Neither of them spoke for a moment or two. Then, after they had left th_riminological-journalistic uproar at the Rivers place behind and wer_pproaching the village of Rosemont, Pierre turned to Rand.
"You know," he said, "for a disciple of Korzybski, you came pretty close t_onfusing orders of abstraction, a couple of times, back there. You showe_hat Stephen was at home while Rivers was taking that phone call, a littl_fter ten. But when you talk about clearing him completely, aren't yo_verlooking the possibility that he came back to Rivers's after you and Phili_abot left the Gresham place?"
Rand eased the foot-pressure on the gas and spared young Jarrett a side-glanc_efore returning his attention to the road ahead.
"Understand," Pierre hastened to add, "I don't believe that Stephen was foo_nough to kill Rivers over that fake North & Cheney, but weren't you producin_nferences that hadn't been abstracted from any descriptive data?"
"Pierre, when I'm working on a case like this, any resemblance between m_pinions and the statements I may make is purely due to consciou_onsiderations of policy," Rand told him. "I don't want Farnsworth or Mic_cKenna going around bitching this operation up for me. If they feel justifie_n eliminating Gresham on the strength of that phone call, I'm satisfied, regardless of the semantics involved. Right now, the thing that's worrying m_s the ease with which I seem to have talked Farnsworth into laying of_resham. He and Olsen both have single-track minds. They may just dismiss tha_elephone alibi, such as it is, as mere error of the mortal mind, and go righ_head building some kind of a ramshackle case against Gresham. Since the_icked him for their entry, they won't want to have to scratch him… . Damn, _ish I could think of where Walters could have sold those pistols!"
"Well, if Rivers wasn't involved somehow, why was he killed?" Pierre wondered.
"Hey! Maybe Walters sold the pistols to Umholtz! He's just as big a crook a_ivers was, only not quite so smart."
Rand nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe so. And suppose Rivers found out about it, and tried to declare himself in on it. That stuff would be worth at least te_housand; I doubt if whoever bought it paid Walters more than two. In th_mholtz-Rivers income bracket, the difference might be worth killing for."
"That's right. And Umholtz was in the infantry, in the other war; he served i_he Twenty-eighth Division. He was trained to use a bayonet. And he'd pic_hat short Mauser; it has about the same weight and balance as a 190_pringfield."
"Well, you know, the killer wouldn't need to have been trained to use _ayonet," Rand pointed out. "Mick McKenna made that point, this afternoon.
There have been a lot of war-movies that showed bayonet fighting; prett_early everybody knows about the technique that was used. And against a_narmed and probably unsuspecting victim like Rivers, a great deal o_roficiency wouldn't be needed." He slowed the car. "Up this road?" he asked.
"Yes. That's my place, over there."
Pierre pointed to a white-walled, red-roofed house that lay against _illside, about a mile ahead, making a vivid spot in the dull grays and green_f the early April landscape. It consisted of a square two-story block, wit_ne-story wings projecting to give it an L-shaped floorplan. It reminded Ran_f farmhouses he had seen in Sicily during the War.
"Come on in and see my stuff, if you have time," Pierre invited, as Ran_ulled to a stop in the driveway. "I think I told you what I collect—persona_ombat arms, both firearms and edge-weapons."
They entered the front door, which opened directly into a large parlor, _rightly colored, cheerful room. A woman rose from a chair where she had bee_eading. She was somewhere between forty-five and fifty, but her figure wa_till trim, and she retained much of what, in her youth, must have been grea_eauty.
"Mother, this is Colonel Rand," Pierre said. "Jeff, my mother."
Rand shook hands with her, and said something polite. She gave him a smile o_eal pleasure.
"Pierre has been telling me about you, Colonel," she said. There was a fain_race of French accent in her voice. "I suppose he brought you here to sho_ou his treasures?"
"Yes; I collect arms too. Pistols," Rand said.
She laughed. "You gun-collectors; you're like women looking at somebody's ne_at… . Will you stay for dinner with us, Colonel Rand?"
"Why, I'm sorry; I can't. I have a great many things to do, and I'm expecte_or dinner at the Flemings'. I really wish I could, Mrs. Jarrett. Maybe som_ther time."
They chatted for a few minutes, then Pierre guided Rand into one of the wing_f the house.
"This is my workshop, too," he said. "Here's where I do my writing." He opene_ door and showed Rand into a large room.
On one side, the wall was blank; on the other, it was pierced by two smal_asement windows. The far end was of windows for its entire width, from withi_hree feet of the floor almost to the ceiling. There were bookcases on eithe_ong side, and on the rear end, and over them hung Pierre's weapons. Rand wen_lowly around the room, taking everything in. Very few of the arms were o_ssue military type, and most of these showed alterations to suit individua_equirements. As Pierre had told him the evening before, the emphasis was upo_eapons which illustrated techniques of combat.
At the end of the room, lighted by the wide windows, was a long desk which wa_eally a writer's assembly line, with typewriter, reference-books, stacks o_otes and manuscripts, and a big dictionary on a stand beside a comfortabl_wivel-chair.
"What are you writing?" Rand asked.
"Science-fiction. I do a lot of stories for the pulps," Pierre told him.
"Space-Trails, and Other Worlds, and Wonder-Stories; mags like that. Most o_t's standardized formula-stuff; what's known to the trade as space-operas. M_est stuff goes to Astonishing. Parenthetically, you mustn't judge any o_hese magazines by their names. It seems to be a convention to use hyperboli_ames for science-fiction magazines; a heritage from what might be called a_arlier and ruder day. What I do for Astonishing is really hard work, and _njoy it. I'm working now on one for them, based on J. W. Dunne's time- theories, if you know what they are."
"I think so," Rand said. "Polydimensional time, isn't it? Based on an effec_unne observed and described—dreams obviously related to some waking event, but preceding rather than following the event to which they are related. _ead Dunne's Experiment with Time some years before the war, and once, when _ad nothing better to do, I recorded dreams for about a month. I got a fe_oubtful-to-fair examples, and two unmistakable Dunne-Effect dreams. I neve_ot anything that would help me pick a race-winner or spot a rise in the stoc_arket, though."
"Well, you know, there's a case on record of a man who had a dream of hearin_ radio narration of the English Derby of 1933, including the announcemen_hat Hyperion had won, which he did," Pierre said. "The dream was six hour_efore the race, and tallied very closely with the phraseology used by th_adio narrator. Here." He picked up a copy of Tyrrell's Science and Psychica_henomena and leafed through it.
"Did this fellow cash in on it?" Rand asked.
"No. He was a Quaker, and violently opposed to betting. Here." He handed th_ook to Rand. "Case Twelve."
Rand sat down on the edge of the desk, and read the section indicated, abou_hree pages in length.
"Well, I'll be damned!" he said, as he finished. The idea of anybody passin_p a chance like that to enrich himself literally smote him to the vitals. "_ee the British Society for Psychical Research checked that case, and go_erification from a couple of independent witnesses. If the S.P.R. vouches fo_ story, it must be the McCoy; they're the toughest-minded gang of confirme_keptics anywhere in Christendom. They take an attitude toward evidence tha_ight be advantageously copied by most of the district attorneys I've met, th_ne in this county being no exception… . What's this story you're working on?"
"Oh, it's based on Dunne's precognition theories, plus a few ideas of my own, plus a theory of alternate lines of time-sequence for alternat_robabilities," Pierre said. "See, here's the situation … "
Half an hour later, they were still arguing about a multidimensional univers_hen Rand remembered Dave Ritter, who should be at the Rosemont Inn by now. H_ooked at his watch, saw that it was five forty-five, and inquired about _elephone.
"Yes, of course; out here." Pierre took him back to the parlor, where h_ialed the Inn and inquired if a Mr. Ritter, from New Belfast, were registere_here yet.
He was. A moment later he was speaking to Ritter.
"Jeff, for Gawdsake, don't come here," Ritter advised. "This place is six-dee_ith reporters; the bar sounds like the second act of _The Front Page. Ton_she and Steve Drake from the Dispatch and Express_; Harry Bentz, from th_ercury; Joe Rawlings, the AP man from Louisburg; Christ only knows who all.
This damn thing's going to turn into another Hall-Mills case! Look, meet me a_hat beer joint, about two miles on the New Belfast side of Rosemont, on Rout_9; the white-with-red-trimmings place with the big Pabst sign out in front.
I'll try to get there without letting a couple of reporters hide in th_uggage-trunk."
"Okay; see you directly."
Rand hung up, spent the next few minutes breaking away from Pierre and hi_other, and went out to his car. Trust Dave Ritter, he thought, to pick som_lace where malt beverages were sold, for a rendezvous.
Dave's coupé was parked inconspicuously beside the red-trimmed roadhouse.
Opening his glove-box, Rand took out the two percussion revolvers and shove_hem under his trench coat, one on either side, pulling up the belt to hol_hem in place. As he went into the roadhouse, he felt like Damon Runyon'_welve-Gun Tweeney. He found Ritter in the last booth, engaged in finishing _ottle of beer. Rand ordered Bourbon and plain water, and Ritter ordere_nother beer.
"I have the stuff Tip left with Kathie," Ritter said, taking out a couple o_losely typed sheets and handing them across the table. "He said this was th_hole business."
Rand glanced over them. Tipton had neatly and concisely summarized th_rovisions of Lane Fleming's will, and had also listed all Fleming's lif_nsurance policies, with beneficiaries, including a partnership policy on th_ives of Fleming, Dunmore, and Anton Varcek, paying each of the survivors $25,000.
"I see Gladys and Geraldine and Nelda each get a third of Fleming's Premi_tock," Rand commented. "But before they can have the certificates transferre_o them, they have to sign over their voting-power to the board of directors.
Evidently Fleming didn't approve of the feminine touch in business."
"Yeah, isn't that a dandy?" Ritter asked. "The directors are elected b_ajority vote of the stockholders. They now have the voting-power of _ajority of the stock; that makes the present board self-perpetuating, an_esponsible only to each other."
"So it does, but that wasn't what I was thinking of. According to Tip, th_oard is one hundred per cent in favor of the merger with National Milling & Packaging. We'll have to suppose Fleming knew that; there must have bee_onsiderable intramural acrimony on the subject while he was still alive. Now, since he opposed the merger, if he had intended committing suicide, he woul_ave made some other arrangement, wouldn't he? At least, one would suppose so.
Well, then," Rand asked, "why, since he is so worried about these suicid_umors, doesn't Goode use the one argument which would utterly disprove them?
Or is there some reason why he doesn't want to call attention to the fact tha_leming's death is what makes the merger possible?"
"Well, that would be calling attention to the fact that the merger mad_leming's death necessary," Ritter pointed out. He poured more beer into hi_lass. "While we're on it, what's the angle on this butler's livery I wa_upposed to bring? I brought my tux, and I borrowed a striped vest from th_heatrical Property Exchange, and I brought that Dago .380 of yours. But wha_akes you think the Flemings are going to be needing a new butler? You goin_o poison the one they have?"
"The one they have has been exceeding his duties," Rand said. "He was suppose_o clean the pistol-collection. Not content with that, he's been cleaning i_ut. I know it was the butler." He went, at length, into his reasons fo_hinking so, and described the modus operandi of the thefts. "Now, all this i_ust theory, so far, but when I'm able to prove it, I'm going to put the ar_n this Walters, if it's right in the middle of dinner and he only has th_oast half served. And I want you ready to step into the vacancy thus created.
I'm going to be busy as a pup in a fireplug factory with this Rivers thing, and I'll need some checking-upping done inside the Fleming household."
He went on, in meticulous detail, to explain about the Rivers murder. "I'l_ave some work for you, before you're ready to start buttling, too."
Disencumbering himself of the two percussion revolvers, he laid them on th_able. "I want you to take these and show them to this barbecue man. Get fro_im a positive statement, preferably in writing, as to which, if either, h_old to Lane Fleming. You might show your Agency card and claim to be checkin_p on some stolen pistols that have been recovered. Then, if he identifies th_eech & Rigdon, take the Colt and show it to Elmer Umholtz. You want to b_areful how you handle him; we may want him for puncturing Rivers, though I'_nclined to doubt that, as of now. Get him to tell you, yes or no, whether h_eblued it and replated the back-strap and trigger-guard, and if he did it fo_ivers; and if so, when. I know that's been done; the bluing is too dark for _ivil War period job; the frame, which ought to be case-hardened in colors, has been blued like the barrel and cylinder, the cylinder-engraving is almos_bliterated, and you can see a few rust-pits that have been blued over. But _ant to know if this gun was ever in Rivers's shop; that's the importan_hing."
"Uh-huh. Got the addresses?"
Rand furnished them, and Ritter noted them down. The waitress wandered back t_ee if they wanted anything else; she gave a small squeak of surprise when sh_aw the two big six-shooters on the table. Rand and Ritter repeated thei_rders, and when she brought back the drinks, the Colt and the Leech & Rigdo_ere out of sight.
"The way I see it, everybody who's within a light-year of this Rivers killin_s trying to pin the medal on somebody else," Ritter was saying. "The Lawrenc_irl was afraid young Jarrett had done it; right away, she sicced you ont_illis. Gillis didn't lose any time putting McKenna and Farnsworth ont_resham. Gresham's the only one who didn't have a patsy ready; you're suppose_o dig one up for him. And Jarrett, the first chance he gets, introduce_mholtz." He stared into his beer, as though he thought Ultimate Verity migh_e lurking somewhere under the suds. "Do you think it might be possible tha_ivers bumped Fleming off, in spite of his getting killed later?" he asked.
"Anything's possible," Rand replied, "except where some structura_ontradiction is involved, like scoring thirteen with one throw of a pair o_ice. Yes, he could have. The way the Flemings leave their garage open as lon_s any of the cars are out, anybody could have sneaked into the house from th_arage, and gone up from the library to the gunroom. The only question in m_ind is whether Rivers would have known about that. That lawsuit and crimina_ction that Fleming was going to start—and that's been verified from source_ndependent of Goode—was a good sound motive. And say he took the Leech & Rigdon away, after leaving the Colt in Fleming's hand; selling it to som_ollector who'd put it in with a hundred or so other pistols would be a goo_ay of disposing of it. And I can understand his trying to buy the Colt, t_et it out of circulation." Rand sipped his Bourbon. "But that leaves us wit_he question of who killed Rivers, and why."
"Well, because Fleming is dead—and it doesn't matter whether he was murdere_r died of old age—Walters starts robbing the collection. He sells the pistol_o Rivers," Ritter reconstructed. "And, as Rivers doesn't want them around hi_hop till they've had time to cool off, he stores them with this Umholt_haracter, who seems to have been in plenty of crooked deals with Rivers i_he past. The pistols are worth about ten grand, and nobody knows where the_re but Rivers and Umholtz, and if Rivers drops dead all of a sudden, nobod_ill know where they are except Umholtz, and in a couple of years he can ge_hem sold off and have the money all to himself."
"Yes, Dave; that's good sound murder, too. And Rivers would sit down and drin_ith Umholtz, and Umholtz could take that Mauser out of the rack right i_ront of Rivers and Rivers wouldn't suspect a thing till it was too late. O_ourse, it depends upon two unverified assumptions: One, that the pistols wer_old to Rivers, and, two, that Rivers stored them with Umholtz."
"And, three, that Walters stole the pistols in the first place," Ritter added.
"You know, it's possible that somebody else in that house might have stole_hem."
"Yes. As I said, anything's possible, within structural limits, bu_ossibilities exist on different orders of probability. We can't try t_onsider all the possibilities in any case, because they are indefinitel_umerous; the best we can do is screen out all the low-order probabilities, list the high-order probabilities, and revise our list when and as new dat_omes to light. Well, I've told you why I think Walters is a good suspect.
From what I've seen of that household, I think Walters was personally loyal t_ane Fleming, and I don't believe he feels any loyalty to anybody else there, with the exception of Gladys Fleming. He might keep quiet about the missin_istols if she were the thief; if Dunmore, or Varcek, or either of the girl_ad done the stealing, he'd tell Gladys, and she'd pass it on to me. She woul_e glad of anything that could be used against any of the others. And if, o_he other hand, she had stolen the pistols herself, she wouldn't have wante_e poking around, and wouldn't have brought me in, at least not to handle th_ollection." Rand looked regretfully at his empty glass and decided agains_rdering another. "Dave, I just thought of something," he said. "How do yo_hink this would work?"
He told Ritter what he had thought of. Ritter drank beer slowly an_editatively.
"It just might work," he considered. "I've seen that gag work a hundred times: hell, I've used something like that, myself, at least fifty times, and so hav_ou. And I don't think Walters would be familiar enough with dick-practice t_ee what you were doing. But if it turns out that Walters didn't sell th_istols to Rivers at all, what then?"
"Well, if he sold them to Umholtz, Pierre Jarrett's theory is still vali_ntil disproved," Rand said. "And if he didn't sell them either to Rivers o_mholtz, we'll have to conclude that Rivers and Fleming were killed by th_ame person, the Rivers killing being a security measure. That is, unless w_ind that Rivers was killed by Pierre Jarrett, which is a sort of medium-high- order probability. Jarrett and the girl left Gresham's early enough for him t_ave killed Rivers; they were both pretty hard hit by that twenty-five-gran_lockbuster Rivers had dropped on them… . Give me back that Colt, Dave. Al_ou have to do is get an identification on the Leech & Rigdon from th_arbecue man. I'm going to let Mick McKenna handle Umholtz, one way o_nother, after we've concluded the Walters experiment. Until then, we don'_ant to stir Umholtz up, at all."