“Must have a short in it,” I said. “I’ll take it to a shop in the morning and have it fixed.”

“Do you think it’ll take long?”

“No,” I said. “Probably get it back in two or three days.”

“That long? Perhaps you could rent one while it’s being repaired. Or buy a new one.”

“Why?” I asked. “You afraid you’ll miss the soap operas?”

“No. I just feel so isolated without it.” She smiled. “Cut off from the world, you know, as if I didn’t know what was going on.”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on. And you can read the papers.”

She’d like hell read the papers.

Again I tried to guess how much she knew. There was just no way to tell. I began to hate that lovely, imperturbable face. Everywhere I looked it was mocking me. It showed nothing. Absolutely nothing. Inside she could be laughing, just waiting for a chance to kill me.

If she knew, all she had to do was wait for me to go to sleep and let me have it. She would have committed the perfect crime. In my pocket were the three keys to all that money, and I was the only remaining person on earth who knew she was still alive. She could walk out, take the money from the boxes, and leisurely board a plane to anywhere she wanted to go.

It could drive you crazy just thinking about it.

I was wanted by the police for killing her, but she could kill me and walk off with $120,000, and nobody would

even look for her.

Not for Madelon Butler, because she was dead.

Not for Susie Mumble, because she had been born here

in this room and nobody else knew she existed.

It was insane. But there it was.

But did she know?

She had probably planned the whole thing the exact instant Diana James had dropped her flashlight there in the basement and we had seen her face as she reached to pick it up. She’d put it all together in that short fraction of a second—the deputy’s recognizing her, what would happen if the house burned, all of it.

But, still, could she be sure it had worked? Diana James might have been wearing a watch with her name inside it, as I had said. How could she tell? But I knew by now what kind of mind I was dealing with. For one thing, she could be carefully adding up all these little things: my forgetting to bring in the paper, the strange way the radio had conked out so conveniently.

And, of course, there was always the chance that she had heard the whole thing on the radio during the afternoon. If she had, she was laughing.

I started around the circle again. If she did know, I didn’t dare go to sleep. If she didn’t know, I had to keep her from learning. That meant she had to stay in here where she couldn’t see a paper until she was out of the news, two or three days, or maybe longer.

That, in turn, meant waiting to get at the money, not being able to run. And how much waiting did I think I could take, never knowing from one hour to the next when Charisse Finley might remember who I was?

I could feel the skin along my spine contract with chill at the thought. I couldn’t take it. I’d go raving mad sitting here hour after hour just waiting for them to knock on the door. I was even in the phone book. All they’d have to do was drive out here and walk in.

And all the time they’d be hammering at Charisse Finley. Where did you see him? Or his picture? Try to remember. Think. Maybe he was in the papers. About how long ago? Try to guess. A big guy who looked like he’d slept in his face? Maybe he was a pug. Try some pictures of fighters, Joe. How about football players?

We couldn’t wait. I had to get out of here. I’d take her down to the banks as soon as they opened in the morning. I’d wear dark glasses and stay in the car, parking as close to each one as possible, making her go right in and out again. She wouldn’t have a chance to get at a paper. Not until after we’d got the money, anyway; and afterward it wouldn’t matter. Just let her try to hold out any of it or get it back.

I couldn’t sit still any longer. I could feel pressure building up inside me as if I were going to explode. I went into the kitchen and mixed two drinks. I’d tell her the plans were changed. But I had to make it sound reasonable, not let her know what I was afraid of.

I brought the drinks in and gave her one.

Then, before I could think of how to start, she glanced thoughtfully at me, frowning a little, and said, “Do you remember asking me about the names those boxes were rented under?”

I had started to taste the drink. Something about the way she said it made me stop. “Yes,” I said. “Why?”

She hesitated just slightly. “Well, I... I mean, something has been bothering me, and the more I puzzle about it, the more confused I become. You see, I had it all written


“Confused about what?” I demanded.

“The names. I—”

“Look,” I snapped at her, “don’t try to tell me you’ve

forgotten ‘em. You knew ‘em this afternoon.”

She shook her head. “No. It’s not that. I remember them perfectly. But, you see, there are three banks and three names, and now I’m not certain which goes with which.”

It was just as if she had read my mind. I held the glass in my hand and stared at her.

Chapter Eighteen

What was she trying to do?

That was what made it awful. You didn’t know. There was no way you could know.

Maybe she had heard the news and was trying to break my nerve and make me run. But why? If I ran, and took the keys with me, she’d never get the money. That couldn’t be it.

Maybe she was stalling so we’d be here long enough for me to break down from sheer exhaustion and finally go to sleep, so she could kill me. But in that case, didn’t she know that if we waited too long and the police did get here they’d find her too? Waiting was just as dangerous for her as it was for me. No, it was more so, because if they found her here alive I’d no longer be charged with murder, but she would.

Maybe she did know it but was still cold-nerved enough to play out a bluff like that until everybody else had quit. Maybe she was going to let it work on me, the fear and the suspense and the waiting, until I was actually afraid to go out on the street where the cops were looking for me. Maybe I’d crack wide open, give the keys to her, and ask her to get the stuff out of the boxes and be stupid enough to expect her to come back here with it.

Or maybe she was just sweating me a little before reviewing our contract. Perhaps she wanted to renegotiate the terms, using a little pressure here and there.

There were just two things I was sure of. One was that she wasn’t mixed up about those names. Not with a mind like hers. And the other was that I couldn’t let her know she had me worried.

I took a sip of the drink. “Well, I’ll tell you,” I said. “That looks like something that comes under the heading of your problem. You remember what I told you? If there was any monkey business about that money, hell wouldn’t hold you. So what are you doing about it?”

“What do you think I’m doing?” she asked coldly. “I’m trying to remember. I’ve been racking my brains all afternoon.”

“And just how long do you think you’ll have to rack ‘em before you come up with the answer?”

“How do I know?”

I lit a cigarette. “Well, there are two very simple solutions to it,” I said. “The first one is known as the Blue Method. I just take your throat between my hands and squeeze it until your face turns the color of a ripe grape. When you’re able to breathe again, everything comes back to you. It’s a great memory aid. Something scientific about fresh oxygen in the brain.

“The second one is even simpler. As soon as the banks open in the morning you just pick up the phone and ask ‘em. It’s easier on the neck too.”

“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” she said icily. “Just give the bank a list of names, and ask if any of those people had a safe-deposit box there? You know they don’t give out information like that.”

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