The Second Confession | Chapter 22 of 32 - Part: 1 of 3

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

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Chapter 17

Like all good drivers, I don’t need my mind for country driving, just my eyes and ears and reflexes. So when we’re on a case and I’m at the wheel of the car in the open, I’m usually gnawing away at the knots. But as I rolled north on the parkways that fine sunny June morning I had to find something else to gnaw on, because in that case I couldn’t tell a knot from a doughnut. There was no puzzle to it; it was merely a grab bag. So I let my mind skip around as it pleased, now and then concentrating on the only puzzle in sight, which was this: had Wolfe sent me up here because he thought I might really get something, or merely to get me out of the way while he consulted his specialist? I didn’t know. I took it for granted that the specialist was Mr. Jones, whom I had never been permitted to meet, though Wolfe had made use of him on two occasions that I knew of. Mr. Jones was merely the name he had given me offhand when I had had to make an entry in the expense book.

On the phone I had suggested to Madeline that it might be more tactful for me to park outside the entrance and meet her somewhere on the grounds, and she replied that when it got to where she had to sneak me in she would rather I stayed out. I didn’t insist, because my errand would take me near the house anyway, and Sperling would be away, at his office in New York, and I doubted if Jimmy or Mom would care to raise a howl at sight of me since we were now better acquainted. So I turned in at the entrance and drove on up to the house, and parked on the plaza behind the shrubbery, at the exact spot I had chosen before.

The sun was shining and birds were twittering and leaves and flowers were everywhere in their places, and Madeline, on the west terrace, had on a cotton print with big yellow butterflies on it. She came to meet me, but stopped ten feet off to stare.

“My Lord,” she exclaimed, “that’s exactly what I wanted to do! Who got ahead of me?”

“That’s a swell attitude,” I said bitterly. “It hurts.”

“Certainly it does, that’s why we do it.” She had advanced and was inspecting my cheek at close range. “It was a darned good job. You look simply awful. Hadn’t you better go and come back in a week or two?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Who did it?”

“You’d be surprised.” I tilted my head to whisper in her ear. “Your mother.”

She laughed a nice little laugh. “She might do the other side, at that, if you get near her. You should have seen her face when I told her you were coming. How about a drink? Some coffee?”

“No, thanks. I’ve got work to do.”

“So you said. What’s this about a wallet?”

“It’s not really a wallet, it’s a card case. In summer clothes, without enough pockets, it’s a problem. You told me it hadn’t been found in the house, so it must be outdoors somewhere. When we were out looking for your sister Monday night it was in my hip pocket, or it was when we started, and in all the excitement I didn’t miss it until yesterday. I’ve got to have it because my license is in it.”

“Your driving license?”

I shook my head. “Detective license.”

“That’s right, you’re a detective, aren’t you? All right, come on.” She moved. “We’ll take the same route. What does it look like?”

Having her along wasn’t part of my plan. “You’re an angel,” I told her. “You’re a little cabbage. In that dress you remind me of a girl I knew in the fifth grade. I’m not going to let you ruin it scrambling around hunting that damn card case. Leave me but don’t forget me. If and when I find it I’ll let you know.”

“Not a chance.” She was smiling with a corner of her mouth up. “I’ve always wanted to help a detective find something, especially you. Come on!”

She was either onto me or she wasn’t, but in any case it was plain that she had decided to stay with me. I might as well pretend that nothing would please me better, so I did.

“What does it look like?” she asked as we circled the house and started to cross the lawn toward the border.

Since the card case was at that moment in my breast pocket, the simplest way would have been to show it to her, but under the circumstances I preferred to describe it. I told her it was pigskin, darkened by age, and four inches by six. It wasn’t to be seen on the lawn. We argued about where we had gone through the shrubbery, and I let her win. It wasn’t there either, and a twig whipped my wounded cheek as I searched beneath the branches. After we had passed through the gate into the field we had to go slower because the grass was tall enough to hide a small object like a card case. Naturally I felt foolish, kicking around three or four blocks away from where I wanted to be, but I had told my story and was stuck with it.

We finally finished with the field, including the route around the back of the outbuildings, and the inside of the barn. As we neared the vicinity of the house from the other direction, the southwest, I kept bearing left, and Madeline objected that we hadn’t gone that way. I replied that I had been outdoors on other occasions than our joint night expedition, and went still further left. At last I was in bounds. Thirty paces off was a clump of trees, and just the other side of it was the graveled plaza where my car was parked. If someone had batted Rony on the head, for instance with a piece of a branch of a tree with stubs of twigs on it, before running the car over him, and if he had then put the branch in the car and it was still there when he drove back to the house to park, and if he had been in a hurry and the best he could do was give the branch a toss, it might have landed in the clump of trees or near by. That cluster of ifs will indicate the kind of errand Wolfe had picked for me. Searching the grounds for a likely weapon was a perfectly sound routine idea, but it needed ten trained men with no inhibitions, not a pretty girl in a cotton print looking for a card case and a born hero pretending he was doing likewise.

Somebody growled something that resembled “Good morning.”

It was Paul Emerson. I was nearing the edge of the clump of trees, with Madeline not far off. When I looked up I could see only the top half of Emerson because he was standing on the other side of my car and the hood hit the rest of him. I told him hello, not expansively.

“This isn’t the same car,” he stated.

“That’s right,” I agreed. “The other one was a sedan. That’s a convertible. You have a sharp eye. Why, did you like the sedan better?”

“I suppose,” he said cuttingly, “you have Mr. Sperling’s permission to wander around here?”

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

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