Kirby smoked steadily, evenly. Not a flicker of the eyelids showed the excitement racing through his blood. At last he was coming close to the heart of the mystery that surrounded the deaths of his uncle and his valet.
“I reckon I saw red for a minute,” Olson continued. “If I’d been carryin’ a gun I might ‘a’ used it right there an’ then. But I hadn’t one, lucky for me. He sat down in a big easy-chair an’ took a paper from his pocket. It looked like some kind of a legal document. He read it through, then stuck it in one o’ the cubby-holes of his desk. I forgot to say he was smokin’, an’ not a stogie like I was, but a big cigar he’d unwrapped from silver paper after takin’ it from a boxful.”
“He lighted the cigar after coming into the small room,” Kirby said, in the voice of a question.
“Yes. Didn’t I say so? Took it from a box on a stand near the chair. Well, when he got through with the paper he leaned back an’ kinda shut his eyes like he was thinkin’ somethin’ over. All of a sudden I saw him straighten up an’ get rigid. Before he could rise from the chair a woman came into the room an’ after her a man.
“The man was Cass Hull.”
FROM THE FIRE ESCAPE
“The woman—what was she like?”
“She was tall an’ thin an’ flat-chested. I didn’t know her at the time, but it must ‘a’ been Hull’s wife.”
“You said you didn’t know what time this was,” Kirby said.
“No. My old watch had quit doin’ business an’ I hated to spend the money to get it fixed. The mainspring was busted, a jeweler told me.”
“Who spoke first after they came into the room?”
“Yore uncle. He laid the cigar down on the stand an’ asked them what they wanted. He didn’t rise from the chair, but his voice rasped when he spoke. It was the woman answered. She took the lead all through. ‘We’ve come for a settlement,’ she said. ‘An’ we’re goin’ to have it right now.’ He stiffened up at that. He come back at her with, ’You can’t get no shot-gun settlement outa me.’ Words just poured from that woman’s mouth. She roasted him to a turn, told how he was crooked as a dog’s hind leg an’ every deal he touched was dirty. Said he couldn’t even be square to his own pardners, that he couldn’t get a man, woman, or child in Colorado to say he’d ever done a good act. Believe me, she laid him out proper, an’ every word of it was true, ’far as I know.
“Well, sir, that old reprobate uncle of yours never batted an eye. He slid down in his chair a little so’s he could be comfortable while he listened. He grinned up at her like she was some kind of specimen had broke loose from a circus an’ he was interested in the way it acted. That didn’t calm her down none. She rip-r’ared right along, with a steady flow of words, mostly adjectives. Finally she quit, an’ she was plumb white with anger. ‘Quite through?’ yore uncle asked with that ice-cold voice of his. She asked him what he intended to do about a settlement. ‘Not a thing,’ he told her. ’I did aim to give Hull two thousand to get rid of him. But I’ve changed my mind, ma’am. You can go whistle for it.’”