Bertha Cool’s secretary was pounding away when I reported at the office, to see whether I worked that day, or sat twiddling my thumbs and speculating whether my monthly wages would total up to anything above Bertha Cool’s guarantee.

That guarantee gave me just enough for bare necessities. Working regularly, I could have made a little surplus. So far, I’d never had a full month’s work, but, on the other hand, business had never been so slack Bertha Cool had been called on to pay anything under her guarantee.

She was a wise baby, was Bertha Cool. If you made anything out of her, you sure as hell earned it.

The secretary was a good-looking girl—or would have been if she’d given herself a chance. Some discouraging experience in her background had made her feel that she couldn’t be bothered with sex appeal, and so she slicked her hair back, used no make-up, and hated men. She didn’t seem to get much fun out of life and habitually kept her lips clamped in a tight line as though afraid a word might inadvertently spill out when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. For the most part, she made conversation by nodding or shaking her head. If I’d taken the time to have made a form chart, I have an idea the shakes would have outnumbered the nods about three to one.

I closed the door behind me. Its frosted glass bore the legend, "B. COOL, INVESTIGATIONS." A glance at the open door of the private office showed me that Bertha Cool wasn’t in. The secretary kept pounding away at her typewriter. I walked over to a chair in the corner, picked up a newspaper, and sat down. I didn’t say, "Good morning," or she to me. After you’ve worked for Bertha Cool just so long, you don’t waste social amenities on anyone. I hadn’t been working quite that long, but the secretary had.

I read down the front sheet of the newspaper. Half of it was devoted to statements by politicians that the citizens would never have to fight another war on European soil, and listing new legislation that was planned to keep America isolated from European troubles. The other half was devoted to the speeches of high officials calling European rulers liars, crooks, thieves, and gangsters.

I turned over to the sporting section, and wondered if I could find something that looked good enough to carry two dollars of my money on its nose, and if I lost, what I could do without that would save two dollars.

It wasn’t an easy problem. When you’re working for Bertha Cool, there aren’t a lot of economies you can make. She makes them for you

Over at the typewriter, I heard the sound of banging keys come to a halt as Elsie Brand ripped a letter out of the typewriter and fitted it under the flap of the envelope. She whipped another letterhead from the paper drawer, and looked squarely at me.

"You work today," she said.

I couldn’t believe my ears—Elsie Brand actually getting friendly. "No kidding?" I asked. It was a useless question. Elsie Brand wouldn’t waste time kidding anybody.

She fed the letterhead with its carbon copy into the roller of the typewriter and ignored the question.

"What kind of a case?" I asked.

"Divorce," she said. "A Mrs.—" She consulted a memo on the desk. "Mrs. Atterby and a Mrs. Cunner."

"What time will Bertha be in?"

"Any minute now."

"What makes you think it’s a divorce?" I asked.

"Two women," she said, "both Mrs."

I raised my eyebrows.

"You’ll learn," she said, and her fingertips descended on the keyboard of the machine, exploding it into racket.

I turned back to the sporting page with more interest. If I worked today and tomorrow and maybe the next day, I could afford to take a chance on Silver Lining. If, on the other hand, it was only a one-day job—

A big shadow blotted out all the light on the frosted glass panel of the outer door. The knob rattled, and Bertha Cool’s avoirdupois came flooding into the room.

Bertha didn’t waddle when she walked. She didn’t stride. She was big, and she jiggled, but she was hard as nails, physically and mentally. She flowed across that office with the rippling, effortless progress of a cylinder of jelly sliding off a tilted plate.

"Come in, Donald," she said.

I followed her into the private office.

"Shut the door."

I shut it.

"Sit down."

I sat down.

Bertha wasted no time in preliminaries. She was a great believer in not wasting anything which could be turned into money. And as for money itself, she hung onto it like a barnacle caressing the side of a battleship. "We have a divorce case today," she said.

"How long will it last?" I asked.

"I don’t know anything about it, just the names. A Mrs. Atterby telephoned Elsie Brand, and asked for a ten o’clock appointment for herself and a Mrs. Cunner."

"Why," I asked, "do two women mean a divorce case?"

She beamed at me. "Jesus, Donald, but you’re dumb!—About the business, I mean. Don’t take offense, my love."

I said nothing.

Bertha Cool lit a cigarette. The quivering flesh around her breasts soaked in the tobacco smoke as she took a deep drag. Her breasts were firm, although her whole chest was enormous. She was big—big all over, and she was completely unrestrained. As she herself expressed it on occasion, "I like loose clothes, loose company, and loose talk, and to hell with the people who don’t."

Despite all her size, there was nothing wheezy about her. She stood erect as a granite column, her shoulders flung back, her triple chins hoisted up in the air, her big breasts pushed out in front with perfectly centered "buttons" showing unashamedly through the somewhat flimsy material with which she covered her body on hot days.

She exhaled the tobacco smoke through large nostrils which gave the impression of having been darkened on the inside. "Oh well," she with a sigh, "someone has to tell you the facts of life, if you’re going to be worth a damn in this business. I may as well be the one."

She took another drag at the cigarette, then said, "Most agencies won’t touch two types of business. One’s divorce business. The other’s political investigation. They simply won’t handle ’em at any price—the divorce business because it’s nasty, the political business because they don’t dare.

"All right, that’s where we come in, Donald, darling. We’ll handle any damn thing on the face of God’s green earth that pays money. I haven’t got the organization to compete with the big shots, and I have to charge just as large fees, sometimes larger. Therefore I figure that when people come to me, it’s a case that other agencies won’t touch. So much for that.

"Now then, two married women calling on a detective agency means divorce business because nine times out of ten one’s the girl’s mother. A married woman thinks her husband is stepping out. She pulls a blonde hair off his coat, and busts into tears. He gives her the best lie he can think up at the moment. She doesn’t believe it, but she wants to believe it. Her brain tells her to throw it back in his face. Her heart tells her to cling to it like a drowning man grasping at a straw—Jesus, Donald, I’m getting poetic or romantic or something—I’ll have to watch that. You can’t have understanding without empathy, and you can’t have empathy without losing money. To hell with that stuff. I’m objective, Donald. I have no more feeling than the bullet that leaves a rifle barrel. If it’s a charging elephant that’s in front of it, the bullet smears him. If it’s a poor little deer, nursing a fawn, the slug tears through her vitals just the same. I’m like that, Donald. I’m paid to deliver results, my love, and by God, I deliver ’em."

I nodded. There was no argument on that point. She did.

"Well," she said, "Mama comes for a visit. She holds the daughter’s face up to the light, and says, ‘Sweetheart, you’re not happy. What has that big brute been doing to you?’ And then the daughter starts to cry, and pretty quick she tells Mama her suspicions, and Mama takes the girl by the hand and—"

Elsie Brand opened the door, and said, "Mrs. Atterby and Mrs. Cunner."

Bertha Cool beamed all over her face. "Show them in," she said, "show them in."

Elsie Brand backed away from the door. She didn’t need to say anything. The woman who came striding past her wasn’t one to wait for invitation. She was a hatchet-faced battle-ax with high cheekbones, big, black eyes with dark pouches underneath, a mouth which was a straight gash across her face, a nose like the prow of a battleship, and a long, determined stride which indicated her feet knew damn well she was going someplace to make trouble, and wanted to get her there as soon as possible.

Her face was the color of a tropical sunset with rouge over the cheeks, and crimson lipstick trying to turn the upper lip into a cupid’s bow. The thing must have been weird enough so far as the average spectator is concerned, but to a detective who trains himself to look closely and see plenty of details, it looked like an oil painting done by Aunt Kate or Cousin Edith, the kind that are hung in a dark corner in the dining room where the open kitchen door will hide ’em during mealtimes.

Behind her, came a red-eyed woman about twenty-five years younger, inclined to fat—not the hard, determined fat of Bertha Cool, but the sagging fat which pulls the muscles down until the body starts looking like a melting snowman.

Bertha Cool got up and beamed across the desk. "Mrs. Atterby?" she asked of the battle-ax.

Mrs. Atterby nodded, and looked at Bertha Cool with disappointed eyes.

Bertha Cool turned to the pink-eyed one, and said, "You’re Mrs. Cunner. Do be seated. —This is Donald Lam, one of my operatives."

Mrs. Atterby didn’t sit down. She swung around to face me. I saw her chin go up in the air another notch. I listened, waiting to hear her sniff. She didn’t sniff, but she might as well have done so. Her reaction was obvious.

Mrs. Cunner sat down—apparently, always glad to take her weight off her feet.

Bertha Cool said to Mrs. Atterby, "Sit down, dearie. Don’t run your blood pressure up, thinking that because I’m a woman, and Donald is a little runt, we can’t handle your work, because we can. I’m tougher than shoe leather, and Donald here is just plain poison.

"You’ll like him when you know him better. He started out to be a lawyer. They disbarred him because he told a client how to commit a murder and get away with it. The bar association said Donald was all wet, of course, but his ethics were bad. —And do you know, the little bastard was right all the time. After they disbarred him, he actually pulled it, and made it stand up. He has brains, that boy."

Mrs. Atterby said, "Since you’ve brought the subject up yourself, Mrs. Cool—or is it Miss Cool—?"

"Mrs.," Bertha Cool said, "and don’t pull your punches, dearie, because, after all, you haven’t a leg to stand on. The big detective agencies won’t touch your kind of case with a ten-foot pole, and you know it, or you wouldn’t be here. If we don’t handle your case, no one will. So sit down and tell us your troubles, and don’t mind if I cuss because I’m profane as hell when I get started."

There was a sudden glint in Mrs. Atterby’s eyes. It was almost as though she recognized a kindred spirit. She sat down.

"Smoke?" Bertha Cool asked.

Mrs. Atterby shook her head. I figured painting that mouth on took too much time and effort to risk taking any chances with it.

Mrs. Cool shifted her eyes to Mrs. Cunner.

Mrs. Atterby answered the unspoken question for her. "No," she said, "she’s not smoking. She’s too upset."

As though the words were her cue, the younger woman fished a soggy handkerchief from her purse, shoved it halfway up to her eyes, then held it there, bravely fighting back tears.

"Well," Bertha Cool said cheerfully, "let’s start the ball rolling. Time is money, you know."

Mrs. Atterby looked at Mrs. Cunner. "Tell her, Edith," she said.

Edith immediately made a nose dive for the depths of the soggy handkerchief.

Bertha Cool regarded her with steady, calm, almost disinterested appraisal, then shifted her eyes to Mrs. Atterby.

Mrs. Atterby said, "The poor child is so upset. She’s never had anything like this. She’s always been sheltered from the sordid facts of life. I didn’t keep her in the darkness of ignorance; but I will say there was never a girl with a cleaner, sweeter, purer mind than Edith Atterby, and all of our friends realized it. I don’t know what it was that attracted her to Eben, unless it was the very contrast. Eben is a worldly man, and I knew the minute I set eyes on him that he wasn’t half good enough for Edith, but she would insist on going around with him. I told her—Well, I won’t go into that now, but Edith herself will be the first to admit that if she’d taken her mother’s advice years ago, this would never have happened."

Edith pulled out the louder stop, and the sobs became distinctly audible.

"All right," Bertha Cool said cheerfully, "tell us about it, and let’s get started."

Mrs. Atterby glanced at me. "I don’t want to embarrass Edith," she said, "if there were no man here, just us women, and—"

"Oh nuts," Bertha Cool interrupted. "How long’s she been married?"

"Five years."

Bertha Cool said, "Let’s quit beating around the bush. What’s her husband doing, cheating around, going to whorehouses, or keeping a mistress?"

Edith Cunner raised startled, tear-reddened eyes to stare at Mrs. Cool.

Mrs. Atterby said reproachfully, in a low voice, "I always use the word ‘houses of prostitution’ in talking to Edith, Mrs. Cool."

"I don’t. I call ’em whorehouses," Bertha said acidly. "It’s easier to say. It’s more expressive, and it leaves no room for doubt."

"Well," Mrs. Atterby sniffed, "at least Eben hasn’t sunk that low—although I don’t know but what it would be preferable to what he has done. After all, association with prostitutes indicates a man is merely giving vent to his coarse animal nature. It isn’t as direct and studied an insult to a wife as what Eben is doing."

"Who is she?" Bertha Cool asked.

"Who?"

"The mistress."

Mrs. Atterby said to Edith, "Tell her about that woman, Edith, dear."

Edith said, chokingly, "She—He’s k-k-keeping her in an ap-ap-apartment."

"Who is she?" Bertha Cool asked.

"We don’t know," Mrs. Atterby said. "That’s why we came here."

"Oh," Bertha Cool observed.

"We want to find out."

"What do you know about her?"

Mrs. Atterby launched into voluble speech. "When Edith and Eben were first married," she said, "Eben seemed a most devoted husband. There was a time when I almost thought that I’d wronged the man. Of course, Edith was far too good for him, and I think she came to realize that only a short time after the marriage. But Edith is intensely loyal, and she wouldn’t admit it even to her own mother."

She turned to Edith, and said, "You remember, Edith, how many, many times I asked you, and you always insisted that you were absolutely happy."

"I w-w-was," Edith sobbed.

Bertha Cool said, "Oh for Christ’s sake, cut out the weeps! By God, you’d think your husband was the only man on earth who ever stepped out. They all do—those that are able. Personally, I wouldn’t have a man who was true to me, not that I’d want him to flaunt his affairs in my face or to the neighborhood, but a man who doesn’t step out once in a while isn’t worth the powder and shot to blow him to hell."

Mrs. Atterby raised her brows. "Have you ever had a daughter who was married?" she asked with dignity.

"No," Bertha Cool said, "I’ve had a husband."

Mrs. Atterby said, "Well, we can leave the ethics of the situation out of the discussion. I think I have told you that Edith is a little different from most women. Edith, even if I do say it myself, is of finer clay. She—"

"Twenty-five dollars a day," Bertha Cool interrupted. "That covers eight hours investigation and office supervision. We make written reports. If you want three operatives on the job, it’ll cost you forty dollars a day. That’ll give you a twenty-four hour service—Personally, I don’t recommend it. If a man’s stepping out at all, one operative, picking him up at five o’clock in the evening when he leaves the office and working until one o’clock in the morning, can get all the dirt. When a man’s promoting something new, he works late hours trying to make the grade. After he’s made the sale, he has a dinner, a little petting and is on his way home by ten o’clock. Married men get so they make a routine even of keeping a mistress. I tried two of ’em—and never gave a damn for either one. They’re lousy lovers."

Mrs. Atterby said, "Mrs. Cool! Please! Edith’s only a child, you know."

Bertha Cool blew out cigarette smoke. "Twenty-five dollars a day," she said.

"Twenty-five dollars a day is a lot of money," Mrs. Atterby snapped.

"Seems like it is to you," Bertha Cool said easily, "not to me."

Mrs. Atterby hesitated. Her long, lean fingers gripped the black, patent-leather handbag which was supported on her lap. "You guarantee results?" she asked.

"Hell no," Bertha Cool said, "we don’t guarantee anything. Christ, what do you want us to do, get him seduced? My God, the man may be true to her. I can put a shadow on him and we can find out. —That’s what you want, ain’t it, dearie?"

"In a way, yes. In another way, we feel there’s no question of his guilt. You should agree to furnish absolute proof of it at that figure."

Bertha Cool said, "No dice, dearie. Either fish or cut bait. I’m busy."

"You’re in a position to start immediately?"

"Yes."

"And we can discontinue the service at any time?"

"At any time," Bertha Cool said. "Only fractions of a day don’t count. Hell, I’m not going to get up at eleven o’clock at night to tell an operative the job’s been discontinued so you can get a rebate on one-fourth of a day."

"We wouldn’t expect you to," Mrs. Atterby said, magnanimously.

"I thought you might," Bertha Cool observed.

"Well," Mrs. Atterby said, "if those are your best terms—?"

"Best, final, and only," Bertha Cool said, and in her voice each word was as final as the driving home of a nail.

"Well, we could hire you for one night and see what—"

"Hundred dollar minimum," Bertha Cool interrupted.

"You mean that if you get the evidence in one night, you would still expect us to pay for three more?"

Bertha Cool blew out more smoke. "That’s right, dearie."

"That seems—"

"Take it or leave it," Bertha Cool said.

The woman exchanged glances. "When," Mrs. Atterby asked, "would that be payable?"

Bertha Cool met her eyes. "Now."

Mrs. Atterby sighed defeat. She opened her purse, and took out four twenties. She said to Edith, "Let mother have that twenty she gave you this morning, darling."

Edith dabbed the handkerchief to her eyes, opened her purse, and handed twenty dollars across to Mrs. Atterby. Mrs. Atterby put the five twenty-dollar bills on Bertha Cool’s desk. Bertha Cool signed her name to a printed receipt, filled in Mrs. Atterby’s name and the figure of one hundred dollars, and handed the receipt across to Mrs. Atterby. She pulled spectacles from her bag, adjusted them to her hawk-like nose, and read through every word of the fine print, not bothering to conceal her suspicions.

"It says here that if we order the investigation discontinued for any reason whatever, you are to keep all of the money which has heretofore been paid, that at the expiration of four days, we pay twenty-five dollars additional for each day we desire your service."

"That’s right," Bertha Cool said.

"But suppose we should find that you were—that you were incompetent to handle the matter?"

Bertha Cool said, "I’m not incompetent, dearie," she said. "I put that clause in there because I’m hard-boiled. Usually I hurt the clients’ feelings. I don’t have time to kid them along. Occasionally I cuss like hell. I’ve talked with you more than I usually talk with a client without getting cash."

"Your reports will be complete?" Mrs. Atterby asked.

"Leave it to Donald," Bertha Cool said.

I could feel Mrs. Atterby shift her eyes in my direction and study my face, but I didn’t turn around to meet her eyes.

Mrs. Atterby pocketed the receipt. Bertha Cool got down to business. She said to Edith, "Take that handkerchief away from your face, dearie, and talk clearly and distinctly. Where do you live?"

"Sixty-two nineteen Hawthorne Avenue."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-nine."

"Where does your husband work?"

"He’s an assistant lawyer at the—"

"Don’t do it," Bertha Cool said, without motion, as Edith Cunner showed symptoms of more tears. "Bawl later if you want. Give me the dope now. What’s the name of that place where your hubby works?"

"The Webley McMarr Wholesale Company."

"What makes you think he’s been cheating on you?"

"He—He’s been away from home nights. He says he’s been working, but—but a neighbor saw him—saw him in a nightclub—"

Mrs. Atterby took up the narrative. "Saw him in a nightclub," she said, "in evening clothes, entertaining a dizzy blonde who wasn’t wearing a stitch more than the law allowed. You can see what that means, Mrs. Cool. He has some place to change his clothes. His tuxedo was at home in the closet all the time. Edith is certain he hadn’t taken it out. Yet, there he was, in this nightclub, entertaining this blonde, and wearing evening clothes. That must mean that he has an apartment where he’s keeping another set of clothes and—"

"And the blonde?" Bertha Cool finished.

"Exactly."

"Any other evidence?" Bertha Cool asked.

"Good heavens, isn’t that enough?"

Bertha Cool’s big shoulders heaved in a shrug. She shifted her eyes back to Edith Cunner. "D’ju ask him about it, Edith?"

Edith shook her head, and said, "Mother thought best not to."

"I certainly did," Mrs. Atterby said. "I saw no reason for letting him tell the poor child a lot of lies. He’s lied to her before. She doesn’t realize it, but I did, just as soon as she told me some of the things he’d told her. I knew they were lies. Edith doesn’t know the world. Thank heavens, the child was spared some of the things I’ve been through."

"What do you want us to do?" Bertha Cool asked.

"Find the apartment," Mrs. Atterby said, "catch them red-handed, have her arrested and taken to the police station, the shameless little strumpet."

"Perhaps she doesn’t know he’s married."

"It makes no difference. She’s living with him in sin. If you ask me, this younger generation is altogether too careless about their morals. If they were taken to jail occasionally, they’d make it a point to find out with whom they were associating. —And when a girl goes to an apartment with a man—to say nothing of living there with him—" Mrs. Atterby sniffed.

Bertha Cool said, to Edith Cunner, "What’s he look like?"

"He’s tall, almost six feet, very straight and thin. He has reddish hair—sort of a chestnut. It waves back from his forehead, and his profile—Well, his chin—"

"His chin goes back in under his upper teeth," Mrs. Atterby said. "Edith can’t say that I didn’t warn her about a man with a weak chin. She—"

Bertha Cool, having got the hundred dollars, wasn’t wasting any more time. "All right," she said, "we can recognize him. We’ll pick him up at the office. Does he leave at five or five-thirty?"

"Five," Edith Cunner said.

"Is he coming home tonight?"

"As far as I know," she said.

"All right, we’ll pick him up. Don’t say anything about your suspicions. Above all, don’t get soft and start weeping on his shoulder, let him tell you he was entertaining an out-of-town customer, and then confess that you’ve employed a detective to shadow him. That always results in the detective getting beaten up, and Donald can’t stand too many beatings. He’s so frail I have to take care of him. He ain’t a man who can stand a beating and be on the job ready to go to work the next morning. It makes him sick all over when he gets beaten up. So, having gone this far, you act as though nothing had happened, and give us a chance. Do you understand?"

Edith nodded.

"That means dry your eyes, quit thinking about it, and be happy," Mrs. Cool said. "Lots of times a man will lay off the rough stuff if he thinks his wife is sick, or nervous. Lots of times he thinks she’s found out when she’s pulling a lot of weeps, and gets afraid to take chances for a while. You want to build up his confidence, make him think he’s getting away with it, and everything is fine. In that way, we can get the evidence quicker."

"As I understand this receipt," Mrs. Atterby said, "it doesn’t make any difference to us whether you get the evidence tonight or three nights from now."

"It does to us," Bertha Cool said. "Have you got a lawyer?"

"Not yet."

"Going to ask for a divorce?"

"Of course, she is," Mrs. Atterby said, as Edith hesitated.

"Any property?" Mrs. Cool wanted to know.

"He has a good salary."

"Any children?"

"No, thank heavens," Mrs. Atterby interpolated, "at least the girl has been spared the humiliation of having children who would learn of their father’s escapades."

Bertha Cool looked appraisingly at Edith Cunner. "How much do you weigh?" she asked.

Edith’s face showed surprise. "A hundred and fifty-three," she said.

"Stripped?" Bertha Cool inquired.

"Stripped."

"How long have you been married?"

"Five years."

"What did you weigh when you got married?"

"A hundred and fourteen."

Bertha Cool’s silence was eloquent.

"Edith should watch her figure," Mrs. Atterby said, "but then—" She broke off, and looked significantly at Bertha Cool.

"I know," Bertha Cool said. "I’m fat. I could get fat on a diet of nothing but drinking water. When I was a hundred and twenty, I could put on ten pounds in two weeks just by putting a little butter on my toast in the morning. I fought my figure until I found my husband was stepping out on me. Then I called him on it, told him it was all right for him to have mistresses if he wanted, but if he wanted to revel in blondes, I was damned if I was going to deny myself butter. Of course," Bertha Cool went on, "I did take steps to see the man wasn’t blackmailed. I picked out his mistresses for him—although to his dying day, he never suspected it. I put on seventy-five pounds in less than two years. And never felt better in my life—but I’m self-supporting. I don’t have to marry again."

She looked at Mrs. Atterby and then at the door. Mrs. Atterby got up. "Come, Edith," she said, and then, as an afterthought, turned to Bertha Cool, and said, "Well, you can’t really blame Edith. Eben insists that Edith cook the richest foods and lots of them. The poor child doesn’t have a chance to watch her figure—not unless she’d go to the trouble of cooking two meals, one for herself, and another one for him. He’s frightfully inconsiderate."

Bertha Cool looked at Edith Cunner as a horse buyer would survey a mare. "Better think it over, dearie," she said, "before you dash into the divorce court. If you get rid of one man, you’ve got to get yourself another. They aren’t exactly plentiful, and competition is pretty keen."

"How can you look at it in that way?" Mrs. Atterby asked. "To think of the poor dear child living with a man who’s carrying on an affair with another woman! Of course she can’t! But he’ll pay for what he’s done. Don’t you forget that. He’ll pay."

Bertha Cool didn’t say anything. She glanced at me. I held the door open until they had left, and then pushed it shut.

Bertha Cool caressed the five twenty-dollar bills with her fat but sturdy fingers. "Jesus Christ, Donald," she said, "they got on my nerves. I wonder if you hate people like that as bad as I do."

"Ten times worse," I told her fervently.

She looked at me then, her gray eyes suddenly turning cold and hard. "Don’t forget, Donald, darling, that you have a living to make. It isn’t what we want to do that puts fat on our bones. It is what we do."

I said meaningfully, "There isn’t much fat on my bones."

She jiggled all over in appreciation. "You’re so droll, Donald," she said. "But you know I couldn’t possibly give you a raise—not the way business is, Donald, my love. There’s a depression on."

I kept quiet.

"Now, don’t be sullen, Donald. I hate this just as badly as you do, but the world is a cruel place, after all. Remember, when you were walking the streets looking for work, Donald? And there just isn’t work to be had—particularly for a disbarred lawyer who can’t get references from his last employer."

She regarded me with twinkling eyes.

"Are you trying to tell me that you wouldn’t give me a recommendation?"

"Not if you quit and left me in the lurch, Donald, dear—And not if I had to fire you for refusal to follow orders. Now, don’t look at me like that. —You’d better get a little sleep if you’re going to be on the job tonight. And if you lose him, Donald, don’t try to fake your report so it’ll look as though you didn’t. That’s an old trick, Donald, and I know all the old tricks—and some of the new ones. Being new to the game, they might seem like good ideas to you. Of course, we’ll fake the reports to the client, lover, but that’s different. Between you and me, there must be absolute honesty. Do you understand?"

"I’ll need some expense money," I said, "and a car."

"You will that," she told me. "I’ll have my car here in front of the place at four-thirty. It’ll be filled with gas and oil. You’ll need some expense money for incidentals. I suppose you’ll need a dinner. You won’t have time to eat much, just something you can grab. You can get a very good hamburger sandwich for fifteen cents, and you may have to put in two or three telephone calls—say fifteen cents more. Here’s fifty cents, Donald, and remember to keep a detailed expense account."


Copyright © 2016 by The Erle Stanley Gardner Trust.