Third was Lon Cohen of the Gazette, who said talk was going around and would I kindly remember that on Saturday he had moved heaven and earth for me to find out where Madeline Fraser was, and how did it stand right now? I bandied words with him.
Fourth was a man with a smooth low-pitched voice who gave his name as Nathan Traub, which was one of the names that had been made familiar to the public by the newspaper stories. I knew, naturally, that he was an executive of the advertising agency which handled the accounts of three of the Fraser sponsors, since I had read the papers. He seemed to be a little confused as to just what he wanted, but I gathered that the agency felt that it would be immoral for Wolfe to close any deal with anyone concerned without getting an okay from the agency. Having met a few agency men in my travels, I thought it was nice of them not to extend it to cover any deal with anyone about anything. I told him he might hear from us later.
Fifth was Deborah Koppel. She said that Miss Fraser was going on the air in twenty minutes and had been too busy to talk with the people who must be consulted, but that she was favourably inclined towards Wolfe's suggestion and would give us something definite before the day ended.
So by eleven o'clock, when two things happened simultaneously-Wolfe's entering the office and my turning on the radio and tuning it to the F.B.C. station, WPIT-it was unquestionably a seller's market.
Throughout Madeline Fraser's broadcast Wolfe leaned back in his chair behind his desk with his eyes shut. I sat until I got restless and then moved around, with the only interruptions a couple of phone calls. Bill Meadows was of course on with her, as her stooge and feeder, since that was his job, and the guests for the day were an eminent fashion designer and one of the Ten Best-Dressed Women.
The guests were eminently lousy and Bill was nothing to write home about, but there was no getting away from it that Fraser was good. Her voice was good, her timing was good, and even when she was talking about White Birch Soap you would almost as soon leave it on as turn it off. I had listened in on her the preceding Friday for the first time, no doubt along with several million others, and again I had to hand it to her for sitting on a very hot spot without a twitch or a wriggle.
It must have been sizzling hot when she got to that place in the programme where bottles of Starlite were opened and poured into glasses-drinks for the two guests and Bill Meadows and herself. I don't know who had made the decision the preceding Friday, her first broadcast after Orchard's death, to leave that in, but if she did she had her nerve. Whoever had made the decision, it had been up to her to carry the ball, and she had sailed right through as if no bottle of Starlite had ever been known even to make anyone belch, let alone utter a shrill cry, claw at the air, have convulsions, and die. Today she delivered again.
There was no false note, no quiver, no slack or speedup, nothing; and I must admit that Bill handled it well too. The guests were terrible, but that was the style to which they had accustomed us.
When it was over and I had turned the radio off Wolfe muttered: “That's an extremely dangerous woman.”
I would have been more impressed if I hadn't known so well his conviction that all women alive are either extremely dangerous or extremely dumb. So I merely said: “If you mean she's damn' clever I agree. She's awful good.”
He shook his head. “I mean the purpose she allows her cleverness to serve. That unspeakable prepared biscuit flour! Fritz and I have tried it. Those things she calls Sweeties! Pfui! And that salad dressing abomination-we have tried that too, in an emergency. What they do to stomachs heaven knows, but that woman is ingeniously and deliberately conspiring in the corruption of millions of palates. She should be stopped!”
“Okay, stop her. Pin a murder on her. Though I must admit, having seen-”
The phone rang. It was Mr Beech of F.B.C., wanting to know if we had made any promises to Tully Strong or to anyone else connected with any of the sponsors, and if so whom and what? When he had been attended to I remarked to Wolfe: “I think it would be a good plan to line up Saul and Orrie and Fred-”
The phone rang. It was a man who gave his name as Owen, saying he was in charge of public relations for the Starlite Company, asking if he could come down to West Thirty-fifth Street on the run for a talk with Nero Wolfe. I stalled him with some difficulty and hung up. Wolfe observed, removing the cap from a bottle of beer which Fritz had brought: “I must first find out what's going on. If it appears that the police are as stumped as-”
The phone rang. It was Nathan Traub, the agency man, wanting to know everything.
Up till lunch, and during lunch, and after lunch, the phone rang. They were having one hell of a time trying to get it decided how they would split the honour. Wolfe began to get really irritated and so did I. His afternoon hours upstairs with the plants are from four to six, and it was just as he was leaving the office, headed for his elevator in the hall, that word came that a big conference was on in Beech's office in the F.B.C. building on Forty-sixth Street.
At that, when they once got together apparently they dealt the cards and played the hands without any more horsing around, for it was still short of five o'clock when the phone rang once more. I answered it and heard a voice I had heard before that day: “Mr Goodwin? This is Deborah Koppel. It's all arranged.”
“I’m talking on behalf of Miss Fraser. They thought you should be told by her, through me, since you first made the suggestion to her and therefore you would want to know that the arrangement is satisfactory to her. An F.B.C. lawyer is drafting an agreement to be signed by Mr Wolfe and the other parties.”
“Mr Wolfe hates to sign anything written by a lawyer. Ten to one he won't sign it. He'll insist on dictating it to me, so you might as well give me the details.”
She objected. “Then someone else may refuse to sign it.”
“Not a chance,” I assured her. “The people who have been phoning here all day would sign anything. What's the arrangement?”
“Well, just as you suggested. As you proposed it to Miss Fraser. No one objected to that. What they've been discussing was how to divide it up, and this is what they've agreed on…”
As she told it to me I scribbled it in my notebook, and this is how it looked:
Per cent of expenses Share of fee
Starlite 50 $10,000
I called it back to check and then stated, “It suits us if it suits Miss Fraser.
Is she satisfied?”
“She agrees to it,” Deborah said. “She would have preferred to do it alone, all herself, but under the circumstances that wasn't possible. Yes, she's satisfied.”
“Okay. Mr Wolfe will dictate it, probably in the form of a letter, with copies for all. But that's just a formality and he wants to get started. All we know is what we've read in the papers. According to them there are eight people that the police regard as-uh, possibilities. Their names-”
“I know their names. Including mine.”
“Sure you do. Can you have them all here at this office at half-past eight this evening?”
“All of them?”