(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Hugo Candless, a wealthy and powerful Los Angeles attorney, is playing squash with an employee, George Dial, at the Delmar Club. He goes outside to board what he thinks is his limousine. As his cigar smoke fills the passenger compartment, he reaches for the window handle and finds that there is none. There are no door handles or communication tube either, and as the limousine follows an unfamiliar course into the hills, the odor of almonds fills the passenger compartment. Candless is being killed with cyanide gas, the kind used to execute criminals in Nevada.

Meanwhile, George Dial visits his girlfriend, Francine Ley. He tells her to leave her other boyfriend, a gambler named Johnny DeRuse, for him, but Francine points out that George does not have enough money. George tells Francine not to worry: He has information about Hugo Candless that can get him some money. Candless double-crossed a Reno gangster, Zapparty, whose half brother was on trial for murder. The lawyer took twenty-five thousand dollars to defend the gangster’s relative but instead made a deal on another case with the district attorney and allowed Zapparty’s half brother to go to prison and be executed.

While George and Francine are talking and drinking, they are watched by Johnny DeRuse, who has come in quietly. After a time, Johnny bangs the door to make it appear that he has just entered, strides past the couple, and goes into Francine’s bedroom, where he begins packing his suitcase. He also straps a small pistol to his leg. As Johnny packs, George departs. Johnny tells Francine that he is leaving her because he saw a mobster, Mops Parisi, who could give him trouble because Johnny once called the police when he knew that Parisi had arranged a kidnaping. Francine says that the real reason he is leaving is that he knows that he is losing her to George, who, in spite of appearances, is a tougher man than he.

As Johnny leaves Francine’s apartment, he is accosted by two men who hold him at gunpoint, take the gun that Johnny has kept in a shoulder holster, and lead him into the limousine in which Hugo Candless died. However, the two men, one of whom is called Chuck, overlook the gun that Johnny has concealed on his leg, and, using this weapon, Johnny kills Chuck and shoots a hole in the thick glass. The car crashes, Johnny shoots and kills the driver, and searches the pockets of both men. He finds matches from the Club Egypt in one man’s pocket, and the same kind of matches and a hotel key for room 809 at the Hotel Metropole in Chuck’s pocket. Johnny drives the car back to town, parks it, and takes a cab back to Francine’s apartment. He notes the license number of the limousine: SA6.

Johnny calls a friend at a newspaper to find out...

(The entire section is 1126 words.)