Read Bodies Are Where You Find Them Online
Authors: Brett Halliday
Tags: #detective, #mystery, #murder, #private eye, #crime, #suspense, #hardboiled
“The killer must be getting pretty nervous right now. He doesn’t know
the hell she is. He figured he had me sewed up tight when he sent you and Gentry up here—and he must have sent that note to Stallings at about the same time to clinch the kidnaping and murder on me.
he doesn’t know what to think. He must know that both Gentry and Stallings have been here and gone away without finding the body. His natural thought will be that I found her before you and Gentry came, carried her upstairs to our living apartment, or hid her here in the building some place. He can’t tip his hand by forcing a further search until he
where she is. He’ll be watching for me to make a break with the body.”
Shayne stopped suddenly before Rourke. Rourke backed away from the burning heat of his eyes.
got to get her out of here,” he said slowly.
“Me? Nothing doing.” He took another backward step, holding up his hand as though to fend the detective off. “I’m not running any dead wagon.”
“You’re in this up to your neck already,” Shayne reminded him grimly. “Gentry knows you stayed behind when he left. If it comes out there was a body here and you connived with me to keep the fact covered up—”
Rourke shuddered and groaned dismally. “You do have the sweetest way of putting things. All right, I might as well be hung for one thing as another. How’ll we work it? What the hell will we do with her? Dump her in the bay?”
“Nothing like that.” Shayne resumed his pacing, rumpling his coarse red hair. “We want to keep her in storage where we can produce her as evidence later.”
Rourke brightened perceptibly. “That’s an idea, Mike. You got any close butcher friends?”
Shayne ignored him. “How about that fishing-place of yours below Coconut Grove?”
“Now look here, Mike, if you think I’m going to have her found on my—”
“That’s just the place,” Shayne interrupted. “No one ever goes there. Better not use your car, though,” he decided. “After you collect the pix from the
rent a U-Drive-It and come back here.”
Rourke started for the door, saying, “Well, so long, Mike. It was nice to’ve known you.”
Shayne reached out two long arms and caught his shoulders. Whirling him around, he continued. “I’ll leave the back door unlocked, and you can come up the fire escape. I’ll decoy any watcher away—and give him the slip—meet you out along the Tamiami Trail, say at the Wildcat.”
Timothy Rourke sighed lugubriously. “If I get a headline out of this I’ll earn it. Maybe I’ll have a chance to write up some firsthand prison stuff. I’ve always had a hankering for that.” He went to the door with a sickly smile that tried to be jaunty, waved his hand, and went out.
Shayne went to the bedroom and switched on the light. He bent over the girl’s body and gently drew her hand down from her face, studying the contorted features and impressing them on his memory.
He went out and got a clean glass from the kitchen, came back, and pressed the tips of her fingers against the glass, hesitated, then pulled down the sheet and spread to get at the other hand which was edged under her body.
He sucked in his breath swiftly and audibly when he saw the tiny beaded bag clenched between her fingers. It was very small and dainty, such as one might carry to a formal evening affair. He closed his eyes and visualized the scene that afternoon when she had come stumbling up the corridor to him. She did not have such a bag in her hand then.
He got a handkerchief from his pocket and dropped it over her hand and the bag, bent each finger back until he could lift it away.
In the living-room he opened it and examined the meager contents. A jeweled compact bearing the initials H. S. Lipstick and some small change, and a tiny mirror with an identification card on the reverse side. The identification card stated that the owner was Helen Stallings.
He called the Miami
office and got the morgue. Rourke came to the phone, and Shayne said, “You needn’t bother with the pix. It’s the Stallings girl, all right.”
“Hell,” Rourke exploded, “I’ve already collected a dozen back issues. How did you—”
“Bring them along anyway. I’m leaving right now. See you at the Wildcat in half an hour.”
“Mike,” Rourke yelled into the phone, “I’ve been doing some heavy thinking and—”
Shayne pronged the receiver with a bang. He went to the kitchen and found the door leading out to the fire escape already unlocked. He stared at it for a moment, shook his head, and turned away. After turning out all the lights, he took his hat and went out.
He stopped at the desk in the lobby to chat with the clerk, draping one elbow on the counter and letting his gaze roam around the interior while he talked.
“You’ve got me in the palm of your hand, Jack,” he said with a broad grin. “That girl who visited my office this afternoon—do you remember much about her?”
“What girl, Mr. Shayne?” the young man asked gravely, winking one eye at the detective. He was a well-groomed young man with sandy hair and freckles, a thin, intelligent face. An employee of the apartment hotel for five years, he had banked important largess from Shayne in the past, rewards for his inability to recall details which Shayne wished forgotten.
There were few people in the lobby. A couple of old ladies knitting, a giggling young couple partially hidden behind a potted palm, and a man who sat near the doorway reading the evening
Shayne said, “Swell,” out of the side of his mouth. “The girl is probably just an idle rumor.” He watched the man reading the newspaper by the door. The fellow was obtrusively uninterested in Shayne. He looked anemic. He was long of nose and short of chin. “Even if the girl’s body popped up in my room you wouldn’t have the faintest idea how she got there?” Shayne’s tone was extremely casual and low.
The clerk swallowed hard, displaying his Adam’s apple prominently. “N-No, sir. I—have such a beautiful forgettery.”
Shayne grinned and said, “Swell,” again. He turned his full attention to the clerk. “This is off the record. Did anyone ask for me while I was seeing my wife to the train?”
“No, sir.” The clerk was positive. “Mr. Gentry and that reporter were the first to come.”
“And you didn’t see any strangers going in or out who looked as though they might have lethal intentions?”
The young man’s eyes were wide and frightened now. He shook his head emphatically. “No, sir.”
Shayne nodded. “If you hear anything after a while—someone going up and down the fire escape to my office—don’t pay any attention and you’ll save the hotel some notoriety.” He lit a cigarette, then swung toward the door in a loose-limbed stride.
He passed within two feet of the man who was deeply interested in his newspaper. Glancing down, Shayne saw that the paper was folded back at the editorial page. The man impressed him as one who lacked the intellect to cope with a newspaper editorial page.
Going out the door without slackening his pace, Shayne glanced over his shoulder as he passed wide windows looking into the lobby. The anemic man was folding his paper and getting up.
Shayne continued to Second Avenue and swung around the corner where his car was parked. A small coupé was parked a discreet half block behind his shabby convertible. A man sat in the driver’s seat.
Shayne walked briskly on to his car, opened the door, and folded his long body in under the wheel. He adjusted the rearview mirror and watched with interest while the editorial reader hurried around the corner toward the coupé and got in beside the driver.
Waiting patiently, Shayne sucked on his cigarette, expelling great clouds of smoke through flaring nostrils. The coupé did not move away from the curb.
There was little traffic on Second Avenue. A lopsided moon and millions of brilliant stars shed silvery light upon the Magic City. A faint cooling breeze blew in from Biscayne Bay, salt-tanged and permeated with the perfume of flowers from Bayfront Park, bringing relief from the long sun-drenched August day.
Shayne threw his cigarette away and started his motor. He swung about in a U turn and drove slowly to Southeast Second Street. He smiled grimly when the coupé twisted away from the curb and made a U turn behind him.
He stopped wasting time watching the little car and angled over to Biscayne Boulevard. He drove north at a moderate speed, dragging in deep breaths of the cool, tangy air.
The coupé was a block behind him when he approached the traffic light at Seventy-Ninth Street. A line of traffic was piling up behind the little car trailing him.
Shayne gauged his speed carefully, reached the corner as the traffic signal changed from red to green, then pulled into a filling-station on the southeast corner of the busy intersection.
The driver of the coupé hesitated, slowed behind him. A furious medley of honking broke out as the drivers behind the coupé saw themselves about to be held up while the light changed.
Reluctantly, the coupé drove into the intersection, hesitated about turning right or left, drove on across and pulled to the curb half a block ahead.
A courteous attendant was standing smartly at attention beside the detective’s car. Shayne grinned at him and said, “Sorry, bud, I just remembered an important appointment. Guess I’ve got enough gas to make it. Back later.”
He slammed in the gears and drove on through the station into Seventy-Ninth Street, joining a stream of traffic flying across the northern causeway to the peninsula. He smiled happily when he saw, through the rearview mirror, that the coupé was taking a desperate chance to make a U turn on the boulevard and speeding back to the intersection to follow him.
Turning off Seventy-Ninth Street to the right, Shayne drove south one block, then west across the boulevard to Little River where he took Miami Avenue back to the downtown district of the Magic City. He felt quite certain that the two men in the coupé were vainly looking for him in the stream of traffic across the northern causeway.
When he turned into the Tamiami Trail, he slowed to a leisurely speed. The Wildcat was a well-known dance hall and open market place in the country beyond Coral Gables; a large rustic structure with a thatched roof, one of the last trading-posts before the trail dived headlong into the remote vastness and silence of the Everglades.
Shayne parked between two other cars in front of the Wildcat and got out. Snuggled-up youngsters and roughly dressed oldsters were dancing in a dimly lit pavilion, and the beer bar was getting a good play. The breeze sweeping over the open spaces bordering the redlands was soft and humid.
Shayne joined the unwashed, open-shirted crowd at the bar and was dawdling over his second beer when he saw Timothy Rourke’s lean body and tousled head in the doorway. A wild, stricken expression replaced the keen, searching look in the newshound’s slaty eyes.
Rourke leaped forward and grabbed Shayne’s arm and led him outside. “What the hell are you pulling on me, Mike?” he ejaculated nervously. “Maybe you think it was a gag, but I lost ten years off the other end of my life creeping up that damned fire escape and into your office.”
Shayne grinned. “You made it all right. What’s ten years off the other end?”
“By God, I’m through.” Rourke faced the tall detective angrily. “From now on you can handle your own bodies. I’m through.”
Shayne grabbed the reporter’s shoulder and shook him roughly. “You can’t let me down now just because we’ve got the girl out. Hell, Tim, this is just the beginning. I’d be sunk without your help. And don’t forget that the boys on the
would jump at the chance of one of my headlines.”
Rourke eeled away from his grip. “I didn’t mind helping,” he fumed, “but playing hide-and-seek with a corpse is definitely not my idea of fun.”
“We’ve got to get rid of her now,” Shayne warned hastily. “Every minute she stays in your car is dangerous.”
“She’s not going to be in my car. You brought her this far—you can keep her.”
brought her!” Shayne stopped short, staring at the ironical smile twitching Rourke’s thin lips. “Who’s gagging now?”
“By God, I’m not,” Rourke told him with passionate sincerity. “You might’ve told me you’d changed your mind and were taking her away yourself. But, no, you have to be funny.”
Shayne’s hands caught Rourke’s shoulders again and clamped down hard. In a strangled voice he demanded, “What are you getting at, Tim? For God’s sake—”
“You ought to know. She wasn’t there.”
Slowly Shayne’s fingers relaxed. “Do you mean—she wasn’t there when you went back?” he asked hollowly.
“You’re beginning to get it,” Rourke responded. “Didn’t you sneak her out?”
Shayne shook his head dismally. “I was busy decoying a couple of birds who tailed me from the hotel.”
The two men stood and stared at each other for a long moment, then Shayne went into action. He grabbed Rourke’s arm and steered him toward the barroom.
“I’m either drunk or desperately in need of a drink,” he said solemnly. “I’ve got to find out.”
THE BOOTHS in the barroom were vacant at this early hour. Shayne led the way to one at the farthest end of the low-ceilinged room, stopping at the bar to order a bottle of cognac and two glasses.
They sat in complete silence for several minutes, sipping the amber fluid and glowering dejectedly at the crude walls and thatched roof. The inexplicable disappearance of Helen Stallings’s corpse disjointed everything. It didn’t make sense. It injected a sinister note of mystery into the affair which had, heretofore, appeared to be nothing more than a frame-up to throw the onus of a kidnap-killing onto Shayne and thus ensure Jim Marsh’s defeat at the Miami Beach polls two days hence.
“Who the hell could have wanted her out of there except you?” Rourke’s voice was a low groan.
Shayne stared, a black frown on his gaunt face. “Someone giving us a friendly lift,” he suggested with heavy irony. “Somebody took the job off our hands. Why should we kick?” He emptied his glass and poured another drink.
“You’re whistling in the dark,” Rourke charged. “As long as we knew where she was we had control—in a nebulous way. Now we don’t know what to expect—what to guard against.”
Shayne sighed and settled both elbows on the table, cupped his lean jaw in rough palms, and cocked one red eyebrow sardonically.
“It does begin to look interesting. For a while I was ready to believe Stallings strangled her himself to shut her mouth and to tie her murder around my neck. But he wouldn’t have taken her away after planting her in my apartment.”
Shayne shrugged and said mildly, “My theory about a good Samaritan or a helpful elf is as good as any until we have more facts to go on.”
“Yeah—facts.” Rourke downed his third drink and squinted slaty eyes at the detective. “What did you mean when you called me at the paper and said you didn’t need the pictures to identify the girl?”
Shayne told him about the beaded bag gripped in the dead girl’s hand. “I’m positive she didn’t have it with her when she came to my apartment. The murderer might have brought it with him and left it in her hand so she would be quickly identified.” He paused, his frown deepening. “Maybe that’s a lead. Let’s have a look at those back copies you brought along.”
“She’s Helen Stallings, all right,” Rourke said. “Some of these pix are mighty clear for newspaper cuts.” He pulled a batch of newspaper sheets from his coat pocket and began sorting them out on the table. Turning them at a convenient angle for both of them to study, he said, “Here’s the first one I found. Little over a month ago. Snapped at the airport on her arrival from New York. There wasn’t any use looking farther back because this is her first visit to Miami. I suppose you know Stallings met the girl’s mother in New York. They were married there a few months ago, left the girl in college to finish the school term when they came down here, and Stallings built a mansion for his bride.”
Shayne studied a blurred halftone of a girl stepping from an air liner. “This is not too clear of her face,” he complained. “Looks like her, all right, but—”
“There aren’t any buts about this one.” Rourke selected another photograph, a front-page posed shot. “This was taken about a week later, the day after she filed suit against Stallings for alleged misappropriation of estate funds.”
Shayne nodded, disappointment clouding his face. The second picture was very clear in facial detail, unmistakably a picture of the girl who had staggered to his office and was later strangled in his bed.
“And here’s another one that’s just as clear,” Rourke went on. “Our regulars do a better job than the society photogs. This is a few days later, after she withdrew the suit against Stallings. Her mother had had a stroke in the meantime, presumably brought on by the girl’s action against Stallings, and was seriously ill. They had just moved from an apartment to that swanky new home on Swordfish Island.”
Shayne stared somberly at the two pictures. There was not the shadow of doubt as to the identity of the murdered girl. He shook his head slowly and admitted, “I thought for a moment there was a possibility that the handbag was planted for a false clue—so that the body would be identified as Helen Stallings. That’s the way with most neat theories,” he ended with deep disgust.
“Here’s some more.” Tim Rourke continued to spread out sheets of newspaper and pass them over for Shayne’s inspection. “She seems to have jumped into what the cliché boys would call a mad sporting and social whirl after deciding not to sue her stepfather. Surf-riding and golfing, cocktailing and dancing.”
Shayne glanced casually at each succeeding photograph offered for his inspection. “Who’s this lug hanging around her in all these? His face looks familiar, but I can’t quite place him.”
“That’s Arch Bugler. He cuts quite a dashing figure, don’t you think?”
“Arch Bugler?” Shayne snorted. “Hell, I didn’t know he’d stepped into society.”
“And how! He’s out of the slot-machine racket, you know. Ostensibly, at least. He opened a place on the Beach a few months ago. Made quite a flurry with it at first, but the cops clamped down on the back-room gambling, and he’s had to concentrate on selling food and drinks.”
“Sure. I know about his place on the Beach,” Shayne murmured, “but I didn’t know that qualified him for a place in society. Hell, Tim, everybody knows he’s a mobster—and one of the toughest ever to invade Miami and the Beach.”
“Mobsters are the latest social craze.” Rourke pointed out with a wry grin. “The blasé debs have found a new thrill. They get a perverted kick out of stepping with a known killer.”
“I wouldn’t know about that.” Shayne leaned back and drank deeply from his glass. “Still, I’d think Stallings would put his foot down. Didn’t he and Bugler have a run-in a couple of years ago on a labor-racketeering angle?”
“Yeh, but that’s all patched up now. They’ve been as thick as thieves since then, and Stallings was one of the biggest plungers when there was gambling at Bugler’s new joint.”
“I ought to take you into partnership,” Shayne growled. “I’d do less guessing if I had your sources of information.”
“It’s a reporter’s job to get around,” Rourke admitted modestly. He emptied his glass and reached for the bottle.
“Lay off. We’ve got things to do.” Shayne came out of a brown study. A look of grim alertness supplanted the bemused expression which had clouded his face since Rourke announced the disappearance of Helen Stallings’s body from his office.
“Such as what?” Rourke asked.
“A look-in at Arch Bugler’s place.”
“Not me,” Rourke stated flatly. “You don’t drag me into anything else. Not tonight.”
“We’ve got to learn all we can about Helen Stallings.”
got to. I’m having another drink.” Rourke wrapped long, thin fingers around the bottle.
Shayne made no move to interfere, but he talked fast. “Don’t you see we’ve got to pick up a lead somehow? You don’t want it known that you left a dead girl unreported, do you? We’ve got to find out where she went when she left home at noon. Someone doped her to keep her from talking. Whoever killed her knew she was doped and unable to talk to me—else why would she have been killed? There wouldn’t have been any need to throttle her if she had already talked.”
“Your logic is perfect,” Rourke agreed. “I’ll bet you my grandmother’s wig you catch the guy, Mike. Give me a ring when the lead is ready.”
Shayne snorted angrily. “This case hasn’t even got hot.” He took the bottle from Rourke’s lax fingers and dropped it into his coat pocket, then wadded up the newspaper sheets and rammed them into the other, got up and grabbed his hat from a hook.
Rourke smiled sweetly and waved to him as he stalked from the booth.
Shayne had never visited Arch Bugler’s Miami Beach establishment. He knew the approximate location, and he saw the red neon sign half a block away:
Cars lined the curb in front. Expensive, sporty models that proved Arch Bugler wasn’t playing to a piker clientele.
Shayne nosed his battered convertible between a Rolls-Royce and a Packard. A high wall of pink coral rock surrounded three sides of the sprawling structure, running down to the beach at the rear. Bronze latticework gates were set in the wall, opening inward to a flagged path under an arched canopy leading to the front entrance. A uniformed doorman stood stiffly in front of the high bronze gates.
Sauntering toward the doorman, Shayne lit a cigarette.
A hot glint came into his eyes when the man stared at him suspiciously, then swung the gates shut and stood solidly in front of them.
Shayne stopped a foot from the doorman. His chin was level with the man’s eyes. He stared at him for a moment and then said, “Well?”
“I’m sorry, sir. White ties are required, sir.”
“I’m not wearing one.”
“I have strict orders, sir, to admit no gentlemen except those in formal attire.”
“I’m here on business—to see Arch Bugler.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I have strict orders.”
Shayne said, “Nuts.” He caught the man’s braided tunic and jerked him aside. The man whistled shrilly as Shayne shouldered the gates open.
Two men appeared from the other side of the wall and got in front of him. One of them exclaimed, “Jeez, it’s the dick from Miami,” and stepped backward. He had a big nose and a chin that fell away to nothing—the man who had trailed Shayne from his apartment hotel earlier in the evening.
The other bouncer was taller than Shayne, his shoulders inches broader. He had a flat face and a square head fastened onto his torso with no neck between. He scowled darkly and growled, “Outside.”
Shayne drove his fist into the middle of the man’s flat face. The force of the blow rocked him back on his heels, smashing a rubbery nose and thick lips that had been smashed before.
The smaller man sucked in his breath sharply and hit Shayne with a blackjack, saying softly, “Grab him, Donk.” Shayne staggered sideways, and the big man stepped in, caught his elbows, and pinioned them behind him.
“Outside,” the chinless man panted, “and keep it quiet, Donk. This is the bozo the boss said not to let in.”
Shayne’s head lolled limply as he was given the bum’s rush through the bronze gates. The blackjack had been swung expertly and should have knocked him out, but the redhead was tough. His legs were not functioning very well and a black cloud obscured a bright moon, but he clamped his teeth hard, doggedly hanging on to consciousness.
“Down to the corner of the wall, Donk,” the smaller man directed in a vicious undertone. “There’s a cab pulling up—They’ll think he’s just a drunk being bounced.” With Donk propelling him from behind, Shayne was rushed along the sidewalk to the north wall of the Bugle Inn property. Half a dozen unoccupied water-front lots separated the wall from the next building. The vacant space was thick with a growth of scrub palmetto.
Donk paused when he reached the end of the wall, and his companion ordered, “Drag him out in the middle of the clearing and we’ll work him over. He dodged me once tonight, but this time he won’t do no dodgin’.”
Strength was flowing into Shayne’s legs and awareness to his brain, but he let his feet drag in the sand until the chinless man ordered, “This is far enough. Nobody’ll notice us from the street. Is he out?”
“Acts like it.” Donk let go of Shayne’s elbows. The detective sprawled forward limply into a matted growth of pin-edged palmettos. “Yep,” Donk said with a faint note of regret, “he’s out cold. You shouldn’t orta hit ’im so hard, Johnny.”
“He’s supposed to be tough. Wouldn’t surprise me none if he was possumin’.” Johnny kicked Shayne in the ribs. Shayne gave no sign that he felt it.
“Turn ’im over,” Johnny ordered, “and I’ll stomp him in the face good. Arch said for us to work on ’im if he tried to crash the gate tonight.”
Donk bent down and got a hold on Shayne’s shoulder to turn him over. Shayne came half erect and drove his head into Donk’s belly with the force of a battering ram.
Donk grunted and stumbled back over a clump of sharp palmettos.
Shayne whirled and lunged at Johnny, ducking a vicious downswing of the blackjack. He drove his forearm against Johnny’s Adam’s apple, which protruded at a point where his chin should have been, and the smaller man went to his knees clawing at his throat.
Shayne grabbed the blackjack from his lax fingers and whirled to meet Donk’s lunge.
The larger man parried a blow with his forearm and laughed happily. He smashed a left to Shayne’s stomach and straightened the detective up with a looping right to the chin when he jackknifed forward. Shayne swayed backward with his feet seemingly rooted in the sand, his angular face turned up to the moon and the stars.
Donk planted himself and put two hundred and forty pounds behind a piledriver right to the detective’s unprotected jaw.
Shayne’s senses swam lazily into a mist of nothingness. The moon and the stars were again blotted out.
Johnny came to his feet still gasping and sputtering. “By God,” he chattered huskily, “it takes you to cool off the toughies, Donk.”
“He wasn’t so tough,” Donk disclaimed modestly. “When I give ’em the ol’ one-two they mostly stay down.”
Johnny picked up his blackjack and shoved it in his pocket. “We’ll leave him lay there,” he decided. “When he comes up for air he’ll be all outta the notion of seein’ the boss.”
The two men strolled off leaving Shayne quiescent, face downward in the soft sand.
For a long time Shayne lay still. Presently he stirred to get his face out of the sand. His breathing became stertorous, mingling with the swishing sound of waves flowing gently on the shore. He made two efforts to sit erect before achieving results, then linked his arms around his knees and shuddered with nausea.
His upper lip was cut, and there was the taste of blood in his mouth, gritty sand between his teeth. Nausea convulsed his body, and he retched on the sand. The spasm passed, and his head cleared.
With an effort he lifted himself to a standing position, then made his way unsteadily to the edge of the lapping waves. Bogging in the wet sand, he scooped up handfuls of water and dashed it over his face, poured another handful into his mouth to rinse out the sand.