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NORBERT DAVIS

DON'T GIVE YOUR RIGHT NAME

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Ex Libris

First published in Dime Detective Magazine, December 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-01-28
Produced by Terry Walker, Paul Moulder, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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Dime Detective Magazine, December 1941, with "Don't Give Your Right Name"



TABLE OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER I. — AN AUTOGRAPH ADDICT

GUITERREZ was leaning against the wall beside the front door of his restaurant with his tall chef's hat pushed down over one eye and his hands folded under the bib of his apron. He looked disgusted. There was nothing unusual about that. He always did. He had his reasons, and one of them was getting out of a taxi in front of the restaurant now.

"Hello, you crook," said Guiterrez. "How are you, you chiseler? Have you burned down any orphan asylums or robbed any starving widows today?"

"Not yet," said Max Latin. "But the night is young."

He was a tall man, thin and high-shouldered, and he had the assured, sleek self-confidence of a champion racehorse. His eyes were as cold and smooth as green glass, tipped a little at the corners.

Guiterrez was counting on his fingers. "It seems incredible to me, but you ain't been pinched for three weeks. How does that happen? Did you catch the mayor sleeping with somebody else's wife?"

"No," said Latin. "But I have hopes. What's on the menu tonight?"

"Tonight," Guiterrez answered, "Guiterrez is featuring steamed ragout la supreme la Guiterrez."

"Is it good?"

Guiterrez snorted. "Good! It's marvelous! I cooked it, didn't I?" He opened the restaurant door and yelled loudly: "Dick! Here's that thief of a Latin! Be sure you mark the level of the brandy bottle before you give it to him—and with an indelible pencil!"

Latin went on inside, and Guiterrez poked a cigarette into the corner of his mouth and leaned against the wall again. The red neon tubing that bordered the doorway gave his face a satanically dissipated cast.

Another taxi pulled up at the curb, and two men and a woman got out of it. The men were very young and broad-shouldered and husky. They were hatless, and they had crew haircuts. One was blond and the other was brunet. They wore dress overcoats with the collars turned up and white scarfs. They were unmistakably college boys weekending in the city.

"Are you sure this is the place you want to go?" the blond one asked doubtfully.

"It looks dirty," the brunet observed.

"It don't only look dirty," Guiterrez told him. "It is. You won't like it."

The two men stared at him and then decided to ignore him.

The woman said: "I'm certain this is the place. It has an international reputation. The food is divine." She must have been younger, in years, than even her escorts were. Only in years, though. She had a lusciously curved young body very much on display in a striptease-black evening gown with a cut out middle section. She wore a silver fox cape and the diamond bracelet on her left wrist was a good four inches wide. Her hair was dead black, and she wore it in a long sleek bob. Her brown eyes were sultry and languorous, and her mouth was a red, moist invitation.

"This is Guiterrez's restaurant, isn't it?" she asked Guiterrez.

"Yup," said Guiterrez. "I run the dump." He leered at her knowingly. "And how are you getting along with your work, baby?"

The two men looked at each other and then started ominously for Guiterrez.

Guiterrez pushed the door open behind him and called: "Hey, Dick!"


A WIZENED little waiter wearing a black, grease-stained coat and an apron so big that he had wrapped it around himself three times and still had plenty left over appeared instantly. Without saying a word, he took a butcher knife with a blade over a foot long from under the apron and handed it to Guiterrez.

The two college men stopped short, eyeing the long shimmering blade uneasily. Guiterrez commenced to clean his fingernails with it. Dick, the waiter, watched with a sort of idle interest.

The girl laughed throatily. "Bruce! Bill! Behave yourselves! He's just ribbing you. Aren't you, Mr. Guiterrez?"

"Sure," Guiterrez answered. "I'm one of these here humorists. I'm funny as hell all day long."

The two college men decided they saw the joke. They laughed in a rather pained way.

The girl said: "I've been wanting to try some of your wonderful food for a long time, Mr. Guiterrez. Everybody in town is talking about it."

"Yeah," said Guiterrez. "You got any room in the joint for these people, Dick?"

"I got one table left," Dick said. "But I was savin' it for a big spender. These birds look like cheapskates to me."

Guiterrez nodded. "Yeah. They probably are. But just think what you can watch while you're servin' them." He pointed the butcher knife at the girl.

"You got something there," Dick agreed, popping his eyes admiringly. "Come on, gorgeous. I'll give you and your two poodles my personal attention."

The girl swept her magnificently inviting body through the door with the two college men trailing uncertainly behind her.

Guiterrez spat his cigarette butt into the gutter and sighed drearily. Running feet pattered along the walk, and a youth as skinny and tall as a bean-pole staggered up and leaned against the wall beside Guiterrez, panting in exhausted gasps.

"Gobble-glip-glip," he said unintelligibly, pointing toward the door of the restaurant. "Glip?"

"I think it'll rain myself," Guiterrez answered.

The skinny youth fought for breath. "Did—did they go—in there?"

"Which they?" Guiterrez asked.

"Lily Trace. She had—two guys—with her."

"Who?" said Guiterrez.

The skinny youth got his breath back with a desperate gasp. "Lily Trace! The most glamorous girl in the world! Her pictures are in all the papers and magazines all the time!"

"She did look a little familiar, at that," Guiterrez observed. "Yeah, she just went in to eat. Is she a friend of yours?"

"Friend!" the skinny youth echoed, aghast. "No! All her friends are millionaires and people like that! She has a penthouse apartment that rents for a thousand dollars a month and twenty-four fur coats and a hundred thousand dollars worth of diamonds!"

"How'd she get all that?" Guiterrez asked, interested. "Buy it?"

"No!" said the skinny youth scornfully. "Her admirers present her with every luxury she desires."

"They do, do they?" said Guiterrez. "For free?"

"Of course! All she has to do is smile at them, and they grant her slightest wish."

"Is that a fact?" Guiterrez asked. "Well, you live and learn, I always say. What do you want with her?"

The skinny youth looked at him doubtfully, and then backed away a little, getting ready to run. "I want her autograph, is all."

"So," said Guiterrez. "You're one of them cookies, are you?"


HE didn't sound very hostile, and the skinny youth relaxed. He was wearing a ragged sport coat and baggy sport slacks and white shoes that were unbelievably soiled. His small, high-crowned hat had the brim tipped up jauntily in front. His face was pale and bony, spotted with enormous freckles, and he had a desperately serious do-or-die air.

"Sure," he said. "I'm an autograph collector. I specialize in celebrities who aren't in the theater or on the radio or in the movies or like that. I've got over ten thousand famous names in my collection. It's very valuable."

"I wouldn't doubt it," said Guiterrez. "You don't go for actors or actresses, huh?"

The skinny youth was scornful. "Naw. That's corn-fed stuff. They're too easy. I pick the hard babies. I'm well known for that. The tougher they are, the better I like it. My name's Steamer. You ever heard of me?"

"Not until now," Guiterrez admitted. "How do you propose to get Lily Trace's autograph?"

"I'll wait here until she comes out and then ask her. If she refuses I'll think up some other gag. I've got lots of them on tap. You don't mind me waitin' here, do you? I mean, lots of guys get tough if they catch us autograph hunters hanging around their joints. They claim we pester the customers and keep 'em from comin' again."

"Is that so?" Guiterrez said thoughtfully. "Pester the customers, huh?"

"Oh, I won't," said Steamer. "Honest."

"Oh, yes, you will," said Guiterrez.

Steamer started to edge away again. "Huh?"

Guiterrez got him by the arm. "Listen, jitterbug. Here's a buck. That's for you if you go inside and start annoying customers in a big way."

"Why?" Steamer asked, still doubtful.

"On account of I hate my customers," Guiterrez explained. "I hate each and every one of them personally."

"Well, why?" Steamer repeated blankly.

Guiterrez scowled ferociously. "Because I sweat and slave over a hot stove all day long to cook them the most beautiful food in the whole world! And what do they do with it? Sit in there and poke it down their gullets like a bunch of pigs at a swill box!"

"They pay for it, don't they?" Steamer inquired.

"Is money everything?" Guiterrez demanded. "No! I'm an artist! I've got a soul!"

"What ought they to do with your food?" Steamer asked curiously.

"Appreciate it! Sit there and savor each mouthful gracefully and gratefully! It's genius they're eating! The genius of Guiterrez!"

"Oh," said Steamer.

"Come along," said Guiterrez.

He opened the door and pushed Steamer into the restaurant. It was a long bare room with a high, smoke-stained ceiling. There were booths along the walls, and the center space was packed with round spindle-legged tables. It was late now for the dinner hour, but the place was full and overflowing.


DINERS were hunched over the tables, eating with ferocious concentration, as though they were afraid that if they paused for a breath the food would be snatched from them. They were quite right about that. A mangy horde of waiters prowled around, ready to pounce at the first signs of slackening interest. You had to fight for your food at Guiterrez's.

The noise was terrific. The waiters dropped trays now and then just because they were tired of carrying them. They screamed threats at each other and the customers and orders at the cook. They conducted profane political arguments the length of the room, digressing occasionally to discuss the manners and looks of the diners. A jukebox howled jive from a corner, and the cash register had a bell like a fire gong attached to it.

"Wow!" said Steamer in an awed voice.

Guiterrez shouted in his ear. "Nobody with any brains would eat in a joint like this, would they? I ask you. But look at 'em! I can't get rid of 'em!"

Dick, the small waiter in the big apron, came up and said to Guiterrez: "What's with you now, stupid? You want I should feed this starving fugitive from a rat race?"

"No," said Guiterrez. "He's an annoyer. He collects autographs. Get to work, Steamer."

"Can I get Lily Trace's first?" Steamer asked.

"Sure," Guiterrez said. "She's over there at the side—" He stopped, staring at a small table near the door. "Since when am I running a flophouse here? Who's that sleeping beauty?"

There was only one man at the table. He was slumped down in his chair, head resting in his folded arms. His thinnish blond hair was crumpled and sticky with perspiration, and there was a loose pink roll of fat over the back of his collar.

"He's drunk," said Dick.

"Do tell," said Guiterrez. "I would never have guessed it." He raised his voice to an indignant shout. "So he's drunk! So throw the bum out, you bum!"

"He's got dough," said Dick. "He waves it. I charged him double for the dinners and he didn't kick."

"How many dinners did he have?" Guiterrez demanded.

"Only one. He's got a dame with him. She had one, too. Also he had fifty or sixty drinks. The dame has been tryin' to get him to blow, but he don't want to. She went back to telephone. I think she's calling for help."

"Maybe I could wake him up," said Steamer. "Sometimes when you ask a guy for his autograph, he concentrates and gets sort of sober. Shall I try?"

"Sure," said Guiterrez.

Steamer went over and tapped the drunk politely on the shoulder and began to talk in a low, insistent voice in his ear. For about a minute he got no results. Then the man rolled his head back and forth in vague awareness. Steamer kept on talking and tapping confidentially.

The man heaved himself back in his chair. "Huh?" He had a round, heavily jowled face and eyes that were glassily bloodshot. His clothes were expensively tailored. "What you say?"


STEAMER slid a piece of paper in front of him and poked a pencil into the vaguely fumbling fingers all in one deft, practiced motion.

"Your name, sir. Your autograph, please."

"Oh," said the man. He scowled at the pencil as though he had never seen one before. He maneuvered it around until he got the point headed in the right direction and made a groping, careful scrawl on the piece of paper.

"Thank you," said Steamer.

He pocketed the slip of paper and headed for Lily Trace's table.

"The kid's good," said Dick. "Maybe we should try being more polite to the suckers, huh?"

"Don't be a Communist," said Guiterrez. "The guy's waked up now. Where's his dame?"

"She's coming. The skinny one, there."

The girl was thin to the point of emaciation, and her eyes were enormous in the white stillness of her face. Her lips were a thin, bright-red streak. She looked like a drawing of one of those impossibly elongated fashion manikins, and her sport clothes had the same slick, professional lines. She walked with a beautiful, practiced grace.

"Come on, Don," she said with determination. "Please."

"One drink," said the man. "Only one. Honest. Then we'll go right away."

"Now!" said the girl.

"One drink!" said the man stubbornly. He looked inquiringly at Dick and raised a finger.

"We're fresh out of everything but Mickey Finns," said Dick. "Be happy to serve you one of them, though."

"Eh?" said the man blankly.

The girl jerked at his arm. "Oh, come on! Please, Don! We can't stay here any longer! You can have a drink when we get home."

"Two?" asked the man cleverly.

"A dozen! A hundred!"

"O.K.," said the man. He got unsteadily to his feet. "How much I owe, waiter?"

Dick whipped a bill out of his pocket. "Well, you had two de luxe dinners—" He stopped in midsentence, looking at the girl. He drew a deep breath and put the bill away again. "But you paid for them. Don't you remember?"

"Sure, sure. Tip for you."

The man dropped a crumpled bill on the table. The girl picked it up and calmly put it in the pocket of her sport coat, watching Dick as she did it. Dick smiled in a painfully polite way.

The girl took a firm hold on the man's arm and steered him carefully toward the door and out through it. Dick went back to where Guiterrez was standing.

"See that?" he asked. "A man can't even chisel an honest dollar anymore. That dame is pure poison. I'd hate to have her get behind me if she had a knife around anywhere."

"She don't need a knife," said Guiterrez. "She's got fingernails she could cut your throat with. Where'd that autograph bug go?"

"I dunno," said Dick, looking around.

"Must have got Lily Trace's signature and beat it out the side door, I guess," Guiterrez said, shrugging. "Well, there goes a buck, but it wasn't a very good idea, anyway."

"Naturally not," Dick observed. "If you thought of it. Why don't you go back and do some cooking?"

"I'm not in the mood," Guiterrez answered sourly. "I want to be alone."


CHAPTER II. — HIRED TO STEAL

MAX LATIN was sitting in his special booth, the last one in the line, near the metal swing door that led into the kitchen. Dick stopped beside him and produced a bottle of brandy and a small glass from under his voluminous apron. He pulled the cork out of the bottle with his teeth and put it down beside the glass on the table.

"Screwball is having one of his fits again," he observed.

"Guiterrez?" Latin asked, pouring brandy.

"Yeah. He wants to be alone. So do I—with hot hips over there. Only I'm afraid she comes higher than a gumdrop or a shiny apple."

Latin looked across the room. "I'm afraid so. That's Lily Trace. She's on the expensive side."

"I wonder if she ever gives a benefit performance—for charity and like that?" Dick said speculatively.

"I wouldn't count on it."

"I wish I had more money and less brains," said Dick gloomily. "I got to go to work. Holler if you want me."

Latin sipped at his brandy, enjoying himself. He had the lazy, relaxed air of a sleepy cat.

A smoothly clipped voice said: "Are you Mr. Max Latin, the private inquiry agent?"

"Yes," said Latin, looking up.

The man beside the booth was very tall, taller even than Latin. He had even young-old features that were as cold and sharp as chiseled steel. His eyes were a faded, smooth blue, very light against the tan of his face. He was wearing a dark business suit, and he carried a topcoat over his arm.

"My name is Caleb Drew," he said. "I was informed that you were in the habit of conducting your—ah—business from this restaurant."

"This booth is my office," Latin answered.

"I have a friend who would like to talk to you. If you'll pardon me for a second."

Caleb Drew walked across to Lily Trace's table. She smiled up at him in excellently simulated surprise. The two college boys stood at attention and were introduced to Drew. Lily Trace made a gesture inviting him to sit down. He shook his head and nodded toward Latin's booth.

Lily Trace clapped her hands delightedly. The college boys scowled. Lily Trace got up and took Caleb Drew's arm and let him guide her toward Latin's booth. The college boys sat down glumly and glowered at each other.

"This is Mr. Max Latin," Drew said. "Mr. Latin, this is Lily Trace."

Dick, the waiter, came up and put his elbows on the back of the booth and stared dreamily at Lily Trace. "Latin," he said, "how do you do it, anyway?"

"Get me a couple of glasses," Latin ordered. "Sit down, Miss Trace—Mr. Drew."

Dick took two small glasses from under his apron and put them down on the table. "You go settin' up drinks with that brandy, and Guiterrez will cloud up and rain all over you. That stuff costs sixteen smackers a bottle."

"Go away," said Latin.

"Don't say I didn't warn you," said Dick, obeying. "Call me before the dame leaves, will you? I want to watch her wiggle out of that booth."

Drew said: "The help around here is a little bit—forward."

"I've noticed that," Latin said idly. "Have some brandy?"

"I never drink," said Lily Trace, smiling.

Drew nodded. "Thanks."

Latin poured him a drink. "You wanted to see me, Miss Trace?"

"Yes," said Lily Trace frankly. "I really did want to see you. I like to meet famous people, and you are one of them."

Latin sipped at his brandy. "I've got a long police record, if that's what you mean."

"A lot of arrests," said Drew. "No convictions."

"Bribing juries is an expensive habit," Latin told him. "And with me, time is money. Now you've met me, and we're all happy here together, so what's next?"

"I'd like you to do some work for me," Lily Trace stated. "Some confidential work."

"All my work is confidential—and expensive."

"I'm paying," Drew said.

"Go into your spiel, then," Latin invited.


LILY TRACE lowered her voice to a husky, confidential murmur. "I want you to help me steal some jewelry."

"O.K.," said Latin. "Where and when?"

Lily Trace laughed admiringly. "Oh, I like the way you said that! You're so casual. You'd think you went around stealing things all the time!"

"I do," said Latin.

"Oh," said Lily Trace, surprised.

Drew said: "You'd better let me handle this, Lily. You're a little out of your weight class here, I think."

Lily Trace didn't like that last. She studied Latin with narrowed, speculative eyes. She took a deep breath and stretched the cloth of the front of her dress. Latin sipped his brandy. He was not impressed. Lily Trace chewed on her lower lip, slightly at a loss.

"This is no gag, Mr. Latin," Drew said in his smooth voice. "At least, not the kind you think. Lily doesn't mean for you to actually steal any jewels, of course. She wants it to appear that hers have been stolen."

Latin looked at her. "Insurance?"

"Of course not!" said Drew. "There's no crooked work involved at all."

"Then I don't want to be involved, either."

"Now just a moment," Drew said, losing some of his smooth veneer. "Let me explain, please. Lily wants some more publicity—of the undercover, confidential sort that's so hard to get. Cryptic little hints by columnists and that sort of thing. You know what I mean."

"I've got a rough idea."

"She's not going to report her jewels stolen, and they aren't going to be. But she wants the rumor to get around that they have been—wants people whispering behind their hands about it. You're just the man to handle that."

"I'm listening."

Drew coughed. "Your—ah—reputation...."

"It smells high," said Latin.

"Yes," said Drew, relieved. "She wants to use it. She wants you to put out feelers—inquiries—as though you were trying to buy back her jewelry secretly from the imaginary thieves who stole it."

"Compounding a felony," Latin defined.

"Yes," said Lily Trace eagerly. "But it'll work. Really it will. I know. Everybody will be running around and whispering and pointing and wondering. There'll be hints about it in all the gossip columns. It'll be one of those secrets because they know, and I'll just get all kinds of publicity!"

"And maybe some more jewelry," Latin added.

"Nothing like that is intended," Drew said coldly. "Miss Trace is not accepting any more presents from her admirers. She and I are going to be married."

"Felicitations," said Latin. "My price for this little job of work is one thousand dollars—in advance."

Drew stared at him. "That seems excessive—"

"Unless I have to argue about it," Latin continued in the same tone. "Then the price goes up. It costs money to argue with me."

Drew's face looked white and stiff. He took his wallet from his pocket and carefully counted out ten one hundred dollar bills.

"I judged you'd want cash." He dropped a card on the bills. "There's my address and phone number, if you want to get in touch with me."

"Very thoughtful of you," Latin commented. "You'll be hearing of and from me. You'd better get the jewelry out of sight somewhere. As soon as the police hear that I'm nosing around, they'll come and see you. They might be a little on the rough side. They're mad at me now for one reason or another."

"That will be taken care of," Drew promised.

He helped Lily Trace out of the booth. The two college boys sprang to attention and settled back into despair again as Lily Trace waved to them gaily and went on out of the restaurant with Drew.

Dick came out of the kitchen and leaned over the back of the booth. "Latin," he murmured. "There's a stiff out in the alley. Is it one of yours?"

Latin looked up at him silently.

"No joke," said Dick. "Guiterrez fell over it and grabbed a handful of blood. He don't want to be alone anymore."

Latin slid out of the booth. "Come on."


GUITERREZ was holding his hands under the hot water faucet in the sink. He took them out and wiped them on a dish towel and looked at them. They were as clean and pink as a new baby's. Guiterrez shuddered and shoved them under the hot water faucet again.

"That's the kind of thing I run into around here," he muttered savagely. "My customers not only stuff themselves like hogs—they go out in my alley and die on me. Why don't they go home first if they want to die?"

"You sure it isn't just a stray drunk?" Latin asked.

Guiterrez looked at him soberly. "I'm sure. It's a guy, and he's awful dead, Latin. In that dark stretch between the side door and the mouth of the alley. Just beyond where we set the garbage cans."

"Wait here," Latin ordered.

He went out the side door and closed it behind him. The darkness was like a living thing, a heavy menacing weight that pressed coldly against his face. The mouth of the alley, half a block away, was a narrow high rectangle with the street-lights feeble and yellow beyond it.

Latin moved slowly and cautiously forward. His knee thrust against the side of a garbage can, rattled the galvanized lid, and the echoes chased themselves hollowly away from him. He touched a limp, yielding weight with the toe of his shoe.

In the street an auto horn blatted flatly, and gears clashed. Latin took a match from his pocket and snapped it on his thumbnail. Shadows jiggled and swooped weirdly around him, and then the yellow flame steadied as he cupped it in his hands.

The man was lying sprawled on his face with his head pillowed in a slick pool of blood. He looked very flat and thin and deflated. His throat had been cut.

The match flickered out, and Latin struck another. The dead man's clothes had a messy, pulled-around look to them. All his pockets had been turned inside out, the linings hanging like multiple tags pinned helter-skelter to him.

Latin leaned closer to look at his face and then blew out the match. He made his way cautiously back to the side door and went into the restaurant kitchen.

Guiterrez was letting the water from the cold water tap run over his hands. Dick was leaning against the asbestos-covered side of the steak broiler, picking his teeth with a curved paring knife.

"Did you look at him?" Latin asked.

"Oh, no," said Guiterrez. "I felt him. That convinced me that I didn't want to know him any better."

Latin said: "He's just a kid—maybe twenty at the best. Skinny and tall—freckled face. Wearing dirty white shoes and checked slacks and a sport coat."

Guiterrez stared at Dick, his eyes widening. "The jitterbug!"

Dick nodded. "Must be."

"Do you know him?" Latin inquired.

Guiterrez said: "He told me his name was Steamer. He's one of these dopey autograph collectors. He wanted to get Lily Trace's signature. He saw her go in the joint, and he was gonna wait outside. I told him to go on in and brace her inside and pester some of the other customers while he was at it. I think maybe that wasn't such a hot idea."

"He had something somebody wanted," Latin said. "He's been rolled. A nice thorough job."

"Rolled!" Guiterrez repeated, startled. "Why, hell, anybody could tell just by lookin' at him that he wouldn't be carrying any dough."

"Something else, then," said Latin.


THE second cook pushed Dick out of the way and threw steaks in the broiler like a man dealing out meaty, thick cards. The steaks sizzled and smoked and spattered. Guiterrez looked at them and shivered. He put his hands back under the water faucet.

"Did Steamer pester any customers?" Latin asked.

Guiterrez shook his head. "He gypped me. He got Lily Trace's signature and hopped it."

"The drunk," Dick said.

Guiterrez nodded. "Oh, yeah. There was a drunk sleepin' on one of the tables. The kid woke him up by pretendin' he wanted the guy's autograph."

"Did you know the drunk?"

"Nope," said Guiterrez. "He's been here before, though. Quite a while ago, as I remember."

Latin nodded at Dick, and Dick went out through the swing door into the front part of the restaurant. A waiter yelled some unintelligible gibberish through the order slot, and the pastry chef said: "Go to hell. That ain't on the menu."

Guiterrez began to wipe his hands slowly and carefully. "I don't feel so good now, Latin. I'm afraid I pulled that kid into this. I shoulda kept my big mouth shut."

"Forget it," Latin said absently. He was frowning, his greenish eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

Dick came back into the kitchen. "The drunk's been here before—two or three times. But nobody knows his name or anything about him. The dame he had with him called him Don. She's never been here except tonight. The drunk is a big spender. Steamer got his autograph and Lily Trace's. Nobody else's. Then two college cutups beefed with Steamer when he braced Lily Trace. They're just leavin' now."

"Have they got a car?" Latin asked.

"No."

"Go out and tell the taxi driver who picks them up to keep track of them and telephone me here."

"O.K.," said Dick, going out again.

"Get me a tablecloth," Latin said to Guiterrez. "A big one."

"What're you gonna use that for?" Guiterrez asked.

"A shroud."

Guiterrez stared at him, his face paling.

Latin said: "If the cops find that body there, they'll pinch me on suspicion. They couldn't prove anything, but they could hold me for a couple of days. I don't want to be in jail right at the moment."

"You're gonna move him?" Guiterrez asked shakily.

"Yes. Afterwards, I want you to get some ashes out of the broiler—a lot of them—and spread them over the blood and stamp them down."

"Oh-oh," said Guiterrez.

Dick came back through the swing door. "Benny Merkle was the driver that picked up the college guys. I told him what you said."

Latin nodded. "All right. I'm going over and get my car now. You go out in the alley and see that nobody else falls over Steamer. Wait there until I come back with the car."

"O.K., chum," Dick said casually.


CHAPTER III. — DEATH OF A DICK

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR WALTERS, Homicide, had a yellowish gaunt face and a sourly cynical nature. He had been chasing murderers of one sort or another for twenty years, and he had gotten to the point where he didn't believe what he heard even when he was talking to himself. He sat in Latin's booth and watched Latin sip delicately at a small glass of brandy.

"It's good," said Latin. "Want some?"

"No," said Walters.

It was late now, and the restaurant was almost empty. A half- dozen waiters were playing craps on a table near the cash register.

Guiterrez came out of the kitchen and said: "Listen, Latin. I've told you before I don't like cops hanging around here all the time. People are gonna think I'm running a bookie joint or a hook shop. You know what kind of a reputation cops have. They stink a place up."

Before Walters could think of an answer, Guiterrez went on up to the front of the restaurant and shouldered his way into the crap game.

Walters drew a deep breath and said: "A guy got killed tonight, Latin."

"Only one?" Latin observed. "Hitler must be slipping."

"This guy wasn't in Europe," Walters said patiently. "And Hitler didn't kill him."

"Who did?" Latin inquired.

"That's a coincidence," Walters said. "I was just about to ask you that."

"Me?" Latin said, surprised. "Now listen, Walters, this is getting to be a nuisance. Just because you find a body somewhere—"

"Not somewhere. On the front steps of the morgue."

"That was thoughtful of the guy."

"He didn't put himself there. Somebody else did."

"Not guilty," said Latin. "I don't even know where the morgue is, and besides, I haven't been out of this place all night. You can ask Guiterrez or Dick or any of the waiters."

"Let's not clown around," said Walters wearily. "I know you own this joint and that all these birds work for you. They'd swear black was white if you gave them the nod."

"Prove it," Latin invited.

"I can't. Besides, I've got other things to do. This is just a confidential chat. Do you know anything about this bird that got biffed?"

"Who was he?" Latin asked.

"He called himself Steamer Morgan. He was a private detective and a good one—that is, if there are any good ones."

Latin put his glass down. "A private detective?"

"Yeah. Not a crook like you are, though. At least, he didn't go around talking about it as much if he was. He specialized in getting evidence in civil cases."

"Divorces?" Latin inquired.

"No. Accident cases and damage suits. He was plenty expert—knew a lot about law. He had a swell front for it. He looked like a kid, and he went around acting like a jitterbug and a sort of a screwy young punk. The last type of guy you'd suspect of being a detective. He's sneaked up on an awful lot of smarties with that act. And when he got evidence—it was the kind that held in court."

"Was he working on a case?"

Walters shrugged. "I think so. I'm trying to find out now. He worked undercover and on his own. He didn't keep any records. Somebody searched him before they left him at the morgue. Nothing in his pockets at all."


DICK came up to the booth carrying a portable telephone. "One of your crummy friends wants to talk to you."

Latin plugged the phone in on the concealed connection behind the drape at the back of the booth. "Latin speaking," he said into the mouthpiece.

"This here is Benny Merkle, Mr. Latin. I'm the taxi driver that picked up them two guys from your joint a while back. Dick said you wanted to know where they went and such."

"Yes," said Latin. "Go ahead."

"They called each other Bruce and Bill. They didn't use no last names. I drove 'em from your joint to a very swanky dive called the Chateau Carleton on Vandervort Road. They don't live there. They waked up the janitor and laid down a pound note to get in."

"What then?" Latin asked.

"I waited around, and in about ten minutes they came boiling out again. One of 'em had a bloody nose and the other had a big bump on his noggin. They was plenty mad at some dame they called Lily."

"What did they do next?"

"They had me drive 'em to a liquor store, and they bought a fifth of Scotch. It was good Scotch. They gave me a couple of drinks. Then they asked me if I knew where they could—I mean, they told me to drive 'em over to Katie Althouse's place on Barker Street. They went in there, and they both picked out a girl by the name of Priscilla."

Latin was smiling. "What does she look like?"

"Priscilla? Well, she's sort of dark and kinda built in a big way. She's got black hair she wears in a long bob, and she makes up her mouth in a smear."

Latin chuckled. "All right, Benny. Did you wait for them?"

"Yeah. I took 'em home. They was kinda tired and pretty drunk. I put 'em to bed at the Milton Hotel. I'm there now. You want I should ask some questions about 'em?"

"No," said Latin. "Let it go. Thanks a lot, Benny. Drop in and say hello to the cashier here tomorrow."

Latin put the telephone back in its cradle. He was still grinning.

"Let me laugh, too," Walters invited.

Latin said: "Lily Trace came in here tonight with a couple of college boys. She ditched them and then bounced them when they tried to call on her later. They got mad and went over to Katie Althouse's place and picked out a girl who looked like Lily Trace. As long as they couldn't get the real article they were going to take a substitute."

"They must be dopes," said Walters.

"They've got some fancy company."

Walters nodded. "I don't get it. This cafe society is away over my head. In my time gals like Lily Trace stayed down by the stockyards and hung red lanterns over their doors. They didn't have their pictures in the society pages waltzing with all the town's best bankrolls."

"Do you know where she came from?"

"No, but I'll make you a bet I can guess how. You want to watch your step with her, sonny."

"What?" said Latin.

Walters said: "Look, Latin. I like you in spite of all your fancy tricks, and I think maybe you're even halfway honest now and then. This little deal you've got on with Lily Trace is going to backfire right in your face if you don't watch your step."

"What deal?" Latin asked casually.

"It didn't fool me any, but some of the boys have got a mad on with you. Especially the district attorney's office. About twenty tips have come in tonight that Lily Trace had a lot of jewelry stolen and that you're dickering either for the guys who lifted it or for her or for both. I knew it was phoney because there were too many tips, but the district attorney's boys aren't that subtle."

"Thanks, Walters," said Latin. "I'll take care of it. I know something about Steamer's death. I don't know who killed him, but I'll find out and let you know."


WALTERS got up. "Better hurry a little. I can't hold the district attorney's boys off you forever, and anyway I like to see results for my efforts."

Latin poured himself another drink. "Find out what Steamer was working on if you can."

"Find out yourself. You know more crooked lawyers than I do."

Walters stopped at the crap game to exchange insults with Guiterrez and then went on out of the restaurant. Latin finished up his glass of brandy and lit a cigarette. After a while, he took the card Caleb Drew had given him out of his pocket and looked at it.

It was outsize, made of thick parchment. Engraved on it in jet-black old English letters was the name "Caleb Drew IV" and under that "Investment Counselor." In the lower left corner was an address Latin recognized as belonging to the Teasdale Building in the downtown financial district and a telephone number. In the lower right-hand corner there was another telephone number.

Latin dialed that number, and after the first ring a voice said politely in his ear: "Gravesend Manor."

"May I speak to Mr. Caleb Drew?" Latin asked.

"He's not in, sir."

"Do you mean that he's not home or that he's asleep?"

"He's not here, sir. He hasn't been in for the last two or three days. Do you wish to leave a message?"

"No, thanks."

Latin hung up and dialed Information. When a courteously long- suffering feminine voice answered, he said: "Will you give me the number of Miss Lily Trace? She lives at the Chateau Carleton on Vandervort Road."

"One moment, please." The line hummed emptily to itself, and then the long-suffering voice said: "There's no telephone listed under that name, sir."

"You mean it's a hidden number?"

"There's no telephone listed under that name, sir."

"All right," said Latin. "Is there switchboard service at the Carleton?"

"No, sir."

"Good-bye," said Latin. He hung up and poured himself another very small portion of brandy. He didn't drink it. He scowled at it thoughtfully for a while and then dialed still another number.

This time the telephone at the other end rang a long time before the connection snapped and a hoarse, blurred voice said: "Abraham Moscowitz, Attorney, speaking."

Latin said: "This is Latin, Abe."

"O.K. I'm coming." The line clicked and was dead.

LATIN swore to himself and dialed the same number again. "O.K., O.K.," said Moscowitz's blurred voice. "Don't get ants in your pants. I said I'm coming. Give me a chance to put on my shoes first, will you?"

"I'm not in jail," Latin told him.

"What?" said Moscowitz incredulously. "You mean those police bums got the nerve to hold you without booking you? Get off the phone so I can call the mayor! I'll fix 'em!"

"Shut up," said Latin. "I'm not even arrested. I want to ask you some questions about law."

"Law?" said Moscowitz. "I don't know anything about law. I'm an attorney."

"Did you ever do any business with a private detective named Steamer Morgan?"

"Nope," said Moscowitz. "He's too ignorant. He won't even commit perjury. Can you imagine a private detective that won't commit perjury? What good is he as a witness?"

"Who does he work for?"

"Baldwin and Frazier, mostly. They are a couple of old dodos with hay in their hair. Sometimes they win a case by accident, but not very often."

"What kind of cases?"

"They got a whole bunch of corporate accounts they inherited from their grandpappies."

"Anything in court now that's hot?"

"They got half-a-dozen appeals floating around here and there. Stockholders' suits. They're always suing for an accounting."

"What does that mean?" Latin asked.

"Oh, that's when the stockholders find out there's no dough in the treasury and they want to find out who spent it and what for. I always say, as long as it's gone—who cares? Some sharpshooter is always rapping suckers for their nickels. It doesn't make much difference who he is or how he does it—they won't get their money back."

"Ever hear of a girl named Lily Trace?"

"Whee!"

"Aside from that, do you know anything about her?"

"Nope. I never met her except in my dreams."

"How about a gent named Caleb Drew?"

"Never heard of him."

"He's going to marry Lily Trace."

"Marry her?" Moscowitz repeated, startled. "Say, now there's a smart guy! I never thought of that. A marriage license only costs two bucks, and mink coats come a lot higher than that—even wholesale."

"Good-bye," said Latin. He put the telephone back in its cradle and downed the small drink of brandy. He got up out of the booth and went through the metal swing door into the kitchen.

After a moment Guiterrez followed him. He was carrying Latin's hat and topcoat. Without a word he helped Latin into the coat.

Latin took a stubby hammerless Smith and Wesson revolver out of the waistband of his trousers and dropped it into the side pocket of the topcoat. He took his hat from Guiterrez and put it on carefully.

Guiterrez cleared his throat. "Be a little careful, huh?" he suggested uneasily.

Latin winked at him and went out the back door.


THE Gravesend Manor Apartment Hotel was a somber, heavily dignified building in the massive style of a medieval European castle. It had a lobby like a baronial hall, long and narrow, with ornamental beams that were smooth and dark and oily against the high white ceiling. Latin walked down a length of deep red carpet to the small desk in the corner.

"I'd like to speak to Caleb Drew," he said.

The desk clerk was a small, plump man with a benign smile and white hair that floated around his head like a halo. He looked like a casket salesman.

"I'm sorry, sir," he said, as though he really meant it. "He's not in now."

"It's rather important that I see him," said Latin. "Do you expect him soon?"

"No, sir. That is, I have no idea when he'll return."

Latin nodded and frowned as though he were masticating on some weighty problem. Finally he leaned confidentially on the desk.

"May I have your name?"

"Mr. Hammersley, sir," the clerk said, looking faintly surprised.

"Mr. Hammersley, I'm Detective Inspector Walters of the Homicide detail. May I speak to you in confidence?"

"Oh, of course," said Hammersley, impressed.

"Have you ever heard of a man named Max Latin?"

"That person!" said Hammersley. "Oh, yes indeed! I follow the crime news with—ah—considerable interest. A hobby of mine, you might say. This Latin seems to be a very reprehensible sort of a character—always getting arrested for something or other. He's a private detective, isn't he, sir?"

"That's what he claims," said Latin. "But I know him well, and in my opinion he's nothing but a crook. We're very anxious to prove that. He's in trouble right now over the matter of an unexplained murder."

"Murder!" Hammersley repeated, blinking.

"Yes. He has homicidal tendencies. Now, we have heard it rumored that he's done some sort of work for Mr. Drew in the past. Not connected with this business, of course, but we think that Latin might try to get in touch with Mr. Drew, knowing how influential Mr. Drew is, to try to persuade him to lend Latin his influence or even some money."

"I understand," said Hammersley eagerly.

"Have you seen Latin around here? He looks a little bit like me."

"No, I haven't. I'm certain I'd have noticed him if he'd been here. I can recognize his type easily."

"Be sure and notify headquarters if you see him. But I think—knowing the sly, crafty nature of the man—that he will probably attempt to get in touch with Mr. Drew by telephone. I know this is a very unusual request, but will you tell me if Mr. Drew has received any telephone calls this evening while he's been out? I'm sure Gravesend Manor would want to cooperate with the authorities, and this man Latin is really a menace."

"In the circumstances," said Hammersley, "anything we can do...." He fluttered through some telephone call slips and put several on the desk in front of Latin. "You can see that if he did call, he didn't leave his name."

"Oh, he wouldn't use his own name," Latin said, going through the slips. "How about these five calls? They're all from the same person."

"Oh, no," said Hammersley. "They don't have anything to do with Latin."

"I hate to seem inquisitive, but I'd like to be sure—"

"They're all from Miss Mayan. Miss Teresa Mayan. She's Mr. Drew's secretary. She called here repeatedly early this evening, as you see. She said she had to get in touch with Mr. Drew in regard to an important business matter."

"Oh, yes," said Latin. "I wonder. Perhaps she could tell me something about Mr. Drew's business dealings with Latin. It's something I don't like to speak about over the telephone. Do you know where she lives?"

"Yes. At Hadley House. It's on First and Drexel."

"Thank you, Mr. Hammersley," said Latin. "We of the police department appreciate the help of conscientious citizens like you are."

"It was nothing at all," Hammersley said, embarrassed and pleased. "Don't mention it."


CHAPTER IV. — TARGET FOR TERESA

HADLEY HOUSE went in for the modernistic. It was all as sleek and streamlined as a pursuit plane. Latin got out of the mirror-studded, chromium-lined elevator at the fourth floor and walked down a long hall that had pale blue walls and a dark blue ceiling. He knocked on the door numbered 412.

Teresa Mayan opened it. Latin had never seen her before, but he recognized her at once from the descriptions Guiterrez and Dick had given him. She was the girl who had been with the drunk called Don at the restaurant.

She was wearing a black satin hostess coat that rustled luxuriously when she moved, and her face looked pale and still and thoughtful above it. She was not at all surprised to see Latin. She nodded casually and said: "Come on in."

Latin stepped into the square, low-ceilinged living room and watched her move in her gracefully indolent way to the liquor cabinet in the corner. She poured whiskey out of a squat decanter into two tall, silver-rimmed glasses, fizzed a shot of soda into each. She gave Latin one of the glasses and pointed to the divan.

"Sit down."

Latin sat down slowly, holding the glass in both hands, and watched her. He couldn't quite figure out this approach and he said: "Were you expecting someone—I mean, now?"

"Yes," said Teresa Mayan. "You."

"Do you know who I am?" Latin asked.

She nodded. "I recognized you—from your picture. It's quite a remarkable likeness."

"Picture?" Latin repeated slowly and thoughtfully.

Teresa Mayan smiled at him. "You're quite a clever little lad, but that surprised you, didn't it? You didn't know I had a camera with me, did you?"

"No," said Latin honestly. "I didn't."

"A good one, too. A very good one. Wait." She walked through the doorway that led into the bedroom and came out carrying a large flat square of cardboard. "Be careful. It's still wet."

She lowered the cardboard so that he could see the wet photographic print lying on it. Latin looked and closed his eyes slowly and then looked again.

It was a remarkably good picture of him. Very effective, too. He was kneeling down, holding a match in front of him, and the match flame made his features look white and sharp and clear. It also revealed plainly the body that was lying on the ground in front of him, the slick shine of the pool of blood, the pale loosened features of Steamer Morgan, and even a couple of shadowy garbage cans.

"I've got a title for it," said Teresa Mayan. "I'm going to call it 'Caught in the Act.' I think that sort of explains it, don't you?"

"Sort of," Latin agreed. His face looked white and a little strained.

"The camera is specially made for candid shots," Teresa Mayan explained. "Has a beautiful lens. Very fast, very sensitive. A match in a dark alley like that was just right for it."

"I can see that," said Latin.

"I developed the print myself. I have knockdown darkroom equipment here."

"Very handy," said Latin.

"Yes, it is. I got it for Don. I've been keeping him amused by letting him take nude candid shots of me." She smoothed the front of her housecoat. "I make a good nude model if you like them long and limber."

"Oh," said Latin.


TERESA MAYAN laughed at him.

"Still a little at sea, aren't you? I'll tell you how it was. I know that you own that restaurant and that you hang around there all the time and that you're a sharpshooter. It's not as big a secret as you seem to think. And I knew that the dope who runs it for you—Guiterrez—saw me tonight when he fell over the body in the alley. He covered it up—pretending he didn't know there was anyone around and acted scared out of his pants—but he didn't fool me. I knew he recognized me, and I knew you'd find out who I was someway or other and come around and try to blackmail me. I was right, wasn't I?"

"It looks that way," Latin admitted.

"So I acted to protect myself," said Teresa Mayan. "You played right along with me by moving the body. Now I've got more on you than you have on me." She indicated the picture with a forefinger that had a blood-red glistening nail two inches long and pointed like a dagger. "I only developed one negative. I've got a lot more."

"Where?" Latin asked.

"Not here," she said, smiling coolly. "Now you put that print in your pocket and run along home. Take a look at it any time you get more smart ideas about shaking me down."

"O.K.," said Latin glumly. He put his glass down on the coffee table and got up. "I don't suppose it would do any good to tell you that I didn't have any such ideas in mind at all when I came over here?"

Teresa Mayan stood and laughed at him in a lightly amused way.

"O.K.," said Latin again.

He took one catlike step toward her and hit her. His fist didn't travel more than six inches, and it landed with a sharp smack on the hinge of her jaw just below her ear. Teresa Mayan whirled around with a graceful rustle of silk, fell across the divan, and rolled off on the floor. She lay motionless, face down.

Latin dropped instantly on one knee and one hand, like a football linesman getting ready to charge. He was holding the stubby Smith and Wesson in his other hand, and he peered tensely over the top of the divan at the door into the bedroom.

Nothing happened. There was no sound, no movement in the apartment. A minute dragged past, then another. Latin came up out of his crouch and slid into the bedroom and flicked the light switch.

The room was severely modernistic. The bed was low and wide. It had no foot, and the head was one huge mirror. There were a good many pictures of Teresa Mayan on the walls. As she had said, she made a very good nude model if you like them long and limber.

Latin looked in the closet and in the bathroom. He went back through the living room and tried the kitchen. The portable developing outfit was on the tile sideboard next to the sink. Its light-proof hood was raised now, and there were trays and round bottles of developing fluid lined up behind it. The camera was there, too. A pocket-sized German miniature. The back of it was open. There was no film in it and none anywhere around that Latin could see.

Silk rustled in the living room, and Latin jumped for the doorway. Teresa Mayan was still lying in a limp, graceful heap on the floor.

Latin walked over and looked down at her. "The trouble with you is that you've been to too many movies. You're not dealing with Charlie Chan now. I want that negative. Where is it?"

She didn't move.


LATIN leaned over and picked her up effortlessly and bounced her on the divan. She pulled herself slowly up to a sitting position. There was a little red spot on her cheek where Latin had hit her, and she rubbed it slowly and gently, watching him with eyes that were glistening, narrow slits.

"This isn't going to hurt me worse than it does you," Latin told her conversationally. "In fact, I just love to bat people around. You tell me where that film is or you're going to be in the market for some store teeth. You got yourself into this by being too smart. Guiterrez actually didn't see you in the alley. He really was scared out of his pants. I didn't come around here to blackmail you. I didn't know who you were or that you were anywhere near that alley. I wanted to find Caleb Drew, and I thought he'd probably check in here sooner or later."

Teresa Mayan said: "What do you want him for?"

"I'm working for him."

"You're a liar."

"Certainly. That's why he hired me. I'm supposed to be negotiating for the return of some of Lily Trace's jewelry that hasn't been stolen."

Her eyes looked as lidless and deadly as a snake's. "Why?"

"She wants publicity. I was going to tell Caleb Drew that if she wanted to get it from what I was doing, she'd have to keep her own big mouth shut. If she doesn't quit sounding off everyone will know it's a phoney. Now I want that film. I don't think it's going to convict me of murder or anything like that, but it can make me plenty of trouble. Where is it?"

"Then what happens?"

"We'll talk about that after I get the film."

"It's in the top drawer of the desk over there."

The desk was against the wall next to the door into the bedroom. Latin went over to it and opened the top drawer. He leaned down to look into it, and the bullet that had been meant for the back of his head missed by about an inch and buried itself in the wall in front of his face.

Latin didn't turn around or straighten up. He dived headfirst through the door into the bedroom. As he hit the floor and rolled, he flipped his arm up and shoved the door hard. The sound of its slam was like an echo of the bursting smash of the shot.

Latin rolled on over and came up to his knees, cursing himself soundlessly. Teresa Mayan wasn't wearing anything under the hostess coat, and it didn't have any pockets large enough to hide a gun. But he should have known she would have one cached around somewhere. Probably it had been poked back of the cushions on the divan.

Another report smacked out, and the bullet made a neat white hole in the door about six inches below the knob. It would have taken Latin right in the middle of the face had he been trying to look through the keyhole.

Latin didn't like that, either. Teresa Mayan could call her shots. He knew just as well as if he could see her that she was kneeling in back of the divan, using its top for a rest. From the sound of its reports, he judged she was using a .25 caliber automatic. That meant she had at least five more shots. Under the circumstances, Latin had no slightest urge to open the door.

This was like a motion picture script that had gone haywire. The heroine besieged in the bedroom protecting her honor. Only Latin wasn't a heroine, and he didn't have any honor.


HE tilted his head, listening intently. There were faint, hurried sounds of motion in the living room. The subdued swish of silk, the muffled tap of a high heel. Latin got up and slid along the wall beside the door. He paused again to listen. If she wasn't on a direct line with the doorway, he had some chance of getting out and finding cover before she could hit him.

He reached slowly and cautiously for the knob and then stiffened rigidly as a latch clicked. It wasn't the bedroom door, though. It was the front door. It slammed with a final, solid thud.

Latin jerked the bedroom door open and slammed it back against the wall. He was afraid of a trick, and he didn't show himself in the doorway. He stayed flat beside it.

Voices came to him very faintly, mumbling from the hall just outside the apartment. Among them, Teresa Mayan's sounded quite clear and loud.

"Shots? Yes, I heard them plainly."

Latin came into the living room and walked across to the front door and put his ear against the panel. It sounded like there were a dozen people in the hall, all talking at once. Teresa Mayan's voice came again.

"You'd better keep watch here in the hallway. There might be a prowler around. Of course, he couldn't be in my apartment, but I'd feel safer if you'd just watch my door for a little while. It's silly, I know, but I'm so easily frightened by just the thought of things like that."

Another voice said: "Oh, I'll be watching, Miss Mayan."

Latin said some more things to himself. If he stepped out of the apartment now, there was sure to be a beef. That was the last thing he wanted at the moment. He was cornered.

After thinking it over, he shrugged casually and looked around the front room. The satin hostess coat lay on the floor in an untidy pile. Latin studied it for a second, puzzled, and then he understood. Teresa Mayan's tailored gabardine sport coat had been lying across one of the chairs. It was gone now.

She hadn't been able to get at any of her clothes in the bedroom. The hostess coat was too bulky to fit under the sport coat. She had discarded it and put on the sport coat in its place. As a costume, it was a trifle sketchy, but it would get by. She had been wearing plain black suede bedroom slippers. They were a little exotic for street wear, but she probably didn't intend to do any walking.

Latin shook his head ruefully. He braced one of the chairs under the doorknob and began to search the living room. He found some packets of love letters that made very interesting reading, but their writers had signed them with nicknames that didn't mean anything to him.

He went on into the bedroom. He uncovered an astonishing array of underclothing, all very expensive, lots of costume jewelry, and a great many more pictures of Teresa Mayan. She evidently was quite proud of her own anatomy.

He didn't find any film negative, and he moved to the bathroom. He opened the lid of the big wicker clothes hamper and stood there, rigid with surprise, staring down into the face of the man squatting inside it.

After a long time, Latin took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead. The face of the man in the clothes hamper was a mottled bluish-red, and his eyes bulged horribly. He was dead.


LATIN left him there. He went back into the living room hurriedly and picked up the drink Teresa Mayan had poured for him. He lifted it to his lips and then froze, staring down into it with a sort of fascinated horror. He was thinking of the round, brown bottles of developing fluid on the drainboard in the kitchen.

"Good God," he said in a whisper. He poked one finger in the whiskey and touched the end of it gingerly with the tip of his tongue. He put the drink down very quickly.

He remembered hearing somewhere that some sort of cyanide derivative was used in developing film. Teresa Mayan evidently also used it for a mixer. Latin's whiskey was laced with it.

"Good God," he said again, thinking of the blue face of the man in the clothes hamper.

He revised his estimate of Teresa Mayan upward ten notches. She had put the cyanide in the drink while he was in the bedroom. She had known he'd hear what she said out in the hall and that he wouldn't want to dash out and start an argument with the other tenants. He'd wait for a while, and while he was waiting, what would be more natural than to take a drink? And two bodies were just as easy to dispose of as one.

"Yes, indeed," said Latin to himself.

He went over to the telephone stand in the corner and dialed the number of Guiterrez's restaurant. The instrument at the other end got time to ring only once, and then Guiterrez's voice bellowed in his ear: "We're closed!"

"This is Latin."

"I said we're closed! We don't serve no more tonight! You come around here and start a beef, and I'll have you arrested!"

"Are the cops there looking for me?" Latin asked. "Are they listening to you?"

"Yes, you heard me! I said I'll have you arrested, or maybe even murder you!"

"Is it Walters?" Latin inquired.

"So you got a pull with the cops, have you? All right, I'll have the district attorney's men pinch you! And don't think they won't!"

"Thanks," Latin said. "I'll keep undercover."

He put the telephone back in its cradle and returned to the bathroom. He searched the man with the blue face and found from the contents of his wallet that his name was Donald K. Raleigh. Going into the living room, he picked up the telephone and dialed another number.

After about ten rings a hollow, tired voice said: "This is Abraham Moscowitz, the attorney who never sleeps."

"It's Latin again, Abe."

"I'm putting on my shoes right now."

"Never mind. I'm not in jail—yet. How do you feel about murder, Abe?"

"I can take it or leave it alone. Why don't you? I mean leave it alone."

"It follows me around and comes when I whistle—sometimes even when I don't. The district attorney's men are looking for me to ask me about killing Steamer Morgan."

"So you're eliminating competition now, eh? You'd better watch out for the feds. Murder is considered an unfair trade practice in some industries, I understand."

"I didn't kill Steamer. They don't even think I did. They want to hold me while they ask me about some jewels I'm not negotiating to buy back from some thieves who didn't steal them."

"That makes as much sense as a Supreme Court decision. Call me back in the morning."

"Wait a minute," Latin requested. "You mentioned that Steamer worked for a law firm named Baldwin and Frazier. Do they have any case on now involving a man named Donald K. Raleigh?"

"Raleigh," Moscowitz repeated thoughtfully. "Raleigh.... Oh, yeah. The Cataract Power Company case. It's been banging around in the courts for three years. It's got whiskers as long as Frazier and Baldwin have. Raleigh is the president of Cataract Power."

"What's the case about?"

"The same old story. There ain't no dough in the treasury and no kilowatts in the powerhouse and no customers to buy any even if there were. So the suckers want to know why. I could tell them for free. Raleigh's grandpappy and his pappy were smart men in a steal. They could grab the power rights on a river and pay off in confederate money and make the chumps like it, but he can't. He's a rumdumb. I don't think he stole the company dough—that is, intentionally. He probably spent it trying to crossbreed giant pandas and teddy bears or trying to corner the paperweight market."

"Why has the case been dragging on so long?"

"Well, naturally Raleigh doesn't want to go to jail. He will if he ever testifies. He's too stupid to lie convincingly. Even to the juries they hatch up in this state—and do we have some dillies! So the first time Baldwin and Frazier jumped him, he fixed the judge and got the case dismissed. So Baldwin and Frazier appealed that decision and got it reversed and started over with another judge that he couldn't fix. So now Raleigh is too sick to appear in court. He's been sick for six months or so. Maybe he really is, I don't know."

"He looked pretty bad the last time I saw him," Latin observed. "In fact, I think somebody may start a rumor that I murdered him."

"Did you?"

"No."

"Well, then what are you calling me for?" Moscowitz snarled. "If I've told you once, I've told you twenty times that I won't defend an innocent client! That's too hard work. If you want me to keep you out of jail, don't get pinched for things you didn't do!"

"O.K. I'll go murder somebody else right away."

"Now you're talking. Be sure you do it in front of some nice, honest witnesses. It's cheaper to buy them before than to bribe them afterwards."

"Good-bye," said Latin.


CHAPTER V. — LILY TAKES A LICKING

THE first thin red rays of the sun hit the casement windows in the tall spire of the Chateau Carleton and reflected in a million jewel-like pinpoints. Now, in the dawn, the streets were hushed and quiet and empty, and Latin was all alone as he walked past the front of the building and turned down the side street beyond it.

A garbage can bonged against some obstruction and raised dismal, clanking echoes, and then a man came out of the alley behind the apartment building rolling the can along expertly in front of him. He deposited it at the curb beside three more like it and paused to wipe his forehead with a luridly pink bandana.

Two men crossed the street toward him. They were Bruce and Bill, the college men. They were wearing their overcoats and white scarfs, and each carried a cellophane-wrapped florist's box under his arm. They didn't look so healthy this morning, but they were up and around.

Latin slowed to a saunter, watching. Bruce and Bill came up to the janitor and halted, standing at attention.

"Will you let us in the building?" Bruce asked.

"We want to see Miss Lily Trace," Bill added.

The janitor eyed them sourly. "You got a nerve, you two. After the hell you raised last night."

"We came to apologize for that," Bruce said.

Bill held out a ten dollar bill wordlessly.

"Well..." said the janitor uncertainly. "Why don't you wait until some decent hour to do your apologizing?"

"Miss Trace will be up," Bruce said.

"She told us she always waits up to see the sun rise," Bill explained.

"Well, all right," said the janitor, taking the bill. "But no fighting and hollering, remember. Come on and—What do you want?"

"I'm with these gentlemen," said Latin.

Bruce and Bill looked at him in surprise.

"I'm Miss Trace's agent," Latin explained.

"Her business agent?" Bruce asked.

Latin nodded casually. "Sort of. Lead on, MacDuff!"

"The name is MacGillicuddy," the janitor corrected.

He piloted them along the alley and down a flight of cement steps into the shadowy reaches of the apartment basement. He opened the door of the express elevator and pointed to the control panel.

"It operates itself. Just punch the buttons."

Bruce and Bill and Latin got in the elevator, and Bill pushed the button numbered 7. The elevator rose with ponderous, quiet dignity.

Bruce cleared his throat. "I hope Miss Trace won't be too angry at us. We behaved very rudely to her last night. We were drunk."

"How'd you like Priscilla?" Latin asked.

Bruce and Bill looked at each other, startled.

"The taxi driver who took you to Kate's is a friend of mine," Latin explained.

"Oh," said Bruce.

"We enjoyed her very much—I think," said Bill.

Latin nodded. "I'll tell her the next time I see her. She'll be interested to know that she looks like Lily Trace."

There was a pained silence until the elevator stopped gently. Bill slid the door back and then followed Latin and Bruce down the hall. Bruce stopped in front of the door numbered 702 and reached for the gilt knocker.

Latin pushed his hand away. "Listen!"


INSIDE the apartment there was a rumbling thump, and then the sharp smash of breaking glass. A woman screamed in a choked, furious way.

Latin tried the door. It was locked. He slammed his shoulder against the panel. The door was thick and as solid as a stone wall. It bounced him right back.

The woman screamed again. Bruce and Bill shoved Latin to one side and hit the door together, grunting in concert. They hit hard and expertly, shoulders down, but the door was equal to them. It didn't even squeak.

Latin caught Bill by the shoulder and pulled him back. "Down that hall and around to the side! There must be a back door or a terrace to this apartment! Quick!"

Bill went down the hall at a run. Latin hammered on the door with both fists.

"Open up! Open the door!"

There was another final thump and then silence. On the other side of the door someone whimpered softly. Latin rattled the knob fiercely while Bruce breathed on the back of his neck.

The lock snapped. Latin kicked the door wide open and jumped into the apartment, crouching, the stubby revolver poised in his right hand.

"Oh, my God!" Bruce whispered.

Lily Trace was sitting down on the floor with her back against the wall and her rounded, bare legs spread out asprawl in front of her. Her hair was pulled down over her forehead, and she glared through it at them like a cornered animal. She had been wearing a black silk nightgown, but there wasn't much left of it.

"That bitch!" she said breathlessly. She was holding both hands up to her right cheek. She took the hands away, revealing four red furrows that ran from under her eye down past the corner of her mouth. She looked at the blood on her fingers and said many more things, all obscene. The room looked like someone had tried to cage a stray typhoon in it.

Bill came staggering through the rear door of the living room. He was bent painfully double, and his face was white and sick- looking.

"She—kicked me. I tried to stop her—"

He sat down on the side of an overturned chair and rocked back and forth.


LILY TRACE had pulled the remnants of her nightgown from her shoulders and was gingerly examining four more parallel red gashes that ran from her collarbone down between her breasts to her hip like a fantastic slanted bandolier. She looked up and nodded at Latin.

"Forget the jewelry gag, Latin. Get that dame for me. I'll pay anything extra it costs."

"What do you want me to do with her when I get her?" Latin asked.

"Light a cigarette," said Lily Trace. "And stick it in her eye. Or better yet—hold her until I can get there and do it myself." She wasn't fooling.

"I'll see what I can do," said Latin. "Want me to call you a doctor now?"

Lily Trace's mouth was swollen, and she grinned at him lopsidedly. "Hell, no. I've been beaten up worse than this—but not lately. The Gold Dust Twins, here, will help me patch myself up. You get out and locate that dame for me."

Latin liked her suddenly, better than he would have thought possible a half hour before. He nodded and grinned at her.

"I'll find her. I'll get in touch with you when I do. Put your face together again carefully. It's too nice to spoil."

"Well, thanks, kid," said Lily Trace. "See you soon."

Latin chuckled and went out into the hall. Three or four sleepy, awed tenants watched him as he got into the freight elevator and closed the door behind him. He punched the button for the basement and rode downward.

The janitor was nowhere in sight in the cellar, and Latin walked through it and up the flight of cement steps into the alley.

"Tweet-tweet," said a hoarse voice.

Latin stopped instantly. Inspector Walters sauntered over to him and took hold of his arm in a friendly way.

"This is another one of those coincidences," he greeted. "I was just thinking about you. I was saying to myself: 'I wonder what my old pal Latin is doing with himself these days.' And here you are. Funny, eh?"

"No," said Latin. "I thought you were going to keep the district attorney's office off my neck."

"That was before a cop reported that he spotted Steamer Morgan hanging around your joint. Where were you all night—if the answer won't shock me too much?"

"I was cornered in an apartment with a house dick and three old maids watching the door. I had to wait until they got tired and went away. I've got your murderer cornered for you now."

"That's a matter of indifference to me," said Walters. "On account of I've got you cornered. The district attorney's dopes were too dumb to look under those ashes in your alley, but I wasn't. Let's see you work yourself out of that hold."

"Come along," Latin invited.


MR. HAMMERSLEY was still on duty when Latin and Inspector Walters entered the enormous, austere lobby of the Gravesend Manor.

"How do you do, Inspector Walters," he said cordially.

Walters's mouth opened in surprise, but before he could make any reply, Latin said smoothly: "Good morning, Mr. Hammersley. This man is one of my subordinates. It has become very important that I see Mr. Drew at once. Is he in?"

"Why, yes," said Hammersley, "but he left strict instructions that he was not to be disturbed for any reason. He said he wouldn't answer the phone or the doorbell."

"I'm very sorry," Latin said firmly, "but we must see him. Will you give me the passkey to his apartment? You can trust my discretion."

"I'm sure I can," Hammersley agreed, handing over a tagged passkey. "Mr. Drew has apartment 404. Have the police apprehended that Latin person as yet?"

"Oh, yes," said Latin. "He's in custody right now."

He led the way to the elevator, with Walters following a step behind him.

"Impersonating an officer," Walters said grimly. "I don't mind that so much. What gets me is that you impersonated me—and then introduced me as my own subordinate!"

The elevator stopped at the fourth floor, and they walked down a shadowed hallway to the dark, fumed oak door that had the small silvered numerals, 404, placed in a neat slant across its middle panel.

"We'll give him a try," said Latin.

He rang the doorbell and then knocked loudly on the door with his fist. There was no answer. After waiting a moment, Latin fitted the passkey in the lock and opened the door.

The living room was square and low-ceilinged, furnished in massive, heavy mahogany. From the doorway at the left came the spattering thunder of a shower.

Latin, with Walters still right behind him, looked in the living room closet, in the bedroom and its closet, and into the kitchenette that was fitted up as a bar. He came back into the living room and pushed the bathroom door wider.

Steam misted the mirror and the chrome fittings of the sink and toilet and billowed in misty clouds against the moisture- beaded ceiling. On the far side of the room there was a sunken bathtub completely enclosed now with a slickly wet shower curtain. Water splashed noisily behind it.

Latin raised his voice: "Drew!"


THE curtain shivered and billowed, and then Drew put his head around the edge of it, wiping soap and water out of his eyes.

"What the devil.... Oh, it's you. I didn't hear the doorbell. Who's that with you?"

"Inspector Walters, Homicide," said Walters.

Drew's eyes widened. "Oh. Well—well, make yourselves at home. I'll be out in just a second."

Latin and Walters went back into the living room. In the bathroom, the sound of the shower stopped abruptly, and then Drew came out into the living room, wrapping himself in a woolly white bathrobe. He looked puzzled and worried.

"Are you in trouble, Latin?"

"Somewhat," Latin admitted. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Oh," said Drew vaguely. "Well, would you like a drink? I've got some of your favorite brandy."

"Is the bottle open?" Latin asked.

Drew shook his head. "No. I seldom drink brandy."

"I'll take some," said Latin, "if I can watch you open the bottle."

"Why, yes," said Drew in amazement.

He found it in the cupboard behind the kitchenette bar. With Latin watching, he cut through the foil seal and worked out the cork.

"What did you want?" Drew asked.

Latin had the brandy in an inhaler a little smaller than a goldfish bowl. He sniffed at it appreciatively, took a sip, and rolled it around on his tongue.

"We're looking for Teresa Mayan," he said, swallowing. "Do you know her?"

"Of course," said Drew. "She's my secretary."

"She used to be your mistress, didn't she?"

"Sort of," Drew admitted.

"But she isn't now?"

Drew coughed. "Well, now and then...."

Latin nodded. "Yeah. Have you seen her lately?"

"Not for the last few days. I haven't been to my office."

"She tried to get you last night—on the phone."

"Yes," said Drew. "She wanted me to sign some important letters."

"Did she bring them over here?"

"No."

"Has she been here?"

"No," said Drew, irritated. "She hasn't been here, and she isn't here now. Look around if you don't believe me."

"We have," said Walters glumly. "Don't ask me why, though. I'm just a subordinate."

Latin said: "Did Teresa kick up a row when you gave her the old brush-off?"

Drew controlled his temper. "Yes, she did. A hell of a row, if you must know."

"But you still hire her?"

Drew shrugged. "She's a good secretary and she knows a lot about my business."

"Do you know a man named Donald K. Raleigh?" Latin asked.


DREW eyed him in silence for a long moment and then said slowly: "Yes. I know of him. I don't know him personally. He's president of the Cataract Power Company. He moved in with Teresa after I moved out. That's why she hasn't been bothering me lately."

"Did you know Raleigh was in legal trouble?"

"Just a stockholders' suit," Drew said. "It doesn't mean anything. I understand from what Teresa has said that he's stalling them. They'll get tired pretty soon."

"Those stockholders," Latin said, "got hold of a couple of lawyers who don't get tired and who—believe it or not—are also honest. Raleigh was pretending he was too sick to appear in court. The lawyers hired a private detective to follow him and prove he wasn't. The private detective got the goods on him last night. He got pictures of him eating and drinking in Guiterrez's restaurant, and he got Raleigh's signature on a dated menu from that restaurant. Evidence like that, you can't skid around."

"Ah-ha!" Walters said, suddenly seeing the light. "So Steamer pulled his autograph collecting gag once too often!"

"Yes," said Latin. "Raleigh was too drunk to know the difference. But Teresa Mayan was with him, and she wasn't. She spotted Steamer, so Steamer ended up in the alley with his throat cut and his pockets empty."

"No!" Drew protested instantly. "Teresa wouldn't—"

"Raleigh was plenty scared when he sobered up enough to understand, after they got back to Teresa's apartment," Latin went on. "Teresa scared him some more. I don't know what she told him. It probably was convincing, and he was pretty dumb and pretty fuddled anyway. She told him he'd have to beat it—skip the country. He had assets hidden around here and there. She got his power of attorney, so she could cash in on them and send them to him."

Latin smiled thinly. "She didn't mean to do it, of course. She didn't even give him a chance to go anywhere. She put some cyanide in his farewell drink of whiskey and dumped him into the dirty clothes hamper. She had decided to move back in on you, Drew."

Drew was staring at him, fascinated. "I—I don't believe.... Why, Teresa wouldn't—"

"She went over and beat up Lily Trace to warn Lily to keep her hands off."

Drew's face whitened. "Lily!" He turned and jumped for the telephone.

"She's all right," Latin said, heading him off. "A little battered and bruised, but that's all. You better not call her now. I don't think she'd be in very good humor. After all, she knows who beat her up and why."

"Oh," said Drew uncertainly.

"All I want to know," said Walters, "is where is this here Teresa Mayan?"

"I can't figure that out," Latin said slowly. "I was sure she'd come here. She wouldn't risk going back to her own apartment until she got some reinforcements or found out what happened to me. She ought to be here now."

"Well, she ain't," said Walters.

Latin was frowning at Drew, his eyes narrowed and calculating. He looked at Drew's water-damp hair, at the bathrobe. He glanced toward the bathroom door in the same calculating way and then back to Drew again. He cleared his throat.

"May I have some more brandy?"

"Surely," said Drew. "Try it with some soda. I'll get some ice...."


HE reached down under the little shelf that served as a bar. Latin stepped silently forward and picked up the brandy bottle by its neck and swung it in a glistening arc.

There was a sodden smack as the bottle hit Drew's head. He bounced backward into some shelves loaded with glasses and brought them down around him in a ringing, shattering crash.

"They make these thick," Latin said, examining the brandy bottle. "It didn't even crack."

"Talk," Walters ordered dangerously. "Real fast, pal."

"Look in the bathroom," Latin said. "In the tub."

Walters went into the bathroom and came out again almost instantly. "There's a dame in there. She's dead. Drowned."

"Teresa Mayan," said Latin. "Drew was behind her all the time. She was crazy about him. She spotted Steamer at Guiterrez's or on the way there, and she telephoned Drew from the restaurant. He took care of Steamer—with her help. He fed Raleigh a cyanide drink—again, with her help. He planned all this just like I outlined it, only he was going to get the dough—not Teresa. She would do anything he said, but she wouldn't stand for Lily Trace. When she found out about that, she went on a rampage. She smacked Lily around, and she must have told Drew she'd squeal on him if he didn't quit looking in that direction. Drew had maneuvered all this business with Raleigh just to get enough money to get Lily. He wouldn't throw the prize away after he'd won the game, so he dunked Teresa in the bathtub.

"He had it all figured out that she was to take the blame for everything and then throw herself in the river for remorse over her evil deeds."

Walters had a small round tin in his hand. "She was only wearing a sport coat, and this was the only thing in the pockets. I wonder what it is?"

"Open it and see what's inside," Latin suggested.

Walters unscrewed the cover of the tin. He reached in and pulled out a long string of 36-millimeter film.

"Pictures!" he exclaimed. "Now why would she be carrying these around with her?"

"We'll never know," said Latin, pouring himself a drink. "Because that was undeveloped film, and when you exposed it to the light, you ruined it."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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