The Case of the Singing Skirt
said. "They think I'm working too hard. They'd like to pay our expenses to Acapulco and have us keep out of circulation for a while."
    "And you told them?" Della Street asked.
    "That I was busy," Mason said.
    "And so, now?" she asked.
    "Now," Mason said, "we get out of Rowena-fast."

    Thursday afternoon, while Della Street was out of the office on an errand, the unlisted telephone in Mason's office buzzed its signal.
    Mason, knowing that Paul Drake was the only outsider in possession of the unlisted number, dropped the book he was reading, picked up the telephone, said, "Hello. What is it?"
    Paul Drake's voice, clipped with urgency, came over the phone. "Perry, have you heard from your client in that Rowena case?"
    "Ellen Robb?"
    "I haven't heard from her all day, Paul. Why?"
    "Better get her," Drake said.
    "What's happened?"
    "I don't know for sure. I can give you some of it."
    "Mrs. Ellis boarded her yacht and took off for destinations unknown."
    "I know," Mason said. "I talked with the lobbyist for the gambling interests, and he had an all-points bulletin out for the yacht. He thought it was due in Ensenada or in Catalina."
    "Well, here's the thing," Drake said. "Sometime late this morning a submarine that was quite a ways out beyond Catalina Island noticed a boat in proscribed waters. It was drifting aimlessly. The submarine hailed the boat, got no answer and went aboard. The boarding officer found the cabin was locked, found the tanks were out of gas, that no one seemed to be aboard. He forced the cabin door and right away knew something had happened."
    "Such as what?"
    "Go on," Mason said.
    "The body inside had been there for a while. It was the body of Mrs. Ellis. She had evidently tried to protect herself. There were evidences of a struggle. The gun that she had evidently tried to use was lying by her hand. One shot had been fired from it. The gun was cocked, ready for a second shot, which Mrs. Ellis never got a chance to fire. There were two bullet wounds in the body, apparently both of them chest wounds. Either one would have been fatal within a matter of minutes. There had been a massive hemorrhage, and the inside of the cabin was a mess.
    "Now then, there's something that links Ellen Robb to the case. I don't know what it is, but I understand police are looking for hen. They have out an all-points bulletin and they're really making a search."
    "Anything else?" Mason asked.
    "That's all."
    "Okay," Mason said. "I'll get busy. Where are you now?"
    "At the office."
    "Stay there," Mason said. "Hold a couple of good men in readiness. Now, you have bodyguards watching Ellen Robb's motel?"
    "That's right."
    "You've had a recent report from them?"
    "Within an hour. She's at the motel."
    "Any visitors?"
    "Apparently she's been pure as the driven snow, if you mean has she been entertaining Helman Ellis in the motel."
    "That's what I meant primarily," Mason said. "Anything else?"
    "Nothing else."
    Mason said, "I'm going down there, Paul, and you'd better pull your men off the job. When the police show up, if they find private detectives on guard, they'll start asking questions. We may not want to answer those questions."
    "Okay," Drake said. "I'll get busy."
    Mason called the receptionist on the intercom, said, "When Della comes in tell her to wait for a call from me, Gertie. I'm going out on an emergency. Cancel any appointments for the next hour and a half."
    He picked up his brief case, grabbed his hat, left the office and drove to the Surf and Sea Motel at Costa Mesa. He tapped on the door of Unit 19.
    "Who is it?" Ellen Robb's voice asked.
    "Mason," the lawyer said.
    "Oh," she said. Then, after a moment, "I'm not even decent, Mr. Mason."
    "Get decent," Mason said. "This is important."
    "How important?" she asked, sudden alarm in her voice.
    "Important enough to get me down here," Mason said.
    Ellen Robb turned the key in the lock. "Come on in," she said.
    Mason entered.

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