A Job in the Museum 3

20. july 2013 at 20:00 | Thalia Contostavlos
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters
Warnings: none

......I returned to our brownstone not long before dinner and since Wolfe doesn't like to talk about business during meals, I waited with my report till we were both seated in our office, he with a glass of beer and I with my usual tumbler of bourbon.
......"What did you find out, Archie?" asked Wolfe when he assumed his customary position.
......I took a sip out of my drink. "Verbatim?"
......Wolfe nodded. "If you can."
......I rolled my eyes but it went to waste as Wolfe wasn't watching me. "Of course I can." I said instead of making some witty remark and went on recalling each conversation I had after I left the office today, except the one with a cab driver on my way home and the one with Fritz when he opened the door for me. It took me whole five hours to repeat everything and by the time I finished, Wolfe was nursing his sixth beer. I wanted to comment on that because we had an agreement that I were to reprimand him if he failed to stick to his five-beers-a-day limit but Wolfe started talking before I even opened my mouth: "Was what they said the truth?"
......I tipped my head to the left. "I wouldn't know. Mr. Winston seemed to be telling the truth but he could've been just as well acting. He'd have to be a brilliant actor for that, of course. I have no idea about either Carla or Jimmy but I suppose they have no reason to be lying."
......Wolfe raised his eyebrows and in that instant, I knew I missed something. "You don't think so. You think one of them is lying."
......Instead of confirming my statement, Wolfe asked: "Did you find out where the truck with all those jugs was headed?"
......I shook my head and picked up my phone book. "No but I can try."
......I searched for the telephone number of West Side Ceramics co., picked up my receiver and started dialing. I had to wait for several more seconds than I would've liked to for anyone to actually answer and when they did, it was only to tell me that the secretary wasn't available at the moment and I'd have to call again in a few minutes.
......"Nuts!" I said after I hung up. I hadn't even met the girl yet and I already knew it was going to be a long conversation once I got her on the phone.
......"West Side Ceramics, Ashley Brisbane speaking." answered a woman's voice after I dialed the number for the second time.
......"Archie Goodwin, I work for Nero Wolfe, you might've heard of him, he's a private detective. We're investigating a case concerning the American History Museum the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West and we came upon an information that your company truck has been in the parking lot two nights ago."
......The secretary sighed into the receiver. "That's possible, Mr. Goodwin, but I can't possibly know for sure."
......"It would be most helpful if you could confirm my information and find out where the truck went next."
......"I am truly sorry, Mr. Goodwin, but I don't possess such an information."
......Now it was my time to sigh. "And can I talk to someone who does? I really do need to know where did the truck go."
......The secretary agreed to find someone who could be of more use to me and I leaned more comfortably into my chair to wait. Her searching lasted whole three minutes in which I was able to read a whole article about smuggling in Mexico that was on the front page of the Times.
......"Mr. Goodwin, are you there?"
......"Yep, still here. Older and wiser but still here."
......"You can talk to Mr. Gomez, he's the supervisor of our logistic department and I'm sure, he'd be able to answer your questions."
......I nodded, even though I knew she couldn't see me. "Thank you very much, Miss Brisbane."
......She said something I didn't pay attention to and gave the receiver to Mr. Gomez. I was surprised, when he didn't have Spanish accent, when he spoke: "Good evening, Mr. Goodwin, I was informed of your predicament. You said you needed to know, where is our truck you saw two days ago, am I correct?"
......I nodded again. "Partially, I would like to know, where did your truck go right after it left the museum."
......"Alright, Mr. Goodwin, let me have a look."
......I was left waiting yet again, so I decided to spend my time counting books with either red or green cover that were in our library. I was at the number twenty-seven, when Mr. Gomez spoke again: "Mr. Goodwin, the truck you asked about is in the South Street Seaport, beside the pier number seventeen. It's been there ever since it left the museum, for the boat designated to take the ceramic jugs has been delayed."
......I thanked him for his time, wrote down the address he gave me and hung up. Wolfe looked up from his book, it had a green cover, and asked: "Were you successful?"
......I inclined my head in agreement. "I was, should I go check it out?"
......Wolfe said: "Naturally." and I went.
......Once at the gate that led to the docks, I decided not to take any chances with the night guards and called my old chum Dicks from a nearby phone booth.
......I got him on the phone and asked for a favor: "I need a free pass to get to the South Street Seaport, can you back me up in case someone catches me?"
......He laughed. "I can do something better than that, farm-boy, let me call the chief guard and tell him not to bother you."
......"That would be lovely, thanks. I owe you one."
......"Yeah, just do me a favor and don't shoot anyone this time, alright? I know you trigger-happy guys."
......I scowled. "I'm not trigger-happy. I only shoot back when someone shoots at me."
......"Whatever you say, man. I remember what happened with the two gentlemen that had the misfortune of meeting you."
......I shrugged and checked the time on my watch, it was way past ten o'clock at night. "I was only doing my job," I told him and hung up. The two gentlemen Dicks was talking about were actually smugglers that were involved in a case Wolfe was investigating back in 1933. I was working as a pier guard at that time and shot the crooks while guarding pier number eleven. It cost me my job because my supervisor didn't need a trigger-happy guy working for him. It didn't hurt me much though, because it was then that I met Wolfe and he offered me a job as his personal assistant and a private detective trainee.
......I counted to twenty to give Dicks some time to call the docks guard and went to climb over the fence. It didn't take me long to find the truck, because it was exactly where Mr. Gomez said it would be. What wasn't exactly as it should be, however, were the jugs. Nearly half of them were shattered into pieces and the shards were scattered around the truck in a five-meter radius. I knew instantly that my theory of the necklace escaping by the window and falling into one of those ceramic things was true and also that I was too late. I took a look around anyway but wasn't surprised when I found nothing resembling a diamond necklace in the truck or amongst the shards around it. I straightened up from crouching on the ground and decided to inspect my surroundings a little and hopefully find something worth mentioning. What I did find when I turned a corner of one of the buildings adorning the docks, was not only worth mentioning, it was something that needed to be mentioned. There on the ground in front of me laid a lifeless body in a pier guard uniform and a gaping hole in its chest. I checked the guard's pulse just to be on the safe side but it was pointless, the slug was probably still lodged deep in his heart. I looked around to see if anyone saw me and when I was satisfied that there were no witnesses, I went back to the truck and tried to recall what exactly have I touched while inspecting it, so I could wipe off my fingerprints. The cops didn't need to know what brought me to the docks after all.
......I then went back to the phone booth and called Wolfe to inform him of my situation. When I laid it all out for him and he realized it meant I had to spend some time downtown, he huffed and parted with me with a quietly uttered "pfui".
......I then dialed the number of the Manhattan Homicide and started muttering: "That's dandy, a dead man is just what I needed, the only thing missing is Rowcliffe."
......Looking back, I probably shouldn't have said that because Rowcliffe is exactly what I got. When the officers finally arrived, I made up some feeble cover story about how I was supposed to meet a friend and found a dead body instead, which didn't sit well with the lieutenant.
......"I don't believe a word you've just said, Goodwin."
......I shrugged. "You don't trust anyone, so I don't feel very special."
......He stepped into my personal space threateningly. "Watch your mouth, Goodwin."
......"You know, technically it's a physical impossibility for me to watch my mouth unless there's a mirror around. I don't see one."
......He took a deep breath to calm himself. "I'm not finished with you," he finally said and went to talk to one of his sergeants. I folded my arms on my chest and leaned against a wall to observe the commotion. The cops were wandering around looking for anything that would provide them with a clue as to why the poor sod was done in. Soon, they figured out the truck had something to do with it, as I knew they would, the only thing left for me was to hope I didn't leave any fingerprints.
......As it turned out, they didn't need any fingerprints to think I had something to do with the murder. After they brought me downtown, they sat me down in an interrogation room and decided to let lieutenant Rowcliffe handle my torture. That meant I'd gotten nothing to eat and only some water to drink. It is true that I might be a little bit spoiled but lately I got a glass of milk every time I was interrogated.
......"You ready to tell me the truth, Goodwin?" started Rowcliffe before he even sat down.
......I shrugged. "I told you what happened. I was supposed to meet my pal Jack, he didn't show up. I then found the corpse."
......"Don't be ridiculous, that's a lot of bollocks and you know it. Whenever you go somewhere, there are dead bodies just popping up on the streets. I refuse to believe that that's a coincidence. I'll bet you knew very well that you'll find that guy in the docks."
......"Don't you think that had I known that, I would just give you an anonymous call so I would avoid all of this?"
......Rowcliffe frowned. "I never know with you."
......I grinned at him and leaned back in my chair. "Can I go now?"
......"Of course not! You have yet to tell me the truth about why you were wandering around the docks at eleven at night."
......"I was supposed to meet my friend Jack-"
......"Can it! It's bad enough I have to be here talking to you instead of sleeping at home, you don't have to make it worse by lying to me."
......It went on like that for another two and a half hours before the cops finally realized I won't tell them a thing and decided to let me go home.
......When I entered our office at nineteen minutes after two to check for any notes Wolfe might have left for me, it was obvious everybody else was already fast asleep, there was no sound in our brownstone as I went over to my desk. I was five steps away when I got a whiff of an unpleasant smell in the air. There was only one thing that could produce this kind of stench, the Pharaoh cigarettes. And sure enough, there were five of them in an ashtray on my desk. That meant only two things - that Saul Panzer was here to discuss whatever Wolfe had deduced from my report last evening and was probably given an errand, and that no one bothered to hide this fact from me, not that he had any chance whatsoever getting rid of that smell, and therefore wanted me to know. I mentally ran over everything I had told Wolfe once again but wasn't able to find the missing piece of puzzle. I took a deep breath, choked on the smoke-heavy air still lingering in the office and went to sleep.


1 pavel | Web | 20. july 2013 at 22:34 | React

Příště to napiš česky, ať si nelámu hlavu. :D

2 Thalia Contostavlos | Email | Web | 20. july 2013 at 23:19 | React

[1]: Mě ta povídka napadla v angličtině, tak jsem to tak rovnou napsala. Líp se mi vyjadřuje styl psaní, který jsem chtěla zachytit:)

3 Em. | © shaymitchell-daily | Web | 21. july 2013 at 15:59 | React
4 Thalia Contostavlos | Email | Web | 21. july 2013 at 17:21 | React

[3]: Můžu, ale nebudu. Vysvětlete mi někdo, na co mám asi v záhlaví ta upozornění?

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