A woman sits in the Encanto Hotel on Biscayne Bay, rationing a bottle of scotch and waiting for a call that could change her life. She clutches a marriage announcement that has chilled her to the core. At last, there is a knock at the door, but it isn’t the person she was expecting. Instead she is greeted by a man she thought dead, a man who tortured her for far too long. She offers him a drink and then presses a pistol to his chest and pulls the trigger until the clip is empty and her tormenter is dead.
In a state of panic, she calls the only man who can help—Miami’s toughest private detective, Mike Shayne—and lies. She says her name is Carla, that the dead man is her husband, and that it was her daughter, Vicky, who pulled the trigger. She may think she knows how to play the game, but she’ll soon find that Shayne is a dangerous man to toy with—and he doesn’t stay fooled for long.
The Body Came Back is the 46th book in the Mike Shayne Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Body Came Back
A Mike Shayne Mystery
By Brett Halliday
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1963 Brett Halliday
All rights reserved.
It was very quiet and comfortably cool in the luxurious sitting room of the 8th floor hotel suite overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami. There was only the muted whir of the air-conditioning unit and the occasional tinkle of ice cubes in a glass as the sole occupant of the room sipped reflectively from her highball.
She was a tall woman in her early forties, beautifully gowned in a dove-silk dress, seated at the end of a long sofa behind a coffee table that held a serving tray containing a fifth of Scotch, a bucket of ice cubes, and an uncapped bottle of soda. Beside the tray in front of her was an ash tray with half a dozen crushed cigarette butts in it. Her right hand held a half-filled glass of amber liquid with two partially melted ice cubes floating in it, and between the first two fingers of her left hand was a newly-lit cigarette which she held pensively an inch from her lips, squinting her eyes slightly to shut out the blue smoke that curled upward while she stared across the room at the blank wall in front of her.
She sat peculiarly erect on the sofa, with her body scarcely touching the cushion behind her, nice legs uncrossed and high-heeled shoes flat on the rug in front of her, with a look of passivity, of waiting, on her regular features which was belied by the impression of intense though disciplined energy which flowed out of her erect posture, and the taut back and neck muscles which gave a proud lift to her head, smoothed and tightened the lines of chin and throat to form a profile of youthful beauty.
She blinked her eyes suddenly and held them closed for a long second, dark lashes lying smoothly against the small hollows above rather high cheekbones.
Then she gave a little impatient shake of her head, turned her left wrist to note that the hands of her watch stood at ten-thirty, then took a long drink from her glass and set it down firmly on the table, forced herself to relax against the cushion and dragged smoke deeply into her lungs.
She knew it was preposterous for her to be keyed up like this. It might be hours before the telephone rang or there would come a knock on the door. She was determined to ration her drinks carefully to last out the waiting which might go on for hours. This was only her second drink from the bottle of Scotch which the boy had brought to the suite at nine. She would wait until eleven to pour a third one, she decided calmly. Every hour on the hour. That was the ticket. That way the Scotch would last for as many hours as it had to last, and no one could get drunk on that limited intake of alcohol.
There was some rule about it, she knew. Some definite chemical rule. The body is capable of absorbing and neutralizing alcohol at a certain, stated rate. If you didn't exceed that rate of intake, the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream remained constant and you remained sober.
But she couldn't recall what that safe rate of intake was. She knew there were twenty-six ounces in a fifth. The moderate sort of drink she normally poured for herself was approximately one ounce. One drink every hour would make a bottle last twenty-six hours.
That would certainly be safe enough, she decided. She knew plenty of people who often drank a full fifth during the course of a long evening without getting really tight.
She took another slow drag on her cigarette and looked at her watch again and was irritated to discover that she had managed to kill only five minutes going through that series of intricate mental calculations. She sighed deeply and took another very small sip from her glass, and glanced down at the folded newspaper beside her on the sofa. It was a copy of yesterday's Miami News. She had already read it from the front page back to the classified advertisements, but she picked it up again and smoothed it out in her lap.
It lay open at the front page of the society section which she had already studied thoroughly, and her gaze was drawn again to the feature story in the center of the page which was headlined
NUPTIALS SCHEDULED FOR NEXT SUNDAY
It was a long, two-column story underneath a large picture of a radiantly beautiful girl gazing upward happily and adoringly into the eyes of a rather somber-faced man a dozen years older than she with a jutting jaw and windblown hair. The picture was captioned: "Vicky Andrews, recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence who is a visitor in Miami this week prior to her marriage Sunday to State Senator-Elect William C. Greer."
My God, she thought, biting her under-lip and gazing down at the girl's face for perhaps the tenth time since she had first seen it, how young she is; how innocent, and how damned sure of herself. How sure of life and the future, and of love and happiness forever and ever. Was I ever that young? Did I ever believe what she believes?
What about him? A sour-puss, if you ask me. Much too old for her. But quite a catch, I guess, from the way they lay it on thick down below.
Yes, damn it! I was that young once, she told herself fiercely. Just that naive and starry-eyed. If you could only tell them, she thought angrily. If they'd only listen to someone who had been through the mill so they'd have some idea what to expect from marriage.
She drew her gaze slowly away from the girl's face and. dropped it to the body of the story, gliding swiftly over the words she had already read several times: "One of the major social events of the Miami season will be the marriage on Sunday at 2 p.m. of Miss Vicky Andrews of New York and William C. Greer at the home of the bride-groom-to-be's parents at 737 Seacoast Drive, Miami Beach.
"Miss Andrews is the daughter of Mrs. Carla Andrews of Beverly Hills, California, prominent member of the film colony and well-known author of numerous motion picture and television scripts, who is flying to Miami tomorrow to join her daughter at the Encanto Hotel and attend her wedding.
"The future bridegroom, who is the son of prominent Miami Beach residents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Lancy Greer, is a graduate of the Yale School of Law and practiced in New York City with the firm of Overholz, Lancy, Durwent and Powers until he resigned a few months ago to return home and make a successful bid for election to a seat in the Florida State Senate.
"Members of the wedding party from out of the city include...."
She put the newspaper aside and pensively lowered the contents of her glass a carefully calculated half an inch, yawned slightly and leaned forward to mash out her smouldering cigarette butt.
"Mrs. Carla Andrews of Beverly Hills, California," she muttered aloud with a sardonic twist of her lips. "Prominent member of the film colony and well-known author of numerous motion picture and television scripts...."
Well, leaving out a couple of adjectives, it was a fair enough description. Vicky had probably given the facts to the reporter. You couldn't blame the kid for building up her old mom. You have to put up a front, by God. If you're going to marry a Senator named William C. Greer, you sure as hell better.
Well, her mom hadn't done so badly either. Put her through a swank school like Sarah Lawrence, hadn't she? Beating her brains out in Hollywood on those lousy TV scripts and living in a two-room walk-up on the fringe of Beverly Hills.
She sighed deeply and lit another cigarette and stole another look at her watch. 10:52. The ice had melted in her glass and there were about three healthy swallows of pale amber liquid in the bottom. She disposed of one of the swallows, letting it dribble down her throat slowly. She sure as hell wanted to be sober when the telephone rang, or.... There was a soft knock on the outside door of the sitting room!
She set the glass down hard and was on her feet instantly. A happy, welcoming smile lit up her face as she went swiftly to the door and opened it.
The smile vanished when she saw and recognized the man standing on the threshold. She swayed back helplessly, holding hard onto the doorknob to support herself, her eyes narrowed and glittering with disbelief and hatred.
Between tightly clenched teeth she grated, "No. Oh God, no!" She closed her eyes and held them shut for a long moment, willing him to go away.
When she opened her eyes he was still there. Stepping inside the room masterfully, thin lips curled back from his teeth in a sneering smile, hands thrust deep into the side pockets of his unpressed gabardine slacks, he said, "Hi-yah, sweetheart," in a slightly hoarse voice. "Looks like you didn't expect me, huh?"
She swayed back from in front of him, still holding tightly to the doorknob. "I thought you were dead," she said in a dazed voice.
"You mean, you hoped I was." His lips curled away from his teeth a little farther. He turned his head slowly, small, rodent eyes surveying the luxury of the suite. "Nice, cozy layout you got here. Real nice. Sets you back a hunk of dough, I betcha. But you got plenty, haven't you?"
"What do you want?" she breathed venomously. "How ... how did you know I was here?"
"You know what I want. Money, baby. That lovely green stuff that makes the world go 'round." He withdrew his right hand from his pocket and held it out in front of her, palm upward, slowly curving his talon-like fingers up into the palm to make a tight fist. "You weren't hard to locate, baby. I got ways. I got sources of information. Close that door," he ordered suddenly and harshly. "We got talking to do. Just the two of us." He turned his head to survey the room again. "Real cozy, too. By God, if you haven't got a drink set out for the old man."
He moved away from her toward the coffee table in front of the sofa, and she slowly closed the door behind him, biting her lower lip in a desperate effort to achieve control, pushing the door tight shut and pressing the inside latch to assure privacy.
He dropped ice cubes into her glass on top of the dregs of her drink, and splashed whiskey on top of it while she turned her head to watch him with fear and loathing.
He drank greedily, then cocked his head sideways to grin impudently. "That's good liquor," he told her approvingly. "Hits the spot." He drank some more, then moved away from the sofa, one arm akimbo on his hip.
"I haven't got any money," she said thinly. "Not very much, anyhow ... with me ... in cash."
"Well, now," he said comfortably. "I didn't think you'd have a whole hunk of it stashed right here. That wouldn't stand to reason. But I guess it's where you can put your hands on it without too much trouble. No great hurry." He took another deep drink of straight Scotch and gestured expansively. "Just the two of us ... all alone, huh? Real nice."
The first shock and surprise of seeing him standing in front of her door so unexpectedly was beginning to fade away. Her mind started to function again. She had to do something! She couldn't let him stay here. At any moment now the phone might ring ... or another knock come on the door....
She said hurriedly, "I'll give you what I have for now. If you'll go away. Just for tonight. Tomorrow ... we'll talk about it again. We'll arrange something. I'll...."
"Oh, we'll arrange something all right. Never you worry about that. I'll see to that this time. It's the big pay-off, see? And don't you make any mistake about that."
"Sure," she said placatingly. "Sure. It's just that you caught me by surprise. Me, thinking you were dead ... you know. There were those stories in the papers. You can't blame me for believing them."
He laughed harshly. "I'm hard to kill, baby. I'm tough. That's why you vanished, huh? Because you really thought I was dead?"
"Of course I did. Why else do you think?" She made her voice soft.
"I think you hate my guts," he told her evenly. "But that don't matter now. Here we are. Just the two of us. Plenty of good liquor." He swung his arm about in an arc. "Just you and me, huh? You're going to like it, baby. You're going to like it just fine."
He drained the glass and smacked his lips appreciatively, turned his head slowly to watch her with red-rimmed eyes as she moved slowly past him toward the closed door leading into the bedroom of the hotel suite.
"Why don't you pour yourself another drink?" she said breathlessly. "I think ... I'll get into something more comfortable."
He grinned at her approvingly. "You got the figure for it, baby. Go ahead. I could use another drink all right."
She opened the door hesitantly, glancing over her shoulder to reassure herself that he was moving toward the bottle on the coffee table and clearly had nothing on his mind at the moment except pouring himself another slug of Scotch.
She slid through into the bedroom, closing the door partially behind her, but not all the way. She mustn't do anything to arouse his suspicion. If she could just get to her suitcase on the luggage stand...."
She moved swiftly across the carpeted floor, leaving the door ajar behind her.
The suitcase stood open and she rummaged inside it, trying desperately to remember....
She sensed rather than heard movement behind her, and whirled about with a tiny, pearl-handled .25 automatic clenched tightly in her fist to see him lunging toward her, hands clawed out in front of him, his face a tight mask of fury.
She didn't retreat from him. She moved forward to meet him instead, rammed the ugly snout of the little gun as hard as she could against his chest and began pulling the trigger.
She continued to pull the trigger until it no longer responded ... until his lifeless body had slid slowly down to the carpeted floor in front of her and he lay there without moving.CHAPTER 2
Muffled as they were with the muzzle pressed closely against his clothing and body, the five small explosions sounded no louder than the popping of as many firecrackers in the hotel bedroom. The air conditioner was running in this room too, and all the windows were tightly closed, with heavy draperies drawn across them.
She took two jerky steps backward, looking down at the dead man with hatred and loathing and then slowly transferred her gaze to the lethal little gun still clenched tightly in her hand. She forced her fingers to loosen their hold, and the pistol fell to the carpeted floor with a little plop a couple of feet from his body.
She was still in a state of shocked incomprehension. She could feel nothing as she stood there in the silent bedroom looking down at her handiwork. No regret. Not even any real fear. Not yet. Only a vast flooding of relief that it was over. That she was done with him. That he no longer threatened her security and her future.
She jerked her head up suddenly like a startled animal, looking all about the confines of the room and through the open door into the sitting room, listening alertly, tensed for some sound or sign of danger.
There was no sound to be heard except the continued and comforting drone of the air-conditioners. Nothing to indicate that the shots had been heard outside the four walls of the room.
It seemed to her now that she had been holding her breath ever since her finger began pulling the trigger. She exhaled slowly and evenly, drew in another deep breath and then turned away stiffly and walked past the crumpled body on the floor without looking downward.
With the bedroom door shut tightly behind her, she moved with trancelike steps to the coffee table and retrieved her glass from the edge where he had set it down hastily after pouring three fingers of straight whiskey into it.
She drank half of it and choked over the fiery stuff, and then forced herself to methodically put ice cubes on top of the remaining liquor and fill the glass to the brim with soda. She took a sip of it and sank down carefully onto the sofa and lighted a cigarette.
Her thoughts were beginning to come clearly now. She was able to appraise her situation coldly and objectively.
There was a dead man behind the closed door of the bedroom. That was Inescapable Fact Number One. Nothing could change that. He was dead and she had killed him.
When his body was discovered in her hotel suite it would mean the end of everything.
Excerpted from The Body Came Back by Brett Halliday. Copyright © 1963 Brett Halliday. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.