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Dundy clicked his teeth together and said through them: "Let us in."
Spade's lip twitched over his eyetooth. He said: "You're not coming in. What do you want to do about it? Try to get in? Or do your talking here? Or go to h.e.l.l?"
Dundy, still speaking through his teeth, said: "It'd pay you to play along with us a little, Spade. You've got away with this and you've got away with that, but you can't keep it up forever."
"Stop me when you can." Spade replied arrogantly.
"That's what I'll do." Dundy put his hands behind him and thrust his hard face up towards the private detective's. "There's talk going around that you and Archer's wife were cheating on him."
Spade laughed. "That sounds like something you thought up yourself."
"Then there's not anything to it?"
"The talk is," Dundv said, "that she tried to get a divorce out of him so's she could put in with you, but he wouldn't give it to her. Anything to that?"
"There's even talk," Dundy went on stolidly, "that that's why he was put on the spot."
Spade seemed mildly amused. "Don't be a hog," he said. "You oughtn't try to pin more than one murder at a time on me. Your first idea that I knocked Thursby off because he'd killed Miles falls apart if you blame me for killing Miles too."
"You haven't heard me say you killed anybody," Dundy replied. "You're the one that keeps bringing that up. But suppose I did. You could have blipped them both. There's a way of figuring it."
"Uh-huh. I could've butchered Miles to get his wife, and then Thursby so I could hang Miles's killing on him. That's a h.e.l.l of a swell system, or will be when I can give somebody else the b.u.mp and hang Thursby's on them. How long am I supposed to keep that up? Are you going to put your hand on my shoulder for all the killings in San Francisco from now on?"
Tom said: "Aw, cut the comedy, Sam. You know' d.a.m.ned well we don't hike this any more than you do, but we got our work to do."
"I hope you've got something to do besides pop in here early every morning with a lot of d.a.m.ned fool questions."
"And get danined lying answers," Dundy added deliberately.
"Take it easy," Spade cautioned him.
Dundy looked him up and down and then looked him straight in the eves. "If you say there was nothing between you and Archer's wife," he said, "you're a liar, and I'm telling you so."
A startled look came into Tom's small eyes.
Spade moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue and asked: "Is that the hot tip that brought you here at this unG.o.dly time of night?"
"That's one of them."
"And the others?"
Dundy pulled down the corners of his mouth. "Let us in." He nodded significantly at the doorway in which Spade stood.
Spade frowned amid shook his head.
Dundy's mouth-corners lifted in a smile of grim satisfaction. "There must've been something to it," he told Tom.
Tom shifted his feet and, not looking at either man, mumbled: "G.o.d knows."
"What's this?" Spade asked. "Charades?"
"All right, Spade, w'e're going." Dundy b.u.t.toned his overcoat. "We'll be in to see you now' and then. Maybe you're right in bucking us. Think it Over."
"Uh-huh," Spade said, grinning. "Glad to see you any time, Lieutenant, and whenever I'm not busy I'll let you in."
A voice in Spade's living-room screamed: "Help! Help! Police! Help!" The voice, high amid thin and shrill, was Joel Cairo's.
Lieutenant Dundy stopped turning away from the door, confronted Spade again, and said decisively: "I guess we're going in."
The sounds of a brief struggle, of a blow, of a subdued cry, came to them.
Spade's face twisted into a smile that held little joy. He said, "I guess you are," and stood out of the way.
When the police-detectives had entered he shut the corridor-door and followed them back to the living-room.
Brigid O'Shaughnessy was huddled in the armchair by the table. Her forearms were up over her cheeks, her knees drawn up until they hid the lower part of her face. Her eyes were white-circled and terrified.
Joel Cairo stood in front of her, bending over her, holding in one hand the pistol Spade had twisted out of his hand. His other hand was clapped to his forehead. Blood ran through the fingers of that hand and down under them to his eyes. A smaller trickle from his cut lip made three wavy lines across his chin.
Cairo did not heed the detectives. He was glaring at the girl huddled in front of him. His hips were working spasmodically, but no coherent sound came from between them.
Dundy, the first of the three into the hiving-room, moved swiftly to Cairo's side, put a hand on his own hip under his overcoat, a hand on the Levantine's wrist, and growled: "What are you up to here?"
Cairo took the red-smeared hand from his head and flourished it close to the Lieutenant's face. Uncovered by the hand, his forehead showed a three-inch ragged tear. "This is what she has done," he cried. "Look at it."
The girl put her feet down on the floor and looked warily from Dundy, holding Cairo's wrist, to Tom Polhaus, standing a little behind them, to Spade, leaning against the door-frame. Spade's face was placid. When his gaze met hers his yellow-grey eyes glinted for an instant with malicious humor and then became expressionless again.
"Did you do that?" Dundy asked the girl, nodding at Cairo's cut head.
She looked at Spade again. He did not in any way respond to the appeal in her eyes. He leaned against the door-frame and observed the occupants of the room with the polite detached air of a disinterested spectator.
The girl turned her eyes up to Dundy's. Her eyes were wide and dark and earnest. "I had to," she said in a low throbbing voice. "I was all alone in here with him when he attacked me. I couldn't--I tried to keep him off. I--I couldn't make myself shoot him."
"Oh, you liar!" Cairo cried, trying unsuccessfully to pull the arm that held his pistol out of Dundy's grip. "Oh, you dirty filthy liar!" He twisted himself around to face Dundy. "She's lying awfully. I came here in good faith and was attacked by both of them, and when you came he went out to talk to you, leaving her here with this pistol, and then she said they were going to kill me after you left, and I called for help, so you wouldn't heave nie here to be murdered, and then she struck me with the pistol."
"Here, give me this thing," Dundy said, and took the pistol from Cairo's hand, "Now let's get this straight. What'd you come here for?"
"He sent for me." Cairo twisted his head around to stare defiantly at Spade. "He called me up on the phone and asked me to come here."
Spade blinked sleepily at the Levantine and said nothing.
Dundy asked: "What'd he want you for?"
Cairo withheld his reply until he had mopped his b.l.o.o.d.y forehead and chin with a lavender-barred silk handkerchief. By then some of the indignation in his manner had been replaced by caution. "He said he wanted--they wanted--to see me. I didn't know what about."
Tom Polhaus lowered his head, sniffed the odor of chypre that the mopping handkerchief had released in the air, and turned his head to scowl interrogatively at Spade. Spade winked at him and went on rolling a cigarette.
Dundy asked: "Well. what happened then?"
"Then they attacked me. She struck me first, and then he choked me and took time pistol out of my pocket. I don't know what they would have done next if you hadn't arrived at that moment. J dare say they would have murdered me then and there. When he went out to answer the bell he left her here with the pistol to watch over me."
Brigid O'Shaughnessy jumped out of the armchair crying, "Why don't you make him tell the truth?" and slapped Cairo on the cheek.
Cairo yelled inarticulately.
Dundy pushed the girl back into the chair with the hand that was not holding the Levantine's arm and growled: "None of that now."
Spade, lighting his cigarette, grinned softly through smoke and told Tom: "She's impulsive."
"Yeah," Tom agreed.
Dundy scowled down at the girl and asked: "What do you want us to think the truth is?"
"Not what he said," she replied. "Not anything he said." She turned to Spade. "Is it?"
"How do I know'?" Spade responded. "I was out in the kitchen mixing an omelette when it all happened, wasn't I?"
She wrinkled her forehead, studying him with eyes that perplexity clouded.
Tom grunted in disgust.
Dundy, still scowling at the girl, ignored Spade's speech and asked her: "If he's not telling the truth, how come he did the squawking for help, and not you?"
"Oh, he was frightened to death when I struck him," she replied, looking contemptuously at the Levantine.
Cairo's face flushed where it was not blood-smeared. He exclaimed: "Pfoo! Another lie!"
She kicked his leg, the high heel of her blue slipper striking him just below the knee. Dundy pulled him away from her while big Tom came to stand close to her, rumbling: "Behave, sister. That's no way to act."
"Then make him tell the truth," she said defiantly.
"We'll do that all right," he promised. "Just don't get rough." Dundy, looking at Spade with green eyes hard and bright and satisfied, addressed his subordinate: "Well, Tom, I don't.guess we'll go wrong pulling the lot of them in."
Tom nodded gloomily.
Spade left the door and advanced to the center of the room, dropping his cigarette into a tray on the table as he pa.s.sed it. His smile and manner were amiably composed. "Don't be in a hurry," he said. "Everything can be explained."
"I bet you," Dundy agreed, sneering.
Spade bowed to the girl. "Miss O'Shaughnessy," he said, "may I present Lieutenant Dundy and Detective-sergeant Polhaus." He bowed to Dundy. "Miss O'Shaughnessy is an operative in my employ."
Joel Cairo said indignantly: "That isn't so. She--"
Spade interrupted him in a quite loud, but still genial, voice: "I hired her just recently, yesterday. This is Mr. Joel Cairo, a friend--an acquaintance, at any rate--of Thursby's. He came to me this afternoon and tried to hire me to find something Thursby was supposed to have on him when he was b.u.mped off. It hooked funny, the way he put it to me, so I wouldn't touch it. Then he pulled a gun--well, never mind that unless it comes to a point of laying charges against each other. Anywa , after talking it over with Miss O'Shaughnessy, I thought maybe I could get something out of him about Miles's and Thursby's killings, so I asked him to come up here. Maybe we put the questions to him a little rough, but he wasn't hurt any, not enough to have to cry for help. I'd already had to take his gun away from him again."
As Spade talked anxiety came into Cairo's reddened face. His eyes moved jerkily up and down, shifting their focus uneasily between the floor and Spade's bland face.
Dundy confronted Cairo and bruskly demanded: "Well, what've you got to say to that?"
Cairo had nothing to say for nearly a minute while he stared at the Lieutenant's chest. When he lifted his eyes they were shy and wary. "I don't know what I should say," he murmured. His embarra.s.sment seemed genuine.
"Try telling the facts," Dundy suggested.
"The facts?" Cairo's eyes fidgeted, though their gaze did not actually leave the Lieutenant's. "What a.s.surance have I that the facts will he believed?"
"Quit stalling. All you've got to do is swear to a complaint that they took a poke at you and the warrant-clerk will believe you enough to issue a warrant that'll let us throw them in the can."
Spade spoke in an amused tone: "Go ahead, Cairo. Make him happy. Tell him you'll do it, and then we'll swear to one against you, and he'll have the lot of us."
Cairo cleared his throat and looked nervously around the room, not into the eyes of anyone there.
Dundy blew breath through his nose in a puff that was not quite a snort and said: "Get your hats."
Cairo's eyes, holding worry and a question, met Spade's mocking gaze. Spade winked at him and sat on the arni of the padded rocker. "Well, boys amid girls," he said, grinning at the Levantine and at time girl with nothing but delight in his voice and grin, "we put it over nicely."
Dundy's hard square face darkened the least of shades. He repeated peremptorily: "Get your hats."
Spade turned his grin on the Lieutenant, squirmed into a more comfortable position on the chair-arm and asked lazily: "Don't you know when you're lacing kidded?"
Tom Polhaus's face became red and shiny.
Dundy's face, still darkening, was immobile except for hips moving stiffly to say: "No, but we'll let that wait till we get down to the Hall."
Spade rose and put his hands in his trousers-pockets. He stood erect so he might hook that much farther down at the Lieutenant. His grin was a taunt and self-certainty spoke in every line of his posture.
"I dare you to take us in, Dundy," he said. "We'll laugh at you in every newspaper in San Francisco. You don't think any of us is going to swear to any complaints against tIme others, do you? Wake up. You've been kidded. When the bell rang I said to Miss O'Shaughnessy and Cairo: 'It's those d.a.m.ned bulls again. They're getting to be nuisances. Let's play a joke on them. When you hear them going one of you scream, and then we'll see how far we can string them along before they tumble.' And--"
Brigid O'Shaughnessy bent forward in her chair and began to laugh hysterically.
Cairo started and smiled. There was no vitality in his smile, but he held it fixed on his face.
Tom, glowering, grumbled: "Cut it out, Sam."
Spade chuckled and said: "But that's the way it was. 'We--"