The hands of my wristwatch showed one-forty. For the past half-hour there
had been no trucks coming through. I had been sweating it out for over three
hours—waiting for her.
Then suddenly I saw her come out of the bungalow. She moved languidly.
She was wearing a white shirt and a full, light-coloured skirt. Tight at the
waist and flowing out over her hips. She was certainly dressed for the occasion.
I was sitting in the basket chair in the shadows and I watched her come, my
heart thumping. I had a cigarette between my lips. So she could tell where I
was, I drew on the cigarette, making a little red spark in the darkness.
She came slowly up the steps and sat down in a basket chair near mine.
“Give me a cigarette,” she said.
I handed her my pack and my lighter. I couldn’t bring myself to light her
cigarette. I wasn’t going to be that much of a slave to her.
She lit her cigarette, then returned me the pack and the lighter. Her fingers
brushed mine. They felt hot and dry.
“You puzzled me,” she said. “I was sure you were a phoney, but I didn’t
guess you were the escaped safe robber. You’re quite a celebrity.”
“What’s it to you who I am so long as I do my job and make money for your
husband? Why should you care?”
“I have to think of myself.” She stretched out her long legs, sinking deeper
into the basket chair. “I could get into trouble with the police unless I tell
them you’re here.”
“Are you going to tell them?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” She drew on the cigarette. After a long pause, she
went on, “It depends on you. They said in the newspaper that you worked for Lawrence Safes.”
I looked in her direction. I couldn’t see her face. She was sitting in the shadows.
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Everything so far as I’m concerned. Carl has a Lawrence safe. I want you to
So Ricks had been right. She was after Jenson’s money.
“Is there something in it that you want?” I said. “Why don’t you ask him for
“Don’t be funny!” She moved irritably. “Remember what I said this
afternoon: from now on, you’re going to do what I say or else . . .”
“Doesn’t he give you enough? What do you want to steal his money for?”
“If you don’t open the safe, you’ll go back to Farnworth.” She crossed her
legs, adjusting her skirt. “I’ve heard about that jail. They’re tough there.
They’ll know what to do with you once they get their hands on you. Are you
going to open the safe or are you going back to Farnworth?”
“So Ricks was right. You are a tramp and you are after your husband’s money.”
“Never mind what Ricks said. Are you going to open the safe?”
“Suppose I do open it—what happens then?”
“I’ll give you a thousand dollars and a twenty-four hour start to get away.”
She had certainly dreamed up a nice little plot. I opened the safe. She
collected a hundred thousand dollars.
She gave me a thousand and I went on the run. Jenson would find the safe empty and I would be missing. The finger
would point to me. Once the police had my description, they would know I had opened the safe and they would automatically jump to the conclusion that
I had the money. It would never occur to anyone to suspect her. All she would have to do was to hide the money somewhere and wait.
If they caught me and I told them she had forced me to open the safe and she had the
money, it would be my word against hers. Jenson was too cr@zy about her to
believe me. When the uproar had quietened down, she would take the money
and disappear. It was a sweet little plot, and it could succeed.
“Do you know what he plans to do with the money you want to steal?” I said,
looking towards her. I couldn’t see much of her: just two hostile voices
talking in the dark. “He plans to go on a trip around the world. It’s something
he has been saving for for thirty years and he plans to take you with him:
everything first class. Don’t you want to go on a trip around the world?”
“With him? With that fat, old fool?” The note in her voice was vicious. “I
don’t even want to go to Wentworth with him.”
“But he loves you. Did you marry him only for what you could steal from
“Oh, shut up! How long will it take you to open the safe?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I won’t be able to open it. Those safes are tough.
Without the combination, it’s practically impossible open them.”
“You’d better open this one, Carson!”
I was talking to gain time. She had me over a barrel. There wasn’t a
Lawrence safe made that I couldn’t open. But I hated the thought of Jenson losing his money.
I hated the thought, too, that for the rest of his days he
would believe I had taken it. He was my friend. He was the only friend I had.
I couldn’t do that to him after what he had done for me, but unless I did I
would go back to Farnworth and that was something I just couldn’t face. I
had to think of a way to get out of this: there had to be a way.
With my mind still busy, I asked, “Where’s the safe?”
“In the sitting room in the bungalow.”
“How do you expect me to open it without him hearing me?”
“He’s going to a Legion meeting on Saturday. That’s when you’ll do it.”
I flicked the butt of my cigarette out into the hot night. As I lit another, I said,
“And what are you supposed to be doing while I’m busting open the safe—
“It’s my night shift. I’ll be in the kitchen, baking pies. I’ll be so busy I won’t
hear you leave. I won’t even know you have gone until he gets back.”
Then I saw how I could fix her. It was easy. There was nothing to it, except I
would be on the run again and I would be out of a good job, but at least I
wouldn’t have let Jenson down, and that was something pretty important to
“What time does he leave and what time will he be back?”
“He leaves at seven and gets back around two o’clock.”
All right, you btch, I said to myself, now I’ve got it fixed. You are in for a
surprise. Okay, I’ll open the safe. Then when you walk in to collect, you’ll
walk into a clip on the jaw. I’ll take money. By the time you’ve come to, I’ll
be halfway over the mountain. I’ll take care you can’t use the telephone and
I’ll make sure you can’t raise the alarm until he gets back and finds you.
Then when I’m far away, I’ll write to him and tell him the whole story and
I’ll send him back his money: every cent of it. If I do that, he’ll believe me.
He’ll have to believe me if I do that and he’ll know what a treacherous bitch
he’s married to.
Just to kid her along, I said, “I hate doing a thing like this him. He’s been
pretty good to me.”
“Never mind the sob talk,” she said impatiently. “Are you going to open the
safe or are you going back to Farnworth?”
“Well …” I paused, then went on, “I’m not going back to Farnworth.”
I pretended to hesitate then shrugging my shoulders, I said, “I guess so. Okay,
I’ll do it.”
She got to her feet and flicked her cigarette away into the darkness.
“Don’t imagine I’m bluffing, Mr. Chet Carson. If you don’t open that safe,
you’re going back to Farnworth.”
“You don’t have to drive it into the ground,” I said, looking up at her. “I said
I’d d do it, didn’t I ?”
“You’d better do it!” she said, and walked down the steps across the moonlit
sand towards the bungalow.
I watched her go.
Well, the cards were face up on the table. It depended now on who outsmarted who.
I was pretty confident I had the four aces against her four kings.
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