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Broken Melody

By Robert Leslie Bellem

Nothing scalds Dan Turner so much as a threatening note. When there's geetus in a case, and when there's a little songbird like Chiquita in the picture, nobody's going to tell Dan to layoff, and get away with it!

AT MIDNIGHT I parked my jalopy on the southwest corner of Sunset and Zenith, according to instructions. A low fog was rolling in from Santa Monica. The dark pavement glistened with moisture.

I lit three matches one after the other; set fire to a gasper with the third. That was the signal. Out of the shadows a dame darted furtively toward my coupe.

She wore a tight, form-fitting coat that advertised her sleek hips, her lush contours. The collar was turned up, and a dark veil obscured her peepers.

She slid in alongside me and said: "Drive, señor!"

I headed my bucket toward nowhere in particular. "You're Chiquita Chauvez?"

She nodded. She was trembling. "Si. And . . . oh, Madre de Dios, I am glad you weel help me!"

I reached into my coat pocket, pulled out a stone with a piece of paper around it. I said: "Well, baby, I hadn't intended meeting you tonight. But when some sharp apple tossed this through my bedroom window fifteen minutes after you phoned me, I changed my mind."

She unwrapped the paper, stared at it in the glow from the dash-lamp. As for me, I didn't have to read it again to know what it said:

"Dan Turner—

Lay off Chiquita Chauvez if you want to keep on breathing.

One Who Knows."

She handed the note back. I said: "Now look, señorita. I want to know the score. You're one of the biggest singing stars in pictures. Tonight you phoned me, asked me to meet you at midnight, said your life was in danger. I told you to save it until morning. Then this note was thrown through my window. I'd like to know why."

Her answering move startled the bejoseph out of me. She twisted the door- handle on her side and started to jump out of my jalopy—while I was making forty miles an hour!

I said: "What the hell—!" and grabbed her with one hand; caught the front of her coat and felt her flesh swelling against my fingers through the cloth. I yanked her back into the coupe, slammed the door. Then I twisted my wheel to keep from skidding into a curbstone.

She shrank down in the seat. "Let me g-go ! You are of no use to me now!" she whimpered.

I said: "How do you add that up?"

"B-because Roland Reid apparently knows you haf agreed to help me, and he weel take steps to block you!"

I stiffened. "Roland Reid? The guy that's directing your latest Altamount picture?"

"Si."

I parked, switched off my lights. "Whistle the patter, kiddo."

"Th-there ees leetle to tell. Señor Reid ees eenfatuated weeth me. I do not return hees affections. He has th-threatened to keel me tomorrow morning on the set. I had hoped you would go weeth me to the studio; I thought you could protect me. You are Hollywood's best private detective. But. . . ."

I said: "I get it. Somehow Roland Reid found out you phoned me. He tossed that warning through my window. And now you think I won't be of any use to you."

"Th-that ees eet, Señor Turner."

I shrugged. "Okay, baby. Shall I drive you home?"

"N-no. I weel get out here." She slipped from my coupe and the fog swallowed her.

IT SCALDS me for somebody to throw a monkey-wrench in my business. I'm in the detective game for the dough; and I might have collected a fat chunk of geetus from the Chauvez cupcake if it hadn't been for that threatening note. Not that I thought Roland Reid would actually pull any rough stuff on Chiquita at the studio the next morning; he was too big a shot to take such a wild chance. I figured he was just trying to throw a scare into her so she'd kick in with a little affection, Spanish style.

But just the same, she would have hired me if it hadn't been for the warning heaved through my glassware. I got a sudden idea. Maybe if I showed up at the studio anyhow and nothing hap...

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