Mr. Henty said, “There’s a-ah-I think I should tell you, Mr. Rourke. There’s a young lady waiting in your apartment.”

Rourke stopped with his right hand on the newel post. He turned bloodshot eyes on Mr. Henty and muttered, “Which one?”

“She’s one I haven’t seen before, Mr. Rourke.” Mr. Henty tried to leer evilly, but it turned out a smirk. He made a soft smacking sound with his thin lips. “Very nice, I must say.”

“I’m in a hell of a shape to entertain visitors,” Rourke grunted. He made his way painfully back to the small office and said, “I’ve got to send a telegram right away. I’d better send it from here if I have a visitor in my room.”

“Certainly. I’ll get an operator for you, Mr. Rourke. You’d better sit down here.” He moved a chair convenient to the desk telephone and went to the switchboard.

When the operator answered, Rourke said, “I want to send a telegram to Mike Shayne in New Orleans,” He gave the address and continued: Crime popping Miami Beach. Three murders. Can you take over. Urgent.

“Sign that Tim Rourke,” he ended, hung up, and pulled himself slowly to his feet. He gripped the banister for support when he climbed the stairs and stopped to steady himself outside his apartment door.

He tried the knob and found it was locked. He started to knock, then took out a key ring, and unlocked the door. It opened soundlessly and he stood for a moment blinking stupidly at the disordered living-room. He wasn’t a very neat housekeeper, but he was quite certain he hadn’t left his apartment in such condition that morning.

A typewriter desk with his portable was in the right-hand corner. Papers on the desk were disarranged, the drawers pulled out, and there were more papers scattered on the floor. A magazine stand beyond the desk had been ransacked.

Rourke moved into the room quietly. An archway on the left led into a short hall from which the bathroom and bedroom were entered. Straight ahead through a larger archway was a sunny breakfast nook with a kitchenette opening off it.

He went into the hall and peered through the open door to the bedroom. The first thing he noticed was a pair of long and very shapely legs. The girl’s back was toward him. She was leaning forward, pulling things out of the bottom drawer of his dresser.

Rourke’s eyes weren’t focusing very well. He blinked them a couple of times, cleared his throat, and croaked, “Nice.”

The girl straightened up slowly and whirled to face him with a. 32 automatic pistol in her right hand. Golden hair was arranged on top of her head and a bow of ribbon peeked up above the pompadour. Her eyes were elongated and the color of molten copper, the lids fringed with long lashes. She was very pretty and seemed completely self-possessed. Laughter crinkled her lips and she drawled, “Well, fry your face and call it hamburger.”

Rourke said politely, “If you’ll tell me what you’re looking for, maybe I can help.”

“You must be Tim Rourke.” She held the little gun carelessly with the muzzle pointed down.

A wave of dizziness swept over Rourke and he knew he was going to be sick. He turned and stumbled into the bathroom. He felt weaker but relieved when he was through retching, and turned on the light to look at his face in the mirror above the lavatory.

His left eye was turning a dirty, purplish yellow, and there was a dark bruise on his right cheekbone. His upper lip was cut and blood was caked on his chin and shirt. He stripped to the waist and bathed his face and head in cold water, put Newskin on his cut lip, and combed his hair. He went into the bedroom for a clean shirt and went in the living-room tucking the tail inside his trousers.

The girl sat near the door composedly smoking. A cloth handbag lay in her lap and her skirt was above her knees. She looked up at him and said, “You’re the damnedest guy. You haven’t asked who I am or what I’m doing here.”

Rourke went over and stretched out on the couch. “I learned a long time ago,” he said lazily, “that the surest way to get a woman to tell something is to pretend you aren’t curious. It infuriates them.”

She laughed and said again, “You’re the damnedest guy,” and added, “You can call me Betty.”

Rourke said, “Thanks, Betty. I will. Did you find what you were looking for?” His eyes roamed over the litter of papers on the floor in front of his desk.

Betty’s eyes were cold. In the brighter light of the living-room they looked light brown instead of molten gold. She said, “No, I didn’t. What is this stuff? Are you writing a book?”

“I’ve been writing one for twenty years.”

She crushed out her cigarette and smoothed her skirt until it almost covered her knees. “A friend sent me here,” she volunteered. “He figured I could get into your apartment easier than he could.”

“He figured correctly,” Rourke assured her.

“This friend of mine doesn’t like the stuff you’ve been writing in the paper. He wondered how much you know and what you’re just guessing at. He thought maybe I could find some dope on it here.”

“I don’t work here,” Rourke explained. “All my stuff is at the newspaper office.”

“I was to tell you for him,” said Betty, “you’d better lay off.”

“No bribes?”

She laughed and got up, swaying her hips provocatively. Rourke noticed that her handbag was unclasped and hanging open. The automatic inside was undoubtedly accessible. She came across to the couch and stood close to him. Looking down at him, her elongated eyes were once again like hot molten gold. She said, “We might figure out something, but I wouldn’t want my friend to know about it.”

“Which one of your friends beat me up?” he asked wearily, turning his eyes away from hers.

She said, “I wouldn’t know,” casually, and went back to her chair. “What makes you think it was a friend of mine?”

“He didn’t like the stuff I’ve been writing in the paper either.”

“Lots of people don’t. If the cops don’t worry about a couple of knockovers, why don’t you let it ride?”

“Maybe I will.” Rourke grimaced and touched his bruised cheek tenderly.

The girl bent forward, her body tense. Her face was not so pretty when she said, “You’ve just been doing a lot of guessing, anyhow. You don’t know a damned thing.” She waited breathlessly for his answer, and when he didn’t say anything, she demanded harshly, “Do you?”

Rourke was thinking fast. He knew she hadn’t read his latest story in the afternoon paper. He felt a lot better about the gun in her bag now. As long as she thought he had just been guessing-

He said, “I’m a pretty good guesser.”

Rourke gasped audibly when she ran her hand into the open bag. He relaxed when she brought out a pack of cigarettes and matches. She lighted the cigarette, got up, and walked to the window and stood staring out for a moment. She whirled around and said, “My friend’s pretty sore about it. You’re lucky it is only guessing, and if you’re smart you’ll give up the idea.”

Rourke said, “I’ve got an idea you could persuade me.

She stood looking steadily at him. She appeared to be neither flattered nor displeased as she considered his offer. Then she walked slowly toward him, saying, “I wouldn’t mind trying.”

“When I’m in better shape,” Rourke said hastily. He pulled himself up from the couch and started unsteadily toward the kitchen. “What I need is a drink. Have one with me?”

“Sure. I want you to get in good shape.” Her eyes, half-covered by long lashes, looked darker now, as though, like a chameleon, she could change their color at will. She opened them wide and he saw a hot glow in them.

Rourke felt a strange hypnosis creeping over him. He stared at her for a full half-minute before proceeding to the kitchen. She was tremendously attractive, and he had an idea she was a murderess.

He returned with a bottle of whisky and two glasses, poured two drinks, handed one to her, and poured the other down his parched throat. He poured the small glass full again and drank it, then stretched out on the couch again.

Betty went back to her chair and sat down, crossed her sleek long legs, and sipped the whisky.

Two heavy slugs of liquor on an empty stomach dulled Rourke’s sensibilities. Or perhaps it was that sultry glow in Betty’s eyes. The hypnosis he had felt before drinking was growing. He tried to close his eyes against it, but the lids wouldn’t come down. Then he didn’t care. He felt himself sinking into a sort of torpor. It was pleasant and he didn’t want to fight against it.

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