The Adventures Of Sam Spade, стр. 8

The old man sat up and opened his eyes. He looked at his nephews and began to laugh. There was in his laughter neither hysteria nor madness: it was sane, hearty laughter, and subsided slowly.

Spade said: “All right, now you've had your fun. Let's talk about the killings.”

“I know nothing more about the first one than I've told you,” the old man said, “and this one's not a killing, since I'm only—”

Wallace Binnett, still trembling violently, said painfully through his teeth: “That's a lie. You killed Molly. Joyce and I came out of her room when we heard Molly scream, and heard the shot and saw her fall out of your room, and nobody came out afterwards.”

The old man said calmly: “Well, I'll tell you: it was an accident. They told me there was a fellow from Australia here to see me about some of my properties there. I knew there was something funny about that somewhere”—he grinned—“not ever having been there. I didn't know whether one of my dear nephews was getting suspicious and putting up a game on me or what, but I knew that if Wally wasn't in on it he'd certainly try to pump the gentleman from Australia about me and maybe I'd lose one of my free boarding houses.” He chuckled.

“So I figured I'd get in touch with Ira so I could go back to his house if things worked out bad here, and I'd try to get rid of this Australian. Wally's always thought I'm half-cracked”—he leered at his nephew—“and's afraid they'll lug me off to a madhouse before I could make a will in his favor, or they'll break it if I do. You see, he's got a pretty bad reputation, what with that Stock Exchange trouble and all, and he knows no court would appoint him to handle my affairs if I went screwy—not as long as I've got another nephew”—he turned his leer on Ira—“who's a respectable lawyer. So now I know that rather than have me kick up a row that might wind me up in the madhouse, he'll chase this visitor, and I put on a show for Molly, who happened to be the nearest one to hand. She took it too seriously, though.

“I had a gun and I did a lot of raving about being spied on by my enemies in Australia and that I was going down and shoot this fellow. But she got too excited and tried to take the gun away from me, and the first thing I knew it had gone off, and I had to make these marks on my neck and think up that story about the big dark man.” He looked contemptuously at Wallace. “I didn't know he was covering me up. Little as I thought of him, I never thought he'd be low enough to cover up his wife's murderer—even if he didn't like her—just for the sake of money.” Spade said: “Never mind that. Now about the butler?”

“I don't know anything about the butler,” the old man replied, looking at Spade with steady eyes.

Spade said: “You had to kill him quick, before he had time to do or say anything. So you slip down the back stairs, open the kitchen door to fool people, go to the front door, ring the bell, shut the door, and hide in the shadow of the cellar door under the front steps. When Jarboe answered the doorbell you shot him—the hole was in the back of his head—pulled the light switch, just inside the cellar door, and ducked up the back stairs in the dark and shot yourself carefully in the arm. I got up there too soon for you; so you smacked me with the gun, chucked it through the door, and spread yourself on the floor while I was shaking pinwheels out of my noodle.” The old man sniffed again. “You're just—“

“Stop it,” Spade said patiently. “Don't let's argue. The first killing was an accident—all right. The second couldn't be. And it ought to be easy to show that both bullets, and the one in your arm, were fired from the same gun. What difference does it make which killing we can prove first-degree murder on? They can only hang you once.” He smiled pleasantly. “And they will.”

A MAN CALLED SPADE

SAMUEL SPADE put his telephone aside and looked at his watch. It was not quite four o'clock. He called, “Yoo-hoo!”

Effie Perine came in from the outer office. She was eating a piece of chocolate cake.

“Tell Sid Wise I won't be able to keep that date this afternoon,” he said.

She put the last of the cake into her mouth and licked the tips of forefinger and thumb. “That's the third time this week.”

When he smiled, the v's of his chin, mouth, and brows grew longer. “I know, but I've got to go out and save a life.” He nodded at the telephone. “Somebody's scaring Max Bliss.”

She laughed. “Probably somebody named John D. Conscience.”

He looked up at her from the cigarette he had begun to make. “Know anything I ought to know about him?”

“Nothing you don't know. I was just thinking about the time he let his brother go to San Quentin.”

Spade shrugged. “That's not the worst thing he's done.” He lit his cigarette, stood up, and reached for his hat. “But he's all right now. All Samuel Spade clients are honest, God-fearing folk. If I'm not back at closing time just run along.”

He went to a tall apartment building on Nob Hill, pressed a button set in the frame of a door marked 10K. The door was opened immediately by a burly dark man in wrinkled dark clothes. He was nearly bald and carried a gray hat in one hand.

The burly man said, “Hello, Sam.” He smiled, but his small eyes lost none of their shrewdness. “What are you doing here?”

Spade said, “Hello, Torn.” His face was wooden, his voice expressionless. “Bliss in?”

“Is he!” Tom pulled down the corners of his thick-lipped mouth. “You don't have to worry about that.”

Spade's brows came together. “Well?”

A man appeared in the vestibule behind Tom. He was smaller than either Spade or Tom, but compactly built. He had a ruddy, square face and a close-trimmed, grizzled mustache. His clothes were neat. He wore a black bowler perched on the back of his head.

Spade addressed this man over Tom's shoulder: “Hello, Dundy.”

Dundy nodded briefly and came to the door. His blue eyes were hard and prying.

“What is it?” he asked Tom.

“B-1-i-s-s, M-a-x,” Spade spelled patiently. “I want to see him. He wants to see me. Catch on?”

Tom laughed. Dundy did not. Tom said, “Only one of you gets your wish.” Then he glanced sidewise at Dundy and abruptly stopped laughing. He seemed uncomfortable.

Spade scowled. “All right,” he demanded irritably; “is he dead or has he killed somebody?”

Dundy thrust his square face up at Spade and seemed to push his words out with his lower Up. “What makes you think either?”

Spade said, “Oh, sure! I come calling on Mr. Bliss and I'm stopped at the door by a couple of men from the police Homicide Detail, and I'm supposed to think I'm just interrupting a game of rummy.”

“Aw, stop it, Sam,” Tom grumbled, looking at neither Spade nor Dundy. “He's dead.”

“Killed?”

Tom wagged his head slowly up and down. He looked at Spade now. “What've you got on it?”

Spade replied in a deliberate monotone, “He called me up this afternoon—say at five minutes to four—I looked at my watch after he hung up and there was still a minute or so to go—and said somebody was after his scalp. He wanted me to come over. It seemed real enough to him—it was up in his neck all right.” He made a small gesture with one hand. “Well, here I am.”

“Didn't say who or how?” Dundy asked.

Spade shook his head. “No. Just somebody had offered to kill him and he believed them, and would I come over right away.”

“Didn't he—?” Dundy began quickly.

“He didn't say anything else,” Spade said. “Don't you people tell me anything?”

Dundy said curtly, “Come in and take a look at him.”

Tom said, “It's a sight.”

They went across the vestibule and through a door into a green and rose living-room.

A man near the door stopped sprinkling white powder on the end of a glass-covered small table to say, “Hello, Sam.”

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