Read Bodies Are Where You Find Them Online
Authors: Brett Halliday
Tags: #detective, #mystery, #murder, #private eye, #crime, #suspense, #hardboiled
“You’re to take the first train to New York when the election is over,” she said flatly. “If you don’t, I’ll take the first one
of New York.”
Shayne grinned widely and stepped on the accelerator. The train was ready to pull out when he rushed her up the steps and kissed her good-by. Stepping back on the cinder path he watched the long train roll slowly northward while a strange admixture of relief and desolation roiled through him.
He stood there for several minutes, until the train vanished from sight and the whistle sounded for a distant crossing. Unconsciously, the problem of the drugged girl in his office bedroom was a depressing one, while consciously he meditated on the ease with which a man succumbs to pleasant habits. A little more than a year ago he had not known that Phyllis existed, and now he was wholly dejected without her. The way he had rushed her off, one would think he was glad to be rid of her.
During his bachelor years he had taken his women in his stride. They had been a part of the bold, rough life he led. Was it possible that he was the victim of a subconscious urge which he wouldn’t even admit to himself, in spite of a year of marriage to a girl like Phyllis? He didn’t honestly think so. Yet, what man ever really knows his inward motivations?
He became conscious of the movement and commotion around him, the rattling of express carts on gravel, the puffing of engines and clanging of bells, the milling throng of people. He shrugged off a baffled sense of irritation and went to his car.
The sun was setting in a gray-blue mist as he stepped on the starter. He remembered suddenly that he had not locked the door of his office in his frantic haste to get Phyllis away from the scene. He slipped the car into gear and pressed the accelerator to the floor board, driving the six blocks to his apartment in four minutes. He parked at a side entrance just in front of a drawbridge over the Miami River.
He went through the private entrance and up the service stairs with a queer feeling of elation which shamed him. He had done this often in the past—before Phyllis—when every feminine face was a challenge, every meeting in his bachelor apartment holding the promise of an assignation.
He whistled a gay off-key melody as he approached the door. He ran water over a glass of ice cubes in the kitchen, poured a glass of cognac from a bottle in the wall cabinet, then went into the bedroom with a glass in each hand.
Twilight darkened the room, but not enough to hide the grotesquely twisted posture of the girl on the bed. He bent over her, spilling cognac on the floor.
Sightless eyes stared up at him. One of the girl’s stockings was tightly knotted about her throat.
Shayne stepped back and emptied the glass of cognac down his dry throat. He hesitated only an instant before going to the telephone. He picked it up and said, “Police Headquarters,” but the clerk’s excited voice broke in on the line.
“Mr. Shayne! I thought you’d left town. I just told Chief Gentry you had. He and another man are on their way up there. They’re waiting for an elevator now.”
Shayne cut off the connection.
SHAYNE WHIRLED ABOUT and ran to the death room. With swift precision of movement he stripped the sheet and bedspread from under the girl, drew them up to cover her clothed body. Leaning close, he pressed her head sideways so that her cheek was on the pillow and turned away from him. He crooked her right arm upward, spreading the flaccid fingers out to coyly cover her upturned cheek, then tucked the spread down tightly about her neck to hide the knotted stocking that had throttled her.
Stepping back he surveyed the bed and body searchingly, nodding with grim satisfaction as he unbuttoned his coat and vest, stripped them off, and dropped them to the floor beside the bed. He loosened his soft collar and jerked his tie awry, then ran for a bottle of cognac. He splashed liquor from the bottle on the spread near the girl’s face.
Heady, pungent fumes roiled up from the liquor. He put the bottle to his lips and drank as an authoritative knock sounded on the outer door.
He didn’t hurry to answer. He made his grim features go lax and practiced staggering to the bedroom doorway. He lolled against the threshold in view of the outer door, holding the bottle by the neck, calling thickly, “Yeh? Who th’ hell izh it?”
The outer door opened, and Will Gentry advanced solidly into the room, followed by a tall, lean man with deep-set cynical eyes.
The chief of the Miami detective bureau was a burly man with heavy features and a slow impassive manner. He had been a close friend of Michael Shayne’s for many years, and the two had worked together with congenial expediency.
Gentry frowned and raised grizzled eyebrows at Shayne. “I thought you and Phyllis had left town on the five-forty.”
Shayne grinned idiotically and defensively. He waggled a long forefinger at Chief Gentry. “Phyl caught the train. I shtayed here. Rizhness—y’know—ol’ shaying—bizhness ’fore pleasure.” He drew himself erect slowly, putting his left hand against the wall for aid. He narrowed his eyes at the two men, fought for a moment to attain a dignified posture, then advanced stiffly, with the exaggerated tread of a man who is very drunk and conscious of his condition.
Behind Gentry, Timothy Rourke laughed shortly. “Drunk as a coot,” Rourke marveled. “Damned if I ever thought I’d see the day you couldn’t hold your liquor, Mike.” Rourke was another old and trusted friend, reporter on the Miami
and recipient of many exclusive headlines from the redheaded detective.
“I’m holding it now,” Shayne announced belligerently. He swayed a little, holding out the bottle to Gentry. “Have a shnort with me.”
Will Gentry shook his head, folded his arms across his barrel-like chest. “Not this time, Mike.” There was a sharp edge of contempt in his rumbling voice.
Shayne grinned loosely and tilted the bottle toward Rourke. He pleaded, “Take one with me, Tim. Y’know—moral shupport.”
Some of the amber fluid spilled from the tilted bottle. Rourke grabbed it and swore as he set it down on the desk. There was genuine concern in his eyes. “What the hell are you pulling off, Mike? I never saw you go to pieces this way before.”
Shayne giggled. Curiously, his drunken mirth had an obscene sound before the hostile glares of his two friends. “M’wife’s gone to the country, hooray, hooray,” he burst forth tunelessly. He rounded his eyes into an owlish stare, swayed, and put out a hand to Gentry’s shoulder for support.
Gentry elbowed him aside. Shayne stumbled and collapsed into a chair, frowning. “You both ac’ like—like shompin’ wash wrong,” he complained.
Gentry thrust both hands in his coat pockets and stared at him. “Where’s the body?”
“Body?” Shayne blinked his eyelids down and peered at Gentry through narrow slits. “Whatcha mean—body?”
“Just what I said.” Gentry pounded the words at him in an effort to penetrate the alcoholic stupor of the detective’s brain. “We just had an anonymous tip that a murder was being committed in this apartment.”
Shayne laughed thickly. He shifted his narrow gaze to Rourke, then let it wander around the empty office. “I don’ shee a body. You shee a body?” He fixed his wavering eyes on Rourke again.
Chief Gentry stood on widespread legs in front of Shayne and shook his head at Rourke. “Damned if I would have believed this if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Thank God, Phyllis isn’t here to see him.”
“She must have cramped his style more than any of us guessed,” Rourke commented sagely. “Looks like he sent her out of town just so he could go on a binge.”
Shayne reached for the cognac bottle and missed it. Rourke handed it to him with a disgusted snort. “Go ahead and pass yourself out.” He turned to Gentry. “Looks like that phone call was phony, chief.”
Both men spoke without regard for Shayne, as though he had ceased to count as an animate human being.
Shayne showed no objection to being openly discussed. He sat slumped in the swivel chair behind the desk with his eyes closed, holding the bottle rigidly with both hands.
“There must have been some basis for that phone call we received,” Gentry contended. “Maybe he had a fight with his wife before she left. Someone might have heard them battling in here and thought it was murder.”
“Sounds reasonable. God knows, he couldn’t have got this way in the short time since the train left. He must’ve been working up to this for several hours.”
“And he’s the man who always claimed he worked best with a couple of pints in him.”
Rourke’s keen eyes bored into Shayne’s slumped body. “Funny thing is,” he said slowly, “he always has.” A note of speculation sounded in the newshound’s voice. “If he was going on a bat I’d have thought he’d wait until the election returns were in. He’s got a heavy stake in Marsh’s winning.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t give a damn,” Gentry put in sourly. He started toward the kitchen with a heavy tread. “I’ll take a look around before I go.”
Shayne’s head came up with a violent jerk. “Hey! Whatcha want in there? I’ll fix a drink if thass what you want.” He came to his feet waveringly, steadying himself with one hand on the table.
“Save the drinks for yourself,” Gentry growled, continuing into the kitchen. “I just want to make sure you haven’t slapped Phyllis down. When a guy like you gets drunk there’s no telling what he’ll do.”
A cunning leer spread over Shayne’s rugged, unhandsome features. He mumbled, “Wheresh your shearch warrant? You can’t shearch a man’s housh ’thout shearch warrant. ’Shnot legal. Man’s housh hish cashtle.”
Gentry deigned no reply as he emerged from the kitchen. He glanced into the bathroom on his way to the bedroom door.
Shayne staggered forward and got in his way before he reached the door. He put a bony hand on Gentry’s chest with his weight behind it. “’Shnot legal,” he reiterated. “Man’s private affairs hish own bishness.”
“Get out of my way,” Gentry roared. Thoroughly angered, the chief knocked Shayne’s restraining hand aside. He opened the door of the bedroom and looked in, then drew back with a black scowl on his heavy face. He turned a look of loathing on the redhead and muttered, “So, that’s what the score is.”
Shayne grinned and waggled his head from side to side. “Tol’ you not to—not to look in.”
Rourke’s long legs brought him to the door hastily. “What
the score, Will?” He stopped in the doorway and whistled shrilly, sniffing the cognac-laden air and grimacing. “You certainly didn’t lose any time after getting rid of Phyl.”
“Shesh nish gal,” Shayne protested. “’Shnot what you think.”
“By God, this breaks it,” Gentry roared angrily. “I’ve stood up for you in a lot of tough places, Mike, but it was because I thought you had a streak of decency in you. I thought marrying a girl like Phyllis would bring it out. Damn it, I even encouraged her to marry you.” He thumped a big fist into his beefy palm and turned away. “And you can’t wait for her to get on the train before you have another woman in your bed.”
“Don’ be shore at me,” Shayne pleaded, his voice catching in his throat. “You know I love Phyl better’n anything. What she don’ know won’t hurt ’er”
Gentry stopped in the outer doorway and turned, planting both hands on his hips.
“Get this straight, Mike,” he rumbled. “If you’re not too drunk for it to sink in. I hate the guts of a man who two-times a swell wife like Phyllis. Your morals aren’t my affair, but from now on don’t look for any favors from me. I won’t tell her, if that’s what you’re afraid of, but I’ll never be able to look that girl in the eye again. God damn it, you lug, that girl loves you. The next time you meet a skunk get down on your belly and shake hands. You both smell the same to me.”
He went out, slamming the door behind him with a bang.
Shayne stood very still, staring at the closed door. He took one step forward to follow Gentry, but checked himself. His back was turned to Rourke and the reporter couldn’t see his face. In a stifled voice, Shayne said, “I suppose you feel the same way, Tim?”
“Sort of,” Rourke admitted wearily. “I don’t know your wife as well as Gentry does, but hell! You know what all the boys think about her. Nobody thought anything about it when you had a different floosie in your bed every night before you married Phyl, but this is different. It stinks.” Rourke lit a cigarette, and Shayne dropped heavily into the chair at the desk.
“It just goes to show,” Rourke went on, “what damn fools we all are when we pretend to be so tough. You and Phyllis were a symbol of some Goddamned thing or other around this man’s town. While you stayed straight it proved to all of us that the love of a decent girl meant something—and that was good for us. Every man needs to believe that down inside.” Rourke was talking to himself now, arguing aloud a premise which his cynicism rejected.
“That’s what distinguishes a man from a beast. It’s what we all cling to. There’s the inward conviction that it isn’t quite real—that it doesn’t mean anything—that we’re marking time until the real thing comes along—like Phyllis came along for you. And when that illusion is shattered before your very eyes—like with you today—it’s ugly, Mike. It’s a shock. It doesn’t laugh off easily.”
Shayne sat slumped with his chin resting on his chest. Rourke did not look at him to see the laugh crinkles deepening at the corners of his eyes or the way he clamped his big mouth shut. When Shayne said nothing, Rourke burst out, “Hell! I ought to rent a pulpit. Well, sorry to have interrupted your merry twosome.” He ground out his cigarette and started for the door.
Shayne’s sudden laughter filled the room. He jumped up from his chair and caught Rourke’s arm. His laughter went as abruptly as it had come. He said solemnly, “You’re not running out on me, Tim. I’m in one hell of a spot.” Rourke whirled to face him. “You’ve sobered up in a hurry,” he said wonderingly.
“Hell, I haven’t been drunk, Tim. I was never soberer in my life.”
“By God, I believe you.” He hesitated, then said slowly, “I get it. You were putting on an act for Gentry. You knew he’d find that girl in your bed and you hoped he wouldn’t blame you so much if he thought you were cockeyed.”
“Yeh,” Shayne said tonelessly. “I knew he’d find that girl in my bed. What was the tip-off that brought you and Gentry here?”
“One of the neighbors heard a struggle and a scream. He said he tried the door and it was locked, then he called in. We came right up because we both thought you’d left for New York with Phyllis and maybe somebody had taken advantage of your absence to do a murder here. With the election day after tomorrow it would be swell publicity to defeat Marsh.”
“That,” said Shayne, “is what I’m thinking, too.” He gestured toward the bedroom. “Take a good look at the girl. Don’t be afraid of waking her up. She won’t.”
Rourke stared at him for half a minute, then swung on his heel and went to the bedroom. He lowered the window shades and snapped on the bright ceiling lights. When he reappeared in a few minutes, Shayne did not look at him, but sat with hunched shoulders and closed eyes.
Rourke went to the liquor cabinet and took down a bottle of Scotch and a glass. He brought them to the desk and poured four fingers in the glass. He drank it off, set the glass down, and shivered.
“Why in Christ’s name didn’t you tell Gentry? You let him go out of here hating your guts. You know he’s almost like a father to Phyllis.”
“Gentry’s a cop,” Shayne reminded the reporter patiently. “A cop is required to go through a certain routine when he discovers a murder.”
“But he’d listen to you. He’d give you a break.” Rourke flung his lean body into a chair and ran nervous fingers through his black hair.
“Sure. He’d listen to my story. He’d probably even believe it. But that wouldn’t change the routine, Tim. Gentry is still a cop. And the election is day after tomorrow.”
“Who is she? What’s it all about?”
“You guess awhile,” he answered wearily. “I found her like that when I got back from putting Phyl on the train.” In a few words he gave Rourke the facts in his possession.
“I threw her on the bed after she passed out,” he concluded grimly. “I figured she’d have important information when she woke up—something about Burt Stallings.”
“And somebody else figured the same thing,” Rourke guessed, his nostrils flaring with the scent of headlines, his slate-colored eyes gleaming oddly. “Somebody who didn’t want that information to get out.”
“Looks that way. Murdering her in my office was a nice stunt any way you look at it. The scandal would defeat Marsh at the polls.”
Rourke poured himself more Scotch. “What are you going to do with her?”
“I don’t know yet.” He straightened in the swivel chair and swung around to face Rourke squarely. His eyes were pin points of gray steel. “You’re not a cop, Tim,” he said.
“What do you mean by that?” Rourke leaned forward.
“We’ve been good friends a long time,” Shayne said softly.
Rourke said steadily, ““You know where I stand.” His eyes were alert, suspicious.
Shayne exhaled a deep breath. “Yeh. You won’t lose anything, Tim. You’ll get the real story instead of this phony.”
Rourke filled his glass again. “I’ve never lost anything playing ball with you, Mike.” They touched glasses and drank.