Page 94 of The Moneychangers

His thick lips were twisted in a grin.

With the side of his foot he shoved the two chairs so the Nuliez woman and her brat now faced each other.

Angelo puffed on the cigar until its tip was glowing.

Casually he moved to the chair where the child was seated and bound. Estela looked up, visibly trembling, eyes wild with fright.

Without hurrying, Angelo took her small right hand, lifted it, inspected the palm, then turned it over.

Still slowly he removed the glowing cigar from his mouth and ground it, as if into an ashtray, on the back of her hand. Estela cried out a piercing shriek of agony.

Opposite her, Juanita, frantic, weeping, shouting incoherently, struggled desperately against her bonds. The cigar was not out.

Angelo puffed it into fresh redness then, with the same leisureliness as before, lifted Estela's other hand. Juanita screamed,

"No, no, dejela . I win tell you." Angelo waited, the cigar poised as Juanita gasped,

"The man you want. .. is Miles Eastin." "Who's he work for?" Her voice a despairing whisper, she answered, "First Mercantile American Bank."

Angelo dropped the cigar and ground it out with his heel. He looked interrogatively at where he knew Tony Bear Marino to be, then came around the screen. Tony Bear's face was tight. He said softly,

"Get him. Go get that fink. Bring him here." l

21

"Milesy,"Nate Nathanson said with unusual grouchiness, "whoever your friend is keeps phoning, tell him this place ain't run for the staff, it's run for members."

"What friend?" Miles Eastin, who had been away from the Double-Seven for part of the morning talking care of club errands, looked uncertainly at the manager.

"How in hell would I know? Same guy's phoned four times, asking for you. Wouldn't leave a name; no message." Nathanson said impatiently,

"Where's the deposit book?" Miles handed it over.

Among his calls had been one to a bank to deposit checks. "Shipment of canned goods came in just now," Nathanson said. "Cases in the storeroom.

Check 'em against the invoices." He handed Miles some papers and a key.

"Sure, Nate. And I'm sorry about the calls."

But the manager had already turned awayj heading for his office on the third floor.

Miles felt some sympathy for him. He knew that Tony Bear Marino and Russian Ominsky, who owned the Double-Seven jointly, had been leaning hard on Nathanson lately with complaints about running of the club.

On his way to the storeroom, which was on the main floor at the rear of the building,

Miles wondered about those phone calls.

Who would be calling him? And insistently. As far as he knew, only three people connected with his former life were aware that he was here his probation officer; Juanita; Nolan Wainwright.

The probation officer? Highly unlikely. Last time Miles made his required monthly visit and report, the p.o. had been rushed and indifferent; all he seemed to care about was that he wouldn't be caused trouble. The probation man had made a note of where Miles was working and that was that. Juanita then?

No. She knew better, besides, Nathanson had said a man.

That left Wainwright. But Wainwright wouldn't call either

… Or would he? Might he not take the risk if it were something truly urgent… like a warning?

A warning of what? That Miles was in danger?

That he had been exposed as a spy, or might be? Abruptly, icy fear seized him. His heart hammered faster. Miles realized:

Lately he had assumed an invulnerability, had taken his safety for granted.

But in reality there was no safety here, never had been; only danger even greater now than in the beginning, for now he knew too much.

Approaching the storeroom, as the thought persisted, his hands were trembling. He had to steady himself to put the key in the lock.

He wondered: Was he becoming frightened about nothing, reacting cravenly to shadows?

Perhaps. But a sense of foreboding warned him no.

So what should he do?

Whoever had telephoned would probably try again. But was it wise to wait?

Miles decided:

Risk or not, he would call Wainwright directly.

He had pushed the storeroom door open.

Now he began to close it, to go to a pay phone nearby the one from which he had called Juanita a week and a half ago.

At that moment he heard activity in the club's front lobby at the other end of the main floor corridor which ran from front to rear.

Several men were entering from the street. They seemed in a hurry. Without knowing why, Miles reversed direction and slipped into the storeroom, out of sight

. He heard a mix of voices, then one ask loudly,

"Where's that punk, Eastin?" He recognized the voice. Angelo, one of Marino's bodyguards.

"Up in the office, I guess."

That was Jules LaRocca. Miles heard him say, "What's with…" "Tony Bear wants…"

The voices faded as the men hurried upstairs. But Miles had heard enough, knowing that what he feared had come true.

In a minute, maybe less, Nate Nathanson would tell Angelo and the others where he was. Then they would be down here.

He felt his entire body quaking, yet forced himself to think.

To leave by the front lobby was impossible.

Even if he didn't encounter the men returning from upstairs, they had probably left someone on guard outside.

The rear exit, then?

It was seldom used and opened near an abandoned building.

Beyond that was a vacant lot, then an elevated railway arch. On the far side of the rail line was a maze of small, mean streets.

He could try dodging through those streets, though the chance of eluding a pursuit was slim.

There could be several pursuers; some would have a car or cars;

Miles had none. His mind flashed the message:

Your only chance! Don't lose more time! Go now!

He slammed the storeroom door closed and took the key; perhaps the others would waste precious minutes battering the door down, believing him to be inside.

Then he ran. Through the small rear door, fumbling first with a bolt… Outside, stopping to close the door; no sense in advertising the way he had gone…

Then down a lane beside the disused building…

The building had been a factory once; the lane was littered with debris, old packing cases, cans, the rusty skeleton of a truck beside a caved-in loading dock.

It was like running an obstacle course. Rats scampered away… Across the vacant lot, stumbling over bricks, garbage, a dead dog…

Once Miles tripped and felt an ankle twist; it pained him sharply, but he kept on… So far he had heard no one following…

Then as he reached the railway arch, with comparative safety of the streets ahead, there were running feet behind, a shout,

"There's the son of a bitch!' Miles increased his speed. He was now on the firmer ground of streets and sidewalks. He took the first turning he came to sharply left; then right; almost at once, left again. Behind him he could still hear the pounding feet…

These streets were new to him but his sense of direction told him he was headed for the city center.

If he could only make it there he would disappear in midday crowds,giving him time to think, to telephone Wainwright, perhaps, and ask for help.

Meanwhile he was running hard and well, his wind good. His ankle hurt a little; not too much.

Miles's fitness, the hours spent on the Double-Seven handball court, were paying off…

The sounds of running behind him receded, but their absence didn't fool him.

While a car could not travel the route he had come down the blocked lane and over the vacant lot there were ways around.

A detour of several blocks to cross the railway line would create delay.

Not much, though. Probably, even now, someone in a car was trying to outguess him, head him off. He doubled left and right again, hoping, as he had from the beginning, for any kind of transportation.

A bus.

A taxi better still. But neither came…

When you needed a taxi badly, why was there never one around?… Or a cop. He wished the streets he was passing through were busier. Running made him conspicuous, but he could not afford to slow down yet. A few people whom Miles passed looked at him curiously, but citizens here were used to minding their own business.

The nature of the area, though, was changing as he ran. Now it was less ghetto-like, showing signs of more prosperity. He passed several sizable stores.

Ahead were larger buildings still, the city skyline coming into view. But before getting there, two major intersecting streets would have to be crossed.

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