punk up if he means all that to you?”
Nightingale showed his white sharp teeth. “He means nothing to me,” he said, his voice trailing off to a squeak. “All the same, it was a hell of a—”
“Skip it,” Fenner broke in. “It’s time someone slapped that hophead down. He thinks he’s the kingpin in this joint.”
“How far in are you with him?”
Nightingale made an expressive gesture. He waved his hand round the room and shrugged. “All this is his. I’m just his front.”
Fenner grunted. “You keep pluggin’ because you’ve got nothing else?”
Nightingale nodded. “Sure,” he said; “I gotta live.”
“Curly? Where does she come in on this?”
The weak eyes snapped behind the lenses. “You leave her outta this.”
Fenner said, “She’s gone soft on Carlos.”
Nightingale took two little shuffling steps forward. He swung over a left that caught Fenner flush on the chin. It was meant to be a socker, but a man like Nightingale hadn’t any iron in his bones. Fenner didn’t even rock. _He said, “You’re under my weight. Forget it.” Nightingale started another punch, then switched to his pocket. Fenner sunk his fist in his ribs. Nightingale went down on his knees with a sigh, rolled over on his side and got his gun out. Fenner stepped forward and stamped on his wrist. The gun clattered on the parquet, then bounced on to the pile carpet. Fenner knelt down and jerked Nightingale round by his coat collar.
“I said, forget it.” He shook the little man. “If you don’t believe me, then you’ll believe someone else some other time, but I ain’t fighting with you over any dame.”
Nightingale drew his lips off his teeth, started to say something, stopped and looked beyond Fenner, over his shoulder. His anger changed to alarm. Fenner saw a man standing behind him. He saw the miniature of the man in Nightingale’s glasses. He saw an arm come up, and he tried to turn. Something exploded inside his head and he fell forward. He scraped the skin off his nose on Nightingale’s coat buttons.