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He was prepared to hang up immediately if she answered, but he got a busy signal.

He phoned repeatedly for almost a half-hour, but couldn't get through.

He thought perhaps Diane had taken the phone off the hook, or perhaps she was being bedeviled by calls from the media. But finally his call was answered.

"Yes? Who is this?"

He recognized the high-pitched, squeaky voice.

"Doctor Samuelson? Edward X. Delaney here."


"How is Doctor Ellerbee?"

"At the moment she is sleeping. I prescribed something.

She is destroyed by this."

"I can imagine. Doctor, I have one question for you. You can answer or tell me to go to hell. Did you know, or guess, what she did?"

"Go to hell," the little man said and hung up.

The four Delaneys had an early pickup dinner, mostly leftovers, and then finished decorating the living room, rolled up the rug, and swept and waxed the bare floor. They prepared the midnight supper. Then they all went upstairs to dress.

"Shaving is murder," Delaney said to Monica in their bathroom.

"She got me good."

"Want me to put on bandages or tape?"

"No. I'll leave them open to the air. I've been dabbing on hydrogen peroxide. They'll heal okay. Did you tell the girls what happened?"

"I just said you had assisted in the arrest of a mugger and had been attacked. They seemed satisfied with that."

"Good. When are the boys arriving?"

"They promised to be here by nine."

"What are you going to wear?"

"What would you like me to wear?" she asked coquettishly.

"The short black silk with no back and all the fringe," he said immediately.

"It makes you look like a flapper from the twenties."

"So shall it be," she said, touching his cheek softly.

"My,Poor wounded hero." While they were dressing, she said, not looking at him, "You're absolutely certain she did it, Edward?"

"Absolutely. But you're not?"

"It's so hard to believe-that lovely, intelligent, talented woman."

"Loeb and Leopold were geniuses. There's no contradiction between intelligence and an urge to kill."

"Well, if she's guilty, as you say, I still don't understand why she's not going to be tried for it."

"The law," he said shortly.

"We just don't have enough that'll stand up in court. But she'll pay."

"You think that's enough?" Monica said doubtfully.

"It's a compromise," he admitted.

"I agree with you; a long prison term would have been more fitting. But since that was impossible, I went for what I could get. We all settle, don't we? One way or another. Who gets what they dream? We all go stumbling along, hoping for the best but knowing we're going to have to live with confusion, sometimes winning, sometimes cutting a deal, occasionally just being defeated. It's a mess, no doubt about it, but it's the price we pay for being alive. I like to think the pluses outnumber the minuses. They do tonight. You look beautiful!"

Peter and Jeffrey arrived promptly at nine o'clock, bringing along a bottle of Darn Perignon, which everyone agreed would not be opened until the stroke of midnight. Meanwhile, there were six bottles of Delaney's Korbel brut, and the party got off to a noisy, laughing start.

It took three glasses of champagne before Delaney finally broke down and consented to dance with his wife and stepdaughters. He shuffled cautiously around the floor with all the grace of a gorilla on stilts, and after one dance with each of the ladies was allowed (Allowed?

Urged!) to retire to the side lines where he stood beaming, watching the festivities and making certain glasses were filled.

At 11:30, dancing was temporarily halted while supper was served. There was caviar with chopped onions, grated hardboiled eggs, sour cream, capers, melba toast, quarters of fresh lemon-all on artfully contrived beds of Bibb lettuce.

Monica and Delaney balanced their plates on their laps, but the young people insisted on sprawling on the floor. The television set was turned on so they could watch the mob scene in Times Square.

At about ten minutes to twelve the phone rang. Monica and Delaney looked at each other.

"Now who the hell can that be?" he growled, set his plate aside, and rose heavily to his feet. He went into the study and closed the door.

"Mr. Delaney, this is Detective Brian Estrella. Sorry to bother you at this hour, sir, but something came up I thought you should know about as soon as possible."

"Oh?" Delaney said.

"What's that?"

"Well, right now I'm in Sylvia Otherton's apartment and we've been working on the Ouija board. You read about that in my previous reports, didn't you, sir?"

"Oh, yes," Delaney said, rolling his eyes upward.

"I read about the Ouija board."

"Well, the first question we asked, weeks ago, was who killed him. And the board spelled out "B-L-I-N-D.

Then, the second time, we asked if it was a stranger who killed him, and the board spelled out "NC N-U' "Yes, I recall," Delaney said patiently.

"Very interesting.

But what does it mean?"

"Well, get this, sir…" Estrella said.

"Tonight we asked the spirit of Simon Ellerbee whether it was a man or a woman who killed him, and the Ouija board spelled out "Wiman."

W-I-M-A-N. Now that didn't make much sense at first. But then I realized this board has a slight glitch and is pointing to "I' when it means '0."

If you follow that, you'll see that the killer was blond, not blind. And the board meant to say "No' instead of "Ni' when we asked if the murderer was a stranger.

And the final answer should have been "Woman' instead of "Wiman." So as I see it, sir, the person we're looking for is a blond woman who was not a stranger to the victim."

"Thank you very much," Delaney said gravely.