The Adventures Of Sam Spade, стр. 5

He broke off to listen to the sound of a siren in the street. He looked then, for the first time since he had begun to talk, at Ferris.

Ferris's face was ghastly white, but he held his eyes steady.

Spade said, “I've got a hunch, Ferris, that we're going to find out about that red-lighting job, too. You told me you had your carnival company with a partner for a while when Eli was working for you, and then by yourself. We oughtn't to have a lot of trouble finding out about your partner—whether he disappeared, or died a natural death, or is still alive.”

Ferris had lost some of his erectness. He wet his lips and said, “I want to see my lawyer. I don't want to talk till I've seen my lawyer.”

Spade said, “It's all right with me. You're up against it, but I don't like blackmailers myself. I think Eli wrote a good epitaph for them in that book back there—'Too many have lived.'”

THEY CAN ONLY HANG YOU ONCE

SAMUEL SPADE SAID: “My name is Ronald Ames. I want to see Mr. Binnett—Mr. Timothy Binnett.”

“Mr. Binnett is resting now, sir,” the butler replied hesitantly.

“Will you find out when I can see him? It's important.” Spade cleared his throat. “I'm-uh-just back from Australia, and it's about some of his properties there.”

The butler turned on his heel while saying “I'll see, sir,” and was going up the front stairs before he had finished speaking.

Spade made and lit a cigarette.

The butler came downstairs again. “I'm sorry; he can't be disturbed now, but Mr. Wallace Binnett—Mr. Timothy's nephew—will see you.”

Spade said, “Thanks,” and followed the butler upstairs.

Wallace Binnett was a slender, handsome, dark man of about Spade's age—thirty-eight—who rose smiling from a brocaded chair, said, “How do you do, Mr. Ames?” waved his hand at another chair, and sat down again. “You're from Australia?”

“Got in this morning.”

“You're a business associate of Uncle Tim's?”

Spade smiled and shook his head. “Hardly that, but I've some information I think he ought to have—quick.”

Wallace Binnett looked thoughtfully at the floor, then up at Spade. “I'll do my best to persuade him to see you, Mr. Ames, but, frankly, I don't know.”

Spade seemed mildly surprised. “Why?”

Binnett shrugged. “He's peculiar sometimes. Understand, his mind seems perfectly all right, but he has the testiness and eccentricity of an old man in ill health and—well—at times he can be difficult.”

Spade asked slowly: “He's already refused to see me?”

“Yes.”

Spade rose from his chair. His blond satan's face was expressionless.

Binnett raised a hand quickly. “Wait, wait,” he said. “I'll do what I can to make him change his mind. Perhaps if—” His dark eyes suddenly became wary. “You're not simply trying to sell him something, are you?”

“No.”

The wary gleam went out of Binnett's eyes. “Well, then, I think I can —”

A young woman came in crying angrily, “Wally, that old fool has —” She broke off with a hand to her breast when she saw Spade.

Spade and Binnett had risen together. Binnett said suavely: “Joyce, this is Mr. Ames. My sister-in-law, Joyce Court.”

Spade bowed.

Joyce Court uttered a short, embarrassed laugh and said: “Please excuse my whirlwind entrance.” She was a tall, blue-eyed, dark woman of twenty-four or —five with good shoulders and a strong, slim body. Her features made up in warmth what they lacked in regularity. She wore wide-legged blue satin pajamas.

Binnett smiled good-naturedly at her and asked: “Now what's all the excitement?”

Anger darkened her eyes again and she started to speak. ; Then she looked at Spade and said: “But we shouldn't bore Mr. Ames with our stupid domestic affairs. If—” She hesitated.

Spade bowed again. “Sure,” he said, “certainly.”

“I won't be a minute,” Binnett promised, and left the room with her.

Spade went to the open doorway through which they had vanished and, standing just inside, listened. Their footsteps became inaudible. Nothing else could be heard. Spade was standing there—his yellow-gray eyes dreamy—when he heard the scream. It was a woman's scream, high and shrill with terror. Spade was through the doorway when he heard the shot. It was a pistol shot, magnified, reverberated by walls and ceilings.

Twenty feet from the doorway Spade found a staircase, and went up it1 three steps at a time. He turned to the left. Halfway down the hallway a woman lay on her back on the floor.

Wallace Binnett knelt beside her, fondling one of her hands desperately, crying in a low, beseeching voice: “Darling, Molly, darling!”

Joyce Court stood behind him and wrung her hands while tears streaked her cheeks.

The woman on the floor resembled Joyce Court but was older, and her face had a hardness the younger one's had not.

“She's dead, she's been killed,” Wallace Binnett said incredulously, raising his white face towards Spade. When Binnett moved his head Spade could see the round hole in the woman's tan dress over her heart and the dark stain which was rapidly spreading below it.

Spade touched Joyce Court's arm. “Police, emergency hospital—phone,” he said. As she ran towards the stairs he addressed Wallace Binnett: “Who did —”

A voice groaned feebly behind Spade.

He turned swiftly. Through an open doorway he could see an old man in white pajamas lying sprawled across a rumpled bed. His head, a shoulder, an arm dangled over the edge of the bed. His other hand held his throat tightly. He groaned again and his eyelids twitched, but did not open.

Spade lifted the old man's head and shoulders and put them up on the pillows. The old man groaned again and took his hand from his throat. His throat was red with half a dozen bruises. He was a gaunt man with a seamed face that probably exaggerated his age.

A glass of water was on a table beside the bed. Spade put water on the old man's face and, when the old man's eyes twitched again, leaned down and growled softly: “Who did it?”

The twitching eyelids went up far enough to show a narrow strip of blood-shot gray eyes. The old man spoke painfully, putting a hand to his throat again: “A man—he —” He coughed.

Spade made an impatient grimace. His lips almost touched the old man's ear. “Where'd he go?” His voice was urgent.

A gaunt hand moved weakly to indicate the rear of the house and fell back on the bed.

The butler and two frightened female servants had joined Wallace Binnett beside the dead woman in the hallway.

“Who did it?” Spade asked them.

They stared at him blankly.

“Somebody look after the old man,” he growled, and went down the hallway.

At the end of the hallway was a rear staircase. He descended two flights and went through a pantry into the kitchen. He saw nobody. The kitchen door was shut but, when he tried it, not locked. He crossed a narrow back yard to a gate that was shut, not locked. He opened the gate. There was nobody in the narrow alley behind it.

He sighed, shut the gate, and returned to the house.

Spade sat comfortably slack in a deep leather chair in a room that ran across the front second story of Wallace Binnett's house. There were shelves of books and the lights were on. The window showed outer darkness weakly diluted by a distant street lamp. Facing Spade, Detective Sergeant Polhaus—a big, carelessly shaven, florid man in dark clothes that needed pressing —was sprawled in another leather chair; Lieutenant Dundy—smaller, compactly built, square-faced—stood with legs apart, head thrust a little forward, in the center of the room.

Spade was saying: “. . . and the doctor would only let me talk to the old man a couple of minutes. We can try it again when he's rested a little, but it doesn't look like he knows much. He was catching a nap and he woke up with somebody's hands on his throat dragging him around the bed. The best he got was a one-eyed look at the fellow choking him. A big fellow, he says, with a soft hat pulled down over his eyes, dark, needing a shave. Sounds like Tom.” Spade nodded at Polhaus.

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