“What is it?” I asked.

She stared thoughtfully at me. “I’ve been trying to size

you up.”


“I’m coming to that. I think I can see you now. A little tough—and, what’s more to the point, a little cynical, as anybody would be who was a hero at eighteen and a has-been at twenty-five. You sold things for a while, but you sold less and less as time went by and the customers had a little trouble remembering who Lee Scarborough was. You can stop me any time you don’t agree with this.”

“Go on,” I said.

“There was another thing I kept trying to remember. I’ve got it now. You got in trouble your last year in college and were almost kicked out and nearly went to


“So I smashed up a car,” I said.

“It was somebody else’s car. And the woman who was

smashed up along with it was somebody else’s wife. She was in the hospital a long time.”

“She got over it,” I said. “Without any scars.”

“Yes. I guess you would know that.”

“All right. Look. There’s a type of babe who chases football players. What’re we supposed to do? Scream for help? Or wear chastity girdles?”

She smiled. “You don’t have to defend yourself. I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m just trying to see how you fit in the picture. And I think you’ll do, on all counts. I want to make you a proposition.”

“I hope you have better luck than I did.”

“You take women pretty casually, don’t you?” she said.

“There’s another way?”

“Never mind. But do you want to hear what I asked you up here for?”


“Remember, I asked you how you’d like to make a lot of money? Well, I think I know where there is a lot of it, for anybody with nerve enough to pick it up.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “How do you mean, pick it up? Steal it?”

She shook her head. “No. It’s already been stolen. Maybe twice.”

I put down my cigarette. She was watching me closely.

“Just how much money?” I asked.

“A hundred and twenty thousand dollars,” she said.

Chapter Two

It was very quiet in the room. I whistled softly.

She was still watching me. “How does it sound?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t heard anything about it yet.”

“All right,” she said. “I have to take a chance on somebody if I’m ever going to do anything about it, because I can’t do it alone—and I think you’re the one. It’ll take nerve and intelligence, and it has to be somebody without a criminal record, so the police won’t have their eyes on him afterward.”

“O.K., O.K.,” I said. I knew what she meant. Somebody who wasn’t a criminal but who might let a little rub off on him if the price was right. It was a lot of money, but I wanted to hear about it first.

She studied me with speculation in her eyes. “There’s a reward for the return of it.”

She was sharp. I could see the beauty of that. She was showing me how to do it. You thought about the reward, first; when you got used to that you could let your ideas grow a little. You didn’t have to jump in cold. You waded


“Whose money is it?” I asked. “And where is it?”

“It’s just a long guess,” she said. “I didn’t say I knew

where it was. I said I think I know. You add up a lot of things to get to it.”

“Such as?”

She took a sip of the drink and looked at me across the top of the glass. “Did you ever hear of a man named J. N. Butler?”

“I don’t think so. Who is he?”

“Just a minute.”

She got up and went into the bedroom. When she came back she handed me two newspaper clippings. I looked at the first one. It was datelined here in Sanport, June eighth. That was two months ago.


J. N. Butler, vice-president of the First National Bank of Mount Temple, was the object of a rapidly expanding manhunt today as announcement was made of discovery of a shortage in the bank’s funds estimated at $120,000.

I looked up at her. She smiled. I read on.

Butler, prominent in social and civic activities of the town for over twenty years, has been missing since Saturday, at which time, according to Mrs. Butler, he announced his intention of going to Louisiana for a weekend fishing trip. He did not return Sunday night, as scheduled, but it was not until the bank opened for business this morning that the shortage was discovered.

I read the second one. It was dated three days later, and was a rehash of the previous story, except that the lead paragraph said Butler s car had been found abandoned in Sanport and that police were now looking for him all over the nation.

I handed them back. “That was two months ago,” I said. “What’s the pitch? Have they found him?” “No,” she said. “And I don’t think they will.” “What do you mean?” “I don’t think he ever left his house in Mount Temple. Not alive, anyway.”

I put the drink down very slowly and watched her face. You didn’t have to be a genius to see she knew something about it the police didn’t.

“Why?” I asked. “Interested?” “I might be. Enough to listen, anyway.”

“All right,” she said. “It’s like this: I’m a nurse. And for about eight months I was on a job in Mount Temple, taking care of a woman who’d suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed. Her house was out in the edge of town, across the street from a big place, an enormous old house taking up a whole city block. J. N. Butler’s place.” She stopped.

“All right,” I said. “Keep going.”

“Well, his car, the one they found abandoned here—I saw it leave there that Saturday. Only it wasn’t Saturday afternoon, the way she said; it was Saturday night. And

he wasn’t driving it. She was.”

“His wife?”

“His wife.”

“Hold it,” I said. “You say it was night. How do you

know who was driving?”

“I was out on the front lawn, smoking a cigarette before going to bed. Just as the Butler car came out of their drive onto the street, another car went by and caught it in the headlights. It was Mrs. Butler, all right. Alone.”

“But,” I said, “maybe she was just going to town or something. That doesn’t prove he didn’t leave in the car later.”

She shook her head. “Mrs. Butler never drove his car. She had her own. He didn’t abandon that car in Sanport.

She did. I’d swear it.”

“But why?”

“Don’t you see the possibilities?” she said impatiently. “He almost has to be dead. There’s no other answer. They’d have found him long ago if he were alive. He was a big, good-looking man, the black-Irish type, easy to see and hard to hide. He was six-three and weighed around two-thirty. You think they couldn’t find him? And another

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