Read Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 02 Online

Authors: Bad for Business

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Murder - Investigation, #Fox; Tecumseh (Fictitious Character), #Political, #General, #Mystery Fiction, #Fiction

Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 02

BOOK: Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 02
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Rex Stout

R
EX
S
TOUT
, the creator of Nero Wolfe, was born in Noblesville, Indiana, in 1886, the sixth of nine children of John and Lucetta Todhunter Stout, both Quakers. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Wakarusa, Kansas. He was educated in a country school, but by the age of nine he was recognized throughout the state as a prodigy in arithmetic. Mr. Stout briefly attended the University of Kansas but left to enlist in the Navy and spent the next two years as a warrant officer on board President Theodore Roosevelt’s yacht. When he left the Navy in 1908, Rex Stout began to write freelance articles and worked as a sight-seeing guide and itinerant bookkeeper. Later he devised and implemented a school banking system that was installed in four hundred cities and towns throughout the country. In 1927 Mr. Stout retired from the world of finance and, with the proceeds of his banking scheme, left for Paris to write serious fiction. He wrote three novels that received favorable reviews before turning to detective fiction. His first Nero Wolfe novel,
Ferde-Lance
, appeared in 1934. It was followed by many others, among them
Too Many Cooks, The Silent Speaker, If Death Ever Slept, The Doorbell Rang
, and
Please Pass the Guilt
, which established Nero Wolfe as a leading character on a par with Erle Stanley Gardner’s famous protagonist, Perry Mason. During World War
II
Rex Stout waged a personal campaign against Nazism as chairman of the War Writers’ Board, master of ceremonies of the radio program
Speaking of Liberty
, and member of several national committees. After the war he turned his attention to mobilizing public opinion against the wartime use of thermonuclear devices, was an active leader in the Authors Guild, and resumed writing his Nero Wolfe novels. Rex Stout died in 1975 at the age of eighty-eight.
A
month before his death he published his seventy-second Nero Wolfe mystery,
A Family Affair.
Ten years later a seventy-third Nero Wolfe mystery was discovered and published in
Death Times Three.

The Rex Stout Library

Fer-de-Lance
The League of Frightened Men
The Rubber Band
The Red Box
Too Many Cooks
Some Buried Caesar
Over My Dead Body
Where There’s a Will
Black Orchids
Not Quite Dead Enough
The Silent Speaker
Too Many Women
And Be a Villain
The Second Confession
Trouble in Triplicate
In the Best Families
Three Doors to Death
Murder by the Book
Curtains for Three
Prisoner’s Base
Triple Jeopardy
The Golden Spiders
The Black Mountain
Three Men Out
Before Midnight
Might As Well Be Dead
Three Witnesses
If Death Ever Slept
Three for the Chair
Champagne for One
And Four to Go
Plot It Yourself
Too Many Clients
Three at Wolfe’s Door
The Final Deduction
Gambit
Homicide Trinity
The Mother Hunt
A Right to Die
Trio for Blunt Instruments
The Doorbell Rang
Death of a Doxy
The Father Hunt
Death of a Dude
Please Pass the Guilt
A Family Affair
Death Times Three
The Hand in the Glove
Double for Death
Bad for Business
The Broken Vase
The Sound of Murder
Red Threads
The Mountain Cat Murders

Chapter 1

A
my Duncan said to herself, aloud, in a tone of withering sarcasm, “Heaven protect the poor working girl! I’ll go get me a job at the five and ten, something decent and domestic like the kitchenware counter. Wah!”

She squeezed the rinse water from the stockings she had been washing, hung them in a neat row along the shower-curtain rail, dried her hands, and left the bathroom to enter the modest little living room of the apartment on Grove Street which she shared with a friend. Facing south, it was often a cheerful little room with the sun slanting in through the two windows, but now the dim November gloom of an overcast day was no more cheerful than she was. As she picked up her watch from the table at one end of the sofa and fastened it to her wrist, she frowned at it. It said twelve o’clock, and since her lunch engagement at the Churchill with the man who either was or wasn’t trying to blackmail Mrs. V. A. Grimsby was for one o’clock, and it would take only twenty minutes to get there, and she intended to be fifteen minutes late, there was nearly an hour ahead of her and nothing to do with it that she felt like doing.

She wandered into the bedroom and got her gray fur coat from the closet and made another start at the urgent problem of whether to spend eighty-three dollars having it remodeled. She certainly couldn’t afford the eighty-three dollars, but just look at it, and anyway she should never have bought the thing, with her light brown hair and the faint coloring of her skin and her outlandish chartreuse eyes. Eighty-three dollars! She shrugged and said something, not complimentary, to the coat.

She returned to the living room and sat on the sofa with a magazine which she didn’t open. As far as the lunch engagement with the blackmailer was concerned, it was not at all certain that she was going to keep it. She was faced with a problem even more urgent than the remodeling of the fur coat. She had taken the job, about a year ago, because (a) it had been offered to her, (b) it had sounded exciting, (c) the lawyer whose secretary she was had just proposed to her for the fifth time and it was getting scrummy, and (d) she was tired of writing “… this agreement, entered into this day of January, 1939, by the Corrigan Construction Company, hereinafter called …” And now what? Well, it had certain aspects. There was something sneaky—but no, she would be honest, that wasn’t it. The reason she felt the way she did about it was quite specific.

She wanted to quit. But she couldn’t just quit, because there were things like rent and food and clothes to be considered. How did people save money, anyhow? There must be some kind of a trick to it. She got up to a hundred dollars in a savings bank once, but then that girl in the office had got into trouble, and poof it went, and how were you going to avoid things like that? Of course if you were a skunk—

The bell rang. With her mind still on her problem, she went to the kitchenette and pushed the button to release the latch of the vestibule door downstairs, and then came back to open the door from the living room to the outer hall. She stood on the threshold, hearing footsteps ascending the flight of stairs and supposing in an inactive corner of her mind that it would be laundry or something; but saw that it wasn’t when a man in well-tailored brown reached her level and came at her along the poorly lit hall. Her fingers tightened around the doorknob they were grasping, but that could not be seen.

“For heaven’s sake,” she said, and felt that she should have cleared her throat before trying to speak.

“Good afternoon.” The man took his hat off and faced her with a grin which might have been called sheepish but for the fact that all other evidence was against any such assumption. Though saved from being offensively handsome by a rather wide mouth and a nose too broad to be called noble, he was thoroughly presentable, and there was a comfortable, even faintly aggressive, assurance in the set of his shoulders and the action of all his muscles, walking and standing. Nevertheless, the grin could undeniably have been called sheepish.

She had cleared her throat and still had a tight grasp on the doorknob. “I suppose it is,” she admitted. “I mean it’s after noon. But I thought you were a big executive. Don’t tell me you’re peddling provisions and beverages from door to door.”

“That’s a nice dress,” he said. “I could see it better in there where there’s more light. I just want to—I won’t keep you long.”

“You certainly won’t.” She made room for him to pass within, shut the door, turned to him, and glanced
at her watch. “I haven’t time to show you any etchings, because I have to leave in about a minute to keep an engagement. And I’m sorry, but I don’t need any beans or flour or canned peaches—”

“If I only have a minute,” he cut her off, “I want to use it. What has happened?”

“Happened?” She smiled at him. “Well, Norway has taken the Germans off of the
City of Flint
and interned them, and President Roosevelt—”

“Please!” he begged. He wasn’t grinning. “What are you trying to do, have some fun with me?”

“Good heavens, no.” His eyes required to be met, and she met them, keeping, she hoped, an easy dancing smile in hers. “I wouldn’t dream of trying to have fun with one of the ablest and shrewdest—”

“Oh, you wouldn’t.” He took a step toward her. “I don’t know about my being able and shrewd, but I’m pretty well occupied during business hours. Do you think I’m in the habit of running off in the middle of the day to beg a girl to go to a football game?”

“Certainly not,” she laughed. “You don’t have to. You just snap your fingers, and scads of girls—”

“Excuse me. I came because it’s—well, it’s important to me. I mean you are. You phone and tell me casually that you can’t have dinner with me tomorrow and you can’t go to the game with me Saturday. You say things interfere but you won’t say what things. You only stammer—”

“I didn’t stammer!”

“Well, I don’t mean stammer. I mean you didn’t even bother to make up a plausible excuse. You just more or less give me to understand that all dates are off. And that doesn’t make sense unless something has happened, because you certainly gave me the impression that you liked me and enjoyed being with
me. Of course we’ve only been together five times in the three weeks since we met, and I don’t mean necessarily that you liked me in the way I was beginning to like—I don’t mean beginning either—I mean you know very well the kind of impression—for instance, I have never missed a Yale-Harvard game since I graduated twelve years ago, and I don’t like to go to a football game with a girl, I like to go with men and always have until now—”

“I appreciated it deeply, Mr. Cliff, really I did—”

“You see? ‘Mr. Cliff!’ You were calling me Leonard. And now ‘Mr. Cliff with sarcasm, and you won’t see me tomorrow and you won’t go to the game Saturday and you won’t say what has happened, and I have a right to expect—”

“Right?” Her brows went up. “Oh? Have you got rights?”

“Yes, I—but I don’t—yes, I have!” His color was rising. “Now look—didn’t you give me a reason to suppose—weren’t we friends? Weren’t we friends enough so that if you decide to go to a football game with me and then suddenly decide not to go, I have a right to ask you why? Tell me that!”

“I’m not going,” said Amy firmly, with a frozen smile.

“Why not?”

She shook her head. “I just don’t want to.” She looked at her wrist, which was all right as a gesture, though she didn’t see the time. “And really I mustn’t be late—”

“You won’t tell me?”

“There’s nothing to tell.” The smile cracked a little. “You seem to assume that if a girl decides she isn’t going somewhere with you, something terrible must
have happened. Don’t you admit the possibility that she merely doesn’t care to go?”

“Why, I—but you—” He was stuttering. He stopped abruptly, and stood staring at her, his color slowly deepening. After a moment her eyes dropped from his.

BOOK: Rex Stout_Tecumseh Fox 02
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