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It was an old gag that the gang used. And Honest John knew every twist in it. Yet, much as he knew Yvonne had it coming, he felt pity when he came upon her muddy, abused body.




YVONNE yawned, and that made her white arms stretch like lovely snakes; the blue robe rounded out over small, firm curves. The stretch made her slimmer at the waist, and her legs straightened in a long, silky reach. "Don't be tiresome," she said. "The car is mine, and I'm keeping it. I didn't tell Walt to dip into the till to buy it for me, and you can't prove that—"

"Look here!" Honest John Carmody hitched the spindle-legged chair a little closer. His face was a bit redder, and the more he saw of Yvonne's peep show, the redder his face became. "I know damn well we can't prove a thing. If you had the actual cash staffed in your sock—"

She lifted a fold of the robe, and exposed the picot edge of a honey-colored stocking. "I haven't It'd make too big a bulge."

That display made Honest John stutter. "I ain't brow-beating you. I'm asking you, turn that bus over, it's worth a thousand bucks as it stands, second-hand. The bonding company's on Walt Crawford's tail. If he begs, borrows, maybe he can make good and without selling his house."

"My dear man, I didn't ask him to clean the till."

Honest John growled, piled out of the chair, and stood there like an oversized cub bear in a shiny blue suit. He caught the glamour girl's shoulder, and jerked her to her feet.

"I thought you weren't browbeating me," she snapped. "If that fool's house is sold, that's his business."

Honest John made another quick move, and then Yvonne did yeep. He had the blue chiffon in his hand, and she stood there, peeled down to a bra and a bit of something about her hips.

"You fluff-witted dime's worth of white meat," he boomed, and shook the blue robe, "this and every other stitch in the house is what Walt Crawford bought you. You're still way ahead, even if you give him back that car. Damn it, he's got a wife."

"He never acted like it. Now, let's not wrangle," she purred, and came closer. "I've been out of work for months, and what'll happen to me?"

She knew he was just another dick, a plug ugly with half-soled shoes; but she threw her weight to make that bra stand out a little fuller, a little more alluring. She wanted him to go for her like every chump did. And she was succeeding. For a second, he did not know what to do or say. He dropped the blue robe.

She'd snuggle up and be sweet. Just sweet enough to follow up with a good laugh. Her big blue eyes, her drooping lashes told him that she was reading his face, and getting a kick out of her advertising campaign. "What'll happen to me, John?" she cooed.


He slapped her a hefty one. She landed smack on one of her best features. "I've seen some tramps that had a white streak in 'em," he growled over his shoulder, and slammed the door. "You ain't one of 'em."

HONEST JOHN spent the next couple days in routine business: looking around hot spots for other chumps, hanging around race tracks for the same purpose. He was spotting tellers, cashiers, salesmen, assistant vice-presidents, all the white collar lads his bonding company covered. If they gutted the till, his company had to cough up, and then try to recover as much loot as possible.

Throwing a man in the jug didn't bring the dough back. The company would rather have the chump on the hoof, paying off; which he couldn't do in jail. Sometimes, you can stop a fellow before he's too far gone, and make him snap out of it.

Honest John passed Yvonne's apartment several times, but he did not go in. Appealing to her sense of decency wouldn't work, she had none. And she was too smart to be scared. Or was she?

Then, driving up the Ocean Shore road, from Half Moon Bay, Honest John met Yvonne, though at first, he didn't know who the woman was. It's dark and lonesome between roadhouses; artichoke patches dot the heavy black earth, and little farmhouses.

When he tramped on the brake, not far from where the new highway branches from the snaky old Montara Mountain roller-coaster, he said, "Aw, hell, I'm seeing things, I still got that floor show on the brain. Or maybe it's fog."

But it was a woman his headlights had picked out. She was lying on her face, and her blonde hair gleamed. Her hands were all muddy from clawing the black soft earth. But a lot of her was white and round, and hard to miss; you had to slow down for that sharp turn.

When he stumbled through the knee high reeds in the ditch she had crawled out of, he saw that she'd been peeled right down. Not even stockings. He squatted, and got a look at the face. It was Yvonne Latour.

As nearly as he could tell, two slugs had drilled her back, and a third, her head, behind one ear. Small slugs that did not tear her up. Then he looked into the ditch, and saw a new, flim...

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