Authors: Paul Cain
The phone buzzed a second after Shane had closed and locked the door. He swore under his breath, fished in his pockets. The girl leaned against the wall of the corridor, smiled at his futile efforts to find the key.
The phone buzzed insistently.
He finally found the key, unlocked the door hurriedly, and went to the phone. Lorain Rigas leaned against the frame of the open door.
Shane said: “Hello… . Put him on… .” He stood, holding the phone, looking at the girl; spoke again into the phone: “Hello, Bill… . Yeah… . Yeah… . What the hell for … ?” Then he was silent a while with the receiver at his ear. Finally he said: “Okay, Bill—thanks.” Hung up slowly.
He sat down, gestured with his head for the girl to come in and close the door. She closed the door and stood with her back to it, staring at him questioningly.
He said: “Charley was shot to death in the Montecito Apartments on West Eighty-second, some time around eight-thirty tonight.”
Lorain Rigas put her hand out slowly, blindly a little way. Her eyes were entirely blank. She went slowly, unsteadily to a chair, and sank into it.
Shane said: “They’re holding the McLean gal—an’ they’ve found out that Charley and I had an argument this evening—they want to talk to me. They’re on the way over to pick me up.”
He glanced at his watch. It was nine-forty. He got up and went to the table, took a cigar from the humidor lighted it. Then he went to the window and stared out into the darkness.
“One—base of brain. One—slightly lower—shattered cervical.” The autopsy surgeon straightened, tossed the glittering instrument into a sterilizer and skinned off his rubber gloves. He glanced at Shane, turned and started towards the door.
Sergeant Gill and an intern turned the body over.
Gill said: “Rigas?” looked up at Shane.
Gill spread a partially filled out form on the examining table near Rigas’ feet, took a stub of pencil from his pocket and added several lines to the form. Then he folded it and put it in his pocket and said: “Let’s go back upstairs.”
Shane followed him out of the room that smelled of ether and of death; they went down a long corridor to an elevator.
On the third floor they left the elevator and crossed the hall diagonally to the open door of a large office, went in. A tall, paunched man with a bony, purplish face turned from the window, went to a swivel chair behind the broad desk and sat down.
He said: “How come you stopped by tonight, Dick?” He leaned back, squinted across the desk at Shane.
Shane shrugged, sat down sidewise on the edge of the desk. “Wanted to say hello to all my buddies.”
“You’re a damned liar!” The tall man spoke quietly, impersonally. “A couple of my men were on the way over to pick you up when you showed up here. You were tipped, an’ I want to know who it was—it don’t make so much difference about you, but that kind of thing is bad for the department.”
Shane was smiling at Gill. He turned his head to look down at the tall man silently. Finally he said: “What are you going to do, Ed—hold me?”
The tall man said: “Who tipped you to the pinch?”
Shane stood up, faced the tall man squarely. He said: “So it’s a pinch?” He turned and started towards the door, spoke over his shoulder to Gill: “Come on, Sarge.”
“Come here, you bastard!”
Shane turned. His expression was not pleasant. He took two short, slow steps back towards the desk.
The tall man was grinning. He drawled: “You’re hard to get along with—ain’t you!”
Shane didn’t answer. He stood with one foot a little in advance of the other and stared at the tall man from under the brim of his dark soft hat. The flesh around his eyes and mouth was very tightly drawn.
The tall man moved his grin from Shane to Gill. He said: “See if you can find that Eastman op.”
Gill went out of the room hurriedly. The tall man swung a little in the chair turned his head to look out the window. His manner when he spoke was casual, forced:
“The McLean girl killed Rigas.”
Shane did not move or speak.
“What did you and him fight about tonight?” The tall man turned to look at Shane. His hands were folded over his broad stomach and he clicked his thumbnails nervously.
Shane cleared his throat. He said huskily: “Am I under arrest?”
“No. But we’ve got enough to hold you on suspicion. You’ve sunk a lot of dough in Rigas’ joint and so far as we know you ain’t taken much out. Tonight you had an argument… .”
The tall man unclasped his hands and leaned forward, put his arms on the desk. “Why don’t you help us get this thing right instead of being so damned fidgety?” He twisted his darkly florid face to a wry smile.
Shane said: “Rigas and I had an argument about money—I left his place at eight o’clock and I was in my hotel at a quarter after. I was there until I came here.” He went forward again to the desk. “I can get a half-dozen people at the hotel to swear to that.”
The tall man made a wide and elaborate gesture of deprecation. “Hell, Dick, we know you didn’t do it—and it’s almost a natural for McLean. Only we thought you might help us clean up the loose ends.”
Shane shook his head slowly, emphatically.
Sergeant Gill came in with an undersized blond youth in a shiny blue serge suit.
The young man went to the desk, nodded at Shane, said: “H’ are you, Cap?” to the tall man.
The tall man was looking at Shane. He said: “This man”—he jerked his head at the youth—“works for Eastman. He was on an evidence job for Mrs Rigas and went in with the patrolman when Rigas was shot… .”
“Yes, sir” the youth interrupted. “The telephone operator come running out screaming bloody murder an’ the copper come running down from the corner an’ we both went upstairs”—he paused, caught his breath—“an’ there was this guy Rigas, half in the bedroom and half out, an’ dead as a doornail… . The gun was on the floor, and this dame, McLean, was in pajamas, yelling that she didn’t do it.”
The tall man said: “Yes—you told us all that before.”
“I know—only I’m telling him.” The youth smiled at Shane.
Shane sat down again on the edge of the desk. He looked from the youth to the tall man, asked: “What does McLean say?”
“She’s got a whole raft of stories.”
The tall man spat carefully into a big brass cuspidor beside the desk. “The best one is that she was asleep and didn’t wake up till she heard the shots—and then she turned on the lights an’ there he was, on the floor in the doorway. The outer door to the apartment was unlocked—had been unlocked all evening. She says she always left it that way when he was out because he was always losing his key, an’ then he could come in without waking her up.” Shane said: “What was she doing in bed at eight-thirty?”
“Bad headache.” Sergeant Gill took a .38 automatic from the drawer of a steel cabinet, handed it to Shane. “No fingerprints,” he said—“clean as a whistle.”
Shane looked at the gun, put it down on the desk.
The tall man looked at the youth and at Gill, then bobbed his head meaningly towards the door. They both went out. The youth said: “So long, Cap—so long, Mister Shane.” Gill closed the door behind him.
Shane was smiling.
The tall man said: “Rigas’ wife had these Eastman dicks on his tail—she got anything to do with this?”
“Why?” Shane shrugged. “She wanted a divorce.”
“How long they been having trouble?”
The tall man stood up, stuck his hands in his pockets and went to the window. He spoke over his shoulder: “Didn’t you and her used to be pretty good friends?”
Shane didn’t answer. His face was entirely expressionless.
The tall man turned and looked at him and then he said: “Well—I guess that’s all.”
They went out together.
In the corridor Shane made a vague motion with his hand, said: “Be seeing you,” went down two flights of stairs and out the door to the street. He stood in the wide arch of the entrance, out of the rain, looked up and down the street for a cab. There was one in front of a drugstore six or seven doors up from the Police Station; he whistled, finally walked swiftly up to it through the blinding rain.
As he got in, the youth in the shiny blue serge suit came out of the drugstore, scuttled across the sidewalk and climbed in beside him, sat down.
The driver turned around and said: “Where to?”
Shane said: “Wait a minute.”
The youth leaned back, put his hand confidentially on Shane’s shoulder. He said: “Tell him to drive around the block. I got something to tell you.”
The driver looked at Shane, Shane nodded. They swung out from the curb.
The youth said: “I seen Mrs Rigas about a half a block from the place uptown where Rigas was killed, about ten minutes before we found him.”
Shane didn’t say anything. He rubbed the side of his face with one hand, glanced at his watch, nodded.
“I was coming back from the delicatessen on the corner, where I got a bite to eat. She was going the same way, on the other side of the street. I wasn’t sure it was her at first—I only seen her once when she came in to see Mister Eastman—but there was a car coming down the street and its headlights were pretty bright and I was pretty sure it was her.”
Shane said: “Pretty sure.”
“Aw hell—it was her.” The youth took a soggy cigarette out of his pocket, lighted it.
“Where did she go?”
“That’s what I can’t figure out. It was raining so damned hard—and the wind was blowing—when I got to our car, that was parked across the street from the Montecito, she’d disappeared.” The youth shook his head slowly. “I told my partner about it. He said I was probably wrong, because if it was her she would have called up the office and found out how to spot us, because she would be wanting us to go in with her. He went on down to the corner to get something to eat, an’ I sat in the car an’ figured that I probably had been wrong, an’ then in a few minutes I heard the shots an’ the telephone operator come running out.”
Shane said: “Did you see Rigas go in?”
The youth shook his head. “No—an’ my partner swears he didn’t go in while he was on watch. He must’ve gone in the back way.”
Shane took a cigar out of a blue leather case, bit off the end, lighted it. “And you say you were figuring you were wrong about thinking you’d seen her?”
The youth laughed. “Yeah—that’s what I figured then. But that ain’t what I figure now.”
“Because I pride myself, Mister Shane, on being able to look at a dame what is supposed to have just bumped a guy off, an’ knowing whether she did it or not. That’s why I’m in the business.” He turned his head and looked very seriously at Shane.
Shane smiled faintly in the darkness.
The youth said: “It wasn’t McLean.” He said it very positively.
Shane said: “Why didn’t you tell the Captain about this?”
“Christ! We got to protect our clients.”
The cab stopped in front of the drugstore, the driver turned around and looked at Shane questioningly.
Shane blew out a great cloud of gray-blue smoke, glanced at the youth, said: “Where do you want to go?”
“This is okay for me.” The youth leaned forward, put his hand on the inside handle of the door. Then he paused, turned his head slightly towards Shane.
“I’m in a spot, Mister Shane. My wife’s sick—an’ I took an awful beating on the races the other day, trying to get enough jack for an operation… .”
Shane said: “Does anybody besides your partner know about Mrs Rigas?”
The youth shook his head.
Shane tipped his hat back on his head, drew two fingers across his forehead, said: “I’ll see what I can do about it. Where do you live?”
The youth took a card out of his pocket, took out a thin silver pencil and wrote something on it. He handed the card to Shane, said, “So long,” and got out of the cab and ran across the sidewalk to the drugstore.
Shane said: “Downtown.”
On Twelfth Street, a little way off Sixth Avenue, Shane rapped on the glass, the cab swung to the curb. He told the driver to wait, got out and went down a narrow passageway between two buildings to a green wooden door with a dim electric light above it. He opened the door, knocked on another heavier door set at an angle to the first. It was opened after a little while and he went down four wide steps to a long and narrow room with a bar along one side.
There were seven or eight men at the bar, two white-aproned men behind it: a squat and swarthy Italian and a heavily built Irishman.
Shane went to the far end of the room, leaned on the bar and spoke to the Italian: “What’ve you got that’s best?” The Italian put a bottle of brandy and a glass on the bar in front of him. Shane took a handkerchief out of his breast pocket, held the glass up to the light, wiped it carefully. He poured a drink, tasted it.
He said: “That’s lousy—give me a glass of beer.” The Italian picked up the glass of brandy, drank it, put the bottle away and drew a glass of beer. He skimmed off the foam, put the tall glass on the bar.
He said: “Seventy-five cents.”
Shane put a dollar bill on the bar, asked: “Kenny around?”
The Italian shook his head.
Shane said: “Where’s the phone?”
The Italian inclined his head towards a narrow door back of Shane. Shane went into the booth and called the Valmouth, asked for Miss Johnson. When the connection had been made, he said: “Hello, Lorain—what room are you in? … All right, stay there until I get back—don’t go out for anything—anybody… . I’m down at Jack Kenny’s… . Tell you when I see you… . Uh-huh… . G’bye… .” He hung up and went back to the bar.
The Italian and the Irishman were talking together. The Irishman came down to Shane and said: “Jack’s upstairs, asleep. Wha’d you want to see him about?”
“You’d better wake him up—I want to tell him how to keep out of the can.” Shane tasted the beer, said: “That’s lousy—give me a glass of water.”
The Irishman looked at him suspiciously for a minute, put a glass of water on the bar, went to the door at the end of the room. He said: “Who’ll I say it is?”
The Irishman disappeared through the door.
He was back in a little while, said: “You can go on up—it’s the open door at the top of the stairs.”