Brett Halliday

Lady, Be Bad


Michael Shayne joined the line of passengers disembarking from the 707. Tall, red-haired, powerfully built, he was a conspicuous figure among the downstate lawyers and businessmen who were gathering in Tallahassee in the hope of influencing the state legislature in the final days of its biennial session. Like most of the others, Shayne carried a cowhide dispatch case, but his contained two flat pints of Martell’s cognac, a.38-caliber automatic and a dozen rounds of loose ammunition.

A pretty dark-haired girl waved from the open door of a helicopter. Her name was Jackie Wales. She wore black-rimmed glasses and looked trim and competent. Shayne had been a good friend of her husband, a heavy- drinking Miami public-relations man, who had finally decided that drinking was the only thing he really liked to do, and had started doing it around-the-clock. The result was bad debts, an occasional fight in a bar, other girls, a divorce. Jackie took over the dying agency and tried to bring it back. The second year she broke even. Now she was edging into the black, and beginning to repay some of the money Shayne had loaned her.

The helicopter, a four-passenger Bell JetRanger, belonged to the Miami News. Shayne saw his friend Tim Rourke, the News reporter, behind Jackie, a highball glass in his fist. He was the paper’s crime man, in Tallahassee to cover the biggest story of the waning season, an attempt to legalize casino gambling.

Shayne sprang up into the cabin, where Jackie welcomed him with a warm embrace. Her arms came around him inside his jacket, and pulled him in hard. After a long moment she drew back to look at him. “It’s been a long three weeks.”

“You two people know each other?” Rourke asked.

“I’ve seen him around,” Jackie said. “Michael, you know this is nice of you.” She touched the side of his face. “You didn’t even take time to shave.”

“Grab a glass, Mike, and pour yourself a jolt,” Rourke said. “No liquor served in the capitol.” He yelled up to the front cabin, “All secure back here, Gene. Move out.”

The overhead rotor began to whirl. Shayne picked a shot-glass out of an open picnic basket. Settling down in a bucket seat, he opened his dispatch case and took out one of the bottles of Martell’s. With a full-throated roar, the ungainly craft lifted off the runway.

“What did you bring a gun for?” Rourke demanded. “All we want you to do is testify about a piece of pending legislation. Nobody’s going to be shooting at you, as far as we know now.”

Shayne grunted. “I didn’t unpack.” He filled the shot-glass with a steady hand and knocked it back. “I need a fast briefing, Tim. I saw the story in a Las Vegas paper, but it didn’t look serious. There’s been talk about legalizing gambling at every session since World War I. Let the gamblers come out of hiding so the state can take 12 percent of the action, and nobody else will have to pay any taxes.”

Both Jackie and Rourke began to speak at once. The reporter waved his glass.

“You tell him, baby. You’re in charge.”

She swung around to face Shayne. “We’ve only got a few minutes, so to boil it down-this time they aren’t trying to open up the whole state, just Dade County-Miami and Miami Beach. And that was an inspiration, because of course the rest of the state wrote us off long ago. We’re beyond saving. The arguments haven’t changed. Why should gambling in a clean, well-lighted casino be any more immoral than betting on dogs and horses? We lose millions of dollars of tourist business every year to Nevada and the Caribbean islands. People are going to gamble whether or not it’s legal. Why shouldn’t we stop being hypocrites, take a percentage, and pay our schoolteachers a living wage?”

“All sounds very familiar,” Shayne said. “At the last session they voted it down ten-to-one. What makes the difference this year, just the Dade County angle?”

“A couple of other things,” Rourke said. “State lotteries are getting to be fairly respectable, and a lottery has a lower payoff than a roulette table. Lower than the numbers racket. Well, we shouldn’t moralize. The state has to take money from somebody, and if we don’t take it from rich northerners coming down to the Miami gaming-tables we might have to pass a state income tax, God forbid, and that’s why Judge Kendrick has come out for the bill.”

“Kendrick,” Shayne repeated, surprised.

“He didn’t exactly come out for it,” Jackie pointed out. “All he said-”

“Now there you had a politician talking,” Rourke said. “He’s been carrying on about the immorality of gambling for the last thirty years. He was against pari-mutuel betting and night harness-racing. He’s fought every extension of racing dates. He couldn’t switch all the way around in one press conference. People might think he’d taken a bribe or something.”

“I give him credit for a certain integrity,” she said stubbornly. “I still think that when he hears Mike’s testimony about the way legalized gambling works in Nevada-”

“I agree it’s worth trying, but I really don’t expect him to leap to his feet and shout hallelujah. I’ve got a tear sheet of my story on his statement, Mike. Read it and see what you think. I’m supposed to have a good sense of smell, and behind all the double-talk I think I smell money.”

“I just don’t believe it,” Jackie said.

“A man can look honest without being honest,” Rourke said. “That’s one of the things they teach in the first year at law school.”

Shayne scraped his thumbnail thoughtfully through the harsh stubble on his jaw. Judge Grover Kendrick had been cracking the whip in the Florida State Senate for as long as Shayne could remember. His home constituency, a sparsely settled county on the Alabama border, was so sleepy and secure that he hadn’t bothered to campaign for years. Returning to Tallahassee term after term, he had moved steadily upward in the conservative coalition, known to admirers and enemies alike as the Pork Chop Gang, and was now its acknowledged leader.

“Of course he’s only one man,” Rourke continued. “One man has one vote. That’s what the Supreme Court tells us. But the bookies back home were giving fifty-to-one against the bill before Kendrick’s statement, and the price has now dropped to five-to-three.”

“You couldn’t buy him for nickels,” Shayne observed. “Who’s putting up the money?”

“Guess,” Rourke said. “Someone you know. One of the leading citizens of Miami Beach, the logical person to get the first casino license if the bill goes through. He has a hotel, good political connections, and friends who know how to run a dice table.”

“Sam Rapp.”

“That’s what common sense tells me,” Rourke said. “And by a great coincidence, Sam and his handsome girl friend happen to be in town at the moment.”

“Sam Rapp’s here in person?”

“Yeah, you’d think he’d stay out in the bushes and let somebody else pass out the cash, but not at all. He’s highly visible, a big two-dollar cigar in his mouth, buying people drinks. And Lib Patrick. She doesn’t exactly disappear into the wallpaper. She was in the senate gallery yesterday, wearing one of the lowest necklines some of these crackers had ever seen. They kept craning around to make sure. Not much business got done. My personal opinion is that she has an allover tan.”

“I’ve heard that the Regency has been losing money,” Shayne said, “but Sam shouldn’t be doing his own lobbying. I thought he had more sense. What’s the status of the bill?”

“Still in committee,” Rourke said, “but those guys have been jiggling at the end of the judge’s string for years. They’ll do what he says. If he says to vote it out they’ll vote it out. There’s the usual rush to adjourn. Tomorrow’s the big day. If Kendrick uses his full leverage and leans on the right people, the idea is that he can put it over. Not by much, by two or three votes. The crusty old son of a bitch really has power.”

“What about the opposition?”

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