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Authors: The Sound of Murder

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BOOK: Rex Stout
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“I don’t know.” Dundee was incredulous. “They asked if you saw her here today?”

“They did. You didn’t mention her at all?”

“Certainly not. And I don’t believe—”

He cut it off as the kitchen door opened. Heather Gladd was there an instant in the rectangle of bright light, then she closed the door behind her and moved forward, calling:

“Mr. Hicks?”

“We’re talking,” Dundee said sharply.

“We’re through talking,” Hicks said. “I’ll miss that train.”

“We can make it,” Heather said. “It’s after nine o’clock, but it’s only three miles.”

“Then you’re taking me?”


Hicks dashed into the house. He found his hat where he had left it in a closet in the hall. In the living room there was no one but the man in a Palm Beach suit and an old Panama hat, which apparently was glued on. He was reading a magazine.

“I’m going to New York,” Hicks said.

“Okay.” The man surveyed Hicks with gloomy interest. “You’re that Alphabet Hicks. Got one of those cards with you? I’d like to have one.”

Hicks took one from his wallet and handed it over.

The man looked at it. “L.O.P.U.S.S.A.F. What does that stand for?”

“Lover of Peace Unless Somebody Starts a Fight. I’m in a hurry. Miss Gladd is driving me to a train. All right?”

“Sure. So you really do carry these things. I’ll be damned. Crazy as hell. We’ve got your address. The bellboy on the drive will let you by. If not, yell for me.”

He returned to his magazine.

Hicks found Heather Gladd seated behind the driver’s wheel of a modest sedan at the edge of the graveled space in front of the garage. Only three of the parked cars remained, and one of those was R. I. Dundee’s. The engine was already going, and as soon as Hicks had climbed in beside her and shut the door Heather engaged the gear and the car moved forward. Short of the entrance they were stopped by a policeman, but after a couple of questions and a glance inside a car he nodded them on.

They turned into the public road, and went a mile or so, and no words passed.

Hicks turned his head to look directly at her profile. “There isn’t much time to talk,” he remarked.

She was silent for another half a mile, then said only, “I don’t … feel like talking.”

“I suppose not, but wasn’t there something you wanted to say to me?”

“No.” She turned the wheel for a curve. “Except—they didn’t ask me much. Just a few questions, and they asked me if I
knew anything—if there was any trouble between Martha and George and I told them no. Yes, and I ought to thank you—I don’t mean I ought to, I mean I do thank you—for keeping your promise not to tell them. You did keep it, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” Hicks was gazing at her profile. “What else did you want to say?”

“Nothing. That’s all.”

“Then why did you insist on taking me to the station when you could hardly stand up?”

“Oh, I—don’t mind. I like to drive.”

“Yeah, it’s fun.” Hicks’s tone suddenly became peremptory.

“Pull up at the side of the road.”

“What?” The car swerved and she jerked it straight again. “What for?”

“We’re nearly at the village. Get off the road and stop the car or I’ll stop it for you.”

She obeyed. The car slowed down, bumped onto the grassy roadside, and stopped.

“What—” she began.

“Leave the engine on,” Hicks said curtly. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ll miss the train.”

“That’s all right, more trains tomorrow.” In the dim light from the dashboard Hicks could see her tight lips and wide eyes. “I am referring to George Cooper. You know where he is. You wanted an excuse to leave. You’re going to phone him or you’re going to see him—”

He stopped abruptly, gazing at her. She made no sound. In a moment he said softly, “I’ll be doggoned,” opened the door on his side, started to get out, suddenly turned back, and commanded her:

“Get out of the car.”

She didn’t move.

“As a precaution,” he said. “You might go on without me.”

“Please don’t,” she faltered. “Oh, please! What does it matter to you? If you—”

He turned off the engine, removed the key and slipped it into his pocket, opened the door and climbed out, walked to the rear of the car, and seized the handle of the door to the luggage compartment. It wouldn’t turn. Heather came running and grasped his arm.

“Don’t—” she pleaded. She tugged at him.

He shook her off and took the key from his pocket and unlocked the door and flung it open.

“You’re too darned smart,” Heather said bitterly.

In the darkness not much could be seen of the man’s figure stuffed into the compartment like an embryo in a jar except the white blotch that was his face. But Hicks saw his eyes blink and there was a movement.

“You’re alive, huh?” Hicks said.

“I didn’t tell him,” Heather said.

“Come on out,” Hicks commanded. “Take it easy—wait a minute—hold it—look out!”

The lights of a car had suddenly appeared around a curve coming from the direction of the village. Hicks reached for the edge of the compartment door and pulled it shut, telling Heather urgently:

“Bend over and vomit!”

She stared at him. His arm shot across her shoulder. “Bend over! Vomit!”

The next moment the lights were on them, and the car was stopping in the road right there, not ten feet away. A voice called:

“Having trouble?”

“Nothing serious,” Hicks said.

A man got out and approached, and as he stepped into the light Hicks saw that it was the policeman who had been sitting on the terrace with George Cooper when Hicks returned to the house.

“Oh, it’s you,” the policeman said. He looked at Heather, though with the performance she was putting on she was not specially pleasant to look at. “What’s the matter?”

“Spasmodic ejection.” Hicks kept his arms around Heather’s shoulders. “She was driving me to a train and she got sick.”

“I’m better,” Heather gasped.

The policeman went to their car and looked in, front and back, and returned. “Did you just come from the house?”


“You won’t catch that train.”

“Then I’ll get one at White Plains. Do you want to run me down there? Miss Gladd ought to go home and go to bed.”

“I’m all right,” Heather said. “I will be in a minute.”

“They’ll take you home and I can take the car.”

“No, thanks. No, really.”

The policeman was looking at the ground. “You don’t seem to have got much result.”

“That’s the trouble,” Hicks said. “She only ate half a piece of toast. You can check that at the house. Ask Mrs. Powell.”

“It’s no occasion for wisecracks.”

“It’s no occasion for much of anything, if you ask me.”

The policeman looked at him, hesitated, looked at Heather, walked to his car and got in, and the car sped away.

When the sound of the car and the sight of its lights were entirely gone, Heather suddenly began to giggle.

“Stop that!” Hicks said sharply. “Stop it! Get back in the car. I’ll drive.”

“But you won’t—”

“We’re getting away from this road. Get in.”

After she was in the seat Hicks went to the rear of the car to make sure the latch of the luggage compartment was caught, then climbed in behind the wheel and took the key from his pocket and started the engine. It was less than a mile to the village. He asked Heather the way to Route 22, and she told him the turns through the village, and again they were out on the unlighted highway. Heather asked where he was going, but he didn’t reply. A couple of miles south of Katonah he suddenly left the pavement to turn right onto a narrow dirt road which almost immediately began to wind through a wood. A little farther on, at a wider spot, he steered to the roadside, stopped the car, and turned off the engine and the lights.

“It’s dark,” Heather said in a small voice.

Hicks twisted in the seat to face her, though it was indeed too dark to see much, and demanded, “What kind of a double-barreled idiot are you, anyway?”

“I am not,” she said in the same voice.

“No? What were you going to do, put me on the train and then skedaddle with him?”

“No. I wasn’t.”

“You say. What were you going to do?”

“I don’t know. But I couldn’t—” She stopped.

“How did you get him into the car?”

“I didn’t get him in. He got himself in. When I went back to the house I went to the kitchen door and he was just coming out. He had a big knife in his hand. He was crazy—I mean the way he acted and talked. He said they were going to arrest him for killing Martha, and he didn’t do it, and he wouldn’t let himself
be arrested—he had me by the arm, making me go with him out to where the cars were. He had the knife, and I couldn’t call for help because I was afraid he would so something terrible with the knife—not to me, to himself. He opened the luggage compartment of a car—I think he thought it was the one he came out in, but it wasn’t, it was one that belonged there—and he crawled inside and told me to drive the car to New York. He was just simply out of his mind. I said the guard on the drive wouldn’t let me by, and he said I could if I watched for a chance and he was going to stay there until I did, and he pulled the door down and shut himself in. I opened the door and begged him to give me the knife, but he wouldn’t. So I got the key from the dash and locked the door, and kept the key. Then I didn’t know what to do. I thought if I told someone—he still had the knife. Then I thought I might get a chance to get him away and get alone with him and talk with him.”

She stopped. Hicks emitted a grunt.

Heather said, “I don’t think I’m an idiot. What about you?”

“Well, what about me?”

“When that car came and you told me to vomit.”

“Yeah,” Hicks growled. “That’s it. I simply do not like to deliver anybody to a cop. You notice I didn’t have time to figure that out, I did it instinctively. I’m mentally or morally defective or both. I don’t even believe he’s not a murderer. I guess he is.”

“He is not.”

“You seem sure of that.”

“I am sure.” Heather had a hand on his arm. “I’ve known him for years. I know he couldn’t do anything like that, not even to anyone, and not to Martha. But even if he could, if something happened to him and he did it, he would never say he didn’t do it. I know that for sure. That’s what makes me sure, I know he wouldn’t deny it, not to me anyway, no matter how crazy he was. If he did it, then he did. But he’d admit it. And he swore to me he didn’t. So I know he didn’t.”

Hicks opened the door on his side. “I’d like to get his opinion on the matter.”

Heather held onto his arm. “He has that knife—”

Hicks pulled loose, climbed out, went to the rear of the car, and opened the door of the luggage compartment. It was too dark to see anything until there was movment, when something like a leg came poking out, and then another. Hicks reached and had an elbow. The torso and head emerged, and the man was out,
half erect, when suddenly he crumpled into a heap on the ground.

A croak came from him: “Jesus! Oh, Jesus!” It was much nearer prayer than profanity.

“The knife,” Heather gasped. “Is he—”

“Give me a chance,” Hicks said irritably. He lit a match and examined the man’s face and throat and chest, then lit another and stuck his head inside the luggage compartment. When he backed out and straightened up he had something in his hand, and the light of a third match showed him the clean sharp long blade of the knife. He took the blade’s tip between thumb and forefinger and sent it sailing away into the woods.

The man was struggling to arise.

“Don’t try to stand up,” Hicks told him. “Work your legs.”

“They won’t work,” the man croaked.

“Certainly they won’t work, they’re asleep.” Hicks turned to Heather. “Hold the back door of the car open.”

She was steadying herself against a fender. “But what are you going—”

“Who do you think you are, the general manager? Open the door!”

She obeyed, opening the door on the left and holding it. Hicks bent over, got an arm under Cooper’s shoulders and another under his hips, hefted him bodily, carried him with no great effort apparently to the side of the car, got a foot on the running-board, and deposited him inside on the floor. He pushed the benumbed legs out of the way, banged the door, got into the front seat, and said to Heather, who was climbing in on her side:

“I want to have a talk with him. That’s the only reason I’m doing this. For practical reasons. Tomorrow morning, as soon as he gets some food in his stomach, if he has any sense he’ll report to the district attorney at White Plains and go on through with it. Who owns this car?”

“He’s out of his head,” Heather said. “He doesn’t even know who we are.”

“I’ll tell him later. Who owns this car?”

“The company. R. I. Dundee and Company. We all use it.”

“Good. I’m working for the company too. I’ll drop you at Bedford Hills and you can hire a car to take you home. Tell them we missed the train and tried to catch it at Bedford Hills and missed it again, and I took the car on to New York. Have you got any money?”

“I have some at home.”

Hicks looked over the back of the seat and saw that Cooper was where he had put him, making no attempt to move. “You stay down,” he commanded, and started the engine, got the car turned around, and headed back for Route 22.

There was no hitch in the program. Heather had evidently abandoned her aspiration to be general manager, and about the only talking was when Hicks gave her his address in New York, without a telephone number because he had none. At a garage in Bedford Hills he arranged for a car to take her home, two dollars for the six miles, and went on his way. The passenger in the rear made neither sound nor movement. The car was in good condition and the southbound traffic light, and he made good time.

His wrist watch said five minutes past eleven as he rolled to a stop in front of the address on East 29th Street. The windows of the Italian restaurant on the ground floor were only dimly lit. Hicks got out and opened the rear door, took a look at what was there, and asked gruffly:

BOOK: Rex Stout
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