Three For The Chair | Chapter 26 of 27 - Part: 1 of 2

Author: Rex Stout | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2129 Views | Add a Review

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VIII

MY THOUGHT, as I put my hat and coat away, was that apparently the son-of-a-gun was going to try to pull one extra fancy and wrap it up in one package – not only put the finger on a murderer for Groom, but also mop up the hearing for Hyatt, as far as that bunch, including us, was concerned. It looked like a big order to fill without my help, but of course he had Dol Bonner. I thought it would be a pity if it turned out that she had knotted Donahue’s necktie and he had to fall back on me.

I was glancing around, noting that Ide and Kerr and Amsel were in the chairs farthest away from Wolfe, with two empty ones up front for the expected company, when footsteps sounded in the hall, and I turned. Groom was in the lead. Evidently they had left their coats and hats downstairs.

Wolfe greeted them. “Good evening, gentlemen.” He gestured. “Chairs for you.”

They stood. Groom said, “I expected something like this. From you. You didn’t say it was a convention.”

“No, sir. I merely said that if you would come, and bring Mr. Hyatt, I was now prepared to add to my statement substantially and cogently. I prefer to have witnesses present.” He gestured again. “If you will be seated?”

Groom looked at Hyatt, swiveled for a glance at me, moved through the gap between Kerr and Sally Colt, picked up one of the empty chairs and placed it against the wall, and sat. That way he had Wolfe and Dol Bonner on his right and the rest of us on his left, and couldn’t be jumped from behind. Hyatt wasn’t so particular. He didn’t bother to move the chair but just sat, although five of us – Ide, Kerr, Amsel, Sally, and I – were in his rear.

“Let’s hear it,” Groom told Wolfe.

“Yes, sir.” Wolfe shifted his chair to face him more directly. “A mass of detail is involved, but I won’t cover it exhaustively now. You’ll get it. First, the situation as it stood yesterday evening. In an ill-considered excess of zeal, you had arrested Mr. Goodwin and me. Therefore -”

“I know what the situation was.”

“Not as I saw it. Therefore I had either to sit here and twiddle my thumbs, trusting to your skill and luck, or bestir myself. To begin with, I needed to learn, if possible, whether any of the other five people – those who had been in room forty-two with Mr. Goodwin and me – had had any association with Donahue. I invited them to this room for consultation, and they came. They -”

“I know they did. And today they wouldn’t say what happened here. Not one of them. And Goodwin wouldn’t. And you wouldn’t.”

“I will now. This will go faster, Mr. Groom, if you don’t interrupt. They were here nearly four hours, and you won’t need all of it. As soon as I learned that all of them had recognized the body, and so had known Donahue, and that their times of arrival at that building yesterday eliminated none of them, the inevitable assumption was that one of them had killed him, and I made it. I made it, and held it for about an hour, proceeding with our discussion, when I had to abandon it.”

Groom started to speak and Wolfe showed him a palm. “If you please. Perhaps I should say ‘suspended’ instead of ‘abandoned.’ I suspended it because my attention was diverted to another quarter. I had noted it as an interesting point that seven people who had been associated with Donahue in connection with wiretapping had all been summoned to appear today. That it had been coincidence was against all probability, but it didn’t have to be coincidence. It might have been so arranged purposely, for a comparison of their stories and even to bring them face to face.

“But no. It developed that that wouldn’t do. None of us had mentioned Donahue’s name in our statements to the secretary of state. Miss Bonner and Mr. Ide and I had all reported being duped by a man who had followed the same pattern with each of us, and our physical descriptions of him agreed, so we three might have been summoned by design to appear on the same day, but not Mr. Kerr and not Mr. Amsel. Mr. Kerr had merely reported tapping the wire of Arthur M. Leggett at Leggett’s request. Mr. Amsel reported nothing – that is, nothing that could have linked him to Miss Bonner and Mr. Ide and me. Yesterday he identified Donahue as a man who had once asked him to make a tap and been refused, but he had made no mention of it in his statement to the secretary of state.”

“You’re getting nowhere fast,” Groom declared. “You had all known him. One of you saw him there and killed him.”

“But why were we all there?” Wolfe demanded. “That Miss Bonner and Mr. Ide and I had been brought together purposely was understandable, but not Mr. Kerr and Mr. Amsel. There was no connection, on the record; and yet they were connected, most significantly, since they too had had dealings with Donahue. By coincidence only? I didn’t believe it. One of them, possibly, but surely not both. So my attention was diverted to the question, who had arranged for us all to be summoned to appear the same day? And simultaneously to another question, was there anything in common among the five men whose wires Donahue had wanted to tap? That suggested still another, why had he gone to five different detectives to arrange for the taps? Might it not have been because the five men did have something in common, and he didn’t want that fact to be noted?”

Wolfe moved his eyes to Hyatt as if inviting an answer, but didn’t get one. He returned to Groom. “My first question had to wait, since I couldn’t very well call Mr. Hyatt and put it to him. The second was soon answered. I learned that four of the men whose wires had been tapped were members of the Charity Funds Investigating Committee, and had reason to suppose that the fifth one was also, embracing the entire committee. With that, I decided to describe the situation as I saw it to these ladies and gentlemen, and to enlist their co-operation. If it turned out that my surmise was wrong and one of them was in fact guilty, no harm would have been done; on the contrary, their reactions to my proposal might be indicative. I learned -”

“What proposal?” Groom demanded.

“I’m telling you. I learned that among them they had forty or more operatives in New York, and I could supply four or five. After describing the situation to them, I proposed that we put as many men as possible – and women – to work immediately. There were three main lines: one, the Hotel Marbury, where Donahue had lived; two, the background and interests and activities of Albert Hyatt, with emphasis on any discoverable connection with the Charity Funds Investigating Committee; and three -”

“You mean you suspected Hyatt of murder?”

“I mean I had formed a surmise I thought worth testing, and my confreres agreed with me. I have already put the question, who had arranged for all seven of us to appear on the same day? Mr. Hyatt was conducting the hearing. Another point, which is usually thought significant, but which you seem to have ignored, was that Mr. Hyatt was the last person, as far as was known, to see Donahue alive. Still another was that Hyatt had said that Donahue had told him that I had been given the name Donahue and that I had known the tap was illegal. I knew that either Donahue had lied or Hyatt was lying, and Donahue was dead.”

Wolfe lifted his shoulders and dropped them. “What I suspected at that point is no longer important. The third line of investigation was to find evidence of former association between Hyatt and Donahue. My confreres made phone calls, and I made one myself. By ten o’clock this morning we had – how many operatives Miss Bonner?”

“By ten o’clock, thirty-four. By two this afternoon, forty-eight. Forty-two men and six women.”

Steve Amsel suddenly exploded. “Too many detectives, Hyatt! Cancel our licenses! Too many!”

“Shut your trap!” Jay Kerr ordered him. “Wolfe’s telling it.”

Wolfe ignored them. “Reports started to reach us before one o’clock and have been arriving all afternoon, up to an hour ago, when we told the people in New York that we had enough for our purpose. Miss Bonner and Miss Colt took most of them, but the others helped. There was no important result from the first line of investigation, the Hotel Marbury. From the second, Hyatt’s background and interests and activities, there was nothing conclusive, but much that is pregnant. Eighteen months ago derogatory information about the activities of fund-raising organizations began to appear in the press, and as the weeks passed it increased in volume and significance. A little more than a year ago Mr. Hyatt was retained as consulting counsel by a large fund-raising organization which had realized large profits, variously estimated at from one to three million dollars annually, from its operation. That was about the time that the governor set up the Charity Funds Investigating Committee, and Mr. Hyatt’s client might reasonably expect to be a major target of that committee. There is some evidence that Mr. Hyatt approached two members of the committee in an effort to learn its plans -”

“What do you mean, ‘some evidence’?” Groom demanded.

Wolfe tapped the papers on the table. “It’s here waiting for you, but as I said, it is not conclusive. The committee members were not loquacious with our private operatives, but no doubt they will be more helpful with officers of the law. I merely give you this from our second line of investigation: that Mr. Hyatt was keenly interested in that committee and its plans. The results from our third line were more than pregnant, they were decisive, or close to it. It was of course the most promising, and thirty of the operatives were assigned to it. They were provided with pictures of Hyatt and Donahue from newspapers, and they found three people who had seen them together on two different occasions last spring – under circumstances that may fairly be described as furtive. I will not oblige Mr. Hyatt by naming the people and occasions and places, but that information is here.” He tapped the papers again.

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

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