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Leslie Charteris

The Saint Around the World

Bermuda: The patient playboy

1

“I suppose you wouldn’t be interested in helping me find my husband,” said the blonde.

“Frankly, I’ve heard a lot more exciting propositions,” Simon Templar admitted. “If he doesn’t have enough sense to appreciate you, why don’t we just let him stay lost, and have a ball?”

“But I really want him back,” she said. “You see, we’ve only been married a week, so I haven’t had time to get tired of him.”

Simon sipped his Dry Sack.

“All right,” he said. “Give me a clue. What was it about this bridegroom that impressed you so much, darling?”

“The name,” she said, “is Lona Dayne.”

“Well, that’s unusual, anyway. He must have to listen to a lot of funny cracks about it.”

“Lona Dayne is my name, idiot. Not ‘darling.’  ”

“Oh.”

He regarded her with pleasantly augmented interest. It had been an entirely shallow and stereotyped reaction, he realized, to identify and pigeonhole her so summarily as “the blonde.” Certainly she had the hair, of a tint much paler than straw, which his worldly eye inevitably measured against her light brown eyes and traced back from there to the alchemy of some beauty parlor — but wasn’t it a mere cliché of fiction that expensively rinsed blondes were by contrary definition cheap, while the only good ones owed their coloring solely to a lucky combination of chromosomes? The pretty face and approximately 35-23-35 vital statistics which convention also attributes to blondes appeared to be hers without any important debt to artifice. And she could get away with calling him Idiot, when she smiled in that provocatively intimate way while she said it.

“To me, you’ll still be darling,” he said. “At least, until your husband turns up. I suppose his name is Dayne too.”

“Naturally.”

“You can never be sure, these days.”

“Havelock Dayne.”

“It has rather a corny sound, but I guess his parents loved it.”

“I love your dialogue,” she said dispassionately. “But I wasn’t kidding. You are the Saint, aren’t you?”

Simon sighed. He had heard that question so often, by this time, that he seemed to have used up all the possible smooth, shocking, modest, impudent, evasive, chilling, misleading, or witty answers. Now he could only wish, belatedly, that he had had the forethought to insist on an alias. But while that might have let him enjoy one cocktail party as an anonymous guest, it wouldn’t have fitted in with the project that brought him to Bermuda.

It had been a good party, until then. The Saint had thought it a happy coincidence, for him, that a friend from many years back in Hollywood, Dick Van Hessen, was currently managing a miniature movie studio which had been improbably yet astutely set up in Bermuda to take advantage of tax privileges and lower costs to compete for the American television market. At the Van Hessens’ hillside house was therefore gathered, almost automatically, a useful cross-section of island personalities: the local bankers and bigwigs, the grim and the gay social sets, the press and the professions, the merchants and the dilettantes, and a leavening of working actors and visiting firemen on whom all the others could prove how easily they could mix with celebrities. The Saint’s cool blue eyes drifted down the long verandah that overlooked Hamilton Harbor, but failed to make any pertinent identification among the convivial mob.

“I’ve met so many people tonight, I couldn’t possibly remember half their names,” he confessed disarmingly, and with an unblushing lack of truth. “Does your husband have anything conspicuous about him — like a green mustache, for instance?”

“You haven’t met him tonight. He isn’t here.”

“When did you lose him, then?”

“The day before yesterday.”

“And only married five days at the time, according to what you said. It must have been a hell of a wedding. Did you have any inkling that Havelock was such a dizzy type when you agreed to let him love, honor, and pay the bills?”

“He isn’t at all. He’s lots of fun, of course, but he’s terribly ambitious and earnest too. He’s a lawyer.”

“I’m looking for a lawyer myself,” said the Saint. “Only I want one who’s already embezzled at least five million dollars. Have you known Havelock long enough to notice him flashing a lot of green stuff around?”

“I’m sorry,” she said stiffly. “I suppose I was asking for it. I should have known better. But I don’t think your dialogue is so excruciatingly funny, after all—”

A quiver of her lips spoiled the trenchant ring that her last sentence was phrased for, and she turned away quickly, but not quickly enough for him to miss the blurring of her eyes. He moved even more swiftly to place himself beside her again where she leaned over the verandah railing with her back turned squarely to the incurious crowd.

“Pardon my two left feet,” he said reasonably. “I’m afraid the atmosphere of the place got me. I thought you were playing it strictly chin-up and British, so I was going along with the gag. Let’s start over, if you’re serious.”

She looked at him, blinking hard.

“I am!”

“All right. I know how you’re feeling. I wish I could help. But just plain wandering husbands are a bit out of my line. I expect if you asked a few discreet friends and bartenders — or even the police—”

“But I can’t. I’ve had to cover up — tell everyone he’s laid up with a terrible cold. You’re the first person I’ve told, and I shouldn’t even have done that.”

“Then stop being silly. If he’s lost, he’s lost, and false pride won’t help you find him. Think yourself lucky he isn’t really a case up my alley, for which he’d have to be at least kidnaped or even murdered.”

“That,” she said steadily, “is exactly what I’m afraid of. Or I wouldn’t have talked to you.”

Without any change of expression, the Saint’s bronzed face seemed to become opaque, like a mask from behind which his eyes probed with a sort of rueful cynicism.

“Now I’ll begin to think you’re suffering from too much lurid literature.”

“You’d be wrong,” she said flatly. “Unless I suffered from writing it. Until a week ago, my name was Lona Shaw. Well, that doesn’t mean anything to you. But it would if you’d lived in England lately. I’ve worked for the London Daily Record since I was nineteen, and for the last four years I’ve been their star sob-sister. Do you have any idea how hard-boiled and unhysterical a girl has to be to hold that job on a newspaper like the Record?”

Simon nodded. Suddenly, as if a cloud had passed, the mask of his face was translucent again. It was the only outward sign that he had felt and recognized the icy caress of Destiny’s fingers along his spine.

“Okay.” he said soberly. “I’m sold.”

His gaze nickered over the crowded balcony again, warily conscious of the beginning of one of those unanimous re-shufflings that surge intermittently through the human molecules of every cocktail party, and even more sharply perceptive of the covetous glances of certain males within striking distance who had transparently settled on Lona Dayne as the most intriguing target for tonight and were getting set to cut in at the first opening.

Simon huddled strategically closer to her along the rail.

“I gather you came alone,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Me too. No plans for dinner?”

“No. Fay Van Hessen said I could—”

“She won’t mind. You just made a date with me, darling.”

     

 

2011 - 2018