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.She looked and acted sane enough, but she either had one hell of a persecution complex or he was right smack in the middle of one hell of a case.He helped her into the cab and she told him, “The Perriepont Hotel this time.I’m almost sure it’s safe for us to go there,” she added cheerfully.“I just checked in there this afternoon after ditching my tail at the Hilton as I explained in my note.That’s why I was so long getting to the Brown Derby… and that I don’t understand at all.Did you tell anyone you were meeting me there? But you couldn’t have because then you didn’t even know my real name… just Elsa Cornell… and I made that up when I decided to write to you.”“It must have been that taxi driver that brought you the note,” she decided suddenly.“It wasn’t even sealed and he must have read it before he gave it to you.I thought there was something funny about him… the way he pretended he couldn’t tell whether we were being followed or not.Oh, dear God,” she added feelingly, reaching for his hand and squeezing it, “I’m so sick of ducking around corners and being suspicious of everyone I see even looking at me.From now on, you can take over and do the worrying.”Shayne squeezed her fingers back reassuringly, although he didn’t know what the devil he was reassuring her about.6She had a very comfortable, but not ostentatious, two-room suite on the fourth floor of the Perriepont Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.She closed the door behind the two of them with a long exhalation of relief and exclaimed, “Now I feel I can breathe easily for the first time in days.Sit down and I’ll order up a drink.You can see I haven’t even unpacked yet.” She gestured toward a closed suitcase and hatbox standing side by side just inside the door of a bedroom.Shayne sat in a comfortable chair beside a smoking stand and ran clawed fingers through his red hair while he appreciatively watched her sway across the room to the telephone.There was a pleasing air of exuberance about her now that was quite at variance with the first impression of taut strain she had given when she entered the Cock and Bull.She lifted the telephone and asked for room service, then glanced over her shoulder at him and asked, “A bottle? If they have it?”He nodded comfortably and lit a cigarette.She gave her room number and asked, “Is it possible to have a bottle sent up? Cognac, if you have it.Martel? That’s fine.With lots of ice and two glasses.” She hung up and turned slowly to look at him, nodding her head soberly.“You’re just the way I remembered you, Michael Shayne, only more so.God, if you knew how good it makes me feel just to have you here.” She made a little face at him.“I could kiss you… just out of sheer gratitude.”“I haven’t done anything,” he protested.“Later, perhaps.After I’ve earned it.Right now I feel like Alice on the other side of the Looking Glass.”He reached in his pocket for the torn half of the bill she had passed to him surreptitiously at the bar, and spread it out on his knee.Then he got her envelope from another pocket and extracted the other half from it, and gravely placed the torn edges together to make sure they matched.She seated herself at the end of a sofa a few feet from him and leaned forward to watch him with her chin cupped in her palm.She wrinkled her nose and said, “Whew.I really poured the perfume on that first half, didn’t I?”Shayne said, “You really did.Were you wearing that stuff ten years ago when I met you?”She smiled and said, “Probably not.I don’t think I could afford it in those days.I just hoped it would bring into your mind the memory of some entrancing femme fatale you’d known long ago, and you wouldn’t be able to resist it.”“It was that half of a one-grand bill that I couldn’t resist,” Shayne informed her.He folded the two halves together and carefully placed them inside his wallet.“Now, what’s your problem and what’s this foolishness about little men chasing you all over the metropolitan area of Los Angeles? Taxi drivers, and one of them who scared you away from the Brown Derby? I suppose that fatso who stood so close behind me at the Cock and Bull was another one of them,” he went on sarcastically, “and that’s why you insisted on the cloak and dagger stuff there?”“I know it sounds fantastic,” she told him calmly.“I’ll admit I have got the jitters, and I may be seeing them on every street corner when they’re not there at all, but so many crazy things have happened that I just don’t know any more.It’s a long story, and please don’t decide I’m insane before I finish telling it.” She hesitated.“I don’t know just where to start.”He stretched out his long legs and blew a contemplative cloud of smoke toward the ceiling.“Why not try the beginning?”“That’s the trouble.Where does it begin? Oh well, you don’t need a lot of background stuff: It really began about six months ago when I first met Fidel Castro in Havana.”There was a knock on the door and she jumped up to admit a bellboy carrying a tray.She had him set it on a table across the room and signed the check and tipped him although Shayne was waving a dollar bill in the air.She put ice cubes in the two tall glasses the boy had brought, and poured cognac in one, and Shayne stopped her before she could repeat it with the second glass, telling her, “I’d like mine straight with water on the side if you’ve got an extra glass.”“Of course.” She gave him a dismayed smile.“Forgive me for forgetting your well-publicized drinking habits.” She went in the bathroom for another glass, poured it half full of cognac and brought it to him with a glass of ice water.She settled herself at the end of the sofa again and said uncomfortably, “I guess I can’t put it off any longer.I not only met Fidel but I fell for him.I don’t know how much Cuban stuff they’ve been printing in the Miami papers recently, but you may have read stories about an American actress who has been going around with him a lot.Her stage name is… was… Marianne Devlin.” Her voice hardened.“That was me, in case you haven’t guessed.There was a… an unpleasant bit of publicity in Hollywood a few years ago about a television actress named Mary Devon.It has nothing to do with this except as my reason for changing my name.”She paused, looking at him defiantly, and Shayne shrugged and said, “Go on with the Cuban bit.I don’t recall reading about Marianne Devlin and Castro.In fact, my impression of the man is that he doesn’t have anything to do with women.”“A gross misrepresentation,” she told him dryly.“You know how Cubans are about blondes? Well, I was at one of the luxury hotels in Havana in a floor show and he saw me and… liked me.All right,” she went on angrily, “I liked him, too.I was flattered that he wanted me for his mistress.He’s quite a guy.He’s still quite a guy,” she added, glaring at Shayne as though daring him to contradict her, “although he’s changed one hell of a lot since it’s come out in the open that he’s a communist.“Look…” She spread out her hands unhappily.“I don’t think you’re interested in the intimate details of my life with Fidel [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]