It was a fourplex out near the beach. I stopped the car, looked at the ad again, and went up the walk. Only two of the mailboxes had names on them, and neither was the one I wanted.
This was the right address, though, so it had to be one of the others. I picked one at random and pressed the buzzer. Nothing happened. I tried again, and could hear it faintly somewhere on the second floor.
I waited a minute or two and tried the other. No one answered. I lit a cigarette and turned to look along the street. It was very quiet in the hot afternoon sun. A few cars went past on the sea wall, and far out in the Gulf a shrimp boat crawled like a fly across a mirror.
I swore under my breath. It had looked like a good lead, and I hated to give up. Maybe one of the other tenants would know where he was. I tried the buzzer marked Sorenson first, and when it came up nothing I leaned on the one that said James.
The whole place was as silent as the grave.
I shrugged and went back down the walk. I was about to get into the car when I saw the patio wall in the rear of the place. A walk ran past the side of the building to a high wooden gate, which was closed. There might be somebody back there. I stepped across the front lawn and went back to the gate and opened it.
"Oh. Excuse me," I said.
The girl was a brunette and she was sunbathing in the bottom part of a two-fragment bathing suit. She was lying face down on a long beach towel with a bottle of suntan lotion beside her and a book open in front of her on the grass. She turned her head casually and looked at me through dark glasses.
"Were you looking for someone?" she asked.
Excerpt from A Touch of Death by Charles Williams