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Authors: Mickey Spillane

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BOOK: Delta Factor, The
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But I had to disappoint them. I passed the dice and crammed the chips in my pocket and Kim's purse and waved off the others who were imploring me to continue. They thought I was crazy not to stay when the dice were hot, but I had been to the well often enough not to louse up a good thing. We cashed in the chips for twelve American thousand-dollar bills and I took Kim's arm and headed for the door.
She stopped me as we passed the ladies' room, told me she wouldn't be long and I said I'd meet her at the bar.
This time I was thirsty and ordered a beer, having it halfway finished when a softly throaty voice next to me said, “You're a stinker. I could have killed you.”
She was a tall, sensuous blonde with penetrating brown eyes and a wickedly pretty smile, one manicured hand toying with a jeweled ornament at the bottom of the deeply cut V in the green-sequined evening dress that exposed the amber rise of full breasts. For a second I was too taken in by the daring expanse of skin she flaunted to say anything. She knew what she was like and had been told often and my reaction was expected.
“You should have kept playing,” she said. “I was following you.”
I put the glass down. “Win much?” It was all I could manage.
“Not enough. Not nearly enough,” she laughed. Her voice had a distracting musical quality that could reach right out and shake you. “Are you going to play again?”
“Maybe. Right now I've had it.”
“I wish you'd warn me when you're ready.” She tilted her head and held out her hand. “I'm Lisa Gordot. I'm staying right here at the hotel. Your style of play is fascinating ... almost domineering.”
My hand wrapped around hers and twice while she spoke she exerted a gentle, inviting pressure. “Winters,” I said. “What you saw was just fresh luck. It probably won't happen again.”
Her eyebrows arched above her smile and the tip of her tongue showed between her teeth when she shook her head gravely. “I'm afraid you're not an inveterate gambler, Mr. Winters. There are some people luck seems to pursue forever. I have a strange feeling that you are one of them. Ergo, I choose to pursue you. I assure you that I will be very relentless.”
“That's not doing very much for my ego,” I said. “The money or because of me?”
She took her hand away with deliberate slowness, her smile a rich promise of other things. “Let me say ... the money
and
you.” She stood there a few seconds, just looking at me, then smiled again and walked past me with slow, long-legged strides and the gown shimmering around her trim curves from the lights overhead.
I didn't even realize that Kim had come up beside me until she spoke with a curious bite in her voice. “Who was that?”
When I looked at her I made it as casual as possible. “Lisa Gordot. She was congratulating me on my lucky streak.”
Kim's eyes narrowed in a frown. “So that's who she is,” she whispered.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Your friend is a foreign national, a member of the jet set. She's upset two friendly governments by embroiling their members in sensational scandals, encouraged the death of the Saxton heir by having him duel over her and caused an Albanian diplomat's suicide when she laughed off his proposal of marriage. Nice people you know.”
“Hell, I just met her,” I said. “What would she want with me anyway?” Then I laughed at the little touch of animal jealousy that showed in her face and when she grinned back, said, “Come on, let's get out of here.”
Outside, the street was ablaze with lights, the street heavy with traffic as taxis disgorged passengers in front of the casinos. Several blocks away the rectangular structures of the government-building complex were bathed in a pink glow, the fountains spouting multicolored streams of water. Workers on bicycles pedaled homeward wearily, never looking at the wealthy ones they served, completely submerged in their own problems.
Both of us were hungry, so we cut down a side street at the direction of a newsboy and picked out a restaurant nestled in an older row of buildings that catered to the ordinary public, and ordered a steak. By the time we finished, everybody else had left and the tired proprietor was glad to usher us out and lock the door.
That was as far as we almost got. I saw the shadows move across the street, shoved Kim sprawling and dived into the shadows behind her as the shot blasted out and the window behind us shattered into a spiderweb of cracks. I had the .45 in my hand trying to steady on a target, but nothing moved at all. I tapped Kim, pointed to a pile of cartons on the curb, waited until she moved in the lee of their protection, then jumped up and zigzagged across the street and flattened against the wall. Excited voices were beginning to shout inquiries from the windows above and somewhere a woman let out a shrill wail of despair.
I stood there for a full minute, then edged forward when my eyes adjusted to the darkness. But it was too late. An alley cut back and disappeared into the maw of the night and whoever had waited us out from that point had gone. My foot rolled on something by the wall and I picked up an empty .38 shell casing, smelled it, then flipped it into the gutter.
They didn't come in with sirens screaming. They just hit both ends of the street, turned down with their men hanging out the door, guns leveled, and stopped when they came to us. Before they spotted me I dropped the .45 and the extra clip behind a pile of trash just inside the alley and kicked some papers over it with my foot. We didn't bother to make a break for it. We simply went over and joined them. The lieutenant in charge gave me crisp instructions on how to stand with my hands up against the car, patted me down until he was certain I had no weapon, returned my wallet and pardoned himself to Kim. If he tried patting her down he was going to get creamed, but his better manners took over when he saw the look of outraged innocence on her face and he coughed into his hand. When he said, “Señor ...” I spit almost at his feet and told him, “A hell of a place this is.”
When the restaurant owner was sure everything was under control he came out shaking at the knees, complaining about his broken window and assuring the militia that we had done nothing except eat and immediately upon leaving had been fired upon. But the lieutenant had orders. We were to accompany him to headquarters and make a report, instituting a complaint if we wished and an investigation would follow. I gave the little guy in the white apron a hundred bucks for his window, made a friend, and told the lieutenant, “Let's go.”
 
Russo Sabin was Director of Police. He was small and chubby with a moon face that had a built-in smile around a pencil-stripe moustache and glossy black hair that fitted his skull like a cap. He was so overbearingly friendly he rocked in his desk chair with his hands laced in front of his stomach like a happy Buddha. His eyes seemed to dance with the pleasure of being able to accommodate visitors to his country and he almost crooned with the delight of doing so.
But Art Keefer had said he was Carlos Ortega's hatchet man. I could believe it. Those laughing little eyes held more than pleasure. They had seen and enjoyed death too.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Winters. It is regrettable, of course, but in a way, almost to be expected. You might say, it was your own fault.”
“My fault to be shot at?” I exploded.
He held up one calming hand. “You had an extremely large amount of money on your person. You chose to dine in a rather out-of-the-way place for the usual tourist, therefore making yourself a target for robbery. This was not the first or the last time such unfortunate incidents have occurred.”
“Listen ...” I started.
He cut me off again. “The hotels and casinos have accommodations so guests can deposit their winnings in a safe place. There are signs and instructions in several languages to that effect. Instead, you chose to ignore them. Probably some despicable person took note of your winning streak and departure, and followed you hoping to obtain your money. Naturally, we will investigate. If you will sign ...”
“Forget it.” I pushed the papers back across his desk. “It's too late now.”
“Then there is little we can do. That is the law,” he said. “Of course, I would like to caution you against a similar situation.”
“Nice of you.”
“Now, one more official duty.” His smile brightened noticeably. “You have your papers, naturally.”
“At the hotel,” I lied.
“I see.” He rocked back in his chair, still the genial host. “Perhaps you should send for them. Or if that is an inconvenience, my men could accompany you to assure your identification.”
“Look ... we're registered at the hotel....”
“Ah, yes, we have checked that. But regulations being what they are ... and certainly we wish to protect American nationals ...”
I played the game to its limit. I shrugged and said, “Okay, if you want to louse up our evening.” I reached in my pocket and thumbed off a pair of bills. “But if we can make it a little easier on everybody I'll be glad to oblige.” I tossed the money down on the desk.
“Very generous, Mr. Winters. Of course we are not interested in discomforting you and your wife. We are here to serve. I'm sure the incident can be forgotten, but I might suggest that in the future your visa be available for inspection.”
“Sure,” I said, “we'll do that.”
“Then my men will be happy to return you to your hotel.”
“Never mind. I'll hop a cab.”
“As you wish.”
He was still smiling when he left, but his eyes were looking at the money.
In the cab Kim squeezed my hand. “You didn't fool him, you know.”
“I didn't intend to. He'll just let the rope stretch out as long as he wants to.”
“You think they set that up?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“Because everybody I've seen around who's armed is carrying a Czech-made automatic that fires a 7.65 millimeter bullet. The one who took a shot at us used a .38, firing standard U.S. ammo.”
“Then it
was
a robbery attempt.”
“Kid,” I said, “you've been out of the field too long. A desk job has warped your thinking. A stickup is pulled at point-blank range, not from across the street. That was an assassination attempt.”
“But ... who?”
“I don't know. I'm even wondering just who he was aiming at. It could have been you.”
She took it calmly, turning her head to look at me evenly. “Possibly.”
Before we reached the hotel I had the driver turn down the street where we were almost nailed, hopped out, retrieved the .45 and got back in the cab. If this kind of thing kept up I didn't want to be caught without a rod.
 
I pointed to the hairline of light showing under the door and looked at Kim. She stepped to one side and shook her head, motioning with her hand that she had cut the switch before she left. I nodded, turned the knob and shoved the door open.
There were two of them there, a lean, swarthy character in an immaculate uniform wearing two rows of medals and a holstered gun at his side and lounging comfortably in the big chair, a thickset man in a black Italian silk suit whose soft smile was really no expression at all. His black hair was lightly touched with gray that almost matched eyes of the same color, a betrayal of nationality he must have hated because he deliberately shaded them with their lids to seem almost sleepy.
Danger was there in both of them. Overt in the one standing, impending in the other. But the edge was mine because I encompassed both types and let it show when I pulled Kim in behind me and closed the door with my foot. ,
“This is a private suite,” I said.
The one in the chair didn't change his expression a bit. “Not exactly, Mr. Morgan. It is so only when we wish it to be.”
“And who is that ‘we' you're speaking of, Mr. Ortega?”
His eyes opened a fraction. “Ah, you know who I am then?”
“Don't play games with me,” I said. “I'm no damn amateur.” Kim's hand tightened on my arm. “What are you doing here?”
“That's what I came to ask you, Mr. Morgan. You see, I have investigated and find no record of your entry into our country. In fact, you have used an alias on your registration here.”
I looked at him casually and shrugged as unconcernedly as I could. “So throw us out. I couldn't care less.”
The tall guy behind Ortega frowned and stiffened. Carlos Ortega let his smile go a little wider and shook his head. “Oh, that won't be necessary. Naturally, an inquiry is in order since your entry is illegal.”
“You have some fine sources of information.”
“Yes, we do have that. My people are trained to recognize ... ah, certain important persons.” He waved indolently at the man behind him. “Major Turez here identified you immediately at one of the casinos.”
“Nice of him. I understand you have a ship leaving for Rio tomorrow. We'll be glad to hop it.”
Carlos Ortega spread his hands in amazement. “But why, Mr. Morgan? That is not the purpose of my visit. If I wished, I could detain you and hand you over to the American authorities. I am sure they would be happy to have you back there.”
“Why, then?” I asked with a grin. My eyes flicked between the both of them and the major looked like a cat had scratched him.
Ortega said, “Our country has welcomed many people seeking ... shall we say, political asylum? We are not concerned with your past, only that you are satisfied here and conform to our laws. That is not too much to ask, is it?”
“Suits me, but if you don't like the situation, I'll be glad to ship out.”
BOOK: Delta Factor, The
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