Assault on a Brownstone

by Rex Stout

(Early version of "Counterfeit for Murder")

Chapter 1

My rule is, never be rude to anyone unless you mean it. But when I looked through the one-way glass panel of the front door and saw her out on the stoop, my basic feelings about the opposite sex were hurt. Granting that women can't stay young and beautiful forever, that the years are bound to show, at least they don't have to let their gray hair straggle over their ears or wear a coat with a button missing or forget to wash their face, and this specimen was guilty on all three counts. So, as she put a finger to the button and the bell rang, I opened the door and told her, "I don't want any, thanks. Try next door." I admit it was rude.

"You would have once, Buster," she said. "Thirty years ago I was a real treat."

Four of us in that undersized lobby made a crowd, and we had to maneuver. Meanwhile I was speaking to the watchdog.

"My name's Goodwin, and I'm calling on Leo Heller."

That didn't help matters any. I have conceded that the years are bound to show.

"I want to see Nero Wolfe," she said. "Do I walk right through you?"

"There are difficulties," I told her. "One, I'm bigger than you are. Two, Mr. Wolfe can be seen only by appointment. Three, he won't be available until eleven o'clock, more than an hour from now."

"All right, I'll come in and wait. I'm half froze. Are you nailed down?"

A notion struck me. Wolfe believes, or claims he does, that any time I talk him into seeing a female would-be client he knows exactly what to expect if and when he sees her, and this would show him how wrong he was.

"Your name, please?" I asked her.

"My name's Annis. Hattie Annis."

"What do you wantwant to see Mr. Wolfe about?

"I'll tell him when I see him. If my tongue's not froze."

"You'll have to tell me, Mrs. Annis. My name --"

"Miss Annis."

"Okay. My name is Archie Goodwin."

"I know it is. If you're thinking I don't look like I can pay Nero Wolfe, there'll be a reward and I'll split it with him. If I took it to the cops they'd do the splitting. I wouldn't trust a cop if he was naked as a baby."

"What will the reward be for?"

"For what I've got here." She patted her black leather handbag, the worse for wear, with a hand in a woolen glove.

"What is it?"

"I'll tell Nero Wolfe. Look, Buster, I'm no Eskimo. Let the lady in."

That wasn't feasible. I had been in the hall with my hat and overcoat and gloves on, on my way for a morning walk cross-town to the bank to deposit a check for $7,417.65 in Wolfe's account, when I had seen her through the one-way glass panel aiming her finger at the bell button. Letting her in and leaving her in the office while I took my walk was out of the question. The other inhabitants of that old brownstone on West 35th Street, the property of Nero Wolfe except for the furniture and other items in my bedroom, were around but they were busy. Fritz Brenner, the chef and housekeeper, was in the kitchen making chestnut soup. Wolfe was up in the plant rooms on the roof for his two-hour morning session with the orchids, and of course Theodore Horstmann was with him.

I wasn't rude about it. I told her there were several places nearby where she could spend the hour and thaw out - Sam's Diner at the corner of Tenth Avenue, or the drug store at the corner of Ninth, or Tony's tailor shop where she could have a button sewed on her coat and charge it to me. She didn't push. I said if she came back at a quarter past eleven I might have persuaded Wolfe to see her, and she turned to go, and then turned back, opened the black leather handbag, and took out a package wrapped in brown paper with a string around it.

"Keep this for me, Buster," she said. "Some nosy cop might take it on himself. Come on, it won't bite. And don't open it. Can I trust you not to open it?"

I took it because I liked her. She had fine instincts and no sense at all. She had refused to tell me what was in it, and was leaving it with me and telling me not to open it - my idea of a true woman if only she would comb her hair and wash her face and sew a button on. So I took it, and told her I would expect her at a quarter past eleven, and she went. When I had seen her descend the seven steps to the sidewalk and turn left, toward Tenth Avenue, I shut the door from the inside and took a look at the package. It was rectangular, some six inches long and three wide, and a couple of inches thick. I put it to my ear and held my breath, and heard nothing. But you never know what science will do next, and there were at least three dozen people in the metropolitan area who had it in for Wolfe, not to mention a few who didn't care much for me, so instead of taking it to the office, to my desk or the safe, I went to the front room and stashed it under the couch. If you ask if I untied the string and unwrapped the paper for a look, your instincts are not as fine as they should be. Anyhow, I had gloves on.

Also there had been nothing doing for more than a week, since we had cleaned up the Brigham forgery case, and my mind needed exercise as much as my legs and lungs, so walking cross-town and back I figured out what was in the package. After discarding a dozen guesses that didn't appeal to me I decided it was the Hope diamond. The one that had been sent to Washington was a phony. I was still working on various details, such as Hattie Annis' real name and station and how she had got hold of it, on the last stretch approaching the old brownstone, and therefore got nearly to the stoop before I saw that it was occupied. Perched on the top step was exactly the kind of female Wolfe expects to see when I talk him into seeing one. The right age, the right face, the right legs -- what showed of them below the edge of her fur coat. The coat was not mink or sable. As I started to mount she got up.

"Well," she said. "A grand idea, this outdoor waiting room, but there ought to be magazines."

I reached her level. The top of her fuzzy little turban was even with my nose. "I suppose you rang?" I asked.

"I did. And was told through a crack that Mr. Wolfe was engaged and Mr. Goodwin was out. Mr. Goodwin, I presume?"

"Right." I had my key ring out. "I'll bring some magazines. Which ones do you like?"

"Let's go in and look them over."

Wolfe wouldn't be down for more than half an hour, end it would be interesting to know what she was selling, so I used the key on the door and swung it open. When I had disposed of my hat and coat on the hall rack I ushered her to the office, moved one of the yellow chairs up for her, and went to my desk and sat.

"We have no vacancies at the moment," I said, "but you can leave your number. Don't call us, we'll call --"

"That's pretty corny," she said. She had thrown her coat open to drape it over the back of the chair, revealing other personal details that went fine with the face and legs.

"Okay," I conceded. "It's your turn."

"My name is Tammy Baxter. Short for Tamiris. I haven't decided yet which one to use on a theatre program when the time comes. What do you think, Tammy or Tamiris?"

"It would depend on the part. If it's the lead in a musical, Tammy. If it packs some weight, O'Neill for instance, Tamiris."

"It's more apt to be a girl at one of the tables in the night club scene. The one who jumps up and says, 'Come on, Bill, let's get out of here.' That's her big line." She fluttered a gloved hand. "Oh, well. What do you care? Why don't you ask me what I want?"

"I'm putting it off because I may not have it."

"That's nice. I like that. That's a good line, only you threw it away. There should be a pause after 'off.' 'I'm putting it off... because I may not have it.' Try it again."

"Nuts! -- I said it the way I felt it. You actresses are all alike. I was getting a sociable feeling about you and look what you've done to it. What do you want?"

She laughed a little ripple. "I'm not an actress, I'm only going to be. I don't want anything much, just to ask about my landlady, Miss Annis -- Hattie Annis. Has she been here?"

I raised a brow. "Here? When?"

"This morning."

"I'll ask." I turned my head and sang out, "Fritz!" and when he appeared, in the doorway to the hall, I inquired, "Did anyone besides this lady come while I was out?"

"No, sir.'' He always sirs me when there is company and I can't make him stop.

"Any phone calls?"

"No, sir."

"Okay. Thank you, sir." He went, and I told Tammy or Tamiris, "Apparently not. You say your landlady?"

She nodded. "That's funny."

"Why, did you tell her to come?"

"No, she told me. She said she was going to take something - she was going to see Nero Wolfe about something. She wouldn't say what, and after she left I began to worry about her. She never got here?"

"You heard what Fritz said. Why should you worry?"

"You would too if you knew her. She almost never leaves the house, and she never goes more than a block away. She's not a loony really, but she's not quite all there, and I should have come with her. We all feel responsible for her. Her house is an awful dump, but anybody in show business, or even trying to be, can have a room for five dollars a week, and it doesn't have to be every week. So we feel responsible. I certainly hope ..." She stood up, letting it hang. "If she comes will you phone me?"

"Sure." She gave me the number and I jotted it down, and then went to hold her coat. My feelings were mixed. It would have been a pleasure to relieve her mind, but of what? What if her real worry was about the Hope diamond, which she had had under her mattress, and she knew or suspected that Hattie Annis had snitched it? I would have liked to put her in the front room, supplied with magazines, to wait until her landlady arrived, but you can't afford to be sentimental when the fate of a million-dollar diamond is at stake, so I let her go. Another consideration was that it would be enough of a job to sell Wolfe on seeing Hattie Annis without also accounting for the presence of another female in the front room. He can stand having one woman under his roof temporarily if he has to, but not two at once.

At eleven o'clock on the nose the sound of the elevator came, then its usual clang as it jolted to a stop at the bottom, and he entered, told me good morning, went to his desk, got his seventh of a ton deposited in the oversized custom-built chair, fingered through the mail, glanced at his desk calendar, and spoke.

"No check from Brigham?"

"Yes, sir, it came." I swiveled to face him. "Without comment. I took it to the bank. Also my weakness has cropped up again, but with a new slant."

He grunted. "Which weakness?"

"Women. One came, a stranger, and I told her to come back at eleven-fifteen. The trouble is, she's a type that never appealed to me before. I hope to goodness my taste hasn't shifted. I want your opinion."

"Pfui. Flummery."

"No, sir. It's a real problem. Wait till you see her."

"I'm not going to see her."

"Then I'm stuck. She has a strange fascination. Nobody believes in witches casting spells anymore, I certainly don't, but I don't know. As for what she wants to see you about, that's simple. She has got something that she thinks is good for a reward, and she's coming to you instead of the police because she hates cops. I don't know what it is or where she got it. That part's easy, you can deal with that in two minutes, but what about me? Why did I tell her I would try to persuade you to see her? Should I see a psychiatrist?"


He picked up the top item from the little pile of mail, an airmail letter from an orchid hunter in Venezuela, and started to read it. I swung my chair around and started sharpening pencils that didn't need it. The noise of the sharpener irritates him. I was on the sixth pencil when his voice came.

"What's her name?" he demanded.

"Miss Hattie Annis. That's another aspect of it. I don't like the name Hattie."

"Who is she?"

"She didn't say, and I didn't even ask her. That's still another aspect."

"Is she coming or phoning?"


"I'll give her two minutes."

You can appreciate what I had accomplished only if you know how allergic he is to strangers, especially women, and how much he hates to work, especially when a respectable check has just been deposited. Besides that satisfaction I had something to look forward to, seeing his expression when I escorted Hattie Annis in, I thought I might as well go and retrieve the package from under the couch and put it in my desk drawer, but vetoed it. It could wait till she came.

But she didn't come. 11:20. 11:25. At 11:30 Wolfe looked over the top of the book he was reading to say that he had some letters to give me but didn't like to be interrupted, and I said neither did I. At 11:45 he got up and went to the kitchen, probably to sample the chestnut soup, in which he and Fritz had decided to include tarragon for the first time. At noon I went to the hall and mounted two flights to my room, and from there dialed the number Tammy Baxter had given me. After four buzzes I got a male voice:

"Who is this?"

It would be a pleasure to kick anyone who answers a phone like that. "My name," I said, "is Buster. I want to speak to Miss Annis --"

"She's not here. Buster what?"

"Then I'll speak to Miss Baxter, please."

"She's not here either. Who is this?"

I hung up.

She never came. When I returned to the office Wolfe was back at his desk, and until lunch time I was busy with the notebook and typewriter. The chestnut soup was fine as usual, but I couldn't taste the tarragon. After lunch Theodore brought files down from the plant rooms and we worked on propagation records while Wolfe read his book and drank beer, and at four o'clock they left for the afternoon session with the orchids, which is from four to six no matter what. As soon as they were gone I dialed the Gazette number and got Lon Cohen.

"Just a little personal favor," I told him. "Nothing for publication. Have you had anything, maybe an accident, anything at all, about a woman named Hattie Annis?"

"Hell, I don't know. I never know anything. Spell it."

I spelled it. He said he would call back, and I went and stood at a window and watched a couple of dozen flakes of snow that were darting around pretending they were a blizzard. When the phone rang it was Lon himself, which was a compliment, since he was near the top at the Gazette.

"You timed it fine," he said. "Was your Hattie Annis a character that owned a house on 47th Street between Eighth and Ninth?"

"Was? Is."

"Not anymore. A hit-and-run driver got her on Tenth Avenue at Thirty-seventh Street at 11:05 this morning. Three blocks from your place. We just got the identification verified ten minutes ago. They found the car at two o'clock double-parked on West Fortieth Street. It was hot. It had been taken from where the owner had parked it on Thirty-sixth Street. Now give. If Wolfe's interested it wasn't just some hooligan. Who's your client?"

"No client. He's not interested. Have you --"

"Come off it! Give!"

"Not a crumb. You know damn well I've given you plenty of breaks, and I'll hand you another one if and when. If you run a paragraph that Nero Wolfe is asking about Hattie Annis I'll chew your ear personally. Have you got a description of the driver?"

"No. But now that you've called well sure try to get one."

"Man or woman?"

"Not even that. Look, Archie, just a helpful hint. I'll put horseradish on my ear."

I told him I didn't like horseradish, which wasn't true, hung up, stood a minute, and stepped to the window. The snowflakes were getting reinforcements. I was deciding how to take it. I had liked her even before I had learned from Tammy Baxter that she was a screwball, and we could use more screwballs. Not that I was blaming myself. It was true that if I had postponed my trip to the bank and kept her there she might still be alive, but what the hell, you can't base your actions on the theory that anyone you don't keep your eye on is apt to get killed. That wasn't it. But I admit my feelings were personal. Even at the minimum, I was sore because I had gone out of my way to maneuver Wolfe into seeing her, and at five minutes past eleven, exactly when I was picking the right words and tone to get him, some skunk was smashing her just three blocks away.

Having settled for that as a minimum, I got rubber gloves from a drawer of my desk, put them on, went to the front room, knelt to reach under the couch for the package, took it to the office, to my desk, untied the string and, without touching more than I had to, removed the wrapping paper. No Hope diamond. It was a stack of new twenty-dollar bills. I picked it up and flipped the corners, the whole stack. All twenties. I got a ruler from a drawer and measured its thickness -- one and seven-eighths inches. New bills run 250 to the inch. Nine thousand dollars.

It was a comedown. Nine grand is not hay, but it is less than one percent of a million; and besides, nothing is more uninteresting than a stack of currency when it's not yours and not going to be. I picked off the top one and gave it a look. B67380945B. Of course they would be more interesting if... I went and got a new twenty from the safe and put them side by side for inspection, first just with my eyes, which are good, and then with a glass Wolfe keeps in his desk. Three minutes with the glass settled it, and I took the bill from the bottom of the stack and one from the middle, and used the glass on them, with the same result. They were phonies

I returned the three bills to the stack, rewrapped it as before, tied it with the string, also as before, went upstairs to my room, put it in the back of my shirt drawer, went back down to the office, took off the rubber gloves and put them away, sat, and considered matters.

Chapter 2

There were a lot of aspects. For instance, the essential thing about counterfeit money is to keep it out of circulation, I was doing so. As for having it in my possession, nobody could prove I didn't still think it was the Hope diamond or the secret Pentagon war plans or used typewriter ribbons.

Take the Wolfe aspect. Consulting him was out. Since there was no prospect of a client and a fee, he would merely instruct me to call the Treasury Department and tell them to come and get it.

Or the conflict-of-interest aspect. The T-men would rather see the skunk get five years for passing phonies than the chair for murder, naturally. Homicide, specifically Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Stebbins, the reverse, also naturally. Not that they are not on speaking terms, but they jostle. I had heard the inside dope on how the Lorber case had been messed up a couple of years ago. I was for Homicide, but if I took the package to West 20th Street and reported my chats with Hattie Annis and Tammy Baxter they would have to call the Treasury within an hour after they opened the package, and the jostling would start.

Or the personal aspect. She had entrusted the package to me. Any reward coming to her now would be in a different jurisdiction, but she had hated cops, and as her trustee it was my duty to see that they didn't horn in on her estate. If there actually was a reward, which was doubtful, I could turn it over to the Actors' Fund. As for my position, no one but Wolfe knew she had come, and even he didn't know she had left a package with me.

Or the logical aspect. Since she had rarely left her house and never went more than a block away, it was a fair assumption that she had found the bills there and that one of her tenants had put them there, probably in his or her room. That was enough to start; going on to assume that he had followed her downtown could wait.

Those were the main aspects. After looking them over, along with a few minor ones, I got the address by finding Annis, Hattie, in the phone book, buzzed the plant rooms on the house phone to tell Wolfe I was going out on an errand, went to the hall for my coat and hat, and left. With the snow coming down thicker and the wind swirling it around there would be no such thing as an empty taxi at that time of day, so I walked, twelve short blocks uptown and one long one across.

It was a dump all right, like hundreds of others in that part of town. I stood across the street for a survey through the snow, blinking it from my lashes. I didn't care to bump into Sergeant Purley Stebbins or any of the others, but of course it wasn't likely that Homicide was around, since it was probably being handled as a routine hit-and-run. There was no police car in sight, and I crossed over and entered the vestibule. It had never been converted for multiple tenancy -- only one mailbox, and one button, on the jamb. I pressed it and waited for a click, but none came. Instead, after half a minute, die door opened and a tall thin guy with a marvelous mane of wavy white hair was there, boring a hole through me with deep-set blue-gray eyes.

"You a reporter?" he boomed. It almost blew me back out of the vestibule.

"Not guilty," I told him. "I would like to see Miss Baxter. My name's Goodwin."

"Do you recognize me?" he demanded.

"No. I have a feeling that I would in a better light, but no."

"Raymond Dell."

"Sure. Of course. Certainly."

He turned on his heel and strode down the dim and dingy hall. I entered and shut the door. He kept going, to a door at the end of the hall and on through, and, since he hadn't told me to wait, I followed. As I crossed the sill he was saying, "For you, Tammy. A Philistine. Goodman."

It was the kitchen. Tammy Baxter and another girl, and two men, were seated at a big table with a linoleum top, dining or maybe teaing -- sandwiches on paper plates and coffee in big white heavy cups. There was a fifth chair and the white-maned Raymond Dell was taking it and picking up what remained of a sandwich.

"Hi," Tammy said. "Not Goodman, Ray. Goodwin. Archie Goodwin. I met him somewhere. A Philistine but not a barbarian. Martha Kirk, Mr. Goodwin. Raymond Dell. Noel Ferris. Paul Hannah. I don't ask what you want ... because I may not have it. I hope it's not a sandwich?"

It was neat. She had used only four words, "I met him somewhere," to tell me that she didn't want them to know of her call at Wolfe's office. I humored her. "No, thanks," I said. "It's not urgent. I'll wait somewhere till you finish if you'll tell me where."

"You phoned," Noel Ferris said.

He was looking at me. I met his lazy brown eyes. "I phoned?"

He nodded, a lazy nod. "Around noon." His voice changed: " 'My name is Buster. I want to speak to Miss Annis. Then I'll speak to Miss Baxter, please.' " His voice changed back. "Will that pass?"

It would indeed. On a tape recording my voice doesn't sound like me at all, but he had it to a T, and he had only heard me once on the phone. "Perfect," I said. "I wish I could do it. It's a gift."

"That's nothing." He was bored. He was younger than me, but probably he had been born bored. "But your name's Archie Goodwin. I seem to have heard it. Are you in the theatre?" He waved it away with a lazy hand. "It doesn't matter. Don't bother."

I opened my mouth to bother, but closed it when Tammy Baxter pushed her chair back and got up. As she headed for the door I moved, but stopped when she said, "I'm just going for my lipstick. I'll be back." Paul Hannah was telling Noel Ferris, "Of course you've heard it." Hannah was still younger than Ferris. For a juvenile lead he would have to do something about his chubby cheeks. He was regarding me.

"Aren't you the Archie Goodwin that works with Nero Wolfe?"

"For him," I said.

"A detective."


"A snoop," Raymond Dell rumbled. "Worse than a Philistine. A monster."

"That's not very polite," Martha Kirk said. She was an ornamental little number, not long out of high school, with a dimple in her chin. I no longer had any illusions about dimples. The most attractive and best-placed ones I had ever seen were on the cheeks of a woman who had fed arsenic to three husbands in a row.

"If Ray knew how to be polite," Noel Ferris drawled, "he would have had his name at the top of a marquee long ago." His eyes moved lazily to me. "Since you're a detective, maybe you can help us. As a service to the arts. We've having a conference, but it's a farce. Just a guessing match. We want to know what's going to happen to this castle of culture now that our Lady Bountiful has been slain."

"By a fiend," Raymond Dell declared. "Worse than a monster!"

"People who steal cars," Paul Hannah said, "and run them over people ought to have their hands and feet cut off."

"How horrible," Martha Kirk said. She had a full rich contralto, enough for one twice her size. "That's brutal, Paul."

"It's not polite," Noel Ferris drawled. "But you might agree if you had seen her, Martha darling. It was my luck to be here when they came to get someone to identify her. That was horrible. I would be for one hand and one foot, at least."

Raymond Dell boomed at me, "Is that what you're snooping about?"

"No," I said, "it's after hours. I only snoop from eight to four. I know about Miss Annis because it happened only three blocks from Nero Wolfe's place and the cop on the beat told me, but that's a police matter. I'm just a Philistine trying to rub up against culture."

"So Tammy is culture," Noel Ferris said. "I don't deny that she - but here she is. Tammy, you're culture."

"Sit down," Dell commanded me. "I'll explain why it's hopeless. Utterly hopeless."

"Later, Ray." Tammy Baxter was in the doorway. "Maybe Rodgers and Hammerstein sent him to beg me to take a lead. If I like it I'll buy the house and have the plumbing fixed. Come on, Mr. Goodwin."

She cocked her head. "I've been trying to guess what brought you. It would be flattering to think it's a social call, but no such luck. When you phoned you asked for Miss Annis first."

"That Noel Ferris is a wonderful mimic," I said. "When I was a boy I could croak like a bullfrog, but I've lost it. I'm more than willing to make it social. If you can stand a drink on top of a sandwich Sardi's is only a six-minute walk."

She shook her head. "I think not. You did ask for Miss Annis?"

"Yes. The fact is, I'm under suspicion. I suspect myself of wanting to see you again, I have no idea why. I suspect my asking for Miss Annis was a trick. After I had spoken with her I would have an excuse to ask for you, and you wouldn't suspect what I was really after. Not a bad idea."

"A grand idea. And now?"

"Now I admit there's another element. You heard me say how I happened to hear about Miss Annis, from the cop on the beat -- no, you weren't there."

"No. From the cop on the beat?"

I nodded. "Right in the neighborhood, only three blocks away. And she had told you she was going to see Nero Wolfe. Have you told the police that?"

"I haven't told them anything. They haven't asked me. I was out and wasn't here until nearly four o'clock. They had talked with Noel Ferris and Raymond Dell, and Noel had gone and identified the body. There's nothing I can tell them. It was just a moron or a maniac, or both, with a stolen car. Wasn't it?"

"Evidently." I was looking relieved. "But there's still a chance they may check with everyone here, sometimes they're pretty thorough, and that's the other element. If the police learn that she had said she was going to see Nero Wolfe they'll pester him. It won't make any sense since she didn't see him, but they'll grab at the excuse to pester him, and anyhow they may think she did see him. He has been known to reserve facts. Since, as you say, it was just a moron or maniac with a stolen car, it won't help any for them to know she had said she was going to see Nero Wolfe, so there's no point in your mentioning it. Of course it's not vital, he's been pestered before, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to suggest it. And I still suspect myself. There's the possibility that I've merely cooked up an excuse to see you again."

I admit it wasn't a very good line, but it was the best I had been able to come up with, and anyhow all I had wanted was an approach. It had already got me a look at the inmates. Also it would be interesting to get her reaction. I have mentioned the possibility that she had had the Hope diamond under her mattress, and while a stack of phoney lettuce isn't the same thing as the Hope diamond, far from it, it was still possible. How would she take it?

I soon found out. "I would love to think," she said, "that you bothered to cook up an excuse. I wish I could, but I can't. Why don't you want the police to know that Miss Annis saw Nero Wolfe? What did she say that he doesn't want to tell?"

My brows lifted. "You're mixing us up. I'm the detective. Trick questions like that are no good if you can't back them up. You know darned well she didn't see him."

"But she did. What did she say? Was it before I was there or after?"

I grinned at her. "Come on now, Miss Baxter. I was looking forward to calling you Tammy. Don't spoil it."

"I wouldn't dream of spoiling it. I can back it up. You told Noel Ferris on the phone that your name was Buster. Hattie always called men Buster. Even Ray Dell. She had been there and she had called you Buster. It was in your mind and you said that to Noel without thinking. Had you ever before told anyone that your name was Buster?"

At that point, naturally, my mind was occupied. If it hadn't been I might have heard the doorbell ring, and noticed it, and also heard and noticed steps in the hall. I might even have recognized a voice from out in the vestibule: But my mind was too busy.

"You're doing it wrong," I said. "You should have sneaked up on me. You should have asked me casually why I told Ferris my name was Buster, and then it would have depended on how I answered. You might have got me in a hole. I doubt it, but you might. Now it's no good because I've seen your hand. I say I've often told people my name is Buster because that's what my grandmother called me, and what do you say?"

"I say I want to know why you told me this morning she hadn't been there."

"Right. Then I say that if I lied to you this morning, which I am not conceding, I must have had a reason, and the reason must still hold or I wouldn't be dodging like this. Your turn."

"What kind of a reason?" Her eyes, straight at me, weren't sociable at all.

"Oh, nothing fancy. She had told me you were a Russian spy would do. Or that one of her roomers was stealing eggs and I thought it might be you."

"I'd like to wring your neck!"

"Wear gloves. They're working on a method to lift fingerprints from bare skin." I leaned toward her. "Look, Miss Baxter, I really meant it when I asked you to keep it to yourself that Miss Annis told you she was going to see Nero Wolfe. He hates to be pestered. But the way you're riding me, it looks to me as if something's biting you, and if so, maybe I can help and I'd be glad to. I've had a lot of experience with bites. Did Miss Annis tell yon why she was going to Mr. Wolfe? Was it something that --"

The door flew open and I turned my head and saw an object that didn't appeal to me at all. He stopped short and glared at me. "You? You again?"

I stood up. "The same for me," I said. "You again. When the door of a room is closed you're supposed to knock. Miss Baxter, this is Sergeant Purley Stebbins of Homicide. Miss Tammy Baxter. There should be a class on manners at the --"

"What are you doing here?"

"Have a heart. What is a man usually doing when he's sitting in a parlor with a pretty girl? Pardon the expression, Miss Baxter, of course you're not merely a pretty girl, but I put it at the sergeant's level."

"Are you telling me or not?"

"Not. Not even if you say please. Shinny on your own side.

"We'll see." His eyes moved. "Your name is Baxter?"

"Yes. Tammy or Tamiris."

"You live here?"


"How long have you lived here?"

"Three weeks."

"I'm an officer of the law and I'm here to ask some questions. Come with me, please. Goodwin, you wait here."

Of course that was absurd. Since he was taking the pretty girl it would have been silly for me to stay there and twiddle my thumbs, and besides, I was twiddling my brain. Why was he there? What had sicced Homicide on it? So when she got up and went and he followed I tagged along, to the kitchen. The others were still at the table, except Paul Hannah, who was bringing the coffee pot from the range. Tammy joined them. There were more chairs at one side, and Stebbins got one and took it to the table. As I went and sat on one he barked at me, "I told you to wait in there!"

"Yeah. I thought you might want to ask me something. If I'm in the way I can go home."

"I'll deal with you later." He sat and got out his notebook and pencil, and ran his eyes over the audience. "This is just some routine questions," he told them, "As you know, the owner of this house, Hattie Annis, was hit by a car and killed at five minutes past eleven this morning. One of you identified the body."

"I did," Noel Ferris said.

"Okay. We've got the car. It had been stolen. We haven't got the driver yet, and we're making a routine check. I'll start with you, Miss -- your name, please?"

"Martha Kirk."

He wrote. "K-I-R-K?"




"Employed at present?"


"How long have you lived here?"

"Nearly a year."

"Where were you at eleven o'clock this morning?"

"Wait a minute," Raymond Dell rumbled. "This is invasion of privacy. It's monstrous. Are we in Moscow? Look at that child, that coryphee in the bud! Do you dare to imply that she is a murderous fiend?"

"I'm not implying anything. I said this is routine. I'm doing you folks a favor, coming here instead of sending for you. Miss Kirk?"

"I was here. In my room, in bed."

"At eleven o'clock?"

"Was anybody with you?"

Paul Hannah let out a whoop. Noel Ferris drawled, "Now really!"

Stebbins blushed. "Routine," he said stiffly.

"No, I was alone," Martha Kirk said. "I got up about eleven, a little after, and dressed and went out. I think this is exciting. I never gave an alibi before. I guess I'm not giving one now, because nobody was around."

Stebbins was getting it down. He looked up. "Miss Baxter?"

"You have my name," she said, "and that I've lived here three weeks. I'm going to be an actress if I can make it. Not employed at present. This morning I left here around ten o'clock to go shopping, and between then and noon I was in four or five different stores."

I had her in profile and couldn't tell how well she handled her face when she was lying, but her tone was perfect. Purely matter-of-fact. That's not so easy when someone is present, disposition unknown, who can call you.

Stebbins went to Ferris. "You, sir?"

"Noel Ferris." He spelled it. "Actor out of work because if it's either television or starve, I'll starve. Lived here a year and a half. For two hours this morning, from ten-thirty on, I was calling at casting agencies."

"How many?"

"Four, I think, altogether."

"Can you get corroboration for eleven o'clock?"

"I doubt it. I doubt if I would try. This is so idiotic."

"Maybe so." Stebbins turned a page of his notebook. "And you, sir?"

"Paul Hannah. Hannah with an h." He was standing back of Tammy's chair, with a cup of coffee. Standing up he looked even younger than sitting down. "I'm rehearsing in Do As Thou Wilt. It goes on at the Mushroom Theatre next month. That is, we hope it does."

"How long have you lived here?"

"Since September. Four Months."

"Where were you at eleven o'clock this morning?"

"I was walking."


"From here to Bowie Street. To the Mushroom Theatre."

"That's three miles. Quite a walk."

"I often walk it. It's good exercise and it saves bus fare."

"Anyone with you?"


Purley's head turned. "And you, sir?"

Raymond Dell passed a hand over his white mane and cleared his throat. "I answer under protest," he declared. "You deliberately left me to the last. I submit only to hasten your departure. My name is Raymond Dell. It is not entirely unknown. I have lived here four years. I am not engaged at present."

"You're an actor, Mr. Dell?"

His deepest blue-gray eyes darted right and left. "Am I an actor?" he demanded.

They nodded. Ferris said, "You certainly are."

"Where were you at eleven o'clock this morning?"

"I was eating an orange."


"In my room, which is above our heads. I never leave the house before noon. I was reading Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. I always read Sophocles in January."

"Were you alone?"


Stebbins' head turned right and then left. "Five of you. Are there any others? Any other tenants?"

Tammy Baxter said no.

"Have there been any others recently? In the last two weeks?"

Another no.

"Do any of you know of any enemies Hattie Annis had? Anyone who might -- where you going?"

That was for me. I was up and moving. I turned to tell him, "To the parlor for something, whistle if you want me," and proceeded. I did stop in the parlor, for my coat and hat.

Opening the front door, and closing it after me, I made no unnecessary noise, not wanting to disturb a police officer in the performance of his duties.

The snow was coming down thicker and the street was white. I was not actually deserting the field of action; it was merely that I had looked at my watch and seen ten minutes past six. Wolfe would be down from the plant rooms, and he would enjoy his beer more if I rang him to say I was being delayed on my errand. Ninth Avenue was closer than Eighth, so I went that way, found a booth in a bar and grill, contributed a dime, and dialed. And got a surprise. Ordinarily Fritz answers the phone when I'm not there, but it was Wolfe's voice.

"Nero Wolfe's residence."

"Me. I'm stuck with --"

"Where are you?"

"Forty-seventh Street. I'll be --"

"How long will it take you to get here?"

"Seventeen minutes. Why?"

"There's a man in the front room. Fritz let him in out of the snow. Come at once."

It wasn't quite as childish as it sounds. An experience a couple' of years back had shown that it was just as well for me to be present when Wolfe talked with a stranger. But I ventured to ask, "What's his name?"

"Leach. He showed Fritz his credentials. From the Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department."

"Well. What do you know. I'm on my way." I hung up, having certainly got my dime's worth. A T-man.

Chapter 3

Headed downtown on the crawling bus, I reflected that there was one nice thing, though only one; I hadn't left the package under the couch in the front room. If what I had heard of T-men was only half true, he would have smelled it. Except for that it was a very foggy prospect. Guessing wouldn't help any, but there was nothing else to do in the bus, so I considered a dozen guesses and didn't like any of them. Dismounting at 34th Street and walking the block and a half to the brownstone, I let myself in, put my coat and hat on the rack, and went to the office. Wolfe was standing over by the big globe, studying it, probably picking out a spot for me to be exiled to. He darted a glance at me, grunted, and went back to the globe.

I spoke. "Did he ask for you or me?"

"Both. See what he wants."

Instead of using the connecting door I went around by the hall and entered from there. He got up from a chair by the window as I appeared -- a medium-sized round-shouldered guy who had started going bald. "I'm Archie Goodwin," I said. "Keep your seat." I went to the couch and sat. "Sorry you had to wait."

He took a leather fold from his pocket, flipped it open, and came and held it out for inspection, I gave it a look. His first name was Albeit. I nodded. "Right. What can I do for my country?"

"I want to speak with you and Wolfe," he said. "Both of you."

"You can start with me. Mr. Wolfe is busy."

"I'll wait till he's free." He went to the chair and sat.

"It could be an hour. Meanwhile, here we are, and we might as well chat."

"No. I'll wait. You can tell Wolfe that I am acquainted with his methods and I don't approve of them."

He was the final type. He talked final, looked final, and acted final. If I had told him that Wolfe wouldn't be free until tomorrow afternoon he would have said, "I'll wait." So I said, "Then he'll have to change them. You should have let him know before. I'll go tell him." I went around by the hall again, found Wolfe still studying the globe, and announced, "He's a mule. Only both of us will do. There are just three alternatives: bounce him, bring him in, or lock him in until he gets hungry enough to leave by a window. He doesn't approve of your methods."

"What does he want?"

"Nothing doing. He's not very big. Bouncing him would be easy."

"Confound it. Bring him in."

I went and opened the connecting door and called to him, "You win, Leach. This way." He came, passing through, stopped in the center of the room to look right and left, went to the red leather chair near the end of Wolfe's desk, and sat. Wolfe, in no hurry, gave the globe another glance and then moved, detouring around the guest to get to his chair. As I was going to mine Leach spoke.

"If you're busy, Wolfe, it will save time to tell you that the Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department is not the same as the New York Police Department. I know your record and your reputation. We don't like fancy tricks and it doesn't pay to play games with us. I want to make that clear."

A corner of Wolfe's mouth twitched. "Your notebook, Archie. Get that down. If you will please repeat it, sir?"

It didn't faze him. "It was fair and proper to say it," he stated. "I was referring to your well-known habit of withholding information from the police which they are legally entitled to have. Their reasons for not calling you to account may be sound; I'm not criticizing them. But we will not tolerate any such defiance of your obligations under Federal law."


"Yes, sir." I had my notebook and pen. "I'm getting it."

"Is this gratuitous, Mr. Leach? Or have you a point?"

"I have a point. I have reason to believe that you are in possession of information regarding a counterfeiting operation -- counterfeiting of United States currency. You got the information from a Miss Hattie Annis this morning. I want to know what she told you - everything she told you. I also ask if she showed you any counterfeit money. I also ask if she left any counterfeit money with you, and if so, where is it? I also ask why you have not notified the authorities during the seven hours that have passed since she was here."

The corner of Wolfe's mouth twitched again. "I'm afraid your homily and warning were wasted, Mr. Leach. I have never seen a Miss Hattie Annis. Mr. Goodwin told me this morning that a woman of that name was to call to see me at eleven-fifteen o'clock, but she didn't come. Archie?"

"She came at a quarter to ten," I told the mule, "just as I was leaving on an errand. She didn't enter the house. She told me her name and said she wanted to see Nero Wolfe, that she had something in her handbag for which there would be a reward and she would split it with him. She wouldn't tell me what it was. She said if she took it to the cops they would do the splitting. I told her to come back at a quarter past eleven and I would try to persuade Mr. Wolfe to see her. She said nothing about counterfeiting and she showed me no counterfeit money. She left, and I went on my errand, depositing a check, not counterfeit, at the bank. When Mr. Wolfe came to the office I told him about her and he said he would see her, but she never came. However, that was not the last I heard of her. I learned this afternoon that a woman of that name had been killed by a hit-and-run driver around the corner from here, on Tenth Avenue."

"How did you learn it?"

There was no telling how many sources the Secret Service had around town, so I abandoned the cop on the beat. "From a Friend of mine on a newspaper. When she didn't show I wondered if something had happened to her, and I phoned him."

"She's dead," he said. "We can't ask her what she told you."

"That's right. I could be lying to Yonkers and back, but I'm not. I only lie to cops and women. I wouldn't dream of lying to you."

"I wouldn't advise you to. You just came in. Were you out on another errand?"



The natural thing would have been to say it was none of his business. But apparently they had tailed Hattie Annis to Wolfe's place, and if so, they might have tailed me to 47th Street, and I was being frank and open. So I said, "Looking into possibilities. Hattie Annis had said she had something that was good for a reward. It could have been something really worth while; you never know. And she had been killed. It wouldn't hurt to poke around a little, and I went up to her house on Forty-seventh Street to see if I could stir up something. I had barely got started when a Homicide sergeant came and took over. I beat it and came home -- and found you."

"You admit that she said she was in possession of something that was good for a reward."

"I state it."

"But you deny that she told you it was counterfeit money?"

"I do."

"Do you deny that from what she said you inferred it was counterfeit money?"

"I do. On my way from the bank I decided it was the Hope diamond."


"Because I knew you'd be asking and I thought that would be an interesting twist. You would be thinking she had counterfeits, but the point was that she had the real thing. The counterfeit was in the Smithsonian Institution."

I don't expect you to believe it, but he actually said, "So you admit that you knew we would be asking?"

"By gum," I said, "I guess you've got me. I wonder how I knew?"

Wolfe grunted. "Archie. If you must chaff him, take him somewhere else."

Leach got up. "I'll do the taking. If you're telling the truth, both of you, all right. If not, you'll regret it." He turned and went. I arose and stepped to the hall and offered to hold his coat, but he preferred to do it himself.

As I reentered the office Wolfe demanded, "Was that where you were? That woman's house?"

"Yes, sir." I went to my desk and set. "I wouldn't lie to a T-man. Too risky."

"And a policeman came?"

"Yes, sir. Stebbins."

"You have a remarkable talent for getting involved to no purpose. You know quite well how Mr. Cramer will react when he learns that Mr. Stebbins, investigating a death by violence, found you there ahead of him."

"Yeah. That's the least of my worries. I've got a problem. I'll have to take a week off -- of course without pay -- while I work it out. Beginning now."

"Pfui." His eyes narrowed. "What are you trying to badger me into?"

"What is it?"

"Well." I considered. "Since I got it on your premises while in your employ I suppose you have a right to know. I have to figure out what to do with nine thousand dollars in counterfeit money that's upstairs in my room."

He snorted. "The Hope diamond, too, of course."

"No, this is straight. Everything I told Leach was true, but I didn't mention that Hattie Annis gave me a package to keep until she returned. She told me not to open it and I didn't, until I learned that she had been killed. Then I took a look. About nine thousand bucks in phony twenty-dollar bills, brand new. They're pretty good; I had to use a glass on them to be sure. I took them up and put them in my shirt drawer. Then I went up to her house to see if I could spot a counterfeiter, and got interrupted by Stebbins."

"Why didn't you mention it to that donkey? And give him the package?"

I eyed him. "Do you really want me to answer that?"

He pulled at the tip of his ear. "No."

"I should hope not. That specimen? If I had given him the package and told him I didn't know what was in it he wouldn't have believed me. He would have taken both of us on a charge of possession. It's a good guess that they had a tail on her, or how did he know she came here? If so, it's barely possible the tail saw her hand me the package, and he'll be back with reinforcements and a search warrant. I'm going to get it out of the house, right now, and I'm going to leave the back way."

"Do so. At once. Don't mail it to him or his organization. Mail it to the police."

"No, sir. As I said, I'm taking a week off. I hope a week will do it."

"Nonsense." He glared. "I am instructing you to mail it. Without delay."

"Sorry." I stood up. "It's my problem. First I'll take the package somewhere and come back later for some things. I'll let you know where you can reach me." I moved.


I turned. "Yes, sir?"

"This is not to be borne. If you go, stay."

I stood facing him. "Okay. I'll bang the door when I leave, since I'm fired. But I'd like to describe the situation, not that you give a damn, just for the record. Hattie Annis may have got killed just because she happened to be there when a baboon came along in a stolen car, but she may not. I think not, for fairly good reasons. If it was deliberate, it's a good guess that she got it because she knew where that counterfeit money came from, so it will be essential evidence if and when he is tagged. Not only will it have to be produced; it will have to be shown that she had it. If I ditch it by mailing it to the police or the Secret Service, no matter who, so it can't be traced, it can't be connected with her and he can't be nailed. That's my problem. She left the package with me. If she was murdered on account of it, I don't owe the murderer any favors and I'm not going to do him one."

I turned and marched out, chin up, with my ego patting me on the back, and mounted the stairs to my room. Getting the package from the drawer, touching nothing but the string, I went back down to the hall for my coat and hat, and, after I had my gloves on, stuck the package in my pocket. As I neared the office door on my way to the kitchen Wolfe's voice came:


I stuck my head in. "Yes, sir?"

"You will dine here?"

"No. Fire me and feed me? Better not. I'll come and get some clothes and things."

"Very well."

I admit that as I passed through the kitchen and saw Fritz at the range basting two tender young pheasants in the roaster I felt a twinge. I also admit that as I let myself out, crossed the little enclosed space where Fritz grew herbs in the season, and unlocked the gate, I felt another twinge of a different kind. It was just possible that the Treasury Department knew of this back way and had it covered, and missing the pheasant would be the least of my troubles if I got nabbed with that package on me. The passage between two buildings was narrow and dark, and eddies of snow were whirling down. Emerging to the sidewalk on 34th Street, I turned left.

Making sure you are unattended is never difficult, and on a snowy blowy night there's nothing to it. Turning three comers was enough, and I leaned into the wind and forgot the rear. But at the entrance to Grand Central Station I stood a couple of minutes with my eyes open before going to the ramp and on down to a bank of lockers. Five seconds later, minus a dime and the package and plus a key, I proceeded to the tunnel to 45th Street, climbed the stairs, and was in the snow again for six blocks. The clerk at the Churchill wouldn't admit he had a room, so I went to the manager's office and asked for a man I don't need to name for whom I had once done an important favor. He came through, both with a room and with an envelope. I wrote on the envelope, "Property of Archie Goodwin, to be delivered only to him in person," put the key in it and sealed it, and left it with the assistant manager. I then Went down to the Tulip Bar, having in mind a modest snack in the neighborhood of three bucks, and saw on the menu

"Supreme of Pheasant Berchoux $9.00."

Of course I had to, though Berchoux was a complete stranger. It turned out to be okay, but the sauce wasn't up to Fritz's by a long shot.

If I have given the impression that I not only knew what I was doing but also what I was going to do, kindly erase it. Now that my immediate objective, getting the package properly cached, was accomplished, I could proceed as I saw fit, but what would fit? No matter which direction I headed I would find both the T-men and the cops already there, jostling each other, and there was no point in getting my toes trampled. By the time the waiter brought pecan sour cream pie and coffee I had my program all planned: ring a friend to suggest a couple of hours' dancing at the Flamingo, go to 35th Street and pack a suitcase and bring it to the hotel, keep the dancing date, take the friend home and discuss with her whatever she felt like discussing, return to the hotel, sleep nine hours, get up and have breakfast, go for a walk, and drop in on Lon Cohen at the Gazette and get the latest dope on Hattie Annis. That struck me as a fine combination of initiative, snap, and staying power.

But I didn't get to carry it through. After attending to the first item, ringing a friend and making a dancing date, I left by the main entrance, got a taxi, gave the hackie the 35th Street number, and asked him if an extra buck for a 15-minute wait while I packed a suitcase appealed to him. He said with the meter running and I said sure. Arriving, I mounted the stoop, used my key, entered, and went to the office, intending merely to tell Wolfe where I could be reached.

He wasn't there. Fritz was standing in the middle of the room, looking grimmer than I had ever seen him. His head jerked for a glance at me and then jerked back to watch what he was watching. It was Albert Leach. He was over by the filing cabinets, with one of the drawers open. He snapped at me: "When did you leave here and where have you been?"

Ignoring him, I asked Fritz, "How did he get in?"

"It was another man." Fritz's tone was as grim as his look. "I put the chain bolt on before I opened the door. He pushed a paper through the crack and I brought it to Mr. Wolfe. It was a search warrant, and Mr. Wolfe said he must be admitted. There are five of them. They have finished with the front room and dining room and kitchen and basement. Mr. Wolfe is with one of them in his room. One of them is on the third floor. Two of them are in the plant rooms. Theodore is with them."

I glanced at my watch. 9:20. "When did they come?"

"About an hour ago. I was taking in the salad and cheese."

"When and how did you leave here?" Leach demanded.

So he had had a man out front. "It could be like this," I told him. "I came in and saw you at the files and didn't recognize you, and naturally I went for you. My best is a kidney punch. You'd be back to normal in a few days. Mr. Brenner would be glad to corroborate me. Has he done the safe, Fritz?"

"Yes. Mr. Wolfe was here."

"Too bad I missed it. I'll be right back."

I went outside first to pay the hackie and dismiss him. Returning, I glanced in at the office and then mounted three flights to the plant rooms. The lights were all on. It was a joke. To do a thorough job on those thousands of pots and the beds of coke, looking for something as small as a wad of bills, would have taken six men six days. The two T-men were in the potting room, going through a bale of osmundine. Theodore was perched on a stool, grinning at them.

"They looking for thripe?" he asked me.

"No," I told him. "The Hope diamond. If they leave a mess keep track of your time cleaning it up. We'll want to send a bill. Keep an eye on them."

He said he would, and I left. One flight down I found no one in my room, and no visible sign of disturbance, and proceeded to the south room, which was a spare. One was there, lifting the mattress to put it back on the bed.

"That's wrong side up," I said.

"It's the way it was," he said.

"I know, but we turn it every Monday, and this is Monday. Turn it over, please."

He straightened to look at me. "No wonder. You're Archie Goodwin."

"Yeah. Have you done the other room on this floor? My room?"

"I have."

"Did you find the secret drawer?"

He bent to straighten the mattress, turning his back. Apparently he didn't care to chat, so I left, descended another flight, and turned right. The door at the end was open, and I crossed the sill. Wolfe was in the big chair by a window, his eyes on a man who was at the shelves on the far wall, removing books to look in back of them. I approached.

"I've made the rounds," I said. "Quite a crew. Leach is going through the files. The one on my floor will probably want to help me pack my suitcase. I'll be at the Churchill, but I don't know the room number yet."

He growled, a low growl in his throat. "Bah," he said.

"Yes, sir. I agree."

"How much longer will they be?"

"I couldn't say. Ten minutes or an hour or all night. I can ask Leach."

"No. Ask him nothing and tell him nothing. Your post is in the hall until they go. There are five of them."

"Yeah, I counted."

"Let me know when they have left. I have phoned Mr. Parker. He will learn in the morning their grounds for getting the search warrant. As they leave ask each of them if he has taken anything, in Fritz's presence." He turned his head to glare at the man by the shelves, who had dropped a book.

I would have preferred to roam around, keeping in touch with the various sectors of the operation, making comments as they occurred to me, but in the circumstances it seemed best to humor him, so I went down to the office and used the phone to cancel the dancing date. Then, telling Fritz to stay put and disregarding questions from Leach, not even looking at him, I stepped to the hall for patrol duty.

It was 10:28 when they left -- that is, when they were actually out and I had closed the door. The last quarter of an hour had been spent in a conference in the office of the whole quintet and in Leach trying to think of a question I would reply to. Having found that I wouldn't even tell him if it was still snowing, having gone up to Wolfe's room and found the door locked, and having got no response when he knocked, he came back down, collected his gang from the office, and herded them out. I went and buzzed Wolfe's room on the house phone to notify him, and then to the kitchen for a glass of milk. When I returned to the office Wolfe was there, telling Fritz to bring beer. Ordinarily ten o'clock is his beer deadline, but this was an emergency.

He sat and sent his eyes around, to the book shelves, the globe, the safe, the files, and me. "Is there any chance," he asked, "that we can be heard?"

"Very slim if any." I stood with the milk. "Fritz was here all the time. Not unless they invented something new last week."

"You did your errand?"

"Yes. Okay."

"Sit down." Fritz came with the beer, and Wolfe opened the bottle and poured. He likes plenty of foam. "I want a complete report from the beginning. From the time that, woman appeared this morning."

"Why? What's the use? It's my problem."

"Not anymore. Now it's mine. My house has been invaded, my privacy has been outraged, and my belongings have been pawed. Sit down."

I moved to get one of the yellow chairs. He snapped, "Don't be flippant! Sit at your desk!"

"It's not mine," I objected.

"Pfui. Confound it, sit down!"

I did so.

Chapter 4

When Wolfe says he wants a complete report he means it - all the words, all the actions, and the music if any. At one time it had been a strain, but after all the years of practice I could rattle it off with no trouble at all. I left nothing out, not even the detail that Tammy Baxter didn't arrange her legs like an actress when she sat. When I got to the end I said, "Before you start with questions I have one. I'm just curious. Why did you fire me? I have reported in full. What did I do or say that was out of line? Why fire me?"

"I didn't."

I stared. "What?"

"I merely said, 'If you go, stay.' That was ambiguous. You are never ambiguous when you quit, and neither am I when I discharge you. You were merely headstrong, as usual." He wiggled a finger to flip it away. "That has no pertinence to the problem, I suppose you have made assumptions?"

"Plenty. That Hattie Annis found the counterfeit money in a room in her house and therefore knew who it belonged to. That the Secret Service knew or suspected that someone in that house was passing counterfeits, but they didn't know who, and they were holding off because what they want is the guy that makes it. That the roomer knew or suspected that Hattie Annis had taken the money, and followed her here, and killed her. He might or might not have known that she didn't have it, that she had given me the package: that doesn't matter. With her dead it couldn't be proved that he had had it."

"Don't expound. I'm awake. Just your assumptions."

"This one has an alternative. Either that it couldn't be Tammy Baxter, since Hattie Annis told her she was coming here, or that it is Tammy Baxter and she followed Hattie Annis here and then had the nerve to wait until I came back and fed me a line, to find out how much I had been told. The second has the edge. Since you're awake you caught what she said: 'She said she was going to take something -- she was going to see Nero Wolfe about something.' If she was straight, why the dodge?"

"Of course. What else?"

"That a T-man tailed Hattie Annis here and saw her hand me the package. That one limps, because why didn't he stay on her, and if he stayed on her why didn't he see the driver of the car that killed her? Also if both a T-man and the roomer tailed her here why didn't they bump? I haven't bought that one, but I have this: that the Secret Service has passed on something to the cops. I don't know what or how much, but something. Purley Stebbins wouldn't go up to Forty-seventh Street in a snowstorm to tackle that bunch about a hit-and-run unless he had reason to think one of them was involved. Excuse me for expounding."

"Anything else?"

"That'll do for now."

"When it was your problem you were going to deal with it. How?"

"I was going to take a girl to the Flamingo and dance a couple of hours. I always find that stimulating. I hadn't decided how. Now that it's your problem I think you'll find that you need to be stimulated too. There is absolutely no --"

The doorbell rang. I got up, went to the hall, took a look through the one-way glass panel, saw a familiar red round face and a pair of broad shoulders, and turned to tell Wolfe, "Inspector Cramer."

Only then did I realize how hard the raid of the T-men had hit him, when he did something he had never done before. He arose and came to the halt and on to the front door, made sure the chain bolt was on, opened the door the two inches the chain would allow, and growled at die crack, "Yes?"

"Yes," Cramer growled back. "Open up."

"It's bedtime. What do you want?"

"I want in!"

"Have you a warrant'?"

"Nuts. I don't need a warrant to ask you a few questions -- and Goodwin."

"At this hour of the night you do. We will be available at eleven in the morning if we are not engaged."

"I had nothing to do with that warrant!"

What followed was as unprecedented as Wolfe's answering the doorbell. I had seen and heard those two tangle many times, but it had never gone beyond words and looks and gestures. There and then it was brawn and bulk. Wolfe tried to shut the door and found it was obstructed. He flattened his palms on it and pushed. Nothing doing. I have never asked Cramer whether he had his shoulder or his foot against it, or his toe in the crack. If the latter, he must have regretted it. Wolfe turned and put his back against the frame, set his heels, and heaved, and the door slammed shut.

"Fine," I said. "It's a three-way jostle now -- the Secret Service, the New York Police Department, and us. Fine."

He went to the elevator, opened the door, and turned. "Turn off the doorbell and the telephone. Don't leave the house in the morning. Tell Fritz."

"Yes, sir."

"Can you make a package like the one she gave you? In appearance?"

"Approximately. Near enough for the naked eye."

"Do so in the morning. Goodnight."

"What do I put in it?"

"Anything that will serve. Paper."

"What do I do with it?"

"I don't know. We'll see in the morning. Bring it to my room at half past eight."

He entered the elevator, which groaned as usual at the load, and pulled the door to, I went to the office to try the safe door, take a look at the files, and flip the switches, then to the kitchen to tell Fritz we were breaking off relations with the world, and then up to my room for some privacy.

Fritz takes Wolfe's breakfast up to his room on a tray 17 x 26, and I eat mine in the kitchen. Tuesday morning, as I disposed of orange juice, griddle cakes, sausage, eggs poached with a puree of anchovy paste and sherry, and coffee, with the morning paper on the rack, the counterfeit package of counterfeits was at my elbow. Fritz being a paper and string hoarder had made it simple, and for the contents all I had needed was typewriter paper and the office paper cutter. It wasn't identical, but it was close to it, and the ordinary white string was exactly the same.

I had had to hunt for Hattie Annis in the Times. They had given her a measly three inches on page 17, and there was no hint that it was anything but an everyday hit-and-run. It said that the driver had been so muffled up that no good description of him or her had been obtained.

At 8:28 I took the last swallow of coffee, picked up the package, arose, told Fritz the eggs had been even better than usual and went up to Wolfe's room. He was at the table by a window, fully dressed, dipping honey from ajar onto a muffin. I displayed the package and he frowned at it.

"Nine thousand dollars?" he demanded.

"Right. The dimensions are perfect. I have a suggestion. Make another one and mail one to Leach and one to Cramer."

"I have a better one."

He described it. Whether it was better than mine would depend on how it worked out, but at least it was worth trying. He is as good at giving instructions as I am at reporting, and I rarely have to ask any questions, but that time there was one. If a situation developed where authority was needed, which should I call, Cramer or Leach? He wouldn't say. He wouldn't concede that any situation could be desperate enough to justify calling either of them, which left it up to me. I went down and got my coat and hat, stuck the package in my coat pocket, and left the house the back way. Either of the enemy forces might have a sentry out front, or even both, and I didn't want to bother with shaking a tail. The snow had stopped during the night and the sun was edging over the top of the buildings across 34th Street. I flagged a taxi and told the driver 47th and Eighth Avenue.

I rather doubted if anyone would be up and around so early at the castle of culture, but evidently recent events had caused some changes in routine. Five seconds after I pushed the button in the vestibule there were steps inside. The door opened and Paul Hannah was there. He blinked. "My eye," he said. "Rubbing against culture at this hour?"

"I'm a fanatic," I told him. I stepped in. "I got interrupted yesterday by that sergeant. I know it's early, but there's something I want to clear up."

A voice came down from above, Tammy Baxter's: "Who is it, Paul?"

I called up, "Archie Goodwin! Good morning! I know I'm a nuisance, but it can't be helped. Is there any chance of having a conference?"

"With me?"

"With all of you. I have a little problem to settle. Do you suppose they can be roused?"

"I'll see. I don't know if Ray -- I'll see."

Paul Hannah asked if I had had breakfast and I said yes but I could use a cup of coffee if there was any to spare, and he headed for the rear. I followed, but detoured into the parlor to put my coat and hat on the sofa. As I entered the kitchen Hannah was at the range pouring coffee. "I guess," he said, "I'm a misfit as an actor. I have always liked to get up in the morning and I can't break the habit. What's the problem you want to settle?"

I could have told him he would also have to do something about his chubby cheeks, but didn't. "Nothing much," I said.

"Probably nothing at all. Pumpkin pie?"

He nodded. "Another habit, pie for breakfast. My favorites are mince and lemon meringue, but they didn't have any yesterday. Have a piece?" I said no, thanks, and he changed the subject. "What do you think of Clement Brod?"

That was a challenge. When anyone asks what you think of somebody you never heard of, the game is to place him without letting on. You can nearly always win if you play it right, and that time it was a cinch. Without a single fumble I had learned that Clement Brod was a well-off young man in his twenties who had had a book of poems published, had written an off-beat play called Do As Thou Wilt, had worn a beard for a year but shaved it off, and owned a Jaguar, by the time Hannah had finished his second piece of pie and third cup of coffee; and I would soon have been an authority on Brod if we hadn't been interrupted. The four of them arrived together -- Tammy Baxter, Martha Kirk, Noel Ferris, and Raymond Dell. The girls were dressed for anybody and their faces and hair had been attended to. Ferris had combed his hair but was in shirt sleeves and no tie. Dell's marvelous white mane was tousled and his costume was an ancient blue dressing gown with spots on it. As he entered he boomed: "Monstrous! Flagitious!"

"There's plenty of coffee," Hannah said. "Kippers, anyone?"

Noel Ferris stretched, yawned, muttered, "Give me the sun," and came and sat. Martha Kirk went and got cups. Tammy Baxter said, "You have made history, Mr. Goodwin," and pulled up a chair. Dell sank onto one where it was, took an orange from the pocket of his gown, and started peeling it.

"I apologize," I told them. "I don't know what 'flagitious' means, in fact I didn't know it was pronounced like that, but I admit it's monstrous. My excuse is that I wanted to get here before any of you went out."

"More coffee?" Martha Kirk asked me. Looking up at her, from an angle, the dimple seemed a little off-center, but it wasn't.

"I believe I will, thanks." I wanted to be one of them.

"It had better be good," Noel Ferris drawled. His lazy brown eyes were only half open. "Good heavens! I hope you're not going to evict us?"

I would have liked to tell him it would be a pleasure to evict a man who answered the phone by asking who is this. "No," I said, "for that I would need a badge and I'm strictly private." I took a sip of coffee. "I just want to settle a little matter. Why I phoned yesterday and asked for Miss Annis, I had seen her and talked with her. She had come to see Nero Wolfe, but he was busy, and she was coming back at a quarter past eleven. She never came, and I wondered why. When I phoned of course I didn't know she had been killed."

"You asked for Miss Baxter," Ferris said.

"Yeah. I knew she lived here. I had met her somewhere. Later, when I learned what had happened to Miss Annis, I thought over what she had told me, and on account of something she had said, something she had told me was confidential, I wanted to take a look at her effects. I wanted to know what to do about what she had told me in confidence. So I came, and was talking with Miss Baxter when we were interrupted. And here I am again. I'm going to glance through Miss Annis' things, her papers mostly. Did she have a desk somewhere?"

"A good idea." Ferris yawned. "Go to it. Second floor front. If you find a will leaving the house to Ray Dell we'll be fixed for life."

"That's brutal," Martha Kirk said. "The poor woman isn't even in her grave yet."

"She left nothing to me," Dell rumbled. "She regarded me as a sloven. All my eloquence couldn't persuade her that orange peel, as it dries in a waste basket, gives a scent pleasant to a discriminating nose."

"She was right," Martha declared. "It smells terrible."

"Is it all right to do that?" Paul Hannah asked me. "Go through her things? Isn't there a law about it?"

"If there is," Ferris said, "he should break it. We all should, in her memory. She hated cops."

"I won't be breaking any law," I assured them, "unless I pinch something, and I'm not going to. Of course the strictly proper thing would be to get permission from the executor of the estate, but who is it? Do any of you know?"

They didn't.

"Has anyone been here officially? Someone claiming to be an heir? Or a lawyer?"

They said no. "Hattie was a relict," Raymond Dell declared. "The last of her line. It is my belief that she was without kith or kin -- unless we are to be considered her kith. That appeals to me." He thumped his chest. "Raymond Dell, of the kith of Hattie Annis. May I have a napkin, Martha?"

Tammy Baxter spoke for the first time since she had told me I had made history. "You may not find what you're looking for, Mr. Goodwin. That police sergeant was in Miss Annis' room for more than an hour last night after he finished with us. He may have taken it."

"Which suggests a question," Ferris said. He put his cup down. "You're a detective, you ought to know everything. Why the inquisition? Why are we beset? Why did that bloodhound tell us not to leave the jurisdiction? What is the jurisdiction? Why did Hattie go to see Nero Wolfe? What did she tell you in confidence? What do you expect to find among her papers?"

"That's seven questions," I protested. "Have a heart."

"They're damn good questions," Paul Hannah said. He was at the range again. "I'd like to ask them myself. I think we all would. Especially the first two. As far as we know, Hattie was crossing the street and got hit by a goon who had stolen a car." His chubby cheeks were flushed. "Why don't they find him and cut off his hands and feet? What have we got to do with it?"

I shook my head. "Search me. That's not my territory. As for what Miss Annis told me in confidence, now that she's dead it may be that I ought to tell it, and that's what I want to find out. Specifically, about the package she left with me - a little package wrapped in brown paper. She didn't tell me what was in it. I don't want to slander the dead, but from something she said I got the notion that it might have belonged to one of you and she had swiped it. Are any of you minus such a package? Or anything that could be put in such a package?"

"That's horrible," Martha Kirk said. "To accuse Hattie of stealing!"

"He's not accusing her, Martha darling," Ferris told her. "He's eliminating. Detectives spend practically all their time eliminating."

"Could it be a book?" Raymond Dell asked. "My Tamburlaine is gone."

"It's not the right shape for a book," I said. "Six inches by three and two inches thick."

"Where is it?" Tammy Baxter asked.

"In my overcoat pocket." I sent my eyes around. "Oh, I left it in the parlor."

"Well, for heaven's sake." Martha Kirk turned her hands up - a dancer's hands. "I'm not a detective, but when I want to know what's in a package I open it. Shall I bring it?"

"No, thank you, Miss Kirk. Miss Annis told me not to open it. She's dead, but as far as I'm concerned it's still her property. Unless you want to claim it?"

"Me? Why should I? It's not mine."

"Miss Baxter?"

Tammy shook her head. "No."

"Mr. Dell?"

"I am minus nothing." He had finally finished the orange. "Nothing but my illusions, my ambitions, and my hopes. They could not be contained in the package you describe."

"Mr. Ferris?"

His eyes were still only half open. "How can I claim it unless I know what's in it?"

"Have you missed anything recently?"

"No. Not even an illusion."

"Mr. Hannah?"

He shook his head. "I guess we're all eliminated. Why, did Hattie tell you it belonged to one of us?"

"No, it was just a notion I got. By the way, Mr. Dell, that remark you made yesterday about snooping. I snoop only within reason. I could have opened the package and tried whatever is in it for fingerprints. If I found some I could have come and got hold of samples from you people -- for instance, from the coffee cups. That would have been snooping. Instead, I just came and asked you." I pushed my chair back and stood. "I apologize again for coming before breakfast, and many thanks for the coffee and the cooperation. You said second floor front, Mr. Ferris?"

"Correct. One flight up. If you find a will leaving it to anyone but us or one of us, burn it."

"I'll do that." I went.

I took my time mounting the stair, trying each step for creaks, in case developments called for silent descent. The fifth from the top didn't creak but it croaked unless you stepped on the inside end. The upper hall had three doors, one toward each end and one about the middle. The one at the rear end was standing open -- Raymond Dell's, since he had told Stebbins that his room was above the kitchen. The one in the middle was shut; probably a closet. The one at the front was also shut, and I went and opened it and entered. There was a massive walnut bed, a big old rolltop desk, a worn and faded carpet with big flowers, some chairs; and a hundred or so pictures of men and women all over the walls, most of them in costume, and all of them actors from a mile off.

Of course staying there was no good; I might as well have stayed at home. A floor and ceiling were between me and the parlor, and if he or she took the bait quick, on leaving the kitchen, he could be in and out of the parlor without my hearing or seeing a thing.

There was no place to lurk in the lower hall. Only one place would do. I left, closed the door, went to the landing, and listened. Voices came up, dominated by the boom of Raymond Dell. With that for cover I descended, remembering the fifth step, saw that the hall was clear, made the door to the parlor, opened it, entered, and shut the door gently.

There were three possibilities: a closet if there was one, the upright piano at the right wall, and the sofa itself. One of the other two doors was probably a closet, but I wanted a better view than a keyhole, and with the blinds down there wasn't much light. To be covered by the sofa I would have had to shift its angle. The thought struck me that one of them might already have dived in and out again, and I felt the pocket of my coat. Still there. I went and huddled at the end of the piano, squeezing into the corner, and decided it would do. It would have to. If he looked around first it would cramp my style, but anyhow there would be something to discuss. I straightened up, listened to my ears, and kept an eye on two doors, since the one at the far corner might be to a passage to the kitchen. It was so dark that I could barely see the hands of my wrist watch. 9;42.

I might have been able to hear their voices, at least Dell's, if it hadn't been for the street sounds. Morning crosstown traffic in the Forties can be heard even when it can't be seen. So I quit trying. I learned later that the historic gathering I had assembled soon broke up, but the only sign I got was footsteps in the hall a couple of times. They went on by. I was rubbing one eye and beginning to think he wasn't going to bite, that I had wasted a lot of typewriter paper and carefully selected items from Fritz's hoard of paper and string, when the door to the hall started to open, and I squeezed into the corner fast.

Chapter 5

He certainly wasn't noisy. I have good ears, but the door closing was just a faint whisper, and so was his crossing to the sofa. But when a package is a tight fit in a pocket it isn't easy to get it out with no noise at all, especially if you're in a hurry, and I heard that, which was the main point. I moved and spoke: "Did you want me?"

It wasn't he, it was she, and she was quick. She made a dash for the door and got there before I did, but it opened in, and of course that was hopeless. I was against it before she had the knob turned. "You rat," she said, not too loud.

I stretched an arm to reach for the wall switch and turned on the light. "I admit I'm surprised," I said. "If I had made book on it you would have been at the bottom."

"You lied," she said. "Yesterday. You said she hadn't been there."

"Sure. Because she might have had reasons for not wanting you to know. Apparently she did."

"She did not! She told me she was going!"

"Maybe. Or maybe you followed her. Anyway, the point isn't why I lied, it's why you sneaked in and snitched that package." I put out a hand. "I'll take it."

She backed up a step. "You will not. It's not yours, it's hers. That's why I came and got it. You have no right to it!"

"Have you?"

"As much as you have. More. This is her house. It belongs here."

I shot out a hand, grabbed her wrist, whirled her off balance, and with the other hand got the package.

"Coward," she said. "If I were a man --"

"I wish you were. For instance, Noel Ferris. I don't like the way he answers the phone. Look, Miss Baxter. I may be a rat and a coward, but I'm not a goof. If you felt that I had no right to the package because it belongs here, why didn't you say so? The three men could have held me while you came and got it, or at least they could have tried. But you sneaked in when the coast was clear, or you thought it was. Of course you knew I would miss it, so the point was that I wouldn't know who had taken it. Why?"

"I'm a woman," she said.

"Right. No argument. And?"

"I'm a woman, that's all." She put out a hand and was going to touch me but let it drop. "You have a reputation for knowing all about women, Mr. Goodwin."


"And I act like one. Calling you a rat and a coward, that was silly. Of course I know you're not, I know you're a very smart man, and you're honorable and anything but a coward." She put her hand out again, and that time touched my arm. "It's just that I think I may know something about what's in the package on account of what Hattie told me yesterday morning. She said she was going to take it to Nero Wolfe. You say she left it with you and told you something in confidence. If you ask me why I sneaked in here and took it, can't I ask you why you set a trap? Why you told us it was here in your pocket and then sneaked in and hid?"

She talked too much. I had caught her in the very act, and she was turning it into a debating match. I decided to give her a test. "We could keep this up all day," I said. "I'll call Purley Stebbins, the police sergeant who was here yesterday, and he'll come or we'll go and see him. Let him decide about the package. Where's the phone?"

That did it, and I should have been tickled but wasn't. I believe I haven't mentioned that the idea had occurred to me at our first meeting that it might be interesting to know her better, to learn about such details as her table manners and her reactions to dance music, and a girl is not available for that kind of investigation if she is in the coop on a murder charge. Even before she spoke, the expression on her face was a big hint.

She spoke. "I'd rather not," she said. "Hattie hated cops."

"Hattie is dead."

"Yes, but ..." She touched my arm. "You said yourself it's still her property and she certainly wouldn't want us to give it to the police. She trusted me, didn't she? When she told me she was going to see Nero Wolfe? Can't you trust me, Mr. Goodwin? Don't you think I'm fit to be trusted?"

I skipped that. She was unquestionably a woman. "All right," I said, "there's an alternative. I'm not too fond of cops myself. We'll go and put it up to Nero Wolfe. Get your coat and hat."

She considered it, twisting her mouth, her head tilted, regarding me. "You won't give me the package if I promise to come later?"

"Of course not."

"All right. I'll go. My coat's up in my room."

I opened the door and she passed through and headed for the stairs. Since I would have at least six minutes, the world record minimum for a human female to get a coat and put it on, I thought I might as well take a look at Hattie Annis' desk, so I went up, The door was standing open, and Paul Hannah appeared on the sill as I approached.

"Oh, there you are," he said. "I was thinking about those questions Ferris asked. You didn't answer them."

"I made a stab at it." I entered and crossed to the desk. The top was rolled up, the pigeonholes were stuffed full, and stacks of papers and magazines and miscellaneous items left no room on the surface. It would have taken an hour for a quick once-over or four hours for a real job, not counting the drawers, I pulled out the contents of a pigeonhole. "Which question especially?" I asked.

"All of them. I don't get any of it."

"I'm not sure I do. That's why I'm snooping. I'll let you know if I find anything that helps."

"I won't be here. I'm leaving for the theatre. Rehearsal."

"Good luck and don't trip on anything. If Clement Brad's around give him my regards."

He said he would, and went. Opening the six drawers of the desk, none of them locked, and finding that they were stuffed too, I went back to the surface and pigeonholes. There were theatre programs, newspaper clippings, pictures cut out of magazines, cancelled checks -- something of everything except letters. Not a single letter. My watch told me that the six minutes had stretched to ten, which was surely enough, when Tammy Baxter's voice came: "Mr. Goodwin! Where are you?"

She was below, at the foot of the stairs, in the same for coat and fuzzy little turban as the day before. I descended and got my coat and hat from the parlor and put the package in the pocket, and we left, heading west. She was a good woman walker, neither trotting nor jiggling. When we had flagged a taxi on Ninth Avenue and I had climbed in after her and given the hackie the address, I asked, "Do you drive a car?"

"Certainly," she said. "Who doesn't?"

So that was no help, You can't steal a car and run it over somebody if you don't know how to drive. If you think I'm piling ft on, that I didn't really suspect she might have killed Hattie Annis, you are wrong. If there's a formula for ruling people out as incapable of murder under any provocation I don't know what it is, and there were four marks against her. But that aspect of the situation was soon to be disposed of. As the taxi rolled to the curb in front of the old brownstone a man got out of a parked car just ahead. It was Albert Leach.

I should have caught on immediately. I should have let Tammy Baxter scramble out by herself instead of giving her a hand. I certainly was a sap that it didn't dawn on me when Leach flashed the leather fold with his credentials and said, "I'm arresting you on suspicion of being in possession of counterfeit United States currency."

My brows went up. "No warrant this time?"

"No warrant is needed if the suspicion is based on reasonable grounds."

"You ought to know. I'm not up on Federal law. But since we're outdoors and you have already searched my room, I suppose 'possession' means having it on my person?"

"It does."

"Okay, that's easily settled." I stretched my arms wide, "Go to it."

"Not here." He touched my shoulder. "Come along."

"I respectfully decline. I'm too heavy for you to carry, so you'll have to drag me. People have been known to plant things on people, and here I have witnesses -- this lady and the cab driver. If you undress me and I catch cold I hereby agree not to hold the United States responsible." I stretched my arms again.

He turned and called, "Come here, Ziegler!" and a man climbed out of the car and joined us. "Stand by," Leach said, and moved. He didn't pat or feel; he simply stuck his hand in my pocket and pulled out the package. He backed up, squatted, put the package on the sidewalk, untied the string, and opened the wrapping. He stared a second at the neat white stack of paper, then picked it up and flipped through it, first at one end and then the other.

"Don't soil it, please," I said. "That's good bond." I stretched my arms. "Try again. You've barely started."

He stood up. "I warned you yesterday, Goodwin. It doesn't pay to play games with us. You'll regret this. Come on, Ziegler." He turned and headed for the car, with the makings of the package.

"Hey!" I called. "I want that!"

He ignored me, and it wasn't worth an argument, since I could make another one at a cost of under fifteen cents. When they had got in and rolled away, the hackie called to me, "What's he? FBI?"

"Yes," I told him. "Foiled By Intelligence -- What's the idea?"

Tammy Baxter was opening the door of the cab. "I'm going," she said. "I might as well. The package is gone."

"But you're not. Nothing doing. There is still something to discuss. We'll go in and discuss it here, or you can discuss it later with Stebbins. Take your pick."

She hesitated, then swung the door shut. "Okay," I told the driver, "your flag's up," and he fed gas and was off.

Tammy turned to me: "What was that in the package? Just blank paper?"

I eyed her. "Show me your credentials," I said.

"What? What credentials?"

"Nuts. Maybe you're right. You might as well go. Then I can go in and ring a man I know on the Gazette and give him an item he'll appreciate. Human interest. That Archie Goodwin was ambushed on the sidewalk in front of Nero Wolfe's house by two T-men and a T-woman and arrested for possession of counterfeit United States currency, and only his quick wit and presence of mind saved him. I'll bet he doesn't even know there is a T-woman. I didn't. A picture of you would help. A picture of you would decorate any story. The gorgeous glamorous T-woman. Wait here a second while I go in and get my camera."

"What on earth are you talking about? What's a T-woman?"

"Oh, come on down. When you went to get your coat you phoned him. Two of them waiting here in a car? And the way he went about it? If I'm wrong you can sue the newspaper and me both for libel."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Ha. You double-talking she-weasel. Giving me the dewy eye and purring at me, 'I'm a woman.' Touching my arm and asking me if you weren't fit to be trusted. Come in and purr at Nero Wolfe a while. Are you coming or going?"

"I have nothing to say to Nero Wolfe. If you can set a trap --"

"Shut up! If I go in alone I ring my newspaper friend before I take off my coat and hat. Which do you want me to use, Tammy or Tamiris?"

No reply. I turned and started up the steps. She came. By the time I had my key out she was there, and I swung the door open and let her precede me. T-women first. She stood while I got rid of my hat and coat and then started for the office, but I stopped her. "In here," I told her, opening the door to the front room, and she passed through. "I'm going to report first," I said. "Help yourself to the magazines. Don't bother to strain your ears; the soundproofing is good. I'm locking the door to the hall only so you won't roam around looking for packages; if you get tired waiting you can leave by a window."

She had something to say but I wasn't interested. Leaving by the hall door, which I locked, and proceeding to the office, I found Wolfe at his desk counting bottle caps he had taken from his drawer. Tuesday is the day for checking the week's beer consumption. I went and stood. When he looked up I asked, "Anymore invasions?"

"No," he said. "I had a talk with Mr. Cramer on the phone. He wanted to know what that woman told you yesterday and what you were doing at her house. Of course he wasn't satisfied, he never is, and he may call. I'll be through in a moment." He finished putting the caps in groups of ten, figured the total, scowled at them, muttered, "I don't understand it," and brushed them into a heap. "Didn't I hear a woman's voice?"

"You did. She's in the front room. The bait worked fine, as planned, but it hooked the wrong fish. It is now one sweet mess. I'll have to report in full."

"Very well."

I went to my desk and sat, and gave it to him, omitting nothing. He is the best listener I know of, his most violent reaction being with his fingertip, making circles the size of a quarter on the arm of his chair. When I got to the end and said, "If you have no use for her I'll take her to the Empire State Building and push her off," he moved the fingertip to rub the side of his nose.

He cleared his throat. "It could be that your wit was dulled by your discomfiture. How certain are you that she is a colleague of Mr. Leach?"

"Utterly. Totally. Absolutely. She is probably kept under cover and used only for special occasions. I doubt if Tammy Baxter is her real name."

He leaned back and closed his eyes, and his lips moved - out to a pucker and then in again, out and in, out and in. His record for that performance is around forty minutes. That time it was only three or four. He opened his eyes and spoke. "I need your opinion."

"Of her?"

"No. Of a stratagem. That one miscarried, but it has prepared the way for another. I'll describe it."

He did so, and I gave it both ears. It was nothing as complicated or fancy as some of the programs he has cooked up, and I had to answer only three questions as my contribution. And at the end a fourth, when he asked, "Well?"

"Yes," I said, "except for one detail. What if you can't keep her here and Leach is waiting for me at the door?"

He grunted. "Am I a clod? Bring her."

I went and opened the connecting door and said, "In here. Miss Baxter."

Chapter 6

As she sat in the red leather chair Wolfe frowned at her on principle and I frowned at her in particular. The chair would have held two of her, and in order to have her knees straight in front and her feet flat she had to sit on the edge. Twenty-four hours earlier I would have thought that she went fine with the red leather, but now my mind was closed.

"Do you know what a premise is, madam?" Wolfe demanded.

"Why ... yes," she said.

"We have one: that you are an agent of the Secret Service of the Treasury Department. If you're going to waste my time denying it you may as well go. If you do, you know what Mr. Goodwin's intentions are and I approve of them. It would be a readable item. He suffered a contretemps, but so did you and your colleagues. Shall I proceed?"

"I'll listen," she said.

"Good. First, I am concerned only with the exposure of a murderer. With you that is secondary; your target is a counterfeiter. The reason for my concern is personal and not material to this discussion. I wish you success in your pursuit, but I won't let it impede mine. You know who killed Hattie Annis."

"I do not!"

"I think you do. At least you have grounds for a strong suspicion. You were assigned to that house because there was evidence that someone there was involved in a counterfeiting operation, and you have lived there three weeks. Surely you aren't so inept that you learned nothing. You may even have known who it was when you went there, and your purpose was to discover his source of supply. I won't list the reasons for the assumption that he killed Hattie Annis; you know them as well as I do. I don't suggest that you will let a murderer escape his doom if it suits your convenience; it is merely that you give priority to your objective, and I do not. But the advantage is with me. I have the package of counterfeit bills."

Her eyes widened. "You have it? You admit it?"

"I state it, here with you, where Mr. Goodwin makes it two to one if you are moved to quote me. Parenthetically, there is a plausible explanation for the package that was just taken from the pocket of Mr. Goodwin's coat. Yesterday Mr. Leach asked if Hattie Annis had left some counterfeit money here. Obviously there was some somewhere, and presumably it had been a factor in Miss Annis' fate, so I told Mr. Goodwin to make a package of appropriate size and shape to use as bait. That's our explanation for the record; for you the truth is better. We have the package."

"Where is it?"

"Out of your reach, I assure you. Another parenthesis: the disclosure of your status removes some difficulties. As an instance, we had supposed that Mr. Leach knew that Miss Annis had come to this house yesterday because he or one of his men had followed her here. But if so, as Mr. Goodwin pointed out to me, why hadn't he followed her when she left, and why hadn't he seen the driver of the car that killed her? Now those questions are answered. She was followed here by the man who was soon to kill her -- and you could name him -- but not by Mr. Leach. He knew she had come here because you told him. I concede that you are not without gumption. When you learned that Mr. Goodwin had said on the phone that his name was Buster you inferred that Miss Annis had spoken with him, and you left the room, ostensibly to get your lipstick, but actually to make a phone call." His head turned. "Archie?"

I nodded. "Oh, she's bright. I'm proud of her."

He returned to her. "Other points are clarified by the disclosure of your status, but they are minor. I have a proposal to make. Mr. Goodwin and I are in a pickle. We want the murderer to be exposed, apprehended, tried, and convicted; but the package of bogus money will be an essential item of evidence, and we have it but can't produce it without embarrassment at the least and substantial penalty at the worst. You, on the other hand, have much to gain by producing it. It will more than compensate for your mishap in arranging for Mr. Leach to stub his toe. It will be a leaf for your garland. I propose to make the package available to you. Do you want it?"

"Of course I want it." She didn't sound enthusiastic. "And of course this is some very fancy trick. What will be in it this time?"

Wolfe shook his head. "No trick. I am offering to trade. We will give you the package Miss Annis left with Mr. Goodwin, intact, in a manner uncompromising for us but satisfactory to you, if you will answer some questions; and you will not be quoted. This is in good faith, madam."

"What are the questions?"

"I repeat, you wilt not be quoted. I want information for my own use, not testimony for a tribunal. During the three weeks you have lived in that house have you searched the premises?"

She pinched her lips with her teeth. She looked at me. "What is this, Mr. Goodwin? Another trap?"

"No," I said, "this is straight."

"Is it being recorded?"

"No. When Mr. Wolfe says in good faith he means it, and so do I. He's offering a deal and we're not double-dealers."

She looked at Wolfe. "All right. Yes, I have."

"Did you find what you were looking for?"

"No. The first thing was to find out if it was being made there, and it wasn't. Then to find out where he got it."

"Did you?"

"No. I think I would have pretty soon -- if this hadn't happened."

"Did you know who he was when you went there?"

"I knew --" She stopped. She decided to finish it. "I knew a certain person who lived there had passed some. That's all I'm going to tell you unless you tell me something. You said you would give me the package in a manner satisfactory to me. You might think it was satisfactory but I wouldn't. You can't just hand it to me and expect me not to tell where I got it."

"No indeed, but indulge me. I'll tell you in a moment. Have you searched that house thoroughly?"

"Well ... I made sure that there was no equipment anywhere to make counterfeit money. I wasn't looking for just a few bills. There would have been no point in that."

"When you learned that Miss Annis had found something she was going to bring to me, and you suspected what it was, or she told you what it was, did you try to find it? Did you search her room?"

"No. She only told me about it yesterday morning just before she left, and she showed me the package, but she wouldn't say what was in it."

"Did she tell you where she had found it?"

She thought that one over. Finally she said, "Yes."

"Did you ever search her room?"

"I did once, the first week, looking for equipment."

"Very well." Wolfe rested his elbows on the chair arms and laced his fingers. "This will be the procedure. You will stay here with me. You will give your house key to Mr. Goodwin. He will go and get the package, go to the house and to Miss Annis' room, and choose a place to hide the package. He will choose with care, since a policeman was in that room last evening. He will then phone here, you will go to the house and join him, you will search the room together, and you will find the package. That should be satisfactory. You understand, of course, that if you report this conversation or any part of it we'll deny it in toto. You will have been impelled by your animus against Mr. Goodwin because of the humiliation he subjected you to. Two against one."

She was looking doubtful. "I am capable of good faith too, Mr. Wolfe. But for the record, she brought the package and gave it to Mr. Goodwin. How did it get to her room?"

"She didn't give it to Mr. Goodwin. After she spoke with you she decided not to bring it; or after speaking with Mr. Goodwin she decided not to show it to me, merely to tell me about it, went home and left it there, and returned to this neighborhood. There was plenty of time. Neither of those suppositions can be disproved. I will add that this offer is not made under pressure of desperation. If you decline it, no one will ever see that package again. That will make my job more difficult but by no means impossible. If you accept it, and do not report this discussion, you will betray no trust. On the contrary, your recovery of the package will be a coup. I have more questions to ask, but if you accept the offer, Mr. Goodwin can go now."

"What questions?"

"A few minor ones and one major one. The major one, naturally, is the name of the murderer."

"I don't know it."

"Pfui. That's a quibble. The name of the person living in that house who had passed counterfeit money. What is it?" She shook her head. "No," she said emphatically. "Not that. No."

Wolfe grunted. "You prefer to preserve him to lead you to your quarry. So does Mr. Leach; he felt bound to give the police a hint, but not the name. I intend to press the point, but Mr. Goodwin might as well go. -- Archie?"

I got up and went to her. "The key, please?"

She was and she wasn't. The glamorous she-weasel tilted her adorable, maybe, face up to me, presumably to see if I was fit to be trusted. I made my face the picture of integrity, virtue, and honor. Apparently that did it, for she opened her bag, took out a key fold, removed one of the keys, and handed it to me.

"You'll get it back," I said, "see you later," and went.

Chapter 7

There can be any number of reasons for making sure that you're not being tailed or shaking it off if you have one, but on the whole I don't know of a better one than that you prefer not to have company when you are on your way to pick up nine grand in phony lettuce. It took me two blocks to learn that unquestionably I had company, and two more to decide that it was Homicide, not Secret Service. That was cockeyed. I was risking, if not my life, at least my liberty and pursuit of happiness, to give Homicide first call on a murderer, and they were dogging me. It took me an extra ten minutes to make it to the Churchill, since I had to be absolutely certain that I had lost him.

Having got the envelope with the key at the manager's office, I didn't relax en route to Grand Central; and having got the package from the locker, I changed my attitude. Now, if I got a bad break and was spotted, I no longer minded being followed to my destination; I merely didn't want to be stopped. Getting a taxi at the 42nd Street entrance, I told the driver I was in a hurry two dollars' worth, and he made it to 47th and Eighth Avenue in seven minutes. From there I walked and, without bothering to reconnoiter, used die borrowed key and entered. No one was visible or audible. I lost no time mounting a flight, getting into Hattie Annis' room, and shutting the door. I opened the bottom drawer of her desk, took the package from my pocket and shoved it underneath some papers, closed the drawer, and breathed. Of course I would have to do better than that, but at least it wasn't on me. As I was dropping my coat on a chair there was a knock at the door, and I called, "Come in!"

It was Noel Ferris, with a hat on and a coat over his arm. He came in a couple of steps. "I thought I heard someone," he drawled. "Back again? Who let you in?"

"I just say open sesame."

He nodded. "I asked for that. Naturally, you could open the Gate of Hell with a hairpin, though I can't imagine why you'd want to. So you haven't found what you're looking for?"


"I'd be glad to help if I didn't have an appointment. I doubt -- hello, Ray. The bloodhound's at it again."

Raymond Dell appeared on the sill and boomed, "Monstrous! A maggot at a carcass."

"Oh, the carcass is at the morgue. This is only the debris. I'd like to stay and help you keen, but I have to go." He went. Dell entered, crossed to a chair, and sat. "If my memory serves," he rumbled, "your name is Goodman."

"Right- Algernon Goodman. Call me Buster."

"I call no one Buster. In the name of heaven, can you find no better way to pass the time than pawing over the refuse of a departed soul?"

The question was, what would move him, short of picking him up and tossing him out? I wanted to get the package out of the drawer quick, since Purley Stebbins had certainly gone through the desk. Luckily I hit on it. "Well," I said, "I could find a worse way -- sitting and watching someone else doing the pawing."

"Touchy!" He arose. "An excellent line! Good enough for a curtain! Magnificent!" He turned and marched out, and I went and shut the door.

I glanced around. I had considered the problem on the way, and first I went to the door that might be a closet. It was, and to my surprise it wasn't a mess -- a row of dresses and suits and skirts on hangers, boxes stacked on a shelf, shoes on a rack. No good. Tammy Baxter, if that was her name, had said that Stebbins had been in here more than an hour, and he could have done that closet in five minutes. I shut the door. The desk and the chest of drawers were even worse. I went to the piano and got up on the stool, lifted the hinged top, and looked in. Plenty of room, but no -- it would interfere with the hammers, and what if one of them had come in after Stebbins had left and played a funeral march?

It would have to be the bed. There was no key in the door to the hall, but there was a bolt, and I went and slipped it, and then went to the bed and lifted an end of the mattress. There were two of them. The top one was soft, and the bottom one, stiff as a board, rested on wooden slats. No box spring. I got out my pocket-knife and made a slit on the underside of the top mattress, near the corner. I had never touched the package with my bare hands and this was no time to break the precedent, so before I took it from the drawer I got a glove from my overcoat pocket and put it on. With the package inside the mattress, the bed tidied, and the glove back in the overcoat pocket, I opened the door, descended to the lower hall, went to the telephone in a niche under the stairs, and dialed the number I knew best. Fritz answered, and I said I wanted to speak to Wolfe.

"But Archie! He and the lady are at lunch!"

"That's dandy. I'm not. This is one time to break a rule. Tell him I sound depressed."

In two minutes I had Wolfe's voice: "Yes?"

"Yes. All set. I'll be at the door to let her in. Have you got the name?"

"No. She has supplied further details, but I can't pry the name out of her. She is extremely difficult."

"That is not news. Okay, I'm waiting."

"She'll be there shortly. As you know, a person at my table, man or woman, is a guest, and a guest must be allowed to finish a meal."

"By all means. Good heavens, yes. I'll go out and get a sandwich."

"You will not." He hung up.

That was at 1:22 P.M. It was 1:57 when she arrived. I know how to wait; I once spent nine rainy hours in a doorway waiting for someone to show at an entrance across the street; but that thirty-five minutes was a little tough. If either Homicide or Secret Service appeared on the scene, no matter for what, and found me there, the program would certainly be disrupted, and it might possibly be ruined. But a guest must be allowed to finish a meal. Of all the crap! There was no glass in the front door, and after the first fifteen minutes I spent most of the time peering through one of the little glass panels at the side, when I wasn't glancing at my watch. When she finally came I had the door open by the time she had one foot in the vestibule.

"Miss Annis' room," I said, and she went to the stairs. I followed her up, and in, and shut the door. You can't allow a guest to handle her own coat, so I took it and put it on a chair. "Did you stop on the way to make a phone call?" I demanded.

"That's not fair," she said. "I'm not a double-dealer either."

"Good. I'm glad you're not double something. I suppose we ought to spend a few minutes looking, for the record, but first there's a little detail. The name of the certain person. Initials will do."

She shook her head. "No. I settled that with Mr. Wolfe. I won't."

"You will if you want the package. You will not be quoted. We just want to know. We'll take it from there."


"Then no package."

"That's silly."

Her brows were up. "Really, Mr. Goodwin. As smart as you are? Knowing that I know it's here in this room? I never said I would tell you the name. What will you do, grab it and run? Besides, I haven't seen the package yet. You wouldn't trick me, of course not, but seeing is believing. When I have it I might possibly ... where is it?"

"When you have it you'll tell me the name."

"I didn't say that. I don't promise. Where is it?"

"I'd like to wring your neck."

"That makes us even. Where is it?"

There was no point in prolonging it. I quit. "You'd better look around a little," I said. "Your story is going to be that after Leach drove off you went in the house with me, and Mr. Wolfe and I stuck to it that we knew nothing about any counterfeit money, and you thought it was just possible that Miss Annis had left it here or brought it back here. That I said I had an appointment and went, and you stayed and had lunch with Mr. Wolfe, trying to worm something out of him. That when you left you came here to search Miss Annis' room, and found that I was already here with the same idea, and you found the package. With a story it helps to have some of it based on fact so you should look around. Say two minutes."

She shrugged -- the kind of shrug that means I might as well humor him, he means well -- and went to the desk and opened a drawer. I went and opened the hall door and glanced out, saw no one, and left the door open. "From here on," I told her, "you might follow the script. It will develop your dramatic talents. You might purr with pleasure if and when you find it. I'm supposed to be looking too, so I will."

I went and climbed onto the piano stool and lifted the lid, and the stool turned and nearly dumped me.

When she had finished with the desk drawers she looked at me, but I said, "Try the closet." There was some satisfaction, though not much, in making her work for it. And what do you suppose she did? She went straight to the bed, to the head, grabbed a corner of the mattress, and yanked it up. I stood and watched. She moved to the foot and yanked again, saw the slit, stuck her hand in, and came out with the package.

"By gum," I said, "I'll bet that's it! Was it inside the mattress?"

She went to the sofa and sat and started untying the string. I said, "There might be something else," stepped to the bed, lifted the mattress, and inserted my hand in the slit. You never know what modern science will do nest. They might have an electronic smeller that could prove I had handled it, and it was just as well to have an answer. So my hand was in the slit and my back to the hall door when a man's voice came, not loud but mean: "I want that. Hand it over."

I jerked my hand out and whirled, and the voice said, "Stay where you are, Goodwin." It was Paul Hannah. He was standing in front of her with a knife in his hand - a kitchen knife with a shiny blade a foot long. His chubby cheeks were flushed and his eyes were as mean as his voice.

"You damn fool," I said. "Drop it." I moved a foot, but the point of the knife went closer to Tammy's middle, and I stopped. "I thought you were downtown rehearsing," I said. "You'll never get anywhere in show business if you skip rehearsals."

He ignored it. I was a good twelve feet away. The knife went closer to her, nearly touching. "Hand it over," he said. "Quick."

"Give it to him," I said. "What the hell." She has claimed, since, that she misunderstood me. She has conceded that I might have meant give him the package, but that at the time she thought I was telling her to charge. Nuts. The truth is just the opposite; she would have handed it over if I hadn't told her to. She was simply born contrary, and what she did was an automatic reaction to my telling her to give it to him. She brought her legs up and jerked her body sideways, and of course I jumped -- or rather, dived. I went for the arm that held the knife, but missed because her feet had bumped him. By the time I braked and turned he was back on balance and she had tumbled off the sofa onto the floor, hanging on to the package, and damned if he didn't ignore me and go for her, holding the knife high. I sprang and got his wrist and brought it down and over, and heard it crack. He let out a squeal and the knife dropped, and in my enthusiasm I gave his arm another twist, and he crumpled to the floor just as Tammy got back on her feet. And as Raymond Dell appeared in the doorway and boomed: "Who is dog and who is bear?"

"No bear," I said. "Hyena." I picked up the knife. "He was waving this at Miss Baxter. I'll quit disturbing you if you'll go and call Watkins 9-8241, get Sergeant Stebbins, and tell him I have a murderer here for him. Not Goodman, Goodwin. I'll repeat the number: Watkins 9-8241."

"I'll go," Tammy said, and was moving, but I got her arm.

"You will not," I said firmly. "You wouldn't call that number, at least not first. If you please, Mr. Dell?"

"Monstrous," he said, and turned and went.

I glanced at Paul Hannah, still on the floor, holding his right wrist with his left hand, and let go of Tammy's arm. "I know you didn't promise," I said, "but I may have saved you from a scratch. Just as a personal favor, may I have the name now?"

"Go climb a tree," she said.

Chapter 8

One afternoon a couple of months later, the day after a jury of four women and eight men made it thumbs down for Paul Hannah, I got back to the office from doing an errand and found Wolfe at his desk working on one of those highbrow crossword puzzles in the London Observer. As I sat at my desk he looked up.

"A message for you," he said. "Call Byron 7-6232."

"Thanks. It's not urgent."

He grunted. "I recognized the voice."


"I am not inquisitive about your personal affairs, but I like to know when you pursue an acquaintance that began in this office. I didn't know you were cultivating her."

"I didn't either. I'll have to look up 'cultivate.' "

"To seek the society of. To court intimacy with."

I gave it a thought. "I don't like that 'court.' I suppose you could say that when two prizefighters sign up for a bout they are seeking each other's society. You might even say that when one of them aims a jab at the other one's nose he is courting intimacy with him. As you see, it's very complicated."

"It is indeed. You understand that my only concern is with any possible untoward effect on the operation of this office. I trust there will be none."

"So do I," I said.