more of no orchids for miss blandish

book cover of 
<br />
<br />No Orchids for Miss Blandish 
<br />
<br />(The Villain And the Virgin) 
<br />
<br /> (Dave Fenner, book 1)
<br />
<br />by
<br />
<br />James Hadley Chase

 

2

Bailey moved self-consciously around the outer fringe of the tables in the main restaurant of the Golden Slipper. He was glad the lights were dim. Although Anna had washed his shirt and cleaned up his suit, he knew he still looked like a bum and he was worried someone would spot him and throw him out.
The roadhouse was crowded and doing a roaring business. The staff was too busy to notice him. He got in a dark corner where he had a general view of the big room and leaned against the wall.
The noise of voices struggling to get above the sound of the band deafened him. He kept looking at his watch. The time was ten minutes to twelve. He looked around the room. Over by the main entrance, three or four photographers stood waiting with flash cameras. He guessed they were waiting for the Blandish girl. He had never seen her and knew he wouldn’t be able to recognize her so he watched the photographers.
It was like Riley to play the big shot and make him go into the club while Riley sat outside with Old Sam in the Lincoln, Bailey thought. He was always getting the dirty end of the stick. Well, when they split the money, he would quit the gang. He had had about enough of Riley and Anna. With the money he’d get from the diamonds, he would buy himself a chicken farm. He had come from a farming family and if he hadn’t got into trouble and had to serve a three year stretch he wouldn’t have ever teamed up with Riley.
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the band breaking off and going into their hot version of “Happy Birthday to You.”
Here she comes, Bailey thought and raised himself on his toes to look over the heads of the crowd. Everyone had stopped dancing and were looking towards the entrance. The photographers were shoving each other, maneuvering for better positions.
A bright spotlight suddenly went on as Miss Blandish made her appearance, followed by a tall, handsome man in a tuxedo.
Bailey had only eyes for Miss Blandish. He sucked in his bream sharply at the sight of her. The hard light caught her red-gold hair and reflected back on her white skin. He thought he had never seen such a beautiful girl. She wasn’t like any of the girls he knew. She had everything they had and then a lot more. He watched her wave gaily to the crowd who stamped and shouted around her. He stood tense, staring at her, and he didn’t relax until the row had died down and she had seated herself with MacGowan at a distant table.
He had been so impressed with the girl’s beauty that he had forgotten the necklace, but now, as he got over the first impact of her loveliness, he saw the necklace and again his breath sucked in between his clenched teeth.
This splendid collar of flashing diamonds brought him out in an excited sweat. Looking at them, he suddenly realised what a commotion there would be when they were stolen. This was going to be the big take, he thought. Every cop in the country would be after them. Maybe he had been crazy to have encouraged Riley to grab it, he thought, wiping his sweating hands. Blandish had millions and he would raise hell. Once they had that necklace, the heat would be fierce.
Bailey looked across at Miss Blandish’s table. He noticed that MacGowan was flushed. He seemed to be drinking steadily, and once when he refilled his glass, Miss Blandish put her hand on his as if trying to persuade him to stop drinking. MacGowan just grinned at her, emptied his glass, then getting up took her out onto the dance floor.
That bird’s getting stiff, Bailey thought. If he goes on drinking like that, he’ll be out on his feet.
The crowd was getting rowdy. Everyone seemed half drunk. Bailey sneered at them. Have enough money, he thought, bitterly, and you behave like hogs.
He caught sight of Miss Blandish being jostled in the crowd. She suddenly broke away from MacGowan and made her way back to the table. MacGowan followed, protesting. They sat down. MacGowan began to drink again.
At a table near where Bailey stood, a blonde girl was quarreling with her escort, a fat, elderly man who looked pretty drunk. The blonde suddenly got to her feet, lifted a bottle of champagne out of its bucket and poured the contents of the bottle over her escort’s head. He sat there, gaping at her, the champagne soaking his white tuxedo and plastering down his hair.
The blonde put the bottle back into the bucket and sat down again. She blew a kiss to the fat man. The people near them had all turned to stare. Some of the men were laughing. The fat man got slowly to his feet. His red face was tight with rage. He threw the contents of his soup plate in the girl’s face. She began to scream frantically. A youngish man jumped to his feet and punched the fat man who staggered back and cannoned into the table behind him, upsetting it with a crash of glass and china. The two women at the table jumped up, screaming.
Hogs! Bailey thought. He looked across the room at Miss Blandish. She was standing, shaking MacGowan’s arm impatiently. MacGowan got unsteadily to his feet. He followed her to the exit.
The girl who had had the soup thrown in her face was still screaming. A fight had developed between two drunks and the youngish man. The struggling men surged up to Bailey and hindered him from following Miss Blandish. Hepunched his way clear, sending the men staggering, then walked quickly to the exit.
He passed MacGowan leaning against the wall in the lobby, waiting for Miss Blandish. He ran down the drive to the waiting Lincoln. Old Sam was at the wheel and Riley sat by his side.
“They’ll be out in a minute,” Bailey said, getting in behind Riley. “She’ll be driving. Her boy friend is stewed to the gills.”
“Get going,” Riley said to Old Sam. “We’ll stop at that farm we passed coming. We’ll overtake her after she has passed us and crowd her off the road.”
Old Sam put it into gear and the Lincoln slid away. Bailey lit a cigarette and took his gun from his shoulder-holster. He laid the gun on the seat beside him.
“She got the diamonds?” Riley asked.
“Yeah.”
Riley was taller and thinner than Bailey. He was five or six years younger. But for the cast in his right eye, he wouldn’t have been bad looking, but the cast gave him a shifty, sly look.
Old Sam drove fast for half a mile, then coming to the farm, he slowed down, ran the car onto the grass and pulled up.
Riley said, “Get out and watch for her.”
Bailey took his gun, tossed his cigarette away and got out of the car. He stood by the side of the road. In the distance, he could see the lights of the roadhouse and he could hear the faint sound of the band playing. He waited for several minutes, then he saw the headlights of an approaching car.
He ran back to the Lincoln.
“Here they come.”
As he got into the car, Old Sam started the engine. A two-seater Jaguar swept past. Miss Blandish was driving. MacGowan seemed to have passed out.
“Get going,” Riley said. “That’s a fast job. Don’t let them get away.”
The Lincoln stormed after the Jaguar.
It was a dark, moonless night. Old Sam turned on hi? headlights. The beams lit up the Jaguar. They could see MacGowan’s head rolling with the motion of the car.
“He wont start trouble,” Bailey said. “He’s had a real skinful.”
Riley grunted.
The next bend in the road brought them to wooded country. At this hour the road was completely deserted.
“Okay,” Riley said. “Now crowd her!”
The needle of the speedometer moved to eighty-five and then to eighty-eight. The Lincoln held the road without any roll. The wind began to whistle and the trees took on a smudged look. The distance between the two cars remained the same.
“What are you playing at?” Riley said, staring at Old Sam. “I said crowd her!”
Old Sam shoved the gas pedal to the boards. The Lincoln crept up a few yards, but the Jaguar surged forward and the distance widened.
“She’s too fast for this crate,” Old Sam said. “We’re not going to catch her.”
The cars were now traveling at over eighty miles an hour. The Jaguar was steadily pulling away.
Suddenly Old Sam saw his chance as they approached a fork in the road.
“Hang on!” he yelled, slammed on his brakes and flung the wheel over. The tires screamed on the tar and the Lincoln spun around, skidding into the rough. Bailey was thrown off the rear seat. He felt the Lincoln lurch, then the off-wheels rise and slam back on the road. The car shuddered as Old Sam released the brakes and stepped down hard on the gas. He crashed over the grass verge, bumped and banged crazily across the rough ground and shot onto the road again.
By cutting off the corner, he was now in front of the Jaguar.
Bailey scrambled back on the seat, swearing and groping for his gun.
“Nice work,” Riley said, leaning out of the car to look back.
Old Sam, watching the Jaguar in his driving mirror, began to zigzag about the road, slowing down and forcing the Jaguar to slow down. Finally the two cars stopped. As Bailey jumped out of the Lincoln, Miss Blandish began to turn the Jaguar. He reached her just in time. He leaned into the car, snapped off the ignition, then threatened her with the gun.
“Get out!” he shouted. “This is a stick-up.”
Miss Blandish stared up at him. Her large eyes were wide with shock. MacGowan opened his eyes, and slowly sat up.
Riley, watching, remained in the Lincoln. He leaned out of the window, his sweating hand on his gun. Old Sam nervously opened the car door, ready to get out.
“Come on! Come on!” Bailey snarled. “Get out!”
Miss Blandish got out of the car. She didn’t look frightened, but she was startled.
“What is all this?” MacGowan mumbled. He got out of the car, wincing and holding his head.
“Take it easy,” Bailey said, threatening MacGowan with the gun. “This is a stick-up.”
MacGowan sobered. He moved closer to Miss Blandish.
“Hand over the necklace, sister,” Bailey said. “Quick!”
Miss Blandish’s hands flew to her throat. She began to back away.
Bailey cursed. He was beginning to lose his nerve. A car might pass any moment, and then they would be in trouble.
“Hand it over or you’ll get hurt,” he snarled.
As she still backed away, he strode up to her with three quick strides. He had to pass close to MacGowan who suddenly came alive and slammed a punch at Bailey’s head.
Bailey staggered, lost his balance and fell heavily. His gun slipped from his hand.
Miss Blandish stifled a scream. Riley didn’t move. He thought Bailey could handle it. He didn’t want either Miss Blandish or MacGowan to be able to identify him if the thing turned sour. He told Old Sam to watch the girl.
Old Sam shuffled over to Miss Blandish. She didn’t seem to notice him. She was staring at Bailey who was up on one knee, cursing and shaking his head. Old Sam stood by her sheepishly, but he was ready to grab her if she tried to get away.
Bailey looked at MacGowan who came forward unsteadily, still drunk, but full of fight.
Bailey was up to meet him. He hit MacGowan on the side of his neck. It wasn’t a good punch and it scarcely stopped MacGowan who slammed in a right to Bailey’s stomach. Bailey grunted and went down on his knees. This punk certainly could punch. Why didn’t Riley come? Before he could get up MacGowan had hit him on the side of the head and Bailey rolled on the grass.
Cursing, Riley got out of the car.
Bailey’s hand touched his gun. He grabbed it, then as MacGowan moved towards him, he lifted the gun and pulled the trigger.
The bang of the gun made Miss Blandish scream. She covered her eyes.
MacGowan clutched at his chest, then he fell in the road. Blood showed on his white shirt.
Bailey got to his feet as Riley ran up.
“You crazy sonofabitch!” Riley snarled. He bent over MacGowan, then he looked up at Bailey who had come closer and was staring down at MacGowan, his face slack with fright. “He’s dead! You jackass! What did you kill him for? Now you have started something.”
Bailey hooked his finger in his collar and jerked at it savagely.
“Why didn’t you help me?” he mumbled. “What else could I have done? It wasn’t my fault.”
“Tell that to the judge,” Riley snarled. He was badly scared. This is a murder rap now, he was thinking. We’ll all burn. If they catch us…
Bailey looked at Miss Blandish who was staring at MacGowan’s body. He said to Riley, “We’ll have to knock her off. She knows too much.”
“Shut up!” Riley said. He was staring at Miss Blandish. An idea had suddenly dropped into his mind. Here was a chance of getting into the real money. This girl’s father was worth millions. He would pay anything to get her back safe. “She’s coming with us.”
Miss Blandish suddenly broke free from Old Sam. She spun around and began to run down the road. Cursing, Riley ran after her. She heard him coming and she began to scream. He caught up with her, grabbed her arm and as she turned, he hit her hard on the side of her jaw. He caught her as she slumped forward. Picking her up, he carried her to the Lincoln and bundled her in on the back seat.
Bailey came up.
“Now wait a minute…”
Riley turned on him, snarling. He grabbed Bailey by the front of his shirt.
“Keep out of this!” he raved. “You’ve landed us in a murder rap! If they catch us, we’ll all burn. From now on, you do what I tell you! Get his body off the road and the car out of sight! Hear me?”
The viciousness in his voice startled Bailey. He hesitated, then as Riley released him, he went back to where Old Sam stood like a pole-axed bull.
He made Old Sam help him put MacGowan’s body in the Jaguar, then he drove the car off the road into the wood.
The two men came running back to the Lincoln.
“You’re nuts to snatch this girl,” Bailey said as he got in beside Old Sam. “We’ll have the Feds after us. How long do you imagine we’ll last?”
“Shut up!” Riley said violently. “Now you’ve killed that guy, we daren’t sell the necklace. Where do you imagine we’ll get money from unless it’s from Blandish? He’s worth millions. He’ll pay anything for the girl. It’s our only chance. Now, shut up!” To Old Sam, he said, “Get moving. We’ll go to Johnny’s place. He’ll hide us.”
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Old Sam asked as he started the car.
“We’ve got nothing to lose thanks to this sonofabitch,” Riley said. “I know what I’m doing. Get going.”
As the car gathered speed, Riley turned to where Miss Blandish lay slumped in the corner of the car. He took the necklace from around her neck.
“Got a light?” he asked Bailey.
Bailey took a flashlight from his pocket and turned it on. Riley examined the diamonds in the beam of the flashlight.
“They sure are something,” he said, awe in his voice. “But I’m not going to try to sell them. If Blandish wants them back, he’ll have to pay for them. It’ll be safer that way.”
Bailey shifted the light so it played on Miss Blandish. She was still unconscious. In spite of the dark bruise on her face where Riley had hit her, Bailey thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Some dish!” he said, speaking his thoughts aloud. “Is she all right?”
Riley looked at the unconscious girl. His eyes hardened.
“She’s all right,” he said. He stared at Bailey. “And for the record, she’s going to stay all right so don’t go getting any ideas about her.”
Bailey turned off the flashlight.
The car roared on into the darkness.

 
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