“You are dense,” she said insolently. “I want those papers—for myself, not for Andy Bronson.”
“Then the idea is,” I said, ignoring her tone, “that you think you have me in a hole, and that if I find those papers and give them to you you will let me out. As I understand it, our friend Bronson, under those circumstances, will also be in a hole.”
“The notes would be of no use to you for a limited length of time,” I went on, watching her narrowly. “If they are not turned over to the state’s attorney within a reasonable time there will have to be a nolle pros—that is, the case will simply be dropped for lack of evidence.”
“A week would answer, I think,” she said slowly. “You will do it, then?”
I laughed, although I was not especially cheerful.
“No, I’ll not do it. I expect to come across the notes any time now, and I expect just as certainly to turn them over to the state’s attorney when I get them.”
She got up suddenly, pushing her chair back with a noisy grating sound that turned many eyes toward us.
“You’re more of a fool than I thought you,” she sneered, and left me at the table.
Mc KNIGHT’S theory
I confess I was staggered. The people at the surrounding tables, after glancing curiously in my direction, looked away again.
I got my hat and went out in a very uncomfortable frame of mind. That she would inform the police at once of what she knew I never doubted, unless possibly she would give a day or two’s grace in the hope that I would change my mind.
I reviewed the situation as I waited for a car. Two passed me going in the opposite direction, and on the first one I saw Bronson, his hat over his eyes, his arms folded, looking moodily ahead. Was it imagination? or was the small man huddled in the corner of the rear seat Hotchkiss?
As the car rolled on I found myself smiling. The alert little man was for all the world like a terrier, ever on the scent, and scouring about in every direction.
I found McKnight at the Incubator, with his coat off, working with enthusiasm and a manicure file over the horn of his auto.
“It’s the worst horn I ever ran across,” he groaned, without looking up, as I came in. “The blankety-blank thing won’t blow.”
He punched it savagely, finally eliciting a faint throaty croak.
“Sounds like croup,” I suggested. “My sister-in-law uses camphor and goose greese for it; or how about a spice poultice?”
But McKnight never sees any jokes but his own. He flung the horn clattering into a corner, and collapsed sulkily into a chair.
“Now,” I said, “if you’re through manicuring that horn, I’ll tell you about my talk with the lady in black.”
“What’s wrong?” asked McKnight languidly. “Police watching her, too?”