I shook my head. “You don’t ask that way. You know how to do it as well as I do, but just to give you an out so we don’t have to use the hard way, I’ll tell you. Call the Third National. You’re Mrs. Henry L. Carstairs. You can’t remember whether or not you received a notice that your box rent was due. Would they please look it up? Either they’ll say it’s paid up until next July, or they’ll say they can’t find any record of your having a box there. In which case you say you’re so sorry, you keep forgetting your husband transferred it to another bank.

“Then you call the Merchant’s Trust, and try again.”

She nodded coolly. “Precisely. And if Mrs. Carstairs is lucky, she finds it there. Then one more call to the third bank, using either Mrs. Hatch’s name or Mrs. Manning’s, will have established all three of them with one call to each bank, no matter which way the last one answers. I know all that. It’s elementary.

“But suppose I’m not lucky, and they still say no to Mrs. Carstairs at the Merchant’s Trust? We know, of course, by the process of elimination, that she has to be at the

Seaboard Bank and Trust. But that still leaves the first two blank, with two names, which means starting around again. One more call, to either of them, will do it, but that may be just one call too many.

“Don’t forget that all those boxes are rented under fictitious names, I have no identification at all, my appearance has changed, and I am a fugitive from justice with my picture on the front pages. Anything that makes them take a second look at me when I go in there is dangerous.”

She had the answers, all right. She always had the answers. And she knew I wouldn’t tell her she was no longer a fugitive.

“That’s right,” I said. “But look at it this way. The chances are exactly two to one that you’ll find Mrs. Carstairs on the first two calls. Isn’t that better than telling me you can’t get that money? That way, you haven’t got any chance at all.”

“You will persist in trying to frighten me, won’t you?”

I got up from the sofa and walked across to her. She sat looking up. Our eyes met.

“I’ve come a long way after that money,” I said. “I’ve taken a lot of chances. I want it. So don’t get in my way. I’m not playing any more.”

I reached down and caught her by the throat. She didn’t fight. She knew the futility of that. The eyes stared at me with their cool disdain.

I intended only to frighten her. But it began to get out of control. I tightened the hands. She’d try to cheat me out of it, would she, the mocking, arrogant, double-crossing little witch?

The room swam around me. She was beating at my arms, trying to reach my face. Make a fool of me, would she? I hated her. I wanted to kill her. My arms trembled; I could hear the roaring of wind in my throat.

Something snapped me out of it just in time. Some glimmer of sanity far back in my mind screamed at me to stop and made me let go of her throat before it was too late. I stood up, trying to control the wild trembling of my hands.

Good God, what had happened? I’d started to go crazy. I’d nearly killed her. And the only thing on earth that

could save me if the police did catch me was the fact that she was still alive. And if I killed her I’d never get that money.

But I couldn’t let her know how it had scared me. I turned away and lit another cigarette. When I looked around again she was sitting up, struggling to get her breath.

I was all right now. “That give you an idea?” I asked.

She said nothing until she had recovered and completely regained her composure. She straightened her clothing.

“That’s the only language you speak, isn’t it?” she said at last.

“It’s one we both understand,” I said. “Think it over. Maybe you can remember how those names go.”

“I’ll probably get them straight, in time. But what’s the hurry? We have a whole month, don’t we?”

“I’ve changed my mind. This is too close to all those damned cops looking for you. I want to get farther away.”

“So you want me to go out on the street while my picture is still on the front pages? Considerate, aren’t


“I tell you, we’ve got to get out of here!”

“And,” she went on calmly, “might I remind you of the terms of our agreement, Mr. Scarborough? You were to keep me hidden here for at least a month before I had to go out.”

“Listen,” I said, my voice beginning to grow loud. “I tell you—” Tell her what? That I was the one the police were looking for?

Maybe she was deliberately trying to drive me crazy.

Suddenly, from nowhere at all, I remembered what that blonde had said. “You’ll never get that money. You don’t know who you’re dealing with. Before it’s all over, one of you will kill the other.”

I wanted to jump up and run out in the street to get away from her before I went out of my mind and killed her.

Go out in the street? Where every cop in the state was looking for me and had my description?

Sit here, then, with those cool, inscrutable eyes watching me squirm, mocking me? Sit here, waiting hour after hour for the knock on the door that would be the first warning I’d ever have that Charisse Finley had remembered who I was at last?

Sit here and go slowly mad thinking of three safe-deposit boxes stuffed with fat bundles of money being held just out of my reach by this maddening witch?

How long before you broke?

After a while she went to bed.

I made a pot of coffee and watched the hours crawl around the face of the electric clock on the bookshelf. I began to imagine I could hear it. It made a tiny snoring sound. The ashtray filled up with butts. The room was blue with drifting layers of smoke.

I would sit still until my nerves were screaming; then I would walk the floor. Three or four times I heard sirens crying somewhere in the city and each time the breath would stop in my throat in spite of the fact that I knew if they came they wouldn’t be using sirens. On a thing like this they came quietly, covered the front and rear exits, and two of them came up and knocked on the door.

It was the elevator that was terrible. The apartment was only two doors away from it and I could hear it, very faintly, if it stopped on this floor and the doors opened. I began to catch myself listening for it. I held my breath listening for it. I imagined I heard it.

Then I would hear it, really hear it, the doors opening softly as it stopped. I waited for the footsteps.

There were never any footsteps because the hall was deeply carpeted. The elevator doors opened and then there was only silence, silence that went up and up,

increasing, like a scream.

Which way had they gone?

I waited, counting.

Was it twelve steps? Fifteen? I waited, not even able to breathe now with the pressure building up in my chest, my nerves pulling tighter and tighter, waiting for the knock on the door.


They had gone the other way. Or gone on by. I would be weak and drenched with sweat, a cigarette

burning my fingers.

I would relax a little.

Then I would begin listening for the elevator to stop


It was morning.

It was Friday morning. This was our last chance until Monday. The banks here were closed all day Saturday in summer.

She came down the hall from the bedroom. She was wearing the blouse and skirt again, and her hair was out of the curlers. It was red, all right, a rich shade of red, in tight, burnished ringlets close to her head, as if the whole thing had been sculptured from one ingot of pure


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