“It’s a paper’s duty to give its readers the facts.”

“But not one man’s wild fancies.”

Rourke pushed himself erect, circled the desk slowly, and went over to the open window. He said, “Miami Beach is my home, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by idly and see it taken over by a gang of murdering rats. They’ve got to be stamped out, and the only way to do it is to arouse the citizens to an understanding of the danger.”

Bronson cleared his throat. “I’m the managing editor and I’ll decide this paper’s policy. After you’ve written your story, send in your copy for my okay.”

Rourke hesitated with his hand on the doorknob, then flung the door open and went back to his desk. Glancing over the few lines he had written, his jaw tightened, and he pulled on the rubber finger tip again. Deliberately and methodically, he went on with the story he had started before visiting Bronson’s office.

There were four full pages when he finished. He clipped the sheets together, folded them in the center, and laid them beside his typewriter.

He slid in a fresh sheet of paper and typed, In an exclusive interview this morning with Chief Peter Painter, capable and affable head of the Miami Beach Detective Bureau, this reporter was assured that any fears of a crime wave in the resort city were wholly groundless.

True, there have been three murders within a week but Chief Painter was emphatic in his statement that early arrests are confidently anticipated, and…

When he had completed three pages he called Tommy over, handed him the copy, and said, “Take this in to Bronson for his okay before turning it in to the composing room.”

Tommy said, “Sure, Tim. Are you still ridin’ the Beach racketeers? I bet you’re a better detective than any they got on the police force.”

Timothy grinned and said, “Run along with that stuff, and be sure you get down on your knees when you hand it to the Big Shot.”

He waited until the boy disappeared, then gathered up the folded pages of his original story, and strolled down to the composing room where he handed it to Sam, the grizzled foreman.

“Page one if you can make room for it, Sam.”

Sam spread the sheets out and read the lead. “Hot stuff, eh, Tim? This is getting to be like old times.”

“Yeh. Like old times.” He laid a friendly hand on the older man’s shoulder and turned away, stopped in the doorway to roll and light a cigarette.

The brown cylinder was half-smoked when Tommy came down the steps with Bronson’s okayed copy in his hand. Rourke stopped him and asked, “Old man like it all right?”

“Sure. He quit chewin’ on his cigar while he read it.”

“I’ll take it to Sam. You’d better beat it back upstairs to see if some of the others need you. Pretty close to deadline.”

“Sure.” Tommy took the stairs two at the time. Rourke followed him slowly, tearing the typewritten sheets into narrow strips and stuffing them in his pocket.

Upstairs, he went to his desk and stood for a moment with his hand on the back of his chair, looking soberly at the typewriter on which he had pounded out copy for almost 20 years. It was a lumbering old-fashioned machine, but it suited him and his one-finger punching. He wished he could take it with him. He knew he would have a hell of a time getting accustomed to another typewriter.

He sat down and started gathering his personal belongings from the desk drawers. No one paid any attention to him. He stuffed all the memoranda on stories he had done, and stories he had planned to do, in his pockets. He then rolled a sheet of paper in the typewriter and looked at his watch.

It was 12:18. He typed the date and added, 12:18 p.m. Below that heading he typed, The hell you do. I’ve already quit. He typed his name and left the sheet of paper in the roller.

He got up and put on his coat, strolled out, nodding and lifting his hand casually to two or three who looked up and spoke to him.

The elevator took him down to the ground floor and he walked unhurriedly toward Flagler Street.

Chapter Two: BRISK WORKOUT

It was a little after two o’clock when Timothy Rourke parked his roadster in front of a modest two-story apartment house on Miami Beach. The afternoon air was sun-drenched and humid. He got out and walked around the front of his car, crossed the palm-shaded parkway, and started toward the front of the apartment house.

A man got out of a sedan parked beyond the entrance and sauntered toward him. He was an inch or so above six feet in height and very bony. He wore a Palm Beach suit and a Panama hat, two-toned sports shoes that glistened in the hot sunlight. His features were sharp, and pallid skin stretched tightly over high cheekbones and pointed chin. His eyes were deep-set, with lids wrinkled down and closing them to mere slits.

He met Rourke at the entrance walk and said, “Rourke?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m a pal.” The man’s voice was low and husky. “Let’s take a little ride.”

Rourke laughed shortly and started up the walk. The man put long bony fingers on his arm and tightened them. His face had a tired, depressed look. He said, “Get smart, chum,” and bunched his other hand in the side pocket of his coat.

Rourke said, “All right,” and went with him to the sedan.

A man wearing a pink-striped shirt sat behind the steering-wheel. His sleeves were rolled up above hairy forearms, and he wore a black-and-white checkered cap with a stiff bill. His right ear was cauliflowered, and when Rourke opened the back door he turned his head to give a view of a profile almost perfectly flat.

Rourke got in the back seat and left the door open. His tall companion got in beside him and closed the door. He said, “All right, Monk.”

The driver raced the motor and ground the gears getting away in low. His left ear was twisted and stood away from his head at an odd angle. The back of his neck was red with a thick fold of flesh above the pink-striped neckband.

Rourke rolled down his window and settled back with cigarette papers and tobacco.

His companion took out a pack of Camels and growled, “Don’t go fouling up this car with that junk. Take one of these.”

A saturnine grin lighted Rourke’s face. “Thanks,” he said.

The man snapped a silver lighter and held the flame to Rourke’s cigarette, then settled back and pensively studied the polished tips of his shoes.

Monk had turned north and was driving at an easy speed between rows of coco palms and modest bungalows. Presently he turned to cross a bridge onto one of the small man-made islands dotting the shore of the bay. He followed a winding course to a big sprawling one-story clubhouse on the waterfront and pulled into a deserted parking-lot.

Rourke knew this to be the Sunrise Club, formerly a private clubhouse for wealthy householders on the island, now converted into a swanky gambling establishment. He asked, “End of the line?”

The tall man unfolded himself and got out. Rourke followed him to a side entrance in a concrete wall draped with red and purple bougainvillea. Monk plodded along behind them.

Rourke’s self-appointed “pal” unlocked a rear door opening onto a narrow dark passageway. He switched on a ceiling light and went on to a door at the end of the narrow hall and turned the knob. They entered a spacious office carpeted with rich red carpeting. Venetian blinds at the wide windows let slatted sunlight into the room. Walls of robin’s-egg blue rose to meet the warm creamy ceiling centered with a magnificent chandelier.

A tall spare man sat behind a leather-covered desk. His jaw was square, his mouth tight-lipped, but his blue eyes twinkled as he half-rose and nodded pleasantly to Rourke. He said, “It was nice of you to come, Mr. Rourke,” and looked inquiringly at the two men behind the reporter.

“Acted like he was glad to come,” Monk said.

“You and Monk wait outside, Bing. I’ll have you drive Mr. Rourke back presently.”

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