The Silent Speaker | Chapter 31 of 44 - Part: 1 of 3

Author: Rex Stout | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 3034 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 24

From there on I had a feeling that I was out of it. As it turned out, the feeling was not entirely justified, but anyhow I had it.

What Wolfe tells me, and what he doesn’t tell me, never depends, as far as I can make out, on the relevant circumstances. It depends on what he had to eat at the last meal, what he is going to have to eat at the next meal, the kind of shirt and tie I am wearing, how well my shoes are shined, and so forth. He does not like purple. Once Lily Rowan gave me a dozen Sulka shirts, with stripes of assorted colors and shades. I happened to put on the purple one the day we started on the Chesterton-Best case, the guy that burgled his own house and shot a week-end guest in the belly. Wolfe took one look at the shirt and clammed up on me. Just for spite I wore the shirt a week, and I never did know what was going on, or who was which, until Wolfe had it all wrapped up, and even then I had to get most of the details from the newspapers and Dora Chesterton, with whom I had struck up an acquaintance. Dora had a way of—no, I’ll save that for my autobiography.

The feeling that I was out of it had foundation in fact. Tuesday morning Wolfe breakfasted at the usual hour—my deduction from this evidence, that Fritz took up his tray, loaded, at eight o’clock, and brought it down empty at ten minutes to nine. On it was a note instructing me to tell Saul Panzer and Bill Gore, when they phoned in, to report at the office at eleven o’clock, and furthermore to arrange for Del Bascom, head of the Bascom Detective Agency, also to be present. They were all there waiting for him when he came down from the plant rooms, and he chased me out. I was sent to the roof to help Theodore cross-pollinate. When I went back down at lunch time Wolfe told me that envelopes from Bascom were to reach him unopened.

“Hah,” I said. “Reports? Big operations?”

“Yes.” He grimaced. “Twenty men. One of them may be worth his salt.”

There went another five hundred bucks a day up the flue. At that rate the NIA retainer wouldn’t last long.

“Do you want me to move to a hotel?” I inquired. “So I won’t hear anything unfit for my ears?”

He didn’t bother to answer. He never let himself get upset just before a meal if he could help it.

I could not, of course, be really blackballed, no matter what whim had struck him. For one thing, I had been among those present, and was therefore in demand. Friends on papers, especially Lon Cohen of the Gazette, thought I ought to tell them exactly who would be arrested and when and where. And Tuesday afternoon Inspector Cramer decided there was work to be done on me and invited me to Twentieth Street. He and three others did the honors. What was eating him was logic. To this effect: The NIA was Wolfe’s client. Therefore, if I had seen any NIA person lingering unnecessarily in the neighborhood of Kates’s overcoat as it hung in the hall, I would have reported it to Wolfe but not to anyone else. So far so good. Perfectly sound. But then Cramer went on to assume that with two hours of questions, backtracking, leapfrogging, and ambushing, he and his bunch could squeeze it out of me, which was droll. Add to that, that there was nothing in me to squeeze, and it became quaint. Anyhow, they tried hard.

It appeared that Wolfe too thought I might still have uses. When he came down to the office at six o’clock he got into his chair, rang for beer, sat for a quarter of an hour and then said:


It caught me in the middle of a yawn. After that was attended to I said:


He was frowning at me. “You’ve been with me a long time now.”

“Yeah. How shall we do it? Shall I resign, or shall you fire me, or shall we just call it off by mutual consent?”

He skipped that. “I have noted, perhaps in more detail than you think, your talents and capacities. You are an excellent observer, not in any respect an utter fool, completely intrepid, and too conceited to be seduced into perfidy.”

“Good for me. I could use a raise. The cost of living has incr–”

“You eat and sleep here, and because you are young and vain you spend too much for your clothes.” He gestured with a finger. “We can discuss that some other time. What I have in mind is a quality in you which I don’t at all understand but which I know you have. Its frequent result is a willingness on the part of young women to spend time in your company.”

“It’s the perfume I use. From Brooks Brothers. They call it Stag at Eve.” I regarded him suspiciously. “You’re leading up to something. You’ve done the leading up. What’s the something?”

“Find out how willing you can make Miss Boone, as quickly as possible.”

I stared. “You know,” I said reproachfully, “I didn’t know that kind of a thought ever got within a million miles of you. Make Miss Boone? If you can think it you can do it. Make her yourself.”

“I am speaking,” he said coldly, “of an investigating operation by gaining her confidence.”

“That way it sounds even worse.” I continued to stare. “However, let’s put the best possible construction on it. Do you want me to worm a confession out of her that she murdered her uncle and Miss Gunther? No, thanks.”

“Nonsense. You know perfectly well what I want.”

“Tell me anyway. What do you want?”

“I want information on these points. The extent of her personal or social contacts, if any, with anyone connected with the NIA, especially those who were here last night. The same for Mrs. Boone, her aunt. Also, how intimate was she with Miss Gunther, what did they think of each other, and how much did she see of Miss Gunther the past week? That would do to start. If developments warrant it, you can then get more specific. Why don’t you telephone her now?”

“It seems legitimate,” I conceded, “up to the point where we get specific, and that can wait. But do you mean to say you think one of those NIA specimens is it?”


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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