any response.”

“Perhaps she wasn’t at home,” Shayne suggested.

“Oh, yes, she was. The lights were on and the radio going very loud. It was quite evident she had a visitor. The second time this happened I rang Mrs. Rankin’s bell to make sure I wasn’t judging Miss Porter too harshly. She insisted that her neighbor was in, but hinted that perhaps she didn’t-ah-wish to be disturbed.” Mr. Wiseman paused to cough delicately.

“Yes, I confess I’m disappointed in Miss Porter,” the realtor resumed, “and I’ve been thinking of asking her to vacate at the end of the month.”

Shayne was staring across the room, his eyes vacant and narrowed. He didn’t hear Mr. Wiseman’s final statement. He said, “You can’t trust those blondes, can you?” absently.

Mr. Wiseman looked surprised. “But Miss Porter isn’t a blonde,” he protested. “Indeed not. I’m positive I recall her as a distinct brunette when I saw her two weeks ago to rent the house.”

Shayne said, “I’ve got blondes on the brain. Too damned many of them.” He stood up. “I appreciate your information, and if I hear of a prospective tenant of sufficient virtue I’ll refer her to you.”

“I will appreciate that, Mr. Shayne,” he said, and walked with Shayne to the door.

Shayne got in his car and drove to the Blackstone Apartments. Mr. Henty, the harassed manager, eyed him apprehensively from behind the switchboard. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down and he said, “I’m very sorry. I didn’t intend-that is, when I called Chief Painter-”

“Skip it,” Shayne said. He took Madge Rankin’s picture out and showed it to him. “Ever see her around?”

Mr. Henty studied the smiling face intently, shook his head, and said, “I don’t believe so. Not that I recollect.”

“Not last Tuesday afternoon? The blonde you let into Tim Rourke’s apartment?”

“Oh, no. Decidedly not. That girl was younger. Ah-with more swish, you might say.”

“How about the blonde you’d previously seen here with him?”

Mr. Henty looked at the picture again and his head-shake was just as decided. “No. Though she is more the type. About the same age, I’d say. But, no. I’m positive that isn’t she.”

Shayne sighed and put the picture back in his pocket. “I was afraid of that. Which leaves us at least three blondes on the loose.”

Shayne went back to his car, drove back to Miami, and stopped at the LaCrosse Apartment. The doorman was standing just outside the door. He called him from the coupe, and the old man hurried across the walk.

Again Shayne got the photograph of Madge Rankin out and asked, “Can you identify this picture as being that of Mrs. Smith who recently checked out of here?”

The man took a pair of glasses from his pocket, removed the ones he had on, and put on the others. He frowningly studied the picture for a full minute.

“No, sir. That ain’t Mrs. Smith,” he said flatly. “This’n’s pretty enough, but not in her class.”

Shayne sighed again, said, “Thanks,” and again replaced the photograph in his pocket and drove away.


Shayne spent a long time over lunch and a few drinks, mulling over the forces he had set in motion and wondering whether they would grind out an answer. Timothy Rourke was still unconscious, his life hanging by a thread. His eyes were bleak and his mouth set in grim lines when he finished his third double brandy, paid his check, and went out.

It was three o’clock when he bought a copy of the Courier outside the tavern. He drove to police headquarters where he found Sergeant Jorgensen with Chief Gentry in his office.

“We were just wondering where we could get in touch with you,” Gentry growled. “You didn’t tell me where you’re stopping.”

“I’m not,” Shayne told him. “I holed up at the Front Hotel for a few hours last night. Haven’t had time to look for anything else. Have you got something for me?”

“More or less. Jorg has spent a lot of time not getting very far on Dillingham Smith. But your hunch on his girl friend’s prints was right. They checked with a pair in Rourke’s apartment.”

Shayne’s bleak eyes grew very bright. “Now we’re beginning to get somewhere.” He laid the folded newspaper down and lowered his rangy body into a chair. “She must be the one who visited him in the afternoon.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Gentry objected. “Her prints prove she’s the one who searched the apartment. They don’t match the ones on the dishes and liquor glass.”

“The hell you say!” Shayne’s ragged red brows came down and the trenches in his cheeks deepened. “The way we figured it, the apartment was searched after he was shot.”

“That’s the way it looked,” Gentry admitted.

“And we figured the girl who visited him that afternoon left the other set.”

“So Mrs. Smith isn’t the one who visited him that afternoon,” Gentry said in a troubled voice.

“But damn it-how could she catch the five-o’clock train and still have been around to search his apartment that night?”

“That’s what I’ve been wondering,” Gentry rumbled. “Maybe we’ll know more about it when we get an answer on my wire to Denver.”

Shayne tugged angrily at his left ear lobe. “Could Painter have made a mistake in those two sets of prints?”

“I got my dope direct from Captain Roderick, head of the Beach Identification Bureau,” Gentry told him placidly. “Roderick doesn’t make mistakes. He covered the apartment himself.”

Shayne shrugged and muttered, “One more piece that doesn’t fit.” He sat for a moment glaring into space, then picked up the copy of the Courier and turned to the Personal column. He found the advertisement near the top of the column. Two words. Yes. Colt. He refolded the paper and asked Jorgensen morosely, “What did you dig up on Smith?”

“Damned little, Mike. He’s thirty-two, a bachelor, and has lived here five years without getting in any trouble. I shot his prints to Washington just in case. He’s worked at two or three jobs. Grocery clerk and on the pari-mutuels at Hialeah Park a couple of seasons.” He glanced at his notebook and continued, “Has a clean record on all his jobs. Seems to be quite a lady’s man. For a few months past he’s been strutting a blonde from the Beach. The Rankin dame who got herself bumped last Tuesday night, if we can believe a couple of identifications from the picture of her in this morning’s paper.”

Shayne listened intently. When Jorgensen stopped talking he looked up in surprise, asked, “Is that all?”

“No. The last eight months he’s been working at Robertson’s Sporting-Goods Store. Up until two weeks ago. He had a cheap room at the Front Hotel. Two weeks ago he quit his job suddenly and moved from the Front to the LaCrosse into an apartment that set him back ninety a week-with a very flossy blonde whom he registered as Mrs. Smith. None of his former friends saw him during those two weeks, and I haven’t been able to get a line on him. Chief Gentry says you’ve already checked on his wife leaving town Tuesday afternoon, and him staying on at the LaCrosse until this morning. He moved back to the Front today.” Sergeant Jorgensen closed his notebook and shrugged. “Not much in any of that.”

“Was he actually married?”

“There’s no record of it locally.”

“How about his job at the store? Anything on his quitting it suddenly?”

Jorgensen grinned cheerfully. “You’re thinking about all those different thirty-twos that’ve figured in the killings recently. Five, I make it, counting the slug Rourke took and the one they dug out of Mrs. Rankin. No soap there. I checked with Robertson carefully. They used to carry a big stock of guns and had a big repair business, but he swears there hasn’t been a thirty-two automatic in his place for more than a year. He checked his records all the way back to the date Smith started to work there.”

Shayne said, “Yeh. I’ve wondered where all those thirty-twos came from. And that reminds me-here’s a serial number.” He repeated from memory. “Four-two-one-eight-nine-three. It fits a thirty-two Colt automatic. Any chance

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