sharp white teeth flashing behind full lips. “I am the physician attending Mr. Rufus Brighton, of whom you must have heard.” He paused as though for effect.

Shayne blinked and looked at his cigarette. He said, “Yes,” noncommittally.

“An exceedingly curious and difficult situation has arisen.” Dr. Pedique seemed to choose his words carefully. “You are perhaps not aware that Mr. Brighton has lately married, and his stepdaughter has accompanied him here.” He paused again.

Shayne kept on looking at his cigarette and didn’t tell him whether or not he was aware of the fact.

The doctor purred on. “The unfortunate child is subject to certain-ah-hallucinations, I may call them in nontechnical terms, stimulated by a violent sexual oestrus and marked by unmistakable symptoms of an Electra complex. In her depressed moods she sometimes becomes violent, and I fear the poor child might do harm to her mother if such a mood were to come upon her.”

“Why the hell,” Shayne asked irritatedly, “don’t you put her in an asylum?”

“But that would be too terrible,” Dr. Joel Pedique exclaimed, spreading his hands out, rounded palms upward. “I have every hope of effecting an ultimate cure if I can keep her mind at ease. The shock of being incarcerated in an asylum would completely unhinge her reason.”

Shayne asked, “Where do I come in?”

“Her mother arrives from the north this afternoon. I should like to arrange for some sort of a superficial guard to be kept over the mother or child during the first few days of her stay. During that period I shall keep the child under close observation and determine definitely whether she can be cured or if she is doomed to enter a psychopathic ward.”

“I see.” Shayne nodded slowly. “You want me to arrange to keep the crazy girl from murdering her mother while you observe her?”

“Bluntly, yes.” Dr. Joel Pedique nodded his small head with a birdlike motion.

“Do you want her tailed from the moment of the mother’s arrival?” Shayne became very brisk and businesslike.

“I hardly think that will be necessary.” The doctor smiled thinly. “I feel that a rather informal watch will be sufficient. It is a matter which must be handled with discretion and the utmost privacy. I-wondered if you might undertake it yourself instead of sending an operative.”

“I might,” Shayne told him casually. “It will cost you more.”

“That’s perfectly splendid.” Dr. Pedique stood up enthusiastically, slipped his right hand inside his coat and drew out a fat wallet. “I suggest that you drop over tonight after dinner and meet Mrs. Brighton and the girl. Everything could be arranged quietly.”

Shayne stood up. “I’ll be there,” he promised, “about eight-thirty.”

Dr. Pedique nodded and fiddled with his wallet.

“Two hundred for a retainer,” Shayne told him.

Dr. Pedique’s eyebrows shot up. Shayne stared at him coldly. The doctor reluctantly drew out two one- hundred-dollar bills. Shayne crumpled them in his hand and led the doctor to the corridor door.

“Eighty-thirty,” he said as he let the doctor out. Dr. Pedique bowed stiffly and went down the corridor. Shayne closed the door and walked back to the table, smoothing the bills out between his fingers. He opened the drawer, took the pearls out, rolled them up in the bills and stuck the wad in his coat pocket.

Then he grinned and muttered, “Now, if the old lady would come around and hire me as her bodyguard, the setup would be perfect.”


At seven-thirty, Shayne came up a side street from Flagler to the service entrance of his apartment hotel. Down concrete steps and through a door into a square vestibule, then up two flights and to the right.

In his apartment, he crossed to the table, took the wadded pearls and bills from his pocket, unrolled the pearls and let them lie shimmering on the table while his eyes brooded over them. After a minute, and leaving the bills on the table, he carried the pearls into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and took out the hydrator, which held a head of lettuce. He put the pearls in the bottom, scattered lettuce leaves over them, and replaced the pan.

When he returned to the living-room, he was carrying a glass and a pitcher of crushed ice cubes and water. He set these things down on the table and brought out a bottle of Martell five-star cognac and a wineglass from a cupboard. Shayne’s actions were apparently almost unconscious; the precise somnambulism of habit was in every motion, an automatic smoothness that lasted while he sat down, poured a drink, and lit a cigarette. There was nothing in his face to show what he was thinking.

For the next half hour he sat silently, alternately sipping from the wineglass and the water glass, lighting one cigarette from another. Finally he stood up, turned out the lights and went out. His expression had not altered, but there was purposefulness in his walk.

The elevator deposited him in a large and ornately furnished lobby. Shayne thrust his way across it toward the desk, caught the clerk’s eye, and received a negative shake of his head. Without stopping he went on, out through the side front entrance and across to a row of garages, where he unlocked the padlock on one door and folded himself into the driver’s seat of a middle-aged car. Once the car was backed out, Shayne drove a winding course to Southeast Second Street, thence east to Biscayne Boulevard, and north on the right-hand drive. He paid no attention to his route, and very little to the other cars on the road.

At Thirteenth Street he turned to the right at the traffic circle and sped over the causeway across the Bay. When he reached the peninsula, he drove as far east as the ocean would allow, then turned north. His watch told him it was eight-twenty; the place could hardly be more than a few minutes ahead of him. Shayne relaxed imperceptibly at the wheel; he began to look around him. There was little traffic on the wide street, and few strolling figures in Lummus Park, He checked the house numbers as he drove along, and a short distance beyond the Roney Plaza, slowed and turned into a winding concrete drive between granite gateposts.

The general look of the place was luxurious but conventional to the point of dullness. There was a carefully tended terraced lawn on the left and a wide landscaped area of tropical shrubbery. The dark bulk of a huge mansion showed as he followed the drive to a porte-cochere, bougainvillea-draped in front. Lights shone from the lower windows.

An elderly woman in a maid’s uniform opened the door. He told her his name, and she said he was expected in the library and would he follow her?

Shayne did, down a dimly-lit vaulted hallway, past a balustraded stairway. A woman was descending the stairway, and she reached the bottom just as Shayne passed. She wore the white uniform of a nurse and carried a napkin-covered tray. She was a full-bodied blonde of about thirty, with predatory eyes.

Shayne glanced at her as he passed and caught a fleeting, almost animal look on her face. Her lips were pouted as though in assent, though he had not spoken to her.

The maid led him on to the end of the hall and turned down a narrower one until she stopped outside a wide partly-open door and said, “They’re expecting you inside.” He hardly noticed her noiseless, gliding retreat. It took plenty of money, he reflected, to get that kind of service.

Light streamed through the narrow opening, and there was the low hum of voices. Shayne bent his head and listened but could distinguish no words. He pushed the door open a little more and looked in.

There was the sound of slithering feet on the carpet behind him. Sharp fingers dug into his arm. He turned to look into the white face of Phyllis Brighton. She looked ghastly in the dim light. The lashes were drawn back from her eyeballs as though by some mechanical device, and the pupils were so contracted that the entire eyeball seemed to consist only of smoky iris. Shayne saw that she was wearing a flimsy chiffon nightgown and that her feet were bare. Streaks of blood showed darkly red down the front of her nightgown.

He stared at her face and at the crimson stains, his mouth thin and hard. When he saw her lips begin to move, he thrust her back away from the doorway.

She spoke in a flat, low monotone. “I’ve done it. You’re too late. I’ve already done it.”

Without replying, Shayne pushed her back farther from the door and held her out at arm’s length to study her.

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