Albert Brown sealed the car in a parking space, then swivelled around urgently to his companion. “You’d better go in there and get him out.”
“I suppose so,” Laura Dermody agreed nervously, darting a hand through her jet-black hair and down the back of her long, graceful neck. She closed the car door softly and looked around at the roadhouse fifty yards away. Her face glowed from the mechanical reflection of the neon sign: Punchinello’s. Dine. Dance.
There was the sound of laughter when she opened the outside door a couple of minutes afterwards and when she opened it again later on. A man was next to her in the lighted doorway. Two pairs of footsteps came along a gravel pathway then, and over to the parking lot.
Tom Ulric stood in front of Brown’s car and moved back and forth as if he were drunk. His blond hair fell halfway down to his deep-set, burning eyes. He was breathing heavily.
“You want your money back!” He grinned, slurring the words together. “Laura and Ben want their money back.”
“Miss Dermody put up fifty thousand dollars, and I did too, because we were certain that you’d invest it properly for us. You took it for yourself. Now Miss Dermody wants her shares back and I want mine.”
“That’s tough on her,” Ulric grinned. “And you.”
Brown lunged out of his car and practically pushed Ulric towards it, Ulric protesting much more than Brown’s impact against him made necessary. Laura, her blue dress crinkling as she leaned forward in the dimness, said, “Go easy on him, Mr. Brown. Please don’t hurt him.”
Brown finally pushed Ulric into the seat next to the one he’d be taking, and slammed the door shut. He walked around noisily to the driver’s door, then opened and closed it with savage fury. The car started with a teeth-gritting mesh of gears.
“Home, James,” Ulric said in that drunken tone he was using too broadly. He belched loudly and unnecessarily.
Brown drove along a wide road past the outskirts of town. Ulric stopped singing to ask loudly, “Where you taking me?”
“To a quiet place where we’ll talk,” Brown said grimly.
“Talk? You sound like you’re going to try and beat the money out of me. Let me outta here!”
“Don’t try anything,” Brown said. “I can knock you out if I have to, and I’ve given Miss Dermody a gun that she’s carrying in her pocketbook, and she won’t hesitate to use it.”
Ulric laughed. “She’ll never hurt me, never, never.”
“She will when fifty thousand dollars are concerned,” Brown told him. “And if you think I’m going to let an old friendship stand in the way of the fifty thousand you took from me, then you’re mistaken about that, too.”