A few moments later they left Peter Fogg standing on the neatly manicured law_eside P.J. Madden's empty palace. In silence they rode down the avenue, the_urned toward the more lively business district.
"Well, what did we get out of that?" Bob Eden wanted to know. "Not much, i_ou ask me."
Chan shrugged. "Trifles, mostly. But trifles sometimes blossom big. Detectiv_usiness consist of one unsignificant detail placed beside other of the same.
Then with sudden dazzle, light begins to dawn."
"Bring on your dazzle," said Eden. "We've learned that Madden visited hi_ouse here on Wednesday, but did not go inside. When questioned about hi_aughter, he replied that she was well and would be along soon. What else? _hing we knew before—that Madden was afraid of Delaney."
"Also that Delaney followed queer profession."
"What profession? Be more explicit."
Chan frowned. "If only I could boast expert knowledge of mainland ways. Ho_bout you? Please do a little speculating."
Eden shook his head. "Promised my father I'd never speculate. Just as well, too, for in this case I'd get nowhere. My brain—if you'll pardon the mentio_f one more insignificant detail—is numb. Too many puzzles make Jack a dul_oy."
The taxi landed them at the station whence hourly buses ran to Hollywood, an_hey were just in time to connect with the twelve o'clock run. Back up th_ill and over the bridge spanning the Arroyo they sped. A cheery world la_bout them, tiny stucco bungalows tinted pink or green, or gleaming white, innumerable service stations. In time they came to the outskirts of the fil_ity, where gaily colored mansions perched tipsily on miniature hills. The_own a long street that seemed to stretch off into eternity, into th_aelstrom of Hollywood's business district.
Expensive cars honked deliriously about the corner where they alighted, and o_he sidewalk milled a busy throng, most of them living examples of what th_ell-dressed man or woman will wear if not carefully watched. They crossed th_treet.
"Watch your step, Charlie," Eden advised. "You're in the auto salesman'_aradise." He gazed curiously about him. "The most picturesque factory town i_he world. Everything is here except the smoking chimneys."
Paula Wendell was waiting for them in the reception-room of the studio wit_hich she was connected. "Come along," she said. "I'll take you to lunch a_he cafeteria, and then perhaps you'd like to look around a bit."
Chan's eyes sparkled as she led them across the lot and down a street line_ith the false fronts of imaginary dwellings. "My oldest girl would exchang_he favor of the gods to be on this spot with me," he remarked. "I shall hav_uch to relate when I return to Punchbowl Hill."
They lunched among the film players, grotesque in make-up and odd costumes.
"No postman before," said Chan, over his chicken pie, "ever encountered suc_nteresting walk on his holiday. Pardon, please, if I eat with unashame_njoyment and too much gusto. New experience for me to encounter food I hav_ot perspired over myself in person."
"They're taking a picture on Stage Twelve," the girl explained when lunch wa_inished. "It's against the rules, but if you're not too boisterous I can ge_ou in for a look."
They passed out of the dazzling sunshine into the dim interior of a grea_uilding that looked like a warehouse. Another moment, and they reached th_et, built to represent a smart foreign restaurant. Rich hangings were in th_ackground, beautiful carpets on the floor. Along the walls were many table_ith pink-shaded lights, and a resplendent head-waiter stood haughtily at th_ntrance.
The sequence being shot at the moment involved, evidently, the use of man_xtras, and a huge crowd stood about, waiting patiently. The faces of most o_hem were vital and alive, unforgettable. Here were people who had know_ife—and not too much happiness—in many odd corners of the world. Nearly al_he men were in uniform—a war picture, no doubt. Bob Eden heard snatches o_rench, German, Spanish; he saw in the eyes about him a hundred stories mor_eal and tragic than any these people would ever act on the silver screen.
"Leading men and women are standardized, more or less," said Paula Wendell,
"but the extras—they're different. If you talked with some of them, you'd b_mazed. Brains and refinement—remarkable pasts—and on the bargain counter no_t five dollars a day."
A call sounded, and the extras filed on to the set and took their allotte_tations at the various tables. Chan watched fascinated; evidently he coul_tay here forever. But Bob Eden, sadly lacking in that lovely virtue, patience, became restless.
"This is all very well," he said. "But we have work to do. How about Eddi_oston?"
"I have his address for you," the girl replied. "I doubt whether you'll fin_im in at this hour, but you can try."
An old man appeared in the shadowy space behind the cameras. Eden recognize_he veteran player who had been yesterday at Madden's ranch—the actor known as
"Hello," cried Paula Wendell. "Maybe Pop can help you." She hailed him. "Kno_here we can find Eddie Boston?" she inquired.
As Pop joined them, Charlie Chan stepped back into a dark corner.
"Why—how are you, Mr. Eden?" the old man said. "You want to see Eddie Boston, you say?"
"I'd like to—yes."
"That's too bad. You won't find him in Hollywood."
"Why not? Where is he?"
"On his way to San Francisco by this time," Pop answered. "At least, that wa_here he was going when I saw him late last night."
"San Francisco? What's he going there for?" asked Eden, amazed.
"One grand outbreak, to hear him tell it. You know, it looks to me lik_ddie's come into a bit of money."
"He has, has he?" Eden's eyes narrowed.
"I met him on the street last night when we got in from the desert. He'd com_y train, and I asked him why. 'Had some rush business to attend to, Pop,' h_ays. 'I'm off to Frisco in the morning. Things are looking up. Now th_icture's finished I aim to take a little jaunt for my health.' Said he hadn'_een in Frisco since the 'nineties and was hungry to see it again."
Eden nodded. "Well, thank you very much." With Paula Wendell he moved towar_he door, and Chan, his hat low over his eyes, followed.
At the foot of the runway in the bright world outside, Eden paused. "That'_hat," he said. "One more disappointment. Will we ever get to the end of this?
Well, Charlie—Boston's beat it. Our bird has flown."
"Why not?" said Chan. "Madden pays him to go, of course. Did Boston not say h_new all about Delaney?"
"Which must mean he knows Delaney's dead. But how could he? Was he on th_esert that Wednesday night? Ye gods!" The boy put his hand to his forehead.
"You haven't any smelling salts, have you?" he added to Paula Wendell.
She laughed. "Never use 'em."
They moved out to the street.
"Well, we must push on," said Eden. "The night is dark and we are far fro_ome." He turned to the girl. "When do you go back to Eldorado?"
"This afternoon," she replied. "I'm working on another script—one that call_or a ghost city this time."
"A ghost city?"
"Yes—you know. A deserted mining town. So it's me for the Petticoat Min_gain."
"Up in the hills about seventeen miles from Eldorado. Petticoat Mine had thre_housand citizens ten years ago, but there's not a living soul there today.
Just ruins, like Pompeii. I'll have to show it to you—it's might_nteresting."
"That's a promise," Eden returned. "We'll see you back on your dear ol_esert."
"Warmest thanks for permitting close inspection of picture factory," Cha_emarked. "Always a glowing item on the scroll of memory."
"It was fun for me," answered the girl. "Sorry you must go."
On the trolley bound for Los Angeles, Eden turned to the Chinese. "Don't yo_ver get discouraged, Charlie?" he inquired.
"Not while work remains to do," the detective replied. "This Miss Fitzgerald.
Songbird, perhaps, but she will not have flown."
"You'd better talk with her—" Eden began.
But Chan shook his head
"No, I will not accompany on that errand. Easy to see my presence bring_mbarrassed pause. I am hard to explain, like black eye."
"Well, I shouldn't have called you that," smiled the boy.
"Go alone to see this woman. Inquire all she knows about the dead man, Delaney."
Eden sighed. "I'll do my best. But my once proud faith in myself is ebbin_ast."
At the stage door of the deserted theater Eden slipped a dollar into the han_f the doorman, and was permitted to step inside and examine the call-board.
As he expected, the local addresses of the troupe were posted up, and h_ocated Miss Fitzgerald at the Wynnwood Hotel.
"You have aspect of experienced person," ventured Chan.
Eden laughed. "Oh, I've known a few chorus-girls in my time. Regular man o_he world, I am."
Chan took up his post on a bench in Pershing Square, while the boy went o_lone to the Wynnwood Hotel. He sent up his name, and after a long wait in th_heap lobby, the actress joined him. She was at least thirty, probably more, but her eyes were young and sparkling. At sight of Bob Eden she adopted _ather coquettish manner.
"You Mr. Eden?" she said. "I'm glad to see you, though why I see you's _ystery to me."
"Well, just so long as it's a pleasant mystery—" Eden smiled.
"I'll say it is—so far. You in the profession?"
"Not precisely. First of all, I want to say that I heard you sing over th_adio the other night, and I was enchanted. You've a wonderful voice."
She beamed. "Say, I like to hear you talk like that. But I had a cold—I've ha_ne ever since I struck this town. You ought to hear me when I'm going good."
"You were going good enough for me. With a voice like yours, you ought to b_n grand opera."
"I know—that's what all my friends say. And it ain't that I haven't had th_hance. But I love the theater. Been on the stage since I was a teeny-ween_irl."
"Only yesterday, that must have been."
"Say, boy—you're good," she told him. "You don't happen to be scouting for th_etropolitan, do you?"
"No—I wish I were." Eden paused. "Miss Fitzgerald, I'm an old pal of a frien_f yours."
"Which friend? I've got so many."
"I bet you have. I'm speaking of Jerry Delaney. You know Jerry?"
"Do I? I've known him for years." She frowned suddenly. "Have you any news o_erry?"
"No, I haven't," Eden answered. "That's why I've come to you. I'm terribl_nxious to locate him, and I thought maybe you could help."
She was suddenly cautious. "Old pal of his, you say?"
"Sure. Used to work with him at Jack McGuire's place on Forty-fourth Street."
"Did you really?" The caution vanished. "Well, you know just as much abou_erry's whereabouts as I do. Two weeks ago he wrote me from Chicago—I got i_n Seattle. He was kind of mysterious. Said he hoped to see me out this wa_efore long."
"He didn't tell you about the deal he had on?"
"Well, if you don't know—Jerry was about to pick up a nice little bit o_hange."
"Is that so? I'm glad to hear it. Things ain't been any too jake with Jerr_ince those old days at McGuire's."
"That's true enough, I guess. By the way, did Jerry ever talk to you about th_en he met at McGuire's? The swells. You know, we used to get some pretty bi_rade there."
"No, he never talked about it much. Why?"
"I was wondering whether he ever mentioned to you the name of P.J. Madden."
She turned upon the boy a baby stare, wide-eyed and innocent. "Who's P.J.
Madden?" she inquired.
"Why, he's one of the biggest financiers in the country. If you ever read th_apers—"
"But I don't. My work takes so much time. You've no idea the long hours I pu_n—"
"I can imagine it. But look here—the question is, where's Jerry now? I may sa_'m worried about him."
"Oh—there's risk in Jerry's business, you know."
"I don't know anything of the sort. Why should there be?"
"We won't go into that. The fact remains that Jerry Delaney arrived at Barsto_ week ago last Wednesday morning, and shortly afterward he disappeared of_he face of the earth."
A startled look came into the woman's eyes. "You don't think he's had an—a_ccident?"
"I'm very much afraid he has. You know the sort Jerry was. Reckless—"
The woman was silent for a moment. "I know," she nodded. "Such a temper. Thes_ed-headed Irishmen—"
"Precisely," said Eden, a little too soon.
The green eyes of Miss Norma Fitzgerald narrowed.
"Knew Jerry at McGuire's, you say."
She stood up. "And since when has he had red hair?" Her friendly manner wa_one. "I was thinking only last night—I saw a cop at the corner of Sixth an_ill—such a handsome boy. You certainly got fine-looking fellows on your forc_ut here."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Eden.
"Go peddle your papers," advised Miss Fitzgerald. "If Jerry Delaney's i_rouble, I don't hold with it, but I'm not tipping anything off. A friend's _riend."
"You've got me all wrong," protested Eden.
"Oh, no, I haven't. I've got you all right—and you can find Jerry without an_elp from me. As a matter of fact, I haven't any idea where he is, and that'_he truth. Now run along."
Eden stood up. "Anyhow, I did enjoy your singing," he smiled.
"Yeah. Such nice cops—and so gallant. Well, listen in any time—the radio'_pen to all."
Bob Eden went glumly back to Pershing Square. He dropped down on the benc_eside Chan.
"Luck was poor," remarked the detective. "I see it in your face."
"You don't know the half of it," returned the boy. He related what ha_appened. "I certainly made a bloomer of it," he finished. "She called me _op, but she flattered me. The kindergarten class of rookies would disown me."
"Stop the worry," advised Chan. "Woman a little too smart, that is all."
"That's enough," Eden answered. "After this, you officiate. As a detective, I'm a great little jeweler."
They dined at a hotel, and took the five-thirty train to Barstow. As they spe_n through the gathering dusk, Bob Eden looked at his companion.
"Well, it's over, Charlie," he said. "The day from which we hoped for so much.
And what have we gained? Nothing. Am I right?"
"Pretty close to right," admitted Chan.
"I tell you, Charlie, we can't go on. Our position is hopeless. We'll have t_o to the sheriff—"
"With what? Pardon that I interrupt. But realize, please, that all ou_vidence is hazy, like flowers seen in a pool. Madden is big man, his word la_o many." The train paused at a station. "We go to sheriff with queer talk—_ead parrot, tale of a desert rat, half-blind and maybe crazy, suitcase i_ttic filled with old clothes. Can we prove famous man guilty of murder o_uch foolish grounds? Where is body? Few policemen alive who would not laug_t us—"
Chan broke off suddenly, and Eden followed his gaze. In the aisle of the ca_tood Captain Bliss of the Homicide Squad, staring at them.
Eden's heart sank. The captain's little eyes slowly took in every detail o_han's attire, then were turned for a moment on the boy. Without a sign, h_urned about and went down the aisle and into the car behind.
"Good night!" said Eden.
Chan shrugged. "Fret no longer," he remarked. "We need not go t_heriff—sheriff will come to us. Our time is brief at Madden's ranch. Poor ol_h Kim may yet be arrested for the murder of Louie Wong."