A Man Called Spade
by Dashiell Hammett
Samuel Spade put his telephone aside and looked at his watch. It was not quite four o'clock. He called, "Yoo-hoo!"
Effie Perine came in from the outer office. She was eating a piece of chocolate cake.
"Tell Sid Wise I won't be able to keep that date this afternoon," he said.
She put the last of the cake into her mouth and licked the tips of forefinger and thumb. "That's the third time this week."
When he smiled, the v's of his chin, mouth, and brows grew longer. "I know, but I've got to go out and save a life." He nodded at the telephone. "Somebody's scaring Max Bliss."
She laughed. "Probably somebody named John D. Conscience."
He looked up at her from the cigarette he had begun to make. "Know anything I ought to know about him?"
"Nothing you don't know. I was just thinking about the time he let his brother go to San Quentin."
Spade shrugged. "That's not the worst thing he's done." He lit his cigarette, stood up, and reached for his hat. "But he's all right now. All Samuel Spade clients are honest, God-fearing folk. If I'm not back at closing time just run along."
He went to a tall apartment building on Nob Hill, pressed a button set in the frame of a door marked 10K. The door was opened immediately by a burly dark man in wrinkled dark clothes. He was nearly bald and carried a gray hat in one hand.
The burly man said, "Hello, Sam." He smiled, but his small eyes lost none of their shrewdness. "What are you doing here?"
Spade said, "Hello, Tom." His face was wooden, his voice expressionless. "Bliss in?"
"Is he!" Tom pulled down the corners of his thick-lipped mouth. "You don't have to worry about that."
Spade's brows came together. "Well?"
A man appeared in the vestibule behind Tom. He was smaller than either Spade or Tom, but compactly built. He had a ruddy, square face and a close-trimmed, grizzled mustache. His clothes were neat. He wore a black bowler perched on the back of his head.
Spade addressed this man over Tom's shoulder: "Hello, Dundy."
Dundy nodded briefly and came to the door. His blue eyes were hard and prying.
"What is it?" he asked Tom.
"B-l-i-s-s, M-a-x," Spade spelled patiently. "I want to see him. He wants to see me. Catch on?"
Tom laughed. Dundy did not. Tom said, "Only one of you gets your wish." Then he glanced sidewise at Dundy and abruptly stopped laughing. He seemed uncomfortable.
Spade scowled. "All right," he demanded irritably; "is he dead or has he killed somebody?"
Dundy thrust his square face up at Spade and seemed to push his words out with his lower lip. "What makes you think either?"
Spade said, "Oh, sure! I come calling on Mr. Bliss and I'm stopped at the door by a couple of men from the police Homicide Detail, and I'm supposed to think I'm just interrupting a game of rummy."
"Aw, stop it, Sam," Tom grumbled, looking at neither Spade nor Dundy. "He's dead."
Tom wagged his head slowly up and down. He looked at Spade now. "What've you got on it?"
Spade replied in a deliberate monotone, "He called me up this afternoon—say at five minutes to four—I looked at my watch after he hung up and there was still a minute or so to go—and said somebody was after his scalp. He wanted me to come over. It seemed real enough to him—it was up in his neck all right." He made a small gesture with one hand. "Well, here I am."
"Didn't say who or how?" Dundy asked.
Spade shook his head. "No. Just somebody had offered to kill him and he believed them, and would I come over right away."
"Didn't he—?" Dundy began quickly.
"He didn't say anything else," Spade said. "Don't you people tell me anything?"
Dundy said curtly, "Come in and take a look at him."
Tom said, "It's a sight."
They went across the vestibule and through a door into a green and rose living-room.
A man near the door stopped sprinkling white powder on the end of a glass-covered small table to say, "Hello, Sam."
Spade nodded, said, "How are you, Phels?" and then nodded at the two men who stood talking by a window.
The dead man lay with his mouth open. Some of his clothes had been taken off. His throat was puffy and dark. The end of his tongue showing in a corner of his mouth was bluish, swollen. On his bare chest, over the heart, a five-pointed star had been outlined in black ink and in the center of it a T.
Spade looked down at the dead man and stood for a moment silently studying him. Then he asked, "He was found like that?"
"About," Tom said. "We moved him around a little." He jerked a thumb at the shirt, undershirt, vest, and coat lying on a table. "They were spread over the floor."
Spade rubbed his chin. His yellow-gray eyes were dreamy. "When?"
Tom said, "We got it at four-twenty. His daughter gave it to us." He moved his head to indicate a closed door. "You'll see her."
"Heaven knows," Tom said wearily. "She's been kind of hard to get along with so far." He turned to Dundy. "Want to try her again now?"
Dundy nodded, then spoke to one of the men at the window. "Start sifting his papers, Mack. He's supposed to've been threatened."
Mack said, "Right." He pulled his hat down over his eyes and walked towards a green secrétaire in the far end of the room.
A man came in from the corridor, a heavy man of fifty with a deeply lined, grayish face under a broad-brimmed black hat. He said, "Hello, Sam," and then told Dundy, "He had company around half past two, stayed just about an hour. A big blond man in brown, maybe forty or forty-five. Didn't send his name up. I got it from the Filipino in the elevator that rode him both ways."
"Sure it was only an hour?" Dundy asked.
The gray-faced man shook his head. "But he's sure it wasn't more than half past three when he left. He says the afternoon papers came in then, and this man had ridden down with him before they came." He pushed his hat back to scratch his head, then pointed a thick finger at the design inked on the dead man's breast and asked somewhat plaintively, "What the deuce do you suppose that thing is?"
Nobody replied. Dundy asked, "Can the elevator boy identify him?"
"He says he could, but that ain't always the same thing. Says he never saw him before." He stopped looking at the dead man. "The girl's getting me a list of his phone calls. How you been, Sam?"
Spade said he had been all right. Then he said slowly, "His brother's big and blond and maybe forty or forty-five."
Dundy's blue eyes were hard and bright. "So what?" he asked.
"You remember the Graystone Loan swindle. They were both in it, but Max eased the load over on Theodore and it turned out to be one to fourteen years in San Quentin."
Dundy was slowly wagging his head up and down. "I remember now. Where is he?"
Spade shrugged and began to make a cigarette.
Dundy nudged Tom with an elbow. "Find out."
Tom said, "Sure, but if he was out of here at half past three and this fellow was still alive at five to four—"
"And he broke his leg so he couldn't duck back in," the gray-faced man said jovially.
"Find out," Dundy repeated.
Tom said, "Sure, sure," and went to the telephone.
Dundy addressed the gray-faced man: "Check up on the newspapers; see what time they were actually delivered this afternoon."
The gray-faced man nodded and left the room.
The man who had been searching the secrétaire said, "Uh-huh," and turned around holding an envelope in one hand, a sheet of paper in the other.
Dundy held out his hand. "Something?"
The man said, "Uh-huh," again and gave Dundy the sheet of paper.
Spade was looking over Dundy's shoulder.
It was a small sheet of common white paper bearing a penciled message in neat, undistinguished handwriting:
When this reaches you I will be too close for you to escape—this time. We will balance our accounts—for good.
The signature was a five-pointed star enclosing a T, the design on the dead man's left breast.
Dundy held out his hand again and was given the envelope. Its stamp was French. The address was typewritten:
MAX BLISS, ESQ.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.
U. S. A.
"Postmarked Paris," he said, "the second of the month." He counted swiftly on his fingers. "That would get it here today, all right." He folded the message slowly, put it in the envelope, put the envelope in his coat pocket. "Keep digging," he told the man who had found the message.
The man nodded and returned to the secrétaire.
Dundy looked at Spade. "What do you think of it?"
Spade's brown cigarette wagged up and down with the words. "I don't like it. I don't like any of it."
Tom put down the telephone. "He got out the fifteenth of last month," he said. "I got them trying to locate him."
Spade went to the telephone, called a number, and asked for Mr. Darrell. Then: "Hello, Harry, this is Sam Spade.... Fine. How's Lil?... Yes.... Listen, Harry, what does a five-pointed star with a capital T in the middle mean?... What? How do you spell it?... Yes, I see.... And if you found it on a body?... Neither do I.... Yes, and thanks. I'll tell you about it when I see you.... Yes, give me a ring.... Thanks.... 'By."
Dundy and Tom were watching him closely when he turned from the telephone. He said, "That's a fellow who knows things sometimes. He says it's a pentagram with a Greek tau—t-a-u—in the middle; a sign magicians used to use. Maybe Rosicrucians still do."
"What's a Rosicrucian?" Tom asked.
"It could be Theodore's first initial, too," Dundy said.
Spade moved his shoulders, said carelessly, "Yes, but if he wanted to autograph the job it'd been just as easy for him to sign his name."
He then went on more thoughtfully, "There are Rosicrucians at both San Jose and Point Loma. I don't go much for this, but maybe we ought to look them up."
Spade looked at the dead man's clothes on the table. "Anything in his pockets?"
"Only what you'd expect to find," Dundy replied. "It's on the table there."
Spade went to the table and looked down at the little pile of watch and chain, keys, wallet, address book, money, gold pencil, handkerchief, and spectacle case beside the clothing. He did not touch them, but slowly picked up, one at a time, the dead man's shirt, undershirt, vest, and coat. A blue necktie lay on the table beneath them. He scowled irritably at it. "It hasn't been worn," he complained.
Dundy, Tom, and the coroner's deputy, who had stood silent all this while by the window—he was a small man with a slim, dark, intelligent face—came together to stare down at the unwrinkled blue silk.
Tom groaned miserably. Dundy cursed under his breath. Spade lifted the necktie to look at its back. The label was a London haberdasher's.
Spade said cheerfully, "Swell. San Francisco, Point Loma, San Jose, Paris, London."
Dundy glowered at him.
The gray-faced man came in. "The papers got here at three-thirty, all right," he said. His eyes widened a little. "What's up?" As he crossed the room towards them he said, "I can't find anybody that saw Blondy sneak back in here again." He looked uncomprehendingly at the necktie until Tom growled, "It's brand-new"; then he whistled softly.
Dundy turned to Spade. "The deuce with all this," he said bitterly. "He's got a brother with reasons for not liking him. The brother just got out of stir. Somebody who looks like his brother left here at half past three. Twenty-five minutes later he phoned you he'd been threatened. Less than half an hour after that his daughter came in and found him dead—strangled." He poked a finger at the small, dark-faced man's chest. "Right?"
"Strangled," the dark-faced man said precisely, "by a man. The hands were large."
"O. K." Dundy turned to Spade again. "We find a threatening letter. Maybe that's what he was telling you about, maybe it was something his brother said to him. Don't let's guess. Let's stick to what we know. We know he—"
The man at the secrétaire turned around and said, "Got another one." His mien was somewhat smug.
The eyes with which the five men at the table looked at him were identically cold, unsympathetic.
He, nowise disturbed by their hostility, read aloud:
I am writing this to tell you for the last time that I want my money back, and I want it back by the first of the month, all of it. If I don't get it I am going to do something about it, and you ought to be able to guess what I mean. And don't think I am kidding.
He grinned. "That's another T for you." He picked up an envelope. "Postmarked San Diego, the twenty-fifth of last month." He grinned again. "And that's another city for you."
Spade shook his head. "Point Loma's down that way," he said.
He went over with Dundy to look at the letter. It was written in blue ink on white stationery of good quality, as was the address on the envelope, in a cramped, angular handwriting that seemed to have nothing in common with that of the penciled letter.
Spade said ironically, "Now we're getting somewhere."
Dundy made an impatient gesture. "Let's stick to what we know," he growled.
"Sure," Spade agreed. "What is it?"
There was no reply.
Spade took tobacco and cigarette papers from his pocket. "Didn't somebody say something about talking to a daughter?" he asked.
"We'll talk to her." Dundy turned on his heel, then suddenly frowned at the dead man on the floor. He jerked a thumb at the small, dark-faced man. "Through with it?"
Dundy addressed Tom curtly: "Get rid of it." He addressed the gray-faced man: "I want to see both elevator boys when I'm finished with the girl."
He went to the closed door Tom had pointed out to Spade and knocked on it.
A slightly harsh female voice within asked, "What is it?"
"Lieutenant Dundy. I want to talk to Miss Bliss."
There was a pause; then the voice said, "Come in."
Dundy opened the door and Spade followed him into a black, gray, and silver room, where a big-boned and ugly middle-aged woman in black dress and white apron sat beside a bed on which a girl lay.
The girl lay, elbow on pillow, cheek on hand, facing the big-boned, ugly woman. She was apparently about eighteen years old. She wore a gray suit. Her hair was blonde and short, her face firm-featured and remarkably symmetrical. She did not look at the two men coming into the room.
Dundy spoke to the big-boned woman, while Spade was lighting his cigarette: "We want to ask you a couple of questions, too, Mrs. Hooper. You're Bliss's housekeeper, aren't you?"
The woman said, "I am." Her slightly harsh voice, the level gaze of her deep-set gray eyes, the stillness and size of her hands lying in her lap, all contributed to the impression she gave of resting strength.
"What do you know about this?"
"I don't know anything about it. I was let off this morning to go over to Oakland to my nephew's funeral, and when I got back you and the other gentlemen were here and—and this had happened."
Dundy nodded, asked, "What do you think about it?"
"I don't know what to think," she replied simply.
"Didn't you know he expected it to happen?"
Now the girl suddenly stopped watching Mrs. Hooper. She sat up in bed, turning wide, excited eyes on Dundy, and asked, "What do you mean?"
"I mean what I said. He'd been threatened. He called up Mr. Spade"—he indicated Spade with a nod—"and told him so just a few minutes before he was killed."
"But who—?" she began.
"That's what we're asking you," Dundy said. "Who had that much against him?"
She stared at him in astonishment. "Nobody would—"
This time Spade interrupted her, speaking with a softness that made his words seem less brutal than they were. "Somebody did." When she turned her stare on him he asked, "You don't know of any threats?"
She shook her head from side to side with emphasis.
He looked at Mrs. Hooper. "You?"
"No, sir," she said.
He returned his attention to the girl. "Do you know Daniel Talbot?"
"Why, yes," she said. "He was here for dinner last night."
"Who is he?"
"I don't know, except that he lives in San Diego, and he and Father had some sort of business together. I'd never met him before."
"What sort of terms were they on?"
She frowned a little, said slowly, "Friendly."
Dundy spoke: "What business was your father in?"
"He was a financier."
"You mean a promoter?"
"Yes, I suppose you could call it that."
"Where is Talbot staying, or has he gone back to San Diego?"
"I don't know."
"What does he look like?"
She frowned again, thoughtfully. "He's kind of large, with a red face and white hair and a white mustache."
"I guess he must be sixty; fifty-five at least."
Dundy looked at Spade, who put the stub of his cigarette in a tray on the dressing table and took up the questioning. "How long since you've seen your uncle?"
Her face flushed. "You mean Uncle Ted?"
"Not since," she began, and bit her lip. Then she said, "Of course, you know. Not since he first got out of prison."
"He came here?"
"To see your father?"
"What sort of terms were they on?"
She opened her eyes wide. "Neither of them is very demonstrative," she said, "but they are brothers, and Father was giving him money to set him up in business again."
"Then they were on good terms?"
"Yes," she replied in the tone of one answering an unnecessary question.
"Where does he live?"
"On Post Street," she said, and gave a number.
"And you haven't seen him since?"
"No. He was shy, you know, about having been in prison—" She finished the sentence with a gesture of one hand.
Spade addressed Mrs. Hooper: "You've seen him since?"
He pursed his lips, asked slowly, "Either of you know he was here this afternoon?"
They said, "No," together.
Someone knocked on the door.
Dundy said, "Come in."
Tom opened the door far enough to stick his head in. "His brother's here," he said.
The girl leaning forward, called, "Oh, Uncle Ted!"
A big blond man in brown appeared behind Tom. He was sunburned to an extent that made his teeth seem whiter, his clear eyes bluer, than they were.
He asked, "What's the matter, Miriam?"
"Father's dead," she said, and began to cry.
Dundy nodded at Tom, who stepped out of Theodore Bliss's way and let him come into the room.
A woman came in behind him, slowly, hesitantly. She was a tall woman in her late twenties, blonde, not quite plump. Her features were generous, her face pleasant and intelligent. She wore a small brown hat and a mink coat.
Bliss put an arm around his niece, kissed her forehead, sat on the bed beside her. "There, there," he said awkwardly.
She saw the blonde woman, stared through her tears at her for a moment, then said, "Oh, how do you do, Miss Barrow."
The blonde woman said, "I'm awfully sorry to—"
Bliss cleared his throat, and said, "She's Mrs. Bliss now. We were married this afternoon."
Dundy looked angrily at Spade. Spade, making a cigarette, seemed about to laugh.
Miriam Bliss, after a moment's surprised silence, said, "Oh, I do wish you all the happiness in the world." She turned to her uncle while his wife was murmuring "Thank you" and said, "And you too, Uncle Ted."
He patted her shoulder and squeezed her to him. He was looking questioningly at Spade and Dundy.
"Your brother died this afternoon," Dundy said. "He was murdered."
Mrs. Bliss caught her breath. Bliss's arm tightened around his niece with a little jerk, but there was not yet any change in his face. "Murdered?" he repeated uncomprehendingly.
"Yes." Dundy put his hands in his coat pockets. "You were here this afternoon."
Theodore Bliss paled a little under his sunburn, but said, "I was," steadily enough.
"About an hour. I got here about half past two and—" He turned to his wife. "It was almost half past three when I phoned you, wasn't it?"
She said, "Yes."
"Well, I left right after that."
"Did you have a date with him?" Dundy asked.
"No. I phoned his office"—he nodded at his wife—"and was told he'd left for home, so I came on up. I wanted to see him before Elise and I left, of course, and I wanted him to come to the wedding, but he couldn't. He said he was expecting somebody. We sat here and talked longer than I had intended, so I had to phone Elise to meet me at the Municipal Building."
After a thoughtful pause, Dundy asked, "What time?"
"That we met there?" Bliss looked inquiringly at his wife, who said, "It was just quarter to four." She laughed a little. "I got there first and I kept looking at my watch."
Bliss said very deliberately, "It was a few minutes after four that we were married. We had to wait for Judge Whitefield—about ten minutes, and it was a few more before we got started—to get through with the case he was hearing. You can check it up—Superior Court, Part Two, I think."
Spade whirled around and pointed at Tom. "Maybe you'd better check it up."
Tom said, "Oke," and went away from the door.
"If that's so, you're all right, Mr. Bliss," Dundy said, "but I have to ask you these things. Now, did your brother say who he was expecting?"
"Did he say anything about having been threatened?"
"No. He never talked much about his affairs to anybody, not even to me. Had he been threatened?"
Dundy's lips tightened a little. "Were you and he on intimate terms?"
"Friendly, if that's what you mean."
"Are you sure?" Dundy asked. "Are you sure neither of you held any grudge against the other?"
Theodore Bliss took his arm free from around his niece. Increasing pallor made his sunburned face yellowish. He said, "Everybody here knows about my having been in San Quentin. You can speak out, if that's what you're getting at."
"It is," Dundy said, and then, after a pause, "Well?"
Bliss stood up. "Well, what?" he asked impatiently. "Did I hold a grudge against him for that? No. Why should I? We were both in it. He could get out; I couldn't. I was sure of being convicted whether he was or not. Having him sent over with me wasn't going to make it any better for me. We talked it over and decided I'd go it alone, leaving him outside to pull things together. And he did. If you look up his bank account you'll see he gave me a check for twenty-five thousand dollars two days after I was discharged from San Quentin and the registrar of the National Steel Corporation can tell you a thousand shares of stock have been transferred from his name to mine since then."
He smiled apologetically and sat down on the bed again. "I'm sorry. I know you have to ask things."
Dundy ignored the apology. "Do you know Daniel Talbot?" he asked.
Bliss said, "No."
His wife said, "I do; that is, I've seen him. He was in the office yesterday."
Dundy looked her up and down carefully before asking, "What office?"
"I am—I was Mr. Bliss's secretary, and—"
"Yes, and a Daniel Talbot came in to see him yesterday afternoon, if it's the same one."
She looked at her husband, who said, "If you know anything, for heaven's sake tell them."
She said, "But nothing really happened. I thought they were angry with each other at first, but when they left together they were laughing and talking, and before they went Mr. Bliss rang for me and told me to have Trapper—he's the bookkeeper—make out a check to Mr. Talbot's order."
"Oh, yes. I took it in to him. It was for seventy-five hundred and some dollars."
"What was it for?"
She shook her head. "I don't know."
"If you were Bliss's secretary," Dundy insisted, "you must have some idea of what his business with Talbot was."
"But I haven't," she said. "I'd never even heard of him before."
Dundy looked at Spade. Spade's face was wooden. Dundy glowered at him, then put a question to the man on the bed: "What kind of necktie was your brother wearing when you saw him last?"
Bliss blinked, then stared distantly past Dundy, and finally shut his eyes. When he opened them he said, "It was green with—I'd know it if I saw it. Why?"
Mrs. Bliss said, "Narrow diagonal stripes of different shades of green. That's the one he had on at the office this morning."
"Where does he keep his neckties?" Dundy asked the housekeeper.
She rose, saying, "In a closet in his bedroom. I'll show you."
Dundy and the newly married Blisses followed her out.
Spade put his hat on the dressing table and asked Miriam Bliss, "What time did you go out?" He sat on the foot of her bed.
"Today? About one o'clock. I had a luncheon engagement for one and I was a little late, and then I went shopping, and then—" She broke off with a shudder.
"And then you came home at what time?" His voice was friendly, matter-of-fact.
"Some time after four, I guess."
"And what happened?"
"I f-found Father lying there and I phoned—I don't know whether I phoned downstairs or the police, and then I don't know what I did. I fainted or had hysterics or something, and the first thing I remember is coming to and finding those men here and Mrs. Hooper." She looked him full in the face now.
"You didn't phone a doctor?"
She lowered her eyes again. "No, I don't think so."
"Of course you wouldn't, if you knew he was dead," he said casually.
She was silent.
"You knew he was dead?" he asked.
She raised her eyes and looked blankly at him. "But he was dead," she said.
He smiled. "Of course; but what I'm getting at is, did you make sure before you phoned?"
She put a hand to her throat. "I don't remember what I did," she said earnestly. "I think I just knew he was dead."
He nodded understandingly. "And if you phoned the police it was because you knew he had been murdered."
She worked her hands together and looked at them and said, "I suppose so. It was awful. I don't know what I thought or did."
Spade leaned forward and made his voice low and persuasive. "I'm not a police detective, Miss Bliss. I was engaged by your father—a few minutes too late to save him. I am, in a way, working for you now, so if there is anything I can do—maybe something the police wouldn't—" He broke off as Dundy, followed by the Blisses and the housekeeper, returned to the room. "What luck?"
Dundy said, "The green tie's not there." His suspicious gaze darted from Spade to the girl. "Mrs. Hooper says the blue tie we found is one of half a dozen he just got from England."
Bliss asked, "What's the importance of the tie?"
Dundy scowled at him. "He was partly undressed when we found him. The tie with his clothes had never been worn."
"Couldn't he have been changing clothes when whoever killed him came, and was killed before he had finished dressing?"
Dundy's scowl deepened. "Yes, but what did he do with the green tie? Eat it?"
Spade said, "He wasn't changing clothes. If you'll look at the shirt collar you'll see he must've had it on when he was choked."
Tom came to the door. "Checks all right," he told Dundy. "The judge and a bailiff named Kittredge say they were there from about a quarter to four till five or ten minutes after. I told Kittredge to come over and take a look at them to make sure they're the same ones."
Dundy said, "Right," without turning his head and took the penciled threat signed with the T in a star from his pocket. He folded it so only the signature was visible. Then he asked, "Anybody know what this is?"
Miriam Bliss left the bed to join the others in looking at it. From it they looked at one another blankly.
"Anybody know anything about it?" Dundy asked.
Mrs. Hooper said, "It's like what was on poor Mr. Bliss's chest, but—" The others said, "No."
"Anybody ever seen anything like it before?"
They said they had not.
Dundy said, "All right. Wait here. Maybe I'll have something else to ask you after a while."
Spade said, "Just a minute. Mr. Bliss, how long have you known Mrs. Bliss?"
Bliss looked curiously at Spade. "Since I got out of prison," he replied somewhat cautiously. "Why?"
"Just since last month," Spade said as if to himself. "Meet her through your brother?"
"Of course—in his office. Why?"
"And at the Municipal Building this afternoon, were you together all the time?"
"Yes, certainly." Bliss spoke sharply. "What are you getting at?"
Spade smiled at him, a friendly smile. "I have to ask things," he said.
Bliss smiled too. "It's all right." His smile broadened. "As a matter of fact, I'm a liar. We weren't actually together all the time. I went out into the corridor to smoke a cigarette, but I assure you every time I looked through the glass of the door I could see her still sitting in the courtroom where I had left her."
Spade's smile was as light as Bliss's. Nevertheless, he asked, "And when you weren't looking through the glass you were in sight of the door? She couldn't've left the courtroom without your seeing her?"
Bliss's smile went away. "Of course she couldn't," he said, "and I wasn't out there more than five minutes."
Spade said, "Thanks," and followed Dundy into the living-room, shutting the door behind him.
Dundy looked sidewise at Spade. "Anything to it?"
Max Bliss's body had been removed. Besides the man at the secrétaire and the gray-faced man, two Filipino boys in plum-colored uniforms were in the room. They sat close together on the sofa.
Dundy said, "Mack, I want to find a green necktie. I want this house taken apart, this block taken apart, and the whole neighborhood taken apart till you find it. Get what men you need."
The man at the secrétaire rose, said "Right," pulled his hat down over his eyes, and went out.
Dundy scowled at the Filipinos. "Which of you saw the man in brown?"
The smaller stood up. "Me, sir."
Dundy opened the bedroom door and said, "Bliss."
Bliss came to the door.
The Filipino's face lighted up. "Yes, sir, him."
Dundy shut the door in Bliss's face. "Sit down."
The boy sat down hastily.
Dundy stared gloomily at the boys until they began to fidget. Then, "Who else did you bring up to this apartment this afternoon?"
They shook their heads in unison from side to side. "Nobody else, sir," the smaller one said. A desperately ingratiating smile stretched his mouth wide across his face.
Dundy took a threatening step towards them. "Nuts!" he snarled. "You brought up Miss Bliss."
The larger boy's head bobbed up and down. "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I bring them up. I think you mean other people." He too tried a smile.
Dundy was glaring at him. "Never mind what you think I mean. Tell me what I ask. Now, what do you mean by 'them'?"
The boy's smile died under the glare. He looked at the floor between his feet and said, "Miss Bliss and the gentleman."
"What gentleman? The gentleman in there?" He jerked his head toward the door he had shut on Bliss.
"No, sir. Another gentleman, not an American gentleman." He had raised his head again and now brightness came back into his face. "I think he is Armenian."
"Because he not like us Americans, not talk like us."
Spade laughed, asked, "Ever seen an Armenian?"
"No, sir. That is why I think—" He shut his mouth with a click as Dundy made a growling noise in his throat.
"What'd he look like?" Dundy asked.
The boy lifted his shoulders, spread his hands. "He tall, like this gentleman." He indicated Spade. "Got dark hair, dark mustache. Very"—he frowned earnestly—"very nice clothes. Very nice-looking man. Cane, gloves, spats, even, and—"
"Young?" Dundy asked.
The head went up and down again. "Young, yes, sir."
"When did he leave?"
"Five minutes," the boy replied.
Dundy made a chewing motion with his jaws, then asked, "What time did they come in?"
The boy spread his hands, lifted his shoulders again. "Four o'clock—maybe ten minutes after."
"Did you bring anybody else up before we got here?"
The Filipinos shook their heads in unison once more.
Dundy spoke out the side of his mouth to Spade: "Get her."
Spade opened the bedroom door, bowed slightly, said, "Will you come out a moment, Miss Bliss?"
"What is it?" she asked wearily.
"Just for a moment," he said, holding the door open. Then he suddenly added, "And you'd better come along, too, Mr. Bliss."
Miriam Bliss came slowly into the living-room followed by her uncle, and Spade shut the door behind them. Miss Bliss's lower lip twitched a little when she saw the elevator boys. She looked apprehensively at Dundy.
He asked, "What's this fiddlededee about the man that came in with you?"
Her lower lip twitched again. "Wh-what?" She tried to put bewilderment on her face. Theodore Bliss hastily crossed the room, stood for a moment before her as if he intended to say something, and then, apparently changing his mind, took up a position behind her, his arms crossed over the back of a chair.
"The man who came in with you," Dundy said harshly, rapidly. "Who is he? Where is he? Why'd he leave? Why didn't you say anything about him?"
The girl put her hands over her face and began to cry. "He didn't have anything to do with it," she blubbered through her hands. "He didn't, and it would just make trouble for him."
"Nice boy," Dundy said. "So, to keep his name out of the newspapers, he runs off and leaves you alone with your murdered father."
She took her hands away from her face. "Oh, but he had to," she cried. "His wife is so jealous, and if she knew he had been with me again she'd certainly divorce him, and he hasn't a cent in the world of his own."
Dundy looked at Spade. Spade looked at the goggling Filipinos and jerked a thumb at the outer door. "Scram," he said. They went out quickly.
"And who is this gem?" Dundy asked the girl.
"But he didn't have any—"
"Who is he?"
Her shoulders drooped a little and she lowered her eyes. "His name is Boris Smekalov," she said wearily.
She spelled it.
"Where does he live?"
"At the St. Mark Hotel."
"Does he do anything for a living except marry money?"
Anger came into her face as she raised it, but went away as quickly. "He doesn't do anything," she said.
Dundy wheeled to address the gray-faced man. "Get him."
The gray-faced man grunted and went out.
Dundy faced the girl again. "You and this Smekalov in love with each other?"
Her face became scornful. She looked at him with scornful eyes and said nothing.
He said, "Now your father's dead, will you have enough money for him to marry if his wife divorces him?"
She covered her face with her hands.
He said, "Now your father's dead, will—?"
Spade, leaning far over, caught her as she fell. He lifted her easily and carried her into the bedroom. When he came back he shut the door behind him and leaned against it. "Whatever the rest of it was," he said, "the faint's a phony."
"Everything's a phony," Dundy growled.
Spade grinned mockingly. "There ought to be a law making criminals give themselves up."
Mr. Bliss smiled and sat down at his brother's desk by the window.
Dundy's voice was disagreeable. "You got nothing to worry about," he said to Spade. "Even your client's dead and can't complain. But if I don't come across I've got to stand for riding from the captain, the chief, the newspapers, and heaven knows who all."
"Stay with it," Spade said soothingly; "you'll catch a murderer sooner or later yet." His face became serious except for the lights in his yellow-gray eyes. "I don't want to run this job up any more alleys than we have to, but don't you think we ought to check up on the funeral the housekeeper said she went to? There's something funny about that woman."
After looking suspiciously at Spade for a moment, Dundy nodded, and said, "Tom'll do it."
Spade turned about and, shaking his finger at Tom, said, "It's a ten-to-one bet there wasn't any funeral. Check on it ... don't miss a trick."
Then he opened the bedroom door and called Mrs. Hooper. "Sergeant Polhaus wants some information from you," he told her.
While Tom was writing down names and addresses that the woman gave him, Spade sat on the sofa and made and smoked a cigarette, and Dundy walked the floor slowly, scowling at the rug. With Spade's approval, Theodore Bliss rose and rejoined his wife in the bedroom.
Presently Tom put his note book in his pocket, said, "Thank you," to the housekeeper, "Be seeing you," to Spade and Dundy, and left the apartment.
The housekeeper stood where he had left her, ugly, strong, serene, patient.
Spade twisted himself around on the sofa until he was looking into her deep-set, steady eyes. "Don't worry about that," he said, flirting a hand toward the door Tom had gone through. "Just routine." He pursed his lips, asked, "What do you honestly think of this thing, Mrs. Hooper?"
She replied calmly, in her strong, somewhat harsh voice, "I think it's the judgment of God."
Dundy stopped pacing the floor.
Spade said, "What?"
There was certainty and no excitement in her voice: "The wages of sin is death."
Dundy began to advance towards Mrs. Hooper in the manner of one stalking game. Spade waved him back with a hand which the sofa hid from the woman. His face and voice showed interest, but were now as composed as the woman's. "Sin?" he asked.
She said, "'Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea.'" She spoke, not as if quoting, but as if saying something she believed.
Dundy barked a question at her: "What little one?"
She turned her grave gray eyes on him, then looked past him at the bedroom door.
"Her," she said; "Miriam."
Dundy frowned at her. "His daughter?"
The woman said, "Yes, his own adopted daughter."
Angry blood mottled Dundy's square face. "What the heck is this?" he demanded. He shook his head as if to free it from some clinging thing. "She's not really his daughter?"
The woman's serenity was in no way disturbed by his anger. "No. His wife was an invalid most of her life. They didn't have any children."
Dundy moved his jaws as if chewing for a moment and when he spoke again his voice was cooler. "What did he do to her?"
"I don't know," she said, "but I truly believe that when the truth's found out you'll see that the money her father—I mean her real father—left her has been—"
Spade interrupted her, taking pains to speak very clearly, moving one hand in small circles with his words. "You mean you don't actually know he's been gypping her? You just suspect it?"
She put a hand over her heart. "I know it here," she replied calmly.
Dundy looked at Spade, Spade at Dundy, and Spade's eyes were shiny with not altogether pleasant merriment. Dundy cleared his throat and addressed the woman again. "And you think this"—he waved a hand at the floor where the dead man had lain—"was the judgment of God, huh?"
He kept all but the barest trace of craftiness out of his eyes. "Then whoever did it was just acting as the hand of God?"
"It's not for me to say," she replied.
Red began to mottle his face again.
"That'll be all right now," he said in a choking voice, but by the time she had reached the bedroom door his eyes became alert again and he called, "Wait a minute." And when they were facing each other: "Listen, do you happen to be a Rosicrucian?"
"I wish to be nothing but a Christian."
He growled, "All right, all right," and turned his back on her. She went into the bedroom and shut the door. He wiped his forehead with the palm of his right hand and complained wearily, "Great Scott, what a family."
Spade shrugged. "Try investigating your own some time."
Dundy's face whitened. His lips, almost colorless, came back tight over his teeth. He balled his fists and lunged towards Spade. "What do you—?" The pleasantly surprised look on Spade's face stopped him. He averted his eyes, wet his lips with the tip of his tongue, looked at Spade again and away, essayed an embarrassed smile, and mumbled, "You mean any family. Uh-huh, I guess so." He turned hastily towards the corridor door as the doorbell rang.
The amusement twitching Spade's face accentuated his likeness to a blond satan.
An amiable, drawling voice came in through the corridor door: "I'm Jim Kittredge, Superior Court. I was told to come over here."
Dundy's voice: "Yes, come in."
Kittredge was a roly-poly ruddy man in too-tight clothes with the shine of age on them. He nodded at Spade and said, "I remember you, Mr. Spade, from the Burke-Harris suit."
Spade said, "Sure," and stood up to shake hands with him.
Dundy had gone to the bedroom door to call Theodore Bliss and his wife. Kittredge looked at them, smiled at them amiably, said, "How do you do?" and turned to Dundy. "That's them, all right." He looked around as if for a place to spit, found none, and said, "It was just about ten minutes to four that the gentleman there came in the courtroom and asked me how long His Honor would be, and I told him about ten minutes, and they waited there; and right after court adjourned at four o'clock we married them."
Dundy said, "Thanks." He sent Kittredge away, the Blisses back to the bedroom, scowled with dissatisfaction at Spade, and said, "So what?"
Spade, sitting down again, replied, "So you couldn't get from here to the Municipal Building in less than fifteen minutes on a bet, so he couldn't've ducked back here while he was waiting for the judge, and he couldn't have hustled over here to do it after the wedding and before Miriam arrived."
The dissatisfaction in Dundy's face increased. He opened his mouth, but shut it in silence when the gray-faced man came in with a tall, slender, pale young man who fitted the description the Filipino had given of Miriam Bliss's companion.
The gray-faced man said, "Lieutenant Dundy, Mr. Spade, Mr. Boris—uh—Smekalov."
Dundy nodded curtly.
Smekalov began to speak immediately. His accent was not heavy enough to trouble his hearers much, though his r's sounded more like w's. "Lieutenant, I must beg of you that you keep this confidential. If it should get out it will ruin me, Lieutenant, ruin me completely and most unjustly. I am most innocent, sir, I assure you, in heart, spirit, and deed, not only innocent, but in no way whatever connected with any part of the whole horrible matter. There is no—"
"Wait a minute." Dundy prodded Smekalov's chest with a blunt finger. "Nobody's said anything about you being mixed up in anything—but it'd looked better if you'd stuck around."
The young man spread his arms, his palms forward, in an expansive gesture. "But what can I do? I have a wife who—" He shook his head, violently. "It is impossible. I cannot do it."
The gray-faced man said to Spade in an inadequately subdued voice, "Goofy, these Russians."
Dundy screwed up his eyes at Smekalov and made his voice judicial. "You've probably," he said, "put yourself in a pretty tough spot."
Smekalov seemed about to cry. "But only put yourself in my place," he begged, "and you—"
"Wouldn't want to." Dundy seemed, in his callous way, sorry for the young man. "Murder's nothing to play with in this country."
"Murder! But I tell you, Lieutenant, I happen' to enter into this situation by the merest mischance only. I am not—"
"You mean you came in here with Miss Bliss by accident?"
The young man looked as if he would like to say "Yes." He said, "No," slowly, then went on with increasing rapidity: "But that was nothing, sir, nothing at all. We had been to lunch. I escorted her home and she said, 'Will you come in for a cocktail?' and I would. That is all, I give you my word." He held out his hands, palms up. "Could it not have happened so to you?" He moved his hands in Spade's direction. "To you?"
Spade said, "A lot of things happen to me. Did Bliss know you were running around with his daughter?"
"He knew we were friends, yes."
"Did he know you had a wife?"
Smekalov said cautiously, "I do not think so."
Dundy said, "You know he didn't."
Smekalov moistened his lips and did not contradict the lieutenant.
Dundy asked, "What do you think he'd've done if he found out?"
"I do not know, sir."
Dundy stepped close to the young man and spoke through his teeth in a harsh, deliberate voice: "What did he do when he found out?"
The young man retreated a step, his face white and frightened.
The bedroom door opened and Miriam Bliss came into the room. "Why don't you leave him alone?" she asked indignantly. "I told you he had nothing to do with it. I told you he didn't know anything about it." She was beside Smekalov now and had one of his hands in hers. "You're simply making trouble for him without doing a bit of good. I'm awfully sorry, Boris, I tried to keep them from bothering you."
The young man mumbled unintelligibly.
"You tried, all right," Dundy agreed. He addressed Spade: "Could it've been like this, Sam? Bliss found out about the wife, knew they had the lunch date, came home early to meet them when they came in, threatened to tell the wife, and was choked to stop him." He looked sidewise at the girl. "Now, if you want to fake another faint, hop to it."
The young man screamed and flung himself at Dundy, clawing with both hands. Dundy grunted—"Uh!"—and struck him in the face with a heavy fist. The young man went backwards across the room until he collided with a chair. He and the chair went down on the floor together. Dundy said to the gray-faced man, "Take him down to the Hall—material witness."
The gray-faced man said, "Oke," picked up Smekalov's hat, and went over to help pick him up.
Theodore Bliss, his wife, and the housekeeper had come to the door Miriam Bliss had left open. Miriam Bliss was crying, stamping her foot, threatening Dundy: "I'll report you, you coward. You had no right to ..." and so on. Nobody paid much attention to her; they watched the gray-faced man help Smekalov to his feet, take him away. Smekalov's nose and mouth were red smears.
Then Dundy said, "Hush," negligently to Miriam Bliss and took a slip of paper from his pocket. "I got a list of the calls from here today. Sing out when you recognize them."
He read a telephone number.
Mrs. Hooper said, "That is the butcher. I phoned him before I left this morning." She said the next number Dundy read was the grocer's.
He read another.
"That's the St. Mark," Miriam Bliss said. "I called up Boris." She identified two more numbers as those of friends she had called.
The sixth number, Bliss said, was his brother's office. "Probably my call to Elise to ask her to meet me."
Spade said "Mine," to the seventh number, and Dundy said, "That last one's police emergency." He put the slip back in his pocket.
Spade said cheerfully, "And that gets us a lot of places."
The doorbell rang.
Dundy went to the door. He and another man could be heard talking in voices too low for their words to be recognized in the living room.
The telephone rang. Spade answered it. "Hello.... No, this is Spade. Wait a min—All right." He listened. "Right, I'll tell him.... I don't know. I'll have him call you.... Right."
When he turned from the telephone Dundy was standing, hands behind him, in the vestibule doorway. Spade said, "O'Gar says your Russian went completely nuts on the way to the Hall. They had to shove him into a strait-jacket."
"He ought to been there long ago," Dundy growled. "Come here."
Spade followed Dundy into the vestibule. A uniformed policeman stood in the outer doorway.
Dundy brought his hands from behind him. In one was a necktie with narrow diagonal stripes in varying shades of green, in the other was a platinum scarfpin in the shape of a crescent set with small diamonds.
Spade bent over to look at three small, irregular spots on the tie. "Blood?"
"Or dirt," Dundy said. "He found them crumpled up in a newspaper in the rubbish can on the corner."
"Yes, sir," the uniformed man said proudly; "there I found them, all wadded up in—" He stopped because nobody was paying any attention to him.
"Blood's better," Spade was saying. "It gives a reason for taking the tie away. Let's go in and talk to people."
Dundy stuffed the tie in one pocket, thrust his hand holding the pin into another. "Right—and we'll call it blood."
They went into the living-room. Dundy looked from Bliss to Bliss's wife, to Bliss's niece, to the housekeeper, as if he did not like any of them. He took his fist from his pocket, thrust it straight out in front of him, and opened it to show the crescent pin lying in his hand. "What's that?" he demanded.
Miriam Bliss was the first to speak. "Why, it's Father's pin," she said.
"So it is?" he said disagreeably. "And did he have it on today?"
"He always wore it." She turned to the others for confirmation.
Mrs. Bliss said, "Yes," while the others nodded.
"Where did you find it?" the girl asked.
Dundy was surveying them one by one again, as if he liked them less than ever. His face was red. "He always wore it," he said angrily, "but there wasn't one of you could say, 'Father always wore a pin. Where is it?' No, we got to wait till it turns up before we can get a word out of you about it."
Bliss said, "Be fair. How were we to know—?"
"Never mind what you were to know," Dundy said. "It's coming around to the point where I'm going to do some talking about what I know." He took the green necktie from his pocket. "This is his tie?"
Mrs. Hooper said, "Yes, sir."
Dundy said, "Well, it's got blood on it, and it's not his blood, because he didn't have a scratch on him that we could see." He looked narrow-eyed from one to another of them. "Now, suppose you were trying to choke a man that wore a scarfpin and he was wrestling with you, and—"
He broke off to look at Spade.
Spade had crossed to where Mrs. Hooper was standing. Her big hands were clasped in front of her. He took her right hand, turned it over, took the wadded handkerchief from her palm, and there was a two-inch-long fresh scratch in the flesh.
She had passively allowed him to examine her hand. Her mien lost none of its tranquillity now. She said nothing.
"Well?" he asked.
"I scratched it on Miss Miriam's pin fixing her on the bed when she fainted," the housekeeper said calmly.
Dundy's laugh was brief, bitter. "It'll hang you just the same," he said.
There was no change in the woman's face. "The Lord's will be done," she replied.
Spade made a peculiar noise in his throat as he dropped her hand. "Well, let's see how we stand." He grinned at Dundy. "You don't like that star-T, do you?"
Dundy said, "Not by a long shot."
"Neither do I," Spade said. "The Talbot threat was probably on the level, but that debt seems to have been squared. Now—Wait a minute." He went to the telephone and called his office. "The tie thing looked pretty funny, too, for a while," he said while he waited, "but I guess the blood takes care of that."
He spoke into the telephone: "Hello, Effie. Listen: Within half an hour or so of the time Bliss called me, did you get any call that maybe wasn't on the level? Anything that could have been a stall ... Yes, before ... Think now."
He put his hand over the mouthpiece and said to Dundy, "There's a lot of deviltry going on in this world."
He spoke into the telephone again: "Yes?... Yes ... Kruger?... Yes. Man or woman?... Thanks.... No, I'll be through in half an hour. Wait for me and I'll buy your dinner. 'By."
He turned away from the telephone. "About half an hour before Bliss phoned, a man called my office and asked for Mr. Kruger."
Dundy frowned. "So what?"
"Kruger wasn't there."
Dundy's frown deepened. "Who's Kruger?"
"I don't know," Spade said blandly. "I never heard of him." He took tobacco and cigarette papers from his pockets. "All right, Bliss, where's your scratch?"
Theodore Bliss said, "What?" while the others stared blankly at Spade.
"Your scratch," Spade repeated in a consciously patient tone. His attention was on the cigarette he was making. "The place where your brother's pin gouged you when you were choking him."
"Are you crazy?" Bliss demanded. "I was—"
"Uh-huh, you were being married when he was killed. You were not." Spade moistened the edge of his cigarette paper and smoothed it with his forefingers.
Mrs. Bliss spoke now, stammering a little: "But he—but Max Bliss called—"
"Who says Max Bliss called me?" Spade asked. "I don't know that. I wouldn't know his voice. All I know is a man called me and said he was Max Bliss. Anybody could say that."
"But the telephone records here show the call came from here," she protested.
He shook his head and smiled. "They show I had a call from here, and I did, but not that one. I told you somebody called up half an hour or so before the supposed Max Bliss call and asked for Mr. Kruger." He nodded at Theodore Bliss. "He was smart enough to get a call from this apartment to my office on the record before he left to meet you."
She stared from Spade to her husband with dumfounded blue eyes.
Her husband said lightly, "It's nonsense, my dear. You know—"
Spade did not let him finish that sentence. "You know he went out to smoke a cigarette in the corridor while waiting for the judge, and he knew there were telephone booths in the corridor. A minute would be all he needed." He lit his cigarette and returned his lighter to his pocket.
Bliss said, "Nonsense!" more sharply. "Why should I want to kill Max?" He smiled reassuringly into his wife's horrified eyes. "Don't let this disturb you, dear. Police methods are sometimes—"
"All right," Spade said, "let's look you over for scratches."
Bliss wheeled to face him more directly. "Damned if you will!" He put a hand behind him.
Spade, wooden-faced and dreamy-eyed, came forward.
Spade and Effie Perine sat at a small table in Julius's Castle on Telegraph Hill. Through the window beside them ferryboats could be seen carrying lights to and from the cities' lights on the other side of the bay.
"... hadn't gone there to kill him, chances are," Spade was saying; "just to shake him down for some more money; but when the fight started, once he got his hands on his throat, I guess, his grudge was too hot in him for him to let go till Max was dead. Understand, I'm just putting together what the evidence says, and what we got out of his wife, and the not much that we got out of him."
Effie nodded. "She's a nice, loyal wife."
Spade drank coffee, shrugged. "What for? She knows now that he made his play for her only because she was Max's secretary. She knows that when he took out the marriage license a couple of weeks ago it was only to string her along so she'd get him the photostatic copies of the records that tied Max up with the Graystone Loan swindle. She knows—Well, she knows she wasn't just helping an injured innocent to clear his good name."
He took another sip of coffee. "So he calls on his brother this afternoon to hold San Quentin over his head for a price again, and there's a fight, and he kills him, and gets his wrist scratched by the pin while he's choking him. Blood on the tie, a scratch on his wrist—that won't do. He takes the tie off the corpse and hunts up another, because the absence of a tie will set the police to thinking. He gets a bad break there: Max's new ties are on the front of the rack, and he grabs the first one he comes to. All right. Now he's got to put it around the dead man's neck—or wait—he gets a better idea. Pull off some more clothes and puzzle the police. The tie'll be just as inconspicuous off as on, if the shirt's off too. Undressing him, he gets another idea. He'll give the police something else to worry about, so he draws a mystic sign he has seen somewhere on the dead man's chest."
Spade emptied his cup, set it down, and went on: "By now he's getting to be a regular master-mind at bewildering the police. A threatening letter signed with the thing on Max's chest. The afternoon mail is on the desk. One envelope's as good as another so long as it's typewritten and has no return address, but the one from France adds a touch of the foreign, so out comes the original letter and in goes the threat. He's overdoing it now; see? He's giving us so much that's wrong that we can't help suspecting things that seem all right—the phone call, for instance.
"Well, he's ready for the phone calls now—his alibi. He picks my name out of the private detectives in the phone book and does the Mr. Kruger trick; but that's after he calls the blonde Elise and tells her that not only have the obstacles to their marriage been removed, but he's had an offer to go in business in New York and has to leave right away, and will she meet him in fifteen minutes and get married? There's more than just an alibi to that. He wants to make sure she is dead sure he didn't kill Max, because she knows he doesn't like Max, and he doesn't want her to think he was just stringing her along to get the dope on Max, because she might be able to put two and two together and get something like the right answer.
"With that taken care of, he's ready to leave. He goes out quite openly, with only one thing to worry about now—the tie and pin in his pocket. He takes the pin along because he's not sure the police mightn't find traces of blood around the setting of the stones, no matter how carefully he wipes it. On his way out he picks up a newspaper—buys one from the newsboy he meets at the street door—wads tie and pin up in a piece of it, and drops it in the rubbish can at the corner. That seems all right. No reason for the police to look for the tie. No reason for the street cleaner who empties the can to investigate a crumpled piece of newspaper, and if something does go wrong—what the deuce!—the murderer dropped it there, but he, Theodore, can't be the murderer, because he's going to have an alibi.
"Then he jumps in his car and drives to the Municipal Building. He knows there are plenty of phones there and he can always say he's got to wash his hands, but it turns out he doesn't have to. While they're waiting for the judge to get through with a case he goes out to smoke a cigarette, and there you are—'Mr. Spade, this is Max Bliss and I've been threatened.'"
Effie Perine nodded, then asked, "Why do you suppose he picked on a private detective instead of the police?"
"Playing safe. If the body had been found, meanwhile, the police might've heard of it and trace the call. A private detective wouldn't be likely to hear about it till he read it in the papers."
She laughed, then said, "And that was your luck."
"Luck? I don't know." He looked gloomily at the back of his left hand. "I hurt a knuckle stopping him and the job only lasted an afternoon. Chances are whoever's handling the estate'll raise hob if I send them a bill for any decent amount of money." He raised a hand to attract the waiter's attention. "Oh, well, better luck next time. Want to catch a movie or have you got something else to do?"
End of A Man Called Spade by Dashiell Hammett