TOO MANY HAVE LIVED
THE MAN'S TIE was as orange as a sunset. He was a large man, tall and meaty, without softness. The dark hair parted in the middle, flattened to his scalp, his firm, full cheeks, the clothes that fit him with noticeable snugness, even the small, pink ears flat against the sides of his head—each of these seemed but a differently colored part of one same, smooth surface. His age could have been thirty-five or forty-five.
He sat beside Samuel Spade's desk, leaning forward a little over his Malacca stick, and said, “No. I want you to find out what happened to him. I hope you never find him.” His protuberant green eyes stared solemnly at Spade.
Spade rocked back in his chair. His face—given a not unpleasantly Satanic cast by the v's of his bony chin, mouth, nostrils, and thickish brows—was as politely interested as his voice. “Why?”
The green-eyed man spoke quietly, with assurance: “I can talk to you, Spade. You've the sort of reputation I want in a private detective. That's why I'm here.”
Spade's nod committed him to nothing.
The green-eyed man said, “And any fair price is all right with me.”
Spade nodded as before. “And with me,” he said, “but I've got to know what you want to buy. You want to find out what's happened to this—uh—Eli Haven, but you don't care what it is?”
The green-eyed man lowered his voice, but there was no other change in his mien: “In a way I do.' For instance, if you found him and fixed it so he stayed away for good, It might be worth more money to me.”
“You mean even if he didn't want to stay away?”
The green-eyed man said, “Especially.”
Spade smiled and shook his head. “Probably not enough more money—the way you mean it.” He took his long, thick-fingered hands from the arms of his chair and turned their palms up. “Well, what's it all about, Colyer?”
Colyer's face reddened a little, but his eyes maintained their unblinking cold stare. “This man's got a wife. I like her. They had a row last week and he blew. If I can convince her he's gone for good, there's a chance she'll divorce him.”
“I'd want to talk to her,” Spade said. “Who is this Eli Haven? What does he do?”
“He's a bad egg. He doesn't do anything. Writes poetry or something.”
“What can you tell me about him that'll help?”
“Nothing Julia, his wife, can't tell you. You're going to talk to her.” Colyer stood up. “I've got connections. Maybe I can get something for you through them later.” . . .
A small-boned woman of twenty-five or —six opened the apartment door. Her powder-blue dress was trimmed with silver buttons. She was full-bosomed but slim, with straight shoulders and narrow hips, and she carried herself with a pride that would have been cockiness in one less graceful.
Spade said, “Mrs. Haven?”
She hesitated before saying “Yes.”
“Gene Colyer sent me to see you. My name's Spade. I'm a private detective. He wants me to find your husband.”
“And have you found him?”
“I told him I'd have to talk to you first.”
Her smile went away. She studied his face gravely, feature by feature, then she said, “Certainly,” and stepped back, drawing the door back with her.
When they were seated in facing chairs in a cheaply furnished room overlooking a playground where children were noisy, she asked, “Did Gene tell you why he wanted Eli found?”
“He said if you knew he was gone for good maybe you'd listen to reason.”
She said nothing.
“Has he ever gone off like this before?”
“What's he like?”
“He's a swell man,” she said dispassionately, “when he's sober; and when he's drinking he's all right except with women and money.”
“That leaves him a lot of room to be all right in. What does he do for a living?”
“He's a poet,” she replied, “but nobody makes a living at that.”
“Oh, he pops in with a little money now and then. Poker, races, he says. I don't know.”
“How long've you been married?”
“Four years, almost”—he smiled mockingly.
“San Francisco all the time?”
“No, we lived in Seattle the first year and then came here.”
“He from Seattle?”
She shook her head. “Some place in Delaware.”
“I don't know.”
Spade drew his thickish brows together a little. “Where are you from?”
She said sweetly, “You're not hunting for me.”
“You act like it,” he grumbled. “Well, who are his friends?”
“Don't ask me!”
He made an impatient grimace. “You know some of them,” he insisted.
“Sure. There's a fellow named Minera and a Louis James and somebody he calls Conny.”
“Who are they?”
“Men,” she replied blandly. “I don't know anything about them. They phone or drop by to pick him up, or I see him around town with them. That's all I know.”
“What do they do for a living? They can't all write poetry.”
She laughed. “They could try. One of them, Louis James, is a—member of Gene's staff, I think. I honestly don't know any more about them than I've told you.”
“Think they'd know where your husband is?”
She shrugged. “They're kidding me if they do. They still call up once in a while to see if he's turned up.”
“And these women you mentioned?”
“They're not people I know.”
Spade scowled thoughtfully at the floor, asked, “What'd he do before he started not making a living writing poetry?”
“Anything—sold vacuum cleaners, hoboed, went to sea, dealt blackjack, railroaded, canning houses, lumber camps, carnivals, worked on a newspaper—anything.”
“Have any money when he left?”
“Three dollars he borrowed from me.”
“What'd he say?”
She laughed. “Said if I used whatever influence I had with God while he was gone he'd be back at dinnertime with a surprise for me.”
Spade raised his eyebrows. “You were on good terms?”
“Oh, yes. Our last fight had been patched up a couple of days before.”
“When did he leave?”
“Thursday afternoon; three o'clock, I guess.”
“Got any photographs of him?”
“Yes.” She went to a table by one of the windows, pulled a drawer out, and turned towards Spade again with a photograph in her hand.
Spade looked at the picture of a thin face with deep-set eyes, a sensual mouth, and a heavily lined forehead topped by a disorderly mop of coarse blond hair.
He put Haven's photograph in his pocket and picked up his hat. He turned towards the door, halted. “What kind of poet is he? Pretty good?”
She shrugged. “That depends on who you ask.”
“Any of it around here?”
“No.” She smiled. “Think he's hiding between pages?”
“You never can tell what'll lead to what. I'll be back some time. Think things over and see if you can't find some way of loosening up a little more. 'By.”
He walked down Post Street to Mulford's book store and asked for a volume of Haven's poetry.
“I'm sorry,” the girl said. “I sold my last copy last week”—she smiled—“to Mr. Haven himself. I can order it for you.”
“You know him?”
“Only through selling him books.”
Spade pursed his lips, asked, “What day was it?” He gave her one of his business cards. “Please. It's important.”
She went to a desk, turned the pages of a red-bound sales-book, and came back to him with the book open in her hand. “It was last Wednesday,” she said, “and we delivered it to a Mr. Roger Ferris, 1981 Pacific Avenue.”
“Thanks a lot,” he said.
Outside, he hailed a taxicab and gave the driver Mr. Roger Ferris's address. …
The Pacific Avenue house was a four-story, graystone one set behind a narrow strip of lawn. The room into which a plump-faced maid ushered Spade was large and high-ceiled.
Spade sat down, but when the maid had gone away he rose and began to walk around the room. He halted at a table where there were three books. One of them had a salmon-colored jacket on which was printed in red an outline drawing of a bolt of lightning striking the ground between a man and a woman, and in black the words Colored Light, by Eli Haven.
Spade picked up the book and went back to his chair.
There was an inscription on the flyleaf—heavy, irregular characters written with blue ink:
To good old Buck, 'who knew his colored lights,' in memory of them there days.EH
Spade turned pages at random and idly read a verse:
Too many have lived As we live For our lives to be Proof of our living.
Too many have died As we die
For their deaths to be Proof of our dying.
He looked up from the book as a man in dinner clothes came into the room. He was not a tall man, but his erect-ness made him seem tall even when Spade's six feet and a fraction of an inch were standing before him. He had bright blue eyes undimmed by his fifty-some years, a sunburned face in which no muscle sagged, a smooth, broad forehead, and thick, short, nearly white hair. There was dignity in his countenance, and amiability.
He nodded at the book Spade still held. “How do you like it?”
Spade grinned, said, “I guess I'm just a mug,” and put the book down. “That's what I came to see you about, though, Mr. Ferris. You know Haven?”
“Yes, certainly. Sit down, Mr. Spade.” He sat in a chair not far from Spade's. “I knew him as a kid. He's not in trouble, is he?”
Spade said, “I don't know. I'm trying to find him.”
Ferris spoke hesitantly: “Can I ask why?”
“You know Gene Colyer?”
“Yes.” Ferris hesitated again, then said, “This is in confidence. I've a chain of picture houses through northern California, you know, and a couple of years ago when I had some labor trouble I was told that Colyer was the man to get in touch with to have it straightened out. That's how I happened to meet him.”
“Yes,” Spade said dryly. “A lot of people happen to meet Gene that way.”
“But what's he got to do with Eli?”
“Wants him found. How long since you've seen him?”
“Last Thursday he was here.”
“What time did he leave?”
“Midnight—a little after. He came over in the afternoon around half past three. We hadn't seen each other for years. I persuaded him to stay for dinner—he looked pretty seedy—and lent him some money.”
“A hundred and fifty—all I had in the house.”
“Say where he was going when he left?” Ferris shook his head. “He said he'd phone me the next day.”
“Did he phone you the next day?”
“And you've known him all his life?”
“Not exactly, but he worked for me fifteen or sixteen years ago when I had a carnival company—Great Eastern and Western Combined Shows—with a partner for a while and then by myself, and I always liked the kid.”
“How long before Thursday since you'd seen him?”
“Lord knows,” Ferris replied. “I'd lost track of him for years. Then, Wednesday, out of a clear sky, that book came, with no address or anything, just that stuff written in the front, and the next morning he called me up. I was tickled to death to know he was still alive and doing something with himself. So he came over that afternoon and we Put in about nine hours straight talking about old times.”
“Tell you much about what he'd been doing since then?”
“Just that he'd been knocking around, doing one thing and another, taking the breaks as they came. He didn't complain much; I had to make him take the hundred and fifty.”
Spade stood up. “Thanks ever so much, Mr. Ferris. I —” Ferris interrupted him: “Not at all, and if there's anything I can do, call on me.”
Spade looked at his watch. “Can I phone my office to see if anything's turned up?—”
“Certainly; there's a phone in the next room, to the right.”
Spade said “Thanks” and went out. When he returned he was rolling a cigarette. His face was wooden.
“Any news?” Ferris asked.
“Yes. Colyer's called the job off. He says Haven's body's been found in some bushes on the other side of San Jose, with three bullets in it.” He smiled, adding mildly, “He told me he might be able to find out something through his connections.” . . .
Morning sunshine, coming through the curtains that screened Spade's office windows, put two fat, yellow rectangles on the floor and gave everything in the room a yellow tint.
He sat at his desk, staring meditatively at a newspaper. He did not look up when Effie Ferine came in from the outer office.
She said, “Mrs. Haven is here.”
He raised his head then and said, “That's better. Pus her in.”
Mrs. Haven came in quickly. Her face was white and she was shivering in spite of her fur coat and the warmth of the day. She came straight to Spade and asked, “Did Gene kill him?” Spade said, “I don't know.”
“I've got to know,” she cried.
Spade took her hands. “Here, sit down.” He led her to a chair. He asked, “Colyer tell you he'd called the job off?” She stared at him in amazement. “He what?”
“He left word here last night that your husband had been found and he wouldn't need me any more.”
She hung her head and her words were barely audible. “Then he did.”
Spade shrugged. “Maybe only an innocent man could've afforded to call it off then, or maybe he was guilty, but had brains enough and nerve enough to—”
She was not listening to him. She was leaning towards him, speaking earnestly: “But, Mr. Spade, you're not going to drop it like that? You're not going to let him stop you?” While she was speaking his telephone bell rang. He said, “Excuse me,” and picked up the receiver. “Yes? . . . Uh-huh. . . . So?” He pursed his lips. “I'll let you know.” He pushed the telephone aside slowly and faced Mrs. Haven again. “Colyer's outside.”
“Does he know I'm here?” she asked quickly. “Couldn't say.” He stood up, pretending he was not watching her closely. “Do you care?”
She pinched her lower lip between her teeth, said “No” hesitantly.
“Fine. I'll have him in.”
She raised a hand as if in protest, then let it drop, and her white face was composed. “Whatever you want,” she said.
Spade opened the door, said, “Hello, Colyer. Come on in. We were just talking about you.”
Colyer nodded and came into the office holding his stick ' in one hand, his hat in the other. “How are you this morning, Julia? You ought to've phoned me. I'd've driven you back to town.”
“I—I didn't know what I was doing.”
Colyer looked at her for a moment longer, then shifted the focus of his expressionless green eyes to Spade's face. “Well, have you been able to convince her I didn't do it?”
“We hadn't got around to that,” Spade said. “I was just trying to find out how much reason there was for suspecting you. Sit down.”
Colyer sat down somewhat carefully, asked, “And?”
“And then you arrived.”
Colyer nodded gravely. “All right, Spade,” he said; “you're hired again to prove to Mrs. Haven that I didn't have anything to do with it.”
“Gene!” she exclaimed in a choked voice and held her hands out toward him appealingly. “I don't think you did—I don't want to think you did—but I'm so afraid.” She put her hands to her face and began to cry.
Colyer went over to the woman. “Take it easy,” he said. “We'll pick it out together.”
Spade went into the outer office, shutting the door behind him.
Effie Perine stopped typing a letter. He grinned at her, said, “Somebody ought to write a book about people sometime—they're peculiar,” and went over to the water bottle. “You've got Wally Kellogg's number. Call him up and ask him where I can find Tom Minera.”
He returned to the inner office.
Mrs. Haven had stopped crying. She said, “I'm sorry.” Spade said, “It's all right.” He looked sidewise at Colyer. “I still got my job?”
“Yes.” Colyer cleared his throat. “But if there's nothing special right now, I'd better take Mrs. Haven home.”
“O.K., but there's one thing: According to the Chronicle, you identified him. How come you were down there?”
“I went down when I heard they'd found a body,” Colyer replied deliberately. “I told you I had connections. I heard about the body through them.”
Spade said, “All right; be seeing you,” and opened the door for them.
When the corridor door closed behind them, Effie Perine said, “Minera's at the Buxton on Army Street.” Spade said, “Thanks.” He went into the inner office to get his hat. On his way out he said, “If I'm not back in a couple of months tell them to look for my body there.” …
Spade walked down a shabby corridor to a battered green door marked “411.” The murmur of voices came through the door, but no words could be distinguished. He stopped listening and knocked.
An obviously disguised male voice asked, “What is it?”
“I want to see Tom. This is Sam Spade.”
A pause, then: “Tom ain't here.”
Spade put a hand on the knob and shook the frail door. “Come on, open up,” he growled.
Presently the door was opened by a thin, dark man of twenty-five or —six who tried to make his beady dark eyes guileless while saying, “I didn't think it was your voice at first.” The slackness of his mouth made his chin seem even smaller than it was. His green-striped shirt, open at the neck, was not clean. His gray pants were carefully pressed.
“You've got to be careful these days,” Spade said solemnly, and went through the doorway into a room where two men were trying to seem uninterested in his arrival.
One of them leaned against the window sill filing his fingernails. The other was tilted back in a chair with his , feet on the edge of a table and a newspaper spread between his hands. They glanced at Spade in unison and went on with their occupations.
Spade said cheerfully, “Always glad to meet any friends of Tom Minera's.”
Minera finished shutting the door and said awkwardly, “Uh—yes—Mr. Spade, meet Mr. Conrad and Mr. James.”
Conrad, the man at the window, made a vaguely polite gesture with the nail file in his hand. He was a few years older than Minera, of average height, sturdily built, with a thick-featured, dull-eyed face.
James lowered his paper for an instant to look coolly, appraisingly at Spade and say, “How'r'ye, brother?” Then he returned to his reading. He was as sturdily built as Conrad, but taller, and his face had a shrewdness the other's lacked.
“Ah,” Spade said, “and friends of the late Eli Haven.”
The man at the window jabbed a finger with his nail file, and cursed it bitterly. Minera moistened his lips, and then spoke rapidly, with a whining note in his voice: “But on the level, Spade, we hadn't none of us seen him for a week.”
Spade seemed mildly amused by the dark man's manner.
“What do you think he was killed for?”
“All I know is what the paper says: His pockets was all turned inside out and there wasn't as much as a match on him.” He drew down the ends of his mouth. “But far as I know he didn't have no dough. He didn't have none Tuesday night.”
Spade, speaking softly, said, “I hear he got some Thursday night.”
Minera, behind Spade, caught his breath audibly.
James said, “I guess you ought to know. I don't.”
“He ever work with you boys?”
James slowly put aside his newspaper and took his feet off the table. His interest in Spade's question seemed great enough, but almost impersonal. “Now what do you mean by that?”
Spade pretended surprise. “But you boys must work at something?”
Minera came around to Spade's side. “Aw, listen, Spade,” he said. “This guy Haven was just a guy we knew. We didn't have nothing to do with rubbing him out; we don't know nothing about it. You know, we —” Three deliberate knocks sounded at the door. Minera and Conrad looked at James, who nodded, but by then Spade, moving swiftly, had reached the door and was opening it. Roger Ferris was there.
Spade blinked at Ferris, Ferris at Spade. Then Ferris put out his hand and said, “I am glad to see you.”
“Come on in,” Spade said.
“Look at this, Mr. Spade.” Ferris's hand trembled as he took a slightly soiled envelope from his pocket.
Ferris' name and address were typewritten on the envelope. There was no postage stamp on it. Spade took out the enclosure, a narrow slip of cheap white paper, and unfolded it. On it was typewritten:
You had better come to Room No 411 Buxton Hotel on ' Army St at 5 PM this afternoon on account of Thursday night.
There was no signature.
Spade said, “It's a long time before five o'clock.”
“It is,” Ferris agreed with emphasis. “I came as soon as I got that. It was Thursday night Eli was at my house.” Minera was jostling Spade, asking, “What is all this?” Spade held the note up for the dark man to read. He read it and yelled, “Honest, Spade, I don't know nothing about that letter.”
“Does anybody?” Spade asked.
Conrad said “No” hastily.
James said, “What letter?”
Spade looked dreamily at Ferris for a moment, then said, as if speaking to himself, “Of course, Haven was trying to shake you down.”
Ferris's face reddened. “What?”
“Shake-down,” Spade repeated patiently; “money, blackmail.”
“Look here, Spade,” Ferris said earnestly; “you don't really believe what you said? What would he have to blackmail me on?”
“'To good old Buck'”—Spade quoted the dead poet's inscription—“ 'who knew his colored lights, in memory of them there days.'” He looked somberly at Ferris from beneath slightly raised brows. “What colored lights? What's the circus and carnival slang term for kicking a guy off a train while it's going? Red-lighting. Sure, that's it —red lights. Who'd you red-light, Ferris, that Haven knew about?”
Minera went over to a chair, sat down, put his elbows on his knees, his head between his hands, and stared blankly at the floor. Conrad was breathing as if he had been running.
Spade addressed Ferris: “Well?”
Ferris wiped his face with a handkerchief, put the handkerchief in his pocket, and said simply, “It was a shakedown.”
And you killed him.”
Ferris's blue eyes, looking into Spade's yellow-gray ones, were clear and steady, as was his voice. “I did not,” he said. “I swear I did not. Let me tell you what happened He sent me the book, as I told you, and I knew right away what that joke he wrote in the front meant. So the next day, when he phoned me and said he was coming over to talk over old times and to try to borrow some money for old times' sake, I knew what he meant again, and I went down to the bank and drew out ten thousand dollars. You can check that up. It's the Seamen's National.”
“I will,” Spade said.
“As it turned out, I didn't need that much. He wasn't very big-time and I talked him into taking five thousand. I put the other five back in the bank next day. You can check that up.”
“I will,” Spade said.
“I told him I wasn't going to stand for any more taps, this five thousand was the first and last. I made him sign a paper saying he'd helped in the —what I'd done —and he signed it. He left sometime around midnight, and that's the last I ever saw of him.”
Spade tapped the envelope Ferris had given him. “And how about this note?”
“A messenger boy brought it at noon, and I came right over. Eli had assured me he hadn't said anything to anybody, but I didn't know. I had to face it, whatever it was.”
Spade turned to the others, his face wooden. “Well?”
Minera and Conrad looked at James, who made an impatient grimace and said, “Oh, sure, we sent him the letter. Why not? We was friends of Eli's, and we hadn't been able to find him since he went to put the squeeze to this baby, and then he turns up dead, so we kind of like to have the gent come over and explain things.”
“You knew about the squeeze?”
“Sure. We was all together when he got the idea.”
“How'd he happen to get the idea?” Spade asked.
James spread the fingers of his left hand. “We'd been drinking and talking—you know the way a bunch of guys will, about all they'd seen and done—and he told a yarn about once seeing a guy boot another off a train into a canon, and he happens to mention the name of the guy that done the booting—Buck Ferris. And somebody says, 'What's this Ferris look like?' Eli tells him what he looked like then, saying he ain't seen him for fifteen years; and whoever it is whistles and says, 'I bet that's the Ferris that owns about half the movie joints in the state. I bet you he'd give something to keep that back trail covered!'
“Well, the idea kind of hit Eh'. You could see that. He thought a little while and then he got cagey. He asked what this movie Ferris's first name is, and when the other guy tells him, 'Roger,' he makes out he's disappointed and says, 'No, it ain't him. His first name was Martin.' We all give him the ha-ha and he finally admits he's thinking of seeing the gent, and when he called me up Thursday around noon and says he's throwing a party at Pogey Hecker's that night, it ain't no trouble to figure out what's what.”
“What was the name of the gentleman who was red-lighted?”
“He wouldn't say. He shut up tight. You couldn't blame him.”
“Uh-huh,” Spade agreed.
“Then nothing. He never showed up at Fogey's. We tried to get him on the phone around two o'clock in the morning, but his wife said he hadn't been home, so we stuck around till four or five and then decided he had given us a run-around, and made Pogey charge the bill to him, and beat it. I ain't seen him since—dead or alive.” Spade said mildly. “Maybe. Sure you didn't find Eli later that morning, take him riding, swap him bullets for Ferris's five thou, dump him in the—?”
A sharp double knock sounded on the door.
Spade's face brightened. He went to the door and opened it.
A young man came in. He was very dapper, and very well proportioned. He wore a light topcoat and his hands were in its pockets. Just inside the door he stepped to the right, and stood with his back to the wall. By that time another young man was coming in. He stepped to the left. Though they did not actually look alike, their common dapperness, the similar trimness of their bodies, and their almost identical positions—backs to wall, hands in pockets, cold, bright eyes studying the occupants of the room—gave them, for an instant, the appearance of twins.
Then Gene Colyer came in. He nodded at Spade, but paid no attention to the others in the room, though James said, “Hello, Gene.”
“Anything new?” Colyer asked Spade.
Spade nodded. “It seems this gentleman”—he jerked a thumb at Ferris—“was —”
“Any place we can talk?”
“There's a kitchen back here.”
Colyer snapped a “Smear anybody that pops” over his shoulder at the two dapper young men and followed Spade into the kitchen. He sat on the one kitchen chair and stared with unblinking green eyes at Spade while Spade told him what he had learned.
When the private detective had finished, the green-eyed man asked, “Well, what do you make of it?”
Spade looked thoughtfully at the other. “You've picked up something. I'd like to know what it is.”
Colyer said, “They found the gun in a stream a quarter of a mile from where they found him. It's James's—got the mark on it where it was shot out of his hand once inVallejo.”
“That's nice,” Spade said.
“Listen. A kid named Thurber says James comes to him last Wednesday and gets him to tail Haven. Thurber picks him up Thursday afternoon, puts him in at Ferris's, and phones James. James tells him to take a plant on the place and let him know where Haven goes when he leaves, but some nervous woman in the neighborhood puts in a rumble about the kid hanging around, and the cops chase him along about ten o'clock.”
Spade pursed his lips and stared thoughtfully at the ceiling.
Colyer's eyes were expressionless, but sweat made his round face shiny, and his voice was hoarse. “Spade,” he said, “I'm going to turn him in.”
Spade switched his gaze from the ceiling to the protuberant green eyes.
“I've never turned in one of my people before,” Colyer said, “but this one goes. Julia's got to believe I hadn't anything to do with it if it's one of my people and I turn him in, hasn't she?”
Spade nodded slowly. “I think so.”
Colyer suddenly averted his eyes and cleared his throat. When he spoke again it was curtly: “Well, he goes.”
Minera, James, and Conrad were seated when Spade and Colyer came out of the kitchen. Ferris was walking the floor. The two dapper young men had not moved.
Colyer went over to James. “Where's your gun, Louis?” he asked.
James moved his right hand a few inches towards his left breast, stopped it, and said, “Oh, I didn't bring it.”
With his gloved hand—open—Colyer struck James on the side of the face, knocking him out of his chair.
James straightened up, mumbling, “I didn't mean nothing.” He put a hand to the side of his face. “I know I oughtn't've done it, Chief, but when he called up and said he didn't like to go up against Ferris without something and didn't have any of his own, I said, 'All right,' and sent it over to him.”
Colyer said, “And you sent Thurber over to him, too.”
“We were just kind of interested in seeing if he did go through with it,” James mumbled!
“And you couldn't've gone there yourself, or sent somebody else?”
“After Thurber had stirred up the whole neighborhood?”
Colyer turned to Spade. “Want us to help you take them in, or want to call the wagon?”
“We'll do it regular,” Spade said, and went to the wall telephone. When he turned away from it his face was wooden, his eyes dreamy. He made a cigarette, lit it, and said to Colyer, “I'm silly enough to think your Louis has got a lot of right answers in that story of his.”
James took his hand down from his bruised cheek and stared at Spade with astonished eyes. Colyer growled, “What's the matter with you?”
“Nothing,” Spade said softly, “except I think you're a little too anxious to slam it on him.” He blew smoke out. “Why, for instance, should he drop his gun there when it had marks on it that people knew?” Colyer said, “You think he's got brains.”
“If these boys killed him, knew he was dead, why do they wait till the body's found and things are stirred up before they go after Ferris again? What'd they turn his pockets inside out for if they hijacked him? That's a lot of trouble and only done by folks that kill for some other reason and want to make it look like robbery.” He shook his head. “You're too anxious to slam it on them. Why should they-?”
“That's not the point right now,” Colyer said. “The point is, why do you keep saying I'm too anxious to slam “ on him?”
Spade shrugged. “Maybe to clear yourself with Julia as soon as possible and as clear as possible, maybe even to clear yourself with the police, and then you've got clients.”
Colyer said, “What?”
Spade made a careless gesture with his cigarette. “Ferris” he said blandly. “He killed him, of course.”
Colyer's eyelids quivered, though he did not actually blink.
Spade said, “First, he's the last person we know of who saw Eli alive, and that's always a good bet. Second, he's the only person I talked to before Eli's body turned up who cared whether I thought they were holding out on me or not. The rest of you just thought I was hunting for a guy who'd gone away. He knew I was hunting for a man he'd killed, so he had to put himself in the clear. He was even afraid to throw that book away, because it had been sent up by the book store and could be traced, and there might be clerks who'd seen the inscription. Third, he was the only one who thought Eli was just a sweet, clean, lovable boy—for the same reasons. Fourth, that story about a blackmailer showing up at three o'clock in the afternoon, making an easy touch for five grand, and then sticking around till midnight is just silly, no matter how good the booze was. Fifth, the story about the paper Eli signed is still worse, though a forged one could be fixed up easy enough. Sixth, he's got the best reason for anybody we know for wanting Eli dead.”
Colyer nodded slowly. “Still —”
“Still nothing,” Spade said. “Maybe he did the ten-thousand-out-five-thousand-back trick with his bank, but that was easy. Then he got this feeble-minded blackmailer in his house, stalled him along until the servants had gone to bed, took the borrowed gun away from him, shoved him downstairs into his car, took him for a ride—maybe took him already dead, maybe shot him down there by the bushes—frisked him clean to make identification harder and to make it look like robbery, tossed the gun in the water, and came home —”
He broke off to listen to the sound of a siren in the street. He looked then, for the first time since he had begun to talk, at Ferris.
Ferris's face was ghastly white, but he held his eyes steady.
Spade said, “I've got a hunch, Ferris, that we're going to find out about that red-lighting job, too. You told me you had your carnival company with a partner for a while when Eli was working for you, and then by yourself. We oughtn't to have a lot of trouble finding out about your partner—whether he disappeared, or died a natural death, or is still alive.”
Ferris had lost some of his erectness. He wet his lips and said, “I want to see my lawyer. I don't want to talk till I've seen my lawyer.”
Spade said, “It's all right with me. You're up against it, but I don't like blackmailers myself. I think Eli wrote a good epitaph for them in that book back there—'Too many have lived.'”