And Be a Villain | Chapter 28 of 35 - Part: 1 of 3

Author: Rex Stout | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 4308 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 21

 

I needn’t have worried. He did give birth, but not to one of his fantastic freaks. The next morning, Saturday, when Fritz returned to the kitchen after taking up the breakfast tray he told me I was wanted.

Since Wolfe likes plenty of air at night but a good warm room at breakfast time it had been necessary, long ago, to install a contraption that would automatically close his window at 6:00 A.M. As a result the eight o’clock temperature permits him to have his tray on a table near the window without bothering to put on a dressing gown. Seated there, his hair not yet combed, his feet bare, and all the yardage of his yellow pajamas dazzling in the morning sun, he is something to blink at, and it’s too bad that Fritz and I are the only ones who ever have the privilege.

I told him it was a nice morning, and he grunted. He will not admit that a morning is bearable, let alone nice, until having had his second cup of coffee, he has got himself fully dressed.

“Instructions,” he growled.

I sat down, opened my notebook, and uncapped my pen. He instructed:

“Get some ordinary plain white paper of a cheap grade; I doubt if any of ours will do. Say five by eight. Type this on it, single-spaced, no date or salutation.”

He shut his eyes. “Since you are a friend of Elinor Vance, this is something you should know. During her last year at college the death of a certain person was ascribed to natural causes and was never properly investigated. Another incident that was never investigated was the disappearance of a jar of cyanide from the electroplating shop of Miss Vance’s brother. It would be interesting to know if there was any connection between those two incidents. Possibly an inquiry into both of them would suggest such a connection.”

“That’s all?”

“Yes. No signature. No envelope. Fold the paper and soil it a little; give it the appearance of having been handled. This is Saturday, but an item in the morning paper tells of the withdrawal of Hi-Spot from sponsorship of Miss Fraser’s program, so I doubt if those people will have gone off for week ends. You may even find that they are together, conferring; that would suit our purpose best. But either together or singly, see them; show them the anonymous letter, ask if they have ever seen it or one similar to it; be insistent and as pestiferous as possible.”

“Including Miss Vance herself?”

“Let circumstances decide. If they are together and she is with them, yes. Presumably she has already been alerted by Mr. Cramer’s men.”

“The professor? Savarese?”

“No, don’t bother with him.” Wolfe drank coffee. “That’s all.”

I stood up. “I might get more or better results if I knew what we’re after. Are we expecting Elinor Vance to break down and confess? Or am I nagging one of them into pulling a gun on me, or what?”

I should have known better, with him still in his pajamas and his hair tousled.

“You’re following instructions,” he said peevishly. “If I knew what you’re going to get I wouldn’t have had to resort to this shabby stratagem.”

“Shabby is right,” I agreed, and left him.

I would of course obey orders, for the same reason that a good soldier does, namely he’d better, but I was not filled with enough zeal to make me hurry my breakfast. My attitude as I set about the preliminaries of the operation was that if this was the best he could do he might as well have stayed dormant. I did not believe that he had anything on Elinor Vance. He does sometimes hire Saul or Orrie or Fred without letting me know what they’re up to or, more rarely, even that they’re working for him, but I can always tell by seeing if money has been taken from the safe. The money was all present or accounted for. You can judge my frame of mind when I state that I halfway suspected that he had picked on Elinor merely because I had gone to a little trouble to have her seated nearest to me the night of the party.

He was, however, right about the week ends. I didn’t start on the phone calls until nine-thirty, not wanting to get them out of bed for something which I regarded as about as useful as throwing rocks at the moon. The first one I tried, Bill Meadows, said he hadn’t had breakfast yet and he didn’t know when he would have some free time, because he was due at Miss Fraser’s apartment at eleven for a conference and there was no telling how long it would last. That indicated that I would have a chance to throw at two or more moons with one stone, and another couple of phone calls verified it. There was a meeting on. I did the morning chores, buzzed the plant rooms to inform Wolfe, and left a little before eleven and headed uptown.

To show you what a murder case will do to people’s lives, the password routine had been abandoned. But it by no means followed that it was easier than it had been to get up to apartment 10B. Quite the contrary. Evidently journalists and others had been trying all kinds of dodges to get a ride in the elevator, for the distinguished-looking hallman wasn’t a particle interested in what I said my name was, and he steeled himself to betray no sign of recognition. He simply used the phone, and in a few minutes Bill Meadows emerged from the elevator and walked over to us. We said hello.

“Strong said you’d probably show up,” he said. Neither his tone nor his expression indicated that they had been pacing up and down waiting for me. “Miss Fraser wants to know if it’s something urgent.”

“Mr. Wolfe thinks it is.”

“All right, come on.”

He was so preoccupied that he went into the elevator first.

I decided that if he tried leaving me alone in the enormous living room with the assorted furniture, to wait until I was summoned, I would just stick to his heels, but that proved to be unnecessary. He couldn’t have left me alone there because that was where they were.

Madeline Fraser was on the green burlap divan, propped against a dozen cushions. Deborah Koppel was seated on the piano bench. Elinor Vance perched on a corner of the massive old black walnut table. Tully Strong had the edge of his sitter on the edge of the pink silk chair, and Nat Traub was standing. That was all as billed, but there was an added attraction. Also standing, at the far end of the long divan, was Nancylee Shepherd.

“It was Goodwin,” Bill Meadows told them, but they would probably have deduced it anyhow, since I had dropped my hat and coat in the hall and was practically at his elbow. He spoke to Miss Fraser:

Comments

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Maria Garcia
Hi Mohammad Davoodi, we have fixed the issue, thank you for bringing this to our notice.
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Mohammad Davoodi
Chapter 24 is missing. Can you add it please
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