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Authors: Mickey Spillane

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BOOK: Delta Factor, The
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“Why'd she stay in a place like this?”
Gussie let out a little grunt that was supposed to be a chuckle. “Sentiment, that's why. Even a prostie can have that, Morgan. She was born here, right up on the top floor. If it wasn't that she found a guy who wanted to marry her she'd be here yet.” She squashed the butt out in a wet saucer on the arm of the couch, then let her eyes roll up to meet mine again. “You ain't said what you wanted.”
“Guess,” I said.
Old Gussie nodded sagely. “You figure one of 'em came back to get something they stashed up there, spotted you and put the squeal in.”
“Something like that.”
“You're tagging Gorman Yard, ain't you?”
“Maybe.”
“He might be the kind if he wanted an in with the cops. A little grease helps out when you got a warrant on you. Want me to check it with Joey Jolley?”
“Never mind. I'll do it myself.”
“Go ahead.” She grinned through her layers of fat and added, “When you gonna give me a slice of that forty mil, Morgan?”
“Later, baby.”
“Well, I know it ain't around here. I like to tore that place apart after the cops got done with it just to make sure you didn't leave it lying around.”
“Suppose you found it?”
“Man, would I still be here in this dump?”
 
Joey Jolley ran a gin mill on the edge of Greenwich Village and dabbled in fencing jewels to keep his hand in. He was an old-time thief who could be counted on to come up with a contact if the price was right.
He met me in his private office that had a side entrance onto the street, a tall lanky guy with a few fronds of hair covering a bald head disguised with a sunlamp tan. “So,” he said, “the legendary Morgan. I was beginning to wonder if you ever existed.”
“You can't kill a legend, Joey.”
“Perhaps not,” he smiled. “Now. The point of business. I expect you want to dispose of those forty millions you so carefully kept out of circulation. Unfortunately, they were in serial order, but fortunately of small-enough denomination to pay off, say ... one for ten?”
“Skip it, Joey. I can get better offers than that.”
He stared at me a moment, puzzled, then made a gesture of resignation. “In that case, I'll just raise ... it is the disposition of the money, isn't it?”
“No.”
“Strange. I never heard of you operating through a contact before. I thought you were a loner.”
“Where's Gorman Yard?”
For a second his mind ran over the name, then he nodded. “I see. You both lived under Gussie's roof a while, didn't you?”
“That's right.”
“Any connection I should know about?”
“Not specially,” I said. “He might be able to give me a hand in something.”
“Trouble?”
“Nothing that will involve you.”
“Can't touch me anyway, Morgan. Yard's doing time at Elmira. They proved a hit-and-run on him a couple of years ago. He's still got another five to do.”
“That was a hard fall, Joey.”
Jolley shrugged indifferently and said, “Apparently there was some premeditation involved. He had made a deal with the guy that went sour and Yard didn't like it. It's all a matter of public record if you want to look it up.”
“Maybe I'll do that. How'd he contact you?”
“I knew him when he was pushing black-market stuff during the war. He had taken a couple of tumbles back then for small stuff before he widened his horizons. He wasn't much good at anything. Whatever he made he always blew on the nags, but he was good for a tab if he ran one up. Not a bad sort at all, if you like rats. Now, may I make a point?”
“Be my guest.”
“Since you didn't come here to make a deal on all those lovely bills you raided the Treasury Department for, would you consider me in case you have something planned for the future?”
“My pleasure.”
“Can we ... approximate a time?”
“It won't be long. I'd like to see that cash in circulation too.”
“So would I, my boy, so would I. Please be careful. The next time you're caught precautions against your escape will be a little more elaborate. It still surprises me that they didn't take note of your previous escapades. That one in Mexico was a beauty.”
I acknowledged the compliment with a wink, got up and went out through the side door. I flagged a cruising cab, went back to the old neighborhood and started making the rounds.
New York is a peculiar place. Although it's divided into five boroughs it's really a complex of thousands of components, each enjoying a strange autonomy. There are no visible divisions except the street signs, but the boundaries are there, the perimeters guarded and respected, the rules observed. Outsiders are ignored like the shadows, but those within are subject to the regulations.
I was neither. Oh, they knew me there all right. I was less than a shadow and bigger than the rules. Their eyes were sharp and word travels fast. I could ask and be answered, but not asked about. My kind of trouble was beyond their realm of comprehension and they wanted no part of Morgan the Raider. But at least I could ask questions and get the answers if they had them to give.
Baldy Hines, who ran the delicatessen, remembered Gorman Yard because he had a habit of dropping a fifty-dollar bill on the counter for a pack of cigarettes. Baldy never checked the serial numbers out, but they had been new bills, good enough for him and bankable. Several times he had seen Yard with a couple of guys from across town who dressed like they had a bundle, but he couldn't identify them. Once Bernice Case came back to see some old friends and he had tried to put the make on her, but she had slammed him one in the puss and Yard dropped that bit of action. Miss Case didn't like to clutter up her own doorsteps no matter what she did for a living.
Across the street Ma Toppett who spent half her life hanging out the front window leaning on a chair cushion, watching the neighbors for diversion, had a little more to add. She poured me coffee while her husband snored away in front of a blaring television set and told me about Yard making some quiet exits from the house into a black Caddie on several different occasions. The car simply stopped, he got in, so it had probably been prearranged. She didn't spot the driver or the plate number and didn't care one way or another except that it gave her something to speculate about. She remembered Mario Tullius too and had brought him some hot soup once before they took him away. While he was eating she had a chance to look around, but all she saw was a gold watch, a few books and some small bills sticking out of his wallet on his dresser. She added the bit that it was Bernice Case who paid his remaining rent to old Gussie after he died, but that wasn't unusual because the little hooker was always doing something nice for the people in her old neighborhood.
I didn't like to ask, but there were still two more leads to take. It was a quarter to twelve and outside things were coming to a slow halt. The late night sounds had started ... sirens wailing on the humid air as the prowl cars answered their calls, an occasional muffled giggle from a darkened hallway, the raucous yell of a few kids who had no enforced bedtime, and the blare of TV news announcers giving the latest in the world's troubles.
On the corner I grabbed a cab and had him take me to the Mark Sanford Hotel, registered as M. A. Winters and called Kim Stacy to see if she was in.
There was no sleep in her voice, just that cool, efficient, curious tone and she told me to come on up.
 
A long time ago the world had become a small place to me and the things that happen in it were common place. I thought there could be no more suprises and never a shocker because I had seen it all and had been through the grinder too many times not to know what was on the other end.
But I was wrong.
She opened the door to my knock and stood there surveying me a long second, the backlighting oozing through the sheer nylon housecoat, the smell of her a fragrant temptation that was like little hands reaching out to feel you, their wild fingertips touching all the sensitive spots, until satisfied, they withdrew and beckoned an invitation to come closer.
I forced a grin past the tight feeling on my face and said, “Hi, doll. Talk time?”
Her eyebrows raised quizzically and a suggestion of a smile played around her mouth. “Come in, Morgan.”
She stepped aside and I went past her, my arm making the minutest accidental contact with the tips of her breasts, but that slight touch was charged with a delicate emotional jolt and those feathery fingers hit me right in the pit of the stomach again.
Kim Stacy wasn't the person I had seen the first time. The ingrained attitude of the professional huntress was gone, hidden somewhere under the natural veneer of the female. There was only that cool softness of girl flavored with the desire to be transformed into the warm hardness of woman that was here now. The wide violet eyes were filled with casual humor and through lips that blossomed in a small, lush smile she said, “Morgan ... just because we're somewhat engaged ...”
Then I laughed and everything was all right and I felt the heat leave me. A second ago I had damn near been lost for the first time since I made the initial mistake and had gotten shot for it. Now things were real again and in their right place.
“Drink?” she asked me.
“Got a cold beer?”
She nodded, went into the kitchen alcove and came back with a frosted can of Pabst. “Glass?”
“Can's fine. Join me?”
She stretched her smile a little further. “I don't think so. You mentioned talk. Are you ready to move out?”
I perched on the arm of the big chair and sipped the top off the beer. “Not quite. First I want you people to do something for me.”
Something happened to the smile. An air of professionalism clouded the expression of her face and she was examining me again, alert to every word, every nuance. “You aren't in a position to be asking favors, Morgan. You were told that.”
“But I am, baby. You've been told that too.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly, then she shrugged and said, “Very well, I can pass it along anyway.” She watched me, waiting.
I said, “There's a guy in Elmira named Gorman Yard. I want all the information on him I can get. Oh, I could do it myself, but you can do it quicker.”
“Is that all?”
“No. I want something else that never came out at my trial.”
“Oh?”
“Outside the loot they found stashed in my room, how much of that forty million was ever recovered from public circulation. Think you can manage that?”
“Perhaps. Would you mind telling me why you want this information?”
“Sure. I want to see where I went wrong.” I gave her a big grin and she knew I was lying, but she nodded anyway.
“Suppose they won't supply the answers,” Kim asked me.
“Funny things might happen, sugar,” I told her. “Like a nosy newspaperman I knew. He'd love a slice of this action to sell a few more papers.”
“They wouldn't let it happen, Morgan.”
“You don't know my friends, Kid.” I finished the beer and set the empty on the back of the chair. “Tomorrow?”
“I'll try.”
I got up, walked to the door, then turned and looked at her a few seconds. “Do you have any special instructions on this assignment, Kim?”
Those slanted eyes gave me a curious glance. “What do you mean?”
“Our impending marriage. Is it to be consummated?”
A slow flush burned its way past her shoulders and throat into her face. “When I have a man,” she said slowly, “I'll do the choosing.”
“Smart,” I said. “The agency is really thinking. Non-consummation of a marriage is grounds for a divorce action. You get off the hook very nicely, don't you?”
“Yes, really I do.”
“Only they forgot something.” My grin got bitter.
This time her voice was unexpectedly small. “What?”
“There's no law against a man raping his own wife,” I said as I went out the door.
 
I had conformed to the ground rules they had laid down for me by registering at the hotel, but for three days the course of action was my own. If I needed security I wanted to make it myself. Before I had gone into the deal a few loners and a nicely organized bunch had tried to tap me out for the big bundle they thought I had cached somewhere and it took plenty of slipping and sliding with a bullet crease along my hip and some broken heads on the other side before I set up a cover they couldn't penetrate. I didn't want it to start again. This way was bad enough.
The hotel I picked was a commercial-residential type on Sixth Avenue where your business was your own and the surroundings common enough to lose yourself in. I paid in advance, got on the phone and by two-thirty I had located Bernice Case and got back into the night world where I belonged.
André's was a far-out kind of bar that serviced the office crowd during the day, the weirdos until midnight and the odd breed until he closed. His specialty was chili if you had the stomach for the firepower he could lay in it and being a two-bowl man myself, he always had an appreciative grin for my patronage.
She was sitting in the last booth dipping her chili out with Ritz crackers, absorbed in the early edition of The News, and when I sat down opposite her she gave me a strange little glance and said, “Hungry?”
In a funny way, she was like a friendly kitten. She had siezed me up, figured me to be broke, and knowing she was always good for a touch, was ready to share her plate.
BOOK: Delta Factor, The
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