12 Chinks and A Woman

12 Chinks and A Woman by James Hadley Chase Read Free Book Online

Book: 12 Chinks and A Woman by James Hadley Chase Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Hadley Chase
     “You stick around here, baby. If I think something's goin' to start, I'll have you down. Right now you'll be more of a help here. Grosset's got to be looked after. Tell him I'm out of town for a few days, but you don't know where.”
     “I'll go over to your place and pack a bag for you.”
     Fenner nodded. “Yeah,” he said, “do that.”
     When she had gone, he went over to his reference shelf and checked the air time-table. There was a plane for Florida at 12.30. He glanced at his watch. It was five past eleven. If Ike phoned back quickly, he could just make it.
     He sat behind his desk and lit a cigarette. He had to wait twenty minutes before the phone jangled. He snatched the receiver.
     “The guy you want is Buck Nightingale,” Ike said. “He's got his finger in most pies down there. Treat him easy, he's gotta brittle temper.”
     “So have I,” Fenner said unpleasantly. “Fix it for me, Ike. Tell him that Dave Ross'll be down on the next plane an' wants introductions. Give me a good build up. I'll tell Paula to put a check in the mail for five hundred bucks for your trouble.”
     “Sure, sure,” Ike's voice was quite oily. “I'll fix it for you,” and he hung up.
     Fenner dialed another number. “Paula?” he said. “Hurry with that packing. I'm catching the 12:30 plane. Meet me at the airport as fast as you can make it.”
     He pulled open a drawer, took out a check-book and signed five blank checks quickly. He put his hat and coat on and looked round the office thoughtfully. Then he snapped off the electric light and went out, slamming the door behind him.

     Fenner arrived at Key West about nine. He checked in at a nearby hotel, got himself a cold bath and went to bed. He was lulled to sleep by the drone of an electric fan that buzzed just above his head.
     He had two hours' catnap, then the telephone woke him. The telephone said “Good morning” and he ordered orange juice and toast and told the brittle voice at the other end to send him up a bottle of Scotch. While he was waiting he went into the bathroom and had a cold shower.
     It was half past eleven when he left the hotel. He walked south down Roosevelt Boulevard. All the time he walked he kept thinking about the heat. He thought if he was going to stay long in this burg he'd certainly have to do something about the heat.
     He stopped a policeman and asked for Buck Nightingale's place.
     The cop gaped at him. “You're new here, huh?”
     Fenner said, “No, I'm the oldest inhabitant. That's why I come up an' ask you. I wantta see if you know the answer,” and he went on, telling himself that he'd have to be careful. The heat was doing things to his temper already.
     He found Nightingale's place by asking a taxi-driver. He got the information and he got civility. He thanked the driver, then spoiled it by not hiring the cab. The driver told him he'd take him all over the town for twenty-five cents. Fenner said that he'd rather walk. He went on, closing his ears to what the driver said. It was too hot to fight, anyway.
     By the time he reached Flagler Avenue his feet began to hurt. It was like walking on a red-hot stove. At the corner of Flagler and Thompson he gave up and flagged a cab. When he settled himself in the cab he took off his shoes and gave his feet some air. He'd no sooner got his shoes off than the . cab forced itself against the oncoming traffic and pulled up outside a small shop.
     The driver twisted his head. “This is it, boss,” he said.
     Fenner squeezed his feet into his shoes and had difficulty in getting his hot hand into his trouser pocket. He gave the driver twenty-five cents and got out of the cab. The shop was very clean and the windows shone. In the right-hand window stood a small white coffin. The back of the window was

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