`` She says she has to finish a story '' .
He shrugged .
`` I asked her why she couldn't do it tomorrow , but it seems the muse is working good tonight and she's afraid to let it go '' .
Casey made some comment , but his mind was busy as he considered the man .
His name was George Needham and he , too , had come from a good family .
He was perhaps thirty-two , nicely set up , with light brown hair that had a pronounced wave .
He was always well groomed and well tailored , and he had that rich man's look which was authentic enough and came from two good prep schools and a proper university .
An only child , he had done all the things that young men do who have been born to money and social position until his father double-crossed him by dying broke .
Since then he had worked at this and that , though some said his main interest was gambling .
All this went through Casey's mind in the first instant , but what held his interest was the fact that these two should be together at all .
For he had understood that Betty had been engaged to a boy named Barry Jenkins .
She had grown up with young Jenkins , and he had heard that they had been at the point of getting married at least twice .
He wanted to ask her about Jenkins now , but he knew he couldn't do so in Needham's presence .
And so , still wondering and a little perplexed , he grinned at the girl and spoke lightly to make sure that she would know he was kidding .
`` Where did you pick him up '' ? ?
`` Oh , I've known him quite a while '' .
She glanced at her companion fondly .
`` Haven't I , George '' ? ?
`` I've been after her for years '' , Needham said , `` but I've never been able to get anywhere until the last few days '' .
The girl's eyes were softly shining as she reached out and touched Casey's hand .
`` Can I tell you a secret ? ?
We're going to get married .
Do you approve '' ? ?
Casey kept his smile fixed , but some small inner disturbance was working on him as he thought again about Needham , who was eight or ten years older than the girl .
He wondered whether Needham was going to swear off gambling and get a steady job or whether he was counting on the income from Betty's estate to subsidize him .
None of this showed in his face , and he tried to keep his skepticism in hand .
He made a point of frowning , of acting out the part of the fond father-confessor .
`` I'll have to give it some thought '' , he said .
`` You wouldn't want me to say yes without making sure his intentions are honorable , would you '' ? ?
She made a face at him and then she laughed .
`` Of course not '' .
`` I'll get my references in order '' , Needham said , and though he spoke with a smile , Casey somehow got the idea that he was not particularly amused .
`` Stop by any time , Casey '' .
He stood up and touched the girl's arm .
`` Come on , darling .
If you're really serious about working on that story , I'd better take you home '' .
Casey watched them go , still frowning absently and then dismissing the matter as he called for his check .
As he went out he told Freddie the dinner was perfect , and when he got his hat and coat from Nancy Parks and put a fifty-cent piece in the slot , he told her to be sure that it went toward her dowry .
A taxi took him back to the bar and grill where he had left his car , and a few minutes later he found a parking place across the street from his apartment .
Because his mind had been otherwise occupied for the past couple of hours , he did not think to look and see if Jerry Burton's car was still there .
In fact , he did not think about Jerry Burton at all until he entered his living room and closed the door behind him .
Only then , when his glance focused on the divan and saw that it was empty , did he remember his earlier problem .
Even from where he stood he could see the neatly folded blanket that he had spread over Burton , the pillow , the sheet of paper on top of it .
Then he was striding across the room , his thoughts confused but the worry building swiftly inside him as he snatched up the note .
Look in the wastebasket .
I knew the only way I could beat you was to play possum , but it was a good try , kid , and I appreciate it .
The wastebasket stood near the wall next to the divan , and the instant Casey picked it up he knew what had happened .
The discarded papers inside were sodden , there was a glint of liquid at the bottom , and the smell of whisky was strong and distinct .
He put the basket down distastefully , muttering softly and thoroughly disgusted with himself and his plan that had seemed so foolproof .
For he remembered too well how he had brought back the loaded drinks to Burton and then returned to the kitchen to get weaker drinks for himself .
For another second or two he gave in to the annoyance that was directed at himself ; ;
then his mind moved on to be confronted by something far more serious , and as the thought expanded , the implications jarred him .
It no longer mattered that Burton had outsmarted him .
The important thing was that Burton had gone somewhere to meet a blackmailer with a gun in his pocket .
And that gun was empty .
Even before his mind had rounded out the idea , he thrust one hand into his trousers pocket and pulled out the six slugs he had taken from the revolver .
He considered them with brooding eyes , brows bunched as his brain grappled with the problem and tried to find some solution .
He said : `` The crazy fool '' , half aloud .
He put the shells on the table , as though he could no longer bear to hold them .
He thought : Where the hell could he have gone ? ?
How can I find him ? ?
There was no answer to this and he began to pace back and forth across the room , his imagination out of control .
He tried to tell himself that maybe Burton had sobered up enough to get some sense .
Maybe he only intended to scare the blackmailer , whoever he was , in which case an unloaded gun would be good enough .
He thought of other possibilities , none of them satisfactory , and finally he began to think , to wonder if there was some way he could reach Burton .
Then , as he turned toward the telephone , it rang shrilly to shatter the stillness in the room and he reached for it eagerly .
`` Yeah '' , he said .
`` Casey '' ? ?
`` Yeah '' .
`` Tony Calenda '' .
Casey heard the voice distinctly and he knew who it was , but it took him a while to make the mental readjustment and control the disturbance inside his head .
When he heard Calenda say : `` What about that picture you took this afternoon '' ? ?
It still took him another few seconds to remember the job he had done for Frank Ackerly .
`` What picture '' ? ?
He demanded .
`` You took a picture of me at the corner of Washington and Blake about three thirty this afternoon '' .
`` Who says so '' ? ?
`` One of my boys '' .
Casey believed that much .
Calenda was not the sort who walked around without one of his `` boys '' close at hand .
`` So '' ? ?
`` With my trial coming up in Federal Court next week I wouldn't want that picture published '' .
`` Who says it's going to be published '' ? ?
`` I wouldn't even want it to get around '' .
Under normal circumstances Casey was a little fussy when people told him what to do with pictures he had taken .
Even so , he generally listened and was usually reasonable to those who voiced their objections properly .
Right now , however , he was still too worried about Jerry Burton , and the gun that had no bullets , and the story Burton had told him , to care too much about Tony Calenda .
His nerves were getting a little ragged and his impatience put an edge in his voice .
`` Look '' , he said .
`` I was hired to take a picture .
I took it .
That's all I know about it and that's all I care '' .
`` Maybe you'd better tell the guy who hired you what I said '' .
`` You tell him '' .
`` All right '' , Calenda said , his voice still quiet .
`` But I meant what I said , Casey .
If that picture gets around and I find out you had anything to do with it , I'm going to send a couple of my boys around to see you '' .
`` You do that '' , Casey said .
`` Just be sure to send your two best boys , Tony '' .
He hung up with a bang , annoyed at himself for running off at the mouth like that but still terribly concerned with the situation he had helped to create .
As soon as he could think logically again he reached for the telephone directory and found Jerry Burton's home number .
He dialed it and listened to it ring ten times before he hung up .
He called the bar and grill where he had picked Burton up that afternoon .
When he was told that no one had seen Burton since then , he thought of three other places that were possibilities .
Each time he got the same answer and in the end he gave up .
By the time he had smoked three cigarettes he had calmed down .
He had done all he could and that was that .
And anyway Burton was not the kind of guy who would be likely to get in trouble even when he was drunk .
He , Casey , had been scared for a while , but that had come mostly from the fact that he felt responsible .
He should have stayed here and watched Burton .
He didn't .
So he made a mistake .
So what ? ?
He kept telling himself this as he went out to the kitchen to make a drink .
Only then did he decide he didn't want one .
He considered opening a can of beer but vetoed that idea too .
Finally he went into the bedroom and sat down to take off his shoes .
He had just finished unlacing the right one when the telephone rang again .
When he snatched it up the voice that came to him was quick and urgent .
`` Casey ? ?
You don't know me but I know you .
If you want a picture get to the corner of Adams and Clark just as fast as you can .
If you hurry you might beat the headquarters boys '' .
Casey heard the click of the distant receiver before he could open his mouth , and it took him no more than three seconds to make his decision .
For over the years he had received many such calls .
Some of them came from people who identified themselves .
Some telephoned because he had done them a favor in the past .
Others because they expected some sort of reward for the information .
A few passed along a tip for the simple reason that they liked him and wanted to give him a break .
Only an occasional tip turned out to be a phony , and , like the police , Casey had made a point of running down all such suggestions and he did not hesitate this time .
He was in his car with his camera and equipment bag in less than two minutes , and it took him only three more to reach the corner , a block from Columbus Avenue .
It was a district of small factories and loft buildings and occasional tenements , and he could see the police radio car as he rounded the corner and slammed on the brakes .
He did not bother with his radio -- there would be time for that later -- but as he scrambled out on the pavement he saw the filling station and the public telephone booth and knew instantly how he had been summoned .
The police car had pulled up behind a small sedan , its headlights still on .