Date with a Dead Man

Date with a Dead Man by Brett Halliday Read Free Book Online

Book: Date with a Dead Man by Brett Halliday Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brett Halliday
Tags: detective, Suspense, Crime, Mystery, Hardboiled, Murder, private eye
legal counselor to the Hawley family. I’ll have your credentials and hear your business.”
    Shayne said, “I’m private and my business is with Mrs. Hawley.” He started to move forward impatiently, but the lawyer did not give an inch. Shayne halted with his face inches from Hastings’, who told him coldly, “Mrs. Hawley is in seclusion and seeing no one. Perhaps you are not aware of the tragedy that recently befell her only son.”
    Shayne said stubbornly, “I know all about Albert Hawley’s death. More than she does, I think. That’s one of the things…”
    “In addition to that bereavement,” the lawyer interrupted him, “I have just this moment completed the sad task of reading the will of her brother-in-law who died very recently. Surely you can state your business to me without disturbing the family.”
    “Can you answer some questions about Leon Wallace?”
    “I’m sure I don’t understand…”
    “Neither do I,” said Shayne. He sidestepped past Hastings and went toward the curtained archway, deliberately making his heels loud on the uncarpeted floor. The lawyer hurried after him with a smothered imprecation, and caught hold of his arm just as Shayne parted the curtains on a large square room that without artificial light was darker than the hallway. There were four French windows at the end of it, but heavy draperies were drawn to effectually seal out the sunlight. A small fire blazed in the fireplace in the center of the right-hand wall, incongruous when one had just entered from the midday heat of Miami, yet sending out welcome heat and light into the gloomy room. An oriental rug on the floor was faded and worn, and the heavy antique furniture was dark and depressing.
    There were three people inside the room who lifted their heads and looked with wordless surprise at Michael Shayne when he unceremoniously parted the curtains.
    The dominant personality was an old lady who sat in a high-backed fireside chair facing him. She was tall and spare, and held her desiccated body very erect with tiny feet planted solidly on the floor, leaning forward slightly from the waist with both withered hands clamped on the knob of a heavy cane with a brass ferrule at the bottom. Everything about her came to a point—her long, thin nose, the high mound of white hair, her cheekbones and the prominent, jutted chin. Her eyes were cavernous, a slaty blue that reflected lights from the dancing flames beside her. She wore a high-necked, long-sleeved black dress that swirled down to the tips of tiny black shoes and she had a ruffle of white lace at her throat. Her voice was unexpectedly harsh and strong as she croaked, “Who is it, B.H.?”
    An overstuffed young man lounged back on a horsehair sofa on her left with both arms spread away from him on the back of it and legs outstretched. He wore a velvet smoking jacket and dark trousers. He was partially bald and his lips pouted sullenly. He lowered his petulant gaze to the tips of his shoes after a brief glance at Shayne.
    The third occupant of the room was lanky and shapeless in a dark chemise dress, slouched in a leather-upholstered chair opposite the fireplace. Her black hair was cut short with a fringe of bangs across her forehead. She had a short upper lip that showed slightly protruding front teeth, and her eyes remained half-closed as she indolently surveyed the detective.
    Shayne shook off Hastings’ arm and stepped inside the room as the lawyer started to reply to Mrs. Hawley. He said, “I’m a detective with some questions to ask all of you.”
    “He has no legal standing whatsoever, Mrs. Hawley,” Hastings interposed. “He forced his way into your home, and I suggest we should call the police to remove him.”
    Mrs. Hawley lifted her cane and thumped it loudly on the hearth. “Don’t be an old fool, B.H. Who are you, young man, and what do you want?”
    “My name is Michael Shayne, Mrs. Hawley. Did Jasper Groat come here last night?”
    “You are not

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