Read I Would Rather Stay Poor Online

Authors: James Hadley Chase

I Would Rather Stay Poor (21 page)

He said, ‘Not much of a machine, is it? It’s the best I can do for you. I’ve already asked the powers-that-be for something better, but so far it hasn’t been forthcoming.’

Iris dragged her eyes away from the typewriter. She forced herself to remain calm. She could see the portable didn’t fit the felt mat which was obviously designed for
much larger machine.

‘Oh, I’
manage,’ she said. ‘I like the touch of a portable. Kit has one. I often use it.’

‘You do? Then you’
be happy with this one. Well, come on: let’s see what’s in the mail.’

Iris resisted the impulse to go to the machine and examine it. It looked vaguely familiar, but she was aware that Calvin was watching her. His blue eyes were as expressionless and as hard as glass.
They entered the office
as a rap came on the bank door.

‘There are the auditors,’ Calvin said. ‘I’
let them in.’

The two auditors entered, exchanged greetings with Calvin and nodded to Iris.

For the next hour. Iris was kept busy discovering banking
procedure which Calvin explained to her with a patience tha
surprised her.
A little after ten o’clock, the first customer came in and Calvin went to serve him.
Left on her own, Iris crossed over to the portable typewriter. She had the excuse to use the machine as Calvin, during the past hour, had dictated several letters. She sat
on the high stool, un
easily aware that only some forty hours ago, Alice had also sat on
is stool. She looked at the machine and a sudden chill ran through her.
This Was Ki
s typewriter! She recognised it at once. There was a deep scratch on the metal casing and two of the keys had turned slightly yellow. It
as unmistakable.
Her mind confused, her heart thumping, she somehow managed to type the letters. Her eyes kept going to the large felt mat on which the typewriter was standing. She could see the deep
pression of the feet of another and bigger machine embedded in the felt.

It w
asn’t until close on twelve o’clock, that Calvin had the chance to speak to her alone. He had been continuously busy with various customers and the auditors. Now, he came over to her to take the letters she had ready for him.

‘How are you getting along?’ he asked. ‘Are you liking the job?’

of course.’ Iris tried to meet the staring blue eyes, but couldn’t. To cover her confusion, she slid off the stool and moved away from him.

I’ve got to watch her, Calvin thought. She’s turning hostile. She must have recognised the machine. Damn it! I should have thought of that. If Travers has set her to spy on me, this could be dangerous.

‘Are you going home to lunch?’ he asked as the two auditors
left the bank. ‘I usually go across the road. It’s not bad. Care
to join me?’
‘I’ll go home,’ Iris said quickly. ‘Thanks all the same. I
only take me ten minutes on the bus.’

‘Please yourself. I’ll lock up. You get off.’

Iris went into
the washroom and put on
her coat. On the glass shelf above the toilet basin was a box of tissues and a tube of face cream that had belonged to Alice. She looked at these two symbols that represented a memory of the dead girl and she shivered. Hurriedly,
she left the washroom
, anxious to leave the bank and not remain alone with Calvin. The bank door was already locked. Calvin was standing in his office doorway, waiting. Iris felt a cold, restricting pressure around her heart as the blue, uncanny eyes moved over her.
She paused, and they looked at each other, then Calvin switched on his charm, but for the first time, Iris felt afraid of him.

If you would like
to borrow my car to get home, do use it,’ Calvin said.

I won’t, thank you. I don’t like driving other people’s cars.’ She moved to the door. Not waiting for him to unlock the door, she turned the key, jerked open the door and walked quickly down the path.
Calvin watched her go. His fleshy face set into a snarling mask.
Iris felt a surge of relief run through her as she saw Ken Travers come out of the sheriff’s office and start towards her. She had to restrain herself from breaking into a run. During the brief interval before they came face to face, she had regained her composure.
‘Why, Ken

you’re always turning up,’ she said, smiling at him. ‘Don’t say you have a free hour?’

He slid his arm around her and unmindful of the people passing, he kissed her.

‘I’ve been waiting for you, honey,’ he said. ‘The old man says i
okay for me to buy you lunch.’

‘Why, tha
wonderful! I was going home.’

‘Let’s go across the road. The food there isn’t so lousy.’

Remembering that Calvin had said he lunched at this restaurant, Iris said sharply, ‘No

go some place else. Anywhere, but there.’

Travers looked at her, his eyebrows lifting. He could see she was upset about something, and slipping his arm through hers, he steered her towards his car.

‘Okay: there’s a joint I know

not bad: not as good as this one, but i
They said nothing until they reached the car and got in, then as Travers started the engine, Iris said, breathlessly, ‘I’m sorry, Ken, about last night. I now think you are right about Calvin.’
Travers looked sharply at her.

happened to make you change your mind?’

Iris told him about the portable typewriter.

‘It belongs to Kit,’ she concluded. ‘I used it only the other day. It is standing on a mat much too large for it. You can see the impression on the mat of a standard machine.’
Travers was very alert now. He remembered the hold-all Calvin had been carrying.
‘Now, at last, we’re getting somewhere! I asked him this morning what machine the bank used. He
said the Smith Corona portable w
as at the bank when he came. We’ve caught him out in his first lie! He knew about the machine because he was at the meeting last night and we tipped him off! The Remington must still be in the bank. He hasn’t had a chance of getting rid of it. Any idea where he could have hidden it?’
Iris, pale and as excited as Travers, thought for a moment.

‘There’s not many places. There’s a cupboard in his office. There’s the men’s room and the vault.’

‘What chances have you of finding it?’

‘I do
know. He’s not likely to leave me alone in the bank. He
keeps the keys to the v
ault. I have
n’t any right to go i
nto his office
while he’s not in
it. Couldn’t you
a search warrant?’
‘I could, but if I did I would be tipping my hand to Easton. He’s just as anxious as I am to get the reward. I’ve got to get a better case against Calvin before I do tip my hand.’ He thought for a moment.
be hundreds of carbon copies of letters typed on
Remington in the
Could you get me one of those carbons

anyone will do? I
be able to check from the carbon if it is the Remington we are looking for. With that as proof, I could get a search warrant.’
Iris drew in a deep breath.

‘I keep
thinking o
f Kit

‘I know, but i
better for her to know the truth before she marries him than after. He’ll be caught sooner or later. You can see that, can’t you?’
Iris hesitated, then she nodded.

all right. I’ll
a carbon for you. It shouldn’t be difficult. I’ve some filing to do this afternoon. I’ll have it for you tonight.’
But she didn’t. Calvin had seen Travers meet her and had watched them drive away together. He had locked up the bank and had gone over to the restaurant and had sat at his usual corner table. He had ordered the lunch, and while
his mind had been busy.
He was pretty sure Iris was telling Travers about me portable typewriter. What would Travers do? Get a search warrant? They couldn’t open all the deed boxes. But they wouldn’t need to find the Remington. All they would have to do would be to check the carbon copies of letters in the files. Once they did that, he was sunk.
The waitress put a plate o
f soup in front of him and mech
anically he began to eat the soup.
Why get a search warrant? he thought, when Iris could take a carbon and give it to Travers to check! That was the obvious thing for her to do. Well, all right, he would watch her. But if she failed to get a carbon, what then?
He hurried through his meal and returned to the bank. He went to the steel filing cabinets and locked them, removing the key. Then he went into his office and sat at his desk.

Iris returned to the bank at the same time as the auditors arrived. Calvin let them in. He glanced at Iris, noticing she looked tense. She moved past him and went into the washroom.

For several minutes, Calvin was busy with a customer. He saw Iris come out of the washroom, go to her desk, pick up the carbon copies of the letters she had typed and walk over to the filing cabinet.

Calvin cashed the cheque the customer had given him. He
paused as he counted the money as he saw Iris try to open one
of the files. He handed the money to the customer, nodded to him, then walked o
ver to where Iris was standing.
He held out his hand.
‘I do the
filing here,’ he said with his ch
arming smile. ‘I have my own system. Alice made such a mess of it I had to reorganise the system.
I’ll still
do it.’
Iris gave him the carbons without looking at him.
‘There are some statements on your desk that want entering,’ Calvin went on taking the key of the file from his pocket and unlocking the cabinet. ‘Will you go ahead and do them, please?’
She forced herself to meet the probing blue eyes. There was a jeering expression in them that made her feel sick. Ken was right! She was now sure this man standing before her was not only a thief but a murderer. In that brief moment as they stared at each other, she had an instinctive feeling that he knew she knew he had murdered Alice.
As she waited back to her desk she had to fight down a surge of panic that left her trembling.


Soon after four o’clock, James Easton left the sheriff’s office and walked over to the bank. He had been receiving continuous and useless reports since dawn, his ulcer hurt him and he was tired and discouraged. So far, the Remington hadn’t been found nor had anyone come forward with further information about Johnny Acres.
Every Remington typewriter but one in Pittsvil
e had been checked from the list received from the local agent. The one still to be checked was the
achine supplied five years ago to the bank.

Easton had no hopes that it would be the one he was hunting for. He only decided to check this machine himself as it would give him an opportunity to talk to Calvin.

Easton was a man easily impressed and Calvin impressed him. Calvin was just the kind of man that Easton would have liked to have been. Easton always wanted to play golf, but had never succeeded in getting out of the rabb
it class. He envied tall, power
fully-built men. He en
ied men with Calvin’s charm and ease of manner. He was satisfied Calvin had more brains than the sheriff, Travers and himself put together. If there was anyone who could find a clue to this Johnny Acres, Easton felt sure it would be Calvin.
He was at a dead end with the case and with the excuse of checking the bank typewriter, he hoped to get a lead from Calvin that might give him the chance of getting the bank reward

and how he wanted that money!
He walked up the path to the bank entrance and rat
ed on the letterbox. By now the bank was shut. There was
delay, then the bank door opened and Calvin looked
quiringly at

‘Can you spare
moment, Mr. Calvin?’ Easton asked, mopping his
with a grimy handkerchief. ‘Or are you busy?’

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