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Those necklaces were as handy as a headman's axe. To pierce their secret Dan Turner finds his way into the house of missing girls


by Robert Leslie Bellem

IT WAS raining, and I was in a hurry. I was in my coupe, getting ready to pull out from the curb, when Sammy Weissmann hopped on my running board and poked his head inside the car.

I didn't like Sammy Weissmann. He was fat; he was greasy; and he smelled of garlic. In his day he'd been one of Hollywood's ace agents; had handled the business of plenty of stars and near- stars. But in recent months he'd hit the skids. Now he was breathing garlic in my kisser and saying, "Listen, Dan Turner. I'll give you a hundred clams to find Lorna McFee for me."

I shook my head and said, "No soap, Sammy. I'm taking a little vacation from the sleuthing business."

Sammy said, "But, damn it, man, you've got to find her for me! I need her! N-D-N Studios have agreed to cast her in a swell role. It means dough in my pocket—and God knows I can use it! But Lorna McFee's disappeared off the face of the earth!"

"She'll probably turn up in a day or so," I told him. "Maybe she's out on a bender. Give her a chance to sober up."

Sammy said, "You know damned well Lorna McFee isn't that sort!" He glared at me indignantly.

AS A MATTER of fact, he was right. Lorna McFee was a cute little brunette who'd recently begun to make a rep for herself in pictures. There was no trace of scandal in her private life. She didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't run around promiscuously. But, hell! Looking for a missing dame in Hollywood is like trying to find a drop of butter in a kettle of boiling lard.

Several obscure film cuties had dropped out of sight recently; and Lorna McFee was just another name added to the list, as far as I was concerned. Besides, Sammy Weissmann had offered me only a hundred berries. It wasn't enough—and I knew he couldn't afford more.

So I slipped into reverse and gunned my engine. I said, "Sorry, Sammy. Be seeing you."

He had to scram off my running board to keep from having the keel of his pants scraped by the fender of an adjoining parked car. I heard him yell, "Damn you, Turner—I'll fix you for this!" He sounded plenty sore. He had a nasty temper anyhow.

I headed for Santa Monica Boulevard through the afternoon traffic. I was on my way to spend an evening with Jeff Truman, the extinct Western star. Once in a while Jeff and I got together for a little Scotch-fest. I liked to drink with him because his capacity was the same as mine. We both usually passed out at the same moment, so that neither of as had to stay awake and listen to the other one snoring.

Jeff Truman had a beach house in an isolated section beyond Pacific Palisades, where he lived the year around. He hadn't worked in pictures for a long time. Contract trouble; all the studios had abolished him. Which struck me as a damned shame, because Jeff could out-ride, out-shoot, and out-act most of the he-men on the screen.

After a while I hit the town of Santa Monica and headed up the Coast Highway. And then things began to happen.

As a Hollywood private dick, I've heard of nudists and seen plenty of nuts. But nudists usually do their nuding in the good old summertime. They don't ordinarily go running across a rain-drenched strip of deserted beach in the middle of December, minus every stitch of clothing. Not even in Southern California. December in Southern California gets pretty damned cold.

Therefore, I decided, the dame who came racing stark naked toward me through the storm- soaked twilight must be bughouse.

But she didn't look screwy. She just looked scared as hell. As she got closer I saw that she was either a Chink or a Jap—anyhow, an Asiatic of some sort. She was young, and she was plenty good-looking. Her rounded little breasts were too solid to jounce very much as she ran; and her ivory body was slender without being skinny.

She wasn't wearing a cockeyed thing except a silvery necklace of some sort. And a necklace isn't much protection when the thermometer is down around forty and the clouds are pouring potfuls of rain all over creation's deck.

I SLAPPED on my brakes and took a good gander at the gal. Naked Oriental women racing across deserted beaches aren't exactly numerous; and I've got my share of natural curiosity. The almond-eyed dame's wet black hair streamed out behind her like a dark banner; and when she spotted me in my jalopy she let loose an ear- splitting beef and swerved across the beach toward me.

I said, "What the hell!" and nose-dived out of my hack, forgetting to pick up my automatic roscoe which was on the seat alongside me. I could see that the Oriental frail was in trouble. She was running away from something that had scared the wadding out of her.

Her foot prints were crimson blotches in the wet sand, as though her feet had been lacerated by the sharp rock-particles. She swayed, tottered as she ran; and her ...

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