It was a hot, muggy afternoon in Florida when two dames entered the office of the Wallace & Davis Private Investigators. Bob Wallace saw that both were worried and distressed. Phil Davis saw that both were beautiful. The brunette was the first to speak, "Mr. Wallace and Mr. Davis?"
"That would be us, Miss," Bob replied, pulling out a chair for her.
Not to be outdone, Phil pulled out a chair for the blonde. "How can we help you?"
"We're Betty and Judy Haynes," the blonde explained, her voice a lovely alto to her sister's sweet soprano. "We hoped you could help us. The sheriff won't."
Bob and Phil exchanged glances over the sisters' heads. Pulling out his handkerchief, Bob offered it to Betty. "Why won't the sheriff help you?"
"He says Bennie isn't really missing," Judy answered with a toss of her blonde head, brown eyes glittering with more than anger.
Betty dabbed at her blue eyes with Bob's handkerchief. "But he won't tell us where Bennie is, so we're worried anyway."
"We'll find Bennie for you," Bob replied before Phil could say a word. "I promise."
The brunette looked up at him with surprise. "We haven't even talked about a price."
"Bennie served with us in the Army," Bob told her, shooting a glance at Phil that made the redhead shut his mouth on whatever he'd been about to say. "That's reason enough for us to look for him."
Betty smiled thankfully, sniffing back the last of her tears. "Oh, thank you, Mr. Wallace."
"Not at all, Miss Haynes," Bob smiled faintly when she stood up and kissed his cheek. "He's an old pal in the Army after all."
Phil nodded, finally finding his own voice, "Yeah, Bennie would do the same for us if the situation were reversed."
"Thank you, Mr. Davis." Judy stood up, and then rose on her toes to kiss his cheek. "You're both very sweet."
He cleared his throat to keep his voice from cracking. "We'll do our best, Miss Haynes."
"Here's our address and phone number," Betty wrote them down on the back of a business card. "This is where we're performing for now. Please keep in touch."
Bob accepted the card then took Betty's gloved hand to brush a kiss across the back. "We will."
"It's time we were going," Judy observed, gently taking her sister's arm.
Once they'd disappeared, Phil turned to Bob. "What's this about doing it for a pal in the Army?"
"Don't you remember the old mess sergeant, Bennie Haynes?" Bob asked, turning to grab his suit coat from the back of his chair.
Phil made no move to grab his own suit coat, staring at his friend and partner. "You can't mean that those two gorgeous dames are old Freckle-Face's sisters?"
"He told me about 'em once," Bob answered calmly, plucking their hats from the coat stand and tossing Phil's to him. "He loves 'em and wouldn't do anything to worry 'em intentionally."
The redhead caught his hat reflexively, still not convinced. "We can't afford to do this for free, you know."
"Let's find the dames' brother first, and then discuss a fee," Bob retorted, coming over to take Phil's hat, jam it on his head, and shove the taller man's suit coat into his arms. "Let's go."
As the shorter man propelled him from the office, shutting and locking the door behind them, Phil asked, "First stop is the sheriff's office, then?"
"Yep." Bob pocketed the key and headed off.
Pulling on his suit coat, Phil easily caught up to the other man with his longer legs and fell into step with him. "How could a guy as ugly as Dog-Face Boy have the nerve to have dames as cute as those two for sisters?"
"Very brave parents, I guess."
"They're as gorgeous as I thought they would be," Judy gushed to her sister as they rode the bus. "Especially Mr. Wallace, wouldn't you say?"
Betty didn't comment at first, staring out the window beside her. "It doesn't matter if they're good-looking or not, just that they agreed to look for Bennie."
"Yes, but it doesn't hurt that they're quite handsome," Judy glanced slyly at her older sister. "I saw you blush when Mr. Wallace kissed your hand."
The brunette didn't look at her sister as she carefully checked the clasp on her purse. "I just suddenly felt warm. It's been an unusually warm fall, you know."
"We've been in Florida since the spring," Judy couldn't resist pointing out. "You should be used to the heat."
Rather than respond, Betty reached up to signal for their stop. Neither said a word until they were safely on the sidewalk in front of Novello's. "Handsome or not, they're only helping us because Bennie was in the Army with them."
"A girl can dream," Judy replied, following her sister into the club. They waved to the janitor on their way to the dressing room.
As they walked along, the elder of the two responded quietly, "Dream all you want when we're not rehearsing or performing. We can't afford to mess up. You know it's very good of Novello to let us stay here instead of a hotel. Who knows what a landlord would try to do to get a little extra money out of us."
"I've heard stories about landlords claiming girls have burnt holes in their rugs and demanding that they pay up to $200 for it," Judy agreed, removing her hat and setting it on the hat stand next to Betty's. "I'll be good, I promise."
"Thank you." Judy watched out of the corner of her eye as Betty opened her purse and removed the handkerchief she'd tucked safely inside. On the corner she could see were the initials B.W.
"Bennie Haynes?" Sheriff Lou Reynolds repeated, looking from one man to the other. "Don't tell me his sisters hired you."
Phil answered for both of them, smirking, "All right, we won't tell you, then."
"Look." The older, balding man folded his hands on the desk in front of him, watery gray eyes serious. "I already told the girls that he's not missing."
Bob leaned forward, blue eyes intent. "Why won't tell them where he is, then? Just saying he's not missing won't stop them from worrying. Not after the war."
"Bennie doesn't want them to know," The sheriff answered reluctantly.
"So he's going to let them worry and wonder until he decides to contact them," Phil commented dryly, stretching out his long legs and crossing them at the ankle.
Sheriff Reynolds sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. "I didn't say I agree with him, but that's the way he wants it."
"Can we talk with him at least?" Bob asked, shooting a glance at Phil that suggested his friend be quiet for the moment. "Maybe we can talk some sense into him."
The other man gave Bob an exasperated look. "You think I haven't tried that myself?"
"Since we've seen the girls lately, we can tell him that they're worried sick about him," Bob responded, deep voice smooth and persuasive. "Maybe he'll at least write to them and let them know he's still alive, that nothing's happened to him."
A smirk curled the sheriff's lips. "You can try if you like, but you'll have to go to New York if you want to talk with him."
"New--" Phil started to exclaim before Bob kicked his shin.
The redhead gave his black-haired companion a wounded look, but the shorter man simply ignored it as he got to his feet and offered his hand. "Thank you for your time."
"It's not as if I have much to do right now," Sheriff Reynolds drawled as he shook Bob's hand, and then Phil's.
For once, Phil followed his partner's lead and left without saying a word. Out on the street, though, he commented: "Off to New York we go, tally ho! Ho-ho!"
"That's enough, Phil." Bob headed for their car. "Tickets to New York aren't cheap."
The taller man kept pace easily. "I sure hope whatever trouble Bennie got himself into was for a good cause."
"Knowing Bennie, he probably got mixed up in something because a beautiful dame flashed her eyes at him." The men got into their car and Bob carefully pulled out of their spot.
As Bob wove his way through the traffic, Phil remarked, "Or maybe she flashed her cleavage at him instead."
It had been easy enough to find Bennie at Sing-Sing. As they'd guessed, he'd landed himself in prison and hadn't wanted to tell his sisters because he figured he wasn't going to be in there long. Apparently, he'd fallen in with a beautiful woman who was going to get him out soon. "She was gorgeous, you know? An hourglass figure with sand packed in all the right places, and she liked me. Guys like me don't often have that kind of luck, so I wasn't exactly going to question my good luck."
"Didn't it seem a little too good to be true?" Phil asked after a brief glance at Bob. "As you said, guys like you don't usually have gorgeous women showing interest in you."
Bob took over at that point, his baritone voice a soothing counterpoint to Phil's tenor. "When they do show any interest, there's usually a reason behind the unexpected interest. An ulterior motive, if you like."
"Not her!" Bennie protested fervently, muddy brown eyes warm with puppy love for the dame in question. "It's all a misunderstanding. I'm sure she'll come and clear everything up any day now."
At a signal from Bob, the two men stood up and moved away so they could talk in whispers. "You knew him better than me, Bob. Do you think he'll give in?"
"No, she got her hooks in him pretty good, whoever she is." Bob shook his head regretfully.
"So we'll have to track her down and prove to him that she doesn't care about him." Phil sighed in frustration. "Which we can't do without her name."
The shorter man raised his eyebrows and reminded the taller man, "The other option is to bring his sisters here to see him."
Phil shook his head this time. "No, they shouldn't visit a place like this."
"Exactly." Bob hid a smile at his friend's unconscious reaction. "So we need to get him to refer to her by name."
The redhead thought for several moments. "Maybe if we keep harping on a gorgeous dame really wanting him, we'll get him defensive enough to say her name by accident."
"You know, that just might work." The dark-haired man nodded in agreement. "You'd better do it. You're better at being tactless."
Phil rolled his eyes as they moved back to their seats. "Thanks, Bob." He turned his attention to Bennie. "So, an hourglass figure with sand in all the right places?"
"Oh, yeah." Bennie nodded, smiling reminiscently. "All the right places."
The two detectives exchanged a glance. "Are you sure she didn't use any padding?"
"Padding?" The younger man stared blankly at Phil for a moment before he realized what the redhead was referring to. "No, no! It was all her. No padding."
This time, Phil smirked. "How would you know? You'd have to have seen her naked or near-naked to know something like that."
At that point, the former mess sergeant's cheeks turned so red that his freckles disappeared. "Well, I--"
"A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell, Bennie," Bob interrupted, stopping him from saying anything more, even though they all knew.
"I don't think he really did see her," Phil commented in an aside to Bob. "There's no way a gorgeous dame would let any guy see her in all her glory." He glanced at Bennie with a smug smile. "How do we even know this dame is real?"
Slamming his hands flat on the table, Bennie stood up so fast that he knocked his chair over. "Miss Lenz does exist!"
"All right, all right, calm down." Bob held up his hands placatingly. "We believe you. She does exist. Just calm down."
His lips pressed into a thin line, Bennie shook his head and turned away. "I think we're done here, Bob."
"I think you're right, Phil," the older man agreed as they stood up.
Minutes later saw them driving back to their hotel. "Miss Lenz, hmm?"
"We'd just better hope whatever name she gave Bennie isn't an alias," Bob commented, his eyes on the road.
Phil lounged in the passenger seat. "Even if it is, she had to have used it for awhile. There'll be some trail to pick up."
"A good point." Bob nodded.
Both of them were quiet for a long stretch. Finally, Phil murmured, "Bennie's going to be crushed."
"Better now than later," the older man answered shortly.
"At least he'll have his sisters." It sounded like the younger man was trying to convince himself.
"Yeah." They were silent for the rest of the drive back.
They returned several days later, armed with a large envelope of photos. Bennie stared at it as if it was going to jump up and bite him. Bob started the explanation. "Doris Lenz is a well-known moll for Eddie Harrison, leader of New York's biggest gang."
"Of course, no one can prove that he's actually involved," Phil added, sounding disgusted. "He always has an impeccable alibi."
Bob finished, his voice sympathetic, "Usually because he has someone else take the fall. In this case: you."
"What's in the envelope?" Bennie didn't seem to have heard anything they'd said.
Phil sighed heavily. "Pictures."
"Of Doris?" Bennie sounded...hungry, almost. As if he was desperate for even a small glimpse of her.
After a long look, Phil nodded reluctantly. "Yes, of Miss Lenz."
"She's not alone in the pictures," Bob tried to warn Bennie.
He was too late. The young man had seized the envelope and opened it, spilling out photo after photo of Doris Lenz. Most were of her on the arm of Eddie Harrison, being escorted on a night out. In others, she was on the arm of one handsome man or another. In every last one, she was smiling or laughing, clearly having a good time. Bennie stared at the pictures for several minutes. When he looked up at the two older men, his eyes were full of cold fury. "I want a lawyer."
"I'll go tell them." Phil got up and left to arrange it.
Bob's quiet voice echoed in the silence. "I'm sorry, Bennie."
Dear Betty and Judy:
I just spoke with Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. When they told me how much you'd been worrying and fretting about me, I felt guilty for not contacting you sooner. I thought I was protecting the woman I loved, but I was really playing the fool. She used me to protect herself. Thanks to Wallace & Davis, though, I'm going to be a free man. Eventually. I'm sorry I didn't write before. I'll see you when I get out of here.
I love you both,
When Bennie was released for good behavior a year and a half later, he was just in time to give his sisters away at their double wedding. Betty married Bob and Judy married Phil. He couldn't be happier for the four of them.