The Second Confession | Chapter 15 of 32 - Part: 1 of 4

Author: Rex Stout | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2659 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 10

At eleven o’clock the next morning, Tuesday, Cleveland Archer, District Attorney of Westchester County, said to James U. Sperling, “This is a very regrettable affair. Very.”

It would probably have been not Archer himself, but one of his assistants, sitting there talking like that, but for the extent of Stony Acres, the number of rooms in the house, and the size of Sperling’s tax bill. That was only natural. Wolfe and I had had a couple of previous contacts with Cleveland Archer, most recently when we had gone to the Pitcairn place near Katonah to get a replacement for Theodore when his mother was sick. Archer was a little plump and had a round red face, and he could tell a constituent from a tourist at ten miles, but he wasn’t a bad guy.

“Very regrettable,” he said.

None of the occupants of the house had been kept up all night, not even me, who had found the body. The State cops had arrived first, followed soon by a pair of county dicks from White Plains, and, after some rounds of questions without being too rude, they had told everyone to go to bed—that is, everyone but me. I was singled out not only because I had found the body, which was just a good excuse, but because the man who singled me would have liked to do unto me as I would have liked to do unto him. He was Lieutenant Con Noonan of the State Police, and he would never forget how I had helped Wolfe make a monkey out of him in the Pitcairn affair. Add to that the fact that he was fitted out at birth for a career as a guard at a slave-labor camp and somehow got delivered to the wrong country, and you can imagine his attitude when he came and saw Wolfe and me there. He was bitterly disappointed when he learned that Wolfe was on Sperling’s payroll and therefore he would have to pretend he knew how to be polite. He was big and tall and in love with his uniform, and he thought he was handsome. At two o’clock one of the county boys, who was really in charge, because the body had not been found on a public highway, told me to go to bed.

I slept five hours, got up and dressed, went downstairs, and had breakfast with Sperling, Jimmy, and Paul Emerson. Emerson looked as sour as ever, but claimed he felt wonderful because of an unusual experience. He said he couldn’t remember when he had had a good night’s sleep, on account of insomnia, but that last night he had gone off the minute his head hit the pillow, and he had slept like a log. Apparently, he concluded, what he needed was the stimulant of a homicide at bedtime, but he didn’t see how he could manage that often enough to help much. Jimmy tried halfheartedly to help along with a bum joke, Sperling wasn’t interested, and I was busy eating in order to get through and take Wolfe’s breakfast tray up to him.

From the bedroom I phoned Fritz and learned that Andy and the others were back at work on the roof and everything was under control. I told him I couldn’t say when we’d be home, and I told Saul to stay on call but to go out for air if he wanted some. I figured that he and Ruth were in the clear, since with Rony gone no one could identify the bandits but me. I also told Saul of the fatal accident that had happened to a friend of the Sperling family, and he felt as Archer did later, that it was very regrettable.

When Wolfe had cleaned the tray I took it back downstairs and had a look around. Madeline was having strawberries and toast and coffee on the west terrace, with a jacket over her shoulders on account of the morning breeze. She didn’t look as if homicides stimulated her the way they did Paul Emerson, to sounder sleep. I had wondered how her eyes would be, wide open or half shut, when her mind was too occupied to keep them to a program, and the answer seemed to be wide open, even though the lids were heavy and the whites not too clear.

Madeline told me that things had been happening while I was upstairs. District Attorney Archer and Ben Dykes, head of the county detectives, had arrived and were in the library with Sperling. An Assistant District Attorney was having a talk with Gwenn up in her room. Mrs. Sperling was staying in bed with a bad headache. Jimmy had gone to the garage for a car to drive to Mount Kisco on a personal errand, and had been told nothing doing because the scientific inspection of the Sperlings’ five vehicles had not been completed. Paul and Connie Emerson had decided that house guests must be a nuisance in the circumstances, and that they should leave, but Ben Dykes earnestly requested them to stay; and anyhow their car too, with the others in the garage, was not available. A New York newspaper reporter had got as far as the house by climbing a fence and coming through the woods to the lawn, and had been bounced by a State cop.

It looked as if it wouldn’t be merely a quick hello and good-by, in spite of the size of the house and grounds, with all the fancy trees and bushes and three thousand roses. I left Madeline to her third cup of coffee on the terrace and strolled to the plaza behind the shrubbery where I had left the sedan. It was still there, and so were two scientists, making themselves familiar with it. I stood and watched them a while without getting as much as a glance from them, and then moved on. Moseying around, it seemed to me that something was missing. How had all the law arrived, on foot or horseback? It needed investigation. I circled the house and struck out down the front drive. In the bright June morning sun the landscape certainly wasn’t the same as it had been the night before when I had taken that walk with Madeline. The drive was perfectly smooth, whereas last night it had kept having warts where my feet landed.

As I neared the bridge over the brook I got my question answered. Fifteen paces this side of the brook a car was parked in the middle of the drive, and another car was standing on the bridge. More scientists were at work on the drive, concentrated at its edge, in the space between the two cars. So they had found something there last night that they wanted to preserve for daylight inspection, and no cars had been allowed to pass, including the DA’s. I thoroughly approved. Always willing to learn, I approached and watched the operations with deep interest. One who was presumably not a scientist but an executive, since he was just standing looking, inquired, “You doing research?”

“No, sir,” I told him. “I smelled blood, and my grandfather was a cannibal.”

“Oh, a gag man. You’re not needed. Beat it.”

Not feeling like arguing, I stood and watched. In about ten minutes, not less, he reminded me. “I said beat it.”

“Yeah, I know. I didn’t think you were serious, because I have a friend who is a lawyer, and that would be silly.” I tilted my head back and sniffed twice. “Chicken blood. From a White Wyandotte rooster with catarrh. I’m a detective.”

I had an impulse to go take a look at the bush where I had found Rony, which looked much closer to the drive than it had seemed last night, but decided that might start a real quarrel, and I didn’t want to make enemies. The executive was glaring at me. I grinned at him as a friend and headed back up the drive.

As I mounted the three steps to the wide front terrace a State employee in uniform stepped toward me.

“Your name Goodwin?”

I admitted it.

He jerked his head sideways. “You’re wanted inside.”

I entered and crossed the vestibule to the reception hall. Madeline, passing through, saw me and stopped.

“Your boss wants you.”

“The worm. Where, upstairs?”

“No, the library. They sent for him and they want you too.”

I went to the library.

Wolfe did not have the best chair this time, probably because it had already been taken by Cleveland Archer when he got there. But the one he had would do, and on a little table at his elbow was a tray with a glass and two bottles of beer. Sperling was standing, but after I had pulled up a chair and joined them he sat down too. Archer, who had a table in front of him with some papers on it, was good enough to remember that he had met me before, since of course there was always a chance that I might buy a plot in Westchester and establish a voting residence there.

Wolfe said Archer had some questions to ask me.

Archer, not at all belligerent, nodded at me. “Yes, I’ve got to be sure the record is straight. Sunday night you and Rony were waylaid on Hotchkiss Road.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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