left hand were heavily stained with nicotine. All in all, there was an obvious but ill-defined air of defiance about him.

Shayne said, “Well?” and let his gaze slide to Dr. Pedique as the latter resumed his seat.

“We were discussing you and some of your exploits,” Dr. Pedique told him. “Doctor Milliard has been kind enough to tell us something about your work.”

Shayne lit a cigarette and grinned amiably at Dr. Milliard. “Hope you didn’t tell them anything they shouldn’t know, doc. These people are my clients.”

“I assured them that you generally get results,” he answered seriously. Dr. Milliard was one of the most respected members of his profession in Miami, an officer of the local Medical Association, and prominent in civic affairs.

“That’s all right. So long as you didn’t tell them how I go about getting results.” Shayne then turned to Pedique. “I’m here on business. Everything’s all right so far, I judge,” he said casually.

“Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. Mrs. Brighton went to her room immediately after dinner and is resting from the trip. She asked me to bring you to meet her before you go away. The-ah-patient is resting quietly, also.”

“That’s great,” said Shayne. “Now, have you worked out any definite plan of action?”

“That, I should think, would be for you to decide.” Dr. Pedique cocked his head, nodded with pursed lips. “With all the facts in hand, you may proceed as you see fit.”

Shayne nodded and turned again to Dr. Milliard. “How about it, doc? Is Pedique having a pipe dream or is there any danger of the girl harming her mother? How do you see the setup?”

Dr. Milliard brought the tips of his fingers together in front of his chest. “I can’t venture a prediction, having no more intimate knowledge of the case than a somewhat cursory observation has given me. I do approve, however, of taking all possible precautions.”

“Christ!” Shayne complained, “it’s as hard to get a definite opinion out of one of you birds as a lawyer.”

Dr. Milliard smiled suavely. “Mental cases require careful study and observation over a long period,” he told Shayne. “I haven’t,” he added, “been consulted on Miss Brighton’s case.”

Shayne shot a look at Dr. Pedique. “You’ve kept her to yourself, huh?”

Dr. Pedique smiled thinly. “I felt perfectly capable of coping with her case. With Mr. Brighton I did consider that a consultant was necessary.”

“See here,” Shayne said abruptly, “how does the girl’s name come to be Brighton? I understood she wasn’t his daughter.”

“He adopted her at the time of his marriage,” Mr. Montrose explained. “It was his desire that she be legally regarded as his daughter.”

Shayne watched Clarence as Mr. Montrose ended. The boy’s lips poked out sulkily. He uncrossed and recrossed his ankles.

“You’d better let me have a talk with Mrs. Brighton and see if I can arrange a sensible method of going about this,” Shayne said. He stood up, and Dr. Pedique arose hurriedly. “By the way,” Shayne added, “how does she take this? Mrs. Brighton, I mean.”

“She was much relieved when I outlined the arrangement,” Dr. Pedique said. “She is greatly concerned about the girl, of course, but she admitted to me that she had felt cause for alarm on previous occasions.” He slid through the door and held it for Shayne who passed through with a nod of his head toward the three men remaining in the library.

“This way.” Dr. Pedique led him down the hall in the direction the maid had brought him, and on to the wide stairway. They went up the stairs silently, and at the top were met by the blond nurse whom Shayne had seen before. She carried a folded towel on her arm and was about to pass them when Dr. Pedique held out his hand and said, “Ah, Charlotte, how is the patient?”

“He’s resting, doctor.” Her voice was low and huskily vibrant. Her eyes slipped past the doctor’s face and rested with approval on the towering figure of the detective.

“That’s fine,” said Dr. Pedique. The nurse went on down the hall, followed by Shayne’s speculative gaze.

“This way.” Dr. Pedique led him to the same door which Phyllis had taken him to. The room was dark. Dr. Pedique knocked softly. There was no response. He knocked louder and listened, then said, “I wonder-” and tried the knob. The door swung inward and he called softly, “Mrs. Brighton.”

When there was no response, he switched on the light. Shayne stood directly behind him and watched his body stiffen as he looked toward the bed. He crossed the room swiftly and bent over her. Shayne strode in after him, hard-eyed and watchful.

The face which Dr. Pedique raised to Shayne was contorted with horror-and with some other emotion which it was impossible to diagnose at the moment. He shuddered and averted his eyes from the chalk-white face of the woman on the bed. His face was greenish-pale even in the warm light from the floor lamp.

“Looks as if you won’t be needing me now,” Shayne said.

The dapper little physician rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. “This is terrible, terrible,” he groaned.

“It’s not nice,” Shayne admitted.

Dr. Pedique risked a second glance at the body and said, more firmly, “It’s-that girl! We thought she had gone to bed. She must have slipped in here and-God! I’ve been a fool. I should have had a nurse watching her every minute.” His suave, dapper manner deserted him completely, and he covered his face with his hands.

The spectacle began to irk Shayne. “Looks like a case for the police. For Christ’s sake, pull yourself together.”

Dr. Pedique made an effort to recapture his professional manner. “I feel wholly responsible,” he said. “Had I used better judgment, I should have sent the girl to an asylum instead of exposing her mother to this danger.”

“Afterthoughts aren’t worth a damn,” observed Shayne. “Let’s call the police and the others, and then get hold of the girl before she bumps somebody else off.”

“It is the strictest necessity,” Dr. Pedique readily agreed. He slid past Shayne and ran to the top of the stairs to call the news downstairs and ask that the police be notified. Then he came back to Shayne, his mouth twitching.

“The girl’s room. We’ll see if she’s there.”

“We’ll wait for some of the others to come up,” Shayne protested. “Doctor Hilliard should be here. A crazy woman with a knife is likely to be a tough proposition.”

Dr. Pedique agreed, his breath coming nervously and noisily. Clarence and Dr. Hilliard raced up the stairs; Shayne could hear the tension in Montrose’s voice, below, as he telephoned the police.

Shayne took the newcomers to the open door of the death chamber and they both looked in. Dr. Hilliard fiddled with his eyeglasses and shook his head drearily. The boy, Clarence, drew back after one hasty glance during which his face went white and drawn.

“Where’s the girl’s room?” Shayne asked Dr. Pedique.

“This way.” They followed him down the hall. Arriving at what Shayne knew to be Phyllis’s door, Dr. Pedique stood back and moistened his lips, waiting for someone else to take the initiative.

Shayne stepped to the door and knocked authoritatively. There was no response. Then, he tried the knob. The door would not open. “Hell,” he muttered, “it’s locked.” Making certain that Dr. Hilliard observed his every move, Shayne turned the key in the lock and opened the door.

The others crowded in the doorway behind him. The room was dark. He groped for a switch, found it quickly, and pressed it. As the light came on, Phyllis Brighton sat up in bed with a little scream of fright. She gasped, “What is it?” and stared at them with distended eyes.

Shayne stepped aside so the others could see her, and muttered, “Hell, she doesn’t look like a murderess.”

“What is it?” she screamed again, half rising from her bed. The front of her nightgown showed stainless and clean.

“Hold everything, sister,” Shayne said as he would have soothed a small child, “your mother has had an accident.”

“Oh!” Her knuckles went to her mouth where she bit at them frantically as if to hold back a scream. Her slender body crouched away from the men as she would have drawn back from wild animals ready to attack her.

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