key he had taken from the door earlier in the day when he got the photograph of the dead woman.

In the bedroom he turned on the lights, went on into the living-room, and pressed the light switch. He stood for a moment staring around the room, then stepped across and turned on the radio. It was tuned in to WQAM and a hot jive band was on the air.

Turning to Painter, Shayne said, “Give me your gun.”

Painter snapped startled black eyes up at Shayne’s grim gray gaze. He hesitated briefly, then flipped back his coat and unholstered a. 38 snugly belted to the front of his left thigh with the butt toward the right.

Shayne took it from him and strode over to a small ornamental fireplace with two pine logs in a wood-basket on the hearth.

He fired a single shot down into one of the logs, went swiftly to the front door, and unlocked it with Helen’s key. He waited tensely, his hand on the knob, his face bleak and drawn, while Painter looked on in helpless incredulity.

The front door of 616 slammed. High heels tapped across the few paces to rattle the knob of 614.

Shayne jerked it open and Helen Porter stumbled forward and almost fell into his arms. Her face was a white mask of terror and she panted, “Oh, it’s you? I thought I heard a shot in here. Then I saw the lights on and-”

She clung to Shayne’s arm. He shoved her off roughly and said, “You did hear a shot. Chief Painter wants to know why you heard the shot tonight with the radio going as loud as it will go, yet you didn’t hear the shot that killed Madge Rankin Tuesday night.”

“Why-I–I don’t know. I guess-”

“You claimed you didn’t hear it because you fired it yourself,” Shayne grated, “and had no way of knowing it could be heard on your side.” He shoved Helen Porter into Painter’s arms and strode back to turn off the radio.

In the abrupt silence he whirled around with Painter’s gun leveled at her as she tore herself free from the Miami Beach Chief and pawed frantically inside the handbag clutched in her left hand.

“Don’t touch that automatic, Helen. I’ll put a thirty-eight slug between your eyes, so help me God.”

Painter grabbed the bag from her and backed away from the range of his own gun in Shayne’s hand.

Helen Porter stared at him with panic-stricken eyes, then laughed, and said, “Why, Mike! I almost thought you meant it.”

Painter opened the bag and took out a. 32 automatic. He exclaimed, “It looks as though I’ve struck pay dirt this time, Shayne. If this is the gun that killed Mrs. Rankin-”

“You’re both crazy,” said Helen Porter with a toss of her dark head. “That pistol hasn’t been shot for years. I guess you’ve got tests that’ll prove that all right.”

Shayne went to the door and closed and locked it. “Come on and sit down,” he commanded Helen, “and we’ll talk this over.”

Painter grabbed Helen’s arm and propelled her to a chair and shoved her into it, then stood stiffly on guard beside her.

Shayne sank down in another chair and said, “I don’t expect a bullet fired from that pistol to match any of the death slugs. But you’ve got some of the empty cartridges, haven’t you, Painter?”

“Certainly,” Painter snapped. “One from here, and at the spot where two of the other men were shot. And those two in Rourke’s apartment.” He looked pained at Shayne’s questioning his thoroughness.

“That’s more than you’ll need to convict Helen Porter of the murders,” Shayne assured him. He turned to explain to Helen: “You can put a fresh barrel in a Colt automatic and throw away the old barrel every time it’s fired, but the thing you forgot or didn’t know is that every gun leaves distinctive marks on the empty cartridge as they are ejected, allowing them to be traced back to the gun they were fired from. You should have picked up your empties, kid.”

“I don’t believe it.” She laughed shrilly. “What are you trying to do? Say I’ve been going around shooting people?”

“Including Tim Rourke,” Shayne said harshly. “You made a bad mistake when you started shooting at my best friend.”

To Painter he said, “I wondered all the time about ballistic tests on the bullets pointing to so many different automatics being used. All the same make and the same caliber. Five different pistols. It didn’t make sense. But when I found out Helen’s accomplice had just quit his job in a sporting-goods store where they had a repair department and a big stock of spare parts, I knew how it had been worked. Smith simply stole half a dozen new barrels for a thirty-two automatic, and every time he and this girl shot a man after robbing him, they replaced it with a fresh one. But-Smith didn’t throw away the barrel you shot Rourke with,” he said to Helen. “He kept it and slid it into that gun of Bronson’s that you found in Mrs. Bronson’s bag after you knocked her out. If you’d given Dilly his part of the money instead of forcing him to resort to blackmail, you might have gotten away with it.”

There was a cool smile of derision on Helen’s face. “So I’m the blonde, eh? Do I look like a blonde?”

“Hell, we’ve got the beauty operator who dyed your hair Tuesday afternoon after you read the Blue Flash and decided it was too dangerous to remain a blonde. And the one who gave you the solvent two weeks ago so you could remove the dark dye in a short time. In that way you could become a blonde to become Dilly Smith’s mistress at the LaCrosse Apartments, and a brunette whenever you came here to live as Helen Porter. You thought you were perfectly safe when you rented this place as a brunette.”

“You lie when you say I lived at the LaCrosse with Dilly Smith,” she screamed. “I’ve been living here-I can prove I was here every night.”

All this was more than Painter could take standing up. He said stiffly, “Hand me my gun, Shayne,” and when he had it in his hand he slumped down in a chair and held it trained on Helen Porter.

“Because your lights were on and your radio was going?” Shayne resumed sardonically. “You didn’t answer your doorbell any of the nights while you were at the LaCrosse as Mrs. Smith. You arranged with Madge to have her go in there every evening and turn on your lights and radio, and then turn them off again before she went to bed. That’s why you had to kill her. That-and because she found out you’d stolen Dilly Smith away from her and she threatened to tell Rourke the whole thing.”

“You’re lying,” Helen Porter said low and furiously. “You’ve no proof. Not one iota of proof.”

Shayne glanced at Painter to make sure he was covering Helen. He said, wearily, “Dilly’s already told us how he drove you to the Blackstone at ten-thirty and you slipped up and knocked Mrs. Bronson out cold, shot Tim Rourke, and brought Mrs. Bronson’s gun back. Smith is down at headquarters now. He didn’t tell you he drove back there after bringing you here, and saw Bronson and his wife while you were phoning the police in the hopes she, Bronson, who is a good-looking blonde, would be found up there with Rourke’s body. He didn’t know you planned to kill Madge. When he found out it was you, he spilled everything.

“Even the way he checked that trunk to your supposed friend Betty Green in Denver as a blind to make it look like Mrs. Smith had left Miami before Rourke was shot-and before the police got suspicious and started checking up.”

“That bastard,” she raged. “That white-livered bastard! I knew I should have given it to him, too. And I would have that night when he came asking about Madge if you hadn’t been here.” She glared at Shayne with cold light- brown eyes that could gleam like molten gold when she was trying to have her way with a man.

Shayne got up and turned to Painter who sat rigidly upright with his police pistol unwaveringly on Helen Porter. He said, “That ought to do it. You can check her prints with the ones of Mrs. Smith that we got from the LaCrosse, and those in Rourke’s apartment. Keep an eye on her. I’ll go over to Miss Porter’s place and call a couple of your men to help you take her in.”

“Tell them to lock Smith up tight,” Painter snapped, and added, “Where are you going?”

“It’s only a short walk over to the hospital. I’ll find out about Rourke.”

After he called in to Beach headquarters and asked for a couple of Painter’s men to take Helen in, he went out into the cool night air.

A brisk ten minutes took him to the Flagler Hospital. Chief Gentry was standing by the information desk. Shayne strode over to him, a grin on his face.

“Have you got anything on Rourke?” Shayne asked.

“Only that he’ll pull through by the skin of his teeth. Blood transfusions saved him.” Gentry chuckled. “Tim’s a tough one. He’s had a couple of conscious moments, but they won’t let him talk.”

“How long?”

“Maybe tomorrow,” Gentry said.

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