A. Fair: Spill the Jackpot

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A. Fair Spill the Jackpot
  • Название:
    Spill the Jackpot
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    William Morrow
  • Жанр:
    Детектив / на английском языке
  • Год:
    1941
  • Город:
    New York
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • Рейтинг книги:
    5 / 5
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Spill the Jackpot: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Have you ever met one of those one-armed bandits standing innocently against a wall — waiting for you to play his game? There are thousands of them throughout the country — slot machines. The notorious slot-machine rocket furnishes the background for A. A. Fair’s new murder mystery — featuring Bertha Cool and Donald Lam in as exciting and original a detective story as you’re read since GOLD COMES IN BRICKS. The setting is Las Vegas, Nevada, and later, Reno. A bod siege of flu and pneumonia has just forced Bertha Cool to slough off same hundred pounds of excess weight, and until she catches distinguished — looking Arthur Whitewell appreciatively eyeing her sleek, svelte figure, she’s not in the best of humors. To Donald Lam’s amazement, however, Berth presently begins to purr, and persist with her diet. It was Corla Burke they were looking for — the lovely Corla who disappeared so mysteriously just before she was to marry Whitewell’s son, Philip, and no one knew “why” or “how” or “where.” It didn’t look to Donald Lam as through it were going to be a particularly tough or exciting assignment. That was before he really got started, for from the moment he spotted level-eyed, smartly dressed Helen Framley coolly milking a slot machine in the big room of the “Cactus” he had pull up his belt and get on his toes.

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A. A. Fair

Spill the Jackpot

Chapter One

The nurse said, “Doctor Crabtree wants to see you before you see the patient. Will you follow me, please?”

She walked ahead. Professional efficiency emanated from her in the rhythmic pound of her heels, the rustle of a starched uniform. She turned right, pushed a door open, and stood holding it.

“Mr. Lam,” she announced.

I walked in, and she pulled the door shut behind me.

Dr. Crabtree had a thin nose with penetrating pin-point eyes. Looking at him, you had the impression of staring at a long, straight line with a dot on each side.

“Mr. Donald Lam?”

“That’s right.”

Long, cold fingers wrapped themselves around my hand “Sit down.”

I sat down, said, “My plane leaves in forty-seven minutes.”

“I’ll try to be brief. You’ve come to get Mrs. Cool?”

“Yes.”

“What do you know about her condition?”

“Not much. She had flu and pneumonia. The doctor in Los Angeles suggested this sanitarium for a long rest.”

“Did he tell you why?”

“No.”

“You’re her partner?”

“An employee.”

“She operates a detective agency?”

“Yes.”

“And left you in complete charge?”

“Yes.”

“She has a very high opinion of you, Mr. Lam, a regard which amounts to affection.”

“The pay checks don’t show it.”

He smiled. “Well, I want you to know about her condition. I don’t want to alarm her unnecessarily so I’m not telling her. But if it should become necessary, I want you to get her Los Angeles doctor to tell her.”

“What about her condition?”

“You knew, of course, how much she weighed?”

“Not exactly. She told me once that everything she ate turned to fat. She said she could go on a diet of pure water and put on weight.”

The doctor took it literally. “Oh, hardly,” he said. “What she undoubtedly meant was that her digestive enzymes are highly efficient, and she—”

“Squeezes the last drop of nourishment out of every bite of food.”

“Well, something like that.”

“That’s Bertha,” I said. “She would.”

He studied me for a minute. “I’ve given her a rigid diet to follow.”

“She won’t follow it.”

“It’s up to you to see that she does.”

“I can’t. I’ve got my hands full.”

“She’s let herself get in a deplorable condition so far as weight is concerned.”

“She just doesn’t care,” I said. “She tried to keep thin until she found her husband was two-timing her, then she let him have his friends, and she had her potatoes and desserts. Anyway, that’s what she once told me. After he died, she kept right on eating.”

“Well, she’s down to a reasonable size now, and she must hold that weight. After all, you know, her heart isn’t going to stand up forever under the strain of carrying around an enormous burden of flesh such as she was carrying. There’s not only the extra exertion due to the added weight, but each pound of fat requires yards of capillaries to keep it supplied with blood.”

“Have you talked with Mrs. Cool about that?”

“Yes.”

“What does she say?”

I could see indignation in his eyes. “She told me I could go to hell — I mean literally, Mr. Lam.”

“I’m not surprised.”

He pressed a button. The nurse promptly opened the door.

“Mr. Lam is calling for Mrs. Cool. She’s ready to leave?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“Very well.”

“The bill paid?” I asked him, taking the statement he’d mailed to the office out of my pocket.

He avoided my eyes. “It’s been settled. Mrs. Cool made a protest, and we adjusted the — er — fees.”

I followed the nurse down a long corridor and up a flight of stairs. She paused before a swinging door. I pushed it open, and Bertha Cool said, “Get the hell out of here! I’ve paid my bill, and I won’t have any more thermometers— Oh, it’s Donald! You’re a sight for sore eyes. Come on in, lover. Well, don’t stand there staring like that. Come in. Pick up my bag, and let’s get the hell out of this place. Of all the — well, what’s the matter?”

I said, “I hardly knew you.”

“I hardly know myself. I lost it while I was sick, and the doctor says I can’t put it back on. Nuts to him. Do you know what I weigh, Donald Lam? A hundred and sixty. Think of it. I can’t wear a single stitch of clothes I’ve got to my name.”

“You look fine.”

“Bosh! That’s some more of that hooey the doctor’s been handing out. Told you to flatter me, didn’t he, Donald? Did the old croaker tell you confidentially that my pump couldn’t stand the strain?”

“What gave you that idea?” I asked.

“I’d be a hell of a detective if I couldn’t read the mind of a string bean like him. Asking about when the plane got in, when I expected you to get here, and telling the nurse that he’d like to see you as soon as you arrived. Bosh! Stuff and nonsense! What are you doing with the agency, lover? Are you making any money out of it? Bertha’s been under a big expense, and we’ve simply got to watch every penny. And do you know what that income-tax man did? My God, Donald, it’s all right to be patriotic, but I don’t want to pay for their whole damn rearmament program. I—”

I picked up the bag and said, “The plane leaves at ten o’clock. I have a cab waiting outside, and—”

“A cab! Waiting outside!”

“Yes.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so? Here you’ve been chinning while the taximeter is clicking off money. Is that any way to help me meet expenses? You’re a nice enough boy, Donald, but you think money grows on bushes. The way you throw it away, you—”

The nurse held out her hand as Bertha Cool was striding out of the door. “Good-by, Mrs. Cool, and good luck.”

“Good-by,” Bertha said, without looking back. She went marching down the corridor at double-quick.

I said, “He isn’t charging us for waiting time.”

“Oh,” she said, and slowed her pace.

We went down the stairs, and the taxi driver took Bertha’s bag.

“Airport?” he asked.

“Airport,” I said.

Bertha settled back against the cushions. “What about that Gilman case, Donald?”

“It’s closed.”

“Closed? How am I going to make any money when you close the only decent case—”

“We found her. He paid us a bonus.”

“Oh.”

“We’ve got another case.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. A Mr. Whitewell wrote the office to have a representative meet him in Las Vegas tonight.”

“Did he send any money?”

“No.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I wired him I’d meet him.”

“Didn’t ask for an advance?”

“No. We go right through there anyway. I can stop over without it costing anything extra.”

“I know, but you could have got some expense money out of this Whiteside, and—”

“Whitewell.”

“All right, whatever his name is. What’s he want?”

“He didn’t say.” I took his letter from my pocket. “Here’s his letter. Notice the stationery. They could use it instead of sheet metal to build airplanes.”

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