Trio For Blunt Instruments by Rex StoutTrio For Blunt Instruments by Rex Stout

Trio For Blunt Instruments

byRex Stout

Mass Market Paperback | January 1, 1997

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If Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, would ever admit to an Achilles' heel-which they wouldn't-it would be a weakness for damsels in distress. In these three charming chillers the duo answer the call of helpless heroines with nothing to lose-except their lives. First a beautiful young Aphrodite comes to Nero looking for a hero-and the answer to the mystery of her father's death....Then an old flame of Archie's reignites with a plan that may corner him into a lifetime commitment-behind bars....And finally a detective's work is never done, as a hot tip leads the team into the sizzling center of a sexy scandal that could leave them cold-dead cold.
Rex Stout (1886–1975) wrote dozens of short stories, novellas, and full-length mystery novels, most featuring his two indelible characters, the peerless detective Nero Wolfe and his handy sidekick, Archie Goodwin.
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Title:Trio For Blunt InstrumentsFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 6.9 × 4.2 × 0.6 inPublished:January 1, 1997Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553241915

ISBN - 13:9780553241914

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1   That Monday morning Pete didn’t give me his usual polite grin, contrasting the white gleam of his teeth with the maple-syrup shade of the skin of his square leathery face. He did give me his usual greeting, “Hi-ho, Mr. Goodwin,” but with no grin in his voice either, and he ignored the established fact that I expected to take his cap and jacket and put them on the rack. By the time I turned from shutting the door he had dropped his jacket on the hall bench and was picking up his box, which he had put on the floor to free his hands for the jacket.   “You’re an hour early,” I said. “They going barefoot?”   “Naw, they’re busy,” he said, and headed down the hall to the office. I followed, snubbed; after all, we had been friends for more than three years.   Pete came three days a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—around noon, after he had finished his rounds in an office building on Eighth Avenue. Wolfe always gave him a dollar, since it was a five-minute walk for him to the old brownstone on West 35th Street, and I only gave him a quarter, but he gave my shoes as good a shine as he did Wolfe’s. None better. I never pretended to keep busy while he was working on Wolfe because I liked to listen. It was instructive. Wolfe’s line was that a man who had been born in Greece, even though he had left at the age of six, should be familiar with the ancient glories of his native land, and he had been hammering away at Pete for forty months. That morning, as Wolfe swiveled his oversized chair, in which he was seated behind his desk, and Pete knelt and got his box in place, and I crossed to my desk, Wolfe demanded, “Who was Eratosthenes and who accused him of murder in a great and famous speech in four-oh-three B.C.?”   Pete, poising his brush, shook his head.   “Who?” Wolfe demanded.   “Maybe Pericles.”   “Nonsense. Pericles had been dead twenty-six years. Confound it, I read parts of that speech to you last year. His name begins with L.”   “Lycurgus.”   “No! The Athenian Lycurgus hadn’t been born!”   “Pete looked up. “Today you must excuse me.” He tapped his head with the edge of the brush. “Empty today. Why I came early, something happened. I go in a man’s room, Mr. Ashby, a good customer, two bits every day. Room empty, nobody there. Window wide open, cold wind coming in. Tenth floor. I go and look out window, big crowd down below and cops. I go out to hall and take elevator down, I push through crowd, and there is my good customer, Mr. Ashby, there on the sidewalk, all smashed up terrible. I push back out of crowd, I look up, I see heads sticking out of windows, I think it’s no good going up to customers now, they will be looking out of windows, so I come here, that’s why I come early, so today you must excuse me, Mr. Wolfe.” He lowered his head and started the brush going.   Wolfe grunted. “I advise you to return to that building without delay. Does anyone know you were in his room?”   “Sure. Miss Cox.”   “She saw you enter?”   “Sure.”   “How long were you in his room?”   “Maybe one minute.”   “Did Miss Cox see you leave?”   “No, I go out another door to the hall.”   “Did you push him out the window?”   Pete stopped brushing to raise his head. “Now, Mr. Wolfe. In God’s name.”   “I advise you to return. If a crowd had already gathered when you looked out the window, and if Miss Cox can fix the exact time you entered the room, you are probably not vulnerable, but you may be in a pickle. You should not have left the premises. The police will soon be looking for you. Go back at once. Mr. Goodwin’s shoes can wait till Wednesday—or come this afternoon.”   Pete put the brush down and got out the polish. “Cops,” he said. “They’re all right, I like cops. But if I tell a cop I saw someone—” He started dabbing polish on. “No,” he said. “No, sir.”   Wolfe grunted. “So you saw someone.”   “I didn’t say I saw someone, I only said what if I told a cop I did? Did they have cops in Athens in four-oh-three B.C.?” He dabbed polish.   That took the conversation back to the ancient glories of Greece, but I didn’t listen. While Pete finished with Wolfe and then shined me, ignoring Wolfe’s advice, I practiced on him. The idea that a detective should stick strictly to facts is the bunk. One good opinion can sometimes get you further than a hundred assorted facts. So I practiced on Pete Vassos for that ten minutes. Had he killed a man half an hour ago? If the facts, now being gathered by cops, made it possible but left it open, how would I vote? I ended by not voting because I would have had to know about motive. For money, no, Pete wouldn’t. For vengeance, that would depend on what for. For fear, sure, if the fear was hot enough. So I couldn’t vote.   An hour later, when I walked crosstown on an errand to the bank, I stopped at the corner at Eighth Avenue for a look. The smashed-up Mr. Ashby had been removed, but the sidewalk in front of the building was roped off to keep the crowd of volunteer criminologists from interfering with the research of a couple of homicide scientists, and three cops were dealing with the traffic. Looking up, I saw a few heads sticking out of windows, but none on the tenth floor, which was third from the top.   The afternoon Gazette is delivered a little after five o’clock at the old brownstone on West 35th Street which is owned and lived in and worked in—when he works—by Nero Wolfe, and when we have no important operation going it’s a dead hour in the office. Wolfe is up in the plant rooms on the roof with Theodore for his four-to-six afternoon session with the orchids, Fritz is in the kitchen getting something ready for the oven or the pot, and I am killing time. So when the Gazette came that day it was welcomed, and I learned all it knew about the death of Mr. Dennis Ashby. He had hit the sidewalk at 10:35 A.M. and had died on arrival. No one had been found who had seen him come out of the window of his office on the tenth floor, but it was assumed that that was where he had come from, since the receptionist, Miss Frances Cox, had spoken with him on the phone at 10:28, and no other nearby window had been open.   If the police had decided whether to call it accident or suicide or murder they weren’t saying. If anyone had been with Ashby in the room when he left by the window, he wasn’t bragging about it. No one had gone to the room after 10:35, when Ashby had hit the sidewalk, for some fifteen minutes, when a bootblack named Peter Vassos had entered, expecting to give Ashby a shine. A few minutes later, when a cop who had got Ashby’s name from papers in his pocket had arrived on the tenth floor, Vassos had departed. Found subsequently at his home on Graham Street on the Lower East Side, Manhattan, he had been taken to the district attorney’s office for questioning.   Dennis Ashby, thirty-nine, married, no children, had been vice-president of Mercer’s Bobbins, Inc., in charge of sales and promotion. According to his business associates and his widow, he had been in good health and his affairs had been in order, and he had had no reason to kill himself. The widow, Joan, was grief-stricken and wouldn’t see reporters. Ashby had been below average in stature, 5 feet 7, 140 pounds. That bit, saved for the last, was a typical Gazette touch, suggesting that it would be no great feat to shove a man that size through a window, so it had probably been murder, and buy the Gazette tomorrow to find out.   At six o’clock the sound came from the hall of the elevator groaning its way down and jolting to a stop, and Wolfe entered. I waited until he had crossed to his desk and got his seventh of a ton lowered into the oversized chair to say, “They’ve got Pete down at the DA’s office. Apparently he didn’t go back to the building at all, and they—”   “The doorbell rang. I got up and stepped to the hall, switched on the stoop light, saw a familiar brawny figure through the one-way glass, and turned. “Cramer.”