The Second Confession | Chapter 21 of 32 - Part: 1 of 4

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

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Chapter 16

The pictures came out pretty well, considering. Since Wolfe had told me to order four prints of each, there was about half a bushel. That evening after dinner, as Saul and I sat in the office inspecting and assorting them, it seemed to me there were more of Madeline than I remembered taking, and I left most of them out of the pile we were putting to one side for Wolfe. There were three good ones of Rony—one full-face, one three-quarters, and one profile—and one of the shots of the membership card was something to be proud of. That alone should have got me a job on Life. Webster Kane wasn’t photogenic, but Paul Emerson was. I remarked on that fact to Wolfe as I went to put his collection on his desk. He grunted. I asked if he was ready for my report for the afternoon, and he said he would go through the pictures first.

Paul Emerson was one of the causes for the delay on my report. Saul and I had got back to the office shortly after six, but Wolfe’s schedule had been shattered by the emergency on the roof, and he didn’t come down until 6:28. At that minute he strode in, turned the radio on and dialed to WPIT, went to his chair behind the desk, and sat with his lips tightened.

The commercial came, and the introduction, and then Emerson’s acid baritone:

This fine June afternoon it is no pleasure to have to report that the professors are at it again—but then they always are—oh, yes, you can count on the professors. One of them made a speech last night at Boston, and if you have anything left from last week’s pay you’d better hide it under the mattress. He wants us not only to feed and clothe everybody on earth, but educate them also.…

Part of my education was watching Wolfe’s face while Emerson was broadcasting. His lips, starting fairly tight, kept getting tighter and tighter until there was only a thin straight hairline and his cheeks were puffed and folded like a contour map. When the tension got to a certain point his mouth would pop open, and in a moment close, and it would start over again. I used to test my powers of observation, trying to spot the split second for the pop.

Minutes later Emerson was taking a crack at another of his pet targets:

… they call themselves World Federalists, this bunch of amateur statesmen, and they want us to give up the one thing we’ve got left—the right to make our own decisions about our own affairs. They think it would be fine if we had to ask permission of all the world’s runts and funny-looking dimwits every time we wanted to move our furniture around a little, or even to leave it where it is.…

I anticipated the pop of Wolfe’s mouth by three seconds, which was par. I couldn’t expect to hit it right on the nose. Emerson developed that theme a while and then swung into his finale. He always closed with a snappy swat at some personality whose head was temporarily sticking up from the mob:

Well, friends and fellow citizens, a certain so-called genius has busted loose again right here in New York, where I live only because I have to. You may have heard of this fat fantastic creature who goes by the good old American name of Nero Wolfe. Just before I went on the air we received here at the studio a press release from a firm of midtown lawyers—a firm which is now minus a partner because one of them, a man named Louis Rony, got killed in an automobile accident Monday night. The authorities have investigated thoroughly and properly, and there is no question about its being an accident or about who was responsible. The authorities know all about it, and so does the public, which means you.

But this so-called genius knows more than everybody else put together—as usual. Since the regrettable accident took place on the property of a prominent citizen—a man whom I have the honor to know as a friend and as a great American—it was too good a chance for the genius to miss, to get some cheap publicity. The press release from the firm of lawyers states that Nero Wolfe intends to pursue his investigation of Rony’s death until he learns the truth. How do you like that? What do you think of this insolent abuse of the machinery of justice in a free country like ours? If I may be permitted to express an opinion, I think we could get along very well without that kind of a genius in our America.

Among four-legged brutes there is a certain animal which neither works for its food nor fights for it. A squirrel earns its acorns, and a beast of prey earns its hard-won meal. But this animal skulks among the trees and rocks and tall grass, looking for misfortune and suffering. What a way to live! What a diet that is, to eat misfortune! How lucky we are that it is only among four-legged brutes that we may find such a scavenger as that!

Perhaps I should apologize, my friends and fellow citizens, for this digression into the field of natural history. Good-bye for another ten days. Tomorrow, and for the remainder of my vacation, Robert Burr will be with you again in my place. I had to come to town today, and the temptation to come to the studio and talk to you was too much for me. Here is Mr. Griswold for my sponsor.

Another voice, as cordial and sunny as Emerson’s was acid, began telling us of the part played by Continental Mines Corporation in the greatness of America. I got up and crossed to the radio to turn it off.

“I hope he spelled your name right,” I remarked to Wolfe. “What do you know? He went to all that trouble right in the middle of his vacation just to give you a plug. Shall we write and thank him?”

No reply. Obviously that was no time to ask if he wanted our report for the afternoon, so I didn’t. And later, after dinner, as I have said, he decided to do a survey of the pictures first.

He liked them so much that he practically suggested I should quit detective work and take up photography. There were thirty-eight different shots in the collection I put on his desk. He rejected nine of them, put six in his top drawer, and asked for all four prints of the other twenty-three. As Saul and I got them together I noticed that he had no outstanding favorites. All the family and guests were well represented, and of course the membership card was included. Then they all had to be labeled on the back and placed in separate envelopes, also labeled. He put a rubber band around them and put them in his top drawer.

Again the report got postponed, this time by the arrival of Doc Vollmer. He accepted Wolfe’s offer of a bottle of beer, as he always did when he called in the evening, and after it had been brought by Fritz and his throat was wet he told his story. His reception at White Plains had been neither warm nor cold, he said, just businesslike, and after a phone call to Wolfe an Assistant DA had escorted him to the morgue. As for what he had found, the best he could do was a guess. The center of the impact of the car’s wheels had been the fifth rib, and the only sign of injury higher on Rony than that was a bruise on the right side of his head, above the ear. Things that had happened to his hips and legs showed that they had been under the car, so his head and shoulders must have been projecting beyond the wheels. It was possible that the head bruise had been caused by contact with the gravel of the drive, but it was also possible that he had been struck on the head with something and knocked out before the car ran over him. If the latter, the instrument had not been something with a sharp edge, or with a limited area of impact like the head of a hammer or wrench, but neither had it had a smooth surface like a baseball bat. It had been blunt and rough and heavy.

Wolfe was frowning. “A golf club?”

“I shouldn’t think so.”

“A tennis racket?”

“Not heavy enough.”

“A piece of iron pipe?”

“No. Too smooth.”

“A piece of a branch from a tree with stubs of twigs on it?”

“That would be perfect if it were heavy enough.” Vollmer swallowed some beer. “Of course all I had was a hand glass. With the hair and scalp under a microscope some evidence might be found. I suggested that to the Assistant District Attorney, but he showed no enthusiasm. If there had been an opportunity to snip off a piece I would have brought it home with me, but he didn’t take his eyes off of me. Now it’s too late because they were ready to prepare the body for burial.”

“Was the skull cracked?”

“No. Intact. Apparently the medical examiner had been curious too. The scalp had been peeled back and replaced.”

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

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