Brett Halliday: Blood on Biscayne Bay

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Brett Halliday Blood on Biscayne Bay
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    Blood on Biscayne Bay
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Brett Halliday

Blood on Biscayne Bay

Chapter One: $10,000 BY MIDNIGHT

It was late in the afternoon of a day in late November when Michael Shayne sauntered into the lobby of a downtown apartment hotel in Miami, Florida. An indefinable feeling of restlessness possessed him. He recognized the symptom, and he welcomed it.

Very simply and very definitely he knew it was time he was moving on. His vacation had been a long and lazy one, and he had enjoyed every moment of it. But now it was over.

With the end of summer, the Magic City’s tempo was quickening. This was the first “Season” since peace had come to a war-weary world, and already tourists were crowding in, eager to spend their inflated money and clamoring for the frenzied gaiety which Miami knows so well how to offer.

Shayne was suddenly very tired of the tourist-filled city, and bored with inaction. He wanted to get back into the harness. Thinking of Lucy Hamilton, his attractive secretary in New Orleans, trying to keep his office intact while he was away, gave him a feeling of nostalgia which had never touched him before. He wondered about Lucy a lot. In a sense, he realized that this protracted vacation in Miami had been an inward protest against his growing fondness for her. He had felt after the Timothy Rourke affair had been cleared up that he needed to stay away from his New Orleans office for a time to gain perspective, and to examine impersonally his feelings toward the dark-haired and brown-eyed girl who was so much like Phyllis.

There were a few people seated in the lobby as Shayne crossed to the desk. The clerk, a small neat man with harassed blue eyes, saw him coming and swung around to get a telegram from Shayne’s pigeonhole. He smiled and laid the yellow envelope before the tall red-headed detective and said, “This came while you were out, Mr. Shayne.”

Shayne said, “Thanks,” and tore the envelope open. He had no sensation of surprise. The message seemed to answer some of the disturbances he had experienced within the past few days almost telepathically, for it was signed, Lucy Hamilton. The message read:

Have accepted thousand dollar retainer for you to investigate Belton murder contingent your arrival prior tomorrow noon. Have reserved space National Airlines plane leaving Miami midnight. Please confirm your departure.

He leaned against the counter and tugged at his ear lobe with his right thumb and forefinger, his gray eyes blank and expressionless, staring at the telegram.

Shayne was standing like that when he sensed movement behind him and felt a hand touch him lightly on the arm. He turned his head and looked downward into the girl’s face. Big, slatish-gray eyes gazed appealingly into his. Long and very black eyelashes curled against her brow. She was a slender girl, about twenty-five, wearing a light blue linen suit that looked expensively simple, and a blue flower peeked above her high, dark pompadour. Her cheeks were softly rounded, her lips full and vividly rouged and slightly parted.

She said breathlessly, “Mr. Shayne. You don’t remember me, of course.” There was disappointment in her eyes and her pointed chin grew taut.

Shayne shook his head slowly, his gray eyes studying her face. He stopped tugging at his ear lobe, straightened up and lifted his hat, crumpled Lucy’s telegram and put it in his pocket.

“I’m afraid I don’t.”

“I’m Christine Teilhet.” She waited a moment, still breathlessly hopeful, but when Shayne continued to stare at her and shake his red head slowly she went on hurriedly:

“That is, I used to be Christine Teilhet. I’m married now. I’m Mrs. Leslie Hudson.” Her voice took on a tone of dignity and pride as she pronounced the name.

Shayne said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Hudson. You see, I’ve been away from Miami for a long time.”

“I know. In New Orleans and El Paso. I’ve kept up with you through the newspapers.” She caught her lower lip between even white teeth and a frown of annoyance came between her arched brows. Her hand had remained lightly on his arm, and now her fingers tightened. She smiled and the tautness went out of her chin and throat “Of course-you must remember. I went to college with Phyllis, and I visited here one fall-just before Phyl died. I was in your apartment a couple of times when you were there. Remember?”

Shayne grinned suddenly and sheepishly. “You’re Christine,” he said. “I don’t think I ever knew your last name. You were just a kid back in 1942.”

The gaunt contours of his face tightened perceptibly as he remembered. Christine had been Phyllis’s best friend. He now recalled vaguely that she had done secretarial work in New York, and had taken a couple of months’ vacation in Miami between jobs.

Watching his face, she saw his eyes grow bleak and a muscle twitch in his cheek. The smile faded from her lips and she said, “I’m sorry, Michael. Phyl would have so loved having-the baby.”

Shayne jerked his body around and said harshly, “What is it you want with me?”

She took her hand from his arm and stepped back. “Sorry,” she murmured again. Turning her eyes from the fierce expression on his face, she went on soberly, “I’m in terrible trouble, Mr. Shayne. I thought-perhaps you would help me.”

“Of course.” He glanced around the lobby and lifted his ragged red brows. “Shall we go upstairs where we can talk?”

She turned toward the elevator with him. They went up two flights, and as they walked down the corridor to the right, Shayne said easily, “I was lucky enough to get my old apartment back when I landed here a few months ago.” He had his key ring out, and he unlocked a door opening into a large square living-room with east windows looking out over Biscayne Bay. There was a studio couch against one wall, a narrow center table, and three comfortable chairs. An open door revealed a kitchenette, the bedroom door was closed. Shayne stood aside to let Mrs. Leslie Hudson enter before him.

She stopped a couple of feet inside and looked around the room, a tiny frown between her eyes. “I don’t remember this apartment. I thought it was much larger-a corner apartment.”

“You’re thinking about the one upstairs one flight where we were living when you were here.” Shayne closed the door and went across the room, moved one of the chairs closer to the table and said, “Have a seat.”

“Oh,” she breathed, and sat down.

“This apartment was my hangout before I married Phyl,” he explained. “I kept it for an office after we were married.” He offered her a cigarette.

She shook her head. She carried a small blue handbag with a turquoise clasp and her fingers trembled as she gripped it tightly. “Not just now. You see, Mr. Shayne-”

“You called me Michael,” he reminded her, “three years ago.” His big mouth widened in a grin and his voice was gentle. “Just relax now. You know I’ll do whatever I can for you.”

“Thank you, Michael,” she murmured.

Shayne turned to a wall cupboard and lifted down a bottle of Three Star Hennessy. He set it on the table and went into the kitchen, where he put ice cubes and water in two tall glasses and carried them into the living-room. He took two wineglasses from the cupboard, filled one to the brim, and poured about three ounces into the other.

Christine was sitting stiffly erect, her feet close together and flat on the floor, watching him with impatient restraint. He set the partially filled glass and a glass of ice water on an end table beside her chair, moved another chair around to face hers, and sat down. She made no move to touch her drink.

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