I froze there for about one whole minute. One minute is a long time, if you measure it on a watch. My brain was numb, I was crying inside me. The man who was to take me to Europe as an Uncle Sam agent unbeknownst to him, lay white and still beneath me. I had killed him.
Cherry Delight had struck again!
The only thing was, I hadn’t meant to kill him. It wasn’t part of the plan. He had to be alive, to take me to wherever it was he was going to meet the higher-ups in his Mafia family. Without him, I was a failure.
I scrambled off him, heart thudding wildly. Maybe he wasn’t dead, maybe he’d just fainted. I grabbed his wrist, felt his pulse. None. I bent over his chest, listening to his heartbeat. No heartbeat, either. And when I put a mirror to his lips, there was not the faintest bit of moisture on the glass.
Oh, Joe Turessi was dead, all right. And I’d killed him.
I sat on the edge of the bed and wanted to cry. Damn! It had been in the bag. He had been ripe to take me to Europe with him. I knew it, my female intuition told me as much. I had ways of pleasing him. No other dame did. And now-this
My common sense realized he’d had a heart attack, a massive thrombosis. A fat lot of good that knowledge did me. Wearily I rose from the bed, moved to pick up the black satin evening gown and carry it to the closet.
I paused, staring at those garments on their hangers.
They all looked brand new. I wondered for a second if Joe Turessi had bought them especially for me. My fellow workers at N.Y.M.P.H.O. had learned that the Mafia man had a thing for seeing girls dressing and then undressing. They’d wangled an order from him for a visit from a Femme Fatale: me. And N.Y.M.P.H.O. had counted on my going to Europe with Turessi.
Well, it was a cinch I couldn’t go with him. But—could I go without him? On my own. With his consent. No, better than that: by his orders. I glanced over my shoulder at his dead body. Hmmmm, I’d have to do something about that corpse. Still, with a number of empty coffins in the storage chamber, that shouldn’t be too insurmountable a problem.
I ran downstairs in my black nylons and garter-belt. Hell, it was after hours, it must have been thirty minutes past midnight. The mortuary was in darkness outside the mirrored room. I fumbled around until I found a light switch.
Then I went hunting for his office. It was a wood-paneled room, outfitted with a big mahogany desk and swivel chair, with sombre files recessed behind heavy green drapes, a mantle-piece and fireplace where once logs had burned when this building had been a private home. There was a typewriter on a stand, covered.
I found typing paper in the desk, drew the Remington a little closer, and started to bang the keys. I wrote a nice letter introducing me to the man our International Intelligence unit assured us was named Benito Castracia. His title in the Mob was that of Coordinator, which meant he might be the bossman of the entire Mafia empire.
It took me half an hour to phrase the thing properly. When I was done I had a neatly typed missive. It needed a forged signature. I let my rhinestoned evening pumps take me upstairs so I could examine the articles in Joe Turessi’s discarded clothes where they lay on the mirrored floor. I found a driving license with his signature. I practiced it about twenty times before I scrawled it across the bottom of the letter.
I folded the letter and stared at it. What do I do now? I asked myself. I had no money, not even a handbag. Still. . . .
Joe Turessi would have money. He was ready to take a jet from Kennedy to Paris. He needed spending money. There had been a hundred clams in the wallet from which I’d borrowed his driving license. This meant he had some bread stashed away somewhere else. The funeral parlor safe? It seemed a safe bet, no pun meant.
I have been trained by experts to open safes, at least of the wall variety represented by the old-fashioned one that was hidden by a bit of that same green drapery that kept the filing cabinets out of sight. It took only ten minutes to find the combo.
There was three thousand iron men in the safe, plus his airline ticket on an Air France jet to Paris, another ticket for a subsidiary line to fly him south to Nice. From Nice, he would travel by rented car to Saint Tropez. When he arrived in Saint Tropez, there were reservations for him at the Byblos Hotel.