E-text from blackmask.com
It was precisely four o'clock in the afternoon when Miss Lois Elling
heard her employer returning from lunch. There was a solid wooden door
at her left, and slightly behind her a side entrance to the old house
that opened onto a small concrete porch and six concrete steps leading
down to the driveway.
The door opened and Morgan Wayne entered the small room that had been
turned into an office by setting up a typewriter desk in the center of
it and a telephone stand beside the desk. There was also a straight
chair for Miss Elling to sit in, and nothing else.
Wayne was bareheaded and immaculate in a creamy suit of heavy Irish
linen, white-and-tan sports shoes, white shirt, and solid black
four-in-hand tie. This seemed to be a sort of uniform with him. There
had been no deviation in a single article of clothing since Miss Elling
had come to work for him, though the white shirt was fresh each
morning, the suit neatly creased and spotless.
In many ways Morgan Wayne appeared to be a man of definite and
undeviating habit. He entered the door at precisely nine-thirty each
morning and said, Good morning, passing through the open door to the
larger inner room, where he seated himself in the comfortable swivel
chair behind the clean oak desk and laid the morning Times out in front
of him. He sat directly in Miss Elling's line of vision through the
open connecting door with his left profile toward her. For a matter of
five or ten minutes each morning he sat perfectly motionless, looking
fixedly out the single, uncurtained window in the room. At the end of
that period he lit a cigarette and began reading the paper. He appeared
to read it carefully and with great interest from the first page to the
lasta task that required exactly two hours, with no more than a few
minutes' leeway in either direction.
Thus, each morning it was approximately eleven-forty by Miss Elling's
watch when he laid aside his paper and opened the top right-hand drawer
of his desk and lifted out a leather-covered pint flask and unscrewed
the large silver cap. He poured this to the brim with good bourbon
(Miss Elling knew it was good bourbon because she had helped herself to
a snifter from the flask during his luncheon absence on her third day
in his employ) and spent ten minutes sipping the drink. The cap was
then returned to the flask and the flask to the drawer, and Morgan
Wayne would push back his swivel chair and get up. Moving casually
through the door to her office, he would pause beside her desk and
remark, I think I'll go out to lunch now, Miss Elling. You have yours,
so you will be here to take any messages?
Oh, yes, Mr. Wayne, she would tell him brightly, I'll be right
here to take any messages.
Then Morgan Wayne would go out, and Miss Elling would be alone until
four o'clock, when he returned. As he was doing now. Pausing beside her
desk to ask, Nothing, Miss Elling?
She shook her head and said, Nothing, Mr. Wayne, and watched him go
through the door to the swivel chair, where she knew he would sit until
five o'clock, when he would turn his head and tell her pleasantly, You
may as well go along now, Miss Elling. Good night, and she would get
up from her desk and say, Good night, Mr. Wayne, and go out the door
and down the concrete steps and out the driveway past his Cadillac
convertible to the front of the old mansion on the height overlooking
the parkway and the Flushing yacht basin, to walk the short distance to
the subway station.
This was Thursday afternoon. Her fourth day on the job. During those
four days, Morgan Wayne's routine had not varied. Thus far, he had
spoken to Lois Elling exactly fifteen times since the first brief talk
on Monday morning when she arrived with her card from the agency and he
had explained that in the future he would expect her to bring a lunch
she could eat in the office because there were no restaurants nearby
and it would be necessary for her to be on hand in case there was a
For four days now, the telephone had not rung once. There had been no
callers at the two-room suite securely locked off from the rest of the
seemingly deserted house.
There had been no dictation for Miss Elling to take, no letters for
her to write. That first morning Wayne had gravely explained to her
that she would be on trial for the first week, a sort of probationary
period to see how she worked out, as he had expressed it.
Well, she wondered viciously now, just how had she worked out? She
glared at Morgan Wayne's profile through the open door as he seated
himself in the swivel chair and asked herself for the thousandth time
what in hell this rigmarole was all about.
In the beginningthat first day, at leastit had been sort of
exciting and fun to wonder about her new job and her new employer. To
wait for him to do something, or give her something to do. To wonder
what his business was, and why he had this queer sort of office set up
in the two front rooms of this old deserted house overlooking the
parkway. To wonder with a little tingle of frightened anticipation
whether that closed door on the other side of his inner office opened
into a luxuriously furnished love nest into which she would be
After four days she still had vague ideas about the love nest beyond
the closed door, but she knew it to be securely locked and had just
about given up hopes of being invited inside.
And she knew no more about the nature of his business or why he
required the services of a secretary than she had in the beginning. In
the right-hand drawer of her typewriter desk reposed a full ream of
printed letterheads. They said Morgan Wayne across the top. No
address. No telephone number. No nothing. She knew it was a full,
untouched ream, because the wide paper band encircling the sheets had
not been broken.
In the left-hand drawer of her desk were five hundred large envelopes
to match the printed stationery. On the back flap of each was the
printed address of the house in which the office was located.
His name on the letterheads and an address on the envelopes.
There was also the bare, flat-topped desk in the inner room, with
three drawers on each side and a shallow center drawer. Five of the
side drawers were completely empty; the sixth held the leather-covered
flask of good bourbon.
There was a checkbook in the shallow center drawer. Nothing else. A
large, three-checks-to-the-page book with the name Morgan Wayne printed
neatly at the top of each check. Three checks had been used, and the
stubs were carefully filled in. The first check was dated less than a
month previously, and the two following checks were each dated
precisely one week later, on a Friday in each case (Miss Elling had
checked the calendar with the dates to turn her first suspicion into a
She was thinking about those three checks as she sat rigidly at her
desk a few minutes after four o'clock on Thursday afternoon and glared
through the connecting door at her employer.
Morgan Wayne had seated himself comfortably in the swivel chair and
was leaning back with both hands indolently clasped behind his head.
From experience, Miss Elling knew he would hold that pose without
moving for half an hour at least.
Her eyes were slightly glazed as she watched him across her
typewriter, and she was thinking about those three checksand that the
next day would be Friday again.
She didn't really know she was going to do it when she felt her right
hand going down to open the drawer of her desk. She kept watching Wayne
fixedly as her fingers fumbled for the band of paper around the virgin
ream and ripped it. The tearing sound was loud in the stillness, but
Wayne did not twitch a muscle.
She still didn't know exactly what she was going to do when she
lifted a sheet and slid it into the roller of her machine with
Continuing to watch her employer's profile for some evidence of
attention or interest, Miss Elling began typing rapidly. There was no
reaction from the silent figure in the inner room. Her fingers flew
over the keys nimbly and letters became words, and words became lines,
and lines became paragraphs, while she kept on staring at Wayne with
hypnotic intensity and allowed her subconscious mind to take over
Who are you [she wrote]? What are you, Morgan Wayne? What sort of
crazy setup is this? An office, you call it. In this old house away
from everything. With a telephone that doesn't ring, a secretary who
doesn't work... and you in your swivel chair!
How long do you think a girl can stand sitting here wondering? A
week, huh? No more than that. You've got that one figured out. Is that
why you fired the others after their trial periods? Or did they quit?
That's what I'm wondering about right now. Because tomorrow is Friday
again, you know, and I'm not going to quit, Morgan Wayne. So you'll
have to fire me.
You see, I know about the others. That checkbook in your desk. Did
you think for one moment that I wouldn't prowl around while you were
out? Or didn't you care? Maybe you wanted me to look. To sort of be
prepared for being fired tomorrow.
Three checks. Each for fifty dollars and each dated a succeeding
Friday. To three different girls. Muriel Grane, Alice Hobbs, and Janice
Neat. And tomorrow there'll be another stub. Another fifty dollars paid
out to Lois Elling. For services rendered. What services? What
services did Muriel and Alice and Janet render for their fifty bucks?
What about those other three girls, Mr. Wayne? My predecessors. Each
one, I assume, hired for a one-week trial period, as I was. Were they
surprised when you fired them at the end of one week? Why? Couldn't
they handle the job? Weren't they efficient at sitting here in this
chair and waiting for something to happen? Waiting for you to say
something? To do something? Make a pass or some goddamn thing or
other? How inefficient can a girl be at sitting in a chair and waiting?
How did you break the sad news to each of them, Morgan Wayne? How are
you going to explain to me tomorrow afternoon that I simply haven't
Let's see, now. You will have to break down and actually say
something to me, won't you? Something more than Good morning and
Good night. How will you do it, you big blond impervious
First I'll see you get out your checkbook and write in it. Then
you'll come in and hand me my fifty bucks and you'll say:
I'm extremely sorry, Miss Elling, but I'm afraid I'll have to let
you go. The experiment simply hasn't been successful. You recall, of
course, that this first week was a probationary period.
You see, Miss Elling, I don't approve of your posture as you sit
here and perform all the difficult and delicate tasks assigned to you.
You simply don't sit still enough, Miss Elling. At four-twenty-six on
Tuesday afternoon I observed you wriggling at your desk. And on
Wednesday morning just before I went out to lunch you crossed your legs
and then uncrossed them all in a matter of ten minutes.
And, Miss Elling, the crowning horror of allwhat actually
convinced me that you simply would not dowas that disgusting
performance of yours yesterday afternoon. I refer, of course, to your
revolting effrontery in sitting here in plain view of me and typing a
letter on one of my lovely letterheads.
There must be silence in this office, Miss Elling. The clack of a
typewriter simply must not be. I could set up my office in a
mausoleum, of course, and obtain the same effect, but it would be
difficult and probably expensive. And people might think it odd. I'll
fire you instead and hire another secretary from another agency to
report Monday morning. Perhaps she will fit my exacting
Is that what you will say to me, Mr. Morgan Wayne? Is that what you
said to the others? Or will you come back from lunch tomorrow afternoon
and go past me into your office and take a key out of your pocket and
unlock that door leading into the interior of this old house and open
the door and turn and say to me:
All right, Miss Elling. Please step this way. This is my regular
Friday-afternoon experiment to determine whether you will come back to
work on Monday or whether I will have to try out another girl.
That's correct, Miss Elling. Right this way. And take off your
clothes, please. Everything, if you don't mind. To the last stitch.
We're alone, you know. Quite alone in this old house. There's a
comfortable bed in here. And champagne on ice. Soft lights and muted
music. Just get out of your clothes, my dear, while I get out of mine.
And then we'll see.
I wish you would do it that way, you big, blond Viking bastard. I
might fool you, Morgan Wayne. Because I'd love it. What do you think of
that? Go ahead and unlock your door and try me.
What in hell am I saying? I don't know. And I've reached the point
where I don't care any more. You do that to a woman, you know. I bet
you do know. Damn you. Damn you. Damn you. Just by walking past
me and sitting there and saying nothing. Not even looking at me.
I'd make you look at me, damn your soul. I'd give you something to
look at. Try me and see. I've got breasts, goddamn it, that tingle when
I look at your big hands. Does that surprise you? I've got a smooth,
flat, white stomach that cringes and does nip-ups inside when I look at
the solid bulk of you sitting there in that chair. I've got strong
thighs and a dimple in each knee.
So I'd love to be invited into your love nest, Morgan Wayne.
I'd love to show you all thatand more. I'll call your bluff in a
hurry if you unlock that door. Don't think you'll get rid of me so
Did you frighten the others away? Muriel and Alice and Janet. Didn't
one of them call your bluff? Or did they? And you still weren't
satisfied, huh? They didn't have what it takes. Poor girls. I'm sorry
for them, but then I'm glad, too, because if they hadn't all failed to
pass the test I wouldn't be sitting here waiting for you to get up and
unlock that door....
Oh, my God! Am I going off my rocker completely? How can this happen
to me after just sitting here looking at you for four days? Damn you.
Damn you. Damn you. I'm Lois Elling. I'm thirty-two years old,
unmarried but not a virgin; moderately chaste but not a prude. I've had
men in my bed before. I can have any one of half a dozen tonight if I
Nice guys, too. Not like you. Men who know what women are built
forand are glad of it. All I have to do is pick up the telephone to
have one of them tonight.
But I won't, Morgan Wayne. Do you know what I'll do tonight instead?
What I've been doing every night since I started working here.
I'll go home and take a bath. I'll lie in the steaming hot tub and
think about you. Wonder about you. Want you. I'll wonder if you
have my home telephone number, or whether you know it's in the book and
all you have to do is look under the E's and find me listed. And I'll
think about the telephone maybe ringing in the other room and about
jumping out of the tub and running in dripping to answer it and hearing
your voice over the wire. The voice I've heard just fifteen times all
told. And I'll lie in the hot tub and dream about standing there
stupidly, dripping water on the white rug in front of the telephone and
asking you in my most ladylike voice how soon you can get there. And
drop ping the phone and hurrying like hell to dry myself and powder
myself and dab on just a touch of perfume and going into the bedroom
shaky all over and kneeling down to open the bottom bureau drawer and
digging all the way down to the bottom and getting out the
tissue-wrapped black negligee that Bill Johnson gave me for Christmas
five years ago and that I've never worn. I'd have worn it for Bill, you
can bet, but he was killed in an auto accident two days before
Christmas and I haven't met another man since for whom I wanted to wear
Until I met you.
That's what I'll do tonight, Morgan Wayne....
The telephone rang at Miss Lois Elling's right hand. She jumped as
though aroused from deep sleep and looked at the instrument in dazed
disbelief. It couldn't be. It wasn't supposed to ring. It wasn't a real
telephone. Just a stage prop, like Morgan Wayne himself and the
typewriter and the unused letterheads.
It rang again. Just like any other telephone. In a demanding and
businesslike way. She turned her chair to lift the instrument and speak
into the mouthpiece. She listened intently, frowning in concentration,
then slowly replaced the receiver on its prongs and turned back to see
Wayne standing beside her.
He had moved as swiftly and as silently as a stalking tiger, and he
stood beside her chair looking down at the typed words in her machine.
Momentarily Miss Elling's office training held sway over her mind and
she was the crisply efficient secretary she had always been in the
A message for you, Mr. Wayne. And he hung up. He said... Oh, my
God! Realization stabbed at her, brought the breathless exclamation to
her lips and flaming color to her cheeks.
Morgan Wayne was standing there calmly reading what she had written
in her bemused state of almost complete unconsciousness. Her hand
clawed out at the typewritten page, but Wayne's fingers closed over her
wrist effortlessly, pressed her back into her chair while his eyes
raced over the typed words.
A muscle twitched in the right side of his mouth while Miss Elling
moaned in an agony of embarrassment and fought against his strength to
reach past him and retrieve the sheet.
He released her wrist as abruptly as he had grabbed it, shaking his
head slowly and turning amused blue eyes on her. She cringed back in
her chair away from him, tight-lipped and crimson and panting with
anger and humiliation, wilting before the hot flame she saw lurking in
the icy depths of his eyes.
He said, The message, Miss Elling?
She averted her head wildly, flinging both hands up to her face to
hide it from him, moaning tremulously through tight lips.
Please. His voice was tolerant and reasonable, yet with an added
note of curtness. You did get the message?
She nodded her head slowly, keeping her face turned away and covered
with her hands. Her voice was muffled and thin as she forced herself to
say, Tell Wayne they jumped the gun and grabbed Letty ten minutes ago
on the Sawmill River Parkway. I lost them headed for town.
Wayne stood motionless and silent. Miss Elling held her breath for a
long moment, expelled it with a shuddering sigh, and dared to steal a
glance at him through outspread fingers.
He stood close beside her, but his head was lifted and he was looking
over her head. His face was taut and hard, and there was a look about
him of listening, of waiting tensely for some signal.
He had forgotten her, she thought. He stood there beside her chair
after reading her nymphomaniacal ravings and was as unaware of her as
though she did not exist.
He turned abruptly without a downward glance and strode to his inner
office, where he looked searchingly out the window again. Somehow,
Wayne's indolent manner had vanished. There was a sudden impression of
terrific leashed power in every movement and in his stance before the
It didn't mean anything to him, she thought wildly. He doesn't care
what I wrote. I needn't be ashamed at all. He doesn't care. She
bit her underlip until a drop of blood spurted from it, reached forward
listlessly to rip the sheet from her typewriter and tear it into tiny
She was standing up with her back to the room, reaching up with
trembling fingers for an absurd concoction of feathers and ribbon that
hung on the wall when Wayne's voice sounded immediately behind her with
the purring timbre of a jungle cat. What are you doing, Miss Elling?
It isn't quitting time.
She stood with her back turned, her slender body rigid. Oh, yes, it
is. Her voice trembled and she hated herself for that. I'm leaving.
I've had quite enough of this job.
She made herself lift the hat from its hook on the wall, and it fell
from nerveless fingers to the floor when his fingers lightly touched
the right side of her neck where the flesh flowed down smoothly into
I need you, Lois. His voice caressed her. She fought against the
weakness, against the flame that crept over her body with the touch of
his fingers against her flesh, the sound of his voice only inches from
This is it, darling. Don't you see? His fingers put pressure on the
side of her neck, turning her head so that she looked into the hot glow
from Morgan Wayne's eyes. Call this number I've left on your desk.
His voice had a hypnotic quality that soothed and embraced her. Get
Julius Hendrixon. He must call me at once. As soon as he gets any word
whatever. The moment it comes. Day or night. Don't leave this phone
until six. Then go home fast and stay there for a message. Give
Hendrixon your number.
And where... can I reach you later? The words came out flatly and
Miss Elling was scarcely conscious of speaking them.
Where do you thinkafter that letter you wrote me? His eyes held
hers and strength flowed out of her body. Take your hot bath, Lois,
and open that bottom bureau drawer... and wait for me.
He was gone then. And Miss Elling slumped back against the wall and
watched him go. Her mouth opened and closed slowly half a dozen times
but no words came out.
She pushed herself erect after a time, pressed the knuckles of
doubled fists to her forehead, and shook her head back and forth
dazedly. Then, moving like a sleepwalker, she sat at her desk to dial
the number he had left for her, and to deliver his cryptic message to a
man named Julius Hendrixon.
Exactly twenty minutes later, Morgan Wayne's convertible wheeled up
to the curb in front of a cellar joint on Fifty-second Street that said
Gingham Gardens over the cave door.
It was too early for the neons, but the life-sized oil painting of a
long-stemmed doll in lacy bra and G-string with gingham parasol coyly
poised above her head had been wheeled out in front to attract the
early suckers. And the doorman was operating his clip. He strolled
across the sidewalk with shoulders bursting from his fancy monkey suit,
shaking his head sternly under a three-cornered headpiece of gingham.
No parking here, sir. You'll have to...
Wayne opened the door and got out. He said pleasantly, Watch my car,
will you? And take care of any cops. Somehow there was a ten-dollar
bill in his hand, and somehow it disappeared, and the doorman said,
Certainly, sir, to his back as he went down three steps to the dim
The hat-check girl was a languid blonde. Her smile had a frozen,
tailored quality, and mascaraed eyebrows arched upward haughtily when
she saw he was hatless.
Wayne moved toward her slowly and smiled with a shake of his head.
It's not that way at all, honey. I'm not ducking the pay-off, it's
just that I don't like hats. This time the bill between his fingers
was a five. She appeared not to notice it as she took all of him in.
Her eyes began to glow and the tailored quality vanished from her
smile. She leaned a little forward so the counter pushed lush breasts
up even more revealingly inside the georgette blouse and assured him,
On you, no hat looks O.K. to me.
She had long, smooth fingers with nails lacquered ruby red. The tips
were warm and they pulsed against his hand as they took the bill. Wayne
leaned one elbow on the counter and studied the interior decorations of
the thin blouse with appreciation. He asked, Anybody around? scarcely
moving his lips and keeping his eyes hooded.
She wriggled a trifle and moved closer, bathing him in body warmth
and perfume. Don't you like what you've seen this far?
He said, I've seen worse in my time. He lifted his gaze slowly,
catching the smooth line of her throat, the pouting mouth that was
close to his with the wet tip of tongue just inside, the brown eyes
that opened a little wider as he met them and glowed with open
She said, I'm off in a couple of hours.
He said, I'll keep that in mind. He trailed the tips of his fingers
across her bare forearm, let his smile widen into a grin, and turned
The Gingham Gardens was typical of this block on Fifty-second. Long
and narrow and dark. Red gingham paper on the walls. Blue gingham
cloths on the tiny round tables. Accent on sweet simplicity to make the
corn-and-cotton-belt boys feel at home. Sweet simplicity fronting for
every sort of loathsome vice in the big town.
The back bar was lighted at this lull before the cocktail hour, and
down at the other end of the room a bucket lamp threw a yellow glow
where the hot-piano man was fingering some arrangements.
Wayne turned in to the deserted bar and the beefy bartender came
alive. What's yours, Mac?
Wayne knew that bar rye was what you got in a joint like this no
matter what you ordered, so he didn't mince matters.
Bar rye and soda.
It came in a heavy glass thimble that nicked him ninety cents. Wayne
carefully gathered up the dime left from his bill and pocketed it,
smiling gently at the glowering look this action earned from the
bartender. He dribbled the drops of whisky over ice cubes in his
highball glass and asked casually, Anybody around?
The bartender rested a chunky forearm on the bar and shook his bullet
head slowly. Only a cheapskate dropping in from the street now and
Wayne didn't say anything. He carefully poured soda in his glass,
swished it negligently for a moment, then, threw the contents of the
glass in the man's beefy face.
The man ducked and sputtered, swiping at his face with a bar rag and
stooping to reach beneath the bar.
Morgan Wayne didn't alter his casual posture. He said, I wouldn't,
and something in his voice jerked the man to a halt before he came
Their eyes locked across the bar and the chill blue of Wayne's
drilled into the veined milkiness of the other's. I asked, Wayne
reminded him, if anybody was around.
The voice came from behind Wayne's right shoulder. He turned
casually. A man had emerged from the sick dimness of the rear. He
wasn't big like the barman. He didn't even look tough. But in the
half-light from behind the bar he exuded menace. Maybe it was his eyes.
His hair was slick and black. A slight figure and a boyish face. All
but the eyes. They weren't boyish. They weren't anything you could
describe. Holes for him to see through. Mirroring nothing. No
imagination, no feelings. Nothing.
He stood hard on the heels of two-toned Oxfords, hands thrust deep in
the slanting pockets of a tan sports jacket. He could be holding a
pocket gun. At any rate, Wayne caught the bulge of a shoulder rig that
the carefully tailored jacket had been built to hide.
Bastard got nasty and trun his glass at me, the bartender
sputtered. You want I should
Shut up, Pete. The man's voice was like his eyes: flat and devoid
of expression, yet somehow imbued with the reptilian menace of a Gila
monster. He didn't look at the bartender as he spoke. He asked Wayne:
Wayne shrugged. He was leaning sideways with one elbow on the bar. He
said, Tell your boss Morgan Wayne is here.
Will that make him clap his hands?
Try it, Sutra. Or should I call you Willie?
Where'd you get my name?
Saw you on TV. Don't you know you're famous, Willie, since your
testimony in front of Kefauver? About how you think the drug traffic
stinks and no decent crook should sell the stuff to kids.
The trace of a smirk appeared on Willie Sutra's face. No kiddin'? I
done that good, huh?
Wayne sighed. He said, Nuts to this. He looked over Willie's head
to the end of the long room, where a girl was now standing in the pool
of light over the piano. She was looking at Wayne, humming softly while
the piano player soft-keyed. She was tall and slender and impossibly
lovely, and at thirty feet her gaze had an impact that hit a man in the
midriff. Her eyes held Wayne's and she kept on humming softly. He
straightened slowly and moved away from the bar in her direction.
Willie Sutra was in his way. Willie didn't move. He spoke in a voice
so soft it was barely audible. The other way is out.
Wayne paused, wrenching his gaze away from the girl with an effort to
look down consideringly at the little man. I don't think the boss
would like seeing the floor all messy with blood. His tone was almost
as soft as Willie's. Your blood.
He started forward and this time Willie stepped aside.
Wayne paid no more attention to him. He was headed for the girl
standing in the soft pool of light beside the piano. He didn't know
what he was going to say to her when he got there, but he knew she was
in it somehow. The key to the whole situation was here. If she had it,
she would give it to him. He knew that with certainty as he moved
slowly toward her.
It happens that way sometimes. You look at a girl and she looks at
you and you both know how it is, how it has to be. How it's going to be
if you both have to tear down a dozen stone walls to make it so.
It was more than just desire. Hell, you could desire a sexy twerp
like the hat-check girl. Call it lust if you like. That's a good
four-letter word. No matter what name you give it, Wayne knew he had
Maybe because she seemed so out of character here. You wouldn't think
a girl in a cellar joint could look demure, but this one did. You
looked at her once across thirty feet of dimness and you thought of
everything the hat-check girl made you think of. But you also thought
of home and mother. Climbing rosebushes and a white cottage with
Her dress matched the gingham decor of the place. A material of small
green checks that looked like gingham, but had the radiance of silk. A
wide neck, but not immodestly low. An old-fashioned bodice hugging her
incredibly slender waist, giving her breasts what you knew was an
unbrassiered uplift that made you think of a pair of hands cupped
beneath them. Your hands. But on her it wasn't lewd, somehow. Beneath
the bodice, a wide skirt flared to just below her knees. If she moved
fast you'd expect it to show flashes of a peek-a-boo petticoat playing
tag with sheer nylons.
Wayne was close to her now. She had stopped humming and was just
standing there. Watching him. He didn't know what he was going to say.
But he didn't think it was going to be difficult to get started.
It wasn't. She cued him with coolly perfect lips that had been
lightly touched with pale lipstick that hadn't ruined the contour:
Don't look now, mister, but I think you're being followed.
Wayne stopped in front of her. He didn't look around. He said, Tell
him to go away.
She said, Go away, Willie. Her eyes smiled at Wayne.
Wayne had always thought that only girls in fiction had green eyes.
But this girl was real. And her eyes were green. Limpid sea green, with
bluish depths that invited him to sink into them and drown deliriously.
Wayne did a double take on that one. When you begin to get lyrical
about a cellar wren's eyes...
But, goddamnit, they were green. Limpid sea green. With bluish
A cold kill with her red hair. Because the hair wasn't just red. It
was unbelievably red. But you wanted to believe it. On her it
was easy to believe. Pouring in a smooth flow to her shoulders, alive
and vibrant and with a tinge of gold. It couldn't be real, but you knew
He heard Willie Sutra's voice behind him, disappointed and sullen:
But this here goop
I said to go away, Willie.
Wayne lifted his gaze to her face again. They've got the wrong girl
in the picture outside.
She made a bashful-girl curtsy, and an honest-to-God dimple dented
her left cheek. Thank you, sir, she said. But don't you think it might
be a mite egotistical, since I own the joint? Pardon memy highly paid
promotion man is trying to teach me to call it an establishment.
My God, said Wayne softly. Of course. The Gingham Girl, they
called you when you first turned up as a warbler for Lon Kagle's band.
And six months later you ended up by owning the joint. Pardon me, Miss
Sordid success story, isn't it? She smiled like a little girl
explaining away childish mischief. And why don't you call me
Wayne's blue eyes were hooded now, his strong face set in lines of
harshness. My God, he said again, more softly now, I'm beginning to
remember... a lot of things.
And? Her chin was lifted proudly and he saw a pulse leaping at the
base of her lovely throat.
Hake Derr. He pronounced the two words slowly, as though tasting
them dubiously. He shook his head briefly and angrily and looked into
her eyes again. Do you know what you did to me, Priscilla? When I
walked across the room to you?
Her slender body stiffened as though to defend itself against
physical onslaught. The piano man was hunched on his stool half turned
from them, cigarette drooping from slack lips, loose fingers brushing
the keys softly as though seeking an unborn melody.
Priscilla Endicott said, Yes. She paused, lowering golden lashes
and catching a seductive lower lip indecisively between her teeth in
maidenly embarrassment, or the best facsimile of it that Wayne had ever
witnessed. The same thing you did to me. Her voice was a whisper,
throaty and full of promise.
He steeled himself against it. This was Priscilla Endicott! And there
were the rumors about Hake Derr. About other men, too, but none of them
mattered. Hake Derr did matter.
Wayne moved closer to her. He said, But it's too late for that.
Isn't it, Priscilla? He put urgency into the question.
She lifted her lashes to invite him again to drown in the bluish
depths of her limpid green eyes. Is it ever too late for that...
between a man like you and a woman like me?
Wayne reached forward to touch the cold fingers of her hand, which
rested on the piano. He said gently, I'm Morgan Wayne.
A convulsive tremor rippled through her taut body. Her fingers
tightened into a fist beneath his hand. He knew the name meant
something to herknew he was on the right track. The key was here. She
could give it to him, if...
She said slowly, You came here looking for Hake?
And found the most beautiful woman in the world.
She shuddered and closed her eyes. Go away, Morgan Wayne. Fast.
Don't ever come back.
Then it's true?
What they say about Hake Derr... and the Gingham Girl.
Yes. She opened her eyes and attempted a derisive smile. It wasn't
a good effort. It ended up in a pitiful appeal that tore at his heart.
Again, he wondered whether she could be that good an actress.
She tightened her lips and made her voice hard. So you see why you'd
better beat it fast, Morgan Wayne.
He shook his head. His voice remained gentle, but there was a thread
of steel in it. I'm not very good at running. I won't until you say
you want me to, Priscilla... privately.
She appeared to go listless then. She withdrew her fingers from
beneath his hand and straightened with a suggestion of a shrug. Perhaps
it was a shrug of defiance, or of desperation.
Perhaps I had better tell you... privately.
She moved away from him and Wayne followed her. The piano player did
not lift his head as they passed behind him. His fingers continued to
brush the keys lightly and the haunting sound followed them down a
corridor to a flight of narrow stairs that led upward.
Priscilla Endicott climbed the stairs unhesitatingly. There is
something about a woman going up a stairway and a lone man close behind
her. Something for both of them. Disturbingly intimate. Something
atavistic, perhaps. Buried deep in the subconscious of both. An
intimate awareness of each other and of animal instincts that have been
glossed over and submerged by centuries of civilization. Yet never
wiped out. Still the dominant instinct in man and woman.
As he followed Priscilla closely on the stairway, Wayne's face
remained level with her moving loins. Her woman perfume came back to
him in a warm wave, and there was the rustle of her taffeta skirt.
Something, always, between a man and a woman climbing single file on a
Climbing upward to... what?
Morgan Wayne didn't know. Probably to an apartment she shared with
Hake Derr. Quite possibly to meet Hake himself.
It didn't matter. Right now, it didn't. There were the two of them
climbing a narrow stairway. There was the smell of her, and the proud
tilt of her head, and the small movements of her buttocks so close to
They reached the top of the stairway, and still without a backward
glance or a spoken word Priscilla unlocked a door and crossed the
threshold. Morgan Wayne followed her without hesitation.
Priscilla Endicott stopped in the center of the long room and stood
there without turning her head. Wayne closed the door quietly and stood
with his back against it, taking in vague details of the pleasant
warmth of the room while his gaze was riveted on the tall, gingham-clad
figure standing so utterly motionless before him.
Priscilla's hands hung limply by her sides. Somehow, there was
hopelessness and uncertainty in her stance. She was waitingand Morgan
Wayne waited. He felt his pulse leaping uncontrollably, and was
suddenly aware that he was holding his breath.
It was Priscilla's room, warm and alive with color and pattern.
Chartreuse draperies hung low to the floor from a wide window at the
far end. The room was thickly carpeted from wall to wall with a pattern
of dull reds and yellows, and not cluttered with furniture.
But it was cluttered with a man's white shirt lying rumpled and
conspicuous just inside an open door leading into the bedroom. Hake
Derr's shirt! A mute reminder to Wayne that he was alone here with
another man's woman.
Past the rumpled shirt and through the open door, Wayne could see
half an oversized Hollywood bed with the covers thrown back, one pillow
and the sheet wrinkled. Past the bed was a low, glass-topped vanity
almost bare on top. Cut-glass stoppered flagons and powder container on
one side; a pair of silver-topped military brushes on the other.
Another mute reminder of Hake Derr. And there was a third. From where
he stood, the large oval mirror above the vanity reflected its
glass-topped surface. There was a light sprinkling of powder over the
center area and the mirror reflected the four letters of an obscene
word evidently scrawled by a blunt fingertip in the powder; scrawled on
the top of Priscilla Endicott's dressing table by a man with the
puerile mind of a nasty adolescent who has just learned a new word. You
see it furtively scrawled sometimes on city sidewalks and on the white
walls of a latrine.
Morgan Wayne felt sudden and inexpressible pity for Priscilla.
Priscilla still stood motionless with her back toward him. But the
fingers of both hands began to tighten into fists by her side. They
relaxed and tightened again. Then they were lifted savagely to both
sides of her head, fingertips thrusting into the silken strands of her
incredibly lovely hair and mussing it as Wayne's fingers longed to muss
She turned to him like that, and her face was pinched and bloodless,
haunted with terror and with passion. Her breath came fast between
tight lips and her breasts rose and fell rapidly.
She stared at him for a long moment as though it were the first time
she had seen his face.
She said, Are you going to take me? and it was spoken as casually
as though she had asked, Would you like a drink?
Wayne moved toward her across the heavy carpet, his eyes searching
her face. When they were close enough he saw the perspiration of
excitement wetting her temples, the pulsing tremors in the rounded
softness of her throat beneath the lifted chin; could feel the hot
breath coming to him from slightly parted lips.
Morgan Wayne put out his hands to grip her shoulders. He drew her
toward him and she did not resist. He looked down into her eyes and
knew that if he kissed her he was lost. Not yet. There was something
more important than this woman, but it was difficult to remember what
it was. Damned difficult. Almost impossible. Every cell in his body
leaped in response to her, every fiber of his being strained to get
His teeth were set together so tightly that his jaws ached and he
exerted every atom of will power he possessed to turn his head slightly
from her and look down at the rumpled shirt on the floor. He didn't
realize the strength of his grip on her shoulders as he demanded
hoarsely, What about Hake Derr?
That name broke the spell. He felt the rigidity of Priscilla's body
go away under his fingers. She turned her head also and looked where he
was looking. His hands fell away from her shoulders and she moved
listlessly to pick up the shirt. Over her shoulder she said:
You were right downstairs. It is too late. She moved into the
bedroom, balling the shirt up in her two hands and then tossing it
casually into a corner.
Wayne followed her to the doorway. Every sense was alert now. Every
moment was important. He had to recapture some of the essence of the
moment before, yet not enough to be trapped by it. God knew, a man
could be trapped by it easily enough. For one moment back there...
She stopped in front of the low vanity. From across the room, Morgan
Wayne heard the swift intake of her breath, saw the swift movement of
her hand that wiped out the four letters on the powder-strewn glass.
She turned to face him, leaning back with hips against the table edge,
supporting herself with hands on both sides of her. She looked tired
now, almost contemptuous.
Why don't you get out, Morgan Wayne? Of course it's too late... for
You lie, Priscilla, Wayne told her. You lie most foully in your
beautiful teeth. You asked me a question a while ago. You didn't have
to ask it. You already knew the answer. You knew it when you looked at
me as you stood at the piano and I was at the bar. The only question is
when. For us it has to be right. His voice was insistent. Urgent and
demanding. Speaking with a quiet logic and a certainty that again
ripped away the barrier that had risen between them. You know that,
Priscilla. Wayne began to move across the bedroom toward her.
She didn't respond. Not yet. She still looked tired, but the
expression of contempt was beginning to be replaced by one of
speculation. She lowered her lashes and ran the tip of her tongue
around dry lips.
Who are you?
He halted two feet in front of her. Morgan Wayne.
But what are you? Her lashes remained lowered but the words
burst from her lips as though long pent up.
Ask Hake Derr.
doesn't know. Only hints about you here and there. Rumors that
you're this and that. For God's sake, she pleaded wildly, and she
lifted her lashes and showed actual wetness in the limpid green eyes,
go away from here. Stay away from Hake. I'll follow you. I'll come
wherever you say. Whenever you send for me.
The wetness was tears. They streamed down her cheeks unashamedly.
Wayne took one step forward and put his arm about her shaking
shoulders. She twisted her face away from him. Her teeth were
chattering and she crushed the knuckles of one hand against them.
Wayne pulled the hand away roughly. He twisted her head so her mouth
came up to meet his. It was a savage kiss. Her breasts were crushed
against him and both arms clung desperately about his neck and a low
moan escaped from her set teeth. Her head fell back away from him
limply and her eyes were closed, her face peaceful now with a strange
look of content.
She said, Yes, darling. Yes! But hurry. I have no shame left. No
fear. Nothing. Hurry, my dear. Oh, God! Hurry.
A shudder traversed the length of her body. She opened her eyes to
his gaze and there was a little-girl pleading in them. A surprised and
almost virginal look of ecstasy.
Wayne turned to lower her unresisting body onto the unmade bed. She
lay back limply and closed her eyes again. A tremulous smile fluttered
across her lips. Wayne lay beside her and lowered his face within
inches of hers. She lay with eyes closed, quiescent and waiting, only
the gradual increase in the tempo of her breathing betraying the inner
excitement gripping her.
Wayne kissed each eyelid gently. He moved his mouth down a tear-wet
cheek to the slightly parted lips and across them. She began to shudder
again and her hands reached for him.
Wayne drew himself back from her seeking hands. He said huskily,
Where is Hake?
He doesn't matter, Priscilla murmured, still with closed eyes.
Kiss me, Morgan Wayne.
He does matter. Wayne's voice was guttural with desire and with the
driving determination that was in him. Suppose he comes back... to get
Her fingertips caressed his cheeks gently. He would kill us both.
Her voice was still a murmur. Without inflection. Uncaring and
unafraid. Are you afraid of death? They say you're not. They say...
What do they say about me? Wayne demanded roughly as her voice
Many things. And I believe them now. I've lived in fear so long, my
dear. You can't know. Hake Derr isn't human. He loves death... for the
sake of killing. Ugly and lingering death. He tells me at night. Gloats
That, said Wayne harshly, is what I thought. Do you want to die,
I don't think I care. Take me in your arms. Her voice was dreamy
now, languid and peaceful as the sea after a violent storm has abated.
Morgan Wayne sat up angrily. He made his voice even more harsh. Come
out of it, Priscilla. I might be willing to trade my life for half an
hour in bed with you, but by God, I want to be assured of that half
hour. Where is Derr at this moment?
Where it would take him more than half an hour to get here. Do you
have to waste time with questions?
Yes, he said savagely. Until I know. He reached forward
and lifted the French telephone from a low stand beside the bed and
held it close to her face. Here.
What's that? She opened her eyes and looked dazedly at the phone as
though she had never seen one before.
A telephone, he said patiently.
To check on Hake Derr. If he's where you thinkif we have got that
half hourthen we'll have it.
She sat up slowly, as though emerging from a hypnotic trance.
Suppose Hake isn't there?
Then we get the hell out of herefast.
She sighed and took the telephone. She suddenly seemed to come alive
to full awareness of the situation again, and gave him a nervous smile
that was almost a hoyden's grin.
I guess that does make sense. What'll I say?
Anything. Just to make sure he's there.
I'll have to say something about your being here. Willie will tell
Wayne shrugged and reached for a cigarette. Play it straight. Tell
him I was here and frightened you.
Priscilla Endicott drew in a deep breath and dialed a number. Wayne
was lighting his cigarette and appeared uninterested, but he watched
her finger with concentration and etched the numbers in his mind.
She said, Hello, into the mouthpiece, her voice unconsciously
becoming hushed and guarded. That you, Al? Priscilla. Let me talk to
She listened a moment, then said forcibly, I know all that, but this
is important. Put Hake on.
She cradled the mouthpiece hard against the valley between her
breasts and told Wayne in a low voice, He's there, all right. I'll
tell him you've already gone and
There was a rasping sound from the earpiece and she lifted it
swiftly. Morgan Wayne drew deeply on his cigarette and attempted to
look at her dispassionately. How much of all this had been an act? How
much of it honest emotion? Before God, he didn't know. Was she aware
that when you pressed the mouthpiece of a telephone against your
diaphragm and spoke even in a low voice, the words were transmitted
over the wire by vibration just as clearly as though you spoke into the
If she was aware of that, then she might as well have shouted to a
jealous man that there was someone else in her bedroom with her and
he'd better get there fast.
If she didn't know about that vibration thing, of course...
Her voice was dulcet in the mouthpiece: Hake, honey. Listen. A man
named Morgan Wayne was here looking for you... I know, honey,
I've heard you mention him. I suckered him upstairs here thinking I
might hold him till you came, but he got cagey and beat it. Thought I'd
better call you right away... Sure, honey. See you tonight. She
cradled the phone and turned exultantly. He won't be here for hours,
She broke off with a swift intake of breath as Morgan Wayne swung to
his feet. He had what he needed now, and his face was grim. Whether
Priscilla knew it or not, Hake Derr knew there was someone in her
bedroom with her while she phoned. Besides that, every moment was
precious now. Letty was just a youngster. Anything might be happening
to her, and he had a telephone number.
He stood looking down at her and Priscilla shrank from what she saw
in his face.
Believe it or not, my sweet, I just remembered a date with my
secretary. It can't wait, so we'll have to.
He swung on his heel and strode away fast, carrying with him the
memory of the stricken look on the most beautiful face he had ever
He didn't look back at Priscilla. He knew he might turn back to her
if he did.
He heard her swearing at him as he went through the living room. He
slammed the door behind him and went down the stairs two at a time,
slowed as he reached the bottom, and moved casually out into the club,
which was beginning to fill up now and hum with evening activity.
He didn't see Willie Sutra, and passed by the bartender swiftly with
face averted. The hat-check girl leaned forward expectantly when she
saw him, but Wayne waggled two fingers at her and kept going.
His convertible was still at the curb and without a parking ticket.
The doorman was busy helping a tipsy party of four from a cab, and
Wayne went behind his back and pushed out into the traffic.
He drove expertly and swiftly to the first empty space at the curb in
front of a blue telephone sign. He sprinted in and used a dime to dial
a certain number. When a gruff voice answered, he said:
Morgan Wayne, John. Get me an address to match this telephone number
fast. He repeated the number Priscilla Endicott had dialed and said
impatiently, It's goddamned important. Of course I'll hang on.
He waited with the receiver to his ear, blue eyes hooded and hard as
they stared out of the booth, seeing Priscilla's face floating before
him, hearing her voice again in his ears.
Then the gruff voice was speaking over the wire, and he memorized the
address that went with the telephone number. He said, Got it, John.
Thanks, and hung up. He hurried back to his car and slammed out into
New York's evening traffic again.
Hake Derr lowered the telephone gently to its cradle. He stood
without moving for a moment, thick shoulders hunched forward slightly,
straining the seams of his carefully tailored tweed jacket. He had
smooth, chubby features with a deep cleft in his chin that gave him a
deceptive look of almost innocent boyishness. Until you looked into his
eyes. They were neither innocent nor boyish. Nor were they cold or
lifeless like Willie Sutra's.
Hake Derr's eyes were round and slightly protuberant. They were such
a light gray as to appear almost white an effect that was heightened
by fragmentary brows so close to flesh color that they were practically
invisible. The result was curious and somehow frightening.
You looked into Hake Derr's eyes and saw mirrored there such depths
of depravity that you shuddered involuntarily. They were old with sin
and with hatred for his fellow men. More than mere hatred, for that can
be clean; there was bitterness and revulsion that encompassed all of
Derr pursed his thick lips and made a faint sucking sound as though
he tasted something good. This was it. Morgan Wayne had finally come
into the open. So he was real. All those vague rumors that had come to
Derr's ears recently had a solid foundation.
Letty Hendrixon's snatch had forced Wayne to make an overt move. It
was all right now. There was no great hurry. Wayne would keep all
right. Set up for the kill in Priscilla's apartment. Those whispered
words that had vibrated over the wire to Derr's ear were assurance that
Morgan Wayne would be with her for some little time, at least. He's
there, all right. I'll tell him you've already gone and
Yeah, Priscilla was all right. And smart, too. Pressing the
mouthpiece hard against her chest while she lured Wayne in a
passion-laden voice to take his time and pleasure with her after
checking to be sure her lover wasn't likely to interrupt for a few
Sure. Priscilla was O.K. But was she as smart as he was thinking? A
tiny doubt gnawed at Hake Derr's mind. Did she know that trick
about bone conduction sending words over the telephone when the
instrument was smothered against your body?
Wait a minute now. Maybe not. It wasn't common knowledge. If she
hadn't done it intentionally, it meant she was actually two-timing Derr
instead of Wayne. It meant she was up there in bed with him right
nowand liking it, goddamn it. Not setting him up for the kill, but
painting a large pair of horns right on Hake Derr's forehead.
That made a difference. One hell of a difference. Derr could accept
and applaud the idea of a woman taking a man to bed with her to hold
him until her lover could get there to handle the situation, but a wave
of red-hot jealousy swept over him with the other thought. He didn't
mind how many men she had as a matter of business, but not, by God, for
any other reason.
He turned away from the telephone slowly, and Al, who was lounging in
the bedroom doorway after taking the call, caught a glimpse of that
jealousy in the momentary spasm that contracted Derr's face.
Al was slender and dark and foppish, and now he smirked knowingly.
That Gingham Gal! She really does go for you, Boss, but sometimes I
get to wondering if you really do get it all.
Ordinarily Hake Derr would have shrugged off the remark. But
ordinarily he was sure he was getting it all. Now that tiny doubt was
gnawing at him.
His smooth, boyish face was blandly impassive as he neared Al. He
smiled faintly and said without rancor, You shouldn't ought to think
dirty like that. His left hand came out of his coat pocket with brass
knuckles over the fingers and they smashed cruelly and without warning
into the middle of Al's grin. He staggered back with blood spurting
from his mouth, choking over half a dozen front teeth driven back into
Derr brushed past him casually, explaining, If you do think it, next
time you won't be so quick to say it.
He stopped on the threshold of the small bedroom and dispassionately
removed the knuckles and dropped them back into his pocket. It was an
ordinary bedroom with the sort of furniture that comes with a rented
house. The gray light of late afternoon came through a single window to
illuminate the bed on which the girl lay.
She lay on her side with her face toward Derr, twisting and straining
futilely against the belt buckled about her knees and the length of
clothesline that bound her wrists behind her back. A bathroom sponge
was jammed into her mouth for a gag, held in place by a soiled
handkerchief bound around her head.
Disheveled dark hair was splayed about her face, and one brown eye
blazed with anger at Derr and the other man in the room, who leaned
negligently against the opposite wall, idly chewing on a matchstick and
watching her struggles with the impersonal interest of a scientist
observing an impaled specimen.
Her face was pale and thin and she looked like a sophomore in high
school, but the breast that had escaped from the ripped print dress and
lay exposed on the counterpane was as round and full as that of a
The man leaning against the wall moved his head a fraction of an inch
in her direction and spoke past the matchstick between his teeth. Some
nice stuff there, Chief. You want me and Al to unbuckle that belt?
Derr said dispassionately, She's sixteen years old, you fool.
Hell of a build for sixteen. Charlie straightened up and yawned.
Way she yammered at Al and me in the car 'fore we slapped that sponge
in her mouth, she figgered we'd grabbed her for some sport and wasn't
fighting too hard to get away.
Hake Derr moved forward two steps and looked down at the girl
speculatively. Behind him, Al slunk into the room, retching and holding
one hand over his mouth, talking around it fast and placatingly to the
man who had just knocked half his teeth out:
Charlie's honest-to-God right, boss. The words were slurred and
slobbery in his eagerness to re-establish good will with Derr. I swear
she ripped that dress open herself to give us an eyeful. Lotsa these
here society dames are like that, he went on sagely. I recollect one
that usta chase Fatso Golan 'round the room and try to grab
Shut up, Derr said wearily over his shoulder. Both you lame brains
listen close. It was bad enough the way you messed this job by jumping
the gun, but by God, if either one of you lays a finger on her while
I'm gone, I'll fix you so you'll never do it again in all your lives.
Charlie spat out the matchstick and said aggrievedly, Hell, Boss. We
was just thinkin'
Derr said coldly, Don't wear out what's left of your brains by
trying to think. This girl's worth plenty, and she's going to be
delivered back home just like she was when you grabbed her. He paused
thoughtfully. Either of you ever hear the name Morgan Wayne?
Sure, Al said thickly from behind his palm. Ginzo from out west,
Chi or somewheres, they say's casing around to move in on the racket.
Been nosing around getting leads and talking to some of the boys.
From L.A., said Charlie positively. I got it straight from Peewee
Lampell. He's a big shot out there, but with stuff getting tight from
over the border, he figures on hornin' in here.
No matter, said Hake Derr curtly, where he's from or how he
figures. He's already horned in just this much too far. He held his
right hand up for both men to see, with thumb and forefinger widely
extended. His round eyes seemed to protrude farther from the blandly
boyish features and his voice became guttural as he stared directly in
front of him at nothing and was pleased by the image his mind cast
I'm headed for a messy kill, he said, and both men shrank away from
the distilled vitriol that dripped from his thick lips. You know what
I mean. The way I like it. He paused and licked his lips and an
anticipatory shudder traversed his heavy body. You didn't look at his
boyish face now. You looked at his eyes and you heard his voice. You
boys wait for me here and keep the girl quiet till I get back. Lay one
finger on her and you know what you'll get.
He turned away slowly and went toward the door. Al drew aside to let
him go by. Both men were silent until they heard the front door slam
shut. Then Al said in an awed voice, It was the Gingham Gal, Charlie.
She's fingered this Wayne character, sure as hell.
Charlie shrugged. He said, Hake's been set to drink blood ever since
we heard tell this Wayne creep was nosin' around. He looked down
regretfully at the bound body of the girl on the bed and muttered,
Damn if I don't feel sorry for her right now. I swear she's been
givin' me the come-on ever since we tossed her there. He stepped
closer to the bed and cocked his head on one side. He pursed his thin
lips and grinned down at her exposed breast.
Hey! said Al thickly. You heard what Hake said if you laid a
finger on her.
But this won't be no finger, said Charlie.
Priscilla Endicott had assured Wayne it would take Hake Derr at least
half an hour to reach the Gingham Gardens from the place where she had
telephoned him. The address was on the East Side near the Triborough
Bridge, and while he whipped northward on East River Drive, Wayne
wondered grimly if that was just wishful thinking on Priscilla's part,
because she wanted to believe Derr couldn't make it in time to
interrupt whatever was going on in her bedroom. Or was it another point
against her? A come-on to lure him into hanging around until Derr could
bust in on them?
He didn't know. Not yet. Not until he found out for sure that she
realized Derr was hearing her whispered conversation while she held the
phone pressed against her body.
One thing Morgan Wayne did know for sure: It wasn't going to take his
Cadillac more than twenty minutes to make the trip. He had no plan of
action worked out. All that would have to depend on what he found when
he reached the address. Letty Hendrixon might not even be there, of
course. But he thought she would be. It was evidently some sort of
hideout of Hake Derr's. Certainly not his regular place of residence. A
man like Hake Derr wouldn't be caught dead living out that far from the
center of things. When he was finally run to ground he would almost
certainly be found ensconced in a swanky apartment on Central Park West
or a similar neighborhood.
No. This address had the sound of a place from which some of his boys
might reasonably operate, and Derr's presence there at this time argued
that Letty had been taken there directly after being grabbed on the
Sawmill River Parkwayto be held, maybe, until dark before being
transferred to safer quarters aboard the boat. Why?
Because the boat wasn't ready to put out immediately. Wayne's
unremitting and day-long vigils from the window of his office proved
that. And they wouldn't risk bringing her aboard to be held for long
while it was tied at the dock.
But why had they jumped the gun? Why hadn't they waited to grab the
girl until the boat was provisioned and staffed for a quick getaway to
safety on the open seas? They needed time for lengthy negotiations on a
thing like this. It wasn't as simple as a one-night stand while a
demand for ransom was made and payment swiftly arranged. This deal was
much more delicate and complicated. There were difficult details to be
worked out before the girl could be released.
And that brought up further questionsquestions that had bothered
Morgan Wayne for the last three weeks while he pursued various devious
lines of inquiry into Hake Derr's background and current business
Derr wasn't the man to have figured this sort of really big-time
proposition. It wasn't in his line. Oh, sure, he was the sort to handle
the details of the snatch, all right, and maybe was good enough for a
cover-up in the final ransom negotiations, but there had to be someone
much higher up who had planned this bold coup and who was in a position
to profit by it once it was successfully concluded.
Which it wasn't going to be, Wayne told himself grimly as he gunned
the Cadillac around a taxi that was only doing forty, nosed in through
a crack in northbound traffic to hit a clear lane, and whipped up to
seventy to slide past the next light just as it was turning against
Morgan Wayne's three weeks of vigilance had paid off this afternoon,
even if Hendrixon, that stuffed shirt, had sneered at his warning a
month ago and refused to take any action himself.
All in all, this snatch would make things a lot easier, Wayne
reflected. It would throw the fear of God into Hendrixon, and by God,
they'd have to listen to him now.
If he got the girl home safely. When he got her home safely,
he corrected his thinking grimly as he put on another burst of speed
and began looking for an exit from the Drive that would take him to the
address in the shortest time. Every second counted now. Only God knew
what sort of hoodlums Derr would leave in charge of the kidnaped girl
while he beat it to the Gingham Gardens to confront the man he thought
to catch fouling his nest.
That was bad. It would have been almost better if Derr had stayed
around until Wayne arrived. He was a businessman, at least, playing for
high stakes in this thing, and he'd take every precaution to see that
the girl wasn't harmed. It might be different with his gorillas. Wayne
had never met Letty, but he had seen pictures of her. Jail bait, of
course, for any man who laid a finger on her, but a damned provocative
girl. There was something about the overdeveloped lushness of her
breasts that showed through in every picture Wayne had seen. That, and
a short, pouting upper lip and a come-and-get-me-if-you-dare look in
her eyes that would do things to the sort of hoods Derr would employ.
She was the crazy sort of kid who might taunt them, Wayne told himself
bitterly, braking hard and swinging on two wheels off the Drive,
slowing now to search for street names and numbers.
Wrapped up in the inviolability of wealth, a youngster like Letty
Hendrixon was completely unpredictable. She might even be getting a
kick out of the whole thing. They got jaded early in life, these
spoiled brats of New York society parents'. Following the unhealthy
examples of their elders.
No time for more thinking about that now. Here was the street. The
next block would be it. Get Letty Hendrixon out and then see what
lengths she had driven the boys to.
Morgan Wayne slid past the intersection and slowed. It was a run-down
neighborhood of long-ago elegance, one of those peculiar real-estate
developments that mushroomed over a few connecting blocks in the
Eighties when the city was rousing itself and stretching northward,
when those small suburbs were as fashionable as Westchester is today.
The houses along this block on both sides were exactly uniform.
Three-story brownstones, two rooms wide and two deep. Built with less
than a foot of space between each one, with windows exactly similar and
facing each other. A small porch in front with four stone steps leading
up to a weathered front door that Wayne knew would open onto a tiny
hallway with dining room on one side and living room on the other in
front. A kitchen behind the dining room and library opposite. Four
bedrooms and two baths on the second floor, servants' quarters
abovefor they had been built in the days when there were servants.
Wayne pulled past the number he sought and parked in front of the
next house. He stepped out casually and glanced up to see a sleazy
curtain drawn aside and a round-faced woman peering out at him and his
Gad with unashamed curiosity.
He decided swiftly on a plan of action and went up the steps next
door to the house in which he felt certain Letty Hendrixon was being
He didn't have to press the bell. The woman had seen him start up and
was at the door before he reached it. She wore a dingy white cloth tied
about her head and a faded cotton wrapper belted too tightly about her
slovenly figure. Her eyes snapped with curiosity from between folds of
fat, and Morgan Wayne knew his first impression had been right. If
anyone in the block knew about the house next door and would be eager
to share her knowledge with a well-dressed stranger, it would be this
He smiled pleasantly and at the same time acted surprised to see her.
I'm looking for some friends of mine in this block. I thought the
house was this number, but I guess I'm mistaken.
What name you want, mister? I know everybody in this block, 'cepting
these new people next door.
They must be the ones I'm looking for, Wayne said quickly. When
did they move in?
Just rented it a month ago. Her voice and face showed sour
disapproval. Not one bit neighborly, they ain't. Too uppity for others
that live right next door. You mark my words, I told John just last
nightthat's my husbandyou mark my words, I told him, them folks
aren't up to no good. Coming and going all hours, with their fancy
automobiles and fancier women. Not that folks ain't got a right to
fancy automobiles, she went on grudgingly with a glance past Wayne at
his convertible parked in front, but when they think that makes 'em
too good to pass the time of day with a body
I know exactly what you mean, Wayne threw in hastily.
And drinking and all that, she swept on, disregarding the
interruption. Staggerin' up the front steps right in broad daylight.
It's a shame and disgrace to a decent neighborhood. I seen it with my
own eyes not two hours agoand her just a young girl, too. If they're
friends of yours, mister, you can tell 'em plain out mat we're decent
folks here and don't want to have no truck with such doings.
Wayne said harshly, They're not really friends of mine. I just told
you that in the beginning to get a line on them. In fact, I came here
looking for a young girl such as you describe, who I'm afraid is
running around with them and learning to drinkand maybe worse, he
added, dropping his voice. An innocent girl, ma'am. My own sister. If
she's in that house now, I'm going in after her.
Lord bless you for a good brother, said the fat woman. She's in
there, all right, with two of 'em. Another one drove away in his fancy
car not more'n ten minutes ago.
Morgan Wayne's face became very grave, his voice somber. If I could
be sure it's Annie, he muttered, I'd tear the place apart with my
bare hands to rescue her. But they'll recognize me if I go to the door
and they'll just deny she's there, and I don't want to call the police
and have a lot of publicity if it is my sister.
You poor soul, she breathed sympathetically. Tell you what: I've
been listenin' some to 'em moving around in there... you know, since
seeing 'em bring her up the steps staggering drunk and wonderin' what
was what. Well, she dropped her voice conspiratorily, best I could
tell from listening at the windows, they got her up in the front
second-floor bedroom on this side. There's a window right opposite my
bedroom window, but it's closed tight an' the shade's pulled and you
can't see in, but if you listen close at my window you can hear voices
maybe, and that way you'll know if it's her or not.
Wayne said, That's a wonderful idea. If I just knew... He
pushed past the woman into a small unlit hallway that smelled dankly of
boiling cabbage, and she wheezed after him happily, directing him in a
hoarse whisper: Up them stairs right straight ahead, mister. I'll come
along and show you where.
Morgan Wayne sprinted up the stairs while she followed laboriously.
He whirled into the front bedroom she had indicated and to an open side
window with a rusty screen on it that was separated by less than a foot
of space from a similar window in the adjoining house. It was closed,
as she had said, and the shade was drawn, but Wayne did not hesitate
for an instant. Too much time had already been wasted in working out
this opportunity for paying a surprise visit. If Letty Hendrixon
weren't the girl in the next bedroom...
He sprinted across the twilit bedroom, lowered his head, and,
shielding his face with both arms, dove headfirst through the two rusty
screens and the glass of the other window.
He heard a faint scream behind him as he catapulted through the air
and knew the hospitable fat woman was protesting his unorthodox exit,
but her voice was immediately drowned by a crash of glass on the floor
about him as his momentum carried him through the window and into the
It was lighted by a dim ceiling bulb. Wayne slithered across the
floor amid a clatter of glass and came to his feet in a half crouch as
lightly as a cat, both hands diving into the side pockets of his jacket
for the butts of short-barreled guns nested there.
In the single brief instant before the bedroom erupted into deadly
violence, Wayne saw the naked and twisted limbs of a girl on the bed.
Her face and torso were obscured from his view by the back and
shoulders of a man on his knees beside the bed. Another man leaned over
the foot of the bed looking down intently with sweat beading his
forehead, a look of lascivious pleasure on his face despite smears of
blood about his mouth and the absence of his upper front teeth.
For one instant of paralyzed shock, the tableau held its form. Then
the kneeling man whirled with an inarticulate oath, and Al straightened
up with a cry of fear.
Morgan Wayne coldly put a bullet in the center of his forehead before
Al was fully erect. He crouched on the floor not two feet from
Charlie's distorted face and slammed the solid weight of the smoking
gun against the second man's jaw.
It made a solid clunk that shattered the jawbone, and Charlie's feral
eyes glazed as his body slumped limply to the floor without a sound.
Through the smashed window Wayne heard the wailing shrill of the fat
woman's voice raising the alarm, and knew he had only moments to get
downstairs and away from the neighborhood.
He leaped to his feet and wasted only one glance at Letty's
horror-stricken face, then swept her up roughly in his arms and tossed
her over one shoulder like a bag of meal. He trotted out the door and
down the stairs with her gagged mouth bouncing against his shoulder and
one arm about her bare thighs in front of him.
Doors and windows were opening up and down the street and faint cries
of question and alarm came through the twilight as Wayne raced to his
parked car, but no one got in his way.
He tossed the gagged and trussed girl into the front seat and slid
behind the wheel beside her, gunned the motor, and roared away to the
first intersection without turning on the headlights. He made a
screaming turn southward and continued two blocks without lights,
slowed and turned right decorously and switched on his lights.
Only then did he relax and let out a deep breath and take his eyes
from the road ahead to look down at the crumpled body of the girl he
Her dress was still above her hips. The upper portion of her dress
had been ripped wider, so that not only one full breast was completely
exposed, but half of the other also. She lay twisted on the seat with
her bound legs hanging over the edge, her head wedged against Wayne's
hip and her eyes staring up at his face unblinking.
He reached over with one hand while driving at a moderate pace along
the side street, jerked the handkerchief down over her jaw, and pulled
the sponge gag from her mouth.
She moved her lips slowly, pressing them in and out against her
teeth, but made no sound or other movement. Her eyes continued to stare
unblinkingly upward at his face, filled with deadly fright and with
something else that Morgan Wayne couldn't (or wouldn't) define. She
hadn't moved a muscle, he thought, since he crashed into the bedroom
back there and interrupted whatever was going on, and he wondered
momentarily if the shock had completely paralyzed the girl.
Driving easily with one hand, he attempted to soothe and reassure her
with a conversational tone. It's all right now, kid. Take a deep
breath and relax. I'll pull over in a shadowed place in a moment, and
we'll cut you loose and straighten your clothes out. Don't you
understand? It's all over. You're O.K. You can forget it ever
Letty Hendrixon closed her eyes and spoke in a, thin, little-girl
voice that was wondering and awed and frightened, yet oddly and
I don't want to forget it. I don't want it to be over. Why did you
come so soon? There was a plaintive and querulous note on the final
words that caused Wayne to set his teeth together hard and summon all
his will power to remain tactful and understanding.
Listen to me, Letty. I'm a friend of your father's. Don't say those
things. Don't think them. You've suffered a horrible shock, but you're
all right. Don't forget that. You're all right. He emphasized
the words harshly.
Directly ahead was a dark and vacant length of curbing with no
curious strollers to take note of them. He eased in from the street and
stopped. He turned and put both hands under the girl's shoulders to
lift and turn her in the seat. She remained quiescent and limp, with
closed eyes and lax mouth. He got a knife from his pocket and slashed
the rope binding her hands, leaned down to unbuckle the belt about her
She let him do as he would without helping or trying to help. She lay
partly against the seat and partly against him, seemingly without the
strength to open her eyes or hold her body erect. He slid his right arm
about her shoulders, tugged the skirt down to her knees, and reached
over with his left hand to draw the torn fabric of her dress together
across her bosom, muttering, If you've got a pin or anything...
She didn't reply, but drew in a shuddering breath. One hand darted
upward, thin fingers closing about Wayne's wrist in a grip of
desperation and dragging his hand down across the full, bare breast
while she moaned:
He kissed it. Don't you understand? And I loved it. I almost died. I
wanted him to go on and on. I burned all over. She was sobbing
brokenly now, pressing her face down against Wayne's chest, clinging
desperately to his wrist and trying to re-establish contact as he drew
his hand away from the eager and pulsating flesh.
Do you understand at all? she sobbed. Do you hear what I say? It
seemed to be what I've always known I wantedbut didn't know. She
stopped sobbing and she relaxed against Wayne. Her voice became dreamy.
Do you know what I hoped he would dowhat I think he would have
done if you'd stayed away? Do other women feel as I do about it? Or is
it just me? I don't care, do you hear? She sat up defiantly and drew
away from him, her voice becoming strident and far too mature for her
years: I loved it. I want it. I'll have it again.
Wayne's hand tightened on her shoulder and he shook her angrily.
You're hysterical. Get hold of yourself. For God's sake, forget what
happened back there and get a grip on yourself.
But I want to talk about it, she pleaded. I want to know
We'll talk about it later, he promised her through clenched teeth.
I'll tell you about Havelock Ellis and Kraft-Ebbing and give you some
books to read. Right now, I've got to get you home to your parents.
They must be frantic with worry about you.
Nuts. Her tone changed again suddenly and she was like a
schoolgirl. Father probably doesn't even know I'm missing, and if
Mother knows, she isn't worrying. She'll be far too busy
withwell I'll tell you about that later. When we have a real talk
about sex and stuff. Let's talk about it now. She snuggled down
against him and caught his free hand again and ineffectually attempted
to press it against her. I've heard about Ellis and Kraft-Ebbing, she
confided, but no one ever let me get hold of them. Except a silly
little abridged one-volume thing by Ellis that stopped and changed the
subject whenever it began to get interesting. And I did get a look at
the Kinsey Report, but I couldn't understand all the tables and
Wayne pulled his hand away from hers and asked sternly, How old are
Almost seventeen. Plenty old enough to understand all about it, if
people would just quit treating me like an infant. And plenty old
enough to do it, too, I bet. She was rubbing her face against his
Wayne put his car in gear and began driving slowly toward the West
Side Highway. His face was set and expressionless as he thought about
the girl beside him. And then he thought about Priscilla Endicott and
his foot went down on the accelerator hard and the heavy car leaped
ahead. And about Lois Elling and the revealing letter she had idly
typed in the office this afternoon, and the blood moved faster through
his veins and his foot went harder on the accelerator.
Why was he wasting time here with this oversexed brat? Lois was
waiting for him in her apartment.
Well? It was Letty's voice beside him, impatient and demanding.
Where are we headed in such a hurry?
Home, he said grimly. Just as fast as we can get there.
Good. She clapped her hands together excitedly. I can't wait to
get home with you and show you exactly
To your home, he corrected her swiftly.
But you promised to tell me all about... Her voice quivered with
rebellion and hurt.
I promised to tell you sometime. When you grow up enough.
Oh, no, you don't. She slid away from him to her side of the seat.
You turn right around and take me someplace where we canwell, talk,
You're going home as fast as I can get you there.
Then I'll scream, warned Letty tensely. There's a police cruiser
ahead. I'll scream bloody murder and say you kidnaped me.
You'll keep your crazy mouth shut, growled Wayne. My God, child,
don't you realize
They were passing a slowly cruising police car. Letty leaned her head
out the side of the convertible and screamed, Help! Police! Help!
The police cruiser came to life as Wayne cursed and grabbed her,
pulled her down against him to smother her voice. The Cadillac leaped
forward like a startled stallion and screamed through a red light. The
lights of the police car faded momentarily and Morgan Wayne drove like
one possessed, whipping around a bus and into the next intersection,
skimming through another red light in the teeth of side traffic, with
both hands on the wheel now and grimly alert while Letty sat beside him
and laughed gaily as they grazed death by inches.
It was an absurd twist of fate, of course, but Wayne realized that
danger from the police was desperately real. If a flash was out on the
Hendrixon kidnapingif either of the cruising cops had recognized her
face as they flashed byeven if she had not been recognized, if they
were alerted on the kidnaping, the chances were ten to one that the
driver of a car with Letty as a passenger would never stay alive long
enough to identify himself and explain the circumstances if the police
cornered him with her.
Kidnaping is a hated and despicable crime, and official tempers run
high if the victim is a young girl. He gave all his efforts to
outdistancing immediate pursuit, and by twisting and speeding and
breaking dozens of traffic regulations he eventually emerged on Madison
Avenue in the Eighties, fairly certain that he had eluded that
As he slowed to a moderate pace in a line of evening traffic, Letty
glanced aside at him demurely, holding her torn dress together in front
with one hand, and asked, Where to now?
To my place, he told her angrily, where I'm going to gag and
hog-tie you and call your parents to come and get you. Don't you
realize those cops got my license number and a description of this car
and it's all over the city by radio already?
Of course, she said calmly. Why else do you suppose I screamed at
them? She wrinkled her nose and smiled happily. You'll see. When you
start tying me up, I mean. Unless you're impotent. You're not, are
Morgan Wayne groaned audibly and then shut himself into dour silence.
Morgan Wayne was far from impotent, but right at the moment he wished
fervently there were some way to convince Letty that he was. A lot of
problems faced him and they all had to be solved fast, and her
adolescent cravings weren't any help.
First and most important, he had to get his convertible off the
street and securely out of sight. That was easily taken care of if he
could make the next six blocks to his apartment hotel without being
spotted. He could, he knew, get the use of another car easily enough
from the hotel garage, where he was well known, and once that was
accomplished it would be simple enough to drive Letty safely home if
she were a normal girl and would consent to act normally. If!
Well, he realized by this time that she certainly wasn't a normal
girl. But perhaps he could talk her into acting like one for just a
Carefully tooling the car along the avenue in a discreet way so as
not to attract notice, Wayne drew in a deep breath and began
No, Letty. I'm not impotent. But I am old enough to be your father
and I've just killed a man and broken the jaw of another to rescue you
from God knows what, and
I've tried to tell you what, she reminded him breathlessly. That
is, maybe only God knows what really would have happened next if you
hadn't come through the window the way you did, but I've got a pretty
good idea, and you told me you had too back there, and you promised
Wayne waited grimly until she ran out of breath and had to pause for
an instant, and then broke in patiently:
I'm trying to explain to you that this isn't the time or place for
that. You've been kidnaped, goddamn it! There's probably a
state-wide alarm out for you and anyone seen with you. Take it easy and
let me get you home where you belong. After that will be time enough
Oh, no, you don't, she broke in fiercely. You don't put me off
that way. For once in my life I've got a man in a spot where he can't
run out on me when I start asking questions. You admit it yourself,
she continued happily. I'll only hold my dress together like this and
go along with you quietly if you promise to take me up to your own
place andand forget you're old enough to be my father. She gave him
a demure, sidelong glance and waited expectantly.
Wayne slowed carefully for a left-hand turn as he approached a red
light. He was beginning to relax now. Another half block would do it.
He said gently, But I am old enough to be your father, Letty. Don't
That's why I think I'm going to just love you to death, she told
him ecstatically. I'm tired to death of all the silly boys in my crowd
who snatch a kiss in the dark and then get frightened and start
apologizing because they don't know what to do next. You will
know what to do next, I bet. And I don't mean just the conventional
Morgan Wayne sighed deeply and eased his car to the left in front of
a line of traffic. He drove half a block to a marqueed, six-story
structure of concrete and steel and swung across the sidewalk to a long
ramp leading downward beneath the building with a sign overhead: Hotel
It was a large, well-lighted room with concrete floor and some thirty
automobiles ranged about in private stalls. A uniformed attendant came
sauntering over as Wayne pulled up in front of a small office and got
He said, Evening, sir, very carefully keeping his gaze averted from
the tousle-haired and thoroughly disreputable-appearing girl who was
getting out on the other side.
His tactful disregard of Letty brought a slow smile to Morgan Wayne's
lips and a five-dollar bill from his pocket. He said briskly, Hello,
Bill. I've been having some trouble with the ignition. Is there a good
garage nearby that you could send it to tomorrow for a checkup?
Sure. The Ace Service on Lex. You won't be needing it, huh? Still
he did not glance at Letty, though she had opened the door and got out
and was coming around the rear of the car toward them.
As a matter of fact, said Wayne, I will be needing a car, Bill.
I'm going up for a while first, he went on hastily as he heard a swift
indrawing of breath from Letty, but I'll be going out later. Anything
parked here I could use? Another bill appeared between his fingers and
then disappeared in the attendant's hand.
Why, sure. There's a Hudson sedan over there in the corner. Belongs
to a party that's out of town right now. No reason you shouldn't put a
few miles on the speedometer. A careful driver like you.
Swell. Wayne turned away as Letty sidled up to him and slid one arm
through his. Without speaking, he led her toward the rear, where there
was a small self-service elevator for the convenience of guests who
wished to go directly up to their own rooms from the garage without
going through the lobby.
And this was one time, Wayne thought to himself grimly, when he
certainly didn't want to go through the lobby.
Letty held his arm tightly and didn't speak as he opened the door,
followed her in and pushed the button marked 4. The grilled door slid
Then she sighed and leaned against him and asked in a small voice,
Are you really angry with me for making you do this?
Wayne bit his underlip to suppress a smile. He said, Right now, I'm
sore as hell, Letty.
But you won't be for long. Her mood changed and she giggled
happily, releasing the two torn pieces of dress she was holding
together and letting her breast spill out for his approval. You
haven't even really looked at me yet. I'm not an infant. See?
I see too damned much, Wayne told her gruffly as the elevator
stopped. Pull that dress together while we go down the corridor. We
might meet someone.
She giggled again and pulled the fabric together. Wayne opened the
door and stepped out into a long, well-carpeted hallway. He went
forward in long strides and Letty trotted happily after him, stopping
by his side when he halted in front of a door and inserted a key. He
reached inside to flip a switch that lighted four wall brackets to
illuminate a square comfortable sitting room with deep chairs and
smoking stands and a long sofa against one wall.
Letty pirouetted into the room ahead of him, making small sounds of
excited pleasure, then stopped in consternation and dismay in front of
a full-length mirror set in the closed door leading to the bathrooms.
Oh, my God! she moaned, throwing both palms up to the sides of her
disheveled hair dramatically and leaning forward to peer at her
reflection in disbelief. Why didn't you tell me I looked like hell
before breakfast? she wailed. No wonder you don't think I've
got any sex appeal.
Morgan Wayne closed the door on the night latch and strode grimly
across the room to drop into a chair and reach for a cigarette in a
How'd you think you looked after your bout with those hoodlums? he
demanded acidly. Now that you've had a look at yourself, will you quit
pestering me and agree to go home quietly?
But I'm still me, she protested. Underneath. She dropped
her hands from her hair to both sides of the torn bodice of her dress
and deliberately ripped it down to the waist, then caught the top of
her slip and tore it savagely, dragging the garments down and wriggling
her slim body out of them until she stood in front of the long mirror
wearing only low-heeled spectator pumps and stockings that drooped down
about her slender ankles.
She stood with her back to him like that, regarding herself
anxiously, and asked in a muffled voice, See what I mean?
I do indeed, Wayne said. You're top-heavy, my girl, that's what's
the matter with you.
I'm not either. She whirled about to face him angrily, cupping both
hands beneath her heavy breasts. See? she challenged. You're not
looking at my mussed-up hair and my shiny nose now, are you?
No, Wayne told her moodily, I'm not. He was looking at her, all
right, but he was thinking about Lois Elling. What a hell of a note
this was! How was he ever to convince this precociously nymphomaniacal
little idiot that she was just wasting her time displaying her charms
to him? She was crazy, of course. Absolutely blithering insane, with
God knew what sorts of sexual repressions and frustrations. This
afternoon had set her off, he realized. The ministrations she had
received from Hake Derr's two hoods had turned the switch. He had been
wondering how she had managed to stay out of an institution so long if
she went around acting like this with every man she met, but now he
realized it was probably the first time in her life she had ever let
The whole thing this afternoon had knocked her dizzy and she was
still in a tailspin with excitement. Once back on the track, he told
himself, once all this was behind her and she was safe amid familiar
circumstances, she would probably be consumed with shame for the way
she had acted.
But right now she was standing in front of him and he had to do
something. It was a hair-trigger moment. God knew how she would react
if he spurned her now. She was capable of anythingscreaming for help
and then swearing that it was he who had originally kidnaped her and
brought her here for vile purposes of his own.
He crushed out his cigarette and got to his feet slowly. He hated
himself for it, but his heart began to pound rapidly despite his
resolutions as he approached her. Under other circumstances, goddamnit,
he would give her the lessons she wanted and needed. So it wasn't so
difficult to pretend and to make his voice sound husky with desire when
he put his arms about her slim waist and felt the soft flesh beneath
his palms quiver and the lush breasts pushing against him. He lowered
his head as her mouth strained up to him, again hating himself fiercely
for the surge of passion that went over him.
He muttered thickly, All right, darling. You win. Go in there and
take a fast shower and fix yourself up a little. He patted her
shoulders and turned her about and opened the bathroom door and pushed
her gently inside. She turned her head to look searchingly at him over
a bare shoulder and he nodded reassuringly and said hoarsely, Hurry it
up. What do you think I'm made of?
She said simply, I'll hurry as fast as I can, and closed the door.
Morgan Wayne stepped back and let go a long withheld breath and
dragged out a handkerchief to mop at the sweat streaming down his face.
He went swiftly to the telephone and dialed Julius Hendrixon's
number. He got a busy signal and replaced the receiver. He stood for a
moment with a frown, listening to the cheery swish of the shower from
within the bathroom. It might be difficult to reach Hendrixon by
telephone, he realized. After the kidnaping became known there would be
all sorts of consultations and telephone calls, both incoming and
outgoing. There would be police swarming all over the place. He became
rigid suddenly, his face hardening to a mask of self-anger.
The police! Of course they'd be swarming all over the place,
monitoring the phone calls, checking back on every incoming call before
it was answered. They could arrange a busy signal easy enough. Right
now his call was being traced. It would be only a matter of minutes
before they knew where it had come from. Then a matter of seconds to
alert the nearest precinct police and put a call on the radio for a
cruising car in the vicinity.
What a fool he had been! That was the one thing he must avoid. If the
police found him with the juvenile delinquent now making merry in his
bathroom, there might easily enough be hell to pay. He had to get to
the family first. Once his story was told, his position made clear,
Letty could tell any damn-fool story she wished.
A matter of minutes was all he had. He moved swiftly and silently to
the bathroom, grinned ruefully as he heard the shower still running.
She was making a thorough job of her bath. Getting her young body all
clean and fresh and fragrant for whatever sort of weird orgy her
unhealthy mind anticipated.
He turned the outside lock slowly and carefully on the door so that
it made no sound, whirled, and headed for the outer door. That would do
it. He had complete faith in the efficiency of the New York police
force. They would be here in a matter of minutes to discover her in the
bathroom. Even before she tried the door and found she was locked in,
perhaps. To make the job easier for them, Wayne left the outer door
standing wide open as he went out and hurried back along the corridor
to the elevator leading directly to the garage. He managed a grin and a
chuckle as he envisioned the scene that would soon take place in his
apartment. Grim-faced police officers entering cautiously and with
drawn guns, finding her torn garments lying on the floor in front of
the bathroomand then the girl herself stepping out to confront
He wondered fleetingly what sort of story Letty would tell the
police. It didn't matter now. The only real danger to him since he had
snatched her from Derr's mob had been the chance that some cop would
find him with her and start shooting before Morgan Wayne could identify
himself. He stepped out on the concrete floor of the basement garage
and Bill nodded incuriously at him as he went across to the Hudson
sedan that assured him safe transportation to Julius Hendrixon's house.
On this attempt, Morgan Wayne reached the West Side Highway without
incident. It was dark now, and the heavy traffic was flowing in to the
city instead of outward. Behind the wheel of the smoothly purring
Hudson sedan, Wayne held himself to a careful sixty miles an hour in
the outer lane, slowing decorously for first one toll bridge and then
the next, then watching carefully for the Rontead Road exit, which he
knew led directly to the Hendrixon estate, less than a quarter of a
mile from the parkway.
He was relaxed behind the wheel, his thoughts racing as fast as the
humming motor as he went back in retrospect over the events of the last
few weeks, and particularly the bizarre happenings of the afternoon
just past. All in all, he decided, things could be a lot worse. His
information had proven correct, and Julius Hendrixon wouldn't be
disposed to laugh at him now. It was probably the best thing in the
world that the kidnaping had actually taken place as he had warned the
drug tycoon it would. In a sense, Wayne's vigil in the improvised
office overlooking the Flushing yacht basin had been wasted time
because they hadn't brought the girl to the boat after all, but that
was a minor detail. There had been no way of foreseeing that
Thoughts of the office and the long hours spent there, brought him up
with a jolt to serious consideration of his latest in a series of
secretaries making a one-week stand. Since hastily reading her letter
to him late that afternoon, there hadn't actually been a single moment
of respite for thoughts of Lois Elling and what he was going to do
He grinned wryly in memory of the typed words as he tooled the sedan
smoothly along the winding four-lane highway. Had the other secretaries
felt that way about him and about the job? If so, they hadn't shown
their feelings. He frowned as he thought back over each of the three
and tried to guess how they might have felt. It wasn't any good. He
didn't really remember much about any one of them. Girls whom he had
employed sight unseen from agencies to sit at a desk eight hours each
day waiting for a telephone call. He hadn't paid any attention to them.
He couldn't even recall what they looked like. A pretty colorless trio,
they must have been, he thought. Not at all like Lois Elling.
Then he corrected himself. Maybe that wasn't fair to her
predecessors. Until this afternoon he had scarcely noticed Lois,
either. As a person. Right now, he couldn't recall any actual details
of her features and coloring.
But her personality was something else. What Lois Elling was
behind the veneer that civilized people put up between themselves and
Oh, yes. He knew all about Lois Elling now. As much, he thought, as a
psychoanalyst after a year of treatments. And the hot fever of desire
rose swiftly within his body as he reviewed all the things he knew
about Lois Elling.
She must be waiting for him in her apartment now, damn it. Soaking up
the warmth of a hot bath while she waited for him and anticipated his
coming. He savagely cursed the circumstances that were keeping them
apart, and unconsciously trod the accelerator closer and closer to the
floor boards as he recalled the words she had typed while sitting not
more than ten feet from him only a few hours ago.
A man would know where he stood with Lois Elling. There'd be no
artifices or sham. She would be as straightforward and honest about sex
as a man. There would be no fumbling between them. No false modesty or
silly attempt to hide from the truth.
In that sense, there was a strong similarity between Lois and the
Gingham Girl. The way Priscilla had first looked at him across the
room. The flame that had been ignited and which they both recognized
and accepted as he moved toward her. A man knew where he was with
Priscilla Endicott, too.
Or did he? Either she was blatantly honest or else she was one of the
most devious and dangerous females he had ever encountered. He wanted
desperately to believe that her phone call to Hake Derr had been on the
levelthat she had no idea Derr would hear her whispered aside to
Wayne while she waited. He wanted desperately to believe that the flame
lighting the translucent depths of her green eyes had been honest
passion of such intensity that it could not be denied.
But he couldn't be sure. Not yet. But he would be sure. And soon, he
promised himself. After this night with Lois Elling he'd be in just the
sort of shape to take Priscilla's lovely white body in his two hands
and tear the truth out of her.
Right now there were other things to think about. The coming
interview with Hendrixon was all-important. Every sense was alert as he
saw the exit sign in front of him and slowed for the turn. A state
police car was discreetly parked on the grass at the exit where the two
troopers could look over any car that turned from or sought to enter
the parkway at this point. Wayne gave them a levelly incurious glance
as he drove past in his borrowed Hudson and they made no move to stop
or follow him.
That was only the beginning of the police gantlet he would have to
run before reaching Hendrixon, he knew, and he drove along the macadam
slowly, prepared for the signal that didn't come until the gravel
turnoff leading upward to the baronial structure he sought.
There was a businesslike roadblock here. A county police car and
another state cruiser with two smartly uniformed troopers. One of the
troopers and a man in plain clothes stood side by side in the driveway
with flashlights that blinked on and off. Wayne rolled up to them and
they separated to let him stop opposite them. The trooper leaned
against the door on Wayne's left and casually flashed his light over
the back seat, then brought it to bear on Wayne's face. Mind giving us
your name and business, mister?
Morgan Wayne said, Not at all, with a smile. His right hand was
ready in his trousers pocket and he brought it out with a small gold
medallion cupped in the palm. He held it for the flashlight beam to
bring out the inscribed words and waited patiently while the trooper
studied it with care.
The man pushed his broad-brimmed hat back from his forehead and
studied the driver with interest and respect. I've heard of those
do-jiggers, he drawled, but this is the first time I ever had one
flashed on me. You're Morgan Wayne?
Wayne said, If you want further identification... His hand moved
upward toward his inner coat pocket, but the trooper said hastily,
That'll be O.K. Straight up the drive and park behind the other cars
so there's room to get by. He stepped back and fingers went up to
touch the brim of his hat in a salute.
Wayne said, Thanks, Officer, and drove on in second gear up the
steep grade to the huge hilltop mansion that spilled light from every
There were at least a dozen cars parked bumper to bumper in the wide
circle in front of the house. Wayne slide in behind the last one and
got out to make his way past half a dozen of them, noting that every
degree of officialdom seemed to be represented, from a parkway police
car to a sleek blue sedan with modest insignia indicating a high
official in the New York Police Department.
He turned under a porte-cochere and went up a wide flagstoned walk
protected by an awning to the front doors, which stood open. Another
state trooper stood there beside a cadaverous butler in a black suit
with a stiff wing collar and string tie about his gaunt neck. The
trooper was young and personable. He stepped in front of Wayne
negligently and inquired, Whom do you wish to see?
Mr. Julius Hendrixon. Tell him Morgan Wayne, he said past the
trooper to the butler.
The trooper's face showed interest and he nodded. Mr. Hendrixon has
given orders to admit you. Take Mr. Wayne into the small library,
Dillon, he added to the butler.
Wayne followed the black-clad figure down a wide hallway with
rosewood paneling to double sliding doors that stood partially open. He
entered and announced, Mr. Morgan Wayne, and stood aside for Wayne to
The small library was a room some sixty by forty feet, with
quartered oak flooring and a fieldstone fire place at the far end large
enough to have roasted a yearling whole.
Both side walls were solid bookshelves from floor to ceiling, and
there were heavy tables and leather chairs scattered about. Four
persons stood in a group near the center of the room and turned their
heads to look at Wayne as he entered. He recognized only one of them.
With his heavy body, shaggy mane of dark hair, and a last-generation
British mustache, Julius Hendrixon had something of the look of a water
buffalo. His heavy features might have been hewn from granite by an
inexpert hand, and the heavy torso was hunched forward a trifle as
though almost too heavy for the bowed legs beneath.
He swung away from the others and advanced toward Wayne, booming
aggressively. Wayne! I've been wondering, by God, where you were. It's
no good new, you see. We just had a flash from New York that Letty has
been found by the police. Unharmed.
Wayne said, That's very good news. He didn't voice his fears for
the safety of the police detail who had found her. Better than you
deserve, he went on dryly, after the way you shrugged off my warning
of this very thing last month.
I admit my mistake. Hendrixon's voice lost some of its booming
aggressiveness and became shaken and worried. And that's what I want
to talk to you about now. How you knew it was planned. Why you refused
to give me any credentials or proof.
And how, Mr. Wayne, came a cold voice from behind him, you were
aware of the fact practically as soon as it happened.
That's right, Hendrixon put in heavily. The call from your
secretary came before we were aware that Letty was gone.
Wayne made a gesture of dismissal and said shortly, I've had a man
on Miss Hendrixon day and night ever since you gave me the brush-off in
your office. He witnessed the snatch this afternoon and phoned me at
once. He moved forward past Hendrixon toward the other three people in
the room, a woman and two men.
The woman was tall and thin, modishly gowned and about forty. Letty's
mother, Wayne knew at a glance, though this anemic socialite with her
thin lips and haughty manner and high hair-do was a far cry from the
impetuously carnal youngster he had left in his bathroom. A vague
memory of something Letty had said or implied about her mother tugged
at his mind as he neared the trio. He studied her through low-lidded
eyes as he approached and decided he had misunderstood Letty. Certainly
this sterile product of an unhealthy, hothouse environment had never
known an honest emotion in her life.
He jerked his thoughts back to more pressing matters as he looked the
men over coldly. One was young and foppish in a velvet-lapeled
fawn-colored smoking jacket, pleated slacks, and patent-leather pumps,
with a weak face that had the double disadvantage of a receding chin
and protruding upper teeth. The other man was middle aged and ruddy
faced, wearing a conservative business suit and chewing on half of a
Behind Wayne, Hendrixon said, This is Letty's mother, who has asked
to meet you, Wayne. And her brother, John Durtol Third.
He paused momentarily and the young man said limply, I've been
telling Julius that all this furor is utterly absurd. I'm convinced
this so-called kidnaping was engineered by Letty herself just to get
what she would call a thrill. You see, I know something about my
charming niece's proclivity toward
John! Wayne was mildly surprised by the vehemence of the thin, high
voice that came from Mrs. Hendrixon's lips. One would not have guessed
such spirit lay hidden behind that cold exterior. We'll listen to no
more of your filthy insinuations about Letty, she continued almost
He shrugged elaborately and moved aside to sprawl in a big leather
chair and stare at the polished tips of his shoes.
I'm Elliot Carson, said the big, ruddy-faced man, extending a
fleshy palm and gripping Wayne's hand firmly. Attorney for the
Hendrixon estate, he added. Blair, Carson, and Withers. This may not
be exactly the time for a full explanation from you, Mr. Wayne, but I
assure you that I am prepared to take any necessary legal measures to
force you to divulge the sources of the information you offered Mr.
Hendrixon a month ago.
Wayne shrugged his broad shoulders and said blandly, And I assure
you, sir, that any legal steps you may take will be utterly wasted. You
fools! he went on angrily. Standing around here driveling about legal
measures when you didn't even have brains enough to protect a young
girl from what Letty went through this afternoon.
Just what did dear Letty go through this afternoon? drawled John
Durtol Third insolently from his leather chair.
And how much do you know about the details? demanded Hendrixon. Do
you realize your phone message is the only one we've received
concerning her? One huge fist thumped resoundingly into a meaty palm.
No demand for ransom. No nothing. I'm prepared to swear out a
Wayne interrupted him harshly. What you had better do is start
listening to me instead. This thing has just started, and God knows
where it may end. It may not be Letty next time, but it'll be something
He was looking into Mrs. Hendrixon's cold eyes as he spoke, and he
sensed an inexplicable change in them. Not a warmth, for he felt it
impossible for them to show that, but a flicker of interest or of
excitement. An almost avid awakening as though something within her
responded to his harshness.
To hell with this, Wayne said abruptly. He turned to the lawyer.
Who is the highest police officer in the house?
Inspector Hibbs from Manhattan. He drove out with me as a personal
Will his O.K. satisfy you as to my integrity? Wayne demanded with
Why... yes. Certainly. If you can convince the inspector...
Take me to him, Wayne said.
As he turned to move away with Carson, his gaze touched Mrs.
Hendrixon's again. She was wetting her thin lips with the tip of her
tongue and her nostrils were flared at the base. There was a peculiar
intensity about her staring eyes that gave Wayne a momentary queasy
feeling at the pit of his stomach. He followed Carson out into the
hallway again, striving to recall what Letty had said about her mother.
Carson went toward the rear a short distance and entered a smaller
room with half a dozen men lounging about with drinks. He spoke to a
tall, aquiline-nosed man wearing shaggy tweeds and with a highball
glass in his hand. Inspector Hibbs.
The Inspector came to the doorway looking at Wayne inquiringly.
This man, began Carson portentously, but Wayne cut him short:
Let me handle this, please. And to the Inspector, Will you step
aside with me a moment, sir?
The inspector stepped into the hallway with him and Wayne said
urgently, These people are in the middle of one hell of a spot, and
they're wasting time quibbling about whether I can be trusted or not.
Carson has agreed to take your word about that. As he spoke he again
removed the gold medallion from his pocket and let the inspector see
it. Unlike the state trooper below, the veteran policeman needed only a
glance before saying heartily, Certainly. Happy to accommodate you.
Wayne said, Thanks. He drew back and allowed the inspector to
rejoin Carson and speak to him briefly, after which the attorney
hurried forward and admitted cordially, He says you can be trusted to
the limit. No offense taken, I trust. There are certain precautions...
That's all right, Wayne said shortly. Let's go back to the others
There was a commotion down at the end of the long hall in front of
them. Two uniformed officers led a giggling Letty between them,
barefooted and wearing Morgan Wayne's best brocaded dressing gown
wrapped tightly about her body.
CARSON HURRIED forward with an exclamation of pleasure as the girl
was ushered into the room where her parents and uncle awaited her.
Wayne followed more slowly. He hadn't the slightest idea what sort of
wild story Letty had told the cops when they discovered her alone in
his apartment. The apartment was rented under a different name and no
one in the building knew him as Morgan Wayne, so there was no way the
police could connect the twounless Letty put the finger on him now.
He frowned thoughtfully as he strolled forward, planning how to
handle it if she did start singing the moment he entered the room. And
she probably would, he thought ruefully. Just to strike back at him for
locking her in the bathroom and leaving her there to be found by the
Well, he'd have to take it in his stride, he decided. Tell the whole
thing just as it had happened. He didn't want to. He didn't want to
bring Hake Derr and the Gingham Girl into it. Not yet. That was his
private angle. There was some person high above Derr who was ramrodding
this whole affair, he was certain. And so long as Wayne could keep his
knowledge of Derr a secret, he would have an inside track in ferreting
out the identity of the man who really counted.
He paused in the corridor just outside the open double doors, got out
a cigarette, lit it meditatively, and leaned forward for a quick look
inside the room.
The two New York officers who had returned the girl to her family
were standing together near the doorway, looking on at the reunion and
grinning furtively at each other while they listened to Letty's
breathlessly babbled and highly colored account of her kidnapping and
Her mother was seated in a chair and Letty was perched on the arm of
it, hugging Wayne's dressing gown tightly about her with one hand while
the other was clasped tightly between her father's palms as he bent
over her in an attitude of affectionate concern. Carson stood back a
few feet listening to her story with interest, while her youthful and
vapid-faced uncle sat across from her and listened with patent
They were just the most awful hoodlums, Letty was saying rapidly
when Wayne came in on the story. They tied me up tight and put a gag
in my mouth and said the most awful things about what they were going
to do to me, and I guess there must have been ether on the gag or
something because I just passed right out there in the car and didn't
know another single thing until I came to in that apartment and there
was this other man alone with me.
She paused dramatically, licking her lips while she fashioned the
next segment of her story together, and Wayne nodded with mute
approval. That was O.K. That was fine. She was taking exactly the line
he would have asked her to take. This was leaving Hake Derr and Al and
Charlie out of it altogether. If she kept it up that way there would be
nothing whatever to connect either her or Morgan Wayne with the
occupants of the brownstone house when the dead gangster's body was
found there beside his companion with the shattered jawbone.
Wayne stayed in the corridor out of the girl's sight and listened
with amusement to Letty's free-wheeling and imaginative recapitulation
of her imprisonment in the apartment where she had been found.
He was... I just don't know how to describe him, the girl went on
with a shudder. I've told those two policemen about him already. She
looked toward the pair standing together near her, and one of them
We've got a good description of the man. Marcus Knowlton, he calls
himself. He's been in that place two months and no one knows much about
him. Laying low from some other rap, most likely. Planning this snatch
down to the last detail.
But why? exclaimed Hendrixon. Why my daughter? What did he
want from her?
Now, Daddy, said Letty quickly and reprovingly. I hate to tell
this right out in the open, but if you force me to, I will. I did have
to tell the officers already, she conceded, looking so naive and
frightened that Wayne had to choke back his laughter.
He's crazy, of course, she went on complacently. A sexual maniac.
But in a nice but awfully peculiar way, she went on swiftly, wrinkling
up her nose in a little-girl frown as though she were striving to be
completely fair, You wouldn't think it to see him at all. He was
really nice. Big and broad-shouldered, but grim, sort of. He apologized
right off, she hurried on glibly, for using force that way to get me
in his clutches, but swore he just couldn't help himself. He's been
clipping my pictures out of the newspapers, you see, and fallen madly
in love with me.
This time John Durtol III did laugh out loud when Letty paused. He
sank back in his chair choking with mirth and waved one thin hand in
the air. Honestly, Let! Of all the ridiculous adolescent
John! Mrs. Hendrixon sat erect and glared at her brother. After
all this child has been through! If you haven't the decency to be quiet
and listen to her, you'd better leave the room.
Oh, no. My God, I wouldn't miss this show for a million dollars. Go
right ahead, Let, he urged. Tell us what the big bad man wanted from
you so much that he arranged a kidnaping to get it.
You needn't laugh about it! exclaimed Letty indignantly. It was
simply terrible when I realized he was a maniac and had me there alone
with him where he could do what he wanted with me. She sat erect on
the arm of her mother's chair and leaned forward so the lapels of the
dressing gown fell open and showed bare flesh beneath.
You just ask the officers what they found when they broke in and
rescued me. Every stitch of my clothes torn off me, that's what. And
locked in the bathroom. She caught her underlip beneath her teeth and
shook her head slowly as if all this was simply too much for a simple
child like herself to comprehend.
He talked awfully funny, she confided to them all. About people
named Havelock Ellis and Mr. Kraft and Mr. Ebbing. Andand it was all
so strange and indecent that I just don't want to talk about it any
From his point of vantage in the corridor, Wayne had a clear view of
Mrs. Hendrixon's face while Letty spoke. The thin nostrils were widely
flared again, and the haughtily patrician features seemed to contract
and tighten. There was again the queer flicker in the depths of the
cold eyes, somehow repellent and evil.
Oh, really now, Let! The girl's uncle was rocking back and forth in
his chair with laughter. So this character out of Kraft-Ebbing
stripped you down...
I won't have you laughing at me! shrilled Letty. She leaped up from
the arm of her mother's chair and fled toward the doorway into the
corridor. Mrs. Hendrixon rose hastily to follow her with a withering
look and an angry exclamation for her younger brother, and Wayne
stepped back two paces, thrust out a long arm to intercept the girl as
she dashed through the doorway.
Letty squealed with surprise when his arm circled her waist, then she
drew back with a hissing intake of breath when she saw his face.
You were marvelous in there, he told her swiftly and emphatically.
Don't blame me for running out on you. I had to. I knew the police
were coming and we'd never have a chance to be alone together if
they found me. As it is now... if they don't suspect...
We will be alone together? she interrupted happily.
Promise? Cross your heart and hope to die?
I promise, he whispered fiercely. Just don't tell anyone. He slid
his arm from about her waist and took firm hold of her wrist as Mrs.
Hendrixon appeared beside them and continued in a conversational tone,
... realize you're upset now, and I want to talk to you about that man
again. I think I may know something
He broke off as though in surprise at her mother's presence and told
her smoothly, I overheard a portion of your daughter's story, Mrs.
Hendrixon, and detained her to ask for a meeting later when she's less
upset. I think it's quite possible, he went on deliberately, that I
may be able to locate the man who calls himself Marcus Knowlton, with
your daughter's co-operation.
I see. Mrs. Hendrixon's coldly suspicious gaze moved slowly from
Letty's flushed cheeks and heaving bosom to Wayne's imperturbable face.
Who are you, Morgan Wayne? she asked, spacing the words carefully.
I'm afraid I don't understand your position in all this.
Yes, echoed Letty uncertainly. Who are you? I never saw you
before, did I?
Wayne had no idea how well or poorly that got over to Mrs. Hendrixon.
She was watching him fixedly, waiting for a reply to her question.
Did Carson tell you that Inspector Hibbs vouches for me? demanded
She said, Yes. He told us. But I understand now that you warned my
husband a month ago that Letty was in danger. From a sexual maniac?
There was a touch of cold scorn in her voice.
Hardly, Mrs. Hendrixon. Wayne matched her tone with a curt flatness
of his own that was like flint striking steel. I'm inclined to think
that perhaps your daughter ahmisinterpreted the motives of her
You listen here, began Letty violently, but neither of the older
persons paid the slightest heed to her. Their eyes were locked together
in a sort of duel of wills, mutual antagonism flaring swiftly between
them. The woman's eyes narrowed and her lips thinned out against sharp
teeth. There was something almost venomous in her silent appraisal, yet
with it Wayne detected a surging undercurrent of seething emotion that
repelled yet fascinated him.
The tableau held for a matter of seconds while Letty stood aside and
watched them in helpless bewilderment, then Mrs. Hendrixon shook her
head as though to break the spell and turned to Letty, saying shortly,
You must come again, Mr. Wayne, when Letty is more herself. I... She
hesitated and appeared to struggle to form the words. I should like to
see you also. She was moving away with Letty as she spoke the words
and they came out jerkily.
Morgan Wayne stood very still for a moment and gazed after the mother
and daughter speculatively. A session with Letty and then with her
mother. That would be a day!
He shrugged and went inside the library to find Julius and his
attorney eagerly questioning the two policemen about the details of
... locked her naked in the bathroom and tried to phone out here, it
looks like, one of them was explaining, looking down at the toes of
his shoes and speaking heavily. Wayne repressed a grin as he moved
closer to the quartet. The poor cop was certainly on the spot,
confronted by Letty's father and trying to explain the girl to him.
Knowing Letty, Wayne had a pretty good idea what she would have said to
the policemen when they opened the bathroom door and she saw them
instead of the man she expected. But you couldn't tell that to a girl's
father. Not if you were an ordinary cop and he was Julius Hendrixon.
Wayne stepped into the breach and interposed smoothly, I spoke to
your daughter in the hall just now, Hendrixon, and I doubt whether
these officers can tell you as much about all this as I can. Hadn't you
better let them report back while we have a brief talk?
I think it's damned well time you and I did have a talk, fumed
Hendrixon. His hand went into his coat pocket for a wallet, and he
turned to the two uniformed men.
See here, I'm really grateful for your excellent work. Please let me
express my gratitude a little more concretely. He was extracting bills
as he spoke, but both men drew back stiffly and shook their heads and
mumbled something about only doing their duty, and turned and hurried
away as though happy to wash their hands of the whole affair.
Looking somewhat nonplused, Hendrixon turned away from them and
boomed, Now let's hear something that makes sense, Wayne. Carson here
says the inspector gives you a clean bill of health. But who are you?
What's your position in this matter? What is behind all this?
Morgan Wayne shrugged and carefully lit a cigarette. He nipped the
matchstick away onto the oak floor and lifted his eyebrows at the
younger man slumped in his chair. He said, This actually concerns
Durtol Drugs, Incorporated. Is he in on it?
Durtol blinked his eyelids at Wayne and said languidly, I'm merely
president of Durtol, that's all. How does this hocus-pocus with Letty
concern the firm?
Wayne frowned and told Hendrixon, There must be some mistake. I
understood you ran the corporation.
John is the titular head, said Carson hastily. Julius is chairman
of the board and actually business manager.
Wayne said, I see. He hesitated and then asked carefully, Is it
true that eighty per cent of Durtol stock is controlled by you,
It is not, the young man snapped. Actually, Julius doesn't own a
single share. I own forty per cent and my sister, Julius' wife, owns a
second forty per cent. The remainder is held in small blocks by outside
Wayne nodded slowly, weighing this information for what it might be
worth. In effect, then, he said, either you or your sister, by
getting proxies from eleven percent of the other stockholders, could
control the affairs of the corporation?
That's theoretically true, boomed Hendrixon, but hardly to the
point. John and my wife have been perfectly satisfied thus far to take
my advice on all matters connected with the business.
Also, put in Carson smoothly, the other twenty per cent of the
stock is scattered quite widely in very small blocks and the owners are
well content with the present management and the large dividends that
are issued each year. I daresay it would be almost physically
impossible to trace down enough small shareholders to constitute eleven
A trace of a smile flickered across Wayne's face. He directed himself
bluntly to Hendrixon. Do you recall that I warned you a month ago that
someone seemed bent on doing exactly that? That small stockholders were
being approached with absurdly high offers for their shares?
I do recall some such statement. But it was absurd on the face of
it. Even if someone did wish to buy in heavily, what possible
harm would it do? We still control the eighty per cent.
Wayne sighed. And you mean to say neither your wife nor your
brother-in-law has been approached recently with an offer to buy their
shares at well above the market price?
Hendrixon snorted and made a contemptuous motion of dismissal.
Perhaps they have. I can't speak for John. But a sale would be out of
the question. My wife's grandfather founded the firm, beginning in a
tiny laboratory in his own kitchen, where he evolved many of the
formulas that are still big sellers in the drug field. Durtol Drugs is
a family thing. It was expanded by the founder's son, and passed on as
a sacred trust to his son and daughter in equal shares. It is
inconceivable that either would sell out for any price.
Wayne sighed again. Exactly, my friends. And that is why Letty was
The three men looked equally incredulous, Wayne noted as he glanced
from one to the other, though the attorney appeared to grasp his
meaning first. You mean as a means to apply pressure? To force a sale
of some of the Durtol stock?
To force the sale of forty per cent of it, said Wayne flatly.
Perhaps you'll begin to believe me if you'll make a study of the
records of stock transactions during the past two months. You'll
discover that more than one half of the outstanding stock has changed
hands during that period. Quite a sudden flurry when you consider that
before two months ago not a single share of Durtol stock had been sold
for several years.
Who is buying it up? demanded Carson.
It's being done cleverly by various agents who cannot be traced to a
common source. I can't prove one man is behind it, you understand, but
the facts speak for themselves. If you insist on closing your eyes to
the obvious, I'm afraid I can't help you.
The obvious being, said Carson slowly, that someone has gathered
up enough outstanding stock to gain control of the corporation if one
of the blocks of Durtol stock were added to his present holdings.
Exactly. And I knew a month ago that absurdly high offers had been
refused for the Durtol stock. That's why I came to you with my
warning, he reminded Hendrixon. I don't know the man behind
this, but I do know the vicious elements involved. They are openly out
to get Durtol Drugs. They'll stop at nothing. Kidnaping Letty was the
first and most obvious step. Next time it will be something else.
Tomorrow perhaps. Or the next day. They'll have to move fast now that
they've come into the open.
But why? demanded Hendrixon, mopping his craggy face. Durtol is a
small and honorable firm. We're not big business like McKesson and
Robbins, for instance. I understand things like this do go on when
millions are at stake, but our net profit is less than a hundred
It's because you are a small firm with a long and honorable
reputation that you are the target, said Morgan Wayne grimly. Durtol
is exactly what they need for a front. If you haven't realized what I'm
getting at yet, you're a trio of fools, he went on. You say your net
profits are less than a hundred thousand. What do you suppose they
would amount to if your firm turned, say, twenty per cent of the
morphine and similar drugs you use in legitimate manufacturing
processes each year into illegitimate channels? Think it over a moment.
As business manager, you should have a rough idea, Hendrixon. Keep in
mind the findings of the Kefauver Committee that there's something like
a thousand-per-cent profit between the legitimate wholesale price of
heroin and the sum paid by the consumer. Is that enough motive?
But how could they accomplish much even if they did get control?
protested young Durtol. We'd still go on as before, and On the
surface, Durtol Drugs would still go on as before, agreed Wayne. But
don't you see what control would do? In the first place, there'd be a
new chairman of the boarda new business manager, unless Hendrixon is
a fool who could be used by them or a knave who would go along. Then
changes in personnel all along the line. Old and trusted employees
disappearing from the scene and new ones coming in to key positions.
It's unbelievable, protested the attorney in a shocked tone. This
is 1952, Wayne. Such things aren't possible in a modern world.
Such things are happening in the modern world and all about
you, snapped Wayne. Do any of you ever read a newspaper? Entire
police departments corrupted and purchased by racketeers. City
governments and even large segments of the federal government
honeycombed with crooks and thieves. It's people like you who allow
such things to happen by closing your eyes and blinding yourselves to
the truth. Read the Kefauver report, for God's sake. Get some idea of
the nastiness and horror that are creeping up on this country of ours.
Unbelievable, hell! It's part of the pattern.
He thrust both hands deep into his pockets and looked from one face
to another of the three men before him. After a moment, he said in a
I killed a man this afternoon. I liked killing him. Think that over,
gentlemen. And think over what I've told you. I'll be in touch with you
tomorrow. He turned as though to go, but Hendrixon put out a hand to
You... killed a man? His heavy face expressed horror and distrust.
Once more, I demand to know: Who are you? How do you fit in this? How
do we know we can trust you?
Wayne smiled bleakly. You don't, do you? He shrugged off the
other's restraining hand and started out, tossing over his shoulder, I
hope you'll pay some attention to this warning before it's too
Warning of what? The voice of John Durtol III was
high-pitched and panicky. Having failed in the kidnaping, what can
they possibly try next?
Morgan Wayne stopped in the doorway and shrugged. He said over his
shoulder, If you and your sister remain stubborn about not selling, if
I were you I'd begin thinking about who will inherit your blocks of
stock after your death. If either of you have heirs who might not be so
scrupulous... He paused to shrug again. Well, if I were an insurance
man I'd hesitate to issue a policy on either of your lives. And now,
he went on easily, I really must go. I have a date with a charming
young lady who will be getting quite impatient, I'm afraid.
There was silence in the library behind him as he turned down the
corridor to the outer door.
It was characteristic of Morgan Wayne that he pushed every other
thought out of his mind when he left the Hendrixon house behind him and
headed toward the parkway and his date with Lois Elling. In more than
thirty years of living, Wayne had learned a great many lessons, not the
least important of which was that it behooves a man to appreciate any
gifts of love offered by the capricious gods and to make as much of
each such gift as is humanly possible.
He was wild with impatience now to see Lois. It seemed eons since the
moment he had stood beside her typewriter reading the words typed by
her hands and feeling an answering surge of emotion to her
passion-ridden words that was equal to anything he had experienced
His brief encounter with Priscilla Endicott and with Letty had done
nothing to make Lois seem less desirable. On the contrary, they had
added fuel to his fierce wanting by arousing him to unsatisfied heights
and by providing him with a basis for comparison from which Lois
emerged as definitely more appealing.
She was a woman a man could talk to, he told himself, as he hit the
parkway without seeing any officers and headed toward the city. A
woman, by God, whom a man could listen to while lying beside her in the
darkness and not be bored. Long ago, Morgan Wayne had learned how
important this was to his real enjoyment of any romantic adventure. The
only really worth-while experiences, those that were unforgettable and
unregretted, were with women who were his intellectual equals and as
charming companions at the breakfast table as in bed. A mingling of the
minds as well as a fusing of the bodies, a condition of mental as well
as physical rapport.
Although Wayne had met many men who denied similar feelings, he
shrewdly suspected that the vast majority of men felt much as he did.
Witness the famous courtesans of the ages who had not only attracted
the leaders of their day by their physical charms, but had held them
bound in happiness and affection for years on end. No mere sexy
strumpets, they, but women of intellect and sophistication. That's what
holds men after the first wild fervor is exhausted, and as he drove
along swiftly Wayne allowed himself to hope that was what he would
discover this night with Lois Elling.
Cold sweat stood on his forehead and his foot went down heavily on
the throttle as he thought about what she had written. He grimaced and
laughed shakily at himself and lifted his foot when he noticed the
speedometer needle flickering past eighty. Getting picked up on the
parkway for speeding wasn't the way to reach Lois fast. Besides, he was
acting like a callow young fool. Sure, he was late. Probably much later
than Lois had anticipated, but she would wait. She knew he was coming
tonight. Those other nights, she had known he wasn't coming.
But he made no effort to turn his thoughts away from Lois. He
concentrated fiercely on visualizing her as she must be waiting for him
now. That was the only drawback to this affair. There hadn't been
enough build-up. Not enough expectation. Nothing at all of the slow and
delicious burning that gradually takes complete possession of a man
during the period of delightful dalliance that generally precedes the
consummation of a civilized love affair. He had to make up for that
lack during this brief period while he hurtled through the night toward
Then he realized suddenly that he didn't even know where her
apartment was located. He assumed it was in Manhattan, and fervently
prayed that it was as he slowed at the last toll gate to pass over his
dime and then speed on toward the blaze of city lights ahead. There was
a gas station ahead, and if the Manhattan phone book didn't yield her
address he would be in one hell of a mess, he told himself disgustedly.
Lord, he couldn't even go back to his own apartment tonight. Not that
he wanted to or intended to, of course, not if he found Lois. But if he
had to search for her name through all the other borough directories...
He slowed for the filling station, pulled in, and glanced at the gas
gauge on the Hudson. It showed less than a quarter full, so he stopped
at a pump and told the attendant to fill the tank with high test. Then
he hurried inside to the telephone booths, flipped open the directory,
and ran his gaze down the E's.
It was there. Elling, Lois. A West End Avenue address. He sighed with
relief and was tempted for a moment to step into the booth and phone
He rejected the temptation and trotted back to the Hudson instead. He
would be there in ten minutes. It wouldn't do to phone ahead now. It
would sound like an apology for his lateness, or as though he
questioned whether she would have waited for him so long.
He had no apology to make, and no real question about her being there
when he arrived. She would understand that he had come to her as
swiftly as was humanly possible. Without any explanations, she would
know that. It was part of what was between them.
He tossed the attendant a bill and slid beneath the wheel again. It
was a short run to the exit nearest Lois' address, and he rolled down
the ramp smoothly, made the few blocks to West End in minutes, swung
left, and hit three green lights before pulling in to the curb just
beyond the modern brick apartment building.
There was a quiet and pleasant lobby that had about it a discreet
look of minding its own business and allowing the tenants to mind
theirs without interference from the management. The desk and
switchboard, for instance, were off in one corner and sheltered by
potted plants so visitors could enter and go directly to the
self-service elevator without announcing themselves or being seen by
curious eyes if they wished.
Wayne nodded with gratification when he noted the layout. It was so
exactly what a successful career woman, moderately chaste but not a
prude, would select for herself. Tonight, Wayne turned aside to ask
the switch board operator the number of Miss Elling's apartment, but it
was pleasant to know there would be no one to check on the time of his
departure, and that in the future he would be able to come and go
Indeed, the girl on the switchboard displayed the acme of well-bred
disinterest in Miss Elling's male visitor. She sat with her back to the
small desk where Wayne paused, and did not turn her head when he said,
Miss Lois Elling, please?
Do you wish me to ring her, or would you prefer to go right up? Her
voice was pleasant and friendly, though impersonal.
I'd like to go up, please.
Number Six B. At the end of the corridor on your right as you leave
Wayne thanked her and went to the elevator. It was large and modern,
and ascended smoothly when he pressed the button marked 6.
At the end of the corridor to the right, there was a large silver B
on the closed wooden door. Wayne put his finger on the bell and pressed
it lightly. He heard a faint ringing inside, and waited with
fast-beating heart for the door to open. Would she be already dressed
in the black negligee that a man named Bill Johnson had given her for
Christmas five years ago and which she had never yet worn? Or would she
be saving that for...?
When there was no answer to his ring after a full minute, Wayne
smiled wryly and put his finger on the bell again and held it for a
long time. Perhaps he had interrupted her in the middle of one of her
nightly hot baths. He hoped so. What was it she had said in her
letter about jumping out of the tub and running in and dripping water
on the white rug?
That would be a nice way to discover her this first night. Damned
nice. It would do away with any formalities. The slender body
dewy-fresh, pink and glowing from the hot water...
The smile faded into a frown as another minute went by without
response. He didn't really mean the frown. Lois was exacting a small
compensation, he surmised, for her rashness in throwing herself at him
with that typewritten declaration in the office. She had blushed and
burned when he read the words. Now she was making him burn a little,
taking her own sweet time about coming to the door. After all, it must
seem to her that he hadn't been overly impetuous about keeping the
Unthinkingly, as almost anyone will, he dropped his hand to the
doorknob and turned it. He was surprised when the door swung open to
his touch. Then the surprise faded and was replaced by amusement. That
was like her, he thought. To leave the way open for him to come to her.
To tantalize him a trifle and even, perhaps, to allow him to walk away
disappointed if he didn't have the initiative to try the door and
discover it unlocked.
Wayne closed the door quietly behind him and looked about the clean,
bright, low-ceilinged living room with eager interest. Nothing
particularly remarkable about the furnishing or decorunlike the
Gingham Girl's place in that respect, and infinitely more appealing and
charming because of its unassuming simplicity. A wholly feminine room
that somehow managed to reflect Lois' own honest eagerness for life.
There were frilly butter-yellow curtains at the windows that gave just
the needed touch of brightness to the moss-rose petit point of an
heirloom sofa, andWayne smiled appreciatively as he recognized ita
shaggy white rug in front of a small table holding her telephone.
There were three closed doors leading off the room, and there was
silence. Morgan Wayne called, Lois, not too loudly, and she did not
He crossed the room in four strides and opened the door to her
bathroom. His throat tightened queerly when he discovered it still
steamy and fragrant from her recent use. A pale green floor mat lay
damp and wrinkled beside the tub. A woolly bath towel hung limply damp
over the edge of the tub. A huge round box of expensive dusting powder
stood open, the big dusting puff inside.
Wayne stepped back and set his teeth together tightly as he observed
faint powdery touches left by Lois' bare feet on the polished floor
from the bathroom and leading to the closed door a few feet to the
He followed them to the door, thinking to himself happily, Like an
eagle scout winning a merit badge, by God. Old Tracker Wayne on the
scent. You can't elude me, woman!
He opened the door blithely.
Lois Elling lay on the bed. The spread had Been turned back to a
white linen sheet, and the filmy negligee was starkly black against the
whiteness. She had taken it from its tissue wrappings as she had
promised. She had bathed and powdered and dabbed herself with just a
touch of perfume, and arrayed herself in the never-before-worn negligee
and carefully arranged her supple body on the white sheet to wait for
Morgan Wayne to come to her.
But she no longer waited for him.
Her face was framed in the soft fluffy nest of her chestnut hair. Her
mouth was a red, grinning slash from ear to ear.
There are shocks so sudden and deep that the human mind is unable to
encompass them in the first instant of revelation. As in certain
instances of intense physical pain, there is a merciful self-anesthesia
that operates on the mind as well as on the body to carry one along for
a few moments of adjustment before one accepts what is seen or felt.
The sight of Lois Elling slain on her bed had this effect on Morgan
Wayne. His reactions were stunned into complete numbness. He saw her
lying there, yet did not accept what he saw. His subconscious mind knew
it was so, but his conscious mind rejected the knowledge.
It was some sort of grotesque masquerade. In a moment Lois would
smile at him and sit up and beckon to him. There was blackness in front
of his eyes and retching nausea in his belly as he stood rooted to the
threshold in the cold rigidity of shock that would not allow his
muscles to move. His teeth were set together so hard that his jaws
began to ache, and when he shuddered into complete consciousness and
forced his eyes to look at Lois again he discovered that his nails had
gouged into his palms.
He moved then. He placed one foot before the other and crossed the
short distance to the bed. He was cold now, as inhumanly aware and
calculating as a machine, his frozen blue eyes probing down at the
silent flesh that had so lately been pulsing with warmth and
It had been done recently. Very recently. Not more than ten or
fifteen minutes had elapsed since death, Wayne's trained mind told him.
Blood still oozed from the twin cruel gashes that extended from the
sides of her mouth outward and downward. It was the most senseless and
brutal job of mutilation Wayne had ever witnessed. No human hand could
have held the knife that inflicted those slashes. It was the work of a
monster. One who had enjoyed his work, had reveled in the sureness and
nicety of his touch.
It would have been a horribly slow and painful death because the
jugular vein had been carefully left untouched. Yet she lay so quietly
and serene upon the white sheet. There was no contortion of limbs or
Wayne dropped to his knees and his fingertips gently explored the
scalp beneath the mass of fluffy brown hair arranged so carefully about
her face. He nodded grimly when he found a large swelling near the left
ear. This explained the method of killing. He could see it all so
clearly now, and a great racking sob came up into his throat as he
visualized the scene.
Lois had taken her bath as usual, and tonight had carefully arrayed
herself in the black negligee to wait for his coming. There had been
the unexpected ring of her bell, her eager hurry to open the door and
admit Morgan Wayne. But another man had confronted her there. A
murderer with a sap ready and one sharp blow to be struck. Not a
killing blow. No. The man who had done this was not disposed to kill
mercifully or swiftly. A blow strong enough to halt any outcry and to
render her unconscious so she could safely be carried into the bedroom
and arranged in this dreadful mockery of anticipation for the careful
wielding of a knife that she would not feel.
At least there had been that. She had died without knowing the
Morgan Wayne's features tightened again and his eyes closed to slits
when he noted a round spot of pink scalp showing through the fluffy
hair near the back of her head. He bent closer to examine the spot and
his senses reeled again at this further evidence of insensate
brutality. A tuft of her silky brown hair had been torn out by the
roots. There could be no doubt of it.
And Wayne saw why almost immediately.
Under the filmy blackness of the negligee covering her breasts there
was discernible a dark stain of crimson. Wayne ripped the garment apart
and stared down unbelievingly at the small wad of brown hair soaked
with Lois' own blood and placed carefully in the deep valley between
the creamy breasts that were now growing cold.
It had been used as a crude paintbrush to daub two words across her
Morgan Wayne rocked back on his heels and an animal grunt of sheer
rage welled up from inside him.
He knew now.
Of course, he had known from the beginning. From the first awful
moment when he saw her lying there. This could be the work of only one
man. A man whom Priscilla Endicott had said wasn't human. A man who
loved death for the sake of killing. Ugly and lingering death.
Yes, he had known from the first moment that he was witnessing the
work of Hake Derr. But it was good to have the assumption verified. It
was good to know that her death could be avenged immediately and
without seeking further proof.
The letters crudely smeared in blood on her white flesh were all the
proof Morgan Wayne needed. The two, final F's were the pay-off. For the
same hand had formed those letters that had scrawled the single obscene
word in the spilled powder atop the Gingham Girl's dressing table.
Wayne, alone, knew that. No other person could possibly know. It was
clever, too, Wayne acknowledged to himself. Damnably clever of Derr. To
Morgan Wayne it was clearly a message, meant only for him and for him
only to understand. To the police, when they found her body, it would
indicate that this was an ordinary sexual murder. The work of a jealous
lover triumphantly adjuring a rival to desist from his attentions.
Wayne got to his feet slowly. His face was relaxed now, his blue eyes
wide and calm. He leaned down and drew up the top sheet to cover Lois'
body, to hide the mutilated face, leaving only the closed eyes, smooth
forehead framed by fluffy brown hair. For a timeless moment he looked
down at her while grief and rage swelled like an intolerable expanding
ball within his chest. With only her eyes showing above the sheet,
softly closed this way with long lashes brushing the smooth cheek, she
looked as she might have looked with her head pillowed in the crook of
his arm in sweet exhaustion.
He bent and touched his lips to her forehead, cooling now and glowing
with the indefinable pallor of death. And as he did so he swore an oath
that was not formed in words, but etched in acid on his soul. An oath
that her killer would die by his hands, and soon. Derr's identity was
his secret. It would remain his secret. Let the police discover her
body in the natural course of events. Long before they could possibly
get on the right trail, Morgan Wayne swore to himself she would be
Nothing else mattered now. Letty Hendrixon and the problem of Durtol
Drugs were swept out of his mind by the consuming determination that
now gripped him.
He turned and groped his way out of the death room, found the tiny
kitchenette, and felt a new lump forming in his throat when he looked
down somberly at a tray on the small table containing a bottle of
bonded bourbon, a siphon bottle, two empty highball glasses standing
side by side and a bowl of half-melted ice cubes.
Lois' preparations for the evening they were to have spent together.
Further mute evidence of the manner in which she had planned to welcome
him. He reached woodenly for the bottle and his corded fingers
tightened on the neck of it. Then they relaxed and he took his hand
No. He wanted to be stone-cold sober for the job ahead of him.
Nothing to dull a single sensory fiber of his body. For the first time
in his life Morgan Wayne wanted to killached for the pleasure of
taking life from another human being. And as he turned away from the
kitchen, leaving the tray sitting there untouched, his mind began to
work again with clarity for the first time since discovering Lois'
He knew it was the work of Hake Derr, and he knew it had been done
simply as a warning to him. To lay off. To keep hands off the Durtol
job. To stay away from the Hendrixons in the future.
Wayne stopped abruptly in the middle of the living room and narrowed
his eyes to slits.
How had Hake Derr known about Lois Elling? How had he known Wayne
would be here tonight to find the warning words smeared on her cold
flesh in blood?
Priscilla Endicott? He had told her he had a date with his secretary.
Just a careless phrase tossed over his shoulder while he hurried away
to find Letty.
Had she repeated the words to Derr? Suppose she had? How had Derr
known the identity of his secretary and where to find her? Lois had
worked for him less than a week. Was it possible that Derr knew more
about Wayne and his affairs than Wayne knew about him?
It was possible, of course. Wayne hadn't been discreet about making
inquiries this past month. He hadn't meant to be discreet. From the
beginning, he had known it would come to a showdown soon, and hadn't
minded forcing the issue. He had known that Derr and his gang would get
wind of his activities. And they had, of course. Priscilla had
recognized his name instantly this afternoon. Her question What
are you? proved that she was well aware of his interest in her lover.
So maybe they had been spying on him all this time while he was
planted in the office spying on them and on the docked yacht that he
had expected to be used as a prison for Letty.
That might explain how Derr had come to Lois Elling's apartment so
unerringly. And it would mean, of course, that Priscilla was as vicious
as the others. That she had passed the information along to Derr to
strike back at Wayne.
But there was one other possible explanation that could leave
Priscilla out of it. And, surprisingly, Wayne found that he wanted
desperately to leave her out. There was something about her that tore
at his heartstrings when he contemplated her possible connivance in
Lois' murder. Something about that first impression he got so strongly
when he crossed to her at the piano and before they had spoken a word
together. The vagrant and nebulous thought of home and mother that went
along with her unabashed animality. That was an integral part of her
appeal to a man's every sense. The brief picture that had flashed
through his mind of climbing rosebushes and a white cottage with
Yes, he admitted frankly to himself that he wanted to leave
Priscilla out of this nastiness. So he concentrated on the second
There had been others who knew he planned to see Lois Elling at her
apartment this evening. Her phone call to Julius Hendrixon had stated
that Wayne could be reached at her place later in the evening. How many
people knew of that call? Julius, of course, and probably his wife.
Probably John Durtol III also. And possibly the family attorney.
From the first, Wayne had felt positive there was someone behind Hake
Derr in his bold attempt to seize control of Durtol Drugs by kidnaping
Letty to force the sale of a block of stock to him. Could it be one of
Wayne shook his head slowly as conjecture after conjecture raced
through his mind. Julius, who had married into the firm and didn't own
any stock but who was in active control of the management? It was a
distinct possibility. He, above all others, would be in a position
safely to manipulate the corporation's affairs to realize huge profits
from diverting certain drugs into illegitimate channels. But that would
mean profits to the stockholders. To his brother-in-law and his wife.
And could a man conceivably help to plan the kidnaping of his own
daughter in order to force his wife and brother-in-law to give up their
blocks of stock?
It was possible, Wayne conceded grimly to himself. Particularly if
such a move could force the sale of John's stock to some dummy owned by
Hendrixon. He could be foolish enough to believe it was safe. To have
extracted a promise from her kidnapers that the girl would be treated
well and returned unharmed... Not exactly a fatherly thing to do, but
when a man let himself get dragged into a thing like this he left his
conscience behind him.
The mother was a less likely prospect, Wayne thought, but then he
recalled the odd look on Mrs. Hendrixon's face and in her eyes on a
couple of occasions and he didn't know. Of course, she owned the stock
and could, presumably, dispose of it as she wished, so that seemed to
take away the motivation from her, but it was possible there were some
legal strings attached to it of which Wayne was unaware.
That was something that would have to be looked into.
Attorney Carson would know about that. But he was also suspect. Of
all four, he was in the best position to have planned such a coup and
to profit most from it. John Durtol III was the least likely, Wayne
decided swiftly, remembering the weak chin and languid manner of the
young man. Again, he had his own block of stock, which he could,
presumably, turn over to racketeers if he wished to give them control.
And kidnaping his own niece seemed an absurd device to accomplish what
he could do so much more easily in a legitimate way.
Yet they were the four persons outside of the Gingham Girl who could
conceivably have known that Morgan Wayne would be in this apartment
tonight. If one of them were the mastermind behind the plan, it
wouldn't have been difficult for him to pass on the information to Hake
Derr for him to use as he had.
All of these thoughts and questions raced through Wayne's mind in a
matter of seconds while he paused irresolute in Lois Elling's living
He put them from his mind almost as swiftly as they entered it. There
was something more important to be attended to right now.
Wayne strode to the two doors leading into bathroom and bedroom and
carefully wiped his prints from the doorknobs. He hesitated a moment,
trying to think of anything else he might have touched, and recalled
the whisky bottle. Another moment took care of that, and this time he
didn't pause in the living room on his way out.
He rubbed both knobs of the outer door and closed it gently behind
him, and gave the push button a hasty swipe as he went past toward the
The Gingham Gardens was his first objective. He seriously doubted
that he would find Hake Derr there, but it was his only point of
contact. Priscilla might know, as she had known his whereabouts that
afternoon. And this time Morgan Wayne knew he would force the
information out of her smooth throat with his two hands if necessary.
But he hoped it wouldn't be necessary.
AS HE LEFT the apartment house on West End Avenue, Wayne had more
reason than before to be pleased by the privacy of the lobby and the
lack of curiosity of the switchboard operator. Since she hadn't turned
her head to look at him when he asked the number of Lois' apartment, it
would be impossible for her to give any sort of description of him to
the police. And right now Wayne didn't want any police interference
with his movements.
Also, he was inwardly pleased with the thought that it was quite
unlikely that Hake Derr could be identified either. Morgan Wayne was
the only one who knew, and he wanted that secret to remain his own for
a little time, at least. He didn't need much time. Just long enough to
come face to face with Hake Derr.
He got in the borrowed Hudson and drove southward, rigid behind the
wheel, but in no hurry now. His first surge of blind, killing rage had
spent itself. The hot lust for vengeance had changed to a cold and more
deadly emotion because it was reasoned and relentless. He would take
chances, yes, but they would be coldly calculated chances. Both mind
and body were tuned to the highest pitch of precision as he neared the
Gingham Gardens. He could afford no mistakes this night. Not for his
own sake, but for Lois Elling's.
He drove carefully and at a moderate speed to Fifty-second Street,
turned eastward, and began watching ahead for a parking lot close to
his objective. He found one on the left side of the street less than a
block from the Gingham Gardens and pulled into the driveway, which was
not quite blocked with cars.
An attendant sauntered forward as he got out, and Wayne handed him
the keys with a ten-dollar bill. He said curtly, I may be ten minutes
or three hours. And I may be in one hell of a hurry to get going when I
do come back. The ten is for keeping this hack in a space open to the
street and headed out.
The attendant said, You bet, mister. Any time till two a.m.
Wayne nodded and walked away in long strides toward the life-sized
oil painting on the sidewalk, with a red spotlight on it now to attract
He slowed as he approached the cellar joint, noting that it occupied
the entire subbasement of a one-story brownstone separated from its
neighbors by a lane not more than two feet wide. Next door as he
approached was a closed florist shop with a lighted window display, and
Wayne paused in front of it, pretending an interest in the floral
arrangements while he studied the first-floor layout of the next
building. He carefully recalled climbing the stairs to Priscilla's
apartment, and realized that her bedroom would be the front corner room
on this side.
There was light behind the curtained windows. He realized that didn't
necessarily mean it was occupied at the moment, but it was a hopeful
sign. He chose a moment when the doorman was helping a drunken couple
into a cab and the sidewalk was deserted, slid forward casually between
the buildings, and made his way to the back. Here was an alley entrance
to the kitchen, as he had been certain there would be, the door
standing invitingly ajar and with the brightly lighted kitchen on the
left. Wayne paused outside the door and watched a white-capped chef
stirring a huge pot of soup on the range while two busboys come
staggering in under heavy-laden trays that they clatteringly unloaded
at the sink beyond his line of vision.
Choosing a moment when no one faced in his direction, Wayne entered
and went unhurriedly past the open kitchen door, following a dimly lit
hall to a closed wooden door at the end. It was locked, but he took the
knob firmly and braced himself, put steady and increasing pressure with
his shoulder against the door, and the flimsy catch gave way. His tight
hold of the knob prevented him from catapulting forward, and he found
himself in the narrow corridor with the flight of stairs leading upward
that he had climbed with Priscilla that afternoon.
Hot piano music and the laughter and din of a night spot doing good
business came at him with a rush from the other end of the corridor as
Wayne closed the door behind him. At the far end toward the front he
saw the figure of Willie Sutra with his back toward Wayne.
He had the look of being posted there as a guard to prevent entrance
to the stairway, and this gave Wayne further hope that Priscilla might
be upstairs. With someone, perhaps. Even with Hake Derr, possibly,
though he refused to hope for that much luck.
His right hand was in the side pocket of his linen jacket fondling
the butt of a large-caliber gun as he climbed the stairs cautiously so
as to make no sound that would attract Sutra's attention.
The same stairs he had climbed this afternoon so close behind
Priscilla's willowy body. Just this afternoon, that had been. Only a
few hours past. But this time there was no enticing rustle of a taffeta
skirt. There was no woman smell to come back to his nostrils warmly, no
promise of delight when the upward climb was ended. Tonight there was
silence and the subtle aura of death on the stairway.
At the top of the stairs, Wayne stopped in front of the door
Priscilla had unlocked that afternoon and lifted the gun from his
right-hand pocket. He turned the knob and entered the unlocked living
room with the chartreuse draperies at the far end.
The long room was empty. The door into the bedroom stood open as it
had that afternoon, and Priscilla Endicott stood on one foot in front
of the vanity mirror, leaning forward with the other foot resting on
the low stool while she carefully drew a stocking upward over the
shapely ankle and calf. The other leg was already stockinged and she
wore a narrow garter belt. Nothing else. Her back was toward Wayne.
She straightened slowly as the stocking came up, and Morgan Wayne
closed the door behind him after thumbing the catch to set the night
The tiny click it made as the door closed brought Priscilla's head
around over her shoulder while she was still in a half crouch. She was
as impossibly lovely as ever. White-faced now and staring, her eyes
round and enormous with surprise and fright, caught in that posture for
an instant like a startled fawn face to face suddenly with a crouching
Wayne dropped the heavy gun into his pocket and strolled forward
without speaking. His first movement released Priscilla's spellbound
muscles. Her head jerked back and she straightened swiftly and snatched
up a green silk robe from the dressing table and flung it about her
shoulders. Entering the bedroom, Morgan Wayne told her evenly, You
don't need to cover it up, Priscilla. I've come for something else
entirely this time.
Priscilla Endicott turned slowly to face him, drawing the edges of
the thin robe tight together in front. Her face was still white and she
spoke as evenly as he, but flames danced in the translucent green eyes
and her tone was so low as to be almost guttural:
What do you mean by something else this time? What did you
want from me this afternoon except what you got?
He sat down on the edge of the still unmade bed and regarded her
levelly. You know what I wanted this afternoon. I still want it. But
not right now.
And not this afternoon either. Her voice rose and she almost choked
with rage. Did your goddamned secretary appreciate what you walked out
of here with?
Morgan Wayne said, This is wasting time. You know how fast Hake Derr
got here after you phoned him. There wouldn't have been time.
But you didn't know that, she raged at him. I don't know how the
hell he heard me say that to you over the phone, but
know, Wayne interrupted her. And I think you do too. I think you
tried to set me up for him, and when that failed you handed him my
secretary instead. He got to his feet as he spoke and moved toward
her, his face rocklike, blue eyes hooded and coldly watchful.
She shrank away from him instinctively. Your secretary? she gasped.
I think you did, Priscilla. Wayne put both hands on her shoulders
and his face was inches from hers. I'm not sure of it yet. If I were
I'd break your neck. When I do find out, I will break your neck.
But before I do that I'm going to take that lovely, wanton body of
yours as it's never been taken before.
His fingers tightened roughly on her shoulders. His voice was low and
hoarse, charged with the two most elemental passions of mandesire and
Priscilla Endicott did not flinch from the hurting pressure of his
fingers. Her eyes were wide now, and shining. Her lips parted as the
breath came in and out more swiftly. Promise me you'll do that, Morgan
Wayne. Then you can break my neck if you still want to.
Her mouth was there, waiting for him. Her body was taut and
quivering, waiting for him.
Wayne set his teeth and let go of her shoulders with a little shove
that sent her back against the low dressing table. He turned and took
three steps across the room and wheeled to face her at this safer
distance. He asked quietly, How long did Derr stay this afternoon?
Only a few minutes. There was a singing sort of calmness in her
voice. He expected to find you in bed with me and went into a rage
because I had let you get away. Are you really another gangster,
Morgan, trying to move in on Hake's racket? Whoever you are and
whatever you want, stay away from Hake, for God's sake. I'm telling
There's only one thing I want you to tell me, Priscilla. Where is
I don't know, she replied promptly. Too promptly? Wayne wondered.
He went out of here swearing to carve you up in little pieces and I
don't know where he is.
But you can tell me where I might find him.
No. He doesn't really trust me yet. Her voice was low and troubled.
I've never seen him any place except here. I don't know anything else
You know what his real business is. Wayne threw the words at her as
though they were rocks.
She lifted her head defiantly and spat out, Of course I know. Why in
hell else do you think I'd let a lunk like that in my bed?
To get stuff from him? Wayne's voice was disbelieving. I don't
believe it, he said flatly.
No, she told him contemptuously. Not to get stuff from him. My
God, I can pick up anything I want in this town without sleeping with
the head guy. Aside from that, I don't go for it personally.
Then why, Priscilla?
Because Hake Derr's in the money. Real money. Her lips thinned
against her teeth and she loosened the edges of the green robe to hold
both hands out in front of her with the fingers tightly balled into
fists. That's what I'm out for, she told him fiercely. Mazuma. Wads
of it. And Hake's on his way up. He's got a deal on now that'll put him
up along with the goddamned Rockefellers and Morgans. And that's where
I want to be.
You've got a pretty good little racket of your own right here,
Wayne told her soberly.
Even a cellar joint like this is cleaner than peddling dope to
school kids, Wayne said wearily.
Hake don't peddle it. There's plenty of others to do that work, and
if he didn't furnish them someone else would. What are you horning in
on Hake for if dope money is too dirty for you to handle?
Morgan Wayne hesitated a long moment before replying. He was vaguely
conscious that Priscilla's robe had fallen open in front, but he was
more concerned with studying her face and intonations and trying to
figure the angles than in the white flesh she was showing him. A lot
might depend on how he answered her. If it were true that she was only
interested in money and not in Derr himselfand if he could convince
her that with a little help from her he might soon be in a position to
take over Derr's business with its huge profitsthe chances were that
she would be eager to play along.
But somehow, something rang false in her statements. There was that
first intuitive feeling he had about her that afternoon. He couldn't
drive himself to believe she was all bad. A wanton, yes. Tough-minded
and with an eye to the main chance. She'd never have got where she was
now without those attributes. But for her to have cold-bloodedly tied
up with a drug racketeer like Hake Derr simply to feather her own nest
and for no other personal reason was more than Wayne could accept. She
was lying to him now, he thought grimly. Following orders from Hake
Derr and trying to draw him out into the open.
He said finally, Maybe I'm changing my mind about horning in on
Derr. From what I hear around, this thing he's got on is big enough so
he might be able to use a partner to handle some of the angles. Tell me
where he is and I'll talk it over with him.
I told you I didn't know. Suddenly Priscilla's voice was listless
and disinterested. She glanced down at the spreading edges of her robe
and drew them together mechanically. Not as though it mattered much,
but as an indication that the interview was ended.
So you've told me, Morgan Wayne agreed. So you'll phone him as
soon as I walk out of here. That's O.K. I want you to. Tell him I'll be
He turned about and strode out of the bedroom. He didn't look back as
he crossed the living room of Priscilla's apartment and there was only
silence behind him.
He went out unhurriedly and down the stairs. He moved surely and
silently on the balls of his feet toward the front exit, where Willie
Sutra still stood facing away from him.
The noise of the piano and of loud laughter beyond Willie drowned the
sound of his coming. He lifted a heavy gun from his pocket as he neared
the man, and he paused behind him to swing the loaded cylinder and
short barrel against the right side of Willie's head just above the
Willie went to the floor without making a sound.
Wayne pocketed his gun and calmly stepped over the limp figure. If
anyone in the long dim room noted the incident, there was something
about Morgan Wayne as he crossed to the front, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, something about the set of his wide shoulders,
the implacable grimness of his face and the icy coldness of his eyes,
that prevented any interference.
Wayne went out past the hat-check girl without seeing her and turned
toward the parking lot where he had left the Hudson.
MORGAN WAYNE drove north to 110th Street and parked at the curb. It
was a cool night and he shivered a little in his linen suit as he got
out of the Hudson. He turned the jacket collar up about his neck and
let his heavy shoulders hunch forward in a sort of slouch, assuming a
shambling and slightly furtive air as he walked half a block to Flying
Horse Avenue. It was a mean little street with a few small shops
lighted at this hour, and those who passed on the sidewalk moved
purposefully and looked neither right nor left.
There was a dim street lamp halfway down the block, and Wayne
stationed himself close to it so the bleared beams lighted his white
suit plainly but kept his face shadowed.
He yawned openly at intervals, hunching his shoulders and shuddering
as he did so, stretching out his arms and darting quick side glances in
Nothing happened for at least five minutes. Two men passed behind him
on the sidewalk as though unconscious of his presence, and then a woman
approached from his right. She slowed as she neared him, and Wayne went
through his yawning routine again, noting with a side glance that she
was drably dressed and staggering a trifle.
She stopped close behind him and asked in a furred voice that tried
hard to sound coy and desirable, Lookin' for somethin', mister?
He turned slowly, rubbing the back of his hand across his mouth. Not
what you're peddling, sister.
She tossed her head archly and put one hand on her hip. How d'yuh
know if you don't take a try? Three ways for a fin ain't a bad deal,
Beat it, snarled Wayne. Ten ways for a buck wouldn't interest me
I getcha, she told him wisely. Soon's you're fixed up you'll maybe
want some. I'll, be waitin' down to the gin mill yonder. She moved on,
swaying her fat hips so flagrantly that she almost fell flat on her
Wayne faced around again and gave another yawn. He saw a thin, boyish
figure step from a darkened doorway two hundred feet down the street
and accost the prostitute. She spoke to him, then laughed and went on
toward the lighted barroom a short distance beyond.
The other figure strolled toward Wayne. A thin-faced lad who didn't
look older than fifteen, trying to put a swagger in his walk and with
an unlighted cigarette drooping at a wise-guy angle from the corner of
He passed Wayne without speaking, looking him over carefully and
letting his footsteps get slower and slower as he went on, until he
stopped thirty feet away, turned, and sauntered back while his hands
went searchingly into his pockets. He stopped and asked past the
cigarette, Got a match, mister?
Wayne nodded. He got a lighter from his pocket and held it so the boy
could not fail to note the gold case, thumbed it to a flame, and held
it out with shaking hands.
The lad bent to suck flame into his cigarette, twisting his head to
look up at Wayne with narrowed, ferrety eyes. You got the shakes,
mister. What the hell? It ain't that cold.
The monkey's on my back, kid, Wayne said huskily. He's scratchin'
like hell, but a punk like you wouldn't know about that.
Think so, huh? The boy grinned slyly and sucked smoke deep into his
lungs. I figured you was a customer when I seen yuh standin' here
yawnin'. An' I knowed it fer sure when you give Three-Way Annie the
turnwn. He became abruptly businesslike. Which yuh want, mister? I
got horse an' weed.
Horse. How much you got? Wayne put whining eagerness in his voice.
I got five decks on me.
That's O.K. for a starter, but look. I gotta have more. Lots more.
I'm in a spot, see? tammin' out of town where I maybe can't get it
easy, and my own peddler, damn his lousy soul, is shacked up somewheres
I can't reach him. I need twenty decks fast.
Twenty decks of H? Jeez, mister, I ain't never pushed a wad like
that before. A deck here an' a deck there... you know how it is. Just
enough to pay for my own shots.
But you can get it, Wayne pressed eagerly. He rubbed knuckles into
both eyes and sniffled loudly. I'll pay extra because I got to have it
Sure, I can get it O.K. But how do I know...
Here. Wayne fumbled in his pocket with trembling fingers and drew
out a crumpled fifty-dollar bill. Gimme your five decks now and keep
that bill for an advance against the other fifteen. How soon can you
The boy looked at the bill and whistled with surprise. He dug into
his pocket and pulled out five small paper packets and handed them over
with a sly grin. I guess you ain't no narcotics guy, all right. No
cop'd jar loose with half a C when he could do it for ten. Take me
about forty minutes, mister. Where'll you be?
Morgan Wayne slid four of the packets in his pocket and was fumbling
eagerly with the fifth as though in a hurry to get some good from it.
He nodded down the street and said, How about meeting me in that bar?
Sure. The boy's wizened grin became a leer. Where Annie hangs out,
huh? After a shot she'll mebby look better to you. See you there in
Case history of Johnny Harlon, aged fifteen,
1348 Street, New York City, as wire-recorded by Sergeant
Nickerson of the New York City Police Department's Narcotic Squad.
You start with reefers, see? They're a sort of cigarette, only
different. You smoke them different. You suck the smoke in with lots of
air, all the way in till your guts are floatingand pretty soon you're
floating too. You're high, mister, and you never had it so nice.
Everybody's your pal and the girls all love you. Anything you want is
yours for the askingor taking. You can do anything, see? Rip an
automobile tire in two with your bare hands if you want to, beat hell
out of a cop twice as big. That's how it seems. You ain't afraid of
nothing and there ain't nothing to be afraid of. Things taste better'n
they ever did before, and smell better. And if you're with a girl, it
lasts a million years and it's so good you can't stand it. You die on
her and then come back to life and you ain't dead at all but alive like
you never was alive before. That's the way reefers do you at first.
But next morning you're crawling in hell, mister. You're down at the
bottom and there ain't no way out. You itch all over and your nose and
eyes burn and run water, and your throat's dry and rasping like a
charred crust of bread. You lay there wherever you are and vomit all
over yourself and it's like you're a pig in a pen, but it don't matter
none. Nothing matters except getting some more and getting back alive
So that goes on and you need more'n more for your lift, and pretty
soon there just ain't enough kick to it and you got to have something
stronger, and then you start sniffing the powder and that's O.K. for a
while, but then it gets just the same as the other and pretty soon you
end up like anybody else and start main-lining. That's punching a hole
in the vein and taking the heroin hot into the blood straight from a
medicine dropper. You get the jolt, mister, before you can count five,
and it's real good. Better'n ever before, because now you're fixed so
you can't do without it, and that's O.K. as long as it lasts, but it
keeps lasting shorter and shorter and you got to get a fix oftener and
oftener till pretty soon you got to have it three-four times a day and
it takes fifteen or twenty bucks a day to keep you right.
Where'm I gonna get that kind of money? Not by working. I can't get
no job to pay me like that, and besides, I got to stay in school, and
even if I run away I ain't in no good shape to hold down a job.
So all I can do is start stealing because I got to have the dough.
Or maybe hang around the queer joints and be some brownie's boy.
Sure, I tried 'em both, but neither one worked good. I started
grabbing stuff from stores, but the bastards you got to sell to only
give you maybe a tenth of what it's worth and you never do have enough
jack, and then I tried the other, but the queers you run into mostly
expect you to give it to 'em instead of selling it.
Then the pusher where I get my horse says why don't I turn peddler
myself, and he sets me up in business for free. I know all the kids in
school, see? So he gives me reefers to pass out free and get them
started just like I did. And I don't mind none by this time because I
think why shouldn't them other punks be like I am, so I hand the
reefers around, and then pretty soon start showing 'em how to main-line
with heroin for a real kick. That's free, too, at first, but not very
long, you bet. Soon's them others get to where they got to have it, I'm
the only one around where they know to get it. So I'm right in there
peddling it to them and it's easy money and it's their tough luck where
they get the jack to pay me.
So I did real good at first. I was what they call a mule. That's a
delivery boy for this pusher, and he pays me just enough for my own
shots, but that's all right because I don't need nothing else.
But I go on the nod so steady I get so I can't remember nothing, and
I'm going nuts from wanting it between jolts and stealing it from my
own customers, and even that ain't enough, so finally I get arrested
when I kill that old man in the candy store.
You said I killed him, anyhow. I don't know for sure. I didn't go to
kill him. I just wanted money for a deck of H. Honest to God, I don't
remember hitting him with the rock you say I had in my hand. I just
needed the H real bad, that's all, and I had to get it some way.
The boy who contracted to take the monkey off Morgan Wayne's back
could have been Johnny Harlon a short time before Johnny made his kill.
Any one of New York City's six thousand adolescent dope addicts could
have been Johnny Harlon; that is, their personal case histories
parallel Johnny's step by step except that the girls usually wind up
selling themselves on the streets to get money for their daily dope
rations, and except that most are discovered and arrested before taking
the final step of committing murder to obtain the money they cannot do
Fifteen minutes after the boy had left Morgan Wayne under the street
lamp, he turned up in a dirty gin mill in the San Juan Hill district
only a block off the Hudson River. He stood just inside the door
nervously looking around the smoke-filled room until he got the nod
from a thin, greasy-faced man sitting alone at a table in the back.
For props, Poppy McMooney had a beer glass and a racing form in front
of him. The form sheet was a week old. The glass had suds caked inside
in dry rings. Poppy was a pusher who attended strictly to business.
The boy slid into the seat across from him and leaned forward
intently, talking in a low voice. Twenty decks, Poppy, he ended
excitedly. Twenty decks all at once, he wants.
Yeah? How you know he's on the level?
Hell, he needs it, Poppy. You shoulda seen 'im.
A guy like that, said Poppy distrustfully, with money to pay for
twenty decks, he don't have to stand out under no street light hopin'
some mule will come along to fix him up. If he's on the stuff, he's got
his own supply where he gets it steady.
Sure, but like I told you, he's takin' it on the lam outta town an'
his regular peddler ain't around. I swear he's O.K., Poppy.
You'd say that about anybody, Alvin. You're so red-eyed crazy for H
you'd sell twenty decks to the Mayor. I been thinkin' about dropping
you, Alvin. You're gettin' so damned jittery...
You wouldn't do that, Poppy! I got to have it. You know I got to
I know, grumbled Poppy McMooney. That's why I don't trust you. How
you know he didn't say twenty decks so you'd get excited and make a
home run for me, with him follerin' on your heels?
Aw, no, Poppy. It ain't nothin' like that. I cased him good before I
fused him. Hell, he had the shakes so bad he even turned down a dame.
You know how it is when a guy needs some horse.
Where'd you say this customer is? grunted Poppy. I'll take a look
You can do that right now. Morgan Wayne's incisive voice cut into
the conversation. He stood beside the back table with the bulk of his
body cutting off the pusher and his adolescent mule from the view of
the others in the barroom.
Poppy McMooney jerked back and swiveled his long neck to look up at
the stranger, and the boy shrank away in fright, his jaw sagging open
as he stuttered, You you follered me?
Wayne nodded without looking at him. In a not unkindly voice, he
advised, Blow, son. Get out of here fast and don't come back. Wayne
took a side step to let the frightened youth slither past and out of
the room, then he smiled slightly and explained to Poppy, No use
letting a punk like that in on a real business deal. He brought a hand
carelessly from his pocket showing a wad of bills. I can use plenty
where I'm going. I said twenty decks to the kid because I knew any more
would scare the pants off him. How much you got stashed that I can get
in a hurry?
Poppy stared at the wadded bills and saw they were a mixture of
twenties and fifties and hundreds. He gulped and his eyes glistened and
avarice overcame his caution. There was class written all over this
customer. Not at all the sort of addict Poppy generally dealt with. If
he was really desperate for a lot of stuff to move out of town fast,
the chances were he wouldn't haggle about price. I got a good supply,
he mumbled. Don't know exactly how much, but...
Let's get it and see. Goddamn it, man! exploded Wayne. I'm in a
hurry. I got to be through the Tunnel and into Jersey in half an hour.
That's why I had to work it this way. Where you got it?
The sight of so much money mesmerized Poppy McMooney. He pushed
himself erect and said thickly, Right upstairs. I got me a room here.
Wayne nodded with satisfaction and said, Fine. He followed Poppy
out the rear and up a flight of stairs to the two small rooms above.
Poppy carefully unlocked an expensive Yale lock and opened one of the
doors. He flipped on a ceiling light and Wayne gave him a shove that
sent him staggering to his knees on the floor.
He jerked out a startled What the hell? scrambling to his feet and
whirling to see Wayne pulling the door shut and turning to face him.
All trace of amiability had departed from Wayne's face now that he
was alone in a closed room with the peddler. His left hand was bunched
in his coat pocket and his voice was glacial. I just want one thing
from you, and it isn't dope.
Yeah? snarled Poppy.
Wayne said, Yeah. I'm not a dick. I don't give one goddamn about you
and your stinking racket of peddling to school kids. I'm on my way to
see Hake Derr, and you're the next step up.
Hake Derr? wheezed Poppy.
Don't tell me you never heard of him.
Sure, I heard of Hake. Poppy was rapidly regaining his
self-assurance. But he's one of the top men. I never had no dealings
Where do you get your stuff?
Poppy made a vague gesture. I took all the stock off a guy. Don't
even know his name. He's outta business now.
Morgan Wayne stepped in swiftly with a backhanded blow across the
mouth that sent the peddler to the floor again. He lifted himself on
one elbow, spitting teeth and snarling venomously, That's new
bridgework, goddamn it. I paid
I'm just getting started, Wayne interrupted placidly. He kicked at
Poppy McMooney, bent forward swiftly as the peddler went down again,
caught fine thin wrist and twisted it behind his back, and lifted him
up by that leverage while a screech of anguish started from Poppy's
Wayne's other hand slapped the sound back down his throat before it
really got started. He shook his head and explained matter-of-factly,
I don't mind killing you except that it would delay matters for me.
Who's the highest man in the racket you can reach this time of night?
I tell you I don't know Blood was streaming from Poppy's broken
nose and a two-inch slit in his cheek. He gagged over the words as
Wayne's fingers closed relentlessly about his scrawny neck to hold him
upright while he put a steady upward pressure on the arm twisted behind
I can't tell what I don't know. My God, you'll break my arm. For
Morgan Wayne laughed thinly in his face. Of course I'll break your
arm. And then the other one. After that, I'll twist them both off and
beat you to death with them. Don't you think I'd enjoy that?
The absolutely horrible thing to Poppy was the stranger's complete
lack of emotion as he spoke and put increasing pressure on the tortured
arm. His voice was controlled and pleasant and thoughtful, and carried
the deadly ring of sincere conviction.
I'd like to take every dope peddler in New York in my two hands and
break him into little pieces, Wayne went on. Every despicable hunk of
scum in human form who deals in the degradation of children for profit.
Unfortunately, that's a large chore for one man, but please don't get
the idea I want you to talk fast. The longer you hold out, the better I
He inexorably tightened the pressure on Poppy's windpipe as he spoke,
cutting off any sound except a faint whimpering moan while the man's
arm moved upward between his shoulder blades inch by inch and the pain
caused his eyes to protrude while face and body writhed and contorted
in Wayne's merciless grasp.
There was an abrupt, splintering crack as the elbow ligaments gave
way. Wayne let go with both hands and stepped back dispassionately to
consider the groaning figure that flopped on the floor in front of him.
That's just one arm. I'm getting to Hake Derr tonight and you're
pointing the finger that'll put me on my way. Perhaps I'd better start
on the fingers of the other hand, he went on meditatively. One by one
they'll last longer. He stopped to grab the wrist of the unbroken arm,
but Poppy jerked it away from him, moaning and slobbering:
No, no. Don't hurt me no more. I'll tell yuh anything. Mother of
God, don't touch me again.
I doubt whether she'll pay much attention to you, Wayne said
coldly. Start talking and make it good.
Poppy McMooney was huddled on the floor with his face in his hands.
He began sputtering out words intermingled with sobs and Wayne leaned
close to hear more clearly. He heard Vito and The Barber, and a
light showed in the coldness of his blue eyes for the first time since
he had opened the door to Lois Elling's bedroom. By sheer chance, he
had struck it lucky when the boy led him to Poppy McMooney. Most of the
pushers like Poppy dealt only with one small dealer who was, in turn,
supplied by a little bigger dealer, who in turn...
But Poppy was evidently a pusher who was very much on the way up.
Vito The Barber Saietta was a name that Morgan Wayne recognized. One
of the half-dozen big-shot middlemen in the city who bought raw heroin
direct from the syndicate, processed it, and passed it on to
distributors. It was one chance in a thousand that a peddler of Poppy's
type would have any contact with The Barber.
Wayne dragged the cringing man to his feet and flung him into a
chair. He said, Stop your goddamned sniveling and talk so I can
understand you. Where do I find Vito?
Tears and blood were coursing down Poppy's face. His left arm was
grotesquely twisted and he leaned far forward to hold it pressed
tightly against his body in the angle between torso and limbs. He
avoided Wayne's gaze and moaned:
No. I dunno nothin'. I said that to make you stop. I just heard him
Do we have to start this all over again? Wayne asked wearily.
You'll give me The Barber, or you'll die right here. Slow... and
But they'll kill me. I swear I
And I'll kill you if you don't. It's a tough spot to be in, Wayne
agreed unemotionally. Make up your mind fast, because I can't wait.
Poppy knew this strangely inhuman man meant it. In the depths of his
soul, he knew this was no bluff. His broken arm told him that, if
Wayne's eyes and his voice weren't convincing enough.
Near Columbus Circle, he grated through tightly set teeth. I dunno
the exact address. There's a barbershop an' he lives upstairs. I wasn't
there but once.
You're going again tonight. Wayne caught him by his good arm and
jerked him roughly erect.
My God, no! I'll give you the address, but if they ever find out
They'll bump you. I know. Come on with me. Wayne shoved him toward
Vito Saietta was an old Unione Siciliano man. A dependable and
unimaginative worker, he had progressed upward in the dreaded
organization through the years and through many phases of lawlessness
to his present enviable and comparatively safe position as an
independent purchaser of raw heroin smuggled in from South America,
which he cut with milk sugar and sold at wholesale to gross himself a
comfortable $40,000 per kilo. Not having to cut Uncle Sam in on income
taxes, Vito netted himself a very comfortable living even though a
large percentage of his take did have to go out in bribes to various
higher-ups in the police department and persons with political
He was known throughout the trade as The Barber, and the nickname was
accompanied by a sly grin when used by old-timers who knew the
circumstances under which it had been bestowed.
Vito Saietta actually was a barber in the beginning, and he still
maintained his dingy one-man shop in the basement of the building in
which he lived near Columbus Circle. But Vito didn't work in the shop
now except on very, very rare occasions. Long ago, before he had become
a prosperous businessman respected by his associates and envied by
those who accepted a share of his dirty profits to allow him to stay in
businessbefore all that had come about, Vito had been an excellent
craftsman and a very hard toiler at his chosen trade.
His small shop was admirably situated for the purpose it served. One
went down a flight of concrete steps from the sidewalk to a wooden door
with a faded and inconspicuous sign above: Vito's Shop. One opened
the door, if it were not locked, and entered a six-by-eight cubbyhole
to be greeted pleasantly by the beaming and bright-eyed proprietor. If
the customer simply requested a haircut or shave or both, his wants
were attended to with neatness and dispatch and he was sent on his way
with no reason to suspect the more important business that was
sometimes transacted in the tiny shop.
But if the customer were a stranger and knocked twice on the door
before entering, and then told Vito, Enrico [or Pugs or Mickeythe
names changed from year to year owing to the inevitable turnover in the
Unione Siciliano hierarchy] sent me here to get a shave, then Vito
would beam more happily and his small eyes would glisten with a certain
liquid warmth, for he was proud of his art with the razor and of the
special treatment he accorded these favored customers.
As the man settled himself in the chair, Vito unobtrusively slipped
the heavy bolt on the inside of the wooden door to assure the needed
privacy and carefully spread a heavy towel over the front of the
customer while inquiring gravely about the health of his good friend
Enrico (or Pugs or Mickey)..
Then there was a special razor, carefully honed and stropped and kept
in a velvet-lined case, which was lifted down with pride and placed
ready at hand, the hot towel squeezed out and spread with care across
the customer's face, and then the one swift movement of the razor
across the exposed throat that was Vito's pride and his trade-mark.
There was never any fuss or bother about Vito's killings, and
scarcely a single drop of blood escaped the two towels so strategically
located to absorb the flow. There was a door at the back of the shop
that led out into the furnace room, where the body could safely
remain until evening, when a truck pulled up in the alley to receive
itand weeks later the body would turn up in a vacant lot somewhere in
the Bronx or Queens.
That's how Vito had come to be known as The Barber, though few people
today knew the real story behind the nickname. And it was on only very
particular occasions, now, that anyone was sent to Vito for a shave,
because it had to be arranged beforehand so that Vito would be in the
shop and waiting for the victim.
But Vito didn't mind the scarcity of these occasions now. He was an
older man and content to turn the more energetic aspects of the trade
over to younger men. He had his memories of past pleasures to live with
him; he had his thriving business, which he conducted zealously and
well from the first-floor apartment directly above the barbershop; he
had his pet goldfish and his comfortable, old-country wife, Rosa, who
cooked his favorite dishes for him and stayed unquestioningly in the
kitchen when he conducted his business in the front room.
Tonight Vito was at home, as usual. He anticipated a quiet evening
with no business interruptions and was in his undershirt and slippers.
The pleasantly pungent odors of oregano, tomato sauce, and red
peppers drifted out through an open door from the kitchen. All was
peace in The Barber's well-ordered world. He puffed composedly on a
short, blackened pipe as he shuffled about from one to another of the
dozen round, old-fashioned bowls of plump goldfish that stood on low
tables about the room. Each bowl had a miniature Italian castle inside
and the fish could swim lazily in and out through the doors and
windows. He was giving them their supper of prepared fish food, and he
stood contentedly by each bowl after dropping a spoonful in, watching
the fish dart about and suck the food in greedily as it filtered down
through the water to them.
There was a buzz from the outside bell. Vito lifted shaggy black
brows in surprise and took the stubby pipe from his mouth. He was
expecting no callers tonight. If it was a business matter, there would
be a short pause, then two short buzzes, another pause, and then a
single long buzz.
His eyebrows lifted higher when two buzzes came after a brief pause.
The only possibility was that one of the half-dozen large peddlers to
whom Vito sold direct as a side line and for added profits had had a
sudden large turnover and unexpectedly needed additional supplies. When
the final long buzz sounded, Vito put down his box of fish food and
wiped his hands on the front of his undershirt, moving on stumpy legs
to the door to press the button releasing the outside catch. As he did
so, the door to the kitchen was closed firmly from the other side. Vito
nodded with satisfaction. Rosa had heard the signal, and like any
obedient wife had closed the door so as not to disturb whatever
business transactions were to be conducted. The door would remain
closed until Vito himself opened it.
He heard the outer door open and footsteps coming down the hall to
his door. He opened it and saw two men standing there. One was tall and
thin and had a wool scarf around his neck and was holding it bunched up
over his face so only his eyes showed over the scarf. The eyes were
glazed with fright and with desperate and silent appeal as Vito met
them. He vaguely recognized the man as a peddler with whom he had
The other man was big and bareheaded. He wore a white suit and sport
shoes, white shirt and black tie. All were of exceptional quality. Vito
had been in the big money long enough to recognize quality, though he
had never paid more than $3995 for a suit in his life. The man's
features were square and placid, as was the faint smile on his strong
mouth. Only the eyes weren't placid. They were blue and hot. Somehow,
you don't expect blue eyes to be hot. These eyes were hot with menace.
And the heavy gun in the man's left hand was menacing, too.
Vito moved back a careful step or two without saying anything. The
blood was pulsing through his temples, but he took a steady drag on his
pipe and let none of his inner alarm show through. He was an old-timer
who had survived more than his share of gang feuds and realignments by
always being quick to sense the winning side and to shift to it faster
than most. Right now, his one definite reaction was that the big man
looked like a fellow Vito would like to have on his side.
The thin man turned to his companion and spoke in a curiously thick
voice through the bunched-up scarf. I done it, see? Can I beat it?
The big man nodded and said casually, Sure. Beat it. He did not
take his eyes from Vito's face as the other hurried away. He followed
Vito inside and glanced approvingly about the empty, shabby room.
Nobody else around?
Only my Rosa in the kitchen. Vito bobbed his bald head toward the
closed door. He shuffled away and seated himself quietly in a rocking
chair, folding stubby-fingered hands in his lap. Vito was good at
His caller dropped the gun into a side pocket. He said, I'm Morgan
Vito said, So? He looked down into the bowl of his pipe and poked a
forefinger in to press the hot ashes down so it would draw better.
Wayne said, I've got to see Hake Derr tonight.
Vito said nothing.
Wayne moved across the room to stand close to Vito. He thrust both
hands into his trousers pockets and rocked back on his heels. His eyes
were slitted but his face remained coolly impassive. You're going to
tell me where to find him, Vito.
Still Vito said nothing. He rocked placidly back and forth in the
old-fashioned chair, his hands clasped in front of his round belly.
Wayne knew The Barber by reputation. He didn't believe the tactics he
had used on Poppy would work on Vito. He glanced calculatingly about
the room and noted the twelve round fishbowls with the beautifully
wrought Italian castles inside and the plump goldfish swimming lazily
about. He moved aside and looked down into one bowl with interest,
saying over his shoulder, Pretty things, aren't they?
You like fish?
Crazy about them. You too?
They are good friends, said Vito stolidly.
Wayne reached one big hand down into the water while Vito watched him
with bulging eyes. There were three fish in the bowl. They weren't
afraid of his hand in the water. They were accustomed, Wayne thought,
to having Vito reach down and touch them.
He cupped one in his fingers without difficulty, pulled it dripping
from the bowl, and turned about so Vito could see him.
He bit the head of the goldfish off with one crunch of strong teeth
and began chewing on it.
Vito came out of his chair sputtering Italian expletives. Morgan
Wayne held the quivering and headless body of the goldfish out to him
and said thickly, Have a bite yourself. I just like the heads.
The Barber made a lunge forward, as crazed with anger and horror as a
father witnessing his child being torn limb from limb by wild animals.
Wayne laughed and flung the body of the goldfish in his face,
tripping him as he did so, and jerking his own head aside to spit out
the distasteful morsel from his mouth without Vito's seeing him.
Vito got to his knees with tears of supplication streaming down his
fat face. Please, you must not, he gasped. So innocent, the fish! To
eat them alive!
Very tasty, said Wayne, giving a final munch and pretending to gulp
down a big swallow. You must have three or four dozen of them in all
these bowls. Fat and well fed, too. He cupped his hands together and
turned to another of the bowls eagerly.
Vito scrambled to his feet and got in front of him. For the love of
our Saviour, no, he whimpered. This Hake Derr. Why do you want to see
Maybe to make a deal. Wayne paused. Maybe I'm taking over, Vito. I
guess you've heard he loused up his big deal this afternoon.
No. I did not know, Vito said sullenly.
Wayne shrugged. All I want is an address where I can contact him.
Vito blinked his eyes rapidly. This Morgan Wayne! There had been
rumors around the city for some time about a mysterious stranger from
the West or someplace, and about a stupendous deal that Hake Derr was
organizing to sew up the raw drug business in Manhattan with some
improbably huge source of supply that would mean much money to everyone
involved. This Wayne was bad, all right. He was mean and tough and
soulless. The Barber, who had hummed happily in the past while he drew
a razor neatly across the throats of men he had never seen before, men
who had never done him any personal harm whatsoever, this same Barber
now stood aghast at the spectacle of a monster in human form coolly
biting off the head of one of his beloved goldfish and chewing it up
and swallowing it with apparent gusto.
Nothing on earth that Wayne could have said or done could so surely
have convinced Vito Saietta that Morgan Wayne was not a man to cross.
He shrugged his shoulders now and said, I will have to telephone.
Wayne said, Go ahead.
He followed Vito across the room to the telephone, watched while he
dialed a number, and listened while he said, This is The Barber. Hake
He bent his head close to Vito's and The Barber obligingly held the
receiver away so both could hear the answer: Nope. Left word he'd be
at the White Star till midnight.
Vito replaced the receiver carefully. The White Star Club is on West
Forty-ninth. He gave a street address.
Wayne nodded woodenly. He knew Vito's type. Knew exactly what The
Barber was thinking. That as soon as Wayne left, Vito would call the
White Star Club to warn Derr that Morgan Wayne was on his way over.
Always playing both ends against the middle. Always coppering every
bet. That was Vito's way.
Tonight, Morgan Wayne was playing both ends against the middle also.
There was one driving compulsion inside him that overshadowed
everything else. In a sense, Vito had been correct when he thought of
Wayne as a monster in human form. At this moment, he was no longer
human. He was a thing, driven by a force over which he had no
He drew a gun and shot Vito Saietta through the head. He pocketed the
gun and walked out to continue his search for Lois' murderer.
Wayne found a parking space on Forty-ninth west of Eighth Avenue and
slid the Hudson into it. He sat for a moment behind the wheel, then
shrugged and reached inside both jacket pockets to lift out the guns
reposing there. He opened the glove compartment and shoved them inside.
He had a hunch the White Star Club would be one of Hake's regular
hangouts, probably one of the stations from which he conducted his
sordid business, and the chances were a thousand to one that he would
be well covered in a place like that.
There would be no bulling his way in as had been successful at the
Gingham Gardens. Wayne was perfectly willing to take chances, but right
now he wanted to stay alive until he had a chance to meet Hake Derr
face to face. And walking into the White Star and asking for Hake with
a couple of guns on him might not be the best way to ensure longevity.
He got out and walked briskly up the street toward a neon sign that
spelled out White Star. It was a long, low barroom typical of the
neighborhood. The air was thick with smoke and the smell of stale beer
and spilled liquor, mingled with the stink of sweating, unwashed
There was a juke box blaring loudly, and the dozen or more customers
at the bar were half shouting at each other to be heard over it. It was
an ordinary-looking West Side crowd, Wayne thought to himself as he
paused inside the door to look them over. Nothing at all to distinguish
the joint from any one of dozens within a few blocksexcept for the
two men who sat together at a table in the back of the room.
They were different from the hangers-on at the bar. They had highball
glasses in front of them, but they weren't drinking. They appeared to
be lounging there at ease, but there was a hard-eyed alertness about
them that belied that appearance. Pals of the two sex-crazed lice who
had been holding Letty captive that afternoon, Wayne surmised after one
searching glance, and he let himself wonder idly for a moment if the
one whom he'd left behind with a broken jaw had come around enough to
give his buddies a description of Letty's rescuer. If so, Wayne was
grimly aware that it was quite possible he wouldn't stay alive long
enough to have his talk with Derr. But that was one of the calculated
risks he had to take.
He moved slowly down the length of the bar to an open space at the
end and said, Whisky, when he got a glance from the bartender.
When the shot glass was shoved in front of him, he asked, Hake in
The bartender was middle-aged and cherubic, with two gold teeth in
front. He said, Whyn't you ask the boys? and took the half dollar
Wayne laid beside his drink.
Morgan Wayne drank the whisky at a gulp and walked to the back.
Neither of them seated at the table moved as he approached. They looked
at him and waited.
He stopped beside their table and asked, Hake busy right now?
One of the men yawned. The other one asked, Who wants tuh know?
Their attitude was neither friendly nor unfriendly. It was guarded
and impersonal. It was evident that they, at least, did not connect
this well-dressed stranger with what had happened to Al and Charlie
Wayne hesitated only momentarily. This was it. He had to guess and
guess right if he was to get in to see Hake Derr. He said, Morgan
Huh? The one who was yawning stopped suddenly. His eyes narrowed
and he told his companion, That's the guy Hake said
Shut up. The other got to his feet without change of expression. He
opened a door to the rear and went through it, pulling it shut behind
him. Wayne stood negligently beside the table and got out a pack of
cigarettes. He shook one loose and politely offered it to the remaining
man. He shook his head without speaking. His mouth hung open a trifle
and he stared at Wayne with intense concentration. You could almost
hear the cells of his mind clicking as he strove ineffectually to add
two and two.
The door opened and the other man came out. He left the door open on
a short corridor and said briskly to his companion, We frisk him. Then
if he's clean he goes in. He jerked his head at Wayne. If you don't
like that, the three of us go for a little ride. I like it, Wayne
assured him, fine.
He went through the open door and the two men followed him and pulled
it shut. He turned and lifted his arms straight out from his sides and
Not that way, Bud. Strip. Right down to the skin.
Wayne smiled easily and shrugged out of his coat. Hake must be
worried about something.
Neither man replied. They stolidly went about the task of shaking out
and examining each article of clothing as Wayne removed it and handed
it to them. They weren't satisfied with the outer garments, but
demanded that he remove underwear, shoes, and socks also. Wayne had a
derisive grin on his lips as he stood before them stark naked. Do I go
in like this?
He intended it for a pleasantry, but neither man smiled. The one who
had gone in first said, That's it, Bud. Your clothes'll be right here
when you come out. He jerked a thumb down the hall toward a door on
the right that stood ajar with light streaming out. Right in there.
There is a feeling of utter defenselessness about complete nudity.
Although one knows consciously that ordinary clothing gives no
protection against a lethal weapon, there is an unreasoning and panicky
sense of vulnerability that accompanies nakedness.
So Hake Derr wasn't taking any chances this time, Wayne told himself
grimly as he gritted his teeth and forced himself to move down the hall
on bare feet to the partly open door. Well, he'd asked for this, and
now he wasn't going to complain. He pushed the door open and stepped
It was a large and comfortably furnished office. A fluorescent
ceiling fixture flooded the room with brilliant light. A wide,
flat-topped desk stood in the center of the room and Hake Derr sat in a
swivel chair behind it facing the door. There was a litter of papers at
his right hand, a whisky bottle and small glass at his left. He was
leaning back in his chair with both hands clasped together behind his
neck and a look of pleased expectation on his smooth chubby features.
The cleft in his chin was very pronounced in this posture, and his
round, whitish eyes didn't protrude as much as normally. Looking at
him, you had a feeling he had spent hours posing before a mirror to
perfect just this attitude.
It was the first time Wayne had set eyes on Hake Derr. He had heard
the racketeer described, but no description had ever done him justice.
Two thoughts flitted through his mind with his first look at Hake.
First, that here was Priscilla Endicott's lover. And second, that here
was the man who had defaced Lois Elling with a sharp knife just a few
The two thoughts swiftly following each other contracted his hard
belly muscles and brought a faint mist of red over his eyes. He
controlled himself with an effort and said, I got your message.
Derr's face smiled. So you came looking for me.
There was a comfortable upholstered chair across the room beyond the
desk. Wayne crossed to it with as much dignity as his nakedness allowed
and sat down. He said gravely, You could have sent the same message
some other way.
But I enjoyed it that way. A light flickered evilly in the depths
of the protruding gray eyes. The tip of his tongue came out to lick his
thick lips with sensuous pleasure.
The man was mad. Wayne realized this with a shudder of horror as he
listened to the purring voice. Mad on this one particular subject, at
least. Coldly sane on all other counts, perhaps. He wondered fleetingly
what form Derr's perverted pleasure would take with a man at his mercy.
A naked man trapped here in his private office with not one chance in a
million of escaping alive. He thrust the fleeting thought aside and
made his voice angry:
There's only one thing I want to know now. How did you know where to
find herthat she was expecting me tonight?
That secretary of yours? Why do you care now?
Why shouldn't I care? Wayne demanded hotly.
Because you're not going to live long enough for it to matter. Derr
unclasped his hands from behind his thick neck and sat forward a
trifle. He laid his right hand, palm upward, on the desk and displayed
a four-inch clasp knife with a single blade that sprang open in his
hand as he thumbed a knob in the handle. My God, Morgan Wayne, he
asked wonderingly, what kind of a fool are you? You know by this time
that Hake Derr plays for keeps.
Wayne said wearily, Maybe I don't want to go on living in the same
world with a man like you.
Maybe not, said Derr indifferently. So we'll fix that easy. He
was snapping the spring blade of the knife back and forth idly in his
plump hand, seemingly fascinated by the play of light on the shining
blade. If you got any different ideas, he went on without bothering
to look at Wayne, get rid of them fast. I still don't know what kind
of play you thought you were making by coming here to get it, but I
couldn't have asked for anything better.
So I'm here, Wayne agreed. And I asked you a question. Who put you
onto Lois Elling?
I got pipe lines. Derr waved his left hand.
Is that why you didn't take Letty Hendrixon straight to the boat
this afternoonbecause you know it's being watched day and night?
Derr appeared genuinely surprised. What the hell would you do a
thing like that for? What's your game, anyhow? I don't get any of this
stuff you're pulling. Near as I can learn, you're not a cop, but you're
not in the racket neither. He shook his head in perplexity.
Morgan Wayne had what he wanted now. What he had come for. Hake Derr
didn't know about the improvised office overlooking the yacht basin.
He said pleasantly, You'll never be able to understand this, Derr,
but since you're going to kill me anyway, let me try to put it to you
the best I can. You know how some people have a phobia about snakes?
Just can't stand even the sight of them. They go sort of crazy and
smash hell out of even an innocent little garter snake if it gets close
Sure. Derr looked baffled but interested. I don't mind snakes
myself, but I'm like that about rats. They give me the jimmies, honest
to God. Even a damn little mouse.
I happen to feel that way about human rats, Wayne said evenly. My
God, even sitting and talking to one like this makes me so sick to my
stomach that I need a drink to wash the taste of it out of my mouth.
He stood up suddenly and Hake Derr shoved back his chair in sudden
alarm, only dimly comprehending what Wayne was telling him, but
instinctively putting a couple of more feet between himself and the
harsh-voiced man who had suddenly come to life in his office.
You won't begrudge me that, will you? Wayne laughed as he reached
for the whisky bottle. One long slug of your whisky before you get
started on the messy kind of killing you enjoy so much.
He caught up the open bottle near the base and with a swift motion
whirled it so that hundred-proof bourbon spurted out and into Derr's
face and eyes. He continued the swing downward as Derr sputtered and
dabbed at his blinded eyes for one fatal instant, slamming the neck of
the bottle against the sharp edge of the desk and cracking it off so a
jagged half remained clutched in his hand.
He lunged forward with the saw-toothed weapon out-thrust, rammed the
splintered edges viciously into Hake Derr's face, and twisted as he
There was one faint, inarticulate gurgle as Derr died horribly with
the flesh of his face in shreds and red blood gushing from the pierced
Morgan Wayne stood over him breathing heavily with the bottle still
gripped in his hand and Derr's blood dripping from it down onto the
faceless thing on the floor.
Then he dropped the bottle and walked unhurriedly out of the office.
The door to the barroom was closed and his clothes lay in a heap in
front of it. He dressed swiftly but calmly, then turned the knob and
opened the door. He turned back and hesitated as he was halfway through
the opening, and called over his shoulder:
O.K. then. Ten o'clock tomorrow.
The pair of watchdogs were seated at the same table near the door,
and they watched him curiously as he stepped out and closed the door
firmly behind him. It was the first time a man had ever been ushered
stark naked into Hake Derr's presence and come out alive, but there was
something queer about this whole Morgan Wayne business that they didn't
quite grasp, and they certainly had no reason to interfere with his
departure after hearing him make a date with the boss for ten o'clock
next morning. Maybe there was something in the rumors going around the
city that Hake was on a hell of a big deal that meant cutting in with
someone else. Maybe that someone else was Morgan Wayne. He had the look
of a man who knew exactly where he was going and how to get there.
He certainly had that look about him as he nodded curtly to the two
watching men and strode out of the barroom.
Yet nothing was further from the truth. At the moment, Morgan Wayne
hadn't the slightest idea where he was going now, or the foggiest
notion of how to get there.
Indeed, as he went down the street to his parked car, he suddenly
realized he didn't even know where he was going to spend the night.
One thing Morgan Wayne did know as he gunned the Hudson away from the
vicinity of the White Star was that he hadn't had a single drink or a
bite to eat all evening. He hadn't thought about the lack until now,
but suddenly he wanted a lot of drinks and a lot of food above
everything else. He looked at his wrist watch and noted with intense
surprise that it was only a few minutes after ten o'clock. He couldn't
recall consciously noting the time previously, and realized now that he
had been going along with a vague idea that it was hours later than
Only six hours ago, the telephone had rung in his office for the
first time since it was installed. It was incredible that so much could
have happened in those six hours. Now Hake Derr was finished and he
could relax. Lois Elling was avenged, though the police would never
He had headed uptown after pulling away from the curb at Forty-ninth,
and now a traffic light stopped him at Fifty-fourth. He remembered a
small restaurant on East Fifty-fourth that catered to after-theatre
patrons and served superlative drinks with the sort of good plain food
that he wanted right now. It would be very lightly patronized at this
hour, and Wayne turned eastward to look for it, resolutely shutting
every other thought from his mind as he drove, concentrating
pleasurably on the aroma and taste of a very cold and very dry Martini,
and on deciding between a large sirloin steak or a thick slice of
blood-red roast beef, which was a specialty of Heath House.
He had decided on roast beef by the time he crossed Madison and began
looking for a parking space. With creamed white onions and a baked
Idaho potato, he thought, and coffee with brandy to top it off.
He was greeted at the door by a smiling headwaiter who did not know
him by name but recalled the generous tips he had left on previous
visits. Only half a dozen tables were occupied, as Wayne had expected,
and he was immediately seated in a corner with a waiter hovering
I need drinks, Wayne said succinctly. Martinis as cold as a
banker's handclasp and as dry as a deacon's cupboard. Half a dozen of
them, probably. Just watch my glass and keep them coming. And tip the
chef off to reserve me his bloodiest slice of beef.
He grimaced slightly as the words left his mouth, but the waiter
noticed nothing and hurried beamingly away to bring the first cocktail.
Wayne wondered idly how the waiter would react if he explained to him
why he grimaced over the mention of blood aloud; if he described how
Hake Derr's face had looked on the floor at his feet, only fifteen
minutes ago. He felt enervated, now that it was over, and slightly
listless. He had been keyed up for too many hours, of course. There had
to be a letdown.
He lifted the Martini eagerly when it came, sipped appreciatively,
and then gulped half the glass. He nodded to the waiter, who had
remained for his approval, and said, I'll be ready for another by the
time you can get it here.
The first drink did wonders for him. He drank the second one slowly,
as a truly good cocktail should be taken, and let his thoughts move
ahead to the problem of what his next step should be.
The killing of Hake Derr ended one phase of the affair, but only one
phase. Derr had been an important cog in the plot to seize control of
Durtol Drugs by the underworld, but only a cog. His death was not
likely materially to disrupt the careful plan. There would be another
man ready to step into Derr's shoes at once, and Operation Durtol would
proceed as scheduled.
The wiping out of rats like The Barber and Hake Derr wasn't the real
answer. One had to get to the top to accomplish anything worth while in
the struggle against the insidious forces whose slimy tentacles were
becoming more numerous and powerful every day.
Wayne had realized this from the very first when he had decided to
throw himself into the struggle. This was why he had made no previous
attempt to come to grips with Derr or any of his minions. He had
watched and waited patiently, hoping for a break that would give him a
lead to the man who was the real grains behind the boldly planned coup.
Until tonight. Until the wanton murder of his secretary had unleased
forces within him that would brook no further delay.
Perhaps it had been a mistake in tactics to go after Derr, Wayne
admitted somberly to himself as he finished his third drink. So be it.
It had been inevitable from the moment he discovered Lois' body and
knew who her killer was. He refused to regret what he had done. But now
it was over, and he would have to turn himself back into the coldly
reasoning and remorselessly logical machine he had been before Lois'
The cocktails helped. They cleared away the fog and clarified the
situation as it now stood. He did have one lead, he reminded himself
grimly. There could be no hesitancy about following it through. The
time to strike was now. While Derr's death caused at least a slight
interruption in the smooth functioning of the plan.
The real answer, he now knew, lay in the Hendrixon household itself.
He had begun to suspect the truth earlier in the evening, but now he
knew without a shadow of a doubt that Lois had been betrayed to her
death by one of the persons who knew about her telephone call to Julius
It had to be that way. No matter what the Gingham Girl really
was. No matter how jealous she had been or how strongly she might have
desired Lois' death, Wayne now knew that she hadn't possessed the
necessary information to have sent Hake Derr to Lois' apartment. Though
she admitted telling Hake that Morgan Wayne had a date with his
secretary, that alone had not been enough. There wasn't a shadow of
doubt in Wayne's mind that Derr's surprise had been genuine when he
denied knowing that Wayne had been keeping a close watch on his docked
yacht for weeks. Which was proof that Derr was not aware of the
existence of the improvised office overlooking the yacht basin, and
thus could not possibly have known the identity of Wayne's secretary.
So Priscilla's tip-off would not have been enough. The information
about Lois must have come from another source. And probably the order
to dispose of her also, Wayne went on grimly with his reasoning. He was
sip ping his fifth cocktail now, and his mind was working with
clockwork precision. It wasn't the sort of move that would occur to a
mentality like Derr's, though it was certain he would have welcomed the
suggestion that he strike at Wayne through an unsuspecting and
defenseless girl. That assignment would have been right up Hake Derr's
alley and he would have accepted it with enthusiasm.
And the thought of Lois' defenselessness as she waited for him in her
black negligee was the clincher in Wayne's line of reasoning.
Rat-souled killer that he was, Derr would have hesitated to go to Lois'
apartment on his deadly errand unless he were assured that she would be
aloneand that he could not possibly be interrupted by Wayne before
the job was done and he could slink out.
To be assured of that, he must have known exactly what time Wayne
left the Hendrixon mansion to drive into the city. Only those persons
present when Wayne left could have given Derr the needed information.
Julius and his wife and his wife's brother... and Attorney Carson.
Only those four knew the time he left the house, and also knew about
his appointment with Lois Elling. Only one of those four could have
communicated with Derr by telephone to send him on his deadly errand.
It made sense, of course. From the very first, Wayne had realized
that the coup must certainly have been planned and was being engineered
by someone close to the Durtol Drug empire and in a position to profit
by the wholesale switching of legal drugs to illicit markets.
But this night's work narrowed it down tremendously.
Julius Hendrixon, John Durtol III, Mrs. Hendrixon, Elliot Carson.
One of those four. Two of them the parents of the young girl whose
kidnaping had been arranged to press the plan through. And her uncle.
And the trusted attorney and family friend.
Morgan Wayne nodded pleasantly to the waiter when his sixth cocktail
was placed in front of him. You can tell the chef to go to work now. A
large baked potato, creamed onions, and a tossed salad. With your
special roquefort dressing.
Yes. One of those four. One of them had got to a telephone soon after
Wayne left the house and communicated with Hake Derr. One who had been
frightened by Wayne's knowledge of the plot to seize control of Durtol
Drugs, and who had been fool enough to think the simplest and safest
way to discourage him from further investigation was to murder the
woman with whom he had a date and leave the warning for him to lay
Which one? None of them outwardly seemed to fit the role, yet Wayne
had a queasy feeling that each one of the four was a distinct
Even Letty's mother?
Yes, goddamn it! he told himself savagely. Even Letty's mother. There
was something about her that gave him that feeling. Despite the scene
Mrs. Hendrixon had put on when her daughter was returned, Wayne had a
hunch she was just about as maternal as a sow who has to be forcibly
restrained from eating her litter as soon as it's born.
Actually, Carson was first on his list of suspects. Not a member of
the family and thus wholly without sentimental attachment to the honor
and reputation of Durtol Drugs, but still in a position to pull strings
and manipulate the management to make the coup successful.
In fact, as his food came and Wayne attacked it with hearty appetite,
he found himself wondering if it weren't very possible that Julius
Hendrixon was merely a figurehead for Carsonif the lawyer had not
contrived to have him put in charge of the firm's affairs so that he
would have a ready tool to be manipulated at the right time.
Certainly, Julius had appeared something of an ass on their first
meeting a month previously when he had laughed at Wayne's warning and
disregarded it, and again tonight. Hardly the high type of successful
business executive one expected to find at the helm of an enterprise
like Durtol Drugs. You couldn't be sure, of course. His rough exterior
and coarse manner might conceal an intelligence of the highest order.
It was no use jumping to conclusions based on such brief
acquaintanceship with the four persons involved.
Deductions were no good at this point. Some sort of concrete proof
was needed. It might be possible to narrow the field of conjecture if
he could learn which one or ones of the quartet had had access to a
private telephone soon after he left the house. He was positive in his
own mind that one of them had telephoned Derr to order the death of
Lois. If it were possible to prove that one or more of them could
not have made such a call, they could be eliminated from
Well, he had one pipe line into the Hendrixon household that none of
them knew about, Wayne reminded himself wryly. He didn't particularly
relish getting mixed up any further with Letty's adolescent fevers. But
he had promised her they would be alone together. A promise was
a promise, he told himself sternly. Of course, when he gave it to her
it had been with the mental reservation that it might be years before
he kept it.
But now he knew it couldn't be years. Or even months or weeks. It
would have to be at once. Tomorrow, if possible. While the events of
tonight were fresh in her mind and he might be able to get a coherent
account of the movements of each of the four people involved
immediately after his departure.
He was pleasantly relaxed with his coffee, a pony of superb Napoleon
brandy, and a cigarette when he suddenly recalled that he still didn't
know where he would spend the night. The apartment to which he had
taken Letty was out of the question. It would be closely watched by the
police and he didn't relish the idea of being hauled into a precinct
station and being held there for hours, perhaps, until he could
establish contact with some official high enough in the Department to
vouch for him and order his release.
There was the Gingham Gardensand Priscilla.
His heart began to pound at the thought of going to her and
explaining that she need fear no further interference from Hake Derr.
But he didn't know. He didn't yet know where Priscilla fitted into the
picture. If her liaison with Derr had been prompted purely and simply
by selfish mercenary reasons, as she claimed, then that cleared her of
any complicity in the drug racket, or murder, but was, nonetheless,
quite distasteful to Wayne. As he thought about her now, he wanted her
again with every fiber of his strong body, but he was romanticist
enough to desire fiercely more than merely a body that was for sale to
the highest bidder. Perhaps he was a fool to want more. Often in the
past, it hadn't made any difference. But with Priscilla, it did. There
had been something about her when he first looked at her. Something he
didn't want to laugh at, or to forget.
No, He knew he couldn't go to Priscilla's bed until the situation and
her place in it had been resolved one way or another. Either way would
suffice. If he were once convinced that she had nothing but an evilly
beautiful and wantonly debauched body to offer him, he knew he would
gladly take that and do with it what she wanted him to do. But not
until he was convinced there could be nothing more for him from
He thought about Letty Hendrixon again, and grimaced when he found
himself studying his watch speculatively.
Almost eleven. And it was practically an hour's drive to her house.
Much too late to go calling now. Not because Letty wouldn't welcome
him, but because it would probably be impossible to see her without
Still, it might not be too late to telephone and ask about her
condition after the trying events of the day. Tell her good night,
perhaps, and suggest a meeting for tomorrow.
Wayne lifted a finger at his waiter and asked for a telephone to be
plugged in. He called the Hendrixon number and heard the phone ring
twice. Then a woman's voice said, Mrs. Hendrixon's residence.
The housekeeper, he thought, or a maid. He said, May I speak to Mrs.
Madame has retired and I am afraid that will be impossible tonight.
Wayne thought he heard the faint click of another receiver coming off
the hook, and he said smoothly, I understand. Will you please tell her
that Morgan Wayne called, and
I'll take it, Jessica. You can hang up. Morgy! It was Letty's eager
young voice trilling over the wire. As fresh and effervescent as though
she had just wakened and showered after ten hours' sleep.
I just knew you'd call, she went on as soon as the other receiver
clicked. How soon can you get here? Where are you now?
I'm in town. Wayne hesitated and adopted a fatherly tone. What you
need is bed. If you can get away tomorrow
What I need is you in bed with me. Letty chuckled with delight at
what she considered the shameless sophistication of her remark, and
went on swiftly, You needn't be frightened. It's perfectly safe.
Everyone else is sound asleep except me and I've just been waiting for
you to call. Don't turn in the front drive when you come, she went on
before he could protest. Drive right past about two hundred yards and
park. There's a path leading up to the gardener's cottage, only it's
vacant now, and I'll be waiting for you there. It'll be dark because
the electricity is cut off, but you can't miss it. I'll be waiting for
you, Morgy. She hung up.
Wayne hesitated with the receiver to his ear. While she had been
speaking so swiftly to forestall any argument from him, he thought he
had heard the sound of another receiver being very cautiously lifted on
the line. He wondered how many extensions there were in the house, and
whether it had merely been a curious servant or someone else. To be
sure he had not imagined the sound, he said, Wait, Letty. Are you
He waited and there was no sound. Then he simulated a groan and
nipped a fingernail against the mouthpiece. It made a very satisfactory
click, and almost immediately he heard another receiver being replaced
on the other end.
He hung up and considered the situation wryly. Letty would be waiting
at the gardener's cottage when he arrivedif he arrivedhe had
no doubt of that.
But who else would be waiting also?
He shrugged fatalistically as he called for his check. Perhaps it was
just as well. It might force a showdown of sorts. Anything he could
learn about the Hendrixon menage might be the one thing he needed. Any
sort of action was better than sitting around twiddling his fingers.
Even a midnight date with Lettywith the distinct possibility of being
spied upon by either or both of her parents.
In fact, it was this possibility that decided Wayne to keep the date
Letty had made. No matter how irresponsible they were as parents, he
thought he could depend on either of them to interfere and break things
up before they went too far. Without that assurance he would not have
cared to tackle an assignation with the precocious Letty.
There were no policemen stationed at the Hendrixon turnoff this time,
no lights showing from the big house on the hill as Wayne drove slowly
There was a bright moon overhead, partially obscured by fleecy white
clouds, and Wayne leaned out the window to watch carefully for the path
through the woods that Letty had mentioned over the telephone.
He found it about two hundred yards beyond the driveway as she had
said, and pulled to the side to cut ignition and lights.
There was no sound as he got out of the car and stood there for a
moment wondering how many kinds of fool a man could be, after all. Not
even the faint night sounds that one expects in the country. Not the
slightest breeze to rustle the leaves of the trees, no crickets or
frogs to greet him as he climbed the path. He expected, actually, to be
accosted at any moment. Even if it had been a servant listening in on
the last part of the conversation, he believed a servant would have
certainly informed master or mistress about Letty's arrangement of a
midnight tryst in the gardener's cottage.
He hadn't planned what he would say if he was accosted. That would
have to depend on circumstances, on who did the accosting and what soft
of story Letty had told to explain how she happened to know Morgan
Wayne well enough to be willing to meet him like this.
Whatever story Letty told, Wayne thought to himself that it would be
a good one. He would try to follow through as best he could. At least
this was action. And it would bring forth some sort of reaction.
The upward path was narrow and winding through the underbrush, and
there was short grass underfoot that deadened the sound of his steps.
He continued to move doggedly upward, and eventually come out into a
small moonlit clearing with a clapboard cottage in the center of it.
Morgan Wayne paused in the last bit of shadow and listened intently
before stepping into the moonlight. The cottage stood dark and silent
in front of him. Over his left shoulder he could see the dark hulk of
the Hendrixon mansion without a light showing. So far as any outward
signs went, he was the only person awake in all of Westchester County.
He drew in a deep breath and dropped both hands into his coat pockets
and stepped boldly out into the moonlight toward the silent cottage.
He reached the front door without incident. Every sense was alert and
every nerve on edge as he turned the doorknob and pushed. The door
opened easily and soundlessly. He moved with it swiftly, over the
threshold and a step aside to press his back against the wall and avoid
being silhouetted in the opening for anyone who might be waiting
Still nothing happened. Faint moonlight came through the open door at
his left and touched a few objects in the room. An upholstered chair
standing near the door, a small round table a little beyond. The rest
of the room was in darkness.
He held his breath for a long moment and listened intently, closing
his eyes to adjust them more quickly to the dark. Blood drummed loudly
in his ears and he could hear no other sound. But there was an
intangible feel of some other living being close to him. An
odor, perhaps, or an other-worldly emanation that touched off some
sixth sense he didn't know he possessed.
He opened his eyes and said quietly, Where are you, Letty?
Then he saw her. The tenuous and shimmering whiteness of flesh
standing erect not more than ten feet from him. The figure did not move
and it didn't speak. It was ghostlike and unreal.
Wayne said angrily, Why don't you say something, Letty? It's Morgan
Wayne. He moved toward her.
She waited for him to come. Without moving and without speaking. When
he had covered half the distance he was conscious of the smell of her
body. The thing he had sensed on first entering without being quite
aware what it was.
The figure became less ghostlike and more real. There were two white
limbs and a white torso and white arms outstretched to enfold him in
her embrace. It was like Letty to put on a show like this, he thought
with irrational anger as he neared her. She must have read in some book
that women should be mysterious and silently alluring. He said
indulgently, Relax, for God's sake, before I turn you over my knee
She surged forward against him and her hot arms were around his neck
before he could avoid the embrace. She pressed her body against him and
pressed her mouth on his, clinging fiercely about his neck with
surprising strength. His hands went behind her back instinctively, and
he found it sinewy and strong, the flesh firm and fever-hot beneath his
It all happened in seconds, and it was seconds more before Wayne's
dazed comprehension told him this was no naive adolescent hungering for
her first lesson in sex. This was a mature and lustful woman, crazed
with desire and with waiting in the night for a man to come to her. She
was moaning queerly now, gasping obscene phrases, struggling with all
her strength to pull him off his feet so they would go to the floor
From an indulgent determination to fight off Letty's youthful
advances, Wayne's mood swiftly changed to one of answering passion. He
had no time to question who she was or why she waited here in Letty's
place. He was confronted in the darkness with a woman whose ardor
aroused his own and his arms tightened about her and he staggered
forward two steps to the dim outline of a couch against the wall.
She squirmed beneath him as they fell, the fingers of one hand twined
savagely in his hair.
When at last she sank back, limp and exhausted, Wayne lifted himself
on both elbows to stare down at the white oval of her face beneath his.
It was Mrs. Hendrixon. Letty's mother. Her eyes were Closed and her
lips parted to let her spent breath in and out.
Morgan Wayne closed his eyes and counted to ten slowly. He had
expected anything but this. Some sex-starved housemaid, perhaps, or an
older contemporary of Letty's who had somehow arranged to pinch-hit for
her in this midnight adventure.
But the woman who had assaulted him so savagely was Mrs. Julius
Wayne rolled over on his side and fumbled in his pocket for a
cigarette. He was a fool to be surprised, he told himself moodily.
There had been warning enough in those vagrant glances he had caught
from her earlier in the evening. And Letty herself had hinted something
of this to him.
He snapped his lighter and put flame to his cigarette, and she opened
her eyes to smile dreamily up at him. She was almost beautiful in her
blissful state of contentment. Her features were softened, her eyes
moist and warm, her nostrils wide at the base and quivering under his
eyes. She asked huskily, Could I have a cigarette, please?
Wayne got out a cigarette and inserted it between her parted lips.
Her eyelids came down as he thumbed his lighter again. She drew smoke
deep into her lungs and murmured, Thanks.
For the cigarette?
For everything. You're... what I knew you'd be.
You're not, he told her bluntly.
The burning tip of her cigarette flared as she sucked in smoke again.
Her lips were smiling. Disappointed that I'm not Letty?
God, no! Just trying to believe you are you.
She yawned and stretched sinuously. Am I really better than she?
The question came eagerly, with no maternal overtones whatever.
I never experimented with Letty, Wayne told her shortly. Frankly,
I like my women a few years above the age of consent.
She said thoughtfully, I wonder if Letty still is a virgin.
Not if she's been able to find any man to give her what she wants.
She laughed without constraint. She's always been that way. She
stretched voluptuously again. How did she come to pick on you,
Because I wear pants. What does she think about your substituting
Heavens, she doesn't know anything about it. Poor lamb, she's
peacefully asleep. She'll be so disappointed when she wakens
Do you mean she just dropped off to sleep after talking to me on the
phone? demanded Wayne incredulously, his male vanity touched.
After drinking a glass of warm milk I thoughtfully provided, with
six sleeping tablets dissolved in it. She stubbed her cigarette out
against the wall beside her and reached for him with avid fingers.
We're wasting time talking about Letty.
This time it was not so tempestuous, but actually more violent in the
end. Wayne understood the sort of woman she was and the sort of thing
she had to have. He was not loath to oblige her. There is a deep-rooted
instinct in every virile male that responds savagely to such desires in
a woman. She was weak with exhaustion when they lighted second
Morgan Wayne lay beside her in the darkness and muttered, It's like
questioning a gift of the gods, but I still can't understand why the
wife of a man like Julius Hendrixon is lying out here with me.
Julius? There was scorn and loathing in her voice. He's about as
much good to a woman as a hatrack.
That hulk of man? Wayne was honestly surprised. He looks like the
sort who could keep a harem happy.
It's all on the outside, she said bitterly. I thought so, too,
five years ago, when I married him. Why else would I marry a boor like
that? she went on angrily. A nobody with nothing to his name. So
little Harriet fell for his uncouth manners and brawny frame. I could
have had the pick of hundreds, and I end up with him. She laughed
stridently. He didn't want me. He wanted my money. Management of the
company and power. Durtol Drugs is his real wife. He has no time to
spare for me.
Wayne sucked on his cigarette and let her talk. So she and Julius had
been married only five years, and he was actually Letty's stepfather. A
man who was greedy for money and for power.
Wayne sighed with deep satisfaction. If he could keep Julius'
thwarted wife talking long enough, he might get everything he needed
without moving from the couch beside her.
How's Carson for a bedmate? he asked casually.
What makes you think I'd know? She was instantly on her guard.
Wayne said negligently, I thought I noticed he had a roving eye
tonight. Don't try to pull a prudish act on me, he went on with a
laugh. You didn't let any grass grow under your feet before undressing
You're different. She reached out in the darkness to take hold of
his hand and squeeze it. But why should I be prudish? Elliot's an old
darling, but he's old. Fifty at least. He had half
promised to stay and see me tonight after Julius went to bed, if you
And then stood you up? Wayne asked with amusement.
He left for the city right after you did, without saying a word. But
I'm glad now that he did.
So that's one, Wayne told himself. One of the four who could easily
have got to a telephone to call Hake Derr. He asked disinterestedly,
What did your husband and brother do?
Sat around talking a while, I guess. Then John went home and Julius
came up and had a couple of drinks in my sitting room.
Are you sure he's asleep now? Durtol Drugs may be his mistress,
Wayne went on with a laugh, but I still don't take him for the sort of
man who'd wear a pair of horns without objecting rather strenuously.
You needn't worry about him. She squeezed Wayne's hand
comfortingly. He hadn't got to bed when Elliot phoned him from the
city to meet him at once on some mysterious business. Something about
Letty's kidnaping this afternoon, I gathered, though he didn't say so
When was that?
About an hour and a half ago. Just a little before you telephoned
Letty. Let's talk about us. Her voice became languidly amorous. How
are we going to meet in the future? Don't spoil everything by telling
me you have an insanely jealous wife whom you love dearly.
He managed a light laugh. No wife, he assured her. No encumbrances
at all. I can't help wondering about your brother, he went on
hurriedly. Didn't he resent it when you married Julius and brought him
in to manage the business that was John's responsibility by direct
Resent it? Lord, no. John is much happier than I with the
arrangement. He has all the time in the world now for his showgirls and
gambling, and lots more money to spend on them since Julius took over
the reins, and dividends have gone up every year.
Are we talking about the same person? asked Wayne dubiously.
Showgirls and gambling don't sound like John's forte.
He's a complete wastrel, she assured him complacently. He
cultivates that indolent, gentlemanly air just for effect. She turned
and pressed her mouth against his, pulled him to her again in the
darkness, demanding, Why are we wasting all this time, lover?
When Morgan Wayne left the gardener's cottage on the Hendrixon
estate, he had the address of John Durtol III and a fervid promise from
Mrs. Hendrixon to meet him again any time and any place he selected.
The first item was important to him, but he felt he could get along
very well without the second. A woman like Harriet Hendrixon was
wonderful for a one-night stand, but she was likely to become dynamite
if a man kept on with her. A frustrated woman of her age, with no
inhibitions to slow her down, was likely to lose all sense of
proportion and throw herself into an affair with no thought whatsoever
of any possible consequences.
But she had served him one good turn tonight, Wayne reminded himself
wryly as he went down the path to his parked car. She'd got Letty off
his neck, and the girl wouldn't have any reason to come around in the
future to remind him of his promise. He hadn't broken it, he
would point out to Letty. He had kept the tryst, and she was the
one who had disappointed him. He grinned as he thought about her waking
up in the morning, dopey from the effects of six sleeping pills and
wondering what on earth had possessed her to drop off to sleep instead
of going out to the cottage to meet him. Give her a few more years, he
thought indulgently, and she'd be another nymphomaniac like her mother.
Then it might be worth while looking her up again. Another edition of
Harriet Hendrixon and half her age would be worth investigating
sometime in the future.
Characteristically, Morgan Wayne abruptly wiped all thought of the
female members of the Hendrixon clan from his mind as he got in the
Hudson and made a U turn back toward the city. It had been difficult to
pry very much essential information from Harriet without revealing why
he wanted it, but he did have several rather important bits to think
Julius' real character, for instance, was becoming increasingly
evident. A dominant, masculine sort of man whose sexual drive had been
diverted to business. A penniless nobody, Harriet had intimated, until
he lured her into marriage by his outward masculinity, and achieved
control of Durtol Drugs. An avaricious man, mad for power. That fitted
the picture Wayne had been building up in his own mind of the person
who was using Hake Derr as a tool to turn the legitimate business of
the drug company into illicit channels. Everything began to fit in,
once you perceived the man's true character.
In the beginning, it had appeared doubtful whether a father would
cold-bloodedly arrange the kidnaping of his own daughter, but that
objection was removed once one knew that Letty was actually his
stepdaughter. And it was Julius' wife who actually owned the block of
stock, Wayne reminded himself. It was quite possible that she couldn't
be persuaded to sell in any other way. If it was Julius Hendrixon, he
must have felt quite safe and clever in having his own daughter
kidnaped to put pressure on his wife. No one would suspect a husband of
an atrocious deed like that, and he was right on the inside where he
could keep his finger on the pulse of things and warn his confederates
of any moves the police were making.
This fitted in, too, with Julius' first reaction to Wayne's warning
about the projected kidnaping a month ago. Of course, he would have
scoffed at any such idea if he, himself, were planning it. Wayne's
first visit must have given him some anxious moments, but Hake Derr
would have reassured him. So far as he and Derr had known, Wayne was
merely a crackpot who had got hold of a rumor somehow.
It was quite possible, Wayne thought, that Elliot Carson was in on
the plan with Hendrixon. The telephone message for Julius to come to
the city at midnight seemed to indicate more than an ordinary business
connection between the pair. The time of Carson's call coincided
roughly with the time that Derr's death had probably been discovered.
That could easily account for the hurried conference ordered by the
lawyer. From the description Derr's bodyguards could provide, it must
have been evident to Carson that Wayne was Derr's killerthat he had
not reacted properly to the lay off warning delivered to him in
Lois Elling's bedroom.
John Durtol might know where the two men would be meeting. He
probably wouldn't, but the young man might well possess other
information that would clinch the case against his brother-in-law.
Durtol's bachelor apartment was Wayne's first stop on his way into the
city, and he planned to put his suspicions squarely up to Harriet's
brother. He wouldn't, he thought with secret amusement, tell John where
and under what circumstances he had got his information, for even the
most decadent of brothers is apt to be a bit touchy about his sister's
honor, but he would'tell him enough to convince John that the interests
of the drug firm demanded his full co-operation.
The address Harriet Hendrixon had given him was in one of the new,
huge residential apartment developments that had mushroomed recently on
the outskirts of the city just off the West Side Highway. With a
general idea of the location in mind, Wayne had little trouble locating
the Elvira Manor development, but it did take him fifteen minutes and
half a dozen inquiries to find the particular wing in which Durtol's
apartment was situated.
There was an air of haughty and chaste elegance about the entire
setup that depressed Wayne immeasurably as he rode skyward in an
elevator large enough to accommodate twenty persons, accompanied only
by an operator whose uniform would have put a Peruvian admiral to
There was a wide, vaulted corridor when he got out of the elevator,
from which endless side passages darted off in a confusing maze.
Wayne plodded doggedly along on an inch-thick carpet, consulting
numbers as he went and pausing at various crossroads to study the
arrows pointing in four directions and attempt to interpret the symbols
in neon lights over each arrow.
He finally arrived at a heavy oak door marked 1482-X and stopped in
front of it with a sigh of relief. He put his finger on the bell and
didn't bother to take it off. It was past one o'clock in the morning,
and if John Durtol III were at home he would certainly be asleep unless
occupied in some other manner that would make him just as disinclined
to admit a late visitor.
Wayne began to think he wasn't at home after a full sixty seconds had
passed without any response to his ringing. He frowned but kept his
finger on the button. John was his one chance to contact any of the
Durtol group at this hour, and Wayne was in a fever of impatience to
keep on moving now that he had finally got started.
After one minute and forty seconds of steady ringing his stubbornness
brought results. The knob turned and the heavy door swung inward
In a small foyer lighted from floor lamps in the long living room
beyond an archway, a girl confronted him. She was barefooted and wore a
short, quilted mandarin robe. Her hair was cut as short as a boy's and
she was rubbing her eyes sleepily with both fists and yawning widely.
She didn't actually look at Wayne as she murmured, So you decided to
come back, Johnsey?
Wayne stepped inside, closed the door, and took her firmly by the
elbow. She dropped her knuckles from her eyes and blinked up at him in
round-faced amazement. She had no make-up on, and looked like a
frightened farm girl with her natural healthy coloring and well-fleshed
Who are you? she asked in some alarm. Where's Johnsey?
I was about to ask you both questions. Wayne smiled down at her
She shrugged and turned away from him into the large inner room that
had a ceiling two floors up and a railed balcony on three sides at the
second-floor level. She curled up on a sofa with her bare legs tucked
under her and yawned again before saying indifferently, I'm Marge, and
if you know much about John you won't ask me what I'm doing here. That
crazy galoot. He gives me a diamond wrist watch from Tiffany's to
promise to spend the night and then ducks out before we get started.
The farm-girl look had gone now, but she retained the look of a healthy
young animal without a trace of the sophistication Wayne would have
thought John Durtol III would require in an overnight guest.
Wayne sat down across the room from her and lit a cigarette and
smiled. He's a nut, all right, if he walked out on you.
She shrugged and looked down at her broad, stubby-fingered hands.
How does he get that way, she burst out indignantly, making a girl
bring a doctor's affidavit that she's a virgin before he'll sleep with
her? What kind of fun can a man get out of that? I ask you! All
the fellows I ever knew intimate enough to ask tell me the first time
isn't ever any good.
Did you bring your affidavit? Wayne chuckled.
Sure I did. After I had the wrist watch appraised. Mom always told
me not to sell out cheap, but I figured no one would ever offer me more
than twenty thousand smackers. Don't you think I was right?
Right as rain, Wayne assured her gravely. Do you know where John
That's what gets my goddamned nanny goat. That gingham bitch called
him, that's what. How do you figure a guy like that? she demanded
wonderingly. Making me bring along my certificate and then bouncing
out before we even get in bed just because he gets a phone call from a
floosie that hasn't had one for a cinch since she was ten years old.
Hey, that reminds me of a joke, she went on vivaciously, wrinkling up
her nose at Wayne.
In Sunday school, see, and this class of kids are having a lesson
from the Bible about the ten virgins or whatever. So the teacher asks
the class do any of them know what a virgin is, and one little girl
sticks up her hand quick and gets up and says, 'A virgin is a little
girl eleven years oldno, ten years old, I mean. I'm eleven.' D'yuh
get the point? She shook with laughter, shaking her head from side to
side. She was eleven, see? And she knew a virgin was younger than
I get it, said Wayne patiently as soon as he could break in. Do
you mean to say by any wild and impossible chance that it was Priscilla
Endicott who telephoned John and lured him away from your charms?
I dunno what her name is, she said sullenly. But I know she sings
in a lousy cellar joint on Fifty-second. And Johnsey goes running if
she crooks her finger at him. How do you like that from a guy that
passes out diamond wrist watches from Tiffany's?
Morgan Wayne was on his way to the door before her flow of
Morgan Wayne didn't have the faintest idea how this new bit of
information fitted into the pattern, but he headed fast for
Fifty-second Street when he got away from Elvira Manor.
If Marge was correct and John Durtol III was actually mixed up with
the Gingham Girl, a whole new realm of interesting speculation was
opened up. Was Priscilla the go-between who had brought Hake Derr into
the Durtol picture? It was possible she had played the role
unwittingly. It was also quite possible, Wayne assured himself grimly,
that she brought the two men together purposefully. Nothing he learned
about Priscilla Endicott would really surprise him. He didn't even
discount the possibility that she was entangled in this affair from a
motive as pure as his own; that she was using her body as a weapon to
smash the drug traffic just as Wayne employed the two guns weighting
down his jacket pockets.
He knew, down deep in his heart, that he hoped that explanation was
true. There had been that about Priscilla Endicott when he first looked
at her. She had something that made a man want to believe she
was basically decent.
At any rate, that strong intuitive feeling he had had as he first
entered the Gingham Gardens early that evening was now intensified. The
key to the whole situation was there. Tonight's affair had begun in the
Gingham Gardens, and he felt it would end there. If Priscilla held the
key, he would wrest it from her somehow.
He wrenched his musings away from her and brought them back to John
Durtol III, Julius Hendrixon, and Elliot Carson. At the moment the only
visible connection between any of the three with the underworld was
John's infatuation with Priscillaif the impatient virgin at John's
apartment could be relied upon. But the perplexing thing about
suspecting John was the fact that he already owned enough Durtol stock
to enable him to gain control by consolidating with the other blocks of
stock that had already been bought upthus leaving him no real motive
for arranging Letty's kidnaping to force his sister to sell her stock.
It seemed a foolish and unnecessary risk to Morgan Wayne. The whole
affair could have been handled smoothly and with no risk at all if John
Durtol III were actually the moving spirit in the plan. He didn't know
yet, Wayne reminded himself, that John had even been aware of Hake
Derr's existence. With a woman of Priscilla's undoubted talents for
intrigue involved, it was entirely possible that neither man had known
the other was enjoying her favors. But what a hell of an ill-assorted
pair, Wayne thought irrationally, to have been selected by Priscilla
for bedmates. A ruthless killer like Derr who confessed that his
greatest pleasure came from using his knife on a woman, and the
seemingly spineless heir to the Durtol fortune. It was inconceivable
that she should have picked those two at random from all the men in New
York whom she might have had simply by crooking her finger.
Certainly, neither of them suited her temperamentally. No matter how
many questions there were in Wayne's mind as to Priscilla's real
nature, he had absolutely no doubt that her passionate response to him
that afternoon had been honest. A vision of her came to him as he drove
through the night toward her, as she had been in his arms after their
first kiss. Her face peaceful and with a strange look of content. The
look of little-girl pleading in her wide eyes, the surprised and almost
virginal look of ecstasy. The dreamy langour of her reply when he had
asked her if she wanted to die: I don't think I care. Take me in your
He drew in a great, shuddering breath as the memory came vividly to
No. That had been real. And it was impossible for Wayne to understand
that same woman wanting either Hake Derr or John Durtol as she had
wanted him that afternoon. The same woman couldn't. No matter
how many facets there were to her nature, she couldn't give the same
thing to either of those others that she had freely offered to Morgan
So there had to be another explanation of her reasons for taking them
to bed. Money? Could it be only that? That was her explanation, but the
words hadn't rung true when she spoke them. That had been, of course,
before he knew she was even acquainted with John Durtol III. It sounded
more reasonable now that he knew. She had spoken of an impending deal
that would put Derr up among the Rockefellers and the Morgans within a
few years. It made a lot more sense if she were in the middle of the
plot that was being engineered by Durtol and Derr. Playing ball with
both of them, she might have looked on the proposition as a sure
winner. And her midnight telephone call to John seemed to bear that
out. With Derr's death, an immediate shifting of plans would be
necessary, an immediate meeting of the remaining two principals to
decide matters of policy.
Exactly the same reasoning, Wayne realized, that made the rush call
from Carson to Hendrixon appear suspicious on the surface. There simply
wasn't any use trying to guess at the truth at this point. If he found
John Durtol III with Priscilla, he would get the truth out of the two
of them. If John hadn't been there or had already gone back to Marge,
he would have to work on Priscilla alone.
He had reached the nearest exit for Fifty-second Street when he
arrived at the conclusion, and he forced himself to relax behind the
wheel of the borrowed car as he turned eastward. It was almost two
o'clock and the midtown street was practically empty of traffic. A few
restaurants with late licenses still stood open, catering to the late
drinkers who wouldn't leave until the final drink was poured.
Wayne didn't know whether the Gingham Gardens would be one of these
or not as he approached. There was no spotlighted painting on the
sidewalk to draw attention to the place, and the outer neon lights were
But as Wayne slid in to the curb directly in front, he saw a hazy
glow of light emanating from the dim foyer that was down three steps
from the sidewalk, and when he got out of the car the same doorman
under his three-cornered headpiece of gingham strolled across the walk
and repeated the same warning Wayne had heard earlier:
No parking here, sir. You'll have to...
The pattern repeated itself immutably. Wayne said pleasantly, Watch
my car, will you? A second ten-dollar bill was swallowed up in the
doorman's hand and he said, Certainly, sir, to Wayne's back as he
went down the three steps.
There was a different girl at the check stand, and Wayne remembered
that the blonde had said she'd be off in a couple of hours. This one
was a pert little wren with short, fluffy hair that was obviously
platinumed. Unlike her predecessor, she wore a tight gingham halter
over almost nonexistent breasts, showing an expanse of flat stomach to
a point well below her navel, and she had an eager smile of welcome
that contrasted well with the frozen, tailored quality of the blonde's.
Like the other girl's, though, her eagerness faded from her smile
when she saw that Wayne was hatless. Again the pattern repeated itself,
for again Wayne was after information.
He smiled reassuringly as he went toward her, and explained, It's
not that I don't like check girlsI just don't like hats. There was a
folded five-dollar bill between his fingers as he leaned on her
counter. She plucked it out in a matter-of-fact way and told him, I
wouldn't kick if all my customers felt that way.
Wayne said casually, Is Johnsey around?
Who? She wrinkled her snub nose as she smoothed the bill over one
Durtol. John Durtol Third. Wayne grinned engagingly as he spoke the
full name. One of the Gingham Gal's particular friends.
Gee, I dunno, mister. She giggled maliciously. First I heard she
Wayne nodded casually as though it didn't matter, and sauntered
The long bar was crowded now, and more than half the tables were
occupied. The heavy smoke haze that hung over the room made his eyes
smart so it was difficult to see clearly.
Wayne didn't bother to look for Willie Sutra because he knew exactly
how hard he had hit him on his last trip. There was a fast-jiving man
at the piano in the rear now, and no singer at the moment. No sign of
Priscilla that Wayne could see as he stood near the end of the bar and
studied the occupants of the room with hooded eyes.
The same beefy bartender he had encountered on his first trip pushed
in front of him on the other side of the bar and asked wearily, What's
Wayne turned to look him full in the face, and shook his head slowly.
Just a cheapskate dropping in from the street for a look around.
The bartender opened his mouth for an ill-natured retort, and then
closed it suddenly as he recognized Wayne. He muttered something under
his breath and turned away quickly.
Wayne dropped an elbow on the bar and looked the room over again. His
eyes were becoming accustomed to the sting of the smoke now, and he
paused in his slow survey to study the shoulders and back of the head
of a man sitting alone at a table near the rear. He was thickly built
and conservatively dressed, and past the lobe of his left ear Wayne
could see half an inch of gray ash on the end of a cigar.
Morgan Wayne left the bar and began threading his way between the
tables toward the man. He stopped beside the table and drew out a chair
and sat down opposite Elliot Carson.
The ruddy-faced attorney was chewing on the butt of his Perfecto and
toying with a highball glass. His lips thinned against the cigar a
trifle and his eyes narrowed when he recognized Wayne. He cleared his
throat and asked, How did you get here?
Just walked in through the front door, said Wayne. Where's
Carson hesitated. He took the cigar out of his mouth and frowned at
it, placed it very carefully in the center of an ash tray, and lifted
his glass to sip the contents. When he put it down he asked with every
appearance of honest puzzlement, What are you up to, Wayne? Where do
you fit into the picture?
I'm wondering the same thing about you, Carson.
But damn it, man, who are you? What are you doing here, for
instance? And what gives you the idea I know where Julius is?
It seems a reasonable assumption, said Wayne dryly, since you
phoned him to hurry into the city to meet you. And by the way, Carson,
what took you away from the Hendrixon place in such a hurry tonight
that you didn't take time to apologize to a lady for not visiting her
bedroom before you beat it?
The lawyer's ruddy complexion became mottled with patches of pallor.
He wet his lips and said ponderously, I haven't the faintest idea what
you are alluding to.
Skip it, said Wayne pleasantly. I still want to know where
Carson got out a linen handkerchief and mopped sweat from his
forehead. I do, too. He was to have met me here half an hour ago, as
you seem to haveahsurmised. He hasn't come yet, and frankly, I'm
beginning to be worried.
Why here? And why the sudden urge to see him when you had just
parted a few hours earlier?
Because I'm damnably worried, Wayne. Carson picked up his cigar and
puffed on it vigorously. Your talk tonight about a plot to gain
control of Durtol Drugs, he went on slowly, coupled with certain
things I learned after I reached town, made an immediate conference
with Julius imperative.
Do you often arrange your business conferences here?
Certainly not. But I knew I'd be tied up for a time and it wasn't
certain exactly when I'd be able to make it. I thought it would be more
pleasant for Julius to wait for me over a drink, so I suggested we meet
Now that you've got that off your chest, why not tell me the truth?
Attorney Carson hesitated for a long time. Then he appeared to reach
a decision. Yes, he agreed firmly. I'm going to trust you, Wayne,
and take you into my confidence. He looked around furtively to see if
anyone were listening, then leaned forward and asked in a low voice:
Does the name of Hake Derr mean anything at all to you?
Considering that Wayne had shoved a broken whisky bottle into Derr's
face just a few hours previously, he remained remarkably impassive. He
said, I've heard of him.
Very well. Are you surprised to learn that I have good reason to
suspect it was he who planned Letty Hendrixon's kidnaping this
Not particularly, but I'd be interested to know how you arrived at
As you will recall, Inspector Hibbs is a personal friend of mine,
and he drove back to the city with me. And by the way, Wayne, the
attorney went on with a frosty smile, I don't know yet what sort of
hypnosis you used on Hibbs to get his O.K. tonight, because he refused
to discuss you or anything about you while we drove in together. But
that isn't important. The important point is that when we reached the
city the Inspector made a routine check at headquarters on my behalf
and learned that two men were definitely suspected as Letty's actual
kidnapers. One had been killed in some sort of fracas, it seems, and
the whole affair is quite mysterious and muddled, but the important
point is that both those men have been identified as hoodlums in the
employ of Hake Derr.
He paused to allow Wayne to express his surprise, and seemed
disappointed when the other said nothing.
Certainly you see the importance of thatif your theory of a
plot to gain control of Durtol is correct. You say you've heard of
Derr. Perhaps you don't know he is reputed to be one of the biggest
individual importers of smuggled drugs in the city. Now do you see why
the Inspector's information was important?
It caused you to suspect Derr of the plan to take over Durtol. Sure.
I've known he was back of it for weeks. But I'm convinced there's
someone else behind him.
Mr. Wayne, you take the words right out of my mouth. Carson was
breathing heavily and he lowered his voice still more. Perhaps you
don't know that it's rumored about town that Hake Derr and the owner of
this place are partners.
I know Derr has been sleeping upstairs with Priscilla Endicott for
some time, said Wayne indifferently. What's that got to do with it?
A great deal, perhaps. A very great deal, I'm afraid. You do
appear to be exceedingly well informed, Carson went on unctuously,
but there is one further item of information that I am positive you
lack. As an attorney, I ordinarily wouldn't breathe a word about a
personal and delicate matter of this sort, but I feel that
circumstances will not permit me to remain silent longer.
Do you mean John Durtol's infatuation for Priscilla, which even
supersedes his penchant for virgins?
This time Carson was thoroughly taken aback. He pursed his lips
worriedly and complained, I don't know where you get all this
information, Wayne. And, since you possess it, I don't understand why
you haven't acted sooner. Don't you realize the implications of all
Morgan Wayne shrugged his shoulders. That John Durtol and Hake Derr
got together over Priscilla's lovely body and cooked the whole thing
up? Sure. That's why I'm here. Where is Priscilla, by the way?
I'm sure I don't know. I've never met her, you see, and wouldn't
know her by sight. The lawyer looked around the crowded room
restlessly. And I do wonder what's become of Julius. It isn't like him
to be late and send no message.
What did you think to accomplish by coming here with Julius?
What's that? Why, I felt we should confront the woman with our
suspicions. And this Derr person also, if he is present.
He won't be, said Wayne dryly. He kept an appointment tonight that
was long overdue. I wonder if you know exactly what happened to Lois
Elling tonight, he added savagely and without warning, watching Carson
narrowly as he spoke.
The lawyer blinked at him and repeated the name. Lois... Elling?
My secretary, Wayne told him softly.
Oh, yes. I do remember now. The one who first telephoned Julius
about Letty. Did something happen to her? He spoke with disinterest,
his eyes still roving about the room.
Wayne said, She died.
Oh. How very sad.
There were quick, light footsteps behind Wayne, then a remembered
voice speaking throatily over his head to the lawyer:
Mr. Carson! Come upstairs at once. Something dreadful has happened.
Wayne turned his head slowly and looked up into Priscilla Endicott's
lovely face as the lawyer arose.
She gasped with surprise and caught her lower lip between her teeth
as she recognized Wayne. For a long moment her eyes looked down into
his and the color drained away from her face. Then she gained control
of herself as swiftly as she had lost it, and said in a sibilant
You, too, Morgan Wayne. John has just killed his brother-in-law in
Once again, Morgan Wayne climbed the narrow back stairway upward to
Priscilla Endicott's apartment. Once again she preceded him on the
stairway, her moving loins level with his face, the woman smell of her
coming back strongly into his nostrils.
But this time another man climbed the stairway directly behind Wayne,
and in the bedroom above they were awaited by two other menone of
them a corpse.
The door to Priscilla's apartment stood wide open, and bright light
streamed out as they reached the top. John Durtol III sat limply in a
deep chair at the far end of the room in front of chartreuse draperies.
He was hunched far forward with elbows resting on his knees and his
face buried in both hands. An almost empty highball glass stood on the
floor beside him and he didn't look up as the trio entered the room in
Wayne wasted only one glance at Durtol's dejected figure and went
swiftly into the bedroom past Priscilla, who stood aside and threw him
a frightened and imploring glance.
Julius Hendrixon lay on his back in the middle of the bedroom floor.
There was a sharp silver paper knife in his throat, and lots of blood.
His eyes were open and so was his mouth.
Wayne knelt beside him and touched one finger tentatively to the
outer edge of the pool of blood on the floor. It had already started to
coagulate, and he estimated that the knife must have been driven into
Hendrixon's throat at least ten minutes previously. He rocked back on
his heels and looked searchingly about the bedroom. There was nothing
out of order, nothing different from the last time he had seen it
except for the dead body.
He got up and returned to the living room.
Elliot Carson was standing flat-footed in front of John, shaking his
head ponderously from side to side while the younger man stared up at
him with frightened eyes and insisted in a shaky voice:
I had to do it, Elliot. It was self-defense. Priscilla will tell
you. He knew his game was up, you see, and he came up here blustering
and threatening both of us. He chased Priscilla into the bedroom
threatening to break her neck and then mine, and I guess I went wild.
Everything was red in front of me, he went on vaguely. I remember
grabbing up the paper knife from that table near the door, and that's
all I do remember. You've got to believe me! he cried out in a thin,
high-pitched voice. You've got to help me out of this, Elliot. Think
of Harriet and Letty. He's dead now and he deserved to die. But they
mustn't ever know the truth. You'll have to fix it, Elliot.
While he spoke, Priscilla moved quietly to Wayne's side and caught
his hand in hers. She was breathing deeply and spasmodically, her gaze
fastened on John's face, and squeezed Wayne's hand desperately, like a
small frightened child seeking comfort from a parent.
You see, it was Julius all the time, she broke in swiftly when John
finished. I suspected it from things Hake said, but I never was sure
whether he meant Mr. Hendrixon or you, Mr. Carson. I still didn't know
this afternoon when John telephoned me to say it had happenedthat
Letty had been kidnaped. She shuddered violently. Think of a father
doing that to his own daughter! God! If he'd known what I know about
Not his own daughter, Wayne said. Letty was actually his
stepdaughter. He turned Priscilla about to face him and demanded, Are
you two saying that Julius admitted being in the plot with Derr?
Oh, yes. Her green eyes were wide on his. He knew Mr. Carson
suspected when he asked to meet him here, and he got here first and
came upstairs. John was with me and we were pretty sure by that time
that he was the one, and he admitted it, all right. But he still wasn't
giving up. He was going to kill both John and me, you see, and then go
down and tell Mr. Carson that he had confronted us and John and I were
in it together with Hake. And he thought Mr. Carson would help cover up
for him and get him away and that maybe the police would think we had
killed each other in a lovers' quarrel.
I'm afraid I just don't understand at all, complained the attorney
helplessly. I suspected you, John, not Julius. You and this young lady
That's what he was banking on, I think, said John dully.
Wayne still held Priscilla's hand tightly and his cold blue eyes
probed into the bluish depths of hers, which just that afternoon had
invited him to sink into them and drown deliciously. He said in a tight
voice, You've got one hell of a lot of explaining to do, Priscilla,
before I'll buy any of this. How did you get into the picture in the
beginning? You were Hake Derr's woman. Don't try to deny that.
He thought I was his woman, she said viciously. I let him
think so. I made him think it. She drew in a deep breath and
pulled her hand away from Wayne's. If you knew how I loathed himhow
I cringed when he touched me!
Wayne said coldly, Go on. And make it good.
Damn you, Morgan Wayne, she stormed at him. Get down off your
pedestal. You're not the only person in this world who can believe in
something. There are a few other human beings who hate what Hake Derr
was doing as much as you do, and who have the guts to decide to do
something about smashing it. For a long instant her eyes blazed
challengingly into his, then she swung about and strode across the room
to stand beside John's chair.
When she turned and faced Wayne again, her chin was lifted proudly
and her voice was calm. Did you ever have a sister, Morgan Wayne? One
whom you raised from childhood and who looked up to you as her mother?
Wayne said, No, very quietly.
I did. Her face twisted for a moment in a spasm of pain. We lived
in Detroit, she went on tonelessly. I sang in a night club there and
supported us both, until Helen was sixteen. She drew in a long breath
and her hand went down to touch John Durtol's shoulder as though she
drew strength from the contact.
That was three years ago, and Helen was developing a remarkable
vocal talent and I scrimped and saved to get enough money to send her
here to study with a good teacher. It took just three months in New
York to ruin Helen. She was weak, I suppose. Too young to go away by
herself and face the temptations here. She poured out the whole hellish
story to me in a long letter she wrote and mailed just before she died.
It could be duplicated by thousands of other stories if people only
knew the truth, she went on bitterly. I've learned that since I've
been heresince I met Hake Derr and began adding up the little things
he let drop. First there were marijuana cigarettesjust for fun at a
party where all the others smoked them and Helen didn't want to appear
unsophisticated by refusing. Then a friend who furnished them to her
for nothing when she was discouraged with her vocal progress and felt
she needed a lift. Then heroin, of course, the next inevitable step.
And selling herself to men for the price of the drug she had to have.
But you know all of it. Helen was no different from thousands of
others. Except she was my sister. They pulled her body out of
the East River the day before her letter reached me. I came to New York
with one thought in mindto hunt down and destroy the highest man I
could reach in the business of destroying girls like Helen.
Wayne nodded somberly. He said, You moved up fast once you reached
I let nothing stop me, she agreed just as somberly. I left every
scruple behind me in Detroit. I got an engagement here with Lon Ragle's
band, and in six months I was the Gingham Girl. I owned the joint and
was on my way up where I could attract Hake Derr eventually. Do you
want to know exactly how I managed that, Morgan Wayne?
He said, Yes.
Ben Orcutt owned the place. She spoke without a tremor, much as
though she were discussing something that did not touch her at all.
For a half interest, I traded himmyself. He was grossly fat and had
a bad heart and I encouraged him to drink a great deal more than he
should. So his heart suddenly stopped beating one night.
My dear young lady! Elliott Carson was mopping sweat from his face
as he listened. That's an unwise admission to make. Practically a
confession that you planned his death.
I suppose I did, she told him indifferently, though her eyes still
held Wayne's and it was with him that she pleaded for understanding. I
tell you I was determined that nothing should stop me. When I finally
landed Hake Derr, I thought he was it. That I couldn't reach any
higher. Then he began hinting about the grand coup he was planning, and
I waited for bigger game. And tonight he came to me, she ended evenly,
nodding her head toward the bedroom. Both he and Hake are dead now,
and I hope to God the whole rotten racket will smash to earth with
them. My only regret is that I didn't actually kill either one of
And all this time, said Carson wonderingly, you and John have been
working together to get proof against Julius. Is that correct, John?
That's right. He nodded eagerly.
Why didn't you tell me any of this earlier? Wayne demanded of
I didn't dare. I still didn't know which side you were on. Hake
didn't either, you know. He really thought you were trying to move in
and take over his racket. I wanted to trust you this afternoon. Her
voice trembled and she moved toward him, holding out her hands, a sob
creeping into her voice. I was ready to trust you and tell you
everything, I think. If you had stayed with me... when... Her voice
faltered and she swallowed hard, stopping directly in front of him and
reminding him with tear-filled eyes of the moment when she had offered
herselfwhen he had turned away brusquely and denied her.
Wayne put his hands on her trembling shoulders and drew her close to
him gently. Over her head, which settled on his breast, he told
I agree with John that this whole thing should be hushed up. God
knows, he shouldn't have to suffer for Julius Hendrixon's death. Take
him downstairs and buy him a drink, Carson. You and he wait there for
me. I'll take care of everything here. Don't worry about publicity.
I'll arrange things so the exact circumstances of Julius' death will
never be known.
He held Priscilla gently in his arms while the older man helped the
younger to his feet and out the door. Wayne reached out to shut it
behind him, then put his fingers beneath Priscilla's chin to lift her
tear-wet face and kiss her lips gently.
Then he said, What do I get in payment for helping you pull it off,
Her eyes were closed as he spoke. She opened them very slowly and
asked in a throaty whisper, What do you mean, Morgan?
He released her and turned to walk across the room and sink into the
chair just vacated by John Durtol III. He lit a cigarette and lifted
his eyebrows mockingly. You're one hell of an actress, Priscilla. The
big money might have come a little slower on the stage, but it would
have lasted longer.
She said, I don't know what you mean.
Wayne shrugged. Don't you think I deserve something for letting
Elliot Carson go out of here believing that John killed Juliusand
believing that Julius was actually the villain in the piece instead of
She swayed a trifle and wet her lips. What makes you think a crazy
thing like that?
I know it, my sweet. You did a fast and neat job of improvising
after plunging that paper knife into Julius' throat. You couldn't let
Carson know the truth, of course, he went on reflectively. He'd never
have been willing to help cover up to save you from a charge of
murder. But his own client and friend is a different matter. Do you and
John have any idea of going on with your original plan after this all
Ouroriginal plan? For the first time a note of anxiety and doubt
crept into Priscilla's voice.
It was you and John all the way, Wayne told her tiredly. It had to
be, you see. Julius simply doesn't fit. We're alone here, darling. Drop
your crusading pose and forget the heart-rending sob story you told us
about your sister. I like you better the other way. As you were this
evening. As you really are. Mercenary and tough and ready to grab the
main chance when it presents itself.
Why do you say Julius doesn't fit? she demanded shakily. What
reason on earth have you to doubt me?
Because of what happened to a girl named Lois Elling. Someone had to
finger her for Hake Derr. Someone who knew her name and that she was my
secretary and that I had a date with her later. That has to be you, my
sweet. You admitted that John telephoned you this afternoon after Lois
called them about the kidnaping. None of the others could possibly have
telephoned Hake Derr in time after I left their house. Carson rode in
to the city with a police inspector, and he certainly didn't stop on
the way to phone Derr. Julius went upstairs to his wife as soon as John
left. That leaves John and you. Don't try to deny it. If you and I are
going to have anything together in the future, we'll have to start out
by telling the truth.
She came toward him, her face lighting and her voice tremulously
exultant. Knowing all that, you were willing to cover up for me?
You'll get rid of him in there and never tell that lawyer the
I don't see why Carson needs to know. Wayne smiled up at her
reassuringly. But I expect to be well repaid for that.
She stood before him breathing deeply, excitement and desire lighting
flames in her eyes. Oh, God, Morgan Wayne, she whispered. I knew it
this afternoon. Even when you walked out on me, I still knew it. But
that damned woman! I was crazy with jealousy. You can't blame me for
that. You were too, weren't you? You killed Hake tonight. I know you
did. We're a team, sweetheart. We think alike. I want you now. I can't
wait any longer. She dropped to her knees beside him, pressing herself
forward with face uplifted to him.
Wayne stood up. He said, It's a goddamned shame what the electric
chair will do to that lovely body of yours, Priscilla.
For a breathless moment she shrank back on her heels away from him.
Then she laughed and got slowly to her feet, deliberately ripping her
gown and slip down the front and stepping out of the torn clothing.
Don't even joke about it, she implored him. I'm yours. Don't you
see? Look at me, Morgan Wayne. Put your arms around me.
Wayne looked at her. He sighed for what might have been and turned
away from her, advising flatly over his shoulder, Better get some
clothes on. I'm calling the police.
No! You don't mean it. She was running across the room, stumbling
and grabbing at him, pleading incoherently, groveling at his feet as he
plodded on grimly to the telephone.
He looked down at her with his hand on the instrument, his blue eyes
hooded and features strained and set. She was the most beautiful thing
he had ever seen. He desired her at that moment as he had never desired
another woman in his life. He said, As God is my judge, Priscilla, I'm
going to go through life hating myself for this. But I'd hate myself
more every time I thought of Lois Elling if I didn't do it. You've been
the direct cause of five deaths this evening, he went on harshly.
Four of them didn't matter so much, but you'll have to pay for the
fifth. Hell, you may not get the chair, he went on angrily. They may
let you off with life. Again he started to lift the receiver, but
Priscilla was crouched against him like an animal, sobbing wildly and
attempting to climb up his legs.
No, no, she moaned. I can't rot away in a cell. I'd rather die.
Do you hear me? Why should I live anyway if I can't have you? I swear
before God you're the only man I ever loved. Ever wanted. You have to
believe that, Morgan Wayne. That's why I told Hake to do it.
She pulled herself to her feet and stood facing him with her features
contorted and swollen. No matter what happens to me, believe that. I
don't mind dying so much if you'll just believe me.
Wayne looked at her and said, I do believe you. He reached in his
pocket and withdrew a short-barreled gun, offered it to her butt
forward. There's this alternative, he told her gently, because you
see, my dear, I love you, too.
Silence was heavy in the room. She gazed down at the offered gun, and
then lifted misty eyes to his. She whispered unsteadily, Will you kiss
me once more?
Wayne kissed her. Her lips were hot and pliable beneath his. She
shuddered violently, and it was she who drew away from him. She took
the gun from his hand without saying anything.
Wayne turned away from her and started toward the outer door. In a
frightened and choked voice behind him, she asked, How do you know I
won't shoot you instead?
He continued toward the door and threw savagely over his shoulder, I
won't have to look at myself in the mirror tomorrow if you do.
He had his hand on the knob when a muffled explosion sounded behind
him, the sound that is made when the muzzle of a revolver is thrust
inside one's mouth before the trigger is pulled.
Wayne stood for a moment with his hand gripping the knob so tightly
that the knuckles turned white. Then he opened the door and went out
without looking back.
It would provide the police with a nice little puzzle in deduction,
he thought wearily, when they made a ballistics test on the bullet that
had killed Priscilla and discovered it matched the one that had killed
one of Letty's kidnapers and also the one in The Barber's head.
He didn't think it mattered that John Durtol III was to go
unsuspected of his weak part in the underworld plot to seize the drug
company. Knowing Priscilla, Wayne was convinced she had been the
driving force behind the affair, and that John was exceedingly unlikely
to deviate again.
He went steadily down the stairs and found them seated together at a
rear table with untasted drinks in front of them. They looked up at him
with strained and expectant faces as he stopped beside the table, and
Carson asked hoarsely, Is everything all right?
Everything, Wayne told him flatly, is fixed. You two get out of
here and forget everything that happened tonight.
He swung away and strode across the now almost empty room, past the
little hat-check girl without seeing her, and up three steps to the
sidewalk and the comparatively clean night air of New York.
The doorman saw him and hurried obsequiously to open the door of the
Hudson for him, but Wayne turned away without speaking and plodded down
the sidewalk. Let the Hudson remain standing there, he thought wearily,
to provide the police with another inexplicable piece in the puzzle
that wouldn't fit with any of the other pieces they had.
The sidewalks of midtown New York are lonely and deserted at four
o'clock in the morning, and Morgan Wayne was the loneliest man who
walked them as he left the Gingham Gardens behind and went blindly into
An empty taxi came cruising along the street behind him, slowed and
eased in invitingly to the curb when the headlights picked out the lone
figure on the sidewalk.
Wayne started to wave the driver on, then shrugged and turned to open
the door and get inside. It was useless to go on brooding over what was
past. The Gingham Gardens and the Gingham Girl were behind him, and
this was tomorrow. For a month, now, he had kept himself carefully out
of sight, avoiding his former haunts and everyone who knew him,
carrying on his quixotic one-man crusade to prevent control of a vast
new source of narcotics passing into the hands of the underworld.
For a month he had been out of touch with the world, unavailable to
anyone who might have wished to contact him. It was time, now, to
re-establish those severed contacts.
Though it was now past four o'clock, the Forty-One Club would still
be discreetly open to welcome those habitues known personally to the
owner, and Wayne felt a certain eagerness taking possession of him as
he gave the address to the driver. If he were needed elsewhere, if
there had been important messages for him during the past month, they
would be waiting for him at 41.
After a drive of only a few blocks, the driver pulled up in the
center of a dimly lighted crosstown block and looked back curiously to
ask his passenger, This the place you want, Mac?
Morgan Wayne nodded and pushed a dollar bill over the back of the
seat and got out. A short flight of wooden stairs led up from the
sidewalk to double oak doors that were closed and which bore only the
numerals 41. Wide windows on each side of the doors were heavily
curtained and showed no light.
Wayne turned the knob and opened the unlocked door onto a small, bare
vestibule lighted only with a very dim bulb in the ceiling. He closed
the outer door firmly before crossing the vestibule and opening the
inner door onto a large, brilliantly lighted room that had the
appearance of the lounge room of a private club, furnished with
comfortable leather chairs and smoking stands and with damask-covered
tables ranged around three sides that would accommodate half a hundred
The fourth side of the room was occupied by a long serving bar with
two white-jacketed bartenders serving up drinks for the half-dozen
waiters attending the wants of the special customers who had lingered
convivially to this early hour.
A beaming headwaiter in immaculate white tie and tails accosted Wayne
as he entered. Meestair Wayne. We 'ave wondered w'ere you are thees
long time. Even tonight, Meestair Langdon he 'ave asked, 'Henri, 'ave
you seen the Meestair Wayne thees days?' an' I 'ave tell heem He
broke off with a slight bow as a chubby, florid-faced man in a brown,
pin-striped business suit came toward them. But 'ere ees Meestair
Langdon now, to welcome you. One cognac fine, monsieur.
Bring the decanter, Henri, Wayne said, and added speculatively,
Oui, monsieur. One decanter of Baccarat glass there ees set aside
for your return. The headwaiter scurried away as the proprietor came
up with a quiet smile.
Morgan Wayne. Where've you been hiding yourself?
Wayne shook hands with Myron Langdon and asked, Have there been
Several phone calls from Washington about two weeks ago. And Vienna
has been trying for you by transatlantic telephone since midnight. You
are urgently requested to call Operator Seventeen the moment you show
up, though I told them I didn't have the faintest idea whether you were
in New York or Calcutta.
Wayne nodded and said, I'd better take that call in your office. He
followed Langdon to the rear and through a door into a small office,
where the proprietor left him alone. Wayne got long-distance and asked
for Overseas operator Seventeen, gave his name, and was told rather
excitedly, Please hold on, Mr. Wayne. A call is just coming through.
Morgan Wayne held on, his face masklike, and presently, cutting
through the clickings and ghostlike asides of disembodied voices, a
familiar and incisive tone came clearly over the wire:
Wayne? Are you there, Morg?
That you, Matt? Wayne settled back with a grin. I head you were
top brass, but what's this Vienna deal?
That'll take some telling. Where the devil have you been hiding,
Morg? I got Washington on your trail two weeks ago, but no luck.
A little thing I got tied up with, Wayne said carefully. What's on
You. And the Balkans.
Wayne said, The Balkans, Matt?
There's a plane waiting at La Guardia, the voice went on. They've
been standing by since midnight. I don't care what you're tied up with
I'm not, Wayne said curtly. Is this official?
Not after you reach Budapest. From that moment, you're on your own.
If there's real trouble, you're just a millionaire nitwit with a yen
for adventure. And if you pull it off, you'll never be named in
official citations. Can we count on you, Morg?
If you doubted it, said Wayne dryly, you wouldn't be on the wire.
There was the ghost of a chuckle over the wire. This is a woman, my
boy. A woman called Z. Do you still want it?
Wayne's features tightened. Zelia? he asked sharply.
Right. That plane is waiting, Morg. I'll contact La Guardia and tell
them to expect you in half an hour. There was an abrupt click and the
transatlantic connection was broken.
Morgan Wayne got up slowly and went to the door. He moved across the
room past the bar and shook his head firmly at Henri, who waited
proudly with a decanter of Criozet Anniversaire on a tray with a large
snifter of the same delicate Baccarat glass.
He said lightly, Put it away, Henri. I'll be back before too long...
from Budapest. He touched Henri on the shoulder and went out of 41 to
hail a taxi that would take him to the airplane awaiting him at the