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Authors: Brett Halliday

Tags: #detective, #mystery, #murder, #private eye, #crime, #suspense, #hardboiled

The Uncomplaining Corpses

BOOK: The Uncomplaining Corpses
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Brett
Halliday

The Uncomplaining Corpses

 

 

Chapter One:
SHAYNE REFUSES A CASE

 

MICHAEL SHAYNE SAID, “All right, Mr.
Thrip
.
I’ll be over to see you right away.” He pronged the receiver on the hook and stood beside the bedside table staring at the wall for a moment, rubbing his chin perplexedly.

It was a large corner bedroom newly decorated in cream and ivory with a light tan and yellow rug on the floor. The furniture was blond maple of modernistic style, a suite which Phyllis Shayne, née Brighton, had selected before they went on their honeymoon to Cuba. Shayne hadn’t approved of it, but he hadn’t told Phyllis so. Now, after three days of living in the new apartment, he was glad. Phyllis fitted into the modernistic background as though it had been originally designed for her.

An afternoon breeze blew in from Biscayne Bay, fluttering the draperies at Shayne’s left. From wide south windows at his right he could hear the hum of traffic entering the city from
Brickell
Avenue over the Miami River drawbridge. The sounds were familiar. He had listened to them for more than a decade during which he lived in a bachelor apartment one floor below this one, yet it seemed to Shayne that he had never heard them until three days ago. He had an odd feeling that past years had not been real, an interlude of futility while he waited for a two weeks’ honeymoon in Cuba with Phyllis and these three days at home.

Shayne looked again at the telephone and said, “H-m-m.” He tugged at the lobe off his ear and frowned, his eyes half closed. He grunted again and took six long strides which brought him to a south window where he stood looking down upon the river. A tugboat labored to draw a giant dredge slowly behind it while smaller craft scuttled around them. From the west, pleasure boats gaily bedecked for Miami’s winter season glided toward the drawbridge. Magnificent automobiles of the wealthy, lumbering trucks, lesser vehicles raced across the bridge. Boat whistles signaled and long arms barred traffic to the bridge as it went up. A veritable sea of traffic filled the avenue. Cars crawled
up,
slipped into dangerously small spaces seeking an advantage to make the dash across the instant the long bridge bars were raised.

Shayne walked slowly to an east window and stared out upon the purple waters of the bay where sleek white yachts were moored near the shore or anchored in the channel. From the kitchen of his new apartment he heard the faint clinking of glass and Phyllis’s husky voice humming a popular tune. He planted his feet wide apart and grinned at his moodiness.

For two weeks and three days he had let himself forget that hoodlums and crooks and hardened criminals flocked to Miami for the winter season.

His mouth tightened grimly. His fingers contracted into big, hard fists. His honeymoon was over, and
Thrip’s
telephone call meant that he had to get back to work.

He moved hastily across the room, stopped abruptly beside the double bed with its handsome silk rose spread and fussy little pillows. His abstracted eyes sought out Phyllis’s small furred mules set sedately beside his own big kid slippers; turned to look at her toilet articles arrayed on the glass top of the blond dresser with its round mirror, and on to the open closet door disclosing his suits companionably rubbing shoulders with Phyllis’s sports frocks and evening gowns.

He looked up with a start to see Phyllis standing in the bedroom door with an expression of wifely solicitude on her young face. Her black eyes danced with excitement and curiosity.

“Are you going to stay in here all day and not tell me what the telephone call was? Is it a case?”

“Sounded like it, sweet.
Very mysterious.
Sinister, you might say.” He chuckled and crossed the rug to her. “Looks like vacation’s over.”

She met him with lifted arms. “Honeymoon, you mean. I knew it would be a case. I wish this could have lasted forever, Mike.”

The intensity of her voice stopped his chuckle. He slid an arm around her slim waist and said, “Think of all the murderers who might go
unhung
if Michael Shayne spent the rest of his life lolling in his bride’s arms.”

“Is it a murder case? You’ll be careful, won’t you? You promised me.”

Above the luster of her wavy black hair Shayne’s lips quirked upward. But he said very gravely, “Yes, angel, I’ll be careful. I promised to run like hell if anybody said boo, and a Shayne’s promise is as good as another man’s bond.” He swung her into the long pleasant living-room which ran the full width of the apartment on the east. He squeezed her, released her with a little shove.

“You’re putting me off,” she accused. “Can I go with you? I’ll be terribly businesslike.”

Shayne shook his red head at her.
“Nothing doing, angel.
There’s no telling what’s up. That was Mr. Arnold
Thrip
on the phone. He’s a realtor with an office on Flagler and he wants to see me at once. I’m not acquainted with the gentleman. He may have committed a murder, be contemplating one, or expecting to be murdered. He may want me to tail his wife for divorce evidence in which case I’ll be back in a hurry.” He grinned down at her and pinched her cheek. “Besides, he may be an ogre that eats beautiful young brides.”

Phyllis looked forlorn. “It’ll be awfully lonesome here.”

“Chin up,” he commanded. His eyes twinkled. “Don’t forget I warned you when you forced me into this. Other wives manage somehow. You can take all the calls and entertain any clients who drop in informally for a spot of tea.”

“I hope some of your gunmen friends come.” Phyllis’s dark eyes sparkled. “They’d just love tea.” She went to the door with him, holding his arm tightly. He opened the door and she breathed, “You
will
be careful, Mike?”

He kissed her lips, saying gruffly, “You’re not the lucky type, angel. You look so damned alluring in black I’m not going to give you an opportunity to wear it.” He settled a limp felt firmly on his red hair and strode down the hall.

 

Neat black lettering on the opaque glass upper portion of the door said:
Arnold
Thrip
—Realty Investments—Enter.

Michael Shayne turned the knob and went in. An impressive outer office met his eye. A third of the large room was railed off as a waiting sector, complete with a thick rug, chromium and red-leather chairs, shining ash trays accurately spaced.

Beyond the polished mahogany railing three girl typists presented their backs to him, heads bowed over clacking machines. At his left an up-and-coming blonde was speaking into a rubber mouthpiece suspended from her neck; she frowned and made a notation on a pad, then favored Shayne with an aloof but interested glance.

Shayne lifted shaggy red brows and let the door close softly behind him. Two long-legged strides took him across the deep carpet to the railing. He dragged off his hat and asked, “Is Mr.
Thrip
in?”

The blonde did a quick job of sizing him up. Rough tweeds hung loosely on a body that was too lean for his wide shoulders. Sunlight from
open ,west
windows made a flame of his hair. His features were rugged with prominent cheekbones and deep hollows. A too-wide mouth and humorous lights in his deep-set gray eyes belied the severity of his square jaw. He was not a typical
Thrip
client, but then you never could tell in Miami.

She poked a crimson-tipped finger at a button in the small desk in front of her and asked briskly, “The name, please.”

“Shayne.
Mr.
Thrip
is expecting me.” The blonde nipped the button over and nodded to Shayne. “You’re to go right in.” She inclined her head toward a closed door marked:
Private.
He nodded and went into Arnold
Thrip’s
inner office.

A heavy-bodied man stood up behind a big tidy desk as Shayne entered. Three telephones were arranged in a row before him. A freshly lit cigar lay across an onyx ash tray.

Arnold
Thrip
wore a white suit of silk pongee molded to a short thick body, ingeniously tailored to give him an air of more height and less weight than God had bestowed upon him. Iron-gray hair was carefully parted in the middle, thick jowls showed blue-gray from a recent close shave. His upper lip was short, the lower lip thick and pendulous, giving an effect of petulance, though this was nullified by the strength and severity of a blunt jaw and short, broad nose. His eyes were light brown and slightly bulging.

Shayne’s first and strongest impression was one of latent power and of blunt-spoken dominance. A man who had always known what he wanted and who generally managed to get it.

Thrip
stood flat-footed behind his desk and inclined his head some five degrees.
“The detective, eh?
Sit down, Mr. Shayne.” His manner was curtly cordial, his voice held the resonance of an assured after-dinner speaker.

Shayne tossed his hat onto a filing-cabinet. Loose-limbed, he stalked to the realtor’s desk and folded himself down into a straight-backed chair.

Mr.
Thrip
sat down and placed the palms of smooth hands flat down on the desk top. He said:

“I called you, Mr. Shayne, because I heard you highly recommended by our Miami Beach chief of detectives last night. You’re acquainted with Mr. Painter, of course.”

Shayne nodded and hooked
spatulate
thumbs in his belt, tilted back in his chair. He crossed one bony knee over the other and his face creased into a smile that was more sardonic than humorous. “That’s a new angle for Painter, recommending me for a case. I was under the impression that he hated my guts.”

“Quite right.”
Arnold
Thrip
did not smile. Shayne wondered if he could smile.

“I overheard Mr. Painter discussing private detectives,”
Thrip
went on, “and their function in modern society at a meeting of the Beach Betterment Association last night. He cited you as a particularly vicious example of the worst of your class. I gathered from his remarks that there is little you would refuse to undertake—for a price.”

Shayne shrugged. His smile was replaced by a blandly receptive expression. “Whom do you want murdered, Mr.
Thrip
?”

Thrip
shook his head from side to side. A breeze came through the open window behind him and swirled gray cigar ashes into a mound at the edge of the onyx tray. He pointed a forefinger at Shayne and spoke sternly:

“I am a man of few words, Mr. Shayne. I trust you will not waste my time and yours in feeble witticisms. I have a business proposition to put to you confidentially.” He paused, hunched his heavy body forward to pick up the lighted cigar which now held half an inch of gray ash.

Shayne took a cigarette from his shirt pocket and stuck it between his lips. Past the flame of a match he said “Shoot.”

“From Mr. Painter I gathered that you are in contact, on rather intimate terms, with the criminal element in Miami, Mr. Shayne. Mr. Painter, in fact, gave me the impression that the personnel of your detective agency is composed of men whom he characterized as
yeggs
and hoodlums.”

Shayne didn’t explain that his was a one-man agency. He said with deceptive mildness, “Peter Painter has a flair for going out on a limb with unfounded statements.”

Arnold
Thrip
did not appear to hear him. He did not look at Shayne. It was apparent that the man was finding it difficult to come to the point. Still staring down his cigar at the desk, there was a trace of plaintive appeal in his voice:

“I’m sure you will understand that this is an unusual situation for me; a difficult situation to say the least. To a man of your type what I have to propose will seem commonplace, I presume, but it does not come so easily to one who for many years has been a leader among right-thinking men.”

Michael Shayne said nothing. A light flared behind his eyes but
Thrip
did not look up to see it. Shayne waited for him to go on, holding in check his natural inclination to lash out at the nasty-nice hypocrisy of the realtor.

“I need the services of a man who will force an entry to my home, Mr. Shayne.
A man who will carry out the assignment in a professional manner and leave unmistakable traces behind him as evidence of his illegal act.”

Shayne didn’t say anything. He was relaxed and attentive, his lean face expressing no emotion beyond a mild interest.

Thrip
glanced up at him and gained assurance from Shayne’s attitude. His voice again took on that familiar resonance which Shayne had noted at first:

“I presume you will require no further explanation, Mr. Shayne. The less one knows sometimes the better, eh? Ha-ha. I’m sure we understand each other.”

“We don’t,” Shayne corrected. “You seem to have the wrong impression of the functions of a private detective. In the first place I don’t send men out on assignments without knowing what it’s all about.”

“I fail to see why you need to know any more about it, Mr. Shayne.”

Shayne said, “Then you’re a damn fool, Mr.
Thrip
.” He got up and half turned to reach for his hat.

The realtor’s mouth gaped open and he snatched for his cigar. “You’re not—you can’t walk out on me,” he sputtered.

“Why not?”
Shayne’s lean face was saturnine. “You haven’t any strings on me. You’re wasting my time unless you’re ready to come to the point.”

“Sit down, Mr. Shayne. I was coming to the point, which will interest you.” His lower lip rolled out to form a pinkish gray bulb. “I assure you I am prepared to pay handsomely for your time.”

Shayne turned back and laid his hat on
Thrip’s
desk. He put his doubled knuckles down on each side of it and leaned forward. In a flat monotone he said:

“Now I’ll tell you something,
Thrip
. I have a license to practice my profession just the same as you do. It’s a hell of a lot harder to get a detective’s license than a realty broker’s, and a damn sight harder to keep one. I’m responsible to the state of Florida for any man I send out on a job. If you’ve got a proposition to make, I’ll listen to it and decide whether it’s something I want to take on. I’ve been picking my cases for years, and when I get in trouble I walk into it with my eyes open and I’ll take the consequences. I don’t play any other way.”

BOOK: The Uncomplaining Corpses
8.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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