Brett Halliday

Dolls Are Deadly


Michael Shayne stared dreamily from his office window, his chair at a nearly impossible tilt and his big feet scuffing the desk top. A close-burning cigarette warmed the knobby fingers of his right hand. Four fingers of his other hand warmed a glass of Hennessy. The cognac was good for a while yet, but the hot end of the cigarette was getting uncomfortably close to his fingers.

He had three choices.

He could swing his feet to the floor so he could reach the ash tray on the desk. He could try flipping the butt in from where he sat. Or he could drop it on the floor. He pushed the burning end of the cigarette out from his fingers another sixteenth of an inch while he pondered the alternatives. The second choice was adventurous and the third was easy-but Lucy Hamilton, his petite, brown-haired secretary whose typewriter was busily going in the front office, wouldn’t approve of either.

Shayne decided to do it the hard way.

He took a sip from the glass, swung his long legs to the floor, reached to the ash tray and thumbed out the cigarette. A breeze from the open window sifted through his red hair. The breeze smelled of the sea and he thought of his little Cuban friend, Sylvester, out there on it somewhere, his party-boat solid under his feet, and nothing but clean air and sky and water around him. Sylvester had no troubles. His boat was paid for and he ran it where and when he pleased.

Shayne’s heavy brows quirked upward and his lips compressed as he indulged in a moment of rare musing. “When I was picking out a profession what in hell made me think I wanted to be a private detective? I should have been a charter-boat captain. Everything clean and pleasant-and safe. I could be home every night. Lucy would approve.”

The redhead took another pull at the cognac. It would be good on the water today. Hot and cold by turns, invigorating and restful-like a Turkish bath. All this and a fishing pole bending double while the reel made shrill music as a marlin hit the mackerel bait and ran it out two hundred yards for the first jump.

Shayne looked at his watch. Though it was not yet noon it was late to start out, except that it wasn’t entirely the sport that he went for. Just to be on the untroubled water was enough. He had been going out on Sylvester’s boat for years off and on, and though months would go by sometimes, when he went down again it was the same. Sylvester’s wide Cuban grin made him welcome and they picked up where they had left off. The little, round, uncalculating man with the shining black eyes was as refreshing as the salt spray. Childlike and honest, he had a loyalty to Shayne and a liking as deep as the ocean on which he made his living. His fisherman’s hands were calloused, but his soul was not.

Shayne made his decision and reached for the phone, then stopped midway. There was no use calling. If Sylvester’s boat had been chartered today it would be out already, and if it hadn’t the little Cuban would be only too glad to take it out at any hour for his old friend.

Through the open door Shayne could see the back of Lucy’s head. “I’m going fishing, angel,” he said lazily.

She stopped typing and swung her chair around. “It’s pretty hot for a nighthawk. Sure you won’t get sunstroke?”

“I never got it from you-not quite.”

“I’m nothing like the sun.” She smiled across at him.

“You are, exactly-when you smile.”

Shayne finished the cognac, got up and reached for his hat on top of a filing cabinet. In the act of putting it on, however, he saw the knob to the outside door turn, so instead of leaving he shut the door between the outside office and his own, walked to the cooler and filled a glass with water and drank it. Then he returned to his desk, took a half-empty bottle of Hennessy from the bottom drawer and poured three more fingers of cognac. Easing himself to the chair, he lifted his feet to the desk top again. While he sipped the drink he listened to the pleasing murmur of Lucy’s voice until it was all but drowned out by a hoarse insistent bass. A moment after, as he knew it would, a knock sounded at the door of his inner office and even before he said, “Come in,” the door was opened by Lucy.

At first glance Shayne didn’t like the looks of the man who loomed over her shoulder. At second glance he knew why. He recognized him-Henry Henlein, a confirmed mobster, a “muscleman” who made his living by playing his fists over faces, and sometimes a switchblade, and sometimes a broken bottle or beer stein-or half a brick. “Henny” was versatile. He was also durable. For more years than the law of averages allows, to say nothing of man-made law, he had hired out for the fast and dirty dollar to a succession of Miami crime bosses.

Shayne’s gray eyes were cold as he pointedly looked past the man to Lucy. “I’m busy, Miss Hamilton.” He turned his glance to the wispy clouds in the sky outside the window. He liked the view better there.

“Mr. Henry Henlein insists on seeing you,” Lucy said in equally as cold a voice.

Still looking out the window, Shayne said with deceptive gentleness, “Henny’s probably collecting for the Private Investigator’s Protective Association. Tell him I’ll protect myself. Tell him if he’s still there when I turn around I’ll break his arm across your typewriter. Tell him I’ll snap his fingers one at a time and lay his face open to the bone with my leather gloves that I soak in salt water and dry out fast so the seams are like knives.”

Shayne’s sarcasm was lost on the muscleman. “You got it all wrong, Mr. Shayne,” he protested. “I’m here like anyone else, to hire a detective. I need one bad.”

“I don’t need the business bad.” Shayne took a slow sip of brandy.

“Look, Mr. Shayne,” Henlein said, his voice rising, “you’re a private eye, ain’t you? Well, I got something that needs looking at.”

The voice carried such a hoarse and curious urgency that Shayne turned reluctantly from the window to survey the hoodlum. Henry Henlein topped Lucy by half a foot. He was heavy-boned and thick-waisted and going a little to pot. His faded blond hair started low on his forehead and the Miami sun had not been kind to his desiccated skin; it was blotched and red. Even if Shayne hadn’t known who the man was or how he made his living, he’d have been repelled by the gross brutality on the loose-lipped face.

There was a peculiar sort of irony, Shayne thought, in the difference between the punishment the law exacted and that which racketeering crime lords did. While the offender against the law often escaped with nothing worse than a short jail sentence, the offender against illegal syndicate activities usually ended up maimed or dead. As a result, musclemen and enforcers for gangsters were seldom out of work.

“I’ll say it once more.” Shayne spoke with morose disinterest. “I’m busy. And I expect to be busy for a long time.”

The hoodlum’s hand jerked toward the glass of brandy which Shayne held. “Yeh, I can see you are.” The wry observation indicated an inordinate show of intelligence for Henlein who was rated, even by those who hired him, as “strong back, dim brain.”

Henlein shouldered past Lucy, scuffed across the room and lowered himself to the edge of the chair beside Shayne’s desk. “It won’t take you but a second,” he said in a voice that was, strangely, almost pleading, “to see what I came to show you.”

For the first time Shayne turned his full attention on the man. His gray eyes narrowed and his fingers lifted to pull gently at his left earlobe.

This hoodlum was terrified! His thick lower lip drooped like that of an imbecile, revealing ground-down, tobacco-stained teeth, and his milk-blue eyes were vacant of everything except fear.

Shayne’s big feet, still propped on the desk, were in Henny’s line of vision. The hoodlum stood up, his hand digging into the side coat pocket of his blue pin-striped suit, and lifted out the last thing Shayne would have expected-a doll.

Reaching across Shayne’s long legs, he placed the doll in the middle of the desk. It was about four inches tall,

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