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Chapter 19

Five thousand pounds, Clivers said. To be paid at once, and to be returned to me if and when recovery is made from Colemans estate. Thats fair. I dont: say its generous. Who the devil can afford to be generous nowadays?

Wolfe shook his head. I see Ill have to get you on the wing. You dart like a hummingbird from two thousand to ten to seven to five. Well take the ten, under the conditions you suggest.

Clara Fox put in, I dont want anything. Ive told you that. I wont take anything.

It was nearly three oclock and we were all in the office. There had been six of us at lunch, which had meant another pick-me-up. Muir had gone, sped on his way by a pronouncement from Wolfe to the effect that he was a scabrous jackass, without having seen Clara Fox. Cramer and Hombert and Skinner had departed, after accepting Wolfes suggestion for protecting the marquis from further publicity, and I had agreed to tt. Doc Vollmer had come and fixed up Wolfes arm and had gone again. What was left of Rubber Coleman-Anthony D. Perry had been taken away under Cramers supervision, and the office floor looked bare because the big red and yellow rug where Perry had sat and where they had stretched him out was down in the basement, waiting for the cleaners to call. The bolt was back on the front door and I was acting as hall boy again, because reporters were still buzzing around the entrance like flies on the screen on a cloudy day.

Wolfe said, Youre still my client. Miss Fox. You are under no compulsion to take my advice, but it is my duty to offer it. First, take what belongs to you; your renunciation would not resurrect Mr. Scovil or Mr. Walsh, nor even Mr. Perry. Almost certainly, a large sum can be collected from Mr. Perrys estate. Second, remember that I have earned a fee and you will have to pay it. Third, abandon for good your career as an adventuress; youre much too soft-hearted for it.

Clara Fox glanced at Francis Horrocks, who was sitting there looking at her with that sickening sweet expression that you occasionally see in public and at the movies. It was a relief to see him glance at Wolfe and get his mind on something else for a brief moment. He blurted out, I say, you know, if she doesnt want to take money from that chaps estate, she doesnt have to. Its her own affair, what? Now, if my uncle paid your fee its all the same

Shut up, Francis. Clivers was impatient. How the devil is it all the same? Lets get this settled. Ive already missed one engagement and shall soon be late for another. Look here, seven thousand.

Hilda Lindquist said, Ill take what I can get. It doesnt belong to me, its my fathers. Her square face wasnt exactly cheerful, but I wouldnt say she looked wretched. She leveled her eyes at Clivers. If you had been halfway careful when you paid that money twenty-nine years ago, father would have got his share then, when mother was still alive and my brother hadnt died.

Clivers didnt bother with her. He looked at Wolfe. Lets get on. Eight thousand.

Come, come, sir. Wolfe wiggled a finger at him. Make it dollars. Fifty thousand. The exchange favors you. There is a strong probability that youll get it back when Perrys estate is settled; besides, it might be argued that you should pay my tee instead of Miss Fox. There is no telling how this might have turned out for you but for my intervention.

Bah. Clivers snorted. Even up there. I saved your life. I shot him.

Oh, no. Read the newspapers. Mr. Goodwin shot him.

Clivers looked at me, and suddenly exploded with his three short blasts, haw-haw-haw. So you did, eh? Goodwins your name? Damned fine shooting! He turned to Wolfe. All right. Draw up a paper and send to my hotel, and youll get a check. He got up from his chair, glancing down at the mess he had made of the front of his coat. Ill have to go there now and change. A fine piece of cloth ruined. Im sorry not to see more of your orchids. You, Francis! Come on.

Horrocks was murmuring something in a molasses tone to Clara Fox and she was taking it in and nodding at him. He finished, and got up. Right-o. He moved across and stuck out his paw at Wolfe. You know, I want to say, it was devilish dever, the way you watered Miss Fox yesterday morning and they never suspected. It was the race you put on that stumped them, what?

No doubt. Wolfe got his hand back again. Since you gentlemen are sailing Saturday, I suppose we shant see you again. Bon voyage.

Thanks, Clivers grunted. At least for myself. My nephew isnt sailing.

He has spent a fortune on cables and got himself transferred to the Washington embassy. Hes going to carve out a career. He had better, because Im damned if hell get my tide for another two decades. Come on, Francis.

I glanced at Clara Fox, and my dreams went short on ideals then and there.

If I ever saw a woman look smug and self-satisfied


Chapter 18 | The Rubber Band | Chapter 20







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