“Certainly. The father got sore because she was mixed up in a murder case. He damn' near killed two photographers. Father has character.”
“Yeah, I've met Father. What did he do with his wife and daughter, bury them?”
“Shipped 'em out of town. With Cramer's permission, as we got it here, and of course Cramer knew where but wasn't giving out. Naturally we thought it an outrage. Is the great public, are American people, to be deceived and kept in ignorance? No. You must have had a hunch, because we just got it here-it came in less than an hour ago. Nancylee and her mother are at the Ambassador in Atlantic City, sitting-room, bedroom, and bath.”
“You don't say. Paid for by?”
He didn't know. He agreed that it was intolerable that the American people, of whom I was one, should be uninformed of so vital a point, and before he hung up he said he would certainly do something about it.
When Wolfe came down to the office I reported developments. At the same time we still had three more to overhaul, but it was already apparent that we were going to need all we could get, so Wolfe told me to get Saul Panzer on the phone. Saul wasn't in, but an hour later he called back.
Saul Panzer free-lances. He has no office and doesn't need one. He is so good that he demands, and gets, double the market, and any day of the week he gets so many offers that he can pick as he pleases. I have never known him to turn Wolfe down except when he was so tied up he couldn't shake loose.
He took this on. He would take a train to Atlantic City that evening, sleep there, and in the morning persuade Mrs Shepherd to let Nancylee come to New York for a talk with Wolfe. He would bring her, with Mother if necessary.
As Wolfe was finishing with Saul, Fritz entered with a tray. I looked at him with surprise, since Wolfe seldom takes on beer during the hour preceding dinner, but then, as he put the tray on the desk, I saw it wasn't beer. It was a bottle of Starlite, with three glasses. Instead of turning to leave, Fritz stood by.
“It may be too cold,” Fritz suggested.
With a glance of supercilious distaste at the bottle, Wolfe got the opener from his top drawer, removed the cap, and started pouring.
“It seems to me,” I remarked, “like a useless sacrifice. Why suffer? If Orchard had never drunk Starlite before he wouldn't know whether it tasted right or not, and even if he didn't like it they were on the air and just for politeness he would have gulped some down.” I took the glass that Fritz handed me, a third full. “Anyway he drank enough to kill him, so what does it matter what we think?”
“He may have drunk it before.” Wolfe held the glass to his nose, sniffed, and made a face. “At any rate, the murderer had to assume that he might have. Would the difference in taste be too great a hazard?”
“I see.” I sipped. “Not so bad.” I sipped again. “The only way we can really tell is to drink this and then drink some cyanide. Have you got some?”
“Don't bubble, Archie.” Wolfe put his glass down after two little tastes. “Good heavens. What the devil is in it, Fritz?”
Fritz shook his head. “Ipecac?” he guessed. “Horehound? Would you like some sherry?”
“No. Water. I'll get it.” Wolfe got up, marched to the hall, and turned toward the kitchen. He believes in some good healthy exercise before dinner.
That evening, Wednesday, our victims were first Elinor Vance and then Nathan Traub. It was more than three hours after midnight when Wolfe finally let Traub go, which made two nights in a row.
Thursday morning at eleven we started on Tully Strong. In the middle of it, right at noon, there was a phone call from Saul Panzer. Wolfe took it, giving me the sign to stay on. I knew from the tone of Saul's voice, just pronouncing my name, that he had no bacon.
“I'm at the Atlantic City railroad station,” Saul said, “and I can either catch a train to New York in twenty minutes or go jump in the ocean, whichever you advise. I couldn't get to Mrs Shepherd just by asking, so I tried a trick but it didn't work. Finally she and the daughter came down to the hotel lobby, but I thought it would be better to wait until they came outside, if they came, and they did. My approach was one that has worked a thousand times, but it didn't with her. She called a cop and wanted him to arrest me for annoying her. I made another try later; on the phone again, but four words was as far as I got. Now it's no use. This is the third time I've flopped on you in ten years, and that's too often. I don't want you to pay me, not even expenses.”
“Nonsense.” Wolfe never gets riled with Saul. “You can give me the details later, if there are any I should have. Will you reach New York in time to come to the office at six o'clock?”
“Good. Do that.”
Wolfe resumed with Traub. As I have already mentioned, the climax of that two hours' hard work was when Traub confessed that he frequently bet on horse races.
As soon as he had gone Wolfe and I went to the dining-room for the lunch previously described, corn fritters with autumn honey, sausages, and a bowl of salad. Of course what added to his misery was the fact that Savarese was expected at two o'clock, because he likes to have the duration of a meal determined solely by the inclination of him and the meal, not by some extraneous phenomenon like the sound of a doorbell.
But the bell rang right on the dot.
You have heard of the exception that proves the rule. Professor F. O. Savarese was it.
The accepted rule is that an Italian is dark and, if not actually a runt, at least not tall; that a professor is dry and pedantic, with eye trouble; and that a mathematician really lives in the strato- sphere and is here just visiting relatives. Well, Savarese was an Italian-American professor of mathematics, but he was big and blond and buoyant, two inches taller than me, and he came breezing in like a March morning wind.
He spent the first twenty minutes telling Wolfe and me how fascinating and practical it would be to work out a set of mathematical formulas that could be used in the detective business. His favourite branch of mathematics, he said, was the one that dealt with the objective numerical measurement of probability.
Very well. What was any detective work, any kind at all, but, the objective measurement of probability? All he proposed to do was to add the word numerical, not as a substitute or replacement, but as an ally and reinforcement.
“I'll show you what I mean,” he offered. “May I have a paper and pencil?”
He had bounded over to me before I could even uncross my legs, took the pad and pencil I handed him, and bounded back to the red leather chair. When the pencil had jitterbugged on the pad for half a minute he tore off the top sheet and slid it across the desk to Wolfe, then went to work on the next sheet and in a moment tore that off and leaped to me with it.
“You should each have one,” he said, “so you can follow me.”
I wouldn't try to pretend I could put it down from memory, but I still have both those sheets, in the folder marked ORCHARD, and this is what is on them:
I м ж X XІ ц ь u = - н I - Ѕ k з - - ј - ч э e - Ѕ XІ¤DІ V2pD о и D DІ ш ю “That,” Savarese said, his whole face smiling with eager interest and friendliness and desire to help, “is the second approximation of the normal law of error, sometimes called the generalized law of error. Let's apply it to the simplest kind of detective problem, say the question which one of three servants in a house stole a diamond ring from a locked drawer. I should explain that X is the deviation from the mean, D is the standard deviation, kis-”
“Please!” Wolfe had to make it next door to a bellow, and did. “What are you trying to do, change the subject?”
“No.” Savarese looked surprised and a little hurt. “Am I? What was the subject?”