1971 - Want to Stay Alive

1971 - Want to Stay Alive by James Hadley Chase Read Free Book Online

Book: 1971 - Want to Stay Alive by James Hadley Chase Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Hadley Chase
her head in her hands.
    “I can’t be alone, Chuck . . . all right . . . forget it. I won’t ask questions. I don’t want to go.”
    With his ear pressed against the flimsy wooden wall of his cabin, Poke Toholo listened.
    Chuck knew he had won but this was the time to drive it home to her.
    “I’m getting sick of you,” he said. “There are plenty of girls I can find. You’d better clear out. Go on . . . pack!”
    She was now almost grovelling.
    “Please, Chuck . . . I don’t care. I won’t ask any more questions. I just have to stay with you!”
    He walked around the room, as if in doubt.
    “I’ll talk to Poke. He’ll have to hear about this. I think you should get the hell out of here.”
    Meg jumped up and caught hold of his arm.
    “No, don’t tell him. I promise! I swear I won’t ask any more questions! I’ll do what you tell me! I promise!”
    Chuck made as if he was hesitating, then he nodded.
    “Okay, so I’ll forget it. Let’s go look at the town, huh?”
    “Yes.” She looked gratefully at him. “Yes, please.”
    “I’ll ask Poke if we can take the car.”
    Immediately she was in a panic again.
    “You won’t tell him . . . you won’t say anything to him?”
    His grin was gloating. It was a sop to his ego that she should grovel before him.
    “I won’t tell him.” He caught hold of her chin between his short, sweaty fingers and pinched it, making her wince. “But remember, baby, this is your last chance.”
    He left the cabin and tapped on Poke’s door. Poke let him in. The two men looked at each other as Poke closed the door.
    “I heard it all,” he said softly. “You handled it right. Take her in the car to the beach. Keep her occupied. I’m going to sleep.” He took from his hip pocket a twenty-dollar bill. “Take this . . . get her quieted down.” He paused.
    His black glittering eyes searched Chuck’s face. “I’ll need you tonight. We leave here at 11 o’clock.”
    Chuck stiffened and his mouth turned dry.
    “The second one?”
    Poke nodded.
    Chuck looked away as he said, “You handled the first one by yourself. Why do you want me?”
    “I need you this time,” Poke said. “Take her to the beach and give her a good time.”
    Chuck nodded, hesitated, then left the cabin.
    Poke closed the door after him and shot the bolt. He waited until Chuck and Meg had driven away in the Buick, then he went to his bed, lifted the mattress and took from its hiding place the target rifle.
    Sitting on the edge of the bed, he began to clean it.
     
    ***
     
    It was a little after 14.00 before Terrell had read through all the reports that had been coming to his desk during the morning. He had left Beigler to cope with the incoming calls. Hamilton’s television story had sparked off an explosion in the City that kept the telephone bells at headquarters continually ringing. The rich of the City were spoilt people and they were highly nervous. They regarded the police force as their servants: a force created entirely for their protection. What were the police doing about this lunatic? they demanded angrily, shrilly and even tearfully. Didn’t the police realise this man could kill again? What was being done?
    Beigler coped with these calls in his stolid, reassuring way: a cigarette never out of his mouth and a carton of coffee at his side.
    Listening to the various voices hammering against his ear drum he thought Hamilton had really started something and his foot itched to connect with Hamilton’s backside.
    Lawson Hedley, the Mayor of the City, was a man of sense. He had already talked to Terrell.
    “Could be a nut,” Terrell had said. “Could be a blind. Until I get more information, I can’t give you a picture. I’ll have my reports sorted out around 15.00. If you want to sit in on it, Lawson, I’ll be glad to have you.”
    “I’ll be there, Frank. It’s too bad this goddam Hamilton has started this scare before we know what it’s all about. I’ll be around.”
    At 15.00

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