PLAYING IT RIGHT
By John and Karen Cogan

"You"ll be staying in room six-ten. Please call me if you need anything."

The clerk handed Matt a key and rang for the bellboy.

"Careful with that. I don't want anything damaged," Matt said, nodding toward his suitcase. "I understand there's been some burglaries here lately," he added.

The clerk looked uncomfortable. "The police are working on it, sir. I'm sure you won't have any trouble."

With a nod, Matt turned, briefly catching the eye of an attractive young woman who was entering the bar.

Matt followed the bellboy up to the room, but he didn't stay long. There was one thing on his mind...the woman.

When he got to the bar, she aIready had company.

"Come on, hon. Don't be unfriendly. Just let me buy you one drink," said the man. "Once you get to know me, you'Il like me. Everybody does."

Again, her eyes met Matt's.

"Hey, where ya goin'?" asked her unwanted companion.

She stopped at Matt's table and said, "Hi! I didn't see you come in. I guess we missed each other."

A wave of blonde hair brushed his face as the girI leaned down to whisper in his ear, "Please let me sit with you for just a little while. That creep at the bar won't leave me alone." Matt looked into her bright blue eyes. They were wide and questioning, waiting for his reply.

"Sure," he said, slipping into her conspiracy.

The man at the bar sauntered unsteadily over to their table.

"So, this is your friend?"

"Yes," her voice was frosty.

Matt spoke quickly. "We'd like to be alone, if you don't mind?"

"I can take a hint. Anyway, there's better joints 'n this un." The man weaved away.

"Thanks," she said. "I hated to impose but I had all I could take of him and you looked like a nice guy."

Matt smiled. He had been described that way before.

The girl offered her hand. She had long sculptured fingernails.

"My name's Toni," she said giving him a smile. "I'm a model and I've got a fashion show here tomorrow."

Matt took her hand. "Matt Tyler. I'm here on business too. Since we're both alone tonight, how about dinner? I think the place on the corner even has dancing."

"That sounds great."

Toni smiled and a dimple formed on each side of her mouth. Matt wondered if she knew how appealing it made her look.

He paid the bar tab and they left to walk down the block to the restaurant. There was a slight chill in the night air and as they left the hotel lobby. Toni placed her arm through his. He could feel the warmth of her body through his coat.

The evening went quickly. After dinner, they danced until Toni suddenly exclaimed, "I didn't know it was getting so late. I better get back." She smiled apologetically. "I have an early day tomorrow."

"You'll be busy all day?"

"I'm afraid so."

Matt walked her back to the hotel. When they reached the lobby, he knew it was the moment of truth. Would she or wouldn't she?

"Would you like to come to my room for a nightcap?" he asked.

Toni smiled slowly.

"Well, I really shouldn't, but maybe I'll come up for one quick drink." Pausing at the desk, she explained, "But I do need to check at the desk and see if I have any messages. You go on ahead. I'll meet you at your room." She gave him a look that was full of promise.

"Sure." Matt nodded. "See you in a minute." As he walked to the bank of elevators, a slow smile crept across his face. If he'd played his cards right this evening, this would turn out just like he had planned.

The thrill of the chase was hot in his veins and Matt couldn't wait to get to his room. It seemed like forever before the elevator reached his floor. Matt walked out, and down to his room. Pausing before the door, he impatiently dug the key from his pocket. He thrust the door open to a room that bore no resemblance to the one he had left. His suitcase lay spilled across the bed and Matt guessed without looking that the cash he had left inside was gone.

Turning quickly, he dashed from the room toward the elevator. The doors opened immediately when he pushed the call button. When he reached the lobby, he looked around. He saw no sign of Toni.

"Did a young lady, a blonde, ask you for her messages just a moment ago?" he asked the desk clerk.

The clerk gave him a puzzled look.

No, sir," he answered. "No one's been by here in the last few minutes."

His answer confirmed Matt's suspicion. It was a set up. They had played him for a dummy. The guy in the bar was her partner. While she kept Matt busy, the man looted his room. She had even got a free meal out of him.

It was an old trick...a beautiful girl, a naive and vulnurable man...and he had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. It was the perfect set-up and Matt had been the stooge.

"Do you have a phone I could use?" Matt asked the clerk.

"Yes sir." The young man placed a sleek phone upon the counter.

Quickly, Matt punched in the numbers.

"Yes?" a gruff voice answered.

"Sergeant? It's Matt. Did we get them?"

"Sure did. You were right about that pair, Lieutenant. Rogers just called in. They followed the girl from the lobby and she met him down the street. They had all the things from your room in the car. We had 'em cold. This ought to take care of a bunch of these hotel cases."

"Good work, Sergeant. I'll see you back at headquarters."

It was the perfect set-up.


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