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Chapter 14

  • 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."