old, ugly impulses were vanishing or becoming atrophied. Withering in these strange new feelings of security, an environment which asked no more than he could decently give.
The Hanlon had no interests whatsoever in its guests’ morals. Its concern was not so much with what they did, but how they did it. As long as they were circumspect, they could do anything they chose to within reason. It was only when they became rowdy, or otherwise acted to the hotel’s disadvantage, that McKenna was called in.
It wasn’t that way everywhere, according to Olin Westbrook. In many big hotels, the house dick had to be a keyhole-peeper, a sneak and a snoop. Otherwise, his employers would get a reputation for running a loose house, and the trade would go to their competition. But the Hanlon had no competition, nor would it ever have any. So it could rock along in the easy-going style of its area. And Bugs McKenna had to do nothing offensive to his self-respect.
He heard the rattle of silver as a coffee tray was set down outside his door. Bringing it in, he took it over by the window, sniffing its steam happily as he filled a cup. Now, this was something like it, he thought. To live in a nice place—be treated just about the same as a paying guest—and get paid for doing it.
Of course, Joyce Hanlon was kind of a nuisance. Just a little too interested in how he was getting along, too friendly for comfort. On the other hand, it was a lot better for her to be that way—he guessed—than uninterested and unfriendly. And, anyway, nothing was perfect.
He wasn’t kicking a bit, Bugs McKenna wasn’t. No, sir, not one little bit. He was satisfied with things just like they were. Later on, perhaps, he might want something more out of life than he had now. But for the present…
A slight frown crept into his eyes. Doggedly, he pushed away the thought that had prompted it. The present—that was all that mattered. Maintaining the status quo, and doing nothing that might endanger it. As, surely, it would be endangered by taking an active interest in Amy Standish.
She was Lou Ford’s girl, Ford was obviously a thoroughly bad egg. So for the present, until he was a lot better established than he was now, he would have to leave her alone.
No damned good anyway, Bugs thought bitterly. And knew that he didn’t really think it. A swell girl like that, and she throws herself away on a—a—
Bugs severed his chain of thought again. Firmly and finally. Lou Ford had done him a favor. Thus far, there was no indication that there was any string attached to it. He was in the deputy’s debt, in other words, and it was only decent—as well as smart—to keep the fact in mind.
He drank half the coffee and smoked a couple of cigarettes. Then, he took the cup and saucer into the bathroom and washed and dried them. He had just finished when Rosalie Vara, the maid, arrived.
“How are you tonight, Mr. McKenna?” She came in smiling, a dream come to life in her neat blue-and-white uniform. “I hope you slept well.”
“Not too bad, Rosie”—McKenna gestured toward the coffee tray. “Sent up more than I could drink tonight. Welcome to have it if you want it.”
“Why, thank you! That’s very nice of you, Mr. McKenna.”
“S’all right,” Bugs said. “No sense in letting good coffee go to waste.”
He was conscious that he had used these same words, gone through this same rigamarole, practically every night since he came here. But the fact didn’t bother him, as it would have with another person. Nor was he anything but pleased by her warmly gentle laugh, a laugh which told him that she saw through his gruffness. He felt at ease with her, as he had never felt with anyone else. Probably, he supposed, because she was so completely at ease herself.
She finished the coffee, Bugs idled near the window while she made up his room, wondering why such a swell-looking girl—who could easily have passed for white—should have declared herself a