Authors: Paul Cain
Shane went back and through the door across a dark, airless hallway. He lighted a match and found the bottom of the stair, went up. There was a door ajar at the top of the stair through which faint light came, he shoved it open, went in.
Jack Kenny was big and round and bald. He was sitting deep in a worn and battered wicker armchair. He was very drunk.
There was another man, lying face down across the dirty, unmade bed. He was snoring loudly, occasionally exhaled in a long sighing whistle.
Kenny lifted his chin from his chest, lifted bleary eyes to Shane. He said: “Hi, boy?”
Shane asked: “What kind of a rod did you give Del Corey?”
Kenny opened his eyes wide, grinned. He leaned heavily forward, then back, stretched luxuriously.
“I didn’t give him any—the louse stole it.”
Kenny was suddenly serious. He said: “What the hell you talking about?”
Shane said: “Charley Rigas was killed tonight with a .38 Smith & Wesson automatic—the safety was knocked off, an’ the number on the barrel started with four six six two… .”
Kenny stood up suddenly, unsteadily.
Shane said: “I thought you might like to know.” He turned and started towards the door.
Kenny said: “Wait a minute.”
Shane stopped in the doorway, turned.
All the color had gone out of Kenny’s bloated, florid face, leaving it pasty, yellow-white.
He said: “You sure?” He went unsteadily to a little table in the room, picked up an empty bottle, held it up to the light, threw it into a corner.
Shane nodded, said: “Pretty damned dumb for Del to get so steamed up about Lorain an’ Charley that he killed Charley—huh? Lorain’s been washed up with Charley for months—an’ Del ought to’ve known about it if anybody did… .”
Kenny said: “He wasn’t worrying about Lorain. It was that little cigarette gal—Thelma, or Selma, or something—that works for Charley. Del’s been two-timing Lorain with her for the last couple weeks. That’s what he was shooting off his mouth about this afternoon—he had some kind of office on her an’ Charley.”
Kenny went to a dresser and opened a drawer and took out a bottle of whiskey.
Shane said: “Oh.”
He went out and down the dark stair out to the bar. The glass of beer and the glass of water were on the bar where he had left them. He picked up the glass of water, tasted it, said: “That’s lousy,” and went out through the front door and the passageway to the cab.
It was a few minutes before eleven when Shane got out of the cab, paid off the driver and went into the Valmouth. The clerk gave him a note that a Mister Arthur had telephoned, would call again in the morning.
Shane went up to his rooms, sat down with his coat and hat on and picked up the telephone.
He said: “Listen, baby—tell the girl that relieves you in the morning that when Mister Arthur calls, I’m out of the city—won’t be back for a couple months. He wants to sell me some insurance.”
He hung up, looked up the number of 71 in his little black book, called it. A strange voice answered. Shane said: “Is Nick there? … Is Pedro there? … Never mind—what I want to know is what’s Thelma’s last name? Thelma, the cigarette girl? … Uh-huh… . Never mind who I am—I’m one of your best customers… . Uh-huh… . How do you spell it? … B-u-r-r… . You haven’t got her telephone number, have you?” The receiver clicked, Shane smiled, hung up.
He found Thelma Burr’s address in the telephone directory: a number on West Seventy-fourth, off Riverside Drive. He got up and went to the table and took several cigars from the humidor, put all but one of them in the blue leather case. He lighted the cigar and stood a little while at one of the windows, staring at the tiny lights in the buildings uptown. Gusts of rain beat against the window and he shuddered suddenly, involuntarily.
He went to a cabinet and took out a square brown bottle, a glass, poured himself a stiff drink. Then he went out, downstairs to the sixteenth floor. He knocked several times at the door of 1611, but there was no answer. He went to the elevator, down to the lobby.
The night clerk said: “That’s right, sir—1611, but I think Miss Johnson went out shortly before you came in.”
Shane went to the house phone, spoke to the operator: “Did Miss Johnson get any calls after I talked to her around ten-thirty? … Right after I called—huh? … Thanks.”
He went out to a cab, gave the driver the number on Seventy-fourth Street.
It turned out to be a narrow, five-story apartment house on the north side of the street. Shane told the driver to wait and went up steps, through a heavy door into a dark hall. There were mailboxes on each side of the hall; he lighted a match and started on the left side. The second from the last box on the left bore a name scrawled in pencil that interested him: N. Manos—the apartment number was 414. He went on to the right side of the hall, found the name and the number he was looking for, went up narrow creaking steps to the third floor.
There was no answer at 312.
After a little while, Shane went back downstairs. He stood in the darkness of the hall for several minutes. Then he went back up to the fourth floor, knocked at 414. There was no answer there either. He tried the door, found it to be locked, went back down to 312.
He stood in the dim light of the hallway a while with his ear close to the door. He heard the outside door downstairs open and close, voices. He went halfway down the stair. waited until the voices had gone away down the corridor on the first floor, went back to the door of 312 and tried several keys in the lock. The sixth key he tried turned almost all the way; he took hold of the knob, lifted and pushed, forcing the key at the same time. The lock clicked, gave way, the door swung open.
Shane went into the darkness, closed the door and lighted a match. He found the light switch, pressed it. A floor lamp with a colorful and tasteless batik shade; a smaller table lamp with a black silk handkerchief thrown over it, lighted. The globes were deep amber; the light of the two lamps was barely sufficient to see the brightly papered walls, the mass of furniture in the room. Shane picked his way to the table, jerked the black handkerchief off the table lamp; then there was a little more light.
There was a man on his knees on the floor, against a couch at one end of the little room. The upper part of his body was belly down on the couch and his arms hung limply, ridiculously to the floor; the back of his skull was caved in and the white brightly flowered couch cover beneath his head and shoulders was dark red, shiny.
Shane went to him and squatted down and looked at the gashed and bloody side of his face. It was Del Corey.
Shane stood up and crossed the room to an ajar door, pushed it open with his foot. The light over the wash basin was on, covered with several layers of pink silk; the light was very dim.
Thelma Burr was lying on her back on the floor. Her green crepe de chine nightgown was torn, stained. There were black marks on her throat, her breast; her face was puffy, a bruised discolored mask, and her mouth and one cheek were brown-black with iodine. There was a heavy pewter candlestick a little way from one outstretched hand.
Shane knelt, braced his elbow on the edge of the bathtub and held his ear close to her chest. Her heart was beating faintly.
He stood up swiftly, went out of the bathroom, went to the door. He took out his handkerchief, wiped off the light switch carefully, snapped the lights out. Then he went out and locked the door, wiped the knob, put the key in his pocket and went downstairs, out and across the street to the cab.
The driver jerked his head towards another lone cab halfway down the block. “That hack come up right after we got here,” he said. “Nobody got out or nothing. Maybe it’s a tail.” He stared sharply at Shane.
Shane said: “Probably.” He glanced carelessly at the other cab. “You can make yourself a fin if you can get me to the nearest telephone, and then over to 71 East Fifty—in five minutes.”
The driver pointed across the street, said: “Garage over there—they ought to have a phone.”
Shane ran across to the garage, found a phone and called Central Station, asked for Bill Hayworth. When Hayworth answered, he said: “There’s a stiff and a prospective in apartment 312 at West Seventy-fourth. Hurry up—the girl’s not quite gone. Call you later.” He ran out to the waiting cab, climbed in, leaned back and clipped and lighted a cigar, watched the other cab through the rear window. They went over to the Drive, down two blocks, turned east. Shane thought for a while that the other cab wasn’t following, but after they’d gone several blocks on Seventy-second he saw it again. They cut down Broadway to Columbus Circle, across Fifty-ninth.
In front of 71, Shane jumped out of the cab, said: “That’s swell—wait,” went swiftly across the sidewalk and pressed the button beneath the red number.
The slit opened, a voice that Shane did not know whispered: “What is it you want?”
Shane said: “In.” He stuck his face in the thin shaft of light that came through the slit.
The door was opened and Shane went into the narrow hallway. The man who had let him in was about fifty-five—a slight, thin-faced man with white hair combed straight back from high forehead. He closed the door, bolted it.
Nick was standing behind and a little to one side of the slight man. He held a blunt blue automatic steadily in his right hand. His chin was on his chest and he stared at Shane narrowly through thick, bushy brows. He jerked his head up suddenly, sharply, said: “Put your hands up, you son of a bitch!”
Shane smiled slowly, raised his hands slowly as high as his shoulders.
A bell tinkled faintly above the door, the slight white-haired man opened the slit and looked out, closed the slit and opened the door. Another man whom Shane recognized as one of the stud dealers came in. The slight man closed the door.
Nick jerked his head up again, said: “Upstairs.” He put the automatic in the pocket of his dinner coat, the muzzle held the cloth out stiff.
Shane turned and went slowly up the stairs, and Nick and the man who followed him in came up behind him. The slight man stayed at the door.
On the second floor, Shane put his hands down as he passed the double door into the big room, glanced in. There were three people, a man and two women, in earnest and drunken conversation at one of the corner tables. There was a couple at a table against the far wall. With the exception of these and a waiter and the man behind the bar, the room was deserted.
Shane spoke over his shoulder to Nick: “Swell crowd.”
Nick took two or three rapid steps, took the automatic out of his pocket and jabbed it against Shane’s back, hard. Shane put his hands up again and went up the second flight to the third floor. Nick and the other man followed him. He stopped at the top of the stair leaned against the balustrade. Nick went past him and knocked at the tall gray door. It was opened in a little while and the three of them went into the room.
Pedro Rigas, Charley’s brother, was sitting on one of the big round tables, swinging his feet back and forth. He was very tall and spare and his face was dark, handsome, his features sharply cut.
There was a plump young man with rosy cheeks, bright blue eyes, shingled sand-colored hair on a straight canebottomed chair near Pedro. His legs were crossed and he leaned on one elbow on the table. There was a heavy nickeled revolver on the table near his elbow. He stared at Shane with interest.
Lorain Rigas was sitting on a worn imitation leather couch against one wall. She was leaning forward with her elbows on her knees, her hands over her eyes. She had taken off the small suede hat, her dull black hair curved in damp arabesques over her white forehead and throat and hands.
The little Eastman operative was half sitting, half lying on the floor against the wall near the couch. His face was a pulpy mass of bruised, beaten flesh; one arm was up, half covering the lower part of his face, the other was propped in the angle of the floor and wall. He was sobbing quietly, his body shook.
Pedro Rigas looked at the dealer who had come in with Shane and Nick, nodded towards Shane, asked: “You bring him in?”
Nick said: “He came in—by himself.” He grinned mirthlessly at Shane.
Shane was staring sleepily at Lorain Rigas.
She lifted her face, looked at him helplessly. “Somebody called up a little while after I talked to you,” she said—“said it was the night clerk—said you were waiting for me out in front of the hotel. I went down and they smacked me into a cab, brought me over here.”
Shane nodded slightly.
She turned her eyes towards the Eastman man on the floor. “He was here,” she went on, “an’ they were beating hell out of him. I don’t know where they picked him up.”
Shane said: “Probably at the Station, after he talked to me. They’ve been tailing me all night—since I left the hotel to go over an’ talk to the captain. That’s how they knew you were at the hotel—they saw you come in around nine—an’ they got the fake Johnson name from the register.”
Pedro Rigas was smiling coldly at Shane, swinging his feet back and forth nervously.
He said: “One of you two,”—he jerked his head towards the girl—“killed Charley. I find out pretty soon which one—or by God I kill you both.”
Shane had put his hands down. He held them in front of him and looked down at them, stroked the back of one with the palm of the other. Then he looked up at the rosy-cheeked young man, questioned Rigas: “Executioner?” He smiled slightly, sarcastically.
Lorain Rigas stood up suddenly, faced Pedro. She said:
“You fool! Can’t you get it through that nut of yours that Del killed Charley? Dear God!”—she made a hopeless gesture. “Read the papers—the gun they found was the one Del swiped from Jack Kenny this afternoon. Jack’ll verify that.”
Pedro’s face was cold and hard and expressionless when he looked at her. “What were you doing up there?”
“I told you!” she almost screamed. “I went to warn Charley that Del was after him! I heard the shots when I was halfway upstairs—got out.”
Shane was looking at Lorain Rigas and there was a dim mocking glitter in his eyes.
She glanced at him, said: “I didn’t tell you about that, Dick, because I was afraid you’d get ideas. You wouldn’t trust your own mother across the street, you know.”