The League of Frightened Men | Chapter 22 of 30 - Part: 1 of 5

Author: Rex Stout | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 5913 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 16

I was not ever, in the Chapin case or any other case, quite as dumb as the prosecution would try to make you believe if I was on trial for it. For instance, as I went out and got into the roadster, in spite of all the preconceptions that had set up housekeeping in my belfry, I wasn’t doing any guessing as to the nature of the fancy notion Wolfe had plucked out of his contemplation of his sins. My guessing had been completed before I left the office. On account of various considerations it was my opinion that he was cuckoo—I had told him that Cramer had had the dick in for a talk—but it was going to be diverting whether it turned out that he was or he wasn’t.

I drove to Perry Street and parked fifty feet down from the Coffee Pot. I had already decided on my tactics. Considering what I had learned of Pinkie’s reaction to the diplomatic approach, it didn’t seem practical to waste my time on persuasion. I walked to the Coffee Pot and glanced in. Pinkie wasn’t there; of course it was nearly two hours till his soup time. I strolled back down the street, looking in at all the chances, and I went the whole long block to the next corner without a sign either of Pinkie, Fred Durkin, or anything that looked like a city detective. I went back again, clear to the Coffee Pot, with the same result. Not so good, I thought, for of course all the desertion meant that the beasts of prey were out trailing their quarry, and the quarry might stay out for a dinner and a show and get home at midnight. That would be enjoyable, with me substituting for Fred on the delicatessen sandwiches and Wolfe waiting at home to see what his notion looked like.

I drove around the block to get the roadster into a better position for surveying the scene, and sat in it and waited. It was getting dark, and it got dark, and I waited.

A little before six a taxi came along and stopped in front of 203. I tried to get a glimpse of the driver, having Pitney Scott on my mind, and made out that it wasn’t him. But it was the cripple that got out. He paid, and hobbled inside the building, and the taxi moved off. I looked around, taking in the street and the sidewalk.

Pretty soon I saw Fred Durkin walking up from the corner. He was with another guy. I climbed out to the sidewalk and stood there near a street light as they went by. Then I got back in. In a couple of minutes Fred came along and I moved over to make room for him.

I said, “If you and the town dick want to cop a little expense money by pairing up on a taxi, okay. As long as nothing happens, then it might be your funeral.”

Durkin grinned. “Aw, forget it. This whole layout’s a joke. If I didn’t need the money—”

“Yeah. You take the money and let me do the laughing. Where’s Pinkie?”

“Huh? Don’t tell me you’re after the runt again!”

“Where is he?”

“He’s around. He was behind us on the ride just now—there he goes, look, the Coffee Pot. He must have gone down Eleventh. He takes chances. It’s time for his chow.”

I had seen him going in. I said, “All right. Now listen. I’m going to funny up your joke for you. You and the town dick are pals.”

“Well, we speak.”

“Find him. Do they sell beer at that joint on the corner?—Okay. Take him there and quench his thirst. On expense. Keep him there until my car’s gone from in front of the Coffee Pot. I’m going to take Pinkie for a ride.”

“No! I’ll be damned. Keep his necktie for me.”

“All right. Let’s go. Beat it.”

He climbed out and went. I sat and waited. Pretty soon I saw him come out of the laundry with the snoop, and start off in the other direction. I stepped on the starter and pushed the gear lever, and rolled along. This time I stopped right in front of the Coffee Pot. I got out and went in. I saw no cop around.

Pinkie was there, at the same table as before, with what looked like the same bowl of soup. I glanced at the other customers, on the stools, and observed nothing terrifying. I walked over to Pinkie and stopped at his elbow. He looked up and said:

“Well, goddam it.”

Looking at him again, I thought there was a chance Wolfe was right. I said, “Come on, Inspector Cramer wants to see you,” and took bracelets out of one pocket and my automatic out of another.

There must have been something in my eyes that made him suspicious, and I’ll say the little devil had nerve. He said, “I don’t believe it. Show me your goddam badge.”

I couldn’t afford an argument. I grabbed his collar and lifted him up out of his chair and set him on his feet. Then I snapped the handcuffs on him. I kept the gat completely visible and told him, “Get going.” I heard one or two mutters from the lunch counter, but didn’t bother to look. Pinkie said, “My overcoat.” I grabbed it off the hook and hung it on my arm, and marched him out. He went nice. Instead of trying to hide the bracelets, like most of them do, he held his hands stuck out in front.

The only danger was that a flatfoot might happen along outside and offer to help me, and the roadster wasn’t a police car. But all I saw was curious citizens. I herded him to the car, opened the door and shoved him in, and climbed in after him. I had left the engine running, just in case of a hurry. I rolled off, got to Seventh Avenue, and turned north.

I said, “Now listen. I’ve got two pieces of information. First, to ease your mind, I’m taking you to Thirty-fifth Street to call on Mr. Nero Wolfe. Second, if you open your trap to advertise anything, you’ll go there just the same, only faster and more unconscious.”

“I have no desire to call—”

“Shut up.” But I was grinning inside, for his voice was different; he was already jumping his character.

The evening traffic was out playing tag, and it took long enough to get to West Thirty-fifth Street. I pulled up in front of the house, told my passenger to sit still, got out and walked around and opened his door, and told him to come on. I went behind him up the steps, used my key on the portal, and nodded him in. While I was taking off my hat and coat he started reaching up for his cap, but I told him to leave it on and steered him for the office.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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