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When Spade reached his office at ten o'clock the following morning Effie Perine was at her desk opening the morning's mail. Her boyish face was pale under its sunburn. She put down the handful of envelopes and the bra.s.s paper-knife she held and said: "She's in there." Her voice was low and warning.
"I asked you to keep her away," Spade complained. He too kept his voice low.
Effie Perine's brown eyes opened wide and her voice was irritable as his: "Yes, but you didn't tell me how." Her eyelids went together a little and her shoulders drooped. "Don't be cranky, Sam," she said wearily. "I had her all night."
Spade stood beside the girl, put a hand on her head, and smoothed her hair away from its parting. "Sorry, angel, I haven't--" He broke off as the inner door opened. "h.e.l.lo, Iva," he said to the woman who had opened it.
"Oh, Sam!" she said. She was a blonde woman of a few more years than thirty. Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past its best moment. Her body for all its st.u.r.diness was finely modeled and exquisite. She wore black clothes from hat to shoes. They had as mourning an impromptu air. Having spoken, she stepped back from the door and stood waiting for Spade.
He took his hand from Effie Perine's head and entered the inner office, shutting the door. Iva came quickly to him, raising her sad face for his kiss. Her arms were around him before his held her. When they had kissed he made a little movement as if to release her, but she pressed her face to his chest and began sobbing.
He stroked her round back, saying: "Poor darling." His voice was tender. His eyes, squinting at the desk that had been his partner's, across the room from his own, were angry. He drew his lips back over his teeth in an impatient grimace and turned his chin aside to avoid contact with the crown of her hat. "Did you send for Miles's brother?" he asked.
"Yes, he came over this morning." The words were blurred by her sobbing and his coat against her mouth.
He grimaced again and bent his head for a surrept.i.tious look at the watch on his wrist. His left arm was around her, the hand on her left shoulder. His cuff was pulled back far enough to leave the watch uncovered. It showed ten-ten.
The woman stirred in his arms and raised her face again. Her blue eyes were wet, round, and white-ringed. Her mouth was moist. "Oh, Sam," she moaned, "did you kill him?"
Spade stared at her with bulging eyes. His bony jaw fell down. He took his arms from her and stepped back out of her arms. He scowled at her and cleared his throat. She held her arms up as he had left them. Anguish clouded her eyes, partly closed them under eyebrows pulled up at the inner ends. Her soft damp red lips trembled.
Spade laughed a harsh syllable, "Ha!" and went to the buff-curtained window. He stood there with his back to her looking through the curtain into the court until she started towards him. Then he turned quickly and went to his desk. He sat down, put his elbows on the desk, his chin between his fists, and looked at her. His yellowish eyes glittered between narrowed lids. "Who," he asked coldly, "put that bright idea in your head?"
"I thought--" She lifted a hand to her mouth and fresh tears came to her eyes. She came to stand beside the desk, moving with easy surefooted grace in black slippers whose smallness and heel-height were extreme. "Be kind to me, Sam," she said humbly.
He laughed at her, his eyes still glittering. "You killed my husband, Sam, be kind to me." He clapped his palms together and said: "Jesus Christ."
She began to cry audibly, holding a white handkerchief to her face. He got up and stood close behind her. He put his arms around her. He kissed her neck between ear and coat-collar. He said: "Now, Iva, don't." His face was expressionless. When she had stopped crying he put his mouth to hem ear and murmured: "You shouldn't have come here today, precious. It wasn't wise. You c2n't stay. You ought to be home."
She turned around in his arms to face him and asked: "You'll come tonight?"
He shook his head gently. "Not tonight."
"As soon as I can."
He kissed her mouth, led her to the door, opened it, said, "Goodbye, Iva," bowed her out, shut the door, and returned to his desk. He took tobacco and cigarette-papers from his vest-pockets, but did not roll a cigarette. He sat holding the papers in one hand, the tobacco in the other, and looked with brooding eyes at his dead partner's desk.
Effie Perine opened the door and came in. Her brown eyes were uneasy. Her voice was careless. She asked: "Well?" Spade said nothing. His brooding gaze did not move from his partner's desk. The girl frowned and came around to his side. "Well," she asked in a louder voice, "how did you and the widow make out?"
"She thinks I shot Miles," he said. Only his lips moved.
"So you could marry her?"
Spade made no reply to that. The girl took his hat from his head and put it on the desk. Then she leaned over and took the tobacco-sack and the papers from his inert fingers. "The police think I shot Thursby," he said.
"Who is he?" she asked, separating a cigarette-paper from the packet, sifting tobacco into it.
"Who do you think I shot?" he asked. When she ignored that question he said: "Thursby's the guy Miles was supposed to be tailing for the Wonderly girl."
Her thin fingers finished shaping the cigarette. She licked it, smoothed it, twisted its ends, and placed it between Spade's lips. He said, "Thanks, honey," put an arm around her slim waist, and rested his cheek wearily against her hip, shutting his eyes.
"Are you going to marry Iva?" she asked, looking down at his pale brown hair.
"Don't be silly," he muttered. The unlighted cigarette bobbed up and down with the movement of his lips.
"She doesn't think it's silly. Why should she--the way you've played around with her?"
He sighed and said: "I wish to Christ I'd never seen her."
"Maybe you do now." A trace of spitefulness came into the girl's voice. "But there was a time."
"I never know what to do or say to women except that way," he grumbled, "and then I didn't like Miles."
"That's a lie, Sam," the girl said. "You know I think she's a louse, but I'd be a louse too if it would give me a body like hers-"
Spade rubbed his face impatiently against her hip, but said nothing. Effie Perine bit her lip, wrinkled her forehead, and, bending over for a better view of his face, asked: "Do you suppose she could have killed him?"
Spade sat up straight and took his arm from her waist. He smiled at her. His smile held nothing but amus.e.m.e.nt. He took out his lighter, snapped on the flame, and applied it to the end of his cigarette. "You're an angel," he said tenderly through smoke, "a nice rattle-brained angel."
She smiled a bit wryly. "Oh, am I? Suppose I told you that your Iva hadn't been home many minutes when I arrived to break the news at three o'clock this morning?"
"Are you telling me?" he asked. His eyes had become alert though his mouth continued to smile.
"She kept me waiting at the door while she undressed or finished undressing. I saw her clothes where she had dumped them on a chair. Her hat and coat were underneath. Her singlette, on top, was still warm. She said she had been asleep, but she hadn't. She had wrinkled up the bed, but the wrinkles weren't mashed down."
Spade took the girl's hand and patted it. "You're a detective, darling, but"--he shook his head--"she didn't kill him."
Effie Perine s.n.a.t.c.hed her hand away. "That louse wants to marry you, Sam," she said bitterly. He made an impatient gesture with his head and one hand. She frowned at him and demanded: "Did you see her last night?"
"Honestly. Don't act like Dundy, sweetheart. It ill becomes you."
"Has Dundy been after you?"
"Uh-huh. He and Tom Polhaus dropped in for a drink at four o'clock."
"Do they really think you shot this what's-his-name?"
"Thursby." He dropped what was left of his cigarette into the bra.s.s tray and began to roll another.
"Do they?" she insisted.
"G.o.d knows." His eyes were on the cigarette he was making. "They did have some such notion. I don't know how far I talked them out of it."
"Look at me, Sam." He looked at her and laughed so that for the moment merriment mingled with the anxiety in her face. "You worry me," she said, seriousness returning to her face as she talked. "You always think you know what you're doing, but you're too slick for your own good, and some day you're going to find it out."
He sighed mockingly and rubbed his cheek against her arm. "That's what Dundy says, but you keep Iva away from me, sweet, and I'll manage to survive the rest of my troubles." I-Ic stood up and put on his hat. "Have the _Spade & Archer_ taken off the door and _Samuel Spade_ put on. I'll be back in an hour, or phone you."
Spade went through the St. Mark's long purplish lobby to the desk and asked a red-haired dandy whether Miss Wonderly was in. The redhaired dandy turned away, and then back shaking his head. "She checked out this morning, Mr. Spade."
Spade walked past the desk to an alcove off the lobby where a plump young-middle-aged man in dark clothes sat at a flat-topped mahogany desk. On the edge of the desk facing the lobby was a triangular prism of mahogany and bra.s.s inscribed Mr. Freed.
The plump man got up and came around the desk holding out his hand. "I was awfully sorry to hear about Archer, Spade," he said in the tone of one trained to sympathize readily without intrusiveness. "I've just seen it in the _Call_. He was in here last night, you know."
"Thanks, Freed. Were you talking to him?"
"No. He was sitting in the lobby when I came in early in the evening. I didn't stop. I thought he was probably working and I know you fellows like to be left alone when you're busy. Did that have anything to do with his--?"
"I don't think so, but we don't know yet. Anyway, we won't mix the house up in it if it can be helped."
"That's all right. Can you give me some dope on an ex-guest, and then forget that I asked for it?"
"A Miss Wonderly checked out this morning. I'd like to know the details ."
"Come along," Freed said, "and we'll see what we can learn."
Spade stood still, shaking his head. "I don't want to show in it."
Freed nodded and went out of the alcove. In the lobby he halted suddenly and came back to Spade. "Harriman was the house-detective on duty last night," he said. "He's sure to have seen Archer. Shall I caution him not to mentiomi it?"
Spade looked at Freed from the corners of his eyes. "Better not. That won't make any difference as long as there's no connection shown with this Wonderly. Harriman's all right, but he likes to talk, and I'd as lief not have him think there's anything to be kept quiet."
Freed nodded again and wemit away. Fifteen minutes later he returned. "She arrived last Tuesday, registering from New York. She hadn't a trunk, only some bags. There were no phone-calls charged to her room, and she doesn't seem to have received much, if any, mail. The only one any- body remembers having seen her with was a tall dark man of thirty-six or so. She went out at half-past nine this morning, came back an hour later, paid her bill, and had her bags carried out to a car. The boy who carried them says it was a Nash touring car, probably a hired one. She left a forwarding address--the Aniba.s.sador, Los Angeles."
Spade said, "Thanks a lot, Freed," and left the St. Mark.
When Spade returned to his office Effie Perine stopped typing a letter to tell him: "Your friend Dundy was in. He wanted to look at your guns."
"I told him to come back when you were here."
"Good girl. If he comes back again let him look at them."
"And Miss Wonderly called up."
"It's about time. What did she say?"
"She wants to see you." The girl picked up a slip of paper from her desk amid read the memorandum penciled on it: "She's at the Coronet, on California Street, apartment one thousand and one. You're to ask for Miss Lcblanc."
Spade said, "Give me," and held out his hand. When she had given him the memorandum he took out his lighter, snapped on the flame, set it to the slip of paper, held the paper until all but one corner was curling black ash, dropped it on the linoleum floor, and mashed it under his shoesole. The girl watched him with disapproving eyes. He grinned at her, said, "That's just the way it is, dear," and went out again.
The Black Bird
Miss Wonderly, in a belted green crepe silk dress, opened the door of apartment 1001 at the Coronet. Her face was flushed. Her dark red hair, parted on the left side, swept back in loose waves over her right temple, was somewhat tousled. Spade took off his hat and said: "Good morning."
His smile brought a fainter smile to her face. Her eyes, of blue that was almost violet, did not lose their troubled look. She lowered her head and said in a hushed, timid voice: "Come in, Mr. Spa de."
She led him past open kitchen-, bathroom-, and bedroom-doors in a cream and red living-room, apologizing for its confusion: "Everything is upside-down. I haven't even finished unpacking."
She laid his hat on a table and sat down on a walnut settee. He sat on a brocaded oval-backed chair facing her. She looked at her fingers, working them together, and said: "Mr. Spade, I've a terrible, terrible confession to make." Spade smiled a polite smile, which she did not lift her eyes to see, and said nothing.
"That--that story I told you yesterday was all--a story," she stammered, and looked up at him now with miserable frightened eyes.
"Oh, that," Spade said lightly. "We didn't exactly believe your story."
"Then--?" Perplexity was added to the misery and fright in her eyes.
"We believed your two hundred dollars."
"You mean--?" She seemed to not know what he meant.
"I mean that you paid us more than if you'd been telling the truth," he explained blandly, "and enough more to make it all right."
Her eyes suddenly lighted up. She lifted herself a few inches from the settee, settled down again, smoothed her skirt, leaned forward, and spoke eagerly: "And even now you'd be willing to--?"
Spade stopped her with a palm-up motion of one hand. The upper part of his face frowned. The lower part smiled. "That depends," he said. "The h.e.l.l of it is, Miss-- Is your name Wonderly or Leblanc?"
She blushed and murmured: "It's really O'Shaughnessy--Brigid O'Shaughnessy."
"The h.e.l.l of it is, Miss O'Shaughnessy, that a couple of murders"-- she winced--"coming together like this get everybody stirred up, make the police think they can go the limit, make everybody hard to handle and expensive. It's not--" He stopped talking because she had stopped listening and was waiting for him to finish.